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Top 10 Travel Happenings 2012

London 2012

2012 brought us an abundance of memorable travel happenings. From space explorations to international sporting events and then some unfortunate travel stories, we’re paying tribute to the year gone by.

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Costa Concordia: Tuscany’s Giglio Island, 13 January 2012

Costa ConcordiaCosta Concordia - Before

Twice as heavy as the Titanic and officially the largest passenger shipwreck (by tonnage) in history, the Costa Concordia has become the biggest and most complex recovery ever attempted.

What began as a week-long Mediterranean cruise, soon plunged into an international disaster when the cruise liner, while doing a ‘sail-by’ of Giglio’s port, struck a reef, tearing a 230-foot gash in its side. It took six hours to try evacuate the 4,300 passengers and crew on board, with some people resorting to jumping into the water for safety. 32 lives were lost that night, but not that of the infamous Captain Francesco Schettino, who reportedly only abandoned ship when he "accidentally tripped" into a lifeboat.

Costa Concordia collisionCosta Concordia - After

The Costa Concordia now rests in the shallow waters of Giglio Island’s protected marine area, which the Italian authorities are determined to preserve. As such, a £187 million project is under way to recover the 950-foot ship in one piece.

Luckily one passenger got a slightly happier end to the whole ordeal when he was notified that his luggage would be returned to him - it washed ashore 17 miles away, nine months after the ship sank.

Titanic Centenary: Atlantic Ocean, 8 - 19 April 2012

Titanic Memorial CruiseImage courtesy of Simon Brooke Webb

We all know the story: on 10 April 1912 the world’s (then) largest and most luxurious ocean liner set off on her maiden voyage from the excited docks of England to the captivating city of New York. Days later, however, the unthinkable happened and the "unsinkable" ship met her fateful end in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

100 years on, 2012 brought the Titanic Centenary, honoured by a Memorial Cruise from Southampton and an Anniversary Cruise from New York, which met at the very same place that the Titanic sank. Retracing the exact route sailed by the ill-fated ship and in memory of the 1,500 people who lost their lives, they held a memorial service accompanied by a moment of silence and the sounding of the ship's whistle in the dead of night, and three floral wreaths were cast into the lapping waves below as the names of the lost souls echoed across the deck.

Although undoubtedly an emotional remembrance, the cruise offered people (including many descendants of Titanic passengers) the opportunity to relive the best of the Titanic - with lectures, period costume dress-up evenings and the original Titanic dinner menu engulfing them in the spirit of the famous ship.

Indonesian Earthquake: Sumatra, 11 April 2012

IndonesiaIndonesia recovers well

The 8.6 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Sumatra not only caused concern about death, destruction and tsunami threats, but also brought back vivid memories of the catastrophic 2004 tsunami, in which 230,000 lives were lost.

Striking at a depth of almost 14.2 miles underwater, the 3-minute quake was the 13th strongest since 1900 and the largest strike-slip (lateral displacement of tectonic plates) earthquake ever recorded. It was felt from the Maldives to Australia, and people in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka fled their homes and offices in fear of a tsunami and destructive aftershocks. Thankfully, the horizontal movement (unlike the vertical movement of the 2004 quake) resulted in only a wave 3.3 feet high and the tsunami warning was revoked. Although the effects were relatively limited, there were however 111 aftershocks above magnitude 4.0, reports of 10 deaths and a few more serious injuries.

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: London, 2 - 5 June 2012

Queen's Diamond JubileeQueen's Diamond Jubilee

The Diamond Jubilee marked her Royal Highness’ 60-year reign. National celebrations officially commenced with the Epsom Derby attended by the Queen, but throughout the UK and abroad people held high tea and street parties to commemorate the historic occasion and show their allegiance or affiliation to the British Monarchy.

There was a marked increase in both domestic and international travelism in the UK over this time, with hundreds of thousands of excited spectators at the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance for the culmination of the festivities. Adorned in national colours, waving flags and singing God Save The Queen, the supportive crowd was accompanied by a flypast and Feu de Joie (rifle salute) for Britain’s beloved matriarch.

And the royal family, in honour of the celebration, did some travelling of their own: Prince Harry explored tropical paradises, such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, Beliza and Brazil; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took for a nine-day tour of southeast Asia; the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall travelled ‘down under’; Prince Andrew visited India and Princess Anne spent a few days in South Africa.

UEFA Euro 2012: Poland and Ukraine, 8 June - 1 July 2012

UEFA Euro winners - SpainUEFA Euro winners - Spain

Poland and Ukraine might not be the most popular international tourist destinations, but the almost 1,450,000 attendees of the UEFA European Football Championship may beg to differ. Ukraine’s Boryspil International Airport received over 87,000 passengers in just the first 3 days of the event and Poland received around 1 million fans throughout the tournament.

Polish football fansPolish football fans

When 1.4 million tickets were made available, 12 million applications for purchase were received - an all-time record for the UEFA European Championships. The event also set the record for the most overall attendance and the highest average attendance per game. So aside from the allure of the world’s 16 best football nations that took part, the two host countries must be doing something right to draw so many travellers.

Did you make it to Euro 2012? Have you travelled to Poland or the Ukraine? We’d love to hear about it, so let us know in the comment box below, or on our Facebook page.

Summer Olympics: London, 27 July - 12 August 2012

Olympic Torch relayOlympic Torch relay

Much has been said about London 2012 - applauds for the organisational and sporting accomplishments, and berating of certain ticketing ‘mishaps’. Nonetheless, the immense effect that the Games had on both international and UK travelism is undeniable.

Before the Games even commenced, the Olympic Torch made an 8,000 mile journey over 70 days, in the hands of 8,000 eager supporters. Then in honour of the 116-year-old tradition of the modern Olympics, over 10,000 athletes from 204 participating nations made up a fraction of the 3.18 million trips to the UK by tourists over that time. It was for these travellers that more than 4,000 train services ran during the Games and for whom the Emirates Air Line cable car offered crossings every 30 seconds, carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour across the River Thames.

Tower Bridge during the OlympicsTower Bridge during the Olympics

Ironically, the whole of the UK actually attracted fewer travellers than usual over this time, although Londoners may beg to differ. And the overall results of this sporting and cultural extravaganza? Aside from the £2 billion that travellers spent over this time, the sustainable development of a number of UK landmarks (including the 200-hectare Olympic Park), the equal inclusion of women from each participating nation and throughout every sport (both Olympic firsts), the world was also given 32 World Records and without a doubt, an Olympic Games to remember.

Curiosity Rover: Mars, 6 August 2012

Mars Rover - CuriosityCuriosity on Mars. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Whether or not other planets will be able to sustain human life in the future is of hot debate. With Earth’s resources potentially waning and the allure of commercial space travel, our planetary neighbours have all been considered, but none more so than the Red Planet. Endless research and studies have been carried out to ascertain Mars’ possible hospitality, and 2012 saw the greatest breakthrough yet.

Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, successfully landed near Mars’ equator after a 507-million-kilometre journey from Earth and is now embarking on a minimum two year mission to ascertain whether or not Mars once supported life - and if it has the potential to do so again. With the ability to send images of itself back to Earth - amongst many other capabilities - we’re hopeful that the rover may just be able to put an end to all our curiosity.

Redbull Stratos: New Mexico, 14 October 2012

Redbull StratosFelix jumps from Space

43-year-old Felix Baumgartner may not have wings, but thanks to Redbull Stratos he managed to jump from Space and land safely on the Earth’s welcoming surface.

Not only did his descent break the sound barrier - making him the first human to do so without the aid of a vehicle - but he also set the record for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest skydive (from 128,100 feet), as well as the greatest free-fall velocity (833.9 miles per hour).

Redbull StratosFelix returns to Earth

And Redbull Stratos was not just a feat for Felix the Austrian daredevil, it also has important benefits for science, aviation and space-travel. So what does a human about to jump from 24 miles above Earth, protected by only a space-suit with a malfunctioning helmet visor and the threat of (possible) impending death have to say for himself?

I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to be really high to understand how small you are... I’m coming home now.

Super Storm Sandy: New York State and New Jersey, 29 October 2012

Sandy destruction, New Jersey Sandy destruction, New Jersey. Image courtesy of USFWS CC BY 2.0

The devastating storm that ripped through parts of the Caribbean and 24 US states has had widespread crippling effects, but nowhere more so than in New York and New Jersey.

With winds of up to 85 miles per hour and 14-foot tidal surges, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were ordered to leave their homes and millions of people have been affected - and continue to be affected - by the lack of power, fuel shortages, infrastructural damage (305,000 houses were destroyed in New York State alone), disrupted transport systems and general aftermath chaos. The Caribbean bore witness to 69 deaths and the death toll in the States reportedly reached 121 lives lost.

Sandy destruction, New YorkSandy destruction, New York

So what now? Costs to recover from Sandy and to employ sufficient protection against future such disasters are predicted to amount to just under £44.5 billion. Restoration projects may take months, or even years, to complete, but travellers should not be put off by this. Although almost 15,000 flights were cancelled in the few days surrounding October 29th, New York City's tourism and infrastructure is once again set to pick up, as the city prepares for it’s peak season.

If you would like to share your own Super Storm Sandy travel story with us, we'd love to hear it, so comment in the box below or on our Facebook page.

Mayan Prophesy: Earth, 21 December 2012

Mayan CalendarMayan Calendar

Every day millions of people search for information about 21 December 2012. Thousands of sites have been set up online to share information and opinions on just what the Mayan Prophesy means for Earth. From home-video-recorded Doomsday theories and the blockbuster Hollywood film, 2012, to Nasa’s calculated explanations, the world is certainly curious about the 5,000-year-old calendar of the ancient Mayans.

Nasa has firmly emphasised the lack of cause for concern, but many people are taking things into their own hands and preparing for the ‘upcoming’ end of the world. From stocking up on food and supplies to building ‘secure’ underground bunkers, these Doomsday advocates are confident that they’ll be prepared for any eventuality when the world meets its catastrophic end.

Another view is something of a New Age interpretation. While believers recognise a great significance of the prophetic date, it is believed to be the end of 'a World Age', not the demise of the Earth.

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu

Mayanist scholars assert that classic Mayan accounts do not predict impending doom - the end of the calendar should be considered as a spiritual transformation, the beginning of a new era of a higher human consciousness. What then could be better than watching the sunrise over the ancient Mayan ruins of Machu Picchu on this auspicious day?

What do you think - is the world going to end on 21 December 2012 or are we about to experience the dawn of new Age? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comment box below.

Last Updated: December 2012

Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy

Having grown up in a small city at the bottom of Africa, Caitlin couldn't wait to experience more of the world's diversity. She spent the last few years living in the Emirates and Korea and sought out colour and charisma in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. She currently lives in Cape Town, taking every opportunity to travel locally and explore the exuberance of South Africa.