New Orleans Cabs Upgraded With Soda Vending Machines

Between the comfort food and the free-spirited partying, New Orleans is certainly a city that knows how to make visitors feel at home. Now, its cabbies are encouraging travelers to kick back and relax with a refreshing drink via new in-vehicle vending machines.

For 99 cents, those traveling in a local taxi are able to purchase a can of soda on the spot. Using a seat-back media screen, passengers can choose from a range of drink options before swiping their card to make the payment. Within moments, a cold can of soda is ejected from the back of the passenger seat.Simon Garber, who owns the New Orleans Carriage Cab and Yellow-Checker Cab companies, came up with the vending machine concept after his son suggested the idea. It took him four years to fine-tune the drinks dispenser, which works by connecting to a fridge holding several dozen cans of soda.

So far, Garber has installed the drink machine in 40 New Orleans taxis, but he hopes to expand the service to other cities including Chicago and New York. Garber says one day, the technology could also be used to sell cologne, umbrellas and other travel necessities.

[via Harriet Baskas]

[Photo credit: Flickr user Sigmar]

Inca Kola: Peru’s tasty soda

One fun aspect of travel is discovering cool local brands. When I visited Peru back in 1998 I first learned of Inca Kola, a neon-yellow soda produced there. I was curious so I ordered some at a cafe. The waiter was surprised and delighted that I chose his nation’s drink over Coca-Cola and told me proudly that it was the only local soda that had a bigger market share in its home country than Coke.

He brought me my Inca Kola and I took a sip. It was wonderful, an ultrasweet bubblegum flavor that my girlfriend couldn’t stand but I immediately fell in love with. I brought two liters back with me on the plane and served it to all my friends.

Peruvians are pretty proud of this soda, and that’s reflected by its advertising, with lines like La bebida del Perú (“The drink of Peru”) and ¡Es nuestra! (“It’s ours”). Sadly, the Coca-Cola corporation got its global tentacles wrapped around Inca Kola in 1999 and it’s no longer a completely independent company. Several Peruvian-owned rival brands have since taken up the banner.

I haven’t seen Inca Kola much outside of Peru. Some Latino shops in the U.S. stock it under the name Golden Kola, but it can be hard to find. Today I discovered it here in Santander, Spain, under its own name. The local long-distance phone bank, where people use Skype for a small fee rather than racking up huge phone bills to South America, had it for sale. Strangely, the shop is owned by Pakistanis. Santander is pretty cosmopolitan for such a small city!

After I bought some I went next door to a Chinese-owned convenience store, generally called Chinos here because most convenience stores are owned by the Chinese. As I picked up some beer the owner asked me how much I paid for my Inca Kola. Turns out he sells it for five centimos less. Live and learn.

In many ways the world is getting smaller, and that can be a good thing.

Soda Cards on Cruise Ships: What You Need to Know

Cruise lines are still spreading the myth that everything is included in an “all inclusive” fare. First-time cruisers, however, are often shocked when they learn that soda is NOT included in the cost and must be purchased separately.

In general, sodas are sold individually (usually $2 to $4 per glass). Alternatively, you can purchase a soda card. Passengers purchasing a soda card receive unlimited amounts of soda for the duration of the cruise. At as much as $60 to $80 per card, though, the price tag could send you into sticker shock! How do these soda cards work — and are they worth the hefty price?

How does a soda card work?
Soda cards go on sale as soon as you board the ship and usually include a souvenir cup. Save some money and avoid paying sales tax just by waiting to purchase a card until the ship splashes into international waters (50 miles 12 miles from shore). Soda cards must be purchased for the full duration of the cruise. In other words, you can’t buy a soda card for one or two days.

Soda cards are sold per person and cannot be shared. Most cruise lines place the guest’s name on the soda card when purchased. Sodas are available at the bars, and bartenders serve one soda per visit. (Pro tip: Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from giving that soda to another family member to enjoy. Cruise lines don’t have security officers patrolling the decks, looking for soda card abusers, so it’s up to you on how ethically you use the card.)

Note that that $60 to $80 price tag doesn’t buy you a very wide selection. Cruise lines offer a limited range of soda flavors. Check with your individual cruise line for details, but typically cruise lines only serve Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite, along with ginger ale, fruit juice, and club soda. If these options don’t appeal to you, don’t purchase the card.
What drinks are free?
Cruise lines offer unlimited amounts of lemonade, water, and iced tea. Free juice and coffee are only available at breakfast. Some people drink soda because they want something tasty and sweet, so if lemonade will do the job, don’t bother with the card. Keep in mind that these free beverages are sweetened, so if you loathe syrupy drinks, water is your only free option.

How much do you need to drink to make the soda card worthwhile?

Unless you guzzle soda all day long, a soda card will not pay for itself. If you only plan on having an occasional soda, purchase it by the can.

There’s nothing stopping you from giving that soda to a family member to enjoy. Cruise lines don’t have security officers patrolling the decks, looking for soda card abusers, so it’s up to you on how ethically you use the card.

If you are purchasing the soda card for a child, remember that children rarely finish an entire glass or can. Kids take a few gulps and put the soda down. By the time they want more, their sodas are warm and watered down — and guess what?

Right. They want a new one.

Getting a soda can be a hassle
Since soda is only served at the bars, you’ll find yourself running around the ship, trying to find an open bar. Once you find a bar, you’ll likely be waiting in a long line. Conversely, free drinks are self-serve and there’s almost never a line.

Bring your own soda.
Cruise lines won’t let you bring alcohol, but some do allow you to bring your own soda on board. If you have time before boarding the ship, stop at a grocery store and pick up a few cases of soda. Crystal Light individual drink mix packets are a great option if you don’t like sugary beverages and need to pack light. Get a glass of ice (or ice water) from the bartender, and you’re all set! [Ed’s note: you may want to call the cruise line before trying this, as not all companies allow this.]

Soda cards on a cruise ship are expensive, but if you’re a soda addict, it makes sense to purchase the card if you don’t feel like schlepping soft drinks on board. For the occasional soda drinker, however, it’s best to purchase soda by the glass. Or, if you don’t really go nuts for soda anyway, skip all the paid beverages and rediscover your love for iced tea!


Bring your own drinks – Cruise trip tip

Soda isn’t usually included with your all-inclusive cruise ship fare. Instead of buying a pricey soda card, bring along your own drinks!

Before boarding the cruise ship, stop at a grocery store and purchase a few cases of your favorite pop or bottled water.

You don’t even need to sneak it on or hide it in your luggage — almost all cruise lines allow you to bring a reasonable amount of non-alcoholic beverages on board the ship.

Soda, Pop, or Coke? Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County

I grew up in southern Texas, so when I was younger and thirsty for, say, a Dr. Pepper, I’d order a Coke. Luckily the waitress would know that when someone orders a “Coke” in southern Texas, it didn’t necessarily mean they wanted Coca-Cola Classic. “What kind?” they’d ask, and only then you were free to say “Dr. Pepper, please.”

This didn’t work out too well when I traveled, of course. If I ordered a Coke in a “pop” county, I’d get a Coca-Cola Classic, even if it was a Dr. Pepper that I really wanted.

These days I’m a soda kind of guy, even though I live in a pop county according to the Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County chart provided by

What do you say: soda, pop, or coke?