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Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking, and Hiking the Dolomites

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Today I’m daydreaming about Europe—more specifically, about the magnificent Dolomites in Italy (read all about it in this compelling feature by Adam Sachs). The itinerary below from Whole Foods Market’s new travel arm is one of the standout trips we highlight in our indispensible Trekking, Walking, and Hiking guide. It’s sure to whet your appetite for a foodie adventure in this iconic region.

DOLOMITES

The Draw: Gastronomy rules in northern Italy’s Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site with dramatic limestone formations, crumbling castles, and Austrian-influenced cuisine.

The Trip: On an itinerary from Whole Journeys, the new travel arm of Whole Foods Market, you’ll visit a farm where cheese and yogurt are made and hike past ancient shingle-roofed farmhouses. Seven days from $4,595.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: Rick Strange / Alamy

Dispatch from the Norwegian Breakaway

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I just returned from a lunch on board New York’s finest… Cruise ship. Here’s what made me want to do a Rockette leg-kick on the Norwegian Breakaway:

  • Spa cabins are actually relaxing. It’s worth splurging on the Haven Spa Suite for its whirlpool, which sits adjacent to your private balcony and overlooks the ocean. Another perk: access to the Haven (ship-within-a-ship) courtyard and… Drumroll, please... 24-hour butler service.
  • The Ice Bar. It’s a hot day here in New York, and stepping into the 17-degree room was totally (ahem) cool. The best part? The Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge carved into the ice.
  • The Spaitself, which is gorgeous in a heart-palpitating sort of way, with waterfalls in the hot tub and a salt cave. If I ever get to take a cruise on the Breakaway, you’ll probably find me here—recovering from my Rockette-led work-out.

Kathryn O'Shea-EvansKathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.

Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Lines

The Ritz-Carlton Looks East

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Kyoto’s cherry blossoms hit their peak last month, but when the famous trees burst open again next year, the city will also be buzzing about a new Ritz-Carlton. The luxury hotelier just announced the opening of a new property there in February 2014—a 136-room low-rise building on the Kamogawa River that mixes modern and traditional Japanese designs.

The announcement is just the latest news from this fast-growing company. Six of their hotels are slated to open in the second half of 2013, including one in Aruba in November. We’re already looking forward to escaping the New York City winter.

Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

Beauty Bust: Turkish Airlines Lifts Lipstick Ban

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Calling all flight attendants: if you enjoy getting dolled-up for work, you are now allowed to board Turkish Airlines. 

As we mentioned earlier this month, the national carrier had placed a ban on red and dark pink lipstick and nail polish, in fear that it would impair the “visual integrity” of its staff, according to Skift. Chief Executive Temel Kotil claims this was a decision made by junior managers, and that there is in fact no ban on the beauty products—female staff can wear lipstick and nail polish of any color.

My only question—why were the junior managers so concerned with these classic lip colors? Blue lipstick was a huge fad in the 1990’s, and who can forget the coral-colored pouts of the ‘80’s? Let’s just hope the airline was aiming for retro, and hold tight to our shadow and mascara.

Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending May 10, 2013

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Forbes's Larry Olmsted discusses Boston Bites Back, the tasting event happening next week in Boston's Fenway Park where top local chefs are teaming up to raise $1 million for victims from the marathon bombings. (Peter Schlesinger)

One hotel in Egypt is trying to provide a "new kind of tourism"—by smashing all the booze in its bar and declaring itself the country's first dry hotel. HotelChatter takes a closer look. (Nikki Ekstein)

Have you ever dreamed of chucking it all and moving to tropical paradise? Outside's Ned Zeman chronicles how one couple's dream of building their own mountaintop compound in Costa Rica went very, very wrong. (Matt Haber)

What's it like to be a personal chef on a private Gultstream G550? So glad you asked since Cincinnati Magazine's Donna Covrett talks with Michael Worth about his high-flying gig. (M.H.)

Let Mashable take you on a trip Around the World in 80 Instagrams. (M.H.)

Check out this amazing animated GIFs that show how the earth has changed over time using images from Google Maps. (M.H.)

Got a recommendation? Tell us in the comments.


Photo: iStock Photos.

Trip Doctor: Date Confirmed for NYC Bike Share

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New York's bike share program, Citi Bike, has finally announced a starting date. Trip Doctor  previously reported that it was sometime in May—and now, we're happy to say, it is official.

Members will be able to hop on a bike starting Memorial Day, May 27, while single-time users can ride one of the 6,000 new two-wheelers beginning on June 2.

Be sure to check out Trip Doctor's FAQ about biking in NYC.

Photo credit: Lars Klove /New York City Bike Share

Go Around the World for 60 Days with DoubleTree

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This week, DoubleTree by Hilton debuted DTour, a devoted YouTube channel created in collaboration with Google that lets travel aficionados add their favorite tips—or find inspiration—on a constantly evolving map of the world. While the hotel’s budding relationship with Google raises our eyebrow, we’re currently most excited about the prospect of winning a DTour of a Lifetime—an eight-week, all-inclusive trip around the globe.

Want to enter for your chance to win? Upload a video with your favorite travel tip to the DTour map by May 31—the six most promising global correspondents will be sent around the world to document their adventures for the brand.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of DoubleTree by Hilton

 

Tech Thursday: How to Turn Your Hotel Stays into Airline Points

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In the last few months, we’ve been tracking two new sites, PointsHound and RocketMiles—both trying to disrupt the stronghold of Expedia and Travelocity by offering airline points in exchange for hotel stays. How does it work? Consider it a big circle of back scratching, where hotel sale commissions buy airline miles that get passed on to you, the consumer, who’s still getting a best rate guarantee. And not only are the hotel rates good—an average booking can earn upwards of 7,000 miles with your preferred carrier.

To put them head to head, we entered an identical search heading to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend with United Mileage Plus as our preferred reward currency. The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile showed up on both searches: $169 a night with 7,000 miles at RocketMiles; the same price at 6,500 miles with PointsHound. Some comparisons were less evenly matched: The Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown netted 2,100 miles on PointsHound, and almost double at RocketMiles, for the same price. Incidentally, prices were equal to or better than what the hotels were offering on their own sites, and the same as Expedia’s current rates.

But PointsHound gets an advantage in two key criteria: it offers much more variety in inventory (whereas RocketMiles had just 8 hotels available in Chicago, PointsHound had far too many to count, including some of our favorite properties). And by booking regularly on PointsHound, you “level up” and become eligible for even greater rewards. Regardless, both are tools we’ll be keeping in our back pockets.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of PointsHound

 

American Airlines Offers New Ways to Show Off Your Klout

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If you're like me, you've often stood at a crowded airport gate, clutching your plastic container of sad, limp salad-to-go and gazing enviously at the door of the business-class lounge just across the concourse. What wonders might lie beyond that forbidding threshold: Cocktails? Delicious nibbles? Spotless bathrooms??

If you're also like me, you probably dabble a bit in social media, tweeting and Facebooking and checking in on Foursquare. As it turns out, enough dabbling can get you through that door. American Airlines just announced a partnership with Klout, the service that measures influence on social media. Klout scores are determined by a mysterious algorithm based on your activity on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networks; if it's 55 or higher, you'll earn a free day pass to any of American's Admirals Club lounges around the world. They don't even care if you're flying AA or not: The goal is to attract people who are likely to tweet gratefully about the comfortable seats or Instagram their glass of Champagne—using the lounge's complimentary Wi-Fi, of course. (Those with humbler Klout scores get a chance to win a free year's Admiral's Club membership.)

I don't pay much attention to my Klout score, but after reading about the new initiative on Skift.com, I checked it, and—lo and behold—discovered that it's 59! That pales next to Justin Bieber's 93, but it was enough to gain me entry. I immediately signed up and got an email with my day pass attached. I plan to use it during a four-hour layover in Boston this Sunday (and I'm flying on United). Keep an eye on my Instagram feed for pictures of peanuts!

Peter J. Frank is the director, editorial product development at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Trip Doctor: Dubai, Beaches, and Bikinis: What's Allowed?

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With all the news recently about bans on skimpy swimwear at UAE beaches, T+L wanted to clear the air and figure out what travelers need to know when heading to the Emirates.

First off, the bathing suit laws aren’t laws. After initial reports that bikinis and bikini briefs were banned, UAE newspapers reported that police backtracked, and later clarified that the regulations were only guidelines. After receiving multiple complaints from local families, authorities posted signs stating, "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing." Police "strongly discourage" individuals from wearing revealing swimwear, and to respect "cultural sensitivities."

Secondly, these official recommendations apply only to the country’s northernmost emirate, Ras al-Khaimah. The emirate attracts few tourists compared to flashier Dubai, which sees nearly 10 million visitors annually, although it is home to 2011 It List property Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

So does that mean it’s acceptable to wear a thong on the beaches of Dubai?

I checked with the emirate’s Legal Affairs Department to get the final say. Here’s what beachgoers in Dubai will want to know:

° All beaches, even those next to hotels, are public, so local families and international vacationers have access to the same sandy stretches in Dubai.
° Several beaches offer women-only days one day a week. On these days, males—excluding toddlers—are prohibited.
° There is no Dubai law prohibiting a particular bathing suit, but swimwear should not be worn off the beach. Nudity is strictly prohibited.

Still, when considering which suit to wear on their UAE holiday, bikini-toters should consider that the local population, along with the majority of international visitors, in Dubai are Muslim, and therefore unlikely to appreciate skimpy swimwear.

If looking for a destination where scanty suits are a-okay, try Egypt, whose tourism minister stated on Monday that "bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served."

Related: See the Future in Dubai.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: © Jon Hicks/Corbis

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