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Hawaii Vacations: 7 Great 4-Star Hotels

Here's several 4-Star Hawaiian hotels that offer first-class accommodations and beach front views.

Sheraton Moana Surfrider - This historic hotel has been lovingly restored and maintains it's circa 1901 charm. Located on Waikiki beach, it offers high tea and sunset buffets.

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Books On Legs Tour Guides Are More Than That One Expert Tells Her Story

When it comes to name dropping, Martha Lanzillotti can keep up with the best of them. That's because the New York City licensed tour guide was an actress in her first career, and true stories about her early experiences dovetail nicely with what a tourist wants to hear when visiting America's entertainment capital.As operator of her own business, called Explore New York, she is one of New York City's 1,300 licensed tour guides. She typically joins travel groups after they arrive in New York; on other occasions, she is a private guide for travelers who want customized sightseeing plans. Before becoming a guide in 1992, Lanzillotti was a singer-actress with the stage name Martha Danielle (the latter is her middle name). She was in a few Broadway shows in the 1960s and 1970s (once sharing a dressing room with Glenn Close before that became a marquee name), traveled for months at a time with road shows, appeared in advertising (she is a former Tupperware girl and a former Lotto girl) and, for 13 years, performed in the "very lucrative" industrial theater.

In that world, she sometimes shared the bill with the likes of Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and other high-powered entertainers.Corporations that sponsored industrial events used familiar shows and music to convey their own messages and sell products, and Lanzillotti's assignments could range from a car show in Detroit (she once did one of those dressed in car upholstery fabrics) to fashion week in New York. For the latter, she recalls staying at the Waldorf-Astoria and vocalizing early in the morning with her face in a towel to keep from disturbing her neighbors.

Then, from 1987 to 1992, Lanzillotti worked on cruise ships, mostly Ocean Cruise Lines, doubling as an entertainer and hostess, summering in Scandinavia and wintering in South America.She said these experiences were great background for a tour guide, particularly for someone in New York City, America's "theater central," because she can name drop to her clients' content and she is once again on stage reading her audience.Guides, after all, are "not just books on legs," she said.

"Information is very important, but it's also about your personality and about being spontaneous.".Her first by-the-book obligation is to provide what was promised in printed itineraries or prepare custom itineraries to the travelers' specifications. Beyond that, however, she said she sees a chance to be creative with each client or group. She offers options for add-ons or alternatives, depending on customer interest or other circumstances, but the customers decide, she added.Part of her job, too, is helping out-of-town coach drivers navigate the city, do drop-offs where permissible and locate parking.

The drivers can be quite nervous, "literally with shaking hands," she said. A New Yorker from birth, Lanzillotti was thrilled to study (using the recommended Michelin guidebook) for her 1992 licensing test because she learned a great deal about her home town and took herself all over the city for a month.On the job, Lanzillotti always carries source material, and her current best companions are the New York City Blue Guide and the "Time Out" magazine; she also has relied on her Michelin and sometimes the New York Times Week in Review.But, she is constantly updating and customizing her material. For example, she said, for teens, she needs to know things like where certain basketball courts (seen in the movies) are located.

Or, she has to be ready to talk about "the most obscure things" when a coach is stuck in traffic. That's why Lanzillotti knows that the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, an Anglo-Catholic church in the theater district, is the first church in the world to be built on a steel frame.

Who knew? Some anecdotes don't require special circumstances. Lanzillotti sometimes discusses the rocks New York is built on. The Bronx is on rock called gneiss, pronounced "nice," and Manhattan sits on schist granite, so she says she tells her tourists, "The Bronx is nice and Manhattan is full of schist, and I pronounced that very carefully.".

.Martha Lanzillotti is a member of the local Guides Association of New York City, and she is a member of and listed with NYC & Co.

She can be reached at exploreny1@aol.com. The author, Nadine Godwin, is editor at large for Travel Weekly, the nation's largest travel trade newspaper.

By: Nadine Godwin

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