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Travel News: Irish Beach reappears 33 years after vanishing into Atlantic Ocean

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Delta Passengers Can Now Check Their Bags By Scanning Their Face 

Mashable reports Delta passengers will soon be able to check their bags via a facial recognition scanner that uses biometric technology to match their passport photos to their face. The new technology is the first of its kind in the US and Delta hopes it will help both customers and airline agents save time during check-in. Launch details: Delta has invested $600,000 in 4 biometric self-service bag drop machines, which will be placed in Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport this summer, but only one will include the facial recognition software. Delta will then collect customer feedback to determine how and when it will expand it other airports. Privacy experts have urged government agencies and airlines to be cognizant of the risks involved when implementing this type of technology, “especially if it’s found that they are cross-checking facial images with law enforcement databases without permission.” Delta has insisted it will protect customer’s privacy, and will not save anyone’s information or images of their faces.

American Duchess To Launch Service In August From New Orleans

The American Queen Steamboat Company will launch service with its new American Duchess from New Orleans on Aug. 14, 2017. Inland riverboat cruising has boomed for the Port of New Orleans in recent years, growing 40 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, as the Port welcomed 21,391 passengers on three homeported paddle wheelers sailing on the Lower Mississippi River, according to a press release from the port. Other Louisiana stops on the American Duchess itinerary include the Nottoway Antebellum Mansion in White Castle, the historic district in downtown St. Francisville, and museums and attractions in Baton Rouge.


Irish Beach reappears 33 years after vanishing into Atlantic Ocean

A beach that was swept away more than 30 years ago from a remote island off the west coast of Ireland has reappeared after thousands of tons of sand were deposited on top of the rocky coastline. Dooagh beach is now back after a storm returned sand to it, 30 years after another storm had stripped all the sand off the beach, on Achill island, County Mayo, Ireland, The 300 meter beach near the tiny village of Dooagh on Achill Island vanished in 1984 when storms stripped it of its sand, leaving nothing more than a series of rock pools. But after high spring tides last month, locals found that the Atlantic Ocean had returned the sand. The popular beach once sustained four hotels and a number of guesthouses on the west coast of the island of 2,600 people.

The island, the largest off the coast of Ireland, forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a tourist trail stretching from the south of the country to the north-west that has benefited from a tourist boom in the European Union’s fastest-growing economy.

Newest Celebrity Edge, will have Malala Yousafzai as godmother

Celebrity Cruises named human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai godmother to the line’s newest ship, Celebrity Edge, which launches in late 2018. She will christen the ship in Fort Lauderdale in December 2018. Celebrity is also partnering with Yousafzai’s nonprofit foundation, the Malala Fund, to help tell her story and raise money for the more than 130 million girls who do not have access to 12 years of schooling. “The godmother is a beacon for what we stand for and what we believe in,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity, adding that among the brand’s strongest commitments is a belief in gender parity, equality and diversity. As part of the partnership, Celebrity Cruises is making a “significant donation” to the Malala Fund. Additionally, the cruise line will begin showing the documentary “He Named Me Malala” on the in-cabin TVs (both passenger and crew cabins) on all of its ships. The line will also “in the very near future” start selling the book “I Am Malala,” along with Malala Fund t-shirts and a co-created Celebrity Cruises and Malala Fund piece of merchandise on all ships. All proceeds from these items will go directly to the Malala Fund. Celebrity will also provide a custom Malala Fund URL onboard its ships that cruisers and crew can use to donate to the fund.


New Japanese luxury train even has a fireplace on board

From the BBC: The Train Suite Shiki-shima is designed to give you the ultimate luxury experience: tickets range from $2,860 to around $10,000 and you can choose between a two- or four-day trip. The Shiki-shima had its maiden journey on 1 May. The train was built to the plans of designer Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama and is being advertised as using only the best of materials, many linked to traditional Japanese craftsmanship. The train will take you from Tokyo to the northernmost island Hokkaido, and carries 34 passengers. There are trips with one or three nights on board to choose from. The plans for the train were announced by the East Japan Railway Company in 2014 and there has been crazy demand now the train is finally here. A lottery for seats on launch day was said to have been over-subscribed by a factor of 76. Tickets for the 10-car train are sold out until March 2018. The food will be prepared by Michelin star chefs and presented by uniformed butlers. Everything on board aims to rival the experience of a top-end luxury hotel. 

Disney Wonder is the first ship through the expanded Panama Canal locks

Although passenger ships first made their way down the Panama Canal back in 1914, and millions have done so in the last century, the world’s most famous man-made waterway saw the beginning of a new era this weekend when a cruise ship crossed the recently expanded locks for the first time. The Disney Wonder, a 2,713-passenger ship, passed through the canal’s new locks on April 29 as part of its 14-day trip from Florida to San Diego. As USA Today reports, the 83,308-ton ship had used the canal in the past, but it was too wide to travel the old route after the ship was expanded in 2016. On April 1, the Panama Canal began accepting booking requests for passenger vessels in the new locks. So far, 18 reservations have already been made for passenger vessels to transit the Expanded Canal for the 2017-2018 season, a number which is expected to increase in the coming months. To put things in perspective: The old locks measured 1,000 feet by 110 feet by 42 feet; the new locks are 1,400 feet by 180 feet by 60 feet. The ten-deck Wonder is 106 feet wide, leaving about 35 feet of water on either side of the boat in the new locks. It’s cozy, but it does the job. The canal upgrade began in 2007 but encountered a number of problems along the way; it finally opened in 2016, two years behind schedule and about $1 billion dollars over budget, for a total cost of $5 billion, according to NPR. But it came about to keep up with recently expanded Suez Canal, and to allow larger cargo ships to transit the isthmus, rather than having to circumnavigate the southern cone of South America, which adds 8,000 miles to a journey.

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European Cruising with Avalon Waterways

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What you should know about Renting a Car Abroad

Driving in a foreign country can be a little disorienting! Be sure to read up on the latest updates about renting and driving a car internationally. To help ensure you have a wonderful (and stress-free) experience abroad, here are some of our basic guidelines for prospective renters to consider.

photo by Ugg Boy, creative commons

–          Drivers. Consider who will be driving. Drivers can miss some sights and signs. The driver needs a passenger with a talent for maps (even if they have a GPS) and for reading signs. There may be an additional driver fee to be paid at the front desk.

–          International Driving Permit. An IDP is often required to rent abroad. The permits are merely official translations of an individual’s driver’s license, and can be useful if traveling in a country where English is not widely spoken. For a full list of countries that do require, the IDP, click here.

–          Car versus Train. Small villages and quaint countrysides are often not accessible to those relying on public transport such as trains and buses. Train travel is a huge part of European networks, but it can be limiting. Cars can grant you the freedom to explore the hills of Tuscany or the Basque country on your own time and at your own pace.

–          Time period. European car rental companies rent by the 24-hour period, not by the day. This means if you pick up a car at noon and drop it off at 1PM the next day, you have rented it for 2 days, not one.

–          Insurance. Some car companies will never allow you to rent without some type of insurance. They will provide their own if you don’t have any. However, it’s definitely worth checking if your credit card company already covers international car rentals collision damage—this can save you from paying extra for insurance you may already have. Major credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard offer some collision damage coverage. Whoever your provider, double check that they do cover your destination(s). You can rent in certain countries without insurance, just be sure to purchase travel insurance that covers up to 35,000 for CDW. Speak to your travel agent for more information on insurance.

–          Fees. You should be aware of extra fees that may be included: higher fuel costs, one-way fees, per diem road tax, airport surcharges. If you are in an accident or illegality, there will be processing fees.

–          Different Rules & Regulations. Be aware that driving in Europe may be extremely different than what you’re used to—single highway speed limits, roundabouts, different sides of the road. Tail gating is not an unusual habit of drivers abroad. Ask your travel agent for a country driving guide.

–          Gas. Many cars use diesel instead of unleaded. Check with the car rental company if you are unsure.

–          Car Size. When selecting your car size, there are many factors to consider. Full size in Europe is definitely smaller than a full size in the USA. If there are only two passengers but you have a lot of luggage, economy will be much too small. A size up can mean considerably more leg room and space for baggage, while if you’re on a solo business trip opt for a smaller size instead. If you’re thinking of traversing harsh terrain, an SUV might be the best bet. Have a specialty request or luxury class in mind? Ask us about our resources.

–          Manual versus Automatic shift. Cars with manual transmission are often less expensive than automatic in Europe. If you do drive it here, drive it there! However, there are exception to the rule. We recommend that in certain countries, such as the UK and Ireland, where drivers drive on the left side of the road, opt for automatic shift as it is one less thing to think about!

–          Deductibles. A deductible is when a car company holds an amount on your credit card as collateral. This can often be very high, occasionally equal to the whole value of the car. You can sometimes ask for a zero deductible. This will add to the overall cost on your car but there will be no hold on your credit card. We often recommend to our clients to take the -0- deductible. Christina, CEO of Wittravel, has one anecdote to share: “Once we were driving in England and were rear-ended. We had -0- deductible insurance. We called the car company, and they had their nearby office drive out with a new car. There was no trip interruption at all. For stress-free driving, think about the -0- deductible if it is offered.” The bottom line is, when in doubt, as your travel agent.

–          Leasing. Renting for three weeks are more? Consider leasing instead. It’s tax-free and sometimes includes zero deductible collision and theft insurance. It could be very cost effective especially with insurance if you are renting for at least 21 days, and sometimes as low as 17.

–          Map. Don’t forget a map! Keep a detailed road map or atlas in your car at all times. If you want extra security and ease of mind, consider renting a GPS. We can offer this to you when we book your vehicle. We also have a GPS in house that clients can rent. Ask us for more details.

The best thing you can do is ask your travel agent. We have booked thousands of cars all across the globe for our clients. Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

photo by Matt Buck, creative commons

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Filed under Features, Travel by Car, Travel Tips