In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Lovers of the impressive wines produced in Portugal's Alentejo.

    over 8 years ago

    Lovers of the impressive wines produced in Portugal's Alentejo will be surprised to learn that the region has been barely touched by tourism from Britain. The numbers visiting are a tiny fraction of those going to the Algarve. New flights there, scheduled for take off in May, could give the area a boost.. As well as a long Atlantic coastline, the Alentejo's attractions include the city of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Last minute travel bargains?

    over 8 years ago

    May looks like bring a month of price cuts, according to travel industry insiders. Word is that the extra Bank Holiday, which has enabled people to enjoy substantial breaks without taking too many days off work, has scooped up customers who might otherwise have waited until the schools went back. Couple this with the fact that unease about the economy in general and jobs in particular is making holidays hard to sell and next month looks likely to produce a bumper crop of discounted packages.

  • Star Clippers, whose passengers get the chance to journey under sail.

    over 8 years ago

    Star Clippers, whose passengers get the chance to journey under sail, is launching a cruise aimed at beginner or budding artists. On board the 170-passenger Star Flyer for the 7-night voyage from Cannes on September 24 will be Suffolk-born Richard Nichols who specialises in seascapes and coastal scenes.  He will run workshops in techniques from sketching to painting with watercolours. Passengers will be provided wih the necessary equipment. The ship calls at Corsica, Elba, Portofino and the Hyeres islands, winding up  in Monaco, and the cruise costs £1469 (singles pay £1659).  www.thecruiseline.co.uk

    Read our Star Review about Star Clippers by Steve Newman 

  • News 39

    Buckingham librarian wins our £4000 AmaWaterway river cruise competition.

    over 8 years ago

    Librarian Louise Hammond from Buckingham, was stunned to receive a phone call from one of our team telling her she had won a luxury river cruise for two in the March prize draw.



    The competition was run in conjunction with luxury river cruise operator AmaWaterways and the first prize, won by Louise, is a 7 night fully inclusive cruise holiday along the Rhine, taking in a visit to the Koblenz horticultural festival.



    Louise said: “I am still in shock from winning this holiday!  What a wonderful prize, a luxury Rhine River cruise including the Koblenz flower show.  My partner Andrew was delighted when I phoned him to say I have won this holiday.   It is certainly worth entering a review on the Silver Travel Advisor website, with such excellent prizes on offer and I’ll certainly be writing up this cruise holiday as it’s a real chance of a lifetime”.

  • Granny and Grandad can go free

    over 8 years ago

    Granny and Grandad can go free with families booking a Canvas Holidays package this summer although not if the kids have started school. The deal is only valid for trips starting on or before June 30 – or after September 2. Provided there have to be two adults in your party paying the full price, two other adults can join them with no extra charge. For example, says the operator, a week starting on June 3 at Camping les Deux Fontaines in Brittany, costs £417 per family. That includes accommodation for four adults and two children in a Select Plus mobile home (3 bedrooms, 2 shower rooms and 2 toilets) and midweek Dover – Calais ferry crossings. (www.canvasholidays.co.uk).

  • FREE holidays with the NBFA

    over 8 years ago

    The National Benevolent Fund for the Aged (NBFA) provides free holidays for older people who are living on a low income. Each holiday is for four nights, five days accommodation at a UK resort.  The holiday includes coach travel from a local pick up point to the holiday destination, bed, breakfast, a three course evening meal, nightly entertainment and daily excursions.  The next break away is from the 9th – 13th May 2011.  The coach is picking up from Staines, Woking, Crawley and Reigate and is going to the holiday destination of The South Downs (Bracklesham Bay)!  Anyone able to make their way to one of these pick up points are more than welcome to go on the break away, please call for an application form as soon as possible as limited places are available. To qualify for a FREE break away with NBFA you need to be; over 60 years old, living on a low income, able to get off and on a coach and look after yourself. Please contact the NBFA office 0207 828 0200 for further information.

  • Airlines flying to and within the US will soon have to refund baggage fees.

    over 8 years ago

    Airlines flying to and within the US will soon have to refund baggage fees if luggage is lost. The regulation is part of a package, due to come into force later this year, which will also force carriers to up compensation to passengers who are bumped off flights because of overbooking. But “lost” means just that. You won't get your money back if your luggage is merely delayed. In that case, the Department of Transportation in Washington has decided, you'll still have to demand compensation from the airline. It says: “We have decided against requiring carriers to reimburse passengers for any fee charged to transport a bag that is not timely delivered. Arguably, as is the case with transporting passengers themselves, while delay in receiving baggage may be inconvenient, once the carrier delivers a bag the service has been performed. Consumers may, of course, seek reimbursement for damages caused by delay in the
    delivery of their baggage by filing a claim with the airline or, if dissatisfied with the airline's resolution of the matter, with an appropriate civil court.” Most passengers no face charges for taking more than their free allowance of checked bags. And some low cost airlines offer no free allowance at all.
     

  • Low cost airline bmibaby is to axe flights from Manchester and Cardiff.

    over 8 years ago

    Low cost airline bmibaby is to axe flights from Manchester and Cardiff at the end of the coming summer. But on the positive side it has announced it will fly to seven new destinations from Belfast City Airport. It plans summer services in 2012  to Malaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro and Ibiza, new year round flights to Amsterdam. Meanwhile this winter it will fly from Belfast City to Geneva. The airline has also announced it will launch services from East Midlands Airport to Toulouse and Chambery for winter 2011. Managing directo Julian Carr says: “In the current economic climate it is essential for bmibaby to focus on airports where the airline already has a strong market presence and where there are strong growth opportunities for the bmibaby business” BMI and its regional arm will continue to operate to a range of destinations from Manchester.

  • News 38

    World's Largest Fresh Produce Market Opens To Public In Paris

    over 8 years ago

    Journey through the belly of Paris! The tradesmen’s market of Rungis is opening its doors to the public for guided tours for the first time in its history.  

    Fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and flowers are delivered on a daily basis by over 26,000 vehicles to the market site at Rungis which is spread over 232 hectares.

    The market provides over half the fresh seafood consumed in the French capital, 45% of Paris’ fruit and vegetables, 35% of its meat and 50% of the flowers that adorn Parisian homes and businesses.

    Usually closed to the public, tourists now have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the market on the second Friday of each month. Strictly for morning people, the pickup from Paris is at 5am! The visit ends at 8.30am with a traditional market breakfast.

    Prices: €75 per person including transport to and from Paris city centre, guided tour, and breakfast.
    More information: www.visiterungis.com

  • Hotel prices have rocketed in some cities over the past year

    over 8 years ago

    Hotel prices have rocketed in some cities over the past year, says reservations system operator HRS. Rates in Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Cape Town jumped by 68%, 26.86% and 25.51% respectively between the first quarter of 2010 and the same period this year, Rates in Buenos Aires were up 20.16% and New York prices rose by 14.97%. Those in Zurich increased by 17.59%, Moscow by 15.37% and Stockholm by 13.59%.  Two caveats when reading these figures: first, the economic climate was much chillier a year ago, depressing rates, And second, the rates are calculated in Euros, whose value against some of these cities' domestic currencies has fallen. This skews some of the figures a bit – but not by very  much. On the bright side, rates in Prague , Copenhagen, Rome and Milan, changed hardly at all, while those in Barcelona and Budapest even fell slightly.

  • Tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show (May 24-28)

    over 8 years ago

    Tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show (May 24 – 28) are included in two packages on offer from tour operator Superbreak (www.superbreak.com). A night's b&b on May 27 and entrance to she show next day costs £138 at the Lancaster Gate Hotel and £162 at the Malmaison

  • "Feel part of the vivid in-room installations"

    over 8 years ago

    “Feel part of the vivid in-room installations” is the promise made to guests at a new hotel opening on June 1 in the centre of Athens. Don't be confused but that’s what it's called – New Hotel. It's been created by Greek Cypriot art collector Dakis Joannou, owner of the Yes!hotel group, with the help of Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana, who have exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Design Museum in London. They have turned fittings such as  chairs and doors from the old Olympic Palace hotel, which the building formerly housed, into art works. The hotel is 200 metres from Syntagma (Constitution) Square. Prices start at €180 (about £160) – www.yeshotels.gr.



    For European citybreaks, we recommend Kirker Holidays

  • Why does it take so long for cabin crew to reach you with the drinks?

    over 8 years ago

    Why does it take so long for cabin crew to reach you with the drinks? A speedier solution could be at hand. Two German companies, SkyMax and Air-Eltec Luftfahrtelektrik have come up with an automated trolley which can produce any of 30 hot or cold drinks at the push of a button. No more groping around for the right can or pouring hot tea from a jug. Called Sky-Tender, it looks like a no brainer. But, of course, we can't vouch for the quality of the coffee.

  • Hong Kong is the best airport in the world

    over 8 years ago

    Hong Kong is the best airport in the world, as voted by travellers in an international poll. Singapore's Changi came second and Seoul's Korea's Incheon International was third. On line research company Skytrax, which organises the annual survey, said the three airports had been locked in a “nail biting” finish as the final votes came in. Hong Kong triumphed partly because it had made considerable improvements during the last year “particularly in security and immigration processing that served to enhance customer satisfaction levels”. Passengers  liked its fast connections with Kowloon  and Hong Kong island, were impressed by its “bright and airy terminal ambiance” and superb shopping facilities and voted it best for  airport dining. The rest of the top ten airports were – in order – Munich, Beijing, Amsterdam, Zurich, Auckland, Kuala Lumpur and Copenhagen.

    For tours to China and Indochina, we recommend Wendy Wu Tours

  • A Taste of Cruising

    over 8 years ago

    We invite you to be our guest for a 3-course lunch and a day on board one of Holland America’s beautiful cruise ships.



    Whether you have never set foot on a cruise ship, or are a regular cruiser, you can enjoy a sumptuous three course lunch and the chance to explore one of the most beautiful cruise ships at sea, at  absolutely no cost.



    Available dates:
    Ms Eurodam (22 May, 3 June, 27 June, 9 July, 12 August)
    Ms Ryndam (21 May, 24 July, 7 August)
    Ms Rotterdam (31 May, 20 September)



    You will be met at Cruise Terminal 1 or 2, Port of Dover at 9.30am. The visit will then consist of a self-guided tour of ship, and early lunch (which will be a set 3-couse meal) in the main restaurant courtesy of Holland America Line, followed by a presentation. Disembarkation will be at around 2pm.  Dress code is elegantly casual (no t-shirts, jeans or shorts). Complimentary parking has been arranged with the Port of Dover. All visitors must bring a passport or a secondary form of photo identification.



    All you need to do is register your place by sending an email to [email protected], stating which date and ship visit you would like to attend and the number of places required. Places are limited and are offered on a first come first served basis.

  • Who needs an invite to Prince William's big day?

    over 8 years ago

    Railway Goes For Alternative Royalty Over The Bank Holiday

    The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in Porthmadog is organising its own antidote to the Royal Wedding over the May Bank Holiday Weekend – treating its passengers like royalty instead.

    The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway will be putting a red carpet along the platform, and letting people travel in its vintage first class carriages for no extra charge.

    Visitors will be able to have a go at driving a locomotive for themselves.  One lucky adult per trip will get to be King or Queen of the railway and ride on the steam engine for the short trip along the line.  Children will also have chance to make their own crown to wear. 

     

    Railway enthusiasts get to enjoy a special intensive train service, featuring three steam locomotives, including a distinguished visitor.  Steam locomotive “Elidir”, engine No.1 from the Llanberis Lake Railway, will be operating in Porthmadog for the weekend.

    Wendy Dearden, Commercial Manager of the WHHR, said: “a number of us at the railway were joking that our invitations to the wedding had got lost in the post.  But then we realised that our visitors are the most important people to us anyway.

    “So this special weekend is a bit of an alternative celebration, and a way to say thank you to everyone who helps us keep the trains running.  It’s also a chance to enjoy ourselves now that Prince William has given us an extra long weekend.”

    Some of the women at the WHHR plan to wear their wedding dresses for the day on Friday 29th April, claiming that every girl wants an excuse to wear theirs again.

    Wendy Dearden added: “anyone wearing their wedding outfit can travel for free on the Friday.  I’m hoping I can still manage to get into my wedding dress……

    “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather holds good, not just for Prince William, but also so people get chance to enjoy their extra day off.”

    Additional attractions over the weekend include model railways on display, and a demonstration of one of the oldest petrol railway locomotives in Britain during the weekend

    The Royal Gala starts on Friday 29th April at 10:30, and runs over the weekend until the afternoon of Monday 2nd May.
     

  • Golden wedding coming up? Or a big birthday?

    over 8 years ago

    CV Villas, the luxury villas operator, has added two “grand houses” to its programme. One is Travers House, a Georgian property – with peat burning fireplaces – sleeping up to 10 near Butlerstown, County Cork. The other is The Court in Herefordshire, which is set in 15 acres of gardens and has rooms for 16 – 20 guests. One week prices for the former start at £2558 – the latter at £6500. Short break rates for both are available on request.

  • Cambridge Bike Tours - a new operation to be launched soon

    over 8 years ago

    Remember when you first wobbled off down the road on your Hercules?  Cambridge Bike Tours – a new operation to be launched soon – will offer customers the option of borrowing one of its early 1960s models. The company, which will take to the streets on April 16 has been set up by Anthony Dean, a former Kings College Choir School pupil and keen cyclist who has competed in triathlons. Four different tours of the city and surrounding countryside will run daily through the summer except on Tuesdays. The price will be £20 except for one all day tour which will cost £33. Helmets, rather than mortar boards, will be included.
     

  • Hong Kong's new Ritz-Carlton is tallest hotel in the world

    over 8 years ago

    View from the top: Hong Kong's new Ritz-Carlton, which has just opened, is claimed to be the tallest hotel in the world. It starts on the 102nd floor of the building which houses it and finishes at the 118th, affording spectacular views of Victoria Harbour and its skyline.

  • British Airways increases fuel surcharges

    over 8 years ago

    Soaring oil prices have prompted British Airways to increase fuel surcharges on long haul flights again. They will go up by £10 per one way journey in the airline's World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins (economy and premium economy) from Friday (April 8). That pushes up  the charge to £85 in the former and £95 in the latter – or £98 and £116.50 respectively for flights of over nine hours. Surcharges in First Class and Club World (business class) on flights up to nine hours will increase by £20 – to £125. On flights longer than that they will rise to £145. 

    There will be no increase in surcharges on European or domestic flights. Nick Swift, British Airways’ chief financial officer, said: “It’s with real regret that we are having to increase our long haul fuel surcharge. As customers will know from the price at the petrol pumps, the cost of fuel has continued to rise significantly over the past three months. For us, fuel now represents over one third of our costs and particularly affects our longhaul flights. We are very aware of the wider economic pressures on our customers at the moment and we will bear the vast majority of the recent fuel price rise ourselves to keep this increase in surcharge to a minimum.”