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Black Tie International Travel  1
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Black Tie International Magazine - Travel-
Travelogue with Bob Nicolaides
St. Barts-Hotel Carl Gustaf
St. Barts-Hotel Carl Gustaf

Travelogue…with Bob Nicolaides

In a bold bet on the growth of China as a cruise market, Royal Caribbean today announced it would move the giant Voyager of the Seas to the country for the summer of 2012. The 138,000-ton, 3,114-passenger vessel, which currently spends its summers in Europe, is one of the world's largest cruise ships and twice the size of any other passenger vessel operating regularly out of China. "There are clear opportunities in the China market," Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein says in a statement about the move. He called the country "a key area for Royal Caribbean International's global development."

Royal Caribbean says Voyager of the Seas will move to Shanghai in June 2012 for a series of four- to 10-night sailings out of the city. The voyages will include stops in Fukuoka and Kobe in Japan; and Busan and Jeju in Korea, and continue through October 2012, when the vessel will depart for a season of voyages out of Sydney, Australia

Catch’em While they’re Hot!

You've heard the grim timelines: if warming continues, the Great Barrier Reef will be bleached by 2030; glaciers in the Swiss Alps, on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and in Glacier National Park will disappear in under 40 years; and Arctic ice melt will leave the North Pole bare and polar bears extinct. The immediacy of these timelines prompts flocks of curious eco-tourists to travel to environmentally fragile areas. Tourism is both bane and boon: it can add strain to already distressed areas, but it can also provide income, which in turn can help preserve these wonders.

 In time for Earth Day, we spotlight 10 areas under threat—some lesser known than others—that can still be visited responsibly.

Belize Barrier Reef

One of the most diverse reef ecosystems in the world is home to whale sharks, rays, and manatees, as well as sturgeon, conch and spiny lobsters. Like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef leads a tenuous existence. A section of the nearly 700-mile-long Mesoamerican Reef that reaches from Mexico to Honduras, the Belize reef suffered a severe bleaching in 1998, with a loss of 50 percent of its coral in many areas, including much of its distinctive staghorn coral. Since the bleaching, its decline has continued, due to global warming of the world's seas, agricultural pollution, development, and increasing tourism, which has given rise to more coastal development and an invasion of cruise ships.

The Congo Basin

Tropical rainforests like the Congo Basin produce 40 percent of the world's oxygen and serve as a vital source of food, medicine and minerals. At more than 1.3 million square miles, the Congo Basin has the world's second-largest rainforest, after the Amazon's. According to the UN up to two-thirds of the forest and its unique plants and wildlife could be lost by 2040 unless more effective measures are taken to protect it. Extending across six nations, ten million acres of forest is degraded each year due to mining, illegal logging, farming, ranching, and guerilla warfare. Roads cut by loggers and miners have also enabled poachers and bushmeat hunters to prey on endangered animals like mountain gorillas, forest elephants, bonobos, and okapis. As the forest shrinks, less carbon dioxide is absorbed, and rain decreases, adding to climate change.

The Dead Sea

It's the lowest spot on earth (1,312 feet below sea level), has 10 times more saline than seawater (so humans float like corks), and is believed to contain therapeutic minerals. In the last four decades, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third and sunk 80 feet—13 inches per year!—stranding formerly seaside resorts and restaurants nearly a mile from shore. The Jordan River is the lake's sole source, and as surrounding countries increasingly tap its waters, little reaches the Dead Sea, which could disappear within 50 years. Further pressure is put on the sea by the cosmetic companies and potash producers who drain it for minerals. One proposed solution is the controversial Red-Dead Canal, channeling water 112 miles from the Red Sea, but its environmental impact could be negative (some worry that it would increase seismic activity in the region).

The Everglades

This 2.5 million–acre wetland encompasses cypress swamps, mangroves, sawgrass and pine savannahs. It's the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators share territory. A host of dangers are putting this fragile wetland at risk: pollution from farms, invasive species, and encroaching development, not to mention the fact that 60 percent of the region's water is being diverted to nearby cities and farms. As a result, The Everglades is now half the size it was in 1900. Worse, this is the sole habitat of the Florida panther, and there are less than 100 of the creatures left in the wild. These big cats may be completely lost within the next 40 years as their habitat disappears (they're not alone, either—at least 20 species in the Everglades are endangered, including turtles, manatees, and wading birds).


More than 80 percent of Madagascar's flora and fauna are found nowhere else on Earth, thanks to millions of years of isolation in the Indian Ocean off of Africa. If nothing is done to save the world's fourth-largest island, its forests will be gone in 35 years (once 120,000 square miles, they're now down to 20,000), and their unique inhabitants along with them. Forest ecosystems are being destroyed by logging, burning for subsistence farms, and poaching. The 20 species of lemurs for which Madagascar is renowned are in danger of disappearing. Though there are game reserves, they're not large (occupying only five percent of the island), nor are they contiguous, thus failing to provide corridors for the animals to travel through. Some of Madagascar's endemic species have never even been recorded, and will likely be lost before they can be studied.

The Maldives

The nation is rich in coral reefs and endangered fish—like the giant Napolean wrasse, leopard shark, and some 250 manta rays (most with wingspans of 10 feet). Few scientists hold out much hope for the Maldives—the world's lowest nation—if global warming continues to melt the ice caps and raise sea levels. Its 1,190 small islands and atolls (200 of which are inhabited) scattered across the Indian Ocean rise a mere eight feet above sea level. In 2008, the President of the Maldives announced the government would start buying land in other countries, including India, for future homes for citizens displaced by rising waters. In 2009, he held a cabinet meeting underwater to stress the islands' vulnerability.

The Poles

The natural phenomena here are unique and inspiring: towering icebergs, Aurora Borealis, and majestic animals (penguins, polar bears, whales). The Threat: The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the world's largest non-profit ocean research group, has predicted that 80 percent of the emperor penguin population of Antarctica will be lost, and the rest in danger of extinction, if global warming continues. In the Arctic, the polar bear is also endangered by the steady loss of sea ice (which has decreased 3 percent per decade since the 1970s). As sea ice disappears at the poles, so do entire ecosystems: the phytoplankton that grows under ice sheets feeds zooplankton and small crustaceans like krill, which are on the food chain for fish, seals, whales, polar bears and penguins. Studies predict that with continued warming, within 20-40 years, no ice will form in Antarctica.
And the Rest of the Bunch!

Book an international ticket to Europe with Air Berlin and qualify for a $249 airpass (including taxes) with four flights to destinations in 13 countries throughout Europe. For example, for a trip in July, pay about $1,500 (including taxes) for round-trip service from Washington Dulles to Berlin
 (codeshare service to New York on American Airlines), then fly to Catania, Italy; Zurich; Dusseldorf, Germany; and back to Berlin for an additional $249.
That route typically adds up to $545. Travel by Sept. 30; book by Sept. 12.
 Info: 866-266-5588 & 866-266-5588, .

Kavaliero Viajes Undertakes New Project
The international airport of Paphos, on the western coast, will be linked with 12 European tourist destinations with direct flights from March 14. The flights will be coordinated by the Greek travel agency Kavaliero Viajes, as part of the agencys program, Cyprus 55 + plus, covering senior travelers. The program will link Paphos with 12, primarily new European destinations, but will include Greece. Both the Greek company and local Paphos government aim to extend the program to more destinations. Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas admitted the project will be a tourist boom for Paphos, as 30,000 tourists are visiting Cyprus in the two nest months, 15,000 of which targeted Paphos. Kavaliero Viajes announced is launching weekly flights to Greece (Athens), Poland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Switzerland

In Mandarin Country

Get a fourth night free at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. The Bangkok Four More package also includes a room upgrade (based on availability) and a buffet lunch for two at Sala Rim Naam. Prices vary by date.
 For example, a four-night stay in a superior king room in early June now starts at $1,004 (including taxes), a savings of $336. Deal is good through Oct. 15.
 Info: 800-526-6566 & 800-526-6566

Happy San Barts

The 14-suite Hotel Carl Gustaf on St. Barts is offering discounts of more than 25 % on three-and five-night packages. The three-night Summer Sunset deal now starts at about $2,220 per couple (savings of about $850) and includes lodging in a one-bedroom cottage with plunge pool and terrace overlooking Gustavia Harbor, continental breakfast served in-suite, one cocktail per person, one dinner for two at Victoria’s (on the property), airport transfers, three-day car rental (excluding insurance and gas), access to fitness center and WiFi. The five-night package starts at $3,775 for two, a savings of about $1,420. Taxes are an extra 5 percent.
Travel through Aug. 31. Info: 866-297-2153 & 866-297-2153


Joyce Brooks

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