News Briefs, Week of Oct. 5, 2015

Viking will return to Ukraine in 2016


Viking River Cruises will return to Ukraine's Dnieper River in 2016, two years after canceling Ukraine cruises amid political tensions there. Viking, the only major river cruise line to offer Dnieper voyages, reintroduced an 11-day sailing from Kiev to Odessa on the Viking Sineus, bookended by three days in Kiev and four days in Odessa. Pricing starts at $3,780 per person, based on double occupancy.

Pod to open DC hotel, first outside of NYC
Pod Hotel plans to open a 245-room hotel in Washington in 2016. Pod D.C. will be located in the city's Chinatown and include 12,000 square feet of food-and-beverage space as well as its inventory of rooms with doubles and bunk beds. Pod's two other hotels are in Manhattan; a third is slated to open in Brooklyn next year.

Steakhouse on Sirena will be new to Oceania
Oceania Cruises will open a steak restaurant on its upcoming Oceania Sirena that is new to the brand. Tuscan Steak will offer steaks and seafood with a Tuscan flair, the line said, and will be included in the cruise fare. The Sirena, a former Renaissance and Princess Cruises ship, is scheduled to enter service for Oceania in April after a $40 million refurbishment.

American to offer flights to Merida
American Airlines will launch five weekly flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and Merida, Mexico, on March 3. It will be the sole U.S. airline serving Merida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, located 185 miles west of Cancun. Aeromexico offers one-stop service to Merida from Dallas, stopping in Mexico City. Bookings open Oct. 4.

American introduces online bag tracker
American Airlines introduced a free tracker for checked bags, enabling passengers to use the AA.com website to see where their bags are located between check-in and pick-up at a carousel. Delta Air Lines also offers a baggage tracker.

JetBlue adds second JFK-Havana flight
JetBlue and Cuba Travel Services will launch a second weekly charter flight between New York and Havana on Tuesdays starting Dec. 1. The existing flight, launched in March, operates on Fridays. JetBlue flies to Havana and Santa Clara from New York, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, offering the same in-flight services as its commercial flights. Customers must arrange travel directly with Cuba Travel Services.

Nexion introduces a corporate travel event
Nexion introduced Corporate CoNexions, an event for agents who sell corporate travel. A Corporate CoNexions pilot event in Los Angeles this summer sold out in less than an hour and was limited to three suppliers: Delta, Enterprise Holdings and Choice Hotels. The majority of its agents sell leisure travel, but Nexion hopes to grow its corporate business.

Amtrak enforces rules on baggage with a fee
Amtrak began charging a $20 fee for excess baggage on Oct. 1 for each item exceeding two carry-ons and two personal items, with a maximum of two excess bags permitted per passenger. The fee will be collected at the station or on the train. The baggage limit has long been in effect at Amtrak but has not been rigorously enforced. Amtrak says excess baggage creates space and storage problems for passengers.

Friends & Colleagues
Dean Griffin has been hired as hotel manager at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in California. Griffin joins Loews Hotels with more than 16 years of experience in hotel operations, most recently as the director of operations at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe in California. Previous experience includes stints at the Montelucia Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.; the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort; and the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. • • • One&Only Resorts appointed Mike Bonner vice president of marketing. Bonner most recently served as Silversea Cruises' sales and marketing director for the U.K. and Ireland and prior to that worked with the Maybourne Hotel Group managing global marketing activities. • • • Trinidad & Tobago named Shamfa Cudjoe its minister of tourism, following the election of a new government on Sept. 7. Cudjoe has served in Parliament since 2010 in the fields of international affairs and foreign trade policy. • • • The Essex Resort and Spa in Burlington, Vt., appointed Nicholas Barger general manager. Barger brings more than a decade of hospitality experience to the Essex, including his most recent leadership roles at other Gemstone Hotels & Resorts properties, such as the Zermatt Resort and Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah. Prior to joining Gemstone, he was director of rooms at the Modern Honolulu.

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