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Fast Greens on the Deep Blue Sea: Cruise Lines Offer Golf Excursions & Instruction

Today's ships are catering to golfers more than ever before. While practically all the major cruise lines offer some level of golf instruction, several go the extra mile.

August 25, 2004 -- In old movies, you always see the stars whacking golf balls off the backs of ships. Well, you can't do that anymore -- the environment, you know -- but today's ships are catering to golfers in other ways, and more than ever before. While practically all the major cruise lines offer some level of golf instruction, several go the extra mile.

In partnership with Florida's Elite Golf Cruises, Carnival (tel. 800/CARNIVAL;, Holland America (tel. 877-724-5425;, Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111;, and Princess Cruises (tel. 800-PRINCESS; feature programs that offer various combinations of onboard instruction, computer-simulated play, and guided golf excursions at the ports of call.

The full program (including golf simulators) is currently available aboard Carnival's Victory, Triumph, Destiny, and Inspiration; Holland America's Oosterdam, Zuiderdam, Westerdam, and Prinsendam; Celebrity's Century, Constellation, Galaxy, Infinity, Mercury, Millennium, and Summit; and Princess's Golden Princess and Caribbean Princess, with Diamond and Sapphire Princess ramping up soon. Simulators allow virtual play that mimics some three dozen of the world's top courses, including Scotland's St. Andrews and North Carolina's Pinehurst. Using Microsoft Links software, the system analyzes every nuance of a golfer's swing to give a perfect real-time simulation of the shot on a 10-by-12-foot screen. The hitting mat even simulates different fairway conditions, from light rough to sand. Prices for the simulators range from $25 to $50 per session.

Though the lines' other ships aren't equipped for simulated play, almost all offer a full-time onboard golf professional who schedules private, couple or group lessons, either at outdoor cages or at an onboard learning center. You can also have your stroke analyzed using split-screen video technology, comparing your action side-by-side with that of various golf legends -- which could either be totally demoralizing or totally inspiring, depending on your frame of mind. In port, the lines' golf programs bundle priority tee times, early debarkation, transportation, golf pro escort, cart rental, and greens fees into one excursion cost, with clubs and golf shoes available for rent if you don't want to lug along your own. Days at sea may include clinics, demonstrations, and onboard putting contests.

More details on the lines' programs, including course options, can be seen online on each company's website (see above).

Elite Golf has similar golf-excursion arrangements with several other lines, including ultra-luxe lines Cunard, Seabourn, and Silversea. SeaDream Yacht Club's 110-passenger yachts are equipped with golf simulators and Orlimar titanium drivers and irons, and Royal Caribbean also offer golf simulators on their newest ships and arrange golf excursions in select ports. Several lines even offer an excursion to the 9-hole, par-36 Meadow Lakes Golf & Country Club in Canada's Yukon Territory. At 60° latitude, it's probably the northernmost course you'll ever play.

Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; has gone big into golfing on its new Hawaii cruises, offering excursion packages at several courses on each day of Pride of Aloha's itinerary. Courses include Puakea, Poipu Bay, Princeville, and Kauai Lagoons (Kauai); Volcano Golf & Country Club, Mauna Lani Resort, Hapuna, and Big Island Country Club (Hawaii); Makena, Elleair Maui, Wailea, and The Dunes at Maui Lani (Maui). Excursions run from $95 to $245 per person, or you can opt for an $850 package that includes play at Poipu Bay, Kauai Lagoons, Hapuna, Wailea, and The Dunes At Maui Lani. A wide variety of Callaway clubs are available for rent onboard (as are golf shoes), and the onboard pro shop offers balls, hats, visors, gloves, shirts, and more.