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A cruise for glue and scissors: all hands on deck--except for scrapbooking enthusiasts, who take to the seas to enjoy an increasingly popular hobby.

In the sun-drenched Mexican port of Ensenada, lighthearted passengers from yet another cruise ship bounced down the gangway for a much-anticipated adventure ashore. Decked out in floppy sun hats, smelling of sunscreen and armed with water bottles, they clustered on the pier around waiting tour guides who wore wide, fixed smiles. After 15 hours on the Monarch of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, the travelers had reached their only stop on a three-day cruise from Los Angeles.

Ushered into a squadron of tour buses, they set off for the short ride into town, a living postcard of morn-and-pop stores crammed with dangling pinatas, colorful ceramics, leather belts and silver jewelry. A mariachi band struck its first chord.

Back inside the ship, about 40 passengers, all women, had stayed behind. In a cramped conference room lighted by fluorescent bulbs, they sat hunched over folding tables piled full of scissors, adhesive strips, stickers, colorful ribbon, photographs and paper in many shapes and sizes and tints. Intently, they arranged, shaped and glued. Not even a warm sun and the Baja California breezes could beckon them away.

For them, this trip was a scrapbooking cruise, an organized shipboard workshop and getaway for enthusiasts of the increasingly popular hobby of making elaborate albums to preserve memories and tell personal stories.

A survey in 2004 by Creating Keepsakes, a magazine about scrapbooking, reported that about 25 percent of American households includes someone who participated in it, supporting a $2.5 billion industry that supplies acid-free paper, durable adhesives, tools and all manner of decorative accessories. Scrapbook stores have opened around the country, Target and Wal-Mart carry scrapbook merchandise, and EK Success, a New Jersey company, says it has a Martha Stewart line of scrapbook products in the works.

WOMEN--and scrapbookers are nearly always women--describe the crafting of their books as a creative outlet, a stress reliever, and a gift to their families. It is also a social activity, fueled by the camaraderie of classes, workshops, conventions and retreats--and now the scrapbook cruise.

Scrapbooking and ships are an unlikely pair, and not only because of the disconnect of huddling over a project while the sea sparkles and deck chairs sit empty. A rocking boat doesn't provide a level working surface; it can be hard even to cut a straight line, some scrapbookers said. Shipboard conference rooms, designed for the laid-back passenger who wants to play hooky, are often poorly lighted and inadequately ventilated for 18-hour work stints.

Yet since their first appearance about six years ago, scrapbook cruises have caught on. Joan Levicoff, vice president of group sales for the Carnival Cruise Line, said her line does more than 20 scrapbooking cruises annually, with groups ranging in size from 30 to 200.

On the Monarch of the Seas cruise in 2006, there were about 2,500 passengers, 81 of them scrapbookers (and half of those obsessive enough to skip the offshore excursion), all luxuriating in uninterrupted scrapbook time.

"It's like a drug, being able to scrapbook all night and not have to worry about going home," said Lisa Baldwin, a 39-year-old mother of four who taught scrapbook-technique classes to pay her way onto the cruise.

Deloris Saams-Hoy, 39, who left her husband, children and job behind to join the cruise, had similar sentiments. "I can sleep when I'm at home," she said as she finally headed to her cabin at 4:30 a.m. the first night on board. "I'm determined to get these pages done."

Scrapbook cruises cropped up as part of a trend of theme cruises of various kinds.

"It's a phenomenon that has taken hold across the industry," said Brian Major, a spokesman for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade organization in New York. "Whether it's people interested in Harley-Davidsons, knitting or scrapbooking, there is a trend toward organizing a trip around a common interest."

Theme cruises may have helped the cruise industry's recent growth. Mr. Major's association, whose members are 24 cruise lines responsible for 97 percent of the cruise capacity marketed in North America, reports more than 12 million people in 2006 took a cruise. CLIA predicts one-half million more will cruise this year.

According to Ms. Levicoff, scrapbook cruises on Carnival have left from Galveston, Texas, as well as Los Angeles. She said the cruises were usually organized and marketed by a local travel agent, who then approached the cruise line for accommodations and services like reserving conference rooms and providing tables. "We can make arrangements on any of our vessels to do a scrapbook cruise," she said. "And we make an effort to make it a great experience for everyone."

Scrapbooking cruise destinations have included Mexico, Alaska, the Caribbean, Eastern Canada, and the New England states. Debbie Haas, an author of the forthcoming Chicken Soup for the Scrapbooker's Soul, led a group on a seven-day cruise to Southampton, England, from New York on the Queen Mary 2. Creating Keepsakes sponsored a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Barcelona and Rome.

The scrapbook cruise to Ensenada was organized by Anita Pagliasso-Balamane, a travel agent in San Jose, California, and Picture Passion, a store in nearby Campbell that sells scrapbooking items from rubber stamps to colored staples.

Many of the scrapbookers on the cruise had carried their materials aboard in specially designed scrapbook luggage with brand names like Cropper Hopper and Crop in Style. Beri Anderson, 40, of Elizabeth, Colorado, packed so many materials for the cruise that her baggage was 27 pounds overweight at the Denver International Airport when she set off for Los Angeles. She had to pay a $25 penalty.

"It was definitely my scrapbooking stuff," Mrs. Anderson said. "I brought very few clothes."

During the scrapbooking sessions, the chatty talk often veered away from the hobby itself and into stories of weddings and divorces, bosses and children, triumphs and tragedies--a normal pattern at scrapbooking events.

"Everyone has a story to tell," said Veronica Hugger, a founder of the National Scrapbooking Association in Katy, Texas, near Houston. "Scrapbooking is like writing an autobiography."

And there is always the topic of husbands, who have sometimes been known to have trouble comprehending the scrapbook mania. "Both my husband and 15-year-old son are hard sells," Mrs. Saams-Hoy said.

But she added that she had little guilt about going off alone on the cruise. "My biggest dilemma about leaving," she said, "was that I was going to miss the opening day of my younger son's T-ball and the last day of soccer, because I won't be there to take the pictures."

Pictures that she will need, of course, for future scrapbooks.

For more information about scrapbooking cruises, check with your local travel agent.
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Author:Paik, Felicia
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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