Where to take the kids this half term – plus all the latest airline, cruise and travel news
Whether it’s samba at the Rio Carnival, jazz in New Orleans for Mardi Gras or our very own Shrove Tuesday, preparing for Lent comes in many forms.
What they all have thing in common is an excuse to brighten up winter with a party. And you don’t have to head to Brazil or America’s Deep South to have fun.
Even staid Belgium gets into the party act with orange-throwing in Binche, while Basel in Switzerland throws off its usual reserve to leave the city ankle-deep in confetti after a 72-hour party with marching bands, bar crawls and parades.
Venice holds the most famous carnival, lasting from now until February 12. It’s filled with balls and people wandering about in elaborate masked costumes that help to make this ridiculously beautiful city even more picturesque. British Airways has a two night break at the three-star Canal Hotel from £169pp including flights from Gatwick on February 3 for £169pp. Call: 0844 493 0758
Or try the less touristy Verona nearby. A costumed parade has been staged in its medieval streets since 1660, when it celebrated the end of a plague. It ends up in Piazza San Zeno with a party and steaming bowls of gnocchi. Cresta has a two-night break at the four star Giberti Hotel with Easyjet flights on February 7 for £264pp. Call: 0844 879 8014
The Nice Carnival on the French Cote d’Azur has daily parades with vast papier mache models from February 15 to March 6. A flower parade sees thousands of blooms thrown into the crowds. Easyjet has a two-night break leaving from Gatwick on February 25 with room-only at the Vendome Hotel for £113pp. Call: 0843 104 1000.
But the closest Europe comes to matching Rio is in Tenerife, which has all-night parties in fancy dress and parades that feature costumes of mind-boggling complexity. This year the festivities last from February 6-17 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and from February 3-24 in Puerto de la Cruz.
If you fancy making a holiday out of it, Easyjet has a seven-night holiday at the all-inclusive Ten Bel Alborada Apartments in Costa Del Silencio from £373pp with flights from Manchester on February 5. Call: 0843 104 1000
Alternatively, Jet2.com offers a seven- night break at the four-star Dania Park Magec in Puerto de la Cruz. The price of £445pp includes flights from Newcastle on February 5, B&B plus transfers.
Half term day out ideas
Harry Potter Wand-erland
Wand-er down to the boy wizard’s attraction in Hertfordshire for a February half term special occasion.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden is inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the world of wand making, spell casting and magic duels.
Special effects and choreography experts from the films are helping to create the activities for Wand Week, which reveals how fight scenes were developed and shows the planning that went into each wand movement.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe wore out more than 60 wands during the making of the eight movies.
Wand Week runs from February 16-24. Admission is adult £29/child £21.50. Advance bookings only.
Immerse the kids in a magical, mythical world at Legoland’s Manchester and Windsor sites
Legends of Chima is an animated 12 minute 3D film that tells the story of four young animals entwined in a struggle between good and evil with 4D additions of wind, smoke, water and a few surprises.
The show will debut at Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester and Legoland Windsor Resort on March 15.
Admission from adult £34.20/ child £27.45.
Warwick Castle is offering up to 40% off family admission to March 22, including at February half term.
Entry for two adults and two children aged 4-11 is now £75.84 (book up to seven days in advance) and also gives access to the Castle Dungeon and Merlin: The Dragon Tower attractions.
Plus, four castle rooms that have remained closed for generations will now be permanently opened to reveal their secrets – Barbican Battlements, Bear Tower, Watergate Tower and Guards’ Room are included in regular admission. Call: 0871 265 2000.
Football fans may not be over the moon next time they watch their team… but they might be over the Atlantic.
Lufthansa and Gulf Air have signed a deal which will allow them to screen Premier League matches at 35,000ft and research by air fares website Skyscanner.net shows more than 50% of supporters would pay more to watch their team in flight.
Despite the moneybags image of Chelsea and Manchester City, it was Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic fans who would be most likely to pay extra for a flight that was screening their team’s match.
EasyJet has become one of Disneyland Paris’s recommended airlines and will now be offering customers the ability to book park tickets and eventually holidays via its website.
Thai Airways will introduce revamped Boeing 747s with new 34in pitch economy seats on its Heathrow-Bangkok route from March 31.
Virgin Atlantic has launched the first ever commercial art gallery in the air. Upper Class passengers flying between London and New York during February can view and purchase bespoke paintings by British artist Ben Eine.
Brits are looking to explore Burma, Borneo and southern India in 2013, says small group adventure tour operator G Adventures, which has seen a 52% increase in sales year on year.
Croatia’s visitor numbers in 2012 rose by 6.4% to 12.3 million compared with 2011, says the tourist board.
by Captain Greybeard
A dream cruise destination for the lucky few, Antarctica is a forbidding place. While the UK has been shivering and slithering in the grip of winter over the past few days, it’s the height of summer in the southern ocean – and still the weather has been biting back.
The 91 passengers on board luxury expedition ship Orion were taken on a 687 nautical mile diversion when Captain Mike Taylor responded to an emergency call to rescue a solo round-the-world yachtsman who had taken to his liferaft after his vessel had been dismasted by storm-force winds.
Alain Delord was landed safely in Hobart, Tasmania, leaving the passengers muttering about compensation for missing a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the remote MacQuarie Island.
A few days earlier on the other side of the Pole, four crew members on board another luxury ship, Silver Explorer, were treated for injuries when a giant wave in Drake’s Passage swamped the bridge.
The vessel returned to the port of Ushuaia in Argentina and a 10-day cruise was cancelled while repairs were carried out.
A few hundred miles away in Antarctic Sound, the 200-passenger Fram, on its sixth annual visit to the region, was led to safety by Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Protector after being hemmed in by ice up to 13ft thick.