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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

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).

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Cruise Conference Update: A Glimpse into the Cruising Future

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More glimpses of the future, from Cruise Shipping Miami:

° Scenic Cruises offers four new European river itineraries and new ship, The Jewel, with balconies that can be enclosed for weather protection. In April it will also launch the first new river cruising ship in Russia in memory from the company. The $10 million remake was set on an existing barge hull.

° The new Hong Kong cruise terminal designed by Sir Norman Foster and set on the site of the old Kai Tak airport features a public green space atop the terminal. The first ship berth becomes operational in June. When it's completed in about 15 months, it will be able to handle four megaliners at once.

° Along with the year-round ship it is taking to the Galapagos this year, Silversea is adding a Northwest Passage cruise aboard its existing expedition ship, Silver Explorer. Bookings are going fast, reported the line. Compagnie du Ponant, which is also launched a Northwest Passage cruise, said the sailing sold out in four days.

 

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

 

 

Photo by istockphoto

Cruise Conference Update: Norwegian Cruise's Magical Getaway

Norwegian Cruise water slide

Passengers aboard Norwegian Cruise's Getaway can sign up for a truly magic dinner in the Illusionarium, a domed space where Hogswarts meets Jules Verne. The experience, priced at $35, will feature a magic show and dinner, the company announced Wednesday at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference. The project was designed by Broadway director/choreographer Patricia Wilcox, Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo and veteran magician Jeff Hobson.

And get ready to rock. The Getaway, which launches in January 2014 with sailings from Miami, will feature a Grammy Experience venue, with memorabilia and live performances from Grammy winners and nominees. In fall 2014, the ship will host a Grammy Experience themed cruise.

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Cruise Conference Update: Carnival Looking Into Its Fleet

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Following the Carnival Triumph disaster in which 4,000 passengers were powerless for days, Carnival Cruise lines announced it has engaged a panel of outside experts to conduct a full review of the Triumph and other ships fleetwide to identify redundancies that would prevent future incidents.

In an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald's Hannah Sampson, Carnival President Gerry Cahill said that the flexible piping that failed and caused the Triumph's disabling fire had been replaced five months before and was due to be checked on its regular schedule about 30 days after the incident. The average life of the part is 18 months, he said. Redundancies that should have kept the ship in working order were also disabled by the fire. 

 

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

 

 

Trip Doctor: Boeing Has a Plan to Get Dreamliner Off the Ground

Dreamliner airplane

The Federal Aviation Authority approved yesterday Boeing’s plan to redesign the lithium-ion battery system aboard its troubled Dreamliner aircraft.

The announcement comes after a series of disturbing battery fires forced the FAA to ground the long-awaited new plane in January. Boeing has been under intense pressure to come up with a solution to the battery problem—preferably one that doesn’t scrap the entire lithium-ion system altogether. The proposed modifications involve better insulation for the batteries, along with changes that make them less prone to short circuiting. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said that the aircraft would still be subject to a series of tests to ensure the batteries work: “We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.”

Which raises the question: After all the talk about inherent trouble with lithium-ion batteries, will passengers be eager to jump on a Dreamliner when it returns to service?

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 Robert Clayton / Alamy

Cruise Conference Update: New Royal Princess Details

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Cruise lines often use the Cruise Shipping Miami conference as a place to reveal details of new ships, and this year is no exception.

Tuesday, Princess Cruises held a press conference to highlight new features of its Royal Princess, which debuts in Europe this June. Its signature feature — a "seawalk'' extending 28 feet beyond the hull — has been driving chatter for the past year. The latest revelations are details designed to keep the conversation going. About half require a separate fee. Among the offerings:

° New (and complimentary) on-demand programming in stateroom TVs, including movies and television series.

° A tea tower and tea sommelier who will help passengers create their own blend to take home.

° Mobile QR-code tour of the ship's $2 million collection of art

° Outdoor art installation by the marine artist, Wyland

° Whiskey flights offered at the signature Wheelhouse Bar

° Onboard intranet

° $3,000 spa package for four including all-day massages in a private cabana

° Largest outdoor movie screen (this one is 30 percent bigger than those elsewhere)

° A daily menu of 8 flavors of hand-made gelato

° Four different "dancing fountain'' shows

Windstar execs also talked about new itineraries for the three ships it has purchased from Seabourn that join the fleet over the next two years. Expect sailings in Latin America, the British Isles, the Far East and a circumnavigation of Sicily. Tahiti sailings start in spring of 2014.

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

 

 

Photo by istockphoto

Cruise Conference Update: Safety Issues + Industry Impacts

cruise

The cruise industry addressed safety issues head-on at its annual industry conference, giving the first question of the annual CEO panel to Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill, who described an in-depth review by Carnival and outside experts to determine how the company and other cruise lines can prevent future incidents. Still, the industry response to the recent Carnival Triumph breakdown and other ship failures at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference were carefully scripted, and specifics about both the cause and future changes were limited.

Cahill stressed the rareness of such incidents and the fact that no one was hurt. But Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein, who also appeared on the panel, said that in the future all lines will likely pay attention not only to strict safety but also to passenger comfort when an incident does occur. Goldstein also addressed a commonly expressed concern that the industry is poorly regularly. Not so, he said. Regardless of where a ship is, it is under the regulation of various agencies at all times.

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