Biking the car-less streets of New York City after Hurricane Irene

I’ve suddenly found myself stuck in New York City after my 3-day Rome trip canceled. Watching the news last night, it looked like Manhattan would be without power and struggling even to survive the ‘storm of a lifetime’ on Saturday.

Instead, after Hurricane Irene passed through the city earlier this morning there was an erie calm. As I woke up, I wondered if we were in the eye of the storm.

It turns out, Irene may have some strong winds on the back side, but for now, a little fun could be had by biking through the empty streets of the city.

Here’s what I found at 5th Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the U.N. Building the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the East River. Wide open streets and unencumbered riding! A video is the best way for me to describe the morning:

There was a atmosphere in the city today. One biker told me he saw people playing Wiffle Ball in Times Square. Tourists, with nothing else to do, gathered on Broadway, umbrellas in hand, just to look at the streets.

New York is an amazing city, but after a snow storm or situation like we had today, the break in monotonous city life offers a chance look around them and see just how great this place is.

I thought I’d had enough of Irene after experiencing it from the air, but today Irene brought many of us a pleasant surprise, and some time to reflect on how thankful we are that it wasn’t worse.

Celebrity Cruises new app welcomes a new generation of passenger

Celebrity Cruises new app is more than just another little program you an use to kill time. In a natural evolution of their programming, Celebrity Cruises has added its first app and mobile web site.Celebrity is a cruise line that has fully embraced technology, rolling top-shelf brands into their onboard experience. More importantly, with this roll-out of Celebrity Cruises new app the line opens the door and welcomes a new generation of cruise passenger.

Now, iPhone users have the opportunity to download the free, new app from the Celebrity web site or from the Apple store. Other apps have been available from third-party sources for quite some time. This is the first official app from Celebrity and there are some big differences in Celebrity Cruises new app vs. the third-party apps available right now.

Users of Celebrity Cruises new app will have a wealth of functionality allowing them to view the destinations Celebrity visits, check out onboard activities including iLearn and language courses offered in the Celebrity iLounge and more.

Technology can be a big part of the Celebrity experience. Prior to boarding, guests can go online to explore a number of activities and packages available on their sailing. On board, a Celebrity iLounge is a popular gathering place that includes an Internet cafe equipped with 26 workstations. As an Authorized Apple Reseller, there is also a retail area where guests can try out and buy various Apple products and accessories plus an “enrichment center” that will offer classes on the iLife suite of programs and other general topics.

Celebrity Cruises new app welcomes a new generation of passenge
r in many ways. One of the best parts of Celebrity Cruises new app is having the ability to see menus, wine lists and even walking tours of a ship’s art collection, a Celebrity Cruises first.

Guests can use iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices with Celebrity Cruises new app to search for a Celebrity cruise and itineraries, obtain destination information, view details about each ship, connect with Celebrity’s social media sites, e-mail itineraries of interest to Celebrity’s Customer Service team, or contact Customer Service ‘live’ at any point during the experience.

Did you catch that last line?

“... or contact Customer Service ‘live’ at any point during the experience.”

That’s huge.
That’s engaging.
This is a cruise line that “gets it”.

Standard operating procedure for cruise line customer service:

Call on phone/work through problem/call back if you don’t like the result until you find someone who will tell you what you want to hear/Addressed problem but not feeling very good about it.

Glimpse at what might be coming:

“... or contact Customer Service ‘live’ at any point during the experience.”

Celebrity Cruises new app is definitely a step in the right direction.

Celebrity Cruises
new app is just one use of available Apple technology. The cruise line already uses the iPad for its menus and wine list in its Qsine specialty restaurant, which debuted this year on the Equinox, and its ships are home to “Celebrity iLounges,” equipped with MacBook workstations. Guests on board can take courses and get tips on Mac and iPod use.

“We knew our guests would relish yet another opportunity to capitalize on the latest technology in an entertaining, enriching way,” says Celebrity’s senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

Celebrity Cruises photo

GateGuru 1.5 adds JetBlue leaderboard contest, maps, local ads and more

In the world of mobile apps, not much pleases me more than watching a great app slowly evolve into something amazing.

Take for example GateGuru. We first mentioned this fantastic app last year – and since then, the developers have slowly been adding new features.

In its latest version, Gateguru 1.5 really takes things to the next level – the app has added a leaderboard contest, maps and localized ads.

The new leaderboard contest is an awesome way to rewards active users. As you may already know, a lot of the content inside GateGuru comes from travelers – and when you add tips, new amenities or rate a current location, you earn points.

If you earn the most points in your area, you’ll win a $100 JetBlue gift card. The national leader will be awarded two JetBlue tickets. This contest is one of the largest ever held with prizes awarded for virtual points.

The maps are another very welcome addition – it means you can now look up an amenity, and find your way to it, all without having to stop and ask for directions.

With the localized ad feature, you are presented with ads that offer discounts for stores at your airport. During my test, I was offered a rent 1 – get 2 DVD offer for the nearby InMotion airport store. Seriously – if you are going to put ads in an app, this is the kind of stuff I love seeing. The ad discount was worth $5, and all you need to do is show the ad to the store clerk, and you get your discount.

All in all some brilliant improvements – and best of all, the app is still free of charge from the App store.


The Gadling gift guide for the iPhone and iPod

The iPhone and iPod touch are popular. So popular in fact, that they have created an entire universe of accessories and products made to enhance their use. No other gadget in the world has this kind of assortment of great extras.

In this list, you’ll find ten products that will be well received by any iPhone or iPod Touch owner. Best of all, there is something for every budget.

Don’t forget to check out our other gift guides:

Gift guide for the lightweight traveler
Gift guide for famlily travel and kids
The top ten travel products of 2009
Macally PowerLink

The Macally PowerLink made it to the Gadling top ten travel products of 2009, which means it really does offer something special. The small device has two connectors – one for the iPod/iPhone and one USB plug for your computer. The PowerLink replaces your USB cable, but it also incorporates a Lithium-Ion backup battery pack, capable of charging your device. And to top it off, it even includes a 2GB flash drive. With this one product you can charge and sync your device and carry 2GB of your most important files.

Price: $49.99
Product page: Macally PowerLink

In Your Face Viewbase

The In Your Face Viewbase has quickly become one of my personal favorites this year. The product consists of a clamp to hold your device, and a flexible arm that can be attached to most parts of your airplane seat (or bus seat). Simply attach it to your tray table, and enjoy your movie. Of all the gadgets I carry, this is the one that gets the most attention, and every flight attendant that sees it, asks where they can order one for themselves.

Price: $24.95
Product page: In Your Face USA

Otterbox Commuter and Commuter TL case

The Otterbox Commuter and Commuter TL cases provide good looking protection for your iPhone. The Commuter case consists of two parts – one silicone jacket, and a polycarbonate shell to protect the back. The Commuter TL case ups the ante with a special honeycomb structure to cushion drops.

Price: From $29.95
Product page: Otterbox Commuter cases

Ultimate Ears MetroFi 700

The headphones included with your iPhone may be better than most standard headphones, but if you love your music, you may want to consider investing in something with a little more “oopmh”. The Ultimate Ears 700 come from the same brand that provides earphones for many of the world’s best musicians.

Yes – at just under $200, they may so be ludicrously priced, but one listen to them will show why they deserve such a pricetag.

Price: $199.99
Product page: Ultimate Ears

idox Traveler Series iPhone case/view dock

The idox hard case is as brilliant as it is simplistic. When closed, it is a really sturdy hard case for your device, and when you open it, it turns into an angled viewing base. This is of course perfect for watching a movie, or using your iPhone as an alarm clock. It provides the kind of protection you need for your iPhone or iPod touch when you pop it in your bag.

Price: From $24.95
Product page: idox traveler series cases


2009 was the year that finally made wireless charging available to the masses. PowerMat combines an inductive charging pad with special device cases. The iPhone and iPod Touch versions slide onto your device, and allow you to charge your device by simply placing them on top of the charging pad. Sadly, the combination of a PowerMat and iPhone/iPod Touch case will cost just under $150, which is quite steep for wireless charging. Their travel mat folds into a compact device, and packs easily.

Price: $99.95 for basic PowerMat kit
Product page: PowerMat

Kensington travel battery pack and charger for iPhone and iPod Touch

This is another of those super simple yet brilliant products. The Kensington travel battery pack and charger is a battery booster for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but the cap on this thing doubles as a stand. Plug it into your device, and sit back to watch a movie. The product features a folding USB plug for easy recharging and 5 LED lights show the charge level.

Price: $69.99
Product page: Kensington

Altec Lansing inMotion CLASSIC

Altec Lansing was one of the first companies to produce a battery powered portable speaker for the iPhone. Their original inMotion was a huge success, and they are revisiting that success with the new inMotion CLASSIC. This speaker features a cool retro look, full remote control and internal battery pack. As can be expected from Altec Lansing, the sound from this speaker is just plain fantastic. Highly recommended for some quiet entertainment in your hotel room, or massive audio at a beach party.

Price: $149.95
Product page: Altec Lansing inMotion CLASSIC.

Altec Lansing Orbit MP3

If the previous speaker doesn’t fit your bag, or you’d like something in a lower price range, then check out the Altec Lansing Orbit MP3. This small speaker is powered off three AAA batteries, and produces some mindblowing volume. Best of all, it sounds really good. Sure, you lose the bass and stereo of the larger speakers, but this is perfect for in your hotel room or anywhere else you’d like some tunes.

Price: $39.95
Product page: Altec Lansing Orbit MP3

iTunes gift card

You don’t need to go overboard when trying to find a great gift for an iPhone owner. The Apple iTunes gift card allows people to shop for music, movies and apps. And really, anyone with an iPhone will probably be buying at least one app or song a week, so a decent value gift card can go a long way. It pays to research the best deals on these cards – your local grocery store or warehouse club often sells them at a modest discount.

Price: From $15
Where to buy: Gift card retailers, and Apple stores

Geotagging cameras create accidental maps

One could easily spend hours browsing images on social photo-sharing sites like Flickr. From time to time I find myself on the site’s “interestingness” page, endlessly hitting the reload button and marvelling at all the beautiful photography. But one unintended consequence of all these photos has nothing to do with what they look like – it’s all the information like tags, camera type and location that’s created along with the images.

All that information has even allowed researchers to create virtual maps of the world’s most-photographed landmarks and places. According to the New Scientist, investigators at Cornell University have been analyzing the geotagged information automatically recorded by many new cameras when they take a picture. All the information has led to some interesting insight into what visitors find most interesting.

The top spots? New York tops the list as the world’s most photographed city. London however has the most photographed landmarks – sites like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye and the Tate Modern art gallery all top the landmark list. Coming in at fifth place? New York’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store.

[Via Metafilter]