If you can swing a weekend in Palm Springs or Las Vegas, you can afford a cruise.
You can cruise the Caribbean for as little as $50 a day, the Mexican Riviera for $80 a day and the Pacific and Canadian coast for as low as $83. That's almost as cheap as staying home.
And you can still tan by the pool, the casinos are lively until late, there's a main stage show and a cabaret or piano bar, and the all-you-can-eat buffet is open often and included in the cost.
On the other hand, if your ship has already come in, you can go for the gold and sign up for the most luxurious cruises on the seven seas.
Champagne 'n' Caviar
The glamorous Cunard Sea Goddess ships represent the supreme luxury these days, like cruising on your own yacht at a trifling $620 or so a day per person, double occupancy. For that, you get lots of champagne and the very best caviar and anything else you'd like to order to eat or drink.
Your stateroom-suite will have its bar stocked with the brands you request, and pretty blonde Scandinavian stewardesses are ready to serve a candlelight dinner to the two of you if you want an evening alone, along with your VCR and a couple of recent movies. Couples love it, but singles can get very lonely around all the togetherness.
For around $400 a day you can go to extremes, to the wildest, the wettest, the hottest and the coldest places on earth aboard a fantasy expedition ship like the 135-passenger World Discoverer.
Author Irving Stone and his wife Jean will be heading for Rangoon on April 2 to sail as lecturers aboard the Oriental Passage from Burma to Saudi Arabia and on to Nice.
Amazon or Antarctic
Next fall, cruises up the Amazon will be featured, followed by Antarctic sailings through icebergs. You'll meet plenty of singles and couples, most of them over 50 and most making their 3rd, 5th or 10th Society Expedition cruise.
You may hear Tahiti calling you for only $342 a day on the computerized sail/cruise ship Wind Song from Windstar Sail Cruises, debuting in early July for year-round French Polynesian island cruises. Only 150 passengers make the rounds from Tahiti to Raiatea and Taha'a and on to Bora Bora, Huahine and Moorea before returning to Tahiti seven days later.
This romantic ship is an ideal getaway for two-income couples who want some time together snorkeling in South Pacific lagoons and sunbathing on golden-sand beaches. Casual elegance is the dress code, chic Paris decor the style.
QE2 Due in April
For around $340 a day (more if you book the posh suites) you can cross the Atlantic aboard the QE2, due back from a $130-million makeover at the end of April. The QE2 is good for couples, singles and families of all ages.
At an average of $333 a day the sporty little Explorer Starship from Exploration Cruise Lines hauls its own Baby Starship to land passengers on remote island beaches and at obscure Alaska ports such as Haines. The explorers heading for a close look at Alaska's Hubbard Glacier somehow don't seem to mind those sleek pastel interiors with deluxe cabins, the color TV sets with VCRs, built-in hair dryers and stocked mini-bars.
Princess Cruises' Royal Princess is in Asia for the first time, scheduled for 14-night China cruises between Hong Kong and Kobe in April and early May. For $309 a day you can book an outside twin (for $454 you can get a veranda as well) that includes round-trip air fare and all shore excursions.
Just $300 or so a day buys a nice outside cabin with bathtub on the Royal Viking Sea for a South American cruise next fall ($833 if you want to revel in the penthouse suite, complete with its own veranda and butler).
Sail from Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 12 for the Strait of Magellan cruise, Nov. 29 for the Amazon. The prices include air fare and a two-day stopover in Rio on this prestigious ship. Most passengers will be singles and couples who have reached a very secure level in life.
Those are the dream boats for $300 a day and up. As for budget buys, several good ones are right here in our own backyard, Admiral's Azure Seas and Stardancer, for instance, and Carnival's Tropicale, all based in Los Angeles for most or all the year.
Most of the others are small, one-ship Caribbean lines such as Dolphin Cruises and Commodore; companies only a few years old such as Regency Cruises and Premier Cruise Lines, and big Mediterranean cruise lines that are deploying more ships than ever in this hemisphere, lines such as Epirotiki and Chandris.
The budget prices quoted above are bottom-line figures for minimum cabin spaces on off-season sailings. Bermuda Star Line's Veracruz, not a fancy ship but relaxed and friendly, has the distinction of being probably the least expensive major cruise ship in the world. Its two-day Caribbean party sailings from Tampa are $99 for an inside cabin with two beds on the lowest passenger deck; five-day spring sailings to Cozumel and Cancun cost a minimum of $69 a day per person double occupancy, plus modestly priced air add-ons.
Departing Los Angeles