Sunday, November 29, 2009


david ellis

WE'VE never been averse to making dopes of ourselves in the cause of a good yarn, so the spectacle of us being loaded into the back of a police car in Honolulu was somewhat par for the course.

And a source of obvious bemusement amongst fellow hotel guests awaiting more normal means of transport.

That was way back in 1990, and we were reminded of it recently when word leaked that Hollywood's CBS was to pilot a re-make of one of TV's most successful-ever police series, Hawaii Five-0.

Our 1990 visit to Honolulu had been, amongst other yarns we were seeking, to search-out Jack Lord who'd played Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0 for twelve years from 1968.

And we need not have worried about any difficulty in finding him: unlike most former stars, he was openly listed in the Honolulu phone book. And he happily agreeing to an interview that very day – even suggesting we do it at his favourite Chinese restaurant, and offering to send his car around to save us having to catch a cab.

So a couple of hours later we're standing with those other guests outside our Waikiki hotel, with no idea which the star's car may be amid the endless line of family autos, taxis and stretch-limos rolling-in to collect their human cargoes.

And a police car.

This of course quickly becomes the focus of everyone's attention, including our own, particularly when an attractive lady in full police uniform steps out. And the more so when she enquires: "Anyone here Ellis?"

Scarlet-faced we raise a limpid hand, and nervously croak: "I'm Ellis."

"Please come with me," she says, opening the car's back door and ushering us aboard - now the focal point of a suddenly growing crowd of gawkers, each no doubt secretly appraising our potential demise.

And along the way to Diamond Head where Jack Lord lives, the lady tells me that No, she's not really wearing a police uniform, it's a replica. And No, the "police car" is the last of several used by McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0, and allowed by the Governor of Hawaii to be used on the road by Lord after the TV series ended – a "Thank You" for the enormous publicity Five-0 had generated for Hawaii.

Lunch proved rewarding, even if every question we put was interrupted by other diners seeking autographs. And never once did Jack Lord deny the 30, 40, 50 or more requests put to him, scribbling on paper napkins, pages from our dwindling notebook, and even on cigarette packets "Aloha (name of person) – Jack Lord."

And what did we learn about Jack Lord the man, and Hawaii Five-0 the series?

Firstly he admitted he'd got the star role of McGarrett by default. It had been offered to Gregory Peck who'd declined, and Lord was then invited to cast for it on a Wednesday, was told he had it two days later and was shooting the first episode in Honolulu the next Monday.

"It was some week!" he recalled.

Jack Lord was the only actor to play in all 278 episodes, the others being a mix of professionals for varying periods, including Khigh Dheigh who played McGarrett's arch-enemy, the evil Chinese agent Wo Fat, and James MacArthur (McGarrett's side-kick "Dano" Williams throughout most of the series.)

Others included mates of Jack Lord who did it for the fun of it – one, veteran Honolulu Police Officer Kam Fong, played one of McGarrett's team, Chin Ho for ten years between his real police duties.

And Chin Ho, Lord told us, was named after another of his mates who owned the Ilikai Hotel on Waikiki – scene of each episode's opening shot in which a helicopter camera zooms-in on McGarrett on a top-floor balcony – while Wo Fat was named after a Chinese Restaurant in downtown Honolulu, and is still there today.

Fast-forward now to 2009. CBS has engaged veteran writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci ("Transformers," "Mission Impossible III" and "Star Trek") to script the pilot for a potential new series of Hawaii Five-0, which will have McGarrett's son Chris succeeding his famous dad as head of the Hawaiian State Police.

And, yes, if a new series goes ahead, it'll include McGarrett's now pop-cult catchphrase, "Book 'em Dano" with each episode's final scene arrest.


[] JACK LORD – only actor to appear in all 278 episodes of Hawaii Five-0

[] THE Five-0 team, a mix of professional actors and mates of Jack Lord who did it for the fun of it

[] THE Ilikai Hotel Waikiki: opening scene for every episode featured a camera zoom-in of super-sleuth Steve McGarrett on the central top-floor balcony

STRUTH! Worlds Largest Cruise Ship


IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says the world's newest and largest cruise ship will give trivia buffs plenty to play with – and port authorities equally plenty to ponder over as they work out how to get more than 5000 passengers off and back on again in one day in ports of call.

The 225,000 tonne Oasis of the Seas cost US$1.5 billion and a further US$75m was spent on revamping a pier at Fort Lauderdale in Florida for her exclusive use.

She is nearly five times larger than the Titanic, 360m long (longer than three-and-a-half football fields,) 47m wide (greater than the distance between a Boeing 747's wing tips,) while her 20-storeys rise 72m above the waterline.

And so she can get under bridges that would normally bar her way, her funnels retract telescopically into her interior.

Oasis will normally carry 5400 passengers, but can carry as many as 6360, so if you don't want to run into someone for a second time, it will be easy enough to avoid them. She has 21 swimming pools and Jacuzzis and two artificial sand beaches complete with surfing simulators, an ice rink, two rock-climbing walls, basketball and volleyball courts, a real-grass chip and putt golf course and gardens with 97 varieties of living trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

There's a boardwalk surrounded by restaurants and a 'fun park' with full-size carousel, and the whole ship is divided into seven "neighbourhoods," much like theme parks with various specific attractions in each. These include a mini, mini New York Central Park overlooked by dozens of the ship's cabins and staterooms, with zippy flying fox running over its full length.

Six diesel engines generate 13,000 horsepower to drive the electric motors and provide power throughout the vessel – that's distributed via 5280-kilometres of electrical cabling and 100,000 power points.

Ice-making machines can produce 50-tonnes of ice every 24hrs for the 37 bars and 20 cafes and restaurants… which will use 60,000 serviettes a day.

Passengers and crew will use 2,350,000 litres of water a day that will be stored in 31 vast inboard reservoirs, and a sweet shop will stock 72 different types of confectionery.

And the casino has no fewer than 450 poker machines, and 600,000 litres of paint went into decorating the ship.

And a final note for trivia buffs – huge as she is, Oasis of the Seas has no rudders: she is powered by three stern-mounted azimuth thrusters that each contain an electric motor driving a 6m propeller, and which can be rotated during docking, a process assisted by four 7380hp bow-thrusters.

Oasis of the Seas was launched last month in Finland and will sail her maiden passenger voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti this week; she'll begin regular Caribbean cruises from mid-December.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Try Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting at Your next Corporate Event

Finding the right type of entertainment for your team building exercises, bucks days or corporate charters can be challenging.

An easy choice is laser clay pigeon shooting for rewarding fun and a great ice breaker for large groups. Both men and women can handle the authentic shotguns converted to fire harmless infrared beams. Cheer on your team and enjoy the fruits of victory!

Laser clay pigeon shooting is a perfect choice for seminars, corporate promotions, trade shows and displays where customer and client interaction is important. Engage your prospects or bond your sales department with this game of skill, accuracy and split-second decision-making.

The system uses the same type of clay pigeon launcher as used by professional shooters in the Olympic Games. The clays travel about ten or twenty metres and players shoot any time they decide. Some shooters can even hit a clay twice before it hits the ground scoring extra points.

Any flat area about the size of a tennis court is sufficient to set up laser clay pigeon shooting and you can have as many teams of four as you want. Hundreds of guests can play in a single day if required.

Another advantage is the ease of playing from a charter boat on Sydney Harbour or any waterway like Pittwater or the Hawkesbury River. The plastic clays are completely reusable and float for easy collection by our staff. There is no mess or cleaning up and professional staff takes care of everything. Just turn up and shoot.

Ask your conference organiser or charter boat agent about laser clay pigeon shooting.

STRUTH - All Bets are Off in Catalina's Casino

IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, DAVID ELLIS says that despite what The Four Preps assured us, Catalina Island is not twenty-six miles across the sea, but in fact 22-miles miles (which means its not forty kilometres in a leaky old boat, but thirty-five kilometres.)

And it's full of life's little mysteries. The main town, Avalon has a Third Street but no First or Second Streets, the Post Office doesn't deliver the mail (but if you ask the home-delivery grocer he'll pick it up for you,) and the local cabs deliver for Avalon's pizzerias.

It's also got an official Bird Park that was once one of the biggest in America, but today its aviaries are empty and people go there to walk and cycle

There's a multi-million dollar 'wedding cake' art deco Casino that despite its name has never been used for gambling but only for dances, dining, movies and concerts, and the 4000 locals are outnumbered 250-1 by 1,000,000 visitors a year.

Local legislation limits the number of cars and trucks on the island, and to get around this the locals drive golf buggies – of which there are more on the roads than all other kinds of motor vehicles combined.

And no one knows why Catalina Island's Constitution is the only one in America that was written in pencil rather than in ink.

Actress Natalie Wood drowned off the island in 1981, actor Phil Hartman was murdered there by his wife in 1988, Winston Churchill once caught a marlin off the island, and a local 1930s disc jockey went on to become one of America's most successful actors with 53 movies to his credit – and after that, President of the United States.

His name was Ronald Reagan.


david ellis

OWNERS of nags that have won the Melbourne Cup haven't always been the most appreciative types when it's come to accepting their prizes – but then they didn't get what owners do today when their steeds win the richest handicap horse race in the world.

In fact when Toryboy won the Cup in 1865 his owner was so horrified with his trophy that he sold it.

And in the early 1890s others growled when their 'cups' turned out to be not grand gold or silver affairs to show-off on the mantle-piece, but rather bone-china types for taking tea.

And John Mayo whose horse Lord Nolan won the Cup in 1908 didn't even get a cup at all: he got a near-metre long wooden plaque atop a garish red base, and on which was mounted a silver silhouette of a galloping horse – that local wits reported looked more like a galloping greyhound.

While somewhat bemused, Mr Mayo accepted his winnings in good spirit from the Governor-General – to whom he'd earlier given a tip that Lord Nolan would win the Cup – and took his horse and his trophy home to Newcastle.

Another of the more unusual Melbourne Cup trophies was that won by Mentor in the Centennial Year 1888. It comprised three silver horses on a silver-plated base, the lot weighing 280 ounces (nearly 8kg) and costing around $5000.  When it sold at auction in 1987 it fetched a whopping $177,000.

In some years there were no trophies at all, just cash, and from 1942 to 1944 Cup winners were awarded War Bonds.

The first Melbourne Cup winner's prize in 1861 was a gold watch. It was won by the owners of the great Archer which had been walked 800km from Nowra to Melbourne by a group of stable-hands, a journey that took three weeks – and the horse won again the following year, but this time got to Melbourne by steamer.

The first owner to publicly criticise his Cup trophy was Mr B.C. Marshall, when his Toryboy won the 1865 race.

The outspoken Melbourne draper told Victoria Racing Club officials his $200 silver bowl topped with a horse and rider was "a monstrosity," and promptly sold it to the Flemington Hunt Club which inscribed it with the names of winners of its annual Hunt until Melbourne ran out of foxes.

Melbourne stockbroker W.T. Jones was the first 'tea- and coffee-cup' recipient when his horse Bravo won the Cup by a length from the formidable Carbine in 1889. As well as a purse of cash, his prize contained a set each of cups, saucers, tea and coffee pots, presumably so he could have folk around to discuss Bravo's success.

Similar packages continued to be awarded over the next few years, prompting one outraged owner to tell the Melbourne Press that such trophies were "to the proper glory of the Melbourne Cup as flat soda water is to live Champagne."

The controversial prizes were replaced by more conservative trophies in the early 1900s, after Mr Mayo received that somewhat cumbersome plaque for Lord Nolan's win.   

Mr Mayo had never doubted his horse would win the Cup, and on a tram from his Melbourne hotel to the race track proffered such advice to anyone listening – and at the track, to Governor-General, Lord Dudley.

After the race, the G-G confided how "a strange, grey-headed old man told me before the race that Lord Nelson would win; I took little notice – then to my astonishment he came up to collect his prize."

By the 1920s a 'loving cup' design had been permanently adopted; today's gold cups are valued at around $190,000 each – and for good measure come with cash components for first, second and third place winners comprising a cosy $5.5m.

Little wonder the race now attracts starters from England, Ireland, Japan, the USA, Germany and the UAE.

HOOFNOTE: Most successful Melbourne Cup trainer, Bart Cummings has had eleven winners, while jockeys Harry White and Bobbie Lewis share riding honours with four wins each.

And the legendary Phar Lap that was bought for a mere $330 and earned over $100,000 in prize money, won only one Melbourne Cup from three starts – in 1930. Race-fixing criminals had tried to shoot him four days before the race, and he later died of arsenic poisoning.


[] JOCKEY Glenn Boss rode Makybe Diva to Melbourne Cup victories in  2003, 2004 and 2005

[] THE mighty Phar Lap: one only one Melbourne Cup just days after race-fixers tried to shoot him – and he later died of arsenic poisoning.



Captain Berg on the fly-bridge of SeaDream I

david ellis

IF ever there's a bloke can say he's got the sea in his veins it's a Norwegian named Valter Berg.

Captain Berg is a man of the sea, by the sea. His father was a sea captain, and his father's father, too. And his father's father's father was one before that.

His uncles were all sea captains and his two brothers both still are captains at sea.

So it was only natural that Valter would become a sea captain.

But he can boast something beyond the reach of the others: he was born on the sea.

The Berg family lived on one of Norway's off-shore myriad specks of land just under the Arctic Circle, a minuscule dot that bravely called itself an island and was home to a handful of families.

His father was skippering his small freighter on a run to the Middle East at the time his pregnant wife went into labour, and so Valter's uncle came to the rescue – rushing his fishing trawler to collect his sister-in-law from her island home and get her to a mainland hospital.

But the young Valter was already impatient for a life at sea, and came into the world before his uncle's fishing boat – its engines running hot – reached the mainland.

Today, aged 62 Captain Berg can look back at a colourful life both on the sea and under it: not only has he worked on fishing trawlers and cargo ships and passenger liners since officially going to sea at age 15, he did his compulsory Norwegian Navy service aboard a submarine.

When he first began his working sea career Valter was happy to initially enjoy the trawlers on which he worked; at a remarkably young 24 years of age he was officially appointed a captain and went on to command freighters on which he expected he would happily work out the rest of his days.

But one day 20-something years ago he got a call from a cruise company that had affiliations with the freighter line for which he was working: one of its small 5-star cruise ships had lost a captain to illness while visiting Sydney in far off Australia.

Could Captain Berg come to the rescue and take command so the cruiser could continue its Pacific cruise?

He jumped at the idea as something of a change – a change that was in fact to alter his entire life.

After successfully completing the Pacific cruise, Captain Berg was asked if he would be interested in joining the luxury Seabourn Cruise Lines that was owned by a fellow Norwegian, Atle Brynestad and which included in its fleet two boutique motor-yacht-cruisers, Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II that carried just over 100 guests each in absolute indulgence.

Captain Berg knew that the small Seabourn was about to merge with the goliath Cunard Line and accepted the offer.  But in 2001 Cunard decided bigger was better, and to "let go" of the diminutive two Sea Goddesses in favour of mega-liners.

Brynestad horrified at the perceived-error of their ways, bought back his beloved Sea Goddess motor yachts from Cunard, relinquished his interest in the company, and founded SeaDream Yacht Club, re-naming the Sea Goddesses as SeaDream I and SeaDream II.

They're now the world's highest-rated boutique mega motor-cruisers, carrying just 112 guests each served by 95 crew in uber-5-star indulgence that eschews Black Tie Formal in favour of Country Club Smart Casual.

But now after over two decades of SeaDreaming, Valter Berg has decided that in May of next year he'll roll up his charts on the bridge of SeaDream I for the last time.

"No," he admits. "It won't be easy. I was born on the ocean, the ocean is part of me – and I am part of the ocean."

But he's got a nice little flat back in Norway that he's long planned to "tinker with and finally give myself a permanent home," his son Valter Jnr is at university – and his daughter Janelle is a backstage photographer with Australian country musician Keith Urban.

And after a lifetime at sea does he have any regrets?

"Yes," he confesses sheepishly. "After all those lifeboat drills I ordered for ships passengers and crews, I'm glad we never had an emergency.

"Because in 47 years at sea I never learned to swim."


David Ellis and John Rozentals

Holman Estate house provides an escape from the Hunter’s touristy hustle and bustle.
IF getting it right in real estate jargon means position, position, position, then it's a safe bet that the Hunter Valley's Holman Estate guest house is one place that's got it right.

Located right in the middle of the parish of Pokolbin, itself the very heart — geographically, historically and spiritually — of the valley's renowned wine country, Holman Estate has that position, position, position…

From it's broad verandah you can look across the estate's own vineyards to the corner of Broke Road and McDonalds Road, where Hunter Valley Gardens rubs shoulders with Brokenwood Wines and the futuristic Tempus Two. Or take-in the Valley's magnificent landmark, the oh-so-Australian, Brokenback Range.

A 10-to-15-minute drive will have you sipping reds, whites, sparklings or fortifieds at several dozen wineries, almost as many restaurants in which to dine, and a range of galleries, craft-shops and antique dealers to browse and buy. And if you don't want to drive, it's just a stroll across the driveway to Scarborough Wines, recently named as having the Valley's best cellar door,

Yet for its seemingly busy surroundings, there's a tranquillity that appears to remove Holman from the touristy hustle and bustle normally associated with the Hunter. It's silence is interrupted only by the few vehicles that make their way to the end of Gillards Road.

The house's boutique accommodation is of a quite grand scale for three couples in double bedrooms, with twin beds in another room and an option of two pull-out single beds in the billiards room if you've maybe a large family or group of friends staying for a couple of nights.

Part of the Mount Eyre Vineyards, the property also includes the Three Ponds Vineyard which was established in 1999 by the Iannuzzi and Tsironis families, migrants respectively from Italy and Greece and with a naturally goodly amount of wine culture in the their blood.

They have created magnificent gardens around the hilltop Holman house, which has been lavishly furnished to reflect their love of fine art.

The long, painting-lined hallway leads past the bedrooms to an enormous combined lounge and dining area whose plush furnishings and huge fireplace provide the feel of a European chateau.

The modern kitchen has top-of-the-line appliances and all the utensils required by even the most ardent foodie.  Essentials such as tea, coffee, sugar, olive oil, etc are provided, and there's a supply of Mount Eyre wines to help yourself to on an honour system,

And then, of course, there's the billiard room. The table isn't full-size but it's a  good one for a few games of after-dinner billiards, snooker and pool – and best of all, there's no slot marked "insert coins here".

It's easy to spend a few days relaxing in the house and doing some touring without having to leave Gillards Road: at the end of the road is the small tasting room of Constable Estate — surrounded by immaculate parklike gardens that include more than 70 varieties of camellias, separate rose and herb gardens, and an impressive sculpture garden featuring work by prominent Australian artists.

The latest addition here is a larger-than-life bronze of renowned English cellist Jacqueline Du Pre.

At the other end, where Gillards Road intersects with McDonalds Road, is Il Cacciatore, which for seven of the past eight years has been named the Hunter's best Italian restaurant in the Restaurant & Catering NSW Awards for Excellence. They're still trying to figure out what happened in 2006.

Run by Mark and Noreen Gottaas, it's part of Hermitage Lodge, and executive chef Michael Haines has put together a scintillating menu of Italian-inspired delights, including his speciality of pan-fried gnocchi with local chorizo, roast pumpkin, wild rocket and basil pesto.

And after lunching here on a Saturday or Sunday you can always do a tasting at Scarborough as you toddle the few minutes back to the house.

Tariffs at Holman Estate range from $1350 to $1800 for two nights for eight adults, and the bonus is that with the vast living and entertainment space you don't feel like you're living out of a suitcase in a motel room.

For further information: Holman Estate — visit  or phone 0438 683 973.

Constable Estate —

Il Cacciatore —

Scarborough Wines —


TRANQUILITY: Holman Estate house provides an escape from the Hunter's touristy hustle and bustle

THE feel of a European chateau

LATEST addition to Constable Estate's sculpture garden

Photos courtesy of Sandra Burn White

New Melbourne Wining & Dining hotspots

New Melbourne Wining & Dining hotspots
92 Smith Street
(no phone)

Boire is a warm and welcoming bar that is a little French, a little quirky, a little modern. Catherine Chauchat, Bordeaux-trained winemaker and bar owner, imports all of the wine from small producers in her native France. The list also includes French beer and a small selection of boutique local labels.

Boire’s architecturally-designed interior promotes a casual-dining atmosphere. It is simple and minimalist, created to enhance the experience of rustic food and fine wine.  A vast blackboard covering an entire wall provides an eye-catching visual and expansive descriptions of the wine and food selections (the latter changing every second day). The bar serves a small selection of ‘peasant’ food such as pork pâté to local olives from the Grampians, as well as a compact list of mouth-watering meals, all designed to perfectly accompany your wine.

Boire’s approach to food and wine benchmarks itself as a perfect venue for a warm, wine-drinking sanctuary

New Melbourne Wining & Dining hotspots
Shannon Bennett opens
Café Vue at
401 St Kilda Road

Internationally acclaimed chef Shannon Bennett, of Vue de Monde, has opened a new venue on St Kilda Rd.

Café Vue at 401, which opened in September 2009, offers full table service with quick casual meals and a limited la carte dining available at lunch time and in the evenings. Everything served at Café Vue - including fresh bread, filled baguettes, speciality pies, viennoisseries, gateaux and handcrafted chocolates - is made in-house. The décor is a modern interpretation of the era of Marie Antoinette with luxurious textured finishes and wonderful colours.

Located on the ground level of Pan Urban’s luxury residential redevelopment, Café Vue at 401 provides a window onto St Kilda Road serving express take away meals including the signature Café Vue lunch boxes, Illy coffee and a range of sandwiches and pastries.

Bennett’s next venture, Café Vue at Heide Museum of Modern Art, is due to open in November 2009.
For bookings call Ph: (03) 9866 8055 or view the menu and photo gallery see

New Melbourne Wining & Dining hotspots
No 35 restaurant at Sofitel - new elegant dining with a view

Sofitel Melbourne On Collins has a new fine dining restaurant called No35, located 35 floors above the Paris end of Collins Street.

The restaurant, which opened in June, boasts rich dark timbers and a sophisticated palette of gold, red and pink tones enhanced by a collection of contemporary artworks and spectacular views of Melbourne and surrounds.

No35 serves modern cuisine, using the freshest seasonal ingredients. Overseeing the kitchen is UK chef Stuart McVeigh whose background includes working at several Michelin star restaurants in London as well as a stint at The Botanical (South Yarra).

The sommelier is Kyriacos Christodoulou (recently at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London) and the restaurant manager Chris McNally hails from Sydney’s Steel Bar & Grill.
For more information:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Avista Phuket makes a splashing debut

A new luxury resort joins Asia’s most desirable island paradise

Avista Resort and Spa, Kata Phuket, the newest property on the shores of southern Thailand’s world famous resort island, opened its doors in early November and is already leaving lasting impressions on its first group of guests. With bookings coming through from the very instant the hotel went online, tourists from all corners of globe have already been given a spectacular taste of this contemporary tropical resort.

While the world’s tourism industry might have taken a step back during this global recession, the crowded streets and fully-booked hotels of Phuket prove that Thailand’s largest island is doing just fine. As the calendar moves towards the end of 2009 and the busiest holiday season of the year, travelers will have a brand new accommodation option at this ground-breaking new property.

Avista Resort and Spa Phuket is the first of what will soon become Thailand’s most exciting and dynamic chain of luxury resorts, which prides itself on welcoming all visitors with the Land of Smile’s globally renowned warm hospitality.

Situated on a hillside, Avista Resort and Spa Phuket, as it name suggests, offers an unrivalled, panoramic view of the crystal clear emerald waters of the stunning Andaman Sea.

Designed purely with every need of the holidaymaker in mind, the 143-unit Avista Resort and Spa Phuket puts every emphasis on making visitors feel at home. The resort features creative elements and facilities to best accommodate the guests. Rooms feature innovative touch panels that allow you to have the entire room under your complete control from the comfort of your bed. In-room entertainment is unrivalled, with massive LCD flat screens featuring dozens of satellite channels from all over the planet as well as various outlets and USB sockets which allow guests to plug and play their own choice of programming. You can also easily stay connected with your friends and family back home with in-room high-speed broadband internet.

For that extra special occasion, the exclusive Kata and Karon suite rooms overlook the entire property and feature unimpeded views of the ocean. This is simply the ultimate answer in luxury for guests wanting to be spoiled, with a spacious living area as well as an indoor Jacuzzi right at the edge of your king-sized bed.

Most units have a clear view of the ocean as well as the hotel’s swimming pool, which is surrounded in a lush tropical setting and features a cool and refreshing waterfall. Situated at the centre of the property, the pool area doubles as a stage area for entertainment at sunset daily ranging from traditional Thai shows, Latin dances, and musical performances which will take place as the sun fades and the moon rises every single evening.

A visit to Thailand would be utterly incomplete without sampling some of the most delicious food in the world. En Vogue, Avista’s signature restaurant, offers guests a breath-taking gastronomic journey into both Thai and international cuisines with new spins on classic local and foreign dishes that will thrill every palette. The endless selection of new world wines from En Vogue’s very own wine lounge will also definitely excite the travelling connoisseur. For a cool relaxing end to a long day, the signature cocktails of the poolside bar are waiting to quench your thirst with happy hours every evening.

There’s no reason not to stay healthy during your relaxing vacation with the resort’s trademark Morrocan and Thai inspired spa located near the main pool featuring an extensive list of treatments to ease all your aches and pains. A glass-encased fitness centre also sits right on the edge of the pool with all the equipment necessary to ensure you keep fit and firm during your stay.

Business travelers will find everything they need at Avista as well, with two cutting edge conference rooms outfitted with modern equipment for presentations, as well as a cinema-style theatre hall.

The resort is just minutes away from the serene, powder-white sands of Kata, one of Phuket island’s more peaceful beaches, where guests can soak up the sun or go for a refreshing swim off this beautiful shore line. The friendly town of Kata is home to endearing locals, charming shops, and restaurants serving mouthwatering, freshly-caught seafood.

While Kata beach is the ideal locale for guests to relax and leave the worries of the chaotic world behind, there’s always a time for some fun and excitement. Though visitors can rest unimpeded and bask in the infinite tranquility of Avista Phuket, a drastic change of pace can be had with ease with just a short, ten-minute drive up the winding coast to the popular and vibrant Patong beach.

During this special introductory period, Avista Resort and Spa Phuket is offering a promotional rate until the 21 of December 2009.

For more information or reservations contact 662-714-3547, 6620714-3548 or visit the website at

Contact: Australia
Aviation & Tourism International
Tel: 02 80805622, Fax: 02 92416888, Email:

Antarctica To Asia: Orion Expedition Cruises Expands with the Addition of a Second Specialist Expedition Cruise Ship

Orion Expedition Cruises is to increase the size of its fleet with the addition of a second specialist expedition cruise ship to join the existing 106 passenger Orion.

Orion Expedition Cruises today released details regarding the forthcoming long term charter of Clelia II, a 100 passenger all-suite luxury expedition cruise ship, to be renamed Orion II. The ship, configured to Orion's exacting requirements, is scheduled to commence expedition voyages under the Orion Expedition Cruises banner in May 2011.

Making the announcement today from on board Orion in Sydney Harbour, Sarina Bratton, Orion's Managing Director, was upbeat about the expansion of the business she started in 2004, citing a strong existing market – despite tough current worldwide economic conditions – and growing interest from international markets in expedition cruising in this part of the globe.

A loyal Orion past-passenger base, resurgent growth by independent travellers and significant opportunities afforded through charter and incentives markets have provided the platform for the expansion.

Based on thorough research, and following the success of Orion's recent voyages, Orion II will be based in South East Asia offering a wide range of expeditions that will include Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Indonesian archipelago, Japan and Borneo. Details of destinations and itineraries will be released in 2010 once voyage details and expedition team scouting are finalised.

Recently subject to a €13 million (A$21 million) refurbishment undertaken by the present operators, with emphasis on technical enhancements and upgraded environmental systems, the ship will also undergo additional cosmetic enhancements to bring her fully into the Orion style.

Commenting on the additional range of destinations and itineraries, Sarina said that Orion Expedition Cruises will be able to provide exclusive expeditions from Antarctica to Asia, and the Kimberley to Melanesia and New Zealand, with the two ships offering a balance of onboard service and luxury combined with unique personal experiences in environmentally and culturally sensitive parts of the region. Together, Orion and Orion II will be two of the most modern and capable expedition cruise ships cruising in Australasia.

The long term charter of a second purpose built ship able to access remote regions in comfort is a further step to fulfilling the company's original vision to have Orion Expedition Cruises regarded as the operator of choice in the Asia Pacific.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email:

About Clelia II / Orion II Clelia II, will continue to be marketed and operated until April 2011 by Travel Dynamics International, New York, a leading U.S expedition cruise company serving the American educational and cultural non-profit groups.

Originally launched in late 1990 as Renaissance Four and re-launched in 2009 after extensive technical refurbishment, redecoration and other improvements, the all-suite Clelia II offers fine small-ship cruise travel. In May 2011, the ship will be renamed Orion II.

This private yacht-like cruise ship accommodates only 100 guests in 50 suites, each of which affords ocean views, measuring 215 to 285 square feet, and appointed with a sitting area or separate living room, twin or queen-size beds, spacious closets, and air conditioning.

• Satellite TV, DVD/CD player • Telephone • Mini-refrigerator • Marble-appointed en-suite BESPOKE SMALL-SHIP AMENITIES Decorated with rich fabrics, handsome wood, polished brass, rare antiquities and fine works of art, the ship's public spaces are warm and inviting. These include:

• Library with Internet access • 2 Lounges with audiovisual facilities • State-of-the-art gym/spa • Beauty salon • Boutique • Hospital • Elevator serving all passenger decks • Dining room • Two sun decks • Jacuzzi • Swimming platform Clelia II complies with the latest international and U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations and is outfitted with the most current navigation and communications technology as well as retractable fin stabilizers for smooth sailing, an icestrengthened hull for Antarctic voyages and a fleet of Zodiacs to enable easy shore access in remote locations.

Clelia II carries a staff of 65, providing a ratio of over 1 crew member for every 2 guests. Taken together with her limited guest capacity, excellence of design, craftsmanship and material, Clelia II's spaciousness and intimate ambience combine to make her ideal for distinctive cultural and expedition voyages.

About Orion Expedition Cruises Founded in early 2004, Orion Expedition Cruises is the only world class expedition cruise line operating from Australia to pristine wilderness areas in Antarctica, the Kimberley, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia and Asia. Orion is known worldwide for its new and diverse itineraries and sustainable operations.

Orion is designed to fulfil the desire of the sophisticated traveller for experience driven, cultural and nature based tourism that allow for a more informed and indepth interpretation of, and interaction with, destinations and their people.

Providing the comfort and luxuries that today's travellers expect in a specially designed vessel that provides access to areas otherwise largely unreachable through conventional means, Orion truly provides a path less travelled.

Break free with a long lunch in Noosa

Following the success of the inaugural Noosa's Longest Lunch last year, organisers are set to bring back the popular event on Friday 4 December promising an even bigger and better serve than last time.

More than 1000 people are expected to attend the gourmet extravaganza taking place down the length of Hastings Street.

Noosa's Longest Lunch will once again showcase the fine cuisine of Noosa's famous restaurants supported by street performers, fashion parades and entertainment in a feast for the senses not to be missed.

And if you're hungry for a good accommodation deal as well, BreakFree brings some great rates to the table to coincide with the big event.

These include BreakFree Ocean Breeze where two bedroom apartments start from $239* per night, BreakFree Noosa International where one bedroom apartments start from $169* per night, BreakFree French Quarter where one bedroom apartments start from $199* per night and BreakFree South Pacific where one bedroom apartments are available from $128* per night.

For bookings or further information phone 132 007 or visit

About BreakFree:
BreakFree offers an extensive range of hotels, resorts and apartments at great rates in favourite holiday destinations throughout Australia and New Zealand. Featuring 3.5 to 4.5 star, self contained accommodation, BreakFree properties are located close to the best beaches, dining and holiday attractions. Representing quality and great value for money, BreakFree spans superb family destinations such as Tropical North Queensland, the Fraser Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold and Tweed Coasts, New South Wales and New Zealand's South Island as well as prime city locations.

*Conditions, minimum stays and blockout periods apply. Subject to availability.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For the discerning traveller looking for that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience, Academy Travel, specialist in small group cultural tours, have included five new tours to Europe, Gulf States and Indochina in their 2010 programme launched today.

The 20-day Barcelona to Nimes tour is offered for the first time in 2010 and focuses on the vibrant medieval heritage of Spain and southern France with visits to UNESCO sites and extended stays in Barcelona, Girona and Narbonne and Paris in France.

Dr. Milton Osborne, a historian with over five decades of experience in the Mekong Basin, will lead the 14-day Royal Cities of IndoChina tour. This itinerary will cover visits to three UNESCO world-heritage sites including the famous Angkor Wat in northern Cambodia.

The Grand Tour of France, a 19-day tour departing on 30 September 2010, travels through some of France’s most beautiful and historic regions, taking in medieval towns, Roman ruins, vineyards and stays in historic chateaus.

Academy Travel is gradually expanding their range of tours to the Middle East with a new Oman and the Gulf States itinerary. This 18- day tour begins on the on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, travelling along the coastline from Abu Dhabi through a number of small emirates. Included is Oman, whose many charms include the city of Muscat, an entrepôt of Arab, Portuguese and Turkish influences. The tour is led by Dr John Tidmarsh who has lectured and led tours to Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States.

Academy Travel director Robert Veel says the confidence of Australian travelers has returned and many people are eager to travel while the dollar is strong against international currencies.

“People that postponed travel last year due to the economic downturn are now booking long haul trips to Europe, the Middle East and also parts of Asia to capitalise on the strong Australian dollar,” Robert said.

“Tours offering good value and a more in-depth experience are proving most popular and we have ensured Academy Travel tours are led by academics or experts in their field of study and groups are a maximum of 20 people so personal attention is assured.”

Even before departure, Academy Travel makes learning about the destination easy with online resources including links to relevant websites, maps, historical summaries and suggested reading materials. All tours are led by academics who specialise in the particular theme of the tour and Academy Travel clients enjoy not only seeing extraordinary sites but also taking home a thorough understanding of their significance.

Academy Travel’s packages include airfares, accommodation, all breakfasts, several lunches and dinners, transport by private air-conditioned coach, all entrance fees and tips for local guides, as well as regular briefings and background reading materials from the expert guides.

Pricing for the new 2010 tours:
Tour Prices (land only)

Barcelona to Nimes $7,200 per person twin share.

Royal Cities of IndoChina $4,300 per person twin share.

Grand Tour of France $7,200 per person twin share.

Oman and the Gulf States $7,200 per person twin share.

To view the full itinerary or book a tour visit Academy Travel’s website at


Following up on the great success of 2009, Academy Travel will be presenting a series of stimulating lectures for travellers looking for that ‘unique’ experience in 2010 or just wanting to find out more about destinations offering culture, music, art and history throughout Europe, Asia and America.

The first lecture will kick off on January 28th with a subject dear to any traveller’s heart - photography. A digital photography lecture conducted by Robin Nichols, will teach travellers how to fully understand their cameras and take the best photographs wherever they travel. Cost of this lecture is $20 and starts at 9.30am. (*Info on Robin needed)

The following lectures will be conducted starting in January 2010:

* Thursday 28th January, 9.30am to 12.45

Making Digital Photography Work for you – by Robin Nichols

* Monday 8th March, 10.30am- to 12.45

Revolutionary Paris – by Dr Michael Adcock

* Thursday 25th March – 10.30am to 12.45

New York and Washington: Capitol and Capitol – by Stuart Barrie and Robert Veel

* Thursday 15th April – 10.30am to 12.45

Medieval or Just Middle Aged: a study in Culture and Religion – by Dr Carole Cusack

* Thursday 21st May – 10.30am to 12.45

Jewels of the Italian Renaissance – by Dr Kathleen Olive and Nicholas Gordon

* Thursday 17th June – 10.30am to 12.45

Oman: Transformation and Contrast – Dr John Tidmarsh

* Thursday 15th July – 10.30am to 12.45

The Mekong: Exploring the River Road – by Dr Milton Osborne

The lectures, held at Academy Travel’s office in the CBD, last approximately 2 hours with refreshments and time for questions and answers. Most talks cost $10 or a six lecture package from March to July, is $50. Lectures are open to anyone interested in a particular subject and bookings must be made in advance.

To view the tours associated to the lectures, background notes on the speakers and tour leaders and to book a place for any of the lectures, visit

All I want for Christmas is an experience

People want a holiday experience they can talk about at a dinner party rather than just another gadget – and tourism marketers need to make the most of this, a researcher from The University of Queensland says.

UQ School of Tourism senior research fellow Dr Noel Scott says many people have all the gadgets and designer clothes they need, so they start hunting around for unique tourist destinations and experiences.

The tourist destinations need to provide these people with an experience they cannot get anywhere else, Dr Scott said.

The comments come as Dr Scott prepares to release a book he edited with fellow researchers Eric Laws and Philipp Boksberger called Marketing of Tourism Experiences.

The book covers things such as wine tourism, visits to museums and national parks, design of urban precincts with tourism in mind and inter-cultural experiences.

Dr Scott said it aimed to help tourism marketers appreciate how important it was to sell their destinations as places where people could experience exciting new things.

"Wine tourism is an example of a type of experiential tourism because you get to taste it,'" he said.

"Up till now, people in marketing or in business have generally been selling products, like buying a bag of sugar. There is not much of an experience in buying a bag of sugar.

"Today people have so much money and they live in a consumer world. People are interested in brands, not just products.

"It is not just the physical product but the whole idea of the product they are buying.

"If you buy a Gucci handbag, you are not just buying a handbag. You are buying a name and a status. When you have all the brands you need, people buy experiences. These are unique.'"

It was the same in tourism, Dr Scott said.

"An experience is something you talk about afterwards at a dinner table and people are interested," he said.

"You don't talk about your hotel room or travelling by plane. An experience is emotional. It is delightful.

"You need to sell your tourism product or destination as an experience. You can stay at the Tarzan room at a particular hotel. You are not selling a room. It is an experience.'"

Some Hollywood hotels had rooms related to specific films, Dr Scott said.

Members in some Chinese tour groups are asked to take roles in a simulated wedding, alongside actors dressed in traditional clothing, he said.

"It is an example of interacting rather than viewing. It is something authentic and not just a product.''

Tourism marketing worked best when it evoked the senses and emotions and may involve providing traditional food, trinkets infused with smells or music associated with the destination, Dr Scott said.

"A physical experience can lead to an association with a destination."

Dr Scott's book is available for $134. Visit

This article comes from:
The url to this article is:
Copyright © 2009 The University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia

Christmas Lunch on the Edge of Sydney Harbour

Breathtaking views and exquisite cuisine for a memorable Christmas lunch

Park Hyatt Sydney is once again hosting its signature Rooftop Seafood Barbecue lunch for families and friends wanting to be spoilt on Christmas Day.

Perched on the very edge of Sydney Harbour nestled between the world-famous icons of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Park Hyatt Sydney offers the perfect location in which to celebrate Christmas Day.

Rooftop Seafood Barbeque
Park Hyatt Sydney's Rooftop Terrace offers uninterrupted views from the city skyline to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. A magnificent seafood barbeque buffet starts at 12:00 noon on Christmas Day, featuring a selection of the freshest produce and finest seafood. Naturally, Christmas bon-bons are an integral part of the day as is a visit from Santa.

Christmas Day 12:00 noon to 3:00pm
Adults A$245 per persons including a glass of champagne on arrival, and a beverage package of beer, wine and soft drinks Children (12-17) A$150 per person Children (3-11) A$75 per person

Bookings are essential for last remaining tickets. Please call +61 2 9256 1661 or email

About Park Hyatt
Intimate and residential in style, Park Hyatt hotels promise elegant and gracious service on a personal scale, and are further distinguished by prime locations and exceptional interior design. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and its subsidiaries operate 24 Park Hyatt hotels, with an additional 10 properties under development. Current locations include: Baku, Beaver Creek, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Canberra, Chicago, Dubai, Goa, Hamburg, Istanbul, Melbourne, Mendoza, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Philadelphia, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington DC and Zurich.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

City of Helsinki appointed World Design Capital 2012

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) announced today, that the appointment of World Design Capital™ (WDC) 2012 has been conferred to the City of Helsinki (Finland). Announced during the closing ceremony of the Icsid World Design Congress in Singapore, Helsinki will move on to be the third city to hold the biennial designation in 2012.

Appointed to cities based on their accomplishments and commitment to design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development, the WDC designation is an ambitious project initiated and managed by Icsid to promote the impact of design on quality of life. Since its inception in 2004, the project has developed into a tangible venture and is being recognised internationally for its ability to showcase the merits of design-led initiatives within various municipalities.

Icsid President Prof. Carlos Hinrichsen stated "The WDC designation impresses upon cities, the importance of design as a primary developmental tool. As the world seeks to understand the changing fabric of urban environments, the initiative is uniquely positioned to reflect on the many equations that collectively impact the quality of urban life. From urban regeneration and planning policies, to product development and technology, these and other developmental initiatives have proven that design can be used for the betterment of the human condition."

For the City of Helsinki, design has for decades been a pivotal enabler to building an open city. The concept of 'Embedded Design' has tied design to innovation and has enabled desirable solutions that have addressed the needs of its inhabitants. Helsinki Design is also part of world design – it is created together with the international design community and the people of the world. Helsinki Design includes well-known global brands, such as Nokia, Kone and Marimekko, popular events, like the annual Helsinki Design Week, outstanding education and research institutions, such as the University of Art and Design Helsinki, and exemplary architects and designers such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto.

The WDC 2012 Jury consisting of Prof. Carlos Hinrichsen, Icsid President (Chile); Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum (United Kingdom); Guto Indio da Costa, Architect (Brazil) and Se-hoon Oh, Mayor of the City of Seoul (South Korea) was facilitated by Prof. Dr. Peter Zec, Icsid Senator and WDC Founding Chair (Germany). A comprehensive SWOT analysis was implemented during the deliberations resulting in a unanimous final selection. A nuclear approach to Helsinki's design culture is perhaps the defining expression of Helsinki's inclusive vision for WDC 2012.

Mr. Jussi Pajunen, Mayor of the City of Helsinki stated, "The decision to designate Helsinki as WDC 2012 brings great responsibility and we accept this title with an open mind and with great enthusiasm. It is an important accomplishment for the metropolitan region, as well as for Finland and will be celebrated with the consortium of municipalities and partners that supported our bid."

"The WDC designation allows cities to demonstrate that design can be a catalyst for change. Helsinki is ready to be one of those cities and is eager to become a global role model in 2012."

Leading up to this moment, Helsinki shared a finalist spot for the WDC title with the City of Eindhoven (The Netherlands). "It was an honour for us to have shared the platform with such a reputable city of design," stated Pajunen. "We are naturally very open to collaborate with all design-led cities." A bond has been established between Helsinki and Eindhoven, as the two WDC 2012 finalists. This will lead to innovative partnerships between these prominent European design communities.

Helsinki is a vibrant community – a great place to work, live and explore. A modern landscape where talented individuals encompass every sphere of international and Finnish society, it is a hotbed for innovation and a positive environment for creative industries. The City of Helsinki will follow in the footsteps of Torino (Italy) and Seoul (South Korea) to develop an inviting programme for 2012.

Further information:, and

Muscat, Nizwa and Salalah - Oman, what a holiday!

Travellers seeking a holiday filled with rich history and culture, inspiring art and architecture, stunning surrounds and unique experiences, Oman is the place to be. Explore its magical capital, Muscat, with New Horizons Holidays and take the opportunity to treat yourself to amazing add-on packages for a great price.

New Horizons Holidays is offering travellers a three-night Muscat package priced from:

·        $882 per person, twin share staying at the Park Inn Muscat in a standard room

·        $939 per person, twin share staying at the Crowne Plaza Muscat in a standard city view room

·        $1032 per person, twin share staying at the InterContinental in a standard mountain view room

·        $1092 per person, twin share staying at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort Al Waha in a superior room

·        $1233 per person, twin share staying at The Cedi Muscat in a Seri superior room.

This package includes three nights accommodation, American style breakfast daily, as well as two fantastic city day tours – the Magical Muscat City Tour showcasing the unique blend of Muscat's ancient and modern character and the Coastal Escapade Tour which visits beautiful Fin Beach, Wadi Shaab, Tiwi and Qainat.

Add a little more excitement to your Oman adventure with a two night Oasis Town of Nizwa add-on priced from $718 per person, twin share. This offer includes two nights accommodation at the Golden Tulip, Nizwa staying in a standard room, American style breakfast daily and two day tours – the Dunes of Wahiba Tour which visits the worlds most fascinating desert formations at Wahiba Sands and Wadi Habi Khalid, and the Majestic Forts Tour which uncovers Oman's striking cultural landmarks.

Still looking for more? New Horizons Holidays is also offering a two night Monsoon City of Salalah add-on priced from $494 per person, twin share. This fantastic add-on includes two nights accommodation at the stunning Hilton Salalah Resort in a Mountain View room with American style breakfast daily and a Dhofar Delight Tour taking in Salalah's pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas, its historic landmarks and sites.

All prices are land only. This deal is available until 30 November, 2009 for travel between 10 January and 7 May 2010.

New Horizons Holidays has been offering great value holidays to a wonderful range of international destinations for more than 30 years. New Horizons Holidays specialises in securing a great range of hotels, cruises, tours, transfer services and great value airfares to ensure peace of mind when travelling.

For more information see for your nearest New Horizons Holidays preferred travel agent.

Wrap up Your Favourite Hotel

Let InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts make gift giving easy with the new Hotels Gift Card.

Whether it’s a romantic weekend away, dinner for two, a cocktail at the bar, indulgent spa treatment or snorkeling safari in Fiji, the Hotels Gift Card’s versatility makes it the perfect gift for every occasion and budget.

Ranging from as little as $50 right up to $500 the gift card can be redeemed at over 45 hotels across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Working just like a credit card, the Hotels Gift Card can be used to purchase any favourite hotel indulgence from accommodation to room service and in-room movies or as an add on to an existing holiday, wherever VISA is accepted in InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts.

The Hotels Gift Card can be purchased online, with delivery and a personal message included and will be delivered within seven days of purchase.

For more information or to order your Hotels Gift Card visit or drop in at any InterContinental, Crowne Plaza or Holiday Inn Hotel & Resort.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More support needed for regional tourism: report

source: ABC News

A new parliamentary report says regional tourism needs extra support in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The House of Representatives report released today has investigated the impact of the world economic downturn on regional Australia.

A total of 170 submissions were received from welfare agencies, small business, the National Farmers Federation and councils including Griffith, Urana, Tamworth, Gunnedah and Moree Plains.

Most cited a big fall in income, losses on investments and difficult trading circumstances.

The committee chairwoman, Catherine King, says it is clear additional support is needed in some areas.

"So we've made some recommendations around certainly some capacity building in local communities, better coordination of federal government services so that people at the local level can actually take advantage of programs as they come up," she said.

"We've also obviously called for the extension of some Federal Government programs in which there's funding, particularly in the tourism portfolio."

Ms King says the financial crisis has hurt regional communities reliant on income from overseas visitors.

She says regions that support only a couple of industry sectors are also struggling to bounce back.

"If they were not sufficiently diverse they had been knocked about quite a bit by the global financial crisis and we do know that nationally unemployment figures are continuing to rise," she said.

"In regional communities it's been exacerbated where there is just one large employer, but in others it's just been a slow bleeding of jobs in smaller communities as well."

Scammers focus on cheap holiday accommodation offers

As plans are made for holidays, scammers are out there designing their next move to appropriate hard earned dollars.

"This time each year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission receives complaints from holiday makers who find that the cheap accommodation vouchers they have paid for either don't arrive, are fakes, or simply can't be used as promised," ACCC deputy chair, Peter Kell, said.

"Often the vouchers have been bought by credit card during an enticing but unsolicited call from a telemarketer or after receiving a fax offering accommodation at heavily discounted prices. These can include holidays at Phuket, Koh Samui or Bali or Australian locations.

"If the vouchers do arrive, consumers find that when they go to book their holidays, additional charges need to be paid in order to secure accommodation or the accommodation provider has no knowledge of the voucher or deal.

"In one example reported to the ACCC, a woman arrived at a motel having bought vouchers which she believed entitled her to discounted accommodation. The motel had never heard of the voucher provider.

"In another instance, a consumer was sold vouchers for accommodation but found they could be used only to buy food.

"The ACCC has also had instances of consumers having multiple, unauthorised debits from their credit card account.

"These scammers know how to push the right buttons," Mr Kell warned. "Holidays are considered a luxury item and consumers are looking for the best way to stretch their holiday dollar. Scammers are taking advantage of this.

"Be cautious of any unsolicited offer and avoid providing your credit card details over the phone. Obtaining refunds from unscrupulous traders is next to impossible."

Consumers can protect themselves when pre purchasing accommodation by:

* contacting the accommodation provider and confirming the availability of the accommodation;
* not providing credit card details and other personal information to unsolicited callers. Get details and say you will call them back after you have checked their offer. If they are genuine they will be happy to provide their contact details. If they don't, hang up!

Further information about current scams can be found on the ACCC's scamwatch website at

STRUTH - Dial a Lama


IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says it's easy to see why journalists seeking a quick scoop should take a moment to check the facts.

When a recent radio news report in Johannesburg said the Dalai Lama was reportedly seen in rural South Africa and speculated he was on a secret mission to was to seek South African government support, a suspicious local newspaper went to the town in which the holy man was supposedly staying during his "negotiations."

As our photo shows, the radio station should have taken the same investigative response as the newspaper before going to air…

Capture the Kimberley with Steve Parish and Coral Princess

Over aeons, the Kimberley coast of Western Australia has been scored and scoured by wind and water and painted with a super-saturated palette to form one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth. But its harsh beauty is challenging to capture photographically, which is why a 10-night Coral Princess cruise under the photographic tutelage of world-renowned nature photographer, Steve Parish is a rare opportunity.

Steve Parish – who rarely conducts photography classes – will draw on his 40 years of photographic field work in diverse Australian landscapes to inspire guests aboard the Oceanic Discoverer to capture their own vision of the Kimberley.

Over 10 days, cruising between Broome and Darwin, Parish will conduct a series of workshops, informal discussions and field excursions, covering topics such as the philosophy of nature photography and connecting with the landscape; style and technique; different subjects and – most relevant to the Kimberley's extremes – working with light.

The 10-night Kimberley cruise visits Kuri Bay, home of the South Pacific pearl industry, and ventures ashore to view the world-famous Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings, - the world's oldest known indigenous art – and the towering, 80-metre King George Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Western Australia. There is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls, as well as excursions into secluded gorges and to rock pools perfect for swimming. The cruise explores the Buccaneer Archipelago – made up of 800 islands – and includes an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the 'Horizontal Waterfall', where the tide floods between rocky cliffs.

The Oceanic Discoverer will carry a maximum of 68 passengers in luxury, with a complement of highly-experienced staff, including naturalist guides and guest lecturers

Steve Parish is one of Australia's most accomplished nature photographers. His images of the Australian landscape and wildlife are recognised around the world and he has published numerous books.

For Parish, photography is "about promoting an understanding for the importance of nature. The first step has to be to light a fire in someone — inspire them to learn more, inspire them to genuinely become one with nature, urge them to connect with it and to celebrate its beauty and diversity."

The 10-night Coral Princess Kimberley Cruise with Steve Parish departs Broome on September 20, 2010, costing from $8750 per person, twin share, cruise only, in a Main Deck (Category B) stateroom.

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

News and Deals from Mantra Resorts

Here is a summary of what's news and the hottest deals around Australia from Mantra Hotels, Resorts and Apartments.

What’s new at Mantra

PAR EXCELLENCE: Mantra Kooindah Waters Golf Resort & Spa has enhanced its position as one of Australia’s most sought after leisure escapes with the Central Coast property being ranked the seventh best play and stay facility nationally, and best in NSW, by the 2010 Golf Course Guide. Located just 90 minutes north of Sydney, Mantra Kooindah Waters offers an ideal location for a golfing getaway, family holiday or relaxing break. The resort also features Karinyas Restaurant & Bar, Endota day spa, indoor heated lap pool, outdoor swimming pool, spa, sauna, gymnasium, tennis facilities and a children’s playground. In June this year its championship 18 hole golf course was honoured by another respected sports publication Golf Australia. The 6,083m layout, which was designed by leading architect Ross Watson and tour star Craig Parry, finished 22nd in the publication’s list of Australia’s top 30 residential courses. Call 13 15 17 or visit

ALL THE PAMPERING UNDER THE SUN: Leading Surfers Paradise resort, Mantra Sun City, has taken relaxation to a higher orbit with the opening of a decadent new day spa. Holidaymakers can now splash out on the ultimate in Gold Coast indulgence with leading massage and beauty company Calmertherapies opening its doors at the property. Adding an extra dimension for guests looking to be pampered in paradise, the day spa offers a tempting range of body treatments and pamper packages to soothe the mind, body and soul. Located in the resort lobby, the day spa offers rejuvenating deep tissue, relaxation, pregnancy and hot stone massages plus a choice of cleansing facials. Full body scrubs, deluxe pedicures and manicures, Mother’s Rewards and Men’s Treats is just a small example of what is waiting to be enjoyed, all in a serene and soothing setting. Open for appointments seven days a week by phoning 55 846025 or extension #6025 for resort guests, the day spa has treatments starting from just $75. Offering an idyllic haven to rejuvenate in privacy and contemporary comfort, Mantra Sun City is the perfect choice for couples and families alike. For bookings or further information call 13 15 17 or visit

HANG WITH MANTRA FOR THE MASTERPIECES FROM PARIS: Holidaymakers can escape to the national capital, see Masterpieces from Paris and hang in stylish comfort with Mantra on this awesome art lover’s escape. Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and beyond, hailed as one of the most exceptional art events to be held in Australia, can be seen in Canberra only at the National Gallery of Australia from 4 December 2009 to 5 April 2010. Visitors will encounter van Gogh’s Bedroom at Aries 1889, Gauguin’s Tahitian women 1891, Cezanne’s beloved Mount Saint-Victoire c 1890 and many other examples by Post Impressionist painters in this once in a lifetime event. As a proud sponsor of the National Gallery of Australia, Mantra on Northbourne has packages from just $199* per room per night including accommodation in a Hotel Room, buffet breakfast for two and two tickets to the Masterpieces from Paris Exhibition. Perfectly located in the CBD with shopping and nightlife at your doorstep, Mantra on Northbourne offers apartment style accommodation combined with the facilities of a 4 star hotel. For bookings or further information call 13 15 17 or visit

NEW GM FOR MANTRA ON PARK: Experienced hospitality professional Scott Horn has been appointed the general manager of Melbourne property Mantra on the Park, moving from Tropical North Queensland where he was general manager for Mantra Esplanade, Cairns. Prior to joining Mantra Group, Scott held senior operational roles in Cairns with Mirvac and Accor.

ERSKINE BRANCHES OUT WITH NEW BOSS: Jeffrey Branch has been appointed general manager of Mantra Erskine Beach Resort, Lorne. Most recently Jeffrey has been managing his own Vanuatu property and has also worked with Mirvac as General Manager of Citigate Sebel The Entrance, Sea Temple Palm Cove and Sebel Vanuatu.

QUEEN HAS A NEW KING: Ian Herbst has taken the position of general manager of Brisbane property Mantra on Queen replacing Michael Harrison who has left to pursue other challenges. Ian brings strong corporate CBD hotel experience to the position having previously worked as a manager for Royal on the Park. Well respected within the Mantra Group, he also been general manager of Peppers Coral Coast, Airlie Beach, and Mantra Amphora, Cairns.

BRILL APPOINTMENT: Experienced resort manager David Brill has been appointed area manager of Mantra Group’s Mooloolaba region where he will be responsible for Mantra Mooloolaba, Mantra Sirocco, Mantra Zanzibar, BreakFree Alex Beach and BreakFree Seamark.

MANTRA BOLSTERS TNQ TEAM: Mantra bolsters its Tropical North Queensland team with the appointments of experienced hospitality professionals Gaye Coughlan to general manager of Mantra Esplanade, Cairns and Austin Robinson to general manager of Mantra PortSea, Port Douglas. Both bring outstanding backgrounds in property management to their respective positions with Gaye previously holding senior roles with Oaks Group and Club Crocodile while Austin has worked for Novotel and other leading 4-to-5 star hotels in both the leisure and corporate sectors.

Hot Deals

CHILL OUT AT CASUARINA THIS CHRISTMAS: Casuarina Lodge, in the lush Byron Bay hinterland, is the idyllic choice for a soothing Christmas escape. Holidaymakers can beat the heat in a cool rainforest setting and save this summer, with the Mantra-managed retreat offering sizzling deals through December and January. For example from Sundays through to Thursdays, guests can enjoy the comforts of an upmarket suite with ensuite and queen bed from $190* per unit per night including continental breakfast. On Friday and Saturday nights, the rate is $333* per unit per night with continental breakfast. Offering a just 18 Rainforest Suites, Casuarina Lodge is the ideal getaway to relax and be pampered with the promise of privacy and seclusion whilst still being able to enjoy the distinctive beach atmosphere and lifestyle of nearby Byron Bay. Call 13 15 17 or visit

MANTRA LAUNCHES MATES RATES FOR COAST LOCALS: Mantra is looking after its mates on the Sunshine Coast with a range of sizzling specials allowing locals to experience the best of what the rest of Australia comes to enjoy with a relaxing holiday at home. Put your feet up and let the resort experts take care of you on these money-saving breaks in your own backyard valid Sundays to Thursdays to 24 December 2009. In Mooloolaba locals only rates start from $127* per night for a one bedroom apartment at Mantra Mooloolaba Beach; $182* per night for a two bedroom apartment at Mantra Zanzibar and $206* per night for a two bedroom apartment at Mantra Sirocco. Call 13 15 17 and mention the Locals Mid Week campaign. Proof of residency will be required on check in.

BROAD SUMMER VALUE: Located in the heart of the Gold Coast, Broadbeach marries the traditional beach holiday experience with a trendy, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Ride the waves by morning and the monorail by night to the glamour and excitement of the casino. High fashion shops, a selection of great restaurants, fine al-fresco dining, dazzling entertainment or lazy days doing nothing at all are all part of the Broadbeach experience. And summer brings hot value with Mantra offering three nights for the price of two at leading resorts Mantra Phoenician, where one bedroom apartments start from $187* per room per night and Mantra Bel Air where one bedroom apartments start from $165* per room per night. The stay three nights, pay two offer is valid for sale until December 18 and for travel to December 24, 2009. Call 1300 987 611 or visit

BIG CITY SAVINGS: Explore Melbourne in style, based at a premium Mantra property, on these money saving city specials from the leading hotel operator valid for sale and travel from December 1, 2009 to February 28, 2010. Mantra on Little Bourke has rooms from just $159* per room per night. Mantra on the Park and Mantra Southbank have rates from $169* per room per night. Guests can also enjoy the comforts of Mantra on Jolimont from a low $129* per room per night, Mantra on Russell from just $164* per room per night or Mantra on Exhibition from only $149* per room per night. Call 13 15 17 or visit

POCKET-FRIENDLY PORT: The seaside village of Port Douglas offers an oasis of relaxation in Queensland’s Tropical North where the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest are within easy reach. Secluded beaches, fine restaurants, boutique shopping and endless sight seeing opportunities, combined with a unique ambience, make Port Douglas the perfect place for a well-earned holiday. Now is the ideal time to pack your bags for Port, where resort operator Mantra is offering four nights for the price of three at beautiful Mantra Aqueous on Port. Guests booking four nights in hotel room with spa from $180* per room per night will only pay for three nights on this summer special valid for sale and travel to March 31, 2010. Just 200m from Four Mile Beach, Mantra Aqueous on Port features four lagoon pools, barbecue facilities and indulgent balcony Jacuzzis in every apartment. Call 1300 987 611 or visit

GET ALONG TO ETTALONG: Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, Mantra Ettalong Beach is the ideal destination to refresh the mind, body and soul on NSW’s scenic Central Coast. The premium beachfront resort is perfectly designed to enhance the calming nature of surrounding waters to provide the ultimate seaside escape. Summer is the ideal time to splash out on a well earned holiday to this fabulous property where rates start from a low $178* per room per night for a studio suite with hinterland view, valid for travel to December 23, 2009. Offering panoramic views of the surrounding coastline, the resort is just a short stroll from the centre of town and enjoys a host of great facilities including on site Jhalu Day Spa & Fitness Centre plus heated swimming pool and whirlpool spa overlooking beautiful Broken Bay. To book, visit

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

Monday, November 23, 2009


Ibis King St Wharf, which opened just one year ago, is about to offer what many five-star hotels still do not – free WIFI access across the lobby and all rooms, for all guests at all times and without any hidden conditions. With room rates from as little as $139 per night and one of the best locations in Sydney, it is no surprise that the 91-room hotel has made it into the top ten business hotels in Sydney as listed on Tripadvisor, just behind The Observatory (as at 9th November 2009).

"Ibis hotels have a brand promise of being 'hotels the way you like them' and our guests have overwhelmingly told us that what they would like is free WI-FI access, so that is what we are going to deliver," said General Manager Benjamin Krieg. "Our little 3.5-star hotel is doing what some of the long-established five-stars still don't and giving our guests free WIFI throughout the hotel.

"While we have extremely high guest satisfaction rates at Ibis King Street Wharf, the one thing that came up again and again in guest feedback was the lack of WIFI access so I immediately set out to change this," he said. "It's all part of our promise to listen to what our customers want and provide it affordably."

As business travelers can attest, it can be frustrating when hotels offer free WIFI in lobbies only, or in rooms but only with a password or only for guests who belong to loyalty programs. Benjamin Krieg promises there are no hidden charges or conditions to his WIFI delivery – it's simple, clean and affordable just like the Ibis brand itself.

"Ibis King St Wharf is very much a hotel for today with its funky, modern design and affordability, so it was imperative we offered what today's traveler wants and needs – the ability to download files, connect with the world and check their emails simply from their room, without any hassle or extra costs."

Ibis King St Wharf is located in the heart of one of Sydney's most vibrant locations, just a short walk from the CBD, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and all the attractions of Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.

The Ibis brand is at the forefront of affordable accommodation, offering contemporary rooms in key locations at prices that have revolutionised economy hotels. Ibis guarantees friendly, helpful staff available 24/7; comfortable rooms; modern services; and amenities that make your stay more enjoyable – at the best possible price.

Ibis King St Wharf is part of a global network of more than 800 Ibis hotels in over 40 countries.

Free WIFI will be offered to all guests at Ibis King Street Wharf from 15 December 2009.

For bookings phone the Ibis King Street Wharf direct on 1300 116 771.

About ibis

ibis, the worldwide economy hotels brand of the Accor group, offers consistent quality accommodation and services in all its hotels, for the best local value: a well-designed and fully-equipped en-suite bedroom, major hotel services available 24/7 and a wide choice of on-site food and beverage options. The quality of the ibis standard has been recognised by the International Organization for Standardization certification ISO 9001 since 1997. ibis is also the world's first hotel chain to demonstrate its environmental commitment through securing the ISO 14001 certification, which has already been awarded to nearly one third of its hotels.

Established in 1974, ibis is the European leader and one of the first economy hotel chains in the world, with more than 90,000 rooms and 800 hotels in 40 countries, including 14 in Australia.

For additional information, please visit

New Zealand's Huka Lodge Announces New Michelin Star Chef

Michelin star Executive Chef comes to Huka Lodge

It is with great pleasure Huka Lodge, Taupo, New Zealand announces the appointment of Michel Louws to the role of Executive Chef.

Dutch-born Michel comes with a reputation for superb cuisine, originality and a proven passion for creating an exceptional dining experience for those fortunate enough to enjoy his dishes.

Following his formal training in The Netherlands Michel sought to combine new challenges and work experience with travel. This allowed Michel to experience first-hand the cuisines of many different cultures as well as providing opportunities to spend time in the kitchens of great restaurants back in The Netherlands. During holidays and leave Michel would be found hard at work at Librije (3 Michelin stars), Inter Scaldis (2 Michelin stars) and 1 Michelin star restaurants Le Cirque and Zusje.

In 2002 Michel was offered the role as Head Chef of a charming lakeside restaurant 't-Veerhuis, located in Wolphaartsdijk, Zeeland in The Netherlands. By 2007 the establishment rose to 1 Michelin star and was ranked highest runner up in Dutch Top 100 Restaurants. In the same year Michel was honoured by his peers as one of the most promising Top 10 Head Chefs of that year.

Michel leaves restaurant 't-Veerhuis after seven very successful years and comes to Huka Lodge looking for new challenges. He brings with him great experience at top international level and a well-deserved reputation for exquisite dishes displaying balance as well as imagination and superb flavour combinations.

Huka Lodge was recently awarded 19th place worldwide in a new Food & Wine Resort category by the prestigious Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report – so Michel is aware he has a reputation to maintain as well as enhance.

Treat Your Friends To Some Christmas Cheer at Cove Cafe

It’s the time of year when we all make time to catch up with our nearest and dearest family and friends, and it’s very important we choose somewhere special to celebrate the year that was.

From 1 – 24 December, Cove Cafe at Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove is serving up a full array of Christmas cheer for just $36 per person. Set within this luxurious five-star resort, this buffet style restaurant is the perfect place for you and your friends to relax and enjoy yourselves.

Indulge in all your favourite Christmas treats at the hot and cold cooking stations before making your way to the delectable dessert buffet.

Delicious dishes include Antipasto platters with Coppa Ham and Smoked Turkey with pickled onions, Cornichons, Kalamata Olives and Sundried Tomatoes; Pumpkin, spinach and mushroom frittata; Goulash style beef shanks with roasted trio capsicum; slow roasted Turkey breast with cranberry chutney and giblet gravy, and pan fried tarragon flavoured catch of the day.

Highlights adorning the dessert buffet over this period include traditional fruit cake, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and festive cookies.

So if you’re looking for that special pre-Christmas celebration, Cove Cafe is the spot.

You’ll need to book early to avoid disappointment and due to popular demand, bookings are essential by phoning 07 5501 9840.

For more information on Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove, visit

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cruise Weekly: Ready ... on your Marquesas ... go!

Location: Port of Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia

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If there ever was a perfect outpost as sanctuary for troubled artists, refuge for wayward seamen and magnet for restless adventurers, then the far flung islands of the Marquesas would have to be it. Sure, you can catch one of the easy flights from Tahiti and bum around, but for an authentic arrival, come as Cook, Porter and Melville did; aboard ship.

Unless your name is Packer, whose private ship is moored in Tahiti as you read this, you could not conduct a more thorough exploration of this dramatic, geologically youthful archipelago than with the Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM) sailing year round with Aranui 3.
For the trivia-minded, this the location favoured by the disturbed French master, Paul Gauguin, and publicity-exhausted Belgian pop idol, Jacques Brel. Both, despite contrasting, if short, relations with the locals, also chose to be buried here.
As with all true adventure cruises, this is a voyage of discovery and learning. Each island port reveals a little more of this fascinating culture and its catastrophic demise. Although modern Marquesans enjoy comforts provided by their French colonial overlords, the 8000 'survivors' are the tail end of a prominent civilisation that numbered around 100,000 until the beginning of the 19th Century. Although freedom to practice (most) ancient arts and customs is restored, white man has a lot to answer for in the Marquesas.
The Aranui 3 is the CPTM's fifth vessel to ply this route, an exclusive freight/passenger operation that has grown from humble beginnings over 50 years. This newest vessel was built to a German design in Romania in 2003 and flies the French flag. GRT is 7000 tons and passenger capacity is 198 across four grades from fancy suites (14) with balcony, nine deluxe staterooms, 63 standard cabins and 18 berths in three dormitory-style rooms. Expect to spend your time mingling with worldly folks from all over. Our near-capacity complement consists of mainly Germans and French, with a scattering of Americans, Canadians, Brits and sundry EU countries. We are bankers and academics, builders and cab-drivers, flashpackers and corporate refugees. Average age is around 60, but under 50s should also be encouraged. It's a great opportunity to exercise your second language and swap tall tales with seasoned travellers. Friends are made easily in this eclectic human trail mix.
With any cruise like this you need personal versatility. The schedule will almost certainly be interrupted or altered en route due to the primary function of freight delivery. Difficult cargo and sea conditions will dictate time in port and shore activities offered. There's no point bleating “... but the brochure says ...!” because it warns you that [stuff] will happen and it does. You're in Polynesia and all that 'island time' means, but it's also extraordinarily remote and challenging. In my mind, none of this is sufficient reason not to go because the Marquesas are definitely one of the few remaining corners of the world worth every effort.
Book through a speciality cruise office such as Ultimate Cruising in Ultimo (Sydney) who have specific experience with these products. Discounts are sometimes offered and ask lots of questions. For further information, visit

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