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Sailing the World in One Grand Circle or Sampling Small Chunks

November 19, 2000|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Shirley Slater and Harry Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month

Around-the-world cruises usually follow a predictable course with an occasional new port for variety, so we were surprised to find a fresh and exciting new itinerary as we perused the 2001 brochures. Cruise industry statistics show full-cruise passengers--those who buy the whole trip--make up less than half of those on board most ships. The remaining cabins are sold by segments for travelers with less time or money who want to see exotic ports. On these cruises, segment travelers often get the same perks and much of the same lavish treatment as full-cruise passengers.

The itinerary for Crystal Cruises' 940-passenger Crystal Symphony world cruise reads like a gazetteer. The schedule includes nine first-time visits for the line--Ponape, Marshall Islands; Palau; Ha Long Bay, Vietnam; Kompong Som, Cambodia; Yangon, Myanmar (the former Rangoon, Burma); Colombo, Sri Lanka; Mayotte, Comoros Islands; Nosy Be, Madagascar; and Banul, Gambia.

The ship leaves Los Angeles on Jan. 12, calling first in Honolulu, then heading for those exotic Micronesian and Southeast Asian ports as well as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which can also be booked as a 28-day segment. Segment II sails from Hong Kong on Feb. 10 to Singapore, the Maldives, Cochin and Bombay in India, ending in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 7. From Dubai, the Crystal Symphony's third segment sails March 7 to Oman, the Seychelles, Kenya and Tanzania, the Comoros Islands and Madagascar, and South Africa's Durban and Cape Town, arriving March 31.

Segment IV, a 27-day voyage from Cape Town to London beginning March 31, includes Walvis Bay, Namibia, and rarely visited ports of West Africa--Bom Bom Bay in Principe; Takoradi, Ghana; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Banjul, Gambia; and Dakar, Senegal.

Segment fares (number of nights varies) begin at $12,095 per person, double occupancy, with discounts available for former passengers and early booking. All cabins aboard the Crystal Symphony are outside cabins with windows or private verandas.

Well-known chefs and vintners will produce memorable meals for the Crystal Wine and Food Festival, which lasts throughout the cruise, and entertainers will include Regis Philbin and Jonathan Winters.

Other around-the-world cruises for 2001 include the first-ever such sailing for Silversea Cruises aboard the 296-passenger Silver Wind, which sets out from Los Angeles on Jan. 3 and winds up in London on May 9, 126 days later. This longer-than-usual world cruise visits Hawaii, Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, India and the Middle East. Passengers then celebrate springtime in Turkey, Greece and the Mediterranean before sailing up the coast of France and into London. Segment fares of 15 days begin at $11,395 per person, double occupancy.

Seabourn Sun, the former Royal Viking Sun, sails Jan. 9 from San Francisco on a 99-day voyage that ends April 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 758-passenger ship also offers segments from 10 to 80 days. Ports of call include the Marquesas, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Dubai and Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Rome, Spain, the Canary Islands, Barbados and San Juan. Fares begin at $30,880 per person, double occupancy, in an inside cabin for the full cruise.

Princess Cruises' 1,200-passenger Royal Princess sets out from Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 15 for a 72-day world voyage that transits the Panama Canal en route to Ecuador and Peru, then heads to Easter Island and to the South Pacific islands of Tahiti, American Samoa and Fiji. Next come New Zealand's Bay of Islands and Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.

The Middle East gets more than a casual look, with calls scheduled in Oman, a Suez Canal transit, two days in Luxor (Egypt) and a day in Ashdod (Israel). The trip ends with calls in Athens and Naples, Italy, and disembarkation in Rome on April 29. Cruise-only fares under the Love Boat Savers Plan begin at $16,900 per person, double occupancy.

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 leaves New York on Jan. 5, transits the Panama Canal and picks up additional passengers in Los Angeles on Jan. 19 before heading into the South Pacific, where calls are made in American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and at five Australian cities. Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and a Suez Canal transit lead into the Mediterranean, north to Southampton, England, and across the Atlantic to New York. Passengers booking any segment get free economy round-trip air fare, while those booking 46 days or more get free round-trip business class air, and those who book 90 days or longer travel round trip in first class. Segments begin at $4,120 per person, double occupancy, for a 14-day New York-to-Los Angeles cruise.

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