Travel alert lifted for Honduras

WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department has lifted its travel alert for Honduras, saying the improved security situation there has removed the immediate threat to the safety of U.S. citizens.

The United States originally issued the alert after the June 28 coup sparked protests, primarily in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Tourists stayed away from the country's beaches, Mayan ruins and rain forests in the months after the alert was issued. Even in Roatan, a world-class diving destination far from the troubles in the capital, tourism dropped 85 percent after the coup, said Mario Pi, president of the island's Tourist Information Center.

"For the hotels, it's been a disaster," said Pi, who predicted the resort area would finish the year down 50 percent.

The State Department alert was lifted Dec. 8.

Travelers taking more health precautions

More than half of adult travelers say they are taking more precautions against flu this year compared to last year, according to a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Eighty-one percent of adults who traveled by plane, bus, train or cruise ship in the past year said they will sneeze into their elbow rather than their hands on their next trip, compared to 64 percent who said they took this precaution on their last trip.

Seventy-six percent said they would bring hand sanitizer with them in carry-on baggage, compared to 61 percent who said they did so last year, and 49 percent said they would get a seasonal flu vaccine to prevent catching the flu while traveling, compared to 35 percent who said they did so last year.

The survey also found that 96 percent of travelers wash their hands frequently to avoid germs.

Public health campaigns have been under way to promote these practices since the outbreak of swine flu or H1N1 earlier this year.

Travelers are more worried about contracting flu in airplanes than in other modes of transportation, with 52 percent of those surveyed saying they were very concerned or somewhat concerned that they or a family member would get sick with H1N1 or seasonal flu while traveling by plane in the next year.

The telephone poll was conducted by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health, Nov. 12-18, among 1,124 adults who had traveled by plane, bus, train or cruise ship in the previous year. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

label: GADGETS

Voice-control alarm clock great for travel

This battery-operated travel alarm clock is about the size of a bar of soap.

You can set the clock's time, alarm and even the sound of the alarm in the dark, because you only need to find one button to make the clock converse with you.

The clock audibly repeats every command back to you.

But remember to speak in a clear voice when giving commands. You can't whisper "snooze" and get the clock to respond. You have to speak more loudly, which may upset a bedmate whose alarm won't sound till much later. Another button on the side of the clock let's you engage a 9-minute snooze.

Cost: $19.99, plus $8.25 ground shipping. Available from

- McClatchy Tribune Information Services

Vancouver Island adds carousel

A new carousel has opened at the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, and it's all lit up for Christmas.

The Rose Carousel, crafted by Brass Ring Entertainment of Sun Valley, Calif., is the only carousel on Vancouver Island.

The 30 animal rides were hand-carved from basswood and include bears, horses, ostriches and zebras. The carousel also includes two chariots.

The carousel is housed within the garden's Children's Pavilion, which has a dome with a clear span, a full-fronted glass facade and a roof planted with native plant species.

The Butchart Gardens were opened in 1904 by Jennie Butchart from an abandoned limestone quarry owned by her industrialist husband. It's a National Historic Site in Canada and gets nearly a million visitors from around the world each year.

The garden is open year-round, as is the carousel, located 13 miles north of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Details at

Travelers are taking trips on the cheap

Travelers are taking shorter holiday vacations this year, selecting cheaper destinations and staying in the United States or taking vacations that only involve short flights, according to a survey of American Express Travel agents.

The survey was conducted in November among more than 460 American Express Travel specialists, and about three-fourths of them reported noticing the money-saving vacation trends.

Agents also reported more last-minute bookings and more inquiries from travelers who want to use credit card benefits and rewards to save money or get more value from their vacations.

About 40 percent of the agents said more travelers are choosing cruises and all-inclusive vacations.

Nashville water park expanding in 2010

A Nashville water park is doubling its size next year.

Nashville Shores along J. Percy Priest Lake is adding a 25,000-square-foot wave pool and 1,000-foot lazy river float ride. Additionally, existing facilities will be renovated.

The new attractions will be in an undeveloped area of the 385-acre park east of Nashville.

The privately owned park, with nine waterslides and three pools, is the major water park in Nashville. There also is a city-owned wave pool.

St. Louis area's 7th casino opens in March

The seventh casino in the St. Louis area and the 13th in Missouri is scheduled to open in early March.

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. said its new River City casino in south St. Louis County will open a bit earlier than anticipated, pending final regulatory approval from the Missouri Gaming Commission.

The casino was originally scheduled to open in the spring.

River City will include a 90,000-square-foot gambling area with more than 2,000 slot machines and about 55 table games. The complex will include restaurants and a bar.

Pinnacle says the project has generated about 600 construction-related jobs and is expected to create about 1,000 permanent jobs.

- The Associated Press