In brief: Harry Potter cruise announced
Every Friday, we help you navigate the week’s most important and interesting travel news stories.
Breaking travel news for travellers.
A winter storm has prompted airlines to scrub at least 2,000 US flights, mostly in and out of the northeastern United States. (Stranded travellers may find helpful two app-based guides to fliers’ rights, which were recently reviewed by BBC Travel.) Amtrak plans to cut off rail service to Boston at 1:40 pm local time due to the nor’easter. New York City expects about a foot of snow. [Bloomberg]
Amazing things that should happen more often
The once-every-12-years Hindu pilgrimage, the Maha Kumbh Mela has been taking place near the city of Allahabad in India. The 55-day religious event is bringing together an estimated 20 million faithful, and the photos of attendees bathing in the Ganges River are quite powerful. [BBC; Quartz]
Calling all Muggles: Princess Cruise Lines is launching a Harry Potter-themed cruise on the Golden Princess, which will depart from Los Angeles on 27 November. The main public areas of the ship will be remade to resemble Diagon Alley, the fictional high street from the Harry Potter books and movie series. [Telegraph]
At some new Russian cafes, you pay by the minute and the coffee is free. Called Tsiferblat (or “clockface cafe”), the mini-chain charges customers two rubles a minute for the first hour, or about $4 an hour, and then one ruble per minute beyond that. You’ll find two in Moscow and seven others elsewhere in Russia and the Ukraine. [NPR]
Despite worldwide economic woes, tourism is proving a resilient industry. International travel numbers have continued to increase at "pre-crisis levels", according to the UN World Tourism Organization, and are expected to do so in 2013 as well. That said, some critics say the numbers may be inflated. [Huffington Post]
Mobile carriers around the world are beginning to allow their customers to purchase Skype credit directly through their plans, including pre-paid users. Telecommunications companies once considered Skype a danger. Now they are partnering up so all players can increase their reach and profits, and users should stand to benefit. [GigaOM]
Photos and videos that went viral on the Web this week
At the start of this month, The Shard, Western Europe's tallest, newest skyscraper, opened its 244m-high observation deck. A 360-degree interactive simulates what it’s like to stand on the 72nd floor and admire the skyline. [The Shard; BBC]
The most popular travel video to be added this week to the documentary platform Vimeo was “GQ tripping around the world”, a three-minute film that shows out-takes from the travels to 20 countries last year by a young couple from San Jose, California. Rather than try to compress too much into a jittery time lapse, the smooth video highlights selected out-takes, such as a tour of Beijing’s Forbidden City and a stroll through Budapest. [Vimeo]
Hold on folks, we’re in for a rocky ride
Next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are set to be one of the most expensive Games ever, with costs exceeding $50 billion. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister said the government and private investors are footing the bill, which includes upgrading Sochi's infrastructure. [WSJ]
Tax time is approaching in the US and rumours already are swirling about who might toss their US passports. The latest celebrity who plans to denounce her citizenship is said to be Tina Turner. The Huffington Post compiled a slideshow of other famed individuals who have separated from their home countries.