Saturday, 30 April 2011

Puccini in Italy - Mary Poppins - Austria - Excess Baggage - Ultimate Asia Cruise


John Crook 

Celebrating Puccini

Commencing Friday July 22nd and then on selected dates throughout July and August, a musical festival is scheduled in the town of Torre del Lago, home to Puccini.  Throughout July and August his works will resonate through the village, featuring  La Boheme, Turandot, and Madame Butterfly.  For details of the festival go visit or telephone the Italian Government Tourist Office on (02) 9262 1666.  The festival will welcome in more than 40,000 spectators to the town's open air theatre.  If you can make it, do yourself a favour. 

Ok, so Mary Poppins hits town

Bowral in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, on Saturday May 7th.  Not that much time to organise a trip into this beautiful region and also to join in the Welcome Home Mary Poppins, but for those who can make it,  the locals (and Mary) extend a great welcome.  The gathering of the clan, so to speak, will attempt a record breaking event,- namely creating a mosaic greater than that set by the 1,026 people in Serbia in 2009.  If interested and to register your intent,   telephone (02) 4801 0622.  The big day is to salute a former Bowral resident,- Helen Goff, the creator of Mary Poppins.  

Uniquely Austrian

The Austrian National Tourist Office has launched a new online and social media campaign, featuring 250 authentic activities, meals, landmarks and an assortment of secrets in which to assist travellers to better enjoy their Austrian experience.  The campaign promotes  a wealth of  recommendations, from dining in Europe's oldest restaurant, doing an apple Strudel baking course in the bakery at Schonbrunn, to uncrowded bicycle paths, - to name but a few.  To obtain your copy of 'Austria. Unique Like You' simply email   Include your postal address. 

Going overseas?

That's when one discovers the suitcase is too small.  Perhaps one should consider a national excess baggage service, boasting more than 15 years experience.  Jetta Excess Baggage offers deals cheaper than airline excess baggage and offers luggage rates to more than 6500 destinations in 240 countries.   For more details telephone 1300 300 688. 

The ultimate Asia visit

A 22-night package which begins in Beijing opens the door to Aussies wishing to  explore a fascinating country.  All aboard, - for the cruise of a lifetime,- the departure ex Beijing on March 6, 2012.   Priced from $9439 per person twin share, there's even a free night stopover at Singapore's Raffles Hotel.   Not only cruising, but there's heaps of on-land touring as well.  Best thing is to get yourself a copy of the itinerary by calling 1300 369 848.  Truly, one of the best itineraries I've come across.  Included in the price as quoted is return economy airfares with Singapore Airlines from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.  Check it out by contacting   

* 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, 25 April 2011

Madagascar - QM2 - Oktoberfest - Orion’s Spice Islands - Yoga Cruise


ADVENTURE holiday operator Explore Worldwide has two 15-day packages which follow in the footsteps of  David Attenborough's latest documentary masterpiece "Madagascar," in which he explores the unique wildlife of the world's oldest island.

Explore's Madagascar itineraries have a strong wildlife focus, such as the 'The Lost Continent' tour which passes through rainforest and crosses plains, canyons and highlands in search of lemur and other extraordinary wildlife. The package is priced from $2711 and includes accommodation with daily breakfast, 11 other meals, transport, sightseeing as well as a tour leader, driver and local guides.

For the more active adventurer the 15-day 'Madagascar Wilderness Trek' takes in similar highlights but has more of a trekking-focus. There are departures from September to April and costs from $2547 and includes accommodation with most meals, transport, extensive sightseeing and the services of a tour leader, driver and local guides.

For more details contact Venture Holidays on 1300-303-343 or visit



A WHOLE week regally cruising the Atlantic aboard the grand Queen Mary 2, stays in the finest world-class hotels in New York and London for shopping and sightseeing, airfares and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – and through Cruiseco, all this is from an incredibly low $3850pp twin-share.

Cruiseco has four of these packages between May 9 and June 8 this year, sailing 7-nights aboard Queen Mary between New York and London (or vice-versa) with all onboard dining and amid an ambience of gracious and "unmistakable Britishness," and 2-nights pre- or post-cruise at the Hemlsley Hotel New York and a night at either the Waldorf Hilton London or Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London.

These value-packed holidays start at just $3850pp and begin with 2 nights at the Helmsley Hotel in New York on June 8 2011.

For full details, prices from other capital cities, and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies visit

FURTHER SHIPBOARD AND HOTEL DETAILS: The majestic 148,500-tonne Queen Mary 2 offers no fewer than nine restaurants, twelve bars and lounges, five pools, a casino, ballroom, live-stage theatre and cinema with late-release movies.

New York's Helmsley Hotel is located on the East Side close to Fifth Avenue shopping and dining, and within easy reach of the city's best attractions and sights, including the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the United Nations building, the Theatre District and Rockefeller Centre.

London's Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel is a true one-off property close to the chic boutiques of Covent Garden and Oxford Street's celebrated shopping, while the Waldorf Hilton London is close to the city's Theatreland, 5 minutes' walk from the shops of Covent Garden, and near to the London Eye and Trafalgar Square.



THIRSTY Australians keen to help the locals and other visitors drink their way through seven million litres of beer at this year's Oktoberfest in Munich, are being offered discounted flights to the Bavarian capital by online travel agent, Direct Flights International from $1541pp.

One of the world's biggest festivals, the 17-day Oktoberfest will run from September 17 to October 3, 2011, with its cavernous beer tents, rock concerts, streets parades and thrill rides drawing more than 6.4 million visitors, just under the seven million litres of beer that will be downed at the thirst-quenching carnival.

More than half a million sausages and 70,000 pork knuckles will also be consumed with the Bavarian beer, which will be sold in huge one-litre steins for around AU$12 each.

And to cope with the liquid intake, there will be 1000 toilet seats and almost a kilometre of men's urinals on hand in the fair grounds. 2011 will also be the first year smoking will be banned inside the giant beer tents, some of which can seat 8400 people.

Direct Flights is offering return flights to Munich with full-service British Airways from $1541 from Perth and from $2192 from Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. * The fares include taxes and are available for sale on until April 29, 2011, for departures up to October 3, 2011.

Accommodation, car hire, tours and attractions in Germany can also be booked online with Direct Flights.

Conditions apply and flights are subject to availability.


EXPEDITION cruise ship Orion's Spice Island Adventure later this year explores one of the most extraordinarily bio-diverse regions on Earth, a handful of rarely visited islands situated just north of Australia.

Centuries ago the Spice Islands were the source of the world's most valued foodstuffs and most treasured commodities of their time, multiplying in value up to a thousand-fold by the time they reached the markets of Europe.

Dotted among the thousands of islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, only nine supported the Myristica fragrans tree, the source of nutmeg and mace, while just six more supported a myrtle whose dried flower buds were known to the Chinese as 'fragrant nails' – and to us as cloves.

More than 3000 years ago cloves were traded in Persia, and Romans were able to buy spices originating from Indonesia. In the 16th century Magellan and Vasco da Gama opened the way for the trading houses of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company.

In 2011 Orion Expedition Cruises will again open the way for adventurous spirits with an 11-night expedition to a region where few outsiders set foot.

It is home to many unique flora and fauna species, particularly birdlife. Towering volcanoes, many still active, rise from the sea, tropical islands appear through the soft light of morning, a hint of kretek – aromatic clove and tobacco blended cigarettes – wafts on the breeze and bright and colourful customs bring ancient legends and traditions to life in remote island villages.

This expedition includes a visit to Komodo and the chance to see the world's largest lizards – the Komodo Dragons – that grow to over 3 metres in length.

There's also Pink Beach named because of its crushed red organ pipe coral sand, and perfect for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing, the island of Alor whose predominantly Christian villagers can be traced back to the Dongson period in Vietnam around 350 BC, and Sumba an uplifted coral limestone island once known as Sandalwood Island whose people retain a strong cultural heritage resistant to the outside influences of Christianity, Hinduism or Islam…. Orion's guests will be welcomed by villagers wearing traditional woven ikat fabrics and see ancient megaliths that adorn the village entrances.

Orion's expedition voyage will include a specialist Expedition Team selected for their knowledge and practical experience in botany, marine biology, anthropology and history.

The 11 night Spice Island Adventure departs Darwin on July 14 this year visiting Kisar on Maluku, Alor, Maumere (Flores,) Komodo, East and West Sumba, Savu, Rote and back to Darwin; prices start from $8175pp including twin-share, onboard meals, shore excursions, lectures and backgroundings, Zodiac transfers, gratuities and port charges.

Details (02) 9033 8777, toll-free 1300 361 012 or


CRUISING WITH A CONSCIENCE                           

IT'S a tough call – waking to an alarm clock for free early morning yoga lessons and meditation on the open deck of a great luxury sailing ship, or giving up pre-sunset cocktails for a late afternoon session.

In any case, yoga teacher Christel Vollmer who trained on the US West Coast with Bryan Kest, yoga guru to celebrities including Madonna, Cindy Crawford and Sting, will be holding classes twice a day for seven days on two special Star Clipper cruises in the Mediterranean on August 6 and 13.

Christel, who specialises in Astanga (power) yoga, will also give lectures on the philosophy of yoga and advice on practice at home. Age is no restriction and no experience is necessary to attend lessons.

Supplementing the healthy yoga theme, Star clipper will offer some vegetarian meals at dinner and plenty of fruit and salads with breakfast and lunch.

The 170-passenger tall ship operates a series of cruises from Athens in May, June July and August on alternate southern and northern itineraries that include popular Greek islands and Turkish ports in the Aegean Sea.

The two cruises where yoga is offered start at $5820 including return airfare from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide with Singapore Airlines, all port and air taxes and all meals and entertainment onboard Star Clipper.

Star Clipper, sister ship Star flyer, and flagship Royal Clipper follow the sun year-round to exotic ports in the east and west Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Costa Rica and, in 2012, to Baltic and Scandinavian ports.

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

Croatia and Dalmatia - Paris - QM2 - Festival of Voices - Kings Canyon


John Crook 

Birthplace of Marco Polo

There are discounts of up to $1500 per couple in the Best of Croatia and Dalmatia cruise package, with two departures in June and likewise October.  What caught my eye was the mention of Marco Polo.  His birthplace is included in the tour itinerary.  Fabulous historical and cultural heritage throughout.  Also included is a four night cruise from Dubrovnik to Split aboard M/S Pape Prvi. All those intense hours set aside for history and geography lessons at Eudunda Area School now come alive via these escorted tours.  Full details by calling 1300 363 554 or email  

Four nights in gay Paree

Book selected hotels under the banner of Tempo Holidays and enjoy an extra day in Paris.  Stay four-nights but pay for only three on a range of properties including Sully Saint Germain which is located in the heart of the Left Bank.   Prices start from  $309 per person, twin share .  Just note that the deal on offer is valid for sale and travel until August 25 2011.  For all the facts and conditions give this number a ring – 1300 558 987.  Or, email  

Queen Mary 2, London and New York

Wowee,- this has to be one of the best cruise offers around.  An entire week cruising the Atlantic aboard the grand dame herself, - Queen Mary 2.  Then staying in luxury at the finest hotels in New York and London.  Included in the cruise package are airfares and taxes  from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.   Cruiseco has four of these packages between May 9 and June 8 this year, - priced from as low as $3850 per person twin share,- and in my book that's totally affordable. Go visit  

Festival of voices in July

Sing your hearts out! The 2011 Festival of Voices incorporates choral and ensemble singing, hip hop, musical theatre and on and on it goes.  July is the month to get involved with a Tasmanian arts and music festival.  The events are scheduled in Hobart's majestic and historic buildings, concert halls and open spaces.  Get the full facts by visiting   That website has more details of the program of events, including workshops and performances. 

Kings Canyon is terrific

I've made numerous visits into Central Australia, and without doubt one of my most favoured locations is Kings Canyon.    A five-day Red Centre Long Weekender awaits you and that includes car hire with unlimited kilometres.  The price is from just  $717 per person twin share.  That includes a complimentary upgrade to a deluxe spa room.   Whilst at Kings Canyon you will also experience the award-wining Under the Desert Moon dining experience. The deal is valid until 30 June.  For all the details and conditions which may be applicable, telephone 13 38 43 

* 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, 18 April 2011

Mary Poppins - Mediterranean - South America - Houdini - Orion Sabah


. Bowral event "will be big enough to be seen from space…"

HEAD to Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands on Saturday May 7th and you could find yourself part of history: an attempt will be made that afternoon to create a new world record for the most number of people gathering with opened umbrellas to form a gigantic mosaic of the world's most famous nanny, Mary Poppins.

It was in Bowral in the early 1900s that teenager Helen Lyndon Goff made up bedtime stories to tell to her younger sisters after the premature death of their father, amongst her tales being the adventures of a no-nonsense nanny.

And today it's another local teenager, Melissa McShane who's sparked community interest in a Mary Poppins statue in Bowral; the "Welcome Home Mary Poppins" record attempt is part of promotion and fund-raising for that statue, and will be witnessed by representatives of The Guinness Book of Records.

The mosaic will be formed on Bowral's famous Bradman Oval.

Organisers, the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council, hope to smash the current Mary Poppins mosaic record set by 1,026 people in Serbia in 2009, and are inviting all Mary Poppins fans to join them – pointing out that their human mosaic will be big enough to be seen from space.

Their planned bronze Mary Poppins statue will be sited in Bowral's Glebe Park, that is just a block away from where Helen Lyndon Goff lived, and is adjacent to Bowral Oval.

You can register to take part in the mosaic on, phone (02) 4801 0622 – or just turn up on May 7th with your most colourful umbrella.

And after the mosaic everyone's invited to an open-air screening of the Disney 1964 Mary Poppins musical, and a fireworks show.


A growing number of Australian cruise fans are opting to cruise the Mediterranean in winter, cashing in on savings offered on flights and cruises during the traditional off-peak season.

Family-owned Italian-based MSC Cruises says it's seen a surge in interest for its cruises in January, February and March, supporting the company's move to keep three of its 11 luxury ships – Splendida, Fantasia and Magnifica – in the region year-round.

"Cruising in the Mediterranean is hot with Australians, even in winter," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises (Australia and New Zealand).

"The demand for these cruises is riding on the crest of a wave. Price, style of ship and the interesting ports have all played a role."

Drawing on Australian interest is a 22-night Mediterranean Discovery Cruise which pools, back-to-back, two 11-night cruises aboard the luxurious Splendida.

Price for the cruise begins at $2048pp twin share (January 15, 2011) with return air fare options available, flying Emirates to Milan, from $2056pp. Two other itineraries are scheduled for February 6 (from $2158pp twin share) and March 19, 2011 (from $2268pp, twin share).

During the traditional cruising months, MSC Cruises has noticed an upsurge of bookings for MSC Musica's Italy, Greek Islands and Croatia seven-night cruises, priced from $1099pp, twin share.

They begin in Venice and call on Italy's Bari, Greece's Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens), Corfu and Dubrovnik in Croatia, before returning to Venice.

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502, or


APT has launched its new South America 2012 brochure with a Companion Fly Free deal for every itinerary, representing savings of up to $3735 per couple if bookings are made before June 30 2011.

A 21-day The Very Best of South America escorted tour is the backbone of APT's new South America small group journeys (maximum 24 passengers). Travellers can add Chilean fjiord cruises, Patagonia Lakes, Galapagos Island cruises, Amazon Lodge, Patagonia fjiords, Rio Carnival or Buenos Aires/Rio de Janeiro city stays to create a itineraries between 24 to 31 days.

The Very Best of South America is priced from $11,995 per person twin share. There are nine departures between April and November for this luxury escorted coach tour which explores the cities and ancient sights of Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Chile.

The price includes touring, accommodation, 39 meals, flights within South America, local arrival and departure transfers, port charges and all tipping, Freedom of Choice Touring and Dining, APT Tour Director and local guides.

Among the highlights are exploring Buenos Aires, full-day excursion to Uruguay's oldest town, Iguassu Falls including jet boat ride,  discovering Rio de Janeiro including Corcovado, Sugarloaf mountain at sunset, Copacabana beach, and the amazing local culture and dining, two days exploring Santiago and its neighbouring wine regions, Cusco high in the Andes, a local hand weaving demonstration, riding PeruRail's Vistadome train to the lost Inca City of Machu Picchu, onboard the Orient Express' Hiram Bingham train for a luxurious rail journey and sumptuous four course dinner and riding the Orient Express Andean Explorer in first class to Lake Titicaca.

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


MORE than 80 years after his death, Harry Houdini and his feats of escape still fascinate even the most casual fans of magic and mystery.

And if you are visiting Los Angeles between now and September 4, the Los Angeles' Skirball Cultural Center at 2701 N. Sepulveda Boulevard is paying homage to the man with an exhibit titled "Houdini: Art and Magic."

This examines the life of the man born Ehrich Weisz in Hungary in 1876 and who thrilled millions until his death in 1926. There are more than 150 objects, including original props – such as the straitjacket and trunk from which he regularly escaped – as well as posters and film clips.

There are also testimonies to Houdini's greatness from contemporary magicans and escape artists including Matthew Barney, Jane Hammond, Vik Muniz, Deborah Oropallo and Raymond Pettibon.


THE memorial to Borneo's infamous 1945 Sandakan Death March, and by contrast the little island on which the first of the TV reality Survivor shows was filmed in 2001, are amongst the diverse highlights of a 10-night cruise available through Cruiseco aboard the boutique Orion II in Malaysia's Sabah in August.

Others include two rehabilitation centres that care for orphaned and injured wildlife including orangutans and sun bears, a visit to one of Borneo's most traditional longhouses, the memorial Peace Park where Japanese forces surrendered in 1945, a swim amid coral with myriad sea-life from black-tipped sharks and rays to tiny seahorses, and a splash in reputedly medicinally-valuable volcanic mud.

And for the inquisitive, a visit to the intriguing 33-metre high Labuan Chimney that was built in the mid-1800s with 23,000 red bricks imported from England; to this day no one knows if it was to be part of a British-style luxury mansion, a ventilation shaft for Labuan's one-time coal mines, a bell tower – or the start of a lighthouse for ships passing along the coast.

Cruiseco's 11-night package includes return airfares and taxes from Australia to Kota Kinabalu via Singapore, a night pre-cruise at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore including breakfast, 10-nights aboard Orion II return from Kota Kinabalu with daily excursions, transfers in Singapore and Kota Kinabalu and port charges and government fees.

Prices start from $7988pp twin-share from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane (deduct $227pp for Perth)

For full details and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies visit

FURTHER ITINERARY DETAILS: ORION II will sail from Kota Kinabalu on August 11 this year for Mantanani and Lankayan Islands, Sandakan for three days to explore the Kinabatanga River, historic WWII sites and the Sepilok Wildlife Sanctuary, Kudat to visit the Rungus Longhouse, Labuan Island, the Klias Wetlands and Tiga Island.

The 5-star Orion II carries just 100 guests served by 65 crew and has an indoor restaurant and on-deck café, health spa, gymnasium, hair and beauty salon, Jacuzzi, lounge, library and lecture hall in which talks are given by the ship's Expedition Team and Guest Speakers.

Millamolong Polo - Venice Rowers - Glacier Express - Mary Poppins


John Crook

They’re racing

Well, not exactly, but it’s to do with horses, wine and food at a major sporting event at Mandurama in New South Wales. It’s the Millamolong Polo Carnival on Saturday April 30th. For more information on the event call 0467 67 65 62. Some of the nation’s best polo players will battle it out at the polo grounds. Admission is by a gold coin donation, with proceeds to the James Ashton Charity Fund. For those who want to be VIP’s on the day, get the details by either telephoning or email The program includes a Volvo car versus horse race, heaps of activities and food for the family. For all the details go visit Vintage cars to helicopters, a petting zoo to a pig called Sharon.

This is one heck of an event,- not to be missed !

A rowing race in Venice

A 30 km rowing race with hundreds of boats (all shapes and sizes) is scheduled for Sunday June 12th. The participants include local Venetians and foreign rowers. It is a huge festival and an event which saw the light of day in 1974 when locals gathered together to rid the lagoon of noisy boats with outboard motors. The event this year will welcome about 5000 rowers. To get the full story go to or telephone the Italian Government Tourist Office in Sydney, on (02) 9262 1666. The email address is

Train it in spectacular comfort

A spectacular rail journey is about to set off into the Swiss Alps. It is the three-day Glacier Express,- and what an experience.

Travel is between St Moritz to Zermatt and aboard the world’s most famous railway, across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and the Oberalp Pass. The price is from $652 per person twin share. The package includes two nights in some of Switzerland’s most popular resorts, first class train travel, two breakfasts and three transfers.

There are other packages available, so check them out by visiting or your local travel agent, or telephone 1300 558 987.

Mary Poppins

Saturday May 7 is one date to set aside, for it heralds an attempt to create a mosaic world record attempt in beautiful Bowral. In the early 1900’s teenager Helen Lyndon Goff made up bedtime stories to tell her younger sisters. One such story has made it to the silver screen,- Mary Poppins. Another teenager, Melissa McShane is out to set a new record. She, along with more than a thousand people hope to smash a record, set in Serbia (2009) where 1,026 people are to face ‘defeat’ by the ‘down under’ locals, - but you are needed at Bradman Oval, on Bowral’s big day. Get all the facts by ringing (02) 4801 0622, or visit 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, 11 April 2011

Indochina Tours - Il Gioco del Ponte - Cirque du Soleil - Q Station - Rio Brazil


John Crook

Wendy Wu

Indochina specialist Wendy Wu is offering a $200 per person discount on their Vietnam departure  July 09m 2011.  One of the conditions is that bookings need to be made prior to 31 May.  It is an 18-day tour which takes in some of Vietnam's key attractions including, the dynamic city of Saigon, the Mekong Delta which includes a homestay, Hoi An, Hue and the treasures of Halong Bay.  The package is now priced from $3889  for departures from Sydney and Melbourne, for those travelling ex Brisbane and Adelaide it is priced from $4089 and from Perth $4191.  Prices are per person, twin share and include return economy airfares and taxes, 16 nights accommodation, comprehensive touring, visa fee for Aussie passport holders, fuel surcharge and gratuities.  For more information and to confirm the conditions and prices, telephone 1300 727 998.

Could be you in battle

An historic event known  as Il Gioco del Ponte is a colourful and violent ritual where two opposing camps fight over the town's main bridge, an event which dates back to the Middle Ages.  That's how it once was.  These days the event is more of an endurance course rather than a blood thirst battle.  Get to the location early in the day and grab a good spot to catch the marching, the 'battle' and the huge military parade.  Best advice I can give is to go visit or contact the Italian Government Tourist Office in Sydney.  The email address is or telephone (02) 9262 1666.  It all happens the last Sunday in June.

They're back– be warned !

Something a little different is happening in Brisbane in July.  Tickets are currently available for Cirque du Soleil – Saltimbanco, playing at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall from 8 July to 17, 2011.  Starting as a group of street performers in 1984, the company has grown somewhat, now boasting 5,000 employees, including 1,300 artists playing to the world.   For more information and other play dates contact Ticketek  on 132 849.   You can also catch the show at other locations,- Perth April 21, Adelaide May 25, Melbourne May 26, Hobart June 15, 2011.

Manly's Q Station

Impress Mum on May 8 with a night at Manly's Q Station, located within Sydney Harbour National Park. A special Mother's day package awaits.  It is priced from $210 and includes accommodation for two in a deluxe Queen ensuite room, a full buffet breakfast and a late checkout time of 1pm on Sunday.  Mention it's a Mother's Day when booking and  also receive a comp bottle of sparkling wine on arrival.  To book contact (02) 9466 1500 or g visit    The deal is valid for stays May 7 and 8, 2011, with the late checkout valid only on the Sunday.

Rio and more

Here's your chance to really get to know the  most exciting parts of South America,- exploring Rio, the Iguassu Falls, historic Salvador and the rhythms of  Brazil.  The 11-day small group tour is priced from $3967 per person, twin share.  Make a promise to yourself that you will make contact with Cox & Kings for the full story of a quite remarkable tour of adventure,.. and rhythms of Brazil. Call 1300 836 764.

* 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, 4 April 2011

Mornington Peninsula - Silversea - Lake Okareka Lodge - Masala Dandenong - Russia


John Crook

A top spot from which to escape

Apart from the fact that most of the disaster zones, in Victoria and Queensland, have returned to normal business, Aussie domestic travel and tourism offer some fantastic holiday options.  In this week's report I'm suggesting a couple of days R & R on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.  Packages vary in price and inclusions, however, a studio suite package at Best Western Brooklands of Mornington should be considered.    Check this one out !  Included in the tariff  of $200 is complimentary breakfast in your room, a newspaper delivered to your room and a comp bottle of wine awaiting your arrival.    The studio suites of this four star property feature a deluxe king bed, a kitchenette  and a 41" plasma TV.  The property, which is close to beaches and attractions,  is set on three acres of stunning landscaped gardens.  For all the information simply go visit or telephone  (03) 5973 9200.

Luxury ?  Yes please!

Current packages cruising with Silversea offer no less that six ships sailing twenty-six itineraries  in seven regions of the world between November of this year and December 2012.  All of the packages are inclusive of return air from Australia, pre and post cruise accommodation in luxury hotels with prices starting from just $7975 per person twin share.  Packages range from 14 to 33 nights embracing Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and also north and south America, through to the Antarctic. There is  real choice on offer,  each offering luxury and exciting inclusions.   Simple go visit

Mum will remember

To share Mothers' Day this year make a beeline to a website which shows how to spoil Mum and give her memories for years to come.  New Zealand's Lake Okareka Lodge is the destination and it's there that your Mum will be treated right royally.  Packages are available for sale through to April 30 and for travel through 31  August 2011.   What's the deal ?  I am delighted to share this one with you.  Lake Okareka Lodge's recommended package is priced from AUD$3110 (check on currency exchange).  That includes three nights suite accommodation for two persons, champagne breakfasts, pre dinner drinks and canapés, daily five-course dinners, 24 hour butler service, personal chef to create dishes to your liking, return airport/lodge transfers,- and there's more.  I'll race you to make contact at or go visit

Wander through Little India

Several years ago I joined a walking tour group through the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong.  The local council encouraged those with adventurous taste buds to travel to Little India.  Passports, visas nor international airline tickets were required.  Those early food lovers can now join latter-day visits to the well organised Masala Meander in Melbourne's Dandenong.  Included in these foodie experiences, are Indian dishes at an Indian café, a visit to an Indian grocery store, a three-course luncheon at an Indian Restaurant with a glass of wine and a surprise giveaway.  Various dates are available so check these out by visiting     A minimum of four guests make for a tour group, with a $70 price tag per person.  These are genuine 'North Indian style'  experiences which depart Dandenong railway stations at 11.15am for an 11.30am start.  The company also offers  a similar tour through Melbourne's cbd. 

For details use the same web address.  Bookings are essential.

How about Russia ?

There's a discounted nine-day package  cruise between St Petersburg and Moscow with the discounts of $500 per person on selected dates.  This is a great adventure with inclusions such as a farmers' market, a visit to a 17th century church, with its own legends and memories, and tours of both Moscow and St Petersburg.  The cruise includes private tours, five-star accommodation with breakfast included,  and on the six-nights aboard the MS Volga, the price includes daily meals with wine and soft drinks during lunches and dinners.  For more information telephone  1800 221 712.  Go visit Terms and conditions apply.

* 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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