Hurricane Earl, as you've probably heard, knocked down some power lines and trees and flooded areas of Florida's Panhandle, all on Sept. 2 and 3, just in time to scare off the peak Labor Day vacation crowd. However, nearly all of the heavily booked beachfront hotels remained open, many of them left unscathed. The Panama City Beach and Destin resorts, in particular, were scrambling last week to recoup business that was canceled. In line with that effort, Abbott Resorts, with 2,400 units to fill in Destin, came out with a sudden Labor Day weekend discount rate based on what had to be the first thought to come into somebody's mind: The $99 nightly rate was called the Goodbye Earl Special.

Archophobia

St. LouisTour operators to St. Louis tend to include the famous Gateway Arch in their itineraries, and it's definitely an unforgettable experience if you haven't done it. Clients who say they've never suffered from claustrophobia will be hard-pressed to say the same once they've ridden the arch's interior tram. Scaling the arch takes about five minutes in each direction. Up to five passengers squeeze themselves into the tram's seats. If nothing else, the trip forces everyone to become acquainted. There is no scenery en route -- only walls and flickering lightbulbs. The tram experience, in effect, is a ride through an arch-shaped subway tunnel at a snail's pace, and there are dire warnings for anyone thinking of trying to exit the tram during the ride. Upon disembarking, passengers climb a flight of steps, then enter an indoor observatory -- one with remarkably small windows. The views afforded of the Mississippi River, downtown St. Louis and Busch Stadium are not bad, and there are some nice photo opportunities. But are these views worth the cramped tram ride, especially in summer, and with no air conditioning? Agents might want to forewarn clients. There are other, more worthwhile activities for them at the base of the arch.

Aloha oy

Maalaea Harbor About 30 tourists parked 16 rental cars at Maalaea Harbor, in central Maui, on their way to snorkeling cruises. They parked among other cars in a dirt lot off the road. There was not a no-parking sign. When they returned, their cars were gone -- all 16 of them. A rather zealous state Harbors Division official had shown up after the snorkelers were gone, put up a no-parking sign, then called a towing company. A Honolulu paper got the story -- most of it, anyway. What it left out was the fact that when the snorkelers returned and saw their cars were gone, they also discovered the official was still there. He retreated to his car, locking himself inside, as the tourists harangued him, some kicking his tires. The official called the Maui County Police, who arrived, calmed things down, then began shuttling the tourists to the pound to get their cars. All fines were waived.

You first

From the friendly ambience on board to swimming in the warm waters of Bahia de los Muertos ... So begins a paragraph in Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West's brochure on its Mexico itinerary. The brochure does not bother translating Bahia de los Muertos. If it did, for the sake of readers with absolutely no Spanish, would anyone want to go swimming there? In a country given to evocative, pretty names in at least two languages -- the Copper Canyon, Isla Espiritu Santo (Isle of the Holy Ghost), La Casa Que Canta (the House That Sings) -- you'd think the folks at the tourism ministry, Sectur, would come up with a name to replace Bay of the Dead, especially if they're trying to get visitors to jump in. Geronimo!

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