(NewsUSA) - If you were some innocent fleeing a terrorist attack, would you expect to be charged four times the normal cost of a car ride?
Alas, that's what happened to some Uber passengers last December when the "off the charts" demand for a quick escape from anywhere near the 16-hour siege at Sydney, Australia's Lindt Chocolate Café automatically triggered the controversial "surge-pricing" that Uber and other ride-booking services also employ here in the U.S.
Even some of the app-based companies' (former) biggest fans say that's just a fancy term for price gouging. "#Neverforget, #neveragain," read the hashtags celeb Jessica Seinfeld used in Instagramming a receipt for a whopping $415 Uber fare during a recent New York snowstorm. And so many lawmakers across the nation have their own pro-consumer reasons for wanting to crack down on the industry -- lesser players include Lyft and Sidecar -- that you'd almost think the very idea of summoning a ride on a smartphone was Evil Incarnate.
It's your call, but here's what you should know before booking one of those cars:
Your driver may not have been thoroughly screened. Newspapers have reported numerous cases of ride-booking drivers arrested for allegedly raping or assaulting passengers. But efforts to subject the newbies to the same rigorous background checks as taxi and limousine drivers -- akin to a "Not Welcome" sign for lowlifes -- have been fought by all three services.
"Background screening is a public safety issue," says Gary Buffo, president of the National Limousine Association (www.limo.org). "Competition is a good thing, but everyone needs to play by the same rules."
Uber, for one, has touted what it calls its "industry-leading (vetting) standards." But that claim took a hit last December when prosecutors in California alleged, as part of a consumer protection lawsuit against the company, that their drivers weren't being fingerprinted -- thus making its criminal checks "completely worthless."
Good luck suing if you're injured. Some ride-booking services allow drivers to carry personal, rather than commercial, insurance. (Hey, they use their own cars.) Testifying at a recent City Council hearing in Buffalo, New York, Kristina Baldwin, of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, called that a "serious insurance gap."
Surge pricing can be a shocker. Uber did reimburse Sydney riders after getting skewered by the media. But New Year's Eve revelers in New York City, learning a lesson in supply and demand, apparently had no such luck. "The most expensive eight minutes of my life," the New York Daily News quoted one angry passenger.
(NewsUSA) - There are 2.5 million weddings in the United States each year, and the weddings business is a $40 billion annual industry, including the ceremony, reception, bachelor(-ette) parties and honeymoon.
Increasingly, newlyweds are opting for a cruise for a cost-effective and carefree honeymoon. About 5,000 weddings and vow renewals happen on cruises every year, and cruises now account for 15 percent of all honeymoons.
The inclusive nature of a cruise is a leading factor in the decision. A cruise provides a week of great food, pampering and entertainment for about $2,500 or less per person.
Most newlyweds say they prefer a week in a fun-and-sun destination. That makes cruises doubly attractive, since they visit several ports and offer a selection of shore tours.
Though the Hawaiian Islands remain the all-time favorite honeymoon destination, many newlyweds are choosing cruises in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
And there's no more romantic way to experience the wonders of the Med or Caribbean than a weeklong voyage aboard a tall ship. Star Clippers' three sailing ships only carry up to 170 or 227 guests, and visit some of the world's most exotic destinations.
Aboard Star Clippers, newlyweds can experience the luxury of a private yacht while sailing to smaller, lesser-known destinations big cruise ships can't visit.
Star Clippers' relaxed yet elegant shipboard atmosphere is the perfect antidote to months of wedding planning. Yet, the emphasis on beach time and water sports, and the array of soft-adventure excursions offered provide opportunities for couples to share new experiences as they start their life together.
Whether it's a fabulous honeymoon sailing through the Greek Isles, a barefoot wedding set on a Caribbean beach or a sunset vow-renewal ceremony performed by a ship's captain, Star Clippers offers the romance of a true sailing experience.
For more about Star Clippers, visit www.starclippers.com.
(NewsUSA) - The traditional golf resort is going through a major transformation.
While golf is still at the core, the newest properties increasingly offer activities and immersive experiences that appeal to golfers and non-golfers alike -- changing the way guests view and book their getaways. Central Florida's Streamsong Resort is one of the destinations on the forefront of this trend.
Set on 16,000 acres, Streamsong emerged on the site of a former phosphate mine. With towering sand dunes and extreme elevation changes, its land is more reminiscent of Scotland than central Florida. In just a few years, its two intersecting golf courses -- Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue -- have earned a place on some of the industry's most prestigious rankings, including GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S. A third course, Streamsong Black, will open in late 2017.
"Today's golfer wants a broader experience," said Richard Mogensen, Streamsong's general manager. "Streamsong is designed with this guest in mind."
Beyond its two golf courses, the resort features many options to enjoy the outdoors or just relax. Home to some of the best bass fishing in the United States, Streamsong offers guided catch-and-release fishing expeditions on its prolific lakes. The picturesque sporting clays course, located 10 minutes from the lodge but still on property, is the perfect spot for beginners to learn and pros to refine their shots with guidance from certified instructors. The grotto-style AcquaPietra Spa, infinity lakeside pool, nature trail and tennis courts provide additional opportunities to unwind and enjoy the setting. Dining options, like the award-winning contemporary Italian restaurant SottoTerra, tempt the palate with fresh, innovative fare in spectacular settings.
Streamsong even looks different from the traditional golf resort. Its modern 216-room lodge and intimate 12-room clubhouse have captured architectural accolades for their design, which pays homage to the property's surroundings.
"Golf is absolutely in our DNA, but our eye is also always on delivering that complete experience," Mogensen said.
For more information, visit www.streamsongresort.com or call 1-863-428-1000.