Travel Weekly Honors Travel Industry 2014 Best in Category Awards

Travel Weekly, a publication for the travel industry, recently gave it’s “Reader Choice Awards” to the 2014 winners. The winners were selected from 67 travel-related categories. The voters for the awards were travel agents & counselors, and travel CEO & marketing executives.

Best in Airlines

Domestic: Delta Air Lines
International: Virgin Atlantic
Business/First Class: Emirates
Top Airline Overall: Delta Air Lines

Best in Car Rental

Domestic: Hertz
International: Hertz

Best Rail Vacation

• Rocky Mountaineer

Best Theme Park

• Walt Disney World

Best in Hotel Chains

Domestic: Marriott International
Asia: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
Caribbean: Sandals Resorts
Europe: InterContinental Hotels Group
Mexico: Secrets Resorts & Spas
Hawaii/South Pacific: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
All-Inclusive: Sandals Resorts
Luxury: Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts
Upscale: Westin Hotels & Resorts
Mid-Priced: Hampton Inn
Boutique: Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Sales & Service: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

Best Las Vegas Hotel
• Bellagio Las Vegas

Best Resort Worldwide
• St. Regis Bora Bora

Top Overall Hotel Group
• Marriott International

Best in Tour Operators

Domestic Packaged: Delta Vacations
Domestic Escorted: Tauck
International: Globus
Africa: Abercrombie & Kent
Asia/Pacific: Globus
Canada: Tauck
Caribbean: Gogo Worldwide Vacations
Europe: Trafalgar Tours
Hawaii: Pleasant Holidays
Mexico: Apple Vacations
Luxury: Abercrombie & Kent
Sales & Service: Travel Impressions
Escorted Overall: Globus
Packaged Overall: Travel Impressions

Best in Cruise Lines

Domestic: Royal Caribbean International
Alaska: Princess Cruises
Caribbean: Royal Caribbean International
Europe: Celebrity Cruises
Hawaii/Pacific: Norwegian Cruise Line
Under 1,000 Berths: Crystal Cruises
Premium: Celebrity Cruises
Luxury: Seabourn Cruise Line
River Cruising: Viking River Cruises
Sales & Service: Royal Caribbean International
Overall: Royal Caribbean International
Best World Cruise Itinerary: Holland America Line
Best Family Experience: Disney Cruise Line

Best in Cruise Ships

River Cruising: Viking Longship Magni, Viking River Cruises
New: Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Cruise Line
Premium: Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Cruises
Luxury: Queen Mary 2, Cunard Line
Overall Individual: Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International

Best in Destinations

Africa: South Africa
Asia/Pacific: Tahiti
Canada: Vancouver
Caribbean: Dominican Republic
Central/South America: Costa Rica
Europe: Ireland
Hawaii: Maui
Mexico: Riviera Maya
U.S. State: Hawaii
U.S. City: Las Vegas

For a complete list of all winners, click here.

3 Things You Need to Know Before You Use Your Electrical Device Abroad

Chances are that if you are going to travel outside the US, you have to consider whether you will need an electrical plug adapter(s) and/or a power converter. Power plug adapters do not change the voltage, they merely provide an adapter that will fit on a US electrical plug so that it can be “plugged” into a foreign electrical receptacle. On the other hand, electrical converters change the voltage.  In the U.S. our household electrical appliances run on 120 volts at 60 Hz. There are three essential factors that must be considered if you plan to use your US appliance in another country: Voltage, Plug, Hz (hertz)

1) Voltage – Most importantly, make sure you know what the voltage is in the country you will be visiting. If you plug a U.S. appliance (120 volt based) into a European (230 volt based) plug there is a good chance it will explode and burn out. So the first step is to CLICK HERE to find out the country’s voltage. Next you need to check the voltage rating of every electrical device you will take on your trip. It is pretty easy to find the rating, all electrical devices are required to list this information (see the image on the left). On it you will see the voltage range that it accepts as well as its hertz (Hz) or cycles.

If your device is rated for 110 – 240 volts you are in great shape. However, if as in the image on the left, your device is only rated for 120 volts (VAC), your device will not work and will be damaged (and may explode) if you plug it into a 230 volt receptacle. You will need a power converter to use your device in that country.  An example of a simple converter for small appliances like a hair dryer is shown on the right.  U.S. residents will want a ‘down’ converter – you want a converter that reduces 230 volts down to 110 – 120 volts.  Europeans would want an ‘up’ converter – to increase the U.S. voltage from 110 – 120 VAC up to 230 VAC which their appliances typically need.  Some voltage converters will also convert the cycles or Hz (see below).

Fortunately today most personal appliances (hairdryers, electric razors, computers, etc.) sold in the U.S. are now manufactured to handle 110 – 230 volts.  Just check the electrical rating panel on your equipment.

CAUTION – Some products, are dual voltage (they can handle both 110 – 120 VAC as well as 230 VAC), BUT they do not automatically sense or switch from one to the other.  Instead they have manual switches where YOU have to change the setting.  I’ve seen this on electric razors, computers, and hair dryers.  So check to see if you equipment switches automatically or manually.

2) Plugs
- Now that we have determined the voltage, we now need to consider electrical plugs and receptacles.  As we learned as children, you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.  Likewise U.S. electrical plug will not fit into electrical receptacles in other countries.  As you can see, the rectangular U.S. plug is not going to fit into the round European receptacle.  However, this is an easy fix.  All you need is to buy a ‘plug adapter.’

There are several different types of plugs and some countries have more than one shape. Unfortunately the shapes must match. So let’s go back to our international power chart – CLICK HERE and you will see a listing of the type of plugs you will need.

These are cheap and easily available in hardware stores and online (  You can buy individual plug adapters or a package of adapters that will fit almost every receptacle in the world. To use an adapter, you simply plug the U.S. plug into the back of the plug adapter. With the adapter on, you can now plug into the receptacle.  Also make sure you consider if you have any U. S. products that are grounded (three prong).  If so, make sure you also but adapters that take a grounded plug.  Finally, remember that PLUG ADAPTERS DO NOT CHANGE VOLTAGE.

3) Hertz (Hz) – No this is not the car rental company. Hertz (Hz) is the frequency at which the equipment cycles or repeats.  The standard is the U.S. is 60 Hz/second.  However, many foreign countries cycle at 50 Hz which is 17% slower.  This means a motor will rotate 17% slower.  We used an electric razor in Europe and you could definitely tell the clipper blades moved slower.  Today many consumer electronic products automatically sense and modify voltage and hertz.  However, you need to check each device you will use.  A difference in hertz can affect televisions, refrigerators, razors, and other products that don’t auto sense voltage and hertz; and the difference will cause some devices to burn out or die faster than normal.  However, differences in Hz do not affect products that heat, such as hair dryers, nor will it affect appliances that convert AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current).

With all of that said, more and more international hotels and many cruise ships have dual voltage plugs.  Just check with the hotel or cruise line in advance.  It makes the trip easier.

Which Day Is Best to Buy an Airline Ticket?

New Report Shows Changes

The prevailing wisdom has been that Tuesdays are the best day to purchase airline tickets.  This was based on the fact that most airlines rolled out specials and discounts starting mid-Tuesday, with the discounted seats generally selling out by Thursday.

A new study the ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) found that Sundays are now the best day to purchase an airline ticket for either domestic or international travel.  ARC looked back over a 19-month period to make its determination.  Saturdays were the next best day.

“This latest study by ARC is significant because it reveals that not only have the lowest airfares shifted from six to eight weeks out for domestic travel, but the savings are markedly greater on a percentage basis,” Chuck Thackston, ARC’s managing director of enterprise information management.

The worse days to purchase were Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  What is the cause for this shift?  No one is sure, but the speculation is that the lack of corporate travel purchases over the weekend has led to this new trend, plus more travelers are using tablets and smartphones over the weekend to book airline reservations.

How Far in Advance Should You Purchase

The new data showed that the ideal advance purchase time for domestic flights is 57 days, roughly eight weeks.  For international flights the best prices tend to be available about 24 weeks (about 5.5 months) in advance.

Chuck Thackston noted that these are only general guidelines.

“Air ticket pricing is dynamic, and ARC isn’t advising anyone to purchase tickets only at these times during the sales cycle as there is no guarantee they will receive the lowest price; it is just what the data pattern indicates during the study period,” Thackston said.

#9 Venice Italy – CCRA Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations

Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations Outside the US

CCRA released their Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations Outside the US this week.  Coming in at #9 was Venice, Italy.  I’m sure it is not surprise to anyone that Venice would make the Top 10 list.  Just the name conjures up picturesque images of canals and gondolas.

Arguably one of the most beautiful and romantic cities steeped in history, it is also very modern with the “Venice Film Festival” and the high energy Carnival during the 10 days prior to Lent.

Venice is a series of 118 islands with the Grand Canal serving as its main street.  Since the city dates back to around 160 AD, it is full of museums, historically significant buildings and plazas, and churches.

On the main island of Mestre, all traffic ends at Piazzale Roma – there are no automobiles, buses, or motorcycles.  You have to get around by walking narrow and winding streets, some no more than sidewalks.  While it may sound daunting trying to get around the islands and canals, yellow signs are posted at major intersections with arrows pointing the direction to main attractions.  However, trying to find a specific hotel, restaurant, or address can be challenging because so many streets are so small they are not listed on maps.  But the locals are very friendly and helpful, and can point you in the right direction.

St. Mark's Basilica, VeniceTo get to know Venice, start your journey in piazza San Marco where you can see and visit St. Mark’s basilica, the Torre dell’ Orolgio (clock tower), and people watch. Or enter through a side door on the piazza Marco to Palazzo Ducale.  No trip to Venice would be complete without exploring the joy of watching Venice pass by you in a gondola.

The cities mix of ancient times with contemporary times is no more evident than evidenced by its art scene.  Venetian art masters works from the Middle Ages through the mid 18th century abound in the city.   But if you tastes are more modern, visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection or the Punta della Dogana which includes contemporary artists.

Spaniards enjoy their tapas with beer or wine.  Venician’s enjoy their equivalent – cicheti and an aperitivi.  The north-west corner of the Rialto bridge is a great spot to experience this local pastime.

Plan to spend several days, as the city can seduce you.  Next we’ll visit Madrid – number 8 on the “Top 10 List.”








#10 Istanbul Turkey – CCRA Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations

Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations Outside the US

CCRA released their Top 10 Fall Travel Destinations Outside the US this week.  Coming in at #10 was Istanbul, Turkey.

It is easy to understand why Istanbul makes it in the top 10.  With its ancient bazaars, Turkish baths and mosques, the city offers American and European visitors a unique peak back into history.  From its beginnings as Constantinople in 330 AD it served as the capital of four empires.  The Roman Empire (330 – 395), the Byzantine Empire (395 – 1204), the Latin Empire (1204 – 1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453 – 1922).  In 1923 it was renamed Istanbul after the founding of modern day Turkey.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace

Fortunately, much of its most important sites are near one another.  To start your journey go to Sultanahmetm, the Blue Mosque, in the heart of Old Town.  Nearby, you’ll find Yerebatan Sarayi (Basilica Cistern), the Topkapi Palace, and Aya Sofya (the Church of Holy Wisdom).  You can easily spend a day or more visiting just these sites along.


Visit the Spice and Grand Bazaars

Next visit Kapali Carsi, the Grand Bazaar, in Beyazit near the Istanbul Univeristy.  It is one of the most extraordinary bazaars in the world, and one of the oldest and largest in Istanbul.  The entire bazaar consists of 3,000 shops on 61 covered streets attracting over a quarter-million visitors a day.  But be prepared to haggle – here you are not expected to pay full price.

Of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to an authentic Turkish Bath called hamam.  You start by stripping and wearing a thin cloth (pestemal).  Then off to the steam room for a while.  From there you’ll go to another room where you will lie on a marble table while you are soaped and massaged.  This is followed by a kese (loofah) or cleansing where your body is rubbed to remove dead skin.  Finally you are soaped and rinsed, and sent on our way feeling much more relaxed.  Tip your attendant (about 10%), it is expected.

These are just a few of the highlights that await you in Istanbul.  Next we’ll visit #9 on the list – Venice.






MobileSuites Makes Managing Your Hotel Stays Easier

Now a days, every hotel has created their own app to let your check-in, order room service, make spa reservations, and manage your frequent traveler’s number.  But if you are like me, you are getting overrun with too many apps.

MobileSuites is a great effort to create a single app to let you manage all of your hotel needs across all brands.  Currently the app is only available for iPhone and iPads on iOS 7.0 and higher.  Right now the program is limited to Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Le Meridien.  Soon to join this list will be Hilton Garden Inn, and hopefully many more brands to make this app truly worthwhile.

Once you log into the app, it uses your geo locator to determine your correct hotel.  Just tap on the hotel and a host of services will be listed.  You can order room service, send messages to the front desk, and so much more

It is a handy app.  Now let’s hope more brands will sign on.

Updated: 11/11/2014:  The Westin properties will be online later this week.

Company URL:


European Snow Pride 2015 Schedule Announced

Europe’s Largest Gay Ski Week Announced

The dates are set for March 21st through March 28th, 2015, on the interconnected ski areas at Espace Killy in Tignes and Val d’Isere for Europe’s largest gay ski event and circuit party.

Tignes Ski Area

Well, the first thing you would expect from a gay ski week, is the infinite possibilities to ski or snowboard on different slopes each day, without having to go down the same run for the 10th time within 2 days!

The second thing you will definitely want to be sure of is that regardless of the slope you are on, there is enough snow, not only at the top, but also at the bottom of the slope, so that your main concern will be to choose which slope to go down to have the biggest fun, rather than having to guess which run to go because of the general lack of snow or because of the bad snow conditions. In other words, if you like slaloming, you do not necessarily fancy slaloming between stones or trees roots or getting violently stopped by a layer of half melted snow while you were at full speed.

Obviously by choosing Tignes which is at 2100m above sea level and its ski area, l’Espace Killy culminating at 3450m, you can’t be mistaken. If Tignes and the Espace Killy have been ranked number one for alpine skiing, snowboarding and off piste by, the French leading and independent skiing information portal, it is not completely by chance.

Tignes and its ski area the Espace Killy belong to the privileged club of world class high altitude resorts and ski areas. The Espace Killy with its 300 km of snow sure slopes is simply one of the best and largest ski areas in the world.

More Than a Ski Event

European Snow Pride is more than a gay ski week, it is a festival. It is not only about gathering gay people in a resort and letting them ski together, it’s far more than that: it is an event where of course you will be skiing together but also where you will have lots of opportunities to have fun and to meet other guys who are like you, thanks to our exciting and diverse entertainment programme which is full of all kinds of events and of magic moments:
DJ parties each day with Europe’s most famous gay clubs and DJs, giant ES+Beautifulmag Pool Party at le Lagon with no access restriction and no supplement for the event passholders, magic daily après-ski on a South facing terrace at the bottom of the slopes, with DJ sessions and performances, Cabaret and piano bar evenings, ski/snowboard guided groups, lunches on the privatized terrace of a mountain restaurant different each day, our unforgettable Wilderness camp evening with a Barbecue dinner in a Mongolian yurt, preceded by a toboggan run through a magic scenery made of pine trees and ice falls, our unavoidable Raclette and Fondue evenings, our gastronomic dinner, our Welcome Cocktail and Buffet on the first night served by the Michelin star chef Jean Michel Bouvier, in the Lounge of the Suites du Nevada 5* hotel…Relaxing is also part of the game: most of our hotels and residences have got a private pool and spa and some of them do also have their own gym.

For more information visit their website.

Hilton to Launch New Brand “Canopy”

Canopy to Reflect Local Community

Beginning in 2015, Hilton will launch a new brand called “Canopy.”  Unlike most large chain hotels, Canopy properties will be unique and reflect the local flavor of each community.  No two Canopy properties will be alike.

Each hotel will offer food and beverage, as well as art, from the local area.  All rooms will have complimentary WiFi and breakfast.

“Built on extensive market research, our highly anticipated Canopy by Hilton brand delivers a fresh approach to hospitality and the guest experience,” Christopher Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, said. “We saw an opportunity to not only enter the lifestyle space by developing a new brand, but also to redefine this category by creating a more accessible lifestyle brand. We identified the need to take the emphasis off of capital-intensive design and deliver exactly what the target consumer desires: an energizing, comfortable stay with more included value.”

11 locations are currently planned with the first in Rockville, Maryland.  Others will be located in London, Miami, San Diego, Nashville, Indianapolis, Portland (Oregon), Savannah, and Oklahoma City.

The launch of the Canopy brand follows Hilton’s recent launch of its luxury brand called Curio.  These are four and five star properties which also reflect the local community.

International Bear Bash 2015

Plans for 2015

Plans for one of the largest gay bear bashes in 2015 have been announced. Building on the success of the 2014 event, where hundreds of gay bears and their admirers from six countries and thirty five state attended, the schedule and dates have been set for 2015.
The International Bear Bash is held yearly in Orlando. For 2015, the event will run September 22 – 27. Plus the format is changing a bit as the event has continued to grow in popularity. 2015 will bring more parties and a couple of extra days. The host hotel will be the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld.

Unlike many gay events, this one is affordable. If you register by October 30, 2014, registration is only $40. November 1, 2014 the rates increase to only $75.

Schedule of Events
September 22-27, 2015

Tuesday (pre-comers)
7pm-10pm Pre-comer Dinner (additional cost)
1am-4am Pre-comers After Hours

Wednesday (pre-comers)
1pm-8pm Drinking Around The World at Disney Epcot (additional cost)
9pm – 10:30pm Dive In Movies
1am-4am Pre-comers After Hours
Orlando Bear Bash Head

3pm-10:30pm Registration
3pm-10:30pm Vendor Fair
6:00pm-7:30pm Happy Hour Welcome Reception
7:30pm-10:30pm Welcome Masquerade Party
10:30pm-1am Pool Party
1am – 4am After Hours Party

6am -11am Bearmosa Breakfast Buffet (additional cost)
12 noon – 8:30pm Registration
11am – 9pm Full Vendor Fair
1pm – 5:30pm Pool Party
5:30pm – 8pm Big Bear Game Show
10pm – 12am Registration
8:30pm-1am Pool Party
11pm – 1am Leather and Cigar Social
1am – 4am After Hours Party

6am – 11am Bearmosa Breakfast Buffet (additional cost)
12 noon – 8:30pm Registration
11am – 9pm Vendor Fair
1pm – 5:30pm Pool Party
5:30pm – 8:30pm Karaoke
8:30pm – 9pm Chinese Auction Drawing in Vendor Fair
9pm – 11pm Registration
9pm – 9:30pm Mr. Bear Bash Contests
9:30pm – 1am BLU Ball
9:30pm – 1am Leather and Cigar Social
1am – 4am After Hours Party

6am – 11am Bearmosa Breakfast Buffet (additional cost)
Noon – 3pm Recovery by the Pool
6pm – Midnight Halloween Horror Nights (additional cost)

Visit their site for more information.

Oceania Launches Free WiFi

Just a month after Regent Seven Seas announced it would offer free WiFi services on-board its fleet, Oceania announced it will offer complimentary Internet access across its five ship fleet. The service will begin with its 2015 Winter sailings. The on-board equipment has been upgraded on each ship offering speeds double what was previously offered.

Vista and Owners suites will enjoy unlimited Internet access, while Verandas & Penthouse Suites will receive up to 500 free minutes, depending on the length of the cruise. For instance, seven night cruises will include 200 free Internet WiFi minutes or equivalent data, while eleven to fifteen night cruises will include 400 minutes. In addition, a complimentary iPad® will be provided in Vista and Owners suites.

Free access to the Internet is one of the top requests by gay travelers. But be aware that bandwidth-heavy applications like, YouTube, Skype, and MagicJack are not available, nor will you be able to stream video.