No one would confuse me with Admiral Byrd or Frank Buck, but I have had my share of adventures. I have held my breath as a leopard sauntered past my jeep in Tanzania. I have mingled with penguins and seals in Antarctica. And I have been chased by emus in Australia. Nowadays it's easy to have such experiences with one of the many companies arranging trips and providing guides. Some examples:
Imagine standing at the top of the world. Years ago, reaching the North Pole might have been an idle dream for even the wealthiest traveler. But today, for a minimum of $22,900, Quark Expeditions is offering 16-day trips to the North Pole, departing June 23, July 6, and July 19. After a charter flight (included) from Helsinki to Murmansk, Russia, passengers board a nuclear-powered icebreaker and along the way see archipelagos populated by polar bears, walruses, arctic fox, seals, seabirds, and beluga whales. Once at the pole, you can walk around the world in less than a minute.
Visit quarkexpeditions.com or call 800-356-5699.
Cambridge-based Overseas Adventure Travel has three new trips for 2008: Tunisia: From the Mediterranean to the Sahara takes travelers to where a lot of World War II history was made, with prices starting at $2,695 for 15 days, including airfare from Boston. By adding Cruising the Red Sea: Egypt, Sinai, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, the company becomes one of the first in the United States to visit Saudi Arabia. The seven-night cruise takes visitors into the Saudi Red Sea port of Duba, and inland to meet with people in a Berber settlement. Travelers will also meet families in Egypt and Jordan. Prices begin at $4,395 from Boston for the 18-day journey. Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia is a combination so hard to find that more than half the available space is already sold out. The 19-day trip starts at $3,795 from Boston.
Visit oattravel.com or call 800-873-5628.
Until recently, Mongolia's far west was visited by few outsiders. But now those who are fit can go trekking with Geographic Expeditions in the Altai Mountains, in the borderlands of China and Russia. From the United States, adventurers fly to Seoul and then to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, and beyond. During the 21-day trip, there are hikes, treks, climbs, and horseback rides. There are also visits to families and with Kazakh eagle hunters. Prices begin at $5,695. Airfare, which is extra, can be booked through the company.
Visit geoex.com or call 800-777-8183.
Austin-Lehman Adventures' nine-day expedition Peru: Land of the Inca encompasses everything from the rapids of the Urubamba to the mountains of Machu Picchu. Among other activities, participants hike the Inca Trail, with its ruins, mountains, cloud forest, and tropical jungle. They also raft rapids and bike back roads. The price is $3,398 plus $250 for air.
Visit austinlehman.com or call 800-575-1540.
For families, Adventures by Disney has a variety of trips in the United States and overseas, all of them minus Mickey Mouse. The eight-day American Southwest Vacation features Grand Canyon tours, led by a Navajo guide; river rafting on the Colorado River in Moab, Utah; and exploration by jeep of the red rocks of
Visit adventuresbydisney.com or call 877-728-7282. A free DVD is available.
For those who like luxury and less structure than some trips require, there is Abercrombie & Kent's 11-day Southern Africa trip, which takes travelers from Cape Town and the Winelands to Victoria Falls and private game reserves. Along with the adventure is a welcome dinner at the award-winning Onewaterfront Restaurant in Cape Grace and private wine tasting. Land-only prices range from $4,995 to $5,545 with departure dates through Dec. 27.
Visit abercrombiekent.com or call 800-652-2405.
Newton-based Odysseys Unlimited limits its groups to 12-24 for its 22-day Exploring Australia & New Zealand trip, beginning at $6,795 including airfare from Boston. Participants can swim and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef and explore the Outback, Sydney, Christchurch, Mount Cook, Milford Sound, Queenstown, and Auckland. Transportation includes a steam train, gondolas, and boats. There is a visit to the Koala Sanctuary Park and along the way you will no doubt see many other animals. Just be on the lookout for ornery emus.
Visit odysseys-unlimited.com or call 888-370-6765.
Hurtigruten, formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage, is offering savings of $1,000-$3,600 per person on five Antarctic expeditions in 2008 and 2009, with itineraries of 13-22 days. For example, the 19-day Antarctica & The Falklands/Malvinas journey aboard the 350-passenger MS Nordnorge navigates the westernmost outposts of the Falkland Islands and the narrow passage between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. With the discounts, the cost is $5,499-$13,099 for the Nov. 6 sailing and $300 more for the Feb. 12 departure. In addition, Hurtigruten has round-trip airfare from Miami or New York for $849-$1,049.
Visit hurtigruten.us or call 866-257-6071.
Fun and frugality
The Blue Acorn Inn, Henniker House B&B, Highland Lake Inn, and the Rosewood Country Inn, all in New Hampshire, are promoting a Frugal Yankee Package. Included are a complimentary third night for the price of a two-night stay, Friday evening hors d'oeuvres, a country breakfast each morning, tickets to Canterbury Shaker Village (worth $15 per person), tickets to the Fells for a tour of the summer cottage and gardens, and nature trails (worth $8 per person), $350 in discounts for tax-free shopping at the Tanger Outlets, and a 10 percent dinner discount at a local restaurant. Starting prices range from $109 per night at the Blue Acorn to $165 at the Rosewood Country Inn. The package is offered June 1-Aug. 31.
Call the Blue Acorn at 603-863-1144, Henniker House at 866-428-3198, Highland Lake at 603-735-6426, and Rosewood at 800-938-5273. For details about the properties, visit blueacorninn.com, hennikerhouse.com, highlandlakeinn.com, or rosewoodcountryinn.com.
Whet your appetite
G. Franco Romagnoli is well known to many New Englanders because of the old PBS television show "The Romagnolis' Table," his cookbooks, and his restaurants. Now he and his wife, Gwen, have written "Italy, the Romagnoli Way: A Culinary Journey" (Lyons, 368 pp., illustrated, $24.95). The book, with its appetizing photos, is about traveling the country, tasting local delights, meeting people, and exploring traditions.
Sally Peabody, a Paris specialist, has a 68-page e-guide, "Paris: Tea Capital of the World," that presents 25 choices for savoring and shopping for fine teas in Paris. The price is $12.95 and the book is available for download at yourgreatdaysinparis.com.
Beauties and buccaneers
At Walt Disney World five or so years ago, I noticed a little girl dressed like a princess from a Disney cartoon and thought, how cute. Then a couple of years ago, I saw several little princesses strolling about the theme parks. Last year the number had grown to several dozen. Disney is obviously on to something here and has set up a special event for the would-be princesses. But where does that leave the boys? Ah, they can emulate the buccaneers in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Thus, an after-hours event called Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party is being held at Magic Kingdom on selected evenings through early June. There are pirate coves and princess courts, a parade starring a 39-foot-long pirate ship, and several other events, as well as favorite rides and attractions. Tickets for the party, which runs 7 p.m.-midnight, cost $47.95 for ages 10 and over and $41.95 for youngsters 3-9. You can save $4 per ticket by buying online.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.