Taking Your Family on an Adventure Holiday

Taking Your Family on an Adventure HolidayContributed by: Shannen Doherty

Taking your family on holiday no longer means just going to a resort or campground and spending a week or two lazing around. Although there is nothing wrong with that, there are so many exciting adventures out there awaiting the family that you have a very wide choice of activities.

Preparing properly for adventure holidays is essential. The whole family needs to be reasonably fit for the type of activities in which you will take part. You need to have the correct equipment and luggage, inoculations, passports and visas if you are travelling abroad. Clothing should be lightweight, quick drying and multipurpose.

Many touring companies offer tailor made holidays options to tourists. Everything is organised and booked for the family and you are assured of great package deals. The size of groups vary considerably from small one or two family groups to a busload of adventure seekers. The advantages include the fact that you do not need to spend all your time booking for every excursion or adventure separately. You don’t have to spend hours on deciding what to do on your holiday or where to go.

Cycling Holidays
A cycling holiday is something that is suitable for the whole family. Very small children can ride on their parents’ back in a special back pack, older ones can ride tandem with their parents or on their own smaller frame bicycles. The pace could be as leisurely or as fast as you choose and accommodation is usually very good, especially in the UK. Italy, Spain, Germany and the former Communist countries such as Croatia are also very suitable as cycling destinations for the family.

Adventures on VacationBackpacking
One of the cheapest ways to have an adventure holiday is to go backpacking. This is suitable for most people who have a basic level of fitness. You could stay in a tent in camping grounds or sleep over in a bed and breakfast establishment. If you do it in a group, you could get group discounts for accommodation. If you choose to go on your own, you have freedom of movement and can set your own pace. This is the best way to get to know the local people and the cuisine of the region. You could even stay in someone’s house for a few days and do things their way. This is fun especially if you stay on a working farm. Exciting destinations suitable for backpacking include Portugal, Peru, Vietnam, Morocco and Thailand, the latter is very cheap and unique.

If you enjoy the outdoors but prefer not to walk or cycle all day, you could hire a camper van and tour the countryside moving from one camping spot to the next. You could even overnight next to a beach. Many holiday sites have caravans or mobile homes to rent and some of these are extremely luxurious so you could go the glamping route, that is glamorous camping.

For adrenaline addicts, a country like South Africa offers exciting activities such as cage diving with sharks, bungee jumping, 4X4 tours and Big Five safari tours in various parks such as the Kruger National Park. Namibia also has many stunning natural areas for touring by SUV, such as the Namib Desert and Etosha Pans.

Other exhilarating holidays include visiting the North Pole by ship or trekking across the wastes of Alaska with sledding dogs, cycling through China or hiking through Australia. Your adventures are limited only by your imagination.

Shannen Doherty writes for several sites and blogs regarding adventure travel on a regular basis. Being an adrenaline junkie herself, she takes many adventure holidays with Jean-Leon Butcher, who is not only her partner but a wildlife photographer. She has taken part five times in the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town, South Africica and also participates in tailor made holidays as well as individual adventures.

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Ten Ways to End Summer 2012 on Amelia Island

Ten Ways to End Summer 2012 on Amelia IslandThe Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island offers adventure, relaxation and everything in between so you can make the most of these final days of the summer season, 2012.

Skip a jet ski along the Florida coast, paddle the waves on a stand-up board or hit the surf with a rod and reel. Those are three ways to end summer at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Florida’s premier luxury resort on its northeastern coast.

Here are seven more:

1) Fish and Dine with a Chef. Spend up to four hours ocean fishing with a charter boat captain and one of our chefs. Catch your dinner and the chef will prepare a four-course meal around your bounty. Dine on the terrace at the resort’s Café 4750. Price for 4-6 people, $2,500.00

2) Tour Amelia Island on Jet Skis with a Private Guide. Hop on a jet ski and ride around the island with a private guide who will share local history and help you discover secret inlets and marshes. Price per person, $135 per person for two hour excursion.

3) Dine or Dance by the Water. Dine on local fish and shrimp (Amelia Island is known as the birthplace of the modern shrimp industry) at the Ocean Bar & Grill or relax poolside to the rhythm of a Calypso band. Sandwiches, Salads, Tacos, Burgers and tropical drinks in the $15.00 range.

4) Take Your Taste Buds on an Adventure. Let Chef de Cuisine Rick Laughlin prepare a unique four-course dining experience at Salt, the luxury resort’s AAA Five Diamond restaurant. $175 per person or $275 per person with paired wines includes an apron to roam kitchen and group shot with Salt chefs.

5) Unwind and Relax at the Spa. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island offers a rejuvenating Sea Creation Spa Experience with sea shells and extracts of pearl sea-silk to protect the infinite beauty of your skin. Or melt your cares and distractions away with our signature treatment Heaven in a Hammock. 90 minute facial $250.00.

6) Let a Princess and Pirate Tuck in the Kids. Finish the day with a princess and pirate (and the resort’s mascot Macaw) who will read your little ones a bedtime story and serve a snack of chocolate chip cookies and milk. (The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island also offers special treasure hunts and Ritz Kids programs throughout the year.) $50.00 per child.

7) Come for the “Comfort You” Summer Escape. The resort is offering a unique “Comfort You” Package which includes accommodations, breakfast for two and a $75 in resort credit per night. To book the Comfort You Package, please call 904-277-1100 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland.

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Locals Only Get-a-Way Beach Special

6 Suites directly on the beach of Amelia Island

Come and enjoy the Post Summer Beauty of the Beach

I cannot claim that those with more experience in running a vacation accommodation here on Amelia Island did not warn us when they said that from one day to the next reservations would slow down to a trickle in August, as soon as children go back to school.

Having been blessed with a magnificent occupancy in our little Inn on the beach since the Concours d’Elégance in the 2nd weekend of March, we didn’t think we could drop from 85% occupancy to 50% or less in a matter of days.

Oh sure, it almost feels like vacation to me not to have to cook an average 15-20 breakfasts each and every morning, but it also feels a bit empty somewhere in the corners of my mind. Six to ten breakfasts in the morning is not a challenge these days and I love challenges.

We have also been spoiled with many raving reviews on bedandbreakfast.com and tripadvisor.com and as a consequence we were feeling like that 1960s song “Those Were the Days My Friend, We Thought They’d Never End.”

Well those days did end this week.

So now it’s time to go back to the drawing board and open up the Magical Marketing Manual, because let’s face it, the ocean is calm like a mirror, the beach is magnificently empty and the weather is glorious.

And before Late Fall and Winter marketing packages and specials start taking effect for the Off Season, we’re doing a Local Getaway Special and call it the Two+Two for 200 Locals Deal. (2 Nights Double Occupancy with full American Breakfast in a Suite directly on the beach for $200).

BUT…. local means locals only, that is Nassau County Florida Residents Only.

We, who live here, know that the beach right now is particularly gorgeous and the weather is great, quite a tad cooler than those “dog” days just a couple of weeks ago. You need a GetaWay? You’ll be in for a relaxing, pampered experience with full 4 course breakfasts, beach lounge chairs, umbrellas, free WIFI and many extras at a rate you may never see again.

This local special is excluding 11% room tax and on availability basis only. Additional people to a suite (max. 2 additional) is $25 p/p p/night.

Call us at 904 430 0026 for a wonderful Two Night stay on the beach.

Baby Elephant Steals the Show

Moving video about relying on each other

While working on a major overhaul/update for the Travel Agency’s blog site The-Travel-Agents.com, as the ladies move their office to Las Vegas and the Virtuoso Travel Mart for the week, I received a video from a friend in Holland he had just shot while on Safari in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve north of Durban in South Africa.

The whole episode you see is so liberating and encouraging that it absolutely made my day and I needed to share it with you. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, as especially the end shows a moving scene of being there for each other when things get tough.

Passport Photos Now Available at Fernandina Library

Passport Photos Now Available at Fernandina LibraryPassport photographs are now available at the Fernandina Beach branch library, located at 25 North 4th Street on Amelia Island.

Need photos for your passport? The Fernandina Beach Branch Library now offers photo service for official documents.

The cost is $10.00 for two 2″ x 2″ photos; this includes the tax. Photos can be used for passports, hunting and fishing licenses and concealed weapons permits.

Photo service is available during library open hours and walk-ins are welcome.

If you need photo service AFTER 5:00 pm or on Saturdays, you must have an appointment.

Please call (904) 277-7365 for more information.

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Where in Florida Do Most Shark Bites Occur?

movie directed shark attacks

Only in the Movies?

With the picture of a New England Great White scare prominently featured on this morning’s Yahoo News, I decided to turn an often heard question these days into a bit of research: Where in Florida Do Most Shark Bites Occur?

For this information you can turn to the International Shark Attack File which will go as far back as 1882 (130 years) with meticulously documented facts. And the anser to above question is that by far the most shark bites occur on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Specifically, VolusiaCounty [Daytona Beach] has had more than 242 recorded shark bites since 1882. Translated as almost 2 per year. Note however that the bites tend to be low-grade hit-and-run attacks.
Brevard County [Cape Canaveral] has recorded more than 103, and Palm Beach County more than 60 shark bites during that same time period. And from there the numbers drop off significantly. However, every county on Florida’s Atlantic coast has recorded at least 11 shark bites since 1882 except Flagler County, with only 6, and Nassau County with only 3. Remember this is 3 attacks in 130 years!!!

Numbers versus Severity

Each Gulf coast county has recorded 7 or fewer shark bites since 1882, except for Pinellas County,  with 12. In fact, out of 637 shark bites in Florida since 1882, 579 have been on the Florida East Coast’s Atlantic waters. It would appear that swimming or surfing in the Gulf of Mexico is generally safer than swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, but that is only by appearance, because when we look at the distribution of shark bite fatalities it shows a different pattern. One might expect, from the numbers above, that there would be more shark bite fatalities on the Atlantic Coast. Not so. Out of 11 officially recorded fatal bites, seven were on the Atlantic Coast, and four were on the Gulf Coast.
So the rate of fatal bites to total bites on the Atlantic coast is approximately 7 out of 579. On the Gulf coast the ratio is 4 out of 58 bites that have resulted in death.
This seems to reflect that the majority of shark bites on the Atlantic coast are from small sharks actively feeding on fish in the rough and more murky waters of the Atlantic. They mistake a surfer’s or swimmer’s hand or foot for a fish. As soon as they realize they are not biting a fish, they let go and swim away.
In fact there are three main types of unprovoked shark attack, and the experience and chances of survival vary dramatically depending on the behaviour and intentions of the shark.
Here is a breakdown of what each one consists of.
Hit-and-run attacks
More often than not sharks will “attack” humans out of curiosity having mistaken them for a seal or other more common form of prey. These attacks occur in shallow waters and surfing spots. The shark will usually give the swimmer or surfer a single bite before retreating and will often not return, having realised the human is bigger than, or different to, its normal prey.
Sneak attacks
As the name indicates, this attack happens without warning. Unlike hit-and-run attacks, sneak attacks are thought to be the result of feeding or aggression rather than mistaken identity.
The attacks usually happen in deeper waters and will usually involve a number of bites or injuries, often proving fatal.
Bump-and-bite attacks
Similar to sneak attacks, these usually take place in open sea and will tend to involve multiple bites because the shark’s intention is to attack the victim, rather than simply investigate.
The difference is in the shark’s behaviour. Rather than pouncing unexpectedly, the shark will repeatedly circle the victim and bump into them in a sign of aggression before actually attacking them.
Shark bites on the Gulf coast of Florida are more likely to come from the larger and powerful Bull Shark, which is known to be dangerous to man. I’m happy to be back on Amelia Island after a short vacation in Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast for more reasons than potential shark attacks.

Roadtrip Nuissance on US 301

An unintended road trip through deliverance country

A lucky circumstance allowed us to take a couple of days off from what has turned out to be a 24/7 experience if done right: running a bed and breakfast.

So on Sunday morning we took off for Tarpon Springs, just north of Tampa on the Gulf Coast, to spend a couple of days touristing this old Greek village, well known for sponges and souvlaki. Of course our accommodations of choice were a bed and breakfast smack in the middle of the “action” called Ashley’s Bed and Breakfast.
Before you may think that this is a B&B story, I have to correct my direction, because this is a story about irritation with government services and information to the public in Nassau County that almost took all the fun out of driving to our destination.

Our roadplan choice to get to Tarpon Springs was simple. Take A1A/200 to I-95 and then either go down on the Interstate to Normandy off I-295, connect to Hwy 301 to Ocala and a bit south on I-75 to SR 54….or go Hwy 301 by cutting the Interstate out.
We had heard that 301 all the way to Callahan was now 4 lanes, so we decided to go that route.

Wrong choice!! Oh to Callahan and beyond direction Baldwin, traffic was smooth and progress was impressive. Until we hit the rural community of Bryceville, where a Nassau County Sheriff’s vehicle stands with all lights flashing like a pre-historic dragon and the road is barricaded with the word DETOUR written all over it.

In the best of times, taking US 301 is a risk considering the amount of crazy 18 wheelers this road attracts, but to be taken on a secondary road through the exciting hinterland of “Deliverance”, these trucks equal an unintended suicide mission and a very bad start to what can be considered a well deserved couple of days of.

So why am I angry at the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department or Public Works or whomever is responsible for informing us “John Public” that we should expect intended or unintended obstacles and offer us alternative options if and when available.

Because a sign at the I-95 overpass on US 301, saying: Expect delays. US 301 is rerouted at Bryceville or more eloquent: US 301 closed at Bryceville. Expect to be re-routed through freaking backwater country where crazy truck drivers are out to show you who is king of the road, would have given us other options.

A sign more would not have mattered, considering how our streets are littered with political pundits’ voter requests these days. Maybe one of them understands why I’m angry with ignorance and why a little sign would have made all the difference.

So if you read this be forewarned. You’re on your own out there in No Man’s Land.

How Not to Pack a Pest When Traveling

How Not to Pack a Pest When TravelingWashington DC – Whether you’re studying abroad in Europe, traveling on business in Asia, or taking that dream vacation to Hawaii, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is urging summer travelers to join us in the fight against invasive pests by not packing a pest.

While agricultural products make tempting souvenirs, invasive pests can hitchhike on fruits, vegetables, meats, processed foods, plants, and handicraft items. If these invasive pests were to become established in the United States, they could devastate urban and rural landscapes and cost billions of dollars in lost revenue and eradication efforts. As a result, APHIS restricts or prohibits the entry of certain agricultural products from foreign countries and from Hawaii and U.S. territories.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers or agriculture specialists with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will inspect your baggage when you first arrive in the United States to ensure that the agricultural items you are carrying are allowable under APHIS regulations. Be sure to declare all agricultural items to CBP officers or CBP agriculture specialists at the first port of entry. Failure to declare food products can result in fines and penalties.

The following food items are generally allowed entry, but should still be declared and presented to a CBP agriculture specialist or CBP officer for inspection:

-Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey without honey combs, jelly, and jam
-Foodstuffs such as bakery items, candy, and chocolate
-Hard cured cheeses without meat, such as parmesan or cheddar
-Canned goods and goods in vacuum packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products, and those containing certain dairy products) for personal use
-Fish or fish products for personal use
-Powdered drinks sealed in original containers with ingredients listed in English.
-Dry mixes containing dairy and egg ingredients (such as baking mixes, cocoa mixes, drink mixes, instant cake mixes, instant pudding mixes, liquid drink mixes containing reconstituted dry milk or dry milk products, potato flakes, and infant formula) that are commercially labeled, presented in final finished packaging, and require no further manipulation of the product are generally allowed.

You may also be allowed to bring back certain fresh fruits and vegetables, animal products and by-products, plants and plant parts for planting, cut flowers, firewood, or miscellaneous agricultural products, depending on the item and its country of origin. APHIS encourages travelers to be aware of restrictions pertaining to agricultural products before leaving the United States and to use these as guidelines when purchasing souvenirs. For comprehensive information on importing agricultural items for personal use, visit APHIS’ Agricultural Information for International Travelers Web page at www.aphis.usda.gov/travel.

With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to safeguard the nation’s $157 billion agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.

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Fernandina Waterfront Helicopter Sightseeing Flights

Fernandina Waterfront Helicopter Sightseeing FlightsThere is a sightseeing helicopter service interested in operating near the historic Fernandina Beach waterfront. Test flights are scheduled for Saturday, March 31st, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, weather permitting, from Mr. Cook¹s property (south of the City Marina).

This will be a great opportunity to see how this operation may or may not interfere with the usual functions of other downtown businesses and attractions.

The planning advisory board is considering this request from the helicopter sightseeing tours to add this to the list of permitted usages in the Industrial Waterfront (IW) and the Waterfront Mixed Use (W1) zoning districts. If approved by the City Commission, any property within those zoning districts could be used for that purpose.

This matter will likely come before the City of Fernandina Beach Commissioners. PAB members and the commissioners have been advised to refrain from any discussions about their reaction to the demonstration until the Public Advisory Board meets again at their next scheduled meeting on April 11th at 5:00 PM.

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Why Airplane Food Sucks

airline food preparation

Airline food is mass production; don't expect gourmet cuisine

I’m a big believer in science, even though I have some nagging doubts about the latest scientific explanation why airplane food (these days) tastes so bad. True, the explanation of how foods need to be spiced up to taste like anything at all and how taste buds suffer from flavor arrest the higher up we are, sounds logical, but does not explain why a pan fried steak with sauteed mushrooms and Pommes Parisienne on a transatlantic Sabena flight from Brussels to New York in 1972 tasted like heaven at 36,000 feet.

Some of us may remember flying in the sixties and seventies, before deregulation, when airlines like Sabena, Singapore Airlines, Garuda and Swissair served full meals with great tasting fresh food. The rhythm of a flight consisted of a snack after take off, a full meal in midair and lunch or breakfast, depending which way your travel went. I remember a Christmas Eve flight from Amsterdam to Singapore on Singapore Airlines in 1976 with stops in Rome, Bahrain and Bangkok, which at each take off was followed by those cities native cuisine dinner, lunch and breakfast, a true Tour de Gourmet that lasted 26 hours.

But deregulation came and flavorful food went first to the front of the plane and from there probably out of the window.
Today science (or maybe pseudo science) wants us to believe that the moment we step aboard a “modern” airliner, our taste buds loose all sensitivity.
It starts with the cabin atmosphere drying out our nose and as the plane climbs higher into the air, it numbs up to 1/3 of our tastebuds, science claims. But once the airliner reaches cruising altitude somewhere at 35,000 ft or higher, the artificial humidity inside the fuselage to reduce corrosion, wreaks havoc with our tastebuds as cotton mouth sets in.

Modern food safety standards require all meals to be cooked first on the ground and during that process airlines add a lot of salt, spices and sweeteners to their foods to try to offset the taste numbing experience that reportedly comes with altitude. After cooking, the portions are blast-chilled and refrigerated until they can be stacked on carts and loaded on planes. Another modern safety rules prohibits open-flame grills and ovens on commercial aircraft, so attendants must contend with convection ovens that blow hot, dry air over the food.

Experts these days agree that getting any food to taste good on a plane is an elusive goal, because the  packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor. ‘Ice cream is about the only thing I can think of that tastes good on a plane,’ says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. I see a Cold Stone Creamery franchise in the friendly skies in our future, but I am still wondering why that steak at 35,000 feet on that Sabena flight so long ago, was one of the best steaks I ever had. Must have been the ambiance of a jetliner fuselage, being surrounded by strangers enroute to an exciting destination. Oh the mind, it’s such a powerful thing.

Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle

Inaugural Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle

Inaugural Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle in September

While pulling ourselves slowly away from the excitement of the Concours d’Elégance that graced our island  last weekend, there is good news for lovers of fine vintage cars. There is another can’t-miss event in 2012 besides of course our own Amelia Island Concours d’Elégance and the one in Pebble Beach: the inaugural Windsor Castle Concours of Elégance.
Abercrombie & Kent, the exclusive travel company offering VIP access to the Events, claims that it is sure to rival the concourses held every year at Pebble Beach and on Amelia Island. Considering that Windsor Castle’s origins date back to William the Conqueror and the infamous Battle of Hastings in 1066 and has been the longest occupied palace in Europe, this Concours will attract royalty from across the globe.


Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle in September

The Travel Agency on Amelia Island invites you to immerse yourself in outstanding automobile craftsmanship with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the factories where Jaguar, Land Rover (Range Rover) and the BMW MINI are produced. For the true car lover there are three exclusive travel packages available ( 4 and 7 days) to the birth ground of British Automobile making in early September.
There are 3 itineraries available; a 10 day itinerary that gives access to very exclusive highlights to 60 of the rarest automobiles ever made, a 4 day Buckingham Palace and Windsor itinerary with VIP access to the Concours and a 7 Day British Motoring Itinerary with VIP access to the Concours, a day at Goodwood Revival and much more.

If classic cars are your passion you may want to contact Angela at the Travel Agency for more information on this exciting classic car event that will take place in September

Eiffel Tower has Elevator Problem

One elevator at Eiffel Tower severly damaged, searchamelia.com

One elevator at Eiffel Tower severly damaged and out of order

The following message came courtesy of Amelia Island’s Travel Agency and underscores perfectly one of the true reasons why Travel Advisors add substantial value to our travel experience. When I received the message, there was no mention of this major inconvenience to be found anywhere on the Internet, yet the travel advisor could message their clients who had plans to go up the Eiffel Tower to make different plans.

It’s a little like intelligence gathering. Nothing beats eyes and ears on the ground! And in our case of particular news, because Ally at the Desk is leaving for Paris in a couple of weeks.

Only one elevator working at the Eiffel tower

I received this email from our office in France.
I wish you a good afternoon. Florent

On Friday of last week, one of their lifts (elevator) broke down…the problem is a lot more serious than expected and the lift will be undergoing maintenance until May 1st.
So for the rest of March & ALL of April the tower will be working with 1 lift only.
This is even more of an issue as they have already sold thousands of tickets based on the availability of the 2 elevators…

This means:

    – No more pre-booked tickets available
    – No Behind the Scenes Tours either as they do not have access to any tickets either

The clients who already have prepaid tickets can use them BUT there will be up to 2 hours wait to actually get to the lift.
So basically it is going to be a horrendous nightmare even for those with tickets.

The following message is currently on the monument’s website:

A technical incident leads us to operate currently with one single lift.
Therefore, the access waiting time to the monument is likely to be over 2 hours.
We are sorry for the inconvenience.

DOTUC is a Political Statement Airline Fee

searchamelia.com: travel options

How can anyone be excited about air travel anymore?

I haven’t flown in ages, partly because I absolutely detest the cattle prodding TSA procedures I have to endure at check ins and…I live on Amelia Island, which greatly eliminates the annual desire for leisure travel. It is fair to say however that in my younger years I traveled 90% of the world to get it kind of out of my system.

I traveled an awful lot when flying was mostly a pleasure of fixed price travel packages and not today’s a la Carte price gouging that some airlines seem to have taken a liking to.
So I was ready to spit fury all over Spirit Air’s latest fee, which charges passengers $2 per flight for Department of Transportation regulations Unintended Consequences. Yep, you read that right. $4 round trip to offset the cost of a series of new Department of Transportation passenger protection regulations, introduced a couple of weeks ago. The fee is called DOTUC fee (Department of Transportation Unintended Consequences), intended to cover costs associated with the DOT’s new regulations. The $2 fee went into effect on Tuesday, January 31.

One of the DOT’s recently enacted rules gives flyers the option to change or cancel a reservation within 24 hours of booking; it’s this law in particular that’s given Spirit cause to charge extra. The airline’s reasoning? By reserving seats for customers who have yet to commit, Spirit will lose inventory and, consequently, money.

My initial reaction was that Spirit is using rules created to protect flyers, as an excuse to charge them more. Ready to set my keyboard on sharp and fire off some inflammatory comments about this practice, my eyes caught Spirit President and CEO Ben Baldanza’s curious explanation: “People love the idea of not having to commit to a reservation, but this regulation, like most, imposes costs on consumers. Wouldn’t we all like to eat all we want and not get fat? Regulators like to try to sell the idea of this rule, but have ignored the cost impact to consumers. You simply can’t eat all you want without consequences.” Hmmm?!

Before my feet started tingling and my blood pressure rising I heard my wise mother’s advice: “You have to think further than the length of your nose,” one of her favorite teachings when my brothers and I grew up. And so my nose told me that Baldanza was aiming at something beyond the mundane fact of another price hike.

By saying ” this regulation, like most, imposes cost” he was definitely pointing at something much more ominous that an artfully construed metaphor of fat people.
Truth be known, Baldanza, just as many other company execs, was overtly exposing the fact that they are tired of all the government meddling and mingling with more rules and regulations and ridiculous laws appearing daily, constantly interfering with normal market mechanisms.

Adding a $2 fee to a ticket is not really going to bankrupt anyone, but it should send a message to at least the flying population of this country, that if government is not reduced soon, we’re looking at a much more unbearable cost of living picture. Spirit for example was hit with a $50,000 penalty last year for advertising violations after posting a $9 fare on Twitter, which then required users to click to two websites to figure out the additional taxes and charges. As a matter of fact, in 2011, airlines and travel agencies admitted violating price-advertising rules in more than 20 cases and agreed to fines totaling more than $1 million. The amount is hardly worth mentioning when spread out over almost 200 million domestic flight transactions in 2011; about half a penny per transaction. But as it’s the cost of doing business, we John Public, collectively will pay. Collectivity is a form of Communism. Even though I do not have children, I have paid fees and taxes to support the public school system all my life.  It’s the nature of the beast seeking an antidote for government interference and meddling.

Airport and Travel Security

More than 10 years after the ugliness of 911, most people have been fully trained to accept government rule causing any type of inconvenience, discomfort and loss of freedom … and pay for that, while  willfully neglecting the statistical facts that:

• You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack
• You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
• You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack
• You are eight times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack
• You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane
• You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack
• You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack
• You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
• You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack
• You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack
• You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack
You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

These are the numbers…and the numbers don’t lie. Politicians do.

Airline Passengers See More Inflight Sales Pitches

Searchamelia.com: Airplane with maximized captive audience

Airplane configured for super long distance Captive Audience Sales

Airlines are finally realizing the power of captive audiences. In marketing and advertising having a Captive Audience is like the Holy Grail of Sales with a Slam Dunk opportunity. So what better chance to do some stellar pitching then the aisles of an airplane. Actually in 1979 I was involved in a resort project in the Canary Islands that sold part of its inventory in time share blocks. German Travel Charter Company LTU flew direct flights from Dusseldorf to the island of Fuerteventura where the resort was being built, in Lockheed’s L-1011. I loved that plane because in its belly underneath the cockpit it had a 20 seat VIP bar that we leased to invite interested parties to listen to our vacation ownership presentations, during the flights down to the island. That sales venue alone resulted in almost 50% of our sales. A captive audience is a thing of beauty and finally airlines are beginning to understand its revenue power.

After introducing a myriad of new fees and flying ‘a la carte options in the past decade, much to passengers’ dismay, it is clear that Airlines in the future will not be satisfied with the almost 12 percent revenues from onboard sales of food, drinks and other services.

Passengers can expect an onslaught of attractive offerings, says for example GuestLogix, a major provider of onboard sales technology to the world’s airlines. For example the company states that most future sales will be made from the entertainment systems installed in the seat backs rather than cart-pushing flight attendants; something I question, because an attractive and competent sales person still beats an electronic message by miles. In the near future we will see airlines offer “destination-based attractions,” an income structure already a longtime staple for the cruise ship industry offering excursions and destination attractions. For airlines think car rentals and hotel reservations and more entertainment options.

Sales of headphones, blankets, pillows and in-flight entertainment jumped 70 percent in the first half of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.
Prepared meals and other fresh food generated also nearly tripled in revenue as pre-packaged snacks in the first six months of 2010 with the previous year. A new report confirmed what many assume: the longer the flight, the more airline sales and services  —  particularly when it comes to alcoholic drinks.
On flights under 500 miles, the average sale of alcoholic drinks was about $22, compared with $71 on flights over 1,500 miles. Assuming average meaning per passenger in a seat, I quickly calculate that a plane load with 200 passengers consumes a total of amount of $14,000 between New York and Houston. Not bad for a Bar in the Sky Experience.

Maybe one day we’ll see airplanes like the one in the picture; one wing filled with passengers who are willing to experience a presentation in return for a better airfare and another wing for those who don’t want to be bothered and pay full fare. Oops I may have just given airlines another potential fee structure.

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Cruiselines Are Taylor Cutting their Programs

searchamelia.com introduces Good Moon Farm in Tortola BVI

The Biodynamic Good Moon Farm on Tortola BVI

In an effort to attract an ever wider circle of customers with special interests, the cruise lines are starting to do some weird stuff these days.
Of course we have known specialty cruises for many years now. We did some fun radio station stuff in the early MTV days with Captain Burke (RIP) and his unfortunately defunct Windjammer Cruises in the 80s and since then we have seen romance/match cruises, blues cruises, learn to play an instrument cruises or how tot take great pictures cruises among many others, but Carnival’s initiative to host the First Horror Convention at Sea, gives it a new stretch, yet does not tickle my senses. The cruise is called “The Tides of Torture” and will feature stars from more than a half dozen “slasher” movies that include “Friday the 13th” and “Zombie’s Halloween.”

The four-night scare fest kicks off in Tampa on the 2,052-passenger Carnival Paradise and organizer Dark Star Fantasy Cruises says it’ll include entertainment by national acts, movie screenings, a “scream queen” contest and a “Dance of the Dead.”

Cruise and Cook Trips

Personally I’m much more interest in another trend that is being embraced in the cruise industry: food. Cruise ships have always carried the reputation of being a 24 hour a day food fest free for all, albeit not always on the level of fine dining. However latest studies have revealed that cruise consumers now rank fine dining as the number one benefit of a cruise vacation. A 2011 survey revealed that 3 out of 4 cruise consumers are looking for new and different dining experiences onboard ships.

And for those trendsetters I think we have found a once in a lifetime opportunity to join Amelia Island’s the Travel Agency on their Cruise and Cook Tour with Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island’s executive chef Thomas Tolxdorf on Oceania’s new ship the MS Marina on January 23 out of Miami. Chef Toxldorf, a known promoter of healthy cuisine directly from the farm to the table, will share techniques, choices and exclusive Caribbean excursions with the group on the islands of Tortola and Puerto Rico.
In addition to the EXCLUSIVE shore excursions, participants are receiving two complimentary PRIVATE cooking classes onboard the ship.

Culinary Shore Excursions

Here is a passage out of one of the Chef Thomas guided tour descriptions in the British Virgin Island of Tortola, where you will be taken by safari bus to the biodynamic Good Moon Farm, where plants are cultivated with the lunar calendar and fertilized with compost.

You will enjoy the scenic drive up over the high ridge to the north shore, and along the winding back roads to this secluded farm. Amidst these stunning views you will be made welcome with refreshing tea on the farm house veranda.  Feel free to start asking questions to the knowledgeable farmers, Aragorn and Drake.

– Now that you are settled in, you will be escorted around this beautiful farm where you will learn about the different local fruits and vegetables and be given the opportunity to fill a locally woven basket with sumptuous produce to bring to the cook out on the beach later.  Enjoy the experience of harvesting your own food, smelling the freshly plucked leaves and snacking on guava berries and fig bananas.

With baskets on laps you will take off on the second leg of your tour. En route along the ridge road you can catch views of Guana, Necker and Mosquito Islands, homes to the rich and famous, as well as Virgin Gorda, home of the famous Baths.  Take in the views and chew on a stick of sugar cane until arriving at Trellis Bay.

The “Yabba Pot” in which we will cook up your freshly cut vegetables will already be heated before your arrival. These clay pots produce a great heat in which vegetables are flavored with coconut oil and scotch bonnet peppers.  Rastas produce fantastic broths in these when preparing their ITAL food and today we will be enjoying a classic Caribbean dish of Pepper Pot with local seasonings and fresh vegetables.

At this time of year we can harvest bok choi, arugula, spinach, beets, cabbage, Tanya greens and casava.  Accompanying your meal we have rice and peas and cassava bread.  For meat lovers we have local goat curry, souse and seasoned fish.

Some time will be given to enjoy a tall glass of local ginger beer along with a stroll along the crescent beach and amongst the excellent works in Aragorns’ art studio.  This trip is also a feast for the eyes.  Slowly wind you way back to the ship on your safari bus, we hope with the tastes of Tortola still lingering on your palate.

There is still time to book for this exquisite experience, just call Angela at the Travel Agency (904) 491 – 0520 and she will take care of it for you.

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