Some of the most interesting things you pick up at a huge travel-trade gathering like this past weekend’s New York Times Travel Show are what I would call tidbits — not big enough for an entire blog post, but nonetheless fun stuff.
Here are a few of my favorites from the show:
* You have to love a company — in this case Lion World Travel — whose eastern USA director of sales’ business card is, quote, “made by hand using the sanitized fibre from the dung of elephants, rhino and other wild herbivores of Africa.”
I didn’t get to meet the director of sales — Kathi Scott of Toronto — but her “100 % natural, 100% African, 110% recycled” paper business card intrigued me enough that I googled Lion World Travel and found it to have a very inviting looking website that promised “Extraordinary Experiences of Affordable Luxury” in African safaris stretching from Kenya down to South Africa. (One look at an image of a luxury safari tent and I was hooked.) It’s part of the giant Travel Corporation, which includes a number of fine travel brands, including Insight Vacations, Trafalgar and Red Carnation Hotels.
* Even though I always take a terrible passport photo — even worse than the typical passport photo — I was intrigued by a booth run by a passport services company called ItsEasy Passport & Visa, with offices on Lexington Avenue in New York City.
They were offering free passport photos — with only a minute’s wait — if you stepped into their lair and stared glumly ahead at their photographer (I think the staring glumly ahead part was optional, which is probably why I take such a terrible passport photo. The little boy right ahead of me smiled broadly and took a great photo).
This was to publicize a service they have in which, after downloading their ItsEasy iPhone Photo App, you can take your own passport photo (or have a friend help), which you can then upload along with your order for an expedited passport or visa, and they’ll process the photos for free and ship them to wherever you are.
Of course, you will pay for the expedited passport or visa, but if you’re stuck in Kathmandu, need a new passport or visa and lack photos, it could come in extremely handy. And if you look too glum, smile too broadly, or upload a photo that doesn’t meet government standards, the folks at ItsEasy will let you know and you can try again.
* You can hire a boat from a company called Le Boat and cruise along various waterways in Europe — canals and rivers in France, Italy, the UK and several other countries — with no previous experience and no boating license. You can try this for a day, a weekend, or a week or two if you like. The boats range from luxury to budget and include kitchens and sleeping quarters.
When you go to pick up your boat, they’ll give you some safety and practical instructions — like how to tie a knot when mooring your boat — and off you go. Just save the martinis for after you tie up the boat for the night.
* Speaking of boats, the wonderfully atmospheric half-cargo, half-passenger ship Aranui 3 — which sails from Tahiti out to the remote Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia every 17 days, bringing cruise passengers to these beautiful islands as well as vital supplies to the islanders — will be replaced in the next year or so by a new ship, the Aranui 5.
At the Travel Show, you could pick up brochures about the Aranui(s) and their itinerary, which now includes Bora Bora. (I took the trip to the Marquesas last year — no Bora Bora, but it was terrific nonetheless.)
But what, you may ask, happened to the Aranui 4? It seems the company that runs the Aranui is owned by Chinese Tahitians, and four is an unlucky number in Chinese, so they just decided to skip Aranui 4 and go right to Aranui 5.
But wait, one of the Tahiti representatives at the Travel Show pointed out, is naming a boat the Aranui 5 really such a great idea in French Polynesia, where the word for “5” is cinq — pronounced “sank”?
Now that’s a cross-cultural conundrum that you would only find in a polyglot culture like Tahiti. And just the kind of tidbit I love.