Brochures of the week

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The Independent Travel
THE P&O Cruises brochure for next winter is out and I have to concede a grudging interest. Yes cruising is the ultimately unadventurous way to travel, yes it presents a view of the world about as realistic as the view from this brochure, and yes it bulges with worryingly imperialist connotations (see the places but don't soil yourself by staying in them). But in spite of all this, in fact probably because of it, there is something horribly tempting about a P&O round-the-world cruise. The brochure bills it as "the ultimate travel experience", which of course it isn't, and yet ... 90 days at sea including 28 stopovers in exotic ports, from Madeira to the Panama Canal, from Sydney to the Seychelles? Without having to pack your suitcase once?

The price for the cheapest berth at pounds 8,295 is pretty reasonable - less than pounds 100 a day, including meals - but do take a look at the cabins on page 91. The suite with balcony looks all right but the inside (ie windowless) cabin is where ordinary passengers will end up.

Perhaps the main advantage of an ocean-going cruise is that you are never actually forced to show the opulence of your lifestyle to the poverty- stricken masses of the world outside.

Which is more than can be said for passengers on the Eastern and Oriental Express train and boat journeys through South-east Asia. Travelling on the world's most luxurious train through Malaysia and Thailand brings you uncomfortably close to local people - who may, in places, be no more than a train window away. Or could this be a selling point? After all, the pictures in the brochure all seem to show Asians behaving deferentially towards Caucasians who mistakenly believe themselves to be starring in costume dramas. The problem is that depressed South-east Asia is not a good place to indulge your colonialist fantasies right now.

P&O Cruises 0171-800 2222, Eastern & Oriental Express 0171-805 5100

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