Pandemic travel news: World’s largest cruise ship about to set sail

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(CNN) — Carnival celebrations are taking place around the world ahead of Mardi Gras, and the world’s largest cruise ship is poised to set sail. But travel is also being impacted by Covid restrictions and the Ukraine invasion.

Here are the biggest stories from CNN Travel this week.

The world’s largest, highest and tallest

You’d have to run the length of nearly three and a half American football fields before you made it from bow to stern of Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship.

The 18-deck behemoth, complete with its own zip line and what’s billed as “the tallest slide at sea,” will set off on its maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Caribbean on March 4.

Also on the “wow, that’s high” front, Heavenly Jin restaurant on the 120th floor of the Shanghai Tower — about 1.5 times the height of the Empire State Building — has just been named the world’s highest restaurant in a building.
Meanwhile in Australia, Four Seasons Melbourne is set to open in a skyscraper complex featuring the world’s tallest vertical garden. Imagine a garden path twice as long as New York’s High Line meandering up the facades of two twisting towers.

Party season is back

For centuries, Shrove Tuesday — which falls this year on March 1 — has been the focus of carnival season in Christian countries around the world. But what’s happening for 2022?

Venice Carnival started on February 19 but is on a smaller scale than usual. Covid restrictions still apply. Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, however, have postponed their celebrations until the end of April. (In the meantime, you can listen to Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” podcast from Brazil here.)
Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

JoaoBarcelos/iStockphoto/Getty Images

The best in sun, sand and surf

The world’s best beach is a pristine stretch of soft white sand in the Turks and Caicos islands, according to Tripadvisor users. Click through to see the travel platform’s pick of the best beaches for 2022.
If you want to see CNN Travel’s favorites, though, check out our Best Beaches interactive — there’s a beach for every week of the year. But for a truly otherworldly landscape, take a look at the freshwater lagoons and ghostly white dunes of Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
Speaking of otherworldly, CNN Travel recently boarded the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It was quite a voyage.

Restrictions and impacted travel

At the time of writing, Ukraine’s airspace is closed in the wake of the Russian invasion. In what is a fast-developing situation, here’s what we know so far about how travel in Eastern Europe and Russia is affected.
As for Covid restrictions, new additions to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s growing list of highest-risk destinations include Iran, Brunei, Bhutan and a multicultural Asian favorite.
Meanwhile, as of March 1 the EU will advise its member states to lift bans on nonessential travel by vaccinated passengers from “third countries” — that is, ones outside the European bloc.

Love at 1,000 feet

American visitor Dan Giedeman and Swiss tourist Esther Wieland caught each other’s eye when they both headed alone up the Eiffel Tower one Monday morning in 1998. Some 24 years later, they still haven’t come down from that romantic high.

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Get set, travel

Now that the world is opening back up, you might — gasp! — be planning your first getaway in quite some time. If you’re out of the habit, or are unsure what the new essentials are in the Covid era, our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have put together a packing list cheat sheet for your next vacation.