Monday, 7 December 2009

FRANKS FAVOURITES: Orion, Eurodrive, Pacific Princess, Jim Carrey, Norfolk Island


Orion Expedition Cruises is to increase the size of its fleet with the addition of a second specialist expedition cruise ship to join the existing 106 passenger Orion.

It has negotiated a long term charter of Clelia II, a 100 passenger all-suite luxury expedition cruise ship, to be renamed Orion II.  The ship is scheduled to commence expedition voyages under the Orion Expedition Cruises banner in May 2011.

Making the announcement in Sydney Harbour, Sarina Bratton, Orion's Managing Director, was upbeat about the expansion of the business she started in 2004, citing a strong existing market – despite tough current worldwide economic conditions – and growing interest from international markets in expedition cruising in this part of the globe.

A loyal Orion past-passenger base, resurgent growth by independent travellers and significant opportunities afforded through charter and incentives markets have provided the platform for the expansion.

Based on extensive research, and following the success of Orion's recent voyages, Orion II will be based in South East Asia offering a wide range of expeditions that will include Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Indonesian archipelago, Japan and Borneo. Details of destinations and itineraries will be released in 2010 once voyage details and expedition team scouting are finalised.

Recently subject to a €13 million (A$21 million) refurbishment undertaken by the present operators, with emphasis on technical enhancements and upgraded environmental systems, the ship will also undergo additional cosmetic enhancements to bring her fully into the Orion style.

Commenting on the additional range of destinations and itineraries, Sarina said that Orion Expedition Cruises will be able to provide exclusive expeditions from Antarctica to Asia, and the Kimberley to Melanesia and New Zealand, with the two ships offering a balance of onboard service and luxury combined with unique personal experiences in environmentally and culturally sensitive parts of the region.  Together, Orion and Orion II will be two of the most modern and capable expedition cruise ships cruising in Australasia.

The long term charter of a second purpose built ship able to access remote regions in comfort is a further step to fulfilling the company's original vision to have Orion Expedition Cruises regarded as the operator of choice in the Asia Pacific.


Book before March 31 next year and you can collect a brand-new Renault Eurodrive lease vehicle in Europe any time up to December 31 2010 at prices starting from $200 below this year's – and with such bonuses as seven free days use on top of a 21-day booking, free delivery and return fees at nineteen French cities and airports, and 50-per cent off these fees at a dozen others in Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

And if you've been a past customer of Renault Eurodrive any time since 2005, you'll get a further three days free – making a total 31-days for a 21-day price.

Prices begin from as low as $1399 for 21-days for a brand-new 2-door petrol Twingo, with options of a huge range of latest-model mid- and family-size sedans, sporty coupes, luxury and estate sedans, and 7-seat people-movers.

All come with the bonus seven free days on top of a 21-day booking, unlimited kilometres and Renault's famous Five Star Safety rating, full insurance with no excess in 42-countries, no additional-driver charges, 24-hour roadside assistance and full factory warranty.

 The Renault Eurodrive lease program has been operating since 1955. For full details see travel agents, phone toll-free 1300 55 11 60 or visit


A rare opportunity to cruise over a month 5-star from Sydney to Singapore by way of Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Japan, South Korea, China and Malaysia and Brunei is selling through from just $6499pp twin-share in March next year – and as an enticing bonus book an inside cabin and you'll be upgrade free to an outside stateroom with its own private balcony.

This cruise holiday-of-a-lifetime is aboard Pacific Princess, a smaller-than-usual luxury liner that offers outstanding indulgence for just 680 passengers.

She'll sail out of Sydney on March 14 2010 and over the next 32-nights visit Cairns, Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, Chuuk in Micronesia, Nagasaki (Japan,) Pusan (South Korea,) have two full days in Beijing, a day in Hong Kong, visit Havannah Boular, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, Brunei and finally Singapore, arriving there on April 15.

And rather than leave the ship and fly straight home, is including in this package a night at the Fairmont Singapore including all necessary transfers.

The price includes the upgraded cabin on Pacific Princess, all onboard gourmet dining, entertainment, port charges and taxes, the hotel night in Singapore with transfers, and air and taxes back to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide.

For full details phone 1300 369 848 or visit

FURTHER SHIPBOARD DETAIL: Pacific Princess offers a unique graciousness coupled with glamour and sophistication: rich mahogany timbers and fine furnishings provide an intimate small-ship ambience in which there's one crew member for every two guests to ensure the finest service.

There are eight bars and lounges, a choice of fine-dining or casual alfresco café-style on deck, cabaret lounge, casino and duty- and tax-free boutiques.

Guests can also elect to dine in their stateroom at any hour, and to work off the extra kilos there's a glass-walled fitness centre overlooking the sea.


This summer, families staying at Novotel Brisbane for two nights will receive a free family pass to see Disney's A Christmas Carol featuring Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge.

And kids stay free when sharing a room and existing bedding with parents, or you can book a second room and receive 50% off.  Up to two children also receive free breakfast when dining with their parents and a gift at check-in.

The offer is available until December 31 with standard room rates from $159 per night.

The 'second room at half-price' family offer means families now have a much more affordable way of enjoying a holiday with plenty of room for everyone.  With the addition of a Family Pass to Disney's 'A Christmas Carol', package represents excellent value for money.

A Christmas Carol has been described as the greatest time-travel story ever written and a multi-sensory thrill ride capturing the classic Dickens tale in a groundbreaking 3D motion picture event.

The story follows Scrooges' miserly contempt of Christmas and all things bright before being confronted with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come who take Old Scrooge on a journey which open up his heart.

Situated just a short stroll from Brisbane Central Station, the CBD, and Queen Street Mall, Novotel Brisbane has just emerged from a $1million Lobby and Bar refurbishment just in time for the summer festive season

Features include 4.5 star accommodation, an outdoor swimming pool, gymnasium, restaurant and bar.  There's also a play area for children, free Nickelodeon cartoon network, 20 minutes complimentary internet usage per room and a late check-out time of 5pm on Sundays.

Rates are subject to availability and terms and conditions apply.

For more information or to make a booking,  call Novotel Brisbane on (07) 3309 3309 or visit


One of the most loved musical events in the South Pacific, Norfolk Island's Opera in the Ruins, returns next year bigger and better as the aptly named Opera in Paradise.

Running the event for the sixth time is Brisbane-based opera and song company Operatif!, which has drawn together a star cast of Australian and New Zealand performers for the February 15 -19 Festival.

Heading the bill is a line-up of operatic voices including Australian sopranos Jennifer Parish and Sally Harrison along with New Zealand baritone Stewart Cameron and Tongan-Samoan tenor Benjamin Fifita Makisi, who this year shared a concert with the great Dame Kiri te Kanawa in New Zealand.

The singers will be accompanied by pianist and ABC broadcaster John Colwill.

Distinguished Australian concert pianists and husband and wife team Max Olding and Pamela Page will add an extra dimension to this broad-based festival, while a string trio from the Queensland Pops Orchestra led by concert master Julie-Anne O'Reilly will perform in their own right and join with pianist and singers to create some special concert magic.

Opera in Paradise is all about thrilling opera and music performed on a remote South Pacific island that offers a stunning natural backdrop and the opportunity to mix culture and history with a relaxing South Seas break.

"We urge music and history lovers alike to come and sample the magic that has made this such an enduring and convivial annual event," said Operatif!'s Jennifer Parish.

Information about special Opera in Paradise Festival packages is available direct from Operatif! tollfree on 1300 308 385, via, or contact your nearest licensed travel agent.

For general information on Norfolk Island visit