Category Archives: Family Travel

Travel News: Delta Airlines To Change The Way You Board Planes 

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Silver Wind To Get Ice Class, Expedition Overhaul In 2020 Refurb

Cruise Industry News reports Silversea Cruises announced plans for a second extensive refurbishment of Silver Wind, which will see the ship pick up ice-class certification as well as a number of expedition cruising additions. The drydock is scheduled for August 2020 and will span two months, according to a statement, and falls under the company’s Project Invictus program. A fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks for on-water exploration will be added as well as an upgraded theater. All suites will undergo another full upgrade; the Spa & Salon will each be completely refurbished; the Reception/Atrium will be overhauled; and additional improvements will be made to La Dame, La Terrazza, the Main Bar, the Observation Lounge, the Panorama Lounge, the Pool Bar, public bathrooms, and the Theatre, among other spaces. Accommodating fewer guests (just 254) and retaining her characteristic sense of small-ship intimacy, the Silver Wind will offer higher space ratios, a higher crew-to-guest ratio, and more upper suites, among other enhancements. Following her drydock period, Silversea plans to deploy the ship on both traditional itineraries and to expedition destinations, including the Arctic and Antarctica. The ship will resume service on November 10, 2020, embarking on her inaugural season in Antarctica.

Delta Airlines To Change The Way You Board Planes 

Global news reports Delta Airlines is ditching the zone boarding process and will determine the order in which passengers board an airplane by which “branded fares” they pay for. The airline made the announcement in a statement last week, saying the zones “will soon be a thing of the past.” Delta operates flights to and from Canada, and Canadians might fly on a Delta flight due to its partnership with WestJet. The way zone boarding works is by letting on people who are sitting at the back of the plane first, with the exception of people who need extra time (like those with small children) and business and executive class passengers, who get on the plane first. Starting Jan. 23, 2019, there will be eight color-coded brands, prioritizing those who have paid more for their seats, and still “prioritizing customer loyalty.” The codes and their order of priority will be shown when people purchase their tickets. The airline says people who need help or more time to board will still board first. Other than that, the first brand is the high-priced Delta One, and the last is Delta’s cheapest ticket, the basic economy fare. The change is the latest attempt for airlines to minimize boarding times. United Airlines switched to a two-lane system, hoping to minimize people crowding around the gate at boarding time. The changes come as airlines are under scrutiny over the way passengers are treated, the legroom between seats is shrinking and passengers are increasingly paying for things that were once included for free, like carry-on bags.

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Sweden’s Ice Hotel Now Open

CNN reports as the annual Arctic deep freeze gets underway, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is opening its frosty doors. And this year its icy rooms are as beautiful as ever. The famous hotel regenerates every year, and for 2018/19 some 15 new suites have been created by 34 artists and designers from across 13 countries.

But in a tradition spanning almost 30 years, part of the hotel remains transitory, each year when the old ice melts, new applications come forward and a panel of artists and ice experts choose the best of the best. The winners travel to Sweden to help make their frozen visions a reality, aided by experienced ice artists. Many of this year’s suites are inspired by the natural world. ICEHOTEL’s DNA is intertwined with its picturesque surroundings, the ice is sourced from the nearby Torne River, Sweden’s northernmost and the biggest national river. Another is The Living Ocean Suite,” by Jonathan Green and his daughter Marnie from England. It’s an icy underwater haven complete with coral and fish. “The suite is inspired by the climate changes and the overfishing that affects our oceans. “I also thought the idea of using frozen water from a river in northern Sweden to create an ocean with shells, fish, and corals is exciting.” Other designs are more mythical. A team from Sweden, Spain and Slovakia designed “Haven,” a supposed magical ice portal attended by imposing creatures.

“We are inspired by the meeting of people and want to create an experience that invites curiosity, creativity, and collaboration,” says one of Haven’s designers, Jonas Johannson. The sparkly ice in the hotel is illuminated by specifically curated light design, adding an otherworldly air to the hotel’s cool interiors. Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is made solely out of snow and ice and will use sustainable architecture to stay open during summer months. Roughly 70,000 guests a year visit ICEHOTEL, where a survival course is offered to help guests adapt to their frozen surroundings. Plus there are warm cabins on offer, so guests can switch between staying in the cold rooms and sleeping in the warmth they might be more accustomed to. The current edition of ICEHOTEL is open now until April 13 2019. Prices for two adults start at SEK 1,549 ($170) for a warm room and SEK 2,354 ($260) for an ice room.

5.1 Earthquake Strikes Sicilian City Of Catania

Following the recent eruption of Mt. Etna, an earthquake caused damage and injuries in eastern Sicily, Italy, during the early morning hours Wednesday. The earthquake was registered as a magnitude 5.1 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Italy’s national seismology institute recorded the quake with a magnitude of 4.8. The earthquake occurred at 3:19 a.m. Wednesday local time (9:19 p.m. EST, Tuesday) The epicenter was just north of Catania. No damage or injuries were reported in Catania, according to the Associated Press (AP). Minor injuries and some damage to buildings occurred in other communities of eastern Sicily. At least 10 people were injured, the AP stated. About 18 other people went to local hospitals for panic attacks or shock.
Satellite images from Wednesday afternoon indicate that steam continues to stream away from Mt. Etna. No travel advisories are currently in place by the Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. If ash is emitted at anytime through at least Saturday, flights to and from Catania can be affected due to the expected wind direction.

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Cruise Industry Commits To 40% Carbon Emission Reduction By 2030 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced a global cruise industry commitment to reduce the rate of carbon emissions across the industry fleet by 40% by 2030. “The announcement is a tribute to cross-industry collaboration and a shared commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Arnold Donald, Global CLIA Chairman and President & CEO of Carnival Corporation & PLC. “We aspire to the International Maritime Organization’s vision of a carbon-free shipping industry by the end of the century. Our commitment to a 40% reduction in the rate of emissions by 2030 is a strong first step toward realizing that vision.” CLIA says the commitment is the outcome of a collaborative process designed to build consensus among cruise line leadership. Progress toward the 40% target will be measured against a 2008 fleet baseline, and emissions rates will be calculated based on the industry fleet’s total carbon emissions, total ship berths and total distance travelled. CLIA plans to report annually on the industry’s progress toward the commitment. The reduction will be fueled by innovative technologies for energy efficiency in ship design and propulsion, CLIA says. The industry’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ship launched just last week, and some 25 such ships could be operating by 2025. While LNG ships principally address pollution, there is a corresponding benefit for carbon emissions reduction.

Norwegian Air Maneuvers To Avoid Collapse

Several days ago there were questions about Norwegian Air’s ability to survive into the New Year. A report from a Danish bank suggested they could breach financing covenants which could have led to the unraveling of the low cost carrier that has been driving down transatlantic airfares and that is active in Europe. The carrier though has announced several moves that they say should shore up their balance sheet. Whether these are enough depends on a variety of factors such as the cost of fuel and demand during the winter dip in travel. $230 million (annualized) cost savings program. Meanwhile the airline faces heavy debt, high costs of fuel hedging in the face of falling oil, and weak seasonal demand on top of questions over whether its business model is sustainable over the long term.

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Filed under Airlines, Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, News, Travel By

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

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Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Barb recently got back from travels in Mexico, where she stayed at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific for six days. Named as one of the world’s best family resorts by Trip Advisor, Ixtapa is an all-inclusive resort with glorious sandy beaches, the second largest coral reef in the world, and fun family activities like sailing and scuba diving. The resort offers kids’ clubs especially geared to specific age groups. It’s perfect for a family reunion, and our agents have booked a number of multigenerational trips to the Club Meds in the past. Located on the Riviera Maya, ancient Mayan ruins are just a short distance away, ready for your little explorers.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is located about 30-40 minutes from Zihuantanejo Airport, resting on a quiet, protected beach perfect for swimming. I’m told this area almost always has great weather due to their location close to the mountains, however it was more humid than I expected.  The resort is well laid out, with capacity for up to 800 guests, but spread out enough that it never feels overflowing when totally full. We had an Oceanview club room, which was very comfortable. — Barb B.

Restaurants

Keep the kids happy with 3-4 restaurants to choose from. The elegant Encanto enchants with its five themed lounges–the mirror room, mask room, indoor garden, aquarium and stargazing lounge. Head to the Miramar for all-day, laidback fare on an oceanfront terrace. The Luna Azul sparkles at dinnertime with delicious local Mexican cuisine, overlooking the beach and coconut palms. The kids will be able to show off their culinary talents at Sirena, where children ages 2-10 can be their own chef!

Club Med has two restaurants that stagger their opening times so that one can eat pretty much any time during the day and evening.  There is a “dress code” in the evening, these are more like theme nights – there is an optional color code for clothing, I’d say less than half of the guests followed the dress code, other than that dress for all meals is very casual, just no bathing suits!  There is nightly entertainment put on by the staff (GO’s), one night they had a trapeze show.  One night the kids of the resort performed, the kids are dressed in costumes and different age groups come and perform dances, it was so cute! — Barb B.

Activities

A stay at any Club Med includes dozens of fun sports, activities, and sports schools with excellent instructors. Brush up on your sailing skills, perfect your archery technique, or monkey around at the Flying Trapeze School. There’s also mini golf, table tennis, SUP–or if you want to try something a bit more challenging, book a special instructor for deep sea fishing, snuba, scuba or flyboarding.

Kids’ Clubs

Club Med Ixtapa is home to kids’ clubs of varying ages, including the Baby Club Med (4-23 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years old), Mini Club Med (4-10 years old). Teens (11-17 years old) can enjoy an exclusive Juniors’ Club Med outdoor recreation area – no unsupervised adults allowed! For newborns, Club Med provides free baby-care materials and equipment, foods, and a special playground just for the little ones–plus baby-sitting on demand.

This resort is very focused on families and kids, with lots of children’s activities for kids of all ages.  The kids club is included in the cost of your stay, except for kids under 3, where there is a fee. There are activities for adults all day long too, the schedule is posted daily (like on a cruise ship), activities range from gentle 1 hour walk, water aerobics, tennis, canoeing, standup paddle boarding. They also offer, trapeze, Zumba and salsa lessons!  There is also a spa and 3 swimming pools. There is no pressure to participate or not participate in any of the activities.

The resort also has a great setup for family rooms – they have 2 room units which can accommodate parents, up to 3 kids plus a crib.  Each family with a little child has a stroller at their disposal during their stay. Their suites are located in a separate building with their own front desk and beach area.

— Barb B.

One can purchase excursions through Club Med – we went to a Turtle Hatchery, and helped release baby turtles back into the water, it was fun!  Ixtapa has a bicycle path, which goes along a lot of the town area, one can rent bicycles and they offer bicycle tours. Ixtapa is the modern resort area, with many high rise beachfront resorts, many are all-inclusive, and golf course.  Zihuantanejo is the old town, with a nice town square, good for local shopping and culture, located close to the beach, a pier, and a lovely old church. — Barb B.

Why book with Willamette Intl Travel?

Many of our agents have stayed at Club Meds and can give you firsthand tips and honest feedback. We have access to deals and perks through our connections with Club Med, and can arrange a whole package for you and your family to stay at a Club Med – with airfare, transportation, activities – so you don’t have to stress about any of it.

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Filed under Club Med, Family Travel, Mexico, Travel by Scuba, Travel by Sport, Travel by Taste

5 Fun Travel Apps for Your Upcoming Trip

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FlightAware

FlightAware is a super useful flight tracker app. Keep track of flights with live tracking maps, flight statuses and airport delays. Covers most airports, general commercial flights and in some cases, private charters.

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TouchNote

TouchNote is a fun app that you can use even when you’re back at home. Send printed postcards with your own travel photos from the convenience of your laptop! The app will send out personalized postcards or greeting cards with a custom message and your latest shots from the Eiffel Tower.

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Skyview

Here’s a unique travel app that comes in handy when you’re out under the stars. Point your phone or tablet at the sky, and it will tell you all the stars and constellations in your view. It’s awesome for photographers and amateur astronomers. A fun app to share with the kids.

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Kindle

Not a travel app exclusively, but so useful when you’re on the road! Take your bookshelf with you with the kindle reading app. Download your favorite book onto your kindle, phone or tablet to read on the plane, train, or on those long car drives through Europe!

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XE Currency Exchange

I’ve been using XE.com for years now. This handy-dandy exchange app is an intuitive way to keep track of various currencies. I found that it’s super invaluable when traveling, especially on multi-country trips. Haggling in a street market in Morocco or Laos? Just whip out your phone for a quick exchange. Plus you don’t even need to connect to wi-fi to check rates! New features include an alert when a rate hits a pre-set target.

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Filed under Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel Gear, Travel Tips

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

Conscientious Traveler: Celebrated Experiences

 

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Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler—our monthly series in which we showcase one of our fantastic partners with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. This month, we feature Celebrated Experiences.

 

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Celebrated Experiences offers customized trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. They curate perfect vacations with castles, boutique hotels, country hotels, small bed & breakfasts, and apartments (breakfast always included!). Itineraries can be highly personalized, with themes ranging from Gardens; Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Film Locations, History, Culinary, Genealogy — plus chauffeurs and guides.

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Their team personally inspects each property they book, and they constantly review, add and drop properties, ensuring great stays for our clients. Their destination experts and entertaining guides have walked the villages and explored off-the-beaten path locales in order to anticipate each guest’s need and wish. They are a marvelous travel company and just celebrated their 25th Anniversary. 

 

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Stay in a 12-Century castle in Tuscany, Italy

Wake up in Ballynahinch Castle in the heart of stunning Connemara, Ireland

Treat yourself at the luxurious, award-winning five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Golf on its own private island near Loch Lomond in Scotland

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Celebrated Experiences’ unique philanthropic program donates a dollar for every hotel room night! We at Willamette Intl Travel are proud to partner up with such great companies that take the time to give back. As 2016 was their most successful year ever, this year they are donating more than $23,500 to important causes!

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Foundations include Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and The Alzheimer’s Foundation. They also donate $500 to the favorite cause of each member of their team, including:

  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Pediatric Cancer Foundation
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation
  • PAWS Atlanta
  • US Navy Memorial
  • Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
  • Children’s Miracle Network  

Every little bit helps and no booking is too small!

Call Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about these exclusive properties: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

 

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Filed under Accommodation, Conscientious Traveler, England, Europe, Family Travel, Ireland, Itinerary

Islands Series: the Orkneys

Tired of this heat and seeking a cooler harbor?

This week we’re taking a look at islands where you can stay cool in the summer, big and small. Islands where you can still enjoy a cup of piping hot coffee or tea without sweating away in your windbreaker!

So you’ve been to England, you’ve seen Bath and Stonehenge in all their glory–you’ve even did a train up to Edinburgh and checked out the incredible Sterling Castle. What’s next to explore in the UK? How about a week in the slightly stranger, much more tranquil, Orkney archipelago?

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The Orkney Islands include about 70 islands just off the coast of Scotland. With its sloping valleys and stark green moors, the islands–much like its Faroe neighbors to the north–give off a wild and somewhat mythical atmosphere that tends to draw the more curious of travelers.

The locals tend to be hospitable and thoughtful, with the pragmatism that comes from centuries of survival in a challenging environment. Officially, the native tongue is English–but the pronunciation tends to differ between districts, and much of the lexicon has close roots to Old Norse.

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There’s loads to see and do on the islands, most notably for avid history fans. Visitors interested in Orkney’s vivid Viking heritage will surely find Maeshowe intriguing. This tomb contains the best collection of Viking runes outside of Scandinavia, and is located 14 km west of Kirkwall. Travelers can also investigate the prehistoric ruins of Skara Brae, arguably the best-preserved ancient village in Western Europe and inhabited well before the Pyramids were built–as well as the stone circles at Brodgar and Stenness. Other (and relatively more recent) historical attractions include the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral, an elegant medieval church on the islet of Streymoy, and the Italian Chapel, built by prisoners of war in WWII.

Try to visit in the summer, when the weather is tolerable, or during one of the spirited town festivals. The Orkney Folk Festival is a lively event in May of folk music, dance, song–the towns erupt with ceilidhs and fiddle concerts. Or stop by during midsummer for the St. Magnus Festival, a distinguished celebration of the arts. But, if you happen to come in the winter or cusp season, you may get a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

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Locals love giving guided walks and tours of their famous sites. Join a guide around the WWII Naval Base near the bay of Scapa Flow. Whisky enthusiasts will delight in Highland Park, the world’s most northerly Scotch distillery. Outdoorsy types will find a home in the Orkneys, where there are ample valleys and cliffs to hike or cycle, and the multiple bays make for great sailing, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. Visitors will also find 9- and 18-hole golf courses–where windy turf can prove quite the challenge.

Travelers can even bring their kids without worry–there are lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy–from secluded beaches, to diverse marine wildlife, to farm museums and swimming pools.

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Did You Know? Some great opportunities for scuba divers abound in the Orkneys. You can dive down to the remains of the German WWI Imperial Fleet, scuttled in Scapa Flow.

How to Get There: The best way to access Orkney is by plane, via Flybe from major airports in Scotland, or by ferry.

Our Agents would love to help you beat the heat! Call us up to chat more about next year’s options to the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroe Islands or other misty, spellbinding destinations.

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Filed under Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel by Ship, UK

Easter in France — Joyeuses Pâques!

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France is due to be extremely popular for travelers in 2014, in part for all the festivities and rememberances this year! June 6, 2014 will mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, and towns all over the Normandy coast are already booked up for the season!

Fortunate to be in France for Easter Holidays? The Lenten season is a terrific time to be in the country, as celebrations typically run for several weeks. Known as “Pâques,” it’s a time of rebirth and festivity, with traditions revolving around chocolate, fish and church bells. Florescent tulips burst from the soil and absurdly delicious candies abound. The holiday kicks off with the grand Nice carnavale, a tradition dating back to at least 1294, where over 1000 dancers, actors and performers head to the streets to showcase their talents along the Promenade des Anglais.

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Tulips along Bercy Village

Easter of course originates as a Christian holiday, and churches play an important roll. Tradition calls for silencing of all church bells from Thursday to Saturday, a somber observance of Jesus’ passing. To break the tension of quiet churches, parents tell their children that the bells have flown off to Rome to visit the Pope. Their ringing return on Sunday morning parallels the jubilant arrival of gifts of chocolate and eggs for children. And perhaps no French village takes the egg celebration to a greater extreme than in Bessieres near Toulouse. On Easter Monday the village celebrates with a giant omelette festival, during which Chiefs create a giant omelet of 10,000 eggs in a massive 12-foot pan.

Happy Easter to all Travelers in 2014, or as they say en France:

~~ Joyeuses Pâques! ~~

Heading to France this year? Hotels are already booking up for summer and fall! Call Willamette Intl Travel to speak with our experts in European travel. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Europe, Family Travel, France