Basking in Baseball

TRAVEL SMARTS

March 03, 2002

Thousands of baseball fans will head toward warmer weather this month, not for the sun and sand, but for the possibility of catching a glimpse of their favorite ballplayers during spring training. Elderhostel, an education and travel organization for senior citizens, offers baseball devotees over 55 an inside look at America's favorite pastime with its "Boys of Summer" programs.

Participants spend five days in Florida or Arizona immersed in baseball -- attending games and delving into the sport's economics and player culture. They'll hear about the business of baseball from league executives, discuss strategy with former players and soak up the game's history from sportswriters, broadcasters and umpires.

Each program focuses on a specific team, such as the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds or Seattle Mariners. (The Oriole session begins today.) Tuition averages $615 and includes game tickets, meals, accommodations and activities. For a list of available programs, which run through March, call 877-426-8056 or go online to www.elderhostel.org.

-- Tricia Bishop

A GUIDE TO FUN, SAVINGS IN N.C.

For many beach lovers in the mid-Atlantic, there's no better place for a summer retreat than North Carolina's Outer Banks, and bringing along the free 2002 Outer Banks Travel Guide only makes the trip better.

The booklet, offered by the Dare County Tourist Bureau, features a listing of area accommodations, rental / real estate agencies and restaurants, along with information about campgrounds, public boat ramps, lifeguard locations and fishing rules.

But the best part isn't even in the guide: It's the discount card that comes with it. With the card, you'll get access to savings at more than 100 businesses, including hotels, gift shops and eateries.

To order, call 800-446-6262 or see www.outerbanks.org.

-- T.B.

Caribbean cruises leave tobacco in their wake

You've tried acupuncture, hypnosis, the patch, nicotine gum and going cold turkey, and you're still smoking. Maybe it's time to try a cruise. Yes, a cruise.

Carnival cruise line has teamed with the American Lung Association to offer three weeklong "Quit Smoking Caribbean Cruises," featuring onboard stop-smoking clinics and seminars to help smokers get through the rough spots.

But perhaps the biggest deterrent is the ship's strict no-smoking policy. If you're caught lighting up, you'll be banned from the boat, have to forfeit your cruise fare and find your own way home at your own expense. You might even be assessed a $250 fine for "liquidated damages." Thus far, there's no mention of having to walk the plank.

Prices begin at $612 per person. For reservations and more information, contact your travel agent. -- T.B.

Still time to flee the textbooks

For all you young procrastinators, travel Web site Orbitz.com has picked the top 10 last-minute destination values for spring breakers, based on airfare, car rental and weekly hotel rates in March. Available deals include rooms at Best Western in Virginia Beach for $40 a night, $116 weekly car rental from Enterprise in Las Vegas and $203 round-trip airfare from BWI to Miami.

Here's the full list of destinations:

1. Virginia Beach, Va.

2. Miami

3. Vail Valley, Colo.

4. Panama City, Fla.

5. South Padre Island, Texas

6. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

7. New Orleans

8. Key West, Fla.

9. Cancun, Mexico

10. Las Vegas -- T.B.

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