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TOURS & CRUISES

Times Staff Writer

A better view of the eclipse at 38,000 feet

Chase a total solar eclipse across the skies over Antarctica on a 13-hour, $5,500 odyssey.

The Nov. 23 flight, on a chartered Airbus, will begin in Punta Arenas, Chile, and eventually intercept the moon’s shadow above Antarctica. Passengers will see the total eclipse for 2 minutes, 26 seconds -- 29 seconds longer than possible from the ground, said Aram Kaprielian, a tour spokesman.

“We’ll intercept the eclipse at about 38,000 feet, which will virtually assure there will be no clouds to hinder viewing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure,” he said.

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A representative of Sky and Telescope magazine will be aboard the flight to provide commentary on the eclipse.

Besides chasing the eclipse, the plane will fly over scenic regions of the continent, including Palmer Station, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and possibly Mt. Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica at 16,067 feet. The plane will fly over the South Pole at an altitude of about 5,000 feet.

Cost: Seats start at $5,500 per person, including a 13-hour round-trip LanChile flight and business-class meals. Transportation from Los Angeles to Punta Arenas is not included. Optional pre- and post-excursions are available to Torres del Paine, Chile; Machu Picchu, Peru; the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; and other South American destinations.

Contact: TravelQuest International, Prescott, Ariz.; (800) 830-1998, www.tqinternational.com.

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LATIN AMERICA

Sampling resort towns in three countries

Ship out on a 10-day voyage to Central America aboard Oceania Cruises’ Regatta, stopping to explore ports in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

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The low-cost Jan. 27 cruise, which departs from Los Angeles, stops in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

The 684-passenger ship has open-seating restaurants and a casual dress code. About 70% of the rooms have verandas.

Cost: Rates start at $1,095 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge starts at $550), including airfare from Costa Rica, a $200 shipboard credit per cabin and port charges.

Contact: Santa Monica-based Let’s Travel; (800) 458-7477 or (310) 451-5805, Ext. 40 or 44, www.letstravel-sm.com.

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SICILY

See the island for Mardi Gras and write about it

Celebrate Mardi Gras in Sicily on a seven-night tour that will include sightseeing and shopping excursions and a daily writing workshop.

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The Feb. 21 tour will feature the island’s annual pre-Lenten celebration, which includes hand-painted floats and giant papier-mache figures.

There will be excursions to Mt. Etna, Europe’s tallest volcano; Tindari, to see the Greek amphitheater and Roman baths; Taormina, where the group will sample the old resort’s cuisine; Capo d’Orlando, known for its seaside ambience; and Palermo, the capital.

A daily writing workshop will be led by poet and author Terry Wolverton and will include structured exercises and individual assignments.

Cost: $3,650 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $350), including round-trip air fare from LAX, San Francisco or New York, accommodations, two meals daily, workshop, sightseeing and transfers.

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Contact: Anne Block of Take My Mother Please Tours, Los Angeles; (323) 737-2200, www.takemymotherplease.com.

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TAIWAN

Lantern Festival will light up the New Year

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Brighten your outlook next year at the annual Lantern Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, the celebration that caps Chinese New Year festivities.

An eight-day Taiwan tour, which will begin Jan. 29, will include the colorful festival, which drew 1 million celebrants last year. Taiwan residents traditionally display huge lanterns, release floating hot-air lanterns into the sky and set off fireworks to mark the festival, which falls on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year.

The tour also will include visits to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-largest city and its largest seaport; the Taroko Gorge, which winds 12 miles from Tienhsiang to the coast; and Tainan, one of the country’s oldest cities.

Cost: $1,680 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $500), including round-trip airfare from LAX to Taiwan on China Airlines, accommodations, all meals, admission and entrance fees, and an English-speaking guide.

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Contact: Hermes Travel & Tours, Torrance; (310) 791-5556, www.hermestoursonline.com.

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MEXICO

Inside scoop on interior decorating in haciendas

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Learn the meaning of the phrase mi casa es su casa on a 10-day architecture and interior decor tour that will visit homes and gardens in Mexico.

The Feb. 20 tour will focus on modern and contemporary homes in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, and Spanish Colonial homes in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Queretaro. Margaret Failoni, who specializes in Mexican art and decor, will take part in the tour. The group will visit penthouses, mansions, haciendas and ranches. Some were designed by top Mexican architects; others are noteworthy for their art collections or history.

Cost: $2,395 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $600), including accommodations, many meals, transportation and entrance fees. Round-trip airfare to Mexico City is not included.

Contact: Jean Grimm Art and Culture Tours, Tempe, Ariz.; (888) 783-1331, www.mexicanarttours.com.

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


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