Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Dec. 25, 2003

FERRY GOOD NEWS: Ferry company Stena Lines upgraded its cross-Irish Sea connections between Ireland and Great Britain. Recently refurbished for some $3.2 million, the flagship Stena Explorer ferry now runs between Holyhead, England, and Dun Laoghaire in about 99 minutes, with onboard entertainment such as video games and a movie theater--and even an onboard Burger King restaurant. Meanwhile, Stena introduced the Stena Adventurer between Holyhead and Dublin Port, featuring lounges, en suite cabins, shopping outlets and sandwich bars. For more, visit www.stenaline.com.

HAPPY 4701!: It may too late to send clients to Ireland for New Year's Eve, but agents get another chance a month from now with Chinese New Year. For four days, from Jan. 24 to 27, the Smithfield neighborhood in Dublin will be transformed into Chinatown. The neighborhood, a fusion of Asian and Irish culture, will bustle with entertainment, activities and street traders, according to Dublin Tourism. Smithfield Square will be decorated with traditional Chinese lanterns, banners and flags, while all of Smithfield is set to become a vibrant, colorful marketplace selling Chinese foods, goods and wares. For more, visit www.visitdublin.com/newyear.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Speaking of Dublin Tourism, its Visitdublin.com site was the only public sector tourism site to win an award at Ireland's recent E-government Website Awards ceremony, held at Trinity College in Dublin. This year, Dublin Tourism revamped the Visitdublin.com site. Among the improvements, it rendered the site accessible for wireless handheld devices. You can sign up for the tourist board's info-packed Dublin newsletter at www.visitdublin.com/newsfromdublin/default.asp.

NET IN 2004: Sceptre Ireland reminds agents that it's gone to all-agent distribution, offering retailers net pricing on tours they can mark up as they see fit. For example, the four-night Sights and Sounds pub tour--now available year-round, with 70 departures--is priced from $467 [net, per person, double occupancy] for Feb. 1 and 3 departures from New York [Kennedy], Boston and Baltimore, and includes airfare, two nights' first-class accommodation in Dublin and Galway, and daily Irish breakfast. And Sceptre Ireland's signature Treasures Tour, priced from $992 [net, per person, double occupancy] for Feb. 11 and 18 departures, has been upgraded to include both a driver and a guide. Rates include airfare, seven nights' accommodation in hotels, manor homes and castles, five dinners, and breakfast daily. Land-only rates start at $739 per person; for Chicago and Los Angeles departures on both tours, add $90 and $200, respectively. Call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptreireland.com.

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

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