“We are pleased that we prevailed and look forward to getting started and giving the people of Maryland travel areas that are welcoming gateways and that they can be proud of,” said Xavier Rabell, CEO of Areas USA.
But executives at HMSHost, based in Bethesda and operator of the plazas since 1987, contend the bidding process was illegal and biased. They say they will file suit in Baltimore Circuit Court seeking to get the vote overturned and the project rebid.
HMSHost attorney Paul Mamilian called the board’s decision “a disservice to the citizens of Maryland” and warned that “the state has put itself at risk.”
The project is the second major public-private partnership undertaken by state transportation officials within the past three years as they look for ways to upgrade infrastructure without incurring taxpayer expense. A $1.3 billion deal with Ports America Chesapeake to enlarge the Seagirt Marine Terminal to handle massive Panamax cargo ships opened the door for other deals, said Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley.
She told the board, consisting of Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Franchot, that the 48-year-old Maryland House and 36-year-old Chesapeake House are great revenue sources, but “well beyond their useful life” and do not compare favorably to rest areas in states along I-95, from Connecticut to Delaware. Repairing or rebuilding them by conventional state procurement methods would require dipping into money set aside for other projects “and take us years,” she said.
Areas has agreed to spend $56 million to replace the plazas with modern, airy structures and share a portion of its revenue with the state, which it said could amount to as much as $488 million over the life of the contract. In addition, it will spend millions on upkeep and capital improvements as the plazas age.
Swaim-Staley said the Areas bid exceeded all three goals outlined in the state’s request for proposals and offered $148 million more than what HMSHost proposed.
But HMSHost lawyer John Wolf said the Maryland Transportation Authority didn’t follow its own rules in evaluating the bids. HMSHost was told last December that its bid was acceptable and negotiations with bidders would begin after the holidays.
Areas received an email from a Maryland Transportation Authority official on Jan. 4, “but HMSHost got no such email. Only one proposer was allowed to improve its offer — Areas,” he said.
Kopp called the contract dispute “a very difficult situation” but said that after reviewing all the documents she concluded “that the process was fairly done and I think the request for proposals was clearly written.”
The Beverly Hills Hotel turns 100 years old on May 12, cause enough for the hotel to serve a $100 cocktail in a take-home glass coupe engraved with its centennial design. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon slept here, as did many other luminaries.
Now the hotel is chronicling its fabdom in words and pictures with the arrival of the book “The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows — The First 100 Years” by Robert S. Anderson, as well as special centennial-themed offers. My favorite pick: a facial, mani-pedi or massage at the day spa, on sale for $100 each.
The deal: You don’t have to be a guest to take advantage of the deals at the hotel’s Spa by La Prairie. Selected treatments — the Pink Palace Manicure and Pedicure, Diamond Anniversary Facial and/or the Caviar Express Massage — are discounted to $100 each. Make reservations in advance at La Prairie, which is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
When: The offer is good though the end of the year.
Tested: I checked the spa treatment menu online and found that mani-pedis usually cost about $160, facials start at $210 and the massage goes for $215. So cash in on a little pampering at this Southern California landmark.
Contact: Spa by La Prairie, (310) 887-2006
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s first trip with her first passport took her across the pond. She describes her experience in the video (above) that she made to publicize Passport Day 2012 this Saturday. The day provides an opportunity for walk-ins to apply or renew passports, no appointment needed, at passport offices, libraries, post offices and other locations.
Here’s an excerpt from Clinton’s video:
“Bill and I went to London, where we spent hours touring Westminster Abbey, the Tate Gallery, and Parliament. We walked around Stonehenge, visited as many cathedrals as we could, and met people from all different kinds of backgrounds. It opened my eyes to a world of new sights and new experiences.”
How could it not? My first passport took me on a high school trip to Greece that did that very thing, too.
To apply or renew, start by going to the State Department’s website and read the FAQs so you know what to expect and what you need to bring with you. (It also tells you how to get or renew a passport generally, even if you can’t make it Saturday.)
– First-time passport applicants must have a certified birth certificate or other acceptable ID, a passport photo, a completed DS11 form and $135.
– Passport holders seeking to renew must bring their most recent (expired) passport, a passport photo, a completed DS-82 form and $110.
Offices open Saturday will offer standard processing, which takes four to six weeks, or expedited processing, which takes two to three weeks and costs an additional $60.
Here are hours and locations for some Southern California sites that will be conducting walk-in passport service (check out all sites in California to find a convenient venue):
– 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Los Angeles Passport Agency, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1000, Los Angeles 90024
– 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Burbank Main Office, 2140 N. Hollywood, Burbank 91505
– 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costa Mesa Library, 1855 Park Ave., Costa Mesa 92627
– 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fullerton Public Library, 353 W. Commonwealth, Fullerton 92832
– 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pasadena Main Office, 600 Lincoln, Pasadena 91109
– 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Van Nuys Post Office, 15701 Sherman Way, Van Nuys 91409
CHICAGO, March 7, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ – Even with the relatively mild winter, Americans are still craving the sun and warm weather for spring break, according to the Orbitz Insider Index released today, which reveals the top 10 destinations for spring break and provides a look at five alternative trips for families this travel season.
Thanks to budget-friendly deals and warm spring weather, Florida once again dominates the list of spring destinations this year but Las Vegas comes in at a close second. The data uncovers the 10 most popular spring break travel destinations based on air bookings made on Orbitz.com for travel between March 1 and April 22, 2012. Among the highlights:
- Florida Fever: For the second year in a row, not only does Orlando rank as this year’s number-one destination, but four of 2012′s most popular locales are in the Sunshine State: Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers and Tampa.
- Sin City is this year’s bargain capital: Las Vegas offers this year’s best deals, including some of the lowest average airfares in the country as well as hotel rooms averaging just $96 a night. The endless choices of top entertainers and shows plus the rise in daytime pool parties make Las Vegas a go-to spot for letting loose this spring break.
- Hotels on sale: Though average airfares and average daily rates (ADRs) are up in a majority of markets, hotel rooms can be had for under $150 per night in eight of the top destinations: Orlando, Las Vegas, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Fort Myers, Tampa and Denver.
“Families itching for a different kind of getaway are in luck. This spring there are a number of options that will suit any lifestyle—from sports enthusiasts to the spontaneous traveler,” said Orbitz.com Senior Travel Editor Jeanenne Tornatore.
5 Out-of-the-box Family Spring Break Ideas:
- 2012 Olympic Trials: For those that may not be able to make the trek to the 2012 London Games this summer, a number of Olympic trial games will take place across the country this spring. The April 7th Nike Hoop Summit, for instance, will be held in Portland, Ore. and is the only U.S.-based men’s basketball qualifying event. In this premier annual basketball game for high-school age boys, America’s top high school seniors take to the court to play against a World Select Team that’s comprised of top international players 19 years old or younger. Tickets are just $5 in advance or $10 on game day.
- Spring Training: Baseball fans across the country are gearing up to celebrate America’s favorite pastime at spring training events in Arizona and Florida, where the Cactus League and Grapefruit League have just kicked off the 2012 spring training season. “With hotel rates in Orlando and Phoenix averaging around $115 and $126 per night respectively, these spring training hot spots offer a number of warm-weather activities for people of all ages to enjoy,” said Tornatore.
- Hit the Road, Jack: The widespread use of GPS-enabled mobile devices makes it easy for travelers to take a road trip and book a hotel along the way. “Families don’t need to plan every last-minute detail before setting off on their spring break adventures anymore,” said Tornatore. “From plotting turn-by-turn directions to finding hotel deals and your favorite restaurants along the way, today’s mobile devices give travelers the freedom to hop in the car and plan as they drive.” The Orbitz Hotels App for iPad and iPhone, for example, lets users find great deals along the way via ‘Mobile Steals,’ a free service that provides exclusive mobile-only discounts of up to 50 percent on hotels worldwide.
- Spring Skiing: While 2012 has experienced one of the warmest and driest winters in recent memory, several popular resorts across the country have received plenty of snow and will make for an excellent ski getaway. “Family-friendly ski resorts in Vail and Beaver Creek are offering discounts of up to 70% off normal rates in April, and even 50-60% off in March,” said Tornatore. “These are amazing deals—especially as the region has just recently seen some significant snowfalls as we head into spring.”
- A-Cruising We Will Go: Cruises are always a great option for families with children of all ages, with activities for everyone both on and off the ship. A trip aboard a Disney cruise ship creates lasting memories for kids especially when hanging out with their favorite Disney characters. There are still some cruise lines with last minute availability in March and April. Orbitz has four-night cruises departing from Florida in March for as low as $299 per person (plus applicable taxes and fees).
Tips for Saving On Spring Break Travel
Similar to last summer, gas prices are once again approaching record levels, so it’s more important than ever to lock plans—and prices—in now.
“Orbitz conducted a poll last summer that revealed 81% of consumers were still planning to take a summer vacation even with rising gas prices,” said Tornatore. “We expect this sentiment to continue for spring travel as people need a break and want to spend quality time with their families. With a little advanced planning and preparation, travelers can take a great trip that doesn’t break the bank.”
Among the money-saving tips:
- Look for programs like Orbitz Price Assurance which rewards Orbitz customers with an automatic cash refund if another Orbitz customer later books the same flight or prepaid hotel room for less. Packages, which combine air/car/hotel together, save money versus booking everything separately.
- Look for “value-adds” when choosing a hotel. Complimentary meals and services such as free daily breakfast, free wi-fi or discounted parking can easily save a family up to $50 – $70 a day.
- Pack lightly, as airline luggage fees can quickly add up and put an unexpected dent into the budget.
Terms and Conditions
¹Top 10 Spring Break destinations are based on flight bookings made on Orbitz.com for travel from March 1, 2012 – April 22, 2012, for bookings made as of Feb 23, 2012.
Orbitz.com is a leading online travel company that enables travelers to search for and book an array of travel products and services, including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages. Since launching its website in June 2001, Orbitz.com has become one of the largest online travel sites in the world and has led the industry with innovations including the Orbitz Matrix Display and Orbitz Price Assurance. The Matrix Display revolutionized the way the travel industry displayed fares and makes it quick and easy for consumers to compare flights, rental cars and vacation packages. The Price Assurance program gives travelers confidence that they have the lowest Orbitz price on their flight or hotel. With Price Assurance, if another Orbitz customer books the same flight or prepaid hotel for less, we’ll send you a check for the difference — automatically. Orbitz.com also offers “Insider Steals” a weekly, members-only flash sale that provides exclusive deals of 50% or more off of handpicked hotels in top destinations around the world. On Orbitz.com consumers can search a broad range of suppliers worldwide. Orbitz.com is owned by Orbitz Worldwide. Stay connected to Orbitz.com with sale alerts, exclusive promotions and engaging conversations by following Orbitz on Facebook, Twitter and the Orbitz Travel Blog.
About Orbitz Worldwide
Orbitz Worldwide is a leading global online travel company that uses innovative technology to enable leisure and business travelers to research, plan and book a broad range of travel products. Orbitz Worldwide owns a portfolio of consumer brands that includes Orbitz, CheapTickets, ebookers, HotelClub, RatesToGo and the Away Network. Also within the Orbitz Worldwide family, Orbitz Worldwide Distribution delivers private label travel solutions to a broad range of partners including many of the world’s largest airlines, and Orbitz for Business delivers managed corporate travel solutions for corporations. Orbitz Worldwide uses its Investor Relations website to make information available to its investors and the public at http://investors.orbitz.com. You can sign up to receive email alerts whenever the company posts new information to the website.
This past Monday I ran a contest (while teaming up with the
Points, Miles, Martinis blog) to giveaway 4 American Airline 10% off discount codes. Thanks for all who entered and
tweeted me (@dealswelike) – I loved hearing about your great airline deals! You can see
the original blog post here.
Deals Winners from Deals We Like…
Congratulations to the winners. I will send you a Twitter message with your coupon code.
- Ozze (@ozmanactor) – I flew from Chicago to Brussels (with a 10-hr layover in Montreal that I turned into an eating tour) for $267 RT. Pick me!
- Julie (@jlswims) – best deal was LAX-ORD for $179 for 3x EQMs.
Martini Winners from Points, Miles Martinis…
Congratulations to the winners.
Points, Miles, Martinis will be in touch shortly.
- Sy (@SyzeWorld) like’s to keep it simple with his favorite drink, a bud light is so simple.
- Michelle (@chelles) like’s her coke zero with a little rum, but no lime please.
Bonus Winners – Simultaneously, American Airline was sending AAdvantage credit card holders a targeted one-time offer ranging between 10%-25% off their next American flight. Two AMAZING readers donated their coupon code (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!), which allowed me to add two additional winners to this contest:
- 25% off coupon: Jillian ? (@ImmaJillianaire) – I was able to find a $120 roundtrip to Florida during Christmas week!
- 10% off coupon: Lauren (@ldk7) – got NY to Stockhom r/t last year for $150 on delta!
As mentioned in the original announcement, a new contest will run every Monday for the entire month of March. The prize will still be the 10% off coupon codes, but the terms to enter will alter slightly. I am really excited for this ongoing promotion and give back to my readers!
Stay tuned to next Monday for another chance to win!
ORLANDO, Fla., Mar 07, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) –
Travel Media Group, a division of Dominion Enterprises, announced the
launch of its new HotelCoupons.com
website and brand identity, reaffirming its value proposition of driving
revenue and filling empty rooms for hoteliers throughout the country.
The company had previously operated under both the Roomsaver and
Originally founded as the Exit Info Guide in 1982, Travel
Media Group and its iconic “Green Guide” currently assists
more than 5,200 hotel operators increase occupancy and revenue through
its print guides, Website and innovative mobile applications. With
nearly 30,000,000 print guides available at more than 10,500 locations
throughout the United States and portions of Canada, HotelCoupons.com is
the largest provider of walk-in rates and hotel deals for the interstate
“This wasn’t just a logo change; we saw this as the perfect time to
solidify our leadership position in the marketplace. With the ability to
reach travelers across multiple channels, we can leverage the
HotelCoupons.com brand to increase occupancy at hotels nationwide,” said
Mark Novak, vice president and general manager for Travel Media Group.
“We now have a united message and have clarified what we offer — the
best deals on many of the country’s most revered brands in the
With travelers beginning to rely more on Web and mobile applications to
locate, research and book hotel rooms, operators must move beyond the
online travel agencies in order to be successful in the coming years.
This will require hoteliers to diversify their marketing efforts in
order to increase occupancy at the most cost-effective rate.
HotelCoupons.com’s marketing solutions can deliver this on a
commission-free basis with a proven track record of delivering a solid
return on investment.
“We have found that our travelers span multiple generations and search
for hotel rooms in different ways,” said Novak. “The HotelCoupons.com
marketing platform allows us to connect our hotel customers with a
larger cross section of consumers than ever before. We are very proud to
have served millions of loyal travelers over the past 30 years, and we
will continue providing them with great deals where and how they expect
it for many years to come.”
To learn more about HotelCoupons.com, please visit
About Travel Media Group
Media Group is a leading provider of hotel coupons and travel deals
for the U.S. traveler, delivering the lowest prices on thousands of
hotels and motels. The company also provides hoteliers with custom
marketing solutions including Websites, online reservation systems,
reputation management, marketing and social media programs.
About Dominion Enterprises
Dominion Enterprises is a leading marketing services and publishing
company serving the automotive, recreational and commercial vehicle,
real estate, apartment rental, employment, parenting, travel and daily
deals industries. The company’s businesses provide a comprehensive suite
of technology-based marketing solutions including Internet advertising,
lead generation, customer relationship management, website design and
hosting, and data management services. The company has more than 40
market-leading websites reaching more than 17 million unique visitors
monthly. More than 77 million For Rent(R), Employment Guide(R) and Travel
Guide magazines are distributed nationwide each year. Headquartered in
Norfolk, Virginia, the company has 3,300 employees in more than 145
offices in the United States, Canada, England and Italy. For more
information visit DominionEnterprises.com.
SOURCE: Travel Media Group
Travel Media Group Peter Scott, APR 407-673-6132 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Business Wire 2012
The Costa Voyager, a cruise ship that holds 927 passengers, starting March 18 will take over for the Costa Allegra, which remains damaged after a generator-room fire caused the ship to lose power.
The Allegra remains in port at Mahe in the Seychelle Islands where it was towed after being stranded at sea for three days following the Feb. 27 fire. None of the 1,000-plus passengers or crew members were injured in the incident. A statement from Costa Cruises said the company was trying to determine what caused the fire and how long it would take to repair the ship.
The company also said passengers booked on Costa Allegra cruises may cancel without penalty and receive a full refund plus a voucher for 30% of the cost of a future cruise.
In the meantime, the Voyager from mid-March until July 1 will sail Mediterranean and Northern Europe itineraries catering mostly to French passengers. After that, it will sail from Amsterdam to Savona, Italy, starting July 13 and then sail mostly on Mediterranean itineraries starting July 23.
The Voyager’s cruise to the Red Sea will be canceled. Passengers booked on that cruise are being offered their choice of a replacement cruise on other Costa ships.
The incident on the Costa Allegra and the earlier Costa Concordia disaster in January that left 25 people dead with seven still missing has weakened the brand, according to the Associated Press, which reported: “Industry experts said Costa’s survival after 60 years in the passenger ship business could depend on the company changing its name or getting a bailout from its parent, U.S.-based Carnival.”
Godmothers matter, especially when it comes to the maritime tradition of women christening cruise ships, just as if they were children.
And these days, no choice is too outrageous. Tinker Bell provided the animated honors for Disney Wonder in 1999, and a holographic form of Fiona from “Shrek” did likewise for Allure of the Seas in 2010.
Now comes Priscilla Presley, who will be godmother to the steamboat American Queen when it’s christened April 27 at its home port of Memphis, Tenn. The American Queen, the largest paddle-wheel steamboat ever built, will head up the Mississippi River on its inaugural voyage to Cincinnati, according to an announcement by the Great American Steamboat Co.
And TV Iron Chef and restaurateur Cat Cora will preside over Oceania Cruises‘ newest ship, Riviera, in Barcelona on May 11. She is tasked with somehow wielding a super-sized Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne custom-made by Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and smashing it against the ship’s hull, an Oceania Cruises statement says.
All this comes on the heels of the Disney Fantasy hoopla in New York City last week when Mariah Carey (yes, she sang the song “Fantasy”) presided as godmother over a glitzy Disney bash in New York City that featured Jerry Seinfeld, Neil Patrick Harris and others on stage. The Fantasy makes its first cruise, which is sold out, to the Eastern Caribbean on March 31 from its home port of Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The hands-down most godmotherly of them all has to be Queen Elizabeth, who has personally christened four Cunard ships: the newest and her namesake, the Queen Elizabeth, in 2010; the Queen Mary 2 in 2004; the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967; and the Caronia in 1947 (she was Princess Elizabeth then).
And she was present at the christening of the original Queen Elizabeth in 1938 when she was 12 years old. Wow, that’s a lot of ship shout-outs in her lifetime.