In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Plans to build Titanic II announced
An Australian billionaire has announced plans to build a replica of the RMS Titanic, 100 years after the original ship’s sinking.
Clive Palmer, who already owns a luxury holiday resort and is reportedly Australia’s fifth-richest person, expects the vessel – named Titanic II – to make its maiden voyage in 2016, sailing from Britain to New York.
“It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic, but will have state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems,” said Mr Palmer. He described the project as “a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original Titanic.”
More than 1,500 people died when the original Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. This year’s 100th anniversary has seen dozens of events to remember those who perished, including the opening of a new visitor centre in Belfast and the sailing of a memorial cruise on Fred Olsen’s Balmoral.
Mr Palmer said he has commissioned the state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the replica, as well as three other luxury cruise ships.
He added that he is working with a team of historical researchers to ensure the ship’s design is as close as possible to the original.
The diesel-powered vessel will have four funnels, although they will be purely decorative. There will be 840 cabins, nine decks and it will measure 270 metres long and 53 metres high.
UKBA accused of covering up airport delays
Passengers handed ‘apology leaflets’ after having to wait up to three hours before clearing passport control at Heathrow.
Heathrow Airport has been ordered by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to stop handing out to passengers leaflets acknowledging the “very long delays” at immigration, which have become a serious government concern in the runup to the Olympics.
Passengers flying into the airport at the weekend reported having to wait for up to three hours before clearing passport control. But after leaflets apologising for the problem were handed out by BAA, which owns Heathrow, the UKBA warned that they were “inappropriate” and that ministers would take “a very dim view”.
The airport operator was also told to prevent passengers taking pictures in the arrivals hall, according to the Daily Telegraph, which obtained correspondence from Marc Owen, director of UKBA operations at Heathrow. Pictures of lengthy queues have been posted on Twitter by frustrated travellers.
Owen said: “The leaflet … is both inflammatory and likely to increase tensions in arrivals halls especially in the current atmosphere. It is inappropriate in that it is not for you to display how to complain on our behalf. Please refrain from handing out [the leaflets] or I will escalate [the matter] with ministers who are likely to take a very dim view. I know there are copies in the hall and your troops are ready with them.”
Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour’s aviation spokesman, said: “This is a pure coverup. I can understand people wanting to take pictures of the queues. This is further evidence of Border Force trying to hide the severity of the problem.
“Passengers need to know how to register complaints and for Border Force to try to prevent them doing so is outrageous.”
The Border Force and BAA said in a joint statement: “The majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly but there are sometimes delays at airports for a range of reasons. We think it’s important passengers are given the full picture.
Hidden gems and buried treasures
In The American, when George Clooney’s hit-man character runs into trouble and needs a place to hide out, his handler sends him to a town in Italy’s Abruzzo region.
To Luciana Masci of Absolutely Abruzzo Tours, the region is a logical choice for someone wanting to lie low. Despite its proximity to Rome (80 km), and its wild beauty – rugged mountains, fortified medieval hill villages, deep valleys – Abruzzo remains largely off the beaten tourist, or hit-man, path.
“In Abruzzo, the best things are hidden,” remarks Masci, who leads small group and personalized tours of the region with her partner Michael Howard.
From castles to cathedrals to cuisine, Abruzzo is packed with hidden gems and – sometimes – buried treasures that few outside the region are aware of, she adds.
A Gourmet Getaway with Masci and Howard introduces me to a few of Abruzzo’s unique pleasures.
Objects of desire
Foodies and chefs are mad for truffles – rare pungent fungi that grow beneath the soil around certain types of trees. Difficult to cultivate, many truffles are harvested in the wild by truffle-hunters who use pigs and dogs trained to sniff out these edible objects of desire, which can sell for $400 to $4,000 per kilo depending on quality, size and type.
An estimated 80% of Italy’s truffles are grown in Abruzzo, including most of those associated with other regions of Italy, Masci says as we traverse winding back roads to a meeting with truffle dealer Serafini Ugo.
We meet up with Ugo at S. Z. Tartufi – the business he runs with partner Zaccardi Pasquale – to sample some of the company’s gourmet products before heading to a nearby farm for a truffle-hunting demonstration.
The shelves of the modern Atessa-based shop are laden with fresh and bottled truffles, truffle-infused olive oils, truffle salts, truffle pasta, truffle-flavoured pecorino cheese, truffle sauces, truffle pastes and truffle spreads – even one made with cocoa, meant to be served with meat, and a rich egg-cream that goes great with bread.
Staffer Daniela Caporale shows us some enormous, just-harvested white truffles, which will be weighed, photographed and offered for sale to buyers around the world.
Australians long for the days of free baggage on planes
Fed-up Australian travellers long for a return to the days when checking baggage was free and say they would do almost anything for a taste of the high life, a survey has found.
The survey of the travel habits and wishes of 38,000 Australians by travel website Wotif.com has revealed the best perks airlines could offer, with free luggage the top pick snaring 34 per cent of the votes.
Meanwhile 23 per cent picked in-flight entertainment, 19 per cent drinks, 18 per cent food and 5 per cent newspapers and magazines.
It comes as flight attendants warned about dangerously overloaded overhead compartments as travellers try to avoid checked baggage fees by cramming items into their carry-on luggage.
With the rise of budget airlines gradually killing off the luxuries of flying and economy seats becoming more cramped, Australians are also desperate for an upgrade.
Nearly half (44 per cent) of respondents said they would happily take a delayed flight in the hopes of scoring a better seat, while 19 per cent said they would even abandon their partner.
Meanwhile 17 per cent said they would sacrifice their dignity and beg while down on their knees, and 13 per cent would tell a white lie.