Category Archives: Europe

Travel News: Scotland’s coastal city Dundee is all abuzz

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Scotland’s coastal city Dundee is all abuzz

A billion-dollar-plus plan to revitalize the historical city kicked off in 2001 and in 2014 Dundee won the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design. The cream on the top is the upcoming and much-awaited opening of the Victoria & Albert Museum of Design Dundee, set to open this September. The museum was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuta and will feature a dramatic, curved exterior that mimics the sides of a ship. Exhibitions will include a homage to the city’s past called “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style” and a look at Scottish designs in jewelry and architecture. 
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Main’s Castle in Dundee

New Roof terrace at Frankfurt Airport

The transit zone of Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1 has added a roof terrace. Besides fresh air, it boasts a spectacular view of the bustling activity at Germany’s largest aviation hub. If you’re drawn to take a closer look, there’s a telescope you can use for free. A stand provides information about what’s going on down on the apron. And a monitor screen shows the weather report for the next few days, straight from the German Weather Service. Comfortable seating surrounded by plants rounds out the attractions.

European airlines must now pay passengers for delays caused by strikes, too

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled that airlines must compensate their passengers for flight delays and cancellations, even though the reason for such was a strike by airline staff. Until now, airlines strikes of all kind have been considered extraordinary circumstances that exempt airlines from their duty to pay compensation. From now on, airlines must compensate their passengers with up to $700 per person if they were affected by flight delays or cancellations due to strikes by airline staff IF the airline carrier is based in the EU or the departure airport is within the EU. The airlines are now going to face a wave of claims, as this ruling also applies to all previous strikes, the three year statute of limitation being the only barrier. Extraordinary circumstances such as storms or medical emergencies mean that the operating airline is exempt from the obligation to compensate air passengers.
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Piper of the Vatican

 

Holland America Line celebrated 145th anniversary last week

HAL was founded in 1873 as the Netherlands-American Steamship Company, a shipping and passenger line. Within 25 years the company had a fleet of six ships operating between Holland and the Dutch East Indies.  It was based in Rotterdam and also provided service to The Americas, leading to the name Holland America Line. Transportation and shipping were the primary sources of revenue, but in 1895 the line offered its first vacation cruise. However, it continued to be primarily a carrier of immigrants from Europe to the USA until after 1900, bringing nearly one million people to new lives in America. Several ships also served as troop carriers for the Allies in both world wars. The company sold its cargo division in 1973. Through the early 1970’s, HAL established schools in Indonesia and the Philippines to train future employees. The line has been based in Seattle since 1983 and was purchased by Carnival Corporation in 1989. It currently operates 14 ships sailing to 400 ports spread over all seven continents.

Extraordinary Vatican Museums By Night

Starting Friday, April 20, the 2018 edition of the extraordinary night openings of the Vatican Museums that runs until October 26 will take place and offer visitors a unique experience of a visit in an atmosphere of artistic beauties and music proposals. From April to October, the Pope’s Museums will open their doors at sunset to reveal themselves in a suggestive and unusual nocturnal atmosphere. Every year, to enrich the special visit experience, a rich concert review is also on the night agendas animated with beautiful sounds, songs, and dances. The evenings will provide not only art and history, but also shows and a tasty Happy Hour in the charming Cortile della Pigna for a regenerating moment of escape. Starting at 7:00 pm, for more than 6 months, and for a total of 27 Fridays, the Pope’s Museums “double” their cultural offer by proposing a new evening version that is very much appreciated by the public and tourists, especially during the cool nights of spring and summer. Thee Friday Night openings are now a consolidated reality, happily experienced in recent years with great success. Useful to know about night openings: Period: April, May, June, July, August, September, October. Day: Friday. Timetable: from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm (last admission at 9:30 pm). Concert start time (if scheduled): 8:30 pm. Admission booking and guided tours: mandatory online.

Radisson Blu maintains lead in European upscale hotel segment

According to a ranking from MKG Hospitality-ON, Radisson Blu Hotels has maintained its ranking since 2010 as Europe’s leader in the upscale hospitality segment. The Radisson Blu brand leads the European hotel industry in size and scale, with 186 Radisson Blu properties on the continent, located in major cities, as well as at airport gateways and notable leisure destinations. Worldwide there are 380 Radisson Blu hotels, open or coming soon. The MKG Ranking scope includes 28 countries within the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey (European side of Istanbul), Russia (only the European area, west of Ural), Iceland, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia, Moldovia, Montenegro, Jersey, Guernsey, Serbia, Belarus, Andorra and Monaco. The results of the 2017 ranking also include Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels in the UK.

Good addition in Global Entry Program

Global Entry, the (in my estimation great) U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States, has with little fanfare made a change in the process of approval.  After submitting required paperwork, all applicants must undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. There have often been long delays before those ready to be interviewed could make an appointment for such. Now, Enrollment on Arrival, as the program is known, allows Global Entry applicants to complete their interviews upon arrival into the United States without making an appointment at an enrollment center; all application documentation must have been done in advance, with notice received from Global Entry that one is eligible for an interview. The new program is available at 28 airports in the United States as well as at preclearance facilities in Canada at six major airports. At airports with multiple terminals such as New York’s John F. Kennedy, the program is available in terminals 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8, and at San Francisco International in terminals A and G.
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Vatican Museums

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Travel News: Extraordinary Vatican Museums by Night

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Air France pilot strike continues

Striking Air France pilots and cabin staff insisted they weren’t backing down, as their latest walkout forced the cancellation of some 30% of the airline’s flights worldwide Wednesday. Union members protested at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, where screens showed “canceled” notices next to multiple flights. Air France-KLM has lost more than 100 million euros ($124 million) in sporadic strikes since February. The Air France actions are coming amid other French labor action. 

Lindblad Expeditions Unveils Short Galapagos Cruises

Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Islander will sail a series of short one-week Galapagos cruises in 2018 and 2019, giving vacationally-challenged people the opportunity to see the bucket list destination without spending too much time away from home or work. Dubbed the “Wild Galapagos Escape,” the one-week journey is onboard the recently refurbished, 48-passenger National Geographic Islander and features five days in the archipelago, plus a one-night pre-voyage stay in Guayaquil and the option of another night post voyage at no additional charge. All sailings include multiple shore excursions each day from walks and hikes to kayaking, snorkeling and paddle-boarding. New in 2019, passengers on any Lindblad sailing in the Galapagos receive complimentary drinks (excluding certain premium brands) and an hour of free Wi-Fi per person, per day. Dates for the Wild Galapagos Escape sailings are: 2018: November 24 and 29; 2019: April 27; May 2, 11 and 16; August 31; September 5, 14 and 19; and October 31. For those who have a little bit longer and also want to see Machu Picchu, the eight night Wild Galapagos & Peru Escape trip includes a night in Lima, two nights in Peru’s Sacred Valley and five nights on National Geographic Islander in the Galapagos. Departures for this tour are December 1, 2018; May 4 and 18, September 7 and 14, and November 2, 2019. Both trips include roundtrip charter flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos. Call your travel agent to advise you more about cruises to the Galapagos and other itineraries with Lindblad Expeditions. 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Emerald Waterways Opens Bookings for Dalmatian Coast Ocean Cruises 

River cruise line Emerald Waterways has opened booking for its first ocean sailings, week-long itineraries along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. The 22 trips are being offered between April and October 2019. Passengers will sail aboard the newly-commissioned, 18-cabin Adriatic Princess II, which has a sun deck, an open-plan dining restaurant, and pool ladders offering easy sea access for swimming or snorkeling when the ship is stationary. The line’s “Islands of Dalmatia” itinerary will travel the Adriatic Sea between Dubrovnik and Trogir, Croatia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a medieval town center. Highlights include the island of Brac, famous for its white limestone that was used in the building of the White House, and a visit to Krka National Park with its spectacular waterfalls. Other ports of call will feature the island of Hvar, noted for its lavender fields, and vineyards, and mainland Split, the largest city on the Adriatic coast with the Roman Diocletian’s Palace. Passengers can also book a three-day extension in Zagreb, or a seven-night extension, which, in addition to Zagreb, includes three nights in the seaside resort town of Opatija and two nights in Lake Bled, Slovenia, at the foot of the Julian Alps.

U.S. Streamlines Global Entry Application Process

Without much fanfare, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency announced a new program to facilitate Global Entry applications. Enrollment on Arrival, as the program is known, allows Global Entry applicants to complete their interviews upon arrival into the United States without making an appointment at an enrollment center. Global Entry allows passengers entering the United States to bypass the line for passport control and use a kiosk instead of submitting a paper landing card and interacting with a Customs and Border Protection agent. The new program is available at 28 airports in the United States as well as at preclearance facilities in Canada at six major airports. At airports with multiple terminals such as New York’s John F. Kennedy, the program is available in terminals 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8, and at San Francisco International in terminals A and G. To complete the Global Entry process, simply follow signage to a Customs and Border Protection officer who will then conduct the interview. No additional documentation beyond a passport is required.

New IATA certification for animal handling by airlines, airports and more

IATA recently announced a certification program designed to ensure the well-being of animals traveling by air. The voluntary certification program, called the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) for Live Animals Logistics, builds on IATA’s current set of animal transportation rules — widely regarded as the industry standard — with input from air transport and animal experts to improve service quality throughout the supply chain. The certification program, which was announced April 5, involves training personnel to account for the physical and emotional health of animals across a variety of species and is intended for airlines, airports, ground handling, freight, and animal shipping companies. Companies who obtain the certification will be listed in a registry on IATA’s website. 

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Extraordinary Vatican Museums By Night

Starting Friday, April 20, the 2018 edition of the extraordinary night openings of the Vatican Museums that runs until October 26 will take place and offer visitors a unique experience of a visit in an atmosphere of artistic beauties and music proposals. From April to October, the Pope’s Museums will open their doors at sunset to reveal themselves in a suggestive and unusual nocturnal atmosphere. Every year, to enrich the special visit experience, a rich concert review is also on the night agendas animated with beautiful sounds, songs, and dances. The evenings will provide not only art and history, but also shows and a tasty Happy Hour in the charming Cortile della Pigna for a regenerating moment of escape. Starting at 7:00 pm, for more than 6 months, and for a total of 27 Fridays, the Pope’s Museums “double” their cultural offer by proposing a new evening version that is very much appreciated by the public and tourists, especially during the cool nights of spring and summer. Thee Friday Night openings are now a consolidated reality, happily experienced in recent years with great success. Useful to know about night openings: Period: April, May, June, July, August, September, October. Day: Friday. Timetable: from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm (last admission at 9:30 pm). Concert start time (if scheduled): 8:30 pm. Admission booking and guided tours: mandatory online. Museum sectors that can be visited: Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Pio Clementino Museum, Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, Gallery of the Geographical Maps, Rooms of Raphael, Apartment Borgia, Collection of Contemporary Art, Sistine Chapel, Galleries of the Vatican Apostolic Library. Exceptionally open museum sectors: Sale di S. Pio V (collection of medieval and Renaissance ceramics, minute mosaics). Museums to visit during night openings include the Sistine Museum and Chapel as well as the Vatican Museums.

Old sail technology back to power a Viking Line ship as of today

Viking Line’s passenger ship Grace will cruise using the power of a newly-installed rotor sail for the first time this week, becoming the first passenger liner to do so. The rotor sail is developed by Finnish firm Norsepower and is expected to reduce Grace’s carbon emissions by up to 900 tons per year. Compared to many other cruise ships that run on diesel around the world, Grace – fuelled with liquid natural gas (LNG ) – is already relatively environmentally-friendly. The vessel has traversed its island-dotted routes through the archipelago between Turku and Stockholm, Sweden since 2013. The principles behind the rotor sail technology itself is not new and actually about a century old, but the company said the need for more environmentally-friendly power options has brought it back into use. 

Call your Travel Agent for the latest travel advice, 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com.  

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Spring in Normandy on the Seine with Viking Cruises

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On Friday, WIT Agent Racheal will embark on a Spring Europe River Cruise with Viking Cruises!

Over the next few days, we’ll follow her on her journey through the Heart of Normandy.

8 Days, 7 Guided Tours, From $2,649 per person. Sailings available for April to Dec 2018 and March to Dec 2019.

Solo Traveler? Why not join a River Cruise this Spring?

 

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Château Gaillard

 

She’ll step out beyond Paris to uncover elegant gardens and Claude Monet’s farmhouse in Giverny. From Le Pecq, a charming waterfront town of cobblestone streets, the boat will glide along the picturesque Seine River to Vernon, a town of half-timbered houses. From there, it will be an easy stop in Rouen, with its fine Gothic architecture. She’ll take a step back in history at Normandy’s American Military Cemetery and WWII beaches. On the route back to Paris, she’ll have a chance to see the imposing Château Gaillard, remnants of a castle that overlooks the lovely town of Les Andelys. Throughout it all, she’ll learn about French history and culture from expert guides, and savor the unique cuisine of the Normandy region, inspired by the ocean and the province’s Celtic cultural roots.

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to book this fine French cruise! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

My husband and I took the Normandy Beach tour for our first Viking cruise. The ship was absolutely gorgeous, there was no request too little or too small that wasn’t met beautifully. Our ship was extra special because everyone’s last port was to see Normandy. That meant that we were traveling with men and women who have served our country, past present and future. Every single minute of every single day was absolute joy. I will sail on Viking, and only Viking, again and again.

–Review from Greg & Lisa, Viking River Cruises

Included on the Cruise:

  • One complimentary shore excursion in every port of call
  • Unlimited free Wi-Fi
  • Visits to UNESCO Sites
  • Enrichment lectures & Destination Performances
  • Beer, wine & soft drinks with onboard lunch & dinner
  • 24-hour specialty coffees, teas & bottled water
  • Port taxes & fees
  • River-view stateroom
  • Hotel-style bed with optional twin-bed configuration; luxury linens & pillows
  • 40″ flat-screen LCD TV with complimentary Movies On-Demand
  • 110/220 volt outlets & USB ports
  • Refrigerator; security safe; hair dryer
  • Spacious glass-enclosed shower
  • Heated bathroom floor & anti-fog mirror
  • Premium Freyja® toiletries; plush robes & slippers
  • Stateroom steward & twice-daily housekeeping

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The Scoop on the London Pass

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So you’re planning a Spring getaway to London, City of Sherlock and tea and Dr. Who and amazing museums.

Nearly every metropolis has its transport+sightseeing card, and you can bet that London has a few. One of the best the London Pass. But is this little card actually worth it?

Validity

You can buy the London Pass for a validity of 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 consecutive days.

Cost/Benefit Factor

One Day is 69 GBP ($98), which may seem steep at first – but if you factor in everything you get and all the time/confusion you’re spared, it’s actually a pretty good deal. The card offers free entry to over 55 top London attractions, including Must-Sees like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It also has bonus activities like the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour, the Thames River Cruise and discounts on West End theatre tickets. Plus you can Skip the Line at certain venues, and they throw in a free guidebook for good measure. Of course, the more days you spend in London, the more it pulls its weight – a 3-day pass will cost you only 38 GBP ($54) per day.

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So how does it all break down?

For example, one morning you visit to the Tower of London, then take a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour. After lunch you tour the stunning Westminster Abbey, and wrap up the day with entrance into The Shard, the tallest buliding in Western Europe. The whole day without the pass would set you back around 110 GBP ($155). With the pass of course it’s $98 – so you’ve already saved more than $50.

Transportation

If you throw in $21 extra, then you also get the London Travel Card, usable on all public buses, trams, and the Underground for the whole day.

Where to buy?

Willamette Intl Travel sells the London Travel Card issued by Raileurope, which, if you’re an American who’s pre-booked your rail tickets in Europe, you’ve used in all likelihood. We’re in Portland – call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

Final Verdict

If you’re the type of traveler who loves museums and can spend a whole day wandering around London to the Albert & Victoria Museum, the British Library, the jaw-dropping British Museum—then yes, it’s worth it. Order it before you depart USA from Willamette Intl Travel.

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Travel News This Week

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Royal Caribbean Tightens Cruise Cancellation Policy
Royal Caribbean International is tightening its cruise cancellation policy, making passengers more on the hook for a larger portion of the fare if they decide not to go before sailing. The policy has multiple changes. Chief among them: the cancellation window during which you would only lose a deposit is gone. For full cancellation details, be sure to contact your Willamette Intl travel agent! 
 
NASA To Develop Supersonic Airplane
CNN reports NASA to develop ‘quiet’ supersonic airplane for those who still hanker after the supersonic air travel offered by Concorde. NASA has announced it’s going ahead with plans to develop an aircraft that can break the sound barrier, but quietly. Without the sonic boom the plane could operate commercial routes over land. NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to build the supersonic aircraft. It wants the aerospace company to refine, build and test the experimental aircraft, known as the X-plane or “Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator,” and deliver it to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center by the end of 2021. 
 
American Airlines Lifts Curtain On Chicago-New York Shuttle Today
Chicago Business Journal reports American Airlines will debut its branded Chicago-New York shuttle service Wednesday. The shuttle launch is sure to spark yet another heated operational rivalry between AA and United Airlines, both of which have major hubs at O’Hare International Airport and both have extensive flights between two of the nation’s principal business markets. 
 
Travel Fraud Is Exploding, and It’s Hurting Travelers
Travelwirenews reports Travel fraud is on the rise, and it’s quickly becoming everybody’s problem. The rise of online travel has created a wealth of convenience and opportunity for users, who can now access last minute and discount fares to a degree unheard of even 20 years ago. However, says the digital security firm Sift Science, this has also created a broad platform for thieves and con artists. Travelers, hosts and even huge companies are vulnerable. Thieves steal, on average, between $283 and $588 per fraudulent transaction. In total, fraud costs billions of dollars per year. Airlines alone lose from $2.4 billion to $4.8 billion to credit card fraud annually, and it happens at virtually every point in the industry. For many travelers, it can represent a very real problem. For researchers and industry, “fraud” defines any purchase made under false pretenses. The trouble is that in travel there are many points of contact where this can go wrong. Thieves can often book travel using stolen credit cards or financial information, effectively stealing a high-value airline ticket or hotel room in the process. For hotels especially, same-day bookings are up to 4.3 times more likely to be fraudulent because the short time frame makes it far harder for the hotel or authorities to detect anything wrong. By the time a consumer has noticed the charge on his or her credit card statement, the criminal is often long gone. 
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India Limits Visits To Taj Mahal To 3 Hours Per Person
CNN reports the enormous white marble tomb, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can attract at least 50,000 visitors a day on the weekend, according to a spokesman for the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj Mahal. “Sometimes people end up spending a whole day at the Taj. This creates a situation where there are too many people,” the spokesman D N Dimri told CNN. “It is being implemented so that the movement of visitors can be regulated. Day by day, the number of visitors are increasing. This is to ensure no untoward incidents or accidents occur.” He added there had been no incidents due to overcrowding at the site. 
 
China To Unveil World’s Longest Sea Bridge
Travelwirenews reports it is billed as the world’s longest cross-sea bridge. After seven years of construction, the new link between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China is finally complete. Beijing says the $20bn project will cut travel time in half, bringing China and its two territories closer together.
 
New Whale Protection Strategy In Gulf Of St. Lawrence
Canada has developed a more nuanced approach to protecting North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The 10-knot speed cap applies in certain areas, but ships will be allowed to travel at normal speeds in two set shipping lanes when no whales are observed. 2018 sees a fixed speed restriction in a large area of the Gulf where the whales aggregated in 2017 and a dynamic management approach for the shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island where temporary mandatory speed caps will be activated should a right whale be observed. 
 
Airport Pays $7,500 For Dog To Chase Birds From Runway
Fox News reports Yeager Airport, located in West Virginia, has purchased an 18 month border collie named Hercules to help protect public safety. The pup has been hired to chase birds and other animals off the runway, a problem that has been a concern for the Charlestown, W.Va., airport. “Every airport has problems with bird strikes and wildlife on the airfield. It’s a big safety hazard, so a dog can be a real predator,” Nick Keller, assistant director at Yeager, said. “It will keep birds, deer, coyotes, rabbits away from the airfield.” Hercules will have a reflective vest, safety goggles and ear protection to wear while he is at work. Keller said the dog could potentially reduce deadly animal collisions once trained. Hercules is currently being trained in North Carolina on a range of verbal and whistle commands. Yeager staff must also be trained to handle Hercules while he is at work. While on the clock, Hercules will be outfitted with a reflective vest, safety glasses and ear protection.
 
Scenic Expands To Northwest Passage, White Sea
With Scenic adding a second ‘discovery yacht’ in May 2020, the company is expanding itineraries. New are a 21-day Northwest Passage exploration, a 13-day adventure through Russia’s White Sea and, in late 2019, two opportunities to visit North America’s Eastern Seaboard, from New York City or Halifax. Scenic new Northwest Passage cruise will embark in Copenhagen and skirt the coast of Greenland before transiting the Canadian Arctic to end at Nome, Alaska. Limited to just 200 passengers and departing Aug. 15, 2020, ‘Across the Northwest Passage’ is a once-in-a-lifetime journey and a pinnacle of polar exploration. With the highest ice class rating of any luxury ship (Polar Class 6), Scenic Eclipse will make its way from Copenhagen along the coast of Greenland and through the Canadian Arctic until reaching Nome, Alaska. Travelers will get to visit Inuit communities and learn from the shipboard expert discovery team. There will be opportunities for kayaking amid icebergs, viewing polar bears and Arctic foxes and hiking across the frozen tundra. Russia’s White Sea is another seldom-visited area Scenic will explore. 
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Lindblad Expeditions Unveils Short Galapagos Cruises
Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Islander will sail a series of short one-week Galapagos cruises in 2018 and 2019, giving vacationally-challenged people the opportunity to see the bucket list destination without spending too much time away from home or work. Dubbed the “Wild Galapagos Escape,” the one-week journey is onboard the recently refurbished, 48-passenger National Geographic Islander and features five days in the archipelago, plus a one night pre-voyage stay in Guayaquil and the option of another night post voyage at no additional charge. All sailings include multiple shore excursions each day from walks and hikes to kayaking, snorkeling and paddle-boarding. New in 2019, passengers on any Lindblad sailing in the Galapagos receive complimentary drinks (excluding certain premium brands) and an hour of free Wi-Fi per person, per day. Dates for the Wild Galapagos Escape sailings are: 2018: November 24 and 29; 2019: April 27; May 2, 11 and 16; August 31; September 5, 14 and 19; and October 31. For those who have a little bit longer and also want to see Machu Picchu, the eight night Wild Galapagos & Peru Escape trip includes a night in Lima, two nights in Peru’s Sacred Valley and five nights on National Geographic Islander in the Galapagos. Departures for this tour are December 1, 2018; May 4 and 18, September 7 and 14, and November 2, 2019. Both trips include roundtrip charter flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos.
 
Air New Zealand And Virgin Australia To Terminate Alliance
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia are set to end their seven-year-long trans-Tasman alliance in October. The termination will impact the strategic alliance launched by the airlines at the end of 2010 to partner on various services between New Zealand and Australia. Both carriers decided not to renew their existing regulatory approval for the alliance, which expires on 28 October. 

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Ma’Moul: The Ancient Tribal Cookie

From our friends at Caravan-Serai, a holiday cookie to go with your Happy Easter weekend!

To learn more about Caravan-Serai’s exceptional tours in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, click here.

Happy Easter from your friends at Willamette Intl Travel!

Ma’Moul: The Ancient Tribal Cookie

With Easter this weekend and Ramadan fast approaching, Caravan-Serai wishes to highlight a special cookie that has made it through the centuries. Dating from the bygone ages of Egyptian Pharaohs, the Ma’Moul is an old cookie with religious significance for both Christians and Muslims in the Arab World. 

For Arab Christians, the Ma’Moul symbolizes Jesus’ crown of thorns. While that may sound morbid, Arab Christian families eat these cookies after going vegan for the 40 days of Lent to celebrate Jesus’s resurrection. They also eat these cookies during Epiphany.

For Arab Muslims, this cookie is eaten around the great feast of Eid al-Fitr and evenings of Ramadan after breaking their fast. These cookies are called “tribal,” in that they require a ‘tribe’ of people to mix, roll, shape the dough into doughnut or spherical goodies. And of course, we can’t forget the decorations!

Preparing the dough and the dates are simple enough, and you can form a kitchen table gathering of helping hands to shape and decorate these cookies. To decorate, use cookie tweezers or molds that you can order online or find in Middle Eastern markets. If you don’t have a market near you, you can use a fork to make the decorative indentations instead. Notice these cookies do not have sugar in the actual dough. This is not by accident. The dates are so sweet there is no need for extra sugar. Also, adding sugar to the dough will cause the sugar to crystallize, leaving a crumbly, rather than a soft buttery cookie.

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The Recipe (makes 35 cookies)

3 cups semolina flour

1 cup ghee or clarified butter (no substitutions)                   

1 package fast rising yeast

1 tsp sugar

½ cup warm water

1 ½ lbs date paste or pitted soft Medjool dates

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp mahleb (powdered cherry kernels see note)

Powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Incorporate both semolina and ghee by using a gentle rolling motion with your fingers. Cover with a cloth and let sit overnight.

The next day, combine 1 package of yeast, sugar, and warm water. Let rest while you work on rolling the dates.

To prepare the dates, place them in a food processor with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Process until the dates make a thick paste. Or you can skip this step if you bought already prepared date paste.

Oil your hands, and using your fingers, roll the date paste into logs about 3 inches long and ½ inch in diameter. 

Meanwhile, add yeast mixture and the mahleb to the semolina mixture. If the semolina has hardened, then loosen up with a spoon until crumbly in texture. Work the dough into a thick paste with your fingers. You want a soft dough that doesn’t crack easily.

Now you are ready to assemble the cookies. Take a piece of dough, about a golf ball size, and roll into a cylinder about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Flatten with your finger. Place the log of date down the center, then pinch the dough up to enclose the date. Roll with your hands and pinch together both sides to make a doughnut shape.

Now you can decorate the cookie with dots using a fork or tweezers. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. These taste fabulous warm and dusted with powdered sugar. 

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Travel News: It’s Easier Than Ever To Travel To Brazil

festivals around the world

Busiest Air Route in the World Revealed

According to a report from the travel data gurus at OAG, the busiest airline route in the world is a domestic flight in South Korea. The 282-mile route between Seoul and Jeju, dubbed “South Korea’s Hawaii,” attracts enough people to manage 64,991 flights over the year—that’s 178 flights daily.  

Sun Princess To Sail Extended Western Australia Program

Cruise Industry News reported Princess Cruises announced that the Sun Princess will homeport in Fremantle for the 2019-2020 cruise season for a record 141 days. The Sun Princess, which carries 2,000 guests, will also visit regional port destinations including Albany, Busselton, Geraldton and Broome. According to Princess, the move represents the biggest investment any cruise brand has made in cruising in Western Australia. The Sun Princess’ homeported season will include 28 cruise ship visits, including 18 to regional port destinations in Western Australia.

US State Department Lifts All Restrictions for Playa del Carmen

Nearly two weeks after the US State Department issued a travel alert warning tourists to avoid one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, the agency has lifted all restrictions for Playa del Carmen. On Friday, Mar. 16, the State Department updated its warning to say that, “Effective immediately, US government personnel are permitted to travel to all parts of Playa del Carmen,” and use all ferry services between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Many local residents, including American and Canadian expats, disputed the notion that Playa del Carmen and its surroundings are any more dangerous than most major US cities. 

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It’s Easier Than Ever To Travel To Brazil

A faster visa process has led to a boom in US visitors traveling to Brazil. Since the launch of e-visas on January 25, 2018, there has been a 70% increase in visa applications from American visitors compared to the same period last year. 65% of tourists heading to Brazil have chosen to have their visa processed online. Currently, 550,000 Americans visit Brazil each year, however, that number is expected to grow. In four years, USTOA predicts more than 1.2 million American tourists will visit Brazil each year and revenue will increase from $710 million to $1.5 billion.

United Airlines Suspends Pet Cargo Travel After Dogs Go On Wrong Flights

United Airlines has halted its service for pets that travel in the cargo section of planes following a series of mishandled animals aboard flights, including a Kansas-bound German shepherd that was accidentally flown to Japan and a French bulldog that died after it was placed in an overhead bin. United said it expects to complete its review of that program by May 1. United said it will honor any existing PetSafe reservations. Along with the German shepherd sent to Japan, United also erroneously boarded a dog aboard a flight to St. Louis from New Jersey. The flight was diverted to Akron, Ohio, where the dog was supposed to be flown.  

Oyster Bay Resort In St. Maarten Sets Grand Reopening For June 1

Travelwirenews reports the resort has been rebuilding and renovating since Hurricane Irma struck this past September, and Phase 1 of reconstruction is on schedule and guest reservations are being taken. The first phase of renovations included work on the infinity pool and hot tub, restaurant and bar, and lobby and courtyard. Forty units in mainsail have been beautifully restored along with 24 units in the marina front building, 9 units in the pool/ocean front building, and 12 units in the lobby/reception building. Also restored are the fitness room, guest laundry, the Shipwreck Shop, Bodega by the Bay, and the Indulgence by the Sea Spa. The Shipwreck Shop is open, Bodega by the Bay is open as well as the Indulgence by the Sea Spa.

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