Travel News this Week

Tip from Chocolatine: Les Soldes Summer Sales in Paris

It’s literally time to “pack your bags” at the famous Summer Sales—Les Soldes—in Paris! The government-regulated bi-annual shopping event started yesterday, June 22 and ends August 2. From designer dresses, shoes, and handbags to luxury towels and bedding, prices can fall as low as 80% off the original. Maybe that’s why the French are always so beautifully dressed! Visitors should look for the signs that read: “Promotion,” or “Soldes Exceptionelles”posted on shop windows throughout the city. The best way to avoid the crowds is to visit stores during week days, early in the morning.

Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay Coming Next Year
Universal Orlando’s new water park is scheduled to open next year, and the resort has revealed new details about it. Volcano Bay is now under construction on 28 acres just south of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When completed late next spring, it will offer 19 water-based attractions across four themed zones: Rainforest Village, River Village, Wave Village, and Krakatau, the volcano at the heart of the park which gives it its name. Universal says it is holding back one piece of news about the park, a “secret attraction” in Krakatau that will “be like nothing else in the park. Otherwise, Krakatau will feature three drop-floor body slides, including the 125-foot, 70-degree Ko’okiri Body Plunge, “the world’s first slide to travel through a pool filled with guests.” The volcano also will be home to Punga Racers, “a high-speed race through four different enclosed slides featuring manta-shaped mats.” Other lands will include wave pools, leisure pools, lazy rivers, playgrounds, and raft rides, as well as North America’s first saucer ride, “sending multi-passenger rafts speeding around three saucer-shaped curves.” The park will be open by next June 1.

Airlines Warn Of Summer Strike Chaos In Europe
TravelMole reports thousands of passengers will be hit by strikes in France, Italy and Portugal over the next four weeks. The latest round of strikes to hit European flights started this week with a 35-hour walk-out by French air traffic controllers. More than 200 flights have already been cancelled and the industrial action is expected to lead to knock-on delays and flight detours. Over the next four weeks, eight more strikes have been announced in Italy and Portugal with more than 1,000 flights at risk of being cancelled.

Florida Bank Issues First US Credit Card For Use In Cuba
A small Florida bank will issue the first U.S. credit card intended for use in Cuba and make it easier for Americans to travel and work on an island largely cut off from the U.S. financial system, the bank announced Tuesday. Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Bank said its Mastercard, available Wednesday, will let U.S. travelers charge purchases at state-run businesses and a handful of private ones, mostly high-end private restaurants equipped with point-of-sale devices. Until now, Americans have generally had to bring cash to Cuba and change it either at state institutions that impose a 10% penalty on the dollar or in informal exchanges with locals. The card’s usage will be limited for the moment as Cuba is preventing cardholders from using them for cash advances.  About 100 American individuals and businesses have opened Stonegate accounts with debit cards approved for Cuba, nearly half of them education institutions and travel companies that organize hundreds of trips a year to the island. The Cuban government is exempting the cards from the 10 percent government penalty on dollar transactions, making them the cheapest legal way for travelers to move dollars to the island. PLEASE BE ADVISED however that travel to Cuba is still very restricted to authorized groups only.

Boeing Signs Agreement With Iran
Boeing Co. said it had signed a tentative agreement to sell jetliners to Iran, in what would be one of the Islamic republic’s biggest deals with a US manufacturer since trade sanctions on Tehran were eased. The deal comes after months of talks between Boeing and Iran Air. Details of the potential transaction haven’t been disclosed by Boeing, although the Iranian Transport Minister said that the deal could have a value of up to $25 billion, according to the Associated Press. Iran’s airlines have indicated a dire need for both medium-haul jets like Boeing’s single-aisle 737 and long-haul aircraft like its 777 and 787 Dreamliners. However completing an agreement with Iran Air could take months, amid continued uncertainty from lenders about financing deals with Iran and the need for the US government to sign off on any sale. “Boeing will continue to follow the lead of the U.S. Government with regards to working with Iran’s airlines, and any and all contracts with Iran’s airlines will be contingent upon US Government approval,” the company said.

High Water Levels Are Impacting June Rhine River Cruises
Cruise Critic reports that due to heavy rainfall in southern Germany, portions of the Rhine River have closed to ship traffic, forcing river cruise lines to alter itineraries for this weekend and the coming week. Avalon Waterways posted the following statement on its Facebook page: “Due to increased rainfall this spring, water levels on some of Europe’s rivers are higher than normal. While the impact of higher waters on past and current sailings is minimal, we have had to make some modifications including occasionally changing embarkation and disembarkation locations.” Passengers booked on upcoming cruises should contact your travel agent for details.

Changes to Paris Airport Bus Service
The Air France coaches that shuttled passengers between Paris and Roissy-CDG or Orly airports is now called Le Bus Direct (which is probably good because the old name made people think only Air France passengers could use it). There are four lines with multiple stops: two to Roissy-CDG (€17 one-way), one to Orly (€12 one-way), and one between Roissy-CDG and Orly (€21 one-way). As usual there are stops at Gare de Lyon, Montparnasse, Porte Maillot and Arc de Triomphe, but now there are also stops at Trocadéro, the Eiffel Tower, and La Motte Piquet. The buses have free Wifi and USB plugs at each seat. Open daily 5am-11:40pm, buy your tickets online in advance to save time. Note: Don’t confuse this bus service with the RATP-run RoissyBus(from Opéra for €11 one-way) or OrlyBus (from Denfert Rochereau, €7.70 one-way), which is basically a Paris city bus, so not as comfy but less expensive and possibly closer to where you want to be dropped off in Paris, and you can use your Navigo pass or 5-zone Paris pass.

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