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Wave season 2014 offers

The wave season is a cruise industry term for the high sales volume period from January to March. The cruise lines roll out the best of their promotions and discount offers in the first quarter of the year. Travellers can get good wave season offers in 2014, if they are flexible on departure dates or cruise lines.

Many travellers book their cruise holiday for the year during the wave season and the cruise lines take full advantages of it. The offers and promotions range from reduced cruise fares that are half of the original rates to reduced or free fares for third and fourth cabin members.

Some cruises offer reduced fare or free stay in a hotel on selected departures. This type of discount is available for most destinations and on all itineraries.
 
Other offers would be on the lines of two for one fares with free airfare on select itineraries. Reduced cruise fares or free airfare offers are also aimed at specific groups such as couples or singles. These can be only utilised on certain voyages.
 
Some cruise lines are known to offer stateroom upgrades on selected cruises along with a 50% reduction in fares.

Picture: kansasphoto

Indoor ski centre planned

Skiing has never been more popular, but the problem that we have in this country is that we do not get enough snow and unless you live in Scotland the mountain ranges are simply not there! This does bring a dilemma to our winter ski holiday makers as one week or so each year means that we can really never become totally competent and skilful, although most serious British skiers can cope with the blue runs and many the reds. For those lucky enough to have access to an indoor facility close by, this is a great way to practice your skills and even to improve on them, but most of the indoor facilities are very limited to a short run down.

So it is interesting that the London Mayor, Boris Johnson has announced plans to build a giant ski centre near the Olympic Park in Stratford. If the plans come to fruition then the centre will house around 20,000 square metres of piste, there will be several runs the longest of which will be 300 metres, also it will offer snowboard ramps, toboggan runs, an ice-skating rink, with a special snow play zone for the children.

The cost of this “snow dome” is thought to be around £200 million and will be on a similar scale to the successful one in Dubai. Naturally it will be open all year round and it is hope it will attract about three million visitors a year.

Picture: The Development of Birmingham

Getting the right travel insurance

Travel insurance is a must have for those travelling aboard, and making sure that you disclose everything to your insurance provider is of the upmost importance or you could find yourself stranded without cover just when you need it.

Here are some tips on getting the right travel insurance:

Disclose all previous health problems

When setting up your travel insurance policy it is important to disclose all previous health problems you have suffered, even if they are minor. If you don’t you could invalidate your cover and be liable for a huge medical bill if the worst should happen.

Read the small print

Read the insurance policies fine print before signing. Check that your insurance will cover you for the countries you wish to visit, some European policies include Turkey and others don’t so check the policy thoroughly to make sure that you are covered especially if you are travelling to multiple countries or taking part in day excursions where you will travel over a border.

Hazardous sports cover – if you are inclined to do a spot of water sports or bungee jumping whilst your away check that you are covered. Most travel insurance policies cover you for some activities, but again check the small print. You may have to pay a little more for your policy but it’s definitely worth it. Also note that some insurers won’t cover you if you hire a scooter or if you lose valuables such as your passport or wallet while you are drunk.

Making a claim – your insurer may decline a claim if you do any of the following:

•    If you fail to place your valuables in a provided safe and they are stolen you may not be covered.
•    If you get private medical treatment instead of going to a state-run hospital your insurance company may refuse to pay leaving you with a hefty bill.
•    If you luggage gets lost or stolen while you’re on holiday you must get a police report or letter from the airline if it was lost at the airport. Failure to do this could invalidate you cover.

Insure expensive items separately

Most insurance policies have what is called ‘single item limits’, this means that they will only pay up to £300 per single item that is lost, so if you have an expensive camera or laptop it is best to insure them separately through a dedicated possessions insurance company.

Explore Washington State

America is a huge country and it is tremendously diverse, which is one reason and probably a very good one, why few Americans own a passport, America is the world rolled into one! However, most holiday makers’ from this country usually travel to only a couple of destinations when they visit the ”States” and they are Florida and New York, occasionally it can be California. Naturally the ski resorts of Colorado are one of the favourite destinations for a small number of British tourists, but there is a whole lot more to see.

Washington State in the North West corner of America is a beautiful area and can be described as having it all, with temperate rainforests and rugged shores. Unspoilt by mass tourism it still has all that is required for a fantastic holiday destination. You can take in the national parks of Olympic and Mount Rainier, perhaps visit some quiet beaches, take in natural wildlife and swift running rivers sporting salmon.

Seattle has a lot to offer, not the New York kind but nonetheless it is a sophisticated city surrounded by water. Seattle is a compact walking city where you can find great restaurants, downtown and on the waterfront, boat trips, including a replica Mississippi stern wheeler the “Queen of Seattle” with traditional entertainment on board during a two hour cruise through Lake Union.

America is a great holiday destination and perfect for fly drive holidays with good highways and friendly people and direct flights to Seattle are available from London and regional airports.

Picture: Ian Chaplin

Travelling to Klevan, Ukraine

It is likely that you have not heard of Klevan – a small urban settlement situated in Western Ukraine.  This city is located 50 kilometres southeast of Lutsk and 28 kilometres northwest of Rivne.  The Tunnel of Love, which is one of the most notable landmarks of Klevan, is about to turn this city into one of the most romantic holiday destinations in the world.

Landmarks

Since the Tunnel of Love is an attraction not to be missed, describing it is imperative:  Born from the interaction between nature and man, this natural tunnel is actually formed from hundreds of trees, whose branches completely surround a railway line crossing Klevan.  An urban legend says that the dreams of the couples who cross the tunnel holding hands will become reality.

More and more young couples visit this location during spring and summer, when a huge canopy of trees forms a beautiful enclosed arch over the railway track.  Three other attractions in Klevan are the Klevan Castle, Church of the Annunciation and Church of the Nativity.

Climate

Klevan is characterized by a temperate-continental climate, with warm summers, cold winters and occasional rain and storms throughout the year.  The best time to visit this location is from May through August.

Travel and lodging information

A traveller coming from London must book a flight to Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, and then, travel to Klevan by car. The entire journey takes about eight hours.  Upon arrival, you can find a variety of lodging options around this location, including hotels, resorts and holiday apartments.

Picture: iSavoch

Checking your UK visa

You’ve received your UK visa, but before you jump on a plane or boat it is important that you check through all the details carefully to make sure that everything is right. If there is something wrong with your visa there is a good chance that you will be refused entry to the country; your visa will contain the following information:

•    Valid from date – you will not be able to enter the UK until this date so make sure that any travel arrangements to the UK are on or after the valid from date.
•    Valid until date – you must leave the UK before or on this date unless you have successfully applied to extend your stay. It is recommended that you apply for a visa extension at least 4 weeks before your valid until date to make sure that it is processed in time.
•    Length of stay – this is the maximum amount of days that you can stay in the UK for.
•    Entry terms – this tells you how many times you can enter the UK while your visa is valid, it can be 1, 2 or multiple (MULTI) times. Most UK visas are valid for multiple entries, but it’s worth checking before trying to enter the country.
•    Visa Category – this shows your immigration category during your stay in the UK. You must meet all the requirements of this category throughout your stay or you could have your visa revoked.
•    Conditions – this outlines any special conditions attached to your visa, e.g. if you can work or not, or if you are entitled to UK benefits during your stay.

It is recommended that you check that all of your information is correct including personal details, valid from and till dates and conditions during your stay. If you think that anything is wrong you should contact the visa application centre that issued your visa immediately.

For the latest information and up to date visa news visit the IXP Visas twitter account.

Picture: Dwilliams851

Bern travel guide

The historic city centre of Bern has some of the best preserved medieval buildings in Europe, its medieval clock tower, historic sandstone buildings and picturesque surroundings make Bern a fantastic place to visit.

Surrounded on three sides by the Aare River, Bern was founded by Duke Berchtold V in 1191. Local myth states that the duke named the city after the first animal he saw when he was on a nearby hunt; this just so happened to be a bear and the city has had a strange fascination with the animal ever since. The coat of arms for Bern actually has a bear on it!

The Swiss capital is full of excellent restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as plenty of shopping opportunities. The city’s boutiques range from exclusive designer stores to traditional markets most of which are housed in the city’s medieval arcades. The majority of these arcades date back to the 15th century when the city was rebuild after a devastating fire in 1405.

Another interesting characteristic and charm of Bern old city is its fountains. Built in the 16th century as a source of public water, there are over 100 fountains in the city. As the population of Bern grew so did the fountains, with many of them decorated with stories and myths of the city’s past.

Bern is a great base for those who want to travel to the Alps or if you would prefer to stay near the city there is a range of activities for everyone including a trip to the bear park, riding the trams, visiting a museum or go on a pub crawl in a few of Bern’s famous watering holes.

Picture: Martin Abegglen

New York icon reopens

It has a huge significance for millions of Americans whose parents grandparents and maybe themselves passed through it between 1892 and 1954, some 12 million in fact immigrants looking to America for a new life. It was here on the Island that they were processed; they were required to pass a series of medical and legal inspections before they could enter America. It could prove to be nerve wracking and although most were allowed in, 2 percent of those coming to America were turned away at Ellis Island, that translated to over 250,000 people whose hopes and dreams were shattered.

Following on from the devastating problems caused to parts of New York by Hurricane Sandy, flood waters covered nearly all of Ellis Island and three quarters of nearby Liberty Island during last year’s storm which also caused severe damage on the East coast of America, extensive damage was caused to both islands. Ellis Island was forced to close but one year on the icon has reopened its doors to visitors, following extensive repairs to the halls and buildings of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Tourists taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which reopened to visitors this summer, can also now disembark on Ellis Island, which forms part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

Ellis Island is just one of the very many attractions that the city of New York offers to the tourist and with more airlines flying direct from UK regional airports, the destination is set to become a hotspot for UK visitors, not just for the Christmas shopping experience, but as a holiday destination.

Picture: Sue Waters

The best of both worlds

For the best of both worlds, skiing and sun worship, there is no better place than the slopes of the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. At one time you bought a ski holiday and went skiing, simple well not anymore really because it seems that we British do like to cram into a holiday as much as we can, no longer is it dawn to dusk skiing, no it appears that we want to spend less time on the slopes. Most ski tour operators are now offering non-skiing activities, ranging from dog-sledding and snowmobiling, but why not combine sum winter sun as well?

Just a quick trip on a budget airline to Malaga and you are a short way from the Sierra Nevada, in southern Spain, it is here that there are a couple of contrasting alternatives to winter sports. Below the resort is the great European Islamic landmark of the Alhambra in Granada, which is well worth a day off skiing to see this remarkable piece of architecture. Just 90 minutes down the road is the Mediterranean resort of Marbella and the others resorts on the Costa del Sol and even in the winter the weather can be relied upon to be warm if not quite swimming in the Mediterranean, except for the hardy.

On the skiing front the Sierra Nevada’s ski area, below the 3,398m Veleta peak, has 18 lifts and a remarkable 116 pistes and the Aguila, is an excellent, 6km ride from the top of the area to the bottom. This is not an area for the “I only do black” but it does have some and there are good long blue runs to get the legs working, and there are some blacks as well as a good few reds. Although the quantity of terrain is pretty big and impressive, in reality it is no “three valleys” and will one orientation it is perfect for about three days of morning to lift closing time worth of skiing, unless of course you are a beginner and for them it is near perfect. So for the second part of your holiday it is a trip down the hill to the coast.

Marbella owes its existence as a beach-holiday destination to the climate; here the temperature averages 23C year round which is why the budget airlines are full all year round. The attractions of Marbella are well documented but what about a more cultural experience in Malaga itself?  Here you will find Picasso Museum, the city’s contemporary art gallery and the new Carmen Thyssen Malaga museum and a beautiful cathedral with an excavated Roman amphitheatre in the grounds. For those with children the nearby resort of Benalmadena has an aquarium or a trip further down the coast to Estepona which has a safari park.

Wherever you go, you are sure to feel the warmth of the Costa del Sol on your back; it is a ski holiday with a difference.

Picture: Rogier Mulder

Airport hacks

One of the most stressful things about travelling for most people is the airport. It’s the transitional place where you’re just waiting to get to your destination, and it often seems like so many things can go wrong. Here are some ways to make that experience that little bit easier.

If you’ve got a bit of a wait at the airport, or if you’re transferring flights and have a gap in between, put a bit of money towards getting a lounge for the time. It’s much quieter than being out in the departure lounge, you’re bound to get a comfortable seat and some even have food, drinks and WiFi included in the price. When you consider the benefits you get, it’s worth the small amount you pay.

If you’re spending some time in the airport, you’re likely to be using some electronic equipment, be it a phone, camera, laptop or iPad, and it’s likely that you’ll be draining the battery on these. Most airports now have hidden hubs for charging your equipment. Search on the internet beforehand to find out where these places might be.

Finding your luggage on the carousel can be stressful if yours looks the same as everyone else’s. It might seem simple, but just tying a ribbon around the handle in a bright colour will help you to identify yours and get out the airport more quickly.

airport trolleys

Picture: Bentley Smith