The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Your Travel Questions, My Answers
August 15, 1996 -- Time for another round of ask-the-talking-head-travel-expert. Or, as I like to put it, "Damn, I should have written a column about that."

Q: Is it too late to purchase tickets for the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany?
A: The Passion Play ritual dates back more than 350 years, but the villagers of Oberammergau only offer it every ten years. The next scheduled performance is in the year 2000 and tickets do not go on sale until 1998. The 16-act play--which depicts the final days of Jesus, from the Last Supper to the Resurrection--is presented from late May to late September on the open-air stage of a theater called the Passionsspielhaus. (The building itself can be toured in non-Play years.) Oberammergau is only about 70 miles from Munich. For information on tickets, contact the Oberammergau Tourist Office (011-49-88-22-1021). If you wish to purchase Passion Play tickets in conjunction with a travel package to Oberammergau, contact a Miami company called Oberammergau Tours (305-232-1555).

Q: How do mature travelers get airfare discounts from the major airlines?
A: Many domestic and foreign airlines offers travelers at least 62 years of age a flat 10 percent discount on published airfares. Most major U.S. airlines also offer senior coupon books. Travelers pre-purchase a booklet of at least four coupons, then use the coupons as payment for one-way flights. Coupons can often be used for travel at the last minute on a standby basis. Confirmed-seat travel requires reservations 14 days in advance. The coupons can be used for flights within the continental United States and a few other points. Most airlines sell four-coupon booklets for $596, the equivalent or $124 per flight.

Q: I have heard that many hotels are already booked for New Year's Eve of the year 2000. Is that true?
A: Not so, says most of the hotels I've contacted. "Hotels simply are not prepared to accept individual bookings that far ahead because they don't want to commit to a rate three or four years in advance," explains Karon Cullen, spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton. And Susan Petri, marketing manager of New York's popular Waldorf-Astoria, says she doesn't think her hotel will finalize its New Year's Eve 2000 plans "until at least 1998."

Q: Do the Cape Cod car ferries to Martha's Vineyard accept advance reservations?
A: Martha's Vineyard car ferries have traditionally been first-come, first-served affairs and that resulted in long waits during the summer. This year, however, ferries will test a reservation system during four peak periods (May 24-26, June 18-20, June 28-July 4 and August 13-15). For schedules and more information on the program, called Guaranteed Express Reservations, contact the ferry operator at 508-477-8600.

Q: Is there any kind of public ferry service between the large Alaskan coastal cities?
A: The Alaska Marine Highway is an extensive system of state-operated ferries that connects cities and towns all along the Gulf of Alaska, the Alaskan Peninsula and the fabled Inside Passage. Routes extend as far south as Bellingham, Washington, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The ferry experience itself is quite appealing: ships offer on-board food service, sightseeing, solariums and, in summer, Forest Service guides who double as commentators. The Marine Highway (800-642-0066) operates year round, but ports of call vary by season.

Q: What does the term "poste restante" mean and how does it help me receive mail when I travel overseas?
A: Poste Restante, a French term, can be broadly translated as "general delivery." Although international postal practices vary wildly, letters addressed to you "c/o Poste Restante" and the name of city you are visiting will usually be held at your destination's main post office. You can claim the mail--sometimes for a small fee--by presenting your passport. Another way to receive mail is via American Express. As a service to its cardholders and travelers cheque purchasers, American Express will accept mail at most of its 1,700 worldwide offices. Call American Express (800-528-4800), determine the location of the office nearest to where you are traveling, then use that address. The local office will hold your mail for about a month.

Q: I know British Columbia is a spectacular skiing region, but do the resorts cater to warmer-weather pursuits?
Q: Many of the same places that cater to winter sports lovers operate year-round. When skiers depart the sprawling Whistler Resort (800-944-7853), for example, golfers, swimmers, bikers, and hikers take over. That's because the complex also offers three golf courses, five lakes, and stunning hiking, walking and horseback riding trails. Best of all, hotel and condo rates are about 50 percent lower between late April and mid-November than during the height of the ski season.

Q: We're planning a trip to London and would like to find a directory of plays and information about purchasing tickets at a discount. Can you help?
A: The British Tourist Authority (800-462-2748) publishes the monthly "London Planner and it lists plays running at West End theaters, current productions of the National Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company and ballet and opera performances. Once in London, daily newspapers like The Times or weekly magazines such as Time Out publish extensive listing. The best source for discounted theater tickets is the booth on Leicester Square. It offers surplus seats on the day of a performance for half price plus a service charge of about US$3. The booth has no public telephone and accepts only cash. It opens at noon to sell seats for matinees and operates from 2:30-6:30 p.m. for evening performances.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1996 - 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.