Ready for a Ferry Ride to Cuba?
For those of you who've enjoyed ferry rides to prime destinations like Sausalito, Nantucket, and Mackinac Island, hold on to your hats: The U.S. just approved ferry service between Florida and Cuba.
Granting licenses to several cargo and passenger companies, the federal government opened up the possibility of ferry service in the Florida Straits for the first time in more than a half century. The Miami Herald reports that some ferry companies say they may offer service within weeks from ports like Key West, Miami, Port Everglades, and the Tampa area.
The Sun Sentinel reports that one company, CubaKat, hopes to offer high-speed catamaran service from the Florida Keys to Havana by December. CubaKat's multimillion dollar craft would transport about 200 people to Havana in approximately for hours for $338 (considerably less than the $500 airfares common at the moment).
While there are still plenty of hoops to be jumped through and red tape to be cut (not to mention the fact that Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba only for family visits and educational/professional purposes), the prospect is enticing. Back in the 1950s, ferry travel to and from Cuba was a normal part of many Americans' and Cubans' travel experiences.
If you're ready to dive into the "purposeful travel" that is currently permitted to Cuba, you don't have to wait for ferry service to begin. A group tour such as Intrepid Travel's 9-day Hola Cuba People to People package might be right for you. You'll meet real Cubans, including top chefs, local artists, salsa dancers, historians, and tobacco farmers, as you travel from iconic Havana to the countryside.
We want to know: Have you visited Cuba? Are you one of the many travel fanatics eagerly researching a future Cuba excursion?
Curing Culinary Travel Fever in NYC
This article was written by Meleena Bowers. Follow along with all her travel adventures on Twitter and Instagram at @worldtravelure. Food is the window to a nation's soul. Our first experiences with food often shape our perceptions about a foreign land and its culture. It is the elusive feeling of comfort that is evoked when biting into our first hot, flaky croissant of buttery goodness in Paris or the burst of flavors we experience when the first forkful of a tender Moroccan lamb tagine hits our tongue. We remember the sweet dal that we had at a wedding celebration in Mumbai, the mole we had in Oaxaca at La Guelaguetza festival, or the hearty goulash we had on a wintery day in Budapest. Exposure to exotic dishes experienced abroad can lead to withdrawal when a craving hits back home. It is a dilemma any bon vivant junkie must face: how to chase the dragon stateside? Spices have always held a certain reserve currency status. There was a time when nutmeg was more valuable than gold. In fact, the Dutch traded Manhattan to the British in exchange for a small Indonesian Island that allowed them to have a monopoly on nutmeg. International epicureans looking for those hard to find ingredients from travels abroad are in good company and join the ranks of Marco Polo, Vasco De Gama, and Christopher Columbus who searched for new routes to the spice rich regions of the Far East. For New Yorkers in the know, the journey to culinary nirvana need not be as fraught with peril as those faced by the early explorers. Kalustyans in Murray Hill is where Marco Polo meets Manhattan. It is where the refined, internationally fine-tuned palate comes to worship at a shrine of fragrant spices, rare salts, fiery hot sauces, and infused oils. Culinarians with an appetite for adventure will appreciate a field trip to La Boîte where world traveler, chef and spiceologist Lior Lev Sercarz peddles his signature blends. Chef Sercarz' craft creations bear the names of exotic destinations tempting the home chef to experiment with new spice fusions in the same way one does while abroad by adding a dash of Bombay, a pinch of Penang, and a squeeze of Siam. The Greek Diaspora flock to Titan in Astoria for a quick Feta fix while those seeking a cure for South of the Border fever can check into, or rather check out at, Williamsburg's Moore Street Market, the Betty Ford clinic to all things Latin. Should you be on a Viking quest to stockpile the Norwegian chocolate that ruined all other chocolate for you, the Nordic Deli in Brooklyn or the Scandinavia House in Manhattan will keep you outfitted in the creamy milk chocolate deliciousness of Freia Melkesjokolade for as long as your pockets are lined with Krone. Although the price points at these specialty stores are not always as easy to digest as they are in their native lands, the spices acquired at these culinary apothecaries will be less expensive than commandeering a slow boat to China. With any luck, your acquisition of these specialty seasonings will have your dinner guests convinced you are serving them ambrosia. Whether you travel to a brick and mortar location or make a virtual visit online, your trip to one of these niche stores will help throw the gastronomic monkey off your back. Until your next sojourn where you will undoubtedly fall in love with new dishes and flavor profiles.
Video! Watch SNL Skewer Airplane Tech with 'Bionic' Flight Attendants
Replacing human flight attendants with a robot staff: What could possibly go wrong? This past weekend, Saturday Night Live poked fun at travel technology — specifically ordering snacks and drinks via touchscreens and using automated voice menus — with a skit starring Scarlett Johansson and Vanessa Bayer as Stepford wife–like "bionic" flight attendants on Virgin Atlantic. Predictably, things go awry. If you're ever had a in-flight entertainment system fizzle out on you, you'll empathize. Watch below! Side note: I must be getting too used to whatever paltry scraps some airlines dole out in coach, because getting a surprise 38 boxes of animal crackers actually sounds pretty good to me.
Show Us Your #BTHotelfie!
It's such a great idea, we can't believe it took this long: There's no quicker or easier way to say "Having a wonderful time, wish you were here" than snapping a "#hotelfie" and posting it on social media. Yes, it's just what it sounds like: A selfie (possibly along with your Sig-Oth, family, pooch, BFFs, etc.) showing how much you're enjoying your hotel stay. It can be as simple as you standing by an oceanview window, lounging by the pool (like BT's Senior Editor Jamie Beckman in the #hotelfie above), or toasting the sunset on the terrace. The hashtag #hotelfie is sweeping through social media, fueled in part by hotels' realization that it is, of course, a free marketing bonanza. And we're jumping right in! Follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter and Instagram and show us your #BTHotelfie today!
4 Classic Cocktail Recipes from Fancy Hotels—and Pro Tips for Making Them
Old-school cocktails are in vogue now, thanks to the comeback of cocktail culture and the glorification of everything retro, TV's Mad Men being a particularly fine example. We can't think of a better place than a chic hotel bar to sip an old fashioned from a heavy-bottomed tumbler while deep in thought. The only problem is, those lobby drinks can be a splurge, depending on what part of the world you're in—and how many you order. So we're bringing the bar to you, with these clever yet timeless cocktail recipes from swanky Hilton lounges across the country. While you're stirring them up, heed these three cocktail rules, straight from a barkeep at LvL25 at Conrad Miami, a lounge renowned for the Biscayne Bay views from its 25-story vantage point. Rule #1: Hit the grocery store before you mix up a cocktail. "Our secret is to use fresh ingredients. We marinate the fruit with sugar for a bit so the juice from the fruit comes out in the flavors of the drink." Rule #2: Use a stainless-steel cocktail shaker and pronged cocktail strainer to make drinks—not one of those built-in perforated strainers. "The pronged strainer allows the cocktail to breathe like a good glass of wine. It also ensures the mixed or muddled ingredients are strained out to ensure the highest drink quality." Rule #3: When at a hotel bar, go off menu. "Instead of ordering a signature drink, guests should ask the bartender to create a drink based on their liquor preference and sweet or savory tastes. A good bartender usually anticipates a guest’s needs by asking about their drink preferences first."