Recently in Fam trips Category

From deputy features ed Joanna Booth

I've returned from the Hayes & Jarvis fam to Mauritius overwhelmed by the hospitality on the island.


Mauritius fam tripAnd not just from the beautiful top-end hotels we visited ­ though each one pulled out all the stops to impress us, from Thai cuisine at the Hilton to a pirate-themed quiz night at the Maritim ­ but also from the Mauritian people themselves.

Our group was divided up and sent off in cars on a treasure hunt round the island. We accosted people in the street, asking them countless questions, and the responses were polite and helpful without exception.

Few went as far as one man, though. We were asked to bring back what translated from the Creole as 'an old Mauritian'. Most teams discovered that our intended target was a day-old edition of the island¹s local paper.

However, Brad Smith, team manager at First Choice Peterborough, took a more literal approach, and arrived at the finish line cheerfully accompanied by a local man of advanced years...

Joanna Booth, deputy features editor

Go Easy on the expectations...

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Another message from Louise Scott on easyCruise...

Just been chatting to a senior member of ship personnel who let slip that a customer spent a couple of hours in his office the other day having a moan.

Being a sticky-beaked journo type I asked why and he said she was an older lady who'd been on loads of (posh) cruises before this and wasn't happy with how easyCruise Life was shaping up in comparison - one of her main gripes being the food.

Hang on a minute, I thought, isn't that a bit like comparing Pizza Express to The Ivy? Or going to Maccy D's and expecting steak?

Okay, so the grub may not be the most varied in the world, but it's pretty nice if you ask me (or any of the folk I've chatted to about it). The disgruntled lady didn't take kindly to the generally informal style of the ship either, by all accounts.

Agents, the moral of this story is this: be careful who you recommend a holiday on easyCruise Life to. Those looking for a bit of swank, smarm and Silver Service will not find it here. This is firm flip-flop brigade territory.

Chilled-out types of all ages who would hate the traditional idea of cruising and want to see more of the ports of call than the portholes on deck will love easyCruise Life, though. It's easy peasy.

More from news editor Michelle Perrett's trip to Kenya with Virgin...

Esther Ranson was basically the best dressed woman on the whole trip. At every event she had a new gorgeous outfit and looked stunning, putting the rest of us messy lot to shame.

Esther Rantzen demonstrates the Anton du Beke pose, Masai Mara, Kenya

Esther Rantzen demonstrates the Anton du Beke pose, Masai Mara, Kenya

We left the Maasi Mara on Saturday, having eaten some of the best food, had some of the most amazing service, seen prides of lions literally metres away and been treated like royalty by the Kenyan people and the Sarova Mara Lodge.

We all tried to get our photo taken with Esther, who showed us a pose which her Strictly Come Dancing partner Anton du Beke had taught her. Apparently it takes 10 years and 10 pounds off you. All the female journalists agreed to use it in future...

Michelle Perrett, news editor

More from news editor Michelle Perrett in the Masai Mara...

The big news on Saturday was that Richard Branson had arrived in the Masai Mara - naturally, everyone was excited to meet him.


Branson has been very supportive of Kenya during its troubles, and had come to open a new school which has been partly funded by Virgin Atlantic frequent flyers.

Sir Richard approached me with a kiss on the cheek. I managed to get one of the guys to take a photo of us (above), telling Branson it's for my mum. He said it was typical: women's mums now fancy him!

Later hundreds of locals gathered at the official opening ceremony of the Sekenani Primary School. I sat in the press area, only to find I was sitting directly behind the man himself and thus had a good chance of making it onto Kenyan TV.

Sir Richard Branson opens Sekenani Primary School, Masai Mara, Kenya

The children celebrated by singing about how important education is to them. They were so happy and so excited to have a school. Many of us got a little teary as we realised what a big event this was for the community

Michelle Perrett, news editor

More from chief reporter Juliet Dennis, on a Bahamas Flavours fam trip in Nassau...

Good news to report from our fam trip in the Bahamas - the missing red bag has been found!

The reason? Pure holidaymaker error (and there we were, all prepared to blame British Airways...).

As suspected, another holidaymaker had picked up Helen's bag in error.

Fortunately both Helen and the lady who had decided to bring a similar red bag on holiday were re-united with their respective luggage.

So we could all enjoy rum cocktails and a nice bit of nosh courtesy of the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort in Nassau without Helen worrying about what she'd wear the next day, and without us all having to lend her a spare T-shirt!

News editor Michelle Perrett has joined tour operators and journalists on a trip to the Masai Mara...

Arriving by limo and being checked in at the special Virgin entrance at Heathrow is a spectacular way to start a trip to Kenya.

Through the genius of technology the driver contacts Virgin detailing the expected time of arrival and amount of luggage I need to check in making the arrival smooth and stress-free.

One of the most awful things about getting a flight is the queuing to get food and rush around duty free. But the Virgin Clubhouse is a treat in itself, designed like a trendy London bar or restaurant.

You can have a spa treatment, get a haircut, eat from the menu and have a glass of champagne while waiting to board.

I have a glass of champagne while waiting to interview the Minister for Tourism for Kenya, who has been on a 10-day trip in Europe promoting the country.

He wants to tell tourists that Kenya is now safe after the recent troubles, but is running late as he has been called to No. 10 for a meeting with foreign ministers.

On the eight-hour flight I managed a few hours sleep in the Upper Class beds, which are heaven.

In typical British style, everyone queues for the toilets to change and freshen before landing. That's Life TV presenter Esther Rantzen, who I'd spotted in the Clubhouse earlier, is now in the queue behind me. In typical non-British fashion she decides queuing to change is not the way forward - and decides to strip off her top.

I wasn't expecting to see so much of her on this trip. It turns out she is a travel writer and is going to be on the trip for four days with the other 35 journalists and operators.

More soon...

Michelle Perrett, news editor

A second dispatch from chief reporter Juliet Dennis, who has joined a Bahamas Flavours fam trip in Nassau...

It's not every day you get to hug and snog a dolphin. But that's exactly what we got to do yesterday as part of Bahamas Flavours' educational.

Dolphin Encounters is a centre that is accessed from Nassau on a short boat ride and intends to look after dolphins and sea lions as well as allow them to show off their party tricks - and some close encounters with their human friends. It's a great day trip for agents to recommend to customers planning on visiting the Bahamas.

For our part, we got to go into the water to meet one of the dolphins, who was so tame he gave us all a hug, several kisses (okay I got four!) and provided he was given plenty of fish, let us stroke him too, bless him.

One of the sea lions we met had been rescued from an aquarium after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The poor creature has been so traumatised by the hurricane that he's lost the sight of his eyes and is deaf in one ear.

But clearly he's improving fast - he wasted no time in showing us a few choice spins and loud coughing noises. And word has it he has been intimate with at least two pregnant sea lions at the centre, so clearly he's got his mojo back too.

Meanwhile, we also visited a few properties in the Nassau area, the funkiest of which was Compass Point. It has huts of every colour - so a real Caribbean feel to it - some of which are on stilts.

The huts, which have a lovely rustic feel, sit right next to the beach and there's also all the usual facilities (pool, restaurant, Internet).

Definitely worth booking for clients who want a smaller property that offers an alternative to a hotel. There's even self-catering facilities there too, not to mention a view to die for.

Juliet Dennis, chief reporter

Juliet DennisJuliet Dennis reports from Bahamas Flavour's fam trip to Nassau...

As most travel agents would no doubt agree, no fam trip would be complete without a few hitches along the way.

But none of our party of agents expected it to get off to a such a flying start when we arrived in lovely hot Nassau in the Bahamas on tour operator Bahamas Flavour's first educational trip for the trade.

We spent an hour in the arrivals hall waiting for luggage (thank God, only the Caribbean would have a bar next to the carousel serving up rum punch for us needy Brits), and then discovered one of our bags (and it would be the bright red one) had not turned up.

Poor Helen, from Universal Reservations travel agency, put on a brave face but even her patience was tested when the lady at the British Airways desk said she would file a report but there was very little she could do as she didn't have a phone. No phone? No computer? ...where are we?!!

After a bit of detective work we found a similar bag to Helen's with a different name on it - and concluded that another holidaymaker has walked off with her bag.

And so the search begins. Helen is now off at another resort, with our fantastic host Kim from Bahamas Flavour at her side, who is determined to track down the naughty Brit who picked up her bag.

(We have it on good authority from Jane, from Global Star Travel, that the party who have picked up Helen's bag were getting into the holiday spirit on board the flight and have already had a few drinks...)

Let's hope she finds it - the other scenario is that the bag's stayed on the BA flight and has gone to Turks and Caicos for the week. We all like to buy a few new clothes on holiday, but a whole new wardrobe?

Meanwhile, the hotel's business centre is shut on Sundays and it's taken me 40 minutes to find an Internet cafe (via a vast casino that is like a mini-Vegas, and I nearly got lost in there alone) and then the computer wouldn't accept my work American Express card... looks like I'll be needing a few rum punches myself later.

Juliet Dennis, chief reporter

Kuoni Worldwide Diploma: after the exams, the party...

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After five hectic days in Cape Town, South Africa, the 40 agents taking part in the Kuoni Worldwide Diploma final had the chance to let their hair down.

The event culminated in a fantastic evening at the Gold of Africa Museum, where they were treated to a tour of the museum followed by a tasting menu of traditional food in the museum’s newly-opened courtyard restaurant, courtesy of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the official destination marketing organisation for Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Sarah Short of Bath Travel Fareham and Kathryn Skeates of Travelcare Ringwood try some drumming at the Gold of Africa Museum, Cape Town

The evening included the chance to join in some traditional African drumming. Pictured are (left) Sara Short from Bath Travel in Fareham and Kathryn Skeates from Travelcare in Ringwood, Hampshire.

Two agents were also named Worldwide Consultant and Advanced Worldwide Consultant of the Year 2007 – check out next week’s edition of Travel Weekly for exclusive interviews with the winners.

Emily Ashwell, business and community editor

Kuoni Worldwide Diploma Final: it's exam day...

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It’s exam day on the Kuoni Worldwide Diploma Final trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Agents are taking their final paper in the competition to become Worldwide Consultant or Advanced Worldwide Consultant of the Year 2007.

Here’s what the agents have achieved so far:

  • A total of 2,700 agents started the standard diploma, 525 started the advanced diploma.
  • To gain a place on the Final trip to Cape Town, candidates taking the standard diploma had to achieve a pass mark of 96% or above – 40 agents did and they have come on the trip.
  • Candidates taking the advanced diploma had to gain a pass mark of 92% or more to be offered a place on the trip – 15 got that mark and ten made it on the trip.

On the trip, the standard diploma agents have been competing for the coveted title of Worldwide Consultant of the Year 2007. The advanced diploma agents have been competing for the title of Advanced Worldwide Consultant of the Year 2007.

The two winners will be announced this evening (Monday) at a gala dinner at the Gold Restaurant, part of the Gold Museum in Cape Town.

Check out upcoming editions of Travel Weekly to read exclusive interviews with the winners.

In the mean time, big congratulations from everyone at Travel Weekly to all the agents who made it on the trip – it’s a fantastic achievement.

Emily Ashwell, business and community editor

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