Liveaboard dive boats are attracting a new...

Liveaboard dive boats are attracting a new breed of vacationer. In the British Virgin Islands the MS Aquanaut Explorer sails Fridays from Tortola. A total of 20 staterooms, each with its own private bath. A dive shop on board is equipped with gear for beginners as well as certified divers. Passengers explore reefs, shipwrecks, caves during visits to Norman Island, Jost van Dyke, Guana Island, Virginia Gorda and Peter Island. Besides scuba diving, they snorkel, windsurf and sunbathe aboard the boat. The $599 package (one weekend) includes dives, accommodations, meals. (Rates are scheduled to be increased Feb. 1.) In June, the same company is scheduled to launch a second dive boat that will take in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Details from Aquanaut Watersports, 241 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33334. Telephone toll-free (800) 327-8223.

Air Guide

Here's a handy item for the frequent flier: The OAG Pocket Flight Guide (available previously only to subscribers) is on sale at major airports throughout the country. The guide (published monthly) is packed with information. Flights, departure/arrival times, reservation telephone numbers, types of meals service, ground transportation, ad infinitum. Lists more than 49,000 scheduled flights, providing travelers with the opportunity to make their own schedule change rather than wait in line for information at ticket counters. The newsstand price is $5. For details write to the Official Airline Guides, 2000 Clearwater Drive, Oakbrook, Ill. 60521.

Colorado Ski Train

A Colorado ski train operating between Denver and Winter Park has been spiffed up for the current season. Vintage cars have been replaced with reconditioned cars bought in Canada. Trips run approximately 2 1/2 hours. Fares are $20 for advance-purchase round-trip coach tickets, or $25 on day of departure. First-class tickets will cost you $35. This train has been delivering skiers to Winter Park for 50 years. Snacks on board, a full bar service. Departures every Saturday and Sunday through the end of March. See your travel agent or contact the Winter Park Recreational Assn., Box 36, Winter Park, Colo. 80482.

Ski Vermont

A Vermont agency has put together a five-night, four-day ski trip using different inns each night. These are self-guided tours designed for experienced skiers. You set your own pace. Custom-planned trips are also available, along with guide service. If you're a non-skier, sleigh rides are offered. Rates: $440 per person (double occupancy) or $499 single. Includes all meals, lodging. For reservations contact Country Inns Along the Trail, The Churchill House Inn, R.B. 3, Box PRW8, Vermont 05733, or telephone (802) 247-3300. This same company does hiking/biking trips in summer.

Ski Canada

British Columbia is heating up a campaign to attract the skier. A new 54-page brochure titled "Ski With Us" is filled with tips on skiing and accommodations. Gives resort telephone numbers and descriptions of British Columbia's nine ski areas, including Whistler (75 miles from downtown Vancouver) as well as Western Canada's oldest ski destination, Red Mountain. Other information on heli-skiing. This is a slick, magazine-style guide. For a free copy write Tourism British Columbia, 3400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 34, Los Angeles 90010, or call (213) 380-9171.

Home Rentals

The home-rental fever is gaining momentum. A brand-new publication puts you in contact with homeowners in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, England and Ireland). Permits the vacationer to contact homeowners direct rather than going through a middleman. Besides homes, it lists villas, condos, apartments. Even castles. Here's an example: In Carmel, Calif., a fully furnished, two-bedroom cottage with piano, fireplace, washer-dryer, microwave oven, linens and dishwasher rents for $550/$650 a week, depending on the season. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a waterfront condo can be booked for $700 a week. You receive two updated copies annually of the guide for $9. Write to Sanford Cohen, World-Wide Home Rental Guide, 142 Lincoln Ave., Suite 652, Santa Fe, N. M. 87501, or call (505) 988-5188.

Saddling Up

Mel Herzog of Palm Desert asks for the names of companies dealing with vacations on horseback. Here are three:

--Adventure Trails of the West offers a variety of rides in Arizona. Guides, meals, tents, campfire entertainment. Other rides in Australia. Contact Dana Burden, c/o Adventure Trails of the West, P.O. Box 1494, Wickenburg, Ariz. 85358, telephone toll-free (800) 346-4403.

--FITS Equestrian packages rides in the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the British Isles, China, the Caribbean, Latin and South America, Africa. Details from FITS Equestrian, 2011 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, Calif. 93463, call (805) 688-9494.

--Hoofbeats International, 182 Hillside Ave., Inglewood, N.J. 07631, telephone (201) 568-3471. (Rides in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Middle East.)

Reader Recommendations

California--Nancy Maust, Pasadena: Enjoyed a B&B; near Hearst Castle called Darkin Downs Equestre-Inn, Star Route Box 4562, San Miguel 93451. Rates: $35/$40.

California--Sally Grab Monk, Laguna Niguel: "I was married on Catalina Island and stayed at the Garden House Inn, P.O. Box 1881, Avalon 90704. The inn is a fully renovated, three-story wood-frame house built in 1927. Prices include a delicious breakfast. Rates: $100/$220."

California--Evelyn and Andrew Nichols, Santa Barbara: "Found a country cottage-style B&B; on the Pt. Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco called Marsh Cottage, P.O. Box 1121, Pt. Reyes Station 94956. Fully equipped kitchen, fireplace. A basket containing the fixings for breakfast, including homemade bread and fresh fruit, appears each morning on the porch. We watched egrets and herons from the deck overlooking Tomalas Bay. Rates: $85 midweek, $95 weekends."

Utah--Barbara Papa, Upland: "Enjoyed the Snow Pine Lodge, Alta, Utah 84092. Right at the base of the ski lifts. Dwight and Mary Janerich just reopened this rustic, 50-year-old lodge. We had the best Thanksgiving dinner I have ever eaten. A breathtaking view from the dining area. Rates: $18/$28."

Switzerland--Sandra Hoffman, Studio City: "A reasonable hotel in the center of Zurich: Hotel du Tagatre, Seilergraben 69, 8023 Zurich. Single rooms with half-bath about $44/$60 U.S. Double rooms with half-bath about $80/$95. Includes breakfast, taxes and services."

New Zealand--J.G. Ronell: "A 20,000-acre farm for vacationers. Charges $90 New Zealand per person per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Write to Rachel Risk, Mataura Valley Station, P.O.B. 29, Garston, New Southland, New Zealand."

England--Barbara Figelski, Studio City: "Two flats for rent, sleeping four persons each with kitchenettes, patio and garden. Seven miles from Stratford-on-Avon. Charge is 150 a week. Address: Otters Holt, Bealey, Redditch, WORES. B98-9AT, England."

England--Howard and Betty Lees, Irvine: "Found a delightful inn--the Dower House, Pridaux Lane, Padstow, Cornwall, England. Operated by Christine Thomas, a charming hostess. Priced reasonably at 328 per week for two persons or 50 per night for two, which includes breakfast and dinner."

Because of the large number of reader recommendations, we regret that only a select few can be used. They must be brief (typewritten or printed). Only one recommendation per reader, please. Note: Recommendations will not be used unless prices and addresses are included.

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