Friday, 27 February 2009

Laugh? I nearly....................................

Ryanair to charge passengers to use the on board toilets? You can see why print advertising revenue is down if it's this easy to get a free mention. Michael O'Leary must have laughed so hard he had to press the call button.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

New design hotel to open in Acapulco

Acapulco's recent renaissance continues next month with the opening of a newly revamped design hotel. Fittingly, it has a Hollywood connection.

The resort, on Mexico's Pacific coast, had become a time worn place which had seen better days. A couple of decades ago it could best be described as seedy but fascinating, its appeal resting on images of the showbiz stars who flew there for R&R. Say the word and Frank Sinatra - with the rest of the Rat Pack - would beat the birds down to Acapulco's magnificent bay.

The Hotel Los Flamingos became an exclusive bolt hole for John Wayne, who bought it in 1954 with a group of friends Johnny Weissmuller and Errol Flynn, using it to entertain the likes of Richard Widmark and Roy Rogers.

As the glamour faded the celebrated divers who plunge into a roiling sea from its high cliffs of La Quebrada, scampering back up like geckos to collect tips from watching tourists, continued to provide a spectacle etched on the mind.

The hotel re-opening in March is the Boca Chica, which was once favoured by Rita Hayworth. Scenes from The Lady from Shanghai, in which she starred and which was made by her former husband Orson Welles, were filmed there.

It has been been made over by Mexico's Grupo Habita, which is attracting a growing reputation for stunnning "design" hotels, including properties in Mexico City and Playa Carmen. The Boca Chica has been redesigned from top to bottom - and all its 36 rooms have a private terrace or garden.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cash machines in the US - a warning

Travellers to the US who plan to use cash machines - beware. Debit card withdrawals may be blocked by your bank.

My Natwest card ceased to function after I had withdrawn about $140 from ATMs in Colorado last month. The explanation from the bank's security and fraud department was that its system had detected an "unusual" pattern of withdrawals.

No account was taken of the fact that I am a frequent traveller, that a couple of small withdrawals in January, in a ski resort, were perhaps not very unusual, or that, on this occasion, my wife was using her card to access a joint account - making it extremely unlikely that cloning had occurred.

However, there is no reason to doubt the Natwest's claim that cloning is a major risk in the US, which lags behind the UK and those other European countries where chip and pin technology has been introduced. Its rationale is that its system was designed to protect its customers from being cleaned out.

One bank employee - I spoke to several - said an attempt had been made to contact me, though clearly, unless my calls were being diverted I could not have answered as I was out of the country. And I had not provided the bank with a mobile number.

Whichever bank you use, it is worth checking whether there is anything you can do to head off the inconvenience. Natwest says I should carry its emergency telephone number with me in future - I can reverse the charges if I need to call - so that I can get my card unblocked.