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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, April 2013 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2013 
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff

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In This Issue:
Waterfall near Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

waterfall near sugarlands visitor center photo waterfallnearsugarlands_zps1f024386.jpg

  • Shanty Creek 2013 Unlimited Golf Packages
  • Golf Passport for Palm Beach County Courses
  • $500 Off Extraordinary Journeys South Africa Safari
  • Value-Priced and Unusual Lodging in Colorado
  • Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel "Pay Less for More"
  • Insight Vacations Early Bird Promotion
  • National Car Rental "Go Like a Pro" Sweepstakes
  • Breakers Summer Promotion
  • Club Med Happiness Sale
  • French Country Waterways 40% Savings
  • Spring Wildflowers at National Wildlife Refuges
  • 50% Off Cox & Kings India’s Golden Triangle
  • Inn on Fifth Golf Package
  • Purchase Airline Tickets on Weekends for Best Deals
  • Exotic Journeys Specially Priced Tours
  • Scenic Cruises' 2014 River Cruises at 2013 Prices
  • Kids Sail Free on Crystal Cruises
  • Pleasant Holidays Kauai Trip from $475
  • Wildlife Wilderness Week
  • Regent Seven Seas Have It All Promotion

    Golf Passport for Palm Beach County Courses

    Through April 2013, you can tee off at five courses in Palm Beach County, FL with the new Golf Passport. From $240, the passport includes 18-holes on four public courses and nine-holes at the John Prince Golf Learning Center. It also includes a free bucket of range balls and a bonus coupon valid for an extra round at any one of the five courses.

    The passport allows you to experience one of five Audubon International Classic Signature Golf Courses at the Osprey Point Golf Course and the nearby Southwinds Golf Course, known for its foliage and diverse birds and wildlife. Both courses are in Boca Raton. In Lake Worth, you can play on the Park Ridge Golf Course. The Okeeheelee Golf Course, in West Palm Beach’s Okeeheelee Park, provides views of the surrounding lakes. The John Prince Golf Learning Center of Lake Worth is a learning and practice facility managed by Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation.

    In Palm Beach County, you will find more than 160 public and private golf courses. The Palm Beaches is also home to pro shops, teaching facilities, driving ranges, the Junior Golf Academy and The PGA of America.

    Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau or 800/554-7256.

    50% Off Second Passenger on Hurtigruten Cruise

    Hurtigruten offers 50 percent off the brochure rate for the second passenger in a cabin for sailings along the Norwegian coast. Savings amount to $750 to $8,917 for the second passenger on select departures between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2013. Book by Mar. 31, 2013.

    Hurtigruten’s six-, seven, 11- and 12-day voyages along the west coast of Norway, between Bergen and Kirkenes, takes in 34 ports – from villages to cities. Highlights include the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund; Molde; Trondheim, Norway’s first capital; the western fjords including Geiranger; Tromsø; the Lofoten Islands; Hammerfest, the world’s most northerly town; and the fishing villages of Kjøllefjord and Berlevåg.

    Rates include accommodations, all meals, full board, English-speaking tour leader and on board educational lectures when offered. Flights and optional excursions are extra.

    The company’s fleet of 12 ships, which each carry 100 to 646 passengers, allows you to enjoy the scenery and culture of the destination in a relaxed atmosphere.

    Hurtigruten or 877/301-3117.

    Save up to 40% on Last Minute Flights with Hotwire Limited Rates!

    $500 Off Extraordinary Journeys South Africa Safari

    BOOK BY APR. 15, 2013 - - Extraordinary Journeys combines game-viewing and regional wines for a nine-day safari through South Africa. Prices for the food and wine itinerary start from $9,700 per person, based on double occupancy and include accommodations, game-viewing drives, domestic airfare, meals and drinks per the itinerary and activities. As an added value, book by Apr. 15, 2013 and receive a $500 per person discount.
      Food and wine highlights include:
    • Tour of Groot Constantia Manor House
    • Tour of the Cloete Cellar followed by lunch at Jonkershuis Restaurant.
    • Explore the Franschhoek Valley by foot, bicycle or horseback before a five-course, paired, tasting menu in Le Quartier’s Tasting Room.
    • Behind the scenes access to several wineries
    • A wine cellar tour with the winemakers at Kanonkop.
    • In Franschhoek Valley, visit vineyards Haute Cabriere, Moreson and Delaire Graff
    • Explore what the Winelands have to offer from chocolate to olives to cheese with a private vehicle and guide.

    You arrive in Johannesburg and travel to Singita Ebony, a safari lodge, for three nights. The lodge is in a 45,000 acre private reserve within the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Enjoy daily game drives with guides, a private dinner in the lodge’s wine cellar and tastings with the resident sommelier.

    On day four you return to Cape Town and meet your private wine guide. Your first three nights are in the Winelands, staying at Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine region. You will also visit Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve before returning to Constantia.

    The last two days are in Franschhoek Valley visiting some of the best restaurants in South Africa.

    A detailed itinerary is available.

    Extraordinary Journeys or 800/403-6012.

    Value-Priced and Unusual Lodging in Colorado

    You can find the unusual when booking a place to sleep in Colorado. Below is a sampling of unconventional and inspiring places to stay.
    • Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Rustic lodging options include a train caboose, rustic cabins, covered wagons and tent sites. From $55 to $115 per night for two people.
    • OPUS Hut. Comes equipped with solar-powered electricity and hot water, wood burning stoves, indoor toilets and plumbing. From $35 per person, per night.
    • Jellystone Teepee. Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park-Resort at Larkspur gives you a chance to experience a sleeping structure entrenched in American lore and culture. From $61 per night.
    • Wolf Creek Pass Yurt. Just below the Continental Divide, offers plentiful firewood for the woodstove, an equipped kitchen, and futon bunk beds for six people. From $159 per night.
    • Golden Gate Canyon State Park. 30 minutes outside Denver, seven cabins and yurts are in an aspen grove and accommodate up to six people. Costs $70 per night.
    • State Forest State Park. Seven Siberian-inspired round tents provide shelter and come equipped with beds, a woodstove, lantern and cooking facilities. From $60 to 110 per night.
    • Snow Mountain Ranch. 12 yurts that sleep up to six people with a tent pad outside for an additional two. From $89 per night.
    • 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Manages 34 backcountry huts connected by 350 miles of suggested routes throughout three National Forests at an elevation of 9,700 to 11,700 feet. Prices vary.
    • Grand Huts Association. The most technologically-advanced huts in the state. Broome Hut costs $35 per person, per night.
    • San Juan Hut System. Five huts can accommodate up to eight people and are available for $30 per person, per night.
    • Summit Huts Association. Maintains one of Colorado's most popular backcountry huts, Francie's Cabin, four miles south of Breckenridge. Rates vary.

    Colorado Tourism Office.

    Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel "Pay Less for More"

    Sheratons Hong Kong Hotel and Towers’ “Pay Less for More” free-night room package is back. Book for two consecutive nights and get an extra night free through Dec. 31, 2013.
      On Kowloon’s gold mile with a view of Victoria Harbour, the package is available in the tower floor and includes:
    • Free daily breakfast at Oyster & Wine Bar
    • Access to Towers Lounge with refreshments and evening cocktails
    • Free high speed internet access
    • Private check-in and check-out at Towers reception
    • Discounts on phone calls, laundry, dry cleaning, restaurants and lounges.

    The "Pay Less for More" offer is valid through Dec. 31, 2013 and good for new bookings only. The offer is based on the prevailing rates for a three-night minimum stay in a Tower Deluxe Harbour View room or Deluxe Executive suite with an advance purchase.

    A limited number of rooms are available for this promotion and additional restrictions and blackout dates apply. Your credit card will be charged when you make your reservation. Since bookings are pre-paid and non-refundable, reservations cannot be changed. If you cancel for any reason, you forfeit the room charge plus a service charge. This offer does not apply to groups and cannot be combined with other special offers or promotions.

    Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers or 852/2369-1111.

    Fare Buzz Business Class

    Insight Vacations Early Bird Promotion

    Early Payment Discounts are often the best way to save on a trip to Europe, so Insight Vacations recommends that you book early to get the best deals for land and air.

    For example, couples can save up to $640 with Insight's new Early Payment Discount (EPD) - up to five percent when paid in full by Apr. 30, 2013, for travel in 2013. The $640 savings is based on the early payment discount applied to the Aug. 22, 2013, departure of Insight's Romantic European trip.

    If you traveled with Insight before, Early Payment Discounts can be combined with frequent traveler discounts, so past travelers can save up to $1,280 per couple. The savings is based on early payment discount and frequent traveler discount applied to the Aug. 22, 2013 departure of Insight's Romantic European trip.

    Insight groups are limited to 40 passengers and include an experienced tour director and staying in top, centrally or scenically located hotels.

    Insight includes sightseeing and many meals, worth hundreds of dollars, so your travel budget goes further.

    Insight Vacations or 888/680-1241.

    National Car Rental "Go Like a Pro" Sweepstakes

    Until May 31, 2013, golf fans can register daily for National Car Rental’s "Go Like a Pro" sweepstakes through National's Facebook page. You can have a chance to win a four-person VIP package to the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., from Aug. 8 to 11, 2013.

    One sweepstakes winner will receive a prize package that includes four tickets to the 2013 PGA Championship; $5,000 for travel expenses and lodging; Thursday through Sunday access to National's PGA Championship hospitality suite; Executive Elite status for a year in National's Emerald Club loyalty program; and National/PGA-branded merchandise.

    You can enter the sweepstakes daily through National's Facebook page. Sweepstakes entries also can be submitted online. Additional entries can be earned by emailing up to three friends per day and/or tweeting once a day about the sweepstakes. Daily instant-win prizes, including PGA Championship merchandise, will be awarded to select sweepstakes entrants who play the "Locked In" instant-win game.

    In addition to daily registration entries, Emerald Club members can earn more sweepstakes entries for each qualifying rental from National. Based upon their membership tier level, members will receive up to 15 sweepstakes entries per rental.

    Visit the National Car Rental Facebook page for more information and to see the official sweepstakes rules.

    National Go Like a Pro Sweepstakes.

    Breakers Summer Promotion

    For a memorable summer vacation, the Breakers Palm Beach is an oceanfront resort in Palm Beach, FL that can be affordable during the summer.

    From June 1 to Sep. 30, 2013, Sunday to Thursday room rates start from $299 per room, per night, and $379 per night Friday and Saturday. Rates are based on standard accommodations and represent 40 percent savings compared to winter season rates.

    Added value is offered with free incentives such as breakfast, kids’ meals, kids’ day camp, golf and on-site shopping.

      Free summer benefits include:
    • Continental breakfast buffet
    • Kids’ day camp – ages three to 12
    • Kids’ meals – ages 12 and under
    • Unlimited tennis
    • Unlimited fitness classes
    • Unlimited WiFi and local calls
    • Resort activities and entertainment
      Special summer savings:
      • Reduced golf fees including a cart on the Ocean Course and The Breakers Rees Jones Course:
        $135 per person for 18 holes and $100 per person for nine holes June 5 to 30, 2013
      • $60 per person for 18 or nine holes July 1 to Sep. 30, 2013
      • Summer pricing for spa services
      • Reduced daily bungalow rentals fees
      • Summer shopping savings on select merchandise

      The 540-room hotel sits on 140 oceanfront acres in Palm Beach. The Breakers was founded in 1896 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The resort includes 36 holes of golf; 10 tennis courts; spa; nine restaurants; half-mile of private beach; Mediterranean-style beach club, and beach bungalows for daytime-rental; five pools, four whirlpool spas and a variety of water sports; a family entertainment center and family and children’s activities.

      Breakers Palm Beach or 855/313-8851.



    Club Med Happiness Sale

    Club Med offers seven-night all-inclusive getaways from $749 per person for families and couples with their "Happiness Sale."

    For couples or singles, the per person price is based on double occupancy for a seven-night stay in a Club Room at Turkoise. The offer requires a three-night minimum stay, seven-night minimum if traveling to Columbus Isle. The offer is available at select resorts and does not include airfare. It is valid for new individual bookings for select travel dates through Oct. 23, 2013 and must be booked by May 7, 2013.

    For stays at Turkoise, you must be 18 and older.

    You can vacation at more than 50 resorts worldwide including properties in the Caribbean, Mexico, France, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, China and more. The Club Med Membership fees of $60 per adult and $30 per child are additional.

    For families, the $749 per adult price is based on double occupancy and a seven-night stay in a Club Room at Sandpiper Bay. The offer requires a three-night minimum stay to qualify, a seven-night minimum if traveling to Columbus Isle. The offer is available at select resorts and does not include airfare. The offer is for new individual bookings and is subject to capacity control and may increase at any time.

    Club Med offers vacations to suit all interests and caters to families with spacious accommodations and children's programs welcoming children from four months to 17 years old.

    With a Club Med vacation, everything is included in one convenient price.

    Club Med or 800/ClubMed.

    French Country Waterways 40% Savings

    In honor of French Country Waterways’ 40th anniversary, French Country Waterways offers a 40 percent discount on two departures to Champagne on May 19 and to Alsace-Lorraine on July 28.

    French Country Waterways provides French barge cruises for up to 12 passengers per barge and is entirely American-owned and operated. Discounts bring starting rates to $3,897 per person, double occupancy on the one-week long Champagne itinerary and $3,597 on the week long Alsace-Lorraine journey.

    The all-inclusive experience starts at your central meeting point in Paris (Champagne) or Strasbourg (Alsace-Lorraine) where you are greeted by an English-speaking crew with champagne and settle in aboard your floating country inn. Each suite is air-conditioned with private bath and a king-sized bed (twins upon request). Common areas are attractively furnished and free bars are well stocked.

    A highlight of every French Country Waterways cruise is the on-shore meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. On board, chefs combine classic cooking with modern lighter cuisine.

    Daily meals include continental breakfasts, buffet lunches, and four-course, candlelit dinners. Ingredients are sourced from the villages you pass, and farmers’ markets en route. During the average cruise, you will be offered more than two dozen different wines, many with well-known labels from Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards.

    During a barge cruise, you can get off the barge for a leisurely stroll, take one of the barge’s bicycles to explore the villages nearby, relax on the sundeck and watch the countryside float by. During the day, you can board the private motorcoach that accompanies each barge and visit local points of interest.

    Special room rates are offered at the designated meeting point hotels in Paris and/or Strasbourg, if you want to extend your stay.

    French Country Waterways or 800/222-1236.

    Travel Deals to top Destinations. Get yours now

    Spring Wildflowers at National Wildlife Refuges

    Get ready for spring’s magic act – the carpeting of the landscape in vibrant color. Look for spring wildflower displays on national wildlife refuges across the country.

    Their abundance there is no accident. Many refuges encourage these natural beauties by harvesting their seeds and replanting them for wildlife’s benefit. Once you learn how local blooms help native bees and butterflies, and withstand stresses that kill other plants, you may want to plant some in your home garden. Some refuges offer help, through wildflower walks, demonstration gardens and web pages that showcase easy-to-grow varieties and where to find them.

    At Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Iowa, prairie violets open nature’s spring show in April. Wild geraniums and Sweet William follow. Neal Smith Refuge has a butterfly garden and a tallgrass trail, where native prairie plants attract butterflies in great numbers. You can take photos on a spring photo hike at the refuge on May 18. Pre-register: 515-994-3400.

    At Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, refuge manager Cindy Beemiller anticipates spring bloom starting in April. The refuge’s Bayscape Garden, maintained by volunteers, holds more than 40 species of native wildflowers that draw butterflies and moths. Favorites include goldenrod (solidago), columbine, rudbeckia, coreopsis, phlox and gaillardia. The garden is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to sunset. Ask to receive a new booklet on native wildflowers that you can plant at home.

    Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma prepares for spring wildflower enthusiasts. Wildfires and drought like those recently seen in the region promote wildflower growth, says supervisory biologist Walter Munsterman, “so we should have a good year.” The Friends of the Wichitas, a refuge support group, will host three spring wildflower walks (May 11, 18 and 25, 2013). Reserve a place starting May 6: 580-429-2197

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    50% Off Cox & Kings India’s Golden Triangle

    Cox & Kings makes Northern India, known as the Golden Triangle, more accessible with their new seven night ‘Jewels of India’ voyage, at 50 percent off similarly priced private journeys. Prices start at $1,965 per person for travel in September 2013 and staying at the Lalit or Eros by Hilton and Trident.

    Your trip begins and ends in Delhi, from which you continue to Jaipur where en-route you see the Hawa Mahal. You continue to the Taj Mahal in Agra and then Rajasthan.

    Fares are per person based on double occupancy. Blackout dates and supplemental holiday surcharges may apply based on the exact dates of travel. All prices are subject to change based on currency exchange fluctuations and additional fuel surcharges.

    Cox & Kings expertise in India, the company’s birthplace, allows a journey without sacrificing quality. Journeys can be customized to fit your travel style with a choice three different levels of accommodation deluxe, premier and luxury all with significant savings.

    Cox & Kings or 800/999-1758.

    Inn on Fifth Golf Package

    The Inn on Fifth and club level suites in downtown Naples, FL partners with TPC Treviso Bay for the “Links on Fifth” golf package, available through April 2013.

    From $399 per night, the package includes two nights’ accommodations at The Inn on Fifth, lunch at McCabe’s Irish Pub & Grill, one round of golf at the private Treviso Bay course for two people, including cart fee and green fee. The package can be tailored for additional golfers and groups. The package is subject to availability of hotel rooms and tee times and is not available on holiday weekends. Package prices include tax and gratuity.

    The Inn on Fifth is in walking distance to several bars and dozens of restaurants. A few blocks from the inn are the beaches and Gulf coast.

    The Inn on Fifth and club level suites offer 119 rooms, including 32 club level suites, in two buildings steps from one another across Fifth Avenue. The boutique inn completed a $2 million renovation and $18 million expansion that added club level suites.

    Club level suites range from 516 to more than 1,100 square feet. On check-in, you are greeted by a concierge and escorted to an exclusive Club Level check-in. Luxuries include a private rooftop retreat with a hot tub and sunbathing area. You also receive buffet breakfast, afternoon refreshments, and evening cocktails and tasters.

    Inn on Fifth Links on Fifth golf package or 888/403-8778.



    Purchase Airline Tickets on Weekends for Best Deals

    "There's been this industry folk wisdom that says Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to purchase airline tickets," says Steven Puller, associate professor of economics at Texas A&M, who specializes in industrial organization. "But we couldn't find any systematic analysis to back that up."

    Rather, he says, the weekend is the best time to book airline tickets because airlines are more likely to discount fares on Saturday and Sunday.

    In the study "Price Discrimination By Day-Of-Week Of Purchase: Evidence From The U.S. Airline Industry," published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Puller and co-author Lisa Taylor, a former Texas A&M graduate student, found that tickets purchased on the weekend were, on average, five percent cheaper than similar tickets purchased on weekdays.

    "We find that when you control for a large set of factors – the day-of-week of travel, whether the ticket was refundable, the number of days in advance that the ticket was purchased, how full the flights were, and other factors – that tickets purchased on the weekends were sold, on average, for a five percent discount," Puller explains.

    The study further finds this weekend purchase discount is greatest on routes with a mix of both business and leisure customers. There is not much of this type of discount for leisure destinations such as Orlando or Las Vegas, Puller notes.

    The researchers suggest, although do not definitively conclude, that this weekend purchase effect reflects a common practice known as "price discrimination."

    This happens when the same service is sold at different prices to different buyers, in this case, based on the day of the week that an airline ticket is purchased.

    Puller says the airlines try to play the odds when deciding how to price flights.

    "Take a route that serves both business and leisure travelers," he explains. "If the business travelers primarily purchase tickets on weekdays, then the typical traveler buying on the weekend is more likely to be a price-sensitive leisure traveler than a business traveler. There is an incentive for the airlines to lower fares on the weekends to try to entice the price-sensitive leisure traveler to buy a ticket."

    But how do the airlines know if a particular buyer is traveling for leisure or business? "They don't," Puller contends. "They're playing the odds."

    The researchers conducted the study by looking at a historical archive of actual tickets purchased on all major airlines. Puller says the study compared tickets with similar characteristics rather than simply looking at the cheapest fare available.

    "If you're a traveler who just wants to get from point A to point B for the cheapest price possible, then these findings may not apply to you," he notes. "But many people do care about these factors."

    The researchers only studied roundtrip flights with nonstop service. The study did not examine first-class airfare or the holiday travel periods around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

    Puller says these results could have implications for other industries that have the ability to change prices daily based on the types of customers who purchase on a specific day. "The software systems that are used in airline pricing are used in other industries such as cruises, hotels, car rentals," he explains. "We've only analyzed airline pricing, but I wouldn't be surprised if similar pricing practices are used in these other industries as well."

    Texas A&M University.

    Exotic Journeys Specially Priced Tours

    Chicago based tour operator Exotic Journeys and the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts in India offer several specially priced tour packages through Sep. 30, 2031.

    The tours will operate with accommodations in hotels such as the Oberoi in Mumbai, Udaivilas in Udaipur, Vanyavilas in Ranthambhore, Rajvilas in Jaipur, Amarvilas in Agra and the Oberoi in Delhi.

    One sample itinerary is a 12 night package visiting Mumbai for two nights, Udaipur for two nights, Ranthambhore National Park for two nights, Jaipur for two nights, Agra for two nights and Delhi for two nights. The land portion is $2,790 per person based on double occupancy. Taxes and airfares are extra.

    The tour price includes accommodations, hotel room taxes, daily breakfast, food and beverage taxes, escorted airport transfers, sightseeing tours and excursions, private English speaking guide, private AC car and personal chauffeur, entrance fee to monuments.

    Similar tour packages with Oberoi hotels to South India are also available.

    Exotic Journeys or 800/554–6342.

    Scenic Cruises' 2014 River Cruises at 2013 Prices

    In response to the growing demand for European river cruises, Scenic Cruises opened early sales for its 2014 season. You can book 2014 itineraries now at 2013 prices.

    Book now to take advantage of the best early-bird offers until they're sold out. Book a 2014 sailing and make a deposit within seven days for Scenic Cruises' guarantee to hold prices on its most popular itineraries. To make it more enticing, Scenic provides other incentives for some cabin classes, including free flights to Europe (taxes included) for European cruises of 16 or more days, free flights to Europe and a savings of up to $3,590 per couple for all 15-day European cruises, and savings of up to $2,000 per couple on European cruises of seven to 14 days. Both pricing and incentive offers are based on limited inventory.

    Advantages to early booking include first choice on departure dates and first choice of cabin category. Another benefit is the Scenic guarantee that early bookers will receive the best offer available; if Scenic changes the offer in any way, it will honor the deal that saves you the most. In addition, all Pre-Release bookings are entitled to any brochure upgrades or specials that relate to a selected cruise.

    Scenic's inclusive policy includes unlimited complimentary beverages, wines and spirits at any time, open bar service in the lounges, and items in each cabin's mini-bar; private butler service in all cabin grades; the Scenic Riverview personal GPS commentary device; and free WiFi throughout the ship. In addition, all newer 'Space-Ships' feature full-sized private balcony suites; each ship that sails the Rhine, Main, Danube and Seine rivers in 2014 also feature a 'Scenic Sun-Lounge' that encloses the balcony at the touch of a button so it becomes an all-weather lounge, expanding the cabin size. On-shore there are free electric-assist bicycles, the Scenic Tailormade GPS guided tour system, and the Scenic Enrich program. Everything from airport transfers to gratuities is included in the prices of these trips.

    The secrets of France's historical north are unveiled on the Seine, the country's second longest river, during the new "Gems of the Seine River Cruise." Prices for this 10-night cruise range from $5,120 to $8,505 per person, double, with an additional savings offer of $1,200 per couple for standard cabins or $600 per couple on balcony cabins.

    The new "Seine and Rhône River Cruise" combines the "Gems of the Seine" tour with a 12-night cruise from Chalon-sur-Saône to Arles. Prices range from $12,405 to $18,825 per person, with free flights to Europe (excluding taxes) for standard cabins or additional savings of $900 per couple on balcony cabins.

    Scenic's new offerings aren't limited to France. Prices for the 19-day "Treasures of Europe's Waterways," between Budapest and Amsterdam, range from $8,170 to $12,280 per person with free flights to Europe (including taxes) for standard cabins or a discount offer of $900 per couple for balcony cabins.

    The Munich and Passau to the Danube Delta River Cruise combines three nights in Munich with a 14-night river cruise from Passau to Tulcea followed by two nights in Bucharest. Fares range from $6,175 to $11,750 per person and offers free flights to Europe (including taxes) or additional savings of $1,600 per couple on balcony cabins.

    Scenic Cruises 866/689-8611.

    Sixt 4

    Kids Sail Free on Crystal Cruises

    BOOK BY APR. 30 - - Due to demand, Crystal Cruises adds 17 voyages to its "Kids Sail Free" program. With the promotion, kids age 17 and under can sail free when sharing a third berth stateroom with two adults.

    Previously offered on four European cruises during June and July, you can now choose from seven- to 15-day voyages in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, North Cape, Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands, and across the Atlantic from May to December aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony.

    New Magic Castle at Sea "junior cruisers" shows and classes will be offered on board during summer cruises, in addition to all-ages shows on every cruise.

    In addition to the Magic Castle at Sea enrichment, every Crystal cruise offers family-friendly learning and entertainment. During school vacation times, junior activities directors host free supervised activities on board, ranging from behind-the scenes tours to cooking classes and scavenger hunts. Every cruise has babysitting services, "finicky eater" foods, movies, library books and family-friendly excursions.

    All-inclusive, "Book Now" fares for "Kids Sail Free" applicable voyages begin at $2,495 per person if booked by Apr. 30, 2013. The "Crystal Family Memories" program also offers additional free berths and perks for groups of six or more.

    Crystal Cruises or 888/799-4625.

    Pleasant Holidays Kauai Trip from $475

    Save at least $150 per person on airfare and hotel with this Hawaii travel deal that includes a three-day car rental. Book by Apr. 28, 2013.

    The Real Deal Vacation package to Kauai from Pleasant Holidays includes airfare from San Jose, CA on Alaska Airlines, three nights on the beach at the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel, a three-day car rental, free parking at the hotel, an Aloha discount coupon book, and daily breakfast. From May 1 to June 6 and Aug. 14 to Dec. 18, 2013, the price is from $475 per person including most taxes and fees. Prices from additional gateway cities are available.

    Taxes and fees are included in the package price but a $15 per day amenity fee is not included and must be paid directly to the hotel upon checkout.

    Roundtrip airfare from San Jose to Kauai can costs as much as the entire package. Add to that at least $99 per night plus taxes (excluding the $15 per day amenity fee) for three nights at the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel, and you're already spending around $600 per person on airfare and accommodations. This package gives you airfare, three nights on the beach in Kauai, plus a three-day car rental, daily breakfast, an Aloha discount coupon book, free parking, stays for children ages 12 and under, and most taxes and fees.

    If you have older children, a similar three-night deal with air, car rental and accommodations at the Sheraton Kauai Resort starts from $639 per person. At the Sheraton Kauai Resort, kids 17 and younger stay free.

    Pleasant Holidays or 800/742-9244.

    Wildlife Wilderness Week by Nicki and Harold Chodnoff

     photo WWWphotocontestjudging_zps636b3879.jpgThe worst of winter is now behind us and for some of us spring is in full bloom. But when January rolls around again and the whirlwind of the holidays is over, for many cabin fever starts to set in. If you need a getaway to beat the January blahs and your budget screams for economy, consider Pigeon Forge’s annual Wilderness Wildlife Week (WWW). The eight-day annual program in January features a bevy of free events that focus on Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the outdoors in general.

    From its inception, WWW was intended to educate and let the public enjoy the wonders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national park. While most of the WWW programs are indoors, in 2013 there were 44 guided hikes and excursions. Hike and excursion guides, all authorities in their fields and volunteers, are like your personal walking, talking guidebook and expert.

    We picked our lectures and bright and early on the first Saturday of the event, we were off to a photography workshop and a lecture about serpent handlers. Those were two of the 304 free workshops, lectures, panel discussions, mini-concerts, hikes and excursions in 2013. If photography is your passion, there was a series of nature photography workshops, about taking photographs and editing images, led by some of the region’s most accomplished photographers.

     photo lectureduringwww_zpsdd9402e7.jpg Lectures and presentations start around 9 a.m. daily and last into the evening. You don’t need to go to every presentation, every day. Just pick what interests you each day from the complete list online or in the brochure. Most lectures and presentations are open to all, but you must register in advance for several and all of the hikes and excursions. Sign up early as lectures, presentations, hikes and excursions fill up fast.

    As part of WWW, there’s a photo contest that focuses on nature with categories for amateurs and professionals. Along with appointed judges making selections, a Viewers’ Choice ribbon is awarded to the photograph best liked by WWW attendees based on popular vote.

    Kids’ Track Workshop on Bear Facts photo Bearfacts_rr_zpse75702de.jpg In 2013, all lectures and workshops were held at the Music Road Hotel’s Convention Center. One large room at the facility was filled with vendors selling goods such as the Coleman outlet with camping supplies or organizations such as the American Eagle Foundation who brought Challenger, one of their non-releasable bald eagles.

    From live animals to wood carving or learning about the folk music of the area, organizers say they've tried to put something together for every member of the family. We agree. Nineteen programs were termed, “Kids’ Track,” designed especially for children. Their topics include the basics of outdoor photography, learning to hike, what’s special about owls and knowing how to behave if you encounter a bear. Even though school was in session, we noticed quite a few children at the lectures.

    Part of the heavy emphasis on nature, folkways and photography is because WWW began when nature history photographer Ken Jenkins, of Gatlinburg, TN, approached the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism to start an event to draw people to Pigeon Forge during the slow winter season. What started as a four-hour program on a Saturday afternoon in January 1990 that attracted fewer than 100 people became a week-long event the following year. According to Butch Helton, manager of the Office of Special Events for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, about 24,000 folks attended the 2013 event, despite crazy weather. During those eight days there seemed to be a little of everything weather-wise. The week started like springtime with temperatures in the 70s. Temperatures dropped, it rained and flooded for a few days, then snowed.

    WWW coincides with the Pigeon Forge WinterFest, which starts in November and runs through February. The Smoky Mountain region’s premier annual event started in 1990 and has evolved into four months of festivities centered around the winter holidays. WinterFest is celebrated throughout Sevier County which includes Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

    Vendors exhibiting at Wildlife Wilderness Week photo vendorsduringwww_zpsd4a866d5.jpg Jenkins is still a prominent part of the event. He makes opening remarks and offers a couple of presentations during the week. So much more has been added. Now, at the opening events on Saturday, there’s a keynote speaker. Sam Venable, author and columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel, was the 2013 choice and he packed the house. His remarks, “How To Tawlk and Rite Good: An Introduction to the Native Tongue of Southern Appalachia” had the audience laughing like a top-notch stand-up comedian.

    More than 200 experts – nature photographers, biologists, raptor rehabilitators, social historians, musicians and just plain folks who grew up in the Smokies – volunteer and donate their time to lead WWW programs. Every presentation or lecture we attended was full, some were standing room only. “The week is extremely flexible. You can come just for one program, for one day or for the whole week,” says Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, which organizes the event. “We have 304 ways to connect you to our beautiful part of the country.”

    In addition to all free programs, lodging is dirt cheap this time of year. We stayed at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center, where WWW took place. Rates were around $50 per night including breakfast midweek and those discounted rates are offered for 2014. In 2014, WWW will be held Jan. 25 through Feb. 1, and will convene at the new and larger LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, which is scheduled to open September 2013. We noticed plenty of vacancies at properties along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge and rates started from $30 per night including breakfast. In addition to free events and cheap hotel rates, WWW is an opportunity to meet experts and burn off a few holiday calories if you plan on taking a few hikes

    Guided hike during www photo BridgeCrossing_rr_zps7b0344b9.jpg It seems WWW is addictive. In speaking with people attending the 2013 event, once people attend, they seem to come back year after year. One reason may be that each year there are new speakers and new topics. Of the 260 programs, 142 were new in 2013, and the lineup is different every day. Alice from the Knoxville area of Tennessee first attended WWW 15 years ago and keeps coming back for lectures about plants and an opportunity to spend time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Jenny and her husband marked 2013 as their 20th year of attendance at the event. They started coming for the hikes and presentations and transitioned into vendors. At the Music Road Hotel, members of several outdoor clubs came for the event. WWW is a yearly pilgrimage for the clubs. WWW casts its attendance net pretty wild. In 2012, the event drew people from 33 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, England and New Zealand.

    If you don’t schedule hikes or excursions (and even if you do), be sure to leave time to see Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A great way to begin your trip is by stopping at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and park headquarters, a few miles south of Pigeon Forge, TN. Pick up a free park map while there, and take time to view the continuously running 20-minute film giving an over­view of the park, its history and its flora and fauna. Also at the visitor center is a small natural history museum and bookstore. Once in the park, nature is accessible everywhere as a nature trail and half-mile waterfalls trail start at Sugarlands Visitor Center. The road to Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Tennessee, is closed during the winter (through Mar. 31). The road to Newfound Gap, at nearly a mile high, is open and a beautiful drive. You can see where the Appalachian Trail crosses Newfound Gap and scenic views from the large parking area.

    To stay in the lower elevations, take Little River Road to Cades Cove, an 11 mile loop around a valley surrounded by the mountains that part of the way runs along the Little River. Along the way, you can stop at old farm fields, pioneer homestead cabins and churches as the road has many turn-offs and parking areas at viewpoints or historic sites. Some are short walks and others are located right at the road and hiking trails.

    Sunset at Newfound Gap photo approachingsunsetatNewfoundGap_zps7cd16b8b.jpg Pigeon Forge wasn’t always the big tourist destination, able to attract nearly 24,000 visitors to a winter event. In the 1940s and 1950s Pigeon Forge was farmland, named for the passenger pigeons that once were abundant in the region and an iron forge that was part of the early settlers' lives. This one-traffic light town had a few vacation cottages and its claim to fame was that it was close to the National Park. As there was plenty of farmland to build on, tourism started gaining ground around 1960 when Rebel Railroad opened with a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop and saloon. Rebel Railroad became Goldrush Junction and acquired by the Cleveland Browns football team. In 1976, the Herschend family purchased Goldrush Junction and renamed it Silver Dollar City Tennessee, a sister park to their Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri. In 1986, Dolly Parton, who hails from Sevier County, became a co-owner, and the park was renamed Dollywood, which is now Tennessee's most visited ticketed tourist attraction.

    Dolly put her own spin to the park infusing it with Southern Appalachian culture. Today, there is a Mystery Mine roller coaster and the Thunderhead wooden roller coaster, named for Thunderhead Mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the anchor attraction of the "Thunderhead Gap" section. Plus Dolly makes personal appearances at the park three or four times a year.

    Everything at Pigeon Forge isn’t new or recent. The grist mill that also houses the Old Mill Restaurant, dates to the 1830s and has been in continuous use since then. Right on the river, it’s the whole deal with a water wheel and millhouse that are still operative. The mill complex is the only structure in Pigeon Forge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lovely old buildings are part of the Old Mill Square complex that includes specialty shops. Not only can you watch meal and flour being ground by the water powered granite French Burhr in the mill, you can buy the stone ground meal and flour in the General Store. And you can taste it in the Old Mill Restaurant as the products are used in the biscuits, corn bread, pancakes, hush puppies, muffins and grits you order. As an FYI, ask for a window seat at the restaurant if you’d like to watch the ducks. The Old Mill Restaurant does not take reservations. Go early or late to avoid a long wait.

    waterfall near sugarlands visitor center photo waterfallnearsugarlands_zps1f024386.jpg The grains are also used in the homemade breads that are baked daily at the Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille, also part of the Old Mill Square complex. This was the residence of potter Don Ferguson, who opened the pottery in 1946. If the weather is nice, you can dine outside in the back yard. On cold, blustery days, ask for a seat near the fireplace.

    Part of the Old Mill Square complex includes the Pigeon River Pottery where Don Ferguson's original designs inspire the ceramics produced and sold in the pottery today. Most of the plates, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, and other serving pieces used in the Old Mill Restaurant and Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille are formed and fired in the pottery. Like an open kitchen, you can comfortably sit on tractor seats and watch the potters throw clay on the potter’s wheel and transform the clay glob into a beautiful vase or object. And while the potters work, you can ask them questions about the process.

    Old Mill Square is also home to Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen where you can purchase the ingredients for an Old Mill meal at home, Old Mill Creamery ice cream shop, Old Mill Candy Kitchen, Old Mill Toy Bin and Sassafras which sells women’s clothes, jewelry and accessories.

    You Gotta Eat: In addition to the Old Mill Restaurant, and Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille, here are a few local places to eat that you may enjoy as well.

    Bullfish Grill, 2441 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863-3228 865/868-1000 - - Fish, meat, you don’t need to decide – Bullfish Grill offers both. The cuisine is American with lots of meat options and a good variety of seafood. Relaxed and casual inside, it’s a steakhouse-like atmosphere where you can bring the whole family and kids can choose from comfort standards such as mac and cheese. Prices are comparable to the chains and you’ll find better food.

    Smokey Mountain Brewery, 2530 Parkway Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 865/868-1400 - - Microbrewery meets sports bar with more than 20 TV's and nightly entertainment. There are 10 hand-crafted beers always on tap so if you’re a beer lover order your favorite or try the beer sampler. They feature typical sports bar fare with wings, ribs, burgers and pizza and you can also order sandwiches, steak and pasta dishes. On some nights, there’s live entertainment. The bottom line, this is a relaxing place with a nice bar atmosphere that’s still family-friendly. This regional chain also has restaurants in Knoxville, Gatlinburg and Maryville.

    A final piece of advice if you are heading to Pigeon Forge for WWW, or any time of the year, don’t pay full price. There are discounts for many shops, restaurants and attractions in coupon books and magazines. You can easily find the coupon books and magazines in hotel lobbies and the Kroger supermarket.

    Wilderness Wildlife Week. Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism or 800/251-9100.

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