River Cruising Growing in America

Cruises Down Under

This week in the cruise industry has seen a number of cruise lines announce major developments in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

For the 2018-2019 season, Princess Cruises will homeport four ships in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, including the inaugural season for the 3,560 guest Majestic Princess. Majestic Princess will sail itineraries from Sydney and Auckland on voyages from six to 13 days in length, and will call in ports at destinations including New Zealand, TasmaniaFiji and other islands in the South Pacific.

Meanwhile, Sun Princess will sail 13 roundtrip departures from Sydney to New Zealand, Fiji, Tasmania and Queensland, as well as an Asia & Australia voyage sailing 19 days from Hong Kong to Sydney. Sea Princess will make maiden calls to the Conflict Islands on 11-day Papua New Guinea itineraries sailing from Brisbane. Finally, Sun Princess will sail an Australia Getaway departing January 5, 2019, with a maiden call to Moreton Island. 

Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, has announced a number of new Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises of its own for the 2018 – 2019 season. Available to book starting May 16, 2017, Ovation of the Seas will sail from Sydney, Australia for its third and longest season in the country, offering 13 sailings beginning November 2018. Radiance of the Seas will have an expanded open-jaw program with three new itineraries in Australia in 2019. Finally, Explorer of the Seas will join Ovation of the Seas for its fourth season based in Sydney with 23 sailings exploring the island destinations of the South Pacific and Fiji.

Previously, Oceania Cruises had announced a number of cruises in the region as part of its Tropics & Exotics Itineraries for 2018 – 2019Oceania Marina will sail a number of voyages in Polynesia, while Oceania Regatta will add a number of voyages roundtrip from Auckland. Tasman Traveler will overnight in Sydney.


Travel to Cuba has Cooled

The 2017 survey showed that 40 percent of Americans would be interested in taking a trip to Cuba (two percent fewer than in 2016) while the easing of travel restrictions made just 26 percent of Americans more interested in visiting the country (nine percent fewer than 2016). Seventy-six percent reported being unlikely to plan a trip to Cuba (six percent more than 2016).

Although Americans are losing interest in traveling to Cuba, the survey showed that 17% of Americans felt the recent announcements of cruise lines now sailing to Cuba has made them more interested in visiting the Caribbean island.

What are American’s biggest travel concerns about visiting Cuba?

  • 38% Safety concerns
  • 22% Lack of Cuba’s travel experiences
  • 13% Travel infastructure
  • 12% Fear of communist government
  • 9% Internet/mobile connectivity

The survey also measured sentiment and discovered that 34 percent of Americans think Cuba has changed for the better because of as a result of the U.S. having eased travel restrictions to the country.

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What makes Americans interested in visiting Cuba?

  • 32% Resorts and beaches
  • 23% Cuba’s cultural attractions
  • 13% Cuban food and rum
  • 9% Cuban people
  • 9% Classic 1950s American cars
  • 7% Cuban cigars
  • 7% Family and friends

The survey also found that 15 percent of Americans believe the peace of mind of having travel insurance would make them more interested in traveling to Cuba.

The survey was administered from April 11, 2017 through April 13, 2017 and received 1,514 responses.

Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance through most major U.S. airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies, other travel suppliers and directly to consumers. For more information on Allianz Global Assistance and the policies offered for travelers, please visit: http://www.allianztravelinsurance.com.


How to Use Your Phone Overseas


(Saw this recently in Wired posting)

You’ve bought your plane tickets, booked your Airbnb, stocked up on tiny shampoo bottles. The only thing separating you from that summer jaunt to Mexico or the Bahamas or the south of France is the plane ride, and setting up your phone to come along with you.

Sure, vacation should be the time to power down, disconnect, and focus on the people in front of you. But that doesn’t mean giving up the option of getting directions from Google Maps or documenting your exotic meal on Instagram. Using your phone abroad used to be complicated, expensive, or both, but it’s getting easier and easier. Here are a few options for bringing your smartphone abroad.

Get Service

Level 1: Go Wi-Fi Only Good news: You can go “off the grid” and still update your feeds by using your phone in Wi-Fi mode. Just toggle off cellular data or leave your phone in airplane mode from the moment you board the plane. Then, just practicing asking: “Excusez-moi, quel est le mot de passe pour le Wi-Fi?

Level 2: Take Your American Plan Abroad If you need better connectivity to, say, hail a Lyft from the Acropolis, simply add a global package to your current service. It’s shockingly easy. For example, AT&T offers a service called Passport, which gets you 200 MB of data and unlimited texting in more than 200 countries for just $40 tacked onto your current monthly plan. (Calls abroad still cost a buck a minute, so talk quickly.) Verizon offers a similar service, Travel Pass, that costs $5 a day to extend your plan to Mexico and Canada and $10 per day for service in more than 100 other countries. How much data you need depends upon how active you plan to be online. Posting 30 photos to social media costs about 10 MB; each web page you visit costs about one. Downloading apps like Whatsapp lets you send texts and make calls without racking up minutes, and disabling “automatic refresh” on email and other apps helps avoid blowing through your data allowance.

Level 3: Talk Like the Locals Flexing that unlimited vacation policy and staying abroad for more than a week or two? Consider replacing your SIM card and using a local service provider. First, make sure your phone is unlocked. You can do this by swapping your SIM card for another one and confirming that your phone still works, or simply calling your service provider. The FCC requires that providers unlock all devices so you can use them on any network, so simply ask your provider for an unlock code. One caveat, though: That rule doesn’t apply if you’re locked into a contract or you haven’t paid for your phone in full.

A local SIM usually replaces your domestic phone number with a local one, so apps like Whatsapp or WeChat remain the simplest way to talk with friends back home without the whole “new number, who dis?” routine. You will, however, be able to call the local pizza place for a delivery or add your new international friends on Facebook without spending the extra coin on calls, texts, and data usage.

Power Up

Luckily, almost all smartphones will work plugged into outlets between 100 volts and 240 volts, so you probably don’t need a voltage converter to charge your phone. (If you’re not sure, you can find the voltage printed on the bottom of the phone.) All you need is a simple plug adapter to power up just like you would back home. Just make sure you have enough battery for all those travel foodstagrams.

More from WIRED:

Top Military Museums to Visit This Year


(This article recently appeared on Fox News)

The National Infantry Museum – Columbus, Georgia

Presiding over a lawn seeded with soil from real American battle sites, this $100 million museum lies on the outskirts of Fort Benning, Ga., the home of the American infantry. Dedicated to the infantry soldier, the museum houses one of the most sizeable collections of military artifacts in the world. Every infantry soldier is required to train at Fort Benning, and every solider must visit the museum to learn about the soldiers who fought before him or her.

“Summer is a great time of year for the museum,” said Col. Greg Camp, President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Infantry Museum Foundation. “School is out, families can take vacations, and there’s time to relax and fully explore the museum.”

On June 2, the National Infantry Museum will partner with the Columbus Museum for “Operation Warfare: Dinner with the Allies,” where guests learn about and sample the foods that sustained American allies during World War I.

Freedom Fest, held on the Fourth of July at the museum, will host live bands, cannon firings, re-enactors, living historians, Fort Benning’s Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team, an old-fashioned Pint-Sized Patriots Parade, children’s games, and festival food. The event is free to the public and open to all.

This summer, the museum will also be launching its virtual reality combat simulators, which allow participants to experience what it’s like to be an infantry soldier.

Where to stay: Originally built in the 1870s, the Rothschild-Pound House Inn is a charming bed and breakfast run by a husband-and-wife team, just ten minutes from the National Infantry Museum. The B&B serves up gourmet breakfasts, which can be delivered to guests’ suites upon request. The Rothschild-Pound House is set in the historic neighborhood in Columbus and is walking distance to both the Chattahoochee River and downtown Columbus.

Where to eat: 11th and Bay Southern Table is posted along the Chattahoochee River and serves up hearty dishes with a southern twist. The restaurant is set in a rustic, former cotton warehouse with indoor and outdoor seating.

Fort Ticonderoga – Ticonderoga, New York

European armies fought for control of the Americas during the 18th century at this frontier post which lies strategically between Canada and the Hudson River Valley. Constructed between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War, this striking star-shaped fort built by the French played a significant role in shaping the nations of the North American continent. Fort Ticonderoga is only open seasonally (May-October), so take advantage of the museum’s summer events.

Resting on 2,000 acres of landscape on Lake Champlain, the historic site will host its “Guns by Night” series every Thursday night (from July 6 through August 24), demonstrating 18th century firepower. Participants learn how guns impacted and shaped the importance of this former citadel and witness a dramatic reenactment at the end of each tour.

On Tuesday evenings from July 11 through August 29, visitors can explore different areas of the fort not open to the general public. A curator describes strengths and weaknesses of the fort and how military personnel prepared to combat the British (Note: an extended period of walking is required for this tour).

Each Monday, Fort Ticonderoga offers summer sunset boat cruises aboard a replica 19th century touring vessel where guests experience a mountainside sunset on Lake Champlain.

The Mount Defiance experience is included in a general admissions ticket, which features a guided tour up the mountain– which afford stunning view across the lake– every day at 4 p.m.

Where to stay: The luxurious Sagamore Hotel is over 100 years old and just a 40-minute drive from Ft. Ticonderoga.

Where to eat: La Bella Vita at the Sagamore offers panoramic views of Lake George and features centuries-old Italian recipes.

Custer Battlefield Museum – Garryowen, Montana

As the site of one of the most studied military actions in U.S. history, Custer Battlefield Museum is located where the Battle of the Little Big Horn began at Sitting Bull’s camp. Honoring the anniversary of Little Big Horn, the museum will host the Custer Reenactment, rain or shine, on June 23, 24, and 25. The museum’s mission is to expand people’s awareness of the Western Migration Movement and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where the Crazy Horse-led Sioux massacred General Custer and his cavalry.

Where to stay: Constructed in 1904, the Northern Hotel in Billings is an upscale boutique hotel, just a one-hour drive from the museum.

Where to eat: Visit Jake’s Steak House for dinner in Billings and Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery for breakfast.

The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 

Adjacent to the battlefield of Gettysburg, this museum is one of the largest in the area, with twelve different galleries encompassing the five years of the American Civil War. Starting in 1860 and culminating with the Restoration, the museum offers different artifacts and videos describing various battles, highlighting the three days of battle at Gettysburg.

The Living History series kicks off June 9 (running through mid-August on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). Visitors can take a shuttle bus to one of the best preserved and significant Union field hospitals from the Battle of Gettysburg. The George Spangler Farm Civil War Field Hospital site treated 1,800 Union soldiers and 100 Confederate soldiers. This summer, there will be doctors and soldier reenactments, historian lectures, and a Women’s Relief Association discussion about the importance of female contributions during the war, among other series at the farm.

Where to stay: The Federal Pointe Inn is a boutique hotel located in the heart of the Gettysburg historic district.

Where to eat: Fidler & Co. Craft Kitchen is located in Adams County and serves rustic, local cuisine from the surrounding farmland.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial – Kansas City, Missouri

Upon entering the National World War I Museum, visitors walk over a symbolic field of 9,000 red poppies. Just one flower represents 1,000 combatant deaths in the Great War. The museum is built underneath the first American monument dedicated to the war, the Liberty Memorial, funded by local citizens in less than two weeks in order to honor “courage, patriotism, sacrifice, and honor.”

Over Memorial Day Weekend, the museum will provide free admission for active duty members of the military and veterans, and half-price entry to all guests. There will be themed activities over the long weekend, culminating in a public ceremony on Memorial Day featuring musical performances and speeches.

The museum offers its “Hands-On History” program every Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. this summer, where visitors have the chance to handle wartime artifacts at the museum.

From June 18 through June 24, the museum invites guests to picnic, play games on museum’s lawn and enjoy the outdoors at sunset during the museum’s “Taps at the Tower” series, linking the Taps bugle call with the symbolism of the Liberty Memorial Tower.

Where to stay: The Raphael Hotel, a boutique property set in a Spanish Renaissance Revival building, overlooks the Country Club Plaza and is a ten-minute drive from the museum.

Where to eat: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar specializes in sustainable, fresh fish in this landlocked state.

The National World War II Museum – New Orleans, Louisiana

An expansive, three-pavilion institution in the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District, the National World War II Museum offers visitors an experience of the European and Pacific theaters through a guided, immersive timeline with oral history stations and story points. Because of the museum’s scale, guests are encouraged to visit the museum as a two-day trip (the museum discounts the second-day passes).

With the museum’s travel tours guided by historians and experts, the tours head to historic locations, such as Normandy, Pearl Harbor, and include airfare, hotels, tours, food and drink. An added bonus is that the museum receives special access to select locations where civilian access normally isn’t granted.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Canal St., which is a five-minute streetcar ride from the museum.

Where to eat: The American Sector Restaurant and Bar is the museum’s upscale farm-to-table restaurant open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour.

The Airborne and Special Operations Museum – Fayetteville, North Carolina

Located close to Fort Bragg, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum presents the chronological history of America’s Special Operations units. On the morning of May 20, the museum’s annual Field of Honor Opening Ceremony allows friends and families to honor a loved one with a flag on the parade field at the museum, which will be displayed through June 30.

The museum will honor National Airborne Day on August 19, which celebrates the 77th year anniversary of the first jump by the Test Platoon, and the 17th anniversary of the museum. The museum also features a 24-seat simulator, which offers experiences like flying into Normandy with the 101st Screaming Eagles on D-Day and performing a HALO operation from 25,000 feet.

Where to stay: Embassy Suites is just a five-minute drive from the museum.

Where to eat: Morgan’s Chop House has a menu that includes local steaks, as well as more unique dishes, such as kangaroo and alligator.

Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington, Virginia 

Although not technically a museum, this list would not be complete without Arlington National Cemetery, the historical site and active cemetery with over 400,000 active duty service members, vets, and their family members buried there. A sprawling 624 acres serves as a scenic tribute to the nation’s fallen and is on The National Registrar of Historic Places.

The cemetery holds about 3,000 ceremonies per year honoring U.S. service members from all branches of the military. The site also commemorates astronauts, nurses, chaplains, war correspondents, and is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for soldiers whose remains could not be identified.

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Washington, D.C. is one of the area’s highest end properties and it’s less than two miles from Arlington National Cemetery.

Where to eat: Mele Bistro is about a mile from Arlington and features farm-to-table Italian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere with an outdoor patio.


Royal Caribbean Returns to New Orleans

After a three-year hiatus, Royal Caribbean International will return to New Orleans with the newly announced repositioning of Vision of the Seas for the 2018-2019 winter season. The ship will sail seven-night itineraries to destinations across the Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula. Its 989-foot sibling ship, Enchantment of the Seas, will move from Miami, Florida, to join Liberty of the Seas in Galveston, Texas, offering four- and five-night Caribbean cruises that will complement Liberty’s seven-night Caribbean vacations.

The two new offerings bring more options and easy access from the Gulf Coast for travelers in the region, Royal Caribbean said.

Before repositioning to its new home in “The Big Easy” on December 15, 2018, Vision of the Seas will offer two, 16-night sailings through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles, California, and from Los Angeles to New Orleans. This will be the first time in three years that Royal Caribbean will journey through the canal.

Also in 2018, Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, which had long been homeported in the Asia-Pacific region, will return to the United States to homeport in Miami. Mariner will be the first Voyager-class ship – with amenities including the rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink and Royal Promenade – to offer short Caribbean sailings aimed at first-time cruise travelers, Royal Caribbean said. The three- and four-night itineraries from PortMiami to the Bahamas begin on June 21, 2018, following the ship’s extensive, 32-day revitalization. Prior to going into drydock and its arrival to Miami, Mariner will embark on a previously announced “Global Odyssey,” consisting of three 13- to 15-night sailings from Singapore to Dubai; Dubai to Barcelona; and Barcelona to Miami.

Enchantment of the Seas arrives to Galveston on June 23, 2018. Guests currently booked on Enchantment for sailings departing Miami after June 23 will be contacted individually to transition the original booking to the freshly revitalized Mariner of the Seas from its new homeport in Miami, Royal Caribbean said.

Sailings onboard Mariner of the Seas are now available to book, and Enchantment of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will be available to book as of May 5, 2017.

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