The price isn’t right

.As a solo traveller who likes cruising, I’m always desperate to find a fair deal in a market that’s clearly geared towards groups of two or more.

I understand why there has traditionally been a bias towards catering for couples and families, but times are changing and more people — young, old and in the middle — are travelling on their own. With this in mind, I sometimes get riled when a see “deal” that is patently biased against solo travellers.

Continue reading The price isn’t right

Peaceful, picturesque Port Vila

I’ve rarely felt more welcome than I did in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific about 1900 kilometres east of  Brisbane, Australia.

The people I met were friendly and very proud of their country. Taxi and bus drivers eagerly volunteered information and pointed out interesting sights.

Continue reading Peaceful, picturesque Port Vila

Cruise update

I’m having a little trouble posting to this blog from the middle of the South Pacific. I am, however, updating Instagram and Twitter (see the menu at left for links). There are also new cruise-ship-related  articles by me at http://cruisingisntjustforoldpeople.co.uk/2017/05/20/10-things-costa/  and  http://50sowhat.com.au/help-im-50-something-and-a-modern-day-cruise-ship-virgin/

Meanwhile, on the Pacific Aria, bad weather has meant the cancellation of stops in Noumea and Mare, so we’re steaming towards Port Vila. It’s a bit bumpy ..

Pacific Aria: first impressions

I’ve arrived onboard P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Aria for a seven-day journey  from Brisbane to New Caledonia and back.

Ship’s webcam view of port in Brisbane

I’ll be blogging when I can, and posting updates on social media. In the meantime, I’ve undertaken a reconnaissance mission and here are some pictures of the ship and the port.

Continue reading Pacific Aria: first impressions

Scoot sets sights on Oz-Europe route

Although it often seems prohibitively expensive, air travel has actually become far more affordable in recent years. A flight from Sydney to London, for example, costs roughly the same as it did 30 years ago, despite inflation.

Scoot economy (flyscoot.com)

And flying to Europe is about to get even cheaper for Australians, with Singapore-based airline Scoot offering flights from the east coast to Athens for less than $1000.

But cheaper isn’t always better …

Continue reading Scoot sets sights on Oz-Europe route

I’m sold on this sailing deal

On a whim, I’ve booked a week-long cruise starting in four days — on Friday, May 19. I nearly booked it yesterday, but by waiting a day I saved about US$75 (A$100) on what was already a bargain price.

Last-minute deals are fantastic if you are at a loose end — on holiday with no firm plans (as I am), retired, or otherwise flexible with your time — and you don’t mind missing out if it’s already sold out. Continue reading I’m sold on this sailing deal

Passengers are powerless

Another week, another horror story about customer service on airlines. This time it’s about a woman who says she was told by United Airlines cabin crew to urinate in a cup.

(united.com)

Of course, there are different ways to interpret the story, but it does — once again — highlight an important issue: exactly how much control airline crew have over their passengers.

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It takes a village …

The northern Italian village of Bormida has hit the headlines because its council is offering €2,000 to anybody who wants to come and live there.

Savona (Brett Debritz)

The idea is to boost the population of the village, where rents can be as low as €50 a month. I, for one, am tempted — particularly given Bormida’s close proximity to the borders with Monaco and France, and to the beautiful port of Savona, where Costa Cruises has a terminal.

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Extras. Read all about them

We’ve all been asked if we “want fries with that” or otherwise been enticed to buy something more than we originally planned.

Are special touches worth paying extra for?

It’s no different in the travel business, but sometimes what’s part of the package and what’s extra isn’t quite as easy to understand as an upsized Big Mac meal deal.

Continue reading Extras. Read all about them

The lowdown on the UAE

Having just finished a five-year stint in Abu Dhabi, I find myself bombarded with questions about the United Arab Emirates. Generally, it comes down to three questions: What’s it like in Dubai? (Abu Dhabi and Dubai are conflated in many people’s minds, apparently), Should I visit? and Can you get a drink there?

Sunset on the Abu Dhabi Corniche

Bars are plentiful in the UAE, although they are generally hidden away from public view inside hotels. But there are other, more important things, visitors and would-be residents ought to know about the UAE. And here they are:

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You only live twice

(United/Chase)

Many years ago, a colleague of mine was proudly showing me her lifetime membership card for Ansett Airlines’ Golden Wing business lounge.

Less than a year later, the Australian airline went bust and the offer was rendered worthless. Well, thanks to United Airlines — which has become the gift that keeps giving for cynical travel writers — I’ve now encountered something that tops that in the disappointment stakes.

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Is your attire ship-shape?

Frequent cruisers will be familiar with formal night. It happens at least once on every voyage: the night where you either dress up in your finest to enjoy silver service in the dining room or you slum it in your shorts and sloppy joes at the buffet.

(Cunard)

Even in this egalitarian age, most cruise ships still have a dress code for their restaurants — especially on the formal nights — and some people think that the code sometimes goes too far.

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Show some respect

Playboy model Jaylene Cook has created controversy in New Zealand by posting a selfie taken at Mt Taranaki, a Maori sacred site.

Cook at Waikato (from @jaylenecook_)

The Instagram picture was said to offend many in New Zealand’s indigenous community, although it was met with approval from at least one local tourism official. The incident raises an important issue that goes beyond the land of the long white cloud.

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Baggage handling blues

Imagine being stuck on a cruise ship with nothing but the clothes you’re wearing. That’s what happened to an Englishwoman when a company hired to load her luggage put the bag on the wrong ship.

(pocruises.com)

While I emphathise with the woman concerned, I think the story has wider implications.

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An expensive business

The first time I flew business class, it was from Brisbane to Perth. Somebody else — a publicist promoting a play she wanted me to see so I could interview the star* — was paying, so I’m not sure what it cost.

I was, however, shocked to see the difference between the economy and business class fares currently being offered by Qantas for the same flight.

Continue reading An expensive business