Greece, Turkey eye joint tourism packages, promotion

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Hundreds of thousands of Brits sacrifice foreign holiday

Thomas Cook, the tour operator and high street chain, said last month that
bookings over the summer were flat. The company also said that it will cut
its current UK fleet of 41 aircraft by six to “better align capacity with

Victoria Bacon, head of communications at ABTA, which represents UK travel
agents and tour operators, said that destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia and
Turkey have had a particularly “tough” year, with significant falls in
visitors from the UK.

However she said that holidaymakers have returned to more traditionally
popular destinations like Spain, Portugal and Greece.

She said that ABTA’s own research shows that consumers are reluctant to cut
back on holidays, preferring to sacrifice gadgets, eating out and DIY
projects before they ditch a foreign trip.

Celebrity shifts 2012 Mediterranean cruises from Middle East to Europe

This item was written by Larry Bleiberg, former travel editor of The Dallas Morning News. Bleiberg is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.

Celebrity Cruises has modified several 2012 “Holy Land” cruises, shifting itineraries from the Middle East to European ports.

The new voyages will focus on fall wine vacations in France, Spain and Portugal. Other routings will visit Italy, Greece, and ports in the Adriatic.

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While Celebrity made no mention of geopolitics in its announcement, cruise lines have struggled to fill sailings that include calls in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of this year’s unrest in the region. The “Arab Spring” revolts in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, in particular, caused a sharp downturn in bookings for 2011 Mediterranean voyages that included calls in the countries, forcing cruise lines to reroute 2011 itineraries on short notice. Looking ahead to next year, Crystal Cruises recently dropped two 2012 cruises that included Middle East stops.

Several of the new Celebrity cruises are designed to appeal to wine enthusiasts. Next year it will run seven “Immersive Europe Wine Cruises” from Southampton, England, on the Celebrity Constellation, which completed a $40-million renovation last year. The 12-night cruises will run from Sept. 7 to Nov. 18, 2012, during the fall grape harvest season.

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The trips will begin with three consecutive overnight stays: one each in Le Havre, France, allowing access to Paris and Normandy; Le Verdon, France, near Bordeaux; and Bilbao, Spain. It also features stops in Vigo, Spain, and Porto, Portugal. Passengers can visit wineries, participate in grape harvesting experiences, and see how Port wine is blended and aged.

The wine theme will continue on board with activities developed in partnership with local wineries, including Rioja tastings, Champagne brunches, Bordeaux samplings, and Port and food pairing dinners.

The cruises will be available for booking beginning Friday.

Other Celebrity changes include:

  • Five previously announced Holy Land sailings on Celebrity Silhouette in 2012 will now sail from Civitavecchia (Rome) or Venice, with some itineraries visiting ports in Greece, Malta, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
  • Four previously announced Mediterranean cruises on Celebrity Solstice in 2012, roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain, also have been modified and will offer more ports in the Western Mediterranean, as well as an overnight stay in Venice.

For more information, visit

Greece Public Transport Strike Hits Capital Again

Public transportation ground to a halt in Greece’s capital once again Thursday as workers began a 48-hour strike against new austerity measures imposed by the government.

In a separate protest, state power company employees occupied a power company building to prevent electricity bills from being issued that include a new property tax that many Greeks say they cannot pay. The government has threated to cut off power to those who do not pay.

“Electricity … cannot be used as a means of blackmail against the unemployed, the poor, the wage-earner,” the GENOP-DEH union said. “(We) will not allow our poor fellow citizens to be left without power.”

Greece is trying to ensure it qualifies for loans from a euro110 billion ($151 billion) international bailout that is the only thing preventing it from defaulting on its massive debts. The strikes and the takeover are the latest in a series of walkouts, sit-ins at government buildings and protests as unions lash out against the austerity measures the government is demanding.

State television and radio journalists, lawyers, hospital doctors, teachers, customs and tax officers, seamen and municipal workers have also either walked off the job or are planning strikes in the coming days. Taxi drivers are expected to stay off the streets Friday during the second day of the strike, leaving private cars as the only transport in Athens.


Another nationwide general strike is planned for Oct. 19.

The government announced the new property tax last month after international debt inspectors suspended their review of Greek reforms because of concerns over missed targets and delayed implementation.

The new tax is calculated on a sliding scale depending on size and location of property, and is to be imposed through electricity bills to circumvent Greece’s dysfunctional tax system and make it easier for the state to collect. Those who do not pay risk having their electricity shut off.

But the power employees’ union has reacted with outrage, saying the power company should not be used as a tax collection system. Workers have said they will refuse to switch consumers’ electricity off for nonpayment of the new tax.

Greece is becoming trapped in a vicious cycle. The government insists it has no choice but to impose the harsh austerity measures so it can to get bailout loans to pay its bills. But Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos says the repeated strikes are leading Greece’s international creditors to doubt the government’s ability to achieve its fiscal targets, which in turn raise the issue that more austerity measures must be imposed.

Greece’s debt inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission completed a review of the country’s reforms this week, and said the next vital euro8 billion ($11 billion) installment of the bailout will likely be available in early November.

Athens has said it will run out of money to pay salaries and pensions in mid-November without the funds.

European leaders are also to discuss Greece’s situation during a summit Oct. 23. Prime Minister George Papandreou was in Brussels Thursday for meetings with Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the regular meetings of eurozone finance ministers, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.