The Yen and Yangtze for a River Excursion

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 15-day tour to China, including a Yangtze River cruise, is scheduled for March 31 to April 15. The tour will visit Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and end in Hong Kong. The program offers a five-day cruise on the Yangtze River from Wuhan to Chongqing through the Three Gorges and includes shore excursions. The tour is escorted by Bob Feldman, retired professor of history from California State University, Fullerton, who will provide a series of lecture-discussions on Chinese history. The group will explore Beijing's Forbidden City, walk the Great Wall and see the terra-cotta army in Xian. In Shanghai, the group will be greeted by students at the Children's Palace. Two performances, an acrobatics show and a Tang Dynasty music and dance program, are included.

Cost: $3,795 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles, all ground transportation, hotels, meals, cruise excursions, guided tours, two theater performances, all taxes and portage. Contact: East-West International Tours, 1248 Montevideo Ave., Placentia, CA 92870: telephone (800) 359-6719.

Mediterranean Cruise

Explore the highlights of the western Mediterranean on a cruise that departs April 26 for 16 nights. The first stop is Lisbon, with a two-night stay at the five-star Estoril Sol Resort on the Portuguese Riviera. The cruise is on Holland America's Maasdam, with ports including Tangier, Barcelona, Livorno (for Florence), Tunis, Sardinia and Malta, en route to Rome. Sites include Monte Carlo, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Straits of Messina, and Mt. Etna and Stromboli volcanoes.

Following the cruise, passengers will spend two nights at a hotel in Rome before returning May 13.

Cost: from $3,695 per person for an inside double, and $3,995 per person for an outside double. The price includes air fare from Los Angeles. The 12-night Maasdam cruise also includes the hotel stay in Lisbon and Rome, porterage and transfers. Contact: Don Ton Cruise Tours, 3151 Airway Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; tel. (800) 318-1818.

Classical Italy

The Southern California Travel Assn. is offering three Italy tours that emphasize museums, churches, palaces, opera houses, and birthplaces of great artists and composers. The tours will be escorted by Albert Benzie, philosophy and humanities professor at Mesa College in San Diego. Lectures will also be offered by Umberto Lecci of Rome University.

The Classical Italy tour runs June 23 to July 8. Participants will visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Padoa, Siena, Pisa, Assisi, Sorrento, Positano, Almalfi, Ravello, the Amalfi Drive--first by bus then by motorboat--the Palladian Villas along the River Brenta, and the Roman castles of Castel Gandolfo, Frascati and Tivoli.

Cost: $3,195 per person, double occupancy, including air fare, first-class hotels, daily breakfast and dinner, transportation, entrance to main museums, motorboat ride in Venice, luggage handling and tips.

Classical Italy With France, Spain and Portugal runs June 6 to 21. The 16-day cruise and land tour includes Rome, Livorno, with an optional one-day excursion to Florence and Pisa; Cannes and Vallauris, the island of Mallorca, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Seville and Lisbon. One day is spent in Portofino, Italy.

Cost: $2,945 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles, five-day cruise, two nights in Rome, seven-day tour of Spain and Portugal, first-class hotels, all meals during the cruise and some during the tour.

Classical Italy With Turkey and the Greek Isles runs July 16 to 29. The 14-day cruise and land tour includes Rome, Sorrento, the Greek islands of Santorini, Delos and Mykonos, Ephesus and Istanbul in Turkey.

Cost: $2,875 per person, double occupancy, including air fare, seven-day cruise, all meals during the cruise and some during the tour, three nights in Istanbul and two in Rome in first-class hotels. Contact: Albert A. Benzie, Philosophy Department, Mesa College, 7250 Mesa College Drive, San Diego, CA 92111; tel. (619) 454-1434.

Through the Tulips

Holland in the spring means tulip bulbs. Springtime in Holland: Tulips and Van Gogh is an 11-day tour beginning April 24 led by Dutch art-historian Frans Pijnenburg. In Amsterdam, travelers are based at the Pulitzer, a historic hotel. While in Delft, group members stay in individual apartments at the Museumhotel. Day trips include several castles, Utrecht, Amersfoort, The Hague, Keukenhof Gardens, Amsterdam's 17th century Botanical Gardens and the bulb fields near Leiden.

Cost: $3,595 per person, double occupancy, including nine nights' accommodations, daily continental breakfasts, five dinners, two lunches, cocktail reception party, luxury motor-coach transportation, entrance fees, transfers, porterage, taxes and service charges. Air fare is not included. Contact: Coopersmith England; tel. (415) 669-1914.

Victorian England

Cornell's Adult University is offering a faculty-led education-vacation package called Worlds of the Victorians: A Study Tour of England. It is an 11-day program that begins May 30. Group members explore the landscapes, literary masterpieces, social conventions and politics of the period. Day trips to Leeds, Halifax and the Pennine moorlands will be taken from Harrogate, the well-preserved Victorian spa town where the group is first based. Moving south, the group will visit the cathedral and Jane Austen's residence in Winchester, as well as the architecture of Brighton and the gardens of Sissinghurst. Next on the itinerary is London and the suburb of Hampstead. The program concludes with a private dinner in the the House of Commons.

Cost: $3,560 per person, double occupancy, including all accommodations, travel within England, all breakfasts, most lunches, four dinners, admission fees, taxes, gratuities and preparatory materials. A round-trip group air fare from New York is available. Contact: Cornell's Adult University; tel. (607) 255-6260.

Tuscany Highlights

Studio Art Centers International is offering a tour that highlights the art, history, culture and food of Tuscany, Italy. The seven-night package, beginning May 14, includes excursions to historically important buildings of the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and private tours of villas, vineyards and piazzas. Featured are walking tours of Boboli Gardens and Florence; excursions to Volterra, Pienza, San Gimignano, Montepulciano and Pistoia; visits to the Gori collection of modern sculpture and the Galleria D'Arte Moderne; a lecture on the cuisine of Tuscany; and welcome and farewell dinner receptions. The tour is limited to 20 participants.

Cost: from $1,350 per person, double occupancy, including hotel accommodations, some meals, ground transportation, admissions and lectures. Air fare is not included. Contact: Studio Art Centers International; tel. (813) 367-3451.

Cigar Cruise

A cigar smoker's cruise called Smoke on the Water, aboard Crystal Cruises' Crystal Harmony leaves March 2 with a trans-canal cruise from Acapulco, Mexico, ending in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., March 12. The 10-day itinerary includes Guatemala, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.

Guests take a shore excursion to a cigar factory in Honduras, and attend lectures by Richard Carleton Hacker, author of "The Ultimate Cigar Book."

Cost: from $2,191 per person, double occupancy, including air fare to Acapulco and the return from Fort Lauderdale. Contact: American Business Consultants; tel. (800) 884-7340.

Ancient Spain

Hike through Spain to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela with Spanish Steps, a tour company based in Aspen, Colo.

This 11-day trek scheduled for various dates in April, May and June, offers history, sightseeing and a comfortable daily hiking pace of nine to 12 miles for both novice and seasoned hikers.

Known as the Camino de Santiago, this ancient route winds through culturally rich villages, vineyards and scenic terrain from the Pyrenees to the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula.

Cost: $1,695 per person, double occupancy, including guides, lodging, meals and ground transportation. Air fare is not included. Contact: Judy Colaneri at Spanish Steps, P.O. Box 8653, Aspen, CO 81612; tel. (970) 923-6859.

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with travel agents or tour operators.

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