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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