Q: I will be in Amsterdam and would like to go to Rome and then return to Amsterdam. What is the cheapest or most convenient way to do this?
A: If you're traveling only between two points in Europe and don't need to view the scenery, your best bet is to book a simple round-trip flight. KLM and Alitalia fly nonstop between Amsterdam and Rome; a low-season round-trip ticket costs about $260 and takes less than three hours each way.
If you're also visiting other cities within Europe, or you're traveling during high season, when the nonstop flight between Amsterdam and Rome can cost more than $700 round trip, check out Europe by Air (1-888-387-2479, www.europebyair.com). The flight-pass program, with 12 member airlines, allows you to fly any nonstop segment for $99 each way. The trip between Amsterdam and Rome is tricky because you have to connect in Croatia. But to save $300, it might be worth it.
Traveling by rail takes longer, but you'll get to see the scenery, and rail stations are traditionally located within major cities, while airports are frequently in outlying areas. Also, if you're traveling to many cities over a longer period of time, you can save money by buying a Eurail Pass (1-800-4-EURAIL, www.raileurope.com). A pass for 15 consecutive days of unlimited travel costs $554, while a Eurail Flexipass, good for 10 days of travel within a 12-month period, costs $654. As for taking the train between Amsterdam and Rome, it's a long, arduous journey that will take at least 20 hours and require several train changes.
As for where to buy your train or plane tickets, unless you require completely spontaneous travel, it's almost always better, and in many cases required, to buy in advance before you leave the United States.
Q: How can I obtain a list of all cruises sailing in 2000?
A: It would be nice if you could just call an industry group and they'd send you a neat brochure in the mail listing every cruise. But representatives of two trade organizations that represent cruise line interests, the Cruise Lines International Association and the International Council of Cruise Lines, say they don't know of any comprehensive, yet simple and cheap, source of cruise itineraries.
The most comprehensive source is the Official Cruise Guide (1-800-360-0015) published annually by Cahners Business Information. The guide is designed for travel agents and lists itineraries for 225 cruise lines and 500 ships. Every ship, departure date, port of departure and destination is cross-indexed. The 2000 edition will be published in December and will cost $95.
Cruise itineraries are also available free on the Internet, but the information is not packaged very neatly. The Cruise Lines International Association (www.cruising.org) has links to the Web pages of 25 cruise lines. If you click on any of those, you'll get that line's 2000 itineraries. Another Internet site, www.cruise2.com, has posted complete 2000 itineraries for four lines--Carnival, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean--and is planning to post more soon.
Another option is to buy a book. "Berlitz 2000 Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships" by Douglas Ward and "The Unofficial Guide to Cruises 2000" by Kay Showker are now available and include cruise line itineraries--but, again, you have to read through the chapters and pick out the information.
Q: Can you give me information about tours that include a stay on the Lofoten islands off the west coast of Norway? The islands seemed so beautiful when I cruised past them.
A: Norway's Lofoten islands, which legend says were fashioned by the Viking god Thor's magical hammer, sit above the Arctic Circle and are a haven for fishermen and artists. Historically, the 24,500 residents of this archipelago have made their living from the sea, but in recent years tourism has been heavily promoted as an ecologically friendly alternative.
The Lofoten Tourist Information Centre (011-47-76-09-15-99, www.lofoten-info.no) is a very good source, especially for information about the boroughs of Flakstad and Moskenes. It provides general information about visiting Lofoten and can also book you into fishing cabins, or rorbu, that dot the islands' shoreline. Many of these cabins, some of which are more than 100 years old, have been refurbished for tourists, and include full kitchens and great views. Prices vary, but you can get a nice cabin for about $50 a night.
The information center also provides comprehensive information on getting to the islands, which is neither cheap nor easy. The quickest way is to fly from Trondheim to Leknes, connecting in Bodo. The three-hour flight costs about $367 round trip in high season. Trains, ferries and buses also travel to Lofoten; contact Lofoten tourism for details. Another good source of information is Destination Lofoten, 011-47-76-07-30-00, www.lofoten-tourist.no.
Most tours to Lofoten offer adventure trips with mountain climbing, sea kayaking and other outdoor activities. Tour companies include Borton Overseas (1-800-843-0602, www.borton .com/overseas.html-ssi); Destination Wilderness Outdoor Adventures (1-800-423-8868, www.wildernesstrips.com); and Jann's Adventure Lofoten (011-47-76-07-89-10, www.lofoten-aktiv.no).
Marian Goldberg, public relations manager for the Japan National Tourist Organization, wants visitors to Japan to know that the price of Japan Rail Passes (Travel Q&A, May 30) changes depending on the exchange rate. "We always get calls from angry travelers who insist that the rail pass sales agents, whom we recommend, are overcharging them," Goldberg said. "The problem is that people compare the Japan Rail Pass to the Eurail Pass. The price of the Eurail Pass does not change because it is set in U.S. dollars. Unfortunately, the price of the Japan Rail Pass always changes because it is set in yen."
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost .com), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).