Monday, 29 December 2008

Visit some of Europe’s iconic ports

Weekly Travel Briefs – w/c December 29 2008.


By John Crook

Boutique tours in Italy

From bases in three major centres of Italy with easy access to Florence, Siena and Assisi. That's part of the success of Carolinasusi Italia Tours which offers two departure dates ex Rome, April 24 2009 or September 25 2009. Full-time tour escorts, coach, ferry, funicular and rail travel with all breakfasts and most dinners on these tour packages of 21-nights. Priced from $6,975 per person, twin share, these are truly boutique, small-groups tours. All the details by calling (07) 3396 8652 or visit

New ways to live your dream

Here's news of some of the most sought after locations in New Zealand and Fiji, staying at luxury lodges, resorts and private island escapes, featuring savagely discounted prices. Packages are valid through to 31 March 2009 and priced from NZ$450 per couple per night. There are 23 Summer Luxe special offers. Check them out at your local travel agent or

Beaut Utes

Goulburn in New South Wales springs into life with the Australia Day Ute Muster,- January 24-27. The venue is the Goulburn Showgrounds which will be filled to overflowing. That requires an immediate check around for accommodation. Easiest way to do that is to take a look at Try this for size! Deluxe suites at the Goulburn Heritage Motel with prices starting from $99 per room per night and that includes a continental breakfast.

Discovering hidden gems

The world's most punctual airline now offers a travellers' guidebook like no other. Our World offers the chance to discover hidden gems that makes one feel like a local and not a tourist, with tips from SAS crew members.

Covering all Scandanavian long-haul destinations, it sells for 15 euro and may be purchased on line from To download your free SAS city guide, visit

Visit some of Europe's iconic ports

Barcelona to Rome is just one cruise which offers terrific savings,- with cruise only fares for as little as $2,683 per person, twin share. Depart from Barcelona on 26 April 2009, for seven-day experience, aboard msy Wind Surf, taking in glamorous locations en route, including Porto-Vecchio on the rugged French island of Corsica, Spain's Balearic Islands, Italy's Costa Verde and then Rome via Portoferraio. Start the excitement juices flowing by calling 1300 766 566 or visiting

Beat out that rhythm

You will feel the beat in Cuba on an 11-night tour. Cuban music fills the air in legendary bars and clubs. The tour begins and ends in Havana. Priced from $1,295 per person, twin share, plus a local flight from $165, includes 11 nights accommodation, daily breakfasts, transport and activities as per the itinerary. This tour operates throughout the year. Get the facts 'mon' by telephoning 1300 799 783 or visit

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

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Maldon: Victoria's Golden Centre

TRAVEL BRIEFS for w/c Dec 22nd 2008 

Join the old timers on Dalmatian Coast

Book a 'B' category motorised sailboat, ie the old-timers' and receive a free upgrade to an 'A' grade vessel where all cabins have private facilities.  Several departures from either Split or Opatija  in April, May, September and October, in 2009.  Snorkelling, diving, sampling the local restaurants and bars  with daily breakfasts and lunches aboard.  Packages available from $748 per person, twin share.  Does not include airfares. Get the facts by visiting 

Golden centre

Hit the road or do it by rail aboard the Victorian Goldfields railway and explore the magic of central Victoria. The rail service which operates between Castlemaine and Maldon varies, so needs to be checked out, however, if doing the trip by motor vehicle consider a couple of nights staying at Maldon's Palm House B&B.  Two nights accommodation from $300. Very comfy and just a few steps from the town's heritage streets.  The tariff includes chocolates and a bottle of  local wine, with tasty breakfasts also part of the deal.    Call Wendy Elsy on (03) 5475 2532 or email 

Kong Hei Fat Choy

Good fortune for all is the greeting from Singapore. Prepare for the New Year light-up between January 3 – February 15.  As part of the celebration Singapore is home to parades and festivals. Plan to be there in January, for that's when the celebration is in full swing. Be well prepared and before you head off check the activities on 

Take 18 days to get to Honolulu

Sailing aboard Dawn Princess is one heck of a way to relax and to explore, as the 77,500 tonne vessel commands the Pacific and its exciting island nations between Sydney and Hawaii.    I love the Princess Cruises' anytime dining policy and a choice of traditional dining, a speciality steakhouse, 24-hour bistro and even a poolside hamburger and hot dog grill. There's a saving to be made too if you book through      Get the full details by calling 1300 369 848 or visit  

Discover Malta by jeep and more

Malta is best when discovered by seaplane, jeep and a Turkish rigged gullet.  Do it, - on a seven-night tour! This is Malta with a difference.  The tour operates from April to October, priced from $2,210 per person, twin share and that includes all accommodation, daily breakfast, activities and entrance fees as per the itinerary.   Airfares to Valletta, where the tour starts and ends, are not included.  Telephone 1300 799 783 or visit  

Borneo by crikey

Brunei doesn't get a lot of publicity so is often overlooked.  Hang around a bit and check out the great deal on offer. Four nights free at Tuaran Beach Resort and an upgrade to a deluxe room at the Sheraton Utama in Brunei when you book a seven-day Wildlife Tour of Borneo. Highlights include a canopy walk, boat ride and exploration of caves at Kinabalu National Park, snorkelling and a whole heap of other considerations.  For instance, accommodation, most meals, sightseeing and entrance fees, English speaking guide, domestic flight from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu.  The package is available for sale until March 31, 2009 and designed to fit in with flight schedules of Royal Brunei.  To confirm the facts and the price contact Adventure World on 1300 363 055. 

Adelaide is great

Valid for travel through until January 31 2009 Mantra on Frome, in Adelaide, offers a room rate from $145 per night.

Conditions do apply and you will need to check on availability.  This rate is not applicable for conference or group business.   For more information telephone (08) 8223 9000. 

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

ENDS  Visual –'Palm House B&B in Maldon.'

Monday, 15 December 2008

Italy boutique-style

Your FREE Travel Briefs – w/c December 15 2008. 


By John Crook 

Italy boutique-style

A three-week fully escorted tour of Italy with accommodation and touring in conjunction with mainly family-owned operations.  Rather than moving in and out of hotels each night, instead Carolinasusi  Italia Tours are based for a week at a time in three major centres, travelling out to iconic cities such as Florence, Assisi and Siena.  You will visit ceramic and leather artisans, chocolate and cheese makers, wine and olive oil producers, and still  have plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing.  Price starts from $6,975 per person, twin share and that includes pick-up at Rome airport on April 24 2009 or September 25 2009.  Get all the details by calling (07) 3396 8652 or visit  

Zuji – more than beans

Around 10,000  cans of baked beans have been responsible for travel savings.  Put simply, the bean counters  claim that their cans, which sold  for 10 cents each, helped keep grocery bills low, - meaning more dollars for on-line best deals. It is worth checking out the packages which are currently on offer, whether it be domestic or international flights and accommodation.   The beans may have been snapped up and now it's the travel options which are the big attraction.  Check  

Down a mine shaft

Sydney Tower is much more than just a big building.  It is now home to the OzTrek ride, a combination of Australia's largest motion cinema,  experiencing surround sound, 3D imagery and real-motion seating. It's a magic carpet ride across Australia, sweeping over Sydney Harbour, riding Tully rapids and travelling back in time to the Ballarat goldfields.  Then there's Skywalk,-not for the faint-hearted. Tickets to Sydney Tower start from $25 per adult, kids under 15, just $15. Tickets to the Devil's Mine ride are an additional $5 per person.  Costs more to do the SkyWalk. 

Italian cooking classes

Here's a chance to  cook Italian style, with the help of professional chef Claudio Piantini. 

It is a five-day Tuscan package priced from $3181 per person, twin share, with a minimum of two people.  That includes four nights accommodation, four breakfasts, three lunches and four dinners.  There are also three afternoon excursions.  Enjoy an early booking discount of $1,000 per couple for bookings made and paid in full before December 31 2008. Visit  

Strictly limited season

What has been billed as the best musical in a long time is about to excite  Melburnians who at this very moment are preparing to welcome Billy Elliot.   Based on the English miners' strike of the 1980's this wonderful stage production features the music of Elton John.   Billy Elliot is one of those rare productions which traverses all the moods from happiness to tears.  

It plays at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne from December 31st for a strictly limited season   For bookings dial 1800 4 Billy. Travel agents throughout Australia have accommodation, travel and theatre packages. 

Chelsea Flower Show

Details of the 2009 Chelsea event have been released and there are some brilliant packages available, such as the May 8th departure with Jennifer Stackhouse.  Quality accommodation for the 17-day tour, priced from AUD$9,248 per person, based on double occupancy.  The price also includes return economy airfares to London (including taxes), daily English breakfasts, a first night dinner at every stopover, entrance tickets to the flower show and complimentary membership of the Royal Horticultural Society and the National Trust.  Visit or call  1300 884 891. 

Hail Roberta!

The Queensland Orchestra backs soul diva Roberta Flack at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Wednesday February 4 and again on Friday February 6 2009 for 'the voice of the century' Jose Carreras.  Tickets for Roberta's concert, from $85, peaking at $155, and for Senor Carreras from $100, peaking at $660.  Ticketing from or telephone 132 849.     Accommodation packages on offer at Emporium Hotel, check Other accommodation options by visiting  

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

Caption : A typical scene ion a typical day in Italy.

Monday, 8 December 2008

A free Citroen lease – but read on


by John Crook

'Fall'  in love

Canada and New England will be at their best come the northern hemisphere's Autumn season and by joining a seven-night cruise aboard Carnival Triumph you will be part of the experience. New York, Boston, Portland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are included in the itinerary.  Departures are during September and October of next year, with the price from $1051 per person, twin share for an inside stateroom.  Tours, taxes, fuel supplement and gratuities are additional. To get more information visit or telephone 1300 766 566.

Christmas carols

A Christmas celebration is scheduled for the Domain in Sydney,- Saturday December 20.  The Citigate Sebel Townhouse has a carols special with rooms available from $194 per night twin share. That includes a superior breakfast package and stylish accommodation. Exercise the tonsils and prepare for a night of singing.  Log onto or call 1800 421 800.

Four nights and five stars

A full buffet breakfast each morning is part of the extraordinary land-only package price for guests staying at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa.  Pay from $649 per person twin share for four nights.  The package is valid from 7 January to 31 March 2009. For all the details call Qantas Holidays on  13 14 15 and for more info on the hotel take a look at

Kids travel for $1

When the whole family travels by train to any of CountryLink's 360 destinations in New South Wales, up to four kids get to travel for just $1 each.  Travel must be from now through to 28 February 2009 and of course conditions apply.  To be sure of the facts call 13 RAIL (13 7245).  For instance fares are not available to adults in possession of a concession card, pensioner travel voucher, nor a family group travelling on rail employee passes.  Still sounds pretty good to me.

A free Citroen lease – but read on

A free 24-day lease on a brand new Citroen is included in a $2499 'earlybird' return flight to France, flying with Swiss International Airlines, if purchased before January 31, 2009.    Travel may be from any mainland capital in Australia, to France, Nice or Geneva and can be made at any time of the year.  The offer, excluding taxes, is available based  on two people travelling together.  Get the facts by visiting

Well and truly 

Off the beaten track are two unique tours for the adventurous.  Twenty-four days exploring Turkey and the independent state of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq in April.  There's another, 21-days through Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, with an inclusion of the Baalbeck festival – dance, theatre, opera and jazz and the 2009 tour also includes an Australian Ballet performance.  Itineraries, details and inclusions are available by calling 1800 083 141 or visiting

There are sharks in Sydney

Get to be perilously close to the man eaters of the ocean,.. and then (carefully) feed them.  The  feeding frenzy costs $25 and that includes a seat aboard a glass-bottom boat in the Sydney Aquarium.  The menu includes large squid and a variety of fish, .. but first, visit

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

Visual : An earlybird deal from Citroen.

Monday, 1 December 2008

First hand experience at sea


By John Crook

Big Fella Festival

New Years day and night should have a listing in your diary, for that's when the party starts at Falls Creek Alpine Resort.  Jazz from Liz Cavanagh and her regular support muso's, just one of the headline acts at the inaugural festival.  Check this out! Three nights lodge accommodation, continental breakfasts, Big Fella event pass for two, with a tariff from $207 per person based on double occupancy.  It's valid Dec 31 2008 – January 2 2009.  To book call 1800 033 079 or email  

Free nights and all your food

Enjoy bonus free nights in Fiji, where TravelOnline is offering special rates at Shangri-La Resort and Spa.  Departures ex Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne with land only content priced from $1158 per person twin share.  Check with for more information and bookings.  The package is for six nights (but pay for the price of only four) and note that all meals are taken care of with some other extras included.  The offer is valid for sale until 31 March 2009 and for travel to 25 December 2008 and from 11 January to 31 March 2009.  

Luxury stone cottages

Never before have I experienced such high quality in a B&B, one which has been created out of stones from the property.  When Liz and Kyle started building their stone cottages, there was a degree of doubt, almost ridicule, amongst locals.  That has all changed.  Their group of cottages are in the upper luxury area.  Everview is  located near Canowindra (NSW) and currently there's a 2-night accommodation package, with a complimentary bottle of wine, an upgrade to a gourmet breakfast and a late  check-out.   Tariff is $460 and valid Monday to Thursday.   Check 

Five star dining aboard

With 55 staterooms and 95 crew no wonder that SeaDream I  and II continue to win awards, the latest being named the world's best five-star vessels,- thanks to Berlitz Guide to Cruise Ships and Cruising magazine.  Check the prices at, but remember the prices are inclusive of all 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars and wine with all meals, nightly cocktail parties, use of the 50-course golf simulator, gratuities and port charges and taxes.    Just a slice of paradise at sea. 

Billy has arrived

The Melbourne season of Billy Elliott will break all records.  That's my opinion and is judged on the many reports I receive from friends who have caught the production.  It plays Her Majesty's Theatre from December 13.  Mantra Southbank has an offer worth pursuing.  If my eyes are not deceiving me one package in particular is priced from $175 per room per night including show tickets, boxed continental breakfast for two, one pre-show drink per person in Up One Bar and a late checkout.  There are more competitive packages at other Mantra properties in Melbourne.  Call 1300 780 13 15 17.  Conditions and some surcharges apply. 

First hand experience at sea

In what I would regard as a super deal, I note we Aussies can now experience Queen Mary 2's features in a 15 nights cruise ex Los Angeles to Sydney departing February 10 2009.  The price is from $2599 per person twin share . That is value!   Air fares not included.   Ring 13 24 41 or visit  

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