Travel Weekly's Asia-Pacific E-letter: Feb. 14, 2005

SOFITEL will begin renovations on its Polynesian resorts in February.  The Sofitel Marara Bora Bora will be completed in mid-September. The renovation will include the building of 13 overwater bungalows and the renovation of the previously existing bungalows. None of the overwater bungalows will be available during the renovation. Beach and garden bungalows will still be rented. The resort will also undergo renovations to its front desk, lobby and restaurant, and the building of a new beach bar, swimming pool, Japanese restaurant, new swimming pool, spa and meeting room.

SOFITEL'S OTHER TWO Polynesian resorts also will undergo renovations. The Sofitel Maeva Beach Tahiti will begin work in April and will be closed April through July. All 218 rooms will be renovated, as well as the front desk, lobby, Bougainville restaurant, swimming pool and swimming pool bar. The Sofitel Ia Ora Moorea will be renovated beginning in February, but the hotel will remain open. The 20 overwater bungalows will be renovated, but some will remain open. Nineteen new overwater bungalows will be built, beginning in October. Further renovations will continue into 2005, including rebuilding of 60 beach and garden bungalows and renovation of lobby, front desk and beach restaurant.

VICTORIA CRUISES is offering discounts on select winter and spring Yangtze River cruises. The three-night Chongqing-Yichang cruises and the four-night Yichang-Chongqing cruises are selling at 40% off through May 31. The discount starts at $306 per person, double. The seven-night Chongqing-Yichang-Chongqing cruises are going for $499 per person, double, on Feb. 24 and March 3 and 10 departures; $549 on March 17, 24, 31 and April 7 departures; and $599 for April 19 and 23 and May 7 and 28 departures. Prices include cabin, shore excursions and port taxes. Reservations must be made by March 31 for sailings after April 7. Call (800) 348-8084 or visit www.victoriacruises.com.

ACCORDING TO A JOINT STATEMENT of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization of the United Nations, a new wave of avian influenza outbreaks in Vietnam and Thailand shows that the virus is endemic in Asia and increased efforts are needed to keep it under control. The agencies said that the virus will not be eradicated in the next several years. They urged governments to direct greater resources into controlling the disease. The statement also warned that the tsunami disaster could worsen the bird flu situation because of large-scale migrations of poultry as a result of the tsunami.

CARNIVAL CORP. is donating over $3.2 million to tsunami relief, $2.4 million from the parent company and another $800,000 by its 12 cruise brands. The donations will be given to several different international organizations coordinating relief efforts in Asia and Africa, including the American Red Cross International Relief Fund, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the Save the Children Asia Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund.

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