What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
by Joe Harkins 

   Let's just forget all this bickering over whether the Millennium starts with the year 2000 or 2001. As far as deciding which year to celebrate, the designation Y2K (Y = year; K = the math symbol for thousand) can mean anything you want it to because the world's calendars are all arbitrary.

    Many experts say the Second Millennium of the Christian Era actually began four or five years ago. Then there are the calendars of Asia, Israel and most Moslem religions, each with their own count.

    Besides, the Millennium-police are going to be seriously pre-occupied for a while, making sure that all those huge mainframe computers that run the government, the credit-card companies and the power utilities don't wake up next New Year's Day with a Y2K-shaped bone in their digital-throats. Let's just agree that the 2000/2001 situation offers at least two chances to celebrate, then get on with the party . . . uhhhm . . . parties.

    There's a lot of hype around the subject of travel during the first of those milestone dates but there's no need to panic. If you haven't made flight reservations yet to greet the Millennium in an interesting or exotic destination, it's not too late, but start talking with your travel agent right away. Airlines' computerized reservation systems usually won't accept confirmed reservations further out than 11 or 12 months.

    Scheduled airlines seem to be holding prices consistent with previous years, allowing for the usual incremental cost creep. It's the Y2K destination packages that have soared with supersonic speed.

    "While some have already sold out, there are still many packages and tours from which to choose. We also expect tour operators to offer additional choices as we get into 1999," reports Robert E. Whitley, president of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA).

    He went on to list examples (air fare not included) that are readily available:

Paris and Istanbul, 10 days, from $10,900 pp.
Venice and London, 10 days, from $10,500 pp.
Australia-New Zealand, 22 days, from $6,290 pp.

    One of the most ambitious offerings is an 18 day, round the world tour that will chase the departing year at twice the speed of sound on the Air France Concorde. The trip, retailed through local travel agents, is arranged by St. Louis-based INTRAV, a long established tour operator.

    Departing Dec. 24, 1999 and returning January 10, 2000, the itinerary visits great cities and exotic locales in Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Kenya and Egypt. Special events are on the schedule at each stop.

    The first leg pauses at Kona, Hawaii for Christmas, followed by a jump to Sydney, Australia. The venue there will be The Regent whose deluxe accommodations overlook the world famous sail-shaped Opera House.
Celebrants will greet the New Year in Hong Kong with a gourmet dinner and gala formal-dress ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Victoria Harbor.

    After a layover in New Delhi and moving on to Nairobi, Kenya, travelers will be transported overland to a magical experience at the heart of the Masai Mara game preserve. As the morning sun begins to warm the land, they will be wafted silently, in a hot-air balloon, over free-roaming elephants, leopards, lions, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, buffalo, hippos, red-tailed monkeys.

The final stop before returning to the US will ponder the mystery of the Sphinx of Egypt, the lion with a human head that has crouched, sightless at Giza, on the lone and level sands, according to some researchers, for perhaps four millennia or more.

    If you have $75,000 to spare ($84,500 single occupancy), you'll need to book soon. As of Christmas Day, it's claimed, the trip was 75% sold. Based on the Concorde's capacity, fewer than 25 seats remain.

    An interesting, lower key, women-only safari has less than a dozen spaces open, but at a fraction of that global ride's cost. Christine Tyson, owner of Africa Desk Travel Agency of New Milford, CT. explains, "We'll spend the Millennium roll-over in the Sabi Game Reserve. We will be in "the bush" but the camp isn't primitive. We'll be well fed, comfortable and very safe, but close enough to the animals to see them every day, virtually at will. We'll learn to track them, drive the Land Rover, handle the rifle, etc.

    Asked how the group will celebrate the Millennium New Year, she laughed, "We'll sit there, under the stars, drink in hand, in the continent where humans first came down out of the trees and watch celebrations from all over the world on our satellite dish."

    Instead of chasing the dwindling sunset, many travelers have fixed their sights on the first sunrise. Since the world is round, there's plenty of polarized disagreement about where that will be.

    The Royal Observatory at Greenwich England, with a claim based on it's historic role as the world's timekeeper and home of zero longitude, has expressed veddy-veddy proper British alarm that certain Pacific Islands close to the International Date Line, on the opposite side of Earth from Greenwich, are trying attract tourist events by tinkering with that imaginary fence that jigs and jogs down the middle of the great ocean.

    The Royal Observatory's web site (http://www.jepa.co.uk/rgo/first.html) displays a long document that punctures any cheeky South Seas pretensions, by proving (scientifically, don't you see old chap?) that the only location with "first sunrise" bragging rights would have to be an icy, unpopulated island near the South Pole. That finger-wagging may or may not have anything at all to do with the fact that Greenwich is building the world's largest dome, a $1.5 Billion structure perfectly bisected by the Prime Meridian. It will host the world's biggest party under one unbroken space starting at the stroke of Midnight, December 31st 1999. They've invited the world and say they expect 12 million to show up the first year.

    Blissfully ignoring all that, New Zealand produces a steady stream of publicity based on the idea that it is the first national entity in the nice warm Southern Hemisphere just west of the International Date Line. As of last week, an easterly church closest to the new day is still hoping to book the first wedding of the Millennium.

    Meanwhile, the Holy Land, locale of a certain birth about two thousand years ago, will welcome a flood of pilgrims with a full schedule of solemn ceremonies. In Rome, The Eternal City, Pope John will inaugurate a Holy Year with a High Mass.

-30-

More Y2K resources:

Worldwide Y2K Party Registry
http://www.jepa.co.uk/scripts/2000.html

Are you hosting a Millennium party? Looking for one? This may help you.

Worldwide Y2K Events Registry
http://www.2000.com/

More than just parties, this site says it will register all kinds of Millennium events.

INTRAV
7711 Bonhomme Ave.
St. Louis, Mo. 63105-1961
tel: 800-456-8100

Christine Tyson, president
AFRICA DESK
329 Danbury Road
New Milford, CT 06776 USA
tel: 800-284-8796

fax: 860-354-9345
email: cafrica@africadesk.com

web: http://www.africadesk.com/

Lou Harrison-Smith, Chairman
Southland Millennium(NZ) Ltd.

P.O.Box 235
Invercargill, NZ
tel: 643-218-8176
fax: 643-214-6273
email:
southmil@es.co.nz
web:
www.southlandmillennium.com/2000/

American Lands that will enter the Millennium first
Funealii, Lumaava and Sooaemalelagi
Directors Eco-Tour Samoa
Managers Rainforest Ecolodge
PO Box 4609

Matautu-uta, SAMOA
tel: 685-22144

fax: 685-26941
mbl: 685-71414 & 685-71415
email:
ecotour@samoa.net
web:
www.samoa.net/ecotourism_winners

originally published Sunday Newark Star Ledger - January 31, 1999

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