Tag Archives: hawaii

Travel News: Hawaii Hikes Hotel Tax To Pay For Honolulu Rail Transit

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Hawaii Hikes Hotel Tax To Pay For Honolulu Rail Transit

ETN reports Hawaii Tourism Authority issued the following Travel Industry Notification RE: 1% Transient Accommodations Tax Increase Takes Effect January 1, 2018: Please be advised that, effective January 1, 2018, the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) applied to lodging accommodations in the State of Hawaii will be increased by 1%, raising the TAT from its current rate of 9.25% to 10.25%. This increase is scheduled to stay in effect until December 31, 2030. The TAT increase is being put into effect to help pay for Honolulu’s rapid transit system that is currently under construction. The light metro rail system will extend 20 miles from Kapolei in Leeward Oahu to Ala Moana Center in Honolulu with 21 stations along the way, including the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, the State of Hawaii’s main port of entry for air transportation. Following is a summary of State taxes that will be applied by lodging properties statewide when the 1% TAT increase takes effect on January 1, 2018:

New Features For Symphony Of The Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is getting a real makeover!

  • two-level Ultimate Family Suites with a slide, floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, air-hockey table and the surround-sound movie room with its own popcorn machine and a library of video games – and 212-sq-foot wrap-around balcony with full-size whirlpool and bumper pool table
  • New ‘friction-less’ mobile check-in.
  • A reimagined Boardwalk with a massive Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, spanning the length of the neighborhood, will be a family magnet with more than 30 televisions, arcade games (video and vintage, like ‘Pac-Man’), draft craft beers, wings and burgers,
  • A redesigned Solarium offering a casual seafood spot, including oysters shucked to order, for lunch and dinner in a casual venue with great views,
  • The world’s largest laser tag arena,  housed in the Studio B ice rink that will be converted for this glow-in-the- dark family activity,
  • Broadway hit ‘Hairspray.’ And a new original ice show, ‘1977,’ features a time-traveling hero on a jewel-heist adventure.

The ship will debut April 18 with weeklong cruises from Barcelona before repositioning to PortMiami’s new Terminal A in November as the first Oasis-class vessel to sail from the ‘Cruise Capital of the World.’ This puts four Oasis-class ships in Florida ports including, also, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral.

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Virgin America Days Are Numbered

Virgin America will cease to exist on April 25, 2018, when all of the airline’s flights will switch over to Alaska Airlines, according to an internal memo. After acquiring Virgin America for $2.6 billion in 2016, Alaska has slowly been rebranding the 10-year-old airline, replacing some signage and ticket counters in airports, with plans to completely rebrand the airline by 2019, AirlineGeeks reported. For fans of the airline, the upcoming disappearance of Virgin America is even more of a reality with the latest announcement. According to the Alaska Airlines internal memo obtained by FlightGlobal, “Alaska Airlines has posted the new Airbus schedule for flights after April 24. The flights will be Alaska flights and will only be available through Alaska channels.” Travelers attempting to book a flight after April 24, 2018 on VirginAmerica.com will be redirected to AlaskaAir.com. On April 25, both airlines will become one in terms of website, mobile app, and ticket kiosks, and will be solely run by Alaska.

Grand Turk Rebounding After Hurricanes, Port To Open In November

Work is full tilt at Carnival Corp. & plc’s Grand Turk Cruise Center to restore the destination to receive ships in November. Carnival Cruise Line has confirmed seven sailings to call next month: Carnival Magic’s Nov. 4 cruise from Port Canaveral, Carnival Ecstasy’s Nov. 5 cruise from Charleston, Carnival Splendor’s Nov. 5 and Nov. 19 voyages from Miami, Carnival Glory’s Nov. 11 and Nov. 25 sailings from Miami and Carnival Conquest’s Nov. 25 cruise from Port Everglades. Further calls are booked in December. The Turks and Caicos Islands sustained a one-two punch from hurricanes Irma and Maria, and Grand Turk was among the hard-hit destinations. However, a senior Carnival Corp. official told Seatrade Cruise News the pier is fine and work is going 24/7 to restore landside facilities and tours. The cruise pier did not suffer any damage while the cruise center facility suffered mostly cosmetic damages and loss of some landscaping. The Carnival Cruise Line shore excursions team and local tour operators, have undertaken their own recovery efforts in gearing up to welcome back passengers. Marc Melville, director of Jamaica-based Chukka tours, which has a staff of about 100 on Grand Turk, as well as sizable operations in Jamaica and Belize, said the message to cruisers is that once Grand Turk reopens: ‘We need you to come back as soon as possible.’

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Travel News: Spain promises Extra Security

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Spain Promises Extra Security In Tourist Areas

The Spanish Government has said it will increase security at tourist sites across the country following last week’s terror attacks. Interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said areas deemed to be potential terror targets would be given special protection. There will also be increased security at the Spain/France border, while Italy is putting up barriers at popular landmarks. The Times reports barriers appeared over the weekend in central Milan, they will also be erected in Palermo and Rome, while security has been tightened up in other areas, such as Bologna. Italian interior minister Marco Minniti is reported to have said he is ‘amazed a van could have driven undisturbed down La Ramblas’. The driver of the van has now been found and killed. Despite last week’s attacks, Spain’s terror threat level has not been increased and remains at four.

Rome Experiments with Controlled Flow of Tourists at Trevi Fountain

Italy Magazine reports Rome is experimenting with a new measure aimed at controlling the crowds at one of its most iconic monuments, the Trevi Fountain. This comes during a summer when problems caused by mass tourism have become more apparent than ever in a number of Italian destinations. From 9 am until midnight, ten volunteers (retired Carabinieri and traffic policemen) will take turns patrolling the area around the Trevi Fountain, directing the flow of visitors and making sure people don’t misbehave. During peak hours, visitors will have to follow a specific path, accessing the fountain from the central entrance and exiting from the one on the left. “This measure is intended to allow everyone to enjoy the monument more effectively,” Diego Porta, commander of Rome’s municipal police, told La Repubblica. “Tourists can throw their coins, take a photo and then leave in order to make room for others.” The volunteers are also tasked with presiding over the monument, and sanction possible inappropriate behavior, such as eating, playing in the water, sitting or leaning on the fountain, which would violate the ordinance signed in June by Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi to safeguard the city’s artistic fountains. “We’ll make sure that tourists don’t eat in the area adjacent to the monument and don’t sit on the edge of the fountain,” added Porta. The experiment, which began at the end of July and is scheduled to continue for 80 days, will become permanent in October if the results are deemed positive. The Trevi Fountain reopened in November 2015 after a $2.2 million restoration funded by the Italian fashion house Fendi.

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Antwerp Plans New Terminal for 2020

Nadine Brasseur, who heads up cruise operations for the city of Antwerp said the city has plans to build a new cruise terminal, that should be finished in 2020. “Our current cruise terminal is located directly in the city center,” she said. “Passengers like that. They can walk two minutes and enjoy the Christmas markets, for example, eat in one of many restaurants, have a Belgian beer or visit museums.” A 28,000-passenger season this year will be highlighted by a first-time call from Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Columbus, which will become the biggest ship to ever call at the Belgian port. Also scheduled is a first time call from Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator, and another exceptional news item: a first time turnaround call from the Crystal Symphony, said Brasseur.

American Airlines To Offer Premium Economy On Hawaii Flights

American Airlines is selling Premium Economy tickets on flights between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and three Hawaiian cities, beginning on December 15th. American is launching service with Premium Economy fares from DFW to Kahului Airport beginning in December and from DFW to Kona International Airport and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport set to begin on June 7th, 2018. Also, AA will launch Premium Economy seats from Los Angeles International Airport to HNL, beginning on December 15th until January 7th. The routes will be operated on retrofitted Boeing 777-200s. This is the first time a domestic route will include the larger seats and elevated service Premium Economy offers with its 2-4-2 layout. American Airlines’ Premium Economy offers seven more inches of legroom than standard seats. Customers receive noise-reducing headphones, an amenity kit, blankets and pillows, meal service, and free alcoholic beverages. It was launched earlier this year on international flights to Barcelona in Spain, and Seoul in South Korea.

IHG Goes To 24-Hour Cancellation Policy

Travel Weekly reports InterContinental Hotels Group is introducing a policy enabling customers at most hotels to cancel without penalty if they give at least 24 hours’ notice. The move comes about a month after Marriott International tightened its cancellation policy, requiring guests at most hotels to give 48 hours’ notice to cancel without penalty. IHG’s new policy will go into effect next month across most of IHG’s chains (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Even and Candlewood Suites) in the Americas and Europe, and by October for the Middle East, Africa and Asia, excluding China (where most hotels already have a same-day cancellation policy). Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants chain will retain its 48-hour cancellation policy.

American Airlines Will Now Alert You If Your Bags Get Lost 

American Airlines has launched a program that alerts travelers when their bags don’t arrive at the same airport. Airline passengers often must wait at the baggage carousel until every suitcase has been picked up before realizing that their bags didn’t land with them. Now, Fort Worth-based American Airlines is giving travelers a digital alert if their bags don’t arrive at the same destination at the same time. The alert comes through the contact information provided by the fliers during the booking or check-in process. Loyalty reward members at American Airlines can also get notices through the airline app. The alert tells travelers if their luggage has arrived early or will arrive later. If the luggage is arriving late, the alert informs the traveler to head to the Baggage Service Office to arrange a pickup later or notifies the passenger to fill out a mobile baggage order to have the airline deliver the bag to the traveler’s home, office or lodging. American Airlines’ system relies on bar codes that are printed on each bag label. To keep track of the bags, the bar codes are scanned at several points in the loading and transportation process.

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Glasgow Could Have Water Taxi Service To Airport

A Venetian-style entry to Glasgow has been proposed with plans for a water taxi service from the airport. Arriving passengers would be whisked up the Clyde into the city centre in 25 minutes. Boats would operate from a pontoon on the White Cart Water about 500 m east of the airport. The plans include passengers transferring from the terminal in golf buggy-style vehicles. These would eventually be replaced by a travellator, a moving walkway which would have to go either over or under Abbotsinch Road. The scheme has been devised by John Hillis, who runs power boat trips on the Clyde in Glasgow. He said the route would provide visitors with a stunning introduction to the city. Hillis also said more transport options to the airport were required as it continued to grow, It handled more than 1 million passengers for the first time in June and the annual total has grown by 7 per cent, to 9.7m. 

Conservation-Themed Murals At Honolulu Airport Are Under Threat Of Destruction 

Two of Hawaii’s landmark conservation-themed murals are under threat of destruction by Hawaiian Airlines. The 35,000-square-foot murals “Hawaiian Humpbacks” and “New Millennium” painted in 1999 by renowned marine life artist and muralist Wyland, were created as a gifts to the city of Honolulu to recognize the past, present, and future of Hawaii’s fragile marine life ecosystems. The murals at the Pacifica Airport Center Building, 3049 Ualena Street, Honolulu, were among 100 murals painted in 17 countries by the artist over a 30-year period as part of one of the world’s largest arts-in-public places projects. In every instance, the artist donated his time and services, receiving no compensation, while project partners provided support. The murals are intended to raise global environmental awareness. Hawaiian Airlines, which recently purchased the Airport Center Building, has threatened to remove the mural, “painting it over with a neutral color.” The Airline has threatened to begin destruction of the mural as early as last Friday. Hawaiian Airlines has maintained they will only allow Wyland to restore the mural pending a signed agreement that would remove any protections the public has for the artwork – and allow the company to move forward with the destruction of the mural, regardless of the artist’s efforts to save it. The airline is using building repairs or spalling to set an artificial deadline to pressure the artist into signing an agreement. Wyland has agreed to donate his time and services to repaint the mural and provide all insurance. The murals stand as important beacons to the people of Hawaii and the millions of visitors who come to the Islands every year.

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Kaimuki: O’ahu’s favorite eclectic neighborhood

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WIT Agent Debbie is currently on O’ahu, Hawaii for an educational trip! Look out for her photos later — we’ll post them to Facebook!

She’ll be checking out the Prince Waikiki hotel and Turtle Bay on her trip, so she’ll be able to provide firsthand feedback. Feel free to give her a call when she’s back to know more at our office: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Why you should check out Kaimuki

Want a break from the hubbub of Waikiki? Why not swing by its sleepier sister?

Have you heard of Kaimuki? Not far from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, this historic neighborhood calls back to Hawaii of 50 years ago. With old-timer buildings, charming parks and old-fashioned delis, it makes a great place to hang out on a hot afternoon.

Once a farm owned by King Kalakaua, where ostriches roamed wild on green slopes, Kaimuki is now a low-key residential area with a strip of niche restaurants and cute boutiques.

Talk story at Coffee Talk, a friendly, relaxed cafe with a hearty selection of drinks and pastries. Grab a tasty sandwich at Kaimuki Suprette, a new deli made up in the old-fashioned style, serving with farm-fresh favorites. Wander down the main street of Waialae Avenue to the niche shops, where you can scavenge for unique jewelry, aloha shirts and rare comic books. Summer is a great time to snack up on those cool treats: and you’ll find everything from shave ice to acai bowls to handmade gelato here. There is even some karaoke, and a wealth of cosmetic spas!

Fun fact: This is the very neighborhood where Israel Kamakawiwo’ole grew up!

So check it out! Kaimuki is just east of Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana–behind Diamond Head:

(Kaimuki is in shaded pink)

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Infographic: 6 Destinations to Spot the Southern Cross in 2017

We at Willamette Intl Travel love tried and true destinations like these! Interested in one (or more) of the places below? Give us a ring! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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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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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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Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

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Baja Caramba!

This week, WIT Agents Racheal & Barbara are going on an Uncruise Adventure to Baja. They’re joining UnCruise alumni for a week down to the Baja Peninsula to swim with the whale sharks and go island-hopping. The boat sails down to Mexico, cruising the Sea of Cortés UNESCO World Heritage Site. When they return, they’ll have to share their firsthand knowledge with you, our lovely clients, and give you pointers on what to expect on a cruise with reputable line UnCruise. We can’t wait to hear their stories!

The Sea of Cortés is a veritable natural aquarium. With bountiful marine life, from scores of dolphins and mobula rays, to sea lion pups and playful pelicans. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the august humpback whale. Dive into the thrill of exploration or relax on a warm beach. The coastline of Baja is bountiful with bird colonies, schools of dolphin and colorful reef fishes. Depending on the season you go, you’ll have the chance to see whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (Nov to mid-Jan, Mar) or spot gray whales at Bahía Magdalena (mid-Jan to early-Mar).

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to find out more about UnCruise Adventures, what they offer and when. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, intimate itineraries that really delve deep into the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska in a different and new perspective. Read more about Uncruise Adventures, their history-packed Oregon cruise, and our Alaska trip report.  Also be sure to check out the photos from our Clients’ the Dents, who sailed with UnCruise to Alaska

PLUS! There are themed departures available on certain dates.

  • Birding: Renowned bird experts – on March 25.
  • Chairman’s Cruise: Sail with the leaders and owners of the UnCruise Adventures! – on Jan 7.
  • Marine Biology: Learn all about the amazing aquatic world beneath the waves on excursions and onboard lectures. – Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 18.
  • Photography: Join NatGeo travel photographer Christopher Baker to capture perfect shots on the boat and in the field – on January 28.

We love UnCruise Adventures! Let us tell you why. Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise