Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: June 21-25

Tip of Fountain Pen Writing

Independence Day is almost upon us.  Where are you going this year? In the past, I've taken trips to the East End of Long Island (home to two of Dr. Beach's best beaches in the country and some of the most amusing people-watching in the world) or headed to an annual barbecue at a friends' family's house in Connecticut which is conveniently right next to the high school for the annual fireworks. This year, though, I think I am heading up to Marshfield, VT to see some former colleagues of mine at The Skidmore News. Nearly 10 years ago, we all worked together on several weekly editions, one of which won the Associated College Press award for Best Paper: Special Topic- 9/11, and it's time to re-celebrate on top of the holiday. But before Independence Day approaches, I would like to wish all of you a very happy National Catfish Day and National Handshake Day today, June 25.

With that said, let's see what readers have been saying at this week.

Speaking of Independence Day

We recently shared a list of the 10 best places in the country to view some celebratory fireworks, and one reader appears to be meticulously taking things to literally. Kelly Butler wrote:


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Main Chicago fireworks are actually on July 3rd.

Thanks, Kelly. The article doesn't state that each event takes place on July 4. It is suggesting places to go to see a celebration of the holiday, whether it falls specifically July 4 or not. I don't think I'm alone when saying that I have been to Fourth of July fireworks displays that have taken place on days other than July 4 due to the day of the week upon which the holiday falls or to benefit local communities by avoiding multiple shows taking place on one night. Last time I checked, this is the United States of America and we have the freedom to celebrate our national holidays as we see fit. Thank you for exercising your right to free speech and sharing a piece of information, no matter how know-it-all it may be.

No Fear for Florida

Are you tired of the oil spill yet? Whether you are or not, don't let it deter you or your clients from taking a vacation to Florida. Not only are some tourism bodies such as the Florida Keys Tourism Council reminding everyone that the destination is oil-free, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced it has suspended daily projection reports as it believes the oil slick no longer poses a threat to the region. Commenting on the NOAA, report Rosemary Purdy is feeling the joy, commenting:

I just got home to Las Vegas from Florida, Yes it is a sad situation with the oil BUT... dont let it hold you back on visiting Florida there are alot of things to do and see GOD BLESS AMERICA and always thank our Military

Considering that Las Vegas was recently named as one of the top destinations for the summer, Purdy's opinion on Florida travel hopefully holds some wait. And yes, especially on the occasion of our approaching Independence Day, bless our troops.

Azul Fives to Open, Right?

Joe Pike recently caught up with Mandy Chomat, vice president of marketing and sales for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, and exclusively broke the news that that Azul Fives Hotel in the Playa del Carmen region of Mexico will finally open this coming November. As to be expected, many are excited about the news. But some are being a bit of a doubting Thomas. Geoff Millar, for instance, said:

I'll believe it when I see it

Meanwhile, Sandy Darley is more hopeful, posting:

I really hope this happens! This is such a beautiful and unique resort, and it needs to be enjoyed and experienced.

And then there's Jill Fuller, who appears to be on board when writing:

I will be optimistic and go ahead and believe it! Yea!!!

Hopefully, Joe or someone else from the Travel Agent team (My hand's raised! Remember my work on Iberostar? ) will get a closer look at the property to share some more insight. Until then, we'd enjoy any feedback from agents or clients who experience the property.

Want A Free Luxury Home in Antigua?

We get some interesting comments, to say the least, often here at But I don't think I've ever found one in which a reader is offering something more than a professional service, that is until recently. Commenting on a report about how crime is affecting tourism to Antigua, Mae Boomfield appears so confident in the island's safety that she's challenging us with an incentive, posting:

Be Real: we live in cities where there are murders every day. Antigua has had 5 murders for 2010 and because one happened to be a tourist we have headlines on every international news network? Guess what: Antigua's 500 police officers have not only a population of 100,000 people to safeguard, but some 500,000 visitors and thusands of medical students as well. The government spends millions on electronic equipment and the latest state of the art police equipment and training. Tourists get killed in New York and London and they do not make news. I have a luxury home in Antigua and I have been visiting the island for over 20 years. Tell me a country in the world safer than Antigua/Barbuda and you can have my home for free.

Well I just did a little research on the Internet using our friend Google and found a blog post about the five safest countries in the world to visit: Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Norway. So, when can I come stay at your lovely house?

Where Did the Joy(Star) Go?

It's been about a year since JoyStar was under attack by our readers as much as YTB, and one reader is not letting it go just yet. Commenting on a report about the IRS having the first claim to JoyStar's assets, a reader named wonder agent shares:

I wonder what name they are operating under today. Especially trying to recruite travel agents to do the work, so they can take advantage and keep commissions again, Worked out pretty sweet til they were caught. Crooks are crooks they just find a different way to be a crook.

As wonder agent wonders, I am curious as well. But at the same time I'm weary of this company and the havoc it's spread across the industry. I don't want to stir up the pot again, but if any readers would like to comment on the latest on this fiasco, I'm listening and I'll share.

Focus on Southeast Asia

Three countries in Southeast Asia received some attention this week from our readers. Most were positive, like Sylvia Mracky who shared her thoughts on the new Singapore, posting:

Extremely informative. I have visited Singapore several times and as the articl mentions-short trips.  I've never visited the island and now I have incentives.  Only hope there is not too much neon or it will be another Kong Kong

Thanks for sharing, Syvlia. Singapore has a lot going on for it right now. But I'm pretty sure you mean Hong Kong, not Kong Kong, right? Otherwise there's some wonderous place out there where King Kong actually exists. If so, I'm giving Jack Black, Adrien Brody and even Jeff Bridges a call.

Kuala Lumpur is getting some love this week as well, as Aland writes:

I love traveling and learning the local customs, traditions, rituals. I found Malaysia to be one of the friendliest countries. I can never forget the staff at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur where I stayed who patiently explained and guided me about places to visit, to shop and eat.

Hey Aland, sounds like you had a great vacation. Mind sharing the name of the hotel where you stayed so agents can share with their clients?

Another Southeast Asian country of interest this week is Thailand, particularly Northern Thailand. Actually, the focus is more on a particular hotel and the latest comment is a reponse to one from the past. It began in October of 2008 when Tomas wrote:

TRAVEL AGENTS BE WARE To read the copy about Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand above would make any agent eager to promote the resort instantly to his/her upscale clientele. Of course, as travel agents we depend on commissions and indeed, when I booked Sukantara for my clients last February, commission was promised by the General Manager, Rapeepat Sugunasil, himself. He was as nice and helpful as could be and would do anything for the booking to become reality. And it was. My clients stayed a few days and left. I can give you all the details of an ordeal trying to collect said commission over the last 8 months from Sukantara alas unsuccessfully. Details would certainly reveal how unprofessional specifically Mr. Sugunasil really is toward travel agents!! To be frank, there is no willingness to pay, nor even at attempt to respond to reminders, in any form!

So now, jirapan tabsanan has retorted, stating:

Any hotels be aware of this guy "Tomas" Agents company. As we knew that moments sukantara resort had already paid to this people in the real amounts that our guests stayed in the resort. But he would get more day commission from the resort as sukantara declared in unacceptable deal. Please consider the truth because sukantara resort had never even unwilling to pay in anycase if not true.

It's refreshing to see a back-and-forth be about a destination for once and not YTB or something of the like. I have not been to the Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa, so I can't make a call hear. But I am sure someone out there can. Is it you? If so, chime in here will you?

As always, the conversation doesn't end her. Keep the feedback and comments going here at the Weekly Wrap or elsewhere on You can always write us at our Facebook page, send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) or discuss anything in real time at AgentNation.

Until next week...