Last week I boarded a cruise ship for the first vacation in a while. As we pulled out of the harbor, there was a replica of an old sailing ship nearby. It was easily 1/50th of...

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Last week I boarded a cruise ship for the first vacation in a while. As we pulled out of the harbor, there was a replica of an old sailing ship nearby. It was easily 1/50th of our large barge, and its passengers suffered considerable hardship. They had no early and late dinners, with a choice of five entrees. There were no duty-free shops, casinos or deck parties. More to the point, they didn’t have onboard e-mail.

While checking messages is part of modern life, kicking the habit is easier than you might think. Maybe it would be different with a boatload of entrepreneurs and marketing hacks, but this particular group of people seemed hardly committed to staying in touch with the mainland.

A lot of this had to do with the cost. Cruise ships tend to nickel and dime you for everything, and a lot of people balked at spending 75 cents a minute for something that should be free. As one lady sniffed when she saw the price list, “The kids don’t need to hear from us. My husband wants to find out who won the stupid game. It will wait until we get home.”

It should be noted that this woman probably just spent $20 for a bottle of wine and $200 for a body wax. But the point is to get away from the daily grind. And bagging e-mail is the first step.

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While there are quite a few classy Internet cafes around Seattle, they are not on everybody’s map. With e-mail at home and a personal digital assistant, there’s no reason to pay the per-minute charge.

On vacation, however, you learn there is as much variety in an Internet cafe as a regular cafe. We have the posh, carpeted, book-lined atmosphere of the on-ship facility, and the up-the-stairs-around-the-back feeling on shore. These “cafes,” in fact, are little more than a computer on a desk. Coffee? Forget about it.

And it’s all about location. On shore I paid $2 for an hour of online time, as opposed to the aforementioned 75 cents a minute. As at home, it’s all about location.

There is one area where e-mail prevails. Sending postcards is an inefficient and limited way to say “having a lovely time, wish you were here.”

You can take a digital photo of your vacation spot, write a message of any length (or lack thereof) and send it along. You just need to learn how to reduce file size. There are still people who will appreciate a tangible souvenir. But you will never have to suffer through the aggravation or embarrassment of getting home before the postcard arrives.

Admittedly, I was unable to practice what I am preaching here. I ended up checking my mail a few times a day. Still, at 75 cents a minute you tend to choose your correspondents wisely and not waste your words. Additionally, you quickly resent having to actually pay for the worthless stuff that ends up in your inbox.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.