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Giggles are muffled and eyebrows are raised when anyone mentions traveling to Amsterdam. After some perfunctory chit chat about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, a pregnant pause typically lingers until someone asks the question: “Did you smoke marijuana?” Since the 1970s, tourists have flocked to Amsterdam to legally get high. Now, however, the laws have changed and, come May 1, coffee shops in the southern half of the country will cater only to Dutch residents who are registered members and possess a “weed pass.”
Of course, lawyers for the coffee shops are fighting the ban on tourists and hope to prevent the law from going national come January 1, 2013. However, I think it’s high time that other cities followed the Dutch and made local customs available only to residents. Here are just a few treasured traditions that locals deserve to enjoy without having to share with tourists.
Before Miami Beach Gay Pride takes over Ocean Drive in April, the 12th Annual Winter Party Festival rolls into town for three days of dancing under the sun (held March 2–4, 2012). Consider it an amped-up amuse-bouche for the celebratory fundraising season; the events benefit local Miami–Dade LGBT organizations, as well as the lawyerly set at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Some $1.2 million has been raised since 2004. Read more
Disney Cruise Line has recently announced itineraries and ports for 2013, which include the exciting return of European cruises and a new home port in Miami. And although the news for 2012 is not quite as recent, this year is nevertheless a big year for Disney Cruise Line as well, from the March debut of the Disney Fantasy (one of our 2012 best cruise picks) to the introduction of three new home ports – some of which will no longer be used in 2013. As such, here’s a breakdown of what’s to come in 2013, and a reminder list of 2012’s options, so you can be sure to join Disney at the port-of-call that strikes your fancy.
New in 2012
New York City, New York: Starting this year, you can choose from several cruise itineraries that call NYC their home port: The 8-night Bahamian cruise (with Walt Disney World day trip included), the 5-night New England and Canadian coastal cruise, or the 2-night get-away-from-it-all New York Weekend Getaway Cruise. Note, though, that none of the New York City itineraries are available in 2013.
Something tasty this way comes: Whether you’re an avid fan of Top Chef or looking for a unique night out, former Butt magazine mustached gay pinup and celebuchef Ty-Lör Boring is popping up shop in NYC’s Nolita neighborhood with T.B.D. Restaurant. The dinners-only engagement will last for just six nights next week, February 6–11, in City Grit, an industrial antiques store by day and pop-up restaurant by night, housed in the old St. Patrick’s Elementary building (Martin Scorsese’s alma mater!). Read more
For our travel deal-hunting community here at ShermansTravel.com, the name of the game has just changed. Gone are the days of too-good-to-be-true advertised rates of $9 fares to Florida, or flights to Europe for $199 (which could easily double, triple, or even quadruple in cost once a thick layer of airline fees, fuel surcharges, and taxes was coated on). As of today, January 26, new government regulations (which we reported on earlier in the month) require that airlines – and all third-party travel agencies and websites, like ours, that promote their fares – must provide upfront disclosure on the full price of the airfares, including all mandatory taxes and fees, in the name of fair advertising.
Sure, it’ll take a little getting used to seeing the increased flight and vacation package costs at first glance, but, breathe easy – there’s been no actual rate hike here, and in the long run, we think this is just the ticket for our deal-savvy readers like you. Plus, the new rules have also made a provision for some interesting new adjustments to airfare reservations. Here’s a rundown on what the new rules ultimately mean for you: Are flights and vacation packages now going to be more expensive?
No. You’ll notice that the rates on ShermansTravel.com’s flights and vacation packages will appear slightly higher moving forward, but, rest assured, the deals are no more expensive than they were before this change went into effect. We’re simply listing the deals’ true cost, after taxes and fees have been factored in. The base rates for the deals have remained the same, as have the total cost of applicable taxes and fees – you’re just now seeing them combined in one shot. Read more
If you want to apply for a passport card for cruising and trips across the border, the process just got much easier – if you already have a valid 10-year passport book, anyway. Rather than mailing in your passport and DS-82 form, you can now apply online (via an encrypted and secure application) and keep your passport safe at home. Note: The online option is only available as a pilot program which will last until April 22 or 20,000 applications, whichever comes first.
A passport card (also called a PASS Card) is not a replacement for your passport, as it can only be used for land and sea travel between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda – it cannot be used for air travel. It is, however, ideal for frequent border-crossing commuters and cruisers. The card is wallet-sized and contains an RFID chip to speed up the customs process, and is only $30 if you already have a passport. An added bonus: Having a passport card makes it easier to replace a stolen or lost passport – although we hope you never need it for that, of course.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, cruises, and other travel deals.
Miami’s LGBT scene will be sizzling come spring. First up on the docket, the Miami Beach Pride, held on April 15 this year, will be bringing buzz back to the Deco District. Last year’s event saw 40,000 people march down Ocean Drive, making it the largest single-day event in South Beach’s history, and with the addition of the post-Pride party cruise, one of the most unique.
Setting sail Monday, April 16, through Friday, April 20, onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky, the Miami Beach Pride Cruise offers a chance to extend the party with a 4-night voyage to the Bahamas with stops in Grand Bahamas, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line’s private island. A portion of the proceeds will be donated back to Miami Beach Gay Pride’s charitable causes. Read more
Southwest Airlines has offered a peek at its new cabin interior design plans, part of a $60 million revamp set to begin rolling out in March. The airline intends to retrofit the majority its current fleet, putting a focus on cabin comfort, efficiency, and sustainability.
The upgraded cabins will feature durable and environmentally sensitive materials geared towards lessening onboard weight and waste products (look for recyclable carpets), brighter color accents, and slimmer passenger seating. The new seats will bump up those available onboard from 137 to 143 and offer improved ergonomics, as well as increased under-seat room for carry-ons. They’ll also reduce the recline from three to two inches – a pain, perhaps, if you’re planning on dozing, but as it applies to the guy in front of you, too, it guarantees less intrusion into your personal space overall. Read more
In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia crash over the weekend in the waters off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio, details of exactly what went wrong are still rolling in as search-and-rescue operations wind down and the ship’s “black box” is reviewed. Of the more than 4,200 people onboard, six perished in the accident and some 14 passengers remain unaccounted for – though rescue operations are currently halted due to safety and environmental concerns. Initial indications are pointing to grave human error on the part of Captain Francesco Schettino, who took an unauthorized route that brought the vessel too close to shore where it hit a reef (which caused it to take on water and ultimately topple over), and then failed to put standard Costa emergency procedures into place once the accident had occurred (he is currently under arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, as well as accusations of abandoning the ship prior to the completion of its evacuation).
Regardless of the cause of the Concordia‘s demise, current Costa Cruises ticket holders (the cruise line is owned by the Carnival Corporation) may find themselves understandably jostled by the whole event, especially given the widely published disturbing images of the partially submerged vessel and tales of a chaotic evacuation scene (parallels to the Titanic – which is commemorating the centennial of its sinking in April – have been widely drawn). We’ve been in touch with the folks at Costa and sifted through their policies and press releases to bring you the lowdown on what prospective Costa cruisers can expect in the months ahead. Read more
The Washington, D.C., area will be getting a lot more air traffic this year. Following U.S. Airways’ announcement that they will be increasing frequency of flights to D.C., Porter Airlines – also one of our Top 10 Budget Airlines – will begin operating daily roundtrip flights between Washington Dulles International Airport and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
This route is now the Canadian airline’s sixth U.S. destination (Porter also flies to New York, Chicago, and Boston, and has seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Burlington, Vt.). Flights will begin operating on April 16, with up to three roundtrip flights daily.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more travel deals.
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