Coming Seychelles Carnival Makes International News

Seychelles Carnival( Soca News in London confirms that the Carnaval International de Victoria that is staged in Seychelles annually has already made a name for itself beyond the Indian Ocean. Stephen Spark of Soca News writes January 24:

“Just outside Victoria station in London stands a miniature of the House of Commons’ clock tower. Nicknamed ‘Little Ben,’ it’s painted black, but it has a silver-painted twin 5,000 miles away that adorns the capital of Seychelles, also called Victoria. Known there as l’Horloge, the ornate monument is the centre point of the town and a useful reference point, though it would take some skill to get lost – Victoria is one of the world’s smallest capitals.

“The clock tower is also the focal point for Seychelles’ biggest annual celebration: the Carnaval International de Victoria, which takes place this year from 8th to 10th February. The event is only in its third year but it has already made a name for itself far beyond the Indian Ocean and attracted a strong following, who appreciate its easygoing tropical ambience. Perhaps the best accolade came when neighboring Mauritius decided to copy the concept last year for its Flic en Flac Carnival. Imitation – even a pale imitation – is the sincerest form of flattery!

Seychelles Carnival Called, ‘The Carnival Of Carnivals’

“Seychelles bills its event as ‘the carnival of carnivals,’ because it offers a taste of some of the major carnivals and festivals from around the world. From Trinidad, Lima Calbio is back by popular demand – she’s probably the best-known soca singer in the Indian Ocean now – the Notting Hill Roadshow Company is sending a selection from London’s best mas bands, and a Brazilian delegation is promised too. Those three would be enough to light up any party on the road, but around 20 countries should be taking part, including groups from Belgium – for the first time – Italy, India, China, Indonesia, South Korea, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

“Notting Hill’s masqueraders stole the show last year and won first prize in 2011 too, while Lima wowed the audiences for the stage events, but it was Mason’s Travel that deservedly won top local honors in 2012. They’ll be taking part again, but the Seychellois have adopted a positively Caribbean spirit of rivalry and competitiveness when it comes to mas. Another local group, JJ Spirit Foundation, has thrown down the gauntlet, with executive director Eddie Charles declaring boldly: ‘Take note – JJ Spirit is coming for its first win.’”

Soca News’s Indian Ocean correspondent will be on hand to see if Eddie can make good that claim and will be bringing you rest of the action on the road and off it in this distant, but passionate, outpost of the carnival spirit.

Posted in Sun & Cruise, Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

Not Only Is Greece Safe, But There Are Lower Prices, Fewer Tourists

By Rick Steves, Tribune Media Services

Life in Greece 2013I keep getting asked is Greece safe for travelers — a question that feels absurd the instant you arrive there. Ask anyone who’s been to Greece recently, and you’ll learn that safety concerns have been played up by both Greek and international media outlets.

Greece More Hospitable Than Ever

Frankly, this is a great time to travel to Greece. The financial crisis — while making life difficult for most Greeks — is a boon for budget travelers. Hotel prices are down, the normally warm Greek hospitality has ratcheted up a few notches, and roads outside of Athens are essentially traffic-free, as higher gas prices have caused locals to cut down on inessential driving.

The downsides (shorter hours at sights, reduced long-distance bus service, occasional strikes) are noticeable, but not reason enough for you to postpone a trip. All the things you’re looking for in a trip to Greece — mouthwatering food, deep-blue water, striking scenery, and the thrill of connecting with ancient history — are all here waiting for you … at a cheaper price.

Greece Is Safe And Easy On Travelers

Greece is easy on travelers. Tourism makes up 15 percent of the gross domestic product. The Greeks pride themselves on a concept called “filotimo” (love of honor), roughly translated as openness, friendliness, and hospitality. Social faux pas made by unwary foreigners are easily overlooked by Greeks, and many speak English.

Despite the headlines, the major sights of this ancient land are open and relatively crowd-free. Athens, while sprawling and congested, has a compact, pleasant tourist zone capped by the famous Acropolis — the world’s top ancient site. With its central location, it’s also the perfect launch pad for farther-flung destinations. You can commune with ancient spirits at the center of the world — the oracle near the picturesque mountain hamlet of Delphi.

Enjoy The Same Sun, Water and Olives

Or travel farther to the Peloponnese, the large peninsula that hangs from the rest of the Greek mainland, and experience a wild, mountainous landscape dotted with the ruins of Mycenaean palaces, ancient temples, frescoed churches, and countless medieval hilltop castles.

Most travelers like to take a vacation from their vacation on one of the famous Greek isles, such as traffic-free Hydra, whitewashed Mykonos, or volcanic Santorini.

It all sounds idyllic — and for the most part, it is. On my last trip here, if it hadn’t been for the blaring headlines and shrill news reports calling the demonstrations “riots,” I probably wouldn’t have been aware of them at all — I was too busy pondering the ancients at the Acropolis and nibbling olives at dinner.

I found Greece to be the same old wonderful place … with, perhaps, a few more minor headaches. Political protests are indeed a common occurrence, and not just in Athens. Demonstrating is woven into European democracies.

Protests A Part Of European Democracy

And, while protesting is generally just too much trouble for most Americans, Europeans are quick to hit the streets when they want to raise their collective voice. I think it’s healthy. It’s my hunch that for many years to come, Europe will be sorting this out, and travelers will encounter parades and rallies in front of parliament buildings — and anarchists wanting to hijack these events to make their points and get on the news.

As the TV news media loves vivid footage, this is easy to do. But most rallies involve zero violence. When violence has broken out in Athens, it’s been between police and protesters, not bystanders … and certainly not tourists out for a stroll.

It’s pretty easy to steer clear of any unrest. Protest rallies are generally scheduled in advance: Your hotelier can tell you if anything’s likely to be afoot in a main city square during your visit. Strikes are another nuisance, but generally not prolonged — just a day or two here and there. (Strikes have long been a way of life in Greece; most Greeks see a general strike as an excuse for an impromptu holiday.)

What’s the biggest impact of the crisis on visitors? It’s the satisfaction you’ll get from contributing to the economy of a nation dealing with tough times — and the joy that comes from a tourist industry that really appreciates your presence. Sharing a beer or a coffee with a talkative native can provide you with a lesson in contemporary Greece that’s every bit as fascinating as the classical stuff.

Greece has, it seems, more than its share of troubles right now. Still, Greeks are optimistic by nature. Most believe that they’ll get through these tough economic times. They’re quick to point out that, regardless of the economy, the olives remain just as tasty, the water just as blue, and the sun — like the Greek people — just as warm.

Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at and follow his blog on Facebook.


Thanks to Rick Steves for covering this important topic and letting people know Greece is safe for travelers in 2013.

Posted in European Travel News, Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

When Traveling Means Healthy Living

By Thomas Steinmetz

People travel for different reasons. It’s like a constant itch that needs to be scratched and it will only go away until we find ourselves hauling a bag and waking up in wonderland.

In search for a remedy, not only that we haphazardly apply a soothing tiger balm or a generous amount of petroleum jelly on the area of discomfort but surprisingly finding ourselves liberated from the manacles of a scoliosis-causing office chair and rude telephone calls.

To make it short, it’s for that sentiment why I am now sitting in the train tracking north up the Malay Peninsula towards Thailand, with the north-south expressway as my reference point. The starved itching traveler in me badly wanting to get away from the chaotic cycle of everyday pressure is also excited to set foot to far off places for adventure and fun. At the end of the day, to welcome that change after the quest is truly worthwhile and become a memory that is always nice to reminisce about.

But whatever the reasons are and no matter how audacious or discriminating I can become, when it comes to traveling, only my heart can tell what my raison d’être is and it is up to my curious Roman feet where they would take me.

My travel experiences had revealed to me that it’s not all about fun under the sun; after all, travelling can also mean taking care of one’s whole being. To be well and always stay well is a choice. So I decided to give wellness a shot.

A 2-hour ride from Kuala Lumpur by train, I reached the city of Ipoh. Perak’s colonial northern capital offers old-world charming cityscapes and a unique theme park that is majestically nestled in the center of a lush tropical jungle; they call it “The Lost World”.

Trekking 15 minutes from the city, my foot led me to a retreat sanctuary tucked away on a 17 acre valley and is cosseted by mountain ridges made of limestone. Arising from the hidden valley is the Banjaran Resort and Spa that is rich with natural caves, pristine jungle, waterfalls and geothermal hot springs.

Winner of FIABCI Prix d’Excellence and Harper’s BAZAAR Spa Awards of 2012, this 5-star retreat haven features 25 luxury villas offering holistic wellness and superb spa experiences. Concealed from the maddening civilization, the wellness center is premeditated for both short and medium stays with a focus on improvement of health and balancing lifestyle. Each luxury villa has a private plunge pool and geothermal Jacuzzi. The befitting climate and environment helps to facilitates fitness, recovery, relaxation and renewal.

Like a child opening a birthday present, I was surprised and undeniably fell in love with the Banjaran’s eco-friendly & sustainable practices that includes Asian philosophy of wellness and Malay Ramuan with treatments from the ancient ethnic traditions of indigenous Malay, Chinese and Indian. One can also enjoy the geothermal hot springs dipping pools, outdoor rainforest shower, Garra Rufa Dr Fish Pool, therapeutic reflexology path and antioxidant restoration therapy. Meditation and thermal steam cave can also be found in this hidden sanctuary.

Recommended by Condé Nast Johansens as one of the top luxury spas in 2012, the Banjaran also prides itself in serving spa cuisine under the creative French-Algerian chef Abdelhak Bourenane and coupled with warm Filipino hospitality by the resort manager Lybanor Godio.

In my 2-day stay at the Banjaran, I felt renewed, rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for a kick start. I scratched the itch and said to myself “when traveling means healthy living!”

Photo by Jan Sevilla

Posted in Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

Unlocking Cellphones Becomes Illegal January 26, 2013

The clock to unlock a new mobile phone is running out.

In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.

Unlocking a phone frees it from restrictions that keep the device from working on more than one carrier’s network, allowing it run on other networks that use the same wireless standard. This can be useful to international travellers who need their phones to work on different networks. Other people just like the freedom of being able to switch carriers as they please.

The new rule against unlocking phones won’t be a problem for everybody, though. For example, Verizon’s iPhone 5 comes out of the box already unlocked, and AT&T will unlock a phone once it is out of contract.

You can also pay full-price for a phone, not the discounted price that comes with a two-year service contract, to receive the device unlocked from the get-go. Apple sells an unlocked iPhone 5 starting at $649, and Google sells its Nexus 4 unlocked for $300. [See also: Can I Get a Smartphone Without a Contract?]

Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questions whether the DMCA has the right to determine who can unlock a phone. In an email to TechNewsDaily, EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said, “Arguably, locking phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It’s up to the courts to decide.”

If you do buy a new phone and want to unlock it before the deadline, you must first ask your carrier if the company will unlock your phone for you. The DMCA only permits you to unlock your phone yourself once you’ve asked your carrier first.

(Note that unlocking is different from “jailbreaking,” which opens the phone up for running additional software and remains legal for smartphones.)

Christopher S. Reed from the U.S. Copyright Office noted in an email to TechNewsDaily that “only a consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of software on the handset under the law, may unlock the handset.”

But come Saturday, you’ll have to break the law to unlock your phone. If you want to get in under the gun, you can search the Internet for the code to enter to unlock the phone or find a tool that will help you accomplish the task.

The change could crimp the style of carriers like T-Mobile, which have pushed “bring your own device” as an incentive for switching service providers. Such carriers promise savings in exchange for using your existing phone on their network.

T-Mobile has promoted this notion for iPhones, in particular, since the company is the only one of the big four U.S. carriers that doesn’t sell the iPhone. The carrier goes so far as to feature ads displaying an open padlock, with an iPhone replacing the body of the lock. T-Mobile declined to comment.

Posted in FAQs, International Cell Phone | Leave a comment

DOJ Sues 3 of NYC’s Top Zagat-Rated Restaurants for ADA Violations - 468x60

Posted in Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

American Airlines Signs New Agreement To Begin Large Regional Jet Flying

By Thomas Steinmetz
Created Jan 25 2013 – 3:42pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – American Airlines announced today that it has signed a 12-year capacity purchase agreement with Republic Airways Holdings to provide large regional jet flying for the first time in the company’s history. This agreement, which is subject to court approval, was enabled by the new pilot contract. It is designed to offer customers more choices with the right-size aircraft to match market demand, strengthen service from American’s hubs and diversify its partnership with regional carriers.

“This is a significant milestone in our company’s history,” said Chuck Schubert, American’s Vice President – Network Planning. “Establishing a large regional jet fleet has long been part of our business plan and this agreement is another example of how we are executing on that plan in a way that benefits our business and our customers. We will offer more flights at the right intervals throughout the day in key markets while providing more opportunities for customers to travel in the First Class cabin to key business markets.”

Through the agreement, Republic Airways will acquire 53 Embraer E-175 jets featuring a two-class cabin with 12 First Class seats and 64 seats in the Main Cabin.

The aircraft, which will be branded with the newly revealed American Eagle livery and operated by the Republic Airlines subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings, will phase into operation at approximately two to three aircraft per month beginning in mid-2013. All 53 aircraft are expected to be in operation by the first quarter of 2015.

The new agreement will further enhance and strengthen American’s relationship with Republic Airways, a longtime partner of American Airlines and the largest operator of large Embraer jets. Republic’s Chautauqua Airlines subsidiary operates regional jet service for American from its hub at Chicago O’Hare with 15 Embraer E-140 aircraft.

Image via
Posted in Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

More Celebrity Dancers For ‘Dancing With The Stars: At Sea’ Cruises By Holland America

By Thomas Steinmetz
Dancing with the Stars at Seas Holland America

SEATTLE, Wash. – Holland America Line has added even more star power to its 2013 “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises featuring professional and celebrity dancers from ABC’s smash hit “Dancing with the Stars.” Professionals scheduled to appear are two-time champion Mark Ballas, champion Kym Johnson, Chelsie Hightower, Tristan MacManus and Lacey Schwimmer. Celebrities scheduled to sail are singer Joey Fatone, actress Sabrina Bryan and television personality Carson Kressley.

The theme cruises on select ships are part of the line’s recently announced “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” on-board experience that also features an exclusive “Dancing with the Stars” program on all ships in the fleet including dance lessons and an opportunity to dance center stage in a live dance-off performance. These activities will showcase the ships’ professional dancers and will be developed in collaboration with the show’s dancers and choreographers.

“The ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ theme cruises are all the more exciting with the addition of such popular professional dancers and celebrities from ABC’s hit show,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “We know our guests are going to be thrilled with the opportunity to see such incredible talent live on these cruises.”

The six theme cruises in 2013 and early 2014 will feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” events including dance lessons, a chance to meet the dancers, ask questions and take photos, and a dazzling production starring the celebrities and famed dance pros, complete with glamorous costumes and routines from the TV show. Performers are subject to change.

Professional dancers Lacey Schwimmer and Mark Ballas are scheduled to appear on ms Eurodam’s Feb. 16, 2013, Eastern Caribbean cruise. Joining the pros on the seven-day voyage are celebrities Joey Fatone and Sabrina Bryan.

Chelsie Hightower and Mark Ballas are scheduled to sail Jun. 22, 2013, on ms Veendam’s seven-day Canada and New England voyage. Celebrities to be announced.

Kym Johnson and Tristan MacManus are scheduled to sail on ms Oosterdam’s Jun. 30 and Jul. 7, 2013, seven-day Alaska cruises along with celebrity Carson Kressley. Additional celebrity to be announced.

2014 “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises are on board ms Nieuw Amsterdam Jan. 5 for a seven-day Eastern Caribbean sailing and Jan. 12 seven-day Western Caribbean cruise. Celebrities to be announced.

Image via
Posted in Sun & Cruise | Leave a comment

Egyptian Tourism Rises As Foreign Tourists Cautiously Return

Foreign tourists cautiously return to Egypt Jan 23, 2013

CAIRO, Egypt – Hisham Zaazou, the Egyptian Tourism Minister, announced a 17 percent increase in 2012 tourists and 13 percent rise in tourism income yesterday when compared to 2011.

He did not give exact figures but the percentage rises suggest 11.5 million tourists came in 2012 and generated $9.9 billion, according to a Reuters calculation. In 2011 the country attracted 9.8 million tourists and brought in $8.8 billion.

However, the current figures represent a 22 percent decrease in visitors and 25 percent less revenue than in 2010…

Read More…

Image via
Posted in Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

New Southwest Boarding Option

“At Southwest, we have developed boarding options that fit a variety of our Customers’ needs—from EarlyBird Check-In to our Business Select Fare,” said Kevin Krone , Southwest Airlines Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Distribution….
Posted in Travel Deals and Specials | Leave a comment

Airline Passenger Rights Setback

Airline Passenger Rights Case Setback, But Not Over Yet

Jan 22, 2013

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Three New York based courts have ruled that even though US DOT rules now prohibit as an unfair and deceptive practice holding airline passengers more than 3 hours on the tarmac and require that they be provided with basic sustenance after 2 hours, passengers held for 7 to 11 hours cannot sue for damages, unless they were physically injured or killed.

Prior to enactment of the DOT Three Hour Rule in 2009, which was proposed and advocated for mainly by and a coalition it formed in 2007, up to 250,000 were being held on the tarmac for over 3 hours for reasons of commercial convenience by airlines.

Read more…

Posted in Travel Advice and Stories | Leave a comment

How To Get Alerts Or Refunds When Your Airfare Goes Down

Have you heard about travel sites or travel providers who give you a refund if the price you paid for a plane ticket goes down from the price you paid?

It turns out there are more of these offers appearing all the time. Which is great news for saving on travel. Because airline pricing is notoriously secret and always-changing it can feel like game of chance you can’t win when buying a ticket.

Actually buying your ticket can feel like buying a car, a new TV or a new computer – there’s often a feeling in the pit of your stomach that as soon as you process the transaction, you’re going to see a lower priced advertised!

Well, here are some travel sites, hotel sites and airlines that will watch your fare for and alert to good price so you can book you or refund you to a lower price if you’ve already purchased your ticket.

Let’s get all this technology working for us instead of just for complicated algorithms for the airlines!

If the price of your flight or hotel drops after you make your purchase, can you receive credit for the difference? We answer this nagging airfare question.

Is there a service that alerts you when the price of your airfare goes down?

Q: A few years ago, I used Yapta, which tracks airfares and alerts you when the price of your flight has gone down after purchase so that you can apply for a “fare drop” flight credit on a future flight. It worked very well. But like many things I forgot about it. Anyway I found it again this morning and downloaded the application to my iPad and iPhone and tried to put my first flight in. I got as far as flight number when it crashed and I started over again…three times. Since the app hasn’t been updated since 2011 I wonder if it still works? Or if you have any suggestions for other sites that do the same thing. It would be great if such a service existed for flights, car and hotel rooms.

A: Yapta does indeed work well when a fare goes down after you buy it, as long as you’ve booked on a participating airline. It only works with nine airlines however (soon, it will only work with seven airlines, once AirTran is fully integrated with Southwest, which doesn’t participate, and when the almost-inevitable American/US Airways merger takes place).

JetBlue, Airtran, and Alaska will offer a voucher or electronic credit, good for future travel up to a year, on any price drop, without deducting a fee from the refund. Virgin America deducts a $75 change fee; Hawaiian a $100 fee, and American, Delta, United, and US Airways a $150 fee, on domestic flights (fees are as high as $250 on international flights, which often wipes out any savings).

And there are all kinds of loopholes. For example, as Yapta states in the “airline policies” page, American reserves the right to decline refunds “when reduced fares are for sale for a limited period of time,” whatever that means.

Another option for airfares as well as hotel rooms is…

Read more:

Posted in Travel Deals and Specials | Leave a comment

Greek Police Arresting, Beating Tourists

Beaten Tourist: Avoid Greece, Go To Turkey Instead


Upload Image: 

Article Image Description: 
Police harassing people in Athens / Image via

Greek police have stepped up efforts to catch illegal immigrants in recent months, launching a new operation to check the papers of people who look foreign. But tourists have also been picked up in the sweeps – and at least two have been badly beaten.

When Korean backpacker Hyun Young Jung was stopped by a tall scruffy looking man speaking Greek on the street in central Athens he thought it might be some kind of scam, so he dismissed the man politely and continued on his way.

A few moments later he was stopped again, this time by a man in uniform who asked for his documents. But as a hardened traveller he was cautious.

Greece was the 16th stop in his two-year-long round-the-world trip and he'd often been warned about people dressing in fake uniforms to extract money from backpackers, so while he handed over his passport he also asked the man to show him his police ID.

Instead, Jung says, he received a punch in the face.

Within seconds, the uniformed man and his plainclothes partner – the man who had first approached Jung – had him down on the ground and were kicking him, according to the Korean.

In shock, Jung was by now convinced he was being mugged by criminals and began shouting for help from passers-by.

"I was very scared," he says.

It was only when he was handcuffed and dragged 500m (500 yards) up the road to the nearest police station that he realised he was actually under arrest.

Read the full story here,

Posted in European Travel News | Leave a comment