ICYMI: The Sunshine State shines with new record; Labor Day sees 59,000 more flyers per day; Disneyland’s new land; and cruise news

You’ve had a busy week, so we complied the most interesting, funny, or downright odd travel stories (plus cruise news) from these past seven days in one post!

The Sunshine State shines with tourism!

FloridaFlorida, the number one U.S. tourist destination last year, is seeing record number again in 2015. More than 54.1 million visitors traveled to the state in the first six months of this year, 5.8 percent increase over last year. This includes 45.7 million domestic visitors, 5.5 million overseas visitors, and 2.9 million Canadians.

Bill Lupfer, member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and President & CEO of Florida Attraction Association, said in a release, “Florida’s outstanding attractions and iconic destinations have a lot to be proud of, and this record second quarter means we are on track for what is sure to be another stellar year.”

Read more about the VISIT FLORIDA incentives in Gov. Scott: Florida Hits All-Time Record High for Tourism, and to find out which states sent the most visitors to Florida, check out VISIT FLOIRDA Research Page.

Fly during Labor Day Week with more than 14.2 million of your closest friends!

Labor DayAirlines for America, a trade organization for leading U.S. air carriers, says this Labor Day will be one of the busiest with an estimated 14.2 million people taking to the skies. That’s a three percent increase over last year or approximately 59,000 more passengers daily. The busiest travel day is projected to be Friday, Sept. 4, but Wednesday, Sept. 2 through Tuesday, Sept. 8 will be highly traveled.

Why might your flight be more comfortable than usual this holiday season, even if you are packed in coach? Forecast: Labor Day air travel to increase has the answer!


Travelers can now fly into the new Bird airport in Antigua!

The brand-new VC Bird International Airport opened last Thursday, and the first international flight, operated by American Airlines, was on Monday. The airport is more than just a $100 million investment into Antigua but is the new major hub for the wider Caribbean region.

According Alexander Britell of Caribbean Journal, “That’s the biggest takeaway — that it feels like the kind of airport you might find somewhere in continental Europe — and that’s a very good thing.”

The airport has two floors, four jet bridges, 14 departure gates, a mini food court, full baggage screening, and even a VIP lounge.

See the Caribbean’s newest airport in Antigua’s Major New Airport.


Star Wars is coming not just to theatres!

Disneyland Diamond CelebrationAt the annual D23 Expo in Anaheim, travel enthusiasts learned that Disney has big plans for Disneyland and Disney World including the addition of Star Wars lands in both World (Hollywood Studios) and Disneyland plus a Pixar Land in Hollywood Studios.

In discussing Star Wars the Lands, “We’re creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever,” said Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger told at the panel presentation.

Though no time frame or location has been given for the projects, it is believed that construction will need to start construction in 2017 and cost more than a $1 billion as per the deal Disney struck with the city of Anaheim in exchange for an extension of the gate-tax ban. Rumors also put the new land at the north end of the park, replacing Big Thunder Ranch (and its delicious BBQ), but the fact currently include at least two rides and an immersive experience akin to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure.

Disney's Hollywood Studios (Credit: Tatiana McGrath)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Credit: Tatiana McGrath)

As for Disney World, Hollywood Studios will be getting a new name, a 14-acre Star Wars land, and an 11-acre Toy Story land, in what will be the largest redesign of a Disney World park ever. But fanatics will have to wait to enjoy. No timetable was given for construction, and the new Avatar land will be unveiled next year. Though the next installment of Toy Story is due in 2017, Disney may want to focus on one opening at a time, said Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com.

In the meantime, Epcot will be getting a Frozen ride and a re-themed Soarin’ while Universal will be opening its newest park, Volcano Bay, in 2017.

To read more about the experience coming to Disneyland, including a re-themed Space Mountain, read Disneyland’s Star Wars: A challenge to SD tourist attractions? and for more about Disney World’s additions, check out Expanding Star Wars, Toy Story at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can take years for infrastructure, details.


All Aboard: Cruise News for Week of August 17

NCL announced this week that its soon-to-be largest vessel, Norwegian Escape, floated out of dock for the first time. Delivery is expected on Oct. 22, 2015, though the ship’s conveyance down the river Ems will be on Sept. 16.

Royal Caribbean International announced that Harmony of the Seas, soon-to-be the world’s largest cruise ship, will feature Splashaway Bay, an interactive waterpark for kids. It will include the Ultimate Abyss with a 100-foot plunge; the Perfect Storm, a trio of waterslides; and Supercell, a champagne bowl that swirls guests before a splash down. This ship is part of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class and will debut May 2016.

USA Today reports that Disney Cruise Line will tighten its alcohol policy on Sept. 30, no longer allowing guests to bring any liquor or spirits aboard at embarkation or after port calls. They will be allowed two standard sized bottles of wine or champagne, or six 12 oz. bottles or cans of beer.

Travel Weekly reports that Costa Cruises has canceled its calls in Turkey for the remainder of 2015. Instead, its ships will call in Greece, Italy, and Malta. The changes comes after a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

Viking Star's Atrium

Viking Star’s Atrium

According to Cruise Critic, Viking Ocean Cruises is refitting all shower glass on Viking Star, its first ocean-faring ship after two incidents where glass from a side panel in a shower shattered without reason. Though the incidents were reported as isolated, Viking Ocean Cruises explained, “The safety of our guests and staff is always our top priority, and we are extremely upset that a few of our guests have had to experience this situation. Please know that we are working tirelessly onboard to prevent any similar incidents from happening again.”


Check out this week’s travel updates!

Hotel Happenings: Property Updates – Week of August 17

Now Boarding: Air Travel Updates for Week of August 17

Paradise Found: ME Cancun

Bermuda 101

52 (-ish) Reasons to Take a Cruise