Sunday, 14 September 2014

Silver skiers hit the deep snow - travel news headlines

More silver skiers heading off piste
Silver skiers are increasingly hitting the deep powder. The Ski Club of Great Britain has upped the number of holidays if offers for higher level and adventurous skiers over 50 though its Freshtracks operation. For example it has just introduced a one week ski and spa package at Ponte di Legno in Italy including six days guided off piste skiing (£1299 including scheduled flights, transfers, four star half board and mountain guides. Last year it saw overall increase of 15% in bookings from members for its Peak Experience holidays, which are designed for over 50s – whether for packages aimed at advanced or expert skiers or those preferring gentle on piste cruising. And it expects a further 10% increase for the coming season.

Gatwick gets new Jakarta link
Indonesian airline Garuda has started its delayed operation between Gatwick and Jakarta. It operates five times a week via Amsterdam using an extended range Boeing 777-300. The airline originally planned to launch the operation in May but postponed the start after it ran into difficulties securing suitable take off and landing slots this summer at Gatwick.
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Rome ups tourist tax
Rome’s tourist tax has increased. According to the European Tour Operators Association it has gone up from €3 to €6 per night, for example, for a visitor staying in a four star hotel.

Istanbul gets new luxury hotel
Boasting a rooftop pool and one of the biggest spas in the Turkish city, a new Raffles hotel has opened  in Istanbul. With 180 rooms and suites the property is in the Zorlu centre, a new food, fashion and arts complex in Besiktas, overlooking the Bosphorus on the European side. This will be the tenth hotel in the Raffles chain. The first Raffles opened in Singapore – the company’s home base – in 1887.

Yoga before take off
Yoga sessions are now available in the SkyTeam lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal Four. A studio has been set aside in a two month pilot scheme. Travellers are provided with mats and a video showing an exercise sequences. Passengers flying on any of the alliance’s 13 members airlines can take advantage. (www.skyteam.com),

Docklands get new Guernsey flights
Aurigny has launched flights between London City and Guernsey next week. The airline is operating daily round trips on weekdays. Flights are being operated initially by Belgian airline VLM. Departures from the Docklands airport are at 9.15am and 6.45pm with flights from the Channel Island at 8.45am and 6.15pm. Aurigny (www.aurigny.com) already flies between Guernsey and six other UK airports: Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Southampton, Bristol and East Midlands.

York claims techno lead
York may be one of our oldest cities but it now claims to offer more ways to explore its attractions through technology than any other in the UK. Among them is a pioneering app - the world’s first according to its tourist office - featuring holographic guides. Developed in cooperation with appeartome.com it makes characters from the city’s past appear on the screens of visitors’ mobile devices at appropriate points on their itineraries. Details of this and other apps are at visityork.org. Free wi fi is available throughout the city centre with a free log in which you can get from the visitor centre.

Chile hotel has own dairy
A new hotel with its own dairy producing milk and cheese has opened amid the stunning scenery of Chile’s lake district. The cheese maker introduces guests to his art. Set in 23 acres on the Liucara River the Vira Vira  has 22 rooms and suites. White water rafting, kayaking, fly fishing and bathing in thermal springs are all available. Original Travel (www.originaltravel.co.uk) can arrange stays there from £876 a head for three nights, including all meals and drinks, excursions, activities and airport transfers.

Free bubbly on the slopes
Never mind champagne powder – there will be free champagne on the slopes of Northstar, California this season. At 2.30pm guests will be offered a choice of Veuve Clicquot, a sparkling wine or some fizzy cider (in the US cider is usually non alcoholic). Northstar, which is close to the shore of Lake Tahoe, is part of the Vail Resorts stable

Snowshoe in Albania
Snowshoeing in Albania is on offer n a new winter programme from Exodus. The tour operator says pevious experience is not essential but would be advantageous “as this is a moderate to challenging grade trip in a remote region”. Travellers will be based at Valbone and Tropoje in the Albanian alps. Nine day. Trips cost from £1,099 per person, including flights, accommodation and all but two meals, snow shoes and poles. (www.exodus.co.uk).

Spot the stars over Ayers Rock

The night skies over the Australian Outback are perfect for stargazing. Ayers Rock Resort in the Northern Territory is employing an astronomer-in-residence who conducts free afternoon information sessions – until November - on five days of the week – to help guests identify planets and galaxies.




Friday, 29 August 2014

Single cruise charges axed - travel news headline

Antarctic lure for solo travellers
Growing demand from solo travellers has persuaded Quark Expeditions to drop its single supplement for some cabins aboard Ocean Endeavour – a forthcoming addition to its Antarctica expedition fleet. The move means significant savings. Following a major makeover the 199 passenger ship will make 12 voyages starting late next year. The company says there will be a special on board focus on fitness, with passengers being offered the option of healthy meals, yoga and stretching classes and a massage therapy session.

Rising demand for long escapes 
Demand from silver travellers for long escapes to a warmer climate appear to be growing. Britanny Ferries says it has sold twice as many four week apartment packages for autumn, winter and spring as it had at this point last year. It has added the Algarve and increased the number of destinations on offer on the Spanish Costas. The packages cost from £599 per person, including the car ferry crossing.

Haiti set to make tourism mark
Tourism looks set to help Haiti overcome its troubled recent history. Following years of political unrest and the 2010 earthquake which caused so much devastation and grief in the Caribbean country the giant Carnival line has announced its intention to develop a cruise port on the island of Tortuga, just off the north coast. The company estimates it will create over 900 jobs, directly or indirectly and it is expected that eventually cruise passengers will be offered a range of new shore excursions.

Mushroom hunting in Rutland
Love wild mushrooms? Hambleton Hall, near Oakham in Rutland is offering a foraging outing on October 4 led by mycologist Paul Nichol who will identify those that which are edible and delicious, such as the parasol, and those which cause harm. The excursion to Burley-on-the-Hill wood will be followed by a fungus themed lunch back the hotel (www.hambletonhall.com), whose chef has a Michelin star. The outing and lunch cost £85 per person. A night’s b&b starts at £265 per double room.

Robot room service
Call room service at one of the Starwood group’s Aloft hotels from now on and you may find your small items are delivered by a robot. Described as the hotel industry’s first Botir (robotic butler) it will make its first deliveries at the Aloft Cupertino, appropriately in California’s Silicon Valley. It will, says Starwood, even be able to negotiate the lift.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Floating hotel for Royal yacht visitors - travel news headlines

Floating hotel planned
A ship will be converted into a floating hotel to be moored next to the former royal yacht Britannia, now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh's port of Leith. The MV Windsor Castle, was launched in 1963, the last ship built by the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow. After a conversions costing nearly £1m the hotel is scheduled to open with 25 rooms in Spring 2016.

Tourist attractions fail disabled visitors
Britain’s top tourist attractions still have some way to go before catering fully for disabled people, according to a new survey. The charity Vitalise said just under half of the country’s 100 most visited attractions responded to its request for basic accessibility information. Of the 52 that did reply 63% said they were not completely accessible for wheelchair users, 25% had no parking places for disabled drivers or passengers, on 13% had trained staff in disability awareness and 26% hadn’t put relevant information on their web sites. Chief Executive, Chris Simmonds, commented: "The results of our survey show too many of Britain's tourist attractions are not taking accessibility seriously. That has got to improve. But, just as importantly, these venues need to work just as hard on how they communicate essential accessibility information to people with disabilities. Our own research shows two thirds of disabled people decide against visiting attractions because of a lack of clear information about how accessible it is."

China flights boost for Heathrow
Air China is to double the number of weekly flights it operates to Beijing from Heathrow. From October it will fly two round trips a day from the London airport’s new Terminal 2, where all its fellow members of the Star Alliance have chosen to operate under the same roof. The airline also flies to Beijing from Gatwick. Also in October China Eastern will add an extra round trip to its Heathrow-Shanghai service.

Cunard cancels two cruises 
Cunard has cancelled two cruises on the Queen Victoria after the need to replace a bearing in a propulsion unit forced it to bring forward the ship’s planned refit. Cruises affected are a 12 night sailing to the Canaries leaving on January 3-and a five-night trip to Amsterdam and Cherbourg departing immediately after that. 15-20 January 2015. Passengers have been offered full refunds or £100 credits against alternative bookings for cruise departing before January 17, 2017.

Airport passengers to be tracked
Passengers at Helsinki airport may soon receive warnings via their smart phone that they are running out of time to shop or eat before heading for the departure gate. The airport’s operator has installed technology, developed by Finnish company Walkbase, which will track the mobile devices of travellers who leave them switched on using some 300 beacons and routers. The firm says it will not be able to see or store personal data. The system will be used to identify bottlenecks and eventually to send passengers information – about delays or gate changes, for example.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Asia flight pass cuts fares - travel news headlines

Asia flight pass launched
The SkyTeam airline group has launched a round Asia pass allowing travellers to undercut the price of booking with individual carriers. As an example it cites an itinerary starting in Guangzhou, China, and taking in Sydney, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei and Seoul, which costs €2029. Bought separately from airlines belonging to the alliance it would cost €2664. Passengers can buy passes in three mileage bands of 13,000, 17,000 and 21,00 and itineraries could include destinations as diverse as Uzbekistan and the Maldives. They can be booked through travel agents or direct with any of the 20 SkyTeam  members.

Monarch to pull out of East Midlands
Monarch Airlines is to stop flying from East Midlands Airport by the end of April next year. The change is part of its planned transformation into a low cost scheduled airline as it moves away from charters. In announcing its decision Monarch noted that its Birmingham base was only 37 miles from East Midlands by road. Chief Executive Andrew Swaffield said: “As holiday habits change, our customers want a greater choice of flight times and destinations – particularly for short breaks. As we evolve from our roots in charter flying to become a scheduled European low-cost carrier we are becoming more focussed in the services we offer which we believe will provide customers overall with a more attractive flying schedule in the future.”

Hotel guests will have the slopes to themselves
Guests at the posh Tschuggen Grand Hotel in the Swiss resort of Arosa will have exclusive use of the slopes on November 28 - the opening day of the season. The runs can be reached in 2mins 30secs using the hotel’s private mountain railway. Three night’ half board in a double room, with access to the Tschuggen Bergoase Spa and a ski pass for the 29th costs around £628.

New sun flights from Newcastle
Jet2 is to launch weekly flights to four sunshine destinations from Newcastle next year. Starting in May the low fare airline will operate to Antalya (Turkey on Fridays, Malta on Thursdays, Larnaca (Cyprus), and Zante – both on Wednesdays.

Circus comes to hotel guests
The staff bend over backwards for guests at the Sol & Luna Lodge and Spa, a five star property near Cusco in Peru. Well, some of them do. The hotel has four in house acrobats who formerly worked with the Cirque du Soleil and now perform outdoors with equipment including a trapeze -  against the backdrop of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Art on track – project launched
If you encounter an upturned railway carriage while out walking in the Northamptonshire countryside during the next few months, don’t rush to call the emergency services. It’ll probably be an installation by the Catalan artist and architect Xevi Bayona. He is one of a group of artists taking part in Changing Tracks, the positioning of outdoor public artworks on or close to disused railway lines, has just been launched. Venues include the Nene Valley. Aideen Berry, for example, has drawn inspiration from the now ridiculous seeming 19th century “Hints for Lady Travellers by Lillian Campbell Davidson with stop motion video projections at unexpected locations. The works will remain in place until November.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Delta plans new Utah link - travel news headlines

New Utah flights
Salt Lake City is not just a gateway to the national parks of Utah – such as Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon. It’s also a good jumping off point for other spectacular parks, including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Delta will launch a new service there from Amsterdam next spring, creating a new potential link for travellers from the UK who will be able to connect via Schiphol airport on flights by the US carrier’s partner, KLM. Delta already operates between Salt Lake and Paris.

Munich Airport offers unlimited free wi fi
Let’s hear it for Munich Airport which has just announced travellers can connect with the internet free of charge – for as long as they like. Previously passengers wanting to get on line using laptops, tablets or smart phones were allowed on 30 minutes free.

Amsterdam most popular summer city
Amsterdam looks like being the European city destination of choice this summer holiday peak, according to hotel market intelligence provider TravelClick. On average its hotels have committed bookings for 54.8% of their rooms. London and Paris are close behind, each with 50.6% booked, though at weekend in the former it’s closer to two thirds. Barcelona is averaging 37.5% and Prague is hovering around 22%.

Indian river cruises launched
River cruises in northern India have been introduced for next year by tour operator Cox & Kings.  The vessel used will be the RV Rajmahal, launched this year, whose draft allows t to negotiate shallow channels. An 11 night tour, with a week cruising between Patna and Varanasi, costs from £2495 per person.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

New airport link - travel news

Washington's new downtown airport link 
A new transport link had opened between Washington’s Dulles airport and downtown. Launch of the new Silver Line Metrorail service enables travellers to take the train to or from Wiehle-Reston East – one of five new stations on a new network extension – and complete the journey by shuttle bus. Buses depart every six minutes during the rush hours and every 12 – 20 minutes at other times. It costs $11 – or less if you board or disembark at an intermediate station. A taxi could cost you around $50. In four years time trains are scheduled to run all the way to the airport.

Birmingham gets new Berlin flights
Birmingham will get a new link with Berlin when FlyBe launches flights to the German capital’s Tegel airport on October 26. The airline will operate five round trips a week, on Mondays. Tuesdays, Thursdays. Fridays and Sundays. On the same date FlyBe will start flying between Birmingham and Aberdeen. It recently announced it would fill the vacuum threatened between London City and Aberdeen route following British Airways’ decision to withdraw from the route at the end of summer.

Ride India’s little trains on new tour
A new tour enabling customers to ride India’s last remaining 2ft gauge railways has been introduced by train holiday specialist Ffestiniog Travel. The 20 day trip takes in The Neral to Matheran line near Mumbai, the Scindia State Railway at Gwalior and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Other train travel is also included. Departure will be on January 10 next winter. The price, including flights, is £4350 person based on two sharing.

Denver station hotel opens
The Great Hall at Denver’s Union Station serves as the main lobby of a new hotel which has just opened there. The 112 room Crawford occupies the upper floors of the north and south wings of the building, which opened originally in 1881 and is undergoing a major transformation, including the opening of restaurants from which guests may order via room service. A rail link between the station and Denver International Airport is scheduled to open in 2016.

Hotel group pilots in room tablets 

Make sure you’re internet savvy as tablets look likely to become widely available in hotel rooms. The Mandarin Oriental group is testing a scheme  to make the information you usually get in big printed folders available via apps running on Microsoft Surface Pro devices. The apps will cover in room dining, concierge and housekeeping requests, for example. The scheme is being piloted at hotels in London, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Tokyo.


Free chargers at Heathrow
A symptom of the latest security scare at London’s busiest airport: Geronimo Inns are providing free chargers for electronic devices following the latest security scare. Passengers may now be deprived of their phones or other devices if they can’t be switched on at security checkpoints. Travellers visiting the Five Tuns in Terminal 5, the Three Bells in Terminal 3 and the Tin Goose in Terminal 1 will be not only be able to charge their batteries but will have access to power points if they have their own chargers with them.

Air NZ premium economy voted best
From small beginnings, premium economy has now become a widely available alternative for travellers who want a bit more comfort but baulk at the thought of paying business class fares. For the second year running, Air New Zealand’s premium economy has been voted the world’s best in the annual passenger poll by online are travel benchmarking specialist Skytrax. Qantas and Turkish Airlines came second and third respectively. Cathay Pacific was voted best airline overall. In the low cost category Norwegian, which has just launched flights to the US from Gatwick, came third behind AirAsia and its long haul arm Airsia X. The poll covers aspects of airline service from catering to staff performance.

BA to lunch new Canaries service
BritishAirways will start flying to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands on December 13. This will be the first time it has flown there for ten years, though it already operates to neighbouring Tenerife and Lanzarote. Flights will depart year round, twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Tougher rules for cruise ship smokers

Smoking bans continue to be toughened on cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line is the latest to prohibit it on stateroom balconies. The ban will take effect on November 1. The company will also only allow smoking on the starboard side of The Waterfront aboard two ships – Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway – and even then not outside restaurants. In the casino – presumably so gamblers can calm their nerves – it will be limited to passengers actually playing. Earlier this month it emerged that Carnival would also introduce a balcony ban, from October 9.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Airlines skirt Ukraine - travel news headlines

Airlines skirt Ukraine
Flights are avoiding Ukraine airspace following yesterday’s Malaysian Airlines disaster. The Brussels based air traffic coordinating organization Eurocontrol said it had heard from the Ukrainian authorities that routes over the east of the country had been closed until further notice, and it was rejecting any flight plans which took aircraft there. It was clear that aviation safety authorities had not expected an aircraft to be downed by a missile while flying at such an altitude. Thai Airways, to quote one carrier, issued a statement today saying all its flights to and from Europe had been rerouted.  British Airways said its flights were not using Ukrainian airspace save for services to and from Kiev.  “We are keeping those services under review, but Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site. Virgin Atlantic said it was “not currently flying over this air space.” A spokeswoman said any effect on flight times was likely to be minimal.

Scots to get Abu Dhabi flights
Etihad Airways is to start flying between Edinburgh and its home base, Abu Dhabi. From June 8 next year it will operate daily, non stop services using A330-200 aircraft with 240 economy and 22 business class seats. Flights will depart from Scotland at 9.15am, arriving at 7.45pm. Departures from Abu Dhabi will be at 2.40am, reaching Edinburgh at 7.40am.The airline already flies to London and Manchester.

Street View installed on cruise ship
Potential cruise customers can now “tour” Royal Caribbean’s ship Allure of the Seas using Google Street View. Following installation of the technology on board, they can see cabins, explore areas such as the Royal Promenade, which runs almost the length of the ship and is lined with restaurants, boutiques and lounges, go inside the restaurants and view facilities such as pools, the climbing wall and basketball court. Go to www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/royalview

Free wi fi at New York airports
Passengers will soon be able to access the internet free at several New York airports, including John F Kennedy and Newark. An upgraded wi fi system will allow up to 30 minutes us without charge. The move follows an agreement to revise the contract between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Boingo Wireless.

Dolomites hotel opens
A new hotel with a wrap around infinity pool has opened above the Italian Dolomites resort of Ortisei. The Adler Mountain Mountain Lodge, formerly the Hotel Mezdi, is 1800 metres above sea level, in the middle of a ski piste. It has 18 suites in the main building and 12 two-storey chalets a little further up the slope. Guests are encouraged to leave their cars in Ortisei and take a ski lift up, while the hotel tansports their luggage. If visitors want to drive the Adler has to get them a permit, as the mountains around are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rates start at €207 per person per night, full board, including activities such as guided hiking and skiing – and yoga at sunset.

French home stays launched
Fancy brushing up your French? Home stays with French families have been launched in the Mayenne area of the western Loire. Besides helping guests to extend their vocabularies and brush up their grammar the new “cultural immersion” programme, called Let’s Speak, includes visits to local bakers,for example, to learn how baguettes and flutes are made and trips §to markets to gain insights into food production. A week’s stay costs €722.50 per person for full board, based on two people staying with the same family or €270 for a two day. One night stay.