31 March 2009

Russian Visa Service Level Changes

Russia is about to change visa processing times and prices for the second time this year. The Russian consular officials told me the embassy is about to replace the current levels of service and prices with only two prices and two service levels. There will continue to be regular service for $75, but it will take up to three weeks to issue a visa. There will be fast service, but it will take up to three days. Same day and next day service will no longer be available. So get your requests in early for any Russian travel.

18 March 2009

Long live the Queen

Cunard has just announced details of their new build, the upcoming "Queen Elizabeth". To enter service on 12 October 2010, the QE New inaugural season will feature six very different inaugural cruises. Although hardened for the North Atlantic, the new ship is not a replacement of the QE2 in that it is not a true ocean liner. That role has already been taken by the Queen Mary 2. Instead, the QE New will be a cruise ship, and will undertake cruise itineraries from Southampton and the Caribbean, and potentially world cruises.
* The first voyage will be to the same destination as the QE2 inaugural in 1969: the Canary Islands. This is a 13 day cruise from Southampton on 12 October 2010 will call at Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Seville (Cadiz), Gran Canaria (Las Palmas), Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), La Palma (Santa Cruz de La Palma) and Madeira (Funchal).
* Mediterranean Premiere - a 14 day cruise to Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples, Cartagena and Gibraltar, on 25 October 2010.
* Aegean Introduction - an 18 day cruise to Venice, the Yugoslavian coast, Greece, Turkey and Malta, on 8 November 2010.
* Gallic Debut - a 5 day voyage to Holland, Belgium and France on 26 November 2010.
* Iberian Discovery - 13 day cruise to Spain and Portugal, the Canaries and Madiera on 1 December 2010.
* Festive Debut - a 22 day voyage across the mid-Atlantic to the Caribbean on 14 December 2010.
The QE New will feature 71% of the cabins having balconies, and 85% having at least a window. There is a large demand for upper-end cabins, and Cunard continues the tradition of devoting a substantial portion of the ship (12%) to Grill class cabins. The six top suites will be named after knighted former Cunard commodores. Grill passengers will dine in the two private dining rooms around the funnel on top of the ship.
The QE New is already under construction at Fincantieri's Monfalcone Yards in Italy. It will be 294m long and 32.3m wide: being about the same dimension as the QE2, and able to transit the current Panama Canal. However, it will be substantially larger inside at 90400 tons (a space, not weight, measurement). There are 12 public decks, with accomodation for 2092 passengers. This gives the ship a respectable passenger space ratio of 45, or one of the higher in the industry.

10 March 2009

Slow Brazilians

With the good news from Russia recently, we had been hoping for more great things from some of the slower visa countries. But our hopes were dashed when Brazil recently announced they were lengthening the application process at their embassy in Ottawa.
In the past the Brazilian embassy would process a visa application in eight (8) working days. A few weeks ago that became ten (10) working days, or two full weeks.
Times at the consulates remain high, and can run to over three working weeks for residents of Western Canada. Prices remain 50% higher than last year.
Click here for Brazilian visa details and forms.