Liveaboard dive boats are attracting a new breed of vacationer. In the British Virgin Islands the MS Aquanaut Explorer sails Fridays from Tortola. A total of 20 staterooms, each with its own private bath. A dive shop on board is equipped with gear for beginners as well as certified divers. Passengers explore reefs, shipwrecks, caves during visits to Norman Island, Jost van Dyke, Guana Island, Virginia Gorda and Peter Island. Besides scuba diving, they snorkel, windsurf and sunbathe aboard the boat. The $599 package (one weekend) includes dives, accommodations, meals. (Rates are scheduled to be increased Feb. 1.) In June, the same company is scheduled to launch a second dive boat that will take in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Details from Aquanaut Watersports, 241 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33334. Telephone toll-free (800) 327-8223.
Here's a handy item for the frequent flier: The OAG Pocket Flight Guide (available previously only to subscribers) is on sale at major airports throughout the country. The guide (published monthly) is packed with information. Flights, departure/arrival times, reservation telephone numbers, types of meals service, ground transportation, ad infinitum. Lists more than 49,000 scheduled flights, providing travelers with the opportunity to make their own schedule change rather than wait in line for information at ticket counters. The newsstand price is $5. For details write to the Official Airline Guides, 2000 Clearwater Drive, Oakbrook, Ill. 60521.
Colorado Ski Train
A Colorado ski train operating between Denver and Winter Park has been spiffed up for the current season. Vintage cars have been replaced with reconditioned cars bought in Canada. Trips run approximately 2 1/2 hours. Fares are $20 for advance-purchase round-trip coach tickets, or $25 on day of departure. First-class tickets will cost you $35. This train has been delivering skiers to Winter Park for 50 years. Snacks on board, a full bar service. Departures every Saturday and Sunday through the end of March. See your travel agent or contact the Winter Park Recreational Assn., Box 36, Winter Park, Colo. 80482.
A Vermont agency has put together a five-night, four-day ski trip using different inns each night. These are self-guided tours designed for experienced skiers. You set your own pace. Custom-planned trips are also available, along with guide service. If you're a non-skier, sleigh rides are offered. Rates: $440 per person (double occupancy) or $499 single. Includes all meals, lodging. For reservations contact Country Inns Along the Trail, The Churchill House Inn, R.B. 3, Box PRW8, Vermont 05733, or telephone (802) 247-3300. This same company does hiking/biking trips in summer.
British Columbia is heating up a campaign to attract the skier. A new 54-page brochure titled "Ski With Us" is filled with tips on skiing and accommodations. Gives resort telephone numbers and descriptions of British Columbia's nine ski areas, including Whistler (75 miles from downtown Vancouver) as well as Western Canada's oldest ski destination, Red Mountain. Other information on heli-skiing. This is a slick, magazine-style guide. For a free copy write Tourism British Columbia, 3400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 34, Los Angeles 90010, or call (213) 380-9171.
The home-rental fever is gaining momentum. A brand-new publication puts you in contact with homeowners in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, England and Ireland). Permits the vacationer to contact homeowners direct rather than going through a middleman. Besides homes, it lists villas, condos, apartments. Even castles. Here's an example: In Carmel, Calif., a fully furnished, two-bedroom cottage with piano, fireplace, washer-dryer, microwave oven, linens and dishwasher rents for $550/$650 a week, depending on the season. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a waterfront condo can be booked for $700 a week. You receive two updated copies annually of the guide for $9. Write to Sanford Cohen, World-Wide Home Rental Guide, 142 Lincoln Ave., Suite 652, Santa Fe, N. M. 87501, or call (505) 988-5188.
Mel Herzog of Palm Desert asks for the names of companies dealing with vacations on horseback. Here are three:
--Adventure Trails of the West offers a variety of rides in Arizona. Guides, meals, tents, campfire entertainment. Other rides in Australia. Contact Dana Burden, c/o Adventure Trails of the West, P.O. Box 1494, Wickenburg, Ariz. 85358, telephone toll-free (800) 346-4403.
--FITS Equestrian packages rides in the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the British Isles, China, the Caribbean, Latin and South America, Africa. Details from FITS Equestrian, 2011 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, Calif. 93463, call (805) 688-9494.