Windstar ship runs aground near Panama

Windstar Cruises said the Star Pride, a 212-passenger ship, ran aground at Isla de Coba, Panama, and suffered some hull damage.

On a posting on its Facebook page, Windstar said everyone on the 212-pasenger ship was safe. Guests disembarked as scheduled for a private-island event.

After determining that the ship was unable to sail, Windstar canceled the rest of the cruise. Passengers were transferred from the island location to other ships: Windstar’s Star Breeze and Paul Gauguin Cruises’  Tere Moana.

Windstar said the guests were routed through Golfito, Costa Rica, to San Jose, where they had the option to stay in Costa Rica for the balance of their vacation or to fly home early. They received a 100% refund plus a future cruise credit for 100% of their fare paid.

Windstar said the Star Pride will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for further inspections and repairs. The Dec. 26 cruise has been canceled.


Disney revises Mediterranean voyage

Disney Cruise Line altered a Mediterranean cruise next summer to eliminate port calls in Greece, Turkey and Malta.

The 12-night cruise on the Disney Magic is scheduled to depart Barcelona on Aug. 1.  Its original itinerary included Athens as well as Mykonos in Greece, Kusadasi in Turkey and Valletta in Malta.

Other cruise lines have scrapped calls to the Greek island of Lesbos because of the refugee crisis and Turkey because of security concerns.

Disney has revised the itinerary almost completely, leaving only one port, Civitavecchia, from the original lineup. The cruise will now call in Olbia, Sardinia; Civitavecchia, Naples and Livorno, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cannes, France; and Palma de Mallorca.

In a letter to travel agents, Disney said, “We realize this is a considerable change from the previously published itinerary and hope you and your client understand our desire to only provide the best possible experiences to our guests.”

Customers have been given a choice of a refund, a change of sailings, or a $1,000 onboard credit if they stick with their original booking.

At Flytographer, a local photographer to capture vacation memories

In the age of selfies and social media, everyone’s a photographer, and snippets of our daily lives and travels are on constant display.

But while we are all busy snapping and posting pictures of our meals, our hotel rooms and our toes sticking up from a lounge chair at the edge of that beautiful beach, many travelers also return home to find they don’t have any great pictures of themselves with their friends, family or spouses that capture the truly special moments from their trip.

It was just such a dilemma that inspired Nicole Smith to found Flytographer, a service that hooks up photographers in 160 cities around the world with travelers looking for candid, quality pictures from their special trips.

Recently named a top travel gift for 2016 by TripAdvisor and Forbes, Smith said she came up with the idea for the business in 2011, when she was on a girl’s getaway weekend in Paris with her best friend, who she hadn’t seen in four years.

After trying to capture the event through selfies with “that floating head effect” and blurry pictures taken by the occasional stranger that she said made her look “like I had seven chins,” Smith said they asked a third friend who had joined them for brunch to follow them around with her phone and snap some candid shots.

“She did that for about 20 minutes,” Smith said. “I looked at my phone and I literally got goose bumps because she captured that weekend like we never could.”

Smith started Flytographer in 2103. The company now has more than 300 photographers in most major cities and on every continent except Antarctica. And she said they are adding more every week.

Honeymooners are among Flytographer’s biggest customers, Smith said; some were given the service as a wedding gift.

Smith said the service is also big with couples on anniversary trips, as well as families and multigenerational travelers, who are gathering in some of the world’s most beautiful destinations and “can’t trust Uncle Bob to take the pictures because he never nails it.”

Such shoots from family trips, she said, are a great alternative to a studio or backyard photo session.
Solo travelers also like to hire Flytographer, she said, because “obviously it’s hard to capture memories when you’re alone.”

“We also hear from solo travelers that they love having this wing man, who is a true local,” Smith said.
That local angle is an added benefit to the service. Smith says the company only hires “someone you would want to have a drink with in that city, not someone who’s going to boss you around,” and “locals who are genuinely passionate about playing host.”

The company has a travel agent program that pays a minimum 10% commission. This year it was a sponsoring exhibitor at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France.