Everyone loves a great travel bargain and Vegas is full of them. But you have to know where to look and how to play the game. It's not your run-of-the-mill destination and, as such, you need some insider tips about the best things to see and do on your tight budget.

Las Vegas Hotels On A Budget

Accommodations in Vegas can be cheap. I don't mean frugal or budget-friendly or value added. I mean downright cheap! It's not unusual to find a room for under $40 a night and under $20 isn't impossible. But you have to do some legwork. Your first step is to review this list of what hotels in Las Vegas charge a resort fee. A resort fee is a non-negotiable daily charge that gives you.... Nothing. But they can cost up to $45 a day, plus tax, and are never included in online quotes. They're the enemy of any budget traveller so narrow down your short list of hotel choices accordingly.

With your short list selected, sign up for the promotional newsletter of each property you're interested in. Great deals are often advertised only to insiders or fans and this is the best way to find the best prices.

Timing matters in Vegas. The cost of accommodations on weekends or holidays can be astronomical compared to the frugal offerings of weekdays. If you're vacationing in the area, consider spending the weekend at one of the many nearby national parks. Pricing at national park lodges is usually set seasonally, not day to day.

Unless the price is truly too good to be true, book directly with the hotel, not a third party website, and choose the option that allows you to cancel a booking without penalty. On several occasions, I've booked what I thought was a killer deal - only to see a better price or a bonus offer for food credits a few weeks later. I simply cancelled the first reservation and booked a new one!

Finally, remember that in Vegas it pays to gamble. In my experience, it might not hurt to fold a fresh $20 bill in thirds, put it under your hand, and smoothly slide it across the counter and ask the clerk if they would mind checking if there are any nicer rooms available for complimentary upgrades. I'm serious! If the hotel has availability and you've been sincerely kind and friendly to the clerk, chances are you will be upgraded at no extra cost beyond your $20. If they can't do it, they'll likely slide the $20 bill back. No, it's not a bribe. It's a tip - and Vegas runs on tips. Anywhere else in the world this would be slimy. Not in Vegas. It's how I moved from a standard room to a one bedroom apartment at the MGM Signature!

The Singing Rain of Pirates Alley

As Drones Proliferate, U.S. Aviation in Holding Pattern

Cracker Barrel knows that when you've got driving to do, it's not just your car that needs fuel. Which is why its restaurants are nearly always located just a stone's throw from the highway. But while a gallon of lunch for your car is pretty much the same from one gas station to the next, the same can't be said for the human equivalent. And although the convenience of Cracker Barrel can help you keep your road trip on track, making the wrong decision when you order your meal might do the exact opposite for your diet — or your digestive tract. 

Cracker Barrel might draw you in with the promise of meals that are as close to home-cooked as you'll get on the road, but some of the ingredients are far from anything you'll find in your mother's kitchen. So should you find yourself filling up at the Cracker Barrel pump, here are some things to steer clear of.


The cruel irony of the Fresh Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait Breakfast is that it's part of the "Lighter Twist" menu, meaning if you're ordering this for breakfast, you're probably making an effort to make healthy choices. And what a valiant effort it was — ordering yogurt in a room filled with pancakes and bacon is no easy feat. Unfortunately, it was probably not as great of a choice as you were hoping. 

This breakfast is a parfait, constructed from low-fat yogurt, seasonal fruit, honey oats, and granola, and it's served with scrambled egg whites and turkey sausage. Sounds healthy, right? Wrong. Sure, it's fewer calories than a stack of pancakes, coming in at 510. But the 65 grams of carbs that come loaded on this plate are not what you'd expect with a "light" breakfast, and neither are the 41 grams of sugar. All that sugar means that depending on your nutrition goals, you're either meeting or surpassing your daily sugar intake before you've even finished breakfast. For all those carbs and sugars, you might as well at least order something that tastes good, because this breakfast is not as healthy as the'd like you to think.


You shouldn't be surprised to see the Fried Chicken Salad on this list. Topping a salad with fried chicken, cheese, croutons, and deviled eggs is definitely one way to make your greens taste good, but it's not so helpful if you're working your waistline or your heart health.

With this salad, you're looking at 870 calories, 1860 milligrams of sodium, and 53 grams of carbs — and that's without the dressing. Of course, it's not a salad without the dressing. Since you're on a roll already you might as well choose the worst offender there, too, which is the Honey French Dressing. That's going to add another 350 calories, 580 milligrams of sodium, and 26 grams of carbs. At this point, you may as well give up on ordering a salad and go for a burger and fries. It's just about as healthy, and you don't have all that pesky lettuce to eat around.


​Cracker Barrel offers a different dinner special for every day of the week, and Sunday is not the day you want to go for it. 

The
Sunday Homestyle Chicken is two boneless chicken breasts, dipped in buttermilk batter, breaded, and deep-fried. That definitely sounds delicious, but probably not worth the calories — it clocks in at 1350, and that's just for the chicken! It also provides 3200 milligrams of sodium, which is more than double what the American Heart Association says you should aim to take in over the course of an entire day. 

Hold on to your menus, because you still have to pick two sides, and make a choice between biscuits or corn muffins — both served with real butter, of course. Depending on what you choose there, you could easily add another 1,000 calories and a 1000-2000 more milligrams of sodium. That's an awful lot for just one meal. If you absolutely have to have this Sunday special, we recommend choosing at least one of lighter sides, such as steamed broccoli, and saving one piece of the chicken for a later meal. 


If you're a fan of pecans (is there anyone who isn't?), these pecan pancakes are delicious breakfast option. Unfortunately, they're also incredible unhealthy. These three giant, pecan-filled pancakes, topped with butter, come in at a whopping 1130 calories, 2720 milligrams of sodium, and 119 grams of carbs. What a way to start your day! Lucky for you, they're relatively low in sugar — just 12 grams — but hold on just a minute, because that part's coming. 

It's almost impossible to eat pancakes without syrup, and once you add a serving of the 100 percent natural, pure maple syrup Cracker Barrel has on offer, you're tacking on 150 more calories and 37 more grams of sugar. That's your daily recommended intake of sugar, just in maple syrup. And lets' face it, no one's going to eat just one serving of syrup when they're faced with three pancakes, each the size of a plate. 


If you're ordering a burger, chances are you're not trying to be healthy — and that's fine! There's nothing wrong with a good splurge every now and then, and a burger is certainly a tasty way to do it. But the Maple Jam N' Bacon Burger from Cracker Barrel is taking things a little bit too far. 

With a burger, especially one of this size, you know you're getting calories, and this one doesn't disappoint with 950. You probably also won't be shocked to see that it comes loaded with 51 grams of fat, 220 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, and 52 grams of carbs. None of that is good news, but its not shocking, either. You know what is shocking? The 21 grams of sugar (nearly a days's serving) you'll get with this burger. No one expects a burger to be loaded with sugar, which is why this one will get you. And all of this is before you add in the fries and coleslaw it's served with, which adds another 490 calories, 840 milligrams of sodium, and 10 grams of sugar. 

Of course, you could always ask for it without the maple onion jam to keep the sugar under control, but if you're going to do that, you might as well order something else anyway.


Everyone knows that our moms just want what's best for us. One of the ways our moms look after us is to make sure we start the day with a good solid breakfast, the better to help us flourish and have all our dreams come true. But if your mom was Cracker Barrel, and "she" fed you her pancake breakfast every day, the only dream you could realistically expect to come true would be obesity, heart disease, and an early death … so not really a dream then. 

According to Cracker Barrel's nutritional guide,
Momma's Pancake Breakfast (that's three pancakes, two eggs, butter, and your choice of meat — let's use bacon) would contain 1,1250 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, and a heart-stopping 2,710 milligrams of sodium. According to the FDA, your standard 2,000-calorie daily diet should include no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,400 milligrams of sodium if you want to stay remotely healthy. You could save yourself 350 calories by skipping the butter and syrup, and switching from bacon to turkey sausage, but now you're eating a plate of dry pancakes and you're still over budget on sodium for the whole day. This one seems like a lose-lose, no matter how you look at it.


Cooking styles often run in families, and the Cracker Barrel family is certainly no different. Because if you take one look at the breakfast Grandpa Barrel is offering, it's clear where Momma learned everything she knows. Grandpa's country-fried breakfast comes with two eggs, grits, gravy, biscuits, butter, fried apples or hash brown casserole, and either country-fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Whew — so much food!

Even going with the slightly less bad options of fried apples and country-fried chicken, assuming two biscuits and ignoring the optional preserves, you're still consuming 1,340 calories, 19 grams of saturated fat, 465 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2,805 milligrams of sodium. Congratulations! Even this monstrous meal hasn't put you over your daily recommended intake of … calories. 

The saturated fat is over the limit, and the sodium crosses the line, as well. If you're prepared to ignore "All the Fixin's," (i.e., the biscuits, butter, and gravy), you can bring the sodium and saturated fat content of your breakfast down to semi-reasonable levels, but that leaves you with a pretty boring breakfast.

But no one ever challenged my basic conceit that I would be much happier on land actually staying in a destination instead of just visiting it for a day from sea. They’d just shrug and say, “Well, cruising is not for everyone.”


And then something happened that changed all that. I went on a cruise. Four days from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam. And I loved it.

Here are six things that I always thought about cruises before my first experience that I wish someone had told me differently 40 years ago.

6 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CRUISING


​1. I’ll be bored.

This was my greatest fear. As an independent traveler who likes to walk, I felt that the confines of a ship would strangle me and I’d be bored stiff sitting on a deck chair with nothing to do. In the end, I left this short four-day cruise completely exhausted (and actually in need of some relaxation!). There is just an incredible amount to do.

Dining Deals

In a Venn diagram of phenomenal Las Vegas eats and cheap Las Vegas eats, there's little overlap. But enterprising travellers can find great bargains. If you're a true night owl or a very enthusiastic early bird, several casual diners and casino cafes have excellent deals between midnight and 5:00 am - perfect for when you're up late hitting a show or waking up early to travel for a desert hike. One example: The Sundance Grill at the Silverton offers biscuits and country style gravy for $2.95 and steak and eggs for $4.99.

Casino restaurants also offer great deals for members of their player's clubs or loyalty programs. For instance, at the Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie's, your player's card means $3.99 unlimited pancakes and a $8.99-weekday special. If you google "players club dining perks" and the name of the hotel or casino, you'll find a host of online resources and tips.

And, depending on your point of view, there's no dining bargain quite like the all-you-can-eat buffet. Getting the best value from a Vegas buffet is a work of art and everyone has an opinion on which one is the best. Locals flock to the Garden Court Buffet in the Main Street Station Hotel, where the breakfast buffet is $9, lunch is $10, and dinner is $13. One of my fondest Vegas memories is when I was stocking up on pasta there and a local directed my attention to a basket of garlic bread at the end of the station, saying it was fantastic. To be truthful, it was average at best, but I always respect people who have strong opinions about bread! If you're REALLY into the buffet scene, pick up a copy of Frommer's Las Vegas guidebook. They go into great detail about things like which buffet has the best homemade desserts (a Vegas rarity).

If you're keen to explore off the beaten path - essentially anything you'll find beyond The Strip - you'll find a nice list of low-cost dining options. At a 24 hour diner called Badger Cafe, everything on the menu is under $10 and robust meals like a roast beef dinner are less than $8.

The haunted tomb of the Voodoo Queen

Nothing ruins a day of sightseeing like not being able to see properly. Finding a new pair of glasses or contacts while away from home is no easy task, and if you’re in a foreign country, you might have to find a new eye doctor to write you a prescription.
-
How to Remember: If you primarily wear contacts, always leave extras in your luggage when you’re not traveling. If you’re out for the day, try to keep a spare set in your purse or wallet in case you find yourself in need of a fresh pair. If you’re worried about leaving your glasses at home, keep them out in the open while you pack, preferably near your wallet or phone. This way, they’ll be less likely to slip your mind when it’s time to go.


Itinerary Confirmations

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When you forget to pack the essentials, you risk ruining your own trip. Whether you’re missing details of the Sistine Chapel’s colorful ceilings because you forgot your glasses or stuck inside your hotel room battling a cold while the rest of your travel companions hit the beach, you’ll definitely regret not giving your luggage a thorough check for the most commonly forgotten things to pack.

Essential Things People Forget to Pack

Even if you’re naturally forgetful, there are many ways to plan your packing ahead of time so you won’t forget to pack these essential travel items.

 Hand Sanitizer 

How Safe are Cruise Ships, and What Can I do to Keep and Stay Safe?

Pool Safety

Drowning is a potential danger on any cruise ship, especially as most cruise lines do not employ lifeguards. Only Disney Cruise Line has trained lifeguards on its ships, and they are only stationed at family pools during set hours. Passengers are responsible for watching their own children and travel companions, and following posted pool safety rules. Kids should be given a set of rules by their parents before getting in the pool, and a responsible adult should always be actively watching (not with one eye on a magazine). Adults are not immune to danger, especially when the umbrella drinks are flowing; keep an eye on your travel party, regardless of age. 

Pirates

There have been no pirate attacks on cruise ships in at least five years, but despite this, cruise ships have not stopped taking precautions when traveling in areas previously known for pirate activity -- namely the Gulf of Aden (a gulf located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia). Ships traveling through this area of the world typically take on extra security to keep passengers safe. Additionally, all exterior lights are dimmed and cruise travelers are asked to keep the lights in their cabins at the lowest settings in order to make the ship less of a target. Very few cruise ships sail through the Gulf of Aden each year, so the likelihood you'll be sailing into pirate territory is incredibly low.Cruise Critic asked readers, "Have you ever been affected by crime, minor or major, on a cruise ship?" The answer of more than 89 percent was … no.

Statistically speaking, incidents involving personal safety are exceptionally rare. According to data provided by the cruise lines to the FBI (only crime reports that are no longer under investigation are reported to the public), in the first three quarters of 2015 there were two suspicious passenger deaths, three assaults on passengers resulting in bodily injury and nine sexual assaults on passengers on ships across Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International ships. To put that number in context, that's 14 people compared with the estimated 217,000 passengers who sailed on those ships in just one sailing of each ship (let alone nine months of sailings).

Another common concern for potential cruisers is a fear of falling overboard, but this is extremely difficult to do. All cruise lines adhere to strict rules for minimum railing and balcony heights, as well as structural barriers. The vast majority of overboards are suicides or passengers acting irresponsibly (such as climbing up onto railings). "I've been on a dozen cruises and never had a safety issue," wrote Cruise Critic member Quilting_Cruiser. "But, I don't let my guard down any more than I would if I were on a land vacation. I pay attention to what's going on around me and I don't make stupid decisions."


​Being aware and paying attention are the best ways to stay safe on cruise ships, as they are anywhere. While the cruise lines put a lot of effort to maintaining cruise ship safety, with security officers and cameras always watching, passengers cannot give up their own personal responsibility.  General safety rules apply on cruise ships, just as they do at home: don't accept drinks from strangers, be aware of your surroundings, don't go into a stranger's room and keep your cabin door locked at all times.

The Most Annoying Things Tourists Do, According To Expert Travelers

If you forget your passport, you’ll need to turn right back home and go get it. And if you don’t make it back to your flight on time, you’ll probably have to pay a fee to get booked on another flight and risk losing a day of travel.

How to Remember: Your passport should be the very first thing you grab when you start packing for an international trip. If you often have trouble remembering where you put it, get yourself a nice passport holder and the Tile Mate. Just slip the Tile into the holder and link it to the app on your phone, and you’ll be able to find your passport at the touch of a button.


​A Rain Jacket

The pirate ghost of Jean Lafitte

7. Overexposed

You and I may believe that people should be allowed to wear whatever they want. But that's not how many cultures the world over see things. Failure to conform to expected standards of dress can lead to encounters that range from the awkward to the downright dangerous.

Elaine J. Masters of Tripwellgal.com (also a regular Travel Awaits contributor) has some anecdotes about travelers who won't dress to impress.

"I traveled with a family in Japan, for example," she says, "and they had little care for blending in, or respect for local customs like taking off their shoes in shrines, etc. Another time was in Sri Lanka where beautiful young European women swam and lounged around public beaches topless. I'm not a prude; I just saw the attention they got... and how it made the local women uncomfortable. If it were a private beach or Europe, no problem."

It's important to respect the norms of other cultures. If you want to go to a nude beach in Europe, then by all means go!

Personal Safety

Cruise Critic asked readers, "Have you ever been affected by crime, minor or major, on a cruise ship?" The answer of more than 89 percent was … no.

Statistically speaking, incidents involving personal safety are exceptionally rare. According to data provided by the cruise lines to the FBI (only crime reports that are no longer under investigation are reported to the public), in the first three quarters of 2015 there were two suspicious passenger deaths, three assaults on passengers resulting in bodily injury and nine sexual assaults on passengers on ships across Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International ships. To put that number in context, that's 14 people compared with the estimated 217,000 passengers who sailed on those ships in just one sailing of each ship (let alone nine months of sailings).

Another common concern for potential cruisers is a fear of falling overboard, but this is extremely difficult to do. All cruise lines adhere to strict rules for minimum railing and balcony heights, as well as structural barriers. The vast majority of overboards are suicides or passengers acting irresponsibly (such as climbing up onto railings). "I've been on a dozen cruises and never had a safety issue," wrote Cruise Critic member Quilting_Cruiser. "But, I don't let my guard down any more than I would if I were on a land vacation. I pay attention to what's going on around me and I don't make stupid decisions."


​Being aware and paying attention are the best ways to stay safe on cruise ships, as they are anywhere. While the cruise lines put a lot of effort to maintaining cruise ship safety, with security officers and cameras always watching, passengers cannot give up their own personal responsibility.  General safety rules apply on cruise ships, just as they do at home: don't accept drinks from strangers, be aware of your surroundings, don't go into a stranger's room and keep your cabin door locked at all times.

The government shutdown may be over (for now), but the work to restore some of America’s sacred outdoor spaces has just begun. For places such as Joshua Tree, facing that process is daunting due to litter and other damage caused by humans, but one beach in California is experiencing a different kind of side effect.

During the shutdown, government workers were put on furlough and were no longer required to attend to Drake Beach, a stretch of sand in Northern California that is part of the National Park System's Point Reyes National Seashore. Because it was left abandoned, nobody was there to monitor the local wildlife, which includes a few gigantic elephant seals. So, the seals decided to reclaim their land and snuggle up on the shore. And now, nobody can get them to leave.


​"I've not seen anything like this here with these numbers," John Dell'Osso of the National Park Service told KPIX, a local CNN affiliate. "An occasional rogue elephant seal yes, but nothing like this."


​According to Dell’Osso, the seals not only came ashore during the shutdown, but they actually had enough time to birth a few babies. And those babies will need to stay put for quite some time.

"Now we have some 35 to 40 pups that have been born on the beach and will be nursing from their mothers for the next couple of months," he said. "I just want to caution the public to be patient with us, as we're trying to work our way through this."


​Had the shutdown not occurred, Dell’Osso explained to Motherboard that his team would have likely attempted to move the seals away from the parking area.

“This would be done by a standard practice of using tarps and waving them at the seals to the point where they turn around and go further down the beach,” Dell’Osso said.

Because of the influx of animals, the National Park Service closed the visitor’s center parking area, along with the road leading to it. This, Dell’Osso said, was out of an abundance of caution to ensure no problems between humans and wildlife would ensue.

For now, parks officials have called in experts to learn more about dealing with the large population influx, KPIX reported. More details about reopening the area are expected this weekend.

And speaking of freedom, how about freedom from cash, wallets and watches? All you ever need to take with you is your room key, with which you can sign everything. I had always heard of the private islands owned by cruise ships (Holland America has a beauty in the Bahamas – Half Moon Cay), but had suspected they were just a scheme to wrest more money from the passengers. Again, mistaken.

The private island gives you a paradise of clean beaches, the sparkling aquamarine blue of the Caribbean, unlimited recreational opportunities, great food (included free in the cruise) and a dozen other options, and instead of the usual beach worries of what to do with valuables while you’re in the water – there are no worries!


​Don’t take any valuables. All you need to take off the ship is a plastic card the size of a credit card. Leave everything else in your floating home. Tender rides from ship to shore or shore to ship are ten minutes, and leave constantly. You could (if you were insane) even leave the island and go back to the ship for lunch and then come back to the island in the afternoon. The simple truth is, no one cares what you do. Or when.

If you do find a runny nose or throbbing headache ruining your trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the right remedy on hand. Keeping a small bottle of ibuprofen, capsules of cold medicine, or other over-the-counter remedies at the ready means you won’t have to interrupt your trip with a visit to the pharmacy.

How to Remember: Always travel with a first-aid kit and keep the medicine you need well stocked. Look for a small bag like this 100-Piece Kit and keep it ready to go in your preferred day bag. If you need to travel with your prescription medication and don’t already use a pill organizer, bring one along. Travel sometimes means crossing timezones, so a weekly organizer can help you keep track of your pill schedule when the days start to blur together.


Glasses & Contacts


According to pilots flying Boeing’s 737 MAX for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, they were not made aware of a crucial change in an automatic system that has been linked to the fatal Lion Air crash last month.

In October, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea just off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Now, investigators are focusing their efforts on figuring out if the plane crashed because of an update to a safety system that was designed to pull the plane out of a dangerous stall, The New York Times reported. Investigators believe the system may have been triggered on inaccurate data transmitted or processed from sensors on the fuselage, causing the plane to nosedive into the water.


​According to The Times, Boeing has been busy selling the new 737s to different airlines and showcasing it as a plane that needed little to no additional pilot training, which is an attractive financial incentive for airlines.

But, according to the pilots union for American Airlines, the system upgrade wasn’t included in Boeing’s standard operating manual.

“We don’t like that we weren’t notified,” Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told TIME. Dennis Tajer, a 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines Group Inc., additionally noted that his union members were equally concerned about the omitted information.


​“This is not about silos and layers of bureaucracy, this is about knowing your airplane,” Tajer said. “We will always be eager and aggressive in gaining any knowledge of new aircraft.”


​And, because of this lack of communication, pilots are now left wondering if Boeing left anything else out.

“The companies and the pilots should have been informed,” Weaks said. “It makes us question, ‘Is that everything, guys?’ I would hope there are no more surprises out there.”


However, according to a Boeing spokesperson, the company is doing everything it can to ensure pilots are well prepared to fly the planes.

“We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the company shared in a statement with TIME. “Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing.”

But, according to Roger Cox, a retired investigator with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and a former airline pilot who spoke to TIME, crews have every right to be angry at Boeing.


​“I would be pretty pissed” about the missing information, he said. “This is important systems information that pilots should know about.”

Vegas For Cheapskates: The Best Things To See And Do On A Tight Budget

Cleveland had a little aquarium that was a very popular place from the mid '50s to the '70s. But with all that disco music and platform shoes with fish in them, people weren't going to the aquarium anymore. Ticket sales weren't covering costs, and when they found the aquarium would need major structural updates, they just shut it down. In 1985, they shipped all the sea life away and closed the doors. But they forgot to lock up.

The building was left abandoned, and people assumed that it was boarded up and impossible for passersby to enter. Instead, a news crew found the door was wide open, and they waltzed in with ease. Sure, there was a sign that said "Keep Out," but oh well. Inside, the floor is covered in broken glass, and it's apparent that squatters are living there. The residents even put up a provisional basketball hoop, so you know they feel at home. One room is full of student desks and a rotting sofa, which looks just as creepy as you're imagining.

6. Speaking up, talking down

On a related note, there's one thing that definitely won't help you bridge the language gap.

"Speaking in a loud voice to try and be understood drives me crazy," says Janine Thomas from Gastro Travelogue. "It's not only rude and disrespectful, but if the person did not understand you when you asked the question in a normal voice, why do you think that they will understand you if you speak louder?"

I DON'T KNOW, JANINE. DOES ME WRITING IN CAPS NOT MAKE THIS SENTENCE MUCH MORE READABLE?!

Belle Island Children's Zoo, Detroit

The Sochi Olympic Village was never the most pristine of homes for the worldwide games, but they managed to hold the entirety of the Olympics without too many attacks by stray dogs. Six months after the Closing Ceremonies, the town was empty. Huge hotels sat unused, and the grand buildings that had been packed with excitable sports fans were now eerily quiet. A five-story parking garage was created to fulfill the tourist demand. Now, there's nary a car in sight, though there are a few broken toilets, so it's not completely empty. The Olympic Village itself looks like Disney's Main Street if Mickey and his friends had to move out due to rising crime.

In April 2017, the city hosted the Grand Prix and at least got some use out of their Autodrom. Hopefully those tourists enjoyed the double toilet bathrooms more than Olympic visitors. The Fisht Stadium that housed the Opening and Closing Ceremonies sat completely empty for a year but was remodeled to host games for the 2018 World Cup. So, there's some hope that the home of one of the most expensive and controversial Olympics in recent memory might be revived from its ghost town status.

The Isle of Wight, just off the coast of England, once housed the bustling Wight City, an arcade by the sea. Now, arcades have faltered all over the world since most gamers would prefer to use their systems in the comfort of their own homes rather than waste quarters on the low-fi games of the '80s and '90s. But few arcades were left perfectly intact while they rotted behind closed doors.

Wight City Arcade, Bogey's Night Club, and The Jolly Roger Restaurant all shared a building, and all shut down in 2012. The city planned to raze the building, but it stayed just as it was. Though the lights are off, none of the games were moved and look as though they're just waiting for a new group of gamers that will never come. The arcade also had a small bowling alley, where the floors are rotting away. But one of the weirdest things is the pool table. It's not particularly decrepit but looks like someone walked away in the middle of a game for a smoke and never came back. As of 2017, the site has just been sold with the intent to knock it down and probably build condos. Hopefully, someone will finish that pool game before the wrecking ball comes in.

Things you should never order at Cracker Barrel

New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks, and whores! New Orleans! Tacky overpriced souvenir stores! So sang The Simpsons in an episode that they later apologized for via chalkboard gag. In reality, New Orleans, which celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2018, is a cultural center of the United States, famous for its music, cuisine, and wild and ornate parades and festivals. It has a long and storied history full of colorful figures who helped contribute to its character. Many of them, to be fair, were pirates, drunks, and whores.

If you go to New Orleans, there are a number of things you're likely to see: palm trees, pelicans, potholes, street musicians, voodoo shops, and lots and lots of other tourists. And if the many available haunted history tours available throughout the French Quarter and various cemeteries are to be believed, you might also see a ghost or vampire lurching down Bourbon Street. While every city of a certain size has its share of spooky legends, the Big Easy seems almost to have an overabundance.

Messed-Up Things That May Have Happened in New Orleans History

You might know that the cemeteries in New Orleans use above-ground vaults rather than burying their dead. This is partly because of the fact that the low altitude of the city means its water tables are high and flooding could cause bodies to float up out of the ground, and partly because the French and Spanish also used above-ground vaults. What you may not know is that in order to fit entire families into these tombs, old coffins are removed after a year or two to make room for new ones, with the remains placed back into the tomb sans box. Hold on to that fact; you'll need it in a minute.

According to legend, John and Wayne Carter were brothers who popped up in New Orleans during the Great Depression and worked at the docks. In 1932, an 11-year-old girl escaped their apartment in the French Quarter and fled to the police. Her wrists had been slashed, and she said the brothers had been feeding on her. When the police entered the apartment, they found 4 other people bound up and bleeding, and many others already dead. It took eight men to restrain the Carter brothers when they returned home. They were put to the death, and when their tomb was opened to retrieve their coffins a year later, their bodies were gone.

Their surviving victims didn't turn out great, either: One man went on to allegedly murder 442 people and dissolve their bodies in acid. Yikes.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to have your city destroyed by one fire may be regarded as misfortune; to have it destroyed by fire twice looks like carelessness. It turns out that the reason most of the buildings in New Orleans' French Quarter are actually Spanish and not French is that the city was destroyed by fire in 1788 and again in 1794. A notable survivor of both blazes is Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop; the story goes that the people formed a bucket brigade to save their favorite bar, but in reality it was probably saved by its slate roofing.

One building that wasn't so lucky was the site that now houses the Andrew Jackson Hotel. According to the hotel's website, the hotel was originally built as a home for boys who lost their parents to a yellow fever epidemic in the late 18th century. If it weren't bad enough that these boys were orphaned, they also died in a fire. Wilde might call that carelessness, too, to be honest. Now the hotel that was built in that location is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the five boys who died in the fire.

The boys' giggling can be heard in the courtyard, and they're known to push people out of bed or snatch their pillows out from under them. Other stories report that they like to change the channel on the TVs or pour cereal on the ground. Boys, it seems, will be boys, even when long dead.

The haunted hotel that rose from the ashes of an orphanage

Spread of disease on cruise ships

Another serious worry specific to cruise ships is the threat of a health pandemic. Close quarters, high volume buffet lines, and frequent handshakes make cruise ships a prime breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. While a nasty cold may be enough to tank your vacation, the sniffles are the least of your worries.

Norovirus is a notorious cruise ship creeper, responsible for 90% of diarrhea outbreaks. While the number of cases is relatively small compared to the total number of passengers, once it takes hold it can spread like wildfire. In one well-known incident on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Miami, 332 passengers out of just over 5,000 fell seriously ill, overwhelming the ship's small medical team.

Norovirus causes intense vomiting, intestinal pain, nausea, and diarrhea -- the perfect recipe for a miserable trip. Should you fall under the weather, report it to cabin staff right away. You might feel silly about making a fuss over a sore stomach, but prevention is a team effort. Savvy passengers are diligent in their hand-washing and use of anti-bacterial cleansing gel stations.

Those buffet serving spoons might carry a small risk of bugs like norovirus, but they carry a very high risk of giving you a sugar, salt, and cholesterol overdose. By all means, indulge and have fun but don't forget to add in some veggies, fruits, and brisk deck walks to maintain your health and leave the trip feeling as fit as you did when you arrived. You want your cruise vacation to be restful, restorative, and leaving you better than before!


Ship Safety

Cruise ship accidents happen, but they are exceedingly uncommon. Cruise ships that sail in U.S. waters are regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard for any irregularities or safety issues that might be of concern. All cruise ships (regardless of where they sail) operate under international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which regulate everything from fire safety to navigation and maritime security.

Cruise ships are technical entities and small fires, electrical outages and propulsion problems do occur. But chances are you'll never even be aware of any such problem and cruise safety is virtually never compromised by such incidents.

Despite two high-profile incidents -- one in 2012 (the Costa Concordia foundering) and one in 2013 (the Carnival Triumph fire) -- overall cruise ship operational incidents declined by 15 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to a report published by maritime research company G.P. Wild International on behalf of Cruise Line International Association.

Using 36 publicly available sources (government data, trade publications, media reports and the like), the report compared incidents involving fire, technical breakdowns, groundings, storm damage, collisions, sinkings, passengers missing and overboards, in relation to industry metrics including passenger volume, miles traveled, travel duration and other data points.


​As an example, the number of "significant" fires dropped from four in 2009 to two in 2013, and the number of "significant" strandings and groundings went from five in 2009 to one in 2013. G.P. Wild International defines a significant incident as one in which the ship suffers more than a 24-hour delay to the published itinerary, or fatalities or serious injury occur to either passengers or crew.

In addition, when compared against other forms of transport, cruising had the fewest fatalities per billion passenger miles, the report found. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, the cruise industry saw a 0.08 passenger fatality rate as compared to 0.8 for commercial air, 3.3. for passenger cars and 11.9 for the U.S. rail system.

Popular places that are now ghost towns

If you look closely at the architecture when you wander around the French Quarter, you might notice an interesting detail: Most of the columns under the numerous balconies in the Quarter feature curly, spiky, or otherwise pointy ornamentation sticking out from the poles most of the way up. These pointy bits are called Romeo spikes, or Romeo catchers, and their name hints at their function: They're meant to keep you from climbing up the column and getting frisky with the homeowner's daughter (or wife, or son, or whoever).

One famous New Orleans ghost story relates the tale of a young man who ended up on the wrong end of a Romeo catcher. The story goes that a young woman was left alone by her parents as they went out for a night on the town, saying she was too ill to join them. As soon as her parents were gone, however, her boyfriend showed up, glad for the time alone. The bad news is that the girl's father had forgotten something at the house and unexpectedly returned. The boy tried to make a quick escape over the balcony, only to get his hip caught on the Romeo catcher.

The father fired a gun into the air to scare the boy, which caused him to let go, and the Romeo catcher ripped him from stem to stern, stringing out his intestines like streamers at Vlad the Impaler's birthday party. This gutsy ghost can still be found hanging around the French Quarter, so to speak.

In the future, climate change will cause the blues of the ocean to look bluer and the greens to look greener, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And no, that is not a good thing.

To understand how this will happen, you first need to understand why the ocean is blue in the first place. As the Weather Channel explained, the water gains its color thanks to microorganisms called phytoplankton. Those organisms contain chlorophyll, which is a pigment that absorbs the blue part of the light spectrum and reflects the green part of the light spectrum.

That means if water has more phytoplankton it will come off as more green. Parts of the ocean without these organisms look bluer.


​The growth rate of phytoplankton, CNN further explained, is dependent on how much sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients are in its vicinity. And, because climate change will alter all of the above, there will be fewer nutrients for phytoplankton to feed on.


​The areas most affected by the change will likely be in subtropical regions like Bermuda and the Bahamas, according to the team’s findings, which were published Monday in the journal Nature Communications. Conversely, it found places like the North Atlantic and the Antarctic will become much warmer, bringing more nutrients to the area, thus turning the water much greener.

"The model suggests the changes won't appear huge to the naked eye, and the ocean will still look like it has blue regions in the subtropics and greener regions near the equator and poles," Stephanie Dutkiewicz, the study’s co-author and a principal research scientist in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, told the Weather Channel. "That basic pattern will still be there. But it'll be enough different that it will affect the rest of the food web that phytoplankton supports."

According to the study, these changes will likely take place by the end of the 21st century. This change will also likely have a catastrophic domino effect on not only what ocean animals eat, but what humans eat too.


​"The change is not a good thing, since it will definitely impact the rest of the food web," Dutkiewicz additionally told CNN. "Phytoplankton are at the base, and if the base changes, it endangers everything else along the food web, going far enough to the polar bears or tuna or just about anything that you want to eat or love to see in pictures."

But, there are still things you can do to help stave off this change, even as a traveler. Read more on how to travel sustainably so we can preserve the world’s most precious places for generations to come.

9. Cultural exchange

I can relate to this one because I'm generally slow to make friends. I have a hard time getting close to random people I meet on the street or at a restaurant or in a bus. If I go somewhere alone, I really might only talk to people who are selling me things. But Peta Kaplan of Green Global Trek cautions against this.

"When the only interaction travelers have with locals is to buy something," she says, "we always feel bad for them because they are missing out on the best part of travel. Namely meeting locals, talking to them and having real exposure to different cultures and ways of life beyond economic transactions."

Solo travel can be a great way to push yourself to meet new people. It is always fascinating to learn how much we have in common -- and what makes us unique!

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How to Beat Jet Lag Fast

The ghost of the hanging Romeo

Pilots Say They Weren’t Informed About a Major Change to Boeing 737 Planes That May Have Caused the Lion Air Crash

Things I Wish I’d Known About Cruising

Okay, technically, St. Francisville, Louisiana, is about 100 miles outside New Orleans, but its most famous haunted house, the Myrtles Plantation, is so haunted that its ghostly aura stretches across the mere hour and a half drive like it's nothing.

According to the stories you might hear at Myrtles, the site is home to as many as 12 ghosts and the location of 10 different murders. Basically none of that is true and there's only one confirmed murder at Myrtles, but, hey, this ghost stuff is all in fun, so enjoy!

The most famous ghost at Myrtles is known as Chloe, and according to incredibly spurious legend, Chloe was a slave girl forced into a relationship with her owner, Clark Woodruff. When Woodruff caught her listening at keyholes to his business dealings, he had one of Chloe's ears cut off as punishment, and she covered the subsequent scar with a green turban. As revenge, Chloe then poisoned Woodruff's wife and children with a birthday cake containing oleander leaves (this was the poison part). She was hanged and now people see a green, turban-wearing ghost all over the place. It turns out the Woodruffs actually owned zero slaves, but cool story.

Additionally, the ghost of the one person actually murdered there is said to stagger up the stairs he died on, and a particular mirror is said to contain the spirits of Mrs. Woodruff and her children, trapped there after their bad cake experience, among many other tales.

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The LaLaurie torture mansion

But the main thing with cruising, I discovered, is that you hardly spend any daylight time on the ship. A quick breakfast (smoked salmon, a croissant and scrambled eggs, please) and then it’s off on the first tender or gangplank to land and back to the ship on the last. I ended up wishing I had more time at sea, but there’s just too much else to do.

2. I’ll have to give up my freedom.

When thinking of cruising, I always had a superior group tour type of sneer: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.” I thought I’d be led along and forced to follow a strict itinerary. Again, I was completely wrong. Don’t confuse a cruise with a bus tour. There simply is no schedule. Except, of course, what islands or land you’ll be docking at. And even there, you get to select the landfalls when you choose your cruise. But once on board, no one gives a damn what you do.


​There’s a mandatory lifeboat lesson, but after that, your only obligation is to be back on the ship when it sails. You can sleep in, be up at dawn, party all night and sleep all day, go on shore or not go on shore, eat when you want, drink when you want, and sleep when you want. It’s as much freedom as you’ll ever have, anywhere.

2. Sideblock

If, like me, you live in an urban center that welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world, you know the easiest way to spot an irksome tourist; they're the ones standing in the middle of foot traffic, seemingly oblivious to the fact that other people are trying to get to and from work.

"I was recently in Paris and I got so frustrated with people standing either in the middle of the sidewalk having a conversation or trying to locate something on a map," says Janice Chung of France Travel Tips. "Or they were at the top of the stairs of the Metro. In both cases it was really busy and crowded and they were blocking our path! They were oblivious to the people trying to get by."

Of course even locals are capable of getting lost in their own city, but that's no excuse for poor manners. If you need to step aside to check your phone or consult a map -- step aside. This may be a vacation day for you, but many of the inhabitants are on the clock and in a hurry.

The Crescent City isn't just famous for ghosts, even though it's got them by the swamp-boat-load. It's also got hella vampires, and not just Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Perhaps the most famous New Orleans vampire is Jacques St. Germain, who may or may not have also been an immortal alchemist and philosopher.

Okay, so according to legend, in the early 1900s a guy named Jacques St. Germain shows up in the French Quarter and starts throwing money around in lavish dinner parties, though he is never seen eating at them. He regales his guests with incredibly detailed stories from all over the world that had taken place hundreds of years before as if he had witnessed them firsthand. People soon noticed his resemblance to the Count de St. Germain, a European adventurer and philosopher of the 1700s.

It must be absolutely stressed that the Count de St. Germain was a 100 percent real person who knew King Louis XV, Voltaire, Casanova, and other famous historical people. His life was also so mysterious that even in his lifetime people thought he was an immortal alchemist.

So what makes Jacques St. Germain a vampire and not just an immortal? His more, shall we say, sanguine proclivities were revealed when one day a prostitute leaped from his balcony to escape him after he began biting her neck. When police went to question St. Germain, he had disappeared, but they say Vampire Jack still lurks the French Quarter to this day.

When it comes to warding off the dreaded airplane cold, your first line of defense is to sanitize everything, especially the tray table. Having sanitizer handy can make all the difference between enjoying your trip and spending your precious travel time recovering from a cold.

How to Remember: Small travel-friendly bottles of hand sanitizer are the best option to keep your seat station clean, but they’re also very easy to forget. Do yourself a favor and buy your hand sanitizer in bulk. On Amazon, you can snag an six-pack of travel-sized Purell bottles for under $10. Then stow one in each of your suitcases so you always have hand sanitizer ready, no matter which bag you bring with you.


Medicine

Thanks to her prominent appearances in pop culture such as a 1974 hit song, Marvel Comics, and, yeah, American Horror Story, there is probably no name more associated with voodoo than Marie Laveau. Laveau was a real person, who, together with her daughter (who was also named Marie Laveau and who may have assumed her mother's identity after her death, making their histories hard to disentangle) amassed thousands of followers to their uniquely New Orleans brand of spiritualism in the 19th century.

In life, according to Ghost City Tours, Laveau became the Voodoo Queen of Congo Square, leading people in chants and selling charms with a boa constrictor named Zombi draped over her shoulders. It's only natural, then, that people would continue to seek her aid more than a century after her death.

While of course her house is haunted, the most famous haunted location associated with Laveau is her tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Many people will leave offerings at her tomb and seek her blessing by drawing an X on the tomb, or some other series of rituals, which will lead her to grant your wish. Don't actually write on the tomb, though, because that is actually super-illegal.

You know what else is super-illegal? Breaking into a cemetery to see her body. That's what history's spookiest punk band the Misfits did on Halloween 1982, for which they were totally arrested. The best part? They weren't even at the right cemetery: They went to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.


First the truth: The so-called "Casket Girls" were young women sent from France to the French colony of Louisiana in 1728 to provide wives for the disproportionately male colony. The "caskets" they carried were just luggage trunks that had their clothes in them. The truth is fine, but, ahhhh, the legend.

The legend starts the same: Pale young girls arrived in New Orleans by boat, shyly clutching the caskets they carried with them. Their skin was so pale that they instantly blistered in the hot Louisiana sun. They carried their caskets to the Ursuline convent that was to be their home until they were married. However, things did not turn out well for the Casket Girls. The men of New Orleans rejected the pale girls, and many of them were forced to turn to prostitution. The French king, enraged by the failure of his policy, demanded the return of the girls.

The nuns went up to the third floor only to find that the caskets that allegedly held all the girls' belongings were actually completely empty. (The implication, you see, is that the girls were sleeping in the coffins instead of keeping clothes in there. The girls were vampires. That's the punchline.) The third floor of the convent was then sealed up and nailed shut with nails blessed by the Pope himself. This has not, however, completely kept the girls from feasting on blood from time to time. A very attractive, if completely bogus, legend.

Wight City Arcade, Isle of Wight

We've all seen those travelers overseas: the ones who make us all look bad, who make disdain for tourists in general seem justified. So we thought we'd ask some of the most experienced travel bloggers in the world which annoying tourist habits grind their gears most. We hope you find their answers cathartic and amusing.


1. Me, my selfie & I

By far the most common complaint among world travelers we talked to was the obstructive (and sometimes downright dangerous) prevalence of the selfie -- and the selfie stick.

"Sometimes I just want to yank their phones away and ask them to actually look at what they are photographing," says Beth Reiber of TravelReiber. "Sometimes I take photos of all the people lined up taking photos. On a trip to Dominica in September, I tripped wading across a stream, dropping my camera into the water. Then my phone died. So I resorted to the way I used to travel -- looking around, taking notes, recording scenes in my memory."

Everyone likes to take photos to post on Facebook and share with loved ones back home. But these days it can seem like the whole point of going is just to take pictures. And it really isn't.

A hairbrush is one of the most common things people forget to pack, but you’ll feel this one the hardest when you face your bedhead in the mirror every morning. Hotels often offer complimentary combs, but if you’re particular about your hair, as many travelers are, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed the right tools to tame it.

How to Remember: Invest in a good fold-up brush to keep in your toiletry kit. You’ve probably tangoed with the cheaper end of the fold-up brush spectrum, but the TOUCHBeauty Detangling Brush is a quality option that promises silky hair and gives a good scalp massage.


Passport

People were always surprised to learn that after 40 years of doing travel writing, I had never been on a cruise. Oh, some 25 years ago, I had done a crossing from New York to Southampton, England, on the QEII. That was six days, all at sea, and due to a Force 8 storm, pretty much hell.

But I had missed the whole multi-billion dollar, 21st century cruise ship phenomenon. And, I thought, with good reason.


The idea of cruise ships had no appeal to me. Nothing I ever heard about them changed that. I knew the food was good, and it was convenient not having to pack and unpack. And everyone said it was great for multi-generational travel (which I had also successfully avoided).

Ghost towns aren't just reserved for former gold bust villages and other places that look like low-rent sets for Westworld. Cities all over the globe love letting buildings go to rot, including ones that were once bustling hubs of activity. From former sites of grand Olympic games to arcades covered in dust, there's a lot of abandoned stuff out there that's made all the creepier by how fun the places used to be.

After a long wearying flight, you've finally arrived at your destination. You're ready to let loose and go exploring, or start planning out your itinerary of all the places you'd like to check out. But instead of doing either of these things, you fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and wake up in the wee hours feeling groggy, disoriented, and disgruntled for having lost so much time to sleep.


​Sound familiar? This is a description of desynchronosis, more commonly known as jet lag or flight fatigue. According to the American Sleep Association, 93 percent of all travelers experience it at some point in their lives. It is a sleep disorder that most commonly occurs because of travel across time zones. This kind of transportation, particularly by air, throws off the internal clock and circadian rhythms that synchronize our body with the time of day to control feelings of sleepiness and alertness. Mayo Clinic states that symptoms usually occur when you cross at least two time zones, with the effects worsening or lasting longer the more time zones you cross. It causes fatigue, insomnia, and other issues, and it's usually the very last thing you want to be dealing with while traveling. Keep reading for tips on how to shake off jet lag more effectively and get the most out of the time you spend away from home.

Prepare in advance


According to MedicineNet.com, our bodies typically adjust to a new time zone at the rate of one or two time zones per day. For example, if you traveled from the East Coast of the U.S. to a location in western Europe like France or Italy, you traveled across six time zones and displaced your body's internal clock by about six hours. It should take your body between three and five days to adjust, but by preparing in advance you can cut down or even eliminate this adjustment period.

The week before your trip, try going to bed an hour earlier (if you're flying east and losing hours) or an hour later (if you're flying west and gaining hours). If you can, alter the time that you wake up in the morning and your mealtimes as well, and gradually move towards a sleeping pattern that matches up with the time zone of your destination.


Stay hydrated


The dry air inside an airplane cabin and reduced fluid intake during a long flight makes it easy to become dehydrated on planes, which can exacerbate jet lag symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and irritability. The American Sleep Association recommends drinking plenty of water before, during and after your flight to maintain proper hydration. And while you may think caffeinated beverages will help keep you awake, or that alcoholic beverages will help you fall asleep, it's best to avoid these as both negatively impact quality of sleep.

Go outside


Circadian rhythm refers to the body's internal clock. All living things operate on a 24-hour cycle, influenced by cues in our environment that tell us what time it is such as the position of the sun and rising or falling outdoor temperatures. The disruption of this circadian rhythm is what causes jet lag disorder - when we fall out of sync with the sun's movement our bodies become confused by the conflicting internal and external cues, causing disturbances in sleeping and eating patterns. By spending plenty of time outdoors once you've arrived in your new environment, you can reinforce the environmental cues that you want your body to be following.

Consider medication


For extreme displacements or greater than normal difficulty in adjusting to a new time zone, research suggests that medication can be helpful in getting your body's sleep patterns back on track. A 2016 study published in Laryngoscope, for example, affirms that melatonin, an over-the-counter sleep supplement, has a meaningful effect on human sleep in the treatment of jet lag. Another study in the Journal of Lung, Pulmonary & Respiratory Research found that properly administered drug therapy was associated with reduced sleep disturbance in patients with jet lag.

Displacement to the west, when you gain hours, is typically easier to adjust to than coping with hours lost in eastward travel, since you're adding time onto your day in which to implement these adjustments. If you're worried about dealing with jet lag symptoms on an upcoming trip, try out these methods and see if they help you have the best travel experience possible.

MSC Cruises introduces Zoe, an in-cabin virtual assistant

Cleveland Aquarium

The many ghosts of the Myrtles Plantation

When you imagine a grand casino built in 1910 and commissioned by King Carol, you probably think "was King Carol in the Land of Make-Believe or something?" No, King Carol was the first king of (real) Romania. He reigned at the turn of the century and had the Casino Constanta built in a beautiful style. From the outside, the building still looks immaculate, a lot better than any casino in Las Vegas, and there's not a bit of neon to be seen. Sadly, the inside didn't fare so well.

The city couldn't keep up the legendary building and shut it down in 1990. Now, the floors have a lot more cat and pigeon poop than your typical casino. Whether that's better or worse than the average smell of smoke and cheap cocktails is up to you. In 2012, the city said it would try to restore and reopen the property, but nothing's been done thus far, and it definitely needs a lot of work. Plus, Hangover and Golden Girls slot machines are really going to clash with their marble work.

The Casket Girls

Massive Elephant Seals Took Over a California Beach During the Government Shutdown and Nobody Can Get Them to Move

For many travellers, the idea of an adventure at sea sounds irresistible. Who could possibly say no to the sunshine, the scrumptious dessert bar, and the plentiful cocktails?

But other travellers are more hesitant. Perhaps it's the thought of so many people in a relatively confined space; for others, it might be the idea of being so far away from help should an emergency arise. The question of whether or not cruises are safe isn't always a straightforward one.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of cruises are enjoyed with nary a hitch. Cruise ships are highly regulated vessels. The days of not having enough emergency lifeboats on board went with the Titanic! Another common concern is equally non-problematic. Worried travellers will be happy to know that it is virtually impossible to fall overboard unless you are intentionally trying to or are extremely intoxicated. And any ship that cruises in American waters is inspected by the US Coast Guard, reducing fears of foreign vessels operating with more lax standards. All cruise ships, regardless of nationality, are subject to Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations that relate to safety, navigation, and security.

And perhaps the best testimonials about the safety of cruises are the passengers themselves. People who cruise are a passionate bunch. They wouldn't return for a second or third (or sometimes even twenty or thirty) repeat sailings if they didn't love the experience time and time again.

These reassurances aside, the same sensible precautions you'd take in any other travel scenario apply to life on a cruise ship.

When you go to check into a flight or hotel and something’s not right with the reservation, you’ll want to have your itinerary and confirmation emails handy.

How to Remember: Since you might not always have Wi-Fi, screenshot everything and keep it in an organized folder on your phone. Or go old-school and print out a hard copy. You can even keep it all organized in one of these nifty travel binders.


​Travel Hairbrush

MSC Cruises introduced its voice-activated personal digital assistant, which has a female name and voice, like Alexa and Siri.

MSC calls its assistant Zoe, named for chairman Gianluigi Aponte's granddaughter.

In addition to having "a nice lady voice", said MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato, Zoe will turn on with a simple voice command "Okay, Zoe."  The name is uncommon enough that the device won't often be activated accidentally, Onorato said.

MSC has conducted 2 million tests of Zoe before deploying it live, to be sure it is ready. A list of the 800 most frequently asked questions has been programmed into its system.

Onorato said Zoe differs from other digital devices in that it is customized to each ship. It won't just say the casino is open, it will say the casino on Deck 5 is open, he said.


​Guests will be briefed on how to use Zoe in pre-sailing e-mails, and there will be an e-guide on MSC's app. MSC said Zoe will use artificial intelligence to gradually improve its responsiveness to guest questions.

Onorato said the initial focus will be in equipping new MSC ships with Zoe (the MSC Bellissima enters service in March), but there are also plans to install Zoe across the existing fleet. 

Zoe was developed in partnership with Harman and Samsung Electronics.

One of the most famous haunted houses in New Orleans — so famous that many just call it "the Haunted House" — is the LaLaurie Mansion at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter. It might be famous because it featured heavily in Season 3 of American Horror Story, or maybe because Nicolas Cage owned it for a little while for some reason. But really, it's famous because, as Ghost City Tours points out, legend says some really messed up stuff happened in there.

Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved into the mansion in 1832, and Delphine, a proud socialite, soon gained a reputation for being cruel to her slaves, especially after she was seen chasing a young slave girl off a balcony to her death with a bullwhip after accidentally pulling Delphine's hair. But it was an 1834 fire that revealed the true horror of the LaLaurie Mansion.

A slave chained to the stove had set the fire because she would rather die than be taken to the room upstairs. Firefighters who entered this room discovered it was full of more than a dozen slaves who had been chained, caged, tortured, and experimented on. Later (spurious) legends say one victim had been caged with her bones broken and reset so she could only walk like a crab, and others had holes drilled in their heads. Delphine LaLaurie, now uncovered, fled to France and little is known about what happened to her afterward. Anyway, the house is haunted now, obviously.

3. The McTraveler

I think most passionate travelers will agree: there's a special level of hell reserved for people who fly halfway around the world only to eat every meal in a Starbucks or McDonald's. Food is such an important part of culture that you really are missing half the fun if you don't at least try it.

Plus it all seems to fit into a larger mindset that will only hold you back.

"Only eating in tourist restaurants; not trying local food, not venturing off the beaten path," say Jonathan Look, Jr. and Sarah Wilson of Life Part 2, characterizing this fear of the unfamiliar. "Some of the best experiences in travel are when you step out of your comfort zone even if it's just for a little while."

Even if you're a fussy eater, give yourself a chance to grow. When in doubt, do what I do: don't ask what something is made of until after you've sampled it. You might just be surprised. (Of course, that only works if you don't have any serious allergies...)

On the evening of Jan. 22, reports by airline pilots of a drone in their approach path led the FAA to briefly stop arrivals into Newark Liberty Airport.

The halt was the first such action due to drone operations at a major U.S. airport. But experts say more are likely in the months and years to come, especially since not enough preventive mechanisms are in place.

"It's a common problem we run into with any technology," said Ryan Wallace, an Embry-Riddle assistant professor of aeronautical science who specializes in unmanned aircraft systems. "Response, legislation, procedures, they all lag innovation. So we're behind the eight ball."


​The FAA reauthorization act, signed into law by President Trump last fall, gave the Department of Homeland Security and FBI the joint authority to monitor and track drones without getting consent from the drone operator. The DHS and the bureau were also granted the authority to disable, take control of or disrupt a drone's operations without prior consent. Still, airports are mostly in a holding pattern when it comes to managing drone intrusions. Last July, the FAA sent a letter to airports suggesting that it could withhold grant funding if they move forward independently with efforts to implement drone detection and countermeasure systems.

"The use of such systems could place the safety and efficiency of the [National Aviation System] at risk, which would not be consistent with the airport sponsor's federal grant obligations," the FAA letter stated. 

In the letter, FAA director of airport safety and standards John Dermody asserted that the deployment by airports of drone detection and countermeasure systems could interfere with the performance-based navigation equipment used by pilots and air traffic controllers. 

But while airports have their hands tied, their concerns about drone incursions into airspace are real. 


​Last May, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that the FAA collected 6,117 reports of sightings of potentially unsafe drone use between February 2014 and April 2018. More specific to aviation safety, during a 13-day study around Daytona Beach Airport last May, Wallace and his co-researchers detected 192 drone incursions into the airport's airspace.

Wallace said the number would likely be higher at large-market airports, which often have more people living near them. 


​As recent events demonstrate, such incursions can quickly cause chaos. The Newark stoppage was short enough that it only caused arrival delays of approximately one hour. But between Dec. 19 and Dec. 21, drone incursions into the airspace over London Gatwick led to repeated closures of the airport and the disruption of travel for an estimated 140,000 people. 

Chris Oswald, the senior vice president of safety and regulatory affairs for the trade group Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), said, "Taking away from the Gatwick story, the big thing in my mind is the level of economic disruption that can be caused by what seems to be a combination of actual hazard and uncertainty of the nature of the threat." 

Of course, concerns about drones go beyond the economic. From a safety perspective, the most prevalent worry is the possibility of collisions, especially in cases when drone operators get reckless or engage in thrill-seeking. 


​For example, in a widely reported incident last February, a drone operator filmed a Frontier aircraft from just above the plane's flight path as it made its way into Las Vegas McCarran. 

Commercial aircraft are more than likely to make it through a drone collision unharmed. But that won't always be the case, Wallace said, especially if the metal parts of a drone are ingested by one or more of an aircraft's engines.

And airports must also be on the lookout for nefarious drone incursions. 

In in a 2015 Embry-Riddle study, Wallace and co-author Jon Loffi of Oklahoma State University listed the kinds of mayhem drone operators could cause at airports and other locations. Among the possibilities: Drones could be used by criminals or terrorist groups for reconnaissance missions; they could be intentionally steered into aircraft; and they could be deployed to deliver explosives, or even biological weapons. 


​A primary solution to defend against such attacks could include the deployment of drone detection and countermeasure technology at airports. 

To that end, from February 2016 through December 2017, the FAA and other federal agencies worked with airports in New York, Atlantic City, Dallas and Denver to observe such technologies. But the study showed that airports had more sources of radio interference than the agency had anticipated, leading to the FAA's determination the such technologies could pose air traffic communication dangers.


​For now, the agency is instead endorsing a regulatory regime under which drones manufactured in the U.S. would be required to be equipped with an identification and tracking system. The DOT began a formal rule-making process last May to develop those regulations. 

Pirates have been so romanticized by movies and books that it's almost hard to remember that they were real people who committed real crimes, often under the auspices of real governments. One of the most famous pirates in U.S. history — and certainly the most famous in New Orleans — is Jean Lafitte, who traded in infamy for legitimate fame when he helped Andrew Jackson fight the bloody British in the Battle of New Orleans.

Lafitte owned a business in the French Quarter in the early 19th century that is one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans, and, at least according to its website, the oldest continuously operating bar in the United States. It probably wasn't a bar when Lafitte owned it, though. It was, uh, maybe a blacksmith shop, so it's known today as Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. They serve a grape-flavored voodoo daiquiri that tastes like purple cold medicine. Oh! Also it's haunted.

According to legend, a full-body apparition of Lafitte is a common guest at the bar who bears his name and he, a notorious womanizer, has been reported to unhook a bra strap or two in the women's restroom. On the second floor there's alleged to be the ghost of a woman who will whisper your name into your ear, and piercing red demonic eyes appear regularly in the bar that fade into darkness after you make eye contact with them. It might be worth risking a demon for those daiquiris, though.

The World's Bluest Oceans Are Going to Get Bluer — but That's Not a Good Thing

5. Lost in translation

One of travelers' biggest fears used to be visiting a country where nobody spoke English. These days, that's less of a concern than ever; there are plenty of apps available to help you communicate. But still there are some people who just can't be bothered to learn a few key phrases in another language, and instead expect everyone to speak English.

"It drives me absolutely crazy when I overhear a visitor grumbling because they can't understand what's being said to them or they can't communicate with someone," says Aukai Dunn of Travel Love Kai. "I seriously believe it is our duty as a visitor to at least learn some key phrases, download a translator app and try to do our best to speak with the locals. Plus as a tourist you will learn so much more about the place you're visiting when you're there."

If you’re going somewhere notorious for rain, an umbrella won’t always cut it. Add a rain jacket to your wardrobe and save yourself some trip-ruining discomfort.

How to Remember: You might think an extra jacket will take up too much space, but there are many rain jackets that compress down to small packages like the super lightweight running jacket for men and women.

One of the most famous landmarks in New Orleans' French Quarter is the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, which faces Jackson Square and features a strikingly Dracula-esque statue of Jesus. The alley that runs next to it, known as Pirates Alley, is also home to one of the most famous ghostly phenomena in all of New Orleans.

First a little history: Louisiana was a French colony from 1718 until 1763 when the French ceded the territory to Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Seven Years' War. The French colonists of New Orleans were not stoked at this state of affairs and — long story short — a rebellion led by French colonists was put down by an Irish expatriate loyal to Spain known as Bloody O'Reilly, who had the rebel leaders publicly executed on a street still known today as Frenchmen Street, now a popular spot for music.

That's all very true history. Where legend picks up is in the story that says that the bodies of these Frenchmen were hung out to rot by the cathedral, and the priest, Pere Dagobert, was forbidden to bury them until the Spanish guards, unused to New Orleans weather, took shelter during a hurricane and the priest was able to transport the bodies of the dead to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. And legend says that even today when it rains, you can hear Pere Dagobert singing the Kyrie (presumably the hymn and not the pop hit by Mr. Mister) down Pirates Alley.

10. In plane sight


Isn't it funny how often people seem to 'accidentally' wind up in the wrong seat on the plane? And then they want to negotiate with you to swap places, even though you took the time to book an aisle seat in advance?

Or, as Jo and Alan Gourlay of Trave Graphics (somewhat more politely) put it: "It surprises/amuses us that by putting an airline ticket in someone's hand then gives them so much trouble matching up one letter and one number to a corresponding seat location."

Hmm. There must be some kind of selective amnesia that affects people in airplanes, but only before they take off. We should really do some research on this subject.

4. Shoulda stayed home​

"One thing?" says podcaster Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler when asked to list his tourist pet peeve. "I have heard people complain that it rains the day they visit the rain forest. You think? I have heard people on a big bus tour complain about the crowds everywhere. You think?"

Wherever you go, you're going to find that some things are the same, but many are quite different. And different things can be annoying -- or at least faintly jarring. But, at the end of the day, the only people who travel while also staying at home are turtles.

"Mostly you need to remember that you travel to different places because they are different. So... then don't complain that it is not like home," Chris adds.

The jovial atmosphere on board can create a false sense of security, but cruise ships should be treated like the small cities which they effectively are. Cabin doors should be locked just the same as hotel room doors. Protect your valuables, be aware of your surroundings, and use the buddy system to keep friends safe and accounted for.

So what are the most pressing concerns, and how safe are cruise ships exactly?

Sexual assault on cruise ships

Unfortunately, there are some situations that carry a heightened risk on cruise ships that fall outside the realm of routine travel precautions. One, sadly, is sexual assault. Much like airlines, cruise lines lack a commitment to preventing sexual assault and have few, if any, policies on preventing or responding to such attacks.

Tracking statistics for sexual assaults that occur on cruise ships is difficult, owing in part to the underreported nature of these crimes in the first place. Compounding the difficulty is that not all incidents reported to the ship's authorities are passed on to the authorities in the ship's home country. And furthermore, Americans who are assaulted at sea fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI -- who may or may not be notified by local authorities.

Even when the FBI has been properly notified, their efforts to investigate are often hampered by crime scenes that are unprotected or even sterilized by cruise ship staff.

Cruise ship passengers should know that they are within their rights to contact the outside authorities directly without asking the staff to do so on their behalf. They also have the right to insist that evidence be secured and undisturbed. If the idea of having to fight and argue for your rights after surviving an assault sounds traumatizing, you're absolutely right. As such, passengers should be aware that there are law firms that specialize in maritime law and advocating for cruise ship sexual assault survivors. Hopefully, it's a resource you never have to research further.

7 Things That Will Ruin Your Trip If You Forget to Pack Them

What To See And Do

If your travel motto is "If it's free, we go and see", Vegas has plenty to keep you occupied for days at nary a cost. The Strip is an attraction in and of itself if people watching is your thing. You never can tell what you'll see! But there are more organized events and activities too!

Nearly every major hotel along The Strip has an attraction that everyone can enjoy, not just guests. The Bellagio Hotel, for instance, puts on a delightful light and water show every night at its fountains. The volcano at the Mirage has nightly 'eruptions" and the Venetian offers - you guessed it - a little taste of Venice right in the heart of Vegas.

If you have a sweet tooth, M&M World and Hershey's Chocolate World are tons of fun to check out. But take note: They usually don't offer samples and there's plenty of temptation to shop. However, if your travels take you to nearby Henderson, the Ethel M's Chocolate Factory has free self-guided tours and a higher chance of nabbing a sample.

There are a lot of strategies for getting free beer in Vegas - and most of them involve excessive gambling to 'earn' complimentary drinks at casino bars or buying an expensive souvenir glass in exchange for free refills. But at the Banger Brewing Company, a rare craft brewery in the city center, visitors enjoy great tours that end with sampling up to four beers! Times book up quickly - you can reserve a slot here. If wine is more your thing, check out the schedule for Wine Lounge Thursdays - part free wine tasting, part music series, 100% fun.


​And if museums, art galleries, or outdoor excursions are your thing - Vegas has a host of options for each. You can see a long list of Vegas freebies here. One that's especially easy for nearly all travellers to enjoy is the Aviation Museum at McCarran Airport.

Two vampire brothers

For one thing, there is the ship itself. At 933 feet in length with more than 2,000 passengers and 850 crew, it’s a floating small city with shops, more than a dozen bars and restaurants, and unlimited amounts of viewpoints. And stairs. Forego the elevator (a good suggestion to start with) and that means 11 flights of stairs from top to bottom just to get around the ship.

The Promenade Deck was also a revelation. The deck circles the ship with a beautiful hardwood floor offering an unobstructed wind-in-your-face walk with sea airs, views and sun. It’s as pleasant a walk as I’ve ever taken, with nine laps equaling a 5K run.

In all the conversations and ads I’ve seen of cruising, hardly anyone mentions the simple joy of stretching your legs as fast as you want to walk for as long as you want to walk in the middle of the sea, with an occasional dolphin jumping high above the water beside you.

And then there are the balconies. Again, no one ever told me how magnificent it is to wake up at night, go out on the balcony and watch the black sea passing by, the waves illuminated by the glow from the ship’s lights. The sounds, the smell of the sea and the fresh air at night is simply spectacular. And if it gets cool, your cozy bed in the cabin is five feet away.

Sochi Olympic Village, Russia

8. "Well, where I'm from..."

There's nothing wrong with loving your country. But when you're traveling, being too loud and proud about it, or unfavorably comparing everything you see to how things are back home is a surefire way to make locals and fellow travelers hate you.

"I have traveled with people who incessantly complained about the food, the language, or customs ending most sentences with "that's not how we do it in [name of country]," says Donna Long of Empty Nestopia.

No, it isn't. That's why it's a totally different country. The more you know!

Casino Constanta, Romania

If any place definitely has a graffiti-covered, totally empty Children's Zoo, it's Detroit. And the Motor City doesn't disappoint. The Belle Island Children's Zoo was a popular destination by 1909, with 150 animals all in cages that now look completely inhumane. The bigger Detroit Zoo took a little of the glory from Belle Island, so it became a Children's Zoo and kept on trucking. But by 2002, the mayor wanted to save $700,000, and though people overwhelmingly voted to save Belle Island, the mayor opened up another zoo in the same area instead. With no need for three full zoos in one decaying city, the Children's Zoo was abandoned.

Now, its only visitors are YouTubers who break in and people who fly drones over the top. Oh, and graffiti artists. There's tons of graffiti all over the children's zoo. Nearly every indoor bit of flooring is covered in garbage as weeds and grass slowly take over the outdoor structures. There don't seem to be any plans to restore the zoo, so if you really wanted to tag an animal jail, hurry to Detroit before all the good wall space is taken.

Bonus Tips For Super-Cheapskates

Don't be afraid to ask for discounts. If you're a teacher, first responder, a military veteran, student, senior, a member of an automobile association or service club, you could very well get a 10% discount at many hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

If any big-ticket items are on your bucket list, search a guidebook or the web to get advice on how to save. There's no need to pay full price for tickets to see magicians, gourmet meals, and guided tours. Often all it takes is a willingness to do some advanced research and have a bit of flexibility.

Flex your coupon muscle. Sure, you're keen to leave the airport and hit the city but don't leave the terminal without grabbing a handful of tourist brochures and magazines. Using 2-for-1 coupons is a Vegas right of passage.

Speak up if service isn't great. Sure, all hotels and restaurants should be receptive to customer concerns but Vegas is particularly service oriented, especially in the large casino businesses. Lead with courtesy and don't settle for just 'good enough'.

A vampire in the French Quarter