The leaves have turned, the days are shorter and Chag Urim, the Holiday of Lights, glimmers ahead. In the meantime, if you're single or a student, and itching to plan a winter getaway, we've rounded up a pair of juicy possibilities. Singles might consider a luxury Caribbean cruise packed with excursions. And students looking to explore an exotic destination may decide to join the like-minded in Latin America. So read on, plan ahead and enjoy your first big escape of the new year. Or make a booking for a loved one and surprise him or her with an unexpected post-Chanukah adventure.
From Dec. 29, 2004 to Jan. 3, 2005, teens and young adults can explore Latin America through a seven-day educational program called Argentina Discovery. Sponsored by Israel-based Oranim Educational Initiatives, the trip brings together young Jews from around the world with their Argentine counterparts. The program includes touring urban Buenos Aires and the surrounding region. Oranim also offers an option to travel to Iguazu Falls, a natural wonder located on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
The Buenos Aires itinerary includes a tour of the city's Historical Colonial Museum, La Boca, Palermo Park, Recoleta, and Jewish sites including the AMIA building and Tango Club. Friday night combines Kabbalat Shabbat at a local synagogue with a New Year's Eve "Fiesta Gaucha" party with Argentine cowboys. For those who do not wish to travel on Shabbat to Iguazu, alternative programming will be offered in Buenos Aires. Those travelers opting for the Iguazu extension will explore both the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the falls and a enjoy a Macuco sailing safari.
Ground costs are $610 for the Buenos Aires program, based on three-star accommodations, double occupancy. (All rooms include air-conditioning and bath.) The option to travel to Iguazu Falls is an additional $200, which includes a two-night stay in Iguazu (three travelers per room) and round-trip domestic flights. Both prices include a $100 non-refundable registration fee. Daily breakfast and dinner, entrance fees to all sites, parties, events and English-speaking guides for all tours is included in the program price.
Costs do not cover international flight, lunch and tips. Travel insurance is available for an additional charge. Note: all rates are subject to change based on the fluctuations of the rates of exchange.
Celebrity Cruises is the luxurious venue for a kosher Caribbean cruise for singles Jan. 16-23, 2005 organized by JSinglesCruise.com. Experienced cruisers will delight in the highly rated, five-star Millennium, a ship I personally recommend based on my experiences on its (general audience) maiden voyage of the Baltic Sea in 2000.
This upcoming kosher singles sailing features group parties, as well as the usual extravagant dining traditional to the cruise industry. In addition, special on-board guest Sheryl Giffis, a professional life coach, is offering a complimentary one-hour session to all singles cruise participants.
The ship departs from Ft. Lauderdale and includes several days at sea as well as international ports of call. These include Caso De Campo in the Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Nassau, Bahamas. Guests can explore ports independently or book group excursions. Like all leading cruise ships, Millennium offers a staggering variety of options, including guided shopping, city tours, sightseeing, parties and sports. Most excursions are usually two to four hours in duration.
In Casa De Campo, the many possible shore excursions include a catamaran Sail & Snorkel ($54), skeet and trap shooting ($88), horseback riding ($60), a countryside tour ($45),a 4 x 4 Cane Adventure ($59) and a Water Eco Adventure ($64). The latter begins with a bus ride to a beach. There, speedboats shuttle guests to Palmilla, located at the entrance of Catuano channel. Aboard wooden boats, guests explore among the mangroves. These amazing structures grow amidst a rich variety of fauna. Wooden oars allow visitors to explore this home to red-breasted frigate birds and jellyfish.
Next up, guests depart via motorboat to a natural swimming pool, where guides dive to collect starfishes. A Dominican band serenades aboard while guests swim in shallow waters or relax with on deck with complimentary soft drinks, beer and rum.
The second port of call, San Juan, also offers a variety of excursions. Guests may opt for the Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Tour ($77) located at the Bioluminescent Lagoon of the Las Cabezas Preserve in Fajardo, about 90 minutes outside of San Juan. Kayaking here offers up close glimpses of wildlife, including the stunning, glowing effect of microorganisms.
These and other excursions are available for purchase online up to 10 days prior to departure. After that date, excursions may be purchased onboard.
For kosher cruises, Millennium's dramatic two-story, white linen restaurant serves up ocean views with glatt kosher, cholov yisroel, award-winning gourmet cuisine prepared under the strict supervision of Maritime Kosher International under the guidance of world renowned master chef Michel Roux. An extensive breakfast buffet will be served in a special dining room area reserved especially for guests of JSinglesCruise.com. And like any great sailing, the cruise also includes afternoon tea as well as "midnight nosh."
Prices start at $1,110 for an inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. Cabin and all meals are included. Spa services, excursions and flight to Ft. Lauderdale are not.
For more information and reservations, call (323) 640-7230 or (917) 952-4033 or visit JSinglesCruise.com. To learn more about life coach Sheryl Giffis, visit Luminarious Life Coaching at www.luminarious.com.
Chill Out This Summer
From June 26 to July 4, 2005, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Amazing Journeys invite Jewish singles in their 30s, 40s and 50s to visit Iceland, the Land of Ice and Fire, on a nine-day, seven-night tour.
Travelers will visit the historic city of Reykjavik, go whale watching, drive across glaciers and see the two-tiered Gullfoss Waterfall. They will also have a chance to swim in the famous Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal pool; take a boat trip amidst floating icebergs; and visit an Icelandic horse farm and the Folk Museum.
Group airfare is available from many U.S. cities for as little as $895. Those who register before Dec. 12, 2004 can save $100 off the package price, which includes first-class accommodations, 12 meals, sightseeing tours, transportation, baggage handling and all taxes and service charges. There will also be Shabbat and Havdalah services, special gifts, contests and prizes and VIP treatment throughout the trip. Roommate matching is available upon request.
For reservations, pricing information and further details, visit www.amazingjourneys.net or contact Bill Cartiff at (800) 734-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Alcalay Klug is a former staff writer for The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.