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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

It's time to take a cruise

Since September 11, most of our attention when it comes to travel has been focused, and rightfully so, on the airline industry. While you were away, the cruise lines were quietly going about their own recovery of sorts. Like most travel businesses, the cruise lines depend on the airlines to deliver their customers to the various ports. Faced with cancellations and rerouting, the industry took it on the chin for a few weeks until the airlines started flying once again.

But they didnít get hit as bad as other segments of travel, in part because of rigid cancellation polices. The cruise lines essentially forced passengers to honor their prior arrangements or risk forfeiting their money. To be fair about it Holland America and Silversea were a little more liberal with their cancellation polices, but the majority basically stuck it to their passengers.

Several cruise lines reported they were operating at 90 to 100 percent capacity in recent weeks and thatís true, but all is not what it seems and thatís good news for you. As the inventory of those passengers who booked prior to September 11, starts to dwindle, the lines are scrambling to come up with incentives to encourage potential cruise goers to board their ships. There are great deals out there, even for the heavily traveled holiday season. Competition for your dollar on sailings to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico and Bermuda are fierce, driving prices down. Another problem the cruise industry has that works in your favor is excess capacity. Several new ships come on line early next year increasing capacity by another 10 percent, meaning more savings for you.

Hereís a quick sampling of some of the bargains I found.
A 10-day Panama Canal Cruises through Princess Cruisesí $775
An 11-night Hawaiian Cruise on Princess Cruisesí
$949 Carnival has a 7-night Western Caribbean Cruise out of New Orleans $469
Carnival and Celebrity Cruisesí are offering Christmas sailings starting at $599

This is a small sample of what I found in just 10 minutes. These prices and deals may change by press time, but there are plenty of others to choose from. I would start my research on the Internet, then make calls to your travel agent and the cruise lines themselves to find the best deals. If you go online, here are a few sites to get you started. For those still afraid to fly, several cruise lines are moving ships closer to home making it easier for passengers to drive rather than fly. Cruise lines have also increased security to calm passenger fears. Luggage is being search, IDís are being more carefully scrutinized and visitors are no longer allowed to board. Several companies have hired bomb-sniffing dogs and firearms experts to search ships.