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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NEW: Celebrated Hotels for Celebrated Travelers

celebrated hotels for celebrated

The British Isles are ever-popular among our clients, so it’s no wonder that we’ve chosen to work with some of the finest tour guides and accommodations to curated memorable trips.

Celebrated Experiences offers tailor-made itineraries to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales — and yes, also Italy.

CE takes pride in hand-picking the most delightful hotels, castles, and country B&Bs through the UK, Ireland and Italy. Their selective staff has over 250 annually inspected hotels. Just earlier this month, CE announced some new properties at their fingertips.

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EDINBURGH: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

The Principal always makes a splash in vibrant New Town, boasting a multimillion-pound restoration and refurbishment. Don’t miss the immensely fashionable Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, BABA. When we book the Principal for our guests, we make sure they enjoy a bottle of house champagne and canapés – because what is style without champagne? You can also try your hand at the free Gin or Whiskey Master Class!

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COTSWOLDS: The Lygon Arms

With new owners and management, the Lygon Arms is all about timeless service, blending old traditions with new renovations. Originally built as a coaching inn, the hotel is over 500 years, located in that quintessential Cotswolds village, Broadway. Booking with Celebrated Experiences, your agent at WIT can guarantee an upgrade at time of booking – and a spot in the exclusive Cocktail Making Class with the Bar Team!

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ROMA: Palazzo Scanderbeg

This 15th-century palazzo is just steps from the Trevi Fountain. Originally built by an Albanian noble, this old palace boasts 11 rooms and suites, most of which are 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes, 24/7 concierge, and all the amenities of a full hotel. We can promise a Welcome bottle of sparkling wine when we book a Celebrated Experience at this exceptional hotel – because why shouldn’t we celebrate all our clients?

For More Celebrated Experiences, call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Travel News: The Airlines That Sell Double Beds In The Sky

 

The Airlines That Sell Double Beds In The Sky 

Forbes reports there is a growing trend for airlines installing double beds on planes. It began as a way of differentiating first class from ever-better business class, now almost every respectable long-haul airline has seats that recline into fully flat (single) beds so the battle is on to improve the customer experience further. It was back in 2014 that Abu Dhabi-based airlines Etihad unveiled its revolutionary uber-first class concept, the Residence. The airline already had a first class cabin, so this was an additional three-room section, complete with living room, bathroom and bedroom, right at the front of the superjumbo A380. At the time, James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ president and chief executive officer, said: “These new living spaces will raise in-flight product and service standards to their highest level yet in commercial aviation and alter air travelers’ expectations of inflight comfort and luxury forever.” Passengers in the Residence also have a butler trained by the Savoy hotel in London) was that it was only available to the super rich – and everyone wanted it. Then Doha-based airline Qatar Airways last year announced that it was bringing out a new business class product called the Qsuite on its B777s, and it would have double beds. This meant that suddenly, a dozen people on a flight could be sleeping in a double bed, rather than two on Etihad. 

United Will Add Premium Economy To Match Delta And American

United intends to add a premium economy section with comfortable recliner seats on long-haul aircraft soon, matching a product already offered by American and Delta, its two main competitors. United will call the cabin Premium Plus, and it will feature several free perks business class travelers usually receive, including meals served on china, alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow, and an amenity kit. In an internal note, later put on the company blog, United said it will “begin to introduce” the product later this year, though it’s not clear on what flights or routes. United’s seat is expected to be similar, if not identical, to the recliners Delta and American already fly. Both competitors have seats that are nearly identical to US domestic first class, with seats about 18 or 19 inches wide, with roughly 38 inches of pitch.

Qantas To Start SFO 787 Services From September

Qantas will start Boeing 787-9 services from Melbourne to San Francisco from September 1 while reducing its Melbourne-Los Angeles Dreamliner flights from six to two services per week. The San Francisco fares went on sale Friday and the airline will operate the overnight flights four times a week. The flights are aimed at holiday-makers and corporate travelers from The San Francisco area’s globally-renowned technology centers. The airline’s website showed sale fares starting at $A1098 return. Qantas said the new nonstop Dreamliner service reflected strong demand in travel to the popular Californian city. With connections to 17 codeshare destinations including Chicago, Seattle, and Vancouver, the new service also provides another gateway for Australians traveling into the US. The airline said customers affected by the decision to reduce the Melbourne-Lax services would be re-accommodated on other flights. It will continue to operate daily A380 flights between the two cities. The 236-seat Qantas 787s come with refreshed business, premium economy and economy class offerings. There are 42 in business class with a 1-2-1 formation, 28 in premium economy in a 2-3-2 layout and 166 in economy in a 3-3-3 configuration. 

Paris On Flooding Alert As Rising Seine Causes Travel Disruption

Parisians have been warned to stay away from the river Seine as it continues to rise, flooding surrounding roads and causing disruption to the city’s transport network. As water levels increased on Wednesday, the capital’s authorities said the river could pass the 6.10-metre (20ft) level of 2016, the highest in over a century and more than four metres above its normal height. Quayside roads and tunnels have been closed and all river traffic, including cruise boats and water taxis, halted as vessels are unable to pass under the bridges. 

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Delta Tightens Requirements For Bringing Service Animals Onboard A Flight

Delta Air Lines is taking steps to further protect its customers, employees and service and support animals by implementing advance documentation requirements for those animals. This comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight. The new requirements support Delta’s top priority of ensuring safety for its customers, employees and trained service and support animals, while supporting the rights of customers with legitimate needs, such as disabled veterans, to travel with trained animals. Delta carries approximately 700 service or support animals daily, nearly 250,000 annually. Putting this into perspective, Delta carries more than 180 million passengers annually. Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs. Delta has seen an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog. In 2017, Delta employees reported increased acts of aggression (barking, growling, lunging and biting) from service and support animals, behavior not typically seen in these animals when properly trained and working. In compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act, Delta provides in-cabin travel for service and support animals without charge. 

The guidelines, effective March 1, require that all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance. In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin. These measures are intended to help ensure that those customers traveling with a trained service or support animal will no longer be at risk of untrained pets attacking their working animal, as has previously been reported.

Longest glass bridge has terrifying sway

Because walking across a glass-bottomed suspension bridge just isn’t scary enough, China is finding new ways to bring the fear. The country’s latest, billed as the world’s longest, opened at the end of 2017 in Hebei Province’s Hongyagu Scenic Area. If the 488 meter span (1,600 feet) over a vertical drop of 218 meters (715 feet) doesn’t bring visitors to their trembling knees, there’s an added sway to test the nerves at this destination. “Hongyagu glass suspension bridge marks the 2.0 era for China’s glass-bottomed bridge,” says Yang Minghua, the chairman of Hebei’s Bailu Group, which created the span linking two peaks in the mountainous region of northeastern China. The three-year construction project has given birth to several record-breaking claims, some more objective than others. These, Yang told local media, include the largest span, the greatest transparency and “the most spectacular pedestrian glass suspension bridge.” The bridge is 4 meters wide (13 feet) and made of 1,077 glass panels that are four centimeters thick (almost 1.6 inches). Opened to the public on December 24, 2017, the bridge can accommodate up to 2,000 people, but only 500 to 600 visitors will be allowed to walk on it at the same time. Staff will be stationed along the bridge to help the fainthearted get back on their feet. Visitors must wear special provided “shoe gloves” to protect the glass surface, a necessary precaution given other bridges suffered broken glass panels not long after opening. Hongyagu’s swaying suspension bridge isn’t the first glass walkway with a nerve-jangling extra. While Hongyagu’s glass bridge might have stolen the “longest” crown from another Chinese structure, it’s predecessor, which spans the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, can still claim to be the highest, at 300 meters.

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Tourists Warned Cape Town ‘Very Likely’ To Run Out Of Water

Travelwire reports Cape Town’s mayor has warned visitors to the city that it is ‘very likely’ to run out of water in April. Reservoirs supplying Cape Town are running dangerously low after two years of drought, during which rainfall has been only about a third of normal levels. Mayor Patricia de Lille said Day Zero, which is the date the city will run dry, was originally set at April 21 but this has since been moved forward to April 12. “Day Zero is the day that almost all of the taps in the city will be turned off and we will have to queue for water,” said the city council. Water pressure has been reduced to limit consumption, but water leaks and cuts in the supply are becoming more common. “Four million citizens will be expected to collect 25 liters per person from one of 200 collection points,” they said. “A true nightmare scenario is developing before our very eyes.” Hotels, bars and restaurants remain open but some have turned off the water supply in public lavatories and are providing hand sanitizer instead. A statement from South African Tourism said: “To counter the short-term effects of the drought, the city has put in place a number of initiatives to increase the supply of water and make provision for water shortages for locals and visitors. “There will be water for tourists’ essential daily needs including access to drinking water and for personal hygiene. At present, tourists will be able to shower and maintain daily hygiene. Some swimming pools at hotels have been converted to salt (ocean) water.” The city council will vote this week on measures to apply a punitive tariff which will raise water bills five-fold for those who use the least and the heaviest users will pay 140 times as much for each liter of water. Four new desalination plants are under construction in and around Cape Town, but three are running behind schedule and none is likely to be ready by April. Desalination ships are also being prepared.

Water Restrictions in Cape Town’s hotels

From 01 January 2018, the water restrictions applied in Cape Town have reached the most severe level. Some hotel properties have been affected, in that certain amenities are limited. 

All such properties have implemented projects to save water while also ensuring that the guest experience is affected as little as possible. Measures that affect guests include not topping up swimming pools, temporarily stopping spa treatments that use large amounts of water and removing bath plugs to encourage the use of showers.    

We can specifically speak of properties owned by South Africa’s andBeyond hotel collection, and you may encounter similar restrictions at other hotels in the city. 

Peak season adjustment for Morukuru Ocean House 

The peak season period for Morukuru Ocean House has been shortened, making this property a great option for December bookings. High season rates will now apply until 21 December 2018 and peak season will only start from 22 December 2018 to 06 January 2019.

Lion Sands River Lodge set to reopen in May 2018

After a devastating fire last year, the newly rebuilt Lion Sands River Lodge, located along the banks of the Sabie River will reopen on 01 May 2018. 

Grootbos Conservation Levy increase

The Grootbos Conservation Levy has increased from ZAR 50 per adult per night to ZAR 75 per adult per night. The increased levy applies to bookings from 01 May 2018, and confirmed bookings will be honored at the old rate.  

Babylonstoren increases Low Season Rates in 2018

Babylonstoren has advised increased rates for their low season period 01 May to 31 August 2018.

Park fee increase for Isimangaliso Wetland Park

Isimangaliso Wetland Park fees for Rocktail Camp have increased, and are payable directly at camp 

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Bali’s Culinary Delights

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Before I went to Indonesia, I had little idea of what local food looks like. After three weeks in Java and Bali, I can tell you it involves a lot of fish, rice, puffed chips and–at least in Bali–pork. In Ubud, the emphasis is on healthy açai bowls, whereas near the beaches of Kuta and Seminyak, they seem to take innovative to a whole new level. Blending Australian, Indonesian, sometimes Japanese, sometimes Chinese culinary traditions, the chefs are working round the clock to wow and inspire with their creations.

By far the star of it all was nasi gorengeven Indonesian’s favorite dish – which is simply fried rice, mixed with veggies and meat, scrambled up for your yummy pleasure.

Desserts never seem to be too far from reach, with milkshakes and Japanese-styled crepes frequent items on the menu. More traditional establishments would serve up sweet black rice pudding or coconut sticky rice.

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Coconut Sticky Rice

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Breaded Chicken

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Spicy Soups

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Lumpia – aka spring rolls – yum!

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Chinese Steamed Dumpings + 100 Year Old Eggs

Century Eggs aren’t exactly 100 years old – but they might as well be! These curious Chinese eggs are a preserved delicacy. Duck or qual eggs are mixed with clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls and preserved by weeks to months. The eggs have a strong, salty flavor – pungent even for the most adventurous of foreigners!

 

 

 

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Grilled Shrimp

Seaside chefs also grill lobster, shrimp and fish to perfection. Japanese food is extremely popular, with a sushi bar or teppanyaki joint just around the corner.

There is the Aussie inspired “brekky“–a full plate of fresh eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns and beans.

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Seafood Feast

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Rice Bowl

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Teppanyaki

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Basil and Chili-Infused Cocktail

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Breakfast Toast

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Fruit Bowl

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Even the gods need to eat!

 

Willamette Intl Travel has a fantastic local guide, Chee Choy, who can arrange unforgettable vacations in Bali for you and your loved ones. Have your own Eat – Pray – Love with all the fixings! Email inquiry@wittravel.com or call 503-224-0180. 

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2018 Travel Trends: Walking Tours in and out of Town

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We know that many of our clients are revving up and ready to hit the road this year. Stay active and keep on adventurin’, that’s what we always say.

One of the coolest experiences you can have on a trip is a walking tour – it’s simple, doesn’t take too much time and effort, keeps your blood pumping, makes you feel energetic, and is a fantastic way to tour the city or countryside the way the locals do every day. Plus, you often get to see a side of the destination that many tourists don’t.

Here are some of our favorite walking tour companies – call Willamette Intl Travel to book yours today. 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com.

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Walking in Venice: luxury tours focusing on history, art and photography with art aficionados to the Accademia, or the Ca’Rezzonico, or the Ca’Pesaro and Fortuny Museum. Discover Renaissance Venice at the height of its power.

Spanish Trails: our in-country supplier for tours of Barcelona, Madrid and the Catalonian Coast. They offer small group walking tours in the city, wine tours in La Rioja region, or succulent food-tasting tours.

 

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Photo from Context Travel

 

Context Travel: Small group tours and private tours in many cities around the world, from Edinburgh, Budapest and Istanbul to Philadelphia, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. Spend the day with a local historian or scholar who will enchant you with their in-depth knowledge.

Chocolatine: How can we forget lovely France. Chocolatine provides a wealth of fun private walking tours (including those hard-to-find tickets to exclusive Parisian events!) all around Paris, Provence, Normandy and throughout.

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Adrienne & Renato: Adrienne & Renato are a husband-wife team, she from Portland and he from Naples. With their team of local guides they can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Their services include close, personal attention illuminated by a background in art history and mythology.

Art Tours by Amy / Mountain Hiking Holidays: It seems every time we check in with these folks, Amy and John Osaki have something new and exciting up their sleeves. Amy organizes the art tours in Europe and Asia, and John heads the mountain hiking trips all across the globe. Look for the next trip to explore the heritage of Japan, November 2018.

Marissa: Marissa is a one-of-a-kind one-woman operation in Buenos Aires. She’s organized tailor-made tours in and around the city for more than a decade — we highly recommend her if you’re in town!

“When you spend a day with Marisa in the fabulous city of Buenos Aires, you become Argentinian!!” ~~ John @ Wittravel

Sherpa Expeditions: Looking for a multiday challenge? these folks curated self-guided walking and cycling trips throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. They supply you with the itineraries, some of the gear, and hand-picked B&Bs and inns to give you that small-town feel!

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Photos that will fill you with Sun-Envy: WIT Agent Pam in Baja

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Last year, WIT Agent Pam cruised with one of our favorite vendors, Un-Cruise. 

Photos from her trip are now available to “ooh” and “aah” over! Check them out in our Photo Album

Click for the photos!

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Many of our clients and agents have traveled with UnCruise and rave about the experience-based cruise line. Here’s what they have to say about it: 

“The UnCruise was outstanding – only 48 passengers so plenty of room to enjoy everything – no wind, plenty of warmth and sunshine too.  I would highly recommend this cruise. “

– Marilyn and David D

“We just returned from a family vacation with Un-Cruise on the SS Legacy and I don’t have enough good things to say about it! The route took us through the inner passage and included stops in Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and ended in Juneau. The route passed through Frederick Sound, Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal, and numerous smaller passages that are inaccessible to larger vessels. Wildlife sightings were frequent and, unlike large boats, we enjoyed the luxury of being able to linger in an area to observe at length (a notable instance being humpback whales in Frederick Sound!).

In short, the amazing experiences of Alaska itself – the scenery, the wildlife, the raw natural beauty – were made all the better by the uncompromising quality of the boat’s accommodations and especially its crew. We have never been interested in the “large cruise” experience and were not sure what to expect with this one. We all – guests and crew alike – became a ship-board family almost immediately and were sorry to leave the beauty of Alaska, and the warmth of our newfound friends. We would highly recommend this cruise!

– Mark J

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Read more on UnCruise: 

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate & Uncruise Adventures

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

Cruise Oregon Rivers with UnCruise

Video: River Cruises in North America

Or call Barb, Racheal or Pam to discuss more about this amazing and unique cruise line.

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Travel News: World’s Largest Ice Festival Kicks Off In China

festivals around the world (1)

World’s Largest Ice Festival Kicks Off In China

The world’s largest ice festival has kicked off in Harbin, northeastern China and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors over the coming month. The 34th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival began on January 5 and will run until the end of February. Visitor numbers are expected to peak during Chinese New Year celebrations between February 15 and 23. Computer-controlled LEDs illuminate the truly epic works of art that make up this winter fantasy world, replete with historical figures and notable landmarks from around the world, including Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, Moscow’s Red Square, and Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Approximately 180,000 cubic meters of ice and 150,000 cubic meters of snow were used to build the frosty fortresses and snowy sculptures. Roughly 10,000 workers created the ice world, which sprawls an area measuring 600,000 square meters (or 84 soccer fields) along the banks of the Songhua River. The festival generated an estimated $4.4 billion in tourism revenue for the city thanks to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that attended in 2017, data from the city’s tourism bureau showed. Tourists needn’t worry that the sculptures will melt before they can experience the majesty and awe of the park, as Harbin is one of China’s coldest cities, and regularly experiences temperatures as low as -35°C. The festival began in 1983, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

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 Kenya Airways Readies First Direct Flight To US

In October, Kenya Airways will begin daily service between Nairobi and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the carrier’s first nonstop service to the Americas. The FAA granted Kenya a Category 1 safety rating last year, meaning the country’s aviation authority meets international standards.

Starfish Eating Great Barrier Reef Alarm Scientists

A major outbreak of coral-eating crown of thorns starfish has been found munching Australia’s world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, scientists said on Friday, prompting the government to begin culling the spiky marine animals. The predator starfish feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue, and the outbreak hits as the reef is still reeling from two consecutive years of major coral bleaching. “Each starfish eats about its body diameter a night, and so over time that mounts up very significantly,” Hugh Sweatman, a senior research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio. A lot of coral will be lost,” he said. That would mean a blow for both the ecosystem and the lucrative tourism industry which it supports.” Obviously, now is the time to see the Great Barrier Reef – before it continues to deteriorate more severely. 

Chilean Cruise Line Australis Launches New Expedition Ship 

Cruise Critic reports Chilean cruise line Australis has launched its second expedition vessel, Ventus Australis. The 210-passenger vessel was christened at a ceremony at the Asenav shipyard in the southern Chilean city of Valdivia, where the ship was built. Ventus Australis will join sister ship Stella Australis, which launched in 2010 offering four, five and seven-night itineraries around the Chilean fjords — the only cruise line to do so. The cruises take in the glaciers, fjords and penguin colonies of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and include a visit to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the archipelago. The cruises depart either from Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, and run until April. Ventus Australis has 100 cabins with floor to ceiling windows, a free open bar, three lounges, complimentary guided excursions, nature lectures and a dining room featuring gourmet cuisine that includes local dishes and Chilean and Argentine wines. Itineraries include Zodiac excursions ashore to destinations like Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay and Pia Glacier, as well as a penguin colony at Tucker’s Islets. The itineraries also include the opportunity to sail down Glacier Alley, which houses a number of massive glaciers.

A Robotic Suitcase That Follows You Around The Airport

A China-based company is launching a new suitcase that followers travelers around like a puppy. The 90Fun Puppy 1 is slated to launch in the US at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. Puppy 1 may not be the first smart suitcase with auto-follow features, but the company says that its following suitcase is the first to use self-balance technology, thanks to a partnership with Segway. Despite having two wheels rather than four, the suitcase will self-balance as it follows you around the airport. The follow feature is set up using an auto-follow chip and a positioning system, 90Fun says. The follow mode is adjusted through a remote control, which also allows travelers to “summon” the suitcase, according to the company. The suitcase offers 20 inches of packing space and, despite the auto-follow, still includes a rolling handle. The brand has had success in China, where 90Fun recently took the top sales in luggage on a popular shopping day with 160,000 suitcases sold in 24 hours.  

Viking Ocean Cruises Announces Name Of Sixth Ship

Viking Ocean Cruises has announced the line’s sixth cruise ship, launching in February 2019, will be named Viking Jupiter. Torstein Hagen, the cruise line’s chairman and founder, announced the ship’s name at Port Los Angeles, where Viking Sun became the first ship in the fleet to visit the US West Coast. Viking Sun is sailing the company’s inaugural world cruise, a 141-day journey that began December 12 in Miami and will conclude May 5 in London. Viking Jupiter takes its name from the king of gods in Roman Mythology. The ship will be virtually identical to its fleetmates, with Scandinavian design, large cabins (each with a balcony), an opulent spa complex and serene public spaces. It will sail popular Viking itineraries in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas as well as a new 11-day Baltic Sea route. Viking began as a river cruise-focused company in 1997, eventually launching its innovative fleet of Longships. It debuted its ocean fleet in 2015 with Viking Star. Its next new ship, Viking Orion, will launch this spring. 

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