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Full steam ahead, Irish style

The times might be tough, but that only means that many people are even more determined to relax and have a good time. And anyone who has gone on an Irish cruise, a nautical phenomenon for most of the last 30 years, will attest to having good times and memories in abundance.

Mary Rowley, executive director of Irish Festival Cruises, has long been of the view that if you float a good bargain the buyers will come on board.

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More than 40 hours of traditional Irish entertainment, as far as Rowley is concerned, is a good bargain, and then some.

The extensive traditional fare will highlight the 20th Annual Irish Festival Cruise aboard MSC's Poesia, which will depart Fort Lauderdale on January 30.

Rowley's company markets what has long been one of the more interesting combinations on the high seas: Irish culture and craic in asub-tropical and tropical setting. This particular cruise will stop at Key West, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel in Mexico.

Performers for the voyage will include Mary Black, Girsa, Ennis, The Dublin City Ramblers, The Black Brothers, Tom Sweeney and the Two Tap Trio, Brigid's Cross, Eugene and Kevin Byrne, raconteur John Gleeson, seanachie Mike Mazur and the Matt Cunningham Band.

"A highlight of all Irish Festival Cruises is the enjoyment guests derive from the informal socializing with the performers," says Rowley, who is executive director of Irish Festival Cruises.

Rowley said that the January cruise would also be offering a variety of workshops on all things Irish, from learning to dance a jig to speak the Irish language, to instructions on the tin whistle and bodhran.

In addition to the Irish Festival Cruise activities, guests also avail of the ship's facilities and on-board activities.

For details, Irish Festival Cruises can be contacted at 1- 800-441-HARP (4277) or www.irishtours.com.