Leave a comment

MIAMILAND?

MIAMILAND!  may market itself as the largest theme park in Florida, but that’s not quite it. The new creative branding initiative in the hopes to attract visitors to more than just is vibrant downtown and top-notch beaches. The MIAMILAND! campaign is there to remind us that not too far from downtown you can immerse yourself in nature.  You can go paddling in Sunset Harbour near Miami Beach, go Gator-spotting in South Miami-Dade County, camping in a national park, or taking an airboat ride in the Everglades you are still near enough to drive into downtown for an elegant night on the town.  The town that began as a trading post surrounded by nature may be bigger 200 years later but is still surrounded by nature. If you are visiting South Florida you might want to do a little research on the new “theme park” in town, MIAMILAND! 

 

Leave a comment

Subscription-Based Travel Solution?

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Etihad Airways has announced TravelPass, a travel solution targeting frequent travelers. The frequent flyers can purchase a TravelPass for a set number of trips or a predetermined period instead of booking their flight one trip at a time. The innovation is aimed at giving flyers ease of booking and making their travel more cost-efficient.

Robin Kamark, Chief Commercial Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “The innovative TravelPass technology offers a revolutionary booking experience for corporate and frequent clients who will also be enrolled into our award-winning Etihad Guest frequent flyer program. By simplifying the travel process to just a few clicks, our guests have a seamless transaction through a platform that holds all your details in one place, gives you the flexibility to make changes to your bookings without fees and gives you the choice to pay later. We know our corporate clients are time-poor and believe this innovative addition to our digital offering will improve the travel journey for subscribers.”

Etihad TravelPass will be available to book on the Etihad website on a desktop or mobile. The hope is that customers will be able to streamline their bookings by having their information saved so they don’t have to re-enter the info again and again.

Svein Therkelsen, Chief Executive Officer, Braathens IT, said: “Etihad is going to take sophisticated digital personalization very far, everything from ease of use to customization. They are an innovative player and they will continue in that direction to improve their customers’ digital experience using TravelPass.”

We will be watching to see how this innovation seems to make booking easier and promote the loyalty of flyers. We do see some pitfalls that haven’t been addressed as if you book several flights months out and months apart will you get the chance to get your money back if the cost of the trip goes down. Also, will this subscription-only be with Etihad or will its codes carry over to partner airlines?  We will keep an eye out for more news on this in the future.

Leave a comment

ROYAL CARIBBEAN DEBUTS COCO BEACH CLUB

The Coco Beach Club is the result of a $250 million transformation of the small cay in the Berry Island chain in the Bahamas. The beach club built for the exclusive use of Royal Caribbean guests touts the first floating cabanas in the Bahamas. The resort also includes an oceanfront infinity pool, beach cabanas, a dedicated restaurant an exclusive bar. The development of two swimming beaches Breezy Bay at Chill Island and South Beach. Coco Beach Club has a total of 20 floating cabanas bring a bit of Bora Bora to the island.  The cabanas are each equipped with a private slide into the ocean, overwater hammock, dining area, freshwater shower, wet bar and an unbeatable view of the Caribbean sea for a day of indulgence.

We know we aren’t cruising people and we aren’t necessarily promoting the idea of cruising (not that there is anything wrong with cruising) but there is something special about what’s been done here in the Berry Islands.  The words we latched onto were FLOATING OVER WATER BUNGALOWS. You see it is very hard to get permits to build overwater bungalows, especially in the Carribean. It’s not because it’s a technical task, it’s because building these structures aren’t always environmentally friendly. The pillars can damage coral, the pipes and cabling that links them with water, power, and sewage can also cause environmental damage if not meticulously maintained. A floating platform in the United States, and most likely the Bahamas as well, is basically considered a vessel and is subject to frequent inspections by the Coast Guard. You also don’t have to worry about damage to the coral from the pillars as they don’t have any and harmlessly float on the surface of the water. Now, this isn’t disclosed but if they float don’t you think they might be able to be pulled a sure and tied down if a hurricane blows through so you don’t have to worry about them sinking to the seafloor.

So, we’d like to applaud Royal Caribbean for this innovation in design. We hope more people companies take their lead by designing environmentally sound structures that are beautiful and sought after.

If you aren’t sure where the Berry Islands in the Bahamas here are some maps….

Leave a comment

CARPHA and the Coronavirus

Well, it seems that everyone and we mean everyone is concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. The island nations of the Carribean are no exceptions.  A recent press release from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) lays out their plans to keep the island paradises and their tourism-based economies virus free.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) was established in July 2011 by an Intergovernmental Agreement signed by Caribbean Member States and began operation in January 2013. The Agency is the region’s collective response to strengthening its health systems approach so that it is equipped to address public health challenges.

The risk to the Caribbean is low it isn’t stopping them from staying on their toes and taking cautionary measures. The Caribbean Public Health Agency established the world’s first Tourism Health Program in 2015 to collaborate with the private and public organizations to constantly observe and evaluate public health threats to the islands and supply guidance to businesses in the tourism industry.

“CARPHA is recommending that Caribbean Member States be proactive and vigilant. They must step up surveillance measures at points of entry, communication strategies which emphasize good hand hygiene, and measures targeted at reducing the importation of this new virus to our shores,” stated Dr. St. John, who underscored that currently, there are no restrictions to travel to the Caribbean.

We will be watching the Department of State travel restriction carefully in the next couple of months but have confidence in CARPHA’s ability to prevent the spread of the virus in the Caribbean.

Leave a comment

A Sea Safari for Sea Cows

Amanda having a close encounter in Crystal River, Florida with the kindest creatures in the sea.

Last weekend, we had the chance to check another experience off our list of Florida adventures: getting up close and personal with the manatee.

What is a manatee, you might ask?

Manatees are large, fully aquatic, herbivorous marine mammals commonly referred to as sea cows. You can find three different kinds of gentle sea creatures: the Amazonian, West Indian, and the West African manatee. The average manatee grows to 13-14 feet long and weighs around 1,500 pounds. You might think at first you are seeing a large seal but you’d be mistaken, seals are a completely different species.  The manatee has short, stubby paddle-like flippers and the one thick large flipper as a tail. You often see them swimming slowly in the shallow coastal waters where they graze on seagrass, much like cows do on land.

Now that you understand what we are talking about, we should tell you about the experience. We hooked up with Birds Underwater Dive Center, which offers manatee tours in the spring-fed canals of Crystal River. Visiting the manatees is best in January and February when air and water temperatures are cooler and the manatee swim into the springs and canals in order to stay warm. You have to remember even though it’s Florida, the water in the Gulf of Mexico is still only 63 degrees. The water in Crystal River is 72.  The air temperature is a little cool and despite the 72-degree water, you’ll want to wear a wetsuit since you’ll get in the water and just stay there for a couple of hours. The neoprene also helps you remain buoyant since the trip is classified as a float trip, not a dive or a swim. You are not supposed to dive down to manatees, swim with manatees, or proactively approach manatees because of state and federal protections. You can, however, float and observe which as we found is enough to get some real close encounters. Manatees are curious creatures with poor eyesight, so they routinely invade visitors’ personal space.

In fact, I was nearly run over by the large creatures and came within two inches of one as we went face to face. I know, with the approval of our knowledgable guide, Amanda was able to pet one. The experience was truly amazing. We swam with dolphins and that was cool, but the dolphins were part of a research program. The manatee, on the other hand, is truly a wild creature existing in its own habitat. I think it was more like being on safari. We were in their world and needed to be mindful of that.

Should you take a manatee tour? Yes! The manatee has quickly become one of my favorite animals.

 

 

Leave a comment

A Close Encounter with the Kind (Coming Soon)

We had a long day that involved lots of swimming and lots of driving. We can’t wait to bring you the full story next week.

Amanda having a Close Encounter in Crystal Springs, Florida with the kindest creatures in the sea.

Leave a comment

Visiting Some Mermaids

The Entrance to the Park

The Host of the Underwater Show, notice she doesn’t have a tail but fishnet stockings.

We decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip Saturday to check off one of our Florida “must-see” sites, the mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park. The mermaids perform shows 16-20 feet below the surface of the natural spring to an audience in a theater behind large windows looking out on the underwater world. The amazing underwater performances are set to music with interludes as the mermaids tell us all about their world, somehow talking underwater so we can hear them. We have a feeling that the dialogue might be pre-recorded and the mermaids are just lip-syncing, but that’s just a guess.

We should probably give you a little history of the legendary tourist stop in southwest Florida. Weeki Wachee is a Seminole Indian phrase the means “little spring.” The name in itself is a bit of a misnomer; the surface of the spring may be only a little more than an acre or two but the true depth of the spring is unknown. You’d have trouble reaching the bottom even if you’re an experienced diver since the current coming up from the bottom is pretty swift. 117 million gallons of water bubble up to the surface each day.

The mermaid show was the brainchild of former Navy Frogman Newt Perry. He built an 18-seat theater six feet below the waterline and taught some beautiful and pretty athletic girls how to breathe through free-flowing air hoses supplying oxygen from an air compressor. It created the appearance that they lived underwater. The first show was on October 13, 1947, a day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids sometimes had to be sirens, standing along the less-traveled US 19 in their bathing suits to lure the audience in and then diving into the spring to perform.

The 400-seat auditorium 20 feet below the water.

In 1959 the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) which built the current theater. It seats 400 and is embedded in the side of the spring 20 feet below the surface. ABC was responsible for making the shows more elaborate, having mermaids do whole shows like an Underwater Circus, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz.

The tradition continues to this day even though the spring and show are owned by the State Park System of Florida. During our visit, they were preparing to perform the most appropriate of all stories for the setting, The Little Mermaid.

Our trip to the former roadside attraction and now state park was magical. We gained a new respect for the athleticism of the mermaids. We also enjoyed this nostalgic look at a wholesome form of entertainment that brings wonder and smiles to all ages.