Monday, 25 January 2010

FRANK FAVORITES: French Winelands, Renault Eurodrive, Surfers Paradise, Historic Alaska, Japan Snow


A WEEK aboard the world's highest-rated boutique motor-cruiser from Amsterdam to Bordeaux, and 6-nights through the French Winelands on a deluxe hotel barge, are the focus of a unique fully-escorted 21-day fly/cruise for just eight couples (or couples and singles) in July next year.

As well there'll be two nights in Amsterdam with a day's tour of the "windmill village" of Zaanse Schans and the famous Alkmaar Friday cheese market, a night in Bordeaux with a day-tour of local wineries, and two nights in Epernay for a day sightseeing and tasting in the Champagne and Reims wine regions.

And this unique fine-cruising, dining and sightseeing package, is rounded-out with return Business Class air from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, and 5-star hotels in Amsterdam, Bordeaux and Epernay.

The 7-night sailing on the 112-passenger SeaDream I visits the French port of Honfleur, Jersey in the Channel Islands, the-once notorious pirate base of Saint-Malo on the French north-west coast, Belle Ille in the Brittany Islands, and ancient La Rochelle, before reaching Bordeaux; drinks from the open bars, and wines with meals are all included throughout the week.

After Bordeaux guests transfer to Dijon in Burgundy from where the just-9-cabin hotel barge Esprit sails to Ouges, Brazny, Seurre, Chalon, Chagny and St Leger with daily escorted (large and small) winery tours and tastings and select other historic sightseeing, including in Epernay. Meals aboard Esprit include regional wines and there will be three gourmet dinners ashore.

Prices start from $31,400pp twin-share ex-Sydney or Melbourne, $31,360 ex-Perth including all meals, transfers, guides, entries and gratuities; phone 1800 083 141 for a brochure or visit


Renault Eurodrive has made self-drive holidaying in Europe in 2010 the best value ever for those who take up its Early Bird offer and book before March 31 for collection any time up to December 31 this year.

Its offering these canny holidaymakers prices actually lower than last year, seven free days use on top of 21-day bookings, free delivery and return at eighteen French cities and airports, and fifty per cent off reduced fees in eight European countries and Great Britain – but warns of the genuine need to get in early as cars are limited and some models run out as the year progresses.

Prices are now down to as little as $1399 for 21-days use of an economic 2-door Renault Twingo, plus the additional 7-days use… and for past customers as far back as 2005, Renault Eurodrive will throw-in a further three days free.

All Renault Eurodrive's vehicles are brand-new ex-factory and come with full insurance that includes no-excess in 42 countries, no limit on the number of kilometres holidaymakers want to travel, and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Thirty-eight models to suit every need include budget 2-door, mid- and family-size sedans, coupes, luxury and estate sedans, and 7-seat people-movers.

No delivery or return fees apply at 19-depots in France, while at 14-other cities and airports in Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland there's 50 per cent off already discounted delivery and return.

The Renault Eurodrive lease program has been operating since 1955 with many models covered by Renault's Five Star Safety rating; see travel agents, phone toll-free 1300 55 11 60 or visit


Iconic 4.5-star Surfers Paradise resort, Towers of Chevron Renaissance, has just released enticing Easter rates for one and two bedroom fully self-contained apartments.

Stay between April 1 and 11 in a one bedroom apartment for four nights for $923 or seven nights for $1,419.

Alternatively, stay in a two bedroom apartment and save up to 24 per cent for four nights at $955 or up to 33 per cent on a seven night stay at $1,475.

Towers of Chevron Renaissance offers three separate towers of luxury with one, two and three bedroom self-contained apartments with stunning hinterland, canal or ocean views and just a few minutes walking distance from Australia's most famous surf beach.

Resort facilities include Beaches in the Sky, a series of lagoons, indoor and outdoor lap pools, sauna, spa, barbecue and lawn areas five levels above the main thoroughfare. There is also a games room, gymnasium and private movie theatre.

Holiday deals are also available from April 12 until June 24 on all room types ranging from $608 for three nights in a one bedroom apartment up to seven nights in a two bedroom superior apartment for $1372 representing a saving of 29 per cent.

Three bedroom apartments between April 12 and June 24 are only $968 for three nights and $2,063 for seven nights.

Additional room types and lengths of stay are available and all rates are subject to availability.

For further information on enticing Queensland holiday deals visit or phone Discover Queensland on 1300 788 553.


A 7-night fly/cruise package to Alaska's most colourfully historic frontier and goldrush towns and settlements in May of this year, is selling through Cruiseco from just $3490pp twin-share, including return air and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The 4-star Norwegian Pearl will sail from Seattle in America's Washington State on May 23 to cruise the famed Inside Passage, Juneau at the mouth of Gold Creek and considered one of America's most beautiful state capitals, and Skagway that was the gateway to the Klondike and still has its rustic goldrush boardwalk streets, frontier shopfronts and historic steam railway.

Norwegian Pearl will then cruise Glacier Bay, visit the quaint village of Ketchikan that today is still less than 5km long and just three blocks wide, and sail to Victoria on Vancouver Island that's home to the world-famous Butchart Gardens, Saanich Peninsula Wineries, and is dubbed The Garden City.

Norwegian Cruise Line's famed Freestyle Cruising is a feature aboard Norwegian Pearl, allowing guests to dine when, where and with whom they wish; the ship has no less than ten restaurants, fourteen bars and lounges, three pools, the first bowling alley at sea, a rock-climbing wall, Broadway-style nightly entertainment, and a 24-hour fitness centre.

There's also a jogging track, tennis court and basketball court, child and teen programs, games arcade, casino, beauty salon and shops. For full details phone 1800 225 656 or visit for details of the nearest of Cruiseco's 170 cruise-specialist travel agents Australia-wide.

More and more skiers and boarders seeking a once-in-a-lifetime powder adventure head to Hokkaido on the northern Japanese island.
 The favourable exchange rate and discounted accommodation currently offered by SkiJapan Travel, has seen the volume of snow enthusiasts return to the  big  numbers of two winters ago.

 After Chinese New Year (when seats on planes are more available) there will be  easier access to affordable, week-long, accommodation and ski lift ticket packages at Niseko, the most popular Japanese powder playground.

Anyone who books a five night stay in Yuki Yama self-contained, western-style, Apartment in the heart of Niseko from 6 March 2010 will be offered two additional nights free of charge.
A seven night package with a six day all mountain Niseko ski lift ticket and transfers from Chitose (Sapporo) Airport costs from $893. The Yuki Yama Apartment complex is located six minutes from the Ace Family lift and is surrounded by restaurants and bars. Each ample-sized apartment has broadband internet access and satellite TV.
SkiJapan Travel can also source well-priced airfares to Niseko via Sapporo and stopover packages at major cities such as Tokyo.
For more details contact SkiJapan Travel on 1300 137 411 or


Cruising the French winelands

Travel briefs for w/c January 25 2010. 


John Crook 

A sub-tropical twist to weddings

Queensland's Cooloola Cove, Tin Can Bay, and Rainbow Beach are the latest to join the 'let's get married' destinations.   Picturesque waterways and scenery to behold,- in fact, a slice of paradise.  The wedding season in this part of the world is continuous.  To assist in the planning of such an important event, first move is to check the Cooloola Coast wedding and functions guide by going to  

Melbourne counting down

Sydnesiders have loved it, with the end of their run in sight.  However, from February 13, Melbourne welcomes in the 10th anniversary of  Mamma Mia, at Her Majesty's Theatre.  Then it's the turn of Perth theatre-goers (June 5 to August 1) and Brisbane starts its season from August 10.   It's a not-to-be-missed show.  Tickets through 

Cruising the French winelands

Check this one out!!  A week aboard the world's highest-rated boutique motor-cruiser, travelling from Amsterdam to Bordeaux,  six nights through the French winelands on a deluxe hotel barge.  These tours focus on a fully-escorted 21 day fly/cruise in July next year.  Prices start from $31,400 per person twin-share ex Sydney or Melbourne.  There's more with this package, including a seven-night sailing aboard the 112 passenger SeaDream 1 visiting French ports, Jersey, the Brittany Islands and on and on, including all meals, transfers, guides, entries and gratuities. Check out the extras.  Business class airfares apply.  Call 1800 083 141 or visit  

Hot summer special

Here's the perfect escape, relaxing aboard a Willandra houseboat for four or more nights in February. An extra night is for free.  For tariffs and conditions contact the operators direct.  To give an idea of costs the tariff for a deluxe houseboat is from $1500 for two adults and two children (under 12 years) for four nights.   

There's such a variety of vessels and options, so it's easy to reserve one which suits your budget, from deluxe, luxury and super luxury.  Call (03) 5024 7770 or email  

Healthy exchange rate

As opposed to the Kiwi dollar we Aussies are reaping real benefits on our currency.  Low cost direct airfares to Queenstown make the shaky isles even more attractive.   Pacific Blue offers two flights a week from Sydney, preparing snow-hounds  for a top season.  Add the ground package and it still makes terrific sense.  A Queenstown package is priced from $489 per person share and in Wanaka a winter holiday is priced from $479 and those prices include seven nights. Subject to change.  Check those packages by ringing (02) 9267 1655 or 1300 136 997. Get ready for a bumper season. 

* 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, 18 January 2010

Valentine’s Day more than a one night stand

Travel briefs for week commencing Mon Jan18-2010 


John Crook 

Africa in Melbourne

The roar of the lions, drums a'beating and several hundred guests in picnic mode.  It could be Africa, but no, it's the Werribee  Open Range Zoo and the Rhythm of Africa.  Each Saturday and Sunday, until March 7, Melbourne based Africans share their music  Out come the picnic baskets, directors' chairs and its party-time.  There is no additional charge for Rhythm of Africa beyond the general zoo admission price. Concert starts at 5.30pm and runs through until 8.45pm.  For more information and bookings telephone (03) 9285 9245 or visit  

Brett and Philippa to host tour

News of a 19-night fly, coach, cruise, rail and stay package is quickly attracting those who have an affinity with South America.  Just 40 Aussies will participate in this exciting tour.  Chile, Ecuador, along with the Galapagos feature in the itinerary.  There are so many reasons why this is one tour which needs to be considered.  It's a five star holiday priced from $13,399pp twin share ex Sydney March 31 next year. Get the facts by visiting or telephone 1300 369 848. 

Coffee commercial training

The coffee set is alive and well.  In Brisbane, followers of  the magic bean can be hosted to a three-hour training session.  Priced at $195pp, each session covers bean roasting, equipment demos, through to pouring and presentation of coffee.  Sessions are held at the Merlo factory in Bowen Hills. For details visit  

Valentine's Day  more than a one night stand

Here's a chance to rediscover romance with some special Valentine's Day packages.   The Red Carnation Hotel Collection will welcome guests with a bottle of pink champagne, a special romantic turndown (the mind boggles), along with decadent  treats such a bowl of chocolate-dipped strawberries.  The special deal is available at each of their hotels throughout the UK.  Check the individual hotels and their offers by visiting  

Visiting Melbourne Saturday February 6 ?

The Victoria Gardens in Melbourne's Prahran offers a free Opera In The Park event, a most delightful way to welcome in the new year.  Carmen, La Traviata, Cosi Fan Tutte and Die Fledermaus – to mention but a few of the works to be featured.   Bring a rug,  picnic supplies and perhaps some sparkling wine for this night out.  No need to book, as it is after all, free entry.  

Six nights in Basque territory

A gastronomic journey awaits with a beaut mix of culinary treats, scenic walks along a 1000 year old pilgrimage trail, history galore,- even a chance to join a cooking class with a local private chef.  The journey departs from Bilboa and into the heart of Basque country.    Prices start from $4,950 pp twin share and that includes six nights accommodation, guided touring, two cooking classes. Dinner with wines at Arzak and most meals.  The tour departs October 11 this year.  More information by calling 1800 460 462. Airfares not included. 

* 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 FAVORITES: Save on Alaska, Dollar Driving Us Overseas


A truly rare 19-night fly, coach, cruise, rail and stay package to South America and the Galapagos Islands in April of next year has an almost regal touch to it – the just-40 Australians who'll participate in this tour will have the personal services during a private 5-star yacht visit to Galapagos of the guide chosen to escort a British royal there several years ago.

Created by founder and chairman of, Brett Dudley and his wife Philippa who will jointly lead the tour, it features 12-nights fully-escorted private-coach touring in Chile, Peru and Ecuador with an English-speaking guide, 7-nights private-charter on the yacht La Pinta to Galapagos with all onboard meals, drinks with dinner, daily lectures and briefings, plus sea kay-aking, Zodiacs, glass bottom boats, snorkelling, a stargazing program – and  that British royal's one-time personal guide, Francisco "Pancho" Dousdebes.

And the visit to Galapagos will coincide with the annual frenetic breeding season of one of the world's greatest single gatherings of bird- and sea-life.

The package also includes a full-day's wine-tasting tour on Chile's Cachapoal Wine Route, and a 2-day visit to Machu Picchu aboard the luxury Hiram Bingham Deluxe Train with private English-speaking guides; there is also a day trip to Valparaiso and luxury hotels are used throughout.

The whole 19-nights is priced from $13,399pp twin-share from Sydney on March 31 next year*; for a fully-detailed 11-page itinerary and inclusions phone 1300 369 848 or visit  *An optional 4-nights to Easter Island is available at extra cost on the way home.


A cruise-tour of Egypt in May in which the emphasis during planning was on style rather than on cutting budgetary corners, will see guests cruising the Nile, staying at the historic Mena House Hotel in the shadow of the pyramids, having another night at the cliff-top Seti I Hotel on the shores of Lake Nasser, and taking 'High Tea' at the fabled Old Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor on the corniche of the Nile.

This fully-escorted 15-day package begins with 3-nights in Cairo with visits to the Cairo Museum and its treasures of King Tutankhamen, the pyramids, mosques, a circa-1382 bazaar and 'Old Cairo' (once known as Babylon.)

Two nights in Luxor includes the Old Winter Palace Hotel 'High Tea' and the rarely-visited by travellers funerary temple of Ramses II with its great pylon, halls and courtyards, and the Tombs of the Nobles.

A 4-night Nile cruise aboard the deluxe Nile Goddess includes the West Bank and the Necropolis of Thebes, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Queens, an excursion by horse and carriage to the 2000-years old Temple of Horus, Aswan's High Dam, and a traditional 'felucca' sail around Kitchener's Island.

The group then flies to Abu Simbel to visit the Temple of Ramses II and that of his favourite wife, Nefertari, a Sound and Light Show, and then on to Cairo to visit the Giza Plateau and stay at the former hunting lodge Mena House… with visits to the pyramid of Khufu, his 'solar' funerary boat, and the Sphinx.

Prices start from $6895pp twin-share ex-Sydney including return economy air, 8-nights in deluxe hotels, the 4-night Nile cruise with all meals, select other meals while touring, and sightseeing as detailed in a brochure available from International Destinations on 1800 044 519 or 


Living the life of a Buddhist monk against the backdrop of centuries old monasteries in Japan's world heritage listed 'temple city' of Koyasan is the latest experiential tour on offer from Travel Japan by H.I.S.

The two-day programs are based on an overnight stay in traditional lodging houses, including the 900-year-old Youchin temple lodging and a slightly more modern Rengejoin temple lodging built around 1600.

The program includes Buddhist training imparted by an English-speaking monk.

This is based on Ajikan, a form of 'Zen' or seated meditation and includes 'Sha-kyo' (drawing and painting images of Buddha), learning how to write 'sutras' (Buddhist text) and meditation methods.

The experience also includes vegetarian meals taken with the resident monks and morning prayers.

Prices start from AUD315* per adult which also includes return transportation from Osaka to Koya-san.

A secondary option combining the monastery stay with a ride on Japan's famous bullet train, is priced from AUD749* per adult.

Located in a valley surrounded by eight mountain peaks, Koyasan is built around 100 temples. The town is a major pilgrimage site for Shingon (Japanese) Buddhism devotees.

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

For more information phone (02) 9267 3333, toll free 1800 802 552 or visit


CruiseMart has an exceptionally rare opportunity in April and May of this year that embraces a 3-night stay in Beijing and a 23-night 5-star cruise from there to China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, Alaska and Vancouver where there's a 1-night hotel stay.

And with flights and air taxes from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane the total-27-nights is priced from just $5399pp twin-share for a departure from Australia on April 27 this year.

Two full days of sightseeing in Beijing include the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs, before joining the 5-star Diamond Princess for 9-nights to Dalian and Qingdao in China, Pusan in South Korea, Russia's Vladivostok and Sapporo (Japan.)

The 116,000 tonne Diamond Princess then cruises to Whittier for a day's visit to Anchorage, a day's scenic cruising of the Hubbard Glacier and another of Glacier Bay National Park, and day-visits to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, and finally Vancouver where there's a day and a night before flying back to Australia.

Breakfast is included each day both in Beijing and Vancouver, lunch during the two full days of sightseeing in Beijing, and all meals are included throughout the 23-night cruise sector; for full details phone toll-free 1300 305 920 or visit


Cox and Kings (India) Ltd., one of the oldest travel brands in the travel and tourism industry, has issued its first brochure for Australian and New Zealand travellers.

At 68-pages it features 33 of Cox & Kings' escorted small group journeys in Africa, Europe, the Far East, Indian subcontinent, Latin America and the Middle East.

While many cover more-popular destinations, the range includes one-country tours such as Romania, Syria, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Albania, Bhutan, Iran and Madagascar; departure dates listed range through from this month to April 2011.

Cox & Kings tours generally use first class four- or five-star hotels, lodges and camps or other "best available." Where a holiday significantly differs from that standard because it is more luxurious or adventurous in its emphasis, it carries the term "Luxury" or "Discovery".

Cox & Kings last year purchased the 20 year-old Australian travel company Tempo Holidays which has chosen tours from the Cox & Kings range best suited to the Australian and New Zealand market.

The small group (10-25 passengers) escorted tours in the brochure are the same as those operating out of the UK and the US, with Australian and New Zealander travellers joining and exiting the tours at gateway cities.

Prices include Cox & Kings-trained English-speaking tour escorts, accommodation, breakfasts (some include lunches and/or dinners), coach, local flights and entrance fees.

Tour examples: eight-day Classic Russia Luxury (from AUD$3825 per person twin share); 15-day Untouched Wilderness Patagonia (from $5866); 14-day Grand Tour of South Africa, (from $6645);  12-day Untouched Wilderness Namibia (from $5150); 14-day Land of Blue Sky Mongolia Discovery Tour (from $4286), 14-day Dragon Kingdom Bhutan Discovery Tour (from $4956); nine-day Japan's Cultural Treasures (from $4803); eight-day Wonders of Egypt (from $1888); 10-day China Experience (from $2316); and 14-day Grand Tour of Northern India (from $3860).

For details phone Cox & Kings Australia on 1300 836 764 or visit

Monday, 11 January 2010

Tosca on the Nile


John Crook

14-night fly, cruise and stay in Egypt

Follow the tracks made by the ancient pharaohs , traders and explorers touring some of the world's most ancient monuments.  Pay up front before January 29 for an extra early booking discount of $800 per couple   To get the full details of pricing and savings it's just a matter of calling 1800 225 656.  The inclusions make this tour such an exciting package.  There's a three-night stopover in Dubai staying at the Hilton Dubai on the way home, with transfers and a half-day city tour.  Two nights in Cairo  at the deluxe Marriott Hotel, and sightseeing highlights including major temples,  the Pyramids, the sphinx, a flight to Luxor and too many memory making  inclusions,- not the least being  a week aboard the most luxurious riverboat on the Nile.  Far too many highlights to include in this travel brief, so I suggest an immediate  visit to for the details.

But first, how about a lesson on coffee?

The Merlo family leads again with a series of lessons on coffee making.  There's a three-hour commercial session, priced from $195 per person.  Or, if time is of the essence, you could try for a Merlo coffee appreciation session, which is an hour-long introduction to the joys of coffee.  Either breakfast or brunch.  The choice is yours Each session includes a light continental breakfast or brunch, a tour of the roasting factory with a short history of coffee, a sample of two origin beans and a Merlo coffee blend.  All this with some extra a forget the sample bag.  Price for the session is $25 per person.  Check it out by visiting

15% discounts on motorhome bookings in Canada

The only catch is that bookings need to be confirmed by January 31 2010. Travelling Canada in your 'own' motorhome is one of the most exciting ways to do-the-trip. Offering  absolute independence is a key feature when travelling this mode.  Vehicles are covered by insurance and may be collected from eight depots including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Prices vary per night between $104 and $295, depending on the season and vehicle type.  If interested ring 1300 302 591 or go visit

The big event for SA

In just six days from now a chance to get up close and personal when cyclists from around the world hit the roads of Adelaide and regional South Australia and the Santos Tour Down Under.   Returning to hopefully retain his crown, is the event is the title winner from last year Allan Davis. He will be part of the Astana team. The Tour Down Under is scheduled from January 17 to January  24.  For all the details go 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, 4 January 2010

Upgrade to outside cabin for free with P&O Asia cruise


John Crook

Welcome smiles in Tanzania

You may never have thought a visit to Tanzania could be in your travel plans,- that is, until now.  Here's the chance to give something back,- travelling into Africa on one of the two departures each month from January through December 2010.  Based in various locations within Moshi, on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro you get to work a flexible program and engaged in tasks such as teaching English, advising on business initiatives, sports coaching and health awareness.  Priced from $1745 per person for a two week placement, this package includes shared accommodation, breakfasts and dinners, airport pickup on arrival date and support of a local in-country team and 24-hour emergency assistance.  To get all the details to help with your decision making, telephone 134 782 or visit

Rare opportunity

Here's news of a cruise over a month, travelling from Sydney to Singapore, via PNG, Micronesia, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Hong Kong and with two full days in Beijing, and of course wonderful Singapore, arriving there on April 15.  There's an enticing bonus by booking an inside cabin and you'll be upgraded free to an outside stateroom with its own private balcony.  Sail aboard Pacific Princess ex Sydney March 14 2010 and over the next 32 nights it's adventure all the way,- but in absolute luxury and comfort.  The price is from $6499 per person twin share.  That includes the upgraded cabin, all onboard gourmet dining, entertainment, port charges and taxes.  OK, so how do we access this tour?  Telephone 1300 369 848 or visit

Tahiti for the kids

And the parents are welcome too! Tahiti's Radisson Plaza Resort now has its own Kids Club, providing all the works for the younger fry whilst at the same time ensuring that Mum and Dad are free to shop, tour or enjoy Tahiti's legendary beaches.    Just a matter of quoting the code 'FAMONO''.  I can't believe the quoted accommodation package price.

Sp, I'm suggesting you check out the details of the offer  for yourself, by visiting or telephoning Tahiti Tourisme on  1300 655 563.  Then get ready for the trip of a lifetime. 

More island escapes

With 300 islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean, Fiji still leads the way with its palm fringed beaches, cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests and escapes everywhere from the pressures of everyday life.   Packages, featuring accommodation at the Outrigger on the Lagoon are available from $407 per person.   It's a five-nights for the price of three deal.    To check on the conditions and the period of sale and travel, go visit TravelOnLine's specialist Fiji website

* 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