Monday, 27 February 2012

Cycle Europe - Melbourne Cup - Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro
Travel Briefs

With John Crook

Create your own Tour

This may not be the real Tour De France– but who cares. Any cycling trip that celebrates the joys of summer in Europe is good enough for me!

Outdoor Travel has a two-week "bike and barge" tour departing on 21st July that takes in some spectacular sights between Paris in France, and Bruges in Belgium. Highlights along the way include Royal Palace in Compiegne, the Basilica of St Quentin, the Somme WW1 memorials, the canals, and the history of the historical city of Bruges.

Well-maintained multi-geared bikes are provided, or you can bring your own if you're fussy. Daily rides average between 35-55 kilometres, and each night you get return to your air-conditioned twin share cabin on board the riverboat, that is your home for 14 nights.

There's a big saving for all new bookings made before 31st March. Outdoor Travel is offering a discount of $1000 per person, in a twin share cabin – making the price $2495 (reduced)

Bookings or call toll free 1800 331 582

Early fashion tip for The Melbourne Cup

If you one to leave the decision of what to wear to the Spring carnival until the last moment, have I got a tip for you. Make sure you book for The Beautiful Girls Fashion Lunch at Flemington on Wednesday March 7, to get the lowdown on the very latest in fashion. The parade, showcasing some of Australia's top designers, gives you a head start on everyone else to work out what fashions are in, and what's out!

Guests will be treated to a two-course lunch by Peter Rowland plus beverages, and a special performance by Australian music sensation, Vanessa Amorosi.

Tickets are $155 for non-members, and you can book by calling Flemington Customer Services on 1300 727 575.

Another one for the bucket List

Any self respecting bucket list should have a fair dinkum mountain climb on it. A lot dream about climbing Everest – and from what those who make it say – there is no better experience. But let's be real – it is tough, unforgiving, and a lot don't make it.

So let's set a more realistic target – the 5895 metre Mt Kilimanjaro for instance. And the odds of actually completing the climb are far better. Adventure travel specialist, Explore Worldwide, is offering a choice of itineraries for the arduous climb. And while this is not for the faint hearted, the company claims an astonishing 96-percent of its customers reach Africa's highest peak.

Explore offers more time on the mountain to give travellers more time to adjust to altitude, to greatly increase their enjoyment and the chances of a successful climb. A typical 12-day Kilimanjaro-Lemosho trek, which climbs and descends the mountain on different paths, allows customers to experience different climatic regions and also plant and animal life.

There is a real treat at the end of a successful climb – you transfer to Arusha National Park for relaxation, or you can take part in optional game drives.

Graded strenuous to tough, the tour starts from $2463 per person, and included accommodation, all meals on the trek, transport, and the services of a tour leader, driver and support crew.

For info, call 1300 414 151 or visit


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

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Dubrovnik Split tour - Boutique Tasmania - Travelmarvel

21 February 2012

Travel briefs with John Crook

Dose of Dalmatian sunshine

I've never been to Croatia or Slovenia, but those who have tell me that they are two of the most beautiful countries in the world. Conflicts of the past seem a world away on Tempo Holidays Dalmatian Sunshine Coach Tour.

The 9-day fully escorted tour explores the must see sights while staying in first class hotels. But you don't get driven everywhere – they even throw in a walking tour of Old Dubrovnik. Throw in a journey along the spectacular Adriatic Coast to Split, a miniature train ride through the Postojna Caves, and a visit to Zagreb, you get the feeling this would be a memorable holiday.

The tour starts from $1853 per person twin share, and the price includes 8 nights in first class hotels with daily breakfast, 5 dinners and English speaking guides.

For bookings, call Tempo Holidays on 1300 558 987.

Another reason to visit Tassie

Not that you really need an excuse to visit Tassie, but if you've done all the usual things – visit the Salamanca markets, Port Arthur and even Cataract Gorge - you could taste a local ale at one of the many boutique breweries scattered around the State.

One of the best places to sample Tasmania's boutique beer and cider offerings is at Preachers Bar in Hobart - a beer, spirits and tapas bar. (5 Knotswood Street, Hobart – better take a cab!)

If you  want to get really organised, you could even plan a holiday midyear to really get a taste for what I am writing about. Held in La Trobe on 8 July, an event called Dark Side of the Brew celebrates Tasmania's fine microbreweries and cider makers.

La Trobe is not far Devonport's Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal, so you can always plan your visit so you can drop off your car at your accommodation, and cab it to the event.

Tickets are available at the gate, or for more information, contact Willie from Seven Sheds Brewery at

It is the season to cruise

There are so many cruise offerings for 2013 in the market place at the moment; it's almost impossible to choose which one to turn to. They all offer amazing experiences, but one is upping the ante by keeping 2012 prices, and throwing in free return flights with savings of up to $5400 a couple.

Travelmarvel has a 15-day Classical Europe cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest priced from $4,995, which includes 12 small group excursions, 41 meals, and complimentary drinks.

Cruising is on the 90-stateroom MS Johann Strauss, with many rooms featuring a French balcony. The ship is equipped with a stylish lounge, restaurant, sun deck and fitness centre.

Eleven departures are scheduled between March and September.

Contact: 1300 805 493 or see

* 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.

Need a holiday?  We're archived on <>

Monday, 13 February 2012

Eastern Europe - Star Clippers - Africa Rail Safari - Waikiki - Canada Easter


with David Ellis


EASTERN Europe travel specialists Beyond Travel have introduced a new escorted tour which visits  the main centres of Ukraine, Poland and Hungary as well  as many of the fascinating less-travelled areas.

The 12-day itinerary begins in Kyiv with dinner at a traditional Ukrainian restaurant before beginning a tour which takes in St Sophia Cathedral, the  underground labyrinth of  Perchersk Lavra Monastery, the remains of Hitler's Wehrwolf bunkers and the Smotrych River Canyon.

In Poland touring includes the Old Town at Krakow, The Royal Castle and a drive to Zakapone in the High Tatra Mountains.

The Paris of the East, Budapest is the highlight in Hungary with extensive sightseeing including Heroes' Square, the 14th century Buda Castle, St Stephen's Basilica and the 13th century Matthias Church.

The guaranteed-departure, escorted tour is priced from $2550 per person twin share and includes four and five star accommodation and daily breakfast, transport by a high quality air-conditioned coach, comprehensive sightseeing with an English-speaking tour director and return transfers.

Book and deposit before April 30 and you will receive $200 per couple of Discover More Travel Credits. These can be used for a wide range of additional services booked with Beyond Travel such as sightseeing, flights, hotels or other tours valid for use until 31 December 2012.

There are departures in May until October.

For other escorted tours across Eastern Europe contact Beyond Travel on 1300-363-554 or email


THE clipper ship Star Flyer will sail from Southampton, historic gateway to London and Southeast England's ducal palaces, stately homes and universities on September 1 on a new eight-night cruise to Lisbon calling at ports in France and Spain.

Passengers can add on another six nights cruise (from  $2590) from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain, the birthplace of artist Pablo Picasso and known for its splendid harbour and excellent wines.

Star Flyer will then be based in Malaga for a special series of five, seven-night cruises  (from $3022) to Casablanca and Tangier (Morocco) Cadiz and Motril in (Spain) and Gibraltar, starting on September 15.

The Southampton-Lisbon cruise (from $3455) will mark the end of Star Flyer's heavily booked first season in Scandinavian and Baltic waters. Star Flyer sail from Malaga on October 20 for a 22-night Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean.

All prices include port taxes and all meals and entertainment on board.

In the 2012 European summer, the other two tall ships in the Star Clippers' fleet, Royal Clipper and Star Clipper will operate cruises to some of the most exotic ports in the Mediterranean, including the Greek Isles.

For reservations contact travel agents or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599, email or visit


BENCH International is offering savings of more than $1200 per couple on two departures of its Shongololo rail safari between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls in southern Africa – but you have to book by February 29.

The deal also includes a complimentary sunset cruise on the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls and a free night with a game drive and all meals at a private lodge in Hwange National Park or Kruger National park.

The offers apply to southbound tours that depart Victoria Falls on  April 2 and October 1 and take 16 days to travel through Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland.

The price of $6160 per person is now $5530 and includes sightseeing tours each day and accommodation on the train with breakfast and dinner.

Shongololo has been operating several different African train cruises over the last 12 years. The train travels comfortably and securely during the night and arrives in a different destination each morning with a choice of day tours in air-conditioned mini van.

Shongololo also operates rail safaris from Victoria falls to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, through the desert landscapes of neighbouring  Namibia and soouth to Durban, Cape Town  and Port Elizabeth.

More details from Bench International at 1300-195-873 or visit


THERE'S no need to take three holidays to enjoy three of the Pacific's favourite destinations – Waikiki Beach, Tahiti and Fiji – because with a fly, cruise and stay package with Cruiseco they're all brought together as part of a 17-night cruise aboard super-liner Carnival Spirit as she journeys from Honolulu to Sydney on September 30 this year.

Cruiseco's package includes airfare from Sydney to Honolulu, two nights pre-cruise at the Pacific Beach Hotel across the road from Waikiki Beach with breakfasts and airport/hotel transfers, and then hotel/ship transfers to join Carnival Spirit for her 17-night cruise to Papeete, Moorea, Bora Bora, Suva and Sydney.

Also included in the price, that begins from just $3,395pp twin-share from Sydney*, are all meals aboard Carnival Spirit (some optional specialty dining venues have a small cover charge,) entertainment in the main show lounge that stretches through three decks, port charges, government fees, air taxes and gratuities aboard ship.  

*Prices from other gateways ($3,520pp ex Melbourne, Brisbane; $3,575pp ex Adelaide; $3,660pp ex Perth)

Almost the length of three football fields, Carnival Spirit also has a huge diversity of recreational and sporting activities for guests of all ages to enjoy during her eleven full days cruising at sea between ports.

For more details and the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist travel agent, go to

Prices are subject to change.  Additional nights are available at the Pacific Beach Hotel, Waikiki Beach pre-cruise from $140pp per night twin-share.

Carnival Spirit has four main dining venues including an outdoor BBQ, two pools and two Jacuzzis, an aerobic area, jogging track, mini golf, sixteen bars and lounges with entertainment and dance areas, two show lounges, a casino, card room, video arcade and a shopping boulevard.

There are also three children's areas, Camp Carnival for 2-5 and 6-8 year olds with organised activities, Circle "C" with movies, dance parties, sports and a video arcade for younger teens, and Club 02 with a video arcade, dance floor and non-alcoholic drinks bar for 15-17 year olds.


A FAMILY of four (two adults & two children  aged 11 years and under) can ski the Canadian Rockies during the coming Easter Holidays from just $8,779 including return Air Canada flights for all to Kelowna (via Vancouver), return transport from Kelowna Airport to Australian-owned and managed Big White Ski Resort, and seven nights accommodation (but you'll pay for only five.)

The stay is in a ski in/ski out two-bedroom unit in Whitefoot Lodge and also includes a six day Big White ski pass for all four members of the family. As well there's complimentary snow equipment hire for the family for the duration of their stay and kids ski for free (one-to-one basis with at least 1 paying adult).

Package is valid for travel 1 - 14 April 2012.  For full details contact Skimax on 1300 136 997 or visit Conditions apply.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

England Countryside - Crete Luxury - Cirque du Soleil

Take a holiday in the English countryside

It can be comforting to be part of a small group tour in a strange country. That's not to suggest that England, and in particular Cornwall are strange – but you know what I mean!

Back-Roads 7-day "Corners of Cornwall" small group tour will explore Salisbury and its magnificent cathedral, the gardens of  Trebah and Heligan, and even Port Isaac which features in the TV series Doc Martin. You'll even get to have lunch in Padstow at the restaurant of celebrity chef, Rick Stein.

If you book and pay in full by 28 February, prices start from $2261 per person twin share, which is an early bird saving of 5%,

Contact Back-Roads on 1300 100 410 or

Luxury all the way in Crete

If you've saved up for something special this year, then you could always take a private tour of Crete in a deluxe Mercedes with an English-speaking driver.

Icon Journeys' Island Explorer Crete holiday includes visits to Athens, Knossos, Vathypetro and Chania

By Mediterranean standards, Crete is a large Island with many isolated villages, and an abundance of archaeological sites and beautiful views.

The 3-day tour is priced from $3802 twin share, and includes breakfasts and two lunches, car and driver, guides and air tickets Athens to Crete return.

Contact 1300 853 953 or see <>

Run away to join the circus  - for a night

Going to see a show is a pretty good reason to have a break. But when that show happens to be Cirque du Soleil's latest offering, then it's probably worth having a holiday.

OVD by Cirque du Soleil is worth travelling far and wide to see if you miss it in your home city. OVD means "egg" in Portuguese, and represents a world teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement.  While tickets to the general public don't go on sale until February 20th, advance online ticket sales are available for Cirque Club members. To join for free, simply go to <>

The new show is set to premiere in Brisbane from July 14 under the trademark BIG TOP, and will then move on to Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne, before finishing up in Perth in April 2013.

* 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.

Need a holiday?  We're archived on <>

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Asia Cruise - Barossa Valley - Self Drive Europe - Gallipoli Package

Travel briefs
With John Crook

Cruise around Asia in style

Some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of Asian streets, but if you're like me, and enjoy a few breaks along the way, Cruise1st is offering a fly, stay and cruise package.
You get to explore exciting Shanghai, before departing on a 7 night round trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. The journey stops off at Xiamen in China and Kagoshima and Beppu in Japan to give you more than a fair share of Asian culture.
Most meals and entertainment are included, and so are the return flights with Singapore Airlines, and the one night pre-cruise stay at the 4-star Seagull of the Bund in central Shanghai.
Prices start from $1799 per person twin share from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth and $1999 from Adelaide.
For bookings, visit <> or call 1800 331 506.
The Hills contain a few surprises

A lot of people who visit Adelaide head straight to the Barossa or Clare valleys, or even to Kangaroo Island. But don't discount a place, which is a hop, skip and jump away from the city. Ok, the Adelaide Hills is a little more than that, but you won't be disappointed if you stop over instead of driving by!
The Hills have plenty of B&B's to try, and one of the newest is Aldgate House. You'd pay a packet to buy a place like this, but for a few days, at a fraction of the price, you can make it "briefly yours."
The opening special includes a picnic basket to the value of $30, for every booking made for stays of 2 days or more up to and including April 30th. Goodies include some fabulous regional produce from the local farmers market, including a bottle of wine.
Midweek prices at Aldgate House start at $225 per night.
Bookings can be made by calling 0418 700 323.
Show yourself around Europe

If you're a little adventurous, and don't mind taking a few wrong turns, then Renault's Eurodrive deal is well worth considering.
Book a mid or family size lease vehicle before the end of February, for a minimum 45 day stay, and you don't pay the normal collection or return fees. The deal applies to vehicles collected before December 31 this year.
The lease deal applies to twenty-seven models of coupes, sedans, estates and seven people movers that can be collected at nine airports, including Belgium, Germany, and Italy.
Prices of these brand new vehicles begin from just $2260 with extra days from just $33 a day. In case your sense of direction is a little poor, most models have built-in GPS Europe.
Phone toll free 1300 55 11 60 or visit <>
Trip of a lifetime to Gallipoli

Lots of people compile a bucket list during their life, and it is fair to assume that at the top of many would be a trip to Anzac Cove.
Most people describe this as the experience of a lifetime, and while that saying is overused, in this instance, it's not exaggerated. While Anzac Day is just around the corner, it's still not too late to book your passage to this years dawn service at the Lone Pine Memorial and cemetery.
Tempo Holidays has 3 to 13 day packages on offer, with prices starting at just $346 per person twin share. The itinerary includes coach trip, guided battlefields tour, one night's accommodation at Ilion Hotel in central Canakkale, ferry charges, and of course admission to the dawn service.
Visit <> or call 1300 558 987

* 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.   
Need a holiday?  We're archived on <>