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ON A BUDGET

Heading South for the Spring

January 21, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

If you're looking for something new for late winter or early spring, look to Central and South America. Here are several compelling air-and-land packages and one cruise for March and April (but check availability for Passover and Easter week, April 8 to 15):

* Peru: Tour operators are jockeying for budget-conscious travelers to Peru.

In March, April and May, B.E.T. Tours, telephone (800) 438-4448, offers round-trip air fare to Lima for two nights, then a four-night stay in Cuzco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. Included are daily breakfasts and a tour of the Inca site. The price from Los Angeles: $915 per person, based on double occupancy.

* Buenos Aires: An air-and-land package for a week in the tango capital includes a bonus--a flight onward to Brazil, Chile or Uruguay at no extra charge. The price is $1,119 from Los Angeles on Aerolineas Argentinas, which recently resumed nonstop service from L.A.

The package is from Escapes Unlimited, tel. (800) 243-7227, and it includes the nonstop (12-hour) flight, transfers, sightseeing and five nights at a good hotel with buffet breakfast daily.

The amazing bonus is a free flight extension to Rio de Janeiro; Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; or several cities in Argentina. The only catch is that you have to fly to or from the bonus city without another stay in Buenos Aires. If you want an overnight break before or after the 12-hour flight, there's an air fare surcharge of $75.

* Belize: It's a beachcomber's dream: You're first flown, midweek, to Belize City and then ferried to Caye Caulker and the small, waterfront Trends Hotel. After three nights there, you fly to Ambergris Caye for four nights at the Spindrift Hotel, an older (not air-conditioned) waterfront property in the middle of San Pedro, a charming town with three sand streets. You can extend your stay on either island for reasonable extra-night rates. The price from Los Angeles, including round-trip air fare, is $830 from Capricorn Leisure, tel. (800) 426-6544 or (516) 944-8383.

* Caribbean: March and April sailings of the giant, elegant ships of Norwegian Cruise Line are selling for as little as $439 (plus air fare to the embarkation point).

These weeklong sailings of the Norway (the former France) and the Norwegian Majesty are being sold by GalaxSea Cruises of Pomona, tel. (800) 662-5450 or (909) 397-5450. Departing every Saturday in March from Miami to St. Maarten and St. John and St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands and a private island for seven nights, the classic Norway is being sold (inside cabin, double occupancy) for $464 per person, plus port taxes of $139.75.

Similar arrangements are available on the Norwegian Majesty, sailing April 1, 8, 15 and 22 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, for $514 per person, plus port taxes of $136.75. The Majesty's April 29 sailing is priced at $439, plus port taxes of $164.75.

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