Halloween on the High Seas Cruises & MerryTime

Halloween and Christmas are fast approaching, and there’s still time to book passage aboard one of Diney Cruise Line’s ships. Rolling out new events for both holidays, these ships will cater to the whole family, including parties, parades, decorations, and seasonal treats.

Halloween on the High Seas Cruises, Sept. 22 – Oct. 31

Aboard the Disney Dream, passengers can enjoy trick-or-treating with Disney characters, a Costume parade, a Mousequerade deck party, and the Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream show. For adults, the Evolution Night Club is transformed with a costume contest and a dance hosted by the Disney villains.

MerryTime, Nov. 12 – Jan. 6

On all four Disney Cruise Line ships, passengers can enjoy the transformation of the ships into a winter wonderland with a nautical theme. Kids can go to King Triton’s tree lighting ceremony. Family activities play games, dance, and celebrate with Disney Characters at a tropical holiday deck party. And, as no Christmas would be complete without them, Santa and his elves will greet guests.

We invite you to read more with the Disney Flyer

TSA Pre Program

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or not, traveling through  airport security screenings is a hassle.   But TSA (the Travel Security Administration) has released the TSA Pre program that  will allow individuals to voluntarily be pre-screened thus allowing them to  speed through the lines and get to their flights more quickly.

Eligible for this program are US Citizens who are frequent  travelers of certain, participating airlines or members of existing Customs and  Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs.   As are passengers 12 and younger allowed through TSA Pre lanes when  traveling with an eligible passenger.

What this program means for those who are eligible for it is  that they’d no longer need to remove their shoes, 3-1-1 compliant bag from  carry-on, laptop from bag, light outerwear/jacket, or belt.

At present, the application process involves first  registering for a CBP Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account.  Once registered, travelers can move forward  with the enrollment in one of the CBP eligible programs.  The GOES system provides a pass ID number  after the enrollment in a trusted traveler program.  After that it’s a matter of simply supplying  the pass ID number associated with their Trusted Traveler account in the Known  Traveler Number field when booking travel.

TSA has also announced plans to implement a TSA Pre fee  based application process that will allow US citizens the opportunity to  apply for expeddited screening without a passport.  After it’s available, it will require a two  step process of filling out an online application and verifying identity and  providing fingerprints at a TSA Pre enrollment center.  The $85 fee can be paid either online or at a  participating enrollment center.  This  process will come with a 5 year eligibility after which time participants will  need to reapply.

At present there are 40 airports across the country that are participating.

Viking Oceans

Viking has set the standard for European River Cruising,  having succeeded in taking its passengers to places that have been overlooked  in mainstream tourism and providing a look into parts of Europe  that have yet to be ruined by endless crowds, cheap food, and inauthentic  tourist traps.  But, though Viking River  Cruises has continued to grow and expand its fleet of longships, they  announced almost a month ago   the introduction of the Viking Star, which  will herald in their new fleet of oceangoing vessels under the brand Viking  Oceans.

The new Viking Star, © Viking Cruises

Forget the massive cruise ships that have replaced the  destination as the reason for going, Viking Oceans’ ships will bring passengers  back to exploring the cultural, historic, and culinary heart of the places they  visit.  Here’s what it will offer:

© Viking Cruises

Viking has tailored its newest brand with experienced  travelers in mind.  Its ports include  cities that appeal to experienced travelers, with more time in port, late  evenings, or overnight stays, offering guests the chance to explore a port’s  nightlife.  Each cruise fare will include  a veranda stateroom–that is, all staterooms are veranda staterooms.  Shore exursions, all onboard meals, all port  charges and government taxes, complimentary beer and wine with lunch and  dinner, wifi, self-service laundry, and 24-hour room service for all  passengers.

 © Viking Cruises

Accomodations:

Although every stateroom has a verandah there are still the  conventional room categories that range from the 270 sq. ft. standard room  which offers king sized beds, large showers, and LCD TVs to the incredibly  spacious 1163 sq. ft. explorer suites that provide wrap around verandas and  priority access to ship’s services and options.

© Viking Cruises

Dining:

Like its river cruises, the Viking Star will highlight regional  and local specialties made from locally sourced ingredientswith several  additional options onboard for passengers wanting American classic, heart  healthy options, or simply seeking to enjoy their meals al fresco.

© Viking Cruises

Activities:

Keeping in line with their alternative approach to cruising,  the ship’s activities and amenities.

  • The onboard spa offers a holistic, Scandinavian set of options such as its snowflake filled snow room.
  • Two onboard pools: one featuring a retractable roof and the other an infinity pool that’s perched off the stern of the ship.
  • Relaxing spaces such as the Explorers’ lounge with its two story panoramic windows, selection of craft beers, and Viking Deli or the Wintergarden surrounding the main pool where passengers can play witness to a tea ceremony or partake in an afternoon tea service.
  • The Star Theater will offer enrichment lectures from experts on topics of       regional history, art, and music.
  • An onboard cooking school allows passengers to not only enjoy the regional specialties that are served onboard but also how to make them.

Sailings:

Although the first ship, the Viking Star, isn’t scheduled to begin its maiden voyage unto 2015,  rooms are already filling up for its itineraries to Scandinavia and the Baltic; and Western and Eastern   Mediterranean destinations.

To learn more, we invite you to visit the Viking Oceans’ website.

Fantasyland Expansion

The much talked about expansion to  the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland is opening on December 6 at the Walt Disney World(R)  Resort.    For those who don’t already know about the changes that are being made,  the Imagineers at Disney have doubled the size of the original Fantasyland and  added a number of new features in two new areas.

Fantasyland Expansion
©Disney

The Enchanted Forest

  • Under       the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid
    • This        attraction features a Prince Eric’s castle and takes visitors through the        music and story of The Little        Mermaid aboard a clamshell.
  • Be Our       Guest Restaurant
    • For        anyone who’s wondered what it’s like inside the Beast’s Castle, the Be        Our Guest Restaurant  three dining rooms that take place in the iconic        rooms of the castle serving French inspired cuisine: the West Wing, the Rose Gallery, and         the Ballroom–all faithfully recreated from the movie.
Belle's Cottage
©Disney
  • Enchanted       Tales with Belle
    • Partake        in Belle’s favorite past-time, when you take a trip through a magic        mirror in Maurice’s workshop and arrive in the Beast’s library.  There Belle and Lumière invite audience        members to become a part of a retelling of the story of Beauty and Beast.
  • Ariel’s       Grotto
    • Not        far from the entrance to the Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid        attraction, visitors can meet, receive autographs, and pose for photos        with everyone’s favorite little mermaid at Ariel’s Grotto.
Prince Eric's Castle
©Disney

The other part of the Fantasyland expansion, Storybook  Circus, is based on Dumbo’s circus and features:

Storybook Circus

  • The       Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini
    • Isn’t        actually a new ride it’s actually a ride with a new twist.  The story behind it is that Goofy is        now working as a circus stunt pilot known as, the Great Goofini.  Visitors to the attraction can take off        with Goofy in his plane as it twists its way along a rollercoaster.
  • Dumbo       the Flying Elephant
    • This        classic ride  features a new look in line with the new        Fantasyland.  Beyond the new        appearance, it also features extra guest capacity and two ways to enter        the ride.
      • For         those waiting in line there’s the “Play While You Wait” which         is a circus-themed area that provides recreational and relaxation         opportunities for guests waiting.
      • Or         the classic Disney FASTPASS Service where your place in line is saved         leaving you free to explore the rest of the park.
  • Casey Jr. Slash ‘N Soak Station
    • In        line with the Dumbo theme, the Casey Jr. is a circus-themed water play        area.  Where Casey Jr. shoots of        sprays of steam and animal figures send out water to this attraction’s        guests.

With the newest additions opening in December it’s easy to  overlook the attractions opening up next year.

Gaston and Town
©Disney

The Princess Fairytale Hall will provide a court fit for a  Disney Princess and their fans, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride is a musical rollercoaster  built for the whole family that travels through the seven dwarfs’ diamond  mine.

We’re excited about the next stage of Fantasyland opening in December, and we can’t wait to visit. To experience it for yourself, contact us today.

As to Disney artwork/properties: © Disney

Airline Rankings and Hidden Fees

Air travel has become a necessary evil these days. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when it was categorized as luxurious, although for those willing to spend the extra money it can be.

SkyTrax, billed as “the world’s largest airline review site”, ranks the world’s airlines. Using independent customer reviews 675 airlines and 720 airports the world over are ranked across a series of categories from ease of web site usage, quality of plane food, and customer service.

With rising costs and hidden fees for everything from in flight peanuts to bathroom use the airlines have attracted a lot of stigma over the last couple of years and there’s no sign of things lifting. Travel + Leisure have compiled a list of airlines and the hidden fees associated with them.

The Magic of Disney: Hawaiian Style

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, is opening in August of 2011 and we at Thomas Travel are very excited. Combining the family friendly charm that Disney is known for and the laid back simplicity of island life–Aulani is genuinely something new. Sitting on 21 acres of Oahu seafront approximately 45 minutes from both Honolulu International Airport and Waikiki, Aulani is all about Hawaii’s culture which extends to the overall design, layout, and architecture of the resort to the cuisine that appreciates both local fare and sustainability.

Aulani continues in the tradition of creating experiences that can be enjoyed by entire families, as we’ve previously seen with Disney Cruise lines and Adventures by Disney, and independent activities and facilities for children and adults. For the kids there’s Auntie’s Beach House that offers plenty of supervised entertainment such as treasure hunts and hula lessons. For teens 13-17 Aulani has Hawaii’s only teen only spa, the Painted Sky which is complete with a yogurt bar, do-it-yourself mixology bar, customizable perfume bar, and events specifically geared towards teens. And, for the adults who want their own escape, we have the Laniwai Disney Spa. Kula Wai comes with an outdoor hydrotherapy garden, reflexology, and mineral baths while the Laniwai Spa offers almost 150 Spa Therapies.

As Disney enjoys its own adventurous flares Aulani also takes part in a number of activities. Excursions such as the Treasures of the Sea which begins by sailing out on a catamaran to go snorkeling with fish at Rainbow Reef and surfing along the North Shore. The Flavors of Life which runs the gambit on Hawaii’s well known macadamia nut farms, coffee, and cooking lessons with local experts of Hawaiian fare.

Aulani isn’t set to open until the end of August of this year but bookings are available now. Contact us today to learn more about Aulani and all that it has to offer. We look forward to hearing from you.