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Veggies on the tracks

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One of the TW editors found this gem of a video online and sent the link around, asking,"where is this?"

 

Answer: It is the Mae Klong Market in Thailand. And it prompted a bit of back-and-forth, with one editor positing this:

"I think there’s a lesson here for Amtrak and other railroads in general. The train only needs the tracks and right-of-way for a few short periods each day. The rest of the time it just sits there. Why not rent it out? We could have gelato stands and latte kiosks all the way up and down the Northeast Corridor!"

 

'Fore' courses planned for Cuba

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Is Cuba ready to tee off?

More than 50 years after Fidel Castro got rid of golf courses in Cuba (a pasttime that he considered too bourgeois), the Cuban government apparently has swung in the opposite direction, giving preliminary approval to four golf resort projects.

The move, which was reported Wednesday in the New York Times, would apparently help bolster Cuba's cash-strapped economy and give free-spending tourists (from places like Canada, Europe and Asia) another option to "sun and salsa beach offerings."

Cuba’s only 18-hole course at present is a government-owned spread in the Varadero resort area.

The four initial projects total more than $1.5 billion, and the government’s cut of the profits would be half, according to the Times report.

In 1962, Castro lost a game of golf to his comrade in arms Che Guevara, who had been a caddy in his Argentine hometown before trading golf clubs for guerilla armor.

Grainy black-and-white photographs from that nine-hole round show the two dressed in fatigues hitting the links.

Castro’s defeat had disastrous consequences for the sport. He turned one course into a military school, another into an art school and got rid of the rest.

However, the worldwide popularity of the sport, and the allure of it for big-spending travelers, apparently has softened the government’s view.

The Times story says:

 

 "If the projects are built as envisioned, tourists will enjoy not just new, state-of-the-art courses and the opportunity for a second home in Cuba, but shopping malls, spas and other luxury perks. [Golf-resort developer] Standing Feather, which calls its complex Estancias de Golf Loma Linda, promises 1,200 villas, bungalows, duplexes and apartments set on 520 acres framed by mountains and beach." 

 

 Rooms at the hotel would go for about $200 a night.

'U-Con' merger minutiae

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As United-Continental begins its unstoppable march toward consolidation, the carriers are working on "Customer Day One."

What that means, according to United's hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, is outward signs of consolidation — and that United's "tulip" logo is now being replaced by Continental's blue globe.

The initiative to replace the United "U" logo on monitors, counters, signs and boarding passes began Wednesday, which the carrier(s) dubbed Customer Day One.

The signage push is just one of the more noticable elements of the United-Continental combination — or "U-Con," as we at Travel Jonze are calling it.

The Wall Street Journal tackled the topic on Thursday, with an article headlined "How do we check in antlers?" which looked at the small stuff in the U-Con merger. Forget union negotiations, res systems and frequent flyer programs: Which airline’s salutation for gate agents should they agree on? (Continental agents say "welcome," United's say "good morning" or "good evening.")

Anyway, as it turns out: Merging two big airlines involves a lot of minutiae.

The New York Times taxied down a completely different runway, with an article on Wednesday about the merger of ... Delta and Northwest. Wait a sec, wasn't that completed a few years ago?

True, but this story was one of two airlines that have already figured out whether a flight attendant should pour a soda into a cup (Delta) or just hand over the can (Northwest).

Interestingly, the Tribune report said that in the process of combining "look-and-feel" and service issues, U-Con seems to be stealing more from Continental's playbook than United's.

It quoted Gary Leff, a co-founder of MilePoint.com, who said that "in almost every instance the change has been to Continental. People who are very, very frequent flyers will notice."

Carnival Breeze cabins get a new look

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Carnival Breeze cabinWhen the Carnival Breeze enters service in June 2012, Carnival Cruise Lines' repeat cruisers will see that the cabins have a new look.

Instead of the peach and tan color schemes, passengers on the Breeze will see a blue-accented "tropical design theme."

(The top photo is a rendering of a Carnival Breeze cabin, and the bottom one is a cabin on the Carnival Miracle.)  

 

Carnival Miracle cabinThe new cabin decor was created by Partner Ship Design, which is responsible for a lot of the design on the upcoming Breeze. (Carnival's longtime interior designer, Joe Farcus, is playing a more limited role on this ship.)

Carnival describes the cabins as having "colorful, Caribbean-inspired interiors that take their cue from the region’s cool island breezes and warm tropical sunsets."

Carnival added that a combination of "bright colors and soothing pastel hues, with iconic images of palm trees and other island-inspired elements" will adorn hallways.

What do you think of the new color scheme?


 

Travel agents are back ... again!

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Travelers are again turning to tried-and-true, traditional agents to book their vacations, the Washington Post writes in a report published on May 6.

In fact, travel agents are getting a "reprieve" from the category of people-whose-professions-are-no-longer-a-thing (thank you, "30 Rock").

The confluence of factors: Destinations are off-limits due to natural disasters and revolutions; nobody knows which airline to book to get the lowest ancillary fees; there's way too much confusing information on the Internet.

Not to mention, "customers are ... bombarded by social media," according to John Clifford of  InternationalTravelManagement.com, a San Diego-based agency.

Speaking of social media, the story has been tweeted 69 times as of Monday afternoon, and 186 people "liked" it on Facebook. We like it, too, especially the opening anecdote, in which the agent, David Rubin of DavidTravel, books a 10-day trip to India departing in less than two weeks.

Have birth certificate, will travel (and save money)

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Hawaii packing checklist: Aloha shirt. Bathing suit. Sunscreen. Official birth record.

President Obama's decision to release the long-form version of his birth certificate last week could result in savings for travelers. The move benefits Hawaii-bound travelers, to be specific, and guests of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, to be precise.

According to USA Today, the hotel company is offering a 15% discount off its best available rates to guests who produce a copy of their own birth certificate at check-in.

The deal, which covers birth certificates in both long and short form, is good through Aug. 4, Obama's birthday.

Unlike the holder of America's highest office, you do not have to be born in this country to take advantage of the Aqua discount: Birth certificates can be produced from any country.
 

A 95th birthday party for a star agent

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MiriamRandCrystal Cruises hosted a 95th birthday party last week for Miriam Rand, a travel agent who has been selling Crystal since it launched 20 years ago.

Rand, a luxury specialist who still goes to her Protravel office in Beverly Hills each day, was invited to Crystal's headquarters in Los Angeles' Century City for the fete. This is how Crystal described the party:

"At the lunchtime gathering, Ms. Rand held center court in true star fashion, flirting with Crystal President Gregg Michel, giving the youngsters advice, sharing tales of first turning the Rat Pack on to Palm Springs ... making travel arrangements for some of Tinseltown's most elite, including Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra."

Not surprisingly, Crystal's staff was held in "rapt attention."

Regarding Crystal, Rand said that the line's shoreside staff and onboard crew was "so passionate about what they do." And Crystal rejoined: "The same can be said about Miriam Rand."

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