Sunday, 29 May 2011

York WA - South Africa - Sydney Fish Markets - County Kerry -

Travel Briefs

John Crook 

York Australia, not York UK, nor York USA

Now that we have settled that, here's how you can experience a very special  event,- a gourmet food and wine festival.  Set these 2011 dates in your travel diary.   June 25th and 26th. The festival are all-day affairs on both days,- ie 9.00am to 3.30pm in the century old anniversary York Town Hall with interactive cooking demos in the Masonic hall.   York is set on the Avon River. A pretty town which springs into life with its many temptations.  This is the first time in almost 20 years that I have had the door open into Western Australia.  One could not be seeking  a better event than the York festival to get the ball rolling.   I believe accommodation is plentiful, although filling fast.  For more information go visit or telephone Tanya on 0429260537.   Entry is just $5 with children free. 

Seven days in South Africa

This is a real bargain. Costing a little over $100 a day the deal includes three nights accommodation with breakfasts at the Cadogan Hotel in Capetown.   There's extensive sightseeing followed by  a spectacular scenic drive to the quaint village of Franschhoek with three more nights at the luxurious boutique property Country House. This is the stepping off point for Paarl and the Cape Dutch architecture and hisoric Stellenbosch.    The package costs $740 ($845 in September) and that includes accommodation with breakfast, airport transfers, transport and sightseeing. Get the full facts by contacting Bench International, - 1300 195 873 of visit  
Cooking fish

Arguably, there is no better way to success in cooking fish than signing on for one of the cooking classes, in the July – October program, which is promoted by the Sydney Seafood School.  For all the details it is just a matter of calling (02) 9004 1122, or email or visiting   It's as easy as that.

I see where Mark Jensen, from the famous Red Lantern  Restaurant, is one of the chefs to be featured in this upcoming series. 
Explore Celtic Kerry

There's a real saving on the cost of a relaxed guided walking and cultural holiday in Ireland.  Departures are scheduled on selected dates in September and October 2011 and now reduced from $2095 to $1795 per person twin share.  The tour is based in the kingdom of Country Kerry.  It includes all the splendours of this part of Ireland.  Seven nights ensuite hotel/guest house accommodation including experienced local tour guide, five packed lunches  six dinners, and seven breakfasts. You even get to do some Irish dance lessons.  Get the deal outlined for you by calling  1800 331 582.

Here's an offer which is hard to resist.

If you are into Rugby, Cruiseco will fly you free from

Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and have you join the luxury cruise liner Rhapsody of the Seas,  with part of an eight night cruise having you in Wellington for quarter finals 1 and 3, with transfers and your game tickets included,- and with free air to come home. There are other deals awaiting as well.  So, to get the information which will get you on your way, go visit and get the names of Cruisco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide. Full details are available on that website. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.  

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Explora Chile - Guadalcanal - Avalon Europe - Tuscany - Calgary Cowboys

Travel Briefs

John Crook 

Purchase a four night stay and save

Chilean-based travel company explora has announced the arrival of their 100,000th visitor and to celebrate they are offering all travellers, who book a four-night program, with a complimentary stay at any of its three luxurious eco-lodges.  Four night packages, include accommodation, meals, soft and alcoholic  beverages, transfers from local airport plus equipment.  Prices commence at AUD2640.  Check for conditions by visiting   Your local travel agent should also be able to provide more info.  Guests will receive their fifth night free when they visit before August 31 2011. 

The bloody battlefields of Guadalcanal

This is the resting place of HMAS Canberra, which was sunk during the battle of Savo Island.  It is also the base at which JFK was stationed with his PT109.   A Guadalcanal  69th anniversary tour, featuring highlights of the battlefields, is scheduled for a seven-night tour from August 5.  Full details of the tour can be checked by ringing 1300 880 340 or visiting   Prices begin from $3197 per person and that includes first-class hotel accommodation, excursions, entry fees. Daily breakfasts and lunches, two dinners, tips and educational site pamphlets.  The tour has been planned by  leading Australian war historian Mat McLachlan.  This is a living museum of the 1940's. 

Suite ships

Two new luxury 'suite ships' lead the most modern river cruise fleet in Europe. Not only that but  they tell me that 2012 river cruises are on an average  10 per cent cheaper than 2011. Avalon's  Panorama was launched last week.

Such has been consumer reaction, Avalon has commissioned another two 'suite ships'. The 83-cabin Avalon Vista and the 64-cabin Avalon Visionary enter service on the Danube and the Rhine in 2012.    So many options are available right now, so to get the full facts go visit    Conditions apply. 

Tuscan food and wine

Get the full story on Italy's best food and wine based packaging and do the visit as an independent traveller. Add that little extra such as a three-day Great Wines and Tuscany package which is priced from $751 per person twin share.   Tempo Holidays has a bundle of food and wine experiences.  To check on the range and conditions, call 1300 558 987 or visit your local travel agent, or check out the facts by visiting  

Real cowboys.- yippee

The Calgary Stampede is widely known as the Greatest Show on Earth.  Well, - it's on again in Calgary from July 8 to 17.  Four day packages start from $758 per person twin share.  That includes three nights accommodation, a two-day light rail transit pass to and from the Stampede grounds, reserve ticket to the afternoon rodeo including admission, reserve seating in the Gold Outdoor Balcony section to the evening chuckwagon races and grandstand show,  There's also a skyride pass, a carry bag, polo T-shirt and a Calgary Tower elevation pass.  Got that?  Next job is to make a booking.  Telephone  1300 303 343 or 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. 

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Monday, 16 May 2011

Ski Korea - Central Australia - Monza - SeaDream - Hemmingway Walk -


John Crook

Discovering ski resorts Korea

In case Korea has not been at the top of your ski lists, here's news from Yongpyong, known world-wide as Korea's ski mecca.  With more than 25 kms of groomed slopes, 15 chair lifts, a 3.7km gondola – it has just about everything for all levels of skiing or snowboarding.   Check this package! Priced from $1035 per person, twin share, there are seven nights in a deluxe room at the Dragon Valley Hotel accompanied by a six-day lift pass. For more information and bookings get in touch with  or telephone 1300 136 997.  Book and pay by 14 December 2011 and valid for travel Jan – 18 Feb 2012.   Airfares are additional.   Conditions apply.

The red centre

Central Australia awaits, with some excellent deals, such as the Visit Uluru land package  priced from $399.  It includes three nights accommodation at Ayers Rock Resort, free return airport transfers and a free half day Uluru highlights tour,- and that comes with a saving of up to $335 per person.   Also, be sure to set aside one of the nights for a Sounds of Silence dinner (extra cost),- one of the real highlights of any visit to this part of the world.  I've done that experience  on several occasions.  So popular though, that early reservations are absolutely necessary. For bookings and more information telephone 13 38 43 or visit

The Grand Prix (Italian style)

Friday September 9th, Saturday September 10 and Sunday Setember 11 2011 are important dates on the Formula 1 world championships.   Perhaps, the most important !  The location is  Monza, (Lombardy) Italy.  The Italian Grand Prix is one of the longest running events on the motor racing calendar.

It's extremely popular  and the Year 2011 event will again prove to be the ultimate circuit for speed lovers.  Interested?  Then get the facts,  by visiting   Should you need to speak with those 'in the know' call the Italian Government Tourist Office on  (02) 9262 1666 or email

This website a must

SeaDream Yacht Club has just released a dramatically improved website, a site which will provide consumers  and travel professionals with the easiest  access to everything there is to know about its twin mega motor-cruiser yachts.  For more information simply visit  or have a yarn with your travel agent.   But above all, check out the upgraded website, today !  

Take a walk Hemingway style

You too can walk the streets of Italy's Bassano del Grappa, the same streets as  Ernest Hemingway drove his America Army ambulance in WWI, was injured and hospitalised and inspired to write A Farewell to Arms.  This same town where ancient Roman soldiers created what has since become internationally known for its Grappa.  So much history, so many memories and by joining  a 16-day small-group tour to the Lakes of Northern Italy.  The tour departs Milano  on September 5 2011, and prices start from $6485.  Simply drop into  or telephone (07) 3396 8652

* 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, 9 May 2011

Solo South America - Grand Mediterranean cruise - Eastern Europe - Star Clippers - Logan Wines Tasting

INNOVATIVE Chile-based active travel company, explora has just announced it will be dropping single supplement surcharges for those who want to go it alone to the unexplored regions of South America - Atacama, Patagonia and Easter Island.

explora operates three luxurious eco-lodges and offers fully-inclusive packages of accommodation with all meals, soft and alcoholic beverages, transfers from the local airport and equipment, including all-terrain vehicles and horses, as required for the range of exploration.

Packages range from three to eight night stays and prices for singles start from around A$1980 for a three-night experience at Atacama, which is a saving of about A$780, a four-night stay in Patagonia is from A$2780 which can save a solo traveller almost A$1000. A six-night stay at Rapa Nui on Easter Island costs from A$4560 which saves A$1800.

The waiver of the single supplement applies to travellers staying at the properties between May 15 and October 15 2011.

For more information see your local travel agent, email or visit


MSC Cruises has slashed the price of its 14-night Grand Mediterranean cruise, that combines two week-long cruises, to $2198 per person, twin share.

And as an added bonus, it will provide free transfers between Venice and Genoa to link the East and West Mediterranean cruises aboard luxurious MSC Armonia and MSC Lirica.

This latest deal coincides with news that MSC Cruises is to complement its standard dining with lighter casual dining on its fleet, where passengers will be able to dine at their own leisure with the buffet-style restaurants providing an evening service

"There will be no fixed sitting times, so they can dine exactly as and when they please," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.

A series of Grand Mediterranean departures are scheduled during this year's northern summer months of July and August.

MSC Armonia will begin its seven-night cruises from Venice, calling on Ancona (Italy), Corfu, Santorini, Piraeus (for Athens), and Kotor (Montenegro).

MSC Lirica on the other hand, begins and ends in Genoa, with calls on Ajaccio (Corsica), Civitavecchia (for Rome), Salerno (Italy), Palma, and the giant French port of Marseille.

"Ancona and Kotor are amazing stops on the MSC Armonia Eastern Mediterranean cruise leg as they are UNESCO World Heritage listed, a real photographer's dream," said Mrs Clarke. "As for the MSC Lirica cruises, well, Ajaccio may not be well known in Australia but it is in Europe as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte," she said.

As with all MSC Cruises' programs, children aged under 18 years cruise free when sharing a cabin with two adults (port charges are extra).

To cash in on the latest saving, bookings must be made by May 20, 2011.

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502,

TOURING specialist Beyond Travel has announced discounts across the board on their escorted tours through Eastern Europe including Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and more, for departures in 2011.

The 14-day Tallinn to Vienna has been discounted by $120 per couple. The tour travels through some of the lesser known regions of Eastern Europe including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before heading south to Poland, Czech Republic and Austria.

Now priced from $2720 per person twin share there are seven departures between June and October.

One of Beyond's most popular escorted tours is the 10-day Vienna to Bucharest including three nights in Hungary's famous split capital city Budapest and costs from just $2060 per person twin share.

All escorted tours include accommodation and daily breakfast, transportation by a high quality air conditioned coach, comprehensive sightseeing with an English-speaking tour director and return transfers.

For other escorted tours across Eastern Europe contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email 


STAR Clippers is offering 25% discounts on 23 of its most popular Mediterranean cruises between July and October this year.

The cruises, from $2340 for seven nights including taxes, are available on all three tall ships in the fleet including the 227-passenger flagship Royal Clipper.

Prime itineraries include the playgrounds of the rich and famous in the French and Italian Rivieras, the Greek Isles, Turkey, Malta, and a string of small ports unable to be visited by large liners.

A focus for Star Flyer (170 passengers) is the new 'Yachtsman's Paradise' route between Istanbul and Athens with calls at picturesque villages, towns and islands in the Aegean Sea.  Sister ship Star Clipper is operating from Athens, cruising to the Northern and Southern Cyclades calling at the best-known Greek islands.

The discounted prices are twin-share for cruises booked before June 30. Past passengers are entitled to an additional five percent discount.

All three ships are high-tech luxury versions of the spectacular clipper sailing ships made famous as they swept across the ocean trading routes of the world under billowing white sails in the 1900's.

The 21st century clippers come with swimming pools, piano lounge, bars, library, en-suite cabins and all the pampering of a private yacht.

Call 1300 362 599, (02) 8913 6588 or visit

LOGAN Wines will share a hot and spicy dinner at their Mudgee Tasting Room in the Hunter Valley this June, when Longrain's renowned Executive chef Martin Boetz takes time out from his modern-Thai restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne for a one-off dinner matched with winemaker Peter Logan's wines.

It will be held on Saturday June 18th to showcase a marriage of Boetz's banquet style dishes and Logan's broad spectrum of wines.

Peter and his wife Hannah have been trying to 'woo' Martin for Logan's popular 'Dinner with…' series for several years. "Longrain and its progressive Asian fare has truly stood the test of time and we are really looking forward to joining forces with Martin while pairing his high-flavour cooking with wines from the Logan stable. We hope to get some lovely taste combinations with some of our reds as well as our aromatic whites,'' said Peter.

"Hot, sweet, salty and sour – the Longrain menu will incorporate all these tastes with Logan Wines balancing them beautifully," said Martin Boetz. "Logan has some wonderfully fragrant whites including the Weemala Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer, and I am looking forward to mixing things up with their spicy reds such as the Logan Pinot Noir and Shiraz too," he added.

Martin is bringing Longrain's signature style to Mudgee but intends putting a fresh spin on some locally sourced produce as well. This will include such courses as Seng wa of Mandagery Creek Venison fillet (cured Venison) with kaffir lime juice, mint and chilli, and Mussaman curry of grass fed beef (also from Mandagery Creek) with potato and baby onions.

'Dinner with Martin Boetz' with matching Logan Wines will be held at the Logan Tasting Room, Castlereagh Highway, Mudgee at 7pm on Saturday June 18th. The price is $150pp including food and wine.

Saltimbanco - Ski Korea - Victor Harbour - Greek Islands - Cruise Baltic

John Crook 
Stand by for Saltimbanco
Perth has had its go and now the remaining capitals are preparing for the arrival of Cirque Du Soleil.  Billed as one heck of an attraction, the big show features 51 artistes from 20 different countries.  Following a highly successful season in South Africa get ready for a kaleidoscopic 
celebration.  Adelaide is next, May 12 to 22; then Melbourne from May 25; followed by Hobart, Brisbane, Newcastle and Wollongong.  For details of play dates, go visit 
Go ski in Korea
Check the ski packages on offer at Yongpyong in Korea.  Staying at the Dragon Valley Hotel, pay from $1035 per person, for a seven night stay in a deluxe room, with a six-day ski pass included.  Located in the Gangwon Province, this ski experience is just 2.5 hours east of Seoul.  Known as Korea's Ski Mecca, the mounting has more than 25kms of groomed slopes, 15 chair lifts, a 3.7km gondola and a terrain Park.   All levels of skiing experience are catered for.  For all the facts go visit or telephone 1300 136 997. 
Local seafood at Bombora
Having stayed at Victor Apartments it's easy to be full of praise for the holiday experience which awaits at Victor Harbor.  The Victor experience includes such treasures on the Fleurieu Peninsula as beautiful surf beaches and amazing panoramas, that seafood experience, and the Coorong and Goolwa.   There's nothing quite like a holiday at this location,- particularly when one is staying at Victor Apartments.  Check to ascertain whether there is an apartment  with your name on it!   To do that, telephone (08) 8410 8189, or go visit  
Hop off to the Greek Islands
There's a 10% saving on Greek hopping packages when travelling in May and June, with Tempo Holidays.  Some of the world's most favoured beaches await, such as Mykonos and Santorini.  They feature in value packages  starting from $919 per person twin share.  There is so much to enjoy in this part of the world, so go make a start on checking the itineraries and costs by ringing 1300 558 987. 
Book before May 22 2011
Cruiseco has extended to May 22, its 20% early bird savings on two return-sailings, from Harwich to the Baltics, and anther from Lisbon through the Med and Adriatic Seas to Dubrovnik, on board the 650-guest exploration ship Discovery, in July, August and September this year.  For all the details visit
* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability. 
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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Emilio Estevez - Princess Cruises - Croatia - Paul Gauguin Tahiti - Pacific Jewel Wedding


HIGH profile actor Emilio Estevez has joined adventure tour operator Explore Worldwide to create a small-group walking tour which follows in the footsteps of Estevez' latest film "The Way".

The tour will feature many of the highlights shown in the film, which will be released next month.

The 15-day itinerary for "Highlights of The Way – Camino de Santiago" will include stays at three of the hotels featured in the film, including the exotic Parador de Leon.

Other aspects of the tour include the historic Roncesvalles Pass, dramatic Muxia and a visit to the famous Cruz de Hierro (Iron Cross), as well as guided visits of Leon, Burgos and Santiago.

Explore Worldwide has scheduled departures of the tour on September 9 and 24, 2011, with a support vehicle at hand to carry luggage and members of the group wanting a break from the walking.

The 15-day package costs from $2541 per person and includes accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis, all transport, some guided visits and the services of a tour leader.

Explore also has a number of other holidays incorporating the Camino, including a 12-day walking trip, a seven-day independent itinerary and a 12-day rail journey through Northern Spain.

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


Princess Cruises has launched its worldwide 2012-13 season, including its biggest ever Australian summer deployment with four ships offering 61 different cruises in local waters.

In a first for the cruise line, almost 600 cruises have opened for bookings simultaneously around the globe, with Australians able to take advantage of some of Princess' best-ever early booking fares.

Prices for an 11-night cruise to Fiji from Australia start from $1,699* per person twin share, while fares for a seven-night Alaskan Inside Passage sailing start from $799* per person twin share.

The eleven programs now on sale include Alaska; Asia, Africa & India; Australia & NZ; Canada & New England; Caribbean; Europe; Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific; Mexico and Pacific Coast; Panama Canal; South America & Amazon and World Cruises.

The 2012-13 Australia and New Zealand program includes the return of Sea Princess for a second summer season sailing from Sydney, with Sun Princess sailing from Brisbane from October 2012 to April 2013 as well as Sydney and Fremantle, and Dawn Princess cruising from Melbourne and Sydney. Meanwhile, Diamond Princess will sail on six cruises between Sydney and Auckland over the summer, adding Wellington and Picton to create a longer 14-night itinerary.

New cruise options include a 33-night cruise around Australia and New Zealand on Sea Princess, two 40-night sailings to China and Japan in spring and autumn and a special 11-night cruise on Dawn Princess from Sydney to northern Queensland to coincide with the phenomena of the total solar eclipse in November 2012.

The warmer months will see Princess offering a range of South Pacific cruises from Sydney and Brisbane, each featuring up to four ports of call in Fiji – more than any other cruise line.

For more information visit , call 13 2488 or see travel agents.


TOURING specialist Beyond Travel has announced discounts across the board on their escorted tours through Croatia's mainland, the Dalmatian coast and its neighbouring countries, for departures in 2011.

There are discounts of up to $1500 per couple on  the 'Best of Croatia and Dalmatia Cruise' package which includes a four night cruise aboard M/S Pape Prvi from Dubrovnik to Split with port visits to Mljet, famous for its huge salt water lakes and national park,  Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo, and Hvar, rich in historical and cultural heritage. You will also visit Split, the Plitvice Lakes region and the capital Zagreb.

Now priced from $2800 per person twin share there are two departures in June and two in October.

For those looking for an extended holiday, the 16-day journey "From Greece to Dalmatia" travels from Athens to Dubrovnik and Zagreb and costs from just $3463 per person.

All escorted tours include accommodation and daily breakfast, transportation by a high quality air conditioned coach, comprehensive sightseeing with an English speaking tour director and return transfers.

For other escorted tours in Croatia on sale contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email


The award-winning, ultra-luxury cruise liner, Paul Gauguin, will offer a rare voyage from Australia to Tahiti next Australia Day, with Cruise Express offering half-priced fares as part of an all-inclusive, fly/cruise package just released.

Normally based in Tahiti, the five-star boutique Paul Gauguin will sail from Brisbane on January 26, 2012, for an exotic 17-night 'South Pacific Discovery' cruise to French Polynesia via ports in Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga, the Cook Islands and the spectacular Tahitian islands of Bora Bora, Moorea and Taha'a, described as amongst the most beautiful islands on Earth.

At Bora Bora, guests will relax on Paul Gauguin Cruises' private white beach with free bar service, volleyball and snorkelling, and at the cruise line's private islet of Motu Mahana near Taha'a, passengers will be treated to a lavish barbecue lunch with full complimentary bar service.

The 322-passenger Paul Gauguin offers ocean views from every cabin – with 70 per cent of cabins having a private balcony - as well as three, surcharge-free dining venues, deluxe L'Occitane bathroom products, luxurious European linen and robes, and a retractable watersports marina at the rear of the ship which opens when anchored to offer passengers kayaking, snorkelling and windsurfing.

Cruise Express' package includes the indulgent 17-night cruise – only the second time Paul Gauguin has sailed from Australia since her launch in 1998 – as well as a flight from Tahiti back to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne plus selected beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and beverages onboard the ship, free room service and in-room mini bar.

The fly/cruise package is available from $6674 per person, twin-share, which is half the normal cost.

Call Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or visit for details.


LOVE was in the air on P&O Cruises' Pacific Jewel recently, when the ship provided the setting for the cruise line's first onboard wedding ceremony.

South Australian couple Gary Graham and Sue Marcelis tied the knot on Pacific Jewel in Sydney Harbour – and then sailed off on a 10-night honeymoon cruise with their wedding party of 10 guests.

It was the first onboard wedding as part of P&O Cruises' new Ceremonies at Sea program that was launched late last year.

It was Sue's sister, a travel agent, who suggested that she and Gary be married on a P&O Cruises' ship.

"Everything was organised and we didn't have a worry beforehand," Sue said after their honeymoon cruise. "The venue was beautiful and it all went very smoothly.

"Our sailaway under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and out of Sydney Harbour  was fantastic – it just added to the occasion."

Ceremonies at Seas wedding ceremonies are available aboard P&O Cruises' ships in port in Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle and Fremantle on embarkation day and are performed by a marriage celebrant.  Vow renewals and commitment ceremonies can also be performed, and can be done at sea by the Captain or a senior officer.

For more information see travel agents, phone P&O Cruises on 13 24 94 or visit