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A Cool Way to Cruise the Cool Latitudes

The idea of a luxury cruise typically brings to mind thoughts of sun-filled decks, butler service by the pool, and lavish staterooms as you sail to tropical destinations. Seabourn cruise line wants you to rethink that model, or at least the destination.

The luxury cruise line has just unveiled the first purpose-built ultra-luxury expedition ship. An expedition ship is a vessel that has been designed to reach remote destinations and has the hardware and technology necessary to operate in more extreme environments and travel farther than your standard cruise ship that travels the Caribbean or Mediterranean. The hull, for example, will be constructed to Polar Class Standards, making it capable for summer and fall trips to Antarctica, the Arctic, and other extreme climates. The ship’s propulsion system is advanced with Azipods (electric-podded azimuth thrusters), or in layman’s terms, the entire propeller and engine turn — not just a rudder at the stern of the boat. A complement of three bow thrusters gives these ships unmatched maneuverability for vessels their size.  

A series of shell doors built into the hull along the waterline will provide entrance and egress from the zodiac boats used to move guests quickly to view wildlife and take them ashore to see breathtaking landscapes and have remarkable experiences. The 29,600 square feet of open deck space make for a great viewing platform for scenery and stretching your legs. We think one of the coolest parts is that two submarines carried onboard will be providing an unforgettable view of the world beneath the ocean’s surface. You won’t have to worry about roughing it on these rugged vessels, either.

“Our primary goal in building these new ships is to give expedition travelers the best possible destination experience onboard and far afield, with an innovative design that enables us to get all guests out into the environment as quickly as possible to fulfill those travel wish lists,” said Robin West, Vice President of Expedition Operations for Seabourn. “These ships are being designed from conception for expedition travel blended with ultra-luxury and personalized service by leading travel experts and seasoned professionals with great depth of experience in expedition, hospitality, and luxury cruising.” 

Seabourn claims it is the pinnacle of ultra-luxury travel with intimate ships offering key elements that set the line apart: spacious, thoughtfully appointed suites, many with verandas and all 100% ocean front; superb dining in a choice of venues; complimentary premium spirits and fine wines available on board at all times; award-winning service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home on board.

The new ships will feature 132 luxurious oceanfront veranda suites, which will be home for up to 264 guests. The first ship is currently planned to sail in the Arctic in late summer 2021, with a full summer season in Antarctica to follow. The crew will include an outstanding and well-traveled 26-person expedition team comprised of experienced wilderness experts, scientists, historians, and naturalists.

We aren’t sure if this is what we had in mind when we first started dreaming about trips to the polar regions but we’d love to sign up for a trip someday.

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South Seas by Southwest

 

A long-awaited new option for Aloha will be reality starting March 17. Southwest Airlines will be starting a new route from Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California to Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu, Hawaii. The second flight of the Southwest route will be from Oakland to Kahului Airport on Maui. The carrier will add more ways to get to the islands in the following weeks by adding service from Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport to Honolulu in the beginning of May and Kahului at the end of May. Southwest won’t only be operating service from the mainland to the islands, the budget carrier will also provide interisland service between Honolulu and Kahului four times each day. The interisland service will make it easier to make a Southwest connection from the mainland to island to island. Additional service is planned from San Diego and Sacramento to the Hawaiian Islands in the following months.

“As we answer the call for Southwest in Hawaii with an initial schedule of service that speaks to a long-held hope of our customers, I applaud and congratulate our people for their steady and impressive work to bring our world-famous hospitality and game-changing value to the islands,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines’ Chairman & Chief Executive Officer.

With this low-fare behemoth getting into the south seas market, we’re wondering if overall fares will drop due to increased competition. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the other carriers follow suit to match the new competitor’s budget fares.

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Nassau Travel Advisory

The U.S. Department of State has revised its travel advisory for the Bahamas. The U.S. government is telling tourists to take “increased caution” due to rising crime rates.

The official State Department Advisory shows that the country is listed at Level Two on the four-step scale.

Department of State officials are warning travelers about the potential for violent crime. “Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the family islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands” according to the U.S. Department of State.

The warning extends so far as to ban U.S. government officials from visiting the Sand Trap or Fish Fry area of shops and restaurants that are in walking distance of downtown Nassau. It’s unfortunate, particularly because that row of restaurants was where we had one of our best meals during our visit to Nassau. If you’re planning a visit to the Bahamas, you should avoid Over the Hill and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau, especially at night.

State also warns you to practice caution when renting watercraft such as jet-skis due to frequent poor maintenance and little regulation. The warning also mentions that several sexual assaults have been tied to these vendors. U.S. government officials are not allowed to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.

The Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement related to the warning on watercraft rentals, which indicates the local ministries of tourism, aviation, and transport are working to make changes in regulation and enforcement to ensure the companies are operating in a safe and responsible manner.

The Ministry of Foreign affairs also refutes the idea that crime is a major problem for locals and tourists.

“The reality is that the vast majority of the six million visitors who come to the Bahamas – by air, sea, and cruises – vacation in our islands without any incident whatsoever, but, notwithstanding, the Bahamas takes the safety of residents and visitors very seriously and will continue to work in keeping the safety and security of all visitors to our shores priority.

“The efforts of law enforcement authorities, along with significant investments by the Government of the Bahamas in human capital and information technology to fight crime, have made significant progress in reducing serious crimes like murder (-25%), armed robbery (-18%), attempted robbery (-19%) and shop-breaking (-23%). These efforts are commended by the Administration and people of The Bahamas.”

If you decide to travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama Island, the Department of State offers some tips:

  • Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency and medical situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

The statement from the Bahamas concludes:

“We take all recommendations to travelers to any destination very seriously, not only to ensure their safety and security but to ensure their enjoyment of wonderful, meaningful, fun-filled and memorable experiences in the Bahamas.”

We only have pleasant memories of our stays on Nassau. We didn’t even stay in a resort bubble. We stayed in downtown and walked everywhere, including Fish Fry, and even visited the local liquor store. The conditions certainly could have changed, but it’s hard to imagine.

Even so, the tips from State are common sense. You should always be aware of your surroundings, it is easier to give up your money than fight, and you should never let strangers into your hotel room. A little extra caution is probably all you need to enjoy your trip, even under an official advisory.

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PIT Redefined

A terminal change is in the future for Pittsburgh International Airport. The Allegheny County Airport Authority Board of Directors approved a visionary concept design for the Terminal Modernization Program at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The new terminal will be built between the existing C and D concourses and is slated to open in 2023. A design approach based on a philosophy of nature, technology, and community has designers hoping to create something truly unique.

“This is a facility that truly reflects the growing Pittsburgh region and the renaissance that is ongoing here, including at the airport,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The story of this airport is really a story about moving our region forward – about creating new jobs, retaining ones that are already here and maximizing our assets for the highest and best use for our citizens without saddling local taxpayers with the bill.”

“This new terminal, inspired by the beauty, tech renaissance and people of our region will integrate seamlessly into the great design of the existing Airside Terminal,” said Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “In considering this design, we looked at function first, then form, to construct a building that will be both iconic, practical and affordable and that can be easily adapted as the technology and transportation needs of our community change.”

The firms, Gensler and HDR in association with luis vidal + architects, which were awarded the design contract in July 2018, have been studying the Pittsburgh area and taking inspiration from the topography of the region as well as the neighborhoods and communities that make up the new Pittsburgh.

“I’m pleased to be part of this historic venture to bring all of these rich elements together at Pittsburgh International Airport,” said architect Luis Vidal, founder and Executive President at luis vidal + architects. “The combination of nature, technology and community form the DNA of the region and that should be reflected in the structure of the building to enhance the experience for all users and leave a memorable impression.”

The new terminal will consolidate check-in, ticketing, security and baggage operations into one connected facility.
The concept design currently features:

  • Separate levels for departing and arriving passengers and a non-public level for building systems such as baggage belts
  • Additional space for an expanded TSA checkpoint
  • Shorter walking distances for arriving and departing domestic and international passengers
  • Indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces
  • Additional space for concessions, artwork and other amenities
  • Planning for technological improvements and more automated systems
  • Emphasis on sustainability

“We have worked very hard, and will continue working to further refine this concept that draws on the best features of the region, reflects its transformation and considers the future of aviation,” said Ty Osbaugh, Aviation Leader and Principal at Gensler. “This concept allows for a more modern, adaptable facility that will truly reflect and belong to Pittsburgh.”

Bill Peduzzi, Vice President and Aviation Director at HDR, which will handle the engineering implementation of the design, said “the Pittsburgh region is unique and this modernization program will add another signature piece of infrastructure that represents our character and values as well as positions our region for continued growth and success in the future.”

Additional details about the concept design and Terminal Modernization Program, including new design renderings, videos and FAQs, are available at www.pittransformed.com and stories about the project can be found on the airport’s news site www.BlueSkyPIT.com.

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The Sky’s the Limit for Married Delta Pilots

We might have mentioned before but Amanda and I met at work. The chance to work with your spouse can involve some occasional challenges but it was great for us. We loved the chance to see each other every day.
That chance, unfortunately, took almost 20 years for one married couple. A few weeks before Valentine’s Day a pair of married Delta Airlines pilots based in Minneapolis-St. Paul got the chance to fly together for the first time in their 18-year-long careers.
Captain Kelly S. and First Officer Susan S. finally made their dream a reality 31 years after they first met when he was fresh out of first officer training and she was still working as a gate agent. 

“This flight was the highlight of our career,” said Kelly. “To have the opportunity to pick up a brand new jet from Airbus, observe the title transfer, and the process involved was amazing. We split the takeoff and landing. Susan did the takeoff with an authorized ‘farewell’ wing rock and I did the landing.”

The 21 years of marriage made them a perfect team flying in the sky.

“We are so incredibly grateful for our Delta family, especially for our Lead Program pilot Pat H. for making this trip happen,” said Susan. “And while we are so appreciative to fly for Delta each and every day, the journey is always that much more special when you get to fly with family.”

I miss working with Amanda. I know that special time probably won’t happen again as our careers have gone in different directions but envy anyone that gets the chance to spend more time with their spouse.

Courtesy Delta Airlines

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Restoring the Luxury to Rail Travel

The Jet Age is often considered to have begun in 1958 with the use of Boeing 707s for domestic service. It heralded the end of the end of long cross country luxury train travel. It was only a few years later — in 1963 — that the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City was demolished. In many ways that symbolized the end of train travel being viewed as a luxury method of transportation.

The Moynihan Train Hall, a massive project under construction in NYC, seeks to bring some of that elegance back. The 1913 James A. Farley Post Office, located across from the current Pennsylvania Station, is being renovated to create a public space that offers a tangible link to New York’s grand history while adding much-needed capacity to the region’s rail system. The facility will also increase the concourse space of the current rail station and relieve platform congestion, all while raising the level of the rail experience for hundreds of thousands of travelers.

The Moynihan Train Hall will offer enhanced passenger facili­ties for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and long-distance travelers, including more spacious boarding conditions, dedicated customer waiting for areas with private restrooms, complimentary Wi-Fi in all customer spaces, a dedicated lactation lounge for nursing mothers and a combined ticketing and baggage area. A big part of this renovation is a massive light-filled atrium in the center of the building that used to house the mail sorting facility. A second glass-vaulted atrium will enclose a central corridor extending from 31st Street to 33rd Street and offer additional access to the hall as well as retail and dining space.

As part of the renovation, Amtrak is offering a new club lounge dubbed the Metropolitan Lounge to provide the club level experience that many elite air travelers enjoy at modern airports.

 “Our customers are going to love the new, modern amenities in the Moynihan Train Hall, and we expect these renderings to continue to build their excitement for the Train Hall’s opening in 2021,” said Amtrak EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner.

The Metropolitan Lounge at Moynihan Train Hall will also include priority boarding, dedicated customer service agents, comfortable seating and tables with access to electrical outlets and USB ports, a dedicated family seating area, expanded food and beverage offerings and a 20-foot tall balcony overlooking the Train Hall.

We love seeing new life breathed into historic buildings and think this is a marvelous idea. We can’t wait until the project is complete at the end of next year.

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AA & A- American Airlines and Apple

American Airlines customers will have access to Apple Music to stream more than 50 million songs, playlists and music videos on any domestic fight equipped with Wi-Fi starting in February. American is the first commercial airline to provide exclusive access to Apple Music. The catch is you have to have an Apple Music subscription. If you don’t already have a subscription you will be able to connect to Wi-Fi at no cost, sign up onboard and receive free access for three months.

American Airlines currently has more than 570 aircraft with high-speed Wi-fi and hopes to complete that project by mid-2019. You will also see free streaming live television on more of their aircraft in the future. The airline currently has live access on more than 400 domestic and 155 international aircraft.  AA also understands you’ll want to be stay charged up if you’re using your mobile device for streaming so they will continue to install more power outlets for seats on all their mainline aircraft.

“Our customers want to make the most of their time when flying with us. That’s why we’re investing in high-speed Wi-Fi, the newest movies, live TV and now Apple Music,” said Janelle Anderson, Vice President of Global Marketing at American. “Providing customers with more ways to stay connected throughout each fight is one way to show we value their business and the time they spend with us.”

American Airlines has also helped curate unique city-themed playlists for their destinations as part of some exclusive content.