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Best Western plans new Vib hotels in Miami and Chicago

Best Western International will open its first U.S. sites for a new brand called Vib (pronounced "vibe" for "vibrant) in Miami and Chicago.

The first international hotel site will be in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul.

The Miami hotel will feature 10 stories and 200 rooms, and will break ground later this year, according to a company statement. The Chicago site will be close to Midway International Airport with three stories and 74 rooms.

The concept for Vib hotels was rolled out last year. They are meant "to incorporate the local flavor of their individual markets, as well as comfortable and chic guest rooms as a modern, tech-friendly hotel brand" as Best Western described the brand in a statement.

Features include a relaxing Zen Zone, gaming pods in the lobby and a 24-hour fitness center. In addition, there will be a fireplace area for hang time and a grab-and-go food shop open 24/7.

It's the sixth hotel brand for the company and the only one that doesn't use "Best Western" or "BW"...

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When's the best time to buy an airline ticket to Europe this summer?

Americans thinking about going to Europe to cash in on the weak euro should fly at the beginning of May or the end of August to get the best prices on airfares.

That's the word from travel booking website Hopper, which also says June is the most popular month to travel. You can expect the highest prices at the end of July. (Conversion rate as of Monday was 1 euro equals 1 dollar.)

Hopper teamed up with InsureMyTrip on a Summer Travel Guide 2105 report to find out where Americans plan to go abroad this summer. The report was released Monday.

It found the Britain was the most popular international destination for Americans who are traveling between June and August.

After that, travelers favor France, Italy, the Caribbean and the Netherlands.

In a survey of 234 travelers, 47% said they will spend $1,500 on their vacation; 31% said the would spend more than $5,000.

And what do these travelers worry about?

Overspending when they travel is their biggest fear, followed by:

--getting sick before...

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Cruises: Explore British Columbia's waterways aboard a schooner

See cruising in a whole new light as you set sail aboard the classic 70-foot wooden schooner Passing Cloud to explore British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. The nine-day Outer Shores Expeditions cruise sails through one of the world’s largest remaining coastal forests, home to grizzly bears, black bears, coastal wolves, whales and other marine life.

Highlights include beach and forest hikes, kayak excursions, coastal estuary explorations and First Nations’ bear viewing stand visits. Expeditions begin and end in the First Nations community of Bella Bella, British Columbia, with direct flights from Vancouver.

Dates: Aug. 22-30, Sept. 1-9, 10-18, 19-27, Sept. 28-Oct. 6

Price: $4,165 per person (except Aug. 22 sailing from Port McNeill to Bella Bella, $3,748 per person). Includes meals, accommodation, transportation, user fees and use of gear. Travel and accommodations before and after the expedition, gratuities and taxes are not included.

Info: Outer Shores Expeditions, (855) 714-7233

...

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Drought means mixed outlook for rafting on Western rivers

Despite a dismal snowpack in the Sierra (about 5% of normal as of April 1), several California rivers that are fed by dam-controlled reservoirs should have solid rafting seasons this summer, outfitters report.

Those include the Middle and South Forks of the American River, Cherry Creek and the Tuolumne and Klamath rivers.   But others such as the Kern River will have a greatly diminished season because of low flows.

Inflatable kayak trips are now being run on the Kern, and some limited rafting will be offered starting in May and lasting into June,  a spokeswoman for Sierra South said.  

Angels Camp, Calif.-based O.A.R.S., will not offer trips on the Merced River because of lack of water, said Steve Markle, a spokesman. Zephyr Whitewater Rafting will offer a few trips on the Kaweah into early May, but other rivers such as the Kings, the North Fork of the Stanislaus and the North Fork of the American -- all dependent on snowpack runoff -- will not have seasons.  

Elsewhere in the Western...

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Los Altos hotel strives to bring a bit of Paris to the Silicon Valley

The Enchante Boutique Hotel in Los Altos, Calif., loves all things French -- and dogs. The hotel with 19 rooms opened in mid-April, bringing a European-style building to the small Silicon Valley town.

Outside, the three-story hotel has a mansard roof (just like classic buildings in Paris), iron grillwork on balconies, and recessed windows.

Inside, each room features antiques and fabrics that reinforce the French theme. In the hotel's library, guests can lounge on sofas and overstuffed chairs around a fireplace.

You'll find some Napoleonic touches too, like a light in the shape of the French leader's hat.

Travelers with pets will appreciate the dog-friendly vibe and "custom-made dog beds." Fleur de Lis is the on-site dog; most dogs are welcome, but size does matter. (Email concierge@enchantehotel to make arrangements for your pet.)

Rooms cost $250 to $375, with the grand suite at $675. The price includes breakfast and an afternoon wine and cheese event. The hotel also hosts a restaurant,...

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Norwegian to include unlimited free drinks on Bahama cruises next year

Passengers on the Norwegian Sky sailing will receive all-you-can-drink beverages — including beer, wine and cocktails — at no extra charge starting next year.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced last week it would take an "all-inclusive" approach and provide an open bar for three- and four-day sailings from Miami to the Bahamas. The incentive begins next January aboard the Norwegian Sky only.

Unlimited wine by the glass, beer and mixed drinks will be included in the cost of the cruise, a Norwegian statement says. For kids, it means unlimited sodas and juices.

The free beverage package also applies to daylong visits to Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line's private island where passengers can swim, kayak and snorkel.

Andy Stuart, president and COO of Norwegian, told the Florida Sun Sentinel that shorter cruises represent a market in which "we introduce a lot of new people to cruising, and we're excited about the prospects of going all-inclusive."

Stuart also told the paper the all-inclusive Bahama...

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