Saturday, 28 November 2009

FRANK'S FAVOURITES: Seadream, Lisbon, Japan


SeaDream Yacht Club whose boutique motor-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II have been consistently rated "world's best boutique cruise vessels" with their traditional sailings in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, is to make an historic first-ever series of voyages to Scandinavia, Russia, the French winelands and little-visited ports in Spain and Portugal in 2011.

SeaDream I will make a 15-night Atlantic Crossing via the Azores from her seasonal stint in the Caribbean in April of 2011, but instead of going back into the Mediterranean she'll sail to the UK, and up the River Thames to dock at London's Tower Bridge.

She'll then sail empty to Bremerhaven in German for a 3-week dry-dock, and from May to August make a series of sailings to the Norwegian Fjords and the Baltic – with one including a 2-night/3-day visit to Russia's St Petersburg*.

After these unique sailings, SeaDream I that carries just 112-passengers served by 95-crew, will sail via England's Jersey Isles to France's historic Brittany and Bordeaux in the heart of one of its most famous wine regions, several less-visited ports on the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal and into the Mediterranean.

Full details of itineraries and prices are expected to be available after November 20, but as many regular SeaDream guests have already booked staterooms for these rare sailings – irrespective of knowing the cost – potential guests are urged to register an interest now with their favourite travel agents or visit

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Ports to be visited on various sailings include London; Stockholm and Marstand in Sweden; Helsinki in Finland, Oslo, Stavanger, Lillesand and Bergen (Norway;) Tallin and Kuressaare, Estonia; St Petersburg, Russia; Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, Holland; Honfleur, St Malo, Belle Ile, La Rochelle and Bordeaux, France; St Jean de Luz, Gigoni/Oviedo, Spain; and Cascais, Portugal.

President of SeaDream Yacht Club, Bob Lepisto said the new itineraries should prove ideal for SeaDream's sharp-minded clientele who were always looking for new opportunities and out-of-the-usual ports to explore and become involved with.

"I know our Australian guests will particularly like these new experiences and what they bring with them: Australians already make up over nine per cent of our clientele – which is quite extraordinary considering your remoteness from our destinations, and with your casual lifestyle reflects your appreciation of our unique product that eschews formality and is based on a 5-star Country Club Smart Casual ambience."                                                                


LISBON has become an increasingly popular gateway in recent years for Australian holidaymakers heading to Europe, and to join the many cruise ships that now depart from this historic city.

If you're joining the crowds to this delightful Portuguese city, a great starting point is the Novotel Lisbona. A contemporary 4 star hotel, its conveniently situated just slightly out of the CBD in an area that provides easy access to  the airport and to the city centre via the Metro station which is just over five minutes walk from the hotel.

And it's a short cab ride to the port to join those many cruise ships.

Rooms are all spacious, with large flat-screen TV, full satellite TV channels and broadband internet. Rooms can accommodate up to two adults and two children, and children under-16 stay and eat breakfast free of charge, making it an ideal hotel for family travel.

The Novotel is one of Lisbon's best priced 4-star hotels, as is its restaurant, which offers exceptional three-course meals from just 15 euros.

There is an outside swimming pool and fitness centre.

The Novotel has launched a new CITY BREAKS package that is ideal for short breaks in Lisbon. The package costs from 160 euro (approximately AUD$260) and includes two nights accommodation, breakfast daily and late check out till 5pm on the Sunday, giving plenty of time to explore the city or relax by the pool. 

Bookings: or 1300 656565


CRUISECO is including 2-night stays pre- and post-cruise in some of Europe's most sought-after luxury hotels –with half-day city sightseeing tours included for even more added-value – in a range of exceptional fly, cruise and stay holidays next year aboard the luxury ships of Holland America Line.

These unique-to-Cruiseco packages that "depart the everyday" also feature such extras as daily hotel breakfasts, transfers between airports, hotels and ships, hotel taxes, all 5-star gourmet dining and world-class nightly entertain-ment and gratuities aboard ship, and port charges and government fees.

Return airfares and taxes are also included from mainland capitals, and with some packages from Cairns and Darwin as well.

Holland America Lines' sailings between April and October 2010 aboard six of its 5-star liners offer a choice of sailings in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean and to Egypt, in the Black Sea, Western Europe from Dover/London, the Baltic, Northern Europe and Russia, and to the Lands of the Vikings.

Fly, cruise and stay packages range from 12- to 22-nights with prices starting from as low as $5340pp twin-share – including in many cases extraordinary-value Early Bird Booking Savings – and are detailed in an enticing 36-page brochure that's available now.

For the a free copy from the nearest of Cruiseco's 170-cruise specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, phone 1800 225 656 or visit


MANY wine-lovers harbour a hidden dream of giving up their day-jobs and moving to one of Australia's most picturesque wine regions to make a living hand-crafting stunning wines...but with little experience where do you start?

The team at Kirrihill Wines is offering one lucky individual the opportunity to experience the 2010 vintage with them in one of the country's most beautiful wine regions, South Australia's Clare Valley. Becoming part of the hard working vintage team, they will embark on a behind-the-scenes wine adventure, under the guidance of Kirrihill's talented winemakers Donna Stephens and Marnie Roberts.

Whether it be the start of a new career path or simply a wonderful fun and informative holiday, this fantastic week long sojourn, open to anyone residing in Australia, will have lots to offer; covering the ins and outs of winemaking including vineyard visits, fruit crushing and pressing, tastings with the winemaking team and learning about fermentation control. The overall prize includes flights within Australia to Kirrihill in the breathtaking Clare Valley, accommodation and an experience that money can't buy.

Kirrihill Wines is a true leader within the South Australian wine scene. Established in the Clare Valley in 1998 they have access to some of the finest vineyards in the Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills. The state-of-the-art winery has no walls offering 360 degree views of the inspiring vineyards. Their wines have won more than 500 awards since their inaugural release and are now available throughout Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway and Singapore.

Kirrihill Wines winemaker Donna Stephens says; "An experience like this, to learn hands-on the technical side of winemaking in stunning surroundings like the Clare Valley, doesn't come along very often. This is someone's chance to explore their passion for wine and make their dreams come true, no experience necessary. The team are looking forward to welcoming an enthusiastic individual to one of the most beautiful parts of Australia in the New Year."

To be in with a chance to win simply email with 'JOIN US FOR VINTAGE' in the subject line and tell Kirrihill Wines in 100 words or less why you want to share in the Kirrihill vintage experience.

For more information on Kirrihill Wines and this competition visit  Conditions: Entries close Monday 11th January 2010 at 5pm AEST. The winning entrant must be over 18 and available to work the Kirrihill Wines 2010 vintage for one week during February/March 2010 as nominated by the winemaking team at Kirrihill.


One of the world's most colourful spectacles – the flowering of millions of Japanese cherry blossoms – can be seen using discounted fly and stay packages to Japan next year from Australian online travel agency, Direct Flights.

Japan's 7400 picture-perfect varieties of cherry blossoms bloom around Tokyo from early April, drawing crowds of locals and tourists who picnic under the blooms, enjoy traditional tea ceremonies and dance performances and buy Japanese delicacies from food stalls set up under the floodlit trees at night.

The cherry blossom – or sakura as it's locally known – has been celebrated in Japan for many centuries and has become the unofficial national flower of the country.

Popular venues to see cherry blossoms flower in Tokyo include Ueno Park which boasts 1000 of the colourful trees,  Kitanomaru Park where sightseers can hire boats to see the blooms along the moats of an old castle and Sumida Park where the lakeside trees are budlit at night.

Discount travel agent, Direct Flights, is offering reduced, booking fee-free airfare and hotel packages from Australia to Japan next year with full-service Japan Airlines for travel from April 1, 2010 – just in time for the cherry blossoms – to September 30, 2010.

The package fares, on sale to March 29, 2010, are for flights from Australia to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka and include four nights accommodation in Japan and are available from $1546 from Sydney and Brisbane and from $1736 from Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra, including taxes.*

Book on with no extra booking fees charged.

* Conditions apply. Fares subject to availability and increases in taxes and fuel charges.