News in Brief

Image courtesy Diageo

Learn science of whisky on new Scottish cruise

Learning the art of whisky distilling in the Hebrides is the theme of the first UK tour to be launched by the New Scientist magazine's travel arm. Customers on the 8-day trip will set sail on a 1903 tall ship on 4 October. They will visit distilleries on the islands of Islay and Jura, seeing how whisky is made, how different processes and stimuli affect its flavours and atending talks and tasting the end result in traditional and modern, state of the art distilleries. Accompaning them will be Professor Barry Smith, a founding director of University of London’s Centre for the Study of the Senses.

July take off for new budget Boston flights.

JetBlue will start flying to Boston from London this summer. The US budget fare airline will launch daily services from Gatwick on 20 July and from Heathrow on 23 August. It will operate both routes non stop using its new Airbus long range A321s with 114 economy seats and 14 in its Mint premium class. CEO Robin Hayes says: “Our strategy of flying to both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports has been a success for us in New York, and we’ve secured slots to be able to do the same in Boston, becoming the only airline in New England offering flights to London’s two main airports. Our London service has been an incredible success so far and we’ve been able to go in with our unbeatable JetBlue service and experience and bring down fares on a traditionally overpriced route – the JetBlue Effect in action. We’re ready to do the same at Logan as we advance our growth strategies in both Boston and London.”

Malta eases COVID rules

The Maltese Government has indicated that from 11 April it will drop its demand that visitors from the UK, Ireland and other "red list" countries quarantine. Howver they will stille have to present evidence of negative PCR tests received no more than 72 hours before arrival.

Sweden removes its COVID restrictions

Visitors to Sweden are now unhindered by COVID restrictions. They no longer need to present evidence of a nagative test on arrival.

Montenegro: Hike and Bike

The concierge team at the Regent Porto Montenegro can now help guests organise a series of hikes and cycling tours. Examples are a climb on foot to the rocky summit of Pestingrad, on a trail once used to bring salted meat, prosciutto and cabbage to Kotor Old Town, which lies below. It takes 2.5 - 3hrs and demand moderate fitness. A tougher challenge is the hike up to St Andrew's Fortress above Perast on Boka Bay, with its many palazzos and churches. This takes about 3hrs up and 2.5hrs down. Cycle excursions sugested include alternative round trip routes between the hotel and Kotor

Dreaded passenger locator form axed

Silver travellers who have spent part of their final holiday evening wrestling with the appalling Passenger Locator Form will be relieved it has been axed. Boris Johnson had confirmed it would be reviewed by Easter For mobile phone users without the dancing fingers of the young, who have been obliged to start all over again after making an error, the amount of detail demanded seemed superfluous even when COVID was at its most rampant. For example, travellers were asked to give an arrival time in the UK, when flights may be delayed or cancelled even those with non fully flexible Eurotunnel or ferry tickets are usually allowed to depart earlier or later than planned if there's space on board.

Ireland removes COVID restrictions

Travellers to Irelands no longer need to show any proof of vaccination, recovery, evidence of a negative test or an Irish passenger locator form receipt on arrival.

.New Sarajevo flights set for launch

Budget fare airline Wizz has launched flights from Luton to Sarajevo. Since 29 March it is operating twice a week to the Bosnia-Herzogovina capital, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sarajevo, scene of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to the outbreak of the First World War, hosted the 1984 Winter Olympic before the near year long siege at the hands fop Serbian forces that started in 1992. Its cable car – from the city centre to the Mt Trebevic lookout – was reconstructed in 2018. Wizz is also set to start flying from Gatwick after acquiring 15 daily pairs of take off and landing slots from Norwegian, which is now operating as a short haul airline.

Flanders - free and cut price admission to attractions

Tourist office Visit Flanders, whose remit covers most of Belgium's First World War history. has launched a pass that gets you free or discounted entry to a host of museums and other attractions. Aimed at tempting international visitors back as pandemic recedes, t covers the likes of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, and the Passchendale Memorial Museum in Zonnebeke, and many smaller, privately run sites, including the Hooge Crater Museum in Ypres, Talbot House in Poperinge and the Lange Max Museum in Koeklaere. Valid for visits up to and including 30 September. the Welcome Back to Flanders Fields Pass also covers cut price brewery tours and bike hire - including e-bike rental. It's free provided you stay in oine of the region's participating hotels.

Cut price biz class fares to Oz

Business class deals with Malaysian Airlines have enabled Trailfinders to offer new packages to Australia. For example - a 13 night trip to South Australia, taking in Kangaroo Island, the Barossa Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula, with 11 days car hire and breakfast, 9 night in hotels and 4 in a Victor Harbor apartments pllus the "ultimate winery tour", comes with a guide price (arrengments can be flexible) of £5049.

Kangaroo Island seals (image by Judith West from Pixabay)

Store your ski gear in Alpine chalets

Interesting plot for encouraging return business comes from VIP Ski. The upmarket chalet and chalet hotel holiday operator is enabling guests to leave as much baggage as they like in the Alps. It will be ready for them when they return - no matter which resort or property they choose for their next trip.

"Pole to Pole" cruises launched

Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten to operate three more cruises between the extremes of north and south next year. The itineraries – which obviously don't actually start and finish at the two poles – vary. Two of them cross the Northwest passage and the other takes in the heart of it. Besides crossing the Arctic Circle they visit destinations including Western Greenland, Alaska, the islands of the Pacific Northwest, the Inside Passage to Vancouver, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Baja California, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and Chile before reaching Antarctica. All three departures are in August 2023. Two are for 93 and 94 days and start at €41990, the third, which takes in Nova Scotia and crosses to the Pacific through the Panama Canal, lasts 66 days and costs from €27,990.

Airline launches e-library

Passengers on Taiwanese airline EVA Air can now download newspapers, magazine and books using a new e-library, before taking off and after arriving at their destinations. The amount of content depends on the class they are seated in or their frequent flyer status. But they will always be able to pay for extra. Previously space and weight limited EVA to 70 publications per flight – in Mandarin, English and other languages. The library allows it to offer up to 500 different publications in 31 languages – with regularly updated choices. The airline says the move should allow to eliminate newspaper and magazine paper waste, save energy, reduce emission and fight global warming.

Hiking trail to re-open

The Trans Bhutan Trail is set to re-open after 60 years following a major restoration. It will take just over a month to walk its full length but shorter trips will be possible. With origins at least five centuries ago, the trail will be launched by the King of the east Himalayan country with a ceremony in the ancient and sacred city of Trongsa. The restoration work, which began in 2018, included deployment of more than 900 furloughed locals to rebuild 18 bridges. 10,000 stairs and 250 miles of pathway. It will enable hikers and mountain bikers the opportunity to visit parts of Bhutan seldom seen. Information on the trail and arrangements to walk or bike it can be found at the website of the Trans Bhutan Trail on a not for profit basis, with proceeds going to ensure its future and that of the communities along it. A list of itineraries, including half day, one, three, four, seven and eight day day hikes can be found here. For example, an eight day itinerary, with accommodation and meals, visa, entry and excursion costs and a local trekking guide costs £2480 based on two sharing – excluding international flights.