Rental agencies have reacted to the higher dollar by proclaiming lower prices at European properties they represent. Interhome USA, one of the largest, says some of its weekly rates are 40% less than four years ago and that today's prices are 18% to 26% lower than those published in its current list.

Examples of one-week prices for winter and spring bookings include: Davos studio apartment for two persons, March 98, $586; Zermatt one bedroom (up to four persons), January 98, $865; Verbier luxury chalet with five bedrooms and three baths (8-10 persons), April 98, $2162; Seefeld (Austria) one bedroom apartment (up to four persons), February & March 98, $1,214.; Kitzbühel luxury villa with five bedrooms and five baths (up to nine persons), January 98, $2,540.

Idyll, Ltd., of Media, PA, says it has reduced prices on its 1998 "Untours" which typically include apartment or chalet rental for two to four weeks, roundtrip airfare and ground transportation rail or auto rental. Two week prices from New York begin at $1,498 per person.

Contacts: Interhome, 124 Little Falls Road, Fairfield NJ 07004, tel. 201-882-6864, fax 201-808-1742. Idyll, Ltd., P O Box 405, Media PA 19063, tel. 610-565-5242, fax 610-565-5142, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

(Editors Note: Both the above companies have long histories of reputable and reliable service. However, to find the lowest rental prices Gemütlichkeit recommends bypassing such agents. Contact the tourist office of villages or regions in which you have an interest and ask for the list of self-catering rentals. With that in hand, the tourist authority bows out of the transaction and you are free to contact property owners direct and thereby obtain the best rates. Remember that many Europeans are more comfortable conducting such transactions in writing rather than by phone.)

Swissair's 1997/98 Alpine Experience Winter offers vacations for both skiers and nonskiers starting at $875 per person double occupancy including roundtrip air from the U.S., from November 1, 1997 through April 30, 1998.

The Air + Land program is available at 19 Alpine resorts in four European countries: Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. Packages include: the Swissair flight, accommodations for seven nights at a resort or hotel of choice, all breakfasts and sometimes dinner, land travel (to and from the airport and resort), local taxes and service charges.

Youth airfares are available and some hotels offer special arrangements for children. Seniors over age 62 and a traveling companion of any age enjoy a 10% discount on land arrangements. City packages begin at $62 per person, per night, double occupancy and include one nights accommodations with choice of hotel, breakfast, one day of free public city transportation, local taxes and service charges.

Contact: Your travel agent or call Swisspak at 800-688-7947.

KD River Cruises of Europe is offering Christmas and New Years cruises on three European rivers the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe.

Seven-day Christmas and New Years Rhine cruises, departing December 20 and 27, are roundtrip from Cologne. The cruises, aboard the KD flagship Britannia, go as far south as Strasbourg. On Christmas Eve, the 184-passenger vessel is in Speyer, where passengers can attend Mass in the Imperial Cathedral. On New Years Eve a shipboard ball will be held. Fares for both cruises range from $1,330 to $1,545 per person double, including all meals; suites are $2,320 per person.

The seven-day Danube Christmas cruise aboard the 104-passenger Heinrich Heine begins December 20 in Regensburg and ends in Vienna on the 26th. Passengers can attend Christmas Eve Mass in the Austrian wine town of Dürnstein. This cruise, which starts in Vienna on December 27 and ends in Regensburg on January 2, will also feature a New Years Eve shipboard ball. Fares for both cruises range from $1,240 to $1,425; suite accommodations cost $1,780.

Christmas and New Years Day excursions to Prague, and a full day in Dresden, highlight five-day cruises on the Elbe River aboard the 124-passenger Clara Schumann. The cruises, roundtrip from Dresden, depart December 22 and 29. The Prague excursion and Dresden sight-seeing are included in fares of $875 to $1,000

Contact: Your travel agent or phone 800-346-6525 from the eastern U.S. or 800-858-8587 from the west, including Texas, Alaska and Hawaii.