In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Bergen by fr%c3%a9d%c3%a9ric de goldschmidt www.frederic

    Bergen by Frederic de Goldschmidt www.frederic.net via Wikimedia Commons

    New Norway flights launched

    about 24 hours ago

    Two new air routes between Britain and Norway are now up and running. Friday saw the start of between Liverpool and Bergen by Wideroe. The Norwegian airline operates two round trips a week, on Mondays and Fridays, with connections to other cities in the region, including Oslo and Helsinki. Bergen is the gateway to the fjords. Five days earlier he airline began operating three times a week from Stansted to Kristiansand, on Norway’s south coast. Flights depart on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays.

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    Crystal Endeavor

    New ship to widen cruise boundaries

    4 days ago

    Antarctica and the Ross Sea, and Russia’s far east are on the early itineraries the charted for Crystal Endeavour, claimed to be the world’s largest and most spacious polar class expedition yacht. Able to operate though summer and autumn ice, the 22,000 tonne vessel will carry up to 200 passengers. Crystal Cruises President and CEO Tim Wolber says she will take guests to remote destinations not typically accessible on a cruise, as well as some iconic places, albeit with a decidedly adventurous twist. Among the former are historic huts used by Scott and Shackleton, Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, wild tropical areas and a host of little visited Pacific islands. The ship will carry 18 Zodiacs and kayaks and – available at extra cost – a submersible and two helicopters. All suites will have balconies and come with private butler service. Passengers will have a choice of six restaurants, unlimited wines, Champagne and premium spirits. Unsurprisingly all this will make something of a dent n he kids’ inheritance: pries for each of two sharing start at £10,268.

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    Grand Hyatt Athens

    Athens hotel re-opens under new guise

    5 days ago

    A luxury hotel with a rooftop pool, restaurant and bar – and views of the Acropolis and Parthenon – has opened under a new banner in Athens. Formerly the five star Ledra, the Grand Hyatt, is next to the Onassis Cultural Centre on Syngrou Avenue, in the Koukaki district, 10-15 minutes drive from the city centre and about five minutes more from the cruise and ferry port of Piraeus. An underground station is nearby. It has 309 newly renovated rooms, 38 of which are suites, and a wellness centre with an indoor pool, sauna and – not scheduled to open until early next year – a Turkish bath or Hammam.

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    Best thing about retirement is travel – survey finds

    6 days ago

    Travelling is the single most enjoyable aspect of retirement, according to a survey of over-50s. That was the response from over half (55%) of the 500 over 50s questioned on behalf of tour operator Jules Verne. It’s clearly something men and women agree on, as men and women delivered the same verdict in almost identical numbers. Nearly 30% said they wished they had travelled more when they were younger, though that regret – possibly because of gender inequality at work – was more common among women (33%) than men (27%). And, adding to the weight of evidence that silver travellers are increasingly adventurous, two thirds (66%) said they felt younger than their age. That figure was split between 62% of men and 71% of women. Past research has suggested women are more likely than men to take charge of booking holidays.

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    British Airways

    BA drops winter Calgary flights

    7 days ago

    British Airways is to suspend direct flights between London and Calgary during winter. The move will come as a blow to skiers and snowboarders planning rips to Canadian Rocky Mountain resorts such as Banff, Lake Louise, Panorama and Fernie. BA said: “We regularly review our schedule to ensure that we are flying to destinations popular with our customers during the months they wish to fly. We will rebook passengers on to alternative flights or offer them a full refund.” The service is scheduled to restart next summer.

  • Brexit

    Brexit: new holiday price rise alert

    8 days ago

    Holiday prices will soar by over one third whether the current political struggle results in a hard, poorly negotiated or no deal Brexit. The stark warning emerged from a new survey of travel firms employing British seasonal workers in the EU, such as those organising walking or skiing holidays. The research, which drew responses from over 130 operators in the sector, was conducted by SBiT (Seasonal Businesses in Travel). Companies reported operating costs were already 10% higher than in 2016-17, with a further 13% “filtering through” for the current summer and coming winter. This has pushed up prices to consumers by 5% – 11%. But the survey found that if those companies are forced to employ EU rather than UK nationals – as reps or chalet staff for example – they would face a 58% increase in costs, not least for higher social insurance. That would result in an estimated 31% increase to customers. The research, conducted before the latest slump in the value of the £, found Brexit has already led to a 7% cut in the number of Brits posted to EU destinations. And some operators have reduced the amount of accommodation their contract, suggesting less availability for consumers.

  • Accessibility guide front cover for pr

    Accessibility Guide front cover

    UK National Parks: accessibility guide launched

    11 days ago

    A new guide to wheelchair accessible paths and activities for disabled in Britain’s 15 National Parks is now available online. Created by NRS Healthcare, which provides local authorities and the NHS with equipment and other aids to help people cope with disabilities, it lists a wide range of outdoor possibilities: for example, the 2.7 kilometre, level Forge Valley boardwalk that follows the River Derwent on the south east edge of the North York Moors, places where visitors may hire Tramper buggies and monthly walks organised by the Eryl Walking Club to enable blind and visually impaired people to explore Snowdonia. The guide can be found at www.nrshealthcare.co.uk/articles/news/accessible-national-park-activities

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    Make damage quotes fairer, say car hirers

    12 days ago

    Car hire companies continue to come under fire from travellers. Three quarters of customers questioned in a new survey said rental firms should be obliged to seek two quotes for repairs. The survey was conducted by Opinium for iCarhireinsurance.com, which provides stand alone excess cover for car hirers. It also showed 21% had found pre-existing damage that wasn’t listed on the check out sheet and just over half (51%) believed rental firms would charge for it. That figure could be higher, since only 37% said they inspected the vehicle thoroughly before driving off, including checking tyres and wheels.

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    VLM

    VLM to suspend Aberdeen and Birmingham flights

    13 days ago

    The Belgian airline VLM is to suspend flights between its Antwerp base and all destinations except London City Airport and Zurich. Services to be stopped in the coming weeks will include those to and from Aberdeen and Birmingham. It has also postponed the launch of its planned Manchester-Antwerp service. The airline said passengers already booked on flights after the termination dates would be informed personally as soon as possible and would receive full refunds Some of the routes suspended have been launched only this summer. In a statement the airline’s Dutch parent SHS Aviation described the suspensions as ‘temporary’. CEO Johan Marten said “The current aviation industry is so dynamic that it is common for destinations and flight frequencies to be constantly evaluated and adapted according to the season, the performance of existing routes and new opportunities that arise on the market. The existing routes are also continuously monitored at VLM. The available aircraft capacity is then deployed on routes and activities that are more in demand and that are profitable.”

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    Beverley Arms

    Historic Yorkshire inn re-opens

    13 days ago

    The Beverley Arms in Yorkshire, a former coaching in where, legend has it, Dick Turpin once stayed, has re-opened following a £6.5 million refurbishment. The Grade II listed Georgian building, which has existed in its present form for over 300 years, now has 38 bedrooms, including 12 new ones in part of the property that has been demolished and replaced, a 68 seat restaurant. The re-vamp included restoration of brickwork from the property’s old kitchen, a painting of which – by Frederick Elwell – hangs in Tate Britain. The east Yorkshire market town of Beverley is about 30 mins’ drive from Hull and an hour from York.

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    Strong over-50s demand for flights from local airports

    14 days ago

    Demand from silver travellers suggests the range of destinations served from regional airports is likely to increase significantly. Past research has found consistently that over-50s are prepared to travel further and more frequently. Now a new survey commissioned by Saga Holidays shows almost half (48%) are prepared to spend more to fly from their local airports. And 53% would switch airlines in order to do so. Although closeness to home was most commonly given as a reason, 77% cited a desire to avoid major airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick. When respondents were asked to rate airports performance when it came to their biggest bugbears – queues or check in, security and baggage reclaim, and the cost of food and parking – regional airports scored much better than any of the London airports. Doncaster Sheffield airport achieved the highest ratings in every category apart from the range of food and shops available. Exeter and Newcastle were in the top three for many of the categories, including staff helpfulness and of flight information. London airports did not fare so well, with Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow rated lowest for the cost of food and parking. Against all this 16% said would rather fly from big, airports. Of these 51% said it was because larger airports offered a wider variety of flight destinations, 49% cited better transport links and 45% preferred the wider choice of facilities, such as restaurants and shops.

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    Holiday sales slide prompts price cuts

    15 days ago

    Expect tasty late summer holiday deals when the school holidays are over. Travel industry insiders report bookings were generally up until the end of May but have slowed drastically since then. They are blaming the World Cup, which can hardly have come as a surprise, the hot weather and a widespread feeling of uncertainty over Brexit. Customers are beginning to ask travel agents whether there is a risk flights might be disrupted if no agreement is reached with the EU. Some firms are already trying to fill capacity for August and stimulate September business with discounts and low deposit offers. But as ever, deals are not evenly spread. A significant number of tour operators say long haul holidays have been much easier to sell than those to nearer, European destinations.

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    Cluj

    Liverpool to get new Romania flights

    18 days ago

    New low costs flights to three Romanian destinations are scheduled to take off from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport with the advent of this year’s winter timetables at the end of October. Wizz Air will fly three times a week to the capital, with departures on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The airline will also launch services to the country’s second largest city, Iasi, in the north eastern historical region of Moldova and Cluj-Napoca, in Transylvania, a jumping off point for hiking and visits to the ancient Turda salt mines, with heir stalactites and underground lake. But these services will operate twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

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    Electric bikes for cruise passengers

    19 days ago

    Tours by electric bike for cruise passengers on shore excursions seems like an idea whose time has come. Madrid based line Pullmantur Cruceros experimented with it last summer on north European itineraries and found the appeal of soft pedal power sufficiently strong to offer them from ports of call in the Adriatic and Aegean. Limited to small groups, they are available on two cruises – one including visits to cities including Athens, Dubrovnik and Venice, the other taking in Greek Islands including Mykonos, Crete and Santorini. The company says passengers are able to pedal, for example, to the Acropolis, the Italian city of Padua and the countryside around Chania. Bikes have four power levels, allowing passengers to choose the level of assistance they need. Helmets and water are provided and each excursion will include a beach stop.

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    Land Rover Shelter

    Peak sleep – in a Land Rover

    20 days ago

    You may have slept in the car out of necessity. How about doing it on a mountain top, just for the thrill of being up there? What must be one of the summer’s most bizarre propositions come from La Plagne, in the French Alps, best known as part of the vast Paradiski wintersports area. Visitors can spend the night in two converted Land Rovers – previously used on polar expeditions – on the Roche de Mio at 2600 metres. You travel up at 6pm in a separate Land Rover – with a chance to take the wheel. Each of the bedroom vehicles sleeps three (though two might be more romantic), there’s a cabin with toilets, breakfast is included and you can even pre-order a Savoyard fondue for dinner. And the views – not least sunset and sunrise – may be jaw dropping. You can hike or catch another lift back down in the morning, it costs from €60 per person. However, that’s on the basis that both vehicles are booked together. A couple wanting exclusivity would pay a total of €180. The accommodation is available until the end of August.

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    easyJet offers home baggage pick up

    21 days ago

    Low cost airline easyJet is the latest airline to team up with airport baggage transfer provider Airportr. Passengers flying from Gatwick are given the option of having their bags picked up from their doorstep when they check in online. Bags will be sealed in their presence and that’s the last they see of them until they collect them from the carousel at their destination airport. The service costs from £30 per bag or £40 for four. The airline says the price may vary according to the pick up location. Airportr, which delivers to Heathrow as well as Gatwick covers a wide area extending outwards from central London. It also recently announced a deal covering Finnair flights from London.

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    HM Bark Endeavour at Whitby Harbour

    Cook’s Endeavour replica to open

    22 days ago

    A full scale replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour is set to open permanently this week as a visitor attraction in Whitby where the original – first in the guise of a collier, the Earl of Pembroke – was built. The replica, launched 20 years ago as a training ship, had fallen into disrepair and was effectively landlocked at Stockton on Tees before being restored and moved to the Yorkshire coast. The opening of ‘The Endeavour Experience’ marked the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first expedition to the Pacific. Visitors are promised a glimpse of life aboard ship in the 18th century – with its hardships, tedium and risk of scurvy. The exhibition on board will include an explanation of how maps and charts were used to navigate. In the recreated Great Cabin at the stern, the study and workroom for Cook and his passengers from the Royal Society, live action and animation projections will be used to illustrate key aspects of the three year voyage. These include the moment when Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and the crew’s battle to save the ship. To avoid confusion for any readers who visit Whitby early this month, we should add that the replica opened for the weekend of the town’s Cook 250 Festival – but closed again to allow last minute work.

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    Star Flyer

    Mamma Mia cruises launched

    25 days ago

    With the Mamma Mia movie sequel ‘Here We Go Again’ now drawing insatiable ABBA fans, tall ship operator Star Clippers has announced a series of cruises to locations where the original box office hit was filmed. The four masted barquentine Star Flyer, which carries up to 170 passengers will call at the Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos, which is referred to as Kalokairi in the screenplay. Many of the outdoor scenes were shot at beaches and towns on the former, including those at the old harbour near Bourtzi while a peninsula near Glisteri and the church of Agios Ioannis sto Kastri were among those on Skopelos. The new seven night cruises will depart from Athens on 18 May, 8 and 29 June and 17 August next year. Prices starts at £1,655 per person.

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    John Suchet

    John Suchet to lead Tchaikovsky tours

    26 days ago

    Former television reporter and news reader John Suchet, presenter at the recent Silver Travel Awards ceremony, will lead a series of tours to Moscow for tour operator Andante Travels next year, looking at the turbulent life of Tchaikovsky. He is the author of a biography of the composer, Tchaikovsky: The Man Revealed. The trips are in partnership, with Classic FM, one of the awards sponsors, for whom he presents the weekday morning show. The tours will include two live performances and backstage access at the Bolshoi, where Swan Lake’s premiere was staged and where many of his works became staples. It is hoped the performances will be of the composer’s work but Andante says it is currently ‘at the mercy’ of the theatre’s schedules. There will also be a private piano recital at the Tchaikovsky House Museum, where the composer lived from 1892 until his death the following year, and where he wrote music including The Nutcracker.

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    Hotel Indigo Dundee

    Spinning mill becomes boutique hotel

    27 days ago

    Dundee has a new luxury hotel. Housed in a near 200 year old mill with a bell tower modelled on that of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, the Hotel Indigo is between the Firth of Tay waterfront and the centre of the shopping district. It has 102 bedrooms, including 12 junior suites, with complimentary wi-fi. The original mill was built by the Baxter family in 1822, establishing a company that wold become one of the world’s biggest linen manufacturers. The hotel is part of the IHG
    (Intercontinental Hotels Group) stable.