Tuesday, March 18, 2014

London to Open "Secret Tube" to Tourists

A network of disused underground tunnels, that were once used to transport rail across London, have been given the go-ahead to open as a tourist attraction. Mail Rail first opened in 1927 and in its heyday used a series of driverless trains to transport post beneath the capital's streets from the East End's Whitechapel to Paddington in the west. Islington Council has approved plans to allow tourists to descend beneath the city and ride the trains that sit below some of the London's most iconic sights. From 2020, visitors will be able to ride the 'secret Tube', departing from Mount Pleasant, in Islington, which was once one of the largest sorting offices in the world. 

The original track was 6.5 miles long and had a total of eight stations and at some stages narrowed to just 7ft wide. Tourists will ride the miniature trains for a total of 0.6 miles, while learning about the history of the Post Office. A new postal museum will also open on the Mount Pleasant site in 2016, displaying artefacts from British postal history, including telegrams from the Titanic, original evidence from the Great Train Robbery trial and pistols used to defend mail coaches in the 19th Century. The Mail Rail was finally closed in 2003, after Royal Mail built a new hub in Willesden, west London and it was decided it would be cheaper to transport mail by road instead of using the tunnels.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

App To Help Travelers Collect Airline Compensation

Getting compensation from an airline for a delayed, canceled or overbooked flight can range from difficult to impossible as many travelers have found out this bad winter. There are several online companies including Air Help, EU claim and refund.me that charge a fee ranging from 15 to 27% (plus, in some cases, handling charges), for helping European travelers file claims under regulations that apply to flights to or from a European Union member state. 

Now, one of those companies is offering its services to U.S. fliers online, and through a free app. Air Help estimates that, under U.S. Department of Transportation's rules, each year a total of $450 million in potential compensation is owed to passengers involuntarily bumped on overbooked U.S. flights and that, under European Union regulations, there are $2.1 billion in potential claims for U.S. air passengers flying to, from or within Europe on EU carriers. Because many travelers don't understand the rules, only a small amount of the compensation owed to passengers gets claimed or paid. That's where Air Help comes in. You give them the details of your flight, and they'll check whether or not you're legally owed any compensation. If you are, you sign a PDF that gives them power of attorney (with regards to dealing with the airline), and they go hunting for the cash. If you end up getting paid, they keep 25% of it. And if you don't you pay nothing. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

US Government Looking at High Tech Solutions for Faster Airport Screening

The US Department of Homeland Security is pushing for private contractors to create a screening machine with "screen and walk" capability for use at the nation's 160 international airports and thousands of federal facilities. The agency recently requested information from high-tech companies and other private firms about any new technology that can help speed up the security checkpoints managed by the TSA and the Federal Protective Services. 

The DHS asked for technology that can screen a minimum of 250 people per hour, which is slightly faster than the current pace of about 200 per hour for the full-body scanners. The new technology would not replace but would add to the screening technology now used at airports. "The system will detect an explosive or assembled IED (improvised explosive device) with and without divestiture of outer garments, shoes and through clutter depending on the deployment," according to the government request. "In addition, detection should occur through a minimum of 2 layers of clothing concealment where those layers are composed of cotton, cotton-polyester, wool, silk and leather materials among others."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Caribbeans Newest Cruise Port

The Banana Coast, the western Caribbean's newest cruise port, welcomed its first cruise ship to Trujillo, Honduras earlier this week. Travel Dynamics International's 130-passenger Yorktown made the inaugural visit and is scheduled to return next Monday. After tendering ashore Yorktown passengers were greeted by performances by Garifuna musicians, browsed locally made crafts and set out on tours to the nearby rain forest or relaxed on the beach. Banana Coast was included in Yorktown's 'Tropical Islands, Rain Forests & Ancient Sites of Central America' itinerary. Banana Coast has shopping, a newly built tender dock, reception center and transportation hub as well as 10 acres of beachfront in the town of Trujillo, which was established in 1525.

Diverse shore excursions feature the region's Spanish colonial heritage and lush tropical setting with cultural, historical, soft adventure and eco-tour offerings. Five cruise lines have scheduled 20 calls on eight ships at Honduras' first mainland cruise destination. Holland America Line was the first major cruise operator to commit to a series of calls beginning in November 2014 through March 2015. Silversea Cruises has calls in December 2014 and March 2015. P&O Cruises and Oceania Cruises are booked in the first quarter of 2015.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next cruise vacation!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FAA Bans Pilots Texting in Flight

The FAA has issued final regulations banning commercial airline pilots from using Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) while in the cockpit operating aircraft. The rule will take effect in 60 days and provides mandates for prohibitions that the FAA and lawmakers have been looking to finalize in recent years. Within the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, lawmakers included a provision for the agency to develop a rule that prohibits airline flight crews from using personal wireless communications devices for personal reasons during all phases of flight. "This rule will ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck and do not contribute to a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential activities, as highlighted by these incidents," the agency said in its issuance of the new rule.  

Thursday, February 06, 2014

New Pyramid Discovered in Egypt

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades. The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet, is one of seven so-called "provincial" pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid's stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it's only about 16 feet tall. These provincial step pyramids are scattered throughout central and southern Egypt. They have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet. It has hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Canada and U.S. to Share Information from Border Crossings

Records of Canadians' trips across the border into the United States could soon be shared with a number of federal departments, including the RCMP and CSIS. Under an expanded data-exchange program between the two countries set to take effect on June 30, a traveler’s entry into one country will be used to create an exit record from the other country. 

The data has the potential to help Canadian authorities track people who may be travelling abroad to engage in terrorism and identify people who are out of the country but still receiving social assistance benefits. Information collected under the program will consist of "routine biographic information," such as first name, last name, middle name, date of birth, nationality, gender, document type, document number and document country of issuance, as well as time and place of entry into or exit from Canada. The $117-million data-sharing program is part of Canada's Beyond the Border Action Plan, designed to improve border security and the flow of goods between the two countries.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Carnival Cruises to Offer Big Name Musical Acts

Starting in April, Carnival Cruise Line will launch an experience branded "Carnival LIVE" featuring live performances by artists including Jennifer Hudson, LeAnn Rimes, Olivia Newton- John, Lady Antebellum, Trace Adkins and other stars. The artists will join ships at home ports in Cozumel, Nassau and Catalina Island, playing the last night of one cruise and the first night of the next. The performers will be in the main show lounge, and will not be sailing.

These shows are not included in the cruise fare. Tickets will cost $20 to $40, and can be purchased in advance through the line's web-based shore excursion system, or on board at the shore excursion desk, if available. VIP tickets, selling for $100 to $150 each, will include a meet-and-greet with photo opportunities, a laminated concert pass and seating in the first three rows.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aircraft Security Now Part of TSA

The TSA is again expanding its responsibilities by taking over the inspection of aircraft repair stations in an attempt to lower the risk of theft and other terrorism-related activity. The move will cover about 4,100 domestic repair stations and 700 foreign ones, as the agency attempts to satisfy a Congressional order passed about a decade ago. According to the Associated Press, Congress first mandated the TSA to inspect airport repair stations over concern that they made easy targets for terrorists wishing to steal a plane or plant a bomb onboard one. The FAA is responsible for repair stations but their job is to ensure the conditions of work quality meet US standards. With the TSA now preparing to inspect shops for security, the FAA will be able to continue authorizing new stations, a process that had been halted previously. The new rules apply only to stations operating at or near airports, since the agency found other locations "represent a minimal risk to aviation security." No examinations will be performed without the cooperation of that nation's government.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

New York's Tallest Hotel Opens

Marriott International, Inc and G Holdings announced the opening of a combined 378-room Courtyard hotel and 261-suite Residence Inn hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The $320 million tallest single-use hotel in North America is located at 1717 Broadway. It was built and is owned by G Holdings and managed by Interstate Hotels & Resorts. The 68-story building is just steps from Central Park and Times Square. The hotels offer guests convenient access to Carnegie Hall, the Broadway Theater District, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. The hotels offer valet parking and share 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center located on the 35th floor with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor sundeck for stretching, relaxing or seasonal sunning. Some guest rooms also feature floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views of Central Park, Times Square and the Hudson River.