Tag Archives: travel

Travel News: Pilotless Planes on the Horizon?

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Disney Cruise Lines Is Rumored To Be Buying Jack Sparrow Island For Their Own Caribbean island 

With three new ships in the works for Disney Cruise Lines, bringing the fleet up to seven ships, it comes as no surprise that Disney is reportedly looking for a second Caribbean island. Disney Cruise Lines has been expanding its non-Florida itineraries in recent years, adding a number of West Coast and Mediterranean tours, while Asian itineraries have been strongly rumored for some time, but the bread and butter of the award-winning cruise line are its Florida-based cruises. Disney Cruise Lines already owns one private island, Castaway Cay. This island, formerly known as Gorda Cay, just won Best Cruise Line Private Island by Cruise Critic for the second year in a row. Cruise Critic noted that the island is “easy to navigate, offers large swaths of pristine beach and free buffet lunch, as well as dedicated areas for kids and adults.” Some cruise itineraries include two stops at Castaway Cay and things could get crowded when the larger ships visit. 
 

The Next Frontier In Automation: Self-Driving Wheelchairs

The Daily Mail reports Canadian researchers have developed the technology for self-driving wheelchairs. Trials will begin in Tokyo for the self driving wheelchairs to ferry passengers around airports during the 2020 Olympic Games. Autonomous wheel chairs are being tested in a Japan airport for disabled flyers. Using sensors, they can navigate to a gate or shop via a destination input. They can also connect to luggage carts and other wheel chairs for group travel. Air travelers with disabilities will have a much easier time navigating one of Japan’s main airports, thanks to new smart wheel chairs. Haneda Airport outside Tokyo is beginning tests of the WHILL NEXT, an app-controlled self-driving wheel chair that can take users around the airport and even bring their luggage in a separate wireless vehicle behind them. It is hoped the system will be in place, alongside new smart billboards and navigation apps, in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
 
 

US Airlines Bump Fewer Passengers After United’s Dragging Incident

Following widespread outrage over a passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked plane, U.S. airlines are bumping customers at the lowest rate in at least two decades. The Transportation Department said yesterday that just one in every 19,000 passengers was kicked off an overbooked flight in the first six months of this year. That’s the lowest rate since the government started keeping track in 1995. The biggest decline took place between April and June, partly because airlines began paying many more passengers to give up their seats. Airlines have routinely overbooked flights for years in the expectation that some passengers won’t show up. When a flight is overbooked, airlines typically offer travel vouchers to encourage a few passengers to take a later flight. Since then, United and other large U.S. airlines have introduced new measures to reduce overbooking, and raised the maximum amount that passengers can be offered to give up a seat. 
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New Italian Motorway Links Italy’s Tourist Destinations From Top To Boot Toe

The new A2, the former A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria Italian motorway, has been renamed to the Autostrada del Mediterraneo (Mediterranean motorway). It is a completely different way of thinking about motorways: not just the infrastructure and a comfortable road, but also a work through which to arrive in so many territories of southern Italy, crossed by its route. The Autostrada A1, or Autostrada del Sole, literally “Sun Motorway” or Autosole, is an Italian motorway that connects Milan with Naples via Bologna, Florence, and Rome. At 754 km, it is the longest Italian motorway and is considered the spinal cord of the country’s road network. 
 

Pilotless Planes Could Save Airlines $35 Billion, UBS Says 

CNBC reports a UBS note said “Reducing the intervention of human pilots on aircraft could bring material economic benefits and improve safety.” The bank stated that there could be a material profit opportunity of over $35 billion per year for the aerospace and aviation industry. A recent UBS Evidence Lab Survey of 8,000 people however showed that 54% of participants were reluctant to take a pilotless flight. Pilotless planes could not only be a future method of transport, but an economically-beneficial one too, according to new research by Swiss bank UBS which claims that they could save airlines billions of dollars. 

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What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America, South America

Travel News: Chinese Gov’t Requiring Strict Photos for China Visa

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Chinese Gov’t Requires Strict Photo Regulations for China Visa

Lately the Chinese government has gotten very particular on their acceptance of photos on the China visa application. Applicants must adhere to the visa requirements to the letter or risk rejections. Please double check with your passport photo photographer that they are up-to-date with recent regulations. Full details on requirements in the attached PDF here. 

Biggest-Ever Airplane Poised For Test Flights Into Orbit

The world’s largest airplane, designed to reshape space travel by launching rockets mid-air into orbit from 30,000 ft, rolled out of its hangar for the first time last Wednesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The groundbreaking plane, which looks like two aircraft joined together, is the brainchild of billionaire Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen and his private spaceflight company Stratolaunch. Allen founded the company in 2011 with the goal of making access to low-Earth orbit more “convenient, reliable and routine.” It has the biggest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, coming in 385 ft, longer than an NFL field which is 360 ft in length. The aircraft is 238 ft from nose to tail and stands 50 ft high on its 28 wheels. This is the first time the public has got a look at the spaceplane and now work must begin on testing before its predicted maiden voyage in 2019.

Montreal Ferris Wheel Set For July Opening

Montreal’s new La Grande Roue Ferris wheel will start operating in the Old Port in mid-July. The ride will offer panoramic 60-metre-high views of the river, Old Montreal, downtown and the mountain. The Ferris wheel will operate year-round from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., giving visitors a chance to enjoy a day or evening view from an air-conditioned cabin (heated in winter). There will also be a bar, bistro and coffee shop on site

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Record Number Of Climbers On Mount Everest

Safety concerns are on high alert this year as Mount Qomolangma, more commonly known as Mount Everest, is expected to see its highest number of climbers this year. The mountain is located on the border between Nepal and China and in order to climb it, interested climbers need to apply for a permit from either the Nepalese or Chinese government depending on which side the ascent begins. Unlike previous years, the world’s highest peak which sits at 8,848 meters above sea level, is estimated to receive more than 1000 people this year during the peak season, which is the highest number of climbers ever. The cause of the increasing number of climbers is varied but a lot of it has to do with the increasing popularity of the climb ever since it was opened to the public over 60 years ago. This year alone, the Nepalese government has granted 371 permits, the most it’s ever issued in a single year. A key factor which has caused the growth of the number of climbers may be the portrayal of Mount Everest in popular media. Experienced climbers have noted that the climb is promoted as a fashionable activity rather than what it truly is; a challenging extreme sport which should only be limited to climbers who have had experiences with similar conditions such as the 5,895 meters tall Mount Kilimanjaro. In order to handle the increase of applications, the Nepalese government has imposed more stringent conditions such as instigating a ban on climbers who are younger than 18 or older than 75.

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Corkage Fee for Wine Brought Onboard

Cruise Critic reports Royal Caribbean has reinstated its corkage fee for wine brought onboard by passengers. The $15 per bottle fee will be charged for the opening of any bottle brought onboard by passengers on embarkation day. Wine purchased from the onboard menus or through the line’s Gifts and Gear program and consumed in a public space does not bear an extra charge. Passengers are permitted to bring onto their cruise ship, on embarkation day only, two bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin, up to 750 ml each for consumption during the cruise. Any bottles brought onboard during the length of the sailing will be stored for the duration of the cruise and returned to passengers the night before disembarkation. Royal Caribbean declined to comment on why the line brought back the fee, which it had removed back in 2014.

President Trump To Reverse Cuba Policy

There are many reports circulating that the President plans to reverse the previous administration’s Cuba policy. Business Travel News reports US cruise operators and airlines could lose $712 million in annual revenues if restrictions are reinstated. President Trump is poised to void the re-normalization of US relations with Cuba, according to multiple congressional and advocacy organization sources with direct knowledge of the administration’s intentions reported by numerous news media yesterday. Possible changes Pres. Trump is considering include “reconfirming the licensing structure that would rescind the system that has allowed for easier travel to the country,” many news media outlets report, as well as new regulations for businesses interested in working in the Cuban market; reinstating caps or outright banning imports from the country; and redefining the what it means to be a part of the Cuban government or military, which could affect contracts with the Cuban government. The sources say some of the changes could take effect this month. US businesses have established 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017, according to ABC News, including airlines and cruise lines as well as telecommunications companies and Google, which hoped to expand internet access in Cuba. The number of US citizens visiting Cuba increased 74% from 2015 to 2016, according to the Cuban Ministry. Trump’s administration is reviewing US policy toward the country’s former Cold War foe.

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Arctic Tourism Groups Forge Guidelines For Community Visits

Five Arctic tourism organizations have joined forces to develop guidelines for tourists visiting Arctic communities. In addition to general advice on how to behave, the organizations presented a template that helps communities to create their own tailored guidelines. The guidelines, which provide travelers with useful dos and don’ts when visiting Arctic communities, were developed with the input of local stakeholders. Included are pointers on everything from cultural considerations to recommendations on what kind of souvenirs to buy. For example, visitors are encouraged to talk to, and not about, the people they meet and to ask before taking photographs of people (‘a hesitation means “no”‘). ‘Think of yourself as an ambassador for your country and your culture, as the locals are for theirs. Politeness and good manners are always appreciated,’ one guideline states. Visitors are advised to respect privacy and private property, and places of religious or cultural significance. Children shouldn’t be photographed or given gifts without their superiors’ permission. Religious or cultural ceremonies shouldn’t be disturbed or photographed without permission. People should avoid walking on graves. The groups that teamed on the guidelines are the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Visit Greenland, Cruise Iceland, Visit Svalbard and the Northern Norway Tourist Board.

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Filed under Canada, Caribbean, China, Europe, Royal Caribbean

Cruising in Stockholm Archipelago

Today WIT Blogger Wailana reports from the archipelago in Stockholm. Thousands of islands cluster off the east coast of Sweden, and no better time to explore them than in summer! Sunshine and a lofty 68 degrees F make for a perfect Wednesday excursion. The m/s Vindhem departs at least biweekly from Gamla Stan, with dinner, live music, and all you can eat shrimp. After a full day of sightseeing, it’s just a short hop on the boat at 7pm.

Check out Wailana’s photos!

Wish you were in Europe this summer or fall? Give out agents a call! 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com. Hope to see you and your family in the great European capitals before long.

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7 Reasons why Portugal is going to be the “Next Big Thing”

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The New York Post called Portugal “Europe’s Newest Darling,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Stunningly beautiful valleys and coastlines, a wealth of historic sights, wine cruises and cute trolleys—what’s not to love? Portugal has long been overlooked for its flashier neighbor Spain, and obvious attractions of France and Italy—our only question is: really, why did it take so long?

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1. Lisbon: The Tram and the Coffee.

Portugal’s adorable capital has all the charming trappings of any historic European city, but without the fanfare, the crowds or the crazy prices. Considering Paris or Rome this fall? Why not opt for Lisbon, where a night at a five-star hotel will set you back less than a measly 100 euros? Plus with postcard-perfect architecture, cute cobblestone streets and vibrant food culture, Portugal has a wealth to offer the “been-there-done-that” traveler to Europe. Did we mention the cutest tram that’s been operating for nearly a century? Oh yeah—and the pasteis de nada, custard tarts, that are said to be so mouth-watering its more like a religious experience.

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2. Porto: Wine and Bookshops.

Porto is famous for its eponymous wine, winner of numerous vinous awards, but did you know the town also plays a part in Harry Potter history? The cute bookstore Livraria Lello and its grand staircases were reportedly inspirations behind Rowling’s architecture in the HP series. Potter pilgrims have flocked to Lello for years, and the crowds are so thick that the store has begun to charge each person four euros for entry. The staircases were designed by one Xavier Esteves, an engineer with a passion for literature. Built in 1906 by the brothers Lello, the bookshop houses a sumptuous collection of bound books and a staircase so iconic, that it continues to inspire authors of all creeds and nationalities to this day.

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3. Sintra and its Coral Palace.

A mere 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, the hilltop town of Sintra is more fairytale dream than anything. Here the traveler will find spectacular castles and elegant palaces in the midst of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The Palácio da Pena was a modest chapel before it was transformed by King Fernando in the 19th century into a picturesque palace more akin to an underwater fortress. With its pink, yellow and gray facade, stone triton statue, Moorish tilework and stone columns resembling a coral reef, the palace is the pinnacle expression of aquatic grandeur if I ever saw one.

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4. The Endless Coastline.

The famous, West-facing coastline of Portugal means that there are idyllic sunsets nearly every evening. With over 800 km of coast, it’s no wonder that here you’ll find some of the best seafood dishes, world-class surfing hotspots and marine biomes in Europe! From volcanic sands of the Azores, to sandy beaches of Costa Vicentina, to the magnificent cliffs of the Algarve, Portugal’s beaches are no laughing matter. Seafood is always fresh, from the octopus salad to the Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams). Speaking of surfing, this is where some of the world’s best surfers come to practice—Nazaré is home to the largest surfed wave in recorded history—that’s a whopping 30m!

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5. The Beautiful, Timeless Azores.

Azores have been dubbed the “European Hawaii” and the “Next Iceland” and while we don’t know about that, it’s certainly a place for tropical adventure. Popular islands for free diving, waterfall rapelling, volcano hikes and whale-watching. Located 1500km off the coast, it’s a tropical island in Europe, with lakes, volcanoes and mountain.

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6. The Tour Guides are Amazing.

Okay, we’re biased with this one, but because Willamette Intl Travel has an awesome contact based in Portugal! Our local guide Anselmo Goncalves has been our go-to guide in Portugal and Spain for years! Our clients always rave about him. Join him for an unforgettable day tour through Lisbon and Sintra, or embark on a multi-day trip that celebrates wine in the Douro Valley.

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7. A Millennium of History.

Portugal has had the same borders since the 11th century—that means incredible historic preservation, and plentiful old castles and sites. Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. And who can forget the mighty ramparts of Moorish-inspired Sao Jorge Castle that overlooks Lisbon?

Plus:

  • Azulejos tile art.
  • Melancholic Fado music.
  • Madeira’s non-volcanic pools surrounded by lava rocks and aquamarine waters.
  • Sea Cave Tours in the Algarve.
  • Ride a gondola in Aveiro with picturesque waterways.

And the best part? It’s still relatively undiscovered by tourists! Which means the crowds aren’t there yet. Expect to find many authentic and tranquil places, a far cry from Venice and Barcelona.

Read more about Portugal on our blog:

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6 Travel News Tidbits

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1. Viking Cruises partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises will sponsor National Geographic’s first fully scripted global anthology series, “Genius,” which will tell the story of Albert Einstein. During the global premiere of Genius — April 25 at 9PM ET/PT on National Geographic — Viking will showcase their brand campaign “Time.” The Founder of Viking, Torstein Hagen, is a lifelong admirer of Einstein and a physicist himself. Read more on their website.

2. Hilton rapidly expanding

In 2016, Hilton opened a whopping 354 properties — that’s nearly one per day! Hilton is especially progressing in China, with 328 properties open or to open. In total, Hilton has 4875 hotels open worldwide.  

3. More attention to flying needs for children with neurological issues

Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® are sponsoring airport “rehearsals” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The programs are designed to alleviate the stress that families who have a child with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities experience when flying. It provides families the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Learn more here at The Arc’s website

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4. What’s NEW for the 72-Hour Visa Free Transit in Beijing

Beijing has introduced new regulations concerning the 72-hour transit without visa. Travelers must now fill in an application and wait for clearance. An application form and background check are required for stays over 24 hours. So travelers need: 1) onward ticket, 2) application form, 3) background check. This system doesn’t necessarily exist in other Chinese cities as they can be different. In Shanghai, for instance, you can stay double the time (6 days / 144 hours) without a visa. Ask your WIT Travel Agent to Learn More.

5. Avalon Waterways Announces A New Ship

Avalon Waterways is expanding in 2018 with a new ship for the Mekong River, adding new active and themed cruises and cutting the single supplement for all European river cruises. The line’s next new ship will be based on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. The 36-passenger vessel will be called Avalon Saigon and will launch in September 2018. The cabins will be slightly bigger, at 245 square feet, with sliding French balcony doors that extend 9 feet. The 14-foot windows have screens to keep out insects. Ask your WIT Travel Agent about available cruises, itineraries, and pre- and post-cruise land tours. 

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6. Did You Know? Two-thirds Of Travel Websites In EU Mislead On Prices

According to a European Commission report, 2/3 of EU websites display misleading prices. Of the 352 price comparison and travel booking websites checked in October 2016, the Commission found 235 gave prices that were not reliable. The sweep of websites, conducted with consumer protection authorities, found that in 1/3 of cases, the final price was not the same as the first price shown. In 1/5 of cases, promotional prices were not available at all. Additionally, in 1/3 of cases, the final price or the way it was calculated was not clear. In a quarter of instances, websites did not make it clear that room availability applied just to that site, and rooms might be available through other channels. The Commission said the 235 websites will have to correct the irregularities and it will ensure sites comply with national enforcement procedures.

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Filed under Avalon Waterway, China, Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

Aarhus: 2017 European Capital of Culture

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Aarhus is the 2017 European Capital of Culture! Congrats Aarhus!

Why should you visit this “City of Smiles”? Loads of reasons!

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Aarhus tends to get overlooked by its sister city Copenhagen, but for Aarhus this bit of anonymity plays well for its personal style. Unlike many of the gentrified European capitals, Aarhus maintains its distinctive style and Danish flair The town loves its cobbled streets, old architecture, and lively museums.

The town, fairly quiet until recent years, is now abuzz with internationally acclaimed chefs and innovative breweries, and it’s home to three Michelin-star restaurants. Culture afficinados will love the town’s art exhibitions, that spill from captivating museums onto the streets in public installations.

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As the 2017 Capital of Culture, Aarhus is celebrating with year-long events and jubilees around the theme of “Let’s Rethink!” Aarhus was voted #2 as the best destination in Europe by Lonely Planet. The city is a popular port for cruise ships, such as the HAL Rotterdam and Princess’ Regal Princess. (Ask your travel agent for dates and deeds!)

Make Aarhus a stop on your way through Copenhagen and Germany, and we assure you, you won’t regret it.

Cultural Highlights

The Danish Royal Theatre will perform Røde Orm, a Viking saga on the rooftop of Moesgaard Museum, based on a novel by Swedish writer Frans G. Bengtsson. (May 24 to July 1.)

The Garden, an huge, interactive art project stretching more than 4km. It will explore nature’s role in art, intellectual history, and contemporary society. Presented in 3 iterations: The Past (April 8-Sep 10), The Present and The Future (June 3-July 30).

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Hone your cultural taste at ‘Tree of Codes,’ a modern ballet by Olafur Eliasson, or Janne Teller’s ‘Nothing’ at the Danish National Opera. The Jewellery Box houses a unique collection classic Danish jewelry from the 19th century.

Regular events include Aarhus Pride (June 3), the Moesgaard Viking Moot (last weekend of July), and the Aarhus festival (Aug 24-Sept 3). Join the lively 28th Aarhus Traders’ Market at Tangkrogen (May 11-14) or Explore the World festival, a 2-day celebration of tradition and culture (June 2-3).

For more inspiration, check out how to Enjoy a girls’ trip to Aarhus and Explore the city on foot.

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An example of what you might see at a Viking moot

Paphos, Cyprus, also bears the 2017 Capital of Culture alongside Aarhus. But that’s for another time.

Did you know? WIT Agent Nancy can trace her roots all the way back to settlers from Denmark!

Call WIT to discuss your summer vacation in Europe with one our qualified agents today. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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