Category Archives: Cruises

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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Photos that will fill you with Sun-Envy: WIT Agent Pam in Baja

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Last year, WIT Agent Pam cruised with one of our favorite vendors, Un-Cruise. 

Photos from her trip are now available to “ooh” and “aah” over! Check them out in our Photo Album

Click for the photos!

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Many of our clients and agents have traveled with UnCruise and rave about the experience-based cruise line. Here’s what they have to say about it: 

“The UnCruise was outstanding – only 48 passengers so plenty of room to enjoy everything – no wind, plenty of warmth and sunshine too.  I would highly recommend this cruise. “

– Marilyn and David D

“We just returned from a family vacation with Un-Cruise on the SS Legacy and I don’t have enough good things to say about it! The route took us through the inner passage and included stops in Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and ended in Juneau. The route passed through Frederick Sound, Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal, and numerous smaller passages that are inaccessible to larger vessels. Wildlife sightings were frequent and, unlike large boats, we enjoyed the luxury of being able to linger in an area to observe at length (a notable instance being humpback whales in Frederick Sound!).

In short, the amazing experiences of Alaska itself – the scenery, the wildlife, the raw natural beauty – were made all the better by the uncompromising quality of the boat’s accommodations and especially its crew. We have never been interested in the “large cruise” experience and were not sure what to expect with this one. We all – guests and crew alike – became a ship-board family almost immediately and were sorry to leave the beauty of Alaska, and the warmth of our newfound friends. We would highly recommend this cruise!

– Mark J

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Read more on UnCruise: 

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate & Uncruise Adventures

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

Cruise Oregon Rivers with UnCruise

Video: River Cruises in North America

Or call Barb, Racheal or Pam to discuss more about this amazing and unique cruise line.

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Star Clippers Family Trips

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Had enough of the cold?

Why not suggest a family sailing trip over the holidays?

Build family memories with Star Clippers’ “Authentic Sailing Adventures” – NEW Kids & Teens Sail FREE.

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Star Clippers’ open decks and discovery excursions are optimal for ages 7 and up. 

Ask your WIT travel agent more about Star Clippers’ incredible and unique sailing ships. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Available on select sailings for children between 3 and 17 at time of sailing, when traveling with 1-2 adults. Transfers, port charges and gratuities are additional.

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Travel News: Hurtigruten Going Big in the Arctic in 2019

Hurtigruten Going Big in Arctic in 2019

Hurtigruten has announced an expanded Arctic deployment for 2019, not only sailing from Tromso to Russia, but offering expedition cruises in Svalbard with five ships, and a Northwest Passage transit on the new Roald Amundsen. It will be the first time a hybrid ship has sailed the Northwest Passage. In addition, the company announced that both the Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen will offer expedition sailings along Norway’s coast in 2019. Among new expedition offerings are departures from Tromso calling at Murmansk and Frans Josef Land. “Frans Josefs Land is one of the world’s most spectacular, yet at least visited destinations. The Arctic regions of Russia have enormous potential and are perfect for Hurtigruten expeditions,” added Skjeldam. A 15-day expedition departure on the Spitsbergen will cross into Russian waters and Murmansk before sailing the Barents Sea to Franz Josef Land for five days of expedition landings.

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Some NYC Hotels Turn To Urban Destination Fees

The Independent reports in New York City, hotels have found the perfect solution with the introduction of “urban destination fees,” which are similarly hovering around $25 per night on top of the regular room rate. In many cases, the fee also includes extras like free local telephone calls, an F&B credit and Wi-Fi, but in other cases, it is strictly an add-on to reflect “the hotels’ proximity to a ‘tourist attraction,'” A spokesperson for Marriott Hotels and Resorts told The Independent, “The Destination Fee was created as a way to lift the guest experience by providing added value to a hotel stay. Each hotel may offer a combination of hotel services (such as dry-cleaning, pressing or a food & beverage credit); local experience vouchers for free/discounted events and attractions (such as city tours), and/or access to fitness programs (such as yoga or cycling) in nearby studios.” “All participating hotels will include enhanced internet, as well as local, long distance and international phone calls. The implementation of the Destination Fee gives us the opportunity to test how a bundle of benefits that our research shows are valuable to guests might enhance the stay.

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Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam Celebrates Cruise Ship Milestone

The AP reports a coin ceremony was held Wednesday for Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy, taking the new-build one step closer to its November 2018 launch. During the event, a Dutch guilder was welded to the front of the 2,660-passenger, Pinnacle-class ship to mark the line’s Dutch heritage. Anne Marie Bartels, a member of Holland America’s President’s Club loyalty program who’s sailed on more than 79 of the line’s voyages, served as the ship’s madrina, an honorary ceremony guest similar to a godmother. Nieuw Statendam, which officially will be floated out December 21, is the second ship in Holland America’s Pinnacle Class; Koningsdam was first in class when it debuted in April 2016. A third Pinnacle-class ship is scheduled to launch in 2021. Much of the new ship’s design will be similar to Koningsdam, but it will have exclusive public spaces and differentiating style elements created by designer Adam D. Tihany and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten. Holland America Line’s first ship to be called Statendam sailed in 1898; this will be the sixth vessel in the company’s history to carry the name.

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Marriott Tops J.D. Power Hotel Loyalty Survey

Marriott International’s loyalty program Marriott Rewards edged out Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s World of Hyatt to win J.D. Power’s 2017 Hotel Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study. Marriott Rewards earned a score of 806 on a 1,000-point scale and World of Hyatt received a score of 805. Hilton’s Hilton Rewards finished third with a score of 793 and InterContinental’s IHG Rewards placed fourth with a score of 789. Finishing at the bottom of the study were Wyndham Worldwide’s Wyndham Rewards, 742, and Choice Hotels International’s Choice Privileges, 743. The annual study, which measures member satisfaction with hotel rewards and loyalty programs, found this year that members who redeemed rewards points for dining, car rentals, product purchases and special events exhibited greater satisfaction than those who redeemed only for hotel stays. That finding could spell trouble for some hoteliers but prove a boon for others as many of the industry’s top players expand their rewards programs offerings to include experiences, as well as a wider array of redemption opportunities. The study is based on 4,682 responses from rewards program members who experienced five or more trips during the past 12 months and was fielded in September and October of 2017.

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Abandoned Air Traffic Control Tower In Denver Becomes A Restaurant

An abandoned air traffic control tower which has lain empty for 22 years has been turned into a trendy restaurant. In addition to a dining venue and bar, the Punch Bowl Social will bring arcade games, karaoke and bowling to the disused building at the long-gone Stapleton International Airport in Denver. The plans were revealed earlier this year, but the “entertainment” establishment, has opened this month, retaining the original tower and using much of the former exterior of the building on the inside. The former airport was used to handle hundreds of flights a day between 1929 and 1995, and its tower now offers sterling views over the city. Stapleton, which at its prime welcomed major airlines including United and Continental to its six runways, was decommissioned in 1995 and replaced by Denver International after suffering from a number of problems including lack of room for new airlines, a lawsuit over noise and inadequate separation between runways. Its last flight was a Continental service to London Gatwick. All of the airport’s infrastructure has been removed except for the control tower. The Punch Bowl Social has been designed with its aviation heritage in mind. The interior’s design is intended to hark back to the “golden age of air travel”, while an aviation-themed cocktail menu will remind visitors of the building’s heritage.

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Travel News: Changes for the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Your Checked Bags

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Rome’s Colosseum Opens Top Levels To Public

Seats on the fifth level of the amphitheatre were once reserved for ancient Roman society’s lowest commoner: the plebeian. The highest level of Rome’s ancient Colosseum opened to the public for the first time in 40 years on November 1. The seats boasted a breathtaking view, not only of the gladiator battles far below, but of the heart of the empire. Far below, tourists peering down into the maze of galleries in the monument’s belly appear as tiny specks, showing just how far away the commoners were from the arena floor, where terrified prisoners were forced to fight wild beasts. Those squeezed together on wooden benches had a long way to climb to get to their seats – but the tickets were free. Once they were there spectators were protected by a large canvas from sudden downpours. Visitors will have to book guided tours, which will take groups of a maximum of 25 people up into the gods level at a time. They will start with an exceptionally well-preserved corridor between the second and third floors, where traces of the lavatories can still be seen. There is also evidence of restorations to the walls following a fire sparked by lightning in 217 AD. The tour will continue to the third floor, where the middle-classes sat, and on to the fourth, where merchants and traders enjoyed the famously grisly shows. The first level was reserved for the emperor and his senators. Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was the biggest amphitheater built during the Roman empire. Standing 48.5 meters (159 feet) high, it was capable of hosting 80,000 spectators for feasts of entertainment that encapsulated the brutality, hedonism and engineering genius that were among the defining features of ancient Rome. The first phase of a major makeover of the venue was completed in July 2016, with a number of sections structurally strengthened and most of the remaining walls water-sprayed to remove centuries of encrusted dirt and grime. 

Rome Eyes Trevi Fountain Cash To Bolster City Finances

Rome is going through a budgetary crisis at the moment, and with cash in short supply, officials are now even eyeing the city’s iconic Trevi Fountain. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the former seat of empire to view the city’s many sites. A good deal of them toss coins into the near 300-year-old fountain, the haul of which reportedly hit $1.5 million in 2016 alone, chump change compared to the city’s estimated €12 billion ($14 billion) debt. It’s believed that anyone who turns their back on the baroque masterpiece and tosses a coin into the fountain is destined to return. The cash is usually scooped up and given to Catholic charity Caritas, but not from April 2018, if Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has her way. It’s not only the Trevi Fountain that is being targeted but all of the city’s monumental fountains. Raggi has reportedly earmarked the coveted cash for projects yet to be decided on by city hall, although il Giornale reports that some of the money will be redirected to “social welfare projects.” The city’s debt essentially consists of financial and commercial debt, with other types affecting the figure to a lesser extent. Basically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, more than half of the debt is in the hands of banks, whereas private debt makes up just over a quarter of the €12 billion.

 

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Trevi Fountain

 

TSA PreCheck Program Has Added More Airlines

Five more airlines recently joined TSA PreCheck, bringing the total number of domestic and international carriers to 42. If you still don’t have TSA PreCheck, Its just $85 (covering a five-year membership), your PreCheck will work at more than 180 U.S. airports. and All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Korean Air, and charter airline Contour Aviation all agreed to recognize the trusted traveler program, the Transportation Security Administration announced. Etihad Airways was the only foreign airline outside of North America to offer this perk to passengers until September 2016, when German carrier Lufthansa became the first European airline to join the PreCheck program. (A number of other international carriers jumped on the bandwagon shortly thereafter.) And while other airlines are no doubt interested in joining the PreCheck club, the process is far from simple: Carriers have to meet all TSA security requirements and upgrade reservations systems to sync with the U.S. government’s Secure Flight prescreening system; after all, even if you’re an existing TSA PreCheck member, it’s the airline that issues the boarding pass, and it’s that document that displays your PreCheck eligibility to the agent manning the entrance to the checkpoint.

Visa Introduces New Payment Wearables For Fans Attending Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018

ETN reports Visa, the exclusive payment technology partner at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has introduced three commercially available wearable payment devices. In the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games, Visa created NFC-enabled payment gloves, commemorative stickers and Olympic pins that allow fans and athletes to complete seamless and secure payments with a simple tap at any contactless-enabled terminal. Visa teamed up with Lotte Card, the financial arm of South Korean-based retail giant, Lotte Department Store, to produce and make these new prepaid payment wearables, now available for purchase, in Korea.

  • Commemorative Olympic Pin: Visa is bringing to market four unique lapel pins featuring custom PyeongChang 2018 designs to offer a payment-enabled collectable for fans and athletes to utilize on-site. Cost per pin is KRW5,000 plus desired embedded prepaid amounts valued at KRW30,000 or KRW50,000.
  • Payment-Enabled Gloves: The average temperature in PyeongChang will be – 4.8 degree celsius, so gloves will be a must-have! This payment glove will offer fans a way to pay safely and securely without having to get cold hands. The gloves contain a dual interface chip housed with a contactless antenna capable of completing purchases throughout official Olympic Venues and compatible readers globally. The gloves will come with embedded prepaid amounts valued at KRW30,000 or KRW50,000.

 

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Viking Ocean

 

Viking Offers Ocean And River Combination Cruises In 2018

Taking advantage of its ocean and river ship fleet, Viking is offering combination cruises where passengers do both types of itineraries in one trip. Called Ocean & River Voyages, the sailings allow passengers to easily go between two cruises by transferring them between ships in a single port. The line also notes that a combo trip means you only have to fly overseas once, yet enjoy two different voyages. Two itineraries are available for 2018. The first combines the traditional Rhine River cruise with Viking Ocean’s popular Norwegian Fjords itinerary; passengers transfer between a Viking Longship and Viking Sun in Amsterdam. The 15-day July trip runs between Basel and Bergen. The second itinerary also begins on the Rhine River, on a Viking Longship, starting in Basel and ending in Amsterdam. Instead of heading north, passengers will take Viking Sky to Le Havre to visit Paris, cross the English Channel to Portsmouth and then sail south to Spain, stopping in Vigo, Granada and Cartagena. The 18-day September 29 cruise ends in Barcelona.

Best Western Rolls Out Systemwide Mobile Platform For Guests

Best Western Hotels & Resorts has launched a mobile platform to enhance guest engagement before, during and after a stay. Previously active at 360 properties and now being rolled out globally, the Best Western Mobile Guest Engagement Platform features a number of capabilities, such as mobile check-in and check-out, including late check-out functions; email or text communication with the system and with property staff; purchasing upgrades and ordering Ubers, and mobile room key capabilities also are coming soon. The technology, which does not require users to download a smartphone app, is provided in partnership with Runtriz. The properties that have tested the platform saw increases in both guest satisfaction and room revenue via upselling and advertising functions, and Medallia Net Promoter Scores, which measure customers’ willingness to recommend products, increased by as much as 18 points among guests using the mobile requests feature.

 

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises

 

Regent Names New Ship Seven Seas Splendor

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced its 2020 newbuild will be named Seven Seas Splendor and is now scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2020. As part of the naming process, Regent Seven Seas Cruises sought suggestions from its valued travel agents, loyal guests and employees for the ship’s name in a sweepstakes held in September. Seven Seas Splendor was chosen among nearly 2,600 unique names from more than 14,000 submissions, the company said. 

Airlines Ordered To Keep A Much Closer Watch On Your Bags

Airlines have been told to improve the tracking of luggage during flights as figures showed that almost 22 million items went missing last year. Regulations will be introduced next summer in an attempt to cut the number of bags being lost after it emerged that mistakes cost the air industry $2.1 billion in 12 months. A new duty will be introduced by IATA in June next year that requires airlines to track bags at four critical points during a journey. This instantly flags up if bags have been lost, rather than putting the onus on passengers to report losses when luggage fails to turn up on the collection belt. It will also force them to share data on bags between carriers. It is expected that the system will cut baggage losses by up to 30%. At present there are no universal obligations towards tracking and recording bags. More than 21 million pieces of luggage went missing worldwide last year after check-in. Almost half were lost during the transfer process when passengers connected between aircrafts. More than 90 per cent were reunited with their owners, although one in six was damaged or had contents stolen. The remaining unclaimed bags were auctioned by airlines or given to charity. 

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