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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, February 2005 Issue


Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://www.free-webspace.biz/tsa
travelalerts@wowmail.com
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2005 
All Rights Reserved.


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Shake-Up Your Style with Beads
Beaded chains are the hottest fashion look. This 16-inch necklace with scores of Iolite beads dangling half-way around a chunky, sterling silver chain is a must. Hand-made in Mexico, these exceptional necklaces have matching earrings and bracelets available. Dochroic Iolite stones show two or more colors, depending on how light strikes it surface, shimmering from violet to blue. Why pay $600 at a designer boutique. Snap up the beaded Iolite chain necklace for $165, matching 7 1/2-inch bracelet for $99 and matching post earrings for $49. Click here to order from AAA Jewelry Outlet.


In This Issue:
Captain Memo's Pirate Ship

  • Intro Rates at Montana Luxury Hotel
  • 30% Siesta Sunday Savings in Los Cabos
  • Ecuador Fare Sale
  • Dead Sea Scrolls in Mobile
  • Discount Train Tours in Japan
  • Fr.ee Ride to Fort Myers Beach
  • 10 Do's & Don'ts to Beat Sniffles
  • Renault's "Early Bird Special"
  • USA3000 Service to Mexico, Caribbean
  • $100 Off Contiki Tours to Europe
  • Virgin Atlantic Winter Fares from $196
  • Delta Slashes Fares up to 50%
  • UK Deals and Discounts
  • Israeli Scientists Develop Explosives Detector
  • Kid-Friendly St. Petersburg, FL By Nicki Chodnoff
  • Intro First Class Fares Fort Lauderdale to Nassau
  • Catch the Cruise Wave & Save

  • Intro Rates at Montana Luxury Hotel

    The Resort at Paws Up will bring five-star service and amenities to Montana when it opens in June 2005, combining luxury with adventure on 37,000 acres of untamed western wilderness.

    Paws Up will offer special opening rates starting at $248, available June 5 through Sep. 6, 2005 (regular rates start at $495 for the same time period). Rates include airport transfers and a guided ATV tour.

    Small Luxury Hotels of the World recently named Paws Up as its first member in Montana.

    The Resort at Paws Up sits along seven winding miles of the Blackfoot River, made famous by Robert Redford's classic, A River Runs Through It. More than 100 miles of trails wind through the property for horseback riding, ATVs, hiking and mountain biking. Activities include fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, lake activities, kayaking, bird and wildlife watching, and sporting clay shooting with 14-time national champion Andy Duffy.

    Accommodations for 80 guests range from private, 2,600-square-foot Big Timber homes to a fully renovated, 100-year-old farmhouse on the bank of Elk Creek, each decorated with a rich, yet rustic elegance. Five-star amenities include 300-count linens, heated granite bathroom tiles, private en-suite laundry rooms, flat screen TVs with satellite and DVD players, and DSL connections.

    Outdoor enthusiasts can spend a night along the Blackfoot River in a luxury tent, featuring feather beds, fine linens, artwork and all modern conveniences.

    Paws Up will offer a full-service spa, a fine-dining restaurant, a bar and bistro, live entertainment, an outdoor swimming pool, a children's club, meeting facilities and the largest private equestrian center in Montana.

    Paws Up is 35 minutes northeast of Missoula in western Montana.

    The Resort at Paws Up or 800/473-0601.


    Siesta Sunday Savings in Los Cabos

    The 56-suite Casa del Mar, Beach, Golf & Spa Resort, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, offers its new "Siesta Sundays" package for 2005.

    Arrive on Sunday and stay for four days and receive a special 30 percent savings over regular rates. The "Siesta Sundays” package" is available Jan. 15 through May 31, 2005 and Nov. 1 through Dec. 20, 2005.

    The package offers exclusive amenities including ocean-view accommodations in a deluxe room or suite, roundtrip airport transfers, fre.e daily shuttle to Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, 25 percent discount at the Robert Trent Jones-designed Cabo Real golf course and unlimited use of spa, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.

    Rates per night for the package in an ocean view room start at $289 Jan. 15 through Feb. 28, 2005 and drop to $269 Mar. 1 through May 31, 2005 and Nov. 1 through Dec. 20, 2005. For the same periods, rates for the suite start at $329 and go to $309 respectively. All rooms are subject to a 10 percent service charge and 12 percent government tax.

    All rooms have ocean views with terraces or balconies, air conditioning, ceiling fans, sofas, bathrooms with Jacuzzis and separate showers, remote controlled television, telephones, mini-bars and safes. One- and two-bedroom suites with kitchen are suitable for couples, families or groups of friends traveling together.

    Casa del Mar or 888/227-9621.


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    Ecuador Fare Sale

    LAN offers deals on flights to Ecuador. A roundtrip flight from New York to Quito, Ecuador starts from $540. Fly New York to Guayaquil, Ecuador for as little as $572.

    Fares are good for departures through Mar. 31, 2005 on LAN Ecuador Flights XL 539 and return flight XL 538. A Saturday-night stay is required and the maximum stay is four months.

    There is an equally good offer from Miami to Quito or Guayaquil. Roundtrip airfare to either city is $346. Fares are good for departures through Mar. 31, 2005 on outbound flight 517 and homeward flight 517. As with the New York offer, a Saturday night stay is required and the maximum stay is four months.

    If you purchase your ticket from New York or Miami to Ecuador and this is your first intercontinental purchase on LAN.com, you will earn 10,000 extra LANPASS frequent flyer kilometers.

    LAN.


    Dead Sea Scrolls in Mobile

    Through April 24, 2005 -- If you've ever wanted to see the Dead Sea Scrolls but didn't have the time or money to travel to Jerusalem, here is your chance to see them in the United States.

    For a limited time, through Apr. 24, 2005, the scrolls and artifacts are on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israeli governmental agency responsible for the majority of Dead Sea Scroll fragments found, and on display at the Gulf Coast Exploreum in downtown Mobile, AL. The 12 authentic scrolls on display are from the collection of more than 100,000 fragments excavated from the caves surrounding Qumran, near the Dead Sea.

    Although the Dead Sea Scrolls were displayed in Grand Rapids, MI in 2003 and Houston, TX in 2004, the scrolls for the Mobile exhibition are different from those shown previously. Five of the scrolls have never been shown outside of Israel while seven are biblical texts from the Old Testament among them a fragment from Deuteronomy that includes the Ten Commandments. This is the largest number of biblical scrolls shown in the U.S. in one exhibit.

    Once this exhibition is complete, the scrolls will return to their home at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

    Admission for the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Exploreum is $17 for adults, $15 for youths (13 to 18) and seniors; and $12 for children 2 to 12. Add $2.50 to each admission price to get into the IMAX Theater. Reservations are recommended.

    Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau or or 800/5MOBILE.


    Discount Train Tours in Japan

    Japan's super-fast "bullet trains" compete with airlines, despite high fares, because they are more convenient than flying and people like the experience. The high-fare, high-speed trains are usually too much for budget-conscious foreign visitors.

    Now the "bullet train" company that serves Tokyo, Kyoto and other key cities in the southern and western portion of the islands has teamed with the Japan Travel Bureau to offer specially discounted two-day package tours from Tokyo.

    The usual cost for a roundtrip fare from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Hikari Super Express is 26,400 yen (about $254). With the discounted two-day package, the price drops to 19,000 yen (about $183) and includes one night's lodging.

    Reservations for the special tour packages can be made at Japan Travel Bureau offices and at most international hotels in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.

    Destinations and details on packages in English.

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    Fr.ee Ride to Fort Myers Beach

    Southwest Florida beachgoers can enjoy a fr.ee ride to the beach on the new Park & Ride trolleys in Fort Myers Beach. There's no need to drive a car to the beach, eliminating the hassles of traffic and parking.

    Three new trolleys joined the two currently in service, for a total of five trolleys, providing service every 12 minutes between Summerlin Square Shopping Center and Bowditch Park. Operated by LeeTran's Park & Ride Trollee system, trolleys are re-fabricated to provide room for beach equipment, coolers and beach umbrellas. Fr.ee parking is available at Summerlin Square Shopping Center and the Main Street lot just before Matanzas bridge.

    The system uses global positioning satellites to predict arrival times for the trolleys, giving riders up-to-the-minute information on the expected arrival time of the next trolley. The system will have displays at four locations enroute to Fort Myers Beach: Summerlin Square Shopping Center, the Main Street parking lot just before Matanzas bridge, Lynn Hall Park and Bowditch Park. Once on Fort Myers Beach, the trolley provides service up and down the length of the beach.

    Fort Myers Beach 239/765-0202, LeeTran or 239/277-5012.


    10 Do's & Don'ts to Beat Seasonal Sniffles

    Tis the season for colds and flu. Wading into crowds of sneezing, wheezing fellow travelers - particularly with this year's flu vaccine shortage - does not improve the odds of arriving at one's destination unexposed to whatever is "going around."

    According to Dr. Walter B. Koppel, medical director MEDEX Assistance Corporation, a provider of travel assistance and international medical insurance, popular winter travel venues, whether in colder or warmer climates, can increase the risk of colds and flu. "The change in the air coming into your lungs is enough to trigger viral growth in lungs and sinuses," explains Dr. Koppel. "Still, with crowds of travelers, people and not climate are most often responsible for passing colds and flu."

    To help keep travelers a tad happier and healthier, MEDEX Assistance provides the following preventative tips:

    1. Most germs spread by contact. Wash your hands frequently and carry moist towelettes for times when soap and water are not available.

    2. If a flu-shot is not available, ask your doctor about the nasal spray flu vaccine (for ages 5-49 only), or about preventative prescription drugs: Tamiflu (effective for influenza A and B virus strains) or Symmetrel and Flumadine (both effective for influenza A only). Tamiflu can also be effective when started immediately following potential flu exposure.

    3. Stress decreases immunity. To reduce stress, avoid caffeine which increases heart rate and heightens stressful feeling). For more help, ask your doctor about prescribing an anti-anxiety drug.

    4. Be prepared with affordable emergency medical kits. MEDEX Assistance provides emergency medical assistance for travelers including evacuation, but the company recommends travelers' medical kits which can include temporary solutions for a lost dental filling, sealed sterile sutures and syringes for trips to more exotic locales.

    5. When traveling in cramped quarters avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis (causes blood clots in the legs) by walking, stretching your legs or simply flexing your ankles in an up and down motion about once every hour and a half.

    6. Keep prescription medications in their original pharmacy-labeled containers to avoid questions (or confiscation) at customs. Pack them for easy access in your carry-on luggage, purse or briefcase.

    7. When traveling by air with children and babies, equalize their ear pressure during take-offs and landings by giving infants a pacifier or bottle to suck on. Older children and adults can alleviate ear pressure by chewing gum.

    8. Don't mega-dose Vitamin C or other vitamins to avoid getting colds or flu. Keeping to the recommended dosage avoids potential complications such as kidney stones.

    9. Don't wear a surgical mask or battery operated air-filters to avoid breathing airplane cabin air. Re-circulated airplane cabin air is safe and remarkably well filtered for germs and bacteria.

    10. Don't bother bringing your own bottled water on domestic flights (and major western international carriers) as served water generally comes from bottles that are opened in front of you. Use caution on smaller, international carriers.

    MEDEX Assistance or 800/537-2029.


    Renault's "Early Bird Special"

    Renault's Early Bird Special is valid for reservations from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31, 2005. Cars can be picked up anytime in 2005. Eleven vehicles in the Renault line are discounted. A 17-day lease on a Megane Classic 1.6 sedan is $1,019, down from $1,119. The Grand Scenic with automatic transmission is $1,399 for 17 days, instead of $1,499. The 17-day lease of the Espace minivan with GPS and automatic transmission is reduced to $1,899, from $2,019. Additional days beyond the initial 17 days are $23, $24, and $30 respectively.

    Eurodrive is a short-term lease program that's practically indistinguishable from a traditional car rental. The Eurodrive program is designed for leisure travelers staying between 17 days and six months, a time frame suited for students, teachers, retirees, ex-patriots and others. The minimum age for leasing is 18 and there is no maximum age. Traditional rental agencies may require customers to be at least 23 or 25 and no older than 70.

    Officially a purchase-repurchase plan, the Eurodrive program is similar to American leasing plans. A new car is registered in the customer's name; Renault finances the cost of it. Customers are charged a set fee for the first 17 days of the lease and a nominal per day fee for the remaining time. As in a conventional lease, the customer essentially buys a brand-new vehicle and the manufacturer agrees to take it back at a pre-arranged date.

    The Eurodrive program allows travelers to see Europe as they choose. The requirements for leasing are simple: visitors must reside outside Europe, must not work during their stay, and can't stay longer than six months. In certain cases, leases can be extended to one year.

    Every vehicle is factory fresh and includes a full factory warranty, unlimited mileage, and a fully comprehensive insurance policy with no deductible that covers collision, personal injury, fire and theft. Thanks to a special law, each Eurodrive lease is tax-fr*ee. Renault's 17,000 agents and qualified service stations are at the ready. If the need arises, Renault will arrange for towing and repair and will help with car replacement, car rental, and hotel reservations.

    Renault's service and support network includes round-the-clock, toll-fr*ee, English-speaking roadside assistance. Leasing means fewer geographic restrictions than renting. Just about all of Europe is open road with 36 Renault pick-up and drop-off locations in nine countries. You are able to pick up in one country and drop off in another. The process of ordering, taking delivery and returning a leased vehicle is simple, with all paperwork completed before picking up the vehicle.

    Renault Eurodrive or 800/221-1052.


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    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. Be sure to visit. Kutztown Festival or 888/674-6136.

    USA3000 New Service to Mexico, Caribbean

    USA3000 Airlines, a low-fare, full-service airline, offers new nonstop public charter services to Mexico and the Caribbean. A limited number of seats are available at the lowest fares.

    From Detroit to Puerto Vallarta and Cozumel, one-way fares start at $129 to Puerto Vallarta and $139 to Cozumel plus taxes.

    From Chicago to Aruba, one-way fares start at $199 plus taxes.

    Chicago to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo, Mexico, one-way fares start at $129 plus taxes.

    Newark to Cancun, one-way fares start at $139 plus taxes.

    St. Louis to Cancun, one-way fares start at $99 plus taxes.

    On board amenities include fr.ee meals with entree choices and special meal requests. A nominal fee for headsets to view movies or listen to multiple audio channels is charged on every international flight.

    USA3000 offers simple fare rules: No roundtrip ticket purchase or Saturday stay, one-year extensions if you are unable to make the trip as originally purchased, and name changes are also possible. For flights to Mexico operating as public charter, roundtrip flight purchase is required.

    USA3000 or 877/872-3000.



    $100 Off Contiki Tours to Europe

    Contiki Holidays, a vacation company for 18- to 35-year-olds, offers deals online, including a special British Airways promotion that saves $100 per person on any 10-day or longer Contiki European Fly n' Tour package. The special offer must be booked by Mar. 4, 2005 and is valid for peak season travel between Apr. 4 and Oct. 26, 2005. You must mention "Save $100 On BA" when booking.

    The special promotions include: $1,384 per person for a 12-day, 10-night "European Horizon" trip with visits to London, Amsterdam, Rhine Valley, Munich, Hopfgarten, Venice, Lauterbrunnen, and Paris.

    $1584 per person for the 10-day, 8-night "Great Britain" package exploring Oxford, York, Edinburgh, Scottish Highlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, and London. $1604 per person for the 11-day, 9-night "European Magic" tour stopping at London, Amsterdam, Rhine Valley, Munich, Venice, Lucerne and Paris.

    Prices include roundtrip airfare from New York to London, Paris or Madrid during April; hotel, lodge or cabin-style accommodations; motorcoach transportation; most breakfasts and dinners; and a professional tour manager and driver throughout. Prices are based on twin-share or two people per room. Tickets are non-refundable, non-changeable and subject to availability.

    Contiki Holidays or 888/266-8454.



    Virgin Atlantic Winter Fares from $196

    Virgin Atlantic Airways new fares are designed to extend vacation dollars further with an array of amenities in economy class. The winter fares start from $196 roundtrip from New York to London and offer more than just a seat. To sweeten the deal, when you book online at the airline's web site, you get $10 off.

    Economy amenities include a seat-back personal entertainment systems with 43 audio and video channels featuring first-run movies, television and the latest Nintendo games; a choice of three meals; fr-ee cocktails from takeoff to touchdown; and an amenity kit with socks, lip balm, eye-shades, earplugs and breath mints. Young passenger get goodie backpacks, kid-friendly television programming and movies.

    In addition to the new winter fares, Virgin Atlantic offers exclusive packages and buy-one get-one-free add-ons that let you pre-book in U.S. Dollars, saving on the exchange rate. An all-inclusive package starts at $389 and includes airfare, three night's hotel accommodations and continental breakfast daily. You can add buy-one, get-one-free options to your package, including theater tickets, city and country sightseeing tours, rail cards and more.

    Virgin Atlantic.


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    Delta Slashes Fares up to 50%

    Customers flying on Delta Air Lines will pay as much as 50 percent less for their ticket as the airline expands its SimpliFares for travel within the 48 contiguous United States.

    As part of Delta's transformation plan, SimpliFares lower unrestricted fares on flights operated by Delta and certain Delta Connection carriers. With SimpliFares, no fare -- including last-minute walk-ups -- is higher than $499 one way in economy or $599 one way in first class.

    Additional taxes, fees, and restrictions apply, and fares are available only for purchase on online or from a travel agent. If you book at the airline's website, you can choose refundable or non-refundable tickets and save even more by purchasing tickets three, seven or 14 days in advance of travel. A roundtrip purchase is required for some fares, but you no longer have to stay over a Saturday night. With SimpliFares, the ticket change fee is reduced to $50 from $100.

    Customers who purchase tickets online can receive 1,000 bonus miles with no direct ticketing fees. Tickets purchased over the telephone from Delta Reservations will now cost $5 more per ticket and $10 more if purchased at Delta ticketing locations, including at the airport. These additional costs apply to original ticket sales on Delta, Delta Shuttle, Delta Connection, and Song, Delta's low-fare air service, and are non-refundable.

    Delta Airlines.



    UK Deals and Discounts

    The British Tourist office wants the word to get out that there are numerous travel deals and discounts to the United Kingdom.

    One deal is United Winter Vacations to London from $499. This includes roundtrip economy airfare, three or more nights' hotel accommodations (with one night fre.e), and daily breakfast. The package is available through Mar.28, 2005.

    The National Theatre in London offers many tickets at £10 each during 2005, repeating last year's successful Travelex £10 Season, and there are no booking fees. This promotion starts May 2005. Productions are on their website Tel. (011 44) 207 452 3000.

    Some of the best seats at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden also cost £10 for the 2005 season, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Travelex. 100 top price stalls and stalls circle tickets will be available every Monday, one-and-a-half hours before a performance, a total of 2,000 seats. In some cases this means a saving of up to £165 per ticket. If you can’t take advantage of this offer, at least half the tickets for every performance of the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet will cost £50 or less and the average ticket price for the ballet has been reduced by seven per cent.

    The BBC Proms are two months of outstanding, varied performances held at London's Royal Albert Hall starting July, 2005. Even for sell-out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, more than 500 "promming" places are available at the door for only £4 each. A Prom means a Promenade Concert, or a concert where part of the audience stands in a "promenade" area of the hall. Part of the Proms audience has always stood in the Arena, directly in front of the orchestra. Many consider this the best position in the hall. However, you can also stand high up in the Gallery and just let the sound drift up to you. Click here for more information.

    The five-star Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments in Piccadilly, London offers "pound for dollar" rates giving U.S. visitors around a 40 percent savings. The special rates are through May 31, 2005 (subject to availability). For example, an executive guestroom that sells for £315 is now $315 based on double occupancy excluding tax. Ask for the "£ for $ promotion" when booking. 800/335-3300.

    The Dorset Square Hotel offers a guaranteed dollar rate of no more than $260 per night (excluding tax of 17.5%), through Aug. 31, 2005. Book any Friday and Saturday night and Sunday will be fr.ee. Reservations, 866/788-4001 or email: reservations@dorsetsquare.co.uk.



    Israeli Scientists Develop New Explosives Detector

    Perhaps this is the breakthrough that will help air travelers feel much safer. Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reports that researchers at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, developed a pen-sized device to detect triacetone triperoxide (TATP), an explosive commonly used by terrorists.

    The device resembles a pen with three buttons on it. It dispenses chemical solutions which change color upon contact with the material. Device inventor Ehud Keinan explains that TATP, unlike conventional explosives, does not give off heat as it is detonated and that is why conventional explosives-detection devices cannot recognize it.

    TATP and similar explosives from the peroxide family are widely used by terrorist organizations across the world, since they are relatively easy to prepare and difficult to detect. The substances are very unstable and dangerous to their manufacturers, resulting in many "work accidents" in pirate labs established by Palestinian militants.

    The device won first prize in a competition to develop technology for defense against terror.

    In recent years, a large number of suicide bombers used TATP, among them those at the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv, on the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem and attacks on many buses.



    Kid-Friendly St. Petersburg, FL by Nicki Chodnoff

    Weather and water have been drawing visitors to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area since the late 1800s. The 26 communities and more than 35 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico make up the peninsula southwest of Tampa, Florida. Parts of the peninsula are little more than fingers of land on the barrier islands a block or two wide.
    XXXXXXWhether you plan a trip during the more expensive winter high-season or during the less crowded spring, summer or fall, family fun doesn't have to be expensive. And sometimes, it's absolutely fr.ee.
    XXXXXXVariety is part of the reason St. Petersburg/Clearwater have been hosting families over the years. Kids can happily romp on the beach, at water parks or in resort pools for hours. In addition to those tried-and-true activities, here are a few family-friendly things Kendall, my nine-year-old granddaughter, and I enjoyed during our visit. These activities barely scratch the surface of things to do.

    Fort DeSoto Park -- The 900-acre county park has seven miles of fr-ee beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and is consistently rated as one of America's top 10 beaches. Comprised of five pristine islands, the park includes the number-one beach in the continental United States in 2003, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University, a.k.a. Dr. Beach.
    XXXXXXNot only is the park family-friendly, with a sheltered lagoon for little swimmers and a campground, it's pet friendly. Dogs can run unleashed in their own enclosed beachfront park, the "Paws Playground."
    XXXXXXThink of Fort DeSoto as beachfront accommodations for the budget minded. Camping spots (for RV or tent) and picnic areas are staggered under lush live oak trees. Whether picnicking, finding a site for your RV or pitching your tent, many of the areas are waterfront. Families can swim, sun, fish from two piers, sail, kayak, canoe, roller blade, hike along nature trails or bird watch for fr.ee. If you don't bring your own equipment, you pick-up the tab for equipment rental fees.
    XXXXXXThe park includes a historic stone and shell fort, on Mullet Key, the largest of the park's five islands. Built in 1898 to protect the Tampa Bay area during the Spanish-American War, fre.e guided history and fort tours are offered by park rangers. There is an 85 cents toll on the bridges leading into the park.

    face paintingCaptain Memo's Pirate's Cruise -- Kendall gave me that are we doing-the-right thing look as we walked the plank to board this sinister-looking pirate ship docked at the Clearwater Municipal Marina. After pictures with the captain, Kendall's apprehension turned into an ear-to-ear grin when the buccaneer-crew started squirting the kids with water guns. Geared for kids of all ages, the pirates, with zany names like bilgewater Bill, jewel thief Julie, and gangplank Gary, lead the kids in a treasure hunt, more water-gun battles, games, face-painting, dancing and other pirate antics. On our cruise, musical chairs was the defining event for the coveted grand prize, a key chain. Moms and dads joined the activities, took videos or photos or scanned the bay for dolphins. Mostly, parents relaxed with a beverage (beer is fr.ee on the cruise for adults) while the kids played with carefree abandon. By the time the cruise ended, the kids all seemed exhausted but wanted more. For daytime cruises, budget around $30 for adults, $25 for older children and seniors and $20 for children.

    Great Explorations - the Children's Museum - St. Petersburg, FL - For a change of pace or a something to do on a rainy day, this hands-on museum lets kids play and learn about scientific principles. Once inside the museum, there seems to be a great divide. Parents sit, relax or read a magazine in the reading area while the kids are in constant motion trying the hands-on exhibits. Kendall spent much of her time composing synthesized music on a laser beam harp and learning about air pressure. She didn't realize she was learning Bernoulli's Principle (the theory behind how planes fly) by floating plastic balls over air vents. Other kids created patterns with a strobe and string, ran a pizza parlor or tried their hands at more than 20 other interactive exhibits that challenge and entertain. There's even a gated section for younger kids (under three years old) where they can dress up in costumes. The museum won't dinge your budget too deeply. It's $7 for children 3 to 11, Adults $4.

    Horse CampHorse Camp at the Horse & Buggy Bed & Breakfast 6125 62nd Avenue N. Pinellas Park, FL Located on a 12-acre horse farm in St. Petersburg, horse enthusiasts can saddle up for a little equestrian fun. The multi-week horse camp lasts too long for most visitors. However, youngsters can take riding lessons, learn how to bathe and groom horses, and find out how to hitch them to a wagon. In a 20 minute mini lesson, Kendall learned how to balance herself on a horse. First she let go of the reins and swung her arms, shoulder high, front to back. With that balancing act under her belt, she learned to balance without her feet in the stirrups. The grand finale, riding without holding the reins and without feet in the stirrups. What a sense of accomplishment she took from that mini-lesson. Even visitors too young for these activities, under the age of three, can enjoy a supervised pony ride.
    XXXXXXAfter a busy day of taking the reins, kids can ride in a carriage, a buggy or a hay-wagon or cool off with a dip in the pool. A half-hour pony ride, for example, costs $20, and an hour-long riding lesson is $35. Visitors do not have to be guests of the inn to participate.
    XXXXXXThe inn has seven guestrooms: Three rooms in the main house are reserved for adults. The carriage house and the separate family house are suited for kids. A stay starts around $65 per night, per room. 727/547-2646.

    The Pier: 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. 727/821-6164. This famous landmark has been part of St. Petersburg since 1889, when the first railroad pier was constructed. This unique piece of Florida architecture offers you a chance to experience the waterfront along Tampa Bay. The five-story inverted pyramid, the point is on the ground floor while the wide base is on the top level, includes shops, a dining court, observation deck and an aquarium. Outside, there are public boat docks and two catwalks for fishermen. The Pier hosts 500 events each year including several major fr.ee festivals and on-going events such as the Sunday music-fest, Saturday family afternoon fun and the pals kids club. There is no admission for the Pier. Most shops open 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.
    XXXXXXThe aquarium inside the pier uses the expertise of several local college marine science graduate students in giving tours, lectures and workshops. The marine environments explore Tampa Bay, the California kelp forests, the Caribbean and Pacific coral reefs. The aquarium is open daily and admission is $2, children 12 and under are fr.ee.

    Sunset at Clearwater -- Move over Key West. Clearwater celebrates sunset every day in a family-friendly and fr*ee way at Pier 60. The party starts two hours before sunset with artisans and crafts-people showing and selling their works. Stands line both sides nearly the full length of the fishing pier. To enhance the festive atmosphere, street entertainers juggle and paint faces. For more grown-up fare, entertainers perform live music in the beach-side pavilion. A beachfront playground gives the kids a chance to move and play. After walking to the end of the pier and watching the sun set, Kendall needed more action. The playground proves good entertainment for kids before and after sunset, once they've finished with the jugglers and face-painters. Parents can keep an eye on kids at the playground and listen to live entertainment from the adjacent pavilion. After sunset, the entertainment continues for another hour or two, depending on the time of year.

    Busch Gardens -- The beautiful 335-acre theme park started as a beer garden. Now it's a mix of wild coasters and wild animals. It's still very park looking, with beautiful trees, shady areas, flowers and fountains. On a hot day, nothing beats getting soaked. Busch Gardens' three water rides are great ways to get down-to-the-skin wet with a tidal wave ride, a more sedate log flume and the river rapids.
    XXXXXXTo view animals, head to the 26-acre Serengeti Plains (the best vantage point is on the sky ride) complete with elephants, rhinos, hyenas and giraffes. The cool, lush jungle-like Myombe Reserve is home to chimpanzees and gorillas. The primates are fascinating and the shady area is a nice respite during the heat of the afternoon. The North African architecture in the Egyptian area has a replica of King Tut's tomb and themed souvenirs in the gift shop.
    XXXXXXThrills are provided on the five roller coasters including the 8000-ft Gwazi wooden roller coaster. Kiddie rides and entertainment -- bumper cars, a sand dig in Egypt, a bird show theater -- are in the Congo and Timbuktu areas. Rhino Rally, the park's signature attraction, takes you on a wild jeep ride though animal habitats.
    XXXXXXThe newest attraction is Katonga, Tales from the Heart of Africa, a Broadway-style musical of folklore and fables. This is the most expensive attraction we visited with admission $55.95 for adults and $45.95 for children 3 to 9. If you plan to visit several days or are in drive distance of the park, the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Fun Card is a great value. It allows unlimited general admission through Dec. 31, 2005 for $61.95 for adults and $51.95 for children.

    For more information, contact the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau or 877/352-3224.


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    Intro First-Class Fares, Fort Lauderdale to Nassau

    Fly First Class begins exclusive non-stop jet service from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau on Friday, Feb. 11, 2005. Fly First Class will offer scheduled flights Wednesdays through Mondays on Boeing 737 aircraft outfitted with 54 all-leather, first-class seats. The intro airfare (FP class) starts at $299 roundtrip, includes taxes and fees, and is valid through May 25, 2005.

    Non-stop, 45-minute flights include fr-ee appetizers, an open bar, three fr-ee pieces of baggage as an allowance with golf bags included in that allowance and jetway boarding. Additionally, Fly First Class offers "Premier Pass" travel discount booklets for the frequent flyer.

    The regular published fares (F class), all first class, are $150 for a one way flight and $299 roundtrip, plus taxes and fees (approx. $58). Their guaranteed booking requires a credit card at the time of booking.

    A standby fare (FS class) is available on the website, by telephone, usually within 48 hours of departure, and at the ticket counter just before boarding. The standby fare will range from $199 roundtrip plus taxes and fees to $350 depending on load factors.

    Fly First Class or 866/878-8757.



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