Thursday, 26 April 2012

Kimberley Adventures - Mudgee Wine - Romeo & Juliet married

John Crook

Check this out !  Kimberley Wilderness Adventures is offering a no-rush itinerary for exploring the Wilderness which includes the Bungle Bungles,.. and more.  For details of the no-rush  touring options, telephone 1300 229 804.  There are 89 departures between April and October. Do yourself a favour and check out the website.  The address is   Accommodation  highlights also include Kununurra Country Club, Drysdale River Station, Emma Gorge Resort, Fitzroy River Lodge and El Questro. Stylish remote wilderness lodge feature cabins with private ensuite.  The accommodation includes two-night stays at four properties.

Mudgee with great history
The NSW country town of Mudgee is one of the nation's oldest wine growing regions..  In fact history reports that locals have been making wines for a century and more.  Try 1858 and you're close. It was later, much later, that the region experienced  a renaissance.  This was listed as a happening in the 1960's with Burnbrae winery playing a role.  The site  was selected in 1968.    The current winery sits beside the original open-air winery, established under a peppercorn tree. The peppercorn tree still features today.  Check it out when pouring a class.  See the peppercorn tree on the label.  Tony and Jill Bryant are the current custodians of Burnbrae Wines.  Two of their latest releases include a 2011 Burnbrae Pinot Gris and their signature 2008 Shiraz.  Its great to mix history and wine, and I could not think of a more interesting region than that of Mudgee. Wines, food and heaps of history.
Romeo and Juliet, married at last
The blockbuster love affair of Romeo and Juliet has at long last been consummated.  And, on stage  too !   The  great love story  which is currently being played out on the stage of the Queensland Theatre Company's Lyric Theatre.  Brisbane lad Tristan Botha proposed to his girlfriend Cynthia Osment.  A capacity audience witnessed the proposal.  And Cynthia said 'yes'.  A real bonus to a great performance.  The play is scheduled through to May 13th.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Villa Villoresi - Kenya for Kids - Bizet Brisbane - Tasmanian Cheese

Travel Briefs

John Crook

History 12th century style
It doesn't get any better,  I'm referring to the stunning Villa Villoresi, that most handsome of Florentine villas. Beautifully located in order for guests to be able to soak up the magic of Florence.
I have had the chance to go visit many stylish properties,- it's all to do with the job.  However, Contessa Cristina Villoresi, with her magical villa,  tops the list.  I stayed but only a couple of nights.  Why, oh why was I in a rush to leave?  Hers is a very special property,- more like an experience. That's why I have no hesitation in being part of the 'family'
If there is interest at your end,   go visit her website,

Kenya for kids
African safari specialist Bench International is offering to carry one child free with every booking of its eight-day Kenya Highlights.  The tour departs Nairobi every week of the year. Travellers visit key Kenyan wildlife attractions, such as the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the flamingos of Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Samburu.  Conditions  so the best thing to do is to check with your local travel agent or ring Bench International on 1300 195 873 or go visit

It pays to be early
If live theatre is part of your routine, then get to the ticket box sooner rather than local.  For instance, Carmen is scheduled for October28 through November 10.  The Georges Bizet will play at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane during those dates.   At last count the production was  booked solidly. In regional Australia I made a check on the progress of the Arthur Miller production, Death of a Salesman, which is playing in Geelong in August.   Again, there is terrific support for this brilliant slice of drama.  Live theatre is alive and well and not just in the big cities.

Cheese is wicked
Boutique cheese makers, the Wicked Cheese Co has just set up a new tasting house in the lovely historic Tasmanian town of Richmond.   It's open seven days a week. So don't go hungry.  Instead, go Richmond.

* 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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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mt Hotham Ski - Vanuatu Melanesian - Iceland Vikings - Port Stephens - Kong Kong


with David Ellis


SKIMAX, one of Australia's leading ski resort holiday specialists, has an abundance of skiing or boarding holidays at Victoria's alpine resorts this winter, its website offering Ski Victoria Earlybird packages to Falls Creek, Hotham or Mt Buller… with prices at Hotham from $739 including five nights accommodation and a five day ski pass.

Australia's "Powder Capital," Hotham Alpine Resort has 13 lifts and more than 80 downhill runs, ranging from walk-on beginner slopes to challenging steeps. With 22 new snowguns and a snowmaking investment of more than $1.7M in 2010, the snowmaking system ensures you can book for school holidays and enjoy more terrain for longer. Hotham's Snowsports School caters to all ages and levels, plus there is a combined daycare and ski program for the little ones. Pamper yourself in the day spas, wander the shops, eat in style, discover the nightlife, join in sparkling sunset tours, grooming tours, guided snowshoe tours, or kids' snowmobiling rides.

Skimax has 5 nights at Hotham's Arlberg Apartments from $739pp twin-share, including a 5 day Hotham Ski Pass. *Conditions apply. Valid for travel 9 – 22 June 2012,  based on 5 night midweek package checking in on a Sunday. Book and pay by 30 April.

For more details:


CHILDREN under 12 stay free and eat free when their parents book a fly/stay package at the newly re-furbished The Melanesian in Vanuatu by April 30.

The offer is part of a five-night package from Sydney and Brisbane and a seven-night deal from Melbourne which costs $789, $739 and $959 respectively with children sharing a room with parents and eating with parents.

Prices include return air fares with Air Vanuatu, airport transfers, accommodation and Continental breakfast.

The conveniently-located property which is just walking distance from the heart of Port Vila with its restaurants, bars, markets and duty free shopping has just had a major renovation of its rooms and apartments, as well re-furbishing the lobby and reception area and adding a new hair, beauty and massage salon.

The recent renovations also provided wireless internet connections in all rooms for a small charge, plus free Internet café facilities in the foyer.

The Melanesian is renowned for its Cultural Entertainment Night on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights, and which includes an all-you-can-eat BBQ . With the arrival of a new award-winning Japanese chef, the Melanesian now has Japanese cuisine on Saturday nights.

The property also has its own day tours program which offers a choice of local sightseeing including round-island day trips, horse-riding, island cruising and others.

More details from Vanuatu Escapes at 02-9211-0944 or visit


FAR HORIZONS has a captivating 21-day fully escorted tour this August into the lands, lore and legends of the Vikings, travelling by plane, helicopter, private boats and coach from Denmark through the Shetland and Orkney Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands.

Major highlights include archaeological sites with their Viking, Pictish and Bronze Age remains, 5000 year old tombs, a Viking Ship Museum, nature reserves teeming with birdlife, ancient cathedrals and palaces, an arts centre, Iceland's geothermal area of Geysir, a boat ride through iceberg dotted waters that skirt a massive glacier, and a helicopter flight for spectacular views from Kulusuk in Greenland to Reykjavik in Iceland.

There's also a visit to the oldest inhabited wooden house in Europe built 900 years ago, and the world's oldest parliament on the Faroe Islands.

And as an interesting aside, there are visits to the Shetland Islands' Sullom Voe Oil Terminal that handles production from the North Sea oil fields, and to Scapa Flow on Orkney Island that provided a safe haven not only for the Vikings in their day, but for the Royal Navy during both World Wars.

The 21-day package includes return air from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth, best available hotels, all meals, daily sightseeing and helicopter and boat trips, a Far Horizons escort and local guides, gratuities and taxes. It is priced from $22,500pp twin-share with a single supplement of $1800 available. Details 1800 083 141, (02) 9955 0444 or


FRESH from a complete facelift, the newly renamed Nelson Resort in Port Stephens has released a new deal that offers seaside seekers a two-night stay at the boutique resort, with a third night for only $10.

The 'Amazing Autumn' offer is available online only at, with two-night stays available from $254 per room, and three-nights from just $264.

Formerly the Nelson Lodge, the new-look, boutique-style Nelson Resort is nestled in the heart of Nelson Bay in Port Stephens and is close to beaches and dolphin watch cruises and offers guests stylishly renovated rooms with balconies and LCD TVs, heated pool, tennis court, sauna and a café serving organic barista-made espresso.

A 2½ hour drive north of Sydney, Port Stephens offers sailing, dolphin cruises, sandboarding and quad biking on Australia's biggest sand dunes, camel rides on the beach, horse-riding, parasailing, koala spotting, kayaking, fishing, fauna parks, wineries, bushwalks, seafood restaurants and a choice of ocean and harbour beaches.

To book the Nelson Resort deal, visit For general information on Port Stephens,


WENDY Wu Tours has teamed up with the Hong Kong Tourism Board for a special promotion on a hotel and sightseeing package in Hong Kong which that's ideal for those wanting a short break on the way to Europe, China or Japan.

The "Hong Kong in Focus" package is now priced from $435 per person twin share and is a four-day land only package that includes two days of comprehensive sight-seeing to Victoria Peak, Stanley Markets, Aberdeen fishing village, the Yuen Yuen Institute and the Sam Mun Tsai fish farming zone.

It also includes three nights' accommodation at the Eaton Smart Hotel with breakfast daily, sightseeing with an English-speaking local guide and return airport transfers.

This offer is for new bookings and is valid for sale until April 30 and for travel from May 1 until August 31, 2012.

For further details on packages contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998, visit or contact your AFTA Travel Agent. For further information on Hong Kong visit

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sydney Seafood School - Burrendong Houseboats - Pushkar Festival

John Crook


I refer to the gift vouchers currently  available to lovers of food (and wine too) in search of something rather special for special people !  Roberta Muir is the general manager of the Sydney Seafood School cooking classes. These have been operating for many years, and by sharing the experience of creating something extra, extra special, a visit to the school could have you sharing the kitchen with some of our best known cooks (er chefs). Give Roberta a call on 02 9004 1111, or email    Check on availabilities, costs and the list of future guest chefs.  You could be right amongst them.


If a dill like me can steer a houseboat (heaps of tonnage) then it should not be too difficult for you to test your skills handling Burrendong House boats.  These are just perfect for fishing trips, family get-together, cruising, the rivers and waterways of central New South Wales.  Actually houseboats are  scattered throughout the state.   Google 'houseboats new south wales'


The annual five-day Pushkar festival is already signing up participants.

The event is in November 2012, yet there's plenty of movement with 20,000 camels cattle and horses hitting town early in November 2012.  All they need is to invite he hundred of thousands of 'extras' to add to the colour and the excitement  with tribal games, camel dancing,- everything from dancing to turban tying.  Interested ? Well, my good friends, bite the bullet and call on the Holiday Specialists  1300 783 852 or you may care to go visit

Visit three region in SA
Here' s a chance to go visit three regions at once.  Broken Gum Country Retreat is a 150 acre property which borders the   Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Murray River.   Thus country retreat is fully self-contained with three bedrooms and an open upstairs area with expansive views.  The beautiful limestone  and recycled timber loft homestead has all the charm of a country getaway.  Google (Broken Gum Country Retreat)

* 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 April 2012

Rhythms of Cuba - Top Coffee - Brigadoon - Skimax

30 March 2012

Travel Briefs

John Crook

Check out this beauty

Ever thought of including Cuba in your travels ? Cosmos has launched its first Cuba tour.  All the color, all the sounds and all that fabulous Caribbean heritage. There is an eight-day holiday priced from $841 per person, twin share. The tour is known as the Rhythms of Cuba.   International air fares are additional. The price includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner daily. Sightseeing is included.  My advice is to check out the details.  Departures are from April through December 2012. Telephone 1300 230 234.
Favourite Coffee

Merlo has been named Australia's favourite coffee. Not bad, noting that Merlo's main market is Queensland. 
Brigadoon at Bundanoon

The Scottish gathering of the clans is scheduled for  Saturday April  21.   Clan members will, this year, welcome   the City of Launceston RSL Pipes and Drums.  For more information telephone (02) 4883 7471.
Skimax and helly
Skimax as teamed with Scandanavian manufacture of snow clothing  Helly Hansen.  In association with this deal with a 20% discount.  To be sure we are on the same page, give Skimax a call on 1300 136 997 or go visit   Skimax marketing manager, Jenny Klem , also has good news for lovers of the snow, with a weeklong snow package.  Give them a ring. 

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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Tour Tasmania - Russia Travel - Royal Princess Inaugural Cruise - Vietnam Sapa - Seabourn Sydney

David Ellis

TOUR TASSIE IN 2012-13 AT 2011-12 PRICES 

TOUR Tasmania by escorted coach during the 2012-13 season, and with APT you'll still pay only 2011-12 season prices.

As well there are also early booking deals, with savings ranging from $225 per person/$450 per couple to $470/$940.

As an example a comprehensive 12-day Royal Tasman tour is priced from $4695 per person twin share, including touring, cruises, 21 meals, accommodation and entrance fees. With the pre-July 31 early booking deal, the price starts from $4470.

The tour includes overnight stays in Hobart, Port Arthur, Freycinet National Park, Launceston, Smithton, Cradle Mountain and Strahan.

Also included in the itinerary are Eaglehawk Neck, Coles Bay, Swansea, Bicheno, St Helen's Lavender Farm, Woolmers Estate, Ross, Beauty Point, Devonport, Great Lake, Sheffield, Woolnorth, The Nut and Stanley, Gordon River cruise, Lake St Clair, Mt Field National Park and Russell Falls.

APT is offering a choice of up to 21 departures across the September 2012 to May 2013 season on six tours (ranging from four to 12 days), luxury airconditioned coaches with reclining seats and onboard restroom, arrival and departure transfers, flexibility with Freedom of Choice local tours, Dine Around Dinner options at no extra cost as well as free time, "must-see" attractions, premium quality accommodation and dedicated tour director and driver.

Freedom of Choice Touring is included in Hobart, Cradle Mountain and Launceston, Dine Around Dinners are in Hobart and Strahan.*

Guests stay at Freycinet Lodge, Cradle Mountain Lodge, guaranteed Harbour View rooms in Strahan and Harbour View rooms at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Hobart

*Freedom of Choice Touring offers a tour from a choice of several optional at each centre, at no additional cost; similarly Dine Around Dinners allow a choice at no extra cost from a range of dining options.

Details 1300 229 804,, or see travel agents.


BEYOND Travel have introduced new tailor-made tours around Russia which provide flexibility in the cities you visit, pre-booked three, four or five star hotels, day excursions and transfers maximising free time to explore at your own pace.

An example of the Russian specialists' program is the eight-day Grand Russia itinerary which begins in St Petersburg for four nights and has a day trip to Novgorod and two nights in Moscow. It is priced from $2340 per person twin share for three star hotels.

The tour of the Kremlin, a visit to the Hermitage Museum and a cruise along the canals of St Petersburg and an overnight sleeper train journey from Novgorod to Moscow can all be part of the itinerary.

The price includes all accommodation with daily breakfast, coach and rail transport, extensive sight-seeing with private English-speaking guides throughout and return airport transfers in a private car.

There are also a range of great deals available on hotels throughout Russia including a stay four pay three nights deal at the first class centrally located Hotel Angleterre in St Petersburg, which is available all year round. Or receive free room upgrades at the deluxe Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg when you book by March 31.

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


LET Cruiseco put you amongst the very first to sail aboard Princess Cruises' spectacular new Royal Princess when she sails her first-ever Mediterranean cruise in June of next year, straight after her maiden voyage from Southampton.

This inaugural Mediterranean sailing will take the 3,600 passenger Royal Princess 12-nights from Barcelona to Venice on June 23 2013 by way of Livorno (for Florence and Pisa,) Civitavecchia (Rome,) Naples for Capri and Pompeii, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi for Ephesus, Athens, and Venice (includes an overnight stay on board ship) When booked with Cruiseco, this fly, cruise and stay package starts from $6,190pp twin share.

And Cruiseco has a 12-night sailing from Venice back to Barcelona on July 5 2013 via the same ports, and with the inclusion of Toulon for Provence in France, package prices start from just $6,145pp twin-share*.

 Cruiseco also has similar 12-night sailings on Royal Princess from Venice to Barcelona on August 22 and Barcelona back to Venice on September 3 2013. Both fly, cruise and stay packages start from a low $5,695pp twin share.

All package prices include return airfare from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane  2 night hotel stay at the Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona and 1 night hotel stay at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, port charges, government fees and air taxes.

The innovative new Royal Princess will feature a first-of-its-kind cantilevered bar with glass walls and a glass floor extending over the ship's side from her top deck, an adults-only pool with plush private cabanas, and in another Princess Cruises' "first," dazzling evening water and light shows.

For full detail, prices from other gateways and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise specialist travel agent, go to

Royal Princess's twelve dining options will range from a traditional Dining Room, to two "Anytime" Dining Rooms, optional-cost Italian and Steak-and-Seafood Restaurants, and a top-deck Buffet, Pastry Shop, Pizzeria, Seafood Bar, Gelateria, International Café, and a Wine, Sushi and Tapas Bar.


WENDY WU Tours has somewhat of an unusual offer: a 5-day extension for virtually free to the old French hill station of Sapa for travellers joining their 18-day Vietnam Highlights tour that departs on July 14 this year.

The Sapa extension normally costs $560 per person twin share, but on this occasion the only cost is $10 for the tipping component of the visit, which includes return train journey, accommodation, meals and sightseeing in Sapa.

The Vietnam Highlights tour begins with several days in Saigon including an overnight homestay in the Mekong Delta before travelling to Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and beautiful Halong Bay.

The entire itinerary costs from $3,890 from Sydney and Melbourne, $4,090 from Adelaide and Brisbane, and $4,212 from Perth. Prices are per person, twin share and include return economy airfares, all meals and accommodation, transport, sightseeing and entry fees, transfers, taxes and visa for Australian passport holders.

For more details contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998, visit or contact AFTA travel agents.


AUSTRALIANS will have an unprecedented opportunity to experience ultra-luxury cruising in local waters next summer, with two of Seabourn's newest ships visiting the South Pacific region.

The latest addition to the Seabourn fleet, Seabourn Quest will make its maiden visit to Australia in February 2013, calling at Sydney, Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Townsville, Cairns and Thursday Island as part of a 116-day world cruise.

Meanwhile, the award-winning Seabourn Odyssey, launched in 2009, will sail in local waters for almost three months as she explores the islands and coastlines of Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, offering Australian holidaymakers an array of ultra-luxury cruise itineraries.

Seabourn Director of Sales in Australia, Tony Archbold said the visits by two of the world's most stylish ships reflected Australians' growing love affair with luxury cruising.

"Next summer will give Australians an unparalleled opportunity to experience the intimacy, elegance, superb service and all-inclusive value for which Seabourn is renowned, close to home," Mr Archbold said.

Options include a 16-night cruise on Seabourn Odyssey from Benoa in Bali to Sydney, departing December 21, 2012 with fares starting from US $8,118* per person twin share; 16-nights from Auckland to Sydney on Seabourn Odyssey , departing January 22, 2013 with fares from US $7,832* per person twin share; and 40-nights from Fort Lauderdale to Sydney on Seabourn Quest's world cruise departing January 6, 2013, visiting a range of ports in the Caribbean, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia and with fares for this staring from $18,176* per person twin share.

Fares include ocean-view accommodation, onboard entertainment, award-winning dining, open bars throughout the cruise, and gratuities.

Each ships carries just 450 guests. For more information see travel agents, call 13 24 02 or visit *Subject to availability, conditions apply.