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Norwegian Cruise Line Enhances Award-Winning Entertainment Program With SIX: The Musical

SIX with Norwegian Cruise Line

See the British pop musical SIX on the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Getaway. (photo via Norwegian Cruise Line)

Fine Dining in Playa del Carmen

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

PHOTO: Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen's La Cocina Restaurant & Terrace. (photo via Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Best Hotels for Family Vacations

The Mirage Dolphin Habitat
PHOTO: The Mirage Dolphin Habitat. (photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International)

 

 

 

Unrivalled Hospitality in Los Cabos at at Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa

La Coleccion

PHOTO: Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa has excellent snorkeling. (photo via La Coleccion Resorts by Fiesta Americana)

Canada Issues Travel Warning After Earthquakes Hit California

 

Canada Issues Travel Warning After Earthquakes Hit California

Photo: Shutterstock.com


Last week, the Canadian government issued a travel warning for the U.S. following a series of earthquakes that struck the Searles Valley in California. Classified under “natural disasters and climate,” the advisory was originally issued on July 6, and is still in place.

Mere days after a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California last week, another, more powerful earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.1 struck on July 5, and could be felt as far as Sacramento to Las Vegas and Mexico. The most recent quake was the largest felt in the area in at least 20 years, and was strong enough to cause damage to buildings, start fires, and impact the roads.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the earthquake, “occurred as the result of shallow strike slip faulting in the crust of the North America plate.” The agency also states that the earthquake took place roughly 34 hours after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region in eastern California.

Seismologists now warn that large aftershocks could be expected to continue for days, if not weeks. And while the risk level for the U.S. has not changed, in response to the tremors, the Canadian government has updated its travel advisory for the area.

The advisory now states that people who are in the affected area should monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. In addition, it notes that, “Earthquakes pose a risk in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington state.”

By Daine Taylor

How Facial Recognition Technology is Being Used at Airports

 

How Facial Recognition Technology is Being Used at Airports

Photo: Shutterstock.com


The use of facial recognition technology within American airports is raising some serious concerns about privacy and security for the traveling public.

Airlines and U.S. authorities are increasingly using facial recognition technology, including at check-in, baggage drop, security and during boarding. As of 2019, facial recognition is mostly being used to verify passenger identity for Customs and Border Protection on international flights, but the Transportation Security Administration and airlines have plans to expand it to domestic travel as well.

According to an executive order issued by President Trump in 2017, facial recognition is expected to be deployed at the top 20 U.S. airports by 2021 for “100% of all international passengers," including American citizens. The move is part of a plan to “protect the nation from terrorist activities by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

The TSA said that it has, so far, processed more than 19 million travelers using facial recognition technology in airports and at borders, but has only identified a little more than 100 “imposters” whose identities do not match their ID documents — one of the top stated purposes of the program. The agency has successfully intercepted six “imposters” at airports.

The program has already been rolled out at 17 airports in the U.S., and the agency plans to continue to expand. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this year said it plans to use facial recognition technology on nearly all departing air passengers within the next four years.  

Security systems based on facial recognition technology promise to improve the airport experience — but the aviation industry needs to carefully consider public opinion amid vocal criticism of these systems by privacy and data-security advocates, wrote LeClairRyan aviation attorney Mark A. Dombroff for Airport Business magazine/AviationPros.com.

"As our society adjusts to what can seem, at least to some, like an invasive change, the aviation industry will need to handle the onboarding of this technology with care and sensitivity," writes Dombroff.

Meanwhile, more airports and airlines are sending digital images of passengers' faces for crosschecking against biometric profiles in a database maintained by the DHS. In a best-case scenario, the attorney contends, the travel experience could dramatically improve as slow-moving security lines give way to fast-and-easy boarding. "An optimist might even wonder whether a trip to the airport in 2029 will feel a bit like a throwback to 1999," he writes.

Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) only retains U.S. citizens’ photos for 12 hours after capturing them at the airport. Those photos are compared to an extensive CBP database that includes visa, passport and other government photos, in order to verify the traveler’s identity.  

So far, airports aren’t using our faces for mass surveillance — and U.S. citizens have the right to opt out.

According to the TSA website, “participation in the testing of biometric technology is voluntary. Passengers may notify a TSA officer if they do not wish to participate and will go through the standard ID verification process.”

By Daine Taylor

United Airlines to Resume Service Between New York and India

 

United Airlines to Resume Service Between New York and India

 Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines announced last week that it would be resuming its daily nonstop flight service between New York/Newark and Delhi and Mumbai starting on September 6.

The service was originally halted in response to airspace restrictions and traveler safety concerns, but with the restrictions lifted, United is set to become the only U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service connecting the U.S. East Coast with India.

"We are excited to get back to connecting our customers and our employees to India as our teams prepare to restart our daily service to both Delhi and Mumbai," said United's Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella. "We're looking forward to beginning our third daily nonstop flight to India this December."

United has operated service between the United States and India since 2005, and in December the Airline will include flight service connecting San Francisco and Delhi, making it the only U.S. airline to offer nonstop service between the India and U.S. West Coast.

The new offerings will connect customers from more than 80 U.S. cities to India with just one stop in San Francisco. Seasonal service between San Francisco and Delhi begins Dec. 5, 2019, with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

ByDaine Taylor

Mexico and the Caribbean’s Seaweed Problem Isn’t Going Away

 

Mexico and the Caribbean’s Seaweed Problem Isn’t Going Away

Mexico has spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum seaweed from its Caribbean beaches. Photo: Joe Tabacca/Shutterstock.com


Mexico has spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum seaweed from its Caribbean beaches, from Tulum to Playa del Carmen to Cancun. The problem – now affecting tourism and the environment (the plant is poisonous for some coral reefs, local fauna and fish) – isn’t going away, experts said at an international conference last week.

Officials from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Panama, Guadeloupe, Belize, Guyana and Guatemala gathered in Cancun to discuss regional strategies to combat sargassum.

Floating rafts of the stinky seaweed, sometimes miles long, have plagued Mexico and Caribbean islands, accumulating in huge mounds on once-pristine beaches. The phenomenon has only gotten worse since the first mass was spotted in 2011. Contributing factors are believed to be nutrient inputs from the Amazon River, which discharges into the ocean around where blooms were first spotted; changes in ocean currents; and increased iron deposits from airborne dust.

"We are seeing a major impact on our countries, economically, socially," said Dr. June Soomer, secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, the Associated Press reported.

Among the proposals presented, representatives called for extra support for research and the development of a warning system for the seaweed.

Dr. Soomer called for a revision of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region, a 1983 agreement commonly known as the Cartagena Convention. She also said that countries affected by sargassum need to look at different ways to obtain external funding, given that many of the smaller islands operate on small budgets.

Mexico’s Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquín González said long-term solutions to the problem are needed to stop the negative effects of the seasonal phenomenon on tourism, which is the economic backbone of most Caribbean countries.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently visited the coast after announcing he would not contract out the work of cleaning up sargassum, and instead will put the Mexican Navy in charge of building collector boats and cleaning the sea.

A floating barrier has been installed to prevent sargassum from reaching the shores of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo. The Navy said it will implement more of these barriers, as well as build four boats specifically designed to remove the seaweed.

Ricardo del Valle, a business owner in the seaside resort of Playa del Carmen, told the AP: "We offer sun and sand, nothing else. That is what we're selling. And right now, we're fooling our tourists."

In 2018, more than 1,000 square miles of seaweed were detected in satellite photos of the Caribbean, three times larger than the 2015 record, according to scientists at the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Laboratory. In fact, Barbados was forced to declare a national emergency

By Jessica Montevago

U.S. Elevates Travel Advisory Level for Egypt

U.S. Elevates Travel Advisory Level for Egypt

The U.S. State Department is cautioning travelers about the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout areas in Egypt. Photo: Shutterstock.com. 


The U.S. Department of State, along with Canada and the UK, have issued travel advisories for visitors to Egypt. 

The Level 2 advisory, issued on July 2, instructed visitors to “practice enhanced caution” when traveling to Egypt due to reports of civil unrest in the area.

The U.S. State Department cautions travelers about the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout areas in Egypt.

According to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), potential attacks can occur with little or no warning, with terrorists targeting diplomatic facilities, tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, western businesses, restaurants, resorts, and local government facilities.

The Sinai Peninsula remains a particularly dangerous area, with frequent attacks on security forces and civilians. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula, as U.S. government employees are not authorized to travel to these areas (with the exception of the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, and travel to that resort is only permitted by air). 

More than 8 million travelers visited Egypt in 2018, and with summer in full swing, the travel warning could severely impact tourism in the region. 

For anyone who decides to visit Egypt this summer, the U.S. Department of State suggests enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 

by Daine Taylor 

British Airways Pilots Planning to Strike

British Airways Pilots Planning to Strike

British Airways carries up to 145,000 passengers per day, and the proposed strike could disrupt travel plans during one of the biggest vacation travel seasons. Photo: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com. 


An overwhelming majority of pilots for British Airways have voted to strike amid ongoing disputes over pay, potentially impacting London flights sometime this summer. 

The British Airline Pilots Association union (BALPA) has not released information on the dates of the potential strike, but the union is required to give British Airways two weeks-notice before taking action.  The strike is likely to affect pilots working at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, but because a date for the strikes is yet to be confirmed it’s still uncertain as to which flights will be affected.

British Airways predict the pilots’ planned strike may cost as much as $50 million a day, the airline said in a lawsuit as it seeks to halt the walkout. British Airways carries up to 145,000 passengers per day, and the proposed strike could disrupt travel plans during one of the biggest vacation travel seasons.

If a flight is cancelled because of strike action, EU regulations dictate that travelers are entitled to either: a full refund, paid within 7 days, or an alternative flight to their destination from a nearby airport, for which the airline will be responsible for additional travel costs.

“We’re pursuing every avenue to find a solution to protect your travel plans and we urge BALPA to return to talks as soon as possible,” said British Airways in a statement. “We’re very sorry for the disruption this potential strike action will cause.”

“Cynically, we might look at this situation as another union making another threat of strike in the peak summer period; which seems to be a well-trodden path of the threat to disrupt summer holidays. The summer for any transport related business is always crucial and so the threat of Industrial Action at this time will put more pressure on management to give in,” said Cook.

While it’s impossible to accurately assess the costs, it’ll be “very substantial indeed,” running to between 30 million pounds ($37.4 million) and 40 million pounds a day, the airline said in its filings for a hearing at London’s High Court. BA is seeking an injunction to halt the strike, which it expects to start on or soon after Aug. 7.

“We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November – it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months,” said Brian Strutton, General Secretary for BALPA.

The Union believes the cost to BA to settle dispute in full is significantly less than the cost would be of even a single day’s strike action.

“We remain hopeful that this dispute can be resolved before strike action, but we remain committed to action if necessary,” said BALPA in a statement,

Travelers worried about their trip should visit BritishAirways.com for up-to-date information about flight delays and disruptions.by By Daine Taylor

The TSA Is Testing Ways to Eventually Keep Laptops in Bags for Everybody

 

 

The Transportation Security Administration is testing a screening method that may eventually result in passengers, even those who do not have TSA PreCheck, keeping laptops in their bags. The TSA is trying out the new screening in Las Vegas and may one day expand it nationwide.

a group of people sitting at a table

© Provided by Bankrate, LLC

On Tuesday the TSA announced that it had opened a new facility on the lower level of Terminal 3 at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, part of what the agency has dubbed the Advancing the Checkpoint Environment program or ACE.

“This is a space that will allow us to assess new technology and processes,” said Jose Bonilla, the director of TSA’s Innovation Task Force, on a conference call. “It will allow us to demonstrate a unique network of capabilities without impacting their current operation.”

The regular Terminal 3 TSA checkpoints are on the building’s upper level, but the ACE facility is located downstairs. For now, only domestic passengers flying United Airlines will be able to use ACE lanes, though an airport representative said that could expand to other domestic and international airlines in the future. The checkpoint is also only open for approximately four hours a day Sunday through Thursday.

For passengers, going through ACE can mean they get to leave their laptops in their bags even if they don’t have Precheck, and also may mean a faster security screening overall, since fewer passengers will be processed through the experimental lanes than the traditional ones. Passengers who get sent to the ACE lanes — at the TSA’s discretion — will bypass the traditional checkpoints in Terminal 3.

For now, the main trials at LAS involve advanced imaging machines that use CT technology to look into your carry-on bags. The resulting images are more detailed than traditional X-ray scans, and that is why passengers may leave items in their bags. Similar machines are being tested at other airports, too, including at JFK’s Terminal 8. As ACE gets up to speed, other new technologies and procedures will likely be introduced. One of the primary purposes of the ACE facility is to allow multiple different kinds of technology and procedures to be tested in conjunction with each other.

Even in the ACE lanes, though, Bonilla said passengers currently still have to remove their liquids and take off their shoes. But, he added, that may not be the case forever: “The procedures will change as the technology evolves.”

Bonilla said that feedback from passengers who pass through the ACE lanes and the agents who manage them will be important in evaluating the new technologies being tested there, and can help the TSA decide if and how to roll new machines and procedures out more broadly.

So far, according to Bonilla, passengers seem to like the innovations that have been introduced. The ACE lanes had a “soft launch” on June 19.

“When we kicked it off, the very first two passengers that came by were a couple,” he said. “Their first question was ‘Oh my God, are you going to do this everywhere?’” Although the tests at ACE are not necessarily a precursor to new screening procedures nationwide, Bonilla said they may eventually appear at other airports.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

 

By Zach Wichter

What Could Happen If You Don’t Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode During Flights

Unlike these 13 things airlines won't tell you (but every flier should know), your flight attendants will let you know loud and clear when you can and can't use your phone. Every airline's rules are different and constantly changing, but it's likely that at some point, someone on your flight will ask you to put your phone on airplane mode.

What is airplane mode?

Airplane mode (sometimes called "flight mode") temporarily suspends signals and WiFi, even as the rest of the device remains fully functional. So you won't be able to send or receive text messages or calls, but you can view messages that are already downloaded and access other stored information, such as your contacts, notes, games, music, and your downloaded list on your Netflix app. 

An added bonus? Switching to airplane mode will save battery power on your device. One of the biggest drains on your cell phone is the process of receiving and sending wireless signals. So switching to your phone's airplane mode the next time you're getting ready for takeoff is a very wise move. After all, if you're on a long flight, having a few extra minutes to spend reading or playing games on your phone could be a welcome advantage. 

Why is it important to turn it on before takeoff?

One of the most commonly cited reasons by airlines for the strict rule is to keep plane communications uninhibited. Our cell phones are constantly sending and receiving signals in the form of radio waves. Even when you aren't actively connecting to the Internet, or placing a phone call, your cell is looking for the nearest towers and trying to find the strongest WiFi connection. All that radio activity can minorly affect the plane's navigational and communication systems. While your phones aren't going to make the plane spontaneously stop working, or cause a crash landing, it can make the pilots' jobs a lot harder. Particularly during takeoff and landing—exactly when your pilots need to concentrate most—congestion of communication across radio waves can make it hard or even impossible for your pilots to communicate with the towers on the ground—and that's pretty important for a safe flight!

Despite airlines still citing this reason for their electronics policies, the Federal Aviation Administration made a press release stating that they would approve airlines allowing full use of cell phones during any and all phases of flight. So if it isn't for safety reasons, why do some airlines still have the policy?

David Young, Aviation Customer Service Consultant at Ideagen, has an idea of why flight attendants are really asking you to power down during takeoff. "Mobile phones are distracting," Young says. "They draw people away from paying attention to safety procedures during briefings, and the perception that you are using your phone can cause unnecessary alarm or create tensions between fellow travelers—I've witnessed it."

This reason seems particularly likely given that more and more airlines are moving toward allowing the use of mobile phones during flights. Most airlines already accept limited use of mobile phones during ground phases, and others have WiFi access during the entirety of the flight. Regardless of why the airline is asking you to make the switch to airplane mode, the smart thing to do is to follow each airline's guidelines in regards to using airplane mode or leaving your phone on as usual. And, while you're at it, avoid these other things you really shouldn't be doing on a plane

By Steph Simpson

The Potentially Scary Reason Why Airplanes Dim the Lights Before Takeoff

 

No, it doesn’t mean naptime.

If you thought pilots dimmed the cabin lights before takeoff to give you some shuteye, think again. Believe it or not, the dim lighting could actually help save your life in case of a plane emergency.

The dimmed lights before taking off the runway and landing are a flight precaution used to help passengers’ eyes adjust quicker during an emergency evacuation. “Going from a brightly lit cabin environment to one that’s pitch black would require some time for our eyes to focus and see the evacuation slide,” Alice Theriault, service director for Air Canada wrote in a press statement. “Since we need to have all the seconds on our side in the event of an emergency, dimming the lights is one of many steps we take to ensure the safety of our customers.” 

Those weird speckles your eyes see as your sight adjusts to a dark place after being in a light place is called dark adaptation. If you see drifting gray spots in a lighted room, that’s something different called floaters, and here’s what you can do about them. Dark adaptation usually takes our eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to see optimally in a dark room. The brighter the lights, the longer it takes for our eyes to adjust, which is why dimming the plane lights could shorten your “dark adaptation” time since you haven’t been sitting under fluorescent bulbs all flight.

Not only do dimmer lights add valuable time to the evacuation process, it eases the strain on your eyes if you need to look outside, locate signs, or see the emergency lighting along the aisle. “It helps you remain oriented,” Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential told The Telegraph. “It also makes it easier for flight attendants to assess any exterior hazards, such as fire or debris, that might interfere with an evacuation.” So next time a pilot dims the lights, just know it’s for your safety, even though it creates a soothing ambience for your takeoff into the sky.

By Ashley Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Expeditions: Save 1000 on October Cruise to Galapagos

Travelers can explore the Galapagos and save $1,000 per person on the October 11, 2019 departure of International Expeditions’ small-ship cruise aboard the Evolution.

In October, a strong Humboldt Current makes nutrients in the water more abundant. During twice-daily swimming and snorkeling excursions, guests are likely to be joined in the water by sea lion pups and some of the archipelago’s 86 endemic marine species. Opportunities for whale watching also increase, especially as guests travel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands on two days of the itinerary.

In addition to daily snorkeling and hiking through deserts, rainforests and volcanic terrain, other highlights include snorkeling and kayaking off uninhabited Rabida Island and calling on a family-run sugar cane farm, which also produces small-batch moonshine. IE travelers also stop at the Charles Darwin Research Center, famous for its tortoise breeding programs, and explore both the youngest and oldest islands in the archipelago — Fernandina and Española respectively.

On International Expeditions’ 10-day Galapagos cruises, guests travel aboard the 32-guest yacht Evolution, and go on excursions hosted by three naturalist guides. These guides share their knowledge during nightly lectures and in the field while bringing guests within inches of giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins and other animals. The Evolution offers public areas, including a lounge/library, sun deck, al fresco dining area and bar, where guests are greeted with a towel and glasses of fresh juices after excursions.

Discounted pricing for the October 11, 2019 Galapagos cruise starts at $6,498, and includes accommodations, all excursions, snorkeling gear, all meals, transfers and tips to porters and waiters for included meals.

For additional information on International Expeditions’ small-ship cruises, visit IEtravel.com 

Photo: Evolution // Courtesy of International Expeditions

Barbados Hotels Offer Diving Experiences

Barbados

Barbados 

 

A selection of dive experiences, fusing both scuba diving and snorkeling, will take guests across wrecks and reefs in Carlisle Bay Marine Park suited for divers of all levels. The Park is a protected area saturated with sea life like seahorses, frogfish, turtles and more.

The new experiences available for booking include an individual dive experience, a kid-friendly scuba experience (eight-and-up) and the Stay & Dive Package.

Stay & Dive Package

The Stay and Dive package includes a special four-night stay starting at $958 at Saint Peter’s Bay and $1,362 at Port Ferdinand per night with triple occupancy complete with daily breakfast, two days of dives, boat trips and gear with a minimum of four nights.

Miller has more than 25 years of diving and marine experiences. He teaches residents of all ages how to swim, mega fauna (shark and ray) marine education, permanent mooring, lionfish outreach and more. His team at Barbados Blue is also handling the Coral First Aid nursery specialty course and aiding the Barbados sea turtle project with turtle tagging and rescue.

For more information, please visit www.portferdinand.com and www.stpetersbaybarbados.com.

 

Vail to Add 17 New U.S. Ski Resorts to Portfolio

Photo by yanik88/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Vail Resorts has signed an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Peak Resorts, Inc. The move would add 17 U.S. ski areas to the company’s portfolio. 

The acquisition is still subject to certain conditions, including regulatory review and Peak Resorts’ shareholder approval, Vail said. 

The 17 new ski areas are near a number of major metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Kansas City and Louisville. The newly added resorts include: 

  • Mount Snow in Vermont
  • Hunter Mountain in New York
  • Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire
  • Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania
  • Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River Mountain in Ohio
  • Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri
  • Paoli Peaks in Indiana

 

In a written statement Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said that the newly added ski areas in the Northeast will complement the company’s existing resorts and provide a “compelling offering” to New York- and Boston-area guests. The acquisition will also strengthen the company’s presence in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, building on its earlier acquisitions near Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit, he said. 

When the transaction closes, the 2019-20 Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Military Epic Pass will include unlimited and unrestricted access to the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas. Guests with an Epic Day Pass will also be able to access the new ski areas as a part of the total number of days purchased. For the 2019-20 season, Vail Resorts will honor and continue to sell all Peak Resorts pass products, and Peak Resorts’ pass holders will have the option to upgrade to an Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass, following closing of the transaction.

British Airways Suspends Flights to Cairo

British Airways

 

British Airways has suspended flights to Cairo for seven days, although the airline says that this is not due to security concerns at the city’s airport. 

“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” the airline said in a statement posted to its website

At the same time, Sherif Barsoum, British Airways' regional director, said to ABC News that the decision to suspend flights to Cairo was not related to security concerns at the airport. 

“We have no concerns over security at Cairo Airport,” Barsoum told ABC News. “The British team that inspected the airport last week found nothing alarming; it was a positive visit.”

According to the BBC, Lufthansa had also suspended flights between Cairo and Frankfurt and Munich on Saturday. Those flights, however, resumed Sunday. 

On Saturday, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) released updated travel advice for Egypt warning of “a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.”

“Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK,” the FCO said. 

The FCO does not advise against traveling to Cairo, however; in the organization’s travel advice, it simply noted to “see our travel advice before traveling.” The FCO does advise against traveling to the North Sinai. That advice is similar to the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory, which lists Egypt at Level 2 on a four-point rating scale, but warns against travel to the Sinai Peninsula (except Sharm El-Sheikh by air), the Western Desert and border areas. 

British Airways customers can check the status of their flight here. Those whose flight has been cancelled can be rebooked onto another British Airways flight at no extra charge (subject to availability). If they no longer wish to travel, customers can cancel their booking and get a refund, including taxes, to the original form of payment. 

American Airlines Launches New Flight to Argentina

Cordoba Argentina

Photo by saiko3p/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

American Airlines has launched a new nonstop flight form Miami to the city of Córdoba in Argentina. The new service, which officially kicked off June 7, runs four times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

American Airlines Córdoba flight AA223 (Miami-Cordoba) departs Miami International Airport at 10:45 p.m., arriving Pajas Blancas Airport in Cordoba at 8:22 a.m. the next day. The return flight, AA224, operates on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays departing Córdoba at 9:52 a.m. and arrives in Miami at 5:55 p.m.

American operates the new flight on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft with a capacity for 204 passengers, which translates into a total of 42,432 seats per year. 

In a written statement Argentine Secretary of Tourism Gustavo Santos said that there has been a strong commitment from the country’s government to develop its tourism sector. 

American Airlines began flying to Argentina in 1990, but the new flight marks the first time the airline is operating in an Argentine airport other than the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. The airline also added a new Los Angeles – Buenos Aires route last December. 

Córdoba is the capital of the Argentine province of the same name, which lies in the center of the country. The province is notable for its scenic mountain landscape, Jesuit legacy and culinary offerings, which include cabrito (roast goat), cheeses and sausages from Colonia Caroya, as well as alfajores – sweet snacks covered in chocolate and filled with dulce de leche or fruit jam. It is also home to the Calamuchita Valley, home to the Villa General Begrano, which has a thriving craft beer scene and which hosts the “Argentine Oktoberfest.”

American Airlines to Launch New Flights to Jamaica, Costa Rica

Delta, JetBlue Offer Waivers on Dominican Republic Travel

Dominican Republic Says Island Is Strengthening Safety Measures

Photo by valio84sl/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

In the wake of recent tourist deaths at various resortsDominican Republic Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García says the island is updating its safety programs and increasing measures implemented throughout the country to strengthen the confidence of the traveling public.

The proactive and enhanced measures, according to the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, include:

Emergency Tourist Center

In cooperation with the attorney general, García says that a multi-lingual emergency center is being established in Bávaro, a primary tourist destination in Punta Cana. The center will be staffed by a team of multi-lingual specialists who will serve as a direct liaison between tourists, their families and the necessary government entity.

Stringent Inspection and Compliance Standards

Under the purview of the Ministry, the Department of Tourism Services and Companies is doubling inspection capacities and significantly increasing compliance standards in tourist destinations, García says. Specifically, hotels will be required to provide inspectors with detailed food handling protocols, as well as comprehensive information on all food and beverage suppliers. Further, the department will continue to closely monitor the medical offices within the hotel facilities and scrutinize the professional qualifications of its doctors, resident doctors, nurses and assistants. Heightened inspections and oversight will also extend to all aquatic facilities and their required certified lifeguard services.

Immediate Access to Emergency Information

Reinforced mandates require that emergency information and the availability of 911 is clearly posted in every guestroom, García says. Additionally, hotel staff will be required to review the information with each guest at the time of check-in to further emphasize access to emergency services and support.  

García says that the intensive measures outlined by the Ministry deepen the continued focus on the country’s emergency response and security infrastructure. Previously implemented under a federal initiative, a 911 system was enabled throughout the Dominican Republic, with specific availability in the popular resort areas. In 2018, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism reports proactive programs resulted in a 27 percent decrease in the number of criminal acts reported against foreign tourists over the previous year and contributed to the country’s recognition among the safest in the region.

To learn more, visit www.godominicanrepublic.com

More San Juan Cruise Cancellations as Protest Set to Draw 1 Million

Demonstrators protest against Gov. Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico. // Photo by AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo via Newscred

 

Two additional cruise ships have cancelled calls in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Monday, as a massive protest is planned that could involve up to a million people. 

 

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the parent company of Celebrity Cruises, tells Travel Agent that the cruise line has cancelled Monday’s planned call by the Celebrity Equinox in San Juan, which had been part of a charter cruise. 

Equinox will now sail to St. Thomas, her next scheduled port of call,” the company said. “Concern for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew members is our top priority.”

Sunday's turnaround for Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas went ahead as scheduled. 

A spokesperson for MSC Cruises tells Travel Agent that the line has cancelled the MSC Seaside’s San Juan call that had been planned for Monday. Instead, the ship will operate an extended stay in St. Maarten.

A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson tells Travel Agent that the Carnival Fascination was able to call in San Juan Monday as scheduled. 

According to CBS News, up to a million protesters are expected to turn out Monday to protest Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has refused to step down following the release of 900 pages of private chats containing profanity-laced, misogynistic and homophobic comments, as well as jokes from other top officials about dead bodies that piled up before and after Hurricane Maria. 

In a video published Sunday evening by Time, Gov. Rosselló reiterated that he has no plans to step down, but that he will not run for reelection or continue as the head of his political party. 

Get your passport in 24 hours...but there is a hefty price

 

© White Packert/Getty Images

You’re just about to leave for that trip you’ve been planning for ages. Everything is ready. The hotels are booked, the flights are confirmed and your itinerary is planned. But there’s this nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something. How’s your passport doing?

 

For those to whom the horror of horrors occurs (“What? It expired last month!?”), FedEx now offers a service that will get you a new passport in just 24 hours.

In partnership with the service RushMyPassport, FedEx is now offering the speediest solution to the most anxiety-provoking of international travel situations.

Those who need a new passport, like yesterday, can stop into one of 2,000 FedEx locations across the country or visit FedEx’s website to register for a new document. The service includes updated passport photos, rushed new passports or renewals, children's’ passports and replacing lost, stolen or damaged passports.

“Routine passport processing can take weeks, which can mean the difference between enjoying that dream vacation you’ve spent months planning or canceling it,” Mosie Miller, CEO of RushMyPassport, said in a statement. “You also have to factor in the possibility of issues with documents you finally receive in the mail, causing further delays and even more headaches. The combined service offering of RushMyPassport and FedEx Office helps travelers overcome these issues, giving a smooth and secure way to handle passport needs.”

The service includes the ability to track the passport throughout the process, government-compliant photos and 24/7 help from passport specialists.

Although, be warned: the service does not come cheap. To process a new passport application within 24 hours, FedEx charges $449. Rushed shipping could cost $90 for inbound and outbound, according to the FedEx website. And that does not include the $170 fee from the federal government. So to get your new passport within 24 hours, you’ll likely pay about $700 for it.

Last month, the U.S. State Department increased its standard passport processing time from four to six weeks to six to eight weeks.

From Gino's Travel Agency: Check your passport now whether you are planning a trip in the next few weeks or months to see if it is still valid. Don't wait until the last minute and pay more and have a longer wait time.  

What Happens When a Law Is Broken on a Plane - By Louis Cheslaw

a plane flying in the sky© Getty

We’ve all seen the stories of air rage, racist behavior, and sexual harassment affecting passengers on flights around the world. But when the law is broken mid-flight—some 30,000 feet above any criminal court—whose job is it to respond? It is, of course, complicated.

The first thing to know is that every airline's number one goal, as they'll tell you multiple times in the pre-flight video, is safety. That means that ideally, airline staff will be able to prevent a difficult situation before it even takes place. Even at the gate, airline employees are keeping their eyes out for intoxicated or aggressive passengers who could affect the safety or operation of the flight, says Juliea Braithwaite, who oversees safety for the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority. "If a problem starts with unruly passengers before boarding, the airline will do what they can to calm them before the flight begins," Braithwaite says. "If that fails, they can take the decision to work with airport police to get them arrested."

Once wheels are up, responsibility falls to the flight attendants to monitor for any trouble. In most cases, flight attendants are trained to diffuse situations whenever they occur. If the cabin crew has difficulty restoring order, flights often have air marshals and non-working crew members flying to their next post on board who will intervene to help. According to Article 10 of the Tokyo Convention, which still governs much of aviation crime today, in a situation where anyone, including a passenger, believes someone near them poses a threat to either the plane or another passenger, they have the right to take "reasonable preventive measures" without asking permission.

If a situation can’t be controlled by the flight attendant, passengers, or an on-board air marshal, the pilot will be quickly notified. Those pre-flight speeches pilots give about how they're the ones in charge of your safety? That isn’t just about the flight path. Once wheels are up, the pilot also becomes commander-in-chief. Pilots are the only ones on board that can order a passenger be restrained during the flight and the ones who decide whether the plane needs to land somewhere sooner for the situation to be dealt with, according to the Tokyo Convention.

Pilots are also the ones in charge of reporting any incidents to air traffic control below, who will then notify the in-airport police that an incoming flight has an unruly passenger on board. That's what leads to a police presence at the gate once the plane lands. In these cases, the other passengers are to stay in their seats until the police have come on board and escorted the offender out. Case in point: This April, on a flight from Dublin to Malta, intoxicated passengers started to fight with each other and verbally abuse the crew—they were met by police upon landing and taken to court.

The pilot also has the right to let things go, and can choose to excuse bad behavior as long as it hasn't caused harm to the aircraft or lasting harm to any passengers. According to Braithwaite: "If there's a scenario, but the altercation is resolved and nothing damaged the aircraft, the pilot might decide that there's a human factor, [like they're] on their fourth flight of the day."

If a case is so severe that it comes before a court—as it did with the Dublin-to-Malta incident—it's up to the discretion of a judge whether the accused face a fine or jail time. While the Tokyo Convention gives explicit jurisdiction rights to the airline's country of registration, it also leaves the door open for for several other nations to seek to extradite the offender in order to exercise their criminal jurisdiction, including the country of the offender, of the victim (if there is one) and more. It may seem like a chaotic resolution, but the idea is to prevent a case like 1949's United States vs. Cordova, where a judge dismissed charges against a man who bit the pilot's ear and struck a flight attendant during a flight to New York because American laws at the time didn't apply to crimes committed while flying over an ocean.

Still, issues persist with the 56-year-old Tokyo Convention. According to Braithwaite, smaller countries have consistently complained to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that their national laws—which the convention defers to—aren't always up to date with the constantly shifting intricacies of global aviation. To help, ICAO delegates have been traveling to such territories to help update legislation, and in 2014, the organization put forward the Montreal Protocol, which extends automatic jurisdiction over a criminal offense to the flight's destination, as well as the aircraft's country of registration, closing a key loophole that was helping offenders walk free when their flight landed in a different place to where the aircraft was registered. However, only 20 governments so far have ratified the agreement, and the protocol needs 22 to come into force. Until then, as ever, it's on airlines to do all they can to monitor the conditions that lead to air rage—and on all of us to attempt to find our in-flight happy place, regardless of loud neighbors or delayed take-offs.

Is it time to think about holiday vacations...indeed!

2019 Thanksgiving Parade Vacations
Now is the time to book your clients on our fantastic vacations to view the Thanksgiving Parade in New York City! The City is decked out for the holidays and everyone, locals and visitors alike, is in a festive mood.
Our famous Thanksgiving Parade viewing parties are the BEST way to see the world's most famous parade! Choose indoor events with wide, expansive window views, or outdoor sidewalk view - either way, I want to fulfill your "bucket list" dreams as you watch the floats, balloons, bands and celebrities pass right in front of you!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Party
My clients can be special guests inside Rockefeller Center at an exclusive cocktail party as the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is lit! Brasserie Ruhlmann is the location for this unique NYCVP event, just steps from the tree. You can mingle along with locals and visitors from around the world as hors d'oeuvres are passed throughout the elegant Brasserie located in the center of Rockefeller Plaza. Step outside to the private patio reserved just for this event - for a view of the Christmas Tree in all its holiday splendor.

New Year's Eve Times Square Ball Drop Vacation
Sure to be the party of a lifetime! As New Year's Eve Times Square revelers stand in the cold, shoulder to shoulder from 42nd Street all the way up to Central Park, but my clients will be overlooking them at an exclusive party right in the middle of it all–high above with a view of the city lights, the celebration and of course, the Times Square Ball Drop!
Towering 23 stories above the million or so partiers on 7th Avenue and Broadway below, you'll enjoy an open bar, hors d'oeuvres, buffet stations and desserts, DJ dance music and the view to end all views At midnight, the ball drop, fireworks and confetti will create the perfect backdrop scenery for welcoming in the New Year in Times Square. 

 

Are you ready for a New York kind of holiday?  It's not too late to make your reservations today. Contact Gino's Travel Agency via email: ginotravelagecy@att.net or phone: 214-274-1369.

"Lif is short, and the world is wide" 

 

Summer travelers beware: Washington Dulles International Airport is the most expensive airport to fly from.

According to a new study from FinanceBuzz, which involved analyzing U.S. Department of Transportation data from the 45 busiest airports, the average ticket from Dulles, otherwise known as IAD, is $427.37. 

Rounding out the top five most expensive airports in the country are Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT) $425.77; Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) $413.66; Newark Liberty International Airport (IAH) 413.66 and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) $390.20.

Pricy airports like Dulles and the others identified by the report are hubs for traditional airlines like United and American, FinanceBuzz’s Tracy Odell, vice president of content and author of the study, told TravelPulse.

“An airport like Dulles is operating a lot of higher airfare flights, but travelers will also get a bit more for their money, things like free carry-ons and seat selection," said Odell.

Together, the 45 airports studied by FinanceBuzz serve as the departure point for more than 500 million passengers annually.

The study found that McCarran Airport in Las Vegas topped the list for cheapest fares, followed by two Florida airports, Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Airport, and Orlando Airport. The average airfare from these three airports comes in under $250.

The nation's two busiest airports, meanwhile, Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago O'Hare, fall in the middle of the pack. LAX comes in at number 29 with an average fare of $352.79 and O'Hare is number 19 on the list with a ticket price of $338.55.

The report also compares the airfare in several metro areas where travelers have a choice of three or more airports within a 70-mile radius. The results showed that costs vary widely.

Flyers who live in areas where there are multiple options and who are willing to shop around and travel a bit further to an airport from home could see substantial savings.

Even in Boston, where the report found the least discrepancy between metro airports, average fares varied by 17 percent. In Los Angeles, where there was the largest discrepancy in prices, there's a massive 73% variance between the four regional airports.

"We see that especially in metro areas where you have multiple airports to choose from, it's well worth your time to look into flights from all airports. We see a huge variance between fares even when comparing airports within an hour drive of one another,” Odell told TravelPulse.

Odell also noted that the airfares identified by the study are actually the average airfares for the airports in question all year long, not just during the summer.

In other words, when it comes to booking your flight, you'll want to do your due diligence to get the best price, Odell said. 

Finally, if you're thinking that overall none of these airfares look too bad, you're right. Average domestic air fares in 2018 were the lowest (with inflation adjustments) since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began collecting these records in 1995.

By Mia Taylor

 

What Recent Travelers to the Dominican Republic Are Saying About Safety

A few days before 45-year-old South Carolinian, Kimberly Terre, her best friend and her two elderly parents were set to take off to the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana hotel in the Dominican Republic, news outlets across the country were reporting mysterious deaths in the destination.

When Terre’s 82-year-old mother and father wanted to cancel, she called her travel agent, Vicki Briggs, owner and adviser of Briggs World Travel in Virginia, to see how she should handle the dilemma.

“She just said that she knows everything is good, but her parents are getting concerned and what do I think, and what I should say to them,” said Briggs. “I told her I just left the resort they are staying at and it's safe. It’s been safe in the past and it was safe two weeks ago when I was there.”

And that was all it took.

Once Terre relayed the message and convinced her parents the destination and the resort were safe, they continued on with their planned vacation to Punta Cana.

But not everyone is convinced the destination is safe, as a new report said ticket sales have dropped to the Dominican Republic while refunds have increased.

And that’s the difference between people who are getting their information from sensationalized news outlets and those who are getting their information from travel professionals, especially the ones who just returned from the destination like Briggs and Terre.

“We never felt unsafe at the resort,” said Terre. “We ate at all of the restaurants and never got sick. My parents even have some food issues and they were fine.”

The Majestic Mirage Punta Cana
Juanita Terre (left) and her daughter, Kimberly Terre, enjoy their recent vacation at the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Terre)

And Terre said she is happy she trusted her travel Juanita Terre (left) and her daughter, Kimberly Terre, enjoy their recent vacation at the Majestic Mirage Punta Cana. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Terre)

And Terre said she is happy she trusted her travel advisor over the news her and her friend were hearing in the days leading up to their trip.

“We would read the news and it just seemed sensationalized,” said Terre. “It just seemed like they were talking about a couple of different, unrelated issues and turning it into one, really big thing. And then it just seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork and saying they were there a year ago and got sick.”

But Briggs told TravelPulse she completely understood Terre’s parents’ concerns and also noted that all travelers should be concerned when they hear alarming news about a destination they are heading to, but they should get the facts from a travel consultant before panicking and canceling.

“I completely understood though,” said Briggs. “When you are 80 years old, you don’t want to put yourself in danger. But I explained that I wasn’t just at the resort before, I was there only a couple of weeks before their vacation. Saying it’s safe is one thing, but if you were just there, that’s another.”

And that’s why travel advisor Susan Collins-Peavy, owner of Susan Peavey Travel in Massachusetts, shouldn’t have a problem selling the destination since she was just there two weeks ago.

Collins-Peavy, who stayed at Casa de Campo, said it was important for her to visit the destination in order to get ahead of the panic.

“I talked to guests at the hotel and everyone was having an amazing time,” she told TravelPulse. “I ate and drank from the mini-bar and had no issues. The people in the D.R. were so welcoming. I really hope the media stops. They are really hurting the economy of this beautiful country.”

But the news is only damaging if there isn’t an agent there to separate truth from exaggeration.

Tom Varghese, owner of Travel Tom, told TravelPulse he recently had a destination wedding of 100 people at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. He said it was booked over a year ago, but negative Dominican Republic press started to surface just before the June 1 trip. Although no one in the party ever expressed concerns, he said other clients recently have.

And when someone expresses concern, he said he shows them statistics that show the millions of visitors who travel to the Dominican Republic every year compared to the low number of incidences.

"It is not my job to tell someone where to go, it is my job to show them the facts," Varghese said. "I'm not going to put my neck and reputation on the line by sending someone to somewhere unsafe."

Joshua Rodriguez, 37, of New York City, also did a little celebration travel in Punta Cana, recently celebrating his 37th birthday at the Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana with his girlfriend. He said he was never concerned before, during or after his trip.

And it’s not a coincidence he too used a travel advisor.

“Our experience was great. It’s a beautiful island,” he told TravelPulse. “Just err on the side of caution. Just don’t do anything you don’t want to do, anything that doesn’t feel safe. Always have a cautious mind. I would certainly go back to Punta Cana and I would stay at the same resort again.”

And since pesticide poisoning is one theory being thrown out there by the media for the cause of death of a couple staying at the Bahia Principe resort around late May, we asked Rodriguez if he saw any unusual spraying at the hotel. After all, although Rodriguez wasn’t staying at the same exact hotel, he was staying at the same brand, Bahia Principe.

“I didn’t see tons of spraying or anything,” he said. “We definitely saw the grounds crew maintaining everything, and spraying bushes and flowers, but not on an everyday basis. I’ve been telling people I’m sure things do happen and I’m not sure what the reason is, but we recently went there and neither of us got sick.”

And travelers like Rodriguez and Terre, who continue to spread the word of Punta Cana’s safety, are the ones that will eventually help defuse a lot of the unwarranted panic, said Briggs.

“It makes my job easier having clients like [Terre]. Clients like that value an agent’s opinion," she said. "At first, maybe some clients are scared off, but then they talk to a travel agent and realize a lot of it is hysteria."

By Joe Pike

A note from Gino's Travel Agency - Trust your Travel Advsior.

 

What the Agent Community is Saying About the Dominican Republic and Caribbean

Travel advisors contacted this week by TravelPulse confirmed a segment of their clients are opting for other Caribbean vacation destinations in lieu of visiting the Dominican Republic. The reports follow news that bookings for Bahamas, Jamaica and Aruba increased significantly between June 1 and 19, as coverage of recent visitor deaths spiked.

During the June period, Dominican Republic flight cancellations were up 45 percent year-over-year while Dominican Republic bookings declined by 74.3 percent, according to travel research firm Forward Keys.

“I do have a client who was initially looking at anything in the Caribbean and opted to go to Jamaica instead of the Dominican Republic,” said Silver Spring, MD-based travel agent Katherine Brooks. “Some say [Dominican Republic travel] doesn't bother them, [while] others say they're avoiding that country like a plague,” she added.

“I have clients that are scared by all of the hype,” said Bella Vista, AR-based travel agent Steve Rosenthal. “One, in particular, decided to change to Costa Rica.” "[Clients are concerned, said Diane McClelland, a Hamilotn, Canada-based agent. "I had ne family of five wanting to cancel thier all-inclusive [resort stay] for end of July but could not afford the supplier cancellation penalty at this point. They decided to go but said they "hope we come back safe."  

“I have a group of 10 going in November and they just requested to change their destination,” said Agusta, Ga.-based agent Edkesha Anderson. “Nothing I've told has made them feel comfortable about continuing their trip even though their resort has no connection to any of the events.”

Online travel retailers have also reported shifts from the Dominican Republic to other destinations. “For our travelers that have decided to change their vacation plans, we are seeing an uptick into Jamaica, Aruba, Turks and Caicos, and other smaller Caribbean islands,” said Bud Finlaw, CEO of BookIt.com, in a CNBC report. 

Still, Rosenthal said vacationers his firm recently booked on Dominican vacations have reported no problems. “I saw a post by one of our other owners that her clients returned from the DR last week. They had a great time and loved it!”

Other recent Dominican Republic travelers reported similar experiences. Theresa Hardin of Edison, N.J., who returned last week from the CHIC Punta Cana resort, said “I felt more safe at that resort than I've been feeling lately at home. There were absolutely zero instances or circumstances that I felt were dangerous or threatening.”

However, Hardin said the media reports’ impact on some guests were clear. “I never feared drinking the alcohol or water [but] you can tell some people were nervous,” she said. “Several of the people in our group purchased their own alcohol and refused to drink any liquor from the resort. No one drank liquor from mini-bar in [the] room. I didn’t but not because I didn’t feel safe. I (just) didn’t like what they offered.” 

“This was the first time my husband and I have been to the Dominican Republic,” said Donna Balkovic of Manasquan, N.J., who stayed at the Sanctuary in Cap Cana resort from June 8 to June 15. “Despite the bad press of recent events, we had a fabulous time.”

Ironically as Rosenthal points out, “It seems that every year there is a scare about a different destination in the area. Last year it was Mexico is dangerous, before that, it was Jamaica.”

Yet with results from an FBI-assisted Dominican government investigation of the deaths not yet available, the country may continue to experience the impact of negative consumer perceptions beyond the summer travel season.

“We have high certainty [the deaths] will negatively impact visitation to the DR,” said Patrick Scholes, managing director, lodging and leisure equity research at financial firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

By Brian Major

Note from Gino's Travel Agency - We have booked the DR  in recent months and do not recommend anyone cancel their vacation trip there. This is your vacation and if you don't feel comfortable traveling to the DR at this time, remember, there is a whole lotta world out there. Terry L. Branch, Travel Advisor

 

Dominican Republic Bookings Start To Bounce Back

 

Aerial view of the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican RepublicPHOTO: Aerial view of the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (photo via aero-pictures.de/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

After watching bookings to the island drop by more than 80 percent, the Dominican Republic is finally starting to see a modest bounce-back.

The Caribbean nation has been plagued for more than a month by the mysterious deaths of numerous tourists, many of them Americans who comprise the bulk of travelers to the island.

A report by ForwardKeys, a Valencia, Spain-based company which analyzes more than 17 million flight bookings a day, shows that cancellations to the D.R. are slowing.

From April 1 of this year to May 31, just before the crisis hit, bookings to the Dominican Republic were up 2.8 percent compared to the same time period last year. By June 16, which ForwardKeys determined was the start of extensive media coverage of the unexplained deaths, bookings were down 56.8 percent. By June 25, the date of the last reported death, bookings were down 143 percent compared to last year.

“The deaths of US citizens which occurred around the end of May and early June triggered an avalanche of media interest and speculation,” Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said in a statement. “That kind of attention was bound to put some holidaymakers off and indeed that is what we saw.”

While trips to the D.R were down, bookings to other Caribbean island nations were up. There was an increase in trips to Jamaica by 54.3 percent between June 17 and June 25, 45.3 percent to the Bahamas and 49.9 percent to Aruba.

But from June 26 to July 2, bookings were still down to the Dominican Republic but dropped dramatically from that 143 percent figure to 72.5 percent, suggesting that bookings are slowly starting to come back.

“I am greatly relieved for the Dominican Republic that the crisis in confidence appears to be abating and I am hopeful that it will be relatively short-lived,” Ponti said, “particularly if there are no more deaths and if the current FBI investigation establishes a clear cause of death in each case and none of the causes was sinister.”

By Rich Thomasilli

 

 

Caribbean and Central American Countries Look at Long-Term Solutions to Solve Sargassum Issue

Travelers are beginning to grow concerned about the quality of their beach vacations. More and more frequently, reports of seaweed-covered beaches are worrying vacationers headed to Caribbean and Central American countries.

Ana Mari Irabien, public relations director for AHRM, explained that the problem is regional and ongoing and one of the reasons for its continuation is climate change but that resorts are taking many measures to combat the buildup of seaweed.

Resorts take extreme measures to control the onslaught of sargassum that can overwhelm beaches in the region and the problem continues to grow. However, sargassum isn't something that happens on a daily basis. It is key for visitors to understand that it is not every day or every beach, which has prompted the hashtag #NiTodosLosDiasNiEnTodasLasPlayas to trend.

“Sargasso is a regional problem that affects not only Mexico but the entire area of the Caribbean and the coast of Central America, as well the South Florida coast,” said Irabien.

The hotel industry doesn’t expect the situation to subside anytime soon and so they have developed both short- and long-term strategies to address the issue so that guests have the best possible experience at resorts throughout the region.

“Five years ago, as this problem was beginning, the tourist industry (mainly hoteliers) hired additional staff to carry out the harvesting of the Sargasso on the beach,” said Irabien. “As the problem has been increasing, some companies have resorted to buying specialized machinery to collect seaweed on the beaches as it is manually a very heavy job".

The solution of harvesting has been effective, but the seaweed removal has caused other problems such as erosion to occur and therefore capturing the sargassum before it reaches the shore is a method many resorts are turning to.

Offshore sargassum collection at Desire Riviera Maya

Sargassum, seaweed, MexicoPHOTO: Workers remove Sargassum seaweed from beach in Riviera Maya, Mexico. (photo via Shaun Taylor / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus)

 

By Janeen Christoff

 

 

 

"This round’s on us."

a ship on the water: Independence of the seas, cruise ship, ship, seas© Royal Caribbean International Independence of the seas, cruise ship, ship, seas

Some travel-related businesses are quick to admit a mistake when it comes to purchases, but few are so funny and self-deprecating as Royal Caribbean was this week in not only owning up to a glitch but not punishing its passengers in the process.

For nine-and-a-half hours on Monday, July 1, Royal Caribbean guests were able to sign up for an all-you-can-drink package for just $18 a day on their respective cruises.

That’s almost $40 cheaper than it normally is.

Royal Caribbean quickly moved to say it was their fault in a tongue-in-cheek note to guests.

 

“Dear Guest,

Well, this round’s on us.

On Monday, July 1st, 2019, from 4:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. EST, we posted incorrect pricing of $18 USD per person, per day, for Deluxe Beverage Packages. Given that we typically price these packages at about $55 USD per person, it was the (messed up) deal of the century.

This was a BIG mistake! It might have been bad code, a random computer glitch — or maybe we just need to reinstate our intern typing test.

Any which way, it was our error, and we’ll own it. Enjoy your deep, deep discount — while we go drown our sorrows.

Happy 4th of July!"

Royal Caribbean honored the drink package for however long the guest purchased it.

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,