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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, March 2009 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://www.geocities.com/tips2travel
travelnewsletter@aim.com
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2009 
All Rights Reserved.


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In This Issue:
Performer during Sunset Celebration, Key West, FL

Sunset Celebration Mallory Square

  • Intro Rates for A.C. Express Service
  • Denver F.ree Bike-sharing Program
  • Universal Studios Hollywood 2009 All Access Pass
  • New Jersey Monthly Getaway Sweepstakes
  • Wrightsville 110th Anniversary Contest
  • Kids Fly, Stay & Ski Fr.ee at Sun Valley
  • Virginia 40 Years of Travel Passions Sweepstakes
  • Israel Eco-Friendly Initiative
  • Safari Savings Conservation Credit
  • AA Fre.e Companion Ticket
  • Triple Creek Ranch Roundups & Vintners Getaways
  • Omni Hotels Advance Purchase Discount
  • Spring Savings on Santorini
  • Scottsdale’s Summer Specials
  • Alaska Rolls Out Travel Deals
  • VIA Rail 50% Off Promotion
  • Variety Cruises’ 2-for-1 Special
  • Hurtigruten Reduced Rates
  • Kids and the Keys
  • Wayfarers Reduce UK and European Walks


    • Intro Rates for A.C. Express Service

      The Atlantic City Express Service (ACES), offers direct train service between New York City and Atlantic City. Tickets are available for weekend departures when the ACES train makes nine round trips throughout the weekend, with 300 seats on each train.

      Introductory ticket prices start at $50 for a one-way coach seat and $75 for a one-way first class seat. You can also book the train's lounge for four passengers with prices starting at $400.

      With one stop in Newark, the two-and-a-half hour ACES trip offers leather seating in first and coach class plus the private lounge. First class seating is on the upper deck of the train. The lounge offers four plasma televisions, table-top space and group seating for four so you can invite friends along.

      Fr.ee shuttles between the Atlantic City Rail Terminal and the joint venture properties behind the train service, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, are available on arrival as is the return service when you book roundtrip tickets.

      Schedules and reserve tickets for both classes of service and the lounge car are available online. You can also purchase tickets online and find links to each partner property, where you can also book your entire Atlantic City getaway.

      Atlantic City Express Service.



      Denver F.ree Bike-Sharing Program

      A new citywide bike sharing program, "Denver B-Cycle" will put 500 fr.ee bikes on the streets of Denver in summer 2009, at 30 to 40 stations throughout the city.

      Visitors and residents will be able to go to a bike station, swipe a credit card, and ride off on a bike to sightsee or run errands. Bike rentals are fre.e as long as the bike is returned to the same location by 10 a.m. the following business day.

      All of the bike stations will be situated within three or four miles of downtown and will be near convenient locations such as light rail stations, museums, the Colorado Convention Center, campuses and hotels.

      Metro Denver has 850 miles of off-road, paved bike trails, one of the largest bike networks in the nation. And with 300 days of sunshine, Denver has pleasant weather for biking, even in winter when streets are generally dry.

      The bike program is made possible by a $1 million grant from the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee, which planned the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. The program showcases Denver’s ongoing investment in green initiatives, helping to reduce residential, visitor and convention footprints.

      During the DNC, an experimental "F.reewheelin’ bike program" was tried with 1,000 fr.ee bikes made available to convention delegates. Some 5,552 bike rides were made during the four-day convention with riders traveling a total of 26,416 miles. Based on that success, Denver’s new bike sharing program evolved as a legacy program from the Democratic National Convention.

      Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau or 800/2-DENVER.


      Advertisement
      Fr-ee Fun San Diego
      This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket.

      To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email.



      Universal Studios Hollywood 2009 All Access Pass

      With the introduction of the 2009 All Access Pass, Universal Studios Hollywood rolls out a red carpet for repeat visitors, providing perks, privileges and discounts for $5 more than the price of a single-day admission.

      The 2009 All Access Pass offers unrestricted 365-day "no black-out date" park access, a dedicated VIP express front gate entrance, Backlot Studio Tour priority boarding privileges for most of the year, plus discounts on all food and merchandise purchases at the theme park and $12 off the purchase of guest tickets.

      Other highlights of the 2009 All Access Pass includes an "Umbrella Policy" which takes the barometer and weather forecast guesswork from the theme park equation. With "The World's First-Ever Theme Park Guaranteed Rain Check," visitors at Universal Studios Hollywood will receive a rain check ticket on a day that the park receives more than 1/8 inch of rainfall by 2 p.m. The rain check is valid for use any time in the following 30 days. Plus, on rainy days, you receive fr.ee coffee and hot chocolate at designated covered and indoor rest areas.

      Universal Studios Hollywood debuts the new "Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical" and a revitalized Studio Tour in 2009 showcasing new film sets and the arrival of Conan O'Brien and the new Tonight Show sound stage.

      The 2009 All Access Pass, priced at $72, is available for purchase online and at the theme park ticket booths through April 2009.

      Universal Studios Hollywood is now open 365 days of the year, and for the first time, will remain open on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.

      Universal Studios Hollywood



      New Jersey Monthly Getaway Sweepstakes

      The New Jersey Division of Travel & Tourism provides you with an opportunity to win getaway experiences at some of the state's great destinations. Running through June, 2009, New Jersey's Great Destinations Sweepstakes features multi-night packages valued to $2,200 through a partnership with venues throughout the state.

      All getaway packages include a minimum of two nights’ accommodations, fr.ee meals and vouchers for activities and/or entertainment that vary as much as the destinations themselves. Ranging from family-friendly beach adventures to romantic retreats at secluded resorts, each month provides a new experience to discover another region of New Jersey.

      Among the featured locations in the sweepstakes are the mountain resorts at Crystal Springs and Mountain Creek, landmark university towns with arts and cultural scenes in Princeton and New Brunswick, the seaside resorts of Cape May and Long Beach Island, and hot spots including Wildwood, Asbury Park and Red Bank.

      You can learn more about New Jersey's destinations and the sites featured in the packages by visiting the state's tourism website.

      To enter New Jersey's Great Destinations Sweepstakes click on the link for radio station B101 in Philadelphia or 95.5 WPLJ in New York.



      Wrightsville 110th Anniversary Contest

      Wrightsville Beach, along the Atlantic Coast in North Carolina, celebrates its 110th anniversary with "110 Nights In Wrightsville," a contest where 55 winners will receive a two-night trip to the North Carolina resort town.

      The contest runs through Mar. 31, 2009 and you can register online. Winners can redeem their trip at participating hotels and vacation rentals through Dec. 31, 2009. Blackout dates run June 15 through Aug. 15, 2009. Winners will be assigned randomly to participating lodging properties and must contact those properties to confirm available dates. Some of the participating properties include Bryant Real Estate, Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, Shell Island Oceanfront Suites, Summer Sands Suites and Silver Gull Motel.

      Entries are limited to one per person and you must be at least 21 years of age to enter.

      110 Nights In Wrightsville contest.



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      High-style boutiques and jewelers charge $500 or more for this glam piece. It's yours for only $125 plus shipping & insurance. Click here to order.
      At the home page, click on the amber category.


      Kids Fly, Stay & Ski Fre,e at Sun Valley

      Children ages two to 11 years old can fly f,ree on Horizon Air from Los Angeles and Seattle to Sun Valley/Ketchum when booked with a qualifying lodging package.

      A two-night ski getaway starts from $483 per person, based on double occupancy. The price does not include government taxes and security fees. The offer is valid for one child per adult 18 years or older and travel must be completed by Mar. 30, 2009. The offer is available on off-peak days of Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Space is limited and is based on availability.

      Kids 15 and under can ski and stay fr,ee in a participating Wood River Valley lodging property and eat fre,e at participating dining establishments through Mar. 30, 2009. One child per parent can stay f,ree in the same room as the parents. One fr.ee child lift ticket per paying parent lift ticket, with a limit of two per room or condominium unit.

        The ski and stay fr,ee offer is available at the following Sun Valley properties:
      • Best Western Kentwood Lodge
      • Clarion Inn Sun Valley
      • Elkhorn Village and Ketchum Village by Premier Resorts
      • ResortQuest Condos at Elkhorn Village, River Run, Sun Valley Village and Warm Springs
      • Sun Valley Inn
      • Sun Valley Lodge
      • Sun Valley Village by Premier Resorts
      • Warm Springs Village by Premier Resorts

      Kids Fly Fr,ee packages.



      Virginia 40 Years of Travel Passions Sweepstakes

      Virginia starts its largest vacation giveaway with the "40 Years of Travel Passions" sweepstakes. The state is giving away 40 trips in 40 weeks to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan.

      The contest sets out to prove that 40 is the new 20, with some of state's most exciting travel experiences.

      You can go online and enter to win one of 40 trips to destinations across Virginia. Each prize trip will be experiential and focus on Virginia's most popular travel passions such as wine, music, history, adventure and luxury. Prize trips range from two to seven nights for two to six people.

      Virginia will award one trip a week, starting Feb. 20, 2009, culminating in a grand prize awarded Nov. 23, 2009. The contest is open to U.S. citizens 21 years and older.

      One grand prize winner will have the choice of one of four vacations. The grand prize includes airfare to Virginia and a rental car. The grand prize choices are for an adrenaline junkie, creative cat, Le Connoisseur or history buff.

      Each trip is themed around Virginia's travel "passionalities," to help you live passionately on vacation in Virginia. You can take an interactive quiz online to determine your "passionality" and learn if you are an Uber Rebel, Biography Buff, or Front Row Fanatic, and then enter the sweepstakes.

      40 Years of Travel Passions Sweepstakes.



      Israel Eco-Friendly Initiative

      Israel's Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) embarked on one of the world's most dramatic "eco-friendly" initiatives.

      That initiative is transforming the 2,000-acre Hiriya garbage dump on the outskirts of Tel Aviv into a park and 24-hour recreational hotspot. In a news release, the Tourism Ministry said since Hiriya's establishment decades ago, the garbage dump was an eyesore on the edge of Tel Aviv, complete with waste-eating pigeons and horrid stenches. In an eco turn-around, Ayalon Park, created on the site of the former garbage dump, will stand as one of the world's largest metropolitan parks containing a vast number of trees, hiking and horseback riding trails, and tropical gardens.

      The 230-foot Hiriya Mountain, a waste-mound located within the park's center, has been transformed into an eco-friendly attraction with an inner oasis of tilting terraces, ridge groves, shaded foot paths and a two-layered canopy with benches and tables for rest or picnics. Atop Hiriya Mountain, you will have panoramic views of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Recycling Center, which spans 75 acres, is located at the base of the "healed" mountain.

      "The Ayalon Park rejuvenation project is a true indicator of Israel's efforts to put itself on par with some of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world," said Arie Sommer, IMOT's North and South America's commissioner of tourism. "The park will be a hotspot for nature-seeking tourists and a ‘front door’ to Tel Aviv's amazing natural landscape."

      According to IMOT, an independent non-profit public organization, called "Friends of Ayalon Park," launched an interactive website to raise awareness of the park and encourage community involvement in its rehabilitation project.

      Ayalon Park.


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      Face-It Luggage Tags -- Your Face on Your Luggage
      There's no mistaking your luggage with the 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.



      Safari Savings Conservation Credit

      Forgoing a safari may seem like doing the right thing in a shaky economy. But wild places depend on eco-tourism dollars to support conservation efforts. Concerned about the real needs of nature travel destinations around the planet, tour provider Natural Habitat Adventures offers a one-time "Conservation Credit" that can translate into savings, including $1,000 off per person on a 2009 African safari.

      "We needed to find a way to help keep people traveling during these tough economic times so the wild corners of our planet that count on responsible tourism can thrive," says Natural Habitat Adventures founder and director Ben Bressler.

      "Tourism can be a real source of good in the world," Bressler explains. "Our Uganda trip fees go directly toward protecting wild mountain gorillas on a day-to-day basis, while sending a clear message to Uganda's government that saving gorillas matters. In fact, I believe that without tourism, those gorillas would be extinct."

      To receive a Conservation Credit certificate, click here and take a brief online eco-tourism survey.

      When you book a new 2009 African safari, you can use the credit for a per-person travel discount of $1,000 on any scheduled 2009 South African Safari, $500 on any scheduled 2009 East African Safari, or 50 percent off a Classic Galapagos Islands Adventure that departs by May 31, 2010. The travel discount applies to the entire party.

      Natural Habitat Adventures provides small-group encounters with wildlife around the planet. A member of Adventure Collection, it serves as an exclusive conservation travel provider to the World Wildlife Fund and was ranked a 2009 Best Adventure Travel Company by National Geographic Adventure. All Natural Habitat Adventures trips are carbon neutral.

      Natural Habitat Adventures or 800/543-8917.



      AA F=ree Companion Ticket

      American Airlines extends a special offer for Aadvantage frequent flyer members who fly roundtrip from the United States to the United Kingdom . Through Mar. 31, 2009, fly American Airlines roundtrip in first class or business class, or on select economy class fares, from the United States to the United Kingdom, and earn a f=ree companion ticket for future travel to the UK or select destinations in the Caribbean. Travel on flights operated by codeshare or oneworld airlines do not qualify for this offer. The offer is restricted to residents of the Continental U.S. and Canada.

      To participate in this offer, simply book and travel on your qualifying ticket through Mar. 31, 2009. Register here before your trip, using promotion code UKCMP. If you previously registered for this promotion, do not re-register.

      In addition, to receiving your f.ree companion ticket and instructions for redeeming it, you must opt-in to at least one of American's e-mail products. For details, login to AA.com and select the "My Email and Fare Alerts" tab within your AAdvantage Account.

      All taxes and fees associated with travel using the fr=ee companion award ticket are your responsibility. The companion award ticket earned with this promotion must be booked through AAdvantage Reservations at 800/882-8880, and requires a $20 payment for award ticketing.

      The companion award ticket is valid for outbound travel through Dec. 15, 2009. All return travel must be completed by Dec. 31, 2009.

      If you're not already an AAdvantage member, it's easy and fre=e to enroll. Just click here.


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      Protect Luggage with Baggage Guard Seals

      The pre-numbered, one-time use plastic padlocks are the perfect way to protect 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 from On The Go Publishing.


      Triple Creek Ranch Roundups & Vintners Getaways

      BOOK BY MAR. 15 - - Triple Creek Ranch, in Darby, MT 75 miles south of Missoula, announces 2009 dates for its Spring Roundups and Spring Vintners Series. Book by Mar. 15, 2009, and save 10 percent off the package price for the events.

      Cattle branding and barrel racing are the order of the day during Spring Roundups, a pair of four-night stays scheduled May 3 to7 and May 10 to 14, 2009. The packages include a cowboy basics day with roping and wrangling, a branding day with rustling and vaccinating horses, and a rodeo day where aspiring ranchers test their riding skills. The packages also include all meals, beverages, house wines and spirits; and other on-ranch activities. Per-couple rates start from $3,150 for a cedar cabin.

      At the end of each day, you return to your cabin to unwind by a roaring fire, enjoy a couple’s massage and sip champagne in a hot tub, followed by candle lit dinners in the Lodge’s dining room.

      The Spring Vintners Series runs May through June and features one winery on each of four weekends. The weekend packages include wine tastings and wine dinners, plus outdoor and indoor activities ranging from fly-fishing and horseback riding to couple’s massages. Rates begin at $1,950 per couple, based on double occupancy.

      The year-round Triple Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive resort and Relais & Chateaux property designed for adults. The resorts 600 acres are bordered in three directions by the Bitterroot National Forest. The retreat features 23 Western-styled log cabins with wood-burning fireplaces; most have a private outdoor hot tub. A fully stocked wet bar in each provides soft drinks and f=ree house spirits, along with freshly baked cookies and trail mix. All rooms are equipped with direct-dial phones, satellite television, WiFi, and CD and DVD players. A fitness center, horseback riding, and tennis courts are on property.

      Triple Creek Ranch or 800/654-2943.


      Omni Hotels Advance Purchase Discount

      Omni Hotels offers its new Advance Purchase program to leisure and business travelers. This program encourages you to pre-book stays at any Omni hotel or resort across the brand, saving 10 to 15 percent off of the best available rates.

      The Advance Purchase program offers anyone who reserve rooms 14 days in advance of their stay a 10 percent savings and those who book rooms 21 days in advance a 15 percent savings.

      The program is available through the end of 2009 and requires a minimum 14-day advance purchase. The reservation must be pre-paid, is non-refundable and rates do not include taxes or resort fees.

      Omni Hotels has 43 hotels and resorts across North America. From golf and spa retreats to business settings, each location features signature restaurants, WiFi connectivity and fitness options.

      Omni Hotels or 800/THE-OMNI.



      Spring Savings on Santorini

      Astra, a boutique property on the Greek Island of Santorini, offers a spring special, 25 percent off the low season rate, a savings of more than $330.

      From Apr. 1 to 30, excluding the Greek Easter weekend of Apr. 18 to 20, 2009, Astra offers a fourth night fr=ee when staying three nights, a 25 percent savings off the regular rates. The “Savor Spring at Astra” package starts at$987 for two and includes a Greek breakfast served on your private balcony, a bottle of Santorini wine on arrival, champagne and chocolates at sunset, daily maid service and all taxes.

      Astra’s rate for a standard apartment is about $329, or 250 euros for two people. The April rates for superior apartments, two-bedroom apartments and suites range from$395 or 300 euros to $844 or 640 euros.

      Rates for suites include a bottle of premium Santorini wine and flowers on arrival, breakfast on your balcony daily, twice-daily maid service, newspapers, bathrobes, slippers and additional amenities. All rates are based on single or double occupancy and taxes are included.

      Each of the 28 suites and rooms are decorated in traditional island style with works by local artists. The complex has 16 domed-ceiling apartments and 12 suites – eight with private plunge pools or outdoor Jacuzzis. A day spa offers a full range of massages and facials. Astra’s restaurant serves fish and Santorinian specialties under the stars.

      High up on a cliff overlooking the Aegean with a bird’s eye view of the 3,600-year-old caldera, wildflower-filled paths and whitewashed staircases lead to Astra’s reception area filled with books and artwork. High-speed Internet access is in all rooms and suites.

      In April, Santorini is sunny with the average temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. With the temperate weather and no crowds, you can relax in accommodations at a substantial savings.

      Astra Apartments and Suites or email.



      Advertisement
      Cheap Tix Chart
      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 Publishings 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.

      Scottsdale’s Summer Specials

      When it gets hot, the prices drop in Scottsdale, AZ. Here are a few summer packages and specials to save you money.

      Hotel Valley Ho, 480/248-2000, offers its So Summer package that begins Memorial Day and lasts through Labor Day. The package starts at $149 per night and includes a celebratory drink, 10 percent off the first spa visit, 20 percent off dinner at Trader Vic’s and a shopping book with more than $700 in discounts and VIP line passes to Scottsdale nightclubs.

      The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, 480/ 515-5700, summer specials run June 1 to Sep. 13, 2009 and include the Bed & Breakfast package with casita accommodations and breakfast from $225 per night. Extend your stay with the Stay Longer deal and get a third night fre=e with two paid nights. Seasonal rates start at $195 per night.

      The Chaparral Suites Resort’s, 480/949-1414, Caribbean Summer package starts at $99 per night. Accommodations include a two-room suite, full breakfast, poolside room service, live Caribbean music on Friday and Saturday evenings, and a gift bag with a weekend stay. The offer is good May 22 thru Labor Day.

      SouthBridge Restaurant Group’s, 480/949-9000, Taste de Tour lets you sample three of Scottsdale’s newest restaurants in one night for$49 per person. Begin the evening at CANAL followed by a main course at Estate House then finish the experience with dessert at Metro Brasserie & Bar.

      Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.



      Alaska Rolls Out Travel Deals

      The Alaska Travel Industry Association is marketing Alaska travel values to bolster what is shaping up to be one of the state's slowest travel seasons on record.

      The association predicts visitation will be off from 10 to 30 percent during the state's high season, May to September of 2009. With more people choosing `staycations,` the state's travel industry is working hard to demonstrate that an Alaska trip is a better deal this year than ever.

      The statewide travel specials include discounts on accommodations, packages, transportation and activities.

      Current specials are found at Alaska Travel Industry Association Deals.



      VIA Rail 50% Off Promotion

      PURCHASE TICKETS BY MAR. 31 - - VIA Rail Canada offers fun for half the price on three of its popular tourism services: the Toronto-Jasper-Vancouver Canadian, Montréal-Halifax Ocean and Montreal-Gaspe Chaleur. The discount is valid in Comfort (economy) and Sleeper class services.

      VIA’s flagship Canadian is a four-night journey from the Rocky Mountains through the Canadian Prairies to the Canadian Shield and lake lands of Northern Ontario. You can experience this at a savings of 50 percent off the regular peak fare when you travel by May 31, 2009. Tickets must be purchased at least three days prior to departure or by Mar. 31, 2009.

      You can experience the entire cross country odyssey or opt for an overnight trip from Vancouver to Jasper, Alberta in the heart of the Rockies. Choose VIA’s economical Comfort class or be pampered with Silver & Blue sleeper class where regional cuisine prepared by an on-board chef and accommodation are included in the price along with access to the train’s 360 degree panorama dome car.

      One-way price on the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver starts at CAD $662 (approx. US $540) per person for an upper berth. An overnight journey in a double bedroom from Vancouver to Jasper is CAD $447 (approx. US $365) plus tax, per person for double occupancy.

      VIA’s Ocean service between Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Chaleur between Montreal and the Gaspe region of Quebec offer savings of 50 percent for travel until June 13, 2009. Tickets must be purchased at least three days prior to departure or by Mar. 31, 2009.

      On VIA Rail’s eastern services, trains travel through the towns along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River before descending through the Notre Dame Mountains in the Matapedia Valley. From there, the Chaleur continues to Gaspe while the Ocean travels through New Brunswick en route to Nova Scotia. Passengers can choose from VIA’s Comfort Sleeper or the economical Comfort class.

      Prices for the overnight journey in Comfort Sleeper class on the Ocean in a standard double bedroom between Montreal and Halifax start at CAD $187 (approx. US $153) plus tax, per person for double occupancy. One-way travel in Comfort Sleeper class on the Chaleur between Montreal and Gaspe in a double bedroom is available from CAD $164.50 (approx. US $134) plus tax, per person. Meals are extra on these two services.

      VIA RAIL or 888/842-7245.



      Advertisement
      Silky Travel Jewelry Roll
      A must have for travelers. Our silky travel jewelry roll comes in a random assortment of single-color jacquards, solid colors and two-color brocades. This handy travel jewelry roll measures 8 1/2 x 11 inches when open and closes to a compact 8 1/2 x 4 inches. Our exclusive design offers a place for everything with one deep pocket, a ring bar and three zippered compartments. Price $40. Click here to order from On The Go Publishing.


      Variety Cruises’ 2-for-1 Special

      Variety Cruises offers last-minute savings for its Apr. 4, 2009 Egyptian "Red Sea Wonders" cruise. The small-ship cruise company offers a two-for-one special where the second person in a double cabin is f.ree. Valid for departures from Sharm El Sheikh, fares begin at $1,490 per person, per week.

      The cruise offers seven days on the Harmony G for a journey through Egypt’s Red Sea and the diverse nature, history and culture of Sinai and Jordan. There are visits to Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor, Hurghada, St. Catherine Monastery, and Petra in Jordan.

        The "Red Sea Wonders" cruise includes:
      • cabin accommodations with private facilities & air conditioning.
      • Daily buffet breakfast and two additional meals including special theme nights,
      • House wine and refreshments during meals.
      • English speaking Cruise Coordinator to meet all travel needs and arrange excursions.

      Life on board the Harmony G centers around the indoor/outdoor lounge and the American bar on the upper deck. The main deck dining room is surrounded by large windows. In addition to a sun deck, a swimming platform at the rear of the ship allows you to swim when weather and anchorage conditions permit.

      The two-for-one special is available for a limited number of cabins and it cannot be combined with other special offers. Port taxes are not discounted and there is no supplement for single travelers. This special offer must be mentioned at the time of booking.

      Variety Cruises or 800/319-7776.



      Hurtigruten Reduced Rates

      Hurtigruten offers savings of $3,041 to $4,694 per person and adds roundtrip air from NY or Miami, when you book a suite on its November and December 13-day Argentina and Antarctica and 22-day Antarctica/Falklands/South Georgia cruises. Suites must be booked by Mar. 31, 2009.

      These soft-adventure voyages, featuring naturalist guides, guest lecturers, boat landings, and pre- and post-cruise nights in Buenos Aires, explore the wilderness of the White Continent, replete with icebergs, blue whales and orcas feeding feet from the ships, and penguin rookeries that number in the tens of thousands.

      Normal brochure prices of $9,618 to $16,228 are now $6,577 to $11,534 per person, double occupancy. Suite purchases also include perks such as two optional excursions; wine, beer or soda at meals; and a bottle of champagne from the Captain.

      This offer cannot be combined with others but can be booked using Hurtigruten's interest-free "Layaway Getaway" monthly payment plan. Air add-ons, available from dozens of North American gateways, range from $50 to $500.

      The 13-day Antarctica expedition, on the 318-berth MS Fram, combines an eight-night voyage with stops at Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. For an extended version, the 22-day Falklands/Malvinas, South Georgia and Antarctica itinerary adds several days at South Georgia and the Falklands Islands, breeding grounds for millions of seabirds and home to the King and other penguin species.

      Both cruises offer landfall opportunities in Antarctica at Whaler's Bay with warm springs and black volcanic sand; Half Moon Island, a rookery for Chinstrap penguins; Yankee Harbor, home to seals and Gentoo penguin pairs; Almirante Brown, with its snowy peaks, ice cliffs and sculpted bergs; Port Lockroy, where postcards postmarked "Antarctica" can be purchased; and Wilhelmina Bay, a feeding ground for whales and seals. Two nights, split between pre- and post-cruise, are also spent in Buenos Aires.

      The 12,700-ton, eight-deck MS Fram, was designed for cruising polar waters. Suites include seating areas, some with two rooms, TV, mini-bar and queen-size beds. The ship offers an Internet cafe, a glass-enclosed observation salon, restaurant with ocean views, wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools.

      Fares include all meals onboard, expert guides, lectures and boat landings. Airline fuel surcharges and taxes, ticketing fees of $229, and gratuities are additional.

      Hurtigruten specializes in expedition cruising, sailing to the remote of destinations of Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic’s Spitsbergen.

      Hurtigruten or 800/323-7436.



      Kids and the Keys - - Article and Photos by Nicki Chodnoff

      Sunset Celebration Mallory SquareA visit to the Florida keys is not about the beaches, which pale in comparison to both of Florida’s coasts. A visit is more about the sun, simple pleasures and spontaneous fun that revolves around the water, which makes it a great family destination.

      This two-part article explores the many things to see and do in the Keys. Part one focuses on Key West, the best known destination in the Keys. Part two looks at Islamorada Key, Big Pine Key, Marathon Key and Key Largo, the less known Keys destinations.

      To start off, the Keys are a chain of 34 subtropical islands strung along U.S. 1 (also known as the Overseas Highway), like charms on a bracelet. You can still find charm and natural beauty, so allow time for aimless exploration, turning down intriguing side roads and streets.

      When you are in the Keys, it feels like you're in another country. In fact, Key West tried to secede as the independent "Conch Republic" in 1982. While still part of the U.S., this far-flung outpost still celebrates Independence Day every April 23. It also maintains its long tradition of tolerance. Whether you're a family, single, or couple (gay or straight), you'll be welcomed here.

      Key West may have an "anything goes reputation," but it is more than just a pretty party town. Sure, you’ll find plenty of potent potables, loud music and hardly-shy revelers. Family vacationers need to pick and choose what to see around Duval Street, the Bourbon Street of South Florida, as those attractions are about having a good time. But Key West has a wealth of attractions and museums relating to its rich literary and maritime history. Plus you’ll find interesting shops to browse and the gleaming ever-present ocean as a backdrop.

      Key West is famous for its beautiful sunsets. The daily Sunset Celebration takes place on the west side of the island in Mallory Square. Expect part street theater, part art exhibit, part people watching platform extraordinaire that everyone in the family will enjoy. About two hours before sunset, arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers, food carts, psychics, locals and tourists gather at the water’s edge to watch the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico. While waiting, street performers do their thing, from a tightrope walker, magician and escape artist to performing trained house cats. Performers count on the kindness of strangers and their tips.

      Beyond the daily and always interesting spectacle of Sunset Celebration, there are many family-friendly things to do and see. Here are some choices that will keep the kids entertained.

      Key West AquariumPirate Soul Museum - - You can find the town's newest attraction by the many Jolly Rogers flags flying out front. In five short years, the Pirate Soul Museum joined the "must see" attractions in the Conch Republic. Yes, it’s part theater as Blackbeard's talking disembodied head greets you, and punishment cages for wayward pirates hang nearby, burning that experience in your mind. The likes of Anne Bonny, Black Caesar, Captain Kidd and Henry Morgan help the museum display the largest, most authentic collection of pirate artifacts such as Blackbeard’s original blunderbuss and Captain Thomas Tew’s authentic treasure chest. The real treasure is the entertaining way kids learn about the real pirates of the Caribbean with almost 500 artifacts and a storyline from Captain Kid’s last voyage. One of the most titillating experiences in the museum happens when you put on headphones and sit in a darkened room that simulates the bilge. Audio-animatronics script an episode from a pirate's life. You hear what’s goings on, complete with scurrying rat sound effects, but see nothing. The event seems so real that you feel the paranoia and swear that a pirate is breathing down your neck and whispering in your ear. It made the hairs stand up on my neck.

      Key West Aquarium at Mallory Square - - The modest but interesting place has been entertaining and teaching families since 1935, when it was built as an Emergency Relief Administration project. The aquarium was the island's first tourist attraction. Indoors, a row of open tanks are aligned down the center of the building. Enclosed, glass-encased tank displays on each side of the room showcase dozens of fish and crustaceans. Several larger outdoor holding tanks, that back up to the gulf, hold turtles and sharks. If you’re around when the keepers toss in some bait, consider it an entertaining added bonus, otherwise it interesting to see these wild creatures swim. The kids will enjoy the shallow touch tanks where they can touch and interact with sea cucumbers, star fish, horseshoe crabs and sea anemones. Catch one of four free daily tours, and you’ll see frenzied shark and turtle feedings.

      Look-Out Tower Shipwreck HistoreumKey West's Shipwreck Historeum at Mallory Square - - Kids and adults seem intrigued when learning about a chapter in Key West’s history few know: its role in salvaging ship wrecks that provided the livelihoods of many early pioneers, before the advent of tourism. A costumed actor posing as master wrecker Asa Tift tells the story about the wrecking industry and Key West’s maritime heritage, where it once was the richest city in the United States. In addition to the actors and movies, you can see actual artifacts from the 1985 discovery of the wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the treacherous Florida Keys reef. If that’s too much standing still for the kids, have them climb the 65-foot lookout tower for a great bird’s eye view of Key West.

      Mel Fisher Museum - - Who isn’t drawn to the gleam of silver and gold? Well, this museum doesn’t disappoint. In 1985, local hero Mel Fisher found a multimillion treasure when it located the watery grave of the wrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. The museum is as much about Mel’s persistence in finally locating this vast treasure 30 miles from Key West. When the galleon sank in 1622 en route to Spain from Havana, it was carrying tons of silver and gold bars and doubloons, jewelry, pottery and emeralds. In today’s money, the treasure is valued at more than $450 million. Given that value, you can get close, but not too close, as most of the treasure is displayed in plexiglass cases. One exception is a 76 ounce gold bar that you can hold through the opening in the plexiglass case. The bar is heavier than it looks. One of the most impressive displays is a 77-karat emerald, about the size of a nickel. This emerald wasn’t listed on the ship’s manifest, which means someone was smuggling it from Cuba to Spain. A 1700 English merchant slave ship, tangible evidence of the transatlantic slave trade, is on view on the museum's second floor. In case you want to take home a souvenir, you can buy coins at the Treasure Store, as you exit the museum. The coins are sold based on their condition. The best condition Grade 1 coins sell for about $3,150.

      Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory - - Before you enter the greenhouse, you can learn about the colors, size, shape, history and life span of butterflies in the Learning Center. Step through the airlock and you see hundreds of butterflies, up to 60 different species from around the world, flutter throughout the 5,000 square foot greenhouse. Through the lush vegetation, you can see butterflies eat fruit placed around the conservatory, drink the nectar from flowers and maybe sit on your shoulders for a few seconds. In addition to butterflies, there are colorful, “butterfly friendly” birds and moths, all living among an impressive collection of tropical flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and lush trees. It’s relaxing to walk on the path through the conservatory and its an educational experience. Towards the back of the greenhouse there’s the butterfly nursery, where the next generation of greenhouse inhabitants develop in their cocoons. Since the butterfly life span is under 90 days, the nursery is always filled with hundreds of cocoons.

      Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory In next month’s issue we’ll continue exploring the Florida Keys as we leave Key West and make our way towards Miami and the mainland.

      The Florida Keys or 800/FLA-KEYS.



      Wayfarers Reduces UK and European Walks

      PAY IN FULL BY MAR. 31, 2009 - - In providing maximum value for clients, the Wayfarers adjusted prices for its 2009 walking vacations in the United Kingdom and Europe. The company is passing along the benefits of a stronger dollar, now holding its own against the euro and the pound sterling. These new rates represent savings of $400 per person or $800 per couple. Additionally, the company secured hotel upgrades on some trips, while maintaining reduced prices.

      The value-added prices are offered to all who make reservations in U.S. dollars, with payment in full by Mar. 31, 2009. The new prices are extended to clients holding reservations made previously and paid in U. S. dollars.

      Five-, six- and seven-day walk packages are offered in the UK and Europe and start at $3,295 per person. Packages include all accommodations, meals, wine with dinner, hikes, tours, and entrance fees. Walks range from easy to challenging, covering distances of four to five miles, six to 10 miles, and 12 to 15 miles per day. Wayfarers walks offer entrance into homes and gardens closed to the public and meetings with local residents.

      The Wayfarers’ 2009 schedule features 83 walks through 17 countries. In Europe, these include England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Greece. The 2009 schedule also features two women-only walks in England and Italy.

      Wayfarers’ walks experience a high rate of repeat guests. The company honors returning walkers with special prices each year.

      The Wayfarers or 800/249-4620.



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