Forget tonight, what will you be doing on New Year's Eve 1999?

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The Independent Online
As you gear up for tonight's festivities, your thoughts may well turn to seeing in the new millennium. But unless you have already booked your celebrations - or have the odd million pounds to spare - you are probably too late.

It was as far back as 1989 that Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, told an Arts Council lunch: "If it is at all possible, purchase an option on any dance hall you can find for the night of 31 December 1999."

Seven years on, many big venues have been snapped up. Forget Tower Bridge - it was booked this year.

Madame Tussaud's has already gone and the Royal Albert Hall was reserved as far back as 1975. The QE2 has already been grabbed by the Millennium Society of Washington for a 20-day cruise at an estimated pounds 300,000 a day and DisneyWorld, in Florida, has sold out its 17,000 hotel rooms.

And for those spectacular places left, the competition may rule out all but the most wealthy.

A spokesman for British Airways said that it had been inundated with inquiries for seats on Concorde but had yet to start taking bookings. Your chances of acquiring a flight, however, are slim. There is already "a list as long as the M4" according to BA and the cost for an aeroplane holding 100 people "will start in five figures".

"We will be chartering seven aircraft," the BA spokesman said. "We are thinking of having a triple celebration, one in the UK, one mid-air and one in New York, but we will be making a decision later as to the best way."

Edinburgh, which this turn of the year will play host to more than half a million visitors, is also looking to be one of the premium millennial cities, with the Virgin Group sponsoring the 1999 Hogmanay Festival.

This year alone demand for hotel rooms in the city was so great that some of the visitors have had to be placed in accommodation up to 50 miles away.

Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts have already received bookings for 1999 but organisers are playing their cards close to their chest as to what will happen on that New Year's Eve.

"We have not announced what will happen yet," said Abigail Carney, spokeswoman for Unique Events. "But Edinburgh wants to be one of the millennium cities and will definitely be a great place to be at that party."

The Savoy Hotel in London could have been booked twice or three times over but at present is not taking reservations until it has decided what exactly will take place that night. The New York Marriott hotel got its first reservation in 1983 - two years before it was built.

Sadly for football fans, Wembley Stadium has ruled out anyone being able to book it for the big event. "We have had lots of inquiries," a spokesman said. "Now we have the national stadium it would be possible to have one of the world's biggest parties but it is not available."

The 50th floor of Canary Wharf Tower, the tallest building in Britain, is similarly out of bounds.

For the more adventurous, the Pyramids are sure to be a hit as is the Grand Canyon, although hotels there are not taking bookings until 1998.

According to William Deakin of the party organisers Juliana's, one enterprising individual has booked an island in the Maldives although more impractical ideas such as a party in Lapland have had to be turned down by the company.

However, there are some venues still available for the determined party- goer. The Science Museum is still taking bookings for its different galleries which normally go at around pounds 4,500, but are likely to fetch higher prices for New Year's Eve.

The Millennium of London cruiser, launched by the Queen in October, is also considering "something spectacular" which will probably work out at pounds 500 per person.

But the prize for the most enterprising bid to see in the millennium goes to the tiny nation of Kiribati in the South Pacific. It quietly moved the International Date Line to its eastern extremity, Caroline Island, in 1993, trumping its Pacific neighbours to be the first to usher in the new millennium.

Tonga, which was happily expecting lucrative parties at the International Date Line Hotel in Nukualofa, is not amused. Neither are the Chatham Islands, for as a result of the move Kiribati will now see in the millennium 22 minutes before the Chathams, and 80 minutes before Tonga.

But despite protests, the Royal Greenwich Observatory and cartographers have accepted Kiribati's line change, and appeals to the United Nations have met with the response that the date line, decided in 1884, is beyond its control.

Pacific islands aside, most of us will be trying to have the time of our lives in the most exotic place we can afford. See you at Trafalgar Square.

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