Category Archives: South America

Travel News: Startup Plans To Send Tourists To The Edge Of Space 

 
Hapag-Lloyd Releases Statement Following Polar Bear Incident
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises released a statement on Sunday morning following a weekend incident that left a polar bear dead in Spitsbergen. ” This Saturday on a trip ashore in Spitsbergen during a BREMEN cruise an accident occurred: a polar bear guard, an expert employed by the cruise line, was attacked on land by a polar bear. The guard suffered head injuries, however, he was responsive after the attack and was airlifted. He is out of danger, with no threat to life. In an act of self-defence, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead. We very much regret this incident. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is very aware of its responsibility when travelling in environmentally-sensitive areas and respects all nature and wildlife. To prepare for a shore leave, the polar bear guards go ashore in advance after sighting the landing site as a group and without passengers. They then set up a land station and check the area again to make sure that there are no polar bears in sight. As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately. The incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law, prepared for a shore leave. One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself. As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person. The injured person was immediately provided with medical care and flown to a hospital with a rescue helicopter. We are in personal, direct contact with him. His condition is stable and he remains responsive. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has worked comprehensively and co-operatively with the Norwegian authorities to reconstruct and clarify the incident on the ground and will continue to do so.
Southwest Airlines Promises They Still Won’t Charge for Bags 
Condé Nast Traveler reports at least one airline has some good news about fees you don’t have to worry about. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in an earnings call on Thursday that the airline will continue with its policies of free checked bags, no change fees, and open seating for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that they’re potentially leaving billions of dollars on the table by doing so. I don’t think we need to change the essence of what Southwest Airlines is to still find opportunities to drive revenues,” Kelly said. While he said the company was exploring new ways to make money, he didn’t divulge details, only adding that they were “very handsome opportunities.” No need to sweat the small stuff: customers won’t see the changes for awhile, not in 2018, and perhaps not even in 2019, Kelly said. Southwest is largely fee-free, but it doesn’t assign seats; instead, passengers can shell out $15 for EarlyBird Check-In to improve their place in the boarding line so they can nab that precious window seat. They also can pay around $50 for each leg of their trip to board with the first group of passengers. The airline’s hands-off, free-bags-and-change-fees approach hits a note with travelers. The Dallas-based airline routinely bests JetBlue, Delta, United, and American when it comes to value for the money, credit card perks, and, uh, flight attendant friendliness. The airline even announced yesterday that despite rising fuel costs, its ticket prices were falling. 

Arizona Startup Plans To Send Tourists To The Edge Of Space 
Travelwirenews reports a Arizona startup plans to send tourists to the edge of space using high-altitude helium balloons, but tickets will definitely cost at least $75,000 each. World View Enterprises has plans to send passengers to a lot more than 100,000 feet above Earth’s surface. The firm will use high-altitude balloons for a ride proponents say will undoubtedly be a lot more peaceful than rocket-based systems. World View currently launches missions primarily for the government, with roughly 50 within the last year. For passenger flights, World View is rolling out a capsule dubbed Voyager, which includes windows on all sides. While it will not reach official boundary of space, passengers should be able to see Earth fall away beneath them. In just a couple of years, wealthy tourists could see themselves going for a relaxing visit to the edge of space, towed by way of a high-altitude, helium-filled balloon. World View Enterprises has been honing its flight system during the last couple of years before plans to send passengers to a lot more than 100,000 feet above Earth’s surface. World View has conducted over 50 flights within the last year. In 2015, a then-Google exec completed a record-breaking free fall from about 136,000 feet, counting on a suit and balloon developed by World View over the course of three years. At present the firm primarily conducts missions for the government, including a recently available effort to fly a military imaging system from Arizona to Mexico.
 
 
Inca Rail Upgrades Trains To Machu Picchu 
Travel Market Reports that Inca Rail in Peru was acquired by the Carlyle Groupsome two years ago and has now rebranded as Machu Picchu Trains by Inca Rail and significantly upgraded its product offering. With a $10 million investment from Carlyle, the company has refurbished its cars, enhanced the onboard experience, ratcheted up the amenities, added a 360-degree panoramic-view observation deck with an outdoor terrace, and offers a private charter service. The company expanded its first-class offering from 30 seats to 60 seats, adding a second 30-seat car, and adding an observatory lounge car between the two cars. The 360-degree observatory lounge is unique in the market, “not only because we have more panoramic windows, but it is the only train with an open terrace. It’s wonderful because since we want to deliver as full an experience as possible, this is the way the customer can experience the journey with the five senses, to see, to smell, to hear and to feel more of the journey. There are no windows so you can take pictures.” Inca Rail also upgraded the technology on the train to accommodate the needs of today’s wired travelers. “It’s also the first train that offers state-of-the-art technology, with a USB port for ISP to charge phones and iPads if you want to take pictures and don’t have batteries. It’s also the only train that has an entertainment system that lets passengers follow the trip with their phones. They can see where the train is going. There are many things to see along the way. They can hear the narration in different languages and find out what is outside, the Incan ruins or the Urubamba River. There is also music and video from the Andes. So, it’s a unique train. The company now offers four classes of service: private, first class, 360 Degree and the standard Voyager service. “For the top luxury class, we offer a private service on a chartered basis, it’s unique in market. You can charter the whole car and it’s at your disposal. You travel with a chef, staff and butler service. It includes upscale dining with a five-course meal, whisky, live music, a lounge and a bar. It’s for one to 10 people. It could be couples, families or friends. You charter the service and it’s completely private, the only private charter in the market.” Passengers can catch the train from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo. From Cuzco, the train leaves from Poroy Station, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Cuzco. The trip to Machu Picchu is about three hours. From Ollantaytambo, passengers catch the train near the site itself and the trip takes about an hour and a half. The train drops passengers off at the Machu Pichu Pueblo Hotel, formerly known as Aguas Caliente, at the foot of the final climb to the Citadel. The final leg of the trip is taken by bus. With its new, upgraded service, Inca Rail is including a private bus for the final climb. The Peruvian government implemented some restrictions, last July. There are two shifts for visitation: in the morning between 6 a.m. and noon, or from noon to 5:30 p.m. In addition, the authorities mandated that visitors have to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide so they know where to walk without damaging the site.


 
Virgin Galactic Completes Rocket Powered Test Flight
CNN reports the race to put tourists into space seems to be a glacially slow one most of the time, and then it suddenly takes a supersonic leap forward. That is what happened with Richard Branson’s long-delayed Virgin Galactic project, which last Thursday completed a rocket-powered test flight at 2.47 times the speed of sound. Carried up to an altitude of 46,500 feet over the Mojave Desert in California, Virgin’s VSS Unity was released from its mother ship before blasting into the stratosphere. With rockets blazing for 42 seconds, it then entered a near-vertical climb to 170,800 feet, approximately halfway to the edge of space. The ship then glided back down to Earth, making a successful landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The third rocket-powered outing in less than four months was hailed as the most successful yet for the project, which eventually aims to carry passengers and commercial payloads into space. It was the first to reach the mesosphere, which Virgin Galactic describes as an “under-studied atmospheric layer” because it’s beyond the range of balloon flight. “This was a new altitude record for both of us in the cockpit, not to mention our mannequin in the back, and the views of Earth from the black sky were magnificent,” Mackay added. Branson predicted it would be up and running by December in an interview released on the eve of the latest test. If Virgin Galactic gets up and running, passengers paying north of $250,000 will experience a two-and-a-half-hour flight to the edge of space. The flight will culminate with several minutes of weightlessness during which they’ll be able to float from their seats.
 
 
 
Hawaii’s Honolulu Airport Will Run On Thousands Of Solar Panels
Hawaii is doing the most when it comes to environmental conservation. The state officially banned all chemical sunscreens, which contain coral-bleaching ingredients, in early July. A number of hotels across the islands have gotten rid of plastic straws and single-use plastics (read our full list of companies that are saying no to single-use plastics). And the state has pushed to use exclusively clean energy by 2045. Hawaii’s Department of Transportation took another step, announcing that Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport will be outfitted with 4,260 solar panels by the end of November, with the aim to cut the airport’s electricity bill in half. Thousands of solar panels will cover the roof of Terminal 1’s parking garage to help capture the rays of Honolulu’s 270 days of sun a year. There also are plans to add more to Terminal 2’s parking garage in the coming years (and, ultimately, a whopping 21,000 across all of Hawaii’s airports). More than 98,000 light fixtures at Honolulu’s airport will be replaced with LEDs as well, the state’s DOT reports. Honolulu is far from the only airport trying to decrease its carbon footprint. George Airport (2,000 solar panels), between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and Cochin International Airport (46,000 panels) in India’s southwestern Kerala region are both run completely by solar energy. The South African airport hopes to be carbon neutral by 2030 and the Indian airport,-which serves nearly eight million passengers annually-hopes to reduce its carbon emissions by 330,000 tons over the next 25 years. Gatwick Airport in London is officially carbon neutral as of last summer, using 100 percent renewable energy, emphasizing electric car rentals, and building the world’s first airport waste management plant to turn cabin waste into energy on-site.
 
 
New TSA Scanners Could Allow Travelers to Keep Their Liquids and Laptops 
Open Jaw reports the TSA plans to have up to 40 units in place at 15 US airports by the end of this year, with plans for another 100 or so more by the end of the government’s fiscal year 2019. The Transportation Security Administration announced plans to expand testing of a new carry-on bag screening technology that it says could detect the kinds of materials that caused it to issue a ban on liquids and powders. The new checkpoint technology is expected to result in fewer bag checks. In the future, the agency said, “passengers may also be able to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.” The computed tomography scanners (CT) utilize 3-D technology similar to the kind doctors use to view and rotate images of the human body. “TSA is committed in getting the best technology to enhance security and improve the screening experience. Use of CT technology substantially improves TSA’s threat detection capability at the checkpoint,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “By leveraging strong partnerships with industry, we are able to deploy new technology quickly and see an immediate improvement in security effectiveness.” CT technology testing started in 2017 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport, with John F. Kennedy International Airport receiving the third such machine. Abroad, London’s Heathrow International Airport is among several international airports testing the 3D technology.

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

8 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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8 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

We have a bunch of New UNESCO Heritage Sites on the list, to add to our ever-growing bucket list!

All of these cultural and natural landmarks are recognized for their outstanding value to humanity. Discover which wonders made the list this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a handful of our favorites. Learn more about other sites on the UNESCO official webpage

What are some of YOUR favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Let us know in the comments!

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1. Naumburg Cathedral, Germany

Built in the 11th century, this gorgeous cathedral is remarkable from a distance for its stain glass windows and soaring Gothic arches. Its real claim to fame, however, is the medieval art inside—including 12 life-sized statues of the cathedral’s founders. The Naumburg Masters was a workshop of sculptors and stonemasons in the 13th century who dedicated their work of realistic sculptures to the cathedral and all over France, Middle Rhine area and boundaries of the German Empire. This is a destination for history buffs — the cathedral and the region around it has a high density of authentic monuments and structures dating back to the High Middle Ages.

2. Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia

Ever-surprising Colombia takes next place with this national park, sometimes called the Maloca (“Amazonian long house”) of the Jaguar. As Colombia’s largest protected site, it protects 10,810 square miles and over 3,000 species of animals and plants. High on the sandstone plateaux, over 75,000 rock paintings have been found. Nature lovers will surely love this one.

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3. Ivrea, Italy

This small Piedmont town near Turin is famous for its 20th century industrial boom in typewriters and computers. Stunning Ivrea is also a remarkably beautiful village, resting on the Dora Baltea river, and, at the time of writing, still off the usual tourists’ map.

4. Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, Spain

The Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus is highlighted all across southern Spain, especially Alhambra. Added to the list of must-sees this year is the Medina Azahara. These ruins, 1.5 hours from Seville, were built between 940 and 975 c.e. and once held the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

5. Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, South Africa

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are so ancient, with volcanic and sedimentary rocks dating back over 3 billion years. More adventurous travelers will have quite the holiday hiking and biking around the town of Barberton and the nature reserve.

6. The Border of Hedeby and the Danevirke, Germany

Once a Viking trading post, this cultural landscape now consists of the ruins of a 33-km-long fortification–the Danevirke–as well as the archaeological site of the trading town Hedeby. Hedeby rose in power on the major trade routes between the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia, as well as between the Baltic and North Seas.

7. Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

This mysterious archaeological site in southeastern Turkey is the oldest known example of hunter-gatherer settlers in the world. It houses the world’s oldest known megaliths, with around 200 pillars in about 20 circles, and may have the world’s oldest temple as well. Göbekli Tepe dates back to around 9600 and 8200 b.c.e., and is a fascinating glimpse into ancient Mesopotamian culture.

8. Hidden Christian Sites, Japan

Kyushu Island keeps many historical secrets, but its historic Christian community that draws the eye of UNESCO—with 10 villages, Hara castle and cathedral that were built between 16th-19th centuries, despite a ban of all outsiders during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Along with these Christian remnants, visitors can explore active volcanoes, bubbling hot springs and marvelous waterfalls.

What UNESCO World Heritage Sites are you looking forward to seeing in 2018?

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Filed under Asia, Colombia, Europe, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Turkey

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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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