California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

It’s time to make a journey and the destination this time is called Orlando, a space full of fun that attracts millions of people during the whole year due to it’s famous parks, places like Disney World, Universal Studio or the Cabo Discovery will keep you busy all day long. Start by looking for a More »

Helsinki City Guide

Helsinki, recently awarded as ‘City of Design’ by UNESCO, is the capital of Finland. Unlike the Nordic winter, the temperature of this city is quite livable, and life continues throughout the year. It has four seasons, and the temperatures vary from 32 degrees in the summer and about -20 degrees in the winter. With the More »

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Cruise ship suffers crack during rough crossing

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PO Cruises‘ Ventura ship will have repairs made to a crack in an aluminium deck while it is in port in Southampton in the U.K. on Friday, ahead of a two-day mini-cruise.

One of the welds directly below the Laguna Pool deck cracked open during a rough crossing across the Bay of Biscay, leaving a two-inch gap width-ways across the deck, according to passengers posting on board. The area was immediately taped off and, according to posts from passengers on board, people on Deck 14 were told not to use their balconies.

A spokesperson for PO said the crack had no “structural…or safety issues,” and that the mini-cruise would set sail as planned tonight.

The incident first came to light on the Cruise Critic message boards when user “davedex” wrote: “Just read that Ventura has suffered a crack width wise by Breakers Bar.”

User “drewlin” wrote: “Just noticed on the PO forum that a major problem has occurred on Ventura — “Currently on Ventura and after a rough passage into the bob one of the deck welds on deck 17 overlooking the Laguna pool has split open leaving about a 2 inch gap across the deck. The area is now taped off.”

User “Thejuggler” added: “I suspect this has been a problem joint since it was built, but it has only just manifested itself. Stress fractures on steel are not unknown and there’s no way every weld can be checked during construction. It’s due for a refit, looks like an extra job is required.”

The 116,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Ventura, which was launched in 2008, will go into dry dock on March 22 next year, for scheduled repairs for 15 days.

The incident is also being talked about extensively on the PO Facebook page where Peter Smith wrote: “Ventura is now 4cm longer than Azura. Seriously, there is a 4cm gap across the whole starboard side of deck 16 which has caused a window pane to lose support. There is no other damage and no risk. The fact that the gap didn’t close up after the ship stopped flexing shows that the welded joint must have been under considerable tension.”

PO made the following statement: “Repairs will be made to an aluminium deck on Ventura upon arrival in Southampton today. This has no structural strength or safety implications. Ventura will leave Southampton later today as planned for a two night cruise.”

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5 spooky Halloween trips

Sarah Spagnolo of Travel + Leisure magazine shares locations for great Halloween deals, including a hotel in Maine that hosts its own jack-o’-lantern contest and the Colorado hotel that was the inspiration for Steven King’s “The Shining.”

Whether you prefer an innocent jack-o-lantern carving competition or an overnight at the hotel that inspired “The Shining,” we’ve got the Halloween-themed getaway for you.

Courtesy Rare Brick via Lark Hotels

The classic 9-room Captain Fairfield Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween.

Captain Fairfield Inn, Kennebunkport, Maine
This classic 9-room inn a block from the Kennebunk River is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween. Pick up a pumpkin at nearby Patten’s Berry Farm and take it to the pumpkin carving station. The pumpkins will be displayed on Halloween night, when a panel of judges will select the winner. The prize is a free night’s stay to be used anytime between Oct. 2012 and the end of April 2013. Doubles from $159/night.

Also on Travel + Leisure: World’s most mysterious buildings

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.
The inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, this hotel has an on-staff paranormal investigator who will take you on a five-hour ghost hunt—if you’re brave enough. There is a range of other ghost and history tours available, and the hotel puts on a Murder Mystery Dinner on Friday, Oct. 26, and a Shining Ball on Saturday, Oct. 27 ($89 per person). Doubles from $169/night.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, Fla.
Book this package for a 3-night stay at Loews Royal Pacific Resort (on-site at Universal Studios Orlando), a 2-day ticket to both Universal Orlando theme parks, early park admission to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and one night admission to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, where you can experience mazes and haunted houses featuring “The Walking Dead: Dead Inside,” based on AMC’s series, and “Welcome to Silent Hill,” based on the video games and film franchise. From $609/adult ($203/night per adult).

Virginia Hotel, Cape May, N.J.
A restored 1879 landmark building just a half a block from the beach, the Virginia Hotel has cottages as well as rooms in the main house. Its Creepy Cape May package includes continental breakfast, two drinks at the on-site Ebbit Room, special Fat Witch treats and a Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour through the town’s Victorian streets—with a guide who will relate the paranormal findings of ghost writer Craig McManus along the way. Doubles from $140/night.

The Orlando on Third, Los Angeles
A recently renovated 95-guestroom boutique hotel near Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, The Orlando offers a “Holly-ween” package. It provides Bloody Brunch for two at the on-site restaurant, The Churchill, a personal fitting at costume store Trashy Lingerie, two tickets to the “Dia De Los Muertos Festival” at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Oct. 27 for anyone who books for Halloween night, and late-night transportation to and from the West Hollywood Halloween Festival. From $289/night.

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5 places to get spooked this Halloween

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Courtesy Tennessee State Museum

A notorious criminal’s mummified thumb from the early 1800s is among the spooky objects you’ll find at the Tennessee State Museum’s Haunted Museum Ghost Story Festival.

From zombie parades and haunted mansions to scream parks, pumpkin patches and maize mazes, the Halloween season has gone way beyond trick-or-treating and morphed into big business.

“It used to be a simple hayride with some high school kids in rubber masks and plastic knives,” Patrick Konopelski, president of the Haunted Attraction Association (HAA) told NBC News. “Now it’s much more sophisticated, with many places offering extremely high-tech theater entertainment.”

Konopelski estimates there are now more than 2,500 haunted attractions generating combined revenue that exceeds $300 million each year. His list includes standalone haunted houses, “mega-haunts,” haunted scream parks and themed-amusement park adventures, as well as haunted events at zoos, farms, museums and former asylums and penitentiaries.

Ready to scream? Here are five places to get spooked and startled this Halloween:

Headless horseman country
Washington Irving’s headless horseman still prowls New York’s Hudson Valley. Look (out) for him on the mile-long evening hayride through the woods, with stops at six haunted houses and a labyrinth corn maze offered by Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted House in Ulster Park, N.Y. At Sunnyside, Irving’s former home in Tarrytown, ghost stories, magic shows and puppet shows are offered in the day during Legend Weekends in October. At night, nearby Philipsburg Manor transforms into Horseman’s Hollow, a walking trail where human and non-human creatures lurk in the shadows. There are also candlelight performances of Washington Irving’s classic tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and lantern-light tours of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Irving is buried.

Zombies in 7-D
Fans of zombies, roller coasters, horror films and interactive shooting galleries can combine those passions in San Francisco at the 7D Experience, a digital theater on Pier 39 with full-motion seats and interactive laser technology. During October, the attraction is premiering “Zombies!,” which invites audiences to blast away as many Zombies as they can.

Thumbs up in Tennessee
During the free Haunted Museum Ghost Story Festival on Oct. 20 at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, there will be a ghost trail through the building with stops at the mummies (a cat and a person) along the way. Costumed storytellers, armed with objects usually locked away in storage, will be telling scary tales, including the stories of the Bell Witch Bucket and John Murrell—a notorious criminal from the early 1800s whose mummified thumb is said to be the digit residing in the specially made coffin in the museum’s vaults.

Frights by the fire
Ghosts and ghost stories are the stuff of campouts, and many public and private campgrounds have Halloween-themed activities and special events during the Halloween season. “Some even have Halloween activities the weekend after Halloween for those that want to go trick-or-treating and dress up once more,” said Jeff Crider, spokesman for the National Association of RV Parks Campgrounds. For example, the KOA campground in Hagerstown, Md., is hosting Halloween-themed activities every weekend through Oct. 28 and operates a haunted house on a property next door. Some Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts are celebrating Halloween as well.

The end
While not a special Halloween venue, a visit to the Famous Endings Museum would be a good way to close out the spooky season. The museum contains John Herzig’s collection of memorabilia relating to the funerals and memorials of famous people.

“I’ve got about 1,500 items,” Herzig told NBC News, “including original flower arrangements from the funeral of Elvis Presley’s mother and items relating to the funerals of most every U.S. president.” Herzig enjoys giving personal tours through the museum, but urges guests to call ahead to make an appointment because the museum is located inside the Toland-Herzig Funeral Home in Dover, Ohio.

Find more by Harriet Baskas on and follow her on Twitter.

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FBI: Man tried to open plane’s door after landing

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The FBI has arrested a man accused of disrupting a Delta Air Lines Inc. flight and damaging the airplane by running up the aisle shortly after landing and attempting to open an emergency exit.

Anatoliy N. Baranovich was accused of interfering with a flight from Boston to Salt Lake City on Monday night, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Federal authorities say Baranovich woke up during the plane’s descent and started yelling in Russian. Baranovich told agents he thought the aircraft’s wing was on fire and was trying to warn others.

Officials say they do not believe he posed a terrorist threat.

Baranovich was carrying a Ukrainian passport and U.S. visa. His age or place of residence were not immediately available.

After the plane touched down, Baranovich got up from his seat and ran to the back of the aircraft, according to the complaint. He then tried to open the emergency exit door as a flight attendant ordered him to stop.

The door jammed and caused an emergency inflatable slide to malfunction, which caused “extensive damage” to the plane’s fuselage, the FBI said.

Several passengers tried to wrestle Baranovich to the ground while he attempted to open another emergency exit door. One passenger forced him to the ground and held him until the plane taxied to a gate, where law enforcement and medical personnel had been called.

Baranovich told agents that he had been visiting family in Ukraine and was headed to Portland, Ore., after a stop in Salt Lake City, according to the FBI. He also told agents he had consumed alcohol while traveling but did not specify when or how much.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said Baranovich was scheduled to appear in court in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Fly free faster by mixing miles and money

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A screenshot of

If you’re like many travelers, you probably have multiple frequent-flier accounts, none of which ever seem to have enough miles or points to snag that free round trip ticket.

Ten-thousand miles here, five-thousand points there; pretty soon you’re talking… paying real money for your airfare and watching your not-quite-big-enough account balances languish and eventually expire.

The folks at feel your pain and would like to help. Last week, the loyalty-program-management website unveiled Combo Fares, which allow travelers to use a combination of cash and miles (or points) to purchase two one-way fares on separate airlines.

“Sometimes people don’t have 25,000 miles for a round trip ticket but they’ve got 12,500,” said MileWise co-founder and co-CEO Sanjay Kothari. “With Combo Fares, you can do one search and see all the different options for both outbound and return flights in one place.”

For example, during a recent search for a flight between Los Angeles and New York, the site returned several dozen results, including a round trip on US Airways for $385 (the lowest cash fare available), a round trip award ticket on Alaska for 25,000 miles and a Combo fare that combined an outbound flight on United for 12,500 miles and return flight on US Air for $137.

Valuing those miles at 1.4 cents per mile, Kothari calculates that the Combo fare essentially cost $315, significantly cheaper than either the Alaska award (valued at $353) or the US Air cash fare.

“There’s a general misconception out there that mileage seats are never available,” he told NBC News, “but our results show that there are always some.”

The challenge, of course, is finding them, which, for travelers with multiple accounts, typically entails serial visits to multiple airline websites.

“The problem is that there’s no transparency with awards,” said Brian Kelly of “The Kayaks and Travelocitys of the world have done a decent job of providing it for paid fares, but as far as award tickets go, it’s been a free-for-all.”

MileWise seeks to simplify the process by serving as a metasearch engine for award seats. It will work for any user but is most effective for those who register and provide their specific frequent-flier account details. For the latter, the site will return the most relevant results: i.e., flights based on actual account balances and status.

And in a clever bit of marketing, the site also assigns each flight a “WisePrice,” which calculates the miles or points you earn for cash tickets and “subtracts” it from the retail price. In the above example, the $137 US Air ticket would add 2,464 miles to your account, worth approximately $34.

Alas, you’d still pay the full $137 fare, but to Kothari, at least, “you’re earning $34 worth of ‘currency.'”

The site is not without issues. Since all flights are booked on the airlines’ proprietary sites, Combo Fares require two separate reservations, which can lead to technical difficulties. During the above search, for example, the US Air link connected directly to a page offering a round trip fare of $435, requiring another round of clicks to access the appropriate $137 one-way fare.

The bigger issue — and one that also impacts users of other mileage-tracking sites, such as AwardWallet and Traxo — is that airlines are beginning to take issue with the sites’ accessing their plan members’ data. In recent months, both American and Delta have threatened legal action against the sites, forbidding access to members’ accounts.

“It’s a shame that airlines are using this ruse that it’s a security issue,” said Kelly. “If banks and credit-card companies can link to other third-party apps, there’s no reason the airlines shouldn’t allow consumers to use applications that simplify their lives.”

For his part, Kothari says he’s currently in discussions with American and Delta and “hopeful” that they’ll come to an agreement that will allow MileWise to access members’ accounts and show award availability again.

In the meantime, Kelly suggests that websites like MileWise should be considered, not as the final arbiter of award availability, but as additional tools in your frequent-flier arsenal.

“At the end of the day, these sites can help but they’re not the final answer,” he told NBC News. “The bottom line is to educate yourself about the programs you participate in, know the ins and outs and leverage that information to get the most value out of your miles.”

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.

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