Impact Of Sequester Cuts On Travel: Festivals Not So Festive

sequester cuts

Recent sequester cuts have had a big impact on travel in a number of ways. Cutbacks have resulted in everything from grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at dozens of air shows around the country to turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport. Cuts to the budgets of national parks have popular attractions opening on a delayed schedule, closing visitor centers and operating without campgrounds.

But those who (still) work and operate facilities, festivals and events that would normally draw travelers from around the world are pressing on, promising to make the best of a bad situation.

A highlight, if not the main attraction, to Fleet Week at a number of major U.S. cities is a showcase of active duty military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations and brought to town for the event.sequester cutsA tradition of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard since 1935, Fleet Week began in San Diego with 114 warships and 400 military planes. Since then, annual Fleet Week events began in San Francisco, New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Seattle, Washington, includes fleet week during the annual Seafair. In Portland, Oregon, fleet week is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The shows brought ships full of military personnel to town, as well as travelers who looked forward to tours of ships, military demonstrations and air shows, adding to local tourism revenue. But on the heels of the secretary of defense announcing that ships will not be visiting, show organizers are turning to a different focus.

“We’re all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units,” said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc., the non-profit organization that spearheads Florida’s Fleet Week Port Everglades, in this NBC Miami report.

The Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week event, still scheduled for April 29 through May 6, normally has hotels booked full and Florida highways clogged for a week. Organizers hope to keep the lion’s share of that activity by hosting a variety of other events.

Golf tournaments, a 5K race, major league baseball games, culinary competitions and deep-sea fishing will attempt to replace active-duty warships and the Blue Angels. Canceled ship tours will give way to honoring the active duty military of the United States Southern Command and Coast Guard District 7, both based in South Florida.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and event organizers are to be commended for pressing on. Still, this travel-affecting result of sequester budget cuts can’t help but make one wonder if there was not some other way to address this problem with the nation’s economy.

“No one can deny that we have passed through troubled years. No one can fail to feel the inspiration of your high purpose. I wish you great success,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 at the beginning of the first fleet week.

[Photo credit – Flickr user St0rmz]

Epic Spring Break Adventures Of Past Generations

spring break

The history of spring break goes back to 1936 when a swim coach from New York brought some of his swim team down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to practice at a warm pool during the winter. That proved such a good idea that the coach brought the whole team the following year. Seizing an opportunity in a post-depression economy, Fort Lauderdale quickly grew to be the original “spring break” capital of the world. Today, spring break travelers make life-long memories at destinations around the world. But the spring break options of today are an evolution of what has come before them, some of which were epic moments.

“Most of our lives, spring break has been portrayed as a fabled experience of near-utopian bacchanalia, community with fellow youth and warm sunny weather,” says CoolestSpringBreak, a website dedicated to preserving the history of fellow and future generations of spring breakers, both young and old. They ask, “… where does Spring Break, as a ritual of youth, come from?”

From the end of World War II until the 1980s, Fort Lauderdale was a notorious spring break destination in the United States for college students as was Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach and – well, you get it – warm places with beaches ruled as top spring break destinations.

Other states caught on and started promoting their destinations as spring break-friendly too, but Fort Lauderdale clearly had the lead, drawing as many as 20,000 students in the 1950s. That number grew to over 50,000 annual trekkers coming to Florida in the ’60s but then came the ’70s and along with them a very different scene.

Gone were the wholesome times associated with spring break-defining films like “Where The Boys Are” starring teen idol Connie Francis and the clean-cut songs of the Beach Boys.

Alcohol, a spring break staple, was mixed with drugs, which played a larger role in the festivities. The moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars to bring the hippie “free love” movement. Add college students, on a beach, with little supervision and the cocktail for epic spring break experiences had been mixed.Because of the shenanigans of the ’70s, the ’80s grew spring breaker numbers in Florida to over 350,000, overwhelming city services, taking all available hotel rooms, leaving many in shambles after occupancy and quickly becoming a difficult situation to deal with – but not for long.

The 1990s saw spring break go international in spite of nearly half a million spring breakers coming to Florida as high school students joined the fun. Young professionals began scheduling vacation time during spring break to re-live their college days before turning the ripe old age of 30.

As U.S. destinations tightened up enforcement of alcohol laws, spring break drinkers looked to spring breakMexico, where the legal drinking age is “old enough to see over the bar” and “anything goes” is pretty much a way of life. Already a popular option with budget-minded travelers, Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts offered hotel rooms that held up to four people, included meals and hours of free cocktails throughout the day. Never mind the drug wars, Mexico is perfect for the spring breaker mentality.

Still today, spring break rules the beaches and ski slopes for a period of time each year as a new generation of spring breaker comes forth to create their own epic memories. Google “top spring break destination” today and results vary depending on who is rating them but thousands of hits indicate a whole lot of people are.

Throughout most of the last century, spring breakers did not have anything close to that search ability and relied on newspaper accounts and TV news reports, mostly when something bad happened, for information on where to go and what to do there by reading between the lines. “Students Arrested For Disorderly Contact,” a story might read then go on to say, “25 students were arrested in Florida when things got out of hand.”

Looking for a party place for spring break, the old school researcher needn’t read further in that story than “200,000 students converged on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale to celebrate spring break…” to know this was the place to go. Twenty-five arrested out of 200,000? Pretty good odds for a stage set for epic spring break adventures.

Last week, when Gadling was in town for Seatrade Miami, the SXSW of cruise travel, Victoria’s Secret models Sara Sampaio and Elsa Hosk were hosts for the Ultimate Spring Break Dance Party 2013 with DJ Irie and DJ Cassidy at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach. Here is video of that event:


[Photo credit – Flickr users sean dreilinger and prakash_ut, respectively]

12 12 12 Is Coming, Like It Or Not

12 12 12

12 12 12 is more than just next Wednesday and an unusual calendar date. The Mayan calendar has it as a time of transformation and evolution. Basically the end of time as we know it, Mayan’s believed 12/12/12 was also the beginning of a new cycle of evolution for planet earth, humanity and the cosmos. With a focus on the planet surviving, a number of events and promotions are planned by organizations and travel service providers.

12/12/12, The Concert For Sandy Relief
An all-star roster of who’s who in music will be on hand for The Concert For Sandy Relief.

Appearing via free simulcast in hurricane-affected area theaters will be Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and others. An estimated 1 billion others worldwide will view the Madison Square Garden concert via television and live streaming video.

A variety of corporate sponsors are hosting the event to raise money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, providing financial assistance, material and know-how to organizations helping victims of Hurricane Sandy throughout the affected area.

$12 Hotel Stay
At the B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, 12/12/12 is a time to take advantage of exclusive $12 promotions, from room rates to food and beverage offerings. Travelers making reservations on December 12, 2012, for stays through September 30, 2013, will receive a third night at $12* (with the purchase of two nights at the best available rate), daily breakfast buffet for $12 per person and two signature cocktails for $12 when using the promotional code 121212.

They have the right attitude too. “Offering an added perk surrounding this fun, highly anticipated, one-time event is the perfect way to cap off an exciting year filled with accolades, new opportunities and optimism,” said B Ocean General Manager Eduardo Fernandez in a statement.Marry Me at 12 Event
Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel lets couples ready to take the plunge or those renewing their vows do so in a very special way. Called the Marry Me At 12 event, the landmark hotel will be setting up a wedding chapel in the historic Barbershop on December 12 at 12 p.m., complete with an officiate to marry couples or renew vows.

Celebrating couples will get flowers, Champagne toasts, and upgraded wedding night accommodations for $99 a night.

$12 On Board Credit Per Day, Per Stateroom
Royal Caribbean International has a special offer for those who book a cruise vacation on 12/12/12, Book any cruise in 2013 on any ship, to any destination and they will give you $12 on board credit per day, per stateroom. Book a suite and they double the offer to $24 on board credit per day per stateroom.

Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise
Speaking of cruises, the Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise, named the
12:12:12 Gateway to Ascension Cruise sets sail from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on December 8 on a seven-day Caribbean sailing aboard Holland America’s Eurodam visiting San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and the Bahamas

Interdimensional channelers, spiritual teachers and healing practitioners will celebrate the new age of peace with a World Peace Ceremony on the beach in St. Thomas on 12/12/12
at 12:12 p.m. as they join “millions praying for peace around the globe!” says promoter AlistCalendar on its web site.

Before we proceed, let’s review some wiki on things Mayan-related:

Channelerinspiration from extra-dimensional beings or spirits, whereby one is a medium or channel for such an entity.

Skulls– claimed to exhibit paranormal phenomena by some members of the New Age movement, and have often been portrayed as such in fiction.

Crystals– act as transducers, transforming and transmuting energy from one form to another. Quartz crystals in particular behave as capacitors, storing energy in a form, which can later be discharged.

2012 Mayan Marriage of Many
Admittedly, having an anniversary date of 12/12/12 would be a great idea for memory-challenged couples afraid of forgetting the important day. That won’t be a problem with the celebration of love with a marriage en mass for 12 couples in Belize at the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech on 12-12-12.

The Mayan Marriage of Many
has prices starting at $7,530 per couple including transportation,
accommodations, meals, a cocktail and dinner reception, orientation breakfast, adventure tours and more.

Crystal Skull Event
Oracle Stone Productions produces international events that bring together ancient crystal skulls, Mayan elders and people in the metaphysical community “to create a synergy for peace, a higher vibration and consciousness shift for our planet,” says the organization’s website. Hosting events for 09/09/09, 10/10/10 and 11/11/11, Oracle has a 12/12/12 event too.

During the 12/12/12 Extravaganza, vendors will be selling crystals, crystal skulls, crystal bowls, jewelry, self-help books, healing modalities, healing sessions, aura readings and more.




Not only the last of the alliteration dates for 100 years, but also a significant number to the Maya as well, the number 12 is believed to be the number of strength, conviction, absoluteness and finality.

[Image Credit- Flickr User elycefeliz]

When Monsters Are The Theme, Anything Goes

Monsters of rock cruise

The Monsters of Rock cruise, coming up in March 2013 looks to have just about all the head-banging fun a heavy metal rock fan could ask for. Sailing from Fort Lauderdale and titled “Monsters of Rock: The Lost Weekend,” the four-night sailing is being promoted as “the greatest rock cruise to sail the seven seas.” Unlike some other festivals at sea, this one looks set to deliver too.

The headliners alone should cause hard-core rock fans, if not rock historians, to get excited. Cinderella, Tesla, Queensryche, Kix, Saxon, Lita Ford, Stryper, Y & T, Loudness and Great White join a total of 35 bands and a bunch of special guests on a full ship charter of MSC Poesia, sailing from Port Everglades. That translates to non-stop hard rock around the clock the entire four days.

On a great number of music-themed cruises, that would probably be plenty to keep fans busy between a few artist-specific events, meet and greets plus enjoying features of the ship itself. But Monsters of Rock has much more. Contests for “Best Tattoo,” “Best ’80s Hairstyle,” and three competitions titled “So you think you can sing?” “So you think you can drum?” and “So you think you can Shred?” promise to create some unique memories of the voyage.

Guests who have been on a cruise before will find some familiar activities and entertainment but with a heavy metal focus. “The Rock Star Dating Game,” “Celebrity Bingo” and “Shore Excursions With Your Favorite Rock Star” promise to put a unique twist on standard cruise ship fare. There is even what looks to be a far from traditional formal night titled “Monsters Of Rock Prom 1987.”

These people have really put some thought into this.

A photo show titled “Every Picture Tells a Story” has rock and roll photographer Mark Weiss sharing his photographs that capture the look of music and celebrity personalities of the 1980s. For a nominal fee, aspiring musicians can sign up for “Master Class Clinics Featuring Some of the Finest Musicians in the World” giving lessons on guitar, bass, vocals and drums.

Think this sounds like the rock gods have answered your prayers? Hold that thought.

In 2011, officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs, U.S. Marshals, DEA agents, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office stormed MSC Poesia in a raid just before setting sail for the Jam Fest Cruise. The raid resulted in the arrest of some passengers and the seizure of an assortment of party favors ranging from small quantities of marijuana, mushrooms, hash oil, LSD, ecstasy, prescription drugs and a variety of drug paraphernalia.

Too much heavy metal fun? Want to play it a bit safer?
There’s always the Blake Shelton Cruise, a full-ship charter of Norwegian Pearl sailing from the port of Miami on October 15, 2012.

Still too much fun?
A Barbie cruise could work. The Barbie Premium Experience will be on Royal Caribbean ships starting in January 2013.

Monsters of Rock sails March 16-20, 2013. Pricing starts as low as $679 per person with three people in an interior stateroom (+ government taxes, fees, and gratuities of $199 per person, added automatically). See Monsters of Rock for details.

Here is a recap of the 2012 Monsters of Rock cruise for your head-banging pleasure:




Flickr photo by The-E

The Titanic Chronicles: 100 Years Ago Today

TitanicThe story of RMS Titanic, immortalized by the 1997 James Cameron film of the same name, is a lasting one. Bringing the story to theaters in a blockbuster hit, enhanced and re-released this month, gave the story life long after so many had died at sea. Now, footage of recent maritime events, including the grounding of Costa Concordia and fires aboard other ships, brought home a realism no film could match. Still, the fate of Titanic still holds as the worst maritime disaster ever, one that occurred on this day, 100 years ago.

11:40 p.m. on April 15, 1912 was a Sunday and the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic was well underway. Earlier in the day, radio messages received warned of icebergs in the ship’s path but were ignored. That night, a lookout cried “Iceberg, right ahead!” but the ship could not avoid a collision. That iceberg ran down the right side of the ship causing fatal damage to what was believed to be an unsinkable vessel.

Just after Midnight, the ship’s captain ordered lifeboats into the water in what had to be his most difficult decision ever.

Still today, the Captain is referred to as the Master of the Vessel. Still today, he or she has a great many lives to be responsible for. In January, it was Captain Francisco Schettino who gave the abandon ship order for Costa Concordia.

In April of 1912, it was Captain Edward J. Smith as the master of Titanic who was fully aware of the iceberg warnings that had been received via radio days before the tragedy. To insure safety, even back then, Smith charted a new course, slightly south of the original plan, to avoid icebergs.But radio was a new thing then and the focus was on relaying messages sent to and from the ship by passengers or those on land. Earlier in the day of that fateful night in 1912 – 100 years ago today – Titanic had received a message from the steamer Amerika warning of icebergs directly in the path of the ship. Later, another message of iceberg danger was received too. Both went unheeded as radio operators worked to send and receive more important passenger messages.

Today’s cruise ship Captains regularly alter courses too, commonly in response to changing weather conditions. When a crime occurs involving passengers or the crew, the captain, as master of the vessel, is responsible for those people as well and works closely with the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies to insure a swift and just resolution.

Not long ago, evidence indicated that Captain Francisco Schettino altered the course of Costa Concordia, coming too close to shore and causing the tragedy that followed. The event caused cruise industry leaders to reaffirm their commitment to safety.

Officers and crew members from Royal Caribbean, along with sister-brands Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, now have the advantage of being a part of new simulator training center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Signaling a renewed focus on safety, staff of the $6.5 million facility cut the grand opening ribbon recently as part of an ongoing safety program but timing surely looked to address current concerns of the cruising public.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events,” Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises said of the two year process to get the facility to opening day.

Still, while simulations can take into account a variety of factors that can go wrong, staff members at the Resolve training facility quickly note that it is the human element that can often make the difference in avoiding disaster at sea.



Fiction: The Titanic being raised out of the Atlantic.

[Flickr photo by mecookie]