National Parks open gates for free on Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day, national parks will not be charging any entrance fees on Nov. 11.

It’s one of several fee-free days the park system has offered this year.

Some outfitters, shops and lodges based in the national parks offer two-for-one deals and other discounts in conjunction with the fee-free program; details at http://www.parkpartners.org/Special-Offers-for-2010.html.

If you’re planning ahead to next year, fee-free days in 2011 will include April 16-24, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.

The fee waiver applies to more than 100 parks that usually charge entrance fees, but there are also several hundred additional national park sites that never charge fees.

To find a national park near you, visit http://www.nps.gov.


Mobile-phone technology key to unlocking these doors

Visitors to a Stockholm hotel will be able to use mobile phones instead of keys to unlock their rooms.

Assa Abloy AB, the world’s largest maker of door locks, has launched a pilot in which Clarion Hotel Stockholm will lend customers mobile phones with close-range radio chips, much like devices used for contact-less payments at gas stations.

Repeat visitors during a four-month trial will be able to check in through their phones before arrival and have their phones activated as “keys.” They will then be able to skip the registration desk and unlock the door by holding the phone next to it.

The short-range radio technology, known as Near Field Communication, is expected to be built into smart phones in the coming years.


Family-owned cruise line expands tours to a full week

A family-owned tour company will offer weeklong cruises of southeast Alaska next year that start and end in Sitka.

A spokesman for Allen Marine Tours said the company will lease two former Cruise West vessels.

“What we’re excited about is we’re showing off the area where we live,” Allen Marine Vice President Jamey Cagle said of the new venture, Alaskan Dream Cruises. “Our family and company have a lot of history here. We’re good at hosting people three to five hours on tours and we would like to see if we can do more.”

The eight-day, seven-night cruises will circumnavigate Admiralty Island with stops that focus on culture, history, wildlife and the environment, Cagle said. Each vessel will carry 70 passengers.

Allen Marine will operate tours May 14 through Sept. 3, with stops in Hoonah at Icy Strait Point, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Tracy Arm and Hobart Bay.

— The Associated Press

Cagle said passengers should have time ashore in the various ports.

Allen Marine was founded 41 years ago by Bob Allen as a boat-building business. Allen Marine Tours offers day tours on high-speed catamarans in Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau.

The company also builds custom vessels, including oceanographic research boats.