Archive for May, 2011
In the instant age the idea of train travel seems romantic, a throwback to a bygone age where ladies dressed for dinner and men doffed their hats.
The Ghan, Australia’s historic cross-country train evokes this old-fashioned sense of slowness, where scenic stops and landscape gazing combine with lazy sleeping and fine dining.
We are on the Ghan’s inaugural three day ANZAC Tribute tour, snaking our way through Adelaide to Darwin with whistlestop tours along the way.
War veterans join us on our adventure through Central Australia, the land of pioneers, dangerous snakes, man-eating crocs and sunburnt country that have inspired Henry Lawson poems.
For a gen-Y journalist life without wifi, television and access to news proved difficult initially, but surrounded by the train’s target demographic of retirees I come to appreciate the simple pleasures of communal dining and socialising.
The train is structured with compact cabins forcing the traveller to mingle in the communal lounge and the elegant dining car which serves an array of hearty Australian meals and rich desserts.
Besides, travelling with these modern distractions seems out of place on a historic journey named after Afghan cameleers who blazed a path through the inhospitable desert to lay the train’s tracks more than a hundred years ago.
There is a certain romance in travelling the route of generations previous and discovering the heart of Australia, its stark inner expanse of redness and endless sky that must have steeled the rough stoicism of those who sought to tame it.
We stop at Port Augusta, do a tour of the underground Opal mine at Coober Pedy and ride an old World War Two steam train through the Flinders Ranges.
We break at Alice Springs for the Dawn service at Anzac Hill where hundreds are gathered to commemorate the fallen as the sun rises over the MacDonnell Ranges.
For 93-year-old World War two veteran Bill Corey who fought at the infamous Libyan port of Tobruk in 1941, the journey is poignant.
“Forget about the war, just to have lived under those conditions for five years was a major achievement without all the problems of being shot at, bombing, shelling,” he told AAP.
“I’ve been very lucky that I’m still here.”
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge has a new ride that park namesake Dolly Parton is “plain scared” to ride.
FILE -This undated file photo courtesy of The Dollywood Companies shows the Barnstormer at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has a new ride that park namesake Dolly Parton is “plain scared” to ride. In Nashville, famed for records and rhinestones, the raucous downtown honkytonks are prepared to serve cold beer and hot songs. (AP Photo/The Dollywood Companies)
In Nashville, famed for records and rhinestones, the raucous downtown honkytonks are prepared to serve cold beer and hot songs.
But with gasoline flirting at $4 a gallon, will tourists come this summer?
Tennessee boasts of being within a day’s drive of 65 percent of the U.S. population. The state has no beaches like Florida, few museums like Washington, D.C., and no casinos like Las Vegas.
Nevertheless, tourism officials are optimistic Tennessee’s convenient location will pay off in travel dollars during the key vacation months that unofficially begin Memorial Day weekend.
“We see people coming here who could have gone on further,” said Kim Davis, spokeswoman for the Knoxville Tourism Sports Corp.
“Gas is just gas,” said Steve Smith, owner of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. “People won’t stay home.”
Dollywood’s new Barnstormer uses two pendulum arms to swing riders through a red barn at 45 mph and 81 feet into the air.
“It gives you the sense of weightlessness at the apex,” park spokesman Pete Owens said. “It’s like a very robust backyard swing.”
Dollywood will have four festivals the rest of the year as a way to keep the customers coming.
“We’re so close to so many metro areas,” Owens said. “We’re closer than driving to one of the coasts or down into Florida.”
Bob Miller, spokesman at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said people are ready to travel. The state has up to 50 million visitors a year.
“They’ve tightened their belts for a couple of years,” he said. “You can only hunker down so long.”
The 500,000-acre park along the Tennessee-North Carolina border is the country’s most visited national park, with 9.4 million annual visitors lured by scenic vistas, bears and nearby blocks of retail shops, T-shirt stores and miniature golf courses.
Vantage Deluxe World Travel Announces the Construction of Four New State-Of-the-Art River Cruise Ships for Europe
BOSTON, May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Vantage Deluxe World Travel, best known for creating deluxe river cruise programs with five-star travel accommodations and experiences at four-star prices, is pleased to announce that it will be dramatically modernizing its fleet of superior European River Cruise Vessels over the next two years. The newest member of the fleet, Discovery II, will set sail in March 2012. The state-of-the-art 135 meter/442 foot river beauty will offer more cabins, bigger suites, including an Owner’s Suite and rooms draped in romantic tapestries and rich decor. The lounge and dining room will feature floor to ceiling windows offering the best possible majestic views of Europe!
Vantage will launch two new vessels in March 2013, River Explorer II, also 135 meters and River Navigator II, a 110 meter/361 foot boutique vessel which will excel at navigating small rivers in Europe. The last of the four new vessels being constructed is the River Odyssey II, slated to launch in March 2014. Vantage’s 135 meter vessels will accommodate 176 passengers and the 110 meter vessel will accommodate 138 passengers, all in plush comfort and surroundings.
Vantage continues to be the leader in river boat innovation and passenger satisfaction. The modernized new fleet is a testament to Vantage’s commitment to meet the American traveler’s growing expectations. Cabins and suites range from 125 square feet to 330 square feet. All cabins will have individually controlled air conditioning, a safe deposit box, increased storage space, two lower, twin beds featuring Eastern Marine Excellence Mattresses which convert to comfortable Queen size beds, flat screen entertainment systems with VOD, luxurious hotel style linens and amenities, and wireless internet access throughout. Suites will feature stacked mini bars, coffee machines, luxurious robes and slippers, and bathtubs. Cabins on the upper decks include French balconies, and floor to ceiling windows allowing sights to be seen up close while sailing.
The Owner’s Suite will provide all of the above as well as a separate sitting area and a luxury bathtub Jacuzzi. Vantage has also designed cabins with the solo traveler in mind offered at an affordable single-friendly rate. Each new vessel features the American traveler’s dream of a fitness center with LifeCycle equipment, a library and an internet cafe.
For county commissioners, conferences of the Florida Association of Counties and National Association of Counties are the most frequent destinations. Over the last 5½ years, county commissioners’ combined travel and purchasing expenditures have totaled approximately $74,200.
County Commissioner Rodney Long has had the most expenditures, approximately $33,397. Commissioner Mike Byerly has had the least expenses, $318.29.
While city commissioners have a specified budget for travel and training expenses, county commissioners’ travel and purchasing expenditures are part of the overall operating budget for the board. A review back to fiscal year 2006 shows operating expenditures have come in under budget each year, albeit by a mere $85 in fiscal year 2010.
On the other hand, the travel and purchasing expenditures of some commissioners did not tail off during the economic downturn. In fiscal year 2009, $21,280 was spent on travel and purchases. In 2010, the figure was $19,899.
Long, County Commissioner Paula DeLaney and former Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut have each been active in the National Association of Counties (NACO), a nationwide organization that informs county officials on policy issues and represents them before Congress.
Some examples in Clerk of Courts records of their travel expenditures to attend NACO events include $3,177 for Chestnut’s trip to the 2009 NACO legislative conference; $2,256 for Long to attend the 2010 annual conference and $1,867 for DeLaney’s attendance at the 2011 legislative conference.
In March 2009, a $1,139 expense for county staffer Zeriah Folston to attend a NACO conference was put on the purchasing card assigned to Long.
At the time, Folston was a former intern working for the county in a temporary capacity, according to the Human Resources Division. He now works full time as a grants/contracts specialist.
“Mr. Folston was assigned to assist me during my tenure as FAC (Florida Association of Counties) President 2008-2010,” Long wrote in an email. “He assisted with researching state and national issues. He also attended policy committee meetings of FAC and NACO.”
Long’s involvement with the Florida Association of Counties included two terms as president in 2008 and 2009. During that time, the organization reimbursed the county approximately $1,270 for some of the expenses Long incurred traveling to FAC events. He also held several positions with the NACO, currently serving on the board of directors.
This item was written by USATODAY.com contributor David Grossman, who is serving as Guest Editor of Today in the Sky while Ben Mutzabaugh is away.
If you commence an air travel search with Google today you may notice something is different. Instead of just providing links to other web sites where you can get more detailed information about flights or book your travel, Google now presents you with an option to display flight schedules and travel times for nonstop flights right on the search results page.
An article in about this new product discusses Google’s plans for flight search as evidenced by their recent acquisition of ITA Software, which provides the airfare search capabilities behind Orbitz.com and many other travel agency and airline web sites.
The new Google air schedule feature does not use the ITA Software “yet,” according to Tech Crunch, but the article infers that this is likely the first step down a path that will provide a far more extensive planning/purchase function based on ITA’s technology.
The recent Google acquisition of ITA within the travel industry, with many travel shopping and booking web sites fearing that the ITA software will make it easy for travelers to plan and book their entire trip without ever leaving Google’s web site and, of course, that Google’s travel booking engine will always receive priority placement on the page over all other travel booking products.
Many travel shopping and booking web sites also fear they will forever be paying Google in order to operate their base business since the ITA software is an essential component for so many other booking engines. Additionally, many rivals fear Google could always reserve the best technology and newest enhancements to the ITA software for themselves, giving the Google product yet another competitive edge over other travel booking products.
After a big legal battle with travel companies opposing the Google-ITA acquisition, the Justice Department approved the deal on the condition Google makes travel data available to search-engine rivals and lets the government review complaints that it’s acting unfairly.
Of course, this ruling did not quell the controversy or concern by those rival travel search engines, and now every move Google makes into the travel space, such as this new search feature, will be closely watched by the competition.
Posted May 27 2011 4:47PM