This Week in Travel News via

This Week in Travel News: 3 February 2017

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!

We Never Understood the HH Anyway

Hilton Hotels This Week in Travel News via

Saying it was a source of confusion, and pointing to it as evidence that the company is becoming more “streamlined and efficient,” Hilton has dropped the double H in its loyalty program. What was known as Hilton HHonors is now the sleek new Hilton Honors program. But that’s not the only change we’re applauding.

Besides rebranding, Hilton announced some other changes to their program this week, which will be phased in over the next few months. We think they are changes travelers will love.

  • Starting in February, members can use a combination of points and money for award nights. The fun-filled Hilton Honors Points & Money slider will let you decide what combination of currencies you want to use for your stay. Since part of your payment will be in cash, blackout dates won’t apply.
  • In March, Diamond status will change just a bit. Members who have that status but won’t be traveling for a while will be eligible for a one-time, one year extension. Under the old rules, you’d lose that status if you didn’t stay at a Hilton property in a given year.
  • Great news for traveling families and friends: Starting in April, up to 11 members (you and 10 friends and/or family members) will be able to pool your points for award nights. With no extra charge. That’s a huge departure from most loyalty programs, and gives families with multiple Hilton Honors accounts a big boost.
  • And finally, later this summer Hilton will join forces with the world’s largest retailer so members will be able to Shop with Points on Amazon.

In introducing the changes, Hilton’s global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships, Mark Weinstein, says “Frequent travelers told us they want more flexibility while less frequent travelers want to be able to use their Points in more ways and more quickly,”

One additional change in a month of many changes: The company also dropped “Worldwide” from its name, so we’re all on a first name basis. It’s just Hilton now, solidifying Pitbull’s claim to the title Mr. Worldwide.

Pitbull in This Week in Travel News via

Pitbull, now in sole possession of the Worldwide moniker.

Hilton Honors This Week in Travel News via

(Image: Hilton Hotels)

Let’s toss in some bonus points!

Since we’re talking about Hilton Honors, let’s talk about their new bonus, 2K Every Day. The premise is simple: Stay at a Hilton property from 1 February through 30 April, and get 2,000 bonus points for every night of your stay. You do have to register before you can start accumulating bonus points, but there are no limits or exclusions. The offer is good at any of the nearly 5,000 hotels in Hilton’s network of 14 brands, except for hotels in Mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Points are awarded for “eligible stays,” as defined in the Hilton Honors terms & conditions.

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Rewards at Sea

Norwegian Cruise Lines This Week in Travel News via

(Photo: Norwegian Cruise Lines)

And speaking of loyalty programs, Norwegian has updated their Latitudes Rewards program with a few changes that start right away. As of 3 February, there are two new upper tiers for the most ardent cruisers:

  • Platinum Plus is for guests who have earned 175 points or more. They will enjoy some exclusive new rewards and richer versions of standard perks. The passengers will save 15% on shore excursions, enjoy dinner with the ships’ officers, and priority seating for dining and entertainment.
  • Ambassador status is awarded to passengers with 700 points or more, and comes with all of the Platinum Plus benefits (increased to 20% off shore excursions), plus a complimentary 7-day cruise.

There are additional perks for all status levels. Gold members and above will begin receiving free bottled water, and all levels will get a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in their stateroom. Free internet minutes/megabytes (beyond bonuses with package purchases) and priority embarkation are new perks for Platinum and above. Silver, Gold and Platinum members also receive the new discounts on shore excursions, with 10% off.

A point is earned for each night aboard a Norwegian cruise, with a bonus point per night when you’re bokked in a suite or The Haven.

The Modern Cuban Flotilla

(Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Many Americans remember boats coming from Cuba, but today the trend is going the other way. This week, Royal Caribbean International expanded its service to the island nation with new four- and five-night cruises that include an overnight in Havana. Empress of the Seasnew itineraries start in April, and are open for booking now, and include stops in Key West and Cozumel.

Because travel to Cuba still requires personal cultural programs, passengers will have several people-to-people experiences. Walking tours will offer up-close experiences of the city’s famous locals. There will be an excursion to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts, and a tour of Havana in classic 1950s automobiles. Stops on the excursions will include the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Plaza de Revolucion, the Havana Club Museum, and the city’s old quarter.

Have a ‘Supai time at Havasu

It just got easier to visit one of the most magical and secretive spots in America, Havasu Falls. Make no mistake, though, it will still be difficult to get to the aquamarine waterfalls deep in the Havasupai Reservation in northern Arizona.

Every year, hikers and campers hoping to see the falls begin a ritual of dialing the tourist office to try and get a spot at Supai Campground. Reservations open on 1 February, and are typically gone for the year within days. This year, the tribe made things a bit easier by introducing online reservations. The Sunrise Reservations system manages bookings for about 300 campgrounds across the country, now including Supai. That makes the process easier, but still next to impossible; the entire season was sold out again before the weekend.

If you do plan on going, plan on paying more also. As seen in the tweet below, prices have gone up dramatically. Another option is to stay “in town” at the Havasupai Lodge. Reservations for that are still done strictly by phone.

Qatar Airways in This Week in Travel News via

(Photo: Qatar Airways)

World’s Longest Flight is In the Air

This weekend, the world’s longest commercial airline route takes off. Qatar Airways introduced the route late last year and, after a few delays, the first scheduled flight leaves Doha bound for Auckland on Sunday. At 16 hours and 20 minutes (longer for the return flight against prevailing winds), it’s officially the longest air route.

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At about 9,030 miles, the flight path crosses ten time zones, leaving Doha at 5:10am on Sunday, landing in New Zealand at 7:30am Monday. Seats for the flight were available right up to this weekend. Economy would cost about $1265, while Business Class seating is over $4500.

In terms of records, the Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco logs more miles in flight because of its route, but the Qatar Airways flight actually covers more distance. Singapore Airlines has announced a planned Singapore to New York route for 2018, which will become the new record holder at 9,529 miles. Modern, high-efficiency planes make these trips possible; the question is whether humans can endure 16 hours in coach seating.

Miles, the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

Just a couple of FYIs for anyone who hasn’t done their Valentine’s Day shopping:

  1. Valentine’s Day is like two weeks away. Better get busy!
  2. Both American and United are offering up to 1,000 bonus miles for shopping through their portals, AAdvantage eShopping, and MileagePlus Shopping

The deals are identical: Earn 500 miles after spending $125; earn 1,000 miles after spending $250. American’s offer expires on 13 February, while United shares the love until the 14th.

The Weekly Win

We’ve been singing the songs from Grease all week, in our best Danny & Sandy voices, but we don’t think it’s getting us any closer to winning a trip to, you guessed it: Greece. However, the Weekly Win might. It’s a chance to win a trip to the ancient land from POPSUGAR.

It’s got groove, it’s got meaning…Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion…Grease is the way we are feeling!

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