Monday, 28 September 2009

FRANK'S FAVORITES: Save on Alaska, Dollar Driving Us Overseas



A ten-night cruise from Rome to Sicily, Athens, Turkey, and back through the Greek Islands to Naples (for a visit to Capri) and Rome, is super-value with a starting price just $5699pp twin-share – but even more so when it includes return air and taxes from mainland capitals and Cairns… and for good measure even a night pre-cruise in the Crowne Plaza, Rome.

And timing for this unique 11-night package through could not be better: Celebrity Cruises' mega-liner Celebrity Equinox sails from Rome on June 25 2010 – virtually the middle of our winter and the middle of the Northern Hemisphere's summer.

Ports of call include Messina in Sicily, Piraeus for Athens, Kusadasi in Turkey for a visit to historic Ephesus, then Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini in Greece, Naples for Capri, and back to Rome.

Guests on the 122,000-tonne Celebrity Equinox have a choice of ten dining venues from formal and themed restaurants to casual caf├ęs and leisurely bistros, a range of bars and lounges including the Sky Observation Lounge that's been dubbed "the ultimate observation lounge," a choice of nightly entertainment venues… even a living, manicured lawn at the top deck Lawn Club for golf putting and other outdoor "country club-like" recreational activities.

For full details phone 1300 369 848 or check-out


Springtime in Griffith in the NSW Riverina is one of the most enchanting seasons in Australia, especially for garden lovers.

The Burley Griffin-designed city with its beautiful tree lined streets is surrounded by orchards and vineyards that form an impressive backdrop for both town and country gardens, and its Mediterranean climate provides ideal as the city comes alive with nature's annual explosion of colour.

To celebrate this special time of year the city hosts the annual 4-day Griffith Festival of Gardens where ten private gardens are open for inspection.  They range from delightful small cottage gardens through to grand, large acreage creations – each has its own distinct charm. Two have been featured in Your Garden magazine in 2009.

The wide centre median strip of Banna Avenue is filled for blocks with the now-famous citrus sculptures that in Australia are unique to Griffith.   They are based on the original sculptures at Menton in France, with more than 100,000 oranges and grapefruit used to construct Griffith's magnificent and imaginative larger-than-life three dimensional creations.

This year's Festival will be held from October 16th to 19th with special guest

Elizabeth Swane, a member of one of Australia's best-known rose growing families and daughter of rosarian Ben Swane.  Elizabeth worked at the family nursery, Swane's Nursery at Dural for 25 years until its sale in 2000 and today  combines a gardening media career with a family business and being a busy mum.

She is also a gardening presenter on the popular talkback show 'Weekends with Simon Marnie' on ABC Radio 702 in Sydney, and writes regular articles and columns for several national gardening magazines including ABC Gardening Australia magazine, Your Garden, Home Beautiful and Burke's Backyard magazine.

Elizabeth will launch Griffith's Festival of Gardens at a twilight function at St Alban's Cathedral on Friday 16 October, where guests will be treated to bellringing, music, gourmet nibbles and Champagne, and a floral artistry and quilt display. Elizabeth Swane will also be guest speaker at the Festival Dinner Dance on Saturday 17 October.

Bookings are still open to both events for an opportunity to meet and chat with Elizabeth; there will also be a lucky garden entry holiday prize of a weekend in Melbourne at the Mantra on Park travelling with CountryLink.

Programs for this year's Festival are available from the Griffith Visitor Centre  on 1800 681 141, by emailing or by visiting


 P&O Cruises is offering passengers the chance to cool off over summer and head south to Australia's Emerald Isle, with great deals available for December sailings to Tasmania onboard the cruise line's latest superliner, Pacific Jewel.

Pacific Jewel's maiden five-night voyage to Tasmania departs Sydney on December 13, 2009, with passengers able to spend a day in Melbourne doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, before continuing on to the Tasmanian port of Burnie – the gateway to the State's stunning north.  Fares are available from $1099* per person twin share.

Not only will holidaymakers on this inaugural voyage experience a piece of cruising history, they will also be the first to try celebrity chef Luke Mangan's new signature restaurant onboard, Salt Grill by Luke Mangan.

For those who like to plan ahead, Pacific Jewel will return to Tasmania in December 2010, enabling passengers to soak up the treasures of Tasmania over eight relaxing nights.

The round-trip voyage includes calls to historic Port Arthur, an overnight stay in Hobart, scenic cruising in beautiful Wineglass Bay as well as visits to Burnie and Melbourne.  Departing Sydney on December 10, 2010, fares are available from $1414* per person twin share.

 At 70,310 tonnes, Pacific Jewel will carry 2053 passengers and feature one of the largest spas at sea, an open-air deck with aerial stage for circus and music performances, a three-storey atrium foyer and almost 200 private balcony cabins, the most in P&O Cruises' fleet.

For more information and bookings contact a licensed travel agent, P&O Cruises on 13 24 69 or visit

Subject to availability. Conditions apply.


The rise of the Aussie dollar is driving Australians overseas, according to Australia's premier car rental wholesaler, DriveAway Holidays.

It says the current record highs of our dollar against the English Pound has seen a marked surge in UK self-drive holiday bookings in the past 3 months.

And  combined with cheap airfares, our stronger dollar against the US-dollar has also lead to DriveAway Holidays' strongest bookings to the USA for some time, and suggestions our dollar could hit 90c against the US-dollar will mean huge savings for travelers going to the 'States.

DriveAway Holidays says that one week's rental of an economy car in the USA would have cost AU$370 in March, but today it costs just AU$315 - including a free tank of fuel and 3 additional drivers*, giving saving of over $300.

Michael Hay, Chief Executive Officer from DriveAway Holidays says, "We've had a great year for the UK and USA. But the increased demand, as well as reduced fleet numbers globally means that availability will be very tight over the Christmas period, so we advise booking early to take advantage of the great deals currently in the market."

*The bonus inclusions of a free tank of fuel and additional drivers in the USA are available for bookings made and paid by Friday 9 October only. Bookings can be made online at or call 1300 723 972.


BOOK and pay in full by November 2009 with Adventure World and receive savings of up to US$500 per person on Cruise West small ship Alaska adventures departing in 2010.

Save US$500 on the seven-night "Alaska's Inside Passage" itinerary now priced from US$3699 per person twin share. There are 25 departures between 19 May and 25 August departing from Juneau.

A shorter option is the four night "Glacier Bay Highlights" round trip cruise from Juneau, where you will view the wilderness and wildlife of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This tour is now priced from US$1299 per person, including a savings of US$300 each and departs on between 24 May and 24 August 2010.

Included in all packages are accommodation and all meals onboard, onboard services, taxes, fees and charges.

Cruise West's small ship itineraries show travelers a world of hidden wonders and majestic wilderness no large ship can ever glimpse. It enables guests to get up-close to the destination and explore off-the-beaten-path waterways, narrow channels and tiny ports

For more details on itineraries, departures and fares contact Adventure World on 1300-363-055 or visit

Aussie dollar deals, bag a Twingo


John Crook

Go visit Borneo

If you have ever wanted to hang out with Orang-utans this may be the answer.  There's a beaut cruise taking in some of the high spots of SE Asia.    Vietnam, Laos and Bprneo await.  Some decent deals too.  A seven-night highlights of Vietnam tour may be accessed.  Priced from $1273 includes a 10% saving when you book and travel pre October 31.  A deal is also on offer for a classic Laos package.  Likewise that date with the Orang-utans.  Check them out by visiting or telephone 1300 363 055.

A remarkable Oz tour

This one could easily be billed as a must-do tour.  It's an exclusive Australian tour flying a Dash-8 aircraft to the  Bungles, Kakadu, Ayers Rock,- and the ports of call just go on and on.  Prices start from $11,990 per person, however prices are subject to change and availability. Check out the various departure dates and get full details on what is included.  It's enough to make me want to join you.  Telephone 1800 044 066 for the total story.

Chefs and cooks

Singapore again wins the prize with its line-up of cooking classes.   Some of the operators include Coriander Leaf Cooking School with half-day courses highlighting the best in South Asia, SE Asian, Middle Eastern and fusion cooking.  Check this one out by visiting   I have done the at-sunrice Cooking Studio which offers a hands-on food experience.  Well worth a look.  Check it out on

Getting married

Lions roaring at night forms part of the excitement associated with the romance of the African bush.  One organization is cashing in on the magic of marriage and Africa.  The ultimate honeymoon awaits the adventurous  and the romantic.  A sample itinerary could include two weeks in South Africa with four nights at the luxurious Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Capetown.  Set the itinerary to include wine tours to rose-petal turndowns.

Days spent in luxury keeps such as Bushmans Kloof and Sabi Sabi.

Game drives, great cuisine, through to real pampering and everything which goes with it. Check out the options of this super luxury suggestion by visiting

If you are into schoolies

Where it all started, - the Gold Coast and already a list of suggestions which should keep every participant happy.  There is a range of good value getaways for the 2010 celebration.  This is an assignment that should be enacted upon, and quickly.  Try this one for size.  Surfspray Court which is a low-rise resort close to all of the action, priced from $395 per person for seven nights in a one-bedroom apartment. The 2010 event is still a year off, yet bookings have been fast and furious. Check out

And, this one

Our dollar is working wonders at the moment heralding a massive surge in lease-car bookings for those of us travelling to Europe.  Holidaymakers just need to book and pay before October 30 for collection of a vehicle up to and including December 31 this year,  to enjoy some real savings. The Renault Eurodrive leasing program has been operating since (believe it or not) 1955. For all the details contact your travel agent or ring toll-free 1300 55 11 60, or go visit

And, a final comment

Having last week travelled on the Brisbane-Avalon operator, namely  JetStar, I could not find even the tiniest of fault in any sector of the trip.  Even the security folk operating at the Avalon end had smiles on their faces.  Service aboard the cut-price airline was faultless.  Mine was a paid air fare, so I hand out the plaudits and the awards as a paying customer.  Good one JetStar.

* 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, 21 September 2009

Go in style to Istanbul


John Crook

Go in style to Istanbul

Set aside part of your May 2010 plans and cruise from Athens and the Greek Islands to Istanbul.  This is too good to miss!  Travel aboard the super-luxurious Seabourn Odyssey.  It includes two nights pre-cruise accommodation at the Athen's Grand Bretagne Hotel,  two-nights post cruise at the Swissotel Bosphorus Hotel Istanbul and there's a free night in Singapore's Raffles Hotel enroute.  This is a 12-night  fly, cruise and stay package.  Return air from mainland capitals including air taxes are part of the deal.  There's heaps more to check out.  Book early-bird through up until December 10 this year and that brings the price down to as low as $8349 per person twin share. Telephone 1300 369 848 for details and conditions.

Book this one before Sept 30 2009

There's a good choice of top hotels offering huge discounts for travel to Singapore pre December 31 2009. Typical is the 50% discount at the five-star Regent Singapore which offers bed and breakfast for $212 a night. For the budget conscious Fragrance Hotels, which operate six properties, offer rates from $92 upwards.  For information and bookings call globalCARS on 1300 789 992.

Check these incentives

Adventure World is including incentives such as inclusive meals and free nights,- part of some seven-night packages to the exotic Maldives. For instance Makunudu Island resort is offering most meals in its seven-night packages which are priced from $1067.  Packages include most water sports activities.  The deal is open for sale until December 31 and for travel at varying times from May until July 2010.

Conditions apply and airfares note included.  Check out the details by calling 1300 363 055 or visit

The French connection

Departures from Paris for the grand circuit of France welcome you in May, July or September.

The tour includes three days to explore the Loire Valley, three in Bordeaux and Burgundy plus stunning medieval villages of the Dordogne.  There's a $300 per person earlybird discount on these signature tours in 2010.  Full price is from $5899 pp twin share (including discount).  This requires tours to be booked and deposited by December 31 2009.  Get the details and conditions by calling 1300 858 304 or go visit

Exotica yoga

To the  Bali Hills and holistic ritual special to Santi Mandala Villa & Spa on the outskirts of Ubud. Priced from $365 per person the package includes return private car transfers from Denpasar Airport, two nights accommodation, one yoga and body package including meditation, deep relaxation therapy, two-hour body treatment, one vegetarian lunch or dinner, breakfast daily, fruit basket on arrival, daily mineral water and afternoon tea. This is traditional Balinese style accommodation and lifestyle. Surely there's a misprint here?  Valid for travel until December 24 2009 and from January 6 to March 31, 2010. Check my facts out by visiting

Christmas here I come

Don't know for sure which is happening first, ie the arrival of Christmas or me off to London.  It matters not just so long as I experience the Christmas package on offer by Red Carnation hotels.  For those who stay at any of their luxury London properties, here is what is on offer!  Overnight accommodation in a beautifully appointed bedroom, suite or fully serviced apartment.  A warming glass of mulled wine or a mug of the ultimate hot chocolate, full English breakfast daily, as festive afternoon tea, a festive turndown treat at bedtime, free movies for those who want to snuggle up wit a great film, and a 6pm checkout on the day of departure.  Stay Chrismas Eve and there's a stocking full of surprises.  First up though, for a head start to a happy Christmas, I suggest a visit to

* 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, 14 September 2009

Meet the Queen in Tokyo


John Crook

An exiting barging tour

Aniodi is a name made famous by the popular BBC TV series, Rick Stein's French Odyssey, and now you have the chance to undertake a special six-week voyage aboard the very same barge, taking in Lyon, Paris and Cologne.  Journey the wonderful waterways of the Rhone, Seine and Rhine and onwards through enchanting waterways such as  Canal de Bourgogne.  This is no ordinary river cruise, - it is a memory making luxurious experience.  The best way to approach this, and other inclusive hotel-barge tours, is first of all visit

Tassie wine on show

The IXL Atrium, at the Henry Jones Art Hotel,  is the home base of the Southern Tasmanian white wine weekend, October 10 and 11.  It will host 21 winemakers showcasing 60 varieties of white wine.  Entry costs $15 for adults and that includes wine tastings and a tasting booklet. For more information telephone (03) 6248 5367.

Melbourne's Dali

To a spot of culture and luxury! The Langham Melbourne has a Dali day/night package priced from $515 and that includes overnight and all day five-star accommodation, a pre-Gallery supper in Aria bar and lounge, in-room dining breakfast on either Sunday morning or Sunday evening served with a complimentary bottle of wine, two 'away with the fairies' sleeping masks and valet parking. This is a one-night stand.  Check in from 8:00pm Saturday October 3 and late check out until 8:00pm Sunday October 4.

This allows guests to enjoy a night with Dali.   That can extend to all night with Dali as the National Gallery of Victoria's Dali exhibition will be open all night on Saturday October 3.   Tariff does not include entry to the NGV, which is right next door to the Langham. For all the details and conditions telephone 1800 858 662 or email 

Book this way for Venice

Thinking of doing Venice ?  Then, check this out. Now there is a much easier way to holiday in Venice, with thanks to Venice Connected, a new on-line reservation system set up by the City of Venice.  The address is   This offers  direct access to book and to buy on-line, saving time and money.  Bookings need to be made 15-days in advance, with prices varying according to low, middle and high seasons.   For more info on Italy go to

Anything planned for February 19 2010 ?

If the social and travel calendar is free at the moment, try this for size. A unique package sees QM2 sailing from Tokyo on that day, calling first into Guam,  then Rabaul, the Whitsundays, Auckland, the Bay of Islands and destination Sydney on March 7.  It is a 19-night fly, cruise and stay package, priced from $6499 per person twin share.  That includes air and taxes ex Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane. This is not your ordinary cruise,- but one which is rather special.    To get the dull details call 1300 369 848 or visit

Ski Japan. Live it up in Hong Kong

Ski the fabled dry powder at Niseko, then  tour Hong Kong.   Two different areas for sure, but all part of an itinerary which includes skiing in Japan and the night life of Hong Kong.  What a wonderful coincidence in that the tour package also includes a three-night  stopover in Honkers during Hong Kong's Food & Wine Year.  That runs through until March 31 2010. Return airfares flying Cathay Pacific  from Sydney, Brisbane Melbourne, Adelaide or Cairns.  There are quite a few extras included, so check them out and make a booking.   Telephone Skimax (02) 9267 1655. 1300 136 997 or visit


Visual :  QM2.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Save and do a fly, cruise and stay

Week commencing September 7th 2009-09-06


John Crook

It doesn't get much better

There are some terrific savings of up to 45% on leasing Peugeot vehicles in Europe, but the secret is to make your decisions before you leave Australia.  There's a  choice of  11 models available for 30 day leasing periods from $1647 for a 207 model diesel.  That deal alone includes 13 free days plus an extra three freebies if you happen to be a repeat customer.  The offers are available if booked by September 18 and can be collected any time until December 31 2009. Get the full details by contacting globalCARS on 1300 789 992.

Package with entry to theme parks

Booking a seven night family accommodation package, with some of the best theme parks included, is on offer on the Gold Coast.  Prices start from $4,700 per family ex Sydney (two adults two children), accommodation at the Mantra Bel Air, a two-day pass for Dreamworld and White Water World, a one-day pass to Seaworld, tickets for Q1 observation deck  and tickets to the Outback Spectacular.  Check with Ross and Turner Travel Associates for prices from other airports.  Telephone 1800 257 226.

Best wilderness reserve and wellness retreat

That's a statement which has the backing of a 2009 US Travel + Leisure readers' survey. The property in question is South Africa's Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. The retreat covers 18,533 acres (7500 hectare) and is nestled at the foothills of the Cederberg mountains with breathtaking views, luxury accommodation, and less than three-hours drive from Cape Town.  For the experience of a lifetime, I suggest you get the facts by visiting  

The Gong's vibrant beachside atmosphere

Spring is in the air, particularly when taking the Grand Pacific Drive at Wollongong.  Just off the beach is the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach with an overnight package for two adults and two children (under 16), full buffet breakfast, under cover parking, late checkout and a family pass to Jamberoo Action Park.

The latter is open weekends during September and then daily from October 3 to April 25 2010 (excluding Christmas Day).  There are other packages also on offer.  To get the details log onto  and also take a look at  

Save and do a fly, cruise and stay

There's a big saving of $2000 a couple on a 13-night package from Auckland to Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney aboard the mega-liner Diamond Princess in January of next year.  That saving is on offer with bookings through   It includes one-way air travel from Sydney or Melbourne to Auckland, a night at the Stamford Plaza with breakfast, and twelve nights aboard the classy 116,000 tonne Diamond Princess.  Sailing date is ex Auckland January 16 2010.  The price now starts from just $1599 per person twin-share and I strongly suggest you check out what's on offer by calling 1300 369 848 or visit   Seeing is believing.  Save a berth for me.

I remember it well

Sure do!  My favourite group of South Pacific islands is most definitely  the New Hebrides,- oops sorry, that should read Vanuatu.  The US marines discovered it as they took on the battle of the South Pacific.  Now it's wide  open for those looking for adventure, romance and surprises. Through until March 31 2010 stay four nights on Bokissa Private Island Resort, just off Espiritu Santo, for an unbeatable all-inclusive package covering accommodation, meals and a slice of paradise. Pay from just $525 per couple per night.  Dive on the President Coolidge, take a James A Michener tour,.. and enjoy.  By the way children under twelve years,- not on this island thanks.   Some activities are additional. For all the details check out  

Or an Aussie island spree

There's a three-night escape on offer at Hamilton Island.  To be more correct,  on the northern most tip of the island, staying in one of the 60 hillside pavilions overlooking the magical Coral Sea. The offer, which includes accommodation in a Leeward Pavilion, 18 hopes of golf for one person with return launch transfers and use of a golf buggy.  

There's also breakfast, dinner and non-alcoholic beverages at The Long Pavilion and Pebble Beach, some VIP transfers and use of non motorised watercraft and other extras.  The offer is priced from $1793 per person.  Have I missed anything?  It is so easy to check, simply by logging onto     The offer is for sale until 31 Marc h 2011 and for travel 1 April to 19 August 2010 and from 30 August to December 22 2010 and from 6 January to 31 March 2011. Conditions apply.

* 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