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Cruises

Istanbul city guide: where to eat, drink, shop and stay

The former seat of not one but three empires, Istanbul represents colour and history like no other; the only place in the world to straddle two continents (Europe and Asia), it’s become a powerful showcase of inclusivity and religious tolerance.

With Greeks, Romans and Venetians having initially shaped its structure, Istanbul was later to be punctuated with bursts of Ottoman influence, resulting in a design aesthetic that continues to be mimicked across the globe.

Today, it’s as much of a commercial leader as it was during the days of the Silk Road; albeit one with avant-garde concept stores, craft breweries, steamy hamams and endless types of coffee.

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But make no mistake, it’s the warm, generous people that make this city extraordinary – and they’ll keep you coming back, time and time again.

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More was clearly more for Sultan Abdül Mecit I, who upped sticks from his traditional Ottoman court at the Topkapi Palace in favour of the dizzyingly opulent, European-inspired Dolmabahçe, which has managed to turn its back on the Bosphorus.

In Istanbul, most properties tend to charge a premium for the view between Europe and Asia, but here, the river runs directly behind it.

It’ll cost 60 TL (£7.53) just to see the museum, but if you pay an extra 30 TL (£3.76), you can have a nose around the harem as well. Just keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to look around inside without joining a group guided tour, which lasts around 40 minutes.

Visit a mosque

Istanbul isn’t short of ornate mosques, but local prayer times will dictate when you can visit them.

The Blue Mosque, one of the most famous mosques in Turkey, is – as you might expect – so-called for the shimmering Iznik tiles that line its interior.

It’s slap-bang in the middle of town; you can also tick off the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace in the same afternoon.

The Suleymaniye Mosque, as the grandest imperial mosque in the city, is another must-see. Located in the historic old peninsula, its sprawling complex – the Ottoman court prior to the Topkapi Palace – is comprised of a library, tombs, soup kitchen and religious school as well as the mosque itself, and is easy walking distance from the bustling Grand Bazaar.

Have a hamam 

A rich legacy from the Romans and Byzantines, bathhouses are now an integral part of Turkey’s heritage. Over the last 2000 years, bathing in Istanbul has been perfected into an art form, and there are plenty of hamams to choose from – for every budget.

Try the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam, just across the road from the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) for an expertly-run, elegant experience; the basic 45-minute treatment costs €80 (£70.10) and includes a scrub, soap massage, olive-oil soap and cloth loofah. Unwind afterwards on the outdoor terrace of the on-site restaurant

Where to stay 

The rooms are unquestionably small at Yaşmak Sultan, but if you’re planning to be out and about exploring the area – the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Golden Horn waterfront are all in stumbling distance – that won’t matter. The Olive restaurant and rooftop is excellent value for money – think sweeping views of the old city, with mains coming in at around £6; hotel guests get 10 per cent off meals. Doubles from £51, room only.

Raffles Istanbul stands alone from the cluster of luxury hotels in Istanbul; unlike the others, it’s eschewed all Byzantine and Ottoman influences to create an impressive showcase of modern-day Turkey. There’s no better place to splash out in Istanbul if you’re an art lover; the hotel offers free tours of their 223-piece Turkish art collection, which rivals the city’s galleries – and is also home to one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city, Isokyo. Doubles from £314, B&B.

Location doesn’t get much better than with TomTom Suites; found just off the main throng of Istanbul’s busiest street, İstiklal Caddesi, it’s also well-placed for the bars and restaurants of Beyoğlu and Galata. With espresso machines in every room, white marble bathrooms with baths designed by Philippe Starck and a buzzy rooftop bar, you wouldn’t stop to think it used to be a nunnery. Doubles from £93, B&B.

The Ritz Carlton Istanbul is right next to Besiktas’ stadium, so should you wish to beat the crowds on match day, this is the closest you’ll get. If pampering is high on the agenda for spa junkies in Istanbul, it doesn’t get much better. Home to the city’s only open-air spa – with three jaw-dropping hamams – you can put your feet up to unbeatable views of the Bosphorus. Doubles from £215, B&B.

Where to eat

Pandeli, a former Turkish bathhouse turned low-key, bustling café, is almost as iconic for the turquoise Iznik tiles lining the walls as it is a hotspot for every generation of Istanbul’s ladies who lunch. Expect views of the Golden Horn and the Galata Tower over truly excellent home-style cooking. Go for lunch – it isn’t open for dinner – and let the waiters order for you. But don’t leave without trying the patlıcan böreği (flaky aubergine pie, topped with doner kebab.)

Realistically, you’re spoiled for choice in this city for good baklava, but purists remain loyal to old-favourite, Karakoy Gulloglu, as their baklavacı of choice. Make like a regular and order the mixed portion (pistachio and walnut), with a side of clotted cream and a glass of tea. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, the börek (filled pastry) will set you up nicely.  Alternatively, should you find yourself on the tourist trail near the Topkapi Palace, do your taste buds a favour and stop at Efezade; their chocolate and pistachio baklava is a must.

Regarded by many as the best mangal kebab in Istanbul, Yirmibir Kebap in Beyoglu is split into two sections: Yirmibir and Kevok Ocakbaşı. While both serve the same menu, meat lovers would do well to grab a table next to the spit, where you can watch your food being cooked. There’s a jewellery store next door, as well, which is well worth a browse. 

Jash, a small, family-run restaurant in upscale Cihangir puts an Armenian twist on Turkish classics in what feels like someone’s living room. This, if you don’t know any Istanbulites prepared to invite you over and stuff you silly at dinner, is a boon. The atmosphere is convivial and the service, warm and welcoming. Skip the spleen soup but try not to leave without trying the hünkar beğendi (pureed aubergine and meat.)

Istanbul’s equivalent to The Ivy is nearly always packed with locals and trendy tourists; who, after a trip to the nearby Istanbul Modern museum, settle in at Karakoy lokantasi to mainline raki, snap pictures of themselves (where the sympathetic lighting goes, the influencers tend to follow) and peer at the revolving art installations. But make no mistake, this place isn’t style over substance; they have a brilliant, all-Turkish wine list and excellent meze platters.

Where to drink 

Mandabatmaz means “a buffalo wouldn’t sink” in Turkish, which appears to pertain to the milky foam atop the coffee at this iconic Beyoğlu spot. Beloved by locals who are serious about their daily cup, barista Cemil Usta has been brewing the perfect one since 1967. Just tell him how you like yours – if traditional Turkish coffee is too much of a smack in the face, ask for it az şekerli (slightly sweet.)

Book before you turn up at Bosphorus Brewing Company, or “The BBC”; this micro-brewery is so popular among locals and expats, that it’s nearly impossible to get a table as a walk-in. Craft beer and pork (yes, really) are the orders of the day – the Istanbul Pale Ale or Haliç Gold are solid options, otherwise you can get beer-matched to your choice of food.

Efendi, a narrow cocktail bar in Nişantaşı, is a bit of a dandy. The cocktails are plentiful and well-executed, using fresh herbs, and they often have jazz concerts when the sun goes down. Order from the sour signatures – cocktails are around 40 TL.

Where to shop 

Souq Dukkan was originally launched as a weekly bazaar for artisans in the Karaköy area, but has since set up shop permanently in Levent – albeit, in a soulless shopping centre. There’s everything from silk shawls by local brand Rumisu to colourful headphones by Istanbul-based Happy-nes but, for the latest on the city’s creative scene, keep an eye on the store’s weekly events.

A clever edit of Turkey’s brightest independent design talents, OpenHaus has become a runaway hit with stylish locals ever since it took over a three-storey building in Nişantaşı in early 2019. Go for anything from quirky sunglasses to bedazzled evening gowns, but don’t dither on a potential purchase; the brands in store change completely from month-to-month. 

A short walk from the famed Grand Bazaar, the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Spice Bazaar) is another firm favourite on the Istanbul tourist trail – and for good reason. The vibrant domes of every spice imaginable – look out for piles of sumac, black cumin and saffron – are a camera-wielding foodie’s dream, particularly given that you can sample most of what’s on offer. Once you’re done, make a beeline for Mehmet Efendi coffee – the oldest and best coffee shop in Istanbul – which is directly outside the market, but not before you stock up on Turkish delight inside (look out for the stores selling loukoum, its traditional name).

Need a break from the tourist trail? Get walking around trendy Nişantaşı (meaning “marker stone” – used, quite literally, to measure the range of Istanbul’s archers and sultans in Ottoman times – you can still see the little obelisks on the pavements) – this is the city’s equivalent to New York’s Upper West Side. Expect stylish boutiques, hipster coffee roasteries – this part of town is more cold-brew than Turkish coffee – and utterly riveting people-watching. Park yourself outside at Ministry of Coffee (MOC) for a decent Americano and the down-low on local gossip.

Architectural highlight 

There’s no ignoring the might of the Aya Sofya, which has been reincarnated by many of the rulers of Turkey over the years, and today showcases sacred elements of Christianity and Islam side-by-side; to many, a mark of Istanbul’s religious tolerance. Built originally by the Byzantines as a church, it was to become a mosque under Ottoman rule and later – as it remains – a museum, during Atatürk’s reign. Do your research on the golden mosaics before you go in (some date back to 9th century AD) and head upstairs to the gallery for the best views of the central dome.

Nuts and bolts 

What currency do they use?

Turkish Lira.

What language do they speak?

Turkish. Some people speak English, but a lot of people won’t – particularly cabbies. If you’re planning to get around by taxi and haven’t brushed up on your Turkish, keep Google Maps at the ready.

How much should I tip?

A standard 10 per cent in restaurants, but just round up on any cab fares. Hotel staff will expect any tips to be given in cash.

What’s the time difference?

Istanbul is two hours ahead of London.

What’s the average flight time from the UK?

Pegasus flies from London Stansted to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen in around 3h 30, from £57 one way. 

Public transport

Hop on the metro! It’s well connected and easy to follow: you can buy an Istanbulkart (equivalent to London’s Oyster Card) for about 10 TL (£1.25), then top-up as you go.

What’s the best view?

Climb to the top of the Galata Tower for 360-degree views of the city.

Insider tip? Get haggling. To maximise your chances of getting the best deals at the Grand Bazaar, time your visit to either when the stores open or close; traders are superstitious about their first and last sales, so are more likely to capitulate to your price ceiling. You’d also do well to get a Museum Card, for fast-track and cheaper museum entry.

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Hilton Expands Presence in Central America with Signing of Premier Property in El Salvador

WHY IT RATES: Hilton San Salvador is a 198-room hotel that, upon opening in July 2020, will be the largest hotel conference center in the country. – Mackenzie Cullen, Editorial Associate

Hilton today announced the signing of an agreement to debut a Hilton Hotels & Resorts hotel in El Salvador. The 198-room Hilton San Salvador is scheduled to open in July 2020, representing a new country for Hilton’s growing portfolio of 160 hotels and resorts welcoming guests across the Caribbean and Latin America. Officially forming part of the World Trade Center Complex, Hilton San Salvador is owned and developed by Grupo Agrisal, and will welcome guests to the country’s capital, known for its black-sand beaches, surfing and vibrant nightlife.

“Welcoming more than two million visitors last year1, San Salvador has seen steady growth in visitor arrivals, making Hilton San Salvador a welcome addition to our growing portfolio,” said Mario Carbone, managing director, development, Mexico and Central America, Hilton. “With the opening of this hotel, we add a new country to Hilton’s global presence, and look forward to welcoming travelers with our premier hospitality and exceptional services in El Salvador.”

Nestled in the prestigious Colonia Escalon neighborhood which offers one of the best San Salvador Volcano views, the existing property will start a renovation project led by Gensler Costa Rica, before reopening as the 198-room Hilton San Salvador. With more than 30,000 square-feet of meeting and event space, the hotel boasts the country’s biggest conference center within a hotel featuring 27 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, two boardrooms and 16 flexible meeting rooms. Hotel guests will enjoy an array of recreational and dining options including an outdoor pool and fitness center, as well as onsite signature dining, bar and Specialty Coffee Shop.

With direct flights from several cities in the U.S., including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta, El Salvador is gaining popularity and encouraging tourism with expansive shopping malls, boutiques and upscale dining in top urban areas across San Salvador. Described as a hidden gem of Central America, San Salvador is surrounded by green-tipped volcanoes and centrally located to all of El Salvador’s picturesque attractions including coffee plantations, beaches and National Parks. Being the country’s leading financial, commercial and industrial center, San Salvador is also the Central America hub for several airlines.

Hilton currently has a portfolio of 160 hotels and resorts open to welcome travelers in 25 countries across the Caribbean and Latin America. The company continues to pursue additional growth opportunities and currently has a robust development pipeline of 100 hotels throughout the region. In 2020, Hilton has opened three new hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America – including the debut of the first Canopy by Hilton in in the region in Cancun, Mexico; Hilton Garden Inn Neuquén, Argentina; and DoubleTree by Hilton Bogota Salitre AR, Colombia.

Hilton San Salvador will form part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 18 distinct hotel brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard WiFi. Members also enjoy popular digital tools available exclusively through the industry-leading Hilton Honors mobile app.

For further information about Hilton visit www.newsroom.hilton.com.

SOURCE: Hilton press release.

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Atlas Ocean Voyages Offers Travel Advisors Gift Card Incentive

Atlas Ocean Voyages is offering travel advisors an incentive of up to $750 when they book clients with deposit summer 2021 and winter 2021-22 voyages in the Adriatic and Black seas, Holy Lands, South America, and Antarctica.

Travel advisors will receive a $500 gift card per Veranda- and Horizon-category stateroom booking and a $750 gift card per suite booking.

The “Get Paid Now” incentive is in addition to the existing promotional 15 percent commission for all summer 2021 and winter 2021-22 bookings aboard the new all-inclusive, expedition-style ship World Navigator.

Additionally, travelers will get $1,000 savings and free business-class air per guest when booking a suite aboard World Navigator. Those booking Horizon- or Veranda-category staterooms will save $500 and get free economy-class air per guest. The savings is $500 per guest in an Adventure stateroom. The free air is for the intercontinental segment and journeys departing prior to Oct. 28, 2021.

Atlas Ocean Voyages is also offering a 50 percent reduced deposit of $500 per guest per stateroom and $750 per guest per suite. Furthermore, Atlas is allowing free changes, so that clients can carry their deposit to any World Navigator departure, up until March 31, 2022, without penalty.

“The current travel atmosphere is dynamic and complex, but what is important and clear is that we must maintain our unwavering support for our valued travel advisor partners,” said Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages. “We must recognize that travel advisors are losing earnings due to cancellations but continue to have bills and expenses. Atlas’ ‘Get Paid Now’ program will immediately help professional travel sellers get through this industry downturn. We have previously faced adversities together, and Atlas Ocean Voyages will support our distribution partners through this challenging sales environment.”

The new Atlas Ocean Voyages offers “Luxe-Adventure” experiences on small, expedition-style ships with 98 suites and staterooms. For more information, click here.

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ASTA chief denounces US cruise advisory coronavirus

ASTA on Monday bemoaned the U.S. State Department’s advisory
that U.S. citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, avoid
traveling by cruise ship because of concerns over the Covid-19
coronavirus.  

“Given the importance of the cruise industry to travel
advisors, ASTA is gravely concerned about the impact of this advisory on our
members’ businesses,” ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said in an emailed statement. “As we
shared with the White House before the advisories were issued, the vast
majority of cruise trips go off without a hitch. Government actions should
reflect that fact and be targeted and temporary. We hope this advisory lasts
days, not weeks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is
“increased risk of infection of Covid-19 in a cruise ship environment,” the
State Department wrote. 

Many countries have implemented strict screening procedures
that have resulted in ships being denied entry to certain ports. Over the
weekend, three ships were denied entry at ports in the United States. The Grand
Princess had to circle around international waters off San Francisco Bay
because 19 crew members and two guests tested positive for coronavirus. The
ship was eventually allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday. 

Kerby’s comments came two days after Vice President Mike
Pence met with leaders of major cruise lines as part of a new coronavirus task
force. The leaders pledged to cooperate to come up with a plan that would
include enhanced entry and exit screening and onboard testing. 

CLIA also sent out a statement on Monday in response to the
State Department’s advisory. 

“We are staying focused on development of an aggressive,
responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with Vice President Pence that
goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols in place, which we
believe are a model for others,” CLIA said. 

Kerby said that there are 365 cruise ships and nearly 700,000
passengers sailing per day worldwide. Most don’t have a coronavirus problem. 

“A targeted focus on cruising is a distraction from the real
issue of community spread,” he said. “Telling the traveling public to avoid
cruising and painting the entire industry with a broad ‘high risk’ brush stroke
is irresponsible and adds to the ‘info-demic’ gripping the public. Those who
have underlying health conditions should consult their physician to evaluate a
variety of activities, including travel.”

ASTA has 12,000 members across the country, and 98% are
small businesses, Kerby said. Many depend on cruise sales to make their living.

He urged the Trump administration to work with Congress to
come up with a legislative package of “targeted relief for the travel industry,
especially the small businesses at its core.”

ASTA on Tuesday will testify before the U.S. House of
Representatives Small Business Committee to provide examples of how Congress
can help travel advisors, such as federal grants and regulatory relief. 

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Coalition urges Americans to keep traveling

As concerns about the Covid-19 coronovirus spread around the
globe, a coalition of 150 travel organizations on Tuesday urged Americans to
stay calm and make fact-based decisions about travel.

The coalition includes the U.S. Travel Association, CLIA, Airlines
for America, ASTA, American Hotel & Lodging Association, U.S. Tour
Operators Association and a host of destination marketing organizations.

“Health and government officials have continually assured
the public that healthy Americans can confidently travel in this country,” the
groups wrote. “While it’s critically important to remain vigilant and take
useful precautions in times like these, it’s equally important to make calm,
rational, and fact-based decisions.

“The latest expert guidance indicates that for the
overwhelming majority, it’s OK to live, work, play and travel in the U.S. By
seeking and heeding the latest expert guidance — which includes vigorous use
of good health practices, similar to the preventive steps recommended for the
seasonal flu — America’s communities will stay strong and continue to thrive.”

The groups warned that canceling travel and events “has a
trickle-down effect that threatens to harm the U.S. economy, from locally owned
hotels, restaurants, travel advisors and tour operators to the service and
frontline employees who make up the backbone of the travel industry and the
American economy.”

They also vowed to remain in close contact with Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and
Health and Human Services, and to take enhanced steps “to ensure both the
safety of travelers, guests and our own employees.”

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Travel Agents Fighting the Coronavirus Fear Factor

As the coronavirus consumer media coverage continues to gain momentum, travel advisors believe what really has gone viral is fear.

“Fear is our biggest problem right now,” said Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel. “There is a lack of reliable, solid information about the virus.”

As a case point, one of the quarantine facilities used for travelers on Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess – Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga. – is located a couple of miles from Schoeder’s home. “Several friends have called and asked what I am doing about that – as if all of us in the area are at risk from those in a quarantine.”

In the view of FROSCH’s Ben Gritzewsky, the media coverage doesn’t tell the whole story. “If you look at the statistics, it’s pretty clear that there are more deadlier, riskier diseases than the coronavirus,” he said, adding that the H1N1 virus (swine flu) caused the death of many more people than the coronavirus.

Gritzewsky, who is based in Merida, Mexico, said that he hasn’t witnessed disruption in travel to the destination. “I have haven’t noticed any changes.”

He noted that the annual Tianguis conference is still scheduled to take place in Merida March 22-25, as is the World Travel & Tourism Council (Global Summit in Cancun April 21-23. “These two big events are still on the books,” he said.

Although there’s clearly no question that many agents’ clients have canceled their travel plans, others remain undaunted.

James Ferguson, a luxury cruise specialist with Travel Edge, said many of his clients are still proceeding with their trips, including customers sailing on a two-week Princess cruise next month.

Schoeder just had clients return from a Caribbean cruise. “They had a good trip,” she said. “They did not think about canceling – they just made sure they were outside as much as possible and followed proper hand-washing procedures.”

Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen noted that the agency has “clients who wish to get away this summer from the heat, the rising death numbers from influenza, and the current crime rate in the U.S. More and more clients are aware that there are more than 80 countries on the planet that are statistically safer than America.”

He added, “We are doing all possible to educate them on this subject and to drive home the fact that when you travel virtually anywhere overseas your life expectancy increases. The longer you are away – the more it goes up.”

In the end, Ferguson noted that that travel is a resilient industry.

“Your trusted travel advisor has your best interests front-of-mind,” he said. “We remain travelers’ best source of information in making their personal decisions.”

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Silversea Reassures Travel Advisors by Protecting Commissions

Following the introduction of the Royal Caribbean Group’s “Cruise with Confidence” program, luxury line Silversea went further by protecting travel agent commissions on bookings canceled for voyages departing between March 9 and July 31, 2020.

Silversea will protect all bookings refunded through a future cruise credit in which guests have made their final payment.

This enhancement is offered in addition to the “Cruise with Confidence” program, which lets guests cancel their voyages up to 48 hours before the sailing date and receive a Future Cruise Credit valid for two years after the date of issue. The offer is good on cruises departing from March 9 to July 31, 2020.

Silversea will allow travel partners to retain any commissions already paid, and pay commissions on bookings canceled between March 9 and July 31, 2020, after they were paid in full, provided the cancellation occurs outside of the 48-hour cancellation window outlined in the Cruise with Confidence program.

Further, bookings made through redemption of these Future Cruise Credits will also be eligible for full commission based on the cruise value of the new booking.

“The current circumstances regarding the outbreak of Covid-19 novel coronavirus, which are out of our control, inspired Silversea and the Royal Caribbean Group to introduce this program,” said Mark Conroy, Silversea’s managing director for the Americas. “We know our loyal travel partners are undoubtedly working particularly hard during these uncertain times, and it is important to all of us at Silversea that you are receiving your well-deserved compensation. We appreciate your partnership, and we could not succeed without your support.”

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Aqua Nera to make debut in October

Aqua Expeditions said it will launch its new Amazon ship in
October.

The Aqua Nera, the company’s second ship on the Peruvian
Amazon, will operate  three-, four- and
seven-night sailings from Iquitos. 

The luxury ship will have 20 cabins, a restaurant, lounge, plunge
pool and gym.

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Railbookers and Amtrak Announce Cancellation Policy Changes

Railbookers and Amtrak Vacations have announced a new cancellation and rescheduling policy to help travel advisors and their clients deal with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Any NEW reservations booked through April 30, 2020 will have the option to change their travel dates or cancel their rail vacation up until 5 days prior to departure without incurring any change or cancellation fees.

Any EXISTING reservations can be rescheduled up to 5 days prior to departure date without incurring any change or cancellation fees.

In either case, customers will be issued a voucher for future travel valid for 24 months, which can be used toward a new reservation with any of our brands, destinations, and itineraries for any travel date and length of trip without any penalty*.

“With Railbookers and Amtrak Vacations, we give our travel advisors and customers maximum flexibility so they can choose where, when, and how long they want to travel. For example, if a travel advisor’s client no longer wants to travel to Italy, they can select a Grand Canyon journey with our Amtrak Vacations brand. We are not restricting customers to specific dates of travel or destinations. If the train goes there, so do we,” explains Frank Marini, President of Railbookers and Amtrak Vacations.

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ASTA chief denounces US cruise advisory coronavirus

ASTA on Monday bemoaned the U.S. State Department’s advisory
that U.S. citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, avoid
traveling by cruise ship because of concerns over the Covid-19
coronavirus.  

“Given the importance of the cruise industry to travel
advisors, ASTA is gravely concerned about the impact of this advisory on our
members’ businesses,” ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said in an emailed statement. “As we
shared with the White House before the advisories were issued, the vast
majority of cruise trips go off without a hitch. Government actions should
reflect that fact and be targeted and temporary. We hope this advisory lasts
days, not weeks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is
“increased risk of infection of Covid-19 in a cruise ship environment,” the
State Department wrote. 

Many countries have implemented strict screening procedures
that have resulted in ships being denied entry to certain ports. Over the
weekend, three ships were denied entry at ports in the United States. The Grand
Princess had to circle around international waters off San Francisco Bay
because 19 crew members and two guests tested positive for coronavirus. The
ship was eventually allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday. 

Kerby’s comments came two days after Vice President Mike
Pence met with leaders of major cruise lines as part of a new coronavirus task
force. The leaders pledged to cooperate to come up with a plan that would
include enhanced entry and exit screening and onboard testing. 

CLIA also sent out a statement on Monday in response to the
State Department’s advisory. 

“We are staying focused on development of an aggressive,
responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with Vice President Pence that
goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols in place, which we
believe are a model for others,” CLIA said. 

Kerby said that there are 365 cruise ships and nearly 700,000
passengers sailing per day worldwide. Most don’t have a coronavirus problem. 

“A targeted focus on cruising is a distraction from the real
issue of community spread,” he said. “Telling the traveling public to avoid
cruising and painting the entire industry with a broad ‘high risk’ brush stroke
is irresponsible and adds to the ‘info-demic’ gripping the public. Those who
have underlying health conditions should consult their physician to evaluate a
variety of activities, including travel.”

ASTA has 12,000 members across the country, and 98% are
small businesses, Kerby said. Many depend on cruise sales to make their living.

He urged the Trump administration to work with Congress to
come up with a legislative package of “targeted relief for the travel industry,
especially the small businesses at its core.”

ASTA on Tuesday will testify before the U.S. House of
Representatives Small Business Committee to provide examples of how Congress
can help travel advisors, such as federal grants and regulatory relief.

Source: Read Full Article