Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Famous Author, Samuel Pickering to talk on Murray Princess

Passenger’s on Captain Cook Cruises seven night Murray River cruise departing June 6, 2008 will meet famous author and the man who inspired the character of Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society, Samuel Pickering. Throughout June the second person also travels for half price.

Despite being best known in Australia for his unconvential way of teaching that that inspired the character Mr Keating, Samuel Pickering is also a famous author having written 21 books and 100’s of articles. Some of his books include Walkabout Year and Waltzing the Magpies, both written in Australia.

Mr. Pickering has returned to Australia, to write a third book entitled A Tramp’s Wallet and says he has always been fascinated by Australia and has come to enjoy the people. “They are the nicest, most generous people in the world,” Pickering says.

Part of this book will feature a chapter on the Murray River and whilst researching the book, Captain Cook Cruises will be hosting Mr. Pickering on the Murray Princess. During the seven night cruise Mr. Pickering will be giving talks to passengers on life and capturing life on paper.

For those unable to cruise for 7 nights Mr. Pickering will be speaking for guests on the 3 night cruise departing June 6 and also for guests on the 4 night cruise departing June 9.

The 3-Night Wetlands Discovery Cruise is a mini weekend escape where passengers will discover the vast variety of flora and fauna, join a backwater boat tour, visit the Port of Murray Bridge and sample the food and wine of this famous region. The cruise departs Mannum every Friday at 4.30pm and returns Monday at 9.00am. Prices start from $775 per person twin share and from only $388 for the second person twin share.

The 4-Night Outback Heritage Cruise departs Mannum every Monday at 4.30pm and return Fridays at 9.00am. Cruise highlights include a visit to a vineyard and wine-tasting at the cellar door, a wildlife shelter and an aboriginal archaeological reserve plus a woolshed riverside barbeque & campfire. Prices start at $999 twin share for the first person and from $500 twin share for the second person.

The 7-Night Murraylands & Wildlife Cruise includes a free Barossa Valley tour and combines the 3 and 4 night cruises for a total Murraylands and wildlife experience. Prices start from $1596 twin share for the first person and from only $798 twin share for the second person. The seven night cruise departs Mannum every Friday and Monday at 4.30pm and returns Friday and Mondays at 9.00am.

All cruises include meals, accommodation, complimentary scenic coach transfers from Adelaide or car parking in Mannum, guided walks, presentations and all onboard facilities including use of two spas, two saunas, sun deck, two bars, two lounges, single sitting dining saloon and entertainment.

For reservations and enquiries please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free on 1800 804 843,
Int +61-2-9206 111 or email: or visit

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Partnership Assists The Galapagos

Protecting Where the Wild Things Are

That is Goal of New Galapagos Partnership
With Ecoventura and World Wildlife Fund

MIAMI, Florida, April 30, 2008 -- Where the wild things are is often where inquisitive travelers congregate, potentially setting up a love-it-to-death dynamic in the visited environment.

A small, visionary travel company, Ecoventura, has announced a new partnership with the environmental heavy hitter, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to reduce the detrimental effects of growing tourism in the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands.

This new collaboration, called The Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund (GMBF), will target environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities' ability to manage natural resources.

"It's the paradise being pushed to the edge concept," says Doris Welsh, Ecoventura's Miami-based Director of Sales and Marketing. "Our partnership mission is to safeguard the Galapagos environment so that we can continue to bring conservation-minded visitors here for generations to come."

GMBF funds support the refit, maintenance and deployment of the "Tiburon Martillo," a permanent floating surveillance and patrolling station within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. It's from here that park patrol boats will target, among other things, illegal industrial shark finning and long-line fishing.

Funds are also allocated to refurbish and maintain a speed boat that patrols the Bolivar channel between the western Islands of Fernandina and Isabela.

The GMBF has also allocated funds to benefit families of local fishermen by supporting a microenterprise for the fisherman's wives to manage. This will provide an alternate means of income and also set an example to create other tourism related businesses and reduce the need to fish in waters already impacted by over-harvesting.

A scholarship component for local children of fishermen from San Cristobal Island grants scholarships for two years to study Tourism, Environmental Science or Natural Resource Management at the University of San Francisco campus in the Galapagos.

To fund the GMBF, Ecoventura has pledged to raise close to $250,000 over the next three years. Passengers on its 7-day Galapagos cruises are also encouraged to donate to the fund during their trip. During each Ecoventura cruise, a local representative from WWF meets with passengers and gives a brief educational talk followed by questions and answers.

Welsh says that while serving the interests of the environment the partnership also empowers local residents through employment, education and related opportunities.

Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with sales offices in Quito and Miami. All of its guides are Ecuadorian nationals; 65% are Galapagos residents and 25% are native Galapaguenos. Of 61 crew members, including guides and captains, 37% reside permanently in the Galapagos Islands and of those, 15% are native Galapaguenos. The rest live in different cities in mainland Ecuador. As part of its compensation package, Ecoventura offers medical insurance to its employees and their families as well.

The company maintains a warehouse and manager on the Island of San Cristobal and hires only locals to handle its Galapagos-based operation. Approximately 27% of its total food supplies come from local vendors on San Cristobal Island, including all fresh fish and some vegetables. Dairy products and meats are purchased on the Island of Santa Cruz further benefitting the local community.

In operation since 1990, the cruise company transports 3,000+ passengers annually aboard a fleet of four expedition vessels that have been purposefully retrofitted to highest possible environmental standards. In recognition of these pacesetting efforts, in 2005 the Rainforest Alliance presented Ecoventura President Santiago Dunn with its prestigious Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter award for making a significant contribution to environmental conservation and sustainability. In 2006, Santiago was awarded the first annual Sustainable Travel Award from the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA).

In 2006, Ecoventura also became the first Carbon Neutral operation in the Galapagos (and Ecuador). Carbon emissions from the company's four yachts (and offices including business travel) are reduced, and then offset by contributions to a portfolio of projects through the US-based company NativeEnergy.

To receive a copy of Ecoventura's 2008 catalog as well as information on tours to the Galapagos Islands please call toll-free 1.800.644.7972, or e-mail To access current rates, schedules and itineraries you can log onto

Sunday, April 27, 2008


john crook

IN 1859, rabbits began their rampage across rural Australia, hopping out from a sheep station on the outskirts of Geelong, Victoria's second largest city where Thomas Austin had imported the little critters as targets for the local hunt club.

Unfortunately as we now know, the members of the hunt club weren't

as proficient as they could be, and the rabbits escaped the hunter's guns to go on and create havoc of unimaginable proportions.

And it was in 1859 that one of the oldest football clubs in the world was formed at a location within cooee of where those 24 oversexed wascally wabbits fled.

Hoops of royal blue and white, which identify the Geelong Football Club, feature on the jerseys worn by the city's elite 18 senior players. Year 2007 was their big year, winning the AFL grand-final flag – incidentally more than 40 years between flags.

In the footy season the whole town talks, lives and breathes football, but the locals do like to show that they are now no longer a mob of bushies, and culture is also alive and well in Geelong.

A mix of the arts and a sprinkling of culture are recent brave attempts at putting a new face on the old girl. It's working, particularly along the Eastern Beach foreshore, where dozens of eye-catching bollards have been erected providing a bit of a giggle for walkers, joggers and cyclists.

The bollards tell some of the history of the city, and amazingly the years they've been on public display there's been minimal vandalism. Thankfully graffiti seems a no-no.

A first class performing arts centre and an excellent art gallery are part of the current cultural scene.

Sheep once roamed the vast plains which stretched from Corio Bay out into western Victoria, with Geelong becoming the major beneficiary. Whereas gold was the key mover for Ballarat and Bendigo, Geelong put its fate in the hands of graziers and indeed was the town which grew out of sheep.

Amongst the earliest industrial development were wool stores established by the port with a string of woollen mills built along the Barwon River. These have now all gone and wool is no longer king.

However, since the demise of wool, the buildings in the city's CBD have been transformed, some used by the local university, some about to be converted into apartments and others to house artefacts from a long gone era.

Not wishing to overlook the city's involvement with wool, city fathers created the National Wool Museum in the former Dennys Lascelles wool store. It is equal to collections, of any kind, in Australia with regular exhibitions and demonstrations regularly featured.

Close by, midst the former wool stores, is an exhibition which salutes the Ford Motor Company with its first class display of company produced motor vehicles, from an early Model T through to a collection from the new millennium.

Ford Geelong boasts the longest company sponsorship of any sporting group in the country, having backed the local footy club since 1925, even through the lean years, of which there have been plenty. That year also saw the birth of another Geelong icon, the department chain Target.

And amongst the new boys on the block are the vignerons. No less than 36 in fact, producing some of the finest wines in the country. Geelong was one of the initial wine producing areas of Australia, only to suffer the tragedies of phylloxera which wiped out the fledging industry. In the 21st century the industry is back with a vengeance.

Geelong's close proximity to the Bellarine Peninsula beaches and those baches fronting the open ocean Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove, Queenscliff and on to Torquay, provide further options.

The city is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road and again, more seaside settlements, such as Lorne, Port Fairy, Apollo Bay, Portland and Warrnambool.

Geelong, with a population of around 250,000 is back in business.


· National Wool Museum. Tel : (03) 5227 0701.

· Ford Discovery Centre. Tel : (03) 5227 8700.

· For information on tourism and wineries contact the Geelong Otway Tourism Tel : (03) 5223 2588.



. MODEL T Ford, one of the first produced at Ford's Geelong factory

. UNUSUAL bollards on Geelong's Eastern Beaches foreshore depict the city's footie history.

. AND its connections with the sea.

The Vine: Win a trip for 2 to the Fuji Rock Festival

The Vine: Win a trip for 2 to the Fuji Rock Festival: " is your information filter, shining a light on the latest and greatest news, entertainment, music and fashion buried deep inside the World Wide Web.

But TheVine also provides a chance to have your say by starting a profile, blogging or contributing your own work.

And though we’re primed with such original news and community participation – we’re still not too proud to seduce you by offering a trip for two, in conjunction with
STA Travel, to the most original music festival in the world – Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival 2008 (My Bloody Valentine, Underworld, Primal Scream). Includes flights, accommodation, transfers and spending money.

To enter, just sign up to the TheVine newsletter.

Authorised under NSW permit no: LTPS/08/03027, VIC permit no: 08/1361 , ACT permit no: TP 08/01321, SA permit no: T08/1206 Terms and Conditions apply"

Nature is just perfect on the Fraser Coast

Nature is just perfect on the Fraser Coast

Whales aren't the only wildlife smart enough to hang out around on
Queensland's Fraser Coast – there are many others that call this
year-round sanctuary home.

The Great Sandy Strait

This body of water between the mainland and World Heritage-listed
Fraser Island is home to one of the largest concentrations of bird
species in Australia. More than 300 species have been identified and
approximately 30,000 migratory trans-equatorial shorebirds use it as a
roosting area.

The Strait was declared a Ramsar site almost 10 years ago in
recognition of the importance of its wetlands area and is a dedicated
dugong sanctuary and home to many dolphins and turtles. All six marine
species of turtles are found here - the green, hawksbill, flatback,
Pacific Ridley, loggerhead and leatherback.

These are also the waters to which thousands of humpbacks and their
babies come each year for some time before their long swim back to the

Explore the Sandy Straits by houseboat or yacht or enjoy a whale
watching tour during the season from July to November with one of the
many operators. (

Fraser Island

Birds are the most common form of wildlife seen on the island, many of
which are migratory species who use it as a resting place as they fly
from Australia to their breeding grounds in Siberia. Fraser Island's
Bird Week is held every year in May.

In terms of mammals, the dingo is the most prevalent on the island and
these are regarded as the purest strain remaining in eastern
Australia. Bats, flying foxes, possums, sugar gliders, lizards, skinks
and turtles are also found in small numbers.

The local frogs are called 'acid frogs' as they have adapted to
tolerate the acidic conditions of the lakes and swamps.

Access to Fraser Island is by air, barge and passenger ferries.
Escorted tours depart daily from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach. A four
wheel drive is essential and can be hired from Hervey Bay, Kingfisher
Bay Resort and Rainbow Beach. A selection of accommodation options are
also available ranging from resort-style to camping.

Hervey Bay

A short drive from the centre of Fraser's Coast commercial hub is
Arkarra Lagoons, a natural paradise with hectares of subtropical
rainforest lagoons and meandering walking trails. Goannas, echidnas,
wallabies, kangaroos, possums and over 140 species of birds all live
happily here and it is a favourite spot for families and nature

The Botanic Gardens at Urangan are another popular bird-watching area.
Around 80 species have been identified in the area and the lagoons are
homes to many types of water birds.

Dolphins of Tin Can Bay

Locals in this little town to the south of Hervey Bay have enjoyed
regular visits from a small number of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins
for around 30 years.

Most mornings between 7am and 10am the dolphins swim into the boat
ramp and allow people to hand feed them. This wonderful experience is
free, but the fish you feed them must be purchased to ensure their
feeding is monitored.

For information on self-drive routes and tours in the Fraser Coast
area visit

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Explore Croatia and Slovenia’s unspoiled coast aboard SeaDream

SeaDream Yacht Club is offering a 7-night voyage aboard the SeaDream II on August 16, 2008 that will explore the Croatian and Slovenian Coast and end in Venice.

The yacht has 55 luxury bedrooms, all with unobstructed sea views, marble bathrooms, the latest entertainment systems and all mod cons. With a staff of 95, Thai Spa with 8 therapists, water sports marina, pool, Jacuzzi, a la carte restaurants inside and outside, SeaDream I & II have all the facilities of a state of the art boutique spa resort plus all the swank, the toys and the fun of being on a private motor yacht.

This voyage includes visits to two new destinations, the little known sea-side village of Piran in Slovenia and the walled town of Rovinj, in Croatia. It also includes an overnight in Venice.

The cruise costs US$5263 per person (that’s £2635).

The itinerary: Sail from Dubrovnik to Korcula, Hvar, Split, Rab, Rovinj (all Croatia), Piran (Slovenia) and Venice (full day then overnight before disembarking).

All meals aboard SeaDream II, plus complimentary open bar and champagne, wines are a popular online accommodation booking site which offers discounted rates for a broad range of hotels around Australia, from the quaint to the extraordinary, suiting everyone's tastes or interests, the everyday or the special occasion. The company actually started in the now managing director's laundry five years ago and has grown to become one of Australia's most popular ways of booking accommodation online. recently celebrated their fifth birthday and to celebrate, in an Australian first, the company has launched all 3000 accommodation properties on the popular online mapping sites, Google Maps and Multimap, to help celebrate the companies fifth birthday.

As you would know, travellers are becoming increasingly savvy at booking online and using online resources. Tools such as Google Maps, and Multimap have become popular ways to search for destinations with visited over four million times per month, alone.

This new online synergy allows those planning their next holiday or business trip to check out the surroundings of their desired destination - shopping malls, restaurants, function or exhibition centres, golf courses - and book directly through by clicking on the icon on the map!

They have also included PayPal on their website, which is just another convenient way for people to get the best deals on their travel and accommodation!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Costa Celebrates 60 Years of Cruising

Stepping aboard the mighty Costa Serena, an 114,500 ton superliner carrying nearly 3800 passengers on luxury Mediterranean cruises, it’s difficult to imagine the long and sometimes difficult history that brought the Costa name to this point.

Celebrating the pre-eminent Italian cruise line’s 60th anniversary this year is something of a modest announcement because the Costa maritime connection extends back to 1854 when the family bought their own vessel to expand their olive oil and textile enterprise.

The Costa fleet grew and travelled far and wide and just before the Second World War the family company owned eight ships. The fierce Mediterranean conflict all but destroyed the company, leaving them with just one vessel. However, demand placed upon the few remaining vessels was enormous and Italian shipbuilding – and Costa – were soon back in full swing with a new emphasis on passenger transport.

In 1947, the cruise line ‘Linea C.’ was born with the steam ship Maria C., quickly followed by Anna C.. Luisa C. and Franca C. were added to the fleet as well as new destinations in the Americas. During the fifties, Costa developed a reputation for lavishly decorated, art nouveau style ships that were much more than mere transportation. This reputation is continued to this day with all the current vessels. Costa Serena, the newest, is styled on classic mythology.

Jupiter, the god of light and skies, gives his name to the high-tech theatre; Apollo, the god of music and song adorns the main bar and dance floor; Venus, fittingly sponsors the beauty salon, while Giano, the Romans’ two-faced divinity presides ominously over the casino.

One of the significant points of difference in this latest Costa offering is the Samsara Spa and Wellness concept which includes premium cabins and staterooms, dining and spa access. The Samsara Spa itself is enormous, occupying over 2000 sqm, and acknowledging that the latest trends in land-based hospitality are extending offshore.

Launched amid great fanfare in Marseilles on May 19, 2007, Costa Serena is the latest in the hectic Costa build programme that will bring the fleet to 15 vessels by 2010. Following her slightly smaller sister, Costa Concordia, she will be followed by the similarly massive, Costa Luminosa in 2008.

But Costa’s expansion is not restricted to just building magnificent new vessels. Giacomo Costa, the family founder, would be astonished at the growth of his vast empire. A regional office now exists in Hong Kong, where the line’s current vessel, Costa Allegra, will be reinforced by the much larger, Costa Classica, in 2009 thanks to the runaway success of the company’s Asia cruise program.

To service the empire, communication, logistics, personnel and provisioning all take on a whole new scope. Even booking the thousands of new passengers and leisure cruisers requires vastly new systems.

In co-operation with leading Australian-based cruise agency,, enormous technological leaps have occurred in computer and on-line bookings.

Independent travellers can now log on to , check out cabin availabilities in real time and complete their booking and payment – instantly!

Cruisers who prefer to use a trusted travel agent can have their agent perform the task on their behalf and leave the agency with confirmed tickets in hand in the time it takes to order and drink a cappuccino.

Who said over-50s don’t like computers? were recently confirmed by Internet research firm, Hitwise Australia, as receiving the highest percentage of traffic in the Travel - Destinations and Accommodation industry from Australian Internet households in the 55-plus age bracket.

Book your next Costa cruise with the acknowledged leaders in on-line travel –

CruiseAgents and Costa in Australian First

Australian on-line cruise wholesaler, CruiseAgents, have reinforced their position at the forefront of technological innovation with the release this week of realtime cabin selection and booking.

Travel agents using the CruiseAgents system can now check availabilities, choose a cabin and book immediately with the client paying in Australian dollars and confirming their Costa cruise on the spot without waiting for frustrating callbacks or holding on the phone.

“There were a lot of late nights getting the two systems to co-operate, “ said Brett Dudley, managing director of CruiseAgents, “but the result is a very exciting innovation and a first for the industry that I’m sure will have other cruise lines looking closely at our process.”

Premier Italian-flagged cruise line, Costa Cruises, entered into a Preferred Sales Agent (PSA) agreement with CruiseAgents in early 2007 with the aim of increasing the growing brand’s presence in Australia as well as offering a booking alternative for both agents and the cruising public.

“Our experience is that cruising clients have a tight relationship with their travel agents, often relying heavily on their advice and industry knowledge. Our new system, I believe, will not only save time and money, but strengthen the bond of trust between agents and clients by providing a vastly enhanced and streamlined service that will really be appreciated by travellers. Clients are bound to be impressed by their agents’ ability to complete their booking so quickly and efficiently,” concluded Dudley.

CruiseAgents invites travel agents to log into the new system at and see for themselves how quick and easy it will be to book their next Costa cruise.

For further information, please contact CruiseAgents on 1300 55 88 64 or e-mail

About CruiseAgents:

Sydney-based CruiseAgents launched in June 2002 and has grown to become Australia's premier online cruise wholesaler and fulfilment specialist. CruiseAgents has been awarded many accolades and continue to lead in cruise travel technology. Cruiseagents is a member of the Travel Compensation Fund.

About Costa Cruises

Costa Cruises is Italy and Europe’s number one cruise vacation line. For the past 60 years its ships have plied the seas of the world, offering the best in Italian style, hospitality and cuisine and providing dream holidays with the utmost in terms of fun and relaxation. In 2007 over 1.1 million Guests chose to go cruising with Costa, a record for the European cruise industry. The Company’s 12 fleet members, each with her own distinctive characteristics and unique style, all fly the Italian flag and sail to 250 destinations in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, South America, the United Arab Emirates, the Far East and the Indian Ocean. 5 more vessels have been commissioned and will enter service by 2012. Costa Cruises has been certified by RINA (Italian Shipping Register) with the BEST4, an integrated system of voluntary certification of corporate compliance with the highest standards governing social accountability (SA 8000, issued in 2001), environment (UNI EN ISO 14001, 1996), safety (OHSAS 18001, 1999) and quality (UNI EN ISO 9001, 2000). All Costa’s ships have been awarded RINA’s voluntary “Green Star” notation based on the highest environmental protection standards. Costa Cruises is also an official partner of the WWF for the protection of the marine ecoregions of the Mediterranean, the Greater Antilles and Brazil.

Around the World with Cunard

Roderick Eime

Many still believed the world was flat when Ferdinand Magellan set out from Spain in search of the Spice Islands of Indonesia in 1519. Three years later, with Magellan himself dead and just one ship and 18 men remaining, the first known circumnavigation of the world was completed.

Such is the allure of adventure and exploration that today, nearly five hundred years later, the thrill of a journey around the world by sea is just as intoxicating and exciting as it was then.

The great ocean voyages are the ones that have defined us as a race and a species.

Perhaps the pinnacle of ancient maritime architecture were the enormous Chinese Ming-dynasty treasure ships of the 15th Century. These wooden leviathans dwarfed the petty craft sailed by Magellan, da Gama and even Cook with the largest of these vessels measuring some 150 metres, over five times more than Cook’s Endeavour. It is now known that vast fleets of these huge ships, and their supporting entourage, ranged throughout the Indian Ocean, stamping China’s colonial authority on lands as far away as South Africa, perhaps even further.

It wasn’t until the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of iron and steel before this mark could be surpassed. In 1858, after enormous technical and financial difficulties, the SS Great Eastern was launched. At 211 metres, she was the largest ship ever built and was designed to carry as many as 4000 passengers on transatlantic voyages. Her size was her undoing and after a series of accidents and mishaps, she was finally broken up in 1890.

The 20th Century saw the great ocean liners come of age and the stories of RMS Titanic, Britannic and others are well known. But the story of Cunard’s RMS Laconia (pic left) has almost faded into insignificance. In 1923, she became the first passenger vessel to circumnavigate the globe, taking 130 days and visiting 22 ports. Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson at Wallsend-on-Tyne, she was launched in April 1921 with a gross tonnage of 19,860 tons and a length of 183m. For a relatively small ship by today’s standards, she still managed to carry around 2200 passengers and was one of the first Cunard vessels to exploit “cruising” for pleasure’s sake.

Cruising for pleasure and indeed, world cruising, is now almost commonplace. Yet the vessels undertaking today’s voyages are anything but and are virtual palaces of the sea. Without doubt, the most prestigious world cruiser is Cunard’s newest Queen, the Queen Mary 2. She preserves all that is traditional and romantic in a great ocean liner without compromising luxury or prestige.

On January 2, 2009, Queen Victoria (pic right), currently Cunard’s newest vessel, embarks on her World Tour, departing Southampton for a round trip of 109 nights.

Hot on her heels, Queen Mary 2, leaves Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 13 January 2009 for a 92-night “Epic Expedition”, culminating in New York on 14 April after visiting 28 ports.

Even if you don’t have the time or the inclination for such a singular undertaking, cruise sectors are available between many of the major ports, allowing you to indulge your passion for ocean cruising in shorter segments.

Regular Cunard Inner Circle award winning agency,, consistently offers the best value packages for any of the famous queens. This time next year, Queen Mary 2 returns to Sydney as part of her World Tour and presents the best opportunity to sample her many charms at affordable prices. Right now, is offering an unprecedented 50 per cent off the Sydney to Singapore sector with staterooms beginning at just $4999.00. Almost unbelievably, this package includes 16 luxurious nights aboard QM2 as she sails the romantic Orient. To complete the scene, the price includes one night at the iconic Raffles Hotel and airfare home. Other sectors are available too. Imagine a 25-night Pacific Ocean crossing from Santiago to Sydney or a 49-night Southampton to Sydney via the Panama Canal. These magnificent voyages are no longer a thing of fantasy. Contact on 1300 369 848 or visit for all the details on any Cunard Queen voyage.

Alaska: Insider's Passage

Roderick Eime

Bordered by stunning mountain ranges with dense forest to the shoreline and calm, deep waterways, the Inside Passage is a 1500 kilometre waterway extending from Seattle Washington to Skagway in Alaska.

Most commonly claimed by the Alaskans because of its enormous tourism appeal, the sheltered waterways were originally explored by early navigators as a way to escape the dreadful weather in the Pacific Northeast. Very soon tales of this most agreeable land and the favourable passage were widespread in maritime circles.

Alaska’s portion encompasses over 1000 islands, 24,000 kilometres of shoreline and thousands of coves and bays, while British Columbia’s share is of similar extent.

Today, during the northern summer, the seaborne traffic through the passage gets pretty hectic. Enormous cruise ships, each carrying some 2000 passengers, loaf along the tranquil waters, soaking up the crisp air and eye-popping scenery. Stopping occasionally at the little villages and towns, the enterprising locals are eager to embrace the cashed-up tourists.

Alaskan Inside Passage cruises are overwhelmingly popular, easy on the motion-sensitive tummy, and overflowing with magnificent scenery and fun shore excursions. But the big ship experience barely scratches the surface of the wondrous nature and wilderness possibilities hidden away.

For example, one of the most rewarding wild bear encounters can be had from the little hamlet of Wrangell, normally a two-hour whistle-stop on a cruise ship itinerary. Jump ship for a day or two and stay in one of the comfortable B&Bs or inns dotted around town. Call into Wilma and Jim Leslie’s office right on the wharf and book the Anan Bear Experience. A full day adventure, you’ll be whisked out by jet boat to the unfenced sanctuary about an hour out of town and be ogling wild bears fishing for salmon in no time while bald eagles weal overhead in swarms. Breathtaking.

Otherwise check out some of the small ship, adventure cruise options available from such operators as CruiseWest and American Safari Cruises. These vessels carry as few as a dozen passengers into some of the most remote and secluded nooks and crannies along the passage where you can get up close (but not too close) to calving glaciers while escorted by pods of orcas. Fishin’ folk will also enjoy the famous halibut and salmon fishing that abounds throughout the passage.

Apart from the enormous variety and scope of natural attractions, there is a refreshingly new perspective on indigenous tourism in Alaska. “First nation” families run many of the museums and guided tours in and around the little towns like Petersburg, Ketchikan and Wrangell. Be sure to see the museum and Chief Shakes house in Wrangell for an insight into the life of Alaska’s first residents.

Other activities to consider include guided trekking, kayaking, flightseeing and camping. Experienced kayakers can enjoy some of the best open water and river kayaking anywhere in the world, but wilderness paddling and camping needs to be taken seriously. The water is cold and the wildlife can be, well, wild!

But all this high adrenalin adventure may be more than you bargained for. Another popular way of seeing the Passage and the little communities that thrive there is aboard the Alaska Marine Highway. This regular and comfortable ferry service binds the otherwise isolated townships into one large community. It’s easy to bounce from one island and town to another, lazily enjoying the local attractions and atmosphere without enduring the tourist throngs that invade occasionally when the liners are in town.

By all means take that big ship cruise and enjoy all the comforts and facilities on that glorious, 5-star vessel, but take time out to explore and discover Alaska’s Inside Passage at your own pace away from the commercial frenzy – that’s where you’ll find the real Alaska and the greatest rewards.

New Country Lodge

The Priory Country Lodge - BothwellTasmania’s newest fishing lodge is to open in June (2008). After a year of renovations the circa 1847 house has been reborn with just four luxurious bedrooms.

The Priory Country Lodge is in historic of Bothwell, one hour north of Hobart. Bothwell is a gateway to the central highlands and fly fishing country. The Priory is a sister property of Hobart’s acclaimed Islington hotel.

Beyond the bedrooms the Priory has a library, hunt room, dining, reading and movie rooms, a barbecue area and an outdoor infrared sauna. The manager lives off site but is the property’s host and chef.

The Priory offers a refined country experience. It is for travellers who are looking to blend luxury with hunting and fishing. Priory guests will also have ready access to the oldest golf course in Australia, whisky tasting at the exclusive NANT estate, private tours and historical walks.

The Priory costs $550 a night per room. All rooms can be yours for $2000 a night. Breakfast and dinner are included in the tariff.

To arrange a familiarisation visit to The Priory Country Lodge contact Nicholas Parkinson-Bates:
Tel: 0415 431 016 Email:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rare Polar Voyage to World's Largest Nature Preserve

For travelers looking to get far off the beaten track this summer, a rare Arctic expedition may fit the bill. “All voyages to our planet's polar regions are special, but the Arctic Islands expedition visits places that few other people will ever see,” says Pat Shaw, President of Quark Expeditions.

“This voyage is offered only once or twice a decade.” The 2008 Arctic Islands voyage runs from July 21 to August 6. The expedition will include shore landings in: • Franz Josef Land, a former Soviet "national security zone," off-limits to foreigners until recently

• Svalbard archipelago, the world's northernmost inhabited land (land that humans share with polar bears) • Northeast Greenland National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve larger than the state of Texas Over the course of the voyage, we will visit known habitat of polar bears, whales, seals, Arctic foxes, walrus and reindeer. The trip includes an overnight stop in Helsinki, Finland, a beautiful and intimate city known as "the Belle of the Baltics."

Rates for this 17-day expedition start at US$19,500 per person for a standard twin cabin. About the Ship: This expedition is offered on Kapitan Khlebnikov, a helicopter-equipped, polar-class icebreaker. Khlebnikov carries only 108 guests.

The ship's two helicopters are used for ice reconnaissance, aerial sightseeing and shore excursions. Between landings, guests can socialize in the ship's lounge and bar, heated indoor swimming pool, exercise room and sauna. About the Operator: Connecticut-based Quark Expeditions is the world leader in polar adventure travel. Quark operated the first-ever passenger voyage to the North Pole, and the first full circumnavigation of Antarctica. Cabins can be booked through Quark Expeditions by calling 1-800-356-5699 or +1-203-852-5580.

Read more about the Arctic Islands itinerary at

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Go for a 'green getaway' in Townsville

Travelling with an eco-conscience is easy in Queensland's tropical Townsville region, discovers Jessica Reid.

Not only does the area boast Australia's first carbon neutral tourism business, but it is also home to many other operators that are raising the bar for 'green' getaways.

Situated just 8km from Townsville, Magnetic Island (or 'Maggie' as it is affectionately known), is a must visit destination on any eco-friendly holiday to the region.

The island is predominantly national park so it's no wonder there are a number of operators dedicated to preserving its natural habitat, which includes 24km of walking tracks, 23 bays and beaches and around 40km of coastline.

Twenty minute transfers to the island are via the advanced eco-accredited Sunferries vessel.

For advanced eco-tourism accommodation on Maggie, head to the multi-award-winning Bungalow Bay Koala Village, one of the few places in Australia where you can still cuddle a koala. The resort is nestled amongst national park and is a short walk from the beach. Visitors are invited to take part in one of the resort's guided walks to learn about the surrounding bushland and environment, or why not enjoy a champagne bush tucker breakfast to meet all sorts of animals including crocodiles, koalas, birds and lizards?

To discover the waters around Maggie without damaging the surrounding, fragile Great Barrier Reef, there are two options.

Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks is Townsville's first tourism operator to achieve advanced ecotourism status. Navigate your way around the island's stunning bays lined with huge granite boulders on a guided morning or sunset tour while learning about the region's wildlife, ecology and history.

The region is also a great access point to the SS Yongala Wreck, renowned as one of the best dive sites in the world. Adrenalin Dive is an eco-accredited company that picks guests up from Townsville and Magnetic Island for day trips to the coral-encrusted wreck, which attracts a prolific variety of colourful marine life and is an unforgettable swim for novice and experienced divers alike.

How about staying at Hidden Valley Cabins, Australia's first 100 per cent solar powered and carbon neutral tourism operator? The award-winning resort, situated 90 minutes' drive from the city, offers accommodation in quaint Solar Eco Cabins and its new Interpretive Centre explains how solar energy is used to power the resort, saving 78 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The family-run business also operates Hidden Valley Tours, a three day trip incorporating hiking, fishing, swimming and sightseeing in the Paluma and Hidden Valley regions. A highlight of the trip is a visit to the spectacular Wallaman Falls – Australia's largest single drop waterfall. All accommodation, meals and tours are included.

Heading north again, Hinchinbrook Island is the perfect destination for an eco adventure. The world's largest National Park island, Hinchinbrook is home of the internationally-acclaimed Thorsborne Trail, a 32km trek through mountainous tropical terrain. Stay on the mainland at the beautifully-appointed and recently-renovated Port Hinchinbrook Resort, or stay on the island at Hinchinbrook Resort in unique 'tree house" style accommodation. The surrounding waterways can be explored by canoe, kayak, snorkelling or diving, and be sure to take your fishing rod for some of Australia's best fishing.

Getting there

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue fly direct to Townsville from Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney. Other travel options to Townsville include the QR Tilt Train, or a Greyhound-Australia coach.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Guide to the Southern Skies

Orion Expedition Cruises

Ancient legends and modern science of the Southern Skies revealed

If you are interested in the enormity of the night skies but don't yet know a black hole from a white dwarf, or simply can't find your zodiac sign among the millions of stars in the night sky then this Orion 'Guide to the Southern Skies' expedition is the voyage for you.

In addition to the highlights of exploring the East and West Kimberley coast this 11 night voyage from Darwin to Broome will have a special astronomical focus when Professor Fred Watson, astronomer in charge of the Anglo Australian observatory at Coonabarabran, and Professor David Malin, astronomical photographer, writer and lecturer, join Orion's guests to reveal the ancient legends and modern science of the universe.

Far from being a series of dry academic lectures, these popular presenters will explain in layman's terms the wonders of the southern night skies from the perfect vantage point onboard the expedition cruise ship Orion. Typically crystal clear evenings, so often enjoyed in the remote Kimberley at this time of year, make this a must-do for anyone interested in the science and mythology of the night skies.

By contrast, dawn reveals the rich ochre of the Kimberley coast and the start of another day of exploration. Ancient aboriginal artworks are visited and revealed by Orion's expedition team and Orion's Zodiacs take guests between rugged gorges and up rivers, home to salt water crocodiles, to experience waterfalls and the wonder of the Kimberley close up.


Did you know? Orion, in astronomy, is a prominent constellation able to be seen from both northern and southern hemispheres, identified in Greek mythology with the hunter – you may know the star grouping as the plough, big dipper, saucepan, shopping trolley or Orion's belt.

2009 is the International Year of Astronomy

Join Professors Fred Watson and David Malin on Orion Expedition Cruises' 21 June 2009 Kimberley Guide to the Southern Skies voyage between Darwin and Broome visiting West Timor (Kera Island), Roti and Kupang, Wyndham (for the Bungle Bungles and El Questro), King George River and Falls, Bigge Island, Hunter River (for Mitchell Falls), Montgomery Reef and Raft Point.

Fares Guide:

11-night Kimberley East and West 'Guide to the Southern Skies' departs Darwin 21st June, 2009.

Fares begin from A$8,430 per person for an ocean view Category B stateroom

Suites begin from A$11,625 per person for a Junior Suite

Owners’ Suites with French Balcony are A$17,655 per person

When Airships Conquered the Sky

Zeppelin's First Flight Around the World

It is doubtful whether the jubilant crowd in Friedrichshafen that greeted the completion of the 20-day round-the-world trip by the LZ 127 airship on 4 September 1929 saw the event as a milestone in individual freedom of travel. At that time, their joy almost certainly had more to do with the fact that the town on the banks of Lake Constance had been the birthplace of the idea for that unique journey and the first ever circuit of the Earth by an airship. The airship pioneer Hugo Eckener – it was he who had taken over the life's work of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin – and the LZ 127 airship he piloted accomplished epoch-making achievements which created new realities in global air travel. As a result, he left a lasting mark on an era in which German pioneering spirit attained world renown in the field of technology. The Atlantic crossings of the zeppelins, the flight around the world and the journey to the Arctic in 1931 remain an unforgettable chapter in the history of aviation which established new dimensions in passenger transport. Those days saw the beginnings of a revolution in transport which was to conquer the air in years to come.

The history of the airship and its flights – and in particular of the first ever round-the-world flight in 20 days – is exciting and real. The idea for such an undertaking was primarily expressed in the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg and his servant Passepartout who notionally rounded the world in 80 days by train, boat and elephant in 1872 on the pages of Jules Verne's famous novel. But what is the rescue of the princess Aouda by Fogg and his companions against the true heroics of an airship engineer? At an altitude of between 200 and 500 meters, which was the height at which airships usually flew, they had to climb down an open ladder into the engine gondola and stand watch there for at least two hours. The journey to Tokyo, for instance, lasted 101 hours, which meant the engineers changing places over 50 times, each time climbing up and down the ladder regardless of the wind and weather at the time.

The LZ 127 airship had been named the "Graf Zeppelin" by his daughter Hella on 8 July 1928 – the day that would have been the late Count's 90th birthday. In nine years it spent a total of around 18,000 hours in the air, initially powered by five V12 Maybach VL1 engines, traveling 1,695,272 kilometers and carrying over 13,000 passengers. From August 1931 to 1937, the "Graf Zeppelin" made a total of 74 trips to South America and Rio de Janeiro as part of a regular service for passengers, freight and mail. "All that is great is educational as soon as we are aware of it", wrote Johann Wolfgang Goethe over 100 years before to his confidant and secretary, Johann Peter Eckermann. And that is particularly true of airship travel. Because the pursuit of extreme lightness of design not only placed great demands on the Zeppelin factory and its engine supplier, Maybach, but also on the close on 100 subcontractors who were challenged to achieve genuine milestones in quality and reliability by the technology of airship construction and were committed to those standards. By that time, if not before, "Made in Germany" had come to represent quality of the highest levels. And that was an achievement in which, ultimately, the zeppelins played no small part. It was the airship that was ultimately responsible for the creation of the 12-cylinder engine as cars provided no impetus for the development of large-scale engines. Thus, once again, the engine was the motor for changes in the world and in people's freedom of movement. Travel had for generations and centuries been the privilege of the powerful and high-born. When ordinary mortals set out on a journey, it was usually their last – in a simple carriage out to a field. It is no accident that the stories of great journeys in the past remain popular today. Think of the Three Kings from the East, of Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, or Fernando Magellan, the first man to circumnavigate the Earth, of the tough seafaring Norsemen, the Vikings, who sailed as far as North America in their resilient and battle-tested rowing boats. Traveling across country, over water and through the air is one of mankind's most ancient desires, one which has triggered an infinite variety of impulses and explorations and ceaselessly occupied many great thinkers and minds.

The wheel has always been the symbol of motion and the wing the symbol of freedom and escape from earthly constraints. That pursuit of mobility, with which thoughts of personal freedom were naturally associated has also always held within it a risk for life and limb. It was never without danger to venture into new elements or travel to strange countries. And perhaps that was the reason why progress in that area was made in such small steps for such a long time. It was left to men like Hugo Eckener, the obsessive airship engineer, and the equally obsessed engine designer Karl Maybach to create new directions and visionary breakthroughs in travel on land, water and in the air. On 6 July this year, it was 125 years since the birth of Karl Maybach. The airship engines, the first 12-cylinders built in Germany, undoubtedly rank among his greatest achievements. And even today, more than 40 years after his death, some of his design innovations remain fundamental and indispensable to the modern diesel engine.

Dieter Mutard

The Costa Cruises Story

Text: Costa Cruises Postcard Scans:

The story behind Costa Crociere is a story of entrepreneurial success.

It was established in 1854 under the name of the founder “Giacomo Costa fu Andrea” and was so successful in the trading of fabrics and olive oil between the markets of Genoa and Sardinia that it soon set up a fleet of ships transporting goods all over the world; and by the end of the last century its goods reached far-away shores such as Australia, where the constant flow of Italian emigrants generated a market for national foodstuffs.

Costa was specialized in the purchase of raw olive oil in the Mediterranean countries for export overseas.

In the first decade of the twentieth century Costa was in a position to enter the naval field: in 1924 the small steamship Ravenna was used to supply raw materials to markets in the western Mediterranean and in 1928 the Langano was added to the fleet.

The thirties saw the start of the tradition of naming the ships after members of the family: Federico (’31), Eugenio and Enrico (’34), Antonietta, Beatrice and Giacomo (’35).

At the start of the Second World War the fleet boasted eight ships for a total of 27,534 tons.

Only the Langano survived the war, but Costa took up its shipbuilding activities again, building and buying other ships for coastal trading.

The destruction of the Italian passenger fleet, the growing demand for passenger traffic, the economic crisis and the flood of emigrants across the ocean drew the attention of the far-sighted Costa family, and in 1947 they inaugurated a new passenger service, first class - equipped with air conditioning - and second class. It was the steam ship Maria C. that began to meet the first demand for passenger transport, quickly followed by the Anna C. (pic right), the first Italian transatlantic to cross the western Atlantic after the war. In 1947 Giacomo Costa fu Andrea became “Linea C.”.

The commercial services towards North America were inaugurated in 1948 with the art nouveau style ship Maria C., soon flanked by the Luisa C. In 1953 the Franca C. opened new routes towards Venezuela and the Antilles.

The launching of luxurious, new ships, equipped with air conditioning in first and second class and with comfortable and elegant rooms, impeccable service offering hospitality, comfort and the best of traditional Mediterranean cuisine denoted the unmistakable Italian style.

A style which reached its zenith in the fittings, the furnishings and the architectural styles.

Even Giò Ponti, director of the magazine Domus, turned his attention to naval matters and mentioned the architectural and decorative aspects of the Costa fleet. A tradition which continues today.

The ships were divided into three classes (first, second and tourist), the entertainment and the attractions for the passengers, whether adults or children, are still a characteristic of the Costa fleet which has been continuously growing since the fifties.

Bianca C., Enrico C., Andrea C.(pic left), Flavia, Fulvia and Carla C. were refurbished in the fifties to offer something more than a mere means of transport. Until the inauguration of the first ship commissioned by Costa from the Genoa shipyard Ansaldo.The Federico Costa, still divided into three classes, was equipped with restaurants and unusually shaped swimming pools.

In 1959 Costa realized the first ship in the world completely dedicated to pleasure cruises of 7 and 14 days in the United States and the Caribbean: the Franca C., flanked in the winter months by the Anna Costa, which proposed 3 or 4-day mini cruises starting from Port Everglades to Bahamas. The early 1960’s were triumphal and the by then customary routes in South America or the Caribbean were joined by cruises in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, right down to the Straits of Magellan and the Antarctic. The success of the Linea C was such that in 1964 the Company ordered the construction of the Eugenio C. Immediately christened “the ship of the future” thanks to its fittings and its elegance.

A ship no longer formally divided into three classes, but conceived as a single deck, onto which all the lounges face. A clear indication that the Eugenio C. (pic left) would be totally dedicated to cruising, the choice for the future of Costa Armatori. In 1968 the first ship exclusively used by passengers, the Franca C. inaugurated the formula of “fly and sail”, destined to revolutionize the conception of holidays and offering holiday-makers with little time to spare the opportunity to take short cruises in distant parts of the world. Once again the evolution of tourism has proved Costa right, during the seventies the fleet was increased with ships leased or bought outright.

Particularly noteworthy were the splendid twins Daphne and Danae, who sailed the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in winter, with trips to Alaska, Scandinavia, South America, Africa and the Far East.

During the eighties the idea of the ship as a floating hotel became increasing accepted.

The ships became holiday resorts, the division between the classes disappeared completely, the cabins tended to become more uniform and the places of entertainment multiplied: bars, theatres, casino, discotheque. Everything was available to everyone. Building on the foundations the cruising industry in general and Costa Armatori in particular prepared for the great leap in quality represented by the founding of Costa Crociere in 1986.

But once again, the ships are the stars of the enormous development of the company, from the Costa Riviera, completely refurbished in 1985 and in 1998, to the ships built in the nineties; the Costa Marina, the Costa Allegra, the Costa Classica, the Costa Romantica and in 1996, the splendid Costa Victoria.

Not to mention the Mermoz and the Costa Playa (later sold), purchased in 1993 when Paquet Cruises of the French group Chargeurs & Accor was dismantled.

In 1997 the company was purchased by the American firm Carnival (50%) and the English firm Airtours (50%), increasing the investment capacity of the Genoese company while maintaining its identity as an Italian company.

The growth of Costa Crociere has never stopped. In November 1999 the technical launching of the Costa Atlantica, the new flagship christened in the wonderful setting of Riva ai Sette Martiri in Venice in July of 2000, opens a new page in the company history.

The Italian flag returns, after about ten years, to wave on the yards of Costa’s ships and the company introduces a new concept never seen before. With its dimensions, which makes her the biggest passenger ship in the history of Italian maritime, the Costa Atlantica (pic left) opens the path to the new company development guidelines: comfort cabins like grand hotel rooms, most of with a balcony, a series of unforgettable ambiences and atmospheres which will attract new passengers to the cruise experience.

In August 2000, Costa Crociere announced the order of the Atlantica’s twin ship, the Costa Mediterranea.

At the end of September 2000, The Carnival Corporation, having purchased all shares from Airtours, became the sole shareholder of Costa Crociere, Genoa.

This change gives a further incentive to the Development Program of Costa and confirmed a new deal with Fincantieri in Genoa Sestri Ponente to build two new 102,600 ton cruise ships and with a total passenger capacity of 3,470, the Costa Fortuna and the Costa Magica, for delivery at the end of 2003 and 2004. The expansion of the company has been possible by the addition in June 2001 of another ship, the Costa Tropicale, originally belonging to Carnival Cruise Lines, which was completely refurbished in the style of other Costa ships. Moreover, in March 2001, Costa announced the purchase of the ship Westerdam from the American sister company Holland America Line, which entered in service at the end of April 2002 under the name of Costa Europa.

The Costa Mediterranea, twin sister of the Costa Atlantica, was delivered to the company on May 22, 2003. November 14, 2003 marked the arrival of the Costa Fortuna. The Palacrociere, Savona's new cruise terminal, jointly financed and managed by the company, was opened on November 24, 2003. In January 2004 Costa Crociere announced the signing of a letter of intention with Fincantieri for the construction in Sestri Ponente of another new ship with a tonnage of 114,500 tons and with a total passenger capacity of 3,780, the Costa Concordia, which will go into service in the summer of 2006. On October 29th, 2004 the Costa Magica, twin sister of the Costa Fortuna, was delivered. In the same year Costa Crociere S.p.A. acquired the brand AIDA Cruises, the cruise leader in Germany. In January 2005 Costa Crociere announces the order to Fincantieri for a twin sister ship of the Costa Concordia, the Costa Serena (pic above left), which will be ready in spring 2007, and transfer of the Costa Tropicale to the P&O Australia brand in October 2005. The growth programme of the fleet continued in December 2005 with the announcement of a third sister ship of the Costa Concordia and of the Costa Serena, named the Costa Pacifica, to be delivered by Spring 2009.

In 2006 Costa announces its expansion in Asia Pacific and in Dubai, confirming its international character. In June 2006 Costa placed an order with Fincantieri for two new 92,700-ton ships to be built at the Fincantieri Yard in Marghera, the Costa Luminosa (pic right) and its sister ship, which will come into service in Spring 2009 and 2010. In July 2006, the Costa Concordia came into service and in February 2007, Costa announced new exclusive itineraries from Mauritius to the Seychelles, Kenya and Madagascar. In April 2007, the new “Palacruceros” terminal, owned and financed by the company, was inaugurated and in May 2007, the Costa Serena was delivered. On July 17, Costa Crociere reached a historical record in Europe: 1,000,000 Guests booked in only one year. The announced joint venture between Costa Crociere S.p.A. and Orizonia Corporaciòn was approved for the creation of the brand “Iberocruceros”, belonging to the Costa group and operating in the Spanish market. In October the order to Fincantieri for 2 further ships of the “Concordia” class was announced.

Costa thus enters the third millennium with an expansion program that will enable it to maintain its European leadership in a fast growing market. The fleet that will fly the Italian merchant marine flag in years to come will be even more modern, offering Italian-style hospitality and an unparalleled showcase of Italy's artistic trends.

Costa Crociere has been part of Carnival Corporation & plc, the world leader in the cruise sector, since April 2003. AIDA Cruises, the leading brand in the German speaking market, with four ships in service and five on order, and Iberocruceros, operating in the Spanish market, with two ships in service and one on order, both belong to the Costa Crociere S.p.A. Group, completing a total of 18 ships in service and 11 on order. All ships fly the Italian flag.

Sunday, April 20, 2008



david ellis

SO you want to hire a train so you and your mates can see Italy in style.

And a palace too, for a slap-up birthday bash along the way – complete
of course with your own orchestra and a fireworks show in a cosy
little Italian bay below as you celebrate the big day.

And to finish, when you get back to Rome, you'll expect a few-score
chauffeur-driven Mercedes on hand at the station to whisk the lot of
you to the airport in the style to which you've become accustomed.


Not if you talk to Francesca Alberghini, a blonde dynamo with
Rome-based company DDP Incentive Management who creates la Dolce Vita
for the well-heeled (and the sometimes odd-ball) as easily as a
magician plucks rabbit from a hat.

Plus she's got a few hundred other tricks up her sleeve: how about a
horse and carriage ride around Rome or Florence, Venice or Naples? Or
being serenaded by a children's choir at a lakeside picnic – or taking
a side trip to a dozen of Italy's most famous cities and sights?

Or simply settling down to a white-glove Pasta, Pizza and Wine party.

Ms Alberghini, as you've probably begun to appreciate, is not your
ordinary party organiser. She's been in the special events business
thirty years, after joining her dad in their hometown Naples where
he'd set up a business to look after the whims and fancies of those
wanting something really different in the way of corporate or private
family functions and celebrations.

Sadly Egypt's closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to 1975 proved not
only a mortal blow to the Alberghini business, but to many others in
the travel industry in Naples as well.

"After Dad's business folded we moved to Rome to start all over again,
but Dad died just a year later," Francesca says. "I was only 20 at the
time and Mum and I tried to keep things going, but we lasted just
another year."

Francesca joined another company and specialised in looking after
corporate and private clients wanting something unique and unusual
during celebratory cruises and other special holiday or company

And five years ago she switched to DDP Incentive Management where her
skills at weaving together the threads of the seemingly impossible,
and at times the outlandish, blossomed.

To Francesca there's no such word as No.

When an Aussie businessman chartered the mega motor-cruiser SeaDream
II for a week out of Rome with nearly a hundred mates a couple of
years back for his 50th birthday, his wife decided fireworks would be
nice to mark the Big Night.

So SeaDream Yacht Club asked Francesca to organise a barge-load of the
things, and as the birthday banquet unfolded on the deck of SeaDream
II in Portofino Harbour, guests gasped as the pyrotechnic spectacular
lit not only the whole of Portofino, but the surrounding "millionaires
row" Tigullio Gulf as well with ten minutes of smoke, flare, flash and

On another occasion a romantic Frenchman wanted 15,000 fresh roses
placed in every public area and in every stateroom on that same
SeaDream II during his week-long Mediterranean charter.

And another charterer wanted 10,000 rose petals scattered around the
pool deck as his friends came aboard to join him for his special week.
And yet another asked that his guests be led from cocktails to dinner
each evening by two turbaned Indians in traditional dress who'd been
brought aboard purely for these evening rituals.

Francesca remains totally unfazed by the many requests she receives,
saying that Italy stimulates in people emotions they often conceal at
home. "Our culture, history, gastronomic delights, arts and fashion –
all of them so much 'The Italian Way of Life' – inspire visitors to
express their true feelings,

"We're simply catering to their requests, no matter how unusual or out
of the ordinary they may seem," she says.

And it's not just the out of the ordinary: Francesca and DDP Incentive
Management also organise everything from seemingly mundane airport to
hotel limousine transfers, or booking a restaurant for a special

"We strive to turn every traveller's dream into a reality," Francesca says.

If there's anything from that simple airport transfer, to your own
train, a stay in a palace, 15,000 roses or other touches of la Dolce
Vita, contact this bubbly dynamo on



SHE may have a fleet of close-on a hundred Mercedes at her disposal,
but Francesca Alberghini still likes to scoot around Rome on two
wheels – here she shows the writer some of the Eternal City's

UP in smoke: Francesca organised this spectacular fireworks display
for an Aussie businessman who chartered SeaDream II out of Rome to
celebrate his 50th birthday with a hundred family and mates.

PART of the luxury fleet – DDP Incentive Management can get you one
Mercedes-Benz for an airport transfers, or a hundred for the company
or family Mediterranean fling.

(Photos: DDP Incentive Management; David Ellis)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Antarctica is most probably the ultimate exploration destination and now with the addition to their fleet of Prince Albert II, Silversea can offer 10 -16 day all inclusive, luxury, exploration cruising to the South America and the Antarctic.

Fresh from a complete transformation in a European shipyard, Prince Albert II will commence its inaugural season in June 2008 with a season of Arctic voyages. Of most interest to experienced travellers, who like their exploration cruising to come with a few luxuries, will be the Silversea Antarctic season, which commences in Ushuaia, Argentina in mid November 2008.

Itineraries are unstructured by design, allowing the ship to stay longer on sites of particular interest, or make slight detours whenever weather, nature or mere curiosity dictates. A fleet of zodiacs takes guest up close to the spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Prince Albert II will sail from Ushuaia in Argentina from mid November 2008 until late February 2009. Double occupancy 11 day Antarctic cruise fares in November and December 2008 start from US$6798 per person*. Single guests are catered for too on selected itineraries, with special introductory reduced single supplement fares starting from US$.......* including 25 percent Silver Savings. Space is still available on voyages from Ushuaia on 11 and 30 November and 11 or 22 December. Christmas in Antarctica anyone?

Designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both the earth’s polar regions, the Prince Albert II boasts a strengthened hull, with the highest Lloyd’s register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger ships.

The difference with Silversea Expeditions is that they offer “all inclusive, luxury exploration cruising”. Each luxuriously appointed suite has ocean views and offers the largest average size accommodation of any expedition ship. Some suites even have private vernadas or French balconies. The marble bathrooms feature full baths and in the gourmet restaurants, the menus are designed by Relais and Chateaux with complimentary wines, champagnes and spirits served throughout the ship. With a staff to guest ratio of 1:1 the service standards will be outstanding. Expert naturalists and special guest lecturers will enhance each sailing.

For more information please contact Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or toll free 1300 306 872 (Australia) or 0800 701 427 (New Zealand), or visit

Silversea Cruises is recognized as an innovator in the luxury segment, offering guests large-ship amenities aboard four intimate vessels, Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, and Silver Whisper, all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II in 2008, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents. Silversea has for the past four consecutive years been named Best Cruise Line by readers of Australia’s Luxury Travel and Style magazine. For nine consecutive years, Silversea has been named "Number One Small Ship Line” in the Readers' Choice survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the USA and in 2007 was the only cruise line named in the UK edition of Condé Nast Traveller’s “Top 100 Luxury Travel Experiences” at the same time topping the Small Cruise Line award for the eighth time. Silversea has been selected as "World's Best Small Ship Line” in the US Travel + Leisure readers' poll for the past eight years.

Going Green in the Galapagos

Ecoventura is the pacesetter in responsible tourism to the Galapagos Islands. Through its core commitment to the ongoing sustainability of this fragile and at-threat ecosystem, Ecoventura ( is a case study for communities and regions seeking to discourage the negative effects of irresponsible tourism.

We invite our media friends to take a close look at this one small company that is “walking the talk” of sustainable tourism. Through an initiative of President and Owner Santiago Dunn, Ecoventura has spent upwards of $500,000 since 1999 to refurbish its fleet of touring vessels in order to meet its own stringent ecology-minded standards. It has pledged to collect through client donations and its own infusions $80,000 per year over the next three years for the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund which targets environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities’ ability to manage natural resources.

On one level this is self-serving; if the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands are irreversibly damaged by tourism and visits are drastically reduced or altogether banned, Ecoventura is out of business. On the highest level, this small company is doing its part to raise the consciousness of travelers and how collective footprints can either be a disaster or a positive effect.

The company began running yacht tours in the Galapagos in 1991 but it wasn’t until 1999 that Ecoventura began “greening” its operations and equipment. Since then it has pro-actively chosen to help preserve the ecological integrity of the Galapagos Islands for both scientific and economic benefits. To this end Ecoventura is:

• One of the first recipients (in 2000) of SmartVoyager, a voluntary environmental program developed by Corporacion y Desarollo from Ecuador and The Rainforest Alliance from New York. This program gives a “green seal of approval” to tour boats that comply with requirements to tread lightly on the area’s fragile ecosystem.

• The first (in 2006) Carbon Neutral operation in the Galapagos Islands when it chose to completely offset carbon emissions from the company’s four yachts, offices and operations (including business travel). Emissions are now being offset through a portfolio of projects administered by NativeEnergy.

• The first fleet in the Galapagos (2007) to install TRABOLD oil filter systems on all four yachts to reduce fuel consumption, oil lubricants (by 90 percent) and reduce gas emission.

• The first company in the region (2006) to implement a program whereby its guests can donate to a new fund administered by the World Wildlife Fund ( in support of the Galapagos National Park. Ecoventura partnered with the WWF to create the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund (GMBF) which targets environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities’ ability to manage natural resources.

Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador with sales offices in Quito and Miami. The cruise company transports 3,000 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.

The marine reserve surrounding these two remote Islands supports some of the planet’s most unique biodiversity and is one of the world’s premier diving areas. However, it has also been identified as the most threatened due to continued presence of industrial fishing boats. To date, park statistics demonstrate the highest number of fishing violations have occurred in this area. Hammerhead and other shark species around the world are being harvested primarily for their fins and the Galapagos Marine Reserve remains one of the last regions where these creatures can be seen gathered by the hundreds. It is vital to establish a local and permanent surveillance and patrolling platform that will deter illegal fishing vessels from entering these waters.

Because the park lacks inadequate funding, trained personnel and equipment, it is challenged to prevent illegal fishing by industrial scale boats. In response, the GMBF supports the maintenance of park patrol boats while also helping to make current small-scale fishing practices more efficient.

Funds are also allocated to refurbish and maintain a speed boat that patrols the Bolivar channel between the western Islands of Fernandina and Isabela. These islands are visited by passengers on Ecoventura programs.

Funds from GMBF have also been allocated to benefit families of local fishermen by development of a microenterprise for the fisherman’s wives to manage. This will provide an alternate means of income and also set an example to create other tourism related businesses and reduce the need to fish.

Partner Travels Half Price this Winter

Forget the onboard spas and saunas; Captain Cook Cruises is letting your partner keep you extra warm this winter with partners cruising half price on all three, four and seven night Murray River cruises from 01 June - 31st August, 2008. This amazing offer is valid for sale until 31st August 2008.

With plenty of water in the Murray River there is no better way to explore the big river gorges, the bio-diverse Murray wetlands, the unique flora and fauna of the outback and the rich legacy of old riverside ports, this winter than on the romantic paddle-wheeler PS Murray Princess.

The 3-Night Wetlands Discovery Cruise is a mini weekend escape where passengers will discover the vast variety of flora and fauna, join a backwater boat tour, visit the Port of Murray Bridge and sample the food and wine of this famous region. The cruise departs Mannum every Friday at 4.30pm and returns Monday at 9.00am. Prices for the first person start from $775 twin share and from only $388 for the second person twin

The 4-Night Outback Heritage Cruise departs Mannum every Monday at 4.30pm and return Fridays at 9.00am. Cruise highlights include a visit to a vineyard and wine-tasting at the cellar door, a wildlife shelter and an aboriginal archaeological reserve plus a woolshed riverside barbeque & campfire. Prices start at $999 twin share for the first person and from $500 twin share for the second person.

The 7-Night Murraylands & Wildlife Cruise includes a free Barossa Valley tour and combines the 3 and 4 night cruises for a total Murraylands and wildlife experience. Prices start from $1596 twin share for the first person and from only $798 twin share for the second person. The seven night cruise departs Mannum every Friday and Monday at 4.30pm and returns Friday and Mondays at 9.00am.

All cruises include meals, accommodation, complimentary scenic coach transfers from Adelaide or car parking in Mannum, guided walks, presentations and all onboard facilities including use of two spas, two saunas, sun deck, two bars, two lounges, single sitting dining saloon and entertainment.

For reservations and enquiries please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free on 1800 804 843, Int +61-2-9206 111 or email: or visit

Coral Princess Heads to Vanuatu: Another Time, Another Pace

Black magic, secret societies, ritual dances and exploring the eerie underwater remains of WWII wrecks are not the stuff of ‘typical’ cruise itineraries, but Coral Princess’s five-night Vanuatu adventure and discovery voyages include all this – as well as the luxury of the 72-passenger expedition ship, the Oceanic Discoverer.

Following the success of its inaugural Vanuatu program in 2007, Coral Princess has released sailing dates for just three voyages in November, 2008, with the intention of introducing passengers to some of Vanuatu’s least-visited corners and most fascinating traditional customs, while minimising the impact on the local culture and environment.

Departing from Port Vila, first stop is Ambrym Island – famed for its black sand beach, ‘black magic’ and towering twin volcanoes. The Rom spirit dance – performed in situ by special arrangement with the local villagers – is associated with sorcery and is rarely witnessed by outsiders. The day is spent with the villagers and snorkelling on the reef, and the evening is illuminated by the lava glow from nearby Mts Marum and Benbow.

Maewo Island is also known for its ancient secret societies and dancing, but waterfalls, rivers and lush rainforest give the island its physical beauty. There are rainforest walks on Maewo and Ambae Island – said to be James A. Michener’s inspiration for Bali Hai.

Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island, is known for one of the most stunning strips of golden sand in the South Pacific: Champagne Beach. Passengers can relax on the beach or there are bushwalking and water activities. Later in the day, experienced SCUBA divers have the opportunity to dive on the SS President Coolidge, sunk during WWII. With its collection of jeeps, munitions and extraordinary sea life, it’s the largest intact shipwreck accessible to divers in the world.

Malakula is the most culturally diverse island in Vanuatu and locally produced art and ritual objects are among the finest in the country. Gaining an insight into the complex ceremonies of the remarkable Big Namba and Small Namba tribes is a highlight of the voyage.

Throughout the cruise, there is ample opportunity to swim, snorkel and SCUBA dive, utilising Oceanic Discoverer’s onboard facilities, under the guidance of instructors and naturalist guides. The finale of the voyage is an afternoon exploring the amazing coral reef complex of the Maskelyne Islands, with its colourful corals and prolific fish life.

The Oceanic Discoverer travels with a purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs and a glass bottom boat, allowing guests to explore Vanuatu with naturalists and experts who interpret natural, cultural and historical highlights.
Prices start at $3,150 per person twin share in a Main Deck B stateroom, including accommodation, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, group transfers, most activities during the cruise, and landing fees. There are departures from Port Vila on November 10, 15 and 20, 2008.

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess on 1800 079 545 or visit

Monday, April 14, 2008

Galapagos indulgence

As a year-round destination, travellers will come face-to-face with blue and red footed boobies, sea lions, iguanas, tortoises, penguins and frigate birds on any visit to the Galapagos Islands.

Tempo Holidays, for instance, has a seven-day Galapagos Indulgence package which departs Quito every Friday.

Four nights are spent on board the stylish 100-passenger Galapagos Explorer II and two nights are in a five-star hotel in Quito.

The price is from $2819 per person twin share which includes land accommodation and the cruise, six breakfast, three lunches and four dinners, shore excursions with bilingual naturalist guides and hotel transfers.

Quito-Galapagos return airfares are from $482 per person, plus local taxes. International airfares are additional and can be organised through Tempo Holidays’ Latin America partner, LAN Airlines.

Contact: agents, Tempo Holidays phone 1300 558 987, or see

PS. Tempo Holidays also has a six-day Galapagos Express package (from $1903) which has a three-night cruise on the four-star 90-passenger Santa Cruz, coach transfers with bilingual guides, two nights at a four-star Quito hotel, 11 meals, shore excursions with bilingual naturalist guides and transfers. This tour departs Thursdays.

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