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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Dominica – new hiking tours launched3 months ago
Specialist tour operator Hike Caribbean is to launch two centre holidays including Dominica to coincide with the opening of walking base Jungle Bay Eco Lodge. Nearly two years on from the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Maria, Dominica’s main hiking trails are open. But Jungle Bay, on the east cost, has been closed since 2015 following Tropical Storm Erika and has been completely rebuilt. The operator, which is combining it with Antigua in a two centre ‘Hiking and Wellness’ trip, describes it as the perfect base for exploring the island on foot, with access to the Valley of Desolation, Titou Gorge and the mountain trail to Middleham Falls and Trafalgar Falls. The eight night trips start next month. Prices start at £1,699, which covers accommodation, land transport, inter island (but not international flights) and guiding.
Maldives resort to offer tree house dining3 months ago
Dining in a tree house with views of the Indian Ocean will be among the options at yet another luxury resort scheduled to open in July in the Maldives. The restaurant will be one of five at the JW Marriott on the island of Vagaru in Shaviyani Atoll, a 55 minute seaplane ride from Male airport. The resort will have 61 villas with private decks and pools, some, like its gym, constructed over water. There will be a watersports and dive centre with an on site marine biologist, an adults only pool and club, and a yoga pavilion.
New Mumbai flights to take off3 months ago
Bookings opened today for Virgin Atlantic’s new service between Heathrow and Mumbai. The airline will operate the link in its own right again from 27 October, after an absence of four years. The move follows the demise of Jet Airways’ services on the route. Virgin flights will operate daily flights by Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Outbound services will depart at 10.15am, arriving at 12.40am. London bound flights will leave at 2.55am, arriving at 7.35am.
Dead fish to power cruise ships3 months ago
Cruise line Hurtigruten is to use unwanted cuts of dead fish and other organic waste to power its fleet. The Norwegian company has confirmed plans to operate at least six of it ships with a combination of biogas, LNG (liquified natural gas) and batteries by 2021. As the 125 years old company moves to enhance its green credentials it will introduce the world’s first battery-hybrid powered cruise vessel this year. The MS Roald Amundsen is purpose built for operations in environmentally sensitive areas such as Antarctica. Norway produces significant amounts of organic waste, notably from its fishery and forestry industries.
Medieval riches to go on show as Bruges museum reopens3 months ago
One of Bruges’ brightest stars is shining brightly again as the Gruutehusemuseum reopens after a major restoration. From today 24 May) visitors will again be able to consider the city’s history through many masterpieces of medieval craftsmanship, from tapestries and lace to silver work and wood carving. The museum is housed in the former palace of Lodewijk of Grutehuse (1427 – 1492, a confidant of the Dukes of Burgundy, who amassed a fortune from the sake of gruut, a mixture of herbs used in the brewing of beer. Over three floors it will tell Bruges’ story from its Burgundian heyday, through the 17th and 18th centuries to the 19th, when its now characteristic, neo-Gothic architectural style took hold. And from the fourth and final floor to visit, there will be a fine view of the city.
Brexit impact puts wine tours on ice3 months ago
Brexit uncertainty has caused wine tours specialist Arblaster & Clarke to take time out from the holiday business for at least 12 months. Jackie Willis, CEO of parent company Specialist Journeys, said the brand remained fully committed to operating its remaining 2019 tours “to the highest standard”. But there were no plans for a programme of wine tours in 2020. “Political uncertainty often translates into slow trading conditions, and Brexit has clearly caused many customers to rethink their European holiday plans in 2019.” Of all Specialist Journeys’ brands Arblaster & Clarke was most reliant on Eurozone destinations and Brexit had affected its tours significantly. “Until the political situation is resolved and confidence fully restored, we do not expect sales to dramatically improve, so we are putting the programme ‘on ice’ until at least the 2021 season”. Arblaster & Clarke is a niche operator carrying only around 500 relatively high value customers a year. Ms Willis said the rest period would be used to further consult clients and its tour guides on ways to improve its holidays.
Cruise ship Mozart heads east3 months ago
Crystal Mozart, the first river ship to enter service with the cruise line, is leaving Europe for Hong Kong. Customers who have already booked Danube holidays previously scheduled for 2020 aboard the all suite, 154 passenger vessel are being offered similar itineraries on Crystal’s Mahler or Ravel. The Mozart’s last Crystal cruise will be from Vienna to Budapest, departing on 2 December. After that the ship will join Genting Cruise Lines’ fleet, for a venture whose details have yet to be unveiled. Both Genting Hong Kong is the parent company of Genting and Crystal river cruises.
Shepherd’s life in new exhibition3 months ago
The life of a shepherd in the Yorkshire Dales is the subject of a photographic exhibition opening on 22 May in the Wensleydale market town of Hawes. It comprises 335 colour studies by Ian Lawson, who followed tenant hill farmer Alison O’Neill over eight years. Ms O’Neill, who has been running Shacklabank Farm in Sedbergh on her own for a decade or so, has raised her profile through side lines such as offering walking tours. The display reflects a notional year in her life, from lambing to the often harsh winter. It follows the thread of Mr Lawson’s new book on her. The book and exhibition have the same title: Shepherdess – one woman farm. The exhibition, which runs until September 8, is at the Dales Countryside Museum.
Canadian airlines in takeover talks3 months ago
In a major bid for more holiday passengers, Air Canada is in advanced negotiations to buy leisure carrier Air Transat, which operates across the Atlantic from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow. While the move may reduce competition, it should also result in improved options for travel to destinations beyond Canada’s major gateway airports. It followed reports that at least one other airline had approached Air Transat. The deal still needs regulatory approval.
Dijon’s Fine Arts Museum re-opens after major facelift3 months ago
The 200 years old Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon has reopened after a huge renovation. With its magnificent collection ranging from Egyptian antiquities to Cubism, the museum’s exhibition space has increased by more than half, allowing visitors to follow a more logical chronological route through the buildings. Housed partly in the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the museum first opened in 1799, not long after the French Revolution. It now has a grand entrance on the Place de la Sainte Chapelle, which has become a new pedestrian zone. The museum’s collection includes tombs of Burgundian Dukes and works by artists including Titian, Veronese, Brueghel the Elder, Monet, Manet, Sisley and Braque.
US guests buy British hotel3 months ago
They liked it so much they bought the place. Farlam Hall Country House hotel in Cumbria, owned by the same family for 44 years, has been acquired by two regular guests from the US. Joe Walter and Kathy Mares, who are based in Seattle, have been staying there for over 20 years. Mr Walter said: “We love the ambience of the house, the great food, and there are few locations in the world with such stunning natural beauty. When it came up for sale, we had to buy”. The couple now plan “a sympathetic refurbishment” of the 12 bedroom, 19th century property. They are not exactly beginners in the catering business as they already owned a b&b in California and holiday homes in Hawaii. Farlam House, a member of the luxury Relais & Chateaux sales and marketing consortium, was acquired by the outgoing Quinion family in 1975. Long before that, in the 1920s, the hall as owned by the Thompson family, friends of George Stephenson. An experimental track for the Rocket was laid it its grounds and in 1837 James Thompson bought the locomotive – now in London’s Science Museum – for £300.
Holiday problems? Check your rights3 months ago
Did you book your holiday through a High Street travel agent? Was it not entirely what was promised? If you raise the issue, don’t be too easily fobbed off. Evidence suggests that some agents may not fully understand they may be responsible for the failings of hotels or other suppliers. Under the recently introduced, revised Package Travel Regulations that responsibility may apply even when it seems you are booking flights and accommodation (or other key elements of a holiday) separately though through the same agent. The new rules, set out in a Directive from the EU, have broadened the definition of a package holiday to ensure more consumers get redress when things go wrong (not just financial protection and repatriation if a tour operator goes bust). For example, if you pay for a four star hotel but wind up in one with two stars you might be entitled to a refund of part of the price. If in doubt various websites provide more detail than I’ve set out here. They include ABTA. It should be added that the new rules are so complicated agency staff may perhaps be forgiven for the odd misunderstanding.
Convent becomes Mallorca hotel3 months ago
A former convent was has opened as a boutique hotel this month in Mallorca. The Hotel Creu de Tau Art & Spa is in the north east of the island, about 45 miles from Palma airport. It has 27 bedrooms with stunning panoramic views. Set in gardens, it will have indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and a restaurant. The property is a five minute walks from Capdepera Castle and the same time by car from Cala Moll beach.
Edinburgh’s China link to be suspended3 months ago
China’s Hainan Airlines has stopped taking bookings for its direct Edinburgh-Beijing service after its summer schedule ends in October. A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “We understand this is a suspension of the route over the winter period. We’re bitterly disappointed and there will be no let up in our efforts to maintain Scotland’s only direct route to China and the Far East – but having the most expensive aviation tax in the world doesn’t help”. The airline currently operates a triangular service linking Beijing, Edinburgh and Dublin. The airline’s website is offering winter connections on other airlines from Edinburgh with its flights from Manchester and Brussels.
Major cruise line shifts ship from UK3 months ago
Royal Caribbean has cancelled cruises from Southampton scheduled to be operated next year by the 4560 passenger Independence of the Seas. The vessel will be redeployed to Florida. Customers already booked are being offered full refunds and a credit – for use on future cruises – valued at 25% of the fare they paid for their cancelled sailings. The ship was due to operate European itineraries from next May. The company hopes many of the affected passengers will switch to its sister vessel Anthem of the Seas, which will sail from Southampton as planned. Though Royal Caribbean had expressed concern at the slide in the value of the £ after the Brexit vote, it says the change of home port for Independence of the Seas has been prompted by strong demand for its new, private Caribbean destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Blue Train safari trips re-jigged3 months ago
South Africa’s famous Blue Train is to operate new safari trips next year. The aim is the solve the problem of finding accommodation at Sands or Greater Kruger Lodges for a trainload of 70 – 80 passengers following a one way journey from Pretoria to Hoedspruit. From next year, safari journeys will operate as round trips, leaving Pretoria at 11am and arriving at Kruger National Park at 5am next morning. Guides and vehicles will be be waiting to take travellers on a sunrise game drive followed by a bush breakfast. After lunch there will be another drive, before dinner under the stars at Nkambeni Safari Camp. The train will depart for the capital again at 10pm. Prices start at around £2050 depending on the exchange rate. Initially only two 2020 departures are planned – on 18 June and 30 July.
Stratford upon Avon - nearby hotel opens3 months ago
Visitors to Stratford upon Avon have a new place to stay. The Baraset Barn Hotel is only three miles away in the Warwickshire village of Alveston, once home to J.B. Priestley. A barn conversion, as the name suggests, it has been developed alongside it’s owner’s previously existing restaurant. The property has 16 rooms with floor to ceiling windows, wi fi, and prices starting at £100 a night.
Saga ship heads for Greenland3 months ago
Greenland seems to be the flavour of the season. Saga has now announced a cruise there next year from Dover. The Spirit of Discovery will visit the capital, Nuk, Ummannaq, and the small settlement of Kangilnnguit, founded by the US Navy to protect an important mineral quarry. The ship will also cruise through Prince Christian Sound, Eternity Fjord and Disko Bay, home to bowhead, humpback, pilot and killer whales, and the narwhal. Dr Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre, is scheduled to speak. There will also be speakers on Inuit culture and history. The 21 night cruise, which includes en route calls in Dublin and Reykjavik, departs on 21 June and costs from £5671 per person.
Manchester gets new Channel Islands flights3 months ago
Low cost airline easyJet is to launch new year round flights between Manchester and Jersey. From 1 July it will operate two rounds trips a week using an Airbus A320 aircraft. The airline has also announced its flights between Bristol and Lyon which have largely served the ski market, will now operate in summer. Also starting on 1 July, they will depart on Mondays and Fridays until the end of September.
Lighthouse museum to open3 months ago
A new maritime museum in a lighthouse was set to open in Formentera this month. The La Mole lighthouse opened to the public in February. Now a permanent exhibition was expected to open there telling the story of the Balearic island’s relationship with the sea, associated migratory movements and the fishing industry. The building will also house temporary exhibitions and cultural events such as concerts and poetry recitals. And the island was also expected to get its first five star hotel in May. The Five Flowers Hotel will be a short walk from the beach at Es Pujols. It will have a spa, gym, free wi fi and a view from its glass walled Jacuzzi described as one of the best in Formentera