Travel News: Changes for the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Your Checked Bags

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Rome’s Colosseum Opens Top Levels To Public

Seats on the fifth level of the amphitheatre were once reserved for ancient Roman society’s lowest commoner: the plebeian. The highest level of Rome’s ancient Colosseum opened to the public for the first time in 40 years on November 1. The seats boasted a breathtaking view, not only of the gladiator battles far below, but of the heart of the empire. Far below, tourists peering down into the maze of galleries in the monument’s belly appear as tiny specks, showing just how far away the commoners were from the arena floor, where terrified prisoners were forced to fight wild beasts. Those squeezed together on wooden benches had a long way to climb to get to their seats – but the tickets were free. Once they were there spectators were protected by a large canvas from sudden downpours. Visitors will have to book guided tours, which will take groups of a maximum of 25 people up into the gods level at a time. They will start with an exceptionally well-preserved corridor between the second and third floors, where traces of the lavatories can still be seen. There is also evidence of restorations to the walls following a fire sparked by lightning in 217 AD. The tour will continue to the third floor, where the middle-classes sat, and on to the fourth, where merchants and traders enjoyed the famously grisly shows. The first level was reserved for the emperor and his senators. Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was the biggest amphitheater built during the Roman empire. Standing 48.5 meters (159 feet) high, it was capable of hosting 80,000 spectators for feasts of entertainment that encapsulated the brutality, hedonism and engineering genius that were among the defining features of ancient Rome. The first phase of a major makeover of the venue was completed in July 2016, with a number of sections structurally strengthened and most of the remaining walls water-sprayed to remove centuries of encrusted dirt and grime. 

Rome Eyes Trevi Fountain Cash To Bolster City Finances

Rome is going through a budgetary crisis at the moment, and with cash in short supply, officials are now even eyeing the city’s iconic Trevi Fountain. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the former seat of empire to view the city’s many sites. A good deal of them toss coins into the near 300-year-old fountain, the haul of which reportedly hit $1.5 million in 2016 alone, chump change compared to the city’s estimated €12 billion ($14 billion) debt. It’s believed that anyone who turns their back on the baroque masterpiece and tosses a coin into the fountain is destined to return. The cash is usually scooped up and given to Catholic charity Caritas, but not from April 2018, if Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has her way. It’s not only the Trevi Fountain that is being targeted but all of the city’s monumental fountains. Raggi has reportedly earmarked the coveted cash for projects yet to be decided on by city hall, although il Giornale reports that some of the money will be redirected to “social welfare projects.” The city’s debt essentially consists of financial and commercial debt, with other types affecting the figure to a lesser extent. Basically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, more than half of the debt is in the hands of banks, whereas private debt makes up just over a quarter of the €12 billion.

 

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Trevi Fountain

 

TSA PreCheck Program Has Added More Airlines

Five more airlines recently joined TSA PreCheck, bringing the total number of domestic and international carriers to 42. If you still don’t have TSA PreCheck, Its just $85 (covering a five-year membership), your PreCheck will work at more than 180 U.S. airports. and All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Korean Air, and charter airline Contour Aviation all agreed to recognize the trusted traveler program, the Transportation Security Administration announced. Etihad Airways was the only foreign airline outside of North America to offer this perk to passengers until September 2016, when German carrier Lufthansa became the first European airline to join the PreCheck program. (A number of other international carriers jumped on the bandwagon shortly thereafter.) And while other airlines are no doubt interested in joining the PreCheck club, the process is far from simple: Carriers have to meet all TSA security requirements and upgrade reservations systems to sync with the U.S. government’s Secure Flight prescreening system; after all, even if you’re an existing TSA PreCheck member, it’s the airline that issues the boarding pass, and it’s that document that displays your PreCheck eligibility to the agent manning the entrance to the checkpoint.

Visa Introduces New Payment Wearables For Fans Attending Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018

ETN reports Visa, the exclusive payment technology partner at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has introduced three commercially available wearable payment devices. In the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games, Visa created NFC-enabled payment gloves, commemorative stickers and Olympic pins that allow fans and athletes to complete seamless and secure payments with a simple tap at any contactless-enabled terminal. Visa teamed up with Lotte Card, the financial arm of South Korean-based retail giant, Lotte Department Store, to produce and make these new prepaid payment wearables, now available for purchase, in Korea.

  • Commemorative Olympic Pin: Visa is bringing to market four unique lapel pins featuring custom PyeongChang 2018 designs to offer a payment-enabled collectable for fans and athletes to utilize on-site. Cost per pin is KRW5,000 plus desired embedded prepaid amounts valued at KRW30,000 or KRW50,000.
  • Payment-Enabled Gloves: The average temperature in PyeongChang will be – 4.8 degree celsius, so gloves will be a must-have! This payment glove will offer fans a way to pay safely and securely without having to get cold hands. The gloves contain a dual interface chip housed with a contactless antenna capable of completing purchases throughout official Olympic Venues and compatible readers globally. The gloves will come with embedded prepaid amounts valued at KRW30,000 or KRW50,000.

 

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Viking Ocean

 

Viking Offers Ocean And River Combination Cruises In 2018

Taking advantage of its ocean and river ship fleet, Viking is offering combination cruises where passengers do both types of itineraries in one trip. Called Ocean & River Voyages, the sailings allow passengers to easily go between two cruises by transferring them between ships in a single port. The line also notes that a combo trip means you only have to fly overseas once, yet enjoy two different voyages. Two itineraries are available for 2018. The first combines the traditional Rhine River cruise with Viking Ocean’s popular Norwegian Fjords itinerary; passengers transfer between a Viking Longship and Viking Sun in Amsterdam. The 15-day July trip runs between Basel and Bergen. The second itinerary also begins on the Rhine River, on a Viking Longship, starting in Basel and ending in Amsterdam. Instead of heading north, passengers will take Viking Sky to Le Havre to visit Paris, cross the English Channel to Portsmouth and then sail south to Spain, stopping in Vigo, Granada and Cartagena. The 18-day September 29 cruise ends in Barcelona.

Best Western Rolls Out Systemwide Mobile Platform For Guests

Best Western Hotels & Resorts has launched a mobile platform to enhance guest engagement before, during and after a stay. Previously active at 360 properties and now being rolled out globally, the Best Western Mobile Guest Engagement Platform features a number of capabilities, such as mobile check-in and check-out, including late check-out functions; email or text communication with the system and with property staff; purchasing upgrades and ordering Ubers, and mobile room key capabilities also are coming soon. The technology, which does not require users to download a smartphone app, is provided in partnership with Runtriz. The properties that have tested the platform saw increases in both guest satisfaction and room revenue via upselling and advertising functions, and Medallia Net Promoter Scores, which measure customers’ willingness to recommend products, increased by as much as 18 points among guests using the mobile requests feature.

 

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises

 

Regent Names New Ship Seven Seas Splendor

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced its 2020 newbuild will be named Seven Seas Splendor and is now scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2020. As part of the naming process, Regent Seven Seas Cruises sought suggestions from its valued travel agents, loyal guests and employees for the ship’s name in a sweepstakes held in September. Seven Seas Splendor was chosen among nearly 2,600 unique names from more than 14,000 submissions, the company said. 

Airlines Ordered To Keep A Much Closer Watch On Your Bags

Airlines have been told to improve the tracking of luggage during flights as figures showed that almost 22 million items went missing last year. Regulations will be introduced next summer in an attempt to cut the number of bags being lost after it emerged that mistakes cost the air industry $2.1 billion in 12 months. A new duty will be introduced by IATA in June next year that requires airlines to track bags at four critical points during a journey. This instantly flags up if bags have been lost, rather than putting the onus on passengers to report losses when luggage fails to turn up on the collection belt. It will also force them to share data on bags between carriers. It is expected that the system will cut baggage losses by up to 30%. At present there are no universal obligations towards tracking and recording bags. More than 21 million pieces of luggage went missing worldwide last year after check-in. Almost half were lost during the transfer process when passengers connected between aircrafts. More than 90 per cent were reunited with their owners, although one in six was damaged or had contents stolen. The remaining unclaimed bags were auctioned by airlines or given to charity. 

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Travel2 in Australia & New Zealand

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Looking to escape the winter snows this holiday? Book a couple weeks in Australia and/or New Zealand.

Travel2 is one of our favorite vendors in the South Pacific. They offer tailored packages for travelers in Australia and New Zealand, and beyond.

Want to hit the adventure and see the highlights of Down Under, but don’t want to figure out the logistics of a car and hotels? The folks over at Travel2 are your backup team — and Willamette Intl Travel’s got you even more covered!

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On a sample 11-day Sydney, Melbourne & Reef itinerary:

Take in the sights of Australia’s cities–Sydney and Melbourne. See the Great Barrier Reef, a fast-disappearing natural wonder of the world.

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On a sample 14-day New Zealand North Island Explorer Self Drive:

Hit the road and explore Auckland’s City of Sails and the geothermal landscapes of the North Island.

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On an 18-day New Zealand Grandeur Escorted Tour:

Take the Grand Tour of New Zealand, from Christchurch to Auckland. Hike through ancient forests, climb across glacier mountains, admire the historical railway and clear celestial skies.

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On a 22-day Explore Australia & New Zealand Escorted Tour:

Why choose between the two? Combine Australia & New Zealand on a Grand Adventure! Head out on red dirt roads in the Outback, enjoy a sunset cruise on a private yacht, witness the unforgettable glowworms illuminating the Waitomo Caves.

For more information on a trip to Australia, New Zealand or the Cook Islands tailored just for you, call Willamette Intl Travel: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

new zealand best day hikes

Today’s post is courtesy of the New Zealand Government’s Department of Conservation. 

Fancy a Life-Changing Adventure? New Zealand is world-renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Hike through ancient forests and rugged coastlines on these amazing Day Hikes.

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Lake Wanaka

ROYS PEAK. 5h-6h, 16 km roundtrip. Challenging.

A steep climb through alpine meadows and tussock grasslands to the summit is rewarded with breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring / Tititea and Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.19 PMsurrounding peaks. With beautiful Wanaka as the backdrop, you’ll walk from lake level through farmland then up into the tussock tops to the 1,578 m summit.

Roys Peak overs views of the lake and the jagged tussock ridges of The Stack Conservation Area. At the top, take a moment to contemplate the extinct Haast’s eagle / pouakai or hokioi (New Zealand’s largest predator and the largest eagle in the world) and its prey, the moa, which once lived here in a forest landscape.

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Mount Cook

HOOKER VALLEY TRACK. 3h, 10km roundtrip. Easy.

Enjoy the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana on this Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.28 PMshort walk, winding up the Hooker valley past alpine streams and glaciers in the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Many different wildflowers can be seen along the way, including celmisia and the Mount Cook buttercup/kōpukupuku, the world’s biggest buttercup. Endangered kea, the only alpine parrot in the world and one of the most intelligent birds, can sometimes be heard along the track.

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Alpine Ridges

TE WHARA TRACK. 5h-6h. 7.5km one way. Moderate to challenging.

Follow in the footsteps of Northland’s Māori ancestors. This challenging track climbsScreen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.33 PMthrough coastal forest before revealing a spectacular 360° panorama. The Te Whara Track follows an ancient Māori trail from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay. Once you’ve climbed up onto the ridge, the track becomes undulating and relatively easy-going.

Te Whara was the principal wife of the rangatira (chief), Manaia, of the Ngātiwai iwi (tribe). It was here that Manaia first met Puhi-moana-āriki, an early ancestor of the Ngāpuhi iwi. Manaia’s wife is said to have slighted Puhi and was turned into stone. She stands as the projecting up-thrust rock at the easternmost point of Bream Head, known as ‘Te Wahine iti a Manaia’.

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Tongariro Crater Lakes

TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING. 7h-8h, 19.4km one way. Challenging.

Trek across a volcanic alpine landscape of dramatic contrasts – steaming vents,Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.40 PMglacial valleys, old lava flows, alpine vegetation and vivid crater lakes. The track climbs the Mangatepopo valley to the saddle between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, through South Crater before climbing again to Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing at 1,886 m. You will then descend on a volcanic rock scree track to the vivid Emerald Lakes. After passing Blue Lake, the track sidles around the northern slope of Tongariro, then descends in a zigzag track past Ketetahi Shelter and down to the road end.

Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO dual World Heritage Area and the first in the world to receive cultural World Heritage status. The alpine lakes and peaks of the mountains are sacred to the local Māori tribe Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. Respectfully, they ask that peaks are not climbed and waterways are not touched.

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Gannet Colony in Cape Kidnappers

CAPE KIDNAPPERS WALKING TRACK

The journey along Māui’s fish hook takes you to the world’s largest mainlandScreen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.46 PM gannet colony and past rugged cliffs etched with history. The area is home to distinctive native wildlife, including the largest accessible mainland Australasian gannet/tākapu colony in the world.

History tells the story of Te Kauwae-a-Māui, the tip of the fishhook of Māui, which he used to pull up the North Island/Te-Ika-a-Māui (the sh of Māui). After an incident between local Māori and Captain James Cook’s crew on the Endeavour in 1769, it became known as Cape Kidnappers.

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Basic Guidelines: 

  • Plan your trip. Make sure you know where you’re going and have looked at a map of the track – consider taking a photo of it. ensure you have enough time to complete in the daylight. A wrong turn can create an unexpected night out.
  • Stay on the track – you have less chance of losing your way or injuring yourself and this protects the wild environment.
  • Tell someone your plans. Message someone – text, social, email – where you’re going and when you’ll be due back. Make yourself easier to be found if something goes wrong.
  • Take home everything you bring with you, including rubbish.
  • Check where the toilets are placed on the track and use them–it’s not allowed to use the outdoors as a bathroom!
  • Never feed wildlife – it can harm them and their young.
  • Leave gates as you find them.
  • Be considerate of others using the track
  • Be aware of the weather. New Zealand’s weather can be highly changeable. Check the forecast – Metservice.com – and expect changes throughout the day. Always prepare for wind and rain as it can, and o en does, happen suddenly.
  • Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your group’s limits. Consider the group’s ability to deal with the changing weather and the physical nature of the hike. stick to the marked track.
  • Take sufficient supplies. What supplies you need for each hike will vary, but you should always have a waterproof jacket, water, food, hat, head torch and sturdy footwear – consider hiking boots. Cell phone signal is o en not available in the outdoors. Place items like phones and maps in a plastic bag to waterproof.
 Willamette Intl Travel can arrange a perfect New Zealand adventure for you and your family. Ask us how! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Asia with Avanti Destinations

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This is the time to book travel to Southeast Asia, for travel in November to March as the dry and temperate season rolls in, and the Chinese New Year seems to awake everyone up out of their wintry reverie.

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We’re excited to be working with Avanti Destinations as one of our reputable tour guides in Asia. Avanti makes it simple to book hotel, transport and tour packages with local guides, and their customizable itineraries just shave off the hassle of travel planning.

Let Willamette Intl Travel design Asian itinerary for you and your travel companions, complete with flights and a personalized package. Whether you need an affordable hotel package, or would like to build in some unique culinary or outdoor escapades, Avanti offers a hassle-free way to build it into your existing Asian itinerary.

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Want to leave it to the professionals? Avanti can take care of you from the moment you step off the plane to your last spectacular evening in Asia.

Or perhaps you like planning hotels on your own, but need a fun tour of downtown Ho Chi Minh and not sure where to start looking. Not sure how to make friends in the rice terraces of Sapa? Avanti’s got you covered:

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Thailand: Discover the “Land of Smiles” on the bustling streets of Bangkok, to the famous temples of Chiang Mai, to the achingly gorgeous beaches of Phuket.

China: As part of an Asian cruise, spend 1-3 nights post-cruise in Hong Kong exploring Kowloon. Or build in a stop at the ancient port city of Shanghai, now one of the most technologically advanced cosmopolises in the world.

Myanmar: Looking to explore the blooming country of Myanmar? Go back in time to a simpler Asia with Avanti’s Myanmar Essentials: Yangon, Bagan and Manadalay.

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Singapore: Explore Singapore Highlights, such as Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Majestic Gardens and Little India, experiencing a one-of-a-kind after dark wildlife safari adventure–on your way to connect to Bali.

Taiwan: Uncover the sleeping, hidden gems of Taiwan, its ornate temples, beautiful lakes and stays in the countryside.

River Cruises: Enjoy ancient waterways with a Mekong River Cruise, Halong Bay Cruise or Yangtze Upstream Cruise.

And Many More Destinations: Japan, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, etc. 

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel can design your Asian adventure from start to finish. Call us 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Asia, Avanti, Cambodia, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

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Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Barb recently got back from travels in Mexico, where she stayed at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific for six days. Named as one of the world’s best family resorts by Trip Advisor, Ixtapa is an all-inclusive resort with glorious sandy beaches, the second largest coral reef in the world, and fun family activities like sailing and scuba diving. The resort offers kids’ clubs especially geared to specific age groups. It’s perfect for a family reunion, and our agents have booked a number of multigenerational trips to the Club Meds in the past. Located on the Riviera Maya, ancient Mayan ruins are just a short distance away, ready for your little explorers.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is located about 30-40 minutes from Zihuantanejo Airport, resting on a quiet, protected beach perfect for swimming. I’m told this area almost always has great weather due to their location close to the mountains, however it was more humid than I expected.  The resort is well laid out, with capacity for up to 800 guests, but spread out enough that it never feels overflowing when totally full. We had an Oceanview club room, which was very comfortable. — Barb B.

Restaurants

Keep the kids happy with 3-4 restaurants to choose from. The elegant Encanto enchants with its five themed lounges–the mirror room, mask room, indoor garden, aquarium and stargazing lounge. Head to the Miramar for all-day, laidback fare on an oceanfront terrace. The Luna Azul sparkles at dinnertime with delicious local Mexican cuisine, overlooking the beach and coconut palms. The kids will be able to show off their culinary talents at Sirena, where children ages 2-10 can be their own chef!

Club Med has two restaurants that stagger their opening times so that one can eat pretty much any time during the day and evening.  There is a “dress code” in the evening, these are more like theme nights – there is an optional color code for clothing, I’d say less than half of the guests followed the dress code, other than that dress for all meals is very casual, just no bathing suits!  There is nightly entertainment put on by the staff (GO’s), one night they had a trapeze show.  One night the kids of the resort performed, the kids are dressed in costumes and different age groups come and perform dances, it was so cute! — Barb B.

Activities

A stay at any Club Med includes dozens of fun sports, activities, and sports schools with excellent instructors. Brush up on your sailing skills, perfect your archery technique, or monkey around at the Flying Trapeze School. There’s also mini golf, table tennis, SUP–or if you want to try something a bit more challenging, book a special instructor for deep sea fishing, snuba, scuba or flyboarding.

Kids’ Clubs

Club Med Ixtapa is home to kids’ clubs of varying ages, including the Baby Club Med (4-23 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years old), Mini Club Med (4-10 years old). Teens (11-17 years old) can enjoy an exclusive Juniors’ Club Med outdoor recreation area – no unsupervised adults allowed! For newborns, Club Med provides free baby-care materials and equipment, foods, and a special playground just for the little ones–plus baby-sitting on demand.

This resort is very focused on families and kids, with lots of children’s activities for kids of all ages.  The kids club is included in the cost of your stay, except for kids under 3, where there is a fee. There are activities for adults all day long too, the schedule is posted daily (like on a cruise ship), activities range from gentle 1 hour walk, water aerobics, tennis, canoeing, standup paddle boarding. They also offer, trapeze, Zumba and salsa lessons!  There is also a spa and 3 swimming pools. There is no pressure to participate or not participate in any of the activities.

The resort also has a great setup for family rooms – they have 2 room units which can accommodate parents, up to 3 kids plus a crib.  Each family with a little child has a stroller at their disposal during their stay. Their suites are located in a separate building with their own front desk and beach area.

— Barb B.

One can purchase excursions through Club Med – we went to a Turtle Hatchery, and helped release baby turtles back into the water, it was fun!  Ixtapa has a bicycle path, which goes along a lot of the town area, one can rent bicycles and they offer bicycle tours. Ixtapa is the modern resort area, with many high rise beachfront resorts, many are all-inclusive, and golf course.  Zihuantanejo is the old town, with a nice town square, good for local shopping and culture, located close to the beach, a pier, and a lovely old church. — Barb B.

Why book with Willamette Intl Travel?

Many of our agents have stayed at Club Meds and can give you firsthand tips and honest feedback. We have access to deals and perks through our connections with Club Med, and can arrange a whole package for you and your family to stay at a Club Med – with airfare, transportation, activities – so you don’t have to stress about any of it.

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Travel News: New Visa Rules to enter EU take effect in 2020

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Enhanced Security And A 10 Euro Fee For Non-EU Visitors To The Schengen Region
ETN reports the European Union is now on a path to apply an entry fee. In Europe this process will be named ETIAS. The new regulation is planned to become law in 2020. The new regulation, an EURO 10.00 entry fee would apply to non-EU citizens able to enter the Schengen area without a visa. Here are the rules and details: Travellers posing a risk to security will be refused. Fee of 10 euros, authorization valid for 3 years for unlimited trips. Electronic application to be processed in less than 72 hours.
Finnair Weighting Passengers At Departure Gates In Helsinki October & November
LoyaltyLobby.com reports Finnair is about to start a new project to better understand the average weight of the passengers and their hand luggage at the Helsinki airport. Until now, the airline has used European Aviation Safety Agency’s suggestions that the average male passenger weights with carry on 88 kilos, female 70 kilos and children 35 kilos. The average weights are used when the airlines calculate how much cargo they can load and how much kerosene they need to safely operate the flight.
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Australia’s Famed Uluru To Be Closed To Climbers
Reuters reports Australia’s world-famous Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, will be closed to climbers from 2019, its management board said on Wednesday, ending a decades-long campaign by Aborigines to protect their scared monolith in the Northern Territory. A board of eight traditional owners and four government officials voted unanimously to close the rock to climbers. “The climb is a men’s sacred area, the men have closed it,” chairman Sammy Wilson added in a statement. “It has cultural significance that includes certain restrictions.” The Unesco World Heritage-listed 348-metre rock, known for its shifting red-ochre colors, is a top tourist destination, attracting around 300,000 visitors each year, despite its remote desert location near Alice Springs. The traditional owners of Uluru, the Anangu people, have called for the climb to be closed since 1985, when the park was placed in indigenous hands.
New Payment Method Introduced At London Heathrow Airport
New payment method is being introduced at London Heathrow Airport which will see a cardless and cashless process for passengers. Plaza Premium Lounges is one of the first outlets at Heathrow to launch the payment method, known as Alipay, across all the terminals it operates in. Alipay is a popular, eWallet payment system based in China which provides a secure way to shop and store money and all transactions are carried out safely through the Alipay website, either by searching for the outlet name or by scanning a QR code via a mobile phone, tablet or other technical devices. The payment method is already popular within the travel industry with many airlines and airports across the world already accepting the electronic payment process such as Aeroflot, Vanilla Air and Emirates.
Excellence Punta Cana Reopens Its Doors
Excellence Punta Cana, the all-inclusive resort Excellence Group, has reopened its doors following a four-month, $45 million dollar renovation. Maintaining the resort’s original romantic island charm and elegance that earned it a spot on Trip Advisor’s ‘Top 25 All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts, the property now also features completely renovated and new onsite food and beverage offerings, an upgraded Club Lounge resulting in an elevated front desk and concierge service, a new beachfront pool, in-room renovations with improved layouts, new furniture and sleek Caribbean vibes, and an enhanced experience in the brand’s renowned Excellence Club. Excellence Punta Cana seamlessly combines the convenience of an all-inclusive experience with the details and amenities of a luxurious five-star property.
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United Offers Boarding Passes For Partner Airlines Via Its Mobile App
United Airlines announced a new enhancement to the United app that will allow customers to receive boarding passes when connecting to 19 airline partners on their smartphones, a feature which no other US carrier currently offers. This functionality will be available for customers traveling on United who are making an onward connection on another carrier and will improve the functionality of United’s award-winning app, which is relied on over 500 million times a year by customers.
Mexico Is Reinforcing Security In Popular Tourist Spots
Mexico is hoping to get the State Department to revise its views, and companies including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Marriott International Inc. are spending millions to make guests feel safer. Their motivation is clear: Barclays Plc estimates that a drop in tourism could wipe out as much as 0.5% points from Mexico’s gross domestic product growth this year. “Lower tourism activity will definitely have an impact on growth,” said Marco Oviedo, head of Latin America economic research at Barclays. “External tourism is one of the most important sources of income.” Mexico gets about $20 billion a year from tourism. With murders quadrupling in Los Cabos and doubling in Cancun this year, a chunk of that revenue may be at stake. Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, is the destination of a third of all the nation’s international tourists.
Virgin Voyages Previews Its First Cruise Ship
Conde Nast reports the new ship design takes its cue from superyachts and the first cruise will sail out of Miami in 2020. The laying of the keel has taken place. Originally announced in 2015, Virgin Voyages has spent the last two years existing mostly on paper. And now a large, central section of the first ship, the temporarily titled Virgin I, or hull 6287, has been set into place. Details of the interiors and amenities are still under tight wraps but, in March, the line’s CEO Tom McAlpin revealed that a “Creative Collective” of designers and architects have been tasked with fulfilling Branson’s vision for the “world’s most gorgeous ships.” They’ll be the brain trust behind the mid-size ships, with the capacity for 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew, while “reflecting the craftsmanship and materiality inspired by super yachts,” says McAlpin. The ship passengers (or “sailors”, to use the company’s term) will need to be over 18. There will be no water slides, rides and kids’ activities on the Virgin Ships. Virgin is taking a different approach, pitching its ship as “adult by design”. Virgin says the decision to ban children was based on feedback from travelers who are “looking for a more elevated and premium experience, with a few Virgin style surprises”. Branson declared the Virgin Voyages vessel would be “the most recognizable ship sailing the seven seas.”
Passenger Jets Will Soon Run On Cooking Oil And Fat
Jets in Europe will soon run on eco-fuel produced from vegetable oil and animal fat. The new fuel will be mixed with traditional kerosene. According to latest reports, planes running on the mixture of renewable and traditional fuel will start flying next year from Geneva in Switzerland. The airport wants biofuel to have a one percent share of sales at the airport for a start. According the CEO of Finnish company Neste that produces the fuel. Lufthansa tested the company’s fuel on more than 1,000 flights in 2011 with a 50-50 blend of biofuel to kerosene. “It worked amazingly well,” Lievonen said. “Engine performance improved. We have a very good track record in aviation, and it’s an exciting growth area for us,” he said.

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WIT Agent Abroad: Nancy in China with Alexander & Roberts (with insider tips!)

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Today WIT Agent Nancy is heading out to China with Alexander & Roberts! We’re excited to see what she’ll uncover.

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What is Alexander & Roberts?

A&R organizes small-group tours with no more than 16 guests for those who want to explore at their own pace with a bit of company. These are culturally rich itineraries led by local, certified guides, exploring the heart of a country at a steady, comfortable pace.

Many of our agents have traveled with A&R in different locales and would love to discuss options with you. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

For an itinerary in Japan with Alexander & Roberts, click here

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Highlights of the Middle Kingdom

Nancy’s upcoming 10-day itinerary combines land + river – covering Beijing, exploring the Wu Gorge and Three Gorges Dam aboard the Yangtze Explorer, Xi’an and Shanghai.

Among the highlights along the way:

  • Experience life as a city resident as you browse in a market for produce to bring to your hosts, a local Beijing family who will offer real personal insight into this rapidly evolving city.
  • Learn Tai Chi with a master as you join him for a private class at the Temple of Heaven.
  • A Xian resident shares his lifetime of experience as you explore with him through a city market filled with exotic fare.
  • + Sit down in one of Shanghai’s newly popular wine lounges and learn about China’s emerging taste for fine vintages… Enjoy a congenial luncheon and a glass of the house favorite.
  • + Includes 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Asia

Itinerary

BEIJING

With your expert guide, venture out into the mountains outside Juyong Pass to walk atop the breathtaking Great Wall. In Beijing, tour the grand palaces and pavilions of the Forbidden City.

You’ll start the day with a private Tai Chi lesson and learn about daily life in old China, then fly from Beijing to Yichang to board the Yangzi Explorer for a night in a balcony stateroom.

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YANGTZE EXPLORER

The leisurely cruise charts an upstream course along the Yangtze. Visit the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower dam. The ship journeys up Shennong Stream, where you might catch glimpses of sampan boats poled by Tujia boatmen and the elusive Golden Hair Monkey.

Explore Fengdu ‘s New City and take part in lectures and hands-on workshops in Chinese calligraphy, traditional brush painting, Mahjong and the art of dumpling making.

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XI’AN

Fly from Chongqing to Xi’an to admire China’s ancient capital for 13 centuries, its bustling Muslim market, and the world-famous terracotta army.

SHANGHAI

Lastly, fly to Shanghai for a tour of the lovely Yu Yuan Garden and a world-famous Shanghai acrobat show.

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HONG KONG EXTENSION – 4-Day POST TOUR

Experience facets of Hong Kong which few visitors ever glimpse. We include your flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, 3 nights at the 5-star Kowloon Shangri-La, daily breakfast, lunch at Jimmy’s Kitchen and our exclusive Be a Hong Kong Insider full-day tour.

Insider Tips on Travel to China

PLUS: Nancy’s got the scoop on insider tips from A&R! Some tips for traveling with A&R in China:

  • Joining in with tai chi? Pack some looser, clothes, perhaps layers. Barefoot is acceptable.
  • There is no tailor onboard the Explorer ship, so ask your tour escort early in Beijing in case you need some clothes repair.
  • Doing some independent wandering during free time from your hotel? Always get the hotel’s business card, written in Chinese, to show a taxi driver when you need to find your way back.
  • If you take USD cash to exchange, bring nothing bigger than $50 bills and in pristine condition. Best to bring mostly smaller bills.  Keep exchange receipts and don’t over-exchange so that you return home with local currency.
  • Silk scarves are very popular. You will be asked if you want “real” or “almost real”. If you don’t ask or are not asked, you will be directed to the least expensive ones, which are the fakes. Best deals for real silk scarves and also wool shawls is in Beijing. Ask your tour escort where to find the best!
  • A&R selects hotels partially for those that have money exchange ability. Some hotels don’t even charge A+R passengers to exchange money. 
  • Always ask the escort for their opinion on how much local currency you may need/want over the next few days.
  • Have a shopping list and ask your first guide for the best places to obtain the items during your itinerary. Follow his recommendations. They are spot on.

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