Monday, 31 May 2010

FRANKS FAVOURITES: Shanghai, European river cruising, Sleddogging, Eurail, P&O


ALL the colour, buzz and pageantry of World Expo 2010 have just reaffirmed how much a leading light Shanghai is on the world stage.

By the time the curtain is lowered on this six-month long celebration of culture and global achievements on October 31, that 70 million people will have filed through the 130 or more pavilions. That's three times the population of this giant Chinese city, and three times that of Australia.

More than 190 countries and 50 international organisations are represented in a "village" that covers over 5.28 sq kms, one fifth the size of Macau.

"World Expo is much bigger than the Olympics - and it lasts much longer," said Helen Wong, managing director of Helen Wong's Tours, the only private company authorised to sell World Expo tickets in Australia.

"It's the greatest show on earth and it provides a fresh and even bigger opportunity to take THAT trip to China," she said.

In conjunction with the major event, which opened in a blaze of colour on May 1 and will ultimately stage 20,000 events, Helen Wong's Tours has a nine-night Shanghai Word Expo 2010 program which combines four nights in the host city – two days set aside to venture through Expo and marvel over the exhibits - with extra nights in Hong Kong and Macau, price starting at $2980 per person, twin share, including return economy class air fares from Australia and accommodation in first class hotels.

Daily breakfasts, transfers and tours with English speaking guides are also included along with China visa, travel kit, taxes and fuel charges.

Each traveller is provided with a two-day Expo Pass.

For independent travellers seeking a stopover in Shanghai, Helen Wong's Tours has two, three and four-night packages with passes to Expo. This offer also includes airport-hotel transfers with English-speaking guide, transfers to Expo, daily breakfast and accommodation in a choice of four 4-to-5 star hotels.

Land-only price starts at $420pp twin share for the two-night package, from $570pp, twin share for the three-night package, from $730pp, twin share for the four-night pack.

Details: Helen Wong's Tours, 1300 788328 (or see your travel agent),


When ms Amabella began her maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Budapest on May 9, she became the seventh vessel in Australian company APT's Europe river cruising fleet.

While APT introduced European river cruising to the Australian market in 1999, ms Amabella presents a new ship design, the first of its kind. It has cabins with twin balconies (earlier ships have one), the largest suites on the rivers, swimming pool, fireside library and an intimate chef's table restaurant seating only 24 people, complete with private chef.

ms Amaverde, which is scheduled to enter service next year, has the same, innovative design.

The Australian family-owned APT in conjunction with Amawaterways operates cruises between Amsterdam and Budapest on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers with some packages including extensions to Paris, Prague, Edinburgh and London. There are special extensions this year for golf enthusiasts. Packages range from 15 days to 24 days.

APT and Amawaterways have made an investment of $180m in the construction of the eight river ships. The fleet is: Amadagio (launched 2006), Amalegro (2007), Amacello (2008), Amadante (2008), Amalyra (2009), Amadolce (2009), Amabella (2010) and Amaverde (2011).

APT General Manager Marketing, Debra Fox said at the ms Amabella blessing cruise in Volendam that European river cruising had captured the imagination of the Australian traveller.

"Exposure to Europe's fabulous history, cultures and scenery, unpacking just the once, cruising in absolute comfort and with everything included in the price, has proved very appealing to the discerning traveller market in Australia and New Zealand," she said.

APT will operate 50 departures of its main 15-day Magnificent Europe cruise this year (and 64 departures in 2011). While most have been sold out, there are some Category D and E cabins still available. Bookings are strong too for 2011, generated by general demand and by earlybird deals.

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


FALLS Creek in Victoria's high snow country will stage a Classic Sleddog Exhibition Event in the mountains in July.

President of the Falls Creek Classic Sleddog Committee and Event Coordinator, Shaun Butcher said it would be the first time in Australia a sledding exhibition of this type had been staged through an alpine village.

"This style of racing is common throughout Europe, but is new to the Australian race scene," he said. "A course between 3.5km – 4.0km has been designated within the alpine resort, and as this is the first time a sled dog event has been held at Falls Creek, numbers will be limited to 20 teams.

"The exhibition will also showcase the sport of Skijoring. This is where a musher is towed on skis, by 1- to 3-dogs, and by wearing a specially designed harness and using nothing but voice commands, navigates the trail. Considering Falls Creek is one of the top cross-country snow fields in Australia, we are hoping to raise interest from the cross-country community.

"Another exciting aspect is that the initial event will be staged under lights, with the exhibition beginning at 7:00pm on Monday July 5th. Teams will be sent off at one minute intervals with the six dog teams first, followed by the four, three and two dog teams."

Mr Butcher sleddogging has between 500 - 600 members Australia wide, encompassing pure breed clubs, as well as all breeds, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy this sport. "The teams of taking part in the event at Falls Creek will predominantly be Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Alaskan Huskies."


WORLDWIDE rail specialists International Rail are offering two free travel days on a 15-day Eurail Youth Consecutive Pass if travellers hold an ISIC student card.

The Eurail Global Youth Pass can be used throughout Europe by passengers who are under the age of 26 on the first day of their travel.

The Pass has a validity of 15 consecutive days of travel, and must be started within 6 months of the issue date.

It is valid in 21 countries in Europe, including a selection of Eastern European countries such as The Czech Republic.

Offer is valid to purchase until July 31 and is valid for six months from issue date.

For more information contact International Rail at 1300 387 245, email or visit


P&O Cruises has two new short break cruises this August to delight both comedy and food lovers, with headline guests including well-known comedian Tom Gleeson and Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrell.

Departing Sydney on August 26, 2010, Pacific Sun's three-night comedy cruise is designed to leave passengers in stitches as they laugh their cares away with a range of guest comedians and activities on offer including comedy workshops. Comedians on the cruise include Tom Gleeson - as seen on the 7PM Project, Thank God You're Here and Good News Week - as well as Fiona McGary and Mick Meredith.  

Meanwhile, winemakers Bruce Tyrell of Tyrell's Wines and Duane Roy from Glandore Estate will lead master classes on their Hunter Valley wines on a new four-night food and wine themed cruise on Pacific Sun, departing Sydney on August 22, 2010.  Also on offer will be barista classes, cheese tastings with the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, beer gatherings with Matilda Brewery's master brewer Scott Vincent as well as a degustation dinner.

Fares start from just $299* per person, quad-share for Pacific Sun's three-night comedy cruise, and $399* per person quad-share for its four-night food and wine cruise, including accommodation, main meals and entertainment.

Passengers can also enjoy Pacific Sun's wide range of features while at sea, including five restaurants and cafes, a child-free relaxation area, two pools and three children's clubs.

For more information and bookings contact a licensed travel agent or P&O Cruises on 13 24 94 or visit   * Subject to availability. Conditions apply.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Discover Tasmania

Travel Briefs for w/c Mon May 31. 


John Crook 

All good roads lead to Tassie

Tasmania is becoming the first choice of holidaying and arguably will become Australia's top destination.  Look, it's a bit like going on an overseas trip,  full of history, friendly  folk, excellent wines and jolly good dining options.  There is a real professionalism throughout the tourism industry.   Whilst there are a number of five-star options, the good thing about the island State is that there are plenty of well priced accommodation houses on offer.  During the off-season of course there are even better value options. With the way the world is at the moment, why look further than Tasmania ?  To check it out go visit  

Whilst on Tassie

If doing the Midlands Highway,- straight down the middle, cameras at the ready. A thought re accommodation.  In Launceston, the Clarion Hotel City Park Grand (pictured) is a good option, well supported by Hawthorn football supporters whenever the Hawks are playing in Tassie.   Whilst in Launceston include a visit to  tant pour tant, my favourite patisserie.  .Dining at or near Seaport is a recommendation with prices to suit most wallets, fish 'n chips to fine dining.  Or for a barrel of fun try Smokey Joe's Creole café.

Clarion Hotel  -Tel : (03) 6331 7633  

Tant pour tant –Tel : (03) 6334 9884  

Smokey Joe's – Telephone : (03) 6331 0530  
Book before June 30 2010 for discount

Discounted seven-night escapes to a 12th century Tuscan castle are available until the end of June.  The rates are from $803 per room, with up to four people, including seven-nights accommodation (Sat to Sat) in a spacious apartment.

The castle, set in a large cultivated property of gardens, vineyards and olive groves, is owned by the Posarelli family It provides a good base to explore Tuscany and beyond.  Self catering options are available, along with current taxes, maid service and a restaurant offering traditional recipes. Please note terms and conditions apply, so check by calling 1300 558 987 

More Aussie excitement – mush mush

Set aside a few days in July so that you may attend the Fall's Creek classic sleddog exhibition event.  This exciting on-snow event will be the first time a sledding exhibition of this type has been staged through an alpine village.  The course is between 3.5km – 4.0km.  Number of teams participating will be limited to 20.  The teams will be predominantly made up of Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Alaskan Huskies.  The event is scheduled to begin at 7-00pm on Monday July 5th. For more details contact the Falls Creek classic sleddog committee president Shaun Butcher on 0418 885 612. 

Discover Korea

There's a ten-day photographic tour departing Australia October 30th 2010.  Organised by Discovery Australia the tour price is from $3950 per person twin share and will include visits to all the major regions starting with the capital Seoul.  Visit the DMZ area with its tunnel, observatory, unification village and Freedom Bridge.

Sample shopping, cuisine, beautiful scenery, the temples and then get ready to enter the Korea Tourism Organisation's annual photo contest. 

Full details of the ten-day photographic tour may be obtained by emailing  and for more information on Korea how about visiting  

Rail safari resumes

The 12-day Dune Express has been re-introduced, travelling the canyon and desert habitats of Namibia. The journey starts in Johannesburg, travelling west.  Highlights include viewing the wildlife of Etosha National Park.  The tour includes accommodation on the train, breakfast and dinner, airport transfers  and daily sightseeing excursions on air-conditioned vehicles carried on the trail.  Tour costs $3595 per person, with departures ex Johannesburg or from Windhoek on June 22.  Not much time to plan. So get moving. For bookings, inclusions and conditions contact Bench International on 1800 221 451 or visit

Monday, 24 May 2010

Europe, Sydney, Self-drive, Alaska


John Crook 

Strong early bookings

There are upward movements on the charts as far as 2011 European river cruises are concerned, obviously deals on-offer have something to do with the increased interest from travellers.   The deals range from free

airfares (plus pay own airline taxes of $700), no single supplements and $2000 a couple discount across all suite categories  on various departures between July and December.  Check the conditions which include bookings need to be made by July 31 2010.  To get the facts call 1300 229 804 or go visit  

History at every turn

Sydney may have its share of history, as does Brisbane and even Melbourne town, however, let's be honest about it all, nothing compares with the southern most capital of Hobart.   Battery Point, the old pubs, and the historic walks which share stories behind the sandstone buildings,- the smugglers, the brothels and the  characters.      Hobart Historic Tours offer a range of walking tours of this beautiful city.  To make it easy for you, each of the tours are priced from $29.50 per person, with concessions for children.  Really become part of that history, initially by contacting the operators.  Check it out by visiting 

Europe self-drive

There's a fast growing trend towards self-drive holidaying in Europe, with great interest in the very affordable Renault Eurodrive which has just announced a cut of $100 off the previously advertised rates.  For instance the popular mid-size Megane Coupe Petrol 1.4 that now costs from just  $1499 for a 21 day lease, free delivery  and return in 18 French cities and airports. 50% off delivery  and return fees at 14 others in eight European countries including Great Britain, unlimited K's and full insurance  with no excess in 42- European countries.  There are other benefits which should be checked out, also for details of conditions call toll-free 1300 55 11 60.  Full details can be viewed online at  

Experience Alaska

There's so much on offer in Alaska and now there's more, with a last minute #340 discount  on the popular McKinley Explorer tour  from Gray Line of Alaska. Check out the itinerary and the conditions  through Adventure World on 1300 320 795 or visit    There are savings to be made between now and September, bookings and deposit received by May 31 2010. 

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Seadream, Dubrovnik, Fiji Meimei, Europe Christmas, Hawkesbury Luxury,


IF you are a quick decision-maker, and will be in Europe this coming Northern Summer with a spare week up your sleeve, you can give yourself 7-nights aboard the world's highest-rated boutique motor-cruisers through the Greek Islands at savings of up to 61%.

SeaDream I and SeaDream that each carry just 112 guests served by 95 crew, will sail these bargain-value offerings on select dates between June 19 and September 28 with prices including all onboard 5-star dining, wines with lunch and dinner, beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks from the bars, nightly cocktail gatherings, use of power and sail watersports equipment (in ports where permitted,) mountain bikes for shoreside excursions, a 30-course golf simulator, gratuities and port charges and taxes.

And prices that were originally advertised from US$9327pp twin-share are now from US$3926pp. This is for a 7-night sailing on June 19 this year from Athens to Dubrovnik by way of Mykonos, Santorini, Sifnos Island, Itea, Parga, a transit of the Corinth Canal and a night aboard in Dubrovnik.

A reverse sailing from Dubrovnik to Athens on September 11 this year at the same price visits the same ports plus Kusadasi.

Other heavily-discounted 7-night voyages through the Greek Islands depart these same ports plus Venice and Istanbul on select dates between July 3 and September 25; bookings need to be made and paid by June 1 2010.

For full details see travel agents or check-out


BEYOND Travel has just released a last minute special, a saving of $3000 per couple on the small group tour " Croatia and Slovenia By Land and By Sea" from Dubrovnik which includes a seven-day cruise through the Dalmatian Islands aboard the new Pape Prvi boat.

The savings is valid on the group's June 10 departure if you book by May 31.

The 18-day package which begins with two nights in the Croatian capital Zagreb, is a fully escorted tour with an English guide. The itinerary includes a visit to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, excursions to the Istrian Peninsula, Mostar and Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kotor and Budva in Montenegro.

The cruise is in a category C cabin and highlights of the voyage include a visit to the UNESCO –listed Plitvice Lakes, three nights in Dubrovnik and stops in Hvar and Korcula, the supposed birthplace of Marco Polo.

This special offer is priced from $4400 per person twin share and includes cruise, accommodation and meals, sightseeing and transportation, gratuities, return transfers and visitors tax and port charges.

For more details contact Beyond Travel at 1300-363-554 or email


Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji is having to expand the newly introduced Meimei Nanny Service due to its unprecedented success as an affordable childcare service unique to the resort.

The Meimei Nanny Service was introduced on April 1, 2010, with a staff of six nannies who, by April 10, were fully booked on a daily basis well into the future.

Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji General Manager, Peter Hopgood, says he had an inkling that the service would be popular, but results have been incredible.

"The feedback has been extraordinary. Parents love the concept of having a meimei (nanny) look after their children whilst on holidays, so that they can enjoy timeout in the Bebe Spa or by the pool, but they also love the meimeis and the care and cultural education that their children receive," he said.

"Most importantly though, the best feedback we are getting is from the kids – they just love their meimeis," Mr Hopgood said.

The Meimei Service was introduced to provide holidaying parents with affordable child care, eight hours a day from as little AUD$4 per hour, and is being expanded immediately, with recruitment taking place to employ another 12 meimeis in time for the June school holidays.

The Meimei Nanny Service provides daily personalised care and entertainment as part of a package which gives kids aged 6 months to 12years four consecutive days of care for up to eight hours per day for AUD$135.

The service is provided as one-on-one care for children aged 6 months to 2 years and two children per nanny for children 3 years and over.

The Meimei Service is designed to not only be fun for kids but also educational, with the children participating in traditional Fijian arts and crafts, fishing and basic language lessons.

The Meimei Service is also supported by the Outrigger kids clubs, Little Riggers for 3-7 year olds and Beach Riggers for 8-12 year olds, which run three sessions a day and provide a range of fun, age appropriate activities and cultural experiences.

For additional information visit


Fly free to Europe to join APT's November 21 and December 3 departures of its 15-day river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest, featuring Europe's Christmas markets.

The price is from $6675 per person, twin share which includes cruising, meals and exploring 17 cities and villages along the way, including the markets of Regensburg, Passau, Prague and Nuremberg. Air fare taxes of $800 are additional.

APT also has a $300 a couple discount on its 10-day Christmas Time Cruise which includes seven days cruise as well as Prague. It has five departures between November 27 and December 20. These are priced from $3515, or $3365 with the saving.

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

FOOTNOTE: Every December, Germany's most famous Christmas Market, in Nuremberg's Main Market Square, opens its stalls to visitors from all over the world.

The Old Town is dressed in Christmas regalia for Christkindlesmarkt that's steeped in centuries of tradition. The tempting aroma of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds and gingerbread permeates the area, creating an unforgettable atmosphere as around 200 stallholders present their traditional wares at stalls festooned in red-and-white cloth… and earning the market the monicker of 'Little Town from Wood and Cloth'.


STEAL a night away from work and the kids, and take advantage of a mid week stay with friends at the Boat House on Hawkesbury, just an hour and half north of Sydney.

The Boat House is offering an exclusive mid week winter package deal for four people: including one night/two full days accommodation, pre-arranged water taxi transfers, a gourmet 3-course meal prepared on-site by esteemed caterer Manuel Affarian, and a bottle of premium Australian red wine.  Price is $1,500 GST inclusive and is available until August 31, 2010.

"The Boat House combines a beautiful waterfront location with all the comfort of a stylish home," says owner, Loretta Pearson.  "Just a short drive up the freeway, its a million miles from care and ideally suited to a short winter getaway."

Boasting a snug and cosy fireplace, plenty of space to escape with a good book plus an indoor heated swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna, the Boat House has everything you need to beat the winter blues and enjoy time away with friends," says Pearson.

As evening approaches and the temperature begins to plummet, guests can relax in the knowledge that a restaurant grade meal is on its way.  Renowned local caterer Manny Affarian will arrive to prepare a sumptuous 3-course gourmet meal that's sure to delight and will set the dinner party table, serve the meal and clear up afterwards allowing guests to adjourn and relax in front of the fire with a bottle of red and good friends for company.

"Life couldn't get much better than that," said Ms Pearson.

Guests can also enjoy the Boat House's impressive array of facilities including: private river frontage and jetty, massive entertainment deck with heated Jacuzzi, heated indoor pool, fully-equipped kitchen, separate library area and full size billiard table.  Guest suites all boast queen sized beds, ensuite and spa bath with water views or a private courtyard in which to sit and relax.

A wicked mid week indulgence at the Boat House presents only one'll never want to leave!

For availability enquiries or to make a booking phone: +61 2 9985 8505 email:

Monday, 17 May 2010

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Eurodrive, Philippines, Great Barrier Reef, Spain, Hunter Valley


While some car rental brokers are predicting massive price increases of up to 40-50% because of continuing vehicle shortages in Europe following the Global Financial Crisis, lease company Renault Eurodrive says it has no such problems – and in fact has big discounts on vehicles booked between now and end-June for collection in Europe anytime prior to December 31 this year.

"Unlike some rental companies that have been impacted by finance squeezes as a result of the GFC, our vehicles are brand-new ex-factory and we have adequate supply at our disposal," said Renault Eurodrive Australia Managing Director, Paul Hodges.

"Australians are amongst the biggest users of Renault Eurodrive lease vehicles, particularly with the continuing surge of our dollar against the Euro."

The company earlier this month launched its Summer Special Sale which features a Megane Coupe Petrol 1.4 that now costs from just $1499 for a 21-day lease, free delivery and return in eighteen French cities and airports, 50% off delivery and return fees at fourteen others in eight European countries and including Great Britain, unlimited kilometres, and full insurance with no excess in 42-European countries.

As well, anyone who books just one extra day with any 21-day lease (the Megane starts from just $33 a day after 21-days) gets 7-more days for free.

Book and pay by June 30 for delivery prior to 31 December 2010; see travel agents, phone toll-free 1300 55 11 60 or visit where full details can be found online as well as a detailed brochure.


Philippine Airlines and Specialist Holidays have teamed up to offer Australian travellers a tempting choice of tropical getaways priced from as little as $999.

Capitalising on Philippine Airlines' newly introduced flights from Brisbane and a brand new Boeing 777 serving Sydney and Melbourne, the getaways offer some of the most seductive destinations in the Philippine archipelago.

Travellers can choose the life and colour of Manila, the beach resorts of Cebu or the powder white sands and turquoise seas of Boracay.

Packages include:

Manila – Four nights from $999* per person twin share from Sydney or Melbourne or from $1005* from Brisbane, including return flights, four-star accommodation on Manila Bay at the Traders Hotel Manila, breakfast daily and return airport transfers.

Cebu – Five nights from $1199* per person twin share from Sydney or Melbourne or from $1205* from Brisbane including return flights, four-star accommodation at the Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort, breakfast daily and return airport transfers.

Boracay -  Six nights from $1299* per person twin share from Sydney or Melbourne or from $1305* from Brisbane, including return flights, three-star accommodation for five nights at the Red Coconut Beach hotel, one night at the Traders Hotel Manila, breakfast daily and return airport transfers.

The introduction of Philippine Airlines' new 777 has set new standards on flights to Manila, including full-flat beds in business class and seat-back video on demand throughout all cabins.  Serving both Sydney and Melbourne, the 777's recent debut has been backed by the launch of new twice-weekly A330 flights from Brisbane.

*Prices include taxes, subject to availability and conditions. May be subject to seasonal surcharges and change without notice.  Based on special airfares for travel during select periods until November 18, 2010.

For full details and bookings contact Specialist Holidays on 13 19 69.


Orpheus Island Resort, one of the most exclusive hideaways off the Tropical North Queensland Coast is offering the perfect opportunity to escape the southern winter chill with a 'Stay 5 Pay 4' deal saving couples up to $1600.

For a limited time Orpheus Island Resort is offering an extra night for free with a "Stay 5 Pay 4" special offer. Enjoy a slice of your own secluded tropical island on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef in lavish beachfront accommodation starting from $3200 per person twin share for five nights.

The package includes five nights private beachfront accommodation in an Orpheus Retreat, complete with private patio and personal spa, all meals during your stay, meet and greet with fresh fruit cocktail on arrival and unlimited use of motorised dinghies, catamarans, paddle skis, canoes, snorkelling equipment, local snorkel trips, light fishing gear, pools, gymnasium, recreation room, tennis, bushwalking and selected interpretive activities.

This package is valid for travel until 30 September 2010. Subject to availability and conditions apply. Transfers to and from Orpheus Island are not included.

With some of the best snorkelling locations on the Reef, the waters around Orpheus more than 340 of the 350 known species of coral, and over 1,100 species of fish can be found here.

Limited to 42 pampered guests, Orpheus is a sophisticated yet relaxed retreat offering premium service, exquisite cuisine and total seclusion.  Privacy is assured with the exclusion of telephones, televisions, day-trippers, nightclubs or children under 15 years. All guest accommodation is located on the beachfront surrounded by lush tropical gardens.

An a la carte breakfast is served daily and guests can enjoy an alfresco style lunch in the courtyard with views across the beach, or spend a day relaxing on one of the many private beaches with an indulgent gourmet seafood picnic hamper.

In the evening, indulge in Orpheus's famous Seven Course Degustation evening menu, which is adapted every night to provide a unique culinary experience over and over again.

To take advantage of the Stay 5 Pay 4 Special Offer and to make a booking phone (07) 4777 7377 or email

Further information can be found at


VISITS to Andalucian hill villages shaped by the Moors and the ancient Royal cities of Rabat, Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco are features of a nine-day rail journey from Malaga on the coast of Spain now available from Explore Worldwide.

The journey starts in Malaga with the Andalucian Express travevlling through spectacular El Chorro Gorge to historic Ronda to explore the famous nearby white villages.

After crossing by ferry  the Moroccan activities include a visit to  the  ancient Medina of Fez, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the Imperial city of Rabat and the el-Fna market place in Marrakesh.

The package includes hotel accommodation with breakfast, the ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier, all train travel and guided tours of the old cities.

The package costs around $1368, depending on the season, and there are nine departures between September and April 2011.

Explore Worldwide holidays are designed as small group exploratory holidays and range in length from eight days to four weeks. They offer more than 450 itineraries in 120 countries.

Venture Holidays has more information on Explore Worldwide activities at 1300-414151 or visit


FROM Saturday 12 June to Monday 14 June 2010, Hunter Valley Gardens will host the inaugural FlavourFest as part of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Month.

The three day culinary extravaganza will feature fine food, exquisite wine, cooking demonstrations and celebrity guest hosts including Peter Evans, Tobie Puttock and Janelle Bloom, along with inspiring music, flavours and sounds of the Hunter and beyond, all inside Australia's largest and most spectacular display gardens.

Kyle McKendry, General Manager says the even will ensure the June long weekend "is a memorable one for everyone."

The Main Stage

Located in the Lakeside Amphitheatre, the Main Stage will feature a full programme throughout the three days of the festival, including celebrity guests, local chefs and industry experts who will provide cooking demonstrations, and share their stories.

Janelle Bloom – 12, 13 & 14 June

Janelle Bloom is one of Australia's most-loved food writers and one of the original chefs on Network Ten's Ready Steady Cook. She will bring the stage to life with demonstrations, communication, information and fun.

Tobie Puttock – Saturday 12 June

International award winning chef Tobie Puttock worked alongside Jamie Oliver in the hit series 'Jamie's Kitchen – Australia' and appeared in the Lifestyle Channel's FOOD TV series 'Tobie and Matt - Europe and Asia'. He will demonstrate some of his favourite recipes and answering questions.

Pete Evans – Monday 14 June

Respected chef Pete Evans starred in this year's hit series, Network Seven's My Kitchen Rules as an expert judge. Pete's Hugos restaurants have won numerous awards, including a coveted Sydney Morning Herald Chefs Hat seven years in a row. 

In addition to celebrity chefs, cocktail flairing and mixology will be a highlight with the Australian Flair Masters.  World champion bartenders from Goldfish Bar in Sydney and Twisted Liquid, plus many more will compete for the Masters title.

A Marketplace will showcase the best fresh produce, gourmet foods, sweet delights and exotic flavours, and the region's most acclaimed boutique wines and beers will be located in the large Beer, Wine & Cocktail Hall.

At Eat Street guests can go on a culinary adventure with a selection of foods including Thai, Japanese, Peruvian, Turkish, Italian and German and then sit and enjoy Flavours of Music from around the world, including Scottish, African, Jazz and more on the Concert Stage.

The Seminar Stage will entertain all day long with interesting facts from masters in cheese making and wine making.  In addition, Hunter Valley Gardens horticultural staff will be showing off their best fresh garden herbs and vegetables – and will be available to give expert advice to those keen to start their own veggie patch at home.

There will also be roaming musicians, clowns, and balloon art sure for the kids… including a jumping castle, face painting, live kid's shows,  and a Batlow Kids In The Kitchen at which they can learn to make their own apple cup cakes (additional fees apply).

Entry to the Gardens is $22.50 per adult and children 16 and older, $12 for children between 4 – 15 years of age with children 3 years and under admitted free.  For further information regarding FlavourFest at Hunter Valley Gardens (Broke Rd, Pokolbin), call 02 4998 4000 or visit

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Renault Eurodrive lease savings


John Crook

Happiest place on earth – in Brisbane soon

Mickey and Minnie Mouse and their whole Disney family of entertainers hit the ice on June 19 to 20.  They're in town for the latest Disney on Ice presentation, - a Disneyland Adventure.  The venue is the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.   Tickets are currently on sale so, for bookings contact Ticketek, or telephone 132 849.

Holiday package including The Ritz

The holiday begins with a night in the classy Ritz Hotel and then to Southampton to  join the five-star Queen Elizabeth for the next 19 nights sailing to Gibralta, Port Said, Cyprus, Ashdod, Haifa, Rhodes, Athens, Spain and back to Southampton.  The prices start from $6219 per person with savings from previously advertised prices. Get onto this one by  calling 1300 369 848 or go visit  

Christmas In July  !   What, already ??

Take my word for it Christmas this year gets a kick-start at the award-winning Spicers Hidden Vale.  The price per couple is $869 and that includes brilliant accommodation for two nights, full country buffet breakfasts, a special dinner with al the trimmings, in Cotton's Restaurant.  There's a special price for children aged 5 to 12, and also for  guests just wishing to experience the dinner.  Spicers Hidden Vale is a one-hour's drive from Brisbane.  Ring 1300 881 for details 435 or visit

Witness Mary MacKillop becoming a saint

Join the pilgrimage to celebrate the occasion.  Rates from $670 per person, twin share and that includes three nights in a standard room, buffet breakfast daily, private transfer from hotel to St Peter's, a Vatican museum tour, an illuminated Rome tour and admission to the canonisation ceremony.   That rate does not include flights, nor does it guarantee a seat.  For more details and conditions contact your travel agent or visit  

A nine-day rail journey

Join the train at Malaga to the coast of Spain, visiting the  Andalucian hill villages, the ancient royal cities of Rabat,  Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco.  The package starts from $1368 per person twin share, depending on the season.  There are nine departures between September 2010 and April 2011. Check this one out by contacting Explore Worldwide on  1300 414 151, or visit

Massive price increases ?

That's just not the case when booking a Renault Eurodrive lease vehicle.  Phone toll-free 1300 55 11 60, book and pay by June 30 for delivery prior to 31 December 2010 and check out the deals, prices, savings and conditions.   From my checking around, talking to past clients and travel agencies this is one heck of a deal,- and you are assured of a brand new ex-factory vehicle with unlimited kilometres, full insurance and with no excess in 42-European countries.  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 

ENDS   Visual of Renault EDrive Menage

Monday, 10 May 2010

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Motormania, NZ Heli-Golfing, Win an Adventure, Port Douglas


A new motoring event planned for Rockhampton and Gladstone from 16 to 25 July promises exciting activities across a wide spectrum of motor sports for both enthusiasts and visitors to Central Queensland.

Chairman of the Camco MotorMania CQ Committee, Ian Loxton says the event has been two years in the planning and brings together 18 separate motorsport organisations in the two centres.

"Competitions and displays will include street sprints, rallying, off-roads, speedway, drags, motocross, enduro karts, show and shine expos, specialist swap and car boot sales and an extensive trade fair," Ian said.        

"There will be something for everyone so you don't have to be a dedicated motor aficionado to come and enjoy. Visiting tourists will also find plenty to catch their interest here in Central Queensland."

Chief Executive Officer for Capricorn Tourism based in Rockhampton, Mary Carroll says her organisation is right behind the initiative. "This is clearly another major  Event-Tourism project for Central Queensland which will add to the depth and diversity of the activity-based tourism industry here in CQ.

"We have proven in the past that we can all put on a great event and the Camco MotorMania CQ will be up there with the best of them over the coming years."

Loxton and his committee already have plans for future expansion of the Camco MotorMania CQ over the next few years to include a Hall of Fame which will honour the contribution of local and national motoring and motor sporting personalities.

Preliminary estimates of visitation to CQ during the MotorMania CQ programme of events this year put the number of intrastate and interstate event-visitors and participants at around 20 000. Further details at


A FEW rounds of golf in New Zealand takes on new meaning with a package through that'll have you cruising 5-days aboard a luxury expedition ship that takes just 20-guests – and for 18-holes of golf on three of those days, transfers to Championship courses by the ship's own helicopter.

For partners not into golf, there'll be the choice of optional guided shore excursions, or fishing with an onboard professional fishing guide.

Adding to this "lifestyle of the stars," you'll be transferred from Auckland airport by private vehicle to the luxury Sebel Suites for a night pre-cruise including breakfast, enjoy private luxury coach transfers to and from the Bay of Islands for your cruise, and then another night at the Sebel Suites and private airport transfers for your flight home.

This unique package on February 5 next year sees guests join motor-catamaran Island Escape in Whangaroa for 5-nights cruising the Bay of Islands with 18-holes of golf at each of the Kauri Cliffs Golf Course, Carrington Golf Club and Waitangi Golf Club's championship courses… including the helicopter transfers, green fees and cart hire.

All a-la-carte dining aboard Island Escape is included, and on the final day in the Bay of Islands choose from a free gourmet picnic ashore, beachcombing or exploration trips, kayaking, swimming or fishing; even on the way back to Auckland there's a stop at the Gulf Harbour Country Club for a last 18-holes.

Price starts from $5399pp twin-share including return air and taxes from Sydney, above inclusions, use of ship's tenders for line or game fishing, Sea Kayaks and snorkelling equipment, and free coffee, bottled water and juices.

 For full details phone 1300 369 848 or visit           


Adventure World is offering Australian consumers the chance to win one of three Dragoman overland trips to Asia, Africa or South America.

Entrants must simply complete a registration form on the Dragoman website, by May 31. Entry is free and there is no requirement to purchase any product.

The prizes include:

 . A 26-night journey through India visiting cities such as Chennai, West Bengal, Darjeeling, Sikkim and Nepal.

. A 21-night Africa overland adventure through Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa to see some of  Africa's diverse wildlife

. A 28-day trip through Peru, including a seven-day hike in the Inca Heartland.

All Dragoman Overland journeys include land transport in purpose-built vehicles, tolls, ferry fares and taxes, entrance fees, services of well-trained crew and overland back-up and logistical support.

Dragoman tours have been operating for 28 years and use fully equipped overland vehicles and provide crew, cooks and local guides for the tours it operates in countries on every continent.

Dragoman specializes in overland adventure travel, which combines the touring aspects of a region with community projects which give travelers a close insight into cultural aspects of the region concerned.

More details contact Adventure World on 1300-320-795 or email


Bokissa Private Island Resort is the only hotel or resort in Vanuatu to feature in popular TV travel show Getaway's just-announced list of the 50 Best Hotel Rooms in the World.

Properties in the program ranged from the world's most expensive, those with the best penthouses and best views, to what the program rated as the world's best villas, wilderness resorts, lodges, 'old school retreats' and the best over-water resorts in "big cities, on tiny islands and everywhere else in-between."

Presenter Kelly Landry referred to Bokissa Private Island Resort's sixteen farés as "having absolute beach frontage and are air-conditioned if the nights are a little too balmy for comfort... (and have) ensuite, vanity and mini-bar and can be configured from single accommodation up to quad-share."

And she said the 25m freshwater pool with swim-up bar was the resort's centrepiece, with "the upper deck providing sea-gazing during the day and star-gazing at night," and that on Bokissa "shoes are optional, jackets and ties are not allowed, and meals are served to the toll of the island drum."

The 70ha rainforest, beach and reef resort is a 20-minute private boat trip from Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu's north, approximately 55-minutes flying time from capital Port Vila.

For information about holidaying on Bokissa Private Island Resort see travel agents or visit

ADDITIONAL ISLAND INFORMATION: The family-owned Bokissa Private Island Resort provides a luxury island holiday experience for those simply seeking to escape the rat-race, honeymooners and scuba-divers – its coral reefs are considered the most accessible, luxuriant and undisturbed shallow water reefs in Vanuatu, and unequalled in most parts of the South Pacific.

Dining features the freshest seafoods, famous Santo beef (that's exported to Japan,) and garden-fresh vegetables and fruits. There's diving, snorkelling, sports fishing, kayaking, spas, rainforest walks, bird-watching, a big selection of beach and board games and facilities and internet.


Autumn and winter are ideal seasons to enjoy tropical north Queensland with on-line travel specialist Discover Queensland offering discounts at six leading properties in Port Douglas including Sea Temple Resort and Spa, Mercure Treetops, Peppers and Mantra resorts.

Seven nights in a one bedroom apartment at The Heritage Port Douglas, a four star property a short walk from the wharf and Four Mile Beach is $900, a discount of 28 per cent.  Alternately, four nights in a one bedroom apartment is $540.

Located on the secluded beachfront of Four Mile Beach, the luxurious five-star Sea Temple Resort and Spa has hotel rooms for four nights for $750, and four nights in a one bedroom apartment for $1050, a discount of 25 per cent.

Two bedroom apartments are $1290 and three bedroom $1590 for four nights.  Designed with the utmost luxury and relaxation in mind, Sea Temple centers around an expansive lagoon pool and island bar.

The deals are available for travel until June 30 and from October 16 - December 18 and January 5 – March 31.

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

Introductory Specials from Philippine Airlines


John Crook 

A special food and wine occasion

Set aside the weekend of May 15-16 and head the car towards the Clare Valley, for the 2010 Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend.  Wineries across the region have teamed up with Adelaide based restaurants for one heck of a weekend.  A highlight is a vintage tasting  where winemakers and members of the public share in good food and good wine.  To get more information go visit    

NZ awaits with a February 5 golf event

Five nights aboard the Island Escape includes golf  at each of the Kauri Cliffs, Carrington and Waitangi championship golf courses featuring helicopter transfers, with a-la-carte dining aboard the motor-catamaran Island Escape.  For the partner who may bot be as crazy about golf as yourself, there are optional guided shore excursions, through fishing with an on-board professional fishing guide. The price starts from $5399 per person, twin share and that includes return air and taxes from Sydney.  There's plenty more to make this package an exhilarating experience, so for the facts call 1300 369 848 or visit 

New introductory flights

Philippine Airways has introduced flights from Brisbane with twice-weekly A330 flights and a brand new Boeing 777 serving Sydney and Melbourne, for travel into three seductive destinations. Try Manila, four nights from $999 per person twin share, with accommodation at the four star Traders Hotel Manila, with breakfast daily. 

Whilst at it, also check out the five nights package to Cebu, and the six night package from $1299.   Full details and info on what's included, contact Specialist Holidays on 13 19 69. 

Copenhagen – it's time to visit

It used to be a high priced destination.  Now it's become much more competitive.   Bentours has a range of tours and advice on the best places to stay.   Perhaps a good place to stay in the capital would be the three-star Alexandra Hotel which offers daily rates from just $138 per person, twin share and that includes breakfast.  Tours also aplenty, such as a tour of the Danish capital including a 2.5 hour Grand Tour,  visiting the major sites from $54 per person.  Keep an eye out for our favourite Princess, Mary from Tassie.  For all the info go call  1800 221 712 or visit  

Where is Tallinn ?

Check it out and you  could not only learn where this place is, but you may also benefit from an extra free night's accommodation, subject to your booing one of the selected departure dates in June or July.  Tours include a 10-day Baltic Impressions  round trip from Tallinn.   Priced from $1303 per person twin share, with bookings made prior to June 30 2010.   OK, go for it!  First up is to ring 1300 363 554. 


Visual :  to go with Philippines report.  Boracay

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: NZ Cruising, India, Wine Cruise, Russia, Mary MacKillop


WITH the growing interest in television programs on "collectables" and their value, Wings Away Travel and Cruiseland has a 14-day cruise holiday aboard the luxury Dawn Princess to New Zealand, that includes a unique six days of tours designed just for collectors, plus onboard discussions, valuations and quizzes with two of Australia's top experts in antiques, art and collectables.

Dawn Princess will sail from Melbourne on March 24 next year, visiting Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Features  will range from major city art galleries to quaint village stores with their own collections of art, antique jewellery and furniture, unique bric-a-brac shops, one of the country's oldest European heritage sites, the art deco city of Napier, and an old Spanish Mission.

There'll also be the opportunity to see toy-soldier makers at work, talk with antique dealers, take a ride on Christchurch's historic tram and visit its Antigua Boat Sheds, and see New Zealand's only castle, the Neo-Gothic Larnach outside Dunedin.

During time at sea, experts Amanda and David Freeman will conduct panel discussions and valuation sessions on things of historic and collectable value.

Price of the 14-day cruise that will be escorted by Wings Away's Tour Manager, Maree McClelland begins from just $2930pp twin-share including all onboard dining and entertainment, six days of tours, a $100pp onboard credit, and taxes and gratuities.  For full details freecall 1800 800 640 or visit

ADDITIONAL SHIPBOARD INFORMATION: Dawn Princess features a traditional International Dining Room, four Anytime Dining restaurants, a 24-hour buffet and has two Specialty dining venues (cover charges apply here.)

There are seven bars and lounges, a patisserie, ice cream bar, pizzeria, a hamburger and hot dog grill, and daily traditional afternoon tea.

Other facilities include four pools, five whirlpool spas, a spa, gym and fitness area, nine-hole putting course, virtual golf simulators, jogging track, shuffleboard and centre court and art exhibitions.


ADVENTURE World has just released a special four-day package for visitors to the Commonwealth Games in India later this year.

Take advantage of being in this amazing country during such an exciting time to see some other areas of India either before or after the Games.

The tour is a round-trip road journey from Delhi to Agra (along the way you will visit the city of Sikandra famous for housing the tomb of the greatest Mughal emperor Akbar) to visit the world famous Taj Mahal and the well-preserved Agra Fort. The tour then continues to Jaipur, the pink city, one of India's key cities in the Golden Triangle, for two nights and visit the many palaces and forts for which it is famous, then take an elephant ride to reach the Amber Fort.

The package costs from $437 per person twin share and includes three nights accommodation with daily breakfast, private car and driver, sightseeing with an English speaking guide and entrance fees.

It is valid for travel between September 1 and October 31.

For more details contact Adventure World on 1300-320-795 or visit


HERE'S something new for cruise buffs who like their food and wine: when she debuts in January 2011, Oceania Cruises' new Marina will feature La Reserve by Wine Spectator, a spot where guests can learn about and sample fine wines selected by the connoisseurs at Wine Spectator magazine.

This new wine-tasting centre will be home to a series of educational seminars and tastings so guests can better appreciate the nuances of the varietals in the regions where Marina sails. On select evenings during each voyage, seven-course, gourmet tasting menus paired with fine wines will also be offered; although there will be no charge for the food and service, wines will be additional.

Situated atop the ship on Deck 12, La Reserve sports a sophisticated, yacht club décor with seating for just 24 guests as well as an al fresco patio boasting panoramic views. As part of the pioneering partnership, the wine list in the ship's Grand Dining Room will also feature daily red and white wine recommendations from magazine editors, all perfectly paired with the evening's menu offerings.

"Oceania Cruises is excited to launch this industry-first enrichment program in cooperation with Wine Spectator magazine," said Bob Binder, the line's president. "Complementing our acclaimed cuisine with the ideal wines is the ultimate enrichment for our gourmand guests.

"The team at Oceania Cruises is comprised of food and wine aficionados," said Marvin Shanken, CEO and chairman of Wine Spectator. "We are proud to be working with them to provide a wine experience that befits the finest culinary experience found at sea."

Oceania Cruises' new Marina features a total of 10 dining venues – six of which are open-seating, gourmet restaurants – including one by Master Chef Jacques Pépin. Facilities also include a Canyon Ranch® SpaClub and gymnasium, Bon Appétit Culinary Center, swimming pool and hot tubs. For information or a brochure to get you thinking about booking, see travel agents, visit or call (02) 9959 1370.


BEYOND Travel has released a new discount offer of $500 per couple on the popular locally escorted Highlights of Russia tour for a selection of departures this year, when you book and pay by May 31.

The price of the eight-night itinerary is now from $3050 per person. Discount applies to guarantee departure dates on July 16, August 13 and September 10.

The tour of the Kremlin, a visit to the Hermitage Museum and a cruise along the canals of St Petersburg and two days devoted to touring the ancient Golden Ring cities of Vladimir, Suzdal and Sergiev Posad are all part of the itinerary.

The price includes all accommodation in centrally located first class hotels, most meals, coach and rail transport, extensive sight seeing with local English-speaking guides throughout, all gratuities and return airport transfers.

For more details contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email


Reserved seating in St. Peter's Square for the ceremony, Mass at Mother Mary MacKillop's favourite church in Rome (the Church of Saint Ignazio), the Christians-in-Rome half-day tour and a tour of the Vatican Museum and St Peter's Basilica are among the core features of three six-day packages released by Australian travel company Icon Holidays for the Canonisation of Mother Mary MacKillop in October.

The packages also include return economy airfares from Sydney or Melbourne and central Rome hotel with breakfasts.

"Dinner with the Tenors" (including four-course meal plus wines and soft-drinks), private celebratory dinner in honour of Saint Mary, private welcome cocktail party, higher standard hotels, private arrival and departure transfers and meet and greet service are some of the elements added in two of the packages.

Prices are from $3,499.00 a person twin share (silver), from $3,918.00 (gold) and from $4,971.00 (platinum) which cover relevant features above, and air taxes.

Packages are for October 13-18.

Icon Holidays also has pre and post-canonisation packages -- an eight-day Lourdes to Paris Pilgrimage package (from $2,541.00) for October 6-13 and a six-day Assisi, Modena, Florence and Milan Pilgrimage package (from $1,816.00) for October 18-23 -- which can only be purchased with a canonisation ceremony package.

Contact: Icon Holidays Tel: 03 9810 7666, see or see travel agents.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Bentours Antarctic Cruise


John Crook

Creswick mine disaster

A real life adventure awaits those who include Ballarat's Sovereign Hill in their travel itineraries. Trapped is the latest attraction, so well produced, - in fact, a moving experience which is an add-on of just a few extra dollars to the entrance price.  Take my word for it and be sure to book your ticket for this underground mine exhibit. The mine disaster occurred 130 years ago and its recreation through a dramatic story moves even the toughest amongst us.    For details and bookings  go visit    Telephone (03) 5337 1100, or email    

More Australian options

There are savings of up to $450 a couple on bookings for the Tasmanian holiday season, providing bookings are made prior to July 30 2010. The deal price on the 12-day Royal Tasman Premier escorted tour is $4120 per person (normally $4345).  The travel highlights include the island's main attractions and one of the 21 meals included is a special crayfish dinner at Port Arthur.  Touring, cruising hotels and entrance fees form part of the package.  Solo passengers can also benefit with savings of up to 50% on their single supplement.   Check it out by visiting or call 1300 229 804.

Samba parades part of five-night package

Spectacular costumes, and music aplenty entertain those who have booked for the next Rio De Janeiro carnival.  The price tag is from $1299 per person twin share.    

Accommodation, with bed and breakfast, is at the Plaza Copacabana hotel which is just fifteen minutes from the beach.   Several tours are included in the package with private return airport transfers.   Sambadrome tickets are not included in the package but are available on request. You can make bookings which are for sale until October 31 2010 and available for travel between March 4 and 9, 2011.  International airfares not included.    Get the facts and conditions by calling 1300 320 795 or go and visit  

A tour to end all tours

That's the opinion of those who have  checked the facts on a 17 night rail, cruise and accommodation adventure, over 7,800 kilometres.  Departing Hong Kong, the luxury package traverses so much of China and concludes in Tibet. Prices start from $18,915 per person twin share. Eight nights will feature aboard the private train Shangri-La Express.  Check out the features by ringing 1800 044 066.  International airfares are not included. 

In the footsteps of Mawson

The wonderland of the Antarctic awaits. Grab the 16-page brochure which is full of escapes into the untouched Antarctic, home of glaciers, remote settlements and wildlife havens.  The Antarctic Discovery package is just one example of what's on offer. Thirteen days with highlights including a tour of  Buenos Aires, Drake Passage and the South Shetland islands.  The prices start from $7832 per person, twin share.  Conditions apply. Take time off to get the full story and telephone 1800 221 712 or go visit 

Visual  torres del paine.