More Greeks intend to spend their winter holidays abroad

A record number of Greeks are planning trips abroad over this holiday period, according to data by the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA).

Yiannis Evangelou, the President of HATTA, said that this year an unprecedented 60 percent of all trips to be made from Greece to another country over the festive season were already booked in November.

This allows for projections about a record number of trips abroad, while the number of people traveling within Greece is also anticipated to be greater than last year. HATTA estimates suggest that some 85,000 Greeks have chosen to spend their holidays in another country. Evangelou attributes this shift mostly to good offers by travel agencies and to the alliances developed by certain agencies promoting one another’s trips in their brochures. This has led many Greeks to make their reservations well in advance.

The most popular destinations include Central Europe, Budapest and Prague are favorites and Poland is gaining ground due to travel packages combining trips to Warsaw and Krakow. Meanwhile, Rome remains a popular destination for Greeks, as it has in the past. Greeks are also making more holiday bookings to Balkan states, mainly traveling by bus or car from Northern Greece. HATTA expects that these states will attract about 20 percent of the Greeks traveling abroad over the holidays.

Most of the tourists traveling by air will face, for the first time, new security measures imposed at airports that limit the kinds of objects in hand luggage that can be taken aboard.

As far as domestic destinations are concerned, the overview of the market is far easier during this period, as the number of accommodation units operating in the winter is definitely smaller than those open over the summer. Demand exceeds supply, particularly in popular destinations such as the Zagorohoria in Epirus, Pelion mountain in Thessaly, Arahova next to Delphi and Kalavryta in the Peloponnese. The average hotel occupancy in such destinations, which also include ski resorts, reaches 100 percent.

There is also an increase in occupancy rates in accommodation near well-known winter resorts. There is an unusually high degree of interest in destinations in the Peloponnese such as Arcadia, mainly due to the the high-quality accommodation units constructed in the last few years. Winter resorts, however, cost much more than the summer ones because demand grows faster than supply.

However, there are now offers even from top-tier hotels in the country’s islands, such as Crete, where one can find packages that are up to 50 percent cheaper than in the summer period.

Special Celebrations > Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year

Princess Ships Deck the Halls, and their Masts, for a Festive Holiday Season at Sea

From the Christmas tree adorning the ship’s mast to a visit from Santa, the holiday season brings a special kind of cheer to Princess ships.   This year, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year celebrations will be in full swing fleetwide, with several new seasonal activities for passengers to enjoy.

Trimmed from stem to stern in festive holiday décor, Princess ships will reflect the season in a variety of ways.  Special menus and culinary displays will offer traditional goodies.  Strolling carolers and live musicians will fill the air with the sounds of the season.  And the ship’s movie screens will feature the holiday classics loved by young and old alike.
 
Some special activities debut this season, adding to the festivities.  Children of all ages will enjoy a special reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by a member of the ship’s company.   A holiday production show debuts in the Princess Theater on select ships, with the opportunity for photos with the cast members in their holiday finery.
 
On Christmas Eve, passengers will sit down to a dinner of traditional holiday fare, and on Christmas Day passengers can enjoy a cup of eggnog, plus a sumptuous brunch including roast turkey and all the trimmings.  Freshly prepared stolen and Christmas cookies round out the seasonal treats.
 
A full day of activities on Christmas Day centers around the atrium, with events for young and old.  A spectacular display from the ship’s culinary team, including a variety of gingerbread houses, will delight the senses.  Santa is sure to drop in with gifts, and stay for a special photo session to capture the moment with passengers.  Elsewhere, a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship’s entertainment offerings.  Religious services are held as well, and passengers can attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy.

Christmas For Kids > Christmas Day will be especially festive for the ship’s younger cruisers.  Santa Claus is sure to make an appearance with his sack full of toys, along with his Princess helper, Pelican Pete.   A fun-filled holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters the opportunity to try their hand at cookie decorating, balloon making, face painting, games and other competitions.  The Youth centers will host holiday parties for each age group, and kids can make decorations to display on the center’s Christmas tree.  Youngsters can get creative with other holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise, and they will have an opportunity to sing Christmas carols for passengers.  Classic family holiday movies will be screened in the kids centers and the ship’s theaters.  For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Hanukkah > Passengers celebrating the festival of lights on board can participate in religious services, including special prayer and song services conducted by a rabbi who sails during the holiday period.  A special area of the ship is reserved for those participating in these events and ships display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in the Hanukkah colors of blue, silver and white.  Children will enjoy themed arts and crafts pertinent to the holiday, which runs from December 15 to 22.

Ringing in the New Year > Princess ships will welcome 2007 in style with a fun-filled New Year’s Eve party where revelers can count down to the new year with music, confetti, noise-makers and a balloon drop.   Earlier in the evening, passengers will enjoy a special New Year’s Eve menu.  And once the new year arrives, football fans will be pleased to know they won’t miss the day’s traditional college bowl games, as the telecasts will be shown (if available) in a shipboard lounge or on some vessels’ giant Movies Under the Stars screen, complete with a full buffet of “munchies” such as popcorn, chips, mini hot dogs or burgers, and other assorted goodies.

This season, Princess’ 15-ship fleet offers a wide range of sailings over the holiday period, offering the opportunity to celebrate in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com

Prices cut on Christmas cruises

For fans of cruise holidays and a hassle free Christmas where you are the one getting waited on, then there the festive season also features some serious price cuts.

Italian cruise operator Costa Cruises is offering a traditional continental Christmas Eve feast and celebration with midnight mass, a turkey lunch on Christmas Day, carol singing around the piano, Christmas tree decorating and a visit from Santa, all aboard its ships.

The company has £440 off the price of its Christmas Mediterranean eight-night cruise, which is £749 per person, including all meals and flights, departing December 18th 2006.

The trip departs from Savona, and stops at Messina in Sicily, the Maltese city of La Valletta, the Libyan capital Tripoli, Gabes and Tunis in Tunisia.

Other trips include a ten-night cruise to Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that is discounted £350 to £1,029 departing 18 December 2006.

For more information > www.costacruises.co.uk

Princess Ships Deck the Halls

Posted On November 15, 2006

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Princess Ships Deck the Halls and their Masts > For a Festive Holiday Season at Sea Special Celebrations Ring in Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year

From the Christmas tree adorning the ship’s mast to a visit from Santa, the holiday season brings a special kind of cheer to Princess ships. This year, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year celebrations will be in full swing fleetwide, with several new seasonal activities for passengers to enjoy.

Trimmed from stem to stern in festive holiday décor, Princess ships will reflect the season in a variety of ways. Special menus and culinary displays will offer traditional goodies.  Strolling carolers and live musicians will fill the air with the sounds of the season. And the ship’s movie screens will feature the holiday classics loved by young and old alike.
 
Some special activities debut this season, adding to the festivities. Children of all ages will enjoy a special reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by a member of the ship’s company. A holiday production show debuts in the Princess Theater on select ships, with the opportunity for photos with the cast members in their holiday finery.
 
On Christmas Eve, passengers will sit down to a dinner of traditional holiday fare, and on Christmas Day passengers can enjoy a cup of eggnog, plus a sumptuous brunch including roast turkey and all the trimmings. Freshly prepared stolen and Christmas cookies round out the seasonal treats.
 
A full day of activities on Christmas Day centers around the atrium, with events for young and old. A spectacular display from the ship’s culinary team, including a variety of gingerbread houses, will delight the senses.  Santa is sure to drop in with gifts, and stay for a special photo session to capture the moment with passengers. Elsewhere, a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship’s entertainment offerings. Religious services are held as well, and passengers can attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy.

Christmas For Kids > Christmas Day will be especially festive for the ship’s younger cruisers. Santa Claus is sure to make an appearance with his sack full of toys, along with his Princess helper, Pelican Pete. A fun-filled holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters the opportunity to try their hand at cookie decorating, balloon making, face painting, games and other competitions. The Youth centers will host holiday parties for each age group, and kids can make decorations to display on the center’s Christmas tree.  Youngsters can get creative with other holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise, and they will have an opportunity to sing Christmas carols for passengers. Classic family holiday movies will be screened in the kids centers and the ship’s theaters. For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Hanukkah Passengers celebrating the festival of lights on board can participate in religious services, including special prayer and song services conducted by a rabbi who sails during the holiday period. A special area of the ship is reserved for those participating in these events and ships display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in the Hanukkah colors of blue, silver and white. Children will enjoy themed arts and crafts pertinent to the holiday, which runs from December 15 to 22.

Ringing in the New Year Princess ships will welcome 2007 in style with a fun-filled New Year’s Eve party where revelers can count down to the new year with music, confetti, noise-makers and a balloon drop. Earlier in the evening, passengers will enjoy a special New Year’s Eve menu. And once the new year arrives, football fans will be pleased to know they won’t miss the day’s traditional college bowl games, as the telecasts will be shown (if available) in a shipboard lounge or on some vessels’ giant Movies Under the Stars screen, complete with a full buffet of “munchies” such as popcorn, chips, mini hot dogs or burgers, and other assorted goodies.
 
This season, Princess’ 15-ship fleet offers a wide range of sailings over the holiday period, offering the opportunity to celebrate in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com

Christmas travel prices nightmare > Part II

Back to the monopoly days? The problem of ticket pricing and a dearth of choice in flying out of Cyprus is well known to industry bosses.

Akis Kelepeshis, the chairman of ACTA said airlines had as much as seven classes of tickets on each flight. “That’s why the prices are always varying,” he said. “But the really cheap tickets that they advertise only comprise five or six seats on each flight.” Kelepeshis also said the practice of advertising ticket prices without the taxes should also be stopped considering that extra charges can go up to £60, which he said was misleading for consumers.

The ‘extras’ on tickets usually comprise airport taxes and fuel and insurance surcharges, and since last July a flat travel tax of between £10 and £20 depending on destination, was introduced.

“All this is misleading because you end up paying £300 for a ticket,” said Kelepeshis, adding that even though fuel prices have dropped, the airline surcharges were still in place. “What we want is all the charges to be included in all the fares advertised,” he said. “They should advertise the full fare because the consumer wants to know what he is buying,”

He agreed that the withdrawal of ajet had left a vacuum in the market in which consumers were the ultimate losers. “Certainly prices are going up for people who want to travel out of Cyprus, and for those coming in,” said Kelepeshis. “Can you believe it’s £170 to fly to Athens during the day over the Christmas period?. It’s too much.”

Kelepeshis said ajet had around eight flights a week and was bringing in around 70,000 people a year. “We do have a problem now and we have asked Cyprus Airways and
Eurocypria to put on some extra flights.” He said CY did say it would try to operate an extra flight to Manchester, especially over the Christmas period.

But in general he said it was difficult to attract other low-cost carriers to Cyprus due to the distance. Low-cost airlines usually operate within a three-hour time frame and Cyprus is some four and a half hours flying time from Britain.

However the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) has been talking to British-based easyjet, and another low-cost carrier in the UK, Acting Director Lefkos Phylactides said. Just back from the World Travel Market in London, Phylactides said although Cyprus was at a technical disadvantage from the word go in terms of distance, the talks with easyjet and the second no-frills carrier, which he declined to name, would continue.

He said the CTO was now in partnership with new airport operators Hermes to push the issue. “They have a vested interest in attracting more airlines to Cyprus,” said Phylactides. “There is a problem that has been accentuated by the withdrawal of ajet and we have talked with Cyprus Airways and Eurocypria, and sent a letter to both managers and to the government urging them to look into whether there are destinations that were covered by ajet if they can fill the gaps,” Phylactides added.

CY General Manager Christos Kyriakides said the airline would be adding a number of extra flights for Christmas, as it does annually. He also said CY was beginning weekly flights to Sofia to fill the gap left there by ajet. “We will also be filling the gaps at Christmas,” he said. Asked why CY tickets were generally around £100 more than ajet was charging, Kyriakides said: “Maybe that was part of the problem they ultimately faced…if you sell below cost.” “We are selling at prices we consider reasonable. I don’t think our pricing policy has changed since last year,” he added.

Defending the varied pricing system within the same flight for essentially the same seats, Kyriakides said the airline sold some seats at a lower price in order to maximize the revenue on flights. He also said much of extra Christmas flights were not necessarily profitable for the airline.

“The main reason we operate extra flights for Christmas is to facilitate Cypriot students abroad. There are a lot in Greek universities and to a lesser extent in the UK, despite the fact that this is not so profitable for us because you have the empty legs to consider. The chances are that those flights will be virtually empty.”British Airways said it does not put on any extra flights out of Cyprus at Christmas. “We never do,” a spokesman said.

December 20-27 > London > Athens > Salonica
Cyprus Airways £242 £98 £134, British Airways £274, Aegean Airlines £172 £152, Olympic Airways £116 £162

Christmas travel prices nightmare

Flying out of Cyprus for the Christmas period is proving difficult and expensive for many travellers, with prices changing from day to day and taxes costing more that tickets in some instances.

The problem is particularly prevalent on flights to the UK since the recent demise of low-cost carrier ajet but is also part of a wider issue that must be dealt with as soon as possible, industry bosses say.

The Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) said airline pricing systems were so complex it was more or less pot luck if people managed to secure a cheap ticket at all.

A quick survey of airlines and ticket prices among the major airlines flying out of Cyprus showed the cheapest return ticket to Athens from December 20 for one week, varied from £98 including taxes with Cyprus Airways (CY), to £116 inclusive on Olympic to £172 with Aegean. In the case of Cyprus Airways the ticket was only £41 but the taxes were £57. In addition, the cheapest tickets were more likely to be night flights.

London Heathrow for December 20 was quoted by Cyprus Airways at £242 with taxes, while British Airways (BA) quoted the price at £274 inclusive of taxes. Taxes to the UK are around £60. By contrast, before it withdrew, an ajet ticket to London Luton was selling at only £142 including taxes.

One couple who become caught up in the ajet fiasco are not only waiting for a total of £284 to be refunded, but have now had to re-book flights with Cyprus Airways at a new cost of £484 for two tickets. “We had no other choice but to book with British Airways or Cyprus Airways,” said Anna Christoforou.

Christoforou said she was told by Cyprus Airways that if she travelled on December 21 a ticket would cost £242 including taxes but if she flew a day later it would be £275. British Airways quoted her £250 inclusive for the same date.

“I’m very annoyed, not just about ajet but because it’s just like it was in the past with no one to really choose from except those two airlines,” said Christoforou.

“We now have to pay nearly twice what we were going to pay. How do they think a family of four could afford to pay £1,000 to go to the UK for Christmas?”

Phaedra Kyriacou, the manager of Oras Travel said the general price for early bookers to London was around £190.

“Cyprus Airways had a special offer of £99 but no one can find any of those seats,” said Kyriacou. She said as of last Wednesday, tickets could be found for around £250, depending on the dates. She also said with the withdrawal of ajet, Manchester and Birmingham were totally inaccessible directly by air, either for those leaving the island or for those coming in.

“There is no one to bring people in from the UK to Cyprus. Sales were good on those routes,” she said. “And the tour operators in the UK, if they don’t find seats with the two airlines (CY and BA) they will look for new destinations,” she added.

How to make your holiday travel jolly > Tips

Posted On November 9, 2006

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Almost everyone wants to go somewhere over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day and that’s the problem. We’ve got some answers:

1. Book early. Like, now for Christmas and New Year’s.

2. It’s standard travel advice: Be flexible. The lowest prices will be on flights very early or late in the day, and morning routes are best for avoiding delays. Flying on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day usually costs far less than on busy days before or after the holidays themselves.

3. Unless a connecting flight costs a lot less, go nonstop. If a connection is necessary, try to fly through a southern hub, such as Dallas, Charlotte, or Phoenix, where you can at least eliminate weather as a problem. A layover in Chicago, Detroit, or Minneapolis raises the probability of getting held up because of a storm.

4. Thinking about a resort getaway? The year’s highest rates kick in over the Christmas or New Year’s holidays at ski and beach resorts. Shifting your trip to before or after this period, even by a day or two, can reduce costs significantly.

5. Airport parking lots get filled up around the holidays, so use public transportation. If you must drive, consider a private parking lot near the airport: They’ll shuttle you to and from the terminal, and they let you book in advance so you won’t have to worry about finding a space. (Try carparknet.com, airportparkingreservations.com, airportdiscountparking.com, or parkingaccess.com.) People who live far from an airport and have an early flight might want to stay at an airport hotel the night before; some allow you to park your car at the hotel until you return (check parksleepfly.com).

6. Bringing presents on your flight? Don’t wrap them. All luggage gifts included might be examined by security. Keep expensive or fragile items in your carry-on to cut down on the chances that they’ll be damaged or stolen. There has been a serious rash of thefts recently.

7. Check out new check-in procedures. Many airlines’ Web sites now make it possible for passengers to print out bar-coded boarding passes at home. There are also options at the airport. If you have luggage to check, use a curbside skycap; some airlines let them issue boarding passes as well. Inside the terminal, look for a self-service check-in kiosk, where you can quickly get your boarding pass and sometimes check your luggage.

8. Worried about long security lines? The Transportation Security Administration’s website, tsa.gov, allows travelers to scope out how long waits are at about 450 U.S. airports. You search by airport, day of the week, and time of day. The problem is that the waits listed are averages and don’t really reflect how long screening will take on, say, the day before Thanksgiving. To get around this glitch, look up an airport’s wait times on what’s usually the busiest travel period, Friday evenings, and assume that it’ll take at least that long during the holidays.

9. Confirm your car reservation. Car-rental outfits figure on a no-show rate of 20 percent, allowing them to overbook. The result is that sometimes there are too many people and too few cars. To avoid being the one without wheels, try to arrive at the rental counter in late morning or early afternoon, when the lot is most likely to be full. Calling to confirm your reservation before you arrive lets them know that you won’t be a no-show. Also, inquire ahead of time about express check-in programs so you can skip the lines. The fee to join might just beat the time you’d spend waiting.

10. Look into business hotels. Over the holidays, you’ll find low rates at classy city and suburban hotels that normally depend on business travelers. Families should consider all-suite hotels or long-stay hotels, which have more room and good holiday prices.

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