Category Archives: Europe

Hotel Profile Series: Hotel Borg in Reykjavik

Hotel Profile Series

Looking for a Unique Winter Getaway?

Why not catch the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Iceland is beautiful in the winter, with wintry snowscapes and snow-capped mountains. There are ample opportunities for winter activities, like snowboarding, glacier hiking, snowmobiling on a glacier, or ice caving.

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In our Hotel Profile Series, we take a closer look at some of the properties that have charmed, bedazzled and delighted our clients for years without end.

Hotel Borg in downtown Reykjavik is a favorite among many of our clients.

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Opened by Icelandic adventurer and strongman Jóhannes Jósefsson in 1930, Hotel Borg has been a dignified staple of downtown for decades. Its unique Art Deco style stands out among Icelandic hotels, with a soft, modestly boastful white townhouse exterior, and an interior swirling with glamorous curves. It’s modern, swanky, inviting, and elegant.

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Superbly located in the heart of Reykjavik, Hotel Borg overlooks beautiful Austurvöllur square, so you can step right out and within minutes walk to Reykjavik’s top restaurants, art galleries and specialty shops.

Each of its 99 rooms and suites is equipped with flatscreen TV, telephone, safe deposit box, minibar, complimentary wifi, ensuite bathroom, writing desk and luxury amenities. Ask for a room with a view overlooking the square. If you really want a deluxe experience, the one and only Tower Suite is as fancy as it gets – with two floors, ample lounging area, and luxuriant king bed.

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At the concierge, you can collect maps of the city and the Ring Road, get Aurora forecasts, or make reservations at the spa or restaurants. Hotel Borg also has an excellent spa with hot tub, steam bath, and sauna—perfect for unwinding after an active day in the elements.

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Superior Room 2571Tower Suite 11585

Call Willamette Intl Travel to plan your ideal vacation in Iceland – we have access to all the top guides, accommodation, and tours to tailor a holiday to your specific budget. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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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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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Regent Seven Seas

Asia with Avanti Destinations

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This is the time to book travel to Southeast Asia, for travel in November to March as the dry and temperate season rolls in, and the Chinese New Year seems to awake everyone up out of their wintry reverie.

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We’re excited to be working with Avanti Destinations as one of our reputable tour guides in Asia. Avanti makes it simple to book hotel, transport and tour packages with local guides, and their customizable itineraries just shave off the hassle of travel planning.

Let Willamette Intl Travel design Asian itinerary for you and your travel companions, complete with flights and a personalized package. Whether you need an affordable hotel package, or would like to build in some unique culinary or outdoor escapades, Avanti offers a hassle-free way to build it into your existing Asian itinerary.

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Want to leave it to the professionals? Avanti can take care of you from the moment you step off the plane to your last spectacular evening in Asia.

Or perhaps you like planning hotels on your own, but need a fun tour of downtown Ho Chi Minh and not sure where to start looking. Not sure how to make friends in the rice terraces of Sapa? Avanti’s got you covered:

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Thailand: Discover the “Land of Smiles” on the bustling streets of Bangkok, to the famous temples of Chiang Mai, to the achingly gorgeous beaches of Phuket.

China: As part of an Asian cruise, spend 1-3 nights post-cruise in Hong Kong exploring Kowloon. Or build in a stop at the ancient port city of Shanghai, now one of the most technologically advanced cosmopolises in the world.

Myanmar: Looking to explore the blooming country of Myanmar? Go back in time to a simpler Asia with Avanti’s Myanmar Essentials: Yangon, Bagan and Manadalay.

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Singapore: Explore Singapore Highlights, such as Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Majestic Gardens and Little India, experiencing a one-of-a-kind after dark wildlife safari adventure–on your way to connect to Bali.

Taiwan: Uncover the sleeping, hidden gems of Taiwan, its ornate temples, beautiful lakes and stays in the countryside.

River Cruises: Enjoy ancient waterways with a Mekong River Cruise, Halong Bay Cruise or Yangtze Upstream Cruise.

And Many More Destinations: Japan, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, etc. 

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel can design your Asian adventure from start to finish. Call us 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Asia, Avanti, Cambodia, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam

Travel News: New Visa Rules to enter EU take effect in 2020

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Enhanced Security And A 10 Euro Fee For Non-EU Visitors To The Schengen Region
ETN reports the European Union is now on a path to apply an entry fee. In Europe this process will be named ETIAS. The new regulation is planned to become law in 2020. The new regulation, an EURO 10.00 entry fee would apply to non-EU citizens able to enter the Schengen area without a visa. Here are the rules and details: Travellers posing a risk to security will be refused. Fee of 10 euros, authorization valid for 3 years for unlimited trips. Electronic application to be processed in less than 72 hours.
Finnair Weighting Passengers At Departure Gates In Helsinki October & November
LoyaltyLobby.com reports Finnair is about to start a new project to better understand the average weight of the passengers and their hand luggage at the Helsinki airport. Until now, the airline has used European Aviation Safety Agency’s suggestions that the average male passenger weights with carry on 88 kilos, female 70 kilos and children 35 kilos. The average weights are used when the airlines calculate how much cargo they can load and how much kerosene they need to safely operate the flight.
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Australia’s Famed Uluru To Be Closed To Climbers
Reuters reports Australia’s world-famous Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, will be closed to climbers from 2019, its management board said on Wednesday, ending a decades-long campaign by Aborigines to protect their scared monolith in the Northern Territory. A board of eight traditional owners and four government officials voted unanimously to close the rock to climbers. “The climb is a men’s sacred area, the men have closed it,” chairman Sammy Wilson added in a statement. “It has cultural significance that includes certain restrictions.” The Unesco World Heritage-listed 348-metre rock, known for its shifting red-ochre colors, is a top tourist destination, attracting around 300,000 visitors each year, despite its remote desert location near Alice Springs. The traditional owners of Uluru, the Anangu people, have called for the climb to be closed since 1985, when the park was placed in indigenous hands.
New Payment Method Introduced At London Heathrow Airport
New payment method is being introduced at London Heathrow Airport which will see a cardless and cashless process for passengers. Plaza Premium Lounges is one of the first outlets at Heathrow to launch the payment method, known as Alipay, across all the terminals it operates in. Alipay is a popular, eWallet payment system based in China which provides a secure way to shop and store money and all transactions are carried out safely through the Alipay website, either by searching for the outlet name or by scanning a QR code via a mobile phone, tablet or other technical devices. The payment method is already popular within the travel industry with many airlines and airports across the world already accepting the electronic payment process such as Aeroflot, Vanilla Air and Emirates.
Excellence Punta Cana Reopens Its Doors
Excellence Punta Cana, the all-inclusive resort Excellence Group, has reopened its doors following a four-month, $45 million dollar renovation. Maintaining the resort’s original romantic island charm and elegance that earned it a spot on Trip Advisor’s ‘Top 25 All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts, the property now also features completely renovated and new onsite food and beverage offerings, an upgraded Club Lounge resulting in an elevated front desk and concierge service, a new beachfront pool, in-room renovations with improved layouts, new furniture and sleek Caribbean vibes, and an enhanced experience in the brand’s renowned Excellence Club. Excellence Punta Cana seamlessly combines the convenience of an all-inclusive experience with the details and amenities of a luxurious five-star property.
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United Offers Boarding Passes For Partner Airlines Via Its Mobile App
United Airlines announced a new enhancement to the United app that will allow customers to receive boarding passes when connecting to 19 airline partners on their smartphones, a feature which no other US carrier currently offers. This functionality will be available for customers traveling on United who are making an onward connection on another carrier and will improve the functionality of United’s award-winning app, which is relied on over 500 million times a year by customers.
Mexico Is Reinforcing Security In Popular Tourist Spots
Mexico is hoping to get the State Department to revise its views, and companies including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Marriott International Inc. are spending millions to make guests feel safer. Their motivation is clear: Barclays Plc estimates that a drop in tourism could wipe out as much as 0.5% points from Mexico’s gross domestic product growth this year. “Lower tourism activity will definitely have an impact on growth,” said Marco Oviedo, head of Latin America economic research at Barclays. “External tourism is one of the most important sources of income.” Mexico gets about $20 billion a year from tourism. With murders quadrupling in Los Cabos and doubling in Cancun this year, a chunk of that revenue may be at stake. Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, is the destination of a third of all the nation’s international tourists.
Virgin Voyages Previews Its First Cruise Ship
Conde Nast reports the new ship design takes its cue from superyachts and the first cruise will sail out of Miami in 2020. The laying of the keel has taken place. Originally announced in 2015, Virgin Voyages has spent the last two years existing mostly on paper. And now a large, central section of the first ship, the temporarily titled Virgin I, or hull 6287, has been set into place. Details of the interiors and amenities are still under tight wraps but, in March, the line’s CEO Tom McAlpin revealed that a “Creative Collective” of designers and architects have been tasked with fulfilling Branson’s vision for the “world’s most gorgeous ships.” They’ll be the brain trust behind the mid-size ships, with the capacity for 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew, while “reflecting the craftsmanship and materiality inspired by super yachts,” says McAlpin. The ship passengers (or “sailors”, to use the company’s term) will need to be over 18. There will be no water slides, rides and kids’ activities on the Virgin Ships. Virgin is taking a different approach, pitching its ship as “adult by design”. Virgin says the decision to ban children was based on feedback from travelers who are “looking for a more elevated and premium experience, with a few Virgin style surprises”. Branson declared the Virgin Voyages vessel would be “the most recognizable ship sailing the seven seas.”
Passenger Jets Will Soon Run On Cooking Oil And Fat
Jets in Europe will soon run on eco-fuel produced from vegetable oil and animal fat. The new fuel will be mixed with traditional kerosene. According to latest reports, planes running on the mixture of renewable and traditional fuel will start flying next year from Geneva in Switzerland. The airport wants biofuel to have a one percent share of sales at the airport for a start. According the CEO of Finnish company Neste that produces the fuel. Lufthansa tested the company’s fuel on more than 1,000 flights in 2011 with a 50-50 blend of biofuel to kerosene. “It worked amazingly well,” Lievonen said. “Engine performance improved. We have a very good track record in aviation, and it’s an exciting growth area for us,” he said.

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3 Ghoulish Alternatives to Halloween around the World

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Happy Halloween! So how do other cultures celebrate this time of year? Here are five of our favorite devilish celebrations come November: 

La Diabalada, Peru. Early November. 

In the week leading up to November 5, the village of Puno in Peru celebrates La Diablada, a devilish sort of festival where men dress up as demons and hit the streets in a horned parade. Some say that it was to herald the departure of the conquistadors in the late 19th century—others claim that it’s a much older tradition, a way to pay home to ancient spirits of Lake Titicaca that gradually took on the trappings of Christianity. Set against the backdrop of the Cordillera Real mountains, there’s hardly a more dramatic setting. Before the night is over, don’t forget to try a glass of La Diablada Pisco (Peruvian brandy).

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Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico. Nov 1-2. 

Nobody does death quite like Mexico, who adopts a kind of upbeat discussion of mortality and immortality. Mexicans believe that the dead wait in Mictlan, a spiritual limbo, and can return to their homes just once a year, the Day of the Dead. Families erect an altar piled high with flowers, candles, ribbons, a bowl of water, and bread, and the house is strewn about with candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons, banners of colored paper, and miniature coffins. Festivities include cooking, singing, dancing, culminating in a family visit to the cemetery.

Festa del Cornuto (Festival of the Horned One), Italy. Mid-November. 

With famed Mediterranean lust comes also its fair share of broken hearts. The Festival of the Horned One is a tribute to anyone who’s been made a cuckold in love. The small village of Rocca Canterano throws a party each November to remember those unlucky ones spurned by their partners. Actors dress up and recite their misfortunes on the streets, bearing helmets with horns, some adopting a more commercial devil’s garb.

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Peru, South America

Travel News: Plan-A-Cruise Month!

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Celebrate Cruise Month with deals to tempt you up the gangway for a fabulous holiday at sea

Plan-A-Cruise Month is the bigger and better successor to National Cruise Week!! SALES from dozens of cruise lines have STARTED and ends Tuesday October 31. Dreaming of a cruise to Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia? Call Willamette Intl Travel for huge savings and perks on your next Cruise! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Starting October 26, 2017, NEW TSA rules are in effect

Some travelers INBOUND to USA may be selected for an interview at check-in counters and airport gates by TSA staff. This is aimed at tightening security at airports and for airlines and its passengers. Both American and global airlines must comply, affecting all of the 2,100 flights from around the world that enter the U.S. on any given day. This will lengthen the amount of recommended time passengers need to check in before their flights. Usually Willamette Intl Travel recommends 2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours before international, but you may want to add 1 hour extra to ensure that you meet your flight.

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Viking Cruises Named ‘Best River Cruise Line’

Currently celebrating their 20th anniversary, Viking Cruises has been voted the Best River Cruise Line by Condé Nast Traveler in the publication’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards. The line has scored in the top o the list every year since the river cruise category was introduced. Also, after only two years of ocean cruises, Viking was again named one of the Best Ocean Cruise Lines. Over 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and more than 100,000 comments as part of the 30th annual readers’ choice survey. Acclaimed for their innovation, modern Scandinavian design, inclusive value, and destination-focused offerings, for the past 20 years Viking has amassed awards from industry experts and the travel trade.

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Airlines Bring Out the Bubbly And Ice Cream In Coach

Major US airlines are beefing up their menus in an attempt to stand out against a growing sea of low-cost carriers that advertise fares less than $100 for a flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Delta Air Lines announced earlier this month that it is serving free Prosecco on international flights in all cabins, just a few weeks after it unveiled new transatlantic routes for next year that include non-stops from Los Angeles to Paris and Amsterdam, New York to Lagos, and Atlanta to Lisbon. Delta was careful with its wording as a traveler sued a Canadian airline for advertising Champagne after he received sparkling wine. By the end of next year, Delta’s first, business and premium-economy passengers will be able to preselect their meals before boarding.

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Emirates Airlines Hires Boredom Specialist To Keep Kids Entertained

Emirates has hired a psychologist and boredom specialist to keep kids entertained on their aircrafts. Young flyers will take just 49 minutes and 47 seconds to ask the dreaded, ”are we nearly there yet?” so with parents battling the boredom threshold, Emirates has teamed up with Dr Sandi Mann, a psychologist and boredom specialist at the University of Central Lancashire to find a solution. Dr Mann has worked with the airline to create the Child Boredom Quotient (CBQ), helping parents identify the exact moment their kids will get bored so they can enjoy stress-free travel.

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First Airport Terminal Gym In Europe Opens At Estonia’s Tallinn Airport

Leading fitness club operator, MyFitness, has this month opened Europe’s very first gym situated within an airport terminal. The gym is located at Gate 6 in the Departures area of Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport with views on to the runway. The gym is fully equipped with state of the art modern equipment with internet connection, as well specialist training machines and a stretching area. The gym is equipped with a treadmill, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, exercise bicycle and a staircase trainer, all equipped with a screen and connected to the Internet. There four specialist training machines for feet, shoulders, chest and back exercises, plus a stretch area. Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is known to be one of the most unique airports in the world in other areas too.

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Cunard To Offer Short Alaska Season In 2019

In 2019, Cunard Line will sail in Alaska, offering a handful of departures in May and June aboard the Queen Elizabeth from Vancouver. The ship will then transport passengers down the West Coast of the United States, through the Panama Canal to New York, on to Iceland and the British Isles, the company said. Cunard will offer four 10-night round-trip Vancouver sailings with more time in port and opportunities to visit the natural wonders of Tracy Arm Fjord and Hubbard Glacier.” Departures from Vancouver will be departing May 21, 31, June 10 and 20, 2019. Itineraries feature scenic cruising through the Inside Passage as well as full days in several of the region’s ports, including Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. The itinerary also includes the Tracy Arm Fjord or Endicott Arm, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and Victoria.

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Filed under Alaska, Caribbean, Cruises, Europe, Hawaii

Field Guide to Iceland’s Mystical Beings — Elves & Trolls – oh my!

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Iceland is beautiful even in winter, with plenty of fun winter activities and the breathtaking Northern Lights to look forward to! Ask us about hotel packages and fantastic airfare to and from the Land of Ice and Fire. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Halloween is just around the corner! Let’s take a moment to look at Iceland’s traditional take on ghouls and ghosts. 

Iceland’s belief in elves is well-documented among travelers and news sites. The Atlantic, BBC, and the Guardian all published stories on Iceland’s unique band of elves in the last couple years. But the magical beings in Iceland don’t stop there. There’s a whole host of supernatural creatures in Icelandic mythic repertoire. The cold winters and black nights were perfect breeding grounds for all sorts of fantastical fables. Some scholars believe they began as warnings or scary stories for children…

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Huldufólk

Huldufólk or “Hidden People” are humanoid beings who live in large boulders. Some Icelanders agree that they are synonymous with elves; others, a completely different species. Certain magical areas, called Álagablettur, are said to be enchanted dwelling places for the Huldufólk. They are invisible and rarely show themselves to humans; when they do appear, they have brown hair, nondescript green clothes, and are about the same size as humans. Apparently they are adverse to Christian symbols and electricity. They’ve been known to halt construction projects in protest.
TrollsLegends of trolls, gigantic monsters of nature, are plentiful in Iceland. Trolls represent nature at its most powerful and raw; they are huge, like mountains themselves, with fierce faces. They are greedy, terrifying, if a bit unintelligent. They are creatures of darkness, and a touch of sunlight will transform them into stone instantly. Sea stacks off of Iceland’s coast are often linked to the bodies of trolls, caught in sunlight adn frozen in time. The Vik basalt rock formations are such frozen trolls. Another legend surrounds Dimmuborgir, the lava field with towers of black lava near Lake Myvatn. Local legends speak of a major troll revelry, and the trolls partied so much they fell into a drunken stupor and were caught with the sun came out.

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Gryla and Gróf

Some trolls are so famous they are named. Gróf is a friendly female troll (or ogress), who once befriended a young girl Siggi. Many Icelandic children are told tales of Grýla in childhood. Grýla, a fearsome and ancient ogress, has hooves for feet and thirteen tails. She gave birth to the thirteen Yule Lads who cause mischief around Christmastime every year. She has married three times, dispatching of two of her husbands because they bored her. She has an insatiable hunger for naughty children.

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Water-Dwellers

Several cryptids haunt the waters around Iceland. The Lagarfljót monster lives in the lake Lagarfljót beside the town of Egilsstaðir. In the West Fjords, an evil troll lives on the banks of a small lake. The tale goes that the troll appears as a white horse; but if you dare to ride the horse, you’ll be stuck to it and dragged underneath to a watery grave. The only way to tell it apart from a real horse is by its hooves, which are backwards. There have been claims of sea monsters all around Iceland: the Shore Lad, Sea Man, Shell Monster. The Lyngbakur is a whale giant that devours fishermen. There’s even a museum in the West Fjords, the Skrímslasetrið, that delves into the cultural history and eyewitness accounts of Iceland’s sea monsters.  GhostsLocal folklore is packed with tales of ghosts, undead beings that haunt stables, rivers, houses, graveyards, hillsides–basically anywhere. They appear widespread in sagas (notably Glámr in Gretti’s Saga), as well as modern lore. Ghost tales are stories of unrequited love affairs, children who died too young, heroes cloven in two. Ghosts of drowned men wear damp seawear, young boys wear scarlet-red sweaters. Toddlers who were left out to die appear crying, singing to their alive mothers, wrapped in swaddled blankets. Stop by the Ghost Center, a museum in Stokkseyri devoted to hauntings all over the island, to learn more.

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Sæmundr fróði

There are many renowned warlocks in Icelandic folklore, but none so famous as Sæmundur Sigfússon fróði. “Saemund the Learned” was a semi-legendary scholar, who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. He studied the Dark Arts, and spent his days tricking the Devil. One story relates how, when he graduated from the Black School, Saemund sewed a leg of lamb into his cloak. As he was about to leave, the Devil reached to grab him but snatched the leg instead. Saemund slipped away to safety.

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Tilberi or Snakkur

Tilberi, or Snakkur as they are also known, are worm-like creatures, born of witchcraft in order to steal milk. The recipe to creature a Tilberi is complex and precise: a wtch must steal a rib from a recently buried body early on Whitsunday. Pluck gray wool from the shoulders of a widow’s sheep, and then twist the gray wool around the bone. For the next three Sundays, the witch will spit sanctified wine on the bundle during communion. After each spit, the tilberi will shudder, until at last springing into life at the end of the third Sunday. The tilberi then is sent to suck milk from cows and ewes in secret. The tilberi jumps on the udder and once full with milk, will cry out “Full belly, Mommy” or “Churn lid off, Mommy.” The witch will then collect the Tilberi and it will vomit the milk into her butter churn. The only way to kill a tilberi is to send it to the mountain to collect lambs’ droppings in three pastures. The tilberi will die because evil creatures cannot tolerate the number three (naturally).

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Yule Lads & Yule Cat

The Yule Lads are thirteen mischievous trolls who cause trouble around Christmas. We’ve covered them extensively in a previous post, which you can read here. The Yule Cat is a humongous cat that lurks around the countryside wth the Yule Lads. It will devour anyone who hasn’t received any new clothes of Cristmas eve. Popularized by the poet Johannes ur Kotlum in his poem Jolaktturrinn.

Have you heard more about spooky tales and mystic beings from folklore around the world? Share with us in the comments!

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