Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Passport Requirements

On June 1, 2009, the U.S. government will implement the new requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative). The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or other travel document approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

Children under the age of 16 who are citizens of the U.S., will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card.

The U.S. Passport Card: The passport card is only valid for re-entry into the United States at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda.

Also, a final ruling was issued allowing leniency for “closed-loop” cruises, or sailings that both originate and end in the same U.S. port. U.S. citizens taking “closed-loop” cruises are not required to have a passport but will need proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID, such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Children will also be required to carry a birth certificate and a photo ID if over the age of 15.

For more complete information about the WHTI, go to

For assistance booking your next international vacation, contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hanalei Bay Named Top U.S. Beach

Hanalei Bay, located on Kauai's north shore, was just named Top Beach in America, according to "Dr. Beach", or Stephen P. Leatherman. Leatherman based his selections on 50 criteria, including water quality and temperature, cleanliness, sand quality, weather, safety and facilities.

This remote 2-mile beach, located around the corner from the Napali Coast features breath taking views from every angle, and is practically untouched compared to Hawaii's other beaches. It is a perfect place for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, or just relaxing in the sand.

Even when the surf is up during winter months, parts of the bay are protected by an outer reef, so people are still able to swim safely.

Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla. was the runner-up on Leatherman's list.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some Cruises Returning to Mexico

Now that the CDC is no longer recommending against nonessential travel to Mexico, cruise lines are making plans to return to their regular itineraries.

Voyages with previously modified itineraries will continue and revert to their original routes in Mexico, as most itineraries were modified through mid-June. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will resume its port calls in Cozumel beginning with sailings that depart on or after May 24. Ships with Cozumel port calls include Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, and Enchantment of the Seas. Mariner of the Seas will continue its modified Pacific Northwest itinerary, up to and including, its June 14 sailing.

Carnival Cruise Lines will make its first call back to Cozumel on May 30, with Carnival Holiday, but most ships will resume calls to Mexican ports in June, once all previously modified cruises have been completed.

Passengers on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships will still have to fill in a health questionnaire on embarkation and there will continue to be spot checks on anyone showing signs of flu.
For more information, or to book your next Cruise, contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

United Raises Bagges Fees

United followed US Airways in raising bag fees to $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second bag. The increase will be discounted $5 only if paid online. The increase goes into effect June 10 and applies to any purchases bought after May 14th.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

AirTran to Add Wi-Fi to All Their Flights

AirTran Airways announced today that they plan to equip their entire fleet of jets with wireless capabilities.

The airline plans to have the Wi-Fi service installed in all of its planes by July of this year, which would make them the first airline to do so.

AirTran mainly just flies within the U.S., with the exception of Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

First "Cruise with Purpose" Shore Excursion

Juneau's local tour operator Gastineau Guiding has created the first Cruise with Purpose shore excursion, in partnership with the Alaska Sea Grant's Marine Advisory Program and the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance.

This program was designed especially for Holland America Line. Guests board an exploration vessel out of Auke Bay to look for and help document individual humpback and orca whales. Guests will identify individual whales by their tail "fingerprints" and record their songs using an underwater microphone called a hydrophone. Participants will also collect water samples, trawl for plankton and record ocean temperature readings.

Since plankton is a significant indicator in predicting the success of Alaska's salmon runs, this data will help manage this precious wild resource. All collected data and water samples are contributed to the body of research maintained by Alaska Sea Grant's Marine Advisory Program. The beach landing vessel will then make a one-hour stop at a secluded cove or shoreline where guests then turn into volunteer beachcombers. A naturalist-guide provides interpretation on the flora and fauna of the area as guests help pick up any non-native debris in support of the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance's efforts.

The cost of this tour is $219 per person. At the tour's conclusion, guests receive a Cruise with Purpose VolunTour pin, and will be able to track the projects they contributed to at the program's web page The tour is available from May to September.

To get started booking your next Cruise vacation, contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

Friday, May 01, 2009

What to do in Melbourne, Australia?

Melbourne is the second most populous city in Australia, with a population of approximately 3.9 million and serves as the state capital of Victoria. Melbourne is located on the lower reaches of the Yarra River and on the northern and eastern shorelines of Port Phillip and their hinterland. Melbourne is a major center of commerce, education, tourism, the arts and cultural activities, and also industry.

It is consistently ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Things to Do:

The Queen Victoria Market is the oldest and largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Here you can find anything from fresh produce and gourmet food items, to clothing and souvenirs.

National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest and largest gallery and museum in Australia. It holds more than 70,000 items between its 2 buildings, which are just a short walking distance apart. One building houses international art, the other houses Australian art only. Both buildings are open year round, except for major holidays. And admission is free!

Royal Botanical Gardens are some of the most beautifully landscaped gardens in the world. Just a short walk from city center, these world famous gardens boasts more than 20 different types of gardens, including an interactive children’s garden and the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Entry is free!

Federation Square is considered the city’s “hub”. This cultural precinct connects the city center with the Yarra River. It is comprised of art galleries, a museum, shops, restaurants, bars and a cinema.

The Melbourne Observation Deck, located some 237 metres above the city streets on the 55th floor of the Rialto Towers, offers spectacular views of the central business district and beyond.

The Melbourne Aquarium contains a variety of exhibits showcasing marine wildlife found in the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic.

Some other noteworthy attractions in Melbourne include St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Melbourne Zoo, and the Victorian Arts Centre.


Melbourne is also noted for the number, variety and quality of its restaurants. Major restaurant strips are found throughout the city and the suburbs, including:

Chinatown, on Little Bourke Street and now spreading out onto Russell Street in the CBD, offers numerous restaurants, mainly but not exclusively offering Cantonese cuisine, at the lower end offering Hong Kong-style noodle restaurants up to the Flower Drum, renowned for its Peking Duck and is generally regarded as Melbourne's best restaurant.

Lygon Street, in the inner-northern suburb of Carlton, offers a selection of mainly Italian-influenced food.

Brunswick Street in inner-suburban Fitzroy used to be a grungy hotbed of students, musicians, actors and the like, and still retains some remnant of that edginess with the presence of several live music venues, all manner of eclectic stores, accompanied by restaurants and cafes, many of which serve varied and contemporary menus.

Chapel Street, south of the city is a popular destination for fashionable clothes shopping, eating and entertainment. The long street contains commercial areas providing goods and services for local residents. Chapel Street intersects with Toorak Road, itself offering entertainment, food and shops.

Other prominent cafe strips include:
St Kilda's Fitzroy Street, Carlisle Street and Acland Street are home to many popular cafes.
Fitzroy's Brunswick Street
South Yarra's Chapel Street
Collingwood's Smith Street
Richmond's Bridge Road
Southbank's Southgate and Crown Casino


Melbourne contains all manner of pubs, bars, and nightclubs. The CBD contains a wide variety of venues, from the ubiquitous faux-Irish pubs and more traditional Aussie hotels, through some very upmarket wine bars, serious jazz venues on Bennetts Lane, fashionable nightclubs and dance venues (where the Melbourne Shuffle was born), are often hidden away down obscure grungy alleys.

The restaurant strips, particularly Brunswick Street have their own bars, some of which are the best rock venues in Melbourne. King Street, on the southern side of the CBD, was traditionally a nightclub strip and still hosts several, but many are now exotic dancing venues. Chapel Street, Prahran, is perhaps the trendiest, most upmarket nightlife strip. Bayside St Kilda is the home of several huge music venues including the famous Esplanade Hotel (known as 'the Espy'), the Prince of Wales, and The Palace.

The recent influx of city-dwellers has given rise to the numerous underground bars and sidewalk cafes in the alleys between Flinders Street - Flinders Lane and Bourke Street - Lonsdale Street. Notable alleys include Block Arcade/Block Place, Degraves Street, and Hardware Lane.

Day Trips From Melbourne:

There are a variety of interesting things to see outside Melbourne proper but still within a day trip of Melbourne:

The Yarra valley region, producer of high-quality wine and with beautiful rainforest scenery nearby.

The Mornington Peninsula, with its wineries, beaches and the Arthurs Seat lookout.
The Surf Coast near Geelong, with excellent surf beaches and the spectacular views of the Great Ocean Road (Voted the world's best road trip in 2003).

Ballarat, a small city once the centre of the gold rush and site of the Eureka Stockade.
Phillip Island, home of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, also has one of the few easily-accessible colonies of little penguins.

French Island in Western Port Bay

Geelong, 80 km down the Princes Hwy is the gateway to many of Australia's tourist destinations such as the Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles and Bells Beach. Geelong is famous for its world class waterfront on on Corio Bay. One of the largest waterfront redevelopments ever undertaken in Australia, Waterfront Geelong includes Cunningham Pier with its Smorgy's restaurant, a Carousel Pavilion, and the art-deco bathing area at Eastern Beach.

Gippsland region, home of the Gourmet Deli Tours, the Gippsland Lakes, Wilsons Promontory (with South Point, the most southerly point of the Australian mainland), and many picturesque towns such as Sale,Foster, Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, and Warragul - one of the richest dairy farming areas in Australia. The ghost town of Walhalla is filled with goldmining memorabilia.


Australia is within the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed to those in North America. Melbourne’s changes of seasons are renown for starting late, the “official” first day of summer is 21st December, but it rarely feels like summer until mid January or even later. During the summer months outdoor activities in particular the fabulous Melbourne beaches are popular with both locals and visitors.

Melbourne enjoys a temperate climate with warm-hot summers; spring and autumn are balmy and mild, the winters cool. Melbourne is seldom unbearably cold or unbearably hot, temperature extremes when they do occur see the hotter realms of the thermometer causing more problems than the colder.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your vacation of a lifetime to Australia!