Time-share vacations on the water

April 06, 1997|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

A growing number of time-share operators are offering the option of spending time at sea. The cruises are not actual time shares, but rather are options that time-share owners can take in lieu of their land-based weeks.

Traditionally, time-share owners have only been able to trade, say, a Thanksgiving week in Maui for a week at another vacation-ownership resort. A trade typically involves swapping your week for someone else's. The bartering usually is done by either of two major time-share exchange companies, Interval International or Resort Condominiums International. Time-share operators such as Marriott Vacation Club International and Disney Vacation Club, which manage their own properties, also can make swaps.

With increasing frequency, cruises have now been added to the mix. According to Ed Kinney, director of communications for the 100,000-member Marriott club, "The industry is evolving for consumer demand," and time-share operators continually seek ways to expand vacation options.

Cruise lines, the beneficiaries of this trend, agree: The advantage of having a cruise option means "you're not locked into this land-based vacation for the rest of your natural life," said Holland America Line's Larry Dessler.

Cruises are considered top "awards" by most of the time-share operators, but the hows of each company's options vary, depending on, among other factors, the particular time share a vacationer owns.

For example, Interval International gives its members coupons that can be traded for vacations aboard yachts or houseboats. Other programs have a system in which cruises are bought with accrued points. If you are a member, say, of the Marriott or Disney programs, you can get a three-day Bahamas cruise on Carnival or a seven-day Alaska cruise on Holland America. But the points needed to buy these will differ from one time-share program to the next.

When it comes to turning time shares into cruises, Carnival and Holland America seem to be the principal players. Most choices offered are for mainstream cruise vacations, such as those sailing in the Caribbean and Alaska; exotic destinations or cruises longer than 10 days are not included.

The cruise lines are not involved in the actual swap from time-share week to cruise trip, although major exchange companies might have their own in-house travel agencies that buy a number of cruises from each cruise line.

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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