Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Dec. 23, 2004

CORK IN IT: Cork kicks off its year-long stint as the 25-nation European Union's "European Capital of Culture" for 2005 on Jan. 8 with a series of events such as a fireworks and pyrotechnics display; an international carnival with 180 artists entertaining audiences at 10 performance areas; and a city-center street party for some 80,000 celebrants. For more information on events in Cork in 2005, visit www.cork2005.ie.

GEM OF A DEAL: Sceptre Tours, of Lynbrook, N.Y., is pricing its independent, land only "Emerald B&B" package from $312 per person, net, in 2005.

The six-night package includes a first night pre-booked into the Great Southern Hotel at either Dublin or Shannon Airport, followed by five nights in Irish farmhouse bed-and-breakfasts.

Clients also enjoy a standard economy car rental, full Irish breakfasts each morning and an Irish-coffee welcome reception on arrival. The Emerald B&B deal can be upgraded to include more upmarket "town-and-country" bed-and-breakfasts, automatic car rentals, and/or 5-star castle accommodations. Call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptretours.com.

ADVANCES: Citing a spike in advance bookings, Brian Moore International Tours (BMIT) upgraded many 2005 Ireland departures to "guaranteed" status, bringing the number of such departures for the March through November period to nearly 40. An updated list is posted at www.bmit.com.

Also, in commemoration of its 30th anniversary, BMIT is offering $260 per couple off the price of each escorted tour for bookings made and deposited by St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

IRISH ROOTS: Heritage Island, the all-Ireland marketing consortium of history-rich towns and heritage-related attractions including castles, parks, museums, distilliries launched a series of new trade publications for 2005 and welcomed several new members.

The organization's Touring Guide 2005, Tour Operators Manual and Education Tours Directory previewed at World Travel Market in London in November are now available. New members in Heritage Island to which 17 towns such as Cashel, Tipperary and Westport belong include Blarney Castle in County Cork; Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan, County Clare; and the Hook Lighthouse, in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford. For more information on how Heritage Island can help U.S. agents and operators sell Ireland, call (011) 353-1 260-0055; fax (011) 353-1 260-0058; e-mail [email protected]; or visit www.heritageisland.com.

NOLLAIG SHONA DUIT: That's Irish for "Merry Christmas." Best wishes for a happy, healthy and lucrative holiday season to all our Travel Weekly Ireland E-letter readers.

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