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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

Room rates on the rise in Las Vegas

June 22, 2003|Jane Engle

The price of a Las Vegas hotel room has been increasing in the last few weeks and now averages 10% to 20% higher than last year's rates for this time of year, according to Fulcrum Global Partners, a securities research company based in New York.

"It started with the end of the Iraqi war," Joe Greff, Fulcrum's gaming and lodging analyst, said of the increase. Besides pent-up demand, Las Vegas seems to be benefiting from vacationers' desire for domestic destinations, he added.

At MGM Mirage, for instance, bookings for the week of July 7 have been averaging $130 per room midweek -- up 13% from last year -- and $210 on weekends, up 27%, the company's surveys show.

Separately, the Labor Department announced last week that the U.S. consumer price index between April and May increased more than 4% for lodging away from home, which consists mainly of hotels.

It was the largest seasonally adjusted month-to-month increase for this time period since 1997, said Pat Jackman, analyst for the department. But experts said the increase mainly reflected April's depressed rates and may be short-lived.

"April was a horrible month for the hotel industry -- the middle of the war," said Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information services for PKF Consulting, an international firm of consultants and specialists in the hotel and tourism industries.

With business travel still lagging, PKF is forecasting average room rates in the U.S. will finish the year down 1.4% from 2002.

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Taiwan removed

from WHO's SARS list

The World Health Organization last week removed Taiwan from its list of areas that travelers should avoid because of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, leaving only Beijing on the list. As of the Travel section's deadline Tuesday Taiwan and Beijing were still on the SARS "avoid" list of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For updates, visit www.who.int and www.cdc.gov.

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United Airlines

offers 2-way

e-mail service

United Airlines earlier this month began offering two-way e-mail capability on its 767-model domestic planes and plans to extend it across the whole fleet by year's end.

United's 767 passengers have been able to send e-mail since December, but they had not been able to receive it, said Jeff McAndrews, United spokesman. United said it was the first domestic airline to offer two-way e-mail.

Up to 80% of United's business travelers carry laptops on board, McAndrews said. The service is accessed by plugging laptops into jacks on phone handsets. The cost for two-way capability is $15.98 per flight plus 10 cents for every kilobyte of data of more than 2 kilobytes.

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Norwegian line

adding L.A. to

home ports

Norwegian Cruise Line will be adding Los Angeles to its roster of home ports in fall 2004 when its Norwegian Star begins eight-day round trips to Acapulco.

Los Angeles will be the line's second West Coast port, after Seattle, its base for Alaska cruises for three years.

The Star has sailed the Hawaiian Islands since December 2001. Other ships will take over that route, said spokeswoman Heather Krasnow.

The Mexican cruises start at $649 per person, double occupancy. (800) 327-7030, www.ncl.com.

Also starting in fall 2004, Princess Cruises will more than double its Hawaii departures from Los Angeles to 15 for the 2004-05 season, using the 1,970-passenger Island Princess instead of the smaller Regal Princess. Prices for the 15-day round trips start at $1,995 per person, double occupancy. (800) PRINCESS (774-6237), www.princess.com.

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Honoring red,

white and ocean

blue in Baltimore

History buffs have two new reasons to stop by Baltimore: a new maritime museum and a Great Flag Window monument honoring the flag that inspired the U.S. national anthem.

The Fells Point Maritime Museum was to have opened this weekend in a former trolley barn at 1724 Thomas St., in the waterfront Fells Point area. Its collection tells the story of the Baltimore port and shipbuilding industry.

Adult admission is $4. (410) 732-0278, www.mdhs.org.

The $500,000 Great Flag Window forms the front facade of the new Star-Spangled Banner Museum, which houses artifacts related to the creation of the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became "The Star-Spangled Banner." The artifacts were previously in a smaller building.

The window reproduces, in colored glass, a full-size image of the 30-by-42-foot flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill, whose house next door has been a museum since 1927. Both are at 844 E. Pratt St. Adult admission is $6. (410) 837-1793, www.flaghouse.org.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK

QE2 crossing, air

and London stay

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