Category Archives: Caribbean

Travel News: St. Petersburg: 72-Hour Visa-Free

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St. Petersburg: Homeport Plans and 72-Hour Visa-Free Arrivals

The Russian port, which expects 243 ship calls and more than 540,000 passengers this year, is a record and an increase of 19% over 2016. The majority of calls into St. Petersburg are overnight to help drive shore excursion programming. The port is hoping to build up winter business with attractions including the Festival of Light and the Festival of Ice Breakers. Missing from the monster cruise port is a turnaround business, and port officials are keen on breaking into the homeport market. That, however, will need to begin with the government removing existing barriers to entry by foreign citizens. A framework has already been put into place between the port and airport with the aim to introduce electronic visas and a 72-hour visa-free arrival program. New mooring dolphins are going in at the No. 7 berth which will increase the length of ships it can handle and also provide an additional ship “parking space” if needed. Construction will start in October and be finished by May of 2018.

CBP To Test One-Step Facial Recognition Exit Screening In Atlanta

Atlanta Business Chronicle reports Delta said its customers departing Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport and New York-JFK for international destinations this summer will be part of the new biometric exit immigration procedure and technology test that captures customers’ biometrics upon exit of the United States at the same time they self-scan their boarding pass. Delta became the first airline to partner with US Customs and Border Protection to test one-step facial recognition exit screening. Delta said the procedure and technology is designed to give CBP an enhanced ability to record when visitors depart the US. Delta’s eGate tests, powered by biometric identification and management providers Vision-Box at JFK and NEC Corp. of America at ATL, confirms passenger identity using advanced facial recognition technology and Delta ticketing information. Delta noted upon successful screening at JFK, the eGate will open for individual customers to pass into the boarding area. In Atlanta, a self-contained unit will capture and verify customer’s identity before the customer continues on to boarding. All customer data is managed by CBP. The system allows eligible Delta SkyMiles Members to forego a paper or mobile boarding pass and hard copy ID in favor of using fingerprints as proof of identity at the Delta Sky Club. Phase 2 would allow Members to use their fingerprints to check a bag, check in at the Delta Sky Club and board a flight.

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United Airlines To Increase Service To Hawaii

Beginning December 20, United Airlines will increase service on 11 routes to Hawaii from its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On May 1947, United Airlines made their first flight to Honolulu, Hawaii from San Francisco on a DC-6 Mainliner. In the celebration of the 70th-anniversary maiden flight, the carrier also announced Denver’s hub will be another primary interior gateway to the island, beginning on December. The increase of service is an addition to United’s daily nonstop service to Honolulu from their seven domestic hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., plus Guam and Tokyo. Also, the Premium Cabin customers on overnight flights between Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York/Newark and Washington D.C., and Hawaii will have 180-degree flat-bed seats, beginning in summer.

AmaWaterways Debuts Sports Scientist-Led Wellness Program

AmaWaterways’ new wellness program aboard AmaLyra’s ‘Paris & Normandy’ sailings is led by ‘sports scientist’ Selina Wank. It features four to six classes daily, including morning stretches, jogging, yoga, cardio and core strengthening and circuit training. Activities will be complemented by discussion groups with a focus on healthy eating and relaxation techniques. AmaWaterways embraced the wellness trend in 2006 by providing 25 bicycles on each European vessel. The company also expanded its biking and hiking shore excursions and offers each excursion at a variety of paces to suit passengers’ needs. Additionally, this year AmaWaterways deepened its relationship with Backroads, a leader in active travel, and now offers more than 50 active departures. Healthy eating and locally sourced ingredients are incorporated into culinary offerings. Gluten-free, low-sodium and vegetarian options are available, and vessels feature a hydration station with infused detox and gemstone water. AmaWaterways expects to introduce its wellness program to additional ships in 2018. And the company will take Active Travel one step further in 2019 with the debut of AmaMagna, twice the width of traditional European vessels. It will feature a retractable water sports platform and expanded fitness and spa facilities.

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American Tests CT Scanning To Keep Laptops In Carry-Ons

Bloomberg News reports American yesterday began the first US test of new airport-security scanners that provide a more detailed view inside carry-on luggage and may allow travelers to keep laptops in their bags. The CT scanner, using technology borrowed from the medical world, is being used in a security checkpoint lane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the airline said in a statement. The testing, at Terminal Four, is being conducted with the Transportation Security Administration. The experiment comes as the US Department of Homeland Security considers whether to expand a ban on electronic devices in airliner cabins that began on some international routes in March. CT scanners are better than existing X-ray devices at detecting explosives, meaning that at some point they could enable passengers to leave laptops, other electronics and possibly even liquids in their bags, vastly simplifying airport security. So far Congress hasn’t appropriated funds for large purchases of new devices, which cost several hundred thousand dollars apiece and would require $1 billion or more to install at thousands of security lines in the US. The machines use computed tomography scanning to create a high-definition, three-dimensional view inside a bag. The image can be rotated for a thorough study and bags can be examined layer by layer. The scanner tested by American was manufactured by L3 Technologies Inc. The TSA has sanctioned a second test at Boston’s Logan International Airport, using a CT scanner made by Integrated Defense & Security Solutions Inc., Joseph Paresi, the company’s chief executive officer, said by email. That machine was installed earlier this month and TSA screeners are being trained to use it, Paresi said. The device already is undergoing tests in Amsterdam. If the tests are successful, American and the TSA may deploy CT scanners to other checkpoint locations, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said.

Frankfurt Airport Opens “Quiet Room”  

Frankfurt Airport has added a Quiet Room where travelers can find peace and quiet. Harry Gatterer, a trend researcher and futurologist who leads the Zukunftsinstitut (“Future Institute”) in Frankfurt and Vienna, explains why havens like this are so important in today’s fast-paced world: “In the 21st century, we are constantly bombarded by masses of information and bathed in the glow of screens with hardly a break. The so-called information society is now reacting to this overkill with a countertrend: mindfulness. It’s therefore safe to say that in the future, people will actively seek moments in which to reflect and reconnect with themselves. This type of everyday spirituality is poised to become an essential survival technique. The principle of ‘strength in serenity’ has never before been so relevant.” Passengers have responded to this wish for a place of silence by creating the “Quiet Room”, which all passengers may use for free regardless of their worldview, culture and religious affiliation. The highlight of the white room is an undulating golden ceiling illuminated by lamps that reflect the light onto the floor and walls. An oak bench occupies the middle of the room, inviting travelers to sit down and enjoy moments of rest and contemplation. The Quiet Room is located in the post-security part of Terminal 1 on Level 3 of Pier Z and is open daily until 10 p.m.

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Carnival: New Cuba Policy Won’t Affect Their Cruises 

Carnival Corp. & plc said the policy changes planned by the Trump administration will allow its ships to continue to sail to Cuba. ‘We will review the extent of the tightening of the travel rules, but our guests have already been traveling under the 12 approved forms of travel to Cuba since we undertook our historic first cruise to Cuba more than a year ago,’ the company said in a statement. According to Reuters, a draft memo of President Trump‘s remarks planned for Friday in Miami will include tighter enforcement to make sure Americans legally fit the 12 authorized categories they claim to be traveling under. US-based cruise operators like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and others advertise group excursions in Cuba that they say comply with the people-to-people requirements under US law. What’s expected to be curbed now is the individual, self-certifying people-to-people travel, the category that has been ‘the source for most abuse,’ according to a US-Cuba trade expert. In a note to investors, Wells Fargo Securities said, in essence, the Trump plan will require tourists to keep detailed records, subject to audit by the Treasury for five years, of all financial transactions while in Cuba to ensure they are avoiding benefit to GAESA (Cuban military) entities. ‘Our experience in Cuba this past year has been extremely positive,’ Carnival said. ‘We look forward to the new cruises being planned forCuba with Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line. We also have requested approval for our other brands to travel to Cuba. 

Mid-Flight Battery Fires On The Increase 

A Federal Aviation Administration report says there have been 17 instances of overheating or exploding batteries in the first five months of 2017. They involved batteries in cell phones, laptops, e-cigarette devices, cameras, power packs and headphones. They impacted flights with Southwest Airlines, Frontier, American and Delta Air Lines, while two fires were reported on FedEx cargo planes. Three flights ended up being diverted. There were 31 in total throughout 2016. With an electronics device ban in effect from 10 airports, primarily in the Middle East, and the possibility of it being expanded to 71 more airports, there are fears the problem will only get worse with baggage holds filled with unattended electronic devices that all use lithium-ion batteries.

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Filed under All About Hawaii, Cuba, Europe, Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines, News, Russia

Travel News: Chinese Gov’t Requiring Strict Photos for China Visa

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Chinese Gov’t Requires Strict Photo Regulations for China Visa

Lately the Chinese government has gotten very particular on their acceptance of photos on the China visa application. Applicants must adhere to the visa requirements to the letter or risk rejections. Please double check with your passport photo photographer that they are up-to-date with recent regulations. Full details on requirements in the attached PDF here. 

Biggest-Ever Airplane Poised For Test Flights Into Orbit

The world’s largest airplane, designed to reshape space travel by launching rockets mid-air into orbit from 30,000 ft, rolled out of its hangar for the first time last Wednesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The groundbreaking plane, which looks like two aircraft joined together, is the brainchild of billionaire Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen and his private spaceflight company Stratolaunch. Allen founded the company in 2011 with the goal of making access to low-Earth orbit more “convenient, reliable and routine.” It has the biggest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, coming in 385 ft, longer than an NFL field which is 360 ft in length. The aircraft is 238 ft from nose to tail and stands 50 ft high on its 28 wheels. This is the first time the public has got a look at the spaceplane and now work must begin on testing before its predicted maiden voyage in 2019.

Montreal Ferris Wheel Set For July Opening

Montreal’s new La Grande Roue Ferris wheel will start operating in the Old Port in mid-July. The ride will offer panoramic 60-metre-high views of the river, Old Montreal, downtown and the mountain. The Ferris wheel will operate year-round from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., giving visitors a chance to enjoy a day or evening view from an air-conditioned cabin (heated in winter). There will also be a bar, bistro and coffee shop on site

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Record Number Of Climbers On Mount Everest

Safety concerns are on high alert this year as Mount Qomolangma, more commonly known as Mount Everest, is expected to see its highest number of climbers this year. The mountain is located on the border between Nepal and China and in order to climb it, interested climbers need to apply for a permit from either the Nepalese or Chinese government depending on which side the ascent begins. Unlike previous years, the world’s highest peak which sits at 8,848 meters above sea level, is estimated to receive more than 1000 people this year during the peak season, which is the highest number of climbers ever. The cause of the increasing number of climbers is varied but a lot of it has to do with the increasing popularity of the climb ever since it was opened to the public over 60 years ago. This year alone, the Nepalese government has granted 371 permits, the most it’s ever issued in a single year. A key factor which has caused the growth of the number of climbers may be the portrayal of Mount Everest in popular media. Experienced climbers have noted that the climb is promoted as a fashionable activity rather than what it truly is; a challenging extreme sport which should only be limited to climbers who have had experiences with similar conditions such as the 5,895 meters tall Mount Kilimanjaro. In order to handle the increase of applications, the Nepalese government has imposed more stringent conditions such as instigating a ban on climbers who are younger than 18 or older than 75.

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Corkage Fee for Wine Brought Onboard

Cruise Critic reports Royal Caribbean has reinstated its corkage fee for wine brought onboard by passengers. The $15 per bottle fee will be charged for the opening of any bottle brought onboard by passengers on embarkation day. Wine purchased from the onboard menus or through the line’s Gifts and Gear program and consumed in a public space does not bear an extra charge. Passengers are permitted to bring onto their cruise ship, on embarkation day only, two bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin, up to 750 ml each for consumption during the cruise. Any bottles brought onboard during the length of the sailing will be stored for the duration of the cruise and returned to passengers the night before disembarkation. Royal Caribbean declined to comment on why the line brought back the fee, which it had removed back in 2014.

President Trump To Reverse Cuba Policy

There are many reports circulating that the President plans to reverse the previous administration’s Cuba policy. Business Travel News reports US cruise operators and airlines could lose $712 million in annual revenues if restrictions are reinstated. President Trump is poised to void the re-normalization of US relations with Cuba, according to multiple congressional and advocacy organization sources with direct knowledge of the administration’s intentions reported by numerous news media yesterday. Possible changes Pres. Trump is considering include “reconfirming the licensing structure that would rescind the system that has allowed for easier travel to the country,” many news media outlets report, as well as new regulations for businesses interested in working in the Cuban market; reinstating caps or outright banning imports from the country; and redefining the what it means to be a part of the Cuban government or military, which could affect contracts with the Cuban government. The sources say some of the changes could take effect this month. US businesses have established 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017, according to ABC News, including airlines and cruise lines as well as telecommunications companies and Google, which hoped to expand internet access in Cuba. The number of US citizens visiting Cuba increased 74% from 2015 to 2016, according to the Cuban Ministry. Trump’s administration is reviewing US policy toward the country’s former Cold War foe.

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Arctic Tourism Groups Forge Guidelines For Community Visits

Five Arctic tourism organizations have joined forces to develop guidelines for tourists visiting Arctic communities. In addition to general advice on how to behave, the organizations presented a template that helps communities to create their own tailored guidelines. The guidelines, which provide travelers with useful dos and don’ts when visiting Arctic communities, were developed with the input of local stakeholders. Included are pointers on everything from cultural considerations to recommendations on what kind of souvenirs to buy. For example, visitors are encouraged to talk to, and not about, the people they meet and to ask before taking photographs of people (‘a hesitation means “no”‘). ‘Think of yourself as an ambassador for your country and your culture, as the locals are for theirs. Politeness and good manners are always appreciated,’ one guideline states. Visitors are advised to respect privacy and private property, and places of religious or cultural significance. Children shouldn’t be photographed or given gifts without their superiors’ permission. Religious or cultural ceremonies shouldn’t be disturbed or photographed without permission. People should avoid walking on graves. The groups that teamed on the guidelines are the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Visit Greenland, Cruise Iceland, Visit Svalbard and the Northern Norway Tourist Board.

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Filed under Canada, Caribbean, China, Europe, Royal Caribbean

Travel News: HAL cruises to Cuba

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Holland America Becomes Latest Cruise Line to Sail for Cuba

HAL just announced it will begin sailings from Ford Lauderdale to Cuba starting December 22, 2017, with a 12-day cruise on the Veendam. HAL will begin with nine 7-day itineraries calling at Havana, with three of these also calling at Cienfuegos. Other ports on the cruises will include Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Key West in Florida, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic. This follows the announcement of Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, who will sail Cuba as well.

Royal Caribbean Adds Chief Meteorologist To Marine Ops Team

Royal Caribbean Cruises has added what may be the first-ever full-time cruise industry Chief Meteorologist to its operations team in Jim Van Fleet, who brings a broadcasting background to the position and has degrees in climatology and broadcast meteorology. Van Fleet joined the Miami-based company in January.

Port of Lisbon Wants Homeport Calls

A new cruise terminal will be inaugurated this summer, a new state-of-the-art building located downtown in the city center as port officials have their eyes on building Lisbon into a major home port. And of those, the port is expecting quite a few with maiden visits scheduled from the Viking Sky, Freedom of the Seas, TUI Discovery 2, Columbus, Silver Muse, Variety Voyager, Caribbean Princess, Ocean Diamond, Viking Sun and the new MSC Meraviglia. Lisbon cruise season is mainly spring and fall and the city wants cruise ship to call year round. In addition, one of the main strategic goals is to increase the turnaround segment and establish Lisbon as a big national and international homeport hub, which will induce growth and eventually reduce seasonality effects.

John Travolta Donates His Famous 707

Actor John Travolta has donated his famous Qantas Boeing 707-138 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based at Albion Park, approximately 90 miles south of the city of Sydney, Australia. In a statement Travolta said “The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”. I was honored to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colors when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.  HARS is a not-for-profit organization and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. It has built up an impressive collection of over both flying and static aircraft including a Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. It is, without doubt, the most impressive aircraft museum in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Florence Mayor Aims To Keep Polluting Tourists At Bay

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city. Dario Nardella wants to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites. The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down at lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito. “We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor told The Guardian. “But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.” The streets of the city’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps. Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the center use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region. He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Family-centric getaways to Mexico offer something for all ages

On Mexico’s East and West coasts, Palladium Hotels and Resorts’ all-inclusive getaways emphasize privacy and wellness in the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. All hotels have tiered kids’ clubs — baby, mini and junior clubs — where children are entertained with kid-centric programs, designed to optimize both fun and education. The resorts’ Play at Palladium with Raggs program includes a group of 5 colorful TV characters as on-site ambassadors, hosting activities, poolside events, disco parties, a pirate show and on-property water sports. For older kids, cooking, science and magic classes are also available. 

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Filed under Airlines, Caribbean, Cruises, Cuba, Europe, Holland America Line, Italy, Mexico, portugal, Royal Caribbean

Travel News: State Dept says Renew your US Passport Now

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State Dept. Says Renew Your Expiring US Passport Now!

In general, for regular applications, the State Department lists the turnaround time as 6-8 weeks (although wait times usually end up shorter than that), and by paying an extra fee you can have that cut down to 2-3 weeks. In urgent circumstances, travelers can get a same-day passport renewal at a local passport office, if they can prove they are traveling sooner than the normal wait time. While the State Department promises to do a better job of staying on top of the flood of applications than they did ten years ago, if your expiration date ends in a seven, better to get on it early–specially because applications tend to spike in spring and summer as people gear up for vacation. And remember, some countries require you to have six months of validity left to enter, not something you want to find out the hard way. On average, the State Department processes around 13 million passport applications a year–last year, it saw 16.8 applications-so while 20.5 million is out of the norm, the State Department has seemingly learned to expect major increases of this magnitude every ten years when that initial flood of passports is up for renewal.

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Goway lays out Peru’s new rules for visiting Machu Picchu

New admission rules for Machu Picchu, which (as of now) go into effect January 2018. Ticket sales will be divided into a morning ticket 8am to 12pm and an afternoon ticket 12pm to 5:30pm. Change in cost for a ticket has not been announced. Travelers can buy both to spend a full day at the site. “Initially this change was to begin mid-2017, but after consultations with tour operators locally and internationally the date has been unofficially moved to Jan 2018,” says Goway. The number of visitors has grown annually, from low hundred thousands in 1980s to a peak of 1.4 million tourists in 2014. The ticket changes are an attempt to ease the stress on the fragile ruins, and keep it in good shape and accessibility for future travelers.  

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Holland America Adds Cuba Calls

Holland America Line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday cruise aboard the Veendam, according to a statement from the company. The addition of Veendam itineraries will help meet the growing demand for premium cruise experiences to Cuba, the company said. Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos. Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The series of Cuban cruises will debut with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.

 

 

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Filed under Cuba, Europe, Goway, holland america, News, Peru

4 Family-Friendly Cruise Lines (you wouldn’t expect!)

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Today is the International Day of Families! The theme of this year? Education and Well-being. In celebration of the day, we’re taking look at a couple cruise lines that, at first glance, you wouldn’t think are family-friendly—but actually are.

A good kids’ program can transform a “week stuck with Mom & Dad” into an awesome summer break! Why not make it fun for everyone?

Of course, number one on the list is naturally Disney. But Disney’s ships were kind of made for kids—what about those cruise lines that cater mostly to adults, AND have a fantastic kids’ program on top of it? You might be surprised at the results. Here are our Top 5 Family-Friendly Cruise Lines that you wouldn’t expect!

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Uniworld

Uniworld was named #1 River Cruise Line for Families by Travel + Leisure readers four years in a row! This is thanks to their Uniworld Generations Family Cruise program, where kids cruise for half-price! For every accompanying adult, a child between 4 and 18, qualifies for 50% savings. Set your kids on a firsthand experiential course into history, culture and geography. In 2017 they offer nine itineraries in Europe: Danube, Rhine, Paris, Normandy, German Christmas markets, Italy and more! Includes onshore excursions for curious minds and kid-friendly menus.

Crystal Cruises

Kids transform into world explorers aboard Crystal Cruises. On select itineraries, they even sail Free! Junior Cruisers can enjoy scavenger hunts, cookie decorating, team games, karaoke, and video games. What’s cool about these Kids Sail Free Voyages, they also come with added perks for the parents, including 2-for-1 cruise-only fares, complimentary select alcohols, complimentary gratuities, complimentary computer and fitness programs and a free evening of specialty dining.

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Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises offers a really cool youth program, each uniquely designed by age group: toddlers, kids, teens and young adults. Science, arts and crafts, air hockey–whatever your kid’s into lately, it seems like they’ve got it in stock. And the fun isn’t even confined to the ship. For example, on an Alaska cruise excursion, preteens can sign up for the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program and learn all about Alaska’s animals and rugged terrain.

Royal Caribbean

RC does it in style, with rock-climbing walls, zippiness, ice rinks and bumper cars! The DreamWorks experience is a unique Royal Caribbean option where you can meet, dine and go on a scavenger hunt with your favorite characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon.  

And as always, ask your WIT travel agent for details on which itineraries are best for your family, and how can you get that sweet cruise deal you’ve been looking for! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

THIS WEEK: We welcome back Nancy, WIT Agent Extraordinaire, who was recently in Europe on a Barcelona-Windstar Cruise-Amalfi Coast Extravaganza! We look forward to her feedback and photos soon! ALSO: WIT Agent Rachael is in Puerto Vallarta this week! What great photos those will be. Stay tuned!

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Filed under Caribbean, Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruises, Europe, Princess Cruises, UniWorld, Windstar Cruises

The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

8 Highlights of Puerto Rico

Heading down to Puerto Rico for a Caribbean cruise? Why not spend a few days soaking in the sights and the sun on one of USA’s tropical treasures?

Explore the Colorful Streets of Old San Juan

Nothing beats a peaceful morning walk around Old San Juan! The old city covers just seven square blocks, every inch of which is decorated in 400 colorful Spanish colonial buildings. Stop first at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a map, then hit the blue cobblestones. History is alive and all over San Juan. A few hours’ walk will introduce you to El Morro Fort, Bacardi Rum Factory, San Juan Gate, and the Cathedral where Ponce de Leon is interred. On weekends, stroll through the outdoor crafts market.

Breakfast at Caficultura

Don’t forget to grab a tasty breakfast at Caficultura. This fun, casual diner is a great spot to pick up coffee and brunch: veggie scramble, crepes with goat cheese, coconut French toast with pineapple marmalade—not to mention the banana rum pancakes!

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Ice Cream at Senor Paleta

Don’t miss Señor Paleta, a famous popsicle joint in the old town of San Juan. The shop is so popular there are daily lines around the block! And its no wonder, with flavors like housemade pistachio, strawberry mojito, strawberry cheesecake, and peanut butter dipped in chocolate.

Dive in the Bioluminescent Bay

Take a trip out to Bio Bay for one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons on Earth. Bio Bay, situated off the east coast of Puerto Rico, is home to millions of bioluminescent organisms that emit bluish light when agitated. Kayak your way through mangrove channels to the glowing waters. The lights are particularly illuminating at night against the black Caribbean sea.

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Hike El Yunque Rainforest

The tropical rainforest of El Yunque is a haven for hikers and nature lovers, with several hiking trails to choose from. Hike past mountain waterfalls, catch sight of the coqui frog, and check out Taíno petroglyphs.

Try Local Fare at the Luquillo kiosks

Driving east from El Yunque back to San Juan, you’ll chance upon the Luquillo, home to 60+ different roadside diners. These ramshackle buildings are a great way to try authentic favorites like fried bacalaitos and empanadillas—or try Puerto Rico’s version of  Caribbean fusion, Peruvian, Mexican, or even Thai.

Short Flight to Culebra Island

Commune with nature out on Culbera Island, seventeen miles east of the mainland. The enchanting isle attracts fans of wildlife and beaches. Hikers, scuba divers, nature photographers all flock here for a glimpse of rare reef fish, local birds, and turtles. So bring your camera and don’t miss the sights!

Dinner at El Pescador

Located in Fajardo on the mainland, El Pescador consistently receives rave reviews. Laid-back and family-owned, with fresh seafood caught that day, it’s not hard to see why people keep coming back. Try the mofongo, fried green plantains, or the white pineapple sangrias. Come hungry—all dishes have enormous portions—and come early—it’s crazy popular year-round!

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