Photos that will fill you with Sun-Envy: WIT Agent Pam in Baja

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Last year, WIT Agent Pam cruised with one of our favorite vendors, Un-Cruise. 

Photos from her trip are now available to “ooh” and “aah” over! Check them out in our Photo Album

Click for the photos!

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Many of our clients and agents have traveled with UnCruise and rave about the experience-based cruise line. Here’s what they have to say about it: 

“The UnCruise was outstanding – only 48 passengers so plenty of room to enjoy everything – no wind, plenty of warmth and sunshine too.  I would highly recommend this cruise. “

– Marilyn and David D

“We just returned from a family vacation with Un-Cruise on the SS Legacy and I don’t have enough good things to say about it! The route took us through the inner passage and included stops in Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and ended in Juneau. The route passed through Frederick Sound, Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal, and numerous smaller passages that are inaccessible to larger vessels. Wildlife sightings were frequent and, unlike large boats, we enjoyed the luxury of being able to linger in an area to observe at length (a notable instance being humpback whales in Frederick Sound!).

In short, the amazing experiences of Alaska itself – the scenery, the wildlife, the raw natural beauty – were made all the better by the uncompromising quality of the boat’s accommodations and especially its crew. We have never been interested in the “large cruise” experience and were not sure what to expect with this one. We all – guests and crew alike – became a ship-board family almost immediately and were sorry to leave the beauty of Alaska, and the warmth of our newfound friends. We would highly recommend this cruise!

– Mark J

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Read more on UnCruise: 

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate & Uncruise Adventures

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

Cruise Oregon Rivers with UnCruise

Video: River Cruises in North America

Or call Barb, Racheal or Pam to discuss more about this amazing and unique cruise line.

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Travel News: World’s Largest Ice Festival Kicks Off In China

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World’s Largest Ice Festival Kicks Off In China

The world’s largest ice festival has kicked off in Harbin, northeastern China and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors over the coming month. The 34th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival began on January 5 and will run until the end of February. Visitor numbers are expected to peak during Chinese New Year celebrations between February 15 and 23. Computer-controlled LEDs illuminate the truly epic works of art that make up this winter fantasy world, replete with historical figures and notable landmarks from around the world, including Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, Moscow’s Red Square, and Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Approximately 180,000 cubic meters of ice and 150,000 cubic meters of snow were used to build the frosty fortresses and snowy sculptures. Roughly 10,000 workers created the ice world, which sprawls an area measuring 600,000 square meters (or 84 soccer fields) along the banks of the Songhua River. The festival generated an estimated $4.4 billion in tourism revenue for the city thanks to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that attended in 2017, data from the city’s tourism bureau showed. Tourists needn’t worry that the sculptures will melt before they can experience the majesty and awe of the park, as Harbin is one of China’s coldest cities, and regularly experiences temperatures as low as -35°C. The festival began in 1983, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

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 Kenya Airways Readies First Direct Flight To US

In October, Kenya Airways will begin daily service between Nairobi and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the carrier’s first nonstop service to the Americas. The FAA granted Kenya a Category 1 safety rating last year, meaning the country’s aviation authority meets international standards.

Starfish Eating Great Barrier Reef Alarm Scientists

A major outbreak of coral-eating crown of thorns starfish has been found munching Australia’s world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, scientists said on Friday, prompting the government to begin culling the spiky marine animals. The predator starfish feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue, and the outbreak hits as the reef is still reeling from two consecutive years of major coral bleaching. “Each starfish eats about its body diameter a night, and so over time that mounts up very significantly,” Hugh Sweatman, a senior research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio. A lot of coral will be lost,” he said. That would mean a blow for both the ecosystem and the lucrative tourism industry which it supports.” Obviously, now is the time to see the Great Barrier Reef – before it continues to deteriorate more severely. 

Chilean Cruise Line Australis Launches New Expedition Ship 

Cruise Critic reports Chilean cruise line Australis has launched its second expedition vessel, Ventus Australis. The 210-passenger vessel was christened at a ceremony at the Asenav shipyard in the southern Chilean city of Valdivia, where the ship was built. Ventus Australis will join sister ship Stella Australis, which launched in 2010 offering four, five and seven-night itineraries around the Chilean fjords — the only cruise line to do so. The cruises take in the glaciers, fjords and penguin colonies of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and include a visit to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the archipelago. The cruises depart either from Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, and run until April. Ventus Australis has 100 cabins with floor to ceiling windows, a free open bar, three lounges, complimentary guided excursions, nature lectures and a dining room featuring gourmet cuisine that includes local dishes and Chilean and Argentine wines. Itineraries include Zodiac excursions ashore to destinations like Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay and Pia Glacier, as well as a penguin colony at Tucker’s Islets. The itineraries also include the opportunity to sail down Glacier Alley, which houses a number of massive glaciers.

A Robotic Suitcase That Follows You Around The Airport

A China-based company is launching a new suitcase that followers travelers around like a puppy. The 90Fun Puppy 1 is slated to launch in the US at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. Puppy 1 may not be the first smart suitcase with auto-follow features, but the company says that its following suitcase is the first to use self-balance technology, thanks to a partnership with Segway. Despite having two wheels rather than four, the suitcase will self-balance as it follows you around the airport. The follow feature is set up using an auto-follow chip and a positioning system, 90Fun says. The follow mode is adjusted through a remote control, which also allows travelers to “summon” the suitcase, according to the company. The suitcase offers 20 inches of packing space and, despite the auto-follow, still includes a rolling handle. The brand has had success in China, where 90Fun recently took the top sales in luggage on a popular shopping day with 160,000 suitcases sold in 24 hours.  

Viking Ocean Cruises Announces Name Of Sixth Ship

Viking Ocean Cruises has announced the line’s sixth cruise ship, launching in February 2019, will be named Viking Jupiter. Torstein Hagen, the cruise line’s chairman and founder, announced the ship’s name at Port Los Angeles, where Viking Sun became the first ship in the fleet to visit the US West Coast. Viking Sun is sailing the company’s inaugural world cruise, a 141-day journey that began December 12 in Miami and will conclude May 5 in London. Viking Jupiter takes its name from the king of gods in Roman Mythology. The ship will be virtually identical to its fleetmates, with Scandinavian design, large cabins (each with a balcony), an opulent spa complex and serene public spaces. It will sail popular Viking itineraries in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas as well as a new 11-day Baltic Sea route. Viking began as a river cruise-focused company in 1997, eventually launching its innovative fleet of Longships. It debuted its ocean fleet in 2015 with Viking Star. Its next new ship, Viking Orion, will launch this spring. 

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Happy 2018 All!

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January 10, 2018 · 7:47 am

From the Frontier: WIT Correspondent in Bali

Wit Blogger Wailana is currently in Bali, Indonesia over the winter holidays.

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Report from Ubud – Technically it’s rainy season now, but it’s been rather moderate, humidity balanced with light afternoon showers, so it’s not overbearing.

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Thailand has a reputation of “Land of Smiles,” but it’s no less true in Bali, where the locals are warm and welcoming. It’s busier than I imagined, with avid scooters winding through the streets. Keep close to the sidewalk!

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It’s true what they say – Ubud is a yogi paradise, with comfortable yoga cloth shops, inexpensive spas to pamper your skin and muscles, healthy vegan bowls and sessions of acupuncture and reiki healing setting your chakras in place.

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But it’s also a place of daily spirituality, with Hindu gods looking down at you from the temples, and grimacing statues at each house’s entrance to keep bad spirits away. Religious structures and houses alike are carved from black lava rock, and smothered lovingly in moss.

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There seems to be a statue at every corner, every entrance, large and small, and a tiny shrine in every courtyard, a tiny house-like building fit for a bird. I watched a Balinese girl walk past flowering lilypads to each shrine, leaving a smoking incense stick. She placed a small offering of leaves woven in small square baskets, filled with flowers and bits of rice and crackers, tributes to appease demon spirits.

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Frequent flights from PDX to Singapore and onward to Bali, Indonesia. To speak to one of our travel consultants, email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

More Reading on Indonesia: 

Brief Bali

Asia with Avanti Destinations

Bali with Star Clippers

Reading List: Indonesia

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Travel News: Turkey Visas and the Hyatt

US State Department Announces Full Resumption Of Visa Services In Turkey

The State Department yesterday said it will fully resume US visa services in Turkey. The move follows a diplomatic row over local employees and US citizens who had been arrested during a state of emergency in Ankara. Washington had stopped issuing visas in Turkey after two staff members had been detained. In November, the US resumed issuing visas. The Department of State is confident that “the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey,” it said, adding, however, that “serious concerns” remained.

Jilin To Build China’s First World-Class Ski Resort Complex

Baishan city in northeast China’s Jilin province, depending on its unique snow and ice resources, aims to become a global high-end snow-ice tourism destination by building a world-class ski resort complex. Located between 41 to 42 degrees north latitude, a recognized golden tourism belt, in the heartland of the famous Changbai Mountains, Baishan city is China’s first full-range forest tourism area, with a forest coverage rate of up to 84.1%. Thanks to the northern temperate continental monsoon climate, it has a frost-free period of just 90 to 120 days and an average annual snowfall of 400 millimeters. The long winter and abundant high-quality snow have given the city first-rate skiing conditions comparable with that of the Alps. Changbai Mountains are home to numerous starred hotels and professional skiing facilities.

Hyatt Standard Minimum Cancellation Policy Change To 48 Hours Effective January 1, 2018

Hyatt is revising their standard cancellation policy effective January 1, 2018, that applies to reservation made or changed after that date. The new minimum cancellation policy is 48 hours to avoid cancellation fee. Explorist or Globalist members are eligible for reduced 24 hour cancellation without fee. In a statement Hyatt said ” Effective for reservations made or changed on or after January 1, 2018, Hyatt will implement a revised minimum cancellation policy that allows hotels to manage guestroom availability more effectively, including offering rooms and upgrades to rooms that would have otherwise gone unoccupied. This new default cancellation policy requires guests to cancel their reservations at least 48 hours in advance to avoid a cancellation fee. Because each Hyatt hotel may continue to set its own cancellation policy based on local market dynamics and expectations, we always encourage guests to check the cancellation policy at the time of booking. It will continue to be transparently communicated at the time of booking and in guest emails.

Delta Starts 2018 by Retiring Its Last Boeing 747

Yahoo reports Delta will begin 2018 with a look back, as Delta flies its last Boeing 747 to an aircraft graveyard in Arizona on Wednesday. This will mean that in the US no passenger airlines fly four-engine aircraft now that Delta and United retired their last 747s in 2017. Elsewhere, the future of the four-engine Airbus A380 is very much in doubt. After Delta took delivery of its first Airbus A350 in October, it declared that the A350 had replaced the 747 as its flagship. This is just one aspect of the ongoing conflict between Delta and Boeing. Boeing’s conduct in 2017 perhaps reflect the 89% gain in the aircraft maker’s share price, as well as its skillful diplomacy, which led to a close affiliation with President Trump. Emboldened Boeing seized the opportunity to provoke a trade war with Canada after Delta ordered 75 Bombardier regional jets.

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2018 Travel Trends from our Travel Agents

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We asked our agents the upcoming travel trends they see in the coming year. Here are their Top Predictions for 2018:

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Getting to Know One Place

More and more of our clients want to stay and get to know a place intimately. After all, isn’t it a hassle to unpack every day and head to different hotels each night? Slow down your pace, kick back, and “go local.” Spend less time rushing from town square to town square, and more time sipping coffee or wine at an outdoor café watching the new landscape unfold in front of you.  

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Intimate Cruising

Cruises have always been popular, but we’re definitely seeing more clients look to unique itineraries: small ship cruises and river cruises set outside of Europe. During peak travel periods, European waterways and towns along the rivers can experience overcrowding and high water levels, so we sometimes recommend that clients look at alternative rivers—the Mekong or Yangtze for instance. Many reputable tour companies, such as Viking Cruises and Alexander + Roberts, offer spectacular land + cruises to discover the heart of Asia. Small ship cruise lines, such as Windstar, also provide a more personal service and slower itinerary that’s unavailable with a larger cruise ship. Clients that aren’t necessarily into cruises may find what their looking for with small ships that are destination-focused, with long days and evenings in the port, as well as offer tasty food and a casual ambiance.

Small Group Travel

A Small Group is any group under 20 participants. The smaller a group, the more exclusive experiences that you can’t get on your own, and has the ability to market toward your individual needs and interests. Long a love of baby boomers, we’re seeing millennial travelers in particular, who once preferred striking it on their own, curious about small groups. Tour operators like G Adventures really tailor their trips to this crowd, providing unique, spur-of-the-moment trips that offer something really unique. Alexander + Roberts is also known for its small groups. Fancy a private tour of the Vatican Museum? Book a small group tour with Willamette Intl Travel.

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Active Adventures

Adventure Travel is at an all-time high in the industry, and even the less adventurous can join in on the fun. We’re seeing the rise of awesome active tours—even among ages 70+—that include hikes, bikes, off-the-beaten-track itineraries. Get out of the city and instead spend a week touring special small towns, in a small group no less. Enjoy the elephant orphanage at Ithumba Camp in Kenya, have lunch with a KGB officer, admire the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, swim with a wild ray off Kailua-Kona on the Big Island… the experiences are out there. Get active!

Solo Travelers

Good news for solo adventurers! Solo travelers are getting their due – popping more on the radar of tour and cruise companies. We’re seeing solo supplements shrinking, as it gets less costly to travel on your own.

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Asia

Asia, always popular with our West Coast clients, is abuzz—with diving and cultural tours in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Japan, always a trend, is seeing a lot of intriguing culture-focused cruises around the country (already selling out fast!). We’ll definitely be seeing a rise of Japan travel, especially considering the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo is just around the corner.

Europe

Summer in Europe is already booking up – no surprise there! We’re seeing a lot of awesome small ship sailing around Croatia and the Adriatic Sea for folks with families. If the Mediterranean holds your heart, we’re seeing unusual itineraries off the usual Rome, Amalfi Coast and Venice — especially Sicily and Puglia (southern boot), both of which have been receiving a lot of press in the last year. Portugal is also back with a vengeance, extremely affordable for Europe, rich in culinary delights, hotels and sea views at a singular price. On the flip side, Scandinavia—despite its expensive reputation—is also seeing a resurgence of interest—in particular, Norway. Has Oslo, Copenhagen or Stockholm been on your bucket list for a while? Seeking out traces of your ancestors’ roots in the Scandic countryside? Don’t wait – plan your summer in Europe now!

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Africa

All of our clients who have been to East Africa talk of it as an experience “of a lifetime,” and WIT Owners Christina and John return every year for its incredible landscape, herds, and people. Sadly, we are getting more reports of dwindling elephant and rhino populations, and the future is uncertain for these graceful animals. We hope more see the immeasurable value of Africa before it’s too late.

Australia

Australia has definitely been on the up the past year, and this year will likely be no different. Clients are interested in exploring Australia in-depth, and its many curious corners, for a longer time period—it’s huge after all, nearly 3 million square miles—booking a month or longer.

 

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Hotel Profile: The Ampersand

ampersand in London

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Make 2018 extra special with a stay at the Ampersand in London.

Winner of multiple awards including World Luxury Hotel Awards and Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List, we at Willamette Intl Travel are absolutely in love with this hotel. The Ampersand is a hit with all of our clients who we’ve recommended to stay at this elegant boutique hotel in South Kensington. Just south of Hyde Park, and within walking distance of Harrods, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and of course the tube just across the street, all of London is well within reach.

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London was absolutely wonderful.  The Ampersand Hotel was really perfect, great location, great room – I would highly recommend to other travelers to London. 

—Our client Karen Q.

Built in 1888, the Ampersand Hotel boasts original Victorian features—from high ceilings to haunting gargoyles—and a modernist flair that attracts patrons looking for that special, atmospheric je ne sais quoi. At the Ampersand, guests can choose among 111 luxury hotel rooms, each designed with five themes in mind – botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy. Their eclectic interior harks back to the Victorian age of discovery and curiosity. Dubbed by various patrons “whimsical,” “stylish” and “modern,” sometimes you just need a luxury hotel with a dash of the creative and humorous.

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The on-site restaurant Apero appeals to both guests and locals, with relaxed Mediterranean fare. In the Drawing Rooms, guests can enjoy delicious desserts and savory treats from cream cheese planet mousse to passion fruit macaroons and prosecco mint jelly. Look for the all-day coffee and tea menus and the classic hearth fire. Hosting a private dinner party? At the Wine Room, enjoy private dining dedicated to their cellar of fine wines. There is also a Game Room, Gym and Library to round out your London stay.

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Families are also welcome at the Ampersand, with a range of facilities just for parents traveling with children. Their rooms, studios, and suites in the Deluxe category accommodate either a fold-away bed or an interconnecting room. All suites come with a small kitchenette, and in their restaurant Apero, there is a children’s menu available. Children of ages up to 4 receive a complimentary continental buffet breakfast. Kids will certainly appreciate the proximity of fossils and the cool whale skeletons at the Natural History Museum!

The Ampersand is a member of the Imperial College Environment Society, which is devoted to sustainable hotel practices such as recycling, proper disposal of food waste and the use of biodegradable cleaning materials. The hotel also raises donations each year for the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British Heart Foundation.

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