Thursday, 22 April 2010

Frank's Favourites: Cruising, Book Online, China Tour, Whistler Discounts, Beer


IT seems we love cruising, no matter whether it's on big ships or small ships: despite the Global Economic Crisis, the Australian cruise industry reached new heights in 2009, with the number of us taking a cruise holiday rising 11 per cent to a record 366,721.

A just-released International Cruise Council Australasia 2009 Australian Cruise Industry Report shows the local cruise industry experienced its fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth.

ICCA Chairman Karen Christensen said the results followed the industry's largest ever cruise season, with more ships sailing in Australasian waters than ever before over the 2009-10 summer.

"As the economic downturn hit last year, it seems Australians really hunted for value from their holidays and we're delighted to report a record number chose to cruise," Ms Christensen said.

"It's a fantastic result, particularly when you consider that so many industries reported a decline in 2009."

Ms Christensen said that the annual number of Australians taking a cruise holiday had almost doubled since 2005, when 186,666 passengers took to sea.

The South Pacific continued to be the most popular destination for Australian cruisers in 2009, attracting 137,473 passengers and accounting for 38 per cent of the total cruise market.

A surge in the number of ships offering cruises to New Zealand and around Australia resulted in the largest growth in passenger numbers attributed to New Zealand, which chalked up a 74.5 per cent rise to 35,329 passengers.  Meanwhile Australia attracted 66,759 passengers, a 51.5 per cent increase, making it the second most favoured destination.

Ms Christensen said that the economic downturn, along with an increase in local capacity, appeared to have influenced cruisers' choice of destination with small falls in the total number of passengers travelling to longer haul fly-cruise options such as Alaska and Europe.

Overall, the proportion of Australians taking a cruise holiday has risen from 0.6 per cent of the population in 2002 to 1.7 per cent in 2009, overtaking many European markets and comparing favourably with the penetration of more mature cruise markets such as the UK and North America (2.5 and 2.9 per cent respectively).

The data also revealed a growth in the proportion of longer cruises of 15+ days as well as shorter cruise breaks of under four days. Meanwhile estimated annual sea days rose by 16 per cent to almost 4 million in 2009 as the number of cruise passengers increased along with the popularity of longer cruises.


Just as the figures came out on our love of cruise-holidaying, online cruise-specialist travel agency, became the first travel agency in Australia to be accredited for clients to book aboard three of the world's leading cruise lines direct-online from home, office, or even if already on holidays, via a smartphone.

Clients simply connect with ecruising's website and click on the range of cruise holiday options available world-wide aboard the 38 ships of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. From there they can view itineraries, deck plans, check-out images of different cabin categories, view onboard facilities, compare prices (that include all taxes, charges, and gratuities, and whether discounts are available such as age pension,) availability, and download any particular material they want to consider at leisure with a partner or travelling companion.

Once they've decided their cruise of choice, six easy steps that take on average just two-minutes, enable them to book their cruise via ecruising's website, pay a deposit by credit card through a bank-secure server, and receive a printed invoice; when they make their final payment via the same system all necessary boarding documentation is downloaded to them.

Ecruising Founder and Managing Director, Brett Dudley said the three shipping lines accredited just three or four agencies world-wide each year to provide the online booking facility.

"It's taken our IT team months to develop the facility here, and we beat strong competition to be the first not just in Australia to receive this accreditation, but other major countries as well," he said. "It opens a whole new world for clients to view and book cruise holidays unhurried in the comfort of home, office or wherever else they wish... and just as easily as they've been able to do for some time with airline flights and hotels."

For full details check out


CHINA specialists Wendy Wu Tours have a selection of China packages designed for return visitors to the country as they offer a closer insight of China for people who have already seen the major cities.

Travellers wanting to get off the beaten track and experience the ancient cities and beautiful natural scenery China has to offer can choose from a range of nearly 10 itineraries specially planned for second time visitors.

An example is the popular 28-day Silk Road Explorer, travelling the ancient east-west trade route. The tour begins with a few days in Beijing and Xian and then moves to Lanzhou for a journey through the region known as Little Tibet before moving on to Dunhuang and Turpan. A four-day journey along the original Silk Road leads to the fabled city of Kashgar with its renowned Sunday Bazaar and animal market before moving on to Urumqi then back to Beijing.

Priced from $6184 per person twin share, there are five departures for the remainder of the year.

For those with less time, there is the 19-day Ancient China tour, perfect for people with a taste for history and who want to trace the routes of one of the oldest Asian cultures. Discover cities in the north-east including Beijing, Datong, Wutaishan, Taiyuan, Xian, Luoyang and Dengfeng before ending in Shanghai.

There are eight departures from May to November and cost from $4,419 per person twin share.

All of Wendy Wu's group tours include return international economy airfares and taxes from Australia, all accommodation and meals, transportation in China, daily tours and entrance fees, an English speaking National Escort and/or local guides, visa fees for Australian passport holders, airline fuel surcharge and tipping is also included and is subject to change.

For more details contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998 or visit


CANADIAN ski specialists Value Tours are offering a range of free nights, early payment discounts and six-day lift passes on a choice of skiing packages at famous Whistler resorts.

They are available to travellers who book by April 30 and want to travel between November 26 and December 21.

The packages lead in with a seven-night stay at Whistler's Crystal Lodge for $806, which includes two free nights, 10 per cent off normal prices and the lift pass.

Other seven night packages, which also include bonuses, range from seven nights at the Westin Resort and Spa from $812, to $834 at Delta Whistler Village Suites and $1173 at Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa.

More details from Value Tours at 1300-361-322 or visit


BEER sophisticated?  Australia's first lady of beer is out to change our minds in a unique, witty, interactive theatrical experience at The Sydney Opera House.

In what's possibly a world first, Australia's Beer Diva, Kirrily Waldhorn will be putting on stage the beer secrets and finer points of beer appreciation that she has previously shared only at private performances in restaurants, lounge-bars and corporate board rooms.

In a stage show that Kirrily describes as "part theatre, part sensory indulgence", she promises to take audiences on a journey of discovery in five acts that will stimulate their senses through projected animation, original music, live performance and sampling five distinctive styles of beer.   She describes the show as "a joyous experience - punctuated by myth-busting facts, light-hearted history, global culture and beery philosophy — all which will leave you stimulated, entertained, and enriched by an unexpected education.

"Beer is still misunderstood, despite its growth in recent years," Kirrily says.  "Even though beer is entrenched in Australian culture we fail to appreciate the amazing complexities and diverse styles offered by beer.  And the unjust prejudices and stereotypes still prevail: beer is often seen, wrongly, as the domain of overweight, aggressive, bearded, belching, football-loving men.

"It's not an image likely to seduce foodies, sophisticates, or women into wider experimentation and adoption - but they're missing out on so much pleasure.  It's time to tear down these misconceptions."

With on-stage support by video artists/musicians, John Simmons and Richie Henson alongside singer Leah Thomas, Kirrily will guide the audience, seated at tables in cabaret style, through the lighter side of the history of beer and brewing, and lead them in the sampling of five distinct beers.  Each guest will receive a James Squire Sundown Lager on arrival, a Spiegelau beer classics glass valued at $20 and a box of Ferrero Rondoir chocolates to take home.

'The Beer Diva - Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy', runs from April 28th to 2nd May 2010 at The Studio, Sydney Opera House.  Tickets cost $55 from (02) 9250 7777 or