Belgrade: a city of contrasts


I don’t normally take package holidays, but I got a great deal from Abu Dhabi to Belgrade on Air Serbia, booking via Etihad, that took me to the Serbian capital for five nights in a four-star hotel for around US$1000.

Here are a few sights I saw along the way. Much of the city betrays austerity and the ravages of war, but if you’re interested in the murals and funky cafes, head for the Bohemian Quarter.

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The Sea World debate

SeaWorld in the United States has come under a lot of pressure from animal activists recently over its treatment of ocean mammals.

(seaworld.com.au)

The criticism has led to drop in attendance, some changes in practices at its parks in Orlando and San Diego, and a commitment that the company’s new park in the UAE would focus on education, rescue and rehabilitation.

But in Australia, the public mood seems quite different.

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How fast can a train go?

As some in the transport industry want to revive supersonic air travel, others are looking at ways of making rail travel faster.

Bullet train (www.acprail.com/)

And, as with flight, some of the claims of speeds achieved, and reduced times from point to point, are difficult to get your head around.

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Bold and beautiful break

Among the first was Family Ties, then (albeit in the realm of animation) came The Simpsons, then Oprah, and Ellen, then Modern Family. Now another American television show is to have some “special” episodes set in Australia.

(cbs.com)

And if the names Brooke, Eric, Ivy, Quinn and Ridge ring a bell with you, you’ll know which one I’m talking about.

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Tourist court is a win-win

Nobody wins when a tourist gets arrested in a foreign place for doing something they didn’t even know was illegal.

Abu Dhabi

Of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse anywhere, but some places have a reputation for making things excessively difficult for people — often naive young people — who break the law.

So, it’s good to see that one popular destination is doing something about it.

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Phones on a plane!

Some of us get nervous if we’re not connected to our mobile devices. Others dream of an escape to a place where there are no phones and no internet.

The phone has come a long way since 1926. (Wikipedia)

If you’re in the latter category, you know that 30,000 feet above the ground is no longer one of those places. And it’s going to get worse.

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Hotel hygiene 101

It continues to amaze me that so many people who work in the hospitality industry don’t understand the basic rules of hygiene I learned as a child.

And how, despite millennia of experience in creating public buildings, and decades of public-health research, many restrooms (bathrooms, toilets, WCs … call them what you will) are still badly designed from a hygiene point of view.

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Cruise ship mind games

“Understanding the psychographic … of our current and future guests is the key – acknowledging and realising what they want from a holiday and then providing it for them.”

(P&O)

That’s a quote from P&O Cruises senior vice president Paul Ludlow talking about the thinking behind the design of the company’s newest ship.

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Cruising solo with no supplement

Despite the fact that more and more people remain, or become, single well into their adult years, most travel deals are still offered on a per-person, twin-share basis.

(fredolsencruises.com)

Quite often, that fact is buried deep into the fine print on the brochure or website, and many people have begun the booking process to find that that bargain journey is only going to be a bargain if they can find a friend.

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A smarter way to fly

Smart gates at airports — designed to allow passengers to get out into the arrivals hall as quickly as possible by self-scanning their passports rather than queuing to see an immigration official — may seem like new technology. But the fact is that Australia already has plans to phase them out.

(border.gov.au)

Don’t panic. It’s all good. They will be replaced by even newer tech that promises to make life easier for frequent travellers.

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Christmas is all around

Christmas markets, Christmas lunches, Christmas shopping … it’s all happening, and not just in traditionally Christian countries.

From Kakadu, Shanghai

Not long after I moved to Abu Dhabi, somebody sneered on social media about  “politically correct” Britain, where some councils had (allegedly) banned Christmas, and then added for good measure: “I bet you’re not allowed to celebrate it in the UAE, either.”

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Where to find the best 4G

Where in the world would you expect to get the better 4G mobile coverage: Romania or Great Britain?

4G or 3G? That is the question

The answer might surprise you: it’s Britain, According to the National Infrastructure Commission, the United Kingdom has worse coverage than Romania, Peru and Panama.

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SeaWorld comes to UAE

Marine life conservation will be a priority at the new SeaWorld on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which is scheduled to open in 2022.

SeaWorld Orlando (seaworld.com)

The park,  a joint venture between the American company and the UAE’s Miral ­Asset Management, will join a growing number of attractions on the island, which is already home to a Formula 1 race track, concert arena, water theme park and an attraction devoted to Ferrari vehicles.

Mohamed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral, said there would be a strong emphasis on rescue and rehabilitation of marine life.

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Animal welfare comes first

Let’s hear it for the travel agents, including the giant  Thomas Cook chain, for putting the welfare of animals ahead of profit opportunities.

(thomascook.com)

Thomas Cook has recently reaffirmed its commitment to the Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism from ABTA, the UK travel association.

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Back to the future

While the prospect of supersonic flight intrigues me, I’m not so sure I’d want to fly on an aircraft called Boom.

(Boomsupersonic.com)

But it seems that Boom, a company founded by former Amazon executive Blake Scholl, will be the first to make  affordable ultrafast commercial flight available.

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Flowering of the desert

The northern winter really is a good time to visit the United Arab Emirates. Few people may think of greenery and flowers when they think about the desert, but — thanks to the hard work of dedicated gardeners — it really does bloom at this time of year.

Here are some pictures I’ve taken in Abu Dhabi over the past few days.

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Cruising season in the Gulf

For everything there is a season. Unless you’re on a cruise ship, because then you can just follow the sun all year round.

Vision of the Seas will visit Dubai (Royal Caribbean)

The beauty of running a cruise business is that you can move the big boats to where the demand is. And while some destinations are popular year-round, some are seasonal.

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Cruise ships avoid Turkey

P&O Cruises, Holland America and Cunard have ditched ports in Turkey from their 2017 itineraries, replacing them with destinations in Greece and Albania.

Library, Ephesus

This is a great shame, both for the Turkish economy and for the travellers who will miss out on great destinations such as Istanbul — with the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and other attractions — and the ancient Greek-Roman city of Ephesus.

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Paying a premium

Those in the airline-industry know were not surprised by the news that Emirates is introducing premium economy class on its 250-plane international fleet.

(alitalia.com)

What that means for travellers is, of course, an affordable option between economy class and business class.

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Fly your own way

Do you remember your first kiss? Or the thrill you got from doing something a little naughty when the grownups weren’t watching? Or the rush you received from your first roller-coaster ride? Of course you do.

Etihad Airways B787 first class

It may have happened a long time ago, and it was over in seconds, but you’ll never forget it. And every time you remember it, it makes you feel happy and good about yourself.

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