Russian Art Museum Hosts Sylvester Stallone Art Retrospective

Sylvester Stallone
Flickr/Gage Skidmore

The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg is exhibiting a retrospective entitled “Sylvester Stallone. Painting. From 1975 Until Today,” Condé Nast Traveler reports. Apparently the museum has already showed works from everybody else.

According to the museum’s exhibit notes, Stallone planned to become an artist before he became an actor, even taking “a course in Switzerland.”

The images and characters found in Stallone’s paintings, in a way, replicate events in his creative and personal biography. But they are not portraits in the traditional understanding of the word. Frantic form and color are used in the large-scale transfigurations that breathe new life and energy into the people who surround the artist, or the celebrated actor who is the idol of millions. In his works, the subject matter reveals itself through, among other things, the title, words, letters and symbols painted directly on the surface of the canvas.

The exhibit opened Monday and runs through Jan. 13, 2014.Previously, the best known piece of artwork involving Stallone, of course, was the life-sized bronze Rocky statue that the Philadelphia Museum of Art displays at the bottom of its stairs.

Sly Stallone - Creative Ways To Go Up 'Rocky' Steps

Great Comeback Cities For Travel

comeback cities - Detroit love
Flickr, Michigan Municipal League

Recently, the former automotive boomtown of Detroit made history by filing for bankruptcy, making it an easy butt of jokes on Twitter and in the news. However, Motown has also been making strides to become America’s great comeback city, with artists and entrepreneurs lured by cheap rents, and innovative projects happening all over town (disclosure: I’m a big fan of the city, and so is the New York TimesFrank Bruni). Detroit has more than a few great things going for it, including architecture, museums and sports, and tourist dollars could go a long way in helping the city recover. Can it become a tourist destination again?

Some of the top tourist destinations in the world were once no-go zones for travelers, suffering from financial crises, war, natural disasters and rampant crime. Here are a few of our favorite comeback cities:Berlin: One of the world’s most resilient cities, Berlin has been through war, occupation and one gigantic divide, and come back to thrive. In the decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, East Berlin in particular has become a hipster mecca, due to some of the lowest prices in western Europe for nightlife and a vibrant art and design scene. While not everyone welcomes the gentrification, the German capital is continuing to gain millions of foreign tourists each year.

Buenos Aires: A mix of hyperinflation, government corruption and mounting debt led to riots and an economic crisis in Argentina in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The country has stabilized and the peso value has risen, but it’s affordability has made it increasingly attractive to travelers in the last ten years, making it the No. 1 tourism destination in South America. Buenos Aires is opening more boutique hotels each year, ensuring a place every year on lists such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List of new hotels.

New Orleans: A longtime favorite for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, along with events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, New Orleans was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism is the biggest source of employment in the city and a major factor to its economy, and the disaster made visitor numbers plummet. Louisiana’s recovery has been slow but steady, and major infrastructure improvements brought on by this year’s “Super Gras” have helped the Big Easy come back.

New York City: Visitors to the Big Apple have topped 50 million, spending billions of dollars in the city annually. While New York has never suffered from lack of tourists, the 1980s crack epidemic and surge in crime gave it an image of being a violent, dirty and dangerous city and visitor numbers dipped. Like Detroit, it also faced possible bankruptcy in 1975 and President Ford was infamously (mis)quoted to tell NYC to “drop dead.” The terrorist attacks in 2001 caused another slowdown in visitors, but it’s now one of the safest, most visited cities in the world.

Tokyo: While Tokyo was not as devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as other parts of Japan, it definitely felt the hurt with a sharp decline in tourism, major damage to national infrastructure, and radiation concerns. Foreign visitors are now exceeding the pre-disaster levels, though seismologists worry that an even bigger earthquake is due to hit Tokyo.

An honorable mention must go to the countries in the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and the cities of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the popularity of the Dalmatian coast as a beach destination, or the battle-scarred Serbian capital as a nightlife hotspot? They aren’t quite seeing the same tourism numbers as the destinations above, but they should be on your travel radar. Istanbul and Beirut are also favorites for their many comebacks and reinventions, though the effects from current events are already being seen in the local tourism industries.

What are your favorite “comeback cities”?

Should Travel Reviewers Be Anonymous?

male eating in restaurant
Alamy

Yesterday New York Times reporter Pete Wells published a review of the Manhattan French restaurant Daniel, removing one of its four stars in part because of the unequal treatment he received as a recognized journalist. He and a lesser-known colleague ordered the same meal, but had totally different experiences, with Wells receiving additional items, extra wine pours, and more doting service. While the other reporter still felt well taken care of, Wells wondered if “regular” guests could benefit as much from a little coddling as the critics.

Slate’s “Brow Beat” culture blog compared Wells’ experience to former Times critic Ruth Reichl, who once visited Le Cirque both as her famous self and in disguise. She surmised that the “favored patron” treatment was actually part of the draw of the restaurant: the hope that one could be given the VIP service. The blog suggests reviewers dispense with the pretense of being anonymous reviewers and go public, perhaps balancing reviews with intel from the non-famous.In the travel media world, the problem of anonymity and freebies has long been an ethical debate. “Conde Nast Traveler” magazine adheres to a “truth in travel” policy, stipulating that its writers never accept freebies and travel unannounced to try to ensure honest and equal opinions. Some guidebooks such as Fodor’s allow some comps for reviewers, but insist they will not guarantee a good review or even inclusion in a guide. Writer Chuck Thompson exposed some of the industry secrets in his book “Smile While You’re Lying,” noting that much mainstream travel writing is just PR copy, and how many reviews are simply tit for tat.

In the age of tweeting, checking in, and Instagramming our meals and trips, is anonymity even possible? More importantly, do we care? While a famous reviewer might have a richer experience than your average Joe, he can also get deeper access and a wider variety of offerings, combined with a professional’s expertise. Do you want to read a hotel review from a guy on his first trip to London, or someone who has stayed in dozens? Perhaps user-generated content such as Trip Advisor and Yelp can balance the VIP reviews, and give us a broader spectrum.

Do you care about anonymous reviews? Can freebies stay free from bias?

Disney Cruise Line Tops All Others In Satisfaction Survey

Disney Cruise LIne
Chris Owen

Ranking cruise lines in a variety of critical areas, Disney Cruise Line came out on top in JD Powers 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, released today. In spite of recent negative press reports affecting cruise line satisfaction across the board, the survey revealed some surprising trends and priorities. The study also verified some long-held beliefs about cruise travel.

“Many cruise lines in the report have very high levels of passenger satisfaction, well above the report average; however, for more than a year, the overall industry has been dealing with a lot of negative news affecting customer perceptions, expectations and trust,” said Ramez Faza, senior account manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power in a MarineLog report.

Top three cruise lines on a scale of 1000 gave Disney Cruise Line (871) a commanding lead over second place Royal Caribbean International (838) followed by Holland America Line (835). Noted as a big problem for cruise lines, all of which scored high on customer satisfaction, nearly one in five cruise passengers reported having a problem on their sailing.”To raise the bar, the industry must focus on meeting the needs of the nearly 20 percent of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience,” notes Faza. “Cruise lines need to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction and determine what will motivate them to come back.”

Confirming what many cruise travelers already know, price was rated as the primary reason for choosing a particular cruise line (53 percent), with the average fare paid a reported $1628 per person.

The report of 3,003 cruise travelers in the past 12 months measured cruise line customer satisfaction based on service, stateroom, food, embarkation/debarkation, entertainment, cost, and excursions.

In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line also found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Disney Cruise Liner's Floating Water Park

Disney Cruise Line Takes Top Three In World’s Best Ships Poll

When Condé Nast comes out with a readers’ poll, cruise travelers worldwide take notice. To be mentioned near the top of their list is a sought-after award worth bragging about. In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Beating out Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox to round out the top five, classic Disney Cruise ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder took the first and second spots, respectively, followed by 2011’s Disney Dream in third place.

“With four ships in our fleet, more families than ever before can set sail on a Disney Cruise Line vacation filled with imaginative fun for the kids and exciting family time for all,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in a SILive report. “We’re thrilled that the experiences our cast and crew members deliver at sea continue to be recognized as outstanding by our guests.”

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It was all a part of Condé Nast’s 100 Best Cruise Ships In the World, a reader poll ranking travel experiences with categories of small ships, medium ships, large ships and river cruise ships.

Interestingly, it was Disney Cruise Line’s two older ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder that took top honors followed closely by 2011’s Disney Dream with the latest, greatest version of what Disney does at sea, Disney Fantasy trailing in eighth place. Not that eight place is bad mind you – just not quite as magical.

Here are all top ten in the large ship category. Click on any of them for more information from Condé Nast.

89.9 Disney Magic

89.6 Disney Wonder

89.5 Disney Dream

88.6 Celebrity Eclipse

88.2 Celebrity Equinox

87.0 Queen Mary 2

86.2 Celebrity Solstice

84.8 Disney Fantasy

83.7 Oasis of the Seas

82.7 Liberty of the Seas

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Docks in NYC


[Photo credit- Chris Owen]