Sunday, 1 March 2015

Take care when booking on line

Rushing to book a last minute escape. Slow down and concentrate. I booked a taxi on line to Salzburg airport from a ski resort about an hour’s drive away and paid a €15 deposit. I had thought to rent a car but a taxi was cheaper – and who needs a car in resort? Several weeks later I noticed an odd charge on my credit card statement: it appeared someone had cloned the card and used it to pay a taxi fare in Split, Croatia. I was in Norway when the charge was incurred. So I queried it, stopped the card – with all the hassle that entailed – and the card provider waived the amount. Not long afterwards I received an anguished email from the Salzburg airport taxi firm. Could I please asked the card company to reinstate payment of €15. Perhaps, the email continued, I hadn’t realised that the taxi operator was based in Split. Stupid boy, I hear you cry. Well I’m happy to accept that this information may have been on the booking confirmation but I simply didn’t make the association. With more and more companies operating across borders this sort of problem is likely to become increasingly common. Think how long it takes to change your payment details on all those regularly invoiced purchases – insurance, broadband, web hosting etc, etc – and look carefully before you leap.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Wi fi on ferries, top cruise ships named - Travel News Headlines

Ferry firm launches cross channel wi fi 

Wi fi is now available on all Dover – Calais ships operated by P&O Ferries. It’s free throughout the crossing to passengers with Club Lounge access and for 30 minutes with standard and full “flexi” fares. It isn’t included with saver deals but travellers can buy 90 minutes’ access for £3. P&O Ferries operates 11 ships and carries more than 9m passengers a year on the route. Meanwhile Premier Inns now provider unlimited free wi fi. Previously guests were offered complimentary access for up to 30 minutes.

France, Germany flights for Bristol

Bmi Regional is to launch flights from Bristol to Paris and Dusseldorf on April 27. It will also operate a summer service to Nantes - a convenient gateway to Britanny and the Loire Valley - between July 4 and September 12. Paris services will depart twice a day from Monday to Friday and once on Sunday. Flights to Dusseldorf will operate daily except on Saturdays. Those to Nantes will depart twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Brussels art gallery open again

Masterpieces of Belgian art are show in Brussels again with the re-opening of the Musee d’Ixelles Part of the museum has remained open for temporary exhibitions. But the main collection, which includes works by Magritte, Paul Delvaux, Constantin Meunier, and Théo Van Rysselberghe as well as those of artists from outside Belgium – among them a major collection of posters by Toulouse-Lautrec - has been on tour while the museum underwent refurbishment.

More Swiss ski price cuts

Swiss ski resort Crans Montana has echoed Verbier by offering price cuts to combat the impact of the strong franc. Guests staying between March 15 and April 19 at hotels and apartments in will be provided with free lift passes. There’s a seven day maximum for those staying in apartments. And three shops will offer 30% off the price of equipment hire.

Cambridge gets Sweden flights

Danish airline Sun-Air is to launch services between Cambridge and Gothenburg on Monday (March 2). The route has been established in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant Astro-Zeneca, which will take seats for staff travelling between its Cambridge headquarters and its key European hub in the Swedish city. But the service, which will operate from Monday to Thursday, will also be open to other business and leisure travellers. Sun-Air is a British Airways franchise partner. Flights may be booked via

Cruise survey reveals favourite ships

Celebrity Cruises has emerged as the big winner in a new survey of consumer reviews. Based on reviews submitted during 2014 to the website Cruise Critic its ships variously came top seven of ten large ship categories. They included best overall and best dining (Celebrity Equinox) and best cabins (Eclipse). Best medium size ship overall and for cabins was Oceania Riviera. In the small ship category Saga Sapphire best top overall in – and best for cabins and dining. Best for entertainment were Norwegian Epic (large), MSC Lirica (medium) and Azmara Quest (small). Best for service – in the three categories respectively – were Emerald Princess, Oceania Riviera and Fred Olsen’s Black Watch. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

British Airways sale - premium fares slashed

Feel like pushing the boat out? British Airways has launched a First and Club Class sale on routes to the US, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. Biggest savings are in First Class, with a return from Heathrow to St Lucia, for example, starting at £2695 – a 50% discount. The best Club Class reduction is 36% - cutting a round trip fare to Tobago to £1995. The sale lasts until March 10.

For more news and travel features go to

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Indian fingerprint demand threatens tourism

Tourism to India will surely be hit hard by the New Delhi government's decision to demand visitors provide biometric information before leaving on their trips. From March 14 travellers seeking visas must make appointments at one of 14 application centres and turn up in person to be fingerprinted and record facial recognition data. And if you're going with your partner or family each of you must make a separate appointment. Meanwhile travel industry organisation Abta is asking that the Indians at least delay introduction of the new regime, which follows the outsourcing of via processing.

Opinion: Health tourism insurance plan pointless

To stop "health tourism" placing a burden on the NHS, UKIP wants foreign visitors to Britain to show proof on arrival that they have insurance. Never mind the delays this would create at immigration - the idea is pointless. If travellers can afford health insurance it must be assumed they will seek private treatment in any case. And since, if they are "health tourists" it must also be assumed that their condition will be pre-existing, their travel insurance won't cover it.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

New Montenegro walking trips - travel news headlines

Over-50s travel spending rockets

Over-50s now account for more than half the money spent(54%) by UK residents on travel and tourism, new research suggests. In 2012, the last year for which figures are available, they splashed around £25 billions on package holidays in Britain and abroad, accommodation, spending while away and travel insurance. That was up £6.3 billions over ten years after taking inflation into account. The proportion is unlikely to have fallen significantly in the past two years. The research, published by Saga, is an analysis by Cebr of data from the Office for National Statistics and the Cruise Lines International Association. It also suggests the proportion of Britons travelling by air starts dropping after they reach 50. So though many have the money, it seems we become less tolerant of the airport hassle. But the proportion going by sea rises, reflecting strong demand for cruises and – probably – an increased propensity to take the car ferry.

Ferry firm gets reprieve

Cross Channel operator MyFerryLink has won a reprieve – or at least a temporary stay of execution – in its long running tussle with the Competition and Markets Authority. It has won permission to take the case for the survival of its Dover-Calais service to the UK Court of Appeal. The dispute centres on whether Eurotunnel, which acquired the ships now operated by MyFerryLink when SeaFrance stopped running, has too big a market share. Its rivals claim too much capacity is  dragging down their revenues. The tunnel operator argues it simply leased the vessels to SCOP, the workers’ cooperative which runs them. The court hearing is likely to take place by mid-March.

German walking route extended

Germany’s longest long distance footpath has been created by an extension of the Saar-Hunsruck trail. From April it will run all the way to Boppard on the Rhine. This follows the addition of 12 new stages covering 190 kilometres. The total length is now 408km. The Hunsruck, much of which is rolling, peaceful countryside, lies west of the Rhine. Heimat, the long running German film series, was the story of a family from the region which spanned some 80 years from the immediate aftermath of the First World War. On arm of the footpath runs through vineyards to the the lovely city of Trier. Details of packages are available at - click on long distance hiking trails.
See my article on walking the trail under features

New Dubrovnik hotel 

A new Sheraton is scheduled to open just outside the lovely Adriatic coast city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, in the second quarter if this year. The 250 room property will be on the 20 kilometre coastal stretch between the old city and Cavtat to the south. It will have a spa, indoor and outdoor pools and a tennis court.

Montenegro walking trips launched

Walking and cycling specialist Headwater has introduced holidays on foot in Montenegro for the coming summer. The twin centre, guided group tour includes walking in the Durmitor National Park and a visit to the world’s second deepest canyon and a stay in the photogenic village of Perast, on the Bay of Kotor, which is noted for its Venetian buildings. It costs £1349 for a week including BA flights from Gatwick to Dubrovnik, onward transfers, and most meals.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Franc surge prompts Swiss price cuts - travel news headlines

Soaring franc prompts Swiss price cuts
Businesses in the major Swiss ski resort of Verbier have moved to combat the impact of the soaring franc. Apartment owners have agreed to cut rents by 15%. The lift company has cut the price of pre-booked passes it sells through tour operators by the same amount and by 5% for individual skiers buying in advance online. And sports shops belonging to the Société des Commerçants et Artisans de Verbier have cut purchase prices  and equipment rental by 15% (for every booking made since the start of this month). Following the Swiss government’s decision to unpeg the currency from the Euro in mid-January the value of sterling in Switzerland tumbled dramatically. The fall has eroded since, however, and sterling is now worth roughly 9% less against the franc than it was when the surprise move was made.

Airline launches economy sleeping cabin
Kazakhstan’s Air Astana is introducing what it calls as Economy Sleeper class on flights between Astana and Europe – including those to Heathrow. Completely separate from the business and economy cabins it will allow travellers to lie flat by combing three seats.

Stena's Dun Laoghaire service dropped
Ferry company Stena Line is axing its seasonal high speed service between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire. Instead it will concentrate on expanding it operation at Dublin Port. It said traffic on the Dun Laoghaire route had declined dramatically following the ending of duty free sales.

Northumberland's new bike route
A new mountain bike route will be fully launched in Northumberland at Easter. The Sandstone Way, which was “soft-launched” in November to iron out any potential problems, runs for 120 miles between Berwick-upon-Tweed in the far north of the county and Hexham in the south. It can be completed in 2-4 days and has optional looped sections designed for less able riders.

Play out scenes from Pretty Woman - hotel offer
Couples are invited to “mimic classic scenes” from the film Pretty Woman “for exclusive photo opportunities” at the Beverly Wiltshire hotel in Los Angeles. There will be a photographer on hand to record key moments though possibly not the one in the bubble bath. It’s part of a weekend package which, depending on price, might include a personal shopping consultation, a Rolls Royce ride to a “shoeless picnic” and a massage for two. The movie first came out 25 years ago. Just how female partners will feel about playing hooker to his Richard Gere we’re not exactly sure. But - with prices starting at US$10,000 – the hooker they’ll be playing will at least be very high class.