News & Views of the Week

Sunday, January 14, 2018

 

 

Tis the season for warm and comfy things to do and travel is in most cases THE THING that people want to do to get warm and feel comfy.

 

So why not head south?

 

 

Having trouble viewing the graphics? Go here.

 

 

LAND VACATIONS TO THE MEXICAN RIVERA ON THE PACIFIC COAST

 

 

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa - Los Cabos Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 515.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit


Starting At: $ 2617.00

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Av. Cocoteros No. 98 Sur Fracc. Nuevo Vallarta Municipio de Bahia de Banderas Nayarit C.P. Distance from hotel to town, 25 minutes. Distance from hotel to Licenciado Gustavo Daz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), 15 minutes. One of the Leading Hotels of the World, 267 One, Two and Three Bedroom Suites, all featuring private terraces and spectacular views. Guests enjoy full services and amenities of a world-class resort in any of the spacious 1000 plus square foot s

 

Banyan Tree Cabo Marques Acapulco Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 1315.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers

 

Villa Premiere Resort & Spa

 

Starting At: $ 1025.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Riu Palace Pacifico


Starting At: $ 612.00

Situated oceanfront on Flamingos Beach, this hotel offers excellent service and quality. Its magnificent architecture and elegant furnishings create a luxurious atmosphere and the ultimate distinction.

 

Gala Beach Resort Huatulco

 

Starting At: $ 872.00

Located on the beautiful Bahia de Tangolunda, one of Huatulco's nine spectacular bays, the Gala Beach Resort Huatulco includes many deluxe features that will please even the most discriminating traveler. This all-inclusive resort features five swimming pools (two exclusively for adults), four restaurants and bars, beach activities and sports and much more. All meals, beverages, recreational activities and theme parties are included during your stay.

 

Barceló Puerto Vallarta Vacation Package

 

Starting At: $ 515.00

4-Night Accomodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 769.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers
all-Inclusive

 

Barceló Huatulco


Starting At: $ 1698.00

Barcelo Huatulco Paseo Benito Juarez S/N Bahia de Tangolunda Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca CP 70989 Distance from hotel to town, 2 miles (3 kms). Distance from hotel to Bahas de Huatulco International Airport (HUX), 15 miles (24 kms). The Barcelo Huatulco s located near the downtown area along the beachfront, just 25 minutes from Bahias de Huatulco International airport and 10 minutes away from other major attractions. The hotel has six restaurants, five bars and an indoor theater presenting spe

 

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit


Starting At: $ 1715.00

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Av. Cocoteros No. 98 Sur Fracc. Nuevo Vallarta Municipio de Bahia de Banderas Nayarit C.P. Distance from hotel to town, 25 minutes. Distance from hotel to Licenciado Gustavo Daz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), 15 minutes. One of the Leading Hotels of the World, 267 One, Two and Three Bedroom Suites, all featuring private terraces and spectacular views. Guests enjoy full services and amenities of a world-class resort in any of the spacious 1000 plus square foot s

 

Casa Velas Hotel Boutique Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 1249.00

4-Night Accommodations
adults-Only
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Melia Puerto Vallarta Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 559.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Grand Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 895.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers
adults-Only

 

Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa


Starting At: $ 1435.00

Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa Paseo de Ixtapa S/N Lote 3-A Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero Distance from Hotel to Town, 10 minutes. Distance from hotel to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo International Airport (ZIH), 20 minutes. Located in the heart of the beautiful beach town of Ixtapa on Mexico's popular Pacific coast, the oceanfront Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa treats couples, singles and families to an Unlimited-Fun getaway. Perfectly situated on a golden sand beach and a mere 20 minutes from Ixtapa

 

Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa


Starting At: $ 675.00

Vacations at Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa are anything but ordinary. Located in the heart of the beautiful beach town of Ixtapa on Mexico's popular Pacific coast.

 

Las Brisas Acapulco Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 495.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers

 

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 1055.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Playa Suites Acapulco Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 235.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers

 

Hotel Playa Mazatlan

 

Starting At: $ 725.00

The beach front Hotel Playa Mazatlan is the home of the original Mexican fiesta. This Spanish, colonial-style hotel is in the heart of the "Golden Zone," where you will find an array of beach activities, tennis, and shops and restaurants of all descriptions.

 

Hotel Mousai

 

Starting At: $ 868.00

Hotel Mousai in Puerto Vallarta is a tropical paradise that offers an eclectic fusion of imagination, contemporary design and inventive functionality. Living spaces are redefined for modern appetites, merging minimalist design with aesthetic sensitivity, and afford breathtaking panoramic views of Banderas Bay.

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Riu Emerald Bay - Mazatlan Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 525.00

4-Night Accommodations
all-Inclusive
hotel Transfers

 

Princess Mundo Imperial Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 835.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers

 

Riu Jalisco


Starting At: $ 512.00

The 24-hour All-Inclusive Riu Jalisco is a 700-room hotel located on Playa de Flamingos, just outside of Nuevo Vallarta. The around the clock extensive program of activities and entertainment offers something different for everyone, while its beautiful and comfortable rooms allow for plenty of relaxation. Amenities include two freshwater swimming pools, a children's pool, two Jacuzzis, a sun terrace, four bars and a swim-up bar, four restaurants, spa facilities, tennis and watersports.

 

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit


Starting At: $ 2448.00

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Av. Cocoteros No. 98 Sur Fracc. Nuevo Vallarta Municipio de Bahia de Banderas Nayarit C.P. Distance from hotel to town, 25 minutes. Distance from hotel to Licenciado Gustavo Daz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), 15 minutes. One of the Leading Hotels of the World, 267 One, Two and Three Bedroom Suites, all featuring private terraces and spectacular views. Guests enjoy full services and amenities of a world-class resort in any of the spacious 1000 plus square foot s

 

Hotel Emporio Acapulco Vacation Package


Starting At: $ 325.00

4-Night Accommodations
hotel Transfers

 

El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel - $300 instant savings


Starting At: $ 1111.00

Plan now for a 2018 flight and El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel vacation of seven nights or longer to instantly save $300 per booking.

 

Not everybody wants to be on the high seas so we bring you land vacations as well. 

 

We are in the midst of the Mexican Riviera season for cruising and San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego all have cruises to the Mexican Riviera right now with several cruise lines doing seasonal service.

 

Cruises range from 2 days to 14 days so contact us now to book your warm and comfy cruise or land vacation south to warm up and thaw out and GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY.

 

 

Less than two months from now we begin our season of outdoor events and our first one every year is the Sonora Celtic Faire.

We promised you details soon and not to be disappointed here they are.  We’d love to see all of you there and it really is a great place to spend the weekend and yes there is a casino only 14 miles away you could stay at and still enjoy a day at the Sonora Celtic Faire. 

A short ride gets you to the fresh air of the mountains and scenic views they have to offer and maybe even a ride on the Jamestown Railway.

 

Celtic Heritage Celebration  March 9th -11th 2018
Sonora Celtic Faire 

NOTHING LIKE IT ANYWHERE!
The 32nd Annual Sonora Celtic Faire returns with the Largest and Biggest Celtic Faire on the West Coast!
Celebrating the cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany and Wales.
This year the faire will present 3 stages of Celtic Music featuring: Celtica, Wicked Tinkers, Tempest, Black Irish Band, Culann's Hounds, Golden Bough, and Last Nights Fun.

All New, but yet a bit of the past, Whiskey Tasting Lounge. This will be an experience to remember. 
More info on the website coming soon.

Returning after several years, we will present the International Ultimate Jousting Championships with Real Live hard hitting competition. This is not a dinner show it is the Real Thing. 
Another spectacular attraction is the Armor Foot Combat Tournament, featuring over 30 competitors. This is no fake fighting. Come live the action of this time honored tradition of battle.
Celtic living history area featuring over 1000 costume performers acting out 2000 years of Celtic History!
100+ Celtic vendors, craftsman, and artisans selling they wares. 
Scottish Bagpipe Bands, Celtic Clans, Irish dogs and more....
Irish step Dancers and Scottish highland dancers.
Traditional foods, Whiskies, and Ale.
Jugglers, Magicians, fire-eaters, and a fire breathing dragon.


CEILI  SAT NIGHT - 7:30pm-11pm, Ticket needed for this event

royal passes sold online only and LIMITED 
FRI Night Royal Mixer included with Royal Pass 8pm-11pm
SAT Night Ceili Included with Royal PASS 7:30pm-11pm


Royal Pass  (21yrs.+)  INCLUDES: Entrance for all 3 days, Entrance to the Sat. Night Ceili with One drink ticket and appetizers served between (8pm-9pm) in Whiskey Tasting Building,  Access to the Royal Mixer Friday Night 8pm-11pm in the Whiskey Tasting Building, VIP Seating behind the Queen's box at the Jousting Tournament, and One Ticket for Whiskey Tasting with event shot glass. You can purchase this pass WITH OR WITHOUT PARKING.

ROYAL PASS (13-20yrs old) Includes: Entrance for all 3 days, entrance to the Sat. Night Ceili and VIP seating at the joust. NO Parking with this ticket

VIP PASS (6-12yrs. old) Includes: Entrance for all 3 days, entrance to the Sat. Night Ceili and VIP seating at the joust. NO Parking with this ticket

KIDS 0-5yrs old are free ENTRY


Dates & Times 

Friday March 9th 2018   9am-8pm
Friday 
Happy Hour Only 5pm-8pm, Drink Specials & Music (See website for band times & Stage show times) No Joust after 5pm on Friday, Vendors open until 7pm.Special Ticket for 5pm-8pm only

Saturday March 10th 2018 10am-7pm
Sat. Night Ceili 7:30pm-11pm- Separate Ticket needed for the Ceili, ROYAL PASS includes Ceili

Sunday March 11th 2018 10am-6pm

please visit our website for ending stage show times and joust times to be sure your don't miss the Joust times or any entertainment/music show times!www.sonoracelticfaire.com

OPEN RAIN OR SHINE- Most Entertainment is in Buildings or Undercover

No Refunds, No Dogs, No Outside Food or Drinks
No Weapons, All swords & daggers Must be Peace Tied

All Entertainment Subject to change


 

You can view this event on Ticket River

 

 

Fresh 2018 Cruise Trends

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U by Uniworld's The B sets sail just for millennialsPHOTO: U by Uniworld's The B sets sail just for millennials. (photo courtesy of U by Uniworld)

CruiseCompete has listed seven trends to consider for the new year. While most are on the money, they only tell part of the story.

New Chic

First on the list might be a bit premature for this year given The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Virgin Voyages won’t launch until 2019 and 2020, respectively. Nonetheless, they are both available to begin booking in 2018, and each represents major existing travel brands entering the market that may foreshadow others following in the months ahead.

Cruising is still a relatively small segment of the travel industry overall, but its potential for continued exponential growth astounds. Such numbers are sure to eventually get the attention of other hoteliers and transportation companies interested in a slice of the pie.

The likelihood that additional established companies try their hand at cruise travel sooner than later is very high.

MORE CRUISE LINE & CRUISE SHIP

2,553 Ocean Front Restaurants

CruiseCompete counts a staggering amount of at-sea dining venues offering exceptional culinary experiences akin to shoreside hotels. Of course, the variety of Italian Mediterranean, Pan-Asian, Churrascaria (Portuguese barbecue), traditional steakhouses, authentic New York pizza, ice cream and much more will only continue to expand.

Not mentioned are collaborations with celebrity chefs, which will likely also blossom in 2018 and beyond.

From Guy Fieri and Curtis Stone to Roy Yamaguchi and Thomas Keller, we’ve only seen the beginning of where partnering with the world’s most creative culinary artists can take cruise ships. There are still plenty of high-profile names out there in which the lines can foster new relationships.

Well-Being Experiences

MSC Cruises has teamed up with TechnoGym for its fitness centers, and the line will also embark on the first Weight Watchers cruise in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Seabourn works with Dr. Andrew Weil for its onboard wellness program via meditation and yoga and has its own series of theme cruisesscheduled with the health expert.

Just as cruise ships trend simultaneously larger and smaller in size, so too do guests’ onboard behaviors. Buffets and decadent dining may always be a component of many sailings, but inversely, other passengers seek out healthier alternatives and education pertaining to clean living and greater longevity as well.

Millennials Only

It’s true. 2018 will be the year U by Uniworld will launch wide, and only those aged 21 to 45 will be allowed to sail on the niche river cruise brand.

It’s not exactly only for Generation Y, however. The range closest to 45, in fact, includes a good portion of Generation X as well. The line is thus more younger adult-focused than millennial-exclusive.

More interesting is the growing number of adult-only cruise options. CruiseCompete brings up Virgin Voyages for those only 18 or older once it launches, and Viking Ocean Cruises follows this principle as well. As a formula that is working well for the latter, it may again be repeated by other lines in the near future.

Children and Family Camps at Sea

That’s not stopping other companies from remaining family-friendly, however.

MSC Cruises’ newly introduced MSC Seaside proudly showcases family staterooms and kids clubs as will other mainstream lines like Carnival Cruise Line with this year’s upcoming Carnival Horizon.

Even premium Holland America Line’s latest Koningsdam sports family cabins with split bathrooms like Disney Cruise Line has since day one. Its future Nieuw Statendam sister-ship coming in 2018 will also repeat the feature.

The Excitement of Exclusivity

With so many new ships coming online in 2018, plenty of passengers will have the privilege of saying they alone were on the inaugural cruise of this or that vessel. What’s more, so many of them are now all-inclusive, making their experiences even more uniquely special.

While its message is inherently contradictory and confusing, perhaps that’s what Crystal Cruises is getting at with its “Where All Inclusive is All Exclusive” tagline.

New Vacation Words

Skip-Gen cruising refers to a multigenerational sailing enjoyed by grandparents and grandchildren without the parents along.

Boomerang cruising is splitting the benefits of roundtrip homeport cruising in half by traveling to a destination and then returning home onboard.

Both are becoming more and more popular as is this last one, which is not really a new one: back-to-back cruising.

While you could always choose to book multiple cruises on the same ship, one way to experience multiple vessels according to CruiseCompete is to end one voyage and hop right on another vessel entirely but from the same port.

 

 

From Fred this week he’s hitting the slopes.  Well not literally but he does want to get you there so here ya go.

 

 

Great Ski Resorts

We are barely getting started with snow in the Sierras, however people are already looking to “hit the slopes”.  Well, California isn’t only place to ski. There’s a lot of resorts world-wide to choose from. Here’s some of better know place here in the USA and around the world.

Aspen – Colorado, USA

Aspen has always been a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts, and for good reason. Located in central Colorado, Aspen has several ski resorts to choose from.

Cortina d’Ampezzo – Italy

Since hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina’s wide, sunny valley in the eastern Dolomites has been one of the world’s top ritzy ski resorts, attracting many tourists  and celebrities.

Mont-Tremblant , Quebec, Canada

Mont-Tremblant is a small village in Quebec, Canada , known for the famous Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort. Located in the Laurentian mountain range, Mont-Tremblant (“Trembling mountain” in French) is surrounded by lush boreal forest and breathtaking views, standing at 875 meters (2871 feet).

Stowe – Vermont, USA

Stowe offers traditional New England charm and the biggest vertical drop in the area. Stowe’s two ski areas are Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak.

Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France

Chamonix ranks among the elite of contenders for the title of “world’s most famous ski resort.” Located at the foot of Mont-Blanc, it’s the highest peak in the Alps and the second highest in Europe (top elevation 4,810 m/15,771 ft).

Banff/Lake Louise -Alberta, Western Canada

Banff/Lake Louise ski resort located in Alberta, Canada is undoubtedly one of the world’s top ski destinations. With spectacular mountain scenery, visitors can always rely on pure powder snow .

Vail – Colorado, USA

“America’s favorite resort” and deserves to be ranked amongst the world’s top five all-around ski resorts.

Zermatt – Switzerland

It’s probably best known as a platform for skiing and mountaineering, especially on the mountain which towers above the village, the Matterhorn .

Kitzbuhel -Austria

Kitzbühel is a medieval city in Tyrol, Austria, situated along the river Kitzbühler Ache, now best known as a ski resort .  Kitzbuhel is considered the “Pearl of the Alps” and is the most famous holiday resort in the Austrian Tyrol.

Whistler/Blackcomb – British Columbia , Canada

Whistler Blackcomb is a major ski resort located 125 km north of Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest ski resort in North America almost 50% larger than its nearest competitor in terms of size.

Let Getaway Cruises ‘n Tours get you on the white powder by booking a great ski vacation!

 

 

Fred is DA MAN that oughta know as he is a true skier from way back.  Not really he’s not that old but he will help you to GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERDAY in the place you really want to excel in on the slopes.  Call Fred or email Fred today.

 

This week’s NEWS AND VIEWS is quite extensive so we will now conclude with a very detailed listing of trends and news in our world of travel.  Sit a spell, grab your iced tea or hot chocolate and catch NEWS AND VIEWS from the world of travel right now here on this computer.  

 

What’s New in New Orleans for 2018

DESTINATION & TOURISM  NEW ORLEANS CVB  SCOTT HARTBECK  JANUARY 12, 2018

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A daytime view of Bourbon Street in New OrleansPHOTO: The Big Easy will be bustling throughout its tricentennial year. (photo via Flickr/Eric Gross)

If there’s one thing that New Orleans is great at, it’s throwing a party.

So it should come as no surprise that the Crescent City will be celebrating its 300th birthday in style.

In fact, New Orleans has already been declared one of the best places to visit this year by such distinguished names as Condé Nast TravelerFodor’s Traveland Rough Guides.

From official tricentennial celebrations to upgrades and additions to existing attractions, the following are just a few of the best things to look for in New Orleans in 2018:

The Big Easy Hits the Big 3-0-0

While it may not look a day over 200, New Orleans really will turn 300 years-old this year. To commemorate the occasion, the Historic New Orleans Collection has announced an entire year of custom programming to celebrate.

Highlights include a bilingual exhibit that explores the city’s first few decades and a collaborative effort with the City of New Orleans 2018 Commission’s Cultural and Historical Committee called Making New Orleans Home: A Tricentennial Symposium.

Other special birthday events include an exhibit on the influence of Catholicism on the city and a display detailing the prominent role women have played in shaping New Orleans. Jazz fans will be stoked to learn that a new saxophone sculpture will also be unveiled.

A full listing of NOLA2018 events can be found here.

Mardi Gras to the Max

While Mardi Gras is only a small piece of the puzzle that makes this city so special, it wouldn’t be a discussion of yearly events here without touching on this one-of-a-kind festival.

Carnival season is already in full swing (it kicked off on Twelfth Night, January 6th) and the fun will rapidly escalate before coming to a crescendo on Fat Tuesday, February 13th. As always, the season will be full of revelry and parades, with many Mardi Gras processions expected to incorporate the city’s tricentennial into their annual themes.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

King Cakes are the official sweet treat of Mardi Gras and, for the fifth year in a row, the King Cake Festival (January 28th) will put this doughy delight on its rightful pedestal. Attendees will be able to sample dozens of King Cakes from local New Orleans bakeries with prizes up for grabs across a spectrum of categories.

Additional Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art will be expanding its splendid Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in 2018. The grounds will be enlarged by six acres, which will provide space for an amphitheater, pedestrian bridges and several new sculptures. The best part? Just like the current garden, it will be absolutely free to enter.

And up until February 25th, art lovers will be able to catch the citywide art installation called Prospect.4. The fourth installment of this triennial exhibition is The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, taking inspiration from the beauty of the lotus plant.

More Flights

It will be easier to reach New Orleans in 2018 as several airlines have announced new lift. German carrier Condor will be offering two flights a week this summer between New Orleans and Frankfurt, while Southwest will be flying a new nonstop service on Saturdays from Sacramento, California to New Orleans.

Spirit Airlines has also announced a new nonstop flight from Columbus, Ohio to the Big Easy.

 

 

Los Cabos' Rating Changes Under New Travel Warning System

by Adam Leposa | 

Jan 10, 2018 12:19pm

El Arco in Cabo San Lucas

Photo by sorincolac/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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The State Department’s new system for issuing travel warnings means changes for how Los Cabos and other major tourist areas in Mexico are listed. A State Department official told Travel Agent that all existing information has been converted to the new products under the new travel warning system.

The State Department included Los Cabos, Cancun, and other major tourist areas in Mexico in an updated travel warning issued last August due to rising drug violence. Under the State Department’s new, four-tier travel advisory system, Los Cabos is now listed as Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. This level advises travelers to “be aware of heightened risks to safety and security,” in addition to more specific advice for each country provided by the State Department. In the case of Los Cabos, the latest advisory notes that “turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.”

Here’s how the rest of the tourist areas included in the August travel warning are now listed:

Guerrero, which includes Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo, is listed as “Level 4 – Do Not Travel.” The State Department warns that armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of the state, and that members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to the entire state, including Acapulco.

Jalisco, which includes Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, is listed as “Level 3 – Reconsider Travel.” The State Department says that violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of this state; at the same time, it is not restricting U.S. government employees from staying in the Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala and Ajijictourist areas.

Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum, is also listed as Level 2, with the same advice listed as in Los Cabos. U.S. government employees are not restricted from traveling within tourist areas there.

Mexico City is also listed as Level 2, with a message simply to “exercise increased caution due to crime.”

The State Department’s new, four-tier travel advisory system replaces the previous system of travel warnings and travel alerts. The tiers are: Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions; Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution; Level 3 – Reconsider Travel; and Level 4 – Do Not Travel. Each country has an advisory under the new system, and the levels of advice may vary for specific locations within a country. Additionally, U.S. embassies will now issue Alerts regarding specific safety and security concerns in a country, such as demonstrations, crime trends and weather events. These Alerts will replace the current Emergency Messages and Security Messages.

The Mexico travel advisory can be viewed here, and all travel advisories at travel.state.gov.

 

Star Princess Resumes Hawaii Cruises Following Major Renovation

by Newsdesk | 

Jan 9, 2018 11:04am

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Star Princess has returned to service following a two-week, multimillion-dollar renovation, outfitting the ship with some of the latest Princess Cruises product innovations and enhancements to various onboard areas, the cruise line said.

Resuming a season of 15-day Hawaiian Island cruises roundtrip from Los Angeles and Vancouver through April before summer cruising in AlaskaStar Princess guests will enjoy new or updated onboard offerings.

The new enhancements, which are part of the line’s $450 million multi-year ship renovation 'Come Back New Promise' campaign, are:

·         Sabatini's Italian Trattoria – This signature specialty restaurant now offers updated décor and a new menu developed in collaboration with Chef Angelo Auriana, Executive Chef and partner at the Italian restaurants, The Factory Kitchen and Officine BRERA, in Los Angeles. Inspired by fresh Northern Italian flavors the menu serves handmade pasta dishes from Chef Auriana, as well as family recipes from Italian Princess executive chefs.

·         Princess Luxury Bed – Available in every stateroom aboard Star Princess, the Princess Luxury Bed was developed by Princess Cruises in collaboration with sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV designer Candice Olson.

·         Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center – For cruisers ages 3-17, Star Princess now offers a reimagined youth center – Camp Discovery – created in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products, the licensing arm of Discovery Communications, as part of the cruise line's Discovery at Sea program. Catering to specific age groups, there are three center themes where kids and teens can make new friends and participate in activities specially designed to help them discover, play, create and huddle.

·         Enhanced Boutiques – Guests will enjoy aesthetic enhancements to the Shops of Princess, offering an upgraded shopping experience, such as a branded Effy Fine Jewelry boutique and a modern Fragrance & Cosmetic shop. There will also be new products to choose from such as a new collection of Princess and Under Armour branded athletic wear and Princess logo apparel featured in a newly designed Logo shop.

·         Lotus Spa & Fitness Center – The salon and treatment rooms have been upgraded, as well as the fitness equipment.

·         Casino – The space’s machines and tables have been reconfigured, and the carpeting has been replaced.

Other general refurnishing upgrades of carpet and upholstery are found throughout Star Princess.

The line’s 15-day Hawaiian Island cruises sail to four islands — including a full day and late evening in Honolulu to see the sights and experience its nightlife. Cruise fares start at $1,299.

 

Latest Post-Irma Hotel, Flight Updates From the Florida Keys

by Newsdesk | 

Jan 12, 2018 11:31am

Empress of the Seas docking in Key West, making it the first cruise ship to call at the destination following Hurricane Irma

The first cruise ship returned to Key West September 24. // Photo by Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO

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Four months after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys, the destination’s tourism officials have released a report on how the area’s hotels, flights and infrastructure are faring in the recovery. Overall, Key Largo and Key West were least impacted by the storm, which struck September 10, 2017, as were most hotels and businesses on the bayside, or gulfside, in Islamorada and Marathon.

On the Atlantic ocean side of Islamorada and Duck Key near Marathon, some hotels had significant storm surge impacts. Several have reopened or are reopening soon, while recovery of a few other properties is anticipated to continue through this fall, with some properties using the opportunity to advance renovations.

The most severely impacted area of the Keys is west of the Seven Mile Bridge to around Big Coppitt Key, located about 10 miles east-northeast of Key West.

Visitors are requested to avoid traveling through residential neighborhoods along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, especially between Marathon and Key West, as this region is taking the longest to recover.

The Florida Keys & Key West have been open to visitors since October 1, just three weeks after the hurricane.

Flights and Transportation

At Key West International Airport, American Airlines is scheduled to begin new summer 2018 seasonal, nonstop service between Key West and Dallas–Fort Worth international airports June 9. The new service will bring the number of one-stop connections to destinations in the United States and abroad to over 100. 

The once-weekly Saturday commercial service is to run until August 25 on 76-passenger E175 regional jets.

The Florida Keys Overseas Highway — with 42 bridges providing scenic, over-water views — was designated safe for driving within five days after Hurricane Irma struck.

Some debris remains along the highway in the Lower Keys, but is expected to be cleared by the end of January, according to county officials. Highway areas in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West are clear of debris.

The first cruise ship returned to the Port of Key West September 24, and airports in Key West and Marathon reopened for commercial and general aviation September 20.

Hotels and Lodging

The Florida Keys tourism council reports that almost 77 percent of lodging units are back online in the destination, with about 76 percent in Key Largo, 48 percent in Islamorada, 63 percent in Marathon, 48 percent between the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge and Stock Island and more than 91 percent in Key West and neighboring Stock Island.

Key Largo

This year, Key Largo will open two all-new properties. Dolphin Point Villas, with six stand-alone villa homes accommodating up to 62 guests and events of up to 100, held its grand opening December 9. The new Bungalows Key Largo, the Keys’ first all-inclusive resort, is targeted to open in April with 135 units, two pools and several restaurants and bars.

Ocean Pointe Suites is scheduled to reopen in March. The Hilton Key Largo is undergoing renovation to become the 200-room Baker’s Cay Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton, and is to reopen in the fall.

The famed two-bedroom Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the United States’ only submerged recreational hotel, reopened to overnight divers December 1.

Islamorada

The Moorings Village is set to reopen January 15. Islamorada Resort Co.’s Pelican Cove Resort is to reopen in early February, while sister property Amara Cay Resort reopened December 15.

Two other Islamorada Resort Co. properties also are reopening this spring. La Siesta Resort & Marina is scheduled to open in March. Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina has planned a phased reopening. At Postcard, two buildings, 14 new cottages and the Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen & Bar and Tiki Bar are scheduled to reopen in March.

Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa is scheduled to reopen March 30.

Islander Resort’s Bayside Townhomes are open, although the oceanside resort is closed until fall.

Marathon

On Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort & Marina is to reopen in stages, beginning during this year’s second quarter and continuing through summer. Other hotels in Marathon are open, and a new Hampton Inn Marathon is under development.

Lower Keys

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge is open. Off Little Torch Key, Little Palm Island is to remain closed until early 2019. On Little Torch Key, Parmer’s Resort has 35 units available, with 10 under reconstruction and set to reopen by summer. Deer Run Bed & Breakfast is hoping to reopen by the summer.

Key West

In Key West, nearly all lodging rooms are open, except for those at three properties.

Havana Cabana Key West Hotel, the former Inn at Key West, is scheduled to open in April. Parrot Key Resortis to reopen June 1. Key West Bayside Inn & Suites does not yet have a reopening date.

The Southernmost Beach Resort fully reopened in late December. The new 14-room Marquesa 4-1-4 opened as part of an expansion at Key West’s 27-room Marquesa Hotel on Oct. 20.

Meetings

Seventy-seven percent of all Florida Keys lodging units, many with meeting facilities, are back online. Iconic meetings properties such as Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada and Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key in the Marathon area, are completing scheduled renovations and are slated to reopen later this year.

All major attractions are open. While recovery continues, particularly in the Big Pine Key region, groups traveling to the Keys can choose from a wide variety of indoor and outdoor facilities, after-meeting venues and team-building offerings.     

Attractions

All major Keys attractions have reopened.

In Islamorada, Theater of the Sea, first launched in 1946, is open. A full-menu food concession is to reopen in mid-January. Its beach area is to reopen in February and its stingray program should reopen by spring. No date is set for its shark program.

In Marathon, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, with new feedings for Mobula rays, reopened December 15.

Ferry tours to the historic 5-acre Pigeon Key have resumed with a new gateway in Marathon, departing from the Hyatt Place’s marina at the Faro Blanco Lighthouse. Visitors can tour a former section gang quarters, former paint foreman’s dorm and historical museum.

Almost all fishing and dive charters have resumed operations.

Restaurants and Bars

Most major Keys restaurants and bars have reopened, although a few with ongoing renovations may have limited menus.

In Marathon, a new Sparky’s Landing has opened at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Marathon, replacing the former Tarpon Creek Bar & Grill. The original Sparky’s in Key Colony Beach has closed.

No Name Pub on Big Pine Key reopened in late October.

Florida State Parks

All 10 Keys state parks are open for day use as restoration efforts continue.

In Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the United States, is open to beachgoers, overnight campers, hikers and snorkelers taking a glass-bottom boat. Snorkeling tours operate daily.

Limited food and snacks are available. The visitor center is expected to reopen in February. Dive excursions are not yet running.

In the Lower Keys, Calusa Beach at Bahia Honda State Park’s northwest side is open. Two nearby campgrounds — Buttonwood, with 43 sites, and Bayside, with eight — reopened for overnight camping January 1. The park’s six cabins also are open, although reconstruction in the cabin area is to continue through mid-January.

Loggerhead and Sandspur beaches remain closed for restoration. Concession food service could resume by mid-January. Snorkel boat tours are expected to resume in February.

National Parks, Refuges

Dry Tortugas National Park is open, with the Yankee Freedom III ferry service and Key West Seaplane Adventures air service running on full schedules.

Some sections of Everglades National Park, including 41 camping sites at Flamingo Campground Loop T, are open. Flamingo Visitor Center is closed.

Three national wildlife refuges, including the National Key Deer Refuge, Great White Heron and Key West national wildlife refuges, are open. A fourth, the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Key Largo, is, as usual, accessible only through organized volunteer activities and guided walks.

On Big Pine Key, a new Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center, currently under construction, is scheduled to open this fall. It is to showcase the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges with 1,500 square feet of exhibit space, near mile marker 30.5.

Campgrounds

Many Keys campgrounds have reopened for recreational vehicles.

Of the Keys’ significant RV resorts, the 28-acre Fiesta Key RV Resort & Marina on Long Key is open but not all services are fully operational. Sunshine Key in the Lower Keys’ Big Pine Key is targeting a reopening in spring. Other Keys campgrounds, including Boyd’s Key West Campground, are open.

Sugarloaf KOA / Key West KOA is closed through October.

Special Events

Most special events throughout the Keys, including multiple seafood festivals in January, are taking place as usual.

Several events postponed after Irma are rescheduled. Among them:

·         The 2018 Conch Scramble Charity Golf Tournament, known as the annual “par-tee” on the water, is rescheduled for January 19-20 in Islamorada.

·         The 2018 Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament is scheduled January 26-28, to be staged out of Islamorada’s Whale Harbor Marina.

·         The 2nd Annual Islamorada Half Marathon and 10K is rescheduled February 3-4.

Three events —  Brew on the Bay and Taste Around the World in Key Largo, and the Winter Star Party in the Lower Keys — are canceled for 2018.

The Florida Keys & Key West calendar of events can be viewed at fla-keys.com/calendar/.

Utilities

Keys Energy and Florida Keys Electric Cooperative restored power to almost 100 percent of utility customers who could accept electrical power by September 29. Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority restored water to all customers who could accept it.

AT&T and Comcast communications service also is restored.

 

Stats: 21% of U.S. Travelers Have Exceeded Their Luggage Allowance

by Newsdesk | 

Jan 12, 2018 12:01pm

 

Photo by Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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A new study by a flight comparison company has found that as many as one fifth of Americans have exceeded their luggage allowance, forcing them to either pay on average $45 to travel with their excess luggage or ditch some items to lower their weight. Light clothing, books and grooming products are top of the list of items left behind and replaced at a later date.

Americans have the choice to pay a fee or ditch some items when they get to the airport and realize they’ve exceeded their luggage allowance. According to the new study, it’s typically cheaper to leave some items behind and repurchase them at a later date than it is to pay to take them on the flight.

The team at www.US.Jetcost.com undertook the research as part of an ongoing study into American’s traveling habits and practices. 4,773 Americans aged 18 and over, all of whom have flown on vacation at least once in the past 12 months, whether within mainland America or outside, were asked about their luggage.

To begin with, all respondents were asked ‘How much luggage did you book for your last flight?’ to which the top response was ‘hold luggage’ (47%), while others stated they’d flown with ‘just hand luggage’ (28%) or ‘upgraded for additional luggage allowance’ (25%).

All respondents were then asked ‘Have you ever gotten to the airport and found that you’ve been over your luggage allowance?’ to which one fifth of respondents (21%) stated that ‘yes’ they have. When asked how they dealt with the situation, 58 percent stated that they ‘paid for the excess luggage’, whilst the remaining 42 percent confessed to ditching luggage to get the weight of their luggage down.

Those who stated that they left some items behind were asked what it was they were first to leave behind. When provided with a list of likely items and told to select all items they’d left behind, the top responses were: 

·         Light clothing – 41 percent

·         Books – 35 percent

·         Grooming products – 30 percent

·         Shoes – 16 percent

·         Heavy clothing – 13 percent

Of those who paid extra for their luggage, the average cost incurred was found to be $45. Of those who confessed to throwing some of their belongings away to get their weight down, when asked to estimate how much the items had cost them initially, the average cost was $22. 

 

Spain Sets New Tourism Record

DESTINATION & TOURISM  DONALD WOOD  JANUARY 11, 2018

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Barcelona, SpainPHOTO: Barcelona, Spain (photo via Pixabay)

Despite political unrest in Catalonia, the Spanish government announced it has broken international tourism records for the fifth straight year in 2017.

According to Reuters.com, tourism officials in Spain revealed Wednesday the number of international visitors arriving in the country climbed 8.9 percent to 82 million tourists last year.

If the preliminary data is confirmed, the record-breaking numbers would make Spain the world’s second most visited country after only France. The tourism numbers would also push the United States to third place.

In terms of tourist spending, the government also revealed the numbers rose 12.4 percent as compared to the 2016 totals. Tourism now accounts for roughly 11 percent of the Spanish economy.

Tourists from Britain remained Spain’s largest group of visitors by nationality, accounting for 18 million tourists last year.

Catalonia faced adversity in 2017 with two terrorist attacks, police violence and mass protests, but the region remained Spain’s most visited. Tourism to Barcelona dropped due to the political unrest, but it rebounded over the last two months.

One reason behind the tourism boom has been the rise of web platforms like Airbnb, which rent out homes to international travelers, but many locals in destinations such as Barcelona, Palma de Majorca and San Sebastian are complaining about the rentals.

Tourism experts expect the boom in Spain to continue over the next several years due to the improved economies in many countries across the world and an increase of flights to Spanish destinations.

“Spanish tourist businesses expect a 5.6 percent growth in their income and 5.3 percent growth in their profits in 2018,” tourism association Exceltur vice-president Jose Luis Zoreda told Reuters.

 

 

 

 

Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Thu January 11 2018

There's No Place Like the British Isles

TOUR OPERATOR  CIE TOURS INTERNATIONAL  SCOTT HARTBECK  JANUARY 11, 2018

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Isle of Skye, ScotlandPHOTO: Gorgeous landscapes like this are just one of the reasons the British Isles are so special. (photo via Pixabay)

It might be the medieval history that makes Europe seem so special. Or it could be the art that makes it so enchanting. Come to think of it, it might just be the mouthwatering food and drink found all over the continent.

Regardless, Europe is a dream destination for travelers the world over. No matter which corner of the continent you find yourself in, you are destined to fall in love.

But there’s no place like the British Isles.

Ireland and Britain are unmatched in their ability to amaze, inspire and make one feel at home all at the same time.

The following are four (of many) reasons the British Isles are such a captivating place to visit. And with CIE Tours International currently offering 2-for-1 airfare*, there’s no better time to book a trip.

The People

No matter where you go in the world, you will typically find friendly locals willing to help at a moment’s notice, but conviviality is taken to the next level in Britain and Ireland. Ask for directions or a restaurant recommendation, and you will be met with a smile and all the details you need.

And the best part? You never have to worry about a language barrier getting in the way of bonding, so feel free to pull up a chair at the pub, order a pint and get to chatting.

The Pubs

Speaking of those pubs, whether your travels take you to Ireland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you are never far from a public house. (And for the record, they beat the pants off the North American bar & grill.)

So much more than just a place to grab a drink or watch a game, pubs are neighborhood hubs, music venues and extensions of the locals’ living rooms.

You will often find the pub fitted with a roaring fireplace, and sitting next to its crackling flames is the perfect way to warm up after getting caught in one of the region’s famously chilly rainstorms.

The Music

From traditional Irish Music found on the Emerald Isle to the bagpipes of Scotland and the buzzing rock and grime gigs of England, music is the lifeblood of the British Isles. Oh, and there was also that one band from Liverpool called the Beatles. (You can learn all about them in their hometown.)

The Landscapes

While you won’t find mountains as tall as the Rockies on the British Isles, you will find a landscape so hauntingly beautiful that it has been used as the backdrop for everything from Star Wars to Game of Thrones.

The jagged coastline of these islands is stunning, and since most of the rolling hills and mountains of the British Isles require no special equipment to scale, walking has become the most popular way to explore the countryside. Don’t be surprised at all if you catch the rambling bug after one stroll on an English coastal path or a walk up a Welsh mountain.

*Book between 1/2/18 – 1/31/18. Valid for Ireland departures 4/1/18 – 5/31/18 & 9/15/18 – 10/31/18 and Britain departures 4/1/18 – 10/31/18.

 

 

 

Construction Begins on The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's First Vessel

by Newsroom | 

Jan 11, 2018 10:38am

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection Editorial Use Only

Photo by The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

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This morning, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection celebrated the keel laying of its inaugural yacht at the Hijos De J. Barreras Shipyard in Vigo, Spain. The anticipated launch is set for late 2019.

The official start of a ship’s construction, the keel laying ceremony was historically used to mark the initial placement of a central beam. Today, as ships are built in a series of modular components, the symbolic ceremony is used to mark the lowering of the first module into place in the building dock.

As part of this occasion, Douglas Prothero, managing director of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, and Timothy Grisius, global real estate officer for Marriott International, were joined by HJ Barreras Shipyard’s chairman, José García Costas, and Tillberg Design of Sweden’s owner and executive project director, Fredrik Johansson, as the commemorative coins were unveiled and welded to the hull. The coins are meant to bring good fortune during construction and throughout the ship’s travels. Also in attendance was Anthony Capuano, executive vice president and global chief development officer for Marriott International, alongside The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection executive team and members of investor group Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.

Reservations for the first of three yachts in this series will open in May. The inaugural ship will cruise to a variety of destinations depending on the season, including the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. The specially designed, small capacity vessels will measure 620 feet and have 149 luxury suites to accommodate up to 298 passengers.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will offer voyages ranging from seven to ten days, combining signature Ritz-Carlton service and amenities onboard with curated destination experiences. The ships of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection are also available for private charter

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About Las Vegas for 2018: Entertainment

by Matt Turner | 

Jan 10, 2018 10:40am

Las Vegas skyline facing south

Photo by Sky_Sajjapho/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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Travel Agent has already rounded up all of thew news we could find on hotel goings-on in Las Vegas this year. Here, we've found everything you need to know about new concerts, festivals, sporting events and attractions in Las Vegas in 2018.

Concerts

One of Las Vegas’ biggest festivals is Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). This year three-day festival has been moved from its usual Father’s Day weekend up to May 18 – 20. It remains at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. New this year at EDC is the ability to camp from Thursday, May 17 until Monday, May 22. Guests can opt to rent a luxury ShiftPod2 or they can bring their own tent or RV. Campers will have access to an exclusive entrance to the festival, go-karting, pool parties, “rave aerobics,” yoga, wellness workshops, guest speakers, comedians and more.

In April, Vegas will host the second iteration of the Las Rageous Music Festival, which drew 10,000 rock and metal fans both days in last year’s inaugural event. The two-day festival, held April 20 – 21 this year, will take over two square blocks at the Las Vegas Events Center and will feature artists like A Perfect CircleFive Finger Death PunchGhostJudas PriestUnderoath and more.

New residencies in Vegas include: Lady Gaga and Ricky Martin at MGM’s Park TheaterThe Voice: Neon Dreams at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino; and Earth, Wind & Fire at The Venetian Las Vegas. Starting in late 2018, Lady Gaga will begin a series of 36 shows through all of 2019 and into 2020. Ricky Martin will play 12 shows from March through June. Neon Dreams will include shows by The Voice contestants Alisan PorterChris MannMary SarahMatthew Schuler and Matt McAndrew; they will be joined by future winners of The Voice and backed by a band led by Michael Sanchez. Also available to guests of Neon Dreams is an exhibition-style lobby where they can record their own demos, view memorabilia and sit in the coaches’ chairs. Earth, Wind & Fire’s limited residency runs from May 2 – 12.

Sports

The biggest news in the Las Vegas sports world is the arrival of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. At the end of 2017, the team broke ground on a 62-acre plot across from the Mandalay Bay Resort. The $1.9 billion stadium will seat 65,000 people when it opens; however, this will be in 2020.

For 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights are enjoying success as one of the top teams in the NHL despite it being their inaugural season. The team plays their home games at the T-Mobile Arena, which is co-owned by AEGand MGM Resorts International. The last home game of the regular season is March 31. The T-Mobile Arena itself hosts between 100 and 150 events each year with seating ranging from 12,000 up to 20,000 depending on the event. Other events this year include Katy PerryCalibashWWE, the PAC-12 Men’s Basketball TournamentJustin TimberlakeU2P!NK and more.

Also of note is the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars have moved to Las Vegas and were renamed the Las Vegas Aces. They will play 17 home games at the Mandalay Bay Events Center between May and September.

As far as non-live sports events, Jose CansecoJim McMahonTerrell Owens and Jimmy King will host an interactive sports show at Caesars Palace, giving fans an up-close and personal experience of the athletes recounting stories from their playing days. The shows begin January 25.

Attractions

Just opened is the Fly LINQ, the first zip line on the Las Vegas Strip, at the LINQ Promenade. There are 10 side-by-side zip lines capable of launching all riders simultaneously. Guests take an elevator up the 122-foot-tall launch tower and ride the zip line for 1,080 feet.

 

 

We honestly do have more we could provide but can save it up for next week’s REAL STEALS AND DEALS blog.

 

So for now have a good upcoming week and of course we always want all of you to remain vigilant, and be safe, and stay safe and travel safe.

 

For this week Bill and Fred say Cheers from Oakley.