Thomson Cruises undergoes name change and expands Asia itineraries

Thomson Cruises, a UK-based cruise line and a part of the TUI Group of companies, is to change its name from later this month, as it also adds more new cruises to its Asia itineraries for winter 2018/19.

The business is currently undergoing its rebrand to Marella Cruises, and the new routes were included as part of that announcement. The fly-cruise holidays will be available from 22 UK regional airports and will include 18 new destination ports across Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East.

Southeast Asian itineraries will include ports in Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia, while Indian sailings will call at ports in Mumbai, Mangalore, Murmugao, Cochin and the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Middle East sailings will be stopping off at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat.

Certain sailings, totalling 14, will be designated as adult only. Launch dates and prices for all of these sailings have yet to be announced.

As well as a new name, the company is also introducing a new ship to its fleet. Marella Explorer is to replace Thomson Spirit, which will be going out of service by October 2018. Four other ships that currently have Thomson branding are to receive new corporate names this month.

Speaking to Telegraph Travel, Richard Sofer, managing director of Marella Cruises, said, ‘We are committed to offering our customers choice and flexibility and these destinations [in Asia], along with new ships, famously friendly staff and value for money make this is the perfect time to look ahead.’

Marella is Celtic for shining sea.

Poor Asian weather forces cruise line cancellation

Voyages to Antiquity, a cruise company based in Oxford, UK, and which specialises in cultural cruises, has cancelled its Asian winter 2013-14 schedule due to the bad weather that its vessel experienced in the region during January and February this year.

During the last winter season, the company’s ship, Aegean Odyssey, suffered rough seas and gale force winds while in Asian waters, so the decision has been made to leave the vessel idle in Greece for this coming winter. Passengers that are already booked on to the 570 capacity ship for next winter’s schedule will either receive a refund of their deposit or have the opportunity of changing their booking to the soon to be announced 2014-15 programme.

David Yellow, Voyages to Antiquity’s managing director, said, ‘We plan all our programmes with meticulous detail but the problems we encountered, most notably the severe weather the region experienced this past winter, was beyond our control. With this in mind, we are leaving the market for this winter and will dock in Piraeus, Greece as we have in previous years. By exiting at this stage we know that we are disappointing those who have already booked, and we are sorry for these guests.

‘It is important all our cruises match up to our high quality standards, hence we have taken the difficult decision to cancel, and concentrate our efforts on revising the programme in the area for 2014-15. This new cruise programme will feature areas less prone to unpredictable weather, which was a recurrence of the first programme.

‘We hope that our guests will re-book with us for the 2014-15.’

The company intends to avoid the areas where it experienced the worst weather, notably the South China Sea near Borneo, for its revised 2014-15 schedule.


Family Vacations Set To Grow In Asia Pacific Region

The first issue of the Asia Pacific Family Travel 2012 survey, conducted across key cities in seven Asia Pacific markets, indicate that families in the region are ready to spend more on vacations.

According to the survey, around 44 million people go for family vacations each year, for an annual expenditure of $29 billion worldwide. Families also indicated that they were willing to spend more money on vacations, which is good news for the travel and lodging industry in the Asia-Pacific region.

The survey, conducted by Turner Media Solutions, in association with Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, has reported that 74 percent of respondents travel with family members aged 19 and lower, while two-thirds of those surveyed travel with children aged 14 and below.

The research director for Turner Media Solutions, Betty Wu, said, ‘This unique survey shows the importance of family holidaymakers to the industry and reveals the opportunities out there for travel brands. More and more families in Asia Pacific have considerable disposable income and the study shows they intend to spend.’

Other survey results showed around a 20 percent increase in international travel in Indonesia, 38 percent in Malaysia, and 81 percent in the Philippines. For family travel, the popular destinations in this area are Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and India.

Jennifer Yuen, the brand director for the Holiday Inn Brand, said, ‘According to this survey, 60 percent of respondents look to relax when they travel with family and this is where we do particularly well. At Holiday Inn Resorts, parents can find that balance between spending quality family time with their kids, whilst also having that adult break to recharge their batteries.’

Last-minute deals for Qingming Festival, Asia’s global hotel booking site and part of Nasdaq-listed, today announced last-minute hotel specials for Hong Kong, Taipei, Macau, and Beijing, just in time for Qingming Festival.

A Chinese tradition stretching back more than 2,000 years, Qingming is held to venerate departed ancestors. A national holiday in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and Mainland China, Qingming (pronounced ching ming) is when families visit their ancestors’ graves to pay respect, tidy gravesites, and make offerings of flowers, food, and spirit money. For this reason it is also known as “Tomb-Sweeping Day.”

This year, Qingming falls on April 5. The festival occurs 15 days after the spring equinox and coincides with the coming of warmer weather. The name “qing ming” – clear and bright – refers to sunny spring days, with the festival’s customs closely tied to the warmer weather. After visiting ancestors’ tombs, people often go on countryside walks, plant trees, or fly kites. One older Chinese tradition is to serve only cold, uncooked dishes on Qingming day, earning it the additional name “Cold Food Day.”

Visitors to Beijing during Qingming can visit Yuan Ming Yuan Gardens – the “Gardens of Perfection and Light.” Here, amid eighteenth-century relics of the summer palace, craftsmen set up stalls, and kite-flyers show off their skills.

In Macau, an animated version of the twelfth-century scroll painting, along the River during the Qingming Festival, is on display until April 14 at the Macau Dome. The scroll depicts life in China during the twelfth century and is one of China’s most important artworks. The multimedia installation was a main draw of the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Whether traveling to meet up with family or visiting the region on vacation, offers travelers great savings on hotels for Qingming Festival. All bookings earn Rewards points that are worth 4-7% the price of the booking and can be used to reduce the cost of future hotel stays.


Bangkok’s Hottest Hotels: Which 5-Star Suite is Best?

Singapore-based Banyan Tree luxury hotels group has decided to reduce its dependence on Thai investments, selling its Phuket resort to an undisclosed bidder. The company is one of several in Thailand’s high-end travel industry, and its reversal of a previous ‘expansion first’ policy is great news for other operators in the country’s highly competitive luxury travel sector.

Given that the company’s Bangkok hotels are intact, competition remains fierce in the Thai capital of over twelve million. The city boasts numerous high-end hotels, particularly those with presences in Thailand only. The celebrated Lebua Hotel chain operates exclusively in Thailand and southern New Zealand, offering visitors a taste of cultural luxury within the Thai capital.

That luxury, however, comes with a price. Rooms at the hotel start from £170 – an alarming rate in a country where most struggle to earn £600 monthly. The hotel backs out onto Bangkok’s riverfront shopping and restaurant area, offering visitors a combination of convenience, culture, and the city’s celebrated street side cuisine.

Lebua’s top competition comes from one of the Banyan Tree Group’s own hotels – their own Westin Banyan Tree on Sathorn Road. Famed for its rooftop restaurant and view-focused shape, the hotel is one of several in Bangkok offering open air dining to guests and outside patrons. Prices begin from approximately £130, with the hotel’s well-known international suites priced upwards of £1200.

With the country’s tourism in a state of uncertainty, however, many of the listed prices for high-end hotels within Bangkok are negotiable. Aggregate travel websites such as Agoda have several of the city’s top hotels listed with rooms discounted almost seventy percent, while a number of the largest hotels in Bangkok offer even greater walk-in discounts. Our advice: compare, call, and negotiate.