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Cruise Conference Update: New Destinations for Azamara Club

Azamara Quest

Azamara Club Cruises took advantage of the cruise industry's annual Miami conference to show off its recently refurbished Azamara Quest. Like sister ship Azamara Journey, the 694-passenger Quest was drydocked for the first time since 2007 for a freshening. 

The decor in both public rooms and staterooms retains the casually elegant country club feel, with a few new Deco-inspired leather chairs and a slightly smaller casino. There's also a new caviar-and-Champagne bar and a chef's table in the steakhouse. 

But the biggest changes for Azamara passengers won't be on board but in the ports they visit, said Azamara president Larry Pimentel. The brand's focus is on offering unusual "bucket list'' destinations such as Vietnam's Halong Bay, world celebrations like Monaco's Grand Prix, and private experiences otherwise unavailable. Among those is a visit by night to Italy's Verrazano Castle with a surprise concert. The two-ship line will also go to 41 new ports this year.

Says Pimentel: "We create the 'Wow' factor by using the destination as 'Wow.' " 

 Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's Cruise Editor.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Trip Doctor: World Economic Forum Releases 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

The World Economic Forum just released its 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, a report that evaluates 140 destinations across the world based on safety and security, environmental sustainability, and cultural and natural resources, among other "pillars" of tourism.

Among the findings:


° Switzerland is the best overall place in the world for tourism.

° In a further blow to its floundering travel industry, Egypt ranks last for safety and security, behind Yemen (139) and Pakistan (137). Kenya is ranked no. 135. Finland, meanwhile, is the safest place to travel.

° Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland take the top three spots for environmental sustainability. Oil-rich Kuwait comes in last.

° Brazil, Australia, and the United States are the best destinations for natural resources. Sorry, Rihanna, Barbados ranks near the bottom at no. 133 in this category. Haiti brings up the rear.

° Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States are the top five places for cultural resources, edging out contenders France (8), Greece (25) and Italy (7). South Korea (no. 10) is the only other non-European country to break the top ten in this category. (Thank you, PSY?) In last place: Burundi.

The whole list can be found at the World Economic Forum's official website.

Have a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Three More Carnival Ships in Trouble

File this under the Department of Not Again: Carnival Cruise Lines has had problems with not one but three of its ships in the last week alone—this just a month after the Carnival Triumph limped into port in Mobile, Alabama after a highly publicized four nights at sea without power, air conditioning, and functioning toilets.

Early this week, as the Miami Herald reports, Carnival Dream reported problems with an onboard generator (which allegedly led to some plumbing issues) while docked in St. Maarten. The cruise line canceled the remainder of the trip and is flying passengers back home rather than risk sailing back to Cape Canaveral without a back-up generator.

And now the Legend ship, reporting mechanical problems with its propulsion system, is skipping a scheduled stop at Grand Cayman Island to get back to port in Tampa. And new information emerged about a steering problem on Carnival Elation the week before; the company said it had asked a tugboat to accompany it as it left port in New Orleans in an excess of caution.

No passengers or crew members were hurt during any of these incidents. And there reportedly was little passenger inconvenience, unlike the situation a month ago when a fire aboard the Carnival Triumph left passengers adrift for days without power. Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of the beleaguered cruise company, announced on Wednesday a comprehensive maintenance review of Carnival’s entire fleet, news he hopes will calm the rough waters his company has hit in 2013. The Triumph is scheduled to be out of service through mid-April; the Dream has cancelled at least one sailing.

The bright side for travelers: Deals may be on the horizon.

 

Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's Cruise Editor.

 

 

Trip Doctor Series: Villa of the Week (Argentina)

Casa Carlos Calvo

It’s finally here! (We know you’ve been waiting for it.) The second installment of our series whisks you down to Argentina’ s alluring capital. For our complete list of top-notch agents and Standout Properties, check out T+L’s Global Guide to Villa Rentals in the March issue.

THE URBAN OASIS
Casa Carlos Calvo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
$142 per night, per room
The Details: Base yourself out of this recently renovated 1860 residence in the lively, history-rich San Telmo neighborhood, with white-on-white interiors, 15-foot-high ceilings, enormous French doors, Belle Epoque chandeliers, and even a rooftop pool. The clincher: San Telmo’s famous antiques market and La Brigada, one of the city’s top parrillas, are just a short walk away.
The Agent: Oasis Collections; 631/731-1677; oasiscollections.com.

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 courtesy of Casa Carlos Calvo

Rihanna's Barbados Video, Plus Some T+L Recommendations

On February 10th, “We Found Love” earned R&B superstar Rihanna her sixth Grammy, this time for best short form music video. That’s nice, but the songstress has another video that T+L readers may find even nicer. It’s a tourism promotional video for Barbados, Rihanna’s home country, and one of the Caribbean’s top destinations.

Check it out:

Okay, so now that we all officially want to go to Barbados but know nothing about it, T+L can help. Here are some things the video didn’t tell us that make a visit to this Caribbean isle more enticing:

Read More

TODAY Show Video: Spring Break Getaways

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

It's not too late to get away this spring. We've found five travel deals within $200 a night, from a ranch in Jackson Hole to a beach resort in St. Kitts.

St. Kitts: St. Kitts Marriott Resort
Set right on Frigate Bay Beach, this resort offers plenty of ways to play and to relax. Swim in one of several pools, work out at the fitness center or spinning center, or enjoy the on-site casino. There's also a championship golf course, as well as water-sports such as snorkeling. Go to the Emerald Mist Spa for a bamboo massage and a papaya pineapple polish, and feel free to bring your kids along as well for a princess manicure. Doubles from $199/night in April.

Florida: One Ocean Resort & Spa, Jacksonville
While the 193 rooms and suites all come with full or partial ocean views with floor-to-ceiling windows, put in a special request: the balcony rooms on the hotel's east side overlook the beach, and rooms on floors 6 to 8 have the best views. You'll begin to unwind immediately thanks to the butler service that helps with unpacking your bags and so much more. The Spa at One Ocean Resort has more than 40 marine-inspired treatments, such a Seashell Massage and a rubdown designed especially for windsurfers. Head to the nearby Beaches Town Center for shops and art galleries, or go down the coast to historic St Augustine. Doubles from $179/night.

Read More

Caribbean News: Baha Mar Rising

Baha Mar fireworks

At T+L, we couldn’t be more thrilled about Baha Mar—the $3.5 billion resort project that opens December 2014 in the Bahamian Riviera. A few reasons why:

• 2,200 gorgeous hotel rooms in five new hotels: a Rosewood, Mondrian, Morgans, Hyatt, and the Baha Mar Casino.

• An uber-luxe ESPA with 30,000 square feet for pampering.

• First-rate local art throughout the property, thanks to a partnership with the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.

• 8,000 new jobs for Bahaman citizens, and an estimated $11.2 million added to the country’s GDP over a 20-year period.

• Oh, and did we mention Bahaman Lenny Kravitz is helping design the nightclub?

Learn more at bahamar.com.

Kathryn O'Shea-EvansKathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

 

Photo courtesy of Baha Mar

Tech Thursday: Free Airport Parking, Courtesy of FlightCar

FlightCar

Certain things can only work on the West Coast—take, for instance, FlightCar, a new San Francisco-based startup that lets you loan out your car while it's parked at the airport. The concept is a win-win in theory: travelers get their expensive parking tab subsidized by approved renters, who get a better deal (and maybe even a nicer car) in return.

The program has recently piloted at SFO, with expansion plans in the works. And so far, the selection of cars is promising, ranging from a 2005 BMW 3 Series to a 2008 Honda Accord on a trial search (both would cost $46 a day to rent—compared to $150 for similar models at Hertz or Enterprise).

Read More

World's Tiniest City Park Dodges Decimation

Mill's Ends Park

When you're the smallest city park in the world, it doesn’t take much to suffer an epic natural disaster—perhaps a skateboarder who veers wildly off track, or a even a German Shepherd who couldn't make it to the next hydrant.

But Portland, Oregon’s Mill’s Ends Park—just two feet across in diameter—seems to have endured some sort of foul play: Oregon Public Broadcasting recently reported that the sole tree of the petite park, on a median on Naito Parkway, had been removed. "Someone yanked it out," said Mark Ross, of Portland’s Department of Parks and Recreation, to OPB.

Read More

Singita's Two New Safari Properties

Singita Grumeti Reserve

The name Singita became synonymous with East African luxury safaris when the ecotourism company took over three properties in Tanzania back in 2006. Now its two latest arrivals push the wilderness-immersion envelope even further. Set in Serengeti National Park’s northernmost tip, close to the Kenyan frontier, the intimate Singita Mara River Tented Camp (pictured) has six canvas tents—complete with carved-wood Shona lamps, retro travel chests, and beds draped in hand-spun natural fabrics—where guests can unwind after wildlife drives and bush walks. Up to eight safari-goers can also rent the new Serengeti House, near the flagship lodge on towering Sasakwa Hill. Inside, you’ll find contemporary African arts and crafts (leather thong chandeliers inspired by Masai skirts; papier-mâché animal-head trophies), while the exterior has a subtler, beach-chic look. The 82-foot-long infinity lap pool is the ideal setting for sundowners while a herd of wildebeests drinks from a watering hole below. After a day exploring, why not let the animals come to you? All-inclusive. $$$$$

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Photo courtesy of Singita Grumeti Reserve

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