TRAVEL Extra’s Sunday Supplement: Can Aer Lingus’ deal survive Black Monday?

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HEADLINESAVIATIONAFLOATFOOD & WINEHOTELS – INTERNATIONAL –IRELAND     DEAL WATCH –  TRAVEL TRADE

Stephen McNally Presiient of the IHF presents Mary McAleese with the President's award at the Irish Hotels Federation Conference Gala Dinner while being photographed by Don McMonigle in the Slieve Russell Hotel,

Stephen McNally, President of the IHF, presents Mary McAleese with the President’s award at the Irish Hotels Federation Conference Gala Dinner while being photographed by Don McMonigle in the Slieve Russell Hotel.

The headlines this week:

  • IAG holds fire after Paschal D’s Downer
  • Hoteliers talk growth, but 150 hotels still in trouble
  • Airlines release sale fares for late spring
  • Stena Superfast starts journey from Poland
  • Count ‘em – 3 waterslides for Royal ‘s biggest ever cruise ship
  • Farewell NITB, hello Tourism NI

Travel Extra TV

Video of week March 1Our video of the week comes from Mammoth Films. Half of the homes in Lake Lotawana, Missouri belong to visitors who only holiday during the summer. So what does everyone else do during the winter season? Watch here to find out.

  • Michael O’Leary talks about Ryanair sponsoring the Fairyhouse Gold Cup. Watch here.
  • KLM showcases its corporate biofuel programme. Watch here.
  • Opera singer Pretty Yende went on a two-day visit to South Africa with British Airways, where she took some time off touring to speak to 350 young people from Cape Town. Watch here.
  • Emirates marks the Dubai Food Festival with a special menu designed by chef Silvena Rowe. Watch here.

Headlines

paschal donohue mary mcaleeseWe note the press statement issued by the Irish government and will consider it in due course. That was IAG’s one line response to the events of Black Monday when Paschal Donohoe told IAG it would have give extended guarantees on Heathrow slots and growth in both Cork and Shannon. The statement had the desired effect of asserting, presumably on behalf of the Labour Party, a silencing of the dissenting voices within the Aer Lingus Trade Unions suggesting a large number of staff (80pc according to IMPACT official) were in favour of the IAG bid, and an interesting message of support from Pat Rabbitte. Can IAG allow the politicians play politics further. Nobody but Willie Walsh would have brought the bid this far and the game is not over yet. Paschal is pictured chatting with Mary McAleese at the IHF gala dinner.

Irish Hotels Federation President Stephen McNally and CEO Tim Fenn at the IHF Conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Feb 23-25 2015

Irish Hotels Federation President Stephen McNally and CEO Tim Fenn at the IHF Conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Feb 23-25 2015

Former president Mary McAleese was the recipient of the president’s award at the Irish Hotels Federation conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel, giving perhaps the most memorable speech in the entire history of IHF gala dinners (listen here) (listen here for Michael Rigney’s citation of Professor McAleese). Paschal Donohoe paid tribute to the resilience of the sector in his speech (listen here). It was the biggest conference in recent years, with 33 sitting for the gala dinner and 730 bookings, up from 680 last year.

alan ahearneEconomist Alan Ahearne told delegates the 9pc tourism VAT rate has exceeded expectations in terms of job retention and creation while the cost to the Exchequer has been markedly lower than initially expected. He claimed the tourism industry has added more than 30,000 jobs since the VAT rate was reduced to 9pc − accounting for more than one of every three net new jobs created in Ireland over this period.

All zoom and boom then (or even boom and Coombe, with a handful of hotels expanding and new hotels being born)? Not really. In the Fáilte Ireland survey 35pc of Irish hoteliers say they still doubt the viability of their business.

Aiden Murphy 001Aiden Murphy, in the most informative presentation to the conference, said there are 150 hotels still out there who need long term financial help. Peak debt incurred by Ireland’s hotels was €6.7bn, of which €3.9bn was sustainable but €2.8bn required a write-off. “After seven years of recession only 50pc of these hotels have been worked out”. Of 145 hotels put into receivership, 85 have been sold, 25 are for sale and 35 are due to come on to the market. He said hotels belonged in three tier of which the first tier, 84 Dublin city centre hotels, were doing best, but most of the 663 third tier hotels were find trading conditions difficult.

Sarah Duignan of STR Global said there was a lot of revpar decline to be recovered. Revpar declined 29.8pc during the recession. She pointed out that while Dublin has been experiencing growth for 20 months, Dublin started growing 16 months before the rest of the country. Jim Dollard, executive director of Electric Ireland, announced a 20pc discount for hoteliers booking before end of April. Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody told delegates: “it is so dangerous dealing with success, success makes you soft if you let it.” Michael Cawley gave an entertaining account of Fáilte Ireland’s plans with numerous mentions of his former employer Ryanair. “When you see what Stratford upon Avon can do with a little known English writer, think of what Dublin can do with its writers.”

stephen laughingIHF President Stephen McNally called a truce with the much maligned OTA’s: The main point is that we control the inventory and we give them the rate we cannot always blame them. We need to focus and motivate our staff.

Michael Ring declared the election on with a rousing speech asking the hoteliers who had looked after them when they came to cast their votes. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

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Spot the difference: Tourism Northern Ireland has replaced the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the most visible change from a review of NITB activities in October. A new chair will be appointed to the body when Howard Hastings’ term ends in mid March and a new CEO to replace the departing Allan Clarke is expected to be appointed in early April.

NO FEE GPO WITNESS HIS CENTRE MX1An Post has appointed Shannon Heritage to operate and manage the €7m GPO Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre following a competitive tender process.   The centre is currently under construction in the inner eastern courtyard of the GPO and expects 300,000 visitors after it opens Easter 2016. Picture shows John Ruddle of Shannon Heritage; Barney Whelan of An Post; Minister for Arts, Heather Humphreys and Neil Pakey CEO Shannon Group.turkish airlines group pic copy

IMG_0426 copyNiall Glynn of Croatia Tours/Marian Pilgrimages and Onur Gul of Turkish Airlines hosted a group of travel writers in Istanbul and the Holy Land, stopping by to see the sights of Istanbul en route to Tel Aviv, which is Turkish Airlines most popular transfer option for Turkish Airlines. Pictures shows  Joe Supple of East Coast FM, Eleanor Goggin of the Sunday Independent, Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times, Nadine O’Regan of The Sunday Business Post, Eoin Edwards of the Irish Examiner, Niall Glynn of Croatia Tours/Marian Pilgrimages, Onur Gul of Turkish Airlines and Eoghan Corry editor of Travel Extra, and Niall Glynn with Onur Gul. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

Airbnb is to create 200 new jobs at its Dublin base as part of an expansion at the Watermarque Building in Dublin 4. The company also announced plans to extends its operations to a new building at Hanover Quay. 

Travel Trade

Topflight launched their programmes to Madeira on a shared charter with Concorde and Travel Department. A Europe Airpost charter will operate direct from Dublin to Funchal every Thursday from May 7 until Sept 17, after a hiatus of two years.

Limerick Travel Photo copyLimerick Travel and Roscrea Travel were the winners of the Bookabed Valentines Promotion and had a €100 voucher and a bottle of champagne delivered by Lee Osborne. Picture shows Limerick Travel group: Stephanie Nagle, Susan Ryan, Lee Osborne, Jayne O’Shea & Rita Gaughan-Hough.

United Airlines’ booking incentive starts Friday next for any booking on United‘s Dublin/Washington service made until June 30. Agents can win a pair of return flights to Washington DC in United BusinessFirst. Send booking details, including flight reference, in one e-mail to: putting “DUB-IAD” in the subject line. The more bookings you make, the more chance you have of winning.

IMG_4296The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s European director Tanes Petsuwan said he expected the Irish market to return to growth in 2015 after visitors from Ireland fell by 1.25pc to 62,727 from 63,522 in 2014, was still the third highest figure ever, close to the 62,924 recorded in 2013. Overall visitor numbers were 24,779,768 down -6.66pc from 26,546,725 the previous year. European visitors were down 2.38pc to 6,156,132.The Tourism Authority of Thailand hosted Irish travel agents at a series of roadshows in Belfast, Dublin and Cork this week.

Travel Professional Skillnet is offering a Confidence on Camera workshop on March 3, 9.30am-5pm at ITAA Office, Westmoreland St, Dublin 2. Costs €120. Full details and bookings.

Lorna at Thomas Cook Mansfield FHFunway‘s tweetheart Valentine’s Day competition winner Lorna Hamilton of Thomas Cook Mansfield is presented with her prize by Anna Hawkins of Funway Holidays.

  • Agents are reminded to register their British Airways, American Airlines or US Airways bookings made until April 3 to be in with a chance of winning a place on the USA MegaFam trip 2015, May 14-21. Apply at usadiscoveryprogram.co.uk/MegaFam..
  • Rannveig Snorradottir is leaving her position as sales manager for Tumlare.
  • Roscrea Travel Photo copyPicture shows Roscrea Travel group with Lee Osborne of Bookabed, Claire Byrne, Denise Reid and Bernie Hensey.
  • MSC Cruises in London has appointed Chiara Brooker to the newly created role of Sales Manager (trade operations).
  • Innstant Travel launched its new car hire product, booked using a two-step process and combining 500 suppliers in 193 countries such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz, Europcar and Budget.
  • ADMEI awarded the Joanne O’Conor President’s Award to Brian Ferrell of Destination Oklahoma
  • sara rviero and babySpotted at Dublin Airport with a sleepy baby en route home to Madrid: Sara Rivero of the Spanish Tourist Board.
  • The Irish launches of Salou Holiday Experience, take place in Cork on Wednesday and Dublin on Thursday. Packages can be purchased through Travel Agencies and include return airport transfers, accommodation as booked, 3 day park passes to PortAventura and services of local partners. Flights can be booked at best available rates by the client or their chosen Travel Agent.
  • Lowcostbeds, headed up in Ireland by Clem Walshe, says its new mobile holiday booking app has now over 6,000 downloads.
  • Disney named Bob Chapek as chairman of its theme parks business, replacing Tom Staggs, who was promoted to COO.

Hotels

A UNWTO report on Hotel Classification Systems identified common criteria among 4 and 5 star hotels, to guide destinations wishing to revise existing or establish new hotel classification system.

orla kielyThe Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway is to stock amenities by Irish designer Orla Kiely. The range includes Geranium Bath & Body products.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts is offering guests one Starpoint loyalty point for every dollar spent on Uber rides. Guests must link their Starwood Preferred Guest and Uber accounts online at spg.com/uberStarwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened the Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Conference Centre in McKinney, Texas. Starwood and Spanish hotel operator Melia Hotels International announced yesterday that they have established a joint venture that has agreed to acquire a collection of hotels across key resort locations in Spain The 5-star Radisson Blu Hotel Du 2 Février Lomé in Togo to open in autumn will offer 320 rooms and apartments, five food & drink outlets and meeting space of 3,600sqm.

  • New hotels in Italy: JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, opens mid-March. ME Hotel Il Duca, Milan, opens April 2015. Mandarin Oriental, Milan, opens May 2015. Sheraton Lake Como Hotel, opens March 25.
  • Pousada de Lisboa will open June 1 in Terreiro do Paço in a historic building within walking distance of the Tagus River. An opening discount of 15pc with breakfast included is available for bookings made through the hotel’s website 30 days in advance and non-refundable in case of cancellation.
  • CWI 2 is to acquire up to $1.4bn of hotel assets.
  • Hotel Arts Barcelona launched the Picasso/Dalí experience in celebration of the eagerly anticipated Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso exhibition at Museu Picasso.
  • Three new London Suites will open at The Marylebone Hotel in May. The hotel’s redesign will also see a redesign of the public area and 108 Brasserie.
  • Palladian Hotel Bathroom copyKimpton Hotels opened its new Palladian hotel; a renovated 97-room property on the edge of Seattle’s Belltown neighbourhood (2000 2nd Ave) with a “Sleep with David Bowie (Or Another Celebrity)” package.
  • Virgin Hotels is to grow its portfolio to 20 hotels by 2025.
  • Melia Hotels International will open a new Me brand property in Barcelona in 2017.
  • Hilton Worldwide is rebranding Hilton London Docklands Riverside as a Doubletree hotel, making it the brand’s 11th hotel in the city. 
  • Booking.com launched a new late bookings app and reported it was hit by a phishing scam that targeted hoteliers. The scam targeted hotel commissions to be paid to the site with a rogue email claiming the automatic payment system had malfunctioned.

International

orlando eyeVisit Orlando has identified 15 new openings for 2015. More unusual are the Dr Phillips Centre for the Performing Arts and the arrival of franchise team Orlando City Soccer Club. Orlando Eye, a 400-foot-tall observation wheel s one of a trio of new attractions from I-Drive 360, a new entertainment complex from Merlin Entertainments, alongside Madame Tussauds and Sea LIfe Orlando delivering a new wave of displays of colourful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more. Mangos Tropical Café, one of South Beach’s hottest dance clubs is coming to Orlando offering 55,000 square feet of entertainment space. Escapology Orlando brings a new kind of entertainment to Orlando challenging teams of up to six players to escape from a themed room with just 60 minutes to combine clues, solve puzzles and discover the key to escape. Crayola Experience at nearby International Drive will offer 25 hands-on activities. The Whiskey on Sand Lake Road, offers 100 brands of whiskey for the thirsty connoisseur. A new land opens at Legoland Florida Resort called Heartlake City and a new show at SeaWorld Orlando: Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High. Walt Disney World Resort is transforming Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, doubling the number of shops, restaurants and other venues. The new area will open in phases starting in 2015 and include Morimoto Asi. Other new restaurants include the Boathouse an up-scale, waterfront dining restaurant at Disney Springs, STK Orlando steakhouse with a chic lounge and the only rooftop dining venue in Disney Springs, Two Chefs Seafood, The Palm Restaurant; and North Quarter Tavern. Hotel developments include Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes new restaurant concept based on the resort’s Whisper Creek Farm.

tony-tylerWorld Travel & Tourism Council announced the speakers at its Global Summit in Madrid from April 14-16: Ana Patricia Botin, Executive Chairman, Banco de Santander; Richard Fenning, CEO, Control Risks; Julie Meyer, CEO, Ariadne Capital; Taleb Rifai, Secretary General, World Tourism Organisation; Tony Tyler, CEO, IATA (pictured); Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Airbnb; and Luis Gallego, CEO, Iberia.

LOOKING ACROSS THE BAY TO PASSENGERS DISEMBARKING AT TOBERMORY ISLE OF MULL INNER HEBRIDES. PIC P.TOMKINS VisitScotland-1VisitScotland’s Brilliant Island Moments campaign distributed 8,000 free ferry tickets to visit Scotland’s islands.

Airbnb will host its annual host get-together in Paris, the first time it has been held outside San Francisco. 6,000 hosts will attend the Airbnb Open, which takes place November 12-14. With 40,000 active listings on Airbnb, Paris was crowned the most active home-sharing city this week.

A poll in England found that skiers are more likely to injure themselves during apres-ski partying than on the slopes.

  • Exponent Private Equity bought Big Bus Tours, which offers sightseeing trips in 16 cities.
  • The Italian Ministry of Tourism launched verybello.it, the events site for Expo Milano 2015. 1,300 events are listed on the site.c
  • Google’s updated Flight Search tool is targeted at travellers who are not sure where they want to go.
  • Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas announced that it will develop a resort at Uluwatu, a 35-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport.
  • It is now possible to make payments in South African Rand using eNett International‘s Virtual Account Numbers.
  • Universal Orlando single park day passes now cost $102 before tax, children’s tickets now cost $97 and the two-park pass is now $147.
  • This year’s BIT Milano in numbers: there were 61,781 visitors, 60pc of whom were travel professionals; 100 countries and all the Italian regions were represented; 2,000 exhibitors attended the fair and met 1,500 host buyers in 40,000 matched meetings. Next year’s event takes place February 11-13.
  • Iberia will offer UNWTO members transportation to the International Conference on Tourism Deseasonalisation, which takes place in Torremolinos, June 3-5.

Food & Wine

SCAE Ireland is seeking out Dublin’s best coffee providers in advance of the World of Coffee conference in Dublin June 22-26 2016. The event will attract 10,000 coffee professionals from 100 countries. They intend creating a World of Coffee Ambassadors’ Club featuring the top 100 cafés, restaurants, hotels and bars serving coffee in the capital, and support them through a range of training and marketing initiatives.

  • Three new restaurants have opened in Rome, ENIT announced: Na’Cosetta in Pigneto, Exquisitaly in Piazza San Bernardo and Il Passetto re-opened in Piazza di St Apollinare. Three new restaurants in Milan: Essenza, 34 Via Marghera, Filippo La Mantia and Manuelina.
  • Irish West End star David Shannon is teaming up with Ghan House in Carlingford, Co Louth for a musical dinner on March 6. There will be singing before, during and after a dinner prepared by Stephane le Sourne. Tickets €65. See ghanhouse.com or call 042 9373 682 to book.

Aviation

Aer Lingus have added extra flights to Chicago for winter 2015 and will operate up to ten flights a week from Dublin during the months of November and December. Twice daily flights will operate Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, adding an extra 13,000 available seats and a 24pc capacity increase. This in addition to the new transatlantic service from Dublin to Washington-Dulles commencing May 1, additional flights on the Dublin to San Francisco and Orlando routes and a third daily early morning flight from Dublin to New York, departing at 07.50 and arriving at 12 noon will also be added. Long haul capacity will be 18.4pc up on 2014 in the peak summer season.

Sunway Holidays, will operate a weekly charter service from Knock to Izmir every Saturday from September 12 to October 24.

murat balandiTurkish Airlines intends increasing worldwide capacity by 15pc in 2015. In 2014 Turkish Airlines recorded a capacity (ASK) growth of 16,3pc, significantly above the industry growth rate of 5,6 for the same period, resulting in an increase in global market share from 1.6pc to 1.8pc. Turkish Airlines carried 54.7m passengers in 2014, up 13.3pc making it the third largest carrier in Europe by number of passengers. Load factor was 79pc. Turkish Airlines currently flies to 264 destinations in 108 countries with a fleet of 263 aircraft, 55 wide body, 199 narrow body and 9 cargo. Turkish Airlines Sales revenue increased by 29pc in 2014, and operating profit was up 10pc. Turkish are increasing their Istanbul to Antalya flights from late April. Turkish are upgrading their Dublin service to double daily this summer.

British Airways are bringing their Flying with Confidence course for nervous flyers to The Maldron Hotel close to Dublin Airport on Saturday, March 28, 08.00-16.30. Participants meet pilots who explain how an aircraft flies, what causes turbulence and those unsettling sensations that you feel during flight, a psychologist who explains how to understand fear and teaches how to reduce anxiety. Price of €299 includes a 45 minute flight from Dublin airport to put theory into practice. BA claims the course has a 98pc success rate in its 28 year history. Contact Captain Steve Allright. EasyJet holds its Fearless Flyers programme at the Europa Hotel Belfast on March 6-7. Costs £189 incl. post course flight.

Viewing gallery 1Belfast International Airport re-opened its viewing gallery after ten years and added the facility to track the progress of arriving and departing aircraft and eavesdrop on Air Traffic Control and apron chatter. The viewing gallery is situated landside and is open to travellers and non-travellers alike

SITA’s latest industry report The Future is Personal claimed 97pc of airline passengers carrying at least one personal electronic device but passengers have been slow to adopt new airline and airport mobile services when travelling. Some industry players are bucking the trend and achieving high levels of usage.

British Airways won Best Overall Wine Cellar at the Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky airline wine awards at the Hilton London Paddington hotel. and Best Business Class Cellar. Finnair won the long-haul wine selection award for the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand; they won silver for Best Business Class Red for Nicolas Perrin Crozes – Hermitage 2012, France and bronze for Best-Presented Business Class Wine Menu. Two airlines took home two Gold Medals apiece: Singapore Airlines for Best First Class Cellar and Best First Class Fortified/Dessert, and Qantas for Best First Class Sparkling and Best Business Class Fortified/Dessert. Garuda Indonesia took the top spot for Best First Class White. Cathay Pacific won the Gold Medal for Best Business Class Sparkling. The awards were entered by 35 airlines.

  • Lufthansa won the Eco-Airline of the Year award at the 41st Annual ATW Airline Industry Achievement Awards in Washington, DC.
  •  Jet2 will fly Belfast to Rome from April 5.
  • Cash management provider Citi will provide a supply chain finance service to Etihad Airways to pay select suppliers.
  • IAG reported an 80pc increase in annual profit. The group made an operating profit of €1.4bn in 2014, up from €770m in 2013.
  • Aer Lingus reported 2014 operating profit up 17.8pc to €72.9m on total revenue up 9.2pc to €1.6bn. Balance sheet at end of year was up 29.9pc in net cash to €553m.
  • British Airways launched its First and Club cabins sale. Business class discounts are also available on flights ex Dublin, Cork and Shannon. Passengers must book by midnight on March 10 for travel between March 12 and February 28, 2016.
  • An Air France flight from New York to Paris had to stop in Manchester because the pilot had already exceed the maximum 11 work hours. The A380 was unable to continue with rested crew following the Manchester hiatus because of a pressurization fault, forcing the airline to dispatch three smaller aircraft to fly the stranded passengers.
  • Delta Air Lines will upgrade its in-flight Wi-Fi on its international fleet.
  • Lufthansa completed fitting its new first class cabin onto all long-haul aircraft based at Munich airport.
  • Cathay Pacific  is now offering Illy coffee to its First Class and business passengers. 
  • Luxair took delivery of its new Boeing 737-800. The aircraft will be operated on behalf of LuxairTours.
  • Rumour has it Michael O’Leary was invited to join the elite Bilderberg Group.
  • Flybe signed an agreement with Singapore’s Avation PLC to lease four turboprop aircraft to use on its while label operations for SAS.
  • It was reported that Thomas Cook is looking to offload its airline as part of a turnaround plan.
  • American Airlines signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
  • Airbus Group reported 2014 revenues of $68.6bn, up 5pc.
  • TAP Portugal signed a Rich Content and Branding agreement with Travelport.
  • Airbus delivered its second A350-900 to Qatar Airways.
  • Qantas reported a H1 profit of US$162m. Dublin-born CEO Alan Joyce said the airline is meeting or exceeding all targets in its three year plan.
  • Etihad wants more flexible rules on air routes between Australia and the UAE as it nears the cap on the number of flights it can operate there.
  • Lufhansa LEOS started using its TaxiBot aircraft tractor on real flight operations at Frankfurt Airport.
  • Malaysia Airlines is to finalise plans to issue termination letters to staff identified for 6,000 job cuts under the airline’s restructuring exercise.
  • Ryanair is the new title of the Grade 1 novice Chase at the Easter Festival, Fairyhouse Racecourse. The title will be run as the Ryanair Gold Cup on April 5.
  • Passenger traffic between Shannon and Heathrow was down 9pc last year, while traffic between Shannon and Stansted was up 10.4pc.
  • Aircraft lessor AerCap terminated leases on six Boeing 757s and three 767s on lease to Russian carriers in December 2014.

Afloat

IMG_0120Stena Superfast X left Gdynia en route to Dublin for its naming ceremony on March 11. Passengers will have access to three decks of service areas with additional deluxe cabins, Barista Coffee House, Met Bar and Grill, retail shopping in the Outlet, two free cinemas, a family lounge featuring a children’s play area and X-Box stations and Stena Line’s premium lounge Stena Plus. There will be a dedicated freight driver lounge. Superfast X is a sister ship of the award winning Stena Superfast VII and VIII ships which have served the Belfast to Cairnryan route since their launch in 2011. Stena Line’s Head of Travel Orla Noonan (pictured on board Superfast X with Jim Howey of Stena) said “We have paid special attention to every little detail, from the type of bed linen used in our cabins to the quality and comfort of our seating onboard.” The ship boasts 10 decks, 2km of lane space for vehicles and can carry 1,200 passengers. She will make two return sailings daily between Dublin and Holyhead, completing the crossing in 3 hours and 15 minutes.  Superfast X will operating alongside the Stena Adventurer.

harmony with slidesHarmony of the Seas was confirmed as the name for Royal Caribbean’s next Oasis-class cruise ship, set to debut in April 2016. Features include three waterslides, the line’s first, that start from the top-deck Pool and Sports Zone and twist and turn down three decks into one of two pools. One of the slides will feature a Champagne bowl that swirls riders around as they approach the end of the slide. Seven neighbourhoods are featured including the signature Boardwalk and Central Park spaces. The Boardwalk on Harmony will reportedly feature a classic games arcade, a kids-only climbing play area and a Starbucks cafe. Passengers will be offered a choice of two Dynamic Dining option. At 227,000 gross tons,  Harmony will weigh 1,718 tons more than the current record-holder.

  • Silversea Expeditions launched a collection of speciality expeditions: Birding & Ornithology Expedition Voyages; Wellness Expedition Voyages; Photography Expedition Voyages; and Culinary Expedition Voyages. detailed in six mini-brochures available in traditional print format and as digital flip books of between six to eight pages each. After the launch of their next ship in the spring, Silversea Cruises will build two more cruise ships after coming to an agreement with Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone in Italy.
  • MSC Cruises extended their winter 2015/16 season from Dubai. MSC Musica will offer 16 eight-day/seven-night cruises from Dubai for winter 2015/2016, four more sailings than were operated this winter aboard sister ship MSC Orchestra. MSC Gulf cruises call into Abu Dhabi, UAE; Khor al Fakkan, UAE; Muscat, Oman and Khasab on the Musandum Peninsula before returning to Dubai for an overnight stay on board.
  • Disney Cruise Line won twelve awards in the annual Cruise Critic US Cruisers’ Choice Awards. Disney Dream was named Best Large Ship; the third year in a row a Disney ship has received top honours and Disney Wonder Best Midsize Ship. Silverseas’s Silver Galapagos won best small ship.
  • Celebrity Cruises won nine awards in the year’s Cruise Critic England Cruisers’ Choice Awards including Best Overall ship for Celebrity Equinox. In the Mid-Size ship awards Oceania Riviera won five awards including Best Overall ship. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines was successful in two Mid-Size, and three Small Ship categories, for Balmoral and Black Watch.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Captain Evans Hoyt and staff captains Robert Lundberg and Preston Carnahan will serve on Norwegian Escape. Captain Gunnar Hammerin will step in when Captain Hoyt is on holiday.
  • Royal Caribbean was forced to cancel the next cruise of Brilliance of the Seas because of foggy weather. She was stranded outside the Port of Tampa Bay this week for 24 hour due to thick fog.
  • P&O Cruises confirmed that England’s Queen Elizabeth will name their new  ship Britannia at Southampton on March 10 as the 141,000-ton Britannia was handed over to the cruise line at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard, near Trieste.

Deal Watch

Aer Lingus launched a North America seat sale, lead in €239 each way for travel from April 1 to June 15, book by March 9.

  • Cruisescapes offered a Best of the Rhine & The Rhone cruise, 10 days from €1,490 with three departures in May, July & October.
  • The Westbury Hotel is offering Afternoon Tea with a Touch of Blush to celebrate Mother’s Day: raspberry tiramisu, strawberry macaroons with lime truffle, cherries with vanilla entremets and lemon tart with berry marshmallows are all on the menu, as well as the traditional baked scones with jam and cream and finger sandwiches. Available 1.30pm-5pm, March 2-29. €45pp/€55pp incl. rosé champagne. Call 01 646 3311 to book. The Westbury Hotel is also offering the Say It With Flowers package from €395pppn. It includes 1 night’s B&B accommodation and Champagne Afternoon Tea for two.
  • Tourism NI offers of the week: 2 nights at The Archways Larchfield Estate, Lisburn from £65pp incl. breakfast hamper on arrival in the cottages, available until March 26, call 028 9263 8025 to book. 2 nights B&B Belmore Court and Motel, Enniskillen from £60pps, available March 13-20, call 028 6632 6633 to book. 2 nights B&B Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh from £80pps incl. 3 course dinner on one evening in the Barreta Bar and Grill, available until Dec 31, call 028 8824 2520 to book.
  • Lowcostholidays‘ Pay Day offers for April and May: 7 nights self catering Rio Apartments, Algarve from €205pp, depart May 11. 7 nights self catering Grangefield Oasis Club, Costa Del Sol from €289pp, depart May 11. 7 nights self catering Be Smart Florida Plaza, Tenerife from €299pp, depart May 11. 7 nights Days Inn Kissimmee, Orlando from €620pp, depart May 15. 7 nights B&B NYX Hotel Cancun, Mexico from €950pp, depart April 15. 7 nights B&B Deevana Patong Resort & Spa, Phuket from €1,025pp, depart April 15. 2 nights B&B Norfolk Plaza Hotel, London from €160pp, depart April 17. 2 nights B&B Timhotel Montmarte, Paris from €160pp, depart April 17. 2 nights B&B Oasis Hotel, Barcelona from €205pp, depart May 13. All prices include return flights ex Dublin and taxes. Pay Day Holiday Offers for Apr-May.
  • Lowcostbeds offers: 3* Rosen Inn International Drive, Orlando room only from €26pppn. 4* Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas room only from €50pppn. 4* Oasis Palm Hotel, Cancun, All Inclusive from €74pppn. 5* Bonnington Jumeriah Lakes, Dubai, room only from €57pppn. Based on 7 nights 2 share, depart May 23.
  • Topflight is offering 9 nights B&B Melia Bali Resort from €1,429pps incl. trasnfers, return flight and taxes. Call 01 240 1709 to book or visit topflight.ie.
  • Sunway St Patrick’s Day breaks: 3 nights Yotel Hotel New York from €765pp, departs March 16. 4 nights Circus Circus Resort, Las Vegas from €645pp, departs March 15.  7 nights Rosen Inn at Pointe, Orlando from €639pp, departs March 15. 3 nights Jumeirah Creekside, Dubai from €845pp, departs March 15. All prices include flights, taxes and accommodation. See sunway.ie.
  • Sunway is offering 7 nights B&B Sea Pearl Hotel, Turkey from €299pp or 14 nights B&B from €359pp, departs April 11, 18 and 25. Sunway is offering 7 nights Rock Lago Park Apts, Menorca from €1,769 for two adults and two children incl. access to Aquarock Waterpark. Sunway is offering 7 nights self catering in Morocco from €299pp, see sunway.ie.
  • Sunway All Inclusive river cruise offers: 7 nights cruise through Holland and Belgium from €1,529pp, departs May 6. 7 nights cruise on the Seine River from €1,429pp, departs May 28. 7 nights Mekong River Curise, Vietnam and Cambodia  from €2,019pp, departs June 29.
  • Abbey Travel is offering free family half board meals at Disneyland Paris. Sale ends March 31, travel April 10 to October 31. To book, call 01 804 7150 or visit abbeytravel.ie.
  • Falcon Holidays offers: 7 nights All Inclusive Dublin to Xperience St George, Sharm El Sheikh from €529pp, depart April 10. 7 nights self catering Shannon to Sun Beach, Santa Ponsa from €269pps, depart May 2. 7 nights self catering Dublin to Marian Apartments, San Antonio Town Ibiza from €309pps, depart May 7. #NRG offer: 7 nights Dublin to Ilios Malia, Crete from €459pps based on four sharing, depart May 24. Visit falconholidays.ie to book or call 1850 45 35 45.
  • Natural Retreats Castelmartyr is offering a new gold package from €204pp for a group of three. Package includes 2 nights’ self catering accommodation, a round of golf at the Castlemartyr Golf Club, one 3-course meal at Franchini’s restaurant and a breakfast hamper on arrival. Visit naturalretreats.ie to book, or call 01 685 3013.
  • Thomson Holidays Platinum offer: 7 nights half board Dublin to Kos Impreial, Psaldi, Kos from €949pps. Visit thomsonholidays.ie to book or call 1850 45 35 45.
  • Hastings Hotels offer of the week: 1 night B&B Stormont Hotel, Belfast from £70pps incl. dinner in La Scala bistro. Call 048 9065 1066 to book.
  • Irish Ferries is offering a +1 Free deal to Britain on all car, motorhome, van and motorcycle bookings made before March 17 for travel up to December 17, meaning every car driver’s first passenger travels free. For more info, visit irishferries.com  or call 0818 300 400.
  • Disney Paris’s latest promotion features free half board meals for the family.

Ireland

Central Statistics Office figures for November 2014 to January 2015 confirmed visitor numbers to Ireland were up 9pc and growth from North America (up 10pc), England (up 10pc), Germany (up 8pc), Italy (up 32pc) and France (up 22pc), with mainland Europe up 10pc. Arrivals from Australia and Developing Markets flat.

TARGETING BIG BUSINESS FOR IRELANDTourism Ireland attended this International Confex event in Olympia, London. The two-day event was attended by 5,500 corporate meeting and event planners. Picture shows Sandra Fahy, Tourism Ireland; Aoife McHale, Visit Derry; Karen Brosnahan, Shannon Regional Sports and Conference Bureau; Michelle Murphy, Kerry Convention Bureau; Joyce McElroy, Tourism Ireland; Caragh Curran, Fáilte Ireland; and Donna Brogan, Dublin Convention Bureau at the event.

250 international buyers from 37 countries attended the inaugural ExploreGB event. Tourism INTERNATIONAL TOUR OPERATORS GIVE IRELAND THE THUMBS UP!Ireland and 16 Irish tourism companies took part in the event at Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire. Picture shows Deirdre Wells, CEO of UKinbound, with Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, at the two-day workshop.

Registration opened for the   Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia cycling event. The race takes place on June 21, starting and finishing at Titanic Belfast. The 177km Mourne Route (see map) is aimed at experienced riders, while beginners are invited to ride the 58km Strangford Route (see map). Stephen Roche will be an event ambassador and will ride the Gran Fondo. Individual entry £45/£55. Moy Park Team Giro entry £67.50pp. Register here.

Tourism Ireland kicked off the 2015 series of Jump into Ireland sales blitzes with events in Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Similar events will be held in Altanta, Charlotte and Tampa in March; Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas in September; and in Los Angeles, Sana Barbara and San Francisco in November.

Email editor@travelextra.ie to have your say or it is @TravelExtraIre on Twitter if that’s your bag.

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