News Briefs, Week of Dec. 7, 2015

Viking Star sets course for Caribbean sailings


Viking Ocean Cruises said its first sailings in North America and the Caribbean will launch in September, when the Viking Star will sail from San Juan. The ship will offer a series of nine 11-night roundtrips from San Juan, visiting Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

FAA downgrades Thailand safety rating
The FAA downgraded Thailand's civil aviation authority to a Category 2 rating for failing to comply with international safety standards, a move that means Thailand-based airlines won't be able to establish new service into the U.S. The decision also spells the end, at least for the time being, to the potential for nonstop Thailand-U.S. flights served by Thai airlines.

Comic Kathy Griffin to do Carnival shows
Carnival Cruise Line has added comedian Kathy Griffin to its slate of Carnival Live performers, which to date have strictly been musical acts. Griffin will do two shows while the Carnival Fantasy and Breeze are docked in Cozumel, on Feb. 24 and 25, respectively. Tickets are $50 for general admission. VIP tickets are available for $200 and offer seating in the first four rows, a photo opportunity with Griffin and a commemorative concert pass.

Breathless brand set to make Mexico debut
Mexico's first Breathless Resort, Breathless Cabo San Lucas, will open Dec. 17 on Medano Beach. The 169-suite resort will offer AMResorts' all-inclusive Unlimited-Luxury experience and amenities including suites with private terraces, seven dining options and five bars and lounges.

Jewel of the Seas refit to add cabins, eateries
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas will get 24 new outside and balcony accommodations as part of a $30 million renovation in April. A two-bedroom family suite will also be added. The ship also will get new restaurants, Giovanni's Table, Izumi and Vintages, and a new poolside movie screen will be installed.

Margaritaville goes a la carte on Escape
After just a handful of cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line has converted Margaritaville at Sea, its Jimmy Buffett-themed restaurant on the Norwegian Escape, to a la carte pricing. In a statement, Norwegian said the restaurant has been "extremely popular" and attributed the decision to begin charging to "guest feedback about the overwhelming demand."

Orlando's Skyplex gets zoning approval
Developers received the go-ahead to build the world's tallest roller coaster on Orlando's International Drive. The Orange County commission voted unanimously in favor of a hotly contested zoning change required for David and Joshua Wallack to go forward with plans for Skyplex. In addition to the 500-foot-plus Skyscraper roller coaster, the complex will feature Skyfall, billed as the highest drop ride on the planet, as well as a hotel and shopping, eating and entertainment venues.

Altour Int'l acquires U.K. biz travel agency
Altour International, No. 13 on Travel Weekly's 2015 Power List, is acquiring Top Flight Travel Management in the U.K. An agreement has been signed, and the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. Top Flight will retain its name.

Friends & Colleagues
Bret Kidd has been promoted to vice president and managing director for Travelport Americas, in charge of the company's travel agency customers in the region. Kidd replaces Scott Hyden, who was appointed vice president of the newly formed Enterprise Customer Group, which will work with Travelport's largest travel management company customers and global corporate accounts. Hyden essentially assumes the role of Sandra McLeod, except he also will work with large OTAs such as Expedia and Priceline. McLeod was named CEO of Locomote, an Australian corporate travel technology company in which Travelport acquired a majority stake. Dan Westbrook will replace Kidd as the vice president and general manager of Travelport's Air Commerce Technologies business. Kidd joined Travelport in 2013 as its vice president and general manager of Airline IT Solutions from the IT services firm Stratos Management Systems, which he founded. Before he joined Travelport in 2009, Hyden was the president of STA Travel. Westbrook joined Travelport in 2009 as vice president of airline services after holding senior roles in travel merchandising at Sabre. • • • MSC Cruises named Brandon Townsley director of online and strategic accounts. Townsley has spent the last several years at Norwegian Cruise Line in the areas of revenue management, sales planning and analysis, field sales, charters, meetings and incentives and international sales, MSC said. • • • The Receptive Services Association of America, a trade group for inbound tour operators, has named Lisa Simon interim executive director. The group recently announced that Jane Rossmango would lead the association with the departure of Matt Grayson, but Rossmango had to relinquish her position due to unforeseen circumstances. The RSAA plans to launch an executive search. Simon was previously president of the National Tour Association. She currently operates the Simon Connection, a management consulting firm.

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