Tag Archives: italy

Travel News: New Harry Potter Exhibit

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FCC To Return To Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Federal Communications Commission head Ajit Pai says he’s doing something many consumers may actually agree with for a change: making it harder to talk on the phone while on an airplane. The FCC yesterday announced that it’s killing an FCC proceeding that would have opened the door to allowing phone calls during commercial flights. In late 2013 the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and in 2014 the FCC lifted restrictions on in-flight phone calls over WiFi (but not yet cellular) with an ongoing eye on removing the restrictions entirely. The move wasn’t a popular one among consumers, and former FCC boss Tom Wheeler took a lot of heat for the decision. “I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” said FCC boss Ajit Pai in a statement. “I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Notice 
John Ollila of Loyalty Lobby.ccom reports Delta Air Lines has been tinkering with the number of SkyMiles required for partner awards that seems to have gone up anywhere from 15% to 20% without any prior warning from the airline. Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Any Prior Notice On April 7, 2017. This change was first noted on a FlyerTalk post where a member noticed that the number of SkyMiles required for an award had changed from 70,000 to 85,000 (transatlantic partner award in business class).
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New Harry Potter Exhibit Will Feature Never-before-Seen Manuscripts and Drawings
A new exhibition at the British Library later this year will offer never-before-seen pieces from author J.K. Rowling. The exhibition, titled “Harry Potter: A History of Magic,” will open at the library in October, taking visitors through a fascinating collection of wizardry books, manuscripts, magical objects, and original materials from the Rowling archives. The exhibition will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US), delving into the origins of the story. The display will take magic lovers through medieval manuscripts covering everything from potions and herbology to caring for magical creatures. Visitors will also be able to gaze at original drafts and drawings by both Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, ranging from drawings of a mandrake for the illustrated edition of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” to an early handwritten draft of Rowling’s “Sorting Hat” song, according to Pottermore. There will also be original manuscripts and editorial notes from the series’ publisher, Bloomsbury. The exhibit runs from October 20, 2017 through February 28, 2018, though tickets are already for sale on the library’s website.
 
BA May Drop Free Meals On Long Haul Flights 
The Sunday Times reports that British Airways is apparently mulling bringing paid food and beverages for long-haul coach as well as short haul coach flights. British Airways recently enhanced away complimentary snacks, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in short and medium haul economy and introduced paid products. Now long-haul British Airways passengers are in line for the “improvement” to services known as paying for your own food and drink. The airline could start charging long-distance flyers for a menu drawn from the aisles of Mark & Spencer, BA’s boss, has revealed. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Cruz said that after “a rough start” customers now welcomed the chance to pay for M&S food on European flights. 
 
Caribbean Princess Added Family Areas, Connecting Rooms, New Mini-Suite Category
New offerings for families, including the Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, upgraded Movies Under the Stars, Princess Luxury Bed and connecting staterooms have been added to Caribbean Princess during a two-week drydock at Grand Bahama Shipyard, just ahead of the vessel’s summer Europe and fall Caribbean seasons. The ship has also been wired for the Ocean Medallion Class cruising that will be available starting with its 2018 summer Caribbean season. Camp Discovery, the reimagined youth center created in partnership with the consumer products arm of Discovery Communications, joins the line’s Discovery at Sea program. For ages 3-17, this caters to specific age groups with three center themes. The Treehouse, formerly Pelicans, is for ages 3-7 and offers a bright, whimsical forest and animal-themed area including hands-on activities. The Lodge, formerly Shockwaves, for ages 8-12, is inspired by the great outdoors, and offers sports activities and places for kids to explore, hang out and lounge. The Beach House, previously Remix, for ages 13-17, is a contemporary surf-themed lounge. New youth and teen center programming includes ‘MythBusters’ science activities with hands-on challenges, featuring show star Tory Belleci. In addition, new Camp Discovery destination-themed programs focusing on Europe and the Caribbean to immerse young cruisers into the culture, nature, and customs of this region. Eighty-seven connecting staterooms catering to family travelers have also been added. A new HD Movies Under the Stars outdoor movie screen will offer a higher resolution picture with double the image quality of previous systems. This will give concerts and movies more sound power, truer color, extreme wide angle viewing and smart contrast/brightness for optimal viewing any time of day. 3,200 new Princess Luxury beds and luxurious linens have been installed. In addition, Caribbean Princess will introduce Club Class Mini-Suites, the new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities and exclusive dining. This elevated mini-suite category offers perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options as well as priority embarkation and disembarkation.
 
TripAdvisor Users Vote Emirates World’s Best Airline
Users of the online travel site TripAdvisor have voted Emirates airline their favorite carrier on a top 10 list that’s dominated by Asian airlines. In the 2017 edition of their Travelers’ Choice Awards for Airlines, Emirates received high marks as the best overall carrier in the world, taking the title of both Best First Class experience, and Best Economy Class. After Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Brazil’s Azul airline, JetBlue and Air New Zealand round out the top five spots on the list. The top-ranked major airline for North America is Delta Air Lines. 
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Belgium And Italy Have The Highest Taxes For Tourists
According to statistics gathered by Kayak, Belgium and Italy are the tourist destinations with the highest tourist taxes. Travelers who decide to visit Brussels are required to pay approximately 42, 56 or 70 euros for a seven-night stay in a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel respectively. In the case of Italy, Rome is in the lead with a maximum tax of 49 euros for the same seven-night stay. Next in line is Florence, Venice and Milan with an average of 35 euros. Except in the case of Venice, where only the first 5 days are charged for, in the rest of Italy’s cities, the tax is charged for the first ten days. The lowest taxes are found in Lisbon. Other European capitals, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and Vienna, calculate the tax according to the cost of the room and not according to the category of the establishment. In these cities, the percentages reach 6%, 5% and 3.2%, respectively. 
Malibu’s New Ryokan Opening
You don’t need to travel to Japan for an awesome night at a Japanese-style inn. Nobu Ryokan Malibu, the first in Nobu Hospitality’s Ryokan Collection, will open on April 28, 2017. Located next to Nobu Restaurant Malibu, Nobu Ryokan Malibu will combine modern comforts with a Ryokan-inspired building. Read more here. 

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Opera in Rome: Summer Schedule

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Summer is festival time in Europe, and what better place to catch an Opera Festival than Italy!

As an inseparable part of Italian history and psyche, Opera is a must-see for travelers seeking the true soul of Italy. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the greats! We recommend at least one night of your vacation with an Italian opera. 

Here’s a quick schedule of the best opera performances in and around Rome this summer (and a bit of autumn!). Contact Willamette Intl Travel at info@wittravel.com for more details. 

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Terme Di Caracalla

Madama Butterfly, Nabisco, Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Time: July to August @ 9:00PM

Address: Teatro dell’Opera (Teatro alle Terme di Caracalla), Rome – Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52

Teatro Salone Margherita

La Traviata with Fixed-Menu Dinner Included

Time: Frequently from June to November at 7:30pm

Address: Teatro Salone Margherita, Rome – Via dei Due Macelli, 75

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Opera Omnia (Guided Visit + Concert)

Various programs throughout summer, included Opera Serenades by Night, Opera Gala in Baroque Rome, Capuchin Crypt, Music in Bernini’s Rome, Sounds and Visions of Caravaggio and more.

Time: Ask WIT for Details

Museo Correale di Terranova

Various programs including Neapolitan songs, the three tenors, arias and more. 

Time: June to October @ 9:00PM

Address: Museo Correale di Terranova – Via Correale, 50

Sferisterio Opera Festival

An annual summer opera festival with 3-4 operas per year. 

Time: July to August

Address: Macerata

Puccini Festival

An annual celebration of Puccini productions, attracting about 40,000 spectators each year to its open-air theater.

Time: July to August

Address: Tuscany

Contact your agent at Willamette Intl Travel today for the best insider tips for your next Italian trip! 503-224-0810 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Europe, Italy

5 Things You Should Know about Rome

Rome—the eternal Eternal City. Dubbed “the City of Visible History,” by writer George Eliot, the charm of Italian’s capital lies in its endless heritage, apparent wherever you look. The drinking fountains, the roads, the great monuments, statues and paintings—all speaks to the centuries that have left their mark here. Before you head off to Rome to check out the living history, read our quick guide to “things you should know before you go.”

Hunting for Authenticity? Check out Trastevere. Rome’s sweet neighborhood may be a bit off the tourist track, but head here for an authentic glimpse to Rome. With cobbled streets and ancient houses, Trastevere retains much of its historical charge. Students flock here in droves, thanks to the many universities—and attracted such famous patrons like Richard Teitelbaum, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. It’s a great place to try some of the best food Rome has to offer—including a little trattoria where shots are served in chocolate cups.

Local guides can make all the difference. Ask us about our local contacts in Rome, A&R Tours, run by Adriana and Renato from Portland and Naples, respectively. Their team of local guides can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Join them for personal and tailor-made tours enriched by a mutual love of art history and Roman mythology—and you won’t be surprised to see that their TripAdvisor rating is almost 100%!

Good shoes are a must! Rome is not the “City of Seven Hills” for nothing. In fact, there are actually ten hills in modern Rome—so it should come to no surprise that Rome is hilly. Guidebooks may write about the charming strolls of Rome but may neglect to mention that this means anytime you go anywhere, you’ll be walking uphill and downhill, up steps and down staircases. What may look like a simple line from the Vatican to Trastevere, may in fact involve a lot of ups and downs. Invest in some sturdy, breathable shoes before you go.

Gianicolo Hill has some of the best panoramic views. Speaking of hilly, test your legs out on the Via di Gianicolo, which runs from the Piazza della Rovere up one of the tallest hills in Rome. The steep hike is a bit challenging, but there are thankfully benches and cafes along the way to rest for a moment or two. And the panorama at the top—well, it simply can’t be beat.

Know your way around transport. You may fly into Rome, you may take a train into Roma Termini, the central train station. As long as you avoid driving into or within Rome, you’ll retain your sanity—traffic is chaotic and drivers are known for their casual disregard for the rules. Instead, take advantage of the numerous pedestrian walkways—the most romantic way to discover the hidden corners of the city—or by the impressive public system of buses, trams, trolleys, metro and light railways. If you’re in town for at least 3 days, try the Roma Pass—just 36 euros will get you free admission to two museums, full access to public transport and discounts on performance and exhibition tickets.

Extra Fun Fact: If you want to go all out on luxury, book a table at La Pergola. This magnificent restaurant boasts 3 Michelin stars and a breathtaking view from Monte Mario. You’ll wine and dine on the best culinary delights Rome has to offer, from white truffles to foie gras. Of course, the price tag is nothing to laugh about—the nine-course set meal will set you back about 300 euros per person! But hey—when in Rome?

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Cruise the Adriatic Sea with Star Clippers

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How about a cruise down the romantic Dalmatian coast this Fall? Few experiences rival embarking a tallship in full sails in the canals of Venice and sailing down the Croatian coast.

Star Clippers is a luxury ship experience with a casual vibe. In September and October, their 170-passenger flagship Star Clipper sails to colorful and irresistible locales in Croatia and the Greek Isles.

The size and nature of the ship allows it to visit ports inaccessible to larger cruise ships. Explore the tiny port of Hvar Island, a favorite getaway for Byzantines and Venetians. Marvel at the architectural jewel that is Dubrovnik. Coast along Montenegro to the unspoiled medieval city of Kotor, and farther south into the colorful harbor of Mykonos.

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Equipped with 4 masts and 16 sails, the Clipper sails no more than 17 knots through the alluring Adriatic Sea. Onboard facilities include an elegant dining room, library, piano lounge and tropical bar.

WIT Agents Nancy and Linda have sailed with Star Clippers, around the Caribbean and Tahiti respectively, and rave about the line. They’d love to tell you more! Drop them a line for some firsthand feedback. Or call our agency at 503-224-0180 for more information.

For pics from Nancy’s Caribbean cruise on the Star Clipper, check out our gallery: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/star-clipper-portholes/

 “The Star Clipper experience is all about relaxation and rejuvenation, not sticking to a script. This will sound weird but I’m especially excited about my last night onboard! Why? I can enjoy dinner, socializing with my new friends, and savoring the wonderful week I’ve had and NOT race to meet the deadline to have my luggage outside my cabin! Nor do I have weave between masses of bags littering the hallways. Cruising on Star Clipper really means that the vacation fun doesn’t shrink on the last night; it rolls through breakfast.” ~~ Nancy

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Filed under Croatia, Cruises, Europe, Greece, Italy, Star Clipper

All Aboard Italy!

Everyone loves Italy. And with its rich abundance of food, art, scenic drives and romantic waterways, what’s not to love? As a diverse country with so much to offer, Italy is a great destination for the train-hopper. Here’s some of the best destinations on rail in the country:

Ask Yourself: Should I get an Italy Rail Pass? Italy Rail Passes are generally not good value for most people, as regional trains tend to be very low cost, and major trains almost always require seat reservations. You will probably spend your rail time on the main circuit of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome, and first class fares for these are generally low enough that they don’t warrant a rail pass. It’s less expensive to buy point to point train tickets. When in doubt, ask our travel agents if a rail pass is right for you.

Ventimiglia (c) Mark Fischer, Creative Commons

Ventimiglia. Usually the first stop on a route from Nice, France, Ventimiglia is a great introduction to Italian culture. Make a detour on your route to Milan or Genoa to explore the town’s gorgeous medieval city center and famous Friday Outdoor Market. Nice to Ventimiglia: 45min. Ventimiglia to Genoa: 2h.

Verona. Most lauded as the setting for three Shakespearean plays, Verona is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That means cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, Roman churches, and the Juliet balcony. You can stop in Verona for a few days on your way to Venice or to the northern town of Bressanone-Brixen. Verona to Venice: 1h-1.30h.

Verona (c) David Schiersner, Creative Commons

La Spezia. This town is the first stop for many travelers heading on to Cinqueterre. With a scenic waterfront and modern port, its inspirational center has charmed poets from Byron to Shelley to DH Lawrence, earning its nickname: the Gulf of Poets. Florence to La Spezia: 2h, with a change in Pisa.

Turin. Turin is a major city often overshadowed by its grand neighbors. But don’t overlook its beautiful baroque architecture or the excellent truffles and wine available at its restaurants. Turin is also home to the famous Shroud of Turin, displayed only once every 10 years. Turin to Milan: 45min.

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Turin and the Arcades (c) Frederique Voisin-Demery, Creative Commons

Milan. The unofficial capital of the north, Milan is the center of commerce, fashion and design. Don’t miss the spectacular Duomo, and “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Much of its old architecture was demolished during the WWII bomb raids, however since then Milan has rebuilt itself into a thriving new cosmopolitan city, a major hub for soccer and shopping! Milan to Florence: 2h.

Naples. The birthplace of pizza has one of the largest historic center in the world, covering over 4,000 acres and 27 centuries. It has the largest collections of antique churches (448) in the world. Naples is a great base for exploring nearby Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii—and the city is often the first stop for travelers heading to the Isle of Capri or Sorrento. Rome to Naples: 1h.

Venice. With its romantic gondolas, ancient canals and gorgeous glass traditions, Venice has long been known as the jewel of Italy. Part of its charm is its incredibly preserved lagoon, virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago. Florence to Venice: 2h.

Florence. Florence is the center of aficionados of art and architecture. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence’s artistic gems still stand tall—the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace. Visit the library of San Lorenzo for its magnificent Michelangelo exhibition. Venice to Florence: 2h, Florence to Rome: 1h30m.

Sunset over Florence (c) Steve, Creative Commons

Rome. All roads lead to Rome, and all the trains do too! Easily accessible from Florence in the north, and Naples in the south, Rome is often the first or last stop on any Italian itinerary. You could spend at least a week here exploring the museums, Roman ruins, Vatican City, and that elusive dolce vita (the sweet life)—and it still wouldn’t be enough time in Roma! Continuing internationally? Hop on an overnight train from Rome to Vienna, Innsbruck, Munich, or even Paris (connecting in Milan)!

Thinking of a trip to Italy? Our agents have extensive travel experience all through Italy and can advise you on air tickets, rail, villa rentals, hotels, and the best time to go! Give us a call at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Read our related post about Vatican fun facts!

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Europe, Italy, Travel by Rail

Cruising the Adriatic Sea

Hunting a unique destination? Explore the Adriatic Sea, one of Europe’s most alluring waterways. Uncover ancient heritage and breathtaking bays. A variety of cruise options sail from Venice, Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast and into the emerald waters of Greece and Turkey. 

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sample itinerary, photo credit Star Clippers

There’s nothing quite like sailing out of Venice, traveling past the MOSE flood control gates one minute, and by fishermen in small boats the next. The MOSE project is a system of mobile gates installed at various inlets that temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic during high tides. Check out more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOSE_Project

Interesting sidebar: The Italian government has recently been considering banning large cruise ships into the Venetian lagoon due to concern over environmental damage. The issue hasn’t been put into law yet, but for who knows how long? This year or the next might be the last time you can sail from Venice on a larger cruise vessel!

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Mediterranean Port, photo credit WIT Agent Nancy

Crystal Cruises: Crystal is offering 6-day sailings from Corfu to Venice. Explore the Dalmatian coast at leisure, from Dubvronik and Korcula in Croatia to Koper in Slovenia. This Adratic getaway sails on the Crystal Serenity and serves 1,070 guests.

Royal Caribbean: RCI’s 1,830-guest Splendour of the Seas sails a near-pure 7-night Greek itinerary out of Venice this year, as well as a roundtrip Venice that stops in the archaeological wonder of Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey. Go island-hopping in the emerald waters from the Ionians to the Cyclades.

Windstar: Prefera vessel more intimate? Windstar’s small ships 212-guest Star Pride and 310-guest Wind Surf sail July to October between Venice and Athens. In 8-9 days, they sail from magnificent ports such as Athens, Butrint, Hvar and Dubrovnik. The Wind Surf will take you to hidden gems of the Croatian Riviera: Brindisi, Gythion, and Rovinj, memorable days of breathtaking sunsets on teak decks below white sails. The Star Pride sails to secret Greek Isles: Hydra, Corinth Canal, Delphi, as well as the salmon-roofed Montenegrin port of Kotor.

Star Clippers: This summer and fall Star Clippers’ 170-passenger flagship will be embarking on a classic 12-day cruise through the Adriatic from Athens to Venice. The ship sails to familiar destinations such as Hvar, Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos, as well the irresistible beaches of Cikat Bay and Katakolon. The fleet of Star Clippers are traditional tall-mast sailing ships, with 4 masts, 16 sails, traveling languidly at no more than 17 knots at its fastest. A perambulatory and nostalgic way to enjoy the seas. (Star Clipper’s June 28 sailing starts at $2,714 per person and includes a free upgrade.)

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Star Clippers, photo credit WIT Agent Nancy

Princess Cruises: If you’re looking for a longer itinerary on a larger vessel, Princess may be your best bet: the 12-day Grand Mediterranean sails eastward on the Dalmatian, through Athens and Istnabul, before curving westward to Rome, Livorno, Toulon in France and Barcelona in Spain. This sailing is on the brand-new and sparkling 3,560-guest Regal Princess, due out next month May 2014, and space is filling up quickly!

Interested in finding out more about what’s on offer? Call Willamette Intl Travel agents today. Our staff has sailed with all of these lines and would love to find the Adriatic itinerary that’s right for you and your family. Call now: both 2014 and 2015 Europe seasons are open to book. Ask us about Spring Sales; several cruise lines are offering perks such as reduced deposit, no single supplement and last minute discounts.

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Filed under Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Europe, Greece, Italy, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Star Clipper, Travel by Ship, Windstar Cruises