✉ In March a friend and I popped into Hays Travel in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, to ask for advice about a sunny, quiet, relaxing holiday. We wanted to avoid waterslides, children and so on but have some evening entertainment. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Meraki Resort in Hurghada, Egypt, on our Tui package, which cost £1,000 each, we discovered there was noise all day and all night, both indoors and by the pools. I can’t describe the distress caused. After the trip I raised a complaint with Hays, which offered us £50 each towards another Tui holiday. I’m now considering Abta’s arbitration scheme because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I’m 65 and my friend is 69, and the hotel staff even asked us why we chose their hotel because the average age was 35. Do you have any advice?
Meraki is an unlikely choice for an older traveller looking for a quiet holiday, as even the most cursory glance at the resort’s description on Tui’s website proves: “Perfect if you’re after a holiday that’s all about clubbing ’til dawn” is the opening sentence. But Hays disputes that you asked for a quiet hotel and insists you were told there was a nightclub on site (although it concedes you weren’t told about the waterslide because this wasn’t included in Tui’s description) and you accepted that the branch had met your requirements. It won’t offer anything more than the vouchers so your next step is arbitration, which costs £108 for claims up to £7,500 (abta.com).
Hurghada city marina
✉ My husband and I would like to take a holiday in Italy for a week in the summer. We have to go in the school holidays and want a hotel or apartment within walking distance of (or a bus ride to) a town — we don’t mind about the exact location. We want to relax but also to explore by public transport, and our budget is £2,000 without flights. Any ideas?
Casa Dolce Casa is a swish B&B on the outskirts of Ravello, the insanely gorgeous cliffside town on the Amalfi coast. It’s a short walk from the main square (or 180 steps if you don’t mind the climb) and the bus stop connecting Ravello with Amalfi is nearby — from there it’s easy to reach anywhere in the area by bus or ferry. Casa Dolce can organise cookery lessons, wine tasting and lemon tours; seven nights in a B&B double at the end of July would cost £1,791 (casadolcecasaravello.com). Fly to Naples.
Ravello on the the Amalfi coast
Or head for Trieste, the underrated, atmospheric and walkable city on the Adriatic coast (imagine Vienna by the sea), with castles to explore and beach clubs to lounge in. Stay at one of Europe’s five-star bargains, the Savoia Excelsior Palace Trieste on the waterfront. Built in 1911 to house the Hapsburg monarchy, it offers a week’s B&B in a seaview double, plus a 48-hour card offering entry to local attractions, for £1,645 for two if you join the hotel’s loyalty club (collezione.starhotels.com). Fly to Trieste.
✉ In August 2022 we picked up a car from Enterprise at Bordeaux airport. We then drove to a property near Agen, but just as we were arriving the spanner light flashed up on the dashboard; the manual instructed that this was a serious problem and we should immediately call for a mechanic, which we did. Enterprise arranged for the car to be picked up, I got a lift to Agen to get a replacement from the local Enterprise office, we completed the holiday successfully and dropped the replacement off at Bordeaux airport. I was then very surprised to get an email wanting over more than £430 for repairs to the original car. In my haste to get it taken away I completely forgot to take any pictures but as far as I’m concerned there was no damage done. I complained to Enterprise but it hasn’t provided any information regarding the damage other than some hazy photos that could be anything. My wife is now in end-of-life care, I’ve resigned from my job to care for her and money is tight. I really don’t want to pay this. It’s utterly spoiling the memories of our last holiday as a family. Can you help?
It’s heartbreaking that since you wrote to me your wife died, and dealing with this sort of problem at such a terrible time was the last thing you needed. After I contacted Enterprise, it decided to waive the charge and said: “We have looked into this issue and while we stand by our view that the car had suffered damage we accept that it has taken us longer to deal with the customer’s concerns than is usual. We are committed to providing a high quality of customer service and on this occasion feel we have fallen short of this. We will therefore contact the customer to inform them that we have waived the charge.” The company has also rescinded its ban on you hiring one of its cars again.
✉ I live in Washington state in the US and a Calm app “sleep story” read by Stephen Fry has me obsessed with Aberystwyth in Wales. My husband and I will be in London in June and are brave enough to take a train to Wales, but we don’t want to drive when we’re there. Are there any small-group or private tours that would include Aberystwyth on their itineraries?
It’s a five-hour train journey from London to Aberystwyth and longer (up to six and a half hours) at weekends, so plan your journey carefully. The local tour operator Cambrian Safaris could put together a bespoke itinerary for the two of you for £295 for a whole day, or sign up for its tailor-made All Round Wales trip in the company’s Land Rover Discovery. Usually starting from Cardiff, it circles west around the coast and up to the north, with nights in Pembrokeshire, Aberystwyth and Snowdonia, but can be adapted to suit you (cambriansafaris.co.uk).
✉ My wife and I booked an Israel and Ancient Egypt cruise with Saga early last year. We are uncertain if it will visit the two Israeli destinations in September, but it’s looking unlikely, and they were the only reason we booked. We’ve contacted Saga to see if we can transfer to a more expensive cruise to North America but it has refused. One of the best parts of booking a holiday is looking forward to it, but I’m no longer interested in going to Israel because troubles can flare up at any time. What should we do? Is it likely that cruise ships will be going to Israel this year?
I don’t have a crystal ball but it does seem vanishingly unlikely that cruise ships will be visiting Israel this autumn and some cruise lines have already cancelled their trips to the region for the whole of 2024. Saga told me it’s now putting the final touches to its contingency plans and that passengers will be notified this month with a choice of either a refund, an alternative cruise or the original cruise with an amended itinerary.
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