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It soon will be the dead of winter. We have just spent two festive weeks of daily consuming our weight in cookies and animal flesh. And 70 frigid days loom grimly before us. For many of us who dwell in the frost belt, this leaves a stark pair of choices:

Shall we hunker down at home, watching TV to see if the Dallas Cowboys can achieve an unprecedented third-straight sexual felony investigation? Or shall we plunk down several grand for a Caribbean cruise, so we can continue eating like pigs before retiring to the tiny humidor they call a "stateroom" and puke for five solid days in balmy 85-degree weather?

Hah! Just kidding. Cruises are filled with a host of entertainment options, including beautiful and exotic ports of call, where you and your 3,000 fellow passengers can disembark all at once to enrich sullen islanders at a fabulous array of exotic T-shirt shops.

Heck, you may even meet an unattached person of the opposite sex, so bring along the Dentu-Creme!

But wait. If your preconceived notions of cruising suggest the geriatric-hospital ship SS Ipecac, Royal Caribbean International would like to have a word with you. When it isn't too busy being indicted for dumping waste oil all over the ocean, Royal Caribbean spends a lot of time worrying about consumer misconceptions, and contriving ways to disabuse us of them.

Sure enough, to some degree, a new TV campaign from McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., does just that. Six spare, handsome spots manage to convey some rational benefits of cruises while simultaneously evoking the tropical splendor and psychic bliss of Self-Indulgence at Sea.

The spots, each done over a separate musical bed designed for a distinct demographic constituency, all consist of a slowly swooping beauty shot of an illuminated cruise liner sailing into the heliotrope Caribbean dusk. Then supers fade in and out with the copy.

"Some people say," the super reads to begin one spot, "a good marriage takes a lot of work.

"We say it takes a lot of vacation."

Cruising as a marital aid. Not only is the proposition cleverly stated, superimposed as it is over the blissful voyage it also seems to make sense.

The same is true of the messages in the other spots. "So your hairline has moved a few inches back," starts another, over a Willie Nelson rendition of "Unchained Melody." "Your stomach, a few inches out. Wouldn't it be nice to show her your heart is still in the right place?"

And yet a third take on spousal psychology suggests a cunning dual benefit for the shrewd husband. "Beer. Food. Golf. And your wife still gives you credit for being romantic."

Marital peace plus tropical serenity. This is not an uncompelling combination. Moreover, it is grounded in real life-compared, for example, with the pretentious and idealized yuppie-fashion-model soft porn of the Norwegian Cruise Line campaign.

On the other hand, at least those commercials imply a specific claim about the Norwegian line-i.e., that it is upscale and sophisticated. The Royal Caribbean advertising, while presenting an eloquent and reasonably forceful argument for taking a cruise, says nothing about the advertiser in particular.

This is, in other words, generic advertising. As the No. 2 carrier, Royal Caribbean had better hope a rising tide raises all ships.

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