A prep course for the month-long World Cup soccer tournament, a worldwide pheno

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A prep course for the month-long World Cup soccer tournament , a worldwide pheno

menon to be played in the United States for the first time beginning June 17 , i

s available in a set of three home videos . Each of the three volumes by PolyGra

m Video lists for $ 14.95 and has a running time of about 60 minutes . The three

 volumes : `` World Cup USA '94 : The Official Preview , '' which includes a tou

rnament history with footage all the way back to the first World Cup held in 193

0 . There 's a look at the training of the 1994 U.S. team and a profile of Brazi

l 's Pele , just 17 when he took the 1958 event by storm , repeating in 1962 and

 1970 . `` Top 50 Great World Cup Goals , '' highlighting exciting moments from 

competition beginning in 1966 with favorites such as Pele , Johan Cruyff , Diego

 Maradona , Roberto Baggio , Salvatore `` Toto '' Schillaci and Franz Beckenbaue

r . `` Great World Cup Superstars , '' focusing on the top names in the game , f

eatured in the `` Goals '' cassette , and adding some interviews that offer an i

nsight into what makes these stars shine . Three new basketball videos available

 : `` Sir Charles '' takes a look at the on-court intensity and dynamic skills o

f Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns as well as his entertaining off-court pers

ona. $ 19.98 , 50 minutes , 1-800-999-VIDEO . `` NBA Superstars 3 '' follows up 

on two previous hit videos meshing the moves of the NBA 's elite with today 's h

it music . This one includes Kenny Anderson , Steve Smith , Derrick Coleman , La

rry Johnson , Dan Majerle , Alonzo Mourning , Hakeem Olajuwon , Mark Price , Sha

wn Kemp , Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars . Their play is matched with the music of 

Erick Sermon , M People , LL Cool J , Celine Dion , Domino , Soulhat , Soul Asyl

um , Buckshot LeFonque , Branford Marsalis , Pearl Jam and Rozella. $ 19.98 , 50

 minutes , 1-800-999-VIDEO . `` Hog Wild : The Official 1994 NCAA Championship V

ideo '' recaptures the excitement of the latest edition of March Madness and Ark

ansas 's march to the title with rousing victories over Michigan , Arizona and D

uke in the three final games. $ 19.98 , 45 minutes , 1-800-747-7999 .

 Canadian River Expeditions offers a change from the usual theme-park vacation :

 five 11-day float trips from July 1 to Aug. 31 that take families through some 

of British Columbia 's most scenic territory . Travel for these Chilcotin-Fraser

 tours is by yacht , seaplane and raft through deep fjords where bald eagles whe

el through the sky and the water is filled with seals , whales and some of the b

iggest salmon in the world . Highlights include winging on a seaplane over icefi

elds , hiking trips and fishing expeditions . The raft rides are not white knuck

le adventures it 's mostly gentle floating . A few hours a day are spent on the 

water , with the rest of the time devoted to guided sightseeing and nature walks

 . Price is $ 2,325 , including round-trip airfare to Vancouver , meals and acco

mmodations , as well as camping gear . Call your travel agent or ( 604 ) 738-444

9 . Trafalgar Tours is offering 16 `` Best of ... '' trips to Europe for 1994 . 

`` Best of Britain , '' for example , takes in all of England and Scotland in 15

 days for $ 1,099 . A 14-day `` Best of France '' trip for $ 1,260 covers the co

untry from north to south , including Monaco , and a `` Best of Switzerland '' i

tinerary combines Zurich , St. Moritz , Zermatt , Geneva , Interlaken and Lucern

e in 9 nine days for $ 799 . Other packages are available for Spain , Italy , Ge

rmany , Austria , Holland , Norway , Sweden and Denmark , Belgium and Holland , 

among others . Prices exclude airfare . Call your travel agent or ( 800 ) 457-68

91 . Airlines are offering , or continuing , special price packages for traveler

s flying to Europe , the Mideast and the Far East . IPI World Travel and Delta A

irlines , for example , are rolling back prices for a `` China Highlights '' tou

r 14 days , departing in November and December , to Bejing , Shanghai , Xian Gui

lin and Hong Kong for $ 2,650 , including airfare from the East Coast . Delta al

so runs several package tours to European cities : a `` Parisien Spree '' of 6 s

ix nights , breakfasts and a Seine River cruise , for $ 1,199 per person , doubl

e occupancy , round-trip from New York , and a `` Romantic Rome '' trip , with s

imilar features , for just $ 1,289 . El Al meanwhile sponsors a spring vacation 

package that includes five nights ' accommodations in Tel Aviv , daily breakfast

s and free rental car , for just $ 1,049 round-trip from New York City . Call yo

ur travel agent or IPI at ( 212 ) 953-6010 or El Al Israeli Airlines at ( 800 ) 

EL AL SUN . Take a long weekend this summer and enjoy one of several two- to fou

r-day walking tours of New York 's historic Hudson Valley from High Land Flings 

Footloose Holidays . Their `` Dutch Treat '' trip , June 3-5 , follows in the fo

otsteps of colonial settlers through three National Historic landmark villages w

here stone houses built by Dutch and Huguenot builders in the 17th century still

 stand . You 'll walk America 's oldest street in New Paltz , Main Street in Hur

ley and the Stockade area of Kingston , where the state 's constitution was writ

ten and adopted , and also visit the 1676 Senate House . Other walks cover the a

rea of Lake Minnewaska , Overlook Mountain near Woodstock and the northeastern C

atskills . Prices range from $ 350 per person , double occupancy , for two-day w

alks to $ 699 for a four-day trip . Call ( 800 ) 453-6665 .

 Are frequent-flier awards worth all the trouble travelers sometimes go through 

to rack up enough miles for a free trip ? Not according to a lengthy piece in th

e May issue of Worth magazine , which concludes that the programs are vastly ove

r-rated . Then why do so many banks , rental-car companies , long-distance phone

 services and hotels reward their frequent customers with airline miles rather t

han cash discounts or other perks ? Simple , says Worth contributing editor Jeff

 Blyskal , in the article entitled `` The Frequent-Flier Fallacy . '' Companies 

want to give premiums that combine the greatest perceived value with the lowest 

possible outlay , and frequent-flier miles are the perfect solution . Each freeb

ie ticket costs an airline only $ 11 to $ 42 , Blyskal calculates . The average 

discount to passengers amounts to 3.3 percent almost 2 percent less than you get

 by being a valued customer of Sears , he writes . His data showed the cost to a

 traveler for each award ranges from $ 929 with Southwest Airlines to $ 7,527 wi

th Delta , which requires higher-than-average mileage minimums to collect a free

bie . The dollar value of the freebies ranges from $ 56 with Southwest to $ 208 

with United . The effective discounts passengers reap range from 1.5 percent ( U

SAir ) to 6 percent ( Southwest ) . Hotel frequent-guest programs typically prov

ide a 5 percent discount , as do numerous retailers ' programs , including Sears

 Best Customer , Blyskal found . The number of dollars spent to earn a domestic 

freebie usually available after flying 20,000 miles typically ranges from $ 3,62

6 to $ 6,555 , he said . ( On Southwest Airlines , the average passenger gets a 

free trip after 7,104 miles because freebies are awarded by that carrier after e

ight round trips rather than a mileage minimum . ) Blyskal says his accounting s

ystem gives airlines the benefit of the doubt in every aspect and was based on t

he programs as they stand now before the program devaluations most airlines plan

 starting next year . The payback is even worse from affinity credit cards , he 

says , which generally award one frequent-flier mile per dollar charged . This t

ranslates to an effective discount of just 0.7 percent on $ 20,000 in credit car

d spending needed to earn the $ 152 in value of the average free ticket , Blyska

l figures . All in all , he says , to earn these paltry awards , travelers spend

 more on air travel in the first place than they have to because they often shun

 low-cost airlines that do not participate in frequent-flier programs . For exam

ple , he says , to earn 20,000 miles on United , a traveler would have to make 1

4 Newark-Chicago round trips at a cost of $ 12,348 . Fourteen round trips would 

cost just a quarter of that $ 2,912 on upstart Kiwi International Airlines , whi

ch offers consistently low rates but no frequent-flier perks , he says . You say

 you don't care about the price because your boss pays for a lot of your flights

 and lets you rake in the resulting frequent-flier perks ? Don't let the company

 bean-counters get wind of the fact that you could be sent on 45 more Newark-Chi

cago business trips for what it 's costing to ensure that you get your perk , Bl

yskal cautions . Add on the annual fees charged for some affinity cards , not to

 mention high interest on purchases and maybe a computer program to help you man

age your miles . And , of course , most travelers who earn a freebie purchase a 

ticket for their spouse or companion to accompany them which often isn't availab

le at any discount whatsoever . Plus the hardest cost to quantify which may be t

he biggest cost of all , Blyskal says : the time many fliers spend obsessing ove

r maximizing mileage for minimum payback . His advice ? Focus on service and low

 fares , not a possible freebie you may never collect .

 The State Department is taking a wait-and-see attitude after an American touris

t was seriously injured in an attack May 10 by a man with a machete on a remote 

stretch of beach in the Cayman Islands . The State Department issues information

 about petty street crime , but not violence , in the Caribbean islands it group

s as the British West Indies . `` We 're looking at whether this remains an isol

ated incidence or if it 's an indication of a threat to other tourists , '' said

 Gary Sheaffer , department spokesman . At the opposite end of the Caribbean , o

n the island of Trinidad off the coast of Venezuela , a honeymooning Canadian co

uple was found beaten and dead on a beach May 11 , with their valuables nearby i

n their unlocked rental car , a Canadian government spokeswoman confirmed . Trin

idadian and Canadian police are still investigating , she said . `` This is the 

first time this has happened to Canadians in Trinidad . It 's probably a good id

ea not to frequent deserted beaches , whether it 's Trinidad or Florida , '' sai

d Lely Campbell-Ferreira . Sheaffer said the U.S. . State Department was not awa

re of the incident . Now you have legroom , now you don't . TWA , which created 

its much-advertised Comfort Class in coach last year by taking 40 seats out of i

ts cabins , is putting 34 seats back in planes flying its most popular routes th

is summer . The airline is re-installing the seats on only 10 planes ( the 747-1

00s ) out of its fleet of 189 `` to meet high market demand '' for the summer , 

mostly on overseas flights , said spokesman Don Fleming . The rest of the fleet 

will retain Comfort Class . And TWA will re-evaluate seating in the fall and cou

ld very well take the seats out again . Most of the flights with more legs and l

ess room this summer fly out of New York : to Athens , Rome , Madrid , Milan , P

aris , New York to St. Louis to Honolulu , one flight daily from New York to Los

 Angeles and St. Louis to Gatwick , London . Ask about Comfort Class before maki

ng a reservation . Buzzwords that Cunard honchos recently bandied about as they 

described the upcoming $ 45 million refurbishment of the cruise line 's flagship

 , the Queen Elizabeth 2 , which made its maiden transatlantic voyage in 1969 , 

were `` enhance '' and `` flow . '' Which translates into opening up more spaces

 all over the ship : adding a second-story deck promenade to give the Midship Lo

bby an atriumlike look , eliminating the odd dead-end corridor , redesigning the

 directional signs ( all `` to enhance passenger flow '' ) and adding a new obse

rvation lounge at the rear of the ship with panoramic windows yielding an uninte

rrupted view . The new art-deco- , neo-classical-inspired decor will be ripe wit

h texture , replete with marble , resounding in architectural detail and rich in

 earthtones , all `` enhanced '' with the QE2 's memorabilia , such as old chart

s and lots of regal art . All 900 cabins will be refurbished and all bathrooms r

ebuilt . Ditto on restaurants , where quality of service will , of course , be `

` enhanced . '' The refurbishment will commence Nov. 30 and take about 30 days ,

 Cunard officials said . So will all this `` enhance '' prices ? `` The cost of 

cruising has never gone down , '' noted Navin Sawnhey , senior vice president of

 marketing . The QE2 now offers a range of fares and cruises , with its transatl

antic voyage priced from $ 1,395 to $ 10,745 , per person , double , with return

 air travel . You can't party all night long in Greece anymore . Nightclubs , ba

rs and restaurants formerly with all-night entertainment now must close by 2:30 

a.m. in summer , 2 a.m. in winter and 3:30 a.m. on Saturday . So you willn't be 

sleepless in Seattle , the Seattle-King County Visitors Bureau is operating a fr

ee reservation service : ( 800 ) 535-7071 . A new service offers travelers a fax

 mailbox to retrieve stored faxes with any machine by calling a toll-free number

 in the United States . For rate info , call AlphaNet Telecom at ( 212 ) 932-155

4 .

 I think there are several reasons why , in polite company , we rarely talk abou

t our discharges . I mention this in connection with endorphins , which , I noti

ce , people have begun to discuss with relative strangers , just the way people 

formerly discussed their cholesterol at parties . Do you remember that ? Outward

ly normal person : `` Do you know what my cholesterol was last week ? Myself : `

` Sir , I do not . '' Outwardly normal person : `` It was ( mentions very good c

holesterol count ) . '' Myself : `` That is good . '' Outwardly normal person : 

`` What , you don't believe me ? '' Myself : `` I say no such thing . '' Outward

ly normal person : `` If there 's a problem here , I know a medical lab that 's 

open until 8 . We 'll take my Q45 and I 'll get re-tested and you can see exactl

y what my cholesterol is . '' I was never sure about how to participate in these

 conversations , because , first of all , I would never say `` my cholesterol . 

'' My creed is that cholesterol belongs to the universe or the Great Spirit . We

 're just borrowing it for a little while . Which raises a question : Let 's say

 you do get your cholesterol down . Where does it go ? Is it just out there , st

icking to the faces of babies in perambulators and gumming up the wings of the g

reat-crested kingfisher ? Now it is endorphins . Endorphins are a sore subject w

ith me , because I 'm pretty sure I don't have any . Other people do , and somet

imes they seem to be bragging about them . `` I was up on the Nordic Combat mach

ine last night , and I had it set at level eight , which simulates hand-to-hand 

combat with a huge , grunting , mead-addled Hun . Boy , after 45 minutes , those

 endorphins were really flowing . '' The idea is that endorphins are chemicals t

hat , under certain circumstances , begin squirting out of somewhere inside your

 head and making your brain feel better . I picture the system as comparable to 

those nozzles in highly evolved produce sections , where a soothing mist sighs o

ut over the kale and the arugula , like the strange fogs that gather ' round Ben

 Bulben 's bare head . I have been known to tarry there for extra moments , watc

hing the wet shades and phantoms dance over the ruby swiss chard . Endorphins ar

e supposed to calm the mind and kill pain and produce peak experiences , such as

 the `` runner 's high . '' I have never had a runner 's high or a swimmer 's hi

gh or any particular reaction to strenuous exercise except the keen sense of how

 exhausted I was and how eager I was to stop swimming or running . And I know fu

ll well that my brain is a tightly wired network of fright sensors , discomfort 

gauges and humming monitors of self-concern . There is nothing up there that coa

ts my fevered mind in soothing syrup , and even if there were it would just shor

t everything out . So maybe I don't have endorphins , but even if I did , would 

I mention them ? My normal assumption is that there is no widespread appetite fo

r information about my secretions . `` My gall bladder was on the job yesterday 

afternoon . I was pumping some big-time bile , emulsifying those fats in my duod

enum . Bless my soul . '' To the endorphin-proud , I am often tempted to point o

ut that one theory about endorphins is that they were originally bestowed upon a

nimals , such as cats , for whom sex is excruciatingly painful . They were a lit

tle payoff , nature 's way of saying , `` Thanks for perpetuating the species ev

en though that felt like being probed by a briar patch . '' Under those circumst

ances , I maintain that the civilized course is to live with pain and terror . I

f things get intolerable , there 's always the option of scootching the chicory 

aside and lying down for a while next to the red leaf lettuce .

 By conventional wisdom , there are certain things you simply don't do , right ?

 You don't drink on an empty stomach . You don't spit into the wind and , of cou

rse , you never escort the bride 's father to the bachelor party . But for paren

ts of young children , one don't has always outdistanced all the rest . You don'

t go to Disney World during school holidays . People who have disobeyed this com

mandment litter Orlando like lost souls , their hollow eyes bespeaking the drubb

ing they have taken at the Tourist Capital of the Universe . Their children drag

 behind , in tears , muttering , `` We 'll be good now , Daddy . We promise . Pl

ease. Can we wait two more hours on another line ? '' School holidays at Disney 

World are crowded with a capital C , chaos with , well , a capital K . The lines

 are legendary , the sun is hot and the living uneasy . But I did it . I survive

d . I even had a good time , and you can , too even if you visit at a peak perio

d , such as the three summer months . All you have to do is follow some simple a

dvice , which I 'm sharing on the condition that you don't go blabbing it to all

 the neighbors . Because the secret here is to go where they ISn't and , believe

 you me , at Disney , an incautious word about an empty attraction can turn the 

Road Less Traveled into a Superhighway faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket . 

Rule No. 1 , then , is plan ahead . This trite little maxim will seem biblical i

n depth when you 've watched The Unprepared spin out of control like weather van

es in the wind . I myself had envisioned being a bit laid back about the whole a

ffair until I mentioned my vacation to a few friends : `` I 'm planning on bring

ing the wife and my 5-year-old daughter down to Disney World this Easter . '' Th

ey looked at me as if I were a few sandwiches short of a picnic . That 's when I

 finally realized that you don't approach Disney World like a visit to an amusem

ent park . You approach it like the invasion of a small country . Think of it as

 the Duchy of Grand Fenwick and begin preparing your counterattack on the Mouse 

That Roared . Of course , if you are a Zen master , and view crowds as a natural

 event , like waves in the ocean , skip ahead to Tip No. 2 . But the rest of you

 , buy a guide book and start reading . Otherwise you will be trampled by those 

who know that you have to be at Dumbo by 10 a.m. to avoid an hour 's wait . If y

ou don't believe me , listen to Bob Sehingler , whose guide to Disneyland I mana

ge to find and use . `` It 's easy to spot the free spirits at Disneyland , '' h

e wrote , `` particularly at opening time . While everybody else is stampeding t

o Splash Mountain or Star Tours , they are the ones standing in a cloud of dust 

puzzling over the park map . Later , they are the people running around like chi

ckens in a thunderstorm trying to find an attraction with less than a forty-minu

te wait . '' Convinced ? Then make sure you abide by Rule No.2 . Get up early . 

How early ? Sick early . Dawn is too late at Disney World . One morning our wake

-up call at the Grand Floridian , a Disney hotel , came at 5:45 a.m. . The hotel

 operator couldn't help laughing at me . It was pitch black outside . The drunks

 still hadn't gotten home . But you know what ? There were plenty of people ahea

d of us when we boarded the monorail for the Magic Kingdom at 6:30 a.m. , taking

 advantage of a 90-minute early opening for Disney Resort guests . ( Begin optio

nal trim ) Up Main Street we streamed , past street lamps still lit from the nig

ht before . Everyone tried so hard to pretend they weren't running . It looked l

ike a huge trial heat for the Olympic walking team . All that paranoia paid off 

, however . In the next hour we were able to board four or five rides that had b

een swamped the previous afternoon . One hour after the parks open to the genera

l public , major attractions have major lines . At Space Mountain , Splash Mount

ain and Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom , Spaceship Earth in Epco

t and Star Tours at MGM , you can expect a line of at least half an hour . At Du

mbo , forget it . This dinky little ride featuring that darling little elephant 

draws children like flies . I waited 45 minutes one day for a 45-second ride . I

f you have to ride rides in the afternoon , try to do so during parade times , w

hen lines go from maddening to manageable . ( End optional trim ) To make the tr

ip back to the hotel as painless as possible , however , remember Rule No. 3 . S

tay as close as possible to the parks . This can seem silly when the Budgetbear 

Hotel 10 miles away is offering Hoedown Weekend at five bucks a night . Believe 

me , that will not seem like a bargain for long . After becoming disgusted at th

e honky tonk sprawl that sprung up around Disneyland , Father Disney decreed it 

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