Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Book soon to save on American Queen

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg under Cruises, Deals Updated: December 26, 2013 - 11:25 AM

The American Queen Steamboat Company, whose steamboats roams the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and other American rivers, is offering a special for those who book by Dec. 31. Book early, pay-in-full and save up to $600 per stateroom ($300 per person) on any of its 2014 American Queen or American Empress voyages 7 days or longer. It's website said the offer is valid only through Dec. 21 when I visited, but if you click on the "view details" link, you'll see that the deadline is actually Dec. 31. For example, a 9-day trip from St. Louis to Minneapolis, July 15-23, in an outside stateroom with a veranda (category C) costs $4,099 per person; the sale price is $3,899. In both cases, a $109 port charge is additional. I traveled on the American Queen steamboat in the Upper Mississippi and enjoyed the trip tremendously. Read about it here. 

Delta's near H8 crime

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg under Airlines Updated: December 17, 2013 - 3:45 PM

A confirmation code on an airline ticket usually doesn't raise an eyebrow, let alone ire. But when one man's code read "H8GAYS," he took his complaint to Delta, which apologized and promises to never do it again. One of the reasons the guy was so upset is that he works in IT and knows that companies can write code to avoid strings of letters and numbers that read as inappropriate words. H8 is a match-up that shouldn't appear, especially in the age of texting, where "hate" is often portrayed as H8. Inflamatory stuff, when followed by GAYS. Christopher Elliott, who write the Travel Troubleshooter column that appears in Star Tribune Travel, explores the issue in the Washington Post.

At MSP, chariots await (for some)

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg under Airlines, Airports Updated: November 25, 2013 - 5:27 PM

A Delta Air Lines program that whisks “high-value customers” from gate-to-gate in a Porsche has expanded to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. For the service, which started as a trial in Atlanta, a “Delta Elite Services representative” surprises select customers at the aircraft door and escorts them via a Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid vehicle  to their connecting gate. Delta says it is looking for ways to “enhance the travel experience for our most valued customers.” In this case, that refers to Diamond Medallion members, most of whom  have flown at least 125,000 miles.  “We’ve found a unique opportunity to surprise and delight customers,” Delta says.  Let’s hope those Porsche’s have horns so they don’t surprise other unsuspecting fliers in the process. 

Bearded hotel staffers don't cut it with guests

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: November 7, 2013 - 2:36 PM

Do you feel all warm and cozy when a crisply groomed check-in clerk hands you the keys, but just a little offput of he happens to be sporting a sprouting of facial hair? Just in time for Movember, the November-long moustache growing charity event, a Cornell study found that facial hair is a no-no for most men in the hospitality industry. A study published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, a publication of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, found that hotel guests feel most confidence in smiling and attractive men and women behind the check-in counter and elsewhere in a hotel. No surprise there. The head-scratcher, though, is that when it comes to facial hair, white men should get out their razors for a clean cut, but African-American men can bring on the goatee. Hotel guests assigned greater "assurance ability" to clean-shaven men, but for reasons that aren't clear, this held true only for Caucasian men and not African-American men. "Assurance," for the sake of the study, translates to "an employee's knowledge and courtesy and their ability to convey trust and confidence."

Three airlines now allow gate-to-gate electronics

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg under Airlines Updated: November 6, 2013 - 10:52 AM


Three airlines have begun allowing passengers to use portable electronic devides throughout the flight in the past week. Delta and JetBlue implemented the change in policy on Friday; American followed suit yesterday.

Flyers with those airlines can now read e-books, listen to music, watch videos and work on documents (but not talk on the phone) from the time they get on the plane to after they land. Devices must be in airplane mode. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the policy changes. Before allowing any such change, the administration ensures planes can safety operate with devices turned on. Other airlines will likely make similar policy changes soon.

The FAA had long contended that the radio signals from electronic devices could interfere with an aircraft's navigation systems, a particular safety concern during takeoff and landing, but a panel convened by the FAA to study the issue found that most commercial planes can safely operate even with electronic gadgets up and running.

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