There has been a lot going on in the travel world as of late, it's been hard to keep up.
Once again, all eyes are on the cruise world, as a stranded Carnival Cruise ship, Triumph, is towed to a port in Mobile, Alabama. The ship has been without power, for the most part, since Sunday when a fire took out the propulsion system, leaving it unable to sail. The sewage system is out, meaning there are no working toilets or showers, and the heating and air-conditioner have malfunctioned, resulting in nearly unbearable heat . The ship was floating in the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles off the coast of Yucatan, before tug boats began pulling it to shore. Passengers have been sleeping in hallways or on decks to get relief from the heat and stench, and have been forced to wait in lines for hours just to get a small portion of food. Carnival secured buses and over 1,000 hotel rooms in New Orleans for when passengers finally arrive back on shore. They can choose to get on a bus and head to Galveston or Houston, or spend a night in New Orleans and catch a charter plane the next day, Carnival said. The company is covering all travel-related expenses. Passengers will also get a refund, $5000 and a credit toward another cruise--though I'm sure most of the some 4,100 people on board will be avoiding cruises for a while after this horrible experience.
As expected after nearly a year of rumors, discussions, and speculations, US Airways and American Airlines agreed to merge for the hefty price of $11 billion. The deal will create the nation's largest airline. This will allow them to better compete against United and Delta Air Lines, which have both expanded through mergers. The merged airline will be called American Airlines and is expected to be completed in the third quarter of the year. This is most likely the last major consolidation we'll see in the airline industry, at least for a while. So what does this mean for us? Well, we'll have four major airlines from which to choose, as they control about three-quarters of the U.S. market. Customers of the merged airline will have more choices and increased service across a larger network, the airlines said. The new company will have more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations and 56 countries. I know this will affect a lot of people who are frequent fliers of both airlines, and the airline said there will be no changes to those programs at first. I, on the other hand, will continue to book flights on my preferred airlines--Frontier, JetBlue , and UnitedContinental.
For anyone who experienced frustrating delays on a trip last year, you may be surprised by this next little tidbit. Airline on-time rates were at a nine-year high in 2012. Airlines also reported a record low in the number of mishandles bags. Carriers ended 2012 with an on-time performance rate of 81.9%, making the year one of the best three years out of the last 18. Long tarmac delays also dropped, as only 42 that exceeded three hours were reported, down from 50 in 2011. The overall flight cancellation rate remained stagnant, averaging 1.29%. Despite the positives seen in airline performance, consumers complaints still went up slightly--I guess it takes a lot to please us.
Next time you want to upgrade, why not opt for a luxury car rental? This segment of the car rental industry is on the rise, and many people can do it without spending that much more than they would for a full-size sedan. Enterprise expanded its "Exotic Car Collection" to 13 locations in six states; while Hertz said rentals of luxury vehicles grew 15% in 2012. As a result, the company added the Porsche Panamera to its fleet in certain locations. A new company, called Silvercar, entered the mix, renting only silver Audi A4s with customized technology. Rates to rent these cars run the gamut from under $100 to nearly $1,000 a day, and many companies will offer special discounts or promotions, since these rentals are less frequent. Personally, I'd go for the Bentley GTC for $800 a day.
And now another update from Boeing--because we haven't heard enough about this. Boeing conducted two test flights of its 787 Dreamliner as it looked for the cause of the battery problems that grounded the planes. The company said it examined microscopic crystals, called dendrites, can cause lithium-ion batteries to short-circuit and fail, but they are not the main focus of the investigation. Officials are also examining whether a manufacturing defect, the charging process or the battery design could have led to the initial fire.
This week, people around the world celebrated Mardi Gras, with bright costumes, colorful beads, spectacular parties and parades, and, of course, delicious food and plenty of libations. Obviously, the party cities of New Orleans and Rio De Janeiro were the place to be on Fat Tuesday. While thousands of people flocked to these cities over the weekend, there were plenty of other locations holding their own celebrations.
And finally guys, this is for you. If you are tired of having to buy gifts and flowers for your girlfriend on Valentine's Day and take her out for a nice dinner, then perhaps you should live in South Korea. Here, Valentine's Day is when women shower men with gifts. It is also just one of the many romantic days in a series of calendar-dictated holidays in the country. Next is March 14, called White Day, when men gift women with candy. And on April 14, Black Day, singles who did not receive any gifts head to local restaurants to enjoy some jjajyangmyeon, or "black noodles."
So there you go, a quick update of some of the big--and not so big--news stories.
On a more personal news-worthy note, my trip to Australia/New Zealand is 21 days away! I cannot wait! Please know that I will update with stories and pictures as much as possible while I am gone, but most of the recap will occur upon my return. Please send me gift requests prior to March 8. (No guarantees you'll get exactly what you want, but at least I offered.)