With W Hotel’s Valentine’s Day Package, couples can enjoy two complimentary drinks at the POV Roof Terrace. Photograph courtesy of W Hotel.
Date Night in DC at Savory Suites Hotel
Guests receive a box of gourmet truffles from Artfully Chocolate, a $20 gift card to the Arlington shop, a bottle of bubbly, complimentary garage parking, and wi-fi access. Available through December 31. Rates from $164 on Valentine’s Day.
The Valentine’s Suite Deal Package at St. Gregory Hotel
Sweet Spark Romance Package at W Hotel
Couples receive a colorful box of Dominique Ansel “mini-me” meringues, a bottle of Champagne, an in-room movie, and late checkout. Flavors of the “mini-me” collection, created exclusively for W Hotel, include Vietnamese hot cinnamon and cherry; white truffle, white rose, and lychee; and pink Champagne. Available February 9 to 20. Rates from $299 on Valentine’s Day.
For most Washingtonians, the biggest worry about driving to the beach is Bay Bridge traffic. But Terri Robinson has gotten to know a different type of beachgoer—one who is paralyzed with fear by the sight of the bridge’s sweeping twin spans.
A driver for Kent Island Express, Robinson has shuttled thousands of drivers over the four-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which whisks cars 186 feet into the air as they cross the Chesapeake to get to and from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The bridge was named one of the ten scariest in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine.
Each year as the temperature rises, so does the cost of fuel. This summer is no exception, with gas often topping $4 a gallon in the DC metro area. While commuters are feeling pain at the pump, some of the inexpensive intercity bus lines that serve Washington are not.
Sure, the buses that travel from DC to New York and other east coast cities run on gasoline, but most companies say their fares will not rise in response to the high price of fuel. Instead, some bus companies are seeing an increase in ridership, which is helping make up for rising fuel costs. None of the major carriers, Greyhound, Megabus, and Vamoose Bus, have raised ticket prices this summer.
“In the big picture we continue to see growth with passenger volume, which is more than offsetting the price of fuel,” says Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of Megabus. “We’re taking advantage of this opportunity to get people out of their automobiles and onto the bus.”
Moser says summer is traditionally a very profitable time for Megabus, and so far this summer is no exception. With more people traveling thanks to school being out, his company is able to pick up more riders than ever.
“We strategically just try to control the pricing and keep it at a price point that is receptive to the market,” Moser says. “We’ll take a view of it constantly, but right now we haven’t made any decisions to raise fares.”
While Megabus credits an increase in ridership with keeping ticket prices down, Greyhound has another strategy.
“Greyhound builds in the cost of fuel as part of its cost of business,” says spokeswoman Maureen Richmond, adding that like Megabus, Greyhound has seen an increase in ridership since gas prices spiked. “So Greyhound doesn’t need to worry about raising fares.”
While Greyhound may be immune to high gas costs, its sister company Bolt Bus is not.
“Bolt Bus conversely has raised prices slightly because it’s a curbside service,” Richmond says. “It’s a different model, of course. As a curbside carrier it doesn’t have a lot of the overhead you get with a Greyhound.”
Richmond was unable to say exactly how much Bolt Bus has increased prices, and a quick glance at their Web site shows it’s difficult to even see the difference: Same-day fares to New York are still running at about $25, while advance purchase tickets about a month away are as low as $13. Richmond does say Bolt Bus fares are unlikely to increase again this summer. In fact, if fuel costs drop back down in the fall she says there’s a possibility that ticket prices will decrease.
Stephania Melo, a 24-year-old Ecuadorian who lives in Quito, has visited family members in DC on a few occasions recently, and each time she has taken a Bolt Bus down from her original stateside destination, New York City, where she also has family. On those trips, the bus had always dropped her off at the same location: the old convention-center parking lot at Tenth and H streets, Northwest. But a few weeks ago, after construction finally got under way on the massive CityCenterDC development, her bus deposited passengers on the curb at F Street and New Jersey Avenue, Northwest, a location unfamiliar to Melo—not to mention to her aunt, who was expecting to pick up her niece at CityCenter.
“My aunt was picking us up and was waiting for us for an hour,” Melo says while waiting at Bolt Bus’s new departure location for a bus back to New York. Because Melo doesn’t own a cell phone, she borrowed a stranger’s and eventually connected with her aunt.
Pickup and drop-off locations for Bolt Bus and its principal competitor, Megabus, have changed several times since they both began serving Washington in 2008. The two lines first shared a stop at 11th Street, Northwest, near G Street, then moved over to G Street, Northwest, between Ninth and Tenth streets, and now to the CityCenter lot. To confuse matters more, Bolt Bus, along with DC2NY and Washington Deluxe, began to offer additional service from Union Station in January 2010. Then this February, with construction beginning on CityCenter, Bolt Bus and Megabus had to move yet again. The former divided its service between the F Street and Union Station locations, while the latter moved to a lot at North Capitol and K streets.
The next time Melo returns to DC, she’s likely to find herself disembarking at yet another new location, because Bolt Bus eliminated its F Street stop. As of last week, the company now operates only out of the parking garage at Union Station. Megabus, meanwhile, remains at the North Capitol lot, though Dale Moser, president of Megabus operator Coach USA, confirms that his company is “in discussions to relocate to the bus parking deck of Union Station,” adding that he hopes to do so “within the next few months.”
Hotels have found one way to save money (beyond charging $10 for bottles of water): Tracking devices have been rolled out in three US hotels that actually keep tabs on hotel linens, from dressing gowns to pillowcases. So those 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets you’ve been resting on? They could be fitted with a microchip to help managers keep on top of inventory—and of course, deter sticky-fingered guests.
We have two upgraded hotel deals for you this week. Affinia Hotels recently launched its For the Love of the Game package in New York City for $216 a night. The deal, intended for sports fans everywhere, includes an upgraded accommodation to a one-bedroom suite, a $10 Metrocard, a $10 Modell’s gift card, late check out, and either a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine. The package is valid for stays through the end of the year at one of five New York locations; to book or for more information, see this link.
We heard a few months ago that the government was doing away with the old color-coded system for terror alerts (when it’s orange for more than five years, people tend to stop paying attention). But are Facebook and Twitter alerts really the best replacement? As this Associated Press story explains, one system in the works will operate with only two levels of warnings, publicized through social-networking sites, and they’ll expire on certain dates, “like a gallon of milk.”
Looking for a quick getaway? One of our favorite B&Bs, the Lake Pointe Inn in McHenry, Maryland, is offering a special “tax break” deal nights booked Sunday through Thursday in April. A double-occupancy room is available for $185 per night, a 30-percent saving on the regular rate (and just right for an unexpected furlough day). Activities include kayaking, bike rides, and golf, and architecture buffs can visit two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses nearby: Fallingwater and Kentucky Knob. Visit the Lake Pointe Inn’s Web site for reservations or more information.
This week was apparently not a good one for the following groups: people in boats and sea creatures. A fisherman in Freeport, Texas, was surprised (to say the least) when a 375-pound shark decided to jump onto the back end of his boat, and a Florida woman was pinned to the ground by a 300-pound eagle ray. Is this normal? No, says CNN. Are we afraid to go out on the open water now? Yes. Thankfully, the Bronx Zoo cobra has been found, so at least that’s one less thing to worry about.
We should probably start today’s post by saying that it’s rare here at Travel News for anything to lull us out of our finely tuned torpor toward airline horror stories. More carry-on fees? Meh. Bedbugs on planes? Whatevs. But airplanes forced to land themselves without guidance because an air-traffic-control center is unresponsive? That’s pretty terrifying. Even more alarming: the news that air-traffic-control towers are routinely staffed by only one person during the evening, which is fewer people than a 24-hour McDonald’s and the same as a gas station, neither of which is actually in the business of preventing mass casualties. The controller, who’s widely speculated to have fallen asleep on duty, is currently suspended, which hopefully will give him time to catch up on some Z’s.
Happy St. Paddy’s Hangover Day! If you aren’t sufficiently sauced and leprechauned out from yesterday, Travelzoo has a deal this week that might just do the trick. Snag a six-night vacation in the five-star Adare Manor Resort near Shannon for $899 this summer, including flights and car rental (flights leave from New York, with taxes and fees an estimated $127 to $137 per person). The hotel is a Condé Nast Traveler 2011 Gold List property, with an 18-hole golf course, horseback riding, fishing, a spa, and, naturally, Guinness. And summer is about the only season in Ireland in which there’s at least a 50 percent chance it won’t rain.
Our thoughts are with the people of Japan this week after such a terrible and unexpected tragedy (the Red Cross is currently accepting aid donations here). Event organizers in the US are now faced with rather a difficult quandary: how muted should the cherry-blossom festivals this month be in the face of such a disaster? Many, including Washington’s own National Cherry Blossom Festival, are soliciting funds for relief efforts, while the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden has announced a moment of silence in memory of the victims prior to the start of its festival.