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Are you a music lover or a foodie? Choose the right cruise for you

Learn a chef's secrets, lounge with a rock star, swing with the golf pros, dine with a novelist or indulge your sci-fi fantasies

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Music Lovers Musical cruises afford one of the best stargazing opportunities, since crooners are usually available for post-concert meet-and-greets. Book very early – within days of tickets going on sale – to claim a berth on these extremely popular cruises, or find yourself trying the wait list. Among the motherlode of marquee names sailing next year are Taylor Swift on Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas; Barenaked Ladies, who will host the charter cruise Ships and Dip 4 on the Norwegian Dawn; duelling boy bands The Backstreet Boys, NKOTB and Boyz II Men sailing on various Carnival Cruises ships; rock stars Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock, also sailing with Carnival; jazz great Tito Puente sails with MSC. Coolest Cruise: Taylor Swift on Allure of the Seas – the new sister ship of Oasis of the Seas – on a Caribbean cruise departing Jan. 16.

TAMI CHAPPELL/Tami Chappell/Reuters

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Foodies Culinary cruises, where chefs host dinners and cooking demos, and lead excursions ashore to notable restaurants or wineries, are an extension of the industry's determination to raise the bar on cruise-ship food. Oceania Cruises has hired Jacques Pépin to open his first restaurant at sea, on its newest ship, Marina. He leads a growing contingent of culinary superstars who are being tapped to redesign ships' menus and headline restaurants. Next year, Top Chef's Fabio Viviani holds classes on Windstar Cruises; Chris Cosentino of Food Network's Chefs vs. City, along with James Beard Award winners Patrick Connolly and Michelle Bernstein sail with Holland America; master of wine James Cluer steps aboard Crystal Cruises; while Silversea Cruises has snagged chef Anton Mosimann. Coolest Cruise: Jacques Pépin sailing Aug. 10 on Oceania.

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Sports and fitness Some sports-themed cruises offer runs or bike rides in ports of call; golf cruises bundle green fees, club rentals and trips to famous courses such as St. Andrews. But the most interesting ones play to childhood fantasies of hobnobbing with legends of the game. Crystal Cruises organizes annual faux-Olympics, enlisting real retired medalists to cheer on passengers vying for medals in paddle tennis or cribbage or mini-golf. Next year's lineup also includes Softball Cruise Clinic II, with pro fast-pitch player Taryne Mowatt. For golf, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line (official cruise line of the PGA tour), Silversea Cruises and Crystal invite PGA pros on board, often as swing coaches. Coolest Cruise: U.S. Olympic gold medallists Dara Torres and Dorothy Hamill co-host this year's World Cruise Games in the Sydney-Singapore sailing of Crystal Serenity, Feb. 28 to March 15.

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Enquiring minds Crossing an ocean leaves plenty of time to kill until the next shore excursion, which may be why university-style lectures on cruise ships have become so popular. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises are especially known for attracting celebrity speakers. And topics next year read like a cross between a freshman liberal arts curriculum and BBC television listings: Princess Cruises will host contemporary art phenoms Michael Godard and Alexandra Nechita; suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark sails with Silversea; U.S. Civil War historian James I. Robertson Jr. does so with Blount Small Ship Adventures; and Lars Tharp, an expert on BBC’s original Antiques Roadshow series, sails with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. Coolest Cruise: Gossip columnist Rona Barrett dishes about Hollywood’s Golden Age aboard Cunard’s Queen Victoria departing Feb 17.

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Geeks and pundits Subculture vultures, daytime television addicts, politicos and hard-core hobbyists bond with fellow cruisers who stray from society's mould. Themecruisefinder.com lists some of the choices: Star Trek Cruise 2010 is like a floating Trekkie convention, this year starring Marina Sirtis (above, Deanna Troi from ST:TNG) and sci-fi scion Rod Roddenberry (son of Gene); MacMania, on Holland America Line's Veendam, will have AppleScript guru Sal Soghoian; Silversea presents a World Leaders Symposium on its Persian Gulf sailing, headlined by former U.S. secretary of state James A. Baker, former Egyptian first lady Jehan Sadat and journalist Bill Moyers. Coolest Cruise: Daytime soap stars from General Hospital and All My Children will take the Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage, Jan. 27 to 31 on Celebrity Century.

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