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Current Travel News


December 24, 2008

Ritz-Carlton Introduces "Ritz-Carlton Reserve" Hotel Collection

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is launching a new exclusive brand extension, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, with its first property to open in 2009 in Phulay Bay, Thailand

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. is launching a new exclusive brand extension: Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Its first property, Phulay Bay in Krabi, Thailand, is set to open in 2009.

Each destination will feature signature and one-of-a-kind, low density resorts. Future development will be limited to select corners of the globe with upcoming locations to include Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and The United Arab Emirates. The architectural design philosophy is to create low-rise suites and villas with private panoramic views of serene oceans, tropical gardens or desert landscapes. The four natural elements are represented in the design: Fire to create romantic interiors, Water in bathing sanctuaries, Air in creative spaces for contemplation and reflection and Earth, using a discreet treatment of technology that can be either utilized or ignored.

"The entire Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio of idyllic retreats will offer guests a contemporary interpretation of the local lifestyle and culture,” said Simon Cooper, president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. "The resorts provide a private, exclusive leisure experience that blends unique elements of the local culture, history and heritage with intuitive individual service, exquisite indigenous design, casual ambiance, and respect for the surrounding environment," he added.

For more information, visit www.ritzcarltonreserve.com


December 17, 2008

The Mirage Debuts Renovated Volcano Attraction

The revamped volcano at The Mirage in Las Vegas

The Mirage has unveiled its renovated volcano attraction on the Las Vegas Strip. The redesign is the work of the design firm WET, the same creators of the fountain attraction at the Bellagio.

A soundtrack composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and famed Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain accompanies WET's new fire-shooting spectacle at the Mirage. To a soundtrack of beating drums, fireballs shoot more than twelve feet into the air, "lava" flows down the mountain's fissures and eruption ignites the surrounding lagoon. Hart calls the result a "true union of the senses that will rattle your bones, just like a real volcano."

"In its prior incarnation, the action stayed primarily on top of the volcano," said Jon Doyle, WET's director of special technologies. "We've not only created a much more realistic eruption, but we've taken the action down into the lagoon, where spectators will feel the heat on their faces."

The original Mirage volcano made its debut in 1989, when the resort opened.

"The Mirage and our fiery volcano have long been symbols of the energy and excitement Las Vegas offers," said Scott Sibella, President and COO of The Mirage. "We recognize that to remain at the forefront of this dynamic destination, The Mirage must deliver trendsetting attractions that excite and entertain, giving our guests a reason to visit again and again."


December 10, 2008

Continental Airlines to Start 2009 With Sustainable Biofuel Powered-Flight

A Continental Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane. The company has announced it will launch the first biofuel-powered demonstration of a U.S. commercial airliner in January 2009

Continental Airlines will launch the first biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner in Houston, Texas on Jan. 7, 2009.

The demonstration flight, which will be operated with no passengers, will be powered by a special fuel blend including components derived from algae and jatropha plants—sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that don't impact food crops or water resources nor contribute to deforestation.

Continental has partnered on this project with Boeing; CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of General Electric Company and Snecma (SAFRAN Group); refining technology developer UOP, a Honeywell company; and oil providers Sapphire Energy (algae) and Terrasol (jatropha).

"This flight represents another step in Continental's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and identifying sustainable, long-term fuel solutions for the aviation industry," said Continental Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Kellner.



December 3, 2008

Hertz Expands Simply Wheelz Rental Program

A Pontiac G6, available to rent from Hertz's Simply Wheelz program

Hertz has expanded Simply Wheelz, its low-price car rental service to Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and West Palm Beach airports, with its latest addition—Las Vegas—that launched Dec. 1. The program was first introduced in Orlando in September 2007.

"Following the consumer popularity of our pilot program in Orlando, it's only natural we expand Simply Wheelz into additional leisure destinations," said Hertz CEO Mark Frissora.

Simply Wheelz renters book at SimplyWheelz.com, at major online agencies or through travel agents, where customers can choose among a limited vehicle selection that includes minivan, convertible and SUV options.

Renters use a self-service kiosk at the airport to print out the rental agreement before proceeding to their vehicle. Kiosk users can purchase add-on items such as a car seat, GPS device, fuel-purchase option and collision coverage.

"While there are numerous economic headwinds facing the American public, people continue to travel," Frissora added. "Trip dynamics are evolving, and Simply Wheelz targets the 60 percent of leisure travelers who now book their car rentals online, as well as those primarily focused on price."



November 26, 2008

Southwest Airlines Launches Rapid Rewards Dining Program

Earn frequent-flyer credits when ordering at more than 9,000 establishments in the U.S. and Canada through Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards Dining program, like Charlie's Trio in Los Angeles, pictured with their Calamari Fritti

Southwest Airlines has launched Rapid Rewards Dining, a program enabling customers to earn frequent-flyer credits when dining at more than 9,000 establishments across the U.S. and Canada.

The free program allows members to register up to five major credit and/or debit cards to track all their purchases. Members receive a quarter-credit after the first $25 spent as an enrollment bonus, and then a quarter-credit for every $100 spent at participating restaurants thereafter.

The program does not require members to carry cards, print coupons or remember numbers. Instead, members will have access to an online account center to manage their credit/debit cards, view recent dining activity and see the current accumulated balance being applied toward future credits.

"We are extremely pleased to bring this service to all of our Rapid Rewards Members," said Ryan Green, Southwest Airlines Director of Customer Loyalty. "With this program, our Members can accumulate Rapid Rewards credits as they go about their daily lives. They just have to register their regular credit/debit card—and of course, there are no fees to join!"

To register, visit the www.rapidrewardsdining.com or call 800-771-7579.  



November 19, 2008

St. Regis Opens in Mexico

A Double Deluxe Ocean View room at St. Regis Punta Mita Resort

Situated at Bahía de Banderas in the state of Nayarit in Mexico, Starwood Hotels and Resorts worldwide has opened The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort. Located just 50 minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport, the resort spans 22 acres and has 120 rooms, and is the first St. Regis property in Latin America.

The resort boasts three infinity pools with private cabana service, a fitness center, a private beach club, tennis courts, a Remede Spa and two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses.

Each guest room features Remede bath amenities, flat-screen televisions with cable and high-speed Internet access and 24-hour, in-room private dining.

The St. Regis' three restaurants are Las Marietas, featuring Mexican cuisine; the Sea Breeze Beach Club, a relaxed bistro serving contemporary California cuisine, and Carolina, a Mediterranean-style restaurant highlighting seafood dishes.

For more information, visit the Starwood Hotels website



November 12, 2008

SBE Opens SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills

A room at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills

Luxury brand SLS Hotels has opened its first property, the 297-room SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. The hotel—a refurbishment of the former Le Meridien Beverly Hills—features designs and custom furnishings by renowned designer Philippe Starck, as well as a dining and retail area called the Bazaar by Jose Andres. The Tres restaurant, led by the Spanish chef, is part of the Bazaar, while lighter fare is served at Altitude, the panoramic pool deck.The SLS brand is owned by SBE, a Los Angeles-based company founded by entrepreneur Sam Nazarian. SBE also owns the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, South Beach Ritz Plaza in Miami, Katsuya restaurant in Los Angeles, several nightclubs in Southern California including Hyde Lounge and S Bar, and the event production companies Bolthouse Productions and Element Films."With SLS, we are examining and rethinking every possible aspect of the luxury hotel experience to create an entirely new paradigm that is truly in tune with what sophisticated travelers want today," said Nazarian.

Starwood has been contracted to manage the new SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, as a member of Starwood's Luxury Collection.

Take a photo tour of the SLS at Beverly Hills


November 5, 2008

Hyatt to Debut ANdAZ Boutique Brand in U.S.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts will introduce its boutique brand, ANdAZ, in the U.S. at the former Hyatt West Hollywood in Los Angeles

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts will introduce its boutique brand, ANdAZ, in the U.S. in January 2009 at the former Hyatt West Hollywood in Los Angeles. With 250 rooms—including 20 suites—ANdAZ will offer a flexible and personalized experience beginning with the arrival process. Guests are welcomed into the ANdAZ Lounge, a non-traditional multi-use social space, where they "check-in" with an ANdAZ Host.Throughout the hotel, visitors will uncover unique details of the West Hollywood culture such as quotes from local neighborhood personalities, art installations from Los Angeles artists and impromptu music performances from some of the city's up-and-coming musicians. "We are pleased to announce that the first ANdAZ hotel in North America will be in a city as exciting and vibrant as West Hollywood," said Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer of Global Hyatt Corporation. "Offering a warm, genuine, and relaxed hotel experience, ANdAZ West Hollywood will provide guests with a cultural playground in which to immerse themselves in the colorful lifestyle of the neighborhood."The Southern California hotel first opened in 1963 as Gene Autry's Hotel Continental, making it the first high-rise hotel on the Sunset Strip. The hotel later came to be known as "The Riot House," due to wild behavior by members of rock groups Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones.Renamed the Hyatt West Hollywood in 1997, the hotel currently remains closed for renovations through December 2008.

The first ANdAZ hotel, the ANdAZ Liverpool Street, opened in London in November 2007. Next year, Hyatt plans to open two ANdAZ hotels in New York City—one in midtown Manhattan and one downtown.

For more information, visit the Hyatt website



October 29, 2008

Emirates Inaugurates Non-Stop Flights to Los Angeles

Keith Longstaff, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations, announces the inaugural flight of Emirates' newest service between Dubai and L.A.

The ever-growing, ever-popular international Dubai-based airline Emirates landed its first non-stop flight from Dubai to Los Angeles on Oct. 27. The event was marked by a $3 million extravaganza at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Oct. 29, hosted by Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank. The event included a four-course dinner prepared by Wolfgang Puck, as well as a concert by Latin pop sensation Ricky Martin.

The Dubai-Los Angeles flights take place on a Boeing 777-200LR with 266 seats in three available classes: First, Business and Economy. Service will initially take place three times per week—Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays—with daily flight services available upon the arrival of additional aircraft.

The 8,339-mile flight—the airline's first non-stop West Coast venture—takes 16 hours and 45 minutes from Dubai to Los Angeles, and just under 16 hours from L.A. to Dubai, with enough creature comforts offered to ensure a pleasant trip for all.

The plane offers eight private suites in First Class, 42 of its latest lie-flat beds in Business Class, and generous space for 216 passengers in Economy Class. Passengers in all classes are served meals prepared by gourmet chefs, with almost 1,700 hours of individual video and audio entertainment provided by the airline's award-winning ice digital widescreens.

A roundtrip ticket on a Los Angeles-Dubai introductory flight in Economy Class costs $1,600, while Business-Class and First-Class seats are $12,000 and $18,000, respectively. First-Class passengers will also receive Dom Perignon, while Business-Class passengers will receive Henriot Champagne.

Read more about Emirates' Dubai to Los Angeles service


October 22, 2008

Sol Meliá Vacation Club to Unveil Latest Project in Dominican Republic

The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Sol Meliá Vacation Club (SMVC) is opening a new project, The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in December. The resort will feature 190 one- and two-bedroom lock-off units with modern upscale design, exotic Balinese beds, private hot tubs and direct access from the lower level patio units into a spectacular lazy river swimming pool. "The growth of this new project with its exciting lazy river concept and the larger, high-end accommodations continues to put SMVC as the forerunner in this exciting destination," said Denis Ebrill, Sol Meliá Vacation Club's new Executive Vice President. "Our members enjoy the best of both worlds with the blending of amenities, services and home-away-from-home accommodations." Paradisus Palma Real's five-star amenities and services includes first-class spa treatments, a custom fitness program, championship golf course, a large, gorgeous white, sandy beach with crystal-clear water, a variety of gourmet restaurants, specialty bars, a casino and nightly entertainment, supervised children's programs, daily adult activities, concierge service and 24-hour room service.

For more information, visit www.clubmelia.com



October 20, 2008

Qantas Makes History with Inaugural A380 Service to Los Angeles

Qantas ambassador and captain John Travolta

On October 20, 2008, Qantas became the first commercial airline to offer A380 service between the west coast of the United States and Australia when its inaugural flight landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The flight from Melbourne was greeted by Qantas Ambassador-at-Large and captain, John Travolta, Australian entertainer Olivia Newton-John and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The Qantas A380 is configured with 450 seats in four cabins and is being touted as an environmentally friendly airplane, as well as being fuel efficient and offering reduced noise to neighborhoods around the airport. Mayor Villaraigosa says that LAX spent $1 billion on upgrades to the airport to accommodate the A380 flights, which is the largest aircraft ever to fly commercially.

To read more on the story, click here


October 14, 2008

December, 2009 UPDATE: Horizon Air's Winter Service to Mammoth Mountain has resumed, with flights from LAX; San Jose, CA; Reno, NV; Seattle, WA; and Portland, OR. Flights will continue through April 11, 2010.

A Mammoth Development

One of the Horizon Air planes making daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Mammoth Mountain

Horizon Air, part of the Alaska Air Group, recently announced a daily nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Mammoth Mountain beginning December 18, 2008. Alpine skiing enthusiasts will be pleased to have a more convenient option to access this upcoming resort in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which also happens to be approximately a half-hour drive to Yosemite National Park. In the past, visitors have been faced with a five-hour drive (sometimes up to eight hours, due to traffic and road conditions) to reach the challenging ski slopes from Los Angeles, but this new service will get them there in about an hour.

“The airport is in a great location for reliable winter operations, the new terminal building is going to be comfortable and user-friendly, they have ground transportation all worked out, and the ski resort, of course, is fabulous and more than ready to accommodate visitors who arrive by air," says Dan Russo, Horizon's vice president of marketing and communications.

This new route is expected to be a welcome boost to tourism by allowing inbound travel via LAX from airports around the world. “The addition of commercial air service to Mammoth represents a big step toward realizing our shared vision to become a destination resort community,” says Rusty Gregory, CEO of Mammoth Mountain.

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop, which will service the route, is one of the most technologically advanced regional aircrafts and features ample headroom, oversized storage bins and no middle seats. All Horizon flights feature complimentary drinks, including beer and wine from the northwest.

Horizon is offering introductory fares of $79 each way on select days, but regular fares will start as low as $99. For now, the service will extend through April 12, 2009, but sources close to the arrangement say service will likely be extended later in the year due to the lengthy ski season at Mammoth, as well as the popular summer activities at the resort and nearby Yosemite.  Additional flights and service from San Francisco and Las Vegas are also being considered for 2009.

For more information, visit www.horizonair.com


October 15, 2008

Red and Blue Hotel Promotions Mark Presidential Election

Some hotels are serving patriotic-colored cocktails to mark this year's upcoming election, while others are offering election-themed room deals

Hotels are hopping on the political bandwagon to mark the election year, with promotions ranging from red, white and blue cocktails to election-themed room deals.

W Hotels has partnered with Declare Yourself, a national non-partisan campaign that encourages voter registration. Guests can access Declare Yourself's registration aids online or via concierges. "Declare Yourself RED" or "Declare Yourself BLUE" packages are available at select U.S. W Hotels through Nov. 11, 2008. Packages start at $399 per night, and part of the proceeds go to Declare Yourself. Guests receive lodging, an elephant or donkey T-shirt, Democrat or Republican tote bag and two cocktails (the "Obama Pama," made with pomegranate liqueur, or the rum-based "10 Cane McCain").

The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., is serving the Palin "Pit Bull" (made with Bacardi Limón rum, cranberry juice and Red Bull energy drink). The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common offers the "O'Bama … Irish Enough" quaff (a mix of Irish whiskey and other liquors).

Kimpton Hotels also has a campaign cocktail roster at the bar at the Topaz Hotel in Washington, D.C. that includes the "Double-Down Donkey" (citrus vodka, blue Curacao, sour mix and Champagne), "All-In Elephant" (rum, Amaretto, grenadine, lime, cranberry and orange juice), "Independent Player" (vodka and aloe juice) and "The Undecided Flight" (a bit of each). And starting Nov. 2, 2008, at Kimpton's 70 park avenue hotel in Manhattan, guests checking in can choose a complimentary Republican Red or Democrat Blue cocktail.


October 8, 2008

Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel Opens

A room with a king-sized bed at the newly opened Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel

The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, the largest hotel in Arizona, has now opened following two years of construction.

"We are fully open and operating. The restaurant's open and we've already had a few people check in," said Steve Spivak, the property's director of sales and marketing.

The new hotel has 80,000 square feet of meeting space and a fitness center that was developed in partnership with Core Performance, an organization that trains elite athletes. Other amenities include an outdoor pool and sundeck, lobby bar and restaurant/lounge with outdoor seating.

The 1,000-room property is the first newly built hotel to open in downtown Phoenix since 1976, said a representative of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, a company which owns the Sheraton brand.

The hotel is located one block from the Phoenix Convention Center and five miles from Sky Harbor International Airport.


October 1, 2008

Disney Parks to Offer Free Birthday Entrance in 2009

Everyone who visits a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park on their birthday in 2009 will gain free entrance

Beginning January 1, 2009, anyone who visits a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park on their birthday in 2009 can gain free entrance.

The move is part of Disney Parks' "celebration vacations," which reflect a family travel trend that has seen Americans hitting the road to celebrate milestone occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and reunions.

"Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake as we extend this new 'celebration vacation' trend to Disney Parks."

In addition, visitors will be able to customize their birthday celebrations in advance and can order everything from special dining, princess tea parties and yacht cruises to treasure hunting on a pirate sailing adventure, a quiet trail ride or parasailing thrills.

Add-on experiences that guests can choose to customize their "celebration vacation" include custom bakery cakes and signature desserts, sweetheart dinners for two, family portraits, personalized souvenirs, and a stay in a resort guest room decorated with confetti and banners.

For more information or to book a Disney "celebration vacation," visit www.disneyparks.com, or call (407) W-DISNEY.


September 24, 2008

Qantas receives first Airbus A380

The Qantas A380 over Sydney Harbour

Australia's flagship airline, Qantas, has received the first of 20 ordered Airbus A380s at a ceremony in Toulouse, France.

"When we ordered our A380 in 2000, we said that in addition to giving us the opportunity to reinvent our product, this revolutionary new aircraft offered capacity and operating savings, as well as environmental improvements. Everything we have seen since our initial order has reinforced this view," said Qantas Chief Executive Officer Geoff Dixon.

Internationally renowned designer Marc Newson created Qantas' A380 cabin. Typically, the A380 seats 525 passengers in three classes; however, Qantas' cabin is extra spacious with 450 seats (14 in First, 72 in Business, 32 in Premium Economy and 332 in Economy).

"The A380 sets the standards for the twenty-first century," said Airbus President Tom Enders. "More than three hundred eighty patents on board underline the aircraft's leadership in eco-efficiency and innovation and will allow Qantas to continue to grow whilst reducing its impact on the environment. We appreciate Australia's iconic airline sharing the A380 vision with us from the very beginning."

The four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines will each deliver up to 72,000 lbs of thrust, contributing to the aircraft's overall fuel efficiency of less than three liters of fuel per passenger per 100 kilometers.

In related news, Qantas plans to expand its code share agreement with Alaska Airlines and its Horizon Air subsidiary in October. Qantas said it would begin code sharing on Alaska Air flights between Honolulu and Seattle and Anchorage.

With Horizon Air, Qantas would begin code sharing on Horizon's flights between Los Angeles and Flagstaff, Arizona; Boise, Idaho; and Reno, Nevada.

UPDATE: Qantas made history with its inaugural A380 flight to Los Angeles on October 20, 2008. Read more on the story here.


September 17, 2008

Gwen Stefani to Design Uniforms for W Hotels' Bar Staff

Gwen Stefani is in a deal with W Hotels to design uniforms for the chain's bar staff

Singer, fashionista, trendsetter and mother of two, Gwen Stefani is in a deal with W Hotels to design the uniforms for the chain's bar staff.

The relationship between the icon and the hotel chain apparently took off when Stefani visited a Fashion Week lounge sponsored by W Hotels.

"Gwen Stefani was in our lounge last season, and through that relationship she's doing uniforms for the [Rande] Gerber bars located in W Hotels," said Jenni Benzaquen, Director of Public Relations for W Hotels.

Stefani's uniforms are slated to debut in December or early next year, and are said be short dresses made of washable black jersey.

By adding Stefani to its roster, W will ratchet up its celebrity wattage yet another notch. The chain already has Michael Kors designing mix-and-match separates for its staff, and Gerber is married to supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Stefani already has her own clothing line, L.A.M.B., taken from the title of one of her albums: Love.Angel.Music.Baby.


September 10, 2008

JetBlue Auctions Flights on Ebay

The JetBlue logo for vacation packages that are being sold through eBay

It's certainly one way to deal with the tourism squeeze. JetBlue Airways Corp. is auctioning off more than 300 roundtrip flights and six vacation packages this week on eBay, with opening bids set between 5 and 10 cents.

The one- and two-person flights go to more than 20 destinations during weekends in the month of September, including four "mystery" JetBlue Getaways Vacation packages to undisclosed locations.

The three-, five- and seven-day-long auctions end on September 14. Flights depart from several cities across the country, including Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Fort Lauderdale and Southern California.

Each auction lists a specific range of dates when customers can travel. The travel dates, times and flight numbers are posted when customers bid.

Vacation packages include airfare and a four-night hotel stay for two at Marriott hotels in locations like Las Vegas and Nassau, Bahamas. The four mystery packages include two destinations where passports are needed and two that don't require passports.

Taxes and fees are additional and will vary according to the particular route, but are disclosed in each listing, JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said. Bidders will need to have a PayPal account.

Flights leave on Thursdays and Fridays and return on Sundays and Mondays. All travel must be completed by October 6.

Customers can access the auctions through www.jetblue.com/ebay


September 3, 2008

Jamaica Announces First World Destination Loyalty Card

The OneLove logo

Hot on the heels of Usain "Lighting" Bolt's gold-medal winning sprints at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Jamaica Tourist Board is set to launch in early 2009 its OneLove card, billed as the world's first destination loyalty membership program aimed at boosting travel to the island.

"In today's competitive landscape, destinations must seek to differentiate themselves and get closer to the final decision maker," said Zachary Harding, Jamaica's Deputy Director of Tourism. "The launch of this world-first destination loyalty card is Jamaica's first step towards embracing customer-relationship marketing in tourism. OneLove is in keeping with Jamaica's lifestyle and message of peace, love and unity."

Valued at $1,000, the OneLove card will be able to be redeemed for accommodations, transportation and entry to attractions and special events for visitors while allowing Jamaica to track and match specific needs of consumers with destination products.

The first OneLove commemorative card, featuring Bolt and the current Miss World, China's Zi Lin Zhang, was presented to Zhang at the Olympic Games. Zhang has since accepted an invitation to visit Jamaica next year for the inaugural staging of the 100-meter World Beach Sprint on a three-lane track in Negril in November 2009.


August 26, 2008

Conservation Retreats

A tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park in India

Safari lodges and camps are becoming more prevalent around the world, and nobody knows the business better than andBEYOND (formerly known as Conservation Corporation Africa - CC Africa). Presently, the company operates more than 50 lodges and camps throughout Africa and India and will soon announce locations in South America.

"We work with 2,500 people in seven countries from fifty-eight different tribes,” said Principal Nicky Fitzgerald. "Soon there will be more, as we will be able to add even more beautiful holidays to our portfolio," she added.

The company recently teamed with Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces on a joint venture, Taj Safaris, to proliferate eco-tourism in India. Guests will stay on a circuit of unique luxury lodges within the famous Tiger Reserves. Their goal is to offer luxurious accommodations while keeping in mind wildlife conservation and contributing to local communities. The andBEYOND group will also be expanding in additional regions around the world in the near future.

For more information, visit www.andbeyond.com or www.tajsafaris.com


August 20, 2008

Qantas to Receive First A380 Aircraft in September

A Premium Economy seat on the new Qantas A380 aircraft

Qantas is set to receive a delivery of its first A380 aircraft on September 19, 2008, with flights on the new planes from Los Angeles to Melbourne beginning October 20 and from Los Angeles to Sydney beginning October 24. By the end of 2008, Qantas will receive 20 A380s, and service from Sydney to London via Singapore will be progressively introduced from early 2009.  "Our creative director, world-renowned industrial designer Marc Newson, has overseen the design and development of all four classes on board—First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy—and all cabins will provide new levels of comfort, innovation and style," said Wally R. Mariani, Qantas Airways senior executive vice president of The Americas and Pacific.The A380 is the largest and most technologically advanced aircraft ever built and is quieter than other large jets. It's also eco-friendly, delivering up to a ten-percent improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions compared to current large jets.

For reservations or more information, visit www.quantas.com.au or contact Qantas Airways at 800-227-4500.


August 13, 2008

Crystal Cruises Introduces Cheese Sommeliers

Crystal Cruises will feature professionally trained and certified cheese sommeliers on the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity

In a first for cruise lines, Crystal Cruises will feature professionally trained and certified cheese sommeliers designed to enhance travelers' culinary experiences.Starting in August, sommeliers will introduce travelers to samplings of new flavors, textures and cheese combinations that complement food and wine on two of its cruises: the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity.The staff has undergone intensive training and certification supervised by Professor Gerhard Ebner of the International Cheese Academy of the Hotel and Tourism School in Bad Gleichenberg, Austria. Sommeliers will provide suggestions on pairings with meals and wines, insights into what blends thrive in certain regions of the world, as well as offer varying selections of cheeses depending on seasonal and regional delicacies.

"Cheese continues to play an increasingly important role in the worldwide dining experience," said Toni Neumeister, vice president of food & beverage. "The certification of sommeliers is the kind of subtle luxury amenity that guests won't think about or truly appreciate until they've encountered it—and then they'll be quite impressed.”

For more information and Crystal reservations, visit www.crystalcruises.com


August 6, 2008

American Express/Starwood Offers Free Hotel Nights
Starwood Business Preferred Guest Credit Card

American Express is offering 10,000 Starwood Points to those who sign up for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. These points are good for up to a free three-night stay at over 850 hotels and resorts in 95 different countries.

The bonus points will kick in after your first purchase, and points can be transferred on a 1:1 basis to over 30 airline frequent flier miles. In addition, you can earn one Starpoint for every dollar of eligible spending, and double Starpoints at participating Starwood properties and retail outlets.

Other benefits of the card include the opportunity to earn an additional 15,000 Starpoints when you spend $15,000 in six months.

The Starwood Business Preferred Guest Credit Card is free for the first year and then costs $45 per year thereafter.

For more information, visit www.americanexpress.com


July 30, 2008

World's Largest Tiffany Glass Dome Restored
The world's largest Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass dome, located in the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall

The $2.2 million restoration of the world's largest Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass dome, located in Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center, is now complete.

Done as an initiative of the City of Chicago, which owns the landmark Cultural Center, the project restored the dome to Tiffany's original vision and allows it to be seen as it was in 1897, when the building opened as the first Chicago Public Library. More than 60 artisans and consultants worked on the project. "This Tiffany dome is one of Chicago's most important architectural assets, so it was important to preserve it for future generations," said Lois Weisberg, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Approximately 38 feet in diameter, the Tiffany dome spans more than 1,000 square feet. It contains approximately 30,000 pieces of glass in 243 sections within an ornate cast iron frame. The body of the dome has a "fish scale" pattern. The center, called the oculus, shows the signs of the zodiac. The interior stained glass dome was originally protected by an exterior translucent glass dome, which allowed much-needed natural light into what was then the library's general delivery room. The lower portion of the room is covered with white marble and glistening mosaics, also designed by Tiffany.

For more information, visit www.chicagoculturalcenter.org


July 23, 2008

Alaska Airlines Launches Daily Flights Between Seattle and Maui
Fly aboard a Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Seattle to Maui

On July 17, 2008, Alaska Airlines began daily, year-round service between Seattle and Kahului, Maui. The move comes following the launch of flights to Kauai and Honolulu last winter. 

Flights from Seattle will depart daily at 8:20 a.m. Pacific time and arrive at 11:35 a.m. Hawaii time. Return flights will depart at 1:05 p.m. Hawaii time and arrive at 9:45 p.m. Pacific time.

The new flights are operated with Boeing 737-800 aircraft, accommodating 16 passengers in first class and 141 in the main cabin. All flights to Hawaii offer a Hawaiian-themed beverage and meal service. Customers in the main cabin are offered complimentary Mauna Loa macadamia nuts and a complimentary Mai Tai or POG juice, as well as a Hawaiian-themed meal-for-purchase option for $5. Customers in first class enjoy exotic meals such as macadamia nut-encrusted mahi mahi.

Year-round service between Seattle and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is also in the works, with those flights scheduled to begin on November 17, 2008, as well as thrice-weekly service between Anchorage, Alaska, and Maui starting October 31, 2008 and running through April 25, 2009.


July 16, 2008

Fast Pass for Airport Security with Clear

The Clear pass helps expedite the security check process at selected U.S. airports
In a bid to help busy travelers clear airport security quickly and with less hassle, Clear® has introduced its Verified Identity Pass. Clear members are pre-screened and provided with a high-tech card that allows them to access designated airport security fast lanes nationwide.

Applications for a Clear pass can be started online, via a two-step enrollment process where applicants create an account and fill in basic information. Following that, applicants must visit a Clear enrollment location, where attendants will verify two forms of government-issued identification, take photographs as well as capture fingerprint and iris images.

Once your fast pass is issued, you can use it in the designated Clear lane at selected airports across the country, where attendants will greet you and check your boarding pass, Clear card and government-issued photo ID. You will be asked to insert your Clear card into the kiosk, which also verifies the fingerprint or iris image that you selected during enrollment. When everything is verified (which takes only a few seconds), you will receive a receipt indicating that you are a Clear member.  

Pass members must still proceed through metal detectors and x-ray machines operated and regulated by the Department of Homeland Security, but other parts of the airport security process are expedited.

Clear passes can currently be used at the following airports nationwide:
Albany, Atlanta, Cincinnati, DC Dulles, DC Reagan, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York JFK, New York LGA, Newark, Oakland, Orlando, Reno, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose and Westchester.

Clear's first-year price is $128. For more information, visit www.flyclear.com.


July 9, 2008

Sofitel rolls out "Life is Magnifique"

The Sofitel in New York

French hotel giant Sofitel's new slogan—"Life is magnifique"— is set to be unveiled as part of the company's massive revamp. In addition, the chain has also launched Sofitel Legend, to encompass older properties, and So by Sofitel, which will be the firm's edgier brand.

Currently, Sofitel is working on $157 million in upgrades to ensure its properties offer top luxury amenities. All Sofitel employees will undertake extensive retraining courses to ensure that service is as impeccable as the new amenities.

Sofitel is also hoping to make its presence known to a wider U.S. audience. Part of that initiative includes the introduction of an online university, www.sofitel-university.com, designed for travel agents to learn about Sofitel. In addition, a program called the Sofitel Travel Experience Program (STEP) will be available for luxury travel agents.

"The outbound market for our hotels from the United States is so strong. We need, and we have, strong links with travel agents," said Sofitel CEO Yann Caillere.

Sofitel currently has 139 hotels worldwide, with hopes to add up to ten new hotels in the United States in the coming years, including in some of the larger markets such as San Francisco and Boston.


July 2, 2008

Savoy Restoration on Track for May 2009 Opening

A rendering of a Savoy Hotel interior; the London hotel is slated to reopen in 2009

The massive restoration project on London's renowned 120-year-old Savoy Hotel is in full swing and on target for its May 2009 opening. Closed on December 15, 2007, the multi-million dollar project is the largest restoration plan in the history of London. The hotel's iconic status owes much to the reputation it has garnered as being one of the most innovative and cutting-edge hotels.

Management company Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has hired venerable designer and architect Pierre-Yves Rochon to take the helm. Rochon will merge two interior décor styles in keeping with the Savoy tradition: an Edwardian-inspired, classic English look which harks back to the hotel's late 19th-century origins, and the 1930s Art Deco influence that followed.

According to Savoy General Manager Kiaran W. MacDonald, the hotel is focused on three key areas of restoration: the arrival and public areas, with the introduction of new features, including the Beaufort Bar and Savoy Tea Shop; the 263 guestrooms and signature Riverview Suites, whose upgrades will reflect the highest levels of luxury and will include relocating bathrooms away from windows so Riverview Suites guests will have uninterrupted views of the Thames River; and infrastructure work that is both aesthetic and environmentally responsible. Archaic steam boilers will be replaced with energy-efficient models and state-of-the-art, in-room energy control systems.

The Savoy has always been a magnet for the glitterati, particularly Americans. Having been host to guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong and Marlon Brando, the Savoy is also a favorite with Nicole Kidman.

While promoting the Savoy's opening in the U.S. recently, MacDonald could only speak well of the support that Americans have given to The Savoy, particularly American celebrities. "The United States has always been the most important market for us," MacDonald said. "The loyal patronage of so many great American celebrities over the years has in so many ways helped to shape the character and personality of The Savoy, right down to our very own American Bar, arguably one of the most famous bars in the world."

For more information visit www.savoy2009.com.


June 25, 2008

Starwood launches first U.S. aloft Hotel
An aloft room with a king-sized bed

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. recently opened its first U.S. aloft-brand hotel in Southern California on June 23. The aloft Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga is located just minutes from Ontario airport. Designed to appeal to the trendy, hip and young (or young at heart), and billed as a place to "Stay and Play," the 136-room, five-story aloft Hotel features open spaces that were made for mingling. For example, their re:mix lobby is complete with board games, a pool table and a bar. The rooms themselves measure approximately 315 square feet each and have nine-foot ceilings and extra-large windows. Each comes equipped with one king or two queen-sized beds, a 42-inch flat screen TV, iPod docks and high-speed Internet access.Starwood introduced the first aloft Hotel at Montreal Airport in Canada earlier this month, with plans to launch eighteen aloft hotels in cities worldwide by the end of 2008. Introductory rates start at $149 per night.

For more information, visit www.starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels.


June 19, 2008

Sri Panwa Phuket luxury resort adds new spa and restaurant

Baba Dining Lounge, Sri panwa Phuket Resort's newest restaurant, boasts views of the Andaman Ocean

Sri Panwa, an exclusive new resort on the southeastern tip of Phuket, Thailand, has completed its second phase of development by adding a new spa and signature restaurant. The new "Sai Spa & Wellness" menu ranges from traditional Thai and Swedish massages to facials, body wraps, water therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, yoga, cleansing and exfoliation.Sri Panwa's new restaurant, Baba Dining Lounge, boasts spectacular sunset views over the Andaman Ocean, and their menu combines authentic Andaman Thai and International cuisine. Western dishes range from salads and pastas to ciabatta sandwiches and Angus Beef burgers and Andaman Thai specialties include spicy prawn and chicken soups, spicy "Laab" minced meat salad, tangy papaya salad and traditional noodle dishes.The resort itself comprises 30 "tropical contemporary" private pool villas in lush tropical gardens. All have private terraces, decks, infinity-edge swimming pools and stunning panoramic views of the Andaman Ocean and Phuket archipelago.Highly personalized guest services include private limousine transfers in the resort's brand new fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles and lifestyle tours of Phuket, to "golf/tennis buddies" and private yachting excursions or diving trips.

For more information, visit www.sripanwa.com.


June 11, 2008

United Vacations: Win a Free Trip to Hawaii!

Win a trip to Hawaii from United Vacations

Enter the United Vacations' "Say Aloha to Paradise" Sweepstakes for a chance to win one of five dream trips to Hawaii's top islands including Maui, the Big Island, Kaua'i and O'ahu. Celebrating over 60 years of serving Hawaii vacationers, United Vacations has teamed up with the top hotels in Hawaii to provide out-of-this-world packages.

Each trip has a theme tied to a destination. The five grand prizes are:


Hawaii - Romance
• Roundtrip airfare for two to Maui
• Five nights at Sheraton Maui Hotel & Resort
• Five-day Alamo convertible car rental
• One "Dinner Under the Stars" package
• Royal Lahaina Lu'au for two.

Hawaii - Family
• Roundtrip airfare for four to O'ahu
• Five nights at Outrigger Reef on the Beach
• Roundtrip airport/hotel transportation
• One dinner for four
• One breakfast for four
• Honolulu Power Pass for four

Hawaii - Adventure
• Roundtrip airfare for two to the Big Island
• Five nights at Hilton Waikoloa Village
• Five-day Alamo Jeep rental
• Atlantis Odyssey Submarine Dive for two

Hawaii - Rejuvenation
• Roundtrip airfare for two to Kaua'i
• Five nights at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
• Five-day Alamo midsize car rental
• Spa treatments at hotel (exact services TBD)
• Kauai Sea Tours Na Pali Snorkeling trip for two

Hawaii - Culture
• Roundtrip airfare for two to O'ahu
• Five nights at Waikiki Marriott Resort & Spa
• Roundtrip airport/hotel transportation
• Polynesian Cultural Center with lu'au and transportation for two
• Passes to Iolani Palace and Bishops Museum

The competition closes June 30. Anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to enter.


June 4, 2008

U.S. Hilton Hotels Become Pet Friendly

Select U.S. Hilton Hotels Introduce Pet Friendly Rooms

Acknowledging that more than half of U.S. pet owners say that their pets are part of the family, Hilton Hotels and Resorts announced June 3 that it intends to welcome cats and dogs into their American hotels by this summer. The Pet Friendly Program will later extend to various hotels in its international portfolio.

"Hilton focuses on providing a hassle-free and inspired experience for tshe world's travelers, and for many travelers, being able to include a four-legged friend is critical to achieving a relaxed and productive stay," said Jeff Diskin, senior vice president of brand management for Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Each Pet Friendly room comes with specially designed upscale amenities designed exclusively for Hilton by famed artist William Wegman (best known for his striking photographs of Weimaraner dogs). Four-legged guests will receive a pet bed that is stain, water and microbial-resistant, food and water bowls with placemats, and an exclusive pet amenity kit complete with dog treats and waste clean-up bags.

A select amount of Pet Friendly rooms will be designated in each participating Hilton Hotel. Along with standard room-cleaning procedures, each room will undergo a deep cleaning, including carpets, drapery and all upholstered furniture after each pet guest has checked out. All Pet Friendly rooms will feature a special door hanger alerting hotel staff to the furry guest within.

Participating Hiltons will also offer pet concierge service with information about local dog runs, veterinarian offices and pet boutiques.

For more information on Hilton's Pet Friendly program, visit www.hilton.com/pets.


May 28, 2008

Tax Savings on Mexico Trips

Reforma-Zona Rosa in Mexico City

Starting in June, Mexico will begin reimbursing the value-added tax (VAT) charged on purchases made at stores and businesses throughout the country to tourists who arrive by air and cruise ship. The tax credit will apply to shopping but not to meals or lodging.

Tourists will be able to use kiosks at five major airports—Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta—to reclaim the 15 percent VAT they've paid on goods totaling at least $115 (1,200 Mexican pesos).

In order to qualify for the refund, the purchases must have been made at approved stores and businesses with credit cards or debit cards issued outside of Mexico, or in cash. Tourists must present their passports when making their purchases and obtain an official refund form and a receipt from the approved merchant.

Visitors will be able to get half of the VAT in Mexican pesos, up to a maximum of $955 (10,000 Mexican pesos). The rest will be credited electronically to visitors' credit cards or bank accounts within 40 days.

Starting in 2009, the program will be phased in at other major airports as well as at cruise ports.

Tourism Ministry official Benjamin Diaz said, "We know that Americans are facing a very severe recession and that some of them are choosing to only travel within the United States. It's important for Mexico to offer those Americans who decide to travel abroad despite the recession an extra economic incentive: giving them back their tax."


For more information, call (55) 3002-6300
.
*Image courtesy of www.mexicocity.gob.mx


May 21, 2008

Miami Beach Fontainebleau Resort Undergoes $1 Billion Renovation

The Island Cabana at the pool at Fontainebleau Resort in Miami, Florida

Miami Beach's iconic Fontainebleau resort is preparing to make its return in the fall, following a $1 billion renovation. The 1,504-room resort will feature two new towers, eleven restaurants and lounges and a 40,000-square-foot spa.

The new Fontainebleau promises to cater to every type of group, from executive board meetings to large-scale conventions. The resort's 58 meeting rooms, totaling 107,000 square feet, are being designed to assure flexibility and diversity, while more than 42,000 square feet of pre-function space and 51,000 square feet of outdoor function space—including the 21,000-square-foot Grand Lawn—will offer a wide variety of venues for events.

Even the non-business amenities will get a facelift. Throughout the spa, water will be found in frozen, boiling and atomized states as well as different shapes and forms, such as fog, mist, ice and steam. The spa will offer 33 treatment rooms, a boutique, a fitness center, men's and women's lockers, a beauty salon, wet and dry relaxation areas, a water bar/tea lounge and an outdoor spa-pool deck.

Outdoors, the Fontainebleau's pool area will incorporate "walls of water" throughout and include a free-form main pool, a secluded oasis pool, multiple dipping pools, an interactive waterscape play area, numerous cabanas and additional function space.

"We are moving the resort into the future with a nod to its iconic past," said Jeffrey Soffer, Fontainebleau Resorts executive chairman. "Fontainebleau will be infused with the sexy, glamorous, ultramodern spirit of the idiosyncratic original."


For more information, visit www.fontainebleau.com
.


May 14, 2008

Princess Cruises Gives Ships Royal Makeovers

The Caribbean Princess ship

Two of the Princess Cruises ships—the Star Princess and the Caribbean Princess—are set to debut upgraded amenities, including the adults-only Sanctuary, the Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant, a more centrally located casino and seven additional ocean view suites. The ships will also have their atriums remodeled into the piazza-style street cafe that is on the Crown Princess and Emerald Princess.

The updated atriums will not only feature the specialty coffees, freshly baked goods, paninis and tapas of the International Café, but will also introduce an expanded Vines wine bar concept, which will now include rare vintage wines, a selection of artisan meats and cheeses, plus a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle.

The new Crown Grill restaurant will feature an open show kitchen where passengers watch chefs prepare the meals, and the adults-only Sanctuary  known as the “pocket of tranquility” will feature an outdoor-spa inspired setting with beverages, healthy food and massages.

The Star Princess will be upgraded during a September dry-dock in San Francisco; the Caribbean Princess will follow in January. Princess said that to make room for the new features the sports court, Internet cafe and wedding chapel would be relocated.


For more information, visit www.princess.com
.


May 07, 2008

Major Las Vegas Resorts Go Green

A view of The Strip in Las Vegas

The green movement is reaching into glitzy Las Vegas, where MGM Mirage has created a department of energy and environmental resources, and the new Palazzo recently became the most expansive LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building in the world.

The Palazzo employs such effective environmentally efficient technologies that it conserves enough water to provide each Nevada citizen with 266 eight-ounce glasses of water for a year and saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 12,100 years. It even promotes alternative modes of transportation by offering valet parking—for bicycles. Key features that contribute to The Palazzo's conservation include artificial turf, drip irrigation, moisture sensors in planted areas that result in over a 75 percent reduction in irrigation needs, and swimming pools heated with an expansive solar heating system.

MGM Mirage also has a commitment to environmental sustainability, with the implementation of drip irrigation. All sink faucets at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino are equipped with water-saving aerators that conserve approximately 6,000 gallons every year. Other innovations incorporated into the new site include massive recycling programs, preferred parking for hybrid cards, low-water-usage lavatories and showers and drought-tolerant landscaping.


For more information, visit www.mgmmirage.com
and www.palazzolasvegas.com


April 30, 2008

King Tut Treasures Set for USA Tour

Coffin of Tjuya at the Tutankhamun exhibition

An exhibition featuring more than 130 treasures from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and other ancient sites will begin a US tour, starting in Dallas in October 2008.

"Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" is being organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. The exhibition will open at the Dallas Museum of Art on October 3, 2008, before traveling to the Atlanta Civic Center in November 2008 and then on to the Indianapolis Children’s museum in June 2009, where the artifacts will remain on display through October 2009.

This is not the first time King Tut's treasures have been on display in the US. National Geographic previously held an exhibition entitled "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," which drew in almost four million visitors during its four-city US tour between 2005 and 2007.


For more information, visit www.kingtut.org


April 23, 2008

Eating Healthy While On the Road

A fresh salad from Hyatt's menu

Hotels are making it easier for travelers to eat healthy food while on the road. Chains including Starwood, Marriott and Loews have plans to eliminate trans fats from foods, and Hyatt has just introduced a healthy "StayFit" menu for room service.

"The American public is becoming obese, and people are becoming more health-conscious," said Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. "Hotels are looking to get on the bandwagon with menus that cater not only to the diet-conscious, but also to the health-conscious," he said.

Consequently, Starwood, whose hotel brands include Sheraton, Westin and W, plans to eliminate all trans fats at its 400-plus hotels in North America and the Caribbean by the end of 2008. Marriott, Loews, Hampton, Red Lion and Carlson, the owner of Radisson, also say they are eliminating trans fats from foods at most, if not all, hotels.

Hyatt's "StayFit" menu, which emphasizes fresh, locally grown ingredients, will also have its room service available at all its North American hotels in the next twelve months.


April 16, 2008

MGM Grand Debuts WET REPUBLIC Ultra Pool

The MGM Grand Las Vegas

In a twist on the pool party scene, on April 10, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas unveiled WET REPUBLIC, a 53,000-square-foot ultra pool combining an exclusive nightlife vibe with poolside pampering and relaxation.

An adults-only Mecca for discerning partygoers, the glitterati and celebrities, WET REPUBLIC features VIP service, high-end amenities and top class entertainers. Everything from cocktails in the poolside lounge to VIP bungalows are available.

"We've taken the best elements of Vegas nightlife and infused them with supreme poolside amenities and services to create an unrivaled venue that will become the city's must-see, must-experience pool destination," said Anthony Olheiser, director of nightlife for MGM Grand.

Designed by Los Angeles firm Laurence Lee Associates, WET REPUBLIC boasts eight separate pools and spas totaling more than 7,600 square feet, including a centerpiece of two saltwater pools (a first for the Vegas strip) and six waterfalls. Next to the pool area is a 2,500 square-foot, open-air lounge.

For more information, visit www.mgmgrand.com


April 9, 2008

Starwood Launches Family-Friendly Programs

"Love Your Family" vacation packages

Beginning this summer, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will unveil a new family-friendly program with services and experiences designed for kids and grownups alike.

The "Love Your Family" program will launch in 29 resort locations flying the Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and The Luxury Collection brand flags. Debuting first in the U.S. and the Caribbean, the program will expand internationally to Canada, Latin America and Europe by 2009.

The core elements of the “Love Your Family” program include three experiences:

"Fireside Storytelling" allows families to gather around a campfire, roast marshmallows and make s ’mores while enjoying stories told by professional and local storytellers.

"Stargazing" invites families to join together, use telescopes and observe the night sky constellations and learn about the stars and the galaxy.

"Dive-in Movies" lets families go for a swim while simultaneously enjoying favorite family films on the pool's big screen, paired with theme nights and coordinated activities.

Love Your Family also includes services designed to appeal especially to parents, including connecting rooms, food and beverage discounts and other unique packages and offers, all coordinated by the resort's newly appointed "Director of Fun." Finally, Love Your Family recognizes parents’ need for alone time, so the program offers parents a guilt-free night off while their children enjoy their own big night out, dining with other kids and enjoying fun, counselor-led activities.


For more information, visit www.starwoodhotels.com


April 2, 2008

Elvis-Themed Hotel Planned for Las Vegas

Elvis Presley

The king is coming yet again to the Vegas Strip. Or a casino hotel honoring him will be, if FX Real Estate and Entertainment has anything to say about it.

The company owns eighteen acres of land at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue (between the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood), which is currently home to a motel and several commercial and retail properties. But FX has a redevelopment plan in the works, which would see the property turned into a mixed-use project including an Elvis Presley-themed casino hotel.

The Elvis themed idea is not based on a mere whim, however. FX Real Estate's CEO, Robert F.X. Sillerman, owns 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises, while Elvis’s daughter—Lisa Marie Presley—owns the other 15 percent.

For now, the plan is for the $3.1-billion resort to be completed by 2012, if FX can raise the necessary capital. FX also has plans in the works to redevelop Elvis’s Memphis mansion, Graceland.


March 27, 2008

Ten Tips for Passport Applicants

US Passport

With the busiest travel season coming up soon, millions of Americans will be trying to get passports. Though the State Department seems to have improved its performance, last spring, travelers who applied for passports through the U.S. Passport Agency waited two to three months to receive them. Here are ten tips to help expedite the process:

1. Apply for a passport at an authorized post office well in advance. For an urgently needed passport, log onto www.ItsEasy.com and use the services of this passport .
2. Know that only original photos with white backgrounds are accepted by the Passport Agency.  No copies or digitally scanned photos are allowed.
3. Dress appropriately for a photo. No hats, scarves or sunglasses are allowed, unless required for health or religious reasons.
4. Keep in mind that many countries insist that your passport must be valid for six months beyond the end of your trip.
5. Be aware that some countries—like South Africa—insist on as many as three empty “Visa” pages in your passport. “Amendments and Endorsements” pages will not do.
6. Frequent travelers can ask for a 48-page document when applying for a new passport, or can have additional pages added to an old passport.
7. Yes, you do need a passport for a baby—even a newborn—if flying abroad, or a passport card if traveling by land or sea to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.
8. Note that a child’s passport (under 16 years of age) is only valid for five years, though an adult’s is valid for ten years.
9. Both parents (mother and father if named on the birth certificate, even if divorced) must sign the application forms for a child’s passport, unless one parent can prove sole custody.
10. Always carry a copy of the picture page of your passport.  If you lose your passport in a foreign country, showing this copy to the U.S. Embassy will speed up the replacement.


March 19, 2008

Madrid’s Prado Museum Presents Major Goya Exhibition

Los Fusilamientos del Tres de Mayo, one of the many paintings on exhibit at the Museo del Prado

Madrid’s Museo del Prado is mounting a major exhibition devoted to Goya to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Spain’s War of Independence against Napoleon. Opening April 15 and running through July 13, “Goya in Times of War” will present more than 200 works—paintings, drawings and prints—and will focus on the last 25 years of his life.The museum has the world’s largest collection of Goya—some 650 works—150 paintings and 500 drawings and sketches. Manuela Mena, chief curator of Goya and 18th-century Spanish Painting curated the exhibition, which is jointly organized with the Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales (SECC) with the collaboration of the region of Madrid.The Prado Museum is located on Paseo del Prado, on Madrid’s Art Walk. Open daily, except Mondays, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is about $9, or 6 euros, except Sundays (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) when it is free. Visitors under 18, over 65 and students from EU countries under 25 are admitted free of charge. Students from non-EU countries under 25 pay about $5, or 3 euros.For more information, call 011-34-91-330-28-00 or visit www.museodelprado.es


March 12, 2008

First Ever Prepaid Foreign Currency Card

The Travelex Cash Passport Card

Travelex has launched the world’s first ever prepaid foreign currency card—the Cash Passport card—in partnership with MasterCard and West Suburban Bank.The new Cash Passport cards are available in Euros and British Pounds with the exchange rate locked in at the time the card is loaded. Each card can be reloaded up to 24 times.“Foreign currency prepaid cards make sense for financial institutions and other currency sales outlets. More than 10 million trips are made to the UK and Europe by Americans every year and 84% of them are prepared to buy pre-trip foreign currency from a bank,” said Christopher Russell, Travelex's Executive Vice President of Outsourcing, Americas. The cards will be available in the United States at any of Travelex’s 700 worldwide locations including local banks, travel agencies and Travelex retail locations in the second quarter of 2008.  They can be used to withdraw money from ATMs or directly purchase goods and services anywhere MasterCard is accepted around the world.


March 12, 2008

Virgin Charter Takes Off

A typical airliner, the largest size available for Virgin Charter

The always-industrious Richard Branson recently launched Virgin Charter, which opens the door for thousands of private aviation companies in the United States to bid for the growing number of customers that charter aircraft for business and personal reasons. This unique service will directly compete with traditional brokers, individual charter companies, as well as companies that let frequent flyers invest in their jets with other partners.The company recently launched in the U.S., but will be expanding to other regions soon. Branson says the new business is courting the approximate $30 billion market for booking private air travel by letting operators market availability and allowing customers to bid and book online. Virgin Charter aims to bring simplicity to a business that has always been somewhat difficult to navigate. Most customers have traditionally paid brokers or instructed assistants to call dozens of operators by phone before booking a flight. This new business allows customers to submit trip requests and then compare quotes for the journey from the various charter companies, along with a rating for each specific aircraft. Another interesting aspect of the company is the constantly updated listing of "empty legs" on the website that provides the routes a number of planes will be flying empty—routes that can be had by flexible travelers for a deeply discounted rate.These FAA-certified planes, from turbo props (6 to 9 seats) to heavy jets (9 to 15 seats) and airliners (44 to 400 seats), meet both FAA requirements and the high standards set by this new company. According to a Virgin Charter executive, booking through the Virgin Charter site will take 20 percent off the cost by cutting out the broker, and will take quite a bit of time off of the process.


March 5, 2008

The Plaza Hotel Reopens in New York

The Plaza Hotel in New York

It’s taken two years and $400 million, but The Plaza in New York, owned by El Ad properties, officially reopened on March 1. The iconic hotel overlooking Central Park originally opened in 1907. It’s renowned for being, among other things, the setting for Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite; the hotel where the Beatles stayed on their 1964 U.S. tour; and the chosen spot for Truman Capote’s infamous Black and White Ball.

The newly renovated hotel now houses only 282 rooms including 102 suites (as opposed to the original 805 total), half of which are condo/hotel units. Another 180 units are residential only. However, there are still plenty of accommodations for visitors, with room rates starting at around $1,000 per night. Rooms boast flat-screen TVs, electronic key cards, iPod docks and digital touch screens that let guests change lighting and temperature or call for assistance.

The downsizing in rooms is to allow hotel staff to provide a more personalized service to clientele. That service includes a butler on each floor of the hotel.

The hotel’s famous afternoon tea service is also back in the marble-pillared Palm Court, complete with four courses and starting at $60. There’s also a new marble lobby off the Fifth Avenue entrance, with five Baccarat chandeliers, a Champagne bar and mezzanine Rose Club cocktail lounge.

The hotel also has plans to include 160,000 square feet of high-end retail space, including a Caudalie spa from France (famed for "vinotherapy" using grape-seed extracts) and a fitness facility headlined by celebrity trainer Radu.

For more information or reservations visit www.fairmont.com/theplaza



February 27, 2008

Spare Lithium Batteries No Longer Allowed in Checked Luggage

Spare AA batteries are no longer allowed in checked luggage

The U.S. government has implemented new regulations in 2008 that prohibit airline passengers from carrying spare lithium batteries in their checked luggage. However, the batteries may be placed in one's carry-on baggage. Further, batteries installed in devices do not count as "spare" and are permitted.

Lithium batteries include: cell phone batteries, "hearing aid” button cells and AA/AAA batteries, as well as almost all standard laptop computer batteries.

There are also additional restrictions on large batteries in the range of 100-300 watt-hour ratings. In these cases, no more than two batteries will be permitted in one's carry-on luggage. This type of battery includes some extended life laptop computer batteries such as the “universal” lithium ion battery.

Until everyone gets used to the new regulations, allow extra time to clear security as passengers may be required to remove all electronic devices for inspection.

For more information visit the US Department of Travel Safe Travel site at safetravel.dot.gov


February 20, 2008

Go "Around the World in 80 Ways" With The Leading Hotels

The Leading Hotels of the World's Around the World in 80 Ways

Eighty years ago two international legends were launched: the Academy Awards and The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. To celebrate that mutual milestone, Leading Hotels is paying homage to the Academy Award-winning classic "Around the World in 80 Days" by creating an extraordinary journey around the globe, retracing (loosely) the steps of Phileas Fogg.

The 28-day odyssey for one lucky couple will be a highlight of an auction to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which will take place during the Foundation’s 16th annual Academy Awards viewing party on Feb. 24.  

The trip begins in London, the starting point for Phileas Fogg’s quest, and then continues on to Paris, Dubai, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. The winning bidder and a guest will fly first class and stay in ultra-luxurious Leading hotels and resorts in all twelve destinations.

In addition to exquisite suite accommodations throughout, just a few of the elements of this once-in-a-lifetime trip include a camel safari in the desert, couture and bespoke wardrobes, dinner for two at Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a private cocktail cruise on the Arabian Sea, personal butlers, soothing couples’ massages, a private dinner for two afloat on India’s Lake Pichola and Rolls Royce Phantom limousines.

For further information on placing absentee bids, please contact Scott Campbell via telephone at 212-219-0606, or via fax at 212-219-0671.


February 13, 2008

InterContinental $200 Million Hotel to Open in San Francisco

The new InterContinental San Francisco

London's InterContinental Hotels Group—the largest hotel chain in the world by number of rooms—is finally set to open its brand new $200 million hotel in San Francisco on Feb. 28.

Situated on the corner of Howard and Fifth streets, the 32-story, 550-room glass tower hotel with stunning views of both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge took over ten years to build.

The hotel has been planned with business travelers in mind. Guest rooms are between 350-450 square feet, and will cost from $259 to $400 per night. Suites run between 700-800 square feet. All rooms will have 300-thread count Frette linens on the beds, 42-inch flat screen television sets and VOIP phone lines. In addition, the hotel boasts 23 rooms and 43,000 square feet of meeting space.

The hotel has also installed fiberoptic cables throughout the premises, a 10,000 square foot spa with ten treatment rooms and a 120-seat Italian/California-style restaurant, Luce. The restaurant will be run by Dominique Crenn, who will also oversee Bar 888, which will focus on serving grappa.

For more information visit www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com


February 6, 2008

British Airways to Launch Business Class Service From London to New York

A British Airways Airbus

Designed to attract business people who travel between the city of London and Wall Street, British Airways is planning to launch an all-business class service from London City Airport to New York.

The flights, which will have only 32 seats, will take place twice daily on two Airbus A318 aircraft, with only a 15-minute check-in time in both London and New York. “The London-New York route is a key market for us," said British Airways’ chief executive Willie Walsh. "As well as the business market, we are confident that there will also be a demand from premium leisure customers for this service.”

The new planes will provide full-service business class amenities, including fully flat beds. The airline has yet to announce when the service will begin and what the cost of the flights will be.

For more information visit www.britishairways.com


January 30, 2008

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Partners with ExpressJet Airlines for 2008 Events

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has joined forces with ExpressJet Airlines for the 2008 race season. The partnership is a natural fit given that ExpressJet operates out of Northern California’s Monterey Peninsula Airport, just six miles from the world-famous racetrack.

“We want to get the word out that you don’t have to drive from the San Francisco or Los Angeles airports to enjoy our many fantastic events,” said Melvyn Record, vice president of marketing and sales for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The sentiment was echoed by ExpressJet’s vice president of marketing, Trish Winebrenner, who said, “We hope to mirror the great experience fans receive at the racetrack by providing convenient, non-stop options for race fans needing to travel.” 

The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and ExpressJet Airlines partnership will cover the following race season events:

The Monterey Festival of Speed and the Fortune Market 250 (May 16-18), the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix (July 18-20), the 35th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races presented by Toyota (August 15-17), the Corona AMA Superbike Finale (September 27-28) and the Monterey Sports Car Championships (October 17-19).

For more information visit www.expressjet.com and www.laguna-seca.com


January 23, 2008

Jinling Hotels & Resorts Joins China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club

China Southern Airlines

China Southern Airlines (CSA) announced that Jinling Hotels & Resorts has joined its Sky Pearl Club—the largest frequent flyer program in China.

The largest airline in the country for the past 28 years, China Southern Airlines connects more than 80 cities around the globe and recently became the eleventh partner airline with SkyTeam—the global airline alliance offering 428 million annual passengers a worldwide system of 16,400 daily flights covering 841 destinations in 162 countries.

In its new partnership with China Southern Airlines' Sky Pearl Club, Jinling Elite Members will have more options to earn miles. Likewise, Sky Pearl Club members will be able to earn China Southern miles by staying at Jinling Hotels & Resorts and Jinn’s Inns participating in the Jinling Elite Program.

"Jinling" has become a world-renowned brand in China's hotel industry thanks to its personalized service and Oriental style.

For more information, visit:

China Southern Airlines: www.csair.com/en/
SkyTeam: www.skyteam.com
Jinling Hotels & Resorts: www.jinlinghotels.com


January 16, 2008

Virgin Atlantic Takes Off With Biofuel Demonstration

 Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic is set to “Go Green” when it launches a demonstration flight in February, running one of its Boeing 747s on biofuel. It will be the first time that a commercial aircraft has run biofuel in-flight as part of Boeing’s efforts to discover sources of sustainable aircraft fuel for the future.

The Virgin Atlantic 747 will fly from London Heathrow to Amsterdam on a demonstration flight, with no passengers on board, using a truly sustainable type of biofuel that doesn't compete with food and fresh water resources. The flight will take place in conjunction with Boeing and engine maker GE Aviation.

“This breakthrough will help Virgin Atlantic to fly its planes using clean fuel sooner than expected,” said Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson. “The demonstration flight will give us crucial knowledge that we can use to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.”

For more information visit www.virginatlantic.com


January 9, 2008

Denver Welcomes First Five-Star Hotel With the Launch of The Ritz-Carlton, Denver

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
The Jan. 11 opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, marks the 70th property for The Ritz-Carlton brand and the first five-star hotel in Colorado’s capital.

The $75 million property located at 1881 Curtis St. boasts 202 rooms: 47 suites, 32 club-level rooms and a 3,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite. Rooms start at $249 per night.

The hotel also houses an Elway's steakhouse, a spa and private residences. The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, which occupy floors 15-19, will be completed later this year. The 25 units will be priced from $800,000 to $4 million.

The opening of The Ritz-Carlton puts Denver on the luxury hotel map, said Stephen Hennis, managing director of Hospitium, a hospitality-consulting firm based in Arvada, Colorado.

"Denver has lacked a true luxury property, so it's going to be a big step," he said. "It will help attract business and will boost businesses in downtown."

For information or reservations, call 303-312-3800 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com


January 2, 2008

Alaska Airlines Inaugurates Non-Stop Flights Between Anchorage and Honolulu

 Alaska Airlines' new Eskimo/lei logo
The 49th and 50th states are now directly connected, thanks to the launch of Alaska Airlines’ year-round, non-stop flights between Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Customers can earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles on the flights that depart Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at 3:20 p.m. Alaskan time and arrive in Honolulu at 8:40 p.m. Hawaiian time. Return flights depart Honolulu at 10:10 p.m. Hawaiian time and arrive in Anchorage at 5:30 a.m. Alaskan time.

All flights are operated with Boeing 737-800 aircraft, accommodating sixteen passengers in first class and 141 in the main cabin. Hawaiian flights offer Hawaiian-themed beverage and meal service and customers flying in the main cabin receive complimentary Mauna Loa macadamia nuts, a complimentary Mai Tai or POG juice and a Hawaiian-themed meal-for-purchase option for $5. Customers in first class receive exotic meals such as macadamia nut-encrusted mahi mahi.

Alaskan Airlines pulls out all the stops with its inflight services, including a digEplayer and a personal entertainment system offering a variety of movies, television shows and music. To get travelers in the mood for their Hawaiian trip, the rented systems include a channel devoted to Hawaii programming, including extreme surfing and the television show "Hawaii Five-O."

For more information, visit www.alaskaair.com



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