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Source: minnows off season

Taking the Santa Claus Express to the Arctic Circle

Want to see the Northern Lights and Santa Claus in one trip? Then head to Finland with your Eurail pass and grab the Santa Claus Express.
Mysterious, ethereal, and famously remote: Does the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, hover near the top of your travel bucket list? If it does, maybe it’s time to cross it off: this is predicted to be a perfect winter for sighting the magical solar winds named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn. While you can glimpse them from many places on earth – including Canada, the northern U.S., and Scotland – Scandinavia remains practically synonymous with the phenomenon.
While the Northern Lights frequently appear in Iceland, Norway and Sweden, it’s only in Finland where they occupy the same landscape as Santa Claus’ “official office” on the Arctic Circle. (Finns call him Joulupukki, but you’ll still recognize the iconic Father Christmas figure with the white beard and long red hat.) If you’ve always dreamed seeing the Northern Lights from a reindeer safari before bunking down in a thermal igloo, Lapland is your place.
Part of the mystique lies not simply in the otherworldly nature of the lights themselves – swirling green streaks that glow against the dark arctic sky – but in, well, the challenge of getting to Lapland. With sleeper trains running north from Finland’s capital city, that challenge is solved. Yet the overnight journey, with the tracks plunging into the snowy darkness of the Arctic Circle, remains an utterly mysterious one.

The incredible Northern Lights

When to Go?
The autumn and spring aequinoxes – September 21 and March 21 – frame the time window for aurora borealis. While it’s mostly you’ll spot the Northern Lights from late fall through very early spring, there’s no guarantee that they’ll appear on any given day. Plan on spending several days in the Arctic Circle to maximize your chances. The lucky – and the patient – are sometimes rewarded with nights in which the spectacle appears and reappears several times, returning to the starry stage for multiple encores.
The Santa Claus Express Train
Operated by Finnish Railways, the Santa Clus Express is not a cozy sleigh drawn by reindeer. But it’s the next best thing: a comfortably appointed double-decker train that delivers you to one of the most remote corners of Europe while you sleep. In the morning, sip coffee and check your wifi in the bistro car as the snow covered landscape rolls past. Sleeping compartment prices are surprisingly economical. Double sleepers range from 31 to 43 Euros per person, with the more expensive compartments outfitted with private bathrooms.

Inside the Santa Claus Express

The Santa Claus Express Train Route
While both follow essentially the same routes, the Santa Claus Express trains feature two options. The Pikajuna 265, which departs Helsinki Central Station in the early evening, stops in Rovaniemi the next morning before making its final stop in Kemijärvi just over an hour later, at 9 a.m. The Pikajuna 273 departs a bit later, leaving Helsinki just before 10 p.m. and arriving at Rovaniemi at 10:40 a.m.
After the night train departs Helsinki Central, it heads north towards Tampere, passing through many small towns that appear only as collections of glimmering lights. On the Pikajuna 273, you’ll arrive at Oulu around breakfast time — just before 8 a.m. If you can delay the anticipation of the Arctic Circle for another day, it’s worth stopping to check out.

Helsinki, Finland

Stopover in Oulu
Oulu’s most idiosyncratic claim to fame might be that it’s home to the Air Guitar World Championships. But this university and tech town of around 200,000 is probably better known for being one of the northernmost cities in the world. In summer, its pleasures are obvious. Explore the islands that make up the city on the impressive bike paths, then head to a café in Kappatori, the buzzing market square along the waterfront, to bask in the all-night sun.
In winter, Oulu is perhaps even more unique. By day, play in the snow or go sledding at Nallikari Winter Village. Those adventurous and undaunted by Arctic temperatures can take a snowshoe safari or a stroll on the frozen Gulf of Bothnia.
Arriving in the Arctic Circle
The first thing you’ll hear when you arrive in Rovaniemi, the unofficial capital of Lapland, is that it’s the hometown of Santa Claus, who “resides” at Santa Village. If you’re traveling with children, or want to impress you’re friends back home with a letter sent from Santa’s official post office, consider a visit.

Santa Village, Rovaniemi

Regardless of your ideological stance towards Santa, don’t miss an excursion to a reindeer farm or the Rauna Zoo, which showcases Arctic fauna such as polar bears. At least one day per year, the sun never rises over Rovaniemi. In addition to spotting the Northern Lights, it’s also a perfect place to see kaamos, the deep blue light on the snow that’s reflected from the winter sky.
The Rovaniemi rail station is within walking distance from the town center, where most lodging is located.
If a fetching mountain town with a decidedly retro vibe is more your speed – or you simply want to brag that you’ve hit the northernmost town in Finland – take the train about an hour past Rovaniemi to Kemijärvi. Here, the snowy peaks of this dramatic landscape are called fells, an Old Norse word for mountain. At Pyhä Fell skiers will find downhill skiing with nine chairlifts across 14 slopes. In addition to downhill skiing, Suomu Fell features over 70 km of cross country ski trails, some of which are lit for night skiing.
Read more about this night train and visit the Arctic Circle with a Eurail pass.

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Source: Eurail

Balancing act

Meeting the needs of the travelling public while keeping up to date with the latest security requirements has never been easy, and arguably it is going to be even more difficult in the future as airports strive to improve the passenger experience as they handle more traffic than ever before.
Like everything else, of course, air travel can be frustrating and it doesn’t take much to make or break the airport experience. 
A confluence of events adding delays and frustration to what should be an otherwise standard trip, for example, can result in a “nightmare” time at the airport while a smooth and hassle free trip can lead to a “best ever airport” experience.
Our desire for a moan means that we get to hear about the bad experiences much more than we do the good ones, and in today’s social media mad/ever connected world, this appears to be almost every day now.
What isn’t being discussed with that same frequency, however, is the willingness of airlines and airports to create and deploy the necessary solutions to alleviate passengers’ woes.
According to IATA, more than eight million passengers fly on a daily basis. In 2013, for the first time ever, over three billion passengers passed through an airport for travel purposes and in 2016, that number is estimated to hit 3.6 billion.
And for many of these travellers, the growing presence of technology – particularly the airline and airport eco-systems – is vastly overlooked, but can no longer be ignored.
In discussing the standards that once were and ones that now exist, you can see the delicate balance between the passenger journey and efforts to secure that journey. 
Past events have caused us to flip from one side to the other, but today’s solutions can allow us to achieve equilibrium between the ability to integrate new technology and still maintain effective levels of security. This balance is crucial, not only for the passenger experience, but for the safety of us all. 
 
All things security – the 9/11 response
Many of us remember the days when air travel was viewed as glamorous. Indeed, in this halcyon era for aviation the airport experience was quick and easy for most passengers who could pass through terminals with little or no hassle. This, of course, all changed in one day 14 years ago.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, prompted the US government and most others across the world to enact new legislation aimed at improving passenger safety. 
In the US, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) – signed in November that year – ushered in the federalisation of passenger security. Actions taken were primarily in the form of screening practices, many of which were conducted by the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
As a result of the establishment of the TSA, for the first time ever airlines began instructing passengers to schedule their arrival at least two hours prior to their flight, and even more so for international travel. 
Screening measures like hand searches through carry-on luggage were implemented, as were additional measures in the form of shoe removal, laptop removal, the restriction of liquids, and even selective screenings. A commonality is they all serve as impediments to efficient facilitation processes.
Over time, these standards have been begrudgingly ingrained into the minds of travellers. It has, in turn, become commonplace to expect these types of issues from check-in to take-off and arrival. It seemed that years of increased, intensive security birthed a new era of non-facilitation. 
Today, borders can be identified both physically and digitally. Facilitating passengers in a physical space (and between countries) can be challenging enough, but with the rise of technology, even just in the last decade, securing and monitoring their safety has become an added challenge.
Ultimately, this should be seen as an opportunity to influence and establish appropriate practices and procedures, all aimed at efficiently and securely assisting passengers to their destination.
The added hope being that passengers will remain loyal, choosing to travel through the airport with the airline that gave them a great experience they wish to repeat on future journeys.
 
The potential to improve
To ask how facilitation and security can come together on a new level is to recognise the emerging technologies assisting travellers today. 
Let’s begin with intelligence. Intelligence is a growing concept in the technology industry. Once deemed as science fiction, intelligent applications and visual solutions are a growing reality in a number of airports. Whether built with real-time analytics, digital mobility or big data capabilities, solutions today are providing the transportation industry with the ability to deliver personalised services.
These personalised services are disrupting what since 9/11 has become considered to be the new norm in travel, giving passengers an increasing sense of autonomy and the ability to facilitate themselves, such as using their mobile phone to navigate their way through the airport.
We at Unisys are very familiar with the passenger journey that starts as soon as the traveller has booked their flight and ends when they leave the airport at their destination (with their bags). 
Providing travellers with solutions that offer more freedom and flexibility, and that are accessible throughout the airport, is critical for success. Such solutions we see increasingly coming to life include:
Biometrics – This technology is quickly bringing identity management to the forefront. Solutions involving the art and science of uniquely identifying passengers, be it via facial recognition, fingerprint, or the scanning of the eye, is going a long way towards ensuring airlines, airports and immigration officials can maintain close watch on inbound and outbound passengers from a security perspective, whilst processing them faster from a facilitation perspective.
Customer insights – Data analytics and mobile device use is giving the industry the ability to track the patterns of repeat passengers, including preferred amenities so that the next time a passenger visits the same airport, customised services can be immediately presented to them. 
Big data is allowing the industry to infer all sorts of knowledge about retail spending habits, shopping demographics and the like.
Automated passenger recognition – Through scanning a standard boarding pass (and enhancing that with a secondary ID check), entitled passengers seeking lounge access can enter and exit swiftly and with ease, with airlines not having to worry about unauthorised entry.
Home-printed bag tags – In an effort to increase passenger self-service, the ability to print one’s own bag tag at home allows for quicker passenger processes, aimed at increasing passenger satisfaction by shortening queue times. 
Similarly, self-bag drop and common-bag drop services are also starting to be utilised when you arrive at the airport.
One might think that security and passenger facilitation stops at the airport edge. Think again, because governments, airports and the airline industry today, more than ever before, are also concerned with effective border control. 
A consistent enjoyable travel experience is key to the future of air travel. New technologies such as Automated Border Control (ABC) using kiosks, electronic gates, passports and biometrics; and completion of arrival documents via mobile device are all being implemented around the world today. 
Through a harmonised and interconnected approach by these stakeholders, all utilising common international standards, both nations and airlines hosting the travelling public will benefit greatly. The more fun (and the more efficient) it is to fly, the more people will travel by plane.
 
Revisiting tomorrow: A call to action
There is a great deal of emphasis being placed on the future of travel, including how to build the infrastructure necessary, and how to ensure the safety and security of passengers. 
At a time when budgets are slim and infrastructure is aging, airports must reinvent their business model, not only to manage increasing passenger volumes but also passengers’ expectations. 
Public awareness of technology and its capabilities in our airports needs to change, as does the modern technology these facilities deliver. After all, it is for today’s travellers that we are working to develop the solutions and standards for the next generation. 
Normal operations in travel will ultimately take on a new definition as technology continues to mature and evolve, and enhance the passenger experience. The sooner airlines, airports and passengers realise this and take action, the sooner the standards of travel – and hence the airport experience – will improve for all.
Source: Airport World

Eden: ‘Massive Cruise Season’

More ships in Australian waters are playing right into the hands of a proactive port group in Eden.Six of nine calls scheduled for 2015-2016 are coming from P&O Cruises.
“We are getting better known as a recreational port, with good feedback from previous visits,” said Natalie Godward, cruise manager at Cruise Eden.
Cruise ships can look forward to a new breakwater wharf extension, coming in January 2016.
“The cruise lines are asking that their passengers have a great experience and get a taste of the area,” added Godward. “It is our job to over deliver on their expectations so we keep the ships and passengers coming back for more.”
Popular tours continue to be Eden and Sapphire Coast sight-seeing. Other well-attended excursions include arranged visits to the Whale Museum, national parks and an oyster tasting.
Source: Cruise Industry News

Sembcorp Completes Refurbs of Pacific Eden and Aria

Sembcorp Marine has successfully upgraded the Pacific Eden (formerly Statendam) and the Pacific Aria (formerly Ryndam) at its Admiralty Yard, it said in a statement.
The concurrent drydocking of these two cruise vessels at the same shipyard was a first for its operator P&O Cruises (Australia), which is part of the Carnival Corporation and a long-term partner of Sembcorp Marine.
With the sailaway of the Pacific Aria last week, Sembcorp Marine has set a record of 12 cruise ships repaired, upgraded and refurbished in a single year. Besides P&O Cruises (Australia), the customers for these projects were Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Star Cruises and SkySea Cruise Line.
“2015 has been a busy year for Sembcorp Marine in the area of cruise ship refits and upgrading,” said Sembcorp Marine Executive Vice President and Head of Repairs & Upgrades Wong Lee Lin. “Our successful completion of these very challenging projects reinforces Sembcorp Marine’s reputation as a leader in the cruise refit market. This in turn boosts the status of Singapore as a major global cruise hub.”
“We thank our partners and customers for choosing Sembcorp Marine to execute the projects, and for their trust and confidence in our capabilities,” Ms Wong added.
Sembcorp Marine’s customer portfolio today includes Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises – the world’s top two cruise companies – as well as Star Cruises, Asia’s leading cruise line.
Source: Cruise Industry News

Earn up to 75,000 bonus miles when you buy or gift AAdvantage? miles today

Start your Cyber Monday shopping early with the best buy/gift offer of the year.
Now through November 30, 2015, you’ll earn up to 75,000 bonus miles when you buy miles for yourself, or add up to 75,000 bonus miles to your purchase when you gift miles to a friend or loved one.
That’s a total of up to 200,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles.

Terms and ConditionsAAdvantage members must purchase at least 6,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction from the Buy or Gift Miles program from 7:00:00am CT November 15, 2015 to 11:59:59pm CT November 30, 2015, to be eligible to earn bonus miles. The applicable bonus miles are awarded to the recipient for Gift Miles transactions. Bonus miles earned do not count toward the annual limits.
Source: Amereican Airlines

Crystal Adds Boeing 777 on Top of Previous 787 Commitment

Crystal Cruises has announced the purchase of a Boeing Business Jet B777-200LR, for its expanded brand extension Crystal Luxury Air, it said in a statement.
The announcement comes after Crystal’s news in July of an extensive brand expansion, which will include air vacations around the world aboard a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
In addition to doubling the initial air projections with the expanded aircraft fleet, Crystal will work with the Registry of Aruba in developing and securing an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC). This will pave the way for Crystal Luxury Air to launch international operations.
The twin-aisle BBJ B777-200LR will be redesigned to accommodate just 88 guests with flat-bed first class seats; a beautifully appointed lounge and bar; and offer 14- and 28-day around-the-world and international itineraries, beginning in 2017, according to a company statement.
“Our mission is to make Crystal the core of what will become the world’s premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand collection, not only for the immediate future, but for years to come,” said Crystal Chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay. “The acquisition of our second luxury aircraft is another profound step toward establishing our goal.”
“Following our expansion announcement, travelers and travel agents expressed a strong interest in all-inclusive luxury air travel with a wider range of itineraries,” says Crystal’s President and CEO Edie Rodriguez.  “Based on this enthusiastic feedback, we are growing our fleet to meet the demand from our guests and travel partners in luxury air options.”
Source: Cruise Industry News

Anthem of the Seas' Inaugural Call: Joy Amid Mourning in Martinique

A capacity Anthem of the Seas arrived in Martinique’s Pointe Simon Monday morning, a just reward for an island dedicating itself to its growing cruise sector. Despite the celebratory mood in Fort-de-France, however, the port area – like the rest of the island – fell silent at 11am to honor and remember the dead in the Paris attacks.
At a plaque-exchanging ceremony aboard the ship, Karine Roy-Camille, chairman of Martinique Tourism Authority, said bringing the ship to the island was a colossal undertaking, and reflective of the kind of cooperative work the world needs to do: “With this, let us realize the biggest project on Earth is possible. I’m talking about peace.”
Anthem of the Seas Capt. Claus Andersen said a similar silent memorial had taken place at sea the previous night, as well as Monday morning.
“We cannot change what has happened,” he said. “But we are here to bring joy and happiness as best we can.”

Years in the making, the inaugural call crowns an embarrassment of recent success for the southern Caribbean island. A record 22 ships will make their first-ever port calls here between Oct. 26 and late summer 2016. Martinique projects a total 220,000 cruise passengers during that period from 176 port calls.
The 4,183 aboard Anthem of the Seas arrived to music and dancers, free samples of local chocolates, and a revitalized Fort-de-France waterfront with new features still under construction.
Source: Cruise Industry News

Cruise Lines Working with Greater Victoria Harbour Authority to Reduce Emissions

This year, Victoria, BC’s Ogden Point, had the best overall air quality readings over a full cruise season since monitoring began in 2009, said a statement from the port. During 2015 there was not a single recorded exceedance of any known local, national or international air emission standard related to cruise ships as measured by the BC Ministry of Environment’s air monitoring station located in James Bay. This year, Victoria welcomed 227 ship calls bringing more than 533,000 passengers and 206,000 crew to the region – a record year. Overall passenger count was up 15% versus 2014. The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) has partnered with the BC Ministry of Environment, Island Health (formerly Vancouver Island Health Authority), and the James Bay Neighborhood Association since 2011 to provide air quality monitoring for SO2 in the James Bay area and over this period, GVHA has provided over $63,000 to maintain the BC Ministry of Environment air monitoring station.  In 2015, no 24-hour period exceeded Island Health, CRD, BC, Canada, World Health Organization 24-hour average guidelines and no 1-hour period exceeded the BC, California, Canada, USA EPA, or EU 1-hour average guidelines. On Jan. 1, 2015, new international maritime regulations (for ships operating within the United Nations’ North American Emission Control Area) came into effect, which legally requires further reductions of ship emissions.  These regulations state that all ships operating in the North American Emission Control Area must use diesel fuel that has a 0.1% sulphur limit. Some cruise lines have been granted exemptions by the Flag State of the ship (in negotiation with US & Canada) by committing to the installation of scrubbers (exhaust gas cleaning technology) that will reduce emissions beyond those achievable with the use of diesel fuel that has a 0.1% Sulphur limit. With the introduction of scrubber technology, Greater Victoria has also economically benefited as cruise lines have chosen the Esquimalt Graving Docks to dry-dock ships and have scrubbers installed along with other major work.  Earlier this year the Crown Princess was in dry-dock to have scrubbers installed and in December, the Ruby Princess is scheduled to have major work done including the installation of scrubbers.  Both of these ships make Victoria a port of call during the cruise season. 
Source: Cruise Industry News

Boudicca Refit Happening This Month at Lloyd Werft

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 880-guest Boudicca will be entering drydock at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany in November 2015, in preparation for the forthcoming 2016/17 cruise season.
Boudicca will arrive in Bremerhaven on Nov. 18 2015 from the Port of Tyne, Newcastle, following a 16-night cruise, and will undergo various engineering work, general refurbishment and interior and exterior painting.
During the drydock, Boudicca will also see 28 cabins on Lido Deck 7 fitted with terrace balconies. These new terrace balcony cabins will extend out 1.2 metres from the ship’s bulkhead.
Mike Rodwell, Managing Director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We experience extremely high demand for balcony cabins across our fleet, in particular on a smaller-sized ship such as Boudicca, and our new terrace balcony cabins are an innovative response to this.
“We installed the new terrace balcony cabins on sister ship Black Watch during her dry dock last Autumn, and these have proved very popular with our guests.”     
Source: Cruise Industry News