Archive for Sunday, December 17, 2000

Travel Briefs

December 17, 2000


Disney prepares to unveil new park

The weeks ahead will bring curious rumblings to Disneyland's newest neighbor, the much ballyhooed California Adventure theme park.

As the Walt Disney Co. prepares its new $1.4 billion Anaheim, Calif., theme park for a Feb. 8 debut, workers will perform extensive test runs on its towering Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other rides.

The company's Grand Californian Hotel also is scheduled to open Feb. 8 and the Downtown Disney shopping mall is set to debut Jan. 12.

The Downtown Disney mall, located between Disneyland and California Adventure, will have shops and restaurants, including a 12-screen theater, House of Blues, La Brea Bakery, Rainforest Cafe, ESPN Zone and World of Disney.

The new park is expected to attract as many as seven million more visitors a year to the region. Disneyland already attracts nearly 13 million to 14 million visitors a year.

Greyhound to beef up its travel services

Greyhound, long the largest intercity bus system in the United States, is branching out into the sightseeing and tour business. The company has announced that its Greyhound Travel Services division would be built up during the next few years, starting with packages in such cities as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Anaheim, Calif. Packages will range from a single-night stay to seven-night tours. In some places, Greyhound already owns bus-tour operations that will become part of the new division; in other places, touring companies will be acquired.

Reservations for certain packages will are being taken for travel starting Jan. 1. For more information, call 1-800-440-3885; Web site

Theme parks offer hotel incentives

Orlando, Fla.-area theme parks have in recent years come up with several methods that let certain guests avoid long waits for popular rides, thereby overcoming one of the biggest complains among parkgoers.

In the latest twist, Universal Orlando says guests at its Portofino Bay Hotel and its Hard Rock Hotel, which are set to open in January, will be allowed to go to the head of the line at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure by showing their room key and park admission ticket. The perk becomes a powerful incentive for staying at those hotels, of course.

The admission policy will apply to all rides except Pteranodon Flyers and One Fish-Two Fish, both at Islands of Adventure, and Fievel's Playland Waterslide at Universal Studios. For more information call (800) 711-0080 or click on

Travel-school graduates struggle with geography

New York's Yours in Travel Personnel Agency which for 28 years has been helping airlines, hotels and similar businesses nationwide fill entry-level jobs such as reservationist keeps updating the brief test on geography and industry basics it gives job-seeking travel-school graduates. But they still flunk.

"Almost no one who has taken it could get even a 50 percent," company president and founder P. Jason King said.

As for placing major cities on the blank area within an outline of the United States, "Ninety-nine percent of everything lands in what is Texas." Europe is even worse. "They almost all get Italy because of the shape," King said, "but they have no clue where to put Rome or Sicily. Or for that matter, London or Paris."

'Big Blue Bug' used as seasonal decoration

One of the world's most unusual seasonal decorations has got to be the trademark "Big Blue Bug" atop the New England Pest Control building off I-95 in Providence, R.I., which has once again undergone its annual transformation from termite to reindeer. For the holidays, the bug sports a harness of twinkling lights and a shiny, Rudolph-inspired you know what.

Amtrak rewarding frequent users

Trains may still be slower than planes, but Amtrak passengers now can earn travel awards just like airline frequent fliers.

Amtrak's new Guest Rewards program bestows a minimum of two points for every dollar spent on Amtrak travel, which go toward free train trips, hotel and car rental awards, retail certificates for a dozen familiar stores and restaurants even airline miles toward free flights (on Continental, United and Midwest Express).

Travelers can earn bonus points when they ride on Amtrak's Washington-to-Boston Metroliner and the long-awaited Acela Express, (earn 500 points per trip in business class, 750 in first class on either train). There's also a 500-point bonus for enrolling online ( as long as you then travel within 90 days. You also can enroll by calling (800) 307-5000 (which merits 400 bonus points).

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