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Savings or luxury -- whichever you pick, there's a trip for you

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Staff / August 24, 2003

Some people spend a little on a vacation and others spend a lot. Some like the savings and unpretentiousness of a low-cost trip. Others enjoy the luxury and amenities of an upscale journey. What follows is a study in contrast between lower- and higher-end vacations. The choice is up to you . . . and your wallet.

Trains

For a little. The Mystic Valley Railway Society conducts a variety of day trips to all six New England states. Coming up Oct. 5 is a trip titled Grandma Moses and the Mohawk Trail. Trains leave from the Wellington, Braintree, and Riverside MBTA stations in the morning and return in the evening. Passengers will admire the foliage along the Mohawk Trail as the train wends its way to Western Massachusetts. They have brunch at the Williams Inn in Williamstown, then get to ogle the largest collection of Grandma Moses paintings, at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vt. The fare is $57 a person. Several other trips are also available. Call 617-361-4445 or visit www.mysticvalleyrs.org.

For a lot more. The 36-passenger Royal Scotsman will give a complimentary VIP tour of Edinburgh in a luxury sedan to travelers who book the four-night Classic Tour before Sept. 30. The tour pampers passengers as they see Scotland from the Highlands to the Lowlands, crossing the delightfully named Firth of Forth. The price is $4,390 per person, including accommodations in a twin or single state cabin, all meals, all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, all visits, talks, entertainment, and taxes. Tours of one to three nights are also available. Call Abercrombie and Kent at 800-323-7308 or visit www.royalscotsman.com.

Planes

For a little. A Virgin Atlantic package gives you three nights in London and three in Amsterdam with departure dates from Sept. 2-Oct. 31. Prices from Boston begin at $1,019. That includes air fare, accommodations, hotel taxes, service charges, and various discount coupons. (The fine print: The price does not cover airport fees of about $100. The last date to book is Oct. 23.)

Call 888-YES-VIRGIN or visit www.virgin-vacations.com, then click on "Exclusively Virgin UK & Beyond" and locate "Virgin's Amsterdam Escapade."

For a lot more. On Sept. 3, a chartered private luxury Boeing 757 begins a 22-night journey around the world to such exotic destinations as Maui and Molokai in Hawaii, the rain forests and Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Chiang Mai valley in Thailand, the Maldives archipelago, the wildlife areas of South Africa, and Rio de Janeiro. Participants stay in fine hotels along the way. The cost is $52,500 per person, double occupancy, which includes transportation from your home, flights from your airport, meals, parties, admissions, events, hotels, and many extras.

Call Intrav at 800-456-8100 or visit www.intrav.com.

Ships For a little. Prices, at this writing anyway, begin at $299 for a seven-night cruise aboard the Golden Princess from Southampton, England, to New York City. Departure date is Sept. 14. There are no port stops but there is plenty to do aboard the 2,600-passenger ship. All onboard meals and entertainment are included.

(The fine print: Air fare and port charges of $23.50 a person are not included.)

Visit www.travelocity.com and click on Cruises, then Upcoming Princess Pleasers, or call 877-815-5446.

For a lot more. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the World War II invasion of Normandy, France, next June, Kalos Golf has a special cruise that begins in London on May 27 and ends in Paris on June 8. Passengers travel aboard the three-masted barque Sea Cloud II and can play a half-dozen premier golf courses. Every evening, discussions about the Allied invasion will be led by a Normandy historian. A highlight will be joining veterans and their families at a ceremony at the American Cemetery in Normandy. Prices begin at $7,575 per passenger. All meals aboard ship, transfers, and six days of golf are included.

(The fine print: Air fare is extra but discounted rates are being sought.)

Call 919-942-3464 or visit www.kalosgolf.com.

Lodgings For a little. A weekend on sometimes pricey Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard becomes eminently affordable if you stay in a hostel. In Nantucket, the Star of the Sea Hostel is in a historic building overlooking Surfside Beach. The Vineyard hostel, meanwhile, is in West Tisbury, adjacent to a bike path and the State Forest. Both are Hosteling International properties with dorm rooms and self-catering kitchens, allowing guests to save even more by preparing their own meals. Internet cafes are available 24 hours a day. Guests of all ages are welcome and no membership is required. The cost: $18-$24 a night.

Visit www.capecodhostels.org or call 888-901-2084 for Nantucket and 888-901-2087 for Martha's Vineyard.

For a lot more. The Lodge at Rancho Mirage in Beverly Hills, Calif., has a three-day, $7,000 Millionaire Fantasy Package that sounds as if it might live up to its name. It begins with unlimited use of a Ferrari F360 Moderna and includes accommodations in a club-level suite with a personal concierge plus four food and beverage presentations daily. Breakfast in bed is complimentary, as are an abundance of snacks, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and cordials. Every evening the guest is treated to Dom Perignon champagne and caviar cake, aged port wines, important chocolates, and a catered, candlelit dinner in the resort's gazebo -- a dinner that includes Cristal champagne and long-stem, chocolate tuxedo strawberries for dessert. Afterward, you can have a rose petal bath if you'd like.

(The fine print: If you "downgrade" your car to a Porsche 911 Carrera convertible, the cost is just $4,500.)

Call 866-518-6870.

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