TRAVEL Q&AAll-inclusive cruises?
Q I've never been on a cruise and was wondering if there are any that are truly all-inclusive and include alcohol in the price, similar to all-inclusive resorts.
A According to cruise expert Stewart Chiron, the answer is yes -- but it will cost you. That's because the only truly all-inclusive cruises are also the most expensive luxury lines, including Seaborn, Crystal, Regent and Silversea. The good news, according to Chiron, is that these cruise lines are offering dramatic discounts to try to get passengers back on the high seas. For more information, check out www.cruiseguy.com.
Real DealFree night at some Marriotts
Marriott is offering a free night at hotels and resorts outside the United States and Canada. (The deal does include Hawaii and U.S. territories.) At city hotels, the third night is free when you book three consecutive nights Thursday-Sunday. At resorts, the fourth night is free, a deal available daily at most properties. Offer is valid through Sept. 7, although some blackout dates apply. Book by Aug. 21, and request code RR2 at www.marriott freenight.com.
TRIP TIPTour by podcast
Before you leave for your next vacation, do an online search for podcast walking tours of your destination. You'd be surprised how many of them there are. They include Rick Steves' tours of Parisian and Italian favorites (www.ricksteves.com) and even a shopping tour of Los Angeles (www.downtownlawalks.com). Don't forget your iPod or MP3 player charger.
ON THE RIVERBerries and dinner
Two tasty destinations await anyone who'd like a drive along the Mississippi next weekend: Pick blueberries at Rush River Produce near Maiden Rock, Wis., and then have dinner at the Cottage in the Corn, above Stockholm, Wis. The blueberry patch opened July 16, later than average because of the cool summer, and picking should be best through Aug. 2, the farm says (but always check before you go). And Taste of Stockholm, an arts benefit on Aug. 1, features tastings of local wine and cheese, dinner and pie. Tickets are $45; go to www.stockholmwisconsin. com/events/events.html. To check on berry picking, call 1-715-594-3648.
trend spottingHelp on vacation rentals
Vacation home owners have a new resource as they sort through the rules and regulations that affect their properties. Explore Minnesota Tourism has created a Web page with information from regulatory and enforcement agencies statewide. Vacation home rentals are offered through companies that specialize in this business, or directly by the homeowners. Visit the website for more information: industry.exploreminnesota.com/vacationhome.
SIDEROADSBlues up north
Music fans will be anything but blue this weekend and in early August during two blues festivals in northern Minnesota. The ninth annual Boundary Waters Blues Festival features top local and regional performers Thursday through Saturday in Ely, Minn., including Davina and the Vagabonds, Carlos Johnson, Wayne Baker Brooks and others. While in town, visitors are also invited to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Ticket prices are $65 for two days, $80 for three days. Individual tickets are $20 for Thursday, $30 for Friday and $35 for Saturday. (1-218-349-5520; www.elyblues.com). Lamont Cranston, Cyril Neville, Luther (Guitar Junior) Johnson and others will provide three days of music on two stages along Lake Superior during the Bayfront Blues Festival Aug. 7-9 at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth. Prices range from $40 to $95. (1-800-438-5884; www.bayfrontblues.com).
COLLEEN A. COLES