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Survey Finds More First-Time Use of Travel Advisors

According to a survey of more than 500 travel advisors within TRAVELSAVERS, an international travel marketing organization with a retail chain of more than 2,500 independently owned travel agencies, the summer travel season will see an increase of jetsetters using travel advisors for the first time.

 

“Travel advisors are hot this summer with more than 50 percent of respondents seeing an uptick in clients utilizing an advisor for the first time,” says Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer for TRAVELSAVERS. “And this should be no surprise as travelers continue to seek meaningful, curated itineraries that often go beyond the traditional travel elements and delve into personalized moments that require the expertise only an advisor can offer.”

 

The latest trends for summer travel according to TRAVELSAVERS include:

More Spending This Season: In addition to a bump in first-time clients, nearly 75 percent say that budgets are as good or better than 2018. “2019 began with some, fortunately, unwarranted trepidation as customers watched and waited before booking,” says Mazza. “But nearly halfway through the year, we see the summer travel season is here and as strong as ever.”

 

Heading to Europe: While destinations in the U.S., particularly Alaska, Florida and California, are popular this summer, there is no denying that Europe is king with nearly 70 percent of advisors planning trips to the continent. “There’s no doubt that Europe is surging right now with more than 60 percent of respondents developing itineraries focused on cultural pursuits for their clients,” says Mazza. “Tried and true favorites Ireland, Italy and France dominate the top three destinations this season.”

 

Going Beyond the Traditional: In addition to the more “traditional” portions of the itinerary such as the hotel, tours and flights, travel advisors are being called upon to handle elements that not only enhance the trip, but also make their clients’ lives easier at home. Nearly 10 percent of advisors say that they’ve been asked to arrange pet sitting services, with another 10 percent citing grocery shopping on their list of requests from clients this summer. This is in addition to the nearly 65 percent who have been called upon to get coveted restaurant reservations and the nearly 20 percent being asked to book wellness and beauty appointments for their clients.

 

Personalized Journeys: Guided vacations and cruising, two of the top five trends for 2019, according to TRAVELSAVERS, continue to be strong for summer, according to 20 percent and 24 percent of respondents, respectively. But the front-runner this season is FIT, with nearly 50 percent of the results. “Personalized journeys make sense for summer when travelers tend to have more time to linger and explore and often are doing so as a larger family group,” says Mazza. “Let’s face it—there’s no right or wrong way to travel this season. But whether someone has three days or three weeks, a travel advisor’s role is to craft an experience that makes the most of each moment.”

 

Sharing Gratitude with Travel Advisors: Ending on a positive note, quite literally, the survey found that 93 percent of travel advisors cite repeat business this summer from former clients and a majority (67 percent) even receive thank you cards from their clients upon return from their trip. “It is clear why advisors are seeing a spike in repeat business and new clients,” says Mazza. “Travelers are simply delighted by the results.”

 

By James Shillinglaw

 

Dominican Republic Reacts to Deaths of 6 American Tourists Over Last Year

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism expressed its sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those six U.S. citizens who have died over the past year at several resorts on the island, adding that it is working closely with the appropriate authorities to solve these cases as quickly as possible. The Ministry of Tourism was reacting, in part, to a report in The New York Times and other publications describing the deaths, which were due to similar causes leading to the belief that they were linked in some way.

 

The New York Times reported on June 12 that six Americans, most older than 50, had died of pulmonary edema or respiratory failure over the past year during their visits, possibly after ingesting food or alcohol from a resort minibar. The properties where they died included three Bahia Principe resorts and one Hard Rock resort. Both Bahia Principe and Hard Rock say reports about the deaths have been inaccurate and they are committed to collaborating completely with authorities and hope for the prompt resolution of their inquiries and actions.

 

“All visitors are very important to us,” said Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia. “The Ministry’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that the highest industry standards are met so that all tourists are safe when visiting. At the same time, it must also work to provide a definitive answer to the afflicted families.”

 

Garcia said the Dominican Republic has served as model for other destinations in terms of operations and industry standards. He pointed to statistics reported by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic that in 2018, 6.6 million tourists visited the country, of which 3.2 million came from the United States and Canada. In addition, Almost 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic in the last five years.

 

According to a poll carried out in 2018 by the same institution: 99 percent of tourists from the U.S. said they would return to the Dominican Republic on vacation and 94 percent evaluated the island’s tourism services as excellent; 94 percent of the tourists from Canada said they would return to the country and 97 percent evaluated its tourism services as excellent. In 2017, the rate of tourist incidents was 1.6 per 100,000 visitors. In 2018, that rate dropped to 1.4 per 100,000 visitors.

 

Dominican Republic officials pointed to an interview on June 10, where CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said that “when you look at the sheer number of people that are vacationing there, and then you look at the number of incidents, the numbers are overwhelmingly in your favor, but that shouldn’t prevent you from asking some basic common-sense questions.” In other words, it is important for tourists to take precautions when they travel to any destination in the world.

 

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo said it is “actively working in collaboration with Dominican authorities and the private sector to ensure that all U.S. citizens are and feel safe while in the country.” The Embassy also confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is conducting a deeper toxicology analysis and “results might take up to 30 days” and is asking for patience during this process.

 

The National Police Department, in collaboration with the Ministry, National Hotel Association (ASONAHORES), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), is following the due process and working diligently to complete the investigations and to keep the public informed as new findings arise. The Ministry is also working with ASONAHORES to reinforce safety conditions and quality control in food, beverages and any other element that has a positive impact on the satisfaction of those who visit the Dominican Republic as tourists.

 

Garcia said that while what happened is tragic and regrettable, it is important for everyone who wishes to disseminate information about the situation to do it in context and with perspective. He said it is advisable to wait for the official reports before speculating on the causes of death. “We are confident that we can provide a definitive answer as soon as possible,” said Garcia. “You can also be sure that the necessary measures will be taken to make the country even safer for all visitors.” For more information, visit www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gettng a Passport Will Now Take Longer

The Passport Services agency of the United States Department of State has increased the processing time for international travelers to as long as eight weeks.

 
 

According to The Washington Post, the agency said it would now take between six and eight weeks to successfully process a passport application, a 50 percent increase from the four-to-six wait time experienced before May 31.

State Department officials said it offers an expedited processing service for an additional $60, which speeds up the arrival time of passports to between two and three weeks. While officials declined to comment on the long wait times when asked by The Post, the State Department did indicate short-staffing was to blame.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration “requested a 2.5 percent increase in airport checkpoint screeners for fiscal 2020,” according to The Post. The increase in employees would help with the forecasted rise in travelers.

Despite the record number of passports and passport cards delivered each of the last two years, the number of passport specialists employed by the government has dropped by 14 percent.

By Donald Wood

Now, union leaders are complaining about mandatory overtime hours as a result.

“To address high passport workload levels this summer, the Department is leveraging all available resources to ensure processing times do not rise further and that they return to lower levels by September,” a State Department official who declined to be named told The Post.

To apply or re-apply visit https://www.usa.gov/passport

 

 

What You Need to Know About Travel Insurance and Hurricane Season

 

 

A sign directs hurricane evacuees to safety
PHOTO: A sign directs hurricane evacuees to safety. (photo via Darwin Brandis/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Norwegian Alters Cuba Itineraries, Quantifies Financial Impact

by Janeen ChristoffNorwegian Cruise Line ship in Havana

Norwegian Sky cruise ship in Havana Cuba. (Photo by Brian Major).

Gumbo, Garden District and Getaway!

 

Let the good times roll on Norwegian Getaway, the newest ship to sail from the Crescent City. Get jazzed over her 25 dining options, amazing Broadway shows including Million Dollar Quartet and open-air restaurants, bars & lounges and breathtaking views along The Waterfront. What’s more, she features a stop at Harvest Caye, The Caribbean’s premier resort-style destination.

Let Gino's Travel Agency book you on a 5-, 7- or 9-day Western Caribbean cruise — and help you take it easy from the Big Easy.

Itineraries available November 2019 - April 2020

Disney Cruise Line Introduces Captain Minnie to Inspire Girls to Become Cruise Captains

Minnie Mouse, Cruise, cruise ship, captain

Disney Cruise Line is introducing Captain Minnie Mouse to inspire young girls. (Photo via Disney Cruise Line)

 

Disney Cruise Line is hoping to inspire a new generation of women to enter the maritime industry by introducing Captain Minnie Mouse. Captain Minnie Mouse will be outfitted in white trousers or a skirt and red jacket with a captain’s insignia and will be touring Disney ships starting in April. Disney Cruise Line hopes Captain Minnie will have a visual impact and inspire girls to become captains. 

Norwegian Rewarded Teachers With Free Cruises, Money for Schools

Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Cruise Line

PHOTO: Norwegian Joy. (photo via Norwegian Cruise Line)

Boeing Delayed Telling FAA Warning Light Was Shut Off On Many 737 Max Planes Two of the company’s planes have crashed in recent months, killing everyone on board-By Nick Visser

“The question I have is just like we asked them in Reno, ‘Is that all there is?’” Jon Weaks, the head of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told Bloomberg News.

A spokesman for the FAA told The Associated Press the agency determined planes lacking the warning indicator presented a low risk, but said that hearing from Boeing earlier in the process would have “helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion.”

The angle of attack sensors have come under scrutiny following two separate crashes involving the 737 Max. Last October, a Lion Air plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Jakarta airport, killing everyone on board. And in March, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed after leaving the country’s capital. Everyone on that plane also died.

Boeing software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), meant to keep the 737 Max planes from stalling in mid-air, has also been under review. The Seattle Times said in March it found crucial flaws in the safety analysis of MCAS.

Boeing has said the MCAS system was activated in both of the crashes, pushing the noses of the planes downward, but has not directly linked the software to the accidents

Boeing said Sunday some of its 737 Max jetliners were accidentally delivered with one of the cockpits’ warning lights as an optional addition, rather than a standard feature of the new aircraft, and that the company knew for months before informing the Federal Aviation Administration.

The aerospace giant said in a statement a warning light related to two sensors meant to determine a plane’s position in the sky was turned off in most 737 Max planes. Boeing meant to have the feature installed as a standard component of every 737 Max cockpit, but instead the light was linked to a premium upgrade that only some airlines chose to pay for. The FAA was only told about the mistake near the end of last year, 13 months after Boeing first discovered the flaw.

The company defended itself on Sunday, saying the warning light was not an essential safety feature and that its own investigators determined it in no way impacted the safety of the planes. Other common safety features were unaffected, Boeing said.

“Neither the angle of attack indicator nor the AOA Disagree alert are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane,” Boeing said in the statement. “They provide supplemental information only, and have never been considered safety features on commercial jet transport airplanes.”

Sunday’s statement is the first public admission by Boeing that a component of the 737 Max was faulty in some way. Only 20% of the planes ordered by airlines worldwide included the upgrade that would have activated the warning sensor. Neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian Airlines planes had purchased the upgrade, per The New York Times.

Boeing said once it determined in 2017 that the warning light software wasn’t standard, a team of company-employed experts found it “did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation. The team concluded that the warning light could safely remain inactive on affected planes until the next software update, and the company did not inform the FAA at the time.

Around a week after the Lion Air accident, Boeing said it issued a bulletin related to the sensor and informed the FAA. The aerospace company also had a second team related to Boeing’s Safety Review Board investigated the importance of the alert, and the experts also found that the additional warning light would not impact aircraft safety.

Boeing said Sunday it was working to implement the warning light feature as standard before the 737 Max returns to service.

Many airline employee unions reacted Sunday with more questions about Boeing’s candor during the investigation process.

 

 

 
 

Travel Through Game of Throne’s Seven Kingdoms By Jessica Poitevien - April 30, 2019

The final season of “Game of Thrones” is in full swing and whether the fans’ favorite character wins the throne or not, the end of the series is sure to deal an emotional blow to those who have followed the series for years. For the diehard “Game of Thrones” fan on your client list, ease the pain of withdrawal with a trip to some of the show’s film locations, which span from Iceland and Ireland to Malta, Croatia, and beyond.

Where It All Started
While all seasons of “Game of Thrones” were filmed in multiple countries to account for the various climates and landscapes of the show’s Seven Kingdoms, some of the most recognizable locations from the season that started it all can be found in Malta. Travelers in Malta can keep an eye out for the gardens of Kings Landing, the Red Waste, the Tower of the Hand, the Stables, Maegor’s Holdfast, the Red Keep, Cobblers Square, The Street of Steel, Baelish Brothels, Coppersmith’s Wynd, King’s Gate, King’s Square, and the village of Lhazar.

Game of Thrones Malta
Game of Thrones filming in Mdina, Malta.

Fans who would like a more guided visit to these filming locations can opt for one of several GoT-themed tours offered throughout the country. Malta Film Tours, for example, offers a tour that visits several of the locations mentioned above, while also giving fans exclusive access to film sites that would be otherwise inaccessible. On the tour, guests will be guided by local actors who took part in season one of HBO’s hit series as they entertain the group with behind-the-scenes secrets and stories.

Pricing for this group tour starts at about $65 pp with options for private tours also available. For more information, contact Gino's Travel Agency.

The Seven Kingdoms by Sea
Thanks to Variety Cruises, the Ironborn aren’t the only ones who can explore the Seven Kingdoms by sea. The boutique small ship cruise line offers GoT devotees a way to explore Croatia, Iceland, and Spain on three different itineraries that sail to some of the most iconic filming locations in these countries.

Sailing on the Adriatic Sea, Variety Cruises offers the Dalmatian Coast: Croatia and Montenegro itinerary with  sailings departing June 7, 2019 through Aug. 21, 2020 and the Tales of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania & Greece with departures scheduled May 31, 2019 through Sept. 11, 2020. Both itineraries include two days to explore Dubrovnik, which served as the main filming location in Croatia for King’s Landing. The cruise also includes a day in Split, a town on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, known for its beaches and the fortress like complex at its center, another GoT film location in Croatia. The medieval fortress Klis was featured in season four when Daenerys Targaryen and her army marched towards Meereen to free the slaves. The streets of Meereen were shot both on Klis Fortress and in Diocletian’s Palace in Split.

The garden’s of Seville’s Real Alcazar are seen in season five and six of Game of Thrones (Photo credit: Jessica Poitevien).

Travelers can head “North of the Wall” to Iceland for Variety Cruises’ The Iceland Saga itinerary, which includes many recognizable GoT locations featured throughout all eight seasons. Visit Grundafjordur, a quintessential Icelandic town with an optional excursion of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This small fishing village lies next to Mt. Kirkjufell, or “Church Mountain,” known in the Game of Thrones world as the mountain shaped like an arrowhead. The mountain is pictured in season seven when Jon Snow and his gang head north of the wall to find the army of the dead, while the Skogafoss waterfall was used in the first episode of season eight. This Iceland itinerary sails June 8- Sept. 14, 2019.

In addition, guests on The Glories of Spain & Portugal will head to Seville, Spain, where they’ll find the fictional world of Dorne as the city’s Real Alcazar was the filming location for Water Gardens and Royal Palace of Dorne featured in seasons five and six. This itinerary is available June 8, 2019 through Sept. 11, 2020.

 

Overland Explorations
With no dragons or ships in sight, your client’s next option is to explore Westeros by land, and CIE Tours International is offering several itineraries that will allow GoT fans to do exactly that. These land tours traverse Ireland and Iceland, which were both heavily featured throughout all eight seasons of the show. With the Northern Welcome itinerary, travelers start at the Glens of Antrim—known as the Dothraki Sea on the show—where fans can look out at the Causeway Coast and imagine it filled with the nomadic Dothraki people and their fierce warriors. Fans will also recognize the site for the fatal scene where Ned Stark beheads the traitor from the Nights Watch. Other tour highlights include a trip to The Giant’s Causeway and Belfast, with its Victorian architecture and Titanic Belfast; plus a stop in Dublin, which includes a visit to the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, Ireland’s national necropolis.

Skaftafell National Park Iceland
Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park (Photo credit: Boyloso Gotolia).

On the 14-day Jewels of Ireland itinerary, travelers can learn to “pay the iron price” at Ballintoy, site of the fictional Iron Islands, which is home to House Greyjoy. More photogenic destinations follow, including The Dingle Peninsula’s Slea Head Drive, the Cliffs of Moher, rising 700 ft. from the Atlantic, and Slieve League, Europe’s highest sea cliffs. Meanwhile, guests can head further north for the Taste of Iceland itinerary, where travelers can venture through Thingvellir National Park—known in GoT world as the Eyrie where Arya Stark traveled with The Hound. Next, life Beyond the Wall begins in Skaftafell National Park. The area’s wintery landscape will immediately be recognized as home to the Night’s Watch, Wildlings and the white walkers.

For more information, contact Gino's Travel Agency or visit cietours.com.

In honor of the series’ final season, Zicasso has also launched a new itinerary—The Ultimate Game of Thrones Series Finale Tour—which takes travelers on a 15-day journey to filming locations in Croatia, Spain, and Morocco; get the details contact Gino's Travel Agency.

US State Department Security Messaging Now Includes Kidnapping Risk

US State Department

PHOTO: US State Department (photo courtesy Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images) 

After an American was kidnapped in Uganda, the U.S. State Department has updated its travel warnings for 35 countries with an indicator that shows the risk of kidnapping or being taken hostage. 

 

 

New Study Shows Cruise Travel Is on the Rise Worldwide

Norwegian Sky Cruise Pool PHOTO: Cruise passengers at the pool onboard Norwegian Sky (photo by Lauren Bowman)

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released the latest global cruise passenger statistics and results show that cruise travel continues to grow.

Cruising plays a significant role in the global travel market, increasing 7 percent from 2017 to 2018 with 28.5 million passengers. Importantly, the North American market also continues to grow with a passenger increase of 9 percent (14.2 million passengers) in 2018.

The cruise sector represents 2 percent of the overall global travel industry and is on pace with international tourism worldwide. In fact, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism arrivals were up 6 percent in 2018 while cruise travel grew 7 percent.

“It is not surprising that cruise travel is on par with overall international tourism growth. Cruising makes international travel accessible for travelers worldwide and it is apparent in the 2018 CLIA global passenger findings,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO, CLIA. “From a renewed interest in cruises to the Mediterranean to a significant increase in adventure cruising, travelers are embracing cruise travel more than ever before.”

—The Mediterranean is growing in popularity, survey results show. There was an 8 percent increase from 2017 to 2018, totaling more than 4 million cruise passengers in the region.

—Passengers are also looking for shorter cruises. Seven-day cruise itineraries are up 9 percent while three-day and under cruises are also up 10 percent in 2018, according to the survey.

The Caribbean has already bounced back. The latest insights reveal travel to the islands is still in full swing. An impressive 11.3 million cruise passengers traveled to the Caribbean in 2018 an annual increase of 6 percent, according to CLIA’s research.

—Interest in Alaska has grown by double digits, with a year-over-year 17 percent increase in passengers in 2017 and another 13 percent increase in 2018. More than 1 million cruisers traveled to the state.

Asia’s growth was more moderate after several years of intense interest. Last year saw growth of 5 percent with 4.2 million cruise passengers.

North America Cruise Passenger Insights

—North America passenger growth outpaced global cruise passenger growth, showing an increase of 9 percent from 2017 with 14.2 million in 2018.

—U.S. passengers are also increasingly interested in traveling to the Mediterranean. More than 700,000 passengers came from North America up 29 percent from the previous year, according to CLIA.

—There was continued growth in cruising to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda from North American travelers. Passenger numbers were up 7 percent to 9.8 million passengers in 2018.

—Interest in Alaska by North American cruise passengers is in line with global growth. 906,019 cruise passengers traveled to Alaska in 2018, increasing 14 percent from 2017.

—Growing North America destinations include 906,019 cruise passengers increasing to 14 percent from 2017, according to the CLIA study.

 

Changing the Perception of All-Inclusive Vacations

Fitness Center at Hyatt Ziva and Zilara

PHOTO: The fitness center at Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay. (photo via Playa Hotels & Resorts)

It's the Perfect Time to Visit New Orleans

Bourbon Street, New OrleansPHOTO: Bourbon Street, New Orleans (photo courtesy Kruck20/iStock/Getty Images Plus) 

New Orleans celebrated its 300th Anniversary last year, but the festivities are still ongoing in 2019, which will be full of exciting new developments and uniquely New Orleans events.

“New Orleans is known for its rich history and traditions, but new developments are constantly propelling the city forward,” said Olivia Celata, advertising manager for New Orleans and Company. “In 2019, we are welcoming a new airport, culinary institute, cocktail museum and more. Come visit to see what’s new in New Orleans.”

One of the most exciting new developments for visitors is sure to be the new culinary institute.

“The New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) officially launched its inaugural culinary class in January 2019,” said Celata. “A range of enthusiast classes will be offered to locals and visitors alike for those passionate about food, wine and cocktails and those looking to improve their skills.”

Visitors should definitely bring their appetites when traveling to New Orleans. The city is home to some of the world’s top chefs and cuisine.

“Founded by the French, the city of New Orleans boasts some of the finest French restaurants in the world,” noted Celata. “Steps from the French Quarter, French Brasserie Couvant recently opened in the Eliza Jane Hotel, serving simple brasserie fare with relevant renditions of iconic French dishes. The restaurant also features a six-seat raw bar.”

The Big Easy is also welcoming a new airport terminal, adding convenience to arriving and departing the city. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is on track to open the new 972,000-square-foot facility on May 15, 2019.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Louisiana
PHOTO: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Louisiana. (Photo via JasonParis / Flickr)

“This new, world-class terminal complex will completely replace the current facility,” said Celata.

The $1 billion project includes in-line baggage screening, a consolidated security checkpoint to three concourses and 35 gates, and a 2,200-car parking garage. Food and beverage concessions and retail stores will feature a mix of local brands representative of Louisiana and New Orleans as well as national brands that appeal to both the local and visiting passengers, including Shake Shack, Cafe du Monde and Emeril’s Table, Celata said.

In addition to a new, high-tech airport terminal, unique new properties, as well as restored historic hotels, will welcome guests this year, including Hotel Peter & Paul, a boutique hotel and event space that occupies a schoolhouse, church, convent and rectory.

“The architecture and design are deeply connected to its past. Whether you're a guest of the hotel or not, stop by The Elysian Bar within Hotel Peter & Paul for savory small plates influenced by Southern staples and craft cocktails,” said Celata.

Travelers can also stay at the new Higgins Hotel & Conference Center in fall of 2019, which will open by The National World War II Museum.

“This luxury hotel, located on the museum’s campus in the Arts/Warehouse District, will feature 230 guestrooms, conference and event space, restaurants and a rooftop bar,” Celata explained.

New activities will also be available to visitors, starting with the relocated Louisiana Children’s Museum, which is moving to New Orleans City Park in the late summer. The building is Silver LEED certified and has indoor and outdoor environmental elements, including sensory and edible gardens, a floating classroom and a restored interpretive wetlands area.

“The Louisiana Children’s Museum has also partnered with a local restaurant group, Dickie Brennan & Co., for an onsite full-service cafe, Acorn,” said Celata.

Children will surely be enthralled by the updated museum, but adults have not been forgotten. Opening in the fall is Sazerac House, which explores the spirited culture of the Big Easy. The building stands proudly at the corner of Canal and Magazine and is just a short stroll from the original 1850s era Sazerac Coffeehouse.

“Discover the methods used in distilling Sazerac Rye Whiskey, take part in handcrafting world famous Peychaud’s Bitters, learn about the enchanting tale of rum, and master the art of making America’s original cocktail-the Sazerac,” said Celata.

Jazz Fest in New Orleans
PHOTO: Jazz Fest in New Orleans. (photo via New Orleans & Company)

While major celebrations for the 300th anniversary of the city have passed, that doesn’t mean the festive spirit has left the city. Far from it.

“There are more than 130 festivals to enjoy in New Orleans,” said Celata. “On average, that's a festival every 3 days. Celebrate everything from oysters to literary legends to art galleries to blues music. Mardi Gras is our most talked about celebration, but every spring, French Quarter Fest and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival bring hundreds of thousands of visitors and locals to the festival grounds. There is never a bad time to visit New Orleans.”

This year is a special milestone for one of the city’s most popular festivals. The 50th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will take place April 25-28, and the following weekend, May 2-5, 2019. Headliners of the 2019 festival include Dave Matthews Band, Katy Perry, Santana, Pitbull, Van Morrison, Al Green, Jimmy Buffet and many more.

Landlubber or Seafarer, Get to the British Virgin Islands ASAP. Here's Why.

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.

Land whoa! There's been a serious hotel renaissance.

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


Just add water

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.


Set sail

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.

By Camille Lamb Guzman                                                           In partnership with: 

Flying Southwest Airlines this summer? You might now be affected by Max 8 grounding

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.

              

 

 

 

Royal Caribbean Oasis cancels 3 sail dates

Royal Caribbean customers are learning Oasis of the Seas will not be sailing out of Port Canaveral on three dates in April after damage caused by a crane in the Bahamas.

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.

by Cheryl McCloud and J.D. Gallop

Crane strikes Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Bahamas during dry dock

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. 

Royal Caribbean shuts down "Sky Pad" amid lawsuit

 

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

Norwegian Cruise Line will now only offer towel animals by request on some ships

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

TreadRight Foundation & WE Celebrate World Water Day 2019

By   James Shillinglaw

If your customers want to book travel with a socially conscious travel group, you couldn’t do better than the Travel Corporation (TTC), whose TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between the TTC family of brands, including Uniworld, Trafalgar, Insight, Contiki and others, is celebrating World Water Day 2019 with its partner WE, a family of organizations making doing good doable.

 

For this World Water Day, TreadRight and WE have come together to partner with the community of Kanambu, Ecuador, to deliver access to clean water to drink and use for cooking; develop healthy sanitation facilities for washing and going to the bathroom; and build infrastructure like irrigation or catchment systems to facilitate food production.

 

Kanambu is located in the Amazon region of Ecuador and while there is a nearby river, this water source is highly contaminated and piping to a nearby spring contains untreated water and lacks the water pressure to deliver water to the entire community. With TreadRight’s support, WE has been constructing a water treatment center for the community of Kanambu that will include: Establishing a water catchment system, constructing a water treatment plant, laying piping and establishing water access points at the school; laying the piping for the distribution system that will allow for household access points to be established; and community mobilization and training, ensuring there is a committee established to maintain the project.

 

“The Kanambu project continues TreadRight’s commitment to helping deliver water interventions in many of the destinations we visit,” says Brett Tollman, founder of TreadRight and chief executive of TTC. “We are so proud to have now partnered with WE in working to deliver clean water to this community in the Amazon. Having partnered with WE for years now on a number of sustainability projects and immersive volunteer trips, we appreciate their recognition of the unique needs of each community and their thorough commitment to each project. We look forward to delivering the same positive success in Ecuador that we’ve seen WE deliver around the world.”

 

Treadright notes that clean water is a basic human right, yet over 40 percent of the world’s population is still affected by water scarcity. Improving access to clean water is one of the most crucial and quickest ways to lift a community out of poverty. Its positive effect on a community is undeniable. From reducing illness, to improving agriculture, increasing food security and giving girls the opportunity to go to school, the transformative power of clean water and sanitation is sweeping. For more information, visit www.treadright.org

Norwegian Bliss Heads West After Completing First Caribbean Season

By   James Shillinglaw,  Apr 01, 2019

Norwegian Cruise Line last week celebrated the end of Norwegian Bliss’ Caribbean season as well as her return to the West Coast for a summer of Mexican Riviera and Alaska cruising beginning April 14, 2019. The ship departed on Saturday, March 30 for the West Coast and will cross through the Panama Canal, returning to Los Angeles for Mexican Riviera sailings throughout April before joining sister ship Norwegian Joy in Seattle for a summer of Alaska cruising. Both ships are the largest to homeport on the West Coast and will continue to expand Norwegian’s presence in the region.

 

“Norwegian Bliss continues to exceed our expectations as our guests and travel partners continue to truly enjoy her stunning design and innovative offerings,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s president and CEO. “We are thrilled that Norwegian Bliss homeported in our home of Miami and we are looking forward to seeing her once again return to the West Coast to meet her sister, Norwegian Joy, for the first time.”

 

Norwegian Bliss holds several world records on the West Coast, including being the largest ship to be christened in Seattle, homeport in Los Angeles, call to Vancouver and San Francisco, and traverse the new locks of the Panama Canal from both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The ship will return to the East Coast in November 2019 for a winter season of Caribbean cruising from New York City through early 2020. For more information,click on NCL.com.

 

New Survey Shows Decline in Americans’ Interest in Cuba Travel

For a number of months now we’ve been hearing rumors that Cuba travel by Americans has been on the decline, perhaps due to the more stringent requirements for such travel implemented by the Trump administration. Nevertheless, U.S.-based cruise lines have continued to introduce itineraries to Cuba and tour operators have kept up their programs to the island nation.

Now a new survey by Allianz Global Assistance USA has bound that the number of overnight visitors to Cuba dropped 33 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year, indicating the hit has been on Cuba land vacations. Worse yet for Cuba travel is that Americans’ interest in in traveling to Cuba in 2019 is still on the decline (75.5 percent are not interested in 2019 compared with 74.7 percent in 2018). Of course, that still leaves 15.6 percent of Americans (or about 50 million travelers) somewhat or very likely to plan a trip to Cuba.

 

This year Cuba will celebrate the 500th birthday of its capital city, Havana, and expects to receive 5.1 million global visitors as a result. According to Allianz’s survey, however, 90 percent of Americans are unaware of the anniversary celebration this November, highlighting an opportunity for promoters of travel to Cuba. The 6.8 percent who were aware of Havana’s anniversary said it positively impacts their interest in visiting the destination, while 2 percent say it negatively impacts their interest in visiting.

 

Allianz says its survey found travel to Cuba can be confusing, especially in light of U.S. travel restrictions and advisories that often might make people think twice about visiting the island. According to the survey, a majority (63.3 percent) of Americans do not understand current travel restrictions to the island nation, which is likely preventing many from being interested in or planning a trip to the destination. The survey also asked Americans about their preferred method of travel to the island, finding that 18.1 percent would expect to arrive by plane and 6.9 percent by cruise ship.

 

“With Havana making significant infrastructure improvements, including major hotel renovations, and planning cultural activities to celebrate the city’s 500th anniversary, it’s a great opportunity for Americans to visit,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA. “Our survey indicates that Cuba scores highly for its resorts and beaches, as well as its cultural attractions, with 34 percent of Americans listing one of these as the top reason for their interest in visiting the island. When traveling internationally, the right travel protection policy may provide peace of mind in case of unexpected travel disruptions or health issues.”

 

What's New for Disney Theme Parks, Cruise Line and Resorts

By   Alan Fine,  Apr 01, 2019,   

Last week, for the second year in a row, Disney Destinations invited the press and 125 top travel advisors to a presentation in New York's Edison Ballroom to familiarize them with what's to come for Disney and its many travel products. Claire Bilby, senior vice president, sales, services and events for Disney Destinations, reinforced the company's commitment to the travel advisor community, citing the Toy Story song, “You've Got a Friend In Me.”

Bilby pointed out how comments by travel advisors have inspired improvements in the disneytravelagents.com website, which now includes flight and Disney Magical Express information; greater implementation of social channels, including Facebook Live; a continuation of the 15-year loyalty program; and weekly webinars with district sales managers and Disney Imagineering experts. 

 

Showing support beyond the website, Disney has increased the number of discounted familiarization programs for travel advisors and announced that commissions will be paid on Memory Maker starting May 1, both as a standalone product and as an add-on. Memory Maker is Disney's digital photo program that provides families with the freedom not to take their own pictures knowing they are being taken for them. It will be available online for purchase and social media sharing. What follows an update on selected Disney Destinations products:

 

Disneyland: Pixar Pier has been reinvented with many new attractions, including the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind. Joining Black Panther will be Captain America, and coming soon will be a superhero area at Disney's California Adventure. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will premiere here on May 31, 2019. 

Walt Disney World: The launch of Disney's “Now More Than Ever” campaign encompasses Micky and Mini's 90th Birthday Celebration at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival and the Guardians of the Galaxy concerts, Disney's Animal Kingdom's Pandora and the Lion King's 25th Anniversary Celebration with a Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party, and Hollywood Studios' 30th Anniversary Celebration with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opening there on Aug. 29, 2019. Disney's NBA Experience is still on schedule to open this summer as well as Disney's Riviera Resort at the end of 2019. 

Disney Cruise Line: After five years, Disney Magic will be returning to Greece in 2020 and is working closely with Adventures by Disney, Disney's dedicated tour operator, to create add-on excursions. Disney Wonder returns Alaska with some availability still in 2019. Guests can continue to experience Star Wars and Marvel Days at Sea on board Disney Cruise Line ships. 

Adventures by Disney: New tour programs are now available for the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Alaska. In addition to river cruise sailings on the Seine and Rhine, Adventures by Disney will be also offer Rhone cruises on AmaWaterways. Great rates are still available on the Danube and Rhine trips for 2019. 

Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa: Villas with one-, two- and three-bedrooms are now available at this resort on Oahu, which is perfect for multi-generational family travel.

 

The following links are to more in-depth stories on Insider Travel Report: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Disney Cruises, Adventures by Disney, Disney's Riviera Resort, Disney's NBA Experience. For more information, click on Disney Destinations

 

The Party Won't Stop

A Remarkable Dining Experience


Local cuisine combined with French flavors make this establishment an unbeatable haven. Bistrot Caraibes specializes in seafood, be sure to try their famously big lobsters that you can pick out in their live lobster aquarium. Elegant presentation paired with exceptional dishes explains why this Grand-Case restaurant is such a popular spot. The lively atmosphere is not overbearing in terms of noise. You can still carry on a meaningful conversation while relishing in the energetic ambiance. Service and hospitality are impeccable, the owner and the staff are very accommodating. If you appreciate gourmet French culinary with a 5-star experience this will be a highlight of your trip. Also don’t miss out on the wine list that offers wonderful options at many different price points.

For more information please visit: bistrot-caraibes.com

50 Years of Celebration


St. Maarten Carnival is by far one of the biggest events of Saint-Martin, and the most spectacular festival of the island! From April 22nd- May 6th people from all over the world will dress up in shimmering costumes and dance to Caribbean music in the streets. “Come Experience Life” is the theme for the 3 week long annual event in which we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Carnival. Colorful parades, international concerts, and the longest festival in the Caribbean is what sets SXM Carnival apart from the others. Carnival Village is a unique experience, consisting of 79 connected booths that are transformed into mini restaurants and commercial outlets that offer merchandises. You can enjoy delicacies from several different regions while watching well-known artists take center stage!

For more information please visit: sxm-carnival.com

2019 St Maarten Carnival - 50th Anniversary

 

 

A&B- What Cool Looks Like

What Cool Looks Like

So, you wanna' know what cool looks like Antigua & Barbuda style?
Sit back, dig your toes in the sand, and have a long pull on a cold Wadadli.

Here we go.
 
Cool Off: At any of Antigua’s 365 beaches –yes, there’s a beach for every day of the year –the infinity pools at Coco Bay and Sugar Ridge, or with a refreshing rum cocktail like Uncle Roddy’s Barbuda Smash.
Cool Dudes: The irie-looking fella' with the natty dreads playing a steel drum as the Caribbean sun sets purple and orange... yeah, he's pretty cool. Ditto for the guy in the Antony Price suit lounging on his
yacht like an extra in Duran Duran's Rio video.
Cool Breeze: The trade winds keep on blowin’ in A&B, and that’s why it’s the ideal setting for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, a 60-yacht international regatta that champions serious racing, laid-back vibes, and rum-soaked sunshine. Save the date: April 23-27.
Cool Romance: June is romance month on the twin-island nation, and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority launched a three-night, all-inclusive giveaway competition for couples at their Sugar Ridge and South Point hotels.
Sugar Ridge
South Point
Cool Life: See that woman in the floral print skirt and Illesteva "Marianne" sun glasses sitting at Galley Bar?  She came to Antigua for Carnival one summer and never left. Rumor has it she's writing a book called The Pina Colada Papers about a woman who came to Antigua for Carnival one summer and never left. Now that's pretty cool.
Carnival runs July 26th to August 6th.

Cool Place. InstaCool. Cool Backgrounds: That kind of triple-crown coolness best describes Half Moon Bay, Hermitage Bay Resort, and Hodges Bay Resort and Spa. These ultra-chic hotels are destinations for the stylish traveler; they're pinnacles of contemporary luxury that feature a wealth of high-end amenities and services, from innovative dining options to extensive leisure and sporting facilities.

Half Moon Bay Resort

Half Moon Bay recently announced a partnership with Edmiston, one of the most globally recognized brands in yachting, making the resort the hottest destination for luxury boat lovers in the Caribbean.

Hermitage Bay Resort

Hodges Bay Resort and Spa

Cool Weather: The best time to visit A&B is from May to November as the weather rarely escapes 80 degrees, which means you can walk to the top of Shirley Heights without sweating through your Tommy Bahama shirt.

Cool to be CuriousVisit Nelson’s Dockyard. The World Heritage Site was recently voted the “Best Attraction in the Caribbean.”
Cool Hunger: Try crispy conch fritters or saltfish and fungi, which is the Antiguan national dish.

Really Cool: Barbuda’s population of 10,000 frigate birds disappeared entirely after the storm. Now, the birds have begun returning to nest and breed at the nearly wiped-out mangroves of Codrington Lagoon. A project is underway to restore this crucial habitat.

As you might have guessed, savvy travelers, "What Cool Looks Like" is A&B’s promotional theme now and throughout the summer. Of course, anyone in the know knows that A&B is cool any time of the year.
 

Top 10 “cool” things to do in Antigua & Barbuda

Number 10: Keep on liming. 

Number 9: Check back next month...
Wishing you the best from your “cool” friends at Antigua & Barbuda!

The Rise and Fall of WOW Air – Is it Safe to Book With the Struggling Airline? by Hugh Morris

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. 

What is WOW?

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 Mogensentold 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. 

What went wrong with WOW?

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”.

Airline failures per year since 2005

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.”

WOW air | Dropped North American routes 

Why did WOW struggle?

“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".

Should I book a flight with WOW?

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.

 

This article was written by Hugh Morris from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Paris Las Vegas Debuts New $1.7 Million Eiffel Tower Light Show

Paris Las Vegas illuminated the Las Vegas Strip with the debut of a $1.7 million light show at the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday, Feb. 27, joined by world-renowned chef Guy Savoy, legendary French actress and singer Line Renaud and Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson. With a total investment of more than $92 million this year, the resort will also offer elevated experiences for its guests including an additional 1,600 renovated guest rooms and the all-new Voie Spa & Salon as it celebrates its platinum anniversary. For more information visit: https://www.caesars.com/paris-las-vegas/things-to-do/eiffel-tower#.XJqWpHdFxEZ
 
 

“Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel in Concert" Set to Debut at Harrah’s Las Vegas

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/

Janet Jackson Metamorphosis

 

Global music icon, multiple GRAMMY® Award-winner and multi-Platinum selling artist, the incomparable Janet Jackson, is taking over the Las Vegas Strip with her headlining residency Metamorphosis beginning Friday, May 17 at Park Theater at Park MGM resort.

Metamorphosis peels back the layers of the immensely private life of Janet Jackson, sharing her transformation from a young girl with issues of self-esteem to global Icon. The centerpiece of this all new thought-provoking show, will be Janet herself, captivating you through your senses with electrifying visuals, explosive dance numbers, chart-topping hits and fan favorite deep cuts. The show also features a special 30-year anniversary celebration of her ground-breaking album ‘Rhythm Nation.’

Fans will follow her path to self-love, empowerment, motherhood and activism, amidst the challenges faced along her personal journey. She encourages her audiences to find their own light within themselves through her Metamorphosis.

Tickets on Sale now! https://www.parkmgm.com/en/entertainment/janet-jackson.html

Date & Times

May 17, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26 8:00 PM

July 24, 26, 27, 31 8:00 PM

August 2, 3, 7, 9, 10  8:00 PM



About

Janet Jackson is one of the most influential entertainers of the modern era. Her music has won her six GRAMMY® Awards, two Emmy Nominations, a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for an Academy Award along with dozens of American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards. She has received accolades as an actress as well including the NAACP Best Supporting Actor award.

Janet is a published author, dancer, businessperson, philanthropist and one of the biggest-selling artists in popular music history. With sales of over 160 million records worldwide, Janet Jackson stands as one of the best-selling artists of all time with a string of hits that have left an indelible impression on pop culture. Her music and artistry has opened doors through which other top artists have followed, many acknowledging her impact on their musical perceptions. For more information, please visit janetjackson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mexico

10 Best Things to Do in Cancun

 

Cancun’s sparkling, turquoise waters, rich history, and unique culture draws visitors from around the world. But with so much to offer, how do you narrow down the best things to do in Cancun? Here’s our top 10 list of best activities in Cancun to turn your next vacation into the trip of a lifetime.

1.  Take a Day Trip to the Pyramids

Look beyond Egypt for your pyramid adventures and head to Mexico instead. The pyramids of Chichen Itza and Tulum are among the best things to do in Cancun. Take a tour of the Temple of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza, known as “El Castillo”, a 2.5 hour air-conditioned drive from Cancun. A certified guide sheds light on these Mayan ruins before exploring waterfalls and underground waterways called cenotes. Guests can also explore the pyramids in Tulum, situated against the backdrop of sparkling, turquoise waters full of amazing photo ops. Hear about the inscriptions and murals on the temple and ancient Mayan life.

2. Explore Xcaret Park

Known as “nature’s sacred paradise”, Xcaret invites visitors to learn about daily Mayan life and the culture and rich traditions of Mexico. This natural park features plenty of things to do in Cancun and beyond, including underground rivers, natural pools, and attractions, to get an intimate look at Mexico’s greatest wonders. Take a tour of Xcaret and explore a butterfly pavilion, Jaguar Island, archaeological ruins, live performances, and relax at the beach.

3. Hit the Beach

Get away from the bustle of Cancun and head to the quaint, charming island of Isla Mujeres, or “Island of the Women”. Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. A ferry whisks visitors just a few miles away from Cancun for relaxation and exploration. Lounge at a beach club, enjoy lunch, and join a bike tour to visit a turtle farm to learn about the lifecycle of these endangered animals.

4. Go Snorkeling

Cancun offers plenty of opportunities for snorkeling through its crystal blue waters, but visitors should put a reef and underwater adventure on their must-do list. Take a tour out to El Meco Reef, part of the Great Mayan Reef, to explore the undersea life in some of the most protected waters in the area. After seeing beautiful coral and vibrant fish, head to Turtle Point to get an up-close and personal look at amazing sea turtles. Next, snorkel through the Underwater Museum with life-sized figures made from PH-neutral clay to help promote the growth of the coral reef and marine life before seeing a real-life shipwreck to wrap up your snorkeling excursion.

5. Visit the World’s Largest Aquarium

Discover the world’s largest natural aquarium at Xel-Ha situated just outside of Cancun. There’s plenty of opportunity for relaxing on the white sandy beach, snorkeling, and tubing across 22 lagoons, coves, and inlets. Get to know the locals–tropical fish in a multitude of colors. There’s even an opportunity for an adrenaline rush with a dive off a cliff or swing on a rope over the river before plunging into the cenotes below. For families with kids, there’s even a natural children’s playground and a chance to explore a floating bridge, Mayan wall, two grottos and more.

6. Go Zip Lining

Cancun’s proximity to crystal waters, ancient Mayan ruins, and jungles make it a prime destination for unique sightseeing. Head to the treetops and see Cancun’s beauty from above with a zip lining tour. There are plenty of options to choose from including a Cancun jungle adventure. For a jungle expedition, join a tour that explores the Mayan ruins of Tulum before heading to Tankah Park. Visitors soar through the trees by zip line followed by a swim in the unique cenotes with warm, natural water. You can also join a canopy adventure tour along the longest zip line circuit in North America where you’ll fly through the jungle trees across 2 miles and 10 zip lines. Certified guides help with the journey and bring you to a beautiful, natural cenote for a dip in the crystal blue water.

7. Go Horseback Riding

Once you’ve explored all the best things to do in Cancun in the treetops and by water, join a jungle excursion by horseback. Visit an oversized ranch with happy, well-cared for horses that carry you through the jungle of the Yucatan. Sparkling views of the Caribbean come with a fresh sea breeze as you bond with your horse along the way. For a truly unique experience, try a camel tour to the beach through the mangroves and soak up the jungle landscape.

8. Greet the Dolphins

Your list of things to do in Cancun should include a meet and greet with Cancun’s friendliest wildlife. The young and young-at-heart can head to Isla Mujeres for a dolphin encounter of a lifetime. After an overview of dolphins and how they live, guests slip into life jackets and go into waist deep water on a submerged platform. Reach out and touch these friendly mammals and even give them a kiss.

To get to know even more of Cancun’s marine-life, join a Dolphin, Manattee, and Sea Lion encounter at Isla Mujeres where you can discover more about these magnificent creatures, their diet, and even get to feed and pet them. Guests enter the water for a personal meet and greet before joining a Dolphin Royal Swim. Hold onto their dorsal fins as they pull you through the water, experience a foot push where dolphins raise you above the water’s surface and enjoy a playful swim.

9. Explore Cancun’s Best Kept Secret

With so many things to do in Cancun from, zip lining to snorkeling and greeting the dolphins, it’s easy to think you’ve experienced all the things to do in Cancun. You might think you’ve heard it all, but Cancun’s best-kept secret awaits at Rio Secreto. This tour takes you through the jungle to a protected nature preserve with a unique crystal museum. Guests wear a wetsuit, life jacket, helmet with light, and special shoes for a safe and comfortable journey through calcified stalactites and stalagmites. Learn about the system of caves formed centuries ago by an underground river and see some of the world’s most dramatic mineral formations.

10. Combine Sightseeing and Shopping

There are plenty of epic adventures and things to do in Cancun, but a relaxed day of sightseeing and shopping is also a perfect way to explore the area. Enjoy a drive along Kabah Avenue, Manzana 32, and 30 and browse the oversized Mexican marketplace called Market 28. Handicrafts, traditional food, unique jewelry, and more dazzles visitors before continuing along Yaxchilan and Tulum Avenues in downtown Cancun. There are plenty of places to explore, souvenirs to purchase, and sights to soak up before a photo op at El Mirador to commemorate your day.


Epic Adventures in Cancun


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.

Buenos Aires

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.

Rio de Janeiro

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.

Lima

Lima Peru

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.

Which is the perfect South American country for you? 

Santiago

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 AndesSantiago’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.

Montevideo

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.

What to book

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 AiresMontevideoValparaiso (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).

This article was written by Joanna Booth from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.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.

The renovated hotel was recently part of a new app. Portal To Paradise allows users to “walk” through Marriott resorts across the Caribbean and Mexico, showcasing 360-degree views of the properties.

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, Orlando’s Closest Port, is a cruise traveler’s dream come true

Sponsored by Port Canaveral | Mar 18, 2019 12:08 pm

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.

 

 

Brazil Ends Visa Requirement for U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan

Travel News, Tips and More

5 things to know about the world’s largest cruise ship

harmonyseasrc.jpg

The world’s largest cruise ship Thursday set off on its first sea trial from Saint-Nazaire, western France, with just two months to go to delivery.

Royal Caribbean's much-awaited Harmony of the Seas, a 227,000-ton giant, will have a mind-blowing total capacity of over 6,000 people, not including crew.

Now considered to be the world’s largest cruise ship, it eclipses Royal Caribbean's sister ships, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the current record holders among cruise ships.

Harmony of the Sea is expected to be based out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will offer alternating, seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages after its maiden voyage scheduled for May 22.

But beyond its size, the ship has many bold features to capture the imagination of travelers. Here are five reasons why Harmony is one of the most-anticipated new vessels in years.

 

The biggest ship

The newest Royal Caribbean ship snags its title by being 13 inches longer than Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, and slightly wider. Prepared to carry 2,185 crew and up to 6,000 guests comfortably, it is certified to carry a maximum of 8,880 people in total.

(Royal Caribbean)

Cabins will be bigger

Harmony will have larger cabins in some categories than its sister ships --a decision executives say is a key reason why Harmony has a larger footprint. Also, like others in the line, the windowless interior cabins will feature the brand's Virtual Balconies, which offer a real-time view of the outdoors using projection screens.

(Royal Caribbean)

The largest water slide at sea

Passengers can take the plunge in the Ultimate Abyss – the longest tunnel slide at sea, which drops a 10 stories from the ship’s sundeck to the Deck 6 Boardwalk entertainment zone at a rate of 9 miles per hour. The Ultimate Abyss is more than 150 feet above sea level is made up of two separate side-by-side cylinders, each with a diameter of approximately 2.6 feet, and audio effects within each tunnel will create a multi-sensory thrill.

(Royal Caribbean) 

More dining options

Harmony also has a whopping 40 restaurants and many bars on board. The Bionic Bar will feature twin robot cocktail mixologists --similar to Anthem of the Seas, but unlike its sister ships, Jamie’s Italian Kitchen will debut on Harmony --and replaces Giovanni’s Table on Oasis and Allure. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired Wonderland restaurant, with a double-deck space overlooking the aft of the ship, will also be a key speciality restaurant onboard and showcases molecular gastronomy. 

(Royal Caribbean)

Technology firsts

Harmony boasts of the fastest Internet connection at sea, according to the company. Using Voom, Royal Caribbean's new satellite Internet service, guests can post to social media, including on Facebook and Instagram, and YouTube, as well as stream movies, games and apps via  personal accounts with Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.The line will also use the technology pioneered on its Quantum-class ships to project 3D images, optical illusions and extra dimensions onto the Aqua Theater performers at its high diving, acrobatic performance space.

(Royal Caribbean)

Mexico Officials Claim Zika Does Not Pose a Risk to Tourists

By Newswire| February 5, 2016
 

Mexico’s Ministry of Health and other officials met with tour operators from the U.S and Canada this week to discuss the Zika virus. Here's the latest.

 
 

Mexico' s Ministry of Health and other officials met with tour operators from the U.S and Canada this week to discuss the Zika virus, and the threat it poses to tourists headed to Mexico.

One of those officials, Dr. Alberto Diaz Quiñonez, deputy general director of the Mexican Institute for Diagnosticand Epidemiology, said in a release that the country has seen 34 confirmed cases of the Zika virus. 

All of the 34 cases in Mexico are from Mexican nationals. These individuals are living in rural Mexico, which is far away from popular tourist destinations. However, the release did not give specifics on those rural locations where Zika was confirmed.

“While the Zika virus is inevitable in Mexico given its vast size, climate and trade in the region, the number of cases remains very low. Strong prevention efforts have already been in practice for years to prevent similar diseases.” Dr. Quiñonez said. “Given these facts, there is no threat to tourists visiting Mexico,” he continued.

Mexico has procedures already in place to control the mosquito population and minimize mosquito-born illness in places like restaurants, hotels and airports, the release said.

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Royal Caribbean Cancels Navigator of the Seas' Port Call in Haiti
By Newswire | January 21, 2016
The move follows a previous cancellation of Freedom of the Seas' call in Labadee, Haiti, on Tuesday. Here's the latest.

navigator of the seasRoyal Caribbean International has announced that it has cancelled the port call of Navigator of the Seas in Labadee, Haiti, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, July 21. The move follows a previous cancellation of Freedom of the Seas' call in Labadee on Tuesday.

"On Tuesday, January 19, when Freedom of the Seas arrived to Labadee, Haiti, the ship encountered a number of locals in small boats staging a protest," Royal Caribbean said in a statement. "Although this protest was peaceful in nature, Royal Caribbean cancelled Freedom of the Seas’ port call to Labadee and withdrew all employees from the site."

Royal Caribbean said that it has not received any guarantees or assurances that there will not be any protests in the future, and that, if a protest takes place while a ship is in port, there could be a significant impact on guests' ability to enjoy the destination, or the line might have to cancel the visit completely. 

Royal Caribbean said that it will continue to closely monitor the situation and that the line is in close communication with local and government officials in Haiti. The line said it has not made any decisions regarding upcoming calls in Labadee, the next of which is scheduled for Sunday, January 24, by Vision of the Seas

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REAL ID
 
In 2005, the REAL ID Act was enacted to modify federal law on standards for state driver's licenses and identification cards. As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enters its final enforcement phase, four states and one territory have yet to implement the REAL ID standards: Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and American Samoa. If these states and U.S. territory do not adapt the minimum standards set by DHS, eventually federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP), will not accept their driver's licenses or identity cards as proof of identity.
 
Last week, DHS announced that it will not reject non-compliant ID's until January 2018, giving states that do not yet have driver's licenses that meet federal standards until then to ensure compliance.
 
Gino's Travel Agents continue to educate themselves on the rules to ensure that you, the traveler, are aware of the additional identification required in these states, and ensure that travelers are aware of the additional identification they will be required to present when flying or sailing.
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GINO'S TRAVEL AGENCY, WE TURN YOUR VACATION DREAMS INTO A REALITY. CALL AND BOOK WITH US TODAY! 

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. 

But why? 

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. 

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Real ID Deadline Extended To January 2018

Josh Lew | January 11, 2016

Real ID Deadline Extended To January 2018

Photo courtesy of Department of Homeland Security

States that have yet to comply with the Real ID Act are getting a major break. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh C. Johnson, announced a new timeline for implementing the more-secure ID plan. Just a short time ago, Washington had granted states that had not yet complied with the Act an extension beyond a vague Jan. 1, 2016 deadline. These states expected to have to rush a plan though their legislatures early this year. 
 

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.

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FTC Going After Hidden Resort Fees

By Rich Thomaselli/January 11, 2016

FTC Going After Hidden Resort Fees

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has called on Congress to draft new legislation to protect consumers from hidden hotel resort fees.

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.

RELATED: Resort Fees Among Biggest Hotel Guest Pet Peeves

“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.

RELATED: The Scourge of Resort Fees

"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."

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Cruising with kids? You need to know these tips

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Surfing on the Anthem of the Seas, with the iFly in the background. (Simon Brook-Webb Photography/Royal Caribbean)

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.

Tip 1: Choose your ship wisely

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

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Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas to Offer Short Cruises From Miami

By Newswire

empress of the seasRoyal Caribbean International has announced that the newly-enhanced Empress of the Seas will rejoin its fleet in March 2016 following a stint with its sister brand, Pullmantur. The ship will offer short Caribbean cruises from Miami. 

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.

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TSA Could Stop Accepting Some Driver's Licenses Soon By Adam Leposa

Federal government officials may soon be stepping up enforcement of the 2005 Real ID Act. Here's what that means for air travel.
 

The New York Times reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may stop accepting certain state driver's licenses as identification when clearing airport security as early next year. 

The move stems from the Real ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005 as part of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and involves stepped-up standards for issuing the licenses. Under the terms of the law, states must require driver's license applicants to provide documents to prove their identity, Social Security number and immigration status in the United States, as well as equip driver's licenses with a chip or magnetic strip that stores the license holder's personal information. The act also provides for sharing license holder information with other states and the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security has said that it will announce a schedule by the end of the year for when TSA agents would stop accepting driver's licenses that do not comply with the Real ID standards, and that it would give 120 days' notice before starting to enforce the law at airports. 

Ars Technica reports that the federal government is due to stop accepting licenses from several U.S. territories and nine U.S. states as early as January 10, 2016: Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Most other states have been granted an extension to comply with the Real ID requirements through at least October 2016. The full list of states and the dates by which the TSA will currently stop accepting their drivers licenses is available on the Department of Homeland Security website

According to the New York Times, proponents of the act say that the new standards will improve security, as well as reduce identity theft and fraud. Civil liberty organizations and libertarian groups have opposed the law, however, out of privacy concerns, and more than a dozen states have passed laws barring their motor vehicle departments from complying with the law. While the federal government cannot force state governments to comply, it has already begun requiring visitors to military bases, nuclear plants and other federal facilities to produce a driver's license from a state that follows the law's standards or show another form of government ID. 

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Delta to Discontinue Acceptance of Pets as Checked Baggage

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:

  • Active U.S. Military personnel who are traveling on official orders
  • Service and emotional support animals that comply with federal regulations including proper documentation
  • Customers traveling on or before Feb. 29, 2016

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.
 
Resources

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.

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olland America Announces BBC Earth and AFAR Partnerships, Suite Update (VIDEO)


afar destination guide on the holland america websiteAt a recent press conference in New York City Holland America Line announced a slate of new initiatives for the line. 

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. 

BBC Earth

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.

On all ships, guests will also be able to enjoy enrichment activities, including a game show on the natural world and BBC Earth theater screenings with special introductions by the film crew behind the programs.

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.

AFAR Media Partnership

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.

Suite Upgrades and Renovations

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

Visit hollandamerica.com

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Royal Caribbean Lays Keel for Fourth Oasis-Class Ship

 
The new ship, which is still to be named, is scheduled for delivery in spring 2017.  

 

keel laying ceremony

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.

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The 5 Best Burgers at Sea| October 30, 2015

The 5 Best Burgers at Sea

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.

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American Airlines Introducing ‘No Frills’ Fares

 Michael Isenbek | October 25, 2015

American Airlines Introducing ‘No Frills’ Fares

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.”

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Holiday Travel Roundup


Disney Holiday

With the holiday season just around the corner, a number of cruise and tour operators are gearing up for the festivities by offering a variety of specials and deals. Here's the latest. 

Star Clippers Announces Christmas and New Year's Savings

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering three special holiday gifts: a $200 onboard credit per cabin, champagne and treats, and a 1-hour massage on sailings from December 19, 2015 to January 2, 2016, aboard the Royal Clipper and Star Clipper in the Caribbean

Guests who book by October 31, 2015, will receive a special on six itineraries on Star Clipper, with rates from $1,285 per person, plus port charges:

December 19-26, 2015 and January 2-9, 2016: Leeward Islands (7 nights) St. Maarten to St. Maarten with stops in Nevis, Dominica, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and St. Barts.
      
December 26-January 2, 2016: Treasure Islands (7 nights) St. Maarten to St. Maarten with stops in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Norman Island, Tortola, St. Kitts, and St. Barts.

On Royal Clipper, with rates from $1,350 per person, plus port charges:

December 19-26, 2015 and January 2-9, 2016: Windward Islands (7 nights) Barbados to Barbados with stops in St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St Kitts, Iles des Saintes, and Martinique.
      
December 26-January 2, 2016: Grenadine Islands (7 nights) Barbados to Barbados with stops in Grenadines, Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent, Bequia, Martinique, and St. Lucia.

Visit www.starclippers.com

Special Thanksgiving Voyages From Crystal Cruises

This November, Crystal Cruises is hosting two special trips to celebrate Thanksgiving. While guests cruise the Caribbean or the Mediterranean over the holiday, they can enjoy traditional Turkey Day meals and menus inspired by the local cuisine.

Departing on November 14, 2015, the 14-day roundtrip Miami cruise on Crystal Symphony will travel across the Caribbean to warm weather destinations like Cozumel, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Grand Cayman; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Barts; St. Kitts and Turks & Caicos.

During the day, guests will have the opportunity to explore Mayan Ruins, swim with dolphins, ride speed boats, rent catamarans and snorkel. In addition, travelers can enjoy all-inclusive dining, a fitness center, entertainment rooms and more. Rates begin at $3,970 per person for the two-week voyage. 

Guests will also have the opportunity to board Crystal Serenity on November 22, 2015, for the vessel’s Monte Carlo to Marseille cruise, where they will discover the Mediterranean through stops in Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Italy and Corsica, France. This seven-day tour makes stops throughout Mediterranean villages, the Uffizi Gallery, and includes wine and cheese tastings in Nice. Rates begin at $1,895 per person. 

Visit www.crystalcruises.com

Holiday Cruise Details Released From Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line has announced its lineup of holiday cruises, which kick off this November onboard the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

During these Very Merrytime Cruises, guests can enjoy stem-to-stern holiday events that include:

  • Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic” in the atrium lobby on the first night of the cruise, where Disney characters lead holiday carols and the lighting of the glittering, three-deck-tall tree. 
  • Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball” in the atrium lobby, where Disney cruisers welcome the guests of honor, Santa and Mrs. Claus, with a celebration featuring Broadway-style entertainment, favorite Disney characters and classic holiday tunes. A special pair of royal sisters will join the party and cause a flurry of “frozen” fun as a magical snowfall overtakes the atrium. 
  • Holiday story time beneath the giant tree, where children gather to hear classic tales of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza, include a storytelling with Mrs. Claus as she shares some of her favorite Christmas stories.
  • Dickens-inspired carolers are located throughout the ship, sometimes with favorite Disney friends. At the end of the cruise, children will have the opportunity to join the carolers onstage for a special farewell show. 
  • Family holiday activities including building gingerbread houses and meeting Santa Claus. 
  • Youth holiday crafts such as decorating stockings and gingerbread men cookies, making holiday cards and creating holiday animation cells. 
  • Deck the Deck Holiday Party,” a tropical celebration with Disney friends leading games such as hula hooping and limbo under oversized candy canes, along with dances for the whole family like the “Yuletide Slide” and a conga line around the pool. A special holiday edition of the farewell celebration is included on the final night of each cruise.

On Thanksgiving Day, guests will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day feast, as well as visits from Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse dressed in traditional Thanksgiving attire. Additionally, NFL football games will be broadcast live on the ships’ outdoor, jumbo LED screens – Funnel Vision – located near the family pool.

Christmas morning at the atrium lobby tree Santa Claus and his helpers will have a surprise for all the kids, as well as a special musical performance from the children. A traditional Christmas Dinner will be served that night in the dining rooms, and Christmas services will also be provided. In addition, Hanukkah services will be held each day, December 6 to December 14.

When the ships stop at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay, during the holidays, guests will be greeted by “snow flurries,” a decked-out Christmas tree, Disney character meet-and-greets and holiday island music.

Onboard the ship, special amenities are available for stateroom delivery, including holiday-themed gift packages and treat baskets and even mini Christmas trees decorated with ornaments, red berries, mini carnations and a bow topper. Plus, during the holiday cruises, the Disney Cruise Line holiday merchandise collection and Disney Cruise Line ornaments will be available in the gift shops.

Disney Magic sails four- and five-night Bahamian and Caribbean cruises departing November 11 to December 23. The Disney Wonder sails four-, six- and seven-night Bahamian and Caribbean cruises departing November 6 to December 24. The Disney Dream sails three- and four-night Bahamian cruises departing November 9 to December 24. Finally, the Disney Fantasy sails seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises departing November 14 to December 19.

Visit www.disneycruise.com

Christmas Tree Decoration

New Christmas Market Sailings From American Queen Steamboat Company

The American Queen Steamboat Company has announced its lineup of holiday sailings onboard the American Queen for 2015, including new Christmas Market sailings and entertainment options on nine-day cruises between Memphis and New Orleans beginning this Thanksgiving. 

New this year are Christmas markets along the river in ports, offering music as well as seasonal and locally produced crafts and goods. All old-fashioned holiday themed sailings include special entertainment such as strolling carolers in St. Francisville, LA, departure serenades from the levees of Vicksburg and Natchez, MS, and the favorite Steamboat Syncopators singing holiday favorites throughout the journey, as well as Christmas markets in Greenville, MS, and Nottoway Plantation.

Holiday sailings on the American Queen include:

  • Memphis to New Orleans, November 21 – 29, December 5 – 13 and December 19 – 27, 2015: Guests will explore cotton fields, sugar cane plantations and pillared mansions. A highlight of the late-November voyage includes a Thanksgiving feast and celebration onboard the boat.
  • New Orleans to Memphis, November 28 – December 6 and December 12 – 20, 2015: As an exclusive event on the December 12 sailing, travelers will enjoy a Christmas Ball at the historic Nottoway plantation in Nottoway, LA. The “White Castle of Louisiana” will be adorned with complete Christmas décor and lighting throughout the grounds, public spaces, and mansion for this festive evening. Guests may enjoy costumed carolers and dancers as they stroll the gardens and front lawn before entering the mansion for a private dinner featuring a combination of Cajun cuisine. 
  • Roundtrip New Orleans, December 26, 2015 – January 3, 2016: Travelers can ring in the New Year on the Lower Mississippi while discovering famous plantations like Oak Alley, located in the Saint James Parish.

Fares on the American Queen begin at $2,699 based on double occupancy. All journeys include a one-night pre-voyage hotel stay, shore tours in all ports, complimentary wine and beer with dinner and other amenities.  

Visit www.AQSC.com

Tauck Introduces Holiday Departures to Family Travel Portfolio

Tauck has announced the addition of a number of enhancements to its 2016 portfolio of Tauck Bridges family travel itineraries.

Among the enhancements for 2016 is a special winter holiday departure of Tauck’s popular “Alpine Adventure” exploration of Switzerland, Austria and Germany, with the itinerary modified to take full advantage of one of the world’s most sought-after winter sports destinations.

The eight-day itinerary (from $4,913 per person, triple occupancy, plus airfare) begins in Zurich on December 19 with a cable car ride to the top of nearby Mount Pilatus.

Over subsequent days, guests will have the opportunity to pursue winter activities including sledding and tobogganing, downhill or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-climbing on the face of a frozen waterfall. Other special experiences include a rail journey aboard the Glacier Express train to St. Moritz, a visit to an Olympic ski jumping site, a horse-drawn carriage ride to Hohenschwangau Castle, and a five-course gala Christmas dinner. The all-inclusive itinerary includes two nights at Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, two nights at the Hotel Schweizerhof St. Moritz in Switzerland, two nights at the Aqua Dome Hotel in Austria’s Otztal Valley, and a final night at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich, where guests will enjoy a farewell dinner in 15th-century vaults once used to store salt.

Elsewhere in Europe, Tauck has added new small group departures to two popular eight-day Bridges itineraries, “Italia Bella: Rome to Venice” (June 20 and July 12) and “Castles & Kings: London to Paris” (June 24 and July 18). The four departures will average 24 passengers each, with additional departures to two of its three Bridges European river cruises, “Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure” and “Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure.”

In addition, the “Galápagos: Wildlife Wonderland” itinerary is being enhanced for 2016 with a new vessel, the 90-passenger expedition ship Santa Cruz II. The vessel has 36 interconnecting cabins, making it particularly family-friendly, and it boasts a range of amenities (including an observation platform for dolphin and whale watching) tailored for Galápagos exploration.

Also in Latin America, Tauck’s “Costa Rica: Jungles & Rainforests” family itinerary has been enhanced through Tauck’s partnership with the nature documentary filmmakers at BBC Earth. The partnership will provide Tauck Bridges guests with a new perspective on Costa Rica’s flora and fauna through the use of filmmaking technologies such as underwater microphones and motion-activated camera traps. Over the course of their journey, Tauck guests will also view a series of short nature documentary films produced by the team at BBC Earth exclusively for Tauck travelers.

Visit www.tauckbridges.com

Andre Rochat Thanksgiving

Andre's Restaurant & Lounge Announces Thanksgiving Dinner

Chef Andre Rochat's Andre's Restaurant & Lounge will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on November 26. This is a one-night event being held between five and nine p.m. 

The Thanksgiving-themed meal will have six courses, including dishes like squash soup, king crab croquettes, traditional turkey, salmon, pork chops, sorbet and spice cake. 

The meal is $90 per person. Tax, gratuity and beverages are not included. 

Reservations should be made with the restaurant directly by calling (702) 798-7151.

London Releases New Year's Eve Fireworks Theme

Tickets for London's New Year's Eve fireworks display are now on sale. This year the event will have a partnership with Unicef, creating the "Big Resolution" theme. The theme will bring attention and raise awareness to the lives of vulnerable children around the world. 

"Our stunning fireworks display is seen by millions of people across the globe, celebrating the successes of the last year and looking ahead with optimism and positivity to the new one. I am thrilled that we are linking up with a global organization like Unicef to mark the start of 2016 by bringing people together for a shared moment of goodwill to raise awareness and benefit children around the world," said Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. 

A total of 100,000 ticketed guests will be able to attend the event. Ticketing was introduced last year as an attempt to increase the safety of the event. Each tick costs £10. 

Visit www.london.gov.uk/nye