Tag Archives: passport

Travel News: Snakes on a Plane?

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TSA Finds Python Hidden In Hard Drive

ABC News reports airport security agents stopped a woman from boarding a plane with a python wrapped in a nylon stocking concealed in a computer hard drive Sunday. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said its agents stopped a real-life version of “Snakes on a Plane” from happening after an agent noticed the ball python. “A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!” the TSA continued. “While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight,” the TSA added. “Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking.”

If You Owe The IRS It Could Cost You Your Passport

EtN reports if you have a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS can certify that debt to the State Department for action, and that department generally will not issue a US passport to a potential traveler after receiving certification from the IRS. This is all in plain print at the IRS website: “Upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny your passport application and/or may revoke your current passport. If your passport application is denied or your passport revoked, and you are overseas, the State Department may issue you a limited validity passport good only for direct return to the United States. Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) for which a Notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted, or seriously delinquent tax debt is limited to liabilities incurred under Title 26 of the United States Code and does not include debts collected by the IRS such as the FBAR Penalty and Child Support.

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Anguilla Retains Best Caribbean Island Ranking

Travel + Leisure reports the Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) is pleased to announce that for an unprecedented second year in a row, Anguilla has been ranked #1 island in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas in the 2018 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, honoring the top travel destinations and companies around the globe as rated by its readers. Frangipani Beach Resort has been ranked #1 in the Top 25 Caribbean Resort Hotels category and #3 in the Top Hotels Overall category. The Four Seasons Resort & Private Residences Anguilla has been ranked #12 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category; Zemi Beach House was ranked #15; and Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort was ranked #18 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category. The World’s Best Awards appear in the August 2018 issue of Travel + Leisure, on sale July 27, and online: travelandleisure.com/worlds-best.

Singapore Airlines To Launch Non-Stop Flights From LAX To Singapore

By Christmastime, Singapore Airlines will be flying ten times a week between LAX and Singapore. If you don’t mind sitting on a plane for 17 and a half hours, getting from the West Coast to Singapore will be a whole lot easier and faster, thanks to the elimination of a layover in Seoul. Starting November 2, Singapore Airlines will bring back its nonstop route from Los Angeles International to Singapore Changi. The airline will will fly the route three times a week (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) until November 9; service will go daily after that. From December 7, three more flights a week will be added for ten total non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Singapore per week. The fall kickoff date is notable for many reasons: It’s two weeks after Singapore restarts its longest-flight-in-the-world Newark-Singapore route (clocking in at nearly 19 hours), and just a week after Star Alliance member United ends its LAX-Singapore route. 
 

Airlines Load Factor Hits All-Time High

Forbes reports that if you think that airline flights are much more crowded than they used to be, you’re not wrong. The passenger load factor of commercial airlines has risen significantly over the past decade. In 2005, airlines had an average load factor of 75.2%, so on average, just three out of every four seats were sold. The recession of 2007-2010 stopped load factor growth. But by 2018, the average airline load factor hit 81.7% worldwide. In the US load factor has increased on domestic flights from 67.88% in 2002 to 86.08% in 2018, while the number of domestic flights has stayed almost constant, from 8,085,083 in 2002 to 8,176,610 in 2017. The US airline industry has clearly gotten better in filling seats as revenue passenger miles rose from 471,652,206 in 2002 to 684,221,393 in 2017. The days of having a whole row to stretch out in coach, or even an empty middle seat separating you from your neighbor, increasingly seem like a distant memory. The airlines are busy shrinking seats and cramming in additional rows into smaller, more fuel-efficient jets.

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Amtrak Service Declines As It Becomes An Airline On Rails

Travellers United reports Amtrak service is becoming more airline-like with a former airline executive in charge, former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. His Amtrak service changes bring the railroad closer to service practices in the airline industry. Some of the changes: – Hot dining car meals prepared on-board, included in the fare for first-class sleeping car passengers, are being replaced with cold pre-prepared meals served in-room on the Chicago-New York and Chicago-Washington routes starting June 1.

– Amtrak no longer offers discounts to veterans, students and AAA members, and the minimum age of eligibility for the senior discount (which is now 10% rather than 15% was raised to 65 from 62.

– The railroad’s cancellation policy is now more airline-like. There is now a 25% penalty for most reservations canceled more than 24 hours after booking, even if the value is credited to the passenger as an eVoucher (redeemable for future ticket purchases) rather than as a cash refund. Luckily, Amtrak still does not charge change fees.

– First Class amenities like a lounge car for sleeping car passengers have been removed from several routes, and two routes have lost Business Class seating.

– A number of stations have lost their Amtrak Customer Service Representative(s), employees who do everything from selling tickets to handling baggage and assisting passengers with special needs.

– Amtrak has stopped operating charter and special trains in partnership with rail museums and preservation nonprofits, tour groups, sports teams and others, jettisoning a source of revenue and public goodwill in the name of operational convenience.

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Ethiopia Launches New E-Visa Services

Ethiopia, a treasure trove of history and culture, has become easier to get to with an all in one new e-visa service launched by the Ethiopian Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines. The new service brings the travelers closer to authentic travel experiences and enables them to travel to Ethiopia. All the visitors have to do is process their visa online on a single webpage where they apply, pay and secure their entry visa online. Give it a try and you will get authorized via email to secure your passport stamped with visa upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss a unique holiday in Ethiopia – you’ll be sure to love this beautiful country and the warm-hearted hospitality of its people.  

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Filed under Africa, Europe, News, Travel by Rail, USA

Travel News: State Dept says Renew your US Passport Now

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State Dept. Says Renew Your Expiring US Passport Now!

In general, for regular applications, the State Department lists the turnaround time as 6-8 weeks (although wait times usually end up shorter than that), and by paying an extra fee you can have that cut down to 2-3 weeks. In urgent circumstances, travelers can get a same-day passport renewal at a local passport office, if they can prove they are traveling sooner than the normal wait time. While the State Department promises to do a better job of staying on top of the flood of applications than they did ten years ago, if your expiration date ends in a seven, better to get on it early–specially because applications tend to spike in spring and summer as people gear up for vacation. And remember, some countries require you to have six months of validity left to enter, not something you want to find out the hard way. On average, the State Department processes around 13 million passport applications a year–last year, it saw 16.8 applications-so while 20.5 million is out of the norm, the State Department has seemingly learned to expect major increases of this magnitude every ten years when that initial flood of passports is up for renewal.

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Goway lays out Peru’s new rules for visiting Machu Picchu

New admission rules for Machu Picchu, which (as of now) go into effect January 2018. Ticket sales will be divided into a morning ticket 8am to 12pm and an afternoon ticket 12pm to 5:30pm. Change in cost for a ticket has not been announced. Travelers can buy both to spend a full day at the site. “Initially this change was to begin mid-2017, but after consultations with tour operators locally and internationally the date has been unofficially moved to Jan 2018,” says Goway. The number of visitors has grown annually, from low hundred thousands in 1980s to a peak of 1.4 million tourists in 2014. The ticket changes are an attempt to ease the stress on the fragile ruins, and keep it in good shape and accessibility for future travelers.  

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Holland America Adds Cuba Calls

Holland America Line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday cruise aboard the Veendam, according to a statement from the company. The addition of Veendam itineraries will help meet the growing demand for premium cruise experiences to Cuba, the company said. Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos. Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The series of Cuban cruises will debut with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.

 

 

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Filed under Cuba, Europe, Goway, holland america, News, Peru

Travel News: Can Online Passport Renewal be on the Way?

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Can Online Passport Renewal Be On The Way?
Travel Market reports the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is considering online passport renewals, according to a story in Federal News Radio. Speaking on a panel at a symposium in Washington last week, community relations officer for passport services Carl Siegmund said State is looking to roll out a limited, online renewal option in mid-2018, “along with new push notifications to help applicants stay informed on the status of their applications,” including updates via email and SMS text. “We’re trying to move from paper to digital,” Siegmund said. Fifteen percent of passport applicants have issues, the top reason being passport photos. Currently, photos are submitted to the State Department’s passport services office through a third party or directly from the applicant, and they often are of “low quality or grainy,” and this can add three or four weeks to processing time. The passport services office being more directly involved in accepting a passport would greatly reduce the issue, Siegmund said. The State Department expects 21 million Americans to apply for passports in 2017 and 20.4 million in 2018, up from 14.5 million in 2015 and 16.8 million in 2016. Siegmund also said that in 2016, the passport services call center received 1.4 million phone calls for application status checks.

Viking Creates All-Suite Design For New Nile Riverboat

A recently acquired Nile River vessel is being stripped down to the steel in a complete renovation that reflects Viking River Cruises’ Scandinavian design. Viking Ra will carry just 48 passengers on a new Egypt cruise-tour, ‘Pharaohs & Pyramids,’ set to launch in March 2018. Rebuilt as an all-suite vessel, Viking Ra’s interiors will be designed by the same team responsible for the Viking Longships. The look will mingle Scandinavian design and local influences like traditional geometric Arabic patterns and terrazzo floors. The Restaurant will serve three full meals and a selection of regional and international fare. Other rooms include a clinker-built bar, The Lounge with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and The Spa for massages and other treatments. Three accommodations categories, each 291 square feet, include 20 Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom. All suites have premium amenities such as a hotel-style bed, luxury linens, sofa, bathroom with shower, air conditioning and flat-screen televisions. In addition to two Jacuzzis, Viking Ra features a pool at the back of the ship, while a sanctuary from the sun is provided by sculptural ‘sail-shades’ inspired by local dhows and intricate mashrabiya-influenced screens surrounding the Pool and Sun Deck.

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Royal Caribbean Announces Return To New Orleans

RCI has announced Vision of the Seas will return to New Orleans with a seasonal home-based cruise ship in late 2018. The Vision of the Seas will sail seven-night itineraries to the Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula from the Port of New Orleans’ Julia Street Cruise Terminal. The ship will sail on Saturdays. Before repositioning to New Orleans on Dec. 15, 2018, Vision of the Seas will offer two 16-night sailings through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to New Orleans, marking the first time in three years a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will traverse the Panama Canal.

Airport installs Departure Terminal Prayer Booth
In a bid to calm the nerves of fearful flyers, a prayer booth has landed at one airport in Germany. The bright red cubicle, installed at Stuttgart Airport’s Terminal 3, features 300 prayers from various religions in 65 different languages. For no fee, travelers can enter the converted photo booth and use a touch screen to select their prayer of choice, from a Tibetan monk chant to the soothing remarks from an American TV preacher. The prayer booth is an offer by the airport’s chaplains to provide a moment of contemplation. Designed by Berlin artist Oliver Sturm, the booth offers a vast variety of prayers, including the Christian Lord’s Prayer, the Jewish Shma Israel and the Islamic muezzin’s call to prayer. The Hindu Hare Krishna chant, Buddhist sutras and prayers of Shamans from New Guinea are also available to play. In addition to the big monotheistic faiths, polytheistic religions and animist beliefs are also included. The ‘Gebetomat’, which roughly translates as ‘Pray-o-Mat’, was first designed by Sturm in 2008. Its red cabin has a gray curtain and an adjustable swivel chair inside. The booth is free of charge and will be available for three months at Stuttgart Airport’s boarding area next to Gate 310. The artist writes on his home page that ‘all prayers are real prayers of believers, gathered in worship, prayer rooms, homes’. Sturm has designed several prayer booths in recent years that have been installed at schools, universities and museums.

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Filed under Europe, Royal Caribbean, Viking Cruises