Monday, 6 December 2010

Escorted Italy - Value Greece Turkey Egypt - Fly Cruise Argentina - Credit Card Fraud Crackdown - Affordable Vietnam


GET off the beaten track in Italy's picturesque Northern Lakes region in the European Spring or Autumn of next year, and with Australia's specialist small-group operator Carolinasusi Italia Tours you'll find yourself anything but lost.

That's because these tours are limited to just 20-guests each, and are personally escorted by Carolinasusi's owners who've been taking Australians to Italy for three years, and have been visiting the country for much longer.

It's all given them a unique insight into the mountains and lakes of Northern Italy, and friendships that enable them to take their guests into tucked-away gems seldom included by larger operators.

Such inclusions are visits to town and village markets with their unique taste sensations, tastings at family-owned wineries and grappa distilleries, a day with a chef whose family has lived here for 700 years – and by contrast the chance to shop for designer clothes, dine and take a walking tour of the streets of Romeo and Juliet's Verona, and to explore Vicenza and Venice.

These personally-escorted 15-night tours in May/June and again in September 2011 are 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.

Lake cruises, visits to the villas of the 'twenties and 'thirties rich and famous, fortified towns, breakfasts and most dinners, a lunch in an alpine or lakeside venue, coach transfers and tours, villa entries, a rack-railway excursion, and the full time Australian escorts backed-up by local guides are all included – ensuring there are no nasty cost surprises along the tour.

Prices start from $6485pp twin-share ex-Milan; for full details phone (07) 3396 8652, (07) 3262 6332 or visit


CHAT Tours who have been specialising in holidays for Australians to Greece, Egypt and Turkey for more than thirty years, say 2011 will offer some of the best value-ever to these destinations because of the strength of our dollar, increasingly competitive price-driven airfares, and with its own strong buying power and reductions in Chat Tours' own pricing –  prices next year that will in most cases be below those of 2010.

A just-released 52-page brochure of Chat Tours' offerings in 2011 is a veritable handbook of how best to enjoy a value holiday in these regions, with detailed Athens stopovers and Greece hotel and apartment stays, coach tours through Greece, Greek Island cruises and island-hopping passes, and Aegean and Adriatic cruises that include such combinations such as the Greek Islands and Turkey.

There's also the option to choose yacht-style cruises, Turkey coach and cruise tours, Gallipoli mini- and longer-stay tours, and tours of Egypt and Israel including cruising the Nile, all backed by Chat Tours' individualised services, unmatched experience and local knowledge.

This information-packed brochure is essential reading for those considering a holiday in Greece, Egypt or Turkey in 2011; for a free copy phone (02) 9221 2300, toll-free 1800 22 22  32 or visit

CHAT Tours background information: Chat Tours' parent company Hermes en Grece was established in Athens 85 years ago and Chat Tours has had offices in Australia for past 31 years, making it Australia's leader in holidays to "its corner" of the Mediterranean.

Chat Tours has its own fleet of luxury coaches for Greece touring and its sister company, the Amalia group operates a chain of superior hotels in major tourist centres.


CRUISECO has an enticing start to 2011 with a 20-night fly, cruise and stay package departing Sydney on February 23 , 2011 that includes 2-nights in Buenos Aires, a 2-night visit to the famous Iguazu Falls, and 14-nights of luxury cruising from Buenos Aires to Santiago where there's a further 2-nights stay.

Return economy airfares and air taxes from Sydney are also included as well as breakfasts daily at pre- and post-cruise hotels and all transfers.

The 2-night pre-cruise Iguazu Falls visit includes return air from Buenos Aires, breakfasts daily, and a full day's sightseeing of the Brazilian and Argentinean sides of the Falls, with lunch included; there are also half-day sightseeing tours in Buenos Aires and Santiago.

The 14-night cruise is aboard Celebrity Cruises' Infinity that sails from Buenos Aires on February 27 2011 for Montevideo, Punta del Este, Puerto Madryn, the world's southern-most city Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, and Valparaiso for Santiago.

Prices start from $6929pp twin-share including all on board dining, entertainment and gratuities on Infinity; for full details, prices from all capital cities and the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies visit


AUSTRALIAN hotels, motels and guest houses will be armed with a digital tracking system to stop cheque and credit card fraudsters this summer holiday season.

"Guests who use fake cheques or payment cards to pay their bills cost our members millions of dollars a year," said Hotel Motel & Accommodation Association (HMAA) Chief Executive Lorraine Duffy.

"Exactly how much is unknown because many cases of fraud and bill skipping go unreported, and until now there has been no way of tracking the problem and identifying offenders," she said.

"But from now on HMAA's 2000-plus members will be granted free access to the GuestTRAX reporting system to enable them to identify suspects and take suitable action."

GuestTRAX was developed by former Queensland police officer Bruce Nicholls after he noticed that many cases of cheque and payment card fraud either went unreported or were not tracked by police forces across Australia.

"This meant offenders are able to commit fraud and scams with virtual immunity in a nation-wide scam that is costing small businesses at least $85 million a year - more than employee theft, burglary, robbery and vandalism combined," Ms Duffy added.

She said Mr Nicholls drew on 28 years of law enforcement work to develop his world-first GuestTRAX system, which had the ability to be applied to rental cars and other services.


A day's cruising of breathtaking Halong Bay and its sprinkling of craggy limestone isles is one of the many treasured highlights on Helen Wong's Tours' 11-day Glimpse of Vietnam program, priced from $2900 per person, twin share.

For those with more time and a slightly larger holiday budget, the 16-day Best of Vietnam program also represents good value, priced from $3950pp, twin share.

Like the lead-in tour, it too includes a cruise of the bay with the UNESCO World Heritage listing, east of capital Hanoi.

"To cruise Halong Bay is sheer magic," said Helen Wong's Tours Marketing manager Jason Sacriz. "The fact that it has UNESCO World Heritage protection speaks volume for its natural appeal," he said. "Our travellers board for a cruise which appropriately includes a seafood lunch."

The above pair of Helen Wong's Tours programs begin in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and include visits to the Mekong Delta, Hoi An and imperial Hue as well as bustling Hanoi. The latter tour extends to include mountainous Sapa and the ethnic minority village of Black Hmong in the country's far northern region.

Both tour prices include return economy airfares to Vietnam, economy class air travel within Vietnam, three-to-four star accommodation, daily breakfasts, most lunches and some dinners, an evening cultural show, transfers, sightseeing and entrance fees and the escort of English-speaking guides.

Vietnam visas for Australian passport holders are also included along with departures taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges, and travel kit and cabin bag.

In addition to these 11 and 16-day tours, Helen Wong's Tours' has longer programs of up to 24 days, some merged with visits to Cambodia, Laos and China.

It also has an Encounters program for independent travellers.

Details: Helen Wong's Tours, phone (02) 9267 7833, 1300 788328, or request a brochure online