Friday, April 30, 2010




South America is one of the world's most extraordinary and aspirational holiday destinations. It is also one of the fastest-growing tourism markets, as travellers discover the enormous range of attractions and experiences dotted throughout this vast continent.

Now Voyages of Discovery has announced an amazing new itinerary – the 78-day Grand South American Discovery cruise, which sails around the continent, and parts of the southern Caribbean, from 03 January to 21 March, 2011.

The Grand Voyage aboard the 650-passenger M V Discovery – which visits 17 countries or autonomous island territories - combines five shorter cruise itineraries, each of which is available individually or combined with others.

The 78-day journey begins and ends in the Caribbean island nation of Barbados, continuing to iconic South American cities including Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Valparaiso (Chile) and Guayaquil (Ecuador).

Every voyage of Discovery includes presentations by expert guest speakers, who narrate and explain to passengers a variety of subjects relating to each destination, including geography, culture, history and wildlife.

On the Grand Voyage, Discovery ventures into South America's longest river, the world renowned Amazon, visits the Falkland Islands, theatre of the early 1980s war between Britain and Argentina, explores the spectacular Chilean fjords and transits the vital Panama Canal before returning to Bridgetown, Barbados.

The voyage starts with visits to Trinidad and the Orinoco River in Venezuela then stops for a day at eerily-named Devil's Island, French Guiana, before entering Brazil with an Amazon day cruise.

After spending much of January cruising the Brazilian coast, with stops in ports including Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Rio, Discovery continues to Uruguay, Argentina and the Falklands, then back to the Argentine port city of Ushuaia, the gateway to Antarctica.

From there, Discovery rounds Cape Horn and enters the spectacular Chilean fjords before continuing north along the Pacific coast to Chilean locations including the ancient port city and former capital of Valparaiso, from where passengers can visit the current national capital, Santiago.

Discovery then sails north to the Peruvian port of Callao, enabling passengers to venture to the renowned ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, before the voyage resumes and continues to Ecuador, Panama, Colombia and the north coast of Venezuela.

The final week of the journey features laid-back Caribbean destinations including Aruba, Curacao, Grenada and Mayreau Island, part of St Vincent and The Grenadines, prior to arrival back in Bridgetown.

"This is one of the most amazing cruise itineraries currently available, and one of the most comprehensive holiday programmes on offer to South America," said Craig Bowen, Managing Director of specialist wholesaler Cruise Traveller, which promotes Voyages of Discovery in Australia.

"Not only does this itinerary showcase some of the best South America has to offer. It also taps into the growing popularity of small ship cruising, at some of the most competitive cruise prices in the market today. And it delivers a taste of the Caribbean"

The Grand South American Discovery tour is priced from AUD $14,880.00 per person – or AUD $190 per day – which is less than the price of a night in a good CBD hotel in Australia. Air fares are additional, depending upon the passenger's choice of airline, route and dates of travel.

The $14,880 rate includes all meals, from breakfast to late night snacks, plus Captain's cocktail parties and gala dinners and 24 hour tea and coffee; a comprehensive programme of talks by port lecturers and guest speakers; artistic workshops on many cruises; entertainment, port charges, all gratuities and on-board service charges (competing cruise lines add up to 18 per cent to bills for drinks, spa treatments and other on board purchases). There are no fuel or currency surcharges.

Subject to availability on the Grand Cruise, passengers can book an outside cabin (with views) for the price of an inside cabin. And unlike land-based journeys, or combined fly-coach journeys, passengers on cruises need only unpack their luggage once.

The five shorter cruise itineraries which combine to create the Grand South American Discovery tour are:

Natural Wonders of South America: Bridgetown, Barbados to Recife, Brazil, 03-19 January, 2011, 17 days from AUD $3,095.00

Discovery Coast Voyager: Recife, Brazil, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, 19 January – 01 February, 2011, 14 days from AUD $2,705.00.

In The Wake of the Beagle: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Falkland Islands and round Cape Horn to Valparaiso, Chile, 01-19 February, 2011, 19 days from AUD $3,560.00

Darwin's Stepping Stones, Valparaiso, Chile to Manta, Ecuador, 19 February – 06 March, 2011, 16 days from AUD $3,415.00, with optional extension to Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

In The Footsteps of the Conquistadors: Manta, Ecuador to Bridgetown, Barbados, 04-21 March, 2011, 18 days from $3,570.00, with optional pre-cruise visit to Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

The 20,186 tonne MV Discovery has eight passenger decks and accommodates 650 passengers. Facilities include two restaurants plus on-deck dining, three lounges, five bars, a lecture theatre and cinema, a library, bridge club, card room, shops, photo gallery, internet centre, two pools (one with retractable roof), two Jacuzzis, a gymnasium and health centre, a beauty salon, medical centre, and telephone, fax and satellite internet and television.

For more information about Voyages of Discovery visit :          or contact Craig Bowen, Cruise Traveller, on or 0412 664 533.
To book, please contact or call 07 5575 8094.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Sex it up in the City with Vibe Hotel's 'GLAMOROUS NIGHTS'

Vibe Hotels and Napoleon combine to create the ultimate girl's night in or out with more than $240 worth of fun from just $150* including a nights' accommodation.

Grab the gals and high heel it to Vibe Hotels (Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, or Darwin) for a fabulous evening of Napoleon Perdis (NP) makeovers, cocktails and giggles. Stay up all night, sleep in all morning, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast for a fraction of the price, with Vibe Hotels 'Glamorous Nights' package.

accommodation at any of the seven Vibe Hotels across Australia, two for one cocktail voucher (worth $10), an NP pack (Cruise Blush, Liquid Veil Tint and a Wanderlust Must Lip Palette (worth $80), and a Napoleon Perdis in-store make over voucher (worth $60).  Perfect for two or twenty gal pals (two people per room).

Like every women, each Vibe Hotel has its very own personality that reflects the flavour of its location. Travel and stay in style... or experience your very own backyard in a fresh light? Every girl deserves a night of pampering!

Check out  or call 13 VIBE for more information or to book.

"Glamorous Nights" package represents over $240 of extra value including:

  • Overnight accommodation in a stylish Vibe Hotel room
  • Full buffet breakfast for two at a Vibe Hotel (RRP $50)
  • Late check out of 12 noon (RRP $40)
  • A NP Set pack containing a Cruise Blush, Liquid Veil Tint
    and a Wanderlust Must Lip Palette (RRP $80)
  • 2 for 1 cocktail voucher to be redeemed within the bar located at the Vibe Hotel (RRP $10)
  • NP Set in-store make over voucher (RRP $60)

"Glamorous Nights" is available at all seven Vibe Hotels located across Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Darwin.

Vibe Hotel Carlton, Melbourne, from AU$150* - With a "new millennium" feel mixed with a sixties retro flavour, Vibe Hotel Carlton is close to Lygon and Brunswick Streets where the city's famous café culture was born.

Vibe Hotel Gold Coast from AU$165* - Overlooking a picturesque sweep of the Nerang River on one side and the sparkling ocean on the other, Vibe Hotel Gold Coast adds all things stylish and chic to Surfers Paradise.

Vibe Hotel Sydney from AU$180* - Centrally located in the Sydney CBD and only a hop, skip and a jump from Sydney's trendy Oxford Street strip boasting shopping, bars, restaurants and cafes.

Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront from AU$189* - Situated on the Darwin Waterfront in Darwin's hottest new precinct, Vibe Hotel Darwin offers guests some of the best views in town, with great restaurants and shopping on your doorstep.

Vibe Hotel Rushcutters, Sydney from AU$195* - Overlooking Rushcutters Bay Park and the Cruising Yacht Club (CYC) Marina, Vibe Hotel Rushcutters is close to Sydney's most stylish shopping and nightlife precincts; Double Bay, Paddington and Woollahra.

Vibe Savoy Hotel Melbourne from AU$209* - Built in 1929, this art-deco hotel is sure to impress. Located opposite Southern Cross Station and just a short walk from the Etihad Stadium, guests will enjoy the convenience of having Melbourne at their fingertips.

Vibe Hotel North Sydney from AU$209* - Located on Alfred Street opposite Milsons Point Railway Station, guests can enjoy stunning views of Lavender Bay or Sydney Harbour or simply take a stroll over the Harbour Bridge!

*Prices vary per hotel; packages are subject to availability and are valid from 1 April, 2010 until 30 September, 2010.  One gift pack per stay.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Virgin Blue takes AVATAR to the skies

The highest grossing film of all time, AVATAR will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 29, 2010 in Australia.  To mark the release of the record breaking film, Twentieth Century Fox has aligned with Virgin Blue to fly AVATAR into the hands and homes of Australians nationwide.  

There are many strands to this strategic corporate partnership that aim to raise awareness of the release of AVATAR, led by a unique PR stunt, which is taking place on the day of the AVATAR DVD and Blu-Ray launch, 29 April 2010.  

This activity will reveal a Virgin Blue Boeing 737 transformed into an Avatar inspired jet. 20 lucky AVATAR enthusiasts who won competitions around the country will be the first to fly in the jet from Brisbane to Sydney. The winners will be accompanied by Virgin Blue Crew, Virgin Blue VIPs, 20th Century Fox VIPs and media.  

To ensure that the experience remains AVATAR inspired, the 20 competition winners and members of the Virgin Blue crew will be made-up prior to the flight to look like their very own Na'vi AVATAR for this once in a lifetime opportunity.  

Once the Virgin Blue Boeing 737 has landed in Sydney a unique photo shoot opportunity for media will take place with four Na'vi-inspired actors and the plane.

Kristen McGrath, Associate Director of Publicity and Promotions for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment comments: "It seems only appropriate that the launch of the highest grossing film of all time in Australia should be marked with such a unique event. To partner with Virgin Blue, an airline that is renowned for pushing the boundaries, to recreate the amazing aesthetics of the film during the stunt only further reinforces the creativity of the film. The launch of AVATAR on DVD and Blu-ray allows fans to return to the world of Avatar in the comfort of their own home as the land of Pandora comes alive in their living rooms"

The strategic campaign between Virgin Blue and Twentieth Century Fox will also include:

   * In-flight promotions

Consumers who purchase the AVATAR Blu-ray DVD can redeem $50 towards a Virgin Blue 'Blue Holiday'

   * In-flight TV advertising

The partnership will be promoted to consumers with an in-flight commercial running on aircraft for one month on Virgin Blue's Voyeur channel.

   * Messaging on boarding passes
   * POS in  airports &  lounges

To reinforce the commitment to consumer engagement in the partnership, Virgin Blue is offering competition entrants the chance to win one of five exclusive VIP AVATAR Experiences in LA.  Details of the competition are at

Heather Jeffery, Virgin Blue General Manager of PR & Communications comments: "We're very particular about who and what appears on the exterior of our aircraft, last year our Black Eyed Peas jet was hugely popular and this year we're thrilled to be part of the continuing excitement about AVATAR."

"This is a broad ranging promotional partnership and our team are having great fun with it.  Twentieth Century Fox's AVATAR is a ground-breaking film that pushes the boundaries and at Virgin, we can certainly relate to that."  

"This is the start of the partnership with the epic film as we offer our loyal Guests exclusive opportunities to engage and enjoy the movie."

The must-own AVATAR Blu-ray release provides the ultimate high definition experience ever for home viewing audiences.  Recognized for its optimum picture and sound, the film's masterful cinematography, art direction and visual effects lends itself to awe-inspiring clarity when viewed on Blu-ray Disc.


*Since its global theatrical release last December, AVATAR has continued to make motion picture history. Written and directed by James Cameron and produced with his long-time collaborator Jon Landau, AVATAR stars Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi and Laz Alonso.

Oscar and Golden Globe® winning epic is the highest grossing film of all time, taking in over $2.7 billion (US) in worldwide box office with over $1.9 billion (US) derived from international markets. Director James Cameron takes audiences to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization.    

Experience Tahiti the traditional way with new “pension” packages

Say "La Orana" to Tahiti and a traditional way to encounter its beautiful islands, with new "Pension", or bed and breakfast packages, from Air Tahiti Nui and

The new deals feature accommodation at some of the most private locations in French Polynesia, with stunning ocean views and a tranquil atmosphere that can only be experienced away from bustling resorts.

Packages include return Economy Class flights from Sydney to Papeete, airfare taxes, a traditional Polynesian welcome on arrival, all transfers, plus half board (breakfast and dinner) for stays selected islands except Tahiti and Moorea, where only breakfast is included.

Option 1- Tahiti/Moorea/Bora Bora (9 days/8 nights): Starting from $3132 per person twin share this package showcases the best that the three main Society Islands have to offer but with a traditional twist. The package includes a one night stay in Tahiti Airport Motel, four nights stay at Fare Vaihere Moorea and three nights in Bora Bora at Hotel Matira. Also included is a 4 wheel-drive safari tour on Moorea and an introductory dive off Bora Bora.

Option 2- Tahiti/Bora Bora/Rangiroa (9 days/8 nights): Perhaps this package takes your fancy, with accommodation at some of the most secluded properties on the islands. Starting from $3593 per person twin share, it includes one night in Tahiti Airport Motel, three nights at Hotel Matira Bora Bora and four nights at Raira Lagoon Rangiroa. An island tour by boat of Bora Bora and introductory dive in Rangiroa are also included. 

Option 3- Tahiti/ Moorea/Fakarava (12 days/11 nights): This package enables more time on the main island of Tahiti to take in the many attractions. Starting from $3656 per person twin share, this deal includes three nights at Vanira Lodge Tahiti, four nights at Fare Vaihere Moorea, followed by four nights in Fakarava at Pension Tookerau Village. Also included in the package is an island boat tour of Moorea and introductory dive in Fakarava.  

All packages are valid for travel until 31 December 2010, and subject to availability. Prices are subject to change without notice and some conditions apply. 

To book one of these traditional "pension" packages email or visit for more information.  

Air Tahiti Nui offers three weekly services from Sydney to Papeete, via Auckland, New Zealand. 

Warm up in Victoria's Goldfields

Winter in Victoria's Goldfields is a great time to explore the wealth of treasures and riches on offer and enjoy a short or longer break.

The region is home to two of Australia's best regional art galleries and both regularly host travelling and international exhibitions. This winter Bendigo Art Gallery is hosting a comprehensive exhibition of Frederick McCubbin's later works, as one of Australia's foremost impressionists this is not to be missed. A visit to the Art Gallery of Ballarat will reveal a celebration of cartoons and caricatures from the 1700's to the present day.

Tuck into delicious regional cuisine lovingly prepared by talented chefs who now call the region home. Enjoy wonderful boutique wines from the wine regions of Bendigo, Heathcote and Ballarat, all noted for their rich, winter warming reds.

All this no more than an hour and half drive from Melbourne. Read on to find out about great winter events and special accommodation offers to help you plan your Goldfields escape. Victoria's Goldfields, leave a little richer.

For great winter deals go to

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This could be the vision on Brisbane's Moreton Bay, Sydney Harbour or in Kakadu if the Aircruiser of UK based designer, Nick Talbot is realised.

A revolutionary, next generation floating hotel, fuelled by hydrogen, could travel from London to Australian destinations.  The emphasis is on the experience, with travel time being luxuriously slow in the 270 tonne vehicle, featuring a penthouse, four duplex apartments, five smaller apartments, bar and lounge areas.

The concept will be unveiled at the national Tourism Futures conference in Brisbane in July (5-7) where Mr Talbot, of seymourpowell, is outlining his futuristic approach, to Australia's tourism industry.

'Nick's ideas are very impressive and take our thinking into the next generation of travel products,' said Mr Tony Charters who is convening Tourism Futures.

'It could be a very exciting leap forward for tourism, and I hope it will inspire the Australian industry to push forward with creative and innovative ideas to help reinvigorate the industry."

The concept has attracted the attention of industrial giant Samsung, which is financing the next phase of development.

Further details about the Tourism Futures conference are available at and a digital tour of the Aircruiser can be seen on

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney Launches Winemaker Chef’s Table Experience

Calling all wine connoisseurs and gourmands!  Four Seasons Hotel Sydney has launched a new Winemaker Chef's Table experience, combining the best in food, wine and all things fine.

Each month, one high-profile winemaker from Australia or New Zealand will showcase their collection by pairing wines with a five-course meal including a series of vertical tastings.

The experience begins with champagne and canapés at Kable's wine bar, followed by a degustation dinner with matching wines at the Chef's Table in the kitchen's Garde Manger.

After dinner, guests will go even further 'behind the scenes' for a kitchen tour and chocolate tasting in the Four Seasons' Chocolate Room.

Four Seasons Hotel Manager Daniel Simon said the winemaker dinner concept gave guests an opportunity to try the new Kable's menu designed by Restaurant Chef, Jeffrey De Rome, while tasting some of Australasia's best wines.

"We've taken the restaurant wine-dinner concept and created a much more intimate experience where guests can socialise around one large table while learning all about the food and wine from our chef and guest winemakers."

"It was a pleasure to welcome Mitchell Taylor from Taylor's Wines as our first winemaker, who kindly shared a selection of his highly-coveted family museum wines for the inaugural dinner last month. We look forward to bringing a range of other talented winemakers to our hotel," Mr Simon said.

Upcoming dinners feature winemakers from:

Shaw & Smith in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia - May 27
Brokenwood in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales - June 24
Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, New Zealand - July 15

Other winemakers featuring throughout the year include South Australia's Rockford, Petaluma and Taylors Wines, Western Australia's Cape Mentelle Wines, Victoria's Bannockburn Wines and New Zealand's Villa Maria Wines.

The Winemaker Chef's Table dinners will be held once a month at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney and are available for $300 per person, with a maximum capacity of 19 guests per event. 

For information and bookings for the Winemaker Chef's Table call (+61 2) 9250 3306.

For Hotel information and reservations call (+61 2) 9250 3100 or visit

New Snowy Mountains Luxury Ski and Spa Weekend Escape

The Denman Hotel & Spa, Thredbo's premier luxury boutique hotel, has launched the first all-inclusive luxury ski & spa package for this coming Thredbo ski season, valid from 11 June 2010.

Offering everything that skiing enthusiasts could want both on and off the mountain, this special two-night weekend escape features accommodation in king-bedded balcony rooms with views over the mountain, Saturday night gourmet dining in The Terrace Restaurant, with its reputation as Thredbo's finest, spa treatments in The Denman's Thalgo Day Spa, the only full day spa in Thredbo, as well as two-day Kosciuszko Thredbo lift tickets.

Ed Denny, the proprietor of The Denman Hotel & Spa, states: "With today's busy lifestyles the discerning traveller is looking for a quality, hassle-free experience. Our objective is to make it easy in organising their ultimate Australian ski weekend. Just book and head to the 'Snowys' for two full days of indulgence. We take care of nearly everything that guests will need".

The Denman Hotel & Spa has teamed up with Larry Adler, Australia's leading ski and outdoor equipment specialists, whereby guests select their desired ski equipment, such as Executive skis, boards, boots and even ski clothing, either online or at one of their stores in Sydney prior to departure, and it will all be awaiting their arrival at the Hotel.

What's more, there are further options to assist skiers in making the journey to Thredbo and the Snowy Mountains even easier. Optional add-ons with either Aeropelican or the Hyatt Hotel Canberra are available. For those that want to fly from Sydney Aeropelican commences air services from Sydney to Cooma this June. Alternatively The Denman guests can make it a luxury three-night long weekend, breaking their journey either to or from the Snow, and staying for a night at Canberra's most luxurious five-star hotel.

 "Today's luxury traveller is looking for the personalised attention that only small properties like The Denman can offer", Ed Denny comments. "Our aim is to ensure that guest expectations are exceeded, not just met. This new package is recognition that there is a growing market of skiers seeking a totally indulgent weekend", says Ed. To this end, every guest who books this Snowy Mountains Luxury Ski & Spa Weekend Escape receives a bottle of ready chilled Vueve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne on arrival. 

The Denman Hotel & Spa

The Denman Hotel & Spa boasts a dress circle position at Terrace Diggings in the heart of Thredbo Village, just a few minutes walk to the Crackenback chairlifts. The Hotel offers 36 guest rooms with ensuites, with a wide range of room styles and sizes, compact to spacious, chalet to contemporary, with no two rooms the same. Room service, porterage and valet parking are included.

Floor to ceiling windows offer stunning daytime mountain views and set the stage for award winning dining at the Denman's Terrace Restaurant. The Denman Hotel & Spa has won the Restaurant and Catering Association's "Best Restaurant Southern Region" and is Thredbo's premier dining venue. Open in winter from 6 pm till late, guests enjoy a la carte dining as part of the Denman tariff.

The Denman's Après Bar is recognised as the Snowy Mountain's most sophisticated nightspot. It's a chic metropolitan style cocktail lounge with comfortable seating –ideal for either pre or post dinner.

The Denman Day Spa is the only full day spa in Thredbo and exclusively offers Thalgo treatments from aromatherapy to remedial sports massage. Guests can choose from indulgent spa packages, facial treatments, body treatments, hand and feet treatments, plus waxing and tinting.

Thredbo Resort 

Kosciuszko Thredbo is Australia's premier ski resort, offering the country's longest downhill skiing, In fact, since the introduction in 2006/07 of extensive automated snow making facilities at the Resort, skiers can enjoy on average 100 days of top to bottom skiing.

The mountain offers a great mix of 'black' challenges for advanced and many great 'blue' runs for immediates. For beginners Friday Flats and Merrits provide fun on lots of easy 'green' slopes.

Thredbo is reminiscent of a European mountain retreat, with its town square and Village atmosphere. It offers undoubtedly Australia's best selection of après ski activities, with live music and dancing, restaurants and bars. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Captain Cook's High-Tea at Sea on Sunday

It's High-Tea at Sea on a Sunday…

Due to popular demand Captain Cook Cruises High Tea at Sea cruise will now depart three times a week instead of two with the addition of a Sunday afternoon High Tea Cruise from 16 May to 31 October 2010..

Like the Wednesday and Saturday High Tea cruises, the Sunday High Tea at Sea will depart at 2.30pm from Jetty 6, Circular Quay and return at 3.45pm.

"We are delighted to be expanding our High Tea at Sea cruise schedule. Since its launch in October 2009, High Tea at Sea has quickly proven to be one of our most popular cruises." Said Jackie Charlton, Joint Managing Director, Captain Cook Cruises.

The High Tea at Sea cruise features a delicious High Tea menu designed by MasterChef Series One Contestant, Lucas Parsons and Captain Cook Cruises Head Chef, Dennis Yang.

The menu includes a variety of savoury and sweet foods such as Crystal Bay prawns on dill blini crème fraiche, porcini mushroom, chili jam and spec pork sausage rolls, caramelized onion, beetroot, goats cheese baby tartlet chervil, mini scones with strawberry jam and vanilla cream, glazed mango and coconut custard tartlets, chocolate dipped strawberries and assorted Petite fours and truffles.

The cruise also includes an extensive tea menu with 15 different teas to choose from and million dollar views of Sydney Harbour.

The High-Tea at Sea cruise is held on the prestigious MV Sydney 2000 and is priced at $55.00 per person which includes a glass of delectable bubbles.

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free from Australia on 1800 804 843; Int +61-2-9206 1111, Email: or visit

Extreme Luxury Package this Mother's Day with True North

A luxury cruise - Diamonds and pearls - A world class Broome resort

To celebrate Mother's Day and the Kimberley cruise season, North Star Cruises has put together an amazing offer* for anyone booking a 2010 Kimberley Wilderness Cruise on board the revered adventure-cruise ship, True North.

Reserve a cabin on a 2 week Kimberley Wilderness cruise and you'll receive:
  • 4 nights complimentary accommodation at the Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa or,
  • A $2000 gift voucher from Linneys
North Star's General Manager Peter Trembath said the offers were a good fit with the stylish True North.

"This really is a unique and exclusive offer," said Mr Trembath.

"If you want to spoil mum this year, you really can't do better than a Kimberley cruise and some stunning jewellery and a stay at an award winning resort," said Mr Trembath.

"Linneys is world renowned for offering Western Australia's finest pearl, diamond and gold jewellery."

"And a stay at Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa is always an indulgent and relaxing experience."

"Combined with the adventure onboard the True North, you would be hard pressed to find a comparable opportunity."

The Kimberley Wilderness Cruise features the best of this pristine coastline including:
  • The Horizontal Falls
  • Fishing for elusive barramundi
  • Viewing ancient rock art
  • Exploring the Kimberley's mighty rivers such as the Prince Regent, the Mitchell and the Hunter
  • The twin waterfalls on the King George River
In 2010 Kimberley Wilderness Cruises also feature some fascinating special guests:

Renowned artist Douglas Kirsop unlocks the secrets of landscape painting on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 5 Broome to Wyndman (8 – 21 May)

New  talent Andrew Tischler will astound with his life-like paintings on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 6 Wyndham to Broome (22 May – 4 June)

Geologist Phil Playford presents his theories on global warming and more on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 7 Broome to Wyndham (5-18 June)

Celebrity Chef Ryan Carey cooks up a storm on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 8 Wyndham to Broome (19 June – 2 July)

North Star's two week Kimberley Wilderness Cruise operates between Broome and Wyndham. Guests can stay onboard for the entire cruise or, they can opt for a one week itinerary either disembarking or embarking in the Hunter River. 

Helicopter & light aircraft transfers (via Broome) are included in the one week itinerary.

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise prices start from $10,495.

For full itineraries, departure dates and prices visit

* Conditions:

Offers apply to new reservations received between April 9 and June 30 2010. Guests opting for a one week itinerary will receive two night's accommodation or a $1000 gift voucher. Accommodation must be taken on consecutive nights and is based on a Garden View Studio. If the required accommodation dates are not available then the offer reverts to the Linneys voucher. The Linneys voucher is valid until the 31/12/10 and may be redeemed on the True North, at the CBC Resort & Spa, or at Linneys Broome showroom. Offers are neither transferable nor redeemable for cash.

West Coast Wilderness Railway: "We’ll find a way, or make it"

Looking over the edge of King River Gorge in Tasmania’s West you’d be forgiven for thinking man had never been there, the untouched rapids raging hundreds of metres below waging their war to carve a crevice in the landscape.

But it is here that one of the most powerful stories of man triumphing over nature’s adversity is told – a 35km railway built by hand through some of the most inhospitable bush imaginable.

Boarding Pure Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway, you expect to see the wilds of the West Coast, but what you take with you at the end of your journey is so much more. You leave with an understanding of the hardship the early settlers faced in their time and an appreciation for the local guides who bring their messages through time to you today.

The railway itself is a feat of endurance. It was built more than 100 years ago as a link between the mines of Queenstown and the port of Strahan. It was a lifeline for the people of the area, the only way in and the only way out of Strahan, with its busy little port a link to the rest of civilisation.

The pioneering railway workers battled everything Mother Nature could throw at them – wind, rain, freezing temperatures, flies, mud... the stories of hardship are endless. They cut through massive rocks by hand to make way for the railway, exemplifying their motto “We’ll find a way, or make it”.

Some parts of the line were amazing feats of engineering way ahead of their time. Huge bridges were constructed off-site, put together nearby then floated into place. Test tracks of Dr Roman Abt’s unique rack-and-pinion system used to haul the trains up the track’s steep incline were built to ensure all would run to plan.

The railway was closed in 1963 as running costs skyrocketed and more road links were built. Many parts of the line fell into ruin, the most memorable story of the Quarter Mile Bridge which was rumoured to sway violently as the train crossed and soon after its closure was claimed by the rising waters of the King River. The remains can still be seen today as you cross a replica, thankfully more stable than its original!

The West Coast Wilderness Railway was painstakingly restored with the assistance of a Centenary of Federation grant, including the original steam engines, and replica carriages were built. Two levels of travel are offered – tourist class and the Premier carriage, which includes a dedicated tour guide, padded seating, morning and afternoon tea, all-day beverages and a booklet to remember your journey. Both classes of seating include lunch featuring fresh Tasmanian produce.

The train simultaneously departs Queenstown and Strahan daily except for Christmas Day. In peak season there is also an afternoon journey.

For further details or to make a booking visit or phone 1800 084 620.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Andara Resort & Villas Phuket Joins Kiwi Collection

Located on Millionaires Mile, Phuket overlooking the Andaman Sea, the resort offers 37 lavish residence suites available in one to four bedroom configurations and 26 luxury pool villas with three to six bedrooms. Villa service includes your own villa attendant and private Thai chef.

Additional services at this stunning, intimate resort include an exquisite Spa, two magnificent customized Baglietto Italian-designed private motor yachts (85 and 107 ft respectively – 28 and 35 meters), and the renowned SILK Restaurant and Bar.

Kiwi Collection's luxury travel website and award-winning publications provide high-end travelers and travel agents with an up-to-date, unbiased, and trusted resource of the finest hotels around the globe that are personally vetted on an annual basis. The value of the Kiwi Collection is bolstered by the deep relationships that Kiwi Collection has with these hotels, ensuring that customers have the very best experience. Kiwi Collection’s website is built on proprietary content that draws from extensive research and analysis of customer experiences making online bookings as well as their experiences at hotels within the portfolio. To date, Kiwi Collection has signed the top 1% (over 2,100) of properties worldwide, from across virtually every luxury brand and affiliation as well as a host of independent properties. Properties are chosen objectively based on a strict evaluation of whether or not they offer truly outstanding guest experiences. Every year Kiwi Collection removes properties that no longer meet its strict criteria. More information about Kiwi Collection is available at

Reservations can be made through the resort’s reservations office direct on:

Telephone: +66 76 338 777 Fax: +66 76 338 949
Website: or

Saturday, April 24, 2010


david ellis

THE rain is pelting down, so much so that from inside our coach it's difficult to identify much out of what our guide is talking about.

And any idea, she suggests, of photos or look-sees is probably out of the question. Until she points out the KaDeWe (pronounced Car De Vay) department store. "Its Berlin's second most-visited attraction," she tells us.

 "Let's go!" shrieks someone. "Yeah, yeah," the other 20 passengers cry. "Shops, shops!"

After a brief hunkering-down between guide and driver we're dropped off at KaDeWe's front door, not expecting the treat that awaits: it is now near lunchtime and we are entering a store with one of the biggest and best food halls in the world.

But food is not on everyone's mind: the women in our group rush to the four floors of fashions, mostly as-yet unseen back home.

For the men it's the Food Hall's Champagne and Oyster Bar. Business is already brisk and we pull out the camera. Nein! A store staffer makes it abundantly clear that photography is strictly verboten – leaving us to wonder if this is one of Berlin's few "tourist attractions" that's off-limits to photographers?

Another glass of bubbly eases our frustration, and starry-eyed we head off into the labyrinth of gourmet stalls and stands, kilometres of delicatessen counters, wine shelves that fade into infinity…

KaDeWe is the second largest department store in Europe, trumped only by London's Harrods. And everything here is undertaken in gargantuan scale across seven floors covering 60,000 square metres – including the equivalent of two football fields of purely food and drink.

Every day 40,000 shoppers migrate here to snap up some of the 3-million items representing 34,000 different products.

Like a bottle of wine at home tonight? Browse the shelves' 3,400 bottles from around the world. Some cheese to go with it? Decide from over 1,300 types and varieties (and 1,400 breads and pastries to complete your snack.)  

We drool our way through all this, finding at every turn an opportunity for another glass or three and a bite: Chablis or Syrah and oysters, Champagne or Chianti and lobster medallions, a stein of beer and sausage...

Adolf Jandorf conceived all this seeming largesse and opened his vast Aladdin's Cave in March 1907.

He sold out in 1927 and the new owners added another couple of floors, but in 1943 an Allied bomber shot down over Berlin crashed into the store, demolishing most of it; it re-opened partially in 1950, and fully six years later.

KaDeWe (it means "Kaufhaus des Westens" or "Department Store of the West") was further expanded in the 1970s and in 1996 another floor and the glass-domed roof-top Winter Garden Restaurant were added.

You can buy almost anything you want here from the world's best luxury-label toiletries and leather-goods to men's and women's fashions, children's clothing, health products, and food and wine.

And have your hair done, a facial, a spa treatment, furnish the house, fit out the kitchen with every gadget known to man, dine in the Winter Garden restaurant or a plethora of cafés, coffee shops and bars – and buy travel tickets to continue your European journey.

Or graze through free offering: morsels of sausages, chocolates, cookies, and cold meats were amongst products being sampled during our visit.

We could have also bought seafood live from the tank, tropical fruits (including ginger, pineapples and mangoes from Australia,) a couple of hundred varieties of sausages ("the best of the world's wurst, " someone cracks,) pasta, exotic vegetables from every corner of the globe, delicatessen items by the farm-load with names we've never heard of, teas and coffees…

KaDeWe is all about style, and for bragging rights back home we snap-up a stylish box of KaDeWe's own-label tea from which we will grandly offer visitors a cuppa in our meagre kitchen.

KaDeWe is not usually included in Berlin sightseeing tours; you do it in your own time after the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Bellevue Palace, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church, City Hall and Boulevard Unter den Linden.

Tempo Holidays has three-day Taste of Berlin packages from $415 per person twin share that include hotel, breakfasts, private arrival transfer and a Big Berlin sightseeing tour.

Contact travel agents, Tempo Holidays on 1300 558 987 or visit


[] BERLIN's KaDeWe – a shopper's Aladdin's Cave

[] MOET and Mozzarella: one of the many corners in KaDeWe's deli that help put a bit of sparkle into the weekly shopping

[] BETWEEN them the store's wine outlets have some 3,400 bottles from around the world on their shelves

[] DINE under glass in the domed roof-tope Winter Garden

Plenty Up for Auction at Noosa Food and Wine Festival

Wannabe chefs rejoice!

Tourism Queensland is offering foodies the chance to bid for the opportunity to work with MasterChef judge and cravat wearing food critic extraordinaire Matt Preston during the Audi Noosa Food & Wine Festival 2010.

The ‘money can’t buy’ experience is part of Tourism Queensland’s, Queensland Holidays Ultimate Auctions going live online from 3pm, Tuesday, April 27 with all monies raised going to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

“We’re giving people the opportunity to enjoy the full VIP, gold ticket experience,” Matt said.

“They’ll get to rub shoulders with some of Australia’s best chefs, receive VIP passes to the Festival’s big events and be my guests at the sold- out Italian degustation dinner. They will also attend a top-secret launch event over the course of the weekend.

“The downside is that the successful bidder and their guest will also spend time with me as my sous chefs as we cook over 1000 picnic dishes for the Critics Cooking Competition at Lions Park on Saturday May 1.”

The ultimate auction winner will be left plenty of free time for getting out and seeing all the Sunshine Coast has to offer with its relaxed, yet sophisticated lifestyle, encompassing the coastline from Caloundra to Rainbow Beach and the lush countryside of the hinterland

Other components of the package include:

* Four nights luxury accommodation for two at The Rise, Noosa
* Two nights luxury accommodation for two at Mantra Mooloolaba Beach
* Two VIP Event Gold Passes
* Two VIP Degustation Dinners
* Two VIP entries to secret event
* Dinner at the award-winning Spirit House restaurant

Queensland Holidays Ultimate Auctions showcases the unique types of packages people can enjoy when holidaying in Queensland.
There will be nine other packages on auction from around the state up for bid at the same time as the Noosa Gourmet Getaway.

Thousands gather at War Memorial for Dawn Service

The traditional ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial has been attended by 20,000 visitors today.

"It was heart warming to see so many people gathered in the early morning for this special event," said Australian War Memorial Director Steve Gower.

"The ANZAC Day services remember those Australian service men and women who have served the nation, and particularly those who have died."

"I encourage those that could not join us earlier today to come to the National Service commencing at 10.15am. The National Service includes the RSL veterans march, and is a great way to recognise our returned service men and women.

"The Memorial will be open after the National Ceremony so that poppies can be placed on the Roll of Honour and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for those that never returned," said Steve Gower.

The National Ceremony commences at 10.15am

The Memorial will be open until 5pm today.

The Australian War Memorial is one of the nation's most visited museums, a place where Australians can remember and learn about the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on our society.

Le Ponant Sails to Hidden Corners of Mediterranean

From this spring through the fall, Compagnie du Ponant, the world’s only French-flagged cruise line, will offer unusual voyages to some of the hidden corners of Europe’s most popular destinations: Italy, France and Spain. From May 17 through October 23, guests aboard the luxury cruise line’s stylish Le Ponant will enjoy visits to some 12 lesser-known island gems including Porquerolles, Minorca, Lipari, Gozo, Hvar, Mljet and through the Kornati archipelago. Sailing on mostly seven-night itineraries, the three-masted Le Ponant will sail along the French Riviera, Costa Brava and the Ligurian and Dalmatian coasts.

Le Ponant is an elegant 290-foot sailing yacht that accommodates 64 guests in 32 outside staterooms. Two restaurants, one with panoramic views; two lounges and a library provide plenty of entertainment options. Relaxing outside on the expansive 4,300-square-foot deck – especially when the ship has its 16,000 feet of sails unfurled – is particularly appealing. Aboard the yacht, guests enjoy the best France has to offer: delicious cuisine, tasteful accommodations and a chic, yet informal atmosphere. The intimate size of Le Ponant and a staff-to-guest ratio of 1:2 translate to very personalized service. Compagnie du Ponant’s aim: to have guests feel like they are sailing on their own yacht.

Kicking off its European season on May 17, the seven-night “Charms of Corsica and Italy” itinerary sails from Nice down the west side of Corsica to picturesque Ile Rousse; along the towering granite cliffs of Piana Calanches, a UNESCO World Heritage site; then to the cliff-top fortressed medieval city of Bonifcacio; before continuing to Rome; Elba’s Portoferraio; the medieval town of Lerici in the Cinque Terre, and back to Nice. “Treasures of the Blue Mediterranean” (May 24, 31, September 2, 19, & October 10), seven-night sailings from Nice to Valleta and back, include mostly Italian ports like the volcanic island of Ponza, the jewel-like Amalfi, tiny Lipari in the Aeolian Islands, plus a cruise around Stromboli’s active volcano and a visit to Taormina’s ancient Greek theatre and its still-smoking Mount Etna.

Other Le Ponant cruises highlighting Italy include:

¨ “Sicily and the Mezzogiorno” (August 19, 26, September 26 & October 3) – Four seven-night voyages, from Valletta (Malta) to Naples and Naples back to Valletta, call at the famed Sicilian cities of Syracuse, Taormina and Palermo and Castellamare, gateway to the Phoenician sites of Segesta and Erice, plus Lipari and Amalfi.

¨ “Italian Promenades: Tuscany and Liguria” (October 17 & 23) – The six-night Nice-to-Nice itinerary calls in Monaco and four Italian ports, including the Tuscan resort of Viareggio, a jumping-off point for visits to Pisa or Florence.

France and Spain are the focus of:

¨ “A Mediterranean Anthology” (June 12, 19, 26 & July 3) – Four seven-night itineraries from Nice to Barcelona and Barcelona to Nice, visit: the nature reserve on Porquerolles; the medieval village of Port Saint Louise du Rhone in the heart of the Alpilles; Port La Nouvelle for its Crusader fortresses; the UNESCO Biosphere reserve of Minorca; Majorca’s cobblestoned capital Palma de Majorca, and medieval Palamos north of Barcelona, the Mediterranean’s most popular port.

Several itineraries explore the Dalmatian Coast, one of this year’s hot destinations:

¨ “From the Riviera to Medieval Cities of the Adriatic” (July 24) - This nine-night adds stops at Elba and ports along Italy’s western coast with visits to the beautiful island of Hvar; Split, a UNESCO World Heritage site with Diocletian’s Palace; picturesque Rovinj, and medieval Piran.

¨ “Blown by the Wind in Croatia” (August 2) – A seven-night Venice-to-Venice itinerary calls at eight jewels along the Dalmatian Coast including three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the walled city Dubrovnik, Trogir and Sibenik. The cruise visits the fortified towns of Zadar and Kotor; Mljet, one of this coast’s best kept secrets and medieval Korcula before it sails through the Kornati archipelago.

¨ “From the Doge’s Palace to the Palace of the Grand Master’s” (August 9) – A ten-night Venice-to-Valleta voyage combines seven ports along the Dalmatian coast with stops at Otranto on Italy’s heel, Taormina and Gozo.

Golfers can hit the links during “Tee Time in the Mediterranean,” two seven-night, Nice-to-Nice sailings (July 10 and 17) playing at select golf courses in Cannes, Corsica, Sardinia, Elba and Portofino. Included in the price are green fees at five courses, golf carts and transfers to and from the courses. The yacht’s Sports Director will handle all the details.

These itineraries are tailor made for Compagnie du Ponant’s sailing yacht. Le Ponant’s zodiacs allow guests to explore these intriguing ports as well as private coves and deserted islets. And on a hot summer day in the Mediterranean nothing is more refreshing then jumping off the marina platform for a swim.

Le Ponant has 32 exterior staterooms with large windows and all have individually-controlled air conditioning, a choice of king or twin beds and private bath with shower and L’Occitane amenities. Ranging from 113 to 165 square feet, they come equipped with the latest technology: flat-screen satellite TV, direct-dial satellite telephone, Wi-Fi as well as a mini-bar and safe.

“Ponant’s philosophy – to offer small ship cruising with a bit of French flavor in a comfortable ambiance with welcoming service – is very much aligned with the aspirations of today’s travelers,” says, Terri Haas, Compagnie du Ponant’s Chief Commercial Officer. “Our cruises are designed for those who are interested in history and culture and enjoy seeing unspoiled corners of the world,” explains Haas.

All but six cruises are seven-night itineraries. Starting at $3,045 per person, double occupancy for a Marie Galante Deck stateroom on the six-night “Italian Promenades: Tuscany and Liguria” and ranging up to $5,680 per person, double for an Antigua Deck stateroom on the 10-day “From the Doge’s Palace to the Palace of the Grand Masters,” cruise prices include all wine, beer, mineral water, soft drinks and specialty coffees served with meals. Compagnie du Ponant offers travel agent commissions ranging between 10 and 15 percent.

Variety Sails West African Rivers

By Marilyn Green / TravelAge West

As river cruising fades — at least temporarily — from most of North America, it is beginning to open up in more exotic destinations, including Vietnam and Cambodia with Ama Waterways and now in West Africa with Variety Cruises. And, although Variety is not traditionally thought of as a river cruise line, its intimate ships are well suited to river cruising.

The new itinerary fits in well with Variety’s mission to operate “unforgettable seven-day cruise programs to amazing destinations,” which have generally taken place in the Greek Isles, the Northern Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Now, however, the company is moving into Africa’s rivers.

Variety is offering the new Africa river cruises aboard the 46-passenger mega-yacht Pegasus, which is being fully refurbished. The twin-hulled catamaran has an elegant dining room, an open-air restaurant under a white stretched canvas roof, a homelike main lounge and air-conditioned staterooms with safes and a satellite television.

Aimed at veteran travelers who want to go beyond the usual destinations to experience exotic cultures, the Rivers of West Africa cruise departs on Fridays and sails roundtrip from Dakar, Senegal. The first port of call along the Saloun River is Djiffere, from which passengers have the opportunity to explore the village of Joal Fadiout, a fishing community on the mainland built entirely of shells from a nearby island.

The cruise continues along the Gambia River to Tendaba, home to Kiang West National Park and the Baobolong Reserve, a paradise for birdwatchers. Kuntaur, a thriving port village with bustling markets on the Gambia River, is important to Gambia’s main crop export, peanuts.

Guests will also visit Janjangbureh, the location of the River Gambia National Park, a conservation sanctuary for chimpanzees, hippopotamuses, Nile crocodiles and many bird species. Banjul, the capital city of Gambia on St. Mary’s Island (Banjul Island), where the Gambia River enters the Atlantic Ocean, is another port of call, and here, guests can visit the nearby the Nature Reserves of Abuko and Makasutu.

Optional pre- or post-cruise land extensions include seven days in Mali and its colorful city of Timbuktu. Variety’s eight-day West Africa itinerary is offered Dec. 17 through March 18 with fares starting at $2,490.

Variety Cruises

Cruise Tourism in Polar Regions: Promoting Environmental and Social Sustainability?

Cruises are the primary form of tourism in the Polar Regions and cruise ship tourism in both the Arctic and Antarctic is expanding rapidly. Yet little is known about the practices, implications and challenges of tourism in remote polar seas. Climate change is dramatically altering the impact and potential for such forms of tourism. Recent incidents, such as the sinking of one cruise ship and the grounding of two other cruise vessels in the Antarctic Peninsula in 2007, highlight the need for a critical examination of the implications of polar cruise tourism.

A specific critical study of polar cruise tourism is therefore timely. The industry has moved beyond its infancy, and is now entering a maturing phase with increased numbers and types of vessels, more demanding routes, and more regular and predictable patterns of activity. A range of factors is likely to support this maturing phase, including increasing tourist demand for travel to remote places, overall popularity of cruising worldwide, more sophisticated promotional activities by tour agencies, increasing awareness at the political and community levels about the benefits and costs of cruise tourism, and changing ice regimes in the polar regions. The increase in cruise activities, and the associated risks of accidents, as well as the potential and actual impacts of the large numbers of tourists in the polar regions bring with it management challenges for sustainable use of these regions. This book discusses critically the issues around environmental and social sustainability of the cruise industry in Polar Regions. Authors from Canada, USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are experts in their respective fields and take an innovative, critical and at times controversial approach to the subject.

An opportunity to join the crew sailing an authentic square-rigged sailing ship

From Sydney to Auckland - departs 25th October ­ 8th November 2010

Just over 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 ship¹s 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 Œcity of sails¹.

Open to all ages and with no previous experience required, this special cruise will allow passenger¹s 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 Œthe Onedin Line¹ - 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.

15-day all-inclusive cost $4095 per person - includes all meals on board, 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 Œhands on¹ from the professional crew about shipboard life. Allowance is made for age and abilities and as part of the ship¹s 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 Œthe 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 Ocean bluewater sailing voyages are available from Tonga to Fiji or New Caledonia to Sydney. South Pacific island cruising voyages are offered to Vanuatu, the remote Vanuatu Banks & Torres Islands, to Fiji & to Tonga.

Places are limited. Call 1800 331 582 for more details or to make a reservation

For further details contact:

Martyn Paterson

The Active Holiday Company
PO Box 286, Bright, Victoria 3741, Australia

Tel (03) 57 501 441 Toll free 1800 331 582 Fax (03) 57 501020


Friday, April 23, 2010

Houston CityPASS: Out-of-this-world Attractions at Bargain Prices

Houston — ZZ Top guitarist Billy F. Gibbons refers to Houston, his hometown, as a city of exotic extremes. In fact, Houston’s remarkable range stretches from the funky — the annual Art Car Parade and the Beer Can House — to the ultra-serious: the monumental contributions made to science by NASA and the Houston Medical Center. In-between lies a hearty mix of barbecue, toe-tapping blues, arts, activities and belly-busting good times.

And with Houston CityPASS, those good times come with a Texas-sized discount. Visitors who use CityPASS experience the city’s biggest attractions for almost half off regular-priced admissions.

Houston CityPASS costs $39 for adults (a value of $74.96) and $29 for kids, 3-11 (a value of $56.72). Inside each Houston CityPASS ticket booklet are discount admission tickets to Space Center Houston (NASA), Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science and Houston Zoo, as well as a choice between The Health Museum and George Ranch Historical Park, and a second choice between the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The Children’s Museum of Houston.

Visitors will want to leave plenty of time to explore one of America’s most iconic institutions: Space Center Houston. As the official visitor center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, it is the home of astronauts and Mission Control. It houses actual spacecraft, spacesuits and other artifacts. The guided tram tour is a highlight, providing a behind-the-scenes journey to the Historic (Apollo Era) Mission Control, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility or the current Mission Control Center. Because these are all working facilities, visitors occasionally catch a glimpse of astronauts training for upcoming missions. For a close-up look at several Gemini, Apollo and Mercury spacecraft, visitors shouldn’t miss the Saturn V Complex at the center’s Rocket Park.

With white tigers and tarantulas to go along with sharks and shipwrecks, there’s nothing conventional about a trip to Houston’s Downtown Aquarium. CityPASS users bypass main ticket lines, heading straight into their encounters with red-bellied piranhas, venomous stingrays and gorgeous tropical birds. After touring the many aquarium exhibits, visitors can hop aboard a train that cruises right through the center of a shark-filled tank.

Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Museum of Natural Science assembles a captivating collage of artifacts for young and old. Houston CityPASS holders will come face-to-face with huge dinosaurs, as well as rare gems and spectacular shells, an African ecosystem and the museum’s resident mummy, Ankh-hap. For an extra fee, visitors are encouraged to take a visual journey in the Wortham IMAX Theatre, or interact with more than 1,500 butterflies in the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

On the other side of Hermann Park lies the Houston Zoo and its collection of more than 4,500 animals, including the “world’s cutest animal,” Toby, the red panda. Red pandas have faces like Ewoks and tails like raccoons, live in trees and subsist on bamboo shoots. Zoo-goers also enjoy visiting the on-site Kipp Aquarium, checking out the new jaguar exhibit, splashing through the Water Park, or taking a ride on the Wildlife Carousel. And for those who want to spend their CityPASS savings on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the zoo offers “Cat Training Window” experiences ($100 per person) that allow guests the chance to feed a lion or tiger.

The last two Houston CityPASS tickets provide a choice between four different attractions. One discount ticket gains admission to either The Health Museum (just across the street from Hermann Park) or George Ranch Historical Park (30 miles southwest of downtown Houston).

The Health Museum is an interactive science learning center and a member institution of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center. Visitors to its Amazing Body Pavilion will take a larger-than-life tour of the human body to learn how organs and bones work. Guests can sit on giant teeth, ride a bicycle with a skeleton and walk through a giant brain. Other attractions include the McGovern 4D Theater, where visitors can cringe and revel in a 3D microscopic adventure into the alien landscape of their own skin.

Anyone tired of being a city slicker can take a short drive into the country to see Texas traditions nurtured at George Ranch Historical Park. On this working ranch of cattle and cotton, there are wagon camps, a blacksmith, livestock, weaving, corn grinding and other hands-on activities.

Back in the big city, the second Houston CityPASS option ticket offers a choice between the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, or The Children’s Museum of Houston.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is one of the nation’s premier destinations for art lovers; a home to both centuries-old masterpieces and modern marvels. With nearly 60,000 works of art gathered from nearly every corner of the world, it showcases displays as diverse as 2,500 Years of African Art, Masterworks of European Art, Americana and an expansive sculpture garden.

Kids who are less inclined to wander the art museum will be tickled to tour the recently expanded Children’s Museum of Houston. Here they can build robots in Invention Convention; anchor the news or get elected as mayor of Kidtropolis, USA; take a wet, wild adventure into FlowWorks, and climb a three-story tower in Power Tower.

Houston CityPASS can be purchased online at or at any of the CityPASS attractions. It is valid for nine consecutive days, beginning with the first day of use.

As a premier product for travelers who crave savings, convenience and a well-defined means to discovering a city’s leading attractions, the CityPASS concept showcases the best attractions in North America’s most exciting destinations at an incredible discount. CityPASS ticket booklets are available for New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California and Toronto. For more information on CityPASS and its partner cities and attractions, visit

Star Clippers Cruise Turkish Riviera

In the era of mega cruise liners, the 170-passenger luxury yacht Star Flyer will open up new horizons in July and August with visits to a string of tiny ports in the acclaimed  Turkish Riviera, often inaccessible to big ships.

A true clipper ship that blends the romance of sail with on-board pampering, the 110m Star Flyer will operate three 'Secret Turkey' seven-night round-trip fly-cruise/stay cruises from the Greek Island of Rhodes on July 17 and 31 and on August 14.

Prices start at $5599 from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and include return flights to Athens with Emirates, one-night at the Plaka Hotel in Athens and an Olympic Airways flight from Athens to Rhodes.

Ports of call off the beaten track include five Turkish ports along the pristine 'turquoise coast'  -- Olympus, first settled in 200BC; the stunning cliff-top city of Antalya; Kemer; and the two most popular havens for yachtsmen, Kekova and Gocek.

Star Flyer also calls at the most easterly of the Greek Islands, Katellorizon.

For reservations see your travel agent or contact Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or email:

More information

Struth! Drinks are off the house

IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says a unique new resort opens in Portugal this month – specifically for recovering alcoholics and those overcoming addictions to gambling and narcotics.

The Sober Holidays Renovatio resort is the brainchild of Andrew O'Loughlin who has been on the dry for four years and owns a luxury villa in the picturesque hills of Algarve in the country's south-west. Andrew says he got the idea after fellow recovering alcoholics visited his home and commented on its peace, isolation and serenity in helping them get their thoughts – and their lives – back together again.

So he's converted the villa into a resort with five luxury ensuite bedrooms, has a full-time chef to create meals based on healthy local Portuguese as well as other Mediterranean cuisines, and done deals with local sporting clubs and resorts to make available such activities as mountain biking, hiking, tennis and golf (there are 14 courses in close proximity.)

"One of the worse experiences for recovering alcoholics is taking a holiday," says Andrew. "Alcohol is everywhere, I've had some of the most horrible and stressful experiences of my life while trying to take what should be a restful holiday.

"We're providing a healthy environment, good food, good companionship and a supportive program of discussion sessions – but these latter will not be obligatory – and AA meets several times a week in neighbouring towns."

Check it out on


david ellis

GUESTS at a deluxe new boutique resort that opens in Thailand in October of this year can expect a misty-eye, and possibly goose-bumps down the spine, at least once during their stay.

Because as they take evening cocktails before a million-dollar sunset view, they'll also be looking across to one of the world's most-emotive and famous structures: The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Built in 1942-43 as part of Japan's horrendous Burma Death Railway that ran 415km from Bangkok to Rangoon, the iron bridge was just one of many along a route hacked through mountainous jungle by 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and 180,000 enforced Asian labourers.

And all in a seemingly-impossible 16 months.

Estimates vary, but most historians agree that around 90,000 Asian labourers died during the building of the railway, while 16,000 Allied Prisoners of War – British, Australian, Dutch, Americans and Canadians – also succumbed to brutal conditions that included stints of working over 30-hours straight to complete the final stages of the line.

Over 2800 of those who died were Australians.

Many guests to the new U Hotels and Resorts Inchantree Resort at Kanchanaburi on the banks of the River Kwai and within view of the Bridge, will doubtless reflect on the history of the infamous railway as they sip their poolside cocktails, watch the kingfishers flitting across the now-peaceful waterway, and muse at the colourful river traffic.

Others will possibly find themselves thinking back to the 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai and its theme tune, the inspirational but hauntingly-whistled Colonel Bogey March.

But they should not take too much of the movie as fact. While based on the diabolical conditions imposed on those forced to build the Death Railway, the major theme of the destruction of the bridge by prisoners of war that inspired the novel and the subsequent movie, was pure fiction from the pen of French writer Pierre Boulle.

Rather than the Bridge on the River Kwai being blown-up by the POWs who'd built it, sending a trainload of high-ranking Japanese officers to their deaths, the Bridge was not destroyed until the American Air Force bombed it in April 1945.

The idea of a railway linking Burma (now Myanmar) with Thailand was not something new: a line had been muted by the British in the early 1900s, but shelved as nigh-on impossible in the mountainous, jungled terrain that was criss-crossed by myriad rivers and streams

But when Japan invaded from Thailand and took Burma from the British in the early 1940s, it found itself with a confronting problem: supplies for Burma had to come in by sea through the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea, and both were pretty-much controlled by the Allies.

So it decided on the rail link between Bangkok and Rangoon. At any cost.

But when completed the Burma Death Railway failed to achieve the result Japan wanted, and rather than a 24-hour stream of trains rushing freight and troops up and down the track, at the most it could manage just a handful a day.

When the war ended the line was abandoned and huge sections devoured by the vigorously-growing jungle. But in the 1950s the Thai government re-built about 130km from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok that's open today to local and tourist trains… and Japan gave two pre-fabricated sections to re-open the Bridge on the River Kwai.

When U Hotels and Resorts' boutique Inchantree resort opens at Kanchanaburi in October this year, guests will be able to look out to the historic Bridge on the River Kwai, muse back on its past as they watch modern-day trains rumbling across from Thailand to Myanmar, and take-in the spectacular river sunsets.

The just 26-room river-lodge style resort will be set around a courtyard dominated by an ancient shady Inchan tree, and will offer a blend of local heritage and modern amenities, semi-open-air restaurant, pool, library, internet station, Thai spa, heritage talks and walks, and even biking tours of the local area.

And interestingly, it will provide guests with 24hrs use of rooms from whatever hour they check-in, free Wi-Fi, daily breakfast whenever it suits them – and, thankfully, telephone calls at actual cost.

Prices will start from a modest US$75 for 24hrs use; see travel agents, or visit       



[] THE famous (once infamous) Bridge on the River Kwai

[] MEMORIAL at Hellfire Pass on Burma's Death Railway

[] AUSTRALIAN prisoners of war who worked on the Death Railway

[] ARTIST'S perspective of the new U Hotels and Resorts Inchantree Resort



david ellis

HOODWINKING those whose support they need to keep them in power has been around since the politicians first breathed air. 

Way back in 67AD when Emperor Nero sensed wealthy traders and shipowners were getting a bit toey, he made a grand promise with a flair of showmanship that would leave pollies of today floundering.

The fact that fulfilment of that promise would not come about until hundreds of years later – in 1893 – was neither here nor there.

From as early as 700BC, Mediterranean traders cursed an area of Greece known as the Peloponnese, a peninsula in the south of the country's mainland that divided the Adriatic Sea from the Agean.

For while the 16,000 square kilometre peninsula was one of the country's richest and most valuable agricultural areas, it added 300kms – and often days sailing around the infamously unpredictable Cape Maleas – to the lucrative trade routes between the two Seas.

Many early rulers thought about digging a canal across the peninsula, but none was quite game enough to try it, for two reasons: they believed that Poseidon, the God of the Sea, opposed the joining of the two Seas, and if they dug the canal, Poseidon would allow the "higher" Adriatic to rush through like water down a plug-hole, and flood the "lower" Aegean.

Periander, the Tyrant of Corinth, in 602BC temporarily got around the problem with a stone roadway, having ships hauled out of the Adriatic or Agean, placed on wheeled carts and pulled by horses and slaves across the 6km- wide peninsula.

Because of their weight, cargoes were removed and carried separately, and the ships re-loaded and re-launched into the sea on the other side of the Peloponnese. It ended-up as time-consuming and costly as sailing around the Peninsula.

So in 67AD Emperor Nero, with those traders and shipowners making clamouring sounds about his leadership, decided on a grand canal across the Peloponnese Peninsula.

But he didn't announce it with just a simple court statement and the equivalent of today's Press Release. Rather he waited for the approaching Isthmian Games when he knew he would have an audience of thousands – including his business protagonists.

The Games were held both in the year before and the year after the Olympics, and with a massive audience Nero not only declared that he would have a canal cut across the Peloponnese Peninsula – with great ceremony he produced a golden spade, led his noblemen and business moguls to the site of his would-be canal, and dug the first sods of soil himself.

And not content with that, he then loaded this spoil into wicker baskets which he carried on his back and dumped with equal ceremony before no less than 6,000 slaves he'd recruited to dig the canal.

But that was as far as it got: although his plans were for a canal 6.3km long, 25m wide and with an 8m depth of water, it also meant first creating a cutting up to 80m deep just to get down to the water-level of what would be his actual canal.

And to complicate matters, 3-months later Nero – whose increasingly-odd behaviour included giving 3-hour performances on his lyre to audiences in theatres whose doors were locked so no-one could leave before he'd finished –  committed suicide. What little work was done on the canal was abandoned.

It took centuries for the Greek government to get serious again, and finally in 1890 construction began on a canal at a place called the Isthmus of Corinth.

It took three years, including building two road bridges and a rail bridge across the canal, and remarkably at each end, roads on pontoons that "sank" into trenches dug a further several metres into the bed of the canal to allow ships to pass over them.

Today the narrow and shallow Corinth Canal is still a vital link for smaller cargo vessels, boutique-sized cruise ships and pleasure boats seeking a short-cut between the Adriatic and Agean Seas.

The Peloponnese Peninsula is a taste of true Greece, with aqua-blue waters lapping sunny beaches, patchworks of olive groves, vineyards and citrus orchards, ancient towns, monasteries, palaces, ruined castles and forts.

For information about holidaying on the Peloponnese phone Travel Creations 1300 550 727… they know all about it as the owner's family hails from there!



[] TIGHT fit: only boutique cruise ships like SeaDream I and SeaDream II here can squeeze through the 25m wide Corinth Canal.

[] ROAD and rail bridges cross the Canal at various points of its 6.3km length.

[] AERIAL view showing how the Canal dissects the Isthmus of Corinth.

[] NOW you see it, now you don't… low-level road bridge "sinks" into the canal to allow ships in and out of the Canal

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