Sunday, November 30, 2008
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)
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 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.
Friday, November 28, 2008
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."
 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
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
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.
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
|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
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
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 email@example.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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
-- 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.
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
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: email@example.com www.pandaw.com
Sunday, November 16, 2008
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
 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
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
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
 POSTCARD perfect canal in Old Strasbourg
 ANCIENT laneways reveal fascinating insights into Strasbourg's history
(Photos: French Tourist Bureau)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Adventure travel operator, Peregrine, has announced that no fuel or currency surcharges will be added to their expedition voyages departing during the 2009 Arctic and 2009-2010 Antarctic seasons.
Peregrine has recognised the importance of gaining traveller confidence, given the current economic circumstances, at a time when other industry wholesalers and operators have moved to impose currency surcharges.
Peregrine CEO, Glenyce Johnson said, “We want to provide consumers with the added security of knowing that the price available on the website is the actual price they will end up paying. We will guarantee prices on all our Polar expedition voyages for the 2009-2010 season.”
Peregrine currently has sixteen voyages departing during this period, ranging from 10 to 24-night voyages taking in the Scandinavian and Canadian Arctic and Antarctica.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In a State blessed with beautiful islands, Sue Fuller discovers a quiet achiever lying right on Brisbane’s doorstep.
With empty beaches as far as you can see, frolicking dolphins and whales, spectacular coastal gorges and rich indigenous history, it’s perhaps not surprising North Stradbroke Island, affectionally known as Straddie, has long been a favourite escape for locals in the know.
Just 45 minutes by barge (or 25 minutes by water taxi) from Cleveland, Straddie is all about pristine nature and low-key pleasures like beach combing, barbecuing fresh seafood and playing beach cricket.
It’s home to just three villages – Dunwich where the barges arrive, the sleepy fishing village of Amity, and Point Lookout with its multi-million-dollar views. A single bitumen road links the three villages while 4WDs are only necessary to explore the island’s interior or if you want to drive on sections of the beach.
If you don’t own a 4WD, Lynn Jones of Straddie Guides will help you get off track on his half or full day eco-accredited tours to explore not only the more obvious highlights of the island but also some secret spots that take true local knowledge to uncover – or even find!
But first to answer a question he’s been asked hundreds of times: how did he get his first name?
“My father took a letter from the names of the four men he was in a trench with during the Second World War and he came up with Lynn,” he said. After dad told me the story that none of them came home except for him, and then Johny Cash bought out the song `A Boy Like Sue’ I felt I wasn’t the only one with a funny name.”
During our half day tour Lynn shows us the island’s freshwater keyhole lakes – a 4km continuously connected lake that looks like a series of keyholes and a magical spot filled with hundreds of grass trees only a kilometre from the popular Brown Lake.
We enjoy a swim in the tannin-stained waters of Brown Lake and take in the spectacular views on the North Gorge Walk which starts on the other side of the island at Lookout.
Lynn drops us back at our accommodation which must be one of the best located pubs in the country. The Straddie Pub, or Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel/Spa Resort as it’s known after a recent multi-million-dollar makeover, has just 12 hotel rooms plus spacious two and three bedroom apartments.
Our hotel room is stylish and comes complete with a bath offering glimpses of the sea but I resolve to gather some friends or family and splash out on a three-bedroom apartment next time. The apartments are truly spectacular, generously-sized with pandanus-framed views of the sea.
Dining at the “pub” also means guaranteed ocean views – from the casual restaurant and public bar. There’s also a day spa which offers a range of treatments, some loosely based around indigenous techniques. Highly recommended is the spa’s signature treatment - ocean dreaming – (three hours for $295) combining a facial, hand and foot treatment, body exfoliation, mud wrap, hair and scalp treatment and massage.
Feeling scrubbed and soothed, the rest of the day is spent on leisurely exploring Point Lookout on my hire bike fuelled by a sensational gelati from the Oceanic Gelati & Coffee Bar.
Point Lookout offers a range of accommodation from architect-designed beach houses, self-contained apartments and million-dollar homes for rent. It’s almost too good a secret to share.
For more information visit www.experiencebrisbane.com.
How to get there
North Stradbroke Island is located 45 minutes by car ferry from the Brisbane bayside suburb of Cleveland or a 25 minute water taxi ride. Taxis and a local bus service connects with the barge.
Some useful sites
Monday, November 3, 2008
Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime
You've heard me say it before; expedition cruising is about exploring our vanishing planet.
Apart from the well-publicised melting of the polar ice cap, wildlife, cultures and landscapes elsewhere are also threatened by changing climate, globalisation and mismanagement.
Recent news from the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador indicates they are a long way from winning their conservation battle. One LA-based travel writer even urges tourists not to go in order to preserve this and other similarly fragile regions.
Certainly, uncontrolled and unrestricted tourism will damage these delicate ecosystems, but instead of banning visits, maybe we need a functional mechanism for managing tourism in such places? Easily said, I know, especially in countries not known for their fully-functioning governments.
To their credit, marauding wild pigs, goats and dogs are being removed to allow recovery of some islands and for many years the Charles Darwin Research Station has conducted a successful captive breeding program. However, these efforts are mainly due to NGOs and volunteers while the Ecuadorian government have been notoriously lax in policing illegal fishing and development.
The International Galápagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) are vocal in calling for protection, management and control of tourism on the islands. Just like their Antarctic cousins at IAATO, member operators recognise the precarious nature of the islands and adhere to strict guidelines – a good reason to travel with an accredited business.
Check them out at www.igtoa.org
Sunday, November 2, 2008
HOW's that old song go: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever…
And on a clear day from one of Sydney's most-visited attractions, you can see forever.
And even if it's not a totally clear day, reach out and touch the clouds…
We've talking about Skywalk, an exhilarating 45-minute open-air stroll around the very rooftop of that golden dome atop Sydney Tower, and the highest public viewing point in Sydney.
While visitors have ooo'd and ahhh'd at the amazing unobstructed view from the glassed-in Observation Level at Sydney Tower for years, those fearless of heights can also go outside onto the roof of the tower to get an even better fresh-air view of Sydney and its sprawling surrounds.
Not that you just climb a ladder and stroll about: you're in fact tucked into a bright blue and gold Skysuit that fits over your street clothes (slacks for the ladies, please, and flat-heeled shoes for everyone) and then have a safety harness snapped over the Skysuit.
This harness is in turn clipped onto a track on a handrail that goes around two levels of the roof and follows an industrial-style metal walkway with a further metre-high glass safety barrier.
So there's absolutely no chance of you falling off – and at one point if you wish, you can choose to stand on a section of reinforced glass flooring and look down between your feet to the cobweb of cables that hold the tower together, and the streets below them… something perhaps not for the feint-hearted.
The view from up here is 360-degrees, looking out to sea to watch cruise ships and maritime work-horses slipping into and out of the harbour, ferries and pleasure craft scurrying about the harbour itself, the Eastern Suburbs, down the coast to the Royal National Park, inland to cities like Hurstville, Chatswood, Parramatta, Bankstown, Ryde, and Hornsby, west to the Blue Mountains, and north past Pittwater to Norah Head in the far distance…
And the inner-city 260-metres (850-feet) directly below.
Guides accompanying each group of Skywalkers point out places of interest… historic areas with little word-pictures of their colourful pasts, interesting streets or buildings of historic or architectural importance, the Domain, Botanic Gardens, the Cricket Ground, Football Stadium, Mascot Airport with planes coming and going out in all directions like busy-bees…
And the rail network that snakes like some giant toy train set through the city and suburbs… silver suburban trains fast-travelling here, long grey coal trains like-caterpillars there, mixed goods trains rumbling west, the Indian Pacific or other inter-State passenger trains heading off or completing long journeys to or from Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra…
And equally fascinating is the roof-scape of the inner city: while most buildings are cluttered with drab air-conditioning plants and lift housings, amid it all are surprising patches of green artificial turf sporting barbecue set-ups and the odd sun-bather, tennis courts, even a few pools…
Skywalk cost $6m and remarkably the special walkways, railings and all other equipment were all made off-site by six different companies.
After they'd each done their own particular bit, everything was brought together and assembled at one site to ensure it would all fit… then taken apart again and broken down into pieces small enough to fit into the passenger lifts of Sydney Tower to get them to the top – where they were once more all re-assembled again.
And if you are a trivia buff, here are a few facts: It took forty-five workers two painstaking months to put the whole lot together on the roof of the Tower… in all 2086 pieces being either welded or bolted with 4,300 nuts and bolts like a massive Meccano set.
And when it comes to comparisons, Sydney Tower's Skywalk is the same height as the Eiffel Tower, six times as high as Niagara Falls, twice as high as Egypt's Great Pyramid, four times as high as the Opera House, and twice as high as the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9.30am to 8pm. Tickets cost $65 for adults and $45 for children ten to fifteen… and you get a Certificate of Achievement to prove you've done it.
To book phone (02) 9333 9200 or check www.skywalk.com.au
 NOT for feint-hearts – Skywalks' overhang platform for those above the rest.
 EXHILARATING view of Sydney from Bridge to beyond.
(Photos: Sydney Tower)
The top 10 islands in the Mediterranean for August were Cyprus, Corfu, Crete, Sanrorini, Mykonos, Ibiza, Sicily, Majorca, Capri and Malta according to traveller popularity and TripAdvisor.
“All of these islands offer pristine beaches and their own unique features,” said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor. “Our travellers have identified the hot islands in the Med this summer, especially if you want sun, sea and dancing all night.”
Here's the definitive list of what was hot in August:
1. Cyprus, Republic of Cyprus
Visit Aphrodite’s birthplace in the eastern Mediterranean by heading to Cyprus, steeped in history and bustling with energy. No longer the package holiday location, the level of sophistication in hotels and restaurants has increased dramatically in recent years. Beaches are the draw for many visitors to the island, but so is the nocturnal activity with Ayia Napa being the town to party in for people of all ages. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, “We would have to say the Troodos Mountains were our highlight. You will know what we mean if you take the journey. Breathtaking!”
2. Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece
Corfu features a lush green landscape and serene, white beaches. Visit one of the Venetian fortresses, or relax under an olive tree, before enjoying the vibrant nightlife the island offers. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, “Nightlife in Corfu should just be called morning life.”
3. Crete, Greece
As the former centre of the Minoan civilization, it’s no wonder that Crete features a plethora of historical attractions including Knossos and Phaistos. Those in search of adventure on the largest Greek island can hike down Samaria Gorge for spectacular scenery. As one TripAdvisor traveller said, “Crete is an amazing place to explore ancient culture. From the ancient ruins at Knossos to the 'off the beaten track' historical sites at Olous (Elounda) and Kritsa.”
4. Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
In the south of the Aegean Sea, Santorini features dramatic cliffs overlooking a stunning caldera. Watch the breathtaking sunset in Fira, then head to the bars and nightclubs for an all-night extravaganza �" emerging in time to view the sunrise. One TripAdvisor traveller called it, “We visited the town of Fira, which is perched on the edge of a 260 meter cliff and offers a fantastic panorama of the volcano as well as the sunsets.”
5. Mykonos, Cyclades, Greece
Perhaps best known for its nightlife, Mykonos attracts famous DJs (and partygoers) to its plentiful bars and clubs on the island. Rejuvenate the next morning by strolling through the town of Mykonos and dining at a local taverna. As one TripAdvisor traveller commented, “Apart from the beaches, Mykonos is a place to dance all night long, then as soon I got out of bed, it was time again for nude sunbathing.”
6. Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain
Visit the party Mecca of Ibiza and feel honored by joining the thousands of revelers at Privilege, the largest club in the world. Besides the vast nightlife, check out one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as God’s Finger, a large rock at the entrance of Benirras Bay. As one TripAdvisor traveller said, “After last year’s amazing time in Ibiza I returned for another year of amazing music, happy people, amazing weather, beautiful beaches, mental nightlife and all the rest.”
7. Sicily, Italy
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily has the three Cs �" culture, cuisine and calm. Laden with orange and lemon orchards, the countryside of Sicily boasts spectacular natural beauty �" great for relaxing. One TripAdvisor traveller recommended, “If you are in Sicily, go on the sunset tour of Mount Etna. You are brought up in 4x4s and can see the steaming ground and smell the sulfur.”
8. Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
The largest island in Spain and part of the Balearic Islands, Majorca features mountainous terrain and beautiful beaches �" the perfect escape for a holiday. Have a drink at the Abaco Bar housed in an old Majorcan manor house with a baroque-esque interior. As one TripAdvisor traveller put it, “Visit the Abaco bar - it's hidden behind giant wooden church-like doors, but inside it's a theatrical experience not to be missed!”
9. Capri, Campania, Italy
Off the coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula, Capri is an island of magical scenery. Take a boat through the not-to-be-missed Blue Grotto, a beautiful sea cave, apparently once used by Roman emperors as a personal bath. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, “The calm sea makes it easy to get into the grotto thru the cliff wall, and the sun shining gives the water the most beautiful blue colour.”
10. Malta, Republic of Malta
Steeped in culture and history, Malta also features beautiful beaches and secluded coves, making the island feel like paradise. Stroll along Dingli Cliffs, watching the sunset at the highest area in Malta or visit the impressive Hypogeum temple featuring the sleeping Venus of Malta at the entrance. As one TripAdvisor traveller said about Malta, “It has all the Mediterranean inducements: amazingly clear, blue, warm waters, blue skies, sidewalk cafes, good food and wine and charming villages.”