CAPITAL IDEA: Ireland's prime minister -- or, in
Irish, Taoiseach -- Bertie Ahern marked the end of the country's
presidency of the European Union on June 30 by officially launching
the six-month countdown to Cork's year-long reign as E.U. Cultural
Capital in 2005. Program planners at organizing committee Cork 2005
are finalizing a list of more than 5,000 planned events, including
the 40 already made public, such as a rowing boat race through
Cork; a project to knit a giant satellite map of the city; and the
Relocation outdoor theater series. For event details or to sign up
for the Cork 2005 monthly "e-zine," go to www.cork2005.ie.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: SMI Tours puts the "fam" in
family with two agent familiarization trips to Ireland that are
open to relatives and friends, and priced from $289, land only.
SMIT offers a four-night East package, priced at $289 per agent and
departing Jan. 5 and Feb. 2 for two nights each in Dublin and
Waterford, and a five-night West plan at $359 that departs Dec. 8
and Jan. 19 for one night in Shannon and then two nights each in
Galway and Killarney. Friends and family pay $100 extra per person;
round trip air is available at extra cost on Aer Lingus and
Continental. For more, call (800) 499-1899 or click on "Agent Fams"
FAM-TASTIC: Celtic Tours also will host two fam
trips this fall, priced at $499 from New York or Boston and $559
from Chicago. The Nov. 17 departure features one-night stays in
Limerick, Galway, Cabra Castle and Dublin, while the Dec. 8 tour
spends one night in Limerick, two in Killarney and one in Dublin.
Both fams include breakfast and dinner daily, motorcoach
sightseeing with professional driver/guide, an educational seminar,
cocktail hour and select hotel inspections. Celtic also offers a
free Ireland fam trip to agents who book new groups of 25 or more
on scheduled motorcoach tours. Call (800) 833-4373.
BREAKS ON BREAKS: Posh Dublin hotel The Merrion
is introducing price breaks on luxury breaks beginning this summer,
with savings of up to $125 per person on two-night stays through
March 31 next year. Savings include about $250 off the total
Merrion Champagne Weekend, now priced at around $633 per stay,
double, for two nights (Fridays through Sundays) in a superior
queen room in the Garden Wing, full Irish breakfast each morning
and champagne on arrival. Also on sale: The two-night Merrion
Getaway, at $755 per couple -- a $195 savings -- and the Tethra Spa
Enchantment deal, now at $846, or $103 off. One night luxury breaks
are also available. Contact the Merrion -- which normally pays 10%
commission -- at (011) 353-1-603-0600, via e-mail at [email protected] or at www.merrionhotel.com, or The Leading Hotels of the
World at (800) 223-6800 or at www.lhw.com.
FUN FUNDS: The Irish government puts its money
where its mouth is when promoting increasingly popular wellness
tourism. Look for new spa facilities at two Irish hotels thanks to
some $725,000 in support announced by tourism minister John
O'Donoghue under Failte Ireland's Tourism Product Development
Scheme. Day's Hotel Health Centre in Inishbofin, County Galway, was
granted funds to develop a health center, while Westport Woods
Health Spa in Westport, County Mayo got aid to build a health spa
suite at the Westport Woods Hotel. For more on Dublin's tourism
development efforts, visit www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie.