Titanic Memorial Cruises Launched in New York and Southampton

Would you willingly participate in a Titanic memorial cruise?

The tragic story of the ocean liner that hit an iceberg and sank on April 14th, 1912, has been famous for a century. More than 1,500 lives were lost with the ship, and the event is considered one of the most romantically tragic in history. This reputation was enhanced by the film ‘Titanic’ in 1997, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Now, 100 years after the shipwreck, organizations across the globe have worked to commemorate the event and the lives lost. Memorial cruises were launched from New York and Southampton, tracing the doomed route of the Edwardian cruise liner and stopping at its final resting place to pray and commemorate the shocking deaths. Wreaths were thrown on the water, while guests reflected on the event and the numerous lectures they had attended while en route to the watery mass grave.

Helen Edwards attended a memorial cruise on the Balmoral. After learning about the Titanic’s history throughout the cruise, she explained that the undying appeal is a result of several aspects, such as romance, history, fate and tragedy.

“There are all the factors that came together for the ship to be right there, then, to hit that iceberg. All the stories of the passengers who ended up on that ship,” she said. “It’s just a microcosm of social history, personal histories, nautical histories… Romance is an appropriate word right up until the time of the tragedy- the band playing, the clothes… And then there’s the tragedy.”

On the two Titanic memorial cruises, many of the passengers had a personal connection to the event. The travelers dressed in period-appropriate costume, and participated in the balls and formal dinners served to accentuate the drama of the era.

The cruises were surely breathtaking and emotional, and undoubtedly used all safety measures. Still, would you be willing to retrace the steps of an ocean liner that sank on its maiden voyage, despite its believed immortality?

The Hunger Games Boost Tourism in North Carolina

With an opening week worth $155 million in the U.S. alone and an unbelievably enormous throng of fans of Suzanne Collins’ books, the Hunger Games was undoubtedly the most anticipated film since the release of the Twilight movies. It’s not surprising then that the phenomenon has boosted tourism throughout North Carolina.

The entire film, including the abandoned mill, the Capitol and the harsh forests, were all shot in the same state.

The book, first released in 2008, tells a story of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world in which annual gladiator-like fighting games are held in the country of Panem (formerly known as North America). Run by the advanced city of Capitol, the twelve surrounding districts are forced to send ‘tributes,’ or teenage gladiators, to participate in the games each year.

The majority of the story takes place in the forests, where the protagonist Katniss Everdeen is forced to use her survival skills during the fighting games. In the film, most of these scenes were shot in a 22,000-acre forest in North Carolina’s Asheville. Though the area is closed to the public, tourists have flocked to the region.

District 12, home of the film’s main characters, was brought to life in Henry River Mill Village. Though its mill burned down a few decades ago, the small, run-down buildings and shops create the perfect atmosphere. The property is owned by Wade Shepherd, an 83-year-old man overwhelmed by the sudden attention.

“I’m getting too many visitors. Day and night, they’re driving through, taking pictures, getting out and walking. I’m just bombarded with people,” he told Associated Press.

And District 12 is not the only attraction. The area’s tourist industry has scrambled to create an authentic experience, and now offers hotel packages, tours and of course, survival skill courses.

The Hunger Games Fan Tours organizes day and weekend trips as well, that allow fans to reenact scenes from the movie and simulate the Hunger Games at the end of the training.

Pre-Spring Break Planning

Spring break is approaching and with it the stresses of planning a vacation, entertaining the kids, traveling comfortably and so much more.

There are a number of circumstances that are worth planning for in advance, and they include:

  • Traveling with your children, which can be difficult and result in boredom, disagreement and immaturity. To discourage these issues before they begin, have your kids help with the planning and trip preparation. Encourage them discuss the itinerary, present ideas and reach conclusions together, as well as help with the packing. The involvement will add enthusiasm and interest, and boost the cooperative mood as a whole.
  • Traveling by car, which can be delayed, boring and claustrophobic. For long plane trips, bring entertainment like an iPad, a deck of cards, a book…and most importantly food! These items are important whether you’re traveling alone, with your best friend, your spouse or your children.which can be long and grueling and leave everyone irritable. For long rides, look into audio books that can be enjoyed by the whole family. On a drive to the Grand Canyon, for example, try something long and suitable for several ages, like the first of the Harry Potter series. Discuss with your travel companions before choosing a story. If you’re traveling with kids, or without for that matter, end your car ride at a hotel with a pool.
  • Traveling by plane, which can be long and grueling and leave everyone irritable. For long rides, look into audio books that can be enjoyed by the whole family. On a drive to the Grand Canyon, for example, try something long and suitable for several ages, like the first of the Harry Potter series. Discuss with your travel companions before choosing a story. If you’re traveling with kids, or without for that matter, end your car ride at a hotel with a pool.
  • Home security. According to Indiana State Police Captain David Bursten, one of the biggest mistakes travelers make is cancelling the mail and newspaper deliveries. Instead, have a neighbor collect your post for you while you’re away, so that it seems someone is still at home. Installing randomized timers for the lights and, if possible, an alarm is also highly recommended.

Unique Travel Book from Karen Stilson Armour

Karen Stilson Armour

In a recently published travel book “Traveling Solo: Faith Not Fear,” Karen Stilson Armour offers unique advice for travel.  Choosing obscure locations over the popular and typical travel spots, Armour chooses to travel alone.  Her self-published paper back is a charming addition to anyone’s travel shelf.

She weaves her religious views into the book that discusses interesting locations, conquering fears, and using spirituality while traveling.  She intended, through her slim book to discuss two topics that have rarely been woven together: solo traveling and building a relationship with God.

She offers ten key reasons that traveling alone is to the traveler’s advantage, while also offering readers advice about destinations, health concerns, clothing, safety and more.

She also presents interesting pictures from around the world with her guidebook and offers relevant quotes from heavy hitters like Khalil Gibran, Mark Twain and others.

As Armour describes at her website for the book,

"Even those who have no fear will enjoy reading my new book, Traveling Solo, Faith Not Fear, as I recount numerous travel experiences that I have had throughout Africa, Central America and French Polynesia. I share stories of adventure, romance, and humor along with some moments that will tug at your heart."

Top Ten Spring Destinations

Early birds can just feel spring as it creeps in on the Northern Hemisphere, and where many will wait for the summer holiday, others will take advantage of the lull in the tourism industry and plan a relaxing trip. Prices will be lower and lines will be shorter, too.

Travel Ticker, the popular online travel guide, recently published a list of the top ten spring destinations:

  • China                                                   

    Nassau, Bahamas
  • Ecuador
  • Puerto Rico
  • Barcelona
  • Argentina
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Riviera Maya, Mexico
  • Italy
  • England
  • France

The One-Weekend Trip to Break Any Routine

The dull routine of the work week can potentially cause mild depression, stress or just general lack of motivation. With weekends so short, it’s often difficult to break the mold and come back to the office feeling truly refreshed… Which is why Wendy Wu Tours has created a one-weekend trip to China in support of one of the world’s most endangered species: the giant panda.

Appropriately named ‘Panda Weekend,’ the trip begins in Chengdu, the capital of the region. Visitors can experience the Chengdu Panda Reserve in Sichuan, as well as other popular tourist attractions in the area like the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and many others.

Day one of the tour begins with an overnight flight from London via Abu Dhabi, allowing for a complete work day. Travelers arrive in Chengdu early Friday evening, and spend the night relaxing and enjoying the Chinese cuisine (which is included). Early Saturday morning, the group visits the Grand Buddha; the largest stone-carved statue in the world, via a boat trip. On the way back to the hotel, they visit the old town of Huanglongxien.

On Sunday, the tour is proud to present its group with one of China’s precious national treasures; the giant panda. Known as a symbol of global conservation efforts, the panda is a bear-like herbivorous animal related to the raccoon. At the Chengdu Panda Reserve, the visitors can experience the pandas in surroundings very similar to their natural habitat, but in a more intimate way. The Center offers feeding opportunities, as well as involvement in other work, such as enclosure maintenance, breeding, raising and protecting the pandas. In the summer months, groups are even able to help wash the adorable animals. The tour continues on to the UNESCO Dujiangyan Irrigation Project before returning to the hotel.

On Sunday evening the tour catches a flight back to London, arriving at the airport no later than 7:30 a.m. on Monday, just in time for work.

For those interested in staying for longer than just one weekend, Wendy Wu Tours offers several extension trips, including ‘Dinosaur Discovery’ and the Nine Village Valley.