Forget your Imax 3-D and your 3-D TV. I have seen the future, and it’s called Liberty 360. Philadelphia’s soon-to-be newest attraction, scheduled to open in July, will be a mind-blower: the first 360-degree 3-D experience ever devised. Audiences will stand on a cantilevered platform in the center of a cinematic cylinder, 50-feet in diameter and 8 feet high, and find themselves entirely surrounded by a three-dimensional movie that begins with Benjamin Franklin and a mysterious box in his workshop then takes viewers on a “journey of discovery” of America’s most beloved symbols.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, I thought I knew all about Latino cooking—which to my then-uninformed taste buds was pretty much limited to tacos, burritos, tamales, and other staples of Cal-Mex cuisine. I know different now, thanks to memorable plates of Brazilian feijoada, Puerto Rican mofongo, Cuban ropa vieja, and cosmopolitan Mexican dishes spiced with pico de gallo, mole poblano, ranchera, adobo, and dozens of other piquant sauces from south of the border. My eyes—and mouth—have been opened to the breadth of the region’s culinary treasures. (I confess, though, that I put my foot down when it comes to Andean guinea pig.) And then there are the cocktails: mojitos, daiquiris, caipirinhas, margaritas, pisco sours, pina coladas, Cuba libres…well, I get carried away.
It helps that I work in New York, where one can find restaurants from nearly every Central and South American nation, plus scores of Mexican eateries. So it’s fitting that New York is home to the new Gourmet Latino Festival, “the first world-class, socially conscious celebration of Latin culture and culinary traditions,” according to the organizers. Dozens of mixologists, chefs, authors, and wine experts will be on hand to share their knowledge and love of coffees, spirits, wines, beers, cultural traditions, and, of course, regional cooking.
The latest mod con in luxury private jets? An open-air viewing platform, perfect for watching wildlife, engaging in full-contact Parcheesi, or simply lounging with a postprandial sherry while the aircraft is parked overnight. (You didn’t really think you could stand on it while the plane was in flight, did you?!)
Here’s how it works: While the aircraft is on the ground, a massive side door opens up and serves as an awning. The platform, hidden in the fuselage, extends out to create a balcony for the deluxe living space within the plane.
Think Mad Men meets Survivor. That’s the scenario that will play out this summer when eight whisky-loving contestants traipse through the back of beyond in search of a long-ago secreted case of Canadian Club. It’s the rebirth of the distiller’s "Hide A Case" promotion that began in 1967, when the company cached 12 bottles of hooch somewhere among the ice fields of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. (The case was discovered by accident 10 years later.) In subsequent years the company stashed the spirits in such exotic locales as the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; Death Valley, California; and Angel Falls, Venezuela. With each new newly sequestered case, the company published magazine advertisements filled with clues to the location, stirring the imagination of treasure hunters everywhere.
A travel agency in Finland is offering guided tours of the remote Lapland region—but for teddy bears only. No people allowed. But that’s okay. After all, it’s the bears that are coming out of hibernation, not you. Does your stuffed bruin seem a bit moody lately? Maybe what that sleepy Smokey needs is a change of pace, to be off on his own, in a land of ice and snow and pine trees and pickled herring. And Teddy Tours Lapland is standing by to help your plush Grizzly get that new perspective on life.
Last December we told you about the new Titanic Museum, a half-scale, three-deck replica of the doomed ocean liner, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Well, the museum has finally opened and in its first three weeks it ran out of souvenir polar bears in the gift shop!
I suppose if that’s the worst fate to befall the nascent attraction, it’s doing pretty well. In fact, the museum clocked 50,000 “passengers” in the first 21 days. And what is it everyone wants to see? “Guests are interested in the only Titanic lifejacket tied to an actual passenger (below)—it's the only one in the world,” says Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, owner of the Titanic Museum. “The passenger's name was Madeleine Astor, married to the richest man aboard the ship. The value of this artifact is really priceless. It has been insured for a million dollars.”
Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based airline that will charge $45 to stow carry-ons in the overhead bin starting August 1, is plumbing new depths of customer annoyance by announcing today that it would begin placing ads for a toothbrush company on its lavatory mirrors.
The toothbrush company, which will get no additional publicity here, apparently believes Spirit’s media kit claim that the ads will get “100% saturation, with a targeted, captive audience that is actively engaged by ads for an average of three hours.”
It’s difficult not to snigger at the phrase “captive audience.”
Spirit, which recently installed cheap and uncomfortable “pre-reclined” seats on many of its aircraft so it could increase the passenger load, has sold advertising on barf bags, tray tables, bulkhead panels, beverage napkins, ticket envelopes and more. In years past it mandated flight attendants to wear aprons imprinted with the Bud Light logo.
The 2,600-room hotel, which had a "soft" opening of 963 rooms on April 27, will feature six celebrity-chef restaurants (including eateries run by Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, and Mario Batali), boat rides through canals interlacing the expansive, 800,000-square-foot Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, two state-of-the-art theaters (The Lion King opens in October) with combined seating for 4,000 souls, a massive casino, and an "artscience" museum built in the shape of a lotus, all housed in an aggressively futuristic multi-structure complex overlooking Singapore's Marina Bay waterfront.
The stupidest idea to come along in ages looks to have gone down the drain, literally. Last week Michael O’Leary, ceo of the Irish budget carrier Ryanair, said he would install pay toilets for use on short-haul European flights, but the cockamamie scheme turned out to have been more than a piddling matter. A stream of invective followed the announcement in the press.
The latest news: Boeing, which built Ryanair’s fleet of 737-800s, has put the kibosh on the plan for safety reasons, leaving O’Leary up a yellow river without a paddle. In addition to charging one euro to use the facilities, O’Leary had planned to remove some of the existing toilets and replace them with additional seats. But the airline’s planes already are configured for 189 passengers, the most that can be carried safely. Because the planes were made in America, any reconfiguration by Boeing to increase the number of passengers would be subject to FAA approval, which would be unlikely.
Ryanair, the ultra-budget Irish airline known for its low fares and numerous surcharges, confirmed yesterday what had long been rumored: It is serious about charging passengers to use the toilet. If it goes forward, it would be just the latest in a long line of airline industry fees that have dogged travelers over the past several years. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Spirit Airlines that it would begin charging passengers a carry-on luggage fee of up to $45. When I wrote the Spirit blog item yesterday, I said the only fee that could be worse would be a toilet charge.
Well, that didn’t take long, did it?