Tag Archives: cuba

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

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Chinese Gov’t Requires Strict Photo Regulations for China Visa

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

Biggest-Ever Airplane Poised For Test Flights Into Orbit

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

Montreal Ferris Wheel Set For July Opening

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

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Record Number Of Climbers On Mount Everest

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

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Corkage Fee for Wine Brought Onboard

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

President Trump To Reverse Cuba Policy

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

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Arctic Tourism Groups Forge Guidelines For Community Visits

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

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Filed under Canada, Caribbean, China, Europe, Royal Caribbean

Travel News: HAL cruises to Cuba

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Holland America Becomes Latest Cruise Line to Sail for Cuba

HAL just announced it will begin sailings from Ford Lauderdale to Cuba starting December 22, 2017, with a 12-day cruise on the Veendam. HAL will begin with nine 7-day itineraries calling at Havana, with three of these also calling at Cienfuegos. Other ports on the cruises will include Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Key West in Florida, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic. This follows the announcement of Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, who will sail Cuba as well.

Royal Caribbean Adds Chief Meteorologist To Marine Ops Team

Royal Caribbean Cruises has added what may be the first-ever full-time cruise industry Chief Meteorologist to its operations team in Jim Van Fleet, who brings a broadcasting background to the position and has degrees in climatology and broadcast meteorology. Van Fleet joined the Miami-based company in January.

Port of Lisbon Wants Homeport Calls

A new cruise terminal will be inaugurated this summer, a new state-of-the-art building located downtown in the city center as port officials have their eyes on building Lisbon into a major home port. And of those, the port is expecting quite a few with maiden visits scheduled from the Viking Sky, Freedom of the Seas, TUI Discovery 2, Columbus, Silver Muse, Variety Voyager, Caribbean Princess, Ocean Diamond, Viking Sun and the new MSC Meraviglia. Lisbon cruise season is mainly spring and fall and the city wants cruise ship to call year round. In addition, one of the main strategic goals is to increase the turnaround segment and establish Lisbon as a big national and international homeport hub, which will induce growth and eventually reduce seasonality effects.

John Travolta Donates His Famous 707

Actor John Travolta has donated his famous Qantas Boeing 707-138 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based at Albion Park, approximately 90 miles south of the city of Sydney, Australia. In a statement Travolta said “The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”. I was honored to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colors when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.  HARS is a not-for-profit organization and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. It has built up an impressive collection of over both flying and static aircraft including a Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. It is, without doubt, the most impressive aircraft museum in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Florence Mayor Aims To Keep Polluting Tourists At Bay

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city. Dario Nardella wants to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites. The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down at lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito. “We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor told The Guardian. “But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.” The streets of the city’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps. Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the center use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region. He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Family-centric getaways to Mexico offer something for all ages

On Mexico’s East and West coasts, Palladium Hotels and Resorts’ all-inclusive getaways emphasize privacy and wellness in the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. All hotels have tiered kids’ clubs — baby, mini and junior clubs — where children are entertained with kid-centric programs, designed to optimize both fun and education. The resorts’ Play at Palladium with Raggs program includes a group of 5 colorful TV characters as on-site ambassadors, hosting activities, poolside events, disco parties, a pirate show and on-property water sports. For older kids, cooking, science and magic classes are also available. 

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Filed under Airlines, Caribbean, Cruises, Cuba, Europe, Holland America Line, Italy, Mexico, portugal, Royal Caribbean

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

Travel News: Will Hawaii get its Inter-island Ferry back?

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Alaska Airlines To Keep Current Loyalty Program
In a year full of bad news for frequent flyers (see Delta/Alaska fallout), Alaska appears to be stepping up, bucking the trend, and doubling down on Mileage Plan, its loyalty program. It’s the only remaining airline loyalty program that doesn’t have a revenue component attached to it.
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Will Hawaii Gets Its Interisland Ferry Back?
The Hawaii State Department of Transportation received a US$500,000 grant from the federal Maritime Administration to hire consultants to explore potential routes and boats for an inter-island ferry. But would it work this time? By all accounts, environmentalists were the reason the Hawaii Super Ferry was shut down, but some speculated the airlines were also behind the demise of this alternate mode of inter-island travel. Right now, roundtrip airfare between most islands is around $US300, although there are a few lesser-costing modes of travel on small turbo-prop planes. To put this into perspective, for US$600 roundtrip, one could fly from the US East Coast to Europe (around 3,500 miles from New York to the UK), while the furthest distance in the major Hawaiian Islands is from Kauai to the Big Island – a distance of only 305 miles. The Hawaii Superferry launched in December 2007 and was forced to shut down in March 2009. It subsequently had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with debts that included $135.8 million owed to MARAD which had provided construction financing guarantees.
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Atlantis Resorts Coming to O’ahu
The extravagant Atlantis Resorts announced plans to develop a resort project in Ko Olina on O’ahu. It’s expected to be built near Disney’s Aulani Resort, and will mimic Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. There will likely be numerous restaurants, nightclub, spas, aquarium, waterpark, and waterfront hotel rooms—but for now, all of that is speculation. Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone said that it will be designed as an “international destination for millennial travelers,” so it is unknown how much the resort will reflect the local ecosystem and culture.

Uber Is Losing Lots Of Money
Uber generated $3.76 billion in net revenue the first 3 quarters of 2016, but it is estimated that the bottom line will be a loss of more than $2.2 billion, with $800 million of that in the third quarter. By year end, it is expected that Uber will have netted US$5.5 billion. The company has tried to keep its financial information from public consumption, however, an anonymous source has revealed this data, which also shows that the San Francisco-based company is valued at a whopping $69 billion. That’s more than Twitter and General Motors combined.

Sandals Opening Fourth Resort In St Lucia
Sandals Resorts International has announced its plan to add a fourth resort to its award-winning list of properties on the Eastern Caribbean island. The Sandals brand has enjoyed tremendous success in St Lucia since 1993 when it made its first foray there and the newest resort, to be named Sandals LaSource St Lucia, will by all indications be a game changer. Groundbreaking for the new resort which will be nestled on 19 acres of land next to the existing Sandals Grande St Lucian Resort is set to begin in spring 2017. With the addition of this new resort, guests in St Lucia will now have the option of ‘Staying-at-One, Playing-at-Four’. Sandals LaSource St Lucia will boast an exotic infinity-edge sky pool bar offering picturesque views of the island’s beautiful north coast, 350 rooms and suites inclusive of the exotic SkyPool Butler Suites and all-butler signature swim-up Rondoval Suites, a first in the chain. The new resort will also feature an electrifying entertainment package to include a main stage with a 20′ high LED screen and a mobile DJ party scene.

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Lie-Detecting Robot Is The Customs Officer Of The Future
Travelers in the US and Canada may soon be forced to undergo a lie detector test as a standard part of airport security. The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security. The robot, programmed to look for physiological changes that indicate lying through eye-detection software and other sensors, could help border agents catch terrorists or drug traffickers, according to San Diego State University researchers. “AVATAR is a kiosk, much like an airport check-in or grocery store self-checkout kiosk,” San Diego State University management information systems professor Aaron Elkins told SDSU’s News Center. The kiosk has a face on the screen that asks questions of travelers and can detect changes in physiology and behavior during the interview. The system can detect changes in the eyes, voice, gestures and posture to determine potential risk. It can even tell when you’re curling your toes. Passengers would be made to step up to the kiosk, then answer a series of questions such as, “Do you have fruits or vegetables in your luggage?” or “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” If lying is detected, a passenger is taken aside for further screening. Passengers are also asked a series of simple questions to measure whether they are simply anxious about flying. Elkins believes the kiosk, which he says is bilingual and polite, could be used not just for border security, but also for law enforcement and even job interviews. “AVATAR has been tested in labs, in airports and at border crossing stations,” Elkins explained. “The system is fully ready for implementation to help stem the flow of contraband, thwart fleeing criminals, and detect potential terrorists and many other applications in the effort to secure international borders.”

Some US Airlines Reducing Flights To Cuba
The Jamaica Gleaner reports some airlines in the United States are reducing flights to Cuba, with Silver Airways planning to trim its flight schedule to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country early in the new year. Silver Airways has become the second US airline to reduce the frequency of flights to Cuba. Between January and February, Silver Airways, which flies out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, plans to reduce the number of flights on six of its nine destinations to Cuba. The frequency of flights from FLL to Camagüey, Cuba will be reduced from five weekly trips to three; to Cayo Coco, Cuba from three weekly flights to two; to Holguín, to three per week instead of one daily flight; to Manzanillo, from three weekly flights to two; and to Varadero, Silver will trim its four weekly flights to three. Flights to Santiago, Cuba will also be reduced in February from one daily flight to three per week. Silver Airways, which does not offer flights to Havana, Cuba began regular flights to the island in September. The Silver Airways flights reduction follows American which announced in November that it would cut nearly a quarter of its flights to Cuba early next year due to poor demand. American, the US carrier with most flights to Cuba, had scheduled five daily flights to Havana and 56 weekly flights to other Cuban cities. But just over a month into operation, many of the flights were going half empty.

Port Everglades Gets Green Light To Deepen Channels
Port Everglades has received federal authorization for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with a plan to deepen and widen navigation channels. The approval came as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, signed into law Dec. 16 by the President. The project, currently in the preconstruction engineering and design phase, can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes. It is anticipated to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally resulting from additional cargo capacity. Port Everglades received authorization for more than $335 million in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act earlier this month. The new legislation allows the port to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal and receive the larger, neo-Panamax cargo ships. The project addresses safe shipping requirements as older cargo fleets are replaced with much larger ships that require wider channels and deeper water. Larger cargo ships currently arrive from Europe and South America lightly loaded and can experience difficulty maneuvering safely when other ships are berthed in some of the port’s narrower channel areas. Key features are to deepen the main navigational channels from 42 feet to 48 feet (plus one-foot required and another one-foot allowable overdepth for a total of 50 feet), and to deepen and widen the entrance channel and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway so that cargo ships can pass safely by docked cruise ships.

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Korean Air Crew To Be Allowed To Use Stun Guns On Passengers
Korean Air Lines has said it will allow crew members to “readily use stun guns” to manage in-flight disturbances, after being criticised by US singer Richard Marx for its handling of an incident involving a violent passenger. The South Korean carrier also said on Tuesday it will beef up security training of crew members. Last week, Marx said on Facebook and Twitter he helped initially subdue “a psycho passenger attacking crew members and other passengers”. He also accused crew members of being “ill-trained” and “ill-equipped” to handle the “chaotic and dangerous event”. Korean Air Lines said on Tuesday its crew members were “hesitant” to use taser guns because they were permitted for use in only “grave” situations which jeopardise the life of a passenger or crew member or the safety of a flight.

Gatwick Prepares For Major Terminal Shake-Up
Gatwick Airport is advising passengers to check the terminal of their airline as three of its major airlines prepare to switch in January. British Airways will move to the South Terminal, Virgin Atlantic will move to the North Terminal, and easyJet, which currently operates out of both terminals, will consolidate its entire operation in the North Terminal. The move will be the airport’s biggest project to date and took two years to plan. The relocation will be staggered over three days with all three airlines operating a reduced flying programme designed to simplify the upheaval. Around 50,000 passengers will be travelling with the three airlines on the 277 flights that will be relocating across the 72 hours. From 24 January all easyJet flights will depart from the North Terminal, while from 25 January British Airways flights will depart from the South Terminal and Virgin Atlantic flights will depart from the North Terminal. Gatwick said the changes will improve passenger experience with state-of-the-art technology at check-in, security and immigration as well as new bag-drop zones. It will also bring new British Airways and Virgin Atlantic lounges. Gatwick’s COO said “We are ready to deliver this major step in Gatwick’s strategic transformation programme. The moves have been meticulously planned for more than two years, with close attention given to ensuring that the airport operation and the experience of our passengers is not affected during the transition. Relocating the airlines allows greater efficiency and positions all three carriers for growth, which in turn drives Gatwick’s growth. For our passengers, investment at every step of their journey through the terminal will be hugely beneficial.”

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The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

Travel News: Delta and Alaska Airlines Will End Partnership in May 2017

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Delta and Alaska Airlines Will End Partnership in May 2017
Effective May 1, 2017, Delta and Alaska will no longer have a codeshare agreement, and sales of flights under DL- and AS-coded flight numbers flown on Alaska and Delta aircraft respectively will cease. Additionally, customers of each airline will no longer be able to earn and redeem Delta miles or Mileage Plan miles on flights operated by the other carrier. The carriers will retain an interline agreement, allowing them to continue offering customers ticketing and baggage connectivity.

Port Everglades Receives Federal Authorization to Deepen and Widen Channels
The Port Everglades Navigation Improvements Project has received federal authorization for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with deepening and widening the port’s navigation channels as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act signed into law December 16, 2016. The project is currently in the pre-construction engineering and design phase, and can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes. The project is anticipated to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally resulting from additional cargo capacity. The project could not come at a more crucial time to support the new, larger post Panamax ships now traversing the recently widened Panama Canal. The ability to accommodate larger cruise and cargo ships means the Port will remain a dynamic economic engine in the region.”

Shifting Visa Fees to Vietnam Can Be Confusing
The Chicago Tribune reports a State Department official, the US and Vietnam ratified an agreement last April that permitted Vietnam to issue 12-month, multiple-entry visas to US citizens. The US similarly allows Vietnamese citizens multiple-entry, 12-month visas for short-term business or tourism. It appears though, that the 12-month visas are the only ones available, instead of the former 30-day visa option. And the fee had skyrocketed. The Vietnam Embassy’s website (www.vietnamembassy.us) doesn’t list prices. It simply directs people to an email address and a phone number with multiple extensions. Depending on the embassy the price may range from $80 to $220. Because fees appear to be flexible, it’s a good idea to check with multiple consulates and the embassy for the lowest price. You’ll need to mail your passport and include a prepaid return envelope. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay. Must also have a minimum of 2 empty visa pages. We recommend that you pay the extra fee to work through a reliable Visa Service company. 

British Airways will charge for hot water
BusinessTraveller reports British Airways has confirmed that when the new Buy on Board short-haul service begins in January, “the airline will only provide cups for beverages purchased in flight”. The statement is in line with instructions to crew which state that only “potable water” will be available on request. All food and drink, including soft drinks and tea and coffee will be chargeable, and passengers will not be able to avoid paying simply by requesting hot water, then using their own coffee granules or tea bags. If customers do request a tea cup, then this will be charged “at the retail price regardless of whether a tea bag is required.”

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Royal Caribbean Cruises To Hire Lifeguards
Cruiselawnews reports that RCCL is now advertising that it is hiring lifeguards on its cruise ships. The cruise line posted the availability of the lifeguard position as of December 21, 2016. The posting (below) indicates that the lifeguard “will need to perform rescue of Guests in danger of drowning and be vigilant to potential accidents. Will be trained to administer first aid, CPR, Oxygen & AED as required. This position will open, close, monitor and operate aquatic recreational spaces including but not limited to Swimming Pools, H2O Zones / Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions . . . ” This reflects a change of position with this cruise line which previously did not employ lifeguards on its cruise ships. Most cruise lines, with the exception of Disney Cruises, do not employ lifeguards on their ships.

App Reveals Wi-Fi Passwords For Airports Worldwide

A handy Google Map created by travel blogger and computer security engineer Anil Polat reveals wifi passwords from airports all around the world and is constantly updated with tips from travelers. As the list has grown in popularity, Polat has turned it into an app called WiFox. By clicking on the planes on the map, you’ll discover that the passwords for various airline lounges are revealed. And if you’re feeling like sharing the knowledge the next time you’re traveling, send on that password. Polat’s WiFox map is updated regularly, based on verified information submitted by travelers. It’s available in iOS, Android, and Google Play.

Bookings Up For New American Duchess Riverboat

American Queen Steamboat Co. reports heavy demand for the inaugural season of American Duchess, its new all-suite paddle-wheeler scheduled to debut on the Mississippi in June. American Duchess offers three 550-square-foot owner’s suites, four 550-square-foot loft suites (a first on the US rivers), two 450-square-foot deluxe suites and spacious veranda and interior suites. American Queen Steamboat Co. said the new vessel will deliver same high standards of service, entertainment and shore excursions that customers have come to expect from a line that also operates American Queen in the US heartland and American Empress in the Pacific Northwest. American Duchess fares include a pre-cruise hotel night at iconic boutique properties.

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29 Cruise Ships Receive Perfect CDC Scores in 2016

Holland America’s Eurodam continues its streak of perfect health ratings from the Centers for Disease Control in 2016, receiving a score of 100 for the 10th consecutive time. Four other Holland America ships, Westerdam, Veendam, Noordam and Maasdam, also earned perfect scores during the year, joining the 29 total vessels that passed the unannounced inspections with no black marks. The CDC inspects all ships that sail in or out of a U.S. port twice a year. Ships must earn a score of 86 or higher to pass. In 2015, 32 cruise ships received perfect scores. Celebrity earned the most perfect scores, with six ships receiving 100. Royal Caribbean had four ships with perfect scores; Carnival Cruises had three, as did Princess Cruises; Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruises had two ships that scored 100. Within the luxury category, Crystal Serenity, Oceania’s Regatta and Silverseas’ Silver Shadow all earned top scores.

Cuba Tourism Boom leads to Lack of Food
Tourism Industry News reports For a few years now, Cuba has been opening its economy. As a result, and thanks to the warmer relations with the US, the number of tourists coming to the country has been growing fast. After decades of isolation, Cuban tourism industry reported almost 3.5 million visitors in 2015. The record number of travelers however has caused a serious trouble for the locals, the lack of food. The goods that Cubans were used to have is not available any more. The food goes to the rising numbers of tourists that can afford to pay prices which the locals cannot. The reasons for the dire effects of Cuban tourism boom is, according to experts, not only the US embargo, but also the insufficient governmental planning. Fresh vegetable, for instance, are so expensive for Cubans, that it mostly goes to private restaurants serving the tourists. Thanks to the increased prices of staples like peppers and onions, as well as limes and pineapples are quite unaffordable for many. It is even hard to find any soda or beer in the shops since most of it is bought in bulk by the restaurants. The disparity between the prices of food and the salaries is astronomical. The revenues from Cuban tourism greatly benefits the growing private sector. However, most Cubans still work for the state-run companies. For them, buying a pound of onions and of tomatoes would take 10% of a standard government salary, which is about $25 a month. According to Juan Alejandro Triana, an economist at the University of Havana, the government has not invested sufficiently in the agriculture for a long time. The produce planned for 11 million people cannot feed the 3.5 million tourists as well.

US Considers Cellphones On Flights But No Calls 

The Washington Post reports the federal government on Thursday moved closer to allowing cellphone use during flights, but with a catch: Passengers won’t be able to use the devices to make calls. If approved, the new rules would mean consumers could use their data plans to surf the Web or send e-mails and texts once a plane reaches 10,000 feet but passengers could not make voice calls. Many of the details have yet to be worked out.

E-cigarette Causes Fire On American Airlines Flight
An e-cigarette has something new in common with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Both have smoked up airplanes. Last Thursday, an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Indianapolis was diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas, when “a passenger’s electronic cigarette in their possession malfunctioned and burst into flames. Thanks to the quick actions of our crew members, the fire was extinguished,” a spokesman for the airline said.added. The plane was an MD-80 and the airline says that none of the 137 passengers and 5 crew members were hurt. The passengers were put on another plane and the incident has been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Iconic Atlantis Resort Coming To Hawaii
China Oceanwide entered into a management agreement today with subsidiaries of Kerzner International Holdings Limited, a leading international developer and operator of destination resorts and ultra-luxury hotels, for a new, Atlantis resort in Ko Olina, a 642 acre development on Oahu beaches in Hawaii. This will be the first Atlantis resort in the United States, along with the brand’s flagship in Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm and the new icon in China, Atlantis, Sanya Hainan which will open in 2017, as well as The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences in Dubai.

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EU To Support Pilots With Mental Health Concerns
European aviation safety regulator EASA has published proposals to improve support to pilots who have mental health concerns, and increase checks before and during employment. The European Aviation Safety Agency proposals include access by pilots to mental health programe; a requirement for airlines to carry out psychological assessments of pilots before employment; and drug and alcohol testing after incidents. Random tests would also be carried out after pilots return to work.

Viking’s Mississippi River Plans Delayed

Previously plans To cruise the Mississippi River by European cruise giant Viking now appears uncertain. The cruise line with ships gliding down rivers in Europe, China and Egypt announced plans last year to launch a fleet of cruise ships on the Mississippi, traveling from New Orleans to St. Louis and occasionally St. Paul, by 2017. Earlier this year, Viking said it was pushing its move to the Mississippi to 2018. Viking has issued this statement: “We are actively working with our partners to launch on the Mississippi River, but at this point in time we do not have any details to share regarding product specifics or a launch timeline.”

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Travel News of the Week: NatGeo’s Best List

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National Geographic Traveler Announced Its Annual Best of the World List

They list 21 must-see places to visit in 2017. The destinations were all chosen by the Traveler editors and fall into one of three categories- Cities, Nature, or Culture. The full list can be found in the December/January 2017 issue of Traveler magazine, available on newsstands nationwide starting November 29, and online now at NatGeoTravel.com/BestTrips2017.”This special issue takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world’s best destinations,” saidGeorge Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “We think this year’s list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery. It’s not just about where to go, but why to go now and how to make 2017 a year of enlightenment through travel.The online hub includes an immersive visual experience with 360 videos along with helpful tips and facts for planning trips to each locale. Visitors will also find inspiring illustrations to download and share. National Geographic Traveler (six issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 15 international editions. The National Geographic Travel digital group shares its inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps with its @NatGeoTravel community of over 20 million. – See more at: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/national-geographic-travel-announces-best-of-the-world-list#sthash.kD4wGuiu.dpuf

American Is Cutting Flights To Cuba, from 13 roundtrip flights to 10

As US airlines begin flights this week to Havana, the long-awaited travel surge to Cuba is already a bit shaky. American will daily round-trip flights between the US and Cuba to 10, from 13, starting in mid-February because of lower than expected demand. The company also will fly smaller jets on two routes. Other carriers, including Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines, said bookings so far are in line with expectations. Southwest declined to comment. But airlines have kept fares low to fill seats. Eight airlines, including American, began initiating service to Havana this week, with a total of 500 flights to the city expected to have been completed by year end, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Flights to smaller Cuban cities began earlier this year. Any cutback to Cuba flights isn’t likely to hurt the airlines’ business in a material way.

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Supersonic Jet Faster Than The Concorde Gets Its Public Debut

A skinny little airplane parked in a hangar of the Centennial Airport aims to revolutionize how people fly and reintroduce the world to supersonic flight. Boom Technology has spent two years designing a supersonic passenger plane with the financial economics the defunct Concorde could never achieve. A full-size mockup of a smaller test plane will be unveiled publicly soon. If all goes well in flight tests next year, the company will move ahead and build a full-size 45-seat aircraft that can travel 2.2 times faster than the speed of sound at a price on par with business-class tickets for a 3-hour-and-15-minute flight from New York to London.

BBC Earth Experiences Rolling Out on Holland America Line

Passengers onboard Holland America Line ships can now look forward to BBC Earth Experiences, currently available on ms Koningsdam, ms Noordam, ms Rotterdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Zuiderdam and ms Eurodam and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet (except ms Prinsendam) by March 2017. Passengers can “now experience more of the world’s natural wonders, test their knowledge of our planet and participate in some family-friendly competition through the cruise line’s exclusive partnership with BBC Earth,” said Holland America in a prepared release. The new offerings immerse guests in BBC Earth’s experiences. A highlight is “Frozen Planet Live,” a concert based on the BBC Earth “Frozen Planet” television series. “Frozen Planet Live,” on each ship’s main stage, features live musicians playing a musical score by George Fenton as the images unfold on screen. HAL also unveiled a new partnership with Food Network’s “America’s Test Kitchen.”

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Daily Ski-Passes In Europe Cost 54 Euros On Average

This winter season, skiers must pay few euros more than last year for daily ski-passes in Europe. In most winter resorts, the price is 54 euros for one day of enjoying the slopes. The price for a daily ski-pass for one adult in Austria will increase by an average of 1.14 euros or 2.72%. Skiers in Austria will now pay an average of 43 euros for a daily ski-pass. Skiing in the Alps is the most expensive, but in Switzerland the prices are even higher. Daily ski-pass prices have increased by 0.65 euros or 1.13% to about 54 euros on average. Prices in Swiss ski resorts, however, are the most stable and show the slightest increases in four years. Italy is the leader with an average price increase of 1.37 euros – to 43 euros. Italy is therefore as expensive as Austria as of now. This year for the first time in the ranking the cheapest ski destinations were identified. This year it is the Czech Republic, where visitors pay on average 27 euros for a daily ski-pass. Other destinations cheaper than Austria are Germany (34 euros) and France (38 euros). On our side of the Atlantic the price increases are by far the highest. While Italy has the highest price increases with 3.22%, the rates in Canada and USA are 6.04% and 6.81% respectively. In the US, a one-day ticket costs around $89 (84 euros), in Canada about 92 Canadian dollars (65 euros).

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