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'Battle of Bulge' on Two Fronts

The Mature Traveler

April 02, 1989|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks

The Battle of the Bulge is an important topic for two types of mature travelers: veterans who fought in Europe during World War II and those who are still fighting a losing battle with a mushrooming midsection.

Today there is news for both factions. Because ex-GIs are used to waiting in line, we'll take spa vacations first.

Spa vacations are rapidly increasing in popularity, particularly for active mature travelers, doubly so for those in Southern California, where fitness is not just a fad but a part of the life style.

There are at least eight categories of spas, though some spa resorts cover more than one type.

Spas can range from the self-contained fitness and beauty spas to mineral spring or international "Old World" spas at which the accent is on water treatments and other therapies.

All Sizes and Costs

There are also specialty spas, such as centers for "behavior modification," and "holistic" spas, which deal with everything from eating disorders to learning a healthier life style and philosophy.

They come in all sizes and costs and are sited all over the world. The challenge is in finding the right one to suit your needs.

Jeffrey Joseph, president of Spa-Finders, owns a New York City-based agency that puts out a 96-page catalogue listing more than 300 spas of all types, the majority within the United States (including about 30 in California and three in Hawaii).

Each listing includes the type of spa and services offered. Almost everything is included--except the address and phone number.

And that's the gimmick. Spa-Finders charges $4.95 for the catalogue, which includes a lengthy questionnaire. The reader fills it out, sends it in and then gets a follow-up call from a Spa-Finders consultant, who helps with more information and advice.

No Extra Charges

There are no extra charges for making reservations at the chosen spa or for airline reservations. The agency makes its money from commissions. Even the $4.95 is refunded if the reader books a spa vacation.

It might seem like a convoluted way of making a reservation at La Costa, the Oaks at Ojai, The Golden Door or other popular California spas, but the guidebook also includes a lot of lesser-known spas, thus providing travelers a chance to compare many facilities and rates, including some resort areas in Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

More information and copies of the catalogue can be obtained from Spa-Finders, 784 Broadway, New York 10003-4856, or by phoning toll-free (800) 255-7727.

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With the 45th anniversary of D-day and the invasion of Europe coming up, many tours are being offered to World War II veterans and families, or any others interested in that era.

Valor Tours, a well-established Sausalito agency, offers two tours of the D-day historic area from London and the south of England to the French Normandy coast and Paris May 10-22 and May 30 to June 11.

A major feature is a five-day cruise from Dover and Portsmouth across the English Channel along the invasion beaches, with visits to St. Malo, Caen and Omaha Beach. Three nights each in London and Paris are included, along with other wartime features such as a welcome cocktail party in the 1940s underground War Room used by Winston Churchill.

Per-person prices range from $2,999 to $5,299 (mainly depending on shipboard accommodations). This includes the English Channel cruise, hotel accommodations, sightseeing, transfers and tips and round-trip air fare from New York City.

Landing on Utah Beach

Valor also offers a third (more expensive and more inclusive) veterans' tour of the same area. It's the same cruise, but it includes a landing on Utah Beach on June 6, plus other private hostings and ceremonies and a visit to the Paris Air Show.

For more information, contact Valor Tours, 10 Liberty Ship Way, P.O. Box 1617, Sausalito, Calif. 95965, (415) 332-7850.

H.I.P. Tours and Passport Executive Travel have a series of similar tours in the final planning stages for May, June, July and September.

"The Great Crusade" begins with three days in London and two days exploring the embarkation ports for the invasion, then tours the Normandy beaches and the new Battle of Normandy Museum in Caen before going on to Paris. The 12-day tour, which includes top hotels and most meals, runs from $2,520 to $2,734 per person, double occupancy, depending on departure date.

Into the Ardennes

A second tour, "From Beach to Bastogne," begins in Normandy, has two nights in Paris, then covers the Battle of the Bulge area in the Ardennes forest area in Luxembourg and Belgium.

This is a 10-day tour that costs from $2,174 to $2,322 per person, double, also depending on departure date.

All tours include round-trip air fare on Pan Am from New York. Also, a 15-day combination of the London/Normandy tour and the Bastogne tour runs from $3,043 to $3,253.

For more information, contact Passport Executive Travel, 105 N. Washington St., Alexandria, Va. 22314, toll-free (800) 344-7794.

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For Pacific veterans, Society Expeditions reports that a few cabins are still available on the April 18 "Islands of Valor" cruise of the Society Explorer.

This 20-day sailing includes World War II sites such as Guadalcanal, Savo Island, Munda Point, Rendova, Rabaul, Vitu Island and other ports in Papua New Guinea, plus Jayapura and Biak in Indonesia.

Fares start at $5,290 per person, double (plus $1,900 round-trip air fare), including all cruise activities and a comprehensive shore excursion.

For more information, contact Society Expedition Cruises, 3131 Elliott Ave., Suite 700, Seattle, Wash. 98121, phone (206) 285-9400.

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