Monday, 6 September 2010

Travel Picks: Italian Alpine, Africa Golf, Hong Kong Cruise, Russian River Cruise, World Expo


SPECIALIST Italian small-group tour company, Carolinasusi Italia Tours gets off the beaten track into the country's romantic Northern Lakes region in Spring and Autumn of next year, and whilst embracing regional areas mostly overlooked by larger operators also includes exploring, shopping and dining in historic Verona, Vicenza and Venice.

These unique personally-escorted tours in May/June and again in September 2011 see guests based for the first week in the little city of Varese in the lower alpine highlands of the Italian Lakes, and the second in the smaller town of Bassano del Grappa at the foot of the mountains… with excursions out to often lesser-known towns and villages in which guests are embraced into the colour of daily Italian life.

Highlights include lake cruises, visits to the-once holiday villas of the 19th and 20th centuries' rich and famous, wineries and grappa distilleries, a day with a local chef whose family has lived here for 700 years, markets with famous-variety cheeses and seasonal fruits and vegetables, historic fortified towns, a walk along the streets of Romeo and Juliet's Verona, and fascinating Venice.

Each priced from $6485pp twin-share ex-Milan, these seasonal tours include 15-nights twin-share, breakfasts and most dinners, a lunch in an alpine or lakeside venue, coach transfers and tours, lake cruises, villa entries, walking tours of Verona, Vicenza and Venice, a rack-railway excursion, and full time Australian escorts with the back-up of local professional guides.

Full details (07) 3396 8652, (07) 3262 6332 or


AFRICAN holiday specialists Bench International have set up a specialist desk for travellers who want to combine an African safari with some golf.

The golf segments will be arranged through the South African group easyGolf,  an off-shoot of the company that has operated the Shongololo rail safari itineraries throughout southern Africa for the last 16 years.

South Africa has a wealth of world class golf courses, many of them designed by "Multiple major title holder" Gary Player, one of which is at the Fancourt Country Club Estate in South Africa's new golf capital George, along the east coast.

Cape Town and the Western Cape offer visitors a selection of excellent golf courses in majestic settings which are rated as some of the best courses in South Africa. The mild climate and the spectacular coastal scenery of the famous Garden Route makes this unique stretch of South Africa a golfer's paradise. Fancourt Country Club Estate is consistently ranked in the Top 10  South African courses.

The Eastern Cape offers visitors courses in scenic settings, with the sub-tropical coastline of KwaZulu Natal rated as one of the country's prime golf destinations. The Durban Country Club, one of the top courses in South Africa, has hosted more South African Opens than any other.

And Gauteng offers a wide selection of world class golf courses which will challenge the amateur and professional alike, while Johannesburg boasts a number of fine courses that have hosted PGA  events.

More details from Bench International at 1800-221-451 or 02-9290-2877


Cruiseco has 25-nights aboard the 5-star Holland America Line Amsterdam from Hong Kong through nine Asian and Australian ports to Sydney in October of this year at a saving of 44 per cent off brochure fares.

Now priced from as low as $4785pp twin-share it also includes air and taxes from Sydney, government taxes and two luxury hotel nights pre-cruise in Hong Kong.

Amsterdam will sail from Hong Kong on October 20 for Phu My in Vietnam, Laem Chabang (Bangkok) for two days and an overnight on board ship, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, Singapore, Semarang and Komodo Island in Indonesia, Darwin, an overnight on board ship in the Barrier Reef, Cairns for a full day and an overnight on board ship, Brisbane, and Sydney for a night on board ship.

For a fully detailed itinerary, ship facilities and services, and the names of Cruiseco's nearest 200-cruise specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, visit

MORE DETAIL: The two nights on October 18 and 19 are at the Regal Kowloon Hotel that's a blend of classical European elegance and Oriental hospitality.

The 1380-passenger Amsterdam offers the choice of a formal dining room, grill, restaurant and two caf├ęs  for dining, a variety of bars including one for wine-tasting, a theatre, cinema, two pools, health spa, beauty salon, tennis and basketball courts, a video arcade and a teen's-only activity area.


APT is offering free return flights to Russia for booking a 12-day river cruise next year.

The deal applies to the 12-day Russian Waterways cruise, for example, which operates from March and December and is priced from $5495 per person twin share. That includes cruising, shore excursions and entertainment, airport transfers and tipping, 32 meals on board, wine with lunch and dinner, Russian language lessons, selected Moscow and St Petersburg highlights and ballet performance in St Petersburg.

Cruising is on the newly-rebuilt 212-passenger river ship ms Amakatarina which boasts four decks and two restaurants. It cruises along the Volga, Svir and Neva rivers, exploring the forested islands, lakes and rural Russia.
Guests will find themselves amongst history and power as they walk across Red Square in Moscow, see the onion domes of St Basil's Cathedral in person, venture behind the walls of the Moscow Kremlin and become lost in a different era at The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

On Kizhi Island, they'll stroll the open-air museum of wooden architecture and see structures that represent ancient Russian architecture such as the Transfiguration Church, built in 1714 without a single nail.

Cruising the Volga River, meanwhile, will offer the chance to discover the rural Russian way of life... and visit to a local family in Uglich for a home-cooked Russian meal.

Finally on the Trans-Siberian Express rail journey, they'll wind through tunnels and along cliff-side tracks while absorbing the grandeur of Lake Baikal, framed by snow-capped peaks, and enjoy a taste of Mongolia in a traditional Mongolian Ger (Yurt).

The deal applies to bookings made before November 30 and requires the traveller to pay airfare taxes of approximately $700.

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


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

To imagine that by the time the curtain is lowered on this six-month long celebration of culture and global achievements (October 31,) 70 million people will have filed through the 130 or more pavilions.

That's three times the population of this giant Chinese city, 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, and 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),