Travel News You Can Use

By Judy Newell

Mexico Travel News
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende gets creative

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende has announced partnerships with local art institutes, artists, galleries and collectors to form the Rosewood San Miguel Arts Program. The program showcases the cultural and artistic wealth of San Miguel by offering guests a multitude of interactive arts education and language classes. These programs can comprise a few hours or up to week.

Rosewood San Miguel’s newly formed Art Concierge facilitates and customizes programming for guests. Subject areas include painting, sculpture, jewelry making, photography, language classes, dance, cooking, private guided tours through local galleries, historic tours and excursions to nearby antique dealers.

Cancun honors summer visitors with Whale Shark Day

Cancun is gearing up for its annual International Whale Shark Day on August 30, an event that celebrates some of the region’s most popular summer visitors.

Described as “gentle and giant creatures,” whale sharks migrate to the waters of the Mexican Caribbean every year and are abundant along the Cancun coastline.

Approximately 1,400 whale sharks arrive in mid-May and depart the warm waters in September. July and August are considered the peak months for sightings in the waters north of Isla Mujeres near Cancun.

Whale Shark Day was established in 2008 and has become one of Cancun’s most popular events. Tours featuring swimming with whale sharks are conducted throughout their stay in the area. The tours involve a strict protocol to protect the species and their habitat: no more than 10 people are permitted per boat; only two tourists and one guide can swim with the whale sharks at a time; life jackets are mandatory; and touching the whale sharks is prohibited.

Airline News
$250 is too much for a change fee

If you have a nonrefundable international airline ticket, most airlines charge you a fee of US$250 to exchange it. A new filing requests the Department of Transportation (DOT) to rule such fees excessive. Although the DOT has no authority over fees for domestic travel, it still has authority to require that “every air carrier and foreign air carrier shall establish … reasonable prices” for foreign air travel, and DOT precedent defines “reasonable” as “reasonably related to the costs of providing the service.”

Is that US$250 fee reasonable? When airlines first decided to allow exchanges on nonrefundable tickets, they reasonably allowed travelers only to retain the cash value toward a future ticket, not get a cash refund. Furthermore, most set exchange fees at US$25, again a reasonable amount.

Since then, however, most lines have boosted exchange fees to a standard US$150 for domestic tickets and US$250 for international tickets. Clearly, those fees have no relation to cost and are instead intended for some combination of increasing revenue and discouraging exchanges.

The petitioner, attorney Donald Pevsner, asked the DOT to require that the fees be  reasonable—and therefore much lower—than the current rate of US$250. He also asked that DOT require airlines to add language in their official contracts of carriage—the contracts that actually govern your transaction with an airline—that in the event of any schedule change, any traveler holding a ticket, even if nonrefundable, be entitled to a full refund.

The petition is posted as Docket DOT-OST-2012_0109-0001, which you can view or download as a PDF from and where you can submit online comments. I urge you to submit comments and let the DOT know what you think. Ordinary travelers don’t often get the chance to have their voices heard: Don’t waste this one.

International News
Washington Monument repairs could last until 2014

The Washington Monument, one of the USA’s iconic tourist attractions, could be off limits to visitors until 2014. Repairs to the 555-foot obelisk, which was extensively damaged in a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011, will require the exterior and part of the interior to be shrouded in scaffolding, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

Parts of the granite plaza surrounding the structure as well as nearby flagpoles will be removed during the US$15 million repair project. The earthquake caused chipping and cracking in the stone and mortar joints at the top of the monument, which has been closed since the quake struck. More than 800,000 visitors a year tour the marble-clad Washington Monument, which was completed in 1884.

Porsche sports cars in Hertz US fleet

The Hertz Corporation announced that it has become the first US car rental company to purchase vehicles from Porsche. A limited number of Panamera sport sedans will be available as part of the Hertz Prestige Collection, a line of high-end cars. The Porsche has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price starting at US$75,850. Beginning in July, Hertz customers in select California, Florida and Nevada markets can experience the vehicle with rates starting at US$250/weekend day.

Deal of the Week
Tauck slashes river cruise prices for solo travelers

Tauck has dropped the single supplement on all of its category 1 cabins for all 2013 European river cruises. There are eight category 1 cabins on the lower deck of each of Tauck’s four river cruise ships in Europe. The average savings for solo travelers will be about $2,400, according to the company.

Additionally, Tauck is reducing the single supplements on category 3 cabins in 2013 by $1,000, an average 40 percent reduction in the single supplement. Category 3 cabins are on the middle deck of each ship and there are 30 on each vessel.

The move affects more than 100 departures in Europe next year. Tauck operates 14 itineraries on the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Main, Maas and Saone rivers.

Sources: TravelAge West, Travel Weekly, Smarter Travel, Travel Industry Wire

Judy Newell heads the travel company Perfect Journeys which specializes in custom-designed tour and cruise travel. She will present “Travel Tuesdays,” a free seminar on travel topics, every other Tuesday. Topics will be announced in Que Pasa. Contact Judy by email at

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