Categories
Transport

Numerous Cities on List For Potentially Losing Air Travel

The ball is now in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s court when it comes to deciding whether to grant the request of domestic airlines to significantly trim certain cities and airport from their respective service lists.

And, ironically, it comes at a time when the majority of the country is starting to reopen for business in the wake of the effects from the coronavirus pandemic.

The government comment period on the matter ended on Thursday, leaving the matter to a decision by the DOT, which has not said when it will issue a ruling according to USA Today.

Airlines are looking to drop service to conserve some desperately needed cash, with demand for air travel having dropped to unprecedented lows. At one point, screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were off 94 percent compared to a similar date last year. But as a condition of accepting federal grants and loans as part of the CARES Act stimulus package, U.S. carriers needed to maintain the same amount of service it offered prior to the coronavirus impact as well as seek permission from the DOT to drop routes.

But the cuts could be devastating to small airports.

According to USA Today, Anthony Dudas, the airport director in Williston, North Dakota, said that the town is a gateway to the rich Bakken oil fields. Before the pandemic, it had five daily flights from United and Delta. Now, those flights have been reduced to one a day for each of the two airlines. If Delta is granted permission to suspend service, the community will be down even further – serving a $275 million airport that opened last year.

“While we understand the need for air carriers to have flexibility in adjusting schedules and services, we believe the impact from significantly reducing air service to western North Dakota will be enormous,” Dudas wrote.

Here is the list of cities that could be dropped.

ALASKA AIRLINES

Charleston, South Carolina

Columbus, Ohio

El Paso, Texas

New Orleans

San Antonio, Texas

ALLEGIANT AIR

New Orleans

Ogdensburg, New York

Palm Springs, California

San Antonio

Springfield, Illinois

Tucson, Arizona

AMERICAN AIRLINES

Aspen, Colorado

Eagle, Colorado

Montrose/Delta, Colorado

Worcester, Massachusetts

CAPE AIR

Portland, Maine

Corvus Airlines

Goodnews Bay, Alaska

Kodiak, Alaska

Napakiak, Alaska

Napaskiak, Alaska

Platinum, Alaska

DELTA AIR LINES

Aspen, Colorado

Bangor, Maine

Erie, Pennsylvania

Flint, Michigan

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Lincoln, Nebraska

New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort, North Carolina

Peoria, Illinois

Santa Barbara, California

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Williston, North Dakota

ELITE AIRWAYS

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

FRONTIER AIRLINES

Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina

Mobile, Alabama

Palm Springs

Portland, Maine

Tyler, Texas

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Palm Springs

Sacramento, California

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

Worcester, Massachusetts

Seaborne Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Culebra, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

SILVER AIRWAYS

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Huntsville, Alabama

Key West, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Tampa, Florida

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Asheville, North Carolina

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Greensboro/High Point, North Carolina

Plattsburgh, New York

SUN AIR EXPRESS

Nashville, Tennessee

SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES

Madison, Wisconsin

Philadelphia

Portland, Oregon

Sacramento

St. Louis, Missouri

UNITED AIR LINES

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pennsylvania

Charlotte Amalie

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fairbanks, Alaska

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Ithaca/Cortland, New York

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Key West, Florida

Lansing, Michigan

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Rochester, Minnesota

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Categories
Travel

What's going on in our holiday hotspots AROUDN Europe?

As European resorts finally start to re-open… What’s going on in our holiday hotspots?

  • Many hotels have re-opened in Spain but their pools, gyms and spas are closed 
  • Italy’s coastline has been declared open with umbrellas set 1.5 metres apart 
  • The tourist season will begin in Greece on June 15, with hotels gradually opening 

Travel bubbles, sea bridges, quarantines — no wonder there’s a lot of confusion surrounding holidays as restrictions ease.

The UK’s blanket quarantine on all those coming into the country will be reviewed every three weeks, and could be lifted by early July. 

Countries across Europe are preparing to reopen, too. We look at what your chances are for a summer getaway…

SPAIN

Many hotels have reopened in Spain and beaches are expected to reopen on Monday. Pictured is Cala Gat beach in Majorca 

Many hotels have reopened, but their pools, gyms and spas are closed. Some restaurants and bars can serve customers in outside spaces, although most will not be fully operational until June. Beaches are expected to reopen on Monday. 

Tourists may be restricted to four-hour stays at popular ones, including those in the Costa del Sol.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: The 14-day quarantine for international arrivals is likely to last only until June 29, when Spain plans to reopen its borders fully. 3.5/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights’ half board with flights at Hotel Rocamarina in Majorca from £452 pp (was £616 pp, tui.co.uk).

PORTUGAL

In Portugal, beaches will be open from June 6, but sunbathers need to keep 1.5 metres apart 

Restaurants, cafes, museums and many shops reopened on Monday. Beaches will be open from June 6, but sunbathers will need to keep 1.5 metres apart. They can use an app to see which beaches are full.

Hotels hope to resume business as early as June 1. They can display ‘Clean & Safe’ stamps awarded by tourism officials to prove they have introduced the recommended hygiene and safety procedures.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Portugal is not imposing a quarantine rule, and its 1,277 Covid-19 deaths compares favourably with neighbouring Spain’s 28,000, so it’s a prime contender. 4/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights’ half board with flights at Hotel Falesia in Acoteias from £572 pp (was £705 pp, firstchoice.co.uk).

ITALY

Italian idyll: Limone on Lake Garda. Bars, restaurants, shops and churches reopened  in Italy this week

Bars, restaurants, shops and churches reopened this week, and the coastline was declared open. Umbrellas are being set 1.5 metres apart on some beaches. Hotels are likely to reopen in early June.

Sicily will subsidise travel for tourists via a £67 million fund.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: EU tourists can visit from June 3 without self-isolating. Britons can, too, if the UK drops quarantine plans for arrivals from Italy. 4/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights all-inclusive with flights at the Leonardo Da Vinci Hotel in Limone on Lake Garda from £511 pp (was £722 pp, loveholidays.com).

GREECE

Kalamitsii beach in Halkidiki, Greece. The tourist season will begin in Greece on June 15 

The tourist season will begin here on June 15, with hotels gradually opening. International flights will resume two weeks later.

There is a limit of 40 people per 1,000 square metres on beaches. Umbrellas are spaced four metres apart, and some are screened off.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: It proposed an ‘air bridge’ to let Britons visit without quarantining, but its tourism minister said the UK was unlikely to be one of the first countries allowed to enter. 3/5

…And here’s a deal: Five nights’ half-board with flights at Eagles Palace in Halkidiki from £399 pp (was £686 pp, travelzoo.co.uk).

FRANCE

The government in France has indicated foreigners will not be able to holiday there until July 24

Restaurants and bars will open from June 2. Visitors must present a certificate stating they do not have Covid-19, or quarantine for 14 days. 

Three-hour slots must be booked on some beaches. Masks are mandatory on public transport, including the Eurostar.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Its Government indicated foreigners will not be able to holiday there until July 24 at the earliest. It will give an update on Monday. 3/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights’ room-only with flights at the Hotel Vacances Bleues Le Royal in Nice from £501 pp (was £738 pp, loveholidays.com).

TURKEY

Overseas travellers to Turkey must quarantine for 14 days at present. Pictured is the resort of Bodrum 

Hotels and restaurants can get a new safety certificate by doing twice-daily temperature checks on staff, for instance. 

They will open at the end of the month, along with beaches. Overseas travellers must quarantine for 14 days at present.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Its Government is aiming to welcome tourists by mid-June, and test visitors when they arrive. 4/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights’ self-catering at Agar Apartments in Bodrum with flights from £240 pp (was £372 pp, jet2holidays.com).

USA

Britons are currently banned from entering the U.S from the UK at present, meaning no trips to Walt Disney World in Florida 

The U.S. has the highest number of recorded Covid-19 cases, at more than 1.6 million. Restrictions are handled by states. 

Some have plans to restart tourism on June 1, when their hotels and campsites will open at 50 per cent capacity. Britons are banned from entering the U.S from the UK at present.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Low. Autumn is a better bet. 1/5

…And here’s a deal: Seven nights’ room-only at Rosen Inn in Orlando, with flights, from £795 pp (was £1,052 pp, tui.co.uk).

…AND THE UK

Restrictions on travel to beaches and national parks were lifted in England this month. Pictured is the harbour at Port Isaac in Cornwall 

Campsites, holiday parks and self-catering properties are likely to reopen from July 4 at the earliest. Hotels and B&Bs may have to wait longer. 

Restrictions on travel to beaches and national parks were lifted in England this month, but Scotland and Wales have made more modest changes.

CHANCE OF A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Certain, unless there’s a spike in cases or deaths. 5/5

…And here’s a deal: Pitches at Cornish Tipi Holidays near Port Isaac from £18 per night (cornishtipiholidays.co.uk).

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Categories
Destinations

3 destinations on my Mexico wish list

For the past four years, I’ve spent every winter in Mexico. I use it as an escape from the long, dismal New York winter, but more importantly, I use it as a learning opportunity to dive deeper into a country that has become a second home.

This year, however, my hands-on education was cut dramatically short when impending airline route cancellations threatened displacement. Now, with no real end date in sight, I’m stuck in my living room like the rest of the world, with nothing but the Instagram rabbit hole and virtual experiences to scratch my Mexico itch.

On the bright side, this whole experience has sparked a travel fire in most of us that is on the brink of burning out of control. We are ready to hit the road, and soon. So where is this Mexiphile headed as soon as this is over? I have a few ideas in mind.

San Luis Potosi

There are many reasons why this state in eastern Mexico has been on my wish list. But what drew me to be interested in it were its waterfalls. Known as La Huasteca Potosina, this remote region is flooded with gushing waterfalls and swimming holes, as well as some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Mexico.

But in researching La Huasteca Potosina, I discovered how much more there is to see and do in San Luis Potosi. It’s peppered with historical villages that are steeped in the mining culture of the region. One of the most eerily beautiful is the village of Real de Catorce, which for years held “ghost town” status after the collapse of the price of silver. Today, travelers are lured by the promise of a rising boutique hotel scene, which is helping to transform it into one of the country’s hidden gems. Its cobblestone streets and architecture ooze character, set to the haunting backdrop of stark desert and rolling mountains.

Where to stay: Tourism to the state of San Luis Potosi is not as developed as other parts of Mexico, so accommodations in more remote locations like Huatesca Potosina or Real de Catorce are a bit limited. But the capital, San Luis Potosi, has a variety of lodging options, such as the Conrad San Luis Potosi, Hilton San Luis Potosi, Quintana Real Palacio de San Agustin, and Tryp by Wyndham San Luis Potosi.

Guanajuato City

As a self-proclaimed “Mexpert,” it’s a tad embarrassing that I’ve yet to visit the state of Guanajuato. How I haven’t managed to visit San Miguel de Allende is rather surprising. And while I would absolutely love to get there, for me the real draw to Guanajuato is the capital, also called Guanajuato. 

A simple Google search will make it pretty clear why Guanajuato is on my short list. Surrounded by mountains, the city pops out of the valley with bursts of bright colors, at the center of which is its iconic canary-yellow cathedral. The city, a Unesco World Heritage site, was founded in the 16th century and has a collection of lavish colonial buildings, museums, markets and small restaurants and bars. I picture it something akin to what San Miguel de Allende was like 10 to 15 years ago.

Where to stay: Guanajuato City is peppered with lovely boutique hotel options. Consider the design-forward Antigua Trece Hotel Fusion, which overlooks the city cathedral from its rooftop restaurant.

Chacala

It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find a stretch of Mexico’s 5,800 miles of coastline that remains pristine. But, if you can believe it, a few do still exist. Lovers of Mexico’s west coast are already well-versed in Riviera Nayarit, from Punta Mita up to Sayulita, and maybe even a bit farther to San Pancho. Still, there is so much more coast to be discovered.

Chacala is a tiny tourist town that manages to retain its sleepy fishing village identity. The peaceful cove has calm, swimmable waters, a string of beach bars and palapas, and the iconic views of the green-carpeted Sierra Madres in the background. It’s also a prime destination for nature lovers, who can snorkel or explore the hiking trails. Surfers will find that Chacala is a jumping-off point for some top surfing beaches in Nayarit. 

Where to stay: Chacala has many boutique hotel options, as well as more budget-friendly beach hotels, so clients may do better to stay closer to Sayulita, or even in Puerto Vallarta, which is about two hours away. However, the master-planned Costa Canuva community, a $2 billion investment, is in the works for this stretch of coast, so it won’t be long before ultra luxury arrives in this part of Nayarit.

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Categories
Cruises

Celebrate Travel Advisors on May 6th for National Travel Advisor Day

National Travel Advisor Day is on its way!

Together with its industry partners, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is celebrating the occasion on May 6, 2020, and extending its recognition and a heartfelt “thank you” to travel advisors nationwide for all the hard work that they put into taking care of the traveling public.

This year, in particular, ASTA is inviting its members and allies in the broader travel industry to use National Travel Advisor Day as a springboard for educating the traveling public, policymakers and the media about the unique value—knowledge, connections, skills and capabilities—that travel advisors contribute when it comes to navigating the complex ecosystem of modern-day global travel, and will do even well after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

“Travel advisors are innate problem solvers,” said Kerby. “The advisor serves as the consumer’s advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong. We saw this play out in full force during the early phases of the coronavirus pandemic where travel advisors spent countless hours navigating the maze of cancelation policies while also monitoring the best routes and options to safely bring their clients home. Our campaign, ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes’, highlights many of these heroic efforts first-hand from travel advisors and client testimonials.”

On May 6 at 3 p.m. ET, ASTA will premiere its #TravelHero campaign video during its virtual celebration on TravelSense.org (the organization’s online, consumer-facing tool for finding a travel advisor). The video presentation will consist of a montage of stories submitted in March and April of this year. Featured advisors’ stories will also be highlighted on their own dedicated TravelSense.org pages throughout the year.

“We want to make sure the traveling public sees for themselves why working with a travel advisor is the way to go,” said Erika Richter, Senior Director of Communications for ASTA. “These stories will really bring the message home. Travel advisors have and always will go to great lengths to save vacations and problem-solve in real time under dire circumstances.”

She mused, “If you’re concerned about your financial portfolio, your 401k, your savings, you’re likely on the phone with your broker and your financial advisor, right? The same is true for savvy travelers. You need to be talking to a travel advisor. No matter what happens, you have a professional in your corner helping you plan and rearrange your schedule as necessary. The future of travel post-pandemic will have a strong emphasis on the role of the travel advisor.”

To join in the celebration, users can show their support by sharing their stories with local media or social networks using the hashtag #TravelAdvisorDay, use #TravelHero to share your save-the-day travel memories and participate in ASTA’s “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” campaign with your very own social media superhero graphic. Users can also use ASTA’s Advocacy Portal to communicate directly with local and federal legislators, let them know what advisors need and call upon them for support.

For more information, visit asta.org.

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Categories
Destinations

Great Plains holds the line on 2021 prices

Great Plains Conservation will freeze its 2020 rates for all safaris in 2021, and there will be no price increases for 2021.

Rates for 2021 will also be fully inclusive. Whereas before rates included all meals, wildlife viewing activities and all beverages, rates for 2021 will include air transfers, as well. For all safaris beginning Jan. 11, all air transfers to and from Great Plains Conservation camps will be included in the nightly rates.

For reservations, email [email protected].

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Categories
Travel

MoS writers on the places they want to revisit post-covid-19 crisis

If I could be anywhere right now… With the whole world to choose from, five writers reveal the dream places they want to return to when the lockdown ends

  • Joe Minihane dreams of being back at Saruni Samburu in northern Kenya, an eco lodge with epic views 
  • Mike Maceacheran would love to revisit The Great Bear Lodge – the ‘epitome of Canadian luxury wilderness’
  • Sarah Rodrigues has the Four Seasons in Arizona, which is set within the Sonoran Desert, on her mind 

We may not be able to travel at the moment but nothing is stopping us from dreaming about the incredible places around the world we long to visit.

This week five of our travel writers reveal the far-flung destinations they would love to venture to after the restrictions are lifted.

The other-worldliness of Casa de Luis in Cuba, the serenity of the Four Seasons in Arizona, the cosy convenience of the Retrome Hotel in Barcelona, the epicness of Saruni Samburu in Kenya and the wild beauty of The Great Bear Lodge in Canada are all in their sights.

Joe Minihane: A sensational safari and the best sunrise

Joe Minihane dreams of being back at Saruni Samburu in northern Kenya 

The Land Cruiser skidded over bare rock as we made the final ascent to Saruni Samburu. The eco lodge, perched atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Kalama Conservancy in northern Kenya, was to be our final stop on a five-night flying safari across the country.

I’d spent days on the trail of cheetahs in the Maasai Mara, watched a black rhino and her calf charge across the plains in Laikipia, and come within arm’s reach of a bull elephant in musth while on a drive through Samburu. All accompanied by experts on endangered species, each one driven by a passion for wildlife and a desperation to see it protected.

Between excursions on the ground, I had flown in a ten-seat Cessna across lakes teeming with flamingos and along rivers where hippos and crocodiles lounged in the equatorial sun. It was everything I had ever hoped for from a safari.

So in my lockdown daydream, I am back at Saruni Samburu, walking to the door of my own villa, marvelling at the way light lands on the rocks but still trying to pay attention to my guide’s warnings about the leopard which often prowl these paths at night.

Life on the edge: Looking out at the sprawling Kalama Conservancy in Kenya 

The greatest view on earth: The view from one of the stunning villas at Saruni Samburu

The open-sided villa has the greatest views I have ever encountered, ranging over the plains and up to Mount Kenya. I’ll wake to the greatest sunrise imaginable, while giraffes stroll between acacia trees far below.

Next door is an outdoor shower from where I’ll belt out Beatles hits for the benefit of the elephants heading to the waterhole which sits at the foot of the hotel grounds.

That evening, after a dip in the crater-like pool under a full moon, I’ll sip on a G&T and reflect on the greatest travel experience of my life, rounded off by a night in the finest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

Maybe, when the lockdown ends, I’ll experience the pleasure of Saruni Samburu all over again. One can dream.

  • Villas at Saruni Samburu start at £400 a night, based on two sharing, plus a £94 conservation fee per person (saruni.com).

Richard Mellor: Barcelona’s beating heart 

Richard Mellor wishes he could teleport himself back to Barcelona 

I wish I could teleport myself back to Barcelona last May. Over three days, with the mild sun heating my bare arms and fleeting Mediterranean breezes blowing in, I embarked on rangy walks between the city’s distinct quarters: Raval’s scruffy lanes and street art, the Gothic Quarter’s churches and tourists, and sleepier Poblenou’s architecture studios and new-wave bars playing surf songs.

Following my nose, I’d pause for a sensational tapas or coffee before ambling onwards, thrilling at details, unhurried, unworried, utterly content. Rarely have I been so happy.

The city enchanted me in a way few places have – but crucial to that was my having such a beckoning base. On a practical level, Retrome pleased with its geography: the hotel is near a metro station (Girona) and within strolling distance of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, Placa de Catalunya, the main Ramblas and, as I discovered, most other things.

It’s in Dreta de l’Eixample, a bourgeois barrio of grand residential streets dotted with shops, pavement restaurants and just enough hustle and bustle. Retrome is a portmanteau of ‘retro’ and ‘home’. Unusually, the hotel is split into two: a cafe-bar doubles as reception, and there are eight bedrooms above; a few doors north past a mannequin shop, there is another townhouse where seven chambers flank a spacious communal kitchen-lounge area and free-to-use espresso machine.

My room was compact (but the bargain price reflected that) and comfy. And I’d lucked out: I had a balconette overlooking one of Eixample’s quadrangles, a patchwork of allotments and palm trees.

Barcelona’s Retrome is split into two: a cafe-bar doubles as reception, and there are eight bedrooms above; a few doors north past a mannequin shop, there is another townhouse where seven chambers flank a spacious communal kitchen-lounge area 

The hotel is near a metro station (Girona) and within strolling distance of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, Placa de Catalunya and the main Ramblas. Pictured is one of the bedrooms 

Gazing across that was enjoyable, but so was lusting after that kitchen-lounge area’s carefully compiled, yes, retro design from the 1950s to 1970s – including a gramophone, bubble lights and a pistachio-green Vespa leaning on a wall. In one alcove, original 19th Century crystal tiles evoke the four seasons. The main bar, whose staff dispense local tips during breakfast, contributes red-velvet swing seats.

Checking out was a glum moment. I didn’t want to travel, didn’t want to catch a plane – things that, right now, I’d give anything to do.

  • Stays cost from £70 a night via hostunusual.com, or book via retrome.net and a free continental breakfast is included.

Lydia Bell: A retreat from Havana heat

When life gets complicated in Britain, Lydia Bell dreams of Cuba

Pinar de Rio is a province of rolling hills west of Havana, promising a tantalising escape from the Cuban capital’s jaded heat. Rivers and springs cross its lushness and farming villages nestle in the dips of its Sierra de los Organos range.

In the Vinales Valley, limestone knolls (mogotes), moulded by subterranean rivers, spring from the blood-red earth, and tobacco fields shimmer green.

When life gets complicated in Britain, I dream of Cuba, where I was living this time two years ago, and of the Casa de Luis guesthouse in the valley.

A simple stone cottage cradled by a mogote, it is home to Luna, a portly black labrador, a ginger cat, and Luis, a passionate type who, when not out adventuring, can be found, rum in hand, arguing about local politics on his patio.

Before the local town of Vinales was founded in the late 19th Century, the other-worldly valley was home to a remnant native Taino population and a smattering of runaway slaves. Then arrived some tobacco-growing Canary Islanders. Their emerald-eyed descendants still live in the valley, weather-beaten farmers who brandish machetes and plough with oxen.

Luis’s father was one of them. He expected his son to marry and stay here. Instead, Luis sold onions for an ancient neighbour to raise funds for his first typewriter, then emigrated to Europe, working for two decades in Madrid and Paris as a journalist and novelist.

In the Vinales Valley, limestone knolls (mogotes), moulded by subterranean rivers, spring from the blood-red earth, and tobacco fields shimmer green

Casa de Luis (pictured) is a three-bedroom guesthouse that ‘turns out good food, sometimes hard to find in Cuba’

His family were surprised when Luis returned in 2017 to transform an uninspiring cottage into an eccentrically beautiful three-bedroom guesthouse.

The kitchen turns out good food, sometimes hard to find in Cuba. From the garden there are rocket salads and fruit cocktails, with rich black beans and smoked pork from the valley. Some days, local lamb is slow-cooked on carbonised wood, marinating in tomato puree, green pepper, garlic, onion and vino seco.

Luis’s house has well-thumbed bookshelves, shady seating nooks, rocking chairs and stone-banked vegetable gardens. I could stay there all day in a hammock, eating his food and watching the comings and goings down the lane. I like to watch the locals speed past saddleless in spurs and straw hats on their country horses, shouting ‘Vaya, vaya! No pare!’ – Go, go! Don’t stop!

I’d only get up to hike, or to pop in at my favourite restaurant in Cuba. El Guajani is a farm-to-plate idyll that operates out of a tiny hideaway cottage shrouded in flowering vines amid fields.

Last year, my favourite place on Earth was cosmically validated, too. Better than any ranking on TripAdvisor was the meteorite shower that landed here with a thwacking sonic boom. It embedded the pretty patio at Luis’s house with sparkly fragments of asteroid.

  • Cuba Private Travel (cubaprivate travel.com) offers a three-night B&B stay at Casa de Luis for £280.

Mike Maceacheran: We’re going on a bear hunt…

Mike Maceacheran remembers an epic trip to The Great Bear Lodge in Canada 

On a curl of wild beach somewhere deep in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, a suspiciously smug and plump mother bear and cub were bounding towards us.

At least, it seemed that way. They were on the prowl, the cub tumbling through the sedge grass like a slinky, the mother’s wet snout and shaggy coat glistening in the sunshine. Wow, it made me feel alive.

It was summer 2016 when my wife and I soared by seaplane to land at the stealthily placed Great Bear Lodge. There are no roads in and we were so tickled pink by the prospect of tracking the world’s largest coastal bears that we barely thought about the lodge’s heartstring-tugging location as we skidded across the glassy-calm fjord.

Now, looking back, it’s difficult to overstate the natural beauty on show. There are imagination-haunting forests. Glacier-capped mountain tops. Wiggly fjords. Impossibly pretty beaches.

The eight-bedroom floating lodge – secreted away on Smith Inlet, about an inch north of Vancouver Island on the map – is the epitome of Canadian wilderness luxury. Inside are delightful doubles, all woody furniture and fjord-meets-forest views, and a tastefully curated lounge and dining room on the right side of showy. Sloshing waves and hooting owls provide the evening soundtrack.

Outside are gorging grizzlies, treacle-black bears, coastal wolves and the white spirit bear – the rarest on Earth. Just ask Chris Packham or the folk from the BBC or National Geographic just how awe-inspiring this place is. They’ve stayed here while filming.

On shore, out on a forest hike or canoe paddle with a ‘bear whisperer’, Mother Nature flourishes around you. From scurrying mink to sea otters, the rainforest buzzes with activity.

Arriving at the floating Great Bear Lodge by seaplane. It is the ‘epitome of Canadian wilderness luxury’ 

You may catch a glimpse of gorging grizzlies, treacle-black bears, coastal wolves and the white spirit bear – the rarest on Earth

Farther up the channel is the Nekite River, where wildlife hides are arranged for watching grizzlies grasp for salmon as they flutter and flip their way up the river to spawn. These hides provide the greatest show on the planet.

Post-safari, on the lodge’s bobbing boardwalk with a cold beer, there’s now nothing left to do. But that’s exactly the point. You look deep into the forest, consider the shadows and shaking trees. You stand on the water’s edge, looking out to sea, spying bald eagles and the arcing spume from an orca on the horizon. You concentrate on every twitch and realise how perfect it is.

  • Full-board double rooms cost from £1,400 for three nights, with return seaplane flights from Port Hardy and excursions (greatbeartours.com/great-bear-lodge).

Sarah Rodrigues: A diamond in gold rush land 

Sarah Rodrigues has the Four Seasons in Arizona on her mind 

Having travelled the world – first as a backpacker, then as a travel writer – who’d have thought the place most on my mind would be a Four Seasons?

It’s not ostensibly the stuff of intrepid journeying, but how many chain hotels are set within the bleached-red majesty of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona?

As a space-lover, the strange tension between social distancing and claustrophobia has sharpened my cravings for some wide-open vistas and vast, uncluttered landscapes.

In 2018, my drive from Phoenix to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon was characterised by many-armed cacti posing against the sky like yoga students; by arrival, darkness made picking out the details of our surroundings impossible.

I fell asleep with the shutters open and woke to a chalky-pink landscape, deepening with the sunrise. Accommodation features luxe textures, earthy hues and architecture that blends with the surrounding craggy peaks.

One of these gives its name to the Pinnacle Peak trail, which is accessible from within the resort’s grounds – glorious to tackle on an early-morning hike.

Lust-worthy: There are plenty of opportunities for relaxing at the Four Seasons Scottsdale

Accommodation features luxe textures, earthy hues and architecture that blends with the surrounding craggy peaks

At the breakfast in the resort’s Proof Canteen, I found it almost impossible to choose between the banana almond pancakes and the green chilli pork benedict… but if we run, rather than walk, the trail next time, I can have both, right?

Perhaps we weren’t entirely deserving of the treatments we succumbed to in the blissful spa, but after lockdown’s bushy brows and dull skin, I vote that all self-indulgence should be guilt-free.

Arizona’s Gold Rush may not gleam as brightly as California’s, but the rejuvenating properties of the gold-infused Pinnacle Treatment had me glowing in a way I can’t wait to achieve again.

The health-conscious sophistication of downtown Scottsdale’s culinary offerings took me by surprise. But even if I don’t stir from the Four Seasons for anything more than a trek up Camelback Mountain, I’ll be more than content with a meal at Talavera, the hotel’s sublime Spanish steakhouse, attached, somewhat dangerously, to a gin bar. When can I go back?

  • Rooms cost from £190 a night and suites from £440 a night (fourseasons.com/scottsdale).

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Travel

How to claim money back on a trip cut short due to coronavirus

How to claim money back on a trip cut short due to coronavirus and advice on a future walking holiday in the Alps: The Holiday Guru solves traveller queries

  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

The Holiday Guru is always on call to answer your questions.

This week a reader asks for help with claiming a refund after they had to abandon their tour around Asia, while another seeks tips on how to plan a challenging hike in the Alps for when we can travel again…  

Q. We flew back after five days of a 16-day holiday in Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo due to coronavirus, paying for our own new flights as the rep said we would receive a full refund from our travel company, Mercury Direct. Nothing has come. Can you help?

Doreen and Wayne Holland, via email.

A reader asks for help with claiming a refund after they had to abandon their tour around Malaysia, Singapore (pictured) and Borneo

A. Mercury (mercuryholidays.com) has apologised for this ‘error’ and will refund you for the flights and the unused part of the holiday. A spokesman said: ‘We apologise unreservedly for any stress this has caused.

‘Our first and only priority has been to repatriate all of our clients safely back to the UK, without anyone losing out financially.’

Q. I am dreaming of going on a long challenging walk in the Alps to rid myself of ‘cabin fever’ when all the current restrictions are over. Any recommendations?

Joan Edwards, via email.

The Holiday Guru recommends a two-week hike from Eiger (pictured) to the the Matterhorn in Switzerland

A. Inntravel offers a selection of walks including a rigorous two-week hike from the Eiger to the Matterhorn in Switzerland — from £2,495 pp including hotels, half-board meals and luggage transportation, but excluding flights (inntravel.co.uk).

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Holiday Guru is here for you. Send questions to [email protected] or write to Daily Mail Travel, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — and include your contact details.

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Travel

Cruise Planners Focuses on Positive Messages to Help Travel Advisors

Cruise Planners CEO and founder Michelle Fee and COO and co-owner Vicky Garcia addressed the travel industry, discussing the company’s pivot from selling travel to supporting travel advisors during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s no secret that the travel industry has been hit hard,” said Fee.

On the bright side, she noted that Cruise Planners is seeing an uptick in purchases after the shutdown.

“We are trying to take every little win we can,” Fee said. “Nobody has a crystal ball but we are hopeful that these numbers are a sign that we are moving in the right direction.”

Cruise Planners also reported that cruise bookings are currently holding for 2021 and that the outlook for the coming year was trending up by 15 percent.

“While the numbers are changing daily and being closely monitored, right now, cruise departures for 2021 are leading with Europe as a top destination at 38 percent of the mix with a large focus on European River cruising, followed by the Caribbean making up 23 percent of the mix and Alaska trending with 15 percent according to the company’s latest revenue reports,” said Fee.

Fee also noted that homebased agents, which make up the Cruise Planners franchisees, are more in touch with their customers and have been faring better than their call center counterparts, who are experiencing deeper cuts and more layoffs.

“We are doing comparably well because Cruise Planner’s Home Office Team is fully invested in supporting its nationwide travel advisor network and protecting their client’s travel investments,” said Fee. “The foundation of our home-based model is based on grassroots community networking and personal relationships which is why we feel we may be faring better compared to online travel agencies and brick and mortar agencies.”

Fee and Garcia also touched on how Cruise Planners was navigating the current crisis.

“We are pivoting our marketing to what we are seeing,” said Fee. “We know that there are thousands and thousands of future cruise credits that haven’t rebooked, and we think that those people are in that wait and see mode.”

As the company switches from marketing focused on selling to a message of support, Fee and Garcia are focusing on the good.

“We are trying to keep things positive,” said Garcia. “We are encouraging agents to share the good news stories and started a campaign to encourage positive thinking…It’s not all doom and gloom and I think that we need to focus on that because it makes our heart feel good and our clients feel better.”

Right now, the company is focused on its “For the Love of Travel” campaign. The Facebook photo contest runs through April 30, 2020, and encourages travelers to keep their fond memories of travel alive by sharing vacation photos.

“This contest is a fun way to spark some joy across our travel advisor network, their clients, and travelers who are spending days, and even weeks, inside their homes,” said Fee. “I can’t wait to be inspired by the travel photos submitted as I am already reminiscing about my favorite travels and dreaming of where to go next once the world opens up again.”

Participants can simply post a photo of their favorite vacation memory using the hashtag #CruisePlannersLove on their personal Facebook wall or on a Cruise Planner’s travel advisor’s Facebook business page.

Going forward, Cruise Planners plans to concentrate on more land travel but is also looking to clients with future cruise credits.

“There are thousands of people holding on to future travel credits that still need to be rebooked. We are hearing straight from the experts how to adjust travelers’ itineraries and take advantage of the rebooking offers available to them,” says Garcia. “It is a win/win for clients and agents when a client rebooks a future vacation since many suppliers are offering value adds and perks to those who apply their future cruise credit towards an upcoming vacation.”

Cruise Planners is also giving its travel advisors the tools to keep in touch with clients in a meaningful way during this crisis.

Advisors have access to information on the latest cancellation policies and updates from industry executives. Cruise Planners has also built tools for agents to reach out to clients one-to-one.

Garcia also noted that advisors can take advantage of the downtime in other ways.

“This is a good time to take advantage of training,” she said. “Cruise Planners has increased training webinars.”

The company is offering live Facebook messages and has waived its administrative fees for the last two months. All marketing, print and digital, is free.

“We all need to make a collective sacrifice now to ensure we can operate as a business when the cruise ships are back to providing amazing vacation experiences and airplanes are transporting travelers instead of medical supplies,” Fee said. “We know the value of the travel advisor will be key to help reignite the travel industry.”

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Travel

On a slow boat to Norfolk and watching the world chug by at 6mph

On a slow boat to Norfolk: Taking the helm of a 40ft craft and discovering the absolute delight of watching the world chug by at 6mph

  • Norfolk Broads, a huge inland waterway, is Britain’s largest protected wetland
  • It is awash with enchanting scenery – fen, carr woodlands and marshes 
  • In Horning, there are cute waterside homes where owners watch the world go by

When you’re cruising on a boat at a stately six miles per hour, the last thing you’re fearful of is being caught speeding. Yet 6mph is the fastest speed you’re permitted to go on the Norfolk Broads, Britain’s largest protected wetland and third-largest inland waterway.

But why on earth would you wish to go any faster? This tranquil quarter of East Anglia is awash with enchanting scenery such as fen, carr woodland and grazing marshes, the biggest blue skies and a wealth of wildlife.

Perhaps the most daunting part for first-timers on the Broads are the boats themselves.

Taking life easy: A Serenade class boat that was used by Ben during his trip to the Norfolk Broads 

At the Wroxham marina of hire boat company Barnes Brinkcraft, the one I tried was not small at nearly 40ft long. Yet it is surprising how easy these vessels are to use. Apart from steering, there’s a gear lever to move forwards or backwards, and bow-thrusters for fine manoeuvring in more demanding situations, such as mooring. Mooring stern-on (like reversing a car) can be especially taxing.

The Serenade class boat we chose was almost new and spotless. What is lost in character is gained in practicality. The boat cost £150,000 to build, and it seems remarkable that the company lets complete novices loose on them. ‘We maintain and repair them ourselves, and they go so slowly that accidents are very rare,’ explains the company’s Sara Thwaites.

Our boat contained a bedroom with a double bed in the bow, another bedroom with two singles in the stern, and a generous lounge and kitchen area with the possibility of converting the seating into two further beds. The two bathrooms were ingenious, cramming a shower, loo and basin into a space not much bigger than a double wardrobe. There was hot and cold water, heating, a fridge, hob, microwave, TV and wi-fi.

Before exploring the 124 miles of navigable waterways – the result of 12th Century peat extraction – we were given instructions about manoeuvring the boat, filling up with diesel and water, and using the mud weight for anchoring.

Most Broads newbies no doubt consider it marvellous to be able to cruise the peaceful waterways within an hour, without having to endure a long boating course.

The ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, which are located along the River Bure in the Norfolk Broads 

On the lookout: The Broads teems with wildlife, including kingfishers

If you head along the River Bure to the village of Horning, you’ll pass rows of cute little timber waterside homes, often with their owners watching the world go by from their tiny, neat gardens.

Swathes of unspoilt countryside follow, a feast of reedbeds, forest and fields. Wind away the electric roof and windows, and the Broads open up even more.

Horning has three pubs and is also near the fantastic Bewilderwood theme park (handy for children who want to get off the boat for a few hours).

However, moorings are in high demand here and so are those near other pubs and villages.

At peak season, you definitely need to think about mooring up in the early afternoon at popular places, or book ahead when possible, otherwise it will be like trying to find a supermarket parking space in the run-up to Christmas.

As well as the Broads Authority’s free moorings, there are those typically attracting a £5 or £10 nightly charge, and you can stop along the banks in many places, although you’ll often be next to reed beds or deep mud and away from dry land.

Tiny Salhouse Island, near Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail, where you can learn about the local habitat and wildlife, is a good spot to moor up.

It’s glorious to sit on deck in almost complete silence with a glass of wine as the sun goes down and is replaced by a smattering of twinkling stars. Indeed, whenever you turn off the engine, it is lovely to hear no more than birdsong or laughter from a passing boat.

The Broads has 124 miles of navigable waterways – the result of 12th Century peat extraction

The Broads teem with wildlife: residents include otters, water shrews and harvest mice, kingfishers, moorhens, grebes, geese, coots, cormorants, terns, marsh harriers, herons, seagulls, dragonflies and Britain’s largest butterfly, the swallowtail.

If you’re lucky you may even hear a bittern, but you are unlikely to see one as they are rare. You may even encounter pirates invading the boat: I found three mallards parading the deck on our boat in search of bread or some other treasure.

For a city-dweller, it was a real treat to examine a duck in such detail, just three inches away on the other side of the window: the gleaming, colourful feathers, inquisitive eyes and bright orange webbed feet.

In the distance, three swans flew past in a formation the Red Arrows would envy.

Along the River Bure you’ll also stumble across the pretty ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, and one of the Broads’ numerous attractive windmills. An atmospheric place, with no roads or other settlements, it’s an ideal spot for a walk.

Cycling is another popular option, with the flat terrain mercifully unchallenging. Broadland Cycle Hire (norfolkbroadscycling.co.uk), near Horning, charges £13 for half a day for an adult bike, and has several suggested routes. The Broads By Bike (thebroadsbybike.org.uk) has even more options.

The Broads’ narrowest river, the Ant, is worth a detour and offers one of the prettiest waterways. You’ll breeze past charming villages such as Ludham, with its pub, tea rooms and shop, then peaceful Irstead, with its thatched medieval church.

All along the Broads, signs indicate the maximum permitted speeds, which vary from 3mph to 6mph

Don’t miss the traditional marshman’s house, Toad Hall Cottage at How Hill, and get a fascinating glimpse into life here a century ago. There are also nature trails and landscaped water gardens.

All along the Broads, signs indicate the maximum permitted speeds, which vary from 3mph to 6mph. As tempting as it is to have a glass of wine with a picnic lunch, even at 3mph you need to have your wits about you. 

Not concentrating for a few seconds could mean you are heading for an oncoming vessel. As fines for speeding on the Broads can reach £1,000, it’s important to keep to the limits. They are there to stop erosion of the banks, protect those on board moored boats, and to prevent disturbing nesting birds at water level.

The Ant opens up to a large expanse of water, Barton Broad, where you can head for the White Horse at Neatishead, a delightful traditional village pub which brews its own beer and uses local suppliers. The pork and apple burger hits the spot after a morning at the helm but there are plenty of wraps with veggie crisps and slaw on offer too. And Neatishead Public Staithe is a good place to settle for the night.

You don’t need to be particularly fit to enjoy a boating break, although the layouts and different levels on most boats make them tricky for anyone less mobile to navigate.

If you are unsure whether you’d like a boating break for a whole week, try out a relaxing weekend visit instead and follow a short itinerary (and there’s no need to leave your dog at home – they’re allowed on board).

The secret to a wonderful holiday here is not to try to do too much or attempt to travel the length and breadth of the Broads.

Keep your daily voyages modest and this can be one of the most relaxing places on Earth.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Ben West was a guest of Barnes Brinkcraft. Serenade class boats, sleeping six, cost from £719 in low season to £1,436 in high season, plus £40 fuel and damage waiver for three nights. 

For more information, visit barnesbrinkcraft.co.uk, visitnorfolk.co.uk, broads-authority.gov.uk and norfolkbroads.com.

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Destinations

Ancient meets modern on Central Holidays fam

It’s a travel-writing cliche to assert that a destination is a mix of old and new, historical and modern, classic and contemporary — or whatever variation one’s thesaurus might inspire. So forgive me for employing said cliche, but it feels entirely appropriate when the name of one of that destination’s largest cities means “old new land.”

That city is Tel Aviv, and in January, I accompanied travel advisors on a nine-day Israel fam with Central Holidays that offered a comprehensive look at the country, from the spiritual sites that have drawn visitors from all over the world for centuries to the innovations that have earned Israel the nickname of the “Start-up Nation.” 

Our group of about a dozen agents and guests arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport about midmorning, and we were met by Amir Rockman of Gordon Tours, who would be our guide throughout our fam.

Exploring Israel with Central Holidays

Destinations editor Eric Moya visited Israel as part of a Central Holidays fam trip. Pictured, the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Destinations editor Eric Moya visited Israel as part of a Central Holidays fam trip. Pictured, the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Harbor ruins in Caesarea. Construction of the harbor began in 22 B.C. under Herod the Great.
A view of the Golan Heights from the Sea of Galilee.
Remains of the Capernaum synagogue, said to have been built atop the synagogue where Jesus of Nazareth would have preached.
Ruins of the Masada fortress, dating back more than 2,000 years.
Jerusalem's Old City. The golden Dome of the Rock dates to the 11th century.
One of the scores of T-shirt vendors in Jerusalem's Old City.
Worshippers at the Western Wall.
Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market.
The Jaffa Clock Tower.

We hopped aboard a WiFi-enabled motorcoach and began our drive to Caesarea, the coastal city built over 2,000 years ago by Herod the Great and named in tribute to emperor Caesar Augustus. Caesarea today features a number of restaurants and shops alongside its ruins, which are part of a national park. 

A few hours later we were off to Acre, aka Akko. After lunch near the city’s sea wall, a fortification constructed in the 18th century, we strolled through the old market and walked through the remains of a fortress dating to the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries

The next day, we explored the Galilee region, which included a sailing on the Sea of Galilee with Holyland Sailing. We also visited the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus of Nazareth is said to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. 

Unlike the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a freshwater lake, the main attraction on the next day’s agenda was an actual sea: the Dead Sea, whose purported restorative properties draw hordes of visitors to wade in its superlatively saline waters and slather on its mud. We accessed the sea via the popular Kalia Beach, where ample signage made it clear that due to the sea’s extraordinary salinity, visitors should avoid swallowing the water or getting it in their eyes. 

We’d spend the next three days in Jerusalem. A stroll through the Old City’s Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters revealed a microcosm of Jerusalem’s diversity, and the enticing aromas made it difficult to pick a lunch spot (I picked a falafel stand). The Western Wall was lined with worshippers on both of the afternoons we visited during mid-January, though nothing like the throngs during peak seasons.

Our hotel, the Prima Kings Jerusalem, proved to be a convenient location from which to explore the rest of the city. On successive nights, I found myself on pedestrian-friendly Ben Yehuda Street, both for the people-watching as well as the wealth of options for food and drink. One particular highlight: the Gatsby Cocktail Room, whose speakeasy-ish vibe (it’s located above a cinema) and inventive concoctions made it ideal for unwinding after a long day of sightseeing.

It was fitting that our tour ended in Tel Aviv, the city that exemplifies Israel at its most modern. The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, founded by Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president (2007-2014), offers an excellent overview of the country’s technological innovations over the years, which include the USB drive and the navigation software company Waze. For all the previous days’ focus on the past, it was a fascinating look into Israel’s present and future. 

Central Holidays offers a number of Israel itineraries. Ours was most like the eight-day Source of Faith tour, which is priced from $1,629 (land only, double). New for the 2020-21 season is the nine-day Israel Up Close and Personal itinerary (from $2,179), which in addition to many of the stops on our fam includes a private tour and wine tasting at a Golan winery, dinner in the home of a Jewish family, a visit to Bethlehem and more. See www.centralholidays.com.

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