In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Ca' di dio courtyard %28rendering%29

    Ca' di Dio courtyard (rendering)

    Five stars and frescoes: new luxury hotel set to open in Venice

    about 1 month ago

    A new five star hotel is set to open in Venice this spring. The Ca’ di Dio is a short distance from the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Arsenale, the complex of former shipyards and armories, whose raid mass construction of seagoing vessels was responsible for much of the republic’s wealth during its golden years as La Serenisima. The hotel is a covered building dating from 1272. It has been designed as a Venetian house reflecting the city’s history, with a contemporary design incorporating preserved frescoes. It will have a covered roof terrace and two enclosed courtyards where light snacks will be served through the day. An outdoor restaurant will overlook the lagoon, with views towards San Giorgio Maggiore. There will be direct access from boats via a canal beside the hotel. Double room rates will start at €460 including breakfast.

  • Viking   ocean ship

    Viking cruise passengers to get daily PCR tests

    about 1 month ago

    Passengers on three Viking cruises in English waters will receive daily PCR tests, processed in full scale on board laboratories. The non invasive saliva tests, which will also be part of the embarkation process, will be carried out in guests’ staterooms. The cruises were announced in the wake of news that the Government hopes domestic operations will be able to start again from 17 May. The laboratories, have been installed on all the line’s ships. The company plans to use its new vessel Viking Venus for the eight day itineraries departing from Portsmouth on 22,29 May and 5 June. Ports of call will include Liverpool, Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, Falmouth and Portland. Crew members will also receive the tests. Pre-registration for the “England’s Scenic Shores” sailings is currently limited to loyal past customers. Reservations will be available to all UK residents later, as will further details of the voyages. Viking Venus will be named in the UK on 17 May. Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said: " We welcome the UK Government’s support for the return of safe domestic cruises as an important component in the travel industry’s recovery." The line had been able to restart operations quickly as it had kept its vessels crewed during the long cruising freeze forced by the pandemic. “We have been implementing our additional protocols, including daily quick and easy non-invasive saliva PCR tests for our crew, for almost six months now."

  • Turkey

    Turkey - extra flights planned

    Holiday hopes prompt flights jump by major operator

    about 1 month ago

    Encouraging noises about the restart of international travel from a clutch of European countries has prompted budget airline Jet2 and its holiday arm to up sharply the number of summer flights it plans to offer. Jet2 Holidays is Britain’s second biggest package tour operator. The increases are from Belfast International, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle. The destinations are in countries that have indicated they are ready to allow the return of British visitors who have been vaccinated, or in the case of Turkey, with no restrictions. They are the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus – variously split between the airports. For example, while Belfast gets more flights to Dalaman in Turkey and Tenerife, Newcastle gets more capacity to Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Malaga, Faro, Dalaman, Corfu and Rhodes. The company claims big spikes inn bookings to the Canaries, Greece and Cyprus, though the most recent YouGov research suggested those for the travel industry overall had not shown a spectacular rise despite the road map out of lockdown. And much will still depend on the Government’s decision on whether or not holidaymakers will need to quarantine on their return, which has the potential to make current optimism look premature.

  • Nice market

    Nice market: image by Erich Westendarp from PIxabay

    Paris-Nice night train set to start

    about 1 month ago

    A night train will start running between Paris and Nice next month. From 16 April it will leave Paris Austerlitz at 8.52pm, stopping at Marseille Blancard, Toulon, Les Arcs Draguignan, St Raphael Valescure, Cannes and Antibes, before arriving at Nice-Ville at 9.06am. It’s not much use to UK travellers until 17 May at the earliest, when holidays abroad may at last become possible. But there was a small glimmer of hope last week that French restrictions may not impede cross-Channel travel. The Paris Government removed its rule that French citizens living in the UK and several other countries, could return to France only for essential reasons. Passengers booking tickets for the SNCF night service have a choice of three categories – first class, four berth compartments; second class with six berths or reclining seat class.

  • Le mans

    Tesse Museum: recreated Egyptian tomb. Image courtesy Ville du Mans

    Le Mans shakes up museums and announces free entry

    about 1 month ago

    The French city of Le Mans, keen to show is has more to offer than just its 24 hour race, will allow free entry to its museums when they reopen. The museums will also have undergone a major shake up in order to display far more of their collections than has been possible previously. The Tesse Museum will be renamed the Museum of Fine Arts; the Hotel Tucé – a long abandoned private house with extensive cellars that was built into the city’s Roman walls in the 11th century – will now house a museum of Le Mans’ history where exhibits from the Queen Beregère Museum and the Carré Plantagenet will be on show, the latter now becoming the Natural History Museum. Le Mans is capital of the Sarthe Departement in the Pays de la Loire. There was no date for the reopening of the museums at the time of writing. But non petrol heads should note that this year’s will take place on 21 and 22 August and that the Le Mans Classic will be staged in the first month of July.

  • Chalet

    Contactless chalets - concept gains momentum

    about 1 month ago

    The concept of the “contactless” ski chalet looks to be catching on. Ski France has now announced it will offer 50 such properties for next season. It promises fridges stocked with locally prepared dishes and fresh ingredients to be used in simple recipes – for breakfast, afternoon tea and three course dinners – plus wine and beer. Lift passes and ski or snowboard hire will be pre-booked. Halfway through the week, staff will restock, clean and replace towels. There will also be a “à la carte” option, enabling guests to choose from a longer menu of provisions and pay for what they want – perhaps doing more of their own shopping. The move, which will clearly help the operator surmount post-Brexit problems deploying UK staff, follows the launch of similar scheme by London based Ski Solutions, reported here last month. Ski France is the UK arm of French hotel group Madame Vacances. The chalets, which are in two quality tiers – “Classic and Premium” – are in a range of resorts, including Val d’Isère, Tignes, Méribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires, La Plagne and Alpe d’Huez. Joanna Laforge, the company’s part owner ands it sales and marketing director. Says: “In our contactless catered chalets guests will still be looked after, from behind the scenes; allowing families and friends to relax in their safe, social bubble. This modern twist will entice a new generation of skiers to discover affordable chalet holidays.”

  • Anthem of the seas

    Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas (image courtesy Royal Caribbean)

    More cruises suspended

    about 1 month ago

    Cruise lines in the Royal Caribbean group have now suspended most of their sailings until 31 May. The move applies to Royal Caribbean itself – with exceptions for some China, Singapore and Mediterranean itineraries, Celebrity and Silversea. Azamara sailings have been suspended until 30 June.

    Meanwhile Celestyal Cruises, which specialises in itineraries taking in the Greek islands and eastern Mediterranean, will resume sailings on 29 May. Earlier it had hoped to start again late next month. Its ship Celestyal Crystal will operate a seven night trip from Piraeus calling at Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Lavrion (for the Temple of Poseidon), Mykonos , Milos and Crete. Until demand prompts the reintroduction of is remaining fleet, the company company will also sail from Lavrion, allowing it to operate three and four night cruises.

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    Travel Pass to get first live trial

    about 1 month ago

    The first live trial of IATA’s Travel Pass will take place on Singapore Airlines flights to London next week. The pass has been designed to allow passengers to store test results, vaccination details and other information as a means of reviving air travel. Passengers will be invited to download the airline organisation’s Travel Pass App and create a digital ID which will include a photo and passport information. They can also add their flight details. Next they will need to book a pre-departure test at one of seven Singapore clinics, using the ID to register for it when they turn up to take it. Results will be sent to them via the app. Japanese airline ANA has also announced it will trial the IATA app. The association is calling for governments to step up efforts to create a global standard for a “smart vaccination card”. It says “countries need to ensure that their citizens receive a digital COVID19 test/vaccination certificate when they are tested or vaccinated so they have a verifiable document on their mobile device.”

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    Seychelles set to open to tourists

    about 1 month ago

    The Seychelles will open its borders to visitors from 25 March – whether or not they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. There will be no requirement to quarantine on arrival in the Indian Ocean archipelago – and no restriction of movement. Travellers will, though, need to present proof of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure. Sylvestre Ravigonde, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, said the decision to relax entry requirements had been made possible by the islands "aggressive " vaccination programme". It has been taken “in full consultation with, and the endorsement of our health authorities”. However, passengers from South Africa are temporarily denied entry, at least until a further review is carried out.

  • Spirit of discovery ext 9994b %282%29

    Spirit of Discovery - image courtesy Saga

    Hope of May restart for domestic cruises

    about 1 month ago

    Cruises in UK waters should be able to restart on 17 May, Maritime Minister Robert Courts has indicated. The Government hopes to allow such sailings to begin in line with the opening of domestic tourism as set out in its road map to recovery. The news emerged from a meeting yesterday between the Minister and the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group, which tweeted later that the range of topic included COVID-19 protocols and risk mitigation, the vaccination programme and a “pathway to the domestic cruise market re-opening on 17 May”.

  • Loganair embraer 135

    New northeast-southwest flights planned

    about 1 month ago

    Flights between Teesside and Bristol are set to take off this spring. Scotland’s Loganair will operate on weekdays, starting on 24 May. Flights taking 1hr 10mins will depart from the northeast on weekdays at 2.45pm, returning at 4.05pm. Teesside International Airport is close to the North Yorkshire border, making it a jumping off point for some of Britain’s best walking country, including the North York Moors. On the same day the airline will start flying between Derry and Liverpool, taking over the route from Ryanair. It will operate initially on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The hour long flights will depart from Northern Ireland at 10.50am, returning at 12.20pm. Loganair also plans to launch flights linking Derry with Glasgow in late June.

  • South terminal upper forecourt large

    South Terminal upper forecourt - image courtesy Gatwick Airport

    Gatwick: April start for South Terminal drop off, pick up charge

    about 2 months ago

    Gatwick has set 12 April for the introduction of charges at its South Terminal. Passengers could pay as much as £25 – £5 for the first ten minutes and £1 a minute after that up to a maximum of 30 minutes. The charges apply from today (8 March) at the North Terminal, though only essential travel will be allowed until 17 May at the earliest.

    Jonathan Pollard, the airport’s chief commercial officer, said: "We recognise that a drop off charge is never going to be popular with some people, however given that we have just announced losses of £465 million and a reduction of more than 40% of our workforce in 2020, we have little choice but to explore new revenue streams to help us protect the remaining jobs. Equally, as we consider how to rebuild better, we hope this new scheme will also encourage passengers to consider more sustainable journeys to the airport, including using our excellent public transport facilities.

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    Manchester - US flights edge closer for Aer Lingus

    about 2 months ago

    Aer Lingus is reported to have received tentative approval for flights to the US. The airline wants to fly from Manchester to Boston, New York (JFK) and Orlando this summer. It has set up a UK subsidiary to operate the services. Now the American Department of Transportation has given it the green light provided the UK Civil Aviation Authority issues that subsidiary with an air operator’s certificate.

  •  keeper's house and keeper's cottage view from east african plains

    Keeper's House and Cottage

    Rooms with a view of East Africa - in Wiltshire

    about 2 months ago

    It may be impossible to watch herds of wildebeest sweeping through Torquay but rooms with a view of game on the East African plains are now available in Wiltshire. Stately home Longleat is offering accommodation overlooking its famous safari park as part of a new venture into self catering rentals. Stays in Keeper’s House and Cottage, with views of giraffe and zebra from their windows, cost from £750 and £500 a night respectively – with 4×4 tours thrown in. Along with East Lodge, the gatehouse between the village of Horningsham and Longleat House, they are on offer from 12 April. Three more properties will be added in time for summer: Gardener’s Cottage is next to the Pleasure Walk, originally designed as an arboretum by Lancelot “Capability” Brown; elevated Prairie Lodge is close to a viewpoint overlooking the whole estate, the house and its safari park; and when the park opened in 1966 the then occupant, a Labour MP, requested the urgent installation of a phone line in case of stray lions. All rentals will include tickets to the Safari Park. Further information at the Longleat website

  • Cyprus church

    Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

    Cyprus to welcome vaccinated British tourists

    about 2 months ago

    Cyprus is to allow Britons who have been vaccinated to holiday there without further restrictions from 1 May. They will need to show proof of two doses, the second administered at least seven days before arrival. In its recovery road map, the UK Government has set 17 May as the earliest date for the resumption of foreign travel, which is currently banned except for essential purposes. But the move nevertheless mirrors growing pressure from countries that benefit most from British tourists. More than 1m UK Britons visited Cyprus before the pandemic. Two questions remain: what kind of proof will holidaymakers need? And will the initiative ben dampened by a requirement to quarantine on return to the UK? The answer to the latter will depend on infection raters in Cyprus. Latest statistics from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed the 14 day notification rate per 100,000 of the Cypriot population was 247.7 – placing it at the lower end of the EU league table.

    Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency: “We have informed the British government that as of May 1 we shall facilitate the arrival in Cyprus of those British nationals who have been inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, so that they can come here without needing a negative test and without needing to quarantine.”

  • Ba test kit

    BA remote test raises travel bounce back hopes

    about 2 months ago

    British Airways has taken what promises to be a giant leap towards the re-opening of international travel with the launch of a rapid COVID test that can be administered remotely via a video call before passengers set off for home. Just as important is the discounted price of £33. The lateral flow kits come from Qured, a Government approved provider and can be sent to travellers’ homes. They should remove anxiety for holidaymakers unsure about how to access a pre-departure test while abroad, while the remote advice of a professional health advisor should help allay concerns that such tests miss too high a proportion of cases.

    BA said in a statement: “The simple test is remotely administered by a professional health advisor over a scheduled video call. The health advisor will guide the customer through taking a nose and throat swab and processing the sample. Verified results are available after 20 minutes, and the customer can download a ‘fit to fly’ certificate if the test is negative.” The results can also be uploaded to the VeriFly digital travel health passport on trials by the airline on some routes. BA says it is talking to all test providers in the hope that test results can be sent automatically to the app. It is also continuing to collaborate on development of the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Travel Pass and says it is exploring all digital verification solutions to support its customers when travel restarts.

  • Swanswell gate

    Swanswell Gate

    Historic gates will be places to stay

    about 2 months ago

    Coventry’s historic gates, built in the 14th century, are to become accommodation for tourists. There were originally 12 gates in the 12ft high, 8ft thick city wall that King Edward III sanctioned in 1339. Only two – Swanswell and Cook Street Gates – remain. They have been unused for decades. Now, under the ownership of Historic Coventry Trust, they are being readied in time for Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture that kicks off on 15 May. The former will provide accommodation on three floors, for an exceptional place to stay for a couple of small family group while the latter will become a single studio apartment accessed by new stairs, and including kitchen and bathroom facilities.

    The Trust’s chair, Ian Harrabin. Says: “The gates are living reminders of a time when Coventry was the best protected city outside London. They were paid for, built and maintained by the people of the city and the security they provided was a major factor in the growth and wealth of the medieval city. They protected the people against all foes, whether bandits, troops or the plague. The story of the power of this collective community action is particularly relevant in these troubled times. The walls and gates, which originally circled the city for over two miles, protected the people for some 300 years, until Coventry stood against Charles II in the Civil War. There are remains of the wall in various places around the city but this section including the two gates is the only place where you really get to imagine what the wall was originally like. Not only are we restoring the gates, but we are also giving them a use that will help to boost the visitor economy and local jobs. These will be truly exceptional places to stay and we are sure they will be in high demand from locals and visitors alike.”

    The Trust will also open four self catering cottages in a timber framed medieval building outside the gates of Holy Trinity church and next to the ruins of St Mary’s Priory, founded by Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva. Lychgate Cottages get their name from the gate through which coffins were carried into the church. They vary in size from one to three bedrooms. Bookings will be available via Historic Coventry Trust

  • Milford sound

    Milford Sound: image © Roger Bray

    New Zealand by private jet

    about 2 months ago

    With an eye, perhaps, to customers who have saved shed loads of cash sacrificing holidays during the pandemic, Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent has added New Zealand to its “Wings over the World” programme of trips by private jet for 2022. The itinerary includes a day on Waiheke Island, off Auckland, tasting wines with local specialities such as oysters, wild honey and cheeses, and a visit to a sheep and cattle farm on Hawke’s Bay. On South Island there will be a wildlife cruise around Otago Peninsula, taking in the only mainland colony of northern royal albatross, whose astonishing wingspan reaches over ten feet, a helicopter tour of Milford Sound and a day of different options, including electric bike tour along Queenstown’s trails. There are two departure dates, in October and November, the trip is limited to 18 participants and prices start at £26,920, with a £6765 single supplement. And that doesn’t include flights international flights.

  • Seville

    Spain: Seville

    Spain push for vaccine passport

    about 2 months ago

    Spain has joined Greece as the country looking most likely to offer British visitors an early summer welcome. The Madrid Government, mindful of the immense contribution UK tourism makes to the country’s economy, is thought likely to launch its own vaccine passport if the EU fails to agree a common “digital green passport”, accepted by its members. Tourism Minister Fernando Valdes was reported to have said British it was unlikely UK visitors would have to quarantine. He was quoted as saying: “In Spain, we aim to have at least 70 per cent of the adult population immune by summer so I’d say to British people, ‘Keep open your expectations regarding holidays in Spain. We’re looking forward to welcoming you again’.” Greece is already in talks with the UK Government about the technical problems with a similarly jointly acceptable passport.

  • Sydney opera house 164224 1280

    Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

    Qantas plans end October flights restart

    about 2 months ago

    Qantas is planning to resume flights between London and Australia from 31 October. The airline is expected to restart daily services from Sydney to London via Singapore using a smaller aircraft than before the pandemic – a Boeing 787 instead of an Airbus 380. One its daily service between Melbourne, Perth and London it is expected to use the same 787 as it did before the crisis. It has extended its flexible booking policy to international flights “at least until the end of April 2021”. Change fees are being waived for passengers changing departures to any alternative dates available up to 355 days in advance. The airline is assessing the use of digital health pass apps that store details of rest results and/or vaccinations. The CommonPass and IATA Travel Pass apps are undergoing trials on its repatriation flights.