Cherry blossom fans, plan for early pinkiness.
The 100-year-old Yoshino cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., are expected to erupt in fragrant pink blossoms as early as March 22 and should reach their peak between March 24 and 31. It’s a bit early, as the average peak bloom period is April 4.
The forecast came Thursday from Rob DeFeo, chief horticulturist at the National Park Service, who made the announcement during a press conference at the Newseum.
So what determines bloom time? DeFeo and his team have been monitoring the buds in five stages of development, according to the park service’s website. Peak is defined as a time when at least 70% of the trees around the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial will be blooming.
About 3,000 trees were part of the original gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912 as a token of friendship between Japan and the U.S. Since then the number of trees has grown to about 3,750 of 16 varieties, according to the festival website.
Regardless of how long the blooms last (and the park service isn’t sure yet how long bloom period will be), the National Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 runs from March 20 to April 27, with lots of events around the capital. The annual parade along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets will be held 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 14. Katie Couric and Alex Trebek will co-host the event.
Check out the full calendar of events that includes fireworks, musical performances, special museum days and more.
Feisty sea lions are just of the treats awaiting visitors to the Galapagos Islands.
Seeing is believing in the Galapagos Islands. Yes, the tortoises really are that big and yes, the sea lions really do laze that contentedly on the beach, utterly oblivious (or at least unperturbed) by the presence of picture-snapping human visitors. With CIT Tours, an early booking bonus for Galapagos Islands trips offers savings of up to $2,480 per couple, as long as you reserve by March 31. Durations range from seven to 12 days and include time in Ecuador’s capital Quito plus cruise-touring on the M/Y Galapagos Odyssey, the M/Y Galapagos Voyager or the new Ocean Spray ‘mega-catamaran’. On the Galapagos Odyssey, a five-night cruise combined with three nights in Quito offers savings of up to $1,220 per couple, on any 2012 departure date. On the Galapagos Voyager, three, four and five night sailings packaged with four or six nights in Quito come with discounts worth up to $1,860 per couple for 2012 departures (and up to $2,480 for the really early birds who not only book but also travel by March 31). Finally, savings on the mega-catamaran Ocean Spray range up to $1,120 per couple, for sailings April 8 – June 29 and again in September. See www.cittours.ca.
SALE ON SILVERSEA
Luxury cruise line Silversea has dropped its rates for select sailings worldwide, with a new lead-in price of $1,999 per person (all prices U.S.), plus these discounted fares come with onboard spending credits worth between $500 and $1,000 per stateroom. Available for travel now through November, the sale itineraries include Voyage 2230 on Silver Wind, exploring the Mediterranean from Athens to Monemvasia, Corfu, Kotor and Split (Sept. 24). Also in Europe, Voyage 5211A on Silver Spirit sails round trip from Monte Carlo to Malta, Crete, Rhodes, Bodrum, Santorini, Sicily, Sorrento and Elba (May 5). Northern European sailings are part of the sale as well, plus Alaska, Asia and more. Onboard shore excursions can be used toward everything from shore excursions to spa treatments. See www.silversea.com.
Here’s your chance to feel like a rock star: Ottawa Tourism’s JUNO Awards Getaway package includes the option to purchase tickets to the 2012 JUNO Awards, taking place April 1 at Scotiabank Place. Overnight accommodation in a selection of hotels is also part of the deal. The whole city is gearing up for the event, with special JUNO-themed exhibits at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and tickets to these venues are also available as optional add-ons. Another Ottawa Tourism promotion, ‘Third Night Free’, wraps up March 31 (for bookings and travel). See www.ottawatourism.ca.
BEST BUY OF THE WEEK
The Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a $50 room rate, available for the first night of a minimum two-night booking. Remaining nights will be priced at the best available rate and pre-payment is required at time of booking. A new service allows guests to shop online for groceries before they arrive – many of the Pagoda’s rooms are one- and two-bedroom kitchenette units. See www.pagodahotel.com.
Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Sunquest: Four-night Nassau, air hotel, $479 (+$296 taxes fees) (March 18). www.sunquest.ca
Air Canada Vacations: Four-night Geneva, air hotel, $1,079 (+$495 taxes fees) (April 19). www.aircanadavacations.com
Nolitours: Costa Rica, air hotel, $649 (+$310 taxes fees) (March 19). www.nolitours.com
Signature Vacations: Huatulco, air hotel, $785 (+$257 taxes fees) (March 13). www.signaturevacations.com
Transat Holidays: Antigua, air hotel, $899 (+$317 taxes fees) (April 14). www.transatholidays.com
Bel Air Travel: Alaska cruise, $609 (+$102 taxes fees) (May 27). www.belairtravel.com
Sunwing Vacations: Cayo Santa Maria, air hotel, $595 (+$290 taxes fees) (March 25). www.sunwing.ca
Sell Off Vacations: Cartagena, air hotel, $379 (+$375 taxes fees) (March 26). www.selloffvacations.com
itravel2000: Cozumel, air hotel, $437 (+$343 taxes fees) (March 16). www.itravel2000.com
WestJet Vacations: St. Maarten, air hotel, $1,269 (+$107 taxes) (April 10). www.westjetvacations.com
Tour East Holidays: Dubai UAE, hotel, tours, transfers, meals, $1,460 (Sept. 30). www.toureast.com
You would think Costa Allegra passengers, stranded at sea for more than two days and enduring overflowing toilets, no power, cold sandwiches and beastly heat, would want to go home immediately and put the nightmare behind them. Not so.
A statement from Costa Cruises says about 70% of the 627 passengers have taken the Italian-based cruise line up on its offer of a free two-week stay in the Seychelle Islands.
Passengers disembarked the crippled ship after reaching Port Victoria on Mahe, the Seychelles’ main island, midday Thursday local time. The Allegra lost power Monday after a fire erupted in the engine room and the ship to be towed to port. No injuries were reported among the more than 1,000 passengers and crew members.
Costa is offering passengers a full refund of the cruise fare and travel expenses; a full refund of any on-board expenses incurred during the cruise; and indemnity equivalent to the cost of the fare paid for the cruise and associated travel costs.
Those who opted to continue on vacation have been taken to hotels where there will spend one or two weeks on the islands of Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette and Cerfs. Costa also will organize their return flights home, according to the statement.
Those who skip the free vacation will fly Friday from the Seychelles to Paris, Milan and Zurich on flights organized by Costa en route to their respective homes. They also will be given a voucher for the value of the cruise to apply toward another cruise within 24 months.
Among those on the Allegra who opted to vacation in the Seychelles are American couple Gordon and Eleanor Bradwell of Athens, Ga. The Bradwells told the Associated Press they also would be reimbursed for the $8,000 they spent on the cruise. The story describes conditions aboard ship during the fire:
“Eleanor Bradwell said that the initial response to the alarm seemed to be disorganized, but overall she and her husband felt the shipping line had handled the emergency well.
” ‘It could have been worse than it was,’ said Gordon. ‘It could have been disastrous … we’re here, we’re alive.’
“The couple ate cold sandwiches for three days and moved their bedding onto the deck to escape the stifling heat after the fire left the Costa Allegra without power.
” ‘The toilets were running over, there was no electricity. It was very hot,’ said Eleanor.”
The Allegra incident is the second for Costa Cruises in the last six weeks. The Allegra’s sister ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground near the Italian island of Giglio on Jan. 13, leaving 25 people dead and seven missing.
LAS VEGAS, March 1, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
Leading Las Vegas deals provider Travel Vegas has launched a new website, TravelVegas.com. This next-generation website is loaded with tons of Las Vegas deals and discounted rates, lower than even the most heavily advertised online travel companies.
“Today’s travelers are increasingly price savvy and want to make sure they are receiving the best possible rates when planning their vacation,” said Brendon Schenecker, CEO of TravelVegas.com. “We’ve heard of people spending upwards of 4 hours online trying to find the best rates. The new site was designed to allow users to find great cost savings in dramatically less time.”
For example, a traveler searching for a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip can now find a deal in a matter of seconds. One simple click on the site and the traveler will get a comprehensive list of every Las Vegas hotel deal. The results can be sorted by price, availability, and best savings. The lowest rate will automatically been shown first.
One of the lowest rates available on Travel Vegas can be found at the Flamingo. Flamingo rooms are available from $25/night – which is nearly a 30% savings over competitor’s prices.
“Some of the lowest rates cannot be shown to the general public. That’s where becoming a member can net additional savings,” commented Brendon. “Unlike traditional travel websites, members receive exclusive discounts online, and through our weekly newsletter.” Interested travelers can sign up now for free Vegas deal alerts at
TravelVegas.com is a revolutionary Vegas deals website that has the potential to save travelers hundreds of dollars during on, and during their trip. Travel Vegas’ team continuously hunts down the best deals available, providing travelers with an easy to navigate list of deals, coupons and packages. Currently, Travel Vegas has more than 350 Las Vegas deals, pulled from over 100 credible sources for everything in Las Vegas. The Travel Vegas website is now officially live and is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, visit
SOURCE Travel Vegas
Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved
Delve more deeply into Bali’s cultural side on a 12-day tour that emphasizes drumming, meditation, spiritual ceremonies and more. Tribal Music Tours leads a group of 14 to the Indonesian island on a trip that includes daily guided meditations and daily healing drum circles (drums provided).
Guests stay in jungle villas in Ubud where exploration begins by foot to the Monkey Forest and the village. During the trip, participants jam with gamelan masters during a drum workshop, visit drum craftsmen and master healers, take a Balinese dance workshop and experience a men’s kecak trance dance by night. The itinerary also includes a snorkeling excursion and visits to Tirtenganga, Tenganan and Amed.
When: The trip is May 11 through 22.
Trip preview: Tribal Music Tours will hold a trip preview evening April 7 from 8 to 10 p.m. in South Pasadena that includes videos, a live Balinese mask trance dance performance and an appearance by author Christine Stevens, who will lead workshops on the Bali trip. The evening is free, but reservations are required. Email email@example.com for details and to RSVP.
Price: $3,650 per person, double occupancy (save $100 if you pay in full by March 15). It includes round-trip airfare on China Airlines, transfers and ground transportation, 11 nights in a jungle villa, breakfasts, three dinners, workshops, excursions and more.
Info: Tribal Music Tours, (626) 799-4795
Omni Hotels and Resorts launched a room sale on Leap Day that lasts longer than Feb. 29. The limited-time sale features deeply discounted rooms for stays mid-March through the end of May at hotels from Boston and New York to San Diego and L.A.
The deal: The Leap Into Spring offer features rooms for $89-$189 a night, excluding tax. Sale rates apply to properties around the country. Here are some I like:
–$89 at Omnis at downtown and Southpark in Austin, Texas;
–$99 at the Omni at CNN Center in Atlanta; –$119 at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, the Omni San Diego Hotel and the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Check out the full list of properties where sale prices apply.
When: Make reservations through Monday for stays between March 14 and May 28.
Tested: Availability varies from hotel to hotel, but the savings in this deal are worth digging for dates that work. For example, I couldn’t find the $89 rate on weekends at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown. I did, however, find the discount for a room with one king bed or two doubles April 15-17 — a room that usually costs $249 a night.
I had better luck on weekends at the Omni San Diego Hotel. I found availability for $119 a night on April 13-15 in a room with one king or two double beds. The same room on the same dates usually goes for $169 a night.
Info: Omni Hotels and Resorts Leap Into Spring, (800) 843-6664
Centralized information on global healthcare packages that travel agents can customize for clients will soon be launched by a new alliance between medical travel guide Patients Beyond Borders and online global physician directory Medeguide.
The alliance, announced last month, initially will provide consumers with robust search tools for global healthcare options and providing hospitals and health-travel third parties with branding and marketing tools. (See Medical Tips Trends, Travel Market Report, Feb. 9, 2011)
Travel agents, who will be able to use the new search tools for accessing global healthcare packages, can benefit by adding customized travel components to the packages, according to Josef Woodman, editor and publisher of Patients Beyond Borders.
Agents can partner with medical travel facilitators and medical institutions in adding the travel components to the packages, he explained. Woodman will be a featured speaker at the Well-Being Travel Conference 2012. (See sidebar.)
Packages have consumer appeal
Woodman expects that the packages eventually will become ubiquitous and available through online travel agencies.
Such packages are “quickly becoming a reliable and enticing way to shop for the best medical deals,” Medeguide founder Ruben Toral told Travel Market Report.
The packages are expected to hold strong appeal for consumers who pay a greater portion of their medical expenses themselves, usually for elective or nonessential procedures, Toral said.
Woodman and Toral described medical travel packages and how travel agents can leverage them in a conversation with Travel Market Report.
What do medical travel packages include? Can they be customized? What destinations and facilities are included?
Ruben Toral: Medical travel packages are an all-inclusive way for healthcare consumers to purchase a medical procedure or treatment plan at a set price, typically at a considerable discount.
Many healthcare facilitators and hospitals are now offering treatment packages in such areas as wellness, anti-aging, detox, cosmetic procedures and dentistry, to name a few.
Additionally, these packages can often be combined with airfare and accommodations. Even sightseeing and local attractions can be included for those patients seeking less intrusive procedures.
Packages are easily customizable, although most facilities and facilitators are promoting pre-existing deals. These offers can be found for many of the top destinations and facilities around the world.
How are Patients Beyond Borders and Medeguide collaborating on packages?
Josef Woodman: Medeguide and Patients Beyond Borders are working together to create an online platform that will allow consumers to view, compare and purchase medical travel packages and allow providers to market their packages.
Our goal is to provide an online exchange whereby users can find complete information about preferred destinations, accredited facilities, reputable doctors, and affordable packages, ultimately leading to a mutually beneficial transaction.
Our commitment is to help the growing number of international consumers make safer, smarter and more affordable healthcare choices by enabling them to take advantage of the increasing global options in safe, affordable medical care.
When do you expect to launch your online exchange?
Woodman: It will evolve based on market trends and consumer demand. Healthcare consumers initially can access the international doctor directory, as well as information on destinations and procedures, view doctor profiles, request appointments and read real patient stories on the existing Medeguide and Patients Beyond Borders websites.
Access via mobile and light devices will follow.
Then a separate website is planned that will be somewhat like TripAdvisor.
How do medical travel packages benefit the consumer?
Ruben Toral: We’ve all, at one time or another, experienced frustration over trying to determine a cost for a medical treatment. Just as with travel packages, medical packages help the healthcare consumer budget a treatment with access to concrete numbers. Thus, consumers who look to combine treatments by purchasing medical travel packages should see a significant financial benefit.
Additionally, patients also save a huge amount of time when most or all of the coordination of their trip is handled through one central agency [a medical travel facilitator], versus having to hammer out details with several different companies, over different time zones and often in multiple languages.
Depending on where the healthcare consumer decides to go, there may also be travel restrictions (such as visas, passports, warnings, etc.), dietary considerations and language barriers – not to mention the need to be able to exchange medical information between doctors at home and abroad before, during and after a procedure.
A medical travel facilitator offering medical travel packages is invaluable in helping the healthcare consumer navigate the many complexities of international travel.
What does this mean for travel agencies interested in serving the medical travel market?
Josef Woodman: Travel agencies will likely see an increase in the number of medical travel packages they book over the next five years. The ability to merge a medical package with a travel package (airline, hotel, ground transportation, etc.) will create even deeper discounts for the money-conscious consumer.
Along with the number of new facilitators and international hospitals already offering these types of services, agents may also find opportunities to partner with providers that are not yet offering a travel component.
We expect to see a greater number of companies offering medical travel packages in the future. This type of product will make it easier for consumers to get the best possible deal and for providers (doctors, facilities and facilitators) to showcase their services.
How will the packages be marketed?
Josef Woodman: We expect packages to be initially embraced by medical travel facilitators, travel agents and companies specializing in domestic or international healthcare travel.
As the volume of package inventory and comparative information increases, we expect to see medical packages increasingly bundled with travel and tour packages and sold online through vendors such as Travelocity, Orbitz and TripAdvisor.