Q: I heard about a ship that is part freighter and part passenger, that boards passengers in Miami and sails to South America on a regular schedule. Can you give me some information about it?
A: I think you mean the Americana. This ship sails as far south as Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a fairly regular schedule, but it recently changed its U.S. ports and no longer stops in Miami.
This is no ordinary freighter.
The 19,500-ton ship of Ivaran Line, which carries 88 passengers plus freight, now sails from New Orleans and stops at Houston, two ports in Venezuela, Rio de Janeiro and Santos in Brazil, before arriving in Buenos Aires.
Northbound, Americana calls at Montevideo, Uruguay, five ports Brazil, and in Barbados, Puerto Rico and Mexico. The round-trip voyage takes 51 to 52 days. There also are fly/sail packages of 22 to 29 days. The new schedule adds four additional ports and about eight more days to the round trip.
I was aboard the ship during its final call at Port of Miami. The fairly luxurious passenger portion taking up one end of the ship is so self-contained it's hard to tell you're not on a traditional cruise ship. It is well-equipped with an exercise room, hairdresser/barber, laundromat, big library, closed-circuit TV and in-room VCRs with a good selection of videotaped movies available. Staterooms are spacious by cruise ship standards.
Entertainment is impromptu: The pianist and blackjack dealer double as social host and hostess, and when Eva Hansen, an assistant vice president of the line, is aboard, she does Norwegian folk dances.
It's a modern container ship, carrying machine and car parts, electronic equipment, shoes and some foods such as potato chips south, and produce, coffee and cocoa north.
The Americana, of Norwegian registry, entered service in 1988. It attracts mostly an older crowd, and rates average about $245 per person per day, depending on season.
For more information, see a travel agent or contact Passenger Manager, Ivaran Agencies, 111 Pavona Ave., Jersey City, N.J., 07310-1755; (800) 451-1639.
Ivaran Line has other freighters that carry fewer passengers.
Q: I'll be taking my first cruise to Alaska, possibly for Labor Day, and would like information on weather, clothes, etc.
Windward will be the ship. Do you know if young people go on these trips? My son, in his 30s, may go. I'm considered a senior citizen.
Would another month be better? I'm thinking economically.
A: Windward cruises Alaska from May through mid-September, and the lowest fares are for the "off-peak" sailings of May 16, May 23 and May 30, and Sept. 5 and Sept. 12, when you can save about $200 compared with peak summer prices. There is also an early-booking discount of about 15 percent on Alaska cruises purchased 120 days before sailing date.
Stacy Moyer, Norwegian Cruise Lines media relations manager in Coral Gables, Fla., said NCL attracts passengers from age 30 and up. "This is the ship's first year for Alaska cruising, so I can't tell you if that age range will hold up," she said.
But the ship does include an active sports agenda that is likely to appeal to younger passengers. During its one-week Alaska cruises out of Vancouver, British Columbia, it offers scuba diving and snorkeling, something rare on Alaska itineraries. The dive/snorkel opportunities will come at Ketchikan and Sitka, reported to be good dive sites. Other active options are glacier hiking and mountain cycling during port stops in Juneau and Skagway. More conventional shore tours are also offered for less-fit folks.
For Alaska, take clothing that layers. Evenings and early mornings can be quite cool even in midsummer, so a warm sweater or jacket is a good idea.
Cruise-only rates this summer run from $1,429 to $3,399 per person, double occupancy, and air add-ons are available.
For information, see a travel agent or call (800) 327-7030.
The 41,000-ton, 1,246-passenger vessel, built in 1992, is the newest ship in the NCL fleet. It is based in Puerto Rico the remainder of the year.