Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean and Mexico Resorts is giving travelers a little cash incentive to run away this winter with its "You Deserve Some Credit" program. Visit any one of nine resorts in seven locations and get up to $200 in resort credit to wine and dine as you see fit. Travelers must book through Nov. 30 for stays at one of the resorts between Jan. 1 and April 30 to get the deal, which can be applied to any room category.
With this offer, travelers to any of the three Mexican resorts in the Collection will receive a $50 resort credit daily for a three-night stay ($150 credit maximum). The Caribbean resorts are offering guests who book a $50 resort credit daily for a four-night stay, and the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino is offering $40 daily resort credit for a five-night stay ($200 credit maximum). Use promotional code LLF when booking.
The resorts are: Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino; JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa; CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort; Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino; Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort; CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa; St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino; and Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort. For info, visit www.paradisebymarriott.com/
This is not for summer prime-time travel but the prices are pretty good if you have plans. You must book before April 19 for travel April 24-June 20. Blackout days and other restrictions vary by route. You can find the details here.
And here are some sample one-way prices from Logan International Airport:
$46 to Nantucket; $49 to Newark, NJ; $60 to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC (Dulles and Reagan), New York (JFK); $90 to Raleigh-Durham; $95 to Chicago; $105 to Jacksonville, Fla.; $120 to Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; $130 to Orlando, Fla, San Francisco, and Phoenix; $140 to San Jose, Calif., and Austin; $147 to Bermuda; $170 to Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles; $179 to Santo Domingo and Santiago in the Dominican Republic.
To mark the occasion, the hotel is offering a rate of $79 a night, through April 30. The historical landmark hotel is in the heart of downtown San Jose, Costa Rica's capital city, near the city's top museums, theaters and historic sites. The property, which was built in 1930 and was named a Costa Rican Historical and Architectural Landmark in 2004, has an open-air patio restaurant that faces activity and musicians on the Cultural Plaza.
Membership in the Ascend Collection grew 35 percent in 2011, company officials said. For information on the Gran Hotel, visit http://www.grandhotelcostarica.com/, and for the Ascend Collection, http://www.ascendcollection.com/.
A couple of weeks ago in Puerto Vallarta, I took a fast zodiac boat ride with the family across glorious Banderas Bay. Led by the outfitter Vallarta Adventures, we landed on the docks of the seaside village of Quimixto. We walked on cobblestone streets past the sleeping chihuahas and soon made our way to a pack of horses that were waiting to take us up the mountainous hillside. We got out of the saddle, only to find a hidden waterfall where we swam in the cool waters. After horseback riding, we snorkeled with a slew of angelfish and then had a delicious lunch on a quiet beach farther south in Pizotita. Our guide, Poncho, made a helluva margarita for the adults, while the kids were served coconut juice. Life was bliss and we laughed when Poncho said “Where are all the bandits in their big sombreros and guns blazing?” It was so peaceful here that my daughter wandered over to a hammock and took a nap.
The next day, a busload of passengers from a Celebrity cruise ship were on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, on their way to a nature hike, when they were robbed at gunpoint by a bandit. I was stunned. I had just spent the past two days in Puerto Vallarta, walked the Malecon, the broad boardwalk down by the ocean, had an excellent meal of authentic Mexican fare at Old Town’s Margarita Grill, and felt perfectly safe my entire stay in the region. But then the robbery happened. This being Mexico, which already faces a huge media blitz about crime and their drug cartels, it can only add salt to the wound. Yet, let’s be realistic. There’s crime in every city in America, so why wouldn’t a city of over 400,000 people like Puerto Vallarta face some adversity. I feel horrible for the people on that bus who were robbed of their cameras, money, and cell phones. Hopefully, the robbery was an anomaly and the city can go back to doing what it does best, making guacamole tableside with homemade salsa. For that dish alone, I wouldn’t hesitate to return.
New York-based Cactus Language Training offers cultural immersion trips to 60 countries that help travelers learn more than 30 languages. This year’s new programs include learning Spanish and Latin dance at a school on the banks of the Amazon River in Colombia, studying German in a Bavarian town overlooking the Swiss Alps, and mastering Russian in culturally diverse Kiev. Cactus incorporates cultural experiences, like wine tasting, cooking, dancing, diving, surfing, and photography, into each program. Prices start at $123 per week for instruction; various types of accommodations are available. Summer specials include free private lessons in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, when you book a two-week group course. 888-577-8451, www.cactuslanguagetraining.com/us
The VW Beetle is a real brick. Not only was its round, aerodynamic shape an icon on the road, it makes a rock-steady underwater breeding ground for lobsters and fish, according to marine sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor.
If you can dive to 26 feet, check out Taylor's VW Beetle replica on Manchones Reef in Isla Mujeres, an hour's sail from Cancun. The life-sized piece is designed to rebuild fish and coral populations in the Cancun Marine Park as tourism places intense pressure on its resources. For instance, Taylor used cement that's textured and ph-neutral to allow coral colonization. The windows have swim-through holes for small fish to find refuge. Lobsters can enter through hatches in the side panels and find protected crawl spaces inside.
While you're down there, swim with the silversides massing aroud Taylor's earlier sculpture, "Silent Evolution," of 403 human figures made from real life body casts. Even snorkelers can see the sculptures from above through Cancun's transparent waters.
Can't make it to Cancun? Watch Taylor's documentary here.
Lindblad Expeditions is offering a two-for-one special for teachers
to the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador this summer aboard the 48-person
National Geographic Islander and the 96-passenger National Geographic
Endeavor. On the 10-day trips, teachers will explore a region that contains
some of the world’s most intriguing creatures, including wildlife that have
never developed a fear of people. Teachers can snorkel with sea lions,
observe marine iguanas and Galápagos penguins, and visit the Charles Darwin
Research Station (Darwin’s observations of the local wildlife led to his
theory of evolution by natural selection). Rates: $2,615 per person, based
on double occupancy; airfare not included and some restrictions apply.
Summer might not seem a great time to visit hot climates, but it is the time to get the best deals. Here are a couple.
At the Coral Lodge by Cuna de Vida, said to be Panama’s only aqua lodge and dive habitat, they’re offering low-season rates (rooms start at $105 per person) through Oct. 31. The lodge, the newest member of the Desires Hotels International collection of independently created boutique hotels, also has something new this year, starting in July: Thatched-roof, over-the-water bungalows, each with 650 square feet of living space featuring local art, a separate bedroom, two bathrooms, Jacuzzi, a glass-floor sitting room to see the water below and 180-degree views from a private balcony, with double hammock. Snorkeling is available at the resort or you can arrange a trip two miles away to the San Blas Archipelago, designated as one of the 10 best preserved reef areas in the world.
Up the Central American coast in Mexico is the ultra-posh Casa Colina, a six-bedroom private villa offering a 40-percent discount off high-season rates – which are up there to begin with, at $4,900 per night. But through Sept. 20, the rate is $2,900. The resort, located on the Pacific between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, is also offering a five-percent discount per unused bedroom. If, for example, a guest has eight in their party and needed four rooms, they’d get 10-percent off the bill for not using the other two. Rates include airport pickup/drop off, chef, staff and laundry, but not food, beverages and phone charges.
Casa Colina’s rooms include junior and master suites with balconies, private gardens, Jacuzzi tubs and panoramic views of the ocean and mountains. Nearby is the Colima volcano, the most active in Mexico, and for movie buffs, Bo Derek’s film “10” was filmed at the nearby Playa La Audiencia on Santiago Peninsula.
Sure it’s hot in Boston in the summer, but if you’re going to sweat, you may as well do it in an exotic location.
For instance, if you find yourself doing some drinking in Japan with others don't fill your own glass. Instead top off your neighbor's and wait for him to reciprocate. If you fill your own glass it's tantamount to admitting you're an alcoholic ("Hi, I'm Paul and I fill my own glass.''). In Russia, vodka is not for sipping; it's for shots. Women can get a pass on this one. If you're nearing the end of the bottle in Armenia, it's polite to empty it into your own glass; if you empty it into another's it obligates them to spring for the next bottle.
When you are out for dinner in France, never discuss money or try to split the check. Very uncool. In Japan, don't stick your chopsticks into a bowl a rice upright as that's the way they present offerings to the dead, and if you happen to be one of those people who just have to share their food with others don't pass the food from your chopsticks to another's --- it's reminiscent of a Buddhist funeral rite in which loved ones pass cremated remains from one to the other. And say you're dining in Mexico and you catch someone's eye? Say "provecho,'' or enjoy. Or they'll think you're one rude gringo.
In Greece, avoid waving to anyone with an open palm in greeting. For them, it's like flipping someone the bird. In Asia don't touch anyone with your feet --- does this come up much? --- as the feet are considered the "lowest'' part of the body; similarly don't touch anyone's head or tossle hair as the head is considered the spiritually "highest'' part of the body so the contact is a diss. If you refer to a Jamaican as a "native'' you might consider ducking from the punch that might be headed your way. Jamaicans view the term as laden with racial connotations and can be taken as a slur. Finally among the Thais picking the nose in public is not only permissible but is considered a sign of good hygiene. Wonder how they feel about flossing?
Leaving chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is a clear no-no in Japan.
A must-sip stop in the world of airport bars has to be Jet’s Bar in Belize City Airport, run by the diminutive, Beetlejuice-voiced Jet, a tiny Belizean with a towering personality – particularly in regards to women.
It is a hole-in-the-wall kinda place, with a few stools at the short bar, tacky decorations all around, a wall of police patches from the world over and an abundance of photos of Jet and women. The airport is typical Central American, tiny, requisite stores selling tourist kitsch, hot, cramped and making for thirsty waits.
Enter Jet, who’ll roam the crowd, croaking “Who wants the best rum punch in Belize?” until he finds a taker, and for five bucks you get the best rum punch in Belize. Well, Belize City Airport anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s the only bar in the building.
And he’ll haunt you to buy a hot dog (“Best hot dog in Belize”) or a ham-and-cheese sandwich (ditto) until you break down. I did and son of a gun, the ham-and-cheese wasn’t bad, so for less than a sawbuck, I got food, drink and a few minutes with the seeming mayor of Belize City Airport. This is the guy who can call your gate so the agent will call back and let you know when your plane’s boarding, in case you want to stick around Jet’s a little longer and suck down more rum punches and soak up Jet’s infectious personality.
“Here, says it all here,” he growled to me when I asked how he got the name Jet, plopping a framed news story in my hands.
Turns out Jet (I don’t know his real name and don’t want to, the nickname’s cool enough for me) was an airport worker for years with a reputation for moving fast on the job, hence the name. And seeing his slick schmooze with any woman he meets – whether they buy the best rum punch in Belize or not – he’s still living up to the name.
Posted by Paul E. Kandarian, Globe correspondent
Photo of Jet and the author by Paul E. Kandarian for The Boston Globe
There was a time when Kim Mance was behind the scenes, working as a travel columnist for Marie Claire magazine. But ever since she launched her Galavanting travel show on the Web in 2008, she?s been front and center, bringing us around the world as host. Together with her fashion-conscious cohort Maren Hogan, they venture everywhere from Roatan, Honduras, to Hokkaido Island in Japan, trying the food, sampling the clubs, and, most enjoyable, experiencing the adventure. In Costa Rica, they go rappelling down a waterfall and in an upcoming webisode on Colorado, you can find Kim ice climbing. ?I thought I was going to hit myself in the head with the ice pick. But thankfully those crampons are more stable than you think they?ll be,? Manse says with a chuckle. The show has been a surprise hit on the web, with Manse currently in talks to bring Galavanting to one of the networks. Take a glance at Manse hiking deep in the rainforest of Costa Rica and you quickly understand why viewers find the active lifestyle so appealing.
Posted by Steve Jermanok, a Globe correspondent who blogs daily at http://www.activetravels.com/
Instructor shows basic steps to a novice tango student at Confitería Ideal in Buenos Aires.
I have to concur with the judgment of UNESCO in naming the tango of Argentina and Uruguay part of the world’s cultural heritage (although it could be hard to trust the conclusion of a group burdened with the unfortunate moniker, the “Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage”). While there’s a whole tango subculture in Buenos Aires, I was surprised at how easy it is to gain at least a little entrée through classes and public dances. Probably the best place to begin is at Confitería Ideal(c/ Suipacha 380-384, Buenos Aires, http://www.confiteriaideal.com), a once-glamorous cafe. Inexpensive classes and dances take place daily in the fabulously seedy upstairs dance hall. The instructors show the patience of Job when teaching the ocho basico, or basic eight-count, to rhythm-impaired Americans, even the ones who show up in running shoes or flip-flops.
Posted by Patricia Harris, Globe Correspondent
Photo by Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe
Almost 75 years since Richard Halliburton swam the Panama Canal for a 38-cent toll, the world wonder remains a rite of passage with a difference: Instead of a waypoint to somewhere else, Panama’s capital city teems with fascinations, as I discovered when the captain announced our canal transit was delayed.
Nothing prepared me for the high density and intensity of the city, likened by realtors to Miami’s South Beach without the attitude problem or the next Hong Kong. Gone, the gun-toting G.l.s of yesteryear. Phrases like “ex-pat revolution” and “retirement economy” pepper casual conversations. Amador, the staging area for yachts entering the canal’s Pacific side, is a trendy address of boutique bars and eateries, whose palm-lined promenade was built with 18 million yards of canal-excavated rock.
Downtown, 100-story condos compete for airspace on a waterfront so hemispherical, it bends like a scene in a fisheye lens.
Some of my favorite things from a too-short stay:
*Friendly, inexpensive taxis. $3 takes you anywhere. Almost every driver is a willing guide.
*Ceviche at the fish market. The freshest fish, octopus, shrimp, and squid, marinated in lemon juice, served take out or in the upstairs restaurant of Mercado de Mariscos, a lively fish market at Avenida Balboa and Calle 15 Este, Calidonia. An equally amazing fruit and vegetable market, Mercado Público, is next door.FULL ENTRY
The discount carrier has started twice daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles International and is offering one-way sale fares as low as $109. To get the special fares you must book before June 27 and travel between Sept. 8 and Nov. 11. JetBlue announced plans to launch the service in February after pulling back on LAX expansion in May of last year, citing the high cost of fuel and other start-up expenses. And starting tomorrow JetBlue will begin its previously announced nonstop service to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. To mark the occasion, Boston's favorite Santo Domingan, Red Sox star David Ortiz, will be at Logan to greet passengers boarding the first flight.
I recently found myself at a Starbucks Café at Copley Place in Boston, waiting to meet my friend Charlotte for a coffee and chat after returning from three months in Havana, Cuba.
I bought my $4 coffee and scavenged for a table. College students with laptops crowded most of them, headphones in place to block out the rest of the world. A European couple stood up and I darted over to ask them if they were leaving.
Reuters photo of men fishing off the Malecon.
They looked bewildered, nodded, and left three empty coffee cups and trash from their lunch on the table. I put my coat down to save the table and took several trips to the garbage can. I learned long ago not to judge tourist faux pas in our country, as I can’t imagine how many I myself have committed while traveling.
I sat down to wait for Charlotte and immediately opened a magazine I had in brought in my bag. There was music blasting and one of the baristas was singing and dancing along. “Gals on the go,” as a friend of mine affectionately refers to American women, ran in and out ordering non-fat double shot lattes.
I was feeling equally as overwhelmed as the Europeans had looked, but trying to get back into my own gal-on-the-go mentality in order to feel normal in American society again.
I am an avid traveler and over the last four years have spent time in Spain, Ireland, South Africa and Cuba. In each country I traveled to I enjoyed long conversations with friends in cafés and spent copious amounts of time sipping coffee by myself and watching the city at work and play – something which seems self-indulgent when I am in America, but to me is a staple of learning about another culture.
Of the countries I have been to Cuba was the most sheltered from American culture, but oddly enough it was also the easiest to adjust to. I spent hours sitting on the Malecon, a sea wall that stretches the length of the city, watching old American cars drive by. The constant visual assault of advertising was gone. I had no cell phone constantly buzzing and beeping at me, demanding my attention and getting on my nerves.
Starting June 1, the federal government is tightening ID rules for US citizens re-entering the country from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
Till now, if you were coming back into the country from those places by land or sea you only needed to show proof of identity and US citizenship so a driver's license and birth certificate would do it. If you were flying in you basically needed a passport.
After June 1, all will need a passport, passport card, or other approved ID (here's where you can find a list).
Right now, the government says it takes about four to six weeks to process a full passport application or two to three weeks if you're willing to pay for expedited service. Applications for passport cards, which are cheaper but can only be used for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda but not for international air travel (If you're interested, I wrote about the difference last year), take about four to six weeks.
If you still have a little time before your trip and are a Patriots fan, the team is sponsoring a special night on June 4 from 4-8 p.m. at which travelers can apply for a passport at Gillette Stadium’s Fidelity Investments Clubhouse. The event is free. The team is sponsoring the event to promote its Oct. 25 exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium in London. If fact, everyone who shows up to apply for a passport will become eligible to win two free tickets to the game.
AP file photo
Good morning, travelers. The swine flu outbreak may reach pandemic status but the fears seem to be abating. In this morning's Globe, this is what health reporter Stephen Smith reported:
Swine flu, in a matter of days, had hopscotched the globe, racing in the era of jet travel from Mexico, through the United States, Europe, and all the way to China. But the virus has resulted in only a single death outside the outbreak's epicenter. Instead, the strain known as H1N1 has spawned symptoms akin to the seasonal flu that strikes each winter. That was evident in new findings released last night by Governor Deval Patrick and his top health administrators at a State House press briefing. They reported that the state now has 34 confirmed cases of the disease, up from six at the end of last week. People across the state have been stricken, but only three fell so ill that they needed to be hospitalized, and all have recovered. "This is a cause for concern, but not for panic," Patrick said. "Flu always spreads." But, the governor quickly added, an ordinary flu season generates many more cases than the number of H1N1 illnesses reported so far. And so, less than two weeks after disease detectives first identified the new virus, officials from Boston to Atlanta to Geneva began to ever so subtly modify their message about swine flu: Yes, it's something that needs to be watched closely. But the worst - at least right now - might not happen.
In Mexico City, the AP is reporting that things are starting to return to normal:
Mexico declared a return to "normalcy" yesterday, preparing to reopen businesses and schools even as the swine flu virus sickened more than 1,200 people in 20 countries. World health officials said the global epidemic is still in its early stages, and that a pandemic could be declared in the days to come. But Mexico's president said it was waning at its epicenter, justifying tomorrow's end to a five-day nationwide shutdown he credits for reducing the spread of the new virus. Already, streets in the capital seemed more lively, with more vehicles, and fewer people wearing face masks. Some cafes even reopened ahead of time. President Felipe Calderón said universities and high schools will reopen on Thursday, and younger schoolchildren should report back to school on May 11.
But many countries, like Japan, plan to maintain vigilance, according to the AP:
As long as the threat of a flu pandemic persists, anyone who flies into Japan from North America while experiencing any flu-like symptoms or ailments will not be allowed to walk off an airplane and infect people. Last week, inspectors began boarding every flight from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. They take the temperature of about 6,000 passengers a day. Near Tokyo's Narita airport, 500 rooms have been secured by the Health Ministry to quarantine infected passengers.
In local, travel-related news, business reporter Casey Ross is reporting that the Massachusetts Port Authority has told developer Don Chiofaro that two towers he's planning near the New England Aquarium are too tall and would encroach on Logan's airspace:
Chiofaro has proposed a 40-story office tower and a 59-story residential tower linked by a 770-foot tall "skyframe" that would create a rectangular arch that itself would be taller than the two towers.
The authority said the project exceeds its height guidelines for the waterfront by at least 145 feet and could interfere with airplane maneuvers during emergencies. The property, located about two miles from Logan, and now the site of the Boston Harbor garage, is under the path of airplanes using Runway 27, Massport said.
The authority notified Chiofaro that its guidelines would limit the height of his development to 625 feet.
The Federal Aviation Administration has the final decision, but Massport's guidelines are used as reference point in the federal review.
With tour companies both here and abroad and cruise lines either halting flights and port calls or liberalizing cancellation policies, Bloomberg News is reporting that the airline industry is having a fire sale to Mexico.
Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines and other U.S. carriers are slashing Mexico fares to as little as $260 round trip as demand dries up because of the swine flu outbreak.
An American ticket to Mexico City from Dallas/Fort Worth sold for $260 yesterday from about $500 recently, said Tom Parsons, founder of travel website BestFares.com. Delta is charging $300 between Atlanta and Cancun, a reduction of at least $100 from a few weeks ago ...
“If you’re paying more than $300 right now to anywhere in Mexico, you’re nuts,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of ticket research firm FareCompare.com. “This isn’t the busy season for them anyway. But who wants to go there right now when these governments are basically telling you not to?”
The question is: Why aren't the airlines canceling? On its face it seems odd, particularly given the ailing condition of the industry. Why would you want to fly empty planes into a place where many people are afraid to go?
In its report, Bloomberg reported that despite the lower fares the carriers weren't exactly inundated with callers looking to cash in:
Delta, American, UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. have all said that they’ve seen more passengers wanting to cancel or postpone trips to Mexico. They wouldn’t give details.
The AP is reporting that "airlines are flying some nearly empty planes from the United States to Mexico,'' and its report suggests a reason why more flights aren't being canceled:
Airlines sometimes have to fly planes with few passengers in order to position the aircraft for return flights, and that could be happening now. "The flights coming back north are full," said Continental spokesman Dave Messing.
Another Continental representative, Julie King, said that trimming schedules would not be out of the question. "We're constantly monitoring the situation and will be prepared to adjust our schedules as necessary while ensuring that we provide return service to customers in affected cities.''
This is significant coming from Continental, which is the US industry leader in flights to Mexico, with American and US Airways second and third, respectively. Today, for instance, Continental has 66 flights to Mexico, American has 42, and US Airways 24.
Analysts say that other carriers are likely looking at Continental to see what adjustments it is making.
Despite all the concern and all the reporting on the swine flu outbreak it's amazing that we still seem to know so little about it and how serious it really is -- or may be.
The latest is that federal officials are now reporting the first American death linked to the virus. This is from the AP:
*The CDC on Wednesday confirmed the first swine flu death outside of Mexico in the current outbreak, a 23-month-old child in Texas. The child died in Houston, Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the city's health department, told KTRK-TV. It wasn't immediately clear where the child was from. Houston spokesman Frank Michel told the Houston Chronicle the child came from Brownsville, in south Texas. Barton said the toddler came from Mexico. Calls by The Associated Press seeking comment from local health officials weren't immediately returned. The first U.S. swine flu death was confirmed earlier by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Dave Daigle.
And more travel companies are reacting to the news:
Air travel tightened to Mexico, the country at the center of the swine flu outbreak, as Canada’s Transat A.T. Inc. joined Europe’s two largest tour operators in suspending flights. Argentina halted direct flights from Mexico City until May 4, and Cuba canceled all 5 daily Mexico flights yesterday for 48 hours, Mexico’s El Economista reported, citing a statement from Cuba’s health ministry. The tour companies’ moves may herald similar steps at airlines as business and leisure fliers adjust plans. While U.S. carriers such as Delta Air Lines Inc. hadn’t scrubbed flights as of late yesterday, some extended the grace period for passengers to change Mexico trips without penalties. (Bl;oomberg News)
And in the LA Times travel blog, Jen Leo is reporting that Carnival Cruise, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise lines have all decided to temporary suspend port calls in Mexico in light of the growing concern over the swine flu.
In this morning's Globe I saw a particularly useful Q&A for travelers and others by Bina Venkataraman:
Q. How do people catch the swine flu?
A. Public health officials believe the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is spreading the way that the seasonal flu spreads every year -- when people infected with the flu cough or sneeze and others breathe in airborne droplets containing the virus. People may also be getting swine flu from touching surfaces such as doorknobs contaminated with the virus and then touching their face or mouth. Infected people can spread the flu before they have symptoms, as well as while they are sick.
Q. How can I protect myself and my family from swine flu?
A. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Also, you should get plenty of sleep, exercise, manage your stress, eat healthy food, and drink plenty of water. Avoid close interactions with people who are sick and try not to touch surfaces that could be contaminated with the virus. Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
Q. Does hand sanitizer work if I can’t wash my hands?
A. Doctors advise using sanitizing wipes and alcohol-based gels when you do not have access to soap, water, and a sink. If you use a gel, rub your hands until it dries. It’s preferable to wash your hands.
If you want to read the rest of it, here is where it is.
Clearly, concerns over the outbreak of swine flu will affect the travel plans of Americans but Jenn Abelson and Rob Gavin have a story in this morning's Globe about how it will affect the state:
The bruised US economy, which had shown a few signs of life, took another beating yesterday with global concerns over the swine flu outbreak expected to hit travel and tourism the hardest.
The virus, which has sickened people across the United States and Europe and resulted in 149 deaths in Mexico, prompted the European Union's health commissioner to advise Europeans to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico and parts of the United States.
The warning yesterday could have a devastating effect on New England, where 95 percent of overseas travelers come from Europe.
Patrick Moscaritolo, chief executive of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said just a 10 percent drop in travelers to New England would mean a loss of more than $60 million, but it is too early to predict the fallout. The bureau had already expected a 5 percent to 9 percent drop in travel to New England because of the sour economy.
Travel and tourism business is one of Massachusetts' key industries. It is the fifth-biggest in terms of employment with 300,000 workers, according to the US Department of Labor.
The flu outbreak, coming weeks before the busy summer travel season, is another setback for the struggling travel industry, which was expecting the volume of total overseas visits to the United States to fall 3.1 percent from last year, according to the US Travel Association, an industry trade group.
Several airlines are waiving fees for passengers who were scheduled to fly through certain cities in Mexico and want to change their tickets.
And here's a quick look at how the rest of the world is responding:
* The World Health Organization raised its alert level over the swine flu outbreak but stopped short of declaring a global emergency. The United States advised Americans against most travel to Mexico and ordered stepped up border checks in neighboring states. The European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel both to Mexico and parts of the United States. The WHO raised the alert level to Phase 4, meaning there is sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus causing outbreaks in at least one country. Its alert system was revised after bird flu in Asia began to spread in 2004, and Monday was the first time it was raised above Phase 3. Putting an alert at Phases 4 or 5 signals that the virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading among humans. That move could lead governments to set trade, travel and other restrictions aimed at limiting its spread. Phase 6 is for a full-blown pandemic, characterized by outbreaks in at least two regions of the world. It could take four to six months before the first batch of vaccines are available to fight the virus, WHO officials said. Russia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid global fears of a pandemic, an epidemic spread over a large area, either a region or worldwide. (AP)
*US hospitality companies shut a number of facilities in Mexico and relaxed cancellation policies, as they scrambled to respond to the flu outbreak. Starbucks Corp closed 10 stores in Mexico City and Six Flags Inc closed all its Mexico City theme park indoor facilities in the wake of the swine flu outbreak. Some US airlines and hotels began allowing passengers to change itineraries to Mexico. Brinker International, which operates restaurants including Chili's Grill & Bar, said several franchisees have responded to the Mexican government's recommendation that citizens avoid public places by voluntarily closing their restaurants or limiting hours of operations. Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise ship operator, said in a statement that it will not be making any adjustments to its itineraries. Delta Air Lines saw no impact on its operations but said it was allowing customers to make a one-time change for free for travel plans to Mexico. UAL Corp's United and US Airways Group Inc also said they were allowing travelers to change itineraries for destinations served in Mexico. Starwood Hotels and Resorts said it was waiving penalties for customers canceling or changing reservations at its owned and managed properties in Mexico for arrivals between April 25 and May 6, 2009. (Reuters)
Earlier this week I wrote about JetBlue's sale on fares for travel through June 17. Now United has launched a similar sale also for flights through the 17th -- although United's includes international travel.
For domestic travel many of the terms will be familiar: purchase by April 5, 14-day advance, lowest fares on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Here is the fine print.
The exciting thing is that my pal, Rick Seaney, who tracks airfares reports that the discounts have already been matched by AirTran, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, Northwest, Southwest, and US Airways.
So the battle for your late spring travel dollar is joined.
Bloomberg News is reporting that American will halt free meal service in coach on flights between the United State and Latin America and the Dominican Republic. Snacks will be sold for $3 or $4 on flights longer two hours starting March 1. And on longer flights passengers can buy sandwiches for $6.
STA Travel, a student and youth travel company, is looking for two interns for this summer.
What do they want you to do? Video-blog a trip around the world to 15 different countries. On their dime. That's right. For free.
To apply you must be between 18 and 26. You do not need to be a student. Applicants must make and upload a video to YouTube explaining why they deserve the job -- the popularity of your video (reflected in the number and kind of comments and views) will be a factor in whether you advance. You can scope out some of the competition here.
The top 20 applicants will face a phone interview with contest judges, and the 10 finalists must submit a second video giving the judges a tour of their hometown.
Entries will be accepted through the STA Travel World Traveler Internship website until March 8 and winners will be annointed by mid-April.
What is the itinerary? Winners must be free to travel from June 1 - Aug. 20. The odyssey will start with two weeks in Fiji volunteering at a school and enjoying a little R&R. Then it's off to Australia, India, Kenya, and Tanzania, before heading to Berlin, Poland, Denmark and Russia. The trip finishes with a backpacking adventure in Scotland and tour of Ireland.
Sweet, yes? Much better than interning at your Uncle Greg's law firm, methinks.
Westjet, the Canadian discount airline that plans to partner with Southwest, sent out a questionnaire to consumers to gauge their willingness to pay for a menu of services -- or to save money forgoing them.
One of the questions, first reported by Chris Elliott on his blog, involved whether passengers would favor shelling out $10 to not sit next to a parent with a baby.
The Westjet queries are revealing, I think. They don’t necessarily reflect what kinds of fees all the airlines will go for, but they suggest what kinds of things they all must be at least considering (or are already trying).
Besides the baby question, the carrier also asked whether travelers would consider paying $10 for:
- Being among the first to get on or off planes
- Quicker baggage delivery
- Priority rebooking after flight cancellations
- Complimentary meals/hotel accommodations for substantially delayed or canceled flights
- In-flight Web access
- Guaranteed space in the overhead bin
- In-seat power
- Premium snacks/meals
- Freshly laundered pillow/blanket set that you may keep
- Amenity kits with earplugs, eyeshades, and toiletries
- Shorter waits to clear security checkpoints
The carrier also asked questions about which services travelers would be willing to give up in order to save $10 on flights of two to four hours. These includedFULL ENTRY