Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
As part of this development Reef Endeavour will be withdrawn from service on 25 February 2008 and will be sold.
Passengers with Cruise bookings on Reef Endeavour past this date may transfer to a 3 or 4 night Coral Princess Barrier Reef cruise of similar itinerary at the booked price.
Alternatively, passengers may transfer to Reef Escape in Fiji, Murray Princess on the Murray River or Captain Cook’s Explorer 2night or dining cruises on Sydney Harbour at a 50% discount or, alternatively, receive a full refund.
Captain Cook Cruises deeply regrets the departure of Reef Endeavour after twelve memorable years cruising the Barrier Reef and wishes to thank the Masters, Officers and Crew who have continuously provided an outstanding product and passengers who sailed in her and the travel industry for their vital support.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This website has been put together by the 'Save The Kimberley' group.
The majestic Kimberley is one of the world’s last great wilderness regions. This pristine area rich in culture, heritage and biodiversity is Australia’s last untouched frontier. Home too many endangered species the Kimberley wilderness is a virtual Noah’s Ark, a shielded system that is much as it was from the beginning of time. Humpback whales, turtles, Dugongs, the Golden Back Tree Rat let alone the many other species of flora and fauna that are yet to be discovered. Can you believe that this World class treasure is under threat?"
True North at anchor off Pearson Island in the seldom-visited Investigator Group (photo: Roderick Eime)
For immediate release: 26 January 2008
North Star Cruises’ Inaugural Southern Safari a Hit
Broome-based North Star Cruises is delighted at the passenger reaction to the recently completed Southern Safari adventure cruise in the waters off Adelaide, South Australia.
“We’ve been coming this way for several years now on our way back from Sydney,” said Craig Howson, managing director of North Star Cruises, “and we thought it was about time we made a proper exploration of the wonderful beaches, fishing and attractions down here.”
Passengers aboard the 740 tonne, 50m luxury expedition vessel True North enjoyed relaxing wine tasting in McLaren Vale, stunning sightseeing on Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula, sensational fishing for SA’s famous King George Whiting and an exhilarating cage dive with great white sharks off Port Lincoln. The busy 8-night itinerary retraced and revisited many of the sites first explored by Mathew Flinders in 1802 including the pristine Investigator Group.
The journey began in Adelaide on January 17th and finished in Streaky Bay on the 25th, with guests transferring back to Adelaide by commercial flight.
“We’ll make a few small refinements to the itinerary for next year, but otherwise we’re happy with the product and, most importantly, the passengers are too,” said Howson.
“Putting the whole package together was made much easier by the welcome and enthusiastic cooperation we received from all levels of government here in South Australia and we extend our thanks and congratulations to the many departments and individuals who went out of their way to ensure the smooth running of our first Southern Safari. Thank you South Australia.”
The Southern Safari will now be a regular annual offering in multi-award winning North Star Cruises’ expanding catalogue of adventure itineraries that include Adventures in Paradise (PNG), Over the Top (NT and Qld) and their acclaimed signature product, the Kimberley Wilderness Cruise (WA).
Bookings for the 2009 Southern Safari begin immediately with the new itinerary and dates available shortly.
For further information, images or brochures, please contact North Star Cruises on
(+61 8) 91921 829 or visit the website at www.northstarcruises.com.au
About North Star Cruises – “Go Wild in Style”
The recipient of numerous state and national adventure tourism awards and with over twenty years operational experience, North Star Cruises and their purpose-built expedition vessel, the 740 tonne, 36-passenger True North, specialise in enriching nature and culture based cruise tours in a luxurious, yet laid-back style with an unmistakably Australian flavour.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Adventure and Expedition Cruising is the fastest growing area of the already burgeoning cruise market. In fact some would say it’s not cruising at all, rather adventure by ship.
As such, we at Cruise Passenger Magazine recognise that this very special form of experiential travel now requires its own magazine. An expert, specialist publication devoted to the unique needs of the ship and tour operators that clearly sets it apart from the traditional large ship product.
The magazine will be produced by the regular Cruise Passenger Magazine team, with the addition of Roderick Eime as guest editor. A regular contributor to Cruise Passenger, Rod is a confirmed adventure cruiser, having travelled to both the Antarctic and Arctic, Galapagos, Amazon, Melanesia, New Zealand and more aboard everything from motorised dugouts to icebreakers.
Readers will expand their horizons with new destinations and itineraries to keep their passion alive as well as investigate new ships that will take them there.
From the frozen reaches of the North Pole to the furthest Antarctic extremes and everything in between, Cruise Passenger Magazine’s Essential Adventure and Expedition Cruising Guide will be the definitive reference for the new wave of modern seaborne adventurers.
Advertisers will be offered a potent blend of editorial and advertorial allowing them to highlight their product in the most favourable light. Editorial will highlight the exciting new destinations only adventure cruising can deliver plus explain for the first time traveller what to expect, how to pack and why adventure cruising will introduce them to a whole new world of life enriching experiences.
The list of destinations will include the must-do’s of Antarctica, Russian Far East, Papua New Guinea, The Kimberleys, Melanesia, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon, Alaska, the Galapagos and much more.
Expedition Cruising, Adventure Cruising
Flick through the pages of any magazine or newspaper and you’re confronted with an overflowing smorgasbord of cruise travel possibilities. If this explosion of romantic ocean-going itineraries leads you to think cruise travel is on the up, then you are right. Cruising is on a rocket. But look closer and you’ll find, sometimes tacked on the end of a larger ad, adventure possibilities you may never have dreamed of.
Sure, everybody knows the irresistible, fairytale allure of the South Pacific, Caribbean and Mediterranean, but what about the frozen reaches of the Antarctic, the wilds of the Kimberley or the tiny atolls of Melanesia? Within this huge category of ‘cruising’ there exists a sometimes overlooked subset generally referred to as “adventure and expedition cruising”.
Once almost a secret society among wealthy adventurers and well-heeled thrillseekers, this type of travel has ignited the imagination of those looking beyond regular, packaged products. Travel marketers and advertising pundits are calling this emerging genre “experiential and transformational” travel where the journey is all about delivering uplifting and life-changing experiences.
Ships plying these waters can vary enormously too. They range from luxury pocket cruise-liners, replete with every creature comfort and a “quick response” crew ready to fulfill your every whim, through to refurbished ex-Soviet spy vessels. These Russian vessels are the ones largely responsible for opening up the frozen extremes of our planet and include mighty icebreakers and hardy oceanographic ships built to operate in the most challenging conditions.
At the softer end, vessels like the Australian-based Orion and Oceanic Discoverer, world-travelling Seadream I and II and Seabourne are examples of ships constructed to deliver a high, even opulent, level of luxury and still retain the flexibility and versatility of an expedition yacht. Orion, for example, not only cruises the rich tropical backwaters of PNG and the Kimberley, but ventures to the most remote reaches of Antarctica, well below the ‘circle’ and into the exclusive realm of Emperor Penguins and historic explorers.
Bentours new cruise programme features the Norwegian Coastal Voyage – Hurtigruten, historical Gota Canal in Sweden, expedition like cruising to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the North Pole, river cruising to Europe, Russia and China as well as a its most comprehensive cruise programme ever to Antarctica. The programme targets a cruise traveller looking for a cruise experience exploring the wildlife, nature of the destination as well as interaction with diverse cultures.
“Bentours cruise product suits a traveller who is interested in experiencing the cruise destination outside the ship in an active way”, says Greg Arnott, General Director for Bentours. ”Our customer is a curious and active person who wants to learn about the destinations we take them to and wants to form an intimate understanding for the destination”.
“Our iconic over 100 years old Norwegian Coastal Voyage - Hurtigruten is Bentours flagship product we started promoting and selling it in 1979”, says Arnott. The scenic 11- day cruise Bergen back to Bergen, visits 34 ports all year around – all departures guaranteed. A spectacular scene under the Midnight Sun in the summer and under the Nordic Lights in the winter, makes this unique voyage once in a life time experience. “Grand Nordic” tour including the Norwegian Coastal Voyage visiting all Nordic Capitals is one of the most popular ways to tour around Scandinavia. Tour operates daily, all year and has 16, 19 or 22 day options, starting from $4670 per person, twin share, ex-Helsinki, Stockholm or Copenhagen.
Bentours announced earlier a record year in Gota Canal bookings in 2007. The Gota Canal Steamship Company sails its three vintage ships along the 190km route between Gothenburg and Stockholm and is one of Sweden’s outstanding attractions. Cruising 4 days along the Swedish countryside ex Stockholm or ex Gothenburg starts $1760 per person* in double cabin (Category C) all meals included. “Swedish countryside” 5-day tour ex-Stockholm, partly escorted starting from $780 per person in double cabin (Category C).
High Arctic cruise product explores Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago as well as all the way up to the North Pole. “North Pole” 16- or 17- day tour ex-Helsinki and travels to Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula in Russia where travellers board the massive Russian icebreaker Yamal, the only icebreaker currently taking travellers to the North Pole. Various historians, marine biologists and ornithologist are on board giving lectures of this environmentally and strategically important region. Cruise includes daytrips by helicopter and zodiacs (weather permitting) exploring one of the last outpost of the world. Cruise starting from $22263 per person, twin share. A visa is required fro Russia. “Spitsbergen Adventure” 6- day cruise exploring the Svalbard archipelago and its unique and rich wildlife and vegetation, starting from $2750 per person, twin share ex Longyearbyen.
“After a promising first year cruising in Greenland we have slightly modified itineraries with MS Fram, Hurtigruten’s purpose built ship for expedition cruising.” says Greg Arnott.” Most of our cruises explore South and East Greenland including Disco Bay further north.”
Bentours 9, 12 and 16 day cruise tours depart from Copenhagen and explore this largest island in the world with pristine wilderness and unique wildlife as well as the indigenous Inuit culture. Tours include various optional excursions such as whale watching, hiking, helicopter and boat trips, visits to Inuit settlements and museums including “Eric the Reds Longhouse” in Quassiarsuk (population 56). “East/South Greenland Cruise” 12-day, starting from $ 6949 per person, twin share and 9-day ”Disco Bay Cruise” starting from $ 4530 per person, twin share.
“For expedition like cruising to Antarctica we are introducing the most comprehensive and extended Antarctica programme to date. We have added active components such as kayaking, skiing and camping in our program as well as expeditions visiting parts of Antarctica that we have never visited before.” says Greg Arnott. Early Bird discounts $430 per person are available for all departures when booked and deposited by 30 April 2008.
“Land of ice and land of fire” 19-day cruise programme with expert lectures on board ex Buenos Aires or ex Santiago starting from $ 8200 per person, twin share includes twice daily landings in Antarctica (weather permitting), visits to Deception Island, Whalers Bay and one of the most beautiful passages Lamaire Channel to view humpback whales and fin whales as well as various spices of penguins. “Shackleton’s Antarctica” 12-day cruise programme ex Buenos Aries, starting from $8770 per person, twin share also includes visiting South Georgia and the Falkland Islands as well as Antarctica.
“We also have an extended geographical reach, now travelling to the other side of the Antarctica” says Arnott. “Emperor Penguins” 14 day ex Ushuaia expedition travels all the way to Snow Hill Island to observe Emperors early in their breeding season. This cruise is ideal for nature lovers and photographers starting from $18840 per person, twin share.
“Great Antarctic Explorers” ex Christchurch is lead by special guest Adrian Raeside, grandson of a member of Scott’s dramatic expedition to South Pole. Adrian will share his grandfather’s journals and pictures while investigating the region and visiting huts used by the explorers. This 26-day cruise starting from $29120 per person, twin share visits Campbell and Enderby Islands, Drygalski Ice Tongue and McMurdo Station which was the base for Scott and Shackleton. Cruise stops also in Macquarie Island which is the home of Royal Penguins before arriving to Hobart.
Bentours extensions to South America now include Peru, Galapagos Island, Iguaçu Falls, Brazil, Eater Island, Atacama Dessert, Patagonia and Bolivia as well as city breaks to Lima, Rio, Quito, Santiago, Buenos Aires, La Paz and Tahiti.
Bentours River Cruise product includes well known European river cruises as well as river cruising to Russia, Ukranie and China. “Footsteps of the Cossacks” 12-day cruise ex Odessa or Kiev starting from $ 2522 per person, twin share and “Silkroad Adventure” 12-day journey from Shanghai to along Yangtze River to Beijing starting from $ 5256 per person, twin share (C class cabin)
For further information contact Bentours, phone 02 9247 3381, or 1800 221 712 email email@example.com or visit www.bentours.com.au
Bentours is cruise specialist and wholesaler specializing in travel product to Scandinavia, the Nordic region, Russia, The Baltics and Antarctica. MyPlanet Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Bentours (wholesale) and MyPlanet Australia (retail), is the General Sales Agent (GSA) for Hurtigruten Group, Icelandair and Gota Canal in Australia and New Zealand.
Friday, January 25, 2008
YOU can hear the gales of laughter now.
You've just told mates you're heading off to Vanuatu and a resort
that's promised you'll have the choice of seven restaurants and cafés,
five bars, a nightclub, three pools, a couple of tennis courts, a
private beach with a watersports centre, a gymnasium, a day spa, and a
secluded cove for dipping into coral viewing and snorkelling away from
And all within a kava's kick of some of the best duty-free shopping in
the South Pacific.
Pull the other one, the mates will tell you, this is Vanuatu… where
the main street through capital Port Vila is a wonderfully-titled
montage of potholes called The Walter Lini Highway, where until
recently 3-storeys was considered skyscraper stuff, and where
fast-food is looked upon as something that arrives at your table
within 30-minutes of ordering.
But now two of Port Vila's best resorts – one of them one of the
oldest, and the other one of its newest (although in true
island-tradition it took seven years from turning the first sod to a
guest turning the first key) – have decided to allow guests in each to
use all the facilities of the other.
And when they knock up any costs for meals, drinks, spa or other
services, all these guests have to do is say "Charge it," so that
those costs go back to their own room account.
The first, Iririki Island Resorts & Spa opened in Port Vila harbour in
the mid-1980s on a private island that had been the home of the
British Resident Commissioner in Vanuatu's pre-independence days, a
time when the country was called the New Hebrides and administered
jointly by the British and the French as a condominium.
To the locals, however, this resultant confusion of policies and
cultural clashes, was looked upon somewhat bemusedly as "The
And while Iririki's opening was to much fanfare as a sign of
confidence in the new nation, its foundation years weren't without
drama: within a year of opening, 1987's Cyclone Uma virtually wiped
the idyllic seventy-two bungalows and a dreamy restaurant and bar off
Our second resort directly opposite the re-born Iririki Island Resort,
and just 3-minutes away by ferry on the "mainland," is 6-storeys of
indulgence that was built by investors eight years ago, but stood
empty until bought by an Australian consortium last year; that
consortium then contracted the Mirvac group to manage it under its
prestigious Sebel banner.
Today the waterfront Sebel Vanuatu provides a grand retreat with 74
luxurious rooms offering spectacular harbour views, private balconies
off every room and marble bathrooms.
Its Crystals Restaurant boasts 5-star silver service in a smartly
relaxed ambience that embraces its waterfront setting, with menus
featuring international, island and French Provincial signature
cuisine; there's also a laid-back Lobby Lounge Café and a Pool Café
for snacking and cocktails.
And on the sixth floor the Hemisphere Lounge is arguably one of the
South Pacific's finest hideaways of unexpected indulgence, coupled
with stunning views for that very special occasion.
Across the bay amid Iririki Island Resort & Spa's lush tropical
gardens is Vila's premier Michener's Restaurant, named in honour of
the author who conceived Tales of the South Pacific when was based in
Vanuatu during the Pacific War. Here one indulges in spectacular
dining on fresh-caught fish, tender local beef and pork, market vegies
and the most wicked desserts in an adults-only environment.
And immediately adjacent, Iririki's poolside Bali Hai Café and Bar is
also a zone mercifully free of ankle-biters.
Iririki has a total 126 individual Bungalows, DeLuxe Rooms and
Penthouses, two pools, two tennis courts, a gym, one of Vanuatu's
finest day Spas, a casual beachfront Watermark Restaurant & Bar, a
Sunset Bar & Café, a watersports centre, and a private-beach
snorkeling and coral viewing area.
And the laid-back little island can claim royal patronage: the Queen
and Prince Philip stayed there during their last South Pacific tour.
Virgin's Pacific Blue services (www.pacificblue.com.au) take just two
easy hours from Brisbane to Port Vila, and of course they've plenty of
domestic connections to get to Brisbane; to find out more about
staying at either of these premier Port Vila resorts and using the
facilities of the other, see travel agents.
PHOTO CAPTIONS: IRIRIKI Island as it was after Cyclone Uma roared
through Port Vila just
a year after the resort's opening.
AND as Iririki Island Resorts &
Spa is now, an idyllic haven of peace in Port
Vila Harbour that includes an
child-free adults-only precinct.
THE grand new The Sebel Vanuatu,
the country's first high-rise resort offering
new dimensions in escapism.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Departing Hamilton Island every Friday, the 32-cabin boutique cruise ship visits famous Whitehaven Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and many other beautiful sandy coves and pristine swimming beaches around the 74 islands.
Optional three night cruise including meals and many activities is $1995 twin share per person while the new four night cruise is $2460 per person twin share. Fly to Hamilton Island or Whitsunday Coast airports on Virgin or Jetstar, drive or QRail to Proserpine. For bookings visit www.fantaseaammari.com or call 1800 662 786.
Antarctica Discovery (www.antarcticadiscovery.com), the cruise community website launched in 2007 to offer an updated image of Antarctica has experienced a high volume of user registrations during the Antarctic cruise season.
The website, devised by innovative cruise company Voyages of Discovery, creates a dynamic social environment where people can share their experiences of Antarctica with others. Recently upgraded, the site allows passengers, crew and lecturers to register their details and to upload photos and journals from onboard the ship.
Passengers have the opportunity to post their experiences onto the website as they happen and photos taken of Antarctica’s stunning scenery and wildlife can be uploaded and live on the site for the world to see, just hours after being taken. The site’s users can also instantly send their photos home as Ecards, write up their day-to-day adventures as a journal and browse other passengers’ experiences.
David Yellow, Voyages of Discovery’s Managing Director states: “The internet has become an increasingly valuable tool for travel companies to build a closer relationship with their clients. We launched Antarctica Discovery to encourage a live, genuine commentary and vision of this beautiful place, as seen by thousands of our passengers every year. Whilst there will always be a need for professional copywriting and photography, there is now a growing demand for a view of destinations as seen by fellow travellers and Antarctica Discovery provides this.”
The website has also added social bookmarks that allow users to share photo galleries, journals or videos they enjoy across the internet with other popular community websites such as Stumbleupon, Digg and Facebook.
Voyages of Discovery’s cruise ship mv Discovery is currently cruising in Antarctica. The company has sales offices in North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and has seen a massive increase in demand for Antarctica cruises in recent years.
For further information about Voyages of Discovery please visit our main site, www.discoverycruises.com.au. For reservations and news of the latest Antarctica offers, contact: 02 9959 1380.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
(so has his hotel)
JUST as stage announcer Al Dvorin boomed for years into his microphone
"ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building" to disperse
the throngs hoping for one last encore, an Hawaii resort that The King
made as equally famous as himself, has now itself "left the building."
And remarkably while its just as famous today as it was when Presley
put it on the map 47-years ago, few can explain why – not a guest has
stayed in the derelict joint since 1992.
This seemingly paradoxical place is the Coco Palms Resort on the
Hawaiian island of Kauai, a time-warp 1950s retreat that's been slated
for a $200-million-plus make-over for years. But after continually
fragile relations with the bureaucracy and community-interest groups –
and as the last straw, the US subprime lending crisis – that
make-over's now off, and the resort's up for sale.
And heart-breakingly, the most-recent owners bought it for $12m just a
couple of years ago, and then poured a few more millions into plans
for 200 luxury condominiums, a hundred or so hotel rooms, restaurants,
shops and a spa, all in Polynesian-style reminiscent of how the resort
originally looked – but all to no avail.
Coco Palms opened in January 1953 with just 24 rooms, four employees,
and two guests. But over the years it developed into a sprawling
near-400 rooms amid a 2000-tree coconut grove, that contrary to the
publicity hype was not a one-time plaything of the Hawaiian royal
family who ruled Kauai from the 13th century to the mid-1800s.
Rather, the grove was developed in 1896 by a planter who simply
brought in a shipload of coconuts from Samoa; when the Coco Palms
Resort opened 50-odd years later amid all these, its managers
encouraged famous guests to plant additional coconuts that were marked
with plaques sporting their names: The Von Trapp Family Singers, Bing
Crosby, surfer Duke Kahanamoku and the Prince and Princess of Japan
being amongst the earliest to take up the offer.
The resort was also the first in Hawaii to have a doorman welcome new
guests with a blast from a conch shell, and to summon diners with a
flaming ceremonial "Call to Feast" flare-lighting at 7.30 every
evening – a ritual played-out nightly for 40 years until the place was
trashed by Hurricane Iniki in September 1992 and closed.
Both the conch-shell greeting and "Call to Feast" featured in one of
Elvis Presley's most famous movies, Blue Hawaii in which he starred
with Joan Blackman and Angela Lansbury, and which made the Coco Palms
Resort a household name world-wide.
Before that, Hollywood had used the resort to film parts of South
Pacific, Pagan Love Song, TV's Fantasy Island, and Miss Sadie Thompson
with Rita Hayworth, afterwards donating the Wedding Chapel used in
that movie to the resort… which dusted it off in 1961 for use again in
Presley and his co-stars had their own thatch bungalows at the Coco
Palms Resort, and cast and crew dined well and inexpensively.
Except for The King, who adopted his own bizarre meal rituals,
eschewing such delights as Mandarin Duck Soup (in those days, just
40-cents,) Char-roasted Prime Rib ($4) and Coconut Honey Sundae (a
mere 50-cents) for daily breakfasts of toasted bacon and egg
sandwiches, burgers and fries for both lunch and dinner – and
in-between, fill-me-up peanut butter and banana sandwiches that he
ordered be deep-fried.
While Coco Palms Resort has been closed since Hurricane Iniki in 1992,
it's still possible to pay a visit – and even to get married there.
A tour company on Kauai, Hawaii Movie Tours includes a look at the
Resort's coconut grove, the remains of Presley's thatch cottage, and
the so-called lagoon over which Presley and Blackman were transported
by barge as he crooned The Hawaiian Wedding Song.
A replica of the Wedding Barge is used today by popular Kauai
entertainer Larry Rivera for Chapel in the Palms Weddings; couples can
be transported on the barge to be married in the Chapel or amongst the
palms, with Champers, cake, conch-blowers and of course, music from
(Mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details of weddings; for holidays
in Hawaii including on Kauai phone Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays
on 1300 79 49 59.)
PHOTO CAPTIONS: HOME to The King: the thatch bungalow in which
Elvis Presley stayed while
filming Blue Hawaii at the
Coco Palms Resort in 1961.
MODERN day wedding at Coco Palms
couple cross the lagoon on a
replica of Elvis' barge
on their way to their wedding in
the chapel used in
THOSE were the days: the Blue
Hawaii cocktail was
created at Coco Palms during
the making of the movie –
note the price!
(photos: dexter olivas / david ellis)
Sunday, January 13, 2008
THERE'S probably no other drink done more to fire up wars and
revolutions, legends and folklore than tequila, Mexico's indigenous
firewater that's fuelled those in the firing line of improving their
lot since as far back as the early 1500s.
And while once considered by the country's former Spanish rulers as
the alcoholic crutch of peasants, revolutionaries, bandidos and other
perceived rabble, tequila is taking on a new image in the 21st
century: its now as much the drink of choice at boardroom level as
are hand-crafted Scotch single-malts and the best French cognacs.
And so far has the wheel turned, that in recognition of its beauty,
history and cultural significance, Mexico's Tequila Valley has been
listed as a World Heritage site, and the tequila industry and tourism
promoters have jumped on this triumph with the establishment of a
Tequila Route – somewhat akin to the tourism-lucrative wine routes of
France, Australia, California and South Africa.
And even the Inter-American Development Bank's weighed-in with
millions of dollars in aid to encourage free-spending holidaymakers
to trek this fledgling La Ruta del Tequila, and so give a
much-welcome economic boost to locals in the picturesque Tequila
Valley and mountains.
It's a long way from the day in 1795 when Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo
got a licence from Mexico's Spanish rulers to turn the juice of the
wild agave plant into tequila, and thus become North America's first
But Jose Cuervo – whose name translates less romantically in English
to Joe Crow – was not the first to make the stuff: local natives had
been home-brewing agave firewater for 300 years.
Joe's fiery drop was known to have spurred-on revolutionaries during
the War of Independence from Spain (1810-1821,) and a century later
during the Mexican Revolution it became something of a symbol of
patriotic pride to be seen tossing down a commercially-made tequila
And production boomed from 1920 to 1933 when the Mafia and other
mobsters smuggled tequila by the truck-load across the border from
Mexico during America's Prohibition, and again in the 1940s when the
heady firewater became a cheap replacement for hard-to-get European
spirits during WWII.
The La Ruta del Tequila fans out from Guadalajara, the colourful
capital of the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco, through a
diversity of mountains and valleys embracing such picturesque towns
as El Arenal, Amatitlan, Magdelena, and where it all began, Tequila
Visitors fly into Guadalajara to either self-drive or join organised
tours through the thousands of hectares of agave farms, visit tequila
distilleries to see how the stuff is made and taste samples, and shop
the countless markets that are a chaotically kaleidoscopic jumble of
home-crafts, hand-woven blankets, knitwear and every form of
paraphernalia to do with the partaking of tequila.
It's also possible to do 12-hour-day tours from the coastal city of
Puerto Vallarta, seeing the jimadors (agave harvesters) slashing the
spiky man-high leaves off the plants to reveal the huge 40- to
60-kilogram pinas that are somewhat like a cross between a pineapple
and a watermelon, and whose juice becomes tequila.
At the major distilleries like Jose Cuervo, Tequila Herradura and La
Preservancia Sauza guided tours follow the process of splitting and
oven- drying this mammoth fruit, boiling it in evil-smelling vats,
and distilling it into an eventually clear liquid around 40% proof.
Only the product of 100% blue agave fruit and grown within the area
of the new La Ruta del Tequila can be labelled as tequila.
And while most tequila finds its way into Margaritas, Freddy
Fudpuckers, Long Island Iced Teas and a score or so other liquid
temptations, or is tossed down straight with a lick of salt and a
slice of lemon, there's a big move towards handmade double- and even
triple-distilled 'singles' that are savoured slowly like single-malt
Scotch whiskies and Cognacs.
And just for the record, the 'worm' once found in some bottles of
tequila and allegedly part of tequila culture, was no more than a
1940s marketing ploy to suck in the gringos – and tequila is not
"cactus juice"… while the blue agave plant may resemble a cactus,
it's in fact more related to a docile lily.
Tequila Route full-day tours from Puerto Vallarta between July and
December cost around US$100pp including lunch; go to
PHOTO CAPTIONS: A jimador exposes the massive pina that's the
heart of the agave plant from
which tequila is made.
- photo: csp/dreamstime
RESULTANT drop: a lime-infused
of several-score cocktails based
on Mexico's famed
- photo: Elvinstar/dreamstime