Monday, 30 November 2009

Special free city-stay offer


John Crook

Citroen deal

Just released is a deal which offers up to nine free days on brand new Citroen cars costing from just $30 a day.  Choose from  air-conditioned models with rates including full insurance and 24-hour assistance.  The French government allows manufacturers to lease vehicles to non-French residents,- free of all duties and taxes and zero insurance excess.  For more details contact globalCARS on 1300 789 992 or visit   Oui !

A touch of Dickens,- in Australia

Entry to the gardens of Bleak House in central Victoria is just $5 a head, with children gaining admission free. This 20 acre property has 15 of those acres converted to a magnificent array of flowers.  Even though Spring has passed us by, Bleak House is still magnificent to visit through the summer months.  Visit for a few hours or go stay in the B&B cottage.  Tariff is $190 per couple per night Friday, Saturday or Sunday,- cheaper midweek.  Bleak House, named after the Charles Dickens book of same name, is located an hour north of Melbourne. For more information and to book the B&B go visit or telephone (03) 5423 2970.

Italia touring

There is a fully escorted tour heading out of  Rome airport and touring the delights of Tuscany and Umbria.  The three-week escorted tour starts at the end of April, next year. Priced from $6975 twin share, it includes pick-up from Rome airport, full-time Aussie escorts and a local guide, coach, ferry, funicular and rail travel, 21-nights twin-share, all breakfasts and most dinners.  Return air fare ex Australia is additional.  I like this one because it is not made up of one-night stands.  Instead there is a week at a time headquartered in hotels in three different cities.  This is a small group tour with Carolinasusi Italia Tours.  Full details by calling (07) 3396 8652, or visit

007 once stalked Queensland's Hidden Vale

It's absolutely true that the man who is remembered as 007,  as a youngster,  lived on what is known these days as Peppers Hidden Vale.   With your family, walk in his steps during a stay at the 12,000 acre working cattle station in south east Queensland.  Just a 60 minute drive south west of Brisbane,- and chalk up a family package for the holiday period from December 1 2009 through January 31 2010.  That includes accommodation for two adults and two children, full buffet breakfast, pony lead rides for the kids and use of the property's activity facilities.   Rates start from $350 per family, per night.  Contact the property on 1300 881 435.

South Oz a veritable market place

Get out the cane basket and head for your nearest market place.  They are scattered throughout South Australia.  Riverland Farmers Market at Berri, every Saturday Tel : 08 8582 4864 . Victor Harbor Saturday's (Tel:08  8551 0520, until December 31.  In the Barossa, every Saturday at their Angaston location     Willunga has two markets, the farmer's market Saturdays (www.willungafarmersmarket) and on  the second Saturday each month it's the Quarry Markets       Down at the Limestone Coast their farmers' market runs through until the end of the year   Likewise, on Sundays in Moana the farners get together (Tel: 08 8327 0480.

And, on the subject of food

Chef Damon McGinniss continues to smile.  After all, it's not every week that a chef can claim 'best lamb dish', which is just what he did with his creation for the recent  NZ awards for his merino lamb leg, whipped potato, green pea mash and smoked tomato jus.   Damon is head chef of Sargoods Restaurant at the  Edgewater Resort which sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka.  Try his lamb dish once, and you'll do as I did,.. ordering it two nights in a row.  If you are doing New Zealand, do include Lake Wanaka, and one could not do better than stay at the Edgewater Resort Hotel.  For more information visit 

Special free city-stay offer

Travellers get to choose a free city-stay in Paris, London, Rome, Venice or Sorrento  and saving up to $2314 per couple when booking any of the 2010 Avalon Waterways European river cruise of 11 days or more.   The special offer is one of five deals released by Avalon  giving a choice of free European flights (just pay the taxes), free Asia stopovers, free cabin upgrades and free add-on cruises.  Best thing to do, to check on exactly what these deals mean, is to 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

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Tuscany, Japanese Monkey Business, Bogong Markets


ITALY's Tuscany and Umbria when their gardens, forests, farms and small towns are at their spectacularly kaleidoscopic Springtime best, are the feature of a 3-week small-group tour with Carolinasusi Italia Tours starting at the end of April next year.

The fully-escorted tour will take guests into areas as diverse as olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards, valley floors ablaze with poppies, tulips and irises, past farmhouses ringed by cypress trees, rainbow-hued fields of wild flowers and from mountain forests and national parks gleaming with new-growth elms, beeches and oaks, to local villages decked out in impressive displays of colour for their Spring Flower Festivals.

And in small towns mostly untouched by large-scale commercialism, the opportunity to wine and dine at pavement cafés and restaurants under window-boxes overflowing with Springtime blooms, visit ceramics and leather artisans, and try the products of wine, chocolate, cheese and olive oil makers.

Rather than moving from hotel to hotel every day there's a week at a time in Montecatini Terme, Montefalco and Pienza. There are daily excursions to such iconic cities as Florence, Siena and Assisi with some inside knowledge provided by local guides, with time to enjoy their museums, galleries and historic buildings. Time also for shopping and, to slow the pace, visits to less-frequented medieval towns and villages to enjoy Italian family traditions and cultures.

Price starts from $6975pp twin-share ($975 single supplement available,) including pick-up from Rome Airport, full-time Australian escorts and a local guide, coach, ferry, funicular and train travel, 21-nights twin-share, and all breakfasts and most dinners; air from Australia is additional.

Full details (07) 3396 8652, (07) 3262 6332 or

ONLINE CRUISE HOLIDAYING NEVER EASIER THAN THIS that introduced Australians to the concept of simple online cruise bookings nine years ago, has now launched the newest, most comprehensive and user-friendly site ever for those seeking value cruise holidaying.

And whether you're a young whiz-kid on the computer or a Senior still learning their intricacies, easy one-click operations give access to everything from cruise choices in some forty destinations from Alaska or Asia, the Murray River, Mediterranean or New Mexico, or Vancouver or around-the-world.

The site offers a choice of nearly thirty cruise lines, and for those with their favourite cruise ships in mind, there's a listing of vessels whose names start with virtually any letter of the alphabet.

There are also direct one-step links to the latest in cruise holiday specials world-wise, details as to which lines offer discounts for seniors or other special offers… and again with one click, the possibility to simply find every cruise offer available by price, going from the cheapest to the most expensive.

There's even a set of "animated life-rings" on the home page that give instant access to heavily-discounted sailings available in either the next 7-, 14-, 30- or 60-days.

To check out's latest concept in easy-to-find and book cruise holidaying opportunities, phone 1300 369 848 or visit


Auto rental and leasing company, Auto Europe is offering free vehicle upgrades or reduced rates for EarlyBird bookings for rental pick-ups between April 1 2010 and March 2011 – and despite its name, they're available not only in major European countries, but in the USA and Canada as well.

Simply book and pay by February 28 or March 31 2010 (dates vary depending on country of pick-up,) and enjoy exceptional savings on rentals in such popular destinations as the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, the USA and Canada.

For those looking for vehicles for longer-term use in Europe, Auto Europe has substantial savings and bonuses with Peugeot Leasing: book and pay by March 31 2010 and Auto Europe will give 7-additional days free use on basic lease packages, 50-per cent off European delivery and return fees, and an additional 3-days free use for those drivers who've previously leased a vehicle with Peugeot Leasing between 2006 and 2009.

These savings and bonuses with Peugeot Leasing are available with collections any time between January 1 and December 31 2010.

For full details of all Auto Europe's EarlyBird rental and lease savings visit 


TRAVEL Japan by H.I.S. is offering the opportunity to combine a visit to the world's largest fish markets with an opportunity to see the country's famous hot spring bathing monkeys with the release of a new program twinning Tokyo with Nagano in the Japanese Alps.

Priced from AUD1786* per person twin share the five-day privately guided program fuses Tokyo's ancient and modern worlds with two-days spent exploring the traditional districts of the Japanese capital, including the  Tsukiji fish markets, with the city's futuristic elements.

The two-day Nagano visit includes a visit to Zenko-ji in the Nagano Alps, home to the oldest Buddha image in the country and the traditional home of Japan's famous Soba 'slurping' noodles.

Nagano is also one of the best places to see the famous red-faced monkeys which keep warm in the region's sometimes sub-zero temperatures by bathing in volcanic hot springs known locally as 'onsen'.

While the Tokyo-Nagano program operates on a year-round basis, Travel Japan by H.I.S. advises the best time to view the monkeys bathing is from November until March

*Conditions apply. Please note the price does not include international airfares.

For more information contact Travel Japan by H.I.S. Phone (02) 9267 3333 or toll free on 1800 802 552 or visit


The annual display of wildflowers on the Bogong High Plains between December and March is about to take place.
Whilst some of the hardy regulars such as the stunning royal grevillea are in full bloom after recent warmer weather (followed by rain) an even greater array of flowering shrubs and plants are yet to reveal their true colours.
Walking and cycling along Watchbed Creek Track towards Johnston Hut and Heathy Spur, is rewarded with some magnificent floral displays. Interspersed amongst the Snow Gums (Australia's toughest tree) are Alpine Daisies, Alpine Mint Bush, Snow Daisies, Alpine Wattle, Billy Buttons and Round-Leaf Mint Bush, which gives a 'rocky mountain high' due to its heady mint aroma.

Bushwalkers, ambling along the extensive array of undulating tracks which begin in Falls Creek Alpine Village gain access to fingers of Alpine Heaths and Herbfields.

There's lots of daisies which flower from December and the long-stemmed trigger plant, which has a delicate pink flower, can be found pretty much everywhere around the alpine resort.
The Bogong Eyebright,  is much more difficult to locate. However, the pink and white Bogong Daisy Bush, Straw Flowers, and a carpet of Snow Daisies are quite easy to find.

Look at for details.


Saturday, 28 November 2009

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Seadream, Lisbon, Japan


SeaDream Yacht Club whose boutique motor-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II have been consistently rated "world's best boutique cruise vessels" with their traditional sailings in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, is to make an historic first-ever series of voyages to Scandinavia, Russia, the French winelands and little-visited ports in Spain and Portugal in 2011.

SeaDream I will make a 15-night Atlantic Crossing via the Azores from her seasonal stint in the Caribbean in April of 2011, but instead of going back into the Mediterranean she'll sail to the UK, and up the River Thames to dock at London's Tower Bridge.

She'll then sail empty to Bremerhaven in German for a 3-week dry-dock, and from May to August make a series of sailings to the Norwegian Fjords and the Baltic – with one including a 2-night/3-day visit to Russia's St Petersburg*.

After these unique sailings, SeaDream I that carries just 112-passengers served by 95-crew, will sail via England's Jersey Isles to France's historic Brittany and Bordeaux in the heart of one of its most famous wine regions, several less-visited ports on the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal and into the Mediterranean.

Full details of itineraries and prices are expected to be available after November 20, but as many regular SeaDream guests have already booked staterooms for these rare sailings – irrespective of knowing the cost – potential guests are urged to register an interest now with their favourite travel agents or visit

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Ports to be visited on various sailings include London; Stockholm and Marstand in Sweden; Helsinki in Finland, Oslo, Stavanger, Lillesand and Bergen (Norway;) Tallin and Kuressaare, Estonia; St Petersburg, Russia; Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, Holland; Honfleur, St Malo, Belle Ile, La Rochelle and Bordeaux, France; St Jean de Luz, Gigoni/Oviedo, Spain; and Cascais, Portugal.

President of SeaDream Yacht Club, Bob Lepisto said the new itineraries should prove ideal for SeaDream's sharp-minded clientele who were always looking for new opportunities and out-of-the-usual ports to explore and become involved with.

"I know our Australian guests will particularly like these new experiences and what they bring with them: Australians already make up over nine per cent of our clientele – which is quite extraordinary considering your remoteness from our destinations, and with your casual lifestyle reflects your appreciation of our unique product that eschews formality and is based on a 5-star Country Club Smart Casual ambience."                                                                


LISBON has become an increasingly popular gateway in recent years for Australian holidaymakers heading to Europe, and to join the many cruise ships that now depart from this historic city.

If you're joining the crowds to this delightful Portuguese city, a great starting point is the Novotel Lisbona. A contemporary 4 star hotel, its conveniently situated just slightly out of the CBD in an area that provides easy access to  the airport and to the city centre via the Metro station which is just over five minutes walk from the hotel.

And it's a short cab ride to the port to join those many cruise ships.

Rooms are all spacious, with large flat-screen TV, full satellite TV channels and broadband internet. Rooms can accommodate up to two adults and two children, and children under-16 stay and eat breakfast free of charge, making it an ideal hotel for family travel.

The Novotel is one of Lisbon's best priced 4-star hotels, as is its restaurant, which offers exceptional three-course meals from just 15 euros.

There is an outside swimming pool and fitness centre.

The Novotel has launched a new CITY BREAKS package that is ideal for short breaks in Lisbon. The package costs from 160 euro (approximately AUD$260) and includes two nights accommodation, breakfast daily and late check out till 5pm on the Sunday, giving plenty of time to explore the city or relax by the pool. 

Bookings: or 1300 656565


CRUISECO is including 2-night stays pre- and post-cruise in some of Europe's most sought-after luxury hotels –with half-day city sightseeing tours included for even more added-value – in a range of exceptional fly, cruise and stay holidays next year aboard the luxury ships of Holland America Line.

These unique-to-Cruiseco packages that "depart the everyday" also feature such extras as daily hotel breakfasts, transfers between airports, hotels and ships, hotel taxes, all 5-star gourmet dining and world-class nightly entertain-ment and gratuities aboard ship, and port charges and government fees.

Return airfares and taxes are also included from mainland capitals, and with some packages from Cairns and Darwin as well.

Holland America Lines' sailings between April and October 2010 aboard six of its 5-star liners offer a choice of sailings in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean and to Egypt, in the Black Sea, Western Europe from Dover/London, the Baltic, Northern Europe and Russia, and to the Lands of the Vikings.

Fly, cruise and stay packages range from 12- to 22-nights with prices starting from as low as $5340pp twin-share – including in many cases extraordinary-value Early Bird Booking Savings – and are detailed in an enticing 36-page brochure that's available now.

For the a free copy from the nearest of Cruiseco's 170-cruise specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, phone 1800 225 656 or visit


MANY wine-lovers harbour a hidden dream of giving up their day-jobs and moving to one of Australia's most picturesque wine regions to make a living hand-crafting stunning wines...but with little experience where do you start?

The team at Kirrihill Wines is offering one lucky individual the opportunity to experience the 2010 vintage with them in one of the country's most beautiful wine regions, South Australia's Clare Valley. Becoming part of the hard working vintage team, they will embark on a behind-the-scenes wine adventure, under the guidance of Kirrihill's talented winemakers Donna Stephens and Marnie Roberts.

Whether it be the start of a new career path or simply a wonderful fun and informative holiday, this fantastic week long sojourn, open to anyone residing in Australia, will have lots to offer; covering the ins and outs of winemaking including vineyard visits, fruit crushing and pressing, tastings with the winemaking team and learning about fermentation control. The overall prize includes flights within Australia to Kirrihill in the breathtaking Clare Valley, accommodation and an experience that money can't buy.

Kirrihill Wines is a true leader within the South Australian wine scene. Established in the Clare Valley in 1998 they have access to some of the finest vineyards in the Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills. The state-of-the-art winery has no walls offering 360 degree views of the inspiring vineyards. Their wines have won more than 500 awards since their inaugural release and are now available throughout Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway and Singapore.

Kirrihill Wines winemaker Donna Stephens says; "An experience like this, to learn hands-on the technical side of winemaking in stunning surroundings like the Clare Valley, doesn't come along very often. This is someone's chance to explore their passion for wine and make their dreams come true, no experience necessary. The team are looking forward to welcoming an enthusiastic individual to one of the most beautiful parts of Australia in the New Year."

To be in with a chance to win simply email with 'JOIN US FOR VINTAGE' in the subject line and tell Kirrihill Wines in 100 words or less why you want to share in the Kirrihill vintage experience.

For more information on Kirrihill Wines and this competition visit  Conditions: Entries close Monday 11th January 2010 at 5pm AEST. The winning entrant must be over 18 and available to work the Kirrihill Wines 2010 vintage for one week during February/March 2010 as nominated by the winemaking team at Kirrihill.


One of the world's most colourful spectacles – the flowering of millions of Japanese cherry blossoms – can be seen using discounted fly and stay packages to Japan next year from Australian online travel agency, Direct Flights.

Japan's 7400 picture-perfect varieties of cherry blossoms bloom around Tokyo from early April, drawing crowds of locals and tourists who picnic under the blooms, enjoy traditional tea ceremonies and dance performances and buy Japanese delicacies from food stalls set up under the floodlit trees at night.

The cherry blossom – or sakura as it's locally known – has been celebrated in Japan for many centuries and has become the unofficial national flower of the country.

Popular venues to see cherry blossoms flower in Tokyo include Ueno Park which boasts 1000 of the colourful trees,  Kitanomaru Park where sightseers can hire boats to see the blooms along the moats of an old castle and Sumida Park where the lakeside trees are budlit at night.

Discount travel agent, Direct Flights, is offering reduced, booking fee-free airfare and hotel packages from Australia to Japan next year with full-service Japan Airlines for travel from April 1, 2010 – just in time for the cherry blossoms – to September 30, 2010.

The package fares, on sale to March 29, 2010, are for flights from Australia to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka and include four nights accommodation in Japan and are available from $1546 from Sydney and Brisbane and from $1736 from Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra, including taxes.*

Book on with no extra booking fees charged.

* Conditions apply. Fares subject to availability and increases in taxes and fuel charges.

Monday, 16 November 2009

FRANKS FAVOURITES: Hollywood, Kimberley, Greek Isles, Oman, China

Flights, camera, action –


HIT the haunts of Hollywood's stars, shop the best addresses of LA and New York City, play the tables of Las Vegas – all this in February in the company of Australia's most-famous showbiz commentator, John-Michael Howson.

This fully-escorted package from Wings Away Travel departs Australia on January 27 2010 for 7-nights in Los Angeles, five in New York City and four in Las Vegas, with first class accommodation, coach excursions and transfers, entry fees, most breakfasts and two special lunches and a special dinner.

John-Michael will share unique insights into the stars of stage, screen and TV, as well as life in the United States from 25 years living and working there.

Prices start from $5499pp twin-share for 16-nights Los Angeles to Los Angeles, with air from Australia starting from an additional $1474 depending of airline of choice; the tour will be fully escorted by Wings Away Travel's Managing Director, Anne Rogers.

For a fully detailed itinerary phone 1800 800 640 or visit

HIGHLIGHTS include in LA and Hollywood a tour viewing the mansions of the stars with John-Michael's insights into each of these stars, shopping Rodeo Drive, visiting the Kodak Theatre (home of the Academy Awards,) Hollywood's Walk of Fame, historic Olvera Street and its famous Mexican marketplace, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Santa Barbara's artistic, cultural and entertainment options, and 'power shopping' the Camarillo Premium Outlets.

New York includes a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, the United Nations Headquarters, a Stage Door Tour of Radio City and a meeting with one of its famous Rockettes, the MoMa Museum of Modern Art, St Patrick's Cathedral, shopping on Fifth Avenue, and a New York On Location Tour past 60 doorsteps of the Big Apple's most-famous movie and TV characters – plus a tour of the NBC Studios.

The tour finale is Las Vegas with an exploration of the famous 'Strip,' maybe a fling at the tables of one of the casinos or a fly-over of the Grand Canyon (optional extra,) premium outlet shopping – and a visit to the world's most flamboyant museum filled with the treasures of Mr Showbusiness, Liberace.


During 2010 the luxurious expedition cruise ship Orion explores the Kimberley coastline with a series of 10 night expeditions departing May, June, July and September.

Create your own dreamtime stories when you join Orion's specialist Expedition Team in the Kimberley to view pre-history aboriginal rock art, land on remote islands and beaches and explore gorges, inlets and serpentine waterways or climb to the plateau next to the highest waterfall in the Kimberley, King George Falls.

Conveniently embarking and disembarking in Darwin or Broome, Orion's 10-night voyages combine the contrasts of exploring the ancient and magnificent Kimberley wilderness, incredible at-sea experiences and the historic pearling town of Broome with its cafes and art galleries.

Orion's guests will see art galleries of another sort at Vansittart Bay - Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) Aboriginal rock art depicting highly adorned and decorated figures. Believed to be as much as 50,000 years old, these paintings, possibly the oldest known to man, record times when humans first explored this ancient continent.

At Raft Point and Bigge Island, Orion's Expedition Team will take guests to see aboriginal art including the mythical Wandjina tribe on a 'Great Fish Chase' featuring images of the Wandjina spirits with their distinctive haloes and dugong, crocodiles, fish and snakes.

Crocodiles love the Hunter River and it is no wonder, flanked with lush green mangroves and soaring ochre cliffs - arguably one of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast - Orion's guests too will wonder at this extraordinary environment as they venture into the labyrinth of waterways in search of saltwater crocodiles to photograph.

An amazing event unfolds at Montgomery Reef. Arriving at high tide, in waters rich in marine life (including whales, dolphins, dugong, turtles, manta rays and black-tipped reef shark), there is very little to distinguish Montgomery Reef. However, as the 10 metre tide changes it drops faster than the waters trapped inside the reef can escape and a raging torrent of water cascades over the top as kilometres of reef emerge from the ocean.

Prepare to get wet as Orion's Zodiacs will take intrepid guests into a channel in the reef as water cascades down either side.

At Talbot Bay, Orion's guests will experience another mighty Kimberley feature - the Horizontal Falls, a by-product of the incredible 10 metres high tidal movements the region experiences. The falls are created when water, trapped on the inland side of gaps in the coastline cannot escape fast enough on a falling tide, rushes out through the narrow gap to the ocean side.

The 12km journey up the King George River, either by helicopter or Zodiac, reveals some of the world's most spectacular scenery including vertical canyon walls and the highest single-drop waterfalls in the whole of the Kimberley. Who will resist the optional flight-seeing excursion offering a wonderful view of the falls, as well as the rugged, complex system of gorges behind?

Voyage early in the season, following the annual 'Big Wet', to see the waterfalls at their most magnificent; while late July and August is the prime time to see migrating whales in the Kimberley. And what better way to see the largest Humpback whale population in the world as they head north from the Antarctic to rest and calve than from onboard Orion?

With fishing, scuba diving, hot air ballooning and camel safari's to try out there is plenty to do when Orion visits Broome. Inherited from its early pearling days, its colourful history and cosmopolitan feel is still evident. Guests can relax, enjoy the pristine white sand and swim in the clear waters of Cable Beach, wander Chinatown or visit Gantheaume Point, home of 130 million year old dinosaur footprints.

These voyages exemplify expedition cruising with Orion. Adventure, excitement and dramatic sea and landscapes combine with outstanding levels of service and comfort on-board to stimulate the mind and capture the spirits.


SeaDream Yacht Club, operators of mega motor-cruiser, SeaDream I – rated the world's best in boutique cruising – are offering an amazing 55-per cent off the price of a 7-night sailing from Athens through the Greek Islands to Dubrovnik in June next year – making for a perfect escape from our Australian winter.

SeaDream I that carries just 112-passengers served by 95-crew will sail from Piraeus (Athens' cruise port) on June 19 2010 for Mykonos, Santorini, Sifnos, a transit of the historic Corinth Canal, Itea, Parga, and Dubrovnik where there's a night on board using SeaDream as your "Dubrovnik hotel."

Cruise-only prices now start from as low as US$4426pp twin-share including all onboard gourmet dining, wines with lunch and dinner, open bars, nightly cocktail gatherings, use of a 50-course golf simulator and power and sail watersports (in ports where permitted,) onboard gratuities and port charges and taxes… plus take advantage of the current excellent exchange rate against the US dollar.

SeaDream I also has a spa and beauty centre, and despite her high rating guests enjoy smart-casual dress for evening dining with no need for ties, jackets or formal wear.

For more details see travel agents or visit                                                     



Tempo Holidays has released two new Middle East holiday packages, the seven-day Flavours of Abu Dhabi (from $1602 per person twin share) and the 10-day Discover Oman (from $3668).

In the Flavours of Abu Dhabi package, travellers explore the modern city, visit the fascinating falcon hospital where the regal birds of Arabia are treated and experience Abu Dhabi's newest resort attraction at the Desert Islands Resort. Located on Sir Bani Yas Island, the Desert Island Resort offers guests a range of outdoor activities, on Abu Dhabi's only island conservation reserve.

The price includes four nights Sheraton Abu Dhabi (Superior sea-facing room), two nights Desert Islands Resort (Deluxe sea-facing room), six breakfasts, one dinner, selection of activities at Desert Islands Resort, arrival and departure transfers in private sedan vehicle, return transfers from Abu Dhabi to Sir Bani Yas Island, private Abu Dhabi city tour, Sundowner Dune Dinner tour and falcon hospital tour.

Discover Oman presents Oman's contrast of old and new, its culture and history, and an opportunity to interact with the local people. The tour visits some of the most important cultural sites in Oman including Nizwa Fort, Jabrin Castle, Birkat Al Mauz, and the beautiful fishing village of Qurayat. The stunning region of Salalah in Oman's south is also visited. This is where the monsoon rains transform the country into a green oasis.

Accommodation is at the Golden Tulip Nizwa hotel, 1000 Nights Camp, Golden Tulip Khasab, Chedi Muscat and the Hilton Salalah.

The price includes these hotels, transportation in a saloon car/4WD as applicable, services of an English-speaking chauffeur, nine breakfasts, one dinner, all entrance fees, reservation/booking fees, economy class airfare Muscat-Khasab-Muscat and Muscat-Salalah-Muscat (subject to change) and handling fee.

Contact: agents or Tempo Holidays tel 1300 558 987, see, or


APT has free flights to China and Vietnam for some of its tours departing in 2010.

The air deal is for China tour departures April 21-May 5 while Vietnam tour departures December 14-September 27 are covered by the offer.

Package examples are the 13-day Imperial China tour, priced from $6245 per person twin share which includes return airfare and taxes of $250, and the 15-day Indochina Adventure, priced from $6045 which includes return air fare and taxes of $500.

Prices cover touring, cruising, accommodation, local flights, most meals, sightseeing and airport transfers.

The China air deal applies to departures with Cathay Pacific Airways from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Perth while the Vietnam deal is linked to Malaysian Airlines departing from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Contact: call 1300 229 804, visit or see a travel agent.

First class all the way


John Crook

First class all the way

You and your partner get to experience ultimate luxury driving four Ferraris and overnighting upmarket country style accommodation.  The Ferrari experience is per courtesy of Prancing Horse, with you at the wheel driving an F430 Spider, an F355 Spider,  an F60 F1 Spider and a classic 328 GTS. Included in the package is insurance, fuel, twin share accommodation, a day spa for two and all meals, including dinner with wine, and an indulgent stopover in the stylish Sebel Harbourside Hotel in  Kiama.   It's class all the way along the 600  kilometre route taking in open freeway driving, along with stunning coastal and mountain scenery.   The price is $1490 per person twin share or $2980 a couple.  Thank you, Mr Ferrari, I'll catch up with you by visiting and to get more info on the Grand Pacific Drive expect my visit on   Better still, I think I'll call 1300 30 70 50.

Fly, cruise and stay

Travel the Holland America Line on a value packed holiday and include two-night stays pre-cruise in some of Europe's  most sought after luxury hotels.  Even more value   with half day sightseeing tours.  Sailings are between April and October 2010.  By the way,  return airfares and taxes are included from mainland capitals.  The packages include such extras as daily hotel breakfasts,  transfers between airports, hotels and ships, hotel taxes all five-star gourmet dining and world-class nightly entertainment.  Gratuities aboard ships are also included.  And, there's more, so please check out the brochure which is available now by calling 1800 225 656.  Packages range from 12 nights to 22 nights, with prices starting from $5340 per person, twin share.     Visit

Happy birthday Sydney seafood school

Twenty years down the track and following a huge celebratory party earlier this month, the diary is awaiting your reservation in one of the 20th anniversary program of classes which are scheduled from November to February.

Classes can be booked on-line and gift certificates purchased from the website.  Now, there's a real beaut suggestion for Christmas presents.  Best thing to do is to check out the upcoming classes by visiting

Myer window display and Hansel & Gretel

Mebourne CBD is so well known for its Christmas window displays and Carols by Candlelight. This year there's another cultural activity, namely the Opera School of Melbourne's Christmas opera Hansel and Gretel.  Six performances, starting November 29 with an 11-00am showing.   Bookings for the 19th century fairytale opera at   Tickets at $20 with a family pass of two adults and up to four children, $60.

Gone fishin'

A not to be missed opportunity.  A fly fishing experience,- two days fishing in one of the 40 streams in Fiordland of New Zealand, and three nights accommodation, all meals.  Fiordland Lodge is in the very heart of Te Anau.  You will have a fishing guide, fishing tackle and fishing licences. Prices in the shoulder season (November) 2009 (April 2010) from $3300 per person.   Check out the prices for high season.  If they can teach me how to cast then they can teach anyone.  For more information and to make a reservation how about emailing  or contact your travel agent.

* 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  : Ferraris on Sea Cliff Bridge, Wollongong

Monday, 9 November 2009

Best value museum visit


John Crook

Classic Italian style

Sited within a few paces from Hagley Park and the Christchurch Arts Centre, is The Classic Villa.  Arguably this is the finest accommodation in an historic Italian style  boutique hotel.   Peter Morrison and Jan Clarke host guests who choose to stay in luxury.  The historic tram runs past the door. Across the way from the Arts Centre, a few more steps and its Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. Beautifully decorated and with quality facilities. Check the package,- a two-nights stay minimum, and the NZ$199 tariff includes a Mediterranean breakfast, free internet and car park.  Email or visit

Free nights at Whistler

The site of the 2010 Winter Olympics offers a deal well worth considering.   I can't believe this.  Book a maximum of seven nights accommodation at the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Whistler with two-nights free.  There's a choice of either an $800 food and beverage voucher, or a free upgrade to a deluxe room providing you make the booking before November 15 2009. Prices start from $1068 per person twin share and that includes accommodation and a six-day lift pass. The deal is valid for travel from November 1 2009 to February 10, 2010  and again from March 1 until April 30 2010.  Check the conditions and details by  contacting Value Tours on 1300 361 322.

UAE stopover

The brand new Traders Hotel in Abu Dhabi offers a three-day package priced from $689 per person twin share.  The 301-suite hotel is now open and is located just 10 minutes from the airport.  The package includes accommodation, breakfasts, a private city tour, a meet and assist at Abu Dhabi airport handling free and welcome pack, and arrival and departure transfers by coach.  Get in touch with Tempo Holidays on 1300 558 987.

Spotting leopards

There's a tour which includes visiting an elephant orphanage, ancient cities, chances to spot leopards, and so much more culturally.  It's destination Sri Lanka.  Even a touch of soft adventure.  For instance local transport includes train, bus and bicycle.  Accommodation is in simple guesthouses and hotels.  There are departures ex Australia through until December 2010.  The price is from $1269 per person.  For bookings and more information call 134 782 or visit   Check out the terms and conditions.

Women only on this one

Details have been released for a unique womens'-only tour, satisfying the urge to explore the rich beauty, history and culture of India.  Departure date is April 17 2010 and the tour starts and finishes in Delhi. Take a rickshaw through a thriving marketplace, visits to temples and a boat ride on Lake Pichola.  A highlight of course is the Taj Mahal.   Prices start from $6,449  and includes return airfares from Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney.  An Indian domestic airfare, meals and entrance fees as per the itinerary. Travel in air-conditioned transport throughout. Get the facts by calling 1800 102 332 or log onto

Best value museum visit

So you don't think you've seen them all !  I refer to the Wanaka Transport and Tour Museum, in the New Zealand town of Wanaka. It is the most brilliant display, with more than 40,000 pieces of memorabilia.  Ranging from Russian jets, to a Barbie collection of more than 500 pieces. It's a good deal, five huge hangars of items and just $10 admission. Without doubt, the best I've seen.  Nearby Lake Wanaka is also  one heck of a place to visit.  As is the Edgewater Resort.  Not to be missed.

* 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, 5 November 2009

Brides favour Tahiti

Travel Briefs from John Crook for w/c November 2nd 2009. 


John Crook 

Book in November for a discount

The deal is offered by African safari operator Acacia with the first of several specials offering 20% discount on any overland tour departing before January 1 2010.  There are around 18 overland tours from which to choose,- with no less than 80 departure dates.  For instance the 18-nght south west safari offering heaps of wildlife options, great scenery and chances to check out the culture of southern Africa.  With the discount  the price is from $1456 and that also includes a local payment of US$450.  Get the facts by calling 1300 651 583 or visit   

Mary Puglisi and her two chefs

I can still being taste the magic of the Puglisi  cook in the kitchen. It must have been 20 years ago when I sampled chicken Italian style at the Ballandean Estate near Stanthorpe in Queensland.  That same magic reappears with a-'Two chefs and a Cook' dinner on Saturday November 14.  The venue is  the Barrel Room Café.  Cost is $75 per person and that includes a three course meal, glass of wine with each course and a signed copy of Alison Taafe's new cookbook.   Mary is joined by Alison and also 'Outback Matty' (Matthew Mckenzie).  For more information (but be quick about it) call (07) 4684 1226, or visit 

Markets of Tasmania

Tassie is alive with fantastic markets, not the least that which is held each weekend in Salamanca Place. 

On December 6, for those lucky enough to be in the island state the 'designed/made' outdoor market brings together Tasmanian designers into the one space.  That space is the IXL courtyard near the historic Henry Jones Art Hotel.  The display includes all sorts of designers with the creations. Furniture, jewellery, homewares, fashion – waiting for you.  The location is within easy walking distance from the cbd and also the art galleries of Sullivan's Cove and Salamanca Place.  Interested?  Then go visit 

The holiday hotspot

Located just above the equator are the islands of Hawaii.  Not so long ago, including Hawaii in one's travel plans, meant a greater expenditure of Ozzie dollars.  With the current trend in the exchange rate, now is the time to think Waikiki, Maui, Honolulu –and to check on the value packed holiday options go visit

A package of five nights, staying at the Ala Moana Hotel, costs from $394 per person. That price includes five nights for the price of four in a city/mountain view room.  The deal is valid from now through March 31,2010.  Surcharges may apply over the Christmas period, and conditions apply.  For competitive airfare prices visit  
Brides favour Tahiti

Those couples seeking a truly romantic setting to take their marriage vows can look no further than Tahiti.  This way, pre-wedding stresses can be dropped.  The honeymoon location just can't be beaten.  Thousands of Aussie couples view Bora Bora and Moorea as the world's most romantic destinations.   For details of how to tie the knot in Tahiti, check with 1300 655 563.  Stay tuned for a series of wedding packages about to be released.  More information available by clicking onto  
A pie or fish and chips

Air New Zealand is back in town.  Nothing to do with the service, which was great, or the flight itself.  But, full marks to the catering team which was responsible for true NZ cuisine on offer last week.  The choice was simple.  Fish and chips or a gourmet pie.  None of that over-fancy inflight food which some airlines serve.  The humble pie was my choice and it was a beauty!  Most pax followed suit which caused a slight ruffling of the feathers.  I really thought that row 25 may miss out.  Don't know what they had up the pointy end,- I just know that the meat pie award goes to the guys and gals at Air New Zealand. 

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