Vana Toomas: The protector of Tallinn

Vana Toomas on top Tallinn

Vana Toomas (Old Thomas) is probably the most famous persona in Estonia – being a symbol of Tallinn, his figure has been on the Tallinn souvenirs as long as anyone can remember, from lamps to drinking glasses to fridge magnets… There is a restaurant, a cigarette brand, a liqueur, a band and who knows what else named after him… Even a movie has been made… He has been around for almost 500 years. So who is this very old but still timelessly popular guy? He is the weather-vane on top of Tallinn’s Town Hall tower.

Vana Toomas became the symbolic guard of Tallinn in 1530. He is 6 ft 5, dressed like a medieval soldier should be, boasting a strong sward, fancy hat and bold moustache. He is holding a flag and showing the citizens from which direction the wind blows – but he also kept company to the Town Hall guards who rang the bell if they saw enemy troupes or ships approach – or noticed a fire somewhere in town.

There are different legends about how Old Toomas got his name… One goes like that: Every year in the month of May an archery competition was held in medieval Tallinn. The competition took place at Parrot’s Garden and the winner was rewarded with a silver beaker. The competitors had to shoot down the wooden parrot, which was placed to the top of a high pole. One day, when all honourable knights had just made their shots the competition was coming to an end, the parrot suddenly fell to the ground pierced by an arrow. The archer with the steadiest hand turned out to be a poor town boy called Toomas. All knights were very annoyed with Toomas and told him to place the parrot back on the top of the pole. The boy was about to get in trouble, but the news spread quickly and things took a surprising turn. The Mayor of Tallinn offered to fund the boy’s education and asked Toomas to become the town-guard, which was a great honour for poor young man these days. Later Toomas proved his reliability several times in battles during Livonian war. When he got older, he had a big moustache similar to the Town Hall weather vane – and that’s when people started calling it Toomas.

Vana Toomas lamp - a nostalgic classic

Good old Vana Toomas lamp – a nostalgic classic

Since he was first put up to the tower in 1530, the first Toomas held his post for 414 years, 2 months and 9 days. In 1944, on March 9th when Tallinn was bombed, the tower got hit and fell. Vana Toomas got badly hurt and lost his flag. After the reconstruction of the steeple, a copy was put up. The one you can see on top of the tower today – the third one through the years – was put up in 1996, when the roof of the tower was repaired again. The 44-year old Toomas had lost his sword – it had apparently broken off in the wind and perhaps ended up as a valuable souvenir in somebody’s attic. The original Vana Toomas can still be seen in the Town Hall Museum and the second “version” found his home in the Tallinn City Museum. The height of the current tower, including Vana Toomas, is 65 m and 75cm.

Vana Toomas has been the symbol of the city for centuries – but his job has not always been 100% secure. It has been subject to political discussion, as when the tower was reconstructed after the 1944, some eager soviet officials wanted to replace this “German influence” with a thought “proper” five-point star – or a hammer and sickle. But luckily common sense prevailed and a renewed Vana Toomas found his old place on top of the tower.

Having a city guard as a weather-vane on top of the Town Hall is quite unique in the world – but the building itself is unique as well, one of the oldest Town Halls in Europe where the City Council still meets, built in the year 1402.

Estonian Air: Flights between Tallinn and Tartu

From 27 February 2011, Estonian Air has started their flights between Tartu and Tallinn. Early morning flights from Tartu to Tallinn will be operated six times a week: on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Late evening flights from Tallinn to Tartu will be operated on the same days, with the exception on weekends, when Saturday flights are operated on Sundays instead.
The flight time is 45 minutes.

“Direct connections from Tallinn airport to Scandinavia and other parts of Europe and Russia have been improved and will be improved in the nearest future even more. We believe that good departure and arriving times and increased flight frequency will help to fasten the development of Tartu as well as Tallinn Airport,” says Rauno Parras, Vice President Commercial of Estonian Air.

“Estonian Air’s plan to increase air traffic from Tartu by developing air traffic between Tartu and Tallinn is good news for whole Southern Estonia. This will ensure fast and convenient flight connections for local people almost to all of Europe’s biggest cities,” says Urmas Kruuse, Mayor of Tartu.

The flight schedule is designed so that passengers starting their flight from Tartu can get through Tallinn comfortably and with minimum waiting time to early morning connection flights to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Moscow, Vilnius, Kuressaare, Oslo, Stockholm etc. The late evening return flight to Tartu offers good connection for those who are returning from Copenhagen, Brussels, London, Stockholm, Oslo, Kuressaare or Vilnius.

Flight schedule on Tartu-Tallinn route

   Departure  Arrival
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday OV610 Tartu 5:30 Tallinn 6:10
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday OV609 Tallinn 23:45  Tartu 0:30

The fares start from 25 EUR, one-way.

Tartu is a picturesque town, second in Estonia by size and population. It is famous for its university, founded in 1632, thus being one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe.

Tallinn the Best Winter City 2011, According to BBC Travel Site

Tallinn is a glittering vision of how winter should be. That’s how the city is described in a nice article on the BBC Travel section, written by Abigail Hole from Lonely Planet Magazine. It goes on comparing the the experience of walking in the Tallinn Old Town as entering a Christmas postcard – which is really true, especially this winter when the snow has taken over and turned everything into a white and romantic winter kingdom. The city’s little cafes and restaurants are especially inviting this time of year, offering the weary traveller a cup of hot coffee or a glass of the traditional hot spiced wine.  Some of the author’s picks for the pitstops would not be my own most popular choices, but maybe that’s the side of Tallinn worth exploring!

The whole article can be read HERE!

Blue1 to fly Helsinki-Tallinn

The maiden voyage for Blue1 over the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn to Helsinki took place yesterday, January 31st.
The event featured a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by a flight to the Finnish captial with Vice-President of Commercial Affairs Juha Järvinen and Airport Member of the Board of Directors Erik Sakkov. The added flight between the two capitals, has already brought down prices of competitor Finnair, which currently operates the same route.
Blue1 belongs to the SAS Group and is a Star Alliance member.

Estonia: Flight options from Canada in 2011

Estonian winter 2011

Seems like the airlines are coming out of their recession troubles, as we see new routes popping up for European travel…

Here are some updates on getting to Estonia for the 2011 season!

FINNAIR: Canadians and Canadian Estonians travel to Tallinn usually during the summer – when you can get a convenient flight with Finnair from Toronto via Helsinki. The direct Toronto-Helsinki Finnair flights are already in the system and as far as we can see, they will run 5 times a week (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu and Sun) from May 26th until September 11th in 2011, before and after that Finnair customers have to travel from Toronto to London or New York and from there on to Helsinki – and then to Tallinn. The flight times ot of Toronto have been pushed into the evening, so connections to Tallinn that caused grief to so many of our passengers a couple of years ago seem to be working better now.

FINNAIR prices for the shoulder season travel (26 MAY to 25 JUN and 10 AUG to 11 SEP departures) start from CAD $675 + taxes ca 300 for the Toronto-Tallinn return trip. During high season (26 JUN to 09 AUG departures) the prices start from CAD $910 + taxes ca 300. These prices work for stays for up to 30 days. Finnair has only a limited number of the lowest-priced seats on each flight, so the prices will go higher as the flights fill up.

LUFTHANSA has a direct flight to Frankfurt from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Unfortunately their flights do not connect the same day on the way back from Tallinn. But there is a new option to use Munich as the transfer point on the return. Or in case you don’t mind an overnight in Frankfurt – you could try that route and earn some Aeroplan points at the same time.

AIR CANADA has once again opened their direct routing Toronto-Copenhagen – with pretty good connections onward to Tallinn with Estonian Air and SAS. However, this combination usually needs to be issued on 2 separate tickets.

KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES connections work again from Toronto with the Amsterdam-Tallinn segment operated by Estonian Air.

LOT POLISH AIRLINES has once again restored the connections to Tallinn via Warsaw couple of times a week.

ICELANDAIR flights can be used via reykjavik to Helsinki and then you can take a short flight or a boat-ride over to Tallinn – but that of course is extra hassle. But if you want to see the Finnish capital as well, then it might not be a bad combination.

AUSTRIAN AIRLINES and CZECH AIRLINES used to connect to Tallinn – but not any more: Austrian cancelled the Tallinn flights in 2008 and Czech Airlines dropped Toronto from their destination list in 2009.

There are other ways as well to get to Estonia from Canada. If you are adventurous enough, we can find you a charter flight to London, Frankfurt or Hamburg – and continue with Estonian Air to Tallinn. This way it is usually quite hard to make the connections fit with the lowest rates (unless you are very lucky!) but it would be suitable for example to someone intending to stop over in London.

Brazilian biofuel for aviation industry: Test flight by TAM Airlines

TAM Airlines has completed the first successful experimental flight in Latin America using aviation biofuel produced from the oil of the Jatropha curcas, a Brazilian vegetable biomass. The flight took place on the afternoon of 22 November and involved an Airbus A320 from its fleet, having the capacity to transport up to 174 passengers in regular operation. The flight, manned by two TAM pilots, took off from Rio de Janeiro’s international airport, Tom Jobim (Galeão), and flew in Brazilian air space over the Atlantic Ocean for 45 minutes before returning to its point of origin. In addition to the pilots, 18 other passengers, among them technicians and executives from TAM and Airbus, were on the flight.

Libano Barroso, president of TAM Airlines, says: “The involvement of TAM in this experimental flight shows our contribution in a vast project for the development of the production chain for this vegetable biomass biofuel, with the purpose of creating a Brazilian platform for sustainable aviation bio-kerosene.” The next step in this innovative project is to implement and establish a crop of Jatropha curcas, in reduced scale, at TAM’s Technological Centre in São Carlos, located in the countryside in the state of São Paulo.

“The goal of this unit will be to conduct technical and economic feasibility studies to start the implementation of an integrated value chain in Brazil, with the aim of producing biofuel based on Jatropha curcas oil, from the production of raw material to the distribution of bio-kerosene,” explains Barroso. He states that TAM is meeting its social and sustainability commitment, because the production of biofuel with Brazilian raw materials will result in important social and economic benefits, in addition to contributing to a considerable reduction in the emission of gases harmful to the environment.

To ensure the availability of the necessary biofuel for the experimental flight, TAM purchased seeds from Jatropha curcas producers in the North, Southeast and Central-West regions of Brazil, and arranged for its conversion into semi-refined oil which was then exported to the US where UOP LLC, a Honeywell group company, processed the Jatropha curcas oil into bio-kerosene and mixed it with conventional aviation kerosene, in the proportion of 50-50. Known in Brazil as pinhão manso, it is a plant that does not compete with the food chain because it is not suitable for human or animal consumption, and can be planted alongside pastures and food crops.

Studies conducted by the Michigan Technological University along with UOP / Honeywell have demonstrated that aviation biofuels made from Jatropha curcas enable a reduction of between 65% and 80% in carbon emissions in relation to petroleum-derived aviation kerosene.

The first flight by a commercial airline to be powered partly by biofuel took place in Europe, in 2008 when a Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet flew between London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam using fuel derived from a mixture of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts. Environmentalists branded the flight a publicity stunt, claiming that biofuel cultivation is not a sustainable option for aviation industry.

Learn to travel light: Airlines have tightened baggage allowances again!

During the last two years all airlines have substantially tightened their checked luggage policies. A lot of airlines now charge even for one bag – and charge extra for suitcases weighing more than 23 kg, whereas not too long ago they’d carry suitcases weighing up to 32 kg with no surcharge. Most carriers allow one free piece of luggage, whereas before you’d almost always be allowed two.

Not only have the airlines tightened up on what they’ll carry for free, but they’ve now much more likely to charge you for the extras. In the past you were unlikely to be asked to pay, especially if the checkin staff were busy, but now it is believed that some airlines pay their counter staff bonuses based on the amount of extra charges they levy on their passengers.

There are differences in domestic and international checked luggage policies. For example, for tickets purchased after November 11th 2010, Air Canada allows 1 free bag or 23 kg on domestic, transborder (to USA), Caribbean, transatlantic etc. flights – with the exception of flights to and from Brazil, where you are allowed 2 free pieces up to 32 kg each. Who figured that out and why – we will never know! The 2nd bag fee differs by the destination: Within Canada and to the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Mexico it is $20. To the US it is $30 and to Europe and India it is $50 CAD. With this so-called “piece concept” you have to remember that if your free bag is over the allowed weight, you won’t be charged per extra kg, but for a whole extra bag. The free allowances also differ by the class of service (you are generally allowed more baggage in business class) and also by frequent flyer status.

Some airlines have a lot stricter rules. For example on Finnair flights from Toronto to Helsinki – if your first bag is heavier than the allowed 23 kg, you will be charged the excess baggage charge for a bag weighing 24–32 kg – the same as 1 extra bag up to 23 kg – which is a hefty 80 EUR. Most US carriers have charges already for the 1st checked bag.

In addition to the weight restrictions, each airline has the maximum size measurements for baggage as well. They are shown as a total number of inches (e.g. 62″). This is the total of the length, width and height of the piece, and you can usually have any reasonable size/shape of bag as long as the total measurements don’t exceed this number.

All baggage charges are usually per flight, not per roundtrip. If you’re on a ticket that has you flying first one airline to a connecting point and then a second airline from that point to your destination, you might find you have to pay excess charges to both airlines. But if your bag is being checked through from one airline to the other, you generally won’t be charged for the second flight. Excess luggage is usually carried on a ‘space available’ basis which means the airline doesn’t promise that your luggage will arrive at your destination on the same flight you do. Nine times out of ten (or more) it does indeed arrive on the same plane, but the airlines have the fine print of accepting it on a space available only basis to give them an excuse if your bags don’t arrive with you.

As you can see, there is a lot of different rules within one airline. When you get itineraries where another airline is added to the mix, then things can get even more complicated. We as travel agents try to help you in figuring it out, but things do change and for the absolutely most accurate information, you should phone the airline and get exact confirmation of your luggage entitlements and what the penalty costs might be shortly before your flight.

Secure Flight Passenger Data: No flying without it!

The abbreviation SFPD (Secure Flight Passenger Data) has become familiar for the travel agent community already a while ago, since the start of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Secure Flight program in 2009. Under the Secure Flight program, the TSA requires airlines to collect and transmit to TSA the SFPD that is prescreened against government watch lists for domestic and international flights. Therefore, it requires all airlines domestic and international flying to or from a U.S. destination or through U.S. airspace to transmit SFPD regardless of the distribution channel through which the reservation is booked. Additionally, it applies to all U.S. based airlines regardless of where they fly globally. From November 1st things will become tougher for all the flying passengers.

Beginning November 1, 2010, ticketed passenger reservations without full SFPD will be subject to sanctions by the airlines. All the flight reservation files for international travel have to have the following up-to-date passenger information:

1. Complete passenger name EXACTLY as it appears in the passport or government issued ID used for travel.
2. Date of birth
3. Gender
4. Passport number, issuing country and expiry date
5.  Home address contact phone number

If one is travelling to the US, then it is necessary to have the address in the US where the passenger will be staying.

All this information has to EXACTLY and COMPLETELY match the information on the passport and on the ticket and it has to be on the file at the latest 72 hours before departure. Without this information the airline can cancel the file – or for example the name on the ticket does not exactly match the name on the passport, the passenger can be delayed at check-in or even denied boarding.  

We will be re-confirming all the information with each and every passenger before making the reservation, the best thing is to send all the info to us beforehand by e-mail.

So please – before planning your travel, dig out your passports and check the names, middle names, initials etc. – as a lot of people go by a certain name in the everyday life – but have a different name in their official documents. By doing this you can avoid yourself all the potential hassle at the airport!

Vihula Manor Hotel & Country Club: The Estate with 800 Years of History

Main Manor House building at Vihula

Vihula is one of the majestic manor estates on the Estonian North Coast that have been restored and opened up for visitors as a resort hotel. Vihula is just an hour’s leisurely drive away from Tallinn. It is located in Lahemaa National Park, in the middle of powerful forests, the coast with its secluded sandy beaches being only 3 km away. Things to mention in the area is the historic Altja fishing village, the manor houses of Palmse and Sagadi, the captains’ village of Käsmu and the romantic fortress of Rakvere.

The manor of Vihula was first mentioned already in the beginning of 16th century. The original wooden manor house burned down in the 19th century, the current main stone house was built after that. The restoring of the manor complex that was started twenty years ago and it is progressing gradually. The hotel was opened as the Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa by Uniquestay Hotels in June 2008, currently offering 44 rooms and suites.

I visited Vihula on a brisk cold winter day, not long after the New Year. There was a lot of snow on the country roads and as I had not called ahead, a small voice in my head was a little doubtful whether the place is open at all… But once I drove in and saw the meticulously ploughed driveways and cars parked in front of the Carriage House, my doubts were gone. The receptionist was very friendly and accommodating, getting her coat, hat and mitts and showing us around the whole manor complex, giving us a warm welcome on a chilly day. Continue reading

Finnair Super Summer Seatsale Tallinn-Toronto

Finnair has an amazing seatsale from Tallinn to Toronto for the summer flights from 6 JUN – 9 SEP, 2010.

The price is $500 CAD plus tkt fee and taxes approx. $360 CAD – so you will be able to get to Toronto for less than $900 CAD, all taxes and fees included.

For this price you can stay in Toronto for up to 30 days. The routing will be via Helsinki, on the Helsinki-Toronto non-stop flights.

The price is subject to availability at the time of booking. The ticket has to be purchased by February 28th.

Finnair adjusts fares on Toronto-Helsinki summer flights!

This summer the Finnair direct flights operate between Toronto and Helsinki between 6 JUN ja 9 SEP, 2010 – 5 times a week (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun).
This week Finnair lowered their fares, the best prices (if the seats are available) are:

Shoulder season (01MAY – 25JUN & 10AUG-30SEP)
$631+tax approx $175 (max. 1 month stay)
$729+tax approx $175 (max. 3 months stay)

High Season (26JUN-09AUG)
$674+tax approx $175 (max. 1 month stay)
$780+tax approx $175 (max. 3 months stay)

Shoulder season (01MAY – 25JUN & 10AUG-30SEP)
$775+tax approx $250 (max. 1 month stay)
$856+tax approx $250 (max. 3 months stay)

High Season (26JUN-09AUG)
$910+tax approx $250 (max. 1 month stay)
$1005+tax approx $250 (max. 3 months stay)

The prices depend on the length of the stay and availability. Each flight has a certain allotment of the cheapest seats. If those are sold out, the price jumps into the higher category.

Please note that prices are subject to change without prior notice!

For the exact pricing please e-mail or call us with the actual travel dates!

Air Canada to US: No bags onboard!

Carry-on baggage banned from flights from Canada to US until further notice.

Air Canada and Jazz remind customers that new security measures imposed by Canadian and U.S. government authorities on flights from Canada to the U.S. remain in effect until further notice. As a result of these rules there are strict limits in effect for carry-on articles allowed in the cabin and longer security screening times at airports.Air Canada advises passengers that the new regulations do not permit carry-on bags on flights to the United States, with only limited personal items allowed in the cabin.

To accommodate customers travelling to the U.S., Air Canada is waiving excess baggage charges for checked baggage on a temporary basis for U.S.-bound customers travelling from Canada. These customers will be permitted to check one additional item of baggage within allowable weight and size limits at no additional charge until further notice. For example, regular economy passengers will be permitted up to three checked bags weighing 23 kg (50 lb) each.

You are allowed to bring onboard 1 or more personal items
– max. 10kg (22lb)
– max. 25cm x 30cm x 20cm (10in x 12in x 8in)

The allowed items include:

  • small purse
  • book, magazine
  • small electronic device such as cell phone or MP3 player
  • diaper bag
  • laptop computer
  • camera
  • musical instrument
  • cane, crutches, walker, special needs item
  • medical device
  • medication
  • When travelling from the U.S., normal allowance applies both for carry-on and checked baggage. Please arrive to the airport WELL AHEAD OF TIME to allow for the possible extra time for heightened security checks and searches.

    From December 2009 Air Canada implemented a new policy for checked baggage that applies to transatlantic flights to Europe etc. They allow 1 free bag with a max. weight of  23kg (50lb)
    per bag and max. linear dimensions of 158cm (62in). Passengers can check in a 2nd bag for $50 CAD.

    All the best for the New Year 2010!

    New Year’s greetings from incredibly snowy and beautiful Estonia!

    Carl & Eva-Maria

    Air Canada direct Toronto to Copenhagen from June 24 onwards!

    Air Canada heading to Scandinavia again!

    Air Canada heading to Scandinavia again!

    Air Canada announced it will launch daily service between Toronto and Copenhagen next summer.

    Besides Copenhagen, AC has now announced long-haul service to three other new, major international destinations: Athens, Barcelona and Brussels (via Montreal). They consider the addition of Copenhagen next summer strategically important as passengers will be able to conveniently connect with their Star Alliance partner Scandinavian Airlines to reach such cities as Oslo, Helsinki, Warsaw, Stockholm and Gothenburg.

    Air Canada will begin non-stop, daily flights between Toronto and Copenhagen on June 24, 2010, subject to government approval. The only non-stop service to Scandinavia from Canada will be operated with a 211-seat Boeing 767-300 ER aircraft. Service will operate daily in the summer, with reduced frequency in the winter.

    Flight Depart Toronto Arrive Copenhagen
    AC882 17:15 06:55 (+1)
    Flight Depart Copenhagen Arrive Toronto
    AC883 12:20 14:50

    For our Estonian travelers this means that there will be a new connection available from Toronto to Tallinn, using the SAS flights from Copenhagen onwards. This will put the current most popular flight choice to Tallinn, Finnair, on their toes. Finnair is best known for their unbeatable prices, which we cannot say for Air Canada transatlantic services. Will the convenience outweigh the price? We’ll be looking forward to see what happens during the coming summer season!

    Finnair Toronto summer flights 5 times a week!

    NEW YORK (November 12, 2009) – Finnair, the national carrier of Finland, will operate five non-stop flights per week between Toronto and Helsinki starting June 6, 2010. Finnair will offer all-economy class flights on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, leaving Toronto at 10:50 p.m., arriving in Helsinki at 2 p.m. the next afternoon. Return flights will depart Helsinki at 5:45 p.m., arriving in Toronto at 7:35 p.m. on the same day. This schedule will be in effect from June 6 to September 9, 2010.

    As Michael Maass, Finnair’s Sales Director for North America points out, “This particular schedule will be excellent for travelers who want to take the shortest route to Asia – via Helsinki. The Toronto flights will connect very well with our scheduled service to Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Hong Kong, Nagoya, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.” 

    This new schedule does not use the traditional connecting flights from Helsinki to destinations like Tallinn, Stockholm, Copenhagen etc., so we will see how the changed dynamics will work during the coming summer season.

    The flights are already loaded into our reservation systems and can be booked for the summer travel.

    Ticket prices start from (depending, of course, on the availability):

    Shoulder Season ( departures 06JUN-25JUN & 10AUG-09SEP, 2010)
    Helsinki 750 CAD plus taxes approx. 180 CAD
    Tallinn 850 CAD plus taxes approx. 250 CAD

    High Season ( departures 26JUN – 09AUG, 2010)
    Helsinki 1050 CAD plus taxes approx. 180 CAD
    Tallinn 1100 CAD plus taxes approx. 250 CAD

    ESTONIA: Flight options from Canada update for 2009/2010

    Fall leaves in Estonia

    Fall leaves in Estonia

    Our declining economy is catching up with airlines as well. There used to be quite a few routes for getting to Estonia from Canada – but the options are getting thinner and thinner…Here are some updates for the 2009/2010 season!

    FINNAIR: Canadians and Canadian Estonians travel to Tallinn usually during the summer – when you can get a convenient flight with Finnair from Toronto via Helsinki. The direct Toronto-Helsinki Finnair flights are already in the system and as far as we can see, they will run 3 times a week (Tue, Thu and Sun) from June 6th until September 9th in 2010, before and after that Finnair customers have to travel from Toronto to London or New York and from there on to Helsinki – and then to Tallinn. Finnair has “special rates” also from Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver and Calgary – but the direct Helsinki flights operate still only from Toronto. The connections to Tallinn that caused grief to so many of our passengers last summer – seem to be working better now, we can see some of the mid-morning Tallinn/Helsinki flights back in the schedule.

    CZECH AIRLINES announced that they will cut their Toronto route as of October 2009 and are likely not to return during summer 2010.

    LUFTHANSA has a direct flight to Frankfurt also from Ottawa and Montreal. Unfortunately their flights do not connect the same day via Frankfurt on the way back from Tallinn. But in case you don’t mind an overnight in Frankfurt – you could try that route and earn some Aeroplan points at the same time…
    The good news is that depending on the schedule, there is a possibility to connect from Tallinn to Toronto with Lufthansa via Munich, during the winter it works once a week. It is a very nice connection, so hopefully the possibilities increase with the spring/summer schedule.

    KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES used to have the best daily connections from Toronto and Montreal to Tallinn – but the airline decided to cancel their Amsterdam-Tallinn route as of 4 May, 2009. Depending on the flight schedules, there might be a chance to combine the KLM flight Toronto-Amsterdam with the Estonian Air flight Amsterdam-Tallinn, but that combination might not always work, depending on the seasonal schedules – and you are likely to be forced to re-check your baggage in Amsterdam, as the res system does not allow to issue this combination on one ticket.

    LOT POLISH AIRLINES and AUSTRIAN AIRLINES used to connect to Tallinn twice a week – but they cancelled their Tallinn flights already in 2008.

    You can use KLM, LUFTHANSA etc. flights to Helsinki and take a short flight or a boat-ride over to Tallinn – but that of course is extra hassle. But if you want to see the Finnish capital as well, then it might not be a bad combination.

    There are other ways as well to get to Estonia from Canada. If you are adventurous enough, we can find you a charter flight to London, Frankfurt or Hamburg – and continue with Estonian Air to Tallinn. This way it is usually quite hard to make the connections fit with the lowest rates (unless you are very lucky!) but it would be suitable for example to someone intending to stop over in London.

    Baltia Air Lines: Direct flights from US to the Baltics?

    Baltia Airlines logo - with the happy rooster!

    Baltia Airlines logo - with the happy rooster!

    The New York-based Baltia Air Lines announced that it has made agreements to acquire its first Boeing 747 airplane. The firm plans to become the US’s leading aviation company flying to Eastern Europe. The as-yet unspecified schedule will accordingly start flights between the largest US cities and Moscow, St. Petersburg, Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Minsk and Kiev.

    Their business plan is not to go “no frills” like JetBlue or Southwest Airlines – but to offer quality service in First, Business and Economy classes while cutting flight times from the traditional 11-18 hours with connections to approx. 8 hours by flying direct.

    On their web site you can see the following announcement: Baltia is a US startup airline. No ticket sales are currently available. This service is subject to receipt of government operating authority.

    It will be very interesting to see if they can pull off the unprecedented and connect the Baltics to the great cities on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean!

    For more detailed information, read the interesting research collected into the blog article Baltia Airlines, the 20 year old startup. Thanks, Tom, for doing all the great research!

    Pädaste Manor Hotel on Muhu Island earns 5 stars

    A commission operating with the Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association has, as expected, given the hotel and spa Padaste Manor five stars. With this, Padaste Manor becomes the first hotel outside the Estonian capital Tallinn to get a five-star rating. Its business director, Martin Breuer, said that receiving the rating is the best acknowledgement of the top-quality service the Padaste team strives to offer.

    Pädaste Manor is idyllically located at Pädaste bay on Muhu Island in the Baltic Sea, just off the coast of Western Estonia. Muhu Island is a comfortable 2-hour drive and 1/2 hour easy ferry ride away from the capital Tallinn. 

    The earliest written history of Pädaste Manor dates back to 1566 when Estonia was under the Danish rule. The original manor site and buildings date back to the 14th century, some of these ancient walls are still visible at the very heart of the house. In the latter part of the 19th century the house was enlarged considerably and given a new façade, hence the harmonious dimensions and clean lines which give the house it’s character today.

    In the late 19th century Baron Axel von Buxhoeveden had, as the Imperial Hunting Master an influential position at the court of Czar Nicholas II. Together with his wife Charlotte, heiress to the Siemens company, he brought a touch of worldly splendour to the sleepy Muhu Island.
    Von Buxhoeveden renovated his manors in Kuivastu and Pädaste. He took a special interest in landscaping; whenever he traveled abroad he would bring back rare species, they until today make up the beautiful variety at the park of Pädaste Manor. The summers at Pädaste became cultural delights as Charlotte brought artists and musicians in her company when she moved with her entourage from St. Petersburg to Muhu for the summer.  In the winter of 1919 Axel von Buxhoeveden was brutally assassinated by revolutionaries while on his way from Pädaste Manor to the mainland. Charlotte von Siemens fled to Brandenburg the next day. Seven hundred years of family presence on Muhu that had started with their forefather Albert von Buxhoeveden’s conquest of the Island in 1227 came to an abrupt end. After years of neglect during the Soviet period in which the use of the manor alternated between army headquarter, fish distribution center and home for the elderly until its abandonment in the early 80’s, in 1996 a decision was made to restore Pädaste Manor to new splendour, with the goal to create one of the finest hotels in the Baltic countryside. And this goal has been fulfilled with enormous success!

    The Manor ensemble is set amidst a 7 hectare landscaped park surrounded by 22 hectares of meadows & forests. The estate is surrounded by centuries old iron stone walls, partly overgrown with moss. Five 19th Century iron stone buildings join the stately Manor in a horse shoe shape, opening up to the Baltic Sea.
    The shoreline gives way to astonishing views of the bay with its islets and untouched coastland. 

    The centre of the majestic hotel complex is the Manor House with its 14 rooms and suites that has undergone an extensive two-year restoration, bringing back the dignity and nobility the house had held for centuries. The Carriage House was once the home of the Barons’ riding-horses and coaches. The building has been renovated with much attention to detail and now houses 9 well appointed rooms and suites, each suite has a private balcony overlooking the park and sea.

    The 140 m2 Private Farm House is a historical 18th century log house with a thatched roof, where the caretaker of the estate used to convey with the labourers to assign the daily works. After a delicate restoration the building has retained many of its original features and soul. It is located in a secluded corner of the property amidst an apple orchard. In the Farm House our guests will be able to enjoy the use of two Master Bedrooms with adjacent bath rooms, The Farm House has a living area with a fireplace, a cosy library with a verandah and a secluded private garden.

    The hotel has a luxurious spa and is famous for its gourmet dining: Restaurand Alexander serves breakfast and dinner – and lunch and afternoon drinks are served at the Sea House Terrace.

    This hotel is a gem for travellers looking for elegance and top quality service in a casual and relaxed atmosphere, located in the uniquely picturesque settings of the glorious Estonian countryside!


    Baby born onboard TALLINK’s Baltic Queen

    Tallink Silja's Baltic Queen

    Tallink Silja's Baltic Queen

    According to the Tallink press release, on June 11th at 3.30 a baby was born on board of Tallink`s brand new cruise ferry Baltic Queen. The baby girl was named Kirke.The childbirth took place in a cabin and was assisted by the ships doctor and doctors of Medicover Estonia health centre, who were travelling with the ferry. The birth went without complications and the baby and the mother are healthy. The captain of Baltic Queen Vahur Ausmees said that the mother and baby were taken to the hospital in Tallinn for regular check-up. „We thank the doctors for the help and on behalf of the crew I congratulate the family”, added Ausmees.

    The Estonian family, which embraced their fifth member during this night, was on a cruise from Stockholm to Tallinn with Tallink`s new cruise ferry Baltic Queen. To celebrate the birth of a new citizen, Tallink will give the newborn child the life long benefit to travel with Baltic Queen free of charge; also the family will have additional benefits.

    Baltic Queen is Tallink Silja’s newest ship, covering the Tallinn-Stockholm route since April 2009.

    Finnair: Unexpected deals for high season

    Recently we saw a very unexpected announcement from Finnair – they have lowered their high season prices to Helsinki and their other Scandinavian and European destinations. Depending on the date availability, you can find a high season seat to Helsinki for $1000 CAD + taxes and to Tallinn for $950 + taxes!

    Prices for Tallinn are dropped quite dramatically – probably because of Finnair’s unpopular decision earlier this spring to cancel the mid-morning flights that used to provide a convenient connection for the people coming from Toronto and going to Tallinn and vv., stretching the wait times in Helsinki to 4-8 hours.

    Contact us for the prices, as everything depends on the flight availability and flights that are sold out are of course excluded from the seatsale.

    Conquest Vacations crashes: another operator gone from Canadian market

    After 37 years in business, Conquest Vacations announced today that is has ceased “its tour operations effective immediately.” The announcement, posted on Conquest’s web site, directs consumers who have paid with cash or cheque to contact their travel agent for assistance in getting a refund or making a claim. Those who booked with a credit card are told to contact their credit card company and those who booked direct are told to e-mail  with a booking reference number. The tour operator says it “regrets the inconvenience caused to passengers due to cessation of its operations,” and blames “overcapacity and price war among the major tour operators, unrealistic and unreasonable demands by the credit card processing companies, credit squeeze and economic turmoil in recent months…”

    Conquest Vacations was a Canadian tour operators that pioneered cheap travel options for Canadians since 1972. Conquest was an independent operator not linked to major corporations or airlines.

    No pickles on Sundays in NJ: Strange laws around the world

    All laws are made for a reason, or at least you would think they are… But it is hard to find reasoning behind some of those:

    * In Hawaii you can get fined for NOT owning a boat.

    * In Oklahoma, US, dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property.

    * In Pennsylvania, US there is a special cleaning ordinance that bans housewives from hiding dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling.

    * It is illegal for one to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel in Texas.

    * On Sundays – don’t hang your clothes to dry or wash your car in Switzerland. Nor walk down Broad Street without wearing a petticoat – if you are a woman and happen to be in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Nor eat pickles in Trenton, New Jersey. Nor play Dominoes in Alabama.

    *  At a wake, mourners may eat no more than three sandwiches in Massachusetts and it is illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing in Texas.

    * If you notice an ice-cream man attempting to sell his cold concoctions in a cemetery in Destin, Florida, US, call the police immediately, for that is illegal.

    Reading those, you might think that is good that you don’t live in one of those places… Well, there are some strange laws that might get you busted while travelling… At least in principle 🙂

    * You must pay a fine of $600 in Thailand if you’re caught throwing away chewed bubble gum on the sidewalk.

    * It is illegal to flush the toilet after 10 P in Switzerland – but you will be fined if you don’t flush the public toilet in Singapore!

    * If you are a woman in California, US, don’t drive your car in a housecoat. And don’t drive drive barefoot in Alabama.

    * In Singapore it is considered an offense to enter the country with cigarettes – or walk around naked in your own house or a hotel room.

    * In Australia and in Switzerland you may never leave your car keys in an unattended vehicle. In Denmark, before starting your car, you are required to check lights, brakes, steering and honk your horn. In Germany always make sure you have enough fuel in the car, as it is illegal for ones car to run out of gas on the Autobahn.

    * Individuals may not possess beer in containers larger than two liters unless they are a retailer in Utah, US – so, sorry, no keggers over there!

    * In Canada citizens may not publicly remove bandages – I guess it is all right if you are a tourist…

    * In Israel picking one’s nose on the Sabbath is illegal, make sure you have a lisence if you want to ride a bike – and don’t bring any bears to the beach!

    * In South Africa, young people wearing bathing suits are prohibited from sitting less than 12 inches apart.

    Here is a funny article about other strange laws that you could get busted on while travelling the world!

    At least now you know that it is probably just safer NOT to eat pickles if you don’t have a calender at hand… But did you know that for a pickle to officially be considered a pickle, it must bounce? So says the law in Connecticut, but it provides little help with the friendly arresting officers from New Jersey PD.

    Cathay Pacific: The best airline of 2009

    Crew at Cathay Pacific Airlines

    Cathay Pacific Airways picked up the 2009 Airline of the Year award at the first live SKYTRAX World Airline Awards ceremony held in Hamburg, Germany on 1st April 2009.The SKYTRAX World Airline Awards celebrated their tenth anniversary with around 500 people attending the 2009 Awards ceremony in Hamburg to see the winning airlines receive their accolades. Edward Plaisted (CEO of Skytrax) handed out awards in 34 categories – the winners being selected by the airline industry’s most important audience, it’s customers.

    More than 16 million air travellers drawn from over 95 different nationalities took part in the 8 month long survey. The awards are recognised around the world for being the only true global independent passenger survey of airline standards. The survey does not receive any third party sponsorship and is entirely funded by Skytrax.

    Edward Plaisted said: “the Cathay Pacific victory this year is the third occasion in the last ten years they have won this prestige title. A factor behind the Cathay Pacific win is clearly the consistency of product and service that they provide to their customers. Not only are Cathay Pacific satisfying their passengers onboard flights, but the ratings they achieved for their airport operations in Hong Kong also played a considerable part in this success”.

    1. Cathay Pacific (placing in 2008 -> 2)
    2. Singapore Airlines (1)
    3. Asiana Airlines (5)
    4. Qatar Airways (7)
    5. Emirates (3)
    6. Qantas (9)
    7. Etihad Airways (8)
    8. Air New Zealand (10)
    9. Malaysia Airlines (6)
    10. Thai Airways (4)

    And here is the winners by the regions:
    Asia: Cathay Pacific
    Africa: South African Airways
    Australasia: Qantas Airways
    Europe: Swiss Int’l Air Lines
    Middle East: Qatar Airways
    North America: Continental Airlines
    South America: LAN Airlines

    Source: Skytrax

    Estonian Air will cover Amsterdam and Berlin

    In the beginning of June Estonian Air will expand its network by launching 2 routes: Tallinn-Amsterdam and Tallinn-Berlin.

    Starting from 7 June 2009, Estonian Air will operate between Tallinn and Amsterdam with three weekly flights on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It looks like the Amsterdam-Tallinn flights are going to connect with the KLM flights from/to Toronto. This will hopefully repair a “hole” in the market left by KLM pulling out of Tallinn from the beginning of May. Now we will just have to see how the pricing will work, as the flights are not yet in the GDS system.
    Wednesday, Friday, Sunday OV173 Tallinn 6:45 Amsterdam 8:10
    Wednesday, Friday, Sunday OV174 Amsterdam 9:40 Tallinn 13:00

    Starting from 8 June 2009, Estonian Air will operate twice weekly flights between Tallinn and Berlin Tegel as well.
    Monday, Friday OV157 Tallinn 13:35 Berlin 14:25
    Monday, Friday OV158 Berlin 14:55 Tallinn 17:40

    Ryanair “toilet scandal” turns into a clever promotional stunt!

    Ryanair boss O'Leary. Photo: M. Argles,

    Ryanair boss O'Leary. Photo: M. Argles,

    Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been widely criticised for introducing more and more charges, starting with food on board and extra fees for non-online customers, but now including check-in charges.Most recently he suggested that passengers could be asked to pay one pound coin (1.10 euros, 1.40 dollars) to go to the toilet on board, although spokesmen subsequently explained that he may not have been serious.

     A budget airline boss was “only joking” when he suggested charging passengers to use the toilet, an airline spokesman told a German paper on March 12th.

    Ryanair passengers were shocked last month when Michael O’Leary threatened to “put a coin-slot on the toilet doors so that people might have to actually spend a pound to spend a penny”. Ryanair spokesman for Germany, Anja Seugling, told the Ostthueringer Zeitung daily, “it was all just a gag,” adding that O’Leary was probably just thinking out loud.

    O’Leary, who is one of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen, has a reputation as a ruthless cost cutter, expanding Ryanair by offering low basic fares and charging extra for items like hold luggage.

    Following criticism of the supposed plan, Ryanair launched a light-hearted competition on Thursday to suggest new ways the budget carrier can save money. The airline is offering 1000 euros to the most creative idea submitted by the end of March.

    The Irish airline said it had already received suggestions including charging one euro for oxygen masks, 25 euros to use the emergency exits, 2.50 euros to read the safety card and 50 euros for bikini-clad cabin crew.

    Other suggestions so far include charging for toilet paper with O’Leary’s face on it and charging 2.50 euros to read the safety cards.

    “The suggestion I like best so far is a passenger in Sweden who has suggested that we should produce rolls of toilet paper with my picture on it,” says O’Leary.

    Click HERE for more information and to submit your entry!!! But hurry, the contest closes March 31-st! 🙂

    Source: AFP

    Tallinn among 10 top “B-list” cities for tourism worldwide

    The Old Town of Tallinn

    The Old Town of Tallinn

    In a readers’ poll organized by the British travel magazine and website Wanderlust, which specializes in writing about destinations that are less well-known than the world’s major hotspots, Tallinn found itself positioned as the 10th best city for tourism out of more than 600 worldwide. Also ranking high were Antigua in Guatemala, Kyoto in Japan, Boston in the United States, Krakow in Poland and Havana in Cuba. Tallinn, where the visitor satisfaction index was 91.43 percent, achieved a solid 10th among 631 cities.

    Yay! Tallinn is finally on the world’s “B” city list! 

    Source: Baltic Standby

    Ryanair: Can you hold it until we land?

    Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, Europe’s biggest low-cost airline, said in an interview with the BBC on February 27 that the airline may start charging passengers for using the toilet during flights. “One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound (EUR 1.12) to spend a penny in future,” he said, explaining: “We’re all about finding ways of raising discretionary revenue so we can keep lowering the cost of air travel.” Ryanair has already announced that it will soon close all check-in desks at airports so that passengers will have to check in online instead.

    As you can see, Ryanair has reached another “low”… I am picturing a flight attendant sitting and selling toilet paper next to the washrooms… And you would probaly have to cough up another pound for that.

    So what’s the next brilliant cost-cutting idea the airlines will come up ??? Anyone…???  

    See also article   Air Canada: One Smile voucher, please!

    Source: Baltic Standby

    Estonia saves Estonian Air – for now anyway!

    Estonia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications announced on Feb 26th, that the Estonian state has injected EEK 38.8 million (EUR 2.5 million) into the national carrier Estonian Air. According to the statement the decision was made because the government is keen to keep important direct routes going in a climate in which several other airlines have ended flights or cut their frequencies from Tallinn.

     The other shareholders have agreed to contribute an additional EEK 75.2 million, according to the Estonian newspaper Postimees. However, the newspaper’s online edition writes that SAS will convert EEK 37 million in issued loans to Estonian Air’s share capital and inject EEK 19 million, while Cresco will pay EEK 19.2 million. The proportions of influence between the shareholders in the airline will not change. SAS Vice President Ole Orver said that the Estonian government’s decision will certainly support Estonian Air’s development, but emphasized that SAS still wants to give up its ownership in the enterprise. The extra capital, he added, should make it easier to find a buyer. Cresco CEO and Chairman of the Board Olev Schults noted that he has always tried to be a serious minority shareholder and will maintain this strategy for as long as it is involved in the circle of the company’s owners. Postimees then quotes businessman and former economy minister Meelis Atonen as saying that the state should have fully sold Estonian Air to SAS while it could. “I have said before that the state is not a good aviation business operator and I am still of this opinion. SAS had an interest in obtaining 100 percent of Estonian Air and the state should have attempted a sale at that time,” he said.

    For us, tavel agents, the situation with flights into Tallinn has become quite nerve-wrecking. Quite a few airlines have pulled their flights within the past year: LOT, Austrian Airlines etc. We will definitely miss the great connections KLM used to have (they will drop their Tallinn flights from May 4th) – and  and while it is becoming trickier all the time to find good connections to get the travellers to Tallinn – it is even a bigger problem to get them back home, as for example Lufthansa and Czech Airlines have their flights out of Tallinn scheduled too late in the afternoon to be able to catch any transatlantic connections.

    While Estonian Air has reduced the flight frequencies to the closest big hub London to only twice a week and cancelled the flights to Frankfurt altogether (Lufthansa will be still covering that route) – they are opening quite a few seasonal routes to Europe. According to their press release on February 12, the following seasonal routes will open in 2009:
    Paris: 29Mar-22Oct, THU & SUN
    Hamburg: 01Apr-24Oct, WED & SAT
    Barcelona: 09May-24Oct, SAT
    Dubrovnik: 30May-03Oct, SAT
    Dublin: 04Jun-30Aug, THU & SUN
    Rome: 13Jul-31Aug, MON

    There are two new routes to Stocholm for the Estonian out-of-towners:
    Kuressaare – Stockholm: 02Apr-25Oct, THU & SUN
    Pärnu-Stockholm: 30Apr-23Aug, THU & SUN

    Please note that these schedules are subject to change without notice!
    For the most up-to-date info please visit

    We are keeping our fingers crossed for the Estonian National airline. In November 2008 SAS expressed an interest to buy the whole thing – but just recently the big news was about the “fall” of flyLAL and SAS deciding to sell all their shares in Estonian Air…

    It is reassuring that the government stepped in and showed their confidence and support. These are trying times – why not make use of our resources? Air in Estonia is free – and there is lots of it… Why not put it into good use! After all, it is one of the important connections to Europe – and to the world.

    Canada-Estonia: How to get there… flight update for the 2009 season

    Our declining economy is catching up with airlines as well. There used to be quite a few routes for getting to Estonia from Canada – but the options are getting thinner and thinner… Here are some updates for the 2009 summer season!  PLEASE NOTE: The quoted rates are lowest rates at the time of the last page update. All prices are subject to seat availability at the time of booking, fares and taxes can change at any time without prior notice. Always please let us know the actual travel dates for an exact quote!

    FINNAIR: Canadians and Canadian Estonians travel to Tallinn usually during the summer – when you can get a convenient flight with Finnair from Toronto via Helsinki. The direct Toronto-Helsinki Finnair flights run from June 7th until September 11th in 2009, before and after that Finnair customers have to travel from Toronto to London or New York and from there on to Helsinki – and then Tallinn. Finnair has “special rates” also from Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver and Calgary – but the direct Helsinki flights operate still only from Toronto.

    From October through April Finnair has low airfares – but taxes via LHR or JFK end up quite high. The Finnair fares are out for SUMMER 2009 already. The prices are very good for the “shoulder season” (7JUN-25JUN & 10AUG-30SEP) and still the cheapest for the “high season” (26JUN-9AUG) as compared to other airlines. Click here for Finnair fare sheet for 2009. Please note that Finnair does not have any weekend surcharges.

    It has to be noted that some Toronto-Helsinki flights are getting pretty heavy already and the cheapest seats may not be available any more. The “difficult” outbound dates are already June 9, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28 and 30. Most July departures look still OK.

    What comes to the Helsinki –Toronto flights: most of June is still OK but June 25 is sold out for the cheaper seats. The departures of July 7, 12, 14 and 21 are getting full as well.

    If you are going to Tallinn, then on some dates the Helsinki-Tallinn flights pose an even bigger problem, especially Helsinki-Tallinn before the Song Festival (Jul 2-4) and Tallinn-Helsinki flights after the festivities. Even if the transatlantic flight is available, then the connecting flight might be sold out and you would have to either opt for a higher price category or a longer wait in Helsinki.

    This “seat” situation changes all the time, so these notes are reflecting the info as of February 26th.

    CZECH AIRLINES used to fly to Toronto all year round – but in 2009 they have their Toronto-Prague only during the summer season. The carrier will operate four weekly flights from Prague to Toronto, stretching from early May until mid-October – but the same day connections do not work on the way back from Tallinn, so it can be useful for people who want to stop over in Prague for a day or two.

    Same goes for LUFTHANSA fares tend to be quite pricey during the summer – but they sometimes have good fares for low season via Frankfurt. Lufthansa has a direct flight to Frankfurt also from Ottawa and Montreal. Unfortunately their flights do not connect the same day on the way back from Tallinn. But in case you don’t mind an overnight in Frankfurt – you could try that route and earn some Aeroplan points at the same time…

    KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES used to have the best daily connections from Toronto and Montreal to Tallinn – but the airline decided to cancel their Amsaterdam-Tallinn route as of 4 May, 2009. All the ticketed flights that are scheduled after that date will be re-routed by the airline.

    LOT POLISH AIRLINES and AUSTRIAN AIRLINES used to connect to Tallinn twice a week – but they cancelled their Tallinn flights already last fall.

    You can use KLM, LUFTHANSA and ICELANDAIR flights to Helsinki and take a short flight or a boat-ride over to Tallinn – but that of course is extra cost and hassle. But if you want to see the Finnish capital as well, then it might not be a bad combination.

    There are other ways as well to get to Estonia from Canada. If you are adventurous enough, we can find you a charter flight to London, Frankfurt or Hamburg – and continue with Estonian Air to Tallinn. This way it is usually quite hard to make the connections fit with the lowest rates (unless you are very lucky!) but it would be suitable for example to someone intending to stop over in London.

    updated 24 Feb/2009

    Visa Freedom to USA for the Baltics? Say hi to ESTA!

    In November 2008 a few more countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were grated the long-awaited visa freedom to the United States of America. This “freedom” is really a Visa Waiver Program. At this time citizens of Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdomis can take advantage of the program.

    As of this year USA established an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), meaning that nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States. This is a mandatory procedure for all travellers.

    This electronic application system is kind of an “electronic visa” – and by applying for it on a dedicated web site, you can be either approved or denied. You are basically eligible if you are a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waver Program, if you have a machine-readable/biometric passport that complies with all the requirements, if you intend to travel to the US as a non-immigrant visitor for up to 90 days, arrive on a “signatory carrier”, can present your return ticket and pose no threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the United States.

    In the application you will be asked the state your address, contact information, birth date & place, your passport information, arrival flight info, your address while in the US – and also questions about your health, possible criminal record or previous deportation from the US.  

    The US authorities are taking it very seriously, as in order your Travel Authorization to be approved, you have to:

    * Establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting United States Customs and Border Protection Officer that you are entitled to be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and that you are not inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
    * Waive any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
    * Reaffirm, through the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the United States, your waiver of any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.

    Currently there is no fee to apply for a travel authorization. However, there may be an application fee in the future.

     You can find more detailed info about the Visa Waiver Program and about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) here:

    You can apply for the Electronic Travel Authorization here: https:­/­/­esta.­cbp.­dhs.­gov/­esta

    You have to fill out the form in English, but the instructions are in many different languages, including Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portugese etc.

    Europe 2009: The little things to remember…

    1. Fewer borders: With the expansion of the EU you can move within Europe without being stopped on every border. For more information definitely read up on the Schengen Agreement details to find out which countries are part of this treaty. Be sure to see that your passport is stamped upon entry to the EU – as Canadian and US citizens can stay visa-free in EU for 90 days. And beware – you have to have your passport with you at all times as local authorities may check your documents and the initial entry date to EU at any given time.  If you stay over 90 days or if you don’t have an entry stamp in your passport, you will get in trouble upon departure from the EU territory. For more info on visas etc. for Canadians go to

    2. Less different currencies: With a lot of countries have adopted the Euro – check the list of countries you want to visit, as in many countries still only their national currency is accepted.

    3. Travelers CHQ-s: These pieces of paper with unpredicted exchange rates and service fees and have become an annoying hassle during the era of convenient ATM-machines. Credit cards are accepted in most cities – but outside the urban areas some stores (including even gas stations!) might still accept only cash, so having some local currency at hand is always a good idea.

    4. Smoking: It has becoming more and more restricted in Europe. Non-smokers will be happy to see smoke-free train cars, hotels, restaurants and public buildings.

    5. Duty-free alcohol (and liquids): Because of increased airport security measures, shops selling large bottles of liquids beyond security checkpoints at EU airports must put the products into special, sealed bags that are recognized throughout Europe. Passengers who buy liquids at duty-free shops outside the EU and change planes in Europe before their final destinations do not comply with those rules. A passenger from Toronto, for example, who flies to Paris via Frankfurt on a transatlantic Air Canada flight and makes purchases from Toronto airport or Air Canada onboard duty free shop – will have to surrender any liquid duty-free goods in their carry-on baggage in Germany before boarding the connecting plane for France. On your way to Europe your best bet is not to buy any duty-free alcohol from a non-European location or carrier. This is bad news for your friends and relatives who like the Canadian Crown Whisky that is so hard to find outside Canada… But the EU Transport Commission is supposedly working on different solutions to this problem.

    6. Cell phones: Have become more of a necessity as even if you can find a pay phone in a strange city, it is a much greater hassle to figure out how to actually use it… These days a lot of cell phones work on both sides of the ocean – but using your “local” North American number can be very expensive. It is more efficient to buy a cell phone from Europe for $40-$50 and get a local $10-$20 SIM card for every country you visit long enough to need a phone. Users of some handheld wireless devices (most notably the iPhone) have been surprised with astronomical bills for unintentional roaming – such as when the phone constantly checks for new e-mails. This default feature can be turned off to avoid per-kilobyte charges. If you are going to use your smart phone, be sure to call your provider to activate international service before you leave – and to ask about extra charges for international roaming and data transfer.

    7. Photo cameras: Carrying around a film camera can be a challenge in Europe as it is becoming more and more difficult to find the right film for it – and the cost for having to process “throwaway” shots is so much higher than a click with the “delete” button. So invest in a digital camera and bring some extra memory cards, just in case!

    8. Converter for electric appliances: To charge your camera’s battery or use your “never-leave-home-without-it” curler iron, you need a handy little gadget that converts the European 220-240V electricity into 110/120V. You can buy one of those from “The Source” for $49.99.

    Hotel booking scam: Beware of being redirected to fake web sites!

    Historically, it is when the industry in a tailspin that fraudsters seek to prey on it. This time around is no different as according to…

    “A well-organized online fraud is scamming over 71,000 travelers each month as they book rooms online at some of America’s best known hotel chains, including Hyatt, Clarion, TraveLodge, Comfort Inn, Red Roof, EconoLodge, Super 8, Ramada, Days Inn, and Wyndham”.

    The report notes that the “scam casts a big net and is evolving daily”, it “combines advanced online advertising, bogus hotel locators, third-party reservation systems, and an Internet browser virus to redirect hotel guest traffic to fake versions of well-known hotel chain websites” with the “hardest hit (being) Super 8 Motels, Days Inn, and Ramada”. Per the report in Fraudtip, it is estimated that an astounding 50,000 travelers seeking out these hotels are redirected to the bogus sites each month!


    TICO: The watchdog protecting Ontario travelers

    For the past several months TICO’s Consumer Awareness Campaign has been informing Ontario’s travelling public about TICO and the benefits of purchasing travel services from TICO registered travel agencies.The Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund is governed by Ontario Regulation 26/05 made under the Travel Industry Act, 2002. The Fund is totally financed by registered travel agents and travel wholesalers in Ontario and is administered by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).

    Subject to the Regulation, the Fund provides reimbursement of monies paid to an Ontario registered travel agent for travel services that are not provided due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of an Ontario registrant or an end supplier airline or cruise line, where a reimbursement has not otherwise been provided. As long as the consumer has dealt through a registered Ontario travel retailer, a claim may be filed against the Compensation Fund for the non-provision of travel services, even if payment was made directly to the travel supplier via credit card.

    In simple terms: Each registered agency is paying a fee into a “pot” that is used in case any of the agencies or their travel suppliers cannot provide services the clients paid for.

    “Consumers making holiday arrangements have a choice: they can book through a TICO-registered travel agent and have their travel services protected, or they can put their hard-earned vacation dollars at risk and book with someone else,” warns TICO president Michael Pepper.

    So always ask if your travel agent is registered with TICO. We at Advantage Ultra Travel most certainly are!

    For more info please visit 

    FlyLAL: One down in the Baltics…

    FlyLAL (also known as Lithuanian Airlines and LAL) was the national airline of Lithuania based in Vilnius – probably best remembered by the public for the fun pink insignia and the perky pink uniforms. It operated domestic and international scheduled services from its main base was Vilnius International Airport.

    The airline was established in 1938 and has been “in the air” ever since, operating under different names and capacities… From the Soviet days of Aeroflot to being 100% state owned – to being privatized by FlyLAL group. After failing to gain any more financing to cover its debts, FlyLal suspended operations on 17 January 2009.

    This is the first one of the three Baltic airlines to lose its balance. Estonian Air has survived with the constant financial help of SAS. What comes to the Latvian airline Air Baltic, SAS sold their 47.2% stake in the airline just last December. So there is no knowing what is going to happen with the air traffic in the Baltics. 

    According to flyLAL representatives, there are around 17,000 valid but unused tickets. Approx. 3,500 passengers found themselves in the unenviable situation of being stranded in foreign countries, many of whom will have had to spend days and nights at foreign airports. The Transport Ministry of Lithuania has promised to take care of the interests of people, who have purchased flight tickets from flyLAL-Lithuanian Airlines, by all possible means.

    This is the announcement you can find on flyLAL’s web page:

    Dear Passengers,
    We regret to inform you that flyLAL – Lithuanian Airlines ceased its operations from 17th of January, 2009. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause you. In case of urgent necessity to travel, we kindly recommend to use flights of other airlines.

    Seatsales bring some spring into the air!

    The new year has just started – and some good deals are already brightening the day of the travelers!

    It will be interesting to see how the pricing is going to turn out with the turns and twists of our ever-changeing economy. The actual airfares sound very good – but the taxes are still the fact that makes travel expensive. Some airlines are dropping fuel surcharges, but we haven’t seen any drastic changes in that department.

    Still… there are some deals out there to be taken advantage of. For example, you can fly to Paris, France from Toronto and Montreal from approx. $300 CAD – plus the taxes (of course), of close to $500 CAD.

    Airfare specials to some other European cities run around $400-450 CAD with taxes vary from $350 to $500 CAD. All fares depend on the actual travel dates and are subject to availability at the time of booking! 

    We are waiting for some seatsale offers to Europe from KLM and Lufthansa as well.

    Contact us for information!

    Air Canada: One smile voucher, please!

    My daughter found a very funny “Mad TV” clip about Air Canada on Youtube. This is no reality television – but it shows the sad trend that most airlines are going along with…

    No, on an Air Canada flight you don’t have to pay extra for seatbelts or oxygen… But there are some services that used to be free – but now have a price tag. This info refers only to Air Canada’s North American flights and everything depends on the fare type you choose…

    Air Canada North American service has 4 types of fares:
    Tango – $ no frills & barebones approach
    Tango Plus – $$ your “basic” economy class experience
    Latitude – $$$ more flexible (but quite a bit more expensive) fare created with business people in mind
    Executive Class – $$$$ the privilege of 5-7” more legroom, a free onboard meal, access to Maple Leaf lounge and 3 checked-in bags

    If you don’t like to pay top dollar for your tickets – here is the list of traditionally complementary airline services you might have to pay for:
    1. Meals: Your basic free airline meals have become history! Air Canada has introduced the “Onboard Café” concept where you can buy snacks or packaged meals, depending on the duration of your flight. The passengers on more expensive fare categories (e.g. Latitude passengers get a complementary snack or a meal – max. $8 Cad value). Note that special meals (vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free etc) are not available on the “Onboard Café flights”. Air Canada still has free meal service on the international flights.
    2. Advance seating: On the lowest (Tango) fares you will have to pay $15-$22 CAD (depending on the length of the flight) if you want your seat selected in advance. Advance seating is still free for international flights.
    3. Assistance in case of flight delays and disruptions: Say hi to the Air Canada “On My Way” program! For $25 CAD, one way, on short-haul flights and $35 CAD, one way, on long-haul, you can “purchase the assistance” for rebooking on any North American airline, complimentary meal allowance, hotel accommodation or ground transportation for ANY extended delay and specialized call centre assistance tailored to your needs… Meaning that now you have to pay extra for “quality” help if Air Canada fails to provide you the services they have promised you when selling you their ticket in the first place!

    Here is a table that nicely gives you the choices you have with Air Canada!

    An interesting thing to note is that if you go for the cheapest Tango fare, Air Canada also offers you to SAVE $3 if you do not check bags, $3 if you do not want Aeroplan Miles and $5 if you wave the option of making changes to your ticket. So for $11 they can make you the least troublesome passenger of all: no potential hassles with your lost bags, changes to your ticket or giving you any rewards for being a loyal customer… 

    The only GOOD news seems to be that a few months ago Air Canada pulled back their “$25 CAD for the second checked bag policy” and now you can again check in 2 bags of max. 23 kg!

    Air Canada, like any airline, has always been under pressure to keep their costs under control. For me personally (and for all of my travel agent colleagues) the least popular decision of all times was to stop paying commissions to travel agents quite a few years ago… Which forced travel agents start charging service fees for booking airline tickets… But that is another can of worms 🙂

    In the declining economy everyone understands the concept of cutting costs – everyone does what they can get away with. But the other edge of this sword is staying in the competition.

    I sincerely hope Air Canada does not give up another traditionally free airline amenity: the SMILES on the faces of check-in personnel and flight attendants! I wonder, what would be the cost of that as an “extra” service…?
    Can you book smile vouchers with your ticket? Will each voucher be limited to one smile? And will it be complementary for the Executive Class and Latitude passengers?
    Or can I save $3 if I promise not to complain???

    KLM Spring Seatsale Tallinn-Toronto: from $420 CAD + tax

    KLM has come out with a new seatsale from Europe to Toronto. As the Tallinn-Toronto airfares have been quite high recently, then I thought I would spread this good news to you as well!

    A ticket over the ocean for $420+tax … Wow! That sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? But careful here… as unfortunately the taxes and fees that are tagged to the transatlantic airline tickets are getting quite ridiculous – and the airlines have to make their base fares REALLY LOW in order to stay in the competition. It has become quite the new game – as the taxes and fuel surcharges are actually MORE than the ticket itself!

    BUT – if you look at the big picture and compare prices, then it is still pretty good!

    Tallinn-Amsterdam-Toronto, RT, from $420 CAD + taxes $552 CAD = $972 CAD per passenger
    Helsinki-Amsterdam-Toronto, RT, from $359 CAD + taxes $536 CAD = $895 CAD per passenger

    The rules of this seatsale are as follows:

    Travel starting from: 15 January, 2009
    Travel to be finished by: 16 June, 2009
    Maximum stay: 30 days
    Minimum stay: over Saturday night
    Last date to purchase ticket: 02 February, 2009

    This offer is subject to seat availability at the time of booking. There is only limited number of seats for this price on all flights.

    Contact us for further details!

    Barbados Deal: Save 30% off rates at the Crane Resort!

    Set on the world-famous Crane Beach, overlooking a perfect azure blue sea, is the Caribbean’s first resort hotel, The Crane. Built in 1887 and fully restored and expanded in the 20th century, this truly unique property combines elegance, old-world charm and incredible natural beauty with a romantic sense of seclusion.

    The Crane offers three main types of accommodations: the Historic Hotel Apartments, Private Residences and Penthouse Villas.
    The Historic Hotel: The Crane has preserved the historical flair of the lavish 18th century mansion that is the original centerpiece of the present resort. All 18 of The Crane’s original historic hotel part boast charming, spacious oceanfront apartments with hardwood floors, 12′ ceilings and exquisite antique furniture. Many rooms in this unique building also feature fully equipped kitchens and wrap-around balconies with spectacular ocean views.
    The Private Residences combine 19th century grandeur and furnishings with twenty-first century luxuries, conveniences and world-class amenities. The furniture includes hand-crafted Barbadian mahogany furniture, objects d’art, mahogany four-poster king size beds, spa showers with multiple shower heads, private Jacuzzis, oriental carpets, cable TVs, and DVD players, modern kitchen facilities and central air-conditioning. The setting, however, provides the true feel of the property: old-world coral stone walls, 10′ high timber tray ceilings, floor-to-ceiling marble bathrooms, and amazing ocean views. The residences range from spacious junior suites to 3-bedroom apartments. Each ground floor residence at The Crane carries a full-sized pool with a “disappearing edge,” while all upstairs two-bedroom residences feature private plunge pools.
    Penthouse Villas: Located within the extensive grounds of The Crane Resort, each villa ranges in size from 2,900 to 4,000 sq. ft. of luxurious space, featuring three- bedroom and four- bathroom suites which open up to the expansive yet private balcony and plunge pool with spectacular ocean views. They are centrally air-conditioned throughout, some Penthouse Villas offering roof terraces for private sunbathing and outdoor grilling. The Penthouse Villas’ unique setting within a resort offers discerning guests the best of both worlds- the space and comfort of an exclusive villa and the services of a first class resort.

    The Beach & the Pools: Crane Beach Resort is recognized by its stunning beauty – it was named “one of the Ten Best Beaches in the World” by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Protected by a natural coral reef, Crane Beach boasts one of the best swimming venues on the island of Barbados. Besides being safe and having a gentle descent from shallow to deep, the pink, powder-soft sand is also wonderful on your feet as there are no sea urchins, stones or coral underneath. The only surprise you might have is the occasional turtle swimming along the outer perimeters.

    Besides the beach, The Crane is also world-famous for it’s pools… The main cliff top pool with Doric columns has fascinated many photographers and artists. It overlooks the scenic beach and the wild beauty of the Atlantic ocean. It has a maximum depth of ten feet. Professional photography sessions featuring our stunning cliff edge pool are routinely requested, but are severely limited to protect the guests’ privacy.
    The resort has recently opened a new 1.5 acre multi-cascading pool complex, with a spectacular setting against the rugged cliff face of the Atlantic. The new pools, designed by renowned Venezuelan landscape architect John Stoddard, encompass 300,000 gallons of swimmable water. Offering fabulous views from several different pool decks, three free-form lagoon pools are now set into the cliff side, connected by a series of three waterfalls, one falling 15 feet over a rubble wall with a seating area under the waterfall. At the top of the area, a fourth infinity edge pool sits between two restored ruins and features spectacular views of both the resort and the sea. This infinity pool is backed by a fish pond and cascading waterfall.

    One thing worth mentioning is the rich HISTORIC HERITAGE of the place…
    Two centuries ago, the formation of Crane Beach’s protective coral reef was different, permitting small trading ships to sail in and out safely and a small commercial port to develop. On the cliff where the present Crane House now stands was a crane used for raising and lowering cargo. This crane provided the district’s name.
    1769, The “Horse”: In the 18th century it was considered improper for ladies to be seen bathing in public. Sea-bathing, however had become so popular that by 1769 at least one discreet bathing place had been constructed near The Crane. It was referred to as the “Horse” and was approached by steps cut into the sea cliff. The stairs to the “horse” can still be seen descending from the far side of the south of The Crane, much as it was in 1769.
    1790, Marine Villa: From the mid-18th century, southeastern Barbados was frequented by the island’s plantation owners and prosperous merchants. They were attracted by the cool breezes, stimulating climate and beneficial sea-bathing, which toward the end of the 1700’s was recognized for its recuperative qualities. The area’s main building was the mansion known as Marine Villa, which exists almost in its original state and forms the east section of the Crane Hotel. The style of its windows and casements suggests it was built about 1790.
    1887, Barbados First Resort: In 1886, civil engineer Donald Simpson bought Marine Villa with an idea of  expanding the house and opening it as a hotel. Simpson’s hotel venture was encouraged by development of the railway in 1881 to Sunbury, St. Philip from Bridgetown. Simpson completed the first addition to Marine Villa with the addition of four coral stone apartments that comprise the south wing of the hotel (Rooms 1,2,8 and 9). Among The Crane’s early twentieth century innovations was replacing its oil lamps with electrical lamps powered from The Crane’s own dynamo. (A windmill like structure behind the hotel can be seen in the old photos hanging by the entrance to the hotel.) By 1922 The Crane had 18 bedrooms and was noted to be growingly popular among honeymooners – and of course a favorite hideaway for some of the world’s “rich and famous”. One of the first celebrities to stay at The Crane was the famous American cowboy, “Wild Bill” Hickock who after staying at The Crane in the 1890’s left his gold chain as payment for his room charges. Hickock’s gold chain is still in the possession of the Simpson family in Barbados.

    The guests at The Crane can enjoy a truly fabulous dining experience at its two restaurants.
    L’Azure Restaurant has achieved several distinctions including two silver awards at the Barbados Hotel and Dining Festival and À La Carte Magazine’s prestigious Gold Award for Light Cuisine. The atmosphere speaks of elegance and beauty as patrons sit inside or on the balcony where they can view spectacular Crane Beach in all its splendor while they dine. There is a wonderful Sunday brunch with live Caribbean gospel music in the morning and a traditional Barbadian Sunday buffet lunch. The 2009 Zagat review describes the gospel breakfast as “Heaven on Earth” and praises the “simply breathtaking views of gorgeous Crane Beach.”
    The Crane’s renowned Zen Restaurant features classic Thai and Japanese cuisine in a stunning setting overlooking Crane Beach. Zen features traditional Tatami rooms, an exquisite sushi bar and the option for guests to enjoy private dining. The 2009 Zagat Guide to the Best of Barbados rated Zen restaurant “Barbados’ No. 1 for Food.”
    The Carriage House was once the official stable of the historic “Crane Beach Hotel” over 100 years ago. From the menu, one can expect to be served up a variety of light and delectable food items and tropical cocktails throughout the day. This area is suitable for cocktail events and can be transformed from a casual atmosphere to one of elegance and extravagance.

    Click to see a short video of The Crane

    And now to the good part…
    Until the end of January The Crane offers an amazing deal:
    30% off all room rates plus $100 USD food and beverage credit per room!  

    Booking Dates: January 1st thru to February 28th, 2009.
    Travel Dates: January 1st thru to October 31st, 2009.
    Minimum Stay: 3 nights.
    Not combinable with any other existing offers and applicable to new bookings only.

    This offer can be booked through some Canadian tour operators – contact us for details!

    To read more about the island: Barbados: Yellow for the Sand, Blue for the Sky and the Sea

    Barbados: Yellow for the Sand, Blue for the Sky and the Sea

    Yellow for the Sand, Blue for the Sky and the Sea… These are the colors of Barbados! It is THE place for sophisticated sun-seekers who want their Caribbean vacation to be more than just a daily swim in the pool! A charismatic island rich in culture, with miles of palm fringed beaches and a perfect climate boasting year-round sunshine. Beach freaks, sports enthusiasts, nature lovers and party people all love the charm of this Caribbean paradise. Explore the land of magnificent beaches, sugar cane fields, exotic botanical gardens, colorful wooden houses and rum shops. Be delighted by the Bajan hospitality, as this is one of the fondest memories you will take home with you!

    The SOUTH COAST of Barbados is a curious mixture of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This coast is more lively than the West Coast but calmer than the restless shores in the East. The South coast offers something for everyone – calm swimming, snorkeling over inshore reefs and tidal pools, and at the southernmost tip of the island – windsurfing.
    The South Coast is home to such attractions as St. Lawrence Gap, Mt. Gay Rum Distilleries, Ocean Park Aquarium and of course the capital city, Bridgetown.

    The WEST COAST of Barbados is often referred to as the “Platinum Coast” and is renowned for the clear warm waters that lap gently onto golden sands. This coast is ideal for your Caribbean vacation whether it is a family holiday or a romantic getaway.
    At each of the many beaches you will find the calm azure waters of the Caribbean Sea with clean coral sands, a perfect picture of a serene Caribbean paradise. Nearby attractions include the Harrison’s Cave, Folkestone Marine Park and Barbados Wildlife Reserve. The bigger settlements are Holetown and Speightstown.

    On the “Wild” EAST COAST huge Atlantic waves crash along the shore and these beaches are better suited for walking and sunning. However there are a few good places to splash along this coast – as the waves break over rocks and reefs, small pools are formed close to shore – natural swimming pools! The area is less developed but it is famous for its natural beauty. Sights include the Andromeda Gardens, Morgan Lewis Windmill and St. John’s Parish Church.

    Barbados offers a wide variety of HOTELS for any price range – from moderate self-contained units to beachfront luxury resorts. Some hotels offer all-inclusive plans but most properties price themselves as “room-only”. If you decide in the favour of a room with a kitchenette – you can save on the restaurant bills, but be aware that even the basic groceries in the supermarkets are quite pricey. Here is a few choices to look at, something for every taste and budget.

    Mango Bay Hotel

    Mango Bay ***+, Holetown, St. James
    Mango Bay is definitely my personal favourite! This property gives you the carefree all inclusive plans in intimate and friendly settings of a small resort in a premium beachfront location. Mango Bay offers 76 guest rooms all of which with furnished balconies or patios. All rooms include 1 king bed, twin beds are available on request. The one-bedroom feature a separate living/dining area and are ideal for families. For those who desire more luxurious accommodations, the two Penthouse Suites are located on the West End of the 4th floor of the main building of the hotel. These wrap-around suites are glass enclosed on two sides, feature a separate living area and offer panoramic ocean views. Since 2007 guests can enjoy relaxing treatments at the “Elements” spa.
    The cozy on-site beachfront restaurant offers nightly live entertainment and meals that are a mixture of buffet and table d’hote options, featuring a fusion of Caribbean and International cuisine. The restaurants, bars and boutiques of fashionable Holetown are just steps away and the capital, Bridgetown, is a 25-minute drive south. Rack rates start from $USD 385 for DBL room, low season, all inclusive.

    Settlers Beach

    Settlers Beach

    Settlers Beach ****+, Holetown, St. James
    Settlers Beach is a tranquil beachfront property, located on the posh West coast of Barbados, within walking distance of Holetown. It offers accommodation in luxurious bungalow- and townhouse-style villas that can be used as one- and two-bedroom units.The 22 villas are scattered around in the tropical gardens centering around a beautiful freshwater pool with an elegantly tiled deck. The villas are set far enough apart to ensure privacy and comfort, yet close enough to be neighborly. The hotel features an on-site Italian restaurant and lounge “Spago”. Hotel guests can get passes to a nearby fitness facility and tennis courts, etc.  There is a nice but small white sand beach, which can be quite lively during peak periods – but the guests can use the beach of the next door The Sandpiper Hotel as well. Adjacent Holetown offers different choices for entertainment and dining.
    Rack rates start from $USD 334 for Garden/Pool Villa and $262 for an Apartment, DBL occupancy, no meals, low season.

    Colony Club

    Colony Club

    Colony Club ****, Porters, St. James
    Colony Club is a magnificently restored former gentlemen’s club, where old world charm meets new world standards of quality and comfort. Arriving at Colony Club is like being transported back to a bygone era of elegance, you know that an exceptional experience awaits. The grand Casuarina lined driveway leads to a beautiful hotel set by a fine stretch of beach. This hotel offers impeccable service, luxury accommodation, complimentary water sports and spectacular natural surroundings. Its pleasant ambience expands to all 96 of its tastefully appointed guest rooms and suites. Four lagoon-style pools flow through seven acres of tropical gardens, reviving the times in its legendary history. Guests will enjoy a beach and poolside concierge service, 2 restaurants and bars, internet access, complementary water sports etc. Additional room types and meals packages are available upon request. Rack rates start from $USD 285 DBL pool/garden view room, no meals, low season.

    Almond Casuarina Beach Hotel

    Almond Casuarina Beach resort ****, Dover Beach, Christ Church
    Almond Casuarina Beach Resort is set on 10 acres of tropical gardens, with numerous mature trees and lush tropical foliage, bordering on the white sands of Dover Beach, not far from the St. Lawrence gap. This newly refurbished resort was opened in 2007. Combining beautiful natural settings with elegant sophistication, it comprises 267 rooms in total, divided into 6 categories and located in several blocks set in the tropical gardens. They offer all beach facilities, 3 pools, full-service spa, kids’ club, etc. The Almond Casuarina Beach has a selection of 3 gourmet restaurants and 4 bars – and similar to Almond Beach Village and Almond Beach Club & Spa, guests can take a shuttle to enjoy dining at the Almond sister resorts.
    Rack rates start from $USD 615 for DBL room, all inclusive, low season.

    The Crane Resort

    The Crane Resort

    The Crane Resort and Residences ****, The Crane, St. Philip
    Set on the world-famous Crane Beach, overlooking a perfect azure blue sea, the Crane Resort is the Caribbean’s first resort hotel. This unique landmark hotel built in 1887 and fully restored and expanded since then, has an enchanting ambience, elegance, old-world charm and incredible natural beauty with a romantic sense of seclusion. Developed on a phased basis from its original 18 rooms over the last eight years, today this premier residential resort features 202 rooms, 3 restaurants, a 1.5 acre multi-cascading pool complex and a beach that has been rated one of the ten best beaches in the world. This hotel has many room categories available, such as 1-Bedroom Oceanview Suite, suites with private pools, etc. Meal plan options are available.
    Rack rates start from $USD 150 for standard DBL room, no meals, low season.

    Island Inn

    Island Inn

    Island Inn ** , Aquatic Gap, Bridgetown area, St. Michael
    Island Inn was originally constructed in 1804 as the Rum Store for the British Military. This small and friendly hotel is a nicely restored and refurbished. The inn’s historic Garrison Building features a large central courtyard. Each of the 23 rooms is unique -the ones in the original historic building feature four-poster mahogany beds set against the 200-year old exposed brick, the newer block offers spacious rooms with Caribbean style furnishings, most have patios opening to the pool or the gardens. The delightful tropical setting of this all-inclusive hotel is great for weddings, cocktail parties, and al fresco dining. It is two minutes walk from the beach and less than a mile from the centre of Bridgetown. The friendly service of this place has given it good reviews on various interactive hotel sites. Rack rates start from $USD 210 for DBL room, low season, all inclusive.

    All Seasons Europa Resort

    All Seasons Europa Resort

    All Seasons Hotel Europa ***, Palm Ave, Sunset Crest, St. James
    All Seasons Hotel Europa is a newly renovated apartment hotel, one of the island’s best value properties. Tucked away from the main road amidst tropical coconut trees, the hotel is within walking distance of the beach, offering a total of 48 cottage style units with full kitchen facilities and token-operated air conditioning. Surrounded by well-kept gardens, the hotel is an ideal spot for a totally relaxing Barbados break. There is a basic bar/restaurant on the property and there is a variety of shops, restaurants and bars in the nearby Holetown. The resort offers complimentary scheduled bus service to nearby beaches and attractions. Continental breakfast packages are available upon request. Rack rates start from $USD 140 for DBL poolside room, no meals, low season.

    Click here to download a brochure featuring a selection of 2009 flight & hotel packages to Barbados from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal!

    RainCheck: Bad weather can give you a FREE vacation!

    There is an interesting new product out on the Canadian travel market. If the vacation of your dreams end up being a big rainfest and you wind up watching TV in your hotel room instead of enjoyig the sun & surf – then you will be happy that you bought RainCheck. It is no replacement for an umbrella, but it will give you a FREE second chance for that sunny beach holiday …

    Raincheck is basicalli weather protection insurance and is offered exclusively by the Thomas Cook Canada brands of Sunquest, Holiday House and Fun Sun Vacations. It entitles you to a future travel voucher representing the base cost of your holiday (excluding transportation-related fees, taxes and surcharges and travel agency booking fees and charges), should it rain for more than half your holiday.

    So how is the “damage” estmated? It must rain 0.5″/12.7mm in a 24-hour period (12am to 11:59pm) on at least half of the total number of days of your stay, including travel days (ie. for a 7- night stay, it must rain at least 4 days; for a 14-night stay, it must rain at least 8 days). Weather conditions are monitored and validated by an independent, third-party weather data provider called ‘WeatherBill’.

    RainCheck is ONLY available on winter ITC package holiday bookings until April 30, 2009, applicable to minimum 3-night stays and to a maximum of 21-night stays in the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Florida and California, with the exception of Los Cabos (which will be available soon), Ixtapa, St. Martin/St. Maarten, Cozumel, Mazatlan, Liberia (Costa Rica), Bermuda, Turks & Caicos and Kona. RainCheck is not available on cruises as it is impossible to measure and calculate rainfall on a moving ship.

    The travel voucher can be used for future package or land-only holiday of same value or less and has to be booked with the same brand as the original vacation, by 30 September, 2009.

    You can buy RainCheck insurance from your travel agent, at least 10 days before your departure. The cost is $39.95 CAD.

    Merry Christmas: The Estonian Way…

    Estonians make traditional Christmas ornaments out of straw

    Estonians make traditional Christmas ornaments out of straw

    In the folk tradition of Estonia Christmas has a double meaning: on one hand it is the sign of the birth of Christ, but on the other hand it represents the whole period of holidays celebrated in mid-winter – “Jõulud”. This name has old Scandinavian roots and comes from the word Jul, which has no connection to Christianity.

    It is an interesting fact that only in Scandinavia and Estonia a word of pre-Christian origin – Jõulud is used to speak about Christmas. In southern Estonia, another name, talvistepüha (Winter Feast) is also used. It is thought that this name is a direct influence of Estonia’s southern neighbor Latvia, where Christmas is known as Ziemas svetki (Winter Feast).

    The holidays fall on a period of winter solstice, when the day is the shortest and the night the longest in a year. According to folk tradition, during that time, the sun lay in a nest and the coming of the day was celebrated as the birth of Sun. Starting on that day, the sun rose higher and higher.

    In pre-Christian times, celebration began on the 21st of December (The Feast of St. Thomas). With Christianization, pagan customs intertwined with Christian traditions, and the names of pagan holidays were adopted by Christians.

    People began preparing special dishes, the brewing of beer began, and the house was thoroughly cleaned. At that time special crowns were hung from the ceiling and straw was spread on the floor. Despite its connection with the biblical story of the birth of Christ, the tradition of Christmas straw may come from pre-Christian times. In Estonia straw (sometimes also hay) was brought into the house for the whole holiday period. Furthermore the last bundle of corn cut during harvest was brought into the house. In time of Yuletide many games were played on straw. One tradition dealt with predicting if the future harvest will be good. Straw was thrown in the direction of the ceiling and the more of it hung on the perch the better the harvest would be.

    According to tradition all work outside the house had to be finished before Christmas Eve. Pigs had already been slaughtered and beer had been brewed. Milling, spinning, geese plucking or horse-back riding were forbidden since they made a lot of noise and could disturb friendly spirits.

    During Christmas Eve several meals were eaten to ensure oneself plenty of food for the upcoming year. The table was not cleaned for the night, and all the dishes were left on it so that the spirits of the dead could celebrate the holidays. It was expected that they would show up in the same place which they inhabited while alive. The fire in the furnace was kept going through the whole night. All the curtains were drawn so that the fire’s light wouldn’t hurt the new-grown crops. The sign of the cross was also placed upon the door to protect the home from wicked spirits. On Christmas Eve night animals were also fed bread.

    Christmas Eve night was also a time of fortune-telling. Based on the stars and frost next year’s weather was predicted. The size of the harvest in the upcoming year was also foretold.

    The Christmas holidays in the peasant communities in inner Estonia differed greatly from the holidays of the fishermen communities from the coast. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve were traditional domestic holidays. Starting on December 26th relatives, friends, and neighbors were visited. On the night of December 27th Christmas was “sent away”. This time was often spent having fun in the local taverns. The time until December 30th was known as “half-holidays” – work was avoided. People visited each other and had a lot of fun.

    Nowadays the traditions have changed – Advent calendars are bought and they are used to measure the time left until the holidays. Another tradition connected with waiting for Christmas is the lighting of Advent candles. At that time children put slippers on the window, and elves bring them gifts each day – sweets, toys and sometimes books.

    On the Feast of St. Thomas (December 21st) Christmas tree is decorated and put in a place of honor. Rooms are also decorated. Traditionally Estonian Christmas trees are decorated with lights and other ornaments, and they remain as such until the Feast of Three Kings (January 6th).

    In comparison with other Estonian Christmas traditions the custom of decorating the Christmas tree is rather new as it was only adopted from a German tradition somewhere in the middle of the XIX century. In cities the custom of decorating the Christmas tree in the home was adopted by Estonians, from the local German populace. This tradition was spread among villagers by the Baltic-German aristocracy. Its members organized special Christmas gatherings in their manor houses during which they gave gifts to their serfs and their children. Soon the custom of having Christmas trees in schools, churches, and peasant houses (along with Christmas straw) became very popular. Evergreen fir was always chosen as a Christmas tree, and only in some regions, where this tree was not present (e.g. the island of Kihnu) fir was replaced with a pine. The tree was decorated in a very simple way with primitive toys and sweets and later candles were lit.

    Jőululaupäev – Christmas Eve
    On Christmas Eve Estonians always go to mass. Before leaving for mass there was a tradition of bathing in the sauna. The tradition of taking a steam bath was common throughout the country. This was also done during the day of summer solstice. In the past children were given clothes so that they could look festive during the evening mass. After returning from church, a large table awaited them, on which there was food and a lit candle. There was also additional tableware which symbolized the longing for relatives who were away or who have departed forever. Food was left on the table overnight for the good spirits, elves and fairies to enjoy.

    Christmas in Estonia means traditional Estonian food: pork or goose and Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) with potatoes, blood sausage with lingoberry jam and meat jelly with vinegar or pickled pumpkin salad. There are also fruit and different kinds of sweets and cakes. Gingersnaps are made by the majority of the families, it is part of Christmas festivities. Gingersnaps are made of different shapes – gingerbread men and women, little stars and moons, birds, cats, dogs and bears.

    Christmas Eve is a day full of mystery, wonders, and magic. On Christmas Eve gifts appear under the tree, which are placed there unnoticed by Jőuluvana – St. Nicholas (the tradition of St. Nicholas bringing gifts is fairly new but it has already been adopted for good). In some families the actual dressed-up St. Nicholas actually knocks on the door and brings gifts to the children. He comes to Estonia from Lapland on a large sled, with a huge bag full of gifts, drawn by reindeer. Gifts are opened right after Christmas Eve dinner. Children as well as adults must sing a song, say a poem, or dance in order to receive their gift.

    On the 24th of December each year, the president of Estonia declares Christmas a time of peace and takes part in a ceremonial service. This custom has a 350-year old tradition and was first declared in the XVIII century by the decree of the Swedish queen Christine.

    In earlier times a very popular tradition in Estonia was the making of special Christmas crowns which were supposed to imitate church candlesticks (or it was a tradition connected with the Feast of the Three Kings). This custom probably came from western and southern Finland where it was very popular among the local Swedish speaking populace, especially that which inhabited the island Vormsi. They kept close ties with their relatives in Finland and Sweden. This tradition disappeared at the beginning of the XX century and was replaced with other Christmas symbols. In the 1970’s it resurfaced and became very popular once again.

    History Meets Hospitality: Estonian Manor House Hotels

    Grand Suite at the Kalvi Castle Hotel
    Grand Suite at the Kalvi Castle Hotel

    In Estonia there are hundreds of outstanding well-preserved historical mansions, some with a history dating back to the 14th century. Estonians are proud of their historical heritage and manor houses definitely are an attractive and popular part of countryside sightseeing.   These architectural pearls in the Estonian landscape have survived over time and carry the memories of their adventurous past. Many of them are restored and live on as private estates or museums, some stand “conserved”, awaiting for their better times – and some lay in bleak, although bitter-sweetly romantic ruins.

    About 100 years ago there were 1,245 manors in Estonia. During the “Soviet times”, many of the manor houses were looted and the premises were used as schoolhouses, military training centres, state farm offices, warehouses or even tenements. Along with the privatization, many manor houses were restored into their former glory and some of them are open to visitors as hotels. As different as the manors themselves, the hotels are very different as well, ranging from 5-star countryside palaces to modest but charming little inns. Most manor house sites originate from the Medieval Times and have a rich and colourful history. Most current buildings usually date back a few hundred years as the original houses have been rebuilt and replaced with more “modern” ones through the centuries.
    Here is a little overview of the Estonian manor house hotel scene. Maybe this helps you to choose your favourite!

    Kalvi Castle

    Kalvi Castle

    Kalvi Castle**** stands on a high cliff on the northern coast. From the windows impressive views open up over the sea and surrounding countryside. It’s harder to imagine a more romantic castle: constructed entirely from granite, with jagged corner towers and scaled frontons. Its appearance is Gothic from the outside, but from the inside is thoroughly modernised, with all possible conveniences. In the Medieval Times was there a fortress here, mentioned as belonging to the family of Lode in 1485. In 1512 Dietrich von Kalff became the owner of the property, from whom the name Kalvi originates. The main house, designed in the 1770s by Gustav von Essen, burned down in 1911 and the owner, Nikolai von Stackelberg had to build a new home. After the Soviet era In 1993 the Stackelberg family got their manor back and it was sold to Danish businessman Henning Lykke Jensen, who started renovating the castle into a hotel. A luxurious hotel was opened in the old building in 2002. Among the 27 elegant rooms there are also three suites. The hotel has a fine a la carte restaurant, which serves food made from produce grown in the manor’s own garden. The cuisine is a mixture of international and local. Exclusive rooms and high-tech equipment are offered for those holding conferences. Visitors can use the gym, solarium, so-called health capsule, Turkish and Finnish saunas, and pool, tennis courts and walk in the woods or go to the nearby beach.
    Location: Estonian North coast, near Aseri, between Rakvere and Kohtla-Järve
    Rooms: 27
    Prices range:
    from 150 USD for Standard Single Room, low season
    to 460 USD for Royal Suite Deluxe, high season
    The building is truly stunning, but the interior does not quite match the impression…

    Saka Cliff Hotel & Spa

    Saka Cliff Hotel & Spa

    Saka Cliff Hotel & Spa*** is located on the high coastal cliff on Estonia’s North coast near Kohtla-Järve. Saka Manor was established in about 1629, when the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf gave the possession as a gift to Jörgen Letzle who as to some data had travelled to the Baltics from Scotland. In the 18th century the manor became the part of the huge possessions of Otto Magnus von Stackelberg who owned the close Püssi, Kohtla, Ereda and Purtse manors and who was one of the major land owners in Estonia. In the II half of the 19th century the family of Löwis of Menar acquired Saka manor and used it as their summer residence. The mansion was completed in 1864, a two-storied stone building in Neo-Renaissance style, with the then modern flat roofs, windows grouped with plaster peripheries and high openings with central tower. For the last 60 years Saka manor has predominantly been in military use and therefore inaccessible to the public. New life arrived to Saka in 2000s when the state sold the manor complex to private ownership. The manor buildings sit in outstanding landscape, right in the edge of the 50-metre high cliff steep. The idyllic spa-hotel and restaurant was opened in 2004 in one of the buildings, the landscaping has been updated and the grand staircase takes you from the cliff down to the seashore. The more than 20-metres high Saka waterfall falling down the bank in the edge of the park is an amazing sight.
    Location: Estonian North coast, near Kohtla-Järve
    Rooms: 33
    Prices range:
    from 85 USD for Standard Single room
    to 165 USD for Family Room

    Vihula Manor

    Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa

    Vihula Manor ***+ is one of the most picturesque mansions in the Northern Estonia. The manor of Vihula was first mentioned in 1501 as the ownership of Hans Lode. In 1605-1810 the possession belonged to Helffreich family and in 1810-1919 to the Schubert family. The latter could manage the remainder manor also in 1930s up to the year 1939 when they moved back to Germany. The original wooden manor house burned down in the 19th century, the current main stone house was built, being most probably the work of architect Friedrich Modi. Different outbuildings are scattered along the coasts of picturesque Mustoja river. The distillery, the cattle yard, smithy etc are located on the island of the river. The restoring of the manor complex that was started twenty years ago, progresses gradually. Some of the historical equipment can be reviewed in the old watermill and in the working smithy. In 2007-2010 the manor complex is continuing to undergo a complete and total restoration in order to preserve the historical heritage and protect the nature as much as possible and at the same time to give a modern functionality to the buildings and the area. The hotel was opened as the Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa by Uniquestay Hotels in June 2008, offering 2 single standard rooms, 21 ZEN rooms and 5 ZEN suites. All ZEN rooms include whirlpool-baths, bathrobes, slippers, extra bathroom amenities, mini-bars and hairdryers. The rooms are renovated by maintaining all historical details. The estate also features the Ice cellar Tavern and Terrace, Oil Granary Seminar Room, Palm House Conference and Banquet Room, the Tea House, sauna and bike rental. Besides cycling and rowing on Paisjärv, one can just walk around the picturesque surroundings.
    Location: Estonian North coast, between Võsu and Haljala
    Rooms: 28
    Prices range:
    from 110 USD per ZEN Double Room, low season
    to 195 USD for ZEN Suite, high season

    Park Hotel Palmse

    Park Hotel Palmse

    Palmse Park Hotel **+ is located on the grounds of Palmse, Estonia’s probably best known manor house. The Lahemaa National Park foundation began fixing up Palmse in 1972 and by the end of the 1980s, the entire complex was renovated: the main building, sheds and barns, the owner’s house and coach house, glasshouse and other buildings. The big wooded park with pavements and pavilions was cleaned up. It was the first manor complex which gave a full overview of a typical Estonian manor throughout the centuries. And most importantly: Palmse started the boom of manor house renovation. From the 13th century until 1510 Palmse belonged to the Tallinn Mihkli Convent. In 1676 it went to the Pahlen family for 250 years, until they were dispossessed. The mansion is one of the few preserved from the days of the Swedish rule, dating back to 1679. The present form of the building stems from rebuilding in 1782 to 1785. Before 1850, the granary, distillery with a high chimney, horse barn, carriage house and shelter were built. Next to the pond a pillared rotunda and bathing house were constructed (which at the moment is a café). The Pahlen family was highly respected by the nobility and farmers alike. Carl Magnus von der Pahlen was a militarist and took part in the wars against Napoleon. Between 1830 and 1845 he was the Governor General of Estonia, Liivimaa and Kuramaa. Today, Palmse is one of the manors which receives the highest number of visitors. There is a museum in the mansion and the Lahemaa National Park’s visitors centre is located in the barn. One of the largest of the group of buildings in the manor complex is the former distillery which has been rebuilt into a hotel, opened in 1995 and was renovated in 2002. The hotel has 28 rooms including 24 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms and 1 junior suite. All rooms have sat-TV, Internet access and private bathroom/WC. The hotel has restaurant, bar, sauna and 2 conference rooms for 15-45 persons.
    Location: Estonian North coast, near Võsu
    Rooms: 28
    Prices range:
    from 65 USD for Standard Single, low season
    to 130 USD for Junior Suite, high season
    Budget accommodation in noble surroundings. It is said that the water quality at the hotel is somewhat problematic.

    Hotel Sagadi Manor

    Hotel Sagadi Manor

    Sagadi Manor*** is located on the boundary of Lahemaa National Park. What makes Sagadi manorial estate unique is the integrity of the complex – numerous buildings with gleaming red tiled roofs together with the estate gardens and ponds are arranged with baroque symmetry in the carefully manicured park. The history of the estate dates back more than 500 years. In 1687 the manor went into the hands of Gideon von Fock and with small breaks belonged to the family of Fock up to the year 1919. In 1749-1753 the one-storied mansion house with the rococo facade was completed. In about 1793 it was re-designed as early classicistic. The outbuildings in the front were built at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries.
    The onetime wealth of the Sagadi lords of the manor was partly founded on the forest. The estate was renovated by the forestry organisation in the 1970s, and even now, the State Forest Management Centre (RMK) – manages the Sagadi manorial estate. The manor park with pond was cleaned and the dendropark with 100 species was additionally established. The main building is a museum but can also be rented for events. Sagadi Forest museum introduces its guests to the nature of forests and forestry and forest management throughout history.
    Sagadi has a newly renovated hotel, located in one of the outbuildings dating back to 1749. It was opened in 1998 and expanded in 2006. The hotel has 29 rooms: 2 standard singles, 2 standard doubles, 14 standard twins, 10 superior twins and 1 superior double. All rooms are equipped with sat-TV, telephone, Internet access and private facilities with shower or bathtub. The hotel has an a la carte restaurant seating up to 80 guests, bar, sauna and 4 conference rooms for 24-100 persons.
    The manorial estate has also a 35-bed hostel on the grounds for the guests opting for more modest accommodation. The hostel is located next to the mansion, in the historic Steward’s House. The thick walled 18th century building has been developed into a comfortable venue for modest accommodation as well as for relaxed social events in the spacious hall with fire place and seating for up to 40 people – and the wood fire heated traditional Finnish sauna. The six bedrooms of the hostel have a total of 35 beds.
    Location: Estonian North coast, near Võsu
    Rooms: 28
    Hotel prices range: 
    from 85 USD for Standard Single, low season
    to 150 USD for Deluxe Room, high season

    Pädaste Manor

    Pädaste Manor

    Pädaste Manor***** is one of the true hidden jewels of the Estonian hotel scene. The origins of the manor go back to the 14th century, some of these ancient walls are still visible at the very heart of the house. It has been the property of the von Knorrings, the von Aderkas’es and the von Buxhoevdens. The earliest written history of Pädaste Manor dates back to 1566. On the 25th of June of that year Fredrik II, King of Denmark handed the manor over to the von Knorr family in recognition of services rendered to the Danish Crown. In the late 19th century Baron Axel von Buxhoeveden had, as the Imperial Hunting Master an influential position at the court of Czar Nicholas II. Together with his wife Charlotte, heiress to the Siemens company, he brought a touch of worldly splendour to the sleepy Muhu Island. Von Buxhoeveden renovated his manors in Kuivastu and Pädaste. The Pädaste house was expanded considerably and given a new façade, hence the harmonious dimensions and clean lines which give the house its character today. The buildings that frame the courtyard were erected between 1870 and 1890, a period in which the German-Baltic nobles enjoyed great wealth.
    The summers at Pädaste became cultural delights as Charlotte brought artists and musicians with her when she moved with her entourage from St. Petersburg to Muhu for the summer. Alexander took a special interest in landscaping, one might call him an arborist; whenever he traveled abroad he would bring back rare species, they until today make up the beautiful variety at the park of Pädaste Manor. In the winter of 1919 Axel von Buxhoeveden was brutally assassinated by revolutionaries while on his way from Pädaste Manor to the mainland. Charlotte von Siemens fled to Brandenburg the next day. Seven hundred years of family presence on Muhu that had started with their forefather Albert von Buxhoeveden’s conquest of the Island in 1227 came to an abrupt end.
    After years of neglect during the Soviet period in which the use of the manor alternated between army headquarter, fish distribution center and home for the elderly until its abandonment in the early 80’s, the endeavour was taken up in 1996 to restore Pädaste Manor to new splendour, with the goal to create one of the finest hotels in the Baltic countryside.
    Elegant in its simplicity, this 16th century manor has been transformed into a small luxury resort and spa that has every desirable luxury including a delightful view of the sea. There are 14 newly renovated rooms and suites in the Main Building, 9 rooms and suites in the Carriage House and a 140 m2 Private Farm House that can house up to 6 guests. There is a small and intimate spa with a wide range of facilities including a Roman steam bath and a wood-burning sauna to enhance the comprehensive menu of treatments. The manor also has a small state-of-the-art private cinema. Pädaste’s Seahouse restaurant was selected by American Gourmet Magazine as one of top 100 in the world and the Tatler Travel Guide 2005 named Pädaste manor as one of the 10 best boutique hotels worldwide. Pädaste is the only remaining manor complex on Muhu Island and one of the very few in Estonia with a private shoreline.
    Location: Muhu Island
    Rooms: 24
    Prices range:
    from 210 USD for Double Room in the Carriage House, low season
    to 850 USD for Grand Suite in the Manor House, high season
    Truly impressive! Pädaste Manor was awarded the official 5* rating in 2009.

    Taagepera Castle

    Taagepera Castle

    Taagepera Castle*** stands on a hill like an ambassador from the dim old times, in the midst of the beautiful Valgamaa landscape. The house could originate from the troll stories – relation with the Nordic countries, especially with the Finnish national romantic architecture is obvious. The Art Nouveau style castle was ordered by Hugo von Stryk and this was completed in the years 1907-1912 according to the plan of the architect Otto Wildau from Riga. The central rooms of the castle – the arched stair hall, hunting hall – are located in the lower floor. The rooms have been planned according to an English hunting castle: huge fireplace, numerous dark wooden panels, leather sofas, showcase cabinets. The unique view to the surrounding landscape and to the outbuildings opens up from the tower. The park is surrounded by the wall of quarry stone which has two stylish arched gates. In 1922, the manor was given in the Ministry of Health Care and the building was used as a sanatorium until 2000, when it was turned into a hotel. Since May 2003 it operates as an exclusive hotel and conference centre, offering 32 spacious rooms for a total of 60 guests. In the wings of the castle two floors have been authentically furnished, the rooms and suites with contemporary comforts. In the first floor the classical restaurant with the excellent kitchen and the conference and banquet halls are located. It is possible to order massages and enjoy the steam of the genuine Finnish sauna.
    Location: Valgamaa, near Tõrva
    Rooms: 32
    Prices range
    from 85 USD for Standard Single Room
    to 300 USD for the Suite

    Mäetaguse Manor Hotel "Meintack"

    Mäetaguse Manor Hotel "Meintack"

    Mõisahotell Meintack** is located in the Mäetaguse Manor, one of the nicest manor ensembles in Ida-Virumaa, consisting of ten buildings, surrounded by a ten hectare park. In the history books Mäetaguse manor was first mentioned in 1542, its founder was Peter von Tiesenhausen. In 1638 the manor went to Fabian von Wrangell through marriage. In the time between 1680 and 1690, Baron Ungern-Sternberg was renting the manor. In 1736 it was sold to Otto Fabian von Rosen in whose family it remained for nearly two centuries. The present main house was built in the time of Eugenius Octave von Rosen in 1796. In 1890 it was renovated and the current lay-out dates back to that point. The restored Classical mansion is very representative of the era and boasts a richly decorated interior. In January 2006 Meintack Manor Hotel opened in the former carriage house. All bedrooms all fairly basic and include a bathroom with shower, TV and landline phone and Wi-Fi internet. It is possible to add extra beds into the larger rooms. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar. There is a conference centre in the main building and a Bath House Spa with an indoor pool offering a discount to hotel guests.
    Location: Eastern Virumaa, near Jõhvi
    Rooms: 24
    Prices range
    from 50 USD for Standard Single
    to 110 USD for Suite

    Vihterpalu Manor

    Vihterpalu Manor

    Vihterpalu Manor **** was already mentioned in the Middle Ages as the possession of Lihula and Padise Monastery. In 1622 the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf gave Vihterpalu with the manor of Padise and island of Suur-Pakri as a gift to Thomas von Ramm, the mayor of Riga. The late classicistic main building of the manor of Vihterpalu originates from the 1830s. The family of Ramm possessed the manor up to the year 1919, the last owner was Baroness Sofie Rosen (born von Ramm). Similarly to many other manors, Vihterpalu began to perish during Soviet rule. For a while it functioned as a schoolhouse. A lack of students closed the school in 1960-s and it was then used for pioneer camps and even as a winter home for foresters. The main portion of the original interior was demolished during this period of frequent change of use and rebuilding. The building stood mostly empty and was falling apart even more. With the re-independence of Estonia in the beginning of the nineties, the manor was given back to the von Ramm family. Since the manor was in a bad condition, the von Ramm family gave the property to the Republic of Estonia as a gift. The manor was bought in 1994 by a group of Norwegian businessmen who planned to renovate the manor. They submitted the deposit for the manor and received the ownership of the only original documents relating to it. We will never find out the plans the Norwegians had in mind for the manor as on the 28th of September 1994, they died on the ferry Estonia, a catastrophe which shook the whole of Northern-Europe.
    And then the prince arrived, in the shape of Finnish businessman Timo Lemberg. He discovered the  “Sleeping Beauty” of Vihterpalu, fell in love and decided to rescue it. After four years of hard work and 50 million EEK worth of investments, the manor awoke to a beautiful new life as a hotel and conference centre. By today the main building has been perfectly renovated to include 19 hotel rooms, a banquet hall, two conference rooms, library, restaurant, bar and two cigar rooms. The rooms in the main building are all different in decor and furnishings, designed as close to the original as possible and the furniture was made on special order. The new hotel building including 12 rooms, conference facilities and sauna was built on the ruins of the former stable. The manor park has been restored as well. The territory offers several places for spending one’s active vacation like a tennis court, golf range and simulator. The seaside is within walking distance. The manor has its own helicopter landing pad.
    Location: Estonian North-West coast, near Padise
    Rooms: 31
    Prices range:
    from 110 USD for Single Room in the Outbuilding
    to 320 USD for the Presidential Suite
    Very remote but beautiful location, close to some of the most pristine beaches in Estonia!

    Oti Manor Hotel

    Oti Manor Hotel

    Oti Manor*** is the oldest on the Saaremaa island. The manor house first mentioned in 1309 was associated with the noble families of von Uexküll and von Aderkas. The original one-storey main building of the 18th century was reconstructed around 1850. The property is surrounded by a stately park. Today the mansion is privately owned and holds an exclusive hotel, which consists of 2 rooms and 3 suites. In the building are also sauna and a conference room.
    Location: Saaremaa, near Orissaare
    Rooms: 5
    Prices range
    from 130 USD for Double Room, low season
    to 275 USD for the Honeymoon Suite, high season

    We are happy to offer you some car and hotel packages featuring a selection of the Manor House Hotels – or we can taylor-make one especially for you! Please note that most of these hotels offer discounts for travel between October and April!


    Value Package 2*-3*
    Lahemaa-2NT, Hotel Palmse Park
    North Coast-2NT, Hotell Saka Cliff
    Virumaa-2NT, Hotell Meintack
    Rental Car: manual Toyota Yaris, Opel Corsa or similar (2pax)
    Rental Car: manual Toyota Previa or similar (4pax)
    2 pax sharing car: CAD 627 per person
    4 pax sharing car: CAD 530 per person

    Upscale Package 3*-4*
    Lahemaa-2NT, Hotel Vihula Manor
    North Coast-2NT, Hotell Kalvi Manor
    Harjumaa-2NT, Hotell Vihterpalu Manor
    Rental car: automatic Volvo S80 or similar (2pax)
    Rental Car: manual Toyota Previa or similar (4pax)
    2 pax sharing car: CAD 1046 per person
    4 pax sharing car: CAD 841 per person

    Packages include: hotel accommodation in TWN or DBL room with breakfast, during HIGH SEASON from May to September;
    rental car for 7 days, incl. unlimited mileage, CDW and TP;
    Pre- and post nights in Tallinn, Htl Shnelli – 60 CAD per NT
    Pre- and post nights in Tallinn, Htl Tallink City or Domina City – 90 CAD per NT

    Please note that all prices are subject to availability at the time of booking and can change without prior notice!

    Tallinn named Most Romantic City in Nordic and Baltic region

    Old Tallinn

    Old Tallinn

    Tallinn had a proud moment last week when it came first among 14 cities in Scandinavia and the Baltics in an international tourism survey conducted by the Scandinavian Innovation Centre Norden. The survey interviewed more than 5,000 tourists who had visited Copenhagen, Arhus, Malmo, Uppsala, Stockholm, Oslo, Bergen, Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Reykjavik, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. As many as 63 percent of respondents cited Tallinn as the city that most fulfilled their expectations because of its cozy atmosphere, while 65.4 percent said that Tallinn was romantic. “Listen to music, walk around the Old Town, step into a café or relax in a spa – in short, enjoy,” is how one Swede put it. In terms of a romantic destination, Tallinn was followed by Vilnius and then Riga.

    The Nordic Innovation Centre is the Nordic Council of Ministers` single most important instrument for promoting an innovative and knowledge-intensive Nordic business sector. Their basic assumption is that each of the Nordic countries possesses knowledge, which through increased co-operation significantly will improve innovation capabilities and competitiveness of Nordic businesses. Today, the Nordic Innovation Centre is an important player in Nordic knowledge platforms within the areas of innovation policy, creative industries, biotechnology, micro- and nanotechnology, technology foresight, food safety, innovative building & construction, environmental technology and venture capital.

    If airlines sold paint…

    I am sure that anyone who travels has at one point encountered some outrageously silly airline pricing rules. For example, if a return ticket costs $800, then how a one-way can possibly cost  $3.000? How can a ticket to city A can be more expensive than a ticket to city B, if the flight to city B actually goes through city A? How come my ticket cost $1000 but the person sitting next to me paid only $700 for it? How can I be penalized for not using the return portion of my ticket, as I have already paid for it anyway?

    A lot of airline policies have nothing to do with logic or common sense. Here is a brilliant writeup that has been circling the Internet for a few years, telling the story about how much fun it would be to buy paint from an airline…


    ** Buying paint from a hardware store **

    Customer: Hi, how much is your interior flat latex paint in Bone White?

    Clerk: We have a medium quality, which is $16 a gallon, and premium,
    which is $22 a gallon. How many gallons would you like?

    Customer: I’ll take five gallons of the medium quality, please.

    Clerk: That will be $80 plus tax.


    ** Buying paint from an airline **
    Customer: Hi, how much is your paint?

    Clerk: Well, sir, that all depends.

    Customer: Depends on what?

    Clerk: Actually a lot of things.

    Customer: How about giving me an average price?

    Clerk: Wow, that’s too hard a question. The lowest price is $9 a gallon, and we have 150 different prices up to $200 a gallon.

    Customer: What’s the difference in the paint?

    Clerk: Oh, there isn’t any difference; it’s all the same paint.

    Customer: Well, then, I’d like some of that $9 paint.

    Clerk: Well, first I need to ask you a few questions. When do you intend to use it?

    Customer: I want to paint tomorrow, on my day off.

    Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.

    Customer: What? When would I have to paint in order to get the $9 version?

    Clerk: That would be in three weeks, but you will also have to agree to start painting before Friday of that week and continue painting until at least Sunday.

    Customer: You’ve got to be kidding!

    Clerk: Sir, we don’t kid around here. Of course, I’ll have to check to see if we have any of that paint available before I can sell it to you.

    Customer: What do you mean check to see if you can sell it to me? You have shelves full of that stuff; I can see it right there.

    Clerk: Just because you can see it doesn’t mean that we have it. It may be the same paint, but we sell only a certain number of gallons on any given week. Oh, and by the way, the price just went to $12.

    Customer: You mean the price went up while we were talking?

    Clerk: Yes, sir. You see, we change prices and rules thousands of times a day, and since you haven’t actually walked out of the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. Unless you want the same thing to happen again, I would suggest that you get on with your purchase. How many gallons do you want?

    Customer: I don’t know exactly. Maybe five gallons. Maybe I should buy six gallons just to make sure I have enough.

    Clerk: Oh, no, sir, you can’t do that. If you buy the paint and then don’t use it, you will be liable for penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have.

    Customer: What?

    Clerk: That’s right. We can sell you enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall, and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will violation of our tariffs.

    Customer: But what does it mater to your whether I use all the paint? I already paid for it!

    Clerk: Sir, there’s no point in getting upset; that’s just the way it is. We make plans upon the idea that you will use all the paint, and when you don’t, it just causes us all kinds of problems.

    Customer: This is crazy! I suppose something terrible will happen if I don’t keep painting until after Saturday night!

    Clerk: Yes, sir, it will.

    Customer: Well, that does it! I’m going somewhere else to buy my paint.

    Clerk: That won’t do you any good, sir. We all have the same rules.


    Source: unknown but thank you for whoever came up with this!

    Jardines del Rey: The “Cuban Keys” on the rise

    Cayo Guillermo

    Cayo Guillermo

    Jardines del Rey or the “Cuban Keys” consists of several tiny islands off Cuba’s Atlantic coast, about 250 miles (450 km) from Havana. The islands include Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Paredón Grande, Cayo Romano, Cayo Guajaba, Cayo Sabinal, Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Cruz. Mangroves and everglades, flamingos, sun-bleached sand and turquoise waters make this little corner of paradise the perfect retreat.

    The islands got their name (“King’s Gardens”) in 1513 by Spanish conquistadors to honour king Ferdinand II of Aragon. In the 16th century, they were refuges for corsairs and pirates. Jacques de Sores is supposed to have used it as a base of operations for his attacks of Santiago de Cuba in 1554. In the 19th century, they were used as a point of entry for illegal slave ships after the slave trade was officially abolished.

    The beaches are the greatest attraction of this area, but as the islands are part of Cuba’s northern coral reef, snorkelling and diving are spectacular. The islands are immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “Islands in the Stream”. Hemingway spent a great deal of time camping, fishing and boating on Cayo Guillermo during World War II. He is remembered for his double daiquiris, his boat (the Pilar) and his vivid fishing tales.

    These islands off Cuba’s north coast that are jointly marketed as Jardines del Rey have gone from not even registering on the tourist map in the early 1990s to being a major tourism centre that now attract some 28% of all the Canadians who vacation in Cuba. And the area promises to continue to lead Cuban growth in 2009. In fact, before the 17 km long stone causeway that links Cayo Coco to the mainland was constructed, the cays found here went largely unrecognized. Since 2005 vacationers can also fly directly into the Jardines Del Rey Airport on Cayo Coco. Close by there is another airport – Ciego de Avila’s Maximo Gomez International Airport, which is linked to Cayo Coco by a highway 60 miles (97 km) long.

    Cayo Coco is covered by thickets of mangroves, palms and other forestation and has a 22-kilometre strip of beach. To the west of Cayo Coco boasts the highest sand dune in the Caribbean (15 metres). The island is named after the white ibis (coco).

    Pilar Beach: named after Ernst Hemingway's famous boat

    Pilar Beach: named after Ernest Hemingway's famous boat

    Cayo Guillermo’s five miles of fine white sand and gorgeous, clear green waters, including the spectacular Playa Pilar, offer picture perfect sunning spots. Fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities beckon from more than six miles of coral reefs. Flamingos and many other birds live in its lagoons, forest and jungle.

    Generally, Cubans are not permitted to cross the causeway to Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo. Cubans who work at the hotels can pass the bridge checkpoint, as well as those with other pertinent business ties. Basically, it is a destination reserved for tourists, most of whom come from Canada and Europe. For those who have rented a car and are driving to their Cayo Coco Cuba accommodations, you will have to pay a small fee to cross, and you might expect to have your car looked over to make sure you are not bringing in anyone otherwise not permitted to cross. The causeway enables those vacationing on the islands able to visit the attractions on the nearby Cuban “mainland”.

    The closest settlement is the city of Morón (makes me think of the funny place names topic!). The first residents were Creoles from Sancti Spiritus, although among them were also said to be a group of Spanish sailors who, having navigated all around Cuba, had disembarked nearby and had decided to settle here. In the first half of the 20th century, the archipelago and the nearby keys had attained little development. The town of Morón survived on a basis of a limited agricultural activities, especially sugar production. In the 1960s a road was built through the marshland to the coast, and in the 1990s this was extended into the causeway to the Cayos. Many of the hotel workers live in Morón and commute to work in specially provided buses. You know you’ve arrived at Moròn when you see the bronze statue of a rooster perched at the city’s entrance. Other distinctive features of this town include Casa de la Trova, a place to enjoy local music and the train station with its unusual architecture. For archeology buffs, the Moròn Museum and the one-kilometre road to Jùcaro-declared a World heritage Site by UNESCO-are important experiences. There is also a crocodile breeding centre among its attractions.

    Another interesting place to visit is Laguna de la Leche (Milky Lagoon), the largest natural water reservoir in Cuba. The white color is caused by the lake’s limestone bed: natural movements of the sea level cause disturbances in the water table, which releases lime particles from the lake bed into the water.
    It is also worth to see the 18,000-hectare Turiguano Island, once cut off from the mainland by streams and channels, and now connected by a 23-kilometre road that provides easy access to this cattle-raising area. The island’s adorable town is modeled after a Dutch village.
    Occupying an area of four square kilometres, Lake Redonda is a favorite place for large-mouth bass fishermen. The average weight of the bass caught here is seven pounds, but some 1,500 largemouth bass weighing more than 10 pounds each have been caught here. The lake gained fame in the early 1980s when a group of American fishermen caught 5,078 bass in five days. Competitive sports fishermen consider Redonda an ideal lake in which to try for personal, national and international records.

    Oasis Playa Coco ****

    Oasis Playa Coco ****

    Cayos Coco and Guillermo have 12 hotels between them, with Coco alone having eight hotels that collectively offer 2,500 rooms, while Guillermo has four hotels with 1,100 rooms. There are four hotels also on the Cayo Santa Maria, a little island in the Northern Keys, linked to the main island by a 48-km causeway.
    Most of the hotels are four star and carry out the all-inclusive concept. Sol Meliá in particular has a noticeable Jardines del Rey presence, but other hotel companies that decided to establish a presence in a part of Cuba that has been averaging annual tourism growth of 13% in recent years include Iberostar, Blau and NH. All properties are beachfront. There are four dive centres and two international marinas. More growth is in store, with another 2,000 rooms planned over the next five years, some of them on Cayo Paradon, which to date hasn’t seen the tourism development its neighbours have. Jardines del Rey is also attracting tourists who want to get married in Cuba, averaging some 400 weddings a year.

    Fortunately, the authorities won’t allow development to dramatically alter the islands. “We have never built a hotel more than three floors.” There are plans to create a national park in the area, he continued of an area that has 40 km of beaches, one named Pilar after Ernest Hemingway’s boat. The area also has some 340 species of plants and 200 bird species. Nevertheless, the region’s tourism infrastructure is expanding, with a golf course slated to open on Cayo Coco in 2009, while Cayo Guillermo will be getting a dolphin show. A shopping centre that will include a “tobacco house” for cigar enthusiasts is planned for Cayo Coco.

    Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos *****

    Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos *****

    Most Canadian tour operators offer packages to the Cayos: Oasis Playa Coco, Blau Colonial, NH Krystal Laguna Villas & Resort (the biggest with 690 rooms), the adult-only property Melia Cayo Coco and one of the first hotels in the area, Tryp Cayo Coco are the Canadian favourites on Cayo Coco; Sol Cayo Guillermo and Iberostar Diaquiry are popular on Cayo Guillermo. Sunquest also offers some properties on Cayo Santa Maria (Sol Cayo Santa Maria, Barcel Cayo Santa Maria and Melia Las Dunas) – and the new luxurious 5-star Occidental Royal Hideaway on Cayo Ensenachos. For the last four passengers fly into the Santa Clara Airport.

    Jardines del Rey is an exciting new area. If sun, beach and a quiet relaxing time is your cup of tea, if you don’t expect anything overly luxurious and just like to take it easy and have fun – this is your destination!

    Canada and EU negotiate air transportation deal!

    Canada and the European Union (EU) has successfully completed negotiations on a groundbreaking air transportation deal. Canadian transport minister, John Baird commented that: “The successful conclusion of air transport negotiations with the European Union is another step forward in our ongoing efforts to facilitate growth in trade, investment and tourism for Canadian business.” Baird said that “In these uncertain times, closer global partnerships will help stimulate our economy and expand commercial links. This is why our government celebrates this historic air transport agreement with the EU, which will open access to all 27 Member States for Canadian carriers and all points in Canada for EU carriers.”
    The new agreement, which is consistent with Canada’s Blue Sky policy and current Canadian legislation, allows the development of new markets, new services and greater competition.
    It includes unrestricted direct air services between Canada and EU Member States; flexible pricing arrangements; and improved flexibility for cargo.
    As well, the deal covers eight EU Member States (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia) with which Canada did not previously have air agreements.
    The EU is Canada’s second largest bilateral aviation, trade and investment market.

    So – what will that exactly mean for the traveller? Potentially new direct flight connections from Canada to various European destinations and code-sharing agreements!  

    Could that mean a direct flight from Toronto to Tallinn? Not likely, but it could mean more options of getting from Toronto to Tallinn with different carrier combinations that would price in the GDS systems as a throughfare.

    Go to for more.

    Thai tourism officials accommodate foreign tourists

    The Tourism Authority of Thailand says the Thai government is “very concerned about the welfare and safety of all foreign nationals in the country” in the wake of anti-government demonstrations that, among other things, have closed Bangkok’s airport and “all relevant government agencies and private sector associations were providing facilitation in the form of accommodation, meals, etc.” to those unable to leave the country. Furthermore, the government will try to reopen Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airports as soon as possible, the tourism authority says. “All other locations, tourist destinations and attractions nationwide are not being affected by this situation and are very safe for travel purposes,” says the tourism authority. The 35 TAT local offices have been told to facilitate tourists travelling at the various tourist destinations in Thailand, as well as those who are waiting for flights at provincial airports. For tourists and travellers who haven’t been able to travel to their destination as planned, the TAT and Ministry of Tourism and Sports have provided accommodation and meals, as well as “facilitated tourists as much as possible until they are able to return to their destination.” ( ,

    Travellers advised against non-essential travel to Mumbai

    Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is advising against non-essential travel to Mumbai, India, after Nov. 26 and 27 shootings and explosions occurred simultaneously in several locations in South Mumbai. More than 100 people were killed. Travellers are also warned not to travel to the northeastern states of Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Assam due to armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorist activities. Insurgent groups have launched attacks on public buildings and public transportation. Foreign Affairs Canada also advises against all travel to the following regions: Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of Ladakh via Manali or by air to Leh, due to ongoing conflict and terrorist violence, and the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal, as well as the border areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and areas of Ladakh. (

    Dubai Atlantis Resort opening: Party during the Plague?

    Atlantis, Dubai. Photo: JOEL RYAN / AP

    Atlantis, Dubai. Photo: JOEL RYAN / AP

    On November 20th the world saw the opening of Sol Kerzner’s brand new Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. The South African hotel magnate and chairman of Kerzner International did it again! His previously best known accomplishments include the hugely successful Atlantis, Paradise Island resort in The Bahamas.

    A $20 million extravaganza was thrown to launch the luxury hotel on an artificial palm-shaped island, despite the bite from the global financial crisis. More than 2,000 world celebrities were due to attend the event which is set to also include a firework display seven times larger than the Olympic display in Beijing – but it is rumored that a few of them cancelled, fearing that their appearance would reflect badly on them at these unsettling times.

    The US $1.5 billion, 1,539-room mega-resort wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney cartoon. The Lost City of Atlantis theme, transplanted to the Emirates, bold, glittery and stylishly over-the-top. And yet, away from the public areas, it’s surprisingly restrained. The nice and roomy standard rooms are decorated in a palette of greens and creams. The views differ wildly depending on where you stay, however – you could get a room looking out to an unlovely staff parking lot. The other extreme is The Bridge Suite: the penthouse linking the hotel’s two towers and boasting floor to ceiling views over the Persian Gulf. With 10 rooms, a butler on 24-hour call and a dining table inlaid with gold leaf, it is the most opulent accommodation the Atlantis has to offer, at US $37,000 per night.

    Atlantis: Magic Kingdom in the midst of azure waters

    Atlantis Dubai: A Newly Built Continent

    The Atlantis is set on a 112.5-acre site that will crown The Palm Jumeirah, one of the region’s ambitious man-made islands.  In the more than 80,000 square feet entertainment village – one of the 17 restaurants will offer something for the most demanding guest. Like its Paradise Island predecessor, Atlantis, The Palm will feature an arsenal of well-known names in restaurant and retail business, including Nobu (in his Middle East debut) and Michel Rostang. Also, he has commissioned the work of world-renowned artists Dale Chihuly and Albino Gonzalez, so that the property is cutting-edge on every possible level.

    The unique selling point of the Atlantis is the aquarium, which is mightily impressive. It houses a marine habitat of 65,000 sea animals including manta rays, piranhas and a somewhat lonely looking whale shark “rescued” from the sea. The aquarium spans two storeys and guests look in through glass panels. Surreally, two suites have rooms with windows below water level, so the marine life can gaze in at you while you have a bath. Actresses Charlize Theron and Lindsay Lohan had that honour while I was there. Guests can also swim with dolphins, although the hotel has come in for some stick for importing the animals from the Solomon Islands. Across the resort, the Aquaventure water park – free for guests – is pure heaven for children and for macho dads keen to impress their offspring by braving the near-vertical Leap of Faith slide.

    With prices starting at 735 US dollars per night excluding tax, the Atlantis doesn’t come cheap, although tour operators are offering deals so it’s best to shop around. At present Dubai appears to be bucking the “downward” trend, with hotel occupancy across the emirate running at about 85 per cent. The buzz generated by the opening of the pink, 1,600-room Atlantis has tethered bookings to about 80 per cent in its first six weeks of operation, before the extraordinarily grand launch.

    Let’s see what happens… if the operators are able to fill this hotel with well-to-do guests, then the talk about the tourism industry coming to a crashing halt might be exaggerated… 🙂

     Sources:, TimesOnline, HauteLiving