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The Mexican Riviera port of Mazatlan is again welcoming cruise ships. It’s a turnaround for the destination, which three years ago fell victim to a public relations disaster following a spate of robberies and one highly publicized shooting. Even though the shooting did not involve any tourists, the incident scared off every single cruise line that had previously included the port in its West Coast itineraries. Since then, passenger safety concerns have been substantially alleviated.
Tourism officials have invested some $2.8 million in security cameras throughout the city, new lighting at the port, and better coordination of police forces. Another $3 million was also invested in a “tourism corridor” – a cobblestone promenade – between the port and city center. Holland America Line was the first cruise operator to return to the port earlier this month, when the 1,350-passenger Veendam left San Diego on a seven-day Mexican Riviera Holiday cruise that also calls at Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Read more
With the Millennial generation growing up, the travel industry is beginning to see a gap in the market for sophisticated young travelers on a budget. Budget-chic brands such as CitizenM and Marriott’s Moxy, which offer high design and low price points, are booming, while budget brands such as Radisson are undergoing a design-focused overhaul. The result is that the high-end experience is being redefined: luxurious is no longer synonymous with expensive. That’s good news for travelers of all generations; gone are the days when a low budget meant bland and basic accommodations - as the following worldwide hotels prove.
New York City: Playland Motel
Located way out in Rockaway Beach in Queens, the Playland Motel, which opened in summer 2013, restored a 19th -century building and engaged 12 artists and designers to curate each of the guest rooms. Each season, artists and designers will update the rooms’ designs according to their own aesthetic. Rooms currently available to book include Kate Pane’s Coconut Castle room, which the artist describes as “a hot and heavy girlhood frolic with glitter sunburns, ponies and wet swimsuits.”
The Playland Motel is also home to a popular bar, diner, and pizzeria. The scene is young and the music loud. Rooms (with shared bathrooms) go for around $160 a night.
The approach of Thanksgiving usually means readying yourself for the shopping frenzy that comes immediately after. Luckily, with these Cyber Monday hotel deals, you don’t have to brave the cold and the lines and can snap up a bargain, and mentally transport yourself to a sunny beachfront hotel (or the snowy ski slopes, if you prefer), from the comfort of your own home.
For all offers, conditions and blackout dates may apply; read the fine print. Read more
Known for warm weather and beautiful beaches, Caribbean resorts aren’t usually thought of as true foodie destinations. Discerning travelers, however, are increasingly demanding good cuisine, and tropical resorts are happily answering their culinary prayers. From cooking classes to bespoke menus, these Caribbean hotels go beyond conch fritters and strawberry daiquiris, offering true tastes of their respective regions.
Things change. Those words are particularly apt when talking about the current hotel expansion happening in the Caribbean. On Wednesday, we showed you photos of the still-in-construction 1,000-acre mega resort Baha Mar, set to open on New Paradise Island in the Bahamas in late 2014/early 2015. Of the resort’s four hotels (totaling 2,200 rooms), one will be flagged as a Mondrian, the design-forward brand normally associated with urban destinations like New York and Miami.
With its trendy cocktail bars, pool cabanas, and “Sunset Strip vibe,” the Mondrian will be specifically targeting fashion and nightlife crowds. This signals a 180-degree shift from the Caribbean’s usual family-oriented, mid-range hotel offerings. But this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Read more
New York City and Mexico City both teem with traffic, culture, amazing food, and beautiful architecture. But for the next year, these two metropolises will have more in common. The two cities recently announced their first-ever city-to-city partnership that includes a one-year agreement aimed at boosting tourism in both destinations. The best part? As part of the agreement, Aeromexico is offering $399 round-trip flights between the two cities, including flights on the 787 Dreamliner, through March. (Book by November 22.)
Even if you can’t take advantage of the special fare, you can enjoy some of the cities’ similarities just by visiting one or the other. Here are some related places that we love both in the Big Apple and south of the border…
In Mexico City: Downtown México
Downtown México is one of several Mexico City hotels that pare part of the design-savvy Grupo Habita. This one, in the heart of the city’s historic center, occupies one of the city’s few remaining 17th century palaces, and is just a short stroll from Zócalo, the main square. Habita’s typical contemporary design blends with original features such as high ceilings and a brick faςade. The hotel has two courtyard restaurants, as well as a rooftop bar and pool.
Winter travel tends to involve more indoor activities (unless you’re heading to a white sandy beach, in which case, we’re jealous!), and that can often mean visiting more museums. But what if you’ve been to all the big ones already? MoMA… Asian Art Museum… Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Snooze. This season, a new batch of museums is offering visitors across the country a chance to see something a little out of the ordinary. But the thing is, you probably haven’t heard of them. Places like Toledo’s new Maritime Museum, or Cancun’s Maya Museum, offer world-class exhibits, but haven’t yet made it onto tourists’ radars quite yet. This all works in your favor, since lesser-known museums are generally queue-free, and cheap (or free) to enter. Take our advice and make a point of visiting one – or all! – of these places on your next trip to… Read more
At an all-inclusive resort, we often resign ourselves to an acceptance that what we gain in dollars saved, we lose in memorable dining experiences. When all of our meals are included in the room rate, we often don’t hope for anything better than standard food court or buffet fare.
The Spanish hotel chain Iberostar wants to turn that perception on its head, and so they have launched a new initiative, named Iberostar Chef, that focuses on elevating awareness of the brand’s culinary offerings through special events, training courses for guests, and a cookbook.
What could be more fun than a daytrip through Area 51? Or a road trip through Dracula’s hometown? On the eve of the season’s spookiest holiday, we’re looking back on our recent travel stories that made us go “Aah!” (or, at the very least, contained awesome photos of electric guitar-playing skeletons and UFOs). Now, grab your passport – and a flashlight – and read on! Read more
There is generally one main factor at play when it comes to cruise prices during the holiday season: the strength of the cruise industry. If it’s been a gangbuster year, don’t expect the cruise lines to wave you aboard for a pittance. Conversely, if sales have been lagging over the past ten months, they’re more likely to roll out holiday deals in a bid to shore up fourth quarter revenues. Value offers will vary by line, so consumers will benefit from some comparison shopping.
Though 2013 brought some challenges to the cruise market – remember the Carnival Triumph power loss in February? – deals seem to be on the scarce side this season. Nevertheless, we found a few decent ones floating around: Read more
Booking a room in a brand new hotel can be a nerve-wracking experience – you’re just not sure what you’re going to get. Moreover, that brand new hotel might not even really be open yet. Often in the hotel world, prior to the grand opening, there is what’s called a “soft opening.” This refers to a period of time – weeks or months – when the hotel is not fully open but is renting rooms anyway. Soft openings are rarely announced, and sometimes not all of the facilities (such as the spa, the pool, or the restaurant) are up and running. The soft opening (and also sometimes the very early period after an official opening) is the time in which staff and management can work through the kinks before formally inviting the world inside. So should you take a chance and book a room in a brand new hotel? We say yes, definitely. Here’s why… Read more
Nine months out of the year, Caribbean islands are a postcard-ready panorama of blue skies, swaying palm trees, and cocktail-sipping, hammock-lounging bliss. But from September to November (as in, right now), they are associated with another thing: hurricanes. As we speak, reports are showing that the season’s first tropical storms are already forming.
But for those willing to roll the dice, hurricane season can also yield up some incredible bargains. Flights, cruises, and hotels often go for a fraction of their peak season rates, at a time when most travelers are too spooked by the thought of having their trip washed, blown, or flooded down the drain.
And if you’re worried about showing up to a ghost town, rest assured: of the 25 million tourists who visited the Caribbean in 2012, roughly a fifth of them were brave enough to travel between September and November, the peak of hurricane season.
To give you a head start, we logged onto Expedia and CheapCaribbean and chose some hotel-and-flight packages for a range of dates in late October and mid-November. All packages are priced per-person, based on double occupancy, with flights from Miami. Other departure cities are usually available for more.
Clearly, none of the following destinations can provide guarantees on anything weather-related (otherwise they wouldn’t be offering the deals in the first place!). But with prices this low, you can afford to have your trip cancelled and still have extra cash lying around to re-book the whole thing from scratch. Now, get out those bathing suits! Read more
Note: There is a chance that there may be no Grito in the Zócalo in 2013 as teachers are currently occupying the square in protest of educational reform. Even so, there are plenty of other places in Mexico City to celebrate (such as in the Coyoacán neighborhood), and, indeed across the world.
If you find yourself in Mexico City in the second week of September, you’ll see the city at its most festive and patriotic. National flags hang from buildings; novelty costumes, hats and Pancho Villa-esque moustaches are on sale on almost every street corner, and bakery windows are stacked high with colorful patriotic cakes.
The reason for this display of national pride is that September 16th is Mexican Independence Day, which marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. The day is celebrated with parades and festivals, and with food prepared in the color of the Mexican flag, such as chiles en nogada made up of green chili pepper, white walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds.
It is the night before, however, that you’ll experience the most inspiring tradition of the Fiestas Patrias (patriotic holidays): El Grito. Read more
Why settle for a boring hotel room when you can stay somewhere that takes your trip to a whole new level? Though many Airbnb listings feature normal, furnished apartments and homes for short-term rental, there are also quite a few lighthouses, houseboats, and castles available around the globe – most with price tags that rival or beat the nearest hotel.
To find the most interesting places to stay, pick your city and then narrow down your search by “room types” like villas, tree houses, campers, or igloos (find these options on the left side of the screen). Once you’ve found somewhere that floats your boat (or is perhaps an actual boat), submit a reservation request through the “book it” button on the website.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled a few of our favorite lodgings to jumpstart your imagination…
1. Vintage Houseboat, Amsterdam
This houseboat is located in a picturesque canal in central Amsterdam. For only 135 euro ($185) per night, you can’t go wrong, especially considering the sunny terrace for people and duck watching, a bottle of Prosecco waiting for you upon arrival, and the location within walking distance of most major museums. Read more
As the hilarious ads point out, it’s a bad week to be a seal (RIP, Snuffy), but an awesome one to be a shark fan, with the Discovery Channel’s hugely popular series, Shark Week, creating a bigger splash than ever in its 26th season. When the much-anticipated series debuted this past Sunday, a record 4.8 million viewers tuned in, according to Nielsen figures.
But the toothy good times don’t have to end when Shark Week does this Sunday, Aug. 11. On the contrary, the current range of shark-centric travel and excursions is truly staggering, offering adventurous souls numerous opportunities for climbing into cages, snorkeling with, and sidling up to these fearsome ocean predators in their natural habitat. Here, a few ways you can re-create your own real-life Shark Week experience. Read more
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