Join the Whales with UnCruise Adventures!

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Join Bruce & Mary Lou Mate Aboard The Safari Endeavour with Un-Cruise Adventures!

Departure: February 24, 2018 > Just 9 more cabins available on this sailing!

Where: Baja California

Willamette Intl Travel is holding 25 cabins, but we’ve already booked 15 on this 2018 sailing to Baja California! This means there are just 9 more left! 

  • 4 commander cabins

  • 4 captain cabins

  • 1 admiral cabin

After March 24, we will have to give our unsold cabins back to Un-Cruise. So don’t wait! Secure your cabin with a deposit today. 

Last December, WIT Agents Barb and Racheal joined UnCruise Adventures to Baja California. Click here to read what they thought!

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Our longtime client Bruce Mate has been involved in whale research for over 47 years, mostly at the Marine Mammal Institute in Newport. He’s served on the International Whaling Commission for over 30 years and was sent by Exxon to track whales in Siberia. Join him and his wife Mary Lou Mate on this wonderful cruise, which will also be a fundraiser for the MMI foundation and provide scholarships to students.

Call 503-224-0180 and ask for Barb or Racheal to secure your cabin today!

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Why You Need to Try Semla, Sweden’s Mardi Gras Bun

For more Fat Tuesday treats, check out our post last week.  

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Semlor Galore

Scandinavian countries seem to excel at pastries and buns, chocking them full of delicious jams, whipped cream, cardamom and cinnamon. Though my waistline complains from time to time, my taste buds certainly don’t!

Right now, here in Sweden we’re in prime sweets month. Ever since I moved to Stockholm last summer, I’ve been waiting for Semla Season. A sweet period from January to Easter, when the bakeries and cafes turn out their succulent Semla, or cream buns.

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Sem-what?

A Semla (plural Semlor) is a wheat bun, spiced with cardamom, that is full of almond paste and whipped cream. Back in the old days, one was served in a bowl of warm milk. Yum! Swedes adore their semla bun, and come the season, local newspapers publish “Best Semlor” lists in Stockholm. There’s even a Tumblr blog dedicated to “that Semla Guy,” who goes out and tastes one semla bun at a different bakery or cafe each day. Passionate doesn’t begin to sum up the emotional bond between a Swede and semla —45 million semlor are sold in Sweden each year.

Semlor used to be served just on Fat Tuesday, but after some time, Swedes decided to extend semla-season by a few weeks. Why not? Asked the sweet-toothed Swedes. Some traditionally minded folks complain that the season starts earlier every year—but as long as you eat one after Christmas, you’re probably safe from neighborhood gossip.

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I’ve tried a few around town, but my favorite can be found at my little neighborhood cafe. They make so-called “Viennese Semlor,” which use these amazing croissant buns instead of the typical wheaty rolls. 

Notoriously, King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden met his untimely (yet satiated?) end after consuming a whopping 14 servings of semlor!

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Semla with a Twist

Occasionally, bakeries try to mix it up with fusion trends. There’s been semmelwrap (cannoli-like semla), ginger biscuit semla, semla-flavored milkshakes, and lussesemla (a saffron Lucia bun / semla hybrid).

And then there is the wild PrinsessSemla, a mouth-watering amalgamation of a dessert. Swedish baker Markus Ekelund of Thimons bakery has dared to combine the best Swedish treats, the delicious princess cake and the creamy semla. I haven’t tried this sugar-monster yet, but I’m dying to know what it tastes like. 

The best part: you can make them yourself! Try this recipe at home for a Scandinavian treat! 

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Willamette Intl Travel agents have booked countless clients on their dream vacations in Europe. Head to Scandinavia this summer! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com and we’ll get right on it!

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Travel News: Barrier around the Eiffel Tower

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A Permanent Barrier To Be Built Around The Eiffel Tower

The Independent reports the threat of Terrorism has forced Paris City Officials to plan for the erection of a permanent security barrier around the Eiffel Tower. The £17 million structure will replace temporary fences first put up in 2012 after the Euro 2012 tournament and which have remained there since 2015 after a series of terror attacks across France. It will be a massive overhaul for Paris’s most iconic monument, incorporating the space under the tower and two ponds on either side of it in an area about 200 by 300 meters. According to French daily Le Parisien, the wall will be made of bullet-proof glass and will stand 2.5 meters high. The “anti-ballistic fence”, as Bernard Gaudillère, president of the Society of Exploitation of the Eiffel Tower described it, comes ahead of a wider renovation of the site. A £256 million overhaul is planned to modernize the site over the next 15 years in a bid to improve and reorganize tourism at the tower, reduce queuing times and carry out essential maintenance work. But the wall will mean tourists will no-longer be able to wander under the tower seeking a photo opportunity and must instead pass through security gates to enter the secure compound.

Norwegian Orders Four New Generation Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line has signed a deal with Fincantieri for the construction of four new generation cruise ships with an option for additional two. The value of each ship is approximately €800m, with one delivery per year from 2022 to 2025, stretching to 2027 in case of confirmation of the option. These ships will form the backbone of the future NCL fleet, being about 140,000gt, almost 300mtr long, and accommodating 3,300 guests. The order is based on a prototype project developed by Fincantieri which features NCL’s signature offering of freedom and flexibility, qualified by an innovative configuration for an enhanced passenger experience. In addition, focus was set on energy efficiency, with the twofold aim of optimizing consumption at sea and reducing environmental impact, compliant with all the most recent regulations on this matter.

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New Legoland Hotel Announced

Legoland is to open a hotel in Dubai, its first in the Middle East. The 250-room hotel will be built on land adjacent to the new Legoland Dubai theme park, which opened last October. Legoland Dubai Hotel will be a 60:40 joint venture between DXB Entertainments PJSC and Merlin Entertainments. It will be operated by Merlin. The hotel will be the second at Dubai Parks and Resorts and Legoland’s seventh in the world. A spokesman said no opening date had been announced.

New US Travel Ban Revealed

Americans could soon be banned from traveling by having their passports revoked for unpaid taxes. Details of the new law, which was passed in 2015 and signed by President Obama, have just been added to America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. The site makes it clear that the IRS has the power to revoke US passports for taxes that remain unpaid. There are more travel complications from US authorities being introduced, ones that could prevent US citizens from traveling internationally. The new law will use the threat of stopping people being able to travel by revoking passports if there are unpaid taxes. It was passed by Congress in 2015 and details are now on the IRS website. The IRS would inform the State Department of anyone with ‘seriously delinquent tax debt, and the Department will ‘generally not issue or renew a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS’. The IRS website confirms that certifications will begin in early 2017.

Disney Quietly Raised Theme Park Admission Prices Again

Disney just increased its theme park prices, adding $2 to $5 to admissions at the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. These changes are part of price hikes that have been occurring annually at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. During last February’s increase, both introduced dynamic seasonal ticket pricing, splitting the yearly calendar into three categories: value, on weekdays and off-season weekends; regular, on mid-level busy days; and peak days, over most major holidays and summer vacation. Many of the increases on one-day tickets are minimal, $5 or less, but its biggest ticket increase is also its quietest. Walt Disney World Resort will now charge an additional $20 for tickets for three days or longer purchased at ticket booths and guest services counters, giving new incentive to buy early and online. Another huge change is that it’s now significantly less expensive to visit Walt Disney World for just three days, as multi-day ticket pricing jumps by at least $25 when a fourth day is added. Weekend guests won’t feel a big shift, as two and three-day tickets to Walt Disney World have even been decreased, but families making a week-long pilgrimage should plan on spending a couple hundred dollars more.

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Emirates Investing Millions In Medical Training For Pilots And Crew

Emirates had to divert 60 of 194,000 flights in 2016 to treat passengers who needed immediate medical care, the airline said. Given the prohibitive cost of a single flight diversion, Emirates is investing millions in medical training for pilots and crew and spending more than $7 million on installing advanced medical equipment in its aircraft to attend to ailing, older passengers experiencing in-flight medical emergencies. A single flight diversion can cost Emirates anything from $50,000 to over $600,000, depending on the nature of the diversion which include fuel, flight catering, landing and ground handling fees, air navigation cost, passenger rebooking costs and onward connection, as well as other associated costs to care for crew and passengers. Dr Richard Jenkins, Emirates’ Vice-President for Medical Services, told Gulf News that “main conditions that present as emergencies are heart attacks, strokes and conditions relating to glucose and diabetes. Emirates also deals with many other conditions including seizures, breathing difficulties and even on board labour in pregnancy.

Norwegian Sky To Leave Freeport For Cuba Sailings

The Jamaica Observer reports that the Norwegian Sky is leaving Grand Bahama Island for some Cuba cruises. The Bahamas says it is “regrettable” that Norwegian Cruise Lines has decided to drop Grand Bahama from its schedule four-day voyage to the country. NCL said that the Norwegian Sky will begin calls to Havana, Cuba in 2017. NCL received approval for a one day per week sailing into Cuba, and that date coincides with their Freeport stop, which resulted in them dropping Freeport from its four-day schedule. The change in destinations will mean that The Bahamas will lose out on 25 cruises, which make stops in both Nassau and Freeport, in the second half of 2017.

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Classical Fat Tuesday Foods and Where to Eat Them

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Shrove Tuesday, or as it’s more popularly known Mardi Gras, is in less than two weeks! “Fat Tuesday” is traditionally the last day to enjoy rich, indulgent foods before Catholic Lent fasting.

Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world in many shapes and forms. From the wild parades of New Orleans to Pancake Day in the UK to the pastry decadence in Scandinavia, people everywhere have something to celebrate. Here are some Classic Fat Tuesday Foods and Where to Eat Them: 

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The King Cake. New Orleans buries itself in thousands of King Cakes come Mardi Gras week. “Les Galettes des Rois” is a jovial pastry, multicolored with yellow, purple and green frosting. Careful when you bite—trinkets are hidden within the dough. It’s said if you find the baby Jesus, you’ll be blessed with good fortune.

Where to Eat it? Rouses Market, 400 N Carrollton Ave. New Orleans. They boast a Super cinnamon-infused king cake and also a succulent cream cheese cake to make your mouth water.

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Semla. The Swedish Semla is fortunately enjoyed the whole season just after Christmas time up to Shrove Tuesday. A delicious bun that is filled with almond paste and topped with a hefty spoonful of whipped cream.

Where to Eat It? Vetekatten, Kungsgatan 55, 111 22 Stockholm. Local favorite Vetekatten offers fresh and moist buns that balance with light rich whipped cream.

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Pancakes. The British Pancake Day originally popped up as a Pagan festival of Spring. The day is a time to use up all the flour and eggs in your pantry–and also, curiously enough, a day for races and relays all over London town. Look for the high-profile Parliamentary Pancake Race or the Flippin’ Good Pancake races at Greenwich Market.

Where to Eat it? My Old Dutch, 131-132 High Holborn, London. My Old Dutch restaurant is entirely devoted to pancakes and enjoys an annual queue come the holiday (so show up early).

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Pączki. A delicious deep-fried pastry that heralds all the way from Poland. The Pączki is usually filled with jam, custard and marmalade and enjoyed by Polish communities all over the world.

Where to Eat it? Racine Bakery, 6216 S Archer Ave, Chicago. Other than Poland, the next best place to find Pączki is the Polish neighborhoods of Chicago. Racine Bakery offers 12 varieties of sweet-filled donuts.

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Pea Soup. Iceland’s has appropriately dubbed Fat Tuesday as Sprengidagur, “Bursting Day.” Icelanders feast on pea soup and salted meats, to get their sodium intake in before fasting.

Where to Eat it? Reykjavik IKEA, Kauptún 4, 210 Gardabær. It may seem strange, but the Swedish IKEA store in Reykjavik has a fantastic salt-cured mutton and pea soup meal at just 2 ISK (2 cents) a pop.

Don’t want to miss Europe in the Springtime? Give our agents a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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12 Romantic Customs around the World

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Travel News of the Week: Van Gogh Paintings Return to Amsterdam

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The Two Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Return to Amsterdam

On 22 March, the two Vincent van Gogh paintings that were stolen 14 years ago will go back on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Seascape at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen will take their place at Museo di Capodimonte in Naples until 26 February, before returning to Amsterdam. From March 22-May 15, a special presentation at the Van Gogh Museum will be part of a temporary exhibit.

Tuesday is Valentine’s Day! Click here to read the Van Gogh Museum’s new story on Van Gogh and Love.

Robots To The Rescue At Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has taken a bold step into robot technology to help passengers. The airline has launched an online artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, Bravo Oscar Tango – Oscar for short. Oscar will initially assist passengers with commonly asked queries, saving them time and offering a more personalized experience than searching a traditional Frequently Asked Questions section online says the airline. Air New Zealand says that as with other AI technology, Oscar will learn based on the conversations people have with him, becoming more user-friendly and more helpful the more he interacts. The airline has initially launched Oscar as a help chatbot to assist with Air New Zealand Lounge, Airpoints™ and baggage queries but the airline says it has big plans for him, including integration with the Air New Zealand Mobile app, via both voice and text, and with other chat platforms and in-home digital assistants. Customers with queries about Airpoints, baggage or Air New Zealand lounges are asked to put Oscar to the test. He can be found in the Help & Contact section of the airline’s New Zealand website.

North American Cruise Market To Grow To 16 Million Passengers By 2020

The North American cruise market will continue to grow, with capacity for just over 16 million cruise passengers by 2020, according to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report. The 2017 North American market capacity is estimated to be just under 14 million cruise passengers. That has grown considerably from 4.7 million passengers in the market in 1992.

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You Now Have To Pay To See The Sunrise At Maui’s Haleakala National Park

The wilderness of Haleakala National Park on the Hawaiian island of Maui may be a staggeringly massive 24,719 acres, but it’s a tiny parking lot and visitor center at the volcano’s crater rim that attracts hundreds of visitors every day, and all before dawn. Sunrise from Haleakalā is one of the “must-dos” for visitors to Maui, and that popularity has put pressures on crowd management and maintenance of the fragile ecosystem around the summit, which tops out at an altitude of 10,023 feet. A new reservations system and fee now in place hopes to improve the sunrise viewing experience. The restriction went into effect February 1, for visitors in personal or rental vehicles, who will now need to make reservations in advance at Recreation.gov. Not available on-site, this system mandates a payment of $1.50 per car for a guaranteed slot on any given day, between the hours of 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., with slots available 60 days in advance. Max capacity is set as 150 cars and a quick check reveals that already sunrise reservations have sold out until February 10, and dates beyond are going fast. The National Park Service website details the other various entry fees for the park, which are in effect no matter the time of day. They range from $20 per car (admitting everyone inside the car) to $10 per person without a car, such as hikers and bicyclists, and are good for a period of three days.

Island Air Doubling Interisland Flights In Hawaii

Island Air, is a codeshare of United and is upping the competition with Hawaiian Airlines. With the addition of new Q400 aircraft to its fleet, Island Air has begun increasing the number of interisland flights to its schedule. Over the next four months, Island Air plans to phase in new regularly scheduled flights that will significantly increase its roundtrip service between Oʻahu and the neighbor islands. The number of daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Kahului will double to 16; between Honolulu and Kona will increase from six to to 10; and the number of daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Līhue will grow from six to eight. The airline will also add flights to accommodate high travel days (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays) and spring break travel demands. 

How London’s Potential Tourist Tax Could Affect Your Stay

The city of London is considering implementing a “tourist tax” that would increase nightly rates at hotels by 5%. A report from the Greater London Assembly said that tourists create an “additional demand on public services such as the public transport network, street cleaning, policing and health services.” The 5% tax could generate an additional $302 million for the city. Money raised from the bed tax could be put towards making some of London’s cultural attractions free for all, or it could also be used to “support a reduction in other taxes,” according to the GLA. The city of London has over 2,100 hotels and 150,000 hotel rooms. There are also 25,000 Airbnbs available for rent. However the tax is not an immediately pressing issue for tourists. The proposition would require new legislation from Parliament, which would likely take a while to pass. Berlin implemented a 5% tax on tourists in 2014. The tax was controversial at the time and was battled by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. Business travelers to the city are exempt from the tax, however they must prove that they are in the capital doing business.

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Crystal Announces Expedition Team For Second Northwest Passage Cruise

Crystal Cruises will partner with Arctic Kingdom, a Canada-based team of Arctic experts, to offer expeditions and enrichment programming on its second Northwest Passage cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, to take place in August and September 2017. Arctic Kingdom’ expedition team will include local Inuit guides, divers, marine biologists, wildlife experts and photographers. They will give presentations to passengers about the culture, wildlife and geology of the Arctic region, as well as lead expeditions on shore or in Zodiac boats and kayaks. Passengers will even have the option of taking helicopter flights to view the landscape from above, or of staying onboard and watching live video of the excursions on a big screen. In addition, Crystal Serenity will be escorted through the Northwest Passage by an expedition vessel carrying safety equipment, zodiacs and helicopters (the escort ship has a helicopter landing pad). This vessel will be crewed by experienced Canadian ice-pilots and highly trained crew. The inaugural Northwest Passage cruise took place in summer 2016 and was considered a success by both passengers and crew. The 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity sets sail from Seward, Alaska, for the 32-night Northwest Passage cruise on August 15, 2017, and will finish the voyage in New York City. Fares, which are inclusive of gratuities and drinks, some specialty dining and some Internet time, begin at $21,855 per person.

Norwegian Adds 25 Cuba Sailings

Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it will extend its offering of weekly roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba aboard Norwegian Sky through December 2017, according to a statement. Together with the five previously announced cruises in May 2017, these 25 additional cruises, which start in June 2017 all overnight in Havana. Norwegian Sky will sail four-day roundtrip cruises from Miami each Monday, featuring an overnight in Havana as well as a call on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas.

RCI Also Announces More Sailings To Cuba

Royal Caribbean International confirmed they have added more sailings to Cuba on the Empress of the Seas. The company has expanded its Caribbean itineraries sailing from Tampa, to include new 4- and 5-night cruises with day and overnight visits to Havana, along with stops in Key West, and Cozumel. The new sailings are available through Nov. 4, and are now open for sale. Empress of the Seas will operate 10 more Cuba cruises from Tampa. This means a total of 11 Cuba cruises on Empress of the Seas, starting with the inaugural voyage from Miami on April 19 and then the subsequent departures from Tampa. A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman confirmed that Cuba had authorized the additional deployment.

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“The Quiet American” and Other Classics of Southeast Asia

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By Wailana Kalama

Bangkok overtook London last year as the world’s second most popular travel destination!

If you’re joining fellow travelers and heading to Southeast Asia, you’ll need some reading for the plane. Step into these books and understand just a little bit more about what makes this region tick.

Graham Greene, The Quiet American. Travel writer Pico Iyer has long proclaimed a long affinity with Greene: “who, almost in spite of himself, taught me and so many others how to move around the world and even how to hazard trust.” Greene’s most famous novel centers around the relationship between the cynical Brit, Fowler, and the idealist American, Pyle. This book is a fictional essay on the moral ambiguity of love and war, and the impossibility of neutrality. My Favorite Quote: “Innocence is a kind of insanity.”

Aung San Suu Kyi & Alan Clements, The Voice of Hope. An icon of peace and optimism in a corrupted society, Kyi rose to headlines when her country Myanmar opened its borders in 2010. This biography takes the reader directly into the heart of Myanmar and Kyi’s struggle, her optimism, and unfailing commitment to her beliefs. My Favorite Quote: “Saints are sinners who go on trying.”

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

–Aung San Suu Kyi

George Orwell, Burmese Days. I always enjoy reading Orwell, ever-sensitive to the plights of common men. Drawing from his experience as a police officer in 1920s Burma, Orwell’s novel addresses bigotry, racism, and imperialism. My Favorite Quote: “There is nothing like an earthquake for drawing people together. One more tremor, or perhaps two, and they would have asked the butler to sit down at table with them.”

Marguerite Duras, The Lover. Believe it or not, but Duras’ The Lover was the subject of my bachelor’s thesis. A non-traditional spin on a time-honored story, this short book follows an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. It’s all about colonialism, feminine writing, marginalized people, and–if you believe my thesis abstract–a bit of Saïd’s Orientalism thrown in there as well. A chaotic, instinctual and dreamy read. My Favorite Quote: “Very early in my life it was too late.”

Read our earlier post on WIT Agent Nancy’s favorite books to take with you on a trip to Southeast Asia.

Heading to Southeast Asia in 2017? Give us a call! We have the know-how and the connections to land you a trip of a lifetime! call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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