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Thruway travel plaza contractor laying off staff

ALBANY — Amid a decline in travel, a major employer at New York State Thruway travel plazas has announced plans to lay off 165 of its 350 employees along the roadway.

Despite that, HMSHost says it is keeping the Burger King, Roy Rogers, Starbucks, Sbarro’s and Dunkin’ Donuts it operates along Thruway travel plazas open – but with fewer employees going forward.

The cuts were noted in a recent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN filing with the state Department of Labor. Under the federal WARN Act, employers with more than 50 employees must give notice of impending layoffs.

A leading airport and roadway food service company, HMSHost also had its contract with the Thruway Authority extended over the summer due in part to the pandemic.

In addition to Host, some Thruway service areas also offer McDonald’s and other eateries.

The pandemic has led to drops in passenger vehicle highway travel which have cut into the food service business at the rest stops.

As of July, there were approximately 112 million trips on the Thruway, compared to 153 million during the same period in 2019, making for a nearly 27 percent decrease in traffic.

Host has also, for the time being, closed its Starbucks at the Albany International Airport (Chick-fil-A and Silks are still operating at the airport on the takeoff side while Dunkin Donuts remains open on the on land side outside of the secure area).

HMSHost at the start of 2020 opted out of a decades-long arrangement in which it operated Starbucks coffee shops in airports and other travel centers.

The company will continue to run some Starbucks but it no longer has an exclusive agreement.

The HMSHost layoffs are also coming as the remaining toll takers on the state Thruway system are being replaced

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Uniworld’s La Venezia takes design cues from namesake city: Travel Weekly

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has released the first pictures of its newest super ship, La Venezia.

Based in its namesake of Venice, the ship is a top-to-bottom redo of the former River Countess, which was struck by an MSC Cruises ship while in port last year.

The ship, however, had already been scheduled to be converted as part of Uniworld’s ongoing program to turn its entire fleet into so-called super ships, with larger cabins and public spaces.

The private dining room on La Venezia.

The private dining room on La Venezia.

The main structural changes were adding two grand suites,  a private dining room with a demonstration kitchen used for pairing dinners and cooking lessons and a seating banquet with shade umbrellas on the top deck that runs down the center.

Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge said the new design, led by Uniworld’s artistic directors Toni Tollman and Brian Brennan, was inspired by the work of celebrated Italian artist and textile designer Mariano Fortuny.

“We are absolutely thrilled to share details of the S.S. La Venezia, inspired by the incredible artistry and vision of Mariano Fortuny,” said Bettridge. “Over a century after its founding, Fortuny continues to prize originality, made only possible by artisans deeply committed to their craft. This speaks to the Uniworld philosophy. For our guests, this means a setting and style of service that is wholly immersive in the enduring fascination and magic that is Venice; and is born from more than 100 years of experience.”

The sitting area in a suite on La Venezia.

The sitting area in a suite on La Venezia.

Tollman said the ship was designed to “complement and enhance its carefully curated Venetian itineraries” with design elements that include, in addition to Fortuny fabrics, Murano glass.

La Venezia is one four new Uniworld ships that began or was set to begin sailing this year. The Mekong Jewel, a

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