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Travel and Vacation News

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Norwegian Sky gave Irma victims hope

More than 900 people stuck in the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Irma, many grateful to be alive, arrived at PortMiami on Friday morning after being rescued in St. Thomas by the Norwegian Sky cruise ship.

The majority were tourists stranded when Irma's 185 mph winds obliterated the Cyril E. King Airport in Charlotte Amalie. "The control tower is gone," said Charlene Woolley, who was on vacation from Atlanta. "[Flying] was not an option."

The Norwegian Sky had sailed empty to Cancun during the storm and motored directly to St. Thomas once the government there sent out an urgent request for transportation off the island.

The 2,004-passenger ship picked up a total of 923 evacuees, including 99 from St. John who had been brought to St. Thomas by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel.

Before the hurricane, Woolley said she was relocated from the beachfront hotel where she had been staying to the Windward Passage. That hotel is built of concrete and mostly stood against the storm's assault, but sustained a lot of damage.

"It was raining in the room," Woolley said. "Some rooms had lost their ceilings. The air conditioner was gone. We were in the bathroom. The whole building was shaking the whole time. Imagine a really big hotel door that was rattling like you think it was going to blow off."

Hurricane Irma evacuee Arlene Graham shares a photo of the storm with Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart at PortMiami. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

She said the shatter-proof windows looked like they were "breathing," being sucked in and out by the pressure.

But Woolley said the aftermath was worse.

"Because of where our hotel was, it was kind of a bad part of town. So there was nightly shooting. They were robbing the tourists because they knew they had cash," she said. "There was no power. There was a generator that the manager of the hotel ran only at night for lights, for safety. We actually had the St. Croix police staying in our hotel and there were still people trying to get in. You literally stood outside your room and guarded your supplies, your water, ice, toilet paper."

Woolley found out on the web that the Norwegian Sky was coming to evacuate people. She and her companion got their names on the list.

"You literally saved our lives," Woolley told Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart, who was at the port on Friday to greet evacuees. "I can't say that enough."

For Terry Denton and his family, Norwegian Cruise Line represented hope at the darkest hour.

The Phoenix businessman was on a 10-day vacation with his wife and two relatives. They had planned to fly back before the storm hit, "but that didn't happen," Denton said.

Instead they were moved from their waterside villa to a condo building, where the walls held but the windows shattered. The room flooded.

Still left with some internet service, Denton heard a rumor that a cruise ship was coming and sent Facebook messages to every line he could.

Only Norwegian replied. "They simply typed back, 'You're not forgotten. Someone will come help you,'" said Denton's wife Jodi.

Until that point, the group,



Kids get in free at San Diego's top attractions in October


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Looking for a fall trip with the kids? Head for San Diego.

SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California and other attractions offer free admission for kids in October.

The annual Kids Free San Diego promotion is designed to attract visitors after the peak summer season. More than 100 theme parks, museums, tours, activities, hotels and restaurants participate. 

The savings are significant, as anyone who's trotted a family through the turnstile at any of San Diego's major attractions knows. General admission to SeaWorld is $95 per person for age 3 and older at the gate. That's nearly $400 for a family of four before parking, snacks and souvenirs. (Cheaper tickets are available online in advance.)

Ready to plan your trip? Here's our complete guide to the best of San Diego . It has info on hotels, restaurants, bars and things to do.

More: San Diego travel guide: Do's and don'ts

Five tips to save money during Kids Free month

1. The biggest savings are at the marquee attractions.  With the Kids Free promotion, adults pay $95 and kids ages 3-9 get in free at SeaWorld. (One free child per paying adult.) The San Diego Zoo has one of the most generous offers, allowing one adult to take in as many as 10 children age 11 and younger for free. Adults pay $52 per person; kids normally pay $42. The zoo, which unveiled its mammoth new Africa Rocks exhibit over the summer, also has special activities planned during Kids Free month. Overwhelmed by the size of the zoo? These tips will help you decide what to see .

2. You don't have to wait for October for free kids admission at some places.  Legoland and SeaWorld began offering free kids admission in mid-August and will offer it through Oct. 31.

3. Rules — including eligible kids' ages — vary by attraction.  So do your vacation homework in advance in case the deal is not offered at the gate or carries other restrictions. Some attractions only offer the deal on specific tickets, so do the math to make sure the offer is the best one for your budget.

4. Been there, done that with the big four? Have you been to San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland and San Diego Zoo Safari Park too many times to count?  Spend the day in luscious Balboa Park instead . Its museums — including the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum — have free admission for kids. Or head to the harbor-front downtown and spend a few fascinating hours at the USS Midway Museum. Grab lunch at the new Carnitas' Snack Shack at the Embarcadero, which is offering two free kids combo meals with the purchase of each adult meal in October. The restaurant's original location in San Diego's North Park neighborhood was featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel. Finish your downtown day with a harbor cruise. Hornblower and



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