Saturday, 24 January 2015

Vietnam flights set for Heathrow - travel news headlines

Heathrow gets non stop Vietnam flights
Vietnam Airlines is to switch its UK operation from Gatwick to Heathrow. From March 31 its non stop flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh will depart from and arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal 4. The move will also see a significant increase in the frequency of its services, which will then operate daily.

Cambodia cycle tours launched
Heading for the temples of Angkor Watt? Get on your bike. A new company has launched cycle tours in the surrounding Cambodian countryside. Siem Reap Ride – it also runs ox cart and tractor trips - has been set up by Ouk Chan Bophay, a former manager at one the country’s leading tour operators, who describes it as an ecotourism company that supports the local community. “Our aim is to improve people’s lives, restore and support communities and raise living standards and education.

New rail museum to open
Railway enthusiasts should watch for this year’s opening of Train World – Brussels’ first museum dedicated to the topic. Exhibits will range from Belgium’s oldest locomotive to a state of the art train incorporating the largest technology, from posters and personnel uniforms to historic film. No date has been announced yet for the opening of the museum, which is under development on the site of Schaerbeek station, an early 20th century building which is being restored. The site lies on the route of the first railway line in mainland Europe – between Brussels and Mechelen.

Tour firm launches northern Spain bike tours 
Pedal along  the green coast of northern Spain. Tour operator Headwater has launched a nine night hotel to hotel package – with baggage transfers – starting at the easternmost point in Asturias and ending in the port of Gijon. It costs from £919 (ground only), £999 (self drive) or £1159 with flights. Bikes are provided. Three evening meals are included – otherwise it’s b&b. For bookings email sales@headwater.com.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Gatwick gets new Prague link - travel news headlines

Bahamas holiday tax cut
Holidaymakers heading for the Bahamas look set to benefit from lower prices following a hotel tax cut. The Government there has replaced a 10% hotel tax with 7.5% VAT.

New Prague flights unveiled
Czech airline SmartWings is to launch flights between Gatwick and Prague. Starting on April 2 it will operate four round trips a week using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft – with departures on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

German city hopping by rail – new package
An intriguing new package combining stays in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden – with travel between them by train– has been launched by tour operator Inntravel. It includes two nights’ b&b in each city. The price starts at £675 with rail travel in Germany – or £1085 including return train fares from the UK.

Helsinki to get airport rail link
Helsinki airport will get a 30 minute rail link to the city centre this summer. Trains will run in and out of the Finnish capital’s central station. The Ring Rail Line will be 18 kilometres long, 8kms of which will be in tunnels. Passengers travelling to and from the north of Finland will be able to change at Tikkurila station, which is about an 8 minute ride to the east of the airport.

Cruising gets cooler
Snow in the Caribbean? That’s the bizarre promise from Norwegian Cruise Line, which will incorporate a room where flurries will blow all day on its new ship Norwegian Escape. The “Snow Room”, in which temperatures will vary from zero to six degrees centigrade, will be part of the vessel’s Mandara Spa which, claims the company, will be the “largest thermal suite at sea”. It says the snowflakes will stimulate passengers’ blood circulation and strengthen their immune systems. Scheduled to come into service in mid- November Norwegian Escape will sail from her home port of Miami to destinations including the US and British Virgin Islands and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Chic French resort gets new flights - travel news headlines

Flights to Deauville planned
Deauville, the smart French seaside resort in Normandy, suddenly has a clutch of new air links with the UK. Flybe will fly there three times a week from Birmingham and twice a week from Exeter between June 22 and September 26 next year. This follows the regional airline’s earlier announcement that it would operate there from its new base in Bournemouth. And Ryanair plans to fly to Deauville twice a week from Stansted, starting on April 3.

Hyatt promises free wi fi
Hyatt has responded to growing demand from travellers by announcing it will offer free wi fi at all its hotels, worldwide, from February. Unlimited access will be available in rooms and public areas – regardless of how guests book or whether they are members of Hyatt’s loyalty programme. As of last September the company’s portfolio comprised 573 properties in 48 countries.

New holiday flights from Bristol
Holidaymakers booking with Thomson and First Choice will be able to fly direct from  Bristol to Sal in the Cape Verde islands, Hurghada in Egypt and Paphos in Cyprus next winter. Karen Switzer, director of aviation planning for the two TUI owned operators, said: “Regional airports are an important part of our strategy”.

Sunvil claims island first
Sunvil claims to be the first UK tour operator to offer packages to the Greek island of Ammouliani, off the Halkidiki peninsula. Close to the monasteries of Mount Athos the island’s village has a population of 542. The firm is offering one week’s b&b there from £658 per person, based in two sharing. 

Kerouac tours launched
The life of beat generation inspiration Jack Kerouac – most famously the author of On the Road – is celebrated though a range of walking and bus tours now available in his home town of Lowell, Massaschusetts. The tours are available to groups of five or more. For more information go to www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org. Lowell is in any case a fascinating city. Regarded as the cradle of the American industrial revolution, it was developed in the mid 19th century. In 1842 Charles Dickens went there and was deeply impressed by the clean working conditions in its mills – they can been visited as part of the Lowell National Historical Park - visit them - though he was at pains to note subsequently that circumstances were very different from the “great haunts of misery” in England’s industrial cities. 

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Monday, 5 January 2015

Sistine Chapel without crowds - travel news headlines

Sistine ceiling sans crowds
In the Sistine Chapel you may feel like sardines trapped beneath a particularly stunning tin lid. And that after standing for some time in a long queue. Not on two trips next year with Andante Travels, which has organised exclusive access to Michelangelo’s masterpiece without the usual pressing crowds. The 6 day (5 night) packages with experts Dr Eireann Marshall and Professor Alastair Small take in Rome’s monuments – grand and intimate. They runs from March 9 – 14 and October 19 – 24 and cost from £2300 a head with scheduled flights or £2060 without them.

Taj launches free wi fi
The number of hotels offering free wi fi continues to increase. The Mumbai based Taj Hotel group has joined them. Connection without charge is now available from up to three devices at all its 125 hotels worldwide – including those branded as Taj, Vivanta by Taj, Gateway and Ginger.

Norwegian to fly from Birmingham
Budget airline Norwegian is to launch flights from Birmingham to Spain. From March 30 and 31 respectively it will operate three round trips a week to Malaga and Madrid. And - starting on June 1 - it will fly twice a week from the Midlands airport to Barcelona.

Belgrade gets new hotel 
Serbia’s capital has a smart new place to stay. The 236 room Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel is in the old heart of Belgrade, a short walks fro the River Sava and the railway station. Floor to ceiling windows on upper floors afford views across the city. The property has a fitness centre and a spa with sauna and steam bath.

Toronto to get new airport train link
A new fast rail link between central Toronto and the city’s Pearson International Airport is scheduled to open next spring. The journey from Union Station to Terminal One will take 25 minutes and trains will run every 15 minutes. Called the Union Pearson Express, the link will take in two stops en route: at Bloor and Weston stations.

Picasso studio building to be hotel
The building which housed Picasso’s first studio in Barcelona has been covefrted into a luxury hotel. With 30 rooms and cooking by a Michelin-starred chef, The Serrasa boutique property by the waterfront on Passeig de Colom, was scheduled to open this month. The building where Picasso painted painted Ciencia y Caridad dates from 1846 and its neo-classical fa├žade remains intact. The property will be a member of Design Hotels. Room rates will start at €150 for the first month, then €250.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Big re-vamp at Gatwick - travel news headlines

Huge facelift for Gatwick terminal
Gatwick aims to halve the time it takes passengers using its North Terminal to check in and negotiate security. The terminal is to get a major makeover, including the creation of a new check in area, at a cost of £36 millions. The airport’s owners claim this facility, which will have the world’s largest self service bag drop zone, will “virtually eliminate queues”. It’s scheduled to open in two phases – late next year and in early the following year. A new security area should also be completed in 2016. A new look departure lounge with more shops and eateries is planned and the terminal’s arrivals area is to be refurbished in time for next summer. The airport’s railway station will also get an upgrade. The concourse area will be doubled and more escalators and lifts will be installed. But the work won’t begin until 2017 and isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2020.

Luxury Jo’burg hotel re-born
Johannesburg’s Westcliff hotel has opened under the Four Seasons group banner following a huge re-vamp costing around £35m. With 117 rooms and suites set in landscaped gardens on a hillside, the property was owned until 2012 by Orient Express. It has five restaurants, two outdoor pools and a spa, which is scheduled to open  in January.

Free wi fi on French resort slopes
Skiers taking to the slopes of Val d’Isere this season will be able to keep in touch with friends and world events via free wi fi access.

New long haul options from Manchester
Manchester Airport will soon have a clutch of new long connections - to Asia and Africa for example – when Qatar Airways ups the number of flights it operates there by 40%. From February 15 the airline will increase flights to Doha’s recently opened Hamad International Airport from ten to 14 a week. The new services will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. Last month the airline announced it would start flying daily from Edinburgh on May 1 – up from the current five a week.

New showcase for modern architecture
A new design and architecture centre has opened in Palm Springs, the Californian desert city 100  miles east of Los Angeles. The glass and steel building, originally designed as a bank, provides extra exhibition space for the city’s Art Museum, which houses works by artists including Picasso, Matisse and Anish Kapoor. Palm Springs has a significant concentration of mid-20th century architecture.

Rescue fares for scheduled air passengers
Major airlines have agreed to fly passengers home at special fares if one of them goes bust. The voluntary deal covers passengers flying from, to and within the EU. It has been agreed by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a way of heading off calls for the establishment of a fund, set up by imposing a per passenger levy, to pay for emergency repatriation. However, it is unlikely to satisfy consumer bodies and travel industry leaders, who have long argued that scheduled airline passengers should be protected in the same way as package holiday customers. For one thing the deal already exists informally. For another, there has been no official indication of just how low the so called “rescue fares” might be. And the fares will be available for purchase only up to two weeks after an airline ceases flying, so somebody out of touch could still wind up having to pay a full one way fare. The best advice is still to pay using a credit card and buy travel insurance with cover against scheduled airline failure.

TV remotes can make you ill warns report
Can’t wait to turn the hotel room TV on? Hold on a second. Clean the remote first. Research broadcast in the US on NBC’s Today programme suggests you should always travel with a packet of disinfectant wipes. The remote is more likely than anything else in the room to be harbouring bacteria. One of those checked using swabs during a probe by investigative reporter Jeff Rossen even carried the MRSA bug. Light switches were cleanest but nearly everywhere phones were way above the acceptable limit.

New outback hikes launched
Guided walks through an ancient salt lake system have been launched at Curtin Springs, a vast 1m acre cattle station 100km from Ayers Rock in Australia’s “Red Centre”. Night hikes will afford the sight of the gleaming crystals by the light of the full moon. There will also be walks around the base of Mount Connor, sometimes mistaken for Uluru, to use Ayers Rock’s Aboriginal name. 

New Philadelphia flights from Heathrow
Competition is heating up on the air route between London and Philadelphia Delta will launch non stop flights next spring. Starting in early April the airline will operate daily flights, departing from Heathrow at 1.20om and arriving at 4pm. Eastbound flights will leave at 7.04pm and arrive at 7.30am next morning. Meanwhile American Airlines will launch a second daily service on March 29 with daytime flights back to Heathrow. The outbound departure will be at 8.20am, getting travellers to the US at 11.35am. London-bound flights will leave at 9.55am, reaching Heathrow at 10.10pm.

Eclipse packages go on sale
Packages are now on offer to travellers keen to experience the total eclipse of the sun next March. It will be visible from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard – between Norway and the North Pole. Astronomer Andy Green will lead a five day trip to the Faroes, departing from Stansted on March 17. It will include tours of the islands before the big event, from 8.38am until 9.41am on the 20th. Darkness won’t come cheap, however. The trip – bookable through Nordic Experience - costs £2595 based on two sharing.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Britanny Ferries package price cuts - travel news headlines

Too old to ski at 100? No says insurer
Worried you might be getting too old to get ski holiday insurance?  A UK insurance company has just increased its upper age limit to 100. Michael Pettifer, owner and director of MPI Brokers (mpibrokers.com) says: “Last year we put it up to 90. I said we were still getting the odd customer wanting to ski at 91 or 92 – not many, perhaps ten or so - so the underwriter said ‘ok – let’s put it up to 100’.” How much will it cost? If you bought cover on line today it would cost £147.81 in France or £184.76 for a week in elsewhere in Europe.

French package prices slashed
In a bid to stimulate sluggish demand for package holidays in France Brittany Ferries is lopping 25% off next year’s basic prices to customers booking by December 16. The deal doesn’t include on board accommodation or extra charges such as weekend and seasonal supplements. Its latest programme includes a new range of gites in Alsace Lorraine, in eastern France.

Glasgow to get Munich flights
Lufthansa is to launch a summer service between Glasgow Airport and Munich next year. The airline will operate one flight a week, on Saturdays, starting on May 16 and ending on October 3.
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Sydney’s latest luxury hotel opens
Sydney has a new five star hotel. The 140 room InterContinental Double Bay has a rooftop pool with views of the sea. It’s housed in a six storey building which was formerly home to the Ritz-Carlton, whose celebrity guests ranged from Madonna to Bill Clinton.

Best cruise ships named
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas has been named best new cruise ship by the influential Cruise Critic website (cruisecritic.co.uk). Among the vessels innovations is s gondola attached to a mechanical arm, which allows passengers to sail 300ft above the sea – and a range of small restaurants in place of the traditional main dining room. Emerald Waterways Emerald Star and Emerald Sky were named best river ships. Praised for offering moderately priced cruising, they have indoor pools, with retractable roofs, which are transformed into cinemas at night. P&O cruises was named best for dining.

Friday, 21 November 2014

BA launches Krakow flights - travel news headlines

Lisbon’s electric car tours
Electric cars with GPS audio guides are now available in Lisbon. Visitors can follow a range of themed itineraries or make their own. You could follow the route of Tram 28, for example, which passes the Portuguese capital’s best known sights, or concentrate on the city’s Moorish heritage. Prices vary but these two tours cost €29 for 1hr and €34 die 1hrs 30mins respectively – with €15 extra for each additional hour. Information at www.lisbonecotours.com.

BA to start Krakow service
British Airways is to launch flights to Krakow from Heathrow. From May 1 it will operate four round trips a week to the former Polish capital – on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Great War tours on snowshoes
Snowshoe tours of the First World War front between Italy and Austria will be on offer in the Dolomites ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo this winter. A guide and a re-enactor/narrator will accompany the hikes in period uniform. Groups will walk to the restored Cima Gallina defensive position.  The tour takes about 1hr 90mins. Go to www.lagazuoi5torri.dolomiti.org, which also has details of tours on skis covering a theatre of the Great War which s relatively little known in the UK. (Read The White War by Mark Thompson published by Faber & Faber).

Birmingham to get new Big Apple link
American Airlines is to launch daily flights between Birmingham and New York next spring. Starting in early May the carrier will fly, leaving the Midlands at 10am and arriving at JFK Airport at 12.55pm. Eastbound services will depart at 7pm, arriving at 7.10am next morning. Flights will be operated under a code share deal with American’s partner British Airways, meaning they’ll be bookable through BA’s reservation system. And travellers from Birmingham to Barcelona will benefit from fresh competition from June 1 next year when Spanish airline Vueling launches flights to the Catalan city, starting with three round trips a week.

Peak beauty spots go on line
The Peak District has become the first national park accessible via Google Street View(http://maps.co.uk). That doesn’t mean you can take a virtual hike anywhere you fancy, however. As the park’s chief executive Jim Dixon notes, it was impossible to film every inch of its 555 square miles. “Instead we have selected some of the highlights. These are the trail areas where we offer ranger-led walks, family activities and cycle hire and bike maintenance.” Places which can be viewed on line include the High Peak, Monsal and Tissington trails.