The Dunkirk spirit was invoked by the coronavirus crisis, when a small 25-cabin cruise yacht helped 19 Cuban crew from a mega cruise ship return to their homeland. Variety Cruises’ vessel Panorama made a special 14-day diversion in the Caribbean to repatriate the group from MSC Preziosa. Panorama’s captain Vasilis Mazarkis came across the plight of the Cubans when his ship called into Barbados to refuel ahead of a transatlantic crossing after a winter season spent cruising off the coast of Costa Rica and Panama. Panorama was empty other than her crew. She berthed near MSC Preziosa, a super-sized cruise ship that carries up to 4,360 passengers and 1,300 crew. Nineteen healthy staff were keen to return home but given the constraints of Covid-19, had no realistic option for doing so. Following a request from the Cuban government, Mazarkis agreed to repatriate them to Havana, a journey which took the cruise yacht seven days. The Cuban government covered the cost of the fuel but Variety Cruises made no other charge for their brotherly act. Health declarations were provided by the Captain of MSC Preziosa and the Barbadian medical authorities, and the new passengers were thermo-scanned prior to boarding and on every subsequent day of the journey. After disembarking his charges in Havana on April 4, Mazarkis said: "During these difficult times we are facing, it is important to help each other. Knowing that we were helping fellow seafarers by getting them back to their families makes us all happy. We wish and hope that all stranded crew and passengers alike manage to get home to their loved ones and that the world will return to normal soon."
There’s a flurry of problems facing the travel industry at the moment, not least the question of its survival in a time of lockdowns and travel bans. But to their credit, industry leaders are still finding innovative ways to help where they can, as is currently being demonstrated by four hotels on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Recognising that weeks of isolation are only fuelling wanderlust, Le Sirenuse and Il San Pietro in Positano, Palazzo Avino in Ravello and Hotel Santa Catarina in Amalfi, unaffiliated but for location, have clubbed together to do their bit by selling holidays in order to raise money for medical research.
Continuing our series, Chris Leadbeater enjoys a virtual holiday in Sin City. Previous articles include New York, Rio and Venice
Where would you rather be right now? It’s a question many of us are asking ourselves, our friends and our families on loop. I’m currently living in an alternative universe: this weekend, I was supposed to be scooting around the streets of San Francisco with a friend before driving to Napa Valley. When I’m not lamenting that trip, I’m daydreaming about past memories, like sunbathing in secret coves in Menorca or Greece, or driving, windows down, around the back lanes of Cornwall on a summer’s evening. My reality, as is everyone’s at the moment, is much different.
I feel I’ve got to know Ben Curtis and Marina Diez pretty well over the past eight or nine years. He’s from Oxford and she’s a Madrileña — a native of Madrid, the city where they are raising their two children.
With school cancelled, and adults stuck at home, what better time to show off (or improve) your geography knowledge? Every Friday lunchtime, until the Government releases us from our lockdown, we will be publishing a new travel quiz. So, without further ado...
Holland America Line’s Zaandam and Rotterdam have finally reached port after 12 days at sea. The two ships, which are carrying Zaandam’s original passengers split between them, have been sailing together since Rotterdam came to her sister ship’s aid on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Zaandam had been sailing a South America cruise that began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7, and was originally scheduled to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. Attempts were made and denied to disembark guests in Chile on March 15 and at other ports on the way to Florida. Guests had not left the ship since March 14 and were subject to self-isolation in their staterooms since March 22. After lengthy negotiations and the intervention of President Trump, the two ships were cleared for arrival into Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There had been resistance to allow them to dock, because since March 22, 107 guests (90 on Zaandam/17 on Rotterdam) and 143 crew on Zaandam (0 on Rotterdam) had influenza-like symptoms. Orlando Ashford, the president of the cruise line, made a passionate plea for help, describing the situation as a ‘humanitarian crisis’. Rotterdam arrived in port with 808 guests and 583 crew; Zaandam with 442 guests and 603 crew. Across the two ships there were 229 British passengers.
Turn confinement into the ultimate luxury staycation, says Emma Love, by giving your house a hotel makeover, complete with a party-starting cocktail bar and in-room spa One of the best things about checking into a hotel is that moment when you unlock the door and arrive in the sanctuary of your room. Now that most of us are confined in our homes, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on making them places we really want to be, and recreating that feeling of calm in our own spaces. “To be cosy and provoke an emotion, interior decoration should tell a story,” says Arnaud Zannier, whose hotels include Phum Baitang in Siem Reap (where the Jolie-Pitt clan stayed for months) and Ghent’s 1898 The Post. “Choose one or two remarkable pieces – whether that’s objets, candles or flowers, anything that brings personality to a room – and put the emphasis on those.” “I like to compose a few areas of focus – perhaps a painting, a table, a stack of books – but for me, bed linen is the key to making a bedroom look plush,” says Karen Roos, co-owner of The Newt in Somerset among other hotels, and former editor of Elle Decoration in South Africa.
Established by the Cocama people in 1830, the little town of Nauta sits close to the source of the Amazon River. It is also the gateway town to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, a protected area of rainforest and wetlands occupying more than two million hectares which you will explore on a Peruvian river cruise.
Viking Cruises is to introduce Mississippi cruises from August 2022, with the longest itineraries connecting New Orleans with St Paul. Sailing on a custom-built vessel, the Viking Mississippi, the voyages will cross through seven US states. Ports of call will include Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St Paul). Voyages for the inaugural 2022-2023 season are already on sale for Viking’s past guests and bookings will open to the general public on April 15. Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said: “At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river. Our guests are curious travellers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. No other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.” This new river cruise destination for Viking follows on from the company’s announcement earlier this year that it was launching its first expedition ships, Viking Octantis in January 2022 and Viking Polaris in August 2022. In the last eight years, Viking has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and six ocean ships. Viking Mississippi will accommodate 386 guests in 193 staterooms, all outside facing. Currently under construction in Louisiana, the line claims the five-deck ship’s cutting-edge design, expansive windows and comfortable amenities will make it the largest and most modern cruise ship in the region. Regular guests will recognise the clean Scandinavian design, reimagined for Mississippi river voyages.
The bijou Slovenian capital sings a greatest hits of European architecture, with baroque, medieval, art nouveau and even socialist-era realism all gloriously chiming together on its chocolate box-pretty streets. Thanks to impressively enlightened civic management, clean and green Ljubljana is also heavily pedestrianised, making it a joy to wander around its core, with a swathe of museums, parks and other attractions easily accessible on foot. The river is never far away and you’ll spend your time criss-crossing the Ljublanica, with omnipresent Ljubljana Castle another bedrock landmark handy for navigation. The public transport system is cheap and efficient, but you really won’t need it. Cruise with Jason and his Argonauts Legend has it that Ljubljana was founded when Jason and the Argonauts sailed up the Ljubljanica River and slew a dragon here (the dragon symbol appears everywhere, from bridges to lampposts). The best way to get acquainted with Ljubljana is by cruising on this lifeblood river, a charming experience as its Alpine waters are dappled with swaying willows, while some of the city’s finest architecture graces the riverbanks. Insider tip: Myriad vessels now ply the Ljubljanica. The classiest is Barka, a solid wooden beauty lovingly sculpted for the task. Polished to within an inch of her sleek life, you’ll draw envious looks from passengers on other ramshackle vessels as you ease along.
With the Foreign Office advising against all but essential overseas travel, and airlines including easyJet and Ryanair grounded all their flights, countless British holidaymakers have had their upcoming trips ruined. Thousands are now battling to get refunds and those who want to rebook for a later date are unsure when foreign travel will once again be possible. Many British travellers have also been caught out by the sudden closure of borders around the world, leaving them stranded and unsure how they will get home. The Foreign Office has announced a £75m fund to help repatriate UK citizens, but there are still doubts about exactly how the rescue flights will work. To answer these questions, and many more on the thorny issue of holidays in the time of coronavirus, travel expert Nick Trend has been offering his advice. See his responses below.
Ask a New Yorker where to shop, and you’ll likely receive a mile-long list. With a patchwork of department stores, luxury boutiques, and indie shops scattered throughout the city, New York could be deemed a shopper’s paradise. Unlike shopping in some other cities, though, NYC retailers aren’t limited to a few districts. Instead, stores pepper almost every neighbourhood, and many are the lifeblood of the areas they serve. From designer brands on Fifth Avenue to swank establishments in Brooklyn and specialty shops along the fringes, New York’s diverse shopping scene offers plenty for every style, taste, and budget. Midtown Bergdorf Goodman This classic, high-end department store, set in the Vanderbilt Mansion since 1928, is an icon of the city and a draw for tastemakers with deep pockets. Bergdorf’s, as New Yorkers call it, stocks scores of luxury brands and caters to an upper echelon of shoppers, but wide-eyed tourists can often be found browsing or gazing at the store’s brilliant, eye-catching window displays. The shoe department on the fifth floor, studded with Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutins, is a destination in its own right. Stylish males aren’t left out, either. They can shop at Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store across the street.
P and Cunard have pushed back the resumption of sailings, from April 11 to May 16. The continued travel restrictions are also set to impact the launch of P’s new flagship Iona, the largest ship built to serve the UK market.
The little town of Parintins has a rich Indian heritage. Each June it hosts the Boi Bumba Festival when tens of thousands of people hit town for a week-long party, with floats, costumes, song and dance. This is Brazil’s second-largest festival after the Rio Carnival.
This sleepy little village deep in the rainforest is one of the best places on an Amazon river cruise to get an authentic taste of indigenous culture. You’ll meet Caboclo Indian people, can visit their homes and get a glimpse into a more simple way of life.
Why go? Mazatlán has the sweeping golden beaches of competitors Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. But it’s the city’s Centro Historico, with its handsome Art Nouveau plazas and time-warp cantinas, that make it worthy of dropping anchor. Happily, the Mazatlán government has improved security since a spate of attacks targeting tourists in the early 2010s. Cruise port location The cruise ship dock is located in the commercial port area. A two-minute open-sided bus ride ferries passengers from the dock to the cruise terminal (tips welcome, you can’t walk for safety reasons), which is a mile southeast of the Centro Historico. Taxis are abundant and take about five minutes to the centre of the city from around US$10 (£8) per cab. If you're planning to go to beaches at the Zona Dorada, it's a 20-minute ride. Can I walk to any places of interest? The cruise terminal has several overpriced bars (with an onus on the local tipple, tequila) and a market selling textiles, leatherware and ceramics. Old Town Mazatlán (the Centro Historico) is an easy 20 to 25-minute walk from the cruise port, although pavement kerbs are high. Getting around Sábalo Centro Tourist buses run from the ferry terminal a few minutes’ walk west of the cruise terminal along the length of the Zona Dorada (Golden, or beach zone to the north of the Centro Historico), so are a good option if you want to go to the beach. Tickets cost around MS8 (34p, every 15 min from 5.30am to 10.30pm). Four-wheeled options abound, including open-sided pulmonias (around £3 to hire, shared between passengers), regular taxis and aurigas (pick-up trucks, which cost around £9 to hire and seat eight to 10 people).
Why go? Developed on a narrow ride overlooking the Mississippi, the oldest town in the Florida Parishes – which were part of West Florida in the 18th and early 19th centuries – is described as the town that is 'two miles long and two yards wide' and is a quaint and tranquil port of call. Tracing its roots back to a burial ground and church built by Spanish settlers in the 1730s, St Francisville is the second oldest town in Louisiana (after Natchitoches) and steeped in Southern town charm. There’s a compact walkable old town and a cluster of plantation homes nearby. Cruise port location The docking spot lies at the foot of a hill leading to the historic district. Passengers are welcomed by tourist office representatives handing out maps, shopping bags and discount vouchers and shuttle buses run back and forth to the town. Can I walk to any places of interest? Whilst some passengers walk back, it’s less tiring to take the shuttle into the compact centre where it is easy to explore on foot. Coaches take passengers to Rosedown, a former cotton plantation on the outskirts of town, which is one of the most popular excursions.
With Britons ordered to stay indoors during the coronavirus outbreak, how can you relive the experience of being at sea from within your four walls? One couple went viral on social media as they recreated their cancelled cruise at home, sitting in front of a TV screen showing moving footage of the ocean blue while in their dresssing gowns and sharing a bottle of wine. You could even hear a ship's horn honking away. There's no need to go that far, but here we look at the TV shows, films, books and social media that might help you feel like you’re back on board… Television Cruising has had a lot of air time recently, thanks mainly to Cruising With Jane McDonald and a series about Seven Seas Explorer called Secrets Of The World’s Most Expensive Cruise Ships (both available on the Channel 5 catch-up service My5). Documentary channel Discovery Science regularly reruns Mighty Ships on vessels including Crystal Serenity, Norwegian Epic and Le Boreal (all three are showing on March 29), while Yesterday series Monster Ships includes Royal Clipper (available on UKTV Play) and there is an Impossible Engineering episode about Oasis-class ships. MSC Meraviglia is featured in the Channel 4 programme Building Giants, now available on demand, while Britbox has a two-part documentary on the QE2. Sadly, a Channel 4 series about the world’s biggest ship, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, due to air this month, has been postponed until later in the year. There are lighthearted shows too. QE2 also pops up in an episode of Keeping Up Appearances, Sea Fever, available on Gold or Britbox. Columbo, reguarly showing on 5 USA, is faced with a murder on a cruise ship in Troubled Waters and the same channel airs Murder She Wrote, in which Jessica Fletcher solves a mystery death at sea in My Johnny Lies Over The Ocean. For a laugh on the ocean wave, you can’t beat the Frasier episode Voyage Of The Damned where the fictional Seattle radio host is invited to give a lecture on a cruise ship. It is next due to be screened on 4seven at 4pm on April 1. Another US comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond, showing regularly on Channel 4, has an episode called Cruising With Marie where the titular character has to share an inside cabin with his mother and is mistaken for her lover. Catch it next on 4seven on April 1. And who can forget the vintage US comedy series The Love Boat? Moving on, from nostalgia to the future... if you want a glimpse of what cruising could be like in space, see the new HBO series Avenue 5, now showing on Sky One. Finally, real die-hard addicts even have their own Cruise Channel on Sky 199.
At a time when many hotels around the globe are shutting their doors and the world of travel has been suspended for many of us, the hotels team of Telegraph Travel has decided to celebrate their favourite hotels. It is these places we return to in our memories when we are feeling blue, and certainly the places we will return to once we can travel again. Colombe d’Or, Provence, France I have only ever cried on leaving one hotel. Granted, it was my honeymoon, and granted, I had planned the entire trip around whether or not I could stay here. Colombe d’Or is the stuff of legend: it was opened in 1920 by a local family, and was the place where artists and literati sought refuge during World War Two (many donated artworks that casually line the walls). It more than lived up to expectations: I sunbathed next to a Alexander Calder mobile, slept under a Picasso, drank champagne on the roof and ate soufflé under twinkling lamp-strewn trees wearing my backup wedding dress. Magic. By Jade Conroy Read the full review: Colombe d’Or
They were the words I didn’t want to hear but I knew would come eventually: “Foreign Secretary advises all British travellers to return to the UK now.” Thus ended a three-month sabbatical in Palo Alto, California, which had been months in the making for me and my husband, Seb. I had arrived 15 days earlier, ready to stuff every spare moment possible with exploring the Golden State. Seb had been there a month before I joined, in order to start a medical research fellowship into childhood brain tumours at Stanford University.
I never thought I’d write these words, but I think the time has come for consumers to be flexible. To put our rights into a new context and start thinking about the implications of what is currently happening to the travel industry. I say this having spent much of my working life holding airlines, tour operators and other holiday companies to account, exposing shoddy, sometimes dishonest service, and campaigning for better consumer rights and protections. But during that time I’ve never seen anything quite like the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. And I’m not talking about the obvious short-term disruption. Because we plan, book and pay for travel often months in advance, the effects of the virus on tourism will last for the whole of 2020 and probably much longer. It is a seismic shock to tone of the world’s biggest industries, and an acute, existential threat to many of the companies that operate within it. Sure. Slowly and eventually, life will get back to normal. But we don’t want to delay that resumption by seeing whole chunks of the industry collapse. Let’s look at the grim reality from the point of view of an airline, tour operator, hotel or cruise company, or one of the many, many businesses that form the backbone of that industry. They already work on tight margins and they depend for their profits (and therefore their survival) on a steady turn over of bookings. These bring funds in advance for some - airlines and tour operators, for example - and in arrears for the agents who depend on commissions, or hotels which are often paid only when guests have left. But instead of taking bookings, checking in guests and organising travel arrangements, all these companies are now having to spend all their efforts handing money back. Not only does this fundamentally threaten their future, none of them - especially those which were built to trade online - have enough staff to cope with a sudden and extreme shift in the way they have to work. Those employees they do have are stressed, in fear of their jobs and livelihoods. What’s more, as the virus spreads, more and more of them are getting ill leaving companies even more short-staffed. They are also having to deal with anxious, impatient customers desperate to get their money back. And I know, from the tone of some of those who have contacted me, that not all these customers are understanding nor even reasonable in their expectations. I suppose it is not surprising. We are all stressed and worried about the financial consequences of the virus. But I have been mostly impressed by the efforts of the travel industry to mitigate the problem. Most are doing their level best to help. Many are doing their best to be flexible. Strictly speaking, customers are usually entitled to a cash refund in such circumstances. But many companies, in their struggle to survive, are trying to persuade people to accept a postponement - rebooking for a later date - or an offer of a credit for a future holiday. So, bearing the extremity of the situation in mind, I’ve changed the advice I give to those whose trips are cancelled and suggested that - if at all possible - they forbear from demanding a refund and accept an alternative offer. The more people who feel able to do this, the more travel companies will survive long enough to arrange our holidays in future. And you don't have to worry about losing your money - in the vast majority of cases it will be protected because your holiday was paid for with a credit card booking or a financial bonding arrangement such as the Atol. This week the trade association Abta made a plea for help and flexibility in the legal situation. It asked the Government to take two immediate steps to help the industry survive. First to allow companies to refund customers over a defined period, during which their payment is protected. And second, to establish an emergency fund to reimburse customers’ money where travel companies cannot recoup it from their suppliers. Only with these interventions, says Abta, “will we be able to continue to protect the customer interests, and avoid a short term run on travel companies which will trigger failures and delay refunds getting to customers.” It’s a cry for help. If we want to carry on travelling after Covid-19, we should all heed it.
Our cruise experts share their love of cruising and why they are confident the sector will bounce back, stronger than ever 'Precious shared memories' We were journeying through the heart of Europe, my 84-year-old granny and me. A first-time cruiser, she had taken to it like one of the downy ducks at the water’s edge. If I left her alone, I never worried. Barely four ft tall, warm and affable and with hair as white as Miss Marple’s, fellow passengers (and especially Americans) loved her. “Mabel’s on deck; Mabel’s in the lounge; Mabel’s eating scones,” they would inform me – and I would return to find her with a new friend or two and being fussed over by several waiters. Since that cruise on the Rhine in a 160-passenger river ship, I’ve sung with a choir in the Norwegian fjords with a good friend, shopped Europe’s Christmas markets with my mum, watched the Monaco Grand Prix with my brother and observed my niece making friends and forming lasting pen-pal relationships with children from Germany, Hong Kong and Chile. Without my father’s zoological insights my experience of the Galapagos would have been incredible, of course, but diminished. And without me there, Dad would probably not have snorkelled, and he would’ve missed out on the underwater penguins. Now the Galapagos is ours – a precious, shared experience we refer to again and again. Would I have booked a land-based holiday with my brother, my niece or just my father?
The mark of a good family hotel is when it offers as much to please and entertain parents (or carers) as their children. Often – but not always – this means a large hotel with plenty of grounds. Yorkshire, with all its space, comes up trumps. Some of these hotels have spas and swimming pools, others wellies and walking routes for all foot sizes and abilities, while others have specialist facilities such as cookery schools and riding lessons, both for big and little people. All welcome with little treats and cater for the fussiest of eaters. Here's our pick of the best family-friendly hotels in Yorkshire, in and around locations including Harrogate, Ripon, York and Leeds.