Good morning, everybody! Here's the latest from the world's cruise ships, airports, and tourism boards.
* ROYAL CARIBBEAN AND NORWEGIAN CLEARED TO BEGIN CRUISING TO CUBA (USA Today)
Americans will soon have the chance to travel to Cuba with a major cruise line—which means Cubans will soon have the chance to see more rum-swilling suburbanites than they could have ever wished to see.
Cruising titans Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have each received permission from the Cuban government to sail to the Caribbean island nation from Florida.
Royal Caribbean says both its namesake brand and its smaller Azamara Club Cruises have been approved; the company didn't release a start date or itineraries, but they should be announced soon.
As for Norwegian, all three of that line's brands—the eponymous flagship, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises—have been cleared to begin sailing to Havana starting in March. The first route will be run by Oceania's upscale Marina ship.
* TSA FIGHTING HOLIDAY AIRPORT LINES WITH MORE OFFICERS, SOCIAL MEDIA (Cronkite News)
We're more than a week into December, which means the holiday travel season is underway. That can mean long lines at the airport, but Transportation Security Administration officials say they're ready for the challenge.
Thousands of new officers have been hired, many part-time screeners have been upgraded to full-time, and a bunch of new K9 teams will be sniffing around airports—all in an attempt to improve security while getting you to your gate in a relatively speedy manner.
Additionally, you can now use Twitter or Facebook to ask the agency about what you can carry onto planes. If you've got a question about an item, tweet @AskTSA or visit the Ask TSA Facebook page, and post a photo or description of the thing in question. You should have an answer about its carry-on-ability in minutes.
Passenger preparation can be key to getting through security on time—so pack light and show up at the airport early. The TSA recommends arriving two hours before a domestic flight, or three hours for an international one.
Unless, of course, you're enrolled in the agency's Pre-Check program; those pre-cleared passengers (who've paid an $85 fee) usually spend on average about 10 minutes in line.
* HARPER LEE'S ALABAMA HOMETOWN WANTS TO BE A TOURIST ATTRACTION NOW (AL.com)
To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee lived a quiet life in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, eschewing the limelight and resisting efforts to turn her into a tourist attraction.
But Lee died last February at the age of 89, and local officials and chamber-of-commerce types have launched a big plan to make Monroeville—inspiration for the fictional Macomb in Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel—a kind of Harper Lee theme park, whether Lee would have liked it or not (we're going to go with not).
The multiyear project would include a new museum dedicated to the author as well as a "Harper Lee Trail" linking several properties associated with her and her writings, such as the home she shared with her sister in their later years and newly constructed replicas of several buildings (long since torn down) that inspired settings in To Kill a Mockingbird.
We're all for honoring a beloved writer who has inspired millions of readers. But isn't there something to be said for paying tribute in a way that stays faithful to the disposition, wishes, and spirit of the writer in question?