Serene Africa One of Africa's fastest-growing tourist destinations, Mozambique has just become easier to reach, with new Qatar Airways flights from Doha to Maputo start-ing this month. Qatar Airways flies twice a day from Hong Kong to Doha, but early evening flight QR817 is the one to take for the shortest connection time to Maputo (about two hours). One of the highlights for tourists visiting Maputo (known as Lourenço Marques during Portuguese colonial rule, which ended in 1975) is the majestic Polana Serena Hotel (above; www.serenahotels.com/serenapolana) which was built in the early 1920s and has just undergone a multimillion-dollar restoration. The website's claims that it is in the same class as The Dorchester in London and The Ritz in Paris are on the optimistic side, but it remains one of the continent's classic hotels. For some of the better travel packages available, visit www.ashworthafrica.com
Party in Makati Early next month, Manila's commercial district of Makati will get its first new upmarket hotel since the New World Manila Hotel opened back in 1994. Raffles Makati will be a boutique property with just 32 suites, plus 237 private apartments for longer-term visitors to the Philippines capital. Raffles' signature features will include a version of Singapore's vastly overrated Long Bar and a Writers Bar. It would have been nice if Raffles had taken over a heritage property in the city, such as the Manila Hotel (top right), which turns 100 this year and is ripe for a makeover, but the hotel is in a new tower, and will be joined in January by the larger, 280-room Fairmont Makati. Disheartening news for both hotels is that the Philippines Civil Aviation Authority has just failed another International Civil Aviation Authority safety review, meaning no Philippine airline can fly to Europe, or start any services to the United States. The last European airline to offer non-stop flights from Europe to Manila, KLM, switched to Taipei earlier this year.
Kiwi closure Bad news for travellers who have enjoyed Air New Zealand's service between Hong Kong and London since it began in 2006 comes with the announcement that the carrier is to discontinue the route in early March. Air New Zealand (which has been flying to Hong Kong since 1966) will continue its flights between Hong Kong and Auckland, but will hand over its Heathrow duties to Cathay Pacific in the form of a code share. Another casualty of airline economics will be Singapore Airlines' ultralong-haul flights from Singapore to New York and Los Angeles, which are due to be wrapped up later next year. The Airbus A340-500 used on the route (below), and the only plane able to operate for such distances non-stop, has, with rising oil prices, proved uneconomical. The mantle of longest air route in the world will pass to Qantas' 13,800-kilometre Boeing 747-400ER Sydney to Dallas service, assuming it is still operating by that time.
Deal of the week A last-minute Mediterranean cruise sale from Swire Travel isn't as cheap as it looks at first glance, but is still good value for anyone who fancies a quick jaunt around some of Europe's more popular seaports. The starting price is HK$3,893 for seven nights aboard the MSC Splendida (below), which leaves from Genoa, Italy, and puts in at Marseille, France, Barcelona, Spain, La Goulette in Tunisia, Palermo in Sicily and Civitavecchia near Rome before heading back to Genoa. Flights are not included, nor are port charges, taxes and other fees, and at this price you'll be staying in the cheapest cabin, which will have no windows and probably some engine noise. (Also worth noting is that this is low season, when sea breezes are not at their warmest.) But upgrades are available and all prices are full board. For a seven-day trip around the Med, you probably won't find a better deal. The easiest way to get to Genoa is with a Cathay Pacific flight to Milan, and a rail connection. Cruises depart on December 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. For further details visit www.swiretravel.com or call 3151 8887, quoting package code: Cruise-CO2O8F.