Friday, February 22, 2008

U.S.-Australia open skies agreement

Officials in the United States and Australia have reached a new “open skies” aviation agreement that should eliminate restrictions on air travel between the two countries. U.S.- and Australian-based airlines will be able to set their own routes and destinations between the two countries with no flight limits, and they’ll have more leeway to cooperate on marketing (including codeshares).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Car rental companies offer carbon offsets

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car launched the car rental industry's largest customer carbon offset program. Designed to give customers a simple but meaningful way to address the environmental impact of renting a car, the program is the first consumer initiative to be launched under all three brands. Enterprise, National and Alamo are owned by the Taylor family of St. Louis. Collectively, the Taylor family owns and operates the world's largest automotive fleet, employing more than 1.1 million vehicles.

Under this new program, customers of all three rental car brands can benefit the environment by offsetting the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by the average car rental. When reserving a car through the company's call-in reservation centers or online, customers can opt in to pay $1.25 per rental (plus applicable taxes) to purchase a carbon offset. Under this new program, in partnership with TerraPass, a leading provider of carbon offsets, the funds will be used to purchase certified offset projects that work to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. According to TerraPass, for every 100,000 customers who choose to take part, this effort will offset more than 30 million pounds -- or 13,500 metric tons -- of CO2. In the pilot phase of the program, which began on Jan. 1, 2008, the company reported that across all three brands, approximately 1,000 customers per day agreed to buy carbon offsets when reserving a vehicle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rathskeller Restaurant - Indianapolis

The Rathskeller is located on the northeast side of downtown Indianapolis adjacent to a thriving arts district, across the street from the Murat Theater and in the same building as the American Cabaret Theater.

The menu boasts many hearty traditional German dishes as well as steaks, seafood and more. The Rathskeller features more than 60 beers from around the world as well as an extensive wine list.

In addition to the restaurant, there's a bar with live music and a biergarten for outdoor fun in the summer.

On a recent visit, my wife and I opted for two meals from the German section of the menu. We started with mushroom caps stuffed with cream cheese, bacon bits and chives topped with two melted cheeses. That was followed by two house salads, although we were left wondering if we were supposed to have bread served along with it. We both had bread plates, butter knives and butter, but we never got any bread.

No matter, there was more than enough food to satisfy us. For the main dish, I opted for one of my long-time favorites from the year I lived in Germany - Jaegerschnitzel. It's a pork tenderloin topped with mushrooms in a red wine sauce. For my two side dishes I chose the Bavarian Spaetzle noodles and a potato pancake. All were quite delicious.

My wife chose the Beef Roulladen, a rolls of tender beef stuffed with bacon, onions and mustard slowly cooked for tenderness. She enjoyed it immensely.

For dessert, we split a piece of Black Forest cake.

Most entrees run $25-30, so expect dinner for two to approach $100.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

United adds baggage fee

As air travelers, we're gradually growing accustomed to receiving fewer services such as no more complimentary snacks on flights or extra charges for advance seat assignments.

United has taken another step and will begin charging customers who purchase nonrefundable domestic economy tickets and who do not have status in Mileage Plus or Star Alliance a $25 service fee for checking more than one bag.

We'll keep you posted on further developments like these.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New cruise boarding guidelines set

New cruise boarding rules go into effect on Feb. 18. Starting that date, passengers must board at U.S. ports at least one hour prior to the ship’s scheduled departure. We recommend that you use any online check-in systems offered by cruise lines to submit your information as soon as possible before arriving at the departure port.

Another good idea is arriving at the departure port the night before the sailing date, to avoid any problems with flight delays on the date of departure. If passengers fail to make it to the ship by the hour-before-departure deadline, they may be denied boarding without any refund of their cruise payments.

For Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Azamara sailings, passengers must complete their online check-ins no later than three days prior to the cruise departure. If they don’t, they will be required to complete the process at the pier at least two hours prior to the published sailing time. If passengers are not checked in and onboard the ship at least 90 minutes prior to that time, they will not be permitted to sail.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Travel Alert for Kenya

The U.S. State Department issued a Travel Alert to warn American citizens of the risks of travel to areas of Kenya following disputed elections in Kenya. On Jan. 30 the Department of State authorized non-emergency personnel and family members to relocate from Kisumu to Nairobi. The government warned U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the cities of Kisumu, Nakuru and Naivasha, and defer all non-essential travel to the remaining portions of Nyanza, Western, and Rift Valley provinces, asserting that the situation in Kenya is volatile and subject to change on short notice. U.S. citizens can monitor U.S. Embassy Nairobi's website at for the latest security information. The Travel Alert updates the Jan. 11 Travel Alert, supplements the Oct. 18, 2007, Kenya Travel Warning, and expires Feb. 29.

Although widespread violence, demonstrations, and looting have subsided, a recent outbreak of protests in Nairobi and violent civil unrest in Kisumu, Nakuru, and Naivasha demonstrates the potential for spontaneous violence in the current political climate, the State Department said. Several official Americans have been temporarily relocated from Kisumu to Nairobi. Americans in Kenya should be prepared for a large police presence and potential outbreaks of hostile clashes between police and demonstrators, and between rival groups of demonstrators. International and domestic airports are operating normally, but this may change on short notice.

The Travel Alert warned that road travel in western Kenya remains unsafe. Sporadic illegal road blocks by gangs or criminal elements may make travel possible only with police escorted convoys, the State Department said. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can become violent. Americans should therefore avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings. The State Department urged American citizens who travel to Kenya to register with the U.S. Embassy at, and to monitor the U.S. Embassy website at for updates on this volatile situation. The department shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at Travelers may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or outside the U.S. and Canada at 202-501-4444.