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Tropical cruising in the southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia.

The tropical destinations of the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia offer intriguing ports of call, beautiful beaches, exotic temples and monuments, distinctive food, and colorful crafts and costumes.

And between February and April 1986, there's the bonus of a better view of Halley's comet.

The comet will be most visible south of the equator this spring. As we went to press, five cruise ships planned to offer expert lecturers on Halley's flight: the Golden Odyssey, Pacific Princess, Pearl of Scandinavia, Royal Viking Star, and Society Explorer. Check with other lines for late schedule additions.

Do it yourself? Of course, you can plan your own trip to this part of the world, and arrange your own accommodations and air, land, and sea connections, booking directly or through a travel agent. But for many travelers, especially firstimers, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia present too many uncertainties: strange languages, little Western-style lodging outside major cities, overflowing buses, train and airline connections that are not easy to reserve.

That accounts for the popularity of cruising. Aboard the cruise ship, food and water meet Western standards, language is no barrier, and medical care is close at hand. And you avoid the inconvenience of repeatedly packing and unpacking your luggage.

The main drawback to a cruise is the fixed itinerary: you can't linger at a favorite destination or port of call.

Typical ports of call are shown on the map above. You'll note that most ships visit Singapore or Hong Kong; many continue on to Sri Lanka and India, or go to China or Tahiti if on a world voyage.

Shipboard life is a breeze. It's like staying in a full-service hotel--albet one with small rooms--except that you spend most of your time in the public areas and on deck. Dining rooms offer three meals a day, plus brunches, teas, and midnight buffets. You may be able to sample ethnic food, with spices and exotic ingredients adjusted for Western tastes.

Along with the expected music, dancing, and live entertainment, the day's list of events may include lectures on the people and cultures of upcoming stops.

Shore excursions. The ports will form some of your most indelible cruise memories. You'll be in various ports for several hours to a day or more. You can go ashore on your own, or sign up on the ship for half- to full-day excursions that may include a standard city tour (usually in an air-conditioned vehicle), evening entertainment, or an outing to a famous temple or vantage point.

Depending on the ship's itinerary, you could explore a remote island of Micronesia, or the Solomon chain, where remnants of World War II still litter the beaches; drive to Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia to see exotic bird life; chug upriver past stilt houses to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei; or tour the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

Such shore excursions almost always cost extra--up to about $65 per person. (On a few ships, they're included in the cruise fare; check ahead.)

As part of their longer cruises, some lines also offer three- to nine-day trips by air to more distant destinations. These excursions use top-quality tour companies and include excellent meals and lodging. They're not cheap: one line's optional nine-day tour of Nepal and India adds as much as $2,900 to the basic cruise tab.

Evaluate costs and routes. On most cruises, you're looking at minimum per-person costs of $165 to $300 per day. But remember the price does include all meals and shipboard entertainment. And some fares include "free" or discounted air connections from your home city to a South Pacific or Asian port.

Around-the world voyages, which stop at some Southeast Asian ports, may seem too expensive by far, but most are sold in more affordable 14- to 28-day segments.

If you already have plans to be abroad, especially if you'll be stopping in Hong Kong or Singapore, you may be able to book a short segment of a longer cruise on a port-to-port basis. Ask about restrictions, and remember that no air-fare credits will be given.

There are many possibilities. It pays to take time to study the colorful brochures published by the various lines, all readily available through travel agents.

Ask your travel agent about upgrades and discounts. On some sailings, lower-cost cabins sell out well before departure time; as requests for such cabins continue to come in, the line may choose to upgrade some of the early bookers into a higher class of accommodations, at no extra charge. Repeat passengers may get preferential treatment in this bumping-up process.

Also, with some lines, passengers who don't mind making last-minute plans can get discounts of up to 30 percent on unsold space shortly before sailing time.

Where to write. The list below corresponds to the lines and routes shown on our map. Cruises indicated on the map take place in the next six months; each line's full 1986 schedule may include additional routes and ports of call.

1. Cunard, 555 Fifth Ave., New York 10017.

2. Cunard/NAC, same address.

3. Holland America Line, Holland America Westours, Inc., 300 Elliott Av. W., Seattle 98119.

4. Pearl Cruises of Scandinavia, 1700 Montgomery St., Suite 320, San Francisco 94111.

5. Princes Cruises/P&O, 2029 Century Park East, Los Angeles 90067.

6. Royal Cruise Line, One Maritime Plaza, Suite 660, San Francisco 94111.

7. Royal Viking Line, One Embarcadero Center, San Francisco 94111.

8. Society Expeditions, 723 Broadway E., Seattle 98102.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Type:Directory
Date:Dec 1, 1985
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