Friday, 11 April 2014

Travel News Updates

Southend gets new flights
Flybe is to launch six routes from Southend Airport. On June 5 it will start flying to Rennes in France, Groningen in the Netherlands and Munster-Osnabruck in Germany. Services to the other destinations – Cologne-Bonn, Caen in Normandy and Antwerp – will start on July 3. The flights will be operated by Flybe’s franchise partner Stobart Air, which also runs the airport.

Bank becomes Istanbul hotel
Original features from the latter days of the Ottoman Empire have been preserved at a new boutique hotel in Istanbul. Called Vault Karakoythe House, it owes its name to the fact that one of the two back-to-back properties it occupies is a mid 19th century neo-renaissance bank building. Marble staircases, ceramic tiles and intricately stencilled ceilings are among the original features retained. The 63 room hotel is in the Karakoy district, a 15 minute walk from the old heart of Istanbul across the Galata Bridge. It has a spa and a terrace restaurant with views over the Bosphorus and Golden Horn. (

New flights to Athens and Riga
Greek airline Aegean will fly between Birmingham and Athens this summer. From June 10 until September 13 it will operate twice a week, on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Then it will fly once a week, on Saturdays, until October 25. Last year the airline launched services to the Greek capital from Heathrow and Manchester. And Budget operator Wizz Air is to launch twice weekly flights between Robin Hood Airport (Doncaster Sheffield) and the Latvian capita, Riga , on June 20.

Royal history exhibitions open in York
Two new exhibitions related to the life of Richard III have opened in York. One, in Monk Bar, will deal with the monarch himself, whose remains have been discovered beneath a car park in Leicester. The other, in Micklegate Bar, will concentrate on his nemesis, Henry VII and the times in which he lived. They focus in particular on visits by the Kings to York in the late 15th century and their wider links with Yorkshire -  including the battles of Wakefield and Towton and Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York, which resulted in creation of the Tudor rose. 

Ride with mustangs

Guests will stay in tipis more luxurious than anything Sitting Bull knew at Mustang Monument – a new eco resort scheduled to open in the mountains of northern Nevada in June. A 24hr butler service, beds with down pillows and spa treatments are all promised. The resort is part of a reserve, spread over more than 900 square miles, which has been created to protect America’s wild mustangs. It was established by Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T Boone Pickens. So far about 600, acquired from members of the Paiute tribe before the horses could be sent for slaughter, brought there. Besides “safaris” to see the mustangs@, activities for guests will include horseback riding, roping lessons and guided hikes. From September,.  accommodation will also include one and two bedroom cabins. None of this will come cheap, with resort rates for a four day package, for example, being advertised at $4000.

For top travel reviews go to

Friday, 4 April 2014

Travel News Headlines

French rail bookings open earlier
Holidaymakers planning peak summer rail travel to France this summer are able to book earlier than they have in the past. Reservations can already be made through (that’s the new name for Rail Europe) for trips until August 24. That’s an extension of seven weeks in the former 90 day maximum advance booking period. From May 15 passengers will be able to book seats from August 25 – 31.

Gatwick: hotel opens in terminal
A hotel has opened at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal. With 245 rooms and free wi fi the BLOC hotel is only a short walk to check in. For rates, bookings and further information, got to

Shangri-La guests offered E-newspapers 
Guests at Shangri-La hotels now read digital versions of their favourite newspapers. They can to access over 2000 publications based in 100 countries – and in 60 languages – by using the hotels’ free wi fi service. If customers request it, hotels will print copies. The Hong Kong-based group, which comprises more than 80 luxury hotels, says print editions of selected newspapers will also still be available “on request”.

SAS extends advanced seat selection
Short haul travellers with the cheapest tickets on SAS can now select seats as soon as they book their fights. Previously they had to wait until on line check in opened, 22 hours before departure. The service will cost €12 per flight. It has long been available free to premium fare passengers and upper tier members of the Scandinavian airline’s loyalty scheme. For other travellers it was available only on long haul trips. Now they can choose seats well in advance to destinations within Scandinavia and to the rest of Europe.

Cruise line’s dining revolution
Jamie’s Italian is to take to the waves as part of a major dining shake up on RoyalCaribbean’s forthcoming Quantum class ships. Guests aboard Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which make their debuts in November and April 2015 respectively, will have a choice of 18 places to eat. No more the huge main dining room:  dinner at five different full service restaurants will be included in the cruise price – with cooking ranging from American to Mediterranean and Asian. Besides Jamie Oliver’s Italian eateries there will be three other speciality restaurants, including one for calorie watchers and a US gastropub. As we already reported, the cruise line is also introducing an advance table reservations system.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Travel News Headlines

Longer hours for Greek attractions
Thirty major archaeological sites and museums in Greece have harmonised and significantly extended their opening hours. Until the end of October they will be open from 8am to 8pm. Sites include the Acropolis (the museum will open until 10pm- on Fridays), Delphi, Mycenae, Knossos (Crete) and Epidaurus. Attractions listed account for 95% of visits to such cultural attractions. They also include the National Archaeological and the Byzantine and Christian Museums in Athens, the Byzantine Culture and White Tower Museums in Thessaloniki and the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. Visitors will be able to buy tickets valid at ten of the attractions for €12.

New hotel opens in St Andrews
St Andrews has a new luxury hotel following the opening of a 22 room Hotel du Vin. The stone and slate property, which incorporates an adjacent, refurnished pub, is in the Old Town, close to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s 1st tee. Its Bistro overlooks the bay.

Mallorca: new rural hotel to open
A 500 year old farm in Mallorca is set to become a hotel. Finca Dalt Murada, in the Binissalem, wine producing region - is scheduled to open in May following renovation and conversion. Sister to the four star Hotel Dalt Murada, about 20 minutes’ drive away in Palma. It will have a pool and will provide bikes for guests wanting to gently explore the surrounding countryside. An opening deal is offer at €700 per double room for a week with breakfast. Guests can combine five nights at the new property with two at the Palma hotel.

Holidays on Scotland’s new walking trail
Walking holidays with baggage transfers on Scotland’s John Muir Way are planned by Edinburgh based Macs Adventure. The footpath runs for almost 50 miles from Musselburgh, just east of the Scottish capital, to Dunglass, following the coast for much of the route. It’s named after the Dunbar born conservationist who, having emigrated with his parents to the US, was the moving force behind the preservation of Yosemite as a National Park. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond will open the footpath officially on April 21.

Alitalia launches direct Palermo flights
Travelling to Sicily continues to become easier. Time was when flying to Palermo could involve a change on the Italian mainland. There are now two non stop options from Gatwick following the launch of flights to the Sicilian capital by Alitalia’s low cost subsidiary Air One in competition with easyJet.

United to fly from Heathrow’s new T2
United Airlines will move all its Heathrow flights to Terminal 2 there when the newly developed building opens on June 4. At present its operations are split between Terminals 1 and 4. The airline operates up to 17 services a day from Heathrow to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington. At the same time, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal will open a restaurant – The Perfectionists’ CafĂ© - in the new terminal.

French marshes to get new visitor centre
A new interpretation centre is scheduled to open this summer in the fascinating French wetlands known as the Audomarois marshes. The Maison du Marais, close to the centre of St Omer, will house permanent and temporary exhibitions focusing on themes such as their history, daily life, culture, flora and fauna and using audio, video and olfactory systems. Outside around the Moulin d’Aile drainage windmill, will be conservation garden, access to a 4km educational trail – and a jetty where visitors may board boats for trips around the marshes.

Morocco: riding holidays launched
Horseback holidays in Morocco have been introduced by specialist tour operator In the Saddle. Four itineraries are available, one in the High Atlas mountains, others taking in the desert and Atlantic coast. Travellers will ride Barb Arabian horses. Depending on the route, they will stay en route in tents or in riads and lodges. One package will be based on a single centre.

Cruise line offers men dance partners
Single men need no longer be wallflowers on Crystal Cruises. The line is to provide partners on its ballroom dancing themed Transatlantic crossings. It has long provided “Ambassador Hosts” for unaccompanied women passengers – or those whose husbands or partners don’t dance. Now there will be two potential partners for men. The first voyages on which they will appear are Lisbon – Miami (October 5 this year and December 11, 2015) and New York – London (June 12, 2015).