Those of you who can sneak away for a week or two in the next three months, will travel to Europe about as inexpensively as it's possible to do these days. Airfares are dirt cheap; car rental rates remain near their lowest levels of 1998; and rail passes can still be purchased at 1998 prices. And, since they don't require activation for six months, they can be used into 1999. In addition, there are hundreds of discounted package deals offered by airlines, hotels, tour operators, and tourist authorities.
Here are some we've come across:
• First of all, subscribers are reminded that the fabulous Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne has a special 10% to 20% off arrangement in effect for Gemütlichkeit subscribers through March 31, 1999 (see box page six).
• Subscriber Bob Gillespie, who gets to Germany several times a year on business, reports a rate of 95 DM ($56) single at the Frankfurt InterCity Hotel, based on a senior citizen discount. InterCity hotels are near the main rail stations of many large Germany cities and are operated by the Steigenberger chain. Mr. Gillespie says the accommodations are "first rate" and, in his opinion, represent the top value currently available among Germany's upmarket business hotels.
In some rate categories, InterCity hotels also provide guests with a pass good for local public transportation such as buses, trams and subways. With this pass, Mr. Gillespie uses the Frankfurt InterCity as a "last night" hotel before flying out of Frankfurt. He first drops his car at the airport the night before his flight, and then, using the transport pass provided by the hotel, takes the 10-minute train ride back to the hotel. Next morning, unencumbered by the car, he takes the train back to the airport.
Currently, InterCity is offering "Dollars and Sense, Europe" rates via their U.S. toll-free number (800-223-5652). Singles are $109 per night, doubles $119, and include buffet breakfast, service and taxes. The hotels rack rate is 330 DM ($194) double. At press time, the toll-free reservation service could not quote senior citizen rates for 1999.
• InterCity Hotels have deals for longer stays as well. For example, the Freiburg InterCity Hotel (Freiburg im Breisgau), has a two-night "surprise cultural offering" for 287 DM ($169) single and 448 ($263) double. The deal includes two nights lodging with breakfast, a bottle of wine, a guided city tour, and entrance to a "surprise" cultural event. The Weimar InterCity Hotel has a three-night arrangement that includes lodging, breakfast, three-course dinners, tickets to a theater, concert or cabaret, plus other extras for $249 single and $392 double.
• Steigenberger can boast some of Europe's best hotels among its affiliates. It, too, offers a myriad of discount promotions at its various properties. For example, currently available under the "Dollars and Sense, Europe" program at the Ramada Nürnberg Parkhotel, Münchener Str. 25, Nürnberg, D-90478, are singles at $99 and doubles at $139.
Under the same program, the posh Steigenberger Badischer Hof, Lange Strasse 47, Baden-Baden, D-76530, offers singles at $99 and doubles at $159. These are far below the hotels high season rack rates.
In Vienna, the Hotel City-Central, Taborstr. 8, A-1020, offers singles for $109 and doubles for $149.
• Like its InterCity cousins, Steigenberger hotels also have an extensive list of package offerings.
The beautiful Steigenberger Gstaad-Saanen, Auf der Halten, CH-3792, Saanen-Gstaad, has a two-night deal that includes lodging, breakfast, dinners, and participation in the hotel's wellness programs, including free use of steam bath, sauna, fitness room, etc. Price for one person is 418 Sfr. ($299) and 716 Sfr. ($511) for two.
In Austria, the elegant Steigenberger Avance Hotel, Schlossstr. 751, A-5710, Kaprun, has a seven-night package that includes breakfasts, dinners and a six-day regional ski pass for from 9740 AS ($812) single and 16680 AS ($1390) double.
It should be noted that it is necessary to pay in US dollars or US dollar traveler checks in order to qualify for the guaranteed dollar rates. Credit card payments may be subject to exchange fluctuations.
A Reliable Tour Operator
DER Tours markets a wide range of excellent value winter packages through travel agents. In Kitzbühel, Austria, for example, seven-night, air-inclusive packages from New York range from $715 to $1360, depending on time of travel and hotel selected. (Prices from other U.S. gateways will be higher.)
Choose the Pension Hörl and you could pay as low as $715 for seven nights hotel, roundtrip airfare, buffet breakfasts, and transfers to and from the Munich Airport. Opt for the "first class" Schwarzer Adler in March and pay from $1121 for the same package, except dinners are included. In early January, the "superior first class" Goldener Greif will cost $1227 for roundtrip air, seven days hotel with breakfasts and dinners, plus airport transfers. These packages are available land-only for from $284 to $914.
DER offers packages to many resort location in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The company has spa hotel packages to six German hotels. They will, for example, book you into the Dorint Hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen at $83 per person per night. Not a bad price, though Gemtichkeit always recommends getting a comparative price quote directly from the hotel.
For DER bookings contact a travel agent.
Local tourist authorities are another source for the independent traveler.
• The tourist office of Neustift in the Stubai Valley just outside Innsbruck offers ski vacations including seven nights accommodations with breakfast, six-day lift pass for the Stubai Glacier and six days free admission to the Neustift indoor swimming pool. Prices for the week start at 2,660 AS ($217) depending on the hotel chosen. Contact: Neustift im Stubaital, Tourist board and Travel Agency, Neustift im Stubaital, Dorf 710, A-6167, tel: +43/5226/22 28, fax: 25 29.
• Four Alpine resorts near Lake Geneva offer packages that include seven nights half-board accommodations, and six-day ski passes, all starting at under $450.
Airlines, too, have cobbled up some tempting deals. Using his $50 subscriber price reduction on Swissair, reader Bruce Phillips tells us he paid $424 roundtrip Chicago to Vienna in March. In addition, Swissair was able to book him an amazing $44 per night per person rate at the Römischer Kaiser Hotel, one of Vienna's most charming small hotels and a longtime Gemütlichkeit recommendation.
• Swissair's European Escapes program offers roundtrip economy class travel to 13 European cities plus three nights in a three or four-star hotel with breakfast. Prices from New York start at: Berlin $493, Budapest $583, Geneva $589, Prague $580, Salzburg $589, Zürich $589. Fares from other Swissair gateways are slightly higher. For example, add $25 to $90 from Chicago; $96 to $235 from Seattle; $54 to $145 from Cleveland, Dallas and Houston; and from $139 to $214 from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Call Swissair for prices from other gateways.
Beau Rivage Palace Discount
The Beau Rivage Palace is currently offering Gemütlichkeit readers a 20% discount on regular rooms and a 10% discount for lake-view rooms. Reservations must be made through the hotel directly (not their toll-free U.S. 800 number and not through a travel agent). Please state that you are a Gemütlichkeit subscriber. This program is on a request basis (meaning if the hotel is at or near capacity the discount may not be available) and valid through March, 1999, excluding Christmas/New Years.