Something To Declare: ferry down the Mersey; flying down to Rio; Canada on the cheap


Destination of the week: ferry down the Mersey

Mersey Ferries has just launched its programme of special cruises for the summer, including Glam Rock and Beatles evening voyages. The highlight, though, is the six-hour cruise between Liverpool and Salford Quays in Greater Manchester. The fascinating journey from Liverpool to Salford, or vice-versa, takes you through a slice of industrial history as well as some lovely scenery. You also change altitude by 60ft along the way - there are five sets of locks.

The cruises begin next Saturday and run most weekends and on occasional weekdays until 24 September. The £30 fare includes a bus transfer back to your starting point; children and senior citizens qualify for a discount, but only a tiny one: they pay £29. Call 0151 330 1444 or visit www.merseyferries.co.uk for bookings.

Warning of the week: flying down to Rio?

Well, you might not be. Brazil's top international airline, Varig, is facing financial problems. The Foreign Office took the unusual step of cautioning travellers about the airline's precarious position, warning of "an imminent risk of collapse". After representations by Varig, this has now been toned down to pointing out "a risk that the company will be declared bankrupt".

A spokesman for the airline's London office says that the warning is unnecessary: "Everything is stable as far as Varig is concerned. It's business as usual. Varig is not cancelling any flights and passengers can book with confidence." The airline has been operating under bankruptcy protection laws since last June; one consequence is that Varig is not covered by most scheduled airline failure insurance policies.

Travellers will soon have a wider choice of carriers to Brazil. The successful domestic airline, Tam, has been given permission to launch daily flights between the UK and Brazil; the route is likely to link Gatwick with the airline's home base, Sao Paulo. Rio is believed to be a future target for BMI or Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow.

Bargain of the week: Canada on the cheap

Peak summer fares across the Atlantic are rising, but if you can book by tomorrow, 30 April, you could tap into some very good-value fares on early summer flights to Canada. Flying from Glasgow to Toronto on 5 May, returning 12 days later, costs £198 through Canadian Affair (020-7616 9184; www.canadianaffair.com). Going from Manchester on 10 May for a week to Montreal, you would pay £288 return. The widest choice of flights is from Gatwick; flying to Vancouver next Thursday, 4 May, with a wide choice of return dates, the total fare is £278.

Air Transat launches a Gatwick-Halifax flight next month; departing on 18 May for six days, the fare is £243 return, booked through Globespan Canada (08705 561522; www.airtransat.co.uk ).

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