Friday, March 27, 2015
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Thursday March 26, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Gold Medal Winner Kelly to Promote Andorra

Bangor's GB Paralympic Winter Gold medallist Kelly Gallagher will be promoting Andorra as a year-round activity and sporting destination in her new role as Visit Andorra Ambassador.

Kelly's appointment coincides with a ski trip back to the country where she first learnt to ski at the age of 17, kicking off her skiing career that led to her winning Great Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic Gold last March in Sochi.

This is a particularly important international sporting calendar for Andorra, which will be hosting the Mountain Bike World Championships, as well as the finals of the Women's Skiing World Cup next February and three days of the Tour de France 2016.

At the age of 17, Kelly, who is visually impaired, discovered skiing while driving through Andorra en route to Barcelona with her family when they booked a spontaneous ski lesson in the resort of Soldeu in the Andorran ski area of Grandvalira. Just over 10 years later, Kelly was crowned Great Britain's first ever Winter Paralympics gold medal winner, coming first in the visually impaired Super-G competition. She was shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year in 2014 and awarded an MBE in October 2014, along with her sighted guide, Charlotte Evans.

Said Kelly: "Having started my skiing career in Andorra, it's been great to come back to where it all began and ski on the same pistes where I tried the sport for the first time 12 years ago. It's a real privilege to now work with the tourist board to promote the country to the UK market as both a winter and summer activity destination."

Kelly is looking ahead to next season, when preparations for the Winter Paralympic Games 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be the focus.


Dreamliner Service Launches Promotional Fare to LA

The new Eithiopian Airlines Dreamliner 787 service from Dublin to Los Angeles has unveiled a promotional fare of just 499 Euro (£367.50p sterling at today's rates) to either Los Angeles or Addis Ababa. The fares are valid from June 20 to November 3, 2015 and must be booked from March 20 to April 30, 2015.

An Eithiopian Dreamliner 787 aircraft landed in Dublin on Friday to promote and officially launch the new service which begins on June 20. The ultra-modern Boeing offers unparalleled on-board comfort to passengers especially for long haul routes with its unique features such as greatly reduced noise, higher cabin air humidity, biggest windows in the sky and spacious cabin interior.

The new service will be the only direct services connecting Africa with Ireland and the West Coast of the United States, following Ireland's move to grant Ethiopian fifth freedom rights, enabling the airline to sell tickets on all sectors of the new Addis Ababa to LA route. Passengers from Ireland and Los Angeles will be able to enjoy seamless and convenient connectivity options thanks to Ethiopian's extensive network in Africa, spanning 49 destinations. Similarly, as the flights will be the only direct service between Dublin and Los Angeles, the Irish and US travelling public between the two cities will greatly benefit from the opening of the route, according to Ireland's Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.


Now Kids Go Free on Heathrow Express

From this Friday (tomorrow) children will be able to travel free on the Heathrow Express. The airport train service has run its 'Kids go free' offer in the past for limited periods of time but from Friday March 27, as the Easter holidays begin, it becomes a permanent fixture.

This is part of the company's plan to increase the number of leisure travellers using the 15-minute service. The Kids go free offer applies to children under 16 accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Fraser Brown, Director of Heathrow Express said: "As many parents know only too well, some travel organisations tend to charge families with children more, not less, in the school holidays. We are doing the opposite.

"Two thirds of the people who use our service are travelling on business. We want to encourage more leisure passengers, families in particular, to use our service."

Over the Easer weekend, Good Friday April 3 to Bank Holiday Monday April 6, Heathrow Express is also running a price offer aimed at adult leisure travellers. It is reducing single standard tickets from £21.50 to £10 and return tickets, valid for travel after the four-day period, from £35 to £31.50.


Ferry Day Away with the Giants

Leading ferry company Stena Line, is giving Belfast Giants fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with their heroes on April 18 on a Stena Line Belfast Giants Cruise.

Ice hockey enthusiasts will have the chance to mingle with the players and get their autographs, have photos taken and receive a free unique t-shirt as a memento of their day. Not only that but Stena Line has organised lots of fun activities such as face painting for younger fans and a brain-busting Belfast Giants quiz.

Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications, Diane Poole OBE, said: "Stena Line regularly transports the players, and their loyal fans to away games in the UK throughout the season as well as visiting teams who come to Belfast for their matches - so we have a real affection for the sport and for the players. Last year's cruise was a huge success, so much so that we have increased the capacity of our cruise this year to accommodate as many people as possible," added Diane.

Prices are £5 per infant, £15 per child and £19 per adult. Those travelling on the return cruise will depart Belfast at 11.30 and arrive in Cairnryan at 13.52; they will remain on the ship before departing Cairnryan at 15.30 and arriving back in Belfast at 17.45.


Additional Weekly Flight to Bulgaria in Summer

Balkan Holidays, the leading UK tour operator to Bulgaria, is adding an extra weekly flight from Belfast to Bourgas, Bulgaria, this coming summer.

The additional flights will depart every Sunday between June 21 and August 2, 2015. This is in addition to a Monday flight departure, which will operate between May and September.

"We are pleased to be providing this additional Belfast flight due to demand," said Chris Rand, Sales and Marketing Manager Balkan Holidays.

"Bulgaria's Sunny Beach frequently tops the Post Office Money Poll as Europe's best value for money destination and the country offers an extensive choice of beach resorts on the Black Sea," he added.

"There is plenty of choice for holidaymakers including cultural excursions, guided coach tours of Bulgaria's wine and historical regions, health and spa breaks and golf holidays," he said. Flight only and accommodation only options are also available.


Free Flights from Belfast for Luxury Cruises

Ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises is introducing two itineraries for 2016 inclusive of flights from Belfast International.

Cruisers can enjoy an 18-night Hawaiian Serenade fly/cruise round trip from San Francisco onboard Crystal Serenity. Departing May 28, 2016, all-inclusive fly/cruise prices are from £5,787 per person including return scheduled flights from Belfast International, one-night pre- and post-cruise hotel stay in San Francisco, all overseas transfers and 16 nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and soft drinks, most alcoholic beverages, port taxes and gratuities.

The second cruise is also onboard Serenity - a 10-night fly cruise round trip from New York departing on October 2, 2016, a cruise which visits Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John and Halifax. All-inclusive fly/cruise prices are from £3,527 per person including return scheduled flights from Belfast International, three-night pre-cruise hotel stay in New York, all overseas transfers and seven nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and soft drinks, most alcoholic beverages, port taxes and gratuities.

Another New Route from Dublin to Canada

Another new route to Canada has been launched at Dublin Airport. Europe Airpost will operate between Dublin and Halifax, Nova Scotia weekly from July 9 until September 11 with flights departing Dublin on Thursdays and from Halifax on Fridays.

Commenting on the new route, Jean-François Dominiak, Europe Airpost CEO said: "Halifax is a great summer destination for vacation, altogether far and close to Ireland: across the Ocean and with strong cultural links. We are happy to offer to the Irish travellers the opportunity to fly to Nova Scotia during the summer season, at low fares including a great service. Europe Airpost is well known for its outstanding quality of service. It is important for us, as a French airline to deliver to our passengers during their travel, the best service with French food and French wines."

Prices will start at 314 Euro, (approx £231 sterling at today's exchange rates) including a meal and a snack with French food and French wines as well as all taxes and baggage fees (within the authorised baggage allowance). The flights will be operated by a Boeing 737-700, configured in a two-class lay-out, with a capacity of 130 seats: 16 in Premium class and 114 in Economy class.

Boom in Currency Sales at Travel Agencies

Travel agencies are benefiting considerably from the strength of the pound against the euro, which has reached a seven-year high. Some of the UK's largest retailers reported a significant uptake in foreign exchange sales as the pound climbed to a peak of 1.41 Euro.

Thomas Cook's retail stores have enjoyed a notable increase in currency sales. The retailer's total number of euro transactions was up 38 per cent from February 27 to March 12, compared with the same period last year, while the volume of euros purchased rose 65 per cent to £31 million over the same period.

Fraser Millar, head of FE strategy and development at Thomas Cook, said some customers were buying currency before booking holidays to ensure they got the good exchange rates. The gains in spending power mean that even those who have already booked package holidays at rates set in advance are expected to see significant benefits when it comes to buying their foreign currency," he added. A Thomson spokesperson also said its stores had "seen a rise in demand for foreign exchange sales, particularly euros, compared with last year". Travel Insurance

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John Trew


Following seven eventful years as front-line Editor of the Belfast News Letter, John Trew wisely opted for the quieter pleasures of travel journalism.  Now, after 23 years and 270,000 miles, he is living proof that travel not only broadens the mind but the buttocks.

View John's articles

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