Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

December 26, 2007

Malaysia Airlines Offers First Class Upgrades

Malaysia Airlines' first class seating

Malaysia Airlines is offering a complimentary first class upgrade to business class travelers flying to Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and other destinations in Southeast and South Asia. Effective immediately, full-fare business passengers may upgrade to first class, subject to seat availability, on long-haul flights originating in Los Angeles. Tickets are valid for one year from date of outbound travel.

First class travel aboard Malaysia Airlines is the ultimate in luxury and hospitality. Newly designed cabins feature high tech seats that have a massage feature and convert to flatbed sleeping pods. A large wooden dining table and buddy seat allow passengers to dine together. Dining is à la carte and served whenever the passenger desires. An array of ethnic and continental menu items is available, as are fine china and Italian glassware, and an extensive wine and spirits menu. Modern in-flight entertainment features audio and video on demand, with 350 options for viewing on a 15-inch LCD touch screen. Mood lighting in the cabin, automatic window shades and an extra large lavatory with full-length mirror are just some of the additional features available for first class passengers.

For more information and tickets call 1-888-627-8477 or visit www.malaysiaairlines.com


December 19, 2007

New Boutique Hotel to Open in Whistler

Nita Lake Lodge
To kick off the New Year, Boutique Hotels & Resorts of British Columbia will open an exclusive boutique hotel in January 2008 in Whistler. The Nita Lake Lodge is situated on the shores of Nita Lake and is mere steps from Whistler Creekside, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics alpine events.

The 77-suite lodge boasts views of the surrounding lake, mountains and forests and features deluxe studio, one and two bedroom suites with 42-inch plasma televisions, oversize en-suites and full concierge service. The hotel also offers 4,000 square feet of meeting space, two function rooms and state-of-the-art technology.

Dining options include Jordan’s Crossing, the hotel’s lakeside restaurant and outdoor patio, reminiscent of the first class railway cars of yesteryear; Nita Lake Lounge; and JC’s Deli. And to relax following a day skiing the slopes or playing a round of golf on one of the area's four championship courses, Nita Lake Lodge provides its own fitness, spa and wellness center, offering everything from traditional massages to nutritional consultations and fitness conditioning.

For more information visit www.nitalakelodge.com or call 1-888-755-6482


December 19, 2007

Email Takes Flight

The JetBlue “BetaBlue” Airbus A320

JetBlue soared to new heights on Dec. 11 when it began offering free, limited wireless service on its “BetaBlue” Airbus A320, making it the first U.S. airline to offer customers this option. Once the aircraft clears 10,000 feet, users can begin communicating online.

Currently the service is limited to using Yahoo email and instant messaging on wireless-equipped Blackberry devices and laptop computers. Since the wireless connection is sent up via ground towers, there are temporary lapses in coverage when the aircraft passes over transmission relays. With an eye towards improving coverage, JetBlue plans to implement additional features throughout 2008, along with adding the wireless service to more airplanes.

For more information, visit www.jetblue.com


December 12, 2007

New Mandarin Oriental Opens in Mexico

The Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya

Set to open at the end of this year, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel group is expanding its business with the opening of its newest addition: The Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya in Mexico along the Yucatan Peninsula.

The resort promises to deliver an experience of luxury, well-being and exclusivity set on 36 lush, secluded acres complete with a tropical jungle and pristine beaches.

The Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya houses 128 luxuriously appointed guest rooms in contemporary-styled bungalow villas or two-story villas, complete with water views of the lagoon, meandering waterways or the Caribbean Sea.

“Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya will be the ultimate sanctuary of tranquility, well-being and rejuvenation, setting new standards for intimacy and unparalleled service,” said Patrick-Denis Finet, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Best of all, the resort is only ten minutes north of bustling Playa del Carmen, with its dining, entertainment, specialty shops and boutiques, and just a 30-minute drive from Cancún International Airport.

Panoramic ocean views, great dining, a myriad of leisure activities and water sports and a 25,000-square-foot spa are just some of the perks on offer at the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya.

For more information or reservations, contact the hotel directly at 52-984-877-3888, make toll free reservations in the United States at 800-526 6566 or try Mandarin Oriental’s direct on-line reservations service at www.mandarinoriental.com.

December 5, 2007

Monumental Museum

The New Museum of Contemporary Art
Leave it to New York to start the New Year in style. The New Museum of Contemporary Art officially opened its doors at 235 Bowery in Lower Manhattan on Dec. 1.

The structure was designed by avant-garde Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, with Gensler, New York, serving as executive architect. The massive seven-story, 60,000-square-foot New Museum—a glimmering metal mesh-clad stack of boxes shifted off axis in a dynamic composition—is the first art museum ever constructed from the ground up in downtown Manhattan and the city’s only museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art.

The Dec. 1 opening coincided with the museum’s 30th Anniversary and was celebrated with 30 hours of continuous free admission to the public.

Setting the precedent for exhibitions that will occupy its entire building, the New Museum is inaugurating the building with “Unmonumental”—an international survey on all three main gallery floors that opens with sculptures by 30 artists from around the globe, then expands over the course of five months into a dense, teeming environmental experience through the addition of layers of collage, sound, and Internet-based art. The exhibition will continue through March 23, 2008.

For more information visit www.newmuseum.org


November 28, 2007

US Airways Helping to Make the Skies Friendlier

US Airways

With the holiday rush upon us, US Airways is implementing vacation measures to help soothe frazzled nerves as people criss-cross the country. Along with augmenting staff, checking equipment and reaching out to airports and federal officials, the airline has also come out with a list of tips to help you through the holiday crush. So before you fly US Airways, keep this handy “tried and true” list by your side this holiday season:

Check in early: Visit usairways.com to save time at the airport. Or visit an airport kiosk up to eight hours before departure.

Check your flight status. US Airways provides three automated ways to make sure your flight is on time before you leave for the airport: via text message on your cell phone by texting TEXTUS; visiting usairways.com; or by calling 800-428-4322.

Allow plenty of time for lines, parking and security. Arrive two hours prior to a domestic flight—three hours for international flights. Have your photo ID and boarding pass ready.

Check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure if you’re leaving from one of the following airports: Atlanta, Buffalo, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Maui, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Washington (Dulles), Seattle or Orlando.

Dress comfortably. Wear clothing that is soft and breathable, and wear shoes that can slip on and off easily at security check.

Pack carefully. Understand fees and restrictions when packing checked and carry-on bags, including only one piece of carry-on luggage and one personal item (purse or briefcase).

Remember: Liquids, creams and gels are restricted to one quart-size clear plastic bag per passenger, containing bottles of three ounces or less. For more details on TSA restrictions, please visit www.tsa.gov

For more travel tips, go to usairways.com and click on 'Travel Tools,' or visit  www.faa.gov/passengers


November 21, 2007

Casa de Sierra Nevada Adds Another Mansion

Andanza's private Dining Room

Casa de Sierra Nevada, the luxury boutique hotel and cooking school in the heart of historic San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has now added Casa Limón to its collection of historic Spanish colonial mansions. Just a brief stroll from El Jardin (the center of town), Casa Limón is an 18th century-style mansion featuring six distinctive suites, an outdoor heated swimming pool with a wall fountain, a cozy library, a new business center and a butler assigned exclusively to the casona.

With the addition of Casa Limón to Casa de Sierra Nevada—an Orient-Express hotel—the bar has truly been raised yet another notch, with Casa Limón’s hand-painted tiles, polished copper sinks, claw-foot copper tubs and original regional arts and crafts. Some suites even boast rooftop Jacuzzis with views of the city.

Directly across from Limón is the lively new fine dining restaurant, Andanza, which means “an adventuresome and serendipitous walk.” This philosophy is reflected in executive chef Gonzalo Martinez’s dishes, which combine traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine. The six unique rooms that make up Andanza include a beautiful open-air courtyard with orange trees and a cascading wall fountain; the Art Room, with a cozy fireplace and oversized leather chairs; the decadent Wine & Cava room; the elegant private Dining Room; and the Game Room, which entices guests to unwind with snug chairs and board games.

For more information and to make reservations, visit www.casadesierranevada.com


November 14, 2007

Longwood Gardens Debuts New Children's Garden

The Indoor Children's Garden

It’s taken almost ten years, but Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, has finally opened its new 4,000 square-foot Indoor Children’s Garden. Boasting an innovative design, interactive water features and creative use of flora and fauna, the new garden is a child’s paradise. Among the myriad offerings guaranteed to capture a child’s attention are a shooting water jet that rings a bell, a spitting fish, a pond with rising steam, a cave with dripping walls and a gigantic drooling dragon. In addition, there are one-of-a-kind, handcrafted artisan elements holding court throughout the garden, including salamander, ibis, pelican, turtle and hummingbird statues.

The revamped garden features seven distinct yet integrated experiences that engage the mind and body through touch, smell, sight and sound, including the Rain Pavilion; a ramp with a leaping water “glow worm”; the Grotto Cave and Tunnel with a fog-covered pool dripping water from sculpted snake coils overhead; the Bamboo Maze, which incorporates a jungle of tree-sized bamboo plants with water features for kids to explore; and the Central Cove with flower-shaped water jets and jewel-like mosaics.

The garden is handicap-accessible and a surrounding walkway allows “grown” children to enjoy the garden while keeping an eye on the action.

For more information visit www.longwoodgardens.org


November 7, 2007

Continental Serves Up Quality First Class Menus

Continental Airlines' Kung Pao Shrimp

Even First Class airline travelers often bemoan the quality of the food on their flights. With this in mind, Continental Airlines has introduced brand new First Class menus on flights throughout the United States and Canada, and to select Latin American and Caribbean destinations. The new meals were created by Continental's Congress of Chefs based on extensive feedback from customers and employees. With more and more people wanting fresh fruit and vegetables with their meals, Continental has answered the culinary call. The new menus are the result of intense, six-month development tests.

So what delicious goodies can First Class travelers now expect on their flights? For starters, four different menus rotate monthly and vary by region. A typical domestic menu includes fresh seasonal fruit, hot soup, a choice of two entrées and dessert. New hot gourmet sandwiches are now being served on a typical flight greater than two hours, with selections including roast beef and oven-roasted turkey with gouda cheese on marble rye bread; a chicken fajita wrap with cheddar cheese, onions and tricolor peppers; or a turkey and ricotta calzone with spinach and roasted red peppers.

Customers on lunch flights can also opt for a salad entrée (such as romaine salad with herbed chicken breast, cherry tomatoes, pecans and goat cheese), and customers flying at dinnertime may choose a hot entrée bowl (like beef short ribs served with mashed potatoes and Parisian carrots).

And what would a First Class meal be without first-class utensils? That’s why Continental makes sure to complete its fine-dining experience by serving its meals on fine china.

For more information visit www.continental.com


October 31, 2007

Virgin Atlantic: World's Fastest Airline Check-In

Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Wing check-in

When it comes to flying business class, passengers are always looking for comfort, speed and efficiency. Now Virgin Atlantic can boast all three with the introduction of its new Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow airport’s Terminal 3. Passengers will benefit from a dedicated security channel designated exclusively for Virgin Atlantic customers. After passing through this unique fast-track, passengers will emerge in the heart of the terminal building just a short walk from the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge.

Virgin Atlantic says its Upper Class Wing is like no other business or first-class check-in. Upper Class passengers, who will already have supplied check-in details to their driver, will be taken in their limos up a curved ramp onto a 22-meter wide arrival area. After being welcomed by a Virgin Atlantic host, check-in formalities will be completed before passengers walk through a new hotel-style lobby area and into the dedicated security channel. From there, they are moments away from the haven of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

However, it’s not just business travelers who will benefit from Virgin Atlantic’s upgrades. Later this year the airline will launch a brand new check-in area for Premium Economy and Economy passengers. It will be wider, brighter and more spacious, enabling passengers to check-in at kiosks in a fast, efficient and stress-free way. Virgin Atlantic expects 80 percent of its passengers at Heathrow to be using online or kiosk check-in by the end of 2008.  

Founded in 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways now offers high-flying service from ten U.S. cities to London, and currently operates 160 flights a week from Heathrow to a range of long-haul destinations worldwide, including Las Vegas, Tokyo, Delhi, Boston and Shanghai, with recent growth to Mumbai, Dubai, Nairobi and from Chicago.

For more information, visit www.virginatlantic.com


October 24, 2007

Grand Reopening of Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, Mexico

A new suite at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Just in time for Christmas, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific in Mexico is gearing up for a grand reopening on Dec. 22, following a $20 million renovation. Nestled on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Ixtapa Pacific was the first resort built in the area in 1982. Spanning 30 acres of pristine beachfront property, the new, improved Ixtapa Pacific includes a complete upgrade of the resort’s shared spaces in addition to renovated, enlarged rooms and the creation of suites.

The Ixtapa’s distinctive new design is family hacienda style, fusing bold Mexican colors with Spanish elegance. Guests will be greeted by arches, pergolas, balconies, shady palms and potted orange trees, with many of the rooms and common spaces opening onto spectacular beach views. The major restructuring indoors will see a total of an additional 300 rooms, 96 of which will open on Dec. 22, with the rest opening in March 2008. The upgrades include 60 family suites, all with flat-screen TVs, Internet access and high quality amenities.

In addition, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is now set to become the only Club Med in Mexico to offer tailored programs for infants and toddlers. That’s right: trained staff will be on hand to provide fun and educational activities for children of all ages. Ixtapa Pacific’s Baby Club Med will cater to infants from 4 to 23 months with a staff-to-child ratio of one-to-four. Children aged 2 and 3 will join the Petit Club Med with a one-to-six staff-to-child ratio, and there will also be a Mini-Club Med catering to children ages 4 to 10 and Junior Club Med for teens and ‘tweens.

The December reopening will also include both new and time-honored activities for adults and kids, including a climbing wall with group lessons available, fitness and aqua fitness classes, a weight room, a flying trapeze and circus school for kids, tennis, archery and rollerblading, as well as a plethora of water sports.

For more information visit www.clubmed.us


October 17, 2007

Visit the Aquarium in the Desert

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

Get up close and personal with the creatures of the deep at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The resort is currently offering a 30-minute behind-the-scenes guided tour of the aquarium for those 13 years and older.

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is a 95,000 square foot public aquarium with 1.6 million gallons of water, making it the third largest aquarium in North America and the country’s only predator-based aquarium and exhibit.

The behind-the-scenes tour will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the aquarium’s 2,000 species of sharks, rays, fish, reptiles and marine invertebrates. Guests will also learn about water filtration, saltwater making, food preparation, diving and animal care. Among some of the unique species in the aquarium are endangered green sea turtles, piranhas, moon jellies and rare golden crocodiles.

Shark Reef is dedicated to establishing and maintaining the highest standards of animal care, and has undertaken several initiatives to encourage the message of conservation and preservation, including recycling facility water and implementing imitation coral into exhibits to preserve natural resources.

Tours are available every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 with the purchase of admission. For more information, call 702-632-4555 or visit www.mandalaybay.com


October 10, 2007

In the (Fossilized) Footsteps of Our Ancestors

A map of Italy with Campania in red

Looking for something different to do while touring Italy? Why not take a trek alongside what scientists believe to be 385,000-year-old fossilized human footprints?

In 2003, Italian scientists correctly identified six fossilized footprint trails—and one handprint—at the edge of the Roccamonfina volcano in the Campania region of Southern Italy. Known locally as the “Devil’s Trails” for centuries because they were thought to be supernatural, the trails were initially kept off-limits to the public.

However, that all changed this week, when scientists began allowing tourists to walk alongside the trails. While people cannot place their feet directly into the fossils, they can walk along the fossils’ footpath from a safe distance. According to geologist Paolo Mietto of the University of Padua in Italy, the footprints apparently belonged to more than six different primitive Homo sapiens who stood at around 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) tall, walked upright with a free-standing gait and used their hands to steady themselves.

For more information, please visit www.italiantourism.com


October 3, 2007

Carving It Up (and Under) For Halloween

The 15th Annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest in Guam

Test your Halloween pumpkin carving skills…under the sea at the 15th Annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest in Guam on October 27. The Guam Tropical Dive Station will be hosting the event at the USO Beach in Piti, where the best Jack-O-Lanterns carved beneath the waves will be rewarded with a variety of prizes courtesy of Continental Airlines: Most Original Pumpkin—a trip to Australia; Scariest Pumpkin—a trip to Palau; and Funniest Pumpkin—a trip to Chuuk. There will also be raffle prizes, including dive gear, dinner shows and weekend getaways.

The entire affair is a family event, so even children can get in on the act. Kids 10 and under are invited to join in a pumpkin hunt at the beach and to enter the scariest mask contest—in which only homemade disguises are allowed.

Entry fee for adults is $10 and includes a t-shirt, a pumpkin and a raffle ticket for the Halloween prizes. Adults must be certified open-water divers and all the pumpkin cutting and carving must be done underwater. Children’s tickets are $5 and kids receive a free t-shirt. The competition begins at 9 a.m., and all carved pumpkins must be on display at the Guam Premier Outlets in Tamuning by noon. Judging will take place at 1 p.m.

For more information and to sign up contact Belinda Berg at Belinda@gtds.com


September 26 , 2007

Le Travel Store Presents List of Ten Devices For the Road

The keychain duffel, Lingo talking translator and Toob travel toothbrush

As long as we continue traveling around the world, we will always be looking for ways to make our journeys easier.  Le Travel Store has come up with a Top Ten list of gadgets designed to provide a little extra comfort when globetrotting.

1. Lingo Talking Translator—Type in a word or phrase and this compact gadget will speak back to you with the correct translation in one of ten languages of your choice.
2. Keychain Duffel—This duffel bag has enough space to hold all the souvenirs you bring back from your travels, and it folds down into a package you can easily fit into your pocket or onto your keychain.
3. Pack it Compressor—This small device sucks air out of bulky clothes and substantially decreases the amount of room they take up in your luggage.
4. Tie Caddy—When you simply have to wear a tie or two (or even two dozen) on that overseas business trip, use the plastic tie caddy to roll up your neck ties so they don’t crease.
5. Multi Function Clock and Exchanger—Whether you need to exchange euros, pesos or lira, you always need to travel overseas with a calculator. This gadget not only stores exchange rates—it also works as an alarm clock with a snooze button.
6. Travel Wine Glass—This high tech wine glass is made of unbreakable Lexan resin. When you want to stow it, just unscrew the stem and snap it into place inside the glass itself.
7. WordLock—Never forget your padlock combination again, because these combinations are words, not numbers. There are four dials with 10,000 possible letter combinations.
8. Pocket Towel—These towels are absorbent, thin and easily packed into a pouch that can fit in the palm of your hand. The ultra-fine microfiber fabric is designed to dry quickly, so the towel will be ready to pack right after your shower.
9. Toob—This compact travel toothbrush comes with a refillable toothpaste tube that slides into the handle.
10. Soap Leaves—Keep soap in your purse or pocket without ending up with a mess. The compact container holds 50 individual leaves of soap, each of which is good for one hand-washing.

For more information on these gadgets visit www.letravelstore.com


September 19, 2007

From Captivity to Liberty

The Liberty Hotel

Boston’s former Charles Street Jail recently removed the bars, padlocks and cells, replacing them with a $150 million hotel: The Liberty Hotel, which stands at the foot of Boston’s tony Beacon Hill neighborhood overlooking the Charles River.

The jail was built in 1851 by prominent architect Gridley James Fox Bryant and Rev. Louis Dwight. As an homage to both men, developer Richard L. Friedman has retained many of the jail’s original features: exterior granite walls, expansive light-filled interiors, and the jail’s 90-foot-high central rotunda, complete with original windows and catwalks, which now forms The Liberty Hotel’s lobby and public places. Designed to create a quintessential Boston hotel within the framework of a National Historic Landmark, the building captures the jail’s penal past in both design and décor, including a mosaic by artist Coral Bourgeois depicting historical scenes from penitentiaries and true life crimes.

The hotel offers 280 guest rooms in a newly-built sixteen-story tower. However, for those who want to indulge in some jail-house history, there are eighteen brick-walled guest rooms available, complete with “Solitary” instead of “Do not disturb” signs to hang on your door. The first floor bar is called “Alibi,” and the hotel’s courtyard garden was once the jail’s exercise yard. However, accommodations are plush, with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-panel HD-LCD televisions, a private bar and two VOIP telephones. Eco-friendly Molton Brown bath and body care products are in the bathrooms. There are three excellent dining facilities and 6,000 square feet of flexible space with up-to-the-minute technology for parole hearings…er, meetings and events.

The Liberty Hotel is managed by MTM Luxury Lodging. For reservations and more information, call 617-224-4000 or 866-507-5245, or log on at www.libertyhotel.com


September 12 , 2007

Beatles-Themed Hotel to Open in Liverpool

A room at the Hard Days Night Hotel

It’s been a long and winding road for Liverpool tour operator Cavern City Tours Ltd. But now that its Beatles-themed hotel—aptly named The Hard Days Night Hotel—is underway, the company’s shouting "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" about the January 2008 opening. The $45 million structure will be located in the heart of Liverpool’s city center and just a stone’s throw from the world-famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles first rose to fame.

The announcement was made at the start of International Beatles week, and the hotel will open in time to coincide with the city becoming the 2008 European Capital of Culture.

The Hard Days Night Hotel will be a four-star hotel with 110 rooms, each with an individual Beatles theme, designed by world-class muralist Shannon. The murals, which will also flow into the public areas of the hotel, will tell the story of the band. Other features will include two bars, two conference rooms for private entertaining and corporate events, a wedding chapel, executive suites, and two penthouses: the McCartney and Lennon suites. The Lennon suite will feature a white grand piano. The hotel’s restaurant—Blakes—will have its own exclusive entrance, and the establishment’s walls will feature images influenced by the cover of the "Sgt. Pepper" album designed by Sir Peter Blake.

The hotel is designed to attract more visitors to the city of Liverpool. Steve McGriskin, marketing director for the hotel, said, “There is already massive interest [in the hotel] nationally and internationally.”

For those looking for that ticket to ride, check out www.harddaysnighthotel.com


September 5, 2007

Pope Launches His Own Airline

A Mistral Air plane

Airway to heaven, anyone? The Vatican has launched the world’s first airline for Catholic pilgrims. The inaugural flight took place on Aug. 27 with a trip from Rome to Lourdes. While the jets have Vatican logos on the headrests and the flight attendants’ uniforms which read, “I’m searching for your face, Lord,” the airline doesn’t actually belong to the pontiff himself. The Vatican has signed a five-year agreement with local travel organizations to coordinate pilgrimages for the Diocese of Rome.

The low-cost charter flights are actually run by Mistral Air (which is owned by the Italian post office), and aims to cater to some 150,000 pilgrims in its first year of operation. The two Boeing 737 charter jets being used for the official Catholic pilgrimages will be painted yellow and white, the signature colors of the Vatican, and religious messages and films will be shown during the flights. Should the venture prove successful, routes slated to be added are pilgrimages to the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, the shrine of the Madonna in Guadalupe, Mexico, and possibly Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments.

However, don’t think you’ll be flying business class alongside Pope Benedict XVI himself. The Vatican still has no airport, only a helipad used by the pontiff for his local journeys. His international flights are organized via helicopter courtesy of the Italian air force.


August 29, 2007

Holiday Nannies for Hire

A holiday nanny and her charge

If you want to take a vacation with your children but don’t want to spend the entire time supervising them, you can now hire a nanny to go on holiday with you. Holidaynanny.org is the brainchild of former Goldman Sachs investment banker Nicola Grant and her husband Edward. Holiday Nanny will provide nannies to accompany families on their vacations either in the UK or overseas.

Holiday Nanny recruits only the highest caliber nannies with a minimum of one year’s childcare experience. The nannies then undergo a rigorous interviewing process including a background check. Most of the nannies are pre-school, kindergarten or elementary school teachers, maternity nurses, or fully trained and qualified nannies. All nannies speak fluent English and possess a first aid certificate. The company’s selection process is tailored to the family’s specific needs, taking into consideration qualifications, personalities and talents.

The agency prides itself on hiring nannies with that “extra dimension” in an effort to match his or her skills and talents to the vacationing family. Families can hire sporty, creative and even musical nannies, and many have qualifications as swimming instructors, or drama and dance teachers.

A basic package is based on a week of vacation, including the days of travel, e.g.: Saturday departure, Saturday return, with an eight-hour working day. Days cannot begin before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m. (except for babysitting). The cost is £425 ($853) for one week or £795 ($1600) for two weeks. Alternative packages are also available on request.

For more detailed information on nanny packages and general information on Holiday Nanny, visit www.holidaynanny.org


August 22, 2007

Travelodge U.K. Launches First Mobile Hotel Room

Travelodge's TravelPod

Have pod, will travel. This summer, the U.K. hotel chain Travelodge is piloting the TravelPod, the ultimate accessory for those who want to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of a hotel room. The TravelPod can be towed on the back of a vehicle to any outdoor venue, campground, music festival or sporting event. However, unlike a trailer, the pod is an exact replica of a plush hotel room, complete with a luxury double bed, bedside lights, comforter, pillows, fully carpeted floor, window blinds, dressing table and light, mirror, chair, flat screen TV, DVD player complete with a collection of DVDs, air conditioning, heater, an illuminated headboard, tea/coffee making facilities, a washroom with bio-degradable toilet and a washbasin with running water.

In addition, this hotel room in a box is eco-friendly with furniture made from recyclable timber, and all the lighting uses low-wattage bulbs. The pod is sealed in a clear poly-carbonate glass box measuring 18ft by 8ft and is 10ft high. It can be rented for $49 (£26) per night. Wayne Munnelly, Travelodge’s director of sleep, said, “We are always looking at new ways of making budget accommodation more accessible to the public… not everyone who goes to a concert wants to sleep in a tent. This is the ultimate budget fun alternative.”

Be among the first to stay in the Travelpod by entering Travelodge’s Travelpod competition. The prize is a free one night stay in the Travelpod for two people. To enter, email your name, address, age, and contact telephone no. to travelpod@travelodge.co.uk by Sept. 18, 2007.

For more information on the competition and on the TravelPod, visit www.travelodge.co.uk


August 15, 2007

Green Giants: Airlines Helping the Planet

Virgin Fuels

Accelerated global warming demands proactive solutions. Two airlines, one of the smallest (NatureAir) and one of the largest (Virgin) are doing their part. Costa Rica has a new champion protecting her natural beauty. NatureAir, the world’s first and only carbon neutral airline, which flies to seventeen destinations in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, is helping to keep the air clean by voluntarily compensating 100 percent of its carbon emissions through conservation of tropical forests. Travelers can also appreciate the forest they are helping to save; NatureAir planes are fitted with panoramic windows that allow unobstructed views of the lush land, volcanoes, waterfalls and even simultaneous views of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

On a grander scale, Sir Richard Branson, visionary Chairman of Virgin, has launched a new company, Virgin Fuels, to create the eco-friendly fuel—butanol. Like corn-derived ethanol, butanol is an alcohol-based fuel but is much more energy-rich and can be made from a wider range of biomass like straw and corn stalks. Bold ideas need strategic alliances; Branson's Virgin Fuels agreed in April to collaborate with Boeing on creating commercial jet biofuels. To that end, Virgin announced it is investing in Gevo, a Pasadena, California, start-up company which is developing technology to turn biomass into butanol.


August 8, 2007

Passenger Bill of Rights

New York State's Passenger Bill of Rights guarantees service on delayed planes

New York State recently signed into law a passenger bill of rights, claiming to be the first state to require airlines to provide passengers with "food, water, fresh air, power and working restrooms on any flight that has left the gate and been on the tarmac for more than three hours." Governor Eliot Spitzer signed the legislation—slated to go into effect January 1, 2008—to "ensure [that] airline passengers on severely delayed flights operating out of New York airports are provided with basic customer protections." The turning point for passengers was the highly publicized Valentine’s Day ice storm incident involving a JetBlue Airways plane on John F. Kennedy Airport's tarmac, where passengers were hungry and thirsty, toilets were overflowing, and the plane didn't have proper ventilation. The new legislation’s requirements, which become active after three hours delay, include electric-generation service for fresh air and lights, removal of waste from holding tanks for onboard restrooms, plus drinking water, snacks and other refreshments. Airlines will have to provide passengers with details of the bill of rights and how to file complaints.

A new Office of Airline Consumer Advocate within the state Consumer Protection Board will handle complaints and refer violations to the attorney general, which could result in large civil penalties. On the heels of New York’s decisive move, the U.S. House and Senate are working on a national passenger bill of rights, containing language similar to the New York law, including provisions for food and water and "adequate restroom facilities" when passengers are grounded. That bill also gives passengers the right to deplane after three hours, which is not included in the New York version.


August 1, 2007

The New Seven Wonders of the World

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy - one of the new Seven Wonders

From the site of Roman gladiator battles to a magnificent Indian mausoleum, the new Seven Wonders of the World encompass significant historical and architectural feats around the globe. A worldwide popularity poll conduced by private, non-profit New Open World Corporation led to the results announced in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 7, 2007. Over 100 million votes from 200 countries, cast through the Internet or text messaging, were received according to NOWC.

Out of 21 top contenders, seven sites made the cut. The Great Wall of China, the largest manmade monument built to keep invading Mongols out of China, was declared one of the sites, as were the Palace Tombs of Petra in Jordan, created between 9 B.C. and 40 A.D. The 39-meter-tall Christ Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as Machu Picchu in Peru, the extraordinary “lost” city of the Incas, also made the list. Rounding out the rest of the new Seven Wonders are Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico; the Colosseum in Rome; and the Taj Mahal, an immense mausoleum considered to be the jewel of Muslim art in India. Finalists included the Statue of Liberty in the United States, the Kremlin/St. Basil’s in Russia and Hagia Sophia in Turkey. For more information visit www.new7wonders.com.


July 26, 2007

Philippe Starck to Work His Magic on Le Meurice


Franka Holtmann and Philippe StarckFranka Holtmann, General Manager of Paris hotel Le Meurice, has called upon renowned designer Philippe Starck to renovate the hotel's public areas, from the lobby to the bar and also the restaurants. Starck has designed locations worldwide, from Los Angeles Katsuya restaurant in Brentwood to London's Sanderson Hotel. Explaining her selection of Starck, Holtmann remarked, "I want to shake [Le Meurice] up, to make it the setting for a new destination where people will come to enjoy time out, lunch, a drink, or be transported by gastronomy. I asked Philippe Starck to imagine a new atmosphere, to create a mood that would enhance and respect the beauty and proportions of this magnificent palace."


July 18, 2007

Walking and Wooing in Vancouver

Altitudes Bistro at the top of Grouse GrindThe Grouse Grind trail in Vancouver is apparently an institution among serious hikers, over 110,000 of whom hail from all over the world and annually climb its 2.9 miles of steep, rugged terrain. Aimed at uniting like-minded trekkers who are single, the Grouse Grind Social Nights have been established. Every Wednesday night this new Vancouver social venue hosts a hiking mixer that affords the opportunity to trek the trail with a wandering eye. Starting at 6:00 p.m. at the trail head (just fifteen minutes from downtown Vancouver), the hike ends at the summit—where a live DJ, cocktails and nibbles, and cool company await at the Altitudes Bistro. Would-be matches are warned that the trail is not for rookies, so go prepared with plenty of water and appropriate footwear. And be careful on the way down... For more information visit www.grousemountain.com.


July 10, 2007

Riding the Rails in Russia

Golden Eagle Bar Car

There’s a new private train out of Moscow that’s burning up the tracks along the world’s longest railway line. The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, which cost $25 million to build, debuted in May 2007. 

Of its 21 new carriages, 12 are sleeping cars that offer power showers and sub-floor heating. Silver or Gold class passengers will also enjoy state-of the-art DVD/CD players, LCD TV screens, space of 77 or 60 square feet, respectively, and itineraries including a ride along an ancient silk trading route from the train’s home depot in Moscow to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan. Passengers can stop at several stations along the way, but the entire trip will set you back about $20,000.  Good thing there’s a well-stocked bar car. For more information visit www.russian-gateway.com.au.


July 3, 2007

Mattel’s Way of Testing the Amusement Park Potential of its Brand?

Barbie suite at the Toronto HiltonJust in time for summer and vacationing families, the Toronto Hilton has introduced two new suites designed for children and filled with Barbie and Hot Wheels fun. With the approval of the toy manufacturer, the Toronto hotel converted the rooms to display all things Barbie and Hot Wheels—including Barbie furniture in the former and car-shaped beds in the latter. 

The suites also offer themed room service fare served on Barbie or Hot Wheels dinnerware and a check-out goodie bag.  For the second time, Hilton (which has just been purchased by the Blackstone Group for $26 billion) is outfitting several rooms in its Buenos Aires location with the kid-themed merchandise. A portion of the proceeds of each occupied room will be donated to the SickKids Foundation. Following Labor Day weekend, the themed suites will return to regular guest accommodations. For more information visit www.hilton.com


June 27, 2007

Aye, Aye, Ma'am—First Female Captain in Cruise Ship Industry

Capt. Stahre-Janson aboard the Monarch of the Seas

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean International for breaking the gender barrier. As published in Where to Go Next!, the company has appointed the industry’s first female cruise ship captain. A Swedish native and lifelong sailor, Capt. Karin Stahre-Janson just completed her first tour of duty helming Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas.

Prior to serving as an officer during the last ten years for Royal Caribbean, Capt. Stahre-Janson worked in cargo shipping on petroleum and chemical tankers—another male-dominated field. Based in Los Angeles, Monarch of the Seas carries approximately 2,400 passengers plus 850 crew members. Stahre-Janson’s Unlimited Master License allows her to command any ship of any size.


June 20, 2007

The Right Kind of Road Rage

Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, AZIt spanned nearly 2,400 miles and wound through eight states from Chicago to Los Angeles. Its last stretch disappeared from maps in 1984.  And a member of the Tommy Dorsey band named it as the place where you could “get your kicks.” For nearly 60 years, Route 66 served as one of the main east-west thoroughfares in the U.S. and as an iconic highway for millions of wandering Americans. Today, many of the small hotels, diners and service stations have fallen apart, but, according to an article on Hotel Online, a movement is afoot to try and save some of the landmarks from the wrecking ball.

The National Historic Route 66 Federation claims that an estimated 3,000 motels are in various states of dilapidation or resurrection along the famed roadway. Time, apparently, is their worst enemy.
New owners of a Route 66 Texas motel didn’t realize it had sidewalks until a layer of dirt was excavated. Another rundown Texas motel, built in 1945, was purchased only a week before the city commission planned to demolish it. Although efforts are being made to save the establishments, one of the biggest problems is that it’s difficult for these cheesy overnight spots to be perceived as historically significant. Cited in the article, the president of Amarillo Historical Preservation Foundation stated that everything should be done to preserve such a unique place in America’s history and culture.


June 13, 2007

The Goods on Travel Goods

Telestial cell phoneThree travel products worth packing, especially in the context of today’s travel climate, fall under the categories of necessities for prevention and connection. Communications company Telestial (www.telestial.com) works with overseas telecom providers to give customers the same rates enjoyed by international residents. Its Summer Travel Pack includes a GSM 900/1800 international cell phone, a global-roaming SIM card, $300 worth of airtime and more for just $295. You’ll receive free incoming calls in over 50 countries and outgoing call rates that start at just $0.29 USD per minute—with no roaming charges and the ability to reuse the phone for as long as its life.

NOZIN® Nasal SanitizerTM (www.nozin.com) kills 99.9% of common disease-causing pathogens with a simple swab along the inside tip of the nostrils. According to a 2002 paper published in the Journal of American Medicine, the risk of infection for airline passengers is one in five. A convenient travel pack of NOZIN runs $9.95 for 10 pre-filled swabs.

No-Jet-Lag ® (www.nojetlag.com) touts itself as the leader in jet-lag management.  The homeopathic remedy has been proven effective against long-haul flight fatigue, inertia, disorientation and sleep disruption. It has also been recognized by travel professionals and business and leisure travelers for more than a decade. Just pop a pill every two hours during your flight to recalibrate your circadian rhythm.


May 30, 2007

Lucky in Love—and Marriage
The setting for a wedding ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas

Where could the number seven be more auspicious than in Las Vegas?  Hopeful—and perhaps superstitious—couples who want to get married and stay married are planning on tying the knot in hospitality venues throughout Sin City this July 7, 2007. Both the Flamingo Las Vegas and The Venetian have slotted a whopping 77 weddings in various locations throughout the hotels. At The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas, honeymooners can select the "Seven Ways of Wonderment" package, which includes a stay on the 7th floor, seven hours of spa treatments and a $777 shopping spree. The Silverton Casino Lodge is sponsoring a contest in which the winning couple will take the plunge during an underwater wedding in the hotel's 117,000-gallon aquarium. At Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, a mass wedding celebration will culminate in a reception featuring the popular ’70s musical group, KC & the Sunshine Band. Mass nuptials are also part of Caesars Palace “Lucky 7" wedding special, to be held in the lavish Temple Pool complex at a per-couple cost of $1,777.77.


May 25, 2007

Valencia the Perfect Venue for America’s Cup

The America's Cup Trophy on tour in Geneva

Superb sailing conditions and a commitment to build state-of-the-art infrastructure were the principal reasons that Valencia, Spain, won the bid to host to the 32nd America’s Cup. The Port America's Cup in Spain’s “third city” boasts a new 700-berth marina that lies just minutes from the race course area at the heart of Cup action. Also in the port, the America's Cup Park is a new complex of restaurants, cafés and entertainment venues open 24 hours a day.

Over the last 90 days, representative teams from Switzerland, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, France Sweden, Germany, China and the U.S. have been training and competing here against each other to determine the Cup challenger. With the semi-finals still under way (and the BMW ORACLE team just eliminated by Luna Rossa), the competition culminates on June 23, 2007. On that day, the winning challenger races against defender and current title holder, Alinghi of Switzerland. Whichever team proves fastest in the first five of nine races will capture—or retain—the America's Cup. For more information, visit www.americascup.com


May 23, 2007

Transforming Mexico with a New Destination
Riviera Nayarit

According to the Mexico Tourism Board, the Costa Alegre stretches from Manzanillo to Puerto Vallarta, while the Mayan Riviera in the Yucatan Peninsula runs from Puerto Morelos to Punta Allen. A new coastal enclave, to be developed over the next decade, has just been added to the list of south-of-the-border destinations. The Riviera Nayarit, located in the state of Nayarit, encompasses 100 miles of Pacific coastline north of Nuevo Vallarta.

The Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau, as cited in ModernAgent.com, has announced that new developments taking place in Riviera Nayarit include Resort Litibu (with a Greg Norman golf course debuting in December 2007), and the St. Regis Resort in Punta Mita. Also in Punta Mita is a second Jack Nicklaus designed golf course planned for the Four Seasons Resort. The new destination already boasts over 12,000 hotel rooms, four major golf courses and protected ecotourism. For more information, visit www.VisitRivieraNayarit.com.


May 16, 2007

Cuba a Multi-billion Dollar Travel Prospect for the U.S.

CubaShades of 1959! As reported in TravelMole, some U.S. Congressional lawmakers are urging a return to normal relations with Cuba—controlled by the U.S. for a short time following the Spanish-American war and so tantalizingly close to U.S. borders.  If restrictions were lifted by 2008 it would give the island nation, and the U.S. gross domestic product, a multi-billion dollar travel and tourism boost, claims the American Society of Travel Agents.

Several bills have already been introduced in the House to ease the U.S. embargo in place since 1962. (Current regulations do not limit the travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba.) The failing health of Cuba's dictator has provoked speculation of renewed relations with the U.S., and various U.S. businesses are apparently eager to invest.  The country’s tourism potential apparently depends on its infrastructure, which is said to be in a state of deterioration. Where are Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth when you need ‘em?


May 9, 2007

$460 Million Redevelopment Transforming Heart of Waikiki

Trump International Hotel & Tower Waikiki Beach Walk

The largest development project in Waikiki's history, Waikiki Beach WalkTM encompasses nearly eight acres along Lewers Street just off the main thoroughfare of Kalakaua Avenue. The formerly seedy area has been transformed into an exciting new leisure destination that includes an open-air plaza surrounded by nearly fifty new shops and boutiques, more than a dozen new restaurants such as Roy's Waikiki and Ruth's Chris Steak House, and several new hotels. Entertainment will be held nightly, and special events will be scheduled throughout the year.

Offering guests the opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture is Mana Hawaii, a specialty store selling locally made artwork, clothing, hula accessories, and books written by Hawaiian authors. The store will also sponsor Hawaiian cultural activities and workshops. Also included in the development of the area are the $400 million Trump International Hotel & Tower Waikiki Beach Walk and Nobu Matsuhisa's Nobu Waikiki restaurant opening in June 2007 at the Waikiki Parc Hotel.

For more information, visit www.waikikibeachwalk.com


May 2, 2007

Beach Party in the City

Eiffel Tower

Paris has one. So does Rome.  And also Berlin, Brussels, Budapest and Amsterdam. Artificial beaches in these European cities have proved to be recreational lifesavers for urban residents. In central Paris, for instance, the Paris-Plage has turned the banks of the River Seine into a popular place for picnicking, listening to music and lounging about.  The mile-long Budapest Plage along the Danube offers sandboxes and potted palms. With deck chairs, showers and concession stands, all the beaches evoke the atmosphere of a real seaside town.

North America has followed suit with Mexico City opening its first urban beach—but without the water. The area just south of the capital was planned for use by families who can't or don’t want to vacation in resort destinations like Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. City plans call for the building of three more urban beaches, next to lakes or in parks that contain public swimming pools. Mexico City's first urban strand might not have the cachet of real beach cities like St. Tropez or Malibu, but according to Travel Weekly it was packed with families taking advantage of paddle boats and beach volleyball over the Easter holiday.



April 25, 2007

World-Renowned Galapagos Islands at Risk

World-Renowned Galapagos Islands at Risk

As reported on tvnz.co.nz and Global Traveler’s Weekly eNewsletter, tourism in the Galapagos Islands may soon be restricted or the delicate ecosystem altogether closed to outsiders. Last week, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, declared the country’s major tourist attraction in a state of emergency.

The environmental crisis is due in part to an increased illegal population, which scientists believe, along with the introduction of non-native plant and animal species, is threatening the archipelago made famous by Charles Darwin. The decree to prevent further environmental harm coincided with the arrival of a United Nations delegation on a fact-finding mission to determine if the area should be declared "in danger."


April 18, 2007

The Rebirth of the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route

The result of a three-year effort between North America's largest bicycling organization and a university center dedicated to minority health, a 2,058-mile cycling route from the U.S. South to Eastern Canada recreates of one of the Underground Railroad's major pathways. This innovative adventure route, starting in Mobile, Alabama, travels north through Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York before its final destination in Owen Sound, Ontario—also the last leg of the journey for many freedom seekers during the time of the Civil War.

The route was designed in part as a way to galvanize the African-American community, whose members are disproportionately affected by heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity—all which can be mitigated by the benefits of bicycling. Two-wheeling enthusiasts will pass through river valleys, wildlife refuges and charming towns whose museums, historic parks and visitor centers honor the history of the period. According to Where to Go Next, the route, which uses existing back roads and byways, is as accurate as possible. To learn more, visit www.adventurecycling.org/ugrr.



April 12, 2007

Spring Cleaning Takes on a Whole New Meaning

Disposable remote control protectors

Until recently, the lowly bedspread has taken the rap for being the most unsanitary article in a hotel guest room, but the remote control has now come under the microscope—literally. As cited by TravelMole, a study conducted by a University of Arizona microbiology professor found that TV remote controls are the highest carriers of bacteria in hospital rooms. “Dr. Germ” theorizes that remotes in hotel rooms are next in line, and ZAPLEX TM has done something about it with its disposable remote control protectors that reduce the transfer of germs. Apparently, the protective covers also discourage remote and battery theft, so sticky fingers are less of a problem in more ways than one.

According to Wheretogonext.com, The Premier Hotel in New York City is at the forefront of guest wellness with its new Premier Pure rooms that are virtually free of bacteria and viruses. The de-germing process, designed by Pure Solutions, sanitizes rooms with natural cleansers, an ozone treatment and an anti-bacterial protective finish.  The New York Times claims that an antimicrobial room is the latest hotel amenity for those concerned about the trace evidence of guests who stayed before them. Agreeing there may be market potential in pollen-fearing guests, Hilton plans to introduce new "enviro-rooms" that feature hardwood floors and bedding with microbial treatments. At a cost of an extra $25 a night, guests will be able to breathe easier.


April 4, 2007

Green is the New Green—Eco-Friendly Hotel Construction on the Upswing

The Orchard Garden Hotel

Good news for the globe. The latest trend in new hotel construction is eco-friendly enclaves, and it seems that hoteliers are eager to capitalize on caring for the environment. It started at the Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, the only U.S. hotel built to the standards for green buildings developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). In late 2006, Starwood Capital Group introduced "1" Hotels and Residences, positioned as the first global, eco-friendly luxury hotel brand. Colorado followed suit with Vail Resorts’ announcement of a $1 billion green development project called Ever Vail, designed to reduce the company's carbon foot print. Wen-I Chang's Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, which debuted in March 2007 and is described as one of the greenest hotels in the nation, substantially minimizes electricity and water consumption.

Throughout the country, a second tier of hotels, although already built, is implementing sustainable practices and programs that save water, conserve energy and reduce solid waste. These include Fairmont Hotels (kudos to its wind powered Washington, D.C. location), Kimpton’s Hotel Triton in San Francisco and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto—the first hotel in California powered by solar energy. To achieve green status, buildings must conform to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council. For a list of eco-friendly hotels, visit www.greenhotels.com.


March 28, 2007

Ride from Pittsburgh to Chicago for Only a Dollar

Chicago skyline

As reported in TravelMole, budget travelers need to know about Megabus and its ability to take you from Pittsburgh to Chicago on the cheap. The Chicago-based company offers a limited number of seats, whose fares increase the closer you are to your date of departure, priced at only $1.  The most expensive ticket for such a trip, booked 24 hours in advance, is still a bargain at $44.

Megabus already operates in several U.S. cities throughout the Midwest and plans to launch new service in April 2007 in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Kansas City and Louisville. The U.K. modeled company says it can charge less because the business is run entirely via the Internet—no terminal, no staff that maintains it, no one facilitating cash transactions. Passengers use a reservation printout instead of a ticket to be allowed onto the bus—now that's the way to roll!

For more information, visit www.megabus.com.


March 21, 2007

The Man in the Moon—is You!

Virgin Galactic

Richard Branson's Virgin empire has its fingers in a lot of pies—travel and tourism, the health industry, media and telecommunications, charitable concerns and more. It seems that the world just isn't big enough for this entrepreneur, so he's going up, up and away. Everyone knows that Mr. B is taking reservations through the accredited space agents of Virgin Galactic for the first leisure trip to the moon. To "launch" his new endeavor, he plans on creating an "American Idol" astronaut type TV show for the BBC, in which contestants will compete for a seat on the stratoship he hopes to have running by the end of the decade.

But he's also planning on building a hotel for his galactic guests—it only makes sense they have a place to stay when they get to the moon and find there’s not that much to do on the rocky, cold and basically unfriendly lunar surface. According to Hotel Chatter, Branson is quoted as saying the facility will resemble a circular tube built around, and not on, the moon. A two-person space coupe will be provided by the hotel for daily lunar skimming excursions. So if you have an extra $250,000 lying around, you know what to do.

For more information, visit www.virgingalactic.com

Successful Test of Virgin Galactic's Future Commercial Spacecraft Travel News


March 14, 2007

Sick in Sin City? Nauseous in New York?


Sick in Sin City?

It's no fun getting sick while you're on the road. Feeling poorly and not being in your own bed goes against all your comfort zones—plus it kind of ruins your trip. But if you have to get sick while you’re traveling, doing so in Las Vegas and New York has its advantages. If you're staying at the Venetian, as reported in Hotel Chatter, the hotel offers a complimentary EMT service in which a friendly technician will evaluate your condition, give general advice, and counsel you on whether or not you should see a doctor.

If you're in Manhattan, medics are standing by. For $250, a doctor from Sickday will make a thirty-minute house call to your hotel room. After your temperature and pulse are taken, and your forehead smoothed by one of the docs from this qualified physicians group, you’ll also receive a follow-up phone call checking on how you're doing. And, if need be, you'll be referred to an appropriate specialist or hospital.

Seasoned travelers may want to consider becoming a member of MedjetAssist, claims International Expeditions. For an annual fee of $225, members requiring hospitalization more than 150 miles from home will be flown—from anywhere in the world—to their hospital of choice at no additional cost. Short-term memberships are available for as low as $85.

In the meantime, keep washing your hands....


March 7, 2007

A Sea of Color as Far as the Eye Can See

Holland's famed Keukenhof gardens

When you read a reference to seven million bulbs, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the theater marquees of Broadway or the paparazzi's endless attempts to photograph Britney. Our allusion is much more colorful, delicate and fragrant. Holland's famed Keukenhof gardens will be in full bloom again this year on March 21, the first day of spring. Presiding over the opening ceremonies, the Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden will lend distinction to the gardens' 2007 theme honoring Swedish physician and botanist Carolus Linnaeus.

The 80-acre park, an hour from Amsterdam, is renowned for its displays of millions of tulips, narcissi, hyacinths and other bulb flowers. Blues, yellows and whites will be the predominant hues in many of the plantings. The gardens also sponsor the celebrated flower parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem (the largest in Holland) on April 21. For more information on the Keukenhof Gardens, visit the website at www.keukenhof.com. The park will be open to the public from March 22-May 20, 2007.


February 28, 2007

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky

Collisions during takeoffs and landings are more common than crashes during flight

Las Vegas, Long Beach, Charlotte, LAX and O’Hare. According to the editors of Forbes, as reported in TravelMole, these are among the top ten airports posing the greatest risk of injury to travelers—not in the air but on the ground. FAA stats suggest that collisions during takeoffs and landings are far more common, and dangerous, than crashes during flight. Forbes’ examination reveals scores of fatalities caused by ground incursions since 2001 and hundreds more commercial jet aircraft between 2001 and 2006 that have come within seconds of impact.

Industry analysts blame the incidents on high flight volume, poor design and maintenance, and pilot error. Although $1 billion has been spent since 2004 on improved air traffic control operations, the problem apparently lies in not having proper monitoring equipment in place. The FAA claims it will cost upwards of $500 million to upgrade the more than three dozen major U.S. airports over the next four years, with part of the cost presumably being passed on to consumers.


February 21, 2007

Dedicated Floor for Women at The Fleming: Her Space in Hong Kong

A room at The Fleming in Hong Kong

Catering to growing numbers of solo travelers of the female persuasion, The Fleming this month launched Hong Kong’s first hotel floor dedicated to women guests. In addition to the usual extras like plasma televisions and wireless Internet access, the female-friendly rooms at this chic urban lifestyle hotel are adorned with fresh flowers and outfitted with extra-soft bedding and furnishings. Ladies will also appreciate the jewelery box, leg massager, facial steamer and L’Occitane toiletries. A yoga mat is provided, as well as a day pass to the California Fitness Center. Additional pleasures come in the form of an in-room mini-bar that features a selection of herbal teas and healthy snacks, and an extra measure of security is provided with key card access-only to the floor via the elevator.

For more information or reservations, visit call 852-3607-2288 or visit www.thefleming.com.hk.


February 14, 2007

Number One and Number Eight Adding Up

The Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles

What happens when two of the world’s ten richest men want to stay in their own hotel when they travel? They buy a high-end hotel chain. Through their respective trust companies, Micropreneur Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud have joined forces to purchase Four Seasons Hotels, Inc. Together they’ll pay $3.37 billion to take the Canadian group private. As reported in Businessweek, the deal represents a cash-per-share value of $82. Current CEO Isadore Sharp will retain a ten percent stake in the luxury hotel chain. Prince Alsaud already owns a stake in Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.


February 7, 2007

Arriving on Time, Just in Time

The slick Silverjet

The world’s first carbon neutral airline, hailed as one of the most environmentally aware air transport services, has finally arrived. Operating since January 25, 2007, British airline Silverjet is touted as a low cost business class carrier between Newark and London’s small but least congested Luton Airport. Round-trip airfare, which includes a mandatory carbon offset contribution, is a reasonable $1,798. The airline boasts state-of-the-art seats that convert into spacious flat beds and come with built-in massagers, four-course dining, and more. You need arrive at the airport only thirty minutes before departure and, best of all, there are no middle seats.

For more information, visit www.flysilverjet.com.


January 31, 2007

Don’t Forget Your Smelling Salts

An artist's rendering of the Grand Canyon Skywalk

Nothing but sky above and ancient canyon below—that’s what you’ll see when you inch your way along the new Grand Canyon Skywalk. This first-ever cantilevered glass walkway, owned and operated by Arizona’s Hualapai Tribe, is currently scheduled to open on March 28, 2007. Only 120 visitors (who will have to wear special shoe covers to prevent slipping and to avoid scratching the glass) will be allowed to venture out at any one time onto the structure’s 70-foot extension, situated at a height of 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. Located at the canyon’s western rim, the see-thru span will also include a visitor’s center that will house a museum, a movie theater, a VIP lounge, a gift shop, dining and lounge options, and private facilities for meetings, special events and weddings.

For more information, please visit www.grandcanyonskywalk.com.


January 24, 2007

From the Repurposed to the Sublime

One of dasparkhotel's concrete drain pipe rooms

When it comes to hotel trends, Austria is totally cool. The team at PSFK.com hipped us to dasparkhotel in Linz, which calls itself a “hospitality tool.” Created from giant concrete drain pipes, each "room" is a creative mix of hotel and camping suite that comes with a double bed, a sleeping bag and blanket, and your own personal entry code. Because the property makes use of public facilities, it charges on a “pay what you can” basis. Since the owners haven’t yet mastered a heating system, the site is open only from May to October. Visit www.dasparkhotel.net for more information.

Artistic exteriors at Rogner Bad Blumau hotel

Located in eastern Austria, Rogner Bad Blumau is a designer hotel and restorative hot spot whose architecture looks like the set of a Hollywood film. Line and color transform this modern property, called a “habitable work of art,” into a fantasy world for the senses. Be sure and try the wellbeing center’s signature Transpersonal Sound Therapy: an orchestra of recorded music that reverberates through your bed as you lie on it, to release inner stress and pent-up emotions. For more information, visit www.blumau.com.


January 17, 2007

Famed Racing Event to Showcase the UK Capital

Tour de France

The Tour de France reports on its official website that for the first time in its one hundred and four-year history the race will be traveling to London. Following opening ceremonies in Trafalgar Square, the battle for the yellow jersey will turn the streets of London into an international sporting arena during the weekend of July 6-8, 2007.
The festivities begin Saturday in Whitehall with a five-mile Prologue that passes by such famous landmarks as Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Hyde Park. Stage One, held on Sunday, follows a path close to a variety of historic and contemporary sites—including Big Ben and the London Eye—before travelling through Bermondsey, Deptford, Greenwich and Erith, on to Kent, and to stage finish in Canterbury.

For more information, visit www.letour.fr.


January 10, 2007

Is it Really Faster than a Speeding Bullet?

As recently reported on Yahoo! News, Taiwan's long-delayed high-speed rail system (aka HSRS) has finally debuted. First conceived of more than 20 years ago, the "new" rail system opened on January 4, 2007, with limited trial runs and more than a few technical problems, including consumers’ inability to use credit cards when purchasing tickets.

The $15 billion system, whose trains are capable of speeds of up to 186 miles per hour, cuts travel time between Taiwan’s two main cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung from an average five hours to 90 minutes. The network represents a massive effort to save energy, preserve the environment and improve transportation for the island's 23 million people, the vast majority of whom live within two hours of Taipei.


January 3, 2007

Hawaii’s Inter-Island Travel Alternative

According to its media reps, the Hawaii Superferry will commence service July 1, 2007. The vessel’s high speed and special catamaran structure are designed to make inter-island crossings faster and smoother. Sailing time between Oahu and Maui, and Oahu and Kauai, will be three hours one way. A range of dining and seating options will be available, and entertainment will include film screenings and live television broadcasts. Children can enjoy their own play area.

The Superferry, built to the latest safety standards, will never be more than one hour from land. Satellite navigation systems will be in place to track the vessel’s location at all times. Drug-detecting canines will also be on board, as will a security officer. All crew members will be trained in maritime security measures. And so that everything remains shipshape, each passageway, vehicle deck and operational area will be monitored by a network of video cameras and alarms.

For more information, visit www.hawaiiinterislandsuperferry.com.



P012407
(Updated: 05/24/13 CT)

GAYOT's Top 5 Luxury Trains include exciting excursions on as many continents as possible, from the Australian Outback to Europe.
To help you figure out where to lay your towel, GAYOT has chosen ten of the best Hawaiian beaches from Maui to the Big Island.