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Spring break plans are smooth sailing on a cruise

Spring break trips can be easily booked on a cruise ship traveling the California coast, Hawaii and Mexico

It's already March and you still haven't made plans for spring break? Don't panic. There's an easy way to become a hero despite being a procrastinator: a cruise. Pay one price and almost everything is planned for you, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The spring break season is one of the busiest times of the year for cruise lines. But you'll still find availability — and bargains — on a variety of cruises leaving from California ports. Check our list below to score a last-minute deal; all are subject to availability.

Don't worry about keeping the kids busy while they're onboard. Ships carry more than 1.5 million children annually; they know how to keep them engaged.

"When kids are happy, moms and dads are happy," said Vicki Freed, who took her three kids on a New Year's cruise. As a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean, Freed is admittedly biased, but she's sold on a cruise as a family vacation. "Not only is there a lot to do, we always meet other families and have fun with them too," she said.

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FOR THE RECORD

Spring break cruises: An article in the March 1 Travel section about spring break cruises said that seven-day Carnival cruises departing from Long Beach to Mexico on March 21 and April 18 will be aboard the Carnival Magic. The voyages will be aboard the Carnival Miracle.

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How do cruise lines keep kids busy? The key is to get them occupied in organized programs so Mom and Dad can have some down time, said Sally Harrigan, who manages programs for passengers of all ages for Princess Cruises.

"We try to make sure everyone has a good time," Harrigan said, listing arts and crafts, entertainment and activities tailored to children's ages. When the family is ready for some togetherness, pools, water slides and other play areas provide places for creating memories.

Princess, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has spring break cruises departing San Pedro for the Mexican Riviera, plus an interesting itinerary along the California coast.

Although Disney Cruise Line doesn't have any ships leaving from Western ports during spring break, theme park fans can combine a trip to Disney World with a three- or four-day cruise out of Port Canaveral, Fla., said representative Jennifer Haile-Tinn. "Wear yourself out at the theme park," Haile-Tinn said, "then get on a ship, relax and see a foreign country."

Here are some of the offerings:

CALIFORNIA COAST Princess Cruises

Seven-day cruise aboard the Crown Princess sails from Los Angeles along the California coast, visiting San Francisco; Santa Barbara; San Diego; Ensenada, Mexico; and returning. Available March 21 and April 4 and 18. Rates start at $449 a person.

Info: (800) 774-6237, www.princess.com

HAWAII Norwegian Cruise Line

Seven-day cruise aboard Pride of America sails round trip from Honolulu, visiting Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. Available weekly. From $929 a person.

Info: (866) 234-7350, www.ncl.com

MEXICO Carnival

Three-day cruises on Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination sail from Long Beach, visiting Ensenada. Available almost weekly. From $209 a person.

Four-day cruises aboard Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination sail from Long Beach, visiting Ensenada and Catalina Island. Available almost weekly. From $209 a person.

Seven-day cruises aboard Carnival Magic sail from Long Beach to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Available March 21 and April 18. From $499 a person.

Info: (888) 602-7285, www.carnival.com

Holland America Line

Seven-day cruise aboard Veendam sails from San Diego, visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. Available March 7, 14 and 21. From $499 a person.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Seven-day cruise aboard Norwegian Star sails round trip from San Pedro, visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. Available March 17 and April 5. From $549 a person.

Info: (866) 234-7350, www.ncl.com

Princess Cruises

Three-day cruise aboard Golden Princess sails round trip from San Pedro, visiting Ensenada. Available March 31 and April 3. Balcony rooms start at $349 a person. (Inside and outside staterooms are sold out.)

Seven-day cruise aboard Crown Princess sails round trip from San Pedro, visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas. Available April 11. From $549 a person.

Info: (800) 774-6237, www.princess.com

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Cruise tip of the week

Don't miss the boat. Extend your vacation by arriving at your departure port at least a day before. It will save you rushing from the airport to the ship, and arriving for embarkation feeling calm helps you slip more easily into vacation mode.

travel@latimes.com

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