Titanic to sale again as cruise liner

A Chinese shipyard is in the process of updating its facilities in preparation to build a full-size, serviceable replica of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.

Nanjing, China-based CSC Jinling Shipyard Company appears to have won the contract to build the vessel from Clive Palmer, the billionaire Australian businessman who is funding the project.

While aesthetically the ship will be the exact image and dimensions of the iceberg-prone original, nervous potential passengers will be pleased to know that it will be powered and navigated by the latest technology. Similar to the original, it will have 9 floors and 840 cabins, to carry 2,400 passengers and 900 crew.

On completion of its 3-year build programme, the ship is also expected to have luxurious facilities including fitness rooms and a swimming pool. Access to certain of the vessel’s facilities could be selective however, as three classes of ticket will be available, to keep faith with the levels of service that were available on the original liner.

Tickets for the 40,000-ton vessel’s maiden voyage in 2016 are already high on the wish lists of the rich and famous. The ship will be following the same route from Southampton to New York as the first Titanic, and rumours are suggesting that well-heeled potential passengers are offering as much as USD1 million to guarantee their berth.

Hopefully they will get to see the New York skyline, unlike their unfortunate predecessors in 1912. On April 10 that year the ‘unsinkable’ ship defied it’s billing and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. 1,517 passengers lost their lives before help could arrive.


Take in world-class art along Manhattan’s Museum Mile

There’s nothing we like to do more in our free time than wander around galleries and museums, which is why New York is one of our favourite holiday destinations in the world. By coming to the Big Apple, you’ll get to check out dozens of great cultural landmarks, though we think the best are to be found along Manhattan’s Museum Mile.

This is the name given to a stretch of the world-famous Fifth Avenue in the city’s Upper East Side district that incorporates ten world-class museums and galleries. As it’s thought to contain one of the densest displays of art anywhere in the world, we believe it’s the ideal destination for any culture vulture to visit.

In fact, as it’s possible to spend an entire day exploring each museum along the strip, you could quite easily end up coming here several times during the course of your holiday. With that in mind, here is some information about a few of the institutions along the Museum Mile that you can visit.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

As it’s one of the biggest art museums to be found anywhere in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met, as it’s often referred to) is one place that keen art lovers definitely ought to check out.

Indeed, as the institution contains some two million pieces of art we don’t think you’ll struggle to find something you love. If you’re into Oriental art, we recommend you visit the Florence and Herbert Irving Asian wing. Here, you’ll discover everything from Tibetan paintings to textiles from south-east Asia, as well as ceramics and calligraphy.

Alternatively, you may want to look at the armour galleries in the John Pierpont Morgan wing. Come here and you’ll get to see hundreds of weapons that form part of the Met’s extensive permanent collection, including pieces from America, Japan and Europe. While the museum’s collection has more than enough objects to captivate you, if you’re hoping to see something new you might want to consider look into what temporary exhibitions will be taking place during your time in the city.

If you’re planning on visiting the museum this summer, you’ll get to take in displays that look at the American Civil War and a retrospective of the life and work of Los Angeles-based sculptor and painter Ken Price, who died in February 2012.

Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design

As the only museum in the country to be devoted entirely to historic and contemporary design, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design is one institution that should not be missed.

Housed in the former mansion of industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie, this museum has hosted hundreds of exhibitions since its launch in 1897, with a vast array of objects displayed in that time.

Among the items you’ll find in its permanent collection are designs for French parasols, postmodern glassware and 17th-century tsubas, a protective guard that is found on Japanese swords.

Museum Mile Festival

While you can visit the above institutions and the rest of the museums in this part of New York at any time of year, we think it’s a particularly good idea to do so in the summer. By taking a flight from the UK to New York in June, you may arrive in time for the Museum Mile Festival.

Taking place on June 11th, this fun event sees the museums offer free admission to visitors for three hours, while sections of Fifth Avenue are closed to traffic so that a fantastic block party can take place. With this spectacle consisting of live music, children’s activities and street performers, it’s a great option for those seeking a family-friendly day out in New York.

If you’re a culture vulture, which New York museums and galleries do you want to visit the most? We’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts and leave a comment below.

New York to construct world’s biggest Ferris wheel

Developers in New York are adhering to their plans to construct the world’s largest Ferris wheel.

The city, which is in rebuilding mode after the devastating super storm, Sandy, is to go ahead and build the structure, which it is hoped will also be seen as a mark of the city’s resilience. The new addition will grace the shoreline of storm-torn Staten Island and, once completed, the structure is expected to be the world’s largest Ferris wheel.

Even though flooding after Sandy has caused some changes to the nearly $500m project, the developers have maintained their impetus and not scaled it back. While supporters say that Staten Island needs the boost now more than ever, detractors are of the view that there are other more immediate needs that had to be fulfilled rather than building the Ferris wheel. The 625-foot-tall tourist attraction is set partly in a flood zone.

Developer, Richard Marin, said that the development would add to the beauty of the city’s, oft-dubbed, ‘forgotten borough.’

Marin, the chief executive of New York Wheel LLC, said, ‘We’re providing some things for the city and for the local community that they would have no other way of getting right now. Quite frankly, this borough is extremely lucky that this kind of project is under way.’

Private money will pay for the project, and the city will receive $2.5m a year in rent for the two parking lots where the wheel, a mall and a hotel will be located. The project was planned in such a manner that ground floors will sit above what the federal government has so far considered to be once-in-100-year flood line. After Sandy, the developers have been taking extra care to ensure that buildings can withstand flooding.

UK Travellers in New York Face Delays Despite Airports Reopening

New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Airport are slowly resuming normal service, after remaining closed for two days, bringing some relief to travellers that have been trapped in the city, due to the severe weather in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy has battered the northeast coast of the US, before moving northwards, causing extensive damage to the cities of New York, New Jersey and many others. Most of the public transportation system in New York, the financial capital of the US, has been shutdown, with some underground tunnels being completely flooded.

Both New York airports opened to some extent at 7am local time, but La Guardia Airport, which suffered most from flooding, remains closed.

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, has announced the resumption of flights to and from New York, with plans to run most of its scheduled flights, as well as a ‘special recovery flight’ to JFK Airport from London, to bring back the stranded UK passengers.

However, UK-based British Airways has stated in a web update, ‘On Wednesday 31 October we have cancelled the majority of our flights to and from New York, JFK and Newark (EWR). Flights to other East Coast US airports should be operating normally. Please only come to the airport if you are confirmed on a flight.

Public transport links to East Coast US airports continue to be disrupted, please check your flight and local travel plans before leaving for the airport.’

According to the flight tracking service FlightAware, around 18,300 flights were cancelled across the US East Coast in the last three days, with 8,183 flights cancelled on Monday, 7,258 on Tuesday, and 2,829 to date on Wednesday.

The airports may take some time to become fully operational, as the public transport system is taking time to become functional, and airport staff face difficulties in commuting to work.

For UK passengers who are delayed in the US and are travelling with an EU-based airline, all reasonable costs incurred during the period that they are waiting for a replacement flight should be covered by that airline. These include food, hotel bills and phone calls. The airline might provide food and accommodation directly, or reimburse the passenger against receipts provided.

Travellers with non-EU based airlines may have to claim theses expenses on their own travel insurance, dependant on that airline’s policy.

British Consulate-General in New York Closed by Tropical Cyclone Sandy

As Hurricane sandy batters the East Coast of the US, and New York plunges into flood and darkness due to the heavy rains and power outages, the British Consulate-General In New York will remain closed on Tuesday.

Although the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a government agency responsible for the interests of UK citizens overseas, has not issued any travel restrictions for UK citizens visiting any parts of the US, a statement issued by the agency reads, ‘Post-tropical cyclone Sandy has caused significant flood and wind damage across a large area along the east coast of the US. Effects are being felt further inland, including blizzard conditions in some parts of Virginia. Widespread power outages have been reported.

There will be severe disruption to air, road, rail, and cruise line services over the next few days; check with your travel provider before travelling.

The storm is moving north and will continue to affect the northeastern States and into southeast Canada, with strong winds, heavy rain, and flooding.

British nationals requiring emergency assistance can obtain help by calling our toll-free number 1-877-UK-IN-USA (1-877-854-6872).

Travellers are advised to monitor weather reports on radio and television and follow the advice of local authorities, including if ordered to evacuate. The British Embassy in Washington and the British Consulates-General in New York and Boston will be closed to the public on Tuesday October 30.’

Services to US airports on the East coast have been severely affected, leaving thousands of Britons stranded in US cities. British Airways has cancelled 13 flights to and from the East Coast that were scheduled for today.

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled all service from New York’s JFK and Newark airports for today, as airports have closed following the severe bad weather. Both airlines have also cancelled a number of flights that were due to depart from JFK and Newark airports early tomorrow.

9/11 museum construction back on track

Work on a museum to be built at Ground Zero in New York to pay tribute to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, which took place 11 years ago today, is to continue after the resolution of a disagreement over funding for the project.

Had work gone ahead on the project without interruption, the museum would have been scheduled to open on today’s anniversary, but despite the delays, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has now been able to announce that the work is set to continue.

The project has been beset with financial wrangles, mainly involving a fee of GBP187.3million requested by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the Ground Zero site. The authority was claiming the money for additional design and construction beyond what had been specified in the original plans. The project trustee, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation, had decided to delay construction until the wrangle had been resolved.

According to mayor Bloomberg, ‘a memorandum of understanding’ has now been issued, and he commented, ‘my goal during this period has been to get construction on the museum restarted. This agreement ensures that it will be restarted very soon and will not stop until the museum is completed.’

It is understood that the terms of the memorandum involve the museum opening in phases, with increasing public access. Admission to the museum is expected to cost USD20, and when finished it will have 110,000 square feet of exhibition space, with exhibits including personal property that belonged to some of the 3,000 victims that was collected from the ruined buildings in the aftermath of the attack.

New York Rated Best Corporate Meeting Destination

New York is the ultimate meetings destination for corporates, says a recent report submitted by Air and Business Travel News.

NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation for the city, rated it on availability of contemporary venues, and better valuation of the venues, irrespective of the fluctuation in exchanges rates.

NYC & Co vice-president, Jerry Cito, said, ‘Planners have great opportunities to secure competitive rates and find added value in leaner months, particularly in the first quarter of every year. These lower rates can be teamed with events such as Restaurant Week, which offers fixed-priced menus, and Broadway Week or Off-Broadway Week, which offer two-for-one tickets to popular shows.

An event here guarantees record attendance. Importantly, we are home to some key associations across various sectors, so there’s a lot of synergy in placing congresses or meetings in the city.’

The city, which is home around 40 Fortune 500 companies, is also host to a plethora of corporate events, often held in the Manhattan venues, which earn maximum in terms of hosting corporate events, attended by a higher number annually than any other city in the world.

For corporates, ‘It is possible to snatch a bargain, although you need to think outside of the box’, said Pauline Houston, a director at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a US-based company specialising in business travel management. ‘You need to explore beyond Park Avenue and 42nd Street, pinpoint your location and its suitability for clients, know what’s what and juggle with what’s happening and where within your time frame.’

UK Residents Prefer US Destinations for Bargain Holidays

British visitors are showing a growing preference for visiting destinations in the US, as a stronger pound makes bargain holidays in the States more lucrative.

Dealchecker, a UK-based company offering a flight, accommodation, holiday and car hire price comparison service, has reported that UK tourists are looking to America for bargain travel offers, as poor weather in England urges increased numbers to look outside the country for their vacation requirements.

There has been a marked increase in searches for flights to New York City and other US destinations in April 2012, compared to figures for February 2012.

In April 2012, 4.5 percent of searches on the company’s website have been for New York, compared to 2 percent in February 2012, representing an increase of 125 percent. Searches for destinations in the USA have increased from 12 percent of the site’s total in February 2012, to 17 percent in April 2012.

Mark Attwell, the company managing director, said, ‘We specialise in finding the best travel deals, and the rise in searches for the US shows that the country offers great value. New York is a vibrant and diverse city, where visitors can grab a hot dog and stroll Central Park for free, or experience some of the world’s best museums, events and shopping. Considering the strength of the pound and the poor weather across Europe and the UK this spring, it is no surprise that British people have started looking to New York, Florida and other US destinations for affordable and sunny holidays.’

April 2012 has been the coldest April since 1989 in the UK, and the wettest ever, driving travellers to look for sunnier and drier destinations for their vacation.

The end of an era: say goodbye to the famous NYC taxi

The classic New York yellow taxicab is being phased out.Making way for the modern and more comfortable Nissan mini van.This new addition to the New York city image is far less cool than the iconic yellow taxi, which have featured in many classic movies over the past century.From Breakfast at Tiffany’s staring Audrey Hepburn to Taxi Driver featuring Robert De Niro, the classic taxi has been an iconic of New York for a century.

Classic New York Hotels

Nothing can compare to New York hotels. From rooftop gardens to superior personal service and palatial rooms, New York hotels are the standard hotels are judged by. They seamlessly blend respect for personal privacy with a commitment to providing the most pleasure possible. ‘What you want, when you want it, the way you want it ‘ seems to be the guiding principle behind good New York hotels. The best chefs in the world work in New York hotels. Each night you can choose from several gastronomic masterpieces and the best late night libations. The city that never sleeps has set the bar very high with the quality of its hotels.

The name Waldorf Astoria conjures up images of class, culture, comfort, quality and luxury. It was the first hotel to offer room service and it continues to be an industry leader in meeting the needs of its guests. It combines old world charm and attention to detail with all the latest amenities and conveniences to create the world’s most prestigious hotel. Period furniture, handmade rugs and indulgent beds and bathrooms compliment immense beautiful rooms.

Kings, queens, world leaders, movie stars and captains of industry have found rest in its spectacular rooms. Ex-President Herbert Hoover and General Douglas Macarthur both lived at the Waldorf Astoria. Bertie Charles Forbes, (Forbes Magazine), Marilyn Monroe, Cole Porter and Linda Lee all lived in the Waldorf Astoria. Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano lived there too.

The Hudson Hotel New York is a gem often overlooked among New York hotels. The Hudson Hotel New York is an upscale boutique hotel that is adventurous in concept, bold in design and imminently affordable. Opened in 2000 the Hudson Hotel New York draws on all the influences, cultures and styles in this great metropolis to be at once avant-garde and familiar. What is familiar is the high quality of service, superb meals, immaculate, comfortable rooms and stunning views of the park.

The Hudson Bar was an instant success, drawing the city’s best and brightest with its minimalist style, quality drinks and great atmosphere. Its use of modern furniture styles in soft, rich tones serves to relax the guests while their staff fulfills their every wish.

The Waldorf-Astoria and the Hudson Hotel New York epitomize the range of establishments the city has to offer. They continue to ensure that New York hotels are the best and most innovative in the world.

Virgin Holidays has been arranging holidays since 1985 and are the largest, most successful transatlantic tour operator, and market leader for travel to the USA and the Caribbean.