Monday, 29 December 2008

Visit some of Europe’s iconic ports

Weekly Travel Briefs – w/c December 29 2008.


By John Crook

Boutique tours in Italy

From bases in three major centres of Italy with easy access to Florence, Siena and Assisi. That's part of the success of Carolinasusi Italia Tours which offers two departure dates ex Rome, April 24 2009 or September 25 2009. Full-time tour escorts, coach, ferry, funicular and rail travel with all breakfasts and most dinners on these tour packages of 21-nights. Priced from $6,975 per person, twin share, these are truly boutique, small-groups tours. All the details by calling (07) 3396 8652 or visit

New ways to live your dream

Here's news of some of the most sought after locations in New Zealand and Fiji, staying at luxury lodges, resorts and private island escapes, featuring savagely discounted prices. Packages are valid through to 31 March 2009 and priced from NZ$450 per couple per night. There are 23 Summer Luxe special offers. Check them out at your local travel agent or

Beaut Utes

Goulburn in New South Wales springs into life with the Australia Day Ute Muster,- January 24-27. The venue is the Goulburn Showgrounds which will be filled to overflowing. That requires an immediate check around for accommodation. Easiest way to do that is to take a look at Try this for size! Deluxe suites at the Goulburn Heritage Motel with prices starting from $99 per room per night and that includes a continental breakfast.

Discovering hidden gems

The world's most punctual airline now offers a travellers' guidebook like no other. Our World offers the chance to discover hidden gems that makes one feel like a local and not a tourist, with tips from SAS crew members.

Covering all Scandanavian long-haul destinations, it sells for 15 euro and may be purchased on line from To download your free SAS city guide, visit

Visit some of Europe's iconic ports

Barcelona to Rome is just one cruise which offers terrific savings,- with cruise only fares for as little as $2,683 per person, twin share. Depart from Barcelona on 26 April 2009, for seven-day experience, aboard msy Wind Surf, taking in glamorous locations en route, including Porto-Vecchio on the rugged French island of Corsica, Spain's Balearic Islands, Italy's Costa Verde and then Rome via Portoferraio. Start the excitement juices flowing by calling 1300 766 566 or visiting

Beat out that rhythm

You will feel the beat in Cuba on an 11-night tour. Cuban music fills the air in legendary bars and clubs. The tour begins and ends in Havana. Priced from $1,295 per person, twin share, plus a local flight from $165, includes 11 nights accommodation, daily breakfasts, transport and activities as per the itinerary. This tour operates throughout the year. Get the facts 'mon' by telephoning 1300 799 783 or visit

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. This information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agency. Block out periods may apply. Need a holiday ? We're archived on

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Maldon: Victoria's Golden Centre

TRAVEL BRIEFS for w/c Dec 22nd 2008 

Join the old timers on Dalmatian Coast

Book a 'B' category motorised sailboat, ie the old-timers' and receive a free upgrade to an 'A' grade vessel where all cabins have private facilities.  Several departures from either Split or Opatija  in April, May, September and October, in 2009.  Snorkelling, diving, sampling the local restaurants and bars  with daily breakfasts and lunches aboard.  Packages available from $748 per person, twin share.  Does not include airfares. Get the facts by visiting 

Golden centre

Hit the road or do it by rail aboard the Victorian Goldfields railway and explore the magic of central Victoria. The rail service which operates between Castlemaine and Maldon varies, so needs to be checked out, however, if doing the trip by motor vehicle consider a couple of nights staying at Maldon's Palm House B&B.  Two nights accommodation from $300. Very comfy and just a few steps from the town's heritage streets.  The tariff includes chocolates and a bottle of  local wine, with tasty breakfasts also part of the deal.    Call Wendy Elsy on (03) 5475 2532 or email 

Kong Hei Fat Choy

Good fortune for all is the greeting from Singapore. Prepare for the New Year light-up between January 3 – February 15.  As part of the celebration Singapore is home to parades and festivals. Plan to be there in January, for that's when the celebration is in full swing. Be well prepared and before you head off check the activities on 

Take 18 days to get to Honolulu

Sailing aboard Dawn Princess is one heck of a way to relax and to explore, as the 77,500 tonne vessel commands the Pacific and its exciting island nations between Sydney and Hawaii.    I love the Princess Cruises' anytime dining policy and a choice of traditional dining, a speciality steakhouse, 24-hour bistro and even a poolside hamburger and hot dog grill. There's a saving to be made too if you book through      Get the full details by calling 1300 369 848 or visit  

Discover Malta by jeep and more

Malta is best when discovered by seaplane, jeep and a Turkish rigged gullet.  Do it, - on a seven-night tour! This is Malta with a difference.  The tour operates from April to October, priced from $2,210 per person, twin share and that includes all accommodation, daily breakfast, activities and entrance fees as per the itinerary.   Airfares to Valletta, where the tour starts and ends, are not included.  Telephone 1300 799 783 or visit  

Borneo by crikey

Brunei doesn't get a lot of publicity so is often overlooked.  Hang around a bit and check out the great deal on offer. Four nights free at Tuaran Beach Resort and an upgrade to a deluxe room at the Sheraton Utama in Brunei when you book a seven-day Wildlife Tour of Borneo. Highlights include a canopy walk, boat ride and exploration of caves at Kinabalu National Park, snorkelling and a whole heap of other considerations.  For instance, accommodation, most meals, sightseeing and entrance fees, English speaking guide, domestic flight from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu.  The package is available for sale until March 31, 2009 and designed to fit in with flight schedules of Royal Brunei.  To confirm the facts and the price contact Adventure World on 1300 363 055. 

Adelaide is great

Valid for travel through until January 31 2009 Mantra on Frome, in Adelaide, offers a room rate from $145 per night.

Conditions do apply and you will need to check on availability.  This rate is not applicable for conference or group business.   For more information telephone (08) 8223 9000. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on 

ENDS  Visual –'Palm House B&B in Maldon.'

Monday, 15 December 2008

Italy boutique-style

Your FREE Travel Briefs – w/c December 15 2008. 


By John Crook 

Italy boutique-style

A three-week fully escorted tour of Italy with accommodation and touring in conjunction with mainly family-owned operations.  Rather than moving in and out of hotels each night, instead Carolinasusi  Italia Tours are based for a week at a time in three major centres, travelling out to iconic cities such as Florence, Assisi and Siena.  You will visit ceramic and leather artisans, chocolate and cheese makers, wine and olive oil producers, and still  have plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing.  Price starts from $6,975 per person, twin share and that includes pick-up at Rome airport on April 24 2009 or September 25 2009.  Get all the details by calling (07) 3396 8652 or visit  

Zuji – more than beans

Around 10,000  cans of baked beans have been responsible for travel savings.  Put simply, the bean counters  claim that their cans, which sold  for 10 cents each, helped keep grocery bills low, - meaning more dollars for on-line best deals. It is worth checking out the packages which are currently on offer, whether it be domestic or international flights and accommodation.   The beans may have been snapped up and now it's the travel options which are the big attraction.  Check  

Down a mine shaft

Sydney Tower is much more than just a big building.  It is now home to the OzTrek ride, a combination of Australia's largest motion cinema,  experiencing surround sound, 3D imagery and real-motion seating. It's a magic carpet ride across Australia, sweeping over Sydney Harbour, riding Tully rapids and travelling back in time to the Ballarat goldfields.  Then there's Skywalk,-not for the faint-hearted. Tickets to Sydney Tower start from $25 per adult, kids under 15, just $15. Tickets to the Devil's Mine ride are an additional $5 per person.  Costs more to do the SkyWalk. 

Italian cooking classes

Here's a chance to  cook Italian style, with the help of professional chef Claudio Piantini. 

It is a five-day Tuscan package priced from $3181 per person, twin share, with a minimum of two people.  That includes four nights accommodation, four breakfasts, three lunches and four dinners.  There are also three afternoon excursions.  Enjoy an early booking discount of $1,000 per couple for bookings made and paid in full before December 31 2008. Visit  

Strictly limited season

What has been billed as the best musical in a long time is about to excite  Melburnians who at this very moment are preparing to welcome Billy Elliot.   Based on the English miners' strike of the 1980's this wonderful stage production features the music of Elton John.   Billy Elliot is one of those rare productions which traverses all the moods from happiness to tears.  

It plays at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne from December 31st for a strictly limited season   For bookings dial 1800 4 Billy. Travel agents throughout Australia have accommodation, travel and theatre packages. 

Chelsea Flower Show

Details of the 2009 Chelsea event have been released and there are some brilliant packages available, such as the May 8th departure with Jennifer Stackhouse.  Quality accommodation for the 17-day tour, priced from AUD$9,248 per person, based on double occupancy.  The price also includes return economy airfares to London (including taxes), daily English breakfasts, a first night dinner at every stopover, entrance tickets to the flower show and complimentary membership of the Royal Horticultural Society and the National Trust.  Visit or call  1300 884 891. 

Hail Roberta!

The Queensland Orchestra backs soul diva Roberta Flack at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Wednesday February 4 and again on Friday February 6 2009 for 'the voice of the century' Jose Carreras.  Tickets for Roberta's concert, from $85, peaking at $155, and for Senor Carreras from $100, peaking at $660.  Ticketing from or telephone 132 849.     Accommodation packages on offer at Emporium Hotel, check Other accommodation options by visiting  

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on 

Caption : A typical scene ion a typical day in Italy.

Monday, 8 December 2008

A free Citroen lease – but read on


by John Crook

'Fall'  in love

Canada and New England will be at their best come the northern hemisphere's Autumn season and by joining a seven-night cruise aboard Carnival Triumph you will be part of the experience. New York, Boston, Portland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are included in the itinerary.  Departures are during September and October of next year, with the price from $1051 per person, twin share for an inside stateroom.  Tours, taxes, fuel supplement and gratuities are additional. To get more information visit or telephone 1300 766 566.

Christmas carols

A Christmas celebration is scheduled for the Domain in Sydney,- Saturday December 20.  The Citigate Sebel Townhouse has a carols special with rooms available from $194 per night twin share. That includes a superior breakfast package and stylish accommodation. Exercise the tonsils and prepare for a night of singing.  Log onto or call 1800 421 800.

Four nights and five stars

A full buffet breakfast each morning is part of the extraordinary land-only package price for guests staying at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa.  Pay from $649 per person twin share for four nights.  The package is valid from 7 January to 31 March 2009. For all the details call Qantas Holidays on  13 14 15 and for more info on the hotel take a look at

Kids travel for $1

When the whole family travels by train to any of CountryLink's 360 destinations in New South Wales, up to four kids get to travel for just $1 each.  Travel must be from now through to 28 February 2009 and of course conditions apply.  To be sure of the facts call 13 RAIL (13 7245).  For instance fares are not available to adults in possession of a concession card, pensioner travel voucher, nor a family group travelling on rail employee passes.  Still sounds pretty good to me.

A free Citroen lease – but read on

A free 24-day lease on a brand new Citroen is included in a $2499 'earlybird' return flight to France, flying with Swiss International Airlines, if purchased before January 31, 2009.    Travel may be from any mainland capital in Australia, to France, Nice or Geneva and can be made at any time of the year.  The offer, excluding taxes, is available based  on two people travelling together.  Get the facts by visiting

Well and truly 

Off the beaten track are two unique tours for the adventurous.  Twenty-four days exploring Turkey and the independent state of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq in April.  There's another, 21-days through Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, with an inclusion of the Baalbeck festival – dance, theatre, opera and jazz and the 2009 tour also includes an Australian Ballet performance.  Itineraries, details and inclusions are available by calling 1800 083 141 or visiting

There are sharks in Sydney

Get to be perilously close to the man eaters of the ocean,.. and then (carefully) feed them.  The  feeding frenzy costs $25 and that includes a seat aboard a glass-bottom boat in the Sydney Aquarium.  The menu includes large squid and a variety of fish, .. but first, visit

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on

Visual : An earlybird deal from Citroen.

Monday, 1 December 2008

First hand experience at sea


By John Crook

Big Fella Festival

New Years day and night should have a listing in your diary, for that's when the party starts at Falls Creek Alpine Resort.  Jazz from Liz Cavanagh and her regular support muso's, just one of the headline acts at the inaugural festival.  Check this out! Three nights lodge accommodation, continental breakfasts, Big Fella event pass for two, with a tariff from $207 per person based on double occupancy.  It's valid Dec 31 2008 – January 2 2009.  To book call 1800 033 079 or email  

Free nights and all your food

Enjoy bonus free nights in Fiji, where TravelOnline is offering special rates at Shangri-La Resort and Spa.  Departures ex Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne with land only content priced from $1158 per person twin share.  Check with for more information and bookings.  The package is for six nights (but pay for the price of only four) and note that all meals are taken care of with some other extras included.  The offer is valid for sale until 31 March 2009 and for travel to 25 December 2008 and from 11 January to 31 March 2009.  

Luxury stone cottages

Never before have I experienced such high quality in a B&B, one which has been created out of stones from the property.  When Liz and Kyle started building their stone cottages, there was a degree of doubt, almost ridicule, amongst locals.  That has all changed.  Their group of cottages are in the upper luxury area.  Everview is  located near Canowindra (NSW) and currently there's a 2-night accommodation package, with a complimentary bottle of wine, an upgrade to a gourmet breakfast and a late  check-out.   Tariff is $460 and valid Monday to Thursday.   Check 

Five star dining aboard

With 55 staterooms and 95 crew no wonder that SeaDream I  and II continue to win awards, the latest being named the world's best five-star vessels,- thanks to Berlitz Guide to Cruise Ships and Cruising magazine.  Check the prices at, but remember the prices are inclusive of all 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars and wine with all meals, nightly cocktail parties, use of the 50-course golf simulator, gratuities and port charges and taxes.    Just a slice of paradise at sea. 

Billy has arrived

The Melbourne season of Billy Elliott will break all records.  That's my opinion and is judged on the many reports I receive from friends who have caught the production.  It plays Her Majesty's Theatre from December 13.  Mantra Southbank has an offer worth pursuing.  If my eyes are not deceiving me one package in particular is priced from $175 per room per night including show tickets, boxed continental breakfast for two, one pre-show drink per person in Up One Bar and a late checkout.  There are more competitive packages at other Mantra properties in Melbourne.  Call 1300 780 13 15 17.  Conditions and some surcharges apply. 

First hand experience at sea

In what I would regard as a super deal, I note we Aussies can now experience Queen Mary 2's features in a 15 nights cruise ex Los Angeles to Sydney departing February 10 2009.  The price is from $2599 per person twin share . That is value!   Air fares not included.   Ring 13 24 41 or visit  

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on

Monday, 24 November 2008

Kids Ski Free


By John Crook

Red hot deal for Norfolk

Norfolk Island is so affordable, a claim which is supported by the following package. Eight days for a family of four for less than $3000. Return airfares and taxes for two adults and two children, transfers to Hibiscus Aloha self-contained apartments, car hire (extra) a half day discovery tour, free afternoon tea in The Wild Rainforest Walk and a $100 family voucher at the Bounty Centre toy shop. The family of four package costs $2799 ex Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle, $2998 from Melbourne. The deal is valid between now and January 31 2009. To book freecall 1800 140 066 or email

Ethiopia – a thought?

It's culturally rich, challenging and confronting, but a real inspiration. Check out the Ethiopian Discovery tour which starts and finishes in Addis Ababa. Touring is by 4WD Landcruiser, and the itinerary includes visits to colourful markets. There's a chance to watch primitive cattle herders in action and you will also do a dug-out canoe trip on the Omo River. The tour is priced from $1509, plus there is a local payment of US$250. This ain't Paris or London, - this is how the other half lives. Departure dates throughout 2009. Book through STA Travel. Telephone 134 782 and try something really different.

The Crystal Symphony awaits

A 32-day trip from Los Angeles to Beijing is the big cruise for 2009. It all happens aboard six-star ship, setting sail from LA March 9 2009 en route to Honolulu, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan and then Beijing. The tour is priced from $17,055 per person twin share. That includes all taxes, charges and pre-paid gratuities. International air fares not included. There's also a post cruise-land package in a plush Beijing Hotel. The package is from Cruiseabout. Check with your travel agent.

Zuji beans

Zuji is a major on-line booking site for air travel, accommodation and touring. A recent promotion concluded after 6 months. It was focused on helping holidays happen, using the sale of baked beans to help intending travellers save money to purchase discounted holidays. They say, - eat baked beans and help reduce the grocery bill. That is the main thrust of their campaign, resulting in a number of prizes being awarded. Lifeline also was a beneficiary, with the winner of a year's supply oif Zuji beans donating 365 cans. Anthony Richards kindly donated his prize to Lifeline. The beans have gone, but the holiday discounts are still available. Everybody's a winner with

Six nights in Austria

Depart with Emirates, destination Austria. Contact your local travel agent to see whether you are eligible for the Austrian package,- six nights from $2812 per person twin share. That price, based on Emirates low season, includes return airfares to Vienna, two nights in Salzburg, two nights in Vienna and two nights in Innsbruck. Plus a three day rail pass. Also, for all the details and conditions take a look at

Kids ski free

The popular Canadian winter playgrounds offer the 'kids ski free' program, meaning that children 12 years old and under, ski free. Valid between January 4 and 29. At Ski Whistler, pay from $4,199 for seven-nights for a two-bedroom apartment at Town Plaza. That covers two adults and two children, with a six-day lift pass for two adults. For details check

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. The information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agent.

Need a holiday ? We're archived on

Visual : There is a better way to view the winter playgrounds of Canada !

Monday, 17 November 2008

Fancy dinner at the Gol Gol ?


By John Crook

Fancy dinner at the Gol Gol ?

A family package, for two adults and two children under 12 years of age, offers four nights on board a deluxe 6-10 berth houseboat, from $1500. Included in this Mildura based deal is a dinner at the Gol Gol hotel, gourmet BBQ and full breakfast provisions, a bottle of local wine, fishing gear and tinnie with oars and sporting equipment. Packages of up to the super luxury style are also available. Chris and Marina Durban look forward to welcoming you aboard their multi-award winning houseboats. Check the facts. Telephone (03) 5024 7770, click on to

Paris special package

A deal which combines France rail pass and two nights in the three-star Hotel Marena in Paris is on sale until November 27 2008 and available for travel between April and September 2009. You may not believe the price, which is $482 per person twin share, - and there's more. Accommodation, continental breakfasts and three days first class travel within one month. Airfares not included. Don't just pinch yourself, but be quick about it and check

Pampering by experts

There's a whole series of pampering packages on offer at the Milawa resort property, LindenWarrah, ranging from getaways with the girls, to romance for two. For the girls, accommodation in a twin room, with the package including a two-course dinner in Restaurant Merlot, a fully cooked buffet breakfast , a one-hour massage or complete facial. The price is $279.00 per person, twin share. Valid until the end of February 2009. Telephone (03) 5720 5777 or email

Christmas market

Germany prepares for the Christmas markets, with many now operating through until Christmas. Just to the north of Frankfurt is the historical rural Christmas market.

It's Hessenpark where visitors, on December 13 and 14, get to experience a festive event from a bygone era. This is just one of many open-air museums which stage Christmas festivities. For more information on the markets go to

Holiday playground and millions

Thunder down under 1-19 January 2009, when the Magic Millions takes over the Gold Coast. First up organise your accommodation. Here's an option! Base yourself at BreakFree Equinox Resort apartments during the big event from $143 per room per night. Or, BreakFree Surfers Paradise and pay from $125 per room per night, based on three night stays. Check the details by ringing 132 007 or hop on to

Return the car and benefit

I am most impressed with the deal offered through Europcar. They offer up to 48 hours of free passenger car hire rented and returned to selected locations. For instance pick up the car in Wellington and return to Auckland and gain 48 hours free hire and 750 km free travel. Valid from December 1 2008 until March 30 2009. Log onto or call 1300 13 13 90.

Tour Borneo in 2009

A 15-day inclusive tour departs 6 September 2009, travelling via Kuala Lumpur to Kuching. Then discover the highlights of Sarawak and Sabah,- truly fascinating destinations. Adventurers, explorers and naturalists have targeted the world's undiscovered frontiers. Now, it's your turn. Prices, ex Sydney/Brisbane/Melbourne, start from $5,380 per person, twin share. Five star hotels and most meals are included. You will need to make an early booking for this one. Contact Adventure Associates on 1800 222 141 for more information.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. Block out periods may apply. Need a holiday ? We're archived on

Monday, 10 November 2008

Movies under the stars

Travel Briefs/Tips – for w/c November 10


By John Crook

Royal palaces and all that

Take on the back roads of the UK and Europe travelling with a like minded group numbering from just two to 16. You may care to take in Harry Potter country or the battlefields of  the Anzacs.  For instance there's a six day/five night tour of the palaces and chateaux pf the Loire, priced from $2399 per person.  Check the conditions and the itinerary with your local travel agent. Just ask for details of Explore Holidays personalised tours, on offer including a 10% launch discount.

Luxury in the wild

Check the latest information on &BEYOND 's new luxury lodges in northern Kenya and southern Tanzania or the other 44 lodges and camps scattered through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and India.   This company offers the wilderness under the banner of luxury adventure. To get the full picture have a look at  

A real saving

The deal is for you to book an economy car for a minimum of three days and pay just $29 per day, or a compact car for three days and pay $33 per day.  The offer is from Europcar and applies to locations in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT, Brisbane, God Coast and Sunshine Coast.  The offer is valid for sale through December 15 2008.

Check on the other deals currently on offer by logging on to or telephone 1300 13 13 90.

Sydney Opera House views

Family rooms from $79 per night  offer the ideal answer to those who are looking for a decent deal in Sydney,- million dollar views at that!    Formulae 1 is located in William Street, and that's just a short walk to the city centre.   Family rooms feature a double bed, plus two bunks, a private ensuite bathroom, air conditioning and a TV.

To book have a look at or ring (02) 9326 0300.

Cruise deal

There's a six-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens vis the Greek Islands,  priced from $1886 per person. New bookings paid in full by May 31 2009 and the price is from $1697. Included is accommodation in cabins with private facilities, air conditioning, all-on-board meals and most on board entertainment.  Ports visited include Mykonos, Patmos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Ag Nikolaos and Santorini.  The agents on 1300 558 987 or Google
A bush Christmas

During the Christmas holiday period, December 1 2008 to January 31 2009. book the family into Peppers Hidden Vale (the home of the original James Bond).  Accommodation in a three bedroom cottage, continental breakfasts and free activities including mountain bikes,  tennis courts, use of heated pool, animal nursery and a golf driving range.  The available rates are from $350 per family, per night.  Other rates for singles or doubles are also available.  Contact 1300 881 435 or email    

Save money at Kingscliff

It's possible to save $90 a night when booked into Mantra on Salt Beach at Kingscliff.   Try this one for size.  At the four and a half star property standard hotel rooms are available from $87 per night per person, based on two adults twin-share.   Valid for travel until November 30 2008.  Full breakfast is included for two.  To check on this offer log onto or telephone 1800 421 800.

Movies under the stars

Commending mid year 2009 Dawn Princess will introduce  its outdoor cinema.  The following year Sun Princess follows suit.  So take to a deck chair, or view from the pool.  US based Princess vessels have had such delights since 2004. Now, it's our turn. Join Dawn Princess and its 13 night cruise to Fiji departing Sydney June 22 2009 with fares from $2106 per person twin share, and your date with the open air theatre is confirmed.  Ring 13 24 88 and get the facts.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on

Monday, 3 November 2008

Nothing like a train journey


By John Crook 

Nothing like a train journey

This one travels through five countries departing April 9 2009.  It's the 21-day Silk Road experience. Moscow to Beijing.   Cost for a silver class room, including accommodation with private en-suite and all meals from onboard chefs, private bar car, sightseeing guides, local transport and return transfers,  is from $28,454 per person twin share.  The journey can also be taken westbound from Beijing on April 12.  Contact 1300 363 554 or visit 

New services ex Brisbane to Bali

Starting December 14, Garuda Indonesia is allowing children under 12 to travel free.  The offer includes free Australian government taxes and free fuel surcharges.  So any child up to 11 years of age, accompanied by two full fare paying adults, on year round fares, qualify.  The offer does not apply to passengers travelling on special promotional fares in 'B' and 'Q' subclasses.   The promotion is valid for passengers in economy and executive classes, travelling between December 14 2008 and January 31 2009, including Christmas. To check on conditions and payment requirements, telephone 1300 365 331.

Complimentary rail transfers

It is worth checking on how you can access one of the world's best short train crossings in the world.  I refer to the extension of the complimentary transfer service which includes pickup and drop off at the TranzAlpine railway station and Huntley House.  The other option is to do the transfer in a luxurious Mercedes Benz 8-seater people mover.  Either option takes you to paradise and to Christchurch's boutique Huntley House, a member of Select Hotels and Resorts International.  Check it out by emailing or telephone (02) 8969 3900 

UK August and the Tattoo

If your travel plans have you in the UK in August 2009 avoid the fight to book accommodation and instead, sail from Dover to Edinburgh, making the classic Saga Ruby your 'Edinburgh hotel.'  It is a four-night mini-cruise departing Dover August 24.  Entry to the Tattoo is included in the price which also features all onboard dining, classic English afternoon teas daily, West End style entertainment each night, late release movies and dancing to a live band.  Telephone 1800 225 656 for your nearest   Price is from a reasonable $1,435 per person, twin share Cruiseco cruise specialist. 

India by private car

Here's the opportunity to tour north and south India on a 33-day Grand Indian Panorama package.  Villages, temples, wildlife sanctuaries even a deluxe houseboat cruise.  Priced from $7,189 per person twin share the package includes touring, sightseeing, rail travel, three game drives and 41 meals. Check it out on  

Brisbane on your doorstep

Now is the time to 'do' Brisbane.  The climate at this time of the year is just terrific. Make plans to book a studio apartment at Mantra South Bank, from just $199 per night, and that places you within easy walking distance of the CBD, the galleries and the famous Brisbane lifestyle. The price tag is valid Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights to December 24 2008.  That includes  accommodation, breakfast and car parking.  For bookings telephone 1300 557 575. 

Ever been to Orange?

What a stunning city is Orange, with its treelined boulevards, wonderful wines, excellent dining and just about the happiest people on earth.  Everyone, so it seems, is smiling. An offer from Clifton Gardens b&b will put a smile on your face.  John and Kay Gransden offer a two night package valued at $450, available to our readers for $370.  That includes superb accommodation, full country breakfast and a personalised wine tour of the district.  Telephone (02) 6365 1044 or visit 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  Block out periods may apply.  

Need a holiday ?  We're archived on 

VISUAL : Aboard the Moscow to Beijing train

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Italian elegance and luxury

Travel Briefs for w/c October 27 2008.


By John Crook 

Adventure touring for more than 80 years

One of South Africa's most exclusive game reserves, steeped in history and adventure, has designed an exclusive Cape Town and Londolozi program for high-end travellers. Check the inclusions and price tag for the 'protector of all living things' touring options created by Southern Africa's oldest and largest travel company Rennies Travel.  Visit  

Thai specials

A range of island escape packages which hook into Thai's special Spring airfare, make Thailand a real option  if booked before November 1 with travel taken by November 20.There's an eight-night deal to Phuket staying at the Sunset Beach Resort, priced from $1533 per person and that includes two free nights of accommodation.  The package includes return economy airfare from Sydney and taxes, accommodation, daily buffet breakfasts, complimentary late check out and return airport transfers. Check the other offerings and prices ex Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth,  by contacting 1300 369 747. 

Linger longer on Gold Coast

Book and pay before December 15 2008   and travel before March 31 2009 to benefit from a hot deal which offers four nights for the price of three at BreakFree Acapulco.  The price is from just $224 per apartment per night but you stay for four and pay for just three.    For bookings and for news of other Gold Coast escapes telephone 132 007. 

Italian elegance and luxury

The Costa Marina  is elegance afloat and if you travel peak season of June, July or August,  the eleven night cruise next year is priced from $2749 per person twin share  and that includes all meals, entertainment and onboard gratuities.   Sail out of Savona on the Italian Riviera for the Mediterranean, -  Greece, Israel, Egypt including Port Said and Cairo.  Real value with this one.  For details telephone 1300 369 848 or visit   Airfares, taxes ands fuel surcharges are additional. 

Stay at the Mansion

This Christmas and New year celebrate at the Sofitel Werribee Park Mansion Hotel & Spa.

Here's news of a terrific package  which includes luxurious accommodation and a full buffet breakfast in Joseph's Restaurant.   Check out the options which are on offer with this festive package.  A night in a classic room is from $99 per person per night.  Check on the other deals by visiting    Telephone (03) 9731.4000. 

Virgin to Mildura

Daily flights from Melbourne to Mildura have been underway for a week or more.  Jet services have been introduced by Virgin Blue.  A 78-seater has been put into service and whilst initial flights are during the middle of the day, there may be changes pending results of surveys.  To check if these flights suit your travel plans check or telephone 136 789 

Norfolk , here we come

The history unfolds before your eyes with NRMA Travel offering a series of 8-day tours to beautiful Norfolk Island.  This is a unique chance to learn more about the convict era through the Bounty Mutineers heritage.  The tours run between February 7 and June 10 next year.  Guided touring, a meet and greet with airport transfers, and a seven-night stay at the All Seasons Colonial Hotel, where cooked breakfasts are included each day.   This one deserves  a telephone call, if only to  check on the other extras which are historically tailored and costed into the tour price.    Prices are from $1799 per person, twin share ex Sydney.  Ring for prices ex Brisbane and Newcastle. Just a reminder there's a $30 Norfolk Island tax payable on departing the island.  Call 1300 762 060 or visit  


Visual of Costa Marina.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Ann is award winner

Your FREE Travel Briefs for w/c October 20 2008. 
Travel Briefs

By John Crook

New Europe and Britain brochure

Globus has more than 80 tour options for its 2009 season, from Portugal to Turkey and Sicily to Lapland. If tours are booked by December 15, 2008, there's a saving of  $450 per couple on tours of 10-15 days and $600 per couple on tours of 16 days or more.    With 80 years experience in European touring, Globus knows the routes, what to see and where to go.  Check out the full range which includes Globus Vignettes which offers a slower pace, more time in each city, through to the romance of European rail travel. Check it out with your travel agent.

Four nights for price of three

Do the Gold Coast without the high price tag, staying four nights at Mantra Circle on Cavill from just $189 per room, per night and pay for just three nights.  The deal is valid from December 15 2008 and for travel to March 31 2009.  The property features 403 luxuriously  appointed guest rooms and suites with private balconies.   There are also deals at Mantra Legends Hotel.  Get the facts by calling 13 15 17 or check

The 10th Christmas Spectacular

If you get to see just one Christmas spectacular this year, try to make it the largest automated Christmas show in the world.  The location is Melbourne's Crown.  A free show which runs every 30 minutes, plays between Sunday November 30 2008 through Monday January 5, 2009 – 1000hrs to 2400hrs.

More than a million visitors will make it to Crown this year for what is one of the most dazzling Christmas displays. The main feature is a six storey Christmas tree. 

Go catch a Trevally

Join the crew of Haumana on Tahiti's Rangiroa Lagoon and do a spot of game fishing, shark feeding, beach and bush walking, or just lazing about.  Packages start from $6699 per person twin share ex-Sydney.  The price includes return air and taxes, three nights at the Sofitel Tahiti Resort in Papeete, four nights on Haumana with all meals, entertainment and activities and airport transfers.  Dining includes a unique 5-star picnic at tables set in the waters of the lagoon with select wines with lunches and dinners and all non-alcoholic drinks.  More info by phoning 1300 137 727 or check

Ann is award winner

Tour leader, author and 'good time girl' Ann Rickard has done it again.  Her latest hilarious travel book 'Ooh La La' is on book shelves right now.   Her first was an instant success, 'Not another Book about Italy', and pre the French romp, Ann won fans with her 2007 'Flash and Bash with Fries on the Side'.  Anyone with France in their sights should read 'Oo La La', available at most book shops. Check book availabilities and news of her next group tour of France by contacting 

Kiss the bride

Here's news of a wedding package in the quiet clifftop village of Oia on Santorini, Greece.  Accommodation for two is from $798 per room per night.  To plan the entire day check for the full details.  That price is available for travel April 1 to May 31 and again October 1 to 31 October 2009.  Supplements apply June to September 2009.  Telephone 1300 558 987. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  Block out periods may apply. 

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Monday, 13 October 2008

Norfolk Welcomes Unsafe Sax


By John Crook

Highlighting the best of Europe

Travel the Danube River as part of a 2009 itinerary and really get the feel of history, culture and architecture. Highlights include Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Croatia. The journey departs from either Vienna or Bucharest. Get ready to see fairytale castles, grand cathedrals and ancient villages. The ten-night cruise Vienna to Bucharest starts at US$4,899. Book before December 19 and make a real saving. For details, price range and inclusions visit

Macquarie concert

Make a note of the date. October 25 for a concert in the vineyard of Windowrie Estate. The Macquarie male singers

will perform in a concert beginning at 4-00pm. Be there when gates open at 2.30pm ad that gives you time to wander the gardens. Cost per person is $20 with all profits going to St Vincent de Paul Society. Check availabilities on

Adults only please

Early in the new year, construction will commence of a new accommodation precinct for couples-only at Aggie Greys in Samoa. It should be ready to welcome guests mid-2009. To book a holiday (without the kids) or a honeymoon Aggie Greys could be the answer. In the meantime the hotel, bungalows, the Lagoon, Beach Resort and Spa are waiting to welcome you right now. Telephone (02) 9531 4500 or visit

Ten days includes the battle fields

There's a ten-day Western Front Tour which departs April 18 2009 which contrasts the grand boulevards of Paris to the Gothic squares of Ypes and retraces the steps of the WW1 Diggers.

Prices begin from $2989 per person, twin share. This has the makings of a brilliant experience. For all the details check or ring 131 600.

Sydney to Honolulu for Queen Vic

Here is news of a fly, cruise and stay special from Honolulu to Sydney. The 20-night package includes one-way air fare from Sydney, including taxes, two-nights pre-cruise accommodation, 18 nights aboard the Queen Victoria with all meals and entertainment on board. All port charges, taxes and fees are included. The deal starts from $4,649 per person twin share. The cruise departs from Honolulu on February 1 2009. Domestic add on fares are available from Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth starting from$100. Ring 1300 131 633 or visit

Unsafe Sax on Norfolk

Join the crowd heading to Norfolk Island for the 2008 jazz festival. Music provided by the likes of Trevor Furner, Jo Elms band, the MonSTARS and Unsafe Sax. There's a beaut package on offer for the December 8 to 12 funfest. Packages start from $1409 per person, twin share. Email or freecall 1800 111 653.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. The information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agent.

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Monday, 6 October 2008

Treetops adventure in Tassie


By John Crook

Treetops adventure in Tassie

The picturesque Pipers River on Hollybank Reserve offers an exciting three hour journey and a birds-eye view of the forest below. A package from Mercure Hotel Launceston, priced at just $275, includes one night’s accommodation in a superior room, full buffet breakfast in Snappers Restaurant for two people and two adult tickets to a Hollybank treetops adventure. For all the details ring Mercure Hotel Launceston (03) 6333 9999. Packages valid until 30 November 2008.

Adelaide guitar festival

Diarise these dates,- November 29 to December 7 2008 and prepare to catch the world’s best identities from the ‘guitar world’ when they descend on Adelaide. For accommodation, how about these properties which coincide with the festival. The Sebel Playford has rooms from $229 per room/night. Franklin Central Apartments with festival accommodation from $155 per room/night. Or go budget style at Adelaide Travellers Inn Backpackers in Hutt Street with dorm rooms starting from $20 per night. These tariffs are available during the festival period. For bookings or more info go to

Cruise with family or friends

Here’s a chance to exclusively charter a boutique motor-cruiser to escape to the tranquil waters of Tahiti’s Rangiroa Lagoon aboard the 12-cabin luxury catamaran Haumana. From as little as $840 per person per night special interest groups, of up to 24, can charter the vessel which comes complete with all officers and crew, dining and sports staff. Airfares are additional. Contact 1300 662 943, or check the facts on

Early booking essential

One of the most popular northern Indian tour programs is the Golden Triangle. It is a private car, six day round trip package which includes absolute highlights of India and that surely means the Taj Mahal. New Delhi and the desert city of Jaipur are also included.

The tour price starts at $2893 ex Melbourne. For other exit points and prices ring 1300 363 055. The price includes economy airfares and taxes, accommodation with daily breakfasts, all local transportation, sightseeing and entrance fees and return airport transfers. Valid for travel from February 1 until March 31, 2009. Take a look at for more details.

APT small groups

The highly respected touring company which operates under the banner of APT has released details of its discount offers on early and late season departures in its Northern Territory small group 2009 4WD tours. As an example, there’s a 13-day Alice to Arnhem Land package at $8615 per person twin share and from $8515 with discount. Prices include touring, accommodation, cruises, most meals, sightseeing, park fees and permits. Get the facts by visiting or call 1300 656 985.

Kick off

Here’s a good deal which puts you in the stands for Arsenal’s 2008/2009 premier league season with ticket and accommodation packages from $396 and that includes an official match ticket and one night’s accommodation. Call 1300 730 023 for the latest information and availabilities or visit

Top deals for Christmas

Try the on-line provider and snap up a special Christmas rate. Pensione Boutique Hotel in Melbourne has a bed and breakfast offer from $72 per person night, twin share. The Australis Noosa Lakes offers studio rooms from $63 per person per night, twin share. The Courtyard by Marriott Surfers has resort rooms with full breakfast from $136 per person/night, twin share. For details and to confirm these limited offers call 1800 005 125.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. Block out periods may apply.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Free air to join Antarctic cruise

Weekly travel briefs/tips w/c Mon Sept 29 2008


New era of cruise ships

Visit the glam ports of the Mediterranean and take in the wondrous sites Rome, Venice, Dubrovnik, Spain and Cannes, plus a few more in between. Cruise aboard the brand new Carnival Queen in any of the three departures from September 19 to November 6 2009. Priced from $1,249 per person twin share. That includes 12 nights aboard Carnival Dream or Carnival Liberty, meals, entertainment and activities whilst cruising. Taxes and fuel surcharges are additional. Airfares are not included. To book or for more details visit

Masters at the ready

More than 10,000 masters will gather on the Gold Coast for the over-30’s November 1 – 9 event. To access special accommodation deals take a look at when Mantra Broadbeach offers a special rate for bookings made before October 31, for travel right through December 24. Guests booking three nights in a one bedroom apartment pay from $210 per room per night and only pay for two nights. Telephone 13 15 17.

Man bowls a boon

The newly refurbished Novotel Barossa Valley Resort is just about the best place to spend a night or two. New bedding and beds are so stylish,.. even ‘man bowls’. So close to everything which is the Barossa. Rates from $169 per night for a studio room, are valid until January 31 2009. This is the most delightful way to be introduced to the glorious Barossa Valley. But, what are ‘man bowls’ ? Check that out when booking. Ring (08) 8524 0000, or visit

Canada is the new Europe

I was in Canada not so long ago and what a surprise, - Australians everywhere. They are attracted by the magnificence of the Rockies, the beauty of Butchart Gardens and the hospitality of Canadians. Add these highlights to the flavours if Christmas and it’s a real hoot. Depart Vancouver on December 18 and hit the Canadian slopes. Christmas Day in the Rocky Mountains, take a sleigh ride around beautiful Chateau Lake Louise.

This fully escorted tour is priced from $3,799 per person, twin share and that includes ten nights first class accommodation, all transport in a luxury coach, breakfasts daily, nine dinners, there lunches. Telephone 1300 799 783 or visit

Free air to join Antarctic cruise

The 100 passenger boutique ship Orion is home in the Antarctic during a 16 night expedition. Free return air and a night’s accommodation at Invercargill in New Zealand is offered o those who join this remarkable cruise. There are two cruises on offer from CruiseMart. A 20-night return package on January 12 2009 is priced from $22,905 per person twin share, or a 16-night December package from $18,325. All on board meals, entertainment and educational programs are included. Get all the details by calling 1300 305 920 or visit

Or cruise Tahiti

A boutique cruiser which carries just twelve couples in waters of the most romantic location in the world, offers you a six-night package including return air and taxes from Sydney. All transfers within Tahiti, two nights at the Radisson Plaza Tahiti in Papeete, four nights aboard Haumana, all meals and complimentary wines with lunches and dinners and also nightly entertainment. The Coral Sera’s package starts from $6119 per person twin share and is valid for travel until March 31 2009. Some seasonal block-outdates and surcharges may apply. Visit

A touch of Tassie

There’s a 14 nights Spring holiday on offer from TasVillas priced from $980 with a bonus offer included. Bonus specials feature a Bicheno penguin tour for two, a Cascade Brewery tour for two, a Port Arthur site entry for two (Bronze pass), a Tassie dining card, a Tamar River luncheon cruise for two and a National Parks pass. Mention the Hot Deals flyer to check whether you may be eligible for a Waverley Woollen Mills merino travel rug. The package is available through until December 23 2008. For enquiries make a free call to 1800 030 111. Visit

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Afghan precinct a winner

Travel briefs for distribution w/c September 22

By John Crook

Christmas in Europe

Spend Christmas in an 800-year-old Austrian coaching inn, and a traditional Italian feast in a 2000–year-old Roman fortress. Eight wonderful days travelling from Frankfurt to Luzern is on offer, along with other options. Commencing December 21 this fully escorted tour comes with most meals, Christmas lunch and plenty of sightseeing. Priced from $2289 Check the inclusions by visiting

Fiesta time in SA

Don’t consider South Australia unless you also include a day or two on the Fleurieu Peninsula and for a special treat coincide that visit with the September 27 – October 26 food and wine festival. Grand Mercure Links Bay offers a fiesta package for just $143 per person, twin share. The package includes accommodation for one night in a king spa suite. Also included dinner for two plus a complimentary bottle of local wine, breakfast for two and late check-out. For bookings telephone (08) 8558 2220 or visit

See Cher live on stage

Elton John’s new show The Red Piano is playing at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. Seats from $209.50 to best seats in the house priced at $411.50. Tickets for Cher start at $181.50. For reservations check or telephone 1300 730 023.

AirAsia X for low priced fares

Currently operating out of the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur, as from November AirAsia X will introduce new direct services from Perth to KL (Nov 3) and Melbourne to KL (Nov 12). One way flights, from $199, valid for sale until September 28, 2008 and for travel between January 2009 and July 2009. Airfares include airport taxes, surcharges and fees. Bookings on-line at

Taste the spices

There’s a 14-day safari across Kenya and Tanzania which provides access to the sanctuary of wildlife through rich African culture. Keep an eye out for lions, monkeys, cheetahs. They’re all here. To experience this slice of Africa join one of several tours which operate until December 2008. Prices, for a 14-day safari start, from $1660 per person, twin share. There is also a local payment of USD $230. Airfares not included. The safari includes 10-nights camping accommodation, three night’s hostel accommodation, all meals whilst camping. Breakfast and dinner in Zanzibar. Check it out at

Afghan precinct a winner

First it was Little India,-with a group of some 50 ethnic Indian shops and restaurants. Now, the City of Greater Dandenong in Melbourne is about to launch an Afghanistan precinct. A group of retail outlets, from Afghan rugs to the cuisine of the Middle East, share the culture and cuisine of a special group of people. An offer to experience their world takes guests on an Afghan bazaar tour of fashion, food and music. The tours are free and at tour end Afghan meals are an option. To reserve a spot on the tour telephone (03) 9239 5134.

Maison Grange five star all the way

Travel to Marlborough and taste the wines. Enjoy the experience even moreso by overnighting at a luxury B&B, in its own vineyard setting. John and Robyn Hedges are passionate about food, wine and hospitality. Maison Grange is just ten minutes from Blenheim airport and 25 minutes from the inter-island ferry. Dragonfly and butterfly suites are available from $425 per night. Tariff includes a breakfast ‘worth waking up for’. There is also an exciting food and wine matched three-course dinner, priced at $124 per person (minimum four guests). To check on availabilities, contact

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. The information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agent.

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Monday, 15 September 2008

Welcome the Queens

Your FREE travel briefs column for distribution w/c September 15 2008

John Crook

Australia’s classiest hotel celebrates
Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor in the French inspired Spring Street is in celebration mode with a tariff which should excite the VIP in us. The rate celebrates the hotel’s 125th anniversary. CEO David Perry is releasing 125 rooms at just $125, continuing through the remaining months of this year. The rooms are released on the first day of each month for use on Friday and Sunday nights. It is on a first-come, first served basis. Bookings may be made through or telephone (03) 9633 6000.

Welcome the Queens
Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will visit ‘down under’ in 2010 with no less than seven maiden calls in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Both liners will visit Fremantle and Adelaide, whilst Queen Mary 2 will make an inaugural visit to the Whitsundays with Queen Victoria making a maiden call into Albany and then Exmouth. Both will make overnight visits to Sydney with Queen Victoria to make a second visit to Melbourne. Prices on voyages from Australia start from $4039 and that’s for a 17 nights sailing ex Sydney to Cape Town on Queen Mary 2. For the full picture check or ring 13 24 41.

Cruise the Kimberley
Book before December 31 2008 and make a saving of 20% on the seven-day cruise between Broome and Mitchell Plateau. Normally $8,345 per person twin share, the special price has been reduced from $6,676. Check with Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises for inclusions. Telephone (08) 9193 6131 or take a look at

Larry knows we Aussies
The president and ceo of SeaDream Yacht Cluib knows how to attract Australian clients. Larry Pimentel has an all-inclusive pricing policy and that means all drinks from the bar, wines with lunch and dinner, nightly cocktail parties, use of a 50-course golf simulator, all power and sail watersports and the clincher is on-board gratuities.
With only 110 guests, and a service crew of 95 this has to be super luxury afloat. By the way, another positive from Larry is that ties are out, no need for suits or ball gowns, just dress country club smart casual. During the northern European summer SeaDream I and II sail the Mediterranean and from November to April it’s the Caribbean. Log onto or see your travel agent.

The sounds, colour and flavour of the Australian bush form part of the experience of Bewong River Retreat which is a short drive from Jervis Bay, Kangaroo Valley and Nowra. From Sydney or Canberra just 2.5 hours drive. Bewong River Retreat is a 4.5 star property with nine self-contained bungalows, each featuring a spa with a full view of the bush, ensuite with double shower, gourmet kitchen, queen bed and large front balcony with BBQ. More details on or telephone 1800 005 125.

Shop ‘til you drop
There’s a three-day Taste of Dubai shopping package on offer from just $335 per person, twin share. The deal is from January 15 to February 15 and the event is the Dubai Shopping Festival. Can you believe this? The package includes accommodation, two breakfasts, half-day Merchants of the City tour, return transfers, meet and assist service at the airport and a handling fee. There is a choice of 29 hotels. Airfares not included,- well, what more would you want for this price ? Try this number 1300 558 987.

Cooking up something special
Here’s the chance to explore the home of Monet, do three cooking classes and explore some of the most beautiful villages and gardens of France. Pay from $7,500 per person twin share and you will have accommodation at Chateau Bosgouet, with six breakfasts, two lunches, six dinners, cooking classes run by Jane Webster, excursions and return transport to Paris. Packages are schedules on July 15 and October 14 in 2009. View www.botanicatravel or for more information telephone 1300 305 202.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Monday, 8 September 2008

W/c September 8 2008 Travel Briefs


John Crook

Luxury afloat

Mildura seems such a long way from anywhere, however, the journey is rewarded with this luxury gourmet getaway. Willandra Houseboats, based in Mildura, has an exciting offer, for $750 per person, with a minimum of two. The deal is three nights on board a deluxe houseboat, bottle of local wine on arrival, breakfast provisions, dinner at the Gol Gol hotel, lunch at Trentham Estate winery, a degustation dinner at Stefano’s restaurant, pre-dinner drinks, an on-board catered BBQ dinner. Contact Chris or Marina at

The Coast Starlight

Good news from Amtrak and its daily services between Los Angeles and Seattle. Newly refurbished parlour cars provide a classier way of travel between the two ports. The Coastal Starlight coach fares are as low as US$52 between LA and San Francisco and US$98 one-way between LA and Seattle. For those who prefer the sleeper services they have access to have all the trimmings including an on-board ‘theatre’. For all the details telephone 1300 300 713.

Noosa and Fraser Island

Combine the two wonders of Queensland on a deluxe one-day adventure. There are some awesome accommodation options, and to enhance the holiday include a 4WD experience on the world’s largest sand island. There’s even champers on the beach. There are available slots through to the end of October 2008. Price is from $189 per person. Check the accommodation and also more info on the day tour by clicking on to

Jobs scarce here? - try OWH

There’s a two-week program which allows vollies to get their hands dirty, helping to save the Amazon in Ecuador by working on a range of conservation activities. Priced from $930 per person multi-share the price includes volunteer placement, share accommodation, three meals a day, in-country fee, in-country support and access to a 24-hour emergency line.

Airlines to Ecuador, tourist visa and internal transport are not included in the price. Check details at 1300 651 639 or visit

Queen Mary a grand old girl

Check the inclusions associated with an 11-night 5-star cruise on the spectacular Queen Mary 2, sailing from Sydney to Hong Kong with prices from $3999 per person, twin share. That includes a night at the Peninsular Hotel, transfers, a return Hong Kong Peak tram sky pass and also air from Honkers back to Oz. Taxes and fuel surcharges are not included. Queen Mary 2,- what an experience ! Details from or call 1300 369 848.

Guests disappear in a romantic world

What a way to go! CC Africa is growing with more luxury properties, two of which are in the Okavango Delta. These are most definitely ecotourism experiences. Some of the best game viewing in Africa. Each lodge accommodating a maximum of 18 guests. Choose from lodge accommodation or stylish en-suite safari tents. For all the information visit

Pilots touring guide

Motorists demand all the info on accommodation, touring and facilities, so when airline pilots decide they too want access to the latest travel news, they purchase the Pilots Touring Guide. The guide is the bible for pilots on holidays, with 230 destinations ranging from country and coastal towns to farm-stay, unique bush pubs through to grand resorts. The publication features maps and details of what there is to do and see, through to where to purchase aviation fuel. The cost is $33 plus $6 postage and handling and is available from

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Monday, 1 September 2008

Your FREE travel tips for w/c September 1 2008

Travel Briefs
John Crook

Floriade a must
Travel to Canberra during their Floriade for a real treat. It’s the 21st year since Floriade’s birth. Marque Hotel Canberra has a weekend deal on offer. Valid from September 13 to October 12 general manager Emilio Fortini recommends a two night stay. Tariff from $167 per night in a deluxe room and if you stay the two-nights, then daily complimentary buffet breakfast for two persons is available. Telephone (020 6429 1411 or email

007 glacier country
Check out the six-day golden pass from Rail Plus, providing you with the key to beautiful Switzerland, travelling to the top of Europe, via the cogwheel railway. From Interlaken, this independent tour visits Jungfraujoch at 3454 metres. Take in the foot of the notorious Elger North Wall, visit the glacial world of Europe. Second and first class tickets are available with packages including accommodation. For prices and all the details, ring 1300 555 003.

Mooloolaba is hot country
One of Queensland’s most popular seaside communities just has to be Mooloolaba. Check into the BreakFree Caribbean resort, staying in a one bedroom apartment for three nights and pay from only $169 per room night for two. Valid for sale until October 31 and for travel to December 24 2008. Don’t be confused with te conditions, simply phone 132 007 or visit

Please don’t disturb the lions
If budgets are of concern to you, worry not, because whilst on a camping holiday in South Africa and Namibia, you will be right amongst lion, elephant, rhino and leopard. Access this wonderful world at budget prices which start from $591 per person twin share. There’s also a local payment of US#320. Included is transportation in full equipped safari vehicle, camping and cooking equipment, most meals and services of a tour leader. Tours all year round, but airfares to Capetown not included. Get the facts by calling 1300 554 175

Wine country France
The beautiful Rhone Valley is more than wine and with the none-day self-drive wine route tour you are close to heaven. Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Cotes du Rhone wine regions await. The French Alps, the Mediterranean and Provence can be part of this experience. The price is from $1346 per person twin share and that includes accommodation and breakfasts. Car hire can be arranged through Tempo Holidays from $57 per day. Ring 1300 558 987.

Holiday and help cancer research
A fundraising effort could mean your chance to win a $9,000 holiday on fabled Lizard Island. At the same time funds raised by the Justin O’Connor Foundation will aid cancer research at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital Cancer Research Unit. Just 500 tickets will be sold, each at $100. Get the facts on the prize and conditions by clicking on to

South Pacific cruise
There’s a fly cruise package out of Los Angeles, through the South Pacific en route Auckland. The voyage is aboard the Crystal Serenity which sets sail January 21 2009 calling at Mexico, French Polynesia, Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji. The package price excluding domestic airfares to and from Sydney is from $14,762 per person twin share. Return economy airfares from Sydney to Los Angeles and from Auckland to Sydney are included, along with all on board meals, entertainment on the cruise and one-night pre cruise in LA. Travel Associates is the place to check this one out. Ring 1800 044 066.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Monday, 25 August 2008

A Rocky start

Travel tips for w/c August 25 2008

John Crook

Join travel author
Best selling author Paul Theroux will guest on an Arctic Circle rail journey ex Moscow June 13, 2009. Sightseeing included, plus the thrill of travelling in carriages hauled by steam locomotives 75% of the way. Priced from $8883 per person. Get the facts by calling 1300 363 554 or visit

Geelong hatches dinosaurs
Once known as sleepy hollow, not so these days. The Victorian bayside city just occasionally slips back into the past, such as with the Dinosaur Eggs and Babies exhibition which starts its run September 20 through November 30. Then it moves to Adelaide and the South Australian Museum from Dec 13 to March 13. For the latest on the hatchlings telephone (03) 5227 0701.

Kick up those heels in Paris
Moulin Rouge is still the place to go when in gay Paree. The legendary can-can, a choice of just the show, or dinner with the show, and there you are, right amongst the prettiest, long legged dancers at the world’s most acclaimed cabaret venue. Prices start at $157 per person. For bookings ring 1300 730 023, or check

Coloured sands, beaches and rainforests
The World Heritage Site of Fraser Island provides one of the nation’s most beautiful experiences. For soft adventure, there’s nothing quite like Fraser Island with its wide sandy beaches, roaring surf, placid perched freshwater lakes and a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. There’s a two-night package priced from $499 per person on offer. This includes accommodation, ferry transfers, two day 4Wdcamping tour, four meals, national park fees and services of an expert guide. Dial 134 782 or visit

A Rocky start
Do a 12-night Rocky Mountains tour and join that with a 7-night Alaskan cruise and reap the benefits.
Together the 19-nights experience is priced from $8290 per person, twin share. That price includes return air, first class sightseeing, a range of optional tours, first class hotels, airport transfers, gratuities aboard the Norwegian Sun, 19 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 12 dinners. Separate or joined together, what an experience ! Details and bookings ‘phone 1800 225 656 for your nearest Cruiseco agency.

Coffs for airshow
Plenty of options on offer for accommodation at next month’s Coffs Harbour air show. Go Polynesian at Aanuka Beach Resort from $115 per room, based on a five-night stay. Or, consider the Pure Indulgence B&B at Scott’s Head, with rooms from $121 per room per night including a full breakfast. Check

Can you believe it ?
There’s an average saving of almost US$2000 on single supplements on selected sailings, whether it be ocean cruising on the Mediterranean coast or river cruising down Europe’s inland waterways. Get the full details on all tour prices and relevant discounts from Tauck World Discovery by visiting or telephone 1300 766 566.

Check these out
• Pay three nights, and get three free at Fiji’s Crusoe’s Resort. Check
• There’s an unforgettable seven-night Portugese journey which begins and ends in Lisbon. Check the offer on
• Webjet and eBay have launched in Australia and around the world.
• Wendy Wu, Cathay Pacific and the Hong Kong Tourism Board have released new packages including a 5-night package from $2440 per person including economy airfare.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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ENDS Visual of Rocky Mountaineer.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Budding actors take heed

Travel briefs w/c August 18 2008

By John Crook

Go fly a kite
Coolum, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is the centre of action for kite flyers at the October 11-12 kite festival. Join kite flying mates from Canada, China, and New Zealand at what is becoming another Australian ‘big event’. Close handy to the event is Mantra Sand Dunes, ideal for accommodation over the festival period. Based on a three-night stay the tariff starts from $195 per room per night. Details by ringing 12 15 17.

Dinner with Barry Humphries
The creator of Dame Edna makes a rare appearance as himself at a dinner show in the Hunter Valley on Sunday October 5. An accommodation package is priced from $792 per person, twin share, staying at Peppers Guest House. The offer includes two night’s accommodation, full breakfasts and complimentary transfers to and from the event which will be held at the Great Cask Hall, Hope Estate.. Tickets for the actual show need to be booked separately at For details of the accommodation package telephone Peppers at (02) 4993 8999.

A quest for adventure
A multi-million pound refit of the 450-passenger Quest for Adventure is preparing her for the inaugural cruise from Harwich in the UK to the Baltic, July 1 2009.Passengers can look forward to onboard lectures, on-shore excursions along with formal and informal dining , a selection of bars, stylish public areas and quiet retreats. The cruise includes small and lesser known ports. After the inaugural cruise her itineraries will open up other fascinating parts of the world. For prices and details contact 1800 225 656 for the name of Cruiseco’s 150-cruise specialist agencies down under.

Budding actors take heed
Special theatre festival packages are on offer from $1167 per person, departing Brisbane and $1299 ex Sydney. Destination Norfolk Island and the 11th annual festival from September 28 – October 5, 2008.
Theatrical groups are invited to take part in the week-long festival. Get the facts on participation and prices by ringing 1800 1400 66 or email

Savings of up to $2,556 per person
That should grab your attention, so here are the facts. Those savings relate to the brochured fare on Holland America Line’s 14-night Sydney to Auckland and Auckland to Sydney cruises aboard ms Volendam. Available on a number of selected savings from November 2008 to March 2009, guests may enjoy premium cruising to some of the most popular points in Australia, from as little as $1,299 per person twin share. Understand the facts by contacting Travel the World on 1300 766 566.

Cycling Italy
There’s a great eight-day cycling trip from Florence to Rome. Cycle through the small villages of Umbria and Tuscany and really experience Italy. The guided trip is priced from $1,690 per person, twin share. That includes seven nights accommodation, breakfasts and dinners daily, bicycle, luggage transfers, all transport transfers, trail tickets, information kit with maps (they could come in handy). Airfares are extra. Telephone 131 600 for details.

Altar boys a hit
Melbourne theatre audiences are currently under the spell of the stars of musical, Altar Boys. Brisbane audiences are preparing for the lads to hit their town. Details from Ticketmaster.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Visual : Norfolk Island panorama

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sun Princess: Cruise around the continent


John Crook

Oz hotel group with Europe connections

Adina Apartment Hotels offers overnight accommodation in Copenhagen, in a one-bedroom apartment with a full breakfast for two included, along with two tickets to the beautiful Tivoli Gardens. Add to the list inclusions of two tickets to the wonderful Tivoli Gardens. Priced from approx AUD$298. Minimum two night stay and valid until 21 September 2008. Go to

Little India package

Since my last mention of Melbourne’s Dandenong, here’s news of a package on offer from Ramada Encore Hotel Dandenong. Two nights weekend accommodation with full hot buffet breakfast for two people. Also included is undercover car parking and complimentary broadband. Over the weekend stay do a walking shopping and dining tour of Little India and try the food on offer in the Afghanistan precinct. Reservations, conditions and enquiries telephone (03) 9793 0088, and the email address is

German royalty abounds

The monarchy may have disappeared in Germany although there are plenty of ‘crowned heads’ at work. The wine regions have their own wine queens along with a couple of princesses. If in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse on October 10 you will catch the grand parade and the crowning of Germany’s wine queen for 2008. Throughout the year there’s also an onion queen, a herb queen, an apple queen and an asparagus queen. Is nothing sacred?

Speaking of wine

Check the details associated with the wine festivals of the Czech Republic. There is also the Prague wine package which is a private tour costing from $2675, available until December 26 2008. It includes return economy airfare with Austrian Airlines ex Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. Cairns and Perth; three nights accommodation, a half day tour of Prague, full day wine tour, a three course lunch and return airport transfers in a private vehicle.

This one is worthwhile following up. Telephone 1300 363 554 or visit

Norfolk annual jazz festival

Exit Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne for the December 8 to 12 Norfolk Island’s jazz festival. Packages on sale until August 30/ The deal includes return economy airfares, seven nights accommodation, return airport transfers, a half day tour and an exclusive Norfolk Convict Club card offering discounts. Prices ex Brisbane from $1439, ex Melbourne from $1699 and ex Sydney from $1699, per person, twin share. The jazz program includes entry to six shows, some with meals; reserved seating, free souvenir program and a welcome drink on arrival. Check the facts with Escape Travel, on 1300 799 783.

Save $700 0n car leasing

GlobalCARS offers terrific savings on a 21-day lease for travellers to Europe until January 31 2009. The deal is on brand new air-conditioned Renault Grand Modus. Short and long term leases available . The minimum lease period is 17 days with a maximum of 180 days. Visit or call 1300 789 992.

Cruise around the continent

Take a month off and for most of the time cruise around Australia from Sydney to Sydney. The 1950 passenger Sun Princess plays host with a departure October 17 2009. Prices start from $4,499 per person, twin share. Terrific savings are on offer. To get the facts telephone 1300 369 848.

Get a job and then tour

Have fun and earn money at the same time whilst working in a UK pub, with a potential of earning between 180 pounds and 220 pounds a week. You need to be over 19 years of age. Prices start from $495 however, airfares and a UK Working Holiday visa are not included. Check conditions and further details by visiting or call 1300 651 639.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Cruising Italian Style


John Crook

Deluxe trans Australia

Set aside a couple of weeks from January 10 2009. That’s the departure date for the Southern Spirit train which will travel from Perth to Brisbane. It is a 12-night package which highlights everything Oz from the Outback, to the ACT, wine regions et al. Prices start from $10,590 per person, twin share. Get the itinerary from Travel Associates. Telephone 1800 044 066.

A wonderful life

Christmas in London,- what a splendid idea. Special deals await at The Milestone, The Egerton and ‘41’, five-star properties and the tariff includes Christmas cake, a bottle each of red and white wine, lunch or dinner on one day, and even mistletoe on your pillow. Not to mention a two night’s stay and other things Christmassy. Available between November 21 2008 and January 11 2009. Check the full deal and prices by viewing

Oktoberfest stats in September

There’s a five-day Heidleberg and royal castles package which offers a pre or post festival look at Germany. The price from $1,112 per person twin share includes superior tourist class hotel accommodation, breakfast daily, coach transportation (with a toilet), return train ticket Frankfurt-Heidelberg, one way ticket Augsburg-Fussen, taxi transfers and sightseeing. Not a bad deal. Airfares are additional. Call 1300 558 987.

Total Travel to the rescue

Check these out. A five-night golfing and dining getaway, at Coast Resort in Merimbula offering a saving of $332, for travel between now and close-off date October 31 2008. Or, spend a night at Park Regis Apartment Hotel in Sydney where you get a reduction of $165 on a one-night stop-over. That means you pay $99 a night. Travel is between now and close-off date August 31, 2008. Plenty more so check out

Add a patriot

There’s a Jeep Patriot awaiting you for as little as $59 per day. It’s available at depots in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney plus selected locations throughout the country. Make contact with Europcar on 1300 300 242.

Italian style cruising

On June 27, 2009, here’s your opportunity to join Costa Allegra and set sail for Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Okinawa and Shanghai. Costa Allegra carries just 800 guests and packages are available through from $3349 per person, twin share. It’s an Italian experience in beautiful Asia. Taxes and fuel surcharges applicable at time of booking. These are additional. Telephone 1300 369 848.

Multi award winner

Combine a trip to the theatre when next you travel to Melbourne. The hugely popular Altar Boyz, in its fourth year in New York, hits the stage of the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. The season starts Wednesday September 13 2008, with ticket prices from $48. This ‘best of Broiadway’ musical can be booked through Ticketmaster, telephone 136 100.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.

Monday, 28 July 2008


John Crook

Sampling tantalising cuisine

The City of Greater Dandenong is home to a series of ethnic precincts featuring cuisine, cultural activities and fashions. The city fathers have introduced a food lovers’ tour of central Dandenong when participants are led on a journey of sensational food from around the world. Monthly tours include sampling food from Afghanistan, Africa, Lebanon and Turkey. Tours are monthly and cost $25 per person. For details telephone (03 9238 1566.

$1000 in Fiji freebies

Special rates are valid for travel to Fiji through March 31 2009. Packages include return airfare to Nadi flying with Qantas, three nights accommodation at Outrigger on the Lagoon, four nights at Castaway Island, bonus one-way scenic helicopter transfer between resorts, bonus one-hour spar treatment, bonus dolphin safari for two people, one night’s accommodation at Mercure Hotel Nadi (excluding Melbourne departures) and boat and coach transfers throughout. Check the prices for the preferred departure point for Explore Holidays by contacting your nearest travel agency.

Three nights wining and dining

South America welcomes you to a three-night gastronomic tour at the foothills of the Andes. Visit local wineries and fresh food markets plus colourful restaurants The tour is priced from $507 and that includes three nights accommodation, breakfast daily, private airport transfers and touring. Airfares to Mendoza, where the tour begins, are not included. For more info contact Travel Associates on 1800 044 066.

On the road to Mandalay….

Mandalay is just one of many wonderful surprises included in a 32-day fully-escorted tour from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Temples, hilltop retreats, ancient trading ports cruising aboard a classic wooden junk, taking a hot air balloon over the temple city of Bagan,- then a two-day cruise aboard a boutique 48-passenger Pandaw 11,- just to mention a few of the highlights. For full details telephone 1800 083 141 or visit

There’s nothing like Noosa

Hastings Street in Noosa calls and you are the target. There’s a range of superb Noosa escapes on offer, such as Bella Casa with its one-room Balinese style apartments nestled in between cafes, restaurants and those exclusive shopping outlets. Tariff there starts from $245 per room/night. Valid through September 19 2008. Just remember, there are around 120 Noosa accommodation options from which to choose. Visit

Seven days checking out the Christmas markets

There’s a coach tour linking some of Germany’s Christmas markets and if you move quickly there’s a seat on board with your name on it. This year the tours, which operate late November and early December, include the markets of Munich, Salzburg, Rothenberg, Nuremberg and Frankfurt. Tours are priced from $763 per person/night, for the Christmas Delight. Festive Christmas markets is priced from $1,339 per person/night and the 11-day German Christmas Fantasy is from $2,263 per person/night. Full details by ringing 1300 558 987.

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability.