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Travel News

By Judy Newell

México Travel News

Plan Expanded for Yucatan Tourist Train

México’s president-elect announced an ambitious proposal for a train on the Yucatan peninsula that would link nearly all the region’s main tourist draws and cost double or more than the previously announced figure to build.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador campaigned on building the tourist train from the beach resort city of Cancún down through Tulum and to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, 520 miles to the southwest. His new plan adds a western spur that could stop in the cities of Campeche, Merida, and Valladolid—near the famed ruins of Chichen Itza—and ultimately complete the circuit in Cancún.

Lopez Obrador said the “Mayan train” would cost US$6–8 billion, compared with his previous figure of US$3.2 billion. He said it would be financed through both public and private investment, including tourism taxes that currently net about US$370 million a year.

Under the new plan, the track would increase to about 930 miles and would be completed in four years “at the latest,” he said. Most of the route lies on land already owned by the federal government. The new plan would include Chichen Itza, as well as Campeche and Merida, two gorgeous cities known for their picturesque colonial buildings.

Few doubt that the first stretch of the proposed train on the Caribbean coast—from Cancún through the Riviera Maya to Tulum—would be heavily used. Almost seven million international tourists visit this stretch of coast every year, many of them arriving at the Cancún airport and then taking buses or cars down the coast.

While resorts have been popping up south of Cancún since the 1990s, most hotel workers still live in Cancún. So huge numbers of tourism workers could also use the train to get to their jobs, a trip that can currently take them an hour and a half or more.

It is the second southern stretch—from Tulum to the Mayan town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, just southwest of the Sian Ka’an environmental reserve, then on to Bacalar, Calakmul, and Palenque that raises more questions. Some see it as an expensive folly. There is little tourism infrastructure until one gets around Bacalar and the route from there west is practically undeveloped.

In 2012, President Enrique Pena Nieto announced that he would build a rapid-train link connecting the Riviera Maya with Merida. The US$1.5 billion project would have connected already-developed tourist destinations on a heavily traveled, well-known route. It was canceled in 2015 due to a lack of funds, but the idea now appears to be revived by Lopez Obrador, who takes office December 1.

International News

New European Food Tours

New foodie-inspired vacations for travelers headed to Europe are being released by Avanti Destinations. The new vacations include: The 10-day trip, European Classics for Foodies—visiting London, Paris, and Rome—and a 13-day Flavors of Southern Europe that takes you to Rome, Athens, Barcelona, and Madrid. The packages include transatlantic airfare, transfers, hotels, and tours.

The company’s other offerings include customizable land-only programs, such as Sips and Samples of Southern England, Taste of the Wachau Valley (Austria), and Gastronomic Wonders of France and Spain, as well as more than 30 new experiences that can be added to any custom itinerary.

Travelers can take part in a pierogi-making class and vodka tour in Krakow or Warsaw; a macaroon or baguette class in Paris; a Nordic “food walking” tour of Stockholm; a risotto-cooking class near Lake Lugano; a private distillery experience in Helsinki; tours of markets in Vienna, Paris, and Avignon; and a chocolate-making workshop in Paris.

Gluten-free and vegetarian classes are available.

Hard Rock Hotels Drop Resort Credit

All-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels in México and the Dominican Republic are officially putting an end to the use of resort credit. In its place, the new Limitless All-Inclusive concept will make its debut with bookings from September 15, 2018, for travel beginning January 6, 2019.

The new program begins at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Hard Rock Hotel Cancún, Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, and Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos (coming in 2019).

This change allows all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels to offer a fully all-inclusive vacation with exclusive experiences like golf at Jack Nicklaus and Robert von Hagge-designed Hard Rock courses; select Rock Spa treatments, tours, and excursions; POSH Beauty Salon; barber shop services; and more included in the stay. Limitless All-Inclusive replaces the use of resort credit, presenting guests with unlimited access to each of these amenities for a 25 percent service fee.

Words of the Wise and Well-Traveled

“Live your life by a compass, not a clock.” —Stephen Covey

Deal of the Week

Russian Winter Wonderland: New Year’s in St Petersburg with Moscow and Suzdal!

Nobody loves New Year’s Eve like the Russians—it’s the most festive holiday of the year with parties, presents, and champagne toasts. This celebratory tour revolves around the New Year in glorious St Petersburg, with Moscow merrymaking and a visit to twelfth-century Suzdal to round out the festivities. Admire ancient churches and enjoy a traditional sleigh ride.

Signature experiences on this tour: attend a performance at a renowned St Petersburg theater, and take a peek backstage; toast the New Year at a private St Petersburg party. Take an exhilarating sleigh ride at the UNESCO-listed Valdimir and Sudzal.

Ten-day trip, December 9, 2018‒January 7, 2019. US$5,495 per person, single supplement US$995 additional. Small group guarantee—never more than 16 passengers.

Judy Newell, an international travel consultant for over 40 years, heads Perfect Journeys and specializes in unique travel experiences to destinations around the world. She custom designs journeys that are tailored to suit your interests, abilities, and budget. Please contact Judy for further information on Travel News topics and around-the-world travel; cell phone 415 111 8765; Vonage 949-300-3682; email Her office is in Rancho Los Labradores, carr a Dolores Hidalgo. View the latest travel specials on the website

Sources: Travel Agent Central, MIR Corporation


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