eTurbo News | Hong Kong’s gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers and its verdant Peak disappeared into a cloud of smog and dust as a sandstorm blowing from northern China brought record levels of pollution to the territory.
One side of Hong Kong harbour was barely visible from the other as the Government was criticised for failing to warn residents that the cloud of noxious air was bearing down on the city.
Residents awoke on Monday to a pall of choking murk, borne by easterly winds along the coast, that caused already high pollution readings to jump six-fold to a record high.
As top luxe line Crystal Cruises fêtes its 20th anniversary, I decided to check in with cruise director Scott Peterson, a 23-year industry veteran. Below, he reflects on what’s in store for the upcoming season.
Q: What is Crystal doing to celebrate its 20th anniversary?
A: Crystal’s 20th year anniversary is going to be a yearlong celebration. There are going to be special Captain’s parties and champagne breakfasts for guests, plus on the two cruises sailing on July 20, the actual day of Crystal’s anniversary, the first ever Crystal menu will be served at a gala dinner, along with wine selections sold at the original prices. Each ship will also host a games night featuring a Crystal trivia contest. The winning team will be treated to an evening at the Vintage Room for a multi-course meal with wine pairings. All the wine will be from 1990—which happened to be a very good year.
USA Today | Today's smartphones and PDAs could have a new use in the nation's airports: helping passengers avoid long lines at security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration is looking at installing devices in airports that home in and detect personal electronic equipment. The aim is to track how long people are stuck in security lines. Information about wait times could then be posted on websites and in airports across the country.
"This technology will produce valuable data that can be used in a variety of ways," TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said, noting it could help prevent checkpoint snarls.
But civil-liberties experts worry that such a system enables the government to track people's whereabouts. "It's serious business when the government begins to get near people's personal-communication devices," said American Civil Liberties Union privacy expert Jay Stanley.
New York Times | ASIA is beginning to look a lot more like America—at least when it comes to hotels.
Major United States hotel chains are aggressively expanding into Asia, creating new options for travelers looking for familiar brands abroad. Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 34 to 40 properties in the Asia Pacific region this year, or about three hotels a month, including the first St. Regis in Japan, the first W in Thailand and the first Le Méridien in Taiwan. Hilton plans to open new hotels in Japan and China by year-end. And Marriott will add about 20 properties, including four JW Marriott properties in India, four Courtyard by Marriott properties in China, and a Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai.
New York Times / Reuters | A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain’s Unite union said Friday.
The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.
“The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced,” Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.
Saint Germain just got a little sweeter—joining La Patisserie des Rêves, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Marcolini, Ladurée and la Maison du Chocolat in the immediate vicinity of Le Bon Marché is Hugo & Victor, a new concept launched by two childhood friends, pastry chef Hugues Pouget (formerly of Guy Savoy and Ladurée) and Sylvain Blanc (formerly of Le Printemps).
The idea: Treat sweets a little bit like fashion, with capsule collections based on seasonal ingredients. The architecture by Francis Krempp is a mix of classical and modern (windows set in the wall, like at L’Eclaireur); the “Hugo” line is a series of contemporary pastries, the Victor line is made up of classics.
Farms in the Franschhoek Valley had been emptied by rampaging Chachma baboons, who sneak into secured plots and help themselves with top grade grapes, The Times newspaper said.
"They can easily wipe out up to two tonnes of grapes a week when you are not watching, and that makes about 1,500 to 2,000 bottles of wine," said Mark Dendy-Young, farm manager of La Petite Ferme.READ MORE
Photo courtesy of the South African Tourism Bureau
USA Today | Pay before you stay, and save. That has been the deal with online travel sites and discount tour operators. Now, an increasing number of hotels are slashing room rates if you ante up in full in advance and forego a refund if you don't show up.
Last year, Fairmont hotels began offering savings up up to 30% to those who book ahead and pay in full.
Now, "I would say the majority of our hotels offer 'Savers' rates. It's one way we can offer a discount" without cheapening the upscale brand, Fairmont spokeswoman Lori Holland says. Prepaying also guarantees revenue ahead of time: "We know people are coming," she says.
Las Vegas hotels often charge a credit card when a stay is booked. But Station Casinos, with 10 properties in the area including the upscale Red Rock Resort, just announced a tiered, online pre-pay program that offers deep discounts.
CNN | More air travelers may soon be scanning their smartphones instead of paper slips at airport gates.
United has become the latest airline to offer mobile boarding passes for customers equipped with Web-enabled mobile phones or devices, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys.
United passengers traveling within the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can now log on to mobile.united.com to check in for their flights via their smartphones.
In a city that seems to have a catchy nickname for every neighborhood (NoLita, TriBeCa, the Flatiron, et al), no one seems to know exactly what to call that part of Manhattan around Sixth Avenue and 29th Street. A few blocks southeast of Madison Square Garden and a few blocks southwest of the Empire State Building, the neighborhood tenants are nondescript costume jewelers, button-sellers to the trade, and wholesale import companies, interspersed with mom-and-pop markets and the occasional martial-arts supply store.
“It’s an area that you pass through to get somewhere else, but I think we’re going to change all that,” says Thomas Mathes, general manager of Eventi, a new 54-story hotel managed by Kimpton Hotels and set to open on May 15. “We call the area North Chelsea.” Which may be stretching the map coordinates a bit, but in any event it’s more attractive than, say, Garment Center South.