Travel News: Armed Police in London Underground

Armed Police To Travel On London Underground

Armed police are to travel on the Tube network following the recent bomb alert at a station close to the O2 entertainment venue. Firearms patrols, which are routinely deployed at mainline train stations, will use the Tube to travel between jobs. Armed officers were deployed on the London Underground following the 7/7 tube bombings in 2005, but that measure was only temporary. British Transport Police said seeing armed officers on the Tube on a daily basis should reassure the public that they would be able to respond to any threats.

Riu Palace Las Americas Reopens In Cancún

RIU Hotels & Resorts, last Saturday, 22 October, reopened one of its most emblematic hotels, the Riu Palace Las Americas in Cancún, Mexico, after a total renovation to modernize the facilities and add new services. The hotel will be the chain’s first in Cancún and the Mayan Riviera reserved exclusively for guests over the age of 18. This change makes it the perfect choice for a romantic escapade or an adventure for a group of friends. The hotel, built in 2004 on the beach of Playa de Cancún, maintains its majestic columns, crystal lamps, wood ornaments and luxurious marble paneling.


The Largest Over-Water Zip Line Comes to Acapulco

Acapulco is set to welcome XTASEA, an over-water zip line more than a mile long that will let riders reach speeds of up to 75 mph at an altitude of 328 feet. Slated to open in 2017, the zip line will cross Puerto Marquez Bay, making it the “largest over-water adrenaline rush in the world.” This over-water zip line forms part of the recently announced billion-dollar investment aimed at enhancing the destination’s tourism offerings. We expect visitors from all over the world to come and experience this once in a lifetime adventure.” XTASEA is one of 20 projects under the so called Master Plan for Acapulco by Grupo Autofin, a major Mexican investment company.

New Cruise Stop Harvest Caye Captures Beauty Of Belize

The Caribbean’s newest cruise-line-created destination, Harvest Caye in southern Belize, offers a seven-acre, white sand beach, a water sports lagoon and an immense tropical pool. The lighthouse is actually a Flighthouse, the launch point for free-fall jumps and zip lines. Among the restaurants is a LandShark Bar & Grill, part of the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville group. Garifuna drummers and dancers greet the ship. The landscaping is lush with frangipani, hibiscus and heliconia. There are toucans, scarlet macaws and blue morpho butterflies, local foods and artwork. The shops, bars and beach villas are dressed in mahogany and other native hardwoods.

Hurtigruten Has Named Its Two New Hybrid Powered Expedition Ships

The first two ships have been named the Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen after the two Norwegian polar pioneers from the era when the company itself first started offering adventure travels. The ships are due to be delivered in 2018 and 2019, according to a statement. “On December 14th, it will be exactly 105 years since Roald Amundsen became the first person in the world to plant his flag on the South Pole,” said Daniel Skjeldam, CEO, Hurtigruten. “It has been 128 years since Fridtjof Nansen skied across Greenland and it is 120 years since Richard With, Hurtigruten’s founder, first started exploration tourism in the Arctic.



British Government Votes To Expand Heathrow

The British Government announced this morning that it will back the plan to add another runway at Heathrow. The decision to expand has taken years and will come at enormous cost. Gatwick was the other airport that wanted another runway. The Department for Transport said a third runway would allow better connections to growing world markets, boost trade and create tens of thousands of jobs. It will be the first new full length runway in southeastern England since World War II.

A New Kind Of Travel Pillow

It’s a known problem that 35% of people aren’t getting enough sleep. One company hopes to change that by making naps more feasible throughout the day. Studio Banana Things, known for their outlandish Ostrich Pillow, has begun selling the Ostrich Pillow Light, a smaller and travel-sized version. The 360˚ pillow can cover your forehead, eyes, or neck to help you get that perfect snoozing angle. See a video here.

Hawaiian Wins Right To Weigh Passengers To Prevent Crash Landings

An American airline won the right to weigh its passengers over a six-month period earlier this year to learn how it could save fuel, after discovering the average passenger and carry-on luggage was heavier than expected. Hawaiian Airlines has now scrapped pre-booked seating for people flying the 2,600-mile route between Honolulu and the American Samoa. Instead, passengers will be assigned seats when they check-in to make sure weight is evenly distributed around the main cabin of the plane. The airline will keep at least one seat open per row or place children under the age of 13 in those seats. Hawaiian Airlines implemented the new policy to distribute weight evenly around the plane cabin and save fuel. Passengers will be assigned seats when they check-in to make sure weight is evenly distributed. Some passengers have complained the move is discriminatory, as it only affects the journey between Honolulu and the American Samoa, and most passengers on that route are of Samoan descent.
Samoans have among the highest rates of obesity in the world. Six complaints have been filed with the US Department of Transportation since 29 September. The department ruled in favor of the new policy, with airline officials claiming an even distribution of weight could prevent a crash landing. A remarkable 74.6% of its adult population are considered obese, placing it above Nauru at 71.1% per cent and the Cook Islands at 63.7%. Those are figures for 2007 and 2008, however. More recent estimates claim the obesity rate could now be as high as 94 per cent.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

The Rice Terraces of Sapa, Vietnam


The Sapa Rice Terraces (or Sa Pa) of northwestern Vietnam are one of the country’s most scenic areas. Rice fields make picturesque artwork of the landscape, drawing attention from around the globe. Located in the remote Hoang Lien Son mountain range, the fields lie at altitudes of almost 5000 feet above sea level, and it’s home to Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam.

Established by the French in 1922, Sapa has since blossomed thanks to the rice and tourist industries. However, Sapa’s true beauty lies in the countryside—you’ll want to escape from Sapa town proper and head into the fields as soon as possible.

The weather can change rapidly, ranging from hot bright days to chilled wintry nights. The best time to visit is invariably summertime to autumn. But note that the paddies change with the seasons: in Spring, crops are new and the soil reddish brown; in Summer, the forest and paddies bloom in vibrant greens; in Autumn, the rice is all ripe, lending a honey-gold color to the landscape. Of course, it being the mountains, fog often collects at the highest peaks in the morning, regardless of the season. 


Many ethnic minorities live in the region, including H’mong, Dao, Tay, Giay and other tribes. Talk to your guide if you are looking for a special handmade souvenir; they often know exactly who to speak with and where to look. 

What is there to do in Sapa? Traveling to a locale as remote as Sapa, you’ll want to spend a few days there at least. There are a few hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and bars to keep you busy among the gorgeous scenery. Hire a motorbike and go village-hopping. Buy a map at the tourist info center and go trekking up the mountains. Sapa Lake is a beautiful waterway where you can rent pedal boats.

How to Get there: From Hanoi, it is an 8-hour train journey, or 6 hours by car. Willamette Intl Travel works with a handful of quality vendors that can build a whole itinerary of Vietnam’s highlights—including the lovely and unparalleled Sapa Rice Fields.


Leave a comment

Filed under News

Travel News: Dept of Transportation bans Samsung Note 7 from Planes

US DOT Bans Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phones From Planes
The US Department of Transportation has issued an emergency order banning Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones on all flights in the US. DOT said people “may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States”. The prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices, DOT said. The phones also cannot be shipped as air cargo. The ban went into affect on October 15. 


Intelligent Robot-Cop Patrols Chinese Airport In Shenzen

Terrorists in China are facing a new nemesis with a cattle-prod wielding “robo-cop” now patrolling Shenzen Boa’am International Airport in the southern province of Guangdong. The intelligent robot, which is decorated with an impressive police shield and is eerily reminiscent of the Daleks in the BBC science fiction series Dr Who, is the first in China to be trained to carry out security checks. It began patrolling the airport’s Terminal 3 last month on a round-the-clock basis.

US Wants Airlines To Make Cost Of Flights More Transparent
Reuters reports the White House plans to announce steps aimed at promoting competition in the US airline industry and increasing transparency in pricing, a source said on Tuesday. The source briefed on the matter said that the White House effort was aimed at ensuring that consumers had better information about air travel costs and airline performance. A Credit Suisse Research report said that the announcement also had to do with fee disclosures and access to airlines for disabled passengers. In August, Democratic US senators Richard Blumenthal, Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren urged the Transportation Department to use its existing authority to allow price comparison websites, like Travelocity, Priceline, and Kayak, to have access to airline pricing information. 

Japan To Use Automatic Facial Recognition To Identify Terror Suspects
The Justice Ministry will start using an automatic facial recognition system at the nation’s airports and seaports to better prevent terrorists from entering Japan. The new system, which goes into operation on Monday at 156 airports and ports across the country, will automatically compare the facial images of foreign nationals at immigration with those of suspected terrorists obtained from organizations both at home and abroad. If the images match, special staff will analyze them and question the suspects. They may be deported once they are determined to be terrorists, the ministry said. Since November 2007, all foreign nationals aged 16 or older are in principle required to be photographed and submit their fingerprints at immigration. Previously, immigration officers manually compared the facial images of foreign nationals with those of suspected terrorists.

Bermuda Open For Business
Within 24 hours, Bermuda bounced back from one of the strongest storms to ever hit the country, Hurricane Nicole, a dangerous Category 4 storm. Hurricane Nicole hit Bermuda Oct. 13 toppling trees, flooding neighborhood streets and knocking out power to 90% of the island. However, strict building codes and a commitment to hurricane preparedness paved the way for a wide-ranging recovery effort immediately following the storm. No major injuries or loss of life resulted from the hurricane. The airport is open and all hotels are open with little to no damage reported. Bermuda is on track this year to welcome the most visitors to the island since 2008, and to be back online within 24 hours of such a major storm is a testament to Bermuda’s dedication to visitors. Hotels such as the Fairmont Southampton and Grotto Bay entertained guests during the storm with a Hurricane Party and Rum Cake Bingo, respectively. The Hamilton Princess was fully operational through the storm, including Marcus restaurant.

Viking Cruises Brings The Metropolitan Opera To Sea
In a new partnership with The Metropolitan Opera, Viking Cruises will air Puccini’s opera ‘La Bohème’ with special documentary behind-the-scenes footage. This latest addition to Viking’s culture-intensive on-board programming will be broadcast in the ocean ships’ main theater and on the big screen at the central, glass-topped pool.



48 hours in Gothenburg: hotels, restaurants and places to visit

V&A Museum Exhibition pays tribute to the History of Underwear

North America’s first over-ocean bungalows open in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Norwegian cruise has enough to please millennials, baby boomers

Amazon river cruise on board Delfin II, Peru: The world’s most famous jungle, in luxury

On Board NCL’s Giant Cruise Ship Norwegian Epic

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Sailing the Viking Ocean!


We’re continuing the Celebration of National Cruise Month! Virtually all major cruise lines are offering special discounts and rates this month! Call our office to inquire: 503-224-0180 or email

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Sailing the Viking Ocean!

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler, a longtime fan of cruise vacations, is out on the open seas this week onboard with Viking Ocean Cruises!

Viking Ocean Cruises is the ocean branch of Viking Cruises, famous for their state-of-the-art river cruises. Itineraries are diverse and delightful, with ports such as Barcelona, Bergen, San Juan and Limassol. Step deep into history and natural beauty for a week or a month—it’s up to you!

Infinity Pool, artist's rendering, image provided by Viking Cruises

The Viking Ocean Cruises boasts a fleet of five all-veranda ships with elegant and minimalist Scandinavian design. Viking Star, the flagship of the line, received numerous laudations from Cruise Critic, CNN, Berlitz and more. With just 930 guests at full capacity, these small ships give access and intimacy that larger cruise lines just can’t compete with.

We have sent countless clients on Viking Cruises, which come highly recommended for their service and all-inclusive packages. Their immersive program of educational lectures, special dining, regional music performances, folkloric shows and an onboard cooking school are designed for the sole purpose of providing an enriching experience for guests.

In 2014, we organized the air, cruise, hotel, and pre-/post-cruise arrangements in Russia for 70+ of Portland’s own Royal Rosarians.

viking river 2

All-Inclusive Cruises include:

  • – one included shore excursion in every port of call
  • – access to top-rated spa
  • – beer, wine and soft drinks with onboard dinner and lunch
  • – port taxes and fees
  • – restaurant dining
  • – 24 hour room service
  • – self-service laundry

See more of our posts on Viking: 

Call our agents at Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about the itineraries Viking Cruises offers in 2017. We can share our expertise and advise if Viking is right for you. Call 503-224-0180 to chat. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

5 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Wellington, NZ


It’s Autumn in Wellington, and due to rain later this week! Do you happen to be on the South Island of New Zealand, wandering the streets of its favorite metropolis, looking for a place to huddle and keep out of the rain? Lucky for you, there’s an abundance of museums and indoor sites to check out.

1. Weta Cave & Workshop. If you’ve seen a movie this past decade, you’re sure to love the Weta Workshop, the big name behind the special effects and props of The Lord of the Rings. Sign up for a tour of the studio and check out behind-the-scenes magic to countless movies including Mad Max, Avatar, District 9, The Chronicles of Narnia and TV shows like Xena. Stop by the Weta Cave Shop and its mini museum and troll sculptures—don’t forget your souvenir. Open every day 9am to 5pm.


2. Te Papa Museum. The country’s best museum is a fantastic way to spend a rainy afternoon and learn all about New Zealand history, geology, art, wildlife and culture. You can spend hours playing with the interactive exhibits; or join a tour on Maori culture and Gallipoli. What’s more—it’s all free. Open every day from 10am to 6pm, and on Thursdays to 9pm.

3. Coffeeee. Do as the locals do and pass your rainy morning at a Wellington cafe. CNN recently named the city as one of the top 8 coffee capitals in the world. Drop by The Waterfront or L’Affare for some locally roasted beans. Or go all in with cupcakes at Floriditas.


4. Foood! One of the best things about Wellington is the covered food stalls at Capital Market. Take your pick of Asian bowls, gluten-free deli, BBQ, fish and chips and a juice bar.

5. Catch a film at an Arthouse Cinema. Wellington has plenty of old theaters, throwbacks to the golden era of cinema. The Paramount and The Penthouse are all old world nostalgia. The Roxy is a shining star of art deco, fully restored to its former glory. For something a bit more state-of-the-art, stop by the Embassy Theatre, 1920’s art deco that was restored by Director Peter Jackson for his The Lord of the Rings premieres.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Zealand, News

Travel News: Canada: New Entry Requirement in Effect

Canada: New Entry Requirement in Effect

Canada instituted new entry requirements that went into effect September 30. While exceptions include U.S. citizens and those with a valid Canadian visa, visa-exempt foreign nationals including those living in the United States will now require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada. The cost of an eTA is $7 CAD. The leniency period that allows travelers to board their flight without an eTA ends November 9. If you are a non-U.S. citizen who is traveling to Canada, apply for an eTA before your agent books your flight. Most applicants get approved within minutes. However, some applications can take several days to process.

How will National Mourning affect Thailand Tourism?

The King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX, passed away on Thursday after a national record reign of 88 years. Travel bureaus and agencies expect that the tourism may experience a slowdown throughout the country. The government has called upon people to avoid joyful events for 30 days and to dress in mourning for a year. Partying and drinking alcohol in public is off limits for now. Entertainment programs have been banned from networks for a month. While it is too early to gauge the immediate impact on tourism, any alcohol restrictions and 12 months of mourning may make Thai resorts less attractive for some vacationers.



The World’s Most Luxurious Travel Experiences

When money’s no object, the world is your oyster. If you have cash to splurge, there are a number of ways to do it on the high-end. Spend 3 weeks on a private jet next May from Seoul to Paris with Four Seasons. Crystal Cruises takes to the skies on its special charter equipped with bar, duvets, flatbeds and only 84 fellow passengers. Skip away to a private atoll owned by Richard Branson or Marlon Brando. More on the story here.

10 Of The Most Haunted Hotels In America

It’s that time of year again, when specters and ghosts jump out at night! If you’re a believer (and even if you’re not), combine a weekend getaway and spooky stories by booking a couple nights at the country’s scariest stays. From Stanley Hotel in Colorado that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining, to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel which is rumored to house the ghosts of a Confederate soldier, convent nuns and a dancer.

More on this story here.

Neon metropolis: Aerial photographs of London by night

International Day of the Girl: 16 great feminist destinations to take your children to

Tuesday saw the Intl Day of the Girl, meaning that the internet was abuzz with destinations to treat your daughters, mothers, sisters, and simply your inner girl. From finding Pippi Longstocking in Stockholm’s Junibacken to Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire to Louisa May Alcott’s childhood home in Concord Massachusetts.

Heading to Japan soon? Check out these Travel Tips for First-Timers

Scotland To Vote On Leaving UK, Remaining In EU
In an attempt to keep Scotland in the European Union, Scotland’s government announced that it will soon introduce a draft bill for a second referendum on independence from the UK. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was met with a standing ovation when she made the announcement during a Scottish National Party (SNP) conference on Thursday. Sturgeon’s remarks were in response to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has made it clear that she will complete the Brexit process by 2019 and that Scotland has no veto over it. Although nearly 52% of Britons opted to leave the block during the June 23 referendum, some 62% of the Scottish people voted against the decision.



FAA Issues Samsung Note 7 Guidance
The US FAA has advised airline passengers to power down all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, including those recently replaced. The Federal Aviation Administration statement “urges passengers onboard aircraft to power down, and not use, charge, or stow in checked baggage, any Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices, including recalled and replacement devices”. Samsung said it has now decided to halt production of the Note 7, after an earlier statement that it had requested outlets to stop selling the smartphone.

North America’s First Ever Flying Car School Opens
PAL-V announced the opening of the first ever Flying Car school in North America, in a day long event designed to introduce prospective customers to flying in a vehicle similar to the PAL-V Liberty Flying Car. Utah is a practical location for the first ever Flying Car School in North America. The region is easy to access geographically, has a good network of general aviation airports and offers mountain flying experience that will benefit the future owners of PAL-V flying cars.

Minister Says British Border Checks Will Be Carried Out In Ireland After Brexit
The Daily Mail reports a Senior Minister has dropped the strongest hint yet that Ireland is set to become the UK’s front line for border checks after leaving the EU. Britain is hoping to rely on beefed-up controls at the Republic’s ports and airports in order to avoid the return of a ‘hard border’ with Northern Ireland. The measures could mean EU nationals coming into Ireland under free movement rules and then travelling to the UK without facing any additional scrutiny. Attempts to use Irish entry points such as Dublin Airport and Rosslare port as the front line of British immigration controls could prove highly controversial in the Republic. The measures will be aimed primarily at non-Europeans, as EU citizens will have automatic rights to enter the Republic.

China To Open First Phase Of World’s Largest Airport By 2019
China will complete the first phase of an expansive new airport in Beijing, which could eventually be the world’s largest, by 2019. Representatives of the Beijing New Airport project showed off the sprawling construction site on Monday, saying the city’s second major airport could serve 45 million passengers a year with four runways on first opening, while two later phases would push the capacity to 100 million passengers annually. That would put the airport, to be the world’s largest in surface area, roughly in line with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest by annual passengers.


European Train Station

Rail Operator ÖBB To Revive Sleeper Carriage Service Across Europe
The Austrian group will compete against airlines with an expansion of overnight passenger routes across Europe. The sleeper carriages may soon start picking up speed again, however. ÖBB, the Austrian state-owned railway operator, on Friday announced a significant expansion and rebranding of its overnight passenger services across Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as its home market. ÖBB hopes its new “Nightjet” services will prove a viable alternative to flying, even if rival operators in other European countries have shunted overnight sleepers into the sidings. Luxury rail sleeper services were immortalized in Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic Murder on the Orient Express. To generations of wandering European students, they provided cheap and basic accommodation on wheels.

United Airlines Will Give A Total Of 5 Million Miles To Customers Who Support Hurricane Relief
United Airlines is partnering with leading disaster relief organizations, including the American Red Cross, Americares, Airlink and OperationUSA to help support families and individuals affected by Hurricane Matthew. The airline will provide up to five million bonus miles to MileagePlus customers who donate to these organizations through the online donations platform, CrowdRise™. In addition, United will give up to a total of $100,000 to match donations to these organizations. For more information and to make a donation, visit:

Civitavecchia To Get A New Cruise Terminal
Roma Cruise Terminal has announced that it has signed an agreement with the consortium Itinera/Zambonini for the construction of the cruise passenger terminal in the port of Civitavecchia. Work on the terminal is now scheduled to start in November and the new 10,000-square-meter building is expected to be completed in 2018.

The Terrible, Unforgettable Beauty of the Arctic

Vancouver Sun writer Daphne Bramham writes about her experience cruising the Arctic

Tom’s Wall in Alabama

Tom’s Wall, or the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, in Alabama, is a gentle story of a Native American memorial. 

Hurricane Matthew has unearthed Civil War Cannonballs

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Buddhas & Boats on Inle Lake


Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

This month Myanmar is celebrating the graceful Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake.

On any other day of the year, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in Ywama houses five golden Buddha statues. Over the years, the statues have been smothered with so many gold leaves that they look more like golden snowmen. Locals flock here, one of the holiest sites in the area, to pay their respects to Buddha and these holy five.


The Famous Statues

But for three special weeks in October (sometimes starting in September), four of the statues embark a gold-laden boat modeled on a royal barge. The beautiful Inle Lake transforms into a gentle dancing floor for the gliding boats. At the head of the boats, dozens of leg-rowers clutch their huge paddles to their calves, stepping in synch as the boat shimmers over the waters.


We can bet anything that Leg-Rowing is Hard Work

Villages from nearby hill tribes flock to the shoreline to join the festivities. Dynamic boat races and traditional Shan dances grip their attention. The ceremonial boats are rowed from 14 villages around the lake–so travelers should try to time a village stay with a night stop.


Fishermen on the Lake

The area of Inle Lake is peaceful, famed for its pagodas and ancient ruins. This is water country, full of twisting canals, floating gardens, houses built on stilts. A famous icon is the Inle Heritage House, a local feline sanctuary for Burmese Cats. Visitors can also check out a floating market, handicraft workshops and a monastery. Definitely worth a stop on any Southeast Itinerary!

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel have sent numerous clients to Southeast Asia. The country of Myanmar is still blossoming, having opened its borders just a few years ago. We would love to set up a magical visit to Myanmar for you and your loved ones. Our established contacts and guides work hard to ensure you have the best vacation. Do give us a call at 503-224-0180 or


Valley of the Pagodas, Burma


Images provided in part by our friends and SE Asia experts, Vexplore Tours. 

Leave a comment

Filed under News