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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
International cruises get go aheadabout 20 hours ago
International cruises from England can restart, the Government has announced. The Government based its decision on epidemiological evidence gained after the earlier resumption of cruises in UK waters. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with the cruise industry “to help the industry build back from COVID-19 while protecting British nationals from future pandemic-related disruption”. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “International cruise travel advice will be amended to encourage travellers to understand the risks associated with cruise travel and take personal responsibility for their own safety abroad.”
Prospect of transatlantic restart brightensabout 20 hours ago
Ttravellers arriving in England from the EU and US will no longer need to self isolate, raising hopes that transatlantic trips for UK citizens could also at last be on the horizon. The move also applies to those coming from the EFTA countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – plus Andorra. Monaco and Vatican City. They will all have to take pre-departures tests and PCR checks within two days after arriving. The change does not yet apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, though they are expected to follow suit.
Earlier ministers were sent the results of an airline trial that claimed to show internationally recognised vaccination proof can be checked before passengers board at overseas airports, avoiding delays at UK immigration. The trial was conducted by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on flights from the US, Caribbean and Europe. In a statement the airlines said it “successfully proves that airlines and airports can very effectively check a wider range of recognised vaccination statuses for different nationalities – in both paper and digital format – at the point of departure and away from the UK border, ensuring no further pressure in immigration halls. Verification checks ensured 99% of credentials were authentic with the remaining 1% successfully denied where documentation requirements were not met.” The outcome of the Government’s latest traffic light review is expected by then end of this week.
Current rules allow fully vaccinated UK travellers arriving from green and amber list countries to avoid quarantine – but not those vaccinated abroad. This is at odds with EU countries including France, Germany, Greece and Portugal.
Days before tourist boom reflected at revamped Ibiza hotelabout 20 hours ago
Now designed to reflect “the serenity and elegance” of Mediterranean summers in the 1950s and 60s", Hotel Riomar has reopened on Ibiza’s Santa Eulalia Bay. The boutique property, which pre-dates most of the surrounding town, has 116 rooms, including four suites. Half of them look out on the sea, while the rest have views of the 16th century Puig de Missa church in the Quarto de Xarc, a fortified building on a hill 52 metres above sea level. The hotel’s pool terrace overlooks its garden. It has a fitness centre, an exclusive stretch of beach, and incorporates accessible accommodation. , is now part of Marriott International’s Tribute Portfolio. It’s director, Marco Schiralli, says: “This hotel characterizes the serenity and elegance of those summers on the Mediterranean coasts in the 50’s and 60’s”.
Norwegian cruises again - from Athens2 days ago
Norwegian Cruise Line has started operating again with a sailing from Athens. Norwegian Jade was the first of its 17 strong fleet to return to service after a break of more than 70 weeks. Until November the ship will sail between ports, enabling passengers to spent 8 -9 hours each day exploring a different island, among them Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini. The line’s first seven day cruises this is the first time on of its ships has been based at the Greek capital’s port of Piraeus – sold out quickly. But they will run until mid November and its website shows availability from next month. And its long term plan is to for seven more of its vessels – Norwegian Dawn, Epic, Escape. Getaway, Gem, Jade and Star – to sail on Greek itineraries.
France quarantine move may be reversed - report3 days ago
The quarantine requirement for travellers returning from France may be dropped next week in the Government’s latest review of its traffic light lists, according to the Times. The newspaper said officials “appeared to acknowledge the threat from the Beta variant of the coronavirus had been contained”. However, may wonder whether it is an acknowledgment the Government got it wrong in the first place. The decision to move France to “amber plus” took effect on a week ago, forcing some travellers to head for home earlier than planned. There have been subsequent reports of cabinet disagreement over the move, and bafflement from France, where incidence of the variant was reported to be very low, save in the Indian Ocean Overseas Territory of Réunion, an Overseas Territory nearly 6000 miles away in the Indian Ocean.
Newborn Cyprus Airways to launch Heathrow flights3 days ago
Cyprus Airways, whose name has been revived after going bust six years ago, is to start operating from Heathrow’s Terminal 2 on 10 September. The airline will operate to Larnaca, using an Airbus A319 aircraft. Flights will take 4hrs 40mins or 5hrs for the return leg. Exact departure times – around lunchtime from London – can be checked on the airline’s website. The original Cyprus Airlines ceased flying in 2015. It reincarnation as Charlie Airlines was acquired recently by a Maltese company. It currently serves eleven international destinations: Malta, Beirut, Prague, Rome, St Petersburg and – in Greece – Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Preveza and Skiathos. British Airways already operates to Larnaca from Heathrow. Other airlines flying there from various London airports include easyJet, TUI Airways and Wizz.
Senegal on offer from Britain's biggest tour operator6 days ago
Britain’s biggest tour operator is offering holidays in Senegal for the first time. From winter 2022, TUI UK customers will be able to book a week at Pointe Sarene, the West African country’s newest tourist resort, staying at the new beachside RIU Baobab hotel with swim up rooms and a la carte restaurants. Pent up desire for trips to look forward to has prompted the firm to launch a winter programme further in advance than ever before. It will offer direct weekly flights to the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Pointe Sarene is 100km to the south. Travellers will have the option of side excursions from explorations of local culture to safaris. Senegal is north of the Gambia, with a coastline on the Atlantic. Once a major departure point for slaves later became French West Africa before becoming fully independent in 1960. Though French remains the official language, Arabic and around 39 distinct ethnic languages are also spoken. Islam is the most widely observed religion. Average midwinter temperatures are around 25 degrees Celsius.
Loganair to axe Heathrow - Isle of Man route7 days ago
Loganair is to axe its flights between Heathrow and the Isle of Man 11 August. The Scottish airline, now the UK’s largest regional operator, says it has been unable to agree essential financial support for the service from the Manx Government beyond the end of July". It started flying to and from Heathrow at the end of November, using an Embraer 145 aircraft. This was the first time it had operated at London’s principal airport. Previously it had operated the route from London City on behalf of British Airways CityFlyer. It continues to fly between the island and Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Jersey.
Croatia demands pre-arrival tests7 days ago
Croatia is to require visitors from the UK to show evidence of a negative PCR or antigen test. The tests must have been taken no longer than 72 hours or 48 hours respectively before arrival. The move takes effect from Monday (26 July) According to the travel trade body ABTA they are required irrespective of the traveller’s vaccinated status. Croatia was moved to the Government’s green watchlist on Monday, which means there is a risk it could return to the amber category. That in turn would mean self isolation and two tests after arriving back in England – the second on the fifth or eighth day back. Fully vaccinated passengers do not have to self isolate and need take only a test on or before day two. Everyone has to take a test before departing for home.
Tallinn gets new cruise terminal7 days ago
A new cruise terminal has opened in Tallinn, with a walkway providing access to the Estonian capital’s historic centre. Besides leading to the walled Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site it takes passengers to food and drink outlets and attractions along the Baltic waterfront front. The remarkably well preserved buildings of Tallin’s medieval and Hanseatic centre is about a 25 minute walk away, as is the fascinating Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour, a vast hangar dedicated to maritime history, with exhibits including a Short 184 seaplane and the submarine Lembit, built in Britain before World War 2 and taken over by the Soviet Navy in 1940. COVID allowing, some 500.000 cruise passengers a year pass through the port. The new terminal has been built with an eye to sustainability and is heated using sea power.
Comeback for luxury ski chalet firm8 days ago
Luxury ski chalet tour operator VIP Ski has launched holidays for next winter, completing its resurrection after going into administration late last year. The operator will run a slimmed down programme after being acquired by a firm headed by its former boss, Andy Sturt. It has dropped Austria and is no longer including flights in its packages. But it will for the first time operate Bear Resort, a new piste side wing of the Les Arcs development Arc 1950. Designed from scratch by Sturt, it incorporates 12 apartments, a 30 room hotel, a pool, spa, gym and cinema. The firm is also offering three return coach transfers to and from Geneva Airport on Sundays, serving chalets in its five French resorts – Arc 1950, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Morzine and Val d’Isère – and has negotiated deals with local taxi firms for customers wanting private transport to and from Geneva and other airports.
Cumbrian hotel to get five star re-vamp9 days ago
Gilsland Hall, close to Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria is to be transformed into a five star hotel. Currently functioning as a 60 room three star property, it will undergo a complete renovation, scheduled to have finished by next spring. The hotel is set in 140 acres of landscaped gardens and natural woodland. Gilsland is a village on the border with Northumberland. Originally built in the 1740s, but reconstructed in grander fashion after a fire in 1859, the hotel was visited by Rabbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott. It was bought by Stratsmore Holdings after going into administration a year ago and will be operated by Monday Hospitality Group under its new country house brand, Black Book Hotels. After the renovation it will offer luxury sujites and rooms with patios, and a luxury spa. Meanwhile it has two restaurants, one with a garden terrace, is within two miles of the Pennine Way long distance hiking trail, has fishing rights on the nearby River Irthing, and can provide guests with hampers or packed lunches.
France confusion - did Government get geography wrong?10 days ago
The Government’s latest crackdown on travellers returning from France is reported to have been greeted with derision across the Channel. According to the Observer French officials suspect the decision may have been resulted geographical ignorance. They suggest it may have been based on rising cases on the French island of Réunion, an Overseas Territory nearly 6000 miles away in the Indian Ocean. On Friday the UK Government threw plans for holidays in France into confusion by announcing fully vaccinated travellers would need to self isolate for ten days on their return and organise two tests in the meantime. Earlier they had been included among those who – from today – would escape quarantine and need just one test on arrival. The move was blamed on the persistence of the Beta, or South African, variant. There is some evidence it may evade protection offered by the AstraZeneca vaccine. But while the Beta variant was reported to account for only a small number of cases in a country whose current overall infection rate is way below the UK’s – and the majority of those cases were on Réunion, where it is dominant. Available statistics suggest the risk of encountering someone infected with the variant in the places most Britons spend their French holidays is infinitesimal – raising the question whether the danger of importing it could have been contained by the previously planned test before departing for home and a further PCR check on or before the second day back.
Wizz postpones Cardiff flights until next summer13 days ago
Wizz Air has suddenly postponed the start of flights from Cardiff until summer next year, blaming “COVID-29 related travel restrictions”. Its decision was announced, confusingly, just a day after a spokesperson confirmed its base at the Welsh capital’s airport would open on 30 July, with flights taking off for Spain, Greece and Portugal and – later in the year – Egypt. Wizz had already delayed the start of its Cardiff operation from March. Confirmation of the new postponement came after the Welsh Government announced travellers returning from amber list countries would no longer be required to self isolate. In a statement today the budget fare carrier said: "As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 related travel restrictions, and ever changing quarantine measures in place across the UK and Europe, it is with regret that we have had to take the difficult but responsible decision to further postpone the opening of our new Cardiff base until summer 2022 to give our customers, employees and business partners certainty during this difficult time. This has not been an easy decision and we understand the disappointment our customers in South Wales will be feeling. Despite the ever changing and inconsistent government travel regulations, with three new bases and over 60 new routes in the UK announced in the past year alone, together with the arrival of four brand new A321NEO aircraft, Wizz Air remains committed to long-term growth in the U.K., creating hundreds of direct new jobs while also stimulating the tourism and hospitality industries. We apologise for the inconvenience this further delay might have caused to our customers. We remain dedicated and look forward to opening our fourth UK base at Cardiff Airport and to welcoming passengers onboard our young and green aircraft fleet next summer.”
Scottish holidays hit by ATC strike13 days ago
Travellers booked to fly to six Scottish airports later this month were hit by confirmation of industrial action today. Loganair said a one day strike by air traffic controllers on 29 July would ground its services to Inverness, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Benbecula and Dundee. Customers would be able to transfer to other flights or receive full refunds. The airline said it planned to operate larger aircraft on 28 and 30 July to help passenger rearrange travel. Flight to and from Islay, Barra, Tiree and Campbelltown would not be affected by the strike, which is in protest against plans to introduce remote control towers at fice airports operated by Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) .
BA to launch new fast bag drop13 days ago
Passengers on British Airways flights from will be able to check in their luggage immediately they step off the Heathrow Express at Terminal 5 from Monday (19 July). The service will be available at peak departure times – between 5am and 10am. It will be free to travellers who have checked in online at home. Bags will be sealed to make them secure by the airline’s partner Airportr. The next time travellers will see their bags will be on the carousel at their destination. Airportr is better known for picking up passengers’ luggage at their homes or offices and checking them in.
New tour of Dick Francis locations launched13 days ago
Readers of Dick Francis racing novels can now join a guided tour of the Newmarket locations the former steeplechase jockey used in his plots. The new two hour tour, topped off with a cream tea, is on offer from Discover Newmarket. “On the trail of Dick Francis” includes the Rowley Mile Racecourse, target of a bomb plot in Dead Heat, the sales ring at Tattersalls, where a horse is shot in Bonecracker, and the Stallion Unit at the National Stud, where drug doping is uncovered in Banker. Francis, who died in 2010 aged 89, was a former champion jockey who won more than 350 races and wrote some 50 books – mostly crime novels with horseracing themes.
Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza back on the amber list14 days ago
Travellers returning to England from Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza who are not fully vaccinated will have to self isolate after the Government moved them back to the amber traffic light list. Wales and Scotland are following suit and Northern Ireland is expected to fall in line later. Though Bulgaria and Hong Kong switch to the green list from Monday (19 July) while Croatia and Taiwan move to the green watchlist, the decision provoked instant fury among travel companies and airlines. The British Virgin Islands are also moving to the amber list, while Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone will be moved to the strictest red list. People with two jabs – including most silver travellers – will be unaffected but it seems clear that upping the risk status of the three Balearic islands will also dent their confidence in booking summer holidays abroad.
The travel trade organisation ABTA said: “Today’s decision to move the Balearic Islands to the amber list is a step back for the travel industry. Thousands of travel jobs and businesses are in desperate need of a successful summer season, and this further emphasises the urgent need for tailored financial support for a sector that has struggled to make any meaningful revenue for almost 18 months now. Helpfully, from Monday 19 July, fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England, Scotland and Wales from amber list countries will no longer need to self-isolate or take an additional test on day eight, so this will minimise the disruption for vaccinated holidaymakers, but quarantine for non-vaccinated travellers remains a significant obstacle. Consumer confidence is essential if the industry is to trade its way out of this crisis, so the Government must be more transparent about the criteria being used to move countries between the green, amber and red lists to allow travel businesses and customers alike to plan ahead. The Government also needs to continue to capitalise on the successful vaccine rollout by expanding the green list in line with scientific evidence and reducing the need for and cost of testing, which is a significant barrier to travel for many people. Sufficient border control resource must also be provided at our ports and airports to help make travel as smooth as possible.”
Jet2 quickly added flights to Bulgaria and Croatia to meet expected demand. They included two new routes to Bourgas in Bulgaria from Glasgow and Leeds Bradford for the peak summer holiday season, and more summer flights to Croatia rom Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Stansted and Newcastle to Dubrovnik and from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Stansted to Split.
Cunard to resume international sailings14 days ago
Cunard will cruise in international waters again from November, for the first time since the pandemic stopped sailings over a year ago. The line plans over 40 voyages this year and next. They will go on sale from 2pm next Wednesday (21 July). The restart will kick off when Queen Mary 2 resumes transatlantic crossings before sailing on European short breaks and making winter voyages to the Caribbean.
Following a summer of UK cruises delayed until next month by a small number of COVID cases among its crew, Queen Elizabeth will start a series of European cruises from Southampton visitng destinations including Lisbon, Funchal, Malaga, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Madeira. The ship will also sail from Southampton to Dubai – departing on 20 February with time ashore in Spain, Greece, Jordan and Oman, and an opportunity to take in the “rose red city” of Petra. Later than month Queen Elizabeth will depart for Asia via the Suez Canal, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Queen Victoria will return to sailing in April with three new round trips from Southampton, taking in eleven countries with shore time in cities including Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallin and Gdynia, and overnights in Amsterdam, St Petersburg and Lisbon.
Colombia cruises planned by AmaWaterways15 days ago
Cruises on Colombia’s Magdalena River are to be launched by AmaWaterways. The operator, which claims to be the first luxury line to offer trips on the so called “River of a Thousand Rhythms”, is inviting potential customers to register for departures starting in December 2023. It has teamed up with leading South American company Metropolitan Touring, which has decades of experience running expedition cruises to the Galapagos Islands. Travellers will be able to chose from two itineraries, sailing on an all suite ship. Shore excursions will include hiking, kayaking and spotting birds and other wildlife. The Magdalena is Colombia’s principal river, flowing northwards through the west of the country for some 1528 kilometres before emptying into the Caribbean.