Category Archives: Cruises

Travel News: More Lindblad Small-Ship Expeditions coming your way

Tourism Giant Thomas Cook Stops Selling Tickets To SeaWorld

Travelwirenews reports Animal advocates are celebrating another big win for captive whales and dolphins with an announcement from tourism company Thomas Cook that it will no longer be selling tickets to any attractions that keep Orcas in captivity. Last year the company announced a new animal welfare policy and began auditing 49 of the facilities it sells tickets to in an effort to see if they met the standards set by the Association of British Travel Agents. In all 29 of them failed, and the company stopped selling tickets to them. Now, the company is amending that policy over concerns about welfare and changes in what people consider acceptable and has officially announced it will no longer be selling tickets to facilities that keep Orcas in captivity as of next summer, which includes SeaWorld in the U.S. and Loro Parque in Spain.

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New Tourism Taxes Have Made Holidays To Barbados More Expensive

Travelwirenews reports Holidays to the Barbados has gotten more expensive with new tourism taxes. As of July 1, tourists were hit with a new hotel tax, equal to US$2.50 to US$10 per night, depending on the class of accommodation. This new tax comes on top of an “airline travel and tourism development fee” of US$70 that will be applied to passengers flying to destinations outside the Caribbean as of October 1, and a 2.5% levy applied to “direct tourism services” like car rental services. The additional taxes are meant to help offset the island’s government debts. For the average family staying an average of 12 nights, the additional tax could add US$240 to their hotel bill. The additional room levy will be collected at the resort and hotels until 2020, when the VAT doubles to 15%.

Lindblad Positive On Expanding Expedition Demand

National Geographic Explorer reports Lindblad Expeditions reported positive second quarter earnings on Thursday morning, with Sven-Olof Lindblad, president and CEO, continuing to paint a picture of a strong demand environment for expedition travel. “I know new entrants and new ships are (coming) at an unprecedented level,” Lindblad said, noting the capacity increase in the expedition market in the next two years was still less than the introduction of one mass market ship. While some of those new ships will replace older inventory, Lindblad said the additional capacity will drive marketing and interest across the sector. For 2019 Lindblad said he was expecting a stronger South Pacific season as the company was able to rebalance capacity to maximize revenue opportunities. Across the globe, the company is also eyeing building up deployment in Egypt, citing strong demand. “Creating new geographic opportunities is a key ingredient to sustain growth,” Lindblad said, speaking on the company’s second quarter earnings call. A July deal to build a second blue-water expedition ship was based on increasing demand for high-quality expedition travel, Lindblad explained, as the company will get new 126-passenger polar-class ships in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The company has an option on a third vessel as well. “We have done diligent research,” he said, referring to the 126-guest ship size. “Once you cross over into larger numbers the opportunities (to land guests) diminish dramatically.”

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Hot Weather In Europe Causes Low Water, Prompts River Cruise Itinerary Changes

Cruise Critic UK reports unusually hot weather in Europe is affecting river cruises, causing lines to swap ships between different port cities, change itineraries and use buses to take passengers to various sites. The issues are primarily on Germany’s Elbe River, which historically has had low water issues, and parts of the Danube River north of Passau. The Rhine River is also low, with daily fluctuating levels. River cruise lines handle low water levels in a number of ways, doing their best to keep as close to the itinerary as possible. Ports often close with little advance notice, with the local officials making the determination, leading to last-minute decisions by the line. It’s also hard to predict which season water issues will arise, as it’s entirely dependent on the weather. Sometimes high water strikes in the spring, when snow melts in the Alps, but that’s not always a given (and it wasn’t this year). Low water is generally more common in the fall, but a hot summer can cause issues earlier. Conversely, a particularly stormy summer can cause flooding. The most common, and least disruptive, practice for cruise lines is to keep identical ships as floating hotels in various ports. That way, when passengers swap ships, they have the same cabin category and amenities.

Florida Suffers Worst Red Tide In Over A Decade

Travelmole reports holidaymakers in Florida are being warned to take care as the worst outbreak of red tide in over a decade is affecting its beaches. Officials fear the toxic algae bloom, which is affecting at least 120 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, could last until 2019. It has already killed thousands of fish, hundreds of sea turtles, and also pelicans and manatees. It poses health risks to beachgoers, particularly those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma. The algae can cause rashes and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and allergy-like symptoms in humans, while drinking water with the toxins can cause long-term liver disease. Last month, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven counties after the algae blooms tainted the water in the wake of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. This gave state environmental and tourism agencies more resources to respond to problems caused by the algae. The red tide, which usually goes away in the spring, has persisted for nine months. According to US reports, the worst bloom in 2006 lasted 17 months.

The UK Has Updated Its Travel Advice For Portugal

The UK Foreign Office has updated its advice for Portugal following three days of forest fires in the Algarve. Portuguese authorities are evacuating affected areas in and round the town of Monchique. “If you are in this area, follow the instructions of the Portuguese police and Civil Protection authorities,” the FCO told British visitors. “For your own safety, travel to the Monchique area is not advised under any circumstances until cleared by the Portuguese authorities.” Flames have already consumed more than 1,000 hectares of forest despite efforts by more than 800 firefighters. Wildfires in Portugal killed more than a hundred people last year. This year authorities were quick to act with evacuations.

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Croatia Is Latest EU Country To Increase Tourist Tax

Travelwirenews reports Croatia is the latest destination to announce an increase in its tourist tax, in an effort to mitigate the impact of its growing holiday industry. The country will raise its visitor levy from 8 kuna (€1.08) per night to 10 kuna (€1.35) from next year. The new rate will apply to all accommodation during peak season, with the exception of campsites. Gari Cappelli, the country’s tourism minister and president of the Croatian tourist board, said money raised would be distributed to the Red Cross, the tourist board and destinations within the country. While the new levy will add just £3.23 per person onto the cost of a fortnight’s holiday, or approximately €18.90 for the two weeks, it’s part of a wider move by holiday destinations to raise tourist taxes. This year, the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera doubled their daily tax on tourists in peak season to up to €4 per night. Earlier this summer Barbados announced that it was increasing its visitor levy, which could see families pay €224 extra for a fortnight’s stay. While many destinations impose such taxes to support sustainable tourism, Barbados is doing so to raise money to reduce its overwhelming deficit. Edinburgh is looking to become the first UK destination to introduce a tourist tax. The council claims it would use the money to improve the city’s infrastructure, which is struggling to cope with a surge in visitors.

National Geographic Partners with Ponant to Develop Global Expedition Cruising

Cruise Critic reports National Geographic Expeditions and Ponant have announced a new range of co-branded, luxury expedition cruises on small ships with a common vision for responsible travel and unique experiences. The 130 itineraries, to be offered over the next four years, cover all seven continents. Core destinations are the Arctic and Antarctic, complemented by a range of expeditions in northern Australia, the South Pacific, Alaska, the Seychelles and the Caribbean. Unusual options to some of the world’s most remote locations include Antarctica to Africa (Ushuaia to Cape Town) and Fiji to Guam via Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia. A 10-night ‘Top End’ cruise sails from Darwin to Cairns stopping at several Aboriginal communities. The new strategic partnership specifically targets travellers in Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific and does not impact National Geographic’s partnership with Lindblad Expeditions in the Americas. Expeditions will be conducted on Ponant’s ‘clean ships’, which are designed to respect the environment and marine life, with capacity for 180 to 240 passengers as well as National Geographic photographers and other relevant experts onboard. Ponant is committed to recycling and reuse programs, reduced exhaust emissions and sustainable purchasing practices. Some of the latest ships will also have the line’s new multi-sensory underwater lounge. Available to book now, the new cruises are priced from AU$4,730 per person. A portion of all proceeds is returned to the non-profit National Geographic Society.

American Song, New Orleans’ First Modern Riverboat, Is Nearly Complete

Cruise Industry News reports American Song is nearly finished with construction and will arrive in New Orleans in October 2018. The vessel is one of two modern riverboats American Cruise Lines will debut in New Orleans over the next year. The 190-passenger riverboat, owned by American Cruise Lines, has sailed from its outfitting basin at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland to the yard’s outfitting bulkhead, where it will receive final touches, according to a news release. It will sail its inaugural Mississippi River cruise from New Orleans in October. American Song has a range of modern features including a rotating, retractable gangway that extends from the bow, which is designed to open for boarding and disembarking. It is one of two new, top-of-the-line riverboats being built by American Cruise Lines, both of which will launch in New Orleans. American Harmony, its sister ship, is currently under construction and will go into service on the Mississippi River in 2019. American Song will sail from New Orleans through the end of this year before it relocates to the Pacific Northwest in 2019. American Song and American Harmony have a new design that eliminates the paddlewheel and adds luxury features, including new grand suites with 900 square feet of private space, large windows and a wraparound balcony. Of the boat’s 102 staterooms, the grand suite is the most expensive, running more than $9,000 for a seven-night cruise from Memphis to New Orleans. The company also plans to have two paddlewheel boats operating from New Orleans by October, America, a 185-passenger boat, and Queen of the Mississippi, a 150-passenger boat. American Song’s inaugural cruise departs New Orleans on Oct. 6.

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Lindblad Expeditions, portugal

Danube Waltz with Viking Cruises

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Budapest – Bratislava – Vienna – Krems – Linz – Passau

This week, WIT Agent Debbie is joining Viking Cruises on an educational cruise onboard the Viking Vilhjalm!

She will fly to Budapest and spend 2 nights at the lovely Corinthia Hotel, before embarking on her ship on the Danube. 

Saturday is her birthday, and she’ll be in Vienna so hoping for some succulent Sachertorte!

Upon disembarking arrival in Passau, she’ll be staying 3 nights in Munich before heading home. A full 12 days of exploring Central Europe! We can’t wait for her pics 😉

Willamette Intl Travel has been on countless cruises and sent countless happy clients on the cruise of their dreams. ASK your WIT agent which cruise might be right for you. Whether you love scientific lectures or prefer to kick-back with a glass of wine, traveling with your spouse, kids or going solo, we guarantee there’s a cruise made just for you. Call 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com

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The Cruise

Highlights

  • Soak up soothing steam at a Budapest thermal bath.
  • Learn to waltz at a Viennese dance school.
  • Savor Austro-Hungarian cuisine in Vienna and Budapest.
  • Admire the Wachau Valley’s beauty from your Viking Longship.
  • Explore lesser-known Central European cities like Bratislava.
  • Witness daily life in an abbey on an exclusive visit to Göttweig. 

The Sail

WED AUG 08, 2018 Embark In Budapest on Viking Vilhjalm

THU AUG 09, 2018 Budapest, Hungary

FRI AUG 10, 2018 Bratislava, Slovak Republic

SAT AUG 11, 2018 Vienna, Austria

SUN AUG 12, 2018 Krems, Austria

SUN AUG 12, 2018 Durnstein, Austria

SUN AUG 12, 2018 Scenic Cruising: Wachau Valley

SUN AUG 12, 2018 Melk, Austria

MON AUG 13, 2018 Linz, Austria

TUE AUG 14, 2018 Passau, Germany

WED AUG 15, 2018 Disembark In Passau

The Ship

The Viking river boat is named after Vilhjalm Langaspjót, William I Longsword. As the son of Rolf the Ganger, a Viking chief and first Duke of Normandy, William ruled Normandy after his father from 927 to 942.

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Features: 

  • 95 comfortable outside staterooms (25 Standard Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 7 Veranda Suites, 2 Explorer Suites)
  • All suites feature two full-size rooms with a veranda off the living room & a French balcony in the bedroom
  • Sun Deck with 360-degree views & shaded sitting area; organic herb garden & solar panels; putting green & walking track
  • Aquavit Terrace & Lounge, a revolutionary indoor/outdoor viewing area at the bow of the ship for al fresco dining
  • Viking Lounge & Bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors
  • Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views
  • Library & onboard shop
  • Elevator from Middle to Upper Deck only; no elevator access for categories E & F
  • Free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary)
  • Laundry service
  • Ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing less vibrations for a smoother ride
  • 40″ flat-screen Sony TV with infotainment system featuring Movies On Demand, plus CNBC, CNN, National Geographic & more
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The Room

French Balcony Stateroom (C, D)

  • Stateroom size: 135 sq ft
  • River-view stateroom with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door to create a French balcony
  • Hotel-style bed 79 in x 63 in (with optional twin-bed configuration); luxury linens & pillows
  • Free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary)
  • 40″ flat-screen Sony TV with infotainment system featuring Movies On Demand, plus CNBC, CNN, FOX, National Geographic & more
  • 110/220 volt outlets & USB ports
  • Telephone, safe, refrigerator, hair dryer & individual climate control
  • Private bathroom with spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor & anti-fog mirror
  • Premium Freyja® toiletries; plush robes & slippers available upon request
  • Bottled water replenished daily
  • Stateroom steward & twice-daily housekeeping
  • Space under bed for storing suitcases
  • Roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers
  • View the French Balcony in our 360° Longship Tour

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Travel by Taste, Viking Cruises

Sail the Mekong with the Brand-New Emerald Waterways Harmony

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If you love Emerald Waterways, here’s your chance to join their brand-new river cruise ship on the Mekong River.

The 84-passenger Emerald Harmony, will sail the Mekong River in 2019.

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Emerald Harmony will have many of the features of the line’s European “star ships,” including:

  • Panorama Balcony suites with drop-down windows
  • Asian design touches
  • Horizon Bar & Lounge will be Asian-themed
  • the ship’s main dining venue, Reflections Restaurant, will serve a locally-inspired menu.

One standout feature of the ship is that it will be built to allow access to the center of Ho Chi Minh City, so passengers can embark there as opposed to a dock outside of the city. Emerald Waterways has been sailing on the Mekong since 2014, with a chartered vessel, Mekong Navigator.

Emerald Harmony will be the first time that the company has put a “star ship” style ship outside Europe.

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Itineraries

Beginning August 2019, Emerald Harmony will sail three itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia:

a 13-Day Majestic Mekong River Cruise – cruise tour sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, with time for Angkor Wat; 

Your journey begins in Siem Reap, where early mornings and ancient architecture promise to be the perfect combination. Angkor Wat is sure to fascinate, as is Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Then your journey along the majestic Mekong introduces Phnom Penh, invites you to a family-owned silk-producing factory and to attend a scarfweaving workshop in Long Khanh Island. Continue onwards before leaving your Star-Ship at the center of Ho Chi Minh City for a two-night stay in a 5-star colonial-style hotel.

a 17-Day Treasures & Temples of Vietnam & Cambodia: that adds stops at Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north;

Begin your adventure in Hanoi, where centuries-old architecture is a wonderful nod to the past and the Old Quarter strikes a fine contrast with its many temples. Cruise the emerald waters of Halong Bay in a traditional junk boat, learn of Ho Chi Minh City’s fascinating war history and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime river cruise along the Mekong. Enjoy tuk-tuk and ox cart tours in Phnom Penh and finish your adventure in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, where you’ll witness Angkor Wat and attend a circus performance.

and a 21-Day Grand Tour of Vietnam & Cambodia that encompasses all of the above, plus Hoi An and Hue.

Hanoi’s labyrinth of streets is filled with food stalls and markets. Journey to Halong Bay and embark on a traditional junk boat as you sail its ethereal waters, and drive through Da Nang before crossing the Pass of Ocean Clouds. Discover Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi Tunnels, before meeting your Star-Ship and sailing the Mekong, stopping off in My Tho, Sa Dec and Phnom Penh. Conclude your trip with three nights in Siem Reap, attending the Phare Cambodian Circus and visiting the historic Angkor Wat.

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Inclusions

Fares for Emerald Harmony will have the same inclusions as other Emerald Waterways ships:
  • transfers,
  • port charges,
  • meals,
  • unlimited wine and beer with lunch and dinner,
  • bottled water in the cabins,
  • complimentary Wi-Fi,
  • at least one shore excursion in every port and
  • all onboard and excursion gratuities.
  • During the cruise tour portion of the trips, hotel, internal flights and transfers are also included.

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Filed under Asia, Cambodia, Cruises, emerald waterways, Thailand, Travel by Ship, Vietnam, Vietnam

Travel News! The Planetarium Aboard the Viking Ship

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Big Sur Road Is Coming Back

LA Times reports Big Sur road coming back: Highway 1, closed for a year and a half because of massive slide, to reopen by July 20 (that’s today!). Travelers soon will be able to do something they haven’t in a year and a half: drive the 650-plus miles of California’s Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Caltrans announced Tuesday that full access to the blocked area south of Gorda would reopen by 11 a.m. July 20. The new stretch of road could open to traffic a few days sooner, depending on when work is completed, according to Caltrans.

The Mud Creek Slide, which rained debris in one of the state’s largest landslides, destroyed a quarter-mile section of roadway on May 20, 2017. The road will be open to traffic in both directions, meaning there’s still time to take an uninterrupted summer road trip along the Big Sur coast. Last year, heavy rains led to slides and debris flow that wiped out a bridge and closed several points on Highway 1, including Paul’s Slide, roughly at Post Mile 21. The road is now open with a single lane and a traffic signal to direct drivers, which may cause some slowing. Construction crews worked round the clock seven days a week to complete the $54-million emergency repairs. They built new roadway across the slide, fortifying with embankments and other support features such as berms, rocks, netting and other materials.

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Courtesy of Silversea

Luxury Line Silversea To Cruise The Northeast Passage 

Silver Explorer will become the most luxurious cruise ship to sail the Northeast Passage through the Arctic when it sets sail from Nome, Alaska, to Tromso, Norway, on August 10, 2019. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Silversea’s expedition arm, the line is offering a rare cruise ship itinerary to the far northern reaches of the globe. The 25-night cruise will take in destinations in Alaska, Russia and Norway, including Wrangel Island, a UNESCO site where polar bears and walruses live; the otherworldly Champ Island with its mysterious stone spheres; Murmansk, a Russian city that dates to the early 20th century; and coastal villages like Chukotka’s Uelen, where passengers can interact with and learn about the native Chukchi and Yupik people who live there. A highlight will be the day Silver Explorer spends sailing as far north as it can toward the edge of the polar ice cap. The expedition team will be in search of seals, walruses and polar bears hanging out on the ice floes. Its onboard expedition leaders will offer lectures and workshops, and lead Zodiac trips and other shore excursions to educate passengers on the itinerary’s remote destinations. The ship carries a mere 144 passengers, and pampers them, even in rugged climates, with suite accommodations, butler service and all-inclusive fares that cover all drinks, gratuities and unlimited Wi-Fi. Fares for this sailing start at $37,260 per person, based on double occupancy. Note that all suite categories but the lowest three are currently showing waitlist status.

EU Gets Tough With AirBnB On Pricing and Policy

the European Commission and EU consumer authorities are calling on Airbnb to be more transparent with its pricing. They say Airbnb’s current pricing and some of its terms do not comply with EU rules and it has given the homeshare giant until the end of August to fall into line. Consumers must easily understand what for and how much they are expected to pay for the services and have fair rules e.g. on cancellation of the accommodation by the owner. Airbnb has been told to show all fees and charges from the initial search or, where that’s not possible, clearly inform customers that additional fees might apply. It must also clearly identify if the accommodation offer is made by a private host or a professional, as consumer protection rules differ.

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American Airlines To Eliminate Plastic Straws From Cabins, Lounges

Reuters reports American Airlines on Tuesday said it plans to no longer offer plastic straws and stir sticks in its lounges and onboard its flights, amid a broader global push to abandon one-time use plastics. Starting this month, American said drinks in its airport lounges will no longer come with plastic utensils and will instead feature biodegradable straws and wooden stir sticks. The phase-out onboard its planes will begin in November, with plastic straws and stirrers to be replaced by environmentally friendly bamboo. The carrier will also transition to “eco-friendly” flatware in its lounges. American said that the move will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds (32,200 kg) of plastic each year. On Monday, Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee chain, said it would no longer offer plastic straws at its 28,000 locations by 2020.

Disneyland Just Experienced The Hottest Day Ever At A Disney Park 

Travel + Leisure reports Disneyland just had its hottest day ever. While southern California experienced a heat wave temperatures in Anaheim (home of Disneyland) soared to 113°F on July 6. It is not only the hottest temperature on record since the park opened in 1955, it is the hottest temperature recorded at any of the Disney parks around the world (including Orlando, Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong), according to Theme Park Insider. Because of the oppressive heat, park officials closed all outdoor rides, including Big Thunder and Mountain Railroad – several food vendors also shut down because of the heat. Those who went to the park on that day said that lines for rides were short, as the park was practically empty. Disney first aid staff were on call to help guests experiencing dehydration. “There was one medic run right after the other,” one park cast member said. Wait times for many popular attractions dropped to the point where it was basically possible to walk right on.

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This High-Tech Planetarium Is On A New VIKING Cruise Ship

The Explorers’ Dome is located on the second level of the Viking Orion’s Explorers’ Lounge. The newest Viking Ocean Cruise ship, made its debut in Italy on June 14, revealing a unique high-tech feature: a planetarium at sea. The ship is named after the constellation Orion (the hunter) and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the first crewed capsule designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. The ship’s name also honors retired NASA astronaut Anna Fisher, who is the “godmother” of Viking Orion and worked on the Orion spacecraft before retiring in May 2017.

The planetarium, called the Explorers’ Dome, features shows about space and exploration, including two 3D films: “Journey to Space” and “Under the Arctic Sky.” “The Explorers’ Dome onboard Viking Orion is currently the highest-definition 7K planetarium in the world,” Ralph de Klijn, Viking’s executive director of ocean operations, told Space.com. “The Explorers’ Dome is a versatile space that can operate as a high-tech planetarium, as well as show films and other programming in 2D or 3D.” Viking Orion is only the second cruise ship in the world to have a planetarium; the other is the Queen Mary 2.

Although Viking Orion is not the first cruise ship to offer a planetarium, the company says this one is the most advanced, with:

– Digistar 6 display system, five projectors and studio speakers.

– Viking resident astronomer. Howard Parkin, a Royal Astronomical Society fellow and founding member of the Isle of Man Astronomical Society

– lectures on the wonders of the cosmos

– offer guided tours of the night sky during stargazing sessions using Viking’s portable telescope.

While other Viking ships have resident historians, Orion is the only one with a resident astronomer and historian. Parkin will continue to offer lectures through the ship’s 2018 maiden season, de Klijn said.

Read more on Space.com: https://www.space.com/41145-space-cruise-vacation-viking-orion-reflections.html

Club Med Cancún Yucatán Introduces Expanded Family Area 

Club Med Cancún Yucatán has doubled the size of its Aguamarina family area, adding 60 rooms and a new pool. The Aguamarina family area now offers an additional 30 Club Rooms and 30 Deluxe Rooms. Both of the two-bedroom accommodation options provide oceanfront views. This expansion doubles the Aguamarina area’s capacity to 120 families. Club Med Cancún Yucatán also introduced a new Aguamarina reception area and concierge service. The resort also added a new family pool, offering water games, lounge areas and outdoor activities. After a long day in the water, guests can dine at the pool area’s new family bar La Marina. Here kids can visit the restaurant’s kids’ corner and the whole family can order special treats that change from day to day. Guests of the Aguamarina area receive all the benefits featured in a stay at Club Med Cancún Yucatán. This includes dining at the resort’s three restaurants, water and land sports such as snorkeling and flying trapeze, kids’ and teens’ clubs and nightly entertainment. The additions to the Aguamarina area follow a full renovation the resort completed at the end of 2017. The work included improvements to all the resort’s rooms, its meetings and events spaces and the 5-Trident Jade area. The property also introduced new wellness opportunities as well as new and improved dining options.

More glimpses of the family area here: https://www.clubmed.us/r/Cancun-Yucatan/y

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Paris Métro Ditches Paper Tickets, Moves to London-Like System 

Cntraveler reports Paris’s more-than-a-century-old, white paper Métro tickets are on their way out. Starting in 2019, entry to Paris’s efficient public transport system, including buses and express RER trains, will be done through contactless Navigo cards. The city’s transport agency, Ile-de-France Mobilités, announced Wednesday that it would be rolling out two different travel cards, in addition to the unlimited Navigo card for residents already available, over the next year for all sorts of travelers and commuters. If you’re visiting the city for a short time, you’ll need the Navigo Easy pass, available starting in April 2019. Almost identical to London’s Oyster card, the Easy pass costs €2 ($2.34) to buy. Then, you’ll load up the card with T+ rides, what the paper tickets represent now, which will cost the same in 2019 as they do today: €1.90 ($2.22) per ride or €14.90 ($17.39) for a pack of 10 rides. That’s a more than 20% discount, and will cover one-way Métro rides, RER trains in Zone 1 (central Paris), and bus trips. Much like the Oyster card in London, you can top the card up as needed at all transit stations so be sure not to throw yours away. There will be no time limit on them and the card is not nominative, meaning it can be given to a friend. You can also load Orlybus (to Paris Orly Airport) or Roissybus (to Charles de Gaulle Airport) tickets on the Easy pass as well.

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Travel News: Massive Cruise Industry Growth

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TSA tightens rule about powders taken on planes

Under the new policy effective June 30, travelers carrying more powder than 12 ounces (about what would fit into a soda or beer can) will undergo additional screening. Cosmetics, ground coffee, spices, sugar and flour are among substances cited. Fliers will be asked to remove the packages from carry-ons, much like we currently have to do with liquids. Along with cracking down domestically, the TSA is asking foreign airports with non-stop U.S. flights to implement similar security measures beginning June 30. The move is in response to an attempted plot to blow up a passenger plane in Australia last July, said a TSA official, though powders have long been a concern as a way to smuggle improvised explosives, fentanyl, and pepper spray.

  • Powder or powder-like substances in total with a volume of more than 350 ml for carrying in hand luggage are no longer permitted
  • Substances below 350 ml may also be prohibited if the substance is not undoubtedly classified as safe
  • Recommendation:   All clients traveling to the USA (even Americans) should either refrain completely from taking powders or powder-like substances or stow them in checked baggage

Massive cruise industry growth

Between now and 2027, the global cruise industry will add at least 104 new cruise ships, as a record number of orders propels capacity growth globally. According to 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, the industry is targeting 40 million passengers and net earnings in the $9 billion range by 2027. This year, the industry is expected to carry around 27 million passengers, up from just under 17 million 2008.

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European Lines focusing on the USA

50 years after modern cruising’s foundation, European lines are coming back to America. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Ponant. Hurtigruten. All these lines are hoping to expand their modest base of business in the U.S. and Canada by bulking up their sales and marketing efforts in the North American market. Typical is the Norwegian company Hurtigruten, a brand that was active in North America for a number of years under the name Norwegian Coastal Voyages. Well known at home in Europe, Hurtigruten remains obscure to Americans who might be familiar with names such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess. Against behemoth ships from those brands, Hurtigruten sails the 317-passenger Fram and the 970-passenger Midnatsol, pitching them from a marketing and reservations office in Seattle with only 50 people, even following a recent expansion. Another name from Europe with new ships and a need to fill them is Ponant. Founded in 1988 by a French ship captain, it operates expedition ships with a luxury component, such as the 180-passenger Le Laperouse, the first of six ships in its class, which launches this month with a cruise in Iceland. “What I have said about this brand is that from an American perspective, it is the best-kept secret in America, and that is about to change in a big way,” said Edie Rodriguez, Ponant’s Americas brand chairman and corporate special adviser.

Lifeguard Drone soon to be in use near Cancun

The Seadust Cancun Family Resort has become the first property in the Cancun area to announce the addition of a lifeguard drone to ensure the safety of guests staying at the property. The drone will lend aid to lifeguards already working the resort’s beaches, by supporting safety equipment and providing emergency floatation devices. The NORAS Performance-designed U SAFE drone is a lightweight float that is remote controlled and can easily maneuver through the water to bring aid to struggling swimmers. It has a top speed of around 18 miles per hour. The drone is expected to arrive at the resort in August and can be controlled from three miles away, making it ideal for deployment from the shoreline. Once the new U SAFE drone arrives at Seadust, human lifeguards will begin training in how to utilize and optimize the technology in the field.

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E-visa now possible in advance for Egypt travel

Egypt has launched a new website for e-visa applications for residents of 46 countries, which it claims will speed up the arrivals process. A single entry tourist visa from visit2egypt.gov.eg costs $26 and a multiple entry visa costs $60. Payment must be made by credit or debit card. The electronic visas are valid for a maximum of three months. The e-visa is an alternative to the visa-on-arrival system, which means passengers have to visit a kiosk at the airport, where they pay $25 to get their passport stamped before proceeding to immigration. Travelers are advised to make an e-visa application at least seven days before departure. Entry requirements on arrival include a passport valid for at least eight months, a printout of the e-visa and a travel itinerary, including accommodation details.

Domestic low-cost carriers expanding to international

From Insider Travel Report: Used to be low-cost airlines in the U.S. were strictly domestic affairs, offering low fares and more point to point service between U.S. cities. But these days it’s an entirely new low-cost fare market and these carriers are pushing the boundaries of their flight schedules well beyond our shores. JetBlue has become a new power in the Caribbean and Mexico, as has Southwest Airlines. Alaska Airlines features more Mexico service and even Spirit Airlines has gotten into the act, expanding its international service options earlier this month. Now JetBlue, the first airline to operate commercial service between the U.S. and Cuba in more than five decades, says it’s expanding again and diversifying its flying schedule in Havana with new service from Boston and more flights from Fort Lauderdale. New England and South Florida nonstop service, combined with JetBlue’s existing nonstop service from New York and Orlando. Meanwhile, on the same day JetBlue announced more service to Havana, Spirit Airlines said it will continue its international expansion, but this time from Houston. Beginning Sept. 6th, Spirit will start service from Houston’s IAH to San Salvador, El Salvador with year-round service running three times weekly to Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL). The next day, on Sept. 7, Spirit will begin nonstop flights between Houston and Guatemala City, Guatemala with year-round service eventually running four times weekly to La Aurora International Airport (GUA). The new routes will complement Spirit’s existing international service between Houston and Cancun and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, as well as San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The announcement comes just a couple of weeks after Spirit announced it was launching nearly a dozen routes from Orlando to Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Seaweed invasion in parts of the Caribbean and Mexico currently

Massive rafts of Sargassum-a brown seaweed that lives in the open ocean-first washed up on beaches across the Caribbean in 2011, trapping sea turtles and filling the air with the stench of rotting eggs. Now it’s back and the Caribbean is bracing for what could be the mother of all seaweed invasions, with satellite observations warning of record-setting Sargassum blooms and seaweed already swamping beaches. The seaweed covers the beaches in huge, stinking blankets that sometimes measure up to ten feet in depth. The Barbados government declared a national emergency on 7 June. There’s another huge mass impacting Puerto Rico and Dominica, and appearing on the Riviera Maya. The seaweed is deadly to marine life such as sea turtles and dolphins – and to tourism, including risks to human health. While the hydrogen sulphide gas released when the seaweed decays occurs naturally in the human body, it is dangerous in large amounts, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even asthma. It can also cause “rapid and extensive damage to concrete and metals,” writes the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Caribbean is struggling to cope as yearly bouts of Sargassum become “the new normal,” noting that the blooms visible in satellite imagery dwarf those of previous years. 

NASA Space Center Houston now a Certified Autism Center

Space Center Houston is now a Certified Autism Center, the first space center in the world so certified. The designation, given by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), is awarded to organizations who have completed a professional training and review process with the goal to better serve individuals with autism and other sensory needs. The certification process involves rigorous training for staff, inspections and improvements that enable Space Center Houston to better welcome and accommodate guests with autism spectrum disorder and other sensory and cognitive challenges. Earning the Certified Autism Center designation also includes a commitment to maintain that training and provide the best guest experience possible.

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Belize looks to be the next Caribbean luxury destination

Belize’s 450 atolls off the country’s coast form the archipelago providing a paradise setting similar to those found in the South Pacific. And while Belize is not devoid of luxury hotels – such as the Coppola family’s private island retreat, Turtle Inn – it’s about to welcome quite a few more, as hoteliers eye the untapped and pristine landscape for upcoming high-end properties as the country becomes one of the fastest growing tourist areas in the region. Natural wonders, including the second largest barrier reef in the world and the Great Blue Hole, a giant submarine sinkhole off the coast, makes it an unrivaled destination for recreational scuba divers and snorkelers. Regarding accommodations, the Curio Collection by Hilton just opened the Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club. On Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, the boutique hotel features 205 cottage and villa-style rooms nestled amongst groves of coconut palms across a 60-acre waterfront site. Dream Hotel Group will open Unscripted Belize later this year, the first of the company’s two Belize openings, with 24 beachfront cabanas steps of the Caribbean Sea. The boutique property will feature an open-air concept that also features an outdoor restaurant and a bar area, along with an expansive pool, plus two private boats for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Cancun is still #1 summer destination, according to ARC

Despite security concerns, Cancun maintained its position as the number one summer hot spot for US travelers, according to Airlines Reporting Corp. Tracking the number of tickets purchased to the top ten most booked destinations, Cancun came in first, as it did in 2017. Other destinations on the domestic list: Orlando, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Miami, Seattle, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco. 

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Gavi visits Alaska with Lindblad Expeditions

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A few weeks ago, WIT Agent Gavi joined Lindblad Expeditions on a trip to Southeast Alaska. Read on for her review of the ship and the ports of call. 

For two golden hours on a mid-May evening, I chased the Canadian sunset northward. I left behind clouds spread beneath me like fractured glass and entered Southeast Alaska: a land of glowing snow-dusted ridges, jagged peaks, frozen lakes, ice fields, fjords and mist. I spent the next week with Lindblad Expeditions, exploring Southeast Alaska’s fjords and glaciers from the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird.

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SITKA

The town of Sitka nestles into Baranof Island’s eastern edge. It’s home to a small main street, which contains a well-stocked outdoor store (filled with any high-end brands you could ever want and an entire wall of rubber boots), an organic creperie, a coffee shop, and a few souvenir galleries (save your shopping for Juneau, although one of the shops does have a full mammoth skull on display, tusks and all). Two places in the town warrant time set aside for a visit:

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  • The raptor center happens to be one of the best wildlife rehabilitation centers I’ve ever seen. They have a symbiotic relationship with tourism in the town: it thrives because it’s able to charge admission to cover costs of an incredible operation. Flight training rooms have creeks to cover noise and one-way windows. Birds unable to fly are kept in expansive open-topped enclosures. The center has educational and hospital facilities, and permanent homes are found for all animals unable to be released.
  • Totem Park: This beautiful national historic park lies 10-15 minutes’ walk from the Sitka town center. The trails in this forested area are lined with totem poles that have been relocated from throughout Southeast Alaska for the sake of cultural preservation and education.

 

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THE CRUISE

The Boat: This boat is a smaller, expedition-style ship, which means we were able to go a lot of places many larger cruise ships were simply unable to navigate. It had a compact set-up, with several different communal areas that made it easy to get to know fellow passengers.

The lounge is cozy: it has lots of smaller tables with rotating armchairs, as well as padded benches around the edges. One large screen and several other screens set up throughout, so you can see presentations no matter where you’re sitting. There is a comprehensive library with literature relevant to the cruise area: natural history, cultural history, guidebooks and other reference materials. There was also a basket of novels (take one/leave one style).

The dining room was classy and practical. No assigned seating, so mingling and getting to know people was easy. Mix of round and rectangular tables.

There were wrap-around outside observation areas on the main deck as well as in front of the bridge, allowing a vantage point for anyone who wanted a view.

An area on the back of the third deck had a sun/rain cover and fitness equipment: three fitness machines, weights, foam rollers, yoga mats and some other things.

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The Rooms: Comfiest. Beds. Ever. Cabins could be termed either “small” or “cozy,” depending how you look at it, but this is to be expected on a yacht-style expedition ship. Bathrooms are “wet” style, where the shower and toilet are right next to each other (a curtain can be drawn to keep the toilet and paper dry). Plenty of storage beneath the bed, and there is also a cabinet with several hangers and a shelf. Amenities include bath scrubby, conditioner and lip balm, your own steel water bottle to take home, and there are shampoo and soap dispensers in the shower. A small clothesline is provided that reaches across the bathroom.

Onboard Activities: Largely educational, focused on photography and local history (both natural and cultural), and conservation. Each Lindblad expedition has a Certified Photo Instructor on board (some select programs also have a National Geographic photographer). The photo instructor on our expedition had extensive experience all over the world, and is currently involved in the continuation of time-lapse projects used to document glaciers’ retreat (used in the 2014 documentary Chasing Ice).

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During our trip, the instructor let a fantastic intro to photography session on the first day, followed by breakout sessions determined by camera style and experience. There were also evening lectures presented by onboard naturalists: some of the programs on this voyage included: marine mammal behavior and current research, history of fur trading in the region, formation of the area (including past, current and future hydrogeology), and Native American totem poles of the Pacific Coast. These programs reflected a set of naturalists with diverse strengths, and their passion and knowledge easily showed through their work.

There was great demo gear available on the boat including binoculars, camera bodies and lenses.

Morning yoga and stretching sessions on the back deck for those so inclined, and there was a wellness specialist on board who was available to book massages. The boat had an “open bridge” policy, as long as we weren’t navigating something tricky or pulling into/out of harbor: this was an amazing opportunity to look over maps and monitors and ask questions about navigation. It also provided a way to watch our surroundings from one of the best seats in the house, in a nice warm room shielded from any weather outside.

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Excursions: In general, two per day: one in the morning and one in the evening. We had a variety of choices for each excursion, catered toward different physical levels. Some examples include:

  • Short, medium or long hikes
  • Stand up paddleboarding, Kayaking or Zodiac tours
  • Hiking, Kayaking or Zodiak tours
  • Hiking, cultural visit with river float, town time or flightseeing (port day in Haines)

It is important to remember that, due to nature of the location, schedule and location of excursions on an expedition-style cruise is fluid. Excursions may be adjusted based on any of the following: wilderness restrictions (only a certain number of people allowed on land at a time), weather, wildlife (boats are not allowed in areas where seals are pupping), accessibility (areas with established trails will allow longer hikes than coves with no established trail), and ability of the “slowest” person in a group.

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The food: was phenomenal, especially from the perspective of a girl who usually looks to the “apply heat and consume” philosophy. Responsibly sourced. Breakfast and lunch usually consisted of healthy buffets with a wide variety, and dinner was sit-down with a choice of three protein options which changed daily. Portions were small compared to usual classic American meals, but no one ever left feeling hungry. Light snacks were available throughout the day: cookies, trail mix, afternoon hors d’oeuvres. Dietary needs were all catered to beautifully.

The drinks: Free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chai latte mix, and anything you can make with a cappuccino machine, any time of day or night. Alcohol was not included: there is an honor tally sheet for beers from the fridge, and a bar tab kept on your on-board account. However, wine was comped on the first and last nights, and beer was comped at the first lunch. Alcohol was included free of charge on three other occasions:

  • During our port day in Haines, we were given credit for drinks at one brewery and one distillery.
  • We returned from a cold zodiac tour and the bartender was waiting at the sign-in board with a vat of apple cider and your choice of Captain Morgan or… some other liquor.
  • Half way through the zodiac tour to the glacier, another zodiac full of crew dressed as Vikings “raided” our boat and distributed hot chocolate with a choice between three alcohols, and whip.

The vibe, overall: relaxed and casual.

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Some Things to Note: 

  • If you have kids: your best Lindblad option will be an Alaska or Galapagos program, which will have a dedicated “Global Explorers” kid-specific program and naturalist on board. On trips without a “Global Explorers” program, activities are not generally geared toward the younger generation (ex: evening lectures rather than entertainment with other companies). If a child is uninterested in an activity and wishes to stay behind, a parental unit will need to accompany the child and be responsible for them.
  • These are not ADA accessible cruises.
  • Remember to pack:
    • A waterproof cover for your day pack.
    • Three pairs of shoes:
      • sturdy, knee-high rubber boots (required),
      • tennis shoes, and
      • “camp shoes” for on the boat. (if your tennis get wet, you’ll be wearing your rubber boots everywhere on board, even when you want to relax).
    • A long string to use as an additional clothesline in your cabin. There is no electric dryer on board, and this will be a lifesaver after rainy expeditions.
    • Lots of warm layers (including gloves, hats, scarf): while Southeast Alaska has some absolutely stunning days, any time of year can also have cold, windy and rainy days. Zodiac tours can be a long activity, exposed with no movement, so you can get cold fast without the right clothing.

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JUNEAU

Alaska’s state capital has a few things worth doing:

On a clear day, take the tram up Mt. Roberts: this has a beautiful view down the channel and some trails at the top. Admission is covered by Lindblad.

While most “galleries” in town are maintained by cruise companies, there are two or three worth visiting:

  • Mt. Juneau Trading Post: Family trading post maintained for generations by a Tlingit family. Old and new art from all over the Northwest coast, ranging from $5 to the sky. If you love art, you can get lost in here for hours.
  • Trickster: Northwest Coast art designed and applied to modern purposes: skateboards, home décor, jewelry, apparel, etc.

Some other Juneau activities: The Mendenhall Ice Caves are a full-day excursion with a local company, accessible only by first kayaking and then climbing over ice. There is also flightseeing available in Juneau.

It’s worth an extra half-day in Juneau to see the galleries and Mt. Roberts tram (arriving the night before you embark, or catching a later flight the day you disembark). For any further activities, you will need to allow an additional day in the city.

 

 

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Travel News: Cruise calls on D.C. for the first time in half a century

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American Constitution Makes History During Maiden Voyage

American Cruise Lines’ new American Constitution has successfully completed her maiden voyage, making history by becoming the first cruise ship to dock at Washington D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront in more than 60 years. Delivered by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland earlier this spring, the 175-guest American Constitution departed Baltimore on 18 April and took guests on an 11-day ‘American Revolution’ itinerary. In addition to taking tours in Washington DC, guests were able to visit Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, the three cities of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which were the sites of major events in colonial America. Harold Cones, emeritus Professor of Biology at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, US, also joined the cruise to lead talks on American history and the significance of the historical sites the guests visited. American Constitution will continue to sail ‘American Revolution’ cruises until late May, before heading north to offer the cruise line’s popular ‘Grand New England Lobsterbake’ itineraries throughout the summer. The vessel will then sail ‘Hudson River Fall Foliage’ cruises in the autumn and then return to Chesapeake Bay in late October to sail several more ‘American Revolution’ voyages and a ‘Colonial Holiday’ cruise that depart son 23 December. American Constitution will sail a series of ‘American Revolution’ itineraries in 2018. 

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Venice Installs Barriers To Manage Mass Tourism

The Telegraph reports Capri could follow the example of Venice as lagoon city installs barriers to manage mass tourism. The island of Capri wants to bring in crowd control measures to man the mass tourism, as Venice installed checkpoints capable of blocking off the most congested parts of the World Heritage city. The limestone outcrop in the Bay of Naples is inundated with two million tourists a year, with the mayor telling The Telegraph that the island could “explode” from a social point of view under the sheer weight of visitors. Venice introduced radical new measures for the bank holiday long weekend, installing metal barriers that can divert tourists down less frequented alleyways so that locals and workers can go about their business without constantly dodging tour groups and visitors trundling wheeled suitcases. The barriers edged Venice closer to the long-debated, highly controversial idea of limiting the number of tourists allowed to enter the lagoon city, as it buckles under the strain of around 25 million visitors a year. 

Antarctica Tourism Numbers Surge 

Cruise Industry News reports The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has reported its visitor numbers for the 2017-2018 Antarctic season at the start of its annual meeting in Newport, Rhode Island. The upward trend in visitor numbers recorded since 2011-2012 continued in 2017-2018, the group said. Overall, the total number of Antarctic visitors in 2017-2018 was 51,707, an increase of 17% compared to the previous season. All visitor activities follow strict codes of conduct developed by IAATO and through the Antarctic Treaty System. The majority, 41,996, of visitors travelled by sea to Antarctica on vessels offering excursions ashore, representing a 16% increase compared to the previous year. Of these, 3,408 flew to the South Shetland Islands on the Antarctic Peninsula where they immediately boarded a vessel for onward travel. In addition, 9,131 visitors experienced Antarctica on one of four cruise-only vessels that do not make landings, an increase of 22% since 2016-2017. 

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Dublin and Cork will have more arrivals this year than Nice and Venice

Irish ports are going to have a busy year, with more than 400 cruise ships scheduled to dock across the country. Dublin will have almost 150 visiting ships, some capable of accommodating up to 6,000 passengers. So many ships are coming to Ireland that Dublin and Cork will have more liners visiting than the traditional big draws of Nice and Venice. On August 8th, four large ships will juggle for space in Dublin Port – not to mention the 4,000-plus visitors landing in the city. Dublin will also celebrate for the first-time arrivals and departures for Celebrity Cruises, which will see 15,000 passengers embarking and debarking in the city during five journeys. Most of the best-known operators have Dublin on their itineraries: Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Viking, MSC, Seabourn, Silversea, and Norwegian all have ships stopping off. The city will also see the biannual visit from The World – the cruise ship where the suites have individual owners. So popular are Cork and Dublin becoming that four major liners berthed in them over Christmas, bringing 6,000 passengers. On the west coast, Galway is expecting 24 ships this year, and even little Killybegs in Co Donegal, population under 1500, will see some of the world’s greatest liners stopping off: the Queen Elizabeth – the QE2 – and Queen Victoria, as well as the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind from the Silversea brand, will spend nights in the harbour. There will be 20,000 visitors to Killybegs, spending an average of €100 per person.

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Hurtigruten making significant effort to cut plastic pollution

Hurtigruten has announced its plans to become the world’s first plastic-free cruise company as it kicks off new efforts immediately. The cruise line has revealed that all unnecessary single-use plastic will be banned across its entire fleet, aiming for the measures to be in place as soon as July 2018. This will include the plastic straws, drink mixers, plastic cups, coffee lids and bags, all of which will be removed from each and every Hurtigruten ship.The company revealed some of the plastic it currently uses including approximately 6200lbs of plastic straws, 11,000lbs of plastic glasses and 9,500lbs of plastic aprons. It’s not just the cruise ships where the single-use plastic ban will be imposed. Hotels and restaurants in the company’s land-based operations on Svalbard will be included too.

Cruise ship calls on DC for the first time in over half a century

For the first time since the 1950s a cruise ship has called on Washington, D.C. The brand-new, 175-passenger American Constitution made The Wharf a stop on its current 11-day voyage out of Baltimore. The Wharf’s largest dock can handle cruise ships up to 400 feet in length – a good-sized ship, but not big enough for megaships. Welcoming smaller cruise ships will likely be an infrequent thing for The Wharf, though. Monty Hoffman, with The Wharf development team Hoffman-Madison, has said that he wouldn’t call cruise-ship destination “a primary use” of The Wharf – “I don’t want too much of a good thing, if you will. We like having them come in, but I’m not pushing it too hard either.” While it has been more than 60 years since cruise ship passengers embarked and disembarked along the D.C. waterfront, that kind of commerce is part of D.C.’s history. “There were ships that came in here quite regularly up until the Civil War,” Hoffman said. “Then there was a steamship group that came in here up until the mid-1950s. And there were regular routes to Hampton Roads and to Bermuda actually.” The American Constitution is the newest ship for American Cruise Lines.

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