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JetBlue Going Upscale?

JetBlue, arguably to most egalitarian of domestic carriers, announced this week that it will be introducing premium seating on transcontinental flights from New York to San Francisco next year in an effort to remain competitive on these routes. There's no word yet on what form these seats will take: first, business, lie-flat, behind a curtain, etc.

The airline also laid out plans to enhance its fleet with a new—and fast—in-flight wi-fi service called Fly-Fi, which should launch on the first JetBlue plane later this year. Giving the masses have something to celebrate, the airline also confirmed that basic wi-fi connections will be free—at least initially.

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

Trip Doctor: Room Service Tipping Etiquette

Room Service Tipping Etiquette

Q: Is the “service charge” on my room-service bill the same as a gratuity?

A: Though the exact definition varies from hotel to hotel, service charge usually indicates a pooled tip, to be divided up by the entire room service department. If your specific attendant was particularly good, you may consider giving an extra gratuity—but are in no way obliged to do so. To be sure, ask what the hotel’s policy is when placing your order.

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

 

Photo by Gus Bradley / Alamy

Tech Thursday: Google’s New Field Trip App

Field Trip app

Want the Google results without the search? That's essentially the conceit behind Field Trip, the tech giant's latest app for iPhone and Android that helps you find the great things nearby. First, tell the app a little bit about your interests—are you an architecture buff? Do you search for deals wherever you go? Maybe it's just little-known historical trivia that adds color to your neighborhood walks. Either way, Field Trip will cast its net for the parameters you set—no matter how broad or specific.

The results are impressively curated, pulling from all our favorite local resources, from Eater to Thrillist to Remodelista—all blogs whose recommendations we’re happy to follow. Additionally, the app filters in special deals on offer through other apps, like Scoutmob, so that we could net 50% off an Italian restaurant 147 meters away. But our favorite feature was feeling like we had our own little guide in our pocket, telling us that The Godfather was filmed one block away or that T+L's building was a hugely popular Vaudeville venue in the early 20th-Century. Who knew?

Like most apps that rely on tracking your location, this one can drain your battery if you're not careful. But it won’t keep us from exploring our own city—or those that we visit—any time soon.

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 by Nikki Ekstein

Trip Doctor: How to Bring Back Food Souvenirs

food souvenirs

Q: I love to bring food back from my trips abroad. What are the restrictions? —Alexander Bauman, Lexington, Mass.

A: The lure of forbidden fruit is strong—as is the authority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to confiscate it once you hit American soil. Why so stringent? The agency cites the example of a Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in California in the 1980’s that cost the state and federal government $100 million to contain. It started with a single traveler bringing in a piece of contaminated food. Add to that the threats of hoof-and-mouth and mad cow disease, avian and swine flu, and exotic beetle infestations, which can devastate livestock and crops, and you get a sense of why caution is necessary.

That said, there are still plenty of foods that you can carry home from your travels. You just need to be aware of the rules, which can be tricky—and fluid. Restrictions change as disease outbreaks occur. Look for updates on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service websites. And always declare your food: trying to bring in undeclared prohibited items can result in a fine of $300 for a first offense and more for repeat offenders.

Cheese and Milk Products: Hard and soft, pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses are generally acceptable—that includes everything from Camembert and Brie to feta and mozzarella, even in brine. Nonsolid cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese, pose problems, unless you’re a registered importer. Yogurt and butter are unrestricted.

Meat and Seafood: Unfortunately, almost anything containing meat products is off limits. This includes most fresh and refrigerated meats, cured and dried ones (salami, sausage, and prosciutto, sigh), and even dried soups and bouillons. (Some pork products are allowable from Spain and Italy, but—before you grab that chorizo—require official certification from the country’s health inspectors.) Pâté and foie gras in unopened hermetically sealed containers can usually be brought into the country. At press time, beef and pork products were allowable from Australia, Canada, Fiji, Iceland, and New Zealand with proof of origin (such as a grocery-store receipt or a label indicating where they came from). Seafood, including fresh, dried, canned, and smoked fish, is generally permitted.

Fruits and Vegetables: You need an official permit for most fresh fruit and vegetables, though Canadian produce is generally exempt, once again, with proof of origin. (Check the USDA’s Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements Database to see what can be carried onto U.S. soil.) Dried fruits, herbs, and spices (except seed-based ones) are by and large okay.

Pantry Items: Good news: oils, vinegars, mustards, canned or jarred meatless sauces, pickles, honey (without honeycombs), jams, baked goods, noodles, roasted nuts, candy, and chocolate are all basically unrestricted.

Alcohol: Anything less than a liter is generally permitted duty-free. Thanks to the 21st Amendment, it’s up to each state to determine how much alcohol you can carry. Most states limit you to a “reasonable” amount for personal use. If you’re from a control state, however, check with the local alcohol board to see if there are restrictions. Utah, for example, sets a two-liter limit. For the record: absinthe (anything bearing the brand name Absinthe, containing thujone, or decorated with artwork “project[ing] images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects”) is not allowed in the States.

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


Video by Philip Toledano

Trip Doctor: Aloft Pioneers Apple TV Pilot Program

hotel entertainment

If you're prone to downloading the entire seasons of Breaking Bad onto your iPad before a trip, this will be welcome news: Aloft, Starwood's intrepidly tech-savvy brand, is testing the in-room entertainment system of tomorrow, with Apple TV as its anchor.

In every Aloft room, you'll find a Jack Pack, which plugs into your laptop or mobile devices and projects the content onto your in-room HDTV. Now with AppleTV, guests can use their TV in a huge variety of ways: As a stereo system for music, a medium for editing photos, or perhaps most useful, a big screen for streaming Netflix or iTunes movies.

Read More

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending March 15, 2013

"Modern life has become a three- and often four- or five-meal-a-day restaurant habit," Michael Wolff writes in the UK edition of GQ. "Of course the ultimate status is not to know someone, but to be known, for the restaurant to want you." (Matt Haber)

And in London, Vanity Fair's Nicholas Shaxson wonders who lives in One Hyde Park. (M.H.)

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti captured kids from around the world with their most prized possessions. The takeaway: Boys really love cars and the little girl from Zambia with the sunglass collection is a star. (M.H.)

Over at Capital New York, filmmaker Minty Grover looks back at Little Syria, a forgotten lower westside neighborhood of old New York City. (M.H.)

Just in time for the second season finale of HBO's Girls, NewYork.com's Megan L. Wood offers this guide to some of the show's locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. (M.H.)

Food trucks are so last year. Bloomberg Businessweek's Patrick Clark prepares us for... Food scooters? (M.H.)

If you're not fatigued by over-sharing your life on Facebook and Twitter, this little gadget—a SXSW debut—promises to capture all the special moments you may not realize you're having… by automatically taking photos every 30 seconds. We can't help think it's a great way to catch candid portraits of locals abroad—which is always an awkward pursuit. Jenna Worthman reports at the New York Times' Bits blog. (Nikki Ekstein)

Would you stay at a Whole Foods-themed resort? The ubiquitous health food chain is brewing plans to open a wellness retreat near their Austin, TX headquarters, USA Today's Bruce Horovitz reports (N.E.)

Cruise Conference Update: European River Cruises

A-ROSA cruise 

If you've tried to book a river cruise this summer in Europe, you know that it's close to Mission Impossible. But representatives of A-ROSA Cruises at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference want you to know that they're offering a new luxury alternative that does have availability—largely because few people know about it.

The line itself isn't new; its been operating in Germany for a decade. But beginning this year, the company is dedicating specific sailings to the North American market, with a contemporary cruising product that focuses on fine cuisine and features active excursions (think: biking and kayaking), light decor, a large spa and gym with panoramic views. Cabins measure 156 square feet—smaller than on some ships, but larger than on others. And yes, on these sailings, the language is English.

The cruises traverse the Rhone, Soane, Danube and Rhine rivers for 7 to 14 nights, depending on the sailing. The line is waiving single supplements for a substantive number of cabins each sailing, said A-ROSA's U.S. representative Marilyn Conroy. Pricing includes airfare, all excursions, airport transfers and open bar. Prices start at $4,802 per person from New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

 Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's cruise editor.

 

 

Photo courtesy of A-ROSA Cruises

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.

 

 

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