Monday, 12 December 2011

Royal Clipper - India Tour - Travel Insurance - Accor Brisbane - Luke Nguyen Tour


CRUISE passengers on the tall ship Royal Clipper will have more chances to spot whales and dolphins and delve into the mysteries of marine biology in the Caribbean next year.

Star Clippers, operators of the world's largest fleet of luxury sailing ships Royal Clipper, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, have appointed Spanish-born Laura Del Rio Torres as marine biologist-in-residence for the 2012 Caribbean season aboard Royal Clipper.

A graduate of universities in Barcelona and New Jersey, Laura will give talks on marine wildlife, operate a daily whale and dolphin watch, lead beach walks and join guests on dives. She will also continue studies of the environment in which Royal Clipper sails.

Royal Clipper spends nearly five months a year (November to April) in the Caribbean sailing from Barbados on mainly seven-night cruises.

Owner-operator of Star Clippers, Mikael Kraftt, said: "We at Star Clippers are passionately committed to preserving the environment and by offering more opportunities for our guests to learn and get involved, we hope to pass on our enthusiasm."

For reservations contact travel agents or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or visit


HOLIDAY Specialists has a genuinely out-of-the-ordinary very-small-group travel experience to India in November 2012 that will include not only luxury hotels and sightseeing in Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaislamer and Agra, but the colourful and highly-unusual Pushkar Camel Fair – one of the world's largest tribal gatherings with events ranging from camel racing and horse dancing, to musical performances and seldom-seen cultural programs.

Limited to just sixteen guests this exclusive package also includes an Australian escort, pre-departure Cocktail Party in Sydney, a Welcome Dinner in Delhi, a Gala Dinner at Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur, a Farewell dinner in Agra and a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal, and a 2-night stay in deluxe tents in the heart of the Pushkar Fair Grounds.

There'll also be 2-nights at the Dera Sand Dune Retreat in Jamba in the Rajasthan Desert, the world's first resort built on a sand dune.

The 16-day luxury package is priced from $5,897pp twin-share including return air and taxes from Sydney. For full details call Holiday Specialists on 1300 783 852 or visit

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The annual 5-day Pushkar Camel Fair attracts up to 300,000 tourists and tribes people, with 20,000 camels, cattle and horses brought in to participate in races, camel and horse dances, camel decorating, traditional tribal games and cultural programs from dancing to turban tying.

Thousands of those attending also bathe in Pushkar Lake during the full moon that coincides with the Fair – believing that bathing during the full moon will release them of their sins.


ALMOST 40 per cent of Australian holidaymakers fail to buy their travel insurance until a week before their holiday, putting themselves at financial risk, according to leading online travel insurance company Travel Insurance Direct (TID).

While travellers often purchase their airfares up to a year in advance to secure a bargain, research shows travel insurance was being pushed down the list and bought much later, TID spokesman Graham Kingaby said.

"Many unforeseen issues, from airline strikes to floods, can jeopardise your holiday plans at the last minute. And if disaster strikes before your holiday and you haven't bought travel insurance, you'll lose your cash as well as your vacation."

Mr Kingaby said TID's research showed around two-thirds of travellers bought their insurance in the four weeks before they travelled, with almost 40 per cent waiting until the final week before departure.

"Travel insurance isn't a last minute bargain – you get the best benefit by purchasing early, as soon as you book your flights.

"In the case of the Icelandic volcano eruption in April 2010, which led to an estimated 300,000 flight cancellations, travel insurance exclusions on cancellation and delay came into effect the day after the eruption.

"Those who had bought their insurance before the eruption were fine. But anyone planning to travel in the week after the volcano erupted who didn't already have travel insurance, would have been cursing their tardiness."

And travel insurance, he said, was far cheaper than most holidaymakers believed. "A single person's policy for a week in Bali is about $40. When you consider the cost of losing your luggage or having to seek medical treatment overseas, that's clearly money well spent."



ACCOR'S Novotel, Mercure and Ibis hotels have slammed down their rates during the 2012 Brisbane International Tennis Tournament.

The Brisbane International which will be held from January 1-8, 2012 at the Queensland Tennis Centre will attract some of the world's best international tennis stars including Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic and Australia's own Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic.

Accor Brisbane hotels are offering unbeatable accommodation rates during the Tournament: until the end of January it has a Summer Special 'stay a little longer, save a little more' where tennis fans staying two or more nights will save 10% and receive a free breakfast.

Head to Novotel Brisbane for rates from $179 per night, Mercure Brisbane from $159 per night, or the Ibis Brisbane from $139 per night.

To book call Novotel on 07 3309 3309, Ibis on 07 3237 2333 or Mercure on 07 3237 2300 or visit

Rates are subject to availability and conditions apply.


CELEBRITY chef Luke Nguyen will lead two food-themed APT 19-day Vietnam and Cambodia Signature Experience tour-cruises next year, one on June 30 and the other on December 29.

Luke Nguyen is famous for his SBS cooking show "Luke Nguyen's Vietnam", his cook books and his world-renowned Sydney restaurant Red Lantern. He will be with the tour over 10 days.

Among the Nguyen-inspired experiences on the Hanoi-to-Siem Reap itinerary are sampling authentic homemade Pho from a side-street stall in Hanoi, a vegetarian banquet lunch at Dong Thien Pagoda nunnery in Hue, a class-lunch at the Morning

Glory Cooking School in Hoi An and in Saigon, exploring the local neighbourhood of his family, a cooking class based on his menu with matching wines and a Red Lantern-style degustation dinner with matching wines.

Following the Saigon cooking lesson, a professional mixologist, using ingredients such as tamarind, lychee, chilli and lemongrass, explains the art of creating Asian-inspired cocktails.

The price of this holiday is from $8395 per person twin share, which includes the above experiences, another 44 meals, five-star hotels in Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and Siem Reap, overnight sailing on a Ha Long Bay junk, eight days cruising on the Mekong River on the new luxury APT-owned RV AmaLotus, small group shore excursions, city tours, internal flights, port charges, tipping, soft drink, local beer and spirit at all times during the cruise as well as regional wines with lunch and dinner on the RV AmaLotus.              

As APT's Ambassador for Vietnam, Luke Nguyen also recommends city restaurants for APT's Dine Around Dinner concept, which provides dining choices covered by the tour price.

APT's package includes free return flights deal for bookings made before March 31. Call 1300 229 804, visit or see a travel agent.

Chelsea Flower Show - Ski Japan - Irish Spirit

12 Dec 11


John Crook

Grabbed around gardens
Once I was the first to escape gardening tours, that was until a good friend of mine, Colin Campbell persuaded me to 'let the aromas float in'.  These days there are plenty of quality garden tours on offer.   Departing from London, on May 19 2012, I just may be doing that with the departure of a small group  touring some English gardens including the best known of all gardens, - Chelsea.  This is part of a 7-day Chelsea Flower Show and the Gardens of Kent and London.   Check out the itinerary, prices and some of the finer points of this garden tour, by ringing 1300 100 410. The tour in question looks like being one of the best in this upcoming year of flower shows.

Plenty of snow around
At last report the snow at Nesko is feather light.
Japan's Niseko is renowned for top quality which has blessed the fields of Japan.  There is so much good news these days, it would be a shame if you do not pay a visit.   Rod White of SkiJapan has a daily information (and honest) report for your viewing.  Just visit

40 passengers on Irish Spirit
Here's one of the  current Irish hols on the market. The magical Emerald Isle's stunning scenery awaits. No need for me to  try to talk you into consider checking this one out.  It has Ireland written al over it.  The real Island !! Go visit or telephone 1300 558 987.

* 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.  

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Monday, 5 December 2011

Red Carnation - Best Bakery - Sovereign Hill - Pacific Arts Festival - Globus US

John Crook
Red Carnation
This group of high end hotels includes '41' in London. It is a discreet haven for comfort and style.  There is a great offer in the regards to packages.  An offer is available for those who book a Magical London deal which is inclusive of so many goodies,- quality goodies at that. Two nights accommodation, a warm drink on arrival, a full English breakfast daily, a festive afternoon tea (not available December 25), a festive turndown treat at bedtime, free movies, a 6.00pm checkout on day of departure, and for guests staying on Christmas Eve a stocking full of delightful surprises. For all the details go visit
My best baker recommendation
I judge the places I visit by the quality of the town's local bakery, or rather the baker's breads. Naturally enough, there is some difficulty to do justice to the hundreds of bakeries in this country, you will just have to leave it to me to be as fair as possible.  Until I find better I'm putting my hand up to salute the Romsey Bakery, in the tiny village of  same name.   In most cases, particularly at weekends, the 'sold out' sign is displayed  before 11.00 in the morning.  Romsey is north of Melbourne,- and is well supported by air crews who call Romsey 'home'.  The pies and treats are also in first class mode.
But first, it's Ballarat
Let's take in Sovereign Hill (part of the Ballarat scene). Every day from December 26  until January 28 2012, Sovereign Hill will host fun filled activities. New theatre performances, treasure hunts, underground tour, music and art are all part and parcel just waiting for you and the kids.
For all the details grab control of your computer and go visit  or telephone (03) 9836 2167
11th Festival of Pacific Arts

Honiara is the location for the 11th Festival of Arts  between July 1 to 14 2012.  Featuring 2,500 performers, artists and Cultural practitioners from 27 countries.  The fist thing I would be pursuing is availability of accommodation, which I imagine would be in great demand.  For all the details on travel, accommodation and cultural activities (watch this space), or Google 11th Festival of Pacific Arts.
Globus and Cosmos have formed a partnership with US National Parks which allows special exclusive deals in America's pristine wilderness. Every passenger from Australia makes a charitable donation. In return the tour groups of Globus and Cosmos have access to accommodation within the spectacular national arts including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as well as special tour experiences such as four-wheel drive adventure through Monument Valley, with a Navajo guide.  Wowee !!!   Contact your travel agent of go visit or
* 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.   

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Castlemaine Victoria - Cape York 4WD tour - Christmas Cruise - Morocco

28 Nov 11
John Crook

A dining experience like no other
A recent visit into the central Victorian city of Castlemaine gave me the chance to join locals at The Good Table.  This is one of the best restaurants I've included in my Central Victorian travels. Their six course tasting menu' is on offer at just $50 a head.  Beverages are additional. Each month Chef Alex Perry orders in local produce for his menu.   November for example included eggplant and zucchini flowers from Dragi, Diggers Rest; tomato and stone fruit from Uncle George Harcourt; Butter from the Myrtleford Butter Factory; goats cheese  from Holy Goat Organic Farm, Sutton Grange; and on the list goes.  December will have a different list of local inclusions, January ditto and so on. We chose our dishes from the menu. Prices are very reasonable. A true gourmet's experience. A return visit is guaranteed.  Lunch and dinner Thursday to Sunday.  Reservations (03) 5472 4400 or go visit

Cairns to Cape York
A 12-day Cape York and Cooktown in depth is planned for next year.  The price is from $5795 per person, twin share and that includes a $600 per couple saving for bookings made before February 29. The price includes guided touring in a custom-designed 24-passenger 4WD vehicle, accommodation, 26 meals, flights from Horn Island to Cairns, entrance fees, permits, transfers and cruises.  Highlights include Cairns, Kuranda, Cape Tribulation, the Daintree, the Bloomfield Track, Cooktown (one of my favourite Oz destinations), Weipa, Coen, the Gulf Country, Cape York and Thursday Island. One heck of a tour.  Get the facts by visiting, travel agents or call 1300 229 804.

Celebrate Next Christmas
The deal is a 12-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland aboard one of the largest and most spectacular super-liners ever to visit Australia.  Join the 122,000 tonne vessel in Sydney where the celebrations begin.  There are two nights post-cruise in Auckland's Stamford Plaza Hotel.  There's one-way travel from Auckland back to Sydney.  You really need to get all the details for what looks like one of the best value-for-money tours in 2012.  Full details from travel agents, or for detailed itineraries and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist travel agent go to

Snake charmers and fortune tellers
It has to be magical Morocco.  It is an eight-day package planned for those folk with limited time and on a budget.  It's amazing what one can cram into eight-days.  Morocco, Rabat, Marrakesh and Casablanca. Leave it to Temp Holidays and they have the answer.  A glance at their latest brochure will provide the answers.  The tour is priced from $737 per person twin share.  Conditions do apply, so telephone 1300 558 987 or go visit  The folk at Tempo have the answers.

* 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.   

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Provence Tour - Moscow - Tempo 50% off -

John Crook
Top tour in Provence
She is at it again.  One of my best friends has just released a tour of Provence.  If perchance you have read one of her six books you need no prodding from me.  Ann Rickard is leading a two-week  tour of Provence in June of next year and again in 2013.  Her tours are have a base in an 18th century stone maison.  Excursions  to nearby towns include Avignon, Gordes and hill top villages  There are market tours, gala dinners, long luncheons, elementary French lessons, even cooking demonstrations.  I've known Ann and husband Geoffrey for some years and I know that there is always a queue of people making enquiries about the tours which the couple schedule on a semi-regular basis.   For more information, inclusions ad conditions go visit  or telephone the lady herself on 0408 557 311.  In a nutshell, these tours are like having a personal invitation to a two-week party in the south of France.   I could not thinking of a better French experience.  Folks!  It's party time !!
Two nights in Moscow, - and more
Explore Russia in style with two new river cruise packages which offer accommodation in fabulous hotels near famous attractions in Moscow and St Petersburg, and with six nights aboard the MS Volga Dream.   Also, included in the price tag, are most meals (served with house wine with lunch and dinner), lectures and daily sightseeing. For a full itinerary, conditions and terms just visit  or telephone  1800 221 712.
Benefit with a 50% discount
There's been a 50% discount on  the Tempo Holidays Wonders of Egypt package which combines Cairo and Alexandria with an eleven day journey into history. Discover 5000 years of history priced from just $3,500 per couple when booked by 30 November.  The price is inclusive of discount, based on two passengers travelling together and sharing a twin or double room.  It is valid for travel until September 21, 2012. Explore the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum . All that, and more, before moving on the Catacombs, Pompey's Pillar and the El Alamein's World War 11 battlefields. International air travel is not included.
 Get the facts and the tour itinerary by visiting or telephone 1300 558 987.  There's so much more to this package, which is deserving of your interest and of course, discovery.
* 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.   

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Newcastle - Dalmatia by Small Ship - Stonehenge - Spain

John Crook
Congratulations Newcastle
I 'discovered' the New South Wales city of Newcastle a couple of years ago.  I was knocked out by the attractiveness of a city which was once heavy industrial. Industry still plays a role in the lives of those who live here, but oh-how it has changed. Great buildings from another era, a bevy of restaurants ((on a par with some of Sydney's best). A range of tours and activities form part of an exciting slice of NSW.  Inner city wine tours, a Newcastle Ghosts' tour,  and did I mention restaurants ?  You bet I did !  Try this one.  Rustica on Hunter Street. This dining spot has great views of the ocean and its Mediterranean  menu which throws its doors open for those looking for a real treat.
Deluxe small ship cruising
Beyond Travel has just introduced a choice of cruising in Dalmatia and the eastern Mediterranean.  Among the new eight-day itineraries  for 2012 is a voyage on the mega yacht Harmony G, a modern vessel for up to 44 guests.  Check the itineraries which are available through Beyond Travel.  Telephone 1300 363 554 for the details.
A chance to do some back road touring
In my opinion, Back Roads Touring, is the answer for those folk looking to do some soft adventure touring.  This is real soft adventure, like touring aboard a Mercedes-Benz with 15 fellow travellers.  The back roads tour gets you into the Salisbury Plain, visiting Stonehenge, Salisbury and Windsor Castle.  In keeping with back roads touring, you get to stay in charming accommodation.  This is my style of soft-adventure touring.  A nice surprise awaits would-be travellers, being an early bird saving if booked and paid in full by December 15.  Call 1300 100 410.
Sit back and relax
This time around I'm spotlighting a group of tours which should satisfy those from 'down under' who want to get in touch with their mother lands.  Tempo coach tours  offer the best seats in the house (or should that be coach?) no matter what, it's a grand tour covering Spain, Italy and Turkey.
International flights are provided by Etihad.  There are savings on offer as well.  To ascertain how you can benefit, it's just a matter of ringing 1300 558 987.
* 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.   

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Vietnam and Cambodia - Topdeck New Zealand - Norway - SeaDream Amazon

7 Nov 11


John Crook

A free deal
Travelmarvel is offering a fly-free deal from Australia, with a saving well worth pursuing.  Make contact with  or your travel agency, and receive details on the 12-day Essential Vietnam and Cambodia (just one example)m priced from $3495 per person, twin share. This includes eight-days cruising between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap.  If I were you, I would make a simple phone call, 1300 805 493. Conditions apply. To benefit, deposits need to be paid by March 31, 2012.

If you're young, this is for you!
Topdeck, the youth travel operator, is taking 20% off its Reverse New Zealand trips of ten days or more, when booked by November 30 2011. For instance, stay overnight in a traditional Maori marae, enjoy an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, hike the Fox Glacier and throw yourself off a bridge in Queenstown.   It's a 17-day Kiwi Encounter Reverse from Christchurch to Auckland from $1925, a saving of $480.    Check out the facts by calling 1300 886 332 or visit, or chat it over with your local travel agent.

 Explore Norway
Scenic landscapes featuring snow capped mountains and crystalline glaciers await. Royal Caribbean's Arctic Circe and Northern Lights cruise departs Amsterdam on June 6, 2012 from $4199.  The itinerary includes a couple of nights in Amsterdam  staying at the Holiday Inn, before boarding the four-star Brilliance of the Seas  to explore magnificent fjord  country, the beauty and wildlife of the Arctic Circle and the colourful Arctic city of Tromso.  Book before 12 November and receive a $200 voucher  for your next cruise. For all the details go visit or telephone 1800 331 506.

Too good to miss
Here is news of a cruise which embraces Chile, Colombia, the Caribbean and a boutique SeaDream 11 cruise up the Amazon River.  Business Class airfares ex Sydney  for two nights each  at Santiago, Bogota and colonial Zipaquira.  Then there is a two night stay in Barbados.  Five star, or best available accommodation.
Even an excursion to Machu Picchu aboard the luxury Orient Express.   All with organised sightseeing.  This has to be a trip of a life time. Best thing is to arrange a chat with those in the know. Go visit  Personally. I would be inclined to telephone the escorts of the package, namely  Martin and Auriel Wright, the founders of Far Horizons.  Ring 1800 083 141.  Please do yourself a favour and get a fully-detailed itinerary. Conditions apply.
Then let the journey begin !

* 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.   

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Monday, 31 October 2011

Wurlitzer Wonder - Beverley Harvest Festival - Outback Adventures - Sunshine Coast


John Crook
The Wurlitzer is back
Here's the chance to catch the music of the mighty Wurlitzer.  As a kid I made a beeline each weekend to witness the offerings of Knight Barnett at the console of the Regent Theatre in Adelaide.  These instruments of glory got lost midst the music of the rock 'n roll era.   However, there are a number of outlets which feature the Wurlitzer.  One in particular has Thomas Heywood in concert at the Kingston City Hall in Melbourne.  The date – Saturday November 26, at 2-00pm. For more information telephone (03) 9556 4440.   Heywood took lessons when he was just four and performed at five.
Beverley Harvest Festival
Thanks to the good folk at York in Western Australia, I am being kept informed on some of the events and activities happening in the west. Beverley is only a short drive from Perth and you are invited to include their big festival on November 19 and 20.  The festival kicks off with a concert featuring Daryl Braithwaite and his full touring band.  For more information on this part of the world, go visit
Check these out
APT has just released its 2012 Outback wilderness adventures which carry discounts of up to $900 a couple,- with the condition that bookings are made prior to February 29 2012.  Small group 4WD adventures include Kimberley, Cape York, the Red Centre, the Top End, the gulf country, Birdsville, the Pilbara, the Flinders Ranges and Lake Eyre, during the April to October season.  For touring information, prices and conditions telephone 1300 229 or go visit  Your travel agent should have relevant information.
Sunshine Coast
Things are on the move in the high country west of the Sunshine Coast.  Mention Maleny, or the Tamarind, and luxury.  If that's a question, then the answer must be a real beauty.  Popular Sunshine Coast hinterland property, Spicers Tamarind Retreat, has continued its expansion with the addition of six new two-bedroom pavilions.  Truly, a slice of heaven. If there's a glimmer of interest, take my advice and go straight to or telephone 1300 311 429.  Spicers Tamarind Retreat is located at 88 Obi Lane South in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  See you there!
* 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.   
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Monday, 24 October 2011

National Circus Centre - Phillip Island - Free Air for Gold Cruise - Asia Cruise Deal - Fiji Resort Deal

Travel Briefs

John Crook

Catch a rising star

Graduating artists shine in a stella finale performance season at the National Institute of Circus Centre in Prahran from November 23 to December 3, 2011.  Ticketing is available and bookings may be made  For general enquiries telephone (03) 9214 6975.

One heck of a place

I refer to Phillip Island where there is coastal-style adventure, wildlife galore, and such an array of local foods and wines.  Fishing is one of the popular pastimes.  Grab a rod, check  out the type of bait which is recommended and with sea breeze in your face, go out after the big ones.  If you are really keen, try one of the charter boats on offer at Rhyll and San Remo.  For information on accommodation, attractions, events, go visit or telephone 1300 366 422.

Free air fares for 2012 Europe golf cruises

Sounds pretty good to me, so how about you ?  Rounds of golf at three courses in Scotland, three in Germany and one in Austria, are now part of a new series of APT Magnificent Europe luxury river cruises with land extensions next year.   These have been launched with a free airfares offer, including air taxes of $850.  Deal bookings must be made before January 31, 2012.  The 20-day package starts in Glasgow on May 1 and September 23, while the 15-day cruise only version starts in Amsterdam  on May 6 and September 28.  All finish in Budapest.  For the full story, go visit or telephone 1300 229 804.  Visiting your travel agent could also be a good thought.

Unbeatable voyages - Sydney and UK

There are hugely-discounted prices for last-available cabins aboard the 650-passenger Discovery on a sailing from Bangkok to Hong Kong on December 19, this year.  It's now available from a low, low $2060 per person twin share for 16-nights, as well as on six sectors of Discovery's cruise from Sydney back to the UK between February and April 2012.  Conditions apply, and I would suggest you make a move as soon as you can.  This is sailing at its best, -so contact your nearest Cruiseco-specialist travel agent  by visiting

Stay four pay three

Australians visiting Fiji should check out the great stay four, pay three deal on the tropical paradise located on the island of Malolo in the beautiful Fiji islands.  Enjoy the famous Fijian hospitality from only $210 per bure per night, with the price based on a one bedroom bure, which sleeps two adults.  The offer  applies to all accommodation types and is valid until 31 March 2012, including school holidays and Christmas.  You really should check out Fiji's Walu Beach Resort.  Conditions do apply, so if you are interested, check with your travel agent, or 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.   

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Monday, 17 October 2011

Hyatt Regency Coolum - Germany at Christmas - Sydney Fish Markets - Turkey Cave Hotels - Europe Earlybirds


John Crook

Friends double up
For a spot of luxury which is a shared experience the good folk of the Hyatt Regency Coolum offer the 'lap of luxury' package for friends, offering all the privileges of its Ambassador Club.  This means that four people may share  This means two king size bedrooms, two spa bathrooms and stylish living areas.  The package is priced from AU$378  per couple per night. To learn more about the inclusions
 telephone 1800 266 586.
Germany and a Christmas Fantasy

There's a seven-day and a five-day package on offer.  Accommodation is in 3-4 star hotels. Just check out the inclusions and conditions by calling 1300 558 987.  The seven day Christmas Fantasy tour, departs Munich and is priced from $1432 per person twin share.  The five day tour departs Frankfurt and is priced from $891 per person twin share.   What a wonderful way to spend the Christmas season.

Sydney Seafood School's summer program.
Australia's largest cooking school  offers hands-on facilities for 50 guests. For those who want smaller, more intimate classes check out the packages catering for those smaller groupies.  There is a 3-course dinner school with matching wines.   Giovanni Pilu of Pilu at Freshwater and his award winning sommelier, Lara Caraturo, have their guests working in pairs to prepare three Sardinian inspired courses.  OK! For more information and bookings telephone (02) 9004 1111.  For all the info on upcoming programs go visit
Stay in cave hotels

Accommodation from cave hotels, to Ottoman mansions and historic boutique hotels provided so many different options for those joining  small group tours of Turkey.  Eastern Turkey, to be more precise.  The tours operate between May and September next year.  Priced from $1834 per person twin share the itineraries range from Troy, Anzac Cove, the lime cascades, these tours must surely be amongst the most memorable on offer.  It would pay for you to go visit   Or, why not ring 1300 853 953  ?
Earlybird airfares
There is a choice of European cities with special earlybird airfares awaiting those travellers heading into Europe.  The fares, with Cathay Pacific are available from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and yes, also from Adelaide and Perth. Destinations are London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.  For the full story  telephone 1300 303 343 or visit

By the way, please note the airfares are for sale until March 31 2012.  There are also accommodation packages available to all six cities ranging from between $456 and $934 per person, twin share for seven nights with daily breakfasts and with some guided sightseeing.
* 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.  
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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Amazon Cruise - Amalotus Mekong - Last Minute Hotel Deals - Northern Europe Cruise


FAR Horizons is offering an extraordinary holiday package aboard Sea Dream II, with Business Class air from Sydney for two nights each in Santiago in Chile, Bogota and colonial Zipaquira in Colombia, a further two in Barbados in the Caribbean – all with organised sightseeing – then 21-days on the inaugural Amazon cruise by award-winning SeaDream II* that carries just 112-guests, including seven days cruising south to Tobago and Devil's Island then an amazing 14-days cruising up the Amazon River.

On Sea Dream's arrival at Iquitos the tour continues by air to Lima for 2-nights at the 5-star Lima Country Club that's now a National Monument, then to Cuzco for three nights in South America's oldest continually inhabited city, with visits to the Pisac Indian Markets in the Urubamba Valley and an excursion to Machu Picchu on the luxury Orient Express train named Hiram Bingham after the man who discovered the Lost City of the Incas in 1911. 

The tour is fully-escorted by Martin and Auriel Wright, founders of Far Horizons tours in 1976. Price for the full 37-days departing on February 4 2012 starts from $43,500pp twin-share including all meals, five-star or best-available accommodation, sightseeing, and much more; spaces are limited and booking deadline is 31st October. For a fully-detailed itinerary phone 1800 083 141 or visit

*SeaDream II has just been given top rating by the Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships in the Boutique Ships category; SeaDream II includes all 5-star onboard gourmet dining, wines with lunch and dinner, no-charge bars, nightly cocktail gatherings, a 30-course golf simulator, and gratuities. Most other meals and daily sightseeing during the tour are also included.


APT's new 62-suite luxury river ship AmaLotus has begun her career cruising Vietnam's Mekong River.

The vessel is owned and operated by APT, AMAWATERWAYS of Europe and APT's Vietnam partners, Indochina Sails.

"(She) is the most modern and beautiful ship to sail the Mekong River," said APT owner Geoff McGeary.

AmaLotus offers the largest suites on the Mekong, 90% of which have APT's unique twin balconies that give an outside balcony and glass-sided indoor conservatory that opens to create another balcony; she also has two lounges, a library, sun deck with pool and bar, spa, fitness centre and restaurant.

Passengers have a choice of Asian and Western cuisine, regional wine is included with lunch and dinner and soft drinks and local beers and local spirits are served all day.

Eight-day cruises on the Mekong River feature in nine out of 10 fully-inclusive tours in APT's Vietnam and Cambodia 2011-2012 brochure.

The eight-day Mekong River Cruise package is priced from $2995 per person twin share (based on Apr 2 departure), which includes cruise, 21 meals on board the ship, local wine with dinner, local beer, soft drinks and spirits on request, onboard entertainment, APT Tour Director, port charges, transfers and tipping.

Call 1300 229 804, see or see a travel agent.


THE downturn in domestic tourism in Australia has seen more hotels turn to bargaining directly with consumers to fill rooms.

New last-minute deals have been released on Australia's first hotel haggling site,, with properties and consumers able to bargain with each other via the website to strike confidential rates lower than available on other booking sites. Confirmation of bargained rates is received within three hours, often minutes, for accommodation up to three months ahead.

More than 1100 properties around Australia and New Zealand are willing to negotiate with consumers on Ubid4room's no-auction, no-blushing website.

Latest deals on include:

Ballina, NSW North Coast

Stay at the deluxe four-star Ballina Beach Resort, nestled by the beach in lush tropical gardens on the NSW North Coast. Offer the resort less than the already reduced rate of $155 for two per night including continental breakfast.  The full rate is $290 per night.

Gold Coast

Stay in a one bedroom apartment at the 4½-star Towers of Chevron Renaissance on the Gold Coast and offer the hotel a rate less than the already discounted tariff of $215 per couple per night (three-night minimum). The full rate is $500 per night.



HISTORICALLY rich St Petersburg, Estonia's Tallinn, Amsterdam and its interesting network of canals, and Copenhagen with its royal links to Australia are among a host of fascinating ports on MSC Cruises' ever-expanding Northern Europe program.

From the ancient routes of the Vikings to the breathtaking Norwegian fjords and the heritage-listed sites in the Baltic, the leading family-owned cruise line has a range of cruises for Australians looking to alternative programs to the more traditional Mediterranean cruises.
The 2012 Northern Europe program runs from April until October, four-night cruises beginning at $509 per person, twin share – or a little more than $125 a night.

Seven-night cruises begin at $869pp, twin share while 11 nights start from $1489.

For holidaying families, children under 18 years cruise free, providing they share a cabin with two adults, a policy adopted by MSC Cruises on all its cruises (children need only pay port charges). "When you consider the impressive ports of call and how well cruises are priced, the Northern Europe program is an exciting one," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises (Australia and New Zealand).

"The itineraries provide cruise fans with the opportunity to explore a new region and experience something glorious and wonderful," she said.

Four of MSC Cruises' 11-strong fleet are engaged in the Northern Europe program with cruises ranging from four- to 14-nights.

Prices are inclusive of on-board meals and entertainment, invitations to a Captain's cocktail party and gala dinner, and port charges.

Details MSC Cruises on 1300 028502 or

Monday, 26 September 2011

Peugeot Lease Europe - Qantas Smiles - Las Fallas Festival


John Crook 

Huge savings on Peugeot

Collect your Peugeot Lease vehicle in Europe before December 31 this year and benefit with savings, in some cases, of more than $1000 on a 21-day lease,  The offer is available through DriveAway Holidays.  Also check out the offer of 50% off delivery  and return fees with these brand new Peugeot vehicles which can be collected and returned from 45 locations in nine countries. Don't just take my word for it, instead go visit or telephone 1300 363 500 

Fabulous scenery in a selection of unique tours and destinations which are aimed at travellers looking for travel activity in lesser known and lesser travelled areas of Asia.  For instance, check out the 14-day Sichuan Explorer package which travels through some of China's  most spectacular regions including the Nine Villages Valley.  Or gather together details of tours worth including, simply get in touch with Wendy Wu Tours on  1300 727 998 or visit  This one is priced from $3923 per person twin share from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth. It's a fully inclusive group tour which includes international economy return fares, accommodation with all meals, English speaking guides, sightseeing, transport, visas for Australian passport holders and fuel surcharge and tipping which are subject to change. 

Returning to Qantas

I have not been a traveller on a Qantas ticket for some time.  I don't quite know what has happened to the Aussie airline, except that I reckon things have changed for the better.   

On a Melbourne/Brisbane flight last weekend the crew of the QF flight smiled their way through in-flight service.  From the flight deck both captain and first officer continued with a friendliness which I don't recall from any previous flight over the past couple of years.  Something is going on and it is all for the better ! 

Fiery Fiesta

One of Europe's craziest festivals,  Las Fallas is scheduled March 17 – 20 and a Topdeck package includes three nights multi-share accommodation at a centrally located hostel with daily breakfasts, a walking tour of Valencia, a Las Fallas information book, trip leader and a trip t-shirt.  The centrepiece  is the spectacular La Crema, the parading and burning of a 20-metre high effigies of politicians.  Las Fallas (the fires) is held in honour of St Joseph.  Contact Topdeck on 1300 886 332. 
* 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.  

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Antarctic Peninsula - Sandboard Safari - Agnes Water and 1770


John Crook 

A true delight – Agnes Water and 1770

Words cannot match the pictures of that slice of Australia which Captain James Cook discovered.  Thanks a lot Jim. I've followed in his footsteps on a number of occasions, each visit making a promise to return again, and again.

Part of the attraction (in addition to the fabulous coastal scenery) may be attributed to Michael and Vera Ferinac.

They made their discovery years ago and that discovery includes the site itself, the tropical foliage and the pristine beaches.  One not to be missed is Honeymoon Bay.

For a 1770 Getaway holiday retreat, go visit    Check out the three-day package, which includes a coffee and cake.  Not you're ordinary cake,- Vera's are very special.  Also special are the pizzas from the wood-fired pizza oven. Just give Vera a ring for all the good news.  She is available on (07) 4974 9323.  

Another bonus from 1770 Getaway

An Agnes Water massage especially designed to relax and unwind.  Whilst staying at the holiday retreat, do take a massage.  For health fund rebates ad gift vouchers, call Emma, on 0438 549 512. 

And then –

Have you ever experienced a sandboard safari. It ls part of a full day tour of discovery and adventure.  For a sandboard lesson and board hire, lunch, and national park fees, you get all this for $110.   Each tour departs from the 1770 marina.  You will need socks, sun protection and a backpack. 

There are 2.5 k's of sand dunes to sandboard.   Get out there !  First up, telephone (07) 4974 9422. 

And for those travelling overseas

Experience the magic o the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.  It's a classic 13-day cruise.  It's just one of several memorable cruises on offer by Bentours.  Each voyage departs from Ushuaia.  Terms and conditions ply so best to make contact with the operators.  For the full story telephone 1800 221 712 or 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

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Nile Cruise - Tuscany Umbria - Luna Park - Wollongong


John Crook 

Nile cruising

There is an 11-day tour, including a Nile cruise, of Egypt with return airfare from Melbourne flying with Etihad Airways from $3480, which is $880 per person less than the normal land only package.  The deal is on offer from October 1 until December 20 2011 and that includes a free side flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat in Oman.  Bookings need to be made by November 4. From Sydney and Brisbane the deal is from $3599.  Check prices from other departure points.  Conditions apply. Telephone 1300 195 873 or go visit  

A brilliant mix of history and cuisine

Here's your chance to do just that plus get immersed in the arts and cultures of Italy's Tuscan and Umbria.  Accommodation on these tours provides a weekly change, over the three weeks.  If Italy is your choice, and may it be so, check the content of tours being offered by Carolinasusi Italia Tours. Each of the tours depart Rome.  Accommodation is twin share, and the tours include breakfasts, most dinners, a lunch with wine. Day touring is included by coach, rail and ferry.  I caught up with the movie Under The Tuscan Sun,- and lo and behold you get to visit the town of the author of that movie.  Don't delay, get on the phone and check out the inclusions, itinerary and conditions.  Ring 1800 770 599, or go visit  

Luna Park

It's years since I last visited Luna Park in Melbourne , so the upcoming school holidays provide the excuse to get involved again.

The attraction is open every day during the school holidays. Check the entry prices and get ready for a barrel of fun. For more information go visit 

Go visit the Gong

Spring is when Wollongong really sparkles and to entice your interest the city's best known hotel is offering a room for family of four. It's priced at $229 a night. The centrally located Downtown Motel caters for the budget market, with rooms priced from $100 per night for two adults.

There's heaps to do in the Gong.  For instance,- tandem skydiving, hang gliding, through to the brilliant  Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk.  Get to know more about this part of the world, - call 1800 240 737. 

* 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.   

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Gladstone - Easter Island - Kimberley Cruise - Eastern Europe


John Crook 

Gladstone is truly a success story

The coastal city of Gladstone in Queensland has grown from a heavy industrial destination into a gem of a tourism 'attraction'. Today, this delightful community boasts some of the best seafood in the entire country.  Whether it be the tasty seafood platters, which display the rewards of commercial fisherfolk or the do it yourself anglers testing the waters in the inland lakes, - Gladstone has it all.  Check the 'other' side of Gladstone, with its parks and gardens, marinas, through to the free tours of industry, such as, you can take it from me, 'You will be surprised'.   For the full details  go visit or telephone (07) 4972 9000. 

And, what about Easter Island?

The eco-experience 'explora' alerts you of the upcoming 15-day Tapati Festival, which just happens to be one of the most important celebrations in all of Polynesia.  It's destination Easter Island when, from February 3 to 18, local artists and athletes form alliances which compete in 40 ancient sporting and cultural events.    'explora' has three and eight night packages, starting from $2385 per person, twin share.  Get the rundown on what is happening and how you can participate, by visiting or email  

Ten day cruise next year

There is a ten-day Adventure Quest Cruise which has been added to boutique Kimberley Quest 's program of six, ten and 14-day cruises along northern Western Australia's rugged Kimberley coastline. 

The deal on the new cruise, for example, means the price is from $7200 per person instead of from $9000.     The price includes cabin with en suite, all chef-prepared meals served on the shady stern deck or in the air-conditioned lounge.     Check it out by visiting or telephone (08) 9193 6131.  Get on the 'phone today.  I say this because amongst the scheduled tours, two of three eight-day fishing expeditions are booked out. 

Eastern Europe packages

Two new  special journey's have been added to the eastern European collection, by Beyond Travel.  There is bound to be terrific interest shown in the 11-day Bohemia to Budapest  tour which begins in Prague and travels through a variety of regions.  There are departures in May, July, August and September, which tie in with a selection of river cruises, priced from $3495.   Just call to  check on what's available, conditions and so on.   Telephone 1300 363 554 or email  

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

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Monday, 29 August 2011

Avoca Cup - Split Sailing - Vietnam Battlefield Tour - Air Pacific - Turtle Season


John Crook 

Backing the favourite

The PJA Blue Pyrenees Avoca Cup is scheduled for Saturday October 15.  That gives you plenty of time to make plans to include a visit to the  country race meeting.   This is not just any 'old' country race meeting, rather it is to experience country racing at its best.  Sponsored by Blue Pyrenees wines, this is the blue ribbon event at he Avoca Shire Turf Club, hosted by Blue Pyrenees winemaker Andrew Koermer.   For more information go visit  

For 18 to 30 somethings

Should you be between that age bracket, you just may be interested in picking up some information on an 8-day Split to Split sailing experience, or something even grander, ie a 26-day summer fun and sailing Top Deck holiday. The latter visits 14 countries, and features a unique 3-day sailing adventure from $3371. There's a whole pile of options which are available.  Download the latest brochure which features all the options, discounts and conditions.  The address is  A hard copy will be released in October.  There's a telephone number at your disposal, - 1300 886 332. 

Pilgrims embrace Vietnam

The inaugural Vietnam commemoration tour will take place  from March 19 to April 3 2012.   The tour is being conducted with the full cooperation of the people of Vietnam and it takes in all the key Australian sites of the war, long with many of Vietnam's cultural reassures.   A 15-night tour to be escorted by Gary McKay, a former platoon leader, will attract enormous attention, so   obtain the details as soon as you can.  

For more information and for bookings go visit   

2011-2012 turtle season

Ticket prices have changed for the upcoming turtle season. Bookings for the season are essential, and it should be remembered that some nights do get booked out.  For an update on prices and availabilities, check with the visitor information centre in Bundaberg on (07) 4153 8888.

By the way, the next season commences on Saturday November  5th. 

A great deal for travellers

You would be aware that Air Pacific is turning 60. But, did you catch up with the latest news on your inclusion in the celebration and fly off to Fiji with adult return fares from $636 including taxes (ex Sydney).

Children get to fly for $60 return, including taxes.  Conditions do apply and availability is limited.    Check with your travel agent. 

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

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Monday, 1 August 2011

Machu Picchu - Rail Africa - Barge Germany - Emporium Hotel Brisbane


John Crook 

Visiting Latin America

The lost city of Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca are absolutely 'musts' for intrepid travellers and to make it easy for adventurers check the itinerary which has been released by Tempo Holidays.  It has those two wondrous highlights included, along with visits to markets, handicraft options and that scenic train ride to the Machu ruins.    Several tours are listed.  For the story and the conditions, call 1300 558 987.  Take a good long look at the inclusions within the Best of Peru tour, priced from $2510 per person twin share.   Departures are from Lima.  Conditions do apply. 

Tickets please

A 16-day rail itinerary awaits at a cost from $5910,- destination Africa.  The deal includes two free nights with breakfast and a themed dinner at five star hotels, simply by joining this year's two remaining Shongololo rail safaris.  The special offer has departures on September 28 and November 8, 2011. The price includes a sleeper cabin on the train, breakfast and dinner, airport transfers, sightseeing excursions every day in air conditioned vehicles carried on the train.   Also included are entry fees to attractions and game parks.  A simply super way to explore Africa.  May I suggest you check this out by calling 1300 195 873.  That's the direct telephone contact for Bench International. 

Bike it ! Barge it!

There's easy cycling along the banks of the River Saar and also the Moselle.  Spot ancient castles, try the wines, journey into some fascinating old towns of Germany, visit Germany's oldest river, Trier.   There are savings to be made as well. The 8-days/7-nights cruise is now great value at $1430 (down from $2185).  A journey of a lifetime.  There's so much included in the tour so be sure to move quickly and telephone 1800 331 582 or go visit  

George and Harry

Something a little different. The Emporium Hotel (Brisbane) offers the art of High Tea and High Fashion when, on Thursday September 8, Australian design duo George Cross and Harry Who put on one heck of a showing of their creations on centre stage.  Champers, towers of tasty sweet and savoury treats, and fashion.   What a mix !  Check the time and availabilities by visiting  

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

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Queen Victoria Markets - Anzac Day 2012 - Lapland


John Crook 

Vibrant is the word

Bright warm colors, simplistic in design and close to the working end of Melbourne, that is, right next door to the Queen Victoria Markets.

The Jasper Hotel is great four-star accommodation designed for business and leisure travel.  It's big in the conference sense of the word, yet offering residential  day packages.  Well known and respected hotel ceo Tony Barradale, with his creative team, offers a four-star hotel, with quite a difference.    For instance, it has an entirely smoke free environment. There's the renowned Jasper Kitchen for breakfasts, lunches and events.  Two points worth considering when looking for a Melbourne hotel. This one offers complimentary access to a health club, and the big attraction in my book (the Jasper point of difference), is the Jasper art gallery, featuring the works of leading artists. The current display features the works of  Rebecca Pearson.     Out of 10, I'd give the Jasper Hotel '11'.   Reservations to 1800 468 359 or go visit and for general enquiries ring (03) 8327 2777.  

Anzacs 2012

Check out the three-day Anzac Day package which combines the Dawn Service and a selection of  Turkey's touring highlights.  Departure date is  April 24 2012 from Istanbul. There's a whole pack of departures for various tours, so best thing to do is to obtain package information, conditions, departures and prices, - contact  1300 558 987 or go visit    For the 3-day Anzac Day package, take note the price is from  $381 per person twin share. 
Lapland, here I come. Baby, it's cold outside !

There's a unique adventure awaiting, with inclusion of a Lapland ice safari on offer.  It's a four-day adventure expedition on the Sampo icebreaker.  Reindeer sleigh rides, a visit to a husky farm, and a snow castle made of snow and ice, are just some of the inclusions.  Also includes option to swim the Arctic!    The Laplander Ice Safari itinerary also features three nights in a 3.5 star hotel.  Get the full story, a copy of the itinerary and also the conditions and terms by calling 1800 221 712. There are other packages available. 

* 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.   

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Monday, 11 July 2011

Spicers New Farm - Danube Cruise - Merlo Red Ride for Life - Russian River Cruise


with John Crook

Warm up this winter

Stay in the sunshine with a stopover at Spicers Balfour Hotel in New Farm.  Stay for two nights in this inner Brisbane hotel. Pay $399 per couple per night Friday to Sunday.  This package includes  two tickets to the Surrealism Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, a two course dinner for two at the Continental  restaurant (winter menu) on one night, canapés each evening in the rooftop bar, a fully cooked breakfast each morning, with complimentary  bubbles on arrival. Sounds good to me,- so how about you and your partner ?  For booking details and conditions go visit

The Danube

There is a 35% discount on an 'early bird'   cruise-tour special travelling from Prague to Budapest in 2012.  It is a 13-day package including three nights in Prague, and visiting port stops including Nuremberg, Regensburg  and Vienna (to mention a few).  The  package is now priced from $5869 per person twin share. Return air fares with Emirates from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Accommodation in Prague is five-star.  There's even a night's accomm  at the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge Hotel, and two nights stay at Raffles in Dubai. There's more to this story, so to get the facts ring 1300 369 848 or check 

It's a freebie, for just a bit of blood

Give blood and get an invite to a sausage sizzle and a coffee.  Not just any old coffee, but a Merlo coffee. The event is the Merlo Red Ride for Life, on Saturday 16 July, which peddles off from Merlo Coffee Torrefzione, at 10 Thompson Street, Bowen Hills.  To register visit or ring (07) 3620 4239.    Keep an eye out for the bikies who are on a mission. 

Vikings on the way

Check the details of the 13-day Waterways of the Czars between St Petersburg and Moscow, with a saving for earlybirds of up to $2000 per person on the 2021 Viking River Cruise itineraries.   The discount also applies to the 12-day Footsteps of the Cossacks from $2299 per person twin share.  Viking River Cruises operates the world's largest fleet of superior vessels built especially for river travel.  To be sure that we are reading from the same hymn book, check out the deals and conditions by visiting

Just imagine, there you are visiting the highlights of Russia's imperial heartland.  Full payment required by 31 July 2011. It's just as easy to do the checking by ringing 1800 221 712.

* 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.   

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PNG Surfing - Cruise Venice - Amalfi Coast - Sydney Singapore Cruise - Putignano Carnival -


WITH its tropical climate, un-crowded waves and enticing package deals at remote and picturesque surfing locations, now's the time to book a surfing trip to Papua New Guinea.

Madang, Milne Bay, Kavieng and New Hanover are favourite PNG locations for surfing, boasting great swells and water temperatures of 26 degree Celsius year round. And with surf management laws in place, surfers are guaranteed to never be battling the crowds on PNG's waves.

Surf travel options include heading out with a charter company to catch the breaks around off-shore islands, giving surfers the opportunity to explore the waves in various locations on one trip. Or base yourself at a land surf camp, such as Clem's Place on Tunnung Island, just north of Kavieng, New Ireland, which is currently offering additional free nights if you book before 31st August 2011.

And places like Clem's Place often offer secluded accommodation options for small groups in remote island locations, where the focus is on relaxation and surfing with true PNG hospitality from the land owners.

With six bungalows available and great surf, Clem's Place has two deals for those wanting to experience the 'last frontier' when it comes to surfing: pay for 9 days and stay 10 or, pay for 12 days and stay 14

Trips need to be booked before 31 August 2011 and travel must be during the 2011/2012 surf season (October-April).

Prices start at $270 a night with packages including reef fees, three meals a day and surf transfers.  To book call South Sea Horizons on +61 432744490 or visit


FROM romantic Venice to vibrant Rio de Janeiro, MSC Cruises has a 25-night package which combines an eight-night Mediterranean cruise with a 17-night ocean voyage, with prices starting from $91 per passenger per day.

The Sizzling Venice to Rio holiday aboard MSC Musica on November 23 this year is priced from $2285 per person twin share and starts with a return cruise from Venice to Bari, Rhodes, Izmir, Piraeus (Athens), Katakolon and Dubrovnik, before embarking on an ocean voyage to South America.

The second leg includes another visit to Bari before the cruise ship heads to Valletta, Malaga, Madeira Island and the Brazilian ports of Salvador, Buzios and, ultimately, Rio de Janeiro.
"Passengers will have two chances to explore and experience Venice – before and during the 25-day cruise holiday," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.

"It's an exciting holiday of almost four weeks and well within many passengers' budgets when you consider the starting price is around $91 a day," she said. "And for the money passengers enjoy on-board meals, international standard entertainment, invitations to the captain's cocktail party and gala dinners. Port charges are also included."

And children under 18 years are free, providing they share the cabin with two paying adults (need only pay port charges of $665 per child).

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502,


TELEVISION shows such as Masterchef have prompted Explore Worldwide to introduce a choice of food-oriented holidays based on the cuisine of places like Vietnam and Italy. 

In Italy an eight-day Amalfi Coast Walking tour it combines planned walks with a farm-stay that welcomes guests into the family home, giving the opportunity to enjoy home-made Italian food. Guests will sit down to South Italian breakfasts, picnics and three and four course evening meals that make use of home-grown fruit, vegetables, nuts, meats and wines.

The tour costs from $1258 per person twin share. 

A Cycle Vietnam tour takes guests off the beaten track to eat with locals and learn about their unique cultures and traditions. Guests will enjoy home-cooked dinners, fresh Vietnamese coffee and be tempted with all manners of noodles, snacks and stir fried delights by food sellers in Hanoi.

They'll also have a chance to sample a traditional Vietnamese meal of grilled ostrich in bamboo, crocodile with chilli and lemon grass, or perhaps snake-head fish. This 14-day package costs from $1786 per person twin share.

All Explore Worldwide packages include accommodation, many meals, transportation and the service of a tour leader, driver and local guides. 

For more details contact Venture Holidays on 1300-414-151 or visit

SAIL off to a grand start to 2012 with a 15-night package from Cruiseco that will have you cruising from Sydney to Singapore in one of the most gracious vessels to visit Australia, having a night in Singapore at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel with plenty of time for duty-free shopping and sightseeing, and one-way airfare back to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or  Brisbane (deduct $64pp ex Perth.)

And with all air, port and other taxes and even onboard gratuities, it will cost from just $2450pp twin-share – plus Cruiseco is including the indulgence of Private Car transfers from port to hotel, and hotel to airport in Singapore.
The 4-star Rhapsody of the Seas will sail 14-nights from Sydney on February 16 2012, visiting Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin, Benoa on Bali, and Singapore, and will have a whole eight days cruising at sea to make use of the ship's extraordinary range of sporting, social and recreational facilities.
A slightly-longer 16-night package with one-way airfare to Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide (deduct $100 ex Perth), a night pre-cruise at the Fairmont Hotel with all private car transfers, and 15 nights (departs March 29 2012) cruising back to Sydney via the same ports (but with an additional day in Cairns,) air and all taxes and onboard gratuities, will cost from as low as $2430pp twin-share.
For full details and the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies visit
ADDITIONAL SHIPBOARD INFORMATION: Rhapsody of the Seas offers a choice of formal and casual dining in several restaurants and cafés to suit the mood of the day, eight themed bars and lounges, shopping in an open atrium, a Day Spa & Fitness Centre, and a casino.
For the more active there's a rock-climbing wall, outdoor pool, six whirlpools, a separate indoor/outdoor pool in a Solarium with sliding roof, and a youth activity centre.


ITALY'S Putignano Carnival in the country's south is one of the oldest and longest-running carnivals in the world, with evidence that it dates back to 1394.

And while it starts on the 26th of December and runs through until Shrove Tuesday, it is the Carnival Parade on the first day that draws the most interest, with enormous floats and characters wearing satirical and colourful masks.

Another feature is poets who recite satirical and pungent verses addressed at the local government and prominent local business, government and other figures, while the centre-piece figure is Farinella whose is costume made of multicoloured patches with bells on the tips of her hat, shoes and collar that give her a joker-like appearance.

There is also the "Propaggine" that's one of the most traditional aspects of this Carnival.  According to local legend, the origin of the "Propaggine" goes back to the 26th of December 1394, during the transfer of St. Stefan Protomartye's Holy Relics from Monopoli to Putignano, where the Holy Relics are still preserved today in the church of St. Maria of the Greca.

Legend has it that during the transference of the Relics some farmers who were going to plant a new vineyard joined in the procession with its dancing, singing and reciting rhymes. Over the centuries, this festival on 26th  December, has lost its religious content and is today a critical and satirical show-piece directed towards the most prominent figures in the city.

For more information about Putignano and its Carnival and Parade visit


Sunday, 3 July 2011

Burma Railway - Black Sea - Germany - Queen Mary 2


John Crook 

Follow in the footsteps of the Diggers

The Diggers who served in Thailand will never be forgotten and an 11-day Old Siam and River Kwai tour will further enhance the memories of the prisoners of war who built the notorious death railway between Thailand and Burma.  Departures include a two-day cruise down the Chao Phraya River in a converted rice barge, a stay in a jungle raft house, a night on an overnight train, all in all, nine nights accommodation.  Get the full facts by calling Venture Holidays on 1300 414 151 ort go visit  

Free air

If you book a 28-night cruise from Southampton to the Black Sea tour aboard the 660-passenger Saga Ruby, you could utilise an exclusive fly-free offer.  Conditions apply.  The October 4 2011 sailing includes the offer, if booked up to and including July 29, unless sold-out beforehand.  Take a look at these ports,- Vigo in Spain, Valletta on Malta, cruise the Dardenelles, visit Vama in Bulgaria, Constanta (Romania), along with Talta and Sevastopol, Sochi in Russia, Istanbul and on the list goes.  Priced from $6647 per person twin share get in touch with Cruiseco for the names of cruise specialist travel agencies.  The contact website is  

Germany awaits

Austria as well, in a 15-day Grand German Circular tour, which allows you to explore the wonderful scenery of the Rhine Valley, Black Forest and the Alps. Tour includes Dresen, Potsdam, Berlin, Bavaria and Weimar.  Plenty more as well, so please do yourself a favour and call 1300 558 987.  Get the details of inclusions by visiting  

Queen Mary 2

The world's most famous cruise liner will visit Sydney prior to a departure for a history-making 12-night Royal circumnavigation of New Zealand.\ in March of 2013.   She is but one of three Queens' making history in 2013.  Queen Mary visits Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle and then onwards to NZ.   Call 13 24 41 for more information. 

* 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.    

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Monday, 27 June 2011

Cruise Fremantle - Queen Mary 2 New Zealand - Istanbul - Fort Lauderdale Cruise - Mount Annan -


CLASSIC International Cruises will next year offer its first-ever line voyage from Australia to Europe via South Africa instead of the Suez Canal, with the traditional liner, Athena making the journey over '40 days and 40 nights'.

The mid-sized, 600-passenger Athena will sail from Perth on April 14, 2012 for Portsmouth in the UK, with the 40-night voyage taking passengers to many destinations rarely visited by Australians, including Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic isles of St Helena, Ascension, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands as well as Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco and Portugal.

Price starts from $6995 per person, twin-share, with fares for solo passengers in selected cabins just 30 per cent more than twin-fares instead of double.

Classic International Cruises is also offering the chance to sail the first half of the voyage from Fremantle to Cape Town – an 18-night cruise priced from $3575 per person, twin-share, with the solo traveller supplement as low as 30 per cent in selected cabins. The second half of the voyage from Cape Town to Portsmouth, a 22-night cruise, is available from $4220 per person, twin-share.

"A voyage aboard Athena is cruising as it was meant to be, with a sense of the ocean, adventure and nautical traditions, and that special personal touch often lacking in today's hectic age," said Classic International Cruises' Managing Director, Grant Hunter. "Attentive, old-fashioned service and first-class cuisine are the hallmarks of the Classic Cruising experience," Mr Hunter added.

"Up to half of all passengers on our cruises from Australia have sailed with us before; ninety-two per cent rate their Athena cruise as very good to excellent, with the onboard service, dining experience and entertainment singled out for the highest scores."

Originally a transatlantic liner, the 16,000-ton Athena features traditional wooden deck chairs, pool, fitness centre, five bars and lounges, casino, library, cinema and two restaurants. Athena has 276 spacious cabins and each boasts a bath – a luxury only found in suites on the latest superliners.

Bookings and fly/cruise packages are available via travel agents. For information, visit


QUEEN Mary 2 will make a circumnavigation of New Zealand in March 2013 as part of a 104-night world voyage.

The 12-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney will go on sale on July 13, priced from $3329pp twin-share, with the Cunard flagship visiting Auckland, Wellington and the Bay of Islands, sailing the Milford Sound and making a maiden call to Christchurch.

During her 104-night world voyage, the 151,400-tonne Queen Mary 2 will also visit Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Sydney. 

Announcing the NZ circumnavigation today, Cunard Line President and Managing Director Peter Shanks said the voyage followed already-strong bookings for Queen Mary 2's circumnavigation of Australia in February 2012.

"It's clear from the response to our Australian circumnavigation that Australians and New Zealanders are very keen to cruise on the legendary Queen Mary 2 in their own waters," Mr Shanks said. 

"After our circumnavigation of Australia in 2012, we thought we would try something a little different and sail around the North and South Islands of New Zealand in 2013.  New Zealand is renowned for its stunning scenery and interesting ports and we think Australians will love the chance to enjoy it all from the comfort of Queen Mary 2."

With interest in the New Zealand circumnavigation expected to be strong, limited bookings for the cruise will open at 8am on Wednesday July 13, with two options available: the 12-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney departing March 7, 2013 or 19-nights incorporating the New Zealand circumnavigation and then going on to Fremantle after returning to Sydney.

For more details call Cunard on 13 24 41 or visit  *Fares are per person twin share and are subject to availability; conditions apply.


PETER Sommer Travels has introduced a new tour of Istanbul, uncovering the ancient Turkish metropolis through the eyes of a prominent archaeologist.

The eight-day tour Exploring Istanbul is guided by Jim Crow, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Edinburgh University, who has spent the past 20 years delving into the layered history of one of the world's great ancient cities.

His tour, from September 10-17, 2011, will offer a chance to see such landmarks as the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, as well as other ancient sites Professor Crow has himself been researching.

It visits Istanbul's extraordinary column-filled underground cistern – the  Yerebatan Sarayi – as well as the Hippodrome, the Archaeological Museum and the beautiful church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

It also takes a day trip into the country to visit two of Professor Crow's research projects, the great aqueduct of Constantinople, the longest in the ancient world, and the Anastasian Wall, part of the city's outer defences.

The tour also includes a private boat trip up the Bosphorus, as well as a chance to explore Istanbul's lively streets and market areas between the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.

Peter Sommer is a British archaeologist and BBC documentary maker whose tours are led by experts including archaeologists, historians and travel writers.

The eight-day tour Exploring Istanbul starts September 10, 2011, and costs £1835 per person twin share (approx A$2830) including meals, accommodation, transport, excursions and entrance fees.

For full details and bookings contact Peter Sommer Travels on 0011 44 1600 888 220, email or visit

A WHOLE month of 5-star indulgence aboard Holland America Line's Rotterdam from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego via the empires of the ancient Incas, is selling through Cruiseco later this year from $6660pp twin-share, including return international airfare and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, (add $330 for Adelaide) (add $1,400 for Perth), a night pre-cruise in the Hilton Marina Fort Lauderdale and another post-cruise in the Hilton Resort and Spa San Diego.
And for those who can't take a month away, Cruiseco have the option of a 13-night cruise only from Fort Lauderdale to Callao (Lima) in Peru from just $1998pp twin-share with a night aboard ship in Callao (Lima), or 17-night cruise only Callao (Lima) to San Diego, from an even lower $1748pp twin-share, again with a night aboard ship in Callao (Lima).

Cruiseco can also arrange best-possible airfare and pre- or post-cruise hotel prices on these shorter sections.
The 1400-passenger Rotterdam will sail from Fort Lauderdale on November 21 this year, visiting seventeen ports in the Bahamas, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico.
For details and the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, visit; onboard gratuities are not included in prices on these sailings.  
Rotterdam will transit the Panama Canal, have three days in Callao (Lima), and during ten full days at sea guests will have the opportunity to enjoy Rotterdam's range of lounges and bars, theatre and culinary arts centre, casino, cinema, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and basketball courts, video arcade, a health spa, beauty salon and a unique company-commissioned collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles and other art works.


MACARTHUR'S Quest Campbelltown motel has released new weekend deals to encourage people to visit the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, where entry is now free into Australia's largest native botanic garden.

New NSW Premier and Minister for Western Sydney, Barry O'Farrell, abolished the previous fees when he gained office, saying: "This decision will make it easier for families to access these parklands to enjoy, relax and learn about our natural and unique environment, and to do it more regularly."

Opened in 1988 as part of the Bicentenary, the Australian Botanic Garden has attracted an average 90,000 visitors a year, but this figure is expected to grow significantly with entry to the park now free.

With this in mind, Macarthur's newest accommodation, Quest Campbelltown, has released new weekend deals for their 4.5-star self-contained apartments:

It include accommodation in spacious 4.5-star apartments, a complimentary bottle of local Fussy Grape wine, DVD hire and popcorn on arrival plus use of the on-site gymnasium and BBQ terrace. The package is available from $159 per night for two guests in a studio room, $172 per night for two guests in a one-bedroom apartment, $250 per night for up to four guests in a two-bedroom apartment and $299 per night for up to six guests in a three-bedroom apartment. Conditions apply.

Call Quest Campbelltown on 02 4622 4900 or visit  For information on the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, call 02 4634 7900 or visit