The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
In the Summertime, When the Weather Is Hot
July 7, 1994 -- Summer is finally here and, like Mungo Jerry, I'm thinking of going out and seeing what I can find.

Some of what I've come across is distressing. Some is uplifting. And some is just confusing. I'll let you decide which is which.

Some Florida hotels now censor what guests can watch on their room televisions. Enraged at the coverage a local station has given to crimes against Florida tourists, the hotel owners have chosen to black out that station's newscasts.

What's next? Will those hoteliers black out other stations when they report that a hurricane is on its way? Will guestroom TVs go dark in Los Angeles the next time there's a drive-by shooting on the freeway? Will Hawaii hoteliers pull the plug when the weatherman predicts rain?

If you ever wind up in a hotel that censors the news, check out immediately and make sure the owner knows why. Tell him you'd accept a room without a view, but never a room without constitutional rights.

Your god-given right to enjoy America's national parks is threatened. But the guys wearing the black hats in this melodrama are other Americans whose god-given right to enjoy the parks is threatened.

At issue are the numerous airplane and helicopter tours flown over national treasures like the Grand Canyon and Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park. Some interests, including the influential Sierra Club, feel the flights destroy their ability to enjoy the "natural quiet" of the parks. They favor banning or severely restricting your right to enjoy dramatic aerial views of the parks. Opponents of a ban insist they have a right to enjoy the parks from the air, so they want to restrict your right to enjoy serene, undisturbed parks.

You heard it here first: This battle will keep bureaucrats and regulators busy for years. Then the issue will eventually end up in the Supreme Court. It always happens when we meet the enemy and it is us.

Good news, bad news department: Major U.S. passenger airlines reported no fatalities in 1993, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Moreover, the number of passenger deaths on international flights declined dramatically in 1993, said the International Civil Aviation Organization. So what's the bad news? Acts of "unlawful interference"--terrorism, hijackings, bombing, and bomb threats--nearly tripled last year.

Who says American travelers only want mindless diversions? About 750,000 people visited the somber, thought-provoking Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington during its first seven months of operation. In fact, the museum and its staff, which opened in April, 1993, have been straining to keep up with the flow of visitors. Meanwhile, if you're planning to visit the Holy Land, consider flying to Israel on LOT Polish Airlines (800-223-0593). It offers Tel Aviv-bound passengers a free stop in Warsaw for a special guided tour of the city's tragic and historic Jewish sites.

The Novotel New York hotel says 70 percent of the 252 people who locked themselves out of their rooms in 1993 were women. Female guests also used twice as many towels per stay (four) than men (two), the hotel reports. ... After years of comparatively stable rates, average lodging prices jumped more than 5 percent in January and another 3.9 percent in February. ... Almost one out of three travelers who book international reservations on a "code-share" flight may not know what airline they are actually flying, says the U.S. Department of Transportation. ... Tax watch: The departure tax from St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean has risen to $10, while the levy will rise in November to about $10.50 from the Swiss cities of Geneva and Zurich. But there is good news: Hong Kong has lowered its departure tax to about $6.50 from about $19 and New York State has repealed the 5 percent nightly surcharge on rooms costing $100 or more.

After three hundred years of North Sea travel, the ferry between Ostend, Belgium, and Dover, England, made its final run last December. ... The Beaufort (800-888-1199) in London may be the only hotel in the world that bills guests nothing more than the actual cost of a phone call. A ten-minute call to the United States from the Beaufort costs about $7.50. After mark-ups and surcharges, other London hotels bill guests as much as $49. ... It's hot and humid in Hong Kong during the summer, but July and August may be the only months you can get a room in the city-state. Hong Kong hotels already operate near capacity during the rest of the year and real estate speculators are methodically knocking down hotels to make way for new office buildings. The summer silver lining? Hotel prices are lower. The Ritz-Carlton (800-241-3333), for instance, slashes its room rates and gives guests free breakfast, gifts and special dining and other discounts. ... Philadelphia's newest tourist attraction: the 165-year-old Eastern State Penitentiary (215-978-6209). Admission to the facility, the model for 300 other prisons, costs $7.

So what will I be doing on my summer vacation? Fulfilling my fantasy of riding on a zeppelin. Airship International (407-870-7433), based in Orlando, now offers 45-minute rides on those advertising blimps you see at the big sporting events.

I'll also be reliving my childhood. My parents once took me to Manhattan for a day cruise up the Hudson River to West Point. Now Gray Line New York (212-397-2620) has revived the day-cruise concept. The 7-hour itinerary is different--it stops at a working Dutch farm and the home of Washington Irving--but that's close enough for me.

And it's been a long, cold winter. I need sun. I'm thinking a long weekend in San Juan and maybe a week in the Bahamas. I wouldn't mind a few days in Acapulco, too. Gee, it's nice to be a travel writer!

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1994-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.