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Travel News Reports

Bus travel gives other modes run for the money
Charisse Jones, USA TODAY 4:56 p.m. EDT April 20, 2014 Seats inside the MegaBus(Photo: WLTX) SHARE 61 CONNECT EMAILMORE Buses are starting to give airlines, trains, and even cars a run for their money. With spiffed up
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Ask the Captain: Dividing duties in the cockpit
John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 3 p.m. EDT April 20, 2014 Captains and first officers can both perform all critical tasks, but the captain has the final call on dividing cockpit duties.(Photo: Digital Vision, Getty
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Rick Steves: What's new in Italy in 2014 20 April 2014, 19.43 Travel
Rick Steves: What's new in Italy in 2014
Rick Steves 11:51 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014 Smart visitors to Florence buy a museum pass or advance tickets to avoid lengthy lines at key attractions such as the Uffizi Gallery.(Photo: Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe) SHARE
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Star-studded cruises: Set sail with celebrity guests
If you're sitting by the pool people-watching and find yourself having to do a double-take, thinking you're seeing a famous person, you just may be. Celebrities are cruisers too.Donny Osmond, Curt Shilling and Neil Sedaka have
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Easter in Vegas: Best Sunday brunch specials 18 April 2014, 23.16 Travel
Easter in Vegas: Best Sunday brunch specials
(Photo: Ferraro's) Easter makes for a good weekend to be eating in Las Vegas. The holiday means spring is in full swing, and with it comes all the lively ingredients that we've missed through the winter months. Restaurants
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Beautiful beaches with rugged cliffs 18 April 2014, 23.16 Travel
Beautiful beaches with rugged cliffs
In New Zealand -- a nation brimming with postcard-perfect natural scenery -- Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula ranks among the most picturesque spots. These protected coves, perfect for
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Sexiest swim-up bars in the Caribbean 18 April 2014, 23.15 Travel
Sexiest swim-up bars in the Caribbean
At some point during your Caribbean getaway, after sailing the high seas, frolicking on the beach and scuba diving alongside turtles, chances are you'll want to plop down at the bar for a cocktail or three. Or, perhaps bellying
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New Mexico: A land enchanted by chile peppers 18 April 2014, 23.15 Travel
New Mexico: A land enchanted by chile peppers
In New Mexico, chile isn't just a vegetable. It's practically a religion. It inspires devotion among worshipers who blend it into everything from to beer to fudge to spa treatments. A statewide trail pays homage to the green
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Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites 18 April 2014, 23.15 Travel
Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Add Videos or PhotosBe first to contribute Sign in now to share your story. Sign in with FacebookSign in with Google+ Be first to contribute Add More Videos or Photos You've contributed successfully to: Check out your
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Spend your tax refund on these cruises 18 April 2014, 23.15 Travel
Spend your tax refund on these cruises
The average income tax refund is expected to come in at somewhere around $3,000. If you plan on spending some of that money on a cruise vacation, you're in luck. There are deals out there for the coming months.Here are 10
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10 national park experiences of a lifetime 14 April 2014, 20.38 Travel
10 national park experiences of a lifetime
David and Kay Scott, Special for USA TODAY 8:38 p.m. EDT April 11, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide A Red bus navigates Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.(Photo: Donnie
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Universal Studios Hollywood unleashes Minion power
Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide At Universal Hollywood's Super Silly Fun Land area, the activities are taken directly from "Despicable Me's" on-screen theme park.(Photo: David Sprague,
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Ask the Captain: Questions about Malaysia Airlines 370
John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 3:03 p.m. EDT April 13, 2014 Former airline pilot John Cox says that the events surrounding Malaysia Airlines 370 are "unprecedented in aviation history."(Photo: Lai Seng Sin, AP) SHARE 64
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One happy island: Amazing reasons to visit Aruba
With the slogan "One Happy Island" on its car license plates, it's no surprise Aruba is one of the most visited (and re-visited) islands in the Caribbean. Less than three hours by air from Miami and with U.S. pre-clearance at
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Foodie paradise: Cool culinary shops across the country
When planning a trip to a new city, the culinary-minded traveler's itinerary often begins not with what to see, but rather where to eat and drink. For this species of tourist, a browse in a top-notch cookery store can be just
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Surf and Turf: The 10 best cruise ship steakhouses
There is no shortage of choices for meat-lovers on cruise ship menus. But when you're craving a thick, juicy, perfectly prepared steak, the best place to go is the ship's classic steakhouse (keep in mind that an extra fee is
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Photos: Best dog-friendly beaches 08 April 2014, 02.16 Travel
Photos: Best dog-friendly beaches
Del Mar's North Beach, affectionately known as "Dog Beach" by local pet owners, allows Fido to run freely off-leash after Labor Day until June 15. In the peak summer months, dogs are still
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Airbus shows off A350 cabin for the first time
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10 best food trucks in Washington, D.C. 08 April 2014, 02.16 Travel
10 best food trucks in Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C.'s burgeoning dining scene sports a healthy and vibrant food truck culture which rivals those of larger cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Home to over 150 active food trucks, you can find unique and
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Go big or go home: The world's largest cruise ships
For people who want a total resort experience, the world's largest cruise ships are a slam-dunk. In building these super megaships, the cruise lines took to heart the saying, "Go big or go home." These ships are as big as small
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Five coolest things to do in St. Lucia 08 April 2014, 02.16 Travel
Five coolest things to do in St. Lucia
Saint Lucia's charms are many; the topography is bold and ever changing, the beaches are beautiful, and the nascent culinary scene is quietly emerging as one of the Caribbean's elite. Saint Lucia has become more than a
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LINQ is a breath of fresh air on the Las Vegas Strip
LAS VEGAS -- Katie Bass and Janelle Dittus followed the light.In a city known for bold displays of light, that's saying something.The two social workers visiting from Tacoma, Wash., are sitting on the edge of a fountain at the
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Indulge at restaurants starring single ingredients
Sometimes you love a food so much, you could eat it everyday. These restaurants take favortism even further by devoting their entire menu to a single dish, often with many variations. From mac and cheese to French fries, these
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Cruise ship tours: The elegance of a Uniworld vessel
Add Videos or PhotosBe first to contribute Sign in now to share your story. Sign in with FacebookSign in with Google+ Be first to contribute Add More Videos or Photos You've contributed successfully to: Cruise ship tours:
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Cruise smackdown: Norwegian Getaway vs. Carnival Breeze
Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, the 146,000-ton Norwegian Getaway is a sister to the nine-month-old Norwegian Breakaway and shares
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Sneak peek: World's tallest Ferris wheel opens in Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- At 550 feet, the highest point on the highest observation wheel in the world, Tony Anouvongs takes a selfie and sends it to his 16-year-old daughter."My daughter requested it," he says of the High Roller wheel.
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Photo tour: Postcard-perfect images of Georgia
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Take a photo tour of beautiful Puerto Rico 03 April 2014, 21.19 Travel
Take a photo tour of beautiful Puerto Rico
Jamaica, the third largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean, is also one of the most iconic tropical getaways, thanks to its beautiful natural scenery and hip, laid-back culture. 
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Beautiful Texas: Photos of the Lone Star State
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Booze-friendly beaches in the USA 28 March 2014, 23.48 Travel
Booze-friendly beaches in the USA
If you're looking for a beach in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area to enjoy some drinks, head to Treasure Island; be aware that the beach does have a restricted area where alcohol is not allowed on
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10 best cruise lines for family reunions 28 March 2014, 23.48 Travel
10 best cruise lines for family reunions
A key to a happy family reunion is a combination of fun activities, togetherness and down time. Cruise ships provide a perfect venue for multigenerational groups because everyone is free to do their own thing — play or lounge
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Why rough it? Adventure cruising goes upscale 28 March 2014, 23.48 Travel
Why rough it? Adventure cruising goes upscale
HUE, VIETNAM -- The day starts early with a visit to the Imperial Citadel of Vietnam's Nguyen emperors, a sprawling complex of temples and royal residences surrounded by walls and moats. Then it's off to the riverfront Thien Mu
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10 best dance halls where Texas country still swings
Larry Bleiberg, Special for USA TODAY 11:34 a.m. EDT March 28, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Austin's famed Broken Spoke celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Now it's a holdout,
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The world's weirdest foods for brave travelers
Sometimes traveling the world isn't enough for the boldest among us. There are a rare few that demand more than just exotic sites and foreign coasts. We have a taste for the extraordinary and crave the bizarre foods of the
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Nine gorgeous Caribbean hotel villas 26 March 2014, 20.13 Travel
Nine gorgeous Caribbean hotel villas
Owning a private vacation home sure sounds nice, but people fantasizing about their own beachside property often forget that owning also means cleaning, maintaining, fixing, the list goes on ... and it can end up being less of
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Royal Caribbean to debut new dining on Quantum
Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Tags Jamie Oliver Royal Caribbean International Quantum SHARE 8 CONNECT EMAILMORE Royal Caribbean is dropping the traditional main dining room and assigned
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Train or plane? Which is the better choice? 26 March 2014, 20.13 Travel
Train or plane? Which is the better choice?
Bill McGee , Special for USA TODAY 2:59 p.m. EDT March 26, 2014 Which is the better way to travel: by train or by plane? The answer depends on dozens of variables, including geography, cost and time.(Photo: Top: Scott
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Airfare Expert: How the Internet killed specialty fares
Rick Seaney, Special for USA TODAY 2:56 p.m. EDT March 25, 2014 If you fly a large carrier just for the miles, compare fares on discount airlines such as Frontier or JetBlue. They won't be cheap either, but may be less than
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Cruise ship tours: The charm of Viking's new vessels
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How to do Las Vegas like a Trump 26 March 2014, 20.13 Travel
How to do Las Vegas like a Trump
A Trump by any other name would still be an expert in luxury tourism. EVP of Development and Acquisitions and The Donald's third born, Eric Trump, is no exception. Putting all other 30-year-olds to shame, he not only oversaw
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Foreign traffic laws crank up chaos 23 March 2014, 00.11 Travel
Foreign traffic laws crank up chaos
Christopher Elliott , Special for USA TODAY 4:08 p.m. EDT March 23, 2014 This picture taken on March 13, 2014, shows cars driving on the Champs Elysee in Paris.(Photo: Pierre Andrieu, AFP/Getty Images) SHARE 1 CONNECT
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Road Warriors protest airline change fees 23 March 2014, 00.11 Travel
Road Warriors protest airline change fees
A man looks at the flight status screen flashing "Canceled" notices at Dulles International Airport near Washington on Feb. 13.(Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS, AFP/Getty Images) SHARE 3 CONNECT EMAILMORE Airline cancellation and
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Ask the Captain: What does the flight engineer do?
John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 3:03 p.m. EDT March 23, 2014 Older aircraft required flight engineers with specialized training to operate flight systems, but modern computers have made the position increasingly rare.(Photo:
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Airport may harness the sun for power 23 March 2014, 00.11 Travel
Airport may harness the sun for power
Jeff Adelson, AP Business Writer 1:23 p.m. EDT March 23, 2014 Flights are shown cancelled due to winter weather at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Jan. 28, 2014, in New Orleans, La.(Photo: Sean Gardner, Getty
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Las Vegas' hottest pool parties kick off the season
If you're reading this somewhere that still requires you to wear a coat, first, I'm sorry. Second, come to Las Vegas. Our pools are open, and the pool party season is about to go into full swing. Dance music is no longer
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Wild Hawaii: Amazing animals around the Big Island
Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide SHARE 38 CONNECT EMAILMORE Kailua-Kona, Hawaii -- When you think Hawaii, you naturally think of beautiful beaches, great golfing, luaus and leis. But it's also
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North America's best public gardens: You decide!
Libby McMillan, 10Best (a division of USA TODAY) 10:50 a.m. EDT March 18, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide The classic domed conservatory at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has become a
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TripAdvisor users pick the best U.S. and world beaches
Which state has the best beaches in the USA? According to TripAdvisor's second annual Traveler's Choice awards for Beaches, that would be Hawaii.Hawaii has seven of the top 10 U.S. beaches, including the top beach: Lanikai
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Your Take: Photos of the world's largest passenger plane
Add Videos or PhotosBe first to contribute Sign in now to share your story. Sign in with FacebookSign in with Google+ Be first to contribute Add More Videos or Photos You've contributed successfully to: Your Take: Photos of
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Coming soon -- maybe -- to an airport near you
Harriet Baskas, Special for USA TODAY 8:09 a.m. EDT March 19, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Paradies, which has shops in dozens of airports, has an "At Your Service" cart that can be
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Cruise ship tours: The intimacy of Ponant's Le Soleal
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Las Vegas' best spring break specials 19 March 2014, 18.42 Travel
Las Vegas' best spring break specials
Even if you're in your senior year or your senior years, spring break isn't reserved just for students. It's a time to warm up, let loose, have fun and forget about all the stresses of work and school, but there's no reason to
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American regional foods worth traveling for 15 March 2014, 20.11 Travel
American regional foods worth traveling for
Dan Myers, TheDailyMeal.com 6:02 a.m. EDT March 15, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Spiedies (Binghamton, N.Y.): In the early 1920s, Italian immigrants brought their traditional
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Explore Ireland's culinary scene beyond the pub
In a country where one of the biggest sporting events is pub drinking, it can be easy to overlook the eating side of the equation. But there's more to the Irish food scene than meets the eye, and several annual celebrations
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In Denver, toke it easy on this pot-infused tour
Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide At the downtown Denver Native Roots Apothecary, assistant manager Michael Pyatt, left, poses with a fellow employee. The medical marijuana dispensary recently
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10 best family volunteer vacations 15 March 2014, 20.11 Travel
10 best family volunteer vacations
Larry Bleiberg, Special for USA TODAY 8:02 a.m. EDT March 14, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Globe Aware partners with communities in Costa Rica (and many other countries) on week-long
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How to cruise to Europe for less than 0 15 March 2014, 20.11 Travel
How to cruise to Europe for less than $600
When a cruise line moves a ship from one destination to another for the season on a one-way repositioning cruise, you can nearly always snag a good deal. This year you can take a cruise from the U.S. to Europe for cheaper than
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Slideshow: A day of deep-sea fishing in the Bahamas
The Bahamas are world-renowned for fishing, and anglers pull some beautiful catches from its crystal-clear waters. These images were provided by the Bahamas Sport Fishing Network, find more info
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Ask the Captain: Can a flight make up time in the air?
John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 3:03 p.m. EST March 2, 2014 Late flights do have some options, but it's not just a matter of revving the engines.(Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images) SHARE 1 CONNECT EMAILMORE Question: If a
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10 best luxury Caribbean cruise perks 01 March 2014, 22.51 Travel
10 best luxury Caribbean cruise perks
For passengers who want the very best, and can afford it, luxury Caribbean cruises provide a floating world of first-class amenities, fine cuisine and elegant accommodations. Your drinks and crew gratuities are included in your
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Unique McDonald's breakfasts around the world 01 March 2014, 22.51 Travel
Unique McDonald's breakfasts around the world
Chinmoy Lad, TheDailyMeal.com 6:03 a.m. EST March 1, 2014 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide Spicy Chicken Muffin with Egg, Egypt: The classic Sausage McMuffin with Egg gets an Egyptian twist,
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Photo tour: Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
Experience Las Vegas is featuring in-depth photo tours of the city's famous hotels and casino resorts this year. We'll feature a different Vegas property each month so you can visit virtually before booking your stay, or just
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Ski resort guide: The best of Sierra-at-Tahoe 01 March 2014, 22.51 Travel
Ski resort guide: The best of Sierra-at-Tahoe
Many ski resorts claim to welcome families, but few resorts go to the lengths that Sierra-at-Tahoe does to roll out the red carpet for parents and kids. The family-friendly atmosphere starts at the ticket counter with the
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10 best things to do on the new Norwegian Getaway
The new 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway debuted in Miami earlier this month, the biggest ship to ever cruise year-round from the city. Onboard the Miami-centric ship, cruise passengers will find an action-packed environment
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Where to find king cake for Mardi Gras 24 February 2014, 22.06 Travel
Where to find king cake for Mardi Gras
King cake is the food to celebrate Mardi Gras: a ring of dough, cinnamon-streaked, filled or plain, liberally topped with sugar in purple, green and gold, the traditional colors of Carnival. Die-hard Louisiana expats often have
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Is it acceptable to watch porn on a plane? 24 February 2014, 22.06 Travel
Is it acceptable to watch porn on a plane?
Christopher Elliott, Special for USA TODAY 8 a.m. EST February 24, 2014 4/17/10 12:59:04 PM --Los Angeles, CA Virgin America passengers can enjoy fleet-wide Wifi and power outlets located between seats for laptop and other
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Disney World hikes admission prices to a day 24 February 2014, 22.06 Travel
Disney World hikes admission prices to $99 a day
Single-day admission to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom have risen to $99 for adults and children 10 and older. Price hikes for the resort's three other parks also were announced.(Photo: None Disney) Tags SHARE 2 CONNECT
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Where to eat like a supermodel in South Beach 24 February 2014, 22.06 Travel
Where to eat like a supermodel in South Beach
Balance out consumption overload from the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival with these supermodel-approved Miami restaurants. You might even spot one when you go.JugoFreshNoshed on too much pork at the
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Ask the Captain: Do pilots know what every button does?
John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 6 p.m. EST February 23, 2014 Pilot training covers every control in the cockpit, with simulator sessions edifying when and how they're used.(Photo: Ted Aljibe, AFP/Getty Images) SHARE 24
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Future News Reports

Obama's War Against US Energy Independence:  Give Away Oil Rich Alaskan Islands to Russia!
  By Joe Miller The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab
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OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials 08 April 2012, 02.33 Administrator Energy
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials
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        North America’s EV charging infrastructure may soon see significant improvements, thanks to a recent agreement between Eaton Corporation and Coulomb Technologies. Under the deal, Eaton’s Level II and
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Bus travel gives other modes run for the money PDF Print E-mail

Charisse Jones, USA TODAY 4:56 p.m. EDT April 20, 2014

Seats inside the MegaBus(Photo: WLTX)

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Buses are starting to give airlines, trains, and even cars a run for their money. With spiffed up coaches, internet reservations, and often significantly cheaper fares, bus travel is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to flying, taking the train and even driving your own car, according to a new study released Monday.

"It's a . . . mode of travel that's really shaking things up,'' says Joseph Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute which conducted the study. "The ability to hop on a bus for half the price of the next cheapest option is a game changer.''

The study tracked the cost of taking a plane, bus or train from Oct. 2013 to January 2014 in 52 city pairs that ranged in distance from 100 to 500 miles.

Depending on whether tickets were bought a day, a week or 28 days in advance, a ride on an inter-city bus was on average 50% to 55% cheaper than a ride on Amtrak.

Taking the bus was even cheaper than driving a car, with a ticket bought the day before a trip costing 30.9% less on average than getting behind the wheel

"People are taking the bus who have cars sitting in their driveway, which is a new phenomenon,'' Schwieterman says.

Train travel is surging as well. A trip on Amtrak costs 55% to 73% less on average than an airline ticket, according to the DePaul University study.

And Amtrak is seeing record ridership. Last year, it ferried 31.6 million passengers, the most in its history, says Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz. Since 2006, ridership in the northeast corridor has increased 21%, while it has risen 38% during that period on routes of less than 750 miles across the country, Schulz says.

Together, Schwieterman and others say, buses and trains are filling a void left by airlines on some shorter routes, where flights have been reduced or scrapped altogether as carriers focus on more lucrative markets.

"Some of (Amtrak's) growth is due to the decrease in those short distance airline flights and the absence of other travel options,'' Schulz says. "I think it's fair to say that the changes in service provided to some of the smaller communities is an opportunity for Amtrak.''

Less than two years ago, Southwest offered four non-stop round trip flights a day between Chicago and Indianapolis. But it halted that service in November, 2012. Megabus, an express inter-city service meanwhile, has eight daily, non-stop trips each way between the two Midwestern cities.

Cost is a key factor in why bus travel is gaining in popularity, Schwieterman says. But so is a younger generation that is less attached to driving, and a bus sector that is redefining itself, adding amenities, technology and service to attract more passengers.

"It has a stigma that's withering away,'' Schwieterman says of bus travel. "It's no longer seen as a mode of last resort.''

Polina Raygorodskaya co-founded Wanderu, a website that enables travelers to shop for and book bus rides. Since launching in August, the site has had three million searches.

"Buses were always cheaper, but buses over the past ten years became cool,'' she says, noting that millennials appreciate the free Wi-Fi, electric plugs and extra leg room newer buses provide. "That coolness has started attracting the college student visiting a girlfriend for the weekend and the young professional going to Washington D.C. for a business meeting. They'd rather take a bus, plug in and use it as a mobile office.''

Raygorodskaya, who adds that her site also allows reservations on Amtrak, says that airlines may have a hard time competing, at least on shorter trips.

"As airlines are cutting costs and getting progressively worse, bus companies are doing everything they can to be more innovative,'' she says. "They're fighting for these customers . .. It's hard to convince us why we should be taking a plane when taking a bus or train is far more convenient.''

Schwieterman says that more business trekkers are starting to see the bus as a travel option. .

"On the east coast, we're seeing true briefcase carrying business travelers give the bus a try,'' he says. "I don't think it's terribly pervasive in other parts of the country yet . . . I think that can be the next big market, but it's still percolating.''

But Jami Counter, senior director of TripAdvisor Flights says that compared to air travel, a bus has limited appeal.

"If you're looking at it for families or business travelers, it's less of an option particularly once you start getting on routes over a couple of hours,'' Counter says, adding that the train is far more competitive with airlines, on routes of less than 300 miles. "The problem with bus travel is though it's cheap, you never know how long it's going to take based on traffic.''

Victoria Day, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the industry trade group, says that when adjusted for inflation, the average round-trip domestic fare dropped 15% between 2000 and 2012.

"Airlines compete not only with each other, but also with other transportation modes, even in short-haul markets,'' she says. "There are times when airline customers pay for the convenience to travel a shorter amount of time and have the capability to include optional customer amenities such as food and entertainment.''

But bus lines are boosting their perks.

Megabus which launched in the U.S. in 2006, carries roughly 10 million passengers a year on double-decker coaches outfitted with power outlets and Wi-Fi.

While there are no middle seats, allowing everyone to get an aisle or a window perch, Megabus announced earlier this month that riders could reserve the most coveted seats. The bus lines has Facebook and Twitter accounts which can help followers get first crack at its one-dollar fares, as well as a mobile app that gives arrival-time updates when traffic slows down the ride.

"We're introducing people to a form of travel that's been around for a long time, but now it's the 21st century version,'' says Mike Alvich, vice-president of marketing and public relations for Coach USA/megabus.com.

While college students make up a significant share of their riders, business trekkers are a small but growing segment, Alvich says. And while the company isn't actively scouting for routes abandoned by the airlines, if Megabus sees an uptick in passengers after a carrier pulls out, "we'll absolutely start to put on additional service.'

Greyhound, which will turn a century old in May, has updated its image, installing reclining leather seats and free WiFi. In 2010 , it started Greyhound Express, which makes non-stop runs between major cities, and allows passengers to reserve seats.

Greyhound also launched BoltBus in 2008. The discount express line offers service between major cities in the Northeast and West Coast, picking up passengers primarily at curbside stops rather than traditional terminals.

Luxury bus lines are also making a mark. RedCoach, which provides service to cities throughout Florida, boasts buses that have free WiFi and seat trays. The roomier first class coaches offer snack boxes, and both first class and business class buses feature flat screen t.v.'s so passengers can watch movies.

RedCoach officials say they saw a need in a state where flights between Miami and the state capital in Tallahassee could cost as much as $1,600.

"That's a lot of money for 500 miles,'' says Florencia Cirigliano, RedCoach's vice president of marketing and public relations.

Except for select days, the most a RedCoach rider would pay for that route is $180 round trip.

Business passengers make up 30% of RedCoach's ridership. "You can sleep on the bus . . and if you're a lawyer with billable hours, you can work there,'' she says. "There's a lot of things you can do instead of being stuck in a car or paying that much to fly to Tallahassee.''

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Ask the Captain: Dividing duties in the cockpit PDF Print E-mail

John Cox , Special for USA TODAY 3 p.m. EDT April 20, 2014

Captains and first officers can both perform all critical tasks, but the captain has the final call on dividing cockpit duties.(Photo: Digital Vision, Getty Images)

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Question: What is the difference between first officer and captain?

- submitted by reader Sam, Malaysia

Answer: The captain is responsible for the flight and is in command of it. The first officer is the second in command. They are both licensed and work as a team to safely fly the airplane.

Q: How do the captain and first officer divvy up duties? Who flies the plane and who navigates and who talks to ATC?

- Russ Huntington Beach, CA

A: It is up to the Captain to decide who will fly the flight and who will perform the non-flying duties. There may be cases where the Captain determines that he or she wants to fly due to the weather or other conditions.

Some airports only allow captains to land, making that decision easy. Usually pilots swap the flying duties every other leg during the day.

Q: Why does the captain not fly for the entire time?

-- Ned

A: Several reasons:

The fatigue is better distributed if both pilots fly.

First officers gain experience they will need as captains.

Flying is not always the best use of the captain's experience, training and time. In cases of abnormal issues such as a system malfunction, it may be better for the Captain to not be tied up flying the airplane but to be coordinating the appropriate actions.

John Cox is a retired airline captain with U.S. Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.

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Rick Steves: What's new in Italy in 2014 PDF Print E-mail

Rick Steves 11:51 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014

Smart visitors to Florence buy a museum pass or advance tickets to avoid lengthy lines at key attractions such as the Uffizi Gallery.(Photo: Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)

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Even when it's hot, crowded, or on strike, Italy is lots of fun. More than any other Western European country, though, travelers to Italy need up-to-date information to travel smart, saving both time and money. Here are a few updates to help you make the most of Italy in 2014:

Florence is notorious for long lines at sights. Thankfully, ticketing and line-skipping options for the city's blockbuster sights continue to improve. The Firenze Card, which admits you to 60-some museums for 72 euros, is now good for these cathedral (Duomo) sights: Baptistery, Campanile bell tower, dome climb, and Duomo Museum. If you want to see any single cathedral sight without a Firenze Card, you'll need to buy the new 10-euro combo-ticket. It's still free to enter the cathedral and have a look at Brunelleschi's sublime dome from the inside.

At Florence's Uffizi Museum, known for Renaissance art, there's an exciting change. A new gallery is devoted to Michelangelo, with his famous Doni Tondo painting of the Holy Family as its centerpiece. It's the only easel painting that's definitely known to be by the master's hand.

The private NTV/Italo high-speed train service is up and running, serving Florence along with Venice, Naples, Milan, and Rome. Because rail passes are not accepted, pass holders should choose Trenitalia's equally fast Eurostar Italia or Le Frecce services instead.

Volterra has my vote for the best less-touristed hilltown in Tuscany. Its new Alabaster Museum, featuring workmanship in the prized local stone from Etruscan times to the present, has opened within the 15th-century Pinacoteca painting gallery.

A new Alabaster Museum has opened in postcard-perfect Volterra, one of the least touristy Tuscan hill towns.(Photo: Cameron Hewitt, Rick Steves’ Europe)

In Rome, there's good news for those traveling on a budget or who enjoy eating in bars (or both). A pleasant practice traditionally found in northern Italian cities has migrated south: the aperitivo service. Bars set up an enticing buffet of small dishes and anyone buying a drink (at an inflated price) gets to eat "for free." Drinks generally cost 8 to 10 euros, and the spread is out from 6 until 9 o'clock. Some places limit you to one plate; others allow refills. Another dining trend in Rome is that small restaurants with a full slate of reservations for 8:30 or 9:00 often will accommodate walk-in diners earlier--if they're willing to eat a quick meal.

Venice is working hard to cope with its mobs of visitors. As ever-growing waves of tourists wash over the city every year, residents are struggling to ward off the trash (and trashiness) left in their wake. Picnicking remains illegal anywhere on St. Mark's Square, and offenders can be fined. The city is taking a good-cop/bad-cop approach: On St. Mark's Square, "decorum monitors" admonish snackers and sunbathers, while around town friendly posted guidelines cheerily encourage people to pick up their trash, refrain from pigeon-feeding, and save the beachwear for the Lido.

Structural renovation work on the iconic bell tower that looms over St Mark's Square is finally finished; a titanium girdle wrapped around the underground foundations now shores up a crack that appeared in 1939. The city's top art gallery, the Accademia, is still undergoing a seemingly never-ending renovation, with major rooms still closed. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection has also done some rearranging, largely to accommodate the recently bequeathed Schulhof Collection, which brings the museum's holdings up to the late 20th century with works by Rothko, Calder, de Kooning, Warhol and many others. Peggy would have loved it.

In Ravenna, a new museum is dedicated to Dante Alighieri, who spent three years here before succumbing to an infernal (or at least malaria-ridden) mosquito. While it's a buzz for Italians, it's skippable for those who aren't fans of the author and his work.

Milan is preparing to host the 2015 World's Fair. To welcome the expected 20 million visitors, the Rho-Pero district is revamping its layout with new parks, museums, and American-inspired skyscrapers.

Life is pretty much back to normal in the Cinque Terre, where flooding devastated the area just a few years ago. But the beautiful coastal trail system remains at the mercy of nature, with washouts or bad weather closing popular stretches. The popular Via dell'Amore (Path of Love), which was hit by a landslide in 2013, will reopen sometime in 2014. In Vernazza, a new "beach" was formed with debris from the floods. It's great for wading and sunning, but wear shoes, as bits of rubble are mixed in with the pebbles.

ALSO ONLINE: Italy's Cinque Terre: Exquisite scenery and tasty seafood

Italy has long been my favorite country in Europe and some of its thrills will never change with the calendar. Sit silently on a hilltop rooftop and get chummy with the Tuscan view. Write a poem over a glass of local wine in a sun-splashed, wave-dashed Riviera village. Lifelong travel memories are like low-hanging fruit in Italy--yours to harvest and preserve for years to come.

Rick Steves writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow his blog on Facebook.

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Star-studded cruises: Set sail with celebrity guests PDF Print E-mail

If you're sitting by the pool people-watching and find yourself having to do a double-take, thinking you're seeing a famous person, you just may be. Celebrities are cruisers too.

Donny Osmond, Curt Shilling and Neil Sedaka have all cruised recently on Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Notables on trans-Atlantic sailings on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 have included President George Bush Sr. and Hilary Clinton, along with a bevvy of movie stars, famous authors and even some royalty.

While not all cruising celebrities are announced in advance (some prefer to travel incognito), here are some famous faces you're sure to spot on upcoming cruises.

James Taylor: The Grammy Award winner and his band are cruising on the Queen Mary 2 as part of the oceanliner's 10th anniversary celebration. Passengers on an eight-day cruise from New York to Southampton, UK, embarking August 27, will be able to hear "Sweet Baby James" perform at two concerts and can also attend a live Q&A with the iconic singer-songwriter.

Lily Tomlin: The iconic comedian and actress is the headliner for a New England/Canada cruise hosted by Olivia Lesbian Travel. The one-week cruise on Holland America Line's Maasdam embarks New York for Montreal on May 17.

SEE MORE: Set sail on 2014's best LGBT-friendly cruises

Jim Lehrer: A familiar face as former news anchor of the PBS NewsHour (he's also executive editor), the veteran journalist will join other PBS and NPR notables onboard a cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Voyager. The 12-night Baltics cruise (which includes three days in St. Petersburg), organized by Artful Travelers, sets sail from London to Stockholm on August 27.

Verne Lundquist: Sports fans can get the inside scoop from this Hall of Fame broadcaster onboard a trans-Atlantic cruise on Oceania Cruises' Marina, embarking New York on May 22. Lundquist has been an announcer for decades for CBS Sports and before that for ABC Sports, covering a wide variety of sports including college basketball and football, the NBA and NFL, the PGA Masters and figure skating.

Sir Roger Moore: Cruise with "007 " onboard the Crystal Symphony on a 10-day Baltics cruise, embarking Stockholm on July 4. En-route to Copenhagen, the itinerary includes two overnights in St. Petersburg — yes, you get to see Russia with James Bond (or at least the actor who played the secret agent in seven movies).

Carson Kressley: Fans of "Dancing with the Stars" and "Queer Eye" love Kressley for both his dance moves and fashion sense. He'll join other dance pros and celebrities on "Dancing with the Stars at Sea"-themed cruises onboard Holland America's Zuiderdam and Westerdam including several Alaska sailings this summer. Passengers will have opportunity to take photos, get autographs and ask questions.

EXPLORE: The 10 reasons you should cruise Alaska

Garrison Keeler: The popular humorist and host of A Prairie Home Companion, which can be heard on more than 600 public radio stations, will host a show-themed cruise from Dover, UK to the Baltics, embarking August 9. The 14-day sailing takes place on Holland America Line's Ryndam, with overnights in St. Petersburg and Stockholm. The cruise is sold out, but there is a wait list.

Robert Osborne: Osborne has been a primetime host and anchor of Turner Classic Movies since its launch in 1994 — a role that has earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He'll host the fourth TCM Classic Cruise for movie fans onboard the Disney Magic, embarking Port Canaveral on October 21. Look for a bunch of film stars to also be onboard the five-day sailing.

Martina McBride: The country music superstar will perform on two upcoming cruises. She'll be onboard the Carnival Ecstasy long enough for a concert and a meet-and-greet (the meet-and greet open only to VIP ticketholders), on the ship's May 12 sailing from Miami. Her performance on the Carnival Ecstacy is part of Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival LIVE series. McBride is also booked on the Country Music Cruise on Holland America's Eurodam, embarking Fort Lauderdale on January 18, 2015.

VIDEO: Experience a cruise ship meet-and-greet with the band Train

Kid Rock: Music-themed cruises are all the rage, with Kid Rock's Chillin' the Most Cruise one of the most popular. The Kid just competed his fifth annual cruise onboard the Norwegian Pearl in the Bahamas. A sixth cruise is in the works.

For help planning your next cruise, contact the travel agent specialists at Tripology.com

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Easter in Vegas: Best Sunday brunch specials PDF Print E-mail

(Photo: Ferraro's)

Easter makes for a good weekend to be eating in Las Vegas. The holiday means spring is in full swing, and with it comes all the lively ingredients that we've missed through the winter months. Restaurants offer seasonal specials on Sunday, so that means you'll be seeing lots of lamb, ham, verdant, green vegetables such as peas and asparagus, and my favorite: deviled eggs. This weekend, check out these spots where you can get your first full taste of spring.

Ferraro's

The family-run Italian restaurant and local's favorite is located across from the Hard Rock Hotel, so it's convenient to get to some homestyle cooking for Easter. Open at 4 p.m., Ferraro's will showcase springtime flavors of Italy, along with chef Mimmo Ferraro's specials for the holiday, including lamb ragu with pappardelle pasta, risotto with carrots, peas, prosecco and shrimp, and a 12-ounce pork chop with fresh fennel. Easter is one of chef Mimmo's favorite culinary traditions, and for this night only, he's bringing the traditional Italian Easter bread, a braid of brioche shaped like a cross or wreath and adorned with dyed eggs.

4480 Paradise Rd., 702-364-5300, ferraroslasvegas.com

Payard Patisserie & Bistro

Your hunt for chocolate eggs ends at Payard Patisserie & Bistro, which has created a one-of-a-kind, limited edition, snake-print Easter egg for the holiday. The eight-inch egg is handmade from Valrhona Grand Cru Caraibe Dark Chocolate, part of the newest chocolate collection by chef Francois Payard. Chocolate meeting art never tasted so good.

$39, 702-731-7292, caesarspalace.com

Bacchanal Buffet

If Easter brunch means you gorge for the day, then Bacchanal at Caesars Palace is your destination. In addition to the more than 500 items on the regular spread, seasonal specials for the day include red snapper ceviche with pickled Easter egg radishes, smoked salmon deviled eggs, and the carving station features herb-crusted roasted leg of lamb, lamb porchetta, and pineapple and mustard-glazed ham. The extensive, decadent dessert display will include strawberry pistachio whoopee pies, yuzu cream Éclairs and rose-scented raspberry puffs. You can also celebrate with all-you-care-to-drink mimosas and bloody Mary's.

Caesars Palace, 702-731-7928, caesarspalace.com

RELATED: Buffets for every budget

Gospel Brunch

Get your hymns on at one of three Easter Sunday seatings of Gospel Brunch at House of Blues. Grammy Award-winning Kirk Franklin has picked these explosive, dynamic performers to sing gospel, R&B and soul as you make your through the meal, which includes chicken and waffles, a carving station with honey baked ham and beef brisket, biscuits and gravy and a build your own mac 'n cheese station. You'll want to raise your hands to testify for this meal.

9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. at Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7600, houseofblues.com

Emeril's New Orleans Fish House

NOLA native and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse invites you to Easter dinner at his flagship Las Vegas restaurant, beginning at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Taste the Louisiana influence with specials such as a starter of crawfish tails, English peas, angel hair pasta and parmesan, or pan-roasted halibut with wild morel mushrooms, which are finally in season.

MGM Grand, 702-891-7374, mgmgrand.com

Pink Taco

If Mexican is more your speed for spring, Pink Taco introduces its new Sunday, all-you-can-eat brunch. If you're heading to Rehab (the pool party, or the other one, up to you), this culinary fiesta may just be what you need to fortify yourself. Signature items include machaca deviled eggs over a nest of tortilla strips, baked vegetable chiliquiles and chorizo sliders. Who says Easter food can't be part of a spicy Sunday?

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 702-693-5000, hardrockhotel.com

Carmine's

You want a rack of lamb? Carmine's has your rack of lamb. Located in Forum Shops, the New York Italian restaurant has large groups in mind for the "wow-sized" rack of lamb. Meant to serve four to six people, this platter of bone-in lamb chops is paired with traditional Italian egg bread.

Caesars Palace, 702-473-9700, carminenyc.com

Andrea's

For a Japanese-flavored holiday, Andrea's offers a prix-fixe, $65, three-course menu beginning at 6 p.m. Start the meal sharing plates with your table, including edamame with truffled sea salt, tuna tataki and hamachi sashimi with crispy garlic, cilantro and sudachi soy. You'll each get to choose your own entrée, from a selection of crispy pan-friend noodles for vegetable lovers, Jidori chicken breast with chayote, scallion, ginger and garlic, or pan-seared salmon. Your final course arrives as Andrea's choice, an assortment of well-balanced, Asian-influenced desserts.

Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-5340, wynnlasvegas.com

Tbones Red Rock

Head West from the Strip to Red Rock for a relaxed day near the mountains. Red Rock's steak house, Tbones Chophouse, welcomes the Easter Bunny from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with an Easter egg hunt from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m ($75 adults, includes bottomless mimosas, $37.50 children 12 and under). If the Easter Bunny isn't your bag, Tbones also offers specials such as a Vidalia onion and smoked gouda tart, or the Niman Ranch lamb loin with lamb ragout, pea tendrils and morel mushrooms for dinner, beginning at 5 p.m.

Red Rock Resort, 702-797-7576, redrock.sclv.com

SEE MORE: Easter egg brunches in LA, New York and more foodie cities

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Beautiful beaches with rugged cliffs PDF Print E-mail

In New Zealand -- a nation brimming with postcard-perfect natural scenery -- Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula ranks among the most picturesque spots. These protected coves, perfect for swimming, can only be reached on foot or by boat, but the effort is very much worth it.  tupungato, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Sexiest swim-up bars in the Caribbean PDF Print E-mail

At some point during your Caribbean getaway, after sailing the high seas, frolicking on the beach and scuba diving alongside turtles, chances are you'll want to plop down at the bar for a cocktail or three. Or, perhaps bellying up to the bar is the sole purpose of your vacation. Either way, the non-teetotalers of the world will seriously enjoy these waterlogged bars where falling off the bar stool is actually OK.

Coconut Bar, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Take a break from beach bumming and cool off with a short swim to the Coconut Bar, part of Young Island Resort — a 29-cottage hideaway with hammock huts dotting the shoreline. As the moniker suggests, this over-the-water bar specializes in coconut concoctions like the Coconut Delight, which features white rum, vodka, whisky, coconut milk, coconut water and orange juice shaken together and served in, what else, a coconut. Drink up while you dip your toes in the Caribbean Sea and keep your eyes peeled for candy-colored fish that frequent the area. youngisland.com/dining

Sweetwaters pool bar, St. Lucia

When you can swim from your hotel room directly to the bar, entering full sloth mode is even easier. And since the Calabash Cove Resort & Spa is perched on a hill with cottages all the way down to the beach, you'll have stunning views as you sip. That said, it is the place to be on New Year's Eve, when guests snag a clear view of the fireworks blasting off on Castries. It doesn't hurt that the bartenders are thoroughly entertaining, either. And since lunch is served at the pool bar, there's really no need to leave. calabashcove.com

The Soggy Dollar, British Virgin Islands

Before roads were added on Jost Van Dyke in the '90s, the only way to get to this bar was to anchor your boat nearby and swim ashore. These days, you can still do that, but non-boaters now have access, too. Once there, wet your appetite with a Painkiller, the bar's signature drink, which includes a dark, sweet rum made locally, plus juices, cream of coconut and a dash of fresh nutmeg. Every July, the bar hosts a beach party where hundreds flock to the shore to listen to music, lounge in hammocks and play the ring game (rumored to have been invented by Blackbeard himself).The grand prize? A drink of rum, of course. soggydollar.com/soggy-dollar-bar

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The Cave Bar, Barbados

Can't see the swim-up bar at Crystal Cove, an all-inclusive resort on the Platinum Coast of Barbados? That's because it's tucked behind a man-made waterfall and inside a cave. In this little nook, the crowd-pleasing drink is the Crystalgia, made of White Mount Gay Rum, pineapple juice, Falernum, Blue Curacao and Simple Syrup. Just keep in mind, the early bird gets the bar stool; this place fills up fast. crystalcovehotelbarbados.com

Half Moon pool bar, Jamaica

Not only does the swim-up bar at Half Moon have underwater bar stools, but it has submerged tables, too. So, if you can't get a seat at the bar, no worries. The cocktail du jour is The Pink Sand made with Southern Comfort, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice, strawberries, bitters and grenadine. Post swim and drink, head to the signature restaurant Sugar Mill, located in an 18th-century mill house, for apps like the Solomon's Trio (watermelon and scallop ceviche, coconut fried shrimp and jerk shrimp). halfmoon.rockresorts.com

Blue Lagoon pool bar, Dominican Republic

If privacy is what you're after, Eden Roc at Cap Cana, delivers. Since it's a 34-room resort, you'll feel like you own the place. Reminiscent of glam resorts of the French Riviera, it has a white marble swim-up bar at the main pool. Along with a light snack and a smoothie, try the Planter's Punch with dark rum, maraschino, pineapple, orange, lime and grenadine and the Ron Punch with Ron dorado, sweet vermouth, cocoa liquor, pineapple, orange and grenadine. edenroccapcana.com

Plan a getaway: To speak with a Caribbean Island specialist for free, visit Tripology.com.

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New Mexico: A land enchanted by chile peppers PDF Print E-mail

In New Mexico, chile isn't just a vegetable. It's practically a religion. It inspires devotion among worshipers who blend it into everything from to beer to fudge to spa treatments. A statewide trail pays homage to the green chile cheeseburger. A state-run institute is dedicated to its study. It even rates an official state question: red or green?

So how do you spice up a road trip in the Land of Enchantment? Brake for chile!

James Ditmore does. He calls himself the Chile Whisperer. Others simply call him The Reverend.

True to form, he's preaching the gospel of chile while awaiting his Champ Burger (winner of the 2012 state fair Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge) to come off the grill at Rockin' BZ Burgers in Las Cruces.

"Every one of us at this table is a chile snob," he says proudly as owner Cody Childress sets down a tray of tender pulled pork flecked with glistening specks of green chile.

For dessert, Childress will serve some of the best apple pie you've ever tasted. Its secret ingredient: green chile.

But before we partake, a brief tutorial. Chile is not the beans-and-meat concoction known as chili. Though there are many varieties grown here, New Mexico chile refers to the long, green mild-tasting pepper.

Fire-roasting it removes the skin and imbues it with a delicate smoky flavor. The same plant left to vine-ripen is used to make rich, red chile sauces.

ALSO ONLINE: Follow the grease on the green chile cheeseburger trail

Like a 'legal drug'

As a marketing specialist for the state agriculture department, Ditmore evangelizes the pure goodness of chile, even while likening it to a drug. "Get Your Fix" reads the lettering on his state-issued chile-green polo shirt.

Bobby Olguin will eat to that.

"I call it a legal drug," says the third-generation owner of the Buckhorn Tavern, a cheerful rust-colored eatery set in the middle of a dirt parking lot in tiny San Antonio (population 300). "It's an addictive food. The more you eat it, the more you crave it."

Olguin garnered national attention in 2009 when he went grill-to-grill against celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a green chile cheeseburger "throwdown." Olguin won. He no longer competes ("When you're No. 1, you don't let anyone challenge you," he says), but he's still working magic at the grill in the restaurant's tiny kitchen.

On this day, the place hosts an eclectic crowd. Tattooed bikers, grizzled ranchers, a preppy family from Arizona. Mike Fisher, an emergency medical technician, and Estevan Trujillo, a pastor, have driven 1½ hours south from Albuquerque to get their green chile cheeseburger fix.

"I've grown up eating green chile cheeseburgers my whole life," Fisher says. "At one point I had to stop, it was so good."

The moratorium clearly has been lifted. Half-pound beauties arrive topped with shredded lettuce, tomato and raw onion on a blanket of cheese with an emerald crown of chile. They dig in.

Olguin isn't secretive about his burger technique. Still, patrons complain they can't get theirs to taste like his.

"It's cooking with love," he declares. "You don't rush the beef. You don't rush the chile."

A Wall of Flame dedicated to notable breeders and growers marks the entrance to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. The facility develops new chile varieties and improves existing ones, but there's also a retail store chockablock with chile plants and related merchandise.

"What's the chile pepper that won the fancy-schmancy award?" asks a customer.

Program specialist Erica Trevino directs him to an ornamental plant dubbed the NuMex Easter, which just took first place in a national competition.

So many varieties

The New Mexico chile is a designer pepper developed at this university in 1916. As chiles go, they're pretty tame, with heat levels of 800 to 6,000 Scoville units, depending on the variety.

By comparison, the world's fieriest chile, the Carolina Reaper, scores about 2 million on the Scoville scale. (The best way to douse the fire: dairy products.)

"There are so many varieties and heat levels. It's like wine," Trevino says.

Chile may be like wine in its infinite variety. But is it good with wine?

Absolutely, wine specialist Mark Burden says as he sets out bottles for chile-and-wine tasting at La Posta de Mesilla restaurant. The restaurant, a local institution in Mesilla, periodically offers wine-and-chile-pairing events. Local cookbook author Kelley Coffeen, who's at this one, notes a growing trend of teaming wine and the spicy local cuisine.

"It can heighten the flavor of the chile," she says. "Plus, not everyone drinks beer or tequila."

The five chile-based dishes start with jalapeño-spiced house salsa paired with an Italian moscato, and ends with red chile con carne paired with a Malbec.

A little sweetness in the wine cuts the chile's heat, Burden explains. But the main objective in pairing wine with chile is balance.

For non-wine drinkers who still want something with a kick, La Posta serves a mean chile 'rita — a margarita laced with locally made blackberry-habanero sauce.

Verdant and versatile

In Albuquerque, a new tour pairs chile and cycling. Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours leads visitors through the city's Old Town neighborhood and along the Rio Grande.

Along the way, they stop for chile-based appetizers at Gardunos of Mexico, green chile stew at La Fonda del Bosque and a New Mexico roll with tempura-fried green chile at Sushi King. Then it's back to the shop for chile-laced coffee and spicy chocolate.

"We want to show off the different ways you can enjoy chile — savory, sweet, in beverages," says co-owner Heather Arnold. "Chile isn't just a condiment. It's in everything."

Around here it is, anyway. At the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in Bernalillo, north of Albuquerque, they've dreamed up a treatment called "Ancient Drumming."

For $190, a therapist will slather you with red-chile-infused mud (said to be detoxifying). The drumming comes in when she thwacks your naked body with flax-seed-filled muslin bags.

Over at The Candy Lady's shop in Old Town Albuquerque, proprietor Debbie Ball prefers a more direct chile delivery system. She laces homemade fudge, brittles and truffles with dried, red New Mexico chile.

He's been spicing up sweets with chile for 25 years or so, "before anyone was doing it," she notes.

It may be an inventory staple, but Ball isn't a fan.

"I don't eat it. I don't like heat."

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Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites PDF Print E-mail

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Spend your tax refund on these cruises PDF Print E-mail

The average income tax refund is expected to come in at somewhere around $3,000. If you plan on spending some of that money on a cruise vacation, you're in luck. There are deals out there for the coming months.

Here are 10 cruises worth spending your tax refund on.

Caribbean

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Cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau from Miami on Norwegian Cruise Line's latest action-packed ship, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway. Fares for seven-day cruises in May from $479, balcony cabins from $849. Set aside extra bucks to see the amazing magic dinner show at the Illusionarium (tickets $24.95 to $29.95).

Bahamas

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Hang out with Mickey and his pals and scream with delight as you whip around the upper deck on the AquaDuck watercoaster, on Disney Cruise Line's 2,500-passenger Disney Dream. Fares from $570, $645 for a balcony cabin, on the May 8 sailing. The three-day cruise visits Disney private Bahamas island Castaway Cay and Nassau.

EXPLORE: Dive into the best cruise line private islands

Trans-Atlantic/Northern Europe

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Pack your bags now and escape on Princess Cruises' 3,560-passenger Royal Princess on a 15-day sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, embarking April 27. With a week at sea you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the year-old ship including hanging out in the lively social hub, The Piazza. Port calls in Portugal, the UK, France and The Netherlands; fares from $999.

Eastern Mediterranean

(Photo: Andy Rose, Cunard Line)

Explore the Aegean Sea, Greek Isles and Turkey on Cunard's 2,092-passenger oceanliner Queen Elizabeth. A one-week itinerary from Venice to Athens, embarking June 27, brings you to Croatia, the Greek Isles and Kusadasi, Turkey (for the ancient site of Ephesus). In between sights, dress up and go ballroom dancing. Fares from only $999.

Western Mediterranean

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Snag a bargain fare on a Cote d'Azur cruise on Azamara Club Cruises' 694-passenger Azamara Quest, on a Nice to Rome itinerary, embarking May 26. The seven-night cruise is priced from $1,299. Drinks and gratuities and a special AzAmazing land experience are included in the cruise fare.

Alaska

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While there are plenty of lower-priced options on bigger ships, adventure seekers who receive a hearty tax refund will want to look at the more remote itineraries of Un-Cruise Adventures. Get onboard a May sailing of the 76-passenger Wilderness Discoverer, from $2,195. You'll embark from Juneau or Sitka for a week of glacier viewing, kayaking, Zodiac rides and hiking in the wild.

Baltics

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Cruise from London (Southampton) to Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Estonia and Lithuania, with an overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Celebrity Cruises' stylish, 2,580-passenger Celebrity Eclipse. The Solstice-class ship has a half-acre of real grass up on top. Balcony cabins on the 14-day sailing, embarking June 7, from $1,649.

Norway

(Photo: Holland America Line)

Explore the land of the Vikings and the Midnight Sun in traditional style onboard Holland America Line's 1,404-passenger Rotterdam, embarking from Rotterdam on July 26. The Norway itinerary visits Oslo and smaller cities and explores the country's scenic fjords. Fares from $1,199.

Bermuda

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Cruise to the pink beaches of Bermuda onboard the New York-themed, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway, on a one-week cruise embarking May 4, priced from $449. Rock out to 1980s tunes onboard at the naughty Broadway show "Rock of Ages" and a themed deck party — complete with fireworks.

SEE MORE: The best of cruise ship entertainment

River cruises

(Photo: Courtesy of Viking River Cruises)

While river cruises are heavily booked in the summertime – commanding top prices – there are some deals in the fall. Take a one-week cruise on Viking River Cruises' contemporary "longship" Viking Forseti in the Bordeaux region of France, in November, from $1,856. Enjoy complimentary wines and tours of chateaux.

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10 national park experiences of a lifetime PDF Print E-mail

David and Kay Scott, Special for USA TODAY 8:38 p.m. EDT April 11, 2014

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A Red bus navigates Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.(Photo: Donnie Sexton)

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Travelers typically speak of Yellowstone, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon with a sense of reverence. These, along with the other 398 units managed by the National Park Service, preserve special places with spectacular landscapes and memorable activities. Some park experiences are well-known, such as rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon or strolling Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin to witness the eruption of Old Faithful. But plenty of others are often overlooked. Here, David and Kay Scott, authors of Guide to the National Park Areas: Eastern States and Guide to the National Park Areas: Western States, select 10 unique activities in America's national parks that are especially rewarding.

1. Take a full-moon walk at Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.

Before it became the centerpiece of the popular movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we camped in the monument during the night of a full moon. What luck! At dusk we joined a ranger-led walk that ended an hour and a half later when we climbed a rise and came upon the view of a brilliant full moon glistening beside Devils Tower. It is a sight we have never forgotten. nps.gov/deto

2. Stroll the beach at Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia.

Georgia's southernmost barrier island boasts one of the East Coast's most magnificent beaches. Because the seashore is reached only by boat, you can enjoy a solitary stroll along a wide beach spotted with shells, sand dollars and starfish. A concessionaire-operated passenger boat offers scheduled transportation to the island from the small village of St. Marys. Enjoy a guided tour in the historic Dungeness Historic District and visit Plum Orchard, an 1890s mansion once owned by the Carnegies. nps.gov/cuis

3. Visit Fort Laramie National Historic Site during the annual Fur-Trading Days, Wyoming.

Once the headquarters of the American Fur Trading Company, Fort Laramie later became an important military fort and a stop on the Oregon Trail. Each Father's Day weekend, the historic site and nearby town of Fort Laramie present an event in which participants in historical dress relive the fort's glory years when it served as a major hub for the fur trade. nps.gov/fola

4. Ride a Red Jammer on Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana.

National parks offer a number of impressive mountain roads, but none is better than Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Road that crosses the Rocky Mountains of northern Montana. Save wear and tear on your own vehicle and gain better views of the surrounding landscape by choosing one of the free shuttles or paying for a tour on one of the park's famous "Reds," buses used to transport visitors. The shuttle service is available to the Logan Pass Visitor Center from both the west and east sides of the park. nps.gov/glac

5. Drive the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers 469 miles of some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. The parkway's 45-mph speed limit results in a trip of two or more days to cover the entire length, depending on the number of stops along the way. Three park lodges along the parkway provide overnight accommodations. Make a pit stop at iconic Mabry Mill and order a plate of buckwheat pancakes or biscuits and gravy before visiting the historic water-power grist mill. Take along a cooler so you can stop and enjoy a picnic or two at one or more of the many scenic overlooks. blueridgeparkway.org

6. Take a guided 4x4 tour along the back roads of Big Bend National Park, Texas.

This isolated park along the Rio Grande is an off-roader's paradise, with dozens of miles of both improved and primitive dirt roads through one of the most stark but beautiful landscapes anywhere. Rugged cliffs surround the park's Chisos Basin area, where you'll find a lodge and nearby campground. Camping also is available at a developed campground on the Rio Grande. Enjoy a dip in the thermal waters of Langford Hot Springs. visitbigbend.com

7. Canoe the Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

The free-flowing Buffalo National River, America's first national river, originates in the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas and winds 135 miles in a jagged eastward path across the northern part of the state. The river's rural landscape, filled with oak and hickory forests frequently bordered with impressive limestone bluffs, makes for a scenic canoe or kayak trip. Fifteen NPS-approved concessionaires offer canoe and kayak rentals along with shuttle service. Prices typically run $40 to $60 a day. A list of concessionaires is available at nps.gov/buff

8. Ride a snow coach during a winter visit to Yellowstone, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho.

There's nothing quite like visiting America's first national park during the winter. The crowds are gone, wildlife is more easily visible, and the beauty of the park is simply stunning. Only two of the park's nine lodges, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, are open during the winter months. Scheduled public transportation is available from Bozeman to West Yellowstone, where snow coaches carry visitors to the Old Faithful area. The northern road to Mammoth remains open during winter. Snow coach tours to the beautiful Canyon area are available from both Mammoth and Old Faithful and connect Old Faithful with Mammoth. yellowstonepark.com

9. Visit Death Valley's mysterious Racetrack Playa, California.

One of the highlights of a visit to Death Valley National Park is a trip to the Racetrack, where rocks mysteriously move and leave trails along a dry lakebed. A number of theories attempt to explain the movement, which no one has actually observed. Visiting the Racetrack requires a drive of 26 miles over rough road, preferably in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Jeep rentals are available at Furnace Creek. Lodging is offered at four locations in the park. Inside the park, don't miss the impressive 600-foot-deep, half-mile-wide Ubehebe Crater, the remains of a volcanic eruption. nps.gov/deva

10. Cruise Glacier Bay in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.

One of Alaska's most accessible national parks, Glacier Bay boasts rugged snow-capped mountains surrounding sheltered water that provides access to tidewater glaciers and wildlife sightings such as puffins, otters and grizzly bears. Best of all is the thunder of tidewater glaciers as they calve into the bay. Day-long cruises are offered from the dock at Glacier Bay Lodge in Bartlett Cove. In the evening, enjoy an exciting whale-watching cruise. The park is accessible by tour boat or scheduled air service from Alaska's capital of Juneau. visitglacierbay.com

Contact David and Kay Scott at valdosta.edu/~dlscott/Scott

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Red Jammer tours were free on Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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