Tag Archives: Monarch of the Seas

the IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 3.26.2012

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
© Radkol | Dreamstime.com

A new hotel reservation site has made its debut on the Web. It’s called Tingo, and its main calling card comes into play after you make your hotel reservation.

The folks at Tingo say they will keep an eye on your pre-paid reservation. If your room price drops after you’ve reserved it, Tingo will arrange a refund of the difference, automatically.

You can read more about Tingo in this msnbc.com story here.

In my next life, I might be an engineer, because I love bridges. Admiring them. Photographing them. Sailing under them. Or best of all, walking over them.

I still have fantasies about riding the elevator that runs up the inside of each of the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, with my trusty little Canon G12 camera in hand, to take pics from the very top.

That probably explains why I got such a kick out of Cristina Puscas’ list of 13 famous bridges that you can walk or climb. It’s on the BootsnAll Web site, which specializes in independent travel.

With this list as a guide, bridge-hopping can take you around the world.

The New York Times devotes its Sunday travel section this week to Asia, starting with a sizable story on India that features three possible itineraries based on time — one, two or three weeks.

The piece itself is informative enough, but some of the comments below it are just as insightful, especially those that suggest a possible bias on the part of travel writers toward northern India.

Finally, the folks at Air France are making a point of showing off one of their crews on a recent Flight 438, a Boeing 777 from Paris (CDG) to Mexico City (MEX).

Three pilots, 13 flight attendants. All women.

The airline put up its own video to mark the occasion.

I’m not sure how the macho Mexican male passengers on the flight reacted when they found out about the all-female flight crew, but I’ll bet the mujeres on board were diggin’ it.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:


from Gadling
When’s the best time to shop for your airfare? These guys say six weeks in advance.

from Budget Travel
What happens when your airline reservation magically disappears. One travel editor’s experience.

from AirSafe
On any given day, ten people will come to a US airport to board an airplane with a weapon in their possession — and seven of them will get past airport security. One of several statistical bits about the TSA, arrayed in the form of a vertical graphic.

from USA Today
How to keep European transportation strikes from blowing up your travel plans.

from Smarter Travel
Traveling to Europe this year? Bringing your iPhone with you? From restaurant guides and subway maps to currency converters and translators, these apps are custom-made to help the European traveler, and most of them are free.

from Woman Seeks World
One traveler’s list of the ten most popular countries to emigrate to. If you get the impression it’s a somewhat Eurocentric list, I wouldn’t argue.

from Lonely Planet
The LP crew offers up its list of the world’s ten best cycling routes. Saddle up.

from Fodors
Looking for a cruise that gets you off the familiar itineraries? One of these might feed your need for something different at sea.

from USA Today
Another old, familiar name in cruise ships is going away…sort of. Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas, whose wrap-around smokestack-mounted lounge created an iconic silhouette among Caribbean cruisers, is being transferred out of the fleet.

from USA Today
The river cruise business is heating up bigtime, especially in Europe. The Viking line christens four new European river cruisers…on the same day.


from Nature
Private developers are scrambling to buy up vast tracts of African land. Is this land grab holding back progress on the continent?

from eTurbo News
Perhaps none too soon, given the above developments, Tanzania plans to host the first-ever pan-African conference by the UN World Tourism Organization on sustainable tourism management in national parks and protected areas.

from University of Oxford
Did you know that Africa has as many cities of 1 million people or more as Europe? These guys see that as one of six reasons why investing in Africa is a good idea.

from NewsDay (Zimbabwe)
Think Americans are the only people in the world who are into reality television? Zimbabwe has its own reality TV show in the works, this one focused on the country’s tourist attractions. And yes, they plan to market this show globally.

from Wolfganghthome
Rwanda is hooking up with Google Maps to digitally mark its major tourist destinations, a first for the Mother Continent, according to this blogger.

from Travel Travel (United Kingdom)
A sample of the kind of cheap Africa vacation packages available from Europe. This one just happens to include a stay at the hotel where I stayed in the Gambia.


from Frommer’s Travel
Five ways for Americans to legally visit Cuba. SLIDESHOW

from USA Today
America’s capital is loaded with history, charm, great eateries, great watering holes — and it’s table-flat. Sound like a great weekend bike ride? Now, you can rent your wheels in Washington DC.


from the New York Times
Myanmar, the country that many of us still think of as Burma, is emerging as a new travel destination for the early 21st century. A primer on how to get there and what you’ll find.

from the New York Times
A generation ago, Laos was the site of the Southeast Asian war your parents didn’t know about. Today, it’s the exotic, fascinating travel destination that you may not know about.

from Gadling
When it comes to visiting India’s famed Taj Mahal, timing is everything, especially if you want that great pic.

from msnbc.com
Poor Las Vegas. First, they had to contend with casinos on Indian reservations siphoning off visitors. Now, they have to deal with Singapore.


from The Quirky Traveller
The quirky side of Britain’s Lake District.

from Mo Travels
A black American expat in Amsterdam shares her all-girl getaway near Lake Garda in Italy.

from The Guardian (London UK)
​Reader tips on where and what to eat in Turkey. If all you’re expecting is kebabs, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

from USA Today
International airports have been built on artificial islands before, but never at the mouth of one of the world’s busiest rivers, like the Thames in England. The mayor of London thinks that’s a fine idea.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Okay, this is just strange: Camel wrestling in Turkey? If your travel tastes run toward the bizarre, see this ancient Aegean custom — before the Turkish government finds a reason to ban it.


How clean is your cruise ship?

A surprise health inspection catches one of Royal Caribbean’s vessels slipping badly on hygiene.

Okay, this is just scary.

Our friends over at Cruise Critic are reporting that inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently hit Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas for one of its two annual surprise health inspections.

To earn a passing grade, your ship has to score 86 points out of 100.

Monarch came in at 85. Not good. And we’re not talking a handful of violations, either, but dozens of them. Really not good. But what jumps out at you are the nature of the violations the CDC found.

Among other things:

  • Dirty dishes stacked amid clean ones
  • Multiple examples of unsafe food handling
  • Missing safety signs
  • Poor management of pool water
  • Multiple encounters of fruit flies among the food

Definitely not good.

To give you an idea how serious this is, there’s only one other cruise ship that’s flunked a CDC inspection all year. That was the fairly new — and very pricey — Queen Mary 2.

You can read the entire Cruise Critic report here.

CDC health inspections are tough. They should be. Of the dozens of liners making calls on American ports, only eight this year have aced the inspections with perfect scores.

But hearing that ships can actually fail these tests is more than a little disconcerting, because once on board, we have little control over our own health and safety. We depend on crew and company to keep things ship-shape.

They place the well-being of thousands in jeopardy every time they don’t.

So with this failed inspection, does this mean that Monarch of the Seas will now have to be re-christened as “Monarch of Disease?” Hardly. Royal Caribbean will get these things fixed and the ship will be just fine.

That’s why these inspections are done, to show crews and companies where they’re slipping so they can better protect us.

Still, it’s a reminder of why government oversight is important when it comes to public health.