In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Amusement parks: Taking U.S. roller coasters for a spin
A family hops on more than 70 roller coasters in a trip across America’s Coaster Belt that features stops at theme parks in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
As an amusement parks blogger, I have visited most of the big theme parks in Southern California and central Florida, but my roller-coaster résumé was a little thin when it came to the parks in between. So last summer my wife, Nancy, our 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, and I climbed aboard more than 70 coasters in 10 days at theme parks in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
We each had established a few rules for our journey across America’s Coaster Belt. Hannah was willing to ride coasters reaching 65 mph, topping out at 200 feet and going upside down three times. Nancy wanted to avoid any and all spinning rides (except carousels, her favorite). And I would leave no coaster unridden.
By the time it was over, the trip had taken us to eight of the world’s oldest amusement parks, where we rode nine of the world’s top-ranked coasters as well as an extensive collection of pre-World War II attractions.
Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
The trade publication Amusement Today has voted Cedar Point the world’s best amusement park for more than a decade. With 16 roller coasters, it’s called “America’s Roller Coast.”
Cedar Point, established in 1892 on a picturesque peninsula in Lake Erie, more than lived up to its top billing with beautifully manicured grounds, a stunning waterfront setting and an assortment of world-class rides.
After flying to Cleveland, we checked in at the Breakers Express, one of three hotels on the Cedar Point property. The next morning, we took advantage of the park’s early entry for resort hotel guests and headed straight to Raptor, a looping steel beast with cars that hang from an overhead track.
China plans model villages to lure tourists to Tibet
The Chinese government is to spend more than £40 million building 22 model villages in Tibet, in a bid to boost tourism to the troubled region.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the villages will be constructed in Nyingchi County, a picturesque region around 200 miles southeast of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
China, which has attempted to expand the Tibetan economy in hopes of winning over ethnic residents, hopes to turn Nyingchi into an international tourist destination. It said that residents would be able to make money by providing family hotel services. However, the plan could be opposed by many Tibetans, who have accused the Chinese government of religious persecution and cultural assimilation in the name of economic development.
The announcement comes just weeks after its decision to ban foreigners from visiting Tibet, following months of protests and unrest at Chinese rule.
In May two Tibetans set fire to themselves outside Jokhang temple in Lhasa, a Buddhist shrine that receives thousands of visitors each day. Although at least 37 people have carried out similar protests since March last year, it was the first recorded self-immolation attempt in Lhasa, a popular destination for foreign tourists. China has banned foreign tourists from visiting Tibet before, usually during periods of unrest and during religious festivals.
JFK Airport evacuated after metal detector found to be unplugged
A terminal at New York’s JFK Airport had to be evacuated and hundreds of passengers marched back through security screening, all because a security agent failed to realize his metal detector had been unplugged.
The error led to hours of delays, two planes called back from the runway and infinite frustration for furious passengers.
“The truth is, this is the failure of the most basic level of diligence,” a law-enforcement source said.
“How can you expect the public to feel confident of the mission of the Transport Security Agency if they don’t even know if the lights are turned on?”
The chaos at Terminal 7 was caused by screener Alija Abdul Majed, who had manned Lane No. 1 during the morning shift with no idea his metal detector had no juice, sources said.
Amazingly, he failed to realize that alert lights never flashed once as streams of passengers filed through the dead detector, the sources said.
Majed was so clueless that he could not even tell police how long the machine had been shut off or how it happened, the sources said.
“It was simply an unplugged machine – the TSA doing its best,” another source said.
Higher-ups at the TSA finally discovered the security boondoggle at 9:44am – leaving the Port Authority with no choice but to call for a complete evacuation of the international terminal that is home to British Airways, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines and others.
The extraordinary measure meant that two jumbo jets – including a San Francisco-bound United flight — had to return to the gate so passengers could be re-screened at a metal detector that was actually turned on.
Flier sitting next to corpse receives refund
A Swedish woman who complained she had to sit near to a dead passenger on an overnight flight from Amsterdam to Africa has received a partial refund of her fare.
Lena Pettersson, a reporter for Sweden’s public Sveriges Radio, tells the Expressen newspaper her seatmate appeared extremely ill when she boarded a Kenya Airways flight.
Pettersson tells Expressen the man “was sweating and was having convulsions” in view of the attendants, but that the crew nonetheless closed the cabin doors and pulled away from the gate. Pettersson — bound for the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam — says the man died shortly after takeoff and she had to sit within a few feet of his corpse as the flight continued on its long overnight route to Africa.
Most media reports say that the incident happened on a Kenya Airways flight from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam. However Kenya Airways does not offer regularly schedule service on that route, so — presumably — the incident came on a connecting itinerary via Kenya Airways’ hub in Nairobi.
The Daily Mail of London, also citing the Swedish language Expressen newspaper, writes the “cabin crew appeared at a loss as to what to do next, so flight attendants wrapped the corpse in a blanket as best they could and laid him out across three seats, Expressen reported.”
Pettersson says attendants were able to move most other passengers to empty seats away from the man’s corpse, but – with no other empty seats available – she remained just across the aisle from the dead passenger. She described the man as tall, saying his feet stuck out into the aisle after he was laid on the empty row of seats.