Croatia Joins EU, Keeps Pretty Money

Croatia
Karl Baron/Flickr

Travel to Croatia is increasing, up nearly 20 percent over last year just counting visitors from North America. Showcased by the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones,” Croatia has seen a surge in tourism, one that they hope to continue by joining the European Union.

Last year, visitors from the United States and Canada reached 237,826, up 17.8 percent over 2011. Recovering from a multi-year recession, Croatia believes being part of the EU will give tourism an additional boost but will be a member on their own terms.

Croatia, the home of Dalmatian dogs, will not be a member of the Schengen area that allows members easy access in and out of the country. Instead they will continue checking passports of all entering or exiting the country.Known for its lovely islands and beautiful people, Croatia will not adopt the euro as national currency, choosing instead to keep the colorful Kuna as legal tender.

Croatia Becomes 28th EU Member Nation

Game of Thrones Tours Launch In Europe

horslips5, Flickr

Game of Thrones fans can now visit familiar filming locations on new walking tours around Belfast, Northern Ireland and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Here all all the details for you Game of Thrones fans out there, courtesy of tour company Viator:

  • In Belfast, a 9-hour private tour takes visitors along the Causeway Coastal Route, which should be instantly recognizable to any fans of the HBO series. Pose for photos on the Dark Hedges road before crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and see the caves where Melisandre of Asshai gave birth to a shadow baby before stopping for lunch at Ballintoy Harbour, which is known as Lordsport Harbour in the series. The tour also includes a stop at the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway.
  • Four-hour walking tours in Dubrovnik take fans to the setting of King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms in the series. Visitors will check out Lovrijenac Fortress and climb the city walls that were attacked by the Baratheons in the first series, from which point they can look out over Blackwater Bay. According to Viator, a guide will also take visitors to several city parks used to film countryside scenes in the series.

In addition to Northern Ireland and Croatia, Game of Thrones has also filmed in Malta, Iceland and Morocco – but no tours have been announced there as of now. The fact that these tours have been developed, however, is a powerful testament to the effect popular culture has on tourism.

[Via Skift]

Upscale Cruise Line Offers Something Sinful

cruiseCruise lines are looking for new, different and exciting entertainment options to keep passengers occupied at night. Some have added Broadway shows, others offer interactive audience participation programming, all focused on their target audience and what they want. Celebrity Cruises took a look at what their passengers are looking for in the way of late-night entertainment too. The result: Sin City Comedy.

If the thought of “Sin City” has you thinking raunchy, tasteless entertainment that we might not see from the (normally) upscale Modern Luxury line, think again.

Described as, “funny and a little bit sexy,” Sin City Comedy will tap comedians with tasteful acts for the late-night show offered on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette, rotating to Celebrity Solstice in May, said Celebrity Cruises in a recent statement.

Think of comics who have appeared on Comedy Central, VH1, HBO, (sort of raunchy) “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (less raunchy).

That sort of sin.

Actually a product of Sin City Comedy at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the cruise line version of the show will mimic a two-time winner of the Best of Las Vegas award.

Surprised? Remember, this is the same cruise line that sports a sea-view shower in its top end Reflection Suites. Those allow passengers to bare all to the world but come with an option to turn glass from transparent to frosted to reveal less.

Celebrity’s Sin City Comedy shows are presented at varying late-night time slots in the Celebrity Central venue on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette. 18 and older please. Thank you.



[Image credit – Flickr user STEVENJOHNSELLER]

The New New Orleans: Memories Still Locked Behind Closed Doors

New Orleans is a city of festivities – conventions, Mardi Gras balls, graduation ceremonies, entertainment. And for decades, the place where New Orleanians of all races gathered for those events was the Municipal Auditorium, the centerpiece of Louis Armstrong Park.

An afternoon spent at the New Orleans Public Library brings to life a sense of what the auditorium, dedicated in May 1930, meant to this city. Page after page of records and photographs depict ice shows, diving exhibitions, boxing matches, performances by the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo.

One of the two meeting halls was hung with bunting for a 1937 gathering of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, the pictures show. The auditorium hosted gatherings of morticians, shown looking over the latest double lined caskets and gleaming stainless steel morgue examining tables.

A list of events for 1953 lists Carnival balls every single night in January except New Year’s Day, often two a night. And the auditorium did not limit itself only a white audience. Joe Louis appeared that year in August with singer Ruth Brown (at an event labeled “All Colored.”) Later on, the auditorium was used as a temporary casino, and housed the New Orleans Jazz basketball team as well as hockey.

This auditorium where so many of New Orleans’ festive events took place still stands across from the French Quarter, in use as recently as 2005, when it was a center for the distribution of MREs (Meals Ready To Eat).

But since the aftermath of the storm, the Municipal Auditorium has stood quiet, a looming reminder of the memories locked behind its closed doors, despite years of trying to figure out what can be done with it. It is arguably the single most important civic building in New Orleans that remains shut since Katrina, although there has been plenty of discussion about its future.

%Gallery-170748%In November, the auditorium appeared in the HBO series “Treme,” in a scene set in 2008, in which developers suggest it can become a National Jazz Center. In fact, New Orleans’ former mayor, Ray Nagin, backed a plan to turn it into a state-of-the-art production facility, but that idea fell apart amid criticism from city council members and the city’s inspector general.

There is an inkling of hope, however, that the auditorium may someday be put back into use. In May, the city announced that it planned to use $16.67 million in FEMA grants to begin a restoration, out of a total of $27.5 million that’s been allocated for repairs.

“The city has been very aggressive in working with FEMA to get our fair share of recovery dollars,” Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said in an email. “While these new funds are an encouraging step forward, there is a still a ways to go.”

For one thing, the repairs will have to take place in phases – first, the removal of asbestos and lead from the interior, the replacement of the roof, the stabilization of the roof, and removal of mold which is said to cover much of the walls inside.

But there are no schematics of what the restored auditorium will look like, no architects’ renderings, no visions of how the building could be brought back to life. That’s because more money for the project will be needed, and it simply isn’t there yet, says the mayor’s spokesman.

Its only use, for now, is as the backdrop to events that take place in Armstrong Park, like the Treme Gumbo Festival held in November, and the summer concert series sponsored by People United for Armstrong Park, which had its inaugural season in 2012.

Even though the park has been cleaned up, and is starting to attract a regular stream of visitors, that wasn’t the original goal for Emanuel Lain, one of PUFAP’s founders.

He was actually more interested in the restoration of the auditorium than in fixing up the park when he started canvassing homes in Treme, the neighborhood that backs up to the park. He wanted to know whether neighbors thought it was important to bring the building back to life, and what they might like to see it be used for.

“I saw amazing acts. This was like the center of the universe,” Lain said. “Wrestling matches. Carnival balls. Amazing things happened here.”

It’s surely important to Lain, who attended his high school graduation in the auditorium, which has the indestructible aura of those solidly built 1920s buildings that dot the American landscape. All visitors can see now is its exterior, remarkably unscathed given the damage that Emanuel says has taken place inside.

The words “ART,” “DRAMA,” “ATHLETICS” and “POETRY” are carved in the facade above one entrance, echoing photographs that show the names of famous writers such as “SHAKESPEARE,” “VIRGIL,” “MILLET” and “DANTE” carved on the cornice above the two auditoriums inside. Other words have now joined them. “DO NOT OPEN,” reads a door on the building’s east side.

For now, those photographs, tucked away in the city archives on the library’s third floor, are the only inkling that visitors have to what lies inside. But if Lain gets his way, perhaps those memories can become realities once more. “We did something special,” Lain says of the work that’s taken place to restore the surrounding park. “Now, we want to build on that.”

For more on the New New Orleans, click here.

[Photo credits: Micheline Maynard]

Police haul HBO executive, husband off Delta Airlines flight

A high-profile couple from New York was recently hauled off a Delta Airlines flight after the man allegedly verbally abused a flight attendant because his television in first class didn’t work.

Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO Documentary Films, and her husband Sidney Koch are considering legal action against Delta, the New York Times’s Caucus Blog reports. Their lawyer, John Horan, tells the Times: “They were detained at JFK in a public space for two hours and were humiliated by the experience. It was ghastly and unnecessary.”

What happened, you ask?
The couple was traveling back to New York from the Sundance Film Festival on Inauguration Day, in first class. Apparently they had confirmed ahead of time with Delta that live television would be available in first class, so that they could watch President Obama’s speech. But upon takeoff many of the TVs in first class malfunctioned, including Sheila Nevins’. Compounding this, the pilot reportedly kept pausing the entertainment system — therefore interrupting Obama’s speech — with announcements about various landmarks the plane was flying over.

This was all enough to send Sidney Koch into a rage, says the Times. Delta claims Koch became “verbally abusive” to a flight attendant. Koch admits that he lost his temper, and he says he apologized to the flight attendant.

Nevertheless, local police met the flight at JFK and removed the couple from the plane. They were not issued any summons after their questioning at the airport.

What do you think about this? Did the flight attendant overreact? Does the couple have a case against Delta? In our post-9/11 world, do flight attendants at times appear a little too quick to get law enforcement involved? I mean, the guy was pissed about his TV, so he turns around and, what, pledges to bring down the plane?

Obviously a lot has to do with what was actually said in this case, and maybe we’ll never know that.

I for one find the word’s of Delta’s spokesperson, Betsy Talton, interesting. Speaking to the Times, she says specifically that Koch was “verbally abusive” to the FA. She doesn’t use the word “threat.”

No one has the right to abuse a flight attendant, verbally or otherwise. But what constitutes actually threatening a flight?

Launching into a name-calling, profanity-fueled rage against a FA is wrong, but do you put me in cuffs? Is it tantamount to physically endangering the flight by, say, charging the cockpit or attacking someone?



Aside from snooty cable tv execs, what other odd things have been found on planes? Click the images to find out!