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Take a HOT vacation ...

February 5, 2010

HAS THE cold weather got you down?

Have a spare week of vacation burning a hole in your pocket, itching to be used?

Does the mere sight of snow send you diving beneath your covers, refusing to venture outside until Spring?

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WARM BEACHES are the cure for winter blues. Local travel agencies have many packages from which would-be vacationers can choose.

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably need a vacation. And one to a warm-weather destination at that.

Lucky for you, there's no time like the present for heading off to your tropical destination getaway. That's according to Bill Bryson, the longtime owner of Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel in Wheeling.

Whether that trip be a cruise through the Caribbean or a week-long relaxation fest on a beach, either trip will go a long way into making you forget all about cloudy skies, snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

"One year cruises are the popular thing, other years it's something else," Bryson said. "This time of year, warm-weather destinations are always popular. But we seeing more interest in cruises than ever before."

Bryson thinks the increase in requests for cruises may be because of a number of factors.

Mainly, he thinks that people shied away from cruising last season because of the downturn in the economy and there is now pent-up demand to take to the seas.

Another could be the addition of some large, luxury liners unveiled recently, none bigger than Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship on the ocean. Carnival Cruise Lines also has its Dream-class ships, with Dream having already made its maiden voyage.

The nice part about cruises, especially for the budget-minded shopper, is that they have maintained relatively a steady cost throughout the years. This is something Bryson can attest to personally.

He bought Uniglobe Ohio Valley in 1989 and found a flyer from his first year there, depicting a 7-night cruise for $1,299 including airfare from Pittsburgh.

Twenty years later, you can get roughly the same package for roughly the same price.

"Cruising has held its prices during the years," Bryson said. "It's a good value. They don't call it all inclusive for nothing."

Meals are included, although most ships have themed or specialty restaurants that cost extra. There's everything imaginable to do about a luxury cruise liner, from gambling and live entertainment, to dancing, swimming and outdoor activities.

Some of the larger ships even have on-board ice-skating rinks.

If you have a family, the ships have specific activities and areas all throughout the day to keep your children happy, entertained and busy.

And that's just aboard the ship. Don't forget about the ports that will be visited.

In terms of sailing the Caribbean, Bryson said there are basically three main routes that ships take when determining where to sail and where to stop: the Eastern, Western and Southern routes.

The choices, as well as the ships set to take you there, are endless.

But a warm-weather getaway doesn't have to include time spent at sea. You can just as easily hop off a plane, head to the beach and lounge away the day with a book in one hand and a glass of your beverage of choice in the other.

Cancun in Mexico is one such destination, although don't look for peace and quiet on its beaches. It's a tourist hot spot and is always packed.

But like cruises, trips to Mexico have taken a hit recently. Some of it is because of the economy, but not all. Some of the reasons even have Bryson shaking his head.

"Last year, people were staying away from Mexico for all the wrong reasons," Bryson said. "There was the swine flu, drug cartels and I tried to tell people that mainly, the drug thing is in two areas, near El Paso, Texas and near San Diego.

"Cancun is 2,500 miles away from El Paso, but, it's people's perceptions."

"Mexico got hammered last year and it's somewhat continued this year, so the prices are really good."

Bryson said Apple Vacations has deals that charter flights out of Pittsburgh and less than four hours, you could be landing in Cancun. Deals like that, ones that

include meals, drinks, accommodations and airfare can run around $1,300-1,400 for a week.

There are plenty of options to cure you of your cold-weather blues. From regular vacations to sailing one of the seven seas aboard a luxury liner, the choices are available.

And the best part? No shoveling.



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