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Mexico Earthquake Another Jolt for Country's Tourism

USA Today Travel  |  Tuesday's strong 7.4 earthquake in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero, about midway between the beach resort of Acapulco and the colonial town of Oaxaca, is more bad news for a tourism industry already on the defensive from the country's protracted drug war.

Initial reports say the quake, centered some 12 miles underground, was felt strongly in Oaxaca and swayed buildings in Mexico City, sending frightened workers and residents into the streets. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries, but telephone service was down

in Mexico City and throughout the area where the quake was felt. In Huajuapan, Guerrero, near the epicenter, hotel manager Marco Antonio Estrada reported shaken-up guests but no major damage.

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Boeing Promises to Speed Up Construction of New 787 Dreamliners

USA Today Travel  |  Boeing has inspected five 787 Dreamliners for a flaw in the fuselage that the company recently discovered, the new head of the 787 program said Monday. Reuters reported that the company remains on schedule to build 10 planes per month by the end of next year.

The company is inspecting the first 55 787s built before it discovered the problem and will make any necessary repairs, Larry Loftis said before a groundbreaking ceremony for a new delivery center, according to Reuters.

The 787 is a more fuel-efficient plane. So far airlines have ordered about 870 of them, Reuters reported. But the plane is about three years behind its original schedule.

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Costa Cruise Ship Being Towed to Safety After Fire

The Costa Allegra is being towed toward Mahe in the Seychelles following an engine-room fire Monday that left the ship adrift. None of the 636 passengers and 413 crew members were injured, according to Costa. Food and communications gear are being sent to the ship via helicopter; the vessel is expected to reach land early Thursday.

“Guests onboard are continuously being informed and assisted by the captain and the staff,” Costa said in an emailed statement.

Passengers were sent to their muster stations as a precaution when the fire broke out, according to the company. The ship currently has no air conditioning and lighting is limited, but passengers were served a cold breakfast Tuesday, according to Costa. The seas has been struck in the past by Somalian pirates, but Costa officials have said  they have armed security on board.

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Sea Sick: T+L Takes on the Norovirus

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When passengers aboard the Crown Princess were struck with norovirus for two sailings in a row, Princess Cruises brought the ship back to port two days early for extensive sanitation.
 
Two ships from other companies also have been hit with norovirus in recent weeks in well publicized incidents, leading to the impression that norovirus is a "cruise ship'' disease. It's not, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which says that 1 in every 15 Americans will contract norovirus this  year.
 
My own too-close encounter with the gastrointestinal virus is a case in point. It arrived courtesy of a conference in a hotel in a major U.S. city.

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Cruise Industry Announces Change to Safety Drill Policy

USA Today  |  Every vacationer boarding a cruise ship will receive a safety briefing before the vessel sets sail under a new industry-wide policy announced today.

In a joint statement, the U.S.-based Cruise Lines International Association, Europe-based European Cruise Council and UK-based Passenger Shipping Association said the new policy would apply across the board to their members, which include every major cruise line in the world.

The announcement comes in the wake of an industry-wide safety review following last month's Costa Concordia disaster off the coast of Italy, which resulted in at least 17 deaths. Fifteen passengers remain missing.

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Safety at Sea Continued: Cruise Industry Holds Media Briefing

cruise ship

This morning at a packed media briefing on the safety of cruising held by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), key representatives from the industry answered questions, and, not surprisingly, were eager to quash any rising fears in the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy.

The takeaway? Despite recent events, seafaring travelers have little reason to worry. According to Michael Crye, Executive Vice President of CLIA, between 2005 and 2011 the industry carried 100 million passengers, with 16 fatal maritime casualties. While 16 is far too many, in this less-than-perfect world that number is astoundingly low. The percentage of risk is minimal: broken down, the number implies a one in 6,250,000 chance of passenger casualty per year (that’s far less than the odds of getting struck by lightning in any given year, according to the National Weather Service).

Still, the International Maritime Organization (an arm of the United Nations with 170 member countries) is reviewing all safety practices immediately. A few items up for consideration:

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Question of the Day: Is Cruising Safe?

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The Costa Concordia’s accident off the Italian coast is a horrible tragedy, with at least 11 people dead and others still missing. But the industry’s record for safety remains strong: Nearly 14 million people cruise each year on major cruise ships, and few industry watchers can even remember the last time a fire or ship failure resulted in passenger deaths.

The U.S. Coast Guard is involved with safety aspects of the cruise ship design before it is even built. Once launched, each cruise ship that sails from the U.S. must pass U.S. Coast Guard certification. Each is inspected at least every six months on both announced and unannounced inspections that include reviewing staff safety procedures. Crews are drilled regularly on safety procedures. Those that don’t sail from U.S. ports still must meet safety standards set by individual countries and by SOLAS, an international safety and standards convention that is set by International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations.

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Hotel Guests Recruited with Homeland Security TV Spots

USA Today |  The Department of Homeland Security is recruiting hotel guests to join the fight against terrorism.

Starting today, the welcome screens on 1.2 million hotel television sets in Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn and other hotels in the USA will show a short public service announcement from DHS. The 15-second spot encourages viewers to be vigilant and call law enforcement if they witness something suspicious during their travels. (…)

The PSA, which will be interspersed with other messages on the welcome screen, will be the same in all 5,400 hotels that LodgeNet serves. It ends by telling viewers to contact "local authorities."

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Major D.C. Monuments Close After Quake

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NBC - Washington, D.C.
|  Cracking was found in the stones at the top of the Washington Monument Tuesday evening, the National Park Service reported.

The crack was located in one of the triangular faces at the top of the monument.  It runs at an angle, and measures approximately 4 inches. (...)

Although the grounds near the Monument reopened on Tuesday, the interior is closed to visitor until further notice.  Authorities put up a fence creating a 150-foot perimeter at the Monument's base.

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Photo credit: Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corporation

Radiation-Free Full-Body Scanners

BBC Travel's Passport Blog |  As controversy simmers surrounding the levels of radiation used in full body scanners, a small company based in the United Kingdom has developed a machine that emits no radiation at all.

Last year, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began installing two types of full body scanners at airport security checkpoints across the country. L3’s Provision millimetre wave scanners beam radio waves through clothing to detect potentially dangerous objects hidden by terrorists. Rapiscan backscatter scanners use low-dose x-rays to do the same.

While both companies and the TSA say the radiation emitted by these machines is at safe levels, the scientific community has not reached a strong consensus either way....

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