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Fla. officials guard against the weather

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Associated Press / March 2, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida tourism officials are offering a weather warranty to calm concerns about potential hurricanes among meeting and convention planners.

The supplemental business insurance, called ''Cover Your Event," will provide coverage for meetings held in Florida from August through October of this year in which at least 100 room nights are booked.

If the meeting has to be rescheduled because of a named hurricane, the insurance will cover $100,000 to $200,000 worth of the extra expenses of rescheduling and any differences in room rates.

Florida tourism officials are worried that last summer's hurricanes have damaged perceptions about their state as a late-summer destination. ''Cover Your Event" is part of a $6.5 million ad campaign to attract tourists and conventions.

For information about vacationing in Florida, go to www.visit florida.com. For details on the weather warranty for meetings and conventions, call 850-488-5607, ext. 343.

Magazine ranks top romantic getaways

NEW YORK -- Stay in a villa with a copper bathtub and take a safari on the back of an elephant. Take in the views of Vermont's Green Mountains through the floor-to-ceiling windows of a luxury tree house. Or propose to your beloved during a twilight carriage ride in Rome.

These are among the 50 most romantic ways to spend a vacation, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.

The magazine's recommendations include the Abu Elephant Villa in the Okavango Delta in Botswana (www.abucamp.com); the Aviary tree house at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vt. (www.twinfarms.com); and the ''marriage proposal" package at the Hassler Hotel in Rome, in which couples are picked up at the airport in a Rolls Royce, greeted in their suite with champagne, and whisked around the city by carriage (www.hotelhassler.com). The hotel even has a ''Marriage Manager" devoted to coordinating the perfect proposal.

For details on these and other romantic places around the globe check out the magazine's February issue.

Cruise ship advice: Wash hands often

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If you're taking a cruise, make sure to wash your hands.

That advice comes from the International Council of Cruise Lines in response to concerns about outbreaks of norovirus aboard ships. Cruise ships -- like day care centers, hospitals, and other environments where germs are easily spread -- are susceptible to outbreaks of the highly contagious norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control reported 36 outbreaks aboard ships in 2004, compared with 29 in 2003. Seven shipboard outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness have already been reported for 2005.

Cruise ships are required by the CDC to have sanitary protocols in place to prevent and limit the spread of norovirus, but the International Council of Cruise Lines wants cruisers to know that they can protect themselves and others through simple personal hygiene.

''The most preventative measure people can take is washing their hands frequently," said Michael Crye, president of the council.

Experts say you should wash for a full 15 seconds to get rid of germs.

Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps and may last from one to two days. But the illness is by no means a cruise ship disease; the CDC estimates that some 23 million Americans come down with it each year. Most people call it ''stomach flu."

For more information, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov or the Vessel Sanitation Program's website at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp.

Activities for kids in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. -- What does Aspen have for kids? Try tubing, cooking classes, family concerts, and sledding, among other activities.

The winter issue of Aspen Magazine lists places and activities children will love in the Colorado skiing mecca.

For more information about visiting Aspen, call 888-290-1324. For Aspen Magazine, visit www.aspenmagazine.com.

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