At sea or in a sugar shack, spring's in the fare

Verana, a boutique luxury hotel south of Puerto Vallarta , Mexico, feels special all year round. Verana, a boutique luxury hotel south of Puerto Vallarta , Mexico, feels special all year round. (JAE FEINBERG/VERANA)
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / March 25, 2007

Just as we were heralding the approach of spring last week, the Northeast was dealing with the aftermath of a big snowstorm, followed by rain, sleet, and ice. No matter: Spring is breaking through anyway, as is evident from these flower-fresh offerings:

Here's a chance to wander through a Newport mansion, Chateau-sur-Mer , for free, April 7 or 8, and also be among the first to take the revised tour, based on research that unveils new information on the Victorian manse and the family who built and lived in it for more than 100 years. Said Trudy Coxe , executive director of the Preservation Society of Newport County , "We're offering [the] free tours . . . on opening weekend to highlight our new tour and the $2 million restoration project that will protect this irreplaceable national treasure."

Visit or call 401-847-1000 .

Spring is a popular time for bargain-priced repositioning cruises, in which a ship moves to a new home base. For instance, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas leaves April 15 on a 12-night sailing from Miami to Southampton, England, with visits en route to Kings Wharf, Bermuda; Cork, Ireland; and Brest, France. Prices begin at $499 for an interior cabin and $749 for an ocean-view room. Air fare is not included.

Visit and click on Deals & Gifts, then Hot Deals, call 866-562-7625 , or see a travel agent.

Likewise, the Budget Rent A Car System will be moving some of its fleet north from many Florida cities for the summer. One-way rates to selected US locations, including Boston, are economy for $12.95-$18.95 a day, depending upon the size of the vehicle. The offer is valid for pick up April 9-June 15. You must mention Budget Customer Discount Number U094700 at the time of reservation.

Visit and put Florida One-way Deals in the search box, call 800-BUDGET-7 (283-4387) , or see a travel agent.

Verana, a boutique luxury hotel in Yelapa, 30 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has two springtime specials, available April 17-May 15. The four-night Spa Retreat Package, for $2,500, features yoga every morning, a 30-minute body scrub, a 30-minute body massage, a mini facial, and an aromatherapy bath, all for two people. The four-night Active Start Package, meanwhile, provides yoga every morning, a Tecumata waterfall jungle trek half-day kayaking trip, a guided river hike, and an aromatherapy bath for two. Prices are double or single occupancy and include accommodations, three meals a day, boat transportation, and taxes. A 15 percent service charge is not included, however.

Call 800-530-7176 or, for resort information, visit .

There will be a killing at the Sagamore, located on a private island in New York's Adirondack Mountains. But it will be all in fun. "Murder at the Lake!" is a mystery weekend, April 27-29, that features two nights' accommodations, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, a welcome reception Friday night , lunch and dinner on Saturday, complimentary use of the fitness center and indoor pool, plus the murder mystery activities. The price is $390 per person unless you want a suite for $430.

For this and other spring activities, visit or call 866-385-6221 .

Quebec springtime is part maple sugar season. Loews Hotel Vogue in Montreal has introduced its first Sugar Season package, available through April 30. Included are a premium guest room for one night, a private excursion to a traditional Quebec sugar shack, limousine transportation, and a maple-infused breakfast for two. In addition, executive chef Omar Fathallah does double duty as the hotel's syrup sommelier, assisting guests through the maze of maple products available in Montreal. His fudge-like sucre à la crème, served every afternoon from 3 to 6 in the lobby, is an old-fashioned French- Canadian favorite. The Sugar Season package starts at $595 for two.

Call 800-465-6654 or visit .

Chocolate, anyone?
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa in Stowe will be welcoming the first Vermont Chocolate Show May 26-27, with a two-night package starting at $440 per person, a 30 percent discount on the room accommodations. The Sweet Retreat package includes accommodations, one 80-minute chocolate spa treatment per person, a chocolate welcome basket, daily admission to the event, daily breakfast, and use of spa and fitness facilities. The festival will feature sales, sampling, programs with pastry chefs and health specialists, a chocolate art display, children's chocolate land, a chocolate martini and beer lounge, and, on May 26, a chocolate breakfast prepared by Stoweflake's chefs. What more is there to say but, "Mmmmmm"?

Call 800-253-2232. For resort information, visit For festival information, visit

Gas deals
Gasoline prices are rising yet again, and bed-and-breakfast inns from 23 states have already joined in the Tanks a Lot promotion at , most offering $25 or more toward the cost of fuel. By June, the site expects to have 200-plus offers.

Visit and click on Free Gas Promotion in the lower left corner. Mention the Tanks a Lot offer when booking.

No smoke
The Comfort Suites division of Choice Hotels goes smoke-free May 1. All 433 of the US properties will be non smoking, including public areas. After all, saving your health is even more important than saving money.

Visit .

Web world
Want to know the most comfortable plane seats before you book? Go to , which gives color-coded illustrations that identify the most comfortable seats and the substandard ones. The site is also filled with comments about seats with limited recline, reduced legroom, and misaligned windows. Now if it could only explain why, no matter what seat I choose, the person in front of me always reclines as far back as is humanly possible.

MS Week
From May 7-11, Jackson Village, N.H., will welcome people with multiple sclerosis for a week of relaxation, socialization, and workshops. More than 10 country inns, bed-and-breakfasts , and grand hotels will provide rooms free for two nights to individuals with MS and a guest. Because space is limited, however, a drawing will be held to determine who will participate.

To enter, call 800-493-9255 , option 2, extension 127, or 781-890-6097, ext. 127 , or e-mail . The deadline is April 1 and the drawing will be the next day. For details, go to and click on Chapter Calendar .

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at

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