The Way to Go report also incorrectly reported the rate for a double room at New York City's Benjamin hotel; it starts at $295. In the same feature, the cost of a business-class up grade on Swissair's flight from Dulles to Zurich was incorrect ly reported. Swissair's current sale price for a round-trip busi ness-class ticket until Nov. 12, for travel from Oct. 31 to Jan. 31, including certain black out dates is $3,452. (Published 10/26/1999)
WHAT'S THE DEAL?
Shanghai'd for Less; Business Class to Zurich
* Pacific Delight Tours' aggressively priced tour of Shanghai is full of extras. The $670 deal includes: round-trip Northwest flight from Dulles, National or BWI; six nights at a first-class hotel; six breakfasts and one Mongolian barbecue lunch; cultural tours; and 2,000 WorldPerks bonus miles, on top of actual mileage. Travel Nov. 15-Dec. 20 or Jan. 5-March 11; 30-day advance purchase. Taxes ($50) and visa fees ($55) not included; Saturday departure $60 extra. Note: Credit cards are not accepted, so you must book through a travel agent. Bottom line: A Shanghai flight costs $1,000-plus; the hotel is $60-$80 a night. I don't know the going price of the BBQ, but it's already a steal. 1-800-221-7179, www.pacificdelighttours.com.
* In honor of its new A330 aircraft, Swissair wants to expose even its economy passengers to the upgrade life at a fraction of the usual cost. Until Nov. 12, the round-trip, nonstop Flight 129 from Dulles to Zurich is on sale for $330. Upgrades cost an extra $330 each way. So to fly business class both ways, the total is $990 (vs. $5,124 usually). (Travel Oct. 31-Jan. 31, blackout Dec. 15-Jan. 10; up to $63 in taxes extra.) But the plane is being touted for its capacious and comfortable economy seats and generous in-flight entertainment offerings on par with other airlines' business class. So even if you fly coach, you'll enjoy a modest upgrade. 1-800-221-4750, www.swissair.com.
TRAVEL LAB REPORT
HYPOTHESIS: Two new self-styled "eco hotels" on the East Coast, the Sheraton Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and the Benjamin in New York, are not only hip places to stay, but provide more than lip service to the eco cause. The former bills itself as the first "environmentally smart" hotel in the continental United States; the latter is advertised as only one of four lodging facilities worldwide to win top marks from Ecotel, an organization that certifies eco-minded properties.
METHODOLOGY: Two thorough checks of both properties, including an unannounced inspection of each. The goal was to truth-squad each facility's commitment to the green movement and determine what difference it makes for guests.
RESULTS: The Sheraton gets bonus points for its eco- conscious design. Sixty-foot bamboo trees in the lobby were chosen for their high levels of oxygenation; furniture is oak from managed forests; drapes and bedding are made from organically grown cotton. All paint and wallpaper are chemical-free. Some management practices are also eco- friendly--the use of energy-saving light bulbs, a ban on smoking and constant recycling of fresh air in the rooms.
New York's Benjamin, an elegant all-suite hotel converted from an older property in Midtown, isn't as outwardly eco-conscious. But the management has succeeded where it counts--in making environmentally friendly practices a part of the everyday life of patrons and staff. Guests have the option of forgoing daily changes of bed linens and towels, saving soap, water and energy. Recycling bins are in every guest room and stairwell. To conserve water, showers release only 2.5 gallons of water a minute. (That's about half what power showers use, but the hotel's bathrooms are equipped with heads designed to give the feel of full- throttle splashing.) The Sheraton offers some of these features, too, but promotes them less vigorously.
CONCLUSION: While the Sheraton has made a significant investment in creating an ecologically correct facility, the Benjamin does better at walking the environmental walk.
Sheraton at Rittenhouse Square, 18th and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-546-9400. A weekend special has doubles starting at $159 a night.
Benjamin, 125 E. 50th St.50th St., New York City, 212-715-2500. Doubles start at $29.
SITE OF THE WEEK
To plan a European vacation that includes a train trip: www.raileurope.com
Rail Europe, North American rep for 60 Old World railroads, has assembled a site that is, God help us, easy to use and comprehensive. Besides info on the various passes available 'round the Continent--Eurail, France Railpass, etc.--a great selection of deals graces the home page (i.e., a half-price offer for BritRail youth passes). Additionally, users can book other facets of their tripd, including air, car and hotel. Best feature: fast, simple access to fares and timetables.
TRAVEL TIP 118
The Adventures of Super Glue
PROBLEM: You're driving a rental car down a badly potholed road when the plastic air conditioning vent falls off in your lap.
SOLUTION: Whip out a tube of Super Glue, which you've conveniently tucked in your carry-on bag, and voila--instant repair job.
TIP REPORT: "Anyone who has read the fine print in car rental contracts realizes damages can be prohibitive," warns tipster Anthony C. Tyler of Derwood, Md., who had his Super Glue epiphany while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. "The glue has been used for many repairs--eyeglasses, furniture, remote controls, shoes. Put it in your carry-on to perform unexpected repairs."
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HOME NEXT WEEK?
Galapagos Islands seminar and Imax film, Oct. 31, National Museum of Natural History, 202-357-3030, www.si.edu.
Easton, Md.: Nov. 12-14, Waterfowl Festival, 410-822-4567, www.waterfowlfest.org. Quack like a duck, show off Fido's retrieving skills or learn to cast like a Field & Stream cover model.
Richmond: Until Nov. 28, "Splendors of Ancient Egypt," 1-888-349-7882, www.vmfa.state.va.us. Flashback to 5,000 years ago, when pharaohs wearing heavy black eyeliner ruled the land, and the Sphinx was no great mystery.
Chicago: Nov. 17-20, Showcase of Interior Design, 1-800-223-7114, www.celebrationsathome.com. This decorator's show house (it's a benefit) could kit out Martha's home. Plus, tips from chefs and florists.
Sturbridge Village, Mass.: Nov. 25-31, Thanksgiving Day celebration, 508-347-3362. Latter-day pilgrims re-create 19th-century feast preparations, employing the turkey-on-a-string technique.
Tel Aviv: Nov. 18-22, 25-28 and Dec. 2-5, Curtain Up/International Exposure, 1-888-77-ISRAEL, www.suzannedellal.org.il. Up-and-coming choreographers and dancers join such Israeli luminaries as the Batsheva Ensemble to show off their moves.
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