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Friday, October 30, 2009

How the hospitality world changes in just 25 years ...


R-L: Sally Sneddon, Rebecca Montague, Lisa Dawson, Andrew Montague, Bill Sneddon, Alan Jurd, Sandra Jurd and Julie Mollenaar 


Peppers celebrates its 25th anniversary

Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels celebrated its 25th anniversary on Monday evening (26 October) with a cocktail party event at Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley, the home of the original Peppers.

Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels CEO Bob East said the celebration was an opportunity to focus on the personalised service that sets Peppers apart from other boutique properties with a philosophy of “we’re all about you”.

“Twenty five years ago, a luxury holiday usually meant spending a week at a big international hotel, with the formality of traditional hotel systems. Peppers changed this holiday mentality when it opened Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales and Peppers and consequently redefined the top-end Australian holiday market,” said Bob.

“The Peppers concept was a big risk at the time, as the short-break holiday market was still in its infancy. But a combination of a personalised approach to service, luxurious surroundings and a focus on quality holiday experiences such as food, wine and spa encounters paved the way for the redefinition of an Australian holiday escape.”

As part of their silver anniversary celebrations, Peppers will be slipping slipping a surprise, in the form of designer jewellery, under the pillow of one lucky guest each week in November. Every Peppers property in Australia will present one lucky guest each week with an elegant CarneyMcCarthey necklace which features 25 scattered silver pebbles in a cascading design.

Since the opening of Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley, 25 years ago, there are now 27 Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels throughout Australia and New Zealand. Each Peppers property has its own style and charm and experiences range from luxury outback cattle stations, intimate vineyard retreats, tropical rainforest lodges, mountain resorts, golfing getaways, grand country estates, to tropical islands. All are within easy reach of a capital city or major town.

For more information, visit www.peppers.com.au.



Susan Boyd spent a few minutes with Mike O'Connor, the original owner of Peppers Guest House, the original Peppers Guest House retreat owner, Mike O'Connor

What was your vision for Peppers when you opened the doors to Peppers Guest House on 26 October 1984?
Our vision was to move to the country, build a stylish hotel, unlike anything then in existence. We decided to call it a Guest House because we didn't want it to be a hotel in the traditional sense.

Why 'Peppers'? How did you choose the name?
We called it Peppers because the old house that stood on the site of the current courtyard (we moved the house to it’s current location and called it the homestead) was surrounded by pepper trees.

What was opening day at Peppers Guest House like?
Fairly chaotic. It was a Friday night; I was in Sydney getting the liquor license in the court and didn't get back to the Guest House until 7.00pm. The place was packed to the rafters and we had forgotten to order an ice machine. The first chef we employed did not cope well. All very stressful.

And the opening party?
The opening party was the next weekend, Sunday I think. We had Suzi Cruckshank singing and her Jazz group playing on the lawn in front of the main building. All was going well until the biggest thunderstorm you have ever seen enveloped the valley. We had 4 inches of rain, the roof leaked and the power went out for 8 hours. It was only then that we realized that when the power was off, not only did we have no lights, but also no water. Chaos reigned for some time until we all crowed into the lounge and bar to listen to Suzi sing around the piano. We drank and feasted on anything that could be cooked on a gas stove.

What was the hospitality industry like then?
Just as it is now, very competitive. There were fewer operators but also fewer visitors.

And how has it changed since?
It was very difficult to get everyone to work as a group and market the Valley as a destination. That changed over time and by the late 80’s the Hunter Valley was the most dynamic destination outside Sydney.

What were guests seeking then that they may or may not be seeking now?
I think they are seeking the same thing today they were seeking 25yrs ago. A relaxing weekend getaway in a cozy environment with good food and wine

How did you intend to set Peppers apart from competitors?
We wanted it to be everything a hotel wasn't. Hopefully our guests would feel as if they were staying in a friends house

Has this changed?
I don't think so

What was your biggest challenge back then?
Convincing our bank manager that although we were spending twice as much as it would cost to build an equivalent motel we could achieve an average room rate, three times that of a motel.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in retreat accommodation today?
Today there is so much competition in this sector; you need to differentiate your product.

Did you imagine 27 retreats and resorts throughout Australia and New Zealand?
Never

What inspired you to open Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley?
We were seeking a life style change (at the time we owned and ran a contract cleaning business in Sydney). We looked in Thredbo and the Blue Mountains but the Hunter Valley accommodation stats showed the area had the highest occupancies and the highest room rates in NSW. We were confident that we could build the best in the area and therefore take the top end of the market. In the first 5 years of its operation the Guest House ran at an average annual occupancy above 91%

Do you keep in contact with any past guests?
No but I am constantly meeting people who have stayed there. Last weekend in the Port de Soller in Mallorca, I met an Aussie guy on a boat who attended an insurance conference at the Guest House in 1986. Needless to say we shared a few drinks.

How much did a night at Peppers Guest House cost in 1984?
Around $115

Describe your funniest Peppers moment?
Caught swimming naked in the pool house with the staff from the Cellar Restaurant by my wife Suzi, at 3.00am

And your happiest Peppers moment?
Swimming with the staff of the Cellar restaurant

And your biggest Peppers achievement?
Selling Peppers Guest House for $10 million in1989 and buying it back 2 years later for $5.5 million

Any tales of famous people who have stayed?
My lips are sealed

Where are you now?
Living in Mallorca, in a beautiful stone villa, in an ancient town called Soller

If you could open another Peppers Retreat in Australia or New Zealand now, where would it be?
Noosa.

Do you have any advice for the Peppers team now?
Market the product to women, because in the short break segment it is the woman who makes the decision. Men just want to be organised.

Any stories you would like to share?
We originally bought the land where the Guest House now sits from a man in Cessnock called Laurie Murphy. After concluding the sale we took him to lunch and we all had much to drink. As we were leaving he offered some fatherly advice. Clearly he had a skeptical view of our proposed project, and took me aside suggesting we should change the design so if it didn't work as a guest house we could convert it to a retirement complex. I now wonder if he was just ahead of his time.

Hottest Deals from BreakFree



A summary of the latest hot deals from BreakFree Hotels, Resorts & Apartments.

SUNSHINE COAST
TRI THESE FOR NOOSA VALUE: If you're in the race for great accommodation deals for the upcoming Noosa Triathlon and Multi Sports Festival, it's time to get on your bike and book with BreakFree. The picturesque surroundings of Noosa's National Park, tranquil beaches and vibrant Hastings Street provide the backdrop for the famous annual event which rolls into town from October 28 to November 1. Visitors can enjoy the fun, fine food and atmosphere of the big event in comfort and style, with resort operator BreakFree offering a selection of quality properties close to all the action in Noosa. For example, BreakFree Noosa International is available during the festival period from just $127* per room per night for a one bedroom apartment. Alternatively BreakFree Ocean Breeze is the perfect base from which to absorb all the excitement of tri time in Noosa, with one bedroom apartments available from $132* per room per night. BreakFree South Pacific is another great choice for the sports festival where one bedroom apartments start from $142* per room per night. Also BreakFree French Quarter has accommodation from $169* per room per night for a one bedroom apartment. For bookings or further information phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

AFFORDABLE BEACH BREAK, WITH A FRENCH TWIST: Offering a continental atmosphere, stylish low rise architecture, tall shady trees and a promenade of fine restaurants, boutiques and bustling cafes, Hastings Street is the traditional hub of Noosa holiday activity. Visitors enjoy the added advantage of being on the doorstep of beautiful Main Beach, where the relaxing waters of Laguna Bay wash away the stresses of everyday life. Situated less than 50m from the beach and right on Hastings Street, BreakFree French Quarter is a haven of privacy and fabulous resort facilities providing the perfect base to experience the best that Noosa has to offer. Its air conditioned units reflect a grand French Pacific style in a uniquely Noosa manner while other features include a heated lagoon style pool with two spas, a sauna, children's wading pool, baby sitting service and licensed restaurant and bar right next door. Now is the ideal time to escape to BreakFree French Quarter where one bedroom apartments are available from just $169* per room per night valid to December 30, 2009 with two-night minimum stays and blockout periods applying, Phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

CRUISE IN FOR CALOUNDRA MUSIC FESTIVAL: October is the ideal time to cruise into Caloundra for a well earned beach holiday when the town comes alive to the sun, surf and soul of its annual music festival. To be held from October 22-25, the Caloundra Music Festival has again drawn a stellar line up of artistic talent including the Hoodoo Gurus, Augie March, Josh Pyke, James Reyne, Toni Childs, Noiseworks and more. Their popular sounds will reverberate around the scenic Kings Beach area of town in a family friendly weekend which also features a colourful street parade, roving performers, beach-side carnival, buskers, markets, free children's entertainment and more in a celebration of culture, community and the environment. One of Caloundra's favourite waterfront holiday properties, BreakFree Grand Pacific hits the right note for music fans with rates available during the festival period from just $199* per room per night for a one bedroom garden view apartment. Phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

GOLD COAST
SAVANNAH SAVINGS: Only a short stroll from the beach and close to Jupiters Casino, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre and the Gold Coast Convention Centre, BreakFree Savannah is an ideal holiday choice for families and couples. Now is the perfect time for a Gold Coast getaway, staying at this quality property in the heart of cosmopolitan Broadbeach where one bedroom studio apartments are available from just $128* per room per night including continental breakfast for two daily. The offer is valid to November 1, 2009. Combining African themes, quality features and a great location, BreakFree Savannah is the ideal perfect base for an unforgettable Gold Coast escape. Phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND
RIGHT ROYAL VALUE: Tropical North Queensland is at its tantalising best right now with resort operator BreakFree offering four nights for the price of three at one of the destination's best-loved properties. Guests who book four nights in a one bedroom garden apartment at BreakFree Royal Harbour from just $141* per room per night will only pay for three nights, valid for sale until December 18 and for travel to December 22, 2009. Located on the Cairns Esplanade overlooking the harbour and within walking distance to the casino, night markets, restaurant precinct and swimming lagoon, BreakFree Royal Harbour is the perfect base for a tropical getaway where the World Heritage wonders of rainforest and reef provide a stunning backdrop to a holiday to be treasured forever. Phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

BYRON BAY
SEE THE LIGHT: A unique seaside village with a relaxed alternative lifestyle and clean, unspoilt beaches - Byron Bay is a beacon for holidaymakers the world over. Offering a special mix of arts, entertainment, attractions and natural beauty, it is a sought after destination for leisure seekers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Now is the ideal time to break free to Byron, where guests can enjoy four nights for the price of three at one of the town's most popular resorts. Holidaymakers booking four nights in a studio room at BreakFree Eco Beach from just $145* per room per night will only pay for three nights valid for sale until December 18 and for travel to December 24, 2009. Suitable for both couples and families, BreakFree Eco Beach is located within easy access to the centre of Byron with its eclectic blend of cafes, dining options and unique shopping outlets. Phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

MELBOURNE
BIG SAVINGS ON LITTLE BOURKE: BreakFree Heritage on Little Bourke is centrally located in Melbourne's bustling hub with an array of shopping, art galleries, cafes, bars and theatres and the cultural landmark of Federation Square right on the doorstep. The refined apartment-style accommodation boasts original elevated ceilings and magnificent soaring windows that echo BreakFree Heritage on Little Bourke's vibrant past. The hotel pays homage to the elegant architectural style that is also a famous trademark of Melbourne City. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the magic of Melbourne staying at BreakFree Heritage on Little Bourke where guests booking four nights Thursday to Sunday in a Run of House room from $172* per room per night will only pay for three nights, valid for sale until December 18 and for travel to December 24, 2009. For bookings or further information phone 132 007 or visit www.breakfree.com.au

* Conditions and minimum stays apply. Subject to availability.

Latest news and deals from Mantra Resorts


Travel Briefs and Hot Deals from Mantra Hotels, Resorts and Apartments

BUNBURY, WA
BUNBURY'S THE BEST: Holidaymakers have known it for years but now it's official - the beautiful waterfront destination of Bunbury has been named Western Australia's top tourist spot. Bunbury has been recognised as WA's best place for a well-earned break, taking out the 2009 GWN Top Tourist Town award. Bunbury's unique attributes including great mix of tourist attractions, Koombana Bay dolphins, natural beauty, cosmopolitan downtown precinct and regional and historical character led to the win. One of the best places to holiday whilst enjoying the best of Bunbury is Mantra Bunbury which offers stylish studio apartments in a prime location overlooking Koombana Bay. Part of the heritage-listed Bunbury Silos precinct and surrounded by restaurants, cafes and bars, the property offers a host of first class facilities catering for both leisure travellers and corporate guests at the gateway to the world-renowned WA Southwest and Ferguson Valley wine country. These include a heated saltwater pool, tennis courts, office and business services, indulgent Escape Day Spa and Silos Bar and Café offering delicious light meals and an extensive wine list drawing on local favourites. Call 13 15 17 or visit www.mantra.com.au,

DISCOVERY COAST, QLD
PAVILLIONS PICKS UP HAT-TRICK: Mantra Pavillions Mirage on 1770 at Agnes Water has received another major honour at the 2009 Central Queensland and Southern Great Barrier Reef Tourism Awards, winning best Deluxe Accommodation for the third year running. An annual competition across the combined Capricorn, Gladstone and Bundaberg regions, the awards recognise excellence in tourism and service standards. Mantra Group regional general manager Winston Hall said the award was a tremendous distinction for the resort and for the communities of Agnes Water and The Town of 1770. He said the resort's success was due to a combination of having a great product and great staff who provided a fantastic service for customers. An ideal destination to relax and revive, the resort features fabulous facilities including 25 metre lap pool, children's wading pool, heated outdoor plunge pool and spa, barbecue area landscaped gardens and direct access to the pristine beach just 80m away. Call 13 15 17 or visit www.mantra.com.au

DARWIN, NT
STORYBOOK ESCAPE: Leading Darwin hotel, Mantra on the Esplanade, has enhanced its standing as the perfect base for a "storybook" escape to the mythical Top End, being immortalized in the latest novel by Australia's queen of fiction, Di Morrissey. Partially set in Darwin with characters staying at the Mantra property, Di's newest book The Silent Country traces the story of a television executive investigating an ill-fated and mysterious journey into the Australian wilderness by a documentary maker 50 years ago. With 16 consecutive best sellers to her name, The Silent Country is tipped to be another smash hit for Di Morrissey and a wonderful chapter in the history of Mantra which is delighted to be featuring in the works of one of Australia's most successful writers. Mantra on the Esplanade offers guests an unrivalled location near Darwin Harbour and the convenience of close proximity to Darwin's CBD. The 4 .5 star property boasts panoramic views across the harbour, out to the Arafura Sea and presents the ideal vantage point from which to experience a famous Northern Territory sunset. Call 13 15 17 or visit www.mantra.com.au.

Hot Deals

GOLD COAST, QLD
PARTY IN PARADISE: For a legendary time in the heart of Surfers Paradise this party season, Mantra has an accommodation deal worth celebrating. Mantra Legends Hotel is the perfect base for a fun Gold Coast getaway, where you can stay out late and enjoy the added bonus of a recovery breakfast and late checkout from just $149* per room per night for a hotel room, based on minimum stays of two nights and valid to December 20, 2009. Just minutes from the Gold Coast's best bars, clubs and restaurants, Mantra Legends Hotel features a 24 hour reception, on-site bar and restaurant, in-room mini-bars and balconies to make guests really feel like they're on the A-list. Phone 55 88 7888 or visit www.mantralegendshotel.com.au

TULLAMARINE, VIC
PARK, STAY AND FLY: New Melbourne hotel Mantra Tullamarine has let fly with a great range of packages to take the hassle and stress out of early-morning departures and late-night arrivals for air travellers. The sleek, contemporary property is offering special Park, Stay and Fly deals from $200* per room including overnight accommodation in an Executive Studio, three days parking and return airport transfers for two people, valid to December 30, 2009. Perfect for putting your feet up before or after take off, Mantra Tullamarine features 277 spacious rooms consisting of executive, executive spa and deluxe studios, four suites and a penthouse. With long-term parking next door, shuttle bus services to and from the airport, airline check in services, a stylish bar and restaurant and 24-hour rooms service, Mantra Tullamarine takes care of every detail to provide the perfect accommodation base for travellers in transit. Call 13 15 17 or visit www.mantra.com.au.

TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND
FOURTH NIGHT FREE AS THE BREEZE: Now is ideal time to consider a rejuvenating escape to Port Douglas, where Mantra is offering four nights for the price of three at one of the destination's most sought-after properties. Located just one minutes walk from tranquil Four Mile Beach and a leisurely stroll from trendy Macrossan Street, Mantra PortSea offers an abundance of relaxation choices. Of the three swimming pools, the large central lagoon pool features a swim-up pool bar, with water slide, spas and waterfalls. There's also a fully equipped fitness studio and tennis court for the energetic, but if it's pampering you're after, try a signature massage from the PortSea Beauty & Body Salon onsite. Guests booking four nights in a hotel room from just $136* per room per night will only pay for three nights, valid for sale until December 18 and for travel to December 22, 2009. Call 13 15 17 or visit www.mantra.com.au

*Conditions, minimum stays and block out periods apply. Subject to change and availability.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blanket Bay Voted the Best by USA Conde Nast Travellers


New Zealand's Blanket Bay at Glenorchy has been named the No. 3 accommodation property in the world and the best hotel in Oceania by readers of the influential American travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler. It is the only property in New Zealand to have made the Top 100 List.

Blanket Bay owner Tom Tusher was overwhelmed and humbled by the announcement: "We are so small and so out of the way, and are just amazed at the regard our guests have for our property. Conde Nast Traveler has a huge circulation and is the bible for discerning travellers, particularly in the North American market."

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton said it was a great result for Blanket Bay and New Zealand. "Blanket Bay was also recently recognised by British Conde Nast readers when it was named 'Best Leisure Hotel in Australasia'. This second award is another real achievement for the hotel and this kind of coverage is a wonderful way for New Zealand to get noticed in very competitive long-haul markets," Mr Hickton added.

Mr Tusher said New Zealand is unique in that all the best accommodation is in small, luxury lodges and that this meets the travel style of today's discerning traveller.

"Today's traveller is healthier and more adventurous and is looking for the personalised attention small properties can offer," he said. This is good news for New Zealand and fantastic for us in Glenorchy because we are in a pristine and beautiful place that offers the widest possible range of adventure. For many North American travellers, this area offers a package of Switzerland, Norway and Napa Valley rolled into one."

The standards of excellence maintained by Blanket Bay staff, many of whom have been with the property since it opened its doors 10 years ago, have contributed heavily to its success. "We have been very fortunate to secure and hold an amazing team of people including the very best chefs, managers, housekeepers and gardeners, all committed to ensuring every moment our guests spend with us is a superb experience. Our aim has always been to deliver the highest standards and service levels and to be well regarded internationally", comments Mr Tusher.

In the 10 years since opening in December 1999, Blanket Bay has enjoyed a dramatic climb into the ranks the world's best properties with an awards list that ranges from building honours through to Hotel Management Awards, several awards won by individuals of its culinary team and annual places on various lists of the world's best accommodation properties.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CRUISE WEST ANNOUNCES THREE VOYAGES IN THE BALTIC SEA, NORWEGIAN FJORDS AND NORTH ATLANTIC

Free Airfare and Extraordinary Excursions Included and Early Booking Savings Available

Inspired by the intrepid journeys and legendary explorations of Leif Eriksson to the New World, three voyages mark the third chapter of small-ship exploration line Cruise West's epic world adventure, Voyages of the Great Explorers.  Starting from Honfleur, France and ending in St. John's, Newfoundland, guests will visit the United Kingdom and Scandinavia -- with excursions to multiple UNESCO World heritage sites -- before charting a course across the North Atlantic.

Guests will save up to $1,550 per person ($3,100 per cabin) and receive FREE round trip international airfare from five select U.S. Cities: San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), Washington D.C. (IAD) and New York (JFK) or an air credit of $750 per person by booking and paying in full by December 18, 2009. 

In addition to an included excursion at every port, each of the three voyages will be enhanced by an extraordinary 'Ultimate Explorers Experience' (UEE), designed to bring guests into direct personal contact with fascinating peoples, cultures and natural wonders.  Engaging presentations by notable experts on the region's culture, history and current events will bring each region to life. 

The Viking's adventures come alive in three distinct voyages

Cruise West's own "Modern Day Explorer" Captain Reidulf Maalen, will take the helm of the Spirit of Oceanus for all three voyages. He brings not only a lifetime of maritime experience, but also a warm level of hospitality that has made him one of the most sought out captains in the industry.  

Voyage 11: Honfleur to Oslo, encompasses Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia. The County of Wicklow -"the Garden of Ireland"  -- brings guests up close to domed granite mountains, deep glens and wooded valleys.  Scotland's Stornoway, with ancient standing stones, and the Orkney Islands, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and birders' paradise, reflects Scotland's wild beauty.  Exploring Norway's spectacular fjords and fishing villages includes another UNESCO World Heritage Site – Saltstraumen, just above the Arctic Circle.  In addition, there are ample opportunities to observe the abundant wild life including large colonies of sea birds and pods of Orca whales.  In Bergen, guests are treated to a private recital of composer Edvard Grieg's music in the Troldsalen Concert Hall.  

An excursion of Magerøy Island and The North Cape brings guests up close to life in the north (UEE). Guests will travel along the Skipsfjord to the fishing village of Kammøyvaer, populated by 100 hardy souls, before a trip to see some of the Sami people's 4,000-reindeer herd that roams freely here during the summer months. Then, it's onto Skarsvåg, the northernmost fishing village in the world, to shop for knitwear, Christmas decorations and more at the North Cape Christmas and Winter House.

The 19-night voyage departs July 19, 2010; prices start at $15,195 per person before savings.  Add-on: pre-cruise three-night tour of Paris. 

Voyage 12: Oslo to London focuses on history, art and architecture of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Russia.  Visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Swedish walled city of Visby; the Estonian city of Tallinn -- one of the finest medieval old towns in all of Northern Europe -- and the opulence of St. Petersburg.  Notable excursions include a tour of Denmark's small villages -- including Gudhjem, a vividly scenic fishing village -- en route to majestic Hammershus Castle Ruin. 

Excursion highlights include a visit to St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum (UEE).  Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, it's one of the largest and oldest museums in the world with collections comprising nearly three million works. Then a short bus ride to the Peter and Paul Fortress, built by Peter the Great in 1703 with a final stop at the Church on the Spilled Blood. 

The 15-night voyage departs Aug. 6, 2010; prices start at $12,495 per person before savings.  Add-on: three-night pre- or post-cruise The Best of England from London.

Professor Ron Wixman, a specialist in world cultural and political geography and well versed in the societies of Europe and the former USSR, joins both Voyages 11 and 12.   His expertise on the peoples and cultures of Northern Europe is extensive, and his informative lectures will provide both a historical and contemporary context for Norway.

Guest lecturer David Perry, an authority on maritime history and an avid collector of maritime literature, artifacts and stories joins Capt. Maalen on Voyage 13: London to St. John's.  Perry's expertise will prove invaluable on this transatlantic voyage that includes two continents and countless unforgettable stops along the routes that the Vikings charted more than a thousand years ago.

Guests explore the Royal London and Buckingham Palace, before heading for Scotland, Iceland and Greenland.  Among the excursions: Iceland's thermal and geological wonders, including Reykjavik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and a visit to the Greenland settlement founded by Erik the Red. The voyage culminates with arrival to L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland -- site of Leif Eriksson's Vinland and the first European settlement in North America, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A highlight of the voyage is a private reception aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, hosted by Rear Admiral Sir Robert Woodard, KCVO, DL, the last serving Admiral, followed by a stirring performance of the annual Military Tattoo, one of Scotland's proudest cultural events (UEE). First staged in 1950, this dramatic spectacle in Edinburgh Castle combines the traditional sounds of the bagpipes and drums with military marching drills.

The 19-night voyage departs Aug. 20, 2010; prices start at $12,795 per person before savings.  Add-on: three-night pre- or post-cruise The Best of England, from London.

Book by Voyage or Multiple Segments

The Voyages of the Great Explorers – a cruise industry first -- is a collection of 24 individual voyages (which can all be booked separately) that combine to form a 335-day circumnavigation of the world along the major routes inspired by history's great ocean explorers.  Beginning March 5, 2010, on board Cruise West's flagship, the 120-guest, all-suite Spirit of Oceanus, the world voyage will sail ever westward, returning to Singapore on February 3, 2011.

Prices per voyage include a pre-cruise hotel night, all excursions and transfers and a tour of the embarkation city.  Guests who book more than one voyage will save an additional five percent.  Rates for all three voyages of Chapter 3 start at $38,595 before savings.  For further details, visit www.CruiseWest.com, call 800-296-8307 or a travel professional.


~Up-Close, Casual and Personal Explorations~

Cruise West believes that small is beautiful.  Small-ship explorations allow up-close and personal experiences unmatched by the traditional larger cruise lines. For more than 63 years Cruise West has provided authentic travel experiences where the destination is the focus. The fleet of small ships with guest capacities ranging from 78-148 explores remote and distinctive destinations throughout the globe.   A robust onboard enrichment program further enhances the guest experience through topical guest lecturers, additional exploration by Zodiac and included excursions at every port. 



Clean Me, Green Me, Fiji Me

Fiji sets world mark becoming first country to implement a national low carbon travel and tourism sector initiative

With international focus starting to turn towards Copenhagen as the Danish capital gears up to host the UN Climate Change Conference in December, Fiji has stolen a march on the rest of the planet becoming the first country to launch a national low carbon travel and tourism sector initiative.

The national tourist office and key players in the destination's tourism, hotel and business sectors have aligned resources with Australian-based clean technology specialist Greenlight Technology Group (GLTG) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) to help advance Fiji as a low carbon tourism destination.

According to GLTG CEO Chris Andrew the first phase of the initiative, the establishment of an alliance amongst all key players in the Fiji tourism industry and clean technology businesses, is already underway.

The next step, he said, will be for the alliance to work together to prepare an advisory paper on how best to bundle a range of individual hotel initiatives into a larger Clean Development Mechanism* (CDM). The proposed Fijian Hotel CDM Program will be a world first for the tourism sector

When this has been completed, a pilot project deploying energy efficiency technologies and small-scale renewable energy sources will be rolled out across the destination over the next 12-15 months.

"Tourism is critical to Fiji's economy, contributing approximately 25 per cent to GDP," Mr Andrew said.

"Bringing together all the key players in tourism is really what will ensure that the maximum benefits are achieved while helping to keep Fiji solidly positioned as an environmentally responsible destination.

"The May 2009 World Economic Forum report 'Towards a Low Carbon Travel & Tourism Sector' notes that tourism destinations that pro-actively work on sustainability initiatives will be better positioned than their competitors to survive in an era when international tourists are growing more environmentally conscious in choosing their holiday destinations.

"With this global trend in mind, GLTG and the Fiji alliance will consider and agree on methods for deploying energy efficiency technologies and small-scale renewable energy sources suited to hotels in the Pacific region.

Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto, who sits on the committee of the newly formed group, said the CDM was intended not only to benefit the people of Fiji but provide a model for low carbon tourism to Fiji's immediate neighbours.

"We intend showing the world that even as a small nation, we can set the pace when it comes to critical international action in an area that is affecting each and everyone one of us today.

"As the world becomes more and more aware of the efforts needed to protect the global environment, a subject that has become an everyday issue for people all over the world, it is inherent on the world to unite to ensure that we leave our children and our children's children and the generations to come with a world fit for everyone to live in and prosper.

"It has long been a dream of mine that Fiji and particularly Fiji's tourism industry becomes a leader in this area and helps us become a nation recognised for its efforts on behalf of the entire global village.

"To this end we hope in the not too distant future to unveil the plans that we and our industry colleagues plan to establish and in the process shine a spotlight on a new capability for Fiji and its people."

For further information on the Greenlight Technology Group visit www.gltg.com.au.

For more information the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership visit  www.reeep.org.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

STRUTH: Quirky Mexican Hotel No Bull

STRUTH !

IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, DAVID ELLIS says you can lay in bed in one of the world's most unusual hotels and imagine the crowd as it roars "Olé, Olé!", and in your mind's eye picture dark-haired beauties tossing blood-red roses to their matador heroes in what was once one of Mexico's most famous bull-fighting arenas…

Because the Hotel Quinta Real Zacatecas has been built into the grandstands of the old San Pedro bull ring, a spectacular 19th century Spanish-style structure that saw its last encounter between man and beast in 1975.

Guest rooms have balconies overlooking the original ring that's now paved with cobblestones sprinkled with vast pots of flowering plants, and there's a restaurant and bar at ground level on the very edge of the ring itself.

If you are interested in a stay, have a look at www.quintareal.com

SMALL SHIP CRUISING TO WORLD’S MOST AMAZING PORTS

SMALL ship cruising with just 350 fellow passengers aboard the Spirit of Adventure is selling through Cruiseco from now to the end of 2010, with cruises including escorted shore excursions in most ports and expert onboard lecturers to ensure guests get the very most from their adventure experiences.

Spirit of Adventure cruises such diverse destinations as the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, around the British Isles, and to Scandinavia, the maritime ports of the Hanseatic League, and the Crimea.

All cruises are designed to take-in as much as possible of local cultures, wildlife, natural wonders and natural history, and range from 5- to 23-nights.

And as well as offering some of the world's most amazing locales, Spirit of Adventure offers exquisite dining in a choice of formal and casual venues with wines included with lunch and dinner on select cruises, and nightly entertain-ment ranging from cultural shows by local performers to classic ensembles and recitals.

Relics of the Red Sea cruise prices begin from as low as $1975pp twin-share for 7-nights return from the UK to the Red Sea, Jordan and Egypt including Cairo and the Suez Canal; cruises include all onboard gratuities and port charges.

For cruises departing from Dover, Cruiseco includes complimentary return transfers between London Heathrow or London Downtown to Dover pier on the actual day of embarkation or disembarkation.

For a detailed brochure phone 1800 225 656 or visit www.cruising.com.au for the name of your nearest Cruiseco travel agent.

PICTURESQUE RAIL LINE A STAB IN THE DARK

David Ellis

JOHN Robb knew how to turn a quid, and when the Queensland government couldn't get anyone to finish a railway line from the mosquito-ridden port of Cairns to the wealthy, but remote, farmlands and mining areas "up the range" behind town, he decided in his largesse to come to their aid.

It was the 1880s and Mr Robb dictated a telegram to his secretary proposing to Queensland that he complete the rail line. When it came to a price, Mr Robb sucked on his pencil for a moment, and decided on 290,155 pounds ($580,300.)

It was a stab in the dark, but a healthy one, and Mr Robb was not the least concerned that he had no idea of the area through which the rail line would run, how many bridges, culverts and tunnels may be required, nor that anyone in his Melbourne civil engineering company had ever been to Cairns.

But he knew that the Queensland government was desperate to complete the line at any cost, and a couple of weeks later he was invited to build Stage Two of the Cairns-Kuranda rail line. Four years later when the job was completed, he revealed to colleagues that he'd turned a profit of $250,000 – an absolute fortune in 1891.

But Mr Robb soon learnt why two previous contractors had gone bankrupt building Stage One of the line, leaving the government to complete that stage itself at enormous cost.

Queensland desperately needed the 75km-long Kuranda line. The country around the developing little tablelands settlement abounded with rich pastoral land, tin and some gold, and huge timber reserves that were there for the taking.

But it was virtually cut off from the outside world, and when the pastoralists, miners and timber-getters were deemed to be on the verge of famine, the government finally decided to act. Roads were out of the question, and rail the only apparent solution.

John Robb recruited 1500 labourers, and although he'd included the cost of buying their tools in his contract, told them that if they wanted a job they would have to provide their own picks and shovels. He was making a profit before work even began.

And with just these hand tools, wheel carts, buckets, dynamite and muscle power, Mr Robb and his men removed an astonishing 2,300,000 cubic metres of rainforest mountainside, dug 15 tunnels through rock and earth (one has three opposite curves snaking around the contour of the mountain,) constructed 40 bridges and culverts, and laid 34km of track.

And staved-off aggressive Aborigines who objected to the railway running through their tribal lands.

When one tunnel slid down the mountainside in a tropical downpour, Mr Robb simply told his surveyor to amend the plans. "Put bridge, not tunnel," he grunted.  In other downpours – up to 1800mm (nearly 6ft) in 72-hours – workers watched great sections of track slide hundreds of metres into valleys below, then dug deeper into the 75-degree mountainside to lay new track.

Labourers were paid the equivalent of 80c a day. After they went on strike, Mr Robb agreed to pay them 85c a day.

A spectacular curved steel trestle named Stoney Creek Bridge is said today to be the most photographed bridge in Australia outside of Sydney, and it was on this that Queensland Governor Sir Henry Wiley Norman, who revelled in public acclaim, decided he would officially declare the completed line open.

A grand banquet was prepared on the bridge for scores of local dignitaries, and Mr Robb and his senior staff.

But alas Sir Henry's well-researched speech was never heard: The waterfall behind the bridge was in flood and the sound so deafening that no one could hear a word from the official dais. When asked why he'd not advised of the flood John Robb, who had little time for bureaucracy, said: "No one asked me."

History says that it was a very well fed and very drunk official party that returned to Cairns that night. All, that is, except a despondent Sir Henry.

Ask travel agents to book you on the 1.5hr trip up the rainforest mountain on the Kuranda Railway, and back down to Cairns on the Skyrail cableway when making Cairns holiday reservations – it'll prove a day you'll long remember.
 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:  

[] PICTURE-perfect, the most-photographed railway bridge in Australia is the Stoney Creek trestle on the Kuranda Rail line.

[] JOHN Robb and some of his 1500-strong team who built the daunting Kuranda Rail line by hand.

[] PICTURESQUE Kuranda Railway Station; take the train the 75km up the Range, and the Skyrail cableway back to Cairns.

Plancius – Oceanwide Expeditions new vessel afloat


This is the start of a new era in polar expedition cruising: the Dutch-flagged, expedition vessel "Plancius," operated by Oceanwide Expeditions, is finally ready to set sail to Antarctica this season.

"Plancius" is now freshly painted and alongside the dock in the Netherlands. While the ship is waiting for final sea trials, a team of builders is giving the final touch to the interior of the vessel. The crew will board end of October and bring life to the ship. Departure from the Netherlands is scheduled for early December in order to carry out the first Antarctic voyage on January 8, 2010.

Oceanwide Expeditions offers the free use of boots aboard the ship. Also, outdoor wind and waterproof North Face® expedition jackets can be ordered and bought for a discounted price prior to departure and will be given to the passengers on board the vessel.

Plancius is a base camp for various activities such as scuba diving; kayaking; near-shore, field camping; and active hiking trips with snowshoes. Detailed information can be found on Oceanwide Expeditions website or can be requested per email.

SETTING NEW STANDARDS IN EXPEDITION CRUISING

"Plancius" will set new standards to the world of expedition cruising: spacious yet small ship character; comfort and style; modern technology and safety appliances; and a base camp for active, adventurous, and wildlife-minded modern explorers!

"Plancius" was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was named "Hr. Ms. Tydeman." The ship sailed for the Dutch Navy until June 2004 and was finally purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions. The vessel was completely rebuilt and converted to a 110-passenger vessel, which complies with the latest SOLAS-regulations (Safety Of Life At Sea) and is classed by Lloyd's Register in London. The ship sails under the Dutch flag.

It's a small ship operation: "Plancius" can accommodate 110 passengers in 53 passenger cabins with private toilet and shower in 4 triple private cabins, 39 twin private cabins (ca. 15 square meters), and 10 twin superior cabins (ca. 21 square meters).

All cabins offer lower berths (either two single beds or one queen-size bed), except for the 4 triple cabins (bunk beds and 1 lower bed). The vessel offers a restaurant/lecture room on deck 3 and a spacious observation lounge (with bar) on deck 5 with large windows, offering full panorama view. "Plancius" has large open deck spaces (with full walk-around possibilities on deck 3), giving excellent opportunities to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. She is furthermore equipped with 10 Mark V zodiacs, including 40 HP 4-stroke outboard engines and 2 gangways on starboard side that guarantee a swift zodiac operation.

"Plancius" is comfortable and nicely decorated, but the ship is not a luxurious vessel. It's made for explorers! Voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are and will still be primarily defined by an exploratory educational travel program, spending as much time ashore as possible. This vessel will fully meet our demands to achieve this.

The vessel measures 89 meters in length (267 feet), has a breadth of 145 meters (475 feet) and a draft of 48 meters (157 feet) and is equipped with a diesel-electric propulsion system, which reduces the noise and vibration of the engines considerably. The 3 diesel engines generate 1,230 horse-power each, giving the vessel a speed of 10-12 knots. The vessel is ice-strengthened and was specially built for oceanographic voyages.

"Plancius" is manned by 17 nautical crew, 18 hotel staff (6 chefs, 1 hotel manager, 1 steward-barman, and 10 stewards/cabin cleaners), 8 expedition staff (1 expedition leader and 7 guides-lecturers), and 1 doctor.

"Plancius" was named after the Dutch astronomer, cartographer, geologist, and vicar Petrus Plancius (1552 – 1622). Petrus Plancius theorized the existence of an accessible northern passage to Asia and his theory encouraged several northern discovery voyages at the end of the 16th century. A dutch expedition under the command Willem Brantsz discovered Spitsbergen, but got stuck in the pack ice of Novaya Semlya (now Russian territory). Those discoveries gave rise of the 17th century whaling industry in Spitsbergen.

"Plancius" is furthermore a homage to the predecessor of Oceanwide Expeditions (Plancius Foundation, 1981-1996), the first cruise operator on a yearly base in Spitsbergen, offering voyages with a small cruise vessel named Plancius. It certainly means "the return of Plancius." Oceanwide continued with the activities of the Plancius Foundation in 1996.

www.oceanwide-expeditions.com

Monday, October 26, 2009

Focus on Facebook photos for travel promotions

Photos posted on social networking sites such as Facebook have significant but largely untapped potential as promotional tools for the tourism industry, a Victoria University researcher says.

Marketing lecturer Dr Leanne White said more than 500 million photos are posted on Facebook each month, making it the largest source of online photographs.

“Sites such as Facebook enable us to experience tourism destinations vicariously through the experiences of our friends,” Dr White said.

“This has enormous potential for the online promotion of tourist destinations in the industry through links and tools such as Travel Recommender Systems (TRS), applications that e-commerce sites exploit to suggest products to potential customers.

“In the highly democratised world of the internet, one person’s travel snapshots can easily become part of another person’s travel plans.”

Dr White examined the travel photo albums of 10 Facebook users for a recent study, analysing their use of travel photographs.

The five women and five men who participated in the study had an average of 132 Facebook friends. Both groups posted large numbers of travel photos on their Facebook pages – the men averaged 122 each and the women 108.

She found that those who posted photos of travel spots with people in them received more comments than those whose pictures contained no people.

“This reinforces our understanding of human nature: we humans thrive on communication and connection with each other. Facebook facilitates this need and its potential for the travel industry is only just starting to be realised.”

The Top 10 Jucy-est Summer Camping Tips



Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor adventurer or novice camper, a campervan holiday is one of the most affordable, fun and easy ways to explore the diverse beauty and landscapes of Australia and New Zealand. In the first three months of 2009, Australian tourists spent $284.8 million on caravan park accommodation reflecting the high demand for this cheaper form of travel and accommodation. To assist avid campers across the summer season, the team at Jucy Rentals is sharing their top camping tips.

“The best thing about camping in a campervan is that you don’t have to worry about pitching a tent. All you do is drive to your favourite destination – you can stay as long or as little as you like and you have the freedom to explore,” says Tim Alpe, co-founder of Jucy Rentals.


1. Freedom camping VS caravan parks. “If you’re a bit on the spontaneous side, you have the option of freedom camping, meaning you can park almost anywhere,” says Tim. “However, if you opt for a caravan park you can expect daily fees from around $15 per person per day and I’d recommend booking in advance during summer. A good supply of baby wipes, hand sanitizer and dry shampoo will also come in handy and to stay clean use the heated showers at camping grounds. However there are also public showers at beaches and public pools for freedom campers (just make sure no-one’s watching!)

2. Mosquito season – The warmer weather often brings with it a variety of creepy crawlies that will feast on summer campers if they aren’t prepared. The Jucy team strongly recommends bringing insect repellant and a few citronella candles for long nights by the campfire.

3. Navigation – “A good old fashioned road map is a great way to mark out your journey. However if you’d rather not get into an argument over directions, you may want to spend a little extra and hire a GPS navigator instead,” says Tim. Jucy rents out GPS navigators to their customers for an average of $8 per day.

4. Bush tucker – Jucy campervans come equipped with all the kitchen essentials so that campers can whip up some culinary delights. “If you’re travelling across Australia you may also want to try some of the local cuisine – Kangaroo, Crocodile or Emu can be tasty!” says Tim.

5. Survival tips – “Use your commonsense. Lock your campervan, store valuables in your Jucy safe. There’s nothing worse than being stranded without your mobile phone or wallet”, says Tim. In the unexpected event of a breakdown, Jucy will send out a mobile mechanic to fix and/or replace your vehicle.

6. Think green – “Respect the environment and leave only your footprints,” says Tim. Jucy customers also have the option of hiring a ‘dirty car’ – a car that has not been washed on the outside, but still clean on the inside, at the same time saving campers up to $10 off the overall amount of their Jucy hire.

7. Bargain hunting - Jucy occasionally holds $1 relocation specials – if Jucy has too many vehicles in one drop off they sometimes need drivers to get them back to other depots. For information visit “steal a deal” on the Jucy website.

8. Entertain yourselves – “When travelling in a campervan there can be some long drives so some fun ways to keep you entertained include keeping count of the number of Jucy vans on the road and having a drink for each of them when you arrive at your destination!” says Tim. “You could also try looking for the towns with the longest or most unusual names. If you plan to drive to South Australia you can visit Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill – the town with the longest name in Australia, or in New Zealand Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu,” says Tim.

9. Don’t forget your toothbrush – bring the essentials. Pack plenty of underwear, swimwear, toiletries, food, dishwashing liquid and a guidebook also comes in handy. “When it comes to looking chic on the road, ladies can plug their hair straighteners and dryers into most of the Jucy campers, but I would suggest leaving your creature comforts at home, it’s camping after all,” says Tim.

10. Best drives and destinations – Australia

o Great Ocean Road – Drive along the scenic Victorian road for spectacular views including the iconic Twelve Apostles.
o Byron Bay – About 12 hours north of Sydney, Byron Bay is the perfect destination for surfing, whale-watching and relaxing by the beach.
o Brisbane to Cairns – Drive north up the Sunshine State and visit small towns and the beach-side paradises along the way including Mackay, Rockhampton, the Whitsundays and Townsville.

Best drives and destinations – New Zealand

o Northland – At the top of the North Island, Northland is a perfect destination for summer camping with activities such as fishing, surfing the sand dunes and amazing forest walks - and with the broad range of holiday parks throughout Northland it’s a fantastic spot for campers.
o The National Parks of the South Island – The South Island of New Zealand is home to eight national parks including the Kahurangi and Mt Aspiring National Parks. Each park offers a unique variety of spectacular views, natural wonders and campsites.
o Queenstown – On the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is surrounded by magnificent mountains and is right on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. Over summer Queenstown is also home to the Summerdaze festival (Dec 31 – Feb 1) which includes a range of recreational, sporting, arts and cultural events.

For more information or to book your next camping holiday visit www.jucy.com.au or www.jucy.co.nz.

About JUCY


Having launched in January 2002 in New Zealand, Jucy Rentals is one of Australasia’s fastest growing independent rental companies. Founded by brothers Tim & Dan Alpe, Jucy has grown from 35 cars to a fleet of over 2000 ok vehicles. Jucy currently employs 85 energetic and youthful staff members in offices throughout New Zealand and Australia. Jucy entered the Australian market in 2008, bringing the vibrant Jucy Crib campervan to streets all over Australia. In 2009 Jucy launched its new fleet of four-seater ‘Choppa’ campervans. Jucy Australia is located in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. Jucy New Zealand is located in Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Greymouth.

CRUISE WEST UNVEILS THEME CRUISES FOR 2010

Photography, Alumni, Steinbeck, Chairman and President Cruises

 Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com), the world's leading provider of small-ship explorations to the most fascinating destinations on earth, announces 18 theme cruises from a choice of 11 itineraries in 2010.   Choose from breathtaking Alaska to the wild jungles of Costa Rica, marine rich waters of Sea of Cortés, exotic Southeast Asia, scenic Europe and more.  Early booking savings are still available. 

There is incredible value with every voyage.  In addition to the events associated with each 'theme' is an included excursion at every port designed to bring guests into direct personal contact with fascinating peoples, cultures and natural wonders.  Guest can anticipate engaging topical presentations by onboard guest lecturers, Exploration Leaders and local acclaimed authorities that will bring each region to life.  Ships range from 78-148 guests depending on the itinerary.

Six Photography Cruises

Guests will have the opportunity to participate in onboard presentations and special field events with a photographer who will conduct special field events and onboard workshops throughout the cruise. Whether novice or seasoned photographers, hands-on instruction on everything from image composition and digital image management to tips on how to be in the "right place at the right time" will be invaluable.  Each departure includes a full menu of activities as well as the expertise of our Exploration Leaders.

7-night Sea of Cortés Whales & Wildlife, roundtrip Cabo San Lucas departing January 23.  Priced from $2,999.
9-night Panama & Costa Rica Between Two Seas, one-way Panama City to San Jose departing March 7.  Priced from $4,299.
7-night Alaska's Inside Passage, roundtrip Juneau departing June 6 and August 18. Priced from $4,499.
4-night Glacier Bay Highlights, roundtrip Juneau departing June 29.  Priced from $1,799.
4-night Glaciers of Prince William Sound, roundtrip Whittier departing August 9.  Priced from $1,399.

Two Steinbeck Cruises
Sail in the company of a Steinbeck scholar and learn of the extraordinary journeys of famed author John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts, whose voyage of exploration and understanding sparked the creation of The Log from the Sea of Cortez. 

7-night Sea of Cortés Whales & Wildlife, roundtrip Cabo San Lucas departing January 2 and 9.  Priced from $2,599.

Four Chairman and President Voyages
Mingle with Chairman & Managing Director Dick West and wife Leslie or President & CEO Dietmar Wertanzl on four distinct voyages.  In addition to the extraordinary itineraries, guests will enjoy hosted dinners, special events and private tours escorted by West or Wertanzl. 
Chairman Voyages 

16-night Voyage 1: Singapore to Chennai (segment of Voyages of the Great Explorers) departing March 5, 2010.  Priced from $12,695 including air from five major US cities or an air credit of $750 per person by booking and paying in full by December 18, 2009. 
16-night Voyage 10:  Barcelona to Honfleur (segment of Voyages of the Great Explorers) departing July 4, 2010.  Priced from $14,195 including air from five major US cities or an air credit of $750 per person by booking and paying in full by December 18, 2009. 
Rhine & Mosel Rivers in Europe (NEW), one-way Vienna to Cologne departing October 12, 2010.  Priced from $4,999.

President's Voyage

13-night Voyage 16: Palm Beach to Panama  (segment of Voyages of the Great Explorers) departing October 3, 2010.  Priced from $7,995.

Six Alumni Sailings

Any alumni that previously sailed with Cruise West (Quyana Club members) receive an additional five percent savings, onboard gift (valued at $15), and a welcome aboard reception hosted by a Cruise West executive.  Commiserate and explore with fellow like-minded guests.

7-night Sea of Cortés Whales & Wildlife, roundtrip Cabo San Lucas departing January 30.  Priced from $2,999.
9-night Panama & Costa Rica Between Two Seas, one-way Panama City to San Jose departing March 25.  Priced from $4,199.
7-night River Voyage of Discovery on the Columbia & Snake Rivers, roundtrip Portland departing April 17, June 5 and Aug 28. Priced from $2,999.
7-night Pacific Northwest Coastal Escape that includes British Columbia, roundtrip Seattle departing Sept 25.  Priced from $3,399.

Early booking savings are still available for most voyage and all prices listed are before savings is applied.  Kid's 18 and younger pay 50 percent off the adult rate.  For more information or to book a cruise, please visit www.CruiseWest.com or call 800-296-8307 or a travel professional.

~Up-Close, Casual and Personal Exploration~

About Cruise West

Cruise West believes that small is beautiful.  Small-ship explorations allow up-close, casual and personal experiences unmatched by the traditional larger cruise lines. For more than 63 years Cruise West has provided authentic travel experiences where the destination is the focus.  Nine small ships with guest capacities ranging from 78-138 explore remote and distinctive destinations throughout the globe.   A robust onboard enrichment program further enhances the guest experience through topical guest lecturers, additional exploration by zodiac and included excursions at every port. 
 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SMH: The Chill Factor



Daniel Scott discovers a harsh environment and enduring Inuit culture on an expedition cruise into the Arctic. 

At first it is no more than a white blur on the distant shore of the long, low-ridged Mansel Island, under a boundless Arctic sky.

The pace among we six kayakers quickens as we paddle towards it across the clear, shallow sea. After seeing my first polar bear from a safe distance the previous evening, my chest rises with excited trepidation at the prospect of encountering another up close.

Read full story at SMH.com.au

Breakfast on the Bridge


Source: AFP

Thousands sat down to breakfast on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday after the iconic structure was closed to traffic and carpeted with grass for the first time for a giant picnic.

About 6,000 early risers were on the steel bridge from 6:30 am to take part in the two-hour event designed to showcase Sydney's best food and outdoor lifestyle.

As accordion players and trumpeters provided the background music, those who had won tickets to the picnic in a random lottery munched on fruit, pastries, muesli, yoghurt, and the staple Australian breakfast spread Vegemite.

"It's amazing to see the bridge in this perspective," said Sydneysider Don Fuchs of the structure which is used by about 100,000 cars daily.

"Usually you sit in the car, you cross it, and that's it."

"It was beautiful," said Linda Curnow who attended the picnic with her family. "The grass was so thick it was like being in your back yard."

New South Wales state Premier Nathan Rees said the event was set to become an annual feature of Sydney's month-long October food festival.

About 45,000 people applied for tickets to the breakfast for which people brought their own food but were able to taste samples from some of the state's best producers.

"I don't think we were ever doubtful of the success of this event today," a government spokesman told AFP. "It was a unique world first for this iconic attraction. This type of event typifies the Australian personality."

Organisers are planning to use about 40 percent of the grass on Sydney parks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Accor Positioned for Cairns Recovery


Special location report for HM Magazine by Roderick Eime

Despite the widespread disappointment and cynicism at the deferral of the promised Jetstar direct flights to Japan, Accor is demonstrating its confidence in the Cairns/Port Douglas region’s recovery by investing millions of dollars in key properties.

Currently Accor manages or brands eight properties across five badges ranging from the recently rebranded, 5-star Pullman Reef Casino to the 3.5-star All Seasons Cairns Gateway Resort.

Two new properties to join the Accor family include the landmark Oasis Resort on Lake Street and one of the region’s best known properties, Treetops in Port Douglas. Both properties had fallen into decline and required substantial modernization and refurbishment.

Accor Vice President Australia, Simon McGrath, said in a recent press statement that the addition of Mercure Port Douglas Treetops was a significant milestone for Accor and the Australian hotel industry.

“The addition of Treetops marks a very special occasion for Accor as it will take our Australian network to over 20,000 rooms – the first hotel group to achieve such a mark in Australia.

“Not only will the hotel benefit from our partnership, but it will bring Port Douglas to an even wider audience. The destination achieved a very high-profile in recent decades, and we will use our vast distribution channels to revitalise interest in what is one of the world’s most attractive destinations.”

The 224-room resort is located a short walk from Four Mile Beach and is five minutes drive to the centre of Port Douglas village (a shuttle bus service operates throughout the day).

Over the past six months, the hotel has received an extensive, multimillion dollar renovation, including upgrading of rooms, the restaurant and public areas and a fresh new paint scheme throughout the resort.

Now carrying the Novotel logo, the Oasis Resort in Cairns received a radical $7 million bare shell makeover almost as soon as the resort changed hands in August 2007.

“The Oasis was one of those typical ‘80s ‘tropical’ resorts needing lots of TLC,” said director of sales, Philip Newland, “and now we have a totally new look ... much more contemporary. The previous AAA 4-star rating was generous, now we are a confident 4.5 rated property.”

Just down the road and occupying the prime location adjacent Cairns’s Trinity Wharf, is the Pullman Reef Casino. Newly-installed GM, Adrian Williams, relishes his new post and strongly believes 2009 represents the bottom of the current cycle.

“Like many destinations reliant on tourism and corporate travellers, Cairns has been responsive to the difficult GFC period and demonstrated new adaptability and innovation.”

$4.5 million has been spent on the property up to May this year in a continual process of upgrading rather than a debilitating refurbishment.

Despite Williams’s disappointment at the deferral of the Jetstar flights, he considers this a minor hiccup that “provides tourism operators, marketers and travel agents with a better lead time in which to properly prepare a strategy to sell on the back of the forthcoming Osaka services.”

Bridget Catterall, General Manager of the Best Management Group, who are contracted to manage the Treetops Resort & Spa under the Mercure franchise contract sums up the climate:

“Travel to Australia and Cairns has never been cheaper, and with Port Douglas boasting such a high profile in the American, European and Australian markets, we believe there is great potential to grow our business substantially over the next few years.”

TOURISM TREBLE FOR FANTASEA ADVENTURE CRUISING

Fantasea Adventure Cruising took out the treble at the 2009 Tourism Whitsunday Awards, winning awards in the three categories the company contested.

Winner of the Best Tourism Attraction Award was Fantasea's Reefworld day tours to Hardy Reef Reefworld which features include a large underwater viewing observatory, secure diving areas, large sundeck and viewing area, change rooms, fresh water showers, children's swimming enclosures and extensive shaded areas.

Fantasea's Reefworld, featuring Australia's only Great Barrier Reef sleepover, was the winner of the Unique Accommodation Award.

The ultimate in Barrier Reef experiences, Reefsleep offers fully catered overnight accommodation on Hardy Reef, 51 nautical miles offshore.

The company also took out the award for Best Major Tour and/or Transport Operator, recognition of the level of service provided by Fantasea's fleet of high speed multi-hulled boats which plies between the Whitsunday islands.

Fantasea Adventure Cruising is a Queensland owned company, being part of the Riverside Marine group operated by the Campbell family in Brisbane.

(Pic Caption – Left to Right; Fantasea staff Tiffany Brett, John Dyson, Michelle Rynne, Michael Moran, Heather Thatcher, Jamie Ashton and Sarah Adams celebrate their tourism awards success. Please credit Whitsunday Times )


Discover a World of Boutique Adventure in Nicaragua

Aventura Lodge is the latest hotel to open its doors in the beautiful beach town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The boutique adventure hotel is a tropical oasis, complete with a pristine swimming pool and waterfalls. The hotel has a variety of accommodation to suit all travelers, from the luxurious Jungle Suites to the Tree House beds.

A lush jungle garden is the setting for this intimate lodge. The tropical canopy provides the perfect place to relax and escape the heat. Relax by the refreshing swimming pool or swing in a hammock in the garden. It’s a different world inside the gates of Aventura Lodge.

San Juan del Sur is a tranquil and laid back town on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It’s the perfect place to spend a week, month or even years. San Juan del Sur is the hub for exploring Nicaragua’s best surf beaches and all the country has to offer. The friendly locals will happily show you around and point you in the right direction of the best bars and places to eat.

Adventure comes in many forms in San Juan del Sur and Aventura Lodge can create unique experiences for each guest. Whether your idea of adventure is surfing, climbing volcanoes or exploring coffee plantations, the team at Aventura Lodge will make your vacation come to life. And at the end of an active day, you can relax by the pool with an ice-cold drink or treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage perhaps.

The hotel has 5 luxurious and individually decorated Jungle Suites from $50 per night; a 2 bedroom Canopy Apartment from $80 and for those on a slimmer budget the 4 Tree House beds from $15. Breakfast is included and the hotel has Wi-Fi. The Jungle Suites and Canopy Apartment have air-conditioning and cable television.

Your next adventure awaits you at Aventura Lodge.

For more information, visit www.aventurasanjuan.com

Media contact information:
Kate Jenkins or Daniel Lloyd
Aventura Lodge
aventurasanjuan@gmail.com
(+505) 89037622 or (+505) 83585924

Pullman positive despite delayed Jetstar Cairns-Japan route



The Accor group’s flagship Cairns property, the five-star Pullman Reef Casino Hotel, is still looking forward to the launch of Jetstar’s new route between Japan and Cairns, despite an announcement delaying the first flight until April 2010.

Jetstar has postponed the creation of flights between Cairns and Japan to April next year after it was unable to reach an agreement with the Cairns International Airport.

Pullman Reef Casino Hotel General Manager Adrian Williams says, the new Cairns-Osaka route is still great news for the region, inspiring confidence that the city may be about to embark on a positive new growth phase

“It was originally hoped the four weekly flights to Japan would launch in December,” said Mr Williams.

“The delay however is just a minor hiccup, and essentially provides tourism operators, marketers and travel agents with a better lead time in which to properly prepare a strategy to sell on the back of these services.

Mr Williams said Jetstar’s commitment and ‘aggressive’ marketing approach to Japan has overall been encouraging for Cairns tourist operators and hoteliers.

“Jetstar’s new Osaka service to Cairns is still the first real sign that the destination may be poised to start a positive new cycle in 2010,” he said.

“The Osaka service is an opportunity to grow Japanese visitation that will ease the pressure on hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Mr Williams said he strongly believed that 2009 would represent the bottom of the current cycle. “Like many destinations reliant on tourism and corporate travelers, Cairns has been responsive to the difficult GFC period and demonstrated new adaptability and innovation.

“The domestic market of course has naturally been a priority. Tourism Australia and Tourism Queensland’s national campaigns have been the perfect complement to the marketing support and activity that hotel, airline, and local tourism offices has undertaken over the past 12 months. We’ve seen some encouraging results from our wholesale and retail partners as a result.

Mr Williams added that since he came on board as General Manager at the beginning of the year that he has seen Cairns take on a fresh new approach to business events.

“Although a challenging time for a new brand to come into Australia, let alone Cairns, it has also been a great opportunity for us to reposition and rebadge the Reef Casino Hotel with the benefit of Accor network and all that Pullman represents behind us.

“Accor’s loyalty programs including AClub and Advantage Plus have been a powerful backbone generally for the hotel with leisure guests, however AClub’s new focus on incentivising the meetings and conference market has also proved timely for Pullman.”

Pullman hotels in Australia are offering a new ‘Delicious Escapade’ package which has an even more delicious incentive of a $7,500 prize of a holiday for two in Bangkok, including airfares, 5 nights accommodation and breakfast at the stylish Pullman Bangkok Kong Power, $350 towards dining and limousine transfers.

Entry to the competition is available to travellers who book the new Pullman Delicious Escapade package at Pullman Reef Hotel Casino and stay before 6 January 2010.

The Pullman Delicious Escapade package includes 10% discount on stays of two nights or more, daily breakfast for two, late check out and a $30 voucher for use in the hotel’s bar and restaurant.

The Pullman Delicious Escapade offers a 5-star experience at great value rates: from $170 a night at Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.

The Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is in the heart of Cairns, overlooking Trinity Inlet and packed with great dining and entertainment options. Each room has its own private garden balcony and spa bath, and there is a rooftop swimming pool, full gym, Cairns Wildlife Dome and the Reef Casino.

The prize features 5 nights at the Pullman Bangkok King Power, one of the city’s newest 5-star hotels, conveniently located near Victory Monument BTS train station. The Pullman offers a wide range of restaurants and bars, a luxurious spa, a vast swimming pool and a large Kingpower duty-free complex next door.

Pullman, is the upscale hotel brand of Accor. It was designed with the requirements of business women and men in mind. Located in the main regional and international cities, Pullman hotels provide an extensive range of tailored services, access to ground-breaking technologies and the “Co-meeting” offer, a new approach to organizing meetings, seminars and high-end incentives. At Pullman hotels, business travelers can choose between being independent or relying on the staff available round the clock. End of 2009, the Pullman network will consist of 50 hotels in 23 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Soon, we expect over 300 establishments around the world. All information regarding the hotels is available on the website www.pullmanhotels.com.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Taste Port Douglas new dining experience


Wine flights and matching tasting plates have landed in Port Douglas' award winning restaurants.

A new venture, Taste Port Douglas,  has created a range of exceptional progressive dining tours designed to please the ultimate culinary groupie.

Local chefs are promising to tantalize your taste buds by producing amazing flavours from around the region and indeed around the world while showcasing their ability to turn food into an art piece.

Taste Port Douglas will take your palate on a tour through the vineyards of Australia with a new concept in wine tasting:   Wine Flights.   Guests will be indulged with several wines that are matched perfectly with each venue's tasting plate.

Taste Port Douglas progressive culinary tours begin at the iconic Courthouse Hotel upstairs in the Sunset Lounge where guests receive a welcome drink and meet their guide for the evening ahead.

Then, a guided stroll to three different, award winning Port Douglas restaurants, each eager to show off their best food and wine.

Taste Port Douglas progressive dinner tours are available Wednesday through to Sunday and lunch is available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  All tours have been arranged so guests can easily walk to all three restaurants. The business is owned and operated by Port Douglas entrepreneurs Monique Leman and Corrine Durie, who identified a niche for 'organised gourmet grazing'.

Strolling between the restaurants, the ladies tell guests tales of Port's heritage and a rolling history of the eateries to be visited (along with just enough local gossip to pique your appetite!)  Both Corrine and Monique are highly experienced hosts, with backgrounds in organising conferences and events, and even operating their own restaurants.

"Our new venture is all about making friends and enjoying great food," says Corrine Durie.

Progressive tours are priced at Lunch from $89 pp.,  dinner from $149 pp.  Prices include meals, wine flights, plus breads, coffee and tea.  Luxury vehicle return transfers from Port resorts to the Courthouse Hotel can be arranged for an extra $40 per person. 

For more, visit www.tasteofaustralia.com.au    

Specials include:
Taste of Sea, Sailing & Land from $169  (includes an evening sail on Sailaway IV before dinner)
Taste of Indulgence from $350 (includes transfers, luncheon and spa treatment at Silky Oaks Lodge & Healing Waters Spa).

Piracy fears force cancellation of Indian Ocean cruises


By Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa

The first of possibly more cruises in the Indian Ocean and along the Eastern African countries has now been canceled and the vessel is due to be moved to the Caribbean instead of the Indian Ocean in 2010.

Cruise line company Yachts of the Seabourn decided to move its Seabourn Legend, which was scheduled to sail during the 2010 and 2011 seasons between the Seychelles, Kenya, Zanzibar and Madagascar, among others, after the latest spate of attacks on vessels along the Horn of Africa.

The decision may have been influenced by the growing radius of pirate attacks further out into the open sea, the latest being the reported hijacking of a Chinese ship. The company has a special appeal to cruise aficionados as the company uses smaller vessels offering a true luxury hospitality environment and fear for their very posh and wealthy clientele being taken hostage by Somali ocean terrorists may have been a major factor to avoid the Indian Ocean in the immediate future.

Passengers already booked now have the option to select other itineraries operated elsewhere in the world or else get a refund for deposits made.

No response was yet received from tour and safari operators lined up to handle the ship during port calls and take the passengers on safaris or island tours, but the loss of revenue is thought to be considerable.

This loss will undoubtedly add to the sentiments against the Somali pirates and bring about even stronger calls for a more robust and determined engagement against their safe havens, their mother boats and skiffs out on the ocean, including hot pursuit into waters claimed by Somalia as their own.

The Seychelles, in particular, depend on tourism as one of the main sources of their national income and has openly embraced overtures of the naval coalition partners for more support to patrol and police their extensive national waters, which extend 200 nautical miles around the archipelago.

Subsequently, the capacity of the Seychelles Coast Guard and related units has been substantially boosted in recent months in regard of both surface as well as aerial capabilities in a bid to create a credible deterrent.

Dave Randon Accepts Vice President Post at Expedition Cruises

source: travelworldnews.com

Small Ship industry cruise veteran Dave Randon has accepted the position of Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Expedition Cruises for North America.

Dave will reinforce the mission of Expedition Cruises: to align itself with key consortiums, travel agents, and tour operators.

He has worked in the cruise industry since the 1970s. He was recently the Vice President of Sales for Variety Cruises and earlier occupied the position of Director of North American Sales for Antarctic Dream Expeditions.

Expedition Cruises features The Nuclear Icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory—the most powerful icebreaker ever built by man. This 15-Day North Pole expedition cruise is a bold journey that allows travelers to experience firsthand the awesome beauty and raw savagery of one of the last few remaining frontiers on earth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HOT NEW FARES TO HAWAII FROM HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

HIGH AUSSIE DOLLAR, LOW AIR FARES …  PERFECT TO RETURN TO PARADISE WITH HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Hawaiian Airlines this morning launched a hot new range of air fares to Honolulu from 20 destinations around Australia.

The "Return To Paradise" Economy Class deals are priced from $877 return ex Sydney, including pre-payable taxes.

They are available for sale from today until 03 November, for departures from Australia between 01 February and 25 March, 2010, and again from 17 April until 30 June.

"The Australian dollar is now trading at 92 US cents, while air fares from Australia to the USA have never been more competitive," said Sherilyn Robinson, General Manager Sales and Marketing for Hawaiian Airlines in Australia.

 "Hawaii is popular both with first-time visitors and with those wanting to return to paradise in order to relive past adventures or to see even more of the Aloha state," said Ms Robinson.  "And with prices at these levels, what better time to book a new year holiday in Hawaii?"

Return to Paradise fares, including taxes, are:

From Sydney:  $877

From Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Hervey Bay:   $1057

From Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Albury, Rockhampton, Mackay, Proserpine, Townsville and Cairns:   $1217

From Perth:   $1377

Taxes are correct at 23 October, 2009, but may change without notice. Seats are limited at these prices. Australian domestic flights are provided by partner airlines.

Hawaiian Airlines flies three times weekly from Sydney to Honolulu, departing mid evening every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, crossing the international dateline and arriving mid morning the same day into Honolulu.

After clearing US Customs, passengers can be in their hotels, big brand shopping or on world-famous Waikiki Beach by early afternoon.

For more information or to make a booking, call Hawaiian Airlines on the consumer booking line 1300 669 106 or contact travel agents. For more information about Hawaiian Airlines, visit www.hawaiianairlines.com.au.

Jetstar, V Australia granted Fiji capacity

The International Air Services Commission has granted Jetstar and V Australia capacity on the Fiji route.

Qantas Group was awarded 852 seats of capacity per week which must be used no later than April 2010.

V Australia has been awarded 907 seats of capacity per week, but the carrier must launch services by December 31 this year.

The Commission said it expects Jetstar and V Australia to compete strongly on the leisure market.

The Norwegian Fjords - World's best travel destination in NG survey


Once again the Norwegian fjords have been rated as the World's most celebrated and iconic travel destination by National Geographic Traveler. Hurtigruten offers its congratulations with appreciation!

Hurtigruten has been proudly presenting the Norwegian fjords to Norwegian and foreign travellers since 1893. We can confidently state that the Norwegian travel industry would be much poorer without the sustainable management of our fantastic nature in general, and our unique fjords in particular.

Once again National Geographic Traveler magazine has placed the Norwegian fjords at the top of its list of destinations, an evaluation of the world's most celebrated and iconic travel destinations undertaken in cooperation with the National Geographic Center for Sustainable destinations. This is the sixth annual "Places Rated" Destination Stewardship survey, and the Norwegian fjords have topped the list on no less than three occasions. In 2007 Norway stuck another feather in its cap when Lofoten was voted the third best island destination in the world.

"The integrity and world renown of National Geographic, as well as its global penetration makes this one of the most important awards in travel industry internationally. The fact that the Norwegian fjords have once again topped the list is an affirmation of the unique natural assets that we possess. We are delighted by the results and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Fjord Norway on its success," says Christian Bue Nordahl, Global Brand Manager at Hurtigruten ASA.

This award will further reinforce the recognition of Norway as an attractive travel destination.

"For many foreign travellers Hurtigruten represents their first encounter with the Norwegian fjords and Norwegian nature. Ever since Richard With founded the route in 1893 there has been a strong bond between the Norwegian fjords and Hurtigruten. Our 11 ships sail these waters every single day and the Norwegian fjords are one of our strongest cards. The fact that Norwegian destinations are once again placed at the top by National Geographic tells us that we are doing all the right things in a sustainable Norwegian travel industry," says Bue Nordahl.

In 2008 over 100 000 foreign visitors experienced the fjords and the Norwegian coast between Bergen and Kirkenes with Hurtigruten.

About the survey:


133 destinations were surveyed by 437 travel experts, and rated based on the following six criteria: Environmental and ecological quality; social and cultural integrity; condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites; aesthetic appeal; quality of tourism management and outlook for the future.

Hurtigruten has been the original coastal voyage since 1893, and offers genuine experiences in unique waters. Hurtigruten consists of 11 ships operating year round along the Norwegian coast, as well as the explorer ship MS Fram, which sails to Svalbard, Antarctica, Greenland and Europe.

Swissôtel Sydney Voted Best In Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands

After 52,000 votes and 2,800 nominations, Swissôtel Sydney has been awarded the HotelClub Awards premier accolade of Top 3 Hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands at the 4th HotelClub Hotel Awards ceremony held recently in Sydney. Swissôtel Sydney also walked away with the Best Hotel in New South Wales and Best Hotel in Oceania award, truly deserving the title of 'one of the most popular hotels within the Oceania region'. 

Presented by leading consumer-driven global accommodation website operator HotelClub.com, the HotelClub Awards 2009 reflects demands of the industry, recognising Best Hotels and Resorts in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands region, as well as top hotels in each Australian state and territory, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. First presented in 2006, the HotelClub Awards are driven by travellers with firsthand experience and are based on an accumulation of world-wide consumer votes who select their choice of best hotels in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.  

Said Wayne Horbach, General Manager of Swissôtel Sydney, "We are deeply honoured to have received such an outstanding award not only for Australia but also the Oceania region. This award is especially significant to us as the votes have come from our guests and it is gratifying to know that they recognise our efforts and our unrelenting commitment to excellence." 

"I am extremely proud of my team for living up to the Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts' credo of 'A Passion for Perfection' and we look forward to sharing our warm Swiss hospitality with many more guests in the coming years," he adds. 

Winners are decided entirely by consumers through an online global survey on the website based on the following criteria: ambience, family friendliness, rooms, restaurants, cleanliness, business facilities, location, leisure facilities, staff attitude and value for money.  

About Swissôtel Sydney (www.swissotel.com/sydney)

Situated in the heart of Sydney's prime tourist, shopping and business districts, the award-winning Swissôtel Sydney is mere walking distance from Sydney's renowned attractions including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and the historic Rocks precinct as well as some of Australia's most celebrated restaurants. Endless shopping options abound from the hotel's doorstep while an underground walkway connects guests to Sydney's railway hub – Town Hall station with the monorail service just minutes away on foot.

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