Category Archives: South America

Travel News: The Time is Now to Check Your Passport

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Get your passport now
It’s now the busy season for passports. Take the time, at least 9 weeks before your departure date), to look at your passport and make certain that it is valid for six months past your return flight to the US. The US Passport offices are processing a multitude of renewals the closer we get to Spring and Summer peak travel seasons. 
 
Brazil Introduces e-Visa
The Brazilian Government has announced a new e-Visa for USA citizens for Tourist, Business, Transit and Artistic or Sports Activities travel purposes. The new visa type will be valid for 2 years, multi-entry with a max stay of up to 90 days per year. The new e-Visa is only currently offered to US, Australia, Canadian and Japanese citizens. The e-Visa processing time is excepted to be 7-8 business days. 
 
American Airlines suspends Smart Luggage with Lithium Batteries
In mid-January, American Airlines stopped allowing “Smart Luggage” that includes built in lithium batteries to be placed in the baggage compartment of the plane. But if you can remove the batteries you can put them in your carry-on. If they aren’t removable then either the TSA or AA will allow you to check the bag in the baggage hold where there is not access to the area from inside the plane on most planes today. So, think twice about taking a non-carry-on sized SMART BAG (more than 22 inches). The theory is that any fire that erupts from the battery in the cabin can be put out easily. Remember, if you can remove the lithium batteries from the suitcase you can check the bag and put the batteries in your carry-on.
 
First Exhibition Exploring ‘Golden Age’ Of Ocean Travel To Launch At Victoria & Albert Museum in London
Travelwire reports Ship design, groundbreaking engineering, architecture and lifestyle aboard the great vessels will all be explored in the exhibition which sees the V&A team up with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and Viking Cruises for their first major exhibition of 2018. Ocean Liners: Speed And Style showcases more than 250 objects, including a wooden panel fragment from an overdoor in the Titanic’s first-class lounge. It traces the revolution of sea travel from the mid-19th century with the emergence of the ocean liner. A precious diamond and pearl Cartier tiara rescued from the sinking Lusitania in 1915 is among the more luxurious items. Exclusive Maison Goyard luggage previously belonging to King Edward VIII. who became the Duke of Windsor after abdicating to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, will return to Europe for the first time since they were acquired from the Windsor Estate. The set of luggage was used by the couple as they traveled between their adoptive home in France and the US, with the duke’s personalized with his title and yellow and red stripes. Also included in the collection is a Christian Dior suit worn by German actress Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950. As the largest machines of their age, ocean liners were powerful symbols of 20th-century modernity and the exhibition will also feature works from Modernist artists, designers and architects including Le Corbusier, Albert Gleizes, Charles Demuth, and Eileen Gray. Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, said: “This seminal show reveals hidden design stories of some of the world’s most luxurious liners, from the Titanic to the Normandie and QE2. “We have collected ship-related objects and ephemera for well over 100 years, and now have a startlingly brilliant collection of ocean liner material, making us uniquely placed to present this exhibition.” Ocean Liners: Speed And Style will run at the V&A from February 3 until June 17 2018.
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Madrid Prepares for Its Greenest Year Yet
The European city with the most ambitious plans to improve its air quality this year probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind. In fact, it’s Madrid, which is embarking on what, policy-wise, could be its greenest year yet. The country’s capital is actually getting down to business to improve its poor air quality, making the city altogether more healthy and livable. It’s doing so by introducing a host of air-cleaning measures under a 30-point plan entitled Plan A, “because there is no plan B,” Mayor Manuela Carmena says. The first major change actually started last month when Madrid closed its main drag, the broad, often car-filled avenue Gran Vía, to cars at the beginning of December. Cars returned on January 7, but the streets won’t be the same for long. Madrid plans to start doubling the street’s sidewalks, taking space from car lanes to give pedestrians an extra 58,000 square feet of space, plus a segregated bike lane down its busiest stretch. While this will reduce car space on a very busy thoroughfare, Gran Vía will soon be one of the few parts of central Madrid that admits non-local cars at all. In June, Madrid will debut its Zero Emissions Zone, which will only allow local residents, people with limited mobility, or zero-emissions vehicles to drive into most of the old city. 
 
Qantas 787 Dreamliner Makes Long-Haul Flight On Mustard Seed Biofuel
The aviation industry has been experimenting with cleaner-burning fuels to lower the carbon footprint of flights. We’re far from a complete switch to biofuels but work continues to make that a possibility at some point in the future. Case in point: the world’s first biofuel flight from the United States to Australia. A Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner made the long-haul flight from the Los Angeles to Melbourne with 24,000 kilograms of mustard seed based blended fuel. The QF96 flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne used biofuel extracted from the Brassica carinata mustard seed. The extraction process was developed by Agrisoma Bioscienses, an agri-tech company based in Canada. According to reports, the fuel from this mustard seed offers over 80% reduction in carbon emissions compared with conventional jet fuel across its life cycle. That blend that was used in the Dreamliner flight will see a 7% reduction in emissions on the route as 10% of its tank was filled with the biofuel. Qantas is planning on running flights regularly with biofuel by 2020. The company’s historic biofuel-powered flight comes after it was named the least efficient carrier in the region. Qantas was found to be the least efficient by the International Council on Clean Transportation and that it burnt the most carbon of all major airlines that fly across the Pacific.
 
In-Flight Wi-Fi Is About To Get A Lot Faster
Bloomberg reports in-flight Wi-Fi is finally emerging from its role as a punchline as the cost of buying and installing better hardware has fallen far enough that many airlines have begun upgrading to faster speeds, and smaller airlines are adopting Wi-Fi for the first time BUT what you’ll pay for it may be outrageous. Worldwide, 82 airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi, 12 more than last year, with the amenity now common enough that there’s a 43% percent chance your plane will have it, according to an annual airline report from New York-based Routehappy Inc. (And more than 80% in America.) Airbus SE and Boeing Co. also fit most of these newer systems onto new airplanes as part of the final assembly process. In terms of the most Wi-Fi access, Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and Emirates take the top three spots, with Delta and Emirates also among the 13 airlines that offer Wi-Fi on all of their long-haul flights, according to the report released last week. 
 
Holland America Expands Denali Experience
Travelwire reports Holland America Line has announced an expansion of the guest experience on its Alaska Land+Sea Journeys with the addition of new guest accommodations at its Denali operation. The 99-room addition will feature the first-ever junior suites at the resort and is expected to be open for the 2019 summer Alaska cruise season. The 55 new junior suites will showcase balconies, larger living areas and greater amenities for guests. The company said that the new rooms are an extension of its overland Alaska experience to Denali, which includes the McKinley Chalet Resort hotel and Denali Square, a gathering area to relax, shop, dine and for music and entertainment. The addition will be located just west of Denali Square with views of Mt. Healy and Denali National Park. According to a prepared statement, the three-story project will feature junior suites and standard rooms with “rustic-chic” décor. All junior suites have balconies offering views of the surrounding Alaska wilderness. Each floor will have a central, open-air lobby. The third floor has open public deck space with tables and loungers.
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Montreal Adding Capacity for More Demand From Cruise Lines
Montreal inaugurated a new cruise terminal in June, which will be joined by a second operational terminal in 2018, along with the existing alternate terminal located east of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. The trio of berth locations will help the iconic city accommodate extra ships during its peak fall season. The two new berths offer shorepower and a direct connection to black and grey water collection lines. As 2017 ended, the port was expected to report 52 international ship calls, according to a spokesperson, a 20,000 passenger increase year-over-year. 2018 will continue the surge, with 16 more calls on the books and a prediction of 130,000 passengers, up 50,000 year-over-year. New business includes summer cruises from AIDA, and the debut of Windstar Cruises in the Saint Lawrence. The Seabourn Quest is also offering a round-trip Montreal itinerary. More hopes lie in the winter, where the port city is working closely with the Cruise the Saint Lawrence group to develop a winter program to make the river a year-round destination. The port also recently joined the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition as it expects more river traffic and is developing a business plan for river cruising.
Heathrow Enhances Service For Passengers With Disabilities
Heathrow has announced a multi-million-pound package of investments and tools to improve the travel experience of passengers with disabilities and mobility restrictions at the airport. The number of passengers requesting special assistance at Heathrow is rising at approximately 8% annually, with over one million requests in 2017 alone, more than any other European airport. Following a report by the Civil Aviation Authority this year, Heathrow is taking proactive steps to transform its service for these passengers, backed by an investment of £23 million in a revamped, upgraded contract with its special assistance partner, OmniServ. Heathrow announced the introduction of a distinctive lanyard that will allow passengers that need tailored help and support to discreetly identify themselves to Heathrow staff. This lanyard is part of an established service initiated at Gatwick and rolled out in other UK airports, and is supported by leading UK charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss.  Special assistance staff, security officers and passenger ambassadors at Heathrow have been trained to identify the lanyard so they can provide additional assistance, or allow passengers wearing it more time or space as they travel independently through the airport. 

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Filed under Brazil, Canada, Europe

3 Ghoulish Alternatives to Halloween around the World

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Happy Halloween! So how do other cultures celebrate this time of year? Here are five of our favorite devilish celebrations come November: 

La Diabalada, Peru. Early November. 

In the week leading up to November 5, the village of Puno in Peru celebrates La Diablada, a devilish sort of festival where men dress up as demons and hit the streets in a horned parade. Some say that it was to herald the departure of the conquistadors in the late 19th century—others claim that it’s a much older tradition, a way to pay home to ancient spirits of Lake Titicaca that gradually took on the trappings of Christianity. Set against the backdrop of the Cordillera Real mountains, there’s hardly a more dramatic setting. Before the night is over, don’t forget to try a glass of La Diablada Pisco (Peruvian brandy).

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Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico. Nov 1-2. 

Nobody does death quite like Mexico, who adopts a kind of upbeat discussion of mortality and immortality. Mexicans believe that the dead wait in Mictlan, a spiritual limbo, and can return to their homes just once a year, the Day of the Dead. Families erect an altar piled high with flowers, candles, ribbons, a bowl of water, and bread, and the house is strewn about with candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons, banners of colored paper, and miniature coffins. Festivities include cooking, singing, dancing, culminating in a family visit to the cemetery.

Festa del Cornuto (Festival of the Horned One), Italy. Mid-November. 

With famed Mediterranean lust comes also its fair share of broken hearts. The Festival of the Horned One is a tribute to anyone who’s been made a cuckold in love. The small village of Rocca Canterano throws a party each November to remember those unlucky ones spurned by their partners. Actors dress up and recite their misfortunes on the streets, bearing helmets with horns, some adopting a more commercial devil’s garb.

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Peru, South America

What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America, South America

SALE: Solo Adventures with Alexander + Roberts

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Attention Solo Adventurers! One of our favorite small group vendors, Alexander + Roberts, is having a huge SALE for Solo Travelers on incredible itineraries through Colombia, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Greece. 

Single? Love to travel? No problem. When you book with us you can save outrageous amounts — better to pamper yourself during the trip!

+ Save $500 More when you pay-in-full at booking with your Travel Agent!

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NEW for 2018: Colombia Emerging

7 Days for $3,499 Now $2,999 Solo

Traveling in an intimate group of never more than 16 guests and staying in the country’s finest hotels, our terrific Trip Leaders will take you deeper inside Colombia’s history and its modern spirit as this friendly nation sheds its past.

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Ancient Crossroads

11 Days for $3,799 Now $3,299 Solo

This unique itinerary to Albania, Greece and Macedonia has proven to be one of our most popular journeys to Europe. With our original and intimate style and never more than 16 guests, we open doors and windows to the people, cuisines, and centuries-old traditions that still endure in this storied, lesser-visited corner of the Continent!

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New for 2018: Georgia & The Caucasus

9 Days for $4,599 Now $4,099 Solo

Acclaimed for its unique cuisine and hailed as the world’s first wine region, Georgia also offers rich history, soaring mountain terrain and fine medieval landmarks. Artfully designed for never more than 16 guests, our Original Journey features stylish hotels and congenial dining.

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New for 2018: Undiscovered Greece

10 Days for $5,999 Now $5,499 Solo

Steeped in ancient myths, the forested mountains and pristine coasts of untrodden Pelion beckon. With an intimate group of never more than 16 guests, enjoy a leisurely 6-night stay at our boutique hotel in the heart of Pelion. Then set out each day with our expert Trip Leader to explore the region’s fabled sites of antiquity, its timeless villages, and local food + wine.

Any of these amazing itineraries caught your interest? Give us a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for the specifics.

Stay in Touch with Solo Trips by joining our Solo Adventurers Email Blast today. Throughout the year, Wittravel receives notice from various travel partners offering special rates tailored just for you. Email frontdesk@wittravel.com to sign up today. We only send marketing information via email if you have signed up, and we never give away our client list.

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Filed under Colombia, Europe, Greece

Travel News: State Dept says Renew your US Passport Now

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State Dept. Says Renew Your Expiring US Passport Now!

In general, for regular applications, the State Department lists the turnaround time as 6-8 weeks (although wait times usually end up shorter than that), and by paying an extra fee you can have that cut down to 2-3 weeks. In urgent circumstances, travelers can get a same-day passport renewal at a local passport office, if they can prove they are traveling sooner than the normal wait time. While the State Department promises to do a better job of staying on top of the flood of applications than they did ten years ago, if your expiration date ends in a seven, better to get on it early–specially because applications tend to spike in spring and summer as people gear up for vacation. And remember, some countries require you to have six months of validity left to enter, not something you want to find out the hard way. On average, the State Department processes around 13 million passport applications a year–last year, it saw 16.8 applications-so while 20.5 million is out of the norm, the State Department has seemingly learned to expect major increases of this magnitude every ten years when that initial flood of passports is up for renewal.

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Goway lays out Peru’s new rules for visiting Machu Picchu

New admission rules for Machu Picchu, which (as of now) go into effect January 2018. Ticket sales will be divided into a morning ticket 8am to 12pm and an afternoon ticket 12pm to 5:30pm. Change in cost for a ticket has not been announced. Travelers can buy both to spend a full day at the site. “Initially this change was to begin mid-2017, but after consultations with tour operators locally and internationally the date has been unofficially moved to Jan 2018,” says Goway. The number of visitors has grown annually, from low hundred thousands in 1980s to a peak of 1.4 million tourists in 2014. The ticket changes are an attempt to ease the stress on the fragile ruins, and keep it in good shape and accessibility for future travelers.  

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Holland America Adds Cuba Calls

Holland America Line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday cruise aboard the Veendam, according to a statement from the company. The addition of Veendam itineraries will help meet the growing demand for premium cruise experiences to Cuba, the company said. Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos. Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The series of Cuban cruises will debut with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.

 

 

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Filed under Cuba, Europe, Goway, holland america, News, Peru

Client Trip Report: Why Antarctica continues to be the most Awe-Inspiring Destination

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Willamette Intl Travel booked an amazing trip for our long-time clients Doug and Diane. They sailed on an unforgettable voyage to Antarctica last December. So in the interest of sharing it with our readers, we’ve made up a presentation that we think you’ll love—chock-full of firsthand feedback, quotes, tips, and gorgeous photos. We hope you enjoy it!

Take Me on a Virtual Voyage to Antarctica!

 

Thinking about a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica?

Let us advise you!

We’ve sent dozens of clients to explore the lonely continent. Nothing prepares you for the sheer beauty of its nature. Call us for a consultation now: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

I had no idea that ice, mountains, icebergs, clouds, flat water, sky, and sun could work together to make such beautiful scenes.  I was in awe the whole trip.

–Doug D.

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Filed under Antarctica, Argentina, Cruises, G Adventures, South America

Infographic: 6 Destinations to Spot the Southern Cross in 2017

We at Willamette Intl Travel love tried and true destinations like these! Interested in one (or more) of the places below? Give us a ring! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, South Africa