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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

October 05, 2003|Jane Engle

Chapter 11 filing strands vacationers

Competitors of Far & Wide Travel Corp. last week offered to help stranded customers after the Miami-based tour conglomerate filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Far & Wide's stable of 21 companies included Glendale-based African Travel Inc., IST Cultural Tours, Journeys Unlimited, Pacific Bestours and Swain Tours.

Some units continued to operate after the filing, and some former owners, including David Herbert of African Travel Inc., were negotiating last week to buy back their companies.

The corporation, in a statement posted Sept. 24 on its Internet site, www.farandwide.com, blamed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing on a "recent unexpected liquidity crunch" and "unprecedented calamity" in a travel industry rocked by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, the Iraq war, the U.S. economic slowdown and other problems.

Far & Wide's attorney, John Monaghan of Holland & Knight in Boston, said that about $30 million in trip deposits and 15,000 customers were affected, including about 3,000 vacationers who were on tour at the time of the Chapter 11 filing.

On its Web site, the company said it would not refund deposits.

Far & Wide Travel Corp. recommended that travelers try to collect from their credit-card company or travel insurer, the Bankruptcy Court or the U.S. Tour Operators Assn., which held a $1-million bond from Far & Wide and posted consumer information on its Web site, www.ustoa.com.

Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, and Globus and Cosmos were among companies offering to place stranded Far & Wide customers on their tours free or at reduced cost or to discount future replacement trips.

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Park requires snowmobile reservations

Snowmobilers who want to visit Yellowstone National Park this winter on self-guided trips will need reservations through the park's concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts. There also will be daily limits on snowmobiles.

The restrictions follow a vote by Congress this summer to cancel a planned ban on snowmobiles, amid a debate that pitted environmentalists, who object to snowmobile noise and air pollution, against riders, who say they have a right to use the parks.

Under the new rules, 950 snowmobiles may enter the park each day, most with commercially guided tours. Up to 20% can be on self-guided trips of two to 11 riders; individual trips aren't allowed.

Reservations cost $10 per snowmobile for the first day and $3 for each additional day, on top of the regular park entrance fee of $15 per day. Commercial guides take care of reservations for participants. Those on self-guided trips must obtain them from Xanterra, (307) 344-7311, www.travelyellowstone.com.

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Security fee expected to boost airfares

Airlines were expected to increase fares to cover an air security fee of $2.50 per flight segment, or up to $10 round trip, that Congress reimposed last week after canceling it several months ago.

Delta and Southwest last week confirmed that they would add the fee onto fares; several other airlines declined to comment.

The fee, added after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, covers security costs. Carriers are lobbying for its permanent repeal.

From Bloomberg News

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Liberty Bell to make its move to new center

Philadelphia visitors on Thursday will be able to view a historic event: the moving of the Liberty Bell to its new home, the $12.9-million Liberty Bell Center, from Liberty Bell Pavilion on Independence Mall, its home since 1976.

The two sites are only 300 feet apart, but the 2,080-pound bell, mounted on a custom cart and pushed by hand, will actually travel 963 feet to take advantage of the flattest terrain. Sensors will register any strain on the bell's famous crack.

The move, expected to take five hours, will begin about 7 a.m. and will be accompanied by festivities. For details, contact the park, (215) 597-8974, www.nps.gov/inde.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK

Pardon their dust and save money

The Waikoloa Beach Marriott on Hawaii's Big Island is reducing its room rates through Dec. 21 while it installs new fire sprinklers in public areas.

"Retrofit Rates" range from $169 per night for a garden-view room to $269 for an oceanfront room. Many rooms include a buffet breakfast for two. By comparison, published rates are $315 to $485.

The hotel, rated three diamonds by AAA, has 545 rooms and offers golf, tennis, beach sports and a swimming pool among other diversions. (800) 922-5533, www.waikoloabeachmarriott.com.

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FREE FOR THE ASKING

Accessible sites in Santa Cruz

"Access Santa Cruz County" is an English-Spanish guide to restaurants, hotels, theaters and other facilities in the Northern California county that accommodate wheelchair users and other people with disabilities.

You can view it free at www.scaccessguide.com or order it in printed form by sending a $3 shipping fee to Shared Adventures, 90 Grandview St., No. B101, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; (831) 459-7210.

-- Compiled by

Jane Engle

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