A weeklong tour to England aimed at Charles Dickens' fans will be led by the author's great-great-great-granddaughter in Rochester and London. The tour starts Dec. 1 at a welcome reception with relative Christopher Dickens and his wife, Countess Jeanne Marie.
Participants tour Dickens country around Rochester, where they will attend the Dickens Christmas Festival and sing carols in Rochester Cathedral. Also on the itinerary is a boat cruise and lunch at the Leather Bottle Inn, which is full of Dickensian memorabilia, and a private tour of Restoration House (original model for Miss Haversham's house in "Great Expectations"). In London, visitors will take a walking tour of Dickens' London, including the Inns of Corut and Chancery, the Old Curiosity Shop, and try mulled wine and mince pies at the Dickens House Museum.
Cost: $872 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, some meals and sightseeing. Not included: air fare to England. Contact: Paull Tickner, British Heritage Tours, Richmond Place, 125 Boughton, Chester, CH3 5BJ; telephone (800) 964-2819 or fax 011-44-1244-320072.
Reefs and Ruins
Belize is the destination for a 10-day natural history exploration led by Norm Cole, a biologist at Orange Coast College. Departing from Los Angeles on Jan. 5, the group will visit Belize City; rain forests, waterfalls and Mayan sites in Belize; Tikal in Guatemala and the coral reefs off Ambergris Cay. A variety of rain forest plants and animals will be observed. A glass-bottom boat excursion and warm-water snorkeling will allow participants to observe the rich coral life of the Caribbean's longest barrier reef. Optional tour extensions are available to the Amazon, Iguacu Falls, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza and other destinations within Brazil.
Cost: $2,895 per person, including air fare, all land transportation, accommodations, most meals and entrance fees. Contact: Orange Coast College Community Education, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA 92628; tel. (714) 432-5880.
A 14-day "Best of Sicily and Southern Italy" tour leaves Dec. 26. Participants will visit Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina, Sorrento and Rome, then travel to Monreale, Segesta, Selinus, Syracuse, Piazza Armerina, Mt. Etna, Paestum, Naples, Pompeii, Capri, the Amalfi Drive, Positano, Ravello and Tivoli. Also seen are the Roman castles of Nemi, Castelgandolfo and Frascati.
In the evenings, participants have the opportunity to attend concerts of Italian music, opera, folkloric dances or other cultural events. Professor Albert Benzie of Grossmont College will give informal lectures at museums, churches, palaces, castles and birthplaces of great artists. Specialized guides will lecture at the archeological sites.
A tour to Northern Italy leaves Jan. 4.
Cost: $2,735 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip Los Angeles-Rome-Palermo air fare, hotels, daily breakfasts and dinners, motor-coach transportation, all tips, admission to archeological sights and most museums, ferry across the Strait of Messina, motorboat in Sorrento-Capri and the funicular to Capri village. Contact: Albert Benzie, Grossmont College, 8800 Grossmont College Drive, El Cajon, CA 92020; tel. (619) 454-1434.
For WWII Buffs
The 13-day "Battle of the Bulge, Berlin and Beyond" tour leaves May 5 and takes participants through Holland, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, a small corner of Poland and Vienna. A maximum of 35 passengers are accommodated on this World War II history tour of the sites, museums and remains of the German Third Reich.
Participants take a city tour of Berlin, visit the infamous Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps and see museum collections of World War II relics and material.
Cost: $2,995 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, all travel within Europe, hotels, museum admission fees and most meals. Extensions to Amsterdam and Vienna are available. Contact: Northstar Tours, P.O. Box 810, Lakeview, MN 55044-0810; tel. (612) 469-4398.
Sporades Tours is offering three cruise/tours of Egypt this fall. The first is 10 days, starting Oct. 27, with five days spent on a private cruise ship on the Nile between Aswan and Luxor, with numerous stops along the way. The other trips leave Nov. 5 and Nov. 18 and spend 12 of 14 days cruising between Cairo and Aswan on a private vessel with numerous stops. All tours are led by USC Professor Dick Caldwell, who will lecture on the history of the area. Participants will also take a trip to Abu Simbel.
Cost: $1,035 (10 days) and $1,495 (14 days) per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, meals and sightseeing. Not included: air fare to Egypt. Contact: Sporades Tours, 15816 Golden Lantern, Whittier, CA 90604; tel. (800) 695-7176.
Guide and Nepal expert Jim Wills will be conducting a trek in Nepal to the Mani Rimdu Festival at Chiwong Gompa. Destined for the Everest region of Nepal, the trip will take place Dec. 1-11. This annual festival is the conclusion of a lengthy secret ceremony in which monks, empowered by the high lamas, perform dances re-enacting the roots of Buddhism in Tibet.
Trek members need not be in shape for a major Himalayan expedition. Members will stay at the Sherpa Guide Lodge in Phaplu, which has rooms with private baths.
Cost: $1,800 per person, double occupancy, including all meals, transfers, transportation in Nepal, festival entry, accommodations, permits, fees and guides. Not included: air fare to Nepal. Contact: Guides for All Seasons, 202 County Road, Calpine, CA 96124; tel. (800) 457-4574.
Train to Mexico
Spend the weekend riding the rails on a Campo-to-Tecate trip Oct. 28 sponsored by the San Diego Railroad Museum. The tour links the United States with Mexico as it runs between the Campo, Calif., depot, built in 1916, and the Tecate, Mexico, depot, built in 1914. Along its route, the Campo-to-Tecate train passes through the only international railway tunnel in the United States, marked midway with a yellow line indicating the U.S.-Mexico border. Passenger cars and engines on this run are vintage. The restored passenger cars ran on the Erie-Lakawanna line in the late '20s.
Cost: $169 per person, double occupancy, including the train ride, motor-coach transportation from San Diego, one night at the Villa Marina Hotel in Ensenada, wine tour and tasting at Pedro Domecq Winery and shopping in Tijuana. All meals are included. Contact: Baja California Tours, 6986 La Jolla Blvd., Suite 204, La Jolla, CA 92037; tel. (619) 454-7166.
A three-day tour of Sedona leaves Oct. 25 for the Red Rocks of Sedona, including Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross and Courthouse Rock. Shaman Maya Markota will speak about spiritual topics at these sites. Participants will also visit craft shops and art galleries, take a city tour and visit the ghost town of Jerome and Red Rock State Park.
Cost: $530 per person, including round-trip air fare from LAX to Phoenix, transfers, two nights' accommodations and breakfasts. Not included: state park fees. Contact: Amente Tours, 27 Packet Road, Palos Verdes, CA 90275; tel. (310) 377-1717.
The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with cruise lines, travel agents or tour operators.