Back to the Future
It’s June 30, only six months from the dawn of Y2K. Have you decided how you’ll ring in the next century?
New Year’s Eve has always been a popular holiday, though not a particularly well-celebrated one--a time when non-drinkers get drunk and Dick Clark comes out of hiding, when everyone spends too much money and no one has a very good time. Once a year is more than enough for most people.
But many believe that this one will be different. It’s being trumpeted as the Event of Our Lifetime, and some party hounds plan to celebrate the new year not once, but twice, by crossing the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean.
Fiji (to the west) and the Cook Islands (to the east) are closest to the date line. About four hours apart by flight, they are 22 hours apart in real time. So when it is 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day in Fiji, it will be 3 a.m. on New Year’s Eve in the Cook Islands.
You could ring in the new year, champagne bottle in hand, then board an airplane and travel backward over the date line to celebrate it again.
At least that’s what a number of tour operators suggest.
TCS Expeditions in Seattle is offering its “Around the World Millennium Expedition, a Global Celebration of Time and Ritual by Private Jet.” It is booked with a 50-person waiting list. Having paid $44,950 per person, 88 passengers will board a private jet in L.A. on Dec. 27 and head for Tonga, a Polynesian island in the South Pacific that will be among the first areas to experience Jan. 1, 2000. After a traditional tribal celebration, the travelers will reboard the plane for Western Samoa, one of the last places on the planet to usher in the new year, where they will celebrate a second time.
“It is quite tedious,” admits Audrey Mason-Wadsworth, founder-president of England’s Millennial Foundation, also offering a double New Year’s trip. “You hardly have got to bed before you have to get up and fly again.”
Traditional carriers aren’t posting any flight schedules that would allow a double celebration on the ground, leaving tour operators free to exploit this marketing opportunity.
Of course, this presumes that anyone would even want to travel, especially in an undeveloped country, on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, just when the Y2K bug is expected.
“If you’re traveling to a Third World country, a developing country, you might be a bit concerned--not for safety but just in terms of the mechanics of getting back,” said Peter Frank, news editor at Conde Nast Traveler magazine. “Flights will be canceled, so you might get stuck on your vacation for a few more days. . . . But maybe you’d see it as an added bonus, being stuck on an island for three or four extra days.”
According to Frank, you may be better off on a desert island, because a lot of developing countries’ airports are not automated and therefore not subject to Y2K computer failure.
But for a double new year, boats may be a better way to go.
“Cruise ships do it, and that’s easier because you just paddle across [the date line], and there you are,” Frank said.
Silversea Cruises offers a Millennium 2000 trip. Two of its ships will cross the date line simultaneously as the new year turns, and will link up so crew and passengers can party all night.
Fun, if you can afford the $30,195 fare.
Carpenter can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.