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Travel News

By Judy Newell

Mexico Travel News

US$9.1 million on seaweed cleanup

Mexican authorities say they will spend about US$9.1 million and hire 4,600 temporary workers to clean up mounds of seaweed that have accumulated in recent weeks along the Caribbean coast. Part of that money will go to a plan to test whether the sargassum seaweed can be collected in the sea before it reaches shore.

The Environment Department said that while machinery may be used on some beaches, manual collection will be used in protected areas, some of which are nesting grounds for sea turtles. The seaweed removal will cover Holbox in the north, through Cancún, Isla Mujeres, Playa de Carmen, Cozumel, Akumal, and Tulum, and as far south as Mahahual.

Sargassum is an alga that grows in the Sargasso Sea, a large body of warm water in the mid-Atlantic.

International News

Cuba tours from Apple Vacations

Cuba edges closer to being a fun-and-sun destination for US travelers as one of America’s largest vacation packaging companies, Apple Vacations, moves into the Cuba travel market. However US citizens are still required to comply with their government’s restrictions to adhere to a full schedule of people-to-people activities, in which they meet with Cubans and learn about their culture.

Apple is offering five- and seven-day packages through a partnership with Cuba Travel Services, which charters flights to Cuba from Miami on American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

The five-night “Havana Getaway” program stays in the Cuban capital city for the entire trip. The program includes sightseeing and a series of people-to-people experiences. It is priced from US$2,233 per person double occupancy, and departures are September 5 and October 17.

The second program, “Colors of Cuba,” includes the basic five-night Havana itinerary and two additional nights in the colonial city of Trinidad. The program is priced from US$2,733 per person double occupancy, and departures are September 11 and 25 and October 8.

Dream trip you can afford: Nicaragua

Tour companies are calling Nicaragua the next Costa Rica. This verdant ecotourism hot spot has untouched rainforests for hiking, an active volcano where you can go “ash boarding,” and quiet beaches that draw international surfing competitions. In Nicaragua, you’ll avoid the crowds of neighboring Costa Rica and find prices that are nearly half of what you’d pay across the border.

The country also just opened its first five-star resort, Mukul Beach Golf and Spa, and ocean-view villas are surprisingly affordable. In spite of Nicaragua’s war-torn past, perceptions of the country are changing. Nicaragua scored the highest for security levels among Latin American countries in a 2013 Gallup poll.

Cruise News

Mississippi River Christmas market cruises

American Queen Steamboat Company will compete with popular European Christmas market river cruises this year. The American Queen will operate five nine-day holiday voyages between Memphis and New Orleans and a New Year’s cruise round-trip from New Orleans.

Cruises sailing from Memphis to New Orleans operate November 21-29, December 5-13, and December 19-27. The November voyage includes a Thanksgiving feast.

Voyages sailing from New Orleans to Memphis are November 28-December 6 and December 12-20. The December 12 cruise includes a Christmas Ball at the historic Nottoway Plantation, which will be adorned with holiday decorations and feature costumed carolers and a private Cajun cuisine dinner in the mansion.

The New Year’s cruise, December 26-January 3 roundtrip from New Orleans, explores the Lower Mississippi, including the Oak Alley plantation in Saint James Parish.

Fares begin at US$2,699, based on double occupancy. All vacations include a one-night pre-voyage hotel stay, shore tours in all ports, and complimentary wine and beer with dinner.

Air News

Airfares fall sharply in late August

When can you truly save on airfare? During a “deal zone.” You don’t have to wait much longer.

• When it starts: The airline fall season gets underway at the start of the August deal zone. This period typically begins August 20 to 25, depending on which airline you fly.

• What happens: Kids are going back to school, which is when demand for travel takes a dive. Airlines need to keep seats filled, so they lure passengers with newly discounted fares, typically 15 percent to 20 percent off peak summer prices.

• Destinations: Price drops are seen on most US domestic routes. There are also lower fares for Europe, though the start dates can vary slightly.

• Example: Fares for flights between New York and Fort Lauderdale before and at the start of the August deal zone: August 17-24: US$329; August 25-September 1: US$197.

You won’t always find that big a bargain, but chances are good you’ll save something. If your schedule allows, it could pay to change your travel dates.

Deal of the week

Tulip time cruises: free airfare to Amsterdam

Discover the rich history, culture, and pastoral landscapes of the Netherlands and Belgium. Visit quaint Dutch towns and admire breathtaking gardens before exploring some of Belgium’s most exciting cities such as Antwerp, Kinderdijk, and Bruges.

Reserve your stateroom with award-winning AmaWaterways on one of these select departures and receive free roundtrip airfare to Amsterdam from a variety of US gateways. Seven-night cruise round-trip from Amsterdam. 2016 dates: March 27, 28; April 3, 7; May 2, 5. Rates starting from US$2,499 per person. Book soon, offer expires August 31, 2015.

Judy Newell heads the travel company Perfect Journeys, which specializes in crafting personalized cruise and land itineraries for couples, singles, families, and small groups. She designs trips that are carefully tailored to suit client’s interests, ability,and budget. Please contact Judy for reservations or further information on any of the Travel News topics; cell phone 415 111 8765; Vonage 949 300 3682; email or view the latest travel specials on the website where you can book your hotels, tours, and cruises online.

Sources: Travel Agent Central, Apple Vacations, Smarter Travel, Travel Pulse, USA Today, AmaWaterways

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