Sunday, November 17, 2019
Only a few more days and it's the best eating day of the year.
Greetings and welcome to our Thanksgiving countdown. Bring out all the recipes and get ready. It is time for the biggest family eating day of the year.
And wouldn't you know it that it is no surprise that it also will be the biggest travel season ever as reported by AAA.
More Than 55 Million Will Take to the Roads & Skies this Thanksgiving
It’s another Thanksgiving, another record for travel, according to AAA. More than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving,. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005.
Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year, a 2.9 percent increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metropolitan areas.
“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.” By the numbers, AAA’s 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast breaks down to the following:
Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8 percent more than last year.
Airplanes: With 4.6 percent growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.
Trains, Buses & Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4 percent from 2018.
For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.
“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”
Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For most Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year's Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option for travelers. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers also can save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).
Holiday road trippers this should budget more for car rentals, since prices have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day. Travelers also will pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1 percent more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5 percent to an average nightly cost of $158.
The theme parks of Orlando and southern California, and other warm-weather destinations will see an influx of travelers looking to escape the start of winter. Florida is home to four of the top 10 destinations, and Hawaii is on the list of top destinations in the U.S. twice this Thanksgiving, based on advance AAA Travel bookings. Top destinations are: 1) Orlando, Fla.; 2) Anaheim, Calif.; 3) New York, N.Y.; 4) Las Vegas, Nev.; 5) Honolulu, Hawaii; 6) Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; 7) Tampa, Fla.; 8) Kahului, Maui, Hawaii; 9) Phoenix, Ariz.; and 10) Miami, Fla,
For those travelers planning an international vacation for Thanksgiving, beach destinations are the most popular. The top five international destinations of choice are 1) Nassau, Bahamas; 2) Cancun, Mexico; 3) Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and 4) Montego Bay, Jamaica with surprisingly 5) Munich, Germany, rounding out the top five. For more information, click on .
In ouw own neighborhhod is a little secret that holds a lot of history and charm.
It's not exactly easy to get to as you must sail there from the mainland but it is something a lot of people do and they talk about.
Conde Nast tells us all about our secret little GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY.
November 14, 2019
A new hotel gives travelers yet another reason to get on the ferry from Long Beach.
Los Angeles and gridlock are virtually synonymous. But in Avalon, a hamlet of 4,000 people on Catalina Island, built a hundred years ago by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., you're more likely to find yourself riding in a golf cart (there's a 25-year wait list for a vehicle permit). Or, you could hop on the back of an eco-friendly H1 Hummer (it runs on biofuel) for a tour of the rugged interior in hopes of spotting the island's herd of wild bison.
Many Angelenos, who on a clear day are able to see the green and yellow grass-covered speck 22 miles off the coast, think of Catalina as not much more than a place where Boy Scouts go camping and rich people dock their sailboats. But this year brings new reasons to catch the 60-minute ferry from Long Beach. In August the seaside Hotel Atwater reopened after a restoration that brought back much of the familial character Wrigley imbued it with in 1920, when he hoped to turn Catalina into a world-class holiday destination. Sweet rooms have beds in corals and teal and cozy comforters, while the lobby holds the Wrigley family's albums and heirlooms.
Nearby, the Catalina Island Museum has an exhibition devoted to the tycoon's influence. You can also head around to the coast to dive with bat rays or zip-line through a lush canyon—though for all of Catalina's natural beauty, there are still reminders of Hollywood's proximity: Avalon is home to one of the first talkie theaters, where Cecil B. DeMille hosted lavish preview parties, and the Art Deco rotunda Catalina Casino, where Benny Goodman's big band played in the 1930s. Even those bison roaming the island have silver-screen cachet; rumor has it that they're descended from a few menacing extras who broke free from the set of the 1925 Western movie The Vanishing American
One of the things we often get asekd about is should I get insurance on my cruise. And since we think it is a personal matter we did run across this article from Conde Nast on the subject and think it is best for you to make that decision.
by ELISSA GARAY
October 28, 2019
Planning for when life gets in the way of getting away.
Rarely does real life make its way into our fantasies of a dream vacation: palm trees swaying in the breeze, expertly plated meals served at whim, toes pointed toward the horizon on a sun-soaked day at sea. That vision doesn't factor in missed flights, lost bags, or medical mishaps. But life has a way of getting in the way, even when you’re trying to get away from it all. For the projected 30 million cruise passengers traveling in 2019, it’s an unfortunate certainty that at least some of them are going to experience less than smooth—cough—sailing.
Happily, you can buy peace of mind in the form of cruise travel insurance, which industry experts say is nearly always a smart bet—and a small price to pay for the protection it provides. Not only does coverage insure your financial investment in the case of a hiccup, but it can also help with access to quality medical care on the road, as well as reimbursement for any unforeseen expenses that may pop up in the face of such scenarios. In this primer on travel insurance for cruises, we break down everything you need to know so you can pick up a policy with ease—and then get back to your lounge on the lido deck.
“A cruise vacation has so many moving parts, including the sheer number of destinations you visit, flights, and hotels bookings. Things can go wrong after you’ve made that final deposit, and without travel insurance, you’d likely lose that payment,” says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of cruise review and community site Cruise Critic.
While specific policies vary in their coverage—you’ll need to review the fine print carefully before you buy—most offer recourse for commonly encountered issues like the need to cancel a trip (for approved reasons like your traveling companion falling ill, or the involuntary loss of your job) or trip delays and interruptions. “If you miss your initial embarkation of a cruise due to a flight delay or a weather event, such as a hurricane or winter storm, travel insurance could help cover the costs of you getting to the next port of call, so you can join your cruise,” says James Page, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of AIG Travel, whose subsidiaries sell policies designed to cover cruisers.
Medical incidents while traveling present another major need for coverage, since it’s unlikely that your regular health insurance covers such expenses abroad. Most ships have onboard doctors, but visiting them isn’t cheap—nor is emergency medical evacuation in the case of more serious illnesses or injuries. “Without [insurance], your out-of-pocket costs could be astronomical,” McDaniel says.
Page agrees. “Even a short weekend cruise could turn costly if a traveler has an accident or becomes ill, and requires emergency medical treatment or a medical evacuation from sea,” he says, pointing out that travelers are more prone to injury since they often take risks on vacations—like Jet-Skiing or hiking on unfamiliar terrain—that they might not take back home. (Also of note: Be sure to inquire about preexisting conditions exemptions, if applicable, before purchasing any policy.)
Orlando-based travel agent Kelley Lord is an avid cruiser, with nearly 40 cruises under her belt—and she has taken out a policy for every one of them. It’s proven to be a smart strategy: In 2017 alone, her family had to cancel three separate cruises at the last minute, due to varying family medical issues. “We had a 17-night, port-intensive cruise and Europe trip planned for early June that included expensive flights, prepaid excursions, hotels, and the cruise fare,” she says of one incident. “My husband tore up both of his knees in late May playing kickball at the company picnic and had to have double knee surgery. There was no way we could make the trip.” Thankfully, in that and the other two instances that followed that year, “we filed with our travel insurance and were able to recoup most of the cost of the trip,” she says.
Other potential problems might include the airline losing your checked bags, getting pick-pocketed in port, or the cruise line canceling your sailing due to weather or mechanical issues. While the line would almost certainly pay out a refund for the cruise in the latter scenario, other prepaid expenses not purchased through the cruise line directly, such as flights or hotel nights, would be on your dime without a qualifying policy in place.
While cruise lines usually offer their own insurance policies, experts advise looking instead to an independent, third-party insurer. “Travel insurance policies from independent insurers tend to be more comprehensive than those you might purchase through a cruise line,” McDaniel says. “Cruise line insurance is usually secondary coverage, meaning you’ll first need to file through any private insurance policies [like homeowner’s or renter's] that you have before your travel insurance will kick in. This could mean needing to pay out-of-pocket to start.”
“The advantage of purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance policy through an insurance provider like Travel Guard is that the comprehensive plans may offer additional benefits, such as emergency medical evacuation, which may not be available under protection plans offered through cruise lines,” Page says.
In addition, cruise line insurance can be more limited than you might expect. “Travelers who purchase the cruise line’s policy can only insure expenses purchased directly through that cruise line," says Jenna Hummer, director of public relations for travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth. "Any outside airfare or expenses would be forfeited in the event of a cancellation.”
You can pick up a policy from your travel agent directly through a reputed individual insurance provider (like AIG Travel Guard or Allianz), or via an insurance comparison site that lets you compare plans from various insurers (like Squaremouth or InsureMyTrip).
The cost of a policy is calculated as a percentage of your overall vacation expenses—generally anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your total prepaid, nonrefundable trip cost, according to data provided by Squaremouth. “The premium varies by policy and provider, depending on three primary factors: total trip cost, age of travelers, and length of travel,” says Hummer. “So older travelers taking long, expensive cruises will most likely be paying more for the same policy as a younger traveler taking a cheaper trip.”
“It’s important to ensure the policy you purchase covers the things you may need, such as preexisting medical conditions or adventure activities,” Page says.
Note that weather is not covered unless it results in the cancellation of or significant interruption to the cruise. McDaniel notes that you won’t get a refund if the scheduled ports visited on a cruise itinerary are changed due to bad weather. “We’ve seen a number of ships recently adjust itineraries due to inclement weather. Skipped ports would not be covered by travel insurance,” she says.
If you want to be ensured the biggest blanket of coverage, you might consider upgrading to a “cancel for any reason” policy that includes pretty much any circumstance for cancellation, which might just be changing your mind about wanting to take the trip at all. It will cost more, and usually does not reimburse the entire trip fare—caps are typically limited to up to 75 percent of the total trip cost, Hummer says.
Experts say to buy your travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your cruise—that will give you the biggest window of protection should anything arise before you set sail. Hummer notes that coverage for preexisting medical conditions is sometimes available at no additional cost from independent insurers—but only if you purchase that policy within 14 to 30 days of your first trip payment.
Note that you can’t purchase a policy after an event transpires that leads to a claim (say, after you get into an accident and break your leg), but you can purchase insurance plans as late as 24 hours in advance of your scheduled departure.
Though odds are in your favor that you’ll never use the insurance you purchase, should an issue pop up, the investment can prove to be of great benefit, both economically and psychologically. Lord says, from experience, “You never know when you will need it, but if you do, you will be so grateful that you have it.”
And while we are on the subject of cruising perhaps you might like to know just how to book your first cruise and Conde Nast has some ideas on that. We're glad they also thnk that using a travel counselor will make your life easier when booking your first cruise.
by MARK ELLWOOD
July 9, 2019
Interested in taking a cruise, but never been on one? Here's what you should know.
Tackling a cruise for the first time can seem daunting, with a dizzying assortment of companies, itineraries, and destinations available. With this in mind, how can first-timers book a cruise without going wrong? We asked three Condé Nast Traveler-approved experts for their seasoned advice: Carolyn Spencer Brown, chief content strategist at Cruise Critic, and travel specialists [Mathy Wassmerman] (http://www.flyinggiraffetravel.com/) and Tom Baker. Here’s their advice for planning a foolproof oceangoing vacation.
What is the best cruise destination for a first-timer?
First, know that you have two major types of cruise available: ocean or river. Ocean cruises are the most common, and tend to have larger ships and cover more ground. River cruises, by contrast, must have smaller ships because they navigate more narrow waterways, and thus will carry fewer passengers. There are advantages to both: you may prefer a more intimate sailing experience, or may be prone to seasickness: In that case, river cruising would be ideal for you (you really won't feel much movement on those calm channels). If, however, you're traveling with a group or want a variety in where and what to eat, or what to do, an ocean cruise is definitely the way to go.
Ultimately, we say to opt for the Caribbean for your first cruising experience. It’s easy and affordable to reach the boarding ports, and shuttling between the clusters of islands offers a compact, convenient contrast in cultures. “Think of a cruise as a tapas menu,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown; it allows you to sample destinations to which you might later return for a longer visit. Even handier, almost every island accepts payment in dollars, so there’s no need to juggle currencies, and you're not likely to face language barriers or bad weather.
How long is best for a first-time trip?
Five days to a week is the sweet spot for most first-time travelers, which will offer at least three ports to explore. Shorter itineraries, like three-day samplers, generally won’t allow you to explore more than one destination, and you can’t decompress as thoroughly, either. Trips that are ten days or longer, on the other hand, skew heavily toward retirees and people who don’t have limits on the number of days they can be absent from their 9-to-5 employers. Inevitably, a slew of sixty-somethings on a three-week trip can dampen the vibe for younger cruisers.
How do you book?
Cruise lines offer direct booking on their websites, but seasoned cruisers usually rely on a travel agent. Though agents’ roles have diminished in the mass-market travel business, they remain crucial for cruising. Not only do specialists offer seasoned advice, they can also wrangle deals and promos you may not know about: Ask them about shipboard credit, which is the seafaring equivalent of a gift card to spend onboard—$100 or so is a standard bonus.
How do you pick a room?
There’s an array of options (and pricing), especially on mega-ships. For first-timers who aren’t likely to spend much of the trip lounging in the room or exploring the attractions on-board, a cheaper interior cabin with no window or balcony can be a money-saving option. Don’t be driven solely by price, though, Baker says: that cheapie stateroom might be right across from the service area, with a door slamming shut 24/7, or underneath the kitchen, with heavy carts rolling at 6 a.m.. He recommends looking at the exhaustive maps on Cruise Deck Plans, which offers advice and user-generated feedback to help guide you—think of it as a sea-going counterpart to Seat Guru’s airline seat maps.
What are sea days? Should I avoid them?
Transits, when the ship is en route between ports, are known as sea days; passengers, obviously, are confined on board. Many newbies fret about wasting time at sea rather than exploring, but Tom Baker recommends always including at least two sea days in any itinerary. “They're when people really unwind," he says. "A couple of sea days can really make or break the experience.”
What about shore excursions?
For a first-time cruiser, these can be confusing. Basically, your cruise will offer a wealth of activities you can sign up for, sometimes at an additional cost, when you're in port. They'll range in activity level and focus (from cultural to food-centric, say), and reflect your destination (think glass-bottomed boat tours in Grand Cayman and an afternoon of wine tasting in Tuscany).
Details on available shore excursions often aren't added to an itinerary until six months or so before sail date, so check back regularly, and snap up a place on any that jump out at you—popular options can reach capacity long before your trip starts. “Don’t just look at what the ship offers for excursions, though,” says Mathy Wasserman. “And don’t be frightened by the ship’s idea that if you don’t use their excursion, you’ll be late and miss [the ship’s departure].” (Though you really do have to make the return time that the ship stipulates.) If you can't make it to an excursion through your cruise line, she recommends two independent companies that guarantee an on-time return and allow you greater freedom to explore: check Shore Trips and Tours by Locals.
What are some recommended ports?
Many cruise lines now lease smaller islands around the Caribbean as privately run beach ports; skip these, as there’s little or no local culture involved. For killer beaches and a welcoming local vibe, Barbados is a must-see. Mathy Wasserman also suggests the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) in the southern Caribbean near the equator. “They tend to be less developed for cruise ships, so there’s a more authentic experience, and tend to have better weather—they’re below the hurricane belt.”
The Norwegian Bliss, a larger ship that makes regular trips to the Caribbean.
What’s the best first cruise line for a family?
With kids or teens, plan for the ship to be as much of a draw as any destination. Standouts among the mega-vessels include Norwegian’s fleet, especially the new Bliss: the 4,004-passenger ship is crammed with activity zones, while the crowd skews heavily toward family travelers—[12 percent of Norwegian’s guests are kids] (https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=691). Otherwise, consider a ship like Royal Caribbean’s [Symphony of the Seas] (https://www.cntraveler.com/ships/royal-caribbean/symphony-of-the-seas). It has adrenaline-rushing attractions like a skydiving simulator and a multi-deck slide called The Ultimate Abyss.
What about young couples, or honeymooners?
Focus on smaller, higher-end lines such as Windstar, which operates both yachts and smaller ships with a capacity of 200 or so passengers so it can offer more personalized service, with a greater focus on the ports and destinations rather than keeping passengers entertained onboard. “If you’re willing to spend $500 per person per day, you’ll get more for your buck than you think you might,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown. Not only will you notice an uptick in service, but you’ll also be less nickel-and-dimed, with items that might be charged as extra on a mass market cruise line, like excursions or alcoholic drinks, bundled upfront. Seabourn also falls into this category.
What about empty nesters?
Adventurous and energetic couples should focus on a luxury operator like Regent Seven Seas, which bundles round-trip airfare, Wi-Fi, and most shore excursions into its upfront cost. Consider, too, Oceania, which has a well-deserved reputation as offering the best food and beverage at sea thanks to its partnership with French culinary icon Jacques Pépin. Don't sleep on bucket-list trips, either, like Cunard's transatlantic crossing on the classic Queen Mary.
If you’re flying to the embarkation point, plan to arrive the day before—that ship won’t wait if you’re snarled in air traffic delays all morning. And even on all-inclusive packages, cash tips for outstanding service are appreciated: $50 worth of small bills on hand should cover a week-long trip
And for those of us in the back of the bus also known as coach or economy it's nice to know that perks are coming back. Conde NAst rports ther ei shope for us.
by MARK ELLWOOD
August 28, 2019
Is economy's race to the bottom finally over?
For the last decade, airlines have seemingly slashed every benefit that economy-class flyers once took for granted: free checked bags, seat assignments, gratis headphones. In some cases, even water or snacks have been jettisoned faster than excess fuel. That tide, though, might finally be turning—at least if Delta’s recent announcements are a bellwether.
For the last year, the Atlanta-based carrier has been trialing upgrades in its long-haul economy on routes from Portland to Tokyo, including so-called bistro dining (a selection of tapas-style dishes served on real china), a welcome cocktail (a free bellini served just after take-off) plus the return of hot towel service. It’s been such a success that it’s set to roll out across worldwide long-haul flights, starting this November.
Those aren't the only positive changes coming to an economy cabin near you. With increasing competition, airlines in the U.S. and around the globe have realized they can ill afford to have unhappy customers—even those who buy the cheapest fares—and are looking for ways to give fliers in coach more room, better amenities, and more comfortable seats. Even if some of the changes are slight adjustments, it seems economy class might be changing for the better.
“What once seemed like an inexorable race to the bottom—you know, ‘What will they take away next?’—is now much more nuanced,” says Seth Kaplan, an aviation expert and author.
Delta, for one, says this trend is crucial to the bottom line. Half of the airline’s travelers only book one trip per year on the carrier and opportunities to impress are limited. It’s not enough to restrict improvements solely to those turning left to first class after boarding, says Mauricio Parise, managing director of Onboard Product for the carrier.
“We are a multi-brand inside one airplane, so every single segment matters to make this a viable business," Parise says. "You can’t assume someone flying main cabin today always flies main cabin tomorrow. And we have a lot of customers who fly Delta One [business class] when they travel for work, but when they go with their four kids to Cancun, they fly in a different cabin.”
Take seating, for example. No longer are airlines automatically shaving economy pitch to knee-jamming levels. Lufthansa introduced a new economy cabin in May, slimming down backrests to help with legroom. It also added USB ports to every row of seats and a children’s menu for young fliers by chef Alexander Hermann of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Alexander Herrmann by Tobias Bätz. Delta, again, is trialing a limited recline on new planes scheduled for short-haul routes, aiming to allow every economy passenger enough room to open a laptop (the commitment: 31” pitch between seats).
THE FIRM SAYS THAT ADDING SEVERAL WATER FOUNTAINS THROUGHOUT ECONOMY, WHERE FLIERS CAN REFILL REUSABLE BOTTLES, WILL SAVE ON AVERAGE AROUND 3,400 PLASTIC BOTTLES PER FLIGHT.
Looking ahead, though, designers are working to reimagine the seat itself. James Park runs JPA Design, a London-based firm that specializes in aircraft interiors. His team is currently finessing a fixed-back shell seat that will not impinge on the passenger behind, even as it reclines. But Park is particularly excited about another, rather unlikely long-term collaboration with Formula 1 firm, Williams. “F1 composite technology is very advanced and its engineering solutions can be applied to other things, like seats that are very light, strong and minimal," Park says. "It would release more space for each passenger, while the seat pitch would stay the same, which is far more efficient.”
Subtle tweaks like this are also under way overhead, in the baggage compartments. PriestmanGoode, another airline interiors specialist also based in London, worked on an interior for the recently launched E2 Embraer, operated by airlines like SkyWest and KLM. Traditional configurations only allowed around 40 percent of passengers to store bags in the bin. By re-engineering the cabin and rerouting cables related to lighting and air vents so that the controls could be moved from the ceiling above each seat, the PriestmanGoode team carved out enough bonus space to double the overhead capacity.
It has also begun trials on simple techniques that will help airlines reduce wastage and encourage travelers to get up regularly and avoid blood clots, increasingly vital with the new ultra-long-haul flights like Newark-Singapore on Singapore Airlines or Qantas’ route between Perth and London. The firm says that adding several water fountains throughout economy, where fliers can refill reusable bottles, will save on average around 3,400 plastic bottles per flight. It’s also installing extra dividers into the cabin, so that the entire aircraft is broken up into smaller, boutique-like rooms; per its research, this reduces the cattle class feel for economy travelers.
Look for this mid-way cabin—also known as Premium Select and Premium Plus stateside—to appear in all new aircraft and slowly be retrofitted across entire fleets. WestJet’s new 787 Dreamliners, for instance, offer customers in the premium economy cabin a self-service café and social point, an amenity once reserved for business class fliers. Singapore offers a business-style meal preordering service called Book The Cook in its premium economy class, while Cathay Pacific’s new A350 gives PE fliers a roomy 40 inches of legroom, two inches above the standard for this cabin. Cathay has even added drop-down aisle-side armrests so that passengers don’t need to get up to let their seat-mate exit; they can shimmy to one side, instead.
“It’s emerging as the next marketing battleground, Boyd says. "So watch for ‘amenities creep’ as airlines try one-up one another for this segment.”
And just in time are some special extended offers form the cruis lines to GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY and wamr up in the Caribbean.
Having trouble viewing the graphics? Go here.
And while we are on point Fred has some ideas for you on the very best in Caribbean islands to visit this holiday ssason,
The Most Beautiful Islands in the Caribbean
Parts of the Caribbean took the full brunt of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, but the area as a whole is officially back—and better than ever. Many islands hit refresh in the form of hot new hotel and restaurant openings, but the appeal of most has been there all along: white sand beaches, historic architecture, and nature that could easily be plucked from the world of Jurassic Park (you know, in a good way). From the iconic pitons of St. Lucia to the cobbled streets of Puerto Rico, these are among the most stunning island nations and territories in the Caribbean. Be prepared to immediately start planning your next warm-weather getaway.
This British Overseas Territory (just north of the dual-nation island of St. Maarten/St. Martin) is the place to really get away from it all. Your first stop should be Shoal Bay, Anguilla's most famous beach. The blindingly white shore offers soft sand and non-touristy restaurants, plus an offshore reef for snorkelers and divers. For the ultimate luxurious hideaway, book a suite at the newly renovated Belmond Cap Juluca—resort perks aside, the enclave offers unbridled views of Maundays Bay's vanilla sands and blue waters.
If it's pristine beaches you're after, then look no further: The Cayman Islands—Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman—have some of the best stretches of sand in the entire Caribbean. Most people head to resorts on Seven Mile Beach (not to be confused with Jamaica's beach of the same name) on Grand Cayman, but head to Owen Island on Little Cayman for a more private beach day. The islands' underwater adventures are just as, if not more, exciting than those on land: Don't you dare leave without visiting Stingray City (off of Grand Cayman) and snorkeling with the surprisingly friendly stingrays.
Nearly every hotel along Aruba's leeward beaches is a winner, but it's a waste not to venture off this developed stretch. The island's beaches are some of the best in the entire world, like powder-fine Eagle Beach and unspoiled, undeveloped Arashi. The Arikok National Park, comprising 18% of the island, is a hidden treasure—a cacti-filled landscape well worth exploring.
Rising from the sea like the setting of a King Kong movie, tiny Saba's unspoiled and undeveloped environment makes it memorable. Located in the Lesser Antilles chain just south of St. Maarten/St. Martin, the island's appeal extends both above and below the coastline, from the jagged silhouette of Mt. Scenery (an appropriate name, and the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands) to the diverse and colorful coral reefs. It also happens to have some of the friendliest locals you're likely to encounter.
Virgin Gorda is the third-largest of the British Virgin Islands, with natural beauty covering virtually all of its 8.5 square miles. The island offers quiet beaches and coves and flora-filled national parks. Perhaps the prettiest (and most popular attraction) is the Baths, a seaside area where huge granite boulders form scenic saltwater pools and grottos.
As editor David Jefferys writes, "Drop any preconceptions you might have of what a vacation on St. Barts might mean. It's not all Rolexes or tubs of Iranian caviar for two—it's a naturally gorgeous island with a fascinating history." Indeed, the tony territory has enough scenic views and water sports to give all those five-star hotels a run for their money. On the south coast of the island, Anse de Grande Saline treats visitors to vegetated sand dunes and unobstructed views of turquoise waters. For a more accessible beach experience, head directly to St. Jean, a coastal town that would feel at home along the French Riviera. The calm and clear waters are ideal for surfing, with plenty of boutiques to visit if you need a break from the sun.
The scenery of St. Lucia can be summed up in one jaw-dropping site: a duo of striking spires known as the Pitons. The two volcanic peaks—Gros Piton and Petit Piton—are the most iconic landmarks on the island, and visitors can enjoy them in a variety of ways. An absolute bucket-list experience has to be actually hiking the mountains, an activity which takes the better part of a day. Regardless of which Piton you choose, the climb will be a strenuous and lengthy affair (the hike can take upwards of six hours round-trip—guided tours are essential), but those views from the top easily validate the journey. If you prefer to keep your feet at sea level, plop a towel down at Sugar Beach, set dramatically (and conveniently) between the two Pitons.
Often overlooked, Haiti continues to amaze with its fantastic hiking and dozens of near-empty beaches—not to mention its vibrant modern art scene and cultural events. The entire county is covered with mountains crisscrossed by hiking trails, offering a cool respite from the island's hot and steamy lowlands. Set aside a day to trek up to Citadelle Laferrière (usually referred to simply as "the Citadelle"), an abandoned French fortress near the northern village of Milot. Upon reaching the castle (via horseback ride or a manageable hike) travelers are rewarded with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean—on clear days, you can even spot Cuba in the distance.
If you crave the exotic landscapes of the South Pacific but the nearness of the Caribbean, we suggest booking a trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The scattering of islands is a favorite among the international jet-set (William and Kate are notable fans), with shockingly beautiful beaches and resorts more private than your own home. Head to Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau for snorkeling and scuba diving, plus a photo op at the beach's colorful, open-air bar (it’s officially unnamed, but referred to as the “Last Bar Before the Jungle”). Of course, no visit to the islands would be complete without a day (or ten) devoted to sailing. You'll never be far from sight of land here, but most excursion boats anchor at Tobago Cays—and for good reason. The marine reserve comprises five uninhabited islands that are exceptional even by Caribbean standards.
The twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis bursts at the seams with charm. But first: St. Kitts. The larger of the two islands is known for its sugarcane fields and well-preserved Brimstone Hill fortresses, best approached on the open-air train that runs along the island's southern coast. For sophisticated lodgings with a view, book a stay at Belle Mont Farm on Kittitian Hill, a 2015 Hot List winner. Situated on the northwestern slopes of Mt. Liamuiga, some of the resort's biggest draws are the private plunge pools and outdoor clawfoot tubs overlooking the sea.
It may be smaller than St. Kitts, but Nevis is not throwing away its shot. The birthplace of Alexander Hamilton is almost perfectly round, with gentle slopes rising to the peak of its dormant volcano, and the island is known for its historic inns and top-drawer resorts. Set up camp at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis for easy access to Pinney's Beach, an absolute favorite for both families with kids and travelers seeking a calm respite. The beach lets you walk for nearly three miles along the island's sheltered west coast, where you can soak in the views of towering palms and the cloud-covered peak of Mount Nevis.
Barbados has something for everyone: pink sand beaches, exotic wildlife (think monkeys, sea turtles, and eight species of bats), and sunsets just begging to be enjoyed with a fresh cocktail. It's no secret that the island also has a global reputation for clubby sports, with private polo clubs and world-class golf courses (including one carved into a limestone quarry) drawing well-heeled groups of repeat visitors—many of them from Britain. For a wilder brand of beauty that doesn't require a membership fee, look to Bathsheba Beach on the east coast. Here you'll find big, surf-able waves and shallow pools carved by the coral reef right off the shore.
It's easy to see why Guadeloupe has long been a favorite vacation spot among French tourists. The butterfly-shaped territory has staggering waterfalls, white sand beaches, and clear water perfect for snorkeling. The archipelago of eight charming islands has tons of gorgeous spots to choose from, but we're particular fans of the reefs rich with marine life off of Pain de Sucre ("Sugar Loaf" Beach) on the island of Terre-De-Haut. For that once-in-a-lifetime photograph, head directly to Sugar Loaf Hill, a 170-foot-high basalt slope that overlooks the beach, is covered with cacti, and plunges into the sparkling Bay of Saints.
Some NEWS AND VIEWS are in store now for you now.
by Adam Leposa
Nov 9, 2019 8:00am
ANA's newly redesigned First Class cabin on the Boeing 777 // Photo by ANA
New aircraft and new flights to the Caribbean lead this week’s air travel news.
This week ANA launched its revamped Boeing 777-300ER on the Tokyo – New York route. Newly redesigned seats on the aircraft include The Suite in First Class – the airline’s first-ever fully enclosed seating, which has a design inspired by luxury Japanese hotels. The Suite has privacy enhancing doors and a 4K, 43-inch personal monitor, as well as a moveable partition that can be adjusted on request to pair seats. Also new is The Room in Business Class, which offers flexible doors for personal privacy that can also be adjusted to pair seats, a sofa that is double the width of previous Business Class seating, wood finishes inspired by modern Japanese homes and a 4K personal monitor.
In new flight news, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism announced the addition of a third American Airlines daily flight between Miami and St. Croix next summer. The new service will run between June 4 and August 17, 2020, on a Boeing 737 aircraft.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, St. Kitts announced that both American Airlines and Delta will extend their existing nonstop Saturday flights from New York - JFK to include the month of May 2020, providing continuous service from peak season through summer. From May 2 through June 3, 2020, American will add a total of four rotations for the flight on a 160-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, while from May 2 through June 6, 2020, Delta will add a total of three rotations for the flight utilizing a 160-seat Boeing 737-800.
In Europe, Virgin Atlantic announced plans to increase its flights to Manchester as part of its summer 2020 schedule, including additional frequencies from Las Vegas and Orlando. Flights from Barbados to Manchester will increase from two times a week to three times a week for the whole of the summer season. There will also be an increase of flights from Las Vegas to Manchester with two extra weekly flights for the peak season, while out of Orlando thee airline will add two weekly flights, offering up to 14 flights per week during peak season. The airline also announced two extra flights a week from London Gatwick to Orlando, offering up to 18 flights a week in the peak summer season.
In onboard product news, Delta launched its new international Main Cabin experience this week. The new service includes a complimentary welcome cocktail, hot towel service and bistro-style dining.
Finally, this week Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport officially opened the doors of its new North Terminal. Officials said that the new 35-gate, $1 billion terminal will accommodate further growth at the airport, which is now the fifth-fastest-growing airport in the United States.
Oct 13, 2019There are a variety of themed cruises for families available onboard ocean and river sailings.
Credit: 2019 Getty Images
I heard the passionate cry of a Wookiee — not on land (or in space), as one might expect, but at sea.
Shoreside at Disney parks, clients can meet a hero such as Chewbacca or a villain like Kylo Ren from the “Star Wars” film franchise. But only on a cruise can they sail with the characters. Themed ocean and river cruises are popular ways to enhance a family voyage, and there are a number of options available, including Star Wars Day at Sea, where I heard the Wookiee’s call.
Theme cruises, as the name suggests, take a standard sailing and overlay special-interest programming. Some are hosted by the cruise line itself, and others are charters developed by an outside agency. In the case of Star Wars Day at Sea, or the comparable Marvel Day at Sea, Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is the turnkey operator, benefiting from the parent company’s signature synergy.
Having experienced both DCL theme cruises, I can attest that it’s a blast for kids of all ages to interact with the Empire, the First Order, the Resistance and all kinds of superheroes on a cruise ship. While DCL has yet to find a way for its vessels to actually call on the fictional destinations of Naboo or Wakanda, these trips come close.
Passengers on themed cruises may encounter a supervillain such as Marvel’s Red Skull.
Credit: 2019 Jason Leppert
On Marvel Day at Sea, which will return in January and run through March 2020, the five-night cruise onboard Disney Magic features exclusive merchandise, film and television screenings, and a special day filled with heroic activities. Captain Marvel, Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy and more mingle with guests as they enjoy narrative culinary offerings (think: Dr. Banner’s Greens and Lobster Salad); a special effects-laden “Doctor Strange” show; an incredible evening deck performance; and game shows (I even made it to the final round of one, proving that my annual Comic-Con International attendance pays off).
Those who have seen DCL’s fireworks displays will be further blown away by what feels like a Marvel Cinematic Universe film acted out onboard, complete with pyrotechnics and stunts. It’s so good that a land version has been remounted at Disneyland Paris.
Meanwhile, the seven-night “Star Wars”-themed sailing — also repeating from January to March 2020 — takes place onboard Disney Fantasy and features a “Summon the Force” fireworks show, gathering characters including Darth Maul, C-3PO and Ahsoka Tano onstage. Exclusive shopping opportunities abound, as well as plentiful meet-and-greets, themed foods, screenings of the saga’s TV shows and movies, and activities that take place everywhere from the kids’ clubs to the adults-only area (such as a Padawan lightsaber training program and a cosplay celebration).
And, thanks to “The Mandalorian” web TV show and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” film that are both set to debut this winter, the make-believe galaxy will expand for 2020 sailings.
Until then, clients can visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at either Disneyland Park in California or Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. Packages for the latter park can be tacked onto a DCL sailing departing from nearby Port Canaveral.
Passengers can take part in activities and entertainment ranging from shows and meet-and-greets to screenings and cosplay.
Credit: 2019 Jason Leppert
DCL isn’t the only cruise line with family-friendly theme sailings. There are others to consider, and a great place to discover many is www.themecruisefinder.com.
For “Trekkies,” the next Star Trek: The Cruise will set sail on Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas. This full-ship charter from Entertainment Cruise Productions brings the United Federation of Planets and a large collection of its most popular personalities to the ship.
From March 1-8, 2020, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) from “Star Trek: Voyager” will be onboard for the latter show’s 25th anniversary. Joining them will be dozens of other actors, including Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from “Voyager,” and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Data (Brent Spiner) from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (all of whom are set to reprise their roles in the upcoming new “Star Trek: Picard” series). Additionally, for followers of the latest “Star Trek: Discovery,” Captain Pike (Anson Mount) will be onboard, too. Now, that’s a lot of captains.
Fans of cruising and entertainment will recall that Spiner also starred as the cruise director of Holland America Line’s previous-generation Westerdam in the 1997 comedy “Out to Sea.” In a bit of life imitating art, Royal Caribbean’s 2020 theme sailing will likely showcase the actor-singer’s variety show on top of autograph and photo sessions, game shows, a scavenger hunt, a curated museum, celebrity-hosted shore excursions and a re-creation of the televised Ten Forward bar in the observation lounge.
Next year’s “Star Trek” theme cruise is already sold out; however, families can still join the waitlist. And as this will be the fourth sailing of its kind, there will surely be more to look forward to in the future.
Similarly, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will be represented on chartered Disney sailings. The TCM Classic Cruise sets sail Oct. 22-27 onboard Disney Magic, and the next sailing, available for presale, will happen Oct. 4-10, 2020, onboard Disney Fantasy. Onboard celebrities include TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, film critic Leonard Maltin and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. Of course, guests can anticipate lots of film screenings, interactive panels and other cinematic events and activities.
There are also themed music sailings across a variety of genres. During onboard music cruises, which take place through multiple lines throughout the year, families can meet and hear live music from some of their favorite bands.
A Variation on River Cruising
Many river cruise lines offer themed sailings, as well.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has hosted voyages geared toward families, and the line continues to promote its Uniworld Generations Collection itineraries, available on select sailings.
AmaWaterways has family-friendly river cruises thanks to its partnership with Adventures by Disney.
Credit: 2019 Jason Leppert
During a Generations Family Program sailing on an itinerary such as the 10-day Gems of Northern Italy, families can engage in customized activities like a scavenger hunt through the Venice islands of Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello; biking in the fishing town of Chioggia and climbing its clock tower; and making pasta in Bologna.
Onboard amenities include two Family Hosts, a youth game room, activities such as cooking classes and movie nights, a kids-only dining table and special events.
AmaWaterways, too, has family-friendly river cruises suited for multiple generations, thanks to its partnership with Adventures by Disney. These sailings feature a team of dedicated Adventure Guides and kid- and teen-focused activities and tours.
I recently experienced firsthand how AmaWaterways incorporates themes into its itineraries. My cruise onboard a “Beauty and the Beast”-themed preview sailing featured cuisine and destinations inspired by the Disney film.
And in August at fan exposition D23 Expo 2019, Disney announced that a new AmaWaterways Rhine River departure will be presented by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club next year. Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, was onboard my “Beauty and the Beast” sailing, and she is scheduled to appear on the Rhine voyage, in addition to producer and film historian Don Hahn; Imagineer and Disney legend Tony Baxter; and Bret Iwan, the voice of Mickey Mouse.
The seven-night river cruise will set sail Aug. 9, 2020, onboard AmaMora. Disney luminaries will share behind-the-scenes stories about Walt Disney and the European inspirations behind Disneyland Paris. The trip can be booked by D23 members and nonmembers alike.
Of course, all these theme cruises are value-added experiences on top of visits to iconic international destinations
Oct 13, 2019Celebrity Eclipse is based on the Pacific Coast through 2020.
Credit: 2019 Martin Casteneda
Once seemingly considered an afterthought by cruise lines — or merely a seasonal repositioning necessity — West Coast cruising has recently come into its own as a legitimate itinerary option. And one of the top ships offering multiple itineraries on the West Coast this year and next is Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse.
On a recent nine-day Pacific Coast voyage between San Diego and Vancouver, British Columbia, my wife, our teenage daughter and I rediscovered the oft-overlooked beauty, captivating history and close-to-home charm of the California coast and the Pacific Northwest.
Sailing north revealed wonders at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif.; fascinating Lewis and Clark history in Astoria, Ore.; Seattle’s quirky, turn-of-the-century underground tunnels; and the stately, colonial charm of Victoria, British Columbia. But our itinerary highlight was the overnight call in San Francisco, which allowed time for in-depth city exploration via cable car; shopping for touristy kitsch at Fisherman’s Wharf; enjoying a dim sum lunch in Chinatown; savoring a signature hot fudge sundae in Ghirardelli Square; and leisurely biking around Golden Gate Park, one of the country’s great urban oases.
Onboard the Solstice-class Eclipse, amenities reflect the line’s inclination toward innovation and remain true to Celebrity’s “modern luxury” concept. Originally launched in 2010, the vessel saw a major refurbishment in 2015, and it will receive a more extreme makeover during its “Celebrity Revolution” treatment next May, when it will add some popular features and functionality available on new fleetmate Celebrity Edge. For now, though, the once-cutting-edge (and still impressive) design holds up well, despite the need for a refresh of some cabin decor and hallway treatments.
At Qsine, passengers enjoy an unusual dining experience.
Credit: 2019 Michel Verdure
Meanwhile, the ship’s culinary options don’t disappoint, either. Highlights include an impressive, four-course dinner prepared by the animated “Le Petit Chef and Friends” at Qsine, where tabletop, 3D-projection technology and culinary prowess mesh perfectly in a rare example of successful “eatertainment.” Cuisine in the attractive, two-level Moonlight Sonata Restaurant is also solid, while the quality and presentation of the fare at the casual Oceanview Cafe buffet could use some updating.
Celebrity sets a high bar for itself when it comes to entertainment, and the four production shows on our sailing were all highlights — particularly the gorgeous and creative “Euphoria,” which combines daring acrobatic wonders, innovative staging and hauntingly beautiful music. Elsewhere around the ship, Celebrity’s commitment to live music is demonstrated admirably with quality lounge acts in multiple venues.
Eclipse will sail a combination of Pacific Coast, Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii itineraries to and from San Diego, Los Angeles and Vancouver this year through 2020.
by Adam Leposa
Nov 12, 2019 9:00am
Governor Carlos Mendoza said that, as of November 9, the new fund will take effect.
Following this past weekend's implementation of what was initially described by the Associated Press as a new “tourism tax” in Baja California, Travel Agent has received additional details from the state government on how the process will work. The new policy is not a tax; the new “Fund for a Sustainable Baja California Sur” will rely on voluntary contributions from travelers – meaning that tourists will not be forced to pay.
“The Fund for a Sustainable Baja Sur is a contribution created to support the ongoing development of sustainable infrastructure in the destination as well as the betterment of the local communities that make our destination so special,” Isidro Jordan, Secretary of Finance of the State of Baja California Sur, tells Travel Agent. “Unlike an ‘entry tax,’ visitors will not be forced or unduly coerced into making a contribution.”
The new fund, which officially went into effect this past Saturday, November 9, is $350 Mexican pesos, which equates to approximately $18 dollars depending on current exchange rates. Visitors will be able to make their contribution through a range of options, including digital kiosks and the website www.travelerfundbcs.gob.mx.
Proceeds from the fund will support the ongoing development of sustainable infrastructure in the destination, as well as the development of local communities. The state is home to the popular tourist destination of Los Cabos, where 90 percent of residents rely on the travel sector either directly or indirectly for their livelihood.
“We hope that both first-time and repeat visitors alike appreciate the value of this contribution and feel encouraged to support the ongoing resiliency and sustainability of the state,” Jordan says.
by Adam Leposa
Nov 13, 2019 10:43am
Photo by disqis/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Thanksgiving travel can be stressful – so much so that a significant portion of Americans would rather skip the holiday altogether than drive to their destination, according to a new survey by Esurance. The company surveyed 1,000 Americans on their thoughts regarding Thanksgiving travel.
In the survey, 18 percent of respondents said that they would rather skip Thanksgiving than have to drive for it. Even more – 25 percent – said that they would rather cook the full Thanksgiving meal themselves rather than drive for the holiday. Twenty-one percent said that they would rather pay for a flight instead of driving, while 8 percent would opt to give up their favorite Thanksgiving dish. One in 10 respondents even said that they would rather wait in line at the DMV than drive. While “I would rather drive on Thanksgiving” was the most popular response, only 26 percent of respondents chose it.
Overall, over half – 52 percent – of respondents said that they think Thanksgiving travel is at least “slightly stressful.” Breaking the respondents down by age range, 49 percent of those aged 18 – 34 said that they find Thanksgiving travel stressful, as compared to 53 percent of those aged 35 – 54 and 55 percent of those 55 years old or older.
by Adam Leposa
Nov 13, 2019 9:00am
President of Carnival Cruise Line Christine Duffy (L) and President of PepsiCo Global Foodservice Anne Fink (R) toast to their new partnership that will bring PepsiCo’s broad portfolio of beverage brands on board the cruise line’s North American fleet in 2020.
Carnival Cruise Line has announced a new partnership with PepsiCo to make the company the preferred beverage partner for its North American fleet. Beginning in January 2020, Carnival Cruise Line will begin serving a variety of beverages from the PepsiCo portfolio, with brands from Starbucks ready-to-drink coffee to bubly sparkling water. When the transition is complete, Carnival said that its guests will have a broad selection of beverage choices, from iced tea, sparkling water, coffee drinks and sports drinks to juices and soft drinks, including an array of low-calorie and no-sugar options. Previously, the line's preferred beverage partner had been The Coca-Cola Company.
As they cruise, Carnival Cruise Line guests will be able to enjoy popular PepsiCo brands such as bubly, Pure Leaf, Naked Juice, Gatorade, MTN Dew, Starbucks, Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar, Sierra Mist and Sierra Mist Zero Sugar, among others.
PepsiCo’s food and beverage portfolio includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. The company’s product portfolio includes a wide range of foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales. Overall, the company generated more than $64 billion in net revenue in 2018.
Carnival Cruise Line annually sails more than 5.2 million guests. Its fleet of 26 ships will grow to 28 with the delivery of Carnival Panorama in December 2019 and Mardi Gras in August 2020. The cruise line operates two- to 24-day itineraries in the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. In addition to the Carnival Panorama and Mardi Gras, another, as-yet-unnamed ship is set to join the cruise line in 2022.
Nov 10, 2019Queenstown is located on New Zealand’s South Island.
Credit: 2019 Getty Images
With a nickname like “adventure capital of the world,” it’s no surprise that Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island is known to accelerate visitors’ heart rates. On nearly any given day throughout the destination’s some 3,360 square miles, the bold and the brave bungee jump off bridges, paraglide through the sky and rappel down sheer cliffs.
But Queenstown’s greatest hits aren’t only in it for the thrill: I also found much-needed rest in luxury accommodations, nuanced flavors in local cuisine and many sights far more magnificent than I ever could have imagined.
Once a hole in the wall, Fergburger has become an international celebrity (see Instagram’s 44,923 photos and counting that are hashtagged with #fergburger). Burgers are delicious and, yes, worth the line that regularly wraps around the block.
Fergburger has gained international popularity.
Credit: 2019 Getty Images
Options range from a classic take with prime New Zealand beef to creative interpretations featuring ingredients such as wild deer and boysenberry-onion chutney.
The early bird catches the worm at the nine-villa Azur Lodge, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Here, waking up with the sun means catching a spectacular pink sunrise over Lake Wakatipu from a private deck. Another extra-special vantage point is from the in-villa spa bathtub that’s strategically placed next to a bay window. (No need to worry: Complete privacy is one of the secluded hotel’s many pillars.)
Set on 3.5 acres of native bush land, Azur is undeniably lovely with its natural beauty and contemporary furnishings. However, it’s the exemplary service that demonstrates beyond doubt that a stay here is worth every penny. Without an on-site restaurant, Azur instead offers made-to-order breakfast, afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks and canapes — all complimentary — in addition to an in-villa dining experience with dishes outsourced from top local restaurants. We often supped by our 800-square-foot villa’s fireplace.
Azur Lodge features views of Lake Wakatipu.
Credit: 2019 Azur Lodge
Private transfers to and from downtown Queenstown and the airport are also included.
For an experience that puts New Zealand’s beauty front and center, clients should bask in the remote majesty that is Milford Sound. With razor-sharp cliffs tumbling down to inky-blue waters, this famous fjord is the outcome of millions of years of glacial movement.
Take to the skies with Air Milford.
Credit: 2019 Valerie Chen
From Queenstown, my partner and I took to clear skies — a lucky occasion, as the area is one of the wettest in the world — with local operator Air Milford. Afterward, we boarded a catamaran to explore the depths of Milford Sound up close.
Oct 27, 2019At Caribbean resorts, New Year’s Eve celebrations often include special dinners and dancing.
Credit: 2019 Getty Images
Celebrating the arrival of a new year is an age-old tradition, but Caribbean-bound travelers will find a variety of new ways to ring in 2020 as islands and hotels offer their own celebrations.
Each destination in the Caribbean has a traditional way to commemorate the start of the new year. St. Croix, for example, hosts a month-long Crucian Christmas Festival that runs from the first Saturday in December through the first Saturday of the new year. St. Kitts throws a National Carnival that starts the day after Christmas. And a variety of individual hotels and resorts make it easy for vacationers to join in on the festivities around the Caribbean.
At the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino, guests can join a “Gala of Italy” event on Dec. 31 that includes multiple dinner stations as well as an open bar, a live band and party favors. Pre-paid reservations are required, and the cost is $196 for adults and $49 to $98 for children, depending on their age (children 4 and under are free).
The Aruba Marriott will host a beachfront dinner and celebration.
Credit: 2019 Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Meanwhile, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino will serve a four-course dinner at Atardi, the resort’s pop-up beach restaurant, for $140 per person, followed by a beachfront countdown with a live DJ and open bar, priced at $119.
Food is certainly a big part of any New Year’s Eve celebration. At the adults-only Calabash Cove Resort and Spa in St. Lucia, guests can dig into a special five-course New Year’s Eve dinner, which is included in its room rate.
In the Dominican Republic, the adults-only Sanctuary Cap Cana Resort and Spa, which wrapped up a multimillion-dollar renovation earlier this year, will host festivities that include live music and special dinner menus at multiple restaurants, with beachfront fireworks providing a fitting end to the evening.
The Hilton La Romana — which relaunched as an adults-only all-inclusive earlier this year — is staging an event called Old Year’s Day, which, according to the resort, promises to offer time for “reflection back on 2019 through activities that help set the mood for the new year.” The diverse offerings include a seafood tasting, a DJ, a bartending competition and a beer festival. Live music and fireworks help top off the night.
Sanctuary Cap Cana will have fireworks on the beach.
Credit: 2019 Sanctuary Cap Cana Resort and Spa
Also in the Dominican Republic, the new Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda opens Nov. 23 and the property will debut its first New Year’s Eve celebration with themed dinners and a live DJ dance party. Children will have the opportunity to take part in the festivities as well, with their own dance party and even trapeze lessons.
Multiple hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are gearing up to host lively events to ring in the new year, including the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino, which is hosting a major celebration called Illusions. The celebration will spread across four separate rooms, each with a different type of music and multiple DJs. Guests are even treated to a late-night serving of asopao, a traditional Puerto Rican dish that’s popular during the holidays. Admission costs $145, or $199 for a dinner/party combination package.
PHOTO: Passenger watches plane from airport window. (photo courtesy of anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
More than half of passengers do not trust airlines to abide by air passenger rights laws.
The alarming new statistic is part of a just-released global study from AirHelp, an air passenger rights organization.
The study also found that one-quarter of passengers have not filed a compensation claim with an airline because they don’t think the airline would listen. Furthermore, 73 percent of United States passengers admit to having given up after their initial .
In fact, it showed that only about half (55 percent) of U.S. travelers have filed . Yet this year alone, 169 million U.S. passengers have been affected by flight disruptions and may be entitled to claims.
Many travelers who experienced disruptions are eligible for compensation under EU law EC 261.
The law stipulates that if a flight is delayed by more than three hours, canceled, or in an instance of denied boarding, passengers are entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person if the cause of the disruption was in the airline’s control, AirHelp explained.
The law protects U.S. travelers on flights out of the EU and flights to Europe if they are with a European airline.
Despite the clear European legislation, the research has revealed that only one-third (33 percent) of people in the United States have been informed of their passenger rights during a flight delay or cancellation, said AirHelp.
In addition, more than half have never had an airline communicate their rights to them following a disruption.
“In addition to this lack of transparency, United States passengers have to contend with poor claims handling by airlines,” said AirHelp.
A separate study by AirHelp found that United States airlines reject an average of 25 percent of claims on wrongful grounds. This shows that even passengers who are aware of their right to claim compensation are facing an uphill battle to obtain that money.
AirHelp said its survey also revealed what it called “a brazen lack of honesty from airlines.”
The survey found that 24 percent of United States passengers facing a significant flight disruption has accepted an airline's offer of vouchers or food instead of claiming financial compensation.
PHOTO: Stressed traveler (photo courtesy nicoletaionescu/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
“This shows how little air passenger rights are understood,” said AirHelp. “What many travelers do not know is that accepting a voucher or cash offer from an airline is often not the best course of action. Taking vouchers may seem easier, however, these can often have expiration dates or terms that make them less valuable than the compensation they are eligible to claim. “
Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer for AirHelp, said passengers are losing out on money they are entitled to because the compensation claims process has become so disheartening.
“Many passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected, highlighting the fact that many consumers feel powerless against airlines,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen added that United States passengers already have limited protections against the airlines when compared to European travelers, which makes their lack of faith in airlines is unsurprising.
“EC261—which protects all travelers on flights departing from the EU and flights to the EU on a European airline—is in place to empower passengers and should not be used by airlines as smoke and mirrors allowing them to shirk their legal responsibility,” Nielsen added.
by Adam Leposa
Nov 14, 2019 10:27am
Carnival Cruise Line has announced plans to debut a new hands-on culinary experience, called Carnival Kitchen, on the Carnival Panorama when the new cruise ship launches in December. Guests sailing on the new vessel will be able to enjoy more than 15 onboard cooking classes inspired by the international cuisines served on the new ship.
Sample Carnival Kitchen offerings will include Carnival Classics Workshop Class with Dinner, which will allow guests to explore signature Carnival dishes such as tuna tartare, saffron risotto and warm chocolate melting cake, as well as The Orient Unknown Class with Dinner, which offers the opportunity to learn about the cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Cake Workshop will provide step-by-step instructions for cake making, from layering and filling to using hand-made fondant and edible decorations, and the Pasta Master Class will allow travelers to try their hand at preparing homemade pasta and pairing them with scratch-made sauces.
Additional classes include sushi rolling, pizza making and pie baking, among others, and participants have the opportunity to sample their creations. One-hour and two-hour morning, afternoon and early evening sessions are available primarily on sea days and can accommodate up to 18 guests at a time. Reservations can be made on the cruise line’s website pre-cruise or at any restaurant once onboard.
We do want all of you to be safe for the holiday. We will be back next week and know that some of you are traveling this week.
So please be safe, stay safe and travel safe.. Remain vigilant and we'll be here next week.
Have a good week.
Cheers from Oakey.
Bill and Fred