Our writer Steve Vickers brings you the latest from the world of travel, including news of direct flights from Europe to Indonesia and an update on the surf park that’s making waves in northern Spain.
Pirate films inspire Chinese theme park
More details are beginning to emerge about the new Shanghai Disney Resort, and there’s some good news for film fans. The vast park, which opens in December 2015, will feature an entire zone themed around the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – a series of films which was actually originally inspired by a ride at Disneyland in California.
Disney says ‘Treasure Cove’ will include a state-of-the-art boat ride with characters and scenes “derived directly from the movies”. Ironically, many Chinese visitors will never have had the chance to see every film in the series; the second movie – Dead Man’s Chest – was buried by Chinese censors.
Europe to Jakarta non-stop
Indonesia’s national airline – once banned from landing within the EU because of safety concerns – is about to launch direct flights from Jakarta to Amsterdam. The reinvented Garuda Indonesia, which joined the Skyteam airline alliance earlier this month, will start operating non-stop flights between the two capitals on the 30th May using its fleet of brand-new Boeing 777s. The same planes will eventually continue to London Gatwick before returning to Jakarta (again via Amsterdam), but if you want to fly that stretch you’ll have to wait until September.
Scotland and the “joy of missing out”
A few years back, while researching a book for Rough Guides on the Isle of Mull, I had a head-on crash with another car. No one was hurt, but both cars were wrecked and it was miles to the nearest village. We looked to our mobile phones for help. No signal.
It’s a common problem in rural Scotland, where the infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But now the PR folks at Visit Scotland are hoping that this lack of connectivity – which they’re calling JOMO, or the “joy of missing out” – will attract tourists, rather than scaring them away. According to a recent trends report released by the tourist board, Scotland’s off-grid locations give visitors the chance to reject technology and seek ‘meaningful and emotional experiences’.
Though as the report itself admits, the majority of tourists would not see a forced digital detox as something desirable. And for as long as sites like Facebook and Tripadvisor remain a part of the modern travel experience – not to mention unfortunate mishaps like my car crash – that looks unlikely to change.
Airbus A380 feeling the squeeze
When the A380 superjumbo first took to the skies, much of the publicity centred on how spacious its economy class felt, compared with smaller planes. That could be about to change. According to a report on Runway Girl Network, Airbus is planning to raise the floor of the aircraft’s cabin slightly, giving airlines the opportunity to squeeze another seat into each row, increasing the total number from ten to 11. The change would leave enough room for 18-inch-wide seats (with a block of five in the middle) and make it possible for airlines to sell around 40 extra economy tickets per flight. Will the temptation be too much?
New waves on the horizon
Huge artificial wave pools could soon be appearing across Europe, making it possible for surfers to hang ten year-round, even in places hundreds of miles from the nearest natural break. The first Wavegarden is currently being tested at a lagoon in northern Spain, and is kicking out consistently clean waves that peel for more than 200m. Similar centres are already being planned for Bristol in England and Varberg in southern Sweden, and there are rumours of wave parks opening in Portugal and France: two nations with no shortage of natural waves.
Russian visa rules could be relaxed
Western nations reacted to the tense situation in Crimea by imposing travel bans on high-profile Russians. Then, with impeccable timing, Russia announced it would be moving in the opposite direction – relaxing its visa rules in a bid to attract more visitors, including tourists from Europe and the USA. According to the Russian political newspaper Pravda, government officials will soon start reviewing a bill that proposes to streamline the visa application process and increase the maximum stay from 30 days to six months – which is, let’s face it, a much more practical amount of time exploring the world’s biggest country.
This month’s steaming slice of travel inspiration comes from Chris Arnold, who captures Vietnam’s tourist hotspots through a soft haze of rain, smog and lantern light.