Welcome to Amro's travel blogs. We will be updating our blogs with current travel news, destination information and insider knowledge for the gay and lesbian traveller. If you have any questions or comments regarding any of our posted blogs please feel free to contact us at holidays@amroholidays.com

Monday, 5 March 2012

How Much do I pay in Taxes on my Holiday Flight ?

It’s an interesting question and the answer is far from simple. Much as I loathe the US practice of adding tax on after the sticker price so everything costs more than you expect, at least it is transparent. That makes it difficult to put up taxes by stealth.

Sadly the British Government has other ideas !! Back in 2005, Gordon Brown introduced Air Passenger Duty (APD) as a green tax at £5 for European flights and £20 for Long Haul flights in Economy and double for premium cabin classes. He got away with it as the APD is lost in the overall cost of your flight ticket or holiday.

So two years later he quietly doubled it and so it has gone on – APD has increased by an astonishing 140% over the past four years – more if you travel in the premium cabin classes. It’s now a very unfair, tax theoretically based on distance but in practice full of anomalies. London to Honolulu (17 hours) is taxed at £130 in a premium cabin whereas London – Cancun (11 Hours) is a whopping £162.

Next month APD goes up again – your cheeky week in Gran Canaria on easyJet will net Mr Osborne £13 but Cape Town would be £81 and if Sydney Mardi Gras appeals, prepare to form out £92 and that’s in Economy. Fancy a treat and a bit more space on a long flight, and Sydney is now costing you £184 in APD Tax.

So there it is – APD: a tax on all our dreams

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Rainbow Reykjavik

Last weekend saw Alan and I jetting north west for three hours to Iceland to join in with the Rainbow Reykjavik festival. Amro Bear insisted on coming along too but he found a bottle of the hard stuff so we didn't see too much of him !!

For many years now the Gay & Lesbian Community in Iceland have run a very succesful and popular Gay Pride Event attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year. The 2012 event is 8 -12 August and Amro still has some availability. Now, the same team had arranged Rainbow Reykjavic as a winter event and what a success it was. Gay boyz and girlz from all over the US, Canada and Europe joined together for three days of concerts, parties and sightseeing.

The Golden Circle is a fascinating day trip to the east of the capital that travels across lava fields and skirts several volcanoe craters before arriving at Gulfoss Waterfall. For me, this was one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have seen mainly because of its shear size. The fact that it was winter with the snow and ice giving the spray and falls a magical feel also helped.

Nearby is the community of Geysirs. It's a good spot to stop for lunch before walking amongst the spouting bursts of steam and bubbling ponds that are so fascinating to watch. Finally it was on to the Continental Divide where the tectonic plates are gently pulling the continents of Europe and America further apart.

Then there is the Blue Lagoon - a real treat. Billed as a thermal spa, this is a giant natural lake around three feet deep filled with naturally heated mineral water that bubbles up from the ground and gives temperatures around 30degs C. It's quite strange getting undressed and then running from the changing room to the pool wearing only swim trunks in temperatures below freezing to then plunge into the warm water. We went as dusk fell and the drizzle of rain being blown onto our faces was soon warmed by the swim-up bar.

The Blue Lagoon is the most famous spa, and being conveniently located between the airport and the Reykjavik for either on arrival or on departure visits, it is very popular and a must do. However, Iceland has many thermal pools with six in Reykjavik alone - one being particularly popular with the gay community. Many of the countryside communities also have thermal baths and it is even possible to discover them, literally, in the middle of nowhere !!

It is also worth spending some time wandering around the narrow streets of Reykjavik - Europe's most northerly capital or along the seashore to the small port. There is a wide range of bars, restaurants and boutique shops many selling local clothes such as sweaters and outdoor wear at much lower prices than at home. The Hallgrímskirkja Church is Iceland's tallest building and a trip in the elevator to the top of the tower to enjoy the magnificent views over the city should not be missed. Also don't miss the many small museums that tell the story of Iceland's past including the National Museum and Saga Museum.

Iceland in winter makes a great weekend destination. The people welcome visitors as long lost friends and the vibrant gay scene in Reykjavik is easy to discover and join. Once horrendously expensive, the recent economic problems have made Iceland a lot more affordable compared to a few years ago with overall costs no more than in, say, London. Direct flights are now available from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton or Manchester and Glasgow also helping to keep down the costs.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Gay Group Cruises

Last October Alan and I went on Gay Group Cruise – a group of gay men on an otherwise straight cruise. We chose this as we had been on several cruises but had found them very heterosexual. The prospect of sitting down to dinner night after night with the same straight couples was, at the very least not what we wanted for a holiday, and was also somewhat tedious.

Equally, we found the prospect of spending a week on one of the 5000+ American ships that are especially chartered for gay travellers somewhat intimidating and the very US centric entertainment was equally not to our liking.

So when a flyer arrived in the Amro Office from one of our suppliers offering a really good price on a Gay Group Cruise from Rome to the Holy Land & Eastern Mediterranean, we decided to give it a try. We were not disappointed.

Firstly the ship was the Celebrity Silhouette launched only a few weeks beforehand and only on her fifth cruise. We had a veranda cabin with concierge service which meant little niceties such as bathrobes and slippers, 5pm canapés and a bottle of fizz to welcome us plus daily fresh fruit and flowers. Definitely extras worth the small additional payment. The veranda meant we could lie in bed with the door open hearing the waves beneath us as well as having a private place to sunbathe. Just make sure you choose the side of the ship that will face south for most of your cruise to ensure you get the most sun.

And so it was with some trepidation we approached the first evening’s Welcome Party to meet our fellow gay group travellers - a mix of around 30 guys aged from mid 30’s to late 70’s from all over the US and Europe, many of whom were experienced group travellers. A glass or two of fizz soon loosened tongues and by the time we went down to dinner we felt we were long-lost friends. With so many places to eat on the Silhouette, we didn’t join the group for dinner every evening or indeed what became the ritual gathering in the Martini Bar an hour or so beforehand but it was nice to know that it was there.

Besides three or four informal parties during the cruise, the group also enjoyed some specially arranged shore excursions. In Tel Aviv, we visited a gay artist’s studio, had lunch in the Gay Community Centre and then crashed out on the gay beach and the sight of four gay men trying to synchroswim in the Dead Sea the next day will remain with me for a long time to come.

So a Gay Group Cruise – nothing too organised, nothing too pressured. Just new gay friends to meet and chat with when you want and your own time when you don’t. An increasingly popular option and all for no more than the regular cruise price. Why not check out all our cruises on the Amro Website.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

GayDays@DisneyWorld Orlando from £599pp inc flights, accom and car.

How times flies and it seems hardly possible that the annual GayDays@DisneyWorld Orlando will be on us again on Saturday 4 June.

What started as a quiet affair 20 years ago with 3000 gay men and women arriving at Disney's Magic Kingdom wearing red so they would recognise each other has now grown to nearly a week of events. It is arguably the US largest gay festival attracting around 150,000 gay men and women and Amro Worldwide is pleased to be GayDays agent in the UK

Although neither Disney nor any of the other theme parks or tourism organizations in the Orlando area actually produce this event, they do sanction and support this week-long series of social gatherings at the area's various theme parks and hotels as well as both circuit-style parties and concerts along with more laid-back revelry such as pool parties and bear events at countless venues throughout the region. A major and ever growing feature is the GayDays Expo held in the Host Hotel from 2 - 5 June with entertainment and over 100 vendors.

And it is not just gay men who are catered for, over past years a lot of effort has been put into organising events for lesbians with a full programme called Girls at GayDays including a Literary Festival as well as chill-out pool parties.

But key to all the fun is "Doing the Parks" in the company of new friends. Thursday 2nd June is GayDay at Animal Kingdom, Friday 3rd GayDays@ Hollywood Studios with Saturday being the 20th Anniversary of GayDays@ The Magic Kingdom. If that isn't quite enough then Sunday 5th is GayDays@Epcot.

So if all sounds fun to you then why not join Amro Worldwide's special flight to Orlando departing on 2 June from London Gatwick. Fly direct to Orlando Sanford and collect your FREE rental car which is yours for your entire seven night stay. Drive to your 4* hotel just minutes from the centre of all the action in the GayDays Host Hotel. And the price - an extra special £599 pp based on two sharing. This offer is not available on line so contact us or call 01462 434633 for more details.

Plus we have tickets for all the events and bargain value passes for access to the GayDays events and DisneyWorld parks plus more info about Orlando. And in early June, Orlando's weather is nothing short of stunning with clear blue skies and temperatures around 29C.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

It’s always great fun when Amro launches a new destination and following my trip to Mexico’s Yucatan at the end of February, we are delighted to launch our new holidays to the Riviera Maya. Based on direct flights to Cancun Airport, our prices start at just £889 per person for 7 night’s room and breakfast in September.

The Yucatan is pretty special – the weather is truly perfect year round with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Plus there is a great mix of beach, cultural and adventure for your holiday. Try exploring Mayan Ruins such as Chichen Itza and discover this civilisation which was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Learn about the Sisal and Rope industries which gave the Yucatan its wealth in the late 19th Century and gave rise to the amazing plantations and their Haciendas which are now luxury boutique hotels. Gasp as you ride the zip wires over the jungle or explore, by swimming or raft, the network of underground rivers accessed through the cenote sink holes and marvel at the stalactites and limestone caverns.

Or you could just laze on a pristine white powder sand beach watching the azure Caribbean Sea anticipating a gourmet dinner in one of the foodie restaurants that proliferate in the area.

During my trip I found a truly fabulous 5* all inclusive gay resort – Adonis Tulum. Right on the ocean and a couple of hundred yards walk to two gay naturist beaches, Adonis offers a relaxing holiday in high class style. And all-inclusive really means that here, all alcoholic drinks are complimentary, even in the Spirit night club and you have a choice of three gourmet restaurants for dinner. The only extras are spa treatment in the luxury Japanese spa.

If you prefer to be in the centre of town, try our Hacienda Paradise in Puerto del Carmen. A 4* accommodation, gay managed, with a shady pool and a welcoming atmosphere. Just ten minutes walk to either the gay beach club in Puerto del Carmen or 69 Club gay bar, this hotel richly deserves its Amro Little Gem classification.

For those who want to explore a little more widely, we have a 14 night self-drive tour – Mexico’s Yucatan Explorer. Enjoy the mix of history, culture and adventure as you visit several Mayan Ruins including the famed Chichen Itza, swim with pink flamingos on the Gulf Coast wetlands, enjoy the restored buildings of Maerida’s Paseo de Montejon and swim or raft in the cenotes before relaxing in our Adonis Tulum resort on the beach.

You’ll also stay in one of the famed Hacienda enjoying life as the wealthy plantation owners did a century ago.

I am excited by the Riviera Maya as a different gay destination which offers so much variety and with prices based on the US dollar, it offers great value for your 2011 holiday

Monday, 20 December 2010

More Winter Flight Disruption

Here we are again ! Snow falls and flights get disrupted or for rather too many people, cancelled and their holidays lost. We all moan and complain but until the authorities get their act together and find ways to keep airports open, that's about the best we can do - or is it?

John Tangey - Chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators Aviation Committee - said yesterday

" ... passengers who booked with a tour operator are fortunate. Anybody who has made their own travel arrangements are on their own and now have to rebook flights, car-hire and hotel accommodation, not an appealing prospect for stressed travellers. "

As a Tour Operator, Amro is monitoring all flights for our customers during the current disruption. Where possible we are contacting both those at home and overseas to ensure they are fully informed of what is happening and re-booking at no additional cost.

So whilst we can't stop the snow, we can minimise the inconvenience and stress - yet another benefit of booking with a tour operator.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Nightmare of Non-Stop Confusion !!

‘According to EU figures, more than half of all people who buy flights, hotel rooms and car hire online risk being left without compensation if companies fail’ said Fiona Jeffery, chair of World Travel Market – the UK’s largest travel trade fair - speaking about the EU’s Package Travel Directive. This is the Europe wide directive which was supposed to ensure that when you bought a holiday and someone went out of business, you were fully financially protected.

‘A staggering 56% of all travellers are now estimated to use the internet rather than high street travel agents to organise their trips, but protection safeguards have not been put into place to deal with the digital age’ she continued. It’s time to end the Nightmare of Non-Stop Confusion!!

Here at Amro, we agree the whole business is nothing short of confusion and even we have to stop and think sometimes. But let’s keep it simple, book a flight and accommodation at the same time with Amro – either online or through our call centre – and you’ll be fully financially protected. Moreover when something goes wrong, like last week when flights were cancelled, we’ll change your flight and, if necessary, extend your holiday at no extra cost.

Gay insider tips for Peru

  • Check out Fallen Angel in Cusco, a funky gay friendly bar and restaurant with creative artwork for sale. Check out the toilets!
  • Pick up great souviners at the Pisac Markets
  • For the adventurous try the local cuisine of Cuy (Guinea Pig)
  • Drinks plenty of fluids and Coca tea in Lake Titicaca
  • Get to Machu Picchu early