Monday, 28 February 2011

St Petersburg - Swiss Alps - Air Pacific - Japan


John Crook


It's Victory Day in St Petersburg

It would make sense to seek a reservation making a link with the 2011 Russian Victory Day celebrations.  The five-day event combines the May 9 parade which celebrates the end of WW11.   It's a full-on package, one which should suit those with even the faintest knowledge of Russian history.  The tour departs May 7 and includes four-star accommodation, arrival and departure private car transfers, some meals and privately guided  sightseeing.  This is a tour not to be overlooked.  To get the full story why not check out or ring 1800 221 712.


Ski vacations in the Alps

If you are quick off the mark, there's still time to take on some skiing in the Swiss Alps.  Check out the 'Happy Family' packages  which combines a week's accommodation, ski passes and access to sports and leisure centres.  There are also 'her and him' packages and an Easter package which is valid from March 27 to April 25. Check


Air Pacific a fine way to sample Fiji and beyond

They claim to be the friendliest airline in the world.  That's some claim.  I first sampled their friendship 15 years ago.  Almost time for another inspection and sampling.  Perhaps the package priced from only $1199 ex Sydney or $1299 ex Melbourne.  That price offers inclusive flight, stay and drink.  That's enough to get me checking further.  I suggest you do the same, just to be sure you have not misread the facts.  Call Specialist Holidays on 13 13 81 for more news on the option above, and also to check out other packages.


Cultural treasures of Japan

To get the real feel of Japan, there are special departures April 16. May 13, September 17 and in October, two departures. A nine-day escorted small group is priced from $4401 per person twin share.  Some departures feature colourful festivals and sumo wrestling.   Make contact with to get the full story on conditions, inclusions and the itinerary.  The tour package includes some travel aboard the bullet train, tour escort and entrance fees for the itinerary sites.


Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.     This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    Need a holiday ?  We're archived on



Monday, 21 February 2011

Fiji Deal - Pacific Pearl - Southern Highlands - Round the World Cruise


WALU Beach Resort, renowned to its legion of fans for having "the best value Beachfront Bures and most sensational views in Fiji," has released new super-saver "Bula11 Rates" through to June 30 this year that are ideal for families or groups of friends looking to get the most from their holiday dollar.

One bedroom Beachfront Bures now cost just AU$125 per bure per night and have a double bed, two roll-out beds, a bathroom and lounge-room, while 3-bedroom Oceanview Villas are now priced at only AU$175 per Villa a night and have a double bed, four single beds, two bathrooms, a lounge-room and elevated veranda.

And a great-value optional new Meal Plan gives breakfast, lunch and dinner  for just $40 per adult per day and $20 per child per day

"We're putting real value into holidaying at one of Fiji's most-perfect beach-front resorts that's set in a private secluded paradise surrounded by tropical  gardens, golden sands and graceful palms," said new Managing Director, Michael Hay. "And we're on Malolo Island just 20km from Port Denarau, the stepping-off point from Nadi Airport to Fiji's off-shore islands."

Walu Beach Resort has plenty to do (or nothing at all): swimming in the pool or lagoon, snorkelling, kayaking, sailing, bushwalking and running, fishing, table tennis, volleyball, billiards, village visits, fish feeding, trivia, a massage service, dining that includes freshest local seafoods and just-gathered local tropical produce, and a never-to-be-forgotten Sunset Bar.

Walu Beach Resort is also just a short boat ride to one of the South Pacific's best surf spots, "Cloudbreak."

Details from,  phone +679 665 1777, or email  Ask for "Bula11 Rates."


P&O Cruises has introduced a new dining concept with the debut of its latest cruise ship Pacific Pearl – an exclusive Chef's Table in the ship's Wine Room.

The Chef's Table dinner will be offered up to three times on every Pacific Pearl cruise, with just 14 passengers a time able to reserve a seat.

Set in the elegant, bottle-lined Wine Room within the ship's chic Waterfront Restaurant, the Chef's Table will feature a seven-course degustation menu paired with Australian wines.

Sture Myrmell, Vice President of Hotel Operations at Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the concept was designed to showcase the high quality of P&O Cruises' food and wine and offer a unique passenger experience.

"Pacific Pearl's Wine Room sits beautifully within the contemporary Waterfront Restaurant so it's the ideal setting for the Chef's Table," Mr Myrmell said.

"We are very proud of the quality and variety of cuisine on our ships, and felt the Chef's Table would be another way to let passengers experience great food and wine during their holiday."

Priced at $75 a head including wine, the three-hour Chef's Table experience starts with pre dinner cocktails, canapés and an introduction by the ship's Executive Chef. Diners will then enjoy a tour of the ship's main kitchen before enjoying their dinner, with Chef introducing and explaining all seven courses.

The Chef's Table concept will be extended to Pacific Jewel, which also features a Wine Room, later this year.

Carrying 1800 passengers, the 63,500-tonne Pacific Pearl features three restaurants, seven bars and lounges, a giant poolside entertainment screen, Aqua HealthSpaFitness centre, two swimming pools, a swim-up-bar, multi-level show lounge, four kids centres, a casino and duty-free shopping boutiques.

Pacific Pearl will offer cruises from Sydney throughout 2011-12. As an example, a nine-night voyage to the South Pacific departing Sydney August 10, 2011 is priced from $899 quad share.

For more information contact P&O Cruises on 13 24 94 or visit


A TASTE of Italian food and wine, cars and culture, entertainment and motorbikes will highlight the weekend of March 12 and 13 at Sutton Forest in the NSW Southern Highlands when local wine company Southern Highland Wines celebrates the Italian heritage of its winemaking team – and raises funds for children's cancer research.

On the Saturday night there'll be an authentic 4-course Italian feast prepared by local Chef Franco Rossetti, with live entertainment by Italian-born and now Sydney-resident Angelo Di Bella who'll perform songs made famous by Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti and Patrizio Buanne.

Entry to the evening will be $95pp including all drinks.

On Sunday the winery will swing into action with a display of Alfa, Lancia and Fiat cars and an assortment of Italian motorbikes, plus there'll be cooking demonstrations, and visitors can make purchases from an Italian BBQ conducted by the Italian Alpini Association, a roasted chestnut stall, buy fresh crostoli (strips and squares of deep-fried pasta dough dusted with icing sugar) made by the ladies of the Italian Social Welfare Society – and of course there'll be  plenty of pasta dishes to choose from.

The whole family can also join in grape-crushing, macaroni craft and for the children a range of rides to keep them amused. Local Italian identity Luciano Liberale will MC the day and there'll be live entertainment by the Marconi Club choir and roving piano accordion artists.

Entry will be $10 per car, the full $10 going to the Children's Cancer Institute of Australia; for details phone Southern Highland Wines (02) 4868 2300, email or visit


FROM Tasmania to Turkey, the Maldives to Macao, there's never been a better time for romance according to a leading Australian authority on the subject.

Glossy magazine Holidays for Couples scoured the globe in 2010 to find the world's top 25 newest, most romantic resorts and hotels to prove that love is in the air, in almost any language.

The Romance List 2011, published in the current summer edition of the magazine, paints a dazzling picture of spectacular, sexy and glamorous hideaways pandering to every whim for honeymooners, lovers, and couples with a passion for sheer indulgence.

The ultimate holiday wish list in the dizzying world of new resorts and hotels opens up a vista of architectural wonderlands in settings from beachfronts to rice paddies, mysterious jungle valleys and glaciers, to roaring log fires and tropical plunge pools.

There's even a Champagne-fuelled secluded love-nest amid the frenzy of Las Vegas, an elegant hotel right in the middle of New York City and a five-star canvas tent resort in a desert.  There are butlers, yachts, spas, celebrated chefs and armies of pampering staff.

All properties were opened for business in 2010 with the top 25 chosen by an independent panel of five top travel writers and authors after a survey of readers and industry leaders.

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Rhonda Bannister said the magazine's annual Top 25 Romance List reflected the expertise and impartiality of a carefully-selected judging panel.

"Each property in this year's list which includes Turkey, Tasmania, the Maldives, Macao, India, Thailand, New Zealand, China, Utah, Italy, Bali, Spain, Mexico, Laos, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, France and Singapore is a remarkable story of romance in itself", she said.

Holidays For Couples is from the Graphic Publishing stable of quality niche magazines covering the Travel, Home and Weddings markets circulating both nationally and internationally.



PRINCESS Cruises will operate two world cruises from Australia in 2012 for the first time, giving Australian travellers the choice of a 104-night or a 75-night voyage around the globe from Sydney.

The move reflects the overwhelming popularity of Princess Cruises' annual world cruises from Australia since they were first introduced in 2008.

The globe-trotting duet is a highlight of Princess Cruises' new 2012 winter program for its locally-based superliners Sun Princess and Dawn Princess, and includes the debut of 17 exotic ports new to the Australian world cruise itineraries.

Sun Princess will set sail on her first 104-night full world circumnavigation from Sydney on May 16, 2012, visiting 38 ports in 28 countries including maiden world cruise visits to Iceland's colourful capital Reykjavik, Halifax in Nova Scotia and Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. Her world cruise will also feature overnight calls in the city that never sleeps – New York, as well as picturesque Venice, with fares for the full 104-night voyage starting from $20,999* per person twin share or just $34,000 per person for a balcony.

Meanwhile Dawn Princess will offer a 75-night Grand Pacific World Voyage, calling at 28 ports in 13 countries from Northern Asia and Russia to Canada and Alaska and the tropical islands of the Pacific. New ports of call on her cruise include Seward and Sitka in Alaska, Nawiliwili in Hawaii and Russia's Siberian city of Vladivostok, with the cruise departing July 27, 2012 and priced from $14,499* per person or just $23,499 per person for a balcony.

Travellers will save up to $1000 on bookings made before May 31, 2011 and will also receive a bonus onboard credit of up to $1000 per person for the full 104-night and $500 for the 75-night voyage.

Plus, passengers who book the full 104-night or 75-night cruises will receive free return economy airfares to Sydney from Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Coolangatta, Brisbane and Hobart.

Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Buckelew said interest in world cruising from Australia had grown steadily since the cruise line sailed the first world cruise from Sydney in 2008.

For more information visit call 13 2488 or see a licensed travel agent.

*Fares are per person, twin share. Subject to availability, conditions apply.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Fiji Travel Deals - Swiss Skiing - Daydream Island



John Crook

Fancy a bure ? 

Right now one-bedroom bures cost just AU$125 per bure per night.  The location is Walu Beach Resort, recognised the world over as the best value beachfront bures with the most sensational views in all of Fiji.   This is the location where you can do everything, or nothing at all. There's further great value as well, with an optional new meal plan which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner at a $40 adult price, or for $20 per day per child.

For surfers, Cloudbreak is just a short boat ride away,  Get all the details when visiting   It's just a matter of quoting the super-saver 'Bula11 rates.  They are available through to June 30 this year.  Check out the conditions. 

Port Denarau and Tourism Fiji  and Air Pacific

What a combination! The group has launched the first ever Fijian international jazz and blues festival.  Artists include leading musicians from around the world.  Billy TK Jnr, Hammond Gamble, Tony Painting through to crooner Diana Harris.  For more information go visit  There are some attractive packages featuring the Sheraton Villas, the Sheraton Fiji ocean breeze room, and the Westin Fiji tropical garden room.  For more info on the packages, telephone 1300 370 792.  The 2011 dates are May 12 to 15.  The location, Port Denarau. 

Ski until Easter

Where?  The Swiss Alps of course.  Special deals are on offer including happy family packages.  These are worth checking out.  There is the 'her and him' package with two meals at restaurants in the region, in addition to the accommodation and ski passes. The Easter package, which is valid  from March 27 to April 25, which provides two nights at half-board and three days on the slopes.  Go visit - -  

Daydream Easter deal

Stay at Daydream Island for four nights but only pay for three.  One of the packages is just $449 per person twin share and that includes four night's accommodation with buffet breakfasts daily, and a free upgrade to an ocean balcony room and a free Easter hamper.  Kids stay and eat breakfast for free.   Check out the conditions and at the same time check on any of the other packages.  The deals are available from now until April 26 with travel 1-30 April 2011.  Daydream Island escaped major damage during the inclement weather conditions experienced along the Queensland coast.  Telephone 1800 075 040 or go visit 

* 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. 

Need a holiday ?  We're archived on

Monday, 14 February 2011




EXPERIENCE a trip of a lifetime on a 22-day Trans-Mongolian rail journey with Beyond Travel, there are limited spaces available plus you can receive $1000 travel credits per couple, to use on any future Beyond Travel product, when you book and deposit by April 1.


Departing on June 10, this deluxe itinerary begins in Beijing with three days of sightseeing before boarding your train to Mongolia, Siberia, Moscow and St Petersburg. This journey passes through the magnificent landscape of the Gobi Desert and its nomadic communities. Enjoy a typically local meal at a Mongolian folkloric show and then travel on to Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake.


After passing through Irkutsk, Siberia's biggest city Novosibirsk and Kazan on the Volga River disembark in Moscow and visit the must see destinations in the capital before joining the new high speed Sapsan train in business class to St Petersburg to explore sights such as the Spilt Blood Cathedral, Peterhof and the Hermitage Museum.


Priced from $13,350 per person twin share it includes 11 nights deluxe hotel accommodation, 10 nights train accommodation, most meals, comprehensive sightseeing with an English speaking tour director, all ground transportation, gratuities and porterage during the tour and airport transfers by private vehicle.


This exclusive tour is a guaranteed departure and carries no more than 20 passengers.


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





APT is offering free return economy airfares to Europe (including taxes) for those booking a European Christmas season river cruise before April 30...  also the first time its offered its Magnificent Europe river cruises during the Christmas-New Year season.


Lead-in cruise is the 15-day Europe Christmas Markets, priced from $6345 per person, twin share which includes 14 nights on board an APT Concerto Class river ship, all meals with beer and wine served at lunch and dinner, Freedom of Choice Touring at no extra cost, the Christmas markets including Rothenberg and Nuremburg, return local airport transfers and tipping, excursions and entertainment, plus an APT exclusive tour of the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest, complete with private opera recital. 


General Manager Marketing, Debra Fox said APT was able to now offer cruises with Christmas-New Year highlights because of having its own eight-ship fleet.


"There been a huge demand for this experience," she said. "So we've responded with a great range of cruises, and are expecting a very good response."


APT has listed 42 departures across a choice of 10 Christmas season cruises, with departures running from November 25 through to December 30 for itineraries ranging from 10 days to 21 days. Concerto class riverships operate on the longer itineraries and Aria ships on the 10 or 12 day itineraries.


Thirty-two departures include Christmas Day and New Year's celebrations on board and most also experience the fabulous Christmas markets of Germany.


Previously, APT winter season Magnificent Europe River cruises did not include Christmas or New Year.


Phone 1300 229 804, see or ask local travel agent for more details and APT's new Christmas Cruise & Tours brochure.






Twenty-six nights, twelve ports, nine countries – that's Cruiseco's offering in a uniquely elegant, intimate and relaxed atmosphere aboard the small-ship Saga Pearl II from Southampton to the Mediterranean and return in April of this year.


Carrying just 450-guests, Saga Pearl II will visit Lisbon, Malaga, Palermo, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Koper, Venice, Kotor, Salerno, Civitavecchia (for Rome,) Barcelona and Gibraltar on her leisurely 26-night journey that Cruiseco has discounted to as low as $5355pp twin-share. This is a saving of $500pp off the regular cruise price.


It includes fine dining in a choice of two restaurants, on board lectures about upcoming ports and regions being visited, and nightly movies on the Sun Deck.


The small (18,600 tonne) ship also has Cabaret entertainment, a casino, three bars and two lounges, a library, freshwater pool and fitness equipment, and a range of therapies and treatments are available in the Spa.


Saga Pearl II departs Southampton on April 3 this year; for full details and names of Cruiseco's cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, visit; air fares are additional.


…….. ………………..




NSW wines are set to star at the annual NSW Wine Festival launching on February 26 that toasts the State's most talented winemakers and award-winning wines with a collection of public tastings and dinners in Sydney.


This year the Festival (formerly NSW Wine Week) will host a huge number of  ways to discover the wine and food produce of NSW's 14 diverse wine regions.


This will include the Sydney Cellar Door – from 11am to 6pm on Saturday February 26 and Sunday 27 – with 100-plus winemakers bringing their favourite drops to the city, the State's best producers and providores, and Sydney's finest restaurateurs providing more dishes than ever to perfectly complement the wines.


This will be set in Sydney's Hyde Park, and will be free to enter with tasting packages starting at just $25.


Dine with NSW Wine from February 28 to March 31 will star special NSW wine-matched lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants throughout NSW, and priced from just $30-$50 including wine. Participating restaurants will be listed on


And a number of Tour NSW Wine Regions Dinners will feature degustation dinners – created from NSW produce and matched to the finest NSW wines - hosted by leading food and wine personalities at four specially-selected top Sydney restaurants. For more details see


Chair of NSW Wine Strategy, James Agnew says: "The latest Nielsen figures* show that sales of NSW bottled wines, within NSW, have grown a huge 22% or $14.3 million on the previous year, to reach a record $79.3 million.


"This shows that people are really embracing the quality and personality of our local wines and the 2011 NSW Wine Festival is the ultimate way to discover the true secret gems in food and wine our State has to offer."


NSW's 14 diverse wine regions are: Canberra, Cowra, Gundagai, Hastings River, Hilltops, Hunter Valley, Mudgee, New England, Orange, Perricoota, Riverina, Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands and Tumbarumba.


For full program details see


*31 August 2010 MAT Nielsen data





PERUVIANS love to celebrate life, doing so with an amazing 3,000 festivals a year that are a colourful mix of musical and spiritual celebrations that some-how combine a peculiar blend of ancient cultures with Christian traditions.

Peru's Tourism Board coordinator for Asia Pacific, Rosana Guinea, says there is a festival or celebration almost every day somewhere in Peru. "If you are visiting Peru, it is worth taking the time to find out what is going on in advance...  these festivals are a great way to absorb Peruvian culture."

The first half of 2011 is packed with cultural festivals, with Christmas celebrations continuing right through to January: the Epiphany in Huancavelica sees parades in every town representing the journey of the Three Wise Men, with children once again showered with gifts and lollies.

Later in January, dance lovers from all over the world congregate in Trujillo for the Marinera Festival, and in February traditional dress parades, folklore dances, singing, food tasting and Carnival Queen Contests cheer up the atmosphere in every little town.

The Negro Summer Festival, an Afro-Peruvian dance contest at the end of February features street music, parades and wine/food fairs in the district of El Carmen Ica.

The Grape Harvest Festivals in Lima and Ica and the Easter Christian Celebrations brighten up March, and the month also sees the world-famous surfing Championships in Chicama.  In April, the Peruvian Paso Horse Festival in Mamacona is held at the foot of the pre-Inca Pachacamac oracle.

In many of Peru's festivals Christian celebrations are oddly blended with Inca and Pagan rituals and the El Señor de Qoyllur Ritti, held every May-June in the District of Ocongate Cusco, is a good example of this mix. The festival is a pilgrimage to Mount Sinaqara, a holy mountain from pre-Inca times, in homage to Corpus Christi and the ancient Cult of the Sun. The celebrations include a procession, dancing performances, fireworks, and an adorable handmade miniature market, known as "alasitas".

The winter solstice at the end of June is also celebrated with both Christian and Inca cultural traditions, with the Festivity of St. John in the Amazon region, and the Festival of the Sun in Cusco that's become one of the most popular festivals in South America, and held at the impressive Sacsayhuaman fortress.

For more information visit




Sunday, 13 February 2011

Red Carnation - Beerenberg - Tahiti - Tuscany


John Crook 

No request too large, no detail too small

According to Old Government House hotel  general manager, Andrew Chantrell, that's the ethos which continues to win friends for his Channel Island's four star hotel. Celebrating 150 years of  hospitality it is just one of numerous first class hotels under the Red Carnation banner.  Check the visuals of the hotel and for further information go  visit    It features fabulous views from St Peter Port across the harbour out to sea. 

Beerenberg jams

First it was to locals and visitors to Hahndorf, then along came Qantas and for the past  18 months  the beautiful jams from Beerenberg have been featured on the shelves of Coles and Woolworths. A new milestone has been created by the company, with more than a million jars of their premium jams have been moved from the shelves of the major supermarkets.  The advice I have  when travelling through South Australia, and in particular the delightful town of Hahndorf, join the throng of happy jam eaters. 

Tahiti and Moorea.

Grab a Madness Moorea discount card from Tahiti Tourism, or your local travel agent, - but before you leave Australia for Tahiti. Discounts include meals at a number of restaurants.  However, discounts apply to direct bookings only.  Check out the deals on rental cars, through 4WD safari excursions.   To obtain your car and for more information on Tahiti and Moorea, go visit  or telephone  1300 655 563. 

Genuine Tuscany

There's a round trip escorted tour from Florence and it has a whole bunch of  highlights.   The five-day tours are priced from $1625 per person twin share  and includes four star accommodation with breakfasts and dinners.   Transportation is included along with all sight-seeing, wine tastings and a tour escort.  The round-trips ex Florence are scheduled with numerous departures between April and October.    If interested, have a look-see at or telephone 1300 885 173.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Seadream - Hawaii - Macau - LA Zoo - Carnival Australia -



SEADREAM Yacht Club's 112 guest mega-motor-cruiser, SeaDream I will break from her normal Mediterranean sailings with a 10-weeks Baltics, Norwegian Fjords and Russia season this northern summer, starting with 11-nights on May 28 from Hamburg in Germany to Bergen in Norway.


This sailing will include a transit of the Kiel Canal and SeaDream I will be the first cruise vessel ever to visit Faaborg on Denmark's island of Fyn, one-time home of Hans Christian Andersen. She'll also visit 13th century Marstrand in Sweden, Lillesand in Norway that's a small and quaint village that due to it's size is unable to cater for larger cruise vessels, and the tiny "Skjaergaarden" Islands with their opulent summer homes of Norway's wealthiest.


SeaDream will have a day in Oslo with its blend of old culture and today's modern Norwegian lifestyle, and by contrast visit remote Flam with its steep mountains and waterfalls… with an optional trip on the famous Flåm Railway.


On June 21 guests will experience the longest day of the year when the "midnight sun" bathes Norway in a near-24 hours of light, and the voyage will conclude in Bergen with a gourmet island beach barbecue.


Prices start from US$7924pp twin-share including accommodation in ocean view staterooms, 5-star dining, wine with lunch and dinner, open bars with selected premium brands, nightly cocktail gatherings, use of mountain bikes shoreside, power and sail watersports facilities, a 30-course golf simulator, onboard gratuities, and port charges and taxes. Air travel is additional.

For itinerary details and prices see travel agents or visit




WAIMEA Valley on Hawaii's Oahu Island has announced its 2011 Hiking Series for individuals, families and those looking for more strenuous up-to 5-hour hikes.

Beginning this month, there will be Valley hikes every Saturday with the last Saturday of each month featuring the more strenuous.


Hikes will embrace stunning views from atop high ridges, and guides will help hikers identify native and exotic plants, view various streams and the Waimea Waterfall, point out native o`opu (fish), rare endemic aquatic moth pupa, and showcase the Valley's indigenous birds.

Children (15 years of age or younger) must be accompanied by an adult.

To participate in the Family Hikes children must be 7 years of age or older.  Family Hikes cost $10 per person plus the cost of admission to the Valley.  Space is limited to 20 participants and reservations are required.

To participate in the strenuous hikes, the last Saturday of each month, children must be at least 12 years of age.  Strenuous hikes cost $15 per person plus the cost of admission.  A minimum of 5 participants are required for the hike to take place. 

Registration is at 8:30 am at the Waimea Valley Visitor Center.  Hikes start promptly at 9:00 am and end at 12:30 pm (short hikes only).  Participants should bring a snack, insect repellent, sunscreen and water and must wear  closed-toe, non-slip hiking shoes.

Waimea Valley is a living place of peace and safety and is significant in the history of Hawaiian spirituality and traditions. The 720ha valley offers an authentic cultural window into the lifestyle and customs of the Hawaiian people through daily programs and activities. For more information visit





MACAU'S reputation to entertain its guests will continue throughout 2011 with the Asian centre set to host a series of colourful festivals and events to complement the city's extravagant year-round Vegas-style stage shows.


Headlining the glittering list of annual celebrations are the A-Ma Festival (April 25), the 22nd Macau Arts Festival (April 29 – May 28) and the thrill-a-minute Macau International Dragon Boat Races (June 4-6).


For a number of days between September 10 and early October, Macau will host the 23rd Macau International Fireworks Display, while September 12 is time for locals and guests to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.


"When it comes to festivals Macau knows how to turn on a colourful and exciting event," said Helen Wong, managing director of the Macau Government Tourist Office in Australia and New Zealand.


"From such events as the 11th Macau Lotus Flower Festival (June) and the 25th Macau International Music Festival (Oct 7 – Nov 6) to the 58th Macau Grand Prix (Oct) and the 11th annual Food Festival (Nov), there's much to excite visitors as well as the locals... and not to be missed is the Macau City Fringe Festival which will be into its 11th year when staged in November."


Other major events include Procession of the Passion of Our Lord (Mar 12-13), Feast of the Drunken Dragon (May 10), National Day of the People's Republic of China (Oct 1), Festival of Ancestors (Oct 5), the 16th Macau International Trade and Investment Fair, Lusofonia Festival 2011 (Oct 21-23), the Macau International Kart Grand Prix (Oct), Macau International Food Festival (Nov) and the Macau International Marathon (Dec 4).


Each festival and event complements the major full-time shows such as the City of Dreams' The House of the Dancing Water spectacular, and The Venetian's Cirque Du Soleil Zaia.

On average, Australians spend almost four nights a visit in the city with its east-meets-west and old-meets-new characteristics.


Details: Macau Government Tourist Office, phone (02) 9264 1488, or check out






A NEW "Elephants of Asia" exhibit has opened at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens.


Designed with the health, welfare and enjoyment of the elephants in mind, the state-of-the-art facility also gives viewers an entertaining look at these magnificent pachyderms, as they romp and play in the tropical landscape. Bathing pools, a waterfall, river sand, sandy hills and varied topography offer plenty of activity for the three new residents - Billy, a 25-year-old male Asian elephant and a long-time resident of the LA Zoo, and two female Asian elephants from the San Diego Zoo: Tina, 30 some years old, and Jewel, 40-something.


Both the females were born in the wild and have been together for nearly 30 years.


Elephants of Asia will focus on the rich connection between elephants and the cultures of Thailand, India, China and Cambodia. The exhibit will familiarize guests with the challenges Asian elephants face in the wild, including their shrinking natural habitat, and give visitors the opportunity to directly contribute to conservation programs that support elephants in their native countries.


"Seeing the elephants explore and engage inside their new habitat is an amazing and rewarding sight," said Los Angeles Zoo Director John Lewis. "We are excited to share this incredible new exhibit and these stunning animals with everyone." See







AUSTRALIA'S largest cruise operator, Carnival Australia says its cruise business will hit an all-time high over the 2011-12 summer when it will have nine ships based in Australian waters.


And while they'll offer a wide range of destinations, cruises to New Zealand are set to reach record levels.


Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry said Princess' recent announcement that it would deploy a fourth superliner, Sea Princess, in Australia for the summer would take the number of locally-based ships represented by Carnival Australia to new records, with four P&O Cruises' ships and Cunard's Queen Mary 2 also based in Australian waters at that time.   


"It's tangible evidence of the growth of the Australian cruise industry, particularly when you consider that only a year ago Carnival Australia had just five ships based here over summer," Ms Sherry said.


Ms Sherry said while the ships would offer an array of itineraries, one of the top destinations would be New Zealand; between them, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises will offer 38 cruises to New Zealand in 2012, carrying around 80,000 passengers.


"New Zealand is becoming to Australia what Alaska is to America – a very desirable holiday destination that's ideal to visit by sea," Ms Sherry said. 


"Last year, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises operated 11 New Zealand cruises which proved so popular we increased our offering to 17 cruises this year. Next year we'll have 31 cruises across the Tasman and in 2012 that number will rise to 38."


Ms Sherry said official statistics showed that the number of Australians taking trans-Tasman trips has more than doubled over the past decade, and now exceeds one million a year.


"Access Economics figures show that the cruise industry will grow by 7 per cent annually over the coming years, with the number of Australians taking cruise holidays reaching one million by 2020."


The nine cruise ships to be deployed in Australia in 2011-12 are P&O Cruises' Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun as well as Princess Cruises' Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess and Diamond Princess and Cunard's Queen Mary 2. At least five other ships from Carnival Australia-represented cruise lines are also expected to visit over the 2011-12 summer.




Waikiki - Phuket - London - Avalon Waterways


John Crook 

Meet me in the Sky Bar

That's just one of the several drinking spots aboard the 70,000 tonne Century which offers a 21-night fly, cruise and stay package.  Spend two nights at the Waikiki Resort Hotel prior to setting sail on the November 11 cruise en route to Sydney, then 19-nights of 4.5 luxury.  Prices start from $3835 per person twin-share, with all dining on board, nightly entertainment, port charges and government fees, air taxes and yes, onboard gratuities. A one-way economy class airfare from Sydney to Honolulu is also included in the price.  For full details go  visit  

Staying picture postcard style

Forget the postcard, go visit the real thing.  Phuket is the ideal choice. And the price is not a deterrent, particularly when half-price holidays are on offer.  TravelOnline makes the offer on Horizon Patong Beach Resort & Spa, with rates starting from as low as $169 per person twin share,   and that also incudes return airport transfers, four nights for the price of two in a superior room, plus daily breakfasts.   The special Thailand tour offer (with conditions) is valid or travel from April 16 to October 31 2011.   Get the full story, along with competitive airfare prices by visiting  

Next best thing to guesting at the palace

'41' in London makes the boast of being a discreet, residents-only haven of style and comfort.  Guests overlook the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.  And yet another plaudit for this fabulous hotel,- listed as the  only London hotel to be voted one of 25 Best  Europe Hotels.  

You should check the comments from past guests.  That will really excite and encourage you to consider spending a night or two.    '41' is one of the great properties owned and operated by the Red Carnation  Hotel Collection.   Get the facts by visiting      

Early birds get ready

Move quickly to check on 2011 European river cruises and to capitalise on savings pf $400 per couple.  The offer refers to dozens of Avalon Waterways river cruises.  It's available until March 31 2011 or until sold out.  Choose from more than 60 departures between July and December.   Try this for size. 

An 8-day Paris to Normandy Landing Beaches cruise on the Seine, now from $2937 per person twin share, including discount.  Or, how about a 16-day Grand Christmastime cruise, from Vienna to Basel, from $4686 per person twin share, including the discount.   For a full itinerary  go visit  

Now for something truly appreciated

The cyclones have passed by, storm waters and flooding, in most cases, ditto.  The recommendation is to still take a holiday, but take it in Australia.  Consider North Queensland, the central tourist regions of that same state, Central Australia, Victoria – and probably destinations yet to be listed.  The suggestion is to check around, Google a bit, surf the net and see what offers are currently in vogue.   Not only helping Australia on the move again, but also at the same time holidaying here at home.  In most cases the waters have disappeared, the winds have slowed down, and there are literally hundreds of holiday destinations just waiting to give you a smile.  
Through my syndicated radio travel food and wine programs on RadioTAB Australia I'll be pushing like mad to encourage fellow-Australians to go take a break, at home, in 2011.  By car, train, plane,- you probably can't do better than putting those holiday dollars back into Australia. 

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