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July 2011

June 2011

Save US $2,000 in July on a barge cruise in Scotland

Scottish Highlander barge

ABOVE: The Scottish Highlander takes a break while passengers go ashore.

Normally, we don't give much editorial attention to deals and discounts, but a current offer from European Waterways Ltd. seemed too good to ignore--and besides, we needed an excuse to use Akiyama Takeshi's handsome photo of the Scottish Highlander in rural Scotland.

Here's the deal:

For its July 17 Scottish Highlander barge cruise, European Waterways is offering a discount of US $2,000 per cabin. That's a significant reduction from the standard fare, which is $4,090 per person for a six-night cruise in mid-July. (You must book by June 30, 2011 to get the discount.)

The discounted fare includes local transfers between Inverness and the barge, six nights on board, all meals, wines, an open bar, shore excursions, and the use of barge amenities such as bicycles and a fish finder.

The cruise itinerary runs along the Great Glen between Dochgarroch and Banavie, with cruising on the Caledonian Canal and several lochs (including the southern shore of Loch Ness). Excursions include such attractions as Cawdor Castle (featured in Shakespeare's Macbeth), Fort Augustus (site of a sheepdog demonstration and a golf course that uses sheep for lawn mowers), the historic battlefields of Glencoe, a mountain gondola trip, and the Ben Nevis distillery.

The Scottish Highlander is a luxury hotel barge with a tartan-themed lounge and dining room, a sundeck, a "passenger-friendly" wheelhouse, three staterooms, and one suite. The 117-foot vessel is fully air-conditioned and has a crew of four (including a chef) serving eight guests.

For more information about the Scottish Highlander and its cruise itinerary, see the Scottish Highlander pages at

  • Note: Although we haven't traveled on the Scottish Highlander, we have cruised on a European Waterways luxury hotel barge in France. For an in-depth report and photo gallery about that experience, see our La Renaissance cruise review at Europe for Cruisers.

Photo: Akiyama Takeshi

Tep pocket wifi makes data roaming dirt-cheap

ABOVE: Tep pocket wifi puts a hotspot in your pants or purse. (Or in your trousers or purse, if you're British.)

by Durant Imboden

Many of us rely on Wi-Fi connections these days when we're traveling with notebooks or tablets. Wi-Fi can also be a huge money-saver for smartphone users who travel internationally, thanks to Skype.

There's only one downside to Wi-Fi: finding a hotspot when you need it. Tep Wireless, a British company, has come to the rescue with tep pocket wifi. The device, which looks like a TV remote, connects to the Internet via local cellular phone carriers who have signed 3G network agreements with tep. For a relatively modest daily fee, you can access the Internet 24/7 without roaming charges.

How it works:

First, reserve a tep pocket wifi online at (The price includes rental of the device and data access. Rates vary by destination and length of rental, but the cost is much lower than you'd pay for data roaming through your phone carrier. Best of all, you get unlimited Internet access in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. In the other 11 countries that tep serves, you're allowed 50 Mb of bandwidth per day.)

Tep will deliver the pocket wifi device to addresses in the UK, Continental Europe, or the USA. Alternatively, you can pick it up at London's Heathrow, Gatwick, or Stansted Airport or in central London.

At the end of your trip, you return the tep pocket wifi device in a prepaid, pre-addressed envelope.

Also available: tep smartphones


Tep also rents prepaid smartphones that give you a local number and let you make calls or send texts at domestic rates.

For more information about tep pocket wifi and smartphones, visit tep wireless's Web site at

(Note: We haven't had a chance to try tep's services, but I hope to field-test the tep pocket wifi device in Italy next month.)

London's Lanesborough hotel serves "Butler Picnics"

The Lanesborough, London

ABOVE: The Lanesborough is at Hyde Park Corner, almost within a Champagne cork's popping distance of your London picnic.

We've been leery of alfresco lunches in London ever since we witnessed an East End street vendor selling canned hamburgers from a cart more than 30 years ago.

Still, it is possible to enjoy fresh air and fresh food at the same time in Britain's capital, and The Lanesborough (a five-star hotel at Hyde Park Corner) has unveiled a "Butler Picnic" experience that offers a tasty and tasteful alternative to takeaway grub--albeit at a cost that's quite a bit higher than you'd pay for a tinned burger with chips. 

Here's the official picnic pitch from The Lanesborough's PR firm in New York:

"The Lanesborough will create beautiful bespoke hampers to suit all occasions; including romantic picnics á deux to fun-filled family gatherings. Savory menu highlights include summer inspired canapés, Cornish poached lobster with Beluga mayonnaise and balotine of truffled foie gras with asparagus jelly washed down with chilled Taittinger Rose Champagne.

"To follow, relish in a Cropwell bishop stilton trifle with pear marmalade and oatmeal sablée or a scrumptious summer berry Rumtop.  Finish off the culinary extravaganza with The Lanesborough’s Artisan chocolates.

"All will be served with crystal glasses, plates, linen, napkins and a large picnic rug.  To ensure an enjoyable and memorable experience, butlers will provide a personal consultation to modify each menu, ensuring that favorite dishes and drinks are served."

The Lanesborough's Butler Picnics take place in Hyde Park. The price is £250 per person, and reservations must be made 48 hours in advance. To book your Butler Picnic (and a room or suite where you cna enjoy a postprandial nap), call the hotel at +011 44 (0)20 7259 5599 or visit

Photo: The Lanesborough.