Travel

Carnival Cruise Line eliminating free room service starting mid-January

Travelers who love hitting the high seas with Carnival Cruise Line will be paying more for their vacation in 2019 after the company announced room service would no longer be complimentary on every ship in its fleet. According to the official website of the cruise line, Carnival will be switching to an a la carte stateroom service menu starting in mid-January 2019. Prices for a wide variety of menu items will range from $2 to $5 per item. While passengers will be charged for lunch, dinner and late-night menu items, Carnival officials said continental breakfast would continue to be offered free of charge. The cruise line said the changes would provide guests with a “greater variety of culinary choices for in-room delivery.” Carnival also announced it would be increasing the price of the Bottomless Bubbles package to $5.95 per person, per day for kids and $8.50 per day for adults, plus gratuity. For passengers who already purchased the package, the previous price will be honored. Last year on January 1, Carnival officials announced the cruise line’s CHEERS! package increased by $2 per person, per day. Despite all of the changes, Carnival brand ambassador John Heald also pleaded with passengers to continue tipping servers despite the price increases.

But, of course, people will naturally reduce their tips because of this nonsense.

United Airlines to provide passengers with stroopwafels once again

The much-loved Stroopwafel, a waffle-like Dutch treat, is returning to the air. United Airlines says it’ll serve the cookie, a favorite snack to pair with coffee or tea, onboard in 2019. This is big news for frequent flyers. As reported in June, the Stroopwafel has been a beloved free perk for United passengers since 2016. They’re wafer cookies sandwiching caramel, and are traditionally served in the Netherlands steamed over coffee. The steam from the hot beverage softens the cookie to reveal its melty center. Back in June, the airline replaced Stroopwafels with “maple wafers” on flights departing before 9:45 a.m. and customers complained on social media. But on Dec. 28, United tweeted they were coming back. “We’re starting 2019 on a sweet note — the stroopwafel will be back in the snack rotation starting in January!” the tweet reads. United Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a United spokesperson told The Points Guy website that the “intention has always been to bring it back.” No exact date was given for the cookie’s return. Cookie monsters on Twitter were pretty excited. “My now-husband had his first stroopwafel on our first trip together (ORD-MSY), and he got so hooked, we served them at our wedding a couple years later,” wrote Zena Burns. “Thank you for bringing them back!”

It’s the little things…      🙂

What lies beneath the Transylvanian castle that imprisoned ‘Dracula’?

A historic Transylvanian castle that may have once imprisoned Vlad the Impaler — likely inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula — still stands today. But what lies beneath it? Because of centuries of rebuilding and additions, archaeologists weren’t sure where the castle’s original foundation lay. However, new research using radar scans of the ground beneath the structure is revealing what’s going on below the building’s imposing facade. The findings were presented on Wednesday (Dec. 12) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Castelul Corvinilor — also known as Corvin Castle, Hunedoara Castle or Hunyadi Castle — began as a fortress built in central Transylvania (now Romania). The structure’s oldest stone fortifications date to the 14th century, and its transformation from fortress into a castle was well underway by the 15th century, according to lead researcher Isabel Morris, a doctoral candidate with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University in New Jersey. In the 15th century, the bloodthirsty despot Vlad III, prince of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler, was purportedly imprisoned in Castle Corvin by Hungarian Gov. John Hunyadi (Ioan de Hunedoara), who oversaw the castle’s first expansion, according to the Romanian tourism website Rolandia. Two more expansions to the castle, in the 17th and 19th centuries, followed Hunyadi’s efforts. Consequently, the building is a hodgepodge of construction from different periods, Morris said. It has also been the subject of numerous excavations; however, maps of the site are inconsistent, and much of the archaeological record is missing, presenting challenges to scientists exploring the castle today, Morris explained. For this reason, she and her colleagues chose ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to conduct their surveys. “In order to do a good job with our reconstruction, we need to know where all these pieces are,” she told Live Science. The scans helped the researchers identify an administrative complex built during the 17th century, Morris said. The radar also revealed places where parts of the castle were held up by bedrock and supported by built-up, human-made structures. “That’s important moving forward for conserving this exciting historic site,” Morris said. Already-reconstructed rooms in the castle’s depths include a torture chamber — with a model of an unfortunate victim bound and hung from the ceiling — but it is unknown if the grim chamber ever housed the infamous Vlad the Impaler.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Virgin Galactic flies its first astronauts to the edge of space, taking one step closer to space tourism

Virgin Galactic completed its longest rocket-powered flight ever on Thursday, taking a step ahead in the nascent business of space tourism. The two pilots on board Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft Unity became the company’s first astronauts. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was on hand to watch the historic moment. Virgin Galactic said the test flight reached an altitude of 51.4 miles, or nearly 83 kilometers. The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. Test pilots in 2004 were awarded a commercial astronaut badge by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying a previous, experimental iteration of Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft design. Lifted by the jet-powered mothership Eve, the spacecraft Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet, the carrier aircraft released Unity. The two-member crew of Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay then piloted the spacecraft in a roaring burn which lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9, nearly three times the speed of sound, as it screamed into a climb toward the edge of space. After performing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program. Unity is the name of the spacecraft built by The Spaceship Company, which Branson also owns. This rocket design is officially known as SpaceShipTwo (SS2). Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. The agency said the four technology experiments “will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.” “Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement. The spacecraft underwent extensive engine testing and seven glide tests before Virgin Galactic said it was ready for a powered test flight — a crucial milestone before the company begins sending tourists to the edge of the atmosphere. Each of the previous three test flights were successful in pushing the spacecraft’s limits farther.

Very cool!!  For more, click on the text above.     🙂

Early snowfall stokes Colorado skiers, clouds climate debate

A heavy autumn snowfall has ski resorts across Colorado holding some of their earliest opening days in a decade or more, stoking skiers and fueling another snowball fight over climate change. Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek plan to open this week, shaving several days off their anticipated starts to the ski season and marking the first time that both resorts have launched ahead of time in 10 years, said Vail chief operating officer Doug Lovell. The resorts credited a “combination of some of the best early-November snowmaking conditions and more than four feet of natural snowfall last week.” Ski Cooper plans to open Nov. 23, 10 days earlier than scheduled, while Monarch Mountain in Salida announced Monday that it would invite skiers and snowboarders Friday, its earliest first-day-of-the-ski-season since 1996, after receiving a hefty 34 inches of powder. “We couldn’t be more thrilled for an early opening this year,” said Randy Stroud, general manager of Monarch Mountain, in a Monday press release. “We did our snow dances and Mother Nature delivered.” The state’s snowpack sat Thursday at 124 percent of average, according to the Colorado Snow Survey, after a Veteran’s Day weekend storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on areas of the Front Range. Some resorts have already opened after receiving double-digit snowfall. Eldora Mountain began operating a week ago, nine days earlier than scheduled, while Arapahoe Basin, Wolf Creek and Loveland celebrated their first days of the season last month. “The early season snowfall has created momentum and excitement for the opening of the ski season here in Colorado,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, in an Oct. 18 statement. “Winter has arrived in the Colorado mountains and it’s great to see winter sports enthusiasts out in force!” Klaus Wolter, climate scientist with the NOAA-ESRL Physical Science Division and University of Colorado Boulder, attributed the early snow to several factors, including the weak El Nino, which “tends to make it wetter in the fall over Colorado.” “Below-normal temperatures mean that (a) most of the precipitation fell as snow, even at lower elevations, and (b) snow-making conditions were in place for the last four weeks or so,” Mr. Wolter said in an email. The rush to the slopes comes as a welcome change from last year’s disappointing Colorado ski season. Last year, environmentalists cited the drier-than-average 2017 winter, the state’s 14th driest on record, as evidence of global warming’s threat to snow. “The whole state is having its worst opening in 20 years,” Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for Aspen Snowmass, told the Coloradoan in December. “This is the weather and climate we fear. It’s already here.” Mr. Schendler serves on the board of Protect Our Winters, a Boulder-based climate advocacy group that has pushed to recruit skiers and snowboards by warning that “climate change is threatening winter as we know it.” “In the last decade, we have begun to see and feel climate change’s devastating impacts,” said Protect Our Winters. “Ski seasons are becoming shorter, more extreme, and less reliable.” Climate Depot’s Marc Morano compared such warnings to the infamous pronouncement of former University of East Anglia climate scientist David Viner, who warned that winter snowfall would soon become “a very rare and exciting event.” “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” Mr. Viner said in an article for the [U.K.] Independent headlined, “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” That was in 2000. “Climate activists and scientists claimed for years that snow was ‘a thing of the past’ due to ‘global warming,’ but snow has not cooperated,” said Mr. Morano, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change.” “How do the activists explain away the record snows of recent years?” he asked. “Easy, by ignoring the current reality and predicting less snow in the future due to ‘climate change.’ Rest assured, snow is a thing of the present—just ask the autumn skiers enjoying the slopes.” Then again, climate change may actually be causing more snow. The EPA’s snowfall map showed that the white stuff decreased at 57 percent of its stations from 1930-2007, but not everywhere. Total snow increased during that period in some regions, including the Great Lakes and parts of Colorado. Snowfall in south-central Alaska has doubled in the last two years, while the East Coast has been socked with a series of snowstorms. Why? “Global warming means hotter air, and hotter air can hold more moisture,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists in a post. “This translates into heavier precipitation in the form of more intense rain or snow, simply because more moisture is available to storms.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Morano was skeptical. “So no matter what happens, the activists can claim with confidence the event was a predicted consequence of global warming,” he said. “There is now no way to ever falsify global warming claims.” For those trying to decide whether to buy a season ski pass, the best advice may be that there’s no predicting weather. “Just because it started snowing in November is no guarantee that it’s going to keep snowing,” said Jeffrey Deems, National Snow and Ice Data Center research scientist. “So get out there, get your days in, and take advantage of when the skiing’s good.”

Agreed…

New York coffee shop fined $300 by Sanitation Department for sign announcing how many cups they’ve kept out of landfill

A coffee shop in New York was allegedly fined $300 by the Department of Sanitation for a misplaced sandwich board on the sidewalk, which announced that the business had kept over 2,000 cups out of the landfill in 2018. Smith Canteen’s owner, Kerry Diamond, posted about the ironic incident on Facebook, claiming the sign has been in the same spot for the past seven years. “I’ve been spending a lot of money and time trying to figure out waste reduction, composting, and single-use plastic alternatives at the Canteen, so this really burns me,” she wrote. Diamond’s business, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, encourages customers to bring their own cup in order to reduce single-use options and earn a 10 percent discount for doing so. She also said they do their part to help keep the street in front of their shop clean. “We keep our corner storefront as tidy as possible, sweep regularly, clean up all the litter that blows down the street, and take care of our tree pit like good citizens,” Diamond wrote. “We try so hard to be good and then to get kind of smacked down that way, it’s just kind of a bummer,” she told the New York Daily News. Diamond is encouraging the city to do more to help keep the street free of trash. “It would be really wonderful if you had programs to help small businesses become greener and if you kept Smith Street clean instead of the mess of litter and overflowing garbage cans that it’s been all year,” she wrote. Others on Facebook agree with Diamond, arguing that city officials need to worry about more important things. “Smith Street is disgusting these days. Talk about wrong priorities,” one person wrote. “As if you are the problem and not the obvious solution!” someone else commented. “Major props for keeping your business so tidy and responsible. Smith Street is a horror show and you all are a bright spot!” another person wrote. The New York Sanitation Department has since withdrawn the fine, according to the Daily News, though Diamond had planned to fight it. “We’ve investigated the incident and have determined that we will withdraw the action on this notice of violation because it appears as if the sign is within the legal three-foot limit, the street is not a zero-tolerance block and there is ample pedestrian access to the sidewalk,” spokesman Vito Turso said. “We encourage the shopkeeper to continue helping to keep cups out of landfills by all legal means.”

Oh whatever, Vito!  Fact is, you got busted by social media, and buckled under the understandable pressure from the good people of NYC.  Talk about ironic..  The NYC Sanitation Dept fining a coffee shop owner for a sign like this.  Kudos to Kerry for her good example.  If you’re on Smith Street, stop in for a cup o’ joe, and support her business.    🙂

Life on the dirtiest block in San Francisco

The heroin needles, the pile of excrement between parked cars, the yellow soup oozing out of a large plastic bag by the curb and the stained, faux Persian carpet dumped on the corner. It is a scene of detritus that might bring to mind any variety of developing-world squalor. But this is San Francisco, the capital of the nation’s technology industry, where a single span of Hyde Street hosts an open-air narcotics market by day and at night is occupied by the unsheltered and drug-addled slumped on the sidewalk. There are many other streets like it, but by one measure it is the dirtiest block in the city. Just a 15-minute walk away are the offices of Twitter and Uber, two companies that along with other nameplate technology giants have helped push the median price of a home in San Francisco well beyond a million dollars. This dichotomy of street crime and world-changing technology, of luxury condominiums and grinding, persistent homelessness, and the dehumanizing effects for those forced to live on the streets provoke outrage among the city’s residents. For many who live here it is difficult to reconcile San Francisco’s liberal politics with the misery that surrounds them. According to city statisticians, the 300 block of Hyde Street, a span about the length of a football field in the heart of the Tenderloin neighborhood, received 2,227 complaints about street and sidewalk cleanliness over the past decade, more than any other. It is an imperfect measurement — some blocks might be dirtier but have fewer calls — but residents on the 300 block say that they are not surprised by their ranking. The San Francisco bureau photographer, Jim Wilson, and I set out to measure the depth of deprivation on a single block. We returned a number of times, including a 12-hour visit, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on a recent weekday. Walking around the neighborhood we saw the desperation of the mentally ill, the drug dependent and homeless, and heard from embittered residents who say it will take much more than a broom to clean up the city, long considered one of the United States’ beacons of urban beauty. Human waste has become such a widespread problem in San Francisco that the city in September established a unit dedicated to removing it from the sidewalks. Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the public works department, describes the new initiative as a “proactive human waste” unit. At 8 a.m. on a recent morning, as mothers shepherded their children to school, we ran into Yolanda Warren, a receptionist who works around the corner from Hyde Street. The sidewalk in front of her office was stained with feces. The street smelled like a latrine. “Some parts of the Tenderloin, you’re walking, and you smell it and you have to hold your breath,” Warren said. At she does every morning, she hosed down the urine outside her office. The city has installed five portable bathrooms for the hundreds of unsheltered people in the Tenderloin but that has not stopped people from urinating and defecating in the streets.

You get the idea..  And this is an article from the very liberal NY Times; not some conservative news media outlet.  San Fran is a poster child of what happens when years and years of extreme liberal politicians enact failed liberal policies in a major urban area for decades.  San Fran is a total disaster, and it’ll remain so until the residents decide that enough is enough and actually consider voting for politicians who aren’t the same liberal Democrats they’ve been electing for decades.  But, don’t hold your breath…or your nose.  For more, click on the text above.