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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FOOD CACHE FOR 1911-14 AUSTRALASIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION FOUND AFTER NEARLY 100 YEARS


A food depot established by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) led by the legendary Sir Douglas Mawson, has been discovered nearly 100 years later by a small team of explorers led by Greg Mortimer, founder of Aurora Expeditions.

The cache is at Madigan Nunatak (Nunatak is the Antarctic term for a rocky peak surrounded by ice), named after Cecil Madigan, a geologist with Mawson’s AAE who established the food store in case of emergency for sledging parties.

Found this week, it is 70 kms east-south east of Cape Denison which was the AAE’s base for two years and which is now being conserved by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation which currently has a team of eight working on Mawson’s Huts for the next four weeks.

Mortimer, the managing director of Aurora Expeditions and a member of the first Australian team to climb Mt Everest., flew by helicopter from his ship the Marina Svetaeva, which is carrying 100 passengers on an Antarctic cruise to Mawson’s Huts. On board is a grand-daughter of Madigan, Julia Butler.

Attempts to find Madigan Nunatak in the 1980’s failed with ice covering the rocky peak and only a long bamboo pole protruding from the cache sighted in 1985.

“I have been trying to get to Madigan Nunatak for years” said Mortimer from onboard the Marina Svetaeva. “This year we were in the right place at the right time.”

“It was a tiny ridge in the white expanse of the polar plateau about 2400 feet above sea level. We observed a cairn surmounted by a tin consistent in shape and construction with kerosene tins associated with the AAE” he said. “The tin contains at least three calico bags held in place by a rock. One contains white powder, probably flour and the other a brown substance, possibly pemmican (a food mix favoured by the AAE on sledging parties).

The long bamboo pole which marked the spot for the AAE still remains but now lies on the rocks.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation team which was landed by a Marina Svetaeva eight days ago is carrying out an extensive works programme which includes locating the first aircraft ever taken to the Antarctic and fitting out a special laboratory to conserve the thousands of artefacts left inside the hut when the AAE left for home in December 1913.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coral Princess Abolishes Fuel Surcharge


Coral Princess Cruises has announced that fuel surcharges for all its voyages will be abolished for departures on or after February 1, 2009. Coral Princess was one of the last cruise operators, world-wide, to impose a surcharge in August, 2008 and has moved quickly – in light of reductions in diesel fuel costs - to be one of the first cruise operators to lift it.

“We’d like to thank our industry partners for their understanding with regard to the necessity of implementing the surcharge back in August. We’re of course extremely pleased that fuel prices have returned to some sort of normality and, in appreciation of our partners’ loyalty, we have removed the surcharge at the first opportunity,” said Tony Briggs, Founder and Managing Director of Coral Princess Cruises.

The removal of the surcharge is effective for all existing and new bookings for cruises departing on or after February 1, 2009. The surcharge will remain in place for departures up to and including January 31, 2009.

With regard to all existing bookings due to depart on or after February 1 2009, in coming days the company will issue revised invoices reflecting the abolition of the surcharge.

For further information and reservations visit www.coralprincess.com.au

Into the Blue (1950)

A fascinating British documentary about the development of civil airlines immediately after the Second World War.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thailand: Hua Hin

Where can travellers escape to for a beach resort retreat that’s budget friendly as well as being known as ‘fit for royalty’? Thailand’s Hua Hin of course.

Literally fit for royalty, Hua Hin is the summer getaway for Thailand’s ruling monarchy and elite. About two to three hours away from Bangkok by coach, many locals also now use the beachside resort town for their weekend holidays.

With development throttled by Royal Decree, and no building to go up beyond three stories unless it has special permission, Hua Hin has managed to retain its traditional laid-back, seaside character.

The ‘oldest’ resort town in Thailand, it still only sees around 90,000 residents calling the area home, and without an airport connection, there’s a tranquillity to the area not seen in more built up regions like Phuket.

Hua Hin’s idyllic white-sand beaches are a sight to behold, running 5kms long, it is rumoured to be one of the reasons why King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) built his summer palace, Wang Klai Kang Won “Far from Worries”, in 1928.

Hua Hin, can not only boast to be the holiday town of the Royals, but also has another claim to fame. The township and surrounds is home to the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand.

In this backdrop of relaxation, the ‘spa culture’ in Hua Hin is worth a mention. Whilst Thailand is renowned for its wellness tourism, the spa experience is forefront in a complete Hua Hin itinerary.

Home to arguably the world’s best spa, consistently named in Condé Nast’s top three and awarded Luxury Travel’s Best Spa in the World in 2008, Chiva-som has seen a whole slew of the rich of famous step through their doors. Said to be Hollywood’s favourite spa property, Chiva-som doesn’t come without a price tag.

Of course, unwinding in Hua Hin doesn’t have to bankrupt a travellers account, with most hotels and resorts offering either an in-house spa or access to spa facilities – or travellers can be a little more adventurous and try out the array of massage parlours in the township.

The Hua Hin night markets are worth a quick glimpse as well, while not as bountiful as Bangkok’s block-wide sprawls, they have a character of its own – and many locals believe that souvenirs such as silk and carvings can be gotten here cheaper than in the capital; of course, bargaining is essential.

From relaxed three-star beach front properties, to the decked-out five-star locations that are almost a township to themselves, Hua Hin has a property to suit every budget – with even the higher end of town ‘cheap’ compared to average global rates.

For business travel, Hua Hin can cater small to medium sized events without a hitch. With bigger properties able to room guests in the hundreds, plenty of meeting space, and outdoor and wellness activities galore; Hua Hin would suit a wide range of needs.

With spectacular sunrises over the water, and the steep backdrops of the Prachuap Khiri Khan in the distance, Hua Hin is the perfect traditional Thai beachside experience away from the modern day Rat Race.

Monday, December 15, 2008

CRUISE UK TO “ICE AND FIRE” OF ICELAND

An unusual 14-night cruise opportunity from England to Ireland, Scotland and Iceland and back to England in June of next year, features travel aboard the luxury small ship Spirit of Adventure – with organised shore excursions included at most ports of call.

Just 350 guests will share this unique experience on Spirit of Adventure that sails from Liverpool on June 18 for Dublin, Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Ullapool in Scotland, Iceland’s Seydisfjord, Akureyri, Isafjord, Reykjavik and Heimaey, Cobh for Cork in Ireland, Falmouth (England) and Portsmouth.

With full- or half-day excursions led by local guides at most ports visited, this cruise provides an ideal opportunity to explore many fascinating towns inaccessible to larger liners, and to take-in the legendary “Ice and Fire” of Iceland’s glaciers, snow-capped peaks, steaming mud-pools and geysers.

Cruiseco – a consortium of 150 cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide – is selling this fortnight-long cruise from $6940pp twin-share… but if you are a quick-decision maker you can save over one-third on this and pay from $4170pp if you book before January 31; the price includes all onboard gourmet dining, entertainment (including late-release movies on deck under the stars,) guest lecturers, guided excursions, and onboard gratuities.

For full details including best-possible air prices to join this cruise, phone 1800 225 656 for the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist, or visit www.cruising.com.au.

Cruise Weekly Comment: Marina Svetaeva

If Orion, True North and Oceanic Discoverer are the flirtatious, glamour girls of the expedition cruise fleet, then Aurora's Marina Svetaeva is the motherly, buxom babushka. What she lacks in marble bathrooms and brass banisters is more than compensated for in sheer sea-going confidence.

Purpose-built in Poland's famous Gdynia shipyards for polar work twenty years ago, she has undergone several refits and modernisations, including the addition of a twin-hangar helideck for airborne operations.

Despite her modest appointments and utilitarian fit-out, Marina Svetaeva is the sort of vessel you know will deliver when the going gets tough. Cross off boutique, salon and Jacuzzi and tick enclosed lifeboats, stabilisers and heavy ice rating. Don't choose Marina Svetaeva for "cruising", her no-nonsense demeanour is not about luxury, pampering or degustation menus. Instead you can be assured of a seriously robust vessel built with the rigours of polar work in mind and the likelihood of a full, well-planned and comprehensive itinerary backed by Greg Mortimer's world-famous team at Aurora.

Next to benchmark operators, Quark Expeditons, Aurora's Ross Sea and Commonwealth Bay Antarctic itineraries should be on your shortlist for deep south adventures.

Blue Lagoon extends 15 per cent discount plus free cabin upgrade offer


Fiji's Blue Lagoon Cruises is offering a 15 per cent discount plus a free cabin upgrade on all 'Club' and 'Gold Club' Yasawa Island cruises booked from now until 28 February 2009.

With travel validity extended to 31 August 2009, the discount applies to all three and four-day 'Club Cruises' and all four and seven-day 'Gold Club' cruises.

The discount means pricing for a three-day/two-night 'Club' cruise now starts from AUD479* per person twin share.

Prices on 'Club and 'Gold Club' cruises include all meals and cruise activities. These range from daily shore excursions and snorkeling safaris to fish feeding, fishing and glass bottom boating.

Cultural experiences include a 'Lovo' feast, visits to remote villages, Kava ceremonies and a day spent at Blue Lagoon Cruises' private island of Nanuya Lailai.

*Conditions apply. Please note cruise prices do not include international airfares or beverages (other than tea and coffee). A daily fuel surcharge of FJD25 per person also applies.

See www.bluelagooncruises.com for full itineraries.

For cruise reservations telephone Blue Lagoon Cruises in Lautoka, Fiji, on + 679 666 1622, facsimile + 679 666 4098 or via email on reservations@blc.com.fj.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Rating: What does it mean?


For ships to navigate polar regions, they must have what is called an "Ice Rating". As you'd expect, there are several standards: American, Russian, Swedish, German etc. So be careful to compare like classes when assessing a ship's ability.

One must also bear in mind that an "icebreaker" is a special ship design altogether. As the name suggests, icebreakers are designed to smash through solid sea ice while other (conventional) ships are simply "ice strengthened" and it is their rating in this regard that is most important.

For serious ice work, ships need to be rated 1A or 1A Super. This means they can work with an icebreaker in the heaviest conditions. Then progressively down to 1B, 1C and Class II, the lightest rating.

Some examples of familiar ships:
  • MV Orion - Class 1A (Germanischer Lloyd E3)
  • Marina Svetaeva - Class 1A
  • Lyubov Orlova - Class 1C
  • MS Hanseatic - Class 1A Super (Germanischer Lloyd E4)

For the marine engineers among us, here is a heavy technical document to explain it. Here is the easier Wikipedia page.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Renowned West Australian Photographer to join TRUE NORTH cruise


Roebuck Bay, Broome (c) Christian Fletcher

North Star Cruises Australia is delighted to confirm that Christian Fletcher will be joining Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 13a & b in 2009.

You are probably aware of Christian's enviable reputation as a landscape photographer and you probably also appreciate that the Kimberley presents as the ultimate panorama. Accordingly, we are sure that you will be interested to note that Christian will not only be providing instruction on how to capture that perfect image – he will also be conducting tutorials in software refinement and, printing techniques.

A one-stop opportunity to work with a revered professional; with nothing but stunning material to work with and, relaxed how-to instruction on everything from shot selection to the ultimate in presentation.

If you've got the shutter-bug – don't miss this one!

The cruise will depart Broome on the 29th of August and the 'split cruise' format offers complete flexibility. Guests can embark in Broome and remain onboard for the entire 2 week cruise disembarking in Wyndham and taking advantage of our courtesy coach transfer to Kununurra. Alternatively, guests can embark/disembark mid-cruise in the Hunter River taking advantage of our light aircraft/helicopter transfers from/to Kununurra (included).

Don't miss out – early indication is that this will be a very popular departure – contact our adventure partners now to secure your cabin!

For more information on Christian visit: www.christianfletcher.com.au

Email: cruise@northstarcruises.com.au URL: www.northstarcruises.com.au

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kayak in the Realm of the Polar Bear with Aurora Expeditions


Additional voyage announced for 2009

Life explodes in the High Arctic in mid-summer, and sea kayaks are a superb way for an in-depth exploration of this pristine wilderness - one of the most ruggedly spectacular places on Earth.

Paddling on glassy seas around icebergs, against a backdrop of towering mountains and glaciers, provides an unrivalled opportunity to get up close and personal with the abundant wildlife that inhabits this region. Spitsbergen is one of the best places in the world to see polar bears, as well as walrus, reindeer and millions of migratory birds.

Aurora Expeditions has announced a fifth departure to this land of the midnight sun in 2009, which includes a kayaking option.

The 11-day ‘Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen’ voyage will depart from Longyearbyen on 3 July 2009 travelling aboard the ice-strengthened expedition vessel Polar Pioneer. Limited to a group of just 56 people, each cruise has a team of experienced naturalists and historians that will guide passengers through the dramatic landscapes, unique cultures and abundant wildlife that capture the essence of the High Arctic.

Aurora’s unrivalled knowledge of weather and ice conditions helps chart the best possible course and in true expedition style, their flexible approach to each day is designed to take maximum advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Prices start from A$5,790 per person triple-share, including all meals on board, Zodiac excursion ashore and a complete team naturalists, historians and expedition staff. The all-inclusive price for the sea kayaking option costs an additional A$990.

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions on (02) 9252-1033 (1800-637-688 within Australia) or visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Monday, December 8, 2008

“Make Us an Offer” on Galapagos Islands


Adventure tour operator Boundless Journeys is getting into the online auction game again. The company’s popular Galapagos Islands nature cruise, scheduled for February 19-28, 2009 has a few spaces available and the company is allowing bidders to “Make Us an Offer”.

Says company President Matt Holmes, “our travelers have been thrilled in the past by the opportunity to make a bid on a dream trip that may previously have been out of their reach price-wise. It really is a win-win situation; we get to fill a couple of vacant slots, and our guests get to take advantage of an amazing deal.”

Just how amazing? Competition for the few spots is typically fierce, but winning bids are often between 25-40% below the listed price of the trip. “It wouldn’t be a viable policy to do it for every trip, but now and then there is a perfect opportunity to share a really good deal with our guests,” adds Holmes.

To bid on the February 19-28, 2009 departure, simply e-mail your offer to info@boundlessjourneys.com, or call 1-800-941-8010. Detailed itineraries are available online at www.boundlessjourneys.com.

To be in the loop on future “Make Us an Offer” opportunities, subscribe to Boundless Journeys’ e-news list. You’ll receive one or two e-mails per month, containing auction offers and general travel news. To join the list, simply visit http://www.boundlessjourneys.com/moreinfo/newsletter.html and request to be added.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

AUSSIES’ MAKE SEADREAM A CARIBBEAN COUP

david ellis

MODERN-day pirates may have guests ducking for cover on cruise ships off Somalia, but when a baker's-dozen Aussies decided on a brief "commandeering" of the world's Number One motor-yacht in the Caribbean last month, fellow guests didn't go running for cover – they went running for their cameras.

SeaDream I had just sailed 4952km across the Atlantic from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, and had dropped anchor off sunny St Barts in the French West Indies when the Aussies sprang their Caribbean Coup.

Gathering at the ship's stern they swiftly lowered the official Norwegian flag, and in a flash had a 2-metre Australian one fluttering in its place - providing unique photo-opportunities aboard SeaDream I and on surrounding pleasure boats as well: it's not every day luxury cruisers are seen in those parts with the Aussie flag flapping from their flagstaff.

After a Champagne toast down our flag came and that of Norway (SeaDream Yacht Club is Norwegian-owned,) run-up again by SeaDream's security officer – one of only two deck officers who knew of the "surprise" event: the other was the Captain, who'd quietly given his approval.

The thirteen Australians were the third biggest group after Americans and British amongst the-just 91-guests on board, and also the most Aussies ever to make the annual 11-night relocation from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean where SeaDream escapes the Northern Winter.

And despite dire predictions from doomsayer mates, passengers on the boutique 4,300 tonne SeaDream I – and that included this writer – were not tossed around on a wild and stormy Atlantic: SeaDream's mega-motor-cruisers travel well south, missing the stormier conditions of the North Atlantic.

Apart from rain showers on the first day that prevented dining on deck, breakfasts and lunches were taken outdoors under shade-covers for the remaining 10-days, and the open-air Top of the Yacht Bar became a late-morning focal point for flutes of Champagne, rainbow cocktails in voluminous glasses, beers from Europe, America and Mexico, and wines from around the world (that are all included in the holiday price.)

A 3m swell eased after the first few days and from then-on it was much like lake sailing… in fact, so smooth was it towards the end that Captain Bjarne Smorawski had to reduce speed to avoid arriving ahead of schedule into our first Caribbean port, St Maartens.

And again despite the doomsayers, there was plenty to keep us occupied on our eight non-stop days across the Atlantic: a Handwriting Analyst and People Profiler, and an Astronomer each gave several talks to interested guests, while poolside was the place to chin-wag, read a book, or take a nap in the sun (and raise a languid hand to have your favourite drink miraculously appear – and your stewards clean your sunglasses and mist you with cool water if they deduced signs of fatigue in these gruelling conditions.)

And then there was the food, oh glorious food: Chef d'Cuisine, Tomasz and Pastry Chef Garfield (dubbed "The Pound A Day Men") offered sensation after sensation from traditional breakfast favourites through internationally-inspired luncheons, evening cocktails and dinner – always a particularly grand 5-star affair with Starters (Gratinated Escargots with Aubergine Compote and Champignon de Paris amongst the choices one night,) Middle Courses (Cream of Mushroom Soup infused with Truffle Oil another,) Chef's Main Dishes (decisions decisions: Grilled Lobster Tail, Roast Baby Lamb Loin or Duck L'Orange one evening,) and Garfield's sinful desserts that might include Chocolate Soufflé with Baileys Sauce….

For the Pound A Day guilty there were brisk morning walks around the top deck (that also raised funds for Miami's Children's' Bereavement Centre,) Tai Chi and Stretch Sessions, Yoga, golf on the 50-course Simulator, a state-of-the-art Fitness Centre, an optional-cost Spa, and less physically-demanding quizzes, trivia sessions, Black Jack lessons and Sundowners at the Top of the Yacht Bar to prepare one for the evening's pre-dinner Cocktail Party…

And yes, we survived to hopefully do it all again…

(The 55-couples/95-crew SeaDream I sails 11-nights from San Juan to Lisbon on May 3 2009 with prices from US$3527pp twin-share, inclusive of all 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars and wines with meals, nightly Cocktail Parties, use of a 50-course golf simulator, gratuities, port charges and taxes. See travel agents or visit www.seadream.com for more information including 2009's Mediterranean itineraries.)

                                                        ………………….

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] CARIBBEAN coup – not every day the Aussie flag flutters from a luxury ship in the Caribbean.

[] SEADREAM I slips by an idyllic Caribbean isle.


(PHOTOS: Malcolm Andrews and SeaDream Yacht Club)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MV Ushuaia runs aground in Antarctica

The 84-passenger Ushuaia, an ice-strengthened vessel that spends five months a year in the region, was near the entrance to Antarctica's famed Wilhelmina Bay when the accident occurred, a spokesman for the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators tells USA TODAY.

No one was injured in the grounding but the ship's officers plan to move passengers to another vessel before they try to "refloat" the Ushuaia.

"An initial assessment of damage indicated that while there was no imminent danger and no threat to life, it would be precautionary to transfer passengers to another vessel," the Association says in a situation report sent to USA TODAY. Still, they added, the ship is stable.

Another expedition ship, the Antarctic Dream, was seven miles away when the incident occurred and already has arrived on the scene. Several other ice-strengthed expedition ships including the National Geographic Explorer, Professor Multanovskiy and Polar Star also are nearby and have offered assistance should it be needed.

Several Chilean Naval vessels also are en route, and the Association, which has been in contact with the Ushuaia's crew, says they plan to transfer passengers to the Chilean Naval vessel Achiles on Friday.

The Association says the Ushuaia leaked a small amount of light oil when it ran aground, but the leak has since been sealed and oil barriers have been deployed to contain further spills.

Originally built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1970, the 2,923-ton Ushuaia is one of several dozen small expedition ships that operate adventure cruises to Antarctica each year during the brief Antarctic summer -- the period from late November until March when the ice around the continent melts back enough to allow visits.

The often-spartan voyages, which appeal to well-heeled adventurers from around the globe who pay $4,000 per person or more for the chance to see one of the most remote and untrammeled regions on Earth, have grown in popularity in recent years. But several recent incidents also have raised concerns about the trips, which offer the chance to see everything from giant icebergs to penguins and whales.

Just last year two expedition vessels, G.A.P. Adventures' Explorer and Hurtigruten's Fram, were damaged by icebergs. The Explorer eventually sank.

The IAATO statement on the incident says the Ushuaia was sailing nearly full with 82 passengers on board, including 12 Americans, 2 Canadians, 11 Australians and 7 residents of the United Kingdom. Passengers from nearly a dozen other countries including The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and China also are on board.

Captain Trevor Haworth Retires


Today, Captain Cook Cruises founder Trevor Haworth announced that he will be retiring as Executive Chairman after 38 years.

“After thirty eight years building the business and delivering reliable, quality products, I have made the decision to retire as Executive Chairman of the company. I will, however, be taking on the role of non-executive Chairman.” Says Captain Trevor Haworth.

With Captain Haworth as non-executive Chairman and his children Anthony Haworth and Jackie Charlton retaining their positions as Joint Managing Directors, Captain Cook Cruises will remain a family owned company.

In a decision to further grow the business, Mr. Nick Hortle has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company. Nick has many years of business experience including general management roles at some of Australia’s largest NFP service providers and as a partner at KPMG Chartered Accountants.

“It has been a real privilege to have been a part of the development and growth of inbound tourism into Australia over the past 38 years,” says Captain Trevor Haworth.

“I am confident Captain Cook Cruises, under Nick’s command and supported by Jackie and Anthony, will continue to prosper and grow”.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MYPLANET LAUNCH 2009 CRUISES TO TWO OF NATURE’S RICHEST HAVENS

They are two of the world’s revered cruise destinations – the vast, stunning beauty of Antarctica, and the warm waters of the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador – and both are two of nature’s richest havens.

“When you talk of the Antarctic, and of the Galapagos Islands, you are speaking of the two destinations in the world where the true wonder of nature can be experienced right before your eyes – they are fascinating places that leave such a strong impact on visitors,” MyPlanet general manager Sandy Greenwood said.

In its latest brochure ‘Antarctica & South America 2009’ MyPlanet has highlighted these two specific regions which are both in strong demand from the Australian market, and introduced three styles of travel to suit individual budgets – comfortable expedition, superior expedition and luxury expedition.

New for 2009 is the luxury Orion Expedition Cruises which will operate ‘luxury expeditions’ from Hobart to New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic Islands and deep into the Antarctic. The luxury ship, with a choice Staterooms and Suites spread over six decks, includes 24 hour room service, all meals, landings by zodiac boats, lectures, and complimentary expedition parkas.

Its 14 day ‘New Zealand & Sub Antarctic Islands’, priced from $10,160, visits Macquarie Island renowned for its Royal, King, Gentoo and Rock Hopper penguins, the volcanic Campbell Island with its crested penguins, albatross and black browed mollyhawks, the Auckland Islands with their Hooker seal lion colonies and rare yellow eyed penguins, then on to Stewart Island and the stunning Fjordland of New Zealand.

New also is Orion’s 21 day ‘Scott & Shackleton’s Ross Sea Antarctic’, priced from $20, 795, which crosses the Antarctic Circle to journey deep into the vast Antarctic waters. From Hobart its crosses the Ross Sea with landings at such remote locations as Cape Hallett with its giant glaciers and mountains, Cape Terra Nova Bay discovered by the Scott Expedition, the massive David Glacier and the bleak Inexpressable Island visiting Scott’s Hut built in 1911, and Shackleton’s Hut - both still preserved by their freezing environment. It is then onto the remote Possession Islands where the 1899 British Expedition’s Borchgrevink hut still, remarkably, stands. From there it is back to Invercargill in New Zealand via Snares Island.

Then there is the popular ‘Superior Expedition’ cruises aboard the Hurtigruten ship MS Fram with accommodation ranging from ‘Inside Cabin’ through to ‘Outside Cabin’, ‘Mini Suites’, ‘Suites’ and ‘Grand Suites’. “This is a very comfortable eight deck cruise ship,” Greenwood said. All rooms have private facilities, all meals are included, landings are by Polar Cirkel boats, there is a complimentary expedition parka, specialist lectures onboard plus a tour of Buenos Aires. Flights from BA to Ushuaia are included.

Cruises include the 12 day ‘Antarctic Peninsula’ priced from $7650, ‘An Emperor’s Antarctica’ priced from $10,150 for 16 days and ‘Shackleton’s Antarctica’ -21 days from $9860.

The ‘Comfortable Expeditions’ are aboard the Quark ships Akademik Shokalskiy and the Ocean Nova.

These expedition style ships have shared, private, superior and suite accommodation all with private facilities, all meals, Zodiac boat landings, an expedition parka and lectures.

New in this category for 2009 is the 20 day ‘Antarctic Quest via The Falklands & South Georgia. Priced from $17,389 it explores all the extremes of the south – the icebergs, waterways, glaciers, mountains and rich wildlife in what is an incredible journey.

Also memorable is the 12 day ‘Antarctic Voyage’ through the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula - visually stunning with icebergs, pods of whales, glaciers and remote icy bays and inlets. It is priced from $9756.

And then there are the famed Galapagos! These are the 74 islands 1000km off the Ecuadorian mainland that inspired Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ and helped map the world’s evolution.

The 6 day ‘Quito & the Galapagos Islands’ cruise, priced from $3680, is aboard a superior class ship with all meals and sightseeing plus return flights ex Quito included. Aboard the yacht MV Galapagos Legend visitors explore the second largest marine land in the world come into contact with a melting pot of unique species including marine iguanas, giant tortoises and seals.

‘Galapagos in Depth’ is a six day adventure/scientific expedition that is described as “the ultimate” Galapagos experience. The cruise, priced from $4595, visits Rabida Island with its sea lions, flamingos, marine iguanas, birds and fur seals, the lunar landscape of Bartomele Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station, the wildlife of Punta Suarez, the volcanic sands of Floriana and renowned Black Turtle Cove with its green turtles and golden rays.

“In the Galapagos you really commune with nature; it is all around you –the wildlife, and the beauty of the islands, is unforgettable,” Greenwood said.

For further information contact MyPlanet, phone1800 221 712 www.myplanetaustralia.com.au

MyPlanet Australia the leading travel company for Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic’s, the Arctic, Antarctica and South America celebrating 30th Anniversary in 2009 has launched its cruise and tour program for 2009-2010 season. The program is a smorgasbord of independent and escorted travel, comfortable expedition, superior expedition and luxury expedition cruises, rail and sightseeing tours all year around. MyPlanet Australia Pty Ltd operates as a retail arm for MyBentours; a wholesaler and cruise specialist for Australian and New Zealand travel industry. MyPlanet Australia Pty Ltd (trading as MyBentours and MyPlanet) is the General Sales Agent (GSA) for Hurtigruten Group, Icelandair and Gota Canal in Australia and New Zealand. MyPlanet is locally operated and globally connected as part of TUI Travel PLC

Cruise Weekly Comment: Tahiti

From Expedition and Adventure Cruising

How could you possibly dismiss Tahiti as an adventure cruise destination?

Drenched in popular folklore thanks to the famous Mutiny on the Bounty, Tahiti has associated itself with almost everything romantic and adventurous. Heartthrobs Mel Gibson, Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando and Clark Gable all played the lovable rogue seaman, Fletcher Christian, a real-life character who threw away his life as a Royal Navy officer to elope with a beautiful Polynesian woman.

Instead of hard-edged exploration and discovery, Tahiti earns its adventure status for its emotive allure and pure hedonistic escapism. Just as the crew of the Bounty discovered in 1787, life on this pristine tropical island was infinitely more preferable than one of harsh servitude in the English Navy.

Today, luxury cruise operators such as Haumana, Nomade Yachting (formerly Bora Bora Cruises) and Aranui 3 offer a range of sun-soaked itineraries to transport you back to the time of the goggle-eyed limeys, smitten by the warm weather and affectionate locals.

While Haumana and Nomade offer boutique relaxation and escapism, Aranui embraces the true adventurer as it takes passengers on its dual-purpose 14-night journey to the remote and exotic Marquesas where artists like Paul Gaugin and writer Herman Melville found inspiration for their works.

You can explore all these possibilities at the one-stop-shop: www.ultimatecruising.com.au

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PRAGUE GETS A BANG OUT OF NEW YEAR

david ellis

IT'S the snow that does it, bouncing the extraordinary New Year fireworks off Prague's white-capped buildings, parks and streets like some huge movie-lot reflector, so that the whole city seems ablaze in a double-dazzle of flashing white, electric blue, orange, red, purple, green and gold….

And under-foot it crunches icily as we sway with other boisterous revellers on the jam-packed Charles Bridge that links the Old Town of the Czech Republic capital with the approaches to the hillside Castle on the other side of the black Vltava River.

On the hill behind the palace, the official fireworks have just started. They're a bit late: pyromaniacs have been exploding their unofficial hauls for the past six hours in the streets, narrow alleys and squares willy-nilly, enveloping the city in a haze of gunpowder smoke.

And when the palace fireworks begin at midnight, it's a signal for our fellow bridge observers to reciprocate with extra fervour: out of coat pockets and backpacks emerge small skyrockets that are lit and launched out of the hand. Sparks shower nearby revellers; laughter and squeals of delight fill the air and we expect to hear screams of pain too, but they must be drowned out by all the fun.

In the darkness on the river a huge, unseen black barge launches its salvo that out-performs those from behind the castle, lighting up the snowy rooftops and parks and reflecting brilliantly in a myriad hues on the water.

Meanwhile, some Aussie friends who had earlier taken up a vantage point for the countdown below the Old Town Square's Astronomical Clock, are jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with rowdy New Year's celebrants fuelled with beer, gluhwein and absinthe, the locally-distilled high-octane rocket-fuel.

Their's is a more confined space for a localized fireworks display, surrounded by the 60-metre Old Town Hall and the square's four-storey buildings. It is happening too in Wenceslas Square, which despite its name is not a square but a wide street, and in which fireworks now erupt from the steps of the National Museum.

Chaos. Cheers. Hugs and kisses as the New Year breathes its first suffocating seconds amid the acrid smoke. Just as had happened or would happen in countless cities around the globe on the stroke of midnight on December 31…

In just 15 minutes it's over, but not for the crowds: they disperse to bars and restaurants … or to let off more unofficial fireworks for hours to come, leaving the coming dawn's work crews to clear up the scorched paper and cardboard firework wrappings that have stained the snow red, pink and brown.

It looks like a vast battle-field.

And soon after dawn we stomp our way back across the 500-metres bridge named after Charles IV. It's already back to normal … hawkers, jazz and classical buskers entertaining scores of visitors just taking in the view up and down the river, and of the castle.

Promenading on the bridge is a favourite thing to do in ancient Prague, as is exploring the castle and its squares that date back to the 9th century.

We make our way through the charming baroque Mala Stala (Little Quarter) on the Royal Way route, discovering fascinating narrow laneways behind the main street and fall into a fabulous café for a thick, rich hot chocolate, European style.

And a Champagne starter to kick off the first day of the New Year.

At the castle, we're in time for the changing of the guard before losing ourselves in the royal courtyards, the gardens, St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, Basilica of St George and Dalibor Tower.

Unexpected is Zlata Ulicka, or Golden Lane, a cobbled alley along the northern wall of the castle populated by small colourful cottages once occupied by the castle guards in the 16th century, and later our Lonely Planet guidebook tells us, by royal goldsmiths.

We spend some final time taking in the views over the sprawl of surrounding white roof tops and then return to the bridge via the Castle Steps route that's now strangely devoid of fellow tourists …

It's not so easy finding a bed in Prague for New Year, but give Tempo Holidays a call on 1300 558 987 or try www.tempoholidays.com


[] PRAGUE'S snowy New Year roof tops


[] NARROW canals and alleyways are a highlight of Old Prague


[] PRAGUE Castle brings plenty of surprises


(Photos: Austrian Tourist Office)


G.A.P outlines new ship’s itineraries

With its new ship, Expedition, entering service in April, G.A.P Adventures outlined itineraries including the Azores, the Arctic, the British Isles and Norwegian Fjords.

Toronto-based G.A.P is offering $400 off new bookings made by Dec. 15 on departures from April to September.

The 10-day Azores journey will explore Graciosa, Floral and Faial islands, and give a chance to taste Verdelho wine on Pico Island. An ‘Arctic Highlights’ journey, from Spitsbergen to Iceland, will explore Greenland and visit Scoresbysund, one of the world’s largest fjord systems.

‘Wild Scotland’ is a 13-day adventure taking in the Hebrides, uninhabited Treshnish and the natural beauty of North Rona, where bird colonies abound. Orkney and the Shetland archipelago are also visited, and the trip ends in the Scottish Highlands.

‘Britain and Ireland in Bloom,’ 13 days, takes passengers to gardens and historic mansions. ‘Norwegian Fjords and Polar Bears’ is a two-week journey that sails from Edinburgh with a visit to Orkney, the Shetlands and Svalbard, in addition to destinations on the Norwegian coast.

Expedition replaces Explorer, which sank a year ago in Antarctica. The new ship (ex Ålandsfärjan) is being converted for G.A.P at STX Europe’s Rauma yard.

It will carry up to 120 passengers, all in ocean-view rooms, with amenities such as a pub, a fitness center/sauna and multiple wildlife-viewing areas including a 360-degree observation deck.

Orion’s return to Hayman Island

Source: Seatrade Insider

Orion Expedition Cruises’ 4,000gt Orion will return to Hayman next year during a six-night Great Barrier Reef cruise departing Cairns on November 10.

In its 2009 Complete Expedition Calendar, the company that was launched by md Sarina Bratton in 2005 and acquired by KSL Capital Partners in May this year, describes Hayman as ‘Australia’s most celebrated private island destination.’

‘Orion’s 106 passengers will be invited to use all of our facilities, including the pools and restaurants and they can pre-book reef and bush tours and treatments at our spa,’ gm Roger Wright told Seatrade Insider at Hayman Island’s ninth annual media lunch at Sydney’s landmark Aria Restaurant.

Wright said he is also looking forward to welcoming the 382 passengers aboard Silversea’s 28,258gt Silver Shadow, which returns to Hayman on April 15 next year.

P&O Cruises Australia’s archivist Rob Henderson said Hayman Island has been a favourite port of call since Orient Line’s Oronsay 11 called there in 1958. Other Orient Line and P&O ships followed, including Orontes 11, Strathnaver, Oriana 1 and Himalaya.

Hayman has also been on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ itineraries. Seven Seas Mariner called there in 2005 on her Grand Circle Pacific voyage and the multi-award-winning island was a highlight of Seven Seas Voyager’s world cruise this year.

Over today’s lunch of seared scallops, roasted scampi, braised duck and strawberry salad and ice-cream which was accompanied by a selection of wines from the Hunter Valley’s Bimbadgen Estate and prepared by Aria’s Matthew Moran and Hayman’s executive chef Glenn Bacon, Wright said there is no way of knowing how many passengers have returned for land-based holidays.

‘However, there is no doubt that a visiting cruise ship gives us a wonderful opportunity to showcase Hayman and all its attractions to discerning travellers,’ he said.

www.orionexpeditions.com

Friday, November 28, 2008

T’s TELL TALES, TALL AND TRUE

david ellis

A 25-cent exercise book and a bit of teenage exuberance put Alice Weiser on the road to becoming America's Leading Lady of character and handwriting analysis, culminating in a life of cruising the world to share with fellow passengers the behind-the-scenes of some of America's most bizarre modern-day crime mysteries.

Scribble a few words on a piece of paper, doodle on a bar coaster or simply scratch your ear while you're talking, and within seconds Alice will be telling you everything you ever did – or more likely, did not – want to know about yourself. And with an accuracy bordering the scary.

Her skills have led her along the corridors of US law-enforcement agencies to assist on unusual cases, into the boardrooms of some of its biggest corporates to give advice on 'people profiling' for top-level appointments, and behind courtroom benches to help judges pondering whether an accused may have some hope of redemption with a second chance.

Just how folk cross their T's or dot their I's has seen Alice involved in analysing the Jon Benet Ramsey ransom note, the O.J. Simpson "suicide" note and the infamous Anthrax Letters… and explaining it all to radio and TV talk show audiences from America to Europe and Australia, including one particularly notorious crime that led to the making of the 1980s movie thriller Fatal Vision (that starred Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint.)

Alice Weiser was born in Boston and enrolled early in college to study psychology, including handwriting whose analysis fascinated her with its ability to reveal so much in-depth information about an individual.

And at just under sixteen, when her father helped organise a local charity fair, Alice volunteered to man a handwriting analysis booth there.

"I bought a 25c exercise book and invited people to make a donation and write in my book 'This will not facilitate the matter,'" she recalled during a recent guest lecture series aboard cruise ship SeaDream I on its way to the Caribbean. "I told those who could spell 'facilitate' correctly that their intellect would take them to all heights – and those who couldn't, that their 'street-smart' would help them achieve their goals.

"They all went away happy – because I'd told them what they wanted to hear."

Today Alice says the letter 't' is the most important in studying handwriting. "The size it's written, which way it slopes or if its vertical, and how you cross it, tells us so much about you: if you are proud and dignified, independent, loyal, have willpower, can set your goals – or are just a procrastinator," she says.

And she recalled a case in which lawyers for a man facing jail for rape, asked her to analyse the written statement of the alleged victim. "Normal writing follows a rhythm, but as her statement went into the detail of the alleged offence, her words became erratically spaced – indicating she wasn't telling the story as it happened, but was creating it as she went along…"

The man was acquitted, and the girl subsequently admitted she'd lied.

How we act physically when fibbing is another of Alice's studies: "You blink more when you're lying, and often swallow more – and if you rub your nose while you're talking, you're really telling your listener 'What I'm saying actually stinks,'  while tugging at your ear is a dead giveaway for 'Don't believe a word I'm saying.'"

When a famous American surgeon was charged with murdering his pregnant wife and two children thirty years ago, a newspaper became curious about the angle a reporter on a local TV station began taking about the case. The paper got hold of samples of the TV reporter's handwriting and asked Alice to analyse them.

"Her writing indicated she was getting involved emotionally with the indicted surgeon… the whole event led to the movie Fatal Vision." (The reporter was taken off the case, and backed out of her relationship with the surgeon who is still in jail - Ed.)

Today the sprightly 75-year old Alice – once named International Handwriting Analyst of the Year –  cruises the world giving lectures and writing about her life and work. At last count she'd notched-up 127 such cruises.

And her final word?

"If you don't want anyone to know anything about you, never put anything in writing."   


PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] ALICE shows how three different signatures can tell all about you. (Top) clear, succinct and confident; (middle) a showman saying make way for me;

(bottom) lots of confidence, I know who I am and I have arrived.

[] HER popular book Judge The Jury is an easy-to-follow guide on how to read and profile people.

Photos: David Ellis


Thursday, November 27, 2008

CRUISECO’S BIG SAVING ON AMAZING AMAZON CRUISE IN 2009

Cruiseco has one of the most unusual opportunities in adventure cruising in 2009 with a 21-night South America cruise aboard the small ship Spirit of Adventure, that includes 11-nights exploring the Amazon.

And adding to its uniqueness is the fact that organised shore excursions are included in the price in most of the dozen ports of call on this cruise that begins and ends in Bridgetown, Barbados – with complimentary wines at lunch and dinner another feature.

The 9500 tonne Spirit of Adventure carries just 350-guests and will sail from Bridgetown on March 24 2009 for Belem in Brazil, then cruise the Rio Para River before entering the Amazon for calls at Curua, Santerem for an overnight, Boca De Valeria, Manaus, Parantins, Alter do Chao and Macapa.

After leaving the Amazon's fascinating riverside communities and its unique plant, water- and wild-life, Spirit of Adventure will visit legendary Devil's Island in French Guiana, Paramaribo in Surinam, Georgetown (Guyana,) Scarborough in Tobago and Bridgetown.

Cruiseco has prices from $6880pp twin-share – a saving of around $2000pp – including all meals on board, shore excursions in most ports, onboard entertainment, and wines with lunch and dinner; air fares are additional.

For full details phone 1800 225 656 for the name of the nearest of Cruiseco's 150-cruise specialist travel agencies to you, or visit www.cruising.com.au

Monday, November 24, 2008

Explore French Polynesia's Wild & Exotic Marquesas Islands On Aranui 3 - The Freighter To Paradise

Once every three weeks (including a voyage that spans Christmas Day) the freighter/passenger vessel Aranui 3 sails out of Papeete harbour on a 14-day journey to deliver vital suppliers to residents of the Marquesas - a cluster of wildly beautiful islands in French Polynesia. Guests onboard the Aranui 3 will enjoy 14-adventure filled days exploring the islands' unspoilt nature by foot and in four-wheel drive vehicles driven by locals while the ship unloads and loads at each destination.

Once every three weeks the freighter/passenger vessel Aranui 3 sails out of Papeete harbour on a 14-day journey to deliver vital supplies to residents of the Marquesas - a cluster of wildly beautiful islands in French Polynesia, around 900 miles northeast of Tahiti and the remotest archipelago in the world.

Of the 15 islands in the Marquesas, six are inhabited and only four of these have airstrips; two islands are only accessible by boat and do not even have a dock! The Aranui 3 – a cargo filled ship complete with cruise ship comforts – is a lifeline to the residents of these six isolated islands. The vessel delivers everything from four wheel drive cars and cement to schoolbooks and livestock. They ship back copra (dried coconut kernel) and noni, a yellowish fruit that has become the basis of a fashionable health drink marketed in the US.

Guests onboard the Aranui 3 will enjoy 14 adventure-filled days experiencing the islands’ strong local culture and exploring the unspoilt nature: the black sand beaches and steep volcanic peaks blanketed with thick forests are a stark contrast to the traditional French Polynesian fringed atolls. While the ship loads and unloads at each destination, passengers are taken ashore onboard a fleet of whaleboats for land-based sightseeing excursions in four-wheel drive vehicles driven by locals - all included in the price.

The Marquesas Islands have been an inspiration to many writers and artists. Gaugin painted his masterpieces on Hiva Oa and is buried under a gardenia tree on the slopes of the local cemetery. His grave is only a few feet from the Belgian musician and songwriter, Jacques Brel. On nearby Nuku Hiva, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, jumped ship and was trapped by a tribe of cannibals before escaping to write Typee, the best-selling novel based on his capture.

Aranui 3

Purpose built in 2003 Aranui 3 is uniquely designed for its dual role as a freighter and passenger ship, carrying up to 2000 tons of cargo and 200 passengers. There are 85 fully air conditioned cabins ranging from top of the range suites with balconies to deluxe and twin-bedded cabins, with well-priced dormitory style accommodation on a lower deck. There are two comfortable lounges, a swimming pool and gym and a full program of lectures on Marquesan history, culture and art.
A 14-day adventure cruise starting and ending in Tahiti costs Euros 3445 per person sharing a standard twin-bedded outside cabin with private facilities, including fuel surcharge and taxes. Dormitory style accommodation with upper and lower berths and shared facilities is Euros 2000 per person. Flights to/from Tahiti are not included in these prices.

Departures are approximately every three weeks from 10 February to 19 December 2009.

For bookings and further details, contact Ultimate Cruising on (Australia) 1300 662 943

Tenders out for new Polar Cruise ship

Source: offradar.info

Norway’s Polar Cruise Enterprises is expected to go out to tender for the construction of a dedicated expedition-type cruise vessel for Polar operations in the early part of 2009. The concept design for the 202 passenger capacity vessel has been carried out by Finland’s Aker Arctic Technology.

Polar Cruise Enterprises currently operates the former Swedish icebreaker Njord (pic left), now sailing as the Polar Star, but this 40 year old vessel is becoming more and more expensive to operate and maintain.

The outline specification for the newbuilding calls for a vessel with a lower berth capacity of 202, plus the addition of 40 passengers on Pullman berths, and accommodation for a crew of 75. The Polar cruise ship will have a length o.a. of 135.5m and a beam of 17.8m. Service speed will be 17 knots.

The newbuilding will be double-acting with a bow design optimised for operations in open water as well as in ice floes, with an ice-breaking stern for operation in reverse mode, She will have two independent main enginerooms, providing for full redundancy and a ‘get me home’ capability in line with the latest IMO ‘Safe Return to Port’ requirements.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blue Lagoon to offer four 'Historical & Cultural Dateline' cruises in 2009


Cruise specialist offering 'early bird' rates on February departure

24 November 2008 - Blue Lagoon Cruises has announced it will again operate just four of its highly popular 'Historical & Cultural Dateline Cruises' in 2009.

The cruises, scheduled for 16 February, 18 May, 17 August and 09 November, offer a unique and very limited opportunity to visit the largely uncharted reaches comprising Fiji's remote north-eastern tip.

While lying in the shadow of one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, the area rarely receives attention from the outside world.

Blue Lagoon Cruises' 60-metre flagship MV Fiji Princess is one of the very few commercial vessels to have visited the region in recent years.

Operated to the cruise company's highly regarded 'Gold Club' standard, the seven-day itinerary includes Kioa Island, home to some 300 Polynesian Elice Islanders who migrated into the region in the 1940s.

The cruise will also visit the 4,000 Micronesian Banabans who have inhabited Rabi Island since 1946.

Rabi remains virtually the same since the Banabans first arrived from Kiribati to escape the ravages phosphate mining had dealt to their home islands.

The cruise schedule also includes visits to Fiji's original capital city, Levuka, on Ovalau Island and Nananu-I-Ra Island, the home of the Fijian Serpent God Degei who according to local legend created the Fijian archipelago.

Hands-on cruise activities include the opportunity to visit these islanders in their villages and participate in several of their ancient ceremonies.

These include 'Yaqona root' (Kava) drinking, lashings of traditional entertainment and a trip to the 180th Meridian and International Dateline at Taveuni where passengers can stand with one foot in each of two different days.

The cruise also includes a walking tour of Levuka and a guided tour of Taveuni, including the Bouma Eco Park and waterfall.

A high spot of the overall cruise is the greeting by Kioa islanders, resplendent in traditional war dress, paddling out to the MV Fiji Princess in outrigger canoes to ferry passengers ashore for a traditional welcome.

Prices for the 19 February cruise start from AUD3348* per person twin share inclusive of all meals, all onboard entertainment, cultural activities and shore excursions.

However all bookings made by 31 January will receive a 30 per cent 'early bird' discount, a saving of AUD1009* per person.

For cruise reservations telephone Blue Lagoon Cruises in Lautoka, Fiji, on +679 666 1622, facsimile +679 666 4098 or via email on reservations@blc.com.fj.

For more information please visit www.bluelagooncruises.com.

*Conditions apply. Please note prices do not include international airfares or beverages (other than tea or coffee).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

HONEYMOON LIKE THE STARS, UNDER THE STARS

From Expedition and Adventure Cruising

A honeymoon idea that dreams are made of – aboard a boutique motor-cruiser that with just ten other couples and which has you feeling you're almost aboard your own private motor yacht – can be had in one of the world's most romantic setting, the unspoiled Tuamotu Archipelago in the South Pacific's most romantic location, French Polynesia.

And if a few close friends or family go along to share this experience with you, it will make it seem all the more that you truly are honeymooning under balmy tropical skies by day and starry skies by night – the way the stars do it.

The 24-passenger Haumana cruises 3- and 4-night itineraries on the spectacular Rangiroa Lagoon, with many couples opting to combine the two cruises for a week-long honeymoon that dreams truly are made of.

Lavish French-Polynesian dining includes a unique luncheon at tables set in the actual waters of the spectacular Rangiroa Lagoon, and there are opportunities to escape by yourselves on bush- and beach-walks, to go swimming, snorkelling, coral viewing, shark feeding, kayaking, and to visit little island villages with only a handful of residents, or to go beach, line or game fishing…

Or to just laze around on unique pink or white sand beaches, or in Haumana's outdoor lounge.

For full details see travel agents or check-out www.tahiti-haumana-cruises.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

50% Off a True North Cruise!

North Star Cruises Australia has unveiled an unprecedented offer – 50% off its new Southern Safari Cruise on board the revered adventure-cruise ship, True North.

North Star's General Manager Peter Trembath said the company had taken the unusual step of offering a discount in support of the new Southern Safari cruise which explores the stunning South Australian coastline.

"The maiden 2008 Southern Safari cruise was an outstanding success and to assist with establishing the cruise as an annual adventure option, all cabins on the 2009 departure are being offered at an amazing 50% off," said Mr Trembath.

The offer includes 8 nights from just $3,748 - with all activities and fine dining included PLUS, a return airfare to Adelaide*.

"Never before has there been a more appealing opportunity to experience the unique True North," said Mr Trembath.

"This is an excellent chance to indulge in the complete luxury of a True North adventure cruise while experiencing the magic of the South Australian coast," he said.

The cruise includes a day touring the McLaren Vale's best wineries, a visit to Kangaroo Island, seeing great white sharks, exploring beautiful Coffin Bay, experiencing a 'tuna rodeo', and fishing at Pearson and Franklin islands.

"We have complete confidence in this cruise – it's a ripper," said Mr Trembath.

"All we need to do is give our guests an incentive to try it out. Once people have experienced what the South Australian coast has to offer – they will rave about it and thereafter, it will be first in, best dressed."

True North Background

The multi award winning adventure cruise ship, True North, allows discerning guests to experience wilderness in surroundings more akin to one of the world's most exclusive hotels. Lavish features include:

  • A sundeck, forward observation lounge, ship's lounge, alfresco bar, internet café, plasma screens with interpretive information, lower deck dining room with large panoramic windows, and fine dining.

· All cabins feature enhanced décor, en-suite facilities, in-house entertainment and satellite telephones.

· Multiple expedition boats allow passengers to do "what they want, when they want".

· The True North is the only Kimberley adventure-cruise ship that sails with its own helicopter.

· The purpose built True North is able to explore the upper reaches of shallow river systems

· Adventure cruises and expeditions operate along the magnificent coastlines of Australia and the South Pacific.

The True North – one of the finest adventure-cruise ships in the world!

*Conditions apply. Contact North Star Cruises for full terms and conditions.

For more information visit http://www.northstarcruises.com.au/ss.asp

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Environmental Pat on Back for Small Ship Company

International Panel Singles Out Small Ship Company Ecoventura To Receive Virgin Holidays Award for Responsible Tourism

MIAMI, FL, Nov. 19, 2008 – The small ship, visionary travel company, Ecoventura, got a pat on the back at World Travel Market in London earlier this month.

Ecoventura received the "Best in Marine Environment" accolade, among 13 overall award categories on responsible tourism presented by Virgin Holidays. Judges noted that Ecoventura contributes scholarships for education and helps local women develop micro-businesses. It recently converted a fishing boat into a restaurant and boutique providing alternative livelihoods for the wives of fishermen. Ecoventura was also recognized to be among the first cruise operators to be independently environmentally audited.

"We, as a company, are both humbled and energized by this prestigious award," said Ecoventura president Santiago Dunn who was present to receive the award. "It's wonderful to be recognized for our past efforts but our groundbreaking work on setting the bar for responsible tourism in the Galapagos has just begun."

In 2000 Ecoventura became one of the first recipients of SmartVoyager, a voluntary environmental certification developed by New York-based The Rainforest Alliance and Corporacion y Desarollo from Ecuador. The program gives a "green seal of approval" to tour boats that comply with requirements to tread lightly on the area's fragile eco-system.

In 2005 Santiago Dunn received the prestigious Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter award for making a significant contribution to environmental conservation and sustainability.

In 2006 Ecoventura, in partnership with NativeEnergy, became the first Carbon Neutral operation in the Galapagos (and Ecuador).

In 2007 Ecoventura partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund which targets environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities' ability to manage natural resources.

At the 2008 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards, the country of New Zealand won the grand prize. A total of 13 awards were presented across a range of categories including best for poverty reduction (Gambia), best volunteering organization (Camps International), best personal contribution (Jane Ashton, head of sustainable development, TUI Travel PLC), best large hotel (Kingfisher Bay, Fraser Island, Australia) and best cruise or ferry operator (Holland America Line).

The distinguished panel of judges included Professor Harold Goodwin, co-director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University, Justin Francis, managing director of responsibletravel.com and Graham Boynton, group travel editor of Telegraph Media Group.

"In this, the fifth year of the Awards, the bar has been raised for responsible tourism yet again," said Justin Francis. "What inspires me are the efforts that businesses and destinations are making to ensure that responsible tourism lies at the heart of their strategies and plans. Without a doubt, this is the only way to plan for the future – responsible travel is not a passing fad or a niche travel trend for marketing purposes. It is an entire, holistic approach to tourism operations."

About Ecoventura: Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with sales offices in Quito and Miami. In operation since 1990, the cruise company transports 4,000+ passengers annually aboard a fleet of three expedition vessels; identical, superior first-class 20-passenger motor yachts with 10 double cabins. The company also operates the Sky Dancer, a 16-passenger dedicated dive live-aboard offering 7-night weekly itineraries visiting the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin. All of its vessels have been purposefully retrofitted to meet or exceed the highest possible environmental standards.
To reserve a cabin or to receive a copy of Ecoventura's 2009 catalog please call toll-free 1.800.644.7972, or e-mail info@galapagosnetwork.com. To access current rates, schedules and itineraries you can log onto http://www.ecoventura.com/.

About The Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards: The Awards are the most prestigious and competitive of their kind in the world and are a collaboration between online travel directory responsibletravel.com, UK media partners The Daily Telegraph, Geographical Magazine and BBC World News, and World Travel Market who host the event. Now in their fifth year, the central tenet of the Awards is that all types of tourism - from niche to mainstream - can and should be operated in a way that respects and benefits destinations and local people. This year a record 1,976 nominations were received from travelers around the world voting for tourism ventures that provide outstanding holidays that also benefit local people and destinations. See http://www.responsibletourismawards.com for further information.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Take the Kids to PNG for Free!


Aurora Expeditions offers travellers the chance to experience the rich cultural heritage and unspoilt nature of Papua New Guinea with a special offer for families on their two voyages departing April 2009.

For each full paying adult, one child between 10 – 18 years of age Travels for FREE*.

These distinct 11-day voyages go in search of the unexpected. On board the 100-passenger expedition ship Marina Svetaeva, spacious viewing decks and a fleet of Zodiacs make her an excellent vessel for an in-depth exploration of PNG’s hidden bays and striking coral reefs. Next year Aurora has added options for their guests to kayak and scuba dive in PNG’s azure waters or taking exhilarating helicopter rides to explore inland.

Voyage 1 – Alotau to Rabaul (Lost in Paradise)
Departs – 10th April 2009 (11 days) – Easter School Holidays!
‘Lost is Paradise’ is a broad exploration of the eastern New Guinea coastline and islands of the Bismarck Archipelago including Admiralty and New Hanover Islands. From walking in the vast tropical jungle to cruising along the tropical fjords of Tufi, this voyage will take in a staggering variety of pristine environments.

Voyage 2 – Rabaul to Alotau (Islands of Smiles)
Departs – 20th April 2009 (11 days)
‘Islands of Smiles’ begins with an in-depth look at the southern coast of New Britain where you will experience expedition cruising at its best as we go in search of adventure. We then explore the tranquil isles of Milne Bay province, a group of dramatic volcanoes and coral atolls where ancient traditions flourish.

Prices: Starting from AU$5,290per person, includes all meals on board and Zodiac excursions.

* Offer is inclusive of the cruise component only and does not include; airfares, transfers, tours or accommodation, other than onboard the ship.

For more details on this special offer, or to obtain a copy of the new Papua New Guinea 2009 brochure, contact Aurora Expeditions on 1800 637 688, visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or email auroraex@auroraexpeditions.com.au

Peruvian Amazon Luxury


The new M/V Aqua, Aqua Expedition’s flagship, will be the first true luxury vessel ever to cruise the northern Amazon. Its 12 oversized guest suites, including four 180° panoramic master suites, feature en suite sitting areas and generous outward-facing panoramic windows. Each of the handsomely decorated, air-conditioned suites measures between 230 to 240 square feet and is designed by noted Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. Four suites can be interconnected to cater to families. You can socialize in the dining room, indoor lounge, on the observation deck, and in the outdoor lounge. The ship also has a small boutique.
www.aquaexpeditions.com

“Heritage Cruise” MS Ocean Odyssey sets Sail in Mauritius


-- Promises Exotic, unique and out of world experiences to discover the new facets of the Indian Ocean

-- First journey towards pristine islands begins in early December 2008, from Port Louis as the home port

-- An all year round programme offering a unique proposition for travelers on a heritage and historical journey through the Indian Ocean

MS Ocean Odyssey, the 4 star heritage cruise lines, from Indian Ocean Cruises, is all set to begin its journey in the pristine, virgin land of Mauritius, beginning this December.

Announcing this at the World Travel Mart, London, Mr. Sanjeev Goswami, Joint Managing Director of Foresight Smart Ventures said, “MS Ocean Odyssey refurbished on the theme of colonial heritage undoubtedly will take our passengers through a journey of heritage and mix of culture on the islands of Indian Ocean”

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Karl Motoosamy, Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, said “We are glad that the launch of MS Ocean Odyssey will bind the islands of Indian Ocean on the theme of their historical evolution. Mauritius known as the “star and the key of the Indian Ocean” will now become the starting point of this wonderful journey adding value to the customer offerings.”

Mr. Utsav Seth, Managing Director, Foresight Smart Ventures said “We have invested over US$30 million to develop our Cruise offering in the Indian Ocean and have aggressive plans for next 5 years to establish world class cruises in the Indian Ocean”

The heritage cruise liner with maximum of 200 passengers on board will offer a highly personalized service and ultimate comfort at affordable prices, and will help discover the new facets of the Indian Ocean.

Onboard facilities include a four-star restaurant offering a range of local and international cuisine, observation lounge and bar, coffee bar, gymnasium and fitness centre, sauna and spa, sun-deck, casino, library and medical clinic, along with a wide variety of international entertainment.

A range of itineraries, all based from Port Louis will be offered, focused on exciting journey in the pristine waters of Indian Ocean to Réunion, Rodrigues, and Madagascar. With this range of programs, the vanilla itinerary will bring in a magical appeal to the island and add value to the offerings of Mauritius products in the Indian Ocean.

Foresight Smart Ventures

Foresight Smart Ventures is part of US$500 mln London based Foresight Group a global conglomerate.

With a skilled and highly professional team of more than 1,000 people, Foresight Smart Ventures is spearheaded by Managing Director Utsav Seth, based at their London office in the City.

The company’s activities spread across Europe, India, China, Mauritius with offices in London, Venice, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, New Delhi and Chennai.

Foresight Smart Ventures is backed by the Foresight Group and is leading aggressive plans and diversified growth initiatives across a range of manufacturing and service industries.

www.indianoceancruises.net

Into the heart of Borneo - a journey on the mighty Rajang River


Pandaw Cruises are excited to announce that they will inaugurate a new expedition cruise on the Rajang River in Sarawak from July 2009.

Following in the footsteps of the British explorer and travel writer Redmon O'Hanlon, the brand new ORIENT PANDAW will make an eight-night cruise three times a month from Sibu to the Pelagus Rapids and beyond, up the Baleh River.

The Rajang River is rarely visited by travelers on account of its inaccessibility and lack of tourist facilities. It is, though, the longest river in Malaysia. Cruising in the extreme comfort of a Pandaw, passengers will be able to visit Iban longhouses, make boat trips up tributary rivers, and see the vestiges of the colonial Brooke Raja.

But above all, passengers can view from the Pandaw's observation decks the rich tropical rain forest close at hand. Jungle treks, for all levels of walkers, are a must - this is, after all, one of the most diverse and exotic eco-paradise's on the planet.

Main deck cabins start at $2,250 per person. An add-on, two-night stop in the captial Kuching is highly recommended. Kuching is easily reached from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Brunei.

For an itinerary and schedules, click here

Borneo photo gallery
www.pandaw.com

Background to Pandaw Cruises
With SIX luxury ships, we are the largest river cruise company in South-East Asia. In 1995, we were the first to pioneer and explore the region’s great rivers and their tributaries: the Irrawaddy and Chindwin in Burma, the Mekong and Tonle Rivers in Cambodia, and the backwaters of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

These small ships can penetrate remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. While we offer a real adventure experience, travelers are cushioned with incredible comfort, fine dining, great cocktails, and choice wines, not to mention extraordinary levels of service.

Our SIX boutique ships were built new and designed and finished as replicas of colonial river steamers. These small ships have the highest passenger-to-space ratio of any ships afloat.

MR. ANDREA MASSARI Exeecutive Director Pandaw Cruises Pte Ltd Email: andreamassari@pandaw.com www.pandaw.com

Sunday, November 16, 2008

VANUATU POSTS ITS STAMP OF APPROVAL


david ellis

THE POSTAL authorities in Vanuatu are an inventive lot, and maybe amongst the world's most imaginary.

In an era in which many a little country makes a cosy income from selling colourful and odd-shaped postage stamps to collectors, Vanuatu goes one step further.        

Five years ago its postal chiefs opened the world's first underwater Post Office, 3-metres down on the harbour-bed off Hideaway Island in a picturesque marine park outside the capital Port Vila.

In this tiny egg-shaped fibre-glass igloo the Postmaster, decked out in scuba gear, collects specially waterproofed postcards at his shopfront counter from tourists who duck-dive down to him; cards have to be written in pencil, and instead of an ink date stamp a novel embossed cancellation device is used.

Cards posted here are a must amongst philatelists, and following the raging success of the Underwater Post Office, Vanuatu went on to establish the world's first Volcano Post Box on the actual rim of an active, roaring and rumbling volcano.

It's on Mt Yasur on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu's south, and here a decision's taken each day on the exact location of the portable box, that decision being dependent on just how violent eruptions are at the time.

And now Vanuatu's postal bosses have come up with yet another way of using postage stamps to further promote the most important factor in keeping their country's economy afloat – tourism.

They've released a set of seven stamps (together with a first day cover,) that they hope will encourage thousands of international holidaymakers to visit their Pacific paradise, dubbing the set 'Resorts in Paradise'.

One is generic showing children frolicking on a pristine beach behind a close-up shot of a beautiful local orchid; the other six feature leading holiday resorts in and around Port Vila – Iririki Island, Le Meridien, Le Lagon, Breakas Beach, the Melanesian and the Sebel.

It's believed to be the first time in the world that private commercial enterprises have appeared on postage stamps, and tourism authorities are hoping the new stamps will have a similar effect in attracting visitors that the so-called 'Xtreme' Underwater and Volcano Post Offices had.

Iririki Island Resort has been part of the fabric of Port Vila for almost a quarter of a century and is situated on a pretty island in the centre of Port Vila Harbour.

A building at the highest point of the island was once the home of the British Resident Commissioner when the nation was known as New Hebrides, a condominium pre-Independence administered jointly by France and the United Kingdom; Queen Elizabeth stayed there during her South Pacific visit in 1974.

Directly opposite Iririki, on Port Vila's main street, is the newest Mecca for corporate visitors and holidaymakers, the Sebel. It is Vanuatu's first (and only) high-rise hotel and this year was venue for Tok Tok (Talk Talk,) Vanuatu's important annual tourism industry trade fair.

Two of the resorts featured on the stamps have gaming facilities.

One, Le Meridien five-minute from Port Vila city centre and set amid twenty-five lagoon-side hectares, has The Palms Casino with poker machines and a selection of gaming tables.

The other, the Melanesian Resort on the fringe of the city CBD, includes Club 21 that attracts players to its banks of poker machines.       

Breakas Beach, aimed at adult guests, is located 10 or 12 minutes from Port Vila's centre on the Pango Peninsula; as well as an eye-catching infinity pool, it also boasts a 2km private beach on the Pacific Ocean.

Conversely Le Lagon, on picturesque Erakor Lagoon, aims itself squarely at families with deals at select times of the year that include all meals and unlimited house wine and local beer, spirits and soft drinks throughout the day.

And the resort's golf course has the world's only 'par one' hole: players have to drive directly down from a 6-metre high knoll into the 8th hole below to make par. Birdies and eagles are obviously impossible.

Golfers who've played it are convinced the designer must have had a good session on Vanuatu's famed relaxant, kava before drawing up the blueprint.

For information about holidaying in Vanuatu see travel agents, or check-out www.vanuatutourism.com

                                                        ………………………..

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] FIRST Day Cover shows all seven colourful new stamps promoting Vanuatu tourism.

[] ONE of the stamps: first time in the world private commercial enterprises have featured on postage stamps.

(PHOTOS: Vanuatu Post)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kimberley: Awesome Wonder



Michael Gebicki - Sydney Morning Herald - November 13, 2008

Whether you tour it, four-wheel-drive it, cruise it, or fly over it, the Kimberley will leave you lost for words.

In the Kimberley, words run out of puff. Faced with the dimensions of the country, full-flavoured adjectives turn pale and limp. How to describe this wild, arid plateau at the northern end of Western Australia, a place half the size of NSW with a population of barely 31,000 that is crossed by only two roads, where the coastline is almost totally inaccessible except from the sea, where the cattle stations are measured by the million hectares, and where the trees come from Africa and the climate from the furnace?

Read Full Story

Sunday, November 9, 2008

STRASBOURG’S SILENT SUNDAY SUNRISE

david ellis

WE occasionally make decisions that in their wisdom surprise even ourselves.

One such was deciding earlier this year to stretch a day trip from Paris to Strasbourg to an overnight. A particularly long and enjoyable dinner with several bottles of French whites helped it along.

And had we not, we would never have discovered the "Old City" of Strasbourg, a place that dates back to 496 A.D.

So in the wee dawn hours of a Sunday morning, a normally ungodly hour for us, we cram in a quick walk through this old part of the city before getting the high-speed TGV train back to Paris.

The extraordinarily beautiful medieval architecture – almost eerie at this early hour with the streets wonderfully sans-people – literally takes our breath away.

Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France, close to the German border and near where the River Ill joins the mighty Rhine. In ancient times it blossomed as a strategic commercial hub before two centuries of religious struggles hammered this role.

It recovered with its absorption into France in 1681, but along with the rest of Alsace was annexed by Germany from 1871 to the end of World War I and again from 1940 to 1944.

Today it is the seat of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament.

The Old City occupies an island with its streets organised in a grid and with 20 bridges connecting it to the "mainland."

For the first 30-minutes of our early Sunday walk we sight not a soul as we wander past medieval houses, ancient shops crammed into narrow laneways and squares branching out from the city's Gothic Cathédrale de Notre-Dame that's built of fabulous pink sandstone.

We have the place to ourselves.

From the north side of the cathedral, we find the eighteenth-century Place Broglie, with the Hôtel de Ville, the bijou Opera House and some 18th century mansions.

And Number 4 Place Broglie where, in 1792, Rouget de l'Isle first sang what later became known as the Marseillaise after the mayor of Strasbourg challenged him to compose a rousing song for the troops of the Rhine army.

We're not Francophiles, but friends in Melbourne later tell us they had been brought up with the Marseillaise as the adopted tune of the AFL's defunct Fitzroy Lions (and now adapted by the Brisbane Lions.)  "We are the boys from Old Fitzroy" the Fitzroy faithful, we are told, still sing along Brunswick Street today.

But let's get back to Old Strasbourg. The previous afternoon, to the east of the cathedral, we had discovered trendy student cafés a-buzz with conversation and laughter, but this morning all is quiet, locked-up and it is beautifully peaceful.

We wander off west and discover the La Petite France sector, where the city's medieval millers, tanners and fishermen once lived.  Cute 16th and 17th century houses are decorated with elaborate carved woodwork and flowering window boxes; and further on, we discover ancient canals and bridges with watchtowers, built as part of fourteenth-century city fortifications.

It's easy walking because the Old City is flat – if you want an elevated view of Strasbourg and, in the distance the Vosges to the west and the Black Forest to the east, climb some 300 steps to a viewing platform within the cathedral.

Finally with the sun now coming up over the architectural horizon we amble back to our conveniently-located 3-star Hotel Beaucour – just across a bridge which bears rare and fascinating instillation art  –  as people start entering the cathedral to worship or to marvel at the 1842 Astrological Clock.

(If you can handle crowds, it's worth witnessing the clock's crowning performance at noon each day.)

It is 7.30am and the serenity is evaporating as the Old City starts another day.

We collect our bags and take the tram the few minutes to the city's rail station.

Then we're on the 0816 TGV train which, on its high-speed track, will have us  back into central Paris just after 10.30. We settle in and have breakfast on board.

It's a fitting end to a First Class morning; for information about Strasbourg check www.france-for-visitors.com and for rail services see www.railplus.com.au

                                                           ………………..

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] POSTCARD perfect canal in Old Strasbourg

[] ANCIENT laneways reveal fascinating insights into Strasbourg's history

(Photos: French Tourist Bureau)

 
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