Travel 2012: Olympics, Titanic 100, Dutch Floriade

By Beth J. Harpaz

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

This undated image courtesy of Floriade shows Villa Flora which will be part of Floriade 2012 in Venlo, Netherlands. The Netherlands is getting ready for Floriade, a horticultural expo that takes place only once every 10 years. A park that will cover 160 acres with five different floral and nature themes, April 5-Oct. 7, in Venlo, about 85 miles or two hours by train from Amsterdam.

Floriade, Joy Van Der, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Olympics, the centennial of the Titanic sinking, new rules on travel to Cuba, a once-a-decade horticultural festival in the Netherlands and a continued reliance on technology and personalization will all help shape travel in 2012.

Here are some details on these and other destinations and trends.

EVENTS: The Summer Olympic Games take place in London, July 27-Aug. 12. For those without tickets, Hyde Park and other places will host live broadcasts of the games on giant outdoor screens. A three-month arts festival beginning June 21 will add a cultural component, from Shakespeare to music to street performers.

Great Britain will also celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee June 2-5. She is only the second British monarch after Queen Victoria to mark 60 years on the throne.

The Netherlands is planning Floriade, a horticultural expo that takes place once a decade. A 160-acre park with five different floral and nature themes opens April 5-Oct. 7, in Venlo, about 85 miles or two hours by train from Amsterdam; http://www.floriade.com.

The European Capitals of Culture for 2012 are Maribor, Slovenia, known for wines, a historic town center and nearby forests, waterfalls and moors; and Guimaraes, Portugal, known for crafts like goldsmithing, pottery and embroidery, and for its roots as the birthplace of Portugal's first king, who established the country as an independent kingdom from Spain. Arabella Bowen, executive director of editorial and content strategy at the travel guidebook publisher Fodor's, says both destinations are great values for food and hotels, with interesting attractions away from the crowds.

In Yeosu, a city on South Korea's southern coast, about 100 countries and 8 million visitors are expected to take part in Expo 2012, May 12-Aug. 12. Yeosu, population 300,000, is known for marine national parks, islands and beaches. Expo themes are the ocean, coast, and sustainable resources. Exhibits will include a large aquarium displaying rare species.

In the U.S., the bicentennial of the War of 1812 will be marked with tall ships, educational events and fireworks in several destinations, including June 6-12 in Norfolk, Va., and June 13-19 in Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

TITANIC 100TH: The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank April 15, 1912, on its maiden voyage from England to New York. A variety of events in 2012 — including some cruises — will mark 100 years since the tragedy in which more than 1,500 died. Halifax, Nova Scotia's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic offers an extensive permanent Titanic exhibit but will also be hosting special exhibits and events for the April anniversary and into the summer. Visitors can also tour Halifax's Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where 121 Titanic victims are buried.

The Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland, and an enormous waterfront development called Titanic Quarter is taking shape on the site of the former shipyard, with hotels, eateries, parks, theaters and galleries. Titanic Belfast, an ultra-modern building whose shape and silvery color evokes ship hulls on the water, is set to open in April with Titanic-themed galleries and interactive exhibits. Southampton, England, which lost 549 locals when the ship went down, mostly crewmembers, is also opening a new interactive museum, Sea City, focusing on various aspects of the Titanic story.

Far from those ports, the Titanic Pigeon Forge attraction in Tennessee is a half-scale, three-deck reproduction of the ship. A centennial tribute "Night to Remember" is planned for April 14.

DESTINATIONS: For "up and coming" destinations for 2012, Croatia, Vietnam and Panama were named in an annual survey of 640 travel agents and owners from Travel Leaders. For top 10 international destinations based on 2012 booking data, the Travel Leaders survey listed Caribbean cruises; Cancun, Mexico; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Mediterranean cruises; Rome; London; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Paris; Montego Bay and Negril, Jamaica.

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