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Tech Thursday: Brightbox Mobile Charging Services

Hotels have always found ways to draw in the locals—be it with rooftop cocktails or easily accessible bathrooms in the lobbies. Up next? Public charging stations that allow you to plug in your phone for some quick juice on the go courtesy of new company, Brightbox. The devices, shown above, are popping up in Sheraton and Andaz hotels, to name a few.

Of course, there are outlets available in most hotels' common areas, but Brightbox is a bit different since you don't need your own power cord and Brightbox lets you lock your phone in a secure box that emits a bright light once your device is fully powered. (Hence the name.) What you do while you wait is up to you. We won’t judge if you just end up back at the bar.

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

 

American Airline's OneWorld Alliance Scores Big in Latin America

American Airlines loyalists and US Airways frequent fliers who were disappointed to hear that the merged carrier would stick to AA's OneWorld alliance rather than join up with the larger Star Alliance, have reason to celebrate today. In a big coup for OneWorld, South America's airline conglomerate LANTAM Airlines Group (a combination of Brazil's TAM Airlines and Chile's excellent LAN Airlines) announced that it will become a fully committed member of the alliance during second quarter of 2014.

What might that mean? For one thing, getting to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be easier than ever for American Airlines fliers.

Trip Doctor: Paris's Best Walking Tours

Paris Walking Tours

Black Paris Tours: Explore places made famous by notable African Americans such as Josephine Baker. From $91.

Paris Muse: Art historians and educators lead excursions to museums including the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou. From $91.

Paris Walks: Centuries-old local lore brings the city to life on itineraries such as “Paris During the Occupation.” From $16.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by James Merrell

Breaking Cruise News: Lindblad Buys Orion Expeditions

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Cruisers with yen for the exotic can do so in high style.

U.S.-based Lindblad Expeditions has purchased Australia-based Orion Expeditions, known for its luxury service to remote destinations including Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Australia's Kimberly region. The Orion ship will join the Lindblad fleet in March 2014.

"Following two straight years of record revenues, it was the natural progression for company growth," Sven Lindblad, President and Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, said in a release.

Award-winning Lindblad is known for its small-ship expeditions run in partnership with The National Geographic Society. Orion's single ship, the 102-passenger Orion, will take on The National Geographic brand. Itinerary details haven't yet been released, but a Lindblad spokesperson said the Borneo and Kimberly sailings will continue into 2014.

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Tourists Flock to Florida "Chicken Church"

chicken church

Supposedly spiritual images found in a mundane places—the face of the Virgin Mary in a pancake or in the salt runoff below Chicago's Kennedy Expressway—make for great "news of the weird" fodder and, eventually, curious tourists.

But a church in Tampa Bay, Florida, is having the opposite problem: People are suddenly seeing a mundane apparition in a spiritual place. After a photo of the Church of the Sea recently went viral, people have started referring to the Madeira Beach chapel as the Chicken Church, thanks to the steeple's seemingly bird-like face. Built in 1944, the cross that tops the church lights up at night, acting as a lighthouse of sorts for local fisherman needing a guide back to shore. Church officials told reporters the church was never meant to remind people of a chicken.

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Trip Doctor: About Those New TSA Rules...

airplane packing

Dear TSA,

We are so happy to hear that you'll be easing packing restrictions for travelers. Really, we are. But golf clubs, baseball bats, and pocket knives? What an odd place to start. Did you think these were less risky to travel with than, say, the three ounces of blueberry jam you stole—I mean, confiscated—from me on my way home from Maine last summer? Or the life-threatening snow globe souvenir my colleague bought for her daughter in Colorado? How about that full-sized tube of toothpaste—or better yet, the water bottle I brought from home for my six-hour flight? Couldn't you see your way to un-banning those before knives, bats, and clubs?

And as tons of news outlets are making clear, flight attendants are with us—they're not terribly thrilled at the prospect of knives on board, and we certainly can't fault them.

We'd love to know what you were thinking, even if our golfer friends are excited by the prospect of carrying their gear aboard. We'd also like that blueberry jam back.

Signed,

The Trip Doctor Team

See also: Snakes (Almost) on a Plane and Pack This: TSA-Friendly Toiletries.

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: Rome's Best Walking Tours

Rome Walking Tours

Context Travel: The company has walking tours in 21 European cities, plus a robust collection of 50 itineraries in Rome. Outings are led by master’s- and Ph.D.-level scholars in such disciplines as archaeology and urban planning. From $75.

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome: Food writer Minchilli leads market tours in Campo de’ Fiori and Testaccio; sample local delicacies along the way. From $195.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by David Leventi

No Assembly Required: Marriott and Ikea Bring You Moxy

Marriott International and a subsidiary of the Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea announced yesterday that they're teaming up to launch a new budget hotel brand, called Moxy, with outposts across Europe. The plans, which have been in the works for at least a year, call for the first Moxy to open in Milan in 2014, with 150 to follow in the next decade.

Though the new hotels will surely channel Ikea's cheap and chic contemporary design sensibility and Marriott's legendary hotel management savvy, details about the brand are scarce. (We are somewhat disappointed to learn that they will not be kitted out in Ikea furniture, though happy to hear that free in-room wifi and floor-to-ceiling wall art are on the menu.) The announcement got us thinking, though, about our vision for the ultimate Ikea-style hotel:

° In-room dining menu features meatballs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your mid-afternoon snack: Swedish fish.

° Guests who assemble their own Birkeland nightstands upon arrival receive a 15 percent discount on their room.

° Taking the pillow menu to new heights, Moxy allows guests to select their own bedding from a vast basement warehouse.

° No need to surreptitiously smuggle bathrobes, slippers, and bathroom amenities away in your suitcases. For your convenience, the hotel provides guests with a bright blue plastic bag.

° Finding your room involves wending your way through vast, crazy-making hallways until finally, with great relief, you arrive at your door.

Check out The World's Most Unusual Hotels.

This Meal Will Go On: What They'll Eat on 'Titanic II'

titanic_menujpg

The reincarnation of the Titanic by Australian tycoon Clive Palmer will include a dramatic grand staircase, marble-lined Turkish baths, and one hopes, more lifeboats. But until the Titanic II is built, a series of culinary events around the world will give the public a preview of the experience to come.

New York was the latest stop last week. With the help of New York-based caterers Pinch Food Design, an 11-course menu was created for Palmer's invite-only party to promote his project. Around 600 guests attended the black-tie dinner on the U.S.S. Intrepid docked on the Hudson River west of Times Square. Future food-themed parties will be held in London and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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BBC Worldwide Reportedly Selling Lonely Planet

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Yesterday, Skift's Rafat Ali reported that BBC Worldwide is in negotiations to sell off a majority of its stake in Lonely Planet, the longtime must-pack for wide-eyed international backpackers since its founding in 1973. The buyer, according to Ali, is Brad Kelley, a former tobacco company owner and semi-reclusive billionaire described as being the third biggest private landowner in the United States. BBC Worldwide, which acquired Lonely Planet from its founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler in 2007, would still have some role in the day-to-day operations of the book and web company. Rumors of a possible sale were reported in the U.K. press back in December 2012, when names of possible buyers included Barry Diller, head of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

So, what might this mean for fans of the books? As Jason Clampet notes in another Skift story from the same day, sales of guidebooks are down as more travelers are turning to the web and mobile devices for user-generated content. According to Clampet, sales of the top guides dropped by 47% since 2007.

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