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Time's Running Out

Haven't made reservations yet to ring in the year 2000? It's not too late-- there's plenty left. But some experts advise waiting a few more months for the staggering prices to drop.


Campsite bookings at most national parks (including the Grand Canyon and Death Valley) are handled by concessionaire Biospherics of Beltsville, Md., tel. (800) 365-2267, which takes reservations no more than three months in advance.

Meanwhile, at scattered sites in the rural U.S., about 1,000 volunteers will be celebrating the new millennium by giving their time to team projects aimed at helping at-risk children in rural multiracial communities. The sponsor is Global Volunteers, tel. (800) 487-1074, a 15-year-old nonprofit group based in St. Paul and dedicated to charitable efforts in the developing world and rural North America. The group's MilleniuM Service Project--its largest one-time mobilization effort ever--asks for a week of volunteers' time, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, 2000, and a contribution of $450 per adult. It offers meals and accommodations, which might range from a room in a host family's home to a residence on church grounds. Air fare is separate. Sites so far include Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico. "I think we have about 300 people signed up so far," said Nancy Groves, the group's communications coordinator, on Dec. 15. "But we're getting there, and it's exciting."


The high-end cruise line Holland America, tel. (800) 426-0327, was reporting sellouts on five of its nine millennium cruises by mid-December, with those on seven-day itineraries (most in the Caribbean) selling fastest. One of the itineraries with the most unsold cabins was a 16-day Hawaiian Islands cruise on the Statendam, beginning and ending in San Diego. Rates start at $350 per day.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 10, 1999 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Thailand millennium tour--In the story "Booking the New Millennium: Time's Running Out" (Jan. 3), the wrong price was given for a 15-day "Discover Thailand" trip offered by Overseas Adventure Travel. The correct price is $3,190 per person including air fare.

On the Mississippi River, the Delta Queen Steamboat was grabbed up in 1997 by a travel agency in Rochester, N.Y., which has packaged a five-night cruise from New Orleans beginning Dec. 29. Berths went on sale in January 1998. Before Christmas, said a spokeswoman for the AAA Rochester Travel Agency, tel. (716) 461-5000, 78 of the ship's 85 cabins had been reserved. The seven remaining cabins were priced at $2,690 per person (double occupancy), air fare excluded.

Farther from these shores, in the South Pacific near the international date line and the Tonga island of Nuku'Alofa, the 940-passenger luxury ship Crystal Symphony, tel. (800) 446-6620, will be in the middle of a 17-day cruise (minimum price, $8,975) when the millennium arrives. As of late December, a Crystal spokeswoman said the ship was full, with a waiting list (as was the Crystal Harmony, which will greet the new millennium off Rio de Janeiro). The cost of these cruises: about $525 per day and up. (Aspiring millennial Crystal cruisers, by the way, may still have hope: On Jan. 2, the line's millennium passengers were required to bump their 20% deposit payments up to 50% of the total cruise tab, a "drop dead" date that may have reopened a few cabins.)

Throughout the cruise business, "you hear two different stories," says Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruise Week. "You hear from the travel agents that there are so many cancellations on millennium bookings--due to shock over the prices--that they don't know if it is going to be a hit or not. But the cruise lines say that prices will go up because demand is so high."

Carnival Cruises, tel. (800) 327-9501, which usually has two ships offering three- and four-day Mexico cruises from Los Angeles, instead will have the Elation on a seven-day millennium itinerary (fares $2,832 and up, with a $1,200 deposit due upon booking) and the Holiday on an 11-day itinerary ($2,652 and up, with $1,500 up front.) By mid-December there was good availability on both.

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz reports that two of the company's 14 millennium sailings had sold out by Dec. 16--one ship chartered by a private party, the other a five-day itinerary from Tampa. Most of the company's seven-day cruises are 75% full or more, de la Cruz said, and "the shorter voyages are selling faster." Prices, she said, are "about 30% to 40% higher than typical Christmas/New Year's pricing."


Globus & Cosmos, tel. (800) 221-0090, one of the world's largest tour operators, has scheduled 58 millennium tours, from a five-day San Francisco trip ($739 excluding air fare) to a 27-day Pacific Rim odyssey ($2,849, excluding air fare). By December, the company had taken about 250 reservations, "far beyond where we typically are" so long before departure, a spokeswoman said.

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