Travel News of the Week

Theme Park News


Universal Orlando Resort


Work is resuming on Universal Orlando Resort’s Epic Universe – the widely anticipated theme park that will create an entirely new level of theme park entertainment.


Work on Epic Universe paused in July 2020, as the company adjusted plans in the midst of the pandemic. The restart will begin immediately – but is expected to take several months before reaching full-speed as Universal re-staffs for the project and reassembles its vendor and contractor teams.


Restarting Epic Universe will result in hundreds of jobs within Universal and thousands of jobs across Central Florida. These positions include highly skilled professional positions, all levels of construction jobs and beyond.


The Epic Universe project will infuse billions of dollars into the Florida economy – and also create more than 14,000 permanent jobs in addition to the thousands of jobs that will be created during its development.


“The restart of construction of Epic Universe is a terrific moment for our employees and for our theme park business in Florida,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “It is our single-largest investment in the state and represents our enthusiasm for the spectacular park and the economic opportunities it will generate.”


“We are excited to begin work on Epic Universe again and for what this moment means for our industry, our community, our business and our team members,” said Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO for Universal Parks & Resorts. “Our confidence in our collective future is as strong as ever.”


“The resumption of the Epic Universe project couldn’t come at a better time,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “Our community has so many talented workers who will benefit from this massive project. I am confident it will deliver a huge economic boost to Orange County.”


Epic Universe will feature a new theme park, an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants and more. It will be located on a 750-acre site that nearly doubles Universal’s total available acreage in Central Florida. It will be located a few miles from Universal Orlando’s current theme parks in Southwest Orange County – specifically, south of Sand Lake Road and east of Universal Boulevard.


“Our vision for Epic Universe is historic,” Mr. Williams said at the time the project was announced. “It will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created.”





Universal Orlando Resort has announced the dates and the first house for Halloween Horror Nights 2021. Now in its 30th year, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights brings together the stories and visions of the world’s most notorious creators of horror. From cinematic greats and crazed current cult favorites to the park’s original abominations—every year, the legend grows and the experience reaches beyond your wildest nightmares. Never Go Alone. The 30th Anniversary event will run from September 3rd through October 31, 2021.


Each year, the event features haunted houses set to specific, very detailed themes. The first house will be Beetlejuice, and they offered the following description. "Got trouble with the living? You know what to say: Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Enter the twisted, terrifying world of the original film, as the infamous Bio-Exorcist haunts you, taunts you and sends you screaming out of the haunted house."



The Universal Orlando Resort has a new flagship store currently under construction in Universal CityWalk. Last year, stores were closed, including Island Clothing Co., Fossil and P!Q, to make room for this new location. More details will be coming soon, and an opening date has not been announced.


Universal Studios Hollywood


Beginning on March 12th. come enjoy Taste of Universal, an all-new separately ticketed, limited-time event that serves up a day of shopping and outdoor dining throughout the Upper Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood. Savor the flavors of exceptional food from the restaurants of some of your favorite lands.


Enjoy an outdoor feast of great food and tasty beverages plus photo ops and shopping offers.


Your ticket includes your choice of 5 menu items (3 items for kids) from an extensive menu of appetizers, entrees, beverages and desserts. Additional items are available a la carte for a separate price.


Adults: $44.00 ($48.18 with tax) - FRI $49.00 ($53.66 with tax) - SAT/SUN Children (3-9): $25.00 ($27.38 with tax) - FRI/SAT/SUN


Springfield, U.S.A.

  • Krusty Burger

  • Suds McDuff’s Hot Dog

  • Lard Lad Donuts

  • And More!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™

  • Butterbeer™

  • Fish and Chips

  • Shepherd’s Pie

  • Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding

  • And More!

Minion Cafe

  • Grilled Cheese with Meatball

  • Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Mac and Cheese

  • Hazelnut Banana Pudding

  • And More!

Hollywood and Dine

  • Brisket Slider

  • Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl

  • Beyond Burger w/ BBQ Aioli, American Cheese & Crispy Jalapeno (V)

  • And More!


This partial re-opening will not include access to rides, shows and attractions


This event is designed to be awesome and physically distanced at the same time with enhanced safety and sanitization procedures throughout the theme park and Universal CityWalk.



Walt Disney World


Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is in the process of being reimagined. Disney released further information about what guests can expect once the resort reopens. The changes taking place at this resort are the latest example of enhancements being made as Walt Disney World prepares for “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” beginning Oct. 1, 2021, in honor of its 50th anniversary.

photo credit: Disney destinations


These reimagined spaces feature a new color palette inspired by the Pacific Ocean and its many islands, including details, patterns and textures from the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film “Moana.”


You’ll also see all-new furnishings and fixtures. In the bathrooms, for instance, Disney Imagineers took inspiration from the sandy ocean floor for the tiles and carved details in the vanity. The colorful patterns found throughout the room bring a whole new energy to the space, evoking undulating ocean waves and tropical flowers.


Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is now accepting bookings for late July 2021, and the next time guests pull up to the Great Ceremonial House, they’ll notice even more exciting changes that are currently being worked on. The porte cochere is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul that will feature a high-pitched, open-truss roof covered in a thatch style with pops of color. Above the porte cochere, the Monorail station is receiving new wooden screens with tropical colors, adding to the open and airy vibe befitting of the South Seas.


photo credit: Disney destinations


California theme parks may be allowed to begin reopening April 1st depending on which county they are in. The counties are arranged into four tiers: purple, red, orange, and yellow with purple being the highest risk and yellow being the least risk. Capacity will be limited to 15% for parks in counties that are in the red tier. Parks in the orange tier may be at 25%, and then at 35% once they reach the yellow tier. Attendance will be limited to in-state visitors. Other restrictions will include no indoor dining and limits on indoor rides.


Three counties in Southern California with large theme parks, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego, are in the purple tier and will not be able to open under the new guidance until they enter the red tier. It is expected they will enter the red tier soon, but that depends on when California can administer additional vaccinations.


A travel advisory remains in place in California, which advises residents to avoid traveling more than 120 miles from home or to other states or countries, except of essential travel. The advisory also strongly discourages nonessential travelers from entering the state and, if they do, to adhere to a 10-day quarantine.


At this time, Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood have not announced a reopening date to fully experience the parks.



Busch Gardens Tampa


The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is running through April 25th. It will feature headlining national acts every Saturday in March and April, plus Friday, April 2. For the first time, concerts will be offered at two limited-capacity performances each day on the Festival Field Stage. While over at the Coke Canopy, enjoy a taste of local live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the festival.


Busch Gardens is committed to the health and safety of their guests, employees, and the animals in their care. The Festival Field and Coke Canopy are operating at limited capacity with modified seating to allow for proper physical distancing. Park Reservations are required.

In the World News


Jamaica


The Government of Jamaica has announced new testing requirements for all travelers

entering the country. As of Thursday March 4, 2021, all persons entering Jamaica (both

Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans) will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test

which was conducted within 72 hours prior to date of travel at check-in for their flights.

In addition to this pre-testing requirement, business travelers will need to present

to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, a negative COVID-19 test, which is conducted

after arrival in Jamaica at their own expense.


Reminders:

  • All persons intending to travel to Jamaica must apply for and obtain approval for a Travel Authorization before arrival in Jamaica. Apply online at www.visitjamaica.com.

  • While Jamaica maintains nightly limitations on movement, airport transfers within the restricted hours will not be affected. If stopped, visitors may be asked to show their flight details.

  • An “unfit to fly” notice will be issued to the airlines for persons who test positive while in Jamaica. Persons will be allowed to leave Jamaica using medical evacuation or private flights.

  • All passengers traveling to the United States as of January 26, 2021, are to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 72 hours before their flight or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding.

  • Travelers who will not be staying along the resilient corridors within resort areas, will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Business travelers will quarantine for 2 days pending results from a COVID-19 test on entry.

Sandals South Coast Resort, Jamaica

photo credit: Sandals Resorts

Bermuda


Bermuda has been reopened for airline travel for several months. However to visit the island, there are protocols to follow.


  • Visitors to Bermuda will need to complete the Bermuda Travel Authorization process online one to three days before departure, which requires a $75 fee per traveler (only MasterCard and Visa are accepted) that includes the cost of all COVID-19 testing in Bermuda. Children age nine and under do not have to be tested at any point and will pay a Travel Authorization fee of only $30.

  • Travelers age 10 and up also need proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test result obtained no more than five days before their arrival, and the results must be submitted pre-departure as part of the online travel authorization process.

  • Visitors age 10 and up will undergo PCR COVID-19 testing again upon arrival at Bermuda's L.F. Wade International Airport and quarantine at their accommodation until results are ready in about 24 hours.

  • Testing is also required on Day 4, Day 8 and Day 14 of your visit.

  • Travelers will wear a wristband for the first 14 days of their stay.

  • Officials also recommend that travelers acquire health insurance covering illnesses related to COVID-19 in Bermuda. Without coverage, visitors will be responsible for all health and accommodation costs in the event that they require treatment and/or quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

  • Due to the latest CDC requirements, Americans will need to possess proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure in order to gain re-entry into the U.S. after their trip.

  • In addition to testing, there is a strict face mask requirements in public spaces as well as social distancing guidelines, capacity limits and enhanced cleaning protocols.


Bermuda has a wide selection of reopened accommodations to choose from this spring. Several more properties are scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks and months, including The Reefs Resort & Club and The Oxford House. Hotels and resorts are elevating health and safety standards as well through programs like Rosewood's "Commitment to Care" Global Health and Safety Program, which includes flexible booking, intensified hygiene and safety measures across all major touchpoints, contactless in-room dining options, wellness checks for all associates and much more.


Travelers to Bermuda have several options to travel to the island. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue are offering service between the U.S. and Bermuda, including nonstop flights from major cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Miami and New York.


RIU Hotels & Resorts


Due to the exceptional situation caused by COVID-19, RIU Hotels & Resorts has taken safety precautions to ensure the wellbeing of all their guests. They have also updated their cancellation policies to offer greater flexibility to guest bookings.


Guests will now be able to take the COVID-19 antigen test on site, before returning to the U.S. at no additional cost for all adults and children. This service is available at all of their resorts in Mexico (except RIU Plaza Guadalajara Hotel), Jamaica, Aruba and Punta Cana and will be provided by an accredited medical testing lab that complies with the requirements of the CDC. Test results will be received within 72 hours prior to departure as required by the CDC, in written and/or electronic format. Guests should contact the Front Desk / Customer Service at each resort upon arrival to schedule departure testing.


In the unlikely event that a guest has been tested positive to COVID-19 during their stay, Riu Hotels will provide an extension at no cost of up to 10 days. Extended stay due to quarantine includes the guest plus travel companions sharing the same room. This policy is valid for travel until at least March 31, 2021 or until the regulations regarding this new requirement change.


In Costa Rica, PCR on-resort testing is available at an extra cost.


For the RIU Plaza Guadalajara Hotel, PCR tests are available offsite at an extra cost.


RIU Hotels & Resorts does have some upcoming resort openings.

  • Hotel RIU Palace Santa Maria on the Island of Sal, Cape Verde is opening in March 2021 and will offer a 24-hour all-inclusive service for an unforgettable stay. The choice of cuisine, entertainment programs, range of facilities, and the Splash Water World water park provide the perfect combination for a truly unique experience at RIU.

  • Hotel RIU Plaza Manhattan Times Square will be opening in June 2021 and will offer the perfect New York getaway. Located right in Manhattan, the design of its facilities and the exclusive service it offers will turn your holiday into an unforgettable experience.

Hotel RIU Plaza Manhattan Times Square

photo credit: RIU Hotels & Resorts


Hawaii


Aloha ‘Auinalā! As the sun dips into the ocean to end the day, a conch shell is blown in the distance and a Hawaiian oli chant begins. This is the tradition of welcoming our Guests to KA WA‘A, a Luau at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa… which Guests will soon be able to experience once again! We’re thrilled to announce that reservations are now available for KA WA‘A Luau which will reopen on March 27, 2021.


The luau features a three-course plated meal that includes mouth-watering island favorites such as ahi poke and lomilomi salmon salad, imu-style braised pork, island fish, teriyaki chicken, local seasonal vegetables, and a dessert trio. To accompany the meal, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages are included in the event price.


After dinner, Guests are treated to an enchanting journey through Hawaiian history and discover its deep cultural roots in canoe (wa‘a) exploration, which brought the first explorers to the shores of Ko Olina. Throughout the evening, lively music and traditional Hawaiian dance vividly bring the show’s story to life.


The luau is offered three nights per week at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Some adjustments have been made for the health and safety of resort guests.


photo credit: Disney destinations

Cruise News


Adventures by Disney


Adventures by Disney Expedition Cruises will journey to some of the world’s most wondrous and sought-after destinations such as the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Due to popular demand, Adventures by Disney is adding a third Antarctica sailing departing Feb. 20, 2022. In addition, the 4-day/3-night Adventures by Disney Buenos Aires Escape, departing Feb. 18, 2022 is available for booking now.

photo credit: Disney destinations


Virgin Voyages


Virgin Voyages made a recent updated statement for their sailings, "As we continue to navigate what’s going on in the world, we’ve made the decision to cancel our sailings from May 9th through June 30th, 2021." If you have an affected sailing, be sure to contact your travel advisor for assistance.


Virgin Voyages' third ship, Resilient Lady, has arrived and is available to be booked. She will be sailing through Europe from our new homeport of Piraeus (Athens), Greece, seeing the world with fresh and appreciative eyes. Her new seven-night itineraries include island-hopping in the Adriatic, late-nights in Croatia, and overnights in the picturesque Grecian Isle of Mykonos.


Royal Caribbean Cruise Line


Royal Caribbean has made the decision to have their newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, sail from Haifa, Israel beginning May 2021. Itineraries range from 3-to-7-night escapes visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus. Excitedly, in conjunction with Israel’s health and tourism authorities, these will be the first fully vaccinated sailings, where both crew and guests above the age of 16 will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to boarding.


Odyssey of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean Group’s fifth ship to resume sailing and is very much part of their ramp up to their return to cruising.


Disney Cruise Line


Beginning March 5, 2021, a temporary final payment extension was added to Disney Cruise Line sailings through Sept. 30, 2021. In addition, they are temporarily relaxing their cruise cancellation fee schedule for sailings through Sept. 30, 2021.


For sailings through September 30, 2021, they temporarily extending final payment until 60 days prior to sailing for Guests booked in unrestricted stateroom categories.

As of Feb. 3, 2021, Disney Cruise Line has begun to enforce the existing cancellation policy regarding the Vacation Protection Plan (VPP). The policy establishes that once the Vacation Protection Plan has been paid in full, it will no longer be refundable, with the exception of a “10-day look-back period” post-purchase to give insured guests appropriate time to review the full policy. Please note this enforcement does not apply to bookings made before Feb. 3, 2021, with the exception of situations where a non-refundable charge (i.e. air) is associated with the reservation.


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