With Winter in the Air, It's Time to Go Kruiz-in'

It's that depressing time of year. The January cold is unforgiving, the nights long, and Russia is once again in political turmoil. What is a tired Muscovite to do?

Get out, of course. Time was, the only way to warm up in winter was to wangle yourself a job in Cuba or Cambodia. Vacation in the dead of winter was virtually unheard of, because where were you going to go (unless, of course, you were a skier)?

Now all you have to do is open up your local paper to the puteshestviya (travel) page, and take your pick.

How about a tur to Egypt or Spain? For a modest fee, you can stay in an excellent gostinitsa yevropeiskogo urovnya (hotel of European standard), and get a discount airline ticket, which includes transfery from the airport to the hotel and back. Pochuvstvuyte sebya schastlivym!, one travel flier enjoins.

What about Israel? Ne tolko dlya yevreyev (not only for Jews), strangely reads one ad. For just over $1,000, you can fly on a Boing and stay in a tryokhzvyozdochnaya gostinitsa (three-star hotel) with polupansion (half-board).

Or, yesli vy khotite byt' v rayu (if you want to be in heaven), how about popping down to Rio de Janeiro -- a tour s polnym servisom (full service)?

There is, of course, the two-week tour na vstrechu s papoi to Italy, capped with a visit to a mass conducted by the Pope.

There are so many choices these days, how is the vacationer to decide?

The truly enervated Muscovite, of course, really wants to get away from it all, and the way to do that is to take a luxury kruiz (cruise). How about a super-lainer (superliner) on the Mediterranean, a little paradise on the sea where you can forget all about the civil wars at home?

New Russians, meanwhile, go in only for elitarny turizm (elite tourism). This means a business-class seat on Lufthansa, Swissair or British Airways, and a deluxe suite at an otel like the Hilton or the Hyatt.

The really rich work all the time, but as finer travel agencies in Moscow gently remind them, Gospoda biznesmeny mogut sovmestit,' dyelovuyu poyezdku s otdykhom (gentlemen businessmen can combine a business trip with a vacation).

Combining work and pleasure is not only for the rich. How about an eight-day shop-tur to Turkey or Dubai? Very popular among the kiosk trader set, there is plenty of time for fun and sun. But these folks don't leave work behind. In Rimini, on Italy's Riviera Adriatica, winter-pale Muscovites are trying out la dolce vita -- and emptying out the stores.