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A Cold Fact: Antarctic Center Is Drawing Well

February 14, 1993|KIM UPTON

New Zealand tourism officials--accustomed to outdoor enthusiasts looking for active pursuits such as bungee jumping and skiing--have been pleasantly surprised that the new International Antarctic Centre near Christchurch has drawn 100,000 visitors in its first five months of operation. The $3.75-million center allows visitors to step into the world of the South Pole, minus the wind-chill factor. Museum-goers wander through snow scapes, an ice cave and a polar aquarium with antarctic fish and invertebrates (starfish, sponges, sea anemones and spiders), and see an audiovisual presentation of historical photographs by Herbert Ponting, the official photographer on Capt. Robert Scott's unsuccessful 1910-11 expedition, plus contemporary work by wildlife photographer Kim Westerkov, who spent four months in Antarctica. Admission to the center, located near Christchurch International Airport on Orchard Road, costs about $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 5-15.

Travel Quiz: What island country's capitol building is a replica of the U.S. Capitol in Washington?

Rains Close Kenya Wildlife Park: Heavy rains have flooded roads and lodges in Kenya's most popular game reserve, forcing Amboseli National Park to close temporarily, authorities say. Richard Leakey, head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, said that 18 foreign tourists were rescued by helicopter Jan. 31 after sleeping two nights in their stranded vehicles or with local people on the park's edge. An average of 1,000 tourists go daily to Amboseli, near the Tanzanian border, from which visitors can see snow-covered, 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro. . Game viewing tracks and one tourist lodge--the Kilimanjaro--were submerged and are still closed, although the waters are subsiding quickly and it is likely that certain game-viewing areas will be open soon, Leakey said. A second lodge is partially under water, and a third can only be reached by four-wheel-drive vehicle.

New Cruise Line Just for Families: Bruce Nierenberg--the man who developed Premier Cruise Lines' highly successful Disney World-sanctioned cruises, will this year launch a family cruise company that will compete head-to-head with his former employer. In December, American Family Cruises--a joint venture of Costa Crociere of Genoa, Italy, and Nierenberg, who is now president of Costa Cruise Lines North America--will launch the cruise ship American Adventure, a $30-million remake of the EugenioCosta, and dedicate all of its activities to families traveling with children. The ship, which will cruise the eastern Caribbean, will offer such family-friendly options as continuously running (8 a.m. to 1 a.m.), separate programs for children of different ages (2-4, 5-7, 8-12 and teen-agers); a movie theater that runs only family movies (no R-ratings allowed); guaranteed baby-sitting services for children under 2, and a "midnight buffet" that begins at 9 p.m. Unlike Premier's Disney cruises, which are sold with optional Disney World visits, American Family has no plans to sell a land component with its American Adventure sailings. Seven-day cruises will range from $795 to $1,995 per adult; kids under 18, $395, and children under 2, free. Is this a cruise line for families only? "You don't have to have children, but you certainly have to like them," a company spokeswoman said.

Tougher Regulations for Air Tours: The crash of a twin-engine plane near the lip of the dormant volcano Mt. Haleakala on Maui in April has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to call for tougher rules governing the growing air tour sightseeing business. All nine people aboard the plane, operated by Scenic Air Tours, died on the flight that had left Hilo, Hawaii, for Honolulu. The NTSB is urging the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt regulations that more closely monitor commercial sightseeing flights, which serve an estimated 2 million passengers annually in the United States.

In the Maui crash, an NTSB investigation concluded that the pilot had misrepresented his qualifications to get the job. But the problem goes well beyond that, according to a board investigator. For example, loopholes in the regulations allow carriers that fly less than 25 miles--as is the case with some that fly in Hawaii and over the Grand Canyon--to circumvent FAA rules. The proposed new rules would require, among other things, substantive background checks of pilot applicants, including verification of personal flight records.

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Quick Fact: California's 80 county and district fairs and the California State Fair earn an estimated $1.6 billion for local and state economies, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

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