Six decades ago, when the world was very different, the largest armada in history headed from England by sea and air toward the beaches of France's Normandy coast. The goal was to end World War II in Europe, and that was accomplished in less than a year, but at a terrible cost in lives and hopes. The day of the invasion was June 6, 1944, now the most famous D-Day in history.
The battles on the beaches, which were given code names such as Omaha and Utah, have become legend as well as history. Ten years ago, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, President Clinton stood at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy and looked at the veterans of that invasion, many of them frail and all of them old, and said, ''When they were young, these men saved the world."
This year, the world will pay tribute again with special tours and cruises. Some will include the 60th anniversary ceremonies at Normandy on June 6, although some trips that include that day may be rapidly selling out. Here is a small sampling:
Continental Waterways, which conducts luxury river and canal barge cruises, has a six-night cruise that includes a full day on the landing beaches and a visit to the Caen Memorial peace museum. D-Day cruises aboard the 50-passenger Anacoluthe run between now and April for $1,990 a person including meals (and wine with meals), accommodations, and daily excursions.
Call 800-676-6613 or visit www.continentalwaterways.com.
You can walk in the footsteps of the Allied heroes on a nine-day all-inclusive tour from AHI International. The tour visits Omaha Beach, where most US forces landed and where casualties were heaviest; the American Cemetery at St. Laurent; the Memorial at Caen; and Bayeux, the first French city liberated from the Germans after the invasion. There are also visits to several attractions that celebrate peacetime Normandy, including a visit to Monet's home and studio at Giverny. Prices begin at $2,495 from New York, with departures from Boston available upon request at varying prices, including air fare, transfers, hotel, and meals There are 18 departures between April 12 and Oct. 4.
Call 800-323-7373 or visit www.ahitravel.com.
Image Tours conducts a guided 15-day World War II Memorial Tour, visiting dozens of war-related sites and museums in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, including, of course, the beaches of Normandy. Several cultural and scenic treasures unrelated to the war are also visited Prices include air fare, motorcoach transportation, and most meals. Available dates and prices per person are May 14, $2,840; July 30, $3,190; Sept. 10, $2,840; Sept. 17, $2,840; and Oct. 8, $2,840. People who book before March 10 get a $100 discount.
Call 800-968-9161 or visit www.imagetours.com.
The National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, which is worth visiting any time, plans a series of commemorative activities June 5-6, involving everyone from World War II vets to Boy Scouts. A satellite simulcast will link the events in Normandy and New Orleans.
Call 504-527-6012 or visit www.ddaymuseum.org.