When Long-Distance Calls Kill

Another fine print alert: Call ahead to check the price of calls you plan to make when in another country -- particularly for calls to numbers within that country.

Say you subscribe to AT&T's "Personal Network," whose calling card charges are a fab 10 cents a minute (within the U.S. and from the U.S. to Canada, the U.K. and certain Mexican border cities). Call your home from Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, just over the U.S. border in Maine, and it also costs just 10 cents a minute. But call Fredericton, New Brunswick, from Woodstock and it's $3 for the first minute and $1.50 per minute thereafter. So: 20-minute call home, $2; 20-minute call within the province, $31.50. AT&T's literature is silent on the issue of calls between and within foreign countries. Now you know why.

"The way international calls are priced is completely different" from domestic or international-to-U.S. calls, says AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, thanks in part to complex "settlement rates" with other nations' phone authorities. Siegel says you can call the AT&T operator to find out what a call will cost. (AT&T operators had to consult supervisors to quote rates. Sprint operators, by contrast, quoted prices immediately: For my high-priced call, 34 cents for the first minute, 3 cents a minute afterward!).

And by the way: Why is it whenever anyone from AT&T (or Sprint, or MCI Worldcom) calls, the caller ID says it's an "unidentified caller"?

-- Roger Piantadosi

Why2K?

Some Cruise Lines Sneaking In New Year's Discounts

Cruise lines with unsold cabins on millennium sailings aren't panicking yet, but several are cleverly slashing costs for customers by adding amenities (like free air fare) and altering itineraries rather than simply cutting prices.

On Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, which is scheduled for a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles, you can fly from BWI and get your air fare free -- a $605 savings. Flights are also free if you sail RCI's Splendour of the Seas via flights from BWI or Dulles; the ship's 10-day Caribbean voyage is ported in Miami (current air fare quotes are $400 round trip). But you're still paying a hefty millennial per diem on the cheapest outside cabin -- $400 and $430 respectively -- for the cruise itself, particularly when compared with post-millennial voyages. Book the same cruise the first week of January and save about 60 percent, even paying your own air fare, because comparable per diems drop drastically; Rhapsody's is $143 and Splendour's is $153.

Carnival has essentially lowered the costs of Y2K sailing by cutting a nine-day Caribbean voyage on Inspiration into two trips, including a more "affordable" five-day millenium cruise departing Miami Dec. 28 -- ocean-view cabins are selling from $1,815 per person (cost per day: $363). A rep says there's "great availability." You're on your own for transportation to Miami.

These new "deals" represent relative bargains. Princess still has availability on week-long Caribbean Y2K voyages (prices range from $2,599 on Crown Princess to $2,899 on Grand Princess), but it's offering no new incentives. Also sticking to original pricing is Norwegian; spokeswoman Fran Sevcik says the line has no intention of reducing prices -- but it is offering free upgrades on millennial sailings through the Panama Canal and in South America. And Norwegian, like Carnival and other lines, is hoping frilly extras -- etched champagne flutes, plush embroidered bathrobes -- will entice travelers to spend a few hundred (thousand?) extra bucks for the privilege of sailing into the year 2000.

Cruise lines have not yet released details and pricing on the "next" millennium -- the real one, according to purists -- which begins, officially, Jan.1, 2001, at 12:01 a.m.

-- Carolyn Spencer Brown

CORRECTION TO LOCAL AIRLINE CONSOLIDATOR CHART

Contrary to a line in last Sunday's chart on airline ticket consolidators, Landmark Travel Services of Alexandria is not the target of a lawsuit involving non-delivery of tickets. The target of the suit is an independent agent who purchased tickets from Landmark and re-sold them to others. The Washington area Better Business Bureau has not received any complaints about Landmark Travel, and no other complaints about Landmark have come to our attention. We regret the error.

Travel Tip 98

Stomp Your Clothes Dry!

One of the downsides of travel is, ick, having to wear damp underwear and socks because it takes them forever to dry after you've washed them in the hotel room sink. Yes, we know, it would be easier to invest in some quick-drying miracle-fiber undergarments. But that would take planning and foresight. Much more fun to follow the step-by-step advice of tipster W.A. Fraser of Arlington, who reveals here, for the first time, his or her patented, moisture-repellent, aggression-releasing clothes-drying system:

"Wash the thing, and then:

1) Wring dry as much as possible;

2) Lay the item on as big and fluffy a towel as is available;

3) Roll, as snugly as possible, the towel-plus-item;

4) Put this on the floor; and

5) Stomp on it. This will force almost all remaining moisture into the towel.

6) Hang item near any moving air."

We had to check this out, so we field-tested Fraser's system on a sopping-wet pair of khaki pants one night recently, and were stunned to find them bone dry in the morning. Fraser wins a Washington Post T-shirt, along with our undying gratitude. Want to impress us with your travel expertise? Wring out the fine print below.

Travel tips (100 words or less) may be sent by e-mail (travtips@washpost.com); postcard (Travel Tips, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071; or fax (202-334-1069). Include your name, address and phone number. One tip per postcard or e-mail. Winners receive a Washington Post Travel section T-shirt. No purchase necessary. Tips submitted become property of The Washington Post, which may edit, publish, distribute and republish the information in any form, including paper and electronic media. Weekly winners are chosen on the basis of utility and novelty.

Ground School

Local events offering information, inspiration and motivation

for travelers between trips

THURSDAY, JUNE 3. "Cycling Ontario" author John Lynes describes the Canadian province's picturesque roads and trails in a slide-illustrated presentation. 7 p.m., Travel Books & Language Center, 4437 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, 202-237-1322. Free.

Send event info by e-mail to travel@washpost.com or by fax, 202-334-1069.

Exit Line

* Stay tuned for WETA-TV's second annual travel auction next Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6. Among offerings for sale include a pair of business-class airline tickets to Tokyo, a two-week Baltic cruise and a week's sojourn to Istanbul. As with auctions of any kind, the potential for bargains exists; spokeswoman Michelle Kirkwood estimates the average winning bidder got a deal worth 31 percent off. But some generous bidders (this is a fund-raiser, after all) actually paid more than retail at last year's event: A 10-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands cost its winning bidder about $500 more. Then again, that bidder got a bonus: Alan Alda was on board during the cruise, taping a PBS special. For more info: 703-998-2600, www.weta.org.