Archive for February, 2012

Mount Snow Celebrates Spring With The New Vernal Eternal Spring Pass And Six Weeks Of Events, Parties, Festivals and Deals

February 22, 2012

Mount Snow in southern Vermont is presenting a six week Vernal Eternal celebration which includes a brand new spring pass and a jam packed calendar of events that includes festivals, parties, freestyle events, live music and lift ticket deals starting February 26 all the way through the end of the season.

Many snow sports enthusiasts wait until the month of March to head to the mountains because that is when the sun is higher in the sky, the snowfall is traditionally ample and the après ski scene gets kicked up a notch which is a big reason why the resort has come out with the new Vernal Eternal Spring Pass.

The Vernal Eternal Spring Pass provides unlimited access to skiing and riding at Mount Snow every day starting February 26 through the end of the ski season for $299. The pass is available for purchase online starting Saturday, February 25 and will be available for purchase at the resort starting Sunday, February 26. With huge annual events planned along with some new events that have been added to the schedule, the last six weeks of the ski season are simply loaded with reasons to visit the mountain.

“We pride ourselves in throwing the best parties, events and festivals around”, says events manager, Tim Dolan. “Starting with our Mardi Gras celebration the last weekend of February, all the way through to the Winter Brewer’s Festival on Easter Weekend, our guests know that springtime is event time here at Mount Snow.”

Vernal Eternal Schedule:

February 29: Leap Day $29 Lift Ticket Deal
March 3&4: USASA Southern Vermont Series
March 3: Mount Snow Open On-Snow Golf Tournament
March 4: Jack Jump World Championships
March 10: Girls’ Day Out
March 12-16: Revolution Tour
March 16: Bud Light St. Patrick’s Day $17 Lift Ticket Deal
March 17: Carinthia Open
March 23-25: Bud Light Reggae Fest
March 24: 10th Annual Sink or Skim Pond Skimming Contest
March 25: 5th Annual Duct Tape Derby
March 31: Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge Finals
April 7: 4th Annual Mount Snow Winter Brewer’s Festival
April 7: Glade-iator Extreme Bump Competition

For details on the Vernal Eternal event schedule as well as conditions and deals visit www.mountsnow.com.

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Crystal Cruises Offers More Local Shipboard Overnights Beginning, Ending Cruises

February 22, 2012

Crystal Cruises offers overnights at the disembarkation ports like Venice which enables guests to see significantly more of the final destination without having to move to a hotel or rush to the airport to fly home © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

As Crystal Cruises prepares to segue to “All-Inclusive” starting next month, the ultra-luxe line has also been transforming in another big way: to a focus on significantly more local shipboard overnights at the beginning of cruises. For the upcoming European season, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony have doubled the number of voyages that begin with days (and nights) in port. The move eases the worry of late flight arrivals, lost luggage, relocating to/from hotels, finding quality eateries, and settling in prior to sight-seeing, while also enhancing recreational choices due to the more extensive options available on board Crystal’s ships than can be found at hotels on land.

“By adding more overnights to the cruises, especially at embarkation, travelers only have to unpack once, yet get even more time to experience a culture, while still having their Crystal home as a luxurious base,” explains President Gregg Michel. “They also begin meeting the people who will be sharing their time aboard—the staff and other travelers who will become their Crystal family by vacation’s end–all the sooner.”

Crystal has also added overnights to the middle and/or end of the majority of cruises this year. Overnights at the disembarkation ports of Venice, Barcelona or Istanbul, for example, further allow guests to see significantly more of the final destination without having to move to a hotel or rush to the airport to fly home.

Twenty-six large cultural capitals and smaller locales renowned for their charm are featured in North America, the Pacific, and Europe from March through December, with 69 overnights planned in alluring Europe alone. A sampling includes:

  • · MEDITERRANEAN, including the BLACK SEA and MIDDLE EAST (43 overnights/10 ports): Venice, Ashdod, Istanbul, Odessa, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Monte Carlo
  • · BALTIC and NORTHERN EUROPE: (21 overnights/4 ports): Stockholm, Copenhagen, and St. Petersburg, with five cruises featuring two nights (“double overnight”) in the latter
  • · WESTERN EUROPE and UK (5 overnights/4 ports): Edinburgh, Bordeaux, and Reykjavik
  • · NORTH AMERICA: (9 overnights/4 ports): NY, Quebec City, San Francisco, and Montreal
  • · SOUTH PACIFIC, AUSTRALIA, AND NEW ZEALAND: (6 overnights/4 ports): Papeete, Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney, with a huge complimentary VIP New Year’s Eve celebration during a double overnight in the latter.

Crystal’s new strategic planning evolution will extend through 2013 into 2014, with more than 85% of next year’s 64 itineraries offering two or more days in port, and a more than 50% increase in overnights on embarkation day.

Until February 28, per-person “Book Now” fares for 2012 start at $1,360 for luxury Mediterranean cruises, $2,965 for the rest of Europe, $2,255 for a New England/Canada voyage, and $3,370 for Hawaii and the South Pacific region — all per person/double occupancy. Attractive air add-ons are available from more than 90 North American airports.

The renowned Crystal Experience has been rated “World’s Best” more than any other cruise line, hotel, or resort in history.

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.

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Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville to Open The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country Exhibit

February 22, 2012

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will tell the story of the stars, sidemen and songwriters who created and popularized a new kind of country music in mid-20th century America in The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, a more than 5,000-square-foot exhibition on view March 23, 2012 through December 31, 2013 © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will tell the story of the stars, sidemen and songwriters who created and popularized a new kind of country music in mid-20th century America in The Bakersfield Sound:  Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, a more than 5,000-square-foot exhibition opening on Friday, March 23, 2012, and closing on December 31, 2013.

Narrated by Dwight Yoakam, the exhibit will explore the roots, heyday and impact of the Bakersfield Sound, the loud, stripped-down and radio-ready music most closely identified with the careers of Country Music Hall of Fame members Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  Co-curated by the institution’s Curatorial Director Mick Buck, Photo Collection Manager Tim Davis and Museum Editor Michael Gray, the Bakersfield Sound exhibit includes more than 100 artifacts and a generous overlay of audiovisual treasure.

“We are incredibly excited to explore the Bakersfield Sound story,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “It’s an epic tale, born in the Great Depression, set two thousand miles from country music’s epicenter, and populated by a remarkably talented and tight-knit community of musicians who came together to invigorate and reinvent country music as they knew it.  These colorful artists infused their work with an aural intensity and independent spirit, in the process creating a sound that reverberates through country music to this day.

“We are grateful to all of the artists, musicians and families who shared their knowledge, memories and artifacts with us,” Young continued.  “An exhibit of this scope and magnitude would not have been possible without their cooperation.  We would also like to thank Dwight Yoakam for his participation: Dwight is an iconoclast whose rich musical catalog embodies the Bakersfield Sound tradition; he’s also a historian and fan who reveres the bedrock of this genre. I can’t think of anyone better than Dwight to guide our visitors on the Bakersfield journey.”

Grand opening weekend will be highlighted by a Saturday, March 24 panel discussion featuring Dallas Frazier, Don Maddox, Rose Lee Maphis, Buddy Mize, Country Music Hall of Fame member Jean Shepard and Red Simpson. Later that afternoon, all of the panelists will participate in a concert, headlined by Simpson, backed by West Coast bandleader and guitarist Deke Dickerson and other noted musicians from Tennessee and California. Other opening weekend programs include a Bakersfield Sound book talk, a film screening and an instrument demonstration (see complete details below).

The exhibit will also be accompanied by a richly detailed, lavishly illustrated, 96-page companion book, titled The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country.  Published by the Museum’s Country Music Foundation Press and exclusively distributed by the Hal Leonard Corporation, the volume will include essays by California-based music journalists/historians Scott B. Bomar, Randy Poe and Robert Price.  Also included are dozens of archival photographs and beautiful color images of many of the artifacts included in the exhibit.  The book will be available in the Museum Store and at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

Bakersfield Sound is supported by the Academy of Country Music, Ford Motor Company Fund and SunTrust.  Additional support was provided by Buck Owens Production Company.  Promotional support is being provided by media partners Great American Country Television Network and Cumulus Media.

EXHIBIT SUMMARY

The Bakersfield Sound story begins during the Great Depression, when Bakersfield’s cotton farms and oil fields attracted a mass migration of Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.  Born in Texas in 1929, Buck Owens moved with his sharecropping parents to Arizona before heading to Bakersfield in 1951.  Merle Haggard’s family, driven to the area from their east-Oklahoma farm, lived in an old converted railroad boxcar when Haggard was born, in a Bakersfield hospital, on April 6, 1937.

The exhibit will explore Bakersfield’s club scene where, in the 1940s and 1950s, the city’s plethora of dance halls and honky-tonks provided respite for wall-to-wall, rambunctious workers eager for the boogiefied honky-tonk of the Maddox Brothers & Rose or the eclectic swing sound of Bob Wills.   Also on the bandstands were enormously influential musicians Wynn Stewart and Tommy Collins, whose classic honky-tonk songs Owens and Haggard would later record, and for whom they worked as sidemen before launching solo careers.

The exhibit also spotlights Bill Woods, widely regarded as “The Father of the Bakersfield Sound,” and other musical architects, including “Cousin” Herb Henson, Ferlin Husky, Billy Mize, Fuzzy Owen, Bonnie Owens, Jelly Sanders, Jean Shepard, Red Simpson and Lewis Talley.

One of Bakersfield Sound’s recurring themes is the connections between all of the artists making music during this fertile period.  This is epitomized by the careers of Bakersfield’s greatest stars, Owens and Haggard.  As they came to prominence in the 1960s, their careers and personal lives were interwined not only with each other but with virtually all of the other major figures of the Bakersfield scene.   These two superstars remained faithful to the classic honky-tonk style and, at the same time, gave country music a harder edge in keeping with the drinking, loud talking, fist-fighting and romancing that characterized Bakersfield’s nightclub culture.   Owens and his top-notch band, the Buckaroos, first popularized Bakersfield’s amped-up hybrid of honky-tonk, rockabilly and western swing with  1960s chart-toppers like “Act Naturally,” “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” “Together Again” and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” and Haggard and his equally stellar band, the Strangers, soon followed with the unforgettable gems “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried,” “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”   These Bohemian originals scored nearly 60 #l hits between them and created a body of work that continues to influence artists today.

The exhibit will also focus on the Bakersfield music businesses that evolved in the 1960s, including publishing houses, recording studios, booking and management agencies, radio stations and performance venues, and particularly on Buck Owens Enterprises, the music empire owned and operated by the savvy Owens.  It will also explore the enduring impact of the Bakersfield Sound on subsequent generations of musicians, singers and songwriters, from country-rock pioneers the Flying Burrito Brothers to Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley, and many others.

Among other narrative elements, visitors will learn about the importance of Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson, who recorded numerous Bakersfield classics, including many of Owens’ and Haggard’s hits, and who has been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame; and the role of the Buckaroos and the Strangers in developing the Bakersfield Sound, with emphasis on key sidemen such as steel guitar innovator Ralph Mooney, Telecaster ace Roy Nichols and lead guitarist and harmony vocalist Don Rich. The Bakersfield-based Mosrite company, who manufactured instruments and issued recordings, also will be highlighted.

The Bakersfield Sound story will include hundreds of archival photos, audio and video clips, and a Fort Knox of rare, historic and visually stunning artifacts including:

·         Stage costumes worn by the Maddox Brothers & Rose, featuring floral motifs, elaborate embroidery and fringe, created by famed Hollywood designer Nathan Turk; Wynn Stewart’s understated Nudie suit with decorative straps and buckles; several Turk-designed suits worn by Buck Owens; a Nudie suit with motifs from the San Joaquin Valley, worn by Bobby Adamson of the Farmer Boys; and more.

·         A plethora of important instruments, including Telecasters belonging to Buck Owens and Don Rich; Speedy West’s Bigsby 1948 steel guitar (its whereabouts a mystery for decades); Ralph Mooney’s Fender double-neck pedal steel guitar; and Merle Travis’s electric guitar – one of the first solid-body electric guitars, designed by Travis and built by Paul Bigsby.

·         Legal documents including the marriage license of Buck and Bonnie Owens; and the “Full Pardon for Crimes of Merle Haggard,” signed March 1, 1972, by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan.

Weaving the expansive story together via video screens throughout the gallery is Yoakam, who created a one-of-a-kind oral history – with special guests Merle Haggard and Chris Hillman – especially for this exhibit; the interview was taped at Hollywood’s Capitol Records Tower, where many Bakersfield Sound hits were made.

Throughout its 21-month run, The Bakersfield Sound:  Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country will be accompanied by related public programs including live performances, films, panel discussions and more.  The schedule will be regularly updated at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

With the purchase of a museum membership ($40/individual membership and $100/friends and family membership), visitors can attend most public programs free of charge for one year, including programming related to Bakersfield Sound.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.

See also:

Nashville: Where the Heart & Soul of Country Music Beats Strong
Nashville Richly Deserves its Moniker, ‘Music City, U.S.A.’

GRAND OLE OPRY SHOWS YOU CAN BE ‘OLE’ AND STILL BE NEW
85 Years Young and Still the Heart & Soul of Country Music

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www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin

 

 

 

Cunard Launches its First-Ever Weddings at Sea Program

February 22, 2012

Beginning in April 2012, guests will be able to celebrate an unforgettable wedding day at sea, conducted by the Captain, aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria luxury cruiseships.

For the first time in Cunard’s illustrious history as a cruiseline, it will be possible to marry on board, and demand is already high.

While Cunard ships have long served as a romantic backdrop to love stories across the globe, couples will soon be able to say “I do” during a luxury cruise aboard the most famous ocean liners in the world, for the first time in the Line’s 172-year history. Beginning in April 2012, guests will be able to celebrate an unforgettable wedding day at sea, conducted by the Captain, aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.
Cunard offers the truly unique option of saying “I do” mid-Atlantic on a classic trans-Atlantic Crossing aboard one of the grandest ocean liners in the world, Queen Mary 2.

Couples wishing to wed at sea can choose from the full spectrum of Cunard’s worldwide voyages lasting seven nights or more and departing after April 2012. In addition to Crossings, destinations include the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, Canada and New England, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, the Far East and Australia.

To maintain exclusivity, only one wedding will be arranged per day, at either 11:00 a.m. or 3:30 p.m., and the ceremonies will take place on days at sea. With a dedicated on board wedding coordinator, the bride and groom will find that all of their wedding needs can be met, from hairdressing, make-up and manicures in the spa, to the wedding ceremony itself, as well as photography and video, and the reception afterwards.

In addition, weddings can be tailored with Cunard’s “Finishing Touches” to reflect individual requests and preferences, from an accompaniment by the ship’s own harpist, to a beautiful ice sculpture.

“There is nothing quite as special as the setting of a Cunard ship,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “Saying ‘I do’ at sea aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria promises so much more than a land-based venue. With a backdrop of the world’s most exotic coastlines in the Mediterranean and across the world, or the extraordinary sense of timelessness that you only experience mid-Atlantic, a Cunard wedding promises the happy couple a ceremony of classic style and sumptuous luxury.

“And the ships are so much more than simply a setting for the ceremony itself – they are also honeymoon destinations, offering newlyweds a fresh view to wake up to each morning and a trousseau of unforgettable destinations to discover together ashore,” Shanks added

Choosing to marry on one of the three largest Cunard ships creates an exceptional setting for any style of celebration. Various venues are available aboard each ship depending on the size of the wedding party, from elegant lounges to award-winning restaurants, including The Verandah on Queen Elizabeth and Todd English on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. Under the guidance of Cunard’s global culinary ambassador, Chef Patron Jean-Marie Zimmermann, the ships’ world-class culinary teams will prepare wedding canapés, a delicious wedding lunch or an exquisite wedding dinner.

Cunard has created a Wedding Package – with a tempting array of optional extras – to meet all requirements. The main package includes the ceremony conducted by the Captain, traditional wedding music, a White Star Bellman escorting the bride, floral arrangements, Veuve Clicquot Champagne and, of course, the wedding cake as well as priority check-in and luggage delivery.

A never-to-be-forgotten day is available for $2,500 plus a marriage license fee of $575. An array of Cunard’s “Finishing Touches” are also available for purchase and include items such as a Bride and Groom’s Champagne and Caviar Breakfast in Bed, or a three-tiered fruit cake. In addition, wedding gifts of fine wines, champagne and spa treatments can be purchased in advance and arranged for on board.

What’s included in the Wedding Package:

  • Priority luggage delivery
  • Press service for bridal outfits
  • Priority embarkation (and disembarkation) for the bridal couple
  • Services of a wedding coordinator on board
  • Two fresh floral arrangements for the ceremonial room
  • Bridal bouquet and bridegroom’s boutonniere, with a choice of roses, lilies or exotic flowers
  • One-tier wedding cake
  • Traditional wedding music
  • Elegant wedding ceremony venue
  • White Star Bellman to escort the bride to the ceremonial room
  • Ceremony at sea conducted by the Captain
  • Commemorative wedding certificate
  • Commemorative printed wedding menu
  • Bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne
  • Bride & Groom Breakfast in Bed
  • Wedding invitations and Thank You cards for voyage guests

For more information about Cunard’s new Weddings Programme or to book a voyage, consult your Travel Agent, call toll-free 1-800-728-6273 or go to www.cunard.com.

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Pink Beach Club, Bermuda Offers 4th Night Free Promotion for May Travel

February 22, 2012

Pink Beach Club actually has a pink sand beach! The Bermuda resort is offering a Fourth Night Free for May stays.

Pink Beach Club in Bermuda (http://www.pinkbeach.com) has announced a Fourth Night Free promotion which provides a fourth night free-of-charge when a minimum of three nights are booked directly with the property for travel May 1 – May 31, 2012.

Guests staying at Pink Beach Club as part of the Fourth Night Free promotion will also receive complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and a five-course gourmet dinner for every night of the stay. The Fourth Night Free promotion is not combinable with any other offer.

Rates start at $535 per room, per night, based on single or double occupancy in a garden view suite and are valid for travel through May 31, 2012. Taxes and service charges are additional.

Pink Beach Club offers six room category options designed to meet the tastes and budgets of all travelers. Nightly rates vary according to room type.

To help vacationers soak in the sun, the property features two pink sand beaches and a swimming pool perfect for lounging. For active pursuits, there are two California all-weather tennis courts on-property, complimentary use of snorkel equipment, mopeds available for rent, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

For golf enthusiasts, the hotel has privileges at two championship golf courses just five minutes away – Mid Ocean Club and Tucker’s Point Club. Tee times are arranged by the concierge.

The concierge can also assist with arranging additional sightseeing tours, including deep-sea fishing and sailing charters, scuba diving, glass-bottom boat cruises, carriage rides, horseback riding and other pursuits.

Situated in Bermuda’s exclusive Tucker’s Town area, the award-winning Pink Beach Club features 94 elegant suites amongst 13 acres of lush gardens and rolling hills, overlooking two pink sand private beaches. Guests can enjoy the Hibiscus Lounge or Cedar Bar for refreshing cocktails throughout the day; dining at the Ocean Terrace Café or Bermudiana dining room; in-room spa treatments; fitness center; two tennis courts; library; business center with complimentary Internet access; wireless service throughout the property for a small fee; ample meeting space for up to 40 people; golf privileges at two nearby courses.

The warmth and charm of Bermuda combined with this cottage colony’s timeless style, elegance and first-class service create an ideal setting for couples, honeymooners, golfers, business travelers and families seeking a luxurious escape to the tropics.

For reservations or more information, contact Pink Beach Club at tel: (800) 355-6161, e-mail: reservations@pinkbeach.com, or visit www.pinkbeach.com.

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Continental Group Realty Offers 4th Night Free at 3 Florida Resorts on Gulf of Mexico

February 22, 2012

The Continental Group Realty’s (TCGR) hospitality division is offering “Escape to Estero Island 1, 2, 3, Free!” winter package for a getaway to one of Southwest Florida’s Gulf of Mexico destinations, Estero Island, where magical sunsets are just one of the attractions © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The Continental Group Realty’s (TCGR) hospitality division is offering “Escape to Estero Island 1, 2, 3, Free!”(stay three nights get the fourth night free) winter package for a getaway to one of Southwest Florida’s Gulf of Mexico destinations, Estero Island, popular for couples and families, alike. The offer is available on SandalsInTheSand.com  (check the website for availability).

The Sandals in the Sand “Escape to Estero Island” winter vacation package offers visitors their choice of three beautiful resorts located on breathtaking Estero Island: Seaside All-Suite Resort, Casa Playa Beach Resort and Cornerstone Beach Resort.

Just north of Naples, Estero Island offers miles of white, sandy beaches along the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and is complete with extraordinary sunsets, exceptional shelling and nature preserves, plus great dining and luxurious accommodations that attract visitors worldwide.

Marinas throughout Estero Island are great for boating adventures including romantic sunset cruises, sightseeing cruises and deep-sea fishing.

For nature lovers, just cross a bridge at the southern tip of the island and you can escape to Lovers Key State Park – a harbor for wildlife and home to West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, roseate spoonbills, marsh rabbits, and bald eagles.

The Continental Group Realty offers a choice of three great resorts:

The Seaside All – Suite Resort, located in the middle of Estero Island, is rated number three out of 20 on Trip Advisor’s popularity index.  This resort offers 50 suites each equipped with two bedrooms, a large inviting living/dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, two full baths, a heated pool, and a private screened in lanai that lets you enjoy the warm tropical breezes and dine al fresco over spectacular sunsets. View details at www.seasideresort.us/ or call toll free 888-226-6555.

The Casa Playa Beach Resort is an all-suite resort located on the exclusive north tip of Estero Island. The 35-unit resort condominiums are each privately owned and individually decorated. All suites have private balconies and high speed wireless Internet. Casa Playa resort offers two pet-friendly designated floors, a heated pool, picnic area, gas grills, beach lounge chairs and a serene private beach area.  For more information visit www.casaplayaresort.com/ or call toll free 1-800-569-4876.

The Cornerstone Beach Hotel, located mid-island, has 12 elegant, non-smoking one and two bedroom units all with incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico. Suites include a fully appointed kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms and screened lanais. All contain flat panel televisions in the living room and bedrooms. Beautiful views can also be enjoyed while swimming and sunning by the heated Gulf front pool. See details at www.cornerstonebeachhotel.com/ or call toll free 1-888-226-6555.

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Rosen Hotels & Resorts’ Leap Year Offer Lets Guests Stay Free Feb. 29 After One-Night Stay on Feb. 28

February 20, 2012

Rosen Plaza Orlando © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rosen Hotels & Resorts’ leisure properties are offering a Leap Year deal so amazing, it can only happen once every four years. When guests stay at least one night Feb. 28 at the special rate of $79.99 plus tax, they’ll stay the night of Feb. 29 at no charge.

This special Leap Year “extra day, extra savings” offer is available at all four of Rosen Hotels & Resorts’ value-priced, AAA Three Diamond properties, including the Quality Inn International, Rosen Inn closest to Universal, Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando and Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista (LBV).

Accommodations at each of the hotels include a deluxe room with two double beds featuring Simmons Beautyrest® pillow top beds, microwave, mini refrigerator, electronic safe, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron, ironing board, work desk, free WIFI access and free 24-hour secured parking.

To book online or for more details, visit http://www.orlandohotels4less.com/leapyear/ or call 800-999-7300 and ask for the Leap Year package. This special package rate is based on double occupancy and does not include tax. Not valid on existing reservations, for groups, during special events, holidays or conventions. This offer may not be combined with any other rate plan or discount.

Each of the hotels has completed extensive renovations over the past year, including all new furniture that was made in America, as well as new carpet, window treatments, upgraded art work, luxurious pillow-top mattresses and stylish, yet comfortable bedding. Private bathrooms now feature granite finish vanity and modern decorative lighting. Each hotel also features a Kids Eat FREE program in which kids age 9 and younger eat from the buffet at no charge with each paying adult.

The 728-room Quality Inn International (7600 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819) offers two swimming pools and a children’s wading pool. Onsite dining options include The Apothecary Restaurant featuring a breakfast and dinner buffet, Topsy Turvey Lounge and the Lite Bite Mini-Market & Deli.

The Rosen Inn closest to Universal (6327 International Drive, Orlando, FL, 32819) offers 315 guest rooms, a swimming pool and four onsite dining choices including Shogun Japanese Steak House, The Palms Dining Room featuring a breakfast buffet, as well as the International Pub and Lite Bite Mini-Market & Deli.

The Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando (9000 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819) offers 1,020 guest rooms in six high-rise buildings. Three swimming pools and a sports bar offer downtime from the theme parks. Dining options include the Plaza Garden Restaurant open for breakfast and dinner, Zebra’s Sports Bar, Smoooth Java Coffee Bar™ & Gifts proudly service Starbucks® and Lite Bite Mini-Market & Deli. Guests who need to do a little work while on vacation may also take advantage of the hotel’s business center.

The Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista (8442 Palm Parkway, Orlando, FL 32819) features 640 guest rooms in four high-rise buildings as well as a playground and two swimming pools, one of which features the new “Ozzie the Otter Splash Zone.” Dining options include The Boardwalk Buffet Restaurant featuring breakfast and dinner buffets, Comfort Zone Bar & Grille and Lite Bite Mini-Market & Deli. The hotel offers guests complimentary scheduled shuttle service to four Walt Disney World® theme parks, Universal Orlando®, SeaWorld Orlando®, Aquatica®, Orlando Premium Outlets® Vineland and Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores®(reservations required).

The three International Drive properties offer guests complimentary scheduled shuttle service to Universal Orlando®, SeaWorld Orlando®, Aquatica® and Wet ‘n Wild Orlando® (reservations required). The I-Ride Trolley stops in front of each hotel, providing low-cost transportation to more than 75 stops in the International Drive attractions area. The three hotels are conveniently located off I-4, on International Drive, in the heart of the attractions area and just 12-15 minutes from Orlando International Airport.

For more information about Rosen Hotels & Resorts’ four leisure properties, visit www.orlandohotels4less.com

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Fundraisers for Vermont Adaptive’s Ski Challenge 2012 at Pico Mountain Can Earn Lift Tickets, Season Passes, Ski/Ride Package

February 20, 2012

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, the largest year-round disabled sports non-profit organization in Vermont offering the most diverse program opportunities and unique, specialized equipment, will host its annual Ski Challenge fundraising event on Saturday, March 10 at Pico Mountain. A retro '80s is this year's theme © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, the largest year-round disabled sports non-profit organization in Vermont offering the most diverse program opportunities and unique, specialized equipment, will host its annual Ski Challenge fundraising event on Saturday, March 10 at Pico Mountain. A retro ’80s is this year’s theme. People do not have to participate in the race to attend the family-friendly gala after the day’s event. Gala-only tickets are available.

In addition, Killington Resort and Pico Mountain are providing lift ticket and season pass fundraising incentives in order for the non-profit to reach its event goal of raising $100,000.

Vermont Adaptive has established a special page on FirstGiving.com, enabling both participants and non-participants in the Ski Challenge to reap the benefits of raising money for Vermont Adaptive. The incentives and fundraising levels include:

$200 in pledges = (1) 2012-13 Pico Mountain Lift Ticket

$300 in pledges = (2) 2012-13 Pico Mountain Lift Tickets

$500 in pledges = (2) 2012-13 Killington Lift Tickets

$750 in pledges = (1) 2012-13 Pico Mountain Season Pass

$1,000 in pledges = (1) 2012-13 Killington Midweek Season Pass

$1,500 in pledges = (1) 2012-13 Killington Unlimited Season Pass

$2,000 in pledges = Complete Rossignol Ski or snowboard Package

Those interested in participating in the fundraising can create an individual fundraising page at http://www.firstgiving.com/sportsforeverybody/ski-challenge-2012

Every $100 in pledges enables Vermont Adaptive to provide a full-day skiing scholarship. The cost of an outing with Vermont Adaptive for the consumer can range from a $15 for a two hour canoeing session to $90 for a full day ski lesson, including instructors, ticket and adaptive equipment. All of the school and advocacy groups that the organization works with are also subsidized by Vermont Adaptive; school groups are charged a reduced rate starting at 50% off, and participants receive the same one on one experience as any individual who participates.

“We believe sports and recreation provide a physical, mental and social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and independence in an individual,” said Erin Fernandez, executive director. “This is our largest winter fundraiser and monies raised will help us to underwrite some of the costs of our adaptive programs and allow more people with disabilities to participate. We are so thankful to our resort partners like Killington and Pico, who continually step up and come through with us with amazing support. We couldn’t be who we are without partners like them.”

This year’s Ski Challenge includes a day filled with skiing and fun, timed racing and a night complete with family-friendly grazing stations with a retro-’80s theme and music, awards, and dancing. Saturday begins with check-in for participants from 8 – 9:30 a.m. in the Sunshine Room in the Pico Mountain base lodge. The fun race begins at 10 a.m. The race is open to all ages and abilities of skiers, riders and tele-skiers. Each racer will complete two times runs. Participants are encouraged to create teams of three and compete in costumes as well. Awards will be made in various categories for all participants, from best individual times to fasted teams, best costume, youngest and oldest participants, as well as acknowledging top fundraisers.

Beginning at 4 p.m. the event moves to the Killington Grand Hotel. A cash bar and Silent Auction begin at 4 p.m. Then the night continues with awards, dinner and dancing. The Silent Auction will wrap up around 7:30 p.m. A DJ will be spinning retro ’80s tunes.

Registration includes a special wool IBEX Outdoor Clothing beanie as well as full-day lift ticket for March 10, 2012 to Pico, Ski Challenge festivities, awards, and the après-ski party. Apres-ski party tickets can be purchased in advance as well. Registration is online at www.vermontadaptive.org.

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Crystal Cruises’ Ships Voted ‘Top in the World’ by Condé Nast Traveler Readers

February 16, 2012

Crystal Serenity at sea.

The sophisticated readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine have chosen Crystal Cruises’ fleet as 2012’s top mid-sized cruise ships. The February issue’s list of “Top 100 Cruise Ships in the World”—up from 80 last year–ranks the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity and 922-passenger Crystal Symphony as the number one and two vessels, respectively, in the medium category.

“We are incredibly humbled, flattered, and appreciative of the continual recognition by our guests,” says Crystal President Gregg Michel. “We continually challenge ourselves to invest in, and re-invigorate, our ships to be the very best.”

Of the seven criteria upon which ships were rated, Crystal won more areas than any other small, medium, or large cruise line. The ultra-luxe company ranked highest of all ocean cruise lines in Design/Layout, and further dominated most criteria in its size category, including Crew/Service, Food/Dining, Activities/Facilities, and Shore Excursions.

“This poll shows that a superb cruise vacation is more than just ‘sailing,’ it’s about the sum of its parts—like adventure offerings on land, how one is treated, and attention to detail on each ship,” Michel says. “With our luxury ships winning the number one and number two slots, as well as leading in so many individual features, savvy world travelers clearly believe that Crystal Cruises delivers an overall resort vacation experience on the high seas better than any peers.”

Crystal’s passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more “World’s Best” awards than any other cruise line, resort, or hotel in history, including Condé Nast Traveler readers’ “Best Cruise Line” (Mid-Sized) honors in fall 2011.

In 2012, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity visit 182 ports-of-call in 59 countries on 60 worldwide itineraries worldwide. Voyages this year include 25 seven- to 15-day, all-inclusive cruises visiting the western and eastern Mediterranean (including the Black Sea) from March through December, as well as seven to 94-day sailings through the North Cape, western Europe, Baltic & Russia, China, Japan, southeast Asia, Australia, South Pacific, South America, New England/Canada, Panama Canal, British Isles, Canary Islands and Mexican Riviera. Until February 28, “Book Now” fares start at $1,360 per person/double occupancy, with additional savings available for groups of six or more, new-to-Crystal travelers, and combining cruises. Attractive air add-ons are also offered from more than 90 North American airports.

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.

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Titanic Descendants Join US Tributes on 100th Anniversary of Sinking, at Pigeon Forge and Branson Attractions

February 16, 2012

The Titanic Museum Attractions – the home base for the U.S. RMS Titanic 100 Year Anniversary Commemoration – are half-scale recreations of the RMS Titanic on the exterior and, inside, “passengers” will find full-size recreations of the Grand Staircase, First Class Suites, Third Class Cabins, Dining Rooms, etc. built directly from actual RMS Titanic blueprints.

Titanic Museum Attractions in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and Branson, Mo. are hosting “A Night to Remember: An Original Musical Tribute to Titanic,” on Saturday, April 14, the 100th anniversary of the night the ship struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Musical performances, historic ceremonies and appearances by actual descendants of Titanic’s passengers and crew will highlight the production honoring the 2,208 people aboard the ship.

Adding to the historic occasion, descendants of people aboard the Titanic’s maiden voyage will also be present at the American tributes. The ceremony will conclude with a symbolic reenactment of the launching of Titanic’s distress flares and the lighting of a memorial flame at the bow of the ship to honor the 2,208 people aboard Titanic.

The musical tribute will begin at noon (Central) on April 14 at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri, and at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) the same day at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Tickets for the unique historical tribute are available beginning Monday, February 20, by calling 800-381-7670.

“There will be ceremonies across the globe to commemorate the Titanic centennial on April 14, but the only place in the United States where guests can attend a formal tribute is at one of the Titanic Museum Attractions,” said John Joslyn, co-owner of Titanic Museum Attractions and co-leader of the first private expedition to visit the ship’s final resting place on the ocean floor.

“A Night to Remember” will use choirs, orchestras and musical theater performances to bring the stories and drama of that fateful night to life for those attending the one-time only tribute.

“From folk ballads to modern pop, people have always used music as a way to commemorate historic events,” said Joslyn. “Titanic was memorialized in song before and after her sinking, so a tribute centered on music seemed an appropriate way to pay our respects.”

“The anniversary will be commemorated around the world in television, film, and print,” said Josyln. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to be more than passive witnesses to the anniversary. ‘A Night to Remember’ gives the audience a chance to actually be a part of the historic event and part of the community dedicated to preserving Titanic’s legacy.”

Tickets to “A Night to Remember: An Original Musical Tribute to Titanic” are available through the Titanic Museum Attractions in Missouri and Tennessee. Visitors may purchase tickets by phone at (800) 381-7670 beginning February 20, 2012. In addition to museum admission and the musical production, ticket holders will receive limited edition memorials dedicated to the ship’s history, including a DVD containing video tributes of the personal stories of selected passengers and crew.

The Titanic Museum Attractions are located in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Together, the two museums represent the largest permanent monuments in the world dedicated to the memory of Titanic. The museums, immediately recognizable for their ship-shape design, are home to hundreds of artifacts from the ship and its survivors. “Passengers” experience what it was like to walk the hallways, parlors, cabins and Grand Staircase of the Titanic while surrounded by artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the ship’s history and fate.

Since its opening in 2006, Titanic Branson has welcomed more than 5 million “passengers” aboard the museum. Titanic Pigeon Forge opened in 2010 and has already welcomed 2 million visitors. For additional information about the museums, visit www.titanicattraction.com

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