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Europe: Motorcycle tour of the Alps with no engine sound, no emissions

Motorcycle riders who insist on revving their engines won't enjoy a new two-wheel tour of the Alps. Edelweiss Bike Travel based in Austria is offering guided journeys through Europe's most famous mountains from the seat of a zero-emission bike. Rainer Buck, the company's chief executive, personally tested the route on a Zero Motorcycle (made in Northern California) to see what it's like "to sweep through the Alps on silent feet, to enjoy nature with all your senses," he writes on the company's website. Buck liked the high-performance electric motorcycle so much that the company bought a bunch of bikes and designed a 700-to-1,000-mile ride during a seven-day tour. The tour begins in Mieming, Austria, where the company is located, and follows a counterclockwise loop through Switzerland, Italy and the Dolomites before returning to Austria. The route includes the Silvretta High Alpine Road and high passes such as Stelvio, Gavia, Mendel and the Timmelsjoch, at more than 8,000 feet high....

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Israel: Some cruise ships drop Ashdod and Haifa stops over conflict

First, U.S. airlines were banned from flying to Tel Aviv. Now some cruise lines said Wednesday that they will skip the Israeli port towns of Ashdod and Haifa because of the deadly conflict between Israelis and Hamas rebels. Costa Pacifica canceled stops in Israel for departures from Sept. 15 through Nov. 20 and instead will visit Istanbul in Turkey and Volos, Greece, according to Travel Pulse. Costa Deliziosa also will substitute Istanbul as well as Volos and Heraklion, Greece, on a Sept. 5 cruise. Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner and sister line Oceania replaced port calls in Israel on upcoming itineraries too. Germany-based AIDA Cruises dropped Israeli ports from its itineraries after 2,700 passengers and crew members witnessed explosions in the air while in Ashdod on July 7. "The situation on board was calm," a  July 11 company statement says. "However, small particles that may have come from defense missiles according to first expert assessments were found on the open deck." Holland...

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Las Vegas: Monorail turns 10, and the celebrations begin

The Las Vegas Monorail, which has carried more than 60 million riders in its first decade, will celebrate its 10th birthday at all seven stations on Saturday. Entertainment, prizes, food and beverages are among the offerings from 11 a.m-4 p.m. Here’s a sampling of what's on track: --Bally’s-Paris station will host a caricaturist and a live DJ. Showgirls from Jubilee!, the long-running theatrical production, will greet guests between 1 and 3 p.m. --Harrah’s/The Quad station will serve cupcakes from Sprinkles, which has a location at the Linq, a dining, entertainment and retail district. --Westgate Las Vegas station will feature an airbrush tattoo artist and an ’80s dance party. Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino is the new name of the property previously known as the LVH and, before that, the Las Vegas Hilton. A full list of activities is available online. Until the end of July, riders can also obtain $10 passes good for 24 hours. That’s a $2 savings. The monorail welcomed its first...

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Family forced off Southwest Airlines flight after tweeting a complaint

A Minneapolis family was asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight in Colorado because of a tweet the father sent out complaining about the airline’s service before the departure from Denver International Airport. Duff Watson told CBS News in Minnesota that he experienced poor customer service Sunday while at his gate from one of the airline staff members, so he tweeted about his displeasure, the station reported. He tweeted "Something to the effect of, 'Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA'," he told CBS. "Unreal exp. Awaiting resp. from airline. Asked for name of rude gate agent. We board. I tweet. Kids & I pulled off unless I delete. AYKM?" Watson tweeted. Watson has since switched his Twitter feed to private.  Southwest Airlines confirmed the family was asked to leave the plane after the confrontation and tweet, but was ultimately allowed to board the flight. But Watson was asked to delete the tweet first, and he complied, he said. Watson told CBS...

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Israel: FAA ban silences some traffic to Tel Aviv, and tourism suffers

With a  second day of flight cancellations snarling plans and silencing some air traffic to Tel Aviv, one tour operator reports that life — but not travel-related business — is proceeding as usual. The Federal Aviation Administration extended its ban on flights from the U.S. to Tel Aviv after a rocket on Tuesday landed about a mile from Ben Gurion airport. A listing of flights on the airport’s home page shows numerous flight cancellations, although some carriers continue to fly there. U.S. airlines generally are waiving change fees for passengers, although they vary on the dates by which travel must begin. Under “important notices” on its web page, United listed the FAA ban on Tel Aviv flights second (after the news of implementation of extra security at some airports, which the Transportation Security Administration announced July 6). United’s exception policy covers travel that was to have taken place July 22-Aug. 15. For “rescheduled travel [that] commences by Aug. 31, 2014, change...

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Forbes Travel Guide to bring star ratings to Mexico and Caribbean

Want to know where to find a real five-star hotel in Mexico? Soon you'll be able to. Forbes Travel Guide announced last week that it would add destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, and expand further into Latin America too. The first list of five-star properties in the regions will be rolled out as early as next year.  "We're taking our integrity and our standards and making it a global standard," says Jerry Inzerillo, the guide's chief executive officer. The guide currently ranks hotels, restaurants and spas in the U.S. and Canada as well as Britain, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. In case you didn't know, the guide sends trained inspectors out — more than once for four- and five-star hotels — with a big checklist to evaluate service, appearance and lots of other criteria. And they return every year to check up on the property. The guide has been rating places this way since 1958, when it was known as the Mobil Travel Guide. The new ratings could be a boost for Mexico. The...

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California: Vintage Tomales Bay farmhouse opens for vacation stays

If you want to learn a thing or two about California's early organic farming movement, read up on the Straus family. They have had a dairy farm on Tomales Bay north of San Francisco since 1941. Heifers still graze behind the farmhouse along Highway 1.  Ellen and Bill Straus ran the 160-acre farm in rural West Marin, which became the first organic dairy farm in the West. They did more than just farm too. Ellen also was an environmental activist known for her work on founding a land trust in 1980 that would protect the area's dairies and farms from development. Now the Straus Home Ranch farmhouse that's more than 150 years old has been renovated and listed as a vacation rental. The location is a great stepping-off point for hiking (it's right near Point Reyes National Seashore), kayaking on Tomales Bay, tide pooling at nearby beaches, and touring organic farms in the area. The house with upper and lower porches has four bedrooms (sleeps eight), living and dining rooms, and even a piano....

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Israel: Can you avoid financial penalty if you cancel your trip?

On the heels of a new State Department warning on travel to Israel, a rocket that landed near the Tel Aviv airport on Tuesday prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to cancel U.S. flights to the country. Tourists may be able to rebook their airline tickets without a change fee, but whether travel insurance covers the latest attack is still a question. Whether travelers can get refunds for, say, a tour if they wish to cancel a trip depends largely on the travel insurance policy, said Megan Singh, marketing manager at SquareMouth, which compares travel insurance policies. Travelers need to have read their policies and understand what constitutes a covered reason that would allow refunds for cancellations, Singh said. The situation is fluid, she noted, and the resolution is often differs case by case. But generally, she added, those who have a trip planned for the future will be covered if they have what's known as "cancel-for-any-reason" insurance, she said. Concern about what may...

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Arizona: London Bridge isn't falling down! Tabloid retracts story

Score one for Lake Havasu City, the Arizona resort that's the desert home to London Bridge, the one on this side of the pond anyway. The Sun, a British tabloid, issued a retraction Monday concerning a story it published titled "London Bridge IS Falling Down." The story said the bridge was crumbling and may be demolished to make way for a marijuana retail center called Hemped.  The paper's retraction said in part: "We have been assured by Lake Havasu City that there are no plans to knock down the bridge or to build a centre for drug tourism. We regret any misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight." The action came after the city's convention and visitors bureau filed a formal complaint with the paper's ombudsman and launched a media effort of its own to debunk the story, according to a statement Monday from the agency.  "Had The Sun claimed the bridge housed aliens from another planet, we would not have been as aggressive in seeking a retraction," Doug Traub, president...

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8 steps to safer travels

My first question about Wi-Fi used to be whether it was free. That was before my Facebook and Gmail accounts were compromised. Now I surf with protection. “We leave breadcrumbs wherever we go," said Robert Siciliano, the identity theft expert for Hotspot Shield, a free (with ads) or paid Virtual Private Network, or VPN, app for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows devices that cloaks your actual IP address. "In the hands of the wrong person, data could be used to track us,” said  Siciliano, who has worked in personal security for more than 25 years.   Here are Siciliano’s tips for safer travel from the Web to the shared economy with providers such as Zipcar and Airbnb. Internet: Surf using VPN protection and change your passwords at least every six months. Get a software program that stores, saves and creates passwords. Siciliano has more than 650 passwords but remembers only critical ones.  He recommends MacAfee Livesafe for its password manager, virus and spyware protection.  Rental cars:...

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Hawaii to celebrate its Flag Day

Hawaiians and visitors will come together on July 31 to celebrate Hawaiian Flag Day, the islands’ original holiday. Hawaiian Flag Day was first observed July 31, 1843. King Kamehameha III proclaimed the holiday to honor Great Britain’s decision to recognize the islands as the Kingdom of Hawaii, an independent nation. The British flag, the Union Jack, still appears in the upper left corner of Hawaii’s flag.  The holiday will be celebrated with simultaneous commemorations at five places operated by the National Park Service: Haleakala National Park on Maui. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Big Island. Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island. Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, also on the Big Island. This site is home to King Kamehameha’s temple. The activities get underway at 9 a.m. with demonstrations of the puohe(bamboo trumpet) at the four Big Island parks. At 10 a.m., all five...

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Las Vegas: Three white lion cubs take up residence at the Mirage

Three white lion cubs are the newest residents of Siegfried & Roy’s open-air wildlife habitat on the Strip. The brothers, named Freedom, Madiba (in honor of Nelson Mandela’s tribal name) and Timba-Masai, were born April 14 near Johannesburg, South Africa. The trio, which made its public debut Friday, will be raised at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. The legendary magicians regularly used big cats in their performances and are well-known for their wildlife conservation efforts, which include saving the white lions. The cubs' snow-white fur coats are the result of a decrease in pigmentation, inherited from the recessive genes of their parents. The cubs will grow up together. They’re cute and cuddly now, but within two to four years they will weigh more than 500 pounds each. The Secret Garden is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for children ages 4-12. Info: Siegfried & Roy’s...

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