President Obama was the first guest in the renovated presidential suite… (Divyakant Solanki / Associated…)
I like reading year-end lists, especially inspired ones. SmarterTravel's "The Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Ridiculous Moments in Travel 2010 Edition" is a must-read that nails the year perfectly -- but I won't ruin it for you. (Enhanced pat-downs and Steve Slater make the list.) Wait, did I say that out loud?
Some travel moments of 2010 that stand out: the fire-damaged Carnival Splendor stranded off the coast of San Diego, the volcano in Iceland whose ash cloud paralyzed air travel in Europe, the annoying blasts of the vuvuzela at the World Cup in South Africa. But I somehow glossed over some other travel news; maybe you did too. Here's my list of overlooked travel moments of 2010 -- and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
1. Oprah visits Yosemite: Oprah Winfrey and best friend Gayle King camped out in Yosemite National Park at the invitation of Ranger Shelton Johnson. The point was to inspire more African Americans to visit the park. (A 2009 survey showed just 1% of Yosemite's 280 million visitors were black.) And, as if to drive home the point, it was Oprah's first time in the park -- ever. Episodes were broadcast on Winfrey's TV show in October and November. Hands down my favorite: watching the two assemble a pop-up trailer in the rain at Lower Pines Campground. Really. And how on Earth did they get cellphone service to call Steadman for help?
2. Obama in India:In October, Michelle and Barack Obama were the first guests in the newly renovated 13-room presidential suite of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. The suite and the hotel were damaged two years ago in a deadly terrorist attack. During Obama's visit to India, the White House booked the entire hotel -- all 560 rooms and 44 suites. And no, the trip didn't cost $200 million a day, as one Indian news agency reported, says FactCheck.org.
3. Allure cruise ship naming ceremony: Queen Elizabeth in October elegantly presided over the naming ceremony for the second ship in the Cunard Line to bear her name. (Check out the L.A. Times story "Queen Elizabeth cruise ship: An insider's take on Cunard's latest launch.") A month later, a different kind of royalty led the naming ceremony for Allure, largest cruise ship in the world: Princess Fiona of "Shrek." The video of cruise line muckety-mucks praising Fiona is seriously silly. And isn't green a rather unbecoming color for a cruise?
4. Yellowstone packs them in: The summer brought record crowds-- 2.5 million visitors from June through August -- to Yellowstone National Park. Some media accounts reported the state tourism bureau attributed the surge to its marketing campaigns. But I think folks just finally tumbled to the astonishing beauty in the land of glorious geysers and fumaroles.
5. Air New Zealand Skycouch: Unlike annoying airline fees, here's a perk I hope catches on with other airlines. A Los Angeles Times Travel blog explains how Skycouches work: "These new economy-class seats are equipped with footrests that can be raised to create a sofa-type sleeping surface across three seats. So on a long flight, two people can cuddle while catching 40 winks. Of course, they have to book a third seat to do so, at varying cost." Hmm, not sure about buying three seats, but I love the idea of stretching out.