With news of UNESCO's latest addition, international roaming, and what's on the horizon for cruising, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield delves into another week in Travel
France, which recently banned domestic flights of under 2½ hours where there’s a train or bus covering the same route, may take on super-cheap airfares, too. It is reported that Transport Minister Clement Beaune believes the €10 ($16) airfares that are available across the continent are inappropriate in this time of “environmental crisis”. He suggested the French Government could enforce a “minimum air ticket price”.
The pretty island of Djerba has only been known by Jewish pilgrims, Star Wars fans and smart tourists, until now. Off the coast of Tunisia, Djerba has just been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Said to be the home of lotus-eaters in Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem The Odyssey, this island of white-washed villages has been used as a location in Star Wars movies. Djerba is believed to be among the first Jewish settlements in Africa and the faithful come for the yearly pilgrimage to El Ghriba Synagogue.
OUT OF THE MUD
It was good to see Ocean Explorer, full of Aurora Expeditions travellers, pulled free after three days stuck in mud and silt off Greenland. More than 200 passengers and crew were rescued by the Greenland government-owned research trawler Tarajoq after Ocean Explorer was grounded in Alpefjord, above the Arctic Circle. After the ship was pulled free, it was reported that a number of the passengers had come down with COVID-19.
For a limited time, Hurtigruten Expeditions is offering travellers a “lowest price guarantee” on 70 of its most popular exploration cruises across 11 destinations. Until November 30, 2023, all cruise bookings made with Hurtigruten Expeditions will receive a discount of up to 30 per cent and a guarantee that if travellers see the same package at a lower price on their website, Hurtigruten Expeditions will refund the difference. Popular cruises and destinations covered by the offer are Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, the British Isles, Central America, Galapagos, Greenland, Iceland, North-West Passage, South America and Svalbard. hurtigruten.com.au or 1300 322 062
Anyone paying bills knows all about the cost of living, but it isn’t stopping most people from travelling. New research commissioned by Europ Assistance, the parent company of Australian travel insurance provider InsureandGo, shows that, despite economic pressures, Australians are travelling longer and spending more than their counterparts in Europe, the US and Canada.
Australian travellers are spending an average of $4602 each on summer holidays. Americans spend $4544, Canadians $3633 and Europeans $3144. Most will take longer summer holidays — an average of 2.1 weeks. Just 32 per cent will give up travel this summer to save money.
The findings come from the Europ Assistance 2023 Holiday Barometer, an annual global survey of 15,000 respondents from 15 countries. Australia was included for the first time and 1000 Australians took part in the survey.
LOOKING TO 2026
Emerald Cruises leaked a preview this week of its new collection of luxury yacht cruises on Emerald Azzurra and Emerald Sakara from October 2024 to April 2026. Its early release has been prompted by demand.
The collection includes new destinations in the Indian Ocean and Seychelles, and updated itineraries in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Red and Caribbean seas.
And Emerald Cruises also announced that guests embarking on its 100-guest luxury yachts from April 17, 2024, onwards will get a complimentary drinks package which includes unlimited cocktails, mocktails, premium wines, prosecco and champagne by the glass, bottled beer and soft drinks, as well as a minibar selection in each suite.
The full brochure will be available later this year, but the new 20-page cruise calendar will help travellers plan, with prices and detailed itineraries now on emeraldcruises.com.au.
Reader Joan Munckton has been following our stories about being in Morocco, the earthquake, and how Intrepid Travel handled the event. She says: “My husband and I have been travelling with Intrepid since our first trip to China with them in 2000. We have always been very impressed with their ethical approach to travel, and have had many wonderful experiences and interactions with locals in many countries. We had a wonderful trip to Morocco with Intrepid in 2018. Among other places, like you we also walked to and from Imlil to Aroumd village, and spent a few days in Marrakech. Watching the devastation on the news has been difficult. Seeing the ruins of the old buildings and the heartbreak of the villagers who have lost family members and homes has saddened us immensely.”
Colleague Mogens Johansen recently wrote about the need to keep up with phone technology, warning readers that you really can’t travel without one now. I also recently mentioned that I reckon it’s better to keep up than catch up. Mogens adds: “Thankfully, using a smartphone for international roaming is a lot cheaper and easier to manage than it used to be. Most Australian carriers offer international roaming day passes for about $5-10 that can be used in most countries around the world. But be aware, the carriers divide the world into three zones and charges differ between them.” Even so, when I am wandering around and just using my phone as a camera, I keep it on flight mode to stop it hunting on the internet.
It all prompted Betty McGeever to contact me on behalf of a friend who is in her mid-80s and travelling to Europe next year. It is her first time for a while and first time alone. Betty is encouraging her friend to get to grips with her phone now — “Not to discourage her, but maybe do some homework with tech-savvy kids before she goes”. It’s a very good idea.
RESPECT & INTEREST
Betty has also been following our stories, particularly recently about Morocco, and kindly adds of our work: “I love your obvious respect for, and interest in, people who are different to us, in looks and culture. Should be more of this attitude in the world . . .”
STAYING IN TOUCH
The need to keep on top of tech and communications has become apparent in my investigation of a reader complaint about a missed tour in Petra, Jordan. The shore excursion was scheduled to start from Aqaba and pick-up details were sent by email to the travellers who’d booked it, with the rendezvous location and time set. When the travellers weren’t there, the tour team in Jordan tried to reach them, but were unable to make contact. A spokesperson says: “Unfortunately, by the time they got in touch with us, the tour had already commenced. Given that our operational partner was prepared and the tour operated as promised, we couldn’t facilitate a refund, in accordance with our cancellation policy.” It was a shemozzle and our WA travellers didn’t get their day out.
PS How does your phone cope with the pressure of travel? With screenshots.