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No Snowden. No Turbulence. No Booze on Aeroflot Flight To Havana. Whah?!

Aeroflot has a drinking problem.

When reporters were duped on Monday into flying from Moscow to Havana on the Russian airline in hopes of interviewing National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the fugitive leaker was nowhere to be found. One passenger reported that the flight not only had no Snowden, it had "no turbulence and no booze." Seriously? No vodka?! On an Aeroflot flight?! It's true. The Moscow-Havana route is one of seven long-distance itineraries on which Aeroflot has banned alcohol in economy class. Why? Just watch the video above to get a sampling of the verbal assaults, fisticuffs, and other liquor-induced ill behavior seen on hundreds of Aeroflot flights every year. And now some legislators are considering even more stringent measures to stop the moonshine madness.

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Hertz Launches New Uber-Luxury Car Fleet

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When it comes to choosing a rental car, I'm always spinning my wheels, trying to balance comfort and price, and always ending up with something as sensible (read: boring) as a Chevy Aveo or Nissan Versa. Yeesh! What am I—a bank examiner or something? Now I have every reason, if not necessarily the funds, to don a pair of Tod's Gommino driving shoes and Brooks Brothers deerskin driving gloves (and perhaps a rueful smirk) and step behind the wheel of a real mean machine, thanks to Hertz's new DreamCar program, which launched this week.

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Travel Tips from Tim Gunn of Project Runway

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Tim Gunn, the fashion consultant and mentor to the contestants on Lifetime's Project Runway, was standing on the rooftop Garden of New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel recently, preparing to plant a tree in support of the New York Restoration Project, an environmental nonprofit founded by Gunn's friend Bette Midler. Not only did he dig the hole and plant the tree, he actually tidied up the stray dirt afterward. We asked the dapper Gunn what he takes with him when he travels.

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Hotels Cut Room Service and Other Perks

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The New York Hilton Midtown Hotel will observe two milestones this summer: its 50th anniversary in June and, in August, the end of room service.

The 1,980-room hotel, New York City's largest, isn't the first hotel to discontinue that amenity, but it's probably the biggest. It's all part of a lodging industry trend to cut the frills and concentrate on basic service—a trend that the airlines pioneered with the introduction of controversial fees.

Around the nation and across the globe, hotels are curtailing such extras as business centers, minibars, bellhops, doormen and even traditional front desks for checking in. Yotel New York in Midtown Manhattan, for instance, asks guests to check themselves in at kiosks in the hotel's "Ground Control." And if their rooms aren't ready, Yotel's guests check their suitcases with a robotic baggage storage system.

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Hotel Challenge: What Are You Giving Guests For Free?

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You know me: Always complaining about excessive fees aimed at travelers. I've kvetched about the worst rental car rip-offs. I've bemoaned the world's most outrageous hotel fees. I've griped, groused, growled, and grumbled about airline surcharges here and here and here. But before I have to rush back to my thesaurus again for another way to say complain, let me acknowledge that there are some travel companies that are doing it right: They're giving stuff away, free. May I just say, yay.

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Classic Travel Scam Led To Death of Malcolm X's Grandson

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Family members have planned a private burial service for Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights activitist Malcolm X, in Hartsdale, New York tomorrow. He was beaten to death in a bar fight on May 9 in Mexico City. But in the widespread news coverageof the killing, one fact has been curiously underplayed: Shabazz was the unwitting victim of one of the oldest scams in travel.

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New Website Saves on Airfare By Choosing Your Destination For You

Getgoing.com

Getgoing.com, a new website that officially launches on March 6, promises to save leisure travelers up to 40 percent on airfare. How do they know you're really a leisure traveler? Simple. You choose two different destinations in the same region of the world (for example, Vienna and Geneva, or Costa Rica and Panama) and enter your travel dates. Then provide your billing information to complete your reservation. The Get Going team randomly chooses one of your two options. The "surprise" is supposed to be part of the website's charm. The savings is the other part.

The website covers hundreds of cities in more than 50 countries. Here are some airfares from New York I found on getgoing.com and the lowest comparable fares on Kayak: Milan, $568 ($635 on Kayak); Istanbul, $577 ($705 on Kayak); Las Vegas, $247 ($338 on Kayak); Beijing, $815 ($1,020 on Kayak). I didn't find any 40% discounts, and the flights on getgoing.com may be different from those on Kayak, but in every example I tried, getgoing.com had the lowest fare.

And now for the drawbacks: Getgoing.com is the wrong choice if you are a business traveler who needs to be in Los Angeles on Monday morning or you're traveling to a family reunion in Glasgow, because you may not get your preferred destination. You won't know which airline you'll be flying or the location of your stop-over airports (if any) until you complete your purchase. Even more important: your tickets are completely nonrefundable and changes are not allowed, even if you're willing to pay a penalty fee. You can, however, buy cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance at a cost roughly equal to 10% of the airfare.

For free-and-easy travelers who choose their destinations using a blindfold, a dart, and a map taped to the wall, getgoing.com could be a useful booking tool. But for the rest of us, maybe not.

2012-hs-mark-orwolljpgMark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Getgoing.com

U.S. Pushes for 'Musical Passports'

UPDATE: Changes have been made below to the original post to clarify certain details about the import and export of musical instruments that were made using endangered species.

As individual musicians and orchestras make their plans now for the summer touring season, many face the distinct possibility are concerned that their rare and antique instruments may be confiscated when the musicians travel abroad or return to this country they cross international borders. That's because an international convention called CITES prohibits places restrictions on the import and export of musical instruments made from  endangered materials like ivory, sea-tortoise shell, and Brazilian rosewood, among others. Enter an unlikely musicians' friend: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which announced today that it will propose issuing "musical passports" that would permit international transport of such instruments made before the prohibitions were enacted.

This would be a huge relief to musicians with such instruments as vintage guitars and violins, as well as ivory-keyed pianos, since they currently have to file lengthy and complicated import and export forms every time they travel, for each and every country visit. If the proposal passes (and a FWS spokesperson seemed optimistic at a press conference today), musicians will be able to get an actual passport for their instruments, complete with a physical description on one page and spaces for entry stamps on another. The musical passports would be valid for three years. The proposal is expected to be made at a CITES conference in Thailand on March 3.

This post was updated February 26, 2012.

Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.

 

On the Other Side of the Ice: 5 Questions for Adventurer-Filmmaker Sprague Theobald

The Other Side of the Ice (Teaser) from HOLE IN THE WALL PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

In the summer and fall of 2009, Emmy-winning director, writer, and veteran mariner Sprague Theobald took on one of travel's greatest challenges: sailing through the fabled Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Circle. Only 24 other personal craft have completed the harrowing, often ice-bound journey since explorer Roald Amundsen did it in 1903. Untold ships and hundreds of lives have been lost in the attempt. So when Theobald and his crew set sail in the 57-foot trawler Bagan on the five-month, 8,500-mile sea-trek from Newport, Rhode Island, to Seattle, there were no guarantees that they would succeed--or even live to tell about it.

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Did Carnival Ban Booze on the Hapless Triumph?

Carnival Triumph

You've probably read most of the horrors experienced by the passengers on the ill-fated Carnival Triumph, currently being towed to Mobile, Alabama, after an engine-room fire disabled the ship's generators on Sunday. By all accounts the situation can only be described as heinous. But it gets worse…

Among the  nightmarish conditions: nonworking toilets, odors so overpowering that people are vomiting everywhere, so little food that passengers must stand in line for hours in the hopes of getting nothing more than an onion sandwich, and sewage "sloshing" in the hallways and seeping through the walls! And yet few media are reporting an equally horrifying (though unconfirmed) bit of news: The ship may have stopped serving alcohol.

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