Cruise Lines Scheduling Voyages That Offer Spiritual, Ethnic Themes

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VOYAGES devised around hobbies or special interests - from gardening and golf to film and finance - give cruisers the chance to meet and mingle with like-minded people.

A cruise with a particular purpose can be a rewarding experience for passengers, said Anne Campbell, editor of America Online's Cruise Critic. And when a sailing's activities center on one's religious or ethnic affiliation, that may be especially true.

Many such cruises are afloat these days. For instance, you can follow the flock on a Catholic Cruise Conference/Retreat. Billed as a voyage of discovery into the Catholic faith, the cruise is set for Feb. 9-16 aboard the Costa Victoria. It will offer participants an overall view of Catholicism, from creation to eternity. The ship will have six conference speakers aboard, including Monsignor Miceal Ledwith, 17-year member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission. He also is past president and rector of Ireland's Maynooth University/Seminary, an institution that for two centuries has educated and ordained thousands of priests and bishops dispersed throughout the world. Also aboard will be 22-year-old Matthew Kelly, who has talked about Catholicism in many countries, and Josyp Terelya, whose faith sustained him while in a Russian prison. David Parkes, who will be the host during the cruise, is a professional singer and soccer player who claims his faith healed him of Crohn's disease. The ship also will be something of a floating church to spiritually buoy its passengers, who even can go to confession. And while the 1,950-passenger Costa Victoria has its own small, 30-seat interdenominational chapel, organizers of this cruise retreat hope to attract enough passengers to warrant using the ship's large auditorium for meetings and prayer. The cruise sails from Fort Lauderdale, visiting Key West; Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman, the Bahamas. At each stop, local priests will welcome the group's passengers with rallies, music, masses and talks. The Key West visit coincides with the 150th anniversary of that city's oldest parish, which has served worshipers since 1846. In Ocho Rios, where a Valentine's Day welcome Mass is scheduled, cruise organizers also hope to help the needy. They are encouraging passengers to offer such things for donation as canned goods of fish and beef; shoes and light clothing; and educational supplies such as pens, pencils and notebooks. …


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