Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Latest Tourist Trend - Unorthodox Attractions


Today's lastest tourist trends are unorthodox attractions.  These attractions tap into and fulfil a fundmental human desire.  That is, the desire to escape from mundane reality into a fantasy, a different world entirely.

Water Discus Underwater Hotel, Dubai

Yet one of the key components that adds to the timelessness of the aforementioned places is how stupendously epic they are. Despite their differences, these attractions are just so impressive that they provide even luxury tourists with a compelling reason to travel to the location they inhabit, and usually solely for that reason.

Let’s consider two more timely ways in which incredible, dazzling and, in some cases, far-fetched holiday destinations will attract the well-heeled tourists of tomorrow:

Extravagantly themed destinations and resorts – the revival of the niche
Today’s luxury travellers have become increasingly fragmented in their holiday preferences. High-end developers are providing an ever more unique and much-needed channel of escape for travellers looking to seriously indulge in their particular fancy while away. Consider these examples:

Water Discus Underwater Hotel, Dubai
Located on a tropical coral reef off the coast of Dubai, the Water Discus Underwater Hotel is a luxury resort complex developed by Polish firm Deep Ocean Technology. With both underwater and above-water compartments, the 21-room hotel offers underwater views of marine life, an underwater dive centre and diving lessons, as well as water sports facilities, rooftop gardens and swimming pools, and a helipad. Construction of the resort commenced in late 2012.

Kung Fu Kingdom, China
The Chinese city of Wudang recently announced plans to build the world’s first tai chi and kung fu-themed entertainment park. Set to open in 2015, Wudang Kung Fu City will be built at the base of the Wudang Mountains, the birthplace of kung fu, and home to some of China’s most important Taoist shrines. The theme park will include action rides based on traditional icons such as the Monkey King, and feature events such as daily expert performances of tai chi and facilities such as traditional teahouses.

Real Madrid Resort Island, United Arab Emirates
In 2012, Spanish soccer club Real Madrid announced that it had commenced construction of the Real Madrid Resort Island in the northern Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah. Located on an artificial island, the $1bn resort is scheduled for completion in January 2015, providing 4.6million square feet of leisure amenities including hotels, a soccer stadium and training academy, soccer-themed club museum and a marina. The island will be constructed in the shape of the soccer club’s logo.

Flamboyantly ‘faketastic’ attractions - the ultimate antidote to authenticity
We hear so much about travellers seeking out authentic cultural experiences and completely natural surroundings, but don’t overlook the inevitable counter-trend. Many will also be happy with, if not even prefer, holiday experiences that are shamelessly unnatural, and yet go far beyond the ordinary in their execution.

And this is moving way beyond cultural landmark replicas in Las Vegas, with a whole host of ever-more outrageous, ‘faketastic’ manifestations providing uncompromised luxury, perfectly imitated culture and unapologetic convenience. Meeting the cultural cravings of these wealthy (if perhaps slightly uninitiated) tourists is, for many in the tourist industry, as important today as catering for that of those who’d prefer to do the full-blown ‘authentic’ experience. See for yourself:

Hallstatt Alpine Village, China
Chinese metal and mining company China Minmetals Corporation opened a replica of an Austrian village near Huizhou. The original Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and the Chinese replica features copies of the houses, churches and buildings that can be found in the Alpine village, along with road signs and signposts in Chinese.

Taj Mahal, Dubai
October 2012 saw UAE-based real estate developer Link Global unveil plans for the Taj Arabia complex in Dubai, which includes a life-sized replica of the Taj Mahal. Once completed, the project will include a 300-room luxury hotel, mall and restaurants, as well as apartments and offices. The central point of the development will be a full-size replica of India’s famous Taj Mahal, in addition to smaller-scale versions of other well-known monuments.

Sustainable ‘Superpark’
In 2012, 250-acre eco-park Gardens by the Bay opened in Singapore. Singapore’s National Parks Board spent $1bn on the development. In addition to several conservatories containing exotic plants, it features a canopy of 18 artificial ‘supertrees’. The 50-metre-tall manmade structures are vertical gardens that are linked by elevated walkways, providing ventilation, harnessing solar energy, and collecting rainwater for the park.

Will these unorthodox attractions be first on every luxury traveller’s dream holiday wish list? Of course not, but a segment of that market will be drawn to these audacious developments. As lives get ever busier, and the desire for escapism rises even higher, expect to see more of these ‘extravagantly themed’ destinations or ‘flamboyantly faketastic’ attractions pop up.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Travel Quote of the Day

Travel Quote of the Day
"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."
Christopher Columbus

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Travel News: Virgin Atlantic Introduces In-Flight Flirting

Virgin America flights allow mile-high flirting

Passengers can send drinks, texts to others

Tired of striking out at the singles bars? Then you might want to try a Virgin America flight.

The airline has launched a new service that allows passengers to send a drink to someone on the plane who's caught their eye.

It's done through the airline's in-flight entertainment system. Passengers pinpoint their designated hottie with Virgin's digital seat map, browse the menu and have a drink, snack or meal sent over.

Passengers can also follow up with a text through the seat-to-seat messaging system.

Virgin launched the service this week to mark the start of its Los Angeles to Las Vegas service, but it's available on all of its U.S. flights.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson introduced the new feature in a video. He said the chances of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent.

Orlando, WKMG Local 6

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Travia: When traveling directly south from Detroit the first country you reach is Canada.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Travel Quote of the Day

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
Freya Stark      

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nation's Top 10 Hotel Spas

NEWTON, Mass. - The results of wellness travel survey of more than 1,100 U.S. travelers, together with the top 10 hotel spas in the U.S. have been announced today. Thirty percent of travelers surveyed plan to take a trip dedicated to rejuvenating their body, mind or spirit at the beginning of 2013. Of those traveling, 49 percent will stay in a hotel, 17 percent will stay in a vacation rental, and 16 percent plan to stay in the home of family or friends.

"Our survey shows that for nearly a third of travelers, the beginning of a new year is a chance to recharge their batteries with a rejuvenation trip," said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications at TripAdvisor. "With a hotel being the most popular destination for these trips, we're delighted to announce the most highly rated hotel spas in the U.S., according to TripAdvisor traveler reviews and opinions."

Top 10 Hotel Spas in the US:

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara , Santa Barbara, California – Average Nightly Rate: $436+2
Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, this Spanish-style hotel offers a variety of treatments including the signature Four Seasons in One spa package which incorporates seasonal elements into an 80-minute session. Other spa treatments available include botanical facials, manicures, body scrubs, and organic aromatherapy massages. "The spa treatments are a must," commented one TripAdvisor traveler.

Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes , Orlando, Florida – Average Nightly Rate: $267+ 2
Resembling an Italian palazzo, the 40,000 square-foot spa at this Floridian hotel pampers travelers with unparalleled services and amenities. After unwinding in one of 40 treatment rooms, guests can take a dip in the heated outdoor pool or put their feet up on a plush chaise lounge in the sanctuary room. A TripAdvisor traveler said, "I adore their level of service, love the grounds, the pool is beautiful; the spa is relaxing and soothing."

Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach , Miami Beach, Florida – Average Nightly Rate: $522+ 2
Located on the pristine shores of Miami Beach, this spectacular seaside hotel boasts the largest wellness spa in Florida. Guests can relax in the thermal suite, enjoy spa treatments including a muscle melt, Thai massage, or sole reflexology, or take a fitness class. "The hotel and spa are beautifully decorated, super clean and the spa facility provided many amenities to make us comfortable," commented a TripAdvisor traveler.

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village , Westlake Village, California – Average Nightly Rate: $230+ 2
With views of the Santa Monica Mountains, guests at this Conejo Valley hotel can enjoy relaxing spa services, attend a cooking class, or even perfect their smile with cosmetic dental services. Travelers are also invited to cool off in a poolside cabana where dedicated staff will cater to their needs. A TripAdvisor traveler commented, "The spa is tremendous and allows you to relax and unwind."

Four Seasons Hotel Denver , Denver, Colorado – Average Nightly Rate: $268+ 2
This 45-story landmark tower offers travelers a luxurious escape from downtown Denver. Business travelers can take a quick break with "executive" treatments, while those ready to fully recline can indulge in a wine therapy spa service which includes a complimentary glass of Chardonnay. A TripAdvisor traveler commented, "This property is especially beautiful; from the fireplace in the lobby to the amazing spa."

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas , Las Vegas, Nevada – Average Nightly Rate: $217+ 2
Travelers in need of a reprieve from Sin City can kick back in the two-story spa at this luxury hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Services range from an exquisite Chinese foot spa to the High-Roller Treatment for those who spent too much time at the casino. One TripAdvisor traveler noted, "The spa was so good we went back the following day for the signature series massage."

Travaasa Austin , Austin, Texas – Average Nightly Rate: $285+ 2
Surrounded by the hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, this posh hotel offers a selection of guided activities geared toward adventure, nutrition, fitness and wellness. Travelers can find balance in hatha yoga sessions, tune in to harmonica lessons, or discover the spirit of the Lone Star state in a two-step Texan dance class. "The grounds were beautiful and serene, the food was delicious and the spa treatments were wonderful," commented a TripAdvisor traveler.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu , Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Average Nightly Rate: $780+ 2
At the spa at this Big Island resort, guests can relax in the quiescent "hales",or treatment rooms, surrounded by lush tropical gardens. With options like crushed macadamia nuts and Hawaiian sea salt, travelers can customize remedies choosing from over 20 native ingredients influenced by the healing traditions of indigenous islanders. "The massages are in tents outside and they have a 'zen'-type garden where guests can relax after a treatment," noted a TripAdvisor traveler.

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa , Ojai, California – Average Nightly Rate: $317+ 2
Located amid the idyllic backdrop of the Topa Topa Mountains, guests will marvel at the 31,000 square-foot Spa Ojai at this resort village. Travelers can indulge their senses with first-class spa treatments and create their own custom aromatherapy blends in the Apothecary center. A TripAdvisor traveler commented, "Clean, comfortable rooms and awesome spa services. Highly recommend to anyone who wants to unwind and relax."

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago , Chicago, Illinois – Average Nightly Rate: $312+ 2
Travelers visiting this Windy City hotel will feel as though the world is standing still when they enter this tranquil spa. With over 50 spa guestrooms offering direct access to calming services, guests can relax with treatments including gemstone infused oil treatments, detoxifying masks, and beyond. A TripAdvisor traveler commented, "The rooms are beautifully decorated and spacious, the staff are very friendly and helpful and the spa, pool and gym facilities are top notch."


Message to Boston:

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

World's Top 10 Airports

12 million Travelers Surveyed

Top 10 Airports in the World

Apr 15, 2013
This year's edition of the Skytrax survey set a new record with more than 12 million respondents. In the World Airport Awards, passengers take a close look at international airports and airlines every year. Skytrax asks them to evaluate airports under 40 criteria, including quality of handling and services, staff courtesy and efficiency, shopping and leisure amenities, and transit facilities.

For a 9th consecutive year, Munich Airport was named Central Europe's Best Airport in the World Airport Awards by the London-based aviation consultancy Skytrax. In the overall European rankings, Munich was number two, behind Amsterdam, as in the previous year. At the global level, the surveyed passengers ranked only five airports ahead of Munich: Singapore, Seoul, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Beijing.

With these results, the Bavarian hub maintained its number 6 position from the previous year, and placed among the world's 6 best airports for the ninth consecutive year. In its "weight class" – airports with 30–40 million passengers a year – Munich was actually number 2 in the world.

Commenting on the excellent results, Munich Airport's CEO, Dr. Michael Kerkloh said, "Despite the major construction work on the new satellite Seite 2 von 2 terminal, we obviously succeeded in maintaining our high service and quality standards even when measured against the world's best."

In individual categories, strong results were posted for airport dining and the Kempinski Hotel Airport Munchen. In the opinion of the passengers, Munich has the world's best airport restaurants. And the Kempinski Hotel Airport Munchen was chosen as Europe's number one airport hotel and the fourth-best in the world. Michael Kerkloh said: "These excellent ratings show that Munich Airport is noted for its outstanding hospitality even at a global level.”

The world's top 10 airports:
1. Singapore
2. Seoul
3. Amsterdam
4. Hong Kong
5. Beijing
6. Munich
7. Zurich
8. Vancouver
9. Tokyo (Haneda)
10. London (Heathrow)
Source: http://www.worldairportawards.com/index.htm

Reasons I like these airports:
Amsterdam - Great duty free shopping (last chance for wooden shoes) and airport Rijksmuseum (usually featuring 8-10 masterpiece paintings).
Hong Kong - Shanghai Tang clothing store (a premier store featuring Asian-style designs)
Munich - Airport Hofbrauhaus (last chance for German beer and brats)
Vancouver - The Fairmont Airport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels (including non-airport hotels).  Sitting in the middle of the tarmac, it's where all the airport action is.  Soundproofing eliminates distracting airplane noises but the activity of takeoffs and landings is just outside your window.  For me, it can't get more exciting.
Another fav of mine which didn't make the list - San Francisco's Terminal 2, with CA-style food choices that make you want your flight delayed!

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Photo by Cynthia Dial

Friday, April 12, 2013

Travia: Germany, Austria, Coco Cola, Fanta


Fanta was invented in 1941 for the German market because Coca Cola syrup could not be imported into Nazi Germany to make Coca Cola due to the trade embargo. The result: a favorite drink combo enjoyed today called ‘Spezi' (it’s one p...art Fanta/one part Coca Cola). My experience with this refreshing beverage was in Bregenz, Austria at Restaurant Berghaus Pfänder atop Pfänder Mountain featuring a panoramic lookout over Lake Constance. Cheers!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Travel News - The Louvre and Pickpockets

Paris Louvre shuts as staff strike over pickpockets

BBC News
One of the world's most visited museums, the Louvre in Paris, did not open on Wednesday because of a protest by staff over pickpockets.

Staff at the museum said thieves, some of them children, were targeting both employees and tourists.
Two hundred workers took part in a strike organised by the SUD union, according to AFP news agency.
The museum's management said it had already asked for more assistance from police to deal with the problem.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
'Increasingly aggressive'
A spokesman said that "business meetings" would take place to try to find a solution, according to French news website The Local.

About 100 employees gathered in front of Paris' Ministry of Culture at lunchtime where a delegation from the museum was received.

Christelle Guyader of SUD told AFP that staff were coming to work "afraid".

"They find themselves confronted with organised groups of pickpockets who are increasingly aggressive and who include children."

She added that many of the thieves were getting into the museum, which is home to the Mona Lisa, for free and would return even after being questioned by police.

The Louvre claims to be the most visited art museum in the world with almost 10 million visitors in 2012.
"There have always been pickpockets at the Louvre and in tourist locations in Paris, but for the last year-and-a-half the gangs have become increasingly violent," said museum supervisor Sophie Aguirre.

"Their modus operandi has become more complex. Nothing can stop them."

Officials have been unable to say when the museum will reopen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Travel Writing Field Trip to France

Today in History: April 9

Today in history (April 9, 2005) UK's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles married.  It was originally scheduled for April 8, but was postponed by one day.  Anyone know why?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Check out The Travel Advisor

As a travel specialist I always seek out travel websites to share.  So here goes.  Check out The Travel Advisor (http://the-travel-advisor.com), compare it to other sites, then you decide.

They say it best:
The Travel Advisor is a source for tourist attractions, hotel reviews, photos and travel advice for travel agencies, Natural Phenomena and hotels. Here you can find many travel agencies and tour operators from all over the world, also you can see wonderful pictures from a lot of different tourist attractions, hotels and natural phenomena. If you own a travel agency or you are a tourist guide you can you can show your business with no cost. We have partners from India, Nepal, Buthan, USA, Peru, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Greece and many other countries from all over the world. You can also type a review for any existed hotel, travel agency, tourist attraction or natural phenomena.

And, as always, safe travels.

The Carnival Curse??

 Carnival cruise ship breaks loose from dock, one person missing

Apr 03, 2013
MOBILE, Alabama - The Coast Guard is searching for a man knocked into the Mobile River after high winds hit the area Wednesday, blowing the man's security guard hut into the water and causing the Carnival Triumph cruise ship to break loose from its repair dock.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
The call to the Coast Guard came in at 1:45 p.m. CT as near hurricane-force winds smacked the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Alabama.

An official with the city's fire department said earlier that the missing man and another person were in a guard shack at the BAE Shipyard that was blown into the Mobile River. One man has been recovered from the water.

On the agency's Twitter feed, the fire department said the Coast Guard, Mobile police and the sheriff department's flotilla are now in charge of a "recovery operation." Some of the flotilla's boats are equipped with sonar to find underwater objects.

The Triumph, which was adrift for several hours, was secured at a dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal on Wednesday night, officials said. Tugboats will remain next to ship as as precaution, Carnival said.
Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said all of the company's crew members and contractors on the ship have been accounted for.

Wind gusts reached 66 mph Wednesday at nearby Brookley Field, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile, though a Carnival statement said the winds exceeded 70 mph.

The Triumph has been at BAE Shipyard in the Port of Mobile since an engine fire in February left the cruise ship crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard. For four days, tugboats guided the disabled ship into the port as passengers complained about miserable conditions on board.

On Wednesday, it drifted across the shipyard after breaking free. Tugboats kept it from drifting farther down river, the Coast Guard said.

CNN affiliate WKRG reported the cruise ship had a hole on the right side of the stern; Carnival said an initial inspection found limited damage.

Carnival said in late March the ship would be out of service until June 3. In addition to repairs, workers will increase the number of systems and services that the Triumph and other Carnival ships can run on backup power.

Wednesday's incident was the latest in several headline-making issues for one of the world's leading cruise lines. Four of the company's 23 ships have had problems in recent months.

The cruise line has offered affected passengers refunds and discounts on future cruises.

It faces a class-action lawsuit related to the Triumph's last cruise, when passengers reported that food was scarce, cruise goers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning, toilets overflowed and human waste ran down the walls in some parts of the ship.

The problems have also prompted one U.S. lawmaker to propose a "Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said he was asking the cruise industry to voluntarily sign on to a list of guidelines, including the right to backup power if generators fail and the right to disembark a docked ship "if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided on board."

He also called on the International Maritime Organization to investigate whether cruise lines are following existing guidelines, and whether existing standards are being enforced by countries where cruise ships that serve U.S. passengers are based.

"Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," Schumer said in a statement. "This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."
Source: CNN

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Samoa Air Prices Based on Passengers' Weight

By Diana Reese at WashingtonPost.com

Is pricing a plane ticket based on the passenger’s weight fair?

If you’re taking an international flight on tiny Samoa Air today, your fare will be based on your weight, along with that of your luggage. The cost is 93 cents to $1.06 for each kilogram, or 2.2 pounds.
Yours Truly with potential Samoa Air pax

The average American woman weighs at 166.2 pounds, or 75.5 kilograms, far from the ideal weight for her average height of 5 feet, 3.8 inches tall, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Her ticket on Samoa Air, at the $1 a kilogram rate, would cost $75.50.

But let’s be honest here. The average American woman is at least 20 to 40 pounds overweight — and it’s costing her an extra $20 to $40.

Samoa Air Chief Executive Chris Langton said that “planes are run by weight and not by seat,” explaining, “The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid.” He believes other airlines should adopt the policy.

It’s not a new idea. I remember a newspaper columnist years ago who put forth the idea that the heavier among us should pay more for their seats on planes, trains and buses. Who hasn’t been squeezed into a middle seat between two plus-sized folks on a flight? It’s happened to me; one time my married seatmates had purposefully chosen their seats to have more space until a sold-out flight put me between them. Not one of my better flying experiences.

More than one-third of us are obese and another third are overweight. Could such pricing provide a much-needed incentive for Americans to shed excess poundage–like wanting to look good in a bikini on that vacation to the beach?

Or is the policy merely fat-bashing or “body fascism,” as one British editorial writer charges, calling it “a dehumanizing, degrading and mechanistic approach to customer service.”

There’s no doubt weight discrimination exists. Your weight can affect your salary, your chances for employment, how others view you and even, as a result, your own self-image. Bias against the overweight in the United States has increased by 66 percent over the last decade — “and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women,” wrote Yale University researcher Rebecca M. Puhl in a study published by the Journal of Obesity.

It’s a thin line between providing motivation to lose weight and fostering discrimination against the overweight and obese.

And we’ll see how effective it is as a business model.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Today in History

Today in history: 
The birthday of Giacomo Casanova (April 2, 1725), who was from Venice and became so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with "womanizer". He also associated with European royalty, popes and cardinals, along with luminaries such as Voltaire, Goethe and Mozart.
Photo by Cynthia Dial 

Monday, April 1, 2013

World's Largest

You probably know that the Pentagon is the world's largest building but did you know Windsor Castle is the world's largest occupied castle?