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PHOTO: Bourbon Street, New Orleans (photo courtesy Kruck20/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
The British Virgin Islands are back—and packed with reasons to visit this year, from dreamy new digs to the expansion of an already legendary sailing scene (first-timers: this is an ideal place to get your feet wet). And with increased air service between San Juan and Tortola, traveling here has gotten easier than ever.
So whether you’re all about the #saltlife, or an avowed landlubber—or you fall somewhere between the two on the Caribbean fun spectrum—the surf and turf adventures in these 60 islands, cays and islets are calling. Loud. Read on to see what we mean, then start planning your trip.
Even if you’ve been to the BVI before, there are new reasons to give the islands’ iconic resorts a fresh look. On Anegada, for example—the only inhabited coral island in the BVI—the Anegada Beach Club recently debuted brand-new glamping accommodations called palapas: breezy, thatched-roof bungalows that rise from the dunes on stilts. Request one with incredible sea vistas... most therapeutically viewed from the hammock on your patio. Though the onsite restaurant always offers lobster, among other local delicacies, the hotel can just as easily arrange a complimentary shuttle to Anegada’s iconic Lobster Trap restaurant, where the toes-in-the-sand dining is an Anegada rite of passage.
Private island more your speed? Head to Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, where you'll find ten lavish new guest villas with—among other amenities—walk-in rain showers, soaking tubs, plunge or infinity pools, gourmet kitchens (think Wolf ranges, Sub-Zero fridges and if you'd like, a private chef). The hotel’s existing guest rooms and suites also got a refresh, as did the house restaurant, Donovan’s Reef Marina Bar & Grill—now one of the best places to taste the island (try the coconut shrimp or yellowfin tuna with jerk butter sauce).
Another legendary BVI address with suite new upgrades: Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda’s eastern tip, where the new Bay Suites—complete with luxe soaking tubs, outdoor showers and Caribbean views for days—are tucked into a hillside next to a freshwater pond.
If you lean green, head to Guana Island. Surrounded by seven white sand beaches on its own island, the 850-acre eco-resort is famed for its organic orchard, among other things. The greenhouses are newly expanded and make for a great tour—you'll love seeing where the tropical bounty you've been feasting on comes from.
Of course, you can’t dish about the BVI without mentioning Sir Richard Branson and his swank Necker Island. The property’s Bali Hai complex has been rebuilt with an extended pool and outdoor lounge—and private plunge pools have been added to each of the island's individual houses. The Great House—Necker Island’s social nexus, with its wraparound terrace and hammocks—has two brand-new rooms. And though the resort is usually available for buy-outs only (that is, you and your crew have the run of the place), several “Celebration Weeks” throughout the year open individual rooms to booking for seven-night stays. And even if you don’t have the island to yourself, you will have 74 lush acres at your doorstep, where there are plenty of quiet sunbathing spots to seek out when you're not gawking at the lemurs and flamingos at the onsite Wildlife Preserve or hiking the extensive nature trails.
Though any resort you choose will have plenty to keep you busy, don't leave without exploring the off-campus offerings, too: Zipline over Road Town Harbor and take in views of St. Croix on the Original Virgin Canopy Tour, horseback ride along the remote beaches of Anegada with Francis Family Farms—or check out Tortola's locally-grown island goodness (think passion fruit or rare red bananas) at Good Moon Farm.
All BVI itineraries eventually lead to The Baths National Park—a stunning collection of immense granite boulders at the water's edge on Virgin Gorda. It’s pure tropical island fantasy to follow the series of boardwalks and ropes through the rocks, where you'll duck into narrow pools for a swim and, of course, the perfect Insta moment. Your best bet for the latter: the Cathedral—a shallow pool between the boulders where daylight streams down in magical rays.
Or try an alternative experience: Sealingo Watersports' glass-bottom kayak tours, which take you along two miles of gorgeous coastline until you arrive at The Baths. Getting the full picture of the place at once—that is, looking at the marine life through the kayak floor and the granite stones at eye level—is otherworldly.
If you have your scuba diving certification, you’ll want to strap on the tanks to dive one of the most famous wrecks in the Caribbean: the RMS Rhone, a former royal mail ship, which sank in a hurricane in 1867 and rests in about 90 feet of water off Salt Island. The wreckage is covered in thick corals and fish life and is part of the first and only Marine National Park in the BVI. Off Norman Island, Santa Monica Rock is a huge underwater pinnacle known for its reliably clear waters and frequent appearances by sea turtles, reef sharks and perhaps even eagle rays. And for a dive site that combines art, ocean conservation and history, don’t miss the new BVI Art Reef off Virgin Gorda, where a large-scale sculpture of Kraken is attached to the Kodiak Queen, a World War II ship-turned-artificial reef that was purpose-sunk here.
If snorkeling is more your speed, head to the Indians off Norman Island, where pinnacles that rise from the ocean floor attract clouds of damsel fish, wrasse and bar jacks. The Caves is another easy access site where you can swim through shoreline caves so thick with iridescent minnows, you’ll swear you’re inside a glitter bomb.
With a rep as one of the best sailing destinations thanks to the islands’ lily pad-proximity to each other, the BVI also offers easy line-of-sight sailing (read: you can see your next port of call without needing to use navigation maps) so you don’t have to be a super-experienced sailor to have a proper adventure in these parts. But if you don't want to go bareboat (meaning, you're the crew), you have plenty of reasonable options, too.
Dream Yacht Charters, with new and improved offerings on Scrub Island, has some of the most affordable options: Seven-night charters (with someone else captaining for you) start at around $1,300 per person. The Moorings' expanded fleet ranges from sailboats and power catamarans to all-inclusive crewed yachts. And if a day trip sounds more your wind speed, Aristocat Charters can give you a taste of the sailing life on shared and private cruises from several locations. You'll stop for snorkeling and paddle-boarding—and considering the free-flowing Dark and Stormy cocktails and rum punch—rest assured your captain will be the one to steer you safely back to port.
Southwest Airlines, which has faced widespread customer wrath for its handling of flight cancellations since the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max last month, said late Thursday that it is removing Max 8 flights from its schedule into early August.
The move means the airline will cancel 160 daily Max-related flights into the peak summer travel season. The airline, which has more Max 8s in its fleet than any other U.S. carrier, had previously taken the plane out of its schedule through June 7.
Southwest President Tom Nealon announced the extension in a letter to customers posted on the airline's website.
"While the timing for the return to service of the MAX remains unclear, what is very clear is our commitment to operate a reliable schedule and provide the famous customer service you expect from us,'' Nealon said in the letter. "Our revised summer schedule allows us to accomplish those objectives.''
Nealon said the changes are designed to increase the reliability of Southwest's flight schedule and reduce the number of last-minute flight changes during the busy summer travel season. Travelers have blasted the airline's last-minute cancellations and limited rebooking options during the busy spring break travel season.
Nealon apologized in his letter to customers, the first time a Southwest executive has publicly acknowledged issues caused by the usually beloved airline's handling of the Max 8 cancellations.
"While the vast majority of our customers’ itineraries have remained unaffected, flight schedule changes have inconvenienced some of our valued customers, and for that, I offer my sincerest apologies,'' he said.
Nealon said the "limited number'' of travelers who have already booked their summer travel on Southwest will be notified so they can rebook their flights well in advance, giving them more options. Southwest has now taken the Max 8 out of its schedule longer than any U.S. airline operating the plane that was involved in two fatal crashes in five months. That led to FAA grounding of the planes on March 13. Southwest and American operate the Max 8, United the Max 9 model. United has 14 Max 9s.
Sail dates for April 7, 14, and 21 have been canceled, Royal Caribbean told customers via Twitter.
Royal Caribbean officials have been assessing possible damage to the Oasis of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, after a crane apparently slammed into the vessel as it sat in dry dock in Freeport Monday.
Shipyard management reported eight people were injured when the massive crane struck the ship earlier this week, Royal Caribbean reported. None of the injuries were life-threatening, the cruise line said in a statement.
The ship, which had been based at Port Canaveral, was undergoing routine maintenance on Grand Bahama Island, Royal Caribbean officials reported.
The cruise line told customers anyone scheduled to go on the canceled trips will get a full refund, along with a 100 percent future cruise certificate to apply toward a different sail date.
Corrections & Clarifications: This story has been updated to reflect the dry dock location of the cruise ship and the name of the ship yard.
Royal Caribbean officials are assessing possible damage to the Oasis-of-the-Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, after a crane apparently slammed into the vessel as it sat in dry dock in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Shipyard management reported that eight people were injured when the massive crane struck the ship, Royal Caribbean reported. None of the injuries were life-threatening, the cruise line said in a statement.
The ship — which had been based at Port Canaveral — was undergoing routine maintenance on Grand Bahama Island, Royal Caribbean officials reported.
It was not immediately known if there were any injuries or how much damage was done to the ship by the heavy shipyard crane.
The 6,300-passenger ship was in dry dock when the accident happened about 1:45 p.m. at the Grand Bahamas Shipyard. It was not immediately known if the accident will impact the ship's upcoming schedule.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to reflect that Casey Holladay’s lawsuit against Royal Caribbean seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Royal Caribbean is temporarily closing down its "Sky Pad" feature on two of its cruise ships in the wake of a recent lawsuit.
The Sky Pad is a bungee-attached trampoline activity that can be paired with virtual reality headsets.
"As part of our commitment to safety, we are temporarily taking Sky Pad out of service on Mariner of Seas and Independence of the Seas," the cruise line said in response to a question from USA TODAY on Twitter.
USA TODAY has reached out to Royal Caribbean for further details.
The move comes after the cruise line was sued by Casey Holladay, 26. Holladay's attorney, Brett Rivkind, told USA TODAY Holladay is seeking $10 million in damages.
According to the suit, Holladay says he was on a weekend cruise to the Bahamas on the Mariner of the Seas in February when he plunged to the ship's deck after the harness he was fastened to disconnected while he was 20 feet in the air. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Miami on March 12.
The suit states the activity was located on the 13th deck of the cruise ship, which has a hard surface with no padding or safety nets surrounding it.
Contributing: Fran Golden; Sara Moniuszko, USA TODAY
The next time you go on vacation with Norwegian Cruise Line, you may notice something missing: A towel animal.
Towel animals − towels designed in the shape of animals − are a signature staple of cruise ships.
In a statement to USA TODAY Tuesday, Christine Da Silva, vice president of public relations for the cruise line, said the change is in an effort to improve sustainability.
"We are committed to being a responsible corporate citizen by fostering a culture of awareness and respect for our world’s resources," the statement read. "Our mission is to continually improve our sustainability culture through fresh innovation, progressive education and open collaboration. In this instance, we are assessing the impact of reducing the number of towel animals we showcase aboard a few of our ships."
The effected ships will be the Norwegian Dawn, Getaway, Star, and Sun, according to Da Silva.
The statement made clear that this new effort is a test and guests can still request the towel animals.
"We understand that many of our guests enjoy them as part of the experience of cruising with us so towel animals remain available upon request," the statement continued. "This is simply a test, and we are providing them if guests request them."
Not all cruise lines are saying goodbye to animal towels, however.
In a statement Tuesday, Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson Chelsea Stromfeld told USA TODAY that in-cabin towel animals are not going anywhere.
"It’s a signature and popular element of the Carnival vacation experience!" the statement read.
USA TODAY has also reached out to Royal Caribbean for comment.
by David Oliver and Sara M Moniuszko, USA Today
Asked whether the airline had gone bust, the person in charge of Wow Air’s Twitter account said “the current situation is that WOW Air is still working”. “Current” is the operative word for an airline which, after struggling for months, appears closer than ever to failure.
The future of the Icelandic carrier was in the balance on Monday as it looked to restructure and shed its debts after talks with Icelandair over a possible takeover collapsed.
The cancellation of an early morning service from Gatwick to Reykjavik sparked concerns that more flights might follow (several to other destinations were also grounded), but the airline said operational reasons (“delay of an incoming flight”) had forced it to combine its two London departures.
Of the two due to depart Gatwick later on Monday, one remains “scheduled” on the airport's departure board, but of the other, passengers are told to “enquire [with the] airline”. WOW planes are still departing Reykjavik, though inbound services to the UK are delayed until later this evening.
The young, trendy airline, conspicuous in its bold, pink colour scheme, started life in 2012, and before long was selling headline-grabbing fares between the UK and North America - think £99 from London to New York, one way.
It quickly grew, launching new routes every few months and positioning itself at the centre of the low-cost, long-haul revolution taking place between Europe and the Americas.
“The conventional wisdom is that low-cost, long-haul doesn’t work,” the airline’s founder and CEO, Skuli Mogensen, told Telegraph Travel in 2015. “We think it has never been applied properly. And we think the timing is now perfect.”
WOW used its Icelandic base to run transatlantic services, meaning two legs for most European travellers. Flying via the increasingly popular tourist destination of Reykjavik, WOW could use the city’s Keflavik airport as both a hub and end point, helping ensure its comparatively small single-aisle Airbus A321 planes were always full. It also tried to place a focus on customer service, with Mogensen keen to found a budget brand with a smile.
But despite hefty additional charges for baggage and other add-ons, the airline wasn’t making money.
At its peak, WOW was looking to rival Norwegian in terms of expansion. Then came the cuts. Last year, the carrier dropped routes to Pittsburgh, St Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati, and put Los Angeles on hold. Since then Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco have fallen by the wayside too, as has New York JFK (WOW still flies to Newark, however).
The airline’s route to Delhi, the first budget foray into India, was over before it began after WOW returned its Airbus A330s to the lessor, leaving the carrier without an aircraft to run the service. At its time of launching, WOW described the route as “the first step in the carrier’s next phase of cross-continental expansion”.
Before halting its Los Angeles service, the lack of long-haul planes meant passengers were forced to stop for refuelling in Edmonton, Canada, after already pausing in Reykjavik. All in all, things were not going great.
WOW is still selling tickets six North American destinations - Boston, Detroit, Montreal, New York, Toronto (due to launch in June) and Washington. According to Air Fleets, WOW’s 11-strong fleet today consists of 10 A321 and one A320, with all three of its long-haul aircraft in storage.
From the end of March, the airline is due to move its base from Gatwick to Stansted, consolidating its twice daily flights from London to Iceland into one.
The latest statement from airline reads: “A majority of WOW Air bond holders and other creditors of WOW Air are in advance discussions with the aim of reaching an agreement on a voluntary restructuring including an agreement of converting current debt into equity and fund the company towards long term sustainability.”
“It simply costs more than $99 to fly between continents,” said Kristjan Sigurjonsson, editor of Icelandic news site Turisti, of WOW’s transatlantic struggles.
History has shown how difficult it is to make a success of low-cost, long-haul. While Norwegian grew too fast and is now heavily laden with debt, it offered a slightly more attractive product than WOW, flying direct and in its new 787 Dreamliner planes. Like Nowegian, which sought to raise $350 million this year, WOW was after a buyer.
Takeover talks with Icelandair failed first in November and again last week, with the Icelandic flag carrier now saying its “possible involvement in WOW air’s operations will not materialise”. This month, an investment proposal with private equity firm Indigo Partners also fell through.
The airline's financial troubles appear to have had an impact on its ability to pay delay compensation as governed by EU laws. One passenger, who was bumped from a flight from Gatwick to Reykjavik in August last year was still waiting for €442 (£379) compensation. Documents seen by Telegraph Travel show a claims agent from WOW air explaining that "disruptions within the company in the last couple of months... have been slowing things down".
Given the route closures and takeover talks, as well as the failure of low-cost, long-haul upstart Primera last year and the financial difficulties faced by Norwegian, travellers could be forgiven for thinking twice about booking with WOW.
Those who had bought a flight on one of WOW’s cancelled routes were offered refunds, of course. But travellers who book a flight that isn’t part of a package holiday are not covered in the event of their airline going bust. For added peace of mind, some travel insurance policies offer cover for the failure of an airline. This is often referred to as Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI). The level of this protection varies, but Travel Plus (travelplusinsurance.co.uk) – offers cover up to £2,500, not only for loss on air tickets and the extra cost of replacing flights, but also for items such as a villa deposit, which you may lose if you can’t travel because of the airline’s failure. Check with your provider if it offers SAFI cover — it may be an optional extra. Alternatively, buy a policy from a specialist insurer like protectmyholiday.com that covers the flight alone.
From the producers of “Rock of Ages” comes “Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel in Concert,”the ultimate Elvis hit-driven, story-telling concert experience, opening Monday, April 15, 2019 at Harrah’s Las Vegas. Presenting the music and the story of Elvis’ meteoric rise to fame all in one night’s immersive experience, the show features more than 18 Elvis songs that came to define “rock ‘n’ roll” as we know it today, while four giant LED walls present authentic imagery and scenes from his extraordinary life.
“Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel in Concert” is the only Elvis production in Las Vegas authorized by Authentic Brands Group, owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises, LLC. Inspired by the musical originally written and directed by Floyd Mutrux and now adapted for the stage by Ivan Menchell, the concert version of the show in Las Vegas is being staged by Broadway veteran Jeff Calhoun. Unlike previous versions of the show, the Las Vegas production will focus on the music and will be a concert performance.
For more information: http://heartbreakhotelconcert.com/
Five Must-See Cities on a South America Cruise by Joanna Booth
Forget a tick-list of sights – when visiting South America’s cities, it’s all about experiencing the Latin lifestyle. Hear the strains of samba in Rio, taste the tang of ceviche in Lima, and learn to tango – or watch the experts show off – in Buenos Aires. With many of the region’s most iconic metropolises – and some lesser-known gems – on the coast, a cruise is a great way to explore South America’s urban delights.
It’s been said that a porteño – as residents of the Argentine capital call themselves – is an Italian who speaks Spanish, lives like the French and wants to be English. But Buenos Aires brings Latin passion to its European heritage, with grand baroque architecture and colourful barrios, top notch pizza and superlative steak, café culture and street tango, nightlife that starts at 10pm and is still going at breakfast time, and one of the world’s most famously rowdy football clubs.
Visit working class La Boca for primary-coloured houses and artistic graffiti, and La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors stadium. In affluent, Beaux-Arts Recoleta you can pay your respects to Eva Peron at the labyrinthine cemetery. On any corner, you’ll find a parilla, with pretty much every part of a cow laid out on the vast open grill. Malbec will pair well with anything on the menu.
For a city of more than six million people, Rio’s natural beauty is still what smacks you in the face when you first arrive. Emerald forests snake up its urban mountains, sapphire waters edge its vanilla beaches, and distant peaks peek over its high-rise skyscrapers. Sure, it can be gritty, but this city lives life to the fullest, from the samba clubs of Lapa to the sands of Ipanema, packed with cariocas surfing, strolling and flirting.
Take in a show at the opulent Teatro Municipal, get tickets for a game at the Maracanã stadium, and book a tour of a favela – though it’s worth researching the last, and booking one using local guides who respect their communities. You’ll want to get some height too – ascend Corcovado to stand at the feet of Christ the Redeemer, and summit Sugarloaf Mountain. You can be brave and hike to the latter, or get the cable car – the views will take your breath away, even if you’ve gone for the lazy option.
Photo by DC_Colombia/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
It’s easy to see Lima as a late bloomer. The city has certainly ballooned – today there’s 30 times the number of residents there were in 1930. The capital has had a real resurgence in the last decade, its position at the spearhead of the Peruvian food scene tempting travellers to stay and explore rather than rush off to more aesthetically appealing spots. But between the skyscrapers and shantytowns you’ll spot palaces and mansions – evidence of Lima’s grand and storied past as the richest city in South America until the early 19th century.
Nowadays, streets are sprawling, traffic is chaotic and from June to September the city is often shrouded in heavy fog, but there’s plenty to love, from the cosmopolitan district of Miraflores, perched on top of crumbling cliffs, to colonial, Bohemian Barranco. Sightsee, by all means, but save time for eating – this is the place to try specialities from ceviche to cuy, as the Peruvians call guinea pig.
This Cinderella of South American cities spent years in the shadow of Buenos Aires and Rio, but that means she’s the best kind of beauty – approachable, with no shred of arrogance. Reclining at the foot of the Andes, Santiago’s magnificent mountain backdrop brings drama to an architectural mash-up, modern tower blocks rubbing shoulders with colonial buildings.
The centre is compact and easy to visit, with an excellent Pre-Colombian art museum, and the idiosyncratic Cerro Santa Lucia. This urban outcrop was turned into a rather theatrical public park in 1872, when 150 prisoners were enlisted to build terraces, turrets and pathways, and now it offers one of the best views of the city. You’ll find street art and pavement cafes in the laidback barrios Lastarria and Bellavista, and the latter is also home to the house of poet Pablo Neruda, beautifully preserved as a museum.
Like Uruguay itself, Montevideo is laidback, liberal and low-key, providing a lovely counterpoint to the other cities on South American itineraries, which tend to the giant and frenetic end of the scale. The pint-sized old town is safe to wander around, browsing the shops and galleries on the many pedestrianized, tree-lined boulevards, enjoying the brightly-tinted facades and eclectic street art, and picking up souvenirs from the flea market on Plaza Matriz.
Its 14-mile ocean road, the Rambla, has the longest continuous pavement in the world, with sea views to one side and high-rise hotels on the other. Take a walk, or simply watch the world go by with a glass of Tannat, the spicy, smoky red wine signature to the country.
Want to leave winter behind? Balmoral leaves Southampton in January for a mammoth 70-night South American Exploration, circling Cape Horn before cruising back through the Panama Canal, with ports of call including Rio, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Valparaiso (for Santiago) and Callao (for Lima). From £6,999pp, departs January 6, 2020 (fredolsencruises.com).
Don’t have long? Flit to the balmy east coast for a 10-day itinerary on Silver Shadow from Buenos Aires to Rio, calling at, among other ports, Montevideo. From £4,500pp, departs February 26, 2020 (silversea.com).
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa Reimagines Its Guestrooms by Benedict Carrizzo | Mar 19, 2019
JW Marriott, part of Marriott International, Inc., completed JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa’s renovation. It included an extensive transformation of all 447 ocean-facing guestrooms and suites.
Martha Gaos and Claudia Gonzalez of G+G Interiorismo reimagined the interiors of JW Marriott Cancun incorporating modern techniques and traditional elements. Warm sand tones are punctuated with pops of bright turquoise reflecting the Mexican Caribbean waters.
The hotel is influenced by the culture of the destination—furnished with pieces from traditional Mayan designs, including Mexican textiles and reclaimed wood accents adorned with carved drawings. This is a tribute to the cross-stitched embroidery usually found in garments worn by the ancient Yucatan people. A closer look reveals intricate designs embellished with native symbols, including hummingbirds (sacred in Mayan mythology), quetzals (local birds), four-petal flowers, snail fossils, amate bark paintings derived from Mexican folk art, and other emblems common in knitting patterns of local huipiles (indigenous garments).
Local artisans made the herringbone-patterned floors with traditional materials, while the hotel’s redesigned bedrooms and bathrooms feature marbled, aerial-view images indicative of the Mexican cenotes(natural sinkholes) as a focal point. The 74 redesigned suites incorporate ‘wood screw’, a type of indigenous wood commonly used in the Yucatan Peninsula, along with architectural light fixtures, sand-colored curtains, and textured rugs in muted tones, reminiscent of the coral reefs. Other facets of the renovation include modern bathrooms with freestanding soaking tubs, rainfall showers, dual sinks and granite vanity tops featuring chrome detailing.
JW Marriott Cancun’s 4,000 square-foot Presidential Suite is saturated with light and features floor-to-ceiling windows, a full kitchen and airy dining room, and is complete with oak detailing and ceramic tiles curated by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola.
For more information, visit www.marriott.com/jw-marriott/travel.mi
Mexico for Families: All-Inclusives
by Adam Leposa | Mar 19, 2019
From new favorites to old standbys, there are plenty of options for families looking to book a vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We polled our latest class of 30Under30 travel agents and, while many agreed that the perfect fit depends on the family involved, there are a few standouts with great food, fun activities and plenty of opportunities for adults and kids to do their own thing.
AAA Travel Michigan’s Jordan Lapetz notes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recommending a property for families. Some clients might want a very high-energy resort with lots of activities and on-site inclusions, since they may not be comfortable heading off-property with their children.
“The ages of the children are a huge factor in determining what type of resort or amenities on site the children will want and actually use,” Lapetz says. “I have had many families come to me and explain in the past, the kids just hung around mom and dad because the resort was not as family friendly; my response is to find a resort that everyone can enjoy together, as well as within their own spaces.”
Amber Koll of The Travel Advantage in Sioux Center, IA, agrees that whether or not a resort is a good fit for a given family depends heavily on the ages of the children involved. That said, she considers the Moon Palace Cancun a great pick.
“They have tons of activities for kids of all ages, plus they usually offer resort credit that can be used towards tours to help offset that extra cost,” Koll says.
Allison Kobasky, who is with Miami-based Over the Moon Vacations, loves sending clients to Hard Rock’s resorts, and she says that families shouldn’t be put off by the brand’s reputation for being a “party place.”
“It’s actually quite the opposite,” Kobasky says. “The resorts are stocked with a ton of amenities like mini-golf, arcades and ‘music labs’ where you can literally be part of a band for a bit, as well as a casino, spa, access to golf courses and more. All of these things are also available via the hotel's ‘limitless resort credit’ concept, which allows you to redeem a certain amount of credit towards different activities, completely free with your stay as long as you pay a small service charge for the amount you use.”
Ryan Barks of Travel Haus of St. Louis also favors Hard Rock-branded properties, as well as the Moon Palace Cancun.
“Hard Rock and Moon Palace both have an immense amount of activities for all ages from two to 102 and can receive a great amount of resort credit as well to use on things on and off the properties,” he says. “This is perfect for multi-generational trips, as well as families with more than one age of children.”
Barks is also looking forward to Karisma’s new, flagship Nickelodeon hotel, which is scheduled to open next year in the Riviera Maya. “Nickelodeon is a fantastic property for kids of all ages,” he says of the brand’s initial Punta Cana location, “but does not have a child-like feeling throughout the property, so adults can also enjoy themselves.”
Samantha Collum of West University Travel in Houston says that her favorite recommendation for families is the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.
“The Grand Velas does a fantastic job of pampering everyone, from newborns to grandparents: they offer a baby concierge so you can leave the stroller at home, their kids club is included and offers plenty of activities, and adults can indulge in the spa or sip a cocktail by the beach,” Collum says. She also notes that it is one of the few family-friendly properties to win the AAA Five Diamond Award, making it a good fit for families looking for luxury.
New York City-based SmartFlyer’s Allison Law also loves the Grand Velas all-inclusives, particularly the ones in Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya. The all-inclusive aspect affords older children and teens a measure of independence, she says, since they can hang out around the resort and eat on their own without worrying about busting the budget.
Grand Velas Los Cabos
“The unbelievable food options and quality will definitely be up to even the harshest food critic’s standards,” Law says. “The sprawling resort grounds offer endless activities for all ages to participate, and the properties also offer great connecting room options to accommodate families.”
Jordan Glanda of Touraid Travel Inc. in Plattsburgh, NY, often recommends Azul- and Dreams-branded properties, based on feedback from her clients and her own travels.
“Of course, it does depend on the experience that the family is looking for on their vacation,” Glanda says. “Some properties are vast and some much smaller. Also, some allow for a lot of off-property activities, while others really try to make the resort in itself a destination. I trust the above properties to really cater to my clients and see to their needs through.”
For Christabela Pierre of Atlas Cruises & Tours in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, the Hyatt Ziva, Panama Jack and Iberostar properties in Cancun are all great picks.
“These properties do a wonderful job of blending adult fun with kid fun,” says Pierre. “Some have small water playgrounds, or family-friendly restaurants with kids’ menus, while still offering parents the ability to be adults and enjoy romance on their vacation.”
Kristen Munch of Frosch Travel in Chicago loves the Rosewood Mayakoba for its many multi-bedroom units and villas, as well as the wide variety of activities that are available at the property.
“The Mayakoba community is excellent for bike riding through the grounds or taking a boat ride through the mangroves while learning about the flora and fauna native to the area,” says Munch. She also recommends the resort’s cooking classes, which give guests the opportunity to dive in to the region’s native delicacies.
“I would recommend any Riu property,” says Trevarus Martin of Book and Bag Travel, LLC, in Katy, TX. “Simply, put they're affordable and fun.” He also notes that, because Riu has a wide variety of locations in Mexico, the brand gives clients plenty of options.
Kaitlyn Kubitskey of My World Travel LLC in Louisville, KY, had a great experience when she sent her clients to The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen.
“I had a family of six love their time here and they felt worry-free the entire time,” Kubitskey says. “The hotel has tons of activities catered toward kids and a great connection with the local tour industry that took them to Mayan ruins, cenotes, to a national park to zip-line, and into the town to explore. The adults and kids loved it!”
Kubitskey also says that the Club Med Ixtapa has been on her radar – while she hasn’t sent anyone there yet, she is looking to send a family of clients there at some point in the future.
Port Canaveral is a Cruise Traveler’s Dream
All the fun and none of the hassle is why some of the world’s biggest and most innovative ships sail in and out of Port Canaveral. On a given day you may see Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise liners and a Victory Casino ship.
Traveler Convenience - Everything is close by at Port Canaveral. Parking garages are adjacent to cruise terminals — just minutes from parking to ship. Dining in The Cove you can view the big ships and gaze at the fishing boats or cargo ships as they sail past. A more authentic experience would be challenging to find. Just five minutes from the ship, travelers can dip their toes in the ocean, fish from the jetty, take in some sun, or try surfing or boogie boarding under the watchful eye of Jetty Park lifeguards.
Orlando’s Closest Port - Orlando is recognized as the world’s headquarters for great theme park experiences and Port Canaveral is Orlando’s closest port. It’s a straight shot to Orlando on 528, the Beachline Expressway. Orlando International Airport is just one of four international airports within an hour’s drive. Cruise passengers appreciate the ease of travel to Port Canaveral from all four airports — Orlando-Sanford (SFB), Daytona Beach (DAB), Orlando-Melbourne (MLB) and Orlando International (MCO).
Orlando--with its 72 million annual visitors--is the home to several renowned theme parks. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can get a coveted sneak peek of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening later this year. At Disney Animal Kingdom’s Pandora — The World of Avatar is an amazingly reconstructed other-worldly place. At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, guests relive the magic of the stories and meet famous book characters as they navigate subterranean caverns. At Epcot’s Soarin’ Around the World, visitors virtually “hang glide” above some of the most breathtaking wonders the world has to offer.
The Land of Launches - With Kennedy Space Center right next door, your clients can combine their cruise vacation with a trip back into space history, get up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis® exhibit and learn about what’s coming next. Travelers just might find themselves in the right place at the right time for a rocket launch, with spectacular views from Jetty Park and Exploration Tower right in Port Canaveral. There are many reasons to cruise out of Port Canaveral, and catching a launch is just icing on the cake.
Florida’s Space Coast is ranked one of the 19 Best Places to Travel in the World in 2019 by CNN Travel. This summer (July 20) marks the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, and while the famous Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary will get much attention, the future of manned space flight is scheduled for first crewed test flights this summer, too. Check out the robust rocket launch schedule at spacecoastlaunches.com.
Big Story at Port Canaveral - Keeping pace with growing demand, more than $237 million has been spent on terminal renovations recently and more is on the way. Port Canaveral will soon welcome the first North American-based LNG powered ship, the Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line’s largest ship ever built, with twenty decks, six distinctive themed zones of fun and the Ultimate Playground with the first roller coaster at sea. The Mardi Gras will have a 5,286 lower berth capacity and maximum capacity of approximately 6,500 guests.
To get ready for the Mardi Gras, Port Canaveral is building a $160+ million new cruise terminal. The cruise facility expansion is estimated to be the largest single project in the history of the Port. CT3 will be 185,000 sq. ft. on 2-stories with an adjacent elevated parking facility for 1,800 vehicles. CT3 is planned for completion by June 2020. The Mardi Gras will homeport at Port Canaveral beginning in fall of 2020.
Oh The Places We Go - Some of the largest and most innovative ships in the world sail in and out of Port Canaveral, to the Bahamas, Cuba and Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean, providing exotic stops on 3-to-15 day cruises and now including a very popular Cuba cruise, with a stop in Key West and overnight in Havana.
With proximity to the best of Florida’s manmade and natural attractions, and amazing cruise traveler convenience and portside entertainment built in, Port Canaveral is the perfect place to launch vacation adventures.
Port Canaveral Facts - • 3-to-15 day cruises to the Bahamas, Cuba, and eastern, western and southern Caribbean
• 1 hour to Orlando theme parks
• 4 international airports within 1 hr. drive
• 20 minutes to Kennedy Space Center
• 5 minutes to the beach
• Parking garages adjacent to ships
For more details, request or download the Port Canaveral Official 2019 Cruise Guide
at PortCanaveral.com/CruiseGuide / For Travel Agent Information, call: 1.877.386.7678
This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.
A Boatload of Reasons Why You Should Feel Secure on a Cruise Ship
Mega-sized cruise ships have always been a rather large target for those who would choose to do travelers harm. It’s the unspoken fear that travel agents avoid talking about or even thinking of if possible. Let one cruise ship get hit by a terrorist attack and that’s it: game over.
Fans of cruise vacations have a fairly good idea of the security precautions in place to prevent something like that ever happening. Still, in a world where one person can walk into a crowded theater and open fire, killing people as fast as guns can pump out bullets, this is a topic we should talk about now.
Just after the tragic events of 9/11, cruise lines jumped on the security bandwagon like everyone else. A 300-foot security perimeter was set up around vessels in port, SCUBA divers were sent down below the waterline to check the ship’s hull for bombs, visitors were banned from boarding, and more.
In an ongoing effort, cruise ship crewmembers receive regular security and safety instruction and believe me — no one on the ship takes those topics lightly.
A system is in place to handle emergencies onboard, which was recently renewed, examined and refreshed in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster. That particular event gave us a modern day example of what cruise travelers of the Titanic generation already knew firsthand: no ship is unsinkable.
Taking lessons learned from Titanic and Concordia, combining them with today’s technology and moving forward, the cruise industry is today one of the safest modes of travel available. A lot of that has to do with the closed environment provided by cruise ships.
Totally self-supporting in many areas, these vessels are self-contained floating hotels with all the challenges of a land-based operation but often totally surrounded by water as far as the eye can see. That single fact is probably one of — if not the main — reason we have not seen terrorist activity on cruise ships.
Because cruise ships are often away from civilization and the associated hospitals, emergency responders and land-based services, those who operate the mobile assets of their particular cruise line have always been on guard when it comes to safety.
Still, it does not take much of a leap in thinking to wonder how terrorist activity would rear its ugly head today. We could look to Somalia and pirates that have effectively cleared waters in that part of the world of all cruise ships. We could wonder if the guy next to us in line getting on the ship, wearing a jacket, actually has some kind of explosives packed in there somewhere. There is no limit to where we could go, imagining what might happen.
Right about here is where one might expect to read on a cruise line website that security precautions are in place “in an abundance of caution” or “because safety is our number one priority,” but this is more than that. Both of those thoughts may be true, but today we have a real, viable concern about safety … or so we think.
Cruise lines and those who operate them already know this, live it each and every day and want us to feel secure when sailing. That’s a bit different than the TV news accounts that might have us believe that it is unsafe to travel anywhere.
Not long ago, on a trip through Egypt and Jordan, we were not far from hot spots already talked about as being unsafe for travel. Still, on the ground in the Middle East, the situation did not seem nearly as dangerous as we had been led to believe.
Tourism is a major industry to these places and they have taken extraordinary measures to ensure traveler safety. Tourism Police are seen on street corners and at iconic monuments and attractions. Entering and leaving countries in that part of the world does indeed require going through an extra security check or two.
Getting on and off cruise ships today we might find lines have returned a bit. Expect to see security forces on guard with machine guns at the ready. Look for the passenger safety drill to have a more serious air about it. But other than those noticeable changes, it’s business as usual on cruise ships around the world.
Then there’s always the option to move the vessel away from any imminent danger. Try doing that with your land-based hotel.
Josh Lew | January 11, 2016
Photo courtesy of Department of Homeland Security
A firm (but far-off) deadline for Real ID compliance
That won’t be necessary now. The timeline announced by Johnson has a firm final deadline for full Real ID compliance. However, that deadline is Jan. 22, 2018. This gives states two additional years to come up with and implement an ID plan.
The two-year delay was necessary because less than half of the states in the US have met all the Real ID requirements. In the statement, Johnson said that only 23 states were “fully compliant” at this time. Five states are completely non-compliant and were not given any extensions beyond Jan. 1 of this year. They are Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington. 22 states had not fully met the requirements of the Act, but were given extensions of various lengths because they were working towards implementation.
An ongoing debate
The Real ID Act dates all the way back to 2005. Why are some states still ignoring it? The main complaint is that the Real ID is, in effect, a national identification card, even though it will be issued by the states. This would, according to critics, infringe on states' rights to make ID rules as they see fit. Some have gone as far as saying that the whole concept of Real ID goes against the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
Others, such as the ACLU, say that Real IDs will be harder to obtain, but, if they replace drivers' licenses, will be needed for basic tasks such as opening a bank account, accessing government services and getting past a TSA security checkpoint at the airport.
Then, of course, there is the ongoing debate about privacy and government overreach.
Some state governments have spent the last decade debating about these potential problems rather than trying to comply with the Act.
Nothing to worry about yet
What does all this mean for travelers? Nothing yet. Per the DHS statement: “Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel. Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID).”
Homeland Security has also set up a special page so that residents of non-compliant states can track their local government’s progress with implementing the Act. Two years is a long time, and there will most likely be challenges from some states or rights groups in the mean time. Perhaps the legality of Real IDs will end up being decided by the Supreme Court.
Alternative IDs could be necessary for fliers from non-compliant states
So fliers do not have to worry about anything just yet. However, they will soon be seeing an increase in the amount of signage and information about Real ID requirements. DHS is working with airports to “get the word out” about the new requirements.
Even if some states do not comply, their residents will still be able to travel after the 2018 deadline. Other forms of “secure” identification could be used in lieu of a Real ID: A US passport or passport card, a permanent resident card (for non-citizens), a US Military ID, and other various DHS-approved documents.
For now, there is nothing for fliers to worry about. However, if your state is still debating Real IDs during the 2017 legislative session, it may be time to apply for a passport if you do not yet have one.
FTC Going After Hidden Resort Fees
By Rich Thomaselli/January 11, 2016
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
The legislation would ostensibly relieve the agency from investigating hotels and resorts on a case-by-case basis, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At issue are the resort fees that hotels sometimes charge but do not advertise up front. These so-called "daily resort fees" then show up on the bill upon checkout.
Ramirez asked for the legislation in a letter to 10 U.S. representatives, telling the congressmen that while her office has sent numerous warning letters to hotels, “In my view, however, the most efficient and effective means to mandate the type of industry-wide requirement you propose would be through legislation,” she wrote to the members of Congress, according to the Times.
A spokeswoman for the American Hotel and Lodging Assn., a trade group for the nation’s hotels, told the Times that the number of hotels that charge mandatory resort fees is on the decline — only 7 percent of all hotels in 2014 — and those that do so disclose the fees clearly.
“The lodging industry provides guests full disclosure for resort fees charged upfront,” Rosanna Maietta, a spokeswoman for the group, told the paper. “Those fees, in addition to the base travel and hotel charges, remain transparent whether consumers book online or with the hotel directly.”
But a poll commissioned by Travelers United, a non-profit group, found that 80 percent of consumers want resort fees included in advertised pricing so that they can comparison shop. And, according to USA Today, 87 percent said they would be less willing to stay at a hotel or resort that charged a fee for activities or amenities they did not use.
Quite often, the "daily resort fee" is an umbrella fee that includes usage of hotel Wi-Fi or pool for instance, that may or may not be used by hotel guests.
Last year, U.S. hotels were projected to make a record $2.47 billion from fees and surcharges, according to a study by New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
"When they advertise the room, if it's mandatory, if there's no way you can wiggle out of it, you have no choice, it's not an option, it must be included in the room rate, otherwise it's misleading and deceptive," Charlie Leocha, co-founder and chairman of Travelers United, told USA Today.
In part, this was initiated by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who first called on the FTC in May of 2015 to investigate certain online hotel reservation websites. Grassley wrote a letter to the FTC asking Ramirez to investigate the sites because of hidden booking fees that "push the price of the hotel room beyond what the actual hotel would charge."
Cruising with kids? You need to know these tips
There’s nothing like a cruise for a family vacation. It’s easy. No packing and unpacking. Tons of entertainment for every age. And food options guaranteed to please the pickiest of eaters.
But even the best of intentions can go awry. Like when my daughter, Lucy, and I recently sailed on Royal Caribbean’s new Anthem of the Seas. It departs out of Cape Liberty, just minutes from Manhattan. An easy getaway — or so we thought.
The GPS said it would take just 30 minutes to drive there from Brooklyn. More than two hours later, we arrived at the port, worried that the ship would be setting sail without us. Luckily, we had time to spare.
But it goes to show that even the most experienced travelers can sometimes make mistakes. Lesson learned here: Never cut it close with a cruise ship, or you might find yourself flying to the next port or missing the trip altogether.
While we were onboard the ship, I chatted with a number of experts and got their insider tips for how to make the most of a family cruise.
I always let my kids do a lot of research. Kids are really savvy on computers, and they have their opinions about the things that excite them. With this cruise, we literally came because it has the iFly technology. My kids have been obsessed with it. I would book an entire cruise based on just that. — Kim-Marie Evans, founder of Luxury Travel Mom, mother of four
Cruise lines have their own personalities, just like families do. You want to pick a cruise line that fits your family’s personality. If your family is very adventurous and you like to do wild and crazy things, a line like Royal Caribbean is great because they have these first-at-sea amazing experiences like bumper cars and sky diving and surfing on the ship. You have other cruise lines that have characters onboard and are suited to much smaller kids. Don’t just look at the price and the itinerary, look at the personality of the cruise line. — Suzanne Kelleher, family vacations expert at About.com, mother of three
With five kids, I love to make sure our cruise has a ton of activities. Keep everybody busy, and everybody’s happy. — Audrey McClelland, founder of MomGenerations.com, mother of five
The critical question when you’re planning the vacation is, are my kids going to have a great time? And if they are, I’m going to have a great time. — Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, father of two
Tip 2: Get the lay of the land
My favorite thing that we like to do when we’re getting ready for a cruise is we start planning ahead. But when we’re onboard we plan out our itinerary. We sit down at breakfast, we look at all of the things we’d like to see and do, where we’d like to eat, and then at the end of the day we get to talk about all of those things that we did. — Lissa Poirot, editor in chief of Family Vacation Critic, mother of two
Part of the way we design our ships is to make them easy to get around, so there are a few obvious locations everybody always knows. We like to have what is the equivalent of a town center. So I can say to my children, my gorgeous grandchildren, go have a good time, and come back and I’ll be here in such and such a place. — Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, father of four, grandfather of five
Tip 3: Remember, food rules
I have the pickiest eaters on the planet, so I love a cruise with lots of dining options and a buffet, because you can find something for everybody. — Audrey McClelland, founder of MomGenerations.com, mother of five
Kids and food is a mystery to itself. My oldest son, who is 11, is a sushi connoisseur. My 6-year-old has periods where he will only eat a certain type of food all of the time. So food is important, because you want the kids to be eating and you want them to have their energy levels so you don’t have any meltdowns. It’s important to make sure that the experience can really cater to your children. — Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, father of two
Tip 4: Let the kids take charge
My top tip when traveling with kids, especially on a cruise, is to let them find the activities that they’re going to fall in love with. You can’t look at an itinerary and anticipate what your children’s favorite activity is going to be. You need to let them explore the ship, and what they find will probably surprise you. It’s not usually the flashiest adventure that the cruise has to offer. It might be the simplest thing, like the Ping-Pong table that’s next to the soft-serve ice cream machine. — Kim-Marie Evans, founder of Luxury Travel Mom, mother of four
What I love about being on a cruise is that I can roam the ship and do my own thing and I don’t have to see my parents all the time, even though I’m on a family vacation with them. — Zoe McElroy, teen cruiser
Tip 5: Make sure the ship has Wi-Fi
I love social media and I also love staying in touch with my friends, so I think it’s important to choose a cruise that has Wi-Fi so that I can talk to them through Snapchat or Facetime or Facebook or anything like that while I’m in the middle of the ocean. — Zoe McElroy, teen cruiser
Tip 6: Bring reinforcements
I have five kids, so I love to bring Grandma and Grandpa on a cruise with us. There’s power in numbers, and an extra set of hands is always welcome. — Audrey McClelland
Tip 7: Pack wisely
One of the hardest things is to pack for a cruise, because you’ve got limited space. So I give the kids a drawer and say to them, “This is all the space you have — let’s fit what you might have in it.” I tell them that they don’t need all of the toys and all of the gadgets because there’s going to be so much to do on the trip. — Lissa Poirot
On the day of your cruise, it’s really important to know that when you arrive at the pier you’re going to give your luggage to the porter and you’re not going to see that bag until the afternoon or later. But the minute you get on the cruise, you can start having fun, so what you need is a carry-on bag that has your bathing suits, anything that you need to have fun those first few hours of the cruise. — Suzanne Kelleher
Empress of the Seas will sail four- and five-night itineraries from Miami to Nassau, The Bahamas; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman and Key West, Florida. The sailings will offer longer stays in every port, and on select five-night itineraries guest can experience overnight stays in Cozumel, Mexico.
Onboard the ship will offer daily "Sunday" brunches served with a complimentary mimosa or Bloody Mary, "My Time Dining" with no formal nights, a new Las Vegas-style “Sequins & Feathers” show and a newly reimagined Boleros Latin Lounge. Empress of the Seas also will offer fast pier-to-ship boarding with earlier boarding times of 11:00 a.m. We at Gino's Travel Agency are accepting reservations.
TSA Could Stop Accepting Some Driver's Licenses Soon By Adam Leposa
Effective March 1, 2016, Delta will discontinue acceptance of pets as checked baggage, and will instead accept shipment of pets for travel as freight through Delta Cargo. Pets as carry-on will continue to be an option for Delta customers and there are no changes to Delta’s policy of welcoming service and emotional support animals in the aircraft cabin.
Delta recognizes that pets are important members of one’s family, and this change will ultimately ensure that the airline offers a consistent, high quality for customer service for customers who choose to ship their pet with Delta Cargo.
There are exceptions to the Delta policy to discontinue acceptance of pets as checked baggage, including:
Any pets, which were previously transported as checked baggage, must travel as cargo under this new policy unless the pet meets one of the above noted exceptions.
Customers who are booked for travel after March 1, 2016 with reservations that include a pet as a checked bag will be proactively contacted by Delta to be advised of the new policy and to offer assistance with options.
Please visit Delta News for full details regarding this policy update.
For travel within the US 50, customers may visit deltacargo.com/Petshipment or call 1-800 DL CARGO.
For international travel, effective March 1, 2016, Delta Cargo will not permit international shipment of pets unless the shipment comes from a pet shipper that is a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. Visit ipata.org for more information.
olland America Announces BBC Earth and AFAR Partnerships, Suite Update (VIDEO) 30, 2015
Holland America will beef up its destination content both onboard and on its website with new partnerships with BBC Earth, AFAR Media and Utrip. Additionally, the line is launching a $300 million update for all suites on its Signature-, Vista- and R-Class ships. The line also introduced a new logo that is similar to the old version, but simplified.
The BBC Earth program is set to roll out across Holland America Line’s fleet starting in April 2016 and will be on all ships by September 2016.
With BBC Earth Holland America will offer a live onboard concert specially adapted for the line based on the “Frozen Planet” program, which will take guests on a journey into the majestic wilderness of the polar regions. The production will feature “Frozen Planet” footage and be accompanied by live musicians.
For children, there will be an on-board explorer trail, fun workshops, and BBC Earth animal and dinosaur fact shows. Young guests will also have the opportunity to try their hand at being a journalist.
Guests who want a deeper BBC Earth experience can join a featured theme cruise that will include access to the creators of BBC Earth shows who share their behind-the-scenes stories of how the programs are made and conduct master classes in their craft. Younger guests will also have the opportunity to have film workshops with the BBC Earth YouTube team. Featured cruise dates will be announced at a later time.
Off the ship, Holland America has also teamed up with AFAR Media to create "Destination Guides" for all of Holland America's ports of call and scenic cruising areas, approximately 400 total.
The Destination Guides will be available on Holland America Line’s website. AFAR will use its network of local experts to curate the content, providing travelers with recommendations for top attractions, restaurants and shopping experiences in each destination. Each guide will contain an overview of up to 20 top picks to see and do in the area; recommended restaurants, cafes and markets; and boutique shopping suggestions.
Through a collaboration with the software platform Utrip, guests will be able to personalize content in the new Destination Guides. Guests will be able to browse the information on their own or use the Utrip functionality to select desired ports of call, highlights and activities ashore. They will then receive customized recommendations on the line’s cruise itineraries, port highlights, as well as shore excursions tailored to their interests.
Guests can save specific ports of interest and also either use a pre-determined profile or a personalized one created with interactive sliders covering History, Art and Culture, Food and Drink, Nature and Outdoors, and Contemporary Life to gain these recommendations.
For each destination, Utrip searches top-pick attractions, local dining and shopping options for the best match to personal preferences. Interactive maps allow users to see the location of each suggestion and click for additional information. The interface also will make recommendations for Holland America Line group shore excursions based on preferences.
Users can save the recommendations to their profile so they can easily find them when they are ready to book their cruise.
Holland America's new suite upgrade program will see enhancements to the furnishings, décor and amenities for all suites on the line's Signature-, Vista and R-Class ships. The first ships to undergo the suite transformation will be Eurodam and Oosterdam, followed by Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam and Noordam. Additionally, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Volendam and Zaandam will receive the suite enhancements as they head into their scheduled dry docks over the next few years.
Eurodam's refit is scheduled for December 7-20, 2015 at Freeport, Bahamas. Oosterdam will be in dry dock April 3-18, 2016, at Fincantieri’s yard at Palermo, Sicily.
The main living area in each suite will get a new sofa, lounge chairs and deck chair. The suites will also get a new headboard, carpet and wall coverings, as well as new soft goods that include a privacy curtain, drapery, bed runner and bed skirt. The desk, dresser, nightstands and makeup vanity will get new quartz stone tops, and the line will add new vanity lighting.
In terms of electronics, Holland America will add a new USB outlet to the bed's headboard, bedside LED lights, upgraded electrical outlets and a lighted closet rod aimed at making it easier to select outfits in the morning. Suites will also get a fully new interactive television system, with complimentary movies on demand and access to the daily program and shipboard information, including restaurant overviews, spa services and guest billing.
Suite bathrooms also will receive a makeover. A wall of designer glass tile serves as a backdrop to the new vanity area that includes new stone tops, modern faucets and under-mount sinks. Other enhancements include new contemporary mirrors with integrated side-by-side LED lighting, new floor tiles, and a nightlight.
Starting in January 2016, all suites across the fleet will receive new amenities. Currently, suite guests receive priority embarkation, disembarkation and tender service; exclusive use of the Neptune Lounge for Pinnacle and Neptune Suite guests; private breakfast service in the Pinnacle Grill; and complimentary laundry and dry cleaning services. New additions include a premium duvet, superior bathrobes and slippers, Bose docking station, binoculars for use during the voyage, complimentary mimosas with in-suite breakfast and an in-suite coffee and espresso machine.
Update on Koningsdam
During the press conference Holland America Line also reviewed the latest information on its new ship, the Koningsdam, which is set to debut in April 2016.
The new vessel will offer the BLEND winemaking program. Developed in collaboration with Washington State winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, the venue will enable guests to blend their own wine and enjoy it at dinner or in the privacy of their stateroom.
In terms of new entertainment offerings, the ship will sport the new World Stage main theater, which will have such production-enhancing equipment as 270-degree state-of-the-art panoramic LED screens. The flexible space can have multiple stage configurations, ranging from in-the-round, to the more conventional proscenium staging, and will initially host five new productions performed in repertory by a cast sourced from around the world. Guests will also be able to enjoy The Music Walk complex, which will include B.B. King's Blues Club and the Lincoln Center Stage.
Royal Caribbean International has laid the keel for its fourth Oasis-class ship at the STX shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, signifying the official start of construction.
During the ceremony, a 1,000-ton block measuring 32 feet by 154 feet was lifted by crane into the building dock. Newly minted coins were placed under the keel and will stay in place there until the end of the ship’s construction. Once the ship is near to completion, the coins are retrieved and presented to the ship’s Captain and crew to be placed onboard the ship. According to maritime tradition, the coins are said to bring luck to the ship during its construction process and then to its Captain and crew when she is sailing out at sea.
Still to be named, the fourth Oasis-class ship will be delivered in spring 2017.
PHOTO: A burger from Johnny Rocket's just tastes better at sea. (Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)
By Amber Nolan
As fine as the gourmet food is aboard a cruise ship, sometimes you just crave a good hamburger, and many cruise lines cater to those comfort food cravings as well with their own signature offerings.
In fact, one not yet on the list, but to soon watch out for, is the sure-to-please Cheeseburger in Paradise heading for Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Escape at Jimmy Buffett’s first Margaritaville at Sea. In the meantime, five other great choices await your palate below.
Azamara Club Cruises
The inclusion of Azamara Club Cruises on this list may come as a surprise to you, but the pool grill onboard the Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey whips up a mean burger.
After selecting a juicy hamburger, cheeseburger, turkey burger, salmon burger or vegetable burger patty, a list of yummy toppings are available to crown the culinary creation. Bacon, American cheese, Swiss cheese, blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, guacamole, jalapeños and BBQ sauce are all tempting options that send an otherwise simple sandwich over the top.
Carnival Cruise Line
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri was called upon by Carnival Cruise Line not to create a 5-star dining experience but rather an ace roadside-style eatery for serving up some delicious meat on a bun at Guy’s Burger Joint, on select ships.
Each variety starts with a perfect blend of 80/20 ground chuck. Specialty preparations include my personal favorite, the Pig Patty with a bonus bacon patty topping, Chilius Maximus with, as you guessed it, chili and The Ringer complete with Guy’s Bourbon and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce and an onion ring.
Things then get even more wild with acronyms and pseudonyms. L.T.O.P. (lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle), S.M.C. (super melty cheese), Rojo Ring (crispy spicy onion ring) and Donkey Sauce (jacked up secret mayo sauce) are all available plus a whole additional fresh toppings bar. And the savory seasoned fries are a delightful accompaniment.
Pig Patty. Photo by Jason Leppert.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line has recently updated its fleet-wide Terrace Grill to feature Dive-In, a new poolside gourmet burger and hot dog stand.
One-third freshly ground beef patties are served with chopped lettuce and a sliced tomato on a buttery brioche bun, and burgers feature signature Dive-In Sauce – think of a tangy mustardy secret sauce – and a side of tasty crispy fries.
Delicious variations include The High-Dive cheddar cheeseburger; The Gainer crispy, frizzled onion burger and The Cannonball gouda cheese, applewood smoked bacon and caramelized onion burger.
The Cannonball. Photo by Jason Leppert.
Royal Caribbean International
On select ships, including Royal Caribbean International’s newest Anthem of the Seas, Johnny Rockets is the only burger option on this list that comes at an extra cost, but it’s a wonderful retro diner experience worth the small surcharge.
The old-fashioned style choices range from The Original with lettuce, tomato, chopped onions, relish, pickle, mustard and mayonnaise to the Streamliner with Swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and mayonnaise.
Add on a side of “frings" (half fries and half onion rings) and a classic milkshake, and you’re good to go — that is unless you’d like a slice of apple pie à la mode too.
A maxed-out Johnny Rockets burger. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International.
Viking Ocean Cruises
A more recent discovery was onboard Viking Ocean Cruises’ new Viking Star at the pool grill where the Pancho Villa Burger squarely drew my stomach’s attention to its tasty blend of arugula, guacamole, chipotle aioli and blue cheese toppings. It was an unusual but scrumptious combination that resulted in an outstanding flavor explosion.
Is it lunchtime yet?
Pancho Villa Burger. Photo by Jason Leppert.
Michael Isenbek | October 25, 2015
American Airlines (AA) — current titleholder of “World’s Largest Airline” — is set to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers in 2016, introducing a “no frills” fare choice, USA Today reported.
AA President Scott Kirby and fellow executives revealed the plan to analysts Friday, as strictly a cost competition on overlapping nonstop flights. Identifying the rivals, Kirby named such low-cost carrier stalwarts as Spirit and Frontier and also mentioned international carriers — Mexico’s Volaris and Europe's Norwegian, USA Today said.
Kirby pointed out that 87 percent of American’s passengers fly just once annually, but comprise half the airline’s revenue. “Given that 50 percent of our revenue is up for grabs in these markets, and these carriers have had so much success when they weren’t matched, we know that we have to match their fares,” Kirby said, per USA Today.
AA’s no-frills plan has similarities to Delta’s “Basic Economy” fares, introduced in 2012, USA Today said, and specifics of Delta’s plan could be a preview of what AA will offer: the fares are non-refundable, no changes are allowed and seat assignments are only allowed after check-in, pending availability, according to USA Today.
The ascension of low-cost carriers played a major part in AA’s no-frills fare introduction, USA Today indicated, saying that before AA declared bankruptcy in 2011, Spirit served three markets from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW). Currently, the carrier serves around 24. Spirit also has a strong presence in Chicago, serving about 20 destinations with nonstop flights.
“Spirit at DFW is our No. 2 competitor — they are larger than either Delta or United,” Kirby said, per USA Today. They represent a “huge market share,” he asserted.
Statistics indicate, via USA Today, that AA provides 70 percent of available domestic seat miles from DFW, versus Southwest’s 16 percent and Spirit’s four percent — numbers that seem to put AA firmly in first place.
But Kirby insisted that the only relevant statistic is that Spirit represents 20 percent of AA’s overlapping nonstop competition out of DFW.
In fact, Kirby said low- and ultra-low cost competition affects 85 percent of AA’s domestic markets, according to USA Today.
Analysts wondered if AA “was diluting its more elite reputation by matching the lowest fares, if business travelers would never fly an ultra-low-cost carrier,” USA Today said.
But Kirby indicated that the frills weren’t going anywhere, saying per USA Today that fliers willing to pay a premium can still have access to lie-flat seats and other amenities.
CEO Doug Parker assured the analysts that the airline has everything under control.
“We will compete on non-stop service,” Parker said, according to USA Today. “We’re extremely comfortable with what we’re doing.”
October 9, 2015
October 9, 2015