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ON A BUDGET

Christmas Sailings, Student Rail Passes

November 01, 1998|ARTHUR FROMMER

Although they don't compare with some of the blockbuster bargains recently announced, a number of secondary travel offers may lend a big assist to your own next vacation or trip. Here are six that may do the trick for you:

1. Christmas sailings: Cruises that overlap Christmas aren't nearly as popular as those that take place on New Year's Day. Because most Americans prefer to be at home on Christmas, the cruises scheduled to be at sea that day are often offered at bargain rates. Witness a particular batch of recent sale prices from Carnival Cruises: $469 for a four-night Christmastime sailing out of Miami aboard the Ecstasy; $1,229 for seven nights during the Christmas period out of Los Angeles aboard the Elation. Call Carnival at (800) 327-9501 for those and similar values, and keep in mind that prices sharply ascend for the very next sailings overlapping New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

2. Student rail reductions: Nearly every senior is aware of the 15% discount they receive on Amtrak. But how many students know that purchase of a $20 Student Advantage Card will bring them the same hefty 15% off on rail journeys made from now until Aug. 31, 1999? The card is a well-nigh-indispensable purchase by young people studying away from home, who also can get it free of charge (saving the $20) if they're approved for a separate AT&T Calling Card. Telephone (800) 654-0471 for the AT&T deal; tel. (800) 96-AMTRAK to buy just the rail card.

3. Rock-bottom Rockies: Out of the several dozen so-called youth hostels in Western states (they actually accept people of all ages, and are heavily patronized by families and middle-aged couples in addition to young people), six are located near such popular ski areas as Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Purgatory, Aspen, Vail and Copper Mountain. Others are found near secondary ski resorts. Because they charge between $7 and $25 per person per night, the cost-conscious skier will want to obtain the list and keep it handy for the coming winter months. Hostelling International; tel. (202) 783-6161.

4. Currency magic: Alone among the currencies of Europe, the British pound has remained strong (and even grown a bit stronger) against the U.S. dollar, keeping English hotel costs at fairly pricey levels. That's why the renewal of Thistle Hotels' one-pound-equals-one-dollar program throughout the coming winter is of such importance to travelers. A chain of 60 first-class and tourist-class properties in every major British location (including 24 hotels in London), the British company will regard your dollar as equal to a British pound for stays occurring from mid-December 1998 until early April 1999. Since the British pound actually sells for about $1.66, you enjoy a 40% saving. But you must make bookings, and prepay your stay, before arriving in Britain. Contact Thistle; tel. (800) 847-4358.

5. Paradise for peanuts: Remarkably priced air-and-hotel packages to Tahiti continue to pour forth from West Coast travel companies. I like Tahiti Vacations' seven-night stay at the Kaveka Bungalow Hotel on the Tahitian island of Moorea for $799, including round-trip air from Los Angeles (the price becomes a still-low $999 if you substitute the popular Bali Hai Hotel in Moorea for the Kaveka Bungalows). Call the tour operator at (800) 553-3477.

6. Children's cruises: Shaken but unbowed, the Big Red Boat of Premier Cruises--which makes those three-night and four-night cruises for families with small children from Florida's central coast to the Bahamas--has responded with its own price reductions to the recent dramatic rate cuts by the new Disney Magic cruise ship sailing the same itineraries. Disney, as you'll recall, now charges as little as $795 per adult, $399 per child for a combined week at Disney World in Orlando and the Bahamian cruise. Touche, says the Big Red Boat; henceforth, Big Red Boat will charge as little as $798 per adult, but nothing for the children--a price advantage of nearly $800 to a family of two adults and two children. Moreover, because Disney's lowest price apparently applies to very few cabins aboard the Magic, the Big Red Boat's price advantage may be greater. For Big Red Boat bookings, tel. (800) 373-2654.

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