Monday, July 28, 2014

On the Go // Borg Nation - North Korea


Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to go to North Korea, although the vetting process takes the idea of red tape to a ridiculous extreme

And “ridiculous” really is something to keep in mind with North Korea, although don’t you dare say the word aloud. If you thought your BF was narcissistic, just you wait until you’ve experienced the ego-state created by “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung in 1946.

Once you are on the ground, the entire weight of the North Korean propaganda machine is thrown at you in a carefully choreographed dance of happy faces. Everyone you see, everyone you meet, everyone you photograph will have been alerted beforehand so they can fall over themselves saying how wondrous North Korea is and how beneficent Kim Il Sung’s grandson, current president and “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Un, is. And you can’t miss him; his face is plastered on every billboard in the country. He looks like a scaled-up fat baby.

You cannot go out on your own — anywhere. When you do tour, chaperones follow you, and everything you see, from the monks in the temples to the dancing in the parks, is political fakery at its finest. Because they are all acting. For you. But it’s not as if this is just a massive joke a whole country happens to be in on, the people of North Korea, inculcated from birth that there is nothing but THE LEADER and THE STATE, really do believe every word they are saying. The North Koreans not only propagandize us, they propagandize themselves.

So what is there to do/see? North Korea is a functionary of Kim Jong Un, and Pyongyang, the capital, is the embodiment of political egotism on an unrestricted bender, in fact, no one can live in the city unless they are deemed loyal enough to Kim. Emphasis on the military is extreme and 24/7. It is fascinating to see it all in action, and you cannot help but think you’ve landed in the middle of a satire. Everything has to be the biggest, and in some cases, like the massive triumphal arch in the downtown section, it is. But if there was a country or heritage before “North Korea,” there is no clue. It has all been subsumed into the context of the Kim family mythology.

So if you want to see “truthiness” — the idea that if you say something enough, and put on a show of believing it, it becomes the truth — taken to a national level, start at korea-dpr.com.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Who Are The Best of the Best Airlines For Economy Class?

Airline ticket prices can be the most expensive part of your holiday, so you want to make sure you get the best value for your money when travelling. It’s not just the base cost for a ticket which is an important factor, extra charges, baggage allowance and set meal options are all major considerations which can make a seemingly good price become unaffordable.

An online travel review website looked into the major European airlines to see what extras they charge, what’s included in their ticket prices and how punctual their flights are. They have created a fun infographic which is ideal to refer to when choosing your flights for your summer holiday.

Credit card charges are the most popular of added charges to airline tickets; research from www.realholidayreports.com found that most European airlines add charges for credit card payments, which can range anywhere from 2 percent of your total ticket amount to a £5 flat charge. However there is some saving grace, with no charges from 3 major airlines; AER Lingus, SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Wizz Air.

Free check in to complimentary food and drink as well as punctuality vary from airline to airline, however overall British Airways came out top scoring favorably in many of the categories, from offering luggage included in ticket prices to more legroom on a number of flights with seating included in ticket price. Each airline offers different services, with some having better benefits than others; use this infographic as a guide before you book to find the right airline for you.

Chris Clarkson from Real Holiday Reports said, “We know how important booking the right accommodation is for our customers, but just as important is choosing the right flight. All European airlines fly to and from many popular holiday destinations, so you want to make sure you choose the best one for you.

Not only which one is most affordable, but also which one offers the best service and doesn’t add any sneaky extra costs once you have booked.”



www.realholidayreports.com is an independent travel review website.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flat Bed Luxury Comes To A&K's Private Jet Tours

Abercrombie & Kent is taking the next step with its private jet tours by incorporating lie-flat adjustable sleeper seats on the aircraft on its departures this fall. The company is the first to introduce the sleeper seats on private jet trips.

A&K is using a chartered Icelandair Boeing 757-200ER with 50 custom-designed Italian leather seats for its private jet trips. Each aircraft is equipped with a personal massage system, four-way adjustable headrests, lumbar support and a lie-flat bed more than six and a half feet long when folded out.
The passenger area has an open bar, an on-board chef and a crew that travels with the group for the duration of the trip.

A&K will use the lie-flat seats first on its fall 2014 departure of the Around the World with Geoffrey Kent itinerary. The company will offer three private jet trips in 2014: Africa: Across a Continent by Private Jet Feb. 20-March 10, 2015; Islands, Savannas and the Amazon, Sept. 17-Oct. 10, 2015; and Wonders of the World by Private Jet, Octo. 12-Nov.6, 2015.

Historically the private jet tour model has used an aircraft reconfigured by removing the standard economy class seats and replacing them with a much smaller number of business class seats. The addition of lie-flat seats is a logical next step in the evolution of the product.

A&K is one of few tour operators to have ever offered private jet trips. Occupying a rarefied high-end market, the private jet product is in surprisingly high demand from a certain tier of high-end traveler because of the ease with which a private jet can access a diverse set of destinations on an itinerary in a relatively short time and with a high level of comfort. It’s also attractive to travel agents because of the high commissions, often in the $10,000 zone.

Pamela Lassers, A&K’s director of media relations, said the company’s new private jet trips are well suited for the entrepreneur who has devoted so much time to building up his business that he has not had the time for leisure travel. With one private jet trip, a traveler can knock several major destinations off his bucket list.

The few operators that have offered private jet tours besides A&K include Travcoa, TCS Expeditions, Intrav and Lakani World Tours.

Advantages of private jet tours include ease of transference through security and immigration checkpoints. Private jets can often streamline the security protocol to make it much simpler and faster. Passengers usually are able to bypass check-in lines. Private jets can also land in places where larger-capacity planes cannot.

Prices range from $50,000 upwards to $100,000 or more. A&K’s Wonders of the World trip is priced from $108,000. The Wonders of the World trip includes Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Samoa, Sydney, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, Turkey and Morocco in a single 24-day itinerary.

A&K introduced its first private jet tour in 1989, the Royal Air Tour. The company offered private tours on the Concord for a while before the plane was taken out of service. The market ebbs and flows with economic conditions. It seems to be on an upswing again now. A&K’s recent Africa trip sold out in two months, prompting the company to offer a second departure. Its recent private jet offering hosted by Geoffrey Kent sold out in three weeks.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

On the Go // Faroe-tails: The Faroe Islands, Denmark



Every now and again, I serve you boys up with a real head-scratcher. I recently did a round-up of eclipse-watching sites around the globe, and one of the places I mentioned resulted in more than a few blank looks — the Faroe Islands. Time for an intro.

The basics: A splatter of volcanic rocks braving the gale-force winds of the North Atlantic, the Faroes were one of the last places in Europe to be settled, maybe around 400 AD or so, but it was only with the Vikings that anything in the way of permanent towns rose from the harsh landscape. The islands are part of uber-gay friendly Denmark (since 1388), but the Faroes are actually closer to Iceland and Scotland than to mainland Europe, and their isolation gave rise to a culture more “Viking” than “Danish.” The language is closer to Old Norse than anything in modern Denmark, in fact. Despite their latitude, the Faroes aren’t as frigid as you’d think; the Gulf Stream keeps things fairly mild — if you can call an average summer high of 51º F “mild.” Yes, packing a swimsuit to go to the Faroes means one of three things: You are a native, a masochist, or a moron.

Isolation is the name of the Faroe game. When a Burger King opened in the capital of Tórshavn (“Torz-hahvn”), the natives thought the sky was falling. Even getting there is a bit of an adventure, involving a ferry or at least one connecting flight in some other airport. All of which, by the way, is a serious point of pride; the whole point of going to the Faroes is to go to a place where no one else will follow, least of all commercialization. If seeing one more “Applebee’s” will drive you bonkers, the Faroes are for you (but with Burger King you are out of luck). They are unspoiled, undiscovered, and unbound.

But just to say I said it, Tórshavn is not Copenhagen, and only barely on the same planet as London. It is not to say you headed off to some far corner of the Earth; the Faroese take pride in their iPhone 5s just as much as you do. But we are talking a place where the sheep outnumber the people by two to one, so let’s just say we are talking “the country.”

That being said, it’s also probably the butchest vacation spot I’ve profiled yet. Mountains, clefts, scarps, cliff sides, and streams so clean you can drink direct suggest a land that still remembers the days of its birth. If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.

For more info, go to faroeislands.com and visitfaroeislands.com.  Steele Luxury Travel is eager to help you plan your trip to Denmark.  Visit us at www.SteeleTravel.com!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

LAN Announces Five New Routes for 787 Fleet!

LAN Airlines and its affiliates, part of LATAM Airlines Group, announce that beginning in August, five of the company’s existing routes will gradually begin to be operated by a new fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft.  The change in product will modernize service from Santiago, Chile to Miami, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Cancun, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Guarulhos (Brazil).

In addition to announcing that the Boeing 787 will service five more destinations in the LAN network, the company also plans to reinstate the aircraft on flights to and from Los Angeles.  These destinations will join existing daily LAN Boeing 787 routes from Santiago, Chile to Madrid, Frankfurt, New York and Buenos Aires.

“At LAN we are proud to offer more passengers cutting edge technology to enjoy a better flight experience onboard next generation aircraft.  In 2012 we were the first airline in the Americas to receive and operate the 787, one of the most modern aircraft in the world”, said Ignacio Cueto, CEO of LAN Airlines.  “By operating the most modern aircraft in our fleet to more destinations we are renewing our dedication as an airline to constantly improve the in-flight experience of our passengers”, said Cueto.

LAN Airlines and its affiliates’ future routes operated by the Boeing 787 fleet are as follows:
  • Daily routes to Miami (starting Aug. 9) and Los Angeles (starting Oct. 1)
  • Saturday route to Cancun starting Aug. 9
  • Sunday route to Punta Cana starting Aug. 9
  • Routes on alternating weekdays to Mexico City (starting Nov. 15) and Sao Paulo (starting Oct. 1)
These are in addition to the existing daily 787 routes to New York City, Buenos Aires and Frankfurt by way of Madrid.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, July 14, 2014

On the Go // G Spot - Asia's Biggest Circuit Party


OK, circuit boys — no sooner have you dusted yourself off from the Istanball in Turkey when, on the other side of Asia, the biggest circuit event on the continent is getting ready for its time in the limelight: Mega G5.

That might sound like an economic summit, but it is in fact a five-day, round-the-clock bacchanal, filled with LED bonanzas, world-class DJs, and crotch-bulging boys pulled in from all over the Western Pacific. Taipei is in for it. 

Taipei?

Spoiler Alert: Of all Pacific Asia, Taiwan is the gay-friendliest destination in the Orient. Thailand may have the lion’s share of gay tourists, and Japan may be the most over-all liberal nation in the region, but when it comes to law and public opinion about gays, gay marriage, and lots and lots of other gay-ity, it is unlikely Taiwan that comes out on top. This is the country looked over by Tu Er Shen, the God of Gay Men (soooooo not making that up), so when you think about it, why wouldn’t Taipei, Taiwan’s super-duper-teched-up capital, be the big, fat, gay heart of Asia?

You do have some time to prepare: Mega G5 kicks off December 28 and carries through to January 1 (added bonus, New Year’s in Asia, which is a BIG deal), and centers on the ultraclubs Luxy and ATT4FUN. And do your research, some of the events, such as the one on December 29, is a white party. Not that clothes are going to be that big of a deal at any of the events. Shirts, anyway.

Now, a few pointers. 1) This is Asia, and thus, be prepared for a lot of “cute.” By that, I mean that in America, being “cool” is the goal. In Asia, birthplace of Hello Kitty, it is all about being cute. The boys are cute, the fashion is cute, the music is cute. So be prepared for a lot of cute. Cute overload, in fact. If you are hankering for a gaysian version of New York’s Black Party, Mega G5 may not be for you. 2) This is a country part of the Buddhist and Tao traditions from the start, so their takes on homosexuality is very different indeed from the Abrahamic West, so expect the whole vibe to be different. 3) Take a look at the website and the whole idea of Asians being the very souls of modest restraint goes right out the window — it may be in Taipei, but it is still a circuit party.

Go to www.g5-taipei.com/index2.html for more info (in English. This is Taiwan, after all).  Contact Steele Luxury Travel if you want to head over to the Mega G5! www.SteeleTravel.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rocket Debris Falls on Cruise Ship in Israeli Port

Shrapnel from rockets flying over the Israeli port of Ashdod fell onto the outside decks of a German cruise ship at about 8:30 p.m. July 7. No injuries were reported, but AIDA Cruises has cancelled all calls to Ashdod through August.

The AIDAdiva cruise ship sustained no damage, AIDA Cruises said, but passengers could see explosions in the distance. There were 2,700 passengers and crew members on the vessel. The ship’s officers kept passengers informed.

“We regret that the guests of AIDAdiva became witnesses of this incident,” said Hansjörg Kunze, vice president-communication and Sustainability for AIDA Cruises. “We assure our guests that safety of guests and crew has the utmost priority for AIDA Cruises. The current security situation in Israel was and will be continuously observed and evaluated by means of internal and external analyses.”
Palestinians began firing rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip in violence that erupted after three Israeli youths were found dead, according to a Reuters article. Israel retaliated with missile fire on July 8.

AIDA Cruises will substitute the Greek island of Santorini for Ashdod. The cruise line notes that no travel warnings had been in place for Ashdod, but the port was closed on July 8.

AIDA said in a press statement that “small particles” that may have come from defense missiles were found on the open deck. “They do not constitute a danger. They were secured immediately by the crew,” the company said.

The 69,203-ton AIDAdiva is on its way to Crete, where it is expected to arrive as scheduled at 8 a.m. July 9. AIDA Cruises is part of Carnival Corp.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com