Sorry Indianapolis, You’re No Longer the Sole Location Offering TSA PreCheck Enrollment Background Checks

Two weeks ago, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it would began allowing travelers to apply for its PreCheck program, “an expedited screening process” through airport security.

Curiously though, the only airport in the country where travelers could complete the program’s required background interview was Indianapolis International Airport. That changed today when TSA opened three enrollment centers in the Washington, DC area. Interestingly, none of them are at DC-area airports. Nor are any of them in DC itself.Instead, according to the Washington Post, the centers are located at

  • 3139 Duke St., Alexandria, Virginia
  • 2200 Broening Highway, Suite 110, Dundalk, Maryland
  • 10665 Stanhaen Place, Suite 300A, La Plata, Maryland

To enroll, applicants need to complete an online form, then visit one of the TSA centers. PreCheck requires a background check, fingerprints, $85 for a five-year enrollment and documentation of your identity.

Egypt Protests Scatter Cruise Ships, Concern Tour Operators

Egypt’s tourism business has been suffering since the 2011 uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. This week, in response to protests in Egypt, the vital industry received another blow as cruise lines and tour operators began making alternative plans.

“In an abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean International has decided to cancel Mariner of the Seas’ next port call to Egypt,” says a notice sent to travel agents Thursday. “Mariner of the Seas, which departs Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, on Saturday, September 15, will no longer call on Alexandria, Egypt, on Tuesday, September 18. Instead, the ship will now call to Sicily (Messina), Italy, on, Sunday, September 16, and Valletta, Malta, on Monday, September 17.

That caution also applies to sister lines Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. It’s the up side to cruise ships, often called “floating resorts.” When trouble presents itself cruise lines simply sail in another direction.

Princess Cruises, the first to return to Egypt after the 2011 uprising, is staying the course, for now. “We haven’t made any changes yet to our upcoming calls to Egypt,” Princess Spokesperson Karen Candy told Gadling. “We’re closely monitoring the situation and will of course make any changes we feel necessary in order to ensure our passengers are safe.”

Security, it seems, is an ongoing problem in Egypt. Last Sunday, about 150 tour guides demonstrated outside of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, saying the lack of security is complicating attempts to lure tourists back.

“There is no security. This is not a joke,” Dina Yacoub, a 29-year-old guide told the Associated Press in a Washington Post article published just before this week’s anti-American violence in Libya, Yemen and Egypt this week. “We are asking tourists to come back … how would they unless there is security?”

The cruise line positions this week mirror their posturing after the 2011 unrest/chaos when they played it safe by keeping ships and passengers out of harms way.

[Flickr photo by archer10]

Pets travel safe, near or far

Americans love their pets and more pet owners than ever are traveling with them. Spending over $50 billion on pets in 2011, the pet business is booming and so is the business of keeping pets safe and secure when traveling.

“Pet identification, whether at home or abroad, is an important part of keeping pets safe,” says Susan Smith, President of Pet Travel that has on file entry requirements for countries all around the world, is familiar with airline regulations and serves as a Pet Travel Agent.

Pet Travel encourages the extra security provided by a microchip implant, based on a passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, making pets traceable worldwide.

If international travel with a pet is not in the budget, staycations are available too at destinations like A Dog’s Day Out in Alexandria, Virginia, where people bring in their dogs to stay either for the day or overnight.

But the ultimate pampering for pets might be found at dog salons like Bark and Bubbles in Fairfax, Virginia where pets can be washed and groomed, have a birthday party or get a facial.

The largest 24/7 in-door doggie spa is at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania, the 2012 Pet Friendly Hotel of the Year award winner and host hotel for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This one offers a variety of amenities that Show participants require: exclusive DogTread Treadmills, bathing/beauty parlor/salon, dog grooming/comfort station, canine gym, walking area, a canine masseuse and animal communicator and even his and hers relieving area.

The 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show takes place on February 13th and 14th, 2012 at Madison Square Garden, directly across the street from New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania.

Flickr photo by pretendtious

Egypt plans smoking ban

Smokers beware–there will soon be nowhere to run.

It started in Europe and North America, and now it’s spreading around the world. Country after country is banning the use of tobacco in public places. Some countries are going even further. Finland plans to ban smoking entirely, while more limited laws are appearing in the most surprising places.

Even the smoker’s haven of the Middle East is getting into the game. Syria’s smoking ban covers public buildings and popular gathering spots such as cafes, and now Egypt is starting a smoking ban too. Alexandria is the first city to enact the ban, which will eventually cover the whole country. Officials are starting by enforcing a usually ignored law already on the books that forbids smoking in government buildings, and the ban will spread to other public buildings such as cafes within two years. Other cities will soon follow.

One wonders if Egypt’s many hookah bars will fight the ban like the hookah bars in Paris.

Pylon from Cleopatra’s temple raised from the sea

Archaeologists have pulled a massive pylon from the bay of Alexandria, Egypt, that was once a part Cleopatra’s royal complex.

The pylon, a pillar of red granite measuring 2.2 meters long and weighing nine tons, formed part of the temple of Isis and stood right next to Cleopatra’s mausoleum in the year 30 BC. These and other building sank into the harbor during a series of earthquakes more than a thousand years ago.

Unfortunately it looks like Cleopatra’s mausoleum doesn’t contain Cleopatra’s body, so don’t expect some Generation-X Howard Carter to supply us with another treasure of Tutankhamen. It appears that priests took her body inland so she could rest beside her lover Marc Anthony in some unknown location.

The block is interesting in that it shows an Egyptian style despite the fact that Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. By Cleopatra’s reign (51-30 BC) Egypt had been under heavy Greek and Roman influence for centuries. Apparently the famous female pharaoh wanted to keep an Egyptian identity, as can be seen in this statue of her as an Egyptian goddess.

The pylon and other artifacts from the sunken royal district may end up in a planned underwater museum that Egypt wants to build in Alexandria. Archaeologists have discovered a whole city graced with 26 sphinxes, countless statues and fragments of architecture, and ancient shipwrecks.

Don’t wait until the new museum is built to see Alexandria. There’s plenty more to experience in one of Egypt’s most interesting cities.