Something to Declare: Island escapes; St Petersburg with no visa; Thailand; Greece
Saturday 01 May 2010
Bargain of the week: Island escapes
"Air fares to go sky high," insisted one newspaper's front page this week, asserting that airlines would pass on the estimated £2bn bill for the volcanic ash shutdown in the form of higher prices. But with so much competition in aviation, it is the passengers rather than the airlines that call the tune on fares. And many carriers are cutting prices or adding extra value to win back customers.
As uncertainty over further cabin-crew strikes jeopardises British Airways' forward bookings, the airline's holiday offshoot has revealed some amazing one-week Caribbean deals: £499 to Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and St Lucia, including accommodation, but no meals. Flights are from Gatwick, where BA long-haul flights were not hit by recent strikes. Travel dates vary. For Barbados, staying at the three-star All Seasons Resort Europa, you can travel 8-30 June or 6-30 September.
In Grenada, accommodation is at the three-star Grenadian, for travel 1-24 June. The three-star Bay Gardens in St Lucia is on offer 15 September to 10 October. In St Kitts, the stay is at the five-star Marriott Resort, between 10 and 27 June. Book at ba.com by 31 May; in practice, these unprecedented deals are unlikely to last that long.
Iceland is seeking to win its way back into travellers' hearts with offers for trips to America this summer. Iceland Express ( icelandexpress.com ) is offering free one-night stopover promotions for passengers from Gatwick who book the new Atlantic crossing from Reykjavik to New York (Newark), starting on 1 June. You must book at least four weeks in advance before first departure; the deal is based on two people travelling together.
Destination of the week: St Petersburg with no visa
As Russia celebrates May Day, the world's biggest country continues to implement some of the most stringent and expensive visa rules anywhere.
A good way to avoid them is to visit the former capital, St Petersburg, on a Baltic cruise ship: passengers leaving the vessel on an "organised tour" (which may merely involve a bus ride to the middle of the main street, Nevsky Prospekt) do not require a visa. This is not a suitable option for independent travellers. But a new option is on offer this summer: a Maltese-registered ferry sailing between Finland and Russia.
St Peter Line's Princess Maria ( stpeterline.com ) will sail overnight each way between Helsinki and St Petersburg, taking around 14 hours. The basic return fare starts at €85 per person based on sharing a twin cabin, though prices at weekends and in high summer are likely to be substantially higher.
You can stay just for the day – and need produce nothing more than a "city bus tour" ticket (price €15) – or for three days, though you will have to have evidence of a confirmed accommodation booking.
Warning of the week: Thailand
"We advise against all but essential travel to the whole of Thailand," says the Foreign Office, "due to the increasingly volatile and tense political situation. Violent incidents of an unpredictable nature are occurring in many parts of Thailand. There is a high threat of terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers."
Tip of the week: Grecian 2010 - the outlook isn't all grey
Greece is not entirely economically moribund: on 20 May, the first hotel in the Costa Navarino complex, in the western Pelopponese, opens: the Romanos Luxury Collection (00 30 211 0160 000; romanoscostanavarino.com ).
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