Arthur Frommer

Cheap August rates at deluxe Vegas hotel

The cheapest rates ever at the ultra-deluxe Aria Hotel in Las Vegas (centerpiece of the new, sleek City Center complex) —an almost unbelievable $109 a room — have just gone into effect for a large part of August. The dates on which $109 will pay for an elegant room at the Aria are: Aug. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12; 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19, after which they return to normally discounted levels ($159, $229 and $259). To book, go to MGM's Aria website ( and click away.

Istanbul cruise

If you've ever been on a cruise of the eastern Mediterranean, you probably have concluded that the stop in Istanbul was the highlight of the sailing. So why shouldn't there be Mediterranean cruises that start and end in Istanbul (allowing you to enjoy a lengthier experience of that colorful city) and stopping also at several ports along the Turkish coast? That's exactly the route that the Celebrity Constellation will be following for 12 nights, starting with departures just slightly more than a year from now, on Sept. 19, and Oct. 1 and 13, 2011. After leaving Istanbul, the ship will stop at Bodrum, Marmaris and Ephesus in Turkey, going then to Chania, Rhodes, Athens, Mykonos and Crete, Greece, before returning to Istanbul. It's an excellent itinerary that's bound to be popular, and bookings are already being accepted on such sites as Vacations To Go (

Atlantic City downturn

While much attention has been paid to the economic plight of Las Vegas, still suffering a downturn in casino income, matters apparently are worse in Atlantic City. According to the blogs that track such developments, overall business in Atlantic City was down by 11 percent in June (from the year before), and the money revenue from table games was down by 16 percent in the same month. Much of the downturn is attributed to the increase in casino gambling in nearby Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Chinese currency little changed

It's been more than a month since the central bank of China announced that it would allow the Chinese unit of currency — the yuan — to strengthen in value. Though the daily exchange rate varies by tiny amounts up and down, it appears that the first month's appreciation in value will amount, at best, to six-tenths of 1 percent. At that continuing rate (assuming a continued increase in value, which isn't certain), the Chinese yuan will appreciate by a total of 7 percent in the first year following the announcement — hardly enough to make a difference in the cost of Chinese products or the expense of traveling within China. China will continue to be the least expensive remote foreign destination in which to enjoy vacations.

Unfriendly skies

The president of Europe's Ryanair continues to taunt the public. In a recent press conference, he repeated his intention to explore (1) the installation of coin meters on the bathroom doors of his airplanes, charging for the right to use the loo; and (2) the possible installation of standing-room space in the back of his aircraft, squeezing in a few additional people per departure, who would stand up throughout the flight, strapped upright to a vertical board.

Cherries vs. jet lag

The latest scientific advance in the battle against jet lag: an announcement by Dr. Stephanie Michaels that cherries — that's right, fresh cherries — are a potent source of melatonin and can therefore be used to combat the scourge of east-west flights. Bring a small bag of cherries along, mix them with walnuts (another source of melatonin), devour them upon landing at your east-west destination, and you'll be able to thwart the onset of jet lag. I'm going to try it — what do I have to lose? —on my very next trans-Atlantic flight.