LONDON during the Olympics, a town with the longest name in Europe, the world's oldest clock, a tour of Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are features of a 21-day UK cruise-tour in August this year.
Offered by Australia's Cruise Express, the hosted 'Glory of the British Isles' tour will begin during the final days of the London Olympics and also include ancient Stonehenge, London's now-leaning Big Ben, Shakespeare's home town, and a tour of the Queen's own former cruise ship, the Royal yacht Britannia.
The full, all-inclusive 21-day package tour departs Australia on August 7and begins with a five-night coach tour of southern England, including the Cotswolds, the Roman relics of Bath and the 750-year-old Salisbury Cathedral which boasts the tallest church spire in Britain (123m), the world's oldest working clock (626 years and still ticking) and the Magna Carta, written in 1215.
Cruise Express passengers will then board the deluxe, 3000-passenger superliner Caribbean Princess, in Southampton for a 12-night circumnavigation of the British Isles including the Channel Islands, Wales, Dublin and Belfast in Ireland, the Orkney Islands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness in Scotland and Le Havre in France.
A special Cruise Express shore-tour package for $890 offers a guided tour in every port including a Welsh town with the longest place name in Europe stretching for 58 letters – Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerichwyrndrobllllantisilliogogogoch – as well as the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, the Giant's Causeway and medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle near Belfast, Loch Ness and Cawdor Castle near Inverness, and the French town of Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.
Cruise Express's guests will also receive tickets to the world-famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle, a cruise on Britain's largest lake, Loch Lomond, a tour through the Royal Yacht Britannia and two days of sightseeing in London including a ride on the London Eye, 2012 Olympic venues and a tour inside the 600-room Buckingham Palace.
Including return flights from Australia, extensive sightseeing, accommodation and 45 meals, the 21-day coach and cruise tour is available from $8190 per person, twin-share. A shorter 16-day package is also available from $6990pp twin-share.
PORT STEPHENS PARASAILING AND THUNDARAFT 'DOUBLE DARE'
THE purchase of Port Stephen's Thundaraft operation by Port Stephens Parasailing has resulted in a new 'Double Dare' adrenalin deal that saves adventure seekers $30 a couple.
The offer from newly named Port Stephens Watersports includes a tandem parasail flight above the blue, dolphin-rich waters of Port Stephens plus a 45-minute, heart-pounding ride on the wave-jumping Thundaraft – all for $240 per couple – a saving of $30 per couple.
Port Stephens Watersports' 60-minute parasailing trips see high powered speedboats depart from the Nelson Bay marina every day, with passengers attached to parachutes from the boat for a thrilling flight 150m above the protected, crystal clear waters of Port Stephens. Riders take off and land straight from the boat so no experience is necessary. Many 'flyers' spot the bay's famous bottlenose dolphins while soaring over Port Stephens beneath their colourful parachutes.
Meanwhile, the high-tech rigid hull inflatable Thundaraft takes passengers on a thumping thrill ride over ocean waves to nearby islands for wildlife viewing.
For all deals and packages, call Port Stephens Watersports on 02 4982 2808 or visit the new website www.pswatersports.com.au
A 2½ hour drive north of Sydney, Port Stephens offers dolphin and whale watching cruises, sandboarding on Australia's biggest sand dunes, camel rides on the beach, horseriding, koala spotting, kayaking, fishing, fauna parks, wineries, bushwalks, seafood restaurants and a range of accommodation close to Port Stephens' bay and ocean beaches.
GET MORE WITH CRUISECO'S AZAMARA FLY, CRUISE & STAY DEALS
CRUISECO has 10-nights aboard the luxury mid-size Azamara Quest from Barcelona to Corsica, Italy, France and back to Barcelona on October 6 this year.
Priced from just $4,060pp twin-share, the package includes Earlybird return airfare and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide (deduct $50pp ex Perth), a deluxe pre-cruise hotel stay and another post-cruise hotel stay with breakfasts.
It also has 11-nights on sister-ship Azamara Journey from Paris (Rouen) to England, Ireland, France, Belgium and finally Amsterdam on May 6 2012 from a low $4485pp twin-share, again with Earlybird return airfare and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, two-nights deluxe pre-cruise stay in Paris with breakfasts and one-night deluxe post-cruise stay in Amsterdam with breakfast.
Both these vessels carry under-700 passenger vessels and include boutique wines with onboard lunches and dinners, onboard gratuities, port charges, fees and taxes.
Cruiseco also has fourteen other fly, cruise and stay packages with Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey in 2012 in the Mediterranean, UK and Northern Europe, North Africa and from Suez to Mumbai.
For fully detailed itineraries and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist travel agent, go to www.cruising.com.au.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Both vessels are able to access more-intimate destinations than larger ships, have onboard "Destination Experts" who give talks and advice on ports of call, and guests are encouraged to embrace local cultures, music, dance, art, history, and activities such as biking, golf, walking or hiking.
ITALY'S NEW FOUR CLASS RAIL SERVICES
MELBOURNE-based International Rail is selling the new four classes of travel which are now available on Italy's Trenitalia services.
The new system will provided travellers with a clear choice for comfortable, speedy travel by rail rather than air.
These pioneering innovations are leading the way for rail travel in Europe with the top-of-the-range executive class offering access to Freecia club lounges, private meeting room, a quiet area, open bar and gourmet meals by renowned Italian chef Vissoni, free papers and magazines, great comfort in fewer seats and maximum ticket flexibility.
The four class system will be introduced service-wide but is now available on schedules between Rome, Milan and Naples.
The three other classes business, premium and standard are all offering improved facility with greater space for passengers and luggage.
Carriages on the new services will provide eight executive seats, 52 single and double business seats, 62 premium and 68 standard.
Typical of the fares are AUD270 to travel executive from Rome to Milan and AUD155 for business, AUD135 for premium and AUD115 for standard.
Customers can access Italian trains live through a direct connection on the IR website www.internationalrail.com.au or by calling 1300 387 245
KIDS SKI FREE AT JAPAN'S NISEKO
JAPAN'S Niseko has had some exceptional snow (almost 10 metres so far) and come March there will be ample snow for Australian families seeking a once-in-a-lifetime Japanese snow holiday.
The bilingual snow resort offers a fusion of western and Japanese accommodation, restaurants and Kids Clubs, some with first-time friendly moving carpets.
With strong Australian-owned and operated facilities, Niseko features luxury Western apartments/condos, which plenty of English (as well as Japanese) language signage making it easy to find trails that link four separate ski areas.
SkiJapan.com has announced children 12 years and under can Ski for free during the entire month of March at Niseko. The deal is available on All Mountain Lift Passes.
To take advantage of this free Lift Pass offer – a child would be with adults who purchase a SkiJapan.com accommodation package that can cost up to 60% less than peak season. Plus there's free night skiing and free village shuttle throughout March.
Also in March, SkiJapan.com has a pay for six, stay for seven-night offer at any of its numerous managed properties in Niseko.
SkiJapan.com can also source well-priced airfares to Sapporo (the closest international airport to Niseko) via Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo.
Snow holiday wholesaler Skimax is offering plenty of great packages for those looking to escape the hot summer months in Australia. It has included Korea in its annual line-up of Northern hemisphere ski and boarding holidays. The Koreans have long protested that their ski fields are the equal of anywhere in the world, and point to Yongpyong as one of the best resorts. The alpine resort, which will host numerous alpine skiing events at the 2018 Winter Olympics, has more than 25 kilometres of groomed slopes, 15 chairlifts, a 3.7 kilometre gondola (which incidentally is the longest in Asia) and a terrain park which ensures all levels of skiers and boarders are satisfied. The ski lifts even stay open until 10p.m. each day. There are also plenty of other resorts closer to the Korean capital of Seoul if your time is limited. A seven-day package staying at Greenpia Condominiums in an Ondol Room, plus a 6-day Yongpyong ski left ticket costs from $1,l 159 per person twin share. For more details, contact Skimax 1300 136 997 or at skimax.com.au
Australia's Best Hotel
If you'd like to treat yourself or there's someone you want to impress, it's be hard to go wrong by booking a room at The Langham in Melbourne. It has just been named Australia's best hotel by American travel bible, Travel + Leisure, in the 10th anniversary edition of its 500 world's best Hotels. The rooms which apparently caught the judge's eyes were the Club Terrace rooms. Seven exclusive rooms within the hotel were exquisitely redesigned to include 50 square metre outdoor terraces. Furnished with luxurious sun lounges and a matching outdoor dining set, the timeless terraces look out over Melbourne's fabulous skyline. You can even hire a personal butler, who will look after your every need. You know what they say about someone who asks how much this all costs – you probably can't afford it! But if you'd like to live the high life, visit langhamhotels.com to make your reservation.
Last minute Holiday Treat
School holidays are almost over in most states, but if you are all out of ideas, and the kids deserve a treat, then Phillip Island is offering some great last minute ideas for a summer escape. Phillip Island of course is home to the world famous penguin parade, and also the motorcycle GP. Several accommodation providers have joined forces with some of the regions leading attractions to offer some great deals. Casablanca Phillip Island is a quiet self contained Bed and Breakfast at Cowes, and holidaymakers staying for 3 nights during January will receive a fourth night free. Prices for self-contained units start from$220 per night for 4 people. For all packages, and a full listing of attractions at Phillip Island, check www.visitphillipisland.com or call 1300 366 422
Free Upgrades on new Superliner
While the Italian cruise disaster is still making news, it seems most travellers believe that lightning is unlikely to strike twice. Travel agents say cruises are still proving very popular, and Cruiseco is offering a real enticement for travellers to experience life on board one of the most stunning superliner's ever to be based in Australasia. Book by February 29th this year for any of the eleven to thirty-five nights sailing on the 5-star Solstice, and you'll be upgraded from an interior cabin to a balcony cabin at no extra cost. The 122,000 tonne ship can carry 2850 passengers and has ten restaurants, cafes, grills and speciality dining venues. That's not to mention the nine bars and lounges, glass blowing studio (no kidding!), theatre, pools, casino and youth fun factory. An eleven night Tropical Queensland at Easter cruise sails Sydney-Sydney on March 28, 2013, and starts from $1650pp twin-share. For full itineraries and prices, go to www.cruising.com.au
* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. This information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agency. Block-out periods may apply.
20-NIGHTS ON 5-STAR SEADREAM II FROM BARBADOS UP THE AMAZON
IF you got a nice bonus in your Christmas pay packet, SeaDream Yacht Club's 5-star SeaDream II is sailing two extremely rare voyages in February and March of this year – the first is 20-nights from Bridgetown in Barbados in the Caribbean on February 13 to the-once notorious Devil's Island in French Guiana, and then a dozen ports on the Amazon River in Brazil and Colombia to Iquitos in Peru, and the second is 20-nights back to Bridgetown on March 4.
And both sailings are now exceptionally priced for last-minute sale from US$16,619pp twin-share including all 5-star gourmet dining, wines with lunch and dinner, drinks from the open bars, use of a 30-course golf simulator, power and sail watersports (in ports where allowed,) onboard gratuities, government charges and taxes; air fares are additional.
SeaDream II carries a maximum of just 112-guests in 56-staterooms served by 95-crew, with open-seating dining indoors or on deck and with dress requirements at dinner Smart Casual only; for full itineraries and other details see travel agents or visit www.seadream.com
ITALY LAKES TOUR IN SPRING WILL HAVE YOU OVER THE MOON
CAROLINASUSI Italia Tours has a 15-night escorted tour of Italy's Northern Lakes District this European Spring that's purely for gourmets and garden lovers, shopaholics and serious sightseers, photographers – and the just plain-curious.
Limited to just 20-guests escorted by Carolinasusi's Australian owners, this unique tour will venture from the streets of Romeo and Juliet's Verona to the bar in Varese in which the cocktail Apollo 11 was created 40-odd years ago on the night "a man named Armstrong walked upon the Moon," to the villas of the rich and famous of the 1920s and '30s, dining with a renowned local chef, and unspoiled little towns and market villages that larger coaches cannot access.
By contrast there'll be the chance to explore Vicenza (including its Teatro Olimpico that opened in the 1580s as Europe's first theatre,) Venice and its boutiques for designer clothes… and in little Marostica the possibility to dine in one of Ernest Hemingway's favourite restaurants.*
Or try a coffee with traditional hazelnut, almond, cinnamon and vanilla biscuits, chocolates in more ways than you thought possible, cruise postcard-perfect lakes, wander historic gardens, sip wines from centuries-old family vineyards.
The May 21 tour is priced from $6895pp ex-Milan including 15-nights twin-share, breakfasts and most dinners, lunches in alpine and lakeside venues, coach touring, lake cruises, villa entries, walking tours of Verona, Vicenza and Venice, a rack-railway trip and Australian escorts assisted by local professional guides.
* The restaurant today still serves his favourite dish: vegetables marinated in olive oil and lemon juice and baked with sausages and pork.
RIVER CRUISE UNSPOILED MYANMAR (BURMA)
THE worldwide boom in river cruising has reached the unspoiled country of Myanmar (Burma) where Australians can now explore this exotic, culturally intact country aboard luxury, colonially-styled river boats as part of new fly/cruise packages.
Cruise Express is offering an 11-night package that features an eight-night cruise along Burma's beautiful Irrawaddy River between Prome and Mandalay aboard the boutique, 64-passenger Orient Pandaw, which is air-conditioned and handcrafted in brass and teak. Along the way, passengers will visit spectacular gilded pagodas, Buddhist monasteries, unspoiled villages, markets and schools and other community projects supported by international tourism companies and river cruise passengers.
Available from June,2012, to April 2013, the new package includes return flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, one-night's deluxe accommodation pre-cruise in Yangon (Rangoon), the eight-night cruise including all meals, soft drinks, local beers and spirits, two-nights deluxe accommodation after the cruise in Mandalay, daily breakfast on land and extensive sightseeing with local guides along the way.
The 11-night package is available from $4999 per person, twin-share.
CRUISECO'S PREMIUM CRUISING SANS THE PREMIUM PRICE
CRUISECO has coupled Earlybird Airfares with exclusive prices aboard the premium ships of Holland America Line, to create four super-value fly, cruise and stay holidays between May and September 2012 that range from 10- to 30-nights across regions as diverse as the Mediterranean, Egypt, Black Sea and Russia, the Baltic, North Sea and North Cape.
And prices begin from as low as just $4210pp twin-share for 10-nights from Civitavecchia (Rome) on September 5 2012 to seven ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain and Tunisia and back to Civitavecchia, including a 2-night hotel stay in Rome and return airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Even a 30-night Black Sea & Holy Land package is priced from only $9050pp twin-share, with a departure on September 17 2012 from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome) by way of 19-ports in Greece, Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Egypt, Israel and Croatia, with a 2-night pre-cruise hotel stay in Barcelona, 2-nights post-cruise in Rome and return airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Other packages include a Mediterranean 20-night fly, cruise and stay offer from Civitavecchia return on July 7 from $5725pp twin-share, and 29-nights fly, cruise and stay from Tilbury (London) to Amsterdam on May 28 2012 visiting ports in the Baltic, Russia and North Cape and priced from $7615pp twin-share.
Cruiseco can also arrange optional pre/post cruise tours and transfers; for fully detailed itineraries of these four unique packages, and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist travel agent, go to www.cruising.com.au.
STAY IN USA's MOST SPECTACULAR NATIONAL PARKS
TOUR operators Globus and Cosmos have formed an exclusive partnership with US National Parks giving them the opportunity to contribute to the preservation of America's pristine wilderness, whilst also treating their passengers to unique experiences.
Through the recently introduced GoParks! scheme, the Globus family of brands makes a charitable donation to the US National Parks Foundation on behalf of every Australian passenger who visits a park on one of its tours.
In return, Globus and Cosmos have access to accommodation within America's most spectacular national parks including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as well as special tour experiences such as a four-wheel drive adventure through Monument Valley with a Navajo guide.
During Cosmos' 13-day National Parks and Canyon Country tour, travellers stay overnight in World Heritage-listed Yellowstone National Park.
Priced from $1399* per person twin share, the trip also includes visits to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park as well as an overnight stay on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Globus' 14-day Western Explorer visits Bryce Canyon, Zion and Yosemite national parks as well as the Grand Canyon, where travellers stay overnight in a national park lodge, waking up to one of the seven wonders of the world the next day. The tour is priced from $2699* per person twin share.
More than 20 Globus and Cosmos tours take advantage of the initiative, which has raised substantial funds for restoration projects during its first year.