VAX WITH THAT?
In a moment of weakness we pulled into a McDonald's at Goulburn, NSW. In regional Victoria where even at the smallest places you must check in and show proof of double vaccinations, we were advised to put on masks. When we asked if the staff at Goulbourn were vaccinated we were told they didn't have to say. Had we known this, we wouldn't have stopped.
Lindsay Somerville, Lindfield, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
DO TELL ABOUT ORBETELLO
Way back in March 1996, on our way to spend a week in Tuscany, our family stumbled upon Porto Santo Stefano on the Island of Orbetello. Sadly, we only had time for lunch at this delightful place as we had to check into our holiday villa at Panzano in Chianti. We all vowed to return but, now at 85 and 82, mum and dad at least, will never return. I'm so surprised, as an avid reader of Traveller and its Letters section, that I've never read any articles about the Isle of Orbetello, just past Civitavecchia heading north west from Rome's Fiumicino Airport. I would love to read of someone else's experience there. It was a brief visit, I know, but what we saw was so enticing.
Max Simmons, Bamawm Extension, VIC
WHALE OF A TIME
Thank you, Anthony Dennis for your enthralling story, (Traveller, November 27) about your Antarctic voyage. I travelled there some years ago, albeit in a slightly less luxurious but nevertheless comfortable vessel. The memories remain. In particular, your description of grabbing your phone to take a photo of a minke whale reminded me of my own experience, not knowing where to point the camera but finding that I had captured one underwater. That and other thrilling moments were relived through your article.
Vicky Marquis, Glebe, NSW
I recently had a similar experience to the one described by Mary Lyon (Traveller Letters, November 27). I asked my travel agency for a cost breakdown for a five-night river cruise in Europe for four adults. This entailed flights to the UK and Europe, transfers to and from the riverboat plus the cruise itself. The agency response was "fares and exchange rates fluctuate all the time" and that it "provides a service and will be managing the booking for you". Trying again I was told that the agent was "unable to supply a breakdown of costs but the tour operator's confirmation itemised what is booked, together with the total cost". It was about an hour later that the internet gave me the information I wanted and also showed that about 18 per cent of the total went to the agency: about $2850. Nice work if you can get it!
Neville Turner, Turramurra, NSW
Mary Lyon, I'd be really annoyed too if I was not told the specific costs involved. It would not be too hard though, to do a little homework and work out what it would have cost to book it all individually. All those costs are available online from each component involved and once you have the full details of the cruise and your cabin deck and number, type of seats on Rocky Mountaineer and the individual hotels would all have their room prices available online. Add it all up and see where you are at. Either you will be thanking the agent or never using one again. The agent will be making about 10 per cent on all those components, so ordinarily shouldn't be adding on any more fees.
Rae Masman, Church Point, NSW
There is a simple answer to Mary Lyons's query - are you happy with the price? If so, does it matter how it is broken down? If not, look elsewhere. I can quite understand the agent's point of view. If they break it down there is a good chance there will then be lots of correspondence about each element, all of which costs the agent time and money.
Dave Torr, Werribee, VIC
Rob Testro's letter (Traveller Letters, November 27) correctly nominates me as the convenor of NSW residents group Neighbours Not Strangers. The NSW Land and Environment Court (LEC) has issued Orders with Penal Notice, banning short-term tourist/visitor rentals (STRs) in my strata building. When mixed with permanent residents, the LEC judges STRs "fundamentally incompatible" and "the adverse impact on the amenity and wellbeing of neighbouring residents...severe". Such rentals "offend and undermine the planning regime of (Local Government Areas) and ultimately the State". When a council fails to enforce residential zoning, the LEC judges this "amounts to an effective abrogation by the council of its fundamental duties and responsibilities...(council), by its inaction, has...failed to fulfil its core functions and has failed its constituents". Please, stay out of our residential buildings and neighbourhoods. Support accredited accommodation providers.
Trish Burt, The Rocks NSW
Sorry Rob, I'm with Trish Burt on Airbnb. Having lived next to one for years, I can confirm that Airbnb is indeed hell for neighbours. It has deteriorated from the idea of renting a spare room to absentee hosts letting whole houses. And please, spare me the "vital to tourism" and "critical to the economy", not to mention the "professionally run" statements. Owners making a mint is more like it, and it prices out local renters. Our favourite restaurant can't get staff because there are no affordable properties left in town. Airbnb is a symptom of the curious hold that property-owners have over politics and the economy in Australia - it's short-sighted, and benefits the few at the expense of the many. Businesses that employ local staff, pay rates and taxes, and support the local economy through providing a range of accommodation options would be a much better, professionally-run solution. Trust me, tourism is unlikely to suffer.
Tess Parker, Great Ocean Road, VIC
EDITOR'S NOTE We have devoted a considerable amount of space in Traveller Letters to the pros and cons of Airbnb. We will now close the correspondence on the subject for the year.
BY THE BOOK
It's not good that your correspondents had bad experiences with Booking.com (Traveller Letters, November 13 & 27) as my experience has been different. As our borders closed in 2020 I contacted Booking.com (at their Canada headquarters) to help recoup money from several hotel bookings we'd made for a trip to Scotland which didn't eventuate. They went to no end of trouble to help us out.
Kerrie Wehbe, Blacktown. NSW
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