As the trade prepares for ASTA Las Vegas in a few weeks, Insider has a warning to offer: Look out for freeway taxi rides in Vegas.

Getting to and from the Strip in Las Vegas should be a no-brainer. The city's airport is a short hop away, and there are hundreds of taxi cabs that make the 10-minute trip to and from hotels on the Strip.

But Insider returned from Las Vegas and found that what looks so simple is often not.

Thousands of ASTA congress delegates will head to Las Vegas in late September. Above, the famous Las Vegas Strip. A taxi driver who picked us up one evening at the airport asked which way we wanted to take to our hotel, the Bellagio.

Our response: "Whichever way is fastest."

The driver took a route we were unfamiliar with -- a freeway.

It seemed fast and the fare of $12.50 didn't seem like a lot, compared with most airport-hotel transfers in the U.S.

But two days later we took a cab from the Bellagio back to the airport and found the trip can be even quicker and cheaper.

A second driver took the surface boulevard, which probably took a few minutes less time, and the fare was $8.

Both trips were during a period of the day when traffic was light.

We told the second driver about our first trip, and he immediately understood what had happened and complained that some cab drivers in Vegas "rip off" tourists by taking them on the freeway for the higher fare.

We called the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and a spokeswoman there agreed that the surface road is the fastest and the only time the freeway would be a better route from the airport to the Strip, where Bellagio is located, would be during heavy traffic.

Floating room 'fix'

Jacksonville, Fla., is already a thriving cargo port, with potential as a cruise port, according to business consultants.

The city this year is planning to make a bid to play host to the 2005 Super Bowl football championship.

How are the cruise port aspirations and Super Bowl related?

Although there are 40,000 hotel rooms within 60 miles of Jacksonville's football stadium, only 14,000 of them are in Duval County, which encompasses the city.

Thus, there are not enough rooms that would be close enough to the event, according to Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The solution is to reposition cruise ships to supply the needed rooms.

"We could not add first class accommodations very close to the stadium or build those hotels on such short notice," she said.

The Disney Wonder might serve as a floating hotel if Jacksonville is selected to host the 2005 Super Bowl. "Disney Cruise Line has agreed to make its two ships [Magic and Wonder] available" if Jacksonville is selected, she said.

"And we're talking to four other cruise lines," she added.

The Disney ships can provide 1,600 staterooms, all of which would be needed for a week in January 2005.

Jacksonville's bid for the Super Bowl, and any agreement with other cruise lines, will have to come by October, when the city's final bid is presented; the decision on the game site will be made in November.

The bureau hired a full-time person for the next three months to handle Jacksonville's Super Bowl bid.

The event would be a huge boost for the city in terms of its image and the invaluable national exposure, Ratcliffe said.

Miami; Atlanta, and Oakland, Calif., are Jacksonville's competitors.

The chances of Jacksonville getting the game?

"We think they're pretty good. We have an owner [of the Jacksonville Jaguars] who is highly thought of by other football owners. That's a big key," she said. "We have a great stadium and good air service," she added.

What's in it for the cruise ships?

As Insider sees it: Staterooms occupied during Super Bowl week could command top prices, let alone other on-board expenditures by fans.

Also, the exposure to so many potential cruisers, even if they do not stay aboard the ships, couldn't hurt.

Stay tuned.

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