CRUISE REPORT
Brave New Cruise World
Deals, Route Changes Abound

By Carol Sottili
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 7, 2001; Page E01

There are two reasons to go online for cruise information: to do research or to book a cruise. Booking is easy to find and execute, from the individual cruise line sites, to travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity, to specialized sites like cruise411.com and icruise.com. As for research, good information is more elusive, as many sites that pass themselves off as objective are affiliated with a travel agency or cruise line. Here are a few exceptions:

http://www.cruisemates.com/

Even before the attacks that unsettled the travel industry, Cruisemates was one of the best sources on the Web for cruise news and information. Now it is invaluable, with up-to-the-minute updates and information on cancellations and itinerary changes. The site's consumer correspondent, who responds to reader queries, is also useful. And the "First-time Cruisers" section is a good starting point for novices.

www.cruisecritic.com

Well-indexed and easy to navigate, Cruise Critic offers cruise news, port profiles and listings of hundreds of ships and itineraries, but its greatest strength is its large member database and interactive services. While the initial profile of a ship may be written by a professional writer who traveled as a guest of the line, you're a link away from the more probing (and often critical) assessments of your fellow cruisers. The site also sports active message boards and reader rankings for ships and destinations. Bonus points for giving CDC sanitation ratings.

www.cruises.about.com

Consider About.com the way you would an Internet search return, with the added bonus that all the indexed sites have been vetted by an actual human. The result is a well-organized starting point for a reader in search of more cruise information, particularly with the breakdown of cruising categories, such as weddings or cruise cuisine. There's also a host for each category who accepts reader questions.

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/travel/toolbox/cruise.htm

Washingtonpost.com lists Web links and phone numbers for major and boutique cruise lines.

-- Ben Abramson