Innovative Spaceseat offers lots of space on long London-LAX flight with Air New Zealand

Premium economy offers Spaceseats on Boeing 777-300 . (Photo courtesy of Air New Zealand)

Premium economy offers Spaceseats on Boeing 777-300 . (Photo courtesy of Air New Zealand)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Traveling long distance can be tiring, especially when it’s an overnight flight to Asia or Europe. So it’s well worth the time and effort to get the best seat you can afford, because you’re going to be in that seat for more than 10 hours.

Fortunately, most travelers can sleep on these red eye flights, cutting 7 or 8 hours out of the boredom. But it’s hard to sleep, when you’re jammed in a full flight and people keep crawling over you to get to the bathrooms.

So think about an upgrade, whether you have to use frequent flyer miles or pay more. The extra room and service will more than pay for itself.

Remember, you’d probably have to pay $400-$500 for a night at a nice hotel in a capital city. Why not invest that in the flight?

So when we booked our nonstop flight from London to Los Angeles, we wanted as much bang for our buck as we could get. Air New Zealand was offering roundtrips for as little as $800 over the winter.

First we looked at the Skycouch formed from three seats in your own row. The ergonomically designed seats feature a swiveling headrest plus individually equipped AC power. Fleece blankets and pillows are free.

The Skycouch is formed when you raise the two position leg rest on each seat. When they’re level with the seat, just raise the armrests and you have a large flat couch more than 5 feet long. Great for cuddling up with a loved one for the long flight.

But then, we saw the new Spaceseats in premium economy and had to try them. The innovative design solves many of the issues that pop up in today’s flights.

Sure the cost is double economy, but it feels like you’re getting three times the space. Nestled in a hard shell, the seats keep the person in front of you from intruding on you personal space.

That means a seat back won’t be reclined only inches from your face for 10 hours, and the tray table won’t be nudging you chest while you try to eat something.

And the center seats are designed for couples, who can actually turn to face each other over meals. The two seats in the outer rows cater to travelers who prefer privacy.

The seats are staggered, so you’re not looking at the flier beside you. And there are several innovative storage spaces in the armrests so you don’t have to jam all your electronic equipment in the seat back.

The complimentary headsets are very comfortable, accessing more than 580 hours of content, including the latest movies. There’s also television shows, video games and a special children’s section.

All on a 10 inch touch screen with a widescreen format. If you need more, there’s USB and iPod connections you can plug into.

While the Spaceseat doesn’t recline completely, it swings out enough to allow a restful sleep, blanketed in cozy fleece blankets and pillows.  So you can actually arrive at your destination well-rested and ready to start the day, not a zombie looking for your hotel.

The food in premium economy was also quite good, the chefs obviously put some thought into the special menu. It’s nice to eat with real silverware and drink from actual glasses. Of course, these meals come with premium New Zealand wines.

If you’re still hungry, fliers can order a snack directly from their personal screen.

My seatmate, a British retiree with a home in New Zealand swore by the new service. He said it’s the only way he’ll fly now.

In the end, the long flight became more of a treat than a chore, and we arrived in Los Angeles well-rested and fed. Ready to tackle the busy freeways in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alcatraz Cruises offers combo package

 Alcatraz Cruises offers a great value for visitors to San Francisco with the Alcatraz Island and Angel Island Combination Tour.

In collaboration with California State Parks and the National Park Service, Alcatraz Cruises offers a seasonal tour including both Angel Island State Park and Alcatraz Island.

This combination tour runs during the spring and summer seasons and is available through October 26, 2015.  Ticket prices are $63.50 per adult/junior (12-61); $42.75 for children (5-11); $61.75 for seniors (62+); and free for toddlers (0-4).

The combination tour is a 5½ hour journey. Ticket prices include the ferry rides to both islands, a one-hour historic tram tour on Angel Island and the cell-house audio tour on Alcatraz. (Note: the tour of the Angel Island Immigration Station is not included in the Alcatraz & Angel Island Combination Tour).

For bookings, visit http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/buy-tickets.aspx or call 415-981-7625. If booking the combination tour for a group of 15 or more, please contact Alcatraz Cruises Group Services Department at (415) 438-8361or email groups@alcatrazcruises.com.

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Little Italy offers wonderful cuisine in San Diego

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

It’s on India Street but the letters on the gateway spell out: Little Italy.

The two-block strip — less than a mile or a 15-minute walk from most hotels on Harbor Drive — may have the most linguine per capita than any area in the United States. Diners sit on sidewalk tables drinking wine, sampling cheeses and putting fork to spoon to spin up tasty pasta.SANDIEGO 1

Don’t try to get a table at Bencotto, the fine new Northern Italian eatery, without a reservation. Expect a two-hour wait on weekends. But the newest Italian restaurant in the area has a fine twin, Monello, owned by the same Northern Italian family.

The super nice maitre d’ put us at a bar table and promptly left a dish of lupini beans dredged in garlic and olive oil. Later, I munched on spaghetti carbonara.

I have never had a dessert as good as its torta della nonna with pine nuts. Not even from my own nonna. I guess that makes me a devilish little boy, the rough translation of Monello.

Get a dish of osso buco or just a glass of Chianti. Try the oysters at Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar, or the exquisite American cuisine at Kettner Exchange, known by locals as KEX. Want something traditional? Filippi’s Pizza Grotto will satisfy.

World War II hero Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Battle of Guadalcanal, would be very happy. The plaza named in his honor rims the happening dining district just a quick walk from the Embarcadero.

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San Diego’s Seaport Village gets new Headquarters

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Even the 1980s-standby Seaport Village received a makeover, with the new Headquarters adding more shopping and some fancy eateries, including Puesto, where the tacos and bite-sized food gets raves.

Also at the Village is surf photographer Aaron Chang’s Ocean Art Gallery.

A new cruise ship pier will host Disney’s next adventure: a Mexican Riviera cruise ship that sails only from San Diego starting in October.

Might be a good idea to stay landside an extra couple of days to take in the city’s water sites and, you know, get back your land legs.

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Surrender to walking in the new San Diego waterfront

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Walking in San Diego is a must along the new wooden boardwalks and paved pathways of the esplanade along Harbor Drive between the Navy and B Street piers.SANDIEGO13

Old pavement and cracked parking lots are now a 105-foot-wide promenade featuring jacaranda trees and a living bioswale covered in red, green and purple drought-resistant plants that filter impurities from storm water.

Decomposed granite paths and stainless steel and wood benches dot the former hardscape. They’ve even realigned the street to make more walkable space.

Farther south, a new fish market features tuna and octopus fresh from the bay to the highest bidders.
It’s next to a giant sculpture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square at the end of the European part of World War II called “Unconditional Surrender.”
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Stay at a harborside hotel in San Diego

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Stay at a harborside or downtown hotel in San Diego. There are some newly updated inns, such as the Wyndham San Diego Bayside, where you can get a bay-view room in one of its towers; the Hilton San Diego Bayfront farther south; the DoubleTree; and in trendy downtown, the W.

In early 2016, SpringHill Suites and a Residence Inn will open bayside, adding to the stay choices.

It’s doable to stay within a 15-minute walk of shopping, museums, kayaking, boat cruises and some of the trendiest restaurants and nightclubs in the city.

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Port of San Diego undergoes amazing metamorphosis

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By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

What the Tourism Authority calls $31.1 million in Port of San Diego improvements felt like much more during a weekend trip in late February with a friend. I saw the beginnings of the transformation during a trip with my wife back in May 2013, but two years later, the metamorphosis is truly remarkable.

There’s more than just Anthony’s Fish Grotto and the Star of India. Although those two staples remain (who doesn’t remember clam chowder at Anthony’s with your kids or grandkids?

And that famous tall ship staring down at you?), there’s been an expansion of pathways, boardwalks and parks that connect the Grape Street Pier on the north with Seaport Village on the south.

All accessible by foot, bike, pedicab or, for the geek in all of us, Segway.

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Weekend in San Diego can be carless, stressfree

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By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

You’ve arrived at your weekend getaway. After inhaling that complimentary chocolate chip cookie, you’re in the middle of a slow-motion swan dive onto your hotel bed where you sense the pillowy duvet hugging your road-weary body.

The last thing you want to do is get back in the car and drive to dinner or the museum. But in San Diego, you don’t have to.

Believe it or not, in car-centric San Diego, you can leave the minivan in the hotel parking lot and still enjoy the sights. That’s because a weekend vacation near the city’s restored Embarcadero can be carless and stress-free.

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St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at New York-New York Hotel

Celtic Feis, New York-New York Hotel & Casino’s, ultimate St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza, is back and bigger than ever with a five-day celebration at Nine Fine Irishmen March 13-17.

The biggest celebration of Irish culture on the Las Vegas Strip includes live entertainment, specialty cocktails and authentic cuisine. Entry is complimentary and open to all ages March 13 – 16, and starting at noon on March 17, admission is $10, which includes a pint of Guinness or a shot of Jameson for guests ages 21 and up.

“Celtic Feis at New York-New York has become an annual tradition that both locals and visitors look forward to,” said Brent Cook, executive director of food and beverage at New York-New York. “In addition to great Irish bands, festive libations and authentic food, this year will be especially exciting as two additional days have been added to the event, giving guests five days to spread Irish cheer.”

The festival kicks off Friday, March 13 with live entertainment beginning at 4 p.m. on the Brooklyn Bridge and will continue throughout the weekend. On St. Patrick’s Day, Las Vegas Pipe Band will lead a celebratory parade for all ages starting on the Mezzanine and continue through New York-New York. A Guinness toast will follow the procession.

Throughout the weekend, Nine Fine Irishmen will serve up favorite Irish fare such as Bangers & Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef & Cabbage. Guests can also enjoy specially priced libations including $10 cocktails, $8 domestic/import beers and $7 shots.

Performers providing nonstop music throughout the festival include Sine Ri-Ra, Patrick Sieben Band, Michael Johnson Band, Jim Buck and U2 Band. Below is the complete entertainment schedule:

 Friday, March 13

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: DJ (located at Swatch)

 Saturday, March 14

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson       

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: DJ (located at Swatch)

Sunday, March 15

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Jim Buck

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Michael Johnson Band                    

Monday, March 16

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson       

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: U2 Band

Tuesday, March 17

Nine Fine Irishmen

12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Patrick Sieben

4 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Michael Johnson

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Patrick Sieben Band

7 p.m. – 12 a.m.: U2 Band

For more information visit newyorknewyork.com.

 

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Destination Germany reports record numbers of stays

The volume of international travel to Germany reached a record high for the fifth year in a row in 2014, with a total of 75.6 million
overnight stays.

The USA, which remains the biggest overseas market for Destination Germany, continued to grow strongly, with its travelers making nearly 246,000 more overnight stays in Germany than the previous year, as part of a total volume of 5.2 million in 2014.

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, the number of overnight stays by visitors from abroad in accommodation establishments with ten or more beds went up by 3.7 million in the period from January to December, a year-on-year increase of 5.1 per cent.

Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB): “Once again we are able to look back on an outstanding set of results – our record in 2014 provides further evidence that Germany has arrived in the top tier of international travel destinations.

Arrivals went up by 4.6 per cent. This means we are comfortably above the comparable growth rate for Europe, which the UNWTO puts at 3.9 per cent, and on a par with the global growth rate of 4.7 per cent.

The latest UNWTO forecasts suggest that the international travel market will expand by between 3 and 4 per cent in 2015. We will build on last year’s strong performance and take a bigger than average cut of this growth.

This will lay the perfect foundation for our long-term outlook of achieving 121.5 million international overnight stays a year by 2030, which we believe is a realistic objective.”

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