Monday, 31 May 2010

FRANKS FAVOURITES: Shanghai, European river cruising, Sleddogging, Eurail, P&O


ALL the colour, buzz and pageantry of World Expo 2010 have just reaffirmed how much a leading light Shanghai is on the world stage.

By the time the curtain is lowered on this six-month long celebration of culture and global achievements on October 31, that 70 million people will have filed through the 130 or more pavilions. That's three times the population of this giant Chinese city, and three times that of Australia.

More than 190 countries and 50 international organisations are represented in a "village" that covers over 5.28 sq kms, one fifth the size of Macau.

"World Expo is much bigger than the Olympics - and it lasts much longer," said Helen Wong, managing director of Helen Wong's Tours, the only private company authorised to sell World Expo tickets in Australia.

"It's the greatest show on earth and it provides a fresh and even bigger opportunity to take THAT trip to China," she said.

In conjunction with the major event, which opened in a blaze of colour on May 1 and will ultimately stage 20,000 events, Helen Wong's Tours has a nine-night Shanghai Word Expo 2010 program which combines four nights in the host city – two days set aside to venture through Expo and marvel over the exhibits - with extra nights in Hong Kong and Macau, price starting at $2980 per person, twin share, including return economy class air fares from Australia and accommodation in first class hotels.

Daily breakfasts, transfers and tours with English speaking guides are also included along with China visa, travel kit, taxes and fuel charges.

Each traveller is provided with a two-day Expo Pass.

For independent travellers seeking a stopover in Shanghai, Helen Wong's Tours has two, three and four-night packages with passes to Expo. This offer also includes airport-hotel transfers with English-speaking guide, transfers to Expo, daily breakfast and accommodation in a choice of four 4-to-5 star hotels.

Land-only price starts at $420pp twin share for the two-night package, from $570pp, twin share for the three-night package, from $730pp, twin share for the four-night pack.

Details: Helen Wong's Tours, 1300 788328 (or see your travel agent),


When ms Amabella began her maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Budapest on May 9, she became the seventh vessel in Australian company APT's Europe river cruising fleet.

While APT introduced European river cruising to the Australian market in 1999, ms Amabella presents a new ship design, the first of its kind. It has cabins with twin balconies (earlier ships have one), the largest suites on the rivers, swimming pool, fireside library and an intimate chef's table restaurant seating only 24 people, complete with private chef.

ms Amaverde, which is scheduled to enter service next year, has the same, innovative design.

The Australian family-owned APT in conjunction with Amawaterways operates cruises between Amsterdam and Budapest on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers with some packages including extensions to Paris, Prague, Edinburgh and London. There are special extensions this year for golf enthusiasts. Packages range from 15 days to 24 days.

APT and Amawaterways have made an investment of $180m in the construction of the eight river ships. The fleet is: Amadagio (launched 2006), Amalegro (2007), Amacello (2008), Amadante (2008), Amalyra (2009), Amadolce (2009), Amabella (2010) and Amaverde (2011).

APT General Manager Marketing, Debra Fox said at the ms Amabella blessing cruise in Volendam that European river cruising had captured the imagination of the Australian traveller.

"Exposure to Europe's fabulous history, cultures and scenery, unpacking just the once, cruising in absolute comfort and with everything included in the price, has proved very appealing to the discerning traveller market in Australia and New Zealand," she said.

APT will operate 50 departures of its main 15-day Magnificent Europe cruise this year (and 64 departures in 2011). While most have been sold out, there are some Category D and E cabins still available. Bookings are strong too for 2011, generated by general demand and by earlybird deals.

Contact: call 1300 229 804, visit or see a travel agent.


FALLS Creek in Victoria's high snow country will stage a Classic Sleddog Exhibition Event in the mountains in July.

President of the Falls Creek Classic Sleddog Committee and Event Coordinator, Shaun Butcher said it would be the first time in Australia a sledding exhibition of this type had been staged through an alpine village.

"This style of racing is common throughout Europe, but is new to the Australian race scene," he said. "A course between 3.5km – 4.0km has been designated within the alpine resort, and as this is the first time a sled dog event has been held at Falls Creek, numbers will be limited to 20 teams.

"The exhibition will also showcase the sport of Skijoring. This is where a musher is towed on skis, by 1- to 3-dogs, and by wearing a specially designed harness and using nothing but voice commands, navigates the trail. Considering Falls Creek is one of the top cross-country snow fields in Australia, we are hoping to raise interest from the cross-country community.

"Another exciting aspect is that the initial event will be staged under lights, with the exhibition beginning at 7:00pm on Monday July 5th. Teams will be sent off at one minute intervals with the six dog teams first, followed by the four, three and two dog teams."

Mr Butcher sleddogging has between 500 - 600 members Australia wide, encompassing pure breed clubs, as well as all breeds, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy this sport. "The teams of taking part in the event at Falls Creek will predominantly be Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Alaskan Huskies."


WORLDWIDE rail specialists International Rail are offering two free travel days on a 15-day Eurail Youth Consecutive Pass if travellers hold an ISIC student card.

The Eurail Global Youth Pass can be used throughout Europe by passengers who are under the age of 26 on the first day of their travel.

The Pass has a validity of 15 consecutive days of travel, and must be started within 6 months of the issue date.

It is valid in 21 countries in Europe, including a selection of Eastern European countries such as The Czech Republic.

Offer is valid to purchase until July 31 and is valid for six months from issue date.

For more information contact International Rail at 1300 387 245, email or visit


P&O Cruises has two new short break cruises this August to delight both comedy and food lovers, with headline guests including well-known comedian Tom Gleeson and Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrell.

Departing Sydney on August 26, 2010, Pacific Sun's three-night comedy cruise is designed to leave passengers in stitches as they laugh their cares away with a range of guest comedians and activities on offer including comedy workshops. Comedians on the cruise include Tom Gleeson - as seen on the 7PM Project, Thank God You're Here and Good News Week - as well as Fiona McGary and Mick Meredith.  

Meanwhile, winemakers Bruce Tyrell of Tyrell's Wines and Duane Roy from Glandore Estate will lead master classes on their Hunter Valley wines on a new four-night food and wine themed cruise on Pacific Sun, departing Sydney on August 22, 2010.  Also on offer will be barista classes, cheese tastings with the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, beer gatherings with Matilda Brewery's master brewer Scott Vincent as well as a degustation dinner.

Fares start from just $299* per person, quad-share for Pacific Sun's three-night comedy cruise, and $399* per person quad-share for its four-night food and wine cruise, including accommodation, main meals and entertainment.

Passengers can also enjoy Pacific Sun's wide range of features while at sea, including five restaurants and cafes, a child-free relaxation area, two pools and three children's clubs.

For more information and bookings contact a licensed travel agent or P&O Cruises on 13 24 94 or visit   * Subject to availability. Conditions apply.