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January 2012
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March 2012

Carnival Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint in Mexico - ABC

Iconic smoke stack on a Carnival Cruise ship as it leaves Long Beach CA.

Twenty-two passengers traveling on a Carnival cruise ship for the trip of a lifetime instead got the scare of a lifetime when they were robbed at gunpoint while on an excursion in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta.

The passengers were robbed Thursday during a guided trail excursion while on a seven-day cruise aboard the Carnival Splendor, the Miami-based cruise line confirmed in a statement released Saturday.

No one was injured and the guests returned safely to the ship, according to Carnival, which did not provide any further details of the robbery except to say the company is assisting guests to reimburse them for lost valuables.


Bellagio of Las Vegas, Room Remodel & New Fountain Tracks

Things have changed since my last visit to the Bellagio in May of 2011.  Not only has the Bellagio of Las Vegas just finished a much needed $70 million room remodel, but they have added three new songs to the music repertoire of the hotels signature fountain.

Couple watching the fountain in front of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Guest will find the Resort King Rooms now feature either an indigo and silver combination or a green tea and plum palette while the Resort Queen Rooms offer an amber and butterscotch motif.  (butterscotch....did I type butterscotch?  Now I can't stop thinking about sweets and the great pastry and candy at the hotels Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie!)

Photo of a newly remodeled Bellagio Room. Photo provided by Bellagio.
All room three designs can also be booked overlooking the hotels iconic 8 1/2 acre lake and the magical Fountains of Bellagio.  FYI: Music from the fountain is available via the TV, seeing the fountain from the room is a great experience.

The Bellagio fountain as seen from a lake view room.  Paris hotel is just across Las Vegas Blvd.
The performance playlist of the iconic Fountains Of Bellagio has also been updated.  Unlike the old rooms, the Fountains didn't need a bit of improving, but three fantastic new songs have been add to the lineup.  Wonder if I should call them "performances", "shows" or "visual extravaganzas"?  The "spectacle" now includes the classic swing band hit, Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood",  Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean, and diamonds appear above the 8 1/2 acre Bellagio lake with ”The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."  This blend of music and hydro science is done by the folks at WET Design.

Waters dance seem to dance at the fountain that fronts Las Vegas Blvd.

I didn't stay at the Bellagio during my recent Vegas visit in January 2012, it was sold out, so I will review the rooms at a later date.  But I did visit the fountains, and as always they never fail to impress.  One photo provided by property, all others Copyright 2012

Should You Use A Luggage Lock?

Is it worth having a lock on your luggage?  Some say don’t bother, luggage locks are cheap and easily cut off.  But I say Yes, put a lock on your suitcase.  My favorite is the luggage lock from WordLock.   It is a TSA approved padlock that uses a four letter word you select as the combination and the TSA have a key to open it if needed.

WordLock on my zipper luggage.

But if you suitcase has a zipper don’t even think that it is secure from an experienced thief.  Just watch the video below:


How do you get around the zipper issue?  Use a hard shell suitcase that can be secured with a TSA approved padlock when you are flying, and using a sturdy padlock when on the ground.  Pelican or Zero Halliburton make high quality cases that use TSA locks built-in or are designed to take padlocks.  When buying a suit case that doesn’t use a zipper make sure they take a real padlock. 

Pelican cases are heavy duty plastic cases that are designed more for transporting equipment than clothing.  Zero Halliburton cases are more expensive and might make the suitcase a target for thieves that think that an expensive suitcase has valuable contents.  A new supplier is Nanuk, I haven't seen them in person.

Some zippered suitcases allow you to lock the zippers handles to a stationary location on the case.  This defeats the ability to repair/close the zipper after a bad guy has forced the zipper open with a sharp object as seen in the video. 

Cruise ship luggage sits in the rain.
I also like hard cases over fabric cases because they help protect your valuables from rain or liquids that may break in another suitcase on a flight.   Picking up your suitcase and noticing it smells like wine, made me a believer in hard cases. 

It happened to me at the end of a trip, if it had happened at the start it would have been a disaster.   I still use some old soft cases, but put everything in a plastic bags.  I’ve also found that if you frequently travel in the tropics fabric luggage can degrade and fall apart quickly. TB

1$ Ticket Expands - Nashiville, Louisville, Indianapolis & Chicago

Passengers boarding bus.
Book early and your ticket to any city served by MegaBus might be as low as 1$.  Of course only a few tickets are available at these low fares.  These seats go fast, and an average fare for a Boston to NYC run may be around $20.  Some passengers pay less, some pay more.  Known as load balancing, everyone is doing it.  Airlines started it, now hotels, cruises and buses are using computer programs to slowly raise a price based on the number of seats remaining.  This is a great way to stretch your travel dollar.   Another plus is that Megabus offers free WiFi.  Not bad for a hundred pennies.

Video: The Mob Museum Opens in Las Vegas

The Nationa Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka The Mob Museum, has opened in Las Vegas. Displaying iconic artifacts of mob history from across the country in the cities historic old Federal Building. Engaging exhibs and multi-sensory presentations take you back to the days of the mobsters.

Todays slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" harkens back to the days of mob owned hotels of Las Vegas. When "Sin City" was the place good boys & girls could be bad. TB


Travel warning: Violence spreading in Mexico - CNN

Mexican Police with automatic weapons.
-- Americans should avoid all but essential travel to all or parts of 14 Mexican states, the U.S. State Department warns as violence has spread.

Shootouts, kidnappings and carjackings have climbed, as have cartels, also known as transnational criminal organizations (TCO), the State Department said this week in a broadened travel warning.

While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico every year, the country's ongoing violence and security concerns pose risks for U.S. citizens, and travelers should take precautions, the State Department advises.

"The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery," its alert says.


(Direct Link to the U.S. Department Of State Mexico Travel Warning. TB)