Q: My wife and I would like to visit Italy and focus on Roman history. Can you suggest a travel agency that might specialize in this kind of tour?

Tom Small


A: There are several companies you can consider:

* Archetours (1-800-770-3051, www.archetours.com) will conduct a tour of the Roman countryside July 24-31 that includes gardens, villas, Etruscan tombs, medieval hill towns and Roman ruins. Land cost is $2,495 per person.

* The Archaeological Institute of America (617-353-9361, www.archaeological.org) will conduct a trip by yacht through the isles of Italy July 22-Aug. 1. The trip will focus on Italy's history, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Normans, and will visit several cities and islands, including Naples, Pompeii, Ustica, Sicily and Stromboli. Cost starts at $4,995 per person.

* Smithsonian Study Tours (202-357-4700, www.si.edu/tsa) will conduct a tour of Rome Sept. 18-29 focusing on ancient, medieval and renaissance Rome. Cost is $5,075 per person, including air fare from New York. It will also offer "The Legacy of Ancient Rome & Greece" next spring, a 15-day tour with an optional four-day extension to Peloponnesus. Cost is $5,955 per person, including air fare from New York; the optional extension is an additional $1,505 per person.

* If you're over age 50, Saga Holidays' "Road Scholar" program offers an "Ancient Wonders" tour of Sicily with several departures throughout the year. The 14-day tour visits archaeological museums and ruins. Cost is about $2,500 per person, including air fare. Information: 1-800-621-2151, www.sagaholidays.com.

A good source of info for specialized vacations is the Educated Traveler, 1-800-648-5168, www.educated-traveler.com. A year-long sub- scription to the newsletter, published six times annually, is $48.

Q: Are there any cruise ships in the 500-passenger category making 10- to 15-day trips to the Costa Rica/Panama Canal area? I've had enough of these 1,000- to 2,000-passenger megaships.

C.L. Moore


A: All of the smaller ships that sail the Costa Rica/Panama Canal route in 10- to 15-day segments are considered luxury ships. They are expensive, but frequent special deals bring the cost down. Here are some choices:

* The Radisson Diamond (1-800-285-1835, www.rssc.com), a 350-passenger ship, sails in December, January and February between Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, and in January and February between Costa Rica and Aruba. A current special on those itineraries allows the second passenger to cruise at half-price and offers free air fare from East Coast cities. The cruise/air fare for a 10-day itinerary comes to about $4,350 per person.

* Wind Star Cruise's Wind Star and Wind Song (1-800-258-7245, www.windstarcruises.com), both 148-passenger sailing yachts, sail in spring and fall between Costa Rica and Barbados. The cruise line recently offered a two-for-one sale on the Wind Star's May 2 departure; cost for the 14-day cruise only was $3,793 per person.

* Seabourn's 200-passenger Legend (1-800-929-9595, www.seabourn.com) makes a 23-day trip in November from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles. A 16-day segment starts at $6,590 per person cruise only.

* Silversea (1-800-722-9955, www .silversea.com) has two ships, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, that travel the Panama Canal. An 11-night voyage in November between Barbados and Acapulco aboard the 296-passenger Silver Cloud, for example, starts at $6,880 per person including air fare.


Carlotta Anderson of Glen Echo was not satisfied with my answer about travel insurance (Travel Q&A, May 9). "What you discussed was travel insurance, not simply [travel] health insurance, which was what your correspondent asked for." Anderson said she buys travel health insurance from a company called Medex, headquartered in Timonium, and was very satisfied with its response when she took ill during a trip to Hong Kong. "During the two weeks of my illness I incurred a total of $379.27 for physicians and medications. I was promptly reimbursed by Medex for $354.27, or 100 percent of costs minus the $25 deductible." Medex's travel health insurance, marketed as TravMed, costs $3.50 a day. Information: 1-800-732-5309, www.medexassist.com

Mary K. Whitaker of Arlington and Gary Goldberg of Silver Spring wrote to alert me about another source for aircraft seating charts (Travel Q&A, May 9). "You can find passenger seating charts for almost any airline by aircraft type in the monthly OAG (Official Airline Guide) books at major libraries," said Goldberg. I knew about the OAG Desktop guides, but didn't include them because they cost $339 for a 12-month subscription. But both readers acurately point out that you need only go to your local library to get the information free of charge.