For St. Patrick’s Day and Beyond: A Taste of Dublin
Photos: Vivian Vassos
Here, a guided tour of the Emerald Isle’s capital city.
“Four million Canadians go to Europe every year,” say the experts at Air Canada Vacations (ACV). We’re in Europe as we speak, in Dublin, Ireland, and we’re talking about busting the myth that leisure airlines can only do the fly and fry budget holiday.
On the Emerald Isle, I get a taste of what the company can offer its guests: it’s eager to share a view of Dublin (above), the capital of the Republic. It’s a view that travellers can also get when they book through the company, along with air, hotels, day tours, guides and skip-the-lines at attractions (a pint of Guinness, right from the brewery Storehouse, anyone?), as part of a decently priced package deal.
The beauty of Dublin, of Ireland in general, is how down to earth and friendly the people are, yet how there’s an almost palpable fairy-tale magic here as well, a mystical sort of spirit that’s not so surprising, considering how we still associate Ireland with pots of gold at the end of rainbows, sprite-like leprechauns and, well, luck. It’s also a place where music plays a huge role in how history and stories are passed down, generation to generation.
We’re led us through Temple Bar, one of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhoods and coolest – U2’s Bono has his hotel, The Clarence, here – like a modern day St. Patrick on a pilgrimage for the best in local music and general conviviality. Yes, we’re here courtesy of Air Canada Vacations. Staying in a 5-star hotel. Yes, I said 5-star. Sure, you can fly to Cuba and the beach, but you can also stay at The Shelbourne, one of Dublin’s best addresses, and still reap the benefits of a company that purchases in bulk, for a valuable buying power that’s passed on to the customer. Fancy a hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Check. Looking for securing a berth on the next Transatlantic crossing of Cunard’s Queen Mary II? Check. Angling for front of the line access to a Game of Thrones tour north of Dublin? Check.
“France, the UK and Ireland are all very popular,” says ACV, “and we can offer more competitive pricing because we fly with Rouge [Air Canada’s leisure-priced airline]. This gives us more than 66 connector hubs.” And AC Vacations has more than 50 hotels in Dublin alone, allowing for all price points and budgets. The company also sells tours to China and Thailand.
You can also use your Aeroplan points to book with AC Vacations, and earn points when you book. And, not all destinations are Rouge routes. The vacation company can sell pretty much everywhere Air Canada flies. So, next time you are in Sydney, and might want a city tour, you can find one with AC Vacations. Other tour companies are also doing the same: Porter Airlines now has a Porter Escapes arm, while Transat Holidays Discoveries Collection takes its guests to Africa, Vietnam and Thailand.
And it’s not just air and hotel, but other bells and whistles, like tours, excursions, car hire, Cirque du Soleil tickets. And most importantly, the destinations are vetted. There’s a human being at the end of the line. Special needs passengers are booked in hotels that can accommodate their unique needs, for example. And if there’s a hurricane, and you’ve booked with AC Vacations, they will sort it out. They have access to planes for emergency causes.