Tuesday, October 16, 2018

New Czech Glass Museum in Prague

The Museum Portheimka is showing glass art by contemporary Czech artists. Located in a Baroque-era summer palace, in opened in June 2018. There are six themed galleries which hold permanent collections and there will also be temporary exhibits.

It is open Tues through Sun from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the cost is CZK 120 (about $5) for adults and CZK60 for seniors.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Coastal Pacific Train Service To Be Restored in New Zealand

The Coastal Pacific is a train that connects Christchurch and Picton on the northeast coast of New Zealand's South Island. It went out of service because of track damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Repairs are almost complete and the route is scheduled to open in December of 2018. The trip from Christchurch to Picton takes about 7 hours, travels along the coast, and stops in Rangiora, Kaikoura, and Blenheim.

A flexible pass can be purchased which allows hop on hop off privileges on one day of travel and costs NZD 159 (about $107). 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

New National Parks in Chile in 2018

On the Corcovado Gulf, in the south-central regions, Parque Pumalin is 715,000 acres of coastal and Andean terrains and includes flora and fauna that are endangered. There are many hiking trails and campsites within the park.

The other park is south of Pumalin, Parque Nacional Milimoyu. It had been a nature preserve and is heavily forested. It gets its name from the 7,800-foot Melimoyu active volcano and the park, which shows very little human activity, includes marine regions that whales and dolphins call home.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hurricane Guarantee For Cayman Island Accommodations

Some hotels in the Cayman Islands offer a hurricane guarantee to their customers. This allows the guest to cancel or rebook for a later date with no penalty if there is a hurricane warning within 48 hours of their stay.

You can check to see if your accommodation participates in the guarantee by visiting www.visitcaymanislands.com/en-us/about-cayman/weather/hurricane-guarantee and click the link on that page.

The Cayman Islands has been offering this guarantee for several years during the hurricane season which officially runs from June 1 to Nov 30. Be sure to check the participating accommodation list because it can change year to year.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Air Canada's Smartphone App Data Breach

This data breach may have resulted in the theft of personal information from thousands of customers, including passport information. Authorities are investigating but don't know how it happened or who was responsible. All they did do was confirm that Air Canada has a weak customer password system.

All customers who have an account with Air Canada are being asked to reset their passwords using the new and more stringent guidelines.

This breach only applies to the app. It does not apply to anyone using the website. Also, credit card numbers are encrypted and were not listed in the data stolen.

Friday, September 21, 2018

What Happens When Your Flight Disappears From the Airline's Schedule

Good question. And one I just recently had to deal with. So what can you do? Basically, nothing!

We are traveling to SE Asia next year. The outbound air was easy. We are flying into Hong Kong first for a few days and I was able to get Business Class on Cathay Pacific with American Airlines miles  :)

From HKG we then fly to Saigon and with an alert set up on Kayak.com, I was able to grab a flight for $217 pp.

But planning the return was agonizing. Part of the problem was trying to decide if we go straight home or head off to one of the Thai beaches for a couple of days and/or spend some time in Singapore. That meant some research and while I used to enjoy sitting at my computer, digging through links, looking for the neat hotels and best things to do ... well, not so much anymore.

I started to do some research on the Thai island of Koh Samui. Which hotel? Which beach? I started to do some research on Singapore. Which hotel? What to see/do? I became overwhelmed. Because a couple of months on either side of our SE Asia trip are cruises and those ports of call require research and planning too. So in the end, decided we'd come straight home from Bangkok.

Air from BKK to home was cumbersome. Lousy departure times. Long layovers. Unless we wanted to pay exorbitant prices. I had enough miles to get Main Cabin on AA from HKG to home. For this long a flight we wanted Premium Economy so I figured I'd get the mileage seats then pay to upgrade to PE. Should be no problem. After all, we did just that on Delta last year. So the plan was to fly BKK to HKG, stay overnight near the airport, and fly home the next day on America in PE seats.

Called AA and guess what? You can't pay to upgrade on AA. So I'm now back at square one.

More air research. Pros and cons of flying all the way from BKK or stopping overnight in HKG. The big disadvantage of the later is that we'd have to go through HKG Immigration and Customs and then go through Security the next day. So finally, after many comparisons, found a flight on Air Canada that had one of the best prices in PE and a short overall flight time of 'only' 22 hrs. We would fly from BKK to HKG to YYZ (that's Toronto) and then home.

Now we come to the subject matter of the title of this post.

I get on the Air Canada website and the flight is not there!!! It was just there a couple of days ago. I know because I almost booked it at that time. I expected to get on the site today and find a price change but not the whole itinerary disappear! So I checked the segments. BKK to HKG. HKG to YYZ. The first could be done with now one stop instead of none. The later also had one stop instead of the previous none. So I called Air Canada and spoke to a rep. He couldn't find anything either. I told him I had almost booked this a couple of days ago. What would have happened to my reservation? He said we would have either been rerouted or we could get a refund. So guess what? There is NOTHING you can do except yell and scream (not helpful), accept the new routing, or ask for a refund if you don't like the rerouting (like a 22 hr trip going to 30+ and four changes of planes instead of two) and be, like us, back to square one.

Well, after more time on Kayak and airline sites, we now have our flights home. What did I end up doing? I got to thinking about why change planes in HKG? Suppose we changed planes in the U.S.? And spent the night at a hotel near that U.S. airport and next day security is a breeze because we have TSA Pre-Check.  Plus it meant only the U.S. Immigration and Customs which we'd have to do anyway.

I checked flights from BKK to Chicago, JFK, Newark, and Atlanta. What I learned was a big advantage of doing it this way, using an air search engine like Kayak, is that I got options on non-U.S. airlines. The end result? We are flying BKK to Newark on Cathay Pacific in PE seats. We will stay overnight at the EWR airport Hampton Inn 1/2 mile away and fly home on United the next day.

And the end $ result? Air Canada from BKK to home in PE was (when it existed) $1757 pp. Presently the only other viable option was AA at $1854 pp with BKK departure times we didn't like and, most options, with 3 plane changes. The air on Cathay Pacific from BKK to EWR, changing in HKG, in PE is $1440 pp. The flight on United is $126 pp and the baggage fee, assuming we have to check 2 bags, is $30 pp. With the hotel at $60 pp, the grand total is $1656 pp, $100 less than the Air Canada fare I was willing to book.

On top of that, we get to fly Cathay Pacific which is a top rated airline, we leave at a reasonable hour of the day (1:05 pm - Delta had flights leaving 1:05 AM), arrive in the U.S. at a reasonable hour (9 pm local time) and get home the next day at a reasonable hour (3:30 PM instead of midnight) for friends to pick us up at the airport.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Michael Palin of Monty Python Fame Donates His Personal Papers

British actor, writer and adventurer, Michael Palin donated his personal archives to the British Library and On August 7, 2018, they went on display in the Sir John Ritblad: Treasures Gallery. The archives include diaries, photos, and scripts plus more than 50 notebooks of Mony Python material, including unfilmed skits.

Entry is free to the British Library and it is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Lonely Planet Publishes Books on Cruise Ports

In May 2018, Lonely Planet released its first-ever guidebooks about cruise ports. Titles available are "Cruise Ports Caribbean," "Scandinavia & Northern Europe," and "Alaska."

Each book has information on sights in and around the port cities, advice on booking excursions and cultural information. The guides cost $19.99 each.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cruise Ships Leaving Home Fleets

Two well-known cruise ships will be leaving their fleets in 2019

Built in 1988 and holding 835 passengers, Holland America Line's Prinsendam will join the fleet of German cruise company Phoenix Reisen in July 2019.

Built in 1995 and holding 1,822 passengers, P & O Cruises' Oriana will exit in August 2019. No word yet on future plans for the ship.

Monday, August 27, 2018

New Roman Museum in Nimes, France

With more than 5,000 pieces on display, the Musee de la Romanite opened on June 2, 2018, across the street from the Arenes de Nimes, the ancient Roman coliseum located in that city.

Among the displays is a large mosaic, unearthed during the museum's construction, depicting the Theban king Pentheus being murdered by his mother.

Open daily at 10 a.m. Closing varies from 6 to 8 p.m., depending on the season. Entrance is € 8 (about $9).