Category Archives: Canada

Travel News: Chinese Gov’t Requiring Strict Photos for China Visa

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Chinese Gov’t Requires Strict Photo Regulations for China Visa

Lately the Chinese government has gotten very particular on their acceptance of photos on the China visa application. Applicants must adhere to the visa requirements to the letter or risk rejections. Please double check with your passport photo photographer that they are up-to-date with recent regulations. Full details on requirements in the attached PDF here. 

Biggest-Ever Airplane Poised For Test Flights Into Orbit

The world’s largest airplane, designed to reshape space travel by launching rockets mid-air into orbit from 30,000 ft, rolled out of its hangar for the first time last Wednesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The groundbreaking plane, which looks like two aircraft joined together, is the brainchild of billionaire Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen and his private spaceflight company Stratolaunch. Allen founded the company in 2011 with the goal of making access to low-Earth orbit more “convenient, reliable and routine.” It has the biggest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, coming in 385 ft, longer than an NFL field which is 360 ft in length. The aircraft is 238 ft from nose to tail and stands 50 ft high on its 28 wheels. This is the first time the public has got a look at the spaceplane and now work must begin on testing before its predicted maiden voyage in 2019.

Montreal Ferris Wheel Set For July Opening

Montreal’s new La Grande Roue Ferris wheel will start operating in the Old Port in mid-July. The ride will offer panoramic 60-metre-high views of the river, Old Montreal, downtown and the mountain. The Ferris wheel will operate year-round from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., giving visitors a chance to enjoy a day or evening view from an air-conditioned cabin (heated in winter). There will also be a bar, bistro and coffee shop on site

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Record Number Of Climbers On Mount Everest

Safety concerns are on high alert this year as Mount Qomolangma, more commonly known as Mount Everest, is expected to see its highest number of climbers this year. The mountain is located on the border between Nepal and China and in order to climb it, interested climbers need to apply for a permit from either the Nepalese or Chinese government depending on which side the ascent begins. Unlike previous years, the world’s highest peak which sits at 8,848 meters above sea level, is estimated to receive more than 1000 people this year during the peak season, which is the highest number of climbers ever. The cause of the increasing number of climbers is varied but a lot of it has to do with the increasing popularity of the climb ever since it was opened to the public over 60 years ago. This year alone, the Nepalese government has granted 371 permits, the most it’s ever issued in a single year. A key factor which has caused the growth of the number of climbers may be the portrayal of Mount Everest in popular media. Experienced climbers have noted that the climb is promoted as a fashionable activity rather than what it truly is; a challenging extreme sport which should only be limited to climbers who have had experiences with similar conditions such as the 5,895 meters tall Mount Kilimanjaro. In order to handle the increase of applications, the Nepalese government has imposed more stringent conditions such as instigating a ban on climbers who are younger than 18 or older than 75.

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Corkage Fee for Wine Brought Onboard

Cruise Critic reports Royal Caribbean has reinstated its corkage fee for wine brought onboard by passengers. The $15 per bottle fee will be charged for the opening of any bottle brought onboard by passengers on embarkation day. Wine purchased from the onboard menus or through the line’s Gifts and Gear program and consumed in a public space does not bear an extra charge. Passengers are permitted to bring onto their cruise ship, on embarkation day only, two bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin, up to 750 ml each for consumption during the cruise. Any bottles brought onboard during the length of the sailing will be stored for the duration of the cruise and returned to passengers the night before disembarkation. Royal Caribbean declined to comment on why the line brought back the fee, which it had removed back in 2014.

President Trump To Reverse Cuba Policy

There are many reports circulating that the President plans to reverse the previous administration’s Cuba policy. Business Travel News reports US cruise operators and airlines could lose $712 million in annual revenues if restrictions are reinstated. President Trump is poised to void the re-normalization of US relations with Cuba, according to multiple congressional and advocacy organization sources with direct knowledge of the administration’s intentions reported by numerous news media yesterday. Possible changes Pres. Trump is considering include “reconfirming the licensing structure that would rescind the system that has allowed for easier travel to the country,” many news media outlets report, as well as new regulations for businesses interested in working in the Cuban market; reinstating caps or outright banning imports from the country; and redefining the what it means to be a part of the Cuban government or military, which could affect contracts with the Cuban government. The sources say some of the changes could take effect this month. US businesses have established 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017, according to ABC News, including airlines and cruise lines as well as telecommunications companies and Google, which hoped to expand internet access in Cuba. The number of US citizens visiting Cuba increased 74% from 2015 to 2016, according to the Cuban Ministry. Trump’s administration is reviewing US policy toward the country’s former Cold War foe.

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Arctic Tourism Groups Forge Guidelines For Community Visits

Five Arctic tourism organizations have joined forces to develop guidelines for tourists visiting Arctic communities. In addition to general advice on how to behave, the organizations presented a template that helps communities to create their own tailored guidelines. The guidelines, which provide travelers with useful dos and don’ts when visiting Arctic communities, were developed with the input of local stakeholders. Included are pointers on everything from cultural considerations to recommendations on what kind of souvenirs to buy. For example, visitors are encouraged to talk to, and not about, the people they meet and to ask before taking photographs of people (‘a hesitation means “no”‘). ‘Think of yourself as an ambassador for your country and your culture, as the locals are for theirs. Politeness and good manners are always appreciated,’ one guideline states. Visitors are advised to respect privacy and private property, and places of religious or cultural significance. Children shouldn’t be photographed or given gifts without their superiors’ permission. Religious or cultural ceremonies shouldn’t be disturbed or photographed without permission. People should avoid walking on graves. The groups that teamed on the guidelines are the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Visit Greenland, Cruise Iceland, Visit Svalbard and the Northern Norway Tourist Board.

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Happy Birthday! – Canada Celebrates 150 Years

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Canada is celebrating 150 years in 2017!

New York Times lauded Canada as one of its “52 Places to Go in 2017,” and our agents agree! The world’s second-largest country has a wealth of national parks and historic sites to explore. And it’s birthday is just another excuse to go check it out! ALL of the country’s more than 200 parks are offering free admission through the year, from wooded Vancouver Island to the glacial peaks of Banff and on to the swelling surf of Nova Scotia.

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Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, spoke of his hopes to use the celebrations as a time to really connect with Canadians, to promote festivities, patriotism, as well as “moments of reflection.” Here are just a snapshot of reasons to check out the Great North this year:

Montreal

The city of Montreal is turning 375, and throwing a party all year. Brave and dance the cold away at Igloofest, a festive electronic music party in the open winter air. Indulge your inner junk-food junkie with La Poutine Week (Feb 1-7). Vote on your favorite combo of fries, curds, gravy, and a special X topping. Don’t miss Canada Day celebrations over at the Old Port in July, a day of cake, hockey and cannons.

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Toronto

Toronto comes alive with a series of art installations and events. Head down over to the central waterfront to Ice Breakers (January), public art made icicle goodness. The Toronto Symphony (January) is bringing to life some of the country’s long-forgotten heritage composers, from French to jazz to indigenous sounds. The score will be composed and broadcast across the nation.

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Quebec City

Quebec City harks back to its Catholic heritage with Carnaval de Quebec (Jan 27), featuring more than 200 events over 17 days. Night parade or ice sculptures anyone? The Rendezvous Naval 2017 Tall Ships Regatta (what a mouthful!) is a transatlantic race of a fleet of historic tall ships. The expedition will stop in six different countries, including 30 Canadian ports, and unite for a festive celebration in Quebec City (July 18-23). Departing from the UK in April and spends almost two months in Canada before returning to Europe.

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Vancouver

Vancouver goes all out culture-wise with the red carpet event Movie Nights Across Canada (January), an exhibition of Musqueam artist Susan Point at Vancouver Art Gallery (Feb to May) and the theatrical Vancouver Fringe Festival (May to June). Indigenous culture also plays an important role in Canadian history, and the country goes out of its way to honor both Multiculturalism Day and National Aboriginal Day, both in June.

For more events, check out The Star: 150 Ways to Celebrate Canada 150 in 2017.

Been to the Great White North? Tell us about your favorite Canadian adventure in the comments!

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Ice Festivals around the World

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From the Desk of Wailana, Social Media Correspondent based in Stockholm

Glacial Artscapes

It’s freezing in my adoptive home of Sweden, about -10 C (that’s 14 F!), and venturing outside puts me knee-deep in snow. Coming from Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, it’s not something I’ll ever be used to!

But ice and snow has its charms. Sweden just opened its Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi for 365 days of the year (previously it was only in winter season), so that puts me in the arctic spirit! And the rest of the world seems to agree. From December to March each year, cities and towns all across the globe host beautiful Ice Sculpture Festivals and transform their streets into a glacial winter wonderland.

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World Ice Art Championships — Alaska

Since 1989, Alaska is THE destination for worldwide ice art competition. Bringing together more than 100 sculptors and upwards of 50,000 visitors each year, the Ice Art Championship is a place to see masters excel at their craft. Judges break down the competition by Single Block (one block of ice) and Multi-Block, and Abstract and Realistic artworks. These “Olympics of Ice Carving” are a fantastic way for artists to demonstrate strength, vision, and feats of engineering. Usually held between February in March, giving youth carvers a chance to challenge each other during Spring Break. The theme tends to be up to interpretation, with topics ranging from pop culture to folklore; but many artists do favor naturalistic motifs, celebrating local Alaskan fauna or indigenous culture.

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Harbin Intl Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival — China

The magnificent and luminous International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China (whew what a title!), holds the title of largest ice festival in the world. Originating way back in 1963 (albeit interrupted for some years during the Cultural Revolution), it typical runs from January to February. This is one crazy festival–featuring ice lanterns, carving competitions, a fireworks show, converts, water swimming and other ice sports. Sculptures reach their peak in 2007, when a Canadian-themed sculpture was awarded a Guinness Record for biggest snow sculpture (a whopping 820 feet long and 28 feet high!). Tourist packages often combine winter travel in China with a stop in Harbin. (Call Willamette Intl Travel for the scoop!) Come at night for the best multicolored illuminations!

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Sapporo Snow Festival — Japan

The world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival attracts 2 million people to Hokkaido in early February. Its humble beginnings start all the way back in 1950, when a group of high school students challenged each other with a mere six snow statues in Odori Park. Since then, it’s been growing, and the festival garnered international attention during Sapporo’s Winter Olympic Games in 1972. Guests can enjoy still sculptures in Odori Park, where lights illuminate the frozen dragons, flowers, supernatural beings, musicians, (and so on!) until 10pm.

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Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival — Netherlands

The Netherlands have thrown a few Ice Sculpture Festivals (including one in Bruges!) over the years, but it’s this year (2016-2007) that one is at last coming to Amsterdam. Forty-two expert ice artists will transform the Arena Park into a magical ice-scape from December to February. The theme: Music Inspires, so expect Mozart, Elvis, and maybe even Prince to make an appearance.

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Quebec City Winter Carnival — Canada

More of a parade than an exhibition, Quebec’s City Winter Carnival is a time for the whole city to shake off winter hibernation. Masquerade balls, winter sports, snowmen pop up here and there, and the parade hosts a fair share of ice sculptures to admire and applaud. Don’t forget your glass of Caribou, a hot melange of red wine, whiskey, and maple syrup!

 

Flickr CC images: art_inthecity, RageZ, Jay Cross, Fredrik Rubensson, Thomas Wanhoff

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Travel News: Alaska Airlines’ New Premium Class

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Alaska Airlines’ New Premium Class Section Now Available For Purchase
Upgrades start at $15, starting in January fliers will enjoy a seat with extra legroom and additional perks. The airline will debut its Premium Class section for travel on select routes beginning Jan. 5, 2017, as it continues a significant retrofit of its all-Boeing fleet. You can now purchase seats with up to four more inches of space between rows. In addition to four extra inches of legroom, passengers seated in Premium Class will enjoy early boarding, snacks and complimentary drinks. Alaska Mileage Plan MVP, Gold and Gold 75K members will be eligible for complimentary upgrades into Premium Class at the time of booking, or up to 24 hours in advance of travel, depending on status and the fare purchased. With the addition of Premium Class, Alaska’s most loyal customers who aren’t able to upgrade into First Class will see a significantly increased likelihood of getting a seat with more legroom near the front of the cabin. For more information around upgrades for elites see the Alaska Airlines blog: Treat yourself: Alaska Airlines launches new Premium Class. Initial prices for Premium Class seats range from $15 to $79 in addition to base fares and are based on the length of the flight. Seats in the new section can be purchased at the time of booking through alaskaair.com or Alaska’s mobile apps, during check-in, and at the airport.

Chinese Visa Scanning on the United App

On October 20 United Airlines introduced new functionality in their mobile app that makes travel to China easier than ever. Customers can use their iPhone, iPad or Android device to scan their Chinese visa to complete check-in through the United app. This new functionality delivers a convenient channel to provide visa information during the 24-hour check-in window prior to departure. 

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Icelandair Adds New US Destinations And Extra Flights

Icelandair is to increase its seat capacity by 11.5% next year as it continues to build up its network linking Europe and North America. The carrier is adding two new destinations in the US next year, Philadelphia and Tampa, which will take its number of North American routes up to 18 flying through its Reykjavik hub. Icelandair will begin flying to Philadelphia on May 30, 2017 and the service will initially run as a summer-only route which will operate until September 20, 2017. If it is successful, the route may eventually become year-round. Tampa will be added as a new destination from September 7, 2017, operating twice per week, and will complement the existing Orlando route, which runs five times per week. Both services will operate year-round from next September when there will be a daily service from Iceland to Florida. The airline also serves 26 destinations in Europe including five UK airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. Sister carrier Air Iceland also flies from Reykjavik to Aberdeen. 

Ottawa’s Winterlude Festival Set For 2017

In 2017 Canada marks its 150th birthday, with holiday-makers invited to join in the countrywide, year-long celebrations. The main focus for national events will be the capital city Ottawa, where 12 epic months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences will be on offer. The first major ‘National Partner Event’ of the Ottawa 2017 calendar will be a special edition of the annual Winterlude festival, which will wow visitors over three fun-filled weekends, 3 – 20 February. Next years’ will be the 39th edition of Winterlude, when Ottawa will be transformed into an enchanting city of all things snowy and frozen. Organizers are promising a festival that will be bigger and better than ever, with some 600,000 revelers expected to descend on the capital. The bumper sized celebrations will be centered in and around three downtown locations, all of which will be free of charge to the public.

US Preclearance Expanding To Stockholm In 2019

The United States and Sweden signed an agreement on Friday to expand the preclearance to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. There are other airports wishing to join the program from number of countries. The Swedish government said it hopes the increased ease of travel will have positive consequences in making Sweden a more attractive place for international companies to base their headquarters in. The goal of the so-called Preclearance program is to extend security and thwart the arrival of unwelcome visitors before they reach the US but the advantage for all travelers is to clear Customs before getting aboard the plane, and to avoid long lines upon arrival. The airports embarking on the process to join the program include Bogota, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, Kansai, Milan, Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and Saint Martin. More than 10 million travelers fly to the U.S. from those airports each year. The program already screens about 18 million travelers per year arriving from 15 airports mostly in Canada, the Caribbean and Ireland.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm at Night

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A Short Guide to Vancouver in a Weekend

It’s springtime in the Pacific Northwest, and that means it’s time to hit the outdoors!

Easter’s coming up! Even if you don’t have a trip planned out, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a boring weekend at home! How about driving up to the beautiful port city of Vancouver, B.C.? Here’s a short guide to a spectacular weekend in British Columbia:

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Stanley Park

Get your adventure on at Stanley Park, an enormous 1,000 acres of outdoor recreation. A whopping 500,000 cedar and fir trees call this area home! Here you’ll easily while away a few enjoyable hours at the zoo, train, swimming pools, beaches and historical landmarks. Grab lunch at the Fish House or Waterfall Cafe, or go for a quiet tea hour at the Teahouse. The star of the show is the Vancouver Aquarium, which opened in 1956 and regularly hosts education events, exhibitions and kid-friendly activities. Look for the sea otters, beluga whales, anacondas, sloths, eels and dolphins.

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Food Trucks

Like our hometown of Portland, Vancouver is popular with the food truck crowd. Grab a snack, meal or dessert at incredible prices. There are literally dozens of varieties to choose from—whipping up everything from tacos, handheld pies, and bento boxes, to waffles, fresh-squeezed smoothies, and Jamaican jerk chicken.

Check it out on the app: http://streetfoodapp.com/vancouver/map

Brewery Hopping

Vancouver’s microbreweries are the talk of the town—don’t leave without touring a few! The best bars are found in East Vancouver, where you’ll find most of the top breweries all bundled within walking distance of each other. Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery, opened as early as 1984. Sample a flight of popular brews at 33 Acres, who craft a range of delicious floral IPAs, schwarzbiers, and lemony Belgians.

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Granville Island Public Market

Granville’s gorgeous Public Market is home to a fun assortment of fresh produce and handmade products. Support local art and pick up some homemade fine jewelry and photography. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir or gift with handmade soaps or silk scarves.

Bella Gelateria

Get a pre-dinner scoop of old-world handcrafted gelato at the Bella. This upscale gelateria is immensely popular with visitors and locals alike, and it’s no wonder—with original flavors like Amarena Cherry, banana bread, earl gray, lavender, matcha green tea, and fior de latte. They also serve sorbets (can you say strawberry lime?) and excellent coffee.

photo credit flickr cc fujitariuji, ruth hartnup and dave o

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How far can you travel for under $700 in Summer 2014?

We asked our team of travel agents for international destinations with airfare under $700 from Portland, Oregon.

Check out our results for roundtrip fares, per person, staying for one week:

–          Montreal, Canada ($467)

–          Toronto, Canada ($475)

–          Cancun, Mexico ($529)

–          St. David’s Island, Bermuda ($594)

–          Managua, Nicaragua ($640)

–          Nassau, Bahamas ($655)

–          Guatemala City, Guatemala ($675)

–          San Juan, Puerto Rico ($687)

–          San Jose, Costa Rica ($696)

–          Panama City, Panama ($703)

–          Kingston, Jamaica ($703)

Book Now! These fares are based on dates in June 2014, and subject to change until ticketed.

Want to stay domestic? Roundtrip to Honolulu in mid-June is $657 per person.

Note that fares to all destinations tend to sell out after schools are out on June 15, and that hurricane season in the Caribbean does not start until July 1. Book the first two weeks of June for the best fares!

Consult our agents at Willamette Intl Travel at 1-800-821-0401 to book your summer vacation today! We can help you find the best deals for your family or honeymoon.

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Mosaïculture in Montreal

 

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By Wailana

On my recent trip to Montreal in May, I stumbled on the budding treasures of the Mosaiculture exhibition in the Parc Olympique. The exhibit, set to debut in July, was still in its growth patterns. The sprouting ivies and perannuals had barely begun to coil over the black metal frames.

Since 2000, Montreal has hosted the Mosaicultures Internationales every 3 years, and this year 20 countries are competing under a theme of “Land of Hope.” The garden expands over 185 acres and displays nearly 50 sculptures. The Grand Honorary Award and People’s Choice Award will be announced in September.

“Mosaïculture,” writes the competition’s website, “is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colourful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).” The sculptures showcase our planet’s biodiversity in flocks of storks, frogs and toads, rams, dogs, deer and old shepherds.

A 2-day adult admission costs about $28. Visitors can also purchase tickets to the nearby Insectarium or the Botanical Garden.

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