Thou shalt not steal from your hotel—no matter how big or small the item might be. Take New York's iconic palace of luxury, the Waldorf-Astoria. Over the years, larcenous lodgers have walked off with ornate art deco grillwork from the heating and air conditioning units. They've filched guestroom doorbells. They've absconded with brass-plated mail slots from the corridors. "Some guests will take pretty much anything," says Matt Zolbe, the hotel's director of marketing, "even if it's bolted down." The famed hostelry has embarked on an Amnesty Program to retrieve some of that long-lost plunder, specifically historic, pre-1960s swag. The question is, will the program be enough to compel high-rent kleptos to return their purloined property?
After the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was so moved by the American victory over the British that he rewrote the words to a hearty English drinking song and came up with "The Star-Spangled Banner" to honor the fact that Americans thenceforth would have the guaranteed right to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" as if they had been drinking heartily (see videos, below).
Baltimore itself is commemorating the War of 1812 bicentennial in a big way, well beyond a mere salute to the National Anthem, with the Star-Spangled Sailabration, a week's worth of free patriotic events, June 13-19. Among the activities: An international flotilla of more than two dozen warships and tall ships; a Blue Angels air show; fireworks recalling the Fort McHenry battle; an aircraft display (and a chance to get the autographs of the Blue Angels pilots); and a newly written patriotic symphony at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
My bicycle excursions are largely limited to the Hudson Valley's very flat and nicely paved North County Trailway, with a cozy little tea shop at trail's end. So it will be no surprise that my bike has a spring-loaded comfort seat, an excess of safety reflectors, and a handlebar-mounted cup-holder for a can of, uh, Diet Pepsi. My biking attire leans more toward flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts than Spandex. Even so, I've always been impressed with those bikers I see hurtling over mountain passes and barreling along desert highways at 30 mph and more. So my interest was piqued by an upcoming series of luxury biking itineraries recently announced by Cannondale, the high-end bicycle manufacturer. Participants in the six tours offered in the inaugural season will follow the path of some of biking's most famous races in the United States and Europe, and even hang out with some of the sport's top athletes.
A diabetic 16-year-old Colorado girl was emotionally traumatized and her health put at risk by a TSA security check after a full body scanner at Salt Lake City Airport apparently incapacitated her insulin pump, according to a report by a local television station. It's only the latest concern about the scanners, which many consumer advocates consider an intrusive, ineffective, and possibly dangerous form of airport security.
There are now some 700 such machines in use at 180 U.S. airports, according to the TSA. A 2011 report by ProPublica and the PBS NewsHour raised questions about a possible link to cancer. Some scanner models, according to testing by the German government, have mistaken perspiration for dangerous chemicals, casting doubt on their reliability. And many travelers have complained that the scanners invade passengers' privacy by taking "nude" photos of them, although the TSA has since implemented softwarethat eliminates anatomical details from the images. Now the Salt Lake City incident raises the newest fear: Can these "advanced imaging technology" scanners, specifically millimeter wave scanners, be harmful to diabetics wearing insulin pumps?
Tingo, a new travel site that launched this morning, expects to be a game changer in the way customers book hotels. Parent company Smarter Travel Media says Tingo is the first site to automatically rebook a hotel reservation if the price drops, then refund the difference between the original prepaid rate and the final rate at check-out.
Tingo (the name derives from travel and bingo) is not the first site to offer a refund if the rate drops. Orbitz, for example, has a Price Assurance policy, but it requires that another Orbitz customer book the same room type at the same hotel on the same travel dates at a lesser rate. Not so with Tingo. According to the company, if the rate for your reservation drops, you qualify for a refund, credited to your charge card after you have checked out of the hotel, regardless of whether another traveler has also booked the lower rate.
The new Disney Cruise LineFantasy, which was christened last night in New York City, is swoon-worthy, no doubt, but it is also something you might not expect: Subtle. Unlike many modern cruise ships, the 4,000-passenger Fantasy eschews loud color schemes, smoked glass, and an abundance of brass in favor of sophisticated Art Nouveau details, 1930's ocean-liner styling (witness the round portholes), and well-curated handcrafted design elements from around the world. It is, in a word, sophisticated.
You've heard the air-travel advice before: Don't wrap your holiday gifts before you leave for the airport because the TSA may very well require you to unwrap them during a security check. But there may be a way to arrive at your destination with wrapped presents anyway. This holiday season Virgin Atlantic is adding a few Christmas elves to the employee roster who will wrap presents for departing passengers on the air side of the Terminal 4 security checkpoint at New York's JFK International. The service costs $2 per package (100 percent of which goes to the Virgin Unite charity) and is available December 21-23, 2011.
Know any other airlines or airports that are offering a similar service? Tell us!
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.
Celebrity chef David Rocco has a full plate these days. The host of The Cooking Channel's travel-food show David Rocco's Dolce Vita has just wrapped shooting on his next series for that network, David Rocco's Amalfi Getaway, which will air in March. He'll be joining Bobby Flay and other culinary grandees at the Chef's Challenge charity event November 26-27 in Toronto to support women's cancer research. He's a passionate spokesman for Ruffino wines, and tours the country on their behalf. He and his wife had their third child in October (a baby boy named Dante). And simply to fill all the empty hours in his day, he's written his second cookbook,Made in Italy, just out from Clarkson Potter. I sat down with Rocco over lunch in Midtown Manhattan last week and asked him about his new book.
I just got an email from Virgin Atlantic's P.R. rep announcing a three-day fare sale starting this morning and going through Thursday on airfare between Los Angeles and London. Travel dates are January 10 - March 26. The email said the fares were as low as $296 each way based on a round-trip purchase plus up to $250 in government taxes and fees. That would be a total of $842. But on the Virgin Atlantic website I found a total round-trip airfare of $711 for a departure on February 20 and a return on February 27. That same fare was also available on other travel dates. That's a very good airfare from L.A. The best competitive price on those same travel dates I found using Kayak was $827 on Delta, which is a decent fare in itself.