Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Cyber Savings

By Paul Gerald

NOVEMBER 9, 1998:  Always looking for a cheap and easy way to get out of town, I delved into the sometimes odd world of “e-fares” to see what somebody in Memphis might have to choose from.

I started out by going to some of the pages that track discount fares and offer online reservations. Among these, travelocity.com and expedia.com stand out. They both run essentially the same way: You tell them where you are, where you want to go, and when, and they tell you who can get you there the cheapest. I told each site that I wanted to go to Miami for the Elvis Cruise, and both told me that Northwest could get me there for $197.

What travelocity does that’s neat is let you sign up for an e-mail service to track fares to five cities you’d like to visit. If the fare from, say, Memphis to Honolulu changes dramatically, you get an e-mail telling you so.

Next, I was curious about some destinations, so I followed a friend’s advice to kasbah.com. Kasbah is a database of hand-picked Web sites on just about any place in the world. In other words, they don’t claim to compile all the information in the world, they just look for good sites that have it and let you know where they are. So, still in the mood for the Elvis Cruise, I went looking at pictures of the Caribbean, read about shipbuilding in the Abaco Islands, and made note of some recommended snorkeling sites.

Next, I visited the online versions of all the airlines that fly into Memphis.

We might as well start with Northwest (nwa.com), which offers a batch of weekly quick-departure trips. The catch is you have to leave that Saturday and come back Monday after 11 or anytime Tuesday.

I checked the week before Halloween and found these round-trip fares, Boston at $149 and Los Angeles at $169. The lady on the phone said flights fill up “real quickly,” but I assume the other cities on that week’s list weren’t filling so quickly. They were Paducah ($79), Chattanooga ($89), Lafayette, Louisiana ($89), Pensacola, Florida ($89), and Oklahoma City ($99).

Most of these other airlines offer versions of the same thing, but since it’s generally from their hub cities, Memphis only shows up in, say, a US Airways hookup with Philadelphia or a Continental hookup with Houston.

Airtran (airtran.com), which used to be ValuJet and still sends everybody through Atlanta, was offering $69 from Memphis to Boston as an e-saver when I visited. They fly as far west as Houston and as far north as Michigan now.

Delta (delta-air.com) has a thing called the Escape Plan, but it’s only out of hub cities. I guess you could take Airtran down to Atlanta and then skip off to someplace else.

Continental (flycontinental.com), TWA (twa.com), and US Airways (usairways.com) all have weekly specials on their Web site or in your e-mail, but Memphis rarely makes an appearance. Southwest (iflyswa.com) has weekly specials, too, like $100 from Nashville to Fort Lauderdale when I was there.

It seems to me the way to work these things is to pick a weekend a month or so ahead, start putting away some money, and then on the chosen Wednesday take the deal to the coolest city available.

Had you done that this week, you would be leaving on Saturday with a $149 ticket for Boston.

That sounds virtually wonderful, doesn’t it?

Cruisin’ with the King

Just when you think you’ve seen all the Elvis stuff life has to offer, along comes this one: An Elvis birthday cruise to the Caribbean on the S.S. Norway.

Not that you would need any particular reason to go to the Caribbean, but if it sounds like fun being on a boat with the Flying Elvi (from Honeymoon in Vegas), multiple Elvis impersonators, musicians who actually performed with him, and constant showings of Elvis movies, you should get in touch with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

They’re calling it the Elvis Love Me Tender Caribbean Cruise – not surprisingly, they’re also calling it the “most comprehensive Elvis cruise ever offered” – out of Miami January 2nd through 9th. NCL promises music, impromptu jam sessions, lectures, Q & A sessions, films, shared memorabilia, trivia contests, comedians, fried-banana-and-peanut-butter sandwiches, sundaes, cheeseburgers, and fries.

The Flying Elvi, by the way, will be performing over Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island, landing on a beach where a big Elvis shindig will occur.

Oh, and then there’s the setting: The Norway will stop in St. Maarten, St. John’s, St. Thomas, and Great Stirrup Cay. A portion of the proceeds from this cruise will benefit the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, which supports numerous charitable organizations.

Fares start at $874 per person, for the cruise only. Airfare to Miami runs in the $200-300 range, and there’s a port tax of $123 per person. For more information, call 800-327-7030 or visit ncl.com on the Internet.

That’s a lot of money, sure, but it’s a whole lotta Elvis, baby.

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