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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Spitsbergen named best small cruise shipabout 11 hours ago
Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen has been ranked best small ship by UK cruise customers. The award was based on reviews posted on the Cruise Critic website. Spitsbergen, the Norwegian line’s newest vessel, emerged as best overall in the category and received the best marks for cabins, service, shore excursions and value. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas came top in the large ship section and Marella Spirit, operated by Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson) was named best mid-size vessel. The three top ships for dining – in the large, mid size and small categories respectively were:: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Spirit, Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas and Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sea.
Lombok has new luxury resort1 day ago
A new resort hotel has opened on north west coast of the Indonesian island of Lombok. The 7 Secrets Resort and Wellness Retreat on Nipah Bay is one of five to have joined the Small Luxury Hotels of the World consortium. Its 24 suites come with their own Jacuzzis. The resort has a pool, spa, fitness facilities and a dive centre. Normal room rates start at around £535 a night, depending on exchange rates. The four other newcomers to the consortium are: TwentySeven Hotel in Amsterdam, Trident Hotel in Jamaica’s Port Antonio, The Plymouth, on Miami Beach and Hemingway Watumu, in Kenya’s Watumu Marine National Park.
Antwerp art museum to reopen2 days ago
Antwerp’s wonderful Rockox House reopens next weekend in a new guise. Already a jewel box of exquisite Flemish art, it has now been combined with Frans Snijders’ former home next door, which was previously inaccessible to the public. The city’s most famous resident, Rubens, sometimes relied on Snijders – celebrated for his hunting and market scenes and his still life work – to complete sections of his paintings. The museum is now know as the Snijders Rockox House.
Train as an astronaut at Kennedy Space Centre3 days ago
A 30 minute spacewalk training experience has been launched at Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre. Visitors can also ‘land and drive on Mars’ in a simulator – and walk on the red planet in virtual reality. Introduction of the new Astronaut Training Experience has been accompanied by the opening of Mars Base 1 a facility that simulates a day living and working on Mars. Participants are assigned challenges at three stations, requiring them design and test a programme enabling robots to clear debris from a photovoltaic panel to restore maximum solar power to the base, for example, or to partner with NASA scientists in planting, harvesting and analysing vegetables and other plants. Prices, which may be paid separately or added to those of the Centre’s general admission tickets, range from $30 for the spacewalk and $40 for the 45 minute Mars exploration simulator to $150 for the 7hr Mars Base 1 programme and $175 for the 5hr Astronaut Training Experience. Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex said: “We’re offering something that most people thought they would never get to do in their lifetime”.
Amsterdam by Eurostar – seats set to go on sale4 days ago
Tickets for Eurostar’s long awaited new service from London to Amsterdam – scheduled to start on 4 April – go on sale on 20 February. The journey from St Pancras will take 3hrs 41mins (3hrs 1min to Rotterdam). And the service will shave 17 minutes off the time to Brussels, reducing it to 1hr 48mins. However the direct link isn’t available in both directions. Returning passengers will catch a Thalys train to Brussels where they’ll have clear passport controls before continuing to London on Eurostar. That means the total return journey time will be between 4hrs 40mins and 4hrs 49mins. Eurostar says this is a ‘temporary’ measure until an agreement can be reached between the UK and Dutch governments to carry out checks in the Netherlands, which should be in place by the end of next year.
Hike, bike and cook – new packages7 days ago
Walking and cycling holidays with a cookery course thrown in have been launched by tour operator Headwater. Customers will stay in the Tuscan spa town of Chianciano Terme at the 15 room Agriturismo La Pietriccia, which has a pool and its own winery. The farmhouse owner and chef, Stefano Mazzeti, will give a three hour lesson during a brake from hiking or pedalling. Wine and olive oil tastings are also promised. One week walking packages start at £999 per person; cycling holidays cost from £1,049. Both include half board but not flights or transfers, which are available on request. The surrounding terrain demands moderate exertion – but electric bikes are available for an extra £94 if requested when booking.
Back in the saddle shop again8 days ago
Cowboys were once prepared to part with two years’ wages for one of GS Garcia’s saddles, and would wait for up to two years to get it. Now his former premises in Elko, Nevada, more recently occupied by a power utility company, have been converted into a museum, with the aim of preserving the heritage and craftsmanship of the American west. It’s called the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum. Garcia’s shop has been recreated, with antique saddles, bridles, harnesses and other cowboy equipment. There are plans to offer silver engraving demonstrations. Garcia’s silverwork helped win him a gold medal at the St Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Classes in leather stamping and rawhide braiding – a technique used by the vaqueros, cattle handles who migrated north from Mexico, to make items such as fancy reins and whip grips. And a buckaroo tent, bed roll and other camping gear will be set up. There will also be a gift shop. Elko is 230 miles west of Salt Lake City.
Cartoon workshops launched9 days ago
Transatlantic passengers on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will be able to learn the cartoonist’s art on some eastbound crossings this year. Four contributors to the New Yorker – long celebrated for its cartoons – will host exclusive drawing sessions and workshops. Matt Diffee, whose works have also appeared in other publications including Time magazine, will be on board on the 10 June and 11 November departures. Brooklyn based Emily Flake will join the 20 July sailing. David Sipress, who has also drawn cartoons for publications including the Washington Post and Playboy, will be on board for the 26 August departure. And Benjamin Schwartz, who sneaks his wife and daughter into his cartoons, will join the 7 October voyage.
Glimpse of future for check in10 days ago
An intelligent check in kiosk that moves autonomously to areas where queues have built up is being tested at a major Japanese airport. Developed by air transport communications and information technology specialist SITA the kiosk, which automatically avoids collisions, is named KATE. It is on trial until the end of February in Terminal One at Kansai International, south west of Osaka. The airport is served by a wide range of international carriers including Japan Airlines, Air China, Air France, Cathay Pacific and KLM.
Low cost Argentina flights take off11 days ago
Norwegian is set to launch its first flights to South America this week. The low cost airline will operate four times a week from Gatwick to Buenos Aires, departing from the UK on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. It will operate four round trips a week, departing from the UK on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Norwegian is currently setting up an Argentina based subsidiary operation that will operate domestic and international flights. Meanwhile it is introducing larger premium cabins, with 56 seats, on Dreamliners being delivered from this month.
Cruise from Dover to Quebec planned14 days ago
Passengers sailing from Dover to eastern Canada next autumn with Saga will make a little bit of cruising history. The company claims its boutique style ship, Saga Sapphire, will be the first of her type to dock in Quebec City’s new cruise terminal. Besides negotiating the St Lawrence River, and exploring the city where General Wolfe defeated Montcalm’s defending French army to claim Canada for the English crown, the 28 day itinerary will take in the coast of Newfoundland, calling at its capital, St John’s visit Halifax (Nova Scotia). It promises opportunities to see the spectacular fall foliage colours before returning to Dover. The cruise departs on 21 September. Prices start at £4,307 per person.
In flight WiFi: faster and more widespread15 days ago
More and more airline passengers are now able to access email and surf he internet from their seats, according to a new survey. New York based research company Routehappy says 12 more airlines have installed in flights WiFi access since 2016, an increase of 17%. It is now on offer to at least some degree on flights representing 43% of available seat miles (ASMs), a measure used throughout the airline industry that multiplies the number of seats by the miles they fly. WiFi quality is also on the up. The fastest available may now be accessed on 16% of ASMs worldwide – an annual increase of 129%. The survey says that while passengers have come to expect the service on large global airlines, many smaller carriers, encouraged by a fall in the cost of installation, have also begun offering it. Air Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan’s Air Astana and Air Mauritius were among those to have introduced it last year. Meanwhile British Airways says it will install high speed WiFi on 118 of its long haul aircraft over the next two years. Three of its aircraft in service have already been equipped.
New York hotels struggling to raise prices16 days ago
Now could be the time to make that trip to New York, a report from Deloitte suggests. Its 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook notes that hotels there are struggling to drive up room rates in a market flooded with new supply. Since 2008 – and despite the intervening financial crisis, the number of hotels there has rocketed by 55% to 634 and a total of 115,000 rooms. To make matters worse, the report says, hoteliers are having to compete with private accommodation rentals. In order to cope some hoteliers are resorting to cutbacks in service and maintenance.
Fares war looms on North Atlantic17 days ago
Competition between low cost airline on North Atlantic routes look set to depress fares this year. Primera Air, which has its headquarters in Latvia, has now added flights between Stansted and Washington DC to its planned network. It will fly there five times a week from 22 August. In addition, Primera has also increased the frequency of its upcoming Stansted – Toronto service from three to five round trips a week. The airline is also scheduled to start flying from the Essex airport to New York and Boston in April.
Wasteland exhibition opens in Margate18 days ago
In a mundane seafront shelter at Margate, TS Eliot composed part of The Wasteland, penning the bleak lines: “On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing.” Today he might find the rejuvenated seaside resort a little more cheering than in his fragile state in 1921, in the aftermath of the First World War. Now Turner Contemporary, a major factor in Margate’s upturn, has launched a visual art exhibition designed to throw light on the poem’s many references, voices, characters and places. The exhibition, which runs until 7 May, comprises nearly 100 works by over 60 artists, including Paul Nash, Edward Hopper, Patrick Heron and JMW Turner.
'Fly' a Spitfire in Kent21 days ago
There can’t be many silver travellers who haven’t wondered how it felt piloting a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain. Soon they’ll be able to get the flavour in a simulator installed in the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum at Manson Airport in Kent. It’s an accurate, full scale replica of the cockpit of the RAF’s most famous fighter – 800mm at its widest, 600 at the shoulders and a metre at its highest. It’ll cost £30 for 30 minutes. The museum advises that a reasonable fitness and mobility will be needed to get in and out. Though the simulator is already up and running, booking will be available from 1 April. The delay, says the museum, is to ensure its instructors are fully trained, that any teething issues have been sorted out – and that the booking system is robust and reliable.
Heathrow to get new Cyprus flights22 days ago
Cypriot airline Cobalt Air is to launch flights between Heathrow and Larnaca, providing new competition on the route for British Airways. Starting on 27 March it will operate daily, using an Airbus A320 with 12 business and 144 economy class seats. Flights will depart Terminal 3 at 5.20pm, arriving at 11.50pm. UK bound services will leave at 12.45pm, arriving at 3.45pm. Cobalt also flies to Cyprus from Gatwick and Stansted.
New French fishing museum23 days ago
The harsh life of the Terra-Neuvas, fishermen who set off from the Normandy coast of France to catch cod on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, is the central theme of a newly opened museum in the port of Fecamp. The Musee des Pecheries, which has replaced a much smaller museum, is housed in refurbished and modernised fish drying warehouses. Those who set sail across the North Atlantic salted the catch on board. The cod wasn’t dried until it was landed in France. The museum also includes an art exhibition and covers Fecamp’s role in the development of modern paediatrics, through the 19th century foundation there of a society that provided the children of poor people with sterilised milk, food, clothing and medical advice.
Tour de France package launched24 days ago
For those harbouring a desire to watch the final stage of the Tour de France live in Paris, coach holidays specialist Shearings has launched a four day package this year. Customers can depart on 27 July from various pick up points around the UK. The deal includes three nights at the Styles Paris Bercy Hotel, a guided tour of the capital and a full day in which to find a vantage point on the Champs Elysees. The firm recommends taking a camping chair. Prices start at £274 per person.
Lake District flights set to take off25 days ago
Travel to the Lake District is set to get faster. Flights to Carlisle will start on 3 June. Regional airline Stobart Air is expected to operate services from Southend and Dublin. Its parent group owns Carlisle and Southend airports. The former is marketed as Carlisle Lake District Airport. It is about 20 miles north of the National Park. At the time of writing Its runways were closed to aircraft other than helicopters while a major redevelopment took place. The redevelopment, which will precede the return of commercial flights after a gap of 25 years, is being supported by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership with an injection of £4.95m.