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July 31, 1999

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Cruise the Mediterranean for Half Price

Imagine boarding your four-masted, luxurious sailboat at Monte Carlo's incredible harbor. You're off to Lisbon, with stops at plenty of la dolce vita ports such as Spain's Ibiza island. In short, the Mediterranean is your oyster for eight days or 14 days. That's the life Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com) is offering early this fall for half the usual price.

Like clockwork, twice a year cruise ships around the world change locations because of the weather. In late spring, ships serving Mexico and Central America, for example, go north to Alaska for summer cruises. They go back south when fall arrives. These are called "repositioning" cruises, and some companies offer special deals on them. Which is what Windstar, a luxury line whose ships carry between 150 and 300 passengers, is doing with four of its ships in late October. All of them will cruise the coasts of Italy, France, Spain or Morocco, and two people sail for the price of one.

Here's a sample price: Sail eight days from Monte Carlo to Lisbon for $2,253 per person, including taxes and port charges. Or you can do 14 days, sailing from Rome to Lisbon for $3800 per person. This isn't budget travel, but by Windstar standards, these are budget prices.

Cruising the Mediterranean for half price -- that's my Deal of the Week!

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American and British Air Alliance
The Department of Transportation this week refused to give American Airlines and British Airways special permission to form an alliance. D.O.T. wants more U.S. carriers to have access to Heathrow Airport, but B.A. won't give up enough of its takeoff and landing slots. Access to Heathrow has long been a sticking point in Uncle Sam's negotiations with the British government over a new aviation agreement. A.A. and B.A. already dominate the lucrative New York to London route. I asked Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell if the two airlines won't still be partners in many ways.

Mitchell: "Yeah and those areas include the frequent flyer programs, the joint use of lounges. But that is not anywhere near as dangerous to the consumer as the ability to sit in a room and say all right, we now have six flights a day on this route, $1000 one-way. If we reduce the six to four flights, we can increase prices to, say, $1300 each way. They're not going to be allowed to have that kind of discussion."

Stowaway to London
Meanwhile, there was an uninvited and non-paying guest on a recent B.A. flight to London. The Boston Globe reports that a 17-year-old Boston boy stowed away earlier this month by cutting razor wire, crossing two miles of restricted area, and boarding the plane through a door that was supposed to be locked. He said he wanted to go to Israel and thought the stunt might impress Israel's intelligence agency. The FAA, Logan Airport, and the airline are investigating the breech of security.

Cruise Crime Reports
The country's biggest cruise lines have changed their policy about reporting shipboard crime. Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and the 14 other members of the International Council of Cruise Lines have agreed to report allegations of crime to the F.B.I. when one of their ships sails from an American port or when the incident involves an American citizen. Cruise lines have avoided this until now because cruise ships generally are registered in foreign countries and aren't subject to many U.S. regulations.

A Wing and a Prayer
Ever get the urge to pray when you board a plane? Airbus has offered to make it easier by building five planes equipped with synagogues for Israel's airline, El Al. There'll even be a rotating stand for the Torah so the scroll always faces Jerusalem.

Travel Advisory
by Cheryl Glaser

U.S. Embassy Update
Security officials on the island of Madagascar found traces of explosives on a vehicle approaching the American embassy Thursday. They closed the street for several hours, but the embassy remains open. The U.S. embassy in Mozambique has been closed since last week; officials are working from home. Tensions have been high in east Africa all summer approaching the August 7th anniversary of last year's embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Fires Threaten Bwindi Wildlife
Forest fires have raged for the past week in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where trekkers observe Uganda's rare mountain gorillas. Uganda's tourism industry already was shaky after eight tourists were massacred in March. Wildlife officials fear the gorillas will flee the park for good if the fires continue. Uganda has no advanced fire-fighting technology, and rain may be the only hope for putting out the flames.

Strike in South Africa
And be prepared for widespread disruption in South Africa: hundreds of thousands of public workers began protests Thursday in the biggest strike since the end of apartheid. Union officials said emergency workers and police would remain on duty.


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