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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR NOVEMBER 16, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: New Year’s Eve roundup: more Millenium news and deals; party on the fly to Hawaii; tea for two hundred in London; the highs and lows of New Year’s Eve accommodations’ pricing; no-fly zones and airline shutdowns; the $100,000 Ultimate Experience at the Ritz-Carlton includes big-name bling and swag; and more.

COST CUTTERS: Half-Off Room Rates in Europe
Other hotels may still be charging a premium for the stays over the Millennium, but 180 Sofitel, Novotel and Mercure properties in 13 European countries have cut room rates by 50 percent. The discount is offered New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and January 2. Guests also receive a 6 p.m. check-out time. For rate information and information, contact Accor [http://www.accor.com/ACCOR/english/1.htm] at 800-221-4542.

HAWAII: PARTY ON THE FLY
Pleasant Hawaii Holidays [http://www.2hawaii.com] (800-242-9244), the biggest tour operator to the Aloha State, has a New Year's Eve idea for revelers who want to be on the move. You depart New Year's Eve from Los Angeles or San Francisco on a flight to Waikiki that features a party, in-flight games and prizes. After an overnight stay at the Outrigger Hotel on Waikiki Beach, you fly home on New Year's Day. Prices start at $349 a person and include a lei greeting and roundtrip hotel-to-airport transfers.

MILLENNIUM CITY: Tea for Two (Hundred) in London
No city is promoting the next century quite like London, the self-described "Millennium City." It has built a gigantic Millennium Dome [http://www.dome2000.co.uk] that straddles the prime meridian in Greenwich and outfitted it with a 14-part, multimedia, interactive exhibition. An adjacent theater will screen a new edition of BlackAdder, the 1980s sitcom that lampoons British history. The $1 billion Dome opens on New Year's Day. So does the British Airways London Eye [http://www.londonmillenniumcity.com/directory/attracdetails.phtml?id=15585J&location=2&titlegif=attrac&fac=,&free=], a 443-foot-high Ferris wheel erected on the south bank of the River Thames. The 30-minute ride will offer dramatic views of London. Complete details on other events with a Millennium theme are available at a special London website [http://www.londonmillenniumcity.com].

The best way to experience the hoopla in London may be with 200 of your friends. And if you actually have 200 friends, you might as well take over the Sheraton Belgravia[http://www.sheraton.com] (800-325-3535) for New Year's Eve. Rooms normally run about $315 a night, but buy up the whole hotel and you receive a special Millennium Package. It includes two night of accommodations for 200 people, a welcome reception, snacks, and an elegant buffet dinner. The cost? A comparatively modest 55,000 pounds, or about $88,000. That works out to just $220 a night per person.

PUTTING ON THE RITZ: Over the Top--and Not
The swanky Ritz-Carlton(800-241-3333) chain of hotels and resorts has put together what even its own executives privately admit is an over-the-top New Year's Eve package. The "Ultimate Experience" --only one is available at each Ritz-Carlton--offers three nights in the hotel's best suite; his-and-her 18-karat gold Bulgari watches; use of a chauffeur-driven Jaguar; 24-hour private butler service; a magnum of champagne and two keepsake Baccarat flutes; daily massage for two; limo transfers to and from the airport; and a customized special amenities and gifts. The price? A cool $100,000. And if you think no one would pay that much, Ritz-Carlton says four properties have already sold their Ultimate Experiences. … But there is good news: the more reasonably priced "Millennium Experience" package at each Ritz-Carlton starts at $350 a room and includes accommodations, a bottle of champagne and a pair of those Baccarat flutes.

BEST OF THE WEB: More Millenium News and More Millennium Deals
Looking for last-minute deals? Try Frommer's Millennium Madness [http://www.frommers.com/millennium/], which specializes in cheap packages. … Travelscape Millennium [http://www.travelscape.com/hotdealsML.cfm] also focuses on deals, but offers a more well-rounded (read: less price-obsessed) collection of offers. … About.com's special report, Celebrating the Millennium, [http://just.about.com/year2000/index.htm] covers everything from New Year's Eve events around the world to safe ways to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly.

ROUTE WATCH: New Year's Eve No-Fly Zones
If your goal is to spend the dawn of Year 2000 inflight, better check flight schedules carefully. After initially attempting to impose surcharges on Millennium flights, airlines are cutting back on New Year's service. Part of the reason is fear that the Y2K bug may affect airports in less-developed nations, but most schedule reductions are due to lack of customer interest.

Virgin Atlantic, the British carrier, announced months ago that it would completely shut down on New Year's Eve. Several smaller airlines have followed Virgin's no-fly lead, but most other carriers will operate reduced schedules. For more information, check with your favorite carrier (all are accessible from Skymalltravel.com's Airlines page [http://www.skymalltravel.com/airlines/index.html]). And if you're concerned about Y2K in the sky, check out the Department of Transportation's special Y2K Civil Aviation Review [http://www.fly2k.dot.gov/].

This column originally appeared at skymalltravel.com.

Copyright © 1999-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.