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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, January 2007 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2007 
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In This Issue:

Near the mouth of the Montreal River

  • Anniversary Rate Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club
  • Bahamian Payback for Winter Visits
  • Kids Sail Fr,ee to Bermuda with Costa
  • Branson Travel Club Penalized
  • Helsinki Lively Season from $599
  • Catalina Winter Savings
  • Santa Fe Low Season Specials
  • Cruise Industry Promotions 2007
  • One Penny Mondays
  • Alpine Lodge Opening Rate
  • Denali Specials
  • Shop with the Stars
  • EL AL Winter Special
  • Yellowstone Early Bird Specials
  • Fr,ee Nights at Club Med
  • Kids Eat Fr,ee at Select Marriotts
  • Triple Rewards with Choice Hotels
  • Ontario Kayaking by Kay Douglas
  • Gulf Coast Savings

  • Anniversary Rate Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club

    An $11 million renovation of Los Angeles' only waterfront destination hotel, the Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club, is almost complete.

    Celebrating its 45th anniversary March through April, 2007, the hotel will re-launch with the "Mid-Life Makeover" package offering 45 percent savings off published rates.

    The anniversary savings gets you a $199 per room, per night rate, when you stay two or more nights and a $100 food credit for the property's new signature restaurant, BALEENlosangeles.

    The renovation centered around a top-to-bottom facelift with guestrooms, public and meeting spaces, and the restaurant all redone and updated. The pool, fitness center and entryway are also revamped.

    Five oceanside suites have been added, each averaging 700 square feet and overlooking the Pacific. Suites feature sitting rooms, two plasma TVs, a double-sided fireplace, glass desk and claw foot bath tub.

    Bathrooms feature counter-mounted bowl sinks, black granite counter tops, glass shelves and marble floors. More than half of the 161 rooms face the waterfront and the remaining rooms offer views of King Harbor. Marine-side rooms come with flat screen TVs. Rooms and common areas are decorated with art depicting nautical scenes and mirrors reminiscent of portholes.

    A re-fitting and re-furbishing of the adjacent marina's docks and boat slips is currently underway.

    The Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club or 800/468-4292.


    Bahamian Payback for Winter Visits

    Stay on the islands of Nassau and Paradise Island, Bahamas, for two or more nights through Mar. 31, 2007 and 19 resorts on the islands will reimburse you for the application and processing fees for new passports (up to four per room) issued between Dec. 20, 2006 and March 24, 2007.

    New passport costs $97 for adults and $82 for children, so the program represents a savings of $358 for a family of four.

    To claim the reimbursement, submit the rebate form, along with a copy of your paid hotel bill, an airline boarding pass for each person in your group and a photocopy of each eligible traveler's passport photo page. The rebate form can be downloaded online..

    The web site also includes a section with instructions on how to apply for a new passport and a live, online chat to answer all passport-related questions. A toll-fr,ee call center at 800/523-7682 is staffed with passport specialists, available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.


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    Kids Sail Fr,ee to Bermuda with Costa

    Kids can sail fr,ee, and bring their parents, to Bermuda aboard the Costa Magica. This offer is available for children traveling with two adults paying special rates on seven-night sailings departing from Ft. Lauderdale on Apr. 15 and 22, 2007.

    Costa offers direct routes to Bermuda from Ft. Lauderdale. The Bermuda sailings include two overnights in King's Wharf. The route includes a stop in Nassau and two days at sea. Rates begin at $699. If you book inside accommodations on these sailings, you will receive a $100 onboard credit per cabin.

    Kids can also sail f,ree on a five-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Costa Magica. Departing from Ft. Lauderdale on Apr. 29, this route includes stops in Key West, Cozumel and Grand Cayman with rates from $299 per person.

    Both offers, for children 17 and under, are available for new bookings only and are subject to availability for a limited time. Rates are not available for a combination with any other promotion and are subject to change.

    Costa Cruises or 800/GO-COSTA.


    Branson Travel Club Penalized

    A Branson travel business that used deception and fraud in the selling of travel club memberships, even after being ordered by the court to stop, must now pay a record penalty of $1,950,000 after being found in contempt of court.

    Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who obtained the order against Vacation Travel LLC and its owners, said the ruling by Taney County Circuit Judge James Eiffert sends a strong message that fraud in the travel industry won't be tolerated in Missouri. "This is a record penalty for a travel-related consumer case in Missouri, and one of the largest consumer penalties ever obtained by the Attorney General's Office," Nixon said. "It serves notice that those who use deception and fraud in connection with travel clubs can face paying a heavy price."

    In his order, the judge found that Vacation Travel LLC - which did business as Vacation Travel Outlet and sold Vacation Travel Club memberships - and owners Tom Wood, Denver Wood and David Large, violated Missouri consumer protection laws and earlier orders from the court at least 390 times. He ordered the defendants to pay a civil penalty of $5,000 for each of the 390 violations. Judge Eiffert ruled that the defendants violated two earlier consent judgments obtained by Nixon that required them to provide consumers with certain information about their right to cancel contracts and their right to obtain refunds. The defendants also failed to comply with Missouri tax laws, as required by one of the earlier court orders.

    The judge's order also prohibits the defendants from ever operating, owning, working for, investing in, profiting from or "otherwise directly participating in any way" in any business that is part of the "discount travel" industry or "discount travel membership clubs" industry.

    The defendants also were ordered to pay the state's costs associated with bringing the legal action. Judge Eiffert wrote, "The Court finds that all evidence and inferences proves that Defendants have continued unabated and undiminished to abuse and take advantage of consumers - primarily elderly and credulous tourists to Branson, Missouri - throughout the entire seven years they have been engaged in this line of business (while, during most of that time, ignoring or fighting against the Attorney General's claims, or this Court's orders, that they must stop)."

    In February 2002, Judge Eiffert ordered the defendants to pay restitution to consumers who had paid up to $5,000 for travel club memberships in Vacation Travel Club, as well as penalties to the state. Nixon alleged the defendants: Subjected consumers to high pressure sales tactics in their sales presentations; Made false statements to consumers that Vacation Travel Outlet would re-purchase the memberships after a certain length of time or assist them in reselling the memberships; Misrepresented the savings available to members of Vacation Travel Club and how easy it was to use a Vacation Travel Club membership; and Consistently refused to provide refunds to consumers. "

    We will continue to take strong action against those who misuse a premier travel destination such as Branson as a way to take large amounts of money from consumers and deliver very little in return," Nixon said.



    Helsinki Lively Season from $599

    Helsinki, Finland, has more than 800 restaurants, 80 acclaimed museums, exceptional music and art and eclectic bars.

    Continental Journey offers a five-day/three-night “Helsinki” getaway during “Lively Season,” through Mar. 31, 2007. The package includes roundtrip airfare on Finnair from New York’s JFK Airport, three nights at the centrally-located Sokos Presidentti, breakfast daily, hotel taxes and services charges. Travelers must stay over Sunday night.

    Nordique Tours’ “Helsinksi City Break” package, also available through Mar. 31, 2007, starts from $659 per person. The five-day/three-night packages includes three nights’ accommodations with breakfast and roundtrip airfare on Finnair from JFK.

    Finnish Tourist Board or 212/885-9700.

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    Catalina Winter Savings

    Catalina Island, off the coast of California, offers getaway package rates with savings between 35 and nearly 50 percent this winter, until Mar. 15, 2007. Package prices are per person based on double occupancy, based on midweek travel with a stay at the Pavilion Lodge.

    The Midweek Getaway starts at $92 per person and represents a savings of 37 percent. The Sunday through Thursday package includes accommodations, roundtrip transportation to the island aboard the Catalina Express and one tour from a choice three offered by Discovery Tours.

    The Romance package starts at $132 per person and includes accommodations, roundtrip transportation to the island aboard the Catalina Express, lunch at the Catalina Country Club, and chocolates and champagne on arrival

    The Discovery package starts at $167 per person and includes accommodations, roundtrip boat transportation aboard the Catalina Express of Catalina Flyer, an inland motor tour and a marine or undersea tour.

    Catalina Island Marketing or 800/626-1496.


    Santa Fe Low Season Specials

    Winter is the time to save on a Santa Fe, NM escape. This winter there are value packages that appeal visitors who can see the town at its most relaxing.

    Inn on the Alameda, 888/984-2121 - To celebrate turning 21, an anniversary offer is available through Feb. 28, 2007. Book two nights at prevailing rates and you will get the third night for $21. The offer is available for all room types, but is subject to availability. In addition to accommodations, the package includes cotinental breakfast daily, f,ree parking, daily afternoon wine and cheese reception, all day coffee service, fr,ee local and toll-fr,ee telephone calls. The anniversary rate is not available for online reservations.

    Bishop's Lodge, 800/419-0492 - Three different packages offer savings on lodging, spa treatments and skiing at nearby Ski Santa Fe. Prices range from $289 per night for the ski package, $399 per night for the spa package to $499 per night for the ski and spa package. Package includes all taxes, gratuities, and resort fees. Prices are based on double occupancy and availability.

    La Fonda, 800/523-5002 - The "Chance for Romance" special includes two nights for one couple in a standard room, dinner for two, champagne and chocolates on arrival, a half-hour massage or spa treatmet for each person, and breakfast for two each day. The package is $599 through June 28, 2007. La Fonda also offers a "Third Night Fr,ee" package with three nights for two people in a standard room and dinner for one. La Fonda's "Two for Two" package includes two nights for two people and a fr,ee dinner for two for $449 until Mar. 31, 2007.

    La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, 866/331-7625 - Hit the slopes with the "Ski, Dine, & Unwind" package, available through Apr. 14, 2007 at a savings of 20 percent. The package includes two nights’ accommodations, two half day lift tickets per person, one 60-minute massage per person, lunch for two, resort fee, and parking. Their "Sensual Santa Fe" package is offered throughout February 2007. The package includes two nights’ accommodations in a suite, a five-course dinner for two,and an in-room 50-minute couple's massage. Resort fee and daily parking is included for a savings of more than 19 percent.



    Cruise Industry Promotions 2007

    If you are thinking about taking a cruise in 2007, some of the best savings are available during Wave Season, the cruise industry's busiest booking period, which extends through March. In addition to attractive cruise fares, you will receive your first choice of ships, itineraries and availability, says the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry marketing association.

    CLIA member lines are kicking off Wave Season with upgrades to balcony accommodations, "kids sail fr,ee" programs, early booking savings, airfare upgrades from economy to business class, shipboard credits, and cruise giveaways.

    Here’s a sampling of 2007 Wave Season offerings:

    Carnival Cruise Lines kicks off 2007 with stateroom upgrades of up to two categories on all 2007 sailings. The offers, which vary by ship, are available on the line's three-, four-, five-, seven- and eight-day itineraries. To qualify, reserve space by Feb. 15.

    Celebrity Cruises promotion offers $400 per-stateroom onboard credits on select cruise-tours booked by Feb. 28. Summit's package features Fairbanks, Seward and Denali National Park, with segments on Celebrity's glass-domed railcars. Infinity and Mercury cruise-tours include three- and five-night Canadian Rockies packages with overnights in Whistler and Vancouver.

    Costa Cruises' guests who book inside accommodations through Feb. 23 will be upgraded to ocean view cabins. If you pay for ocean views, you will be upgraded to veranda cabins. The offer is available on select 2007 and 2008 Caribbean sailings and select 2007 Europe sailings.

    Crystal Cruises features reduced business class air upgrades for all 2007 European and transatlantic cruises booked by Mar. 31. The offer applies to select North American gateways on more than two dozen European cruises and represents a fare reduction of about 50 percent off unrestricted business class fares.

    Cunard Line offers savings on two eight-day Caribbean itineraries, one from Fort Lauderdale to New York and the other roundtrip from New York. Attractive fares are also available on Queen Mary’s first transatlantic voyage later in April.

    Holland America Line - Through Feb. 28, staterooms with verandahs are the price of an outside or inside cabin by taking advantage of the "View & Verandah" Wave Season promotion. The savings are available on most cruises and cruise-tours with savings of up to $450 per person.

    MSC Cruises features a "Better than 2-for-1" promotion on 11-night deep Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries from January through April. In the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, early bookers receive the best rates and rooms available; kids sail fr,ee when sharing a stateroom with two paying adults.

    Norwegian Cruise Line's Fr,eestyle Resolution sale offers a two-category upgrade combined with an on- board credit of up to $150 per stateroom for any 2007 or 2008 cruise booked by Feb. 28. In addition, there are bonus offers and daily and weekly prizes at the cruise line’s web site ncl.com .

    Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers $250 per person shipboard credits for first-time guests on select Mediterranean and Baltic sailings made by Feb. 28. On six May to August sailings between Vancouver and Seward, kids sail fr,ee when sharing third and fourth berths with adults.

    The Yachts of Seabourn offer 50 percent savings on a trio of spring Mediterranean sailings aboard its all-suite ships. Departures in April and May feature seven- to 14-day voyages exploring the Greek Isles, Italy, French Riviera and more .

    SeaDream Yacht Club offers Wave Season prices on select South America itineraries aboard SeaDream I, the line's 55-stateroom, mega yacht. Sailings depart from Buenos Aires and Rio, and all include fr,ee excursions.

    Silversea Cruises expands its Silver Sailings savings program to include more than 50 itineraries in 2007. Savings of up to 50 percent are available on select cruises to the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Caribbean, South America, Africa and the Indian Ocean.

    Windstar Cruises has promotional rates on select seven-day May and July Mediterranean sailings aboard Wind Surf. Voyages include itineraries between Barcelona and Nice, Rome or Monte Carlo and Monte Carlo and Rome. Savings are also available on 14-day combination itineraries.

    CLIA.


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    One Penny Mondays

    For one penny, you can get one night’s accommodation at the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa. Stay three nights on either side of Monday and get Monday night for just one penny. The offer is valid for stays until Apr. 30, 2007. Conditions apply.

    Whistler is receiving record snow. There are a 1000 acres of new terrain to explore on Whistler Mountain and non-ski activities such as sno-limo, ziptrek and sleigh rides.

    Suites offer real wood burning fireplaces and access to spa, the Cinnamon Bear Bar & Grille, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, and fr,ee “ski valet.”

    Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa or 800/515-4050.



    Alpine Lodge Opening Rate

    Fairbanks, Alaska’s newest luxury hotel, the Alpine Lodge, opens May 1, 2007 with a special $59 per night rate. Located near Fairbanks International Airport, the 115-room, three-story hotel brings the great Alaskan outdoors in with bear tracks inlaid on the floor and copper salmon swimming on a smooth pebble river that covers the front desk reception area. The colors and décor follow an interior Alaskan theme.

    Rooms offer king or queen size beds, fr,ee wireless high speed Internet access, cable TV, telephone with voice mail and fr,ee local calls, an electronic key system, and air conditioning. Each room will be equipped with a hair dryer, iron and ironing board, refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker.

    Alpine Lodge will provide fr.ee breakfast, an outdoor spa, a fitness center and business center. They will offer fr.ee shuttles from the airport.

    After June 1, the rates will range from $199 to $250 for the balance of the summer. In winter, rates will drop to $89 for a standard room.

    Alpine Lodge or 800/455-8851.



    Denali Specials

    Summer and early fall are glorious times to experience Alaska.

    Denali Park Resorts operates four properties just outside Denali National Park. They introduced three new packages with savings of up to 50 percent.

    A Twice as Nice deal offers two nights for the price of one on stays May 13 to June 6, 2007. You can book a night at one of four lodges for $199 and get the second night fr.ee.

    The Denali Dreamin' package, available May 13 through Sep. 7, 2007, includes overnight accommodations at the McKinley Chalet Resort, dinner theater and buffet breakfast for $148.99 per person.

    The most elaborate Distinctive Denali package, available June 7 through Aug. 31, 2007, features a ride on the Alaska Railroad; two nights at the McKinley Chalet Resort or Grande Denali Lodge; a wilderness tour for two, with lunch included; dinner and breakfast for two. The price is $805.

    The resorts also offer transportation from Anchorage or Fairbanks or additional tours and activities.

    You can get another great Alaska deal for visits to Glacier Bay, Alaska, May 25 through June 17, 2007. Book one night at Glacier Bay Lodge for $150, you get the second night fr.ee. The lodge is the only place to stay at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, a three-million-acre reserve with 16 tidewater glaciers.

    Denali Park Resorts or 800/276-7234. Glacier Bay Lodge or 888/229-8687.


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    Shop with the Stars in LA

    Los Angeles, CA is all about shopping. Retail districts run the gamut. Some specialize in vintage treasures while others showcase the latest trends. Many cater to celebrity customers. An LA shopping trip can yield you the goods you are looking for and maybe a glimpse of your favorite star in the process. Here are some suggestions.

    One of the hottest LA shopping areas is the stretch of shops on Third Street between Crescent Heights and La Cienega. Stars such as Kirsten Dunst and Mischa Barton shop for one-of-a-kind jewelry at Kaviar & Kind, an appointment-only store that's open to all. You may spot Jessica Simpson, Jessica Alba and Denise Richards at Lisa Rinna's Belle Gray. Superstars Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz rely on Decades to outfit them with a vintage gown for the red carpet.

    Kitson is the clothing, accessories and incidentals shop on Robertson Boulevard that attracts young Hollywood shoppers from Paris Hilton to Lindsay Lohan. Here you will find the T-shirts, jeans and bags that you see in celebrity magazines. Also on Robertson, Lisa Kline attracts the same chic clientele at her men's and women's stores. One of the longest standing celebrity shop/hangouts is Tracey Ross on Sunset Plaza, where the stars browse through the latest European and U.S. fashions.



    EL AL Winter Special

    EL AL, Israel's national airline, offers low roundtrip coach fares to Israel for members of its USA Frequent Flyer Club called Matmid.

    Matmid members flying to Tel Aviv can purchase roundtrip tickets (including fuel surcharges) for departures before Mar. 25, 2007. The per person fares are $499 plus 199 Matmid frequent flyer points from New York (JFK/Newark); $599 plus 239 points from Chicago; and $699 plus 349 points from Los Angeles.

    Matmid promotional fares are for US Matmid Club members and travel must originate in the US. Fares are available in "N" class on certain EL AL flights. Tickets are valid for six to 30 days. A $50 rush fee applies for any ticket issued less than four business days prior to departure. Applicable government and security taxes not included.

    The Matmid Frequent Flyer Club offers advantages such as managing your account online, allowing requests for bonus vouchers (to exchange points for fr.ee tickets and upgrades) and receiving credit for flights not previously posted to your account. 

    Children two years and older may enroll in the "Matmid Kids" Frequent Flyer Club and earn the same points as an adult traveling with them, even though the airfare for children is usually reduced. A booklet with 48 fr.ee or discounted coupons to events, children's attractions, shopping, and restaurants throughout Israel are given to "Matmid Kids" members. 

    EL AL’s frequent flyer program has no blackout dates. EL AL has a pet frequent flyer club, where dogs and cats earn a fr.ee roundtrip flight to Israel after flying three roundtrip flights in a three-year period. Member can accumulate more Matmid points (10 to 50 percent more) for prestige classes: first and platinum business class passengers.

    EL AL or 800/223-6700.



    Cathay Pacific All Asia Pass $1,399

    Yellowstone Early Bird Specials - - Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges, restaurants, gift shops and activities in Yellowstone National Park, offer its "Early Bird Specials" at four lodges within the park when it opens for the 2007 summer season.

    The special rates represent savings up to 40 percent. Early Bird Specials are offered at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Grant Village and Lake Yellowstone Hotel. You must book rooms by Apr. 1, 2007 to get the special rates.

    Early Bird Specials allow you to stay for as little as $49 per night for a room, single or double occupancy, plus tax. Reduced rates and available dates are:

    • Old Faithful Snow Lodge, May 4 to 10, $129 for a lodge room
    • Grant Village, May 25 to 31, $99 for a hotel room
    • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, May 4 to 10, $49 for a room with a shared bathroom, $79 for a hotel room and $199 for a suite
    • Lake Yellowstone Hotel, May 18 to 24, $129 for backside hotel room.

    You can find reduced rates and occasional unadvertised specials, including winter season discount packages, on the Yellowstone web site.

    Yellowstone reservations or 866/439-7375.



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

    Fr.ee Nights at Club Med

    Club Med wants you to experience its resorts and get two fr.ee nights during a week’s stay. Available at the newly renovated and upgraded Club Med La Caravelle, Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek, Club Med Cancun Yucatan and many locations worldwide, the “Two F.ree Nights” offer allows you to discover the children’s clubs, gourmet dining, newly designed accommodations and wealth of activities perfected by Club Med.

    Book a week’s stay by Feb. 23, 2007 for travel through Nov. 2, 2007, and receive two of the seven nights fr.ee at the following Club Med destinations. Rates are land-only and do not include transportation to the destination.

    • Club Med Cancun Yucatan, Mexico from $1,085 per person
    • Club Med Columbus Isle, Bahamas from $1,225 per person
    • Club Med Turkoise, Turks & Caicos from $1,190 per person
    • Club Med Buccaneer's Creek, Martinique from $1,155 per person
    • Club Med La Caravelle, Guadeloupe from $1,190 per person
    • Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from $1,015 per person
    • Club Med Sandpiper, Florida from $945 per person
    • Club Med Ixtapa, Mexico from $1,015 per person.

    The “Two Nights Fr.ee” offer is also available at Club Med resorts worldwide including Bora Bora, French Polynesia; Coral Beach, Israel; Maldives; La Medina and La Palmeraie, Morocco; Rio das Pedras and Trancoso, Brazil; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and aboard the Club Med 2 cruise ship.

    Club Med or 800/CLUBMED.


    Kids Eat Fr.ee at Select Marriotts

    Family travelers take note. Full-service Marriott hotels in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. offer a new family value package. Through Mar. 31, 2007, the Escape! Family Time package allows children 12 and under to enjoy fr.ee breakfast, lunch and dinner from the "Kids Only" menu at participating hotel restaurants. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult dining from the hotel restaurant menu.

    In Washington, D.C. the following hotels are priced from $129 per night: Marriott Wardman Park, Key Bridge Marriott, Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National, Airport Washington Marriott, and the Marriott Crystal. The JW Marriott Pennsylvania Avenue starts from $159 while the Marriott at Metro starts from $139.

    In New York, the LaGuardia Airport Marriott starts from $149; the Marriott Financial Center and Marriott Brooklyn Bridge start from $199; the Marriott East Side starts from $249; and the Marriott Marquis starts from $319.

    In Boston, the Marriott Copley Place and the Marriott Long Wharf start from $169 while the Marriott Cambridge starts from $159.

    The Escape! Family Time rates are per room and do not include tax and gratuities. Refer to promotional code MAJ when booking.

    Marriott Hotels or 800/228-9290.


    Triple Rewards with Choice Hotelsr

    Choice Hotels International, Inc. offers a new Triple Rewards promotion. You can now earn triple Choice Privileges points or airline rewards this spring for stays at any Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites or MainStay Suites property in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean or Mexico. The promotion runs until Apr. 30, 2007.

    You can earn triple rewards for an unlimited number of visits, starting with your second stay. A stay is defined as any number of consecutive nights at one hotel regardless of check-ins or check-outs. You must notify the front desk at check-in if you choose to earn points or airline rewards.

    Points can be redeemed for fr.ee room nights worldwide, airline miles, charitable donations or gift certificates from more than 100 national and 400 regional retailers and restaurants. The Choice Privileges rewards program also offers special membership benefits, such as express reservations, express check-in, fr.ee local phone calls and incoming faxes, fr.ee newspaper and extended check-out.

    Choice Hotels.



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    Ontario Kayaking: From Fantasy to Reality on Lake Superior - - photos and article by Kay Douglas

    Everyone’s got a fantasy; in fact, most of us have any number of them. In one of my favorites, a younger, thinner version of myself is gliding effortlessly along on wave-tossed seas in a sleek sea kayak. I used to awaken from this reverie, regard my out-of-shape, middle-aged self, and heave a sigh.

    That is, until I decided to put that fantasy to the test by going on a six-day kayaking adventure on Lake Superior with Caribou Expeditions last summer. As a novice paddler, I had anxieties aplenty about being up to the challenge of an extended kayaking trip, but Caribou Expedition’s website was reassuring on the matter. I simply need to be in “good health.” Having scarcely taken a sick day in several years, I felt surely that term applied to me.

    I was heartened to find my fellow paddlers on this trek included a multi-generational family group, a retired schoolteacher, and a realtor from Philadelphia who had recently taken up kayaking and shed 44 pounds (a fact I latched onto with great interest).

    The adventure began in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with a scenic train ride north to Hawk Junction, near the small town of Wawa. The train made frequent stops at small backwoods outposts en route, and as I watched groups of campers disembark with all the gear needed for the upcoming week (or weeks), it was clear we were headed to a place as out-of-the-way as any I’d ever been. Having signed up for a lodge-based trip, however, meant that no matter how remote the location, the creature comforts would still be in place.

    Mike Petzold, who runs Caribou Expeditions along with his wife Colleen, met the train at Hawk Junction and ferried the assembled members of our group to the first night’s lodging at Kinniwabi Pines Motel, right next to our first paddling site on the Michipicoten River. I’d brought an enormous duffel bag stuffed full of cold weather gear (including a wetsuit), but to my great relief it was never needed. In fact, as most of southern Canada and the US sweltered in an August heat wave, temperatures in Wawa were nearly ideal, with Lake Superior’s waters just warm enough to make swimming appealing.

    The morning of our first kayaking day was spent outfitting group members properly and learning paddling basics. While I’d done a little sea kayaking, like most of the other members of the group, I was no expert. Mike proved a thorough teacher, making sure each of his nine charges had mastered one technique before moving on to the next. Like most novice paddlers, I was most nervous about the dreaded “wet exit” from a capsized kayak. I was not looking forward to the prospect of hanging upside down in the water, trapped in a small cockpit with a spray skirt confining me.

    When the moment came to deliberately flip my kayak, though, I felt disoriented only momentarily under water. Then I did what Mike had instructed and in seconds found myself out of the cockpit and resurfacing next to my kayak. Even more surprising was how easy I found it to get back into the boat with Mike’s assistance. Having completed a wet exit successfully, I felt my confidence rise. So what if I tipped over? I knew how to get back in my kayak, and expert guidance would never be far away.

    Another source of apprehension was how well I’d hold up to a full day of kayaking. As it turned out, I had little to worry about there, either. I found that not only was I up for the five to six hours of daily paddling, but I felt barely a twinge of stiffness or soreness at the end of the day. Admittedly, I did after the first full day, but on the second day Cal and Mike made minor adjustments to my kayak that helped me paddle more efficiently. With kayaks, even minor changes can make a big difference – and it takes a pro to spot what adjustments need to be made. With a longer paddle and seat tilted slightly more forward, for example, everything seemed to click into place for me. While I wasn’t yet that woman in my fantasy paddling effortlessly along, I was definitely starting to see glimpses of her in my reflection in the water.

    For our first full day’s paddling, we were scheduled to start at a point about a half an hour’s drive from Wawa. However, when we pulled into Old Woman Bay, Mike and his assistant Cal took one look at the wind-tossed, choppy waves and made a wise call to paddle elsewhere, under less challenging conditions. Mike knew a better place to put in, Sinclair Cove, that was not far away. Soon we were out on the water, exploring ancient Indian petroglyphs best viewed from the water. We navigated among small, tree-studded islets, encountering no one else in the vast, untouched wilderness.

    Several hours into our voyage, however, Mike spotted a distant storm approaching. He shepherded the group to a flat landing spot on a nearby island. Just as we were getting our kayaks onshore, a torrential downpour broke loose. I was thankful we were not out on the water and reflected that if I’d been paddling on my own or with people who hadn’t known how to “read” local conditions, I’d probably have been caught in that storm. It wasn’t a pretty thought.

    Time and again over the next few days, Mike demonstrated a mastery of local paddling conditions that made an ample case for taking such a trip with an experienced outfitter. Lake Superior is no place for unprepared paddlers, and even experienced paddlers may find conditions that would test their mettle. With all the equipment, travel and lodging arrangements, instruction, planning, and logistical know-how involved, the $1,195 cost of the six-day trip was proving a relative bargain.

    Even in less than ideal weather, the scenery along the coast of Lake Superior is striking. The next few days, as the weather cleared, showcased the area at its finest. Our second paddling base was Twilight Lodge, about an hour’s drive south. Here as one of two solo women in the group, I shared a spacious two-bedroom cabin with Rosemary, the retired schoolteacher. Located on a stunning bay surrounded by majestic cliffs and tall evergreens, Twilight Lodge is that rare place that only a few people seem to know about but which everyone should know about. Watching the sun sink slowly out on the lake’s horizon was an experience matched perhaps only by hearing the distant, haunting cries of loons echoing over the water.

    By this stage, the group had developed a cheerful esprit de corps, with evening gatherings around a campfire to roast marshmallows and recap each day’s adventures in animated conversation. Each morning, we all pitched in to help load equipment, and throughout the day we helped each other get in and out of our kayaks without mishap. As for mishaps, there were thankfully none to speak of, though on two separate occasions it seemed some major lunch component had been left back at the lodge (“Didn’t you bring ____?” “No, I thought you brought it!”), not that anyone was in danger of starving with the ample provisions that Colleen, Mike’s wife, provided for the expedition.

    The last full day of paddling was pure magic. The wind was to our backs (“a falling sea,” as I learned to call it), the water calm and clear enough to look straight down 10 or 20 feet. What struck me as most remarkable about Lake Superior was its wholesome smell – or should I say lack of it. It’s as if some titan carved a vast, crystalline drinking reservoir in bedrock. Often Cal, who grew up paddling the lake, would simply dip his water bottle directly into the lake for refreshment. I contented myself with swimming in the lake rather than drinking it during our rest stops along the shore, including at one particularly attractive cove Mike chose for our lunch spot.

    While it was tempting to spend the afternoon stretched out on some flat, sun-drenched rock enjoying the remarkable solitude of Lake Superior, it was not to be. Our last full day’s paddling was also the most ambitious, nearly 23 kilometers all told. I would not have believed a mere five days earlier that I’d be comfortable paddling that distance, but I was.

    Just as the late afternoon light took on the slanting cast presaging sunset, Mike pointed to a far promontory near Mica Bay, our landing spot. Redoubling my efforts, the paddle dipping rhythmically in and out of the water, the kayak began to pick up speed. The prow cut into the water, slicing through the gentle waves as I focused on that faraway point. At that moment, and up until I reached the distant shore, I came as close to my kayaking fantasy as I imagine I ever will.

    Caribou Expedition’s inn-to-inn kayaking trip is but one of many paddling adventures available in Ontario. Whether you’re a beginning novice, or experienced kayaker, there’s a package that’s sure to suit you. For more information on affordable kayak and canoe adventure vacations in Ontario’s pristine wilderness areas, contact Paddling Ontario or Caribou Expeditions.



    Gulf Coast Savings

    Three gulf-front resorts in Panama City Beach, FL, Legacy by the Sea, Beachbreak by the Sea and Beachcomber by the Sea, have several packages. A sampling of two: The Sea of Love package offers gulf-front accommodations, breakfast for two and a basket with champagne, souvenir flutes, seashell rose and scented sea salts for the bath starts at $79 per couple, per night. An Explore the Shore package lets families hunt and identify seashells together. It includes "Peterson First Guide to Shells of North America", a local guide to the best beachcombing spots, five magnifying lenses, a souvenir pail, and, just in case shells are scarce, a shell assortment. Packages start at $74 per night based on double occupancy. By the Sea Resorts or 888/627-0625.

    Edgewater Beach Resort has a Breakfast and Birdies package for four that includes golf villa accommodations, 18 holes of golf, breakfast, shoe and club cleaning and customized bag tag at rates from $116 per person, per night, Mar. 1 through May 17, 2007. You have access to a half-mile of private beach, a nine-hole executive course, four hot tubs, 11 Plexicushion tennis courts, spa and fitness center and 12 pools. Edgewater Beach Resort or 800/874-8686.


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