Electronics Checks Coming to US Airports Soon

 

 

A new requirement is going into effect soon for U.S.bound fliers at overseas airports. Turning on electronics to show that the devices aren’t bombs is being expanded to certain passengers on domestic flights. A limited number of travelers in U.S. airports selected for extra screening will have their devices checked too. The checks at U.S. airports won’t apply to every flier and will be used more sparingly than at overseas airports. Other procedures being implemented overseas, including different kinds of pat-downs and shoe checks, won’t be brought to U.S. airports. Added checkpoint procedures have the potential to create airport delays. During the new security examinations, screeners may ask that owners power up some devices, including mobile phones. Devices selected for this screening that can’t turn on won’t be permitted to board. British Airways also warned transfer travelers not to deplete power on devices during the first part of their journey because of these new checks.

Major Airlines Reduce the Size of Carry-On’s Allowed

According to Airfarewatchdog, your carry-on bag probably won’t fit on most major US airlines anymore. The overhead bin just got a little less full, but the cost will likely be coming out of flyers’ wallets. American, Delta, and United Airlines have all recently reduced the size of bags permitted as carry-on luggage. Previously, the industry standard measured 22in x 15in x 9in. Now, those dimensions run 22in x 14in x 9in. That is a change of 1 inch in width. Some passengers have been told it is a new FAA regulation. But sizes vary on airlines, so it’s always a good idea to check the allowed sizes of the airline you are using. Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines have much friendlier carry-on policies, each allowing bags up to 24in x 16in x 10in.

Airlines Improving on Lost and Damaged Luggage

The number of bags delayed, damaged or lost by airlines has decreased by more than half since the airline industry hit a low point for lost luggage six years ago. This happened because of a concerted effort world-wide by airlines and airports to fix a major inconvenience for travelers. Last year airlines mishandled 21.8 million bags, or 6 per 1,000 passengers, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology company that tracks baggage performance each year. That’s well less than half the rate in 2007, when airlines world-wide mishandled 46.9 million bags, or 18.88 per 1,000 passengers. Lost baggage was costing the airline industry $4 billion a year at that time. Repatriating delayed or lost luggage to passengers cost an average of $100 per bag, and there had been a steady increase in the frequency of mishandled baggage until then.

One big factor for the long-term change in the U.S. is that airlines realized when they started charging fees for baggage, customer expectations would raise. Airlines typically spent as little as possible on baggage handling before fees because it didn’t drive revenue. Now baggage was bringing in money and new equipment was easier to justify. Bag fees have also reduced the volume of checked baggage, as passengers are carrying more on board. Improving the on-time performance helps too, as flights arrive on-time and handlers have a better chance of connecting bags to the next flight. TSA also moved baggage screening from terminal lobbies, where it manually put bags through giant screening machines, to machines built into conveyor-belt systems that can check bags faster. That really sped up the process of getting bags to airplanes. When bags do go missing, SITA says 81% get delivered to passengers unscathed. Damaged luggage or bags with items pilfered add up to nearly 16% of mishandled bag reports, while bags declared lost or stolen amount to 3% of all mishandled bags. The future is expected to be electronic tags loaded with passenger itineraries that will help further improve reliability.

Why You Should Be Using A Travel Agent

In the era of technology & taking care of most business online, many travelers have foregone the days of using of a Travel Agent, and instead have began booking all their travels online, with huge online travel companies or the airlines directly.

In some cases, such as a simple non-stop flight within the United States, this is often the quickest and easiest scenario. However, there are many cases where booking your trip with a huge online company may not be to your benefit.

If you are planning a vacation to a foreign country that you know very little about, it’s probably in your best interest to contact a Travel Agency that specializes in that country. These days, most Travel Agents specialize in a specific country or region of the world, and they can be an abundance of knowledge and information, and very helpful with planning all the details of your vacation, finding the best rates, assisting with travel visa’s, etc.

Also, think of all the time you will save if you use a Travel Agent. Once you have discussed your travel dates, interests and budget with a Travel Agent, you can relax and let them do all the work for you, and rest assured that they will have the knowledge of which hotels and tour companies are more reputable, will give you the best experience and provide more value to you.

The most important reason to book with a Travel Agent is in case a problem or emergency should arise during your trip. Say you booked your trip with one of the huge online companies or directly with the airline. If an emergency, such as a natural disaster, inclement weather or even personal emergency should occur, good luck getting any assistance. You are pretty much on your own. Most airlines have substantially cut back on their customer service staff in recent years.

For those who book with a Travel Agency have the comfort of having a direct phone number and email address to contact their personal Travel Agent for quick and personal support and assistance. Travel Agents are typically able to get in contact with the airlines or rebook flights much quicker than the traveler can.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next vacation!

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We have great contacts for hundreds of different sightseeing and activity options from half-day sightseeing tours to multi-day treks, and from hot-air ballooning to kayaking day trips. Why travel on a 44-passenger bus tour when there is an excellent private minivan tour for the same price? There are over 30 Barrier Reef tours to choose from, but how will you know which one is best? Your Travel Team agent knows the best sightseeing tours as well as fun activities to fit your interests and budget.

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Automated Passport Control Kiosks Now at Two Major Airports

Earlier this month, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago O’Hare, two of the world’s busiest airports, announced the introduction of biometric Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks. APC kiosks offer a cost effective and rapidly deployable means of reducing congestion at international arrivals. These announcements reflect a decisive global trend towards expediting international airport passengers through rapid adoption of automated border control technology. Acuity Market Intelligence’s latest research “The Global Automated Border Control Industry Report: Airport eGates and Kiosks” projects North American and European airports will drive a global APC Kiosk market of nearly 8,000 units and more than $550 million in revenues by 2018. Currently, less than 400 APC kiosks have been deployed in 13 airports in the US and Canada though North America currently represents 100% of the APC Kiosk market, By 2018, Europe will dominate with 42% market share, while Asia at 24.4% will exceed North America at 16.6%. APC kiosks enable international travelers to rapidly clear passport control by entering their own immigration information. Automating this process via self-service kiosks decreases international arrival wait times by as much as 80% for kiosks users and 50% for all passengers.

Travel News – May 7, 2014

 

 

 

Former Pan Am Employees from Around the World to Gather In New York
On July 31 – August 3, 2014 employees, family and friends of America’s most iconic airline, Pan American World Airways (1927-1991) will gather from all over the world on Long Island and New York for Pan Am’s Worldwide Family Reunion celebrating the memory of the pioneering airline and the people that built it. From the first historic Pan American “Flying Boats” that pioneered Trans-Atlantic flights off the nearby shores of Port Washington in Nassau County 75 years ago this year, to the Art Deco delight of Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia, to the iconic techno-modernist structures of JFK – no other place in the world can compare the indelible marks Pan Am left on it than New York. The Host Hotel for the four day three night weekend is the beautiful Long Island Marriott Uniondale, only minutes from JFK or LGA in Nassau County, an area known as “The Cradle of Aviation”. The event will bring together the largest number of employees representing dozens of bases and positions from every division of America’s iconic aviation company since the closing 23 years ago. The Reunion agenda includes PAA themed Lectures, Tours, Receptions, Presentations & Parties. The reunion highlight will be a Gala Dinner Saturday August 2, 2014 at The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City inside the museums awe inspiring three story glass Reckson Center Atrium. The museums renowned Phillip Stone Catering is even getting into the spirit, serving Pan Am’s famous Cherries Jubilee for dessert.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Offers Two-Mile Fitness Trail
Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport has launched a two-mile walking trail around Terminal 4 that provides travelers with sights of Phoenix seen only from inside the airport, including views of mountains, parks and man-made wonders. The airport has produced a free brochure for the PHX Fitness Trail that features a handy map, points of interest, mileage and photos. The airport has also installed seven free bottle filling stations past security near the entrances to all of the Terminal 4 concourses. The Sky Harbor Fitness Trail complements the city of Phoenix Fit PHX initiative, a comprehensive program intended to get Phoenix residents into better shape. The Fit PHX campaign will help increase Phoenix’s rankings in the American Fitness Index by better connecting the community to city health-related programs and services and by encouraging participation in physical-fitness events and other activities promoting personal wellness.

Disney Unveils Seven Dwarfs Ride at Magic Kingdom
Disney inaugurated what they are calling the “crowning jewel” of the five-year Fantasyland expansion, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. Officially opening to the public on May 28, the Mine Train ride marks the culmination of an overhaul of Fantasyland that more than doubled the size of the themed land at the Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s most visited theme park. Intended to be a focal attraction of the New Fantasyland area, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a family-friendly thrill ride that while full of twists and turns, does not feature any steep drops or dark-and-scary music or scenery. It is largely upbeat, focusing on the sights and sounds of the Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Guests board a train of mine cars that soars along the rails through mountainous and forested scenery as they ride in and out of the mine and past the movie’s characters to the soundtrack of some of the film’s famous music, including of course “Heigh-Ho.” In addition to the forward motion, the cars rock back and forth, a new feature for a Disney roller coaster. Guests must meet the 38-inch height requirement to ride. The New Fantasyland is the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom, which opened in 1971.

FAA Computer Malfunction Caused by Data from a Single Plane
The failure of the primary air traffic control system around Los Angeles last week happened because electronic data from a single plane’s flight plan confused the system’s software, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. When that system failed, a backup helped safely guide flights already in the air, but hundreds of planes across the nation headed for Southern California were ordered not to take off Wednesday as an air traffic control facility north of Los Angeles effectively rebooted. The Pentagon confirmed Monday that an Air Force U-2 spy plane was conducting training operations in the area. It is not unusual for a U-2 to operate in the region, and the necessary flight plan had been submitted for the high-flying plane. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford would not specify whether the flight plan that caused the issue was that of the U-2. “It was an individual flight plan and the issue had to do with the way it was coded,” he said. Since the incident, the FAA has been analyzing what went wrong with its En Route Automation Modernization system. The computer system, known as ERAM, allows air traffic controllers at several dozen “en route centers” around the country to identify and direct planes at high altitudes. The Los Angeles en route center is located at the Palmdale Regional Airport, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. It controls high altitude air traffic over southern and central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and western Arizona – except airspace designated for military use.

Vancouver to Close Ballantyne Pier
This will be the last year that some cruise lines dock at the Ballantyne Pier. Starting in 2015 all cruise lines will dock at Canada Place. Ballantyne currently handles fewer than 4% of cruise visits and lacks modern capabilities, including shore power. Ballantyne Pier (also called the Ballantyne Cruise Terminal) is a commercial and passenger dock of the Port of Vancouver. The dock was gutted in 1992 and rebuilt after a period of disuse. Modern Teflon sails and steelwork erupt from the original, beautiful Beaux Arts facade. It is now used as an overflow for Cruise Line vessels. Direct to cable TV productions like Captain Courageous have been filmed there, uranium ships and the liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien have docked there. The dock is equipped with two automatic gang-ways and terminal building with baggage handling and customs areas.

News is courtesy of ARTA Online.

Swiss Air is First Certified Allergy-Friendly Airline

 

In response to the rise of food intolerances and allergies among consumers, Swiss International Air Lines has announced that it’s become the world’s first certified allergy-friendly airline. Beginning this month, the carrier says it will begin rolling out new products and services to improve the flying experience for allergy sufferers, ranging from the in-flight menu to cabin modifications. While most commercial airlines already offer gluten-free and lactose-free meal options, Swiss has gone a step further in becoming certified by the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation. “The numbers of people suffering from allergies have been increasing throughout the industrialized world for several years now,” said Torsten Zuberbier, director of the Berlin-based ECARF. In addition to allergy sufferers, consumers with food intolerances and flyers following strict dietary regimes will be able to request gluten-free snacks and meals, as well as lactose-free alternatives like coffee cream and chocolate. The airline will also eliminate decorative flowers and air fresheners, while on-board toilets will now be stocked with soaps that are gentler on the skin.

Travel News – May 1, 2014

 

 

Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Screen for MERS
On 29 April 2014 health officials in Kuala Lumpur announced that all passengers entering Malaysia through Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang will be subjected to a screening for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. The respiratory virus, which is similar to SARS, was first reported in Malaysia on 13 April after a man returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and later died from the disease. The screening will be performed regardless of the passenger’s departure point. According to the World Health Organization, the MERS CoV has infected 238 people globally, resulting in 92 deaths.

Amtrak Starts Trials to Allow Pets on Trains
Earlier this week Amtrak announced a six-month pilot project (PDF release) to allow small dogs and cats aboard its trains between Chicago and Quincy. Their owners will have to pay $25. The test is a partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation and will run from May 5 through Nov. 2. The results of the program will provide a basis for possibly extending the pets-on-trains option nationally. Travel with pets can begin only at stations in Chicago, Naperville and Galesburg, and advance reservations are required. Dogs or cats up to 20 pounds will be accepted in carriers such as those used in airplane cabins and placed at the feet and under the seat of each pet owner on the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains. The trains operate to and from Chicago, La Grange, Naperville, Plano, Mendota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg, Macomb and Quincy. Amtrak already allows service animals on trains at no charge and that policy is unchanged. Amtrak previously allowed pets on trains in the late 1970s, but the animals were relegated to baggage cars, which are not heated or air-conditioned.

Thomas Cook Adds New Flights to Miami and New York
Thomas Cook Airlines will operate a three times a week service to New York from Manchester UK airport from next May. The airline will also start flying to Miami from Manchester twice weekly and said the new Miami route would cater for the family market. The new routes will see the introduction of a new ‘premium service’ across the entire airline’s long-haul routes. Customers will be able to reserve seats in advance and will have priority check-in. The premium offering will include a dedicated cabin team with a new on-demand touch screen in-flight entertainment system being introduced. Thomas Cook has also launched seven summer 2015 brochures including Thomas Cook Signature and Air Tours Holidays which will be on sale from May 1.

AT&T to Launch High Speed 4G in-Flight Connectivity Service
AT&T said “We are building on AT&T’s significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards.” They will be competing against GoGo, a much smaller company that offers a similar service. AT&T said it will build an air-to-ground network in the continental U.S., to provide speed and efficient utilization of spectrum already owned by AT&T.

Air Canada to Offer Customers In-Flight Wi-Fi Connectivity Across North America
Air Canada, the first Canadian carrier to offer customers in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity, plans to begin rolling out connectivity across its North American fleet in May under an agreement with Gogo®. The agreement will also provide for future type-testing of Gogo satellite solutions for Wi-Fi on international flights. Air Canada presently has two Wi- Fi-equipped Airbus 319 aircraft operating in Canada and the U.S. and, subject to a final agreement with Gogo, plans to begin outfitting its remaining Airbus A319, A320 and A321 and Embraer 190 fleet types, as well as its Air Canada Express CRJ-705 and Embraer 175 aircraft, with Air-To-Ground Wi-Fi connectivity. The installations are to begin in May with the goal of equipping 29 aircraft in 2014 and a targeted completion date of December 2015 for the designated 130 narrow-body aircraft. The system offers peak connection speeds comparable to mobile broadband services available on the ground. Pricing will be competitive with other in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity offerings. Gogo has also provided Air Canada the opportunity to type-trial two satellite-based systems, using Gogo 2KU and Inmarsat Global Xpress KA-band solutions. These tests are expected to be conducted in 2015. The results will help determine future connectivity options that can be considered as the technology continues to evolve.

Flight Operations at LAX Getting Back to Normal
Flight operations at Los Angeles International and other area airports came to a stop Wednesday afternoon after technical problems at a Southern California control center prompted a temporary grounding of departing flights. At 8.30 pm California time operations resumed and airport authorities released this assessment statement: After completing an assessment of flight operations of the nearly 60 passenger airlines at LAX, LAX Airport Operations reports the following impacts resulting from today’s ground stop through midnight tonight: 27 arriving flights were cancelled, 212 were delayed and 27 diverted to other airports; Departing flights: a total of 23 flights were cancelled and 216 were delayed; No international arriving or departing flights were cancelled. The number of passengers on the 50 total arriving and departing cancelled flights is estimated at nearly 6,800. The FAA said a computer outage forced a halt to departures at airports in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and other airports out west.

Two Holland America Line Ships Returning to Asia
Starting next winter through spring 2015, Holland America Line will have two ships in the Far East. The 1,432-passenger ms Volendam will sail a series of 14- to 17-day cruises and nonrepeating itineraries, while the 1,404-passenger ms Rotterdam takes an epic 90-day “Passage to the Far East” journey. All of the cruises feature exotic ports of call with extended and overnight stays at some of Asia’s most iconic cities.

News is courtesy of ARTA Online.

Travel News – April 30, 2014

 

 

 

 

MGM Unveils Expanded Plans for “The Park” in Las Vegas
MGM Resorts International has unveiled expanded plans and the first look at programming for its dynamic park, dining and entertainment district taking shape on the west side of The Strip. Creating an interactive neighborhood environment, The Park will connect New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts and the new 20,000-seat world-class Las Vegas arena currently in development by MGM and AEG. New York-New York and Monte Carlo both are undergoing significant transformations of their Strip- facing experiences into robust plaza environments featuring casual eateries, bars, restaurants and retail destinations that will ultimately lead to The Park. When it opens in 2016 in conjunction with the arena, The Park will create an immersive outdoor destination spanning more than eight acres. Both New York-New York and Monte Carlo will transform their park-facing facades with a series of unique indoor/outdoor dining and entertainment venues, cultivating a vibrant patio culture that encompasses The Park’s landscaped spaces. To create a harmonious dialogue between resorts, Rue de Monte Carlo, the adjacent street providing access from Las Vegas Boulevard, will be realigned as a gently curving, tree-lined parkway: a grand approach to the new arena. New cobblestone walkways in front of New York-New York and Monte Carlo will lead guests into The Park from both directions and blend seamlessly with the mosaic tile patterns that canvas the space. Unique water features, including water walls stretching more than 100 feet in length along the entrance will add unexpected visuals, as will dramatic plantings incorporating a variety of beautiful desert blooms. Exploring The Park, guests will encounter spontaneous live entertainers, such as acoustic guitarists and street performers.

Wearables Replace Room Keys and Credit Cards at Two Ibiza Hotels
Two Ibiza hotels are rolling out wearable technology that will allow guests to leave their room keys and credit cards in their luggage while enjoying the summer destination. Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel and the brand new Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza shared details about the VIBs, short for very important bracelets, this week. Guests can use the bracelets to enter their rooms, pay for food and services on-site, and skip lines for check-in and check-out. Guests will have to buy the bracelets for $40 apiece. A summer resort is an ideal place to test wearable’s since guests are less likely to want to carry around their personal items while wearing bathing suits, swimming, or enjoying nightlife.

U.S. Pre Check Program Expands to Air Canada Passengers
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is expanding its Pre Check expedited screening program to passengers on international airlines. Yesterday, Air Canada became the first international carrier to participate, with TSA officials saying other foreign airlines would soon sign on. Airlines need to first update their computer systems to embed extra information in their boarding-pass barcodes as well as printing a Pre Check logo. Passengers in Pre Check lanes get to leave on their shoes, belt and light jackets, keep liquids and laptops in their bags and use a standard metal detector, not the full-body scanners. Security agents can process twice as many passengers in Pre Check lanes in the same time as in a normal lane. That allows the agency to dedicate more staff to other passengers. The program is open to some elite frequent fliers of U.S. airlines as well as the 2.4 million travelers enrolled in one of the Customs and Border Protection’s expedited entry programs: Global Entry, Nexus and Sentri. The government is turning to foreign carriers to sign on to the program, to help ease checkpoint congestion. The airlines are responsible for paying for their computer upgrades, hence some of the hesitation. With Air Canada’s entrance, the TSA says other foreign carriers are soon to follow. Ideally, the biggest benefit would be from airlines with the most U.S. passengers: British Airways, Air France and German carrier Lufthansa. But TSA officials said they are working with international carriers large and small.

Regal Princess Completes Sea Trials
Regal Princess has completed her sea trials in preparation for her May 20 debut. The new cruise ship set out to sea from her construction dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, and was put through her paces with a series of maneuvers to test her propulsion, steering and navigational equipment. After a successful five days of trials, the ship is now back in the shipyard for further exterior and interior finishing. Regal Princess will be ready for her maiden voyage from Venice, a seven-day Mediterranean cruise to Athens including stops in Corfu, Mykonos and an overnight call in Istanbul. Regal Princess, a sister ship to Royal Princess, will offer guests a variety of features, including a large atrium, the social hub of the ship; an over-water Sea Walk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; plush private poolside cabanas; the Princess Live television studio; a dedicated pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

 

News is courtesy of ARTA Online.

Travel News – April 29, 2014

 

 

Newark Airport Transit Will Be Temporarily Unavailable
Newark Airport’s Air Train service will be shut down from May 1 through July 15 for much needed repairs. During this closure, complimentary shuttle buses supplied by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will serve as an alternate mode of transportation between the airport and lots P2 and P3 (daily parking and rental car areas), as well as the P4 garage (including valet and hotel courtesy vans). Bus service will also be available between the airport and Newark Penn Station for customers taking rail service to and from Manhattan and other areas. Please keep this in mind when planning your travel, and allow extra time to get to and from the airport.

Frontier Airlines Now Charging for Carry-Ons
Frontier Airlines has unbundled its economy fare, which means customers must pay a fee for carry-on bags in addition to checked bags and seat assignments. The new policy is in effect for travel booked on and after April 28. Customers are allowed to bring aboard one personal item for free (handbag, purse, pocketbook, backpack, briefcase or laptop), but an additional carry-on will cost $25 at the time of initial travel purchase at Frontier’s website or the airline’s call center. Paying for a carry-on at airport check-in will cost $35; at the gate, $50. Frontier’s Ascent and Summit level members of its Early Returns loyalty program will continue to receive a free carry-on bag and two free checked bags. A few items can be carried on for free in addition to one personal item, including canes, portable oxygen, child safety seats, diaper bags and prayer rugs. Customers still have the option to purchase a Classic Plus fare, which includes a refundable ticket, no change fees, a seat with extra legroom, one checked bag and one carry-on. The airline’s GDS-only fare has been discontinued.

JetBlue Partners With Coat-Checking Service
JetBlue has partnered with Coat Chex, a ticketless coat check service in the main marketplace area at its Terminal 5 at New York’s Kennedy Airport. There’s no claim ticket to lose and no long line to stand in, thanks to mobile technology and smart tags that grab the necessary information. Passengers step up to a digital kiosk and enter phone number, initials and other details. They then smile for a quick photo and they’re done. When passengers deplane, they provide the last four digits of their phone number. Staff confirms identities by checking photos and then hands over the winter attire. Coat Chex plans to add a centrally located kiosk this fall to supplement its current kiosk. Rate to check a coat is $2 a day, $10 a week. Coat Chex has been doing this for several years at concerts, sporting events, malls, theaters, conferences and stadiums. This is a great idea for those of us who travel during the winter months in the north and are heading south where those heavy coats won’t be needed.

Oasis of the Seas Testing New Satellite System
The Oasis of the Seas is testing a revolutionary new satellite system that could make annoying slow Internet connections on cruise ships a thing of the past. The new system will give Oasis more Internet bandwidth than every other cruise ship of every other cruise line in the world combined. Royal Caribbean is testing the new satellite system on Oasis of the Seas from a company called O3b Networks, based in Jersey, Channel Islands. The system now being tested on Oasis could increase download speeds to as much as 500 mbps. Satellite latency could be reduced from 750 to 140 milliseconds. The line also plans to expand the system to Allure of the Seas and the Quantum-class ships now under construction. If it lives up to expectations RCI will install it on all ships in its fleet.

Crystal Serenity Hit by ‘Rogue’ Wave
A wave that struck the luxury cruise ship sailing in the Mediterranean broke windows and caused damage to the ship’s main dining room. The wave hit Crystal Cruises’ 1,070-passenger ship Crystal Serenity while it was en route from Spain to Monte Carlo. The wave struck Serenity during the early hours of Saturday morning (April 26). Three windows in the Crystal Dining Room were blown in and of course water also entered. On its Facebook page, Crystal Cruises confirmed the damage to the ship was likely caused by a rogue wave. The line said repairs are underway and no one was injured in the incident.

 

News is courtesy of ARTA Online.

Credit Card Companies Doing Away with Foreign Exchange Fees

Many travelers fume at being charged an extra 3 percent or so on international purchases, so some credit card issuers are now getting rid of the fee, which is prompting others to follow suit to stay competitive. “It’s just a money maker, pure and simple. They charge it because they can,” said Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, a website that focuses on maximizing credit card and travel rewards. American Express is removing foreign transaction fees all together from its Delta Sky Miles credit cards. They have been charging a rate of 2.7 percent. The new Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard is also skipping foreign transaction fees.
The United Airlines-branded credit card from Chase got rid of foreign fees last year, which likely motivated Delta to follow suit, Kelly said. Kelly advised travelers to let their issuer know they travel internationally and will never use a card with a fee.

New Pyramid Discovered in Egypt

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades. The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet, is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet tall. These provincial step pyramids are scattered throughout central and southern Egypt. They have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet. It has hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid.

10 Best Places to Honeymoon

Planning your honeymoon, yet not sure where you should go? Below is a list of some of the most popular honeymoon destinations around the globe.

1. Traveling to Hawaii is only a five-hour flight from most U.S. West coast cities, but it feels very much like an exotic oasis far away. Some of the islands’ highlights include the year-round warm weather, beautiful beaches, and ample luxury resorts. Hawaii can be a great honeymoon spot for anyone who doesn’t have a passport and doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting one.

2. Jamaica is a couple’s paradise! Gorgeous beaches that go on for miles; clear, warm waters; quiet alcoves and beautiful waterfalls; lush vegetation; and many couples-only all-inclusive resorts make Jamaica a perfect honeymoon destination.

3. Tahiti is the quintessential exotic island paradise. Whether visiting the island of Tahiti, Bora Bora or Moorea, the beauty of these islands scream romance and relaxation. Over-water bungalows, tranquil white-sand beaches, clear blue waters, and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities are yours when traveling to Tahiti.

4. Fiji is another tropical island paradise, and the natives are some of the friendliest people on earth. Although made up of 330 islands, many of its islands are still uninhabited, and most of the island resorts are on small, private, boat-in only islands. The beautiful white sand beaches of Fiji have warm turquoise waters, perfect for snorkeling or diving.

5. Mexico is a great honeymoon location for just about any couple who enjoys an easy lifestyle and plenty of sunshine. Head to the Yucatan (Cancun and Cozumel) for white-sand beaches and warm tropical waters ideal for snorkeling and swimming. The Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan) features plentiful beaches, shopping, and accommodations for any budget. For an adventure rich in history, explore the Mayan Ruins, such as Chichen Itza and Tullum.

6. The lush, mountainous island of St. Lucia has tropical rainforests suitable for hiking, as well as abundant marine life for fantastic diving and deep-sea fishing. The soft, tropical air and tantalizing cuisine will make traveling to St. Lucia a vacation to remember.

7. The romantic islands of the Bahamas are suitable for just about any couple as it offers powder-soft sand beaches, crystal blue waters, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, five-star resorts, casinos and ample nightlife.

8. Italy is the top European honeymoon destination and is rich in history with myriad art galleries and museums. Head to Venice for a moonlit gondola ride, relax on the beaches of Positano, or cruise around the island of Capri. Italy is jam-packed with exciting activities for couples of all ages.

9. France, the romance capital of the world, offers travelers a new surprise around every corner. Between world-famous art museums, the French Riviera, and the sights of Paris, it’s a lovers’ paradise.

10. Antigua features powder-white beaches protected by beautiful coral reefs, which make for perfect conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving. Ample luxury resorts offer guests a variety of indulgences, perfect for newly weds.

Check Out Our Website for more honeymoon ideas, or contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started planning your honeymoon.

Airline Begins Charging Passengers by the Pound

Samoa Air is the world’s first airline to charge passengers per pound, rather than per seat. The airline announced that they plan to start pricing tickets according to the weight of passengers and their bags. Chris Langton, the chief executive of Samoa Air, said this is “the fairest way of traveling”. Apparently passengers will be weighed in at the check-in counter along with their bags. The airline flies smaller aircraft, just around the Islands of Samoa.

Self-Boarding Trial at London Heathrow Airport

Passengers in London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1 are being invited to take part in a two-month ‘self-boarding’ trial in partnership with South African Airways in an attempt to improve the passenger experience through the use of technology. The self-boarding gates use biometric data to help passengers board their flight faster and more efficiently. When passengers reach the ‘self-boarding’ gate, they pass through an automatic electronic barrier which takes an infrared scan of their face. This information is checked against the biometric data that was taken at the check-in stage. When the two sets of data scans are successfully matched, the barrier opens and the passengers can pass through and board their flight.

The technology means that a passenger’s identity needs to be checked by airline staff only once in the whole departure process, reducing the time it takes for passengers to get to their seats and ready for take off. It also allows airline staff to spend more time with those passengers who require greater assistance. The personal data is stored securely and will be destroyed at the end of the trial. So far over 300 South African Airways passengers have chosen to use the technology as part of their departure journey.

Frescoes Discovered in Rome Colosseum

Italian restorers cleaning the Colosseum have discovered remains of frescoes indicating the interior of one of the world’s most famous monuments may have been colorfully painted in Roman times. The 2,000-year old arena, originally looked far different from the stone ring that has become one of the symbols of Rome.

The frescoes were found in a passage that had been closed for decades. The passage lead to the highest level of eating, a wooden gallery reserved for the lowest classes and furthest from the action in the arena. The restorers scraped off years of linescale and black pollution from car exhaust and found the remains of the frescoes, with their vivid red, blue, green and white colors still visible. The same team also discovered ancient sketches by spectators who painted crowns and palm trees. The Latin word “VIND”, referring to victory or revenge, was also found. The frescoes likely date from after 217 AD, when a fire destroyed the wooden gallery that topped the Colosseum. The frescoes were discovered during the monument’s first comprehensive restoration project in 73 years, a 25 million Euro project to clean the entire building by 2015. After the restoration is complete, 25 percent more of the Colosseum will be open to visitors, particularly the underground network of tunnels, storerooms and cages.

Restorers have cleaned only a small part of the monument so far, and hope to reveal the detail of what the frescoes depict underneath marks left by centuries of visitors. Written in a modern script, the name “Luigi” was scratched into a well-preserved red section of fresco. Nearby was scrawled the date “1620”, and “J. Milber from Strasbourg, 1902”.

Trips to the Moon Being Sold

A British company is now offering seats to adventurers wanting to go the extra mile on a historic journey to the moon. The first 500,000-mile round trip in a converted Soviet-era space station could take place as early as 2015!

However, only those with the ‘right stuff’ should apply: besides the necessary level of physical and mental fitness, that includes a likely fare of around £100 million per person! US space entrepreneur Mr. Dula has acquired two Soviet ‘Almaz’ space stations, designed for orbital spying operations. Thrusters attached to the stations will convert them to long-distance spaceships. They are also equipped with four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles, which will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth.

All the space vehicles are housed in hangers on the Isle of Man. If the bold plan succeeds, a private British space company will carry out the first manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972. The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV. Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft will be provided in the package. A giant Russian Proton rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will put the 30-ton space station into orbit. One of the two Salyut-class space stations will be kept in reserve on the ground.

Apps That Help Travelers Eat Healthy Abroad

Eating healthy when travelling abroad is a concern for many, fortunately now there is an app for it. Eat Well Global, Inc. has developed a set of apps that function as a “nutritionist in your pocket.” The apps provide food guides for various countries to help business and leisure travelers maintain healthy eating habits and manage their diet while traveling in a foreign place.

The new apps being released this week only cover a limited number of countries and there is a separate app for each. So far, the apps include Eat Well Israel, China, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Thailand and Venezuela. The apps include insights from local registered dietitians to help you find healthy and energizing foods that are also authentic to the region. The country guides are currently available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. Each individual app costs $2.99, there is also an Eat Well for Business Travel app that is $1.99.

The Eat Well for Business Travel app is created for business travelers who are looking for tips, tools, and resources for how to eat well while on business trips. Special tips include how to eat well in an airport or in a meeting. The Eat Well Global country guides cover a variety of tips. The guides explain “How to Eat Well,” which provides a look at the host country, a market tour, food safety information and dishes that are typical to that location. The app also explains “Where to Eat Well” which outlines nutritionist-approved listings in major cities such as restaurants, market, delivery services and cooking schools. The “Eating Well with Special Dietary Needs” feature helps those who are looking for meals that are low fat, Kosher, Vegan, Gluten free, or allergy safe. It provides listings of where to get these foods and audio files in the country’s language that will help make ordering easier.

Hotel Allowing Guests to Pay with Fingerprints

The Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel will now allow registered guests to pay for items around the hotel with nothing more than their fingers. This new system is being deployed throughout the hotel’s bars, restaurants, club area and elsewhere so users can get access to a number of services such as event bookings, food and beverage and every other service provided by the hotel.

The technology comes from a Spanish provider called Pay-Touch and is essentially a biometric scanner which checks and matches the user’s fingerprint against a pre-registered and verified image. Last year the hotel armed their guests with wristbands with RFID tags so they could check-in automatically and share content on Facebook. The idea is that guests can head out for an evening without having to take along any cash. To help promote the system, registered users will be given priority access to the hotel’s events. The hotel would like guests to register ahead of time online and log their details and prints at booths once they arrive. The company says the technology is fully compliant with PCI-DSS security standards and also allows users to register more than one payment card to be credited with each purchase.

Ten Luxury Islands You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Original article by By Suzanne Weinstock, Departures.com

Tried-and-true island favorites such as St. Barths and Capri have long been wooing fashionable travelers. But these days, the new prestige in globetrotting lies in exploring far-flung destinations the masses have yet to invade. Even better: a vacation spot so exotic that no one has even heard of it.

“We’ve been seeing strong interest in remote, off-the-beaten-path destinations,” says Scott Wiseman, president of luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent USA.

Enter a new set of islands in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Caribbean and beyond.

“Private and reassuringly hard-to-get, these islands entice diehard fans to get off the grid,” says James Lohan, CEO and co-founder of the boutique hotel website Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

They let vacationers “be the ruler of their own domain and feel like they have discovered someplace unique.”

So transition into being a trendsetter by picking a destination that bears some similarities to a familiar favorite. Then prepare to tack on extra travel time, since being an early adopter usually means adding an extra leg of travel. It’s the moderate difficulty in getting there that keeps these places exclusive. Are you ready for an island less ordinary?