Monday, 27 February 2012

Vietnam Tour - MSC Upgrades - Niseko Snow - Seadream Paddleboards - Trans-Siberian Discounts

David Ellis


FROM bustling energetic cities, to river villages and hillside treks to seaside towns, Wendy Wu Tours will have a holiday in Vietnam to suit your every need.

There are more than 12 group itineraries to Vietnam,  ranging from 9 to 27 days, including specialities such as cooking, junk boat cruises, homestays in the Mekong Delta, bike rides through the hillsides and beachside resorts all while taking in the multicultural influences of the French, Japanese and Americans that make up the wonderful Vietnamese culture.

The comprehensive 18-day Vietnam Highlights tour travels from Saigon to Hanoi including all the major highlights as well as visiting Sapa, an old French retreat hill station inhabited by hilltribe minorities. There are 16 departures for 2012 and priced from $3736 per person twin share from Sydney and Melbourne and $3936 from Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra, with Perth costing from $3852.

For food fanatics there is the 12-day Flavours of Vietnam itinerary which concentrates on the country's exotic cuisine and learn-to-cook sessions with local chefs. It is priced from $4252 per person twin share departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Combine countries on your travels with the Vietnam and Laos Discovery tour, 15-days to see the highlights of both fascinating cultures. Priced from $4198 per person twin share departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

All Wendy Wu group tours to Vietnam include return international economy airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, Australian and Vietnamese departure taxes, accommodation, all meals, local transportation in Vietnam, daily tours and entrance fees, an English-speaking National Tour Escort and/or local guides and visa fees for Australian passport holders. It also includes airline fuel surcharge and tipping, which are subject to change.

For more details contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998, visit or contact your local AFTA Travel Agent.


MSC CRUISES is offering passengers the chance to "move up in the world" with a free upgrade on a selected number of its Grand Mediterranean cruises.

As well, the family-owned cruise line is offering complimentary transfers between Venice and Genoa to link the back-to-back seven-night Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises which make up the Grand Mediterranean package.

The offers apply to combo bookings on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia from July 20 until October 19, 2012, as well as MSC Splendida and the yet-to-be-launched MSC Divina in October, 2012.

"Pay for an Inside Category One cabin and you will be upgraded to a Category Six to Ten Ocean View cabin on some of the cruises," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.

"That means you can have an ocean view cabin from $1318 per person, twin share for a combo cruise on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia in October. That's 14 nights for less than $100 a night with the free transfer between ships (Venice and Genoa) thrown in – fantastic value."

MSC Armonia sets sail from Venice and calls on Ancona in Italy, Corfu, Greece's Santorini, Athens and Atgostoli before cruising to Kotor in Montenegro and back to Venice.

Passengers are then transferred to Genoa where they board MSC Sinfonia for a round cruise which includes calls on Civitavecchia (Rome), Salemo (Amalfi Coast), Tunis, Ibiza, Palma and Marseille.

In October, with prices starting at $1598 with an upgrade to a category 4 or 5 ocean view cabin, MSC Divina will cruise from Venice to Bari, Katakolon (Olympia), Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik before the passenger transfer to Genoa for a cruise aboard MSC Splendida to Barcelona, Tunis, Valletta, Messina and Civitavecchia (Rome) and back to Genoa.

"This will be an especially important year for MSC Cruises as we will soon have a 12th member in the fleet, the MSC Divina, which will be named by screen legend Sophia Loren in Marseille in late May," Mrs Clarke said.

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502,


THERE'S nearly 18 metres of snow at Japan's Niseko – and its still falling.

Whilst this northern part of Japan is renowned for quality snow, the amount (and how early it came) this season has surpassed the expectations of most snow enthusiasts.

And as winter here stretches into April, there are still enough weeks to enjoy what will be remembered as one of the snowiest seasons ever. has several value-for-money March packages at its two-bedroom Powder Cottage in the heart of Hirafu Village, a lively ski town with an interesting blend of Asian and Western shops, bars and restaurants.

One, that is within the budget of most families, is a package from $775 per adult (2 adults) and $435 per child (2 children 12 yrs and under). Included is seven nights accommodation in a self-cater, two-bedroom cottage, return airport transfers, six day all mountain lift pass and complimentary six days ski equipment hire for kids 12 and under.

With nearly 19 metres of snow to date on the higher slopes at Niseko there is more than enough to satisfy Australian skiers and boarders. A day trip to Rusutsu whilst at Niseko is highly recommended.

For more details contact or call 1300 137 411

Daily Snow Reports (with afternoon updates) can be found on

(Image of Rusutsu chairlift laden with fresh snow was taken by a team member.)


SEADREAM Yacht Club has added stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP) to its range of complimentary onboard watersports activities.

The new just-under three-metre long Amundson boards are the biggest all-round  SUP boards available, handling up to 112kg (250 pounds) and are very stable, track well with speed and can be taken into the surf too.

Stand up paddle surfing is fast becoming a popular water activity as it allows a wide range of athletic types to get involved, and provides participants with a strong 'core' workout. Unlike regular surfboarding, stand-up paddle boarding is easy to learn, with most newcomers mastering the basic skills within an hour.

SeaDream I now has two SUP boards available complimentary to guests and SeaDream II will receive her two boards on March 31, this year.

For more details go onto

About SeaDream Yacht Club: "Yachting Not Cruising" itineraries include the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Amazon.

Both SeaDream I and SeaDream II have just 56-staterooms with a maximum 112-guests served by 95-crew. While chic and stylish, they are elegantly informal with prices including open bars, wines with lunch and dinner, nightly cocktail gatherings, complimentary watersports (in ports where permitted,) a  fitness centre, 30-course golf simulator, mountain bikes for shoreside excursions, gratuities, ocean-view accommodations, and world class cuisine. There is also an optional-cost Spa, the only at-sea member of the Thai Spa Association.


DISCOUNTS are now available on a new category of First Class trains travelling the Trans-Siberian and Silk Road routes through Eastern Europe specialists Beyond Travel. These competitive fares are on an extensive range of private rail journey itineraries for 2012.

Several First Class private rail tour itineraries are included in their recently distributed Russia brochure include a savings of up to $940 per couple.

Rail itineraries are around 15 days in duration and include extensive excursions with experienced English-speaking guides to a host of attractions along the way.

One of the most sought-after journeys is along the legendary Silk Road from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan to Astana in Kazakhstan. This 14-day journey is now priced from $4690 in Ali Baba class, with departures on April 17 and October 16. Discounts are available across all cabin types.

Also on sale is the ever-popular 16-day "Czars Gold" Trans-Mongolian from Beijing to Moscow or vice versa which has departures in May, June and July  from $7170 per person twin share in a Standard Plus cabin, which offers savings of $820 per couple.

For more details on all rail itineraries contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email