Tag Archives: vacations

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand on animal exploitation

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand against animal exploitation by no longer selling bookings to attractions where travelers can make physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.

The policy, six months in the making, was formed with input from tourism, animal welfare and conservation groups including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but many of the millions of travelers who post reviews to the company’s website have been concerned about animal welfare for years, company spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

The company, based in Needham, Massachusetts, also will start providing links on its site to take users to educational research on animal welfare and conservation.

“TripAdvisor’s new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections,” said Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor’s president.

But the president of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums said she was “disappointed” TripAdvisor never consulted her Virginia-based organization, whose members include branches of the SeaWorld and Six Flags theme parks and dozens of other marine life parks, aquariums and zoos internationally.

“It’s an unjust demonization of the interactive programs that are at the heart of modern zoo and aquarium programs,” president Kathleen Dezio said. “They give guests the magic, memorable experiences that make them want to care about these animals and protect them in the wild.”

The TripAdvisor policy, announced Tuesday, is in line with increasing public sentiment against the exploitation of wild animals to entertain people. SeaWorld this year announced it would stop using killer whales for theatrical performances, while Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last year stopped using elephants.

TripAdvisor will cease booking some attractions immediately, but the policy, which may affect hundreds of businesses, takes full effect early next year.

In announcing the policy, which also applies to the affiliated Viator booking website, TripAdvisor specifically mentioned elephant rides, swim-with-the-dolphins programs and tiger petting.

Several U.S. businesses that offer such attractions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The policy does not apply to horseback rides and children’s petting areas with domesticated animals. It also exempts attractions such as aquarium touch pools where there are educational benefits and visitors are professionally supervised.

TripAdvisor won’t bar user reviews of tourist attractions, even those it stops booking. The company has long banned reviews of businesses that use animals for blood sport, including bullfights.

A San Francisco-based travel analyst, Henry Harteveldt, said because TripAdvisor is so widely used the wildlife attractions could see a noticeable hit to their business.

However, if TripAdvisor merely stops selling the tickets but continues listing the attractions, he said, the effect won’t be long-lasting. He said those attractions may just go through other booking websites to sell tickets.

TripAdvisor said if a wildlife attraction changes its business model it would consider selling tickets again.


Travel news: Cuba guide, New Orleans lights, hotel emojis

Tourism in Cuba has boomed with the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., and a just-published travel guide offers an up-to-date look at visiting the country.

“Cuba As Never Before” by Louis E.V. Nevaer, looks at not just classic attractions like Havana’s rum museum and Ernest Hemingway sites, but also offers a guide to some of the newest places of interest to tourists, including the contemporary arts scene, private restaurants known as paladares and even Airbnb listings.

The book also offers advice on car rentals, tipping, cruises, flights, tour companies and private guides, and explains current regulations on travel by U.S. citizens.  In addition, the book includes information on communities and subcultures ranging from Cuba’s gay and lesbian scene to surfers, Santeria and Cuban Jews.

Offbeat recommendations in “Cuba As Never Before” include La Marca tattoo parlor, Arte Corte Papito’s hair salon, and Promociones de ICAIC for original Cuban movie posters.


New Orleans is bringing back an unusual art installation and festival of lights called LUNA Fete that debuted last year.

The outdoor art-and-lights event uses historic buildings as a canvas for contemporary lighting, animation and interactive video. The event begins Nov. 29 and ends Dec. 5.

The undertaking is inspired by the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon, France, which attracts millions of visitors annually. The New Orleans project was one of three similar initiatives launched last year in the U.S., with the others in New York and Boston.

A work called “The Pool” by artist Jan Lewin, in which a pool of swirling circles of light and color changes as spectators interact with it, will be shown at Lafayette Square each night of the festival.

A second work by OCUBO, a Portugal-based studio, will use the facade of the Power House Theatre at 1847 Polymnia St. for the projection of a story featuring local children along with graphics and animation, also to be shown each night of the festival.

A third work will be presented Dec. 4-5 at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, where the artist Miwa Matreyek will present live performances integrating her shadow with animation of dreamlike scenes. That will be an indoor event with $10 tickets.

Local artists’ projects will also be shown throughout the week around those three sites and along Julia Street, New Orleans’ contemporary arts district.

The event is being produced by Arts Council New Orleans. Details at http://www.artsneworleans.org .


The Aloft hotel in Manhattan’s financial district has launched a new way to communicate with guests who need room service: by emoji.

The program is called Aloft TiGi for text it, get it.

The hotel sells six specialty kits, ranging from $10 to $30, which guests can order by texting the right emojis to a dedicated number along with their room number.

Kits include “The Re:Fresh,” with toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, shaving cream and deodorant, which can be ordered using emojis that include a tub and shower; “The Hangover,” two bottle of vitaminwater, Advil and two bananas, ordered with emojis for a drop of water, a pill and a banana; and “Surprise Me,” promising “fun swag” and “cool stuff,” ordered with an emoji of a wrapped box.

The hotel then confirms the order via text and delivers it to the room. Charges are included on the checkout bill.

Details at http://www.alofthotelshub.com/news/aloft-hotels-launches-worlds-first-emoji-only-room-service-menu/ . The hotel is located at 49-53 Ann St.

New England port lore: Whaling, pizza and a perfect storm

New England’s ports are reinventing themselves to compete with one another and from larger ones, but they were once legendary. From one of the world’s great whaling ports to the Navy’s first submarine base and the city featured in “The Perfect Storm,” here is a look at their lore:


One of the world’s great whaling ports of the 19th century, New Bedford, Massachusetts, became wealthy as its whaling fleet grew. The New Bedford fleet reached its peak in 1857, with 329 vessels employing more than 10,000 men, according to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The inspirational story of whalers attaining the American dream shaped the city and surrounding region, said James Russell, the museum’s president.

After petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, sperm whale oil was no longer in great demand for lighting. Confederate cruisers destroyed Yankee whalers during the Civil War. Many remaining whaling merchants moved to San Francisco to get to the western Arctic faster, since they could send their products east using the new transcontinental railroad.


Groton, Connecticut, is known as the “Submarine Capital of the World.”

In 1916, a naval yard and storage depot along the Thames River became the Navy’s first submarine base. It grew exponentially during World Wars I and II. The base was home to the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, which was launched in 1954. It’s now proudly displayed at the Submarine Force Museum next to the installation.

Almost every submariner is stationed at the base for training at least once, and the nation’s newest fast-attack submarines can regularly be seen gliding along the Thames. They’re built just 4 miles down the road at General Dynamics Electric Boat.


Gloucester, Massachusetts, was one of the earliest fishing ports in the country, if not the first, according to the Cape Ann Museum. A group of Englishmen, attracted by the deep waters and abundance of codfish, landed there in 1623 to fish and establish a settlement.

The city remained a fishing center as immigrants from Nova Scotia, Portugal and Sicily came to fish, but the industry declined through most of the 20th century because of overfishing and new regulations, the museum said.

In 1991, what became known as “The Perfect Storm” formed hundreds of miles east of Nova Scotia. Six crew members of the Andrea Gail, a sword-fishing boat from Gloucester, were lost at sea. Their story became the basis of a book that was turned into a blockbuster movie _ and a part of the American lexicon.


One of Colonial America’s leading seaports, Newport became part of the infamous triangular trade.

Rum from Massachusetts and Rhode Island was shipped to Africa to be traded for slaves, who were taken to the West Indies to be traded for sugar and molasses. Some slaves were taken back to New England, along with the sugar and molasses to make rum.

Many Newport families owned slaves, and the city’s harbor teemed with trading ships, according to the Newport Historical Society.

The picturesque city later reinvented itself as a summer resort, attracting artists, writers and scientists, the historical society said. During the Gilded Age, elite families like the Vanderbilts built the mansions for which the city is now known, along with musical festivals and sailing.


Enslaved Africans aboard a Spanish ship, the Amistad, revolted in 1839, seizing it and sailing up the East Coast. The U.S. Navy captured the ship and forced it to dock in New London, Connecticut.

The slaves were jailed in New Haven, Connecticut, and began a long legal fight to win their freedom. Former President John Quincy Adams defended them, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that they were free people who acted in self-defense.

He won the case, and they were freed.

Steven Spielberg depicted the famous rebellion in a 1997 movie, “Amistad.” A replica of the ship now serves as a symbol of America’s early anti-slavery movement.

The ship is spending this summer docked in New London, Connecticut.


The port of Mystic is known for a pizza parlor that helped launch Julia Roberts’ career.

After a few low-budget films, Roberts auditioned for “Mystic Pizza” and landed the role of a teenage waitress in Mystic, Connecticut. Screenwriter Amy Jones was inspired to write the story about life in a New England port community and the romantic misadventures of three waitresses while she was vacationing in the area.

Released in 1988, the movie became a cult classic. Roberts told The Associated Press in 1990, “None of us on that movie had really done very much. It was a chance to show somebody something.”

“Mystic Pizza” helped transform Mystic into a tourist destination. Roberts immediately went on to star in “Steel Magnolias,” then the smash success “Pretty Woman.” The rest is history.


Maine has a rich maritime history.

Dockworkers, or longshoremen, have labored on the waterfront in Portland for more than 150 years. In Bath, shipbuilding has been a way of life since 1762, when the sailing ship Earl of Bute was launched, and the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard is located there now, according to the company.

Navy ships have been overhauled in Kittery, Maine, just across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, since 1800, when the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was established as a public shipyard.