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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

August 29, 2004|Jane Engle

Cruise line offers credits

Apologizing for "a number of start-up challenges" that have affected service on its new Pride of Aloha, Norwegian Cruise Line said it would refund half the daily service charge to passengers and give them credits for future cruises equal to 20% of their cruise fare.

In a statement, the company also said it would offer repeat Aloha passengers the option of booking another trip on the ship at the lower prices available when the ship was first marketed.

The Pride of Aloha, which began weeklong cruises in Hawaii on July 4, adds a daily service charge of $10 per adult and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. On its website, www.ncl.com, the company has described this fee as "a fixed service charge ... not adjustable."

Norwegian earlier refunded part of the charge on at least one Pride of Aloha sailing after widespread complaints, and Chief Executive Colin Veitch has acknowledged that the ship's service "is undergoing some teething problems."

At least eight cruises averaging 2,000 passengers each were covered by the latest announcement, a company spokeswoman said. Using those figures, the company's service-charge refunds could total about $500,000; the company declined to specify an amount.

A closer look at Hawaii telescope

One of the world's top centers for astronomical research is giving the public more access to its site. But if you're a casual visitor arriving in a regular two-wheel-drive car, forget it.

You'll need to apply up to a month in advance for guided tours of the observatory that houses the Subaru Telescope, one of 13 telescopes atop the dormant Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

And bring a four-wheel-drive to scale the rugged terrain to the chilly top of the 13,796-foot summit.

Subaru, named for the Japanese word for the constellation Pleiades, uses a 27-foot-diameter mirror, the largest single-piece telescope mirror in the world, to scan the skies. Tour-goers not only ride an elevator to its 80-foot-tall viewing deck but also can descend to the ground floor to stand next to the equipment. (Visitors cannot look through the telescope.)

Weekend guided tours of two other Mauna Kea telescopes enter only the visitors' galleries, said Gary Fujihara, a public outreach officer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

The Subaru tours are offered three times daily on up to 15 days per month. They are free, but you must apply in advance online at www.subarutelescope.org.

Because of the extreme conditions, pregnant women and visitors younger than 16 are barred, and people with certain health problems are discouraged from attempting the trip.

Death Valley park status

Death Valley National Park officials said last week they were expecting to reopen on a limited basis after flash floods Aug. 14 and 15 killed two people and damaged roads, water and power systems. Parts of California Highways 178 and 190 were cleared, and Scotty's Castle, Stovepipe Wells Village and some campgrounds reopened. For updates, visit www.nps.gov/deva.

More Florida

sites reopen

More than 10 days after Hurricane Charley, some tourist sites in Lee County in southwest Florida, which includes Sanibel and Captiva islands, had reopened. But as of the Travel section's deadline Tuesday, some resorts and cottages remained closed. The toll bridge reopened and power was restored to most of the county, officials said.

For updates, visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com.

-- Compiled by

Jane Engle

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