From chilly New York to balmy Bali, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield reviews another week in travel
I came home early from New York and the north-eastern US just as an Arctic blast kicked in — not because I’m scared of the cold but because if planes stop flying in the US due to bad weather, it turns into a different kind of storm.
A combination of cold temperatures and strong winds brought record low temperatures. The air temperature dropped to -44C and winds gusted at nearly 160km/h at New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. Combining the effect of air and wind on the skin gave a wind chill of -78C — the lowest ever recorded in the US.
The Arctic blast started further north as cold air gathered over the snow-covered ground in the Arctic. A jet stream in the middle and upper part of the atmosphere then pushed it down to Canada and the US. The US National Weather Service defines an “Arctic blast” as an event where very cold air bodies, typically originating in Siberia, cross the North Pole and push south and east. As it is pushed into warmer, moister air, it can become a “bomb cyclone” storm, with atmospheric pressure falling very quickly. On this occasion, the Arctic air ran into the region just as a cyclonic circulation was developing over Labrador and Newfoundland.
In New York’s Central Park the temperature bottomed out at -16C and a “code blue” order was enacted, so no homeless shelter could turn anyone away. (I was jolly glad to be wearing my new Stetson wool and cashmere docker hat. John B. Stetson founded the company in Pennsylvania in 1865 during the gold rush.)
The Walt Disney Company has its 100th anniversary in 2023 — and while all Disney parks around the world will celebrate, the heart of the party is at the Disneyland Resort. Festivities at “The Happiest Place on Earth” began on January 27 and continue all year. To celebrate, Disneyland Resort gets new experiences and entertainment, decor and specialty treats.
Hershey’s Chocolate World is celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary this year with a new attraction. The official 50th birthday celebration is on June 30, 2023. More than 117 million visitors have passed through the doors of Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. There are also Hershey’s Chocolate Worlds in Times Square (New York), Niagara (on the US-Canada border) and Singapore (in Resorts World Sentosa). In addition to their usual Hershey’s Chocolate Tour and Create Your Own Candy Bar, Hershey’s Chocolate World will unveil a chocolate sculpture.
I’m not sure about Lego any more — it just seems like an awful lot of plastic. But Legoland Resorts have pulled off an interesting initiative. Their California and Florida resorts became Certified Autism Centres in 2022, and Legoland New York will become a CAC when it reopens for the 2023 season on March 31. It follows staff training, including understanding the perspectives of autistic individuals.
LOVE BOAT RENEWED
With Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, February 14, Princess Cruises has given a first glimpse of the contemporary designs imaged for “The Love Boat”, Sun Princess. The ship is due early in 2024. It has Princess’ first three-storey dining venue, Horizons Dining, with lots of natural light. Its new Princess Arena theatre has an in-the-round configuration, radial ceiling and seats more than 1000 people.
Also for Valentine’s Day, Emirates airline is planning sweet treats onboard and love-themed desserts in its lounges. The team also seems rather proud of having more than 70 romantic comedies and dramas on its ICE entertainment system, including Ticket to Paradise starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Other new releases include Meet Cute, starring Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson, and Ask Me to Dance. All-time classics include When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Notebook.
BREKKIE DOWN UNDER
A couple of weeks ago I was in Bali and wrote about the floating breakfast at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua. I see that Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas, has just launched its own floating breakfast, claiming it’s the first in Queensland. A spokesperson admits theirs is “mirroring the likes of Bali and the Maldives”, and will start with croissants and a tropical fruit plate delivered on a floating wicker tray. Guests can then select classic dishes, from big breakfast burgers to coconut acai bowls to a half lobster. The price is described as “dynamic, starting from $690 per night” for two people in a Mirage studio, with floating breakfast served in the lagoon pool on day two. (Not quite the same as Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua, where it was served on the pool canal at the back door of my room.)
There’s a seven-night stay at the five-star Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak Resort from $1469 per room with Flight Centre, between April 1 and October 31, 2023. A fly-stay package for two adults is from $3089. The stay includes daily breakfast and one day’s access to Finns Beach and has to be booked by February 28. 1300 887 398 or flightcentre.com.au
DON’T DRINK THE WATER
The Indonesia Institute has been getting inquiries from travellers asking if it’s safe to drink tap water in Bali. There have been numerous TikTok posts by travellers going to Bali saying that drinking tap water actually boosts your immune system and helps prevent things like “Bali belly”. (Good luck with that theory.) Institute president Robbie Gaspar says: “I lived in Indonesia for over seven years playing football, and I can tell you that it’s a great place, as is Bali, but tap water is not safe to drink and you can get very sick by doing this.” Robbie recommends drinking only pre-boiled water or bottles of water from reputable stores. He adds: “But please help the environment by avoiding the small single-use bottles that damage Bali’s environment.” Yes, and beware small, single-use TikTok travel vloggers. Their advice might damage your internal environment.
MAKE THEM APPY
AirAsia’s Super App has been busy promoting Bali. Here’s a thought: if AirAsia put the same effort into customer service and refunds, a lot of Bali travellers (and would-be travellers) who contact me after weeks or months of getting no satisfaction would be a lot happier.
The latest Roy Moran reputation survey has seen Qantas nosedive from ninth most trusted brand in Australia to 40th position. That’s an epic fail by 31 places in the “net trust” rankings. Keep in mind that six months ago the national carrier was the sixth most trusted brand in the country. Roy Morgan data scientists analysed nominations from more than 22,000 Australians to get the result. The top five most trusted brands are unchanged for a fifth straight quarter: Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings, Aldi and Kmart.
Seventeen WA regional airports are getting a share of $3 million from the Regional Airports Development Scheme, including $417,950 to support a $3.7 million project to design and build a new terminal at Laverton Airport.
There’s a push by some European aircraft manufacturers to have planes flying, at times, with only one pilot in the cockpit. The plane builders, including Airbus SE, have reportedly proposed limited solo flying when a plane is in its cruise phase in a bid to help ease labour shortages. There would be at least two pilots in the cockpit for take-off and landing. Solo flying, even in cruise phase, has to be approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, individual airlines and pilot unions. The agency is expected to start studying the issue soon.
BAGS OF RECYCLING
All fabrics in Victorinox’s new Crosslight collection are made from recycled materials, with between 25 and 45 recycled PET bottles used for each bag. The lining is 100 per cent recycled polyester lining. The expanding bags have a “pack light organiser” — a foldable divider with extra storage. They come in a range of sizes and are pricey, from the $649 carry-on to the $749 medium and $839 large softside cases. And, in a Henry Ford moment, they come in black, black or black. victorinox.com.au
And finally, back to the weather . . .
Given the effects of hurricane Fiona in south-western Puerto Rico in September 2022, it’s amazing to me that its official destination marketing organisation has just revealed that 2022 was a record-breaking year for visitation. There were more travellers spending more money and more locals employed in tourism than ever before. The island is a US territory and locals are called Boricua — and they pride themselves on their warm Boricua spirit and welcome. A number of my American friends have recently been there for extended periods and rave about it (I’ve only ever made one shortish visit). More than 5 million people arrived at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in 2022 and spent $A12.8 billion — a 39 per cent increase over the previous high in 2019. (But having had WA’s slightly weird whale shark advertisement recently “floating” over Times Square, albeit among the myriad other colourful, flashing signage, they’d better watch out. Right.)
And more on the weather . . .
A survey of 1001 Australian travellers (895 living outside WA) commissioned by travel insurer InsureandGo reveals that two in three have their eye on our sunny State for a rain-free holiday, given the poor weather forecasts for the east coast. Particularly in NSW and Victoria, the rest of the summer and early autumn are expected to remain colder and wetter than usual. Parts of Queensland and Tasmania are likely to experience above-median rainfall in 2023, while we are set for unusually dry conditions. The survey shows that younger travellers are drawn the most to WA’s summer weather, with 64 per cent of under-30s indicating they will seek a holiday here to escape the cold, wet weather. This compares with 54 per cent of over-50s.
And the final word on weather . . .
Great Northern Highway began reopening between Broome and Derby on Thursday, February 9, after a 40-strong road crew finished making a temporary 10km single-lane gravel track around damage at Willare. There are phases for the reopening, with all vehicles allowed between 8am and 4pm until Sunday, February 12, then just two escorted convoys a day, each way, from Monday February 13 (Derby side convoys leave at 7.30am and 4.30pm; Broome side at 8am and 5pm). That could be in place for up to two weeks, or until the road crew can get the road wide enough for two-lane traffic. A big shout-out from me to the road crews. Thank you all for your hard work.