WITH its tropical climate, un-crowded waves and enticing package deals at remote and picturesque surfing locations, now's the time to book a surfing trip to Papua New Guinea.
Madang, Milne Bay, Kavieng and New Hanover are favourite PNG locations for surfing, boasting great swells and water temperatures of 26 degree Celsius year round. And with surf management laws in place, surfers are guaranteed to never be battling the crowds on PNG's waves.
Surf travel options include heading out with a charter company to catch the breaks around off-shore islands, giving surfers the opportunity to explore the waves in various locations on one trip. Or base yourself at a land surf camp, such as Clem's Place on Tunnung Island, just north of Kavieng, New Ireland, which is currently offering additional free nights if you book before 31st August 2011.
And places like Clem's Place often offer secluded accommodation options for small groups in remote island locations, where the focus is on relaxation and surfing with true PNG hospitality from the land owners.
With six bungalows available and great surf, Clem's Place has two deals for those wanting to experience the 'last frontier' when it comes to surfing: pay for 9 days and stay 10 or, pay for 12 days and stay 14
Trips need to be booked before 31 August 2011 and travel must be during the 2011/2012 surf season (October-April).
Prices start at $270 a night with packages including reef fees, three meals a day and surf transfers. To book call South Sea Horizons on +61 432744490 or visit www.southseahorizons.com
CRUISE VENICE TO RIO FOR LESS THAN $100 PER DAY
FROM romantic Venice to vibrant Rio de Janeiro, MSC Cruises has a 25-night package which combines an eight-night Mediterranean cruise with a 17-night ocean voyage, with prices starting from $91 per passenger per day.
The Sizzling Venice to Rio holiday aboard MSC Musica on November 23 this year is priced from $2285 per person twin share and starts with a return cruise from Venice to Bari, Rhodes, Izmir, Piraeus (Athens), Katakolon and Dubrovnik, before embarking on an ocean voyage to South America.
The second leg includes another visit to Bari before the cruise ship heads to Valletta, Malaga, Madeira Island and the Brazilian ports of Salvador, Buzios and, ultimately, Rio de Janeiro.
"Passengers will have two chances to explore and experience Venice – before and during the 25-day cruise holiday," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.
"It's an exciting holiday of almost four weeks and well within many passengers' budgets when you consider the starting price is around $91 a day," she said. "And for the money passengers enjoy on-board meals, international standard entertainment, invitations to the captain's cocktail party and gala dinners. Port charges are also included."
And children under 18 years are free, providing they share the cabin with two paying adults (need only pay port charges of $665 per child).
TELEVISION shows such as Masterchef have prompted Explore Worldwide to introduce a choice of food-oriented holidays based on the cuisine of places like Vietnam and Italy.
In Italy an eight-day Amalfi Coast Walking tour it combines planned walks with a farm-stay that welcomes guests into the family home, giving the opportunity to enjoy home-made Italian food. Guests will sit down to South Italian breakfasts, picnics and three and four course evening meals that make use of home-grown fruit, vegetables, nuts, meats and wines.
The tour costs from $1258 per person twin share.
A Cycle Vietnam tour takes guests off the beaten track to eat with locals and learn about their unique cultures and traditions. Guests will enjoy home-cooked dinners, fresh Vietnamese coffee and be tempted with all manners of noodles, snacks and stir fried delights by food sellers in Hanoi.
They'll also have a chance to sample a traditional Vietnamese meal of grilled ostrich in bamboo, crocodile with chilli and lemon grass, or perhaps snake-head fish. This 14-day package costs from $1786 per person twin share.
All Explore Worldwide packages include accommodation, many meals, transportation and the service of a tour leader, driver and local guides.
START 2012 WITH VALUE-PACKED SYDNEY-SINGAPORE CRUISE PACKAGE
SAIL off to a grand start to 2012 with a 15-night package from Cruiseco that will have you cruising from Sydney to Singapore in one of the most gracious vessels to visit Australia, having a night in Singapore at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel with plenty of time for duty-free shopping and sightseeing, and one-way airfare back to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane (deduct $64pp ex Perth.)
And with all air, port and other taxes and even onboard gratuities, it will cost from just $2450pp twin-share – plus Cruiseco is including the indulgence of Private Car transfers from port to hotel, and hotel to airport in Singapore.
The 4-star Rhapsody of the Seas will sail 14-nights from Sydney on February 16 2012, visiting Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin, Benoa on Bali, and Singapore, and will have a whole eight days cruising at sea to make use of the ship's extraordinary range of sporting, social and recreational facilities.
A slightly-longer 16-night package with one-way airfare to Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide (deduct $100 ex Perth), a night pre-cruise at the Fairmont Hotel with all private car transfers, and 15 nights (departs March 29 2012) cruising back to Sydney via the same ports (but with an additional day in Cairns,) air and all taxes and onboard gratuities, will cost from as low as $2430pp twin-share.
For full details and the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies visit www.cruising.com.au
ADDITIONAL SHIPBOARD INFORMATION: Rhapsody of the Seas offers a choice of formal and casual dining in several restaurants and cafés to suit the mood of the day, eight themed bars and lounges, shopping in an open atrium, a Day Spa & Fitness Centre, and a casino.
For the more active there's a rock-climbing wall, outdoor pool, six whirlpools, a separate indoor/outdoor pool in a Solarium with sliding roof, and a youth activity centre.
ITALY'S UNUSUAL PUTIGNANO FESTIVAL
ITALY'S Putignano Carnival in the country's south is one of the oldest and longest-running carnivals in the world, with evidence that it dates back to 1394.
And while it starts on the 26th of December and runs through until Shrove Tuesday, it is the Carnival Parade on the first day that draws the most interest, with enormous floats and characters wearing satirical and colourful masks.
Another feature is poets who recite satirical and pungent verses addressed at the local government and prominent local business, government and other figures, while the centre-piece figure is Farinella whose is costume made of multicoloured patches with bells on the tips of her hat, shoes and collar that give her a joker-like appearance.
There is also the "Propaggine" that's one of the most traditional aspects of this Carnival. According to local legend, the origin of the "Propaggine" goes back to the 26th of December 1394, during the transfer of St. Stefan Protomartye's Holy Relics from Monopoli to Putignano, where the Holy Relics are still preserved today in the church of St. Maria of the Greca.
Legend has it that during the transference of the Relics some farmers who were going to plant a new vineyard joined in the procession with its dancing, singing and reciting rhymes. Over the centuries, this festival on 26th December, has lost its religious content and is today a critical and satirical show-piece directed towards the most prominent figures in the city.