Finnair workers end strike after mediation (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

HELSINKI – Finnair cabin crews have accepted a settlement in a labor dispute ending a 10-day strike that grounded more than 1,000 flights, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

The Finnish national carrier says most Finnair traffic will return to normal during the weekend.

The airline and the Finnish Cabin Crew Union reached agreement over a labor contract late Thursday after mediation by National Conciliator Esa Lonka. Details were not immediately available.

The two sides had been negotiating for months, with major disagreement over working hours and days off for long-haul crews.

Earlier, Finnair issued a profit warning saying the strike would cause daily net losses of more than euro2 million ($2.6 million), resulting in a full-year operational loss.

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AP Enterprise: FAA loses track of 119,000 aircraft (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

NEW YORK – The Federal Aviation Administration is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. — a gap the agency fears could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers.

The records are in such disarray that the FAA says it is worried that criminals could buy planes without the government’s knowledge, or use the registration numbers of other aircraft to evade new computer systems designed to track suspicious flights. It has ordered all aircraft owners to re-register their planes in an effort to clean up its files.

About 119,000 of the aircraft on the U.S. registry have “questionable registration” because of missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales or other paperwork problems, according to the FAA. In many cases, the FAA cannot say who owns a plane or even whether it is still flying or has been junked.

Already there have been cases of drug traffickers using phony U.S. registration numbers, as well as instances of mistaken identity in which police raided the wrong plane because of faulty record-keeping.

Next year, the FAA will begin canceling the registration certificates of all 357,000 aircraft and require owners to register anew, a move that is causing grumbling among airlines, banks and leasing companies. Notices went out to the first batch of aircraft owners last month.

“We have identified some potential risk areas, but I think we’re trying to eliminate as much risk as possible through the re-registration process,” said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.

The FAA says security isn’t the only reason it needs an up-to-date registry. Regulators use it to contact owners about safety problems, states rely on it to charge sales tax and some airports employ it to bill for landing fees. Also, rescuers use the database to track down planes that are missing.

But the FAA has emphasized the security and law enforcement angle as the new measure has moved through the rule-making process over the past two years. The agency says the paperwork gap is becoming a bigger problem as authorities increasingly rely on computers to tighten aviation security in the wake of 9/11 and other terrorist plots.

There have already been cases of criminals using U.S. registration numbers, also known as N-numbers or tail numbers, to disguise their airplanes. In 2008, Venezuela authorities seized a twin-engine plane with the registration number N395CA on the fuselage and more than 1,500 pounds of cocaine on board.

Soon afterward, airplane owner Steven Lathrop of Ellensburg, Wash., received a call from a reporter.

“He sort of started the conversation with, `Do you know where your airplane is? … Your airplane’s in a jungle in South America,’” Lathrop said.

Lathrop’s Piper Cheyenne II XL was locked safely in its hangar at the Ellensburg airport. The smugglers had apparently chosen his tail number because the model was similar to their plane.

“Anybody with a roll of duct tape can put any number they want on an airplane,” Lathrop said.

Federal law requires all U.S. aircraft owners to register their planes with the FAA and carry the registration certificate on board. The registration number — all U.S. registrations start with the letter N — is painted on the fuselage or tail. The numbers are used on flight plan forms and by air traffic controllers to communicate with aircraft in flight.

The amount of missing or invalid paperwork has been building for decades, the FAA says. Up to now, owners had to register their planes only once, at the time of purchase. The FAA sent out notices every three years asking owners to update their contact information if needed, but there was no punishment for not doing so. As of 2008, there were 343,000 airplanes on the registry. By 2010, the number had risen to 357,000.

The U.S. registry includes 16,000 aircraft that were sold but never updated with the names of the new owners, and more than 14,000 aircraft that have had their registrations revoked but may still be flying because the FAA has not canceled their N-numbers. Other registrations are outdated because the owners have died or the planes were totaled in crashes. Some planes are simply derelicts corroding in barns or junkyards.

As a result, there is a “large pool” of N-numbers “that can facilitate drug, terrorist or other illegal activities,” the FAA warned in a 2007 report.

The problem became more acute after the government launched a new computer system for tracking flights called the Automatic Detection and Processing Terminal, or ADAPT, the FAA says. The system combines dozens of databases, from a list of stolen aircraft to the names of diplomats. It flags suspicious flights in red on a map.

Unreliable data in the system has led to cases of mistaken identity.

Pilot Pierre Redmond said his Cirrus was searched by Customs and Border Protection agents in fatigues and bulletproof vests last year in Ramona, Calif. They told him his tail number had been confused with that of a wanted plane in Florida.

In August, police in Santa Barbara, Calif., detained flight instructors John and Martha King at gunpoint after federal authorities mistook their Cessna for a plane that was stolen in 2002. The Kings are famous in aviation because they produce and star in a popular series of test-preparation videos for pilots.

The error in the Kings’ case was eventually traced to a law-enforcement database that is cross-referenced with the FAA’s registry, not to the registry itself. But Brown of the FAA called it an example of the real-world consequences of bad recordkeeping.

“It’s very, very scary,” Martha King said. “If this keeps happening to people, somebody’s going to get shot.”

To update the FAA registry, the agency will cancel all aircraft registrations over the next three years. Owners will have three months to re-register. In addition, the FAA will do away with its one-time registration certificate and adopt one that has to be replaced every three years. Those who fail to re-register will lose their certificate, and the plane must be grounded.

“We’re trying to model it more closely on some of the programs that are in effect for automobiles,” Brown said. “With the more regular renewal process, you will capture bad data much more frequently.”

Airlines, leasing companies, charter operators and banks agree there is a problem but have complained about having to repeatedly re-register planes.

The Air Transport Association of America, which represents airlines, warned in 2008 that the measure “had the potential to wreak havoc on the commercial air transportation system.” On Tuesday, ATA spokesman David Castelveter said airlines are still gauging the potential effect of the new rule.

Other groups noted that most of the aircraft with paperwork problems are smaller planes that pose little terrorist threat.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a tremendous security benefit as a result of this,” said Doug Carr, a vice president of the National Business Aviation Association.

Banks and finance companies that hold loans used to buy planes will be among those hardest hit, said David Warner, general counsel for the National Aircraft Finance Association. A bank’s claim to an aircraft is often tied to the FAA registration, so lenders are having to hire more staff and buy computer systems to track hundreds of aircraft registrations, Warner said.

He said the FAA has exaggerated the danger.

“The threat of people wanting to do us harm is very real, but the focus on re-registration or stale registration data on aircraft is not where the risk is likely to be,” Warner said.


Associated Press writer Joan Lowy in Washington contributed to this report.

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Upstate NY town pays tribute to `Wonderful Life’ (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. – For years, civic boosters have pointed out intriguing parallels that suggest Seneca Falls, N.Y., was the inspiration for Bedford Falls, the make-believe mill town in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Those musings are now embodied in a museum of sorts that showcases Frank Capra’s Christmas movie classic.

And who cut the ribbon at Friday’s grand opening? Zuzu, of course.

Former child actress Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s daughter Zuzu in the 1946 drama, traveled to central New York to launch “The Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum.”

She called the one-room exhibit a great leap of faith in a place that’s “so much like Bedford Falls.”

At Christmastime, the village is adorned with white lights and wreaths strung across the main street like the snowy movie set erected near Los Angeles 64 years ago.

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What’s the Deal? Travel bargains from around the globe.

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

l Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino Spa is offering savings of 50 percent for stays Jan. 2-April 24, except blackout dates of Feb. 6-11 and Feb. 26-March 3. Deadline to book is Jan. 31. Rates vary by room type and date. For example, lodging in a garden-view room in mid-March, after discount, is $291 (plus $68 taxes) per night; usual rate is $582. The deal also includes a $25-per-person credit (maximum two people) to the resort’s Larimar Spa; a $150-per-room beverage credit on stays of at least five nights and $200 on stays of at least seven nights; and free breakfasts and dinners for children 5 and younger eating with parents at the Laguna buffet. Info: 800-967-9033,


l MSC Cruises is offering reduced single supplements of at least 30 percent on select week-long Caribbean itineraries aboard the 2,550-passenger MSC Poesia departing from Port Everglades, Fla. Savings on all cabin categories, except suites, are available on six departures in January and February of the Western Caribbean Wonders and the Eastern Caribbean Enchantment cruises. Rate for either itinerary starts at $659 per person single, plus taxes of $69 (Eastern Caribbean) or $81 (Western Caribbean); usual rate starts at $1,058 including taxes. Book by calling a travel agent or the cruise line at 877-287-3313. Cruise info:

l Cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas starting at $409 per person double (plus $73 port charges) with a deal from Carnival. Pricing applies to four departures in January of the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride. The week-long cruises stop in Port Canaveral, Fla., and Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. Lowest prices are for interior cabins with upper and lower berths; published brochure rates were $1,669 per person double. Info: 888-227-6482,

l Silversea is offering $1,000-per-cabin ($500 per person) credits that can be applied to shore excursions on seven Caribbean cruises and six Far East cruises in 2011. Deadline to book is Dec. 31. The credit can be used on any shore excursion, from zip-lining in St. Kitts ($89) to a dragon boat cruise on Vietnam’s Perfume River ($159). Cruise prices vary by itinerary. For example, a nine-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Silver Cloud departing Feb. 17 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Barbados starts at $3,638 per person double. Info: 877-215-9986,


l American is offering sale fares to New York. Round-trip fare to JFK from either BWI Marshall or Reagan National is $119, including $21 taxes, for travel Jan. 5-Feb. 16. Lowest fares apply to Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday flights. Other airlines are matching. Purchase by Dec. 13 at , or pay $20 more by calling 800-433-7300.

l Delta has deals from New York to Europe. For example, fly round trip to Madrid for $589, including taxes (other airlines are matching). Depart Dec. 24-31 or Jan. 10-March 25 and complete travel by April 25. A 14-day advance purchase and Saturday night stay are required. Cheapest fares apply to flights Sunday through Thursday. Buy by Dec. 13 at or pay $20 more by calling 800-241-4141.


l Spend four nights in Dublin for $525 per person double with a deal from Aer Lingus Vacation Store. The package includes round-trip airfare on Aer Lingus from New York to Dublin and four nights at the three-star Regency Hotel. Lowest prices apply to Wednesday or Thursday departures Jan. 5-Feb. 17. Priced separately, deal would cost about $226 more per couple. Book by Dec. 31. Info: 800-495-5192, .

- Carol Sottili

Submit travel deals to Please include your phone number and e-mail address. Prices were verified Thursday afternoon when the Travel section went to press, but deals sell out and availability is not guaranteed. Restrictions such as blackout dates and advance purchase may apply.

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Holiday shopping: Portland hotels hand out cash and discounts

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Portland, Ore. is calling all holiday shoppers — or at least those who appreciate bargains found outside the mall. Stay at selected hotels and receive discount coupons and free parking. It gets better: Some places throw in $50 cash for a shopping spree. Sweet!

The deal: I like the Portland Perks Package (which sounds more like coffee-crazed Seattle, doesn’t it?) because you have so many hotels to choose from. It requires a two-night stay and includes overnight parking and a discount book with coupons for businesses such as the iconic Powell’s City of Books, restaurants and more. Some hotels include the $50 cash bonus, so peruse the list carefully if that is your main incentive.

When: Good for stays through Dec. 20.

Tested: I went to the Portland Perks Web page and filtered for downtown hotels for a stay starting Dec. 17. I checked out the Paramount Hotel because it had a rate I liked ($139 plus tax per night), a central downtown location and the $50 giveaway. I also found the same price and cash offer at Hotel Fifty, which overlooks the Willamette River and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. See what I mean? Lots of choices.

Here’s how the savings stack up: At Hotel Fifty, the room alone, without the package, costs $139 per night, the same price as the package, at the best available rate listed on the website. So $50 cash and $40 in parking fees provide a neat discount — and that’s before using the coupons.

Contact: Travel Portland, (877) 678-5263

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12 travel deals of the season

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Czech inn COST From $119 a night THE
12 travel deals of the season

10. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
Top 10 spots every kid should see

Compact and lightweight, yet sturdy with adequate coverage,
Gifts for the traveler

Web links

On Oct. 21, 2010 JetBlue Airways Corp. said
Travel blog

In the midst of the
holiday season, with gifts to buy and perhaps a houseful of guests to feed, you may find yourself planning an escape. Whether your dreams tend toward Bavarian Christmas markets, Caribbean beaches, luxury spas or skiing the Rockies, we found deals that will make them come true – for less. Winter offers low-season bargains for many destinations, but even if you are headed to ski resorts or tropical islands, there are good deals out there. While all were available at press time, they are likely to sell out, so don’t wait.

Czech inn

COST From $119 a night

THE DEAL When the snow lays round about deep and crisp and even, take a walk from the Radisson Blu Alcron in Prague to nearby Wenceslas Square, home of one of the city’s more popular Christmas markets. The Alcron is part of the Radisson Blu group, which brings a contemporary breath of fresh air to a hotel group that isn’t frequently associated with cutting-edge design. But more importantly, the Blu hotels provide a great value that’s even better through Jan. 31, with the stylish four-star hotels offering travelers headed to Europe 20 percent off at 121 properties participating in the Winter Weekends promotion, from Milan to Moscow. The discount is good on two- or three-night stays and must include a Saturday night.

INFO 800-333-3333,

Island dreaming

COST From $179 a night

THE DEAL Through the end of January, travelers booking a Puerto Rican vacation at one of seven Hilton Hotels and resorts on the island receive every fourth night free and complimentary breakfasts with the “Puerto Rico Sparkles” promotion. Travel must be completed before April 30. Each hotel also has its own special discounts – most include 20 percent off spa treatments, but the El Conquistador Resort, for example, also throws in a 20 percent discount on admission to the Coqui Water Park, while the Caribe Hilton’s package includes 20 percent off at its three restaurants.

INFO 888-564-1307, Mention booking code P3.

Cold comfort

COST As low as $295 for a two-night stay

THE DEAL Boston is appealing any time of the year, but there’s something particularly magical in winter, when the Common is covered in a blanket of white or you’re watching the snow fall from inside a North End trattoria. Only problem? It’s cold. The Frosty Friday package from the Back Bay’s Colonnade Hotel, however, may have you hoping the temperature drops even lower. The cost of your Friday night stay is determined by the 5 p.m. reading by the National Weather Service. If it’s 20 degrees, you pay $20. You do have to stay Saturday night, when you’ll pay $249, regardless of the temperature.

INFO 617-424-7000,

Singapore shopping spree

COST From $256 a night

THE DEAL To coincide with Singapore’s “Christmas in the Tropics” street festival, which runs through Jan. 15, the Fullerton Hotel is offering a “Cheers to a Festive Holiday” package that includes a double room and breakfast for two, along with a Fullerton teddy bear and a late checkout. (A similar package, including free Internet, is available at the sister Fullerton Bay Hotel, starting at $302.) In addition to the city’s perennial attractions, such as its night market and world-famous zoo, the department stores and boutiques of Orchard Road have extended hours while carolers and other performers entertain shoppers.


(Don’t be alarmed at the prices on the website, those are in Singapore dollars.)

Canadian mountain highs

COST From $2,745 a person for 11 nights

THE DEAL This ski vacation from VIA Rail Canada is a sampler of the country’s best ski resorts: Banff, Jasper and Whistler. Mountain-base accommodations are customized, depending on whether your tastes are three-star or five-star, but all packages include lift tickets. Best of all, you won’t have to navigate icy passes or put chains on your tires, as travel between the mountains is aboard VIA Rail trains (transfers to and from train stations are included).

INFO 888-842-7245,

Desert dozen

COST $1,200

THE DEAL We’ll admit it would be a stretch to call this offer a steal, but we appreciate a clever package, especially when it comes from one of our favorite resorts. The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain is a simple, contemporary resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., that eschews Southwestern shtick in favor of a Zen environment, though the spa treatments, and the organic menu at “elements,” its restaurant, are far from Spartan. To make holiday shopping simple, the Sanctuary’s Twelve Days gift-card package is an updated list of gifts for the 12 days of Christmas (spa treatments have replaced turtle doves), including one night in a mountain-view casita, a cooking class, a weeklong fitness class pass and nine other offers.

INFO 480-948-2000,

Chill out

COST From $379 a night

THE DEAL Manhattan’s new Eventi hotel combines clean design with the feel of an urban grand dame, thanks to its soaring common areas, its food market and the Bar Basque from Jeffrey Chodorow. Located in Chelsea, Eventi is a good base for exploring nearby galleries or restaurants in the Flatiron District. With the “Big Chill” package, however, the idea is to stay inside – included are morning chai lattes, afternoon hot chocolates, 20 percent off in-room spa services plus winter Wii and board games, as well as a $50 food and beverage credit and free overnight parking. Valid for stays through March 31.

INFO 866-996-8396, Mention booking code PCHL.

Mexican escape

COST From $154 a person a night, including meals

THE DEAL The window on this deal at the Occidental Grand Xcaret is short, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, but it’s an easy sale to convince the family to forego the cranberry sauce for guacamole. About an hour south of the Cancun airport, the Occidental Grand Xcaret is a sprawling oceanfront complex of pools, 11 restaurants and rooms in low-lying buildings. It’s attached to Xcaret, a theme park with an educational twist, focused on the local Mayan culture and history.

INFO 800-858-2258,

Royal Caribbean

COST From $50 a person, a night

THE DEAL Royal Caribbean’s collaboration with DreamWorks has made the line more family friendly than ever, with characters from “Shrek” and “Madagascar” giving Disney some competition. The collaboration also has led to tech upgrades: 3-D theaters, outdoor screens and iPod docking stations in the rooms. Royal Caribbean can boast the first true Broadway productions at sea, with “Chicago” and “Hairspray.” Many deals depart from Cape Liberty, N.J.; for example, at press time, a nine-night cruise to the eastern Caribbean aboard the Explorer of the Seas (departing on Jan. 28) was available starting at $594 a person while a 12-night southern Caribbean cruise aboard the same ship (departing Jan. 16) started at $653.

INFO 866-562-7625,

Prices based on availability at press time and are subject to change.

Sunshine State savings

COST From $149 with Best of Waldorf, $19.09 with the Founders promotion

THE DEAL If you’re looking for a Florida vacation, the Best of Waldorf Florida provides guests who book a stay at seven in-state hotels with complimentary breakfasts and resort credits of $25 to $50 a night. Among those participating are landmark resorts such as the Boca Beach Club in Boca Raton and the Naples Grand Beach Resort. If you’re on a budget, some hotels in Palm Beach are participating in a 1909 Founders Special offering an extra night for $19.09, and others offer daily credits of $19.09.

INFO 800-925-3673, Visit founderspackage for a list of hotels participating in the $19.09 Founders promotion.

Designer vacation

COST From $106 a night

THE DEAL The Design Hotels group is a collection of some of the world’s trendiest, most playful and sometimes surprising hotels. More than 60 of their properties are participating in a winter promotion, with third nights free. Check out the work of French interior designer Frederic Thomas at the Park Hotel Tokyo, or the magnificently restored 19th century buildings of the Nobis Hotel in Stockholm.

INFO 800-337-4685,

Nutcracker suite

COST From $192 a night

THE DEAL After a $120 million renovation and expansion, the historic Omni Bedford Springs Resort (just over four hours from New York, in central Pennsylvania) is entering its second century in style. While winter weather means you might not enjoy the resort’s 18-hole golf course, the water that emerges from the resort’s eight natural springs is steaming hot year-round – you may find little reason to leave the 30,000-square-foot spa. A look at the hotel’s unusual collection of more than 1,000 nutcrackers (including traditional soldiers), however, can fill some time between treatments. The resort is offering 20 percent off on stays through Dec. 30.

INFO 800-843-6664,

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Ky. ponders deer hunts at parks to raise revenue (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Political leaders in cash-strapped Kentucky are proposing winter getaway packages for hunters that would allow them to shoot deer at publicly owned parks to raise money for state government.

Tourism Secretary Marcheta Sparrow said such a move could generate cash during a time of year when traditional tourists tend to stay home. Some hunting is already allowed in the parks to manage deer populations.

The proposal drew quick opposition from The Humane Society of the United States.

“We think it’s a travesty, because state parks are one of the few safe havens left, not just for animals but for people who enjoy watching wildlife,” said Laura Simon, the Humane Society’s field director for urban wildlife.

Sparrow briefed the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission on the proposal last week. The cost for the proposed hunting getaways hasn’t yet been determined.

“We think it’s a good opportunity to build a new constituency,” she said.

Sparrow said the parks are closed Sunday afternoons through midday Wednesday during the winter months, and that it would be during those periods that hunters would be invited in.

“We’re working as hard as we can do develop any market we can,” she said.

Kentucky, like other states, has been wrestling with financial problems brought on by the economic recession. State revenue has fallen by some $2 billion in the past three years, prompting widespread cuts in government agencies and programs.

Sparrow has been exploring ways to cut costs, including privatizing some park operations to help offset the budget shortfall.

Simon said the hunting packages are a bad idea.

“We’re seeing a big push in other states to open up more public land to hunting, but the package deals being proposed in Kentucky are unique and push the envelope even further,” Simon said. “We don’t think this is an appropriate use of state lands, to open them up for hunting for the primary purpose of filling state coffers.”

State tourism spokesman Gil Lawson said deer hunting isn’t new to the park system. The state routinely schedules quota hunts to manage the size of deer herds. Next month, hunters will be used to thin herds at Greenbo, Green River and Lake Barkley state parks.

“These all relate to overpopulation of deer,” Lawson said.

The proposed deer hunting packages, Lawson said, would also be geared toward controlling deer populations, and would be available only in a handful of the 15 parks that have cabins and cottages.

“They’re destroying habitat, and they could face starvation and disease, and so we see this as a herd management tool as well as to help state parks gain some business,” he said.

Simon dismissed that argument, calling it “terribly flawed.”

“We are not seeing starvation,” she said. “Deer are doing really, really well.”

What’s worse, Simon said, is that the park deer likely won’t know to run from hunters.

“They do become habituated, and there’s certainly no sport in shooting them,” she said. “You’ve got tame deer, and they’re sitting ducks for hunters. They’ll come running right up to them, practically.”

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Escape from New York for New Year’s deals

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Resorts from Poconos to tropical paradises tout getaways

Wednesday, December 8th 2010, 9:48 PM

The whirlpool at the Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos.

A villa at the family-run Fernwood Hotel  Resort.

The best place to watch the ball drop for New Year’s is from a hotel room far from the madness of Times Square. At least that’s the hope of resorts from the Poconos to the Caribbean as they tout their getaway packages to ring in 2011.

Among the escapes offered in the Poconos, about a two-hour drive from the expected midtown mayhem, is a two-night package for $349 at the family-owned Fernwood Hotel Resort, which includes two tickets to its New Year’s Eve party. The nearby Split Rock Resort, which features an indoor water park, has a deal that includes deluxe accommodations, free breakfast, New Year’s Eve Buffet, and drink tickets and live music to its big bash for $131 per person, per night with double occupancy. The Lodge at Woodloch, which doesn’t allow kids under 16, has a spa-and-dinner package that starts at $324 per person, per night.

Those looking for an adventure farther north should check into the Stowe Mountain Lodge, one of the top ski destinations this side of the Rockies. The resort, which requires a four-night stay, has rooms beginning at $500 a night. A more cost-friendly alternative is the Stoweflake Mountain Resort Spa, a family-run hotel with rooms beginning at $212 a night for a minimum four-night stay. The quaint Gables Inn, which features a carriage house for $200 a night, is another good option.

In nearby New Hampshire, the Lodge at Bretton Woods, part of the famed Omni Mount Washington Resort, has rooms available from $150 and is a haven for thrill-seekers with its zip-lining canopy tours. The ride descends over 1,000 feet of elevation across a series of tree-top zip lines, and is one of the longest canopy tours in the U.S. High-flying suspension bridges and hiking trails connect the zip lines, and the tour concludes with the Williwaw Racing Zip, a dual, side-by-side zip line leading right into the Bretton Woods base area.

If escaping the cold is your choice, then the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino in the Caribbean is a good place to say goodbye to 2010. The hotel’s inaugural New Year’s Eve Fest, presented by the producers of the Soul Beach Music Festival, is a four-day celebration that includes pre- and post-New Year’s Eve parties, a New Year’s Eve champagne celebration and performances by musical guests Brian McKnight and Charlie Wilson. Packages with a New Year’s Eve dinner buffet at the resort begin at $1,913 based on double occupancy.

An option closer to home is at the La Playa Beach Golf Resort in Naples, Fla., which captured a spot on the Condè Nast Traveler “Gold List” as well as a “Great Hotels” ranking in Travel + Leisure. Its New Year’s Eve package includes a king-size bed; dinner for two at its heralded Baleen restaurant – including wine and party favors; breakfast in bed the next morning, featuring a “recovery kit” to help heal any hangover, and complimentary valet parking and resort fee. The one-night bacchanalia costs about $1,100.

Here are some other New Year’s destinations off the beaten path:

The Sanderling Resort Spa, an independently owned beachfront property in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, has a “Left Bank New Year special” that includes two nights in a North Inn Guest Room and five-course dinner for two at its Left Bank restaurant for $299 per night (2 night minimum).

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, an award-winning Auberge Resort overlooking the May River in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, will offer an experience that takes guests back to a time when underground Supper Clubs were all the rage. The one-night stay and five-course New Year’s Eve meal, which includes dessert by the firepits, starts at $349 per person based on double occupancy.

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India complains after emissary gets pat down in US (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

NEW DELHI – India’s foreign minister said Thursday it was unacceptable that the country’s ambassador to the United States was patted down by a security agent at a Mississippi airport, and said he would complain to Washington.

The ambassador, Meera Shankar, was returning from giving a speech at Mississippi State University last week when she was pulled out of line at the airport and given a pat down by a female Transportation Security Administration agent.

The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson, Miss. quoted witnesses as saying Shankar, who was wearing a sari, was told she was singled out for additional screening because of her dress.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said this was the second time the ambassador had been singled out for a pat down in the past three months.

“Let me be very frank that this is unacceptable to India,” he said. “We are going to take it up with the government of United States, and I hope that things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur.”

A TSA spokesman said diplomats were not exempt from the searches, and that bulky clothing could prompt a pat down.

Karan Singh, a former Indian ambassador to the U.S., said if Shankar was singled out because of her clothing, the incident needs to be condemned. “I think she deserves an apology,” he said.

While the TSA has garnered criticism for its new security measures, including body scanners and pat downs, the controversy is especially emotive in India, where issues of modesty and status often collide with increasingly stringent airport security.

Last year, India was scandalized when former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was told to remove his shoes and was scanned by a metal detector before boarding a flight to the United States.

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Feds close access to skiers near Telluride (AP)

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

TELLURIDE, Colo. – The U.S. Forest Service has closed access to an area near the Telluride Ski Resort that’s a favorite of backcountry skiers after complaints from a developer known for buying property in the middle of public lands.

The Forest Service said it closed three gates Wednesday that provided access to the Upper Bear Creek basin after Tom Chapman of Gold Hill Development Co. and another person expressed concern that skiers were trespassing on their property.

“We want to be good neighbors and discourage trespass,” said Judy Schutza, the district forest ranger.

Skiers can reach national forest lands from the ski area by using other access points, Schutza said.

Last spring, Chapman bought about 100 acres of mining claims near the ski area and closed the land to skiers and hikers.

The Telluride Daily Planet said Chapman declined to comment when reached by phone Wednesday.

Dave Riley, the Telluride ski area’s chief executive, said resort officials have tried to talk to Chapman, but he hasn’t responded.

“The ski company believes we have historic prescriptive rights to ski across the mining claims in Bear Creek, and we intend to pursue those rights,” Riley said. “This is not the end of this issue.”

The resort previously offered guided backcountry tours in the steep terrain.

Through the years, Chapman has acquired isolated parcels in national parks or forests, which he has sold for millions of dollars. He has proposed grand, helicopter-accessible homes on landlocked private lots, which the Forest Service and National Park Service have bought or acquired through land swaps.

Critics have accused Chapman of threatening to develop land in wilderness areas and other pristine spots to get as much money as he can from the government.

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