Tag Archives: egypt

Travel News: TSA ramping up for Spring Break

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TSA getting ready for Spring Break Travelers

The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up for the Spring Break travel period, which usually begins around the end of February and continues into April. According to a release, the TSA expects to screen about 62 million travelers at airports across the country in March alone, and it expects to hit a ten-year high traffic volume. “As we approach the Spring Break travel period, security remains our top priority, and we are taking every measure, both seen and unseen, to protect the millions of air travelers,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia. The agency is also collaborating with vendors, airlines and airports to open automated screening lanes in the coming months. Such lanes are designed to improve the screening process by automating many of the functions and allowing passengers to move more quickly through a security checkpoint. Automated screening lanes are currently available at Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International.

Record Number of Cruise Ships On Order 

When 2017 opened, there were a record 73 cruise ships on order, and now, according to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, that number has surged to 82 with recent orders from Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and a small unnamed luxury brand. The orderbook now totals at least 82 ships, not including a number of known options, meaning the cruise industry is looking a decade of solid growth even as older, smaller vessels are retired. The orderbook is well up from another previous record of 70 ships on order, set in 2016, which eclipsed the year 2000, which saw some 67 ships on order early in the year, according to data from Cruise Industry News. While ship volume is a record, the average size of ships is staying put at approximately 3,000 passengers, offset by smaller luxury and expedition ships. The average tonnage of ships on order is approximately 117,256. 

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One For The Record Book: Holland America Line’s Eurodam’s 11th Perfect USPH Score

Kudos to Holland America Line’s Eurodam as it earned its 11th consecutive 100 score on a routine US Public Health inspection, a run that’s unprecedented both for the company and the cruise industry. The inspection was held Jan. 14 during a turnaround at Port Everglades at the start of a seven-day Caribbean cruise. This follows on the heels of sister ship Koningsdam achieving a perfect score on its first USPH inspection in December. In 2016 five additional HAL ships aced USPH: Eurodam, Maasdam, Veendam, Noordam and Westerdam. The year before 10 perfect scores were received by seven HAL ships: Eurodam, Noordam, Veendam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Ryndam and Statendam.

British Airways strike for 7 days

Unite, the trade union of British Airways’s cabin crew, has announced another strike for seven consecutive days from March 3. The mixed fleet crew, who make up around 15 percent of the total BA cabin staff, have been in a long-running dispute over pay and Unite said that the solid results announced earlier on Friday by BA’s owner IAG meant they could meet the union’s demands. If you’re booked on British Airways, please check their website for updates before your flight. 

American Airlines boards passengers based on ticket cost

American has announced an update to its boarding process that will take the new fare into account. The company says that starting March 1, boarding groups will no longer be called by their current name. Instead, travelers will now board as part of a group ranging from Group 1 to Group 9. The changes may spark some confusion amongst travelers, who are used to the airline only using four groups to designate main boarding lanes. Now, however, groups 1-4 designate priority boarding lanes, while groups 5-9 represent main boarding lanes. Basic Economy travelers will be the last to board. Other airlines are likely to follow if this boarding method proves effective. Read more here: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/american-airlines-announces-new-boarding-process-022717.html

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Jimmy Fallon Loves Travel Agents

What better spokesman could there be for the new Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando than Jimmy Fallon himself? Jimmy turned up in person at a reception for members of the travel press to showcase the new ride and Universal Orlando Resort’s new water theme park, Volcano Bay, coming in April and May, respectively. And there was even a nod to travel agents. “Of course I use a travel agent. Travel agents get you the best rooms and the best rates,” Jimmy said when asked by TMR. “I was friends with a travel agent growing up in Saugerties, NY; I’ve used a travel agent my whole life. I don’t even know how to book my own trip.”

Egypt’s Visa Fee To More Than Double

Egypt is increasing fees for entry visas from $25 to $60 for incoming tourists starting 1 March. The foreign ministry informed airport security officials about the fee increase earlier this week. Egypt last raised the fee for its visa in April 2014, when it was increased from $15 to $25. Several tour operators have said that the decision would cause problems for tourists who booked trips based on the old rate. Some in the tourism sector say the decision should have been announced several months beforehand, expressing fears that the move might affect the country’s efforts to revive tourism, a pillar of the economy and a key source of foreign currency. 

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Pisa Is Adding A Ferris Wheel To Attract Tourists

Pisa, Italy, known for its leaning tower, is adding a Ferris wheel to attract tourists. Andrea Ferrante, Pisa’s culture commissioner, announced details about the wheel on state television, the Associated Press reported. The wheel will be more than 165-feet tall. (The tower is about 183-feet tall.) Italia Nostra, an organization dedicated to preserving Italy’s history, has come out against the ride, saying it will “clash” with Pisa’s Medieval architecture, AP reported. Controversial or not, the attraction is set to rise in a parking lot this summer to test if tourists like it. In addition to getting a bird’s eye view of the leaning tower, riders will also be able to see the Mediterranean. Pisa is on Italy’s western coast, about an hour’s drive from Florence. Ferris wheels have become popular as tourist attractions in several cities around the world. The London Eye may be the most well-known.

Elvis still a star

Nearly four decades after Elvis sang his last tune, his legacy got a US $45 million boost with the Thursday opening of a major new attraction at his Graceland estate – an entertainment complex that Priscilla Presley says gives “the full gamut” of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. About 200 people streamed into “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” after the late singer’s wife cut a ribbon and allowed fans to see the complex for the first time. Resembling an outdoor mall, the 200,000-square-foot campus sits across the street from Graceland, Presley’s longtime home-turned-museum. The complex features a comprehensive Presley exhibit with clothing he wore on stage and guitars he played, a showcase of the cars he owned and used, a soundstage, a theatre, two restaurants and retail stores.

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Top Ten Destinations for Diving

photo by Paul Toogood

Did you know that today is World Oceans Day? Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network have celebrated by promoting ecological awareness, community involvement, sustainable seafood events, and other ways to honor the world’s oceans.

Here at WIT, we are celebrating by taking a look at some of the best places to scuba dive around the world!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Paradise Reef, a series of interconnecting reefs full of shellfish, crustaceans, and colorful fish. It is also the site of “The Abyss,” a 3000-foot vertical drop that descends into darkness. Lucky divers can catch a sight of the Splendid Toad Fish, endemic to the region.

When to Go: September to May

What to See: orange ball anemones, file-fish, sea turtles, octopi, French angel, shipwrecks, file fish, trunkfish, stonefish, moray eels

Cayman Islands

The three Cayman Islands are great locales to dive around—there’s great visibility, very little runoff from the land, and ample amounts of Caribbean fish and invertebrates. Scuba diving is fantastic all year long on the leeward side of the Grand Cayman, where the waters are protected from wind and waves.

When to Go: All year round, water temperatures range from 80F in winter to 86F in summer.

What to See: Stingray City (a series of shallow sandbars with dozens of rays), Kittiwake Wreck, shallow reefs.

Tahiti

With temperatures between 79F and 84F in summer and visibility down to 120 feet, Tahiti is a great diving destination for the novice and seasoned expert alike. The island is known for its large marine life: from manta rays with meter-long wing spans, to Napoleon fish reaching over 35 kg. There are also several excellent training facilities to get your CMAS and PADI certifications.

When to Go: Year round.

What to See: gray shark, reef shark, sleeper shark, barracudas, dolphins, turtles, humpback whales (July-October), shipwrecks.

Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands boast a marine life as diverse and wondrous as the one on land. The waters are rich in phytoplankton, casting them a deep green shade. But do make sure you are with experienced divers—those currents are not to be trifled with!

When to Go: February to April

What to See: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, creole wrasse, seahorses, batfish, frogfish—and out of the water, marine iguanas and penguins!

Fiji

The Fiji archipelago is encircled by a huge reef, making shallow lagoons and a plethora of amazing scuba sites. Diving is a major attraction here, with a visibility of 130 feet deep, and warm waters from 77F in winter and 86F in summer.

When to Go: Year Round.

What to See: Astrolabe Reef, Bega Lagoon, Rainbow Reef

photo by Paul Toogood

Bali, South Pacific

The incredible diving in Bali is due to the island’s currents and its rich marine life—with a list of over 600 coral species and 3000 reef fish species. The Indonesian Throughflow is a flow of water that exits from the Indonesian archipelago into the Indian Ocean, carrying organic nutrients, plankton, and larvae that provide a healthy diet for the area’s fish and mollusks.

When to Go: April to November

What to See: Big Bumphead parrotfish, ghost pipefish, cometfish, anemonefish, morays, ribbon eels, octopi, mola-mola, or the ocean sunfish. Tulamben Wall—its purple gorgonian sea fan that stretches over 2 meters in diameter.

Cocos and Malpelo Islands, Costa Rica and Colombia

The Caribbean is home to some incredible samples of sealife. Nowhere else in the world can divers swim with such a plethora of sharks and large fish. Cocos Island has around 20 dive sites, with both shallow to steep options available. Malpelo Island’s main attraction is the scalloped hammerhead shark, which can swim in schools of up to 300 sharks.

When to Go: September to March

What to See: hammerheads, silk sharks, Galapagos shark, whale shark

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

At 2,600 km, this gigantic coral reef system is the largest in the world. It runs along the Queensland coast of Australia, and is composed of around 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. Due to its size, it offers scuba challenges for both amateurs and professionals, and is home to a great diversity of sealife—sharks, dolphins, or a saltwater crocodile if you’re really fortunate!

When to Go: August to January

What to See: tiger sharks, whale sharks, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, 360 species of hard corals, sea snakes, 6 types of sea turtles, giant groupers, Caribbeam reef shark, nurse shark, saltwater crocodile (rare), humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The World’s Great Aquarium” due to its biodiversity. This is a great destination for North Americans due to its proximity and size. Also known as the Gulf of California, this strip of water separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, and shares a coastline of around 2,500 miles.

When to Go: June to November

What to See: marlin, dorado, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, shipwrecks, devil rays, cow-nose ray, mola-molas, amber jacks, goatfish, turtles, moray eels, pufferfish, porcupine fish, flute fish, scorpionfish, lobsters, seahorses.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu in the South Pacific is a diver’s paradise—with a vast collection of caves, lava towers, coral mazes, grottoes and wrecks. A chain of 83 tropical islands, it’s a great spot to witness some great underwater sights—including the must-see SS “President Coolidge,” at 22,000 tons, the largest wreck dive in the world.

When to Go: April to October

What to See: SS “President Coolidge,” swordfish, marlins, barracuda, dolphins, unique starfish, dugongs, and Million Dollar Point (a stockpile of equipment dumped by the U.S. military).

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How to be a responsible, eco-friendly diver

  1. Maintain proper buoyancy: greater weight increases drag on your body, increasing the risk of damaging the reef or disturbing the floor
  2. Never touch a creature: touching can remove protective layers of oil or skin and possibly damage the animal. Watch out for the more delicate living coral.
  3. Be aware of your dimensions: Pay attention to what is around you and where you are going—divers operate in terms of front and back, sideways, and up and down. Make sure you keep aware of your surroundings.
  4. Secure your gear: firmly attaching your gear keeps it from banging around or potentially falling.
  5. Leave no trace: don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. Minimize your carbon diver’s footprint, and keep the reef intact.

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Willamette International Travel has worked with a variety of diving companies who tailor their services around your needs. We have sent clients on day excursions, shoretrips and multiday LiveAboard experiences alike in destinations such as Australia, Bahamas, Fiji, Christmas Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, and more!

Thinking about incorporating diving into your trip abroad? Ask us about some great scuba opportunities! Email our in-house certified diver at pamd@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Northwest News: King Tut Exhibit

photo by Frank Merenda

King Tut’s treasures are coming to the Seattle this year! This will be the final time U.S. guests will be able to admire the ancient and gold wonders of this famed pharaoh before their permanent return to Cairo. As expected, tickets have been selling fast!

From May 24 2012 to January 6 2013, the Pacific Science Center is hosting Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaoh. To promote this incredible opportunity, PSC is teaming up with the Marriot SpringHill Suites and the Warwick Seattle Hotel–offering discounted hotel packages with exclusive VIP access to the exhibit!

Call Willamette International Travel for prices and details of a number of hotel/ticket packages, which can include:

–         2 VIP tickets to exhibit

–         Overnight accommodation in spacious suites

–         Audio Tour Passes

–         Official Exhibition Catalogue

–         Shuttle from hotel to Pacific Science Center

–         Valet Parking

–         Breakfast Buffet

–         2 Tuttini’s at Bistro on Yale

Some of the exquisite treasures available for viewing are:

–         A 10 foot statue of King Tut

–         Stunning furniture and jewelry

–         King Tut’s golden sandals

–         A replica of the pharaoh’s mummy

–         The Gold death mask of King Psusennes I

Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com today for this once in a lifetime chance!

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Filed under Egypt, Middle East, News, The Pacific Northwest, USA, Washington

Vendor of the Month: Caravan-Serai

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This month we are featuring one of our spectacular escorted tours, Caravan-Serai! This tour company provides travels to destinations in the Arab World such as the popular Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, as well as off-the-radar locations such as Yemen and Algeria. You also have the option of exploring non-Arab countries such as Armenia and Iran.

Caravan-Serai Tours is owned by Rita Zawaideh, born in Jordan and educated and living in Seattle. She is proud of her tours that offer fun, safe, exciting, and educational views of her home region. Their Saudi Arabia tour was once named “Tour of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler Magazine.

Named after the “inns” of the Silk Road, Caravan-Serai Tours is based in Seattle but hosts employees from all over the world whose goal is to unveil the “enigma” surrounding this part of the world. Groups generally run from 10-16 people, allowing for intimate excursions to the wonders and sites this region has to offer. The Arab World has long intrigued the West, with its stunning Islamic architecture, beautiful calligraphy, arabesque patterns and ornate tilework—as well enchanted us with its food: tzatziki, lamb kebab, fresh flat bread. As the birthplace of civilization, this region still retains most of its ancient ruins, timeworn metropolises, and mausoleums.

Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins. Thematic tours are occasionally offered, like the Persian Gardens of Iran, yachting in Turkey, or desert trekking in Morocco.

Caravan-Serai and Willamette Intl Travel work hand in hand to give you a travel experience unlike any other! They will assist you with pre/post trip concerns, prepare travel documents, and coordinate to make your tour hassle-free and delightful.

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to Iran, check out the link: http://www.wittravel.com/reports/Iran_April08.pdf

Willamette International Travel is proud to work with Caravan-Serai Tours! Call us for a booking at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com

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