Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Historic Commercial Flight From US To Cuba Takes Off

Cuba US Flights
 In this Friday, June 10, 2016, file photo, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways charter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century flew out of Fort Lauderdale for the central city of Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War.
JetBlue Flight 387 took off a few minutes late for its 72-minute journey. It opens a new era of U.S.-Cuba travel, with about 300 flights a week connecting the U.S. with an island cut off from most Americans by the 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and formal ban on U.S. citizens engaging in tourism on the island.
"Seeing the American airlines landing routinely around the island will drive a sense of openness, integration and normality. That has a huge psychological impact," said Richard Feinberg, author of the new book "Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy."
The restart of commercial travel between the two countries is one of the most important steps in President Barack Obama's two-year-old policy of normalizing relations with the island. Historians disagree on the exact date of the last commercial flight but it appears to have been after Cuba banned incoming flights during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Twitter that the last commercial flight was in 1961.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and a specially selected five-member crew of Cuban-Americans were slated to be on board the 150-seat Airbus A320.
"It's a positive step and a concrete contribution to the process of improving relations between the two countries," Cuba's vice minister of transportation Eduardo Rodriguez told journalists Monday.
Neta Rodriguez, a 62-year-old Havana-born South Florida homemaker, checked in Wednesday morning with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons for a visit to family in Santa Clara and Havana.
More than the historic nature of the flight, she said she appreciated the $200 price and the ability to book online instead of visiting a charter office
U.S. travel to Cuba is on track to triple this year to more than 300,000 visitors in the wake of the 2014 declaration of detente. Cuba's cash-starved centrally planned economy has been bolstered by the boom in U.S. visitors, along with hundreds of thousands of travelers from other nations hoping to see Cuba before more Americans arrive.
Wednesday's first commercial flight "will be a positive step and a concrete contribution to the process of improving
Commercial flights are expected to significantly increase the number of American visitors, although it's not clear by how much. Many of the air routes are currently used by expensive charter flights that are largely expected to go out of business with the advent of regularly scheduled service from the U.S.
Hundreds of thousands of Cuban-born Americans fly to the island each year with the chaotic, understaffed charter companies, which require four-hour check-in waits and charge high rates for any luggage in excess of restrictive baggage allowances. Americans without ties to Cuba have found it hard to negotiate the charters, most of which don't accept online bookings or help travelers navigate the federal affidavit still required for U.S. travelers to Cuba.
Cuban officials insist the continuing U.S. ban on tourism will limit the impact of commercial flights to Cuba, but some experts believe the drastic reduction in the difficulty of flying to Cuba could turn the surge in U.S. visitors into a tidal wave. Americans are allowed to visit the island on "people-to-people" cultural and educational visits, among other reasons.
Americans who fit one of 12 categories will now be able to fill out a federal affidavit by clicking a box on an online form and, in many cases, buy their Cuban tourist visa near the check-in counters of U.S. airports. Within weeks, Americans will be able to fly direct from cities including Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis, Miami and Fort Lauderdale to eight Cuban cities and two beach resorts.
The final announcement of routes to Havana, which could be announced Wednesday and start before December, is slated to include flights from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Houston, among others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

September Is “Riesling Month”: Finger Lakes Wine Alliance Celebrates Region’s Star Varietal With Tastings And Wine Events Throughout New York State

With more than 200 brands hailing from the region, Riesling has put the Finger Lakes wine country on the serious oenophile’s map. To return the favor, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance has proclaimed September “Riesling Month” to shine the spotlight on its star varietal. A month-long series of more than 40 events celebrating the exceptional range of Rieslings produced by Finger Lakes Wine Alliance member wineries will span New York State, including the following four New York City tastings:

Monday, Sept. 26
·        Riesling and Fried Chicken at Nightingale Nine (invitation only)                                     6:30 – 9 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 27
·        Grand Tasting for trade and media, Scandinavia House (invitation only)                      11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
·        Murray’s Cheese and FLX Riesling Pairing, Murray’s Cheese Bar                                    6:30-7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 28
·        Brooklyn Wine Exchange and Finger Lakes Riesling Event,                              
Brooklyn Wine Exchange                                                                                                         7-8 p.m.

For the full calendar of events, which continues to grow, visit

The cool climate and shale-rich terroir of the Finger Lakes is ideal for cultivating the Riesling grape. Allowed to develop slowly, it produces a complex, aromatic and balanced wine. As many as 950 acres in the region are devoted to Riesling, with most producers making two or three styles, for a total of 230,000 cases.

Fifteen of these producers will showcase their wines during Riesling Month (14 for the New York City events). They include Bellangelo, Boundary Breaks Vineyard, Chateau LaFayette Reneau, Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, Fox Run Vineyards, Glenora Wine Cellars, Heron Hill Winery, Knapp Winery & Vineyard Restaurant, Lakewood Vineyards, McGregor Vineyard, Sheldrake Point, Swedish Hill Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Three Brothers Wineries & Estates (Finger Lakes events), and Wagner Vineyards. In addition, more than 60 retailers and more than 40 restaurants have signed on to participate.

About Finger Lakes Wine Alliance
Founded in 2004, Finger Lakes Wine Alliance is a not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to increase the visibility and reputation of the Finger Lakes region, its wines and wineries. The alliance is comprised of 29 members and 15 affiliated businesses and vendors, and it is guided by a board of directors comprised of principals representing all four wine trails and non-wine trail wineries of the Finger Lakes. With its glacier-sculpted landscapes, ideal microclimates and gifted winegrowers, the Finger Lakes region is home to over 100 wineries that produce exceptional cool-climate wines and world-class Rieslings. For more information, visit, call 315.791.2359 or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Travelore News: First Four Seasons In Vietnam Announced

First Four Seasons in Vietnam announced
The Nam Hai Hoi An luxury resort will be managed by Four Seasons as of December 20, 2016

TORONTO, Canada - Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) and ASB Development Limited today announced that the renowned luxury resort – The Nam Hai Hoi An - will be managed by Four Seasons as of December 20, 2016. The Resort, a joint venture between HPL, a major international property group, and ASB Development Limited, Dubai's leading investment group, marks the much-anticipated entry of Four Seasons into Vietnam, one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations.

Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam is located in the country's premier resort destination along the pristine coastline of Hoi An and in close proximity to the neighbouring town of Hoi An, a UNESCO-protected trading port from the 15th century and one of Vietnam's modern culinary meccas. The Resort is also conveniently located just 30 minutes from the city of Da Nang and Da Nang International Airport, making it easily accessible for international and regional travellers alike.
"Hoi An is one of the most coveted resort locations in Vietnam and we're excited to be bringing legendary Four Seasons service and quality to this idyllic destination," says Stephen Lau, Chairman, HPL Hotels and Resorts. "As owners of several Four Seasons properties around the world, we know that Four Seasons has a proven track record of catering to discerning luxury travellers from around the world with highly personalised care and unmatched attention to detail. We look forward to bringing their world-class hospitality to the Hoi An coast and together creating one of the finest resorts in Vietnam."
J. Allen Smith, President and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts adds, "Vietnam is an important growth market for Four Seasons and this is a unique opportunity to quickly establish a presence in the country's top resort destination with partners HPL and ASB, who believe in the culture of Four Seasons and share our vision for success."
"As we continue to extend our presence across Asia Pacific we are focused on ensuring that each new addition to our portfolio represents the very best of Four Seasons, offering the highest levels of service excellence and product quality," continues Smith. "Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam will be no exception and we are excited to mark our entry into Vietnam with such a desirable location and a luxury product that will appeal to regional and international travellers, as well as private residence owners."
Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam will be the latest addition to the exclusive collection of Four Seasons resorts in the Asia Pacific region, including two resorts in Bali; two resorts, a private island, and a private catamaran in the Maldives; three resorts in Thailand; and resorts in Bora Bora and Langkawi.

Karisma Resorts To Break Ground On $900 Million Multiple-Hotel Development In Jamaica

US$900 Million Multiple-Hotel Development in Jamaica

The Karisma Resorts Set to Break Ground. After recently announcing plans to undertake the largest single hotel development in Jamaica’s history, Karisma Hotels & Resorts has revealed that the Master Plan for its US$900 million mega multiple-hotel development in Llandovery, St. Ann is ready and they are set to break ground in January 2017 for the first three hotels.
Under the ‘Sugar Cane Project’, Karisma plans to build 10 hotels over 10 years, with a total of 5,000 rooms. Direct employment will be created for 10,000 Jamaicans.
Speaking during a meeting with Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at the Private Jet Centre on the grounds of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Lubo Krstajic, Executive Chief of Sales and Marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, said applications for the required permits have already been submitted for processing and consultations continue with the relevant authorities.
He said they are hopeful that the approval process for the permits for the development, which is the first project under the Ministry of Tourism’s “Shovel-Ready Programme,” will be completed by November, 2016 to enable them to meet the January timeline to break ground for the three hotels which will have a combined 1,800 rooms. With land preparation, construction should start by March 2017. This will coincide with the opening of Karisma’s 149-room Azul 7 hotel, now in the final stages of construction in Negril at a cost of US$45 million.
Minister Bartlett welcomed the news that Karisma is now ready to get the project off the ground, pointing out that it represents the largest single investment in the tourism industry.
The Karisma Sugar Cane Project will also signal increased air seats out of Europe. Minister Bartlett stressed that the Karisma investment aligned well with the Ministry’s goals of generating earnings of US$5 billion and securing five million visitors by 2021.
“The importance of this is the partnership with TUI which is the largest tour operator in the world operating a successful airline as well. We are seeing the mix required to ensure that the arrivals that we are projecting will materialize, and the earnings that we want will also come,” he said.
Minister Bartlett also indicated that “there are several other announcements that are going to be made over the next couple of weeks as more of the investors that we have spoken to in the last six months start arriving in Jamaica to identify projects and areas that they are going to be building.” He said partners have also been engaged who will be able to give definitive timelines in which projects will begin.
The Shovel-Ready Initiative has been undertaken jointly by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and Commissioner of Lands to pre-package a number of investment offerings.

Bay Of Pigging Out – Town-Hopping In Croatia’s Kvarner Gulf

View from St John Church tower over the medieval roof tops of Rab.
Bells and whistles … view from St John Church tower over Rab’s main town. Photograph: Alamy

Touring four towns on three islands, Kevin Rushby enjoys fennel liqueur, sheep’s cheese and seafood, while teenage Maddy prefers a papal cake sugar hit 

Opposite a vast painting of the Last Supper in 13th-century Saint Francis of Assisi monastery in Cres town is a small alcove. Smiley father Zdrak, whose benign presence is like a tonic, leads us there. And in the alcove is another kind of tonic. No, not the half-empty orange Fanta bottle, but a glass urn of greenish liqueur from which the father pours with some glee. “It’s calledkoromac,” he says, “We make it using fennel from our garden.”
It is delicious. We repeat the tasting. My daughter Maddy (13) turns down the koromac and gazes longingly at the Fanta, but it is not offered. It is 9am and Maddy, my partner Sophie and I are just beginning our exploration of the island cities of the Kvarner gulf, the broad bay of Adriatic sea that snuggles up under Croatia’s Istrian chin.
Cres Town is an easygoing place, little frequented by tourists and pleasant to stroll around, even in August. (The pronunciation of the island’s name is subtle and sibilant and not at all like cress, stress or tress, but somewhere between the three. A glass of koromac is probably required for precision.) We buy olive oil from the co-operative and admire the work of Mate Solis, a local artist and character now in his 80s who still finds inspiration in Cres’s pretty boat-filled harbour.
Early morning in Krk town with the day’s first bread delivery.
 Early morning in Krk town with the day’s first bread delivery. Photograph: Kevin Rushby
Next day we take a short ferry ride to Krk, which is a big change after the depopulated harshness of Cres. Krk is verdant and well-inhabited: its main town, also Krk, is busier than Cres but with similar cool stone lanes. A walk through its crowded streets can be slow, but why hurry? There are so many strange highlights: the temple of Venus that is now a beachwear shop, the restaurant (Konoba Maritim) that serves us tangy sheep’s cheese with octopus and squid (Maddy looks wistfully at other diners’ spaghetti), and a little doorway in the city wall that leads to one of the world’s most astonishing cafes: Volsonis.
Volsonis cafe in Krk town, built in Roman walls.
 Volsonis cafe in Krk town, built in Roman walls. Photograph: Kevin Rushby
The building was bought in 1999 by Maria Elena and Goran Stanic, who set about converting it to a cafe, but discovered a Roman wall, and then a tomb under the floor. In some countries that might have ended any hopes of a cafe, but in Krk things are different: they simply integrated a cafe, nightclub and gallery into the structure of an ancient building. The result is startling and original – and they do good coffee.
We take a day trip to Vrbnik, in Krk’s wine region. This handsome hilltop seaside town sees no need to lure tourists: there are few hotels or cafes, and lots of ungentrified winding lanes, including one, Klancic, that is so narrow we have to squeeze through sideways. There is also a luminously brilliant family-run restaurant: Nada. They love their local wines here – all based on the indigenous žlahtina grape. We eat a grand seafood dinner and remember not to attempt the Klancic on our way back to the car.
Octopus,squid and cheese at Maritim restaurant, Krk town.
 Octopus, squid and cheese at Maritim restaurant, Krk town.
Our fourth town is Rab, on the island of the same name and about an hour away by ferry. These inter-island ferries, operated by Jadrolinija, are fast becoming real pleasures on this trip. You queue on the road outside the port and race the other drivers to the ticket office. On board it’s like being on a mini-cruise: lovely views and a decent cafe. If the breeze is right, you can smell the different islands: I swear I can detect Cres’s sage, Krk’s pine and, coming up on the bow, Rab’s lavender. Maddy is unconvinced, claiming that it is chocolate and chips.
Vrbnik, Krk island.
 Vrbnik, Krk island. Photograph: Alamy
Someone on the ferry tells us Rab “fancies itself”. That’s immediately obvious in the super yachts moored by the old town and the chi-chi boutiques that line the main street. But this is a subtle and complex town. An enquiry at the tourist office for “something unusual” leads us to the headquarters of the medieval order of crossbowmen, a surreal mix of weaponry, heraldry and archive photos of Rab in the 1930s. That was when Rebecca West came, writing in her 1941 travel masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon of stricken people with the faces of “crucified Christs”. The island is, thankfully, a lot more prosperous now.
Maddy is asleep on the hallowed bench of the crossbowmen. She has the face of a crucified teenager in dire need of sugar. But first we must visit the four bell towers of Rab, a sequence that has all the rhythm and resonance of a peal. We climb two before we relent and help our wilting daughter towards the dangling carrot that has kept her feet moving since breakfast: Rab cake.
Rab town. Three of the belltowers
 Another view of three of Rab Town’s belltowers.
When Pope Alexander III came to the island in 1177, the sisters of St Anthony concocted a cake to celebrate: a filling of eggs, almonds, sugar, citrus zest and cherry liqueur baked in a spiral-shaped pastry case. At Rabska Torta on the edge of town they show you how – with great deliberation. Maddy is twitching like an addict awaiting her fix, but finally the cake is done. We retire to the garden half-expecting a refusal followed by demands for Kit Kat, but no: rabska torta is a hit.
Selection of cakes at Rabska Torta.
 Selection of cakes at Rabska Torta. Photograph: Kevin Rushby
She eats more than Pope Alexander, then, sweating, asks about a swim. Simple: there’s a wild forested peninsula next to town, dotted with coves. We stumble to the harbour and hire a boat for the afternoon.
 Accommodation on Rab was provided by Prestige Holidays (01425 480400,, which has a week’s B&B in Hotel Padova from about £469pp, including flights and transfers. For further information, visit

Discovering Croatia: fruits of the sea

Croatia is a seafood lovers’ paradise. Ivana Gamulin from the renowned Villa Spiza restaurant in Split gives her take on the country’s best fish. “The most important thing is seasonality. Sardines are best in May, calamari in summer.Brudet is the classic dish: a stew of garlic, onion, white wine, tomatoes and fish. If I find kosmej or grancigula crabs, I use them, too. A very traditional recipe is fažol na brudet, a bean and fish dish. Wash it down with white wine (bogdanuša or parčgrape) or a light red (plavac mali).”
Next week: Kornati islands