Travel Bargain: Repositioning Cruises Offer Great Deals

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

PHOTO: An ocean liner leaves the seaport in Miami, FL.

abcdm.abccom.Player.displayCompanionBanners = function(banners, tracking) {
tmDisplayBanner(banners, adCompanionBannerObj, 300, 250, null, tracking);
abcdm.abccom.Player.hideCompanionBanners = function() {
adContainer = document.getElementById(adCompanionContainer);
adContainer.innerHTML = ”;

Could you use a little pampering at sea? A nice, long, luxurious time afloat? Then you’re in luck. Fall is the perfect time to book a so-called repositioning cruise, and thereby bag one of the biggest bargains in the travel industry.

Every fall and every spring, the major cruise lines move their ships around the globe like chess pieces, repositioning them to take advantage of the changing seasons. Starting in September, when travelers’ fancies turn to warmer climes, ships begin to migrate from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, from Alaska to Mexico or to the South Pacific. The reverse occurs in spring.

These are voyages, says Robert Sharak, executive vice president of marketing for the Cruise Lines International Association, tend to be both longer and significantly cheaper than a standard cruise.

A 16-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona, Spain, to Galveston, Texas, onboard Carnival Cruises’ newest ship, the Magic, costs (drum roll here, please) $864. Not $864 a day. That’s a total of $864,inclusive of all fees. That’s $54 a day. Ports of call include Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, Spain; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; and Grand Turk, Turks Caicos.

Why so cheap? The trips occur off-season, says travel expert Aaron Saunders, who writes about cruising at “How do you fill a ship in late September or mid-October?” he asks. “You price it so that people can’t say no.”

PHOTO: An ocean liner leaves the seaport in Miami, FL.

PHOTO: An ocean liner leaves the seaport in Miami, FL.

Because the cruise lines are shifting their fleets, passengers also have the opportunity to visit ports that might otherwise not be accessible.

“Travelers can really get a fantastic deal,” said Emerson Hankamer, president and COO of travel website, “especially if they’re willing to begin and end their trip in an atypical port.”

He cites a 14-night trip on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas departing from Mallorca, Spain, and finishing at Colon, Panama. Price: $36.92 a day.

Because of the low price, there’s sometimes a misconception, says Saunders, that these trips are somehow “lesser cruises.” The reverse is true. The low price doesn’t denote second-rate service or reduced amenities. If anything, travelers may find that extra services and enhancements have been added to keep them happy and amused during the extra-long voyage.

“What’s great about this trip,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said of Carnival’s Barcelona-to-Galveston crossing, “is that it’s our newest ship, with extra activities scheduled.”

Carnival will offer two other repositioning cruises this season, both 14-day ocean-to-ocean transits of the Panama Canal: One departs from Long Beach to Tampa Nov. 28; the other from Tampa to Long Beach Dec. 17. Ports of call on these cruises include Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; and George Town, Grand Cayman.

It used to be that repositioning cruises went begging for passengers, but that’s changing.

“Until recently, people didn’t take advantage of these cruises,” said Jeffrey Laign, editorial director of Porthole magazine, which covers the consumer cruise industry. “But now repositioning cruises have started to catch on.”

The Carnival Paradise has only 50 cabins still available (at the bargain rate) for its November sailing.

“The per diems are often half of what you’d pay for a regular cruise,” Laign said, “and they tend to have itineraries with ports of call not regularly visited.”

Article source:

September Reader Travel Deals

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals


Charleston Place Hotel

205 Meeting St., Charleston, S.C.; 888-635-2350

What’s special: The hotel is in downtown historic Charleston, within walking distance of major attractions including antebellum mansions and a waterfront park. Part of the Orient-Express collection, the charming hotel is a blend of 17th-century style and 21st-century comfort. You can enjoy the indoor/outdoor pool, the spa, and the fitness center. While in Charleston, you can take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city’s narrow streets, lined with beautifully preserved buildings from the Colonial and antebellum periods; visit famous plantations and gardens; and see Cabbage Row, the inspiration for what’s often called America’s first great opera, Porgy and Bess. 

The deal: Washingtonian readers will receive 20 percent off the hotel’s club rate, plus free dessert for two and two glasses of Muscato wine when you have dinner at the Charleston Grill. The discounted room rate is $288. The club level occupies the top two floors and includes all-day complimentary beverage service, deluxe continental breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and after-dinner cordials with desserts in the club lounge. To get this deal, use this link.[]

When: Valid in September 2011.


Palazzo Manfredi (Rome) and Hotel Punta Tragara (Capri)

What’s special: Enjoy extraordinary views of Italy from both hotels. Palazzo Manfredi is in the heart of ancient Rome, directly across from the Coliseum. Built atop what were gladiator training grounds, the five-star deluxe hotel was recently renovated.

The Punta Tragara, also recently renovated, is perched cliffside above the famed Faraglioni sea stacks on the Isle of Capri.

The Manfredi Fine Hotel Collection, composed of small and intimate properties, is owned by third-generation Italian counts. Amenities include access to a private beach club at Hotel Punta Tragara and the use (for a fee) of a Lamborghini Gallardo at Palazzo Manfredi.

The deal: The Rome Capri Dream Escape features two nights at Palazzo Manfredi and two at Punta Tragara in a double room, plus special welcome gifts. Included is a gourmet dinner for two at the rooftop Mediterranean restaurant Aroma in Rome, with front-row views of the Coliseum, and dinner for two at Manzù, with a table overlooking the Bay of Marina Piccola; a coastal boat tour of the isle of Capri; and either a one-way transfer to the Rome hotel from the airport or railway station or a round-trip hydrofoil transfer to the Capri hotel from the airport or railway station. The price is 2,200 euros plus taxes (approximately $3,150), a 25-percent savings. Mention The  Washingtonian to also receive a free lunch for two at both properties, a total value of 440 euros, or about $630. To book the Rome Capri Dream Escape, visit or call +39 081 8370844.  

When: Valid September 16 through October 31, 2011.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

More Hotel Finder | Weekend Getaways | Great Getaways Blog

Article source:

Airfare Expert: Finding flight deals to the 2012 London Olympics

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

When can I buy airline tickets to the London Games? 

The opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXX Olympiad will take place on Friday, July 27, 2012, with closing ceremonies set for Sunday, August 12, 2012. This is important for planning purposes because most carriers that fly trans-Atlantic routes allow you to purchase tickets 330 days in advance, so you could shop starting at the end of this week. But at that point you won’t be able to get the return ticket for another two weeks, assuming you intend to stay for the entire Games. So you will have to wait to buy a round-trip ticket, unless you follow my recommended buying strategy below.

The Olympics will draw tourists from all over the world and I anticipate tickets will go fast, so the smart traveler should start making plans now.

What will I pay for tickets to London? 

Some prices to shoot for: from the East Coast, about $1,400 round-trip; from the West Coast, about $1,600 round-trip.

While these prices reflect a historical premium of a few hundred dollars above airfare prices for the past few summers, I can’t caution enough against delaying as I would not be surprised to see coach tickets costing about $2,000 a pop or more as we get closer to the Olympics especially for the convenience of arriving in Heathrow.

For those of you traveling from the West Coast, I suggest you first look at prices from New York and other eastern cities, and see if you can find a cheap flight to that hub the day before. By breaking up your trip in the manner, you could save a few bucks.

What’s the best way to find deals to London? 

The recommended strategy is for loyalty-miles program members only:

• Start early: Everyone will try to use miles, so there will be tons of competition for available seats; be prepared to redeem the “any time” rate for your tickets.

• Redeem one-way: If your airline allows this, jump in and book a one-way loyalty award departure ticket now, and book your return when available. You’ll get a jump on those who wait to book a complete round-trip ticket.

• Use upgrades: This is an ideal opportunity for elite travelers to use system-wide upgrades from coach to business class.

• Caution: Seats and upgrades are “capacity controlled” so don’t be surprised if you run headlong into an un-bookable wall.

Short on miles? Buy some, borrow some (family members can often share theirs) or you might want to investigate the pros and cons of credit card offers that include big miles bonuses.

What are my other options for buying tickets? 

Think of the London 2012 games as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving on steroids — the priciest times of the year. It will be all about finding a better bad deal.

The good news is that you don’t have to fly to the UK to make the Games; there are several cities in Europe you can use as your main destination and then take a low cost airline or train to get into London.

Summer in Europe is typically pricey outside of major events, so procrastination is not likely to be your friend. This is one of the few times (like the holidays) you’ll need to shop early and lock in regardless of where fuel prices end up next year.

What else do I need to know? 

London Heathrow (LHR) is the city’s international gateway and a major hub for both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (it’s also served by numerous U.S. carriers). You’ll find plenty of taxis and buses to London proper plus fast train service into Paddington Station, but the cheapest transit is the London Underground.

If you plan on visiting other parts of Europe (or the UK) during your visit, you may have to wait to book those tickets. Discount carriers like EasyJet generally allow bookings ten months from departure, while Ryanair opens bookings 5 to 6 months ahead.

And don’t forget rail, but note that advance bookings for train service can vary by country.

Read previous columns

FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney is an airline industry insider and top media air travel resource. Follow Rick (@rickseaney) and never overpay for airfare again.

Article source:

NJ beaches eroded by Irene, but still usable (AP)

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

HARVEY CEDARS, N.J. – Where some people once lived on gently sloping beaches, they now live on the edge of cliffs.

The storm surge from Hurricane Irene left 15- to 18-foot drop-offs on some New Jersey beaches, particularly on Long Beach Island. But state environmental officials said the erosion is not so bad that the beaches can’t be used by Labor Day weekend.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said the state’s 127-mile coastline actually came through the hurricane in good shape and that past coastal storms had inflicted far worse damage.

“Labor Day weekend should be no problem,” said Robert Giovannetti, a construction specialist with the DEP who has been measuring eroded beaches for 30 years. “It might be a little tight, but you can do it.”

Giovannetti, who estimates he has taken 2 million photographs of sand in his career, said Long Beach Island experienced an average sand loss of 4 to 5 feet in height and 150 feet in width.

The steep cliffs carved out by the storm were causing concern up and down the coast, and shore towns wasted little time attacking the problem Monday. Many had dispatched work crews just after dawn to start pushing huge mounds of sand back where they belong.

As a result, the whine of heavy machinery competed with seagull screeches along the shore.

Lloyd Vosseller was operating a bulldozer in Harvey Cedars, busily trying to restore an access ramp to the beach for lifeguard and other vehicles.

Next would be the restoration of pedestrian walkways and public-access points. Some of them were left dangling 8 feet in the air, becoming walkways to nowhere.

Gov. Chris Christie and DEP Commissioner Robert Martin flew up and down the coast Sunday to look for damage, and were encouraged to find comparatively little, DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said.

“We really fared very well,” he said. “Apparently the beach replenishment work and the dune projects really paid off. We’re not seeing any truly severe damage to the beaches.”

Officials in Ocean City credited beach replenishment work for protecting their beaches, some of which were obliterated by a November 2009 coastal storm.

Christie visited Avalon on Sunday, where he met the mayors of that town and Sea Isle City. The governor praised the beach replenishment project, saying it helped save lives and homes.

“This doesn’t happen by accident,” Christie said. “Part of it’s good fortune from the way the storm weakened a little bit before it came on shore, but part of it is because these guys have made investments. And you see the results of it now here. The dunes did their jobs. They protected the beach.”


Wayne Parry can be reached at

Article source:*

Michigan man killed by grizzly in Yellowstone (AP)

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

BILLINGS, Mont. – Wildlife agents were trying to capture a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park after it killed a Michigan hiker in the second fatal bear attack this summer in the famed park, authorities said Monday.

The body of John Wallace, 59, was discovered Friday along a trail in an area of the park known for its high population of bears. An autopsy concluded he died from injuries sustained in a bear attack.

“We know of no witnesses” to the attack, park superintendent Dan Wenk said. “We think we provide visitors with pretty good knowledge and techniques to keep them safe in the backcountry. Unfortunately, in this case it didn’t happen that way.”

Rangers set traps and plan to kill the bear if they can establish through DNA analysis that it was the one that attacked Wallace, Wenk said.

There was too little information to know if it was a defensive attack or not, so Wenk said, “we’re going to err on the safe side of caution since we’ll never really know the circumstances in this case.”

Officials do not believe the same bear was involved in the summer’s earlier fatal mauling about eight miles away from where Wallace’s body was found. In July, a female bear with cubs killed a hiker from California. Officials did not kill the sow grizzly after concluding it was defending its cubs.

In the latest fatal attack, there were no sign of cubs in the area where Wallace was killed.

Wallace was apparently traveling alone and had pitched a tent in a developed campground sometime Wednesday, park officials said.

Authorities said he likely was killed Wednesday or Thursday during a hike along the Mary Mountain Trail, which is closed from March to June. It passes through an area frequented by grizzlies feeding on the carcasses of bison that died over the winter, park officials said.

The trail is typically re-opened for public use on June 15, after the carcasses have been eaten, park spokesman Al Nash said.

“They are closed for the bears’ benefit, not for humans, to provide some security so bears can go in and use those areas without human disturbance,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There are “a lot of bears” in the area where Wallace was killed, he said. Servheen said only a portion of the animals have had DNA testing.

Wallace’s body was about five miles from the nearest trailhead and authorities said he was not carrying bear spray — mace-like canisters of pepper spray that can be used to defend against bear attacks.

Investigators found a snack bar in his closed backpack, but authorities said it did not appear the grizzly tried to get at the food. Rangers also found grizzly tracks and scat, or bear droppings, near Wallace’s body.

Wallace, of Chassell, Mich., worked for about 20 years at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, a city in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. He was married and had no children, said Shawn Leche, the library director.

Leche described Wallace as a quiet, easygoing man and conscientious worker who loved books, Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and the outdoors, particularly national parks. Wallace asked for vacation time to camp and hike at Yellowstone, where he had visited before, he said.

“The possibility of encountering grizzlies never even came into our conversations,” Leche said. Wallace treasured animals, including his two Australian shepherd dogs, one of which died last year, Leche said.

“It’s hideously perverse to think that someone who loved nature so much would come to such an untimely end at the hand of nature,” Leche said. “To me that just sounds so unfair. It’s shocking.”

Two trails and a section of the Hayden Valley west of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road have been closed to hikers. Park officials asked hikers elsewhere in the park to stay on the trails, to hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray.

Wallace’s death was the fourth caused by grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone area since June 2010.

Yellowstone and surrounding areas are home at least 600 grizzlies, which are protected from hunting under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. Once a rare sight, they have become an almost routine cause of curious tourists lining up at Yellowstone’s roadsides for a glimpse.

In June 2010, a grizzly just released after being trapped and tranquilized for study killed an Illinois man hiking outside Yellowstone’s east gate. A month later, a grizzly killed a Michigan man and injured two others in a nighttime campground rampage northeast of the park.

Despite the killings, Wenk said dangerous encounters remain rare between grizzlies and the more than 3 million people who visit the park each year. The killing two months ago was the first inside the park first since 1986.

“We’ve averaged one encounter that has caused injuries a year for the past 25 years,” Wenk said. “The record speaks for itself.”


John Flesher contributed reporting from Traverse City, Mich.

Article source:*

Amtrak uncertain on Boston-Philly service restart (AP)

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

TRENTON, N.J. – Amtrak says it’s not clear when service will return along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Philadelphia after Hurricane Irene.

Floodwaters remained Monday on the tracks in Trenton, N.J., used by Amtrak and commuter trains.

Spokeswoman Danelle Hunter says the rail line is also dealing with power issues in some areas. And crews worked Monday afternoon to remove trees and other debris that got pushed on the tracks by Irene.

Hunter says trains are running as usual between Washington and Philadelphia.

Article source:*’s Survey Indicates Rise in Travel Costs Dampens Labor Day …

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) August 30, 2011

LowFares.comTM (, a leading travel comparison search site for flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation deals, reported that Labor Day travel is being impacted by high travel costs, with 40% of survey respondents being unsure of plans for the holiday.

According to the survey:

  •     High travel costs were the main reason for staying at home (35.8%).
  •     Most Labor Day travelers said they will opt for traveling by car rather than plane.
  •     A third (32.5%) said they were simply not interested in traveling over the long weekend.
  •     More than 10% of respondents indicated that unemployment and economic hardship will keep them from traveling.
  •     Top domestic city destinations for the holiday weekend are Las Vegas and New York City, driven in part by the wide range of deals available.

Subscribers also reported that they prefer beach destinations over any other kind of travel for this Labor Day.

Taylor Driggs, General Manager of, noted that current consumer travel preferences continue to be affected by the economy as well as high travel costs. “Airfare cost is a constant concern this year, and gas prices are still impacting travel decisions despite some decrease,” he said. “This survey, as have others we’ve done, indicates that consumers are waiting until the last minute to see if prices improve.”

Driggs said major airlines should be announcing travel deals in the coming days, prompting more consumers to book flights for the Labor Day holiday.

Driggs also indicated subscribers are searching harder for travel deals, and airlines observing the trend are offering selected discount fares prior to the holiday weekend.

Comparison sites like are increasingly popular with online travelers who want to quickly make side-by-side comparisons for rates from leading travel websites.

The Internet survey was conducted among subscribers during the summer of 2011. Subscribers receive weekly newsletters highlighting top travel deals; also conducts monthly giveaways and contests for subscribers.

About LowFares.comTM, an company, is a leader in finding cheap flights, hotels, rental cars, travel deals and vacation packages. With more than 4 million unique visitors per month and 1.5 million loyal subscribers, offers an online experience that allows travelers to search multiple travel providers simultaneously.

About® is a leader in Internet performance advertising. Its businesses are driven by a robust technology platform that processes over 40 million revenue events a month. With a portfolio of more than one million domain names, Oversee’s Domain Business is a top pay-per-click advertising network, delivering highly targeted ads to 300 million unique users worldwide per month. Vertical Markets, Oversee’s rapidly growing lead generation business, utilizes highly scalable SEO, SEM and CMS tools to attract customers to the company’s own travel, shopping, and financial services web sites, providing end users with the information they need to make smart purchase decisions. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Oversee has offices in Portland, Ore., Pompano Beach, Fla., New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. Its key brands include DomainSponsor®, SnapNames®, Moniker®, the DOMAINfest® series of conferences, LowFares.comTM,®,, and To learn more about the company, visit:



Article source:

Rooms on sale for $96 at Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The sweltering Southern California heat is the perfect time to contemplate chilly scenes of winter– and save on accommodations at Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort north of Lake Tahoe. Rooms start at $96 a night for fall, winter and beyond, but only until Wednesday.

The deal: The ski resort’s 96 Hour $96 Sale requires a two-night minimum stay to get the $96 rate, excluding taxes and fees. The offer comes with free ice or roller skating for two (free rentals too); access to outdoor spas, swimming pools, fitness center, etc.; free Internet access; and free resort shuttle.

When: The offer is good for stays through next April, but you must reserve by 11 p.m. PDT Wednesday. Some blackout dates apply.

Tested: I checked the ski resort’s website and found availability for a studio condo for two for $96 a night Dec. 4-6. Total cost with tax and fees: $211.20. That doesn’t include lift tickets, but it’s about half off the usual rate for the same studio condo on the same nights.

More rooms on sale: RockResorts properties include other sites in the sale, from mountain destinations in Colorado and Wyoming to resort stays in Florida, New Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. Check out the full list of resorts and hotels.

Info: Northstar-at-Tahoe, (800) 466-6784

Article source:,0,4188699.story

From Free Smartphone Apps to Travel Deals, California Wine Month Presents …

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

SACRAMENTO, California (August, 2011) – Grape harvest is approaching, a time when a foodie’s fancy turns to thoughts of wine.To launch the harvest season in September, destinations across the Golden State are celebrating California Wine Month. From innovative wine immersion experiences and hot travel deals to cool events, it is an ideal time to visit wine country, when the air is buzzing with the creative energy of California’s artisan winegrowers and winemakers bringing in the grapes and beginning the process of crafting the next great vintage.

For full details on the deals below and more information on cool ways to experience wine country at a value go to

“California is the leading wine and food destination in the U.S., producing 90 percent of the wine and boasting nine of the top ten producing agricultural counties in America,” said Caroline Beteta, president CEO of the California Travel Tourism Commission. “These cool new ways to experience wine country help consumers get the most value out of their California Wine Month getaway. From the most serious oenophile to the beginning taster, California’s diverse wine regions have something for everyone.”

Wine Country Smartphone Apps and Other Digital Innovations

Digital divas will love that California wineries and wine associations are launching smartphone apps and other tools to help them explore California wine country in a new way. Recent wine region association apps include: Santa Barbara, Monterey, Lodi, Dry Creek (Sonoma), Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley and Fairfield-Suisun Valley.

Ridge Vineyards, a pioneer of single-vineyard winemaking, has injected digital innovation into its guest experience at each of its winery estates in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma wine country. Through the use of a free aerial simulation in the tasting room, guests are taken on an interactive journey through all of their estate vineyards. The tour shines light on the contributions of place in the wines guests taste through the exploration of elevation, soil type, vine age and varietal. Tastings start as low as CA$5 during California Wine Month.

For the Adventurous sippers

Gondola Tour of a Sonoma County Winery:

Visitors to Sonoma County can sip wine from the comfort of a gondola as they view the sprawling Trentadue Winery and estate. After the educational gondola tour, a gourmet family-style dinner is served with wine.

Unique Wine Adventures with Calaveras Concierge in Gold Country: Calaveras County is not only home to valleys, peaks, caves, and rivers, but a vast array of wine adventures including:

“Calaveras Zip and Sip” Adventure featuring a zip line at Moaning Cavern, wine tour of Murphys with a picnic lunch at a winery and gourmet winery harvest dinner.

Star for a Day at Millerosa” visitors can star in their own film “The Wild Bunch” at a local movie set ranch. The tour also includes a gourmet catered lunch and wine tasting (minimum 5-10 people, weekends only).

See Sonoma Wine Country on a European-style Hiking Vacation:

Over 10 days trek from San Francisco to surrounding wine country taking in Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Muir Woods National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay, Jack London State Historic Park and Sonoma estate wineries. The trek includes six days of hiking from 6 to 12 miles each day. Take in a morning paddle with a naturalist guide on Tomales Bay, enjoy a privately catered dinner, and a day of walking between private winery estates for wine tastings. Each night stay in premier lodging, ranging from charming country inns to luxury boutique hotels, and have many opportunities for world class dining and spa treatments. Cost is CA$2,695 per person, double occupancy during September 2011.

Bike Tour: Taste and Roll in Oakland’s Urban Wine Country:

East Bay Winery Bike Tours is offering a special winery bike tour stopping at three or four wineries on a 10-plus mile route. Just use the coupon code “winemonth” when booking a September tour via phone or online, and get 15 percent off. Tour includes a guide, a picnic lunch and a ferry ride.

For the Cultural Wine Connoisseur

Pair Wine with Music at Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa:

Music and wine lovers can find their groove with a new interactive tasting experience at the legendary Robert Mondavi winery for California Wine Month. Guests can pair wine with music.

Art and Wine at Sonoma’s Starlite Vineyards:

Geyserville’s premier boutique vineyard will offer an exclusive wine month art exhibit and concert, free with a CA$25 tasting. Call 707-431-9800 for more information.

Digital Wine Country:

Santa Barbara County Wine Country app:

Tour wine country with a free hand-held tour guide. An iPhone smartphone application allows visitors to see information on locally wineries, from great wedding sites to dog-friendly vineyards. An Android app expected to be available by early September.

Monterey Wine Country app:

The county’s free smartphone application gives visitors the inside scoop on the best Monterey wines and wineries. Available for Blackberry, Android and Windows phone.

Ridge Vineyards’ interactive tour:

At each of the winery’s estates in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma County, a free aerial simulation in the tasting room takes guests on an interactive journey through all of Ridge’s vineyards. The tour shines light on each estate’s elevation, soil type, vine age and varietal. Tastings start as low as CA$5 during California Wine Month.


Air Canada Vacations:

Three nights in Sonoma Valley via San Francisco from CA $639 ex Toronto, per person, double occupancy

Spend three nights in Sonoma Valley, just over an hour’s drive from San Francisco. Taste wines from this North America’s premium wine country, learn how the wines from friendly vintners at winery cellar doors and take in the idyllic setting of rolling hills dotted with vineyards. September and October is harvest time when the air is thick with the perfume of crushed grapes, adding to the wine country experience.

Package includes:

Round-trip flights from Toronto (YYZ) to San Francisco (SFO)

Three nights’ accommodation at the Doubletree Hotel Sonoma, Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, or the Flamingo Conference Resort Spa

Valid most dates in September and October

For more information on the packages, call 1-866-529-2079.

Prices reflect applicable reductions, are subject to change without notice and cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Prices are in Canadian dollars; apply to new bookings only. Prices are per person based on double occupancy, unless otherwise stated, from Montréal – Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Toronto – Pearson International Airport, in Economy class. Non-refundable. Limited quantity and subject to availability at time of booking. Taxes and applicable fees not included. Not applicable to group bookings. Flights operated by Air Canada. For applicable terms and conditions, consult the Air Canada Vacations brochures or

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada’s largest full-service airline and the largest provider of scheduled passenger services in the Canadian market, the Canada-U.S. transborder market and in the international market to and from Canada. Together with its regional partner Jazz, Air Canada serves over 32 million customers annually and provides direct passenger service to over 170 destinations on five continents. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance™, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network. For more information, visit:

WestJet Vacations:

Three nights in San Diego from CA$809 ex Toronto, per person, double occupancy. Limited quantities available.

Explore the various wineries in San Diego’s Wine Country! San Diego’s North County is among the finest varietal grape-growing regions in the western United States. This up and coming wine boasts a variety of vineyards, from larger wineries that feature guided tours and full gift shops, to small family-run farms.

Package includes:

Round-trip air from Toronto (YYZ) to San Diego(SAN)

Three nights accommodations at the four-star Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

Valid departure dates: October 15, 22 and 29, 2011

Four nights in San Francisco from CA$779 ex Toronto, per person, double occupancy. Limited quantities available.

San Francisco is within an hour’s drive from the leading Napa and Sonoma wine regions of Northern California – an easy day trip from the Bay Area. One option is to hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train from San Francisco for an elegant, intimate journey to Napa Valley. Largely acclaimed for its diversified wine options, Napa Valley is one of the premier travel destinations in the world.

Package includes:

Round-trip air from Toronto (YYZ) to San Francisco (SFO)

Four nights accommodations at the four-star Handlery Union Square Hotel

Complimentary full American breakfast for up to 2 people

Valid departure dates: September 17, 25, October 17 and 20, 2011

Note that WestJet Vacations packages quoted must be booked between September 1 and 15, 2011 (11:59 p.m. MT). Service from Toronto to San Diego and San Francisco requires a connection in Calgary. Other departure cities and dates are available, but prices may be higher. Fares on other days may be higher. Price is round trip per guest, based on double occupancy. Transfers not included. Taxes and fees not included. Fuel surcharge still applies to Air Miles™ redemption bookings. Advance booking required. Non-refundable. Offer limited and subject to availability. Price is accurate at time of submission. New bookings only. Visit for details. Packages booked through Ontario travel agents are covered by TICO. Mailing address: 6085 Midfield Road, Toronto, ON L5P 1A2. TICO registration number: 50018683.

For more information on the above packages, contact your preferred travel agent, call 1-877-737-7001 or visit

About WestJet

WestJet is Canada’s favourite airline, offering scheduled service throughout its 71-city North American and Caribbean network. Inducted into Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame and named one of Canada’s best employers, WestJet pioneered low-cost flying in Canada. WestJet offers increased legroom, leather seats and live seatback television provided by Bell TV on its modern fleet of 96 Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. With future confirmed deliveries for an additional 39 aircraft through 2018, WestJet strives to be one of the five most successful international airlines in the world.

About WestJet Vacations

WestJet Vacations provides guests with affordable, reliable and easy-to-book travel experiences to destinations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. Leveraging WestJet’s fun and friendly image, extensive network and world-class guest experience, WestJet Vacations offers guests a personalized, once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience. For more information, visit


From special tastings and harvest tours, to wine education classes and wine and food festivals, California wine lovers have many event choices for day trips in their own back yard – or quick getaways a short distance from home.

If you’re near Northern California over Labor Day weekend, don’t miss Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, named one of the 10 Best Wine Food Events in the U.S. (Celebrated Living).The event features more than 170 award winning wineries and 60 chefs showcasing their talents at Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch, as well as a wine auction, seminars, cooking demonstrations, vineyard tours and parties at other wineries.

On Sept. 17, CALIFORNIA WINE RUSH, a walk-around tasting showcasing top wines from more than a dozen California wine regions throughout the state, will take place in San Francisco in the Grand Hall of the historic Ferry Building during the lively Saturday farmer’s market.

Passionate about Pinot? Check out Pinotfest Monterey in Central California, a beach party and charity auction on Sept. 16 with live music, food and wine that showcases several wineries.

Savor the Central Coast 2011, presented by Sunset Magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, will feature a grand tasting with 200-plus wineries, wine seminars, winemaker dinners and other culinary adventures during this four-day experience Sept. 29-Oct. 2.

If you live in or are visiting L.A., Palm Springs or San Diego, check out the CRUSH: Temecula Valley 2nd Annual Wine Culinary Showcase, a multi-winery harvest festival with wine, food and live music on September 10. As an added value, five participating wineries are offering passport savings anytime during the month.

If you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss the Masters of Food Wine Culinary Weekend in Carlsbad near San Diego, on Sept. 24. This fabulous weekend is where world-class chefs and sommeliers converge, featuring regional California wine and food and interactive workshops.

For more information on California Wine month events go to On that site you can also find more information on California wine varietals, a map of California wine country, information on regions as well as activities at individual wineries.


The California Travel Tourism Commission (CTTC) is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to CTTC, travel and tourism expenditures total $95.1 billion annually in California (18 percent of which is international), support jobs for 873,000 Californians and generate $6.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about CTTC and for a free California Visitor’s Guide, go to

Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the association of more than 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses that initiate and advocate state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. Wine Institute promotes the California Wine Month campaign with the California Association of Winegrape Growers to help contribute to the economic vitality of the state by showcasing its outstanding wine and food offerings.

For more information, see

August 30, 2011
  Posted in: United States West

Article source:

Holes remain in flight school scrutiny after 9/11 (AP)

August 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, government screening has made it harder for foreign students to enroll in civilian flight schools like a handful of the hijackers had done, banking on America being inviting and a place to learn quickly.

But the most rigorous checks don’t apply to all students and instructors, so schools and trainers have to be especially alert to weed out would-be terrorists.

“Prior to 9/11, I wouldn’t have had the phone number and name of my local FBI agent posted on my wall. I do,” said Patrick Murphy, director of training at Sunrise Aviation in Ormond Beach, Fla., near Daytona Beach.

Hundreds of U.S. flight schools fiercely compete for students. In Florida, some still pitch the good weather as a way for students to fly more often and finish programs faster. The 9/11 hijackers sought out U.S. schools partly because they were seen as requiring shorter training periods.

Florida schools have reason to be careful: Three of the 9/11 hijackers were simulating flights in large jets within six months of arriving for training in Venice, Fla., along the Gulf Coast. Mohamed Atta, the operational leader of the hijackings, and Marwan al Shehhi enrolled in an accelerated pilot program at Huffman Aviation, while Ziad Jarrah entered a private pilot program nearby.

The terrorists obtained licenses and certifications despite rowdy behavior and poor performance at times.

The U.S. commission that investigated the attacks said in its report that Atta and Shehhi quickly took solo flights and passed a private pilot airman test. The two later enrolled at another school, where an instructor said the two were rude and aggressive, and sometimes even fought to take over the controls during training flights. They failed an instruments rating exam. Undeterred, they returned to Huffman. Meanwhile, Jarrah received a single-engine private pilot certificate.

Hani Hanjour obtained his private pilot license after about three months of training in Arizona. Several more months of training yielded a commercial pilot certificate, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. In early 2001, he started training on a Boeing 737 simulator. An instructor found his work substandard and advised him to quit, but he continued and finished the training just 5 1/2 months before the attacks, the commission said.

Today, it would be tougher for the four men to enter U.S. flight schools.

There is a stricter visa process for foreign students seeking flight training in the U.S. They cannot start until the Transportation Security Administration, created after Sept. 11 to protect U.S. air travel, runs a fingerprint-based criminal background check with the FBI’s help and runs their names against terrorist watch lists. TSA inspectors visit FAA-certified flight schools at least once a year to make sure students have proper documentation verifying their identities and haven’t overstayed their visas.

Plus, TSA shares intelligence with other agencies and has other layers of security to catch people before they can do harm even if they slipped through the cracks and were able to get flight training in the U.S.

The stepped-up measures involving flight schools are not foolproof or uniform, however.

There are numerous flight instructors with access to planes and simulators who don’t all get an annual TSA visit, and are subject only to random TSA inspections if they train only U.S. citizens. The TSA has access to a database of all student pilots that is maintained by the FAA. But TSA said it only runs the names of U.S.-citizen students against watch lists, and not necessarily before those students can start their programs.

TSA said the fingerprinting and criminal background checks done on foreign students before they can enter U.S. flight schools are not done on U.S. citizens. TransPac Aviation Academy in Phoenix tells domestic applicants they need proof of citizenship, a high school diploma or college transcripts, a medical card, a driver’s license and any pilot licenses already held. Other schools do the same, said Tom Lippincott, TransPac’s vice president of business development.

And one security measure never employed by the government, despite interest from the 9/11 commission, was requiring that transponders that help officials locate commercial planes can’t be turned off as the hijackers did. The FAA said if there is an electrical fire or malfunction, pilots must be able to turn off the transponder for safety reasons.

The shortcomings have led schools to self-police.

Andre Maye, vice president of administration at Phoenix East Aviation in Daytona Beach, pays attention to red flags including inconsistencies in addresses applicants provide and discrepancies on financial statements. He monitors the size of wire transfers from students when they pay for their tuition, which can total $46,000 or more, and looks for consistency in the transactions.

James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association, a trade group for aviation service businesses including flight training companies, said the industry is open to more rigorous and uniform vetting of students.

The safeguards in place haven’t deterred foreign students from flocking to the U.S. — Sunrise Aviation’s Murphy said the majority of students are international at many flight schools, including his.

They come because the training industry is more developed and efficient than programs at home. Also, pilot hiring in the U.S. is stagnant, while growth in Asia has fueled a need for pilots there. Students often come to the U.S. with their own money or financing.

Akshai Stephen, 27, of New Delhi, has been at Sunrise about five months. He said the month it took him to go through the approval process and start training didn’t discourage him.

“What I thought was, just tell the truth, `I want to fly. I want to fly,’” he said. “If you are truthful and have good intentions, you have nothing to worry about.”

Of the 41 recommendations in the 9/11 commission’s report, none specifically addressed flight schools. Thomas Kean, the former New Jersey governor who chaired the commission, told The Associated Press the feeling at the time was that the federal government already was working to close that loophole.

Huffman Aviation, where Atta and Shehhi trained, closed after the attacks. Owner Rudi Dekkers said in a recent interview that considering what he knew 10 years ago, there is nothing he could have seen that would have alerted him to what his students were planning.

And despite the enhanced government screening today, he isn’t convinced the same thing couldn’t happen at another school.

“You have someone who doesn’t behave, you think that makes them a terrorist?” Dekkers asked. “Then half the country is a terrorist.”


Follow Harry R. Weber at

Article source:*

Next Page »