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ADVENTURES IN THE NEW YEAR

High end or on a budget, you can sail away on a yacht, go wild on a family safari, escape to a spa or cruise Alaska.

Did you save your money and your big dream at the end of last year, fearing millennium meltdown or the Y2K bug? Then now is the time. Call it 2001: A Place Odyssey.

Can't afford to charter your own yacht? Book a cabin on one at a fraction of the cost.

Is an African safari a family pipe dream? Get a similar experience on American turf.

Want a to loll at a spa? Take a breathtaking cruise up Alaska's Inside Passage?

You can let the cash flow or snag a bargain with variations on these themes and not feel that you are making do.

Sailing Virgin waters

HIGH END: The British Virgin Islands, a Caribbean archipelago of 40 islands, islets, rocks and cays, with lively gathering spots for yacht owners, are the world's most popular charter sailing grounds.

With world headquarters in Clearwater but a major base on Tortola, the Moorings yacht charter service dominates the region. It has about 220 boats of all sizes, with professional crew or "bareboat."

For the sail of your life, book a week with a captain and cook (why should you do any work; you're on vacation) on a new 45-foot catamaran. These 24-foot-wide beauties are nearly double the width of mono-hulls their length, with three roomier-than-usual guest cabins containing little bathrooms, an expansive front trampoline deck for stretching out, and a stash of snorkeling equipment, sailboards and kayaks.

The charter includes most of your meals, alcoholic beverages, excursions to the prettiest islands and plenty of breezing along.

The Moorings also offers crewed charters (aboard 50-foot sailboats) in Tahiti's lush Society Islands, navigating along tranquil lagoons with sandy motus and views of craggy peaks.

BUDGET: Cannot afford a yacht to yourself? Get the same delicious experience by booking a stateroom on one of the Moorings' frequently scheduled group trips, in either the BVI's or Tahiti. Try to find out about your boatmates in advance, to make sure you're copacetic, because you will be making group decisions on itineraries, meals and other issues.

For a surf-and-turf combo, consider the Moorings' BVI Shore & Sail package, with four nights on a sailboat (along with up to two couples) and three nights at the yacht basin's friendly Mariner Inn.

Several adventure outfitters offer reasonably priced group sails in fabulous settings. Two of the best deals are REI's 10-day sailing trips through Ecuador's wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands, and Overseas Adventure Travel's 18-day jaunts to Turkey, which include six days aboard a traditional wooden gulet sailing the stunning Turquoise Coast. The trip also includes tours of Istanbul, the ruins at Ephesus and the underground cities of Cappadocia.

Animal-bound with the brood

HIGH END: Chicago-based Abercrombie & Kent is among the most respected operators of tours to Africa.

The company's two-week family safari to Kenya & Tanzania offers an opportunity to see a plethora of big game in East Africa's most popular reserves: the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge and the vast Serengeti plains. Three nights are in traditional luxury tents. Extra staff is on hand for children's activities, such as nature walks and tribal dancing.

For more intimacy, splurge on a customized trip for just your brood _ at a 15 to 30 percent surcharge.

BUDGET: Thompson Family Safaris specializes in kid-friendly trips to Tanzania. In addition to going on game drives, children on the 11-day Affordable Family Adventure Safari go on a village and school visit, where they can make pen pals with youngsters their age. They also take bow-and-arrow lessons with Hadza bushmen and participate in wildlife workshops, writing and drawing in safari journals.

Much closer to home, your family can sample a safari-ish adventure.

Northern California's Safari West takes a more serious approach to wildlife watching on its 400-acre preserve outside Santa Rosa. Created to promote conservation through breeding, education and research, the sanctuary offers naturalist-guided jeep rides (by appointment only) amid 80 species of free-roaming mammals and birds.

Visitors can stay in permanent, Africa-style, tents overlooking the animals, which include herds of antelope, eland, gazelle, zebra, giraffe and wildebeest.

Spa-tacular escapes

HIGH END: Two of the country's best spas are within half an hour of each other amid the saguaro-studded landscape of Tucson.

Canyon Ranch and Miraval both provide an integrated mind/body approach to healthful living, and they offer a slew of pampering treatments, great low-fat meals, fitness and yoga classes and guided hiking and mountain biking excursions that appeal equally to men and women.

Canyon provides more daily outings and class choices, an extensive medical and behavioral health staff, and a Life Enhancement Center with specialty weeks ranging from achieving more soulful sex with your mate, to living with arthritis.

Miraval has some unusual self-discovery programs, from interpretive encounters with horses to a ropes course. Miraval also offers room service and alcoholic beverages, both of which Canyon shuns as counter-productive.

BUDGET: For pampering at a pittance, the spas of Mexico are unmatched. Here, for less than the price of a bare-bones retreat stateside, you get daily massages, facials and other treatments, excellent food, the excitement of a new culture and adventurous sightseeing.

Among the best choices is the Ixtapan Hotel and Spa in the Sierra Madre Mountains of southwestern Mexico. Ixtapan boasts a large natural mineral pool and optional excursions to archaeological sites, underground caves and Taxco, famous for its intricate silver jewelry.

Spa Finder, a New York-based specialty reservation service, often can get extra perks thrown into the bargain.

Insider's passage through Alaska

HIGH END: American Safari Cruises runs guided, 11-day jaunts along Alaska's Inside Passage aboard the swank 105-foot, 12-passenger Safari Spirit. Cruising the inlets, coves and wilderness areas between Juneau, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, B.C. _ many of which are inaccessible to larger cruise ships _ passengers get up close and personal with whales, harbor seals and calving glaciers.

Complementing nature's bounty are gourmet food and wines, an outside hot tub, sightseeing flights, kayak tours and shore excursions. Staterooms all have picture windows for watching the passing scene and Jacuzzi tubs with showers in the bath.

BUDGET: Life is practically one big party aboard the nine ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System _ the cheapest and arguably most fun way to cruise the Inside Passage. You can rent a cabin, pitch a tent on the Solarium deck or just sprawl out on one of the reclining lounge chairs.

The mammoth vessels provide regularly scheduled passenger and vehicle service to 32 communities in Alaska, plus Bellingham, Wash., and Prince Rupert. Book by the segment, taking your time to explore each port, or take the Friday-to-Friday round trip between Bellingham and Skagway, Alaska _ with about an hour's shore leave at each stop.

All the ferries offer food, heated sightseeing lounges and public toilets and showers. Many sailings have on-board interpretive programs run by naturalists.

If you go

Unless otherwise noted, prices are per person, double occupancy, and do not include air fare. Some meals, taxes and other charges also may cost extra. Prices may be seasonal. Price listed usually is low season, which varies with the location. Many itineraries book fast, so reserve as far in advance as possible.

SAILING ODYSSEYS: The Moorings; (800) 669-6529; http://www.moorings.com. One-week crewed yacht charters in the British Virgin Islands start at $6,244 for a group of four ($6,678 for six) on a 50-foot sailboat; $8,316 for four ($9,030 for six) for a 45-foot catamaran. One-week Tahiti charters start at $8,344 for a group of four ($8,820 for six) in a 50-foot sailboat. Six-night stateroom package in the BVI start at $1,068 per person on a 50-foot sailboat, $1,392 on a 45-foot catamaran. Six-night Tahiti stateroom package (monthly departures) is $2,288 per person on a 50-foot sailboat.

Single-occupancy surcharge on stateroom packages and Shore & Sail vacations is approximately 50 percent.

REI; (800) 622-2236; http://www.rei.com/travel. Ten-day Galapagos sailboat cruises run weekly. Prices start at $1,750.

Overseas Adventure Travel; (800) 955-1925; http://www.oattravel.com. Eighteen-day Turkey trips depart frequently in the summer and fall. Price, including air fare: from $2,790, depending on date and departure city.

FAMILY WILDLIFE SAFARIS: Abercrombie & Kent; (800) 323-7308; http://www.abercrombiekent.com. Two-week Kenya and Tanzania Family Safaris begin at $5,590 pr person, $4,675 for children 12-18; $3,795 for children 6-12. Minimum age, 6. Other Africa family safaris available.

Thomson Family Safaris; (800) 235-0289; http://www.thomsonsafaris.com. Eleven-day family safaris to Tanzania, including air fare, begin at $3,390; $2,890 for children younger 12.

Safari West; (707) 579-2551; http://www.safariwest.com. Nightly rates in a tent start at $200 for two people, $25 per additional person (maximum four people per tent), including breakfast. Larger accommodations available. Jeep tours with naturalist last 2{ hours and cost $48; $24 for children younger than 12.

SPA ESCAPES: Canyon Ranch; (800) 742-9000; http://www.canyonranch.com. Weekly rates start at $3,310, including all meals, seven personal services, $315 allowance toward health services and numerous lectures, classes and sports outings.

Miraval; (800) 232-3969; http://www.miravalresort.com. Weekly rates start at $2,205, including all meals, one personal service or round of golf per day and numerous lectures, classes and sports outings.

Ixtapan Hotel & Spa (Mexico); book through Spa Finder; (800) 255-7727; http://www.spafinder.com. Weekly rates start at about $1,120, including meals, daily massages, golf or tennis lessons and other treatments and activities.

ALASKA CRUISES: American Safari Cruises; (888) 862-8881. Eight-day Safari Spirit cruises along the Inside Passage, May through August. Prices start at from $5,595 per person. Other Alaska cruises available.

Alaska Marine Highway System; (800) 642-0066. http://www.state.ak.us/ferry. Three-night ferry trips along the Inside Passage depart Fridays. Fare: $252 without a cabin; with a cabin, fares run from $271 for two people; for a vehicle, $594 up to 15 feet long. For round-trip voyage from Bellingham, double the above prices. Prices 20 percent higher after May 1, 2001.

Judi Dash is a freelance writer living near Cleveland.

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Passengers aboard smaller boats make close inspections of icebergs and the undeveloped coastlines of Alaska's Inside Passage.

A member of the Masai tribes gives a visiting youngster a lesson in the cycle of life and death among animals, an educational benefit available on some safaris to Kenya and Tanzania.

Guests at the cushy Miravel health resort outside Tucson can opt for a poolside massage.

A chartered, 45-foot catamaran is anchored just off Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands.

A fun way to see Alaska cheaply involves cruising on the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway system _ and sleeping on deck in lounge chairs.

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