Categories
Travel

Love of Travel in the Time of Coronavirus: Why I Kept Going


“Don’t you ever stay home?”

an orange sunset: Happy traveler waiting for the flight in airport

I get the same question from my mother whenever I tell her I’m traveling that weekend (which is often). She herself is by no means a shut-in, having cruised the Nile on a barge and hiked ancient footpaths in the Andes, but the sheer frequency of my travel is what unnerves her.

Some travelers are exhausted by travel, and need time in between trips to recover, while others are energized by it. Me? I’m an introvert and like my “alone” time, but when it comes to travel my appetite has few boundaries.

So in the midst of (quite legitimate) concerns about coronavirus, I took a weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta. I spent some time rationalizing: there aren’t many cases in Mexico; the flights and airports aren’t very full; I love fresh Pacific seafood.

Some of my assumptions panned out. The flights weren’t very full, and the atmosphere felt similar to what it did in the fall and winter of 2001: everyone polite and patient in spite of their obviously frayed nerves.

After getting through the rationalization, the next question is one of self-actualization: why? Why do I keep traveling, even when it’s clearly much safer and less stressful to stay home?

RELATED: You can virtually tour these 20 landmarks without leaving your couch

a large building: Most travel plans are on hold for a while during the coronavirus pandemic. To pass the time after working from home with the kids or for a fun digital happy hour with friends, take a vacation without ever leaving your couch. Numerous world-class destinations and man-made marvels offer virtual tours that you can take online while you are social distancing. The other benefit? It’s free.

I wouldn’t argue the “safe” bit, but less stressful? After a couple of posts about my journey, I stopped scrolling through Facebook to find endless jokes about toilet paper and admonishments to supply hoarders. There are opportunities for stress wherever you are—even when you’re sipping Pacifico in the sand—and I wasn’t about to let them creep in.

Sometimes I feel like my urge to keep traveling has a documentary quality. There’s something romantic about the correspondents who rushed into the fires to chronicle them, like Ernest Hemingway commandeering a military Jeep to be the first American civilian into Paris in 1944 to “liberate” the bar at The Ritz Hotel. In Mexico, among tourists from the north, it’s as though everyone is taking pains not to discuss the elephant in the room, and that’s the snapshot I’m after.

For me, the desire to see the world isn’t one of postcard idealism. I want to see what the world looks like when it’s not perfect, too. There was a strange beauty in how we traveled just after 9/11. The additional security checks were frustrating, but travelers saw their value. The uncertainty among travel industry workers about their futures put their more authentic humanity on full display; travelers saw that and responded with understanding.

It’s also interesting how humans have the capacity to think of whatever hurdles stand up during their present as extraordinary. Suddenly COVID-19 facemasks are different from SARS facemasks. Post-9/11 security checks were different from Gulf War security checks. A generation from now, travelers of this period will bear witness when the next generation looks upon their struggle as unprecedented. 

The word “Quarantine” itself dates back to the middle ages when the city-state of Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik) imposed a forty-day (Italian: quaranta giorni = forty days) waiting period on arriving ships to ensure their occupants didn’t carry the plague. What strikes me is that even during the Black Death, which wiped out roughly a third of Europe’s population, there were still ships arriving to quarantine.

Even in those days, when there was little relief for an ailment of any kind (contemporary prescriptions overwhelmingly did more harm than good) and everything from a sore leg to a sniffle was potentially fatal, there was still a basic understanding that isolation could put a stop to a pandemic. Even then, they traveled on.

Every generation has its intrepid travelers, and as with most adventures, everyone has their endurance limits. Several of my friends were also traveling at the same time. One returned early from Europe, awakening to news of new travel restrictions to the U.S. One had an abbreviated trip to New Zealand after the country announced entry restrictions and airlines began to cancel flights.

I myself am also about ready to pack it in for a while. The calculus has shifted. Concerns of catching and subsequently transmitting the virus have morphed into acceptance of the eventuality that free movement will be curtailed as borders close in efforts to contain the threat.

I’ve seen the warts-and-all realities I was curious about, and it’s time to retire to the couch (yes, Mom, I do stay home sometimes) with a stack of treasured books and films about travel. Instead of the rush I get at the ink of a customs stamp hitting my passport I’ll be transfixed as Bergman is coaxed onto the silver Air France propliner in Casablanca, or Streep, anxious that her crystal and china aren’t broken on the train across Kenya.

And when the next crisis hits, I’ll probably travel right up until the gates swing shut then, too.

RELATED: How You Can Livestream the Northern Lights Right Now


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Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Transport

TSA to Receive Supply of Expired Respirator Masks

With supplies such as medical masks running low amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) will be sending the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a large stockpile of expired N95 respirator masks. TSA will distribute the masks to airports as needed.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to The Washington Post the decision to send out 1.5 million masks. It is currently unknown how many masks will be sent to the TSA or when they will be shipped.

It is not typically advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use N95 respirator masks that have expired. However, the large demand for masks by airport and medical workers, along with the general public, have made the need necessary. With the proper storage, the CDC has found that “many models have continued to perform in accordance with NIOSH performance standards.”

According to Fox News, TSA has allowed employees to wear protection in order to lower the risk of contracting the virus. This includes eye protection, N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and nitrile gloves. The use of surgical masks and nitrile gloves have been mandatory since the beginning of the pandemic.

“TSA will continue to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding workforce protection,” TSA said in a statement. “We are working closely with the CDC and will follow any additional guidance that is issued.”

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Travel

The Palace of Versailles is open for virtual reality visits


Globetrotters quarantined at home can teleport themselves to France and back to the 17th century with a virtual reality-powered visit to the Palace of Versailles.

a statue of a person: The Palace of Versailles, France

Your trip to France canceled because of Covid-19? Or need to keep a child in your home occupied for an hour? There’s a virtual reality experience for that.

“Experience Versailles” isn’t new. But it’s enjoying renewed interest among Francophiles and households on lockdown for offering an alternative way to experience Versailles from thousands of miles away.

For kids, the experience is an educational one, teaching players about Louis XIV and French sovereignty. Players also infiltrate a sumptuous masked ball held by Louis XV and can explore the palace grounds, moving through the Royal Courtyard, to the Hall of Mirrors and the King’s Apartments.

For parents, it’s an hour or two of distraction.

The “Experience Versailles” is free, powered by Steam and works with VR headsets like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Related video: Time for a ‘staycation!’ Museums around the world offer virtual tours (Provided by Buzz60)


  • a cup of coffee

    How to decide if you’ll be traveling this summer
    A lot of people are re-evaluating their summer travel plans. Veuer’s Natasha Abellard has the story.

    Veuer Logo
    Veuer

  • Living alone on a paradise island

    Living alone on a paradise island
    In 1989, Mauro Morandi's boat docked on Budelli Island in Italy. Discovering that the island's caretaker was retiring within the next two days, Mauro decided to extend his stay indefinitely. – Great Big Story

    CNN Logo
    CNN

  • Determined to still travel, then a forced change

    Determined to still travel, then a forced change
    Maria Cousins, who's from New Zealand, was set to start some big travel plans despite the coronavirus outbreak, but a development beyond her control halted her plans.

    CNN Logo
    CNN


Buzz60 Logo
Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Holiday

Photograph of the week: Four Seasons Seychelles Resort at Desroches Island – A Luxury Travel Blog

The following post in our regular ‘photograph of the week’ series was scheduled to appear here many weeks ago, before the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus was as widespread as it is now. Whilst travel around the world is not recommended right now, we leave this post here as a source of inspiration for something to look forward to once normality returns to our lives.

Accessible by seaplane charter, the stunning Four Seasons Seychelles Resort at Desroches Island sits among the top properties of an already impressive brand. This off the grid location ticks plenty of boxes – spacious villas, private plunge pools, pristine beaches, and sunny cabanas. There’s even a tortoise sanctuary! Available by private plane transfer, how many resorts have you stayed at that have their own airstrip?

As expected, the Four Seasons offers island luxury with a relaxed approach. The friendly staff immediately greet visitors by name and have golf carts ready as guests step off the airstrip from the short flight from Mahé. There is a quick tour of the lush premises before checking out their accommodation, where any additional paperwork is finalized. Luggage is seamlessly loaded into separate golf carts and meets guests in their villa.

When possible, booking a Sunset Beach Villa is highly recommended. High ceilings (and thread counts), a bathroom that’s almost as large as the bedroom, soaking tub, indoor and outdoor showers — these villas even come with a hammock and private beach access. We spy hermit crabs and other wildlife before going for a plunge in our private pool. These villas also include a second level, which is perfect for morning coffees or pre-dinner cocktails. While golf carts are always available to collect guests, bikes (which come with every room) are the primary mode of transportation.

The low number of rooms at Desroches all but ensure a feeling of seclusion. As the property only takes up a small part of the island, embrace your inner adventurer, grab a map, and explore island trails by bike. Pack your bathing suit to go for a quick swim, or jog on one of the many private beaches, all stocked with towels, bottled water, and recreational swim gear. While guests will most likely remain in the privacy of their villas, there are plenty of public spaces, including: tennis courts, an infinity edge pool, an on-site spa, a modern gym, a conservation center, and a water sports center. Diving and snorkeling can be arranged, and sports equipment is available at an additional fee.

Meals can be a romantic affair, as guests can dine beachside at The Lighthouse (but not before stopping for stunning sundowners upstairs). There is also all-day dining at Claudine, which offers a range of international selections, The Deli, which is home to a small sweets shop, as well as a The Bar. Similarly, guests can stop at the Lighthouse Lounge for a cocktail. Finally, there is a small bar at The Castaway, located near the watersports area.

For a resort of this caliber, everything seems to align with expectations. The spa takes offerings to the next level with Connection Ceremonies, Sensory Connection rituals, and visiting masters with some of the industry’s leading practitioners who visit the island. Guests would need to check in advance for these visits.

Easier to access than the Maldives, Desroches Island offers levels of privacy and a sense of ‘getting away from it all’ rarely found in the rest of the world. With a price tag to match, this could be a once in a lifetime getaway. Even on the ‘main’ island of Mahe, there are very few properties that approach this level of privacy and space. The low number of rooms, stunning location and attentive but relaxed nature of the staff make this a memorable vacation destination.

A pro traveler tip – add this unique destination at the start or end of your stay in the Seychelles to start out with a bang, or end on a high note. Also, try and seek out George, the oldest tortoise on the island, over one hundred years young.

Thank you to Courtney Brandt from A to Za’atar for permission to share the photograph.

If you have a really special photograph you would like to share with A Luxury Travel Blog‘s readers, please contact us.

Source: Read Full Article

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Holiday

One of the world's top scuba diving destinations will wait for you – A Luxury Travel Blog

In the light of the COVID-19 outbreak all over the world, the whole globe is in lockdown and almost all the international flights have been cancelled! Yet, we still have the opportunity to read, know and discover new things and places, which we hope to visit one day.

Marsa Alam, Egypt’s Red Sea features over 400 species of coral and reefs, in addition to hundreds of magnificent fish species, sea animals, anemones, urchins, and more. Here we are going to highlight the ultimate beauty of Marsa Alam’s diving spots.

Marsa Alam is perfectly located on the western shore of the Red Sea, Egypt. Recently, it is chosen as one of the best diving spots in the world, from which you can completely explore the southern Red Sea’s wonders. In addition to that, Marsa Alam offers several world-class resorts that line the coastlines charming beaches, and what makes it more interesting, it is only about 4 hours’ drive away from Hurghada.

Marsa Allam makes a perfect diving spot for those who are looking for new challenging dives and unique wildlife experiences. Its sites offer a real opportunity to dive with unique species of sea turtles, cute dolphins, dugongs, and manta rays.

Actually, the diving season in Marsa Alam is year-round, yet the perfect time to dive in Marsa Alam is from May through August. We recommend visiting Marsa Alam in autumn when it is quieter and the water temperature is still balmy. You should expect water visibility up to 100 feet (30 m), but make sure to ask an expert about the perfect local dive sites and sea conditions before diving unguided. Pack a 3 mm or 5 mm wetsuit; depending on your cold tolerance, and always carry a dive knife, torch, and DSMB.

Best diving spots in Marsa Alam

Abu Dabab Beach

Diving depth: Up to 25 meters

Location: 30 km north of Marsa Alam.

Water visibility:  5-20 meters; better in the deeper areas

Suitable for: All diving levels.

Abu Dabab is considered one of the most popular beaches in Marsa Alam; it features many turtles and dugongs. It is also a dive site suitable to all skill levels, although it doesn’t contain any coral reefs and not infrequent poor visibility. Professional divers count it as the best place to get close to sea turtles and the dugong.

Fortunately, the bay has recently been closed to boats making both snorkeling and scuba diving easier and more relaxing. You can divide among a group of the imperiled shark species – one of the world’s rarest sharks.  It has bizarre but beautiful looks as if a stingray had been crossed with a real shark. Nothing to worry about, it’s not aggressive at all.  However never touch them as a flip of its tail could dislodge your mask.

Elphinstone Reef (Sha’ab Abu Hamra)

Diving depth: From 20 up to 70 meters (60 – 200ft)

Location: 50km northeast of Marsa Alam, and 10km from the shore.

Water visibility:  20-30 meters

Suitable for: Experienced divers only

Amazing reef line lies in the open ocean, a little over seven miles (12 km) from the Marsa Abu Dabbab coastline. It takes around 20 minutes to get there via Zodiac from Marsa Alam. It is considered as one of the top reef plateaux in The Red Sea; it’s about 300 meters long, 30 meters wide, and 40 meters deep. Yet, at its edges, there are near-vertical cliff walls.  The west drop off is a little less vertical than the east and sandier with some overhangs and small caves.

Elphinstone makes a perfect option if you are looking for shark encounters, particularly the large and usually solitary oceanic whitetip.  Many divers report up to four sitings on a single dive!  Please be cautious of these magnificent animals and never feed them. You can see sharks year round, but they are most numerous from October to December.

The reef there attracts an enormous variety of sea life including jacks, tuna, blue lunar fusiliers, black snapper, and lone giant barracuda. So, it’s better to watch the reef from a distance.

Sataya Reef

It is still not yet as well-known as other diving spots in Marsa Alam; few of the tour operators currently visit it. Yet, this gave it an additional privilege that makes of it a special reef to visit. You probably stand a better chance of swimming close to dolphins as contrary to what you might believe, these friendly but easily stressed animals. So, try to avoid areas where there are too many people and boats.

Samadai Reef (Dolphin House)

Diving depth: from 10 up to 15 meters (32 – 49 ft)

Location: approx. 20km SE of Marsa Alam

Suitable For: All diving levels

It is one of the most popular reefs in Marsa Alam; you can consider it one of the world’s most important dolphin habitats. It’s home for a large family of around sixty spinner dolphins. They are nocturnal animals and return every morning to the shallow waters of the reef to rest. It’s better not to feed or play with the dolphins as it is not natural for them and may cause distress.

Samadai Reef is crescent-shaped with a small lagoon of sand and sea-grass within, which is rich in marine life including the usually elusive sea horses.  You can also explore some underwater caves and at least twelve coral towers!  Remember, you should only explore the caves with an experienced guide.

Hamada Wreck (Abu Gosoon Shipwreck)

Diving depth: from 0m up to 18m

Location: 68km SSE of Marsa Alam

Water visibility: 15 to 30m

Suitable for: all diving levels

The Hamada sank off a secluded shoreline south of Wadi El Gamal National Park in 1993. The wreck is unique as it’s suitable for snorkelers, as well as experienced and novice divers.

It is home to young corals, while the wreck itself is home to a number of species, including hump head wrasse, lionfish, butterflyfish, and moray eels. It is fringed with some of the most beautifully colorful coral reefs in the world due to its sandy white beaches. It’s an enchanting site for diving that is perfect for experience the delicate harmony and balance between man and nature.

Sherif Khalil is Owner of Dunes & Beyond. Dunes & Beyond offers luxury tours, Nile cruises and desert safaris in Egypt.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Destinations

Redone Wyndham part of Puerto Rico comeback

Signs of the times in Puerto Rico point to a remarkable comeback from a series of natural disasters that rocked the island, including the hurricanes of 2017 and the recent earthquakes and shocks off the southeastern coast.

Resort renovations and reopenings, the arrival of new properties and brands, the upcoming April debut of El Distrito entertainment complex in San Juan, strong air arrivals and cruise numbers in 2019 and the ongoing #GoForPuertoRico campaign to remind travelers that the destination is open for business all factor into Puerto Rico’s rebound and rebirth.

On the accommodations front, recent additions to room inventory in the capital include the Aloft San Juan, the reopening of the InterContinental, the debut of the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve, the renovation of the Sheraton and the return of the iconic Caribe Hilton.

Many properties used the period of forced closure following the storms to not just repair but to undertake complete face-lifts from floor to ceiling and front desk to fine dining venues.

Here’s the story of one of these properties.

Nils Stolzlechner is general manager of the resort with the longest name in Puerto Rico: the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort.

“We’re about 25 minutes southeast of San Juan. We reopened five months after Hurricane Maria. When our first guests arrived at the property after it reopened, they said it wasn’t the same hotel that they remembered, due to all the work that had been done,” he said.

The multimillion-dollar renovation left no wall untouched, according to Stolzlechner.

“All the buildings had to be gutted due to water damage. The entire resort got a full transformation,” he said.

Stolzlechner, who joined the resort three years ago following management posts with Westin and Omni properties as well as Wyndham, got some valuable advice from a general manager who was on the scene when Hurricane Georges hit Puerto Rico in 1998, a year after the property originally opened under the Westin flag.

“He told me what to and what not to do in case another hurricane came my way. That helped me a lot. What also really helped in the immediate days following Maria was my staff,” he said. “Their homes had been destroyed, but 45 team members appeared on the scene a day after the storm with chain saws and tools to begin the resort cleanup.”

After Maria, the Wyndham remained open for relief workers.

Today, the property numbers 400 rooms, including 39 suites and the 1,600-square-foot Governor’s Suite. Nine restaurants and bars include the Roots Coastal Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant stocked with produce and seafood from local farmers and fishermen; the Paleo Seafood & Steakhouse; Iguanas at the golf clubhouse serving Puerto Rican cuisine; the poolside Tiki Hut with tropical drinks and local fare; and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill for quick bites, brews and Jimmy Buffett vibes.

“Since the remodeling and design changes, we’ve tripled revenues in our food and beverage venues and added new guest activities on-site and off the property,” Stolzlechner said.

The resort’s three pools and 2-mile stretch of public beach feature 700 lounge and deck chairs, “plenty enough for everyone to avoid the 7 a.m. rush to grab a chair and throw a towel on the seat to reserve it,” according to Stolzlechner.

Activities are geared toward guests who prefer to stay on the property as well as those who want to venture farther afield, with hikes in nearby El Yunque National Forest or tours of Old San Juan and the nearby Bioluminescent Bay.

“On property, we offer a full roster from rum tastings, morning nature walks and bingo to mixology classes, iguana feedings at 11 a.m., kids’ activities, casino play and spa treatments,” Stolzlechner said, adding that “most guests don’t have enough time to do it all.”

Weddings represent a big chunk of business for the resort, according to the general manager.

“We had 136 ceremonies in 2019, and there are 160 on the books for this year. Sometimes we have up to three a day at different venues throughout the property, including a wedding deck at the beach and a tent with clear sides that we can install in case of inclement weather,” he said.

Bird-watchers, too, are an expanding market for the property. “I see them all the time, dressed in camo with binoculars. We do have a lot of bird life here, and I’m happy that so many species returned after the hurricanes,” Stolzlechner said.

The Wyndham’s overall bookings break out to approximately 40% group business and 60% transient.

Of the leisure segment, many are repeat guests who returned when the resort reopened and were later followed by their friends who came based on referrals and recommendations, according to Stolzlechner.

“We had our best Christmas ever last Christmas,” he said, “and our booking pace now is strong despite some fallouts due to concern from the recent seismic activity in the south of Puerto Rico.”

The Wyndham staff took supplies and food to the communities in need following the quakes and aftershocks.

To date, there are no reports of Covid-19 coronavirus in Puerto Rico, although the destination and government agencies have measures in place to monitor and contain its spread if and when it is necessary.

“We haven’t seen any cancellations due to the virus, but we are watching this closely,” he said.

Travel advisors account for more than 10% of bookings, a number Stolzlechner wants to increase.

“This is a market we take seriously. We run fam trips and have a dedicated salesperson just to deal with agent relationships,” he said.

The resort offers an optional all-inclusive plan, one that includes meals and another that covers meals and beverages.

“This is popular with groups and approximately 3% to 5% of our leisure sector,” the general manager said.

Currently, the resort is pushing its message that Puerto Rico is open for business, welcoming visitors and offering packages to drum up additional bookings, including golf incentives, spa offerings, a fifth night free with resort credit when four nights are booked and free stays for kids under 5.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Destinations

Redone Wyndham part of Puerto Rico comeback

Signs of the times in Puerto Rico point to a remarkable comeback from a series of natural disasters that rocked the island, including the hurricanes of 2017 and the recent earthquakes and shocks off the southeastern coast.

Resort renovations and reopenings, the arrival of new properties and brands, the upcoming April debut of El Distrito entertainment complex in San Juan, strong air arrivals and cruise numbers in 2019 and the ongoing #GoForPuertoRico campaign to remind travelers that the destination is open for business all factor into Puerto Rico’s rebound and rebirth.

On the accommodations front, recent additions to room inventory in the capital include the Aloft San Juan, the reopening of the InterContinental, the debut of the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve, the renovation of the Sheraton and the return of the iconic Caribe Hilton.

Many properties used the period of forced closure following the storms to not just repair but to undertake complete face-lifts from floor to ceiling and front desk to fine dining venues.

Here’s the story of one of these properties.

Nils Stolzlechner is general manager of the resort with the longest name in Puerto Rico: the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort.

“We’re about 25 minutes southeast of San Juan. We reopened five months after Hurricane Maria. When our first guests arrived at the property after it reopened, they said it wasn’t the same hotel that they remembered, due to all the work that had been done,” he said.

The multimillion-dollar renovation left no wall untouched, according to Stolzlechner.

“All the buildings had to be gutted due to water damage. The entire resort got a full transformation,” he said.

Stolzlechner, who joined the resort three years ago following management posts with Westin and Omni properties as well as Wyndham, got some valuable advice from a general manager who was on the scene when Hurricane Georges hit Puerto Rico in 1998, a year after the property originally opened under the Westin flag.

“He told me what to and what not to do in case another hurricane came my way. That helped me a lot. What also really helped in the immediate days following Maria was my staff,” he said. “Their homes had been destroyed, but 45 team members appeared on the scene a day after the storm with chain saws and tools to begin the resort cleanup.”

After Maria, the Wyndham remained open for relief workers.

Today, the property numbers 400 rooms, including 39 suites and the 1,600-square-foot Governor’s Suite. Nine restaurants and bars include the Roots Coastal Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant stocked with produce and seafood from local farmers and fishermen; the Paleo Seafood & Steakhouse; Iguanas at the golf clubhouse serving Puerto Rican cuisine; the poolside Tiki Hut with tropical drinks and local fare; and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill for quick bites, brews and Jimmy Buffett vibes.

“Since the remodeling and design changes, we’ve tripled revenues in our food and beverage venues and added new guest activities on-site and off the property,” Stolzlechner said.

The resort’s three pools and 2-mile stretch of public beach feature 700 lounge and deck chairs, “plenty enough for everyone to avoid the 7 a.m. rush to grab a chair and throw a towel on the seat to reserve it,” according to Stolzlechner.

Activities are geared toward guests who prefer to stay on the property as well as those who want to venture farther afield, with hikes in nearby El Yunque National Forest or tours of Old San Juan and the nearby Bioluminescent Bay.

“On property, we offer a full roster from rum tastings, morning nature walks and bingo to mixology classes, iguana feedings at 11 a.m., kids’ activities, casino play and spa treatments,” Stolzlechner said, adding that “most guests don’t have enough time to do it all.”

Weddings represent a big chunk of business for the resort, according to the general manager.

“We had 136 ceremonies in 2019, and there are 160 on the books for this year. Sometimes we have up to three a day at different venues throughout the property, including a wedding deck at the beach and a tent with clear sides that we can install in case of inclement weather,” he said.

Bird-watchers, too, are an expanding market for the property. “I see them all the time, dressed in camo with binoculars. We do have a lot of bird life here, and I’m happy that so many species returned after the hurricanes,” Stolzlechner said.

The Wyndham’s overall bookings break out to approximately 40% group business and 60% transient.

Of the leisure segment, many are repeat guests who returned when the resort reopened and were later followed by their friends who came based on referrals and recommendations, according to Stolzlechner.

“We had our best Christmas ever last Christmas,” he said, “and our booking pace now is strong despite some fallouts due to concern from the recent seismic activity in the south of Puerto Rico.”

The Wyndham staff took supplies and food to the communities in need following the quakes and aftershocks.

To date, there are no reports of Covid-19 coronavirus in Puerto Rico, although the destination and government agencies have measures in place to monitor and contain its spread if and when it is necessary.

“We haven’t seen any cancellations due to the virus, but we are watching this closely,” he said.

Travel advisors account for more than 10% of bookings, a number Stolzlechner wants to increase.

“This is a market we take seriously. We run fam trips and have a dedicated salesperson just to deal with agent relationships,” he said.

The resort offers an optional all-inclusive plan, one that includes meals and another that covers meals and beverages.

“This is popular with groups and approximately 3% to 5% of our leisure sector,” the general manager said.

Currently, the resort is pushing its message that Puerto Rico is open for business, welcoming visitors and offering packages to drum up additional bookings, including golf incentives, spa offerings, a fifth night free with resort credit when four nights are booked and free stays for kids under 5.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Transport

Coronavirus Forces Hundreds of Flights to be Canceled at Chicago Airport

Chicago’s Midway International Airport is facing hundreds of cancellations after several air traffic control technicians tested positive for coronavirus.

According to the Chicago Daily Herald, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday the airport would remain open, but operations would be limited after the air traffic control tower was shut down for a thorough cleaning.

The FAA will utilize a “resilient system with multiple backups,” including the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach tower in Elgin, Illinois. The official Twitter account of Midway airport shared details of the closure.

pic.twitter.com/V85G4XJSK8

Midway is open, but flight operations remain limited. Please consult with your airline.

As a result of the air traffic control tower shutdown, Southwest Airlines announced it would be temporarily suspending service to and from Midway. The carrier said it would provide alternate accommodations for impacted passengers.

According to FlightAware.com, over 325 flights in and out of the Chicago airport were canceled Wednesday after 184 flights were canceled Tuesday night.

“We ceased operations at the Chicago Midway airport due to the closure of an FAA ATC tower in the Chicago area, impacting all airlines who operate at the airport,” a Southwest spokesperson told the Daily Herald.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Travel Association announced it projects an $809 billion hit on the U.S. economy and the loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs in the country.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Cruises

Exploring Outside of Manhattan

For most first time visitors, New York City typically conjures up images that consist of the area from Central Park to Battery Park and everything in between. (Think Times Square, the Empire State Building, Little Italy and the 9/11 Memorial.)

And while all of these areas are iconic and “must-sees’” – the staff at New York City Vacation Packages (NYCVP) believe that to get the complete NYC experience it pays to venture off the island and into the other four boroughs that make up the Big Apple.

Whether you are a first time visitor or you’ve lost count how many times you have seen the magnificent skyline, you are guaranteed to find something new every time you step off the subway, bridge or ferry and explore outside of Manhattan. And NYCVP can get you started on your journey through each borough with a selection of tours, attraction admissions, sporting event tickets and even shopping discounts!

The Bronx

The number one draw for most to venture up to the Bronx is to take in a game at Yankee Stadium. NYCVP not only has tickets to see the Bronx Bombers in action – but complete packages as well.

These packages include accommodations, transportation to the venue (complete with a NY Yankee insider as your guide to answer questions and share trivia about the team), main level seating and their bonus inclusions that come with every vacation package.

While Yankee games may be the most popular reason why visitors head there – the Bronx is home to more than just baseball. Here you can also stroll through the beautiful and fragrant New York Botanical Gardens that will have you feeling light years from the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

Winter, spring, summer or fall – the grounds at the gardens are breathtaking and oh so Instagram worthy! Or if you prefer animals over azaleas, you may choose to spend your time at the Bronx Zoo – the largest metropolitan zoo by area in the United States at 265 acres. From mice to monarch butterflies, from bears to bison, from sea lions to snakes and much more, you are sure to find this menagerie of animals worth the trip!

And did you know that the Bronx is considered the birthplace of hip hop? Find out the history of this infectious music genre on The Birthplace of Hip Hop Harlem/Bronx Bus Tour that NYCVP offers. Bonus: it leaves from a convenient Mid-Town location year-round and is guided by an actual hip hop pioneer!

Brooklyn

One of the best ways to get to Brooklyn is to walk or bike over the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge. The views span up and down the East River and give you an incredible vantage point to take in the skyline. You can opt to take a leisurely stroll or ride on your own or accompanied.

NYCVP offers both bike tours and several different walking tours (including one with your own private photographer!) all of which allow you to learn about the history of the bridge from a knowledgeable tour guide while crossing it.

Once you are in the borough you can pick from your choice of activities. Into sports? Check out a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclay Center. NYCVP has tickets and complete vacation packages for most home games. Up for some thrills? Head to Coney Island for a spin on the infamous Cyclone Roller Coaster. Looking for a place to chill? Head to Prospect Park for a picnic. They have a zoo there too! Thirsty? Stop in the Brooklyn Brewery to sample some of their tasty beers. Or better yet – if you are there on a weekend – take the Sunday Funday: A Boozy Brooklyn Tour offered by NYCVP. Not only will you get to sample some mighty fine beers – but you will also enjoy award-winning BBQ and some tasty chocolate along the way.

For an unbeatable look at the iconic graffiti that makes the Bushwick neighborhood so rich in this vibrant art form take the Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour. (You can also give this art form a try for yourself with the Graffiti Art Workshop in Brooklyn!)

And finally, no trip to Brooklyn would be complete without checking out it’s hippest neighborhood – Williamsburg. For a great overview at this trending area try the Best of Brooklyn Walking Tour.

Queens

Not a Yankees fan? The Mets play at Citi Field in Flushing, and their stadium is about the same age as Yankee Stadium, just over a decade old. In town in late August / early September? Catch a tennis match at the world-famous US Open. And yes, NYCVP offers admissions as well as vacation packages for both!

And even if you aren’t into baseball or tennis check out Flushing Meadows Corona Park anyway. It’s a piece of NYC history as it was originally created to be the site of the World’s Fair in 1939. Today it houses 1964’s World’s Fair iconic Unisphere as well as the popular New York State Pavilion Observation Towers, the Flushing Meadows Carousel, the Queens Zoo and more.

Museums more your cup of tea? Queens has those as well. For film and tv buffs there is the Museum of the Moving Image. If experimental and contemporary art is your thing, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has a location in Queens housed in an old school: MoMA PS1. While admission is currently free for all NYC residents, purchasing MoMA admission with NYCVP includes your admission to MoMA PS1 for up to 14 days!

Staten Island

Getting to Staten Island is easy – and free! As a bonus, you get great views of Lady Liberty on the boat ride over and back. Once you disembark the ferry, head to the new Empire Outlets – it’s a shopper’s paradise literally steps away from the ferry terminal.

Featuring stores like Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy and Gap Outlets and the Nike Factory Store – plus favorite dining spots such as Starbucks and Shake Shack (and more sit down options opening soon) – it’s the only outlet shopping destination in New York City. Not to mention when you book a package through NYCVP you receive exclusive access to a VIP coupon book valued at $25.00!

Afterward, hop on the bus and head to Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden – only a 15-minute ride and a must-see on the island. Admission is free to walk the general grounds and gardens and it’s just $5.00 to get into the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden – which is undoubtedly their most popular area.

Once a retirement community willed to elderly sailors it is now home to more than a dozen distinct garden areas, a contemporary art gallery (also a $5.00 entrance fee) and more.

With all of this and so much more happening outside of Manhattan, it’s guaranteed there will always be a reason to keep coming back to New York City! Make plans now to start exploring all five boroughs with New York City Vacation Packages.

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