From the January 1998 issue of Startups

Are sales so good at your business that you're ready to sell your house and move to bigger digs? Or have you finally been able to pad that savings account enough to have a down payment for your first home? Your first reaction may be to let a local realtor handle the process, but that can cost a good chunk of change. You don't have to pay those stiff fees if you do it yourself. Sounds scary, but it may not be as time-consuming or confusing as you think.

Deerfield, Florida-based E-Z Legal Forms Inc.'s Buying/Selling Your Home software program takes the sting out of realtor fees and spells out the buying and selling process in easy-to-understand terms. The program's glossary of useful terms can make you sound like a real estate pro even if you've never heard of a "quitclaim deed" or a "balloon mortgage." Even better, the program lets you sail through the paperwork process by clicking fill-in-the-blank forms for everything from a "personal financial statement" to a "release and waiver of option rights." Available in software specialty stores and major office supply warehouses, the Windows-based CD-ROM and 3.5-inch floppy disks will set you back about $30--nothing compared to the thousands you'd pay a realtor.

The Happiest Cruise On Earth

It may be sponsored by Disney, but this vacation is no Mickey Mouse cruise. In fact, Disney Cruise Lines and its first ship, the 85,000-ton Disney Magic, could be the happiest place on the ocean. And, like everything Disney, this one's for kids of all ages.

On the three- and four-day cruise vacations or the seven-day cruise/resort combo, kids can romp and roll in a supervised play area; pre-teens can try out some high-tech fun and games; and teenagers get a chance to hang out and dance in a trendy coffee bar. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can finally get some rest and relaxation. Whether it's a visit to the 8,500-square-foot Vista Spa for a massage or a trip to the sports deck to catch up on the latest scores, there's something for everyone. Nighttime can be for adults only or for family togetherness with dinners in themed restaurants, Broadway-style shows and, of course, a theater that shows Disney animated classics.

By the time you reach the white sand beaches and crystal blue waters of Castaway Cay, Disney's private 1000-acre Bahamian island paradise, you may have forgotten you even have kids. And that can make it worth the $1,350-per-person price tag for a seven-day cruise/resort package that includes airfare, entrance to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and all the scrumptious on-board food you can eat. Disney Magic sets sail on its maiden voyage in March 1998 and will sail twice a week after that. But unless you're a magician, don't even think about stepping aboard that first voyage--the cruise is already sold out.

Sssmokin'!

Since the renewed passion for cigars has been burning bright, all kinds of cigar-themed items have arisen from the ashes--silk ties and scarves, T-shirts, cuff links and now, there's The Original Cigar Watch. It's always cigar time with this timepiece, manufactured by Big Ash Cigar Watch Co. in Miami Beach, Florida.

This watch sells for $115 to $149 and features cigar hands and a smoke squiggle for a second hand. The watch also boasts Swiss movement, a rotating bezel, a stainless steel case, a date function and waterproofing to 30 feet. But what real stogie aficionados will treasure is the case it arrives in--a Spanish cedar humidor box that stores two cigars. Now, if it would only arrive with a couple of Cubans, it would really be smokin'!

Play Money

Can't get enough of entrepreneurship? If the exhilaration of running your own business leaves you wanting more, you can always start another business in your spare time--on CD-ROM, that is. Capitalism Plus lets you experience all the thrills of entrepreneurship with a real-time business simulation game from Interactive Magic Inc. in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

If your own business isn't growing as fast as you'd like, you can live out your dreams with Capitalism Plus by building stores, selling stock and executing a corporate takeover. You can take aggressive risks you'd never dream of taking with your real business. But look out--just like in the real world, Capitalism Plus can throw you for a loop with random events such as fires and crop damage.

Striking it rich with a fictitious firm can boost your enthusiasm after a rotten day, and who knows? You may even learn something from Capitalism Plus that you can use in your own business.

Cocktail Nation

Want to try a Shady Lady? How about a Gin & Sin? Or maybe a Frisco Sour? During the Prohibition Era, the only way to get your hands on one of these potent potables was with a password that allowed you to enter the festive speakeasies that served up cocktails such as these. Today, all you need is Philip Collins' Classic Cocktails of the Prohibition Era (General Publishing Group). By following any of the book's 100 recipes and serving suggestions, you can bring back the fun, frolic and elegance of the Roaring '20s. When you present friends and colleagues with a Lounge Lizard, a Derby Daiquiri or a Whiskey Swizzle, you'll also be handing them a piece of history.

The soft-cover Classic Cocktails also serves up 100 sumptuous photographs that evoke the speakeasy mystique and feature memorabilia of the bygone era. Even if you haven't mastered the art of mixing drinks, this handsome homage to a notorious era will be a tasty addition to your coffee table.

Fun And Games

Finally have a night off but can't think of anything to do? If movies make you yawn, the theater leaves you comatose and nightclubs give you the heebie-jeebies, you do have another option. If you live in or near Seattle, Las Vegas or Ontario, California, head to the nearest GameWorks, which lets the kid in you go crazy with more than 250 high-tech games and videos.

Test your driving skills at white-knuckle speeds in the Indy 500 Formula video simulator or take the plunge on a virtual water scooter. Then race over to the classic video arcade for a go at PacMan or Missile Command. For the decidedly low-tech, there are also games like billiards, foosball and air hockey. And the Las Vegas location features the world's tallest free-standing rock-climbing structure. How's that for a night on the town?

Each GameWorks also boasts restaurants and bars--the Seattle location even has its own brewpub. The brainchild of a joint partnership between DreamWorks SKG, Sega Enterprises and Universal Studios, GameWorks could become the new "nightclub" of the '90s. If you don't live near an existing GameWorks, don't worry. New locations will be sprouting up soon in Dallas; Tempe, Arizona; and São Paulo, Brazil.

Digital Dining

Want to find a cigar-friendly steakhouse on Manhattan's upper east side? You could reach for your trusty Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey and start flipping furiously through the pages. Or you could just flip on your computer. The New York City ZagatDisc, available on CD-ROM for Windows 3.1 or higher, lets your computer do the searching for you.

The $19.95 ZagatDisc's handy search feature lets you key in the kind of food you're craving--Brazilian food at 2 a.m. in Greenwich Village or a romantic spot in the theater district--and voilà! The program lists every eatery that meets your requirements. You can search by cuisine, neighborhood, prices and ratings. You can even hunt by "special features" such as Brunch, Old New York and Winning Wine Lists.

Just like its more conventional paper version, the ZagatDisc is sold in bookstores and on newsstands and gives you all the essentials: addresses, phone numbers, credit card acceptance and hours of operation. For now, diners in the Big Apple are the only ones who can test the digital dining experience, but Zagat will be serving up disks for more than 40 metro areas starting in 1998. Now if only it would pick up your check.

Climb Every Mountain

As a small-business owner, you may have yet to reach the top of the heap in the business world, but no one's stopping you from hiking to the top of the "rooftop of Africa"--Mt. Kilimanjaro. New York City-based Horizon Holidays offers seven-day, six-night tours to the summit, which towers 19,340 feet above sea level. On one of the two routes to the top--the Marangu Route and the Machame Route--porters and expert guides will heft your heavy gear, leaving you free to fully experience the climb to the top.

No special equipment is needed for the Marangu Route (starting at $1,150, land only, meaning airfare isn't included), but the Machame Route (starting at $2280, land only) is more advanced. For either route, you don't need to be an experienced climber, but you can't be a couch potato, either. The biggest challenge to making it to the top has nothing to do with the mountain--it's tearing yourself away from the office for an entire week. Be sure to leave your cell phone and laptop at home.

The Sound Of Music

Who says that to have state-of-the-art home theater sound, you have to spend thousands on a mammoth component system with giant speakers--and then spend hours and hours trying to figure out how to wire the thing? Not us. Two new Mini Theater systems from Mahwah, New Jersey-based Aiwa America Inc. include everything you could possibly need for a home theater setup without the cost or the hassle.

With built-in Dolby Pro Logic Surround circuitry, a three-disc CD changer, Super T-Bass, dual auto-reverse cassette deck, Dolby B noise reduction, subwoofer output, digital AM/FM tuner, five speakers and more, all you have to do is add a TV and VCR. There's even a karaoke feature! (Warning: This feature may be hazardous to your neighbor's sanity.)

The NSX-MT70 and NSX-MT90 may pack a powerful 240 and 330 watts, respectively, but you don't have to be a power lifter to hoist them. They're so compact, they fit neatly on a bookshelf or tabletop. And you can forget about complicated wiring--these bad boys are ready to go right out of the box. At prices in the $600 to $700 range, they may even leave you enough cash to buy some CDs.

Contact Sources

AIWA America Inc., (800) BUY-AIWA, http://www.aiwa.com

Big Ash Cigar Watch Co., (888) 722-CIGR

Disney Cruise Lines, (800) DCL-CRUI, http://www.disneycruise.com

E-Z Legal Forms Inc., (800) 822-4566, http://www.e-zlegal.com

GameWorks, (818) 866-9613, http://www.gameworks.com

General Publishing Group, 2701 Ocean Park Blvd., #140, Santa Monica, CA 90405, (888) CALL-GPG

Horizon Holidays Inc., 61 Broadway, #2825, New York, NY 10006, (800) 248-5608

Interactive Magic, (919) 461-0722

Zagat Survey LLC, 4 Columbus Cir., New York, NY 10019, (800) 333-3421