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Cruising in Central AmericaIt's never too early...


Cruising in Central America

It's never too early to start planning your winter holiday. Forget the golf vacation to Florida -- how about Costa Rica? Special Expeditions, a New York-based touring group, is sponsoring 11- and 13-day cruises along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua, with forays into Mayan ruins and a number of national game preserves.

On the 11-day trip, travelers fly to Costa Rica from Miami, board an 80-passenger ship that sails the coast and ventures into the country's interior, bringing passengers face to face with three-toed sloths, rare monkeys, parrots, trogons and kingfishers. Passengers can also comb beaches, hike through rain forests, and snorkel in coral reef bays. And that's just the Costa Rican part of the trip.

On the 13-day trip, travelers fly to Panama City and start the expedition through the Panama Canal, the first leg of a trip that takes them across the northern coast of Panama, the eastern coast of Nicaragua and remote islands off the Honduran coast. There's time for snorkeling, swimming and observing the flora and fauna. Toucans, herons, crocodiles and manatees abound.

Rates for the 11-day trip range from $4,380 to $6,810 per person, not including air fare. The 13-day trip runs from $5,390 to $8,630, also exclusive of air fare. Trips start Dec. 12 and Dec. 20, Jan. 23 and Jan. 31, and March 7 and March 15. Call Special Expeditions at (800) 762-0003. Do you know your rights if an airlines bumps you from a flight? Or that you could be denied a car rental if you've had an accident in the last two years? Or the punishment if you're caught vandalizing cars in Singapore? Know your rights -- and responsibilities -- as a traveler. Ignorance is no excuse. All this and more is covered in "Travel Rights," an easy-to-pack and snappy guide to travel protocol. The book is written by travel-savvy Bostonian Charles Leocha, and is available for $7.95 at bookstores.

Baseball in Boston . . .

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of professional baseball, Boston will shake itself from World Cup fever and switch back to baseball. The city's downtown waterfront will offer interactive batting cages, will showcase hot dogs and other ballpark fare from stadiums across the league, and display more than 200 items from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fenway Park, the country's second-oldest ballpark, will offer tours that let you sit in the dugouts and run the bases, and will sponsor an evening event with Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle. The celebration runs Aug. 1-7. Call the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Center -- (800) 888-5515 -- for more information.

. . . and Kansas City

If you can't get enough baseball travel, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which opened last weekend in Kansas City, Mo. Interactive exhibits and video footage allow visitors to learn about the Negro Leagues, which formed shortly after the Civil War and lasted until the 1960s. For more information, call the museum at (816) 221-1920. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children ages 5-12 and free for kids under 5.

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