Category Archives: South America

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

Travel News: October is National Cruise Month!

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October is the National Cruise Month!

October is National Cruise Month, with loads of opportunities to save on your next cruise. Looking for a last-minute romantic getaway? Want to take the kids on a fun sail-a-way? Cruises are hassle-free, relaxing, diverse way to see many places and do many activities in a short span of time. This month, most major cruise lines are offering major discounts and/or added benefits if booked and deposit paid the month of October. Over 5,000 cruise lines and travel agencies are participating! Our agents at Willamette Intl Travel can answer all your questions and help find a cruise that’s right for you and your loved ones. So what are you waiting for? Give us a call: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Snapshots from National Cruise Month

  • Professional racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make an appearance on the first official Nascar-themed Cruise, with Norwegian.
  • Disney Cruise Line Taps Broadway Talent for Frozen the Musical.
  • Lip Sync Battle coming to Carnival cruise ships.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines Turning 50 with Special Anniversary Cruises!
  • PLUS: This new super yacht looks like a UFO on the water

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Latest Reports on Hurricane Matthew from Friday

At 500 am this morning Matthew is about 40 miles east southeast of Cape Canaveral or about 90 miles southeast of Daytona Beach. Maximum sustained winds are 120 mph and the storm is moving north northwest at 13 mph. Minimum central pressure is 938 mb. A turn toward the north is expected tonight or Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will be moving near or over the east coast of the Florida peninsula through tonight, and near or over the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday.Matthew is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Although weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to be a category 3 hurricane as it moves near the coast of Florida today. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

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Tourism in Argentina Expected To Increase Thanks To A New VAT Refund

With a view of boosting tourism in Argentina and revitalizing the local hospitality sector, the government presented the official plan for a VAT refund on accommodation services for tourists coming from overseas. Under the new system, foreigners will pay a lower fee for accommodation services in the country. In other words, through this reform, the cost of renting a hotel room in Argentina will be cheaper for visitors. The refund will be automatic and will be given directly to the card that pays for the services and, according to official information, the measure will cover the entire supply chain of the hospitality sector.

IcelandAir To Offer Nonstop Service To Reykjavik From Tampa

IcelandAir will offer nonstop service to Reykjavik from Tampa International Airport beginning Sept. 7, 2017. Reykjavik is Iceland’s city and capital. The service will be twice a week. This will be the fourth international carrier in its growing lineup of carriers. The IcelandAir announcement comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of Lufthansa’s nonstop flight to and from Frankfurt at Tampa International Airport, which began last September. IcelandAir offers flights to 39 cities in 16 countries, including 18 destinations in the United States. The new flight to Tampa will be the carrier’s second to Florida. IcelandAir also offers service to Orlando International Airport. IcelandAir is known for its stopover program, which encourages travelers from Europe or North America to “stop over” in Iceland on transatlantic flights for up to seven nights at no additional cost. The carrier’s main hub is at Keflavik International Airport, where it offers connections to dozens of destinations around the world.

LOT To Launch Los Angeles Flights

Polish airline LOT will connect Warsaw with the US West Coast from April, 2017. Although as yet there has been no official announcement, Business Traveller can reveal that Warsaw-based LOT will launch a four times a week non-stop service between Warsaw and Los Angeles on April 4. The flight will be operated by a three-class B787 configured for business, premium economy and economy. LOT would appear to be following in the footsteps of Vienna-based Austrian Airlines who recently announced that it too would launch flights to the US West Coast this coming April. Austrian Airlines will be providing the only non-stop link between Central Europe and Los Angeles while LOT will operate the only non-stop link to the US West Coast)from a city in the former Eastern Europe. Flight time is 12 hours, 20 mins for Warsaw-Los Angeles and 11 hours, 20 mins for Los Angeles-Warsaw.

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KLM Runs Pilot Project With Artificial Intelligence
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is taking the next step in social servicing by testing artificial intelligence (AI) to help answer customer questions. When an agent needs to answer an incoming question, he or she gets a proposed answer through AI, which is trained on more than 60,000 KLM questions and answers. The agent decides whether the proposed answer is the right answer to the question, adjusts it if necessary and sends it across the appropriate social media channel. The system learns based on what the agent does, and becomes smarter in real time. KLM receives around 100,000 mentions per week via social media and this number is still growing. A dedicated team of 235 social media service agents personally engages in 15,000 conversations. The DigitalGenius AI system is integrated directly into KLM’s Customer Relationship Management tool, and provides a layer of deep learning and artificial intelligence to service agents in real time.

Holland America Bans Smoking On All Its Cruise Ship Balconies
Beginning January 2017, Holland America cruise line will ban smoking on all cabin balconies. No smoking of any kind will be permitted on any stateroom verandah. A “smoking of cigarettes, cigars and pipes is already not permitted in any stateroom. The new policy has been announced to better align with guest wishes and health concerns.” Holland America is the last major U.S. cruise line to enact the smoking ban; the most recent line to do so was Norwegian Cruise Line in November 2014. Royal Caribbean announced its smoking ban three years ago, followed by Carnival Cruise Line in July 2014. Holland America’s no-smoking-on-balconies ban will roll out fleetwide over five months on a staggered schedule.

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Filed under Argentina, Celebrity Cruises, Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruises, News, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Un-Cruise, UniWorld, Viking Cruises, Windstar Cruises