Like free travel? Of course you do. There are a few contests you should enter, especially if you are a seasoned business traveler or a bubbly sociable traveler. Like most online contests, they will require social media savvy and some old-fashioned popularity contest-winning charm, but hey, you could win free travel!
-Jauntaroo’s Best Job Around the World: The vacation matchmaker site is looking for a “Chief World Explorer” to travel the world for one year (or at least a few exciting destinations like Berlin and the Maldives), with all expenses paid. You’ll be representing Jauntaroo and creating social content, and earning a $100k salary for your trouble. There’s also a “voluntourism” component, promoting the site’s partner charities and “travel with a cause” motto. To enter, upload a 60-second video detailing why you should win by September 15 and get your friends to like it, as only the final five will make it to the interview.
-“American Way” Road Warrior: Already been around the world, with an expertly-packed carry-on and the efficiency of George Clooney in “Up in the Air”? If you’re a true “road warrior” you know that “American Way” is the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, and they have an annual contest to award the ultimate business traveler. The grand prize includes a half million AAdvantage miles and a trip to Curacao, plus a slew of other prizes befitting a frequent flier, such as noise-canceling headphones. Fill out the application (sample question: what makes you a true road warrior?) by August 31, and the five finalists will be posted online for the public to vote on the top three winners.
After a few sailings in the Caribbean, North American cruise travelers can get tired of going to the same islands. Their cruise vacation may be a great value and easy to do but they want more. The problem is that ships can only go so far before having to turn around and get back in a week, the time most travelers have for vacation. The answer: make more islands.
While the cruise industry has not exactly figured out how to make there be land where there was none before, they have become good at building custom cruise ports. New Banana Coast cruise port in Honduras is a great example.
Beginning construction in 2011, the $30 million Banana Coast cruise destination is scheduled to open in November 2014. Billed as “Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea,” the western Caribbean port already has cruise lines adding Banana Coast as a port of call. So far, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Line and, just this week, Oceania Cruises have committed to regular stops with more lines expected as they roll out future itineraries.When the project is complete, Banana Coast will have a 50,000-square-foot shopping facility and transportation hub, which will take visitors to other places on the island. Possible experiences include a VIP airplane trip to the Mayan ruins, snorkeling, kayaking, ATV rides, a culinary tasting tour and more. The diverse climate and topography of Honduras offers waterfalls, rivers, streams, mountains, a tropical rainforest, a nature reserve, coral reefs and crystal clear waters all at the same destination.
This is not the first man-made Caribbean cruise destination either. The Jamaica port of Falmouth, a joint project between Royal Caribbean International and the Port Authority of Jamaica, is another good example. Reminiscent of the historic 1700’s and 1800’s when Falmouth was the big port for sugar exports worldwide, the port is built to handle Royal Caribbean’s huge Oasis-class ships. The location also allows visitors to do shore excursions from both existing ports of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, each about a half-hour away.
In the Dominican Republic, construction continues on the Amber Cove Cruise Center, a giant $65 million facility that will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. This one is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation. Amber Cove will feature a welcome center with a variety of retail offerings, including a marketplace for locally sourced Dominican crafts and souvenirs, as well as a wide range of themed restaurants and bars, water attractions and a transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to the surrounding destinations and attractions.
As the high price of airfare continues to keep North American cruise travelers sailing from home ports scattered around the United States, look for these man-made islands to continue gaining popularity.
Another Caribbean destination, which has become increasingly accessible by sea or air is Curacao. Boasting 35 beaches and an eclectic mix of history and culture, the capital city of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a good choice to visit as we see in this video:
If being part of the first commercial space trip sounds like something only the ultra-wealthy might actually do, think again. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a competition going on right now that will award a trip into space, billions not required.
Called the Claim Your Place In Space contest, KLM is giving us the chance to be in Curacao on January 1, 2014, when the first commercial space trip takes off.
First, on April 22, KLM goes to the Nevada desert to launch a special high altitude balloon that will carry cameras and GPS tracking equipment to monitor the mission. Your part in the deal: guess how high the balloon will get before it pops.
Get it right (or have the closest estimate) and win a flight for two to Curacao, stay at a luxury hotel then board the SXC Lynx spaceship for a free ride.”If you win, you win big,” says KLM on its dedicated Claim Your Place In Space website (takes a while to load but worth it). “An all-inclusive ticket to space aboard the SXC Lynx … will rocket you 103 km (64 miles) up into space at 4 G’s of thrust.”
Win the prize, worth $95,000, and “you will see the earth as you never have before and experience complete weightlessness.”
It’s Friday the 13th! Let’s hope nothing too scary happens today. How the time has flown – it seems hard to believe that we’re nearly halfway through summer. While July is often a slow month, the hotel world has stayed hot, hot, hot with openings, trends and promotions. Here’s what we’ve got on tap for you this week in “Hotel News We Noted.”
Hotel Opening: The Nantucket Hotel & Resort
The quintessential summer town has a new resort; The Nantucket Hotel & Resort opened officially yesterday and has an equal emphasis on the luxe and family-friendly. Featuring both guestrooms and family suites, a casual eatery with a decadent lobster-stuffed burger and two heated swimming pools, this is a great option for families looking to escape for a week or two. The 60-room hotel starts at $395 for regular rooms and $660 for family suites, with a special opening promo of 20 percent off for three nights in a one-to-four bedroom suite.
Social Hotel News: Hotel Tonight Goes European (and Canadian)
One of our all-time favorite travel apps, Hotel Tonight, has expanded in the past few weeks with the launch of a London edition. The app-only product, which offers (as you would guess), discounted hotel rooms for “tonight” is now in more than 40 cities, including Toronto and Vancouver. I used the app to book a last-minute hotel room in Newport, Rhode Island, over Memorial Day, paying just $99 for a great suite at the adorable Architect’s Inn, when rates were well over $300 at most other places. Easy to use and usually a pretty good deal, this is one of our top app picks and great news for those looking for London hotel rooms in this admittedly very busy summer overseas.
Hotel Perk: Ride In Style
We’ve heard about gratis BMWs and the one-off Aston Martin rental, but Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have gotten some cool perks for transportation of late that are a bit more out-of-the-box. Fairmont properties around the world offer guests the use of BMW Cruise Bikes to hop on and explore, but Fairmont Miramar Hotels & Bungalowsin Santa Monica offers Dregs 37 Ditch Surf skateboards. For guests staying in one of the 32 bungalow rooms, the skateboards (or long boards) are available to cruise around Venice beach, the pier, Third Street Promenade and anywhere else you’d want to go. Guests looking for a high-flying mode of transportation can head to The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver or The Fairmont Empress, Victoria. The hotels share a Helijet that is available to transport guests to and from each respective location in 35 minutes. Fairmont has also expanded its complimentary chauffeured car service with BMW to its hotels throughout the United States. Awesome perks!
Hot Hotel of the Week: Kura Hurlanda
It’s been a busy week and we just got around to watching “The Bachelorette” last night, where we got an insider’s look at Kura Hurlanda Lodge in Curacao. We’re planning a whole feature on hotels of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” but we couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this Caribbean gem. Did you see the tree house mansion used in her date with Jef? How romantic! If you want to live like Emily, they’re offering two different Bachelorette packages, starting at $1,696.
Places of worship have long been points of interest for travelers. Solemn and usually quite ornate, these buildings provide a window onto a community’s history and values and often give visitors a much-needed pause while pounding the sightseeing pavement. Cathedrals are typical for this kind of touring. But have you ever thought to pay a visit to a synagogue?
My fascination with exploring synagogues began on a trip to Willemstad, Curaçao, home of Mikvé Israel-Emanuel, the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas built in 1651. Several years later, I had the opportunity to visit the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, Kerala, India. Constructed in 1568, it is the oldest “active” synagogue in India – “active” because there are fewer than 20 Jews left in Cochin, most having emigrated to Israel. Coincidentally, I learned about the Jews of Cochin from an exhibit at the 6th and I Synagogue, a historic synagogue in Washington, DC, that is now used primarily as a community center and arts space.
The Jewish diaspora is thriving in many parts of the world. Yet in places like Cochin and Mumbai, the local Jewish community is dwindling, giving impetus to visiting some synagogues before they are shuttered or left to become museums. The following are some of the synagogues I have seen or wish to explore on my travels.