Archive for December, 2010

Damage from blizzard lingers in the Northeast

December 29th, 2010 by Mariah

New York (CNN) — A historic blizzard that blanketed the Northeast with several feet of snow was still causing heartburn for pilots, air traffic controllers and stranded passengers Wednesday.

Some 10,000 flights have been canceled because of the weather since Saturday, according to the airlines.

Representatives from AirTran, American, Continental, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United, U.S. Airways, Spirit and Southwest reported a total of at least 9,726 trips were called off due to weather since Saturday.

Of those, at least 1,335 flights were canceled on Tuesday as major airports across the region slowly got back to normal.

Nowhere is the traveling heartburn more pronounced than at John F. Kennedy airport in New York where passengers on international flights have had to wait up to 11 hours on the tarmac before being allowed to deplane.

Travel nightmare at JFK airport At least a handful of flights sat in the cold of a New York night early Wednesday, waiting for a gate and permission to unload. Passengers on at least three flights — Aero Mexico, Air France and Lufthansa — waited more than six hours to get off their planes.

No explanation was immediately available from airport officials or the airlines.

The worst case involved a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The plane arrived in New York at 2:12 a.m. ET on Tuesday; no one got off the plane shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

“It wasn’t fun with three children sitting there,” said passenger Vincent Butcher. “No one has admitted to making any mistakes.”

At some point, Butcher said, there was even talk of a ladder being brought out to the runway, but that did not happen. The airline told him it may be at least 48 hours before the family gets its luggage, he said.

Passenger Max Ascui told CNN’s “AC360″ that the crew did a good job but couldn’t provide answers on what would happen.

Cathay apologized on Wednesday.

“We are particularly sorry for the great inconvenience that more than 1,100 passengers have suffered throughout their long wait inside our aircraft on the tarmac,” a statement from the airline said.

Five Cathay flights sat on the JFK tarmac from four to 11 hours.

“Our intentions to get our passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible were good, but we could not overcome the challenging conditions at JFK due to the snowstorm and as a result did not live up to our service standards, for which we sincerely apologize,” the airline said.
Four international flights were stranded at JFK on Tuesday without gates available to unload passengers, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said Tuesday.

Because the JFK flights were international, they had to be unloaded in specific customs areas to undergo screening, he said.

“There is just no place that you can dump 1,000 people in a secured area for a period of time,” Coleman said.

He said the planes were stranded because the airlines brought them in without checking with terminal operations to see if there was a place to put them.

The damage caused by the blizzard likely will continue to linger.

“With all the cancellations and delays, it’ll be two to three days before the airlines are at a regular schedule,” said Thomas Bosco, general manager of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Early Tuesday evening, LaGuardia was still operating well below its normal 70 flights per hour, he said.

Delta Air Lines canceled 300 flights on Tuesday and was still facing reduced operations at JFK and Newark because of runway issues, according to spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

Banstetter said the airline is hoping to return to a full schedule at JFK sometime Wednesday morning, and at Newark by midday.

The Federal Transportation Security Administration has been coordinating with airports and airlines to bolster staffing as necessary as flights resume, according to spokeswoman Sterling Payne.

Other travel — by rail and road — was snarled as well. Hundreds of people were left stranded at New York’s Pennsylvania railroad station after Long Island Railroad canceled trains. Amtrak said it would resume normal service Wednesday between Boston and Washington, but passengers could see some delays.

Passengers Stranded For 11 Hours on JFK Tarmac

December 29th, 2010 by Mariah

New York (CNN) — Airline passengers who spent 11 hours stuck on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport were unloaded Tuesday afternoon in the latest example of the frustrating effects of a massive blizzard that delayed thousands of would-be holiday travelers.

The airport, airline and government officials engaged in finger-pointing over delays on the tarmac.

“There were a lot of people on the plane crying,” said passenger Christina Edgar. “It was really a tough situation.”

She called the situation “just a bad judgment call.”

“They kept trying to get us to go, and they kept us on the plane with no choice,” Edgar said.

Travelers aboard the Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, arrived in New York at 2:12 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

They got off the plane shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

“It wasn’t fun with three children sitting there,” said passenger Vincent Butcher. “No one has admitted to making any mistakes.”

At some point, Butcher said, there was even talk of a ladder being brought out to the runway, but that did not happen. The airline told him it may be at least 48 hours before the family gets its luggage, he said.

Passenger Max Ascui told “AC360″ that the crew did a good job but couldn’t provide answers on what would happen.

Cathay Pacific spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the airline’s intention was “to get passengers to New York as quickly as possible, and we anticipated to have gate space available.”

He said the gate typically assigned to the airline had been moved “because of what became a very fluid situation at JFK due to the weather.”

Four international flights were stranded at JFK on Tuesday without gates available to unload passengers, officials said.

“We also had four flights come into LaGuardia, but because they were domestic flights we were able to get them off,” said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.

Coleman said that because the JFK flights were international, they had to be unloaded in specific customs areas to undergo screening.

“There is just no place that you can dump 1,000 people in a secured area for a period of time,” Coleman said.

He said the planes were stranded because the airlines brought them in without checking with terminal operations to see if there was a place to put them.

The airline’s website advised passengers on other flights scheduled for Tuesday to check for confirmed departure times before traveling to the airport.

A British Airways spokesman also blamed a lack of gate space for the seven-hour stranding of its passengers on a flight from London.

Aeromexico’s Flight 404 landed at JFK from Mexico City at 1:15 a.m., more than two hours behind schedule, but passenger Cristobal Alex said it was six hours before he could walk off the plane.

“We were running out of food and water and the pilot came on to say he had been arguing with the folks at the airport to at least let the police come on board to deliver some food and water,” Alex said. “And I guess he lost that fight — nobody came on.”

The airport keeps buses ready to help remove passengers from planes stranded on the tarmacs, “but sometimes the airlines don’t inform us,” said Coleman.

The Aeromexico jet pulled up to a gate after several hours on the tarmac, but the doors stayed closed until 7 a.m. ET, Alex said.

“Apparently, what happened was the Customs folks went home at 1 a.m. and so everybody coming international kind of had to sit out there in the snow all night,” he said.

“It’s possible” the lack of a customs staff caused the deplaning delays for international flights, Coleman said, “and that’s why we have to look into the whole situation.”

“It might have been a situation where too many planes came in with not enough gate space for them,” Coleman said.

However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in New York said those reports were incorrect.

“At no point were Customs officials sent home,” spokesman John Saleh said.

“For flights arriving after midnight, there is usually one terminal available which is always staffed with Customs officers,” said Saleh.

He said Customs officials have been taking multiple shifts to ensure ample staffing, noting that agency has no involvement in passengers deplaning or the removal of their cargo.

Saleh said it is the responsibility of the airlines to notify Customs officials when arriving at JFK.

The fourth international flight stuck on the tarmac was another Cathay Pacific flight, according to the Port Authority, but it was not known where that flight originated or how long it was stranded.

For the passengers who were able to deplane after several hours, some had more frustration ahead — they were informed they could not access their luggage.

Tai Nickel, a passenger aboard the Aeromexico flight, said “most people were calm” as they waited inside the plane.

“But once we got out, people were more upset because there were no bags,” he said.

British Airways Flight 183 arrived in New York a few minutes early Monday night, but it took seven hours before a gate was opened “due to the weather-related problems they have been having lately,” an airline spokesman said Tuesday morning.

“We fully apologize to customers for this delay, but it is outside our control what parking stands we are allocated,” said the British Airways spokesman.

On the Aeromexico plane, Alex credited flight attendants for keeping their composure.

“They were actually quite nice and pleasant and had a smile on the face throughout the whole ordeal,” he said.

Passengers on several other flights also posted Twitter messages complaining they were stuck on the tarmac at JFK overnight.

The Airline Passengers Bill of Rights, which prohibits airlines from letting passengers stay on grounded planes for more than three hours, doesn’t apply in these situations.

Kate Hanni, executive director of, said the rule doesn’t apply to international flights.

Skiers Fall From Chairlift at Maine Resort

December 29th, 2010 by Mariah

Five stranded skiers have been evacuated from the chairlift that broke down Tuesday at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, CNN Newsource employee Robb Atkinson said.

Officials with the ski resort said it would take 60 to 90 minutes to rescue all the trapped skiers.
A gust of wind derailed a chairlift cable Tuesday morning, according to a resort spokesman, sending skiers tumbling.

At least three people were injured, said CNN Newsource employee Robb Akinson, who was among about 100 skiers stranded on the chairlift 30 to 40 feet off the ground after the accident.

“We heard screams from skiers down below that skiers were off the lift, and we’ve been trapped ever since,” he told CNN’s Tony Harris.

Skiers would have to climb down one at a time using harnesses and ropes, Atkinson said.

“We’ve got a whole lot of people throwing ropes over the lift right now,” Atkinson’s wife, Maureen, said.

Robb Atkinson said the temperature was about 8 degrees with a 20 mph to 30 mph wind. The resort received 20-22 inches of fresh snow with the weekend blizzard, he said.

A spokesman for the ski resort said the lift cable derailed between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., and all the chairs on that cable fell to the ground.

Rescuers were swiftly bringing stranded skiers down from a broken-down chairlift at western Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain resort, CNN Newsource employee Robb Atkinson said.

“It’s incredibly organized. They know what they’re doing,” Atkinson said while still suspended 30 to 40 feet above the ground. “They’re moving incredibly fast.”
The accident occurred on the resort’s Spillway East slope, which runs all the way to the top of the mountain, Maureen Atkinson said.

Disney Sells Out 2nd Day in a Row

December 29th, 2010 by Mariah

(CNN) — California’s Disneyland filled to capacity two hours after opening Tuesday — the second day in a row the 55-year-old theme park was forced to turn potential guests away because of overcrowding.

A park spokeswoman said the park stopped selling tickets at 10 a.m.

“This stoppage is fairly typical for us during our holiday peak period,” said Betty Sanchez. “Certainly we want all of our guests to have the best guest experience, so we have measures in place to make sure that we deliver the best time.”

Park officials directed people to another park in the Disneyland Resort complex, California Adventure, but Sanchez said that park, too, experienced overcrowding.

“We stopped selling tickets briefly at the California Adventure, as well,” she said.

Sanchez said great weather coupled with holiday deals helped lure more people to the parks.

Disneyland does not release attendance numbers, including how many times the park has sold out.

Five airports with art worth seeing

December 23rd, 2010 by Mariah

(CNN) — Rushing around is standard airport behavior, but surprising collections of art at U.S. airports offer a moment for reflection — for those who have the time.

Here are five airports where you can catch some art on the way to catching your flight:

1. Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, was one of the first airports in the United States to integrate art into its public spaces, according to its officials.

Some 30 permanent art exhibits are on display at the airport, including “Mustang,” a 32-foot tall, bright blue, cast fiberglass horse sculpture with gleaming red eyes.

New Mexico artist Luis Jiménez created the 9,000-pound piece — the largest of his career.

Jiménez died while working on the sculpture in 2006 when a large section of the piece fell on him while it was being hoisted in his studio.

Today, “Mustang” greets drivers as they approach DIA and is the first thing visitors see as they depart the airport.

“Jiménez’s work elicits strong feelings as his pieces are very striking,” said Matt Chasansky, DIA public art administrator. “About 50% of people I’ve spoken with love his work, while the others hate it.”

In addition to Denver, his sculptures are collected and displayed in public spaces and museums around the country.

Jiménez was the son of Mexican immigrants and was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1940.

2. Sacramento International Airport

Sacramento International Airport in Sacramento, California, may be a mid-sized airport but it has big artistic ambitions.

Terminal A’s baggage claim houses a piece called “Samson,” which

is two 23-foot tall pillars made from 1,400 pieces of luggage stacked on two wheeled carts. Brian Goggin’s work appears to hold up the ceiling. Steel beams attached to the airport’s existing columns keep the structure sturdy.

“It does exactly what great public art is supposed to do: Create a sense of fun and whimsy in a normally utilitarian place,” said airport spokeswoman Karen Doron.

Goggin’s work landed in the coveted spot in 1998 after competing in Sacramento’s Arts in Pubic Places program. “Samson” is one of the programs 8 selected pieces on display at the airport.

When the airport builds a new terminal, the airport will also be adding 13 new pieces of art, including a controversial sculpture by Lawrence Argent: a 56-foot-long red rabbit made of fiberglass leaping from the rafters into a stone suitcase on the floor.

Some wonder if the planned $800,000 centerpiece is money well spent. Judge for yourself when it appears, planned for sometime next year.

3. Miami International Airport

Miami International Airport is the largest U.S. gateway for Latin America and the Caribbean. So it seems fitting that the airport’s international baggage claim is home to a piece called “Ghost Palms” by artist Norie Sato.

Situated at five window bays along a 300-foot-long glass wall, the work takes its inspiration from the ubiquitous palm trees that populate the Miami-Dade County landscape.

Each of the five sites, 24 feet tall, expresses a specific, strong structure of the palm, whether the frond, the branch or the trunk.

Hand-painted and sandblasted glass, laminated glass, aluminum and terrazzo were used to create the work.

The colors in the glass are formed with embedded powders that reflect multiple spectrums of light, which not only change colors throughout the day, but alter as passengers move throughout the baggage claim area.

See Miami’s website for more unique artwork at this international airport.

4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Atlanta, Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson is one of the world’s busiest airports, and it offers plenty of art for busy travelers throughout its six concourses.

On display now in Concourse E is a piece called “Concorde” by Alabama artist Craig Nutt. The wood carving of a corn on the cob flying in the air is part of Nutt’s “Flying Vegetable” series.

The design was “inspired by jet airliners, their wings swept back, leaping into flight from the airport’s runways,” Nutt said.

Also on display in Concourse E are 15 murals created by students from all over the world, including Pakistan, Denmark, Bulgaria and

the United States.

These colorful pieces of art depict messages of world peace, community and friendship. The rotating exhibit was organized by The Colorful Art Society, Inc. and People to People International.

“These young artists used art to express their vision of peace and hope and we’re proud to display their work in a global setting,” said Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President and CEO of PTPI.

5. Philadelphia International Airport

Business booms at Philadelphia International Airport, in Philadelphia, Pennslvania, and doesn’t lag when it comes to its art.

In 1998, it established an exhibition program to house rotating art to display throughout its seven terminals. Currently, there are 17 rotating sites, and nine permanent pieces of artwork on display.

Terminal E houses a colorful mixed-media work entitled “Evolving Elements,” by Philadelphia resident James Dupree.

Made up of 20 panels, the mural is 30-feet long and 9-feet high.

“The enormity of it grabs people’s attention because it is such a large, energized, colorful piece,” said Leah Douglas, who selected the work and heads up the PHL’s exhibition program.

To create his art, Dupree uses layers of vibrant paint colors, glosses and varnishes along with band embellishments that seem to jut from the surface.

“When people see my paintings, all they want to do is touch it,” said Dupree.

The work addresses the “cultural static and all the noise and all the distractions in our lives,” he said.

Other interesting pieces on display at PHL include a collection called “Streamlined Irons” by Jay Raymond, who has studied and collected uniquely designed clothing irons since the 1930s.

Pumpkin Lobster Bisque Soup

December 23rd, 2010 by Mariah

This delicious recipe for pumpkin lobster bisque soup comes from Kennebunkport Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. The B&B is located on Maine’s southern coast and is a great home base for fishing, sailing, golfing, whale watching, antiquing or simply relaxing on the beach. The inn also has its own restaurant and bar, plus spa services.


8 cups lobster stock

4 cups heavy cream

1 large white onion

2 lb. peeled pumpkin (chopped)

1 tablespoon lobster base

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup dry sherry

1 cup lobster meat (chopped)


Saute onions and pumpkin in heavy-bottom deep pot until tender.

Add lobster stock and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

Next, add the lobster base and tomato paste.

Puree soup in a blender or with a braun.

Add the sherry and lobster meat. Whisk well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Lodge at Blue Lakes New Wedding Packages!

December 22nd, 2010 by Mariah

SUPER Wedding Package Deals Now Include Catering!

December 2010
Our famous wedding packages now include catering. It’s unbelievable all that is included. No worries, no hassles and we do all the work!! Click on the packages below and see for yourself. The Lodge at Blue Lakes is the perfect setting for romance. We set the stage to make the magic happen…and help you get a bit closer to happily-ever-after. Our Special Events Center is 6,000 square feet with your choice of indoor or outdoor ceremony, rain or shine.We also offer gorgeous hotel rooms and you can even rent the whole resort for the perfect get-away wedding! There are lots of water activities with featuring Electric Boat rentals, swimming, fishing and more. Plan on staying for several days and reDiscover Blue Lakes!Easy access and is located between the Santa Rosa area and Sacramento on the shores of beautiful, crystal clear Blue Lakes. Eat, Drink and be Married!Click Here For The Lodge at Blue Lakes.

Winter Day 1 and 5 Snow Emergencies in Minneapolis

December 22nd, 2010 by Mariah

MINNEAPOLIS – At 5:38 p.m. today the first official day of winter begins, and the city of Minneapolis is still digging out after a record fifth snow emergency was called — a pre-Christmas record.


The city is just one snow emergency away from the entire season record of six. That benchmark was made in 2000-2001. The city had originally budgeted for one snow emergency in the month of December.


The Minnepolis-St. Paul metro has recieved more than 28 inches of snow in the month of December, the third snowiest on record. Just four more inches would break an accumulation record.


Minneapolis Public Works reminds residents that neighborhood sidewalks and corner snowbanks need to be cleared as best they can, and as quickly as possible. Uncleared sidewalks can slow emergency responders as well as trap wheelchair-bound residents.


Reminders for Shoveling Sidewalks, Corners, Etc. • Join together with neighbors and shovel out corners and alley approaches. • Make sure to clear a path three feet wide from your garbage cart and recycling bin to the alley or street. Also make sure your cart and bin can be moved freely. • Shovel out the fire hydrant on your block.


Snow removal crews have been on the roads around the clock since Monday, working to clear the city’s 1,500 miles of streets and alleys. Plows were out working on Snow Emergency routes overnight and are plowing the EVEN SIDE of non-Snow Emergency routes today. Comprehensive alley plowing started last night at 10 p.m. and should be completed by approximately noon.

Talking About Global Warming on the First Day of Winter

December 22nd, 2010 by Mariah

The Huffington Post

Dear Brenda,

I know our fingerprints are all over global climate change. I know the science is clear that it’s happening now and that it’s caused by all the human activities that emit heat-trapping gases. And I know that people, countries, and natural systems are at risk from global warming. But I don’t know what to say to friends, family, or colleagues who question the existence of climate change when cold weather sets in.

I admit that sometimes, when my ears are freezing as I walk to the subway, I grumble to myself, “Where’s global warming when you need it!” When it’s cold, I just don’t know how to explain to people that Earth has a fever. Just the other day I was talking to someone at a holiday party who said the blizzards we had last winter disproved global warming.

I’m not the kind of person who always has to set people straight even when I know they’re wrong. I usually let people have their say, but I’m really appalled at the lack of understanding of basic science. If you have any suggestions, especially when it comes to winter weather, could you let me know? What can I say to people who pooh-pooh global warming? And why do they hold their tongues in summer when we’re wilting in a record-high heat wave?

Cold in Winter

* * *

Dear Cold in Winter,

The hallmark of winter is cold, at least in North America. Even with climate change, you’re still going to wake up on a January morning and see snow falling. I walk to the bus stop, too, so I know about cold ears and fingers. As a climate scientist, I have plenty of compelling facts at hand about global warming, and trust me, it’s hard to explain the overwhelming evidence of climate change when people are feeling winter’s wind in their faces. I understand the problem you describe, for sure.

You may want to remind your friends that weather is different from climate. The day-to-day weather — even a cold snap or a heat wave — doesn’t prove or disprove climate change. Climate is the prevailing condition–temperature, precipitation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure — of a region over a long period of time. For example, in Wisconsin you expect cold, snowy winters. In Mexico you expect mild, sunny winter weather.

When you see the first snowfall of the season, a few details about climate projections might help you explain what’s happening outside. I wasn’t at all surprised by this past year’s drenching rains and devastating blizzards in parts of the United States. In areas that typically get rain and snow, we’ve seen an increase in the intensity of the storms. It may seem counterintuitive, but we have strong evidence that heavier snows are actually one of many links scientists have uncovered between climate change and extreme weather. Rising ocean-surface temperatures have already raised the temperature and moisture content of the air passing over the United States. The heaviest precipitation events in the Northeast are typically more severe now compared with 50 years ago. And the Great Lakes region has had more lake-effect snow; that’s because the lakes aren’t covered by as much ice during the winter months, allowing the air to absorb more moisture, which then falls as snow. At the same time, most of the deserts are getting drier.

It’s also helpful to put our local conditions into perspective. If you look only at our country, you’re seeing only 2 percent of Earth’s surface. That’s like watching a football game and seeing only what’s going on between the 48-yard line and the 50-yard line. Well-documented measurements all across the world over the past several decades show that Earth is definitely warming. Science takes a whole-world view, just like watching the football game in high definition on a wide-screen television.

So, Cold in Winter, there’s no need to get into a confrontation over climate change. But I do want to give you a basic comeback to anyone who spouts false information. Just say, Hey, it’s winter, snow happens, and a cold snap doesn’t prove anything one way or another. And a warming planet generates more intense precipitation in areas that usually get rain or snow. You may also want to remind your friends about how winters are becoming shorter. A lot of people have noticed what scientists have been measuring for years — spring is arriving about 10 days earlier than it has historically. You might want to keep this note handy.

At least, don’t shy away from telling people it’s winter. You just might need to remind them when winter comes next year.

Your friend,

Record High On First Day Of Winter

December 22nd, 2010 by Mariah

The first day of winter in Houston saw record-high temperatures across the area, 11 News Meteorologist Mario Gomez said.


“Today is the Winter Solstice, it is the shortest day of the year with a sunrise at 7:13 a.m. and a sunset at 5:27 p.m. and it definitely does not feel like winter in Houston,” said 11 News Meteorologist David Paul.


Tuesday’s high was 82 degrees at Bush and Hobby airport. The previous record-high temperature was 81 at Bush Airport in 1970, and the previous high was tied at Hobby at 82 in 1970, Gomez said.Record-warm temperatures were also set in Dallas, Waco, Abilene, Bryan and San Angelo.


The average temperatures were in the mid-80s Tuesday. Those numbers are 10 to 15 degrees above normal for this time of the year.

Bay View Bed and Breakfast on Mackinac Island

December 16th, 2010 by Mariah

Bay View Bed and Breakfast on Mackinac Island

Gift Certificates are the Perfect Gift this Holiday Season!

Struggling to find the perfect gift for someone on your list that has everything? Looking for the perfect destination for the friend or family member that deserves a getaway weekend? If so, then treat them with a stay at Bay View!

Our personalized Gift Certificate makes an impressive presentation as a full 8 1/2″ x 11″ document, inserted into a gold-trimmed presentation folder. A perfect gift for any family, friends, or special clients.

Only 10 days until Christmas!

There’s still time to have your gift certificate in hand by Christmas, but don’t delay! We can even do overnight and same day delivery orders (Call for details).

Order Online

or Call Us at (906) 847-3295

Wait, we’re sweetening the deal!

When you order any Gift Certificate throughout the month of December, you’ll also receive a free half-pound of Murdick’s Mackinac Island Fudge either to keep for yourself or give away as well!

And, there’s more!

Our 5 Pound bag of coffee comes with five holiday bags so that you share it with family and friends. If you order a 5 Pound bag of coffee during the month of December, we’ll include a free half-pound of Murdick’s Mackinac Island Fudge!

We hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season! We look forward to seeing you at Bay View in the near future.

Rome Taxing Tourists Rather Than Locals

December 16th, 2010 by Mariah

Tourist tax in Rome is now offical.

As of January 1, a hotel stay will cost an extra $4 (€3) per person per night at four- and five-star properties and an extra $2.70 (€2) per person per night at other hotels. (Hostels and kids under age 2 are exempt.) A maximum of 10 nights can be taxed, so you could pay up to an additional $40 per person on your next trip—about the cost of a dinner out. This is in addition to a 10 percent hotel tax that’s typically included in the advertised room rate.

The new tax revenue will help to compensate for slashed funding from Italy’s national government and will go toward the much-needed restoration of Roman monuments. Cultural treasures are literally crumbling in Rome and across Italy. Three chunks of Roman mortar fell from an arched ceiling at the Colosseum back in May, and a few structures collapsed in Pompeii last month.

So some may agree that the tax is going to a good cause, and tourists do leave an impact on local monuments. But does that really mean we tourists should be stuck footing the bill? Local councilor Frederico Guidi has readily admitted: “In order for the city of Rome not to tax Romans, we have decided to tax the tourists,” according to the Daily Mail.

Venice has similar plans in the works to charge tourists an entry tax of perhaps $1.33 (€1) upon arrival by train, plane, or cruise ship—which means we’ve got the beginnings of a trend. What’s your reaction to these tourist taxes?

AAA expects travel increase this holiday

December 16th, 2010 by Mariah

(CNN) — Americans traveling to see family and friends during the upcoming holiday season will have more company on the roads and in the skies, according to projections by AAA.

About 3.1% more Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home compared with last year, the AAA said Wednesday. The group expects 92.3 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from December 23 to January 2.

“After a challenging year in 2009, a modestly improved economic environment and pent-up demand resulted in more Americans traveling in 2010, and the year-end holidays are no exception,” a AAA statement said.

The average distance for travel is expected to increase by 33%, the number of air travelers by almost 3% and median spending about 3.5%, to $694, AAA said.

About 85.7 million people will drive to holiday destinations, compared with 83 million last year, AAA said.

“This is the fifth consecutive holiday period this year in which AAA has predicted a year-to-year increase in the number of travelers,” Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services, said in the statement.

In addition, AAA said, airfares are expected to be 3% less than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $174 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will hold steady at an average of $50, the group said.

Carnival cancels more sailings

December 16th, 2010 by Mariah

(CNN) — Carnival Cruise Lines announced five more cancelled sailings Wednesday on the Carnival Splendor to allow more time to repair the ship damaged by fire last month.

A fire in the engine room on November 8 crippled the ship, stranding passengers off the coast of Mexico for several days without air conditioning or hot showers.

Departures on January 6, 23 and 30 and February 6 and 13 have been added to cancellations originally stretching through mid-January.

The ship is now scheduled to return to service on February 20, according to the cruise line.

“We sincerely apologize to our guests for having to cancel these additional cruises,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

“We know this is extremely disappointing for our guests and particularly disheartening for those who already had their vacations cancelled once and are now being affected again,” Cahill said.

Additional issues were discovered in the process of repairing the ship and Carnival is waiting on parts being manufactured in Europe.

Refunds or future cruise credits are being provided to impacted travelers. Carnival will also reimburse passengers for air travel change fees and some customers will be eligible for a 25 percent discount and/or an onboard credit on a future cruise.

Airlines make how much on baggage fees?!

December 14th, 2010 by Mariah

Baggage fees may irritate you, but airlines sure aren’t complaining.

Airlines have raked in more than $2.5 billion so far this year on baggage fees alone, a number up 22.5 percent since this time last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

And fees will continue to climb as long as the market will bear it, said Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm.

“For the average passenger, you are paying more,” Boyd said. “These ancillary revenues are making airlines profitable. But it’s the name of the game. People are paying it, people aren’t revolting, and so they’ll be there forever.”

At the top of the baggage fee revenue list is Delta Air Lines, followed by American Airlines and US Airways.

In three quarters, Delta already has surpassed its total baggage fee revenue from 2009. Delta has made $733 million so far this year. In all of 2009, it made $481 million.

Revenue from baggage fees has been skyrocketing since 2007, when the total revenue was $464 million, one-fifth of what’s been made in three quarters in 2010.

Similarly, revenue from cancellation and change fees has nearly doubled since 2007, adding up to about $1.7 billion in three quarters this year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 2007, fees totaled $915 million, though 2010’s numbers actually fell 3.8 percent in the third quarter from the same time last year.

Topping the cancellation and change revenue list is Delta, American and United Airlines.

Boyd estimates that between 9 percent and 12 percent of a major airline’s revenue comes from ancillary fees, including baggage and cancellation fees, among others.

“Some of the change fees are, frankly, thuggish,” he said. “They’re capitalizing on the anxiety and uncertainty that passengers have when they fly. They have a right to charge for bags, but to charge a ’service’ fee for changing your flight three months from now. … That’s just gouging.”