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.

Continue reading Passengers are powerless

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.

Continue reading It takes a village …

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.

Continue reading You only live twice

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.

Continue reading Is your attire ship-shape?

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.

Continue reading Baggage handling blues

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

‘Worst’ airline fights back

It’s been a long time since I flew Jetstar. In fact, when I last did, the Qantas subsidiary still had unallocated seating — an “innovation” it very quickly abandoned.

(jetstar.com)

But from what I’ve heard and read, it comes as little surprise that Jetstar has been has named the world’s worst airline in an international survey. Equally, it’s no surprise that it is fighting back, because the methodology was clearly flawed.

Continue reading ‘Worst’ airline fights back

Not just for the birds

Reading recently that billionaire Elon Musk had taken Amber Heard on a date to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Queensland’s Gold Coast reminded me of my childhood.

My family always holidayed at Currumbin Beach, from well before I was born. My grandparents camped on the beach near the long-gone mineral sands works in the 1940s and 50s, and when my sisters and brother came on the scene, my parents booked a flat overlooking the beach for three weeks every year during the Christmas school holidays.

Continue reading Not just for the birds

Dream flight to Brisbane

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of my favourite planes and it didn’t disappoint on my recent journey from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane. Neither did the Etihad Airlines service.

Etihad Boeing 787 (Etihad Airways)

In fact, the only hitch was a 15-minute delay at immigration at Abu Dhabi Airport, apparently because my passport lacked a stamp indicating that I had reentered the United Arab Emirates after my recent Gulf cruise.

Continue reading Dream flight to Brisbane

A hotel by any other name

How can a traveller be sure that a hotel is what it claims to be?

The accommodation-booking website Wotif.com sells rooms at a hotel called the “Shreaton” in Khalidiya, a district of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Bookings.com calls the same premises the Khalidiya Hotel. Locally, the hotel is known as the Sheraton Khalidiya and, as the photo on the Bookings.com website shows, it has the Sheraton name and logo on the side of the building.

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Going through the emotions

Previously: Brett has decided to resign from his job in Abu Dhabi and return to Australia …

“How do you feel?” I heard that in the office on my last day at work last week, and I heard it again at drinks with friends afterwards.

It’s an interesting question. When I first resigned, I felt a kind of elation at the prospect of starting something new.

Since then, I’ve been through the gamut.

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The man from the Mercure

I’ve moved from the Ramada Downtown and I’m now ensconced at the Mercure City Centre, Abu Dhabi.

As this is an Accor Hotel, I’m on more familiar turf here. The hotel — one of the oldest in the Abu Dhabi CBD (and, I believe, originally The Novotel), is showing a bit of wear and tear, but the experience so far has been very pleasant.

Continue reading The man from the Mercure