Monday, 24 September 2012

Hawaii Themes - SeaDream - GraysOnline Travel - Hong Kong - Niseko Ski


with David Ellis


EVERYONE needs a backpack or carry bag – children, teens and adults alike – be it for the gym, travelling, sports, childcare, a sleepover or to carry those extra things to work.

But when you're not using it, it can take up space and create clutter you just don't need.

Now Queensland-based EnviroTrend has come up with the ultimate compact solution, an "Hawaiian Collection" of eco-wise backpacks and carry bags released in time for summer.

The PAKItToMe™ Backpacks are totally compact in size (no bigger than a snack size packet of crisps,) but fold-out into a generously sized backpack with adjustable straps, 2 side pockets for phone or drink bottle, and a pocket at the front with a keychain to safely attach your keys to the inside. It's easy to stuff back inside itself, lightweight yet sturdy enough to carry up to 8kg, and big enough to fit a laptop or A4 folder. This ingenious backpack comes in a variety of prints in addition to the new Hawaiian collection and costs just $15.99, so is an ideal bag for yourself or as a gift.

Also available is a SAKItToMe™ shopping bag – a durable, compact polyester bag perfect for school, the beach or shopping, and which holds up to 20kg. With a sewn in pocket, metal key ring (so you don't lose it) and various colourful designs, it's a great choice in compact bags and an essential shopping companion.

Queensland entrepreneur and busy mum, Janina Byrne combined her environmental conscience and a love of practical products to form EnviroTrend, the company that produces the PAKItToMe™ and SAKitToMe™ collections. Visit for more information and photos of both products.


SEADREAM Yacht Club is to add a unique culinary touch whenever Australian guests are aboard – it will make its own olive oil spread as an alternative to butter.

"We've had a lot of Australian guests mention that they prefer olive oil spread as a healthy alternative to butter or other spreads, but as its not widely available commercially in the regions in which we sail, our Executive Chef, Sudesh Kishore came up with the idea of our chefs making our own aboard whenever we have Australians sailing with us," said SeaDream Yacht Club's President, Bob Lepisto.

"And if it becomes popular with our other guests who are also conscious of the high fat content of butter and some other spreads, and which we think it may, we'll look at providing it aboard all our sailings.

"We already have 'Wellness Selections' available on our menus that are lower in fats and carbohydrates, we have sugar-free options and we are the only company at sea offering optional "Raw Cuisine" that is a style of preparation in which all ingredients are raw, organic and vegan.

"So offering olive oil spread is simply an extension of our commitment to provide our guests with the dining they desire: if you want a big filet mignon followed by double chocolate mousse, by all means go ahead and order and enjoy it, but if you feel you should be good rather than naughty at the table one night, we've all the options to help you there too," Mr Lepisto said.

For further information about SeaDream Yacht Club's itineraries and onboard offerings on mega motor-cruiser yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Amazon, visit or see travel agents.

(This month the Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships once again rated the 112-guest SeaDream I and SeaDream II as the world's Top Two in its 'Boutique Ships' category (50 - 250 passengers) for 2013.

The Guide, now in its 28th year, is researched and written by Douglas Ward, the world's top authority on cruising and cruise ships. He reviewed 284 cruise ships for the 2013 Guide, and out of a possible 2000 points gave SeaDream II 1,788 points and SeaDream I  1,786 points.)


AUSTRALIANS bedded down by mounting cost of living and travel expenses will be able to haggle with hotels for cheaper rates following the launch this month of a unique new accommodation website – – unveiled by Australia's largest online auction house, GraysOnline.

The world-unique site promises a win-win for Australian and New Zealand hotels and their guests, with hoteliers able to fill empty rooms via controlled discounting, and travellers able to score exclusive and confidential discounts of up to 20 per cent below already reduced rates by negotiating directly with the property.

GraysOnline CEO, Cameron Poolman said: "Our local travel industry is hurting so this exciting and innovative way to put more bods in beds by allowing hotels and consumers to bargain with each other one-on-one via a website, will really help accommodation and tourism providers and also everyday Australians saddled with the rising cost of living.

"Australians are often embarrassed to haggle, even in places where it is prevalent such as Asia, but on scores of hotels across Australia and New Zealand are now open to offers," he said.

GraysOnline will offer a range of accommodation from luxury hotels and resorts to motels, B&Bs, holiday parks and hostels, and will include such major groups as Rydges, Toga, Oaks, 8 Hotels, Best Western, Stamford Hotels, Golden Chain, Chifley Hotels, Country Comfort, Choice Hotels and Leisure Inns.




WENDY Wu Tours has teamed with the Hong Kong Tourism Board for a special hotel and sightseeing package focusing on the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival in November, which is ideal for Australian travellers looking for a short getaway or for a stopover on the way to China.

The "Hong Kong in Focus" package is priced from $525 per person twin share. The four-day land only package  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.

The Wine and Dine month kicks off with the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival from November 1-4 where you can sample wine and culinary delights with plenty of live music and entertainment along the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.

During November many of the major hotels and popular food districts offer various wine and food promotions including exclusive hotel food and wine offers, themed tours, wine appreciation classes, cooking classes by masterchefs and much more.

The offer is for new bookings and is valid for sale until October 31 for travel in the month of November.

For further details on packages contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998, visit or contact your AFTA travel agent. For more details on Hong Kong visit


NISEKO on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido has a well-deserved reputation for its powder skiing and boarding – for over two decades Australian snow enthusiasts have ventured to this resort to enjoy snow conditions that they say they cannot find at home.

And current bookings for this season are already well up on previous years. says a combination of high quality accommodation, well-priced airfares and a favourable exchange rate (to the Japanese Yen) is proving a winning trifecta for Niseko, which also enjoys continuous top-ups of fresh powder snow from late November until March... last winter over 21 metres was recorded. has a seven night package that includes a stay-seven pay-five nights from $1,110 per person, including two bedroom apartment (quad share) in Yuki Yama Apartments, return airport coach transfers, Meet and Greet at Chitose Airport, and a 6-day All Mountain Lift Pass.

It is valid for stays from 1 – 31 March 2013.

Getting there: provides door to door transfer service from Chitose Airport. Travel time to Niseko resort is approximately two hours. A number of airlines from Australia service Chitose Airport in Hokkaido with options including flights via Tokyo, Hong Kong or Seoul with Japan Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Korean Airlines

For more details call on 1300 137 411 or visit

Milk Awards - New England Wine - Tasmania Bruny Island - Art & About

John Crook

Travel Briefs

Bruny Island, Tasmania

Organic Dairy Farmers

Over the next few days I will be on a tour of inspection, tasting and comparing organic milk, with milk from some 22 farms participating in the inaugural ‘Remarkable Milk Awards’. I’ll be joined by a number of other interested parties, as we gather at the Abbotsford Convent. The visitation to the convent will be fascinating in its own right. More of that next week, - after the tastings.

Our youngest wine region

To New England as we spotlight two wines from Toppers Mountain. These are well worth visiting,- such as the 2009 Toppers Mountain Red Earth Child and the 2011 Toppers Mountain Petit Manseng Distribution is on display from select retailers and restaurants. These are new ones on me, but from all reports and following my tasting I can understand why these are regarded as quality wines which have been well awarded and trophy winners. The Petit Manseng has its origins in the south of France. No wonder why it is well regarded. The Earth Child comes in at $38 and the Petit Manseng at $34. Both wines have the ‘grown in the New England’ banner.


Tassie is the ‘in’ location at this time of the year. Springtime for birdwatchers. This is one of the best bird watching spots around the nation. Particularly if you happen to be on Bruny Island. For more information go visit

A house which rains inside

Free vintage bus rides. Heaps of Spring colours, and so much more. Not just Sprint colours, but rather heaps of activities in what is the real festival of Spring, - to Sydney from late Spring to mid October. You will need to go visit Art & About 2012 to work out why in this house rains on the inside.

* 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, 10 September 2012

Werribee Open Range Zoo - River Murray - Kruger - Trans Siberian Express

Travel Briefs

John Crook

Planning for school holidays

Here is the chance to go behind the 'off limits' areas of my favourite zoo,- ie  the Werribee Open Range Zoo. The secret places at the zoo comes at no extra cost.  In other words, admission for kids is free, and the schools' programs is free.  Bookings are not required.  Visitors get to access the African Wild Dogs, hippos. cheetah and monkeys. The secret places tour is available for limited time only.- so make a note of those dates.  Saturday  September 22 until Sunday October 7.

River of Islands

Destination Lake Mulwala on the River Murray.  The area is dotted with islands and inlets that open up to a river system brimming with wildlife and river gums. The River of Islands is an eco-friendly houseboat positioned on our favourite river, Google River of Islands and then stand back to prepare for an affair with this six to eight berth experience.

Kruger !  Here we come

South Africa is once again becoming one of the most favoured holiday destinations of the world. Did you know that holders of an Australian passport need not apply for a visa prior to travel to South Africa ?    Those South Africans make it so easy for we Ozzies.  The big attraction has to be the Big Five:  buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos. Go visit

Just imagine !

Twelve nights across Russia and into Mongolia. Something most of us have considered and now its all become fact rather than fiction. Join the luxury Golden Eagle Trans Siberian Express,- a highlight of the 33-day escorted tour with Far Horizons.  Do not miss this grand opportunity.  The best advise I can give is to call  1800 083 141.   The starting date for this tour is August 31, 2013.

Educational tractor tours

Summerland Farm House at Alstonville near Ballina has launched this new range of touring options.  You get to visit the farm's macadamia and avocados orchards.  Just Google 'Educational Tractor Tours' for more information.

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

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Werirbee Zoo, Barrington Tops, By Blackbird, Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

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John Crook

School holidays in Victoria
I love visiting Werribee Open Range Zoo, as there always seems to be something new for visitors. This year it's all about discovering the zoo's secret places. It's a rare opportunity  which includes  access to areas housing African Wild Dogs, hippos, cheetah and monkeys.  The good thing here is that there is not any additional fee to undertake the tour which will be available from Saturday September 22 until Sunday October 7.  Bookings are not necessary.

Barrington Tops
A series of tours has been released offering panoramic views, hiking through sub-alpine wetlands, lyre bird habitats, and Little Manning Falls,- a great day to be had by all ! Travel is via an air-conditioned 4WD and each tour is accompanied by your personal guide.  Lunch and tea breaks are feature  Get into it!  But first, go visit Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre

By Blackbird
Adelaide's newest coffee and dessert café is evil!  Located at 100 King William Road,  check these out. A winter warmer which is 70% Belgian dark chocolate with a rum tart. A great rage of coffees, or a hot chocolate or a tea.  By Blackbird.

Keith Prowse
Get ready for the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong  Rugby Sevens packages which are on offer, with the starting price from $1880 per person twin share.  Just to be sure contact  1300 73 00 23.

Visit Millthorpe
Set aside a couple of days for the Orange Wine Week.   Millthorpe  is one of many attractions for those who are looking for a  diary insert ,- otherwise you could miss out.  Latch on to this major event set for Friday October 26 through Sunday October 28.  Telephone (02) 6360 1990 or go visit  

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

Solar Springs - Cunard Queens - Niseko Snow - Rhapsody of the Seas - Novotel Twin Waters

David Ellis
Solar Springs

IF YOU think the mind and body need a Spring clean, head to Solar Springs Health Retreat at Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands this Spring where all-inclusive pampering packages have been discounted by 20 per cent.

A new, three-night midweek 'Seriously Spring Time' deal offers accommodation, all meals, three spa treatments – a spring-scented facial, foot therapy and all-over Body Blitz – plus daily activities such as guided bushwalks, health talks and fitness, yoga and meditation classes. The deal is available from $1540 per couple, $820 per person if sharing with a friend in a twin bed room and $920 for single guests.

The luxurious facial features the spring scents of rose, jasmine and lavender while the foot treatment includes the use of cinnamon, ginger and mint, with the feet exfoliated, moisturized, massaged and wrapped in paraffin sheets. Meanwhile the Body Blitz sees the whole body buffed with exfoliating mitts, rinsed under a multi-head vichy shower and moisturized with rich body butter to leave guests feeling squeaky clean from head to toe.

The package is available between Sunday and Thursday. Stays over a weekend cost $30 extra per guest. Shorter or longer packages are also available.

Rooms at Solar Springs Health Retreat are devoid of televisions, phones or other multi-media gadgets to help guests relax and there is a no-talking 'Quiet Room' to help people unwind, read in peace or enjoy a cat nap.

An iconic but affordable health haven for over 30 years, the Solar Springs Health Retreat 670m above sea level overlooks the rugged cliffs of Morton National Park and offers tranquil gardens, an indoor heated pool and spa overlooking the wilderness, steam room and sauna, gym, fitness classes including yoga, meditation, pilates and boxing, activities such as archery, tennis, cycling and bushwalking and sessions with personal trainers, naturopaths, dieticians and life coaches who help guests make sustainable lifestyle changes.

Call 02 4883 6027 or visit


CUNARD Line will send all three of its Queens to Australia in 2014 as part of a world voyage program spanning six continents and almost 80 destinations.

The visits by Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 will take place during February and March 2014, and will be the first time all members of the royal triumvirate have visited Australia in the same season. Between them, the liners will make 17 calls at Australian ports, with Sydney and Brisbane both welcoming all three ships during their voyages.

The 2014 program goes on sale at 10pm on September 5

Options range from the three full world voyages through to more than 180 shorter sectors, with fares starting from $2329 for an 8 night leg.

Highlights include an extended trip around South America by Queen Victoria, which will make eight maiden calls to ports there as part of her 116-night voyage.

Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth will circumnavigate the globe on a 118-night odyssey which will feature her maiden visit to Japan, while Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 will sail on a 116-night voyage that will include her second circumnavigation of Australia.

Voyages in the new program include:

·        Full world voyages priced from $33,289* per person twin share for Queen Mary 2
·        A 28-night voyage on Queen Victoria from Sydney to San Francisco, visiting seven New Zealand ports as well as Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii, priced from $7449* pp
·        A 17 night voyage on Queen Elizabeth from Sydney to Kobe, Japan, visiting Papua New Guinea and three other Japanese ports enroute, priced from $4569* pp
·        15 nights cruising from Cape Town to Fremantle, calling at Durban, Mauritius and Western Australia on Queen Mary 2, priced from $3669* pp

Guests who book a world voyage sector of seven nights or more before December 31, 2012, excluding the Australian circumnavigation, can also enjoy an onboard credit of up to US$900 per person.

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


AUSTRALIA'S says that with the northern winter ski season approaching, its time to start thinking Japan and such resort areas as Niseko, its sister areas Rusutsu and Kiroro, and Asahidake that's just a few hours north of Niseko.

And apart from the unbeatable powder snow of Niseko, is offering 10 per cent off numerous accommodation properties in Niseko if booked by 30 September 2012.

Niseko, it says, is regarded as one of Japan's top 5 resorts with a lift system comprising mostly gondolas and covered chairlifts, so that even on the most extreme blizzard days, you can ride in comfort. The resort also has an abundance of tree runs, and being low in altitude rarely experiences true whiteout conditions that are often found in North American or European resorts of higher altitude.

And, says, it offers some of the best and most consistent snow in the world, a first-class ski school, off-piste guiding (to take advantage of the dry powder) and has a variety of snow skis for hire, including the fatter, wider, variety that make skiing in powder so much easier.

Book now through on 1300 137 411 or visit


An amazingly low $2,925pp twin share through Cruiseco in September of next year includes one way Economy Class airfare from Sydney to Honolulu, two nights in an Ocean View Room at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach hotel with breakfasts daily*, transfers from airport to the hotel and from the hotel to join the 78,500 tonne Rhapsody of the Seas for a 16 night luxury island cruise to Sydney, even your onboard gratuities and all government charges and taxes.

Plus you will enjoy all dining and entertainment aboard Rhapsody of the Seas as you sail to Pago Pago in American Samoa, Apia (Samoa,) Suva in Fiji, Vila (Vanuatu,) and the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.

And during ten full days cruising at sea you'll find your ship a virtual destination in itself with a choice of seven restaurants and cafés, four lounges and bars, a casino, Broadway Melodies Theatre, spa and fitness centre, solarium, Jacuzzis, indoor/outdoor pool, jogging track, outdoor movie screen, video arcade, Teen Centre, Adventure Ocean centre, a rock climbing wall and online internet centre.

Rhapsody of the Seas will sail from Honolulu on September 18 2013 with packages on sale until 10 June 2013 unless sold out earlier; *the Honolulu stay can be extended up to 6 nights at additional cost, but flight schedules from major cities other than Sydney may not allow a 2 night stay with the base package.

For full details and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise specialist travel agency visit Air taxes can change without notice.


LOCATED on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Novotel Twin Waters is enticing families to take a break, soak up the sun and enjoy a head start on Summer during the Spring holiday break.

The Resort's Family Package is the perfect solution to keep the kids busy while parents escape into the Sunshine State.

From $254 per room per night, the package includes daily breakfast for two adults and two children, a welcome gift for children on arrival, a three hour Kidz Cove Kids Club voucher for two children aged 2 - 12 years, and push bike vouchers for an hour for two adults.

Guests also have free use of resort facilities including the catamarans and kayaks on the resort's lagoon which also features a huge water trampoline.  Other features include a swimming pool, restaurant and bar options and over 40 free kids' activities including beach volleyball, putt putt mini golf and cricket sets.

Paid activities include Kids Club and babysitting services, kids' and adults bicycles, Cirque Espace trampoline and trapeze classes, Lagoon Day Spa and golf at the nearby 18 hole Twin Waters championship course.

Rates are subject to availability and minimum length of stay may apply over some dates.

To book or for more information email, phone 1800 072 277 or visit