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The homeporting craze

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The homeporting craze has spread faster than dandelions after a rain. Case in point: Celebrity Cruises is augmenting the rising tide of departures from domestic ports by adding four sailings to its 2005 Bermuda schedule from Philadelphia.

With 17 sailings on the 1,354-passenger Horizon, Celebrity is expanding its Bermuda season from July 2 through Oct. 22, offering vacationers the option of a summer or fall cruise.

The additional sailings will bring Bermuda departures from Philadelphia to 26 next year, with Norwegian Cruise Line's 1,052-passenger Norwegian Crown sailing nine of them. That will make the port among the busiest U.S. departure points for Bermuda.

The Horizon, built in 1990 and refurbished in 1998, will sail weekly cruises that depart Saturdays during the ship's nearly four-month Bermuda season. In addition, pre- and post-cruise vacations in historically rich Philadelphia can be tacked on to any of the sailings.

For more information, call 1-800-437-3111 or visit Celebrity. com. For information about Philadelphia tourism, call 1-800-537-7676 or visit Gophila.com.

Tech links

Escaping from the office seems increasingly less likely during vacations these days. As the technological tethering continues, Norwegian Cruise Line has added cell phone service to North American voyages.

The feature, introduced on the Norwegian Sun earlier this month and available fleetwide within a year, combines satellite and wireless services that let you make and receive calls with your cell phone while in international waters. Even if you're miles at sea and lounging at the pool, you'll be able to reach family, friends or business associates with your own phone.

In 1999, Norwegian pioneered Web access on the high seas with its Internet cafe. In 2002, the line was the first to provide Wi-Fi Internet to passengers. Both services now are standard throughout its fleet.

"While we recognize that some guests traveling with us choose to disconnect, others need to stay connected to loved ones or business associates in order to get away," says Colin Veitch, NCL president and CEO.

Cellular service, including text messaging, is available to passengers with GSM phones that operate at 900 and 1900 MHz. Passengers with data-capable GSM/GPRS cell phones also will be able to access e-mail and send and receive pictures. The carrier to whom you subscribe will bill you much as if you were roaming landside. Check with your carrier for details on charges.

Gay, lesbian cruise

Gay and lesbian travelers can nab a Greek Isles and Venice culinary odyssey on Silversea's ultra-luxe Silver Shadow.

Olivia Cruises and Resorts, a 30-year-old company serving the lesbian and gay community, is offering the cruise, which features Elizabeth Falkner, named one of the top 10 U.S. pastry chefs by Bon Appetit magazine and a "Woman with Substance and Style" by Organic Style magazine. Falkner also is executive chef and managing partner of Citizen Cake and Citizen Cupcake, San Francisco pastry cafes. She and other special chefs, including Food Network's Cat Cora, will "create a superb fusion of flavors especially for Olivia guests," the tour operator says.

Olivia has chartered the Silver Shadow for the seven-night sailing, which departs Athens on June 24. The cruise also calls at Mykonos, known for its gay culture and enticing beaches, as well as the islands of Santorini and Kythira. For rates and more information, call 1-800-631-6277 or see Olivia.com.

Gay, lesbian family cruises

In a similar vein, Rosie O'Donnell's R Family Vacations, a company devoted to vacations for gay and lesbian families, is offering a New England sailing on the Norwegian Dawn in July.

The cruise departs from New York July 10 and calls in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Provincetown, Boston, and Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

R Family Vacations, which bills the sailing as "the gay cruise with family values," welcomes gay and lesbian travelers and their children, parents, relatives, and friends, whether gay or straight.

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