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Welcome to Ian’s Top 10 travel deals and tips for this week

August 27, 2019 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

Issue 50: Saturday, 24 August 2019

Rail and cruise way to go

I would recommend an itinerary that includes the Rocky Mountaineer train with a seven day cruise – probably out of Skagway back to Vancouver. Canadian Rail Vacations offers a six day itinerary from Vancouver but there are lots of combinations available. Check with your agent. Highlights include spending a night in the fabulous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Next discover the beauty of Banff and Yoho National Parks and other landmarks before checking in for the next two nights at the mountain resort town of Banff. More details here

Oceania not for the party set

Our 14 day cruise aboard Oceania’s Regatta was about a calm and relaxed as it gets – just 800 passengers enjoy excellent service and fine food – so good in fact that the specialty restaurants are hardly ever full because guests are quite happy to go to the grand dining room. Quite a compliment really – we have noticed the reverse is the case on Royal Caribbean trips we have taken recently. This is not a ship for a party animal by the way – quite the reverse. Guests are mainly quite old Americans, the entertainment very low key. The ship will be completely refurbished next month – but the very small verandah suite bathrooms will remain.

Questions about room. final bill

Surprisingly, drinks are not included in the price which are at the upper end of the market. Every time you buy a drink you are slugged another 18% service fee  – and remember we are talking American dollars. Gratuities are supposed to be included but we were charged heaps – a matter I intend to take up with Oceania. There are also quite obvious legal blunders that need to be addressed – we for instance paid for a Concierge verandah cabin only to told when we got onboard that “there is no concierge room on this ship.” Nor was there a main dining room menu each day as promised. Even RCL can manage that. The competition for Regatta is any of the Azamara fleet – same size ship – but house drinks are included. My suggestion is check both out very carefully before you finally decide.

Super efficient, cheap shuttle in Seattle

Had a few interesting days using shuttles. We got off the ship in lovely Victoria, Canada and headed for the free shuttle to take us about 1.5 km to the centre of town. FREE – no way – while cruise pax contribute millions to the local economy – there is a charge of $CAN15 return per person. Crazy. In Seattle at a nice little airport hotel called the Country Inn and Suites by Radisson. We decided to go downtown to shop but the cab far was around $US60 each way – so we took the free hotel shuttle to the airport and caught The Link – a monorail that cost $US6 return. What a bargain.

Air NZ premium exactly that

Finally a comment or two about Air New Zealand’s much publicised premium economy section. It gets the thumbs up from me – excellent seat and space to stretch out. You even get a real fully size pillow. Food was surprisingly good, The configuration in the 777 aircraft of 2 4 2 has been criticised – probably rightly – it makes it tough if the person next to you want to make regular trips to the loo for instance. It was better on the Auckland Adelaide sector – 2 3 2. This service is operated by a new and very impressive 787-9 Dreamliner. My only grumble was the fact that we had to go home via LA when we could have simply flown to Vancouver (146 miles away) and caught the direct flight to Auckland.

Don’t miss the Proms in London

Heading to London soon? Make sure to pay Kensington Palace a visit for one of the free Garden History Tours. The Royal Garden Hotel is nearby. Another summer highlight is a classical music festival renowned around the world…The Proms. Since the end of World War II the event has been held at the Royal Albert Hall. To see the full schedule and to book seats, see below. For a real sense of atmosphere, give ‘Promming’ tickets a try. These are standing tickets that hark back to the origins of the event and 500 are sold on the door before each concert.   See here

If you love adventure….

Enjoy getting off the main tourism routes? From Belize’s most remote atoll to Uganda’s heights, from the Kingdom of Mustang to the magical Galapagos, adventure travel specialist, World Expeditions has launched eight new adventure holidays. Venture into lush mountain valleys surrounded by snow-capped mountains on this new overland journey to the hidden Kingdom of Mustang, known for its rugged mountain landscapes and rich cultural legacy. Ideal for anyone seeking a cultural Himalayan experience but without the commitment of long, multi-day hikes, the trip is designed to coincide with the spectacular Tiji Festival, in the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang. More details here

Virgin’s overseas routes on sale

Save on flights to Los Angeles, Bali, Hong Kong and more right now at the Virgin Australia sale. You have to hurry though – the deals end on 31 August 2019. The deals range from Sydney to Los Angeles for from $1000 return to $594 return to Nadi. Melbourne to Hong Kong is on sale from $648. Sydney to LA in business is from $7357. Conditions always apply to these deals including when you can fly. Your local helloworld office has more details here

Cycle in South Africa and save $1890

Outdoor Travel has released a fully supported easy to moderate cycling holiday from the majestic Blyde River valley to Kruger National Park. More than just a cycling holiday this is an in-depth exploration of the north-eastern corner of South Africa, combining a traditional game-viewing safari with sightseeing, a cultural and historical insight and  cycling. Exploring by bike allows you to discover the vast panoramas of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.  Highlights include wildlife encounters by bicycle, on foot and by vehicle. You will stay in the National Park and private game reserves.  Two people travelling together will save $1890. See here

Could your computer be banned?

You have to do more than just remove your computer for inspection while checking in at major airlines these days – some products have been completely banned. Thai Airways has announced that in accordance with European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations, passengers are not allowed to take older generation of 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops on board all flights or in checked baggage. These devices were distributed by Apple Inc. between September 2015 and February 2017 and were recalled as batteries in some of these laptops could overheat.  See more details of the recall here.

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