Free Wi-Fi tops the news this week, as one major hotel brand and the nation’s primary railroad announced plans to offer wireless Internet at no cost. Our take: IT’S ABOUT TIME (and we hope others follow suit). Of course we’re spotlighting other happenings in the world of travel, too. As always, if you have any questions about what you read in this column, Tweet them to us at @AFARmedia.
Free Wi-Fi tide turning
Just about every frequent traveler will tell you paying for Wi-Fi on the road is a MAJOR pet-peeve. Finally, it looks like a handful of companies are ready to change the playing field. As reported by (good buddy) Larry Olmsted earlier this week, Four Seasons Resorts announced free and fast Wi-Fi at almost all of its resorts (except those in China and India), effective immediately. The service is available to everyone—whether you’re an overnight guest or you’re just downing a few Manhattans at the bar. It also accommodates multiple devices per guest; a benefit for business travelers who hit the road with a laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Amtrak is offering new free Wi-Fi, too, on the Auto Train that runs from Sanford, Florida, and Washington, D.C. (For the tech geeks among you, Amtrak’s Wi-Fi uses multiple cellular carriers to provide the best mobile experience possible, taking advantage of 4G LTE technologies where available.) In other Wi-Fi news, Virgin America has added Spotify and The New York Times to its Wi-Fi offerings. Wi-Fi on Virgin flights is available through Gogo; prices range from $4.95 to $34.95 per flight. (As a related aside, at the Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn last week, Gogo CEO Michael Small said he “doesn’t care if the future of Wi-Fi is free or not.”)
Security forces shut down Maldives Tourism Office
Political unrest in the Maldives finally has impacted the local tourism scene, as local police and military forces shut down the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) office this week without warning. According to the Maldives Independent, a police spokesman said the shut-down was connected to an ongoing investigation into an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat September 28, and did not specify when the offices will be opened again. The MMPRC is charged with promoting the Maldives and Maldives tourism internationally. As of press time, none of the resorts in the Maldives had been shuttered as a result of the investigation.
NFL invades London, part 2
Sunday—at 9:30 a.m. EDT and 6:30 a.m. PDT—marks the second of three NFL games in London this season as part of what is being called the NFL International Series. This particular game pits the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs. They’ll play in Wembley Stadium, an arena renowned across the UK for soccer matches and big concerts. The contest itself is completely underwhelming—the teams are among two of the worst in the league. Worth noting, however, is how much Europeans love American football; locals always seem to seize the opportunity to drink and eat and cheer on sports (for more on this, read this article, written by yours truly). To stream the game live, check out Yahoo.com/nflstream.
Rosewood Mayakoba gets upgrade
Improvements are afoot at Rosewood Mayakoba, a resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The resort recently announced a new restaurant concept, unveiled refurbishments to the interiors of three of its other restaurants—part of a $3-million renovation project overall. The three refreshed restaurants pay homage to different regions of Mexico, and include Casa del Lago, which serves Italian-inspired fare with Mexican flavors; Agave Azul, an Asian-Mexican eatery offering an expanded sushi bar; and Punta Bonita, which is on the beach. All three restaurants also have new food and beverage menus conceptualized by the resort’s Executive Chef, Juan Pablo Loza. The new restaurant, La Fondita, is expected to open next year; the resort opened another restaurant, Ceiba Garden & Kitchen, in October 2014.
Grand Wailea spawns Reality TV stars
What started as a standalone dinner with food items foraged by two Grand Wailea Resort employees has evolved into full-on reality television series, now available monthly on a public television station in Hawaii. The series, dubbed “SEARCH: Hawaii,” trails Executive Chef Mike Lofaro and Kainoa Horcajo, the resort’s Hawaiian cultural ambassador, as they forage through the forests of different islands to obtain ingredients for a meal they prepare later that night. The goal of the show: To teach the audience about Hawaiian culture, local food sources, and the best times to plant and harvest using the Hawaiian Moon Calendar. The October episode, about Hawaii Island, aired Oct. 11. The November episode, about Oahu, is scheduled to air Nov. 8.
Forthcoming China cruise options
The cruise market in China is growing astronomically, and another U.S. cruise line—Carnival—is pushing in. This week, Carnival Corp., the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, signed a memorandum of understanding with China Merchants Group to explore the creation of China’s first domestic line. In a statement released earlier this week, Carnival executives noted that the companies will collaborate on port development in China, too. Carnival-owned brands Princess Cruises and Aida Cruises (a German brand) also will devote a newly built ship to the China market in 2017, the company revealed. Carnival isn’t the only U.S. operator with its sights on China; Royal Caribbean has added ships to the market, including its new Quantum of the Seas, which was expected to begin sailing from Shanghai by January. Earlier this year, Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans to devote its next new ship to the China market in 2017.
Air industry news
The week brought two major pieces of news from the airline industry. First, Aer Lingus announced it will add three transcontinental routes in 2016, translating into a bunch of new flights between Los Angeles and Dublin; Newark, New Jersey, and Dublin; and Hartford, Connecticut, and Dublin. The routes bring to 12 the number of U.S. destinations for the airline. According to the carrier, the additions also increase the long-haul seat capacity by 17 percent and represent Aer Lingus’ largest single expansion of its transatlantic network since it began flying across the ocean in 1958. Second, Jetblue and Seabourne, a regional airline servicing the Caribbean, began selling flights under a codeshare agreement announced in March. Under the partnership, JetBlue customers can now fly on a single ticket to eight new destinations: Anguilla, Tortola, Dominica, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. Connections to each of those locations will be made at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin Airport.
Outside magazine has a wonderful knack for tracking down the story behind disaster stories, and this piece, about Langtang, the valley destroyed by the Nepal earthquake in April, is no exception. The piece, by Anna Callaghan and Rabi Thapa, is a tour de force of reporting, and will leave you wondering how anybody managed to escape the place alive. The images are harrowing, too. You likely will be thinking about this one for days after you finish reading it. Consider yourself warned.
Glorified photo essays don’t usually constitute “good reads,” but in the case of this BBC Travel article by Amanda Ruggeri, the subject matter carries the day. The piece spotlights Northern Ireland’s Gobbin’s Cliff Path, a mile-long cliff-hugging trail that recently reopened to the public after being (formally) closed for more than 60 years. The new iteration includes cast-iron bridges and stairs chiseled from rock. We’re booking our tickets for next summer ASAP.
These days, traveling with anything more than a suitcase can be a drag for business travelers. Carry-on bins are crowded, and checking bags costs too much. These are two of the main problems Tempe, Arizona–based DUFL hopes to solve. The fledgling company aims to take the costs and hassle out of traveling by packing, cleaning, storing, and shipping business attire for each trip. Here’s how it works. A traveler downloads the DUFL app and registers on the site. DUFL sends her a suitcase, which she fills with a handful of outfits for the road, then sends back. DUFL catalogs the wardrobe in a web-accessible database, cleans the items, and stores them indefinitely. When that traveler is ready for her next trip, she selects outfits from the wardrobe on the DUFL app, then requests her bag (with the outfits inside, natch) be sent to her destination. DUFL makes sure the bag is waiting for her when she arrives. On the back end, she simply prints out a label and ships the bag back to DUFL for next time. In theory, we love the sound of this approach. Still, call us control freaks, but we like keeping tabs on our power suits before big meetings.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association, and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.