This Week in Travel News

Iceland’s Largest Volcano Could Be About To Erupt
Iceland’s largest volcano has been hit by two massive earthquakes, sparking fears of an eruption and air travel chaos combined with poisonous ash clouds. Two huge quakes measuring magnitudes 4.6 and 4.5 rumbled through Katla crater in the southern area of the country a couple of days ago.After the initial shakes the region has trembled with at least 10 more earthquakes around the volcano. The volcano is overdue to blow after last properly erupting in 1918, when it spewed ash into the air for five weeks. The last time a major Icelandic volcano exploded in April 2010 caused the cancellation of 100,000 flights all across Europe. Eyjafjallajokull volcano (that’s ay-ya-fee-yat-tla-yo-kutl) poured glass-like particles formed from lava into the atmosphere sparking fears that they might melt in aircraft engines. Historically Eyjafjallajokull volcano has been known to erupt two years prior to Katla, meaning the eruption is massively overdue. There is a large ice cap covering the volcano, which should contain the lava for up to 90 minutes in the event of an eruption. This should give enough time to alert the population and international air traffic to an impending disaster.


Remodel at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (& JFK)

New York’s LaGuardia airport (LGA) has begun a four-year, $4-billion-dollar redevelopment program to completely reshape the airport. Being one of the main hubs of New York City and surrounding suburbs, closing it would not have been logical, as the existing terminal B services almost 15 million travelers annually.

As LaGuardia has little public transportation, traveling to the airport has already become a trying experience for many. Last week, there were several days where it was taking 2-4  hours to reach the terminals, causing some travelers to ditch rental cars and walk several miles to the airport. Many carriers have been advising travelers to give themselves four hours to travel from Manhattan to the airport. Even Uber was refusing rides to or from the airport.  Also, because many travelers are arriving late for their flights, time-balanced security checkpoints are backing up, causing more angst for travelers.

If you are flying in or out of New York’s LaGuardia, visit to stay on top of any last-minute changes to roads, parking, pick-up and drop-off areas and cell phone lots. From there, you can also sign up to receive emailed alerts. If you, or someone you know, travel to LGA often, we suggest you sign up for these alerts.

To add to this situation, New York Port Authority has begun construction on the main roadway into New York’s JFK Airport, as well. For JFK, they are suggesting people drop off at a JFK AirTrain station versus attempting to drive into the airport.  Remember, Newark (EWR) is a viable alternative.

This Week Marked The First Of US-Cuba Scheduled Commercial Flights In Decades
The first regularly scheduled commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than half a century departed this week, starting a new chapter in the bid to open trade and travel with the former Cold War foe. The first of several U.S. carriers to begin serving Cuba in the coming months, JetBlue Airways Corp will fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, a city in the center of Cuba known for its monument to revolutionary Che Guevara. Among the passengers on the 150-seat Airbus A320 were U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, JetBlue Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes, news reporters and photographers and other officials. Regular travelers, including some of Cuban descent, occupied nearly half the seats on a route that may be a commercial challenge, at least initially.


Aloft Hotels Launches Voice-Activated Rooms

Aloft Hotels by Starwood has unveiled voice-activated rooms this week in the USA, Aloft Boston Seaport and Aloft Santa Clara in California, under the “Project: Jetson” initiative. The voice-activated technology is integrated with Apple’s Siri; it runs a custom Aloft app on iPads placed in the rooms. With this, guests can control the temperature, lighting, television, music and so on with a simple voice command. When guests launch the app on their in-room iPads, they’re greeted with a personalised welcome screen and a tutorial that walks them through the technology. Any request made thenceforth must begin with “Hey Siri”, followed by the command. For example, if the room temperature is warmer than desired, they must say: “Hey Siri, cool the room,” or to switch from nigh-mode lighting to day-mode, “Hey Siri, good morning.” Siri also acts as a personal concierge when asked to list sightseeing attractions and restaurant options in the city. Further, by logging on to the app with personal Apple account details, Siri can play songs from the synchronised iTunes account. Aloft Hotels is positive about the success of the new technology, and hopes to introduce it to its other properties worldwide.

Uniworld To Get A New ‘SuperShip’ And New Itineraries
The luxury river cruise line Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is changing things up for 2017, adding new itineraries, a brand-new “super ship” and more inclusions to its sailings. The two added itineraries include the Rhine-Main Discovery, which will introduce the line’s new Jewish heritage programming and excursions, including a visit to the Dachau concentration camp. Other excursions will also be available; passengers will have a choice every day. The second itinerary, Paris & Impressions of the Seine, will focus on the French river’s history, art, architecture and gastronomy; it’s intended to show the inspiration behind the region’s artists. In addition, Uniworld will christen its next river ship S.S. Joie de Vivre, in March 2017. That 128-passenger vessel will be the line’s first “super ship” to sail on the Seine and will be able to dock in the heart of Paris. Uniworld is also making its fares more inclusive in 2017, including port fees in its cost, adding 24-hour room service, and 24-hour butler service for passengers in suites. There will also be a new onboard concierge service to help passengers personalize their trip.

Northwest Passage Is Nearly Ice-Free
Crystal Serenity’s current voyage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago exemplifies the growing human presence in an increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage. In mid-August, the southern route through the Passage was nearly ice-free, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. NASA sea ice scientist Walt Meier attributed that to the warm winter and spring which resulted in thinner seasonal ice that can melt more easily, break up and move out of the channels. The open water this year flows along the southern or ‘Amundsen route.’ The Earth Observatory noted that at some point in almost every summer since 2007, conditions along the southern passage have been fairly open. Crystal Serenity’s voyage, which began August 16 at Seward, Alaska, and is scheduled to stretch 32 days until arrival at New York City on Sept. 16, would appear well-timed. What’s left of the ice is opening up fast; Meier expects the Passage will open completely in the next couple weeks. Crystal Serenity is escorted by the icebreaker RSS Ernest Shackleton. (Crystal Serenity voyage updates and destination highlights are being posted on the company’s blog, the Crystal Insider. Seatrade Cruise News also will be reporting from a portion of the journey, starting the last week of August. Earth Observatory noted a a strong Arctic cyclone appears to be approaching the archipelago which could push the ice around and open still-blocked channels or, have the opposite effect and push in ice from the north. Crystal Cruises has already scheduled a second Northwest Passage transit in August 2017. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which had announced a transit on Seven Seas Navigator in July next year, has canceled that cruise. ‘


 New regulations for US citizens visiting Vietnam

With immediate effect, the Vietnamese government have implemented a new visa regulation for US citizens who plan on visiting Vietnam. This new policy introduces a 1-year multiple entry visa and replaces all previous types of visa (30-day tourism/business, single entry/multiple entry). Procedures differ from first entry to the country and other entries thereafter: Visitors entering Vietnam for the first time under the new regulations will now require an application visa letter and a stamping fee of $135 to be paid at the airport for visa on arrival. The visa will be valid up to 1 year with multiple entries. Visitors are allowed to stay maximum 3 months per entry. Visitors who enter Vietnam a second or third time, need only to show the previous passport stamps or other relevant documentation at Vietnam immigration. 

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

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