The real deal: Round-trip airfare, five nights' accommodations, and transfers, from $1,199 per person—plus taxes of about $195 per person.
When: Nov. 1-12, 2008; add $100 for Jan. 7-12, 2009; $200 for Nov. 13-30, 2008, Jan. 13-31, Feb. 1-28, 2009; $300 for Dec. 1-26, 2008, March 1-31, April 1-6, 15-30, 2009; $400 for Dec. 27-31, 2008, Jan. 1-6, April 7-14, 2009; $500 for Sept. 1-Oct. 31; and $800 for Aug. 1-31, 2008.
Gateways: Boston, New York City, and D.C.; add $50 for Chicago, L.A., Miami, and San Francisco; $65 for Orlando; $225 for Chicago, L.A., Miami and San Francisco departing on Dec. 15-24, 2008.
The fine print: Breakfast daily, hotel taxes, fuel surcharges, and round-trip transfers are included. Airport taxes and fees are an additional $195 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $229. Note that this is package number 30. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact Foreign Independent Tours, 800/248-3487, foreign-independent-tours.com.
Why it's a deal: According to a recent search on Kayak, the lowest round-trip fares to Malta for departures in early November start at $1,024 from Boston (Alitalia), $1,034 from New York City (multiple carriers), and $1,135 from D.C. (multiple carriers). For an additional $360-$370 per person, FIT covers round-trip airfare, five nights' accommodations, fuel surcharges, transfers, and all airport and hotel taxes.
Trip details: The Malta Ala Carte package includes round-trip airfare on Virgin and Air Malta carriers. If Virgin is not available, other airline options include British Air, Lufthansa, and Northwest. Keep in mind that the cost of the package may change depending on which airline you're flying.
Upon arrival in Malta, you'll be transferred to the 120-room Victoria Hotel Sliema, your home for five nights. Mahogany furniture, cool blue tones, and the fireplace and chesterfield sofas in the lobby create an air of old-fashioned Victorian-style elegance. Yet the boutique hotel also has up-to-date amenities like satellite television, high-speed Internet connections, and air conditioning.
Guests can lounge by the terrace pool—sun beds and towels are complimentary—or grab a bite to eat at the pool snack bar. For dinner, you can check out the on-site dining options: The Copperfield Restaurant, serving food buffet-style or a la carte, and the Sir Walter Scott Terrace, popular for its al fresco dining accompanied by live music. If you just want to grab a drink, pop in at the Penny Black Lounge, where you can choose from a selection of cocktails or English teas.
Located on a quiet street in the heart of the town of Sliema on the northeast coast of Malta, the hotel is a five-minute walk to the seafront promenade and not too far from some of the island's most popular restaurants and nightspots.
The Maltese archipelago is made up of Malta and the nearby smaller islands of Comino and Gozo. The islands have been inhabited since Neolithic times, and the stone temples that still stand at places like Tarxien, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, and Gozo are some of the world's oldest freestanding monuments.
Malta's character owes much to the diverse cultures that have left traces here at various points throughout its history. Highly coveted because of their central location amid trade routes, the islands have seen periods of Roman, Arab, French, and British rule, as well as a golden age under the Knights of St. John, who built many of Valletta's stunning baroque-style buildings and cathedrals. Malta is now an independent republic and a member of the European Union; you'll find that English (as well as Italian) is commonly spoken.
While the package doesn't include any activities, FIT offers a slew of optional tours. For example, you can take a harbor cruise to the natural ports of Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, join an excursion to the Blue Grotto cave, or tour the three historical cities, Senglea, Cospicua, and Vittoriosa. (Half-day tours run from $59-$69 per person; full-day tours are from $105-$121 per person.)
Not ready to leave? You can extend your stay at the Victoria Hotel Sliema for an additional $75 per person per night. Another option is to book an alternate FIT package, Malta Grand Tour, which covers airfare, six nights' accommodations and three half-day tours and one full-day excursion, from $1,499.
Before you go, visit the official tourism site for Malta.