Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anatomy of an Ice Hotel

In Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, just 200 km inside the Arctic Circle, lies an architectural feat made of frozen water. Every year the hotel is rebuilt for obvious reasons, and guestrooms come at a hefty price tag, for obvious reasons. What started as an igloo has evolved into a luxury walk-in freezer. Allow us to walk you through the anatomy of Sweden’s Icehotel:

The Icehotel constructed last year is still open for business—the spring thaw comes late 125 miles north of the arctic circle—but this is the time to gather raw material for next year’s structure. Workers use hydraulic saws to slice the surface of the nearby Torne river into 3-foot-thick blocks, which are extracted with earthmoving equipment.

By now, workers have harvested 3,000 blocks of ice, each weighing 2.2 tons. They are transported to a warehouse and stored at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the ice blocks chillax in storage, last year’s hotel gradually melts back into the river.

Brr! Time to start rebuilding. Large steel moldings are positioned where the finished edifice will stand, and snow machines produce tons and tons of “snice”—a mixture of snow and ice. Giant snow blowers inhale the slushy stuff and blast it onto the metal frames. After two days, the snice has frozen solid and the frames can be removed. The giant hunks of ice are removed from storage and stacked on top of one another. Then they get doused with water. The liquid freezes quickly, cementing the blocks into support columns.

Leftover ice is used to make windowpanes and beds (covered in reindeer fur for comfort). Icehotel’s first guests of the season check in. They enjoy welcoming drinks of Absolut vodka—served, of course, in tumblers made of ice. Just don’t forget your mittens!

Information courtesy of Wired Magazine.

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Air New Zealand Introduces "Cuddle Class"

Beginning next year Air New Zealand is introducing "Cuddle Class", where passengers can book a row of seats that convert into a couch or bed.

Planned for trans-Pacific flights, the "Skycouch" is a row of three regular seats that's being redesigned to create a space for children to play or a flat surface for adults to relax and sleep. This will debut in April, and will be available on the Los Angeles - Auckland, and London - Auckland flights.

It will cost the price of two standard economy seats plus half-price for the third seat in the row. Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe said, "for those who choose, the days of sitting in economy and yearning to lie down and sleep are gone" .

Pricing details should be available for this unique class by the end of this year. Contact your Professional Travel Agent today for more information, or to book your next vacation to New Zealand!

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Vibrant Little Village of Kuranda, Australia

If you are planning a trip to Queensland, Australia, make sure you visit Kuranda! Kuranda is a vibrant little village located in northern Queensland, in the Daintree National Park, and is a very popular day trip from Cairns. It is about 2 hours from Cairns by rail, or about 1 hour by car.

Making your way to Kuranda can be just as much fun as the actual visit. The most popular means of transportation to Kuranda is the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The railway promises to be a leisurely and scenic trip, going through 15 tunnels and over more than 30 bridges. Another popular way to get to Kuranda is the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This runs between Caravonica to Kuranda, above the Barron Gorge National Park. Many visitors combine the two, taking the Railway there and the Skyrail back.

Kuranda is a small village, although somewhat hilly. Walking 3 kilometers will take you from one end of town to the other. It is most famous for its markets and they run every day offering a wide range of handcrafted goods and Aboriginal artifacts. Kuranda is also home to many art galleries and has a variety of restaurants and coffee shops.

Some highlights in Kuranda include:

Bird World is a large mesh canopy, naturally landscaped with waterfalls, lakes, exotic and native plants, in which you can wander among free flying birds. The birds are divided evenly between colorful parrots and drab quails and doves with the addition of some cassowaries fenced away from people wandering around the circuit.

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly enclosure in Australia. The all-weather flight aviary is home to some 2000 tropical butterflies. The sanctuary is open every day except Christmas.

Kuranda Koala Gardens is located right in the heart of Kuranda Village, and is a small wildlife zoo housing Australian native animals. In addition to koalas, there are also kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes and lizards. Visitors can hold a koala and have their picture taken. A Free shuttle bus operates from the Skyrail and Kuranda Train stations every 10 - 15 minutes.

Contact an Australia Specialist today to book your trip to Australia that can include a visit to Kuranda!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Travel Tip: Backup Your Important Travel Documents

Let’s be frank, there is nothing fun about a travel emergency. When something goes wrong while traveling abroad, getting things straightened out can be exponentially more difficult due to a variety of factors including language barriers and simply not having easy access to your personal computer, filing cabinet, etc...

Making copies of your important travel documents is about the easiest part of planning. What takes only a few minutes now may save you hours in the long-run.

Scan, print, and email yourself a copy of the following documents:

  • Passport

  • Driver’s license

  • Emergency phone numbers: friends/family/credit cards/bank accounts

  • Travel itinerary

  • Travel insurance policy numbers & insurance certificate

  • Medical insurance cards & prescriptions

Store the physical copies in a secret compartment within your locked luggage. Take it a step further and leave a copy with a trusted (and easily accessible) friend or family member. While some are weary of sending important numbers via a web-based email platform (gmail, hotmail, etc…), it is one of the easiest ways to access specific info quickly, and as long as you’re diligent about properly logging out of common computers you should be fine. Better to be safe than sorry!

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today for assistance booking your next trip!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Iceland's Top 5

My name is Sidney and I’m somewhere “in the background” here at the Travel Team. Having just returned from Iceland, I am here to tell you firsthand that it is a truly magical place full of interesting things to experience (geothermal pools), see (geysers, glaciers, beautiful people), and eat (world-famous hotdogs, boiled sheep heads).

Iceland Air offers nonstop service to Keflavik from Seattle, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Orlando, New York (JFK), Boston, Toronto, and Halifax with the longest flight being the one originating in Seattle which takes only seven hours. Iceland is a destination unto itself but also makes a fine layover on your next trip to Europe.

Here are my top 5 experiences:

1. An in-water massage at The Blue Lagoon is the perfect antidote to a long flight (or a bad hangover… so I hear). You lay half-submerged in water with lagoon-dipped blankets covering all parts not being worked on to protect against the chilly breeze. The warm water combined with the steam from the geothermal vents and cold rain made for a truly invigorating experience. The lagoon’s organic chemical make-up (fresh water, sea water, silicon) doesn’t dry out your skin like a regular day at the beach or pool.

2. There are numerous geyser fields throughout Iceland. Some geysers gurgle, some spout, and some just pour steam into the air. The spouting one above is my favorite. The water temperature of these geysers is about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The ropes are there for a reason.

3. Visiting the “divergent boundary” where the American tectonic plate meets the European plate. This rift spans the entire country and is chock-full of deep cracks and lava swirls and other crazy earthly phenomena. Neat!

4. Shopping. Icelanders are so proud of their local designers and artists. Many small publications and brochures are available throughout the city (all hotels, participating shops, restaurants, etc…) that show you exactly where to find what. But even a leisurely stroll through the main shopping strip in Reykjavik will reveal many stores boasting original Icelandic designs including clothes, art, home décor, accessories, leather goods, and better-than-average souvenirs.

5. Mingling with locals - Icelanders are a friendly and interesting bunch. Everyone speaks English (and Danish and generally one other language) making it easy to strike up a conversation. Furthermore, Icelanders are well-read (facilitated by many winter days spent indoors), enjoy crazy delicacies hardly considered edible by non-Icelandic standards, and find it hilarious when non-natives attempt to speak their language. There’s not much to not love.

Many more exciting activities are available in Iceland including organized day tours around the island. If you have any questions about Iceland or anywhere else, give us a shout and we’d love to help you out.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Russian Company to Build Space Hotel

Last week the Russian company, Orbital Technologies, announced plans to build a space hotel for tourists, which is scheduled to launch the first hotel module in 2015-16.

Sergei Kostenko, the chief executive of the company, said "Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes." Currently space toursts must share cramped accommodations with astronauts at the International Space Station.

The first module will measure just 20 cubic meters (706 cubic feet) and have four cabins, designed for up to seven passengers, who would go into orbit using the Soyuz shuttle, Kostenko went on to say.
The space hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space. The space tourism program was halted earlier this year as the crew numbers on the ISS increased, leaving no room for extra passengers.
The project is already in the design stage and will built by Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia.