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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, December 2004 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2004 
All Rights Reserved.

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Give a Jaguar -- An Amber Jaguar
Jaguar Amber Pendent
The remarkable face of a jaguar is hand-carved onto a lovely piece of cherry amber that's 33x20 mm in size. The dramatic pendent hangs on an ultra-chic 18" natural-colored leather necklace cord with a sterling silver clasp. Boy will this turn heads. High-style boutiques and jewelers charge $500 or more for this glam piece. It's yours for only $125. Click here to order.

In This Issue:
Ek Balam, Yucatan, Mexico

  • Keep Sanity for $74 Per Night
  • Aer Lingus Revamps Airfares
  • Egypt for $1,099
  • Doubts Over Biometric Passports
  • Freé Air and Two-for-one Fares
  • Radisson Lexington $75 Sunday Rates
  • $400 Early Bird Discount From Ritz
  • Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur Intro Rates
  • Limit Driving Distractions
  • California Deals
  • Frisco Dine Around
  • Bolongo Bay Adult Fr^e Stay
  • D.C.’s Holiday Homecoming
  • Steinhatchee Landing Resort Extends Stay
  • Pan Pacific Bangkok Bonanza Package
  • Exploring Ek Balam in Mexico’s Yucatan -- by Nicki Chodnoff
  • Windstar 'Europe On Sail,' 2-for-1 Prices
  • Icelandair 2-for-1 Companion Fare

  • Keep Sanity for $74 Per Night

    The weather outside may be frightful, but you can weather the storm in your own furnished vacation apartment while visiting family and friends.

    Until Jan. 9, 2005, Oakwood Worldwide slashes prices and reduces minimum stays to accommodate holiday travelers with their "Family Place to Stay" program.

    Oakwood apartment amenities include equipped kitchens, 25" TV's with VCRs, cable service, high-speed Internet, onsite or in-unit washer and dryer, swimming pool, and a fitness center. Most locations include maid service in the package.

    Studio apartment in popular destinations start at $74 per night in the Los Angeles area; $97 per night in the Washington D.C. suburbs; $79 per night in Silicon Valley; $78 per night in Seattle; $100 per night in Chicago suburbs; $108 per night for a one bedroom in Rochester, MN. Actual rates depend on location and availability. A two to five-night minimum stay is required.

    Oakwood Worldwide or 866/293-0283.

    Aer Lingus Revamps Airfares

    Aer Lingus, the airline of Ireland, revamps its transatlantic business and leisure fares as part of its corporate goal of low fares. The new program features three key elements: reducing business class fares 40 to 60 percent, lowering economy fares and capping the highest fares and simplified fare rules for all economy fares.

    Sample reduced one-way business class fares, which do not require an advance purchase or Saturday night stay, are: New York or Boston to Dublin via Shannon new one-way fare $1,104, previous one-way fare $2,272 which represents a 50 percent discount. Nonstop New York to Dublin new one-way fare $1,304, previous one-way fare $2,272, a 43 percent discount. Chicago or Los Angeles to Dublin, new one-way fare $1,504, previous fares $3,034 and $3,695 respectively, a discount of 50 and 60 percent.

    Economy fares are lowered 20 to 30 percent with the highest one-way economy fare capped at $503. Previously, the highest one-way fare was $838. No Saturday night stay is required.

    The new fare structure allows itinerary changes for $30 per segment and name changes for $60 per change. Travelers can make one-way purchases without being penalized and seasons no longer impact fares. Customer will pay the lowest fare regardless of when they travel.

    Aer Lingus

    Tinsel Chains Below Wholesale
    We still have 16-inch long, sterling silver tinsel-style chains. We must liquidate the 1.3mm wide chains that retail around $49. Now you can buy these chains below wholesale: $9.99 per chain -- when you purchase 2 or more chains, plus shipping and handling. Click here to order..

    Egypt for $1,099

    MISR Travel and Egyptair team up to offer a seven-day, six night tour from $1,099 per person, based on double occupancy. The single supplement is $180.

    Tours depart Jan. 18 through Mar. 15, 2005 and Apr. 5 through May 31, 2005.

    The package includes roundtrip economy airfare from New York to Cairo on Egyptair; six nights at the Mena House, a 10 minute walk from the Pyramids and Sphinx, the Ramses Hilton Hotel, or Garden Wing; buffet breakfast; half day tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx; half day tour of the Egyptian Museum and Khan el Khalili Bazaar with local English speaking guides, all entrance fees and all transfers.

    Add-on tours include the Valley of the Kings and Luxor on a three-night Nile Cruise for $400 per person or three nights on the Red Sea at Sharm el Sheik for$300 per person.

    Misr Travel or 800/223-4978.

    Doubts Over Biometric Passports

    Doubts have been raised about the reliability of biometric passports. Trials in Britain and overseas have uncovered problems in facial recognition in the technology used at airports where travelers arrive and are scanned when they show their passports.

    Some fear many people could be turned away if the facial recognition biometrics in equipment used at check-in or on arrival at USA airports are unreliable. Facial measurements will be recorded on a chip in new passports issued from October 2005, following demands from the USA security authorities.

    The problems highlighted by new research concern the technology’s sensitivity to lighting conditions where the traveler’s photograph is taken. There are also problems if the subject’s facial expression is different at checking, compared to the time the passport photograph was taken.

    Professor Angela Sasse of University College London, an expert on biometrics, said, that as many as one in 10 people do not get recognized correctly, even though they have the right document.

    In trials run by the UK Passport Service, applicants for the new biometric passports in London are told not to smile when their passport photographs are taken.

    British Home Secretary David Blunkett said that work on biometric passports would continue in the UK because it would make passports more secure. Facial recognition alongside finger prints and iris scans are intended to help in the fight against international terrorism and identity fraud. The technology at points-of-entry needs to improve for biometric passports to be reliable and accepted with confidence by the traveling public.

    Home Office Minister Fiona Mactaggart said the public should not be concerned. "No country is looking just to depend on the biometrics technology. They are relying on all the other things that are used." She said immigration officials will also question people at airports just as they do now.

    The United States Visa Waiver Program enables British citizens holding a valid machine-readable passport to enter without a visa. U.S. law originally required that travelers under the Visa Waiver Program carrying passports issued after Oct. 26 2004 would need biometric passports. President Bush agreed to a one-year deferral of this requirement, to Oct. 2005.

    Freé Air and 2-for-1 Fares

    Discovery World Cruises offers savings on three cruise-tours in 2005, including freé air between the U.S. and South America or Europe and a special two-for-one offer. The first passenger pays cruise fare, and both passengers pay fees, taxes and port charges.

    Inca, Maya & the Panama Canal" departing on Apr. 17, 2005, features the Inca and Maya civilizations, the Panama Canal, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The 15-night vacation is priced from $3,150 per person, double. A special promotion features freé economy air from New York or Miami. MV Discovery repositions to Europe in summer 2005 with a 16-night cruise that pays homage to transatlantic travel. Ports include Nassau, Bermuda and the Azores before arriving in Harwich, England. The line offers freé economy air from New York or Miami and two-for-one fares beginning at $4,495 for two passengers.

    If you have time to combine both itineraries into one 31-night voyage from South America to Europe, the savings are even higher: prices start at $4,760 per person, double and include freé roundtrip air from Miami and New York.

    Discovery World Cruises or 866/623-2689.

    Face-It Luggage Tags -- Your Face on Your Luggage
    There's no mistaking your luggage with the NEW Face-It Luggage Tag. The durable, laminated tag displays your face and the phrase "This Face Belongs With This Luggage."

    A Face-It Luggage tag makes it less likely for a stranger or thief to walk off with your luggage and helps you recognize your luggage at a glance in hotels or airports. Face-It tags are also available for briefcases, portfolio books, backpacks, sporting equipment, musical instruments, bicycles and more. Face-It Luggage Tags

    Radisson Lexington Sunday Rates From $75

    In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Radisson Lexington Hotel, located on Manhattan's East Side, offers a $75 rate valid on Sunday night stays from Dec. 19, 2004 to Feb. 13, 2005. Special rates are per room, per night, subject to availability and applicable taxes.

    The 27-story, 705 room hotel features modern décor, marble bathrooms, work desks and bureaus, high-speed Internet access, color cable TV with pay-per-view movies and in-room safes. Suites are individually designed and several offer private terraces overlooking Manhattan's skyline.

    The hotel is within walking distance of Grand Central Station and close to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Times Square, the United Nations, Madison Square Garden and New York's theater district.

    Radisson Lexington Hotel or 800/448-4471.

    Ritz $400 Early Bird Discount

    BOOK BY DEC. 23 -- To encourage advance bookings, Ritz Tours offers an Early Bird Discount of up to $400 per couple ($200 per person) on all its China & Yangtze River Cruises and China, Hong Kong & Asia travel itineraries.

    The Early Bird Discount is available on bookings made by Dec. 31, 2004, at least 45 days in advance of the departure date. Deposits (of $200 per person; by check, Visa or MasterCard) must be received within seven days of booking (and by Dec. 31, 2004) in order for the discount to apply.

    The discount is valid on a variety of Asia itineraries with departure dates between March and December 2005. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy, and do not include the Early Bird Discount (individual tour discounts are included in parentheses).

    Ritz Tours provides Travel Protection Insurance at no additional cost to travelers who confirm their reservations and make final payment at least 45 days prior to departure. All tours are fully escorted by knowledgeable guides and local guides in host cities.

    Ritz Tours or 800/900-2446.

    Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur Intro Rates

    Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital's newest five-star hotel, offers new packages for leisure and business travelers.

    The Top Value Break, priced at RM338 (appx. $89) per room, per night single or double), includes a RM100 (appx. $26) spending credit, freé in-room broadband internet access and round-trip KLIA Ekpres rail transfer. The Maximum Value Break package, priced at RM298 (appx. $78) per room per night single or double, includes a RM100 (appx. $26) spending credit and freé in-room broadband internet access

    Accommodations for the packages are based on a deluxe room and are valid through Feb. 28, 2005.

    Each room is wired with a dedicated broadband data port; two dedicated voice lines; a work station; voicemail; IDD; satellite TV; and an in-room safe with laptop-charging port. In addition, the hotel provides wireless connectivity throughout all public areas.

    Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur is easily accessible from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport via a 28-minute train ride on the KLIA Ekspres. Adjacent to KL Sentral with its light rail transit, suburban and interstate trains, the hotel's location makes city and interstate traveling convenient and easy.

    Le Meridien or 800/543-4300.

    Limit Driving Distractions

    According to research by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 25 percent of the 6.3 million automobile crashes reported each year in America involve some type of driver distraction. The Department of Transportation estimates that 6.5 percent of all crash fatalities in 2002 were the result of distracted drivers.

    "Driving is one of the most demanding tasks we undertake. It's a full-time job, yet a lot of drivers treat it as a secondary activity," says Buzz Rodland, Chairman of American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA). "Any activity that takes a driver's focus off of driving -- even for a second or two -- carries tremendous potential risks."

    Here are some of the most common driver distractions noted by AIADA:

    • Looking at billboards, accidents or other events on the roadway
    • Personal maintenance (i.e. shaving, applying makeup, combing hair)
    • Adjusting the radio or other vehicle controls
    • Carrying on conversations with other passengers and attending to small children and pets
    • Reading
    • Eating and drinking
    • Talking on a cell phone
    Some states are cracking down on driver distractions. New Hampshire has a comprehensive distracted driving law on the books. And several states, including the District of Columbia, impose hefty fines on motorists caught using cell phones without a hands-freé device.

    Here are a few tips from AIADA on ways to limit distractions.

    Use cell phone headsets or voice commands phones. A recent simulation study by Plantronics, leader in communications headsets, found 71 percent of test subjects steered with more accuracy when using a headset as opposed to no headset, 100 percent of test subjects had faster brake reaction times, and 92 percent maintained a more consistent speed.

    Put make-up on before leaving home or at your destination. The same for shaving.

    Add warning devices to your car. Lane-changing alert systems are now available. Honda is developing a night vision system that uses infra-red cameras that warn drivers when objects are approaching the vehicle's path.

    For more driving distractions, click here.

    Kutztown Festival -- July 2 - 10, 2005
    America's Premier Folklife Festival features 200 juried craftspeople, 2,000 locally made quilts for sale or auction, antiques and collectibles, folklife demonstrations, entertainment on 6 stages, children's entertainment and scrumptious food including Pennsylvania Dutch dinners, an ox roast and farmers' market. Kutztown Festival or 888/674-6136.

    California Deals

    This winter, Redondo Beach and Santa Catalina, CA offer deals and value accommodations packages.

    Historic Banning House Lodge offers two nights for the price of one mid-week through Mar. 17, 2005. Rates start at $89, per room, based on double occupancy and include continental breakfast, daily. 800/851-0217.

    Overnight scuba diving packages through Mar. 17, 2005, are $199 to $271 per person, double occupancy, based on two persons taking activities. Packages include roundtrip transportation from San Pedro aboard Catalina Express, accommodations at Banning House Lodge or Two Harbors Camping Cabin, full-day kayak rental, and two-tank boat dive. 800/851-0217.

    At Santa Catalina¹s Hotel Villa Portofino in Avalon, mid-week visitors (Sunday to Thursday) stay from $75.50 per person, double. The rates are good through Mar. 17, 2005 and include a one-night stay, continental breakfast, a glass bottom boat ride, city tour, roundtrip taxi transfers and roundtrip boat transport aboard the Catalina Express. 888/346-2326.

    Best Western Redondo Beach Inn has a one-night package, on a space-available basis, for $78 per night Sunday to Thursday or $88 per night Friday and Saturday. A hot breakfast and welcome cocktail is included. 310/543-3700.

    Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau or 800/282-0333.

    Frisco Dine Around

    The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau offers its prix-fixe restaurant promotion, "Dine-About-Town San Francisco" for the month of Jan. 2005. The dine around is available exclusively to Visa cardholders.

    More than 100 of San Francisco's finest restaurants will offer three-course fixed menus at $ 21.95 for lunch and/or $ 31.95 for dinner. A la carte menus will be available as well.

    A list of participating Dine-About-Town restaurants is available online. Through a partnership with OpenTable.com, the leading provider of fr^e, online reservations for diners, reservations at the participating restaurants can be made online at the dine around web site, which will also include a link to hotel packages. Restaurant information is also available by calling 415/391-2000.

    A few of the participating restaurants include: PJ's Oyster Bar, XYZ, Restaurant LuLu, the Mandarin, Night Monkey and First Crush.

    For more helpful travel safety and life-safety tips, San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Bolongo Bay Adults Fr^e Stay

    Adults looking for a tropical getaway can take advantage of the Adults Stay Fr*e Promotion at Bolongo Bay Beach Club in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. A third and fourth adult can stay fr*e when sharing a room with two paying adults staying on the resort's European Plan, which includes continental breakfast daily. Up to four adults can stay in one room for $175 per night, which translates into $43.75 per person. The four adults must work with the existing bedding in their room, which is either two double beds or a queen bed with a day bed.

    As part of the Adults Stay Fr*e promotion, adults stay in beachfront accommodations and receive a "discover scuba diving" in-pool lesson; fr^e use of non-motorized watersports (snorkel gear, paddle boats, sunfish sailboats, windsurfing equipment, and kayaks) with instruction; and use of basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, plus equipment.

    The Adults Stay Fr@e promotion is valid on reservations made through Dec. 15, 2004. It must be booked by contacting the resort's reservations department or via e-mail. The name of the promotion must be mentioned at the time of booking.

    Bolongo Bay Beach Club or 800/524-4746, e-mail: info@bolongobay.com.

    Protect Luggage with Baggage Guard Seals

    The pre- numbered, one-time use plastic padlocks are the perfect way to protect your luggage since they cannot be reinstalled once removed. That feature lets you instantly know if someone tampered with your luggage. Yet when TSAs at airports need to inspect your luggage, Baggage Guard Seals can be easily removed. A package of 10 Baggage Guard Seals is still only $9.95.

    Click Here to Order.

    D.C.’s Holiday Homecoming

    As days grow shorter, Washington, DC gears up for its Holiday Homecoming celebration. Through Feb. 28, 2005 there are savings on accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and at shops. The savings allow winter visitors to celebrate President's Day, Valentine's Day, and Black History Month.

    Winter-themed packages at hotels throughout the city start at $69 per night and feature savings of 50 percent and more at many leading Washington, DC hotels.

    At the Sofitel Lafayette Square, the Winter Warmer Special includes parking and breakfast for two for $149 per night. Hotel George offers holiday visitors accommodations starting at $159 per night, including fr@e parking and a pint of Cherry Vanilla Haagen-Dasz ice cream. The Fairmont Washington, D.C.'s Holiday Lights and Delights package starts at $179 per night and includes fr@e Tourmobile sightseeing tickets.

    The Savoy Suites' shopping packages, beginning at $99 per night, include discounts from the Shops at Georgetown Park Mall, a welcome gift, breakfast for two, fr@e parking, and fr@e Metro shuttle service.

    Inauguration-bound families can take advantage of the JW Marriott's Family Presidential package through March 31, 2005. It includes a room with a view of the Washington Monument and Pennsylvania Avenue, the route of the inaugural parade; four tickets for an Old Town Trolley tour of the city and a special children's book titled Call Me Madam President. Packages are priced at $250 per night.

    Hotel packages can only be booked online or at 800/422-8644.

    Steinhatchee Landing Resort Extends Stay, Not Price

    Steinhatchee Landing Resort, in Florida’s Big Bend three miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico on the Steinhatchee River, offers a Riverside Retreat discount. The discount can save more than 35 percent on a stay, depending on the type of cottage and length of visit. Guests can stay three nights for the price of two, or seven nights for the price of four. Children under 17 and pets under 28 pounds stay fr^e. Savings range from $132 to $810 per stay. The retreat discount is valid through Feb. 28, 2005.

    The package requires a three-night minimum stay and is subject to availability with certain restrictions and blackout dates. Taxes and some amenities are not included. Ten cottages cater to animals less than 28lbs. and a pet deposit is required upon arrival.

    The riverfront resort resembles a 19th-century Southern village with 36 Victorian and Florida “Cracker”-style cottages on 35 acres of natural landscape shaded by pines and magnolias, giving you a taste of “original Florida.”

    75 miles southeast of Tallahassee, 75 miles west of Gainesville and within a two-and-a-half hours’ drive of Orlando and Tampa Bay, each of the Landing’s one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages features central heat and air, laundry facilities, full kitchens, TV/VCR, stereo, phones, covered porches and outdoor charcoal grills.

    The Landing offers adventure activities including canoeing and kayaking, bicycling, hiking, tennis and swimming in the riverfront pool. Several footbridges and outdoor gazebos offer spots for relaxation. Children are entertained at the playground, petting zoo and basketball courts.

    Steinhatchee Landing Resort or 800/584-1709.

    Pan Pacific Bangkok Bonanza Package

    The Pan Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand, offers a Bonanza Package to North American travelers through Jan. 31, 2005. Package rates range from $128 a night for a superior room to$148 a night for the deluxe room.

    The Bonanza Package includes fr~e welcome drink and fruit basket on arrival, fr~e breakfast buffet, two 20 percent discount coupons for The Spa & Health Club, fr~e use of the fitness facilities and sauna, fr~e daily international newspaper and late checkout.

    Additional benefits include: one fre.e 55 minute massage on your first night’s stay; one fre.e 55minute Aromatherapy body salt glow or Baht500 meal allowance (approximately US$13) at Hai Tien Lo for your second night’s stay. For a third night’s stay choose a one-way transfer to or from the airport or a Baht500 meal allowance at Hai Tien Lo.

    In Bangkok's prime entertainment and business district near Lumpini Park and Sala Daeng Skytrain station (S2), the Pan Pacific includes an atrium lobby, swimming pool with statuary and a glass-domed rooftop lounge with indoor garden. The hotel features 235 rooms and suites, starting on the 24th floor of a 32-story hotel/office complex.

    Pan Pacific Bangkok or 800/327-8585.

    Cheap Tix Chart
    Buy Tickets at a Discount -- Special ticket outlets sell discounted day-of-performance tickets to theatrical productions, films, and sporting events. Discounts can be 50 percent or more. On The Go Publishing’s UPDATED Cheap Tix Chart, still only $14, lists outlets in the U.S. and eight foreign cities that sell discounted, day-of-performance tickets. Order here.

    Exploring Ek Balam in Mexico’s Yucatan -- by Nicki Chodnoff

    Mention Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and most people think about new and flashy Cancun, now an international vacation retreat. Yet, on that same peninsula, 200 miles to the west is an often overlooked colonial gem, the city of Merida. The capital of Yucatan state and home to almost 1 million people, some people stumble onto Merida as a gateway to the celebrated Maya ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal.

    From our base in Merida, we found the Yucatan peninsula to be a treasure trove of Mayan archeological sites. More than 2,000 have been identified, yet only 20 have been excavated and restored. As we explored the Yucatan, we opted to skip Chichen Itza (pronounced chee chen eet za) and concentrate on the still hidden city of Ek Balam, far from the radar of tourist busloads. With a combination package from American Express Vacations, we had a variety of cultural and archaeological options including the choice between Chicken Itza and Ek Balam. If we wanted, we could even visit both..

    Meaning "black jaguar" in Mayan and with stones on buildings a blaring white, Ek Balam has the feel that you're the first to see it since antiquity. With the surrounding forest almost intact, you can understand why this hidden gem of the Maya civilization is little known. Since there are not many tourists, we counted about 10 other people during our visit, it is more quiet and peaceful than tour-bus riddled Chichen Itza. With easy access to the ruins soon it may be added to every tour of the area. It is a matter of time before the marvels of Ek Balam will lose some of the magic of personal communion with the unknown. For now, the mystery and the marvel of its partially excavated structures are still there.

    Creators of one of the greatest ancient civilizations, the Mayans developed a sophisticated mathematical system and a complex hieroglyphic writing system. Of all the world's ancient calendars, the Mayans had the most complex and accurate. Their elaborate and incredibly ornate architecture was erected without metal tools.

    In addition, the Mayans were skilled weavers, potters and master farmers, clearing large sections of jungle and building drainage canals for agriculture. Their engineers constructed grand highways called the Sacbe, or white road, from which they developed extensive trade networks. They had an intricate knowledge of astronomy and medicine and carved the theory of evolution in stone, 1,000 years before Darwin.

    Compared to other Mayan cities, Ek Balam had a long span of life - about a thousand years. Its apex dates to the Late- and Post-Classic periods of the Maya civilization, 700 to 1200 A.D., though there's evidence of habitation as early as 300 B.C., and a flurry of construction around 600 A.D.

    Some historians believe that Ek Balam was still partially inhabited when the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. According to our guide Umberto, the Spanish knew about Ek Balam and described its enormous buildings in the late 1800s. The low lying jungle guarded Ek Balam's secrets. Until the early 1990s, Ek Balam was known only as an ancient city totally surrounded by a wall.

    It was probably an influential city in the eastern Yucatan, judging from its monumental architecture. Umberto suggested that Ek Balam was at war with neighbors such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal), as the city had three protective walls surrounding it. Portions of the low-lying walls remain.

    It is through one of the walls' openings that you enter the 2,500 acre site, where you are greeted by a massive, square structure that looks like a sentinel tower. To the right, a large rounded structure catches your eye, unusual in that there are not many round Mayan structures. Passing through a small ball court, you then get your first glimpse of the looming majestic palace/pyramid, the most important of Ek Balam's uncovered structures. The complex also features smaller temples, altars, the ball court, stelae, and living quarters. An ancient Mayan Sacbe was uncovered and found to fan out to distances of up to one mile or more.

    The excavation and reconstruction started in 1994 by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and monuments began to reveal the city's secrets. The tallest and longest in the city, the chief pyramid is comparable in size (100 feet high, 517 feet long, and 200 feet wide) with northeastern Yucatan's most remarkable Mayan buildings.

    At the entrance to the pyramid, there is a fanged-monster figure said to guard the entrance to the underworld. The structure consists of six levels, added by different rulers during the centuries. This unique edifice was used for religious ceremonies and housed the governors and the elite classes of society. The temple's expanse and layout is found no place else in the Yucatan.

    About half way up its 100 or so steps, you can step on a platform to gaze at an ornate and breathtaking stucco wall, forming the entrance to what Umberto considered an impressive mausoleum for one of the masters of Ek Balam - a marvel of the excellence of Mayan artwork.

    An amazing and exquisite stucco wall, which takes the breath away from even the most seasoned ruin buff and is reason enough to visit Ek Balam, makes up the opening of the tomb. The doorway is in the shape of a jaguar's mouth with fearsome fangs all around. Life-like statues display fine details such as braided hair and designs in their loincloths. Hieroglyphs of corn pose next to warriors with skulls on their waistbands. In some places you can see some wall paintings in excellent shape.

    Under the thatched roofs that protect the facade, other statues and carvings of winged people, animals and various figures are integrated in a complex and beautiful design. A stucco relief in an almost-perfect state of preservation emerges from its pyramid's highest level on its right side.

    The climb is not for the faint-hearted, but if you have the intestinal fortitude to climb to the top, the view of the ruins and surrounding forest is outstanding.

    About 40 buildings have been released from the jungle's grip, a mere 20 percent of the city.

    A visit to the site takes less than two hours which leaves plenty of time to explore many other excursions and activities in the Yucatan that American Express Vacations offer. The program always travelers, who can stay at a wide array of properties from posh to practical, to link accommodations, amenities and sightseeing to create a completely customized vacation.

    American Express Vacations or 888/AXP-0403.

    Windstar 2-for-1 Prices

    All 2005 European and trans-Atlantic itineraries aboard Windstar Cruises' three motor sailing yachts are now available at two-for-one rates, or better, with the "Europe on Sail" promotion.

    Rates are based on brochure fares and apply to all sailings departing Apr. 2 through Nov. 13, 2005. Rates are per person, double occupancy including non-discountable amounts.

    The 308-passenger Wind Surf sails from Ft. Lauderdale to Lisbon on Apr. 9, 2005 and will spend the season sailing in the western and eastern Mediterranean. Sample prices: $1,795 per person for a seven-day Malaga to Marseille cruise; $1,895 per person for a seven-day Rome to Malta cruise; $1,495 per person for a seven-day Malaga to Lisbon cruise; and $1,095 per person for a 14-day transatlantic voyage.

    The 148-passenger Wind Spirit sails from St. Thomas to Lisbon on Apr. 2, 2005 and will sail in the Mediterranean and Greek Islands. Sample prices: $1,895 per person for a seven-day Barcelona to Rome cruise; $2,295 per person for a seven-day Athens to Istanbul; and $1,995 per person for a seven-day Venice to Athens cruise.

    The 148-passenger Wind Star sails from Barbados to Lisbon on Apr. 9, 2005 and will sail in the Mediterranean and Greek Islands. Sample prices: $1,095 per person for a 14-day transatlantic voyage; $2,695 per person for an 11-day Rome to Istanbul cruise; $1,995 per person for a seven-day Monte Carlo to Barcelona cruise; and $2,295 per person for a seven-day Istanbul to Athens cruise.

    Windstar or 800/258-7245.

    Icelandair 2-for-1 Companion Fare

    HURRY! PURCHASE TICKETS BY DEC. 17 -- Icelandair offers a two-for-one special to London, Scandinavia and Continental Europe.

    Tickets must be purchased by Dec. 17, 2004, at least seven days prior to departure, and travel must be completed by Mar. 31, 2005. A Saturday night stay is required and the maximum stay is 60 days. Blackout dates are Dec. 15, 2004 to Jan. 4, 2005

    The offer is for new purchases only, cannot be booked online and is only valid on Icelandair flights from Baltimore, Boston, Orlando and Minneapolis to any Icelandair destination in London, Scandinavia and Continental Europe. No codeshare flights. Tickets are for economy class travel and no discounts are offered for children, infants or senior citizens. The companion ticket must follow the same itinerary as the full fare ticket. Both tickets are eligible for frequent flyer points. One companion ticket allowed per trip.

    Prices start from $248 per person based on two people traveling together from Boston to London. Tickets are non-refundable and seats are limited.

    Icelandair 800/223-5500.

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    Tanglewood Festival of Lights More than 1,000,000 twinkling lights and 150 animated displays near Winston-Salem, NC. There’s also the Red Barn Holiday Gift Village with custom-made fashions, woodworking and holiday ornaments plus traditional holiday activities such as roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. Winston-Salem Visitors Bureau.

    YOUR AD HERE F0R 0NLY $39! BUY THREE CLASSIFIED ADS GET ONE FR.E.E. Want more TARGETED traffic to your site? Reach more than 180,000 travelers who use your services or products. Get the scoop and reserve your spot today.

    Live Among the Locals Forget about staying in a boring hotel. Live among the locals in a house or flat. Coach House London Vacation Rentals offers short term central London rentals with more than 60 properties that sleep from 2 to 12 people. Each rental comes with a neighborhood guide, breakfast provisions for the first day or two of your stay, a telephone help line, and what to do and see. Coach House London Vacation Rentals.

    The Latest “Specials” at Connecticut hotels, charming B&B, historic inns and other attractions. A click of the mouse gets the hottest deals around the Constitution State, plus package dates and some direct links to each property. http://www. 52 Getaways or 800/282-6863.

    Gambler's General Store -- The world's largest gambling superstore with slots, video poker, dice, craps, roulette, books, software and more. Gambler's General Store or 800/322-CHIP.

    Go Boston Card -- fre.e admission to 25 top attractions, 2-day hop-on, hop-off trolley pass, $700 in discounts at shops and restaurants, fre.e gifts, and a 132 page full-color pocket guidebook. www.GoBostonCard.com

    FR!EE PEARL Necklace & Bracelet -- Direct from a famous jewelry workshop. Limit 4 necklaces and 4 bracelets per person. ACT RIGHT NOW. click here to order.

    DINNER AT 35,000 FEET What meals will you get on your flight? See behind the scenes at airline catering. Preview first- and business-class menus and pictures of actual airline meals, photographed and contributed by passengers. More than 330 airlines represented. Learn what your meals will probably be.

    RVShark, the online recreational vehicle publication features raw reviews of RV parks based on real RVers' experiences. RVShark includes RV for sale listings and an RV parks for sale section. RVShark is fr.ee.

    LAKE COUNTY LIGHTS OF LAKE FESTIVAL -- The annual Lights of Lake Festival, in Lake County Florida, provide a sparkling setting for holiday celebrations as millions of lights adorn the city beginning Nov. 26. Special events offer seasonal treats such as holiday music concerts, vibrant storefront decorations, parades, petting zoos and even man-made snow to spread holiday cheer. Click here for more information..

    Information & Credits

    The Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, P.O. Box 91033, Columbus OH 43209, edited by Nicki Chodnoff, is published monthly.

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