Category Archives: Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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United Airlines To Increase Service To Hawaii

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

AmaWaterways Debuts Sports Scientist-Led Wellness Program

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

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American Tests CT Scanning To Keep Laptops In Carry-Ons

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

Frankfurt Airport Opens “Quiet Room”  

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

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Carnival: New Cuba Policy Won’t Affect Their Cruises 

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

Mid-Flight Battery Fires On The Increase 

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

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

UniWorld: The #1 Rated Family Cruise Line

 

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Willamette Intl Travel Agents have years of experience sending clients on Uniworld river cruises, so we’re your best bet for feedback and insider tips! We can help you to get a picture of your holiday. We also have access to special discounts. Do call us if you’re thinking a River Cruise with your kids! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Give your kids an opportunity to experience the thrills and transformative moments of cross-cultural travel. Discover and grow (and have fun!) together, bonding as a family on an unforgettable shared adventure. The memories you create on a Uniworld Generations cruise will last a lifetime, along with a deeper understanding and respect for other peoples, places and perspectives.

Kids cruise for half price!*

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*For every accompanying adult, one child between the ages of 4 and 18 qualifies for the 50% savings off the cruise-only fare. Call WIT for details!

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Filed under Cruises, Czech, Europe, Family Travel, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, SALES, Uniworld

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway.

Nancy will return next week with some firsthand feedback, but in the meantime here are some of the highlights they will experience on their journey (excerpts from VRC’s At a Glance):

Creative Commons (c) Adam Jones

Creative Commons (c) Adam Jones

The World’s Largest Art Museum

Over the span of 250 years, the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russi has grown to over 3 million items including works from noted artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Matisse, Rubens, Cezanne, van Gogh and Picasso. These treasures are housed along the embankment of the Neva River, in the heart of St. Petersburg. The highlight in this architectural ensemble is the Winter Palace, former residence of Russian Tsars including Catherine the Great.

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Kizhi, Creative Commons (c) ninara

An Architectural Feat

On the island village of Kizhi, walk through the Open Air Museum of Architecture. Kizhi contains ancient wooden houses, windmills and churches, the most stunning of which is the three-tiered Preobranzhenskaya (Transfiguration) Church. This fairytale structure was built in 1714 without the use of a single nail.

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Kremlin, Creative Commons (c) flowcomm

The Heart of Moscow

In Russian, the word kremlin refers to any major fortified complex. But in Moscow there is one very special Kremlin, adjacent to the Red Square. Inside its crenellated red brick walls are four palaces and an array of churches and monasteries—as well as one enormous bell. The Kremlin also serves as the official residence of Russia’s President.

Creative Commons (c) Dennis Jarvis

Amber Room, Creative Commons (c) Dennis Jarvis

A Legend Restored

Constructed of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, the Amber Room was given to Peter the Great by a Prussian King in 1716. Installed at Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, it was later exnteded to cover nearly 600 square feet with over six tons of amber. During WWII, German soldiers disassembled the room and it was never seen again. In 2003, a painstaking reconstruction was completed, enabling visitors to once again enjoy its brilliance.

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Pirozhki, Creative Commons (c) malan10

Russian Specialties

A large country, Russia has quite a varied cuisine—but some things everyone loves. A staple of the Russian diet is pirozhki, small pastries stuffed with fish, meat, eggs, potatoes, cabbage or mushrooms and either baked or quick-fried. Another traditional dish is blini, thin crepe-like pancakes served with butter, sour cream, fruit preserves and/or caviar. Vikings’ guests will taste these local delicacies on board.

Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Our Travel Agents, Russia, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway.

Now we know what you’re wondering—so where is the ship sailing? Read on for more details:

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Day 1-4: Moscow

Moscow is Russia’s bustling capital on August 24. The city is famous for its iconic architecture—from the tsarist palaces of the Kremlin to the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The heart of Moscow is the Red Square, where you can also find Lenin’s Mausoleum and the State History Museum. The city combines the best of Eastern frenetic energy and Western cosmopolitan air, and you see this odd dichotomy everywhere in the city. From the Old Arbat Street of kitschy souvenirs to the grandiose Bolshoi Theatre.

Day 5: Uglich

Uglich was founded in 937 as a border fortress. The Romanov dynasty originally heralded from this town, and it is one of the few towns in western Russia that still maintains a remarkable number of old architecture. Among these pre-Soviet jewels are the former Kremlin, several monasteries, the palace (1480) and the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood (1690). Constructed by Peter the Great, the church commemorates the mysterious death of Dmitry, son of Ivan the Terrible.

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Day 6: Yaroslavl

Yaroslavl is famous for its 17th century churches and covered food market. The town’s center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located at the river confluence. The town was renovated under the order of Empress Catherine the Great during her urban reforms of the 17th century.

Day 7: Kuzino

The main site in Kuzino is the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. The largest monastery in Northern Russia, it was founded in 1397 on the bakes of Lake Siverskoye by St. Cyril of Beloozero. In the 16th century, the monastery was the second richest landowner. Ivan the Terrible had his own cell and even planned to take monastic vows there. The monastery comprises two priories with eleven church, most of them dating to the 16th century.

Day 8: Kizhi

Kizhi is an island near the center of Lake Onega, and stretches about 6km north to south. Its famous attraction is the Kizhi Pogost, a historical open-air museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum contains over 80 historical wooden buildings that were built chiefly during the 18th century.

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Day 9: Mandrogy

Mandrogy is a museum village and the last stop before St. Petersburg. The original town was ruined during World War One, but in 1996 a local entrepreneur, Sergei Gutzeit, reconstructed it as an open air museum. Here you can learn about Russian culture and traditions firsthand—from the vodka museum to handmade craft shops. You can opt in and visit a banya, a traditional Russian bath house, or participate in the art of Matryoshka doll making.

Day 10-13: St. Petersburg

Peter the Great made St. Petersburg his centerpiece to transform Russia into a major and modern European power, his “window in the West.” The architecture reflects the best of Western European elegance and sophistication. No other city is the emblem of the Russian spirit. St. Petersburg’s heritage is deep and profound: throughout its history it has been the capital of the tsarist empire, the cradle of the Communist Revolution, and the focal point of the three-year Siege of Leningrad during World War II.
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Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Russia, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

Now it’s time for your favorite game: “Where in the World is the WIT Agent?”

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway. This is a special partial charter that Willamette Intl Travel has organized with the Portland-based foundation, the Royal Rosarians.

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Itinerary: 13 Days Waterways of the Tsars, 24 August to 5 September

Viking’s Russia itinerary includes ample time in both the capital of Moscow and the gleaming jewel of St. Petersburg. Passengers will discover luxurious palaces, medieval monasteries and beautiful cathedrals.

Day 1-4: Moscow
Day 5: Uglich
Day 6: Yaroslavl
Day 7: Kuzino
Day 8: Kizhi
Day 9: Mandrogy
Day 10-13: St. Petersburg

Includes: 13-day cruise with river-view stateroom, 11 guided tours with audio headset, all meals (12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners), Welcome Cocktail Reception & Dinner, Captain’s Farewell Dinner, 4 UNESCO Heritage Sites, and a Culture Curriculum that includes music, dance, lectures and workshops.

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Ship: Viking Helgi

The Viking Helgi was recently refurbished in 2013. It offers two 400-square-foot suites and 104 spacious staterooms, accommodating up to 210 guests. All upper and middle deck staterooms have private verandas, and all main deck staterooms have picture windows. The Viking fleet is world-renowned for its European high standards of comfort and elegance, complete with hotel-style beds and amenities like 26-inch flat-panel TVs and in-rooms refrigerators.

Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Russia, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Reading List: Russia!

Read before you go! Russia has always been a mysterious draw for Americans, enjoying a steady popularity among travelers, artists and journalists alike. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Peter Waldron. Russia of the Tsars. Waldron recounts the exploits of Peter the Great, the Tsars and the splendor of their capital city, St. Petersburg, in this lively, well-illustrated and compact overview of the largest and most diverse empire of its day.

Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A Russian-American journalist living in Moscow, Masha wp2Gessen demolishes the many myths and legends surrounding Vladimir Putin and his transformation from unexceptional KGB bureaucrat to the most powerful man in Russia. No fan of the man, who she calls a “hoodlum turned iron-handed ruler,” Gessen is brave — and optimistic that his time will soon come.

Robert Chandler. Russian Short Stories. This fine collection of tales captures the sweep and soul of Russian literature, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy along with lesser-known greats.

 

wp5David Remnick. Lenin’s Tomb. A gripping eyewitness tale of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remnick, the Washington Post reporter on the scene, combines fine historical scholarship with great storytelling.

Clifford Gaddy. Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, two fellows at the Brookings Institution describe six of Putin’s most essential idetities: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer.

Orlando Figes. Natasha’s Dance, A Cultural History of Russia. In this lively cultural history, Figes looks at both the great works by Russian masters and longstanding folk traditions. The title is drawn from a scene of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which a European-educated countess performs a peasant dance.

Michael Farquhar. Secret Lives of the Tsars, Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia. A scandalous tell-all about Russia’s ruling class. Farquhar skips over the dryer parts of history to deliver the jaw-dropping morsels about Catherine the Great’s affinity for young lovers and Peter the Great’s proclivity for beheading his subjects.

W. Bruce Lincoln. Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia. A wonderfully written, informative portrait of St. Petersburg, focusing on the city’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries as Russia’s “window on the West.” Highly recommended for travelers with an interest in the character and significance of the city and its monuments.

Patricia Herlihy. Vodka, A Global History. A professor of history at Brown, Herlihy tracks wp3our fascination with this most versatile of spirits from its mysterious 14th-century Slavic origins to today’s global dominance in this brief yet thoroughly entertaining, erudite and illustrated history. A volume in the lively Edible History Series.

George Hamilton/Judith Gordon. The Art and Architecture of Russia. An elegantly written introduction to the art and architecture of Russia. Published in 1954, it’s a good handbook for the traveler that goes beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Includes 314 black-and-white illustrations.

Olegs Yakovlevichs Neverov. The Hermitage Collections. This sumptous visual survey celebrates the museum, its history and collections.

Robert Massie. Peter the Great, His Life and World. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Massie portrays the giant of history who transformed Russia from backwater tsardom into a major empire.

Robert Massie. Catherine the Great. Eager readers of Massie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great will not be disappointed by this latest, an old-fashioned tale of politics, power and 18th-century Europe, drawing effectively from the ambitious Catherine’s own memoirs.

wp1Vladimir Nabokov. Speak, Memory. Nabokov’s richly imagined memoir wonderfully evokes cultural life among the well-to-do in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg. Nabokov called his childhood home, now a museum off St Isaac’s Square, “the only house in the world.”

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories. This collection of short stories from the Russian poet and master storyteller opens with his famous novella, The Captain’s Daughter, set against the events of the Pugachov uprising during the reign of Catherine the Great, and contains eight additional tales, all rendered in Pushkin’s simple, elegant prose and beautifully evocative of the caprices of Tsarist Russia.

Debra Dean. The Madonnas of Leningrad. Dean effortlessly interweaves two epochs of a woman’s life — Marina’s wartime experiences as a young guide at the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad and her life as an 82-year-old Seattle resident struggling with Alzheimer’s. A remarkable debut novel.

Boris Akunin/Andrew Bromfield. The Winter Queen. Akunin sets a suspected murder among the glitterati of late 19th-century Moscow in this first book in the series of clever detective novels starring the rascal Erast Fandorin, wildly popular in Russia.

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Europe, Reading Lists, Russia