It’s a New Year !

As we welcome another New Year the anticipation is great.  New and exciting experiences ahead, preparation for births, marriages and, of course those, renewed resolutions.

The travel industry has also been planning to  offer  packages to areas off the beaten track, hotels and resorts are beefing up their services and river cruises have more itineraries to accommodate the ever increasing interest being shown for these voyages. For example, some resorts are offering not only an upgrade to their most luxurious suites but resort credits as well.  Among the River cruises expected in 2014 would include sailings on the Hudson River and the Erie Canal taking you through routes on narrow waterways, rainforests and gorges in Guatemala.

The biggest challenge will be deciding which destinations to include in your resolution.  Apart from just travelling, do you want to gain more education about that culture, contribute to the local economy or is there a willingness to actually participate in exploring unfamiliar lands and wildlife.

             The underlying preoccupation should be where and how can I make the best impact the  by helping to offer the best satisfaction,independence and self-esteem through dignified job opportunities through the hospitality industry.

     Guide Dogs for the Blind

The job market for Guide Dog Trainers is rather limited as this profession serves only a percentage of the population. Many people like the idea of being a guide dog instructor and so they pursue the career saturating the market with potential applicants. However,  there are few job openings in this field. Only dedicated individuals who are willing to make sacrifices and have the best qualities for this field actualize their dreams of becoming a Guide Dog Trainer.

Also worth mentioning are the possibilities of serving as another form of animal assistance trainer, such as a Hearing Dog Trainer or Mobility Dog Trainer. Looking into these possibilities  provide applicants with additional choices.

Guide Dogs of America generally use 70% Labrador Retrievers, 15% Golden Retrievers, and 15% German Shepherds. The Labrador Retriever  is the dog most often used for guide dog programs throughout the world.

 Before it is time to match the guide dog, the guide dog recipients  go through an extensive application and review process that allows trainers to know a great deal about the needs of  a guide dog. The trainers by this time also have a good idea of what dog would be best for  each applicant.

Most Cruise lines now welcome guests with their Guide Dogs which has opened the cruising experience to all.  We have learnt that it is not all about what we see when we travel but how we allow our  senses to influence our interpretation.

For the dogs, the ships provide special life jackets, bowls of water in the dining room, and relieving boxes . Passengers also have specially translated menus and can enjoy reserved seating in the  dining room and theater with room for their dogs.   When considering an itinerary it is advised that availability of  guide dog  facilities be confirmed for that particular sailing.

Navigating Airline Change fee  policies

Some North American airlines,have hiked their change fees to $200 for domestic tickets and $300 for some international destinations,  but have been gradually introducing some flexibility into their fare structures, enabling customers to buy protection from change fees.

Airlines introduced change fees decades ago. The first airline to do so was probably National Airlines in the 1970s, because of too many double-bookings and no-shows. But not all fares come with big change fees — just the most affordable ones.

According to Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing: “The only flexible fares were the fully unrestricted full-fare economy or full fare premium cabin. And they were substantially more expensive than most of the other fares out there.” With protection from change fees, travelers get the flexibility they need to be able to get what they would consider a reasonably priced ticket with the ability to make changes or cancellations,” Some airlines have long provided such protection or have charged no change fees at all, while others have embraced such policies more recently.

Harteveldt said. “ the airline has the ability to manage the number of the seats that are available at these fares making protection from change fees is a win-win for airlines and passengers”. It should be noted that not all airlines charge a basic $200 to change a ticket.  This can vary depending on the number of days out from the day of departure and the type of ticket purchased.

As Airlines  revive and adjust pricing policies ,labelled as increased  amenities, passengers need to be able to make appropriate choices.  In general, passengers continue to search for the lowest available fares unaware of the existence and value of some ancillary charges that could prevent large change fees.

 Customers still have to pay any fare difference that might result from the change.  consumer awareness  of the value of some airline ancillary charges is still in its infancy .

Healthy Lifestyle on Board Cruises


Years ago, cruise passengers were thrilled by mid-night buffets and an abundance of food – never mind the effects on the body.  Thanks to the Food Network and  mass awareness of the difference between comfort food and fine dining, the cruising at sea has tremendously improved.  On many ships, celebrity chefs are engaged to design menus and to open signature restaurants.

Virtually all cruise lines accommodate various diets: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, low salt as well as for those with food allergies.

Advance notice is required as well as a conversation with the maître d’ upon boarding.  While cruise ships do not have kosher kitchens, kosher meals (similar to airline meals) can be brought aboard, with advance notice.


As we work on New Year's resolutions, including losing weight and hitting the gym, be aware that despite their reputation for over-the-top indulgence, cruise ships are actually good places for losing weight (if you can resist temptation and stick to low calorie menu options) and particularly staying fit during the year.

Today's big ships have complimentary, state-of-the-art gyms that in some cases rival those on land — with the bonus of ocean views. But gyms are just the beginning of the get-fit craze at sea.

Fitness addicts can go wild with college-size basketball courts, Spider Web climbing cages, bungee trampolines ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, surf simulators Depending on the ship outdoor weightlifting and outdoor exercise machines so you can do an entire workout while looking at the sea a variety of Zumba classes, including Aqua Zumba in the pool.

Travel  Trends

Children Friendly Cruise Programs

Cruise Lines have incorporated brand-name characters into their cruise activities and spaces to enhance the experience for children. Not just Disney Cruise Lines but also Royal Caribbean, which has DreamWorks characters, and Norwegian Cruise Line, which has Nickelodeon.

Carnival Cruise Lines listed as carrying more than 700,000 kids a year, nearly half the total number of children carried by the North American cruise industry will now join its competitors with  this popular trend.   Starting in February. Carnival Splendor is scheduled to feature Dr. Seuss characters with breakfasts, books, movies and story-time programs. The breakfast will be staged on the first sea day of each cruise.

By 2015, the fleet of  Carnival Cruise Lines’ 24 ships will be staffed and  two ships will get "Bookville," a dedicated play space with décor and furniture inspired by Dr. Seuss and movies will be shown on the Lido Deck giant screen overlooking the pool.

Dissatisfied with your Carnival Cruise?

Carnival will refund 110% of the cruise fare for any guest dissatisfied with their voyage in its first 24 hours. To give potential cruisers complete peace of mind when booking..  The offer also includes transportation back to their city of origin, hotel and ground  transfers if necessary and a $100 on board credit for future Carnival cruise.

To activate the guarantee, passengers must report to the guest services desk within the first 24 hours of a cruise.  The program applies to US and Canadian residents only and is valid on three to eight day voyages departing through April 30, 2015 to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, Alaska and Canada and New England.

Technology and Privacy in Flight                                                                          

In an effort to respond to requests for  all airlines to allow in-flight calls on mobile phones - an option  already being offered by nearly 20 airlines around the world  and with more than a half-dozen others preparing to do the same in 2014 or beyond -  U.S. authorities continue the  debate.

    In the U.S, FCC commissioners voted in  December 2012 to initiate a rule  that would allow passengers to use mobile wireless services in-flight on airlines that equip their aircraft to provide it. The response from Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United suggests that even without government-imposed restrictions, they are more likely to follow the path of least resistance: offering mobile device usage for everything except calls. That would keep them competitive on services, particularly with business travelers, while avoiding the primary source of controversy.           

The fear articulated in Congress, however, seems out of sync with worldwide attitudes. It is possible, of course, that user behavior on domestic U.S. flights would be different as a result of social norms or the amount charged for the call. The pricing is akin to international roaming charges and can amount to $3 to $4 per minute and suppliers confirm airline reports that most passengers are not using the service for voice calls anyway.

There have been no obvious signs of a passenger cacophony or consumer backlash in other parts of the world. Crews also can turn off the voice call functionality with the push of a button. That could be done if the calls get out of hand, but the option primarily is used for situations such as late-night flying, when most passengers want to sleep.

Nevertheless, many more airlines have already have signed up to begin offering the full range of mobile device in-flight options within the next two years despite the cost of the installation.

Forecast on medical tourism

The rise in healthcare costs in developed countries coupled with the availability of high quality medical services at lower prices in developing nations has driven expansion of the medical tourism industry. Moreover, the rise in the elderly population along with a growing number of uninsured people has further triggered this market growth.

Research on the global medical tourism market helps in understanding the prominent forces responsible for the growth of this industry. Globally, medical tourism is growing in popularity although some countries are rather the sources and some are the destinations for health tourists.

Patients are travelling abroad not only for cosmetic surgeries with a quick recovery, but also for sophisticated cardiovascular surgeries. Many countries plan to leverage medical tourism as a strategy to boost their healthcare services and tourism industry. By encouraging its presence in the medical tourism market, a country can stimulate its economic growth and create employment opportunities. Consequently, the medical tourism industry is rapidly expanding and is anticipated to have a significant growth in the near future.

Medical tourism is a direct result of the globalization of healthcare. There is an emerging opportunity for Asian and Middle Eastern countries that are catering to the healthcare requirements of developed countries like the U.S, Canada and European countries. Factors such as medical specializations, geographic proximity, portability of health insurance, and reputation of the country are some of the main reasons that compel the patient to move to another destination. However, factors such as  follow-up care, medical malpractice and others could restrain the growth of this market.


Panama Canal

Nearly every cruise line has a trip scheduled through the 48 mile canal this year as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Port and onboard history presentations will focus on the centennial .  According t the Panama Canal Authority, about 200 cruise ship transits are expected in 2014.  A partial transit enables passengers to see the canal on an itinerary that operates roundtrip from one homeport usually in South Florida or Southern California,, passes through the canal locks and exits the way it came.  For guests who can afford to spend two weeks on board and an open-jawed air arrangement, the full transit is recommended.

Considered one of the world's greatest engineering accomplishment, the canal was completed Aug. 15, 1914. The S.S. Ancon was the first ship to officially transit the canal and marked the completion of an idea first proposed by the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V.  This  additional adjacent waterway that will allow larger,longer, deeper ships to pass through the canal,  post-Panama -sized ships to traverse the canal, has been underway for several years, at a cost of billions of dollars.

A project to widen the canal and add a third  set of locks is scheduled to be completed by mid-2015 which will give even bigger ships the ability to transit.

Join Minerva Travel on a cruise to the Panama Canal on October 18, 2014 to enjoy a trip through the expanded canal locks – details under our Special Deals on this website.

You can also fly down to Panama City and spend a few days celebrating the canal’s Birthday by exploring the City and surrounding areas: markets of the Kuna Indians or the Embera Panama Paru Tribe; the Chagres National Park or the architecture of the Teatro Nacional.  If you have visited Panama in the past you will be surprised at how the City has developed with an eye on the future.


Charleston in South Carolina is where history lives.  More than three centuries of well preserved history are on display at every turn – from several square miles of confection colored mansions to church steeples that withstood Civil War bombardments – making it the South’s crown jewel city.  At night the historic district twinkles with gas-lit copper carriage lanterns.  The quaint harbour city reflects English, French and West African elements in its art, music and cuisine.

Charleston blends heritage with luxury establishing the peninsula a a cultural mecca nestled in the Southeast’s coastal heartland. The language spoken by the low country’s first black inhabitants is Gullah.  This language and culture still thrive today in and around the Charleston/Beaufort, South Carolina region.

Explore and discover these traditions on the East side of town, still a predominantly black section  which was the site of the Underground Railroad. Visit the African Methodist Church, the Denmark Vessay, the Patty Wagon and many other historical places.  See details of a bus trip scheduled for May 22, 2014  under our Special Deals on this website.


              Reminder -  Check validity of your travel documents well in advance of traveldate.




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