EU releases $3.7b in loans to Greece

ATHENS — Eurozone officials on Monday approved the release of $3.7 billion in loans to Greece, the country’s Finance Ministry said, paving the way for the approval of an additional $7.9 billion installment at a meeting of the currency union’s finance ministers in mid-May.

The Greek Parliament late Sunday approved a controversial plan to dismiss 15,000 civil servants by the end of next year as part of a new package of economic measures asked for by Greece’s foreign creditors: the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

The $3.7 billion approved Monday in Brussels was originally to have been disbursed in March but was delayed after negotiations stalled over the creditors’ demands for civil service cuts. The May installment is dependent on further action by Athens, including an overhaul of the tax collection system.

The Greek government’s latest measures passed in a vote held shortly before midnight with 168 votes in the 300-seat House.

A last-minute amendment allowing local authorities to hire young Greeks for less than the minimum wage of $767 a month fueled angry protests by the political opposition. But the inclusion of measures intended to ease some of the financial burden on homeowners, including a 15 percent reduction in a new property tax, clinched the support of lawmakers in the three-party ruling coalition.

Defending the bill, the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, insisted that there was no choice. ‘‘Greece is still cut off from the markets,’’ he told lawmakers, adding that the government’s chief aim was to achieve a primary surplus before seeking a further ‘‘drastic’’ reduction of its debt, which at the end of last year was 160 percent of gross domestic product.

His claims were derided by the opposition. ‘‘With blood, tears, and looting, they will achieve surpluses like those achieved by Ceausescu in Romania and Pinochet in Chile,’’ said Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main leftist opposition party, Syriza, which wants Greece to revoke its agreement with the troika.

“Claim back your lives and your country that they are stealing,’’ he said as a few hundred people, mostly civil servants, staged a low-key protest outside Parliament.

In the last three years, Greece’s citizens have seen their incomes dwindle by a third and unemployment skyrocket to 27 percent.


We do charge families more, holiday firms finally admit: Agents charge two adults and two children more than four …

  • The levy applied to Thomas Cook and Thomson hotels and apartments
  • Thomas Cook’s website charged £244 more than for a group of four adults
  • Thomson charged £173 more than the same trip for four adults

By
Sean Poulter

17:50 EST, 29 April 2013


|

06:08 EST, 30 April 2013

Families face child penalties of up to £244 on summer holidays, the Mail can reveal today.

Travel firms have been charging two parents and two youngsters more than they would four adults booking exactly the same package.

The levy applied to popular Thomas Cook and Thomson hotels and apartments in Spain, Greece and Turkey. Both firms admitted the pricing discrepancy existed.

Penalty

Penalty

Effectively an under-occupancy charge, the policy is similar to the supplements single travellers fall foul of.

The Daily Mail obtained quotes for a family with two children aged six and ten for a week’s holiday on August 3 and compared them with the same stay for four adults.

Thomas Cook’s website charged £2,060 for the family at apartments in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands – £244 more than for a group of four adults.

At a hotel on neighbouring Gran Canaria, the price was £1,932 – a premium of £196 over the adult group.

Thomson quoted £2,025 for the family to stay at apartments on Menorca – £173 more than the same trip for four adults. A stay at a holiday village in Bodrum, Turkey, cost £1,611 – a £135 premium.

Thomas Cook¿s website charged £2,060 for a family which was £244 more than for a group of four adults

Thomas Cook¿s website charged £2,060 for a family which was £244 more than for a group of four adults

A spokesman for the consumer group Which? condemned the policy, saying: ‘It’s completely unfair that holidays should cost more for parents because of under-occupancy charges for children.’

Even though travel companies generally charge for each child – in terms of flights and accommodation – they are often not treated as adults in terms of occupancy targets.

As a result, computer systems can trigger a supplement.

Hotels use the policy to make up for lower restaurant and bar sales from children.

Thomas Cook suggested parents may find it cheaper to describe their youngsters as adults when booking.

Thomson apologised for what it claims was a mistake rather than a deliberate policy.

‘We are aware of an issue with the pricing of a very small number of our villa and apartment holidays,’ a spokesman said.

Thomson apologised for what it claimed was a mistake rather than deliberate policy

Thomson apologised for what it claimed was a mistake rather than deliberate policy

‘On occasion, a villa or apartment will be more expensive if booked including adults and children compared to a purely adult booking. We are working to rectify this issue.

‘Our retail staff will always look for the lowest price available for customers booking in store, and we have rebriefed them to ensure they continue to do this.

‘We recommend that any customer planning to book online before the issue is resolved should check the total cost of their booking against that of all adults and book as adults if necessary.’

After the Daily Mail highlighted the anomaly, Thomson set up a phone line to allow families to claim refunds. Thomas Cook said the policy only ‘very rarely’ led to a family being charged more.

A spokesman said: ‘Our agents will always find the best price for our holidays, including on the rare occasions when a minimum adult occupancy level is not met.

‘In such cases, it is common practice for any children travelling to be charged the adult price. Meeting the adult minimum occupancy can be cheaper.’

Thomson customers who have questions about the price they have paid and whether they can claim a refund should contact the company on 0800 0093847.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Talk about stating the bleeding obvious.

Josef
,

Siberia,
30/4/2013 14:23

Responsible families adhering to school holidays are consistently charged through the nose for holidays in peak season. The excessive profits are no doubt used by the travel industry to subsidise better off older couples taking multiple low cost breaks whilst the kids are all in school. Families should boycott packages altogether and watch the industry fall like a pack of cards. The OAP certainly won’t pay the current rates for July/August holidays and will struggle to find himself an off-peak bargain when families have given up subsidizing them.

Fuzzedout
,

Teeside,
30/4/2013 14:21

‘All you vile child hating people out there’- Lucy55, London-, United Kingdom, 30/4/2013 12:53 – So because some people do not like children they are classed as ‘vile’? Sounds like youre the vile one to me…

Lucie
,

Birmingham,
30/4/2013 14:09

Good anything to dissuade kids from going ruining other peoples hols!

Lucie
,

Birmingham,
30/4/2013 14:07

Michael the un pc , sittingbourne, 30/4/2013 11:22

Are you prepared to back up your story with proof?

Mike
,

Malta,
30/4/2013 13:33

My God reading some of the comments on this site we really are a nation of child haters aren’t we? All you vile child hating people out there – remember you were children once. What is really sad today is many families can no longer afford to take their children away on holiday, even for a week by the sea, the quality of our children¿s childhoods/family life is being compromised as a result. Some of my best memories as a single/working mum are of those precious shared moments with my son when we managed to get away from London for a week by the sea or to the countryside, where together we explored the seashore countryside, went for walks, picnicking, swimming, cycling, mackerel fishing in Cornwall. My son was relatively well behaved but there were times when just because he was a child we were made to feel unwelcome in hotels/cafes/restaurants etc. The attitude of A lot of Brits towards children is nothing short of blatant discrimination. I call in childism morally it is wrong!

Lucy55
,

London-, United Kingdom,
30/4/2013 12:53

My God reading some of the comments on this site we really are a nation of child haters aren’t we? All you vile child hating people out there – remember you were children once. What is really sad today is many families can no longer afford to take their children away on holiday, even for a week by the sea, the quality of our childrens childhoods/family life is being compromised as a result. Some of my best memories as a single/working mum are of those precious shared moments with my son when we managed to get away from London for a week by the sea or to the countryside, where together we explored the seashore countryside, went for walks, picnicing, swimming, cycling, mackeral fishing in Cornwall. My son was relatively well behaved but there were times when just because he was a child we were made to feel unwelcome in hotels/cafes/restautants etc. The attitude of A lot of Brits towards children is nothing short of blatant discrimination. I call in childism morally it is wrong!

Lucy55
,

London-, United Kingdom,
30/4/2013 12:52

Such pigs! Poor children

expat
,

windsor,
30/4/2013 12:47

Contrast “Hotels use the policy to make up for lower restaurant and bar sales from children.” with “Thomson apologised for what it claims was a mistake rather than a deliberate policy.” …………. Um, sounds like a deliberate policy to me! Very poor.

anonie
,

cambsuk,
30/4/2013 12:40

Why bother with a package holiday at all….. Book cheap flights and book your own hotel, you will save money, get better service, better rooms, the table of your choice and wont have to sit on a coach for three hours each end of your holiday whilst it does its “milk run” dropping off and picking up other holiday makers……The belief that a package holiday company can do it cheaper then you can yourself is a fallacy !!
– Harbog the Mighty , Warmerthanlondon, 30/4/2013 10:53.

I agree with you that it is far cheaper to book your own hotel, flights, etc. directly – however, you can’t always avoid the shuttle transfer cattle drive. The airport is probably not located in convenient proximity to your eventual destination, so your choice is between shuttle misery or an extremely expensive private transfer or taxi.

Ann
,

Leeds,
30/4/2013 12:25

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.


Progress and Problems for Greece

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Friendly Planet Travel sets sail for the Greek Isles and Athens

Stunning landscapes, crystal blue water, and dynamic history define Greece, often described as the cradle of Western Civilisation. Friendly Planet Travel, an international group tour operator, is offering travelers the chance to explore Athens, discover the beauty of Mykonos, and spend time exploring the gorgeously brilliant Greek Islands on the new 12-day Athens, Mykonos, and Four Day Greek Isles Cruise.

“Greece is truly a magnificent destination, with deep history, gorgeous scenery, and ancient archeology to explore,” says Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. “This tour is unique because it combines Athens; a three-night stay on Mykonos, one of Greece’s most popular and iconic islands; as well as a cruise to several other Greek Islands, so travelers can experience the islands in two ways – by both land and sea. This combination is designed to offer travelers a taste of Greece’s history while also including time for relaxing in the Greek Isles, some of the most exquisite and culturally rich coastal towns in the world. There couldn’t be a better opportunity to experience the breathtakingly beautiful country at a very attractive price.”

The package includes round-trip flights from New York, including fuel surcharges, airline taxes, and fees; all transfers; six nights superior first-class accommodations in Athens and Mykonos; four nights aboard the MV Olympia in standard inside cabins; a local host in Athens; and 18 meals, including buffet breakfast daily in Athens and all meals aboard the cruise.

The journey begins in Athens, where travelers explore the outdoor cafes, pedestrian streets, parks and gardens, street bazaars, and ancient ruins while lodging at the first-class, centrally located Divani Palace Acropolis. From there, travelers board the Louis Cruise Lines’ Olympia for a ferry ride to Mykonos, where they’ll spend three days at leisure enjoying the island’s winding alleyways, whitewashed buildings, and sun-drenched beaches. While on Mykonos, travelers stay at the centrally located, four-star Andronikos Hotel.

The tour then continues as travelers re-board the Olympia for a four-day cruise through the Greek islands. The first stop is in Kusadasi, Turkey, where travelers can explore the famous archeological site of Ephesus, before sailing to the Island of Patmos. Travelers continue to Rhodes for a day. It’s known as the “Island of Roses” and has the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe.

CONTINUES BELOW

The cruise then stops in Heraklion, where the ruins of Knossos, the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilisation on Crete, are located. The last island on the itinerary is Santorini, known for its rugged landscape, whitewashed houses, and breathtaking views. The cruise ends by bringing travelers back to Athens for two days to leisurely explore the city, or they have the option to join one of several optional excursions. Optional shore excursions are also available throughout the cruise.

A four-day, Classic Greece post-tour extension is also available for $850. The extension includes superior hotels; most meals, including three dinners; and guided touring of the classic cities of Corinth, Mycenae, Olympia, and Delphi, with all entrance fees included.


Qatar returns statues to Greece amid nudity dispute

It was a spat that nobody wanted – neither the Greeks, the Qataris nor, say officials, the two nude statues that sparked the furore.

But in a classic clash of cultures, Greece has found itself at odds with the oil-rich state – a nation it is keen to woo financially – over the presentation of masterworks depicting athletes in an exhibition dedicated to the Olympic games.

“The statues are now back at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens,” said a culture ministry official.

The dispute, though authorities are not calling it that, broke when Greece’s culture minister, Costas Tzavaras, arrived in Doha last month to discover the “anatomically challenging” treasures cloaked in cloth for fear of offending female spectators.

“In a society where there are certain laws and traditions authorities felt women would be scandalised by seeing such things, even on statues,” added the official who was present at the time.

“The minister, of course, said while he totally respected local customs he couldn’t accept the antiquities not being exhibited in their natural state,” she told the Guardian. “They were great works of art and aesthetically it was wrong.”

The statues, an archaic-era Greek youth and a Roman-era copy of a classical athlete, were to be the centrepiece of an exhibition entitled Olympic Games: Past and Present. Bankrupt Greece was delighted to facilitate when organisers in Doha got in touch. Mired in its worst economic crisis in modern times, the debt-stricken country is eager for investment from the Gulf state, which this year promised to pour €1bn into a joint investment fund.

In another hopeful sign, the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, recently bought six isles in the Ionian sea with a view to building palaces on them for his three wives and 24 children.

Visiting the Qatari capital for the opening of the show, Tzavaras seized the opportunity to describe the exhibition as “opening a bridge of friendship” between the countries. The discovery of the covered-up antiquities was a setback few had envisaged.

“We don’t want to portray it as a row, and we certainly didn’t want it to overshadow the exhibition,” explained the official. “It was all very friendly. When they turned down our request (to remove the cloth) the statues were boxed up again and sent back to Athens.”

Mystery, nonetheless, shrouds the affair. The show, which had previously been hosted in Berlin, features more than 700 artworks from around Greece, including numerous nude statues. It remains unclear why Qatari authorities had taken such umbrage over the antiquities in question, although officials in Athens described the young athletes – both from Eleusis – as being especially beautiful.


Holiday Mate Predict a Busy Summer as Bookings Sky Rocket

* Huntelaar on target after injury break * Schalke in race for Champions League spot (Updates with quotes, details) BERLIN, April 28 (Reuters) – Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar scored a hat-trick in a fairytale comeback from an injury break to steer Schalke 04 to a 4-1 win over Hamburg SV on Sunday and boost their chances of Champions League action next season. The Dutchman, who had been out with a knee injury since early March, could not have hoped for a better return with Schalke firmly in control of fourth place which leads to the Champions League qualifying rounds. …


Luxury Travel Specialist Offers Insider Tips for Greece – Luxury Travel Magazine

We speak to Konstantinos Bastas about his recent trip to Greece and his insider tips about why to go now.

The luxury travel consultant is big right now. Every discerning traveler should have someone who can offer them the best accommodations, unique amenities, and exclusive experiences. How do you do this for your clients?

KB: It all begins by knowing our clients and their specific needs. We begin by spending time identifying what’s important to our clients in daily life and when they travel. From there, we can find the right supplier—hotels, tours, airline (and class of service), and transfers. And this can change all the time depending on the destination and who they are visiting.

So my job is to know the options available in the market and develop relationships with these suppliers in order to personalize our guests’ experiences. It’s a partnership in other words—where our ultimate goal is to insure our clients are treated like VIPs and offer them a unique experience. Not all five star properties are the same, so the ultimate goal is to make our clients feel at home while maximizing their budgets.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounion

So what was your most recent trip to scope out locations for your clients?

KB: I just recently returned from a 5-day visit to Greece where I went to the popular islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I also visited the new Aman Resort, Amazo’e in Kranidi, which is just two hours outside of Athens.

Why Greece?

KB: We have had a great deal of client interest for travel to Greece this year. Greece has always been a popular destination for honeymooners and romantics because it is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes. For someone travelling from the US, it has a certain mystique—a relaxing place to soak in history and culture. As I am of Greek descent, I know and understand the culture and lifestyle.

Over the past two years, there has been much concern regarding Greece’s financial situation and the uncertainty of the country’s social climate. Clients were somewhat concerned about the levels of service and accommodations. I wanted to see firsthand what this would mean for my clients for travel this summer. I am happy to say that country is ready and able to handle the needs of the luxury traveler.

What do you look for in a hotel for your clients?

KB: We personalize our client’s travel experiences and therefore no two trips are alike. In general, I look for properties that have superior quality and excel with their service. It’s not good enough for a hotel to say that it is a 4 ½ or 5-star hotel. I need to see updated amenities, high-end furnishings, plenty of space, and rooms in pristine condition—for a start. I also look for exceptional service (things like continuous housekeeping services, great spas and fitness centers with up to date offerings, and attentive food and beverage service at the pool and the beach) and a culture that is friendly and respectful. I also look at the overall atmosphere and identify which properties work best for families and best for honeymooners or couples.

Amanzo’e

Which hotel was your favorite?

KB: I was blown away by the new Amanzo’e in Kranidi, Greece. Aman is a global brand that offers a personalized level of service, focusing on local culture and the guest experience (it’s not a stuffy place at all — there is a big focus on well-being) They are all in unique destinations throughout the world.

Amanzo’e recently opened last August and is roughly two hours outside of Athens near Ancient Olympia. It is a 38-suite resort which means that no more than 60 to 70 people are there at once, even when the property is fully occupied. There is a 3 to 1 staff to guest ratio which means that there is always someone around to take care of your needs whether it is an extra towel at the pool or a late night snack at 3am. The staff are all locals, which really adds to the intimate feel of the property, and they strive to build a relationship with the guests. It doesn’t take long before you feel like part of the family.

The property itself is the perfect place to escape and unwind. The focus is on personalizing the guest experience through wellness, luxury accommodations, and high service delivery. Villas are approximately 1,200 square feet each and built with the finest materials. The spa and fitness facilities are state-of-the-art with unique aqua therapy services. The unique location on a hilltop offers amazing views of the local valley, the Aegean Sea, and islands nearby. The private beach club is less than 10 minutes away from main resort and it offers 3 pools, a restaurant for lunch and dinner, and a private beach. From the open-air lobby you can see the ocean and there are reflection pools everywhere—the whole thing was built so you can really feel the positive energy. It’s really breathtaking what they do; when you integrate passion and experience, you can provide a superior product, which is what Aman has done with all of their resorts.

Grace Santorini

Tell us about the exciting things in Mykonos and Santorini that every luxury traveler should know about.

KB: Because of the economy, no new properties have been recently built; however, it’s refreshing to see that investments are being made to maintain and update the great properties that are already on the islands. Grace Santorini blew my mind. It personalizes the guest experience by learning their preferences before arrival. The geographical location is integrated into all the rooms which have a modern, yet natural feel. I also loved the Cavo Tagoo in Mykonos, which is actually owned by an architect and also focuses on high level service and is furnished with unique furniture.

As far as activities go, I would suggest that everyone take a catamaran tour and sail around Santorini at sunset—it’s breathtaking. There are also some great local vineyards to go do wine tastings. A great, romantic activity would be taking a cooking class at the infamous restaurant, Selene. The dishes are amazing, and it is just a great experience to have with a loved one.

I wouldn’t forget to stop at Koukoumalvos for dinner overlooking the caldera. They take traditional Greek cuisine and add a modern gourmet “twist”. It’s definitely a favorite of mine.

In Mykonos, no one should miss taking a tour to the UNESCO heritage site at Delos. A private tour will give you an awesome the behind-the-scenes experience in a place that’s steeped in history and mythological legend.

More information: BastasTravelConsultants.com


Kim Kardashian bares baby bump, flashes bikini bottoms in Greece

Kim Kardashian is bumpin’.

The television fixture showed off her swelling belly while out on vacation with the rest of the Kardashian clan on the isle of Mykonos in Greece.

PHOTOS: KIM KARDASHIAN’S WILD MATERNITY STYLE

Sporting a flowing swimsuit cover-up with tropical print, the 32-year-old reality star appeared to be adjusting her outfit when her tummy peeked out, exposing a sliver of her pink-and-black bikini bottoms.

Kardashian may be getting used to the European lifestyle.

PHOTOS: STARS WHO WEAR SHEER CLOTHING

Sources told TMZ earlier this month that the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star and boyfriend Kanye West are considering having their baby in France.

Kim Kardashian is 'finally feeling great about her pregnancy' sister Khloe said.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Kim Kardashian is ‘finally feeling great about her pregnancy’ sister Khloe said.

The country’s strict paparazzi laws apparently appeal to the mom-to-be, who is due in July.

RELATED: KANYE WEST DROPS $100K FOR PRIVATE JETS TO ATTEND KIM’S APPOINTMENTS

Kardashian has been under the spotlight for her fashion choices since the beginning of her pregnancy, but sister Khloe told E! News that Kim is finally learning how to deal with the scrutiny over her changing body.

“I think she’s finally feeling great about her pregnancy,” Khloe dished. “There’s an awkward time (when) you’re not really showing and you don’t feel like your old self.”

RELATED: KIM KARDASHIAN: I’M ‘A HYPOCRITE’ FOR HAVING A BABY WHILE UNMARRIED

But Khloe is glad that Kardashian embraced her impending motherhood.

“Now that her bump is alive and in full effect, she’d having fun showing it off!”


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United Nations: Financial crisis causing Greece to fall behind on human rights …

A senior United Nations investigator says Greece is falling behind on its human rights obligations and strongly criticized the “excessively rigid” demands of the crisis-hit country’s bailout program.

U.N. independent expert Cephas Lumina said Friday that a surge in unemployment and axed benefits had left a growing number of Greeks without health insurance and about 10 percent of the population living in “extreme poverty.”

He said some 470,000 immigrants without proper residence permits were among the most vulnerable to labor exploitation and other abuses.

He urged Greece’s bailout lenders — eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — to include human rights considerations in Greece’s austerity programs.