In a speech last year at Tufts University in Massachusetts, TV reporter Lisa Ling shared one of her own personal FAQs: No, she was not in “Charlie’s Angels.” That would be Lucy Liu.
Then she told students what shaped her world view. “The best education I have ever received was through travel. You’ll become more conversant, poised and smarter,” she said, according to Abroad101, a study abroad blog that recapped the speech.
Ling, who hosts the TV show “Our America” on OWN and often reports on CNN, will appear at this weekend’s L.A. Times Travel Show at the L.A. Convention Center. I asked what places are on her bucket list this year, and she sent an e-mail with “four places I’m dying to visit.”
Cuba: Since the 1959 Revolution, Cuba’s been shrouded in intrigue, off limits to most American visitors. But now, the country is about to open its doors just a bit wider, and the uber-curious can get a license to go. What’s there to see? Everything — classic American cars, bongo-playing locals, Havana’s 18th century homes, Spanish Colonial buildings — but mostly it’s about soaking up the sights and culture of a long forbidden land.
Croatia: It’s time to venture outside the “euro zone.” That’s advice from Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie, who says, “Croatia is a perfect example of a place that is exotic but still off the radar.” Dubrovnik, Split (where modern-day apartment dwellers live elbow-to-elbow with history in the spectacular Diocletian’s Palace) and the Dalmatian Coast? Yes, yes and yes. And it’s a short hop to islands like Brac and Hvar for a quiet beach stint. Saglie says Croatia is still a good value for Americans, except in crowded July and August, because after all, Europeans do know about it.
Morocco: Last year’s Arab spring prompted the country’s king to float pro-democracy measures and enact a new constitution. Politics aside, the issue isn’t whether to go, but where to go: the Sahara Desert on a four-wheel trip; Fez, Casablanca and Tangier to visit souks and sites the Berbers, Roman Empire, French and Spanish wanted as their own; or beaches along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Marrakech too is an option, particularly on a night tour of its exotic markets.
Mongolia: It’s just not that remote anymore, but still beautiful. That’s Lonely Planet‘s take on the Asian nation that retains the untouched beauty of the Gobi desert juxtaposed against 21st century herders talking on mobile phones and Internet cafes in capital Ulan Bator. “Since the fall of communism, Mongolia has done just about everything in its power to open itself up to the world,” the company’s website says. Don’t worry, there’s still time to sleep in a ger (nomadic tent), take a camel ride or go on a high-altitude trek — all far from the cellphone chatter.
Ling also identified three places she encourages Americans to visit this year: Nepal, for the beautiful Himalayas; China, which changes every day; and the Greek island of Santorini, one of the most “beautiful places on the planet,” she writes, and likely pretty inexpensive because of the country’s debt crisis.
PHOENIX – Here’s your chance to visit a place that many consider one of the most fascinating U.S. cities.
On Thursdays, ABC15.com will feature travel deals for Arizonans.
This week’s deals from AAA Arizona are for you and your friends to hit up New Orleans, a.k.a. The Big Easy!
The Maison Dupuy Hotel , a AAA Three Diamond property, is a luxury boutique property located in the heart of the French Quarter, two blocks from world famous Bourbon Street. Hotel amenities include tour assistance and complimentary wired and wireless internet. Rooms are available from $99 per night.
Chateau Bourbon, a Wyndham Historic Hotel , is a AAA Three Diamond property also located in the heart of the French Quarter. The property borders the world-famous entertainment of Bourbon Street and the fabulous shopping and streetcars on Canal Street. Steeped in history, some guest rooms even feature architectural remnants from its former life as D. Homes Department Store, with gracious columns and beams. Rooms are available from $161* per night.
Hotel Monteleone , a AAA Four Diamond property, is the only historic and literary landmark hotel that has undergone expansive restoration and transformed to its original and legendary stature as New Orleans Grand Dame. Guest rooms at this French Quarter hotel feature marble and granite baths plus modern amenities. The property also features a rooftop swimming pool and full-service day spa. In addition, a complimentary enhanced continental breakfast is available daily for all guests. Room are available from $189* per night.
For more information or to book, visit AAA.com .
*Price is based on double occupancy for select travel dates; hotel taxes and fees additional. Prices will differ for date(s) of stay chosen and are subject to change without notice. Prices are subject to change, availability and prior sale. Other conditions and restrictions may apply.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
If airfares seem a little higher than usual, it’s not because the airlines have raised their prices. The Department of Transportation’s long-awaited new rules on what airlines can advertise as posted ticket prices go into effect Thursday. I think of it as the “no surprises” rule.
The biggest change: Published airfares (online, on billboards, in print, over the phone) must include all taxes and fees. The idea is that consumers looking for the lowest airfare won’t be misled by super-low prices that increase exponentially after fees and taxes are added on.
The rule applies to airlines, ticket agents and online travel booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Kayak, however, already publishes the total cost of airfares on its site.
Here’s how online travel site BookingBuddy explained it to customers: “Fares will appear to be $20–$40 higher while you are searching for domestic travel, but you shouldn’t see that surprise bump from taxes and fees before you book.” In other words, the taxes and fees that used to be added on at the end of a transaction will now be posted up front.
Feisty budget carrier Spirit Airlines last year was fined by the DOT for deceptive pricing when it advertised $9 tickets from L.A. to Las Vegas. On its website Thursday, Spirit claims the government is forcing airlines to “distort” airfares by “hiding” taxes and fees in the price of a ticket.
Pricing isn’t the only change that will benefit consumers. Here are more new airline rules that went into effect this week.
–All baggage fees, which aren’t included in airfares, must be disclosed. (Airlines that haven’t already had a separate online Web page listing their baggage fees are doing so.)
–Passengers will be able to hold a reservation for 24 hours without having to pay for it.
–Also, customers will be able to change a flight within 24 hours without penalty (some airlines and online booking companies already had such policies).
–Airlines won’t be able to raise ticket prices after the ticket has been purchased.
ROME – Officials from Costa Crociere SpA met with consumer activists Thursday in an attempt to work out what could be a blanket compensation deal for uninjured passengers who were aboard the cruise ship that capsized off Italy’s coast.
The deal being discussed would apply to 3,206 people from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm when the Costa Concordia hit a reef Jan. 13 after the captain made an unauthorized maneuver that brought the enormous ship too close to shore.
The offer would take into consideration the price of the ticket, any costs incurred in getting home after the disaster, the cost of items lost aboard the ship as well as damages for the ruined vacation and trauma resulting from the accident, said Furio Truzzi of the consumer group Assoutenti.
The offer would not apply to the hundreds of crew aboard the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people who were injured or the families who lost loved ones. Sixteen bodies have been recovered since the ship hit a reef carrying 4,200 people, with another 16 people still missing and feared dead.
“We are working for a collective transaction to come up with a value for damages,” Truzzi said. “Each passenger can decide if this proposal is satisfactory. If it is not, they are free to react through a lawyer.”
Truzzi said it was premature to discuss exact amounts of compensation. He said it would be an average and that any passenger who deemed his or her losses greater than the offer was free to counter the proposal.
“We will not close any doors,” he said.
Costa has said it was in the process of reimbursing tickets and immediate expenses. Truzzi said those reimbursements did not preclude any future legal action on the part of those who were shipwrecked.
He said Assoutenti would work separately on a proposal for those who lost loved ones in the disaster and were also open to working with members of the crew if they came forward.
Truzzi said any damages agreed with Costa would be in addition to insurance policies taken out by passengers before embarking. He said 91 percent of the passengers had such policies.
Divers on Thursday were continuing the search for missing crew and passengers, although no one expected to find any more survivors.
Salvage experts were setting up operations so they could begin pumping tons of fuel off the ship starting Saturday to avert an environmental catastrophe. The stricken ship lies in pristine waters off the Tuscan coast that are prime fishing grounds and part of a protected area for dolphins and whales.
Costa is a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world’s biggest cruise operator.
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration says new rules to manage nearly 200 million acres of national forests will protect watersheds and wildlife while promoting uses ranging from recreation to logging.
The new rules, to replace guidelines thrown out by a federal court in 2009, are set to take effect in early March. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the rule change on Thursday.
Vilsack said in an interview that the rules reflect more than 300,000 comments received since a draft plan was released last year. The new rules strengthen a requirement that decisions be based on the best available science and recognize that forests are used for a variety of purposes, Vilsack said.
“I think it’s a solid rule and done in a collaborative, open and transparent way,” he said.
The guidelines, known as a forest planning rule, will encourage forest restoration and watershed protection while creating opportunities for the timber industry and those who use the forest for recreation, he said.
Vilsack, who has pledged to break through the logjam of political conflict over forest management, said the new regulation’s emphasis on science and multiple uses should allow it to stand up to likely court challenges from environmental groups or the timber industry.
“I am hopeful and confident that it will stand scrutiny,” he said.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the guidelines would allow land management plans for individual forests to be completed more quickly and at a lower cost than under current rules, which date to the Reagan administration.
Several attempts to revise the 1982 planning rule have been thrown out by federal courts in the past decade. Most recently a Bush administration plan was struck down in 2009. Environmentalists had fought the rule, saying it rolled back key forest protections.
The Obama administration did not appeal the ruling, electing to develop a new forest planning rule to protect water, climate and wildlife.
Under the new rule, forest plans could be developed within three to four years instead of taking up to seven years, as under current guidelines, Tidwell said.
“We really can protect the forest at lower cost with less time,” he said.
The new regulation also should give forest managers more flexibility to address conditions on the ground, such as projects to thin the forest to reduce the risk of wildfire, Tidwell said.
“We’ll be able to get more work done — get more out of the forest and create more jobs,” while at the same allowing greater recreational use, Tidwell said. Recreational use of the forest has grown exponentially in recent years.
Like Vilsack, Tidwell said he is optimistic the new plan will stand up to scrutiny from environmental groups and the timber industry, both of which have challenged previous planning rules in court.
“I’m optimistic that folks will want to give it a shot,” Tidwell said.
The 155 national forests and grasslands managed by the Forest Service cover 193 million acres in 42 states and Puerto Rico. Balance between industry and conservation in those areas has been tough to find since the existing rules went into effect three decades ago.
At least three revisions of the rules have been struck down since 2000.
The planning rule designates certain animal species that must be protected to ensure ecosystems are healthy. However, the rule became the basis of numerous lawsuits that sharply cut back logging to protect habitat for fish and wildlife.
Meanwhile, the timber industry has continued to clamor for more logs, and conservation groups keep challenging timber sales, drilling and mining projects.
Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, said his members will review the final rule to see if it follows a federal rule to manage forests for a diversity of plants and animals — not in a manner that places a single use or species above all else.
Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands director for the Pew Environment Group, said national forests are the source of drinking water for one in three Americans, are home to fish and other wildlife and are an economic engine for local communities across the West.
“Faced with unprecedented threats from industrial development, these national forests need strong national protections,” she said, adding that the new framework for forest management appears to reflect comments from scientists, the business community and conservation advocates.
“The plan now has stronger safeguards than what was originally proposed. That said, the true test of this plan will be how it’s implemented on the ground,” Danowitz said.
Matthew Daly can be followed on Twitter: (at)MatthewDalyWDC
NEW YORK – The Public Theater will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Shakespeare in the Park series this summer with a little Bard and a little Sondheim.
The Public said Thursday that Daniel Sullivan will direct “As You Like It” in June with Lily Rabe as Rosalind. A month later, directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel will present Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods.”
Both works will be free at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Additional casting and dates will be announced later.
The Shakespeare comedy reunites Rabe and Sullivan, who combined in 2010 in the park with a thrilling production of “The Merchant of Venice” led by Al Pacino as Shylock that transferred to Broadway and earned Tony Award nominations for all three.
The Sondheim musical, a reimagining of beloved classic fairy tales that opened on Broadway in 1987, will be based on the Olivier Award-winning Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre London production in 2010, which also was directed by Sheader and Steel.
“I’m delighted that we are adding Stephen Sondheim to the Delacorte’s roster: our greatest artist of musical theater will sit very comfortably next to Shakespeare,” Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, said in a statement. “Sondheim in the Park has a good ring to it.”
The Delacorte Theater officially opened in Central Park on June 18, 1962, with a production of “The Merchant of Venice,” directed by Joseph Papp and Gladys Vaughan and featuring George C. Scott as Shylock. Since then, stars including James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Raul Julia and Christopher Walken have acted on its stage.
What should fliers expect when booking plane tickets this week and hereafter? Here’s what you need to know about the new rules and how they’re shaking up the travel industry:
How will travel booking sites and online travel agencies (OTAs) be affected?
Just like the airlines, travel booking sites (like Intrepid Travel and Monograms) and OTAs (like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity), have to include mandatory flight taxes and fees when advertising airfares.
How will fare aggregators be affected?
Fare aggregators such as Kayak and TripAdvisor Flights already include taxes and fees in their listings. A spokesperson from Kayak told us, “The new ruling has not changed how we display fares. Before the DOT full-fare advertising rule, Kayak had already been displaying fares with full taxes and fees included.” So basically, there’s nothing new here.
Will all the airlines roll out fee-inclusive fares right away?
Most likely. We’re already seeing fee-inclusive fares (as well as vacation packages that include airfare taxes and fees) on Southwest, JetBlue, United, and Continental. Spirit Airlines—the carrier notorious for its excessive fees—has yet to post fee-inclusive airfares on its site. We’ve reached out to Spirit Airlines for a comment, but have yet to hear back from the airline.
Will the new full-fare advertising rules apply to vacation packages?
Yes—that is, if the packages cover airfare. Travel providers (including both online and brick-and-mortar travel agents) will have to include mandatory flight taxes and fees in package costs as long as the trips include flights. Two popular vacation booking sites have already publicly addressed this issue: Apple Vacations and Go-today announced price modifications on their websites. According to Apple Vacations, “Effective January 26, 2012, all Apple Vacations’ advertised pricing will change. The price you see in our advertisements will be the complete cost of the vacation including all taxes and fees associated to the airfare.”
What other rules will go into effect this week?
The DOT’s new full-fare advertising rules are part of a larger of group of airline passenger protection regulations that kick in this week. As of Tuesday, January 24:
• Passengers will have the option to change or cancel a reservation within 24 hours of initial booking (as long as the ticket purchase is made at least a week in advance of departure).
• Airlines can no longer increase the price of a ticket after it’s been sold.
• The airlines will have to inform passengers if a flight will be more than 30 minutes late.
• Airlines will be more upfront about baggage fees. Costs for baggage must be displayed on the “first screen containing a fare quotation for a specific itinerary,” says the DOT. Baggage fee amounts must also be displayed on electronic ticket confirmations.
MORE: Read previous columns
SmarterTravel.com features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.
A cycling tour through Provence doesn’t have to be all about the bike. France-based Cyclomundo offers a self-guided bicycling trip through the southern French countryside that’s good for families with children or folks who want to travel at their own pace.
The eight-day Provence With Youngsters itinerary starts in Avignon and winds down quiet roads to Graveson, Fontvieille, Les Baux de Provence and other stops before arriving in Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Roman ruins. Ride 12 to 20 miles a day on quiet, flat roads past olive trees and fields on the route provided by Cyclomundo, and the company transports your luggage from point to point.
The deal: Cyclomundo is offering discounts for companions on self-guided cycling trips in France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Trips must be booked between Feb. 4 and 26 to get the discount rate. For example, on the Provence With Youngsters trip, the first person pays full fare and the second traveler pays 20% less for reservations made during the February dates. (Prices for children vary by age.)
Date: The trip leaves daily April through October.
Price: About $1,118 a person, based on double occupancy ($894 for a second person if you book by Feb. 26); prices are approximate conversions from euros. It includes two nights in a hotel and five nights in guesthouses, daily breakfast, five dinners, train ticket from Arles back to Avignon, luggage transfers and briefing with a local representative about the course. Note international airfare and bike rental (about $123 per adult) are extra, though you can bring your own bicycle.
Contact: Cyclomundo, (646) 233-1354 in the U.S.
| Ashleigh Smollet, CityNews.ca
Arthur Frommer has much to choose from when compiling a list of favorite travel destinations. The man who has been on the road and guiding travelers to bargains and hot spots since the 1950s (and will speak Saturday at the L.A. Times Travel Show) offered up a list of his 10 favorite travel destinations for 2012. Why? To inspire us to make travel plans, of course. Here are some of his recommendations.
Paris: “I can never get enough of this glorious capital, whose beauty has been so well captured in Woody Allen’s recent ‘Midnight in Paris’,” Frommer writes. To me, there’s no better way to see the city than to do what Owen Wilson’s character does in the film: Take a walk and get lost. Wander far from the Eiffel Tower to explore the Marais, a traditional Jewish neighborhood that’s now a player in the city’s art scene, or the club-hop in the Latin Quarter in search of great jazz (there are plenty of places).
Yachats, Ore.: I’d never heard of this coastal town of about 750 residents whose name is pronounced “YAH-hots.” It has a rocky coastline and plenty of tide-pooling. Frommer singles it out as an “ideal spot for a stop in the course of a motoring trip along the breathtaking (and largely undeveloped) Oregon coast.” An added bonus: No less than three state parklands are in the immediate vicinity.
Bali, Indonesia: This destination usually conjures images of lazy days spent in the tropical South Pacific. But Frommer finds cultural goings-ons as fascinating as the terrain. “A Hindu outpost in a Muslim nation, it is inhabited by some of the most gracious people on Earth, who invite you to witness their religious processions, wedding ceremonies and joyous funerals.”
The rest of Frommer’s list: Sanibel Island, Fla.; St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands; Cairo; Bonnaire in the southern Caribbean; Chiang Rai, Thailand; Greenwich Village and off-Broadway theaters in New York City; and Kenya.