Going nowhere The news coming from Emirates earlier this month about the airline's new service to the Algerian capital, Algiers, was, at first glance, encouraging. One of the great North African travel destinations, its once-thriving tourism industry supposedly re-emerging from the setbacks of a decade-long civil war could now be reached, with an evening departure and a brief stopover in Dubai, for a late lunch the following day. With the airline announcing in a press release that it looked forward "to introducing a whole new audience to Algeria, bringing leisure travellers from around the globe to experience this country's unique attractions", it seemed like a welcome return for what is one of the most beautiful cities on the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, Algeria has strict, almost Soviet-style visa requirements for most passports (including those issued by the Hong Kong SAR, the United States and Britain). Furthermore, whereas neighbours Morocco and Tunisia give 30 or 90 days on arrival to most passport holders, obtaining an Algerian visa requires a personal consulate visit, several documents and then three or four weeks of waiting. So with Hong Kong having no Algerian consulate, embassy, or even an opportunistic honorary consul lurking in the commercial shadows, it seems that Algiers is unlikely to see many tourists arriving from this end of the Emirates route network.
Grand plans Anyone who has seen the opening 25 minutes of John Frankenheimer's 1966 movie Grand Prix will probably have a visit to the Monaco Grand Prix - this year taking place from May 23 to 26 - somewhere on their to-do list. The circuit that was so thrillingly captured by car- and helicopter-mounted cameras remains the one followed today, and it still provides great views and up-close excitement. The best vantage points, though, are hard to come by unless you book through a specialist tour operator (or happen to know someone local). Monaco GP Packages, for example, boasts a couple of prime locations, including the Ermanno Palace VIP terrace (above), with views of most of the circuit and pit lanes. The company has several hotel packages starting from about HK$40,000 for five nights, with yachts in the harbour and private jet flights adding rather more to the bottom line. For more details, visit www.monacogppackages.com or search for many other companies offering similar deals. You can rent Grand Prix in high definition for the iPad from iTunes to get you in the mood.
New arrival German flag carrier Lufthansa became the first airline to fly the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (above), last June, and will be using the aircraft - the world's longest passenger plane - for its daily service between Hong Kong and Frankfurt from next week. This latest, and probably last, version of the classic jumbo jet can carry 386 passengers, with Lufthansa's seat configuration, across three cabin classes. Sales of the Boeing 747-8 have been slow, with the cargo version - of which Cathay Pacific has eight - selling better than the passenger version, and Lufthansa is still the only airline flying the latter, although Korean Air and Air China each have five on order. You can find out all about the plane, and what Lufthansa has done with it, at 747-8.lufthansa.com.
Deal of the week If you can get away by April 15, Swire Travel has a two-night package to Phuket, Thailand (above), with economy-class flights on Dragonair, starting from HK$2,570 per person, twin share that may be of interest. The only hotel at this price is the Ibis Phuket Kata, but there are many other hotels available for a reasonable price. Among the best offers are eight nights for the price of four at the Centara Grand Beach Resort and a free third night at the Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa. A full list of hotels and package details can be downloaded in PDF form from the leisure package section at www.swiretravel. com. Just click the Thailand link and look for Phuket/Winter Promotion.