In the old days, well the Sixties and Seventies, anybody who won the pools would splash out on a fur coat, gold bath taps and, of course, a cruise. Even today some people associate a holiday on a ship with glamour and sophisticated fun, despite the fact that you can easily spend a fortnight trapped in a cupboard (or a king-size cabin) with a brown paper bag clasped to your mouth.

One travel company which does little to dispel any lingering fears you might have about the hardships of life at sea is Strand Voyages on Passenger Cargo Ships. Its new brochure says that facilities may include "a small number of books" and a "small fitness room which usually contains an exercise bike and table-tennis table". You must book up to a year in advance. The cost of an 83- day cruise from Felixstowe, around the Far East and back again, is pounds 5,405. Despite being attractively presented, and keenly priced, this brochure surely appeals only to people on the run from the law, with a deep yearning for solitude, or an unhealthy passion for roll- on, roll-off cargo ships.

It certainly wouldn't grab the sort of people who travel on the Saga Rose, a cruise ship for people aged 50 and over, which has a new brochure out for the April to December 1998 season. Judging by the pictures, Saga cruisers spend their days having their nails buffed, dancing alfresco, scoffing afternoon tea and trying their luck in the casino. I'm sure they'd do anything rather than spend their time in a Grade D cabin featured on Page 30 (the photo shows a man sitting on his bed while writing a letter which, I fear, may detail his thoughts on Grade D cabins in impolite terms). Thirteen days visiting the Treasures of the Baltic will cost pounds 2,329 (in Grade D!).

If you can't face the thought of going to sea but like the idea of staring out across miles of water, there's always a lakes holiday. Thomson's Lakes and Mountains brochure for May to October 1998 takes in Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Canada among other destinations. It includes customer ratings for holiday, accommodation, location and food but these are far from helpful as nearly every guest seems to have been chuffed with everything. They are the type of holidaymaker who would have rated a trip on the Titanic as a triumph. The reviews are full of dull and meaningless phrases like "tastefully decorated" and "friendly hotel". Almost makes you yearn for trip on a cargo ship. Perhaps not.

Strand voyages, tel: 0171 836 6363; Saga, tel: 0800 505030; Thomson, tel: 0990 502565.

Andrew Tuck