Monday, September 29, 2014

On the Go // Bros Before Hos - Pattaya, Thailand Warning


It is inevitability: At one point on your vacation, you will be ripped off. Usually, this is because of runaway price-gouging. Depending on where you go, that may be unavoidable. However, other times you are the victim of an actual con. For all of you heading to Thailand, here’s the oldest one in the book.

For most people, a Thai vacation begins and ends in Bangkok. For the slightly more adventurous, a trip to the tropical shores of the country may cross your mind. On maps, the sprawling Thai capital may look like a seaside city, but it’s actually several miles inland. The closest ocean resort town worth its salt is Pattaya.

Pattaya is “Bangkok’s beach.” It has sand, surf, an entire Navy of banana boats. It is also one of the most tourist-geared towns I have ever seen. That is not a bad thing—you can’t go to this place and not find a party. Think of Pattaya as Las Vegas, but without the morals.

Walking Street, the beach-side avenue, is fairly sedate during the day, but at night, it absolutely comes alive with stripper shows, sex shows, street performers, bars hewn out of blocks of ice (your bartender is dressed up as a polar bear), and massage parlors where happy endings are all on the menu.

One block up is Boystown, the gay section. A Pattaya “gay bar” looks much like any other but with one big difference: the stage show. To be blunt, you see E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

And between shows, the boys come out in Speedos. And thus the con begins. The maître d all but throws the boys—particularly dazzlingly handsome ones—at you. They snuggle up against you. Flirt with you. Order a few more drinks. And as you get drunker and drunker, you yourself buy drinks, not only for yourself, but your new BFF. And so it goes until you are plastered and several $$$ lighter. But there’s more!

Have no doubt: All the bar-boys are…ah…“professionals.” If you end up taking one back to your hotel, you will end up paying for it in the morning. Literally. All of Pattaya, from the bars to the police, are in on this incredibly profitable game, so expect no “dumb tourist” leniency from anybody.

But, so you are aware, Pattaya is not without its charms. The next beach south, Jomtien, is practically the polar opposite, and it’s only 15 minutes away. The beaches are huge, the water clear, the food freshly caught, and not a con within eyeshot. It may as well be another planet.

So for anybody heading to the Land of Smiles, let it be said now: You were warned…  Contact Steele Luxury Travel to help you plan a safe and luxurious trip to Thailand.  Visit www.SteeleTravel.com for more details.


Small, Tiny Rooms Are The Biggest New Trend in Travel

For decades, the hotel industry has taken many ideas from the airline industry such as loyalty programs, separate areas for business travelers and inventory yield software. Now it appears that some hotels are looking to trains, specifically the idea inherent in a Pullman car berth. Why not provide a place to sleep when a fully equipped hotel isn’t necessary?

When Osaka, Japan first developed the idea of a capsule hotel in the 1979, the Western Press went on a rampage comparing these sleep modules to everything from human filing cabinets to morgue drawers. Thirty years later we can hear a last laugh emerging from Japan as the Antwerp Student Hostel (ASH) opened this week as Western Europe’s first capsule hotel with prices from about $31 per night.

By definition, capsule hotels offer a private space in a shared room, like a hostel dorm, but in the case of ASH, every effort is made to give that space a feeling of luxury and privacy. Each capsule is sound-proof and has private ventilation. The space has a locker and the showers are shared hostel-style. If you haven’t used one in a while, hostels are no longer just church basements that become available after an AA meeting is over. Comfort, cleanliness, low prices and hostel traveling’s proclivity for instigating friendships on the road, are all intact. The ASH also offers the more traditional sleeping arrangement of bunk beds as well as a lobby space, a communal kitchen, a garden and a laundromat.

ASH describes its pricing as a “democratic rate,” revealing a rare and refreshing definition of democracy as also having an economic dimension. The Antwerp Student Hostel, which grand opens on Oct. 9, was developed by “Today for Tomorrow,” a Belgian real estate developer that specializes in what it calls “innovative student accommodation with cutting edge architecture.” The ASH has 63 rooms and 48 hostel beds. Beds can be booked per night or for long duration stays. During its Antwerp soft launch, the ASH hosted volunteers of the European Special Olympics, which was hosted by Belgium this year.

PodTime, a British developer, furnished Moscow’s Anti-Hostel Cosmic with 3 feet by 7 feet pods that come with a bed, multiple electric outlets, ample ventilation and LED lighting as well as a large luggage locker (pictured at left). These pods can be put indoors, there also outdoor versions and in a town like Moscow, known for some of Europe’s highest hotel rates, you can stay at the Anti-Hostel Cosmic for about $38 per night. Outside Narita Airport’s Terminal 2, you can get a capsule room for at the nine hours hotel priced at $38 for nine hours or for $15 per hour.

According to ASH the idea is only going to grow.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

PeoplExpress Temporarily Suspends All Flights

Well, when you operate only two airplanes, this was bound to happen.

PeoplExpress, the start-up airline that began operations in June and patterned itself after an upstart airline of the same name from the 1970s, has temporarily suspended operations.
The airline, based in Newport News, Va., and trying to fill a low-budget carrier void in that area, cannot use one of its two planes and therefore suspended flights until Oct. 16.

PeoplExpress began flying on June 30 and offered flights to seven destinations from Newport News on two Boeing 737 aircraft.

It issued this statement on Friday:

“PEOPLExpress today announced that it is temporarily suspending service effective immediately and plans to resume service on or about Oct. 16.

Recent aircraft and crew availability and maintenance issues, including an aircraft recently damaged by a vendor’s truck, an engine change and a lack of a planned spare aircraft, have made it challenging to operate a full schedule, preventing us from delivering the passenger experience we are striving for.

We are currently processing refunds for passengers for flights booked through Oct. 15, which will take five to seven business days. For reservations beyond Oct. 15, passengers will receive a notification by e-mail as soon as our service resumption plans are in place.

PEOPLExpress has successfully served 55,000 passengers on 817 flights since launching service on June 30, demonstrating the need for additional non-stop air service to underserved markets as a result of airline industry consolidation.

Our customers have been very receptive and supportive of our service from the beginning but not being able to complete all of our scheduled flights has been inconsistent with our brand promise to provide a fun, creative and innovative approach to air travel. This difficult business decision affects thousands of loyal customers, and we apologize for the sudden nature of our temporary suspension and thank people for their understanding and support.

We are still committed to restoring the concepts of respect, value and excitement to the air travel experience but to do so successfully we need to enhance our platform to operate aircraft not just safely but also with the ability to provide consistently outstanding schedule integrity.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Friday, September 26, 2014

JetBlue Introducing Plaid Tailfins to Fleet this Fall


JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday their newest tailfin pattern "Tartan" to the fleet, reflecting a move of top fashion houses on their own fall runways. Starting with "Bippity Boppity Blue" (N565JB), the pattern will be added to additional aircraft, joining the ranks of JetBlue's nine other iconic and eye-catching tailfins across their fleet of 200 aircraft.

"Design plays such an integral part in our story," says Lisa Borromeo, JetBlue Director of Brand Management and Advertising, "While others may push revamped logos or disorienting paint schemes, we feel it's important to build a visual language as we grow. Our tailfin patterns will always reflect a fresh style, with a timeless appeal that is core to who we are as a brand."

Tartan is JetBlue's second nod to the timeless Gaelic fashion. While 2003's Plaid design has been retired, with clean, bold lines, a dash of green, and worn at a decidedly jaunty angle, Tartan is an updated statement on JetBlue's evolution also seen in the uniform refresh this summer; a proud acknowledgement of their history, with a confident readiness to carry forward into their future.
Look for JetBlue's Tartan tails to grace runways this fall, and showcase a timeless style well into the future.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Carnival Cruiselines Adds Steak in Dining Room (For A Fee)

Carnival Cruise Lines is rolling out new for-fee “Steakhouse Selections” in its main dining rooms fleetwide.

The roll-out began in late August after a “successful pilot program” on four ships starting in May, the cruise line said.

The new steak and lobster entrées will be available for $20 each in the main dining rooms on all the ships. Currently, 13 Carnival ships have separate steak restaurants that levy a $35 service charge.
Offered nightly, the “Steakhouse Selections” include a 1½-pound Maine lobster, 9-ounce filet mignon, 14-ounce New York strip steak, and surf-and-turf of broiled Maine lobster tail and filet mignon. The steak offerings are prime aged beef.

The “Steakhouse Selections” seem to be aimed at those who want a premium beef or lobster dinner but don’t want to pay the $35 cover charge, prefer to stick to the main restaurant and their dining companions, or aren’t inclined to bring their kids to the steakhouse. (The $35 fee applies to children too).

Royal Caribbean International has offered for-fee steak entrées in the main dining rooms for years. The selections from the Chops Grille specialty restaurant are a 10-ounce filet mignon for $14.95; a whole 1¼- to 1½-pound Maine lobster, served broiled, grilled or steamed, for $29.95; and both those selections in a surf-and-turf entrée for $37.50. A 15 percent gratuity is added.

Royal Caribbean points out that guests can choose from 10 complimentary entrees every night in the main dining room, including a Black Angus top sirloin steak. Also, Maine lobster tail is a featured complimentary entrée item on select evenings on all seven-night or longer itineraries and five- and six-night itineraries sailing from Boston, New York and Baltimore.

“Guests sailing aboard a Royal Caribbean ship that does not offer particular specialty restaurants or with family members and young children who do not wish to dine in a specialty restaurant have responded positively to having the option to enjoy a premium selection in the main dining room,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, September 22, 2014

On the Go // The Great Wall of China, Part II


It is probably one of the biggest archaic structures nobody knows about: The Southern Great Wall.

“Southern?”

The Great Wall of China we see today latest incarnation of the fortification, built by the Ming Empire back in the 1400s. The wall was one part fortification against nomadic raiders coming in from Mongolia and Siberia and one part delineation of acknowledged “this is mine, that is yours” territory. It was considered such a good idea that Chinese built another one from scratch along its southern border with lands controlled by the Miao people, who were as testy about Chinese encroachment as the Mongols.

Though not as tall as the canonical Great Wall, the Southern Wall, also called the Miaojiang Great Wall, was clearly a hotbed of action: 118 miles long, consisting of over 1,300 blockhouses, watchtowers, sentry posts, emplacements and gates for stationing troops and defenses — this was clearly not a Ming vanity project. At the height of hostilities between the Ming and Miao, 4,000 – 7,000 soldiers were stationed along the span. The Miao proved to be resilient foes; when the Ming fell, the ascendant Qing Dynasty had to man the wall just as their predecessor did.

Today, wars are long over and the wall runs through the provinces of Hunan and Guizhou, now deep inside Chinese territory. But even as China cashes in mightily on its heritage, the Southern Wall has managed to fly under the radar when it comes to the tourist must-dos. The upside of this is that the Southern Wall retains a lot of its original character, not that cynical hyper-commercialization you find at its northern counterpart (however grand it may be). You also get to miss the hoards upon hoards of tourists.

Curiously, the wall is also more “ornate” than its northern twin, with guardhouses that look more like temples in miniature. The landscape is also far more dramatic; the whole region is in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau, and the wall troops up mountainside and nearly drops off cliffs. As militaristic as the wall is, it was also the site of a booming trade between the Ming and Qing and Southeast Asia, and several of the towns on both sides have the temples and palaces from the glory days

And speaking of towns, I recommend Huangsiqiao, the barracks that manned much of the wall. In modern times, Huangsiqiao is known more for its Venice-like canals, but in its day, the city was the military nexus for much of the southern Ming territories. As the threat of the Miao faded, the barracks began a legitimate town, but the old defenses including the city wall and citadel, remain to this day.

SteeleLuxury Travel can assist you with a complete luxury vacation to China!  Contact us at 646-688-2274 to plan your travel experience!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Amazing Deal: $10 Black Car Rides in Manhattan Anytime! CODE: GTDANEG

Amazing Deal Alert!

The war for taxis and private car service in Manhattan has gotten even more competitive.  Gett has offered $10 rides ANYWHERE in Manhattan until the end of 2014!  Use code GTDANEG. To earn $20 (two free rides)!  Download the App and let's see how Uber deals with this one!

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com