Holiday Tours Aplenty

October 20, 1991|By Beth Smith

Stroll through Nurnberg's Christkindlmarkts, overflowing with decorations, toys and German crafts. Visit Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop in London. Feast on plum pudding and cassava pie in Bermuda. Sing Christmas carols in the Colonial town of Williamsburg.

Or sit before a roaring fire in a quaint New England inn. Catch a glimpse of Papa Noel in New Orleans. Break a pinata in San Antonio. Dance to romantic waltzes in Vienna. Snowmobile to a reindeer farm in Finland. Cruise the Caribbean.

Holiday travel is getting to be more than going over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house. The options are growing each year. And since many holiday travelers are seniors, Grandma might just be leading the way.

Bermuda, located 600 miles off the North Carolina coast, is a great holiday destination because, unlike the islands of the Caribbean, winter is off-season. The island is less crowded than the summer months and prices are generally lower. Yet the weather is just right for golf, tennis or Christmas shopping in the gaily decorated shops of Hamilton or St. George's.

The atmosphere is a mix of North American customs and English traditions. Lavishly decorated Christmas trees line the streets of Hamilton; and the aroma of fruitcakes made with Bermuda black rum, plum puddings and cassava pies, a special Bermudan Christmas treat, waft from the restaurants. Santa Claus is on hand, and local theaters also stage English pantomimes. Candlelight services are held at historic churches on Christmas Eve, and bells welcome the dawn of Christmas Day.

Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is celebrated in the British style with visiting and soccer matches. Special to Bermuda are the Gombey troupes costumed in extravagant outfits decorated with ribbons, fringes, peacock feathers and bells. These dancers, who trace their roots back to Africa and the West Indies, dance through the town from morning until sundown.

Cruises are a popular holiday vacation. And cruise ships are decked to the nines in Christmas decorations, trees and lights. Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Royal Viking, Norwegian, Carnival, Costa and Cunard offer cruises to warm, sunny places like the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Curacao, Mexico, Jamaica. Gala celebrations are planned for Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

"The Big Red Boat Cruises" are designed with families in mind. Sailing from Port Canaveral in Florida, they travel to either Nassau or the Abacos Out Islands of the Bahamas for three- or four-day vacations. The line is designated as the official cruise line of Walt Disney World, and the excursions include a variety of programs for kids from toddlers to teen-agers. Plus, always on aboard and bound to pop up various times are Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Mickey Mouse.

Besides the cruise itself, three- or four-day stopovers at Disney World can be added before or after cruising to round out a week. The seven-day package includes accommodations at a Disney resort or Orlando hotel, admission to the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot Center and the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, plus admission and guided tour of Spaceport USA at the Kennedy Space Center, rental car with unlimited mileage, and round-trip air fare.

Christmas is very merry on the three big red boats of the Premier line. Each one is decorated with more than a dozen Christmas trees, and Santa Claus makes an appearance Christmas morning with presents for all kids under 17. On Christmas Eve, the officers and crew present a holiday pageant. Church services are held Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

At Walt Disney World Resort, Christmas excitement is everywhere. Dancing toys, prancing reindeer and hundreds of Disney characters parade through the theme parks. The shops along Main Street, U.S.A. display animated holiday window tableaux; the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and Disney-MGM Studios all have gigantic Christmas trees decorated with thousands of lights.

Like cruise lines, tour companies are busy during December. They offer all sorts of excursions to just about anywhere on the globe. Special meals and entertainment are always planned for Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, even if the tour is not designated a holiday tour. A few companies plan special itineraries geared to the Christmas season.

Olson-Travelworld Ltd. has two specific holiday tours scheduled for this year. "Christmas in Europe and the Kaiserball" is 14 snow-filled days with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spent at Gstaad in the Swiss Alps and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Vienna. Besides touring through a winter wonderland and feasting on all the holiday specialties of Switzerland and Austria, travelers will get to see a performance of the Lipizzaner horses and listen to Viennese waltzes at the Hofburg Palace on New Year's Eve.

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