I have several times expressed my wonderment that verandah (i.e., "balcony") cabins aboard the Celebrity Solstice, one the most comfortable, high-quality ships afloat, are presently being sold for as little as $699 per person for a one-week cruise, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, September through mid-December. Imagine my surprise to learn more recently that such cabins have been discounted down to $649 per person by OnlineVacationCenter.com (phone 800-329-9002) for the sailings of Sept. 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2010. The cautious Online Vacation Center claims this is a price charged only to "seniors" (defined as 55 years of age or older), but younger would-be passengers might try for the same price by dialing the number above.
You've undoubtedly heard of "Rent-a-Wreck," the name conjuring images of battered-up jalopies hardly able to move. Well, the new owners of Rent-a-Wreck are asking their retail outlets to modify their marketing efforts to emphasize the good quality of most Rent-a-Wreck cars; they claim that the average Rent-a-Wreck vehicle has only a few more miles on it than the average found on all those more spiffy rental-car firms. Since the latter are renting their cars for a much longer period than ever before, it's hard to say that they are not "secondhand" vehicles, same as Rent-a-Wreck's. Since Rent-a-Wreck is famous for its low prices, you might give them a try next time you need a car.
No resort fee
The Harrah's chain of casino-hotels in Las Vegas has now made it official: Every one of their properties has pledged not to charge a "resort fee" of the kind found ($15 to $25 per person per night) at most other hotels in Sin City. The Harrah's chain consists of: Harrah's (of course), Caesar's Palace, Ballys, Paris, Rio, Flamingo, Planet Hollywood and the Imperial Palace.
'Very cheap' but good
Speaking of Vegas, I'm getting a growing number of recommendations for a Vegas hotel of which few people have ever heard: Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Casino, in the very center of the Strip more or less opposite Caesar's Palace. It is the former Barbary Coast Hotel, updated through new ownership, and reportedly "very cheap" (my correspondents refer to rates as low as $30, even on weekends) for clean and well- appointed rooms serviced by an outgoing, friendly, courteous staff. I'll be checking it out on my own next trip.
Land of the not free
Were you aware that foreign tourists coming to the U.S. are now being charged $14 per person for the privilege of doing so? As of Sept. 8, the Department of Homeland Security is charging them $10 toward a fund that will place advertising for VisitUSA programs, and $4 for off-setting the cost of a new system that will require that they transmit an e-mail in advance of their arrival, asking for the privilege of coming here. Has there ever been a more lunatic program that will dissuade overseas visitors from actually making the trip?
A hot Turkey deal
Turkey is one of the "hottest" of all current travel destinations, and its low level of prices are matched only by China's. Starting Nov. 6 and until Dec. 17, the well-regarded Pacha Tours (PachaTours.com, phone 800-722-4288) will charge only $2,009 for round-trip air between New York and Istanbul (including all fees, taxes and fuel surcharges) and a wide-ranging 12-night motorcoach tour of 15 Turkish cities (staying at four-star hotels in all but one city), including breakfast, lunch and dinner daily (except for dinner on two opening nights in Istanbul) and daily escorted sightseeing, including all entrance fees. Departures are every day of the week except for Thursday. The only destination to charge less for a complex, all-inclusive, near-two-week, tour to multiple cities, with airfare thrown in, is China.
Another Disney increase
As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow is the yearly increase in admission prices to Walt Disney World in Orlando. You would think that in a time of tight money, when many consumers have less to spend, Disney would forgo its yearly increase — but no. Earlier this month, the profitable Disney announced a new, one-day, one-park adult ticket price of $82, an increase of about 4 percent. Children 10 years of age and younger will pay $74, which is $6 more than last year.