Q: I plan to travel by air over the new year. Could you refer me to a Web site on the Y2K readiness of different airlines and airports?
A: The Federal Aviation Administration has established a special Web site to respond to just this sort of question--www.faay2k.com. It contains a share of tedious bureaucratese, but nuggets are useful, including bits on Y2K readiness of U.S. airports and domestic airlines. It also links to the Department of Transportation's Y2K site--www.fly2k.dot.gov.
According to the FAA, you're in good shape if you're traveling domestically. All of the FAA's computer systems, including air traffic control-related systems, were deemed fully compliant as of June 30. The nation's commercial air carriers are also compliant, as are all airports, including Reagan National, Dulles and BWI. And even if there are unforeseen Y2K-related issues, the FAA is confident that the system can handle it. "U.S. air carriers and airports encounter many types of adverse conditions every day that may require the use of manual procedures. These outages are routinely handled by existing contingency plans that ensure continued safe operations. It is expected that the transition to the year 2000 will be no different."
International travel is dicier. If you're flying within Russia, for example, the federal government warns that you should "be prepared to cope with disruptions and delays in services." But many popular tourist destinations--including the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Hong Kong--have reported that they are Y2K compliant.
Q: Our extended family would like to take a cruise or an all-inclusive vacation April 15-22. This would include the first night of Passover. Are there any cruises or all-inclusives that include a seder in their schedule?
A: Many cruise ships conduct a seder for guests during the Passover week.
Princess Cruises, which has two ships leaving on April 15 for the Caribbean, has a rabbi on board each ship for the Passover holiday. "The rabbi requests special food that will be used during ceremonies over which he presides during Jewish holidays," said a Princess fact sheet on religious ceremony. "An area of the ship is reserved for those participating in these services. Items such as matzoh bread, matzoh soup and gefilte fish are featured." Holland America also has a rabbi aboard all of its ships during Jewish holy days. A seder will be held on both the Veendam, departing April 16 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Volendam, departing April 14 from San Juan. Carnival, which has one ship leaving from San Juan for a western Caribbean cruise on April 15 and four ships departing for the Caribbean April 16, does not have a rabbi aboard but "if passengers wish to conduct a seder, we will provide the facility and foods." None of the cruise lines charge extra for the seder meal.
There is also a company that puts together Passover packages at resorts in Puerto Rico, Aruba and Scottsdale, Ariz. Presidential Kosher Holidays, in conjunction with Levana Restaurant, a kosher restaurant in Manhattan, is offering several 10-day Passover packages. Information: 1-800-950-1240, www.passovervacations.com.
As for Caribbean all-inclusives, don't expect much in the way of religious celebrations. Most will decorate for Christmas, but religious observances are few and far between. "Seeing as there are so many religions to be observed, we choose to not exclusively celebrate each and every one of them," said a Club Med spokeswoman. "Club Med attracts a large international mix of guests and by choosing to celebrate some holidays, we would exclude others."
Q: Where can I find house-swapping vacations? Are there people in Ireland, for instance, who would swap their house for one near Washington?
A: Many companies facilitate home exchanges. You pay the company to list your home, but it's usually free to view listings posted online. You may have to do some digging to come up with a family in Ireland who want to come to the Washington area; after a few hours of research, I concluded that most would-be house swappers from cool, damp Ireland are looking for a house with a swimming pool in Florida or California.
Here's some companies worth looking at. All represent homes worldwide:
* HomeLink (1-800-638-3841, www.homelink.org) has been in business for 40 years and lists hundreds of homes in Ireland. For an annual cost of $93, you get five directories, a listing in one directory and a listing on the company's Web site. A Web-only membership is available for $50.
* Homeexchange.com (805-898-9660, www .homeexchange.com) is an Internet company that will list your home for $30 a year.
* Vacation Homes Unlimited (1-800-848-7927, www.vacation-homes.com) publishes three directories a year and also lists its houses on the Internet. An Internet listing costs $65 annually, directory membership is $65, and both cost $112.
* Intervac International (1-800-756-HOME, www.intervac.com), established in 1950, has more than 11,000 listings from 50 countries.
Mary Gallagher of Arlington says that the reader looking for exclusive luxury resorts in the Caribbean (Travel Q&A, Nov. 21) needs to visit Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, owned by Richard Branson of Virgin fame. "It is one of the most spectacular properties I've ever seen," Gallagher said. "Much of the resort and its furniture were constructed in Bali, disassembled, shipped to Necker and reconstructed." The downside: Except for three open weeks each year, which cost $11,000 per couple, you must reserve the entire island at a cost of $13,000 to $20,000 per day, depending on the number of guests. And don't think you can pack in 100 people and split the tab--the resort takes no more than 24 guests at a time. Information: 1-800-557-4255, www.neckerisland.com.
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