G7 to press on with bank reforms, Japan escapes censure

Group of Seven finance officials agreed on Saturday to redouble efforts to deal with failing banks and gave a green light to Japan's drive to galvanize its economy.

British finance minister George Osborne said the finance ministers and central bankers meeting 40 miles outside London focused on unfinished bank reforms, with signs that plans for a euro zone banking union are fraying.

 

"It is important to complete swiftly our work to ensure that no banks are too big to fail," Osborne told reporters after hosting a two-day meeting in a stately home set in rolling countryside.

"We must put regimes in place ... to deal with failing banks and to protect taxpayers and to do so in a globally consistent manner," he said.

The emergency rescue of Cyprus after a near meltdown in March served as a reminder of the need to finish an overhaul of the banking sector, five years after the world financial crisis began.

Germany has come under pressure to give more support to a banking union in the euro zone. The plan could help strengthen the single currency area, but Berlin worries it may pay too much for future bank bailouts if it signs up to a scheme to wind up stricken lenders.

While the first step - to create a single bank supervisor under the European Central Bank - looks set to be in place by mid-2014, a second pillar, a 'resolution' fund to close failed banks, is in doubt. And there is little prospect that a single deposit guarantee scheme will ever see the light of day.

A senior U.S. Treasury official said the talks at the 17th-century Hartwell House zeroed in on the need not just for better bank supervision but also to clean up balance sheets so lending can pick up.

"There was a sense of urgency among the euro area participants," the official said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble countered that the euro zone was no longer the main risk to the world economy.

As at previous international meetings, Japan escaped any censure for printing money on a scale that has pushed the yen sharply lower.

Osborne said the G7 - the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Canada - reaffirmed that fiscal and monetary policy should be aimed at domestic concerns, not currency manipulation.

"We will not target exchange rates," Osborne said. "I would say that the statement by the G7 of earlier this year was a successful statement and one that has been held to."

The yen hit a four-year low against the dollar on Friday, driven in part by Japanese investors shifting into foreign bonds, a move that had been expected since the Bank of Japan unveiled a massive stimulus plan.

But having urged Tokyo for years to do something to revive its economy, other world powers are not in a strong position to complain now that it is doing so. Then there is the fact that central banks such as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England have printed money in the way the Bank of Japan is.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said the G7 had leveled no criticism at Japan's monetary policy but Schaeuble said there had been "intense discussions" and that the situation would be monitored carefully.

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GROWTH DEBATE

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Debate has also heated up about the need for governments to ease up on austerity, something Germany, Britain and Canada view with caution but Washington, Paris and Rome favor.

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Osborne said there was less disagreement about whether governments should focus on debt-cutting or growth-boosting measures than is commonly assumed.

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"Everyone is clear that there needs to be credible medium-term fiscal consolidation ... We also agreed that there needs to be flexibility," he said. "Growth prospects remain uneven and we can't take the global recovery for granted."

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But his suggestion before the meeting that it should consider what more monetary policy could do to support economic recovery appeared to fall on deaf ears.

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"There wasn't any call to do more," European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi told reporters after the meeting.

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"It is quite clear that all central banks have done a lot, each one within its own mandate. So (the meeting) was just taking note of this ... All of us have really been active."

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Several officials from visiting delegations questioned why Britain had called the gathering just three weeks after they and others met at International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, but Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the informal nature of the discussions had paid dividends.

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"Freed from burden to agree a communiqué, the principals engaged more with each than I can recall before and as a result genuinely made real progress in taking forward some of the questions and issues that are facing the G7," he said.

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(Additional reporting by David Milliken and Leika Kihara.; Writing by Mike Peacock; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Marshals: Tiger lied about Sergio Garcia dispute

Marshals: Tiger lied, Tiger Woods' character has been called into question before. Now, opponents and even some supporters of the pro golfer are startled to learn that Tiger lied Saturday in an incident at The Players championship, reports the Epoch Times on May 14.


A month after The Masters, in which Woods made headlines for an illegal drop that many people felt he should have been disqualified over, Woods is at the center of another controversy with rival Sergio Garcia.

After a weekend war of words between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, two course marshals are disputing Woods' retelling of what happened on Saturday.

Garcia said Woods distracted him by pulling a club from his bag – stirring the gathered gallery while Garcia attempted a shot elsewhere.

Woods said he didn't see Garcia when he made the move, and besides, the course marshals gave him the OK.

Officials tell a different story. Course marshals said they never told Woods anything.

In the third round of The Players Championship on Saturday on the second hole, Garcia was irked when Woods pulled out a club and sized up his next shot, which resulted in cheers from the crowd, disrupting Garcia and his shot.

Garcia told NBC TV, “You have to pay attention to what's going on because the other guy is hitting. You do something when you're in the crowd and the crowd is going to respond.”

It's debatable whether Woods' actions had any impact on Garcia's shot, but he did respond to the controversy.

“The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot, and then I hear his comments afterward and it’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something,” he said.

But apparently Woods has his story backwards. The course marshals debunked Tiger's tale.

"[Woods] didn’t ask us nothing, and we didn’t say nothing. We’re told not to talk to the players," a marshal, Gary Anderson, told Golf.com.

Woods went on to win the tournament by two strokes while Garcia finished tied for eighth after he put two balls into the water on Sawgrass' famed 17th hole.

Marshals: Tiger lied

Marshals: Tiger lied, Sergio Garcia's complaint regarding Tiger Woods distracting him during the third round of last week's Players Championship may have been an even bigger story than Woods actually winning the tournament.

Now it seems as though Garcia may have been justified.

Who is telling the truth?

Tiger Woods TPC course marshals Submit Vote vote to see results

According to Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated, during Garcia's backswing on the second hole of the third round, Woods pulled a five-wood from his bag, and it elicited a response from the crowd. Garcia then hit a poor shot and later blamed it on the fact that he was distracted.

Woods claimed that course marshals told him Garcia had already played his shot and that it was safe for him to do the same, but chief marshal John North is disputing Woods' assertion. He claims that neither he nor fellow marshal Gary Anderson said anything to Woods:

Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him. I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We’re there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character.

Garcia wasn't shy about placing blame on Woods following the incident. He was adamant that Tiger's action and the crowd's subsequent reaction caused him to hit a poor shot.

"It’s very simple," Garcia said during an NBC interview (h/t Bamberger). "You have to pay attention to what’s going on because the other guy is hitting. You do something when you’re in the crowd, and the crowd is going to respond."

Woods didn't deny pulling the club from his bag during Garcia's swing, but he said he had clearance to play his shot.

The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot, and then I hear his comments afterward and it’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something.

There is clearly no love lost between Woods and Garcia, and it showed throughout the third round and afterward.

Kyle Porter of CBS Sports captured a fitting image during Garcia's tee shot on the 18th hole on Sunday. Woods and Garcia were finishing up the third round after it was postponed Saturday due to rain. Woods, perhaps sarcastically, made sure that he wasn't a distraction to Garcia on that occasion.

It's nearly impossible to know who is telling the truth, but Woods was able to shrug off the incident. He went on to win The Players Championship with a score of 13-under par. Garcia, on the other hand, finished in a tie for eighth as he imploded down the stretch.

Garcia was tied with Woods as he teed off on the famed 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, but things unraveled from there. The Spaniard hit two balls into the water on that hole and finished with a quadruple-bogey. He then followed it up with a double-bogey on the 18th as his tee shot found the drink yet again.

It was a nightmarish end to a tournament that had so much promise for Garcia. Woods, meanwhile, has another Players Championship title to his credit as well as the massive winner's purse in his bank account ($1.71 million).

The fact that the course marshals are supporting Garcia's claims is nothing more than a consolation prize. He once again folded when in direct competition with Woods.

Lawmakers hover as more homeowners rent rooms to visitors,,,,,

For British student Carly Connor a trip to London for a city break would be impossible if she had to pay for a hotel so instead she rents a room in a Londoner's home.

Connor, 26, is among a growing number of people taking advantage of a surge in the number of homeowners offering to rent out a room for a night or longer, with the cash a welcome addition to recession-squeezed budgets.

 

This new wave of hospitality sweeping the travel industry was sparked by the success of "couch surfing", where people could go online to book a free bed in a home, and is being led by a blitz of new websites that let tourists bypass resorts and hotels.

"A lot of the time you find yourself with a host who is more than happy to point you in the direction of a few local hot spots that you otherwise would have missed entirely," Connor told Reuters.

But the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer rentals has lawmakers on the alert in some countries, scrutinising tax, health and safety, and rental infringements.

Martin Buck, a director at ITB, the world's largest travel fair, said the popularity of homestays was fuelled by websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, 9flats, and HouseTrip, where users post listings for short-term rentals of all or part of their home.

Listings on Airbnb, the biggest site, have surged to about 300,000 in 192 countries from 10,000 in late 2009, with the website taking a cut on all bookings. The listings include everything from New York apartments to Costa Rican tree houses.

But Buck said unregulated homestay sites and concerns that these were actually illegal hotels was a hot topic in many places including Berlin, the headquarters of Wimdu and 9flats.

"There is talk in some areas of Berlin of prohibiting it," he told Reuters. "But can you really prevent people from using their privately owned homes as they want? It raises a whole lot of constitutional and human rights questions."

HOME OR ILLEGAL HOTEL?

Renting out a room is legal in London, up to a level.

The British government's "Rent a Room Scheme" allows householders to earn 4,250 pounds a year tax-free from letting furnished accommodation.

For the past year, Peter Tompkins has charged about 700 pounds a week to rent a spare bedroom in his apartment in the clock tower above London's St Pancras train station from where views stretch to St Paul's Cathedral.

Tompkins said he uses Airbnb to rent the room, reassured by the company's 600,000 pound insurance guarantee to hosts, as well as a 24-hour support line. He said it was important to have a professional relationship with guests akin to a hotel.

"I think you ought to behave as a hotel or regulated organisation would, but I am conscious that there's no regulation on me. I just try and behave well," he told Reuters.

The growing popularity of Airbnb, which has processed around five million paid overnight stays since 2008, is starting to cause friction with some lawmakers.

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According to Inc., a U.S.-based magazine focused on growing private companies, Airbnb made around $100 million in 2012, with the estimate based on the site's six to 12 percent commission on each room booked.

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Wimdu is Airbnb's next-biggest competitor with 150,000 properties on its books since it began in 2011. It would not divulge its revenues. Rival 9flats has 90,000 properties.

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Airbnb, set up in 2008, maintains the law needs to distinguish between people who occasionally rent out rooms and landlords who illegally run residential buildings as hotels.

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Airbnb is currently lobbying authorities in Washington, DC, for a review on rental laws in the United States, seeking to craft a model for cities across the world to follow.

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Company spokesperson Christopher Lukezic said he understood this movement was "growing within unchartered waters" as in the previous homestay trend, couch surfing, no money changed hands.

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"Our typical host is a regular resident, who, on average, is only renting out their home for a few weeks a year, helping them to make ends meet," Lukezic told Reuters.

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"Not only does it help increase the number of tourists who can afford to visit a city but it also creates economic prosperity for the citizens of the city who are hosts, often in parts of the cities where there are no hotels."

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While lawmakers are raising concerns about the home-stay trend, the travel industry is unperturbed as it does not expect to see any profit squeeze on hotels.

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Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer of CitizenM, a Dutch boutique hotel group with a growing portfolio across Europe, said services like Airbnb have made city trips more affordable for longer stays and family groups.

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"But hotels will always be safer, offer more facilities and offer service, which apartments cannot," he said.

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(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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U.S. appeals court revives lawsuit vs United Airlines over wheelchair,,,,,

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against United Continental Holdings Inc's United Airlines that was brought by a woman who claimed she was not promptly provided a wheelchair in an airport when she asked for one.

The opinion, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said federal law did not pre-empt the woman's personal injury claims under state law.

A representative for United could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mark Meuser, an attorney for plaintiff Michelle Gilstrap, who has difficulty walking, said some lower court judges had disagreed about whether individuals should be able to bring claims for injuries in an airplane or terminal.

"This is a really big deal for disabled Americans across the country," Meuser said.

Gilstrap had difficulty walking due to a collapsed disc in her back and osteoarthritis, according to the court opinion. During two separate plane trips in 2008 and 2009, she alleged that United failed to supply a wheelchair on some occasions.

She also said United agents yelled at her, doubted whether she really needed a wheelchair and ordered her to stand in line, which she could not do because of her condition.

Gilstrap sued, and a Los Angeles federal judge dismissed her case. In Tuesday's three-judge ruling, the 9th Circuit said Gilstrap could not pursue her claims under the Americans for Disabilities Act.

However, the court ruled that Gilstrap's claims, including emotional distress and negligence, under state law were not pre-empted by the Air Carrier Access Act. The appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Michelle Gilstrap vs. United Air Lines Inc., 11-55271.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Norway's Arctic idyll shivers at oil plans,,,,,

Oil companies seeking new Arctic areas for exploration face a battle with environmentalists, fishermen and hotel owners over Norwegian islands where jagged snow-capped peaks rise sheer from the sea.

With oil production falling to a 25-year low this year and the state depending on oil revenues, Norway's ruling Labour Party is warming to drilling in Lofoten's pristine waters, setting up the issue as the year's biggest political fight ahead of elections in September.

"We've already got the winning lottery ticket by living in Norway. We shouldn't want to be even richer," said Erling Santi, a fisherman in Svolvaer, Lofoten's main town.

"Oil drilling could drive the fish away," said Santi who is also the managing director of Saga Fish, a cod packing plant.

Norway is one of the world's most prosperous nations with per capital GDP in excess of $100,000 but the fortunes of remote Lofoten, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Oslo, have been mixed. Unemployment remains above the national average and its young leave the area in search of jobs.

Lofoten has been off limits for exploration since Norway first struck oil in 1969, reflecting fears about nature in a scenic Arctic region that is a spawning ground for the world's richest cod stocks and home to sea eagles and puffins.

BP Plc's ( id="symbol_BP.L_0">BP.L) Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, may have added to scepticism.

After Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg came down in favour of studying drilling last month, Norway's top three parties on left and right are now open to the idea, pitting them against smaller parties and many of Lofoten's own residents.

The fight will also be a test for how the industry and politics handle the move northward, with sights firmly set on the high Arctic, including the frozen Svalbard archipelago.

VIKINGS

Backers say oil and gas finds are getting scarcer and that new technology means the risks of accidents are low enough to explore waters off Lofoten and the neighbouring Vesteraalen islands where cod has been king since Viking days.

"We need Lofoten but most of all, Lofoten needs the oil industry," said Knut Saeberg, chief financial officer CFO.L of North Energy ( id="symbol_NORTH.OL_2">NORTH.OL), which is based in Alta higher in the Arctic. He said Lofoten needed jobs to counter a drift away.

Eivind Holst, the Conservative mayor of the Svolvaer region where the crest of arms depicts a large cod, said he was in principle in favour of oil and gas, partly as a source of jobs.

Lofoten's population has fallen to 24,000 people from above 30,000 in the early 20th century, with many moving to cities.

"There isn't necessarily a contradiction between running an industry and enjoying nature. It just has to be done carefully," he said. "Tourists don't come to Lofoten to see oil platforms in the midnight sun."

A ban on seismic surveys in the cod spawning season early each year and use of sub-sea installations were among measures that would protect fish stocks and tourism if the planned assessment gave a green light, he said.

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A government report suggested that oil and gas in Lofoten could create 400 to 1,100 new jobs to the northwestern region. Hammerfest to the north has boomed as the landing area for gas from Statoil's ( id="symbol_STL.OL_3">STL.OL) Snoehvit field, he noted.

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"The longer you wait, the fewer benefits you get," he said. "And there hasn't been an accident like the Gulf of Mexico here - knock on wood." He rapped his knuckles on a wooden table for good luck.

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OIL OUTPUT HALVED

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Oil output by Norway, the world's number seven exporter, fell to 1.5 million barrels per day in January and even a string of big finds, set to come online in the second half of the decade, will only halt the rate of decline.

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"The industry needs access to new areas on a regular basis to sustain activities," said Einar Gjelsvik, chief executive of Noreco, an oil producer. ( id="symbol_NOR.OL_4">NOR.OL)

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Lofoten could hold 8 percent of Norway's undiscovered oil and gas resources, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says.

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It says that seismic tests have identified 50 prospects off Lofoten that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

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"We are developing new technology to reduce the risk," said Leif Borge, CFO of Aker Solutions ( id="symbol_AKSO.OL_5">AKSO.OL). "Down the road, it's probably an important area."

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Norway's worst oil spills were the Ekofisk Bravo blowout in the North Sea in 1977 that spilt 80,000 barrels and a spill of 27,500 barrels at the Statfjord field.

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"You can never be relaxed about safety but you can see that Norway's controls are so much better than the Gulf of Mexico," said Geoff Turbott, CFO at Lundin Petroleum ( id="symbol_LUPE.ST_6">LUPE.ST). "Opening the area is many years away and even from then, the first drilling is 3-4 years away."

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An opinion poll by InFact in February showed that 49 percent of almost 1,100 people in Nordland county, which includes Lofoten, opposed oil and gas production off the islands with 34 percent in favour and others undecided.

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It also showed that 44 percent favoured an environmental impact assessment with 43 percent opposed. Lofoten's people will be consulted but will not decide on oil and gas.

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Lofoten has Arctic winter darkness that complicates drilling but the warm Gulf Stream current keeps it ice free. It is warmer than where the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground off Alaska in 1989, even though it is further north.

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Less chilly waters mean any oil would break down faster. "The problems for drilling here are the fish, the birds and the coastline," said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. "It's not typical of the Arctic."

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The relative warmth makes Norway an exception for Arctic drilling - Shell has abandoned drilling off Alaska for this year after a string of setbacks in 2012.

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Tourism operators fear that oil and gas could undermine business. "The oil can wait. We have had some big oil finds in recent years," said Ola Skjeseth, the biggest local hotel manager who runs 500 beds around Lofoten.

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He said he was especially opposed to any oil or gas terminal on the islands, saying it would contradict publicly funded advertising campaigns that call Lofoten "the world's most beautiful coast" with white beaches and saw-tooth mountains.

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And in winter, more tourists are starting to visit, hoping to see the northern lights, particles from the sun that can produce a show of green, pink and violet across the night sky.

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's decision to favour an environmental impact study aligns Labour with the opposition right-wing Conservatives and the Progress Party. That makes a study likely after the September election, unless the balance of power falls to a small party opposed to drilling.

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Mayor Holst said that a melt of Arctic sea ice caused by global warming was a bigger environmental threat than oil and gas because it raising risks of shipwrecks, including tankers, on a likely new route between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

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That would be a turnaround for Lofoten, which has sometimes benefited from shipwrecks. Some old buildings in Svolvaer are built with timber washed from 19th century Russian wrecks - cold means trees don't grow big and thick enough on the islands.

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(Editing by William Hardy)

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Carnival puts cruise fleet under microscope after ship fire,,,,,

Carnival Corp ( id="symbol_CCL.N_0">CCL.N) ( id="symbol_CCL.LCCL.L) has launched a comprehensive review of its entire fleet after a fire crippled one of its ships last month, and will share its findings across the industry, Carnival Cruise Lines' chief executive told a conference on Tuesday.

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The engine-room fire disabled the Bahamian-flagged Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving it adrift with more than 4,000 passengers and crew aboard. The accident made headlines around the world and comedians had a field day with the ensuing plumbing problems.

"We've started a comprehensive review of our entire fleet," Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill told the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference.

"It will take us a little bit of time to complete it but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority in the entire organization, it is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with some solutions that we can implement across our fleet," he said.

The company has assembled teams of fire safety experts, naval architects, electrical and mechanical engineers and engine manufacturers to conduct its own investigation, Cahill added.

 

The Triumph was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, when a leak in a fuel return line caused a fire in the aft engine room. The ship has two independent engine rooms but the fire damage knocked out both, Cahill said.

A diesel generator kicked in to run emergency services, but could not run what Cahill described as "hotel services", most notably the plumbing in the cabins.

Cahill said the company investigation would focus on fire prevention and suppression, engine-room backup systems, and on figuring out what hotel service facilities could be run with emergency generators.

Carnival is cooperating with ongoing investigations by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board and the Bahamian government, as well as a review by the Cruise Line International Association CLIA.L, he added.

Carnival Corp is the world's largest cruise line, with 100 ships under brands that include Carnival, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Seabourn and Costa.

RIPPLE EFFECT

Cruise executives frequently say the attention lavished on their competitors' new ships creates a rising tide of demand that benefits them all. Accidents cause similar ripples throughout the industry.

"The recent Triumph incident affects all of us," said Christine Duffy, president and chief executive of CLIA, which represents 58 cruise lines worldwide. "Even though such incidents are rare, we don't underestimate their impact."

Nonetheless, industry projections are chronically rosy. Cruising is a $36 billion industry worldwide, part of a $9.9 trillion global travel industry that represents 9 percent of global GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Some 20 million people took cruises last year and CLIA projects this year's total will rise 3.3 percent to hit 20.9 million.

"We have been the fastest-growing segment inside the travel industry," Duffy said.

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Despite tough economic times, passenger numbers have risen every year over the last decade, she said. North America is still far and away the biggest source of cruise passengers, though the percentage from outside North America rose to 31 percent last year, from 9 percent in 2000.

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Industry officials expect strong growth in China and other parts of Asia, where tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people are moving into the middle classes and eager to see the world.

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"They may not be comfortable going on their own but are comfortable going on one of our ships," Duffy said.

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The industry has added 168 new ships since 2000. Twenty-five more oceangoing and river-cruising ships will come on line in the next two years, but the pace is slowing, ending a glut of berths that had led to discounting.

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Kevin Sheehan, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line ( id="symbol_NCLH.O_3">NCLH.O), which recently went public, predicted the industry would soon "move pricing to more respectable levels".

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If the economy holds steady or improves slightly "then this industry will outperform", Sheehan said.

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The cruise line chiefs say their industry is resilient, in part because it has good overall safety.

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Sheehan called it "the safest, safest, safest vacation experience that anybody could ever have".

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Pierfrancesco Vago, chief executive of MSC Cruises, a privately owned European line, suggested vacationers have short memories. Last year's Costa Concordia accident caused bookings in Italy to plummet, especially scaring away first-time cruisers, he said.

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Bookings are still erratic, but are growing again, in part because cruising is perceived as good value, he said.

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"It's amazing how this 2012 has been forgotten. We've seen already the new wave season, 2013, that the first-comers are coming back again," Vago said. "2013 is looking much better, stronger."

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(Editing by David Adams and Dale Hudson)

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London keeps global edge as top transport finance hub,,,,,

London remains the top financing centre for the global transport industry, although it faces stiff competition from New York and capitals in Asia Pacific as companies seek to tap more funding sources, a survey showed on Friday.

Some 37 per cent of respondents from the global aviation, rail and shipping sectors ranked London as the key financial centre for transport, followed by New York at 14 percent and Singapore at 7 percent, the survey by international law firm Norton Rose found.

 

"London and New York remain key financial centres for the transport industry but are looking over their shoulders at Asia which is growing in importance," said Harry Theochari, global head of transport at Norton Rose.

Of those canvassed, 43 percent from the rail industry said London was most favoured as a financing hub, followed by 40 percent in the shipping sector and 31 percent in aviation.

The annual survey by Norton Rose, now in its fourth year, is one of the transport sector's leading barometers of market conditions, especially for the shipping community.

While London has a 300-year history as a leading finance, insurance and legal centre for the shipping industry, the survey said companies were looking at alternatives due to tough trading conditions, exemplified by a warning last month from Frontline ( id="symbol_FRO.OL_0">FRO.OL), one of the world's biggest tanker operators.

Frontline said it may miss bond repayments due in 2015 and be forced to restructure again if the market's depression continues.

"A dramatic reduction in the availability of debt finance in the London market means that shipping is increasingly turning to structured finance and private equity," Theochari said.

"This gives New York a distinct advantage, as it has the largest capital markets in the world and far greater access to private equity than any other global financial centre."

The survey canvassed views from 1,006 participants from a range of companies involved in transport including financiers, ship owners and operators, manufacturers, builders and industry advisors. Those polled comprised 383 from the aviation sector, 314 from rail and 309 from shipping. (Editing by David Holmes)

48 hours in Rochester, New York,,,,

Synonymous with film photography, lilacs and classical music, Rochester offers an unusual array of attractions for a mid-sized U.S. city that brought industrial prowess to a scenic river gorge on Lake Ontario's southern shore.

From top-ranked golf courses and national-landmark house museums to a children's emporium of play and America's oldest municipal park-garden cemetery, the city in western New York is crammed with surprises for visitors of all interests.

 

Its glacier-carved linchpin is a trio of waterfalls trumpeting the Genesee River's thunderous descent into Lake Ontario.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in Rochester (pop. 210,855), variously known over two centuries as the Flour City, the Flower City and, less so of late, the World's Image Center.

FRIDAY

5:30 p.m. - Dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue (www.dinosaurbarbque.com), a honky tonk rib joint tucked into a former railroad station overlooking the river. Take in a view of the unstoppable torrent from the adjacent Court Street Bridge before digging in to brisket, cornbread and tomato-cucumber salad.

7 p.m. - Head back across the bridge to Blue Cross Arena (www.bluecrossarena.com) for a dash of ice-hockey escapades hollering on the Rochester Americans. For spring and summer alternatives, catch a Rochester Red Wings baseball game at Frontier Field (www.rochesterredwings.com) or the Rochester Rhinos soccer team at Sahlen's Stadium (www.rhinossoccer.com).

For people who prefer stage or dance, there's Geva Theatre (www.gevatheatre.org) or an occasional hometown performance by the top-notch Garth Fagan dance troupe (www.garthfagandance.org).

9:30 p.m. - End the day with a Genesee cream ale or Finger Lakes Riesling and a twirl on the dance floor at one of an assortment of bars and music halls that abound in the lively East End.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Try yogurt and granola plus an egg Danish - caramelized onions baked in fluffy pastry topped with an egg - at Flower City Bread in the Rochester Public Market (www.cityofrochester.gov/publicmarket). This magnet for bargain food shoppers, situated since 1905 on Union Street in the gritty northeast section, has a ring of casual eateries.

10:30 a.m. - Head to the Genesee River at its most spectacular stretch north of downtown for a peek into the city's water-powered origins. Repurposed factories and remnants of a once flourishing flour industry form a ghostly backdrop to the 90-foot (27.4 meter) cascade known as High Falls.

Among panoramic vantage points above the waterfall and its wide gorge basin are a pedestrian bridge and the rooftop patio of a pub-style restaurant in Genesee Beer and Ale brewery (www.geneseebeer.com/brew-house).

For more outdoors adventure, take a short drive north to a path behind Maplewood Park's rose garden that descends close to river level in the nearly 200-foot-deep gorge.

11:30 a.m. - The red-brick Victorian home of women's rights crusader Susan B. Anthony (www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) is a highlight among memorials concentrated in upstate New York that extol women's achievements in molding the nation.

Step into the parlor where Anthony was arrested after daring to vote in 1872. The home contains the trademark alligator bag she carried on frequent travels, and the bed she died in after delivering her "Failure is Impossible" speech in Washington in 1906.

_0">

12:30 - Cross downtown into the South Wedge neighborhood for lunch at Mise en Place (miseenplacemarket.com), a modest grocery-cum-diner with window tables looking out at a string of rib restaurants, pubs and bakeries along South Avenue. Cheesy Eddie's is a stalwart for cheesecake, while newcomers include The Little Bleu Cheese Shop and Hedonist Artisan Chocolates and Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream.

_1">

1:30 p.m. - Memorial Art Gallery (mag.rochester.edu), located for 100 years in an Italian Renaissance-style architectural gem in the East-side arts district, features an eclectic collection of 12,000 works of art, from Impressionist paintings to metal sculptures by hometown luminary Albert Paley.

_2">

Search out the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America, a 600-pipe, fully restored instrument built around 1770 that is played at periodic recitals by students at the acclaimed Eastman School of Music.

_3">

Children in tow? A popular alternative is The Strong (www.museumofplay.org), the second-largest museum devoted to children in the United States. Among dozens of interactive educational exhibits are a butterfly garden, a streetscape from television's Sesame Street and a whaling ship.

_4">

3 p.m. - Stroll from the art gallery along University Avenue. Dawdle over coffee or antiques at the Flatiron building or photo art at Image City Photography Gallery.

_5">

3:30 p.m. - The walk extends to George Eastman House (www.eastmanhouse.org), the world's oldest museum of photography and motion pictures with an archive of 400,000 images stretching back to 1830s daguerreotypes.

_6">

View old cameras, famous original photos and film reels at Eastman's majestic 1905 Colonial Revival mansion and villa-style gardens. The patriarch of popular photography, Eastman founded Eastman Kodak Co, which ruled the world of film photography for over a century but has been brought to its knees by a swift shift to the digital technology it helped pioneer but couldn't capitalize on.

_7">

6:30 p.m. - For a cut-above meal, try the restaurant Good Luck (www.restaurantgoodluck.com). Its tapas-style dishes are meant to be shared, from red lentils to smoked pork shank.

_8">

9 p.m. - Head to The Little (www.thelittle.org) for an indie, foreign or art film in a funky 1929 Art Deco theater on East Avenue.

_9">

SUNDAY

_10">

8:30 a.m. - Start the day with French toast or Eggs Benedict at The Frog Pond (eatatthefrogpond.com/) in the fashionable Park Avenue district.

_11">

10 a.m. - On the edge of downtown is Mount Hope Cemetery (www.cityofrochester.gov/mounthope), a 196-acre arboretum favored by dog walkers, history buffs and curious souls. A classic example of a pre-Civil War "rural cemetery," Mount Hope is a heavily wooded jumble of ridges, ravines and meadows with gravestones and mausoleums set amid fountains, ornate sculptures and stone terraces fringed with wildflowers and pines.

_12">

11 a.m. - Across the street, stroll through Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Highland Park (www.monroecounty.gov/parks-highland.php), famous for its lilac bushes and a floral, food, art and musical festival in May that serves as the true advent of spring in a city where snowfall tops 100 inches (2.5 meters) in a typical winter.

_13">

12:30 - Lunch at The Food Bar in the suburb of Pittsford.

_14">

1:30 p.m. - Tee off at one of the Rochester region's 90-plus golf courses to get a feel for the undulating, tree-framed terrain the world's top golfers will encounter at two majors here this year: the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Pittsford on August 5-11 and the Wegmans LPGA Championship at nearby Locust Hill from June 3-9 (www.golfrochesterguide.net/). (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jim Marshall)

_15">

Top 10 stopover stays,,,,,

Spending a night between destinations in a stopover city and need a place to stay? Online boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) have come up with 10 hotels for a memorable stopover. Reuters has not endorsed this list.

_0">

1. Best for resort relaxation: Capella Singapore, Singapore Languishing on Sentosa Island, just a 15-minute taxi hop south of the city centre, Capella Singapore hotel in Singapore feels a relaxing world away. A tranquil resort, the 112-room heritage-modern hybrid has a graceful colonial building, art works dotted around the manicured grounds and a triple-tier pool with South China Sea views.

2. Best for gourmet dining: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, China

A day-spa with 113 contemporary guest rooms, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong gives good stopover. This stylish skyscraper is in the heart of Central's retail district. After a hard day's shopping, bag a table at two-Michelin-starred Amber restaurant, a gold-hued space where chef Richard Ekkebus whips up modern French cuisine.

3. Best for sports-meets-shopping: Desert Palm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Desert Palm hotel in Dubai is sister to the Maldives' Huvafen Fushi. This 38-room Italo-Arab urban retreat sprawls over a private polo estate. Saddle up at the riding school, play a game of tennis or soak up views of the polo fields from the lavish outdoor pool. Juggle bargain-hunting in the souks with holistic pampering at in-house spa Lime.

4. Best for a riverside retreat: The Siam, Bangkok, Thailand

The art-deco Siam hotel in Bangkok has a calm aura thanks to its riverside setting in the exclusive royal Dusit quarter. Boasting Bangkok's only pool villas, it has 39 spacious boudoirs with a Thai cooking school, a Muay Thai kickboxing gym, screening room and Spa by Sodashi.

5. Best for chilling out: Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A sanctuary in the capital's leafy embassy enclave, Villa Samadhi hotel in Kuala Lumpur takes its name from the Sanskrit word for 'journey'. There are 21 private rooms arranged around a curvy, central pool. In-house Mandi-Mandi restaurant serves Malay and Italian fare or the hotel can point you to its smart sister restaurants in town.

6. Best for city buzz: Dean Street Townhouse, London, UK

The ultra-central Dean Street Townhouse hotel in Soho is in the middle of the action. Surrounded by a warren of happening cafés, bars and restaurants and tempting shopping, you can access all areas here, including theatres, museums and art galleries. With just 39 rooms, this hip haven also plays host to a very British brasserie, peppered with art works by Hirst, Emin and co..

7. Best for rooftop romance: Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles, United States

Just off Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Petit Ermitage boutique hotel in Los Angeles brings bohemian romance to a sojourn in LA. Dine in the outdoor restaurant which doubles as a butterfly and hummingbird haven, watch the sunset from the deck by the outdoor fireplace or sip a mojito by the rooftop pool. The owner's art collection adds drama to the 80 suites.

8. Best for surf style: The Modern Honolulu, Honolulu, United States

The Modern Honolulu boutique hotel near Waikiki Beach makes for a soft landing. Surfboards decorate the lobby and the 353 white rooms star ukuleles and vibrant sarongs. Hawaiian culture continues with Lomi Lomi spa massages and there are two pools.

9. Best for intimate affairs: Hotel DeBrett, Auckland, New Zealand

_0">

The intimate 25-room Hotel DeBrett in Auckland , right in the CBD, is just a stroll from the best shopping, bar-cruising and island-hopping. Art deco goes Pop indoors, with rainbow-bright, stripy rugs, retro furniture and kooky bedheads. Outside, High Street hosts many of the best NZ fashion labels for smart souvenirs.

_1">

10. Best for a hipster haven: Hôtel Americano, New York, United States

_2">

Hip Hôtel Americano in New York is just a hop from artsy Chelsea. This 56-room hot spot is a hit with the fashion set. Bedrooms have a minimal ryokan feel, with sleek, low-rise platform beds and there is an edgy rooftop pool and bar. (Editing by Elaine Lies)

_3">

Lawmakers hover as more homeowners rent rooms to visitors,,,,,

For British student Carly Connor a trip to London for a city break would be impossible if she had to pay for a hotel so instead she rents a room in a Londoner's home.

Connor, 26, is among a growing number of people taking advantage of a surge in the number of homeowners offering to rent out a room for a night or longer, with the cash a welcome addition to recession-squeezed budgets.

 

This new wave of hospitality sweeping the travel industry was sparked by the success of "couch surfing", where people could go online to book a free bed in a home, and is being led by a blitz of new websites that let tourists bypass resorts and hotels.

"A lot of the time you find yourself with a host who is more than happy to point you in the direction of a few local hot spots that you otherwise would have missed entirely," Connor told Reuters.

But the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer rentals has lawmakers on the alert in some countries, scrutinising tax, health and safety, and rental infringements.

Martin Buck, a director at ITB, the world's largest travel fair, said the popularity of homestays was fuelled by websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, 9flats, and HouseTrip, where users post listings for short-term rentals of all or part of their home.

Listings on Airbnb, the biggest site, have surged to about 300,000 in 192 countries from 10,000 in late 2009, with the website taking a cut on all bookings. The listings include everything from New York apartments to Costa Rican tree houses.

But Buck said unregulated homestay sites and concerns that these were actually illegal hotels was a hot topic in many places including Berlin, the headquarters of Wimdu and 9flats.

"There is talk in some areas of Berlin of prohibiting it," he told Reuters. "But can you really prevent people from using their privately owned homes as they want? It raises a whole lot of constitutional and human rights questions."

HOME OR ILLEGAL HOTEL?

Renting out a room is legal in London, up to a level.

The British government's "Rent a Room Scheme" allows householders to earn 4,250 pounds a year tax-free from letting furnished accommodation.

For the past year, Peter Tompkins has charged about 700 pounds a week to rent a spare bedroom in his apartment in the clock tower above London's St Pancras train station from where views stretch to St Paul's Cathedral.

Tompkins said he uses Airbnb to rent the room, reassured by the company's 600,000 pound insurance guarantee to hosts, as well as a 24-hour support line. He said it was important to have a professional relationship with guests akin to a hotel.

"I think you ought to behave as a hotel or regulated organisation would, but I am conscious that there's no regulation on me. I just try and behave well," he told Reuters.

The growing popularity of Airbnb, which has processed around five million paid overnight stays since 2008, is starting to cause friction with some lawmakers.

_0">

According to Inc., a U.S.-based magazine focused on growing private companies, Airbnb made around $100 million in 2012, with the estimate based on the site's six to 12 percent commission on each room booked.

_1">

Wimdu is Airbnb's next-biggest competitor with 150,000 properties on its books since it began in 2011. It would not divulge its revenues. Rival 9flats has 90,000 properties.

_2">

Airbnb, set up in 2008, maintains the law needs to distinguish between people who occasionally rent out rooms and landlords who illegally run residential buildings as hotels.

_3">

Airbnb is currently lobbying authorities in Washington, DC, for a review on rental laws in the United States, seeking to craft a model for cities across the world to follow.

_4">

Company spokesperson Christopher Lukezic said he understood this movement was "growing within unchartered waters" as in the previous homestay trend, couch surfing, no money changed hands.

_5">

"Our typical host is a regular resident, who, on average, is only renting out their home for a few weeks a year, helping them to make ends meet," Lukezic told Reuters.

_6">

"Not only does it help increase the number of tourists who can afford to visit a city but it also creates economic prosperity for the citizens of the city who are hosts, often in parts of the cities where there are no hotels."

_7">

While lawmakers are raising concerns about the home-stay trend, the travel industry is unperturbed as it does not expect to see any profit squeeze on hotels.

_8">

Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer of CitizenM, a Dutch boutique hotel group with a growing portfolio across Europe, said services like Airbnb have made city trips more affordable for longer stays and family groups.

_9">

"But hotels will always be safer, offer more facilities and offer service, which apartments cannot," he said.

_10">

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

_11">

Lawmakers hover as more homeowners rent rooms to visitors,,,,,

For British student Carly Connor a trip to London for a city break would be impossible if she had to pay for a hotel so instead she rents a room in a Londoner's home.

Connor, 26, is among a growing number of people taking advantage of a surge in the number of homeowners offering to rent out a room for a night or longer, with the cash a welcome addition to recession-squeezed budgets.

 

This new wave of hospitality sweeping the travel industry was sparked by the success of "couch surfing", where people could go online to book a free bed in a home, and is being led by a blitz of new websites that let tourists bypass resorts and hotels.

"A lot of the time you find yourself with a host who is more than happy to point you in the direction of a few local hot spots that you otherwise would have missed entirely," Connor told Reuters.

But the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer rentals has lawmakers on the alert in some countries, scrutinising tax, health and safety, and rental infringements.

Martin Buck, a director at ITB, the world's largest travel fair, said the popularity of homestays was fuelled by websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, 9flats, and HouseTrip, where users post listings for short-term rentals of all or part of their home.

Listings on Airbnb, the biggest site, have surged to about 300,000 in 192 countries from 10,000 in late 2009, with the website taking a cut on all bookings. The listings include everything from New York apartments to Costa Rican tree houses.

But Buck said unregulated homestay sites and concerns that these were actually illegal hotels was a hot topic in many places including Berlin, the headquarters of Wimdu and 9flats.

"There is talk in some areas of Berlin of prohibiting it," he told Reuters. "But can you really prevent people from using their privately owned homes as they want? It raises a whole lot of constitutional and human rights questions."

HOME OR ILLEGAL HOTEL?

Renting out a room is legal in London, up to a level.

The British government's "Rent a Room Scheme" allows householders to earn 4,250 pounds a year tax-free from letting furnished accommodation.

For the past year, Peter Tompkins has charged about 700 pounds a week to rent a spare bedroom in his apartment in the clock tower above London's St Pancras train station from where views stretch to St Paul's Cathedral.

Tompkins said he uses Airbnb to rent the room, reassured by the company's 600,000 pound insurance guarantee to hosts, as well as a 24-hour support line. He said it was important to have a professional relationship with guests akin to a hotel.

"I think you ought to behave as a hotel or regulated organisation would, but I am conscious that there's no regulation on me. I just try and behave well," he told Reuters.

The growing popularity of Airbnb, which has processed around five million paid overnight stays since 2008, is starting to cause friction with some lawmakers.

_0">

According to Inc., a U.S.-based magazine focused on growing private companies, Airbnb made around $100 million in 2012, with the estimate based on the site's six to 12 percent commission on each room booked.

_1">

Wimdu is Airbnb's next-biggest competitor with 150,000 properties on its books since it began in 2011. It would not divulge its revenues. Rival 9flats has 90,000 properties.

_2">

Airbnb, set up in 2008, maintains the law needs to distinguish between people who occasionally rent out rooms and landlords who illegally run residential buildings as hotels.

_3">

Airbnb is currently lobbying authorities in Washington, DC, for a review on rental laws in the United States, seeking to craft a model for cities across the world to follow.

_4">

Company spokesperson Christopher Lukezic said he understood this movement was "growing within unchartered waters" as in the previous homestay trend, couch surfing, no money changed hands.

_5">

"Our typical host is a regular resident, who, on average, is only renting out their home for a few weeks a year, helping them to make ends meet," Lukezic told Reuters.

_6">

"Not only does it help increase the number of tourists who can afford to visit a city but it also creates economic prosperity for the citizens of the city who are hosts, often in parts of the cities where there are no hotels."

_7">

While lawmakers are raising concerns about the home-stay trend, the travel industry is unperturbed as it does not expect to see any profit squeeze on hotels.

_8">

Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer of CitizenM, a Dutch boutique hotel group with a growing portfolio across Europe, said services like Airbnb have made city trips more affordable for longer stays and family groups.

_9">

"But hotels will always be safer, offer more facilities and offer service, which apartments cannot," he said.

_10">

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

_11">

U.S. appeals court revives lawsuit vs United Airlines over wheelchair

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against United Continental Holdings Inc's United Airlines that was brought by a woman who claimed she was not promptly provided a wheelchair in an airport when she asked for one.

The opinion, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said federal law did not pre-empt the woman's personal injury claims under state law.

A representative for United could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mark Meuser, an attorney for plaintiff Michelle Gilstrap, who has difficulty walking, said some lower court judges had disagreed about whether individuals should be able to bring claims for injuries in an airplane or terminal.

"This is a really big deal for disabled Americans across the country," Meuser said.

Gilstrap had difficulty walking due to a collapsed disc in her back and osteoarthritis, according to the court opinion. During two separate plane trips in 2008 and 2009, she alleged that United failed to supply a wheelchair on some occasions.

 

She also said United agents yelled at her, doubted whether she really needed a wheelchair and ordered her to stand in line, which she could not do because of her condition.

Gilstrap sued, and a Los Angeles federal judge dismissed her case. In Tuesday's three-judge ruling, the 9th Circuit said Gilstrap could not pursue her claims under the Americans for Disabilities Act.

However, the court ruled that Gilstrap's claims, including emotional distress and negligence, under state law were not pre-empted by the Air Carrier Access Act. The appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Michelle Gilstrap vs. United Air Lines Inc., 11-55271.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Norway's Arctic idyll shivers at oil plans

Oil companies seeking new Arctic areas for exploration face a battle with environmentalists, fishermen and hotel owners over Norwegian islands where jagged snow-capped peaks rise sheer from the sea.

With oil production falling to a 25-year low this year and the state depending on oil revenues, Norway's ruling Labour Party is warming to drilling in Lofoten's pristine waters, setting up the issue as the year's biggest political fight ahead of elections in September.

"We've already got the winning lottery ticket by living in Norway. We shouldn't want to be even richer," said Erling Santi, a fisherman in Svolvaer, Lofoten's main town.

"Oil drilling could drive the fish away," said Santi who is also the managing director of Saga Fish, a cod packing plant.

Norway is one of the world's most prosperous nations with per capital GDP in excess of $100,000 but the fortunes of remote Lofoten, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Oslo, have been mixed. Unemployment remains above the national average and its young leave the area in search of jobs.

Lofoten has been off limits for exploration since Norway first struck oil in 1969, reflecting fears about nature in a scenic Arctic region that is a spawning ground for the world's richest cod stocks and home to sea eagles and puffins.

BP Plc's ( id="symbol_BP.L_0">BP.L) Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, may have added to scepticism.

After Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg came down in favour of studying drilling last month, Norway's top three parties on left and right are now open to the idea, pitting them against smaller parties and many of Lofoten's own residents.

The fight will also be a test for how the industry and politics handle the move northward, with sights firmly set on the high Arctic, including the frozen Svalbard archipelago.

VIKINGS

Backers say oil and gas finds are getting scarcer and that new technology means the risks of accidents are low enough to explore waters off Lofoten and the neighbouring Vesteraalen islands where cod has been king since Viking days.

"We need Lofoten but most of all, Lofoten needs the oil industry," said Knut Saeberg, chief financial officer CFO.L of North Energy ( id="symbol_NORTH.OL_2">NORTH.OL), which is based in Alta higher in the Arctic. He said Lofoten needed jobs to counter a drift away.

Eivind Holst, the Conservative mayor of the Svolvaer region where the crest of arms depicts a large cod, said he was in principle in favour of oil and gas, partly as a source of jobs.

Lofoten's population has fallen to 24,000 people from above 30,000 in the early 20th century, with many moving to cities.

"There isn't necessarily a contradiction between running an industry and enjoying nature. It just has to be done carefully," he said. "Tourists don't come to Lofoten to see oil platforms in the midnight sun."

A ban on seismic surveys in the cod spawning season early each year and use of sub-sea installations were among measures that would protect fish stocks and tourism if the planned assessment gave a green light, he said.

_0">

A government report suggested that oil and gas in Lofoten could create 400 to 1,100 new jobs to the northwestern region. Hammerfest to the north has boomed as the landing area for gas from Statoil's ( id="symbol_STL.OL_3">STL.OL) Snoehvit field, he noted.

_1">

"The longer you wait, the fewer benefits you get," he said. "And there hasn't been an accident like the Gulf of Mexico here - knock on wood." He rapped his knuckles on a wooden table for good luck.

_2">

OIL OUTPUT HALVED

_3">

Oil output by Norway, the world's number seven exporter, fell to 1.5 million barrels per day in January and even a string of big finds, set to come online in the second half of the decade, will only halt the rate of decline.

_4">

"The industry needs access to new areas on a regular basis to sustain activities," said Einar Gjelsvik, chief executive of Noreco, an oil producer. ( id="symbol_NOR.OL_4">NOR.OL)

_5">

Lofoten could hold 8 percent of Norway's undiscovered oil and gas resources, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says.

_6">

It says that seismic tests have identified 50 prospects off Lofoten that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

_7">

"We are developing new technology to reduce the risk," said Leif Borge, CFO of Aker Solutions ( id="symbol_AKSO.OL_5">AKSO.OL). "Down the road, it's probably an important area."

_8">

Norway's worst oil spills were the Ekofisk Bravo blowout in the North Sea in 1977 that spilt 80,000 barrels and a spill of 27,500 barrels at the Statfjord field.

_9">

"You can never be relaxed about safety but you can see that Norway's controls are so much better than the Gulf of Mexico," said Geoff Turbott, CFO at Lundin Petroleum ( id="symbol_LUPE.ST_6">LUPE.ST). "Opening the area is many years away and even from then, the first drilling is 3-4 years away."

_10">

An opinion poll by InFact in February showed that 49 percent of almost 1,100 people in Nordland county, which includes Lofoten, opposed oil and gas production off the islands with 34 percent in favour and others undecided.

_11">

It also showed that 44 percent favoured an environmental impact assessment with 43 percent opposed. Lofoten's people will be consulted but will not decide on oil and gas.

_12">

Lofoten has Arctic winter darkness that complicates drilling but the warm Gulf Stream current keeps it ice free. It is warmer than where the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground off Alaska in 1989, even though it is further north.

_13">

Less chilly waters mean any oil would break down faster. "The problems for drilling here are the fish, the birds and the coastline," said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. "It's not typical of the Arctic."

_14">

The relative warmth makes Norway an exception for Arctic drilling - Shell has abandoned drilling off Alaska for this year after a string of setbacks in 2012.

_15">

Tourism operators fear that oil and gas could undermine business. "The oil can wait. We have had some big oil finds in recent years," said Ola Skjeseth, the biggest local hotel manager who runs 500 beds around Lofoten.

_0">

He said he was especially opposed to any oil or gas terminal on the islands, saying it would contradict publicly funded advertising campaigns that call Lofoten "the world's most beautiful coast" with white beaches and saw-tooth mountains.

_1">

And in winter, more tourists are starting to visit, hoping to see the northern lights, particles from the sun that can produce a show of green, pink and violet across the night sky.

_2">

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's decision to favour an environmental impact study aligns Labour with the opposition right-wing Conservatives and the Progress Party. That makes a study likely after the September election, unless the balance of power falls to a small party opposed to drilling.

_3">

Mayor Holst said that a melt of Arctic sea ice caused by global warming was a bigger environmental threat than oil and gas because it raising risks of shipwrecks, including tankers, on a likely new route between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

_4">

That would be a turnaround for Lofoten, which has sometimes benefited from shipwrecks. Some old buildings in Svolvaer are built with timber washed from 19th century Russian wrecks - cold means trees don't grow big and thick enough on the islands.

_5">

(Editing by William Hardy)

_6">

Carnival puts cruise fleet under microscope after ship fire

Carnival Corp ( id="symbol_CCL.N_0">CCL.N) ( id="symbol_CCL.LCCL.L) has launched a comprehensive review of its entire fleet after a fire crippled one of its ships last month, and will share its findings across the industry, Carnival Cruise Lines' chief executive told a conference on Tuesday.

_1">

The engine-room fire disabled the Bahamian-flagged Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving it adrift with more than 4,000 passengers and crew aboard. The accident made headlines around the world and comedians had a field day with the ensuing plumbing problems.

"We've started a comprehensive review of our entire fleet," Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill told the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference.

"It will take us a little bit of time to complete it but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority in the entire organization, it is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with some solutions that we can implement across our fleet," he said.

The company has assembled teams of fire safety experts, naval architects, electrical and mechanical engineers and engine manufacturers to conduct its own investigation, Cahill added.

The Triumph was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, when a leak in a fuel return line caused a fire in the aft engine room. The ship has two independent engine rooms but the fire damage knocked out both, Cahill said.

A diesel generator kicked in to run emergency services, but could not run what Cahill described as "hotel services", most notably the plumbing in the cabins.

Cahill said the company investigation would focus on fire prevention and suppression, engine-room backup systems, and on figuring out what hotel service facilities could be run with emergency generators.

Carnival is cooperating with ongoing investigations by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board and the Bahamian government, as well as a review by the Cruise Line International Association CLIA.L, he added.

Carnival Corp is the world's largest cruise line, with 100 ships under brands that include Carnival, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Seabourn and Costa.

RIPPLE EFFECT

Cruise executives frequently say the attention lavished on their competitors' new ships creates a rising tide of demand that benefits them all. Accidents cause similar ripples throughout the industry.

"The recent Triumph incident affects all of us," said Christine Duffy, president and chief executive of CLIA, which represents 58 cruise lines worldwide. "Even though such incidents are rare, we don't underestimate their impact."

Nonetheless, industry projections are chronically rosy. Cruising is a $36 billion industry worldwide, part of a $9.9 trillion global travel industry that represents 9 percent of global GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Some 20 million people took cruises last year and CLIA projects this year's total will rise 3.3 percent to hit 20.9 million.

"We have been the fastest-growing segment inside the travel industry," Duffy said.

_0">

Despite tough economic times, passenger numbers have risen every year over the last decade, she said. North America is still far and away the biggest source of cruise passengers, though the percentage from outside North America rose to 31 percent last year, from 9 percent in 2000.

_1">

Industry officials expect strong growth in China and other parts of Asia, where tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people are moving into the middle classes and eager to see the world.

_2">

"They may not be comfortable going on their own but are comfortable going on one of our ships," Duffy said.

_3">

The industry has added 168 new ships since 2000. Twenty-five more oceangoing and river-cruising ships will come on line in the next two years, but the pace is slowing, ending a glut of berths that had led to discounting.

_4">

Kevin Sheehan, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line ( id="symbol_NCLH.O_3">NCLH.O), which recently went public, predicted the industry would soon "move pricing to more respectable levels".

_5">

If the economy holds steady or improves slightly "then this industry will outperform", Sheehan said.

_6">

The cruise line chiefs say their industry is resilient, in part because it has good overall safety.

_7">

Sheehan called it "the safest, safest, safest vacation experience that anybody could ever have".

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Pierfrancesco Vago, chief executive of MSC Cruises, a privately owned European line, suggested vacationers have short memories. Last year's Costa Concordia accident caused bookings in Italy to plummet, especially scaring away first-time cruisers, he said.

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Bookings are still erratic, but are growing again, in part because cruising is perceived as good value, he said.

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"It's amazing how this 2012 has been forgotten. We've seen already the new wave season, 2013, that the first-comers are coming back again," Vago said. "2013 is looking much better, stronger."

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(Editing by David Adams and Dale Hudson)

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London keeps global edge as top transport finance hub

London remains the top financing centre for the global transport industry, although it faces stiff competition from New York and capitals in Asia Pacific as companies seek to tap more funding sources, a survey showed on Friday.

Some 37 per cent of respondents from the global aviation, rail and shipping sectors ranked London as the key financial centre for transport, followed by New York at 14 percent and Singapore at 7 percent, the survey by international law firm Norton Rose found.

 

"London and New York remain key financial centres for the transport industry but are looking over their shoulders at Asia which is growing in importance," said Harry Theochari, global head of transport at Norton Rose.

Of those canvassed, 43 percent from the rail industry said London was most favoured as a financing hub, followed by 40 percent in the shipping sector and 31 percent in aviation.

The annual survey by Norton Rose, now in its fourth year, is one of the transport sector's leading barometers of market conditions, especially for the shipping community.

While London has a 300-year history as a leading finance, insurance and legal centre for the shipping industry, the survey said companies were looking at alternatives due to tough trading conditions, exemplified by a warning last month from Frontline ( id="symbol_FRO.OL_0">FRO.OL), one of the world's biggest tanker operators.

Frontline said it may miss bond repayments due in 2015 and be forced to restructure again if the market's depression continues.

"A dramatic reduction in the availability of debt finance in the London market means that shipping is increasingly turning to structured finance and private equity," Theochari said.

"This gives New York a distinct advantage, as it has the largest capital markets in the world and far greater access to private equity than any other global financial centre."

The survey canvassed views from 1,006 participants from a range of companies involved in transport including financiers, ship owners and operators, manufacturers, builders and industry advisors. Those polled comprised 383 from the aviation sector, 314 from rail and 309 from shipping. (Editing by David Holmes)

BlackBerry plans security feature for Android, iPhone

BlackBerry will offer technology to separate and make secure both work and personal data on mobile devices powered by Google Inc's Android platform and by Apple Inc's iOS operating system, the company said on Thursday.

The new feature could help BlackBerry sell high-margin services to enterprise clients even if many, or all, of their workers are using smartphones made by BlackBerry's competitors. That may be crucial for the company as it has lost a vast amount of market share to the iPhone and to Android devices, such as Samsung Electronics Co's ( id="symbol_005930.KS_0">005930.KS) Galaxy line.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said he expects BlackBerry's device management software to gain traction this year, and boost revenue next year.

"Supporting devices with the best, most secure, and easiest-to-use mobile solution should enable RIM to transform into what we believe is an attractive model," he said in a note to clients.

 

The offering could help BlackBerry shore up its profitable services business. BlackBerry's shares plunged in December after it said it would change the way it charges for services, cutting fees for customers that do not need advanced security and other enhanced features.

The new Secure Work Space feature will be available before the end of June, and will be managed through BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, the platform that allows BlackBerry's corporate and government clients to handle devices using different operating systems on their networks.

BlackBerry said the feature fences off corporate email, calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, web browsing and document editing from personal apps and content, which could be less secure.

BALANCING ACT

In a bid to regain market share and return to profit, BlackBerry introduced a new line of smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system earlier this year.

The touch screen version, dubbed the Z10, is on sale in more than 20 countries, while a device called the Q10, with a physical keyboard, will be available in April.

The new devices have a feature called Balance, which keeps corporate and personal data separate. It allows information technology departments to manage the corporate content on a device, while ensuring privacy for users, who can store and use personal apps and content on the same phone without corporate oversight.

With Secure Work Space, "we're extending as many of these (Balance) features as possible to other platforms," David Smith, BlackBerry's head of mobile enterprise computing, said in a statement.

BlackBerry's move comes as Samsung, whose Galaxy devices have gained great popularity, attempts to make itself a more viable option for business customers with security features such as Samsung Knox and SAFE, or Samsung for Enterprise.

BlackBerry said Secure Work Space means clients would not need to configure and manage expensive virtual private network VPN.L infrastructure in order to give workers' devices access to data and applications that reside behind corporate firewalls.

"Secure Work Space also offers the same end-to-end encryption for data in transit as we have offered on BlackBerry for many years, so there is no need for a VPN," Peter Devenyi, head of enterprise software, said in an interview.

SELLING SERVICES

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The new feature could also help stem declines in BlackBerry's service revenue. That business has long been a cash cow for BlackBerry because of the large clients that pay to use its extensive network and security offerings.

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However, the company has been under pressure to reduce its infrastructure access fees, and opted to do so during the transition to BlackBerry 10. Due to the changes, BlackBerry's service revenue is expected to decline over the course of this year.

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Giving its large array of corporate clients the ability to manage BlackBerry devices, along with Android smartphones and iPhones on their networks might encourage both corporate and government clients to continue to pay for and use BlackBerry's device management services.

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BlackBerry plans to report quarterly results on March 28.

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Last week, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said sales of the Z10 had surpassed BlackBerry's expectations in emerging markets such as India, where cheaper entry-level phones are typically popular.

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On Wednesday, the company said it had received an order for 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones - the largest order it has ever had from a single customer - and its shares jumped.

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BlackBerry's volatile stock closed up 8.2 percent at $15.65 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, while its Toronto-listed shares rose by a similar margin to C$16.04.

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The shares pared gains on Thursday, falling 2.3 percent to $15.29 in late morning trading on the Nasdaq. In Toronto, its shares were 2 percent lower at C$15.72. (Reporting by Euan Rocha and Allison Martell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Galloway)

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48 hours in Rochester, New York

Synonymous with film photography, lilacs and classical music, Rochester offers an unusual array of attractions for a mid-sized U.S. city that brought industrial prowess to a scenic river gorge on Lake Ontario's southern shore.

From top-ranked golf courses and national-landmark house museums to a children's emporium of play and America's oldest municipal park-garden cemetery, the city in western New York is crammed with surprises for visitors of all interests.

Its glacier-carved linchpin is a trio of waterfalls trumpeting the Genesee River's thunderous descent into Lake Ontario.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in Rochester (pop. 210,855), variously known over two centuries as the Flour City, the Flower City and, less so of late, the World's Image Center.

FRIDAY

5:30 p.m. - Dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue (www.dinosaurbarbque.com), a honky tonk rib joint tucked into a former railroad station overlooking the river. Take in a view of the unstoppable torrent from the adjacent Court Street Bridge before digging in to brisket, cornbread and tomato-cucumber salad.

7 p.m. - Head back across the bridge to Blue Cross Arena (www.bluecrossarena.com) for a dash of ice-hockey escapades hollering on the Rochester Americans. For spring and summer alternatives, catch a Rochester Red Wings baseball game at Frontier Field (www.rochesterredwings.com) or the Rochester Rhinos soccer team at Sahlen's Stadium (www.rhinossoccer.com).

For people who prefer stage or dance, there's Geva Theatre (www.gevatheatre.org) or an occasional hometown performance by the top-notch Garth Fagan dance troupe (www.garthfagandance.org).

9:30 p.m. - End the day with a Genesee cream ale or Finger Lakes Riesling and a twirl on the dance floor at one of an assortment of bars and music halls that abound in the lively East End.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Try yogurt and granola plus an egg Danish - caramelized onions baked in fluffy pastry topped with an egg - at Flower City Bread in the Rochester Public Market (www.cityofrochester.gov/publicmarket). This magnet for bargain food shoppers, situated since 1905 on Union Street in the gritty northeast section, has a ring of casual eateries.

10:30 a.m. - Head to the Genesee River at its most spectacular stretch north of downtown for a peek into the city's water-powered origins. Repurposed factories and remnants of a once flourishing flour industry form a ghostly backdrop to the 90-foot (27.4 meter) cascade known as High Falls.

Among panoramic vantage points above the waterfall and its wide gorge basin are a pedestrian bridge and the rooftop patio of a pub-style restaurant in Genesee Beer and Ale brewery (www.geneseebeer.com/brew-house).

For more outdoors adventure, take a short drive north to a path behind Maplewood Park's rose garden that descends close to river level in the nearly 200-foot-deep gorge.

11:30 a.m. - The red-brick Victorian home of women's rights crusader Susan B. Anthony (www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) is a highlight among memorials concentrated in upstate New York that extol women's achievements in molding the nation.

Step into the parlor where Anthony was arrested after daring to vote in 1872. The home contains the trademark alligator bag she carried on frequent travels, and the bed she died in after delivering her "Failure is Impossible" speech in Washington in 1906.

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12:30 - Cross downtown into the South Wedge neighborhood for lunch at Mise en Place (miseenplacemarket.com), a modest grocery-cum-diner with window tables looking out at a string of rib restaurants, pubs and bakeries along South Avenue. Cheesy Eddie's is a stalwart for cheesecake, while newcomers include The Little Bleu Cheese Shop and Hedonist Artisan Chocolates and Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream.

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1:30 p.m. - Memorial Art Gallery (mag.rochester.edu), located for 100 years in an Italian Renaissance-style architectural gem in the East-side arts district, features an eclectic collection of 12,000 works of art, from Impressionist paintings to metal sculptures by hometown luminary Albert Paley.

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Search out the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America, a 600-pipe, fully restored instrument built around 1770 that is played at periodic recitals by students at the acclaimed Eastman School of Music.

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Children in tow? A popular alternative is The Strong (www.museumofplay.org), the second-largest museum devoted to children in the United States. Among dozens of interactive educational exhibits are a butterfly garden, a streetscape from television's Sesame Street and a whaling ship.

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3 p.m. - Stroll from the art gallery along University Avenue. Dawdle over coffee or antiques at the Flatiron building or photo art at Image City Photography Gallery.

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3:30 p.m. - The walk extends to George Eastman House (www.eastmanhouse.org), the world's oldest museum of photography and motion pictures with an archive of 400,000 images stretching back to 1830s daguerreotypes.

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View old cameras, famous original photos and film reels at Eastman's majestic 1905 Colonial Revival mansion and villa-style gardens. The patriarch of popular photography, Eastman founded Eastman Kodak Co, which ruled the world of film photography for over a century but has been brought to its knees by a swift shift to the digital technology it helped pioneer but couldn't capitalize on.

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6:30 p.m. - For a cut-above meal, try the restaurant Good Luck (www.restaurantgoodluck.com). Its tapas-style dishes are meant to be shared, from red lentils to smoked pork shank.

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9 p.m. - Head to The Little (www.thelittle.org) for an indie, foreign or art film in a funky 1929 Art Deco theater on East Avenue.

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SUNDAY

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8:30 a.m. - Start the day with French toast or Eggs Benedict at The Frog Pond (eatatthefrogpond.com/) in the fashionable Park Avenue district.

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10 a.m. - On the edge of downtown is Mount Hope Cemetery (www.cityofrochester.gov/mounthope), a 196-acre arboretum favored by dog walkers, history buffs and curious souls. A classic example of a pre-Civil War "rural cemetery," Mount Hope is a heavily wooded jumble of ridges, ravines and meadows with gravestones and mausoleums set amid fountains, ornate sculptures and stone terraces fringed with wildflowers and pines.

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11 a.m. - Across the street, stroll through Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Highland Park (www.monroecounty.gov/parks-highland.php), famous for its lilac bushes and a floral, food, art and musical festival in May that serves as the true advent of spring in a city where snowfall tops 100 inches (2.5 meters) in a typical winter.

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12:30 - Lunch at The Food Bar in the suburb of Pittsford.

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1:30 p.m. - Tee off at one of the Rochester region's 90-plus golf courses to get a feel for the undulating, tree-framed terrain the world's top golfers will encounter at two majors here this year: the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Pittsford on August 5-11 and the Wegmans LPGA Championship at nearby Locust Hill from June 3-9 (www.golfrochesterguide.net/). (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jim Marshall)

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Top 10 stopover stays

Spending a night between destinations in a stopover city and need a place to stay? Online boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) have come up with 10 hotels for a memorable stopover. Reuters has not endorsed this list.

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1. Best for resort relaxation: Capella Singapore, Singapore Languishing on Sentosa Island, just a 15-minute taxi hop south of the city centre, Capella Singapore hotel in Singapore feels a relaxing world away. A tranquil resort, the 112-room heritage-modern hybrid has a graceful colonial building, art works dotted around the manicured grounds and a triple-tier pool with South China Sea views.

2. Best for gourmet dining: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, China

A day-spa with 113 contemporary guest rooms, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong gives good stopover. This stylish skyscraper is in the heart of Central's retail district. After a hard day's shopping, bag a table at two-Michelin-starred Amber restaurant, a gold-hued space where chef Richard Ekkebus whips up modern French cuisine.

3. Best for sports-meets-shopping: Desert Palm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Desert Palm hotel in Dubai is sister to the Maldives' Huvafen Fushi. This 38-room Italo-Arab urban retreat sprawls over a private polo estate. Saddle up at the riding school, play a game of tennis or soak up views of the polo fields from the lavish outdoor pool. Juggle bargain-hunting in the souks with holistic pampering at in-house spa Lime.

4. Best for a riverside retreat: The Siam, Bangkok, Thailand

The art-deco Siam hotel in Bangkok has a calm aura thanks to its riverside setting in the exclusive royal Dusit quarter. Boasting Bangkok's only pool villas, it has 39 spacious boudoirs with a Thai cooking school, a Muay Thai kickboxing gym, screening room and Spa by Sodashi.

5. Best for chilling out: Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A sanctuary in the capital's leafy embassy enclave, Villa Samadhi hotel in Kuala Lumpur takes its name from the Sanskrit word for 'journey'. There are 21 private rooms arranged around a curvy, central pool. In-house Mandi-Mandi restaurant serves Malay and Italian fare or the hotel can point you to its smart sister restaurants in town.

6. Best for city buzz: Dean Street Townhouse, London, UK

The ultra-central Dean Street Townhouse hotel in Soho is in the middle of the action. Surrounded by a warren of happening cafés, bars and restaurants and tempting shopping, you can access all areas here, including theatres, museums and art galleries. With just 39 rooms, this hip haven also plays host to a very British brasserie, peppered with art works by Hirst, Emin and co..

7. Best for rooftop romance: Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles, United States

Just off Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Petit Ermitage boutique hotel in Los Angeles brings bohemian romance to a sojourn in LA. Dine in the outdoor restaurant which doubles as a butterfly and hummingbird haven, watch the sunset from the deck by the outdoor fireplace or sip a mojito by the rooftop pool. The owner's art collection adds drama to the 80 suites.

8. Best for surf style: The Modern Honolulu, Honolulu, United States

The Modern Honolulu boutique hotel near Waikiki Beach makes for a soft landing. Surfboards decorate the lobby and the 353 white rooms star ukuleles and vibrant sarongs. Hawaiian culture continues with Lomi Lomi spa massages and there are two pools.

9. Best for intimate affairs: Hotel DeBrett, Auckland, New Zealand

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The intimate 25-room Hotel DeBrett in Auckland , right in the CBD, is just a stroll from the best shopping, bar-cruising and island-hopping. Art deco goes Pop indoors, with rainbow-bright, stripy rugs, retro furniture and kooky bedheads. Outside, High Street hosts many of the best NZ fashion labels for smart souvenirs.

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10. Best for a hipster haven: Hôtel Americano, New York, United States

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Hip Hôtel Americano in New York is just a hop from artsy Chelsea. This 56-room hot spot is a hit with the fashion set. Bedrooms have a minimal ryokan feel, with sleek, low-rise platform beds and there is an edgy rooftop pool and bar. (Editing by Elaine Lies)

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