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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.

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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.

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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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Travel News: Lights Up Down-Under

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Lights Up Down-Under
A round trip flight from New Zealand just for the view the Southern Lights. Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin came up with the idea. An astronomer, Griffin said he was inspired after seeing the Southern Lights while flying as a guest on a NASA observatory plane. A charter plane that left Dunedin, New Zealand, late Thursday flew close to the Antarctic Circle to give the eager passengers an up-close look at the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. He says the 134 seats on the chartered Boeing 767 sold out within five days and one man traveled from Spain for the trip. He says he could have filled the plane several times over, although they were only selling window seats and seats immediately adjacent, leaving the middle of the aircraft empty.“I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Griffin said. “We were right under it. There were beautiful streamers, auroral streamers. This green-colored stuff that moves quickly, it looks like you’re looking into a green, streaky river.”
 
Viking Cruises Launches New Resident Historian Program
Viking Cruises has announced the roll-out of its new onboard Viking Resident Historian program. Launching on Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky this month, a faculty of historians will provide an enhanced level of enrichment for guests onboard all of Viking’s ocean cruise ships,” said the company, in a statement. According to the cruise line, the Viking Resident Historians will provide guests with a high-level historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey, offering a framework for understanding the major chapters in world history. They will also conduct seminar-style roundtables.
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Large Sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Are Now Dead
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders. But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble. Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life. The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. Even in hard-hit areas, large patches of the Great Barrier Reef survived, and guides will most likely take tourists there, avoiding the dead zones.
 
The new Berlin Welcome Card
The card covers admission to 30 attractions across the city as well as public transportation, and is commissionable. Among the highlights is access to selected national museums such as the Pergamon Museum and the Bode Museum, and private museums such as C/O Berlin, the Jewish Museum, and the DDR Museum. A hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat cruise are also included as is admission to Berlin’s TV Tower and Madame Tussaud’s. The city guide that comes with the pass provides insider tips and the city map points the way to all of the participating sites. The Berlin WelcomeCard is all-inclusive and is available for $84 for adults and $52 for children ages 3 to 14 and is available for three durations: 48 hours, 72 hours, and four calendar days. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive includes public transport in the city of Berlin and the surrounding region. It will be sold at Berlin Tourist Information centers, at berlin-welcomecard.com, at turbopass.com, and by travel agents and tour operators. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive is being offered in partnership with Turbopass. 
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New Orleans breaks tourism records
A new study says New Orleans has broken a tourism record set before Hurricane Katrina, with nearly 10.5 million visitors in 2016. The record had stood at 10.1 million since 2004, the year before the hurricane struck. University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center says last year’s visitors spent US $7.41 billion dollars. That’s 51 percent more than the amount spent in 2004, and 5.1 percent above the spending record set in 2015. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says in a news release that he’s looking forward to 2017 being even bigger.
Museum Of Ice Cream Announces Its Opening In Los Angeles
Museum of Ice Cream opens its doors to the West Coast this April claiming sunny Los Angeles as its highly anticipated second location. Stationed in DTLA’s burgeoning art district, Museum of Ice Cream welcomes visitors to enjoy an experiential ice cream journey. Museum of Ice Cream captivated a global audience with its unprecedented 2016 launch in New York City, selling out in five days and attracting a waitlist of over 200,000. The Los Angeles location is four times larger than the New York City incarnation and showcases 10 completely reimagined installations. Interactive highlights include a “banana split” comprised of ten thousand “bananas”, a mint “grow house”, a room dedicated to California, a melted popsicle jungle and more. The iconic swimmable sprinkle pool returns filled with one hundred million sprinkles that were custom designed and produced by Museum of Ice Cream! Museum of Ice Cream is open from April 22 until May 29 from 11 am-10 pm, Wednesday-Monday. Tickets include two curated ice cream tastings and surprise edible treats!
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Off the beaten track in Mexico
Isla Holbox (pronounced “ole-bosh”) has just been added as a “hidden hotspot” among vacation destinations in Mexico. Part of the Yum Balam Natural Reserve, the island offers vacationers a pristine tropical haven away from the hustle and bustle of more well-travelled tourist hotspots.Comprised of sandy-white beaches and home to a diverse and protected ecosystem, Isla Holbox is a popular island destination for bird watchers, snorkelers and beach lovers. Along with a variety of land and water sports excursions available, travellers in the summer months can also opt to join a snorkeling or boat tour to view the annual migration of the whale sharks that takes place close to the island between the months of June and September. There are two quaint hotels on the island to appeal to a range of travelers. At both properties complimentary kayaks and bikes are available to enable independent explorations of the island and windsurfing, kite surfing and fishing are also offered for an additional fee. Villas HM Palapas Del Mar, is a small, oceanfront hotel where guests can watch romantic sunsets from their infinity pool overlooking the beach.Those looking to adopt a slower pace can opt for Villas HM Paraiso Del Mar, with a  large swimming pool surrounded by lush vegetation, buffet meals, and unlimited national drinks and cocktails. Offers include packages where guests can enjoy four nights on the peaceful Isla Holbox, and three nights in Riviera Maya at Reef Coco Beach or the cosmopolitan HM Playa del Carmen resort—both of which are quite close to shopping, nightlife, and the exciting attractions of Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. Call your travel agent to discuss week-long packages. 

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Classical Fat Tuesday Foods and Where to Eat Them

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Shrove Tuesday, or as it’s more popularly known Mardi Gras, is in less than two weeks! “Fat Tuesday” is traditionally the last day to enjoy rich, indulgent foods before Catholic Lent fasting.

Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world in many shapes and forms. From the wild parades of New Orleans to Pancake Day in the UK to the pastry decadence in Scandinavia, people everywhere have something to celebrate. Here are some Classic Fat Tuesday Foods and Where to Eat Them: 

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The King Cake. New Orleans buries itself in thousands of King Cakes come Mardi Gras week. “Les Galettes des Rois” is a jovial pastry, multicolored with yellow, purple and green frosting. Careful when you bite—trinkets are hidden within the dough. It’s said if you find the baby Jesus, you’ll be blessed with good fortune.

Where to Eat it? Rouses Market, 400 N Carrollton Ave. New Orleans. They boast a Super cinnamon-infused king cake and also a succulent cream cheese cake to make your mouth water.

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Semla. The Swedish Semla is fortunately enjoyed the whole season just after Christmas time up to Shrove Tuesday. A delicious bun that is filled with almond paste and topped with a hefty spoonful of whipped cream.

Where to Eat It? Vetekatten, Kungsgatan 55, 111 22 Stockholm. Local favorite Vetekatten offers fresh and moist buns that balance with light rich whipped cream.

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Pancakes. The British Pancake Day originally popped up as a Pagan festival of Spring. The day is a time to use up all the flour and eggs in your pantry–and also, curiously enough, a day for races and relays all over London town. Look for the high-profile Parliamentary Pancake Race or the Flippin’ Good Pancake races at Greenwich Market.

Where to Eat it? My Old Dutch, 131-132 High Holborn, London. My Old Dutch restaurant is entirely devoted to pancakes and enjoys an annual queue come the holiday (so show up early).

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Pączki. A delicious deep-fried pastry that heralds all the way from Poland. The Pączki is usually filled with jam, custard and marmalade and enjoyed by Polish communities all over the world.

Where to Eat it? Racine Bakery, 6216 S Archer Ave, Chicago. Other than Poland, the next best place to find Pączki is the Polish neighborhoods of Chicago. Racine Bakery offers 12 varieties of sweet-filled donuts.

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Pea Soup. Iceland’s has appropriately dubbed Fat Tuesday as Sprengidagur, “Bursting Day.” Icelanders feast on pea soup and salted meats, to get their sodium intake in before fasting.

Where to Eat it? Reykjavik IKEA, Kauptún 4, 210 Gardabær. It may seem strange, but the Swedish IKEA store in Reykjavik has a fantastic salt-cured mutton and pea soup meal at just 2 ISK (2 cents) a pop.

Don’t want to miss Europe in the Springtime? Give our agents a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Agent Profile: Nancy Fowler

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How did you get into travel?

I grew up in the country near the Oregon coast, on a dead end road, with few neighbors.  Books were my escape to exotic places. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I attended a business school for a travel and accounting course. My first job in a travel agency was in 1978, handwriting Pan Am tickets for their Hawaii tours.  Next up was a full time position, selling air tickets (only 3 fares –remember Continental’s Chickenfeed fare?) all done via the phone, as there weren’t computers yet.  Soon I was trusted to discuss Hawaii, Mexico, some cruises with clients.  My first work trip was Amtrak to San Francisco, followed by a trip to Hawaii.  I was hooked!

What’s your favorite trip/memories of travel?

I’ve been fortunate to have so many wonderful trips over the years, and there hasn’t been a destination that didn’t become my new favorite.  Call me fickle!  A travel consultant is ALWAYS on the job, so a favorite personal escape is Hawaii.  It is exotic, only 5 hours away, and very welcoming. Memories?  Galapagos and the crazy marine iguanas!  Snorkeling in Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos.  Holding a young wombat and rubbing her tummy. Driving in Western Australia while a lizard races me (and wins).  Watching cattle dogs work in New Zealand. A cooking class in Vietnam. Getting lost in Provence and missing our train to Paris. A walking tour in Regensburg while on a Xmas Markets cruise with my daughter. Visiting New Orleans post-Katrina.  Attending a party on the heli-pad of the Celebrity Eclipse.  Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage.

What’s still on your bucket list?  

Norwegian fjords in the winter,  Argentina, safari somewhere in Africa, Kangaroo Island, Arctic, Myanmar, Black Sea, Ireland, Molokai.   And if time,  return visits to Galapagos, Alaska, Australia, Scotland, Fiji, and Panama Canal.

What’s one tip you always tell your clients? 

Be sure to take your brain and your common sense on every trip, along with an open mind for impromptu new adventures!

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