Cruise Line Brings Heat To New York City

cruise lineNorwegian Cruise Line is bringing new 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway to New York City later this year to sail year-round to Florida, the Bahamas and Bermuda. Getting ready to be New York’s home town cruise line, Norwegian has engaged in partnerships with the New York City Rockettes, pop artist Peter Max and others. Norwegian Breakaway will even have Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship in convenient places, much like on the streets of New York City.

Now, Norwegian is back on the streets of New York offering what they call “Warming Stations” around the city.

As part of their sponsorship with NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership of the City of New York, Norwegian Cruise Line is setting up three warming station events in New York City through the end of January.

The warming stations feature a large backdrop of Norwegian Breakaway along with heat lamps, sand and palm trees to give passers-by a warm, tropical feeling. Commuters passing through can visit, have their pictures taken with the backdrop like they might while boarding a cruise ship and enjoy a hot beverage.cruise lineUpcoming dates and locations are:

January 14 – Flatiron Plaza
January 22 – 14th St. & 9th Ave.
January 28 – Times Square

And what would be a cruise-oriented event without something free given away?

The Warming Stations will feature instant-wins every hour where visitors can win tickets to either see “Rock of Ages” or eat at Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant, The National.

Featuring an oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront, Norwegian Breakaway will have shops, restaurants and bars combined with entertainment and gaming. A hub of activity spanning three decks is called 678 Ocean Place, featuring seven dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

Can’t wait for Norwegian Breakaway to arrive in May? Norwegian Cruise Lines has a micro-site set up all about the new ship and its features. Check this video for more:




[Photo Credit- Norwegian Cruise Lines]

Budget Hong Kong: The City Of Blinding Logos

budget hong kong

The streets of Hong Kong have a way of accosting you with neon lights and ostentatious logos. Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani lay claim to the Central District, while Tiffany & Co. and Burberry dominate Tsim Sha Tsui. Causeway Bay is a cacophony of luxury labels from around the globe, and let’s not forget the lesser brands that sit on every street corner: McDonald’s, Starbucks, 7-11. It’s enough to make your head spin.

And indeed, it made mine, at about 4 p.m. on my first day in the city. From the moment I had arrived in Hong Kong, my senses had kicked into overdrive. I walked faster, talked faster, flitted my eyes from one new sight to the next. Everything was new, big, bright and exciting.

But after several hours on the town, I began to feel the effects of sensory overload. The crowds became claustrophobic. The pollution started to choke me. The tik-tik-tik of the crosswalk signs drummed an endless circle in my head. And everywhere, lit-up advertisements and shop signs taunted me, tempting me to buy, use and consume. It was enough to drive any sane person to the brink of madness.

Thankfully (and ironically) I managed to find sanctuary at a nearby Starbucks.

%Gallery-173824%Hong Kong is a magical city. But it’s also an intense one – even for a downtown Manhattanite like myself. The special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China is one of the world’s most densely populated parts of the world, with seven million people crammed into an area of just 426 square miles. It is one of the world’s most expensive cities, by many indices. The Atlantic reports that it is the priciest place to buy a home, while the Savills World Cities Review concludes that it is the most expensive city to locate ex-pat workers.

Hong Kong is also a city largely driven by consumption. Just this year, it surpassed New York as the world’s costliest retail location, according to Bloomberg. For the luxury traveler, it is somewhere this side of paradise, with 62 Michelin-starred restaurants and extravagant boutiques representing nearly every high-end brand on the globe.

But I am not a luxury traveler. Far from it, in fact. My mission in Hong Kong was to experience the best of the city, on a shoestring. And once I recovered from the assault on my senses and stepped off the main tourist drags, I discovered how. My two-day trip was filled with fascinating cultural activities, unique discoveries and awe-inspiring sights.

And then, of course, there was the food. I’ll save that for the next post.

[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]

Budget Hong Kong” chronicles one writer’s efforts to authentically experience one of the world’s most expensive cities, while traveling on a shoestring. Read the whole series here.

Hong Kong on High Time-Lapse

Travel full time for $17,000 a year

If you were told that you could travel full time for $17,000 a year, would you believe it? If you had only, I repeat, $17,000 to spend on everything (transportation, lodging, food, recreation, etc.) while seeing the entire world, could you make it work? An enterprising traveler named Nora Dunn has done just that. She’s been traveling on this budget for five years now and according to Dunn, she’s spending less money traveling the world than she spent while staying put. In an article published on WiseBread.com last month, Dunn details for readers just how they can travel as inexpensively as she has been traveling. Her tips are excellent and her approach is nothing short of inspiring. Read the full article here.

Choosing Inexpensive Places to Travel, from Seth Kugel

Travel Smarter 2012: Use CouchSurfing to ditch your hotel addiction

Hotels are so passé.

How many times have you visited an exciting destination only to find you’re staying in a generic hotel room completely lacking in local flavor? When I visited Greece last month, I stayed in affordable, centrally located hotels in Athens and Sparta. While they offered good service at a fair price, they could have just as easily been in Los Angeles, London, or Cairo.

CouchSurfing offers a better way. With a bit of online networking you can stay in a local home, and it’s free! CouchSurfing is a social networking site linking up friendly people around the world. Once you’ve created a profile, you can search through profiles in your destination and request to sleep in their spare room or couch. No money changes hands, although guests often bring an inexpensive gift from their home countries or take their host out to dinner. It’s a fun way to make friends and makes traveling a richer and less lonely experience.

As I’ve mentioned before, even though I’ve never actually surfed a couch, CouchSurfing has been hugely helpful to me. When I moved to Santander in northern Spain, the local CouchSurfers threw my wife and I a welcome party and 25 people showed up. Soon we knew the best barrios to get an apartment, where to shop, and they hooked me up with a hiking group. The group for Cantabria is pretty active and in the four months I’ve been here I’ve been to several meetings and met lots of people.More recently, local CouchSurfers gave me a ton of information that helped inform my travel series on Greece. One memorable night, two Athenians showed me around the Exarchia neighborhood. We visited some great bars I probably would have never found on my own and I got insights into the life of an area noted for its activism. The two CouchSurfers showed me a park that had been slated to become an ugly parking garage until the locals took it over and turned it into a garden.

On a more somber note, they also showed me the spot where a fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a policeman during a demonstration in 2008. The cop is serving time for murder and the spot where his victim died is now a shrine and political rallying point. Try getting that sort of information from your hotel’s concierge.

Couches can be found in some surprising places. One Gadling blogger has tried CouchSurfing in Haiti, and while I was in Ethiopia, I met someone who was going to stay with some expats in Somaliland.

CouchSurfing had a big year in 2011 that’s making 2012 the start of a new era for the organization. After having its 501(c)(3) charity status rejected, its owners decided to become a for-profit corporation. Currently, all revenues come from the verification service, in which members donate money in order to have their address verified, thus making them more trustworthy in the eyes of other members. There’s no word yet on how else the new corporation plans to make money. This change has not gone without protest, with many members pointing out that the website and network were built communally for free, and therefore should not be used for profit.

A more popular move last year was the creation of the CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange Fund, which offers grants for cultural exchanges between refugee groups and their new communities, classroom-based international information exchange and relationship building programs, and cultural understanding between ethnically or racially disparate communities.

CouchSurfing now has more than three million profiles in about 250 countries and territories–not bad for a group that only started in 2003. While you should always keep safety in mind when dealing with strangers, I highly recommend you try it. I’ve had nothing but good experiences.

[flickr image via CaseyDavid]

How much does it cost to travel the world for a year?

$15,000 is how much, according to travel bloggers Kyle and Briana of RollGlobal.org who traveled to 19 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, tracking their daily expenses to prove that it is not only possible to quit your day job and travel the world, but it can be affordable, too.

As we see in this infographic, it could have been less too but bad weather put them in a hotel a few nights and replacing some equipment added some unexpected expenses.