This Week in Travel News
Active travelers have a need to know! Every week, there are things that can and do impact the art and act of travelling. Things you need to know about. We’ll report the highlights here, so you can focus on what you do best: Travelling! In case you missed it, here’s what happened This Week in Travel News!
Will Politics Trump Traveling to Cuba?
Perhaps the biggest travel news this month was Donald Trump’s announcement that he was canceling some of the reforms in American-Cuban relations made by President Obama. At a 16 June speech in Miami’s Little Havana, Trump said the change was effective immediately. However, White House officials said “not so fast,” pointing out that it could take months for agencies to amend policies.
Current rules set by the U.S. Treasury Department require that Americans visiting Cuba fall into one of twelve approved categories of travel, including the popular “People to People” trips and cultural exchange programs. The administration will be more stringent in enforcing those rules going forward. That could mean that only specific tours would be allowed, and licensed tour operators would be under greater scrutiny.
Trump also announced tighter restrictions on business dealings with the Cuban military, which could affect travel to Cuba more severely. According to the New York Times, the Cuban military owns a wide range of hotels, tour operators, and other tourism businesses. The move could limit future dealings for American hospitality brands in Cuba, though the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Cuba – the first American hotel in the country in nearly 60 years – would likely be allowed to remain.
The first regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba resumed last year, but carriers already cut back the number of flights because demand did not meet expectations. On the other hand, cruise lines are lobbying against restricting travel to Cuba, saying that Cuban itineraries are popular. Most cruise lines that call on the island nation are confident that travelers will not immediately be affected. Demand has been strong, with 70,000 passengers booked for upcoming cruises that include stops in Cuba.
While the cruise lines contend that most passengers are participating in approved travel programs, cruisers may not be able to do as much ashore. U.S. passengers will have to avoid restaurants, bars, and business owned or run by the government, or receiving funding from the Cuban military.
Americans can continue, for now, to legally visit Cuba, albeit with some restrictions. Now is the time to go, though, if you are hoping for a less restricted visit.
New ways to Spend and Earn with Uber (Without driving!)
The story that made headlines recently was that controversial Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned, but news that didn’t make the headlines will have a greater effect on users.
Caving to requests from drivers, Uber announced that tipping will become a part of the Uber app. Starting with just three cities – Houston, Minneapolis, and Seattle – tipping will be coming to Uber drivers and their passengers by the end of July. While many drivers see this as a positive move to improve their earnings, many riders consider it a stealth fare increase. Tipping will be voluntary, but the absence of tips has been one of the elements that attracted users to the rideshare service.
Meanwhile, Uber riders who use the Ibotta rebate app can now earn cash back on Uber rides. Users who start the Uber app from within Ibotta can earn $1 for each completed Uber ride. (UberRUSH and UberEATS do not qualify. Additional rules apply; details available within the Ibotta app.) Users can also earn a $5 ride code by taking three rides by 1 July 2017. If you don’t have an Ibotta account, you can sign up using our code, and get $10 for signing up and redeeming a rebate offer.
Ritz-Carlton Sets Sail
We’ve all heard it said that today’s cruise ships are essentially hotels at sea. That will be truer than ever as Ritz-Carlton announced plans this week to launch their own fleet of luxury yachts. The move makes complete sense; the company’s research showed that more than 400,000 Ritz-Carlton guests had taken a cruise in the past year. Company officials expect to welcome as many as 36,000 cruise guests annually.
Plans include three ships, with the first 298 passenger ultra-luxury yacht launching in late 2019. A sister ship will arrive early 2021, and the third in 2022. Each vessel in the new small-ship brand, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, will have just 149 cabins, all of them balcony suites ranging from 312 to more than 1,000 square feet. Five food and beverage outlets are planned for each ship, including a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg. Each will also have a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa, and Panorama Lounge and wine bar.
Itineraries have yet to be announced, but will likely include the Mediterranean, northern Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America, depending on the season. The ships will measure less than 700 feet in length, meaning they will be able to call on ports the large cruise ships cannot. It’s expected that full-ship charters will be an important part of the business model.
Since Ritz-Carlton is a part of the Marriott portfolio of hotels and resorts, we are hoping our Marriot Rewards points can be used to book a suite. (Not likely.) General reservations open in 2o18.
Several new international flights were announced this week, increasing airlift across both the Atlantic and Pacific:
- German carrier Eurowings launched direct seasonal service between Cologne and Las Vegas, with two non-stop flights per week (Mondays and Fridays) from June through October. Flights are available now, and start at &Euro;199.99.
- Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air continues their aggressive expansion with new flights connecting London with Buenos Aires starting next February. Service will fly four times per week, start at £299 one way from London Gatwick to Buenos Aires Ezeiza International. Tickets are available now. Just last week, Norwegian added a dozen routes between New York’s Hudson Valley and Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Norway.
- Hainan Airlines is offering the first service between western China and the eastern U.S. Nonstop service between Chiongqing, China and New York JFK will launch in October. Roundtrip flights will be available Wednesdays and Fridays (westbound) / Thursdays and Fridays (eastbound). Also this week, Hainan was awarded the SKYTRAX Five Star Airline Award for the seventh consecutive year at the Paris Air Show, and was named the Best China Airline.
New Perks for your SkyMiles
Delta Airlines has announced a slew of new options for redeeming your hard-earned SkyMiles. In addition to free flights and merchandise, you can now buy yourself an upgrade or pay for fees:
- Upgrade to Delta Comfort+, First Class, or Delta One
- Select preferred seats
- Ticket change fees
- Award-ticket redeposit fees
- Same-day confirmed fees
- External ticket charges
Given that you can redeem 5,000 miles for a $50 discount on an upgrade, that puts a value of one cent per mile on SkyMiles. Depending on the ticket, you can likely get a better return by booking airfare using SkyMiles instead. We’ve said before that you almost never get a better value when redeeming hotel loyalty points for anything other than hotel nights, the same is usually true with frequent flyer miles.
Deal of the Week
This is the last week of the Priority Pass Anniversary Sale! Celebrate 25 years of Priority Pass airport luxury with savings up to 25% off membership!
Save as much as 40% on tours and activities in select cities from Viator:
The Weekly Win
Is it only us who find it strange that one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations is Iceland? Of course, there are a lot of stunning sights and natural wonders in the island nation. You can see them all with the $10,000 grand prize in the Travel Channel Iceland Adventure travel sweeps! We’ve got details on The Weekly Win!