Tuesday, March 31, 2009


~Cruise West Small Ships Provide In-Depth Exploration of Darwin's Territory~

In celebration of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, Cruise West, one of the world's leading providers of small-ship exploration cruises to the most fascinating destinations on earth, has updated its popular Galápagos itinerary.  During the 2010 season, the 10-day/9-night cruises will journey throughout Darwin's inspiring islands on the elegant, 100-guest Galápagos Explorer II, sister ship to Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus.  The itinerary to this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been rearranged, ensuring that visitors receive maximum exposure to the Islands' diverse wildlife and spectacular scenery.  Save up to $600 per person by booking and paying in full by May 22, 2009.

Ecuador – a remarkably varied country with mountains, jungle, coastal areas and islands – is home to one of Latin America's prize jewels, the Biosphere Reserve of the Galápagos Islands.  Traveling 650 miles west of the mainland, guests will sail the waters that gave birth to revolutionary scientific theories, explore multi-colored volcanic islands, and interact with thousands of animal species including giant tortoises, pink flamingos, blue-footed boobies and Galapagos penguins.

More than 9,000 feet above sea level, the Ecuadorian adventure begins in the charming colonial town of Quito, once the northern capital of the Inca Empire.  After a historical walking tour of the city viewing Baroque art, strolling cobblestone streets and enjoying a birds-eye view of the metropolis from observation point El Ventanal, visitors will savor renowned Mediterranean cuisine at the Theatrum Restaurant & Wine Bar in the National Theater.

Guests will fly from Quito to San Cristobal Island to board the Galápagos Explorer II, a 293-foot vessel that includes a Jacuzzi, marine observation deck and reading room.  Experienced naturalist guides will also board the ship, poised to lead expeditions in search of wildlife and to provide invaluable local and historical insight both on-ship and off.  First day highlights in the Galápagos include snorkeling, swimming and strolling along the beach near San Cristobal Island, a haven for Darwin's finches, brown pelicans and yellow warblers.

The following days at Hood, Santa Cruz, and Rabida islands will feature: indigenous wildlife viewing (tropical fish, lava lizards, Galápagos dove, white-tipped reef shark, Sally Lightfoot crabs and more); a visit to the Charles Darwin Station to learn about on-island research and to view the Galápagos tortoise breeding and rearing center; a meander through Puerto Ayora, the largest town on the islands; and climbing lava cliffs to glimpse seawater spraying high into the air through precarious fissures.

The ship will then sail to desolate yet breathtaking Bartolomé Island, offering 360 degree views of the archipelago as well as an extinct volcano with a variety of red, orange, green and black volcanic formations.  The next stop is James (Santiago) Island,  the only location Fur Seals can be found in the Galápagos.  The following morning, guests will witness marine iguanas basking on every plausible surface of Fernandina Island – snorkelers can watch them feeding underwater on clear days.  On the northwestern tip of Isabela Island, approachable only by dinghy, intrepid sea-goers can snorkel at a cave renowned for its dazzling array of marine wildlife.

The Galápagos sojourn ends with a 45-minute bus ride through changing vegetation zones in the Santa Cruz Highlands, where guests can quietly approach the 40 giant tortoises native to the region.  After breakfast, guests will disembark the ship and fly to Guayaquil for departure home, or head to Lima to begin a fully guided, post-cruise land excursion of Cusco and Machu Picchu. 

Historians-at-heart will uncover ancient Incan mysteries for six days in Peru, first exploring the lively markets and significant monuments of Cusco, then relaxing on a comfortable train ride to the charming Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel where guests stay for two nights.  Gazing up from the base of the Andes, Machu Picchu is entirely hidden from view – exactly as its 14th century artisans intended.  A fully guided tour (or independent tour, if desired) whisks travelers to this hidden perch, recognized as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The post-cruise excursion ends back in Cusco with tours of the Inca Fortress, Citadel of Ollantaytambo and the circular terraces of Moray.

Galápagos cruises depart March 29 and April 5, 2010; prices begin at $4,999 per person, double occupancy.  Three tiered early booking and final payment savings are available – book and pay in full by May 22, 2009 and save $600; by July 16, 2009, save $400 and by September 11, 2009, save $200 per person. The cruise plus optional six-day Peru land tour starts at $9,499 per person.  To learn more about the Galapagos itinerary, or other Cruise West voyages, call 1-800-296-8307, contact a travel professional or attend one of the company's online live presentations – Visit http://www.cruisewest.com/presentations to view the schedule.       

More information about Cruise West, Cruise West's 2009/2010 Galapagos itineraries or cruise locales as diverse as Panama & Costa Rica, Mexico's Sea of Cortes, Japan, Vietnam, the Galápagos, Antarctica, the Pacific Northwest or the romantic rivers of Europe can be found online at www.cruisewest.com or by calling 800-296-8307.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Agents fail in fuel surcharge class action

Travel agents have failed in their long-running class action against Qantas for the non-payment of commission on fuel surcharges.

But in a Federal Court ruling, the airline was found to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by including the levy under the “taxes, fees and charges” code.

In a brief hearing yesterday, Justice Michael Moore ruled that the applicants, Leonie’s Travel, had failed in its claim that Qantas was in breach of contract by not paying commission on the fuel surcharge.

In his 44-page judgement, Justice Moore said Qantas, in his opinion, had since May 2004 “exercised its contractual right to determine the manner and amount of agents’ remuneration”.

The airline determined that commission was payable on the total price, less the amount payable to Qantas as the fuel surcharge, he said.

But he ruled in favour of Leonie’s Travel in the second claim that Qantas engaged in misleading and deceptive by including the levy as tax, fee or charge. Such charges are imposed by air transportation and government authorities only, he said.

“The fuel surcharge is not a tax, charge or fee imposed by governments, authorities or airport operators,” he ruled.

Although action was also bought against other airlines, proceedings, for the moment, are to continue against Qantas only, Justice Moore said.

More in today’s Travel Today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


As we all know, times are a little tough right now. In an effort to help you (and us!) we would like to exclusively offer all e-news subscribers the opportunity to travel to the Arctic at a huge 30 per cent discount.

Without a doubt one of the most eagerly sought-after wildlife experiences in the world is the chance to see a polar bear in the wild. Unfortunately, global warming means the long-term future for the world's largest land carnivore looks grim. This year you can enjoy this 'once in a lifetime' trip and join Aurora as we enter the realm of the ice bear. We are offering a huge 30% discount on the following 2 voyages:-

Departing on 13th July 2009, our 11-day Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen trip will venture deep into the realm of the polar bear Discounted prices start at A$3999 for this voyage.

To experience all the highlights of this stunning region, our 20-day Arctic Dreams voyage departing on 24th August covers it all, including visiting remote Bear Island and the stunning Norwegian coastline. Discounted prices start at A$7195 for this voyage.

Prices are based on triple share rooms and include all shipboard accommodation, all meals on board, guided shore excursions and lectures with our expert naturalists.

Read more about our Arctic Expeditions

Download or order your free Arctic 2009 brochure here


Silversea's state-of-the-art expedition vessel, Prince Albert II, is offering a thrilling programme of voyages from May to August 2009, taking in the most remote highlights of the British Isles and the icy wilds of the Arctic.

An 11 day Around Britain sailing from Portsmouth, England departs 17 May 2009 and takes in the beautiful Channel islands of Alderney and Guernsey; Waterford and Dublin in Ireland; the Scottish isles of Gigha, Islay in the Hebrides and Stromness in the Orkney Islands, and finishes in Leith, Edinburgh. All inclusive cruise-only fares start from US$5,781* per person, double occupancy.

And between 1 June and 28 August 2009 Prince Albert II will embark on a series of expeditions of 7 to 16 days to the Arctic regions of Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. A 7 day round-trip Expedition Svalbard voyage will meander through the spectacular archipelago of Svalbard, where guests may be lucky enough to encounter seals, Arctic foxes, unusual bird species and even polar bears. All inclusive cruise-only fares start from US$3,146* per person, double occupancy.

Alternatively, guests can choose longer expeditions of up to 16 days including an Explorer's Arctic voyage from Hamburg to Longyearbyen; a Far Side of Svalbard journey from Longyearbyen to Tromso; a Frozen Worlds expedition from Tromso to Kangerlussuaq, or an Exploring the Canadian Arctic adventure from Kangerlussuaq to Halifax.

Prince Albert II's itineraries are unstructured by design, allowing the ship to stay longer on sites of particular interest, or make detours whenever weather, nature or mere curiosity dictates. Silversea's team of naturalists and special guest lecturers are on hand throughout the voyages to share the secrets of the pristine environment and a fleet of eight Zodiac boats takes guests up close to where the action is.

The 132-guest vessel is a truly luxurious base from which to explore some of the wildest and most remote destinations in the world. Silversea's all-inclusive fare includes accommodation in sumptuous ocean-view suites, complimentary wines and drinks throughout the ship (even hot rum toddies in the Arctic), gourmet dining, fascinating shipboard lectures and all gratuities.

From September 2009, Prince Albert II heads to Central America, followed by Antarctica in November.

*Port and fuel charges, government fees and taxes are additional. Subject to availability, terms and conditions.

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 www.silversea.com

Silversea Cruises is recognised 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 recently entered Luxury Travel & Style Magazine's Platinum Hall of Fame, having been named Best Cruise Line by Australian readers for the past five consecutive years. For two consecutive years Silversea has been named 'Best Luxury Cruise Line' in the TravelWeekly Asia Awards and for nine consecutive years "Number One Small Ship Line" in the Readers' Choice survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the USA. In 2007 Silversea 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 Cruise Line" seven times in the Travel + Leisure (USA) readers' poll and was rated Number-One luxury cruise line by high-net-worth consumers in the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index.  


Cruise Melanesia with Coral Princess Cruises in 2009 – ‘The Timeless Paradise’

Coral Princess Cruises' newest brochure lassos some of the farthest-flung islands of one of its most remote and exotic cruise destinations: Melanesia. The 13 or 14-night expedition-style voyages aboard the luxurious small ship Oceanic Discoverer thread their way along the necklace of islands and nations between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

The sparkling collection of islands making up Melanesia still retains the romance and adventure of the fabled South Pacific. Life is lived at a slower pace, and traditions and customs remain intact. Village artisans create tribal artefacts in the slow, careful way their forebears taught them. Coffee workers sing as they walk in the flower-fragrant mornings to family plantations.

Following in the exploratory footsteps of history's greatest adventurers, the voyage visits remote tribal villages of New Guinea and historic WWII sites of the Solomons, including Kennedy Island (where John F Kennedy swam ashore from a sinking patrol boat in WWII) and the Arnavon Islands, the Solomon Islands' only marine reserve and home to the Hawksbill turtle.

Santa Ana is one of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific, with a pellucid lagoon and pristine rainforest, where Oceanic Discoverer's naturalist guides lead walks to spot exotic orchids, tropical plants and rare birds. Vanuatu's highlights include sailing into the volcanic caldera of Ureparapara, where cruise ships rarely venture, and strolling along the exquisite Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo.

Ambryn Island, with its towering active volcanos, is known as Black Island for its volcanic sands and 'black magic'. It also has some of the best artefacts and carvings in Melanesia and, by special invitation from the local people, passengers will have the rare opportunity to witness a Rom Spirit dance. The penultimate stop is Tanna Island, where it's possible to stand on the crater rim of an active volcano. The cruise ends in Port Vila.

Throughout the voyage, Oceanic Discoverer's purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, glass bottom coral viewer and fleet of inflatable Zodiacs allow passengers to intimately explore the reefs and remote islands. Excursions are guided by naturalists and experts who interpret the natural, cultural and historical highlights of the region.

Oceanic Discoverer is designed to provide all the comfort and facilities of larger cruise ships, yet is small enough to access remote and pristine sites inaccessible to other ships.

The 14-night Port Moresby to Noumea cruise starts at $10 850 per person, twin share, in a Main Deck B stateroom and departs November 26, 2009 and November 25, 2010. The 13-night Noumea to Rabaul voyage, which costs from $10 500, departs March 8, 2010. Cruise costs include all excursions, port taxes and meals on board.

For further information and reservations contact 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au.


david ellis

WHEN a girl's asked to be bridesmaid to her best friend, it's important she get herself to the church on time.

But that can take on a whole new meaning when our bridesmaid lives in Wales, and the church is a near-20,000 kilometres away in Brisbane, Australia – and she refuses to fly.

That was the dilemma facing Barbara Haddrill in 2006. A committed eco-campaigner, Barbara has an aversion to flying because of the environmental impact of carbon belched out by today's jetliners.

So she sat down in the 4-metre long caravan in which she lives a largely self-sustaining existence on a farm on the outskirts of the picturesque Bronze Age town of Machynlleth, and started plotting how to get to Brisbane – not in a mere 24- to 30-hours, but via an amazing fifty day odyssey one way, and a further seventy the other.

And she not only had to carry her needs for such a vast Jules Verne-like adventure, but also her bridesmaid's dress as well.

"It started to get very daunting," she says now. "And I kept putting it off until I simply had to start moving."

And move she did. Like something out of Girls Own Annual her tent and necessities went into one backpack, clothes and bridesmaid's dress into another, and an accordion she plays in a local gypsy-music band called Finikity Charos, was tied to the lot.

Then she hitchhiked to London, coached it from there through Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus and into Moscow, and connected there with the Trans-Siberian Express for a 6-day, 6,000km journey to Beijing… often entertaining fellow passengers with her accordion.

But in Beijing reality set in as she found herself unable to communicate in the local markets she sought out for their regional foodstuffs (that included at one stage deep-fried Asian lizards and grasshoppers.)

"I started bawling my eyes out in Tiananmen Square, because no matter how much pointing or waving of notes I couldn't communicate about what I was buying – and worse, how to get from Beijing to Australia. I feared I was failing in getting to my friend Helen's wedding, and just felt stuck."

But she forged onwards, somehow combining a heady mix of road and waterways transport across China, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore, and from there by cargo ship to Melbourne.

"There was me and sixteen male sailors from Russia, the Ukraine and the Philippines. It was the first time I felt nervous: English was virtually unspoken, and there was a lot of staring, but it actually turned out a lot of fun."

And a coach got her happily from Melbourne to Brisbane in time for Helen and Steve's marriage on the beach at North Stradbroke Island.

"It was lovely, and worth everything," says Barbara.

But she then had to get back home to Wales. Again she started by hitch-hiking, getting a ride from Brisbane through the Outback to Adelaide with a tough truckie who said he'd take her along 'so long as I didn't argue.'"

From Adelaide she got a bus to Darwin, broke her own rule with a short flight to Bali as it was the only option available, used buses and boats to Singapore, and hopped on another cargo ship from there to Genoa.

"Then it was by train to Milan where I caught up with my mum and sister, train to Paris, bicycle from there to Calais for the ferry across the Channel, train to Bristol, and finally bicycle from there to Machynlleth."

"Had I gone by air I would have been responsible for 11.2 tonnes of CO2, but doing it my way I reduced this to just 1.8 tonnes."

Barbara's amazing 18-country adventure by road, rail, bicycle and on foot has recently been published as a witty, at times emotionally-gripping book, called Babs2Brisbane that can be ordered through Amazon Books or http://babs2brisbane.com/

FOOTNOTE: Barbara still lives in her caravan, generates her own hydro-electricity in a nearby river, uses forest-floor wood for heating, grows her own fruit and vegies, raises chooks for eggs, writes and lectures about her journey, and works in a vegetarian restaurant at Machynlleth's Centre for Alternative Technology.

And apart from sometime circumnavigating Wales by horse and cart, she has absolutely no plans to go any further afield again.

Mysouthwest fortnightly Competition

The next MySouthWest Competition is now open!

Win! Win! Win! Win! Win! Win!

Congratulations to the winner of the last competition, Karen Oldland of Mandeley...

The All Seasons Sanctuary Golf Resort is offering you the chance to win a luxury overnight package to the value of $475.00.   Perfect for a romantic getaway!

Your overnight stay will include accommodation in our penthouse tower apartment with spa.  Plus a bottle of sparkling in the room, full breakfast and 9 holes of golf for two with a motorised cart.

The All Seasons Sanctuary Golf Resort is situated just 1hr 45m south of Perth and is surrounded by tranquil lakes and rolling greens.  All accommodation overlooks either the golf course or landscaped gardens and with an à la carte restaurant on site as well as an 18 hole golf course, pro shop, driving range, pool and tennis court, the Sanctuary is the perfect starting point for a weekend of indulgence in the south west.


Want to find out more? Go to www.mysouthwest.com.au for all the latest South West news and events, safe and secure online shopping system, business and community group directories and fantastic competitions!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cruise West joins Cruise Council

The International Cruise Council Australasia has expanded its cruise line membership, welcoming exploration cruise operator Cruise West to the industry association.

Announcing the new membership, Cruise Council's General Manager Brett Jardine said the latest industry figures indicated Australians were embracing a wide range of cruise holidays.

Cruise West falls into the small-ship expedition category, which is becoming more popular amongst travellers.

"New ships continue to be launched around the world, giving passengers more itinerary choices and prompting rising numbers of Australians to choose cruise holidays, including expedition-style cruising and river cruising," Mr Jardine said.

"Continuing solid sales in the face of an economic downturn gives travel agents yet another reason to join the Cruise Council and brush up their cruise knowledge to boost their bottom line."

Cruise West offers small-ship exploration to remote and distinctive destinations in Alaska, the United States' West Coast, Central America, Mexico, Asia, Galapagos, Antarctica and Europe's Danube River. 

The company's signature small-ship cruising allows up-close encounters not offered by larger vessels. With guest capacites ranging from only 78 to 148 like-minded individuals, the experience is intimate, casual and participatory.

Cruise West President & Chief Executive Officer Dietmar Wertanzl remarked that the company was pleased to become a member of the Council. 

"Australia has been a growth market for Cruise West so it just makes sense for us to join the International Cruise Council Australasia.  Australians have always had a keen sense of adventure and love of travel, which are certainly two attributes of the Cruise West experience."

Mr Jardine said the addition of Cruise West would take the Council's cruise line membership in Australia to 26.

Other small ship and expedition Council cruise members include Captain Cook Cruises, North Star Cruises and Orion Expedition Cruises.

The International Cruise Council Australasia is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 1996, committed to training travel consultants and raising consumer awareness of cruising.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cruise Weekly: SCUBA divers do it underwater

Expedition cruisers thrive on discovery, learning and fulfillment. What’s more, as long as you’re healthy and retain a reasonable level of fitness, you’re never too old to learn SCUBA diving.

Many of your favourite expedition cruise ships offer SCUBA diving as a rewarding and exciting onboard activity. To fully experience everything your destination offers, going underwater exploring is a natural part of enjoying your next cruise.

SCUBA diving is however, a “safety first” activity and to fully enjoy this exhilarating sport, your vessel must have a PADI® qualified instructor or you should already have your PADI® Open Water Certificate (OWC).

Local operators offering SCUBA on board include, Coral Princess Cruises, North Star Cruises, Captain Cook Cruises and Blue Lagoon Cruises. Orion and Aurora will liaise with local operators in destinations such as PNG and Solomon Islands to ensure ticketed divers are catered for.

Tufi in PNG and Gizo in Solomon Islands are some of the best wreck and reef diving in the world. Vanuatu and Fiji both have diving aplenty too. Serious divers can even dive beneath the ice in Antarctica on specialist tours through operators such as Quark Expeditions. Reef diving on our own Great Barrier Reef is hard to go past, while in WA, the famous Rowley Shoals off Broome draw divers from around the world.
PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization. With more than forty years experience and 5300 dive shops and resorts worldwide, PADI® training materials and services let you experience scuba diving from nearly anywhere.

With just an Internet connection, you can complete most of your theory work in the comfort of your home, at your own pace. Then make a time with your dive shop to complete the final assessment and practical tests.

Going aboard your next expedition cruise with your OWC in hand, is assurance that you will enjoy the full adventure experience.

Exploring the kaleidoscope of colour on the coral reefs of Queensland or Fiji, observing the fascinating marine life at WA’s Rowley Shoals, discovering shipwrecks in PNG or archaeological sites underwater need not be reserved for National Geographic scientists and documentary filmmakers. You can experience it for yourself.

Contact your nearest dive shop before you book your next adventure cruise and ask them about introductory dives. Some stores offer these pool dives at no charge and you’ll know well in advance if SCUBA diving is for you.

You can locate your nearest PADI® dive centre at the web site: www.padi.com or Freecall 1800 023 705

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cruise West takes the lead in Glacier Bay

Spirit of Oceanus awarded eight entries into Alaska's Glacier Bay

Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus has been awarded eight cruise ship entries to Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. With the two existing tour vessel permits that the cruise line already holds, Cruise West now offers more tour vessel entries than any other cruise line visiting Alaska. 

"Cruise West is unique as we hold both kinds of ship permits – a cruise ship permit for the Spirit of Oceanus (over 100 tons), and a tour vessel permit for the remainder of our fleet (ships under 100 tons)," said Chairman and Managing Director, Dick West.  "We are very proud of our 63 year heritage of operating tours in Alaska and this entry award just solidifies Cruise West's strong position and dedication to providing memorable cruises in the magnificent state of Alaska."

Seven of Cruise West's ten Alaska cruise itineraries ply the waters of Glacier Bay National Park.  Itineraries range from four day highlights to 25 day exploration journeys and operate from May through to early September. Guests with additional time can also extend their cruise with a fully guided Land Tour to Anchorage, renowned Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks or stay at a rustic lodge in the heart of Denali.

Cruise West offers a 13-day Coastal Odyssey voyage onboard the 120-guest Spirit of Oceanus, which explores the entire Inside Passage between British Columbia and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, as well as the spectacular Gulf of Alaska coast. The graceful, all-suite Spirit of Oceanus, takes guests to ports other cruise lines cannot reach, and brings them close to shore to find puffins in Glacier Bay, seals and sea otters in the Kenai Fjords, and bears feeding along the shoreline of Admiralty Island. Prices start at US$8,049 per person twin share, including all taxes and gratuities. Departures are available between 11 May and 9 August 2009.

Travel the World can assist with bookings for Cruise West, as well as put together combined flight/cruise packages. Please contact Travel the World on 1300 766 566 or visit the website www.traveltheworld.com.au.



david ellis


malcolm andrews

HOLLYWOOD has a way of treating bygone gangsters somewhat kindly – even when not actually glorifying their antics, it seems to always want to give them something of an ill-deserved glamour and romance.              

But it can't put a glamorous or romantic edge to some of their nicknames.

Alvin  Karpis, murderer and kidnapper, was better known as Kreepy, and achieved particular fame when he was arrested in 1936 by the head of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover. Hoover had the Press snap a photo of Kreepy tied-up with Hoover's own necktie, but he forgot to tell reporters that his G-Men had already subdued Kreepy by the time he'd arrived.

And bootlegger and armed robber, George Kelly was better known simply as Machine Gun, and won something of fame in 1933 by urinating on one of the police officers trying to arrest him. Aussie lads would doubtless have made a more appropriate nickname out of that, but nevertheless Machine Gun is still popular here today at pub trivia nights: one of his trials was the first-ever recorded on movie film.

But one of the most famous American hoods of all was Al Capone, endearingly known as Scarface. And while he controlled crime across the United States during the Prohibition era of the 1920s, he was never convicted of the murders and robberies he pursued with great zeal: he went to jail in 1931 for not paying his income tax.

And whatever their crimes, all these criminals had something in common: they all did time on Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Harbour, a place that between 1934 and 1963 became arguably the most famous prison in the United States. And it had its own nickname: 'The Rock'.

It was officially named "La Isla de los Alcatraces' in 1775 by Spanish naval captain Juan de Ayala – 'Island of the Gannets' after the sea birds that nested there.

Today the one-time Alcatraz prison is a tourist Mecca that's still a very forbidding, gloomy and depressing place.       

Capone soon learned that: he was sent there in 1934 after a life of ease in Atlanta Federal Prison where he had bribed the warden and his guards to allow him a snug bed, a comfy lounge, a radio and even deep-pile carpet on his cell floor.

But despite trying to suck up to Alcatraz' warden on the day he arrived at 'The Rock,' Capone found this bloke to be of the old-fashioned variety, and got no home comforts during his 4½ years there.

Today's tourists learn all about these infamous inmates as they stroll around, listening on tape-recorder headphones to the history of the prison, and what to stop and look for.

And about escape attempts. Thirty-four prisoners were involved in fourteen attempts to get off 'The Rock', two trying twice. Seven were shot dead, two drowned, and all but five of the rest were recaptured… although authorities reckon those five probably drowned too.

The most famous attempt was in 1962 when three of those missing five  escaped through air-conditioning ducts. Hollywood made a dully-named movie out of it, 'Escape from Alcatraz' starring Clint Eastwood. The relatives of two of the three claimed they later received postcards from the pair – posted from South America.

Amongst other movies set at Alcatraz was 1995's 'Murder in the First,' starring Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater and Gary Oldman. While it was supposed to have been based on a true story, it was pure Hollywood fiction.

'The Birdman of Alcatraz' was also Hollywood pap. The Birdman was a fellow named Robert Stroud, convicted in 1909 of manslaughter in Alaska and, later, of the murder of a prison guard.

But he never kept birds while on 'The Rock' as the film purports: the only time he had such pets was at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas, and even there he wasn't the loveable character as portrayed by actor Burt Lancaster in the movie: in 1942 he was transferred to Alcatraz for brewing illegal hooch in a still he was supposedly using to make medicines for his canaries.

But despite all, Alcatraz wasn't as bad as the movies made out, and many inmates preferred it to other prisons – because they at least got a cell there to themselves.


[] ESCAPE from Alcatraz – a lot'a men tried, and a lot'a men died

[] VISITORS explore cells along the former prison's "Broadway"

[] BIRDMAN Robert Stroud: a still in his cell for making bird medicines also coughed up illegal hooch

Friday, March 20, 2009

North Star Cruises - Last Minute Availability April to June 09

e  Last minute availability   f

April – June 2009

Come aboard for the start of the Kimberley Season and see the waterfalls flowing!

This is the perfect time of the year to visit the Kimberley Region with a hive of activity including the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster in Kununurra and the Broome Racing Season kickstarting in May.

The following cabins are avilable to book now:

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 3           11 Apr – 24 Apr        2 single berths available

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 4a          05 Apr – 02 May      Explorer & Ocean Cabins available

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 5             09 May – 22 May     Ocean Class cabins available

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 6            23 May – 05 Jun        Ocean cabins available

Highlights from our Kimberley Wilderness cruise:

·         Get up close & personal with this ancient land that is over 1.8 billion years old. 

·         Knowledgeable crew onboard to interpret the history, geology, art, flora & fauna.

·         Amazing excursions daily including optional scenic heli flights up gorges, over river systems and waterfalls.

·         Excellent Fishing – guaranteed to catch one! (Barramundi, Mangrove Jack,

Fingermark Bream, Queenfish, Salmon)

 Go Wild in Style!

PO Box 654 Broome Western Australia 6725

Telephone: (+61 8) 9192 1829 Facsimile: (+61 8) 9192 1830

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New superliners for Sydney & Brisbane as P&O Cruises expands its fleet

P&O Cruises Australia’s two biggest markets – Sydney and Brisbane – will each get new superliners to drive even further growth in cruising, which is already at record levels.

Brisbane will now become the new homeport for Pacific Dawn, making it the first time a superliner has been based in this city, while Sydney will welcome the latest addition to the Australian fleet, Pacific Jewel.

The move follows new research which shows how the distinctive features of each ship are better suited to the holiday requirements of passengers in their new home ports.

It found that Sydneysiders tended to be more focused on taking time out for themselves when they are on holidays compared with Queenslanders who place more emphasis on being entertained.

Jenny Lourey, Senior Vice President of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the research findings had prompted the decision to base superliner Pacific Jewel – which has the biggest spa at sea in this region – in Sydney at the end of the year, rather than Brisbane as initially flagged.

Meanwhile, the stunning Pacific Dawn – with its large Dome entertainment complex – will switch to Brisbane.

"The wonderful promise of family relaxation was a universal reason why our passengers choose to cruise, but there are some fundamental differences in the holiday preferences between our two main markets of Sydney and Brisbane," Ms Lourey said.

"The research shows that Sydneysiders were keen to extend their relaxation with a massage, facial or other spa treatment, while our passengers from Brisbane emphasised entertainment and quality time spent together with the family as a key decision for booking their cruise.

"It seems cruise passengers from Brisbane put more value on maximising every moment of their holiday pursuing a varied range of family activities. The Pacific Dawn supports this with greater children’s capacity and a second multi-use entertainment venue."

The research showed*:

• A large range of entertainment was considered more important for those in Queensland (64%) than those in NSW (54%).

• Twice as many people from Brisbane placed emphasis on family time whilst on holiday compared to those from Sydney

• Sydneysiders were more than twice as likely to prioritise ‘taking time out for themselves’ compared to those from Brisbane.

Pacific Jewel and her sister ship, Pacific Dawn, are two of the most spacious and modern ships to cruise in Australian waters – both with an abundance of balcony cabins, high-quality children’s amenities and spa treatment facilities.

Although sisters, the two ships use the space above the bow of the ship to offer distinctly different facilities.

On Pacific Dawn this space is used to accommodate a massive entertainment area, the Dome, while Pacific Jewel houses a stunning 1300m² ocean-view spa and fitness centre.

Pacific Jewel will feature an amazing open-air deck with aerial stage for circus and music performances, a three-storey atrium foyer and almost 200 private balcony cabins, the most in the P&O Cruises’ fleet.

Brisbane-based superliner Pacific Dawn features 11 decks with two swimming pools, a choice of five evening dining areas, three large kids clubs, nine bars and lounges, a two-storey show lounge and fitness centre.

Pacific Jewel will be based in Sydney from 13 December 2009, following an extensive renovation and refit. Meanwhile, Pacific Dawn will commence the first ever year round program of cruises from Brisbane on 19 December 2009.

Itineraries for the new Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn deployments will go on sale on March 21.

For complete convenience, passengers booked on affected cruises departing from December 2009 have been automatically transferred to a cruise that best matches their original booking.

For further information on the new deployments contact your travel agent, visit pocruises.com.au or call P&O Cruises on 1800 129 961

Orion's Tropical Reefs & Culture - Food & Wine Experience

Join Orion and discover the Great Barrier Reef whilst you enjoy a fantastic onboard program for food lovers. You will be joined by acclaimed chef Serge Dansereau of ‘The Bathers’ Pavilion’ who will be introducing new menus items. He will be accompanied by Greg Doyle of ‘Pier Restaurant’ and fellow gourmand Simon Johnson who will be hosting a series of tastings, workshops and demonstrations.

Special Highlights
• New Menu Items introduced, dinners prepared and hosted by Serge
• Cheese, wine, olive oil & chocolate tasting & demonstration classes hosted by Serge, Greg & Simon

5 Night Itinerary - Cairns to Thursday Island Departing 20th April 2009
Visiting Lizard Island, Stanley Island, Orion Reef & Exclusive Island Retreat

Staterooms/Suites for the Food & Wine Experience start from $3,670 per person twin share. We can also offer sole occupancy from $4,315.

To make a booking call 1300 361 012 or +61 2 9033 8777 email info@orionexpeditions.com, visit www.orionexpeditions.com or see your travel agent.

Departing from Cairns on 20 April 2009, Orion will explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for 5 nights. The itinerary will include a beach barbeque, swimming, snorkelling, sea kayak exploration and cultural interaction with the Torres Strait Islanders in Thursday Island.

Although custom designed for expedition cruising, Orion is the epitome of elegance. Her luxurious appointments means she is more mega-yacht than cruise ship and her guests are few; just 50 couples, cared for by an experienced crew of 75. Life on board is relaxed and casually elegant. From gourmet meals to pampering at the beauty salon, you will rediscover your capacity for relaxation and indulgence.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cruise Weekly Comment: Sail Away

"Arr! Batten down the 'atches ye sorry bilge rat!" Talk Like a Pirate Day is never enough to fully satisfy my urge to get on deck of a fully rigged schooner or ketch. A recent flurry of press material from sailing adventure companies has just rubbed the salt in.

First one across my desk was the splendid Søren Larsen, operated by Outdoor Travel of Bright, Victoria. Already a TV and media personality, the Søren Larsen was featured in that classic maritime BBC series, The Onedin Line. This magnificent tall ship operates between Sydney and Auckland with occasional detours via Noumea. This is an active adventure, so malingerers need not apply. See: www.outdoortravel.com.au

Next was the stately Maple Leaf, acclaimed by National Geographic editors as the #3 adventure cruise company on the world. The 92 foot schooner operates in the scenic waterways of British Columbia with highlights such as getting up close to Alaska's glaciers and intimate encounters with humpbacks, killer whales, dolphins, seabirds and bears. Built as a luxury pleasure craft in 1904, she fell into unappreciative hands and spent much of her life hauling halibut before a full and thorough restoration during the 1980s. See: www.mapleleafadventures.com

Another one that has always taunted me is the century-old, 46m steel-hulled schooner, Noorderlicht. Dedicated to arctic sailing, Noorderlicht can be found cruising the most northerly inhabited regions of the planet (Svalbard) in search of polar bear and walrus. Just 20 passengers travel in relative luxury, leaving the hard deck work to a dedicated, professional crew. See: www.adventureassociates.com

For those who hanker for the tropical climates, Captain Cook Cruises operate two sailing vessels out of Nadi, Fiji, on day trips and overnight safaris. While you don't actually overnight aboard, SV Ra Marama and SV Spirit of the Pacific still deliver the goods in a romantic, 'south sea' setting that will get you dreaming of mutineers and swashbuckling adventures as you soak up the sun and kava. See: www.captaincook.com.au

If rope burn and blisters don't appeal, you can always throw restraint to the wind aboard any of the opulent Windstar fleet which takes sailing holidays right off the scale. The fleet are typically four-star and carry between 150 and 300 passengers on itineraries in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Their multi-mast design is reminiscent of the great 19th Century clippers and the huge sail area is computer controlled. See: www.traveltheworld.com.au

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fincantieri cuts steel for Ponant newbuild

Steel-cutting has started for Le Boreal, the first 142mtr superyacht ordered by Marseille-based Compagnie du Ponant at Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard.

Similar work should begin in the coming weeks for sister ship L’Austral.

The vessels have ‘the spirit of a private yacht, with a large glass bow at the front and at the back, which will give them a real personality,’ said Bertand Leblond, technical manager of Ponant.

Other features are dynamic positioning systems and sophisticated waste treatment facilities.

APT cruises Kimberley in July-August

Gently cruising up Prince Regent and King George rivers for freshwater waterfalls, finding ancient rock art, walking on the exposed Montgomery Reef and zipping over the saltwater Horizontal Falls in a Zodiac are among the highlights of APT’s 11-day small ship cruises along the Kimberley coast.

APT has exclusive departures on this Broome-Darwin trip in July and August, cruising on the 48-passenger Coral Princess.

The price is from $6450 per person twin share which includes cruising, all meals and excursions, featuring the above activities as well as the turtle nursery at Lacepede Islands, Careening Bay’s famed boab tree and Naturalist Island.

Scenic helicopter flights at Naturalist Island are extra.

Contact: call 1300 656 985, visit www.aptouring.com.au or see a travel agent.

Win a 9 day / 8 night Amazon cruise for two people

How to Enter the Competition
Simply click on this link to open a competition entry form and answer the question to be in to win one a 9 day / 8 night Amazon cruise for two people on board the M/Y Tucano, ex Manaus (Brazil), including 1 night pre cruise accommodation and land transfers. Entry is subject to certain terms and conditions.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Aurora Expeditions has launched a new voyage to the remote northeast corner of Fiji aboard the luxury schooner Tui Tai.

Departing from the island of Vanua Levu, this 11-day voyage will explore the deserted beaches, pristine reefs and isolated outer islands of this pacific paradise known as the Pacific Cultural Triangle.

Tui Tai is the only luxury-adventure ship cruising this largely undiscovered region, which is recognised as the most culturally diverse in the country.

Kioa Island is the only island in Fiji whose people are of Polynesian origin. The Kioans are masters of handicrafts and fishing, and the snorkelling and diving sites here are considered the best in Fiji.

Rabi Island, inhabited by Micronesian people, is another of northern Fiji’s hidden treasures, rich in history and natural beauty.

Other sites visited include the Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni Island, one of the country’s best conservation and ecotourism success stories; and the tiny unspoiled atolls of the Ringgold Isles.

You can do as much or as little as you want on this luxury adventure. Tui Tai is equipped with mountain bikes, snorkelling gear, kayaks and scuba diving equipment, or you can simply relax and soak up the surrounds.

In true expedition style, the itinerary may vary to take maximum advantage of opportunities to view wildlife or explore new territory. Guided excursions and onboard lectures by experts will interpret the natural, cultural and historical highlights of the region.

Prices start from AU$6690 per person twin-share for a standard expedition cabin through to $12,990 for the ultimate two-storey Grand Stateroom. All cabins are air-conditioned and have private bathroom facilities. All meals are also included.

This inaugural 11-day voyage departs on 19 October 2009, and with space for just 22 passengers, is sure to sell out quickly.

For more details call Aurora Expeditions on 1800 637 688 or visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Aurora Expeditions
is an Australian adventure company specialising in small group expedition-style travel to polar regions and other wild and remote places. A world leader in polar cruising, Aurora offers their travellers the chance to have an intimate experience in these regions with their flexible, innovative itineraries. On some voyages, mountain climbing, sea kayaking, photography and scuba diving options are available and Aurora’s expert naturalists, historians, staff and crew help to unlock the wonders of these special places. Deeply committed to education and preservation of the environment, Aurora's owners, Greg Mortimer and Margaret Werner are veterans of almost three decades of Antarctic research, private Antarctic mountaineering expeditions and polar travel. For more information visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Orion releases highlights of 2009 voyages on DVD

Capturing the essence of Orion’s ‘paths less travelled’, Orion Expedition Cruises has just released a DVD covering expeditions to the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea and Antarctica, including an overview of the award-winning ship, onboard facilities, accommodation and her expedition crew.

The DVD footage examples the type of dramatic landscape vistas and cultural interaction guests can expect from an Orion expedition, plus highlights ship-board indulgences (such as Serge Dansereau-inspired degustation menus) and Orion’s approach to environmental sustainability.

A manageable ten minutes in length (with a convenient menu to let you select individual sections) this DVD leaves you with a good understanding of what to expect yet wanting to know even more.

And more there is. Backed up with a full colour brochure depicting the major regions visited by Orion and supported with a handy reference guide detailing all voyages with destination notes, calendar of sailings and pricing this combination is the perfect research tool for Orion’s expeditions.

Contact Orion Expedition Cruises on 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) to obtain copies of this high resolution DVD.

The DVD and brochure are also available as low resolution downloads by visiting the Orion website at www.orionexpeditions.com

For reservations or to obtain copies of the DVD and brochures call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email: info@orioncruises.com.au

Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is Australia’s only purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship, featuring an unmatched range of onboard facilities.

With 75 crew and a maximum of just 106 passengers Orion offers the highest staff to guest ratio and guest to public space ratio of any ship based in Australian waters.

Blue Lagoon Cruises extends free kids cruise 'sale' date

With family holiday budgets understandably tight in today's current economic environment, Blue Lagoon Cruises has helped stretch the family holiday dollar a little further by extending sales of its popular kids cruise free offer until 30 June 2009.

Inclusive of all school holidays right across the period, the offer comes complete with all onboard meals, accommodation and activities with prices starting from AUD1118* for a three-day/two-night Yasawa Islands 'Club' cruise for a family of up to five.

Valid for travel until 31 March 2010, the offer is based on two adults and up to three children 15 years and under sharing two cabins.

Single children 15 years and under sharing with parents also cruise free.

The 'kids cruise free' two cabin family offer also applies to the boutique island cruise operator's four-day 'Club' cruise itinerary and four and seven day 'Gold Club' cruise programs.

Cruise activities include daily shore excursions and water-based activities ranging from snorkelling safaris, fish feeding, fishing and glass bottom boating.

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

Blue Lagoon Cruises' crew are highly experienced with the company's younger passengers with all cruise programs offering special facilities for children including special mealtimes, cots and highchairs.

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

See www.bluelagooncruises.com for full itineraries.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

STRUTH! David Ellis looks at the world's more weird and whacky

David Ellis looks at the world's more weird and whacky

IN HIS CONTINUING SEARCH FOR THE WORLD'S MORE WEIRD, WHACKY AND UNUSUAL, DAVID ELLIS discovers that last weekend several hundred people descended on the British beachside town of Brighton – not for extra-marital activities on which the town founded much of its past reputation… but for Britain's first-ever Divorce Fair.

Organiser Suzy Miller said she got the idea of her "Starting Over Show" from the success of wedding fairs that bring together representatives of all the goods and services needed to organise the nuptials.

"So I thought why not put on a more positive spin on what to do when going through a divorce?" she said. And the response was instantaneous: over thirty exhibitors set up stalls offering services from legal representation to accountancy and sorting our your finances when a marriage breaks up, divorce counselling, dating agency services, image consultancy, places to escape to to consider the future, and even chocolates to help see you through the divorce process.

And a team of pole dancers – because Suzy said they tend to give some women a sense of self-esteem.

"Divorcees feel a strong emphasis on moving on, and this Fair helped those who came along look at the best ways of handling what to do next," Suzy said.

FOOTNOTE: The Continent's first-ever divorce fair two years ago was in Austria, and took a different approach. There the exhibitors were mainly gumshoe private detective agencies, DNA testers and "discreet photographers and sound engineers."

Monday, March 9, 2009


Photo: Arti Kumria

The Sultanate of Oman’s rich heritage is reflected in more than 500 open-air museums – its old forts, ancient walls and gates, as well as its houses and mosques. No matter where you travel, you will see remnants of Oman’s turbulent history, with many of its fortresses and watch towers erected deep in its interior or atop mountains, or along its 1700 kilometre stretch of coastline; each constructed to prevent hostile invasions.

Visitors today to Oman can visit a number of these striking landmarks, some of which have undergone extensive restoration programs. One of the best places to delve into Oman’s history and its resplendent fortresses is in Muscat.

During the late 16th century, the Portuguese, who occupied the city for 150 years, constructed Oman’s most famous citadels. Built on two serrated hills overlooking Muscat’s harbour – Al Jalali to the east and Al Mirani to the west - the paired forts were used to oust Portuguese and Ottoman invaders a century later and protect Muscat from further invasions. Now guarding majestic Al Alam Palace -- the ceremonial palace of H.M. Sultan, Qaboos – the Al Jalali was enlarged to its present size during the reign of Imam Ahmed bin Said, the founder of the Al Busaidi state in the 18th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, his grandson Sayyid Said bin Sultan, enlarged the citadel along with Al Mirani. Al Jalali has since been restored and converted into a museum, under the present reign of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

“Visitors wanting to gain an insight into Oman’s history need only look at the country’s most beautiful forts in Muscat and Nizwa; just a three hour journey away. Splendidly built amid an ancient landscape of palm trees, desert and coastline, travellers are able to explore the watchtowers and darkened rooms, each harbouring tales of old-world Arabia,” says Mona Tannous, Australian Director, Oman Ministry of Tourism.

Also in Muscat is Old Town, located at the eastern end of the Greater Muscat Area between Muttrah and Sidab and a perfect place to step back in time and view an array of ancient doors and centuries-aged dwellings.

Much of the city’s rich history and heritage has been preserved, including remnants of Muscat’s original clay wall and threeaccess gates - Bab al Matha'eeb, Bab al Saghir and Bab al Waljat - which fortified the capital.

One of the most splendid buildings in Oman’s interior is Nizwa Fort, which played a pivotal role in the country’s struggle with the Portuguese in the 17th century. Constructed in 1668, Imam Sultan bin Saif al Ya'arubi, the fortress is the biggest citadel in the Arabian Peninsula, with its circular structure spanning 45.7 metres and standing 30 metres high. Once used as the Imam's headquarters, its skilful design allowed for boiling oil to be poured through a hole in its thick doors, a tactic that was commonly used to prevent marauding enemies gaining a stronghold. Standing alongside Nizwa Fort is Imam’s Mosque – renamed Sultan Qaboos Mosque in 1970 – which was built soon after the construction of its more famous neighbour.

A short drive from Nizwa is the ancient town of Bahla, which once nurtured many of Arabia’s finest scholars and scientists, and the current gatekeeper of Oman’s mythical jinns and sorcery. The main attraction, however, is its impressive fortress and 12-kilometre-long mud-brick wall with 132 watchtowers. Also featuring seven massive gates, visitors will see where Omani sentries pummelled the invading Persian army over the centuries.

Following recent excavations, it is believed that some of Bahla’s defensive structures date back to the third and first millennium BC Also fusing in with the surrounding oasis and wadis, Bahla’s wall and fort – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- are also said to be one of the oldest in Oman, with its foundations dating back to the 12th century.

Just beyond Bahla lies the Castle of Jabrin, which dates back to 1670. Built as a defensive citadel by Iman Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’arubi, Jabrin features a number of residential rooms with high ceilings adorned with elaborate rosette carvings. Featuring two massive towers with impenetrable walls, Jabrin also rewards visitors with a sweeping view of a heat-infused desert vista. The elaborate tomb of Iman Bil’ arub, who died in 1692 is also located in the castle.

Other notable forts that should be visited along the Batinah Coast include Nakhl Fort and Rustaq Fort -- the oldest and tallest fortress in Oman. Constructed on an ancient spring, its ground floor was used to store dates grown from the nearby plantations as well as ammunition. Rustaq Fort, however, was not without some pleasures. On its first floor lived the royal harem, complete with a falaj, which helped create an indoor spring pool.

At the heart of the Batinah Coast lies Sohar Fort, constructed in the 15th Century along Sohar’s present day corniche. Strategically positioned to fend off invaders from the Straits of Hormuz, it is believed that the Fort, which accommodated an army of 1000 men, was once surrounded by flourishing palms and multiple towers. Today, only one tower remains and the fort now serves as a museum.

Amongst the oldest castles in Oman are Al Hazm, built in 1711 and Mirbat Castle, located in Oman’s southern Dhofar region in a small fishing community near Salalah, off the Arabian Sea’s misty coastline.

“The Sultanate has diligently engaged in a massive restoration program of its forts, with the aim to preserve the country’s architectural heritage and making these magnificent dwellings accessible for future visitors,” adds Ms. Tannous.

Managed by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, the forts’ admission charges are variable, ranging from AU$1.50 to AU$3.00 in admission.

For further information on Oman, please contact the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism office in Sydney.

T: (02) 9113 5959
E: info@tourismoman.com.au
W: www.omantourism.gov.om


david ellis

HE cut an almost debonair figure as he strode the boardwalks of Deadwood in America's legendary Wild West, while she was a part-time hooker whose youthful good looks had long gone and she now mostly dressed like a man and cussed as enthusiastically.

And she got her kicks from shooting-out bar-room chandeliers while smashed on whiskey.

Yet this seemingly odd couple shared time together, and as she approached death nearly thirty years after he was shot dead at a Deadwood card table, she begged to be buried alongside the man she described as "my great love."

But despite 130 years of research, students of the Wild West are as perplexed today as ever about the real relationship between the two – legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickok, and the irascible Calamity Jane.

We know that just as in Hollywood's enactments, the Deadwood Stage did roll-out over the hills, lawbreakers were lynched on the streets of "the shootin'est town in the West," and that Wild Bill and Calamity Jane were known to step the boardwalks together and share a drink or five in the local saloons.

Deadwood had hit the headlines in the mid-1870-s when gold was found in the surrounding Black Hills of Dakota. Within days thousands of hopefuls had flocked to the Hills, scooping-up nuggets "as big as candy bars" and blasting their way into the gold-bearing hillsides.

Thirty-thousand miners invaded Deadwood in the 1870s and '80s, and headstones at the town's Mt Moriah Cemetery tell how many of them died by rope, bullet, booze or natural causes.

But unlike in the movies, Wild Bill Hickok did not go to Deadwood intent on putting on a badge again and upholding justice: he left his newly-wed bride at home in Wyoming and jumped the Deadwood Stage with the intent of relieving gullible miners of some of their Black Hills gold at the poker table.

And when he arrived there in 1876, he was mysteriously accompanied not only by a colourful former Pony Express rider, 'Colorado' Charlie Utter, but by Calamity Jane whom he'd previously met when they were both Army scouts.

The one-time Marshall Hickcok (who between engagements moonlighted as a bounty hunter and professional gambler,) is known to have considered Calamity little more than a drinking mate, but to the alcoholic hooker he was always "my great love."

And Calamity proved to be anything but Hollywood's Doris Day who would host "Marshall" Wild Bill to candle-lit dinners in a rose-gardened Deadwood cottage.

But whatever their relationship was, it ended on August 2 1876 when Wild Bill – who drank with his left hand to keep his gun-hand free – dropped into the Number 10 Saloon for a game of poker. As the only seat at the table had its back to the door, he opted-out for fear of being ambushed from behind.

But fellow gamblers talked him into staying, and he'd played just a few hands when a drunken hoodlum, Jack McCall stumbled through the bat-wing doors and shot him dead with a single bullet to the head. Wild Bill's two black aces and two black eights spilled to the floor, and are known to this day as "Deadman's Hand."

McCall was tried, but acquitted after claiming the killing was revenge for Hickok killing his brother; when it was discovered that McCall's outlaw brother had died years earlier, he was recaptured and hanged.

Calamity Jane meanwhile was doing what Hollywood didn't tell us: she was working as a barmaid and part-time prostitute in local saloons, often taking her pay in whiskey.

And just before her death aged 53 she asked that she be buried next to Wild Bill, even posing haggard and gaunt with a bouquet at his grave. Martha 'Calamity Jane' (Cannary) Burke died on August 2 1903, bizarrely twenty-seven years to the very day after the shooting of James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok.

Deadwood today is a fascinating trek back into the Wild West, with an El Dorado of restored boardwalk casinos, saloons (including the Number Ten Saloon,) dining halls, an1860s gold mine to explore, and museums recalling the days of the Wild West.

Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays can add a short-break to Deadwood to a USA, Canada or Alaska vacation; phone 1300 79 49 59.



[] CALAMITY Jane dressed and cussed like a man – and was no Doris Day.

[] Deadwood Number 10 Saloon today (Pic: Alan McWhirter)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Alaska and the Inside Passage Gets Wild

Maple Leaf is a classic, 92-foot schooner.

Adventure cruises by sail

For those that like their cruising off the beaten track and with a huge dose of nature, check out the adventure cruises by sailing ship offered from Maple Leaf Adventures.

Trips, aboard the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf, explore Alaska, and B.C.’s Queen Charlotte Islands, Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island and Great Bear Rainforest.

The company was recently ranked the #3 adventure cruise company on earth by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine.

Like Galapagos cruises but in the lush rainforest islands of North America, the trips take place in peak wildlife areas accessible only by water. Highlights include getting up close to Alaska’s glaciers, and close encounters with humpback and killer whales, dolphins, seabirds and bears.

Trips take a small group of guests, who travel with expert guides, naturalist and chef among the islands and fjords of the coast. Plus cultural guides explain First Nations (native) cultural sites. Frequent shore excursions, soaks in natural hot springs and the peace of remote coves to anchor in at night are hallmarks of the trip.

2009 Schedule

· Gulf Islands in Spring, Apr 8-13, Apr 15-20, C $2050 all inclusive except air (approx AUD $2525) pp

· Inside Passage/Great Bear Rainforest, Apr 25-May 6, Sep 7-15, Sep 17-26, from C $4575 (approx AUD $5625) pp

· Queen Charlotte Islands, May 9-17, May 18-26, C $4250 all inclusive except air (approx AUD $5225) pp

· Alaska Adventure, May 29-Jun 9, Jun 9-20, C $5850 all inclusive except air (approx AUD $7200) pp

· Vancouver Island’s Wild Side & Whales & Totems, Jun 24-30, Sep 28-Oct 3, Oct 5-10, from C $2450 all inclusive except air (approx AUD $3000)

· Gulf Islands & Culinary Tour in Fall, Oct 15-20, Oct 22-27, from C $2050 all inclusive except air (approx AUD $2525)

ABOUT MAPLE LEAF ADVENTURES - Maple Leaf Adventures has been offering natural and cultural history cruises since 1986. We have a reputation as one of Canada's finest tour operators. A trip on Maple Leaf has been named by Frommer's travel guide as a "Best Travel Experience" and as one of the top 3 adventure cruise companies on earth by National Geographic Adventure magazine. Our multi-day excursions offer guests the opportunity to experience intimately the most beautiful places on the B.C. and Alaska coast and the Galapagos Islands, in the company of expert naturalists or historians, crew and chef. Info: www.MapleLeafAdventures.com, or +1-250-386-7245.

Sail a tall ship from Sydney to NZ


Join the crew and sail this authentic square-rigged sailing ship

From Sydney to Auckland - departs 9th – 23rd November 2009

Ten years ago, the tall ship Søren Larsen set sail from Sydney Harbour to cross the Tasman Sea to Auckland with a professional crew and 22 paying passengers eager to experience for themselves life on-board as a member of the ship's crew.

This journey and the romance and splendour of sailing as our forefathers did will be available again later this year as the ship sails from Sydney via the Bay of Islands to Auckland, the 'city of sails'.

Open to all ages and with no previous experience required, this special cruise will allow passenger's to discover for themselves the magic and the challenges faced by Captain James Cook, by Wallis and by Bougainville, by explorers, sailors, whalers and mariners as they sailed the waters between Sydney and New Zealand and the pacific Islands.

The Søren Larsen – which featured in the BBC TV series 'the Onedin Line' - was the Flagship of the First Fleet Re-enactment Voyage that sailed into Sydney Harbour with the fleet of Tall ships for Australia's 200th birthday in 1988.

On-board facilities include 2 or 4-berth cabins, a well-equipped saloon and galley, shower / bathrooms, inflatable boats, fishing tackle, windsurfer and snorkelling gear.

All-inclusive cost $3630 per person - includes all meals onboard, all excursions and activities, services of professional and experienced sail crew and cook, use of ship's wet-weather gear, inflatable boats and all safety equipment.

The role as Voyage Crew - This is an adventure holiday where the emphasis is placed on your enjoyment. Participation is part of that adventure and you will be taken on as a Voyage Crew, learning 'hands on' from the professional crew about shipboard life. Allowance is made for age and abilities and as part of the ship's watch system you can handle sail, take the helm, join-in and have fun.

Ocean Sailing or Bluewater Voyages you can be expected to stand watch and participate in all the activities of sailing the ship. The objective is to undertake an authentic blue water passage under square rig. You will be introduced to the traditions of tall ship sailing, working as part of a skilled crew within the watch system.

The voyage - on arriving onboard you will be shown your berths, introduced to the crew, and signed on Ship's Articles as Voyage Crew. Much of the first morning will be spent introducing you to the ship and explaining the various routines, safety procedures and equipment and how the watch system works. For those who wish we try to give you a chance to be shown how to haul and rig the sails and climb the masts.

Sailing through Sydney Harbour, one of the world 's great harbours, is a thrilling occasion.

The trip across the Tasman will be an exciting and challenging sail for the first time novice and the experienced sailor. This voyage gives time for a good sailing passage of 1000 miles to the northern tip of New Zealand in the prevailing westerlies. This should take us about a week in reasonable conditions and during the sea passage from Australia the ship is sailing 24-hours a day and as voyage crew you will stand deck watches and work within a normal 4-hours on / 8-hours off watch system. This rotates during the course of the voyage to allow everyone to be on deck during different parts of the day.

There are 13-permanent crew who maintain and sail the ship that are there to assist and help you enjoy your time aboard. Once we drop anchor the deck watch is undertaken by the permanent crew and you the Voyage Crew are free to explore ashore. While on watch the voyage crew are under the care and instruction of the watch officer and two other permanent crew; everyone stands a turn on the helm, takes lookout on bow watch, helps fill in the ship's deck log and help handle the sails as required. The watches on deck will have to work the brigantine rig to best advantage to make the most of the changeable weather. On the longer sea passage there's time for talks about basic navigation, seamanship theory, rope work, history and development of square rigged ships. The timeless routines of the sea and unique beauty and grandeur of the ocean can only really be appreciated by those who have undertaken a blue water passage several days out from land.

Sighting Cape Reinga at the northern tip of North Island will be our first glimpse of New Zealand and soon we shall enter the beautiful Bay of Islands to clear NZ Customs at the tiny fishing village of Opua. A good ocean passage will allow us time to enjoy 'the Bay' including the historic town of Russell and the picturesque Roberton Island. Dolphins usually delight in escorting us to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock archway. Once we drop anchor at the Bay of Islands the deck watch is taken by the permanent crew and the Voyage Crew are free to explore ashore. With 4 or 5 nights in hand we make our way south through the Hauraki Gulf, visiting the marine reserve and the Poor Knights islands and perhaps Kawau or Tiri Tiri island before we arrive at our final destination and home-port, Auckland.

Other Pacific journeys are also available including New Caledonia to Sydney or to the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu

Places are limited – call 1800 331 582 for more details or to make a reservation


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coral Princess’s Award Winning Cruises on the Great Barrier Reef

From 2009 Adventure Cruise Guide

Coral Princess Cruises, pioneer of small-ship cruising on the Great Barrier Reef, has released its 2009 cruise schedule, with new land-and-cruise packages, including a rail-cruise option incorporating the Sunlander train. Entering its 26th year of operations on the Reef, the company's three, four and seven-night Great Barrier Reef Cruises won Coral Princess Cruises the title of Major Tour and Transport Operator for 2008 at the Tropical North Queensland Tourism Awards.

Coral Princess and her sister ship, Coral Princess II cruise weekly between Townsville and Cairns over three nights, or over four nights departing Cairns and travelling north to Lizard Island and return. The cruises show off some of the world's best snorkelling, swimming and coral viewing spots en route, such as Thetford Reef, and Sudbury Reef. The three-night voyage also visits Dunk Island and cruises through the Hinchinbrook Channel.

Accommodating a maximum of just 50 guests, Coral Princess is equipped with a glass bottom boat and inflatable zodiacs for daily reef and shore excursions. There's even an excursion to Coral Princess' own private island – Pelorus – with no one else in sight except for Coral Princess passengers and crew.

Qualified marine biologists and a SCUBA diving instructor are also on board to explain the natural history and biodiversity of the area, making a snorkel or SCUBA dive in the sparkling blue waters even more fascinating.

Prices start at $1 496 per person in a twin share cabin on the three-night cruise ex Townsville or Cairns, or $1 896 per person twin share for the four-night cruise from Cairns to Lizard Island and return, with weekly departures year round. Prices include accommodation, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, group transfers, activities and excursions during the cruise, and landing fees.

In 2009, Coral Princess passengers can combine their Great Barrier Reef cruise with a three-night stay at the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, or a three-night stay at Silky Oaks Lodge. Sail and Stay package prices start at $1 596 per person, twin share, including a three-night cruise and three nights at the Novotel Cairns; or $2 266 for the three-night cruise and three nights at Silky Oaks Lodge in the Daintree rainforest.

For rail enthusiasts, the famous Sunlander train from Brisbane to Tropical North Queensland can be combined with a Coral Princess Great Barrier Reef cruise for a five, six or seven-night scenic journey that covers three-quarters of Queensland's coast. The new Sail and Rail packages start from $1 970, including the three-night cruise and the train from Townsville to Brisbane.

For further information and reservations contact 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au

Aboriginal tourism experiences designed for family bonding

Les Gibson with the start of Munbah Beach in the background
Aboriginal adventure provider for fathers and sons, Les Gibson of Munbah Beach Getaway, 50 km north of Cooktown is planning to extend his program for mothers and daughters with the assistance of his own daughter, Kathi Gibson-Steffensen.

Les broke into the tourism industry more than 16 years ago and over the years his imaginative adventure programs attracted the attention of travel writers and TV lifestyle programs such as The Great Outdoors.

His activities are centred on a picture-perfect location right on an expansive beach as Les explains: “It all started when I built the shack as a weekender to do fishing etc down on the shore about 30 kilometres east of Hope Vale.

“It’s a beautiful spot right on the beach. It’s called Munbah, and in our language, that means muddy creek. But the creek is not muddy, it is beautiful water but that was the way the old people thought because of the colour. But the stream drains water from a freshwater swamp and the colour comes from tannin, a natural substance in the water from the swamp.

“I didn’t find it hard to communicate with people, even those from overseas who came to stay. I like talking to people and sharing some of our bush skills and culture with them. I believe it can help them in their own life, even back in the busy cities.

“With the father/son program, we concentrate on doing things together. Firstly, on how to make a spear or woomera then having the dads and boys making one together.

“We also give them insights into bush medicine so that when they go home and hopefully follow up with camping trips together they can put this information into practice.”

Les says one of the most vital practices and know-how in bush medicine is how to treat stings from a box jellyfish.

Bush medicine

“If anyone gets stung by a box jellyfish or stone fish, we use hot ashes mixed with salt water. The sting is gone in 20 minutes and there is no pain. A lot of these things are just survival techniques. It is the core of the whole indigenous culture and traditions which have been passed on to generations.

Kathi will guide Les with the extension of his program that will be interest-specific for mothers and daughters while his other daughter, Tina, as an established artist, may assist with craft development such as coloured sand painting.

One of the favourite spots at Munbah is out the front of the shack under the awning, sitting in one of the old lounge chairs and looking at the change of colour of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, while in the late afternoon the sun plays with different hues as it casts its receding rays over distant Cape Bedford.

Les likes to take his guests hiking up into sparkling, white, sand dunes that give good views right out over the ocean. At another area along the beach, the sand hills are the colours of the rainbow. “This is a special place and I like to share it with others,” Les says proudly.

For further information, phone Les Gibson on 0488963806. A website is being developed.

Photo caption: Les Gibson with the start of Munbah Beach in the background


david ellis

A RUSTING old anchor on a waterfront lawn at English Harbour on the tiny island of Antigua in the Caribbean attracts only mild attention from most visitors… after all, this harbour was once one of Britain's major naval centres, so there are plenty such items of maritime history to be found here.

But in fact it marks an infamous blot in Britain's naval history, for it was here that a British peer and Acting Commander – Thomas Pitt, the 2nd Baron Camelford – shot dead a lower-born officer in a pistol duel… because the latter refused to kowtow to His Lordship.

Lord Camelford was no stranger to controversy: when he travelled with Captain George Vancouver on his journey of discovery to Tahiti and America, Vancouver had him flogged for trading ship's stores for the favours of a Tahitian beauty, again for unauthorised trading with Indians on the American coast, and yet again for breaking the binnacle glass while skylarking.

And finally Vancouver put him in irons for falling asleep on watch.

After other problems Lord Camelford left the navy for a short time, but rejoined and rose to the rank of lieutenant aboard HMS Favourite, and possibly because of his family connections, in 1797 was appointed Acting Commander over the ship's First Lieutenant, Charles Peterson who was actually his senior.

Inevitable friction between them saw Peterson transferred to HMS Perdrix, but the two found themselves moored uncomfortably side-by-side in Antigua's English Harbour in 1798.

They quarrelled yet again over seniority, and Lord Camelford, who considered himself a top shot and had already killed one man in a duel, challenged Lieutenant Peterson to join him on the lawn opposite their ships.

He shot Petersen dead, was court-martialled and acquitted, but ironically when he made a similar call against a friend six years later, it was His Lordship who proved not the shot he thought he was: he died on the spot at just 29 years of age, and with no heirs his title died with him.

The British chose English Harbour, 20km south of Antigua's now-capital St John's, as a base for their ships for raids on valuable sugar-producing islands in the Eastern Caribbean, and to thwart others eyeing-off the same islands. They could also repair their ships in a harbour well-protected against enemy and storms, and which had plentiful timber.

Lord Nelson was temporarily based there, and hated the place so much he wrote back home that it was "an infernal hole… a vile spot." And bizarrely when he fell ill and sailed back to England, he took a barrel of Caribbean rum with him to "preserve my body in the event of my death at sea."

English Harbour ceased operations as a naval base in 1889, and today is a favourite haunt of cruising yachties who find safe haven here. And local maritime and naval buffs who formed the Friends of English Harbour in the mid-1990s have restored much of the original Georgian dockyard, believed to be the only one of its kind remaining in the world today.

They've also created a fascinating maritime museum in the 1885's Admiral's House which, typically of the British, was given its illustrious name despite never having been home to an admiral: most of the time it was occupied by the officer-in-charge of the docks and his storekeeper.

As well as the anchor marking the spot where the erratic Lord Camelford shot Lieutenant Peterson, there are restored capstans on which fiddlers once sat and played sea shanties to encourage greater effort by sailors struggling to haul ships ashore for repairs, the massive pillars to which those ships were tied upright once on dry land, historic stone wharves, 250-year old warehouses that are now boutique hotels, and the museum with its fascinating collections.

Sadly most visitors to Antigua don't go much beyond the shops, markets, restaurants and bars of capital St John's, but the trip down to English Harbour is well worth the taxi fare.

Most cruise lines visiting Antigua depart early evening, but the twin 112-passenger mega motor-yachts of SeaDream Yacht Club generally don't depart until later at night, allowing time to enjoy the town's after-dinner nightlife; details travel agents or www.seadream.com



[] ANCHOR marks the spot where Lord Camelford shot Lt Peterson in a duel in 1798; the capstan behind was used to haul naval ships ashore for repairs – a fiddler sat atop to play encouraging sea shanties.

[] MUSEUM at Antigua's English Harbour, with the bust of Lord Nelson – who considered Antigua "an infernal hole and vile spot" – guarding the door.

[] FIGUREHEAD in the Museum: while women were considered bad luck aboard ship, bare-breasted figureheads were designed to shame a stormy sea into calm, and were often a likeness of a shipowner's wife or daughter.

[] ADMIRAL'S INN hotel: built in 1788 to house naval engineers, it was abandoned on 1889, restored in 1954 as a doctor's residence and police station, and became a boutique hotel in 1960.

- Photos: David Ellis


david ellis

PENNSYLVANIAN Ed Halluska got so smitten with the game of bridge after just one session, that he gave up his engineering job to learn all about it and become a professional bridge instructor.

That in turn led to he and his wife Helen deciding to go on a cruise that was advertised as having daily bridge sessions, which led to both of them then  becoming smitten with cruising.

And so they could indulge their new-found loves, Ed pulled off a neat trick snaring himself a job as a bridge instructor on a cruise ship.

Today they've become something of record breakers, although they never intended it being that way. "It just happened," said Ed when they passed through Sydney recently as part of a world cruise aboard Cunard's 5-star Queen Victoria.

And most startling of all this is that Ed fesses-up that a few days after leaving Sydney on their way to Singapore and London, with countless ports in-between, he'll be celebrating his 90th birthday aboard ship.

As well, this isn't Ed and Helen's first world cruise, nor their second, nor their third. Not even their tenth, fifteenth or twentieth… this is their twenty-third world cruise, and their 316th sailing somewhere on the planet. You almost get tired just thinking of the logistics – never mind keeping enough space in the Passport for another stamp.

And no, Ed's no longer a cruising bridge instructor. Today he and Helen just cruise for the love of it, and for Ed to play bridge every day with other passengers. Helen sometimes joins in, but says "I'm not as good as Ed – I don't concentrate enough."

And the quietly-spoken Ed fesses-up once again – this time as to why he's no longer a cruising bridge instructor, after the company called one day to say "they'd have to let him go."

When he asked them why, after much stammering and stuttering they finally said  "well, you know Ed, it's your age..."

"AND WHAT, I demanded to know," and this is the first time we've heard him raise his voice above barely a whisper. "WHAT is wrong with being 80?"

But let him go they did, so Ed and Helen decided to just keep on cruisin',  spending half of every year at sea.

"When we cruised into Sydney Harbour on Queen Victoria we'd chalked up 3,716,656 kilometres during 4,497 days at sea in forty years," he says. "And we've still got to get to London, and then home for a few more short cruises and then a world cruise next year on the British ship Saga Ruby."

With all this exposure to The Good Life, we ask, how do they manage to keep as trim as they are? "We don't miss any meals, but then we don't clean the plate ether," Ed says.

"We eat only what we feel we need to at breakfast, lunch and dinner – at dinner maybe just a bowl of soup with crackers and dessert one night, and next night just the main course – and fish at least six times a week."

They also walk as much as possible both aboard and in port, and Ed does daily sessions in the onboard gyms that include 80 push-ups – non-stop. Again a nice trick at 90.

And on their way to Sydney on Queen Victoria a fellow guest asked Helen if she missed being at home. "Good Heavens no," Helen replied. "I don't have to do the cooking or the washing up, and when we go back to our cabin after breakfast our bed is made up and the room is cleaned."

And now 87-years old Helen fesses-up: she was trained in voice and enjoys a bit of a sing on stage every now and then. And Ed boasts how she got a standing ovation a few nights before arriving in Sydney with her rendition of the Italian song Anima-e-Core – How Wonderful To Know You Really Love Me.

How wonderful indeed, for this sprightly couple who've been married 66 years.

If you'd like to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary or no real reason at all on Queen Victoria's next visit here in February 2010, phone 1800 225 656 for the name of the Cruiseco cruise-specialist nearest to you.



[] GLOBE-trotting Ed and Helen Halluska had cruised 3,716,656 kilometres in 40 years by the time they arrived in Sydney recently on Queen Victoria

[] BACK to the drawing board – planning next year's world cruise on Saga Ruby.

(Photos: David Ellis)

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