Seven days in China for under $900, flight included

Killer photo editing, edhelien!I am delighted to tell you about a deal I may snap up myself: China Spree‘s 7 Day China Express — Beijing Free-style Travel (2010) will take you to Beijing from San Francisco and put you up at a four star hotel for $588 ($988 from New York). They’re even throwing in free breakfasts.

The hotel is The Beijing Huabin, which is located just a ten minute walk from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, opposite the National Grand Theater, and also near the Wangfujing shopping area. Your stay will be five nights (the sixth is lost in travel) in a room with all the usual accoutrement including an LCD TV and broadband internet. There are tours available to the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China and the Temple of Heaven at an additional cost, or you can make your way there yourself and explore on your own with the help of a guidebook (or even just the internet). If there’s somewhere else you’d like to visit, China Spree can help you make arrangements.

The catch? Departure taxes and fuel surcharges ($299 from SFO, $307 from JFK), and the low, low prices only apply to trips in December and January — after that, they climb, but you can still find a pretty great deal.

So, from SFO in January, you can go to China for seven days for $887. Not. Bad. Visit the website or call 866-652-5656 to book.

Celebrity Cruises starts all-you-can-drink plan

Despite the advertised low rates for many cruises, I’ve always thought that the extra fees for alcoholic drinks would make the final price rise far above the base cost. Even for a moderate drinker – a few glasses of wine or beer with dinner, a pina colada here, a strawberry daiquiri there – the cost for a few days of booze for two people on a cruise could come out to a couple hundred dollars over the course of a week.

So when I first read Jaunted’s headline that Celebrity Cruises was now offering several all-you-can-drink beverage options, I was intrigued. But upon closer inspection, it seems like you’d pretty much have to spend your entire cruise drunk in order to justify the cost.

For unlimited liquor, you’ll pay over $50 per person per night, and wine packages (which don’t state how many bottles the package entitles you to) start at $114 per night per package. An unlimited supply of domestic and imported beers is $34.50 per night per person. Which means for two people, you’ll need to drink $70 worth of beer in a single day. Though that’s about three 12-packs at your local liquor store, it’s the equivalent of 10-12 beers at Celebrity’s on-board prices.

As CruiseCritic points out, the package only makes sense if you’ll drink 5-6 beers per day. While lots of people could do that over the course of a day at sea, it doesn’t seem likely that many would do it every day of the cruise, and since you have to buy the package for the duration of your cruise…well, it looks Celebrity will be making quite a profit – or ending up with some really drunk passengers.

Four resources for horse-crazy travelers

I grew up riding horses, and though now that I live in a big city I don’t get to ride as often as I’d like, I still love the feeling of galloping on horseback to the rhythm of hoof beats. I’ve ridding with the gauchos in Argentina, through coffee fields in Honduras, over rolling green hills in Hawaii, and on the five-gaited four-legged teddy bear of an equine that is the Icelandic Horse. If you love horses and are looking to plan an equestrian vacation, here are four resources to get you started.

Equitours, “America’s largest and oldest horseback riding vacation company”, offers packaged tours for avid equestrians. With tours in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, America, and the South Pacific, they pretty much cover the globe by horseback. The site allows you to search by experience level, location, length of tour, and date. Trips range in cost from $800 to $2900 and include riding, accommodations, meals and transfers, but not flights.

Hidden Trails Equestrian Tours offers packaged vacations, but goes beyond the standard trail rides. In addition to vacation treks, they offer cattle and wild horse drives, riding clinics, covered wagon treks, riding safaris and pack trips in over 40 countries. Specialty trips include ride and cook, ride and fish, woman only, and gaited horse trips. Rates range from $600 to $3000 and include riding, accommodations, meals and transfers, but not flights.Equitrekking works with local riding companies to offer equestrian vacations throughout North and South America and Europe, with few options in South Africa, India and Nepal. In addition to offering links to the individual companies and their tours (which range in price, riding ability required and length) the site also offers advice and information on equestrian travel, travel tips, and clips from episodes of the Equitrekking TV show.

Nancy D. Brown, a travel writer and the lodging editor at Uptake.com, details horseback vacations around the world on her new blog, Writing Horseback. Detailing everything from full-service ranches and resorts to equestrian vacations and companies offering trail rides, her site covers destinations from California and Oregon to Antigua, Norway, and Hawaii. It’s not a fully comprehensive list of everything that’s out there (the site is quite new) but if you are open to suggestions for a destination, want to plan a trip to a resort that caters to riders, and prefer first-hand reviews, this website is a great resource.

Book a stay at Hawaii’s Kona Village and get an $800 flight credit

Last week, while on Hawaii, I had the chance to wander over to Kona Village Resort and stroll through the grounds. I was pretty impressed by what I saw. While the resort is located right next to the Four Seasons, the feel (while still luxury) is totally different.

Rooms here are hale – thatched roof bungalows in various forms. In keeping with the barefoot, carefree style of the resort, the rooms don’t have tvs, radios, or even telephones. What they do offer is total seclusion, privacy and romance, as each bungalow has access to a beautiful black sand beach and its own hammock. Hotel staff communicates with guests via notes, and a coconut is used as a “do not disturb” symbol.

It’s the perfect spot for honeymooners to escape and relax, but they are also plenty of activities offered, like snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, whale watching, surfing and SCUBA diving. Rates for the hale start at $410 per night for two people, including breakfast and selected water sports.

Right now, Garden, Superior, or Deluxe rooms, which run about $700-$900 per night, qualify for a special fare deal. Book five nights in the room and receive $800 in flight credits. The room rate includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fare credit is applied to the cost of the room.

Dive packages, romance packages, and family packages (book one hale and the second is 50% off) are also currently available.%Gallery-76818%

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Get a free wedding in St. Maarten

Hosting a destination wedding is a great way to cut down on the expenses involved in getting married. Fewer guests equal less money spent on food, drinks and invitations, and fewer tables to seat those guests means your costs for flowers and rentals like linens and chairs will also be lower. Two Sonesta resorts in St. MaartenSonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino and the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino – are now making the idea of a destination wedding even more appealing. . .and affordable.

Guests who book a seven night stay for themselves and 20 guests (10 rooms with double occupancy) will receive a free wedding package. And we’re not talking a single bottle of champagne and a sheet cake. No, this package includes the reception dinner and open bar. With my friends and family, that savings alone would be significant.

The package also includes the services of a wedding coordinator, marriage licensing services, wedding cake, corsage and boutonniere for the bride and groom, room upgrade, and 10% off of spa services.

[via HotelChatter]