Category Archives: Luxury 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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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

April Showers bring Cherry Flowers!

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Cherry blossom season is well under way, and nowhere else is it as revered as in Japan.

The “Land of the Rising Sun” has a special relationship with cherry blossoms, even going so far as to hold “cherry flower-viewing parties,” picnicking under the pink trees with family and friends. The holiday Hanami literally means “flower-viewing,” and is the art of admiring these little ephemeral gifts. Best complimented with an old temple or castle.

Since cherry trees bloom for only a short period each Spring, they reflect the Japanese Buddhist concept mono no aware, the beautiful impermanence of life.

While of course cherries aren’t endemic to Japan, it seems to be the only culture that really takes the art to indulgent levels. As two well-known haikus by legendary Basho say:

Hana no kumo

Kane wa ueno ka

Asakusa ka

A cloud of cherry blossoms.

The temple bell, is it Ueno

Or Asakusa?

Sama zama no

Koto omoidasu

Sakura kana

How many things

They call to mind

These cherry blossoms!

If you happen to be in Japan right now, Japan-Guide has a useful Cherry Blossom Forecast.

Thinking about Japan? Princess Cruises is offering a special sale in 2018! Call us for the details: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Or simply call us up for a chat about Japan! Our Agent Pam at Willamette Intl Travel has recently been to Japan and she’d love to share with you her impressions and help plan your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

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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

Châteaux du Vin in France

Wish to explore and taste the best wines and dishes of the French countryside? WIT Agents can book reliable, unique accommodations that offer something special to your tour of France. Stay in a château for a one-of-a-kind experience! Enjoy the vineyards around Bordeaux and Burgundy, and sample the delicious reds and cheeses of this region from the comforts of your château. Sleep in a charming, venerable mansion dating back a few centuries, share French breakfasts with your lovely hosts, and tour the idyllic countryside—all for an affordable price. Call us for more details.

Photo by Jean-Pierre, Creative Commons

Châteaux of Bordeaux Region

LA VILLA D’O

Situated 15 minutes from Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion in St. Loubes, La Ville D’O is a charming 1850’s residence. With only eight rooms and an expansive park, the villa maintains a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. The estate has preserved its splendid appearance with elongated windows, brown stone walls, and panoramic garden views. 33450 St Loubes.

CHÂTEAU DU PIAN

Located five kilometers from Bordeaux, the Château du Pian is an enclosed park of five hectares, famed throughout the region for its famous wines and excellent village restaurants. This authentic chateau offers three rooms and three suites, and is the perfect accommodation for nature-lovers who enjoy the regional wines. 33270 Bouliac.

Châteaux of Burgundy Region

LE MONTRACHET

This famed winery was built in 1842 and is only 12 kilometers from Beaune. The wine from Montrachet is an Apellation d’origine controlee and Grand Cru vineyard, producing considered some of the finest dry white wines in the world. Wander in the winery’s luxuriously arched cellars, enjoy a tasting, and explore the vineyard-bedecked countryside at your leisure. 21190 Puligny-Montrachet.

CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE

This star of the north is situated three kilometers from Beaune, with spacious rooms and views of seventeen gorgeous vineyards. The historic and elegant château displays several architectural styles, typical of Burgundian buildings from the Renaissance. Complete renovated in 2007, it consists of three large rooms and two family suites. The relatively flat land of the Saone plain allows for some unique soils and simple, thin, predominantly Pinot Noir wines. 21200 Chorey les Beaune.

ST AMOUR BELLEVUE

A charming inn situated just 10 km from Macon, Bellevue has excellent rooms and gastronomy tours into the heart of Burgundy. 71570 Saint Amour Bellevue.

CLESSE

This 16th century property is in the middle of a vineyard measuring four hectares. Just 20 kilometers from Macon, the estate produces the delicious and delicate Chardonnay AOC Viré-Clessé. Enjoy a sophisticated seasonal menu to compliment the tastes of remarkable whites.

Châteaux of Rhône Valley

LE BEAU RIVAGE

Forty kilometers from Lyon in the Rhône valley, this vineyard is a stunner. With views of the Rhône river, a water level terrace, excellent cuisine and vine-strewn hillsides, this is one estate not to be missed.

All of our agents are well-versed in France and would love to share our knowledge and expertise with you. Photo above is representative and not one of the actual properties. Contact us for more information on these lovely chateaux: info@wittravel.com and 503-224-0180.

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Filed under Europe, France, Luxury Travel, Travel by Taste