Senior Class

Times Travel Editor

For senior citizens, it's pointless to be a stay-at-home anymore. Not when one can settle in along the Costa del Sol for six months for as little as $1,840, including the round-trip air fare from New York.

Or when seniors can jet to Yugoslavia for a couple of weeks for $724 and tack on extra vacation time for under $100 a week.

Or when a four-day motor-coach tour of northern Italy is yours for only $230.

These are among the '85 bargains offered by Grand Circle Travel of New York, a tour operator that caters exclusively to the senior citizen--anyone 50 or older.

(On the West Coast, Love Holidays of Tarzana offers other holidays for senior citizens, which we'll get to later.)

Grand Circle, with offices on Madison Avenue, has been romancing the senior citizen for years. Its entire operation revolves around retirees and others who qualify for its tours and extended vacations. Not just on the Continent, but in Florida, Hawaii, British Columbia, Australia, Mexico, the Orient and South Pacific, as well.

Grand Circle delivers up to 30,000 travelers a year to outposts around the world.

Its main thrust, though, is directed at Europe with long-stay apartment rentals in Portugal, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Yugoslavia, Ireland and the British Isles.

Seniors enjoy a "cruiselike" atmosphere on Spain's Costa del Sol, with Grand Circle providing language and dance lessons, bingo and beach parties.

The granddaddy of Grand Circle's extended vacation sites in Spain is Torremolinos. Up to 10,000 seniors are hosted annually by Grand Circle throughout the Iberian Peninsula.

Shelter is provided in modern hotels with swimming pools and easy access to the sea. These are accommodations with kitchen and maid service. On the Costa del Sol, seniors settle into modern apartments for $665 for two weeks (this includes air fare from New York) and pay a supplement of $50 a week for additional periods. They're entertained, given Spanish lessons and taught flamenco dancing, all on the house.

Seniors shop in supermarkets and take side trips to neighboring towns and cities.

Or they join tours to other countries. One of the season's best buys is an eight-day odyssey from Spain to Morocco. Priced at $235, it includes transportation to Tangier, Fez and Marrakech, plus hotels and two meals a day. Is it possible to live cheaper at home?

Or there is Grand Circle's four-day motor-coach tour through Andalusia for $150, which figures out to a thrifty $37.50 a day. A third option involves a flight from Torremolinos to London, at $260. This is for a four-night visit and includes airfare, hotels and breakfast daily.

Other seniors use Glyfada near Athens as a base for exploring Greece. Apartments face the Apollo Coast, and there is a marina close by. From here, excursions are offered to dozens of historic attractions.

Vacationers are put up in twin-bedded apartments with living rooms, full-size kitchens and modern baths. The tab, which includes the air fare from New York, apartment and breakfast, transfers and a sightseeing tour of Athens, comes to $959 per person. It's based on double occupancy, and extra weeks are pegged at $99.

In addition, seniors get complimentary language and cooking lessons, plus there is free entertainment, along with optional tours to Cape Sounion, Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Delphi, as well as a cruise to Aegina, Paros and Hydra.

Grand Circle offers other apartment deals in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean, British Columbia and Florida.

Besides the extended vacation packages where the vacationer stays put in one location for several weeks, Grand Circle is booking dozens of motor-coach tours of Europe for the coming spring/summer season. One 18-day tour takes in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France. The package, including air fare from Los Angeles, comes to $1,899.

An even thriftier buy is GC's 20-day swing through the south of England for $1,295. This is from New York and features Britain's provincial towns.

Grand Circle anticipates plenty of action in Europe this summer. Its coaches will carry seniors on a 26-day swing through Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, France and England. There'll be leisurely stops in Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Innsbruck, Lucerne, Baden Baden, Heidelberg, Bonn, Cologne, Amsterdam, Paris and London.

A 16-day tour of Switzerland (the $1,995 tag includes air fare from New York) will take in Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux, Zermatt, Meiringen, Berne, Interlaken, St. Moritz and Zurich.

GC's 18-day spin through France--$2,195 with the jet hop across the Atlantic--will deliver seniors to Nice, Avignon, Carcassonne, Lourdes, Limoges, the Loire Valley, Brittany and Paris.

Other tours will explore Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean. One popular journey begins in Germany, followed by a cruise down the Danube to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria. Other seniors will explore the vineyards of France and do "Europe in Miniature."

Three Tour Types

GC's tours are labeled Gold, Silver and Moneysaver. One of the season's steals is a Moneysaver that features Portugal and Spain. The 15-day tour introduces seniors to Lisbon, Seville, Torremolinos, Granada, Madrid and Cordova for a flat $1,029, which breaks down to less than $69 a day, including the air fare from New York.

Grand Circle also serves the South Pacific, the Orient, Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Bali, Singapore and Thailand.

Traveling with Grand Circle means never having to hurry. Frequently, more than one night is spent in cities on GC's tours. These are laid-back journeys that are designed to keep seniors from unraveling under the strain of one-night stands. GC guarantees that no one will return home feeling like a warmed-over noodle.

These same people promise no hidden extras--"like an additional 15% charged here or 10% there."

After the first trip, seniors automatically become members of GC's travel club, which entitles them to such extras as no-fee travelers checks, a free flight bag, discounts on baggage and future trips, and a subscription to a quarterly newsletter. In addition, GC offers seniors travel insurance and promises medical assistance in case of an emergency while they are away from home.

Singles Can Team Up

Singles take advantage of GC's offer to team them up with other tour members to avoid the bothersome single supplement. And everyone--even non-members--may write for Grand Circle's booklet titled "101 Tips for the Mature Traveler."

Meanwhile, in Tarzana, Calif., Love Holidays offers similar services for senior citizens. One of its popular packages is a leisurely 17-day tour of Yugoslavia that prices out at $1,337/$1,387 and includes the round-trip hop by Pan Am from Los Angeles, hotels with ocean views and two meals a day. For the restless, Love lists side trips to Trieste for $10 and Venice for $20. At those prices, who can afford not to travel?

A huge bargain featuring the Love label is a two-week trip to Greece and Yugoslavia priced from $1,871. Besides the air fare and seven days in a hotel, the package includes a seven-day cruise from Dubrovnik to Venice, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Athens, including all meals aboard ship. One gets an idea of this bargain when comparing it to similar cruise/air packages that figure out to more than $2,400 without hotels or any of Love's extras.

Love is packaging a variety of 20 other programs that combine Yugoslavia with Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Those who've made trips with Love insist that "traveling with Love means never having to say you're sorry."

For more details about the companies profiled here, contact:

Love Holidays, 5530 Corbin Ave., Suite 115, Tarzana 91356. Telephone (818) 345-7741, (213) 873-7991, or toll-free (800) 382-3358 inside California or (800) 423-5458 outside California.

Grand Circle Travel, 555 Madison Ave., New York 10022, or telephone toll-free (800) 221-2610. Grand Circle's local office is at 555 East Ocean Blvd., Suite 501, Long Beach 90802. Telephone (213) 432-8701.

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