24 JUN 2019: In case you missed it, and even if you didn’t, here’s a quick look at some of last week’s need-to-know travel news:


Regulatory approvals have been granted for the merger of First Air and Canadian North. The owners are calling the decision a “victory for all northerners” in the bid to develop a clear, realistic plan for a strong, sustainable Northern airline. Some federal conditions apply, including no price increases or reductions to weekly schedules. The new, Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name "Canadian North" and aircraft will use the First Air livery, featuring its Inukshuk logo. Headquarters for the merged airline will be in Ottawa.

Partnerships with Crave and Stingray are set to boost Air Canada’s entertainment system with 50% more content on certain aircraft types, including many of its longest-haul wide-body Boeing 777s and 787s, as well as Air Canada Rouge's A319s, A321s and Boeing 767s. The airline boasts that passengers would have to fly around the world 22 times to consume it all.

WestJet’s Swoop marked its one-year anniversary on June 20. Over the course of the year, the ultra-low-cost carrier grew from five to 16 destinations and carried over a million travellers. Meanwhile, over the same period, the company reports that WestJet Link carried 195,000 passengers in its first year of operation between Calgary and five cities in BC and Alberta.


Through June 28, Sunwing’s School’s Out for Summer Sale enables one parent to travel for half price when the other books a vacation package at select sun resorts, such as Riu Montego Bay, Club Caribe Princess Beach Resort or Viva Wyndham Azteca. Plus, depending on the resort, travellers might get more savings with Kids Stay, Play and Eat FREE deals, no single parent supplement fees, exclusive inclusions and more.

Travellers booking a Scenic 2020-21 cruise to southeast Asia by July 10 will receive free economy class flights (or $495 for premium economy) on Mekong River departures of 13 days or longer and free economy flights on 13-day or longer Irrawaddy River cruises. Booking the company’s 11-day sailings on either river means $1,000 per couple off the fare. And those guests who place a deposit on any SE Asia cruise at the time of the booking receive an additional $500 per couple in savings. Agents should quote code SEA2020PRE.

South Pacific specialist Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering up to $500 Shipboard Credit per stateroom on select 2020 voyages during its “Dream in Blue” promotion when booked by July 31. As an additional bonus, deposits have been reduced to $250 p.p.


Walking a portion of Spain’s UNESCO-rated Camino de Santiago is the highlight of a new faith-based tour offered by Cosmos in 2020. The 11-day “The Camino, A Walking Journey for the Soul” small group tour covers a 115-km. portion of the pilgrimage route known as St. James’ Way, showcasing spectacular scenery and picturesque towns along the way. Participants will walk an average of fewer than 20 km. per day on the tour, which also includes two nights in Madrid. Those booking by Nov. 26 can save 10% on the tour, or any of Globus and Cosmos’ 14 faith-based tours next year.

A new USA & Canada brochure from Trafalgar is now available. Featuring the tour operator’s 2020 program, the guide introduces “active” itineraries that feature a walk or a hike most days, with guests having the freedom to take on different trails best suited to fitness levels. Meanwhile, ‘State Explorer’ trips will give clients an even deeper look at particular states and what makes them so unique, unearthing experiences across Hawaii, Colorado, California and Massachusetts. And “City Explorer” is refreshed with daily choice options in cities like San Francisco and New York. An early booking savings of 10% off p.p. is available on select tours paid for in full by Dec. 18.

More flights to the sun highlight Air Canada Vacations’ new winter 2019/20 line-up. Featuring both Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, the schedule includes 25 new flights and significantly expanded capacity in Western Canada. And new this winter, ACV will offer a non-stop route from Ottawa to Varadero, Cuba operating on Mondays starting Dec. 23. For full details on the winter line-up, click HERE.



Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York celebrated its 90th birthday on June 11 and took advantage of the occasion to unveil a new-look lobby (photo), including “90th Anniversary Clock,” and new lobby bar.

The classic Hotel Pennsylvania in the Big Apple is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with the introduction of “The Penn Plaza Collection” featuring hundreds of fully modernized rooms achieved after a multi-phase, multi-million-dollar design project. Designed to bring a contemporary feel to the historic hotel by combining many of the original elements with modern touches, such as wooden furnishings, brand new carpeting, state-of-the-art HD TVs, and upgraded bathrooms, as well as overhauled common areas, the New York hotel will continue to upgrade in the coming months, including suites. The “Hotel Penn” is located in midtown Manhattan across the street from Madison Square Garden.


AC Hotels by Marriott has opened the AC Hotel Kingston, the brand’s first property in Jamaica. Owned by the Stewart family (Sandals International), the 219-room property features a “sophisticated yet unpretentious style” and innovative locally inspired food and beverage programming. Guests will have access to a spacious 24-hour fitness centre; outdoor pool; signature AC Kitchen serving a daily European-inspired breakfast buffet infused with a taste of Jamaica; and the AC Lounge, which offers a chic, open and comfortable ambiance, ideal for co-working and socializing.


To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sandals Resorts debuting the swim-up bar at Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica, the company has launched the "Swim-Up to Sandals Suite-Stakes,” which will see one lucky winner chosen every Friday between June 28 and Sept. 20 with a complimentary 5-night/6-day getaway for two adults to a Swim-Up Suite at select Sandals Resorts. Enter HERE.

Great Wolf Lodges in the US are now enabling guests to visit for a single day this summer with a new day pass starting at US$50 p.p. Until now, access to Great Wolf Lodge's waterpark was available only to overnight guests. Access will be limited and monitored with visitors recommended to check the company’s website in advance to ensure availability and to purchase the tickets, which are only available online, and must be booked at least one day in advance.


In keeping with maritime tradition, a keel-laying ceremony was held June 18 at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, for Carnival Cruise Lines Mardi Gras. The ceremony, which dates back hundreds of years, was highlighted by the placement of coins placed on top of a 750-ton keel block called 3C signifying good luck for the ship and the official start of construction. Scheduled to enter service in August 2020, the Mardi Gras will feature BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea; the first seagoing restaurant by Emeril Lagasse; and will also be the first cruise ship in North America to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), part of Carnival Corporation’s “green cruising” platform.

The newly modernized Celebrity Equinox is sailing again after undergoing a nearly-month long transformation as part of the cruise line’s $500-million fleet-wide “Celebrity Revolution” program. Enhancements on the Equinox include the addition of The Retreat for suite guests, new dining and bar experiences, new Camp at Sea program for young cruisers, and new digital, spa, and shopping enhancements across the ship. The ship is the third in the fleet to be revitalized with Celebrity Silhouette next in line, scheduled for completion on Jan. 31, 2020, and five more ships to be modernized by 2023.

Acclaimed Broadway actor/singer Rachel York will join Crystal River Cruises’ Sept. 1 Danube sailing aboard the Crystal Ravel. During the seven-day voyage, York will perform and take part in Q&A sessions as part of the company’s popular “Crystal on Broadway” programming. York is also godmother to sister ship Crystal Debussy and performed at her 2018 inauguration.


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Beginning June 28, visitors to Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood will be able to visit original sets from The Big Bang Theory, the hit TV show that recently wrapped after 12 years and 279 episodes. On display will be apartments 4A (photo) and 4B where Leonard, Sheldon, Penny and Amy lived – including the famous couch, the foyer between the apartments with its infamous elevator, and the CalTech Physics Lab Cafeteria where the gang dined.


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Transat Distribution Canada (TDC) recently hosted 34 top agency owners on a luxury trip to Ireland (photo). Accompanied by a team of Transat executives, the annual BRAVO Award of Excellence trip recognizes top-producing agency owners for exceptional sales performance.

With the US Travel Association’s annual mega travel-trade show IPW in Anaheim now concluded, the page has turned to next year’s event, set for Las Vegas, May 30-June 3. Along with Vegas, future host cities for the next five years include Chicago, Orlando, San Antonio and Los Angeles.


Ensemble Travel Group CEO David Harris announced the departure of Lindsay Pearlman late last week. The Canadian travel industry veteran had been with the travel company 12 years, most recently serving as co-president. Harris and president Libbie Rice will handle all management responsibilities and running the global operations for ETG, said a company statement.

Following the announced departure of Nathalie Boyer on July 31 for a position outside the travel industry, Transat has named Louise Fecteau as General Manager of Transat Distribution Canada (TDC), and Karine Gagnon as Commercial Director for Transat’s Quebec region.

Air Canada Vacations’ new manager, national accounts is Robert Reed. Boasting 28 years experience in the travel industry, Reed makes the move from Transat. He will be based in ACV’s Mississauga, Ont. office reporting to Erminia Nigro.

Toronto-based Cruise Strategies Ltd. has been named Canadian representative for American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruises Lines. The former has been operating river cruises since 2012 and currently sails three vessels with another set to join the fleet in 2020. Victory Cruise Lines was acquired by AQSC in 2019 with two identical 202-passenger shops, the M/V Victory I and M/V Victory II, which sail all-inclusive cruises on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and in New England. Contact Vanessa Lee at vlee@cruisestrategies.com.


So long Celine: June 8 marked the final performance of Celine Dion’s residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Consider these numbers: During the Quebec pop superstar’s two tenures (2003-07 and 2011-19), she performed 1,141 times for more than 4.5 million fans. And over the course of her 35-year career she has also sold almost 250 million albums, earned five Grammy Awards, two Academy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 20 Juno Awards and 40 Félix Awards (Quebec). At the 2004 World Music Awards, she was recognized as being the best-selling female artist of all time.


Sneak a peak at this: The International Spy Museum in Washington DC has new digs in L’Enfant Plaza in the Southwest Waterfront. The new facility is double the size of the old F Street location allowing for more exhibits and interactive activities.

With the launch of its new German Summer Cities microsite, the German National Tourist Office provides a guide of where to go, and what to see and do in the country this summer, from urban beaches to beautiful beer gardens, inner city surfing, festivals, castles, the coolest bars, street parties that last until dawn, and much more. Check it out HERE.

Jersey’s coastal paths are a defining feature of the Channel Island. And to help visitors make the most of the experience, a new digital Countryside Access Map has been launched, showing all known permitted footpaths, bridle paths, cycle tracks and green lanes. It also clarifies who can use which paths and their levels of difficulty. More info and the map are can be found on the Jersey government web site.

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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