AIG Now Insures Low Water on Rivers

AIG Travel has announced ability to request packages from an selection of individual products to fit traveler’s needs. It is designed to provide agents with the ability to request packages to meet specific customer demands.

The new benefits were filed by AIG Travel affiliate National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have been approved in 31 states.

Along with new package-building model, AIG is also adding individual benefits including:

Name your family: Currently, there are policies in place that defines who is considered family whose death or illness may trigger coverage for a trip cancellation. With this new policy, the traveler can name people to include in this group.

New trip cancellation benefits: 

–Due to insufficient/excessive water levels: For those going on a cruise, the new product can cover travelers in case of flood or drought in the vacation area.
–Due to a wedding being canceled: When the bride or groom gets cold feet, this product will cover the insured if the trip is cancelled.

Trip curtailment due to the mechanical breakdown of an owned or rented vehicle: If a vehicle breaks down, this coverage will safeguard the cost of lost vacation time while the vehicle is being replaced or repaired.

Trip inconvenience coverage: This category introduces a variety of benefits to AIG’s current options. A fixed benefit amount is payable upon a stated inconvenience such as a closed or shut down theme park, beach, or other attractions, runway delays, and more.

AIG has also expanded coverage benefits for:

Pet named perils: If a dog or cat is injured while traveling, the insured now has more options. This will also provide a benefit if the pet dies after the insurance is purchased but before the trip begins.

Security evacuation coverage: Travelers can be removed from an unsafe or unstable situation, like political unrest or a natural disaster, with the cost covering up to a specific benefit level.

Christmas Markets 2017

(currently posted on the Travel Agent site)

Despite the fact that it’s still summertime, it’s never too early to start thinking about the holiday season.

If you’re thinking about getting away for this upcoming Christmas, these tours supplied by this list are sure to do the trick. Here are six different tour and cruise operators who can add some extra special Christmas cheer to your family’s holiday season this year – whether you are looking for authentic, festive delicacies or to immerse yourself in a different style of holiday tradition.

Abercrombie & Kent

This Christmas, this luxury tour operator is offering families a new “Christmas Markets Along the Danube” holiday tour. The cruise runs for a total of nine days and is limited to only 24 guests, allowing for the trip to be particularly intimate. Travelers will start in Vienna, Austria, and end in Munich, Germany, staying within the confines of the two countries throughout the journey.

While in Vienna, guests will tour the famous, baroque Belvedere Museum, take a Viennese waltz lesson, visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, tour the city while driving along the Ringstrasse (or Ring Road), visit Schönbrunn Palace and its Christmas market as well as other Viennese holiday markets, including the famous Christkindlemarkt on the Rathausplatz. This famous holiday market dates back to the 18th century, but only moved to its present location in 1975. It estimates a rough 3.5 million attendees per year, and offers high quality blown glass and handcrafted wood gifts.

There will be more Christmas markets in Passau, Regensburg and Nuremberg, Germany. At the latter, travelers will get to enjoy an original, homemade, holiday classic: gingerbread.

This tour runs through December 10 to 18, 2017.

Collette

This tour operator is offering two different Christmas holiday market tours this year: the “Spotlight on Paris Holiday” and the “Classic Christmas Markets” tours.

On the Paris tour, travelers can spend seven days – either from November 27 to December 3, December 4 to December 10, or December 11 to December 17, 2017 – understanding what the City of Lights is all about during this time of year. There will be a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral, a Seine River cruise showing off the city skyline, and time at the Champs-Elysees Christmas Market. Guests will also dine at the Eiffel Tower, which will have holiday-inspired decorations, and be able to gaze at the Christmas window displays of Galerie Lafayette and Printemps Haussman. The tour will also take travelers out of Paris and into the city of Reims, where they will also get to explore that city’s holiday market.

“Classic Christmas Markets” is a nine-day tour, with dates including November 25 to December 3, December 2 to December 10, or December 9 to December 17, 2017. This tour will take guests through Strasbourg, France, Würzburg, Nuremberg and Munich, Germany, as well as Innsbruck, Austria. Each country will host its own variation of a “Christkindlesmarkt,” complete with authentic gifts, delicacies and European charm. There will also be excursions to other historic and cultural landmarks on this tour.

GOGO Vacations

Explore the German city of Frankfurt on this tour operator’s holiday market itinerary. One of the shorter tours on this list, visitors will be able to enjoy the city for three full nights. Guests will stay at the five-star Le Meridien Frankfurt, receive breakfast daily as well as private hotel transfers, and walk through the Rüdesheim Christmas markets, which includes dinner.

The Rüdesheim holiday market is set in Frankfurt’s “chocolate box” old quarter, adorned with warm, twinkly lights and pine galore. There are 120 stalls from 12 different countries, all gathering to celebrate and share their own variation of holiday tradition with the world. Some “must-do’s” at this holiday market involve trying Rüdesheim mulled wine or Rüdesheim coffee – the latter exclusively made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy and whipped cream. Asbach Uralt also makes its own variety of brandy-filled chocolates, which could make for an authentic gift. A highlight of this market arrives on is the parade for St. Thomas on December 20, a traditional pageant where minstrels, masked men and others walks through the Old Town.

This tour should be booked by September 30, 2017 and runs tours through November 27 to December 23, 2017.

Cunard

Travelers can also set sail for the holiday season on this cruise line, with festive options aboard the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships. The Bruges Short Break cruises run for three nights, while the Bruges and Amsterdam cruises run for five. Those aboard the Queen Elizabeth on the Bruges Short Break tour will travel from December 8 to 11, 2017, and those aboard the Queen Victoria on the Bruges and Amsterdam tour will travel from December 12 to 17, 2017.

The Bruges Short Break tour will start in Southampton, traveling to Zeebrugge (Bruges) and back to Southampton again. The famous Christmas market in Bruges is home to picturesque cobblestone streets, festive ice sculptures, horse-drawn carriages, ice skating and holiday sweets.

The Bruges and Amsterdam cruise also departs from Southampton, though it not only stops in Bruges, but Amsterdam and Cherbourg, France, as well. The Museumplein Christmas village in Amsterdam hosts live entertainment, Christmas games, gifts and traditional Dutch food and drinks. The Cherbourg Christmas market also hosts live entertainment as well as seasonal delicacies such as grilled chestnuts and mulled wine. There are more Christmas gifts to be found here, along with an ice skating rink and a toboggan run.

Pleasant Holidays

This tour operator has recently expanded its Germany portfolio, making holiday market tours available throughout the country. Known to have some of the best holiday markets, travelers with this tour operator will explore Berlin, Munich, Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Going through so many German cities, guests with Pleasant Holidays will be able to see the cultural differences and influences of each city.

Aside from Germany, there are other cruises offered through Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Vienna and ending in Budapest aboard AmaWaterways’ river cruises.

Insight Vacations

Unlike most other itineraries on this list, this tour operator brings travelers to some “off the beaten path” locations, such as Russia, Poland and Bavaria. Some of these tours include “Christmas Markets of Poland, Prague & Germany,” “Christmas Markets of Austria & Bavaria” and “Easy Pace Russia with Christmas Markets.”

However, there are still other European holiday tours offered, including the “Alpine Christmas Markets” tour through the Alps, the “Christmas Markets of Germany” tour and the “Winter Wonderland” tour through Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria, Lucerne, Switzerland and Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Munich, Mainz and Heidelberg, Germany. These tours vary from seven- to nine-day itineraries.

Related Stories

Millennials Like Cruises

(this article was recently published in the New York Times)

Cruise lines have long been wooing millennial travelers with high-tech amenities like fast internet, thrilling shipboard adventures like skydiving, zip lines and demographically pitched late-night dance parties. Now one cruise company is making a fuller proposal by launching the first millennial-targeted cruise line.

U by Uniworld, from the high-end Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, will launch in April 2018 two ships that repurpose existing Uniworld ships. The A and the B, as they are called, will accommodate 120 passengers each and have black exteriors and a sleek design with communal spaces, deck-top lounges and D.J.s.

The new line aims to capture 21-to-45-year-old travelers with onboard enrichment opportunities like landscape painting while sipping wine and classes in mixology and cooking. On shore, travelers can explore independently or go on guided excursions such as shopping in a food market with a ship chef, rock climbing, white-water rafting or following so-called U Hosts to local nightspots.

Four eight-day itineraries will travel on the Rhine, Main, Danube or Seine Rivers, with overnight stays when the ships are in Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam and Budapest. Fares start at $1,699 a person, a considerable savings from the main Uniworld line, where eight-day trips start at $2,699 a person.

Other cruise lines are sharpening their pitches to the younger end of the cruising spectrum with new high-tech ships and amenities. Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce its new Ocean Medallion on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November. The wearable device will unlock cabin doors, enable shipboard purchases and act as a navigation device, allowing friends or waiters to find passengers.

The 2,900-passenger oceangoing Celebrity Edge from Celebrity Cruises will launch in 2018 with the line’s first single staterooms and a cantilevered platform the size of a tennis court called the Magic Carpet that will move from deck to deck, creating a walkway to tenders on Deck 2, an outdoor dining terrace on Deck 5 or an expanded pool deck on 14.

In June, the 5,700-passenger MSC Meraviglia from MSC Cruises launched with interactive bracelets that unlock cabin doors and process shipboard purchases, and introduced two new shows from Cirque du Soleil.

Travel in Zimbabwe’s Hwange Park

(article recently posted in Vogue)

The vast game parks of Africa have a powerful place in our collective imagination. Even those of us who have never set foot on the continent can name its most famous conservation areas—the Maasai Mara, the Serengeti, the Kruger, and Etosha are all evocative of the extraordinary experiences Africa has to offer.

But Hwange, Zimbabwe’s biggest and most diverse national park, is rarely included in that impressive list. This is in spite of the fact that the country is dominated by two iconic rivers, endless bushland, the world’s most famous waterfall, and some of the best game viewing on the continent.

The political devastation of the recent past is, of course, the reason why. But as Robert Mugabe ages, there is a sense of renewed hope for a country that was once known as the bread basket of Africa and which the BBC’s former South Africa correspondent, Fergal Keane, describes as “possibly the most beautiful place in all of Africa.”

Like thousands before him, he was drawn in by the potent mix of thundering waterfalls, sea-like lakes, and animal-filled plains. A tougher, more extravagant version of neighboring Botswana and its gentle Okavango Delta waterways, Zimbabwe smacks you in the face with its dramatic scenery, its endless hot and dusty savannas, and its world record–breaking array of wildlife.

Hwange National Park in particular gives you a taste of what game viewing was like before modern tourism sanitized it with tagged animals, radio call-outs, and seven jeeps crowded around one overwhelmed leopard. Hwange is simply too full of animals and too empty of people to play that game.

At 5,657 square miles, it is 18 times the size of New York City, and in that space, it has an estimated 50,000 elephants, many of which are in breeding herds as large as 300 that pad from waterhole to waterhole. There are also more than 100 different kinds of mammals and an estimated 500 bird species living in the scrubland. This level of biodiversity is matched only by the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Kruger National Park in South Africa, both of which have a far higher population of human visitors than Hwange.

Which means that in the glamorous bush camps that are dotted around the park, you should always be alone with your guide and, hopefully, a pride of sleepy lions or a solitary cheetah. Although, if you get taken to the extraordinary Nyamandlovu pan, it isn’t uncommon to see buffalos, giraffes, elephants, baboons, and even a few big cats in one rather overwhelming sighting.

And the camps themselves are world-class. Wilderness Safaris has played an important role in the rejuvenation of Hwange, and its three camps in the park rival any of the award-winning establishments in neighboring South Africa and Botswana. But most importantly, visiting Zimbabwe is an important way to help control the devastating poaching figures. This is a particularly pressing time for the African conservation community. Poaching is rife throughout the continent but Mugabe’s corrupt rule has made it particularly prolific in Zimbabwe, where a high price is placed on wild animals with commercial value. And unlike neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe has no state-funded anti-poaching projects, meaning parks are entirely reliant on money brought in by tourists. Organizations such as Wilderness Safaris are too late for the rhino population (which now no longer exists in the wild in Zimbabwe), but are protecting lions, elephants, and cheetahs at an astounding rate, thanks to the generosity of guests.

And conservationists are hoping their efforts are only set to get stronger thanks to the government’s latest push to increase tourism numbers. Hwange is 100 miles (or a short propeller-plane hop) away from the brand-new Victoria Falls Airport, which currently welcomes daily flights from Dubai, Doha, Johannesburg, and many other cities around Africa, with the aim of opening up this alluring part of Zimbabwe to the world. It also means visitors can easily combine a trip to the unmissable Victoria Falls with a few days in Hwange.

And while it will take years for the scars of the past to heal, the international travel industry’s attention—which has been very much trained on Zimbabwe for the last year—has given a wonderful sense of hope to the people of Hwange National Park in particular. And many of them speak about how visitors to their extraordinary country hold the key to not only saving animal lives, but also to ushering in a new era for Zimbabwe.

Where to Stay

Little Makalolo
If you’re hoping to get intimate with your surroundings, then look no further than Little Mak, as it is affectionately called. Sleeping just 12 people, you may well find yourself alone in the camp in one of just six beautifully decorated tents that feel like the most comfortable bush home in the world, rather than a luxury camp. There’s also a small plunge pool and a shabby-chic boma in which to have drinks under the stars.

Davison’s
Set around one of the biggest waterholes in Hwange, it is tempting to pass your days at Davison’s doing little more than lounging on either your wonderfully comfortable bed, the newly decorated central area, or simply in the coolness of the pool so you can watch the herds of elephant and buffalo, the troops of baboon, and the occasional big cat pad in and out for a much-needed drink.

Linkwasha
The most glamorous and high-tech of all the Hwange camps, Linkwasha somehow combines the amenities of a five-star hotel in New York with the muted tones of a chic establishment in Paris—oh, and views of a savanna populated with kudu, zebra, giraffe, and ground hornbill. If you can, request a guide called Livingstone Sana, a brilliant old safari hand who has lived in Hwange for decades and knows everything there is to possibly know about bush life.

The Victoria Falls Hotel
The grande dame of African colonial-era hotels, this regal property sits on a manicured lawn a 15-minute walk away from the most dramatic waterfall on earth. And with four-posters draped in mosquito nets; old-fashioned claw-foot baths; a long, shaded swimming pool; and a deep veranda made for sipping gin and tonics, it also fulfills every travel fantasy you’ve ever had in one stop.

Have To Save Money While Traveling

 

(This article was written by Christine Johnson who has a travel blog called mytravelingkids.com)

Who doesn’t like to save money when possible? Traveling can be expensive, but with the right strategy you can bring down the cost. Try these 15 tips on your next vacation and your wallet will thank you.

1. Look for free activities. If you do a little research, you’ll see there are often lots of free activities in the area. Look at community calendars to see what is going on in town while you are there. Do a self-guided walking tour to familiarize yourself with your destination. Museums often have a ‘pay what you can’ day once a week and sometimes have discounted admission after a certain time of day.

2. Book a room with a refrigerator/microwave or kitchen area.Although some people might not like to cook while on vacation, I don’t mind making breakfast in my room. I love having a cup of coffee on my deck, but room service can be very pricy. I’d rather eat-in for breakfast and lunch and then splurge on a fancy dinner. A microwave and fridge will also be helpful for reheating leftovers.

3. Shop at farmer’s markets and local stores. Farmer’s markets often lower the price of their food towards the end of the day. Also, shopping at local stores allows you to taste the local cuisine without having to pay the price of a restaurant. Buy some local fish and cook it up at your condo.

4. Before you book, be aware of the location of where you’re staying.Transportation can add up quickly, so you may want to stay in a central location. Ideally, somewhere you can walk everywhere would work best. If you’re staying in a city, will you be near a subway or bus stop?

5. Carry snacks/water during outings. Kids will need snacks while you are exploring, and it drives me crazy to spend money on silly snacks. Throw some granola bars in your bag and pull them out when the kids need fuel. Don’t even get me started on how much I hate spending money on bottled water when I can buy an entire case for the same amount. Always carry your own water. However, splurge when it comes to treats that you can only find in that location.

6. Use points or miles. Chain hotels, like Hilton and Marriott, have a reward system that give you points for staying there and they are great to use for free overnight stays. When traveling, try to exclusively stay at those hotels and fly the same airlines to build your points.

7. Look for city tourism cards. Depending on the card, you can gain free entry to top visitor attractions, discounts at restaurants and shops, skip-the-line options at busy attractions, free public transportation, and even free guidebooks. Depending on your itinerary, it might be worth the money.

8. Don’t get the best room. How much time are you actually going to use your room? Will you just be sleeping there? Do you need a room with a good view or so much extra space? Will you use the amenities, such as a pool or a fitness room?

9. Be flexible when flying. If you are not on a tight schedule, can you be flexible with the time of day you fly, the number of stops, or your seat selection? Do you mind having a long layover? If possible, check the dates of your trip and see if the price would go down if you tweaked the dates a bit.

10. Stay outside a city. You often pay for location, and it’s sometimes cheaper to stay away from areas with big tourist attractions. You can always go to the attractions and then head back to your hotel to sleep.

11. Rent an apartment instead of having to get two rooms. My friends with three or more kids are often complaining how expensive it is to stay in a hotel because they need to get adjoining rooms. An apartment or condo is often much cheaper. I love to use VRBO, HomeAway, and have even used TripAdvisor.

12. Go off season. You can usually find cheaper plane tickets and hotel rooms by going off season, and there may be more availability. You will not have to deal with large crowds and attractions could also be cheaper at that time. Just make sure places are open.

13. Have a big lunch. Restaurants often offer lunch specials with less expensive prices. You could also buy extra food at lunch and save it for dinner later.

14. Don’t eat in areas that are close to tourist destinations. In some cities, walking just a few blocks can slash prices at restaurants. I try to never eat at attractions because they tend to raise the price to their captive audience.

15. Create a budget and stick to it! Know when to save and when to splurge. We always eat at a nice restaurant on our last night of vacation. Look for ways to save money but also treat yourself during the trip. Having a budget is a wonderful way to keep yourself on track.

What are your tips for saving money while traveling?

Viking Adds Trips to Norway, Sweden and Denmark

Viking Ocean Cruises is doubling down on Scandinavia with three new itineraries that focus on Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

New on the fast-growing line’s website as of this month:

► Majestic Fjords & Vibrant Cities. An 11-night itinerary between Bergen, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark that features stops in Eidfjord, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo, Norway; Gothenburg, Sweden; Alborg, Denmark; and Warnemunde, Germany. Initial departure dates are June 16 and Sept. 15, 2018; and May 16, June 20 and July 21, 2019. Fares start at $4,699 per person, based on double occupancy.

► Scandinavia & the Kiel Canal. A 10-night itinerary between Copenhagen and Amsterdam that features stops in Gothenburg, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Fredericia, Denmark; and Hamburg, Germany. Initial departure dates are June 27 and Sept. 26, 2018; and May 27, April 6 and April 16, 2018. Fares start at $3,999 per person, based on double occupancy.

► Viking Shores & Fjords. A seven-night itinerary that between Amsterdam and Bergen that features stops in Skagen, Denmark; and Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Flam, Norway. A single departure date is set for July 7, 2018. Fares start at $2,999 per person, based on double occupancy.

The voyages will take place on Viking Ocean’s new Viking Sky and its soon-to-debut sister ship Viking Sun. The vessels hold 930 passengers.

Two-year-old Viking Ocean has made Scandinavia-focused voyages one of the cornerstones of its schedule. It already operates 14-night summer sailings between Bergen, Norway and London that center on the coast of Norway. Stops in Norway as well as Sweden and Denmark also are a significant part of the line’s signature, 14-night Baltic itinerary called Viking Homelands.

Viking Ocean also recently unveiled plans for voyages along the Norwegian coast in the winter, when the Northern Lights are visible. That’s a rarity in the cruise world.

Launched in 2015, Viking Ocean is a sister line to 20-year-old Viking River Cruises. It currently operates three ships with five more on order.

Viking Along The Danube

 

(This is a recent post by Claudia and Bill Perozzi who live in California.   I have done this same cruise and thank goodness when we did it the water was not that high and we did not have to transfer to another boat)

It pays to advertise.  As frequent travelers, it would be hard for us not to be captivated by the commercials for Viking River Cruises.  Seeing the televised long boat glide on a ribbon of blue water past glorious sights convinced us to book our own cruise.  We chose the Romantic Danube cruise, eight days from Budapest, Hungary, to Nuremburg, Germany.

This experience was definitely different from an ocean cruise.  The Viking long boat was just that, a much longer than wide boat with rows of cabins on both sides of  hallways.  Two floors of cabins above us had balconies but our cabin was on the lowest level with a small porthole just above the water’s edge.  We could see the rising water which became an important factor later.

Our cabin itself was clean, compact and comfortable.  It had everything we needed and nothing more.  That statement goes for the whole ship.  There was no theatre, no shopping area, no casino, no workout room, no pool–and we didn’t miss any of it.  Like a cruise ship, the food was excellent.

The number of passengers on ocean cruise ships is about 1800 but on this ship we passengers numbered about 180, all English speaking.  Seeing the same people day after day, it was easy to get acquainted and find that we had much in common.  After all we were with others who probably liked the same commercials.

We gathered as a group in the dining area for our first and subsequent briefings by our program director, George.  Most days we had an included excursion in the morning and options in the afternoon.  George’s level of enthusiasm was perfect for our group with, I guess, a median age of 65.  He was upbeat, entertaining and answered endless questions.

I’m not sure anyone could adequately prepare us for our first stop, Vienna, Austria.  Everyone took the same first tour of this magnificent city with highly decorated buildings, flourishing fountains and heroic statues seemingly every where.  The predominant architecture was gothic but some of it was converted to baroque as styles changed.  Green domes atop white stones structures gave a majestic effect throughout the city.

Vienna was the seat of the Hapsburg monarchy for several centuries.  In the eighteenth century Maria Theresa ruled, had 16 children and arranged for most of them to be married to royalty in other countries.  Franz Joseph, who had the longest and last reign ending in 1916, was born and died in Schonbrunn Palace, which we toured in the afternoon.

One could easily get lost in this huge palace, I thought as we wandered into the oversize Rococo ballroom.  Our guide explained the importance of ballrooms as the places young eligible royals and aristocrats could mix, mingle and maybe eventually marry.  Making a good match mattered immensely and networking has been going on for a long time.

The palace itself was imposing and its gardens flowed equally majestically.  Stylized mazes decorated acres, followed by massive fountains, followed by a “gloriette,” a series of archways with statues of heroes set on a hillside.

That evening we returned to Vienna again, this time to hear delightful operatic performances from very talented students in a small venue set up just for our ship.  We all reveled in the music, the culture, the beauty of Vienna.  We left wishing we could have stayed longer.

As we continued on the cruise, it became apparent that water in the river was rising to such a height that soon our boat would not be able to pass under some of the bridges ahead of us.  We passengers were told to pack our suitcases and leave them in the hallway.  Then everyone was booked on day long excursions.

In an amazingly smooth feat, the crew from our ship transferred all of our belongings onto a practically identical boat on the other side of  low bridges.  Our new cabins looked just like our former cabins.  In fact everything looked just the same but we had a new captain and crew.  Happily our constant was our program director, George, who stayed with us the whole way.

Along the way, we visited churches and monasteries in valleys and on hills.  The most memorable church was St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany.  With 17,774 pipes, it boasts the world’s largest pipe organ.  Our tour was timed perfectly to coincide with a short recital on the booming instrument as the setting and the sound enhanced each other.

Some days we sailed during the day.  While nibbling on snacks such as the omnipresent chocolate chip cookies, we watched the world pass by.  Green hills, rows of fertile vineyards, red tiled roofs on stone buildings and little grottoes amid fields gave us memorably scenic views.

Now would be a good time to answer the question:  Is the Danube really blue?  No and yes.  Most of the time the river shimmers silvery green-gray, like a sophisticated celadon Asian vase.  But once in a while, when the sky is very blue, the water reflects the sky and becomes azure, pure blue, just like in the Strauss waltz, The Blue Danube.

One theme that ran through the optional excursions we chose was the terrible treatment of Jews.  In Regensburg in particular our attention was called to Jewish headstones that had been desecrated and reused as building blocks.  A sculpture of a sow on a church was a derogatory statement toward Jews.  Now some towns have inscribed the names of Jews on sections of pavement where they had lived before being sent to extermination camps.

Our most comprehensive tour was provided in Nuremburg.  Our guide took us to a gigantic unfinished amphitheatre where Hitler had delivered his diatribes to huge adoring crowds.  His ego was larger than the largest theatre and he seemed able to mesmerize his audience.  In the adjacent museum we saw photos of many of the atrocities of World War II.

Then we wound up at the Nuremberg Hall of Justice where the trials were held after the war.  Germans had expected the Allies to simply sentence all the indicted military to death but all were given fair representation and some were even exonerated.  Just being in the hall where history took place made a powerful impact.

We all gathered again back at the ship for our last night together.  After dinner, as a special  treat, opera singers came on board for a musical farewell.  And then we all joined in singing “Edelweiss.”

Dave’s First Travel Blog

May 30, 2017

Tourwithdave Travel tips

First edition

As most of you know I love to travel. Also I enjoy researching and learning new things about places and events.  So I thought I would share a few items I have come across in the past few weeks and months.  This is not intended to be in-depth but just to give you enough information so you will want to go and find out more for yourself.  So let’s begin.

Cuba

As some of you know I took a group to Cuba about a year ago.  We really had a great time.  Since that time a lot of cruise ships have announced they are going to include Cuba in their itinerary. The latest to do so just a few days ago is Holland America.  They will begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale starting on December 22nd of this year.  It will be aboard the Veendam.  Most of the cruise ships that are going to Cuba usually stay docked in Havana for a day or two and then go to other places in the Caribbean.

One interesting thing about travel to Cuba is that it has not been as big a draw as many of the American based airlines thought it would.  Therefore some of the flights that were announced have been cut back.  There are plenty of seats still available but you might not have a large a selection as you did six months ago.

Finally on Cuba you still are required to list one of 12 reasons why you want to go to Cuba.  Just to go to beach does not count.  The most popular is “people to people” tours where you go out and meet many of the average Cubans and even stay in some of their homes.  We did this on our trip and it was just as good as staying in a Bed and Breakfast here in America.  A visa is required to go to Cuba.

Mississippi Delta

If you have not been to the Mississippi Delta recently you should go.  One new attraction that is getting a lot of attention is the Grammy Museum in Cleveland.  There are two Grammy Museum in America, one in Los Angeles and the other in Cleveland, Mississippi. The reason Cleveland was selected was because per capita there are more Grammy winners from the Mississippi Delta area than anywhere else in America.  Now that is saying something.

There is a large Taylor Swift exhibit at the museum until August of this year.  Also you will have a chance to see a ten minute video about Taylor Swift and all the Grammys she has won.  It is really professionally done.  In addition they also have a wonderful film that showcases all of the Grammy winners across the decades.  By now they will have the 2017 Grammy winners included in the film.  The cost is only about ten dollars to get in.  So it is quite reasonable

Remember you can see many other tourist articles at my web site Tourwithdave.com.

Things To Do Before Traveling Overseas

Break out those reading glasses.

Read up on your destination. Be aware of any visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical systems in the country—or countries—you plan to visit, all of which can inform next steps of your preparation.

Flip through your passport.

Make sure that little blue (or green, red, or black) book is up to date. All passports should be valid for up to six months from your exit date in the country, and should have at least two blank pages. (Not all countries require six months of validity, but as other travelers learned the hard way, it pays to be safe.)

(Now make a copy of it.)

Copy the page that has your photo and full name on it, and keep these copies in separate places—at the bottom of your bag in different pieces of luggage, or even with different people who may be traveling with you. Leave one copy of your passport at home, with coworkers if on a work trip, and to take extra precautions, leave one with an emergency contact. Really nervous about your passport getting stolen? In the odd chance that you need to replace your passport, have photos at the ready and bring extras with you, too.

Get a visa.

If you need one, that is…

Research Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts.

Both may affect your travel plans. As previously reported by Traveler, travel alerts are issued on the heels of specific, one-off events. According to the State Department, examples of reasons for issuing an alert might include an election season that could mean strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. Travel warnings, meanwhile, are a broad-reaching caution, and may stem from unstable governance, extenuating circumstances, frequent violence and terrorist attacks, or civil war. (It also helps to check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling for the latest, local security messages.)

Make sure you get a shot (or five).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommendations for vaccines you should get before you head abroad, as well as note other health precautions travelers should take.

Read the fine print on your medical insurance.

Reach out to your medical insurance provider and ask if your policy covers overseas emergencies. If the answer is no, consider how long you’ll be gone for, what you’ll be doing, and adding extra coverage through supplemental insurance plans.

Manage your money.

Create a travel alert on your bank’s website, via phone, or in person to let them know what dates you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be traveling, and what cards you’ll be using. Research exchange rates. Research your destination. Are ATMs easy to find? Do most places—even in the middle of nowhere—take credit cards? Get answers before you’ve ordered two tacos al pastor in Mexico City—and are wondering how you’ll pay.

Get a letter.

Traveling alone with a child? Foreign officials may require proof of custody or written consent from the other parent. Bringing medication? Get a note from your doctor, as some countries may have different laws.

Figure out your phone plan.

Research phone plans in other countries, and see if it’s cheaper to get a local SIM card and use a new number and carrier service, or shell out for an international roaming plans. If you’re only going on a short trip, or looking to save money, turn your phone on Airplane mode and use Wi-Fi to call via Skype or WhatsApp.

Dive deep into the world of adapters and converters.

You’ve got to charge that iPhone, after all, and not all plugs are alike. Research sockets in the places you’re visiting, and invest in adapters or portable chargers that can be charged off of your laptop via USB. (This luggage will charge your phone, too.)

Talk to the post office.

Gone for more than a week? Put your mail on hold—a pile of letters and packages have been known to go missing, and notify would-be burglars that you’re not home.

Enroll in STEP.

An oft-overlooked State Department resource, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, is a free service that lets users register trips and get messages relevant to their trip area and dates of passage.

Here’s how it works: After booking their flights and hotels, travelers enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and provide requisite information—think name, date of birth, passport number, travel dates, email addresses and phone numbers, and an emergency contact. Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll receive warnings, alerts, notifications, and news about where you’re traveling, or may even be contacted by family members having difficulty getting in touch with you while abroad. And while larger travel alerts and warnings often appear in the news by themselves, these local messages from STEP (received via email) can be helpful in detailing specific safety, security, and practical travel information relevant to specific dates and destinations.

Take notes.

Jot down the number of the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate with you, in English and the local language: All provide emergency help 24/7 overseas and in Washington, D.C.

Delta and Jet Blue use Biometrics for Identification

(article was recently in New York Times)

Two United States air carriers, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue, recently began passenger trials in biometric identification, a technology that verifies a person’s identity through fingerprints, facial features or other physical characteristics.

In early June, JetBlue, teaming up with United States Customs and Border Protection, introduced optional self-boarding on flights from Logan International Airport in Boston to Beatrix International Airport in Aruba. The process requires no boarding pass and takes about three seconds, said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president for customer experience.

Fliers who choose to try it out step up to a camera at the boarding gate for a quick photo. This image is matched with passport, visa or immigration photos in the Customs and Border Protection database, and once flight details and identity are confirmed, a check mark appears on the camera and fliers can board the plane. So far, more than 90 percent of passengers are using this self-boarding process, Ms. Geraghty said, and if the trial is successful, the airline plans to expand biometric identification to more flights.

“The technology is revolutionary because your face becomes your passport and travel document,” she said. (These boarding processes, however, are not a replacement for the security screening done by the Transportation Security Administration.)

Delta is using biometric identification to allow fliers to check their own bags at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the airline’s second-largest hub after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airline invested $600,000 in four self-service bag drop machines equipped with biometric technology; a passport is needed to use it.

Passengers print out their luggage stickers at a check-in kiosk and then head to one of the bag drop machines, where they scan their passports and have their picture taken by the machine. Once the images on their passports are matched with the images from the machine and their identities are confirmed, they place their bags on the belt; the machine weighs the bags and moves them on.

Gareth Joyce, the company’s senior vice president for airport customer experience, said the process took around 30 seconds.