Monday, 25 April 2011

Madagascar - QM2 - Oktoberfest - Orion’s Spice Islands - Yoga Cruise


ADVENTURE holiday operator Explore Worldwide has two 15-day packages which follow in the footsteps of  David Attenborough's latest documentary masterpiece "Madagascar," in which he explores the unique wildlife of the world's oldest island.

Explore's Madagascar itineraries have a strong wildlife focus, such as the 'The Lost Continent' tour which passes through rainforest and crosses plains, canyons and highlands in search of lemur and other extraordinary wildlife. The package is priced from $2711 and includes accommodation with daily breakfast, 11 other meals, transport, sightseeing as well as a tour leader, driver and local guides.

For the more active adventurer the 15-day 'Madagascar Wilderness Trek' takes in similar highlights but has more of a trekking-focus. There are departures from September to April and costs from $2547 and includes accommodation with most meals, transport, extensive sightseeing and the services of a tour leader, driver and local guides.

For more details contact Venture Holidays on 1300-303-343 or visit



A WHOLE week regally cruising the Atlantic aboard the grand Queen Mary 2, stays in the finest world-class hotels in New York and London for shopping and sightseeing, airfares and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – and through Cruiseco, all this is from an incredibly low $3850pp twin-share.

Cruiseco has four of these packages between May 9 and June 8 this year, sailing 7-nights aboard Queen Mary between New York and London (or vice-versa) with all onboard dining and amid an ambience of gracious and "unmistakable Britishness," and 2-nights pre- or post-cruise at the Hemlsley Hotel New York and a night at either the Waldorf Hilton London or Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London.

These value-packed holidays start at just $3850pp and begin with 2 nights at the Helmsley Hotel in New York on June 8 2011.

For full details, prices from other capital cities, and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies visit

FURTHER SHIPBOARD AND HOTEL DETAILS: The majestic 148,500-tonne Queen Mary 2 offers no fewer than nine restaurants, twelve bars and lounges, five pools, a casino, ballroom, live-stage theatre and cinema with late-release movies.

New York's Helmsley Hotel is located on the East Side close to Fifth Avenue shopping and dining, and within easy reach of the city's best attractions and sights, including the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the United Nations building, the Theatre District and Rockefeller Centre.

London's Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel is a true one-off property close to the chic boutiques of Covent Garden and Oxford Street's celebrated shopping, while the Waldorf Hilton London is close to the city's Theatreland, 5 minutes' walk from the shops of Covent Garden, and near to the London Eye and Trafalgar Square.



THIRSTY Australians keen to help the locals and other visitors drink their way through seven million litres of beer at this year's Oktoberfest in Munich, are being offered discounted flights to the Bavarian capital by online travel agent, Direct Flights International from $1541pp.

One of the world's biggest festivals, the 17-day Oktoberfest will run from September 17 to October 3, 2011, with its cavernous beer tents, rock concerts, streets parades and thrill rides drawing more than 6.4 million visitors, just under the seven million litres of beer that will be downed at the thirst-quenching carnival.

More than half a million sausages and 70,000 pork knuckles will also be consumed with the Bavarian beer, which will be sold in huge one-litre steins for around AU$12 each.

And to cope with the liquid intake, there will be 1000 toilet seats and almost a kilometre of men's urinals on hand in the fair grounds. 2011 will also be the first year smoking will be banned inside the giant beer tents, some of which can seat 8400 people.

Direct Flights is offering return flights to Munich with full-service British Airways from $1541 from Perth and from $2192 from Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. * The fares include taxes and are available for sale on until April 29, 2011, for departures up to October 3, 2011.

Accommodation, car hire, tours and attractions in Germany can also be booked online with Direct Flights.

Conditions apply and flights are subject to availability.


EXPEDITION cruise ship Orion's Spice Island Adventure later this year explores one of the most extraordinarily bio-diverse regions on Earth, a handful of rarely visited islands situated just north of Australia.

Centuries ago the Spice Islands were the source of the world's most valued foodstuffs and most treasured commodities of their time, multiplying in value up to a thousand-fold by the time they reached the markets of Europe.

Dotted among the thousands of islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, only nine supported the Myristica fragrans tree, the source of nutmeg and mace, while just six more supported a myrtle whose dried flower buds were known to the Chinese as 'fragrant nails' – and to us as cloves.

More than 3000 years ago cloves were traded in Persia, and Romans were able to buy spices originating from Indonesia. In the 16th century Magellan and Vasco da Gama opened the way for the trading houses of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company.

In 2011 Orion Expedition Cruises will again open the way for adventurous spirits with an 11-night expedition to a region where few outsiders set foot.

It is home to many unique flora and fauna species, particularly birdlife. Towering volcanoes, many still active, rise from the sea, tropical islands appear through the soft light of morning, a hint of kretek – aromatic clove and tobacco blended cigarettes – wafts on the breeze and bright and colourful customs bring ancient legends and traditions to life in remote island villages.

This expedition includes a visit to Komodo and the chance to see the world's largest lizards – the Komodo Dragons – that grow to over 3 metres in length.

There's also Pink Beach named because of its crushed red organ pipe coral sand, and perfect for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing, the island of Alor whose predominantly Christian villagers can be traced back to the Dongson period in Vietnam around 350 BC, and Sumba an uplifted coral limestone island once known as Sandalwood Island whose people retain a strong cultural heritage resistant to the outside influences of Christianity, Hinduism or Islam…. Orion's guests will be welcomed by villagers wearing traditional woven ikat fabrics and see ancient megaliths that adorn the village entrances.

Orion's expedition voyage will include a specialist Expedition Team selected for their knowledge and practical experience in botany, marine biology, anthropology and history.

The 11 night Spice Island Adventure departs Darwin on July 14 this year visiting Kisar on Maluku, Alor, Maumere (Flores,) Komodo, East and West Sumba, Savu, Rote and back to Darwin; prices start from $8175pp including twin-share, onboard meals, shore excursions, lectures and backgroundings, Zodiac transfers, gratuities and port charges.

Details (02) 9033 8777, toll-free 1300 361 012 or


CRUISING WITH A CONSCIENCE                           

IT'S a tough call – waking to an alarm clock for free early morning yoga lessons and meditation on the open deck of a great luxury sailing ship, or giving up pre-sunset cocktails for a late afternoon session.

In any case, yoga teacher Christel Vollmer who trained on the US West Coast with Bryan Kest, yoga guru to celebrities including Madonna, Cindy Crawford and Sting, will be holding classes twice a day for seven days on two special Star Clipper cruises in the Mediterranean on August 6 and 13.

Christel, who specialises in Astanga (power) yoga, will also give lectures on the philosophy of yoga and advice on practice at home. Age is no restriction and no experience is necessary to attend lessons.

Supplementing the healthy yoga theme, Star clipper will offer some vegetarian meals at dinner and plenty of fruit and salads with breakfast and lunch.

The 170-passenger tall ship operates a series of cruises from Athens in May, June July and August on alternate southern and northern itineraries that include popular Greek islands and Turkish ports in the Aegean Sea.

The two cruises where yoga is offered start at $5820 including return airfare from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide with Singapore Airlines, all port and air taxes and all meals and entertainment onboard Star Clipper.

Star Clipper, sister ship Star flyer, and flagship Royal Clipper follow the sun year-round to exotic ports in the east and west Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Costa Rica and, in 2012, to Baltic and Scandinavian ports.

For reservations contact your travel agent or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or visit