Monday, 13 December 2010

Vietnam Discount - Three in a Bed - Mekong Cruise - Eastern Europe Tour - China Cruise Tour Offer


THE strength of the Australian dollar has led to huge savings for travellers planning a tour of Vietnam in 2011.

That's the message from Helen Wong's Tours which has slashed up to $1380 per person twin share off the previous year's brochure prices.

Book a 24-day Vietnam Splendour tour from the newly-released program, and the starting price is $5780 per person, twin share compared with $7160 during the previous year.

"By passing on the savings from a favourable exchange rate we are presenting travellers with extra spending power," said Helen Wong, managing director of Helen Wong's Tours. "Our new brochure features this and all kinds of savings on other tours."

Healthy savings can also be snared on tours such as the 20-day Vietnam Explorer, reduced from a starting price of $6990pp in 2010-2011 to $5480 in 2011-2012.

Other tour prices for 2011-2012 are: 16-day Best of Vietnam (now starting from $3500), 11-day Vietnam Discovery (from $3680), 18-day Vietnam Extravaganza (from $4720), 20-day Vietnam Explorer (from $5480) and the 24-day Vietnam Splendour (from $5780).

Among the Vietnam combos are the 14-day Angkor and Vietnam Discovery (from $4660), 16-day Cambodia and Vietnam Odyssey (from $5220) and the 17-day Jewels of Indochina (from $6530).

The 20-day Highlights of Laos and Vietnam (from $6050), and the 25-day Charms of Vietnam and China (from $6600) are other itineraries in the program, while the Encounters for Independent Travellers focus on Central Vietnam, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Laos' Luang Prabang and capital Vientaine.

All above prices are per person, twin share.

Take advantage of the early bird specials for bookings and deposits before January 31,2011, and a further $200 saving is offered.

Meanwhile, a surge in interest for independent touring coupled with a growing desire to visit treasured World Heritage-listed sites Halong Bay and Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat has also placed extra emphasis on Helen Wong's Tours' Vietnam 2011-2012 program.

To get up close with the local way of life in the remote villages of the Mekong Delta, a leisurely cycle tour "among the coconut groves" has been included in two independent tours.

Helen Wong's Tours' 2011-2012 Vietnam brochure also encompasses neighbouring countries Cambodia, Laos and China with a series of combo tours.

Price for tours includes return economy air fare from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth, twin share accommodation in 3- to 5-star hotels, daily breakfasts and lunches, some dinners and an evening cultural show with transfers, specified transfers, sightseeing and entrance fees, English-speaking guides and Vietnam visa for Australian passport holders.

Departure taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges are also included along with a Helen Wong's Tours travel kit and cabin bag.

Prices for the independent tours, minimum two guests, start at $640pp twin share for four days in Hanoi/Halong Bay. Air fare from Australia is extra.

Details: Helen Wong's Tours, 1300 788328 or (02) 9267 7833,


THAT's the title of the latest book from Ann Rickard, and a must-give gift this Christmas for anyone you know who is planning on heading to the Med.

From singing with locals in the Greek Islands, finding their hearts captured in Montefiascone, drinking far too much pink wine in Monaco and generally over-indulging all the way around the Mediterranean, award-winning Ann Rickard romps around the Med with her latest book, Three in a Bed in the Med.

It's her sixth travel story and tells how Ann, her husband Geoffrey and the flirtatious and abundantly endowed (and not shy about it) Amanda, owner of a beautiful 18th century property in the village of St. Maximin, set off around the Mediterranean to find the best, most glorious venues possible to include in future of their already-popular culinary travel tours.

Previous tours of the South of France proved such a runaway success that they decided expansion of the tour empire was needed –  pronto.

But somehow pronto turned in to pinot and work waned as the wine, and the evocative destinations worked their magic with the two big feisty blondes "of a certain age" and their one courageous male escort.

And when the three find themselves sharing a bed in some of the most gorgeous destinations in the world, things become a little too close and they begin to wonder if Geoffrey may well become short term, Amanda may indeed need to flirt a little less – and can both a marriage and friendship survive when there are, indeed, three in a bed in the Med?

Ann Rickard was named Australian Travel Writer of the Year in 2005 and this latest book is fast-paced, the tone rollicking and the plot never disappointing. She has a sharp eye for detail and writes with wit, honesty and passion about places that feature in all our travel fantasies.

Her self-depreciating humour is frank, clever and concise, descriptions are colourful, and her observations can be wicked, making this a story that is down-right funny.

A great Christmas gift at $25 for family or friends going to the Med in 2011.


Cruiseco has 7-nights on the fascinating Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia aboard the replica colonial river steamer Indochina Pandaw that carries just sixty passengers – and with new bookings made by December 17 is priced from just $5999 for the first passenger and a low $1399 for the second passenger sharing a cabin.

This value-plus saving is for a sailing from Siem Reap (Angkor) to Ho Chi Minh's My Tho Port (Saigon) on March 6 2011, but Cruiseco has other specially-discounted "second passenger savings" on a range of other sailings from December 26 this year to March 27 2011.

All include return economy air from Australia, two nights twin-share pre-cruise at the deluxe Raffles Grand d'Angkor in Angkor, and two nights post-cruise at the deluxe Caravelle Hotel in Saigon with breakfasts daily, daily sightseeing with expert local guides, and all transfers.

Indochina Pandaw's 7-cruise includes breakfasts daily, select lunches and dinners, daily shore excursions including by sampan, local ferries and trishaws with expert local guides, local beer, spirits and soft drinks on board, and 5-star service.

For detailed itineraries from Angkor to Saigon or vice-versa, together with the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies, visit

ADDITIONAL CRUISE HIGHLIGHTS: Highlights include floating markets, French colonial buildings and an 1875's monastery, a traditional brick and tile factory, Cambodia's Silver Pagoda, museums highlighting Khmer culture, temples, a silk-weaving village, Angkor Thom with its famous Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King.

There is also an opportunity for a moving "Killing Fields" visit in Phnom Penh and by contrast the chance to dine at the legendary Foreign Correspondents Club.

Indochina Pandaw is a faithful replica of the river steamers of the colonial Irrawaddy Flotilla Company that burned all 600 of its vessels in the 1940s to prevent them being used by the advancing Japanese Army. The 30-cabin vessel features promenade decks with cane furnishings, teak woodwork, brass fittings and large cabins – giving the ambience of holidaying aboard a private motor yacht rather than a cruise vessel.


EASTERN European specialist, Beyond Travel, has a new range of exclusive Special Journey Tours for 2011 with a generous discount of between $500 and $1000 per couple when booked and deposited by December 31.

There are eight Special Journey itineraries ranging from 10 to 22 days, each designed especially for the Australian and New Zealand market, and most made up of small groups of 20 to 28 people.

Tours cover a selection of countries including Russia, the Balkans featuring Croatia and Romania, Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and a deluxe Trans-Mongolian rail journey, each with a unique aspect that separates them from the conventional coach tours.

For example in the 17-day "Russia & Capitals Of The Baltic Sea" itinerary passengers have the opportunity to travel by the new high-speed train from Moscow to St Petersburg instead of by coach. This new train travels at up to 300km an hour and shortens the  travelling time thus giving you more time to explore St Petersburg. Also included is a ferry crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn and then onto Stockholm.

The "Berlin, Poland & Kiev" journey over 17 days features rail Berlin to Warsaw, Krakow and then continues to Odessa and Yalta before travelling by first class sleeper to Kiev. A 22 day small group Pearls of The Balkans tour features Transylvania, Bulgaria & Macedonia while the popular Slovenia and Croatia By Land and By Sea tour over 18 days features a six day privately chartered Dalmatian Islands cruise and is priced from $4800 per person twin share.

There are more than 25 special journey departures planned from May until October and all include quality centrally located accommodation with daily breakfast, a selection of speciality meals, comprehensive sight-seeing with local guides and transportation.

For more details on any escorted tour contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email


APT has a Companion Fly Free deal on its 2011-12 China packages for bookings made by March 31, 2011.

Twenty departures (there were nine in 2010) are scheduled for APT's most popular China tour, the 13-day Imperial China package (from $5695 per person twin share) which includes icon experiences The Forbidden City in Beijing, the Great Wall at Badaling, four-night Yangtze cruise, the Terracotta Warriors at Xi'an, Suzhou and Shanghai.

The price includes cruise, hotels, most meals, local flights, coach touring and tipping.

On the flight deal which is with Cathay Pacific economy class, the companion is required to pay air taxes.

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

Additional detail re cruise: The cruise is on the boutique-sized 124-passenger The Sanctuary M.S. Yangzi Explorer which boasts the largest and most luxurious suites on the Yangtze, according to APT, with private balconies and exceptionally high level of service with a crew of 130.

The ship has a theatre for cultural performances and lectures, an elevator, two restaurants (the upper restaurant being for the exclusive use of the suites and the upper cabin categories) and a comprehensive wellness area (gymnasium, spa, health treatments, private massage rooms, Turkish baths, beauty and hairdressing).

APT previously used a 400-passenger vessel. The boutique The Sanctuary M.S. Yangzi Explorer is more in keeping with the style of APT's river cruise ships in Europe, Russia and Vietnam. It is better able to dock close to sites and provide easier management of excursions than the larger ships on the river.