Friday, 30 January 2009

Caravan and Camping: Travellers can set their sights on RV holidays

The revival of caravanning and touring makes it the perfect time for travellers to visit participating dealers across NSW for the annual Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale coordinated by the Caravan and Camping Industry Association of NSW (CCIA) from 7 to 8 February 2009.

CCIA CEO, Barry Baillie, said that everybody deserves a holiday and the Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale presents travellers with the chance to grab some great bargains on caravans, campervans, motorhomes, camper trailers, slide ons and RV accessories

There has never been a better time to travel domestically and the caravan and camping industry provides a range of touring options for every budget.

Whether it is staying in a holiday park cabin, in a caravan or motorhome, or camping in a tent, the industry has something for every budget and every holiday and the Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale is the ideal time to take advantage of industry bargains and sales.

The Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale is a one weekend sale with participating CCIA member RV dealerships and camping accessories dealers.

Dealers participating in the Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale are spread across New South Wales and cater for travellers already in the market and looking to upgrade, through to couples and families looking to start years of great value holidays.

You can find a list of CCIA dealers and accessory retailers from around the state participating in the Recreational Vehicle Run Out Sale on our website -

Those choosing a caravan or RV for their future travels will be further assured by the results of a recent report* analysing the impact of fuel price on the cost of a caravanning and RV holiday.

Mr Baillie said that the report conducted by KPMG details the cost of fuel for four popular trips based on fuel consumption from 10 to 30 litres per 100 kilometres, and with fuel prices ranging from $1.00 to $2.50 per litre.

For example, the report shows that for a three month holiday from Sydney to Cairns - a popular touring route for caravanners and motorhomers a fuel price rise from $1.00 to $1.20 per litre would only increase the total holiday cost** by around 2% or approximately $2 per day (based on an average fuel consumption of 13 litres per 100 kms).

You can calculate the total cost of fuel for your next trip by logging onto our website Simply enter your car's fuel consumption, the distance you'll be travelling and the fuel price. On the website you can also download our free booklet, Fuel Prices The Good News.

Diamond Princess visits Sydney

Image:Paul Miller, AAP

A water taxi passes the Diamond Princess as it sits docked in Circular Quay, Sydney, on January 29, 2009. At 290 metres and 116,000 gross registered tonnage, the Diamond Princess is the second largest cruise ship to visit Sydney behind the Queen Mary 2. []

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Best Western Pays You for Booking Accommodation!

Best Western has launched an exciting new special deal offering discounts to guests who book their accommodation early.

Book your Best Western accommodation (to stay between 6 April and 2 June 2009), and you receive a 10% discount off the Best Available Rate.

In addition, Best Western is also giving guests a Best Western Travel Card loaded with $25 cash to those who book before 6 March 2009. Best Western Travel Cards are a convenient charge-back card that can be charged with credit and used for most Best Western expenses including accommodation, dining and incidental expenses at any Best Western property worldwide.

To book and receive your bonus gifts, log on to before 6 March 09!

Garuda Indonesia to operate 18 new routes in 2009

Continuing with business development measures, in 2009 Garuda Indonesia will operate at least 18 new routes in both the domestic and regional sectors, while the arrival of 14 new B 737 NGs (New Generation) starting in mid 2009 will help to realize the airline’s network expansion plans.

The proposed routes are as follows:

1. Jakarta - Tanjungkarang (Lampung)

2. Jakarta - Malang (East Java)

3. Jakarta – Makassar – Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi)

4. Jakarta – Makassar – Gorontalo

5. Jakarta – Makassar – Sorong (Papua)

6. Jakarta – Makassar – Ambon

7. Jakarta – Makassar – Palu (Central Sulawesi)

8. Jakarta - Jambi (Jambi)

9. Jakarta - Manado – Ternate (Southeast Maluku)

10. Jakarta - Balikpapan – Tarakan

11. Jakarta – Pangkal Pinang

12. Denpasar – Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara)

13. Denpasar – Kupang (East Nusa Tenggara)

14. Denpasar – Adelaide (Australia)

15. Denpasar – Hongkong

16. Surabaya – Hongkong

17. Jakarta – Shanghai (China) – Denpasar – Jakarta

18. Yogyakarta – Singapore.

While some of the routes are ‘new services’, others are ‘old routes’ that will be re-opened in stages.

For the Yogyakarta – Singapore route, Garuda Indonesia began services on December 16, 2008 flying three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Meanwhile, with the increase of Chinese tourists to the country, Garuda Indonesia changed its Jakarta – Shanghai – Jakarta service to Jakarta – Shanghai – Denpasar – Jakarta, effective from December 20, 2008, thus enabling travelers from China to fly direct to Denpasar.

Other routes, such as Jakarta – Tanjungkarang, Jakarta – Malang, and Jakarta – Makassar – Kendari in the domestic sector and international flights from Surabaya to Hongkong and Denpasar to Hongkong will be opened in mid January 2009 and served seven times a week.

Garuda Indonesia President & CEO, Emirsyah Satar explained that by 2013 Garuda Indonesia’s aircraft fleet is expected to grow by threefold with a total of 128 aircraft, thanks to new fleet additions comprising 50 B 737NGs and 10 B 777-300ERs, and arriving in 2009, as well as the ongoing aircraft revitalization measures that will gradually replace old aircraft with more sophisticated and efficient ones. At present, Garuda Indonesia operates 54 modern jet aircraft, consisting of three wide body B 747-400 aircraft, six A-330s, and six Boeing 737 NGs, as well as 39 narrow body aircraft of the Boeing 737 series. “Backed by 128 aircraft, in 2013 Garuda Indonesia will make a “quantum leap” into the future”, Emirsyah further added.

Meanwhile, to accommodate the rising flow of travelers during the long Christmas and New Year holidays which extends from December 22, 2008 until January 04, 2009, Garuda Indonesia has increased its seating capacity to over 29 thousand seats to various destinations, such as Jakarta – Denpasar (18.650 seats) , Jakarta – Makassar (1.248 seats), Jakarta – Singapore (1.024 seats), Jakarta – Hongkong (3.516 seats), Denpasar – Singapore (898 seats), and Denpasar – Surabaya (854 seats).

During the recent Christmas holidays (December 22 – 27, 2008), Garuda Indonesia achieved 85% to 95% in seat load factor. The flow of returning travelers from January 1 till January 5, 2008 also experienced a rise of up to 95% with services to several destination cities, such as Denpasar, Medan, and Yogyakarta experiencing a super peak in passenger flow.

Allegro: the new high-speed rail connection between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

The high-speed rail link between Helsinki and St. Petersburg has been given the name Allegro. The livery for the high-speed trains on this route will consist of a white background with blue, red and silver stripes. The trains are due to come into service in 2010.

The word allegro comes from Italian, where it means “fast”. Ease of pronunciation and usability in the Finnish and Russian languages, as well as internationally were subject to special attention in the name selection. Inspiration for the new trains’ livery came from the colours of the Finnish and Russian flags.

This high-speed rail link is intended to shorten the journey time between Helsinki and St. Petersburg at first to three and a half hours and later to three hours, down from the current five and a half hours.

Passenger numbers on the Helsinki–St. Petersburg line are expected to triple within five years of the introduction of the high-speed service. In 2007, the Helsinki–St. Petersburg line carried some 230,000 passengers. Total passenger travel between Finland and Russia last year amounted to nearly 400,000 journeys, which is an 18% increase on the previous year. The growth has continued to increase this year: in the period from January to November, passenger numbers on trains to and from Russia increased by 9 %.

Last autumn the train operating company Oy Karelian Trains Ltd placed an order for four high-speed trains. According to the company’s plans, three services will operate in each direction daily in the initial phase, with the number of services later increasing to four per day in each direction.

The new trains will have a “dual voltage” system to enable them to operate on both the Finnish and Russian rail networks. The top speed of the trains will be 220 km (137 miles) per hour. Each train will have seven carriages and a total of 350 seats. There will be a restaurant, business class area, facilities for disabled passengers and designated seats for passengers travelling with pets.

Getting the rails ready in Finland and Russia

Increasing the speed on the St. Petersburg rail line requires investment in the tracks in both Finland and Russia, in addition to the new rolling stock. All border-crossing formalities are also being relocated onto the moving trains.

The Russian segment of the line will be improved between 2007 and 2010. After the rail line upgrade passenger train are able to run at 200 km/h on St. Petersburg–Buslovskaja line section. The upgrade work also includes construction of a new electrified line between Petäjäjärvi and Kamennogorsk and freight traffic will be transferred to run via Rutshji–Petäjäjärvi-Kamennogorsk-Vyborg line sections.

Upgrades on the Lahti–Luumäki-Vainikkala segment in Finland will be completed in 2010.

Karelian Trains is jointly owned by the Finnish national rail company VR Ltd and the Russian rail company OAO RZD. It was set up to acquire high-speed trains for services between Helsinki and St. Petersburg and related maintenance services. The train operating companies VR Ltd and OAO RZD are responsible for customer service, timetables and pricing on the high-speed trains.

The Alan Pye Cottage – superb new addition for Huka Lodge guests.

Within the beautifully manicured 17-acre grounds at Huka Lodge, Taupo, another wonderful new enhancement to this iconic New Zealand retreat has welcomed its first guests.

Named after the charming Irishman who established Huka Lodge, along with its reputation for matchless hospitality, the Alan Pye Cottage opened in late December 2008. Designed by interior designer Virginia Fisher and Christian Anderson, Sumich Architects, the Alan Pye Cottage builds on and continues many of the themes established earlier in 2005 with the stunning Owner’s Cottage, also within the Huka Lodge grounds.

Privacy for guests staying in the Alan Pye Cottage is paramount and to this end the property has its own entrance and is gated. It is sited to take every advantage of the unrivalled Huka Lodge aspect of the deep turquoise green waters of the Waikato River.

The Alan Pye Cottage has been built to exacting standards using the finest heritage materials - cedar and various heart timbers, stone and brick. It draws on design elements from the 1920s and 1930s and is a slightly eclectic yet very elegant retreat, with a definite English Arts and Crafts influence pervading the interior and exterior design.

The Cottage boasts two large and stylishly appointed bedrooms, with fireplaces, en suite bathrooms and generous dressing rooms. Both bedrooms are superbly decorated and offer a highly considered level of comfort.

A generous open plan living room features a large brick fireplace, decadently comfortable furniture and everything guests need to feel this is a true ‘home away from home’.

A well-equipped kitchen is set up for a personal chef – guests may choose to stay in or to wander over to the main Lodge and dine there. Guests at The Alan Pye Cottage have use of all Huka Lodge facilities and services as a matter of course.

A study is tucked away with desk, plasma flat screen television and sound system. This room also has its own complete bathroom should it be required to accommodate an accompanying party. A laundry is also available with the Cottage.

A heated infinity-style swimming pool and a separate private spa pool have been integrated into the outdoor landscape. There is also a fabulous stone outdoor pavilion within a courtyard garden.

The Alan Pye Cottage is certain to carry on the fine tradition of generous hospitality and elegant living established by Alan Pye and his wife, at Huka Lodge so long ago. A legacy that drives Huka Lodge to this day to continue to find more ways to define the experience for its guests and to make it extraordinary.

Depending on the season The Alan Pye Cottage daily rate range from NZ$3,060.00+GST – NZ$7,640.00+GST for two guests to NZD $4,595.00+GST – NZ$8,075.00+GST for four guests.
Rate includes pre-dinner drinks, a five-course dinner (menu changes daily), accommodation at The Alan Pye Cottage and full country breakfast.

Use of all Lodge facilities and Taupo Airport transfer.
• A surcharge applies on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve of NZ$400.00+GST per person.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Experience Real Thailand in a Deeper Way Than Ever Before

Away Resorts Thailand, one of the four brands of Astudo Hotel and Resort Management, proudly announces the launch of the "Experience Real Thailand" at their Away Tusita Resort in Chumphon, located on the beautiful unspoiled beach of Had Arunothai in one of the most unique provinces in Thailand.

Due to the growing number of tourists demanding authentic holidays with a genuine Thai cultural experience, Away Tusita resort owner Khun Teerawut is hoping to exploit this niche and develop a new approach to excursions in Chumphon. Teerawut observed that "there is more to Thailand than sitting on the beach, so at Away Tusita Resort we have created a new concept to provide our guests with more of a 'hands on experience' to learn the true nature of Thai culture". The innovative programs will offer guests a wide choice of activities and cultural insights ranging from fruit carving to night fishing and will go beyond the usual activities and tours to give tourists a deeper perspective into the Thai way of life.

With the 'Experience Real Thailand' guests of Away Tusita can now experience it firsthand themselves with active participation and emersion into the local communities and population. Night fishing from a boat with real Thai fishermen; exploring the life of a Thai monk by visiting a local temple; visiting a rubber or coffee plantation to experience the interesting methods of these ancient processes or cycling to the local villages and temples to experience the real local life in the neighbouring village Paktako.

These are alternation options of the extended program of activities around the province for guest to join every day during their stay at this stunning resort. A unique holiday opportunity to learn, feel and love Thailand in a deeper way than ever before.

For more information please contact +66 2696 8239 or or visit

About Away Resorts

Away Resorts, managed by Astudo Hotel & Resort Management, are the epitome of peaceful hideaways and tend to be designed in a simple but comfortable manner with a distinctive tropical Polynesian theme and traditional Thai hospitality. The first Away resort opened in October 2007 in Koh Kood, followed by Away Tusita Chumphon in September 2008 and Away Maerim, Chiang Mai in November 2008. Away Koh Pha Ngan and Away Koh Samui are scheduled to open late 2009. Astudo Hotel & Resort Management currently manages and operates X2 Resorts (, Away Resorts ( and Le Bayburi ( and The Base Hotels (

Breaking News - P&O to add Pacific Pearl

P&O Cruises Australia has announced the name of the next gem in its growing fleet – Pacific Pearl.

The 63,500-tonne superliner will join the cruise line the end of 2010. The itinerary is being finalised with cruises set to go on sale from March this year.

Pacific Pearl will be P&O Cruises’ fourth ship, sailing alongside its two existing ships, superliner Pacific Dawn and the 47,000-tonne Pacific Sun, as well as its incoming superliner, Pacific Jewel, which will join the fleet in December this year.

"We wanted to choose a name for our next ship that reflected the magic of cruising the waters of the South Pacific," Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia which operates P&O Cruises, said.

"It was a difficult decision but we chose Pacific Pearl as the name of our next superliner because it evokes these wonderful and tropical images of the places we visit.

"Pearls are such beautiful jewels and are also synonymous with Australia and this region so it seemed a good fit for this next step in the growth of our business.

"We know Pacific Pearl, along with her sister Pacific Jewel, will prove winners with Australians and New Zealanders alike given their superb features and their great size."

Presently sailing as Ocean Village in the UK, Pacific Pearl will undergo a refurbishment before she is deployed to Australia.

The superliner will carry around 2000 passengers and offer a range of features including multiple swimming pools, restaurants and lounges, as well as private balcony cabins.

Garuda Indonesia celebrates 60 years of flying with $60 fares

2009 is Garuda Indonesia's 60th anniversary of flying and to celebrate, when you purchase a return ticket to Bali from only $415 plus taxes* ex Darwin ($549* ex Perth and $779* ex Sydney or Melbourne), you can take a friend for only $60 plus taxes**.

The offer allows travel over a range of dates from February 2 until November 15 from Darwin, and December 4 from other ports, but passengers must be quick as they must book and pay before 28 February.

Senior General Manager Australia & Southwest Pacific, Mr Poerwoko Soeparyono said, "This is our diamond anniversary and we want to celebrate. We are the only full service airline flying direct to Bali so all our fares include free drinks, free meals, free entertainment, free luggage allowance and a complimentary blanket and pillow on board. When you add up all the extras, you can't get better value than this. And who would have dreamed that you would ever be able to fly to Bali and back for only $60!"

The history of Garuda Indonesia has closely followed the history of the nation of Indonesia. It began 

sixty years ago when the Indonesians were still locked in a struggle for independence from the colonial Dutch. Following the first flight on January 26, 1949 the first commercial services operated during the Independence campaign under the name "Indonesian Airways" using a DC3 aircraft named "Seulawah" (Gold Mountain).

From this humble beginning, Garuda Indonesia has grown to a fleet of 54 modern jet aircraft including three wide body B-747-400s, six A-330-300s, and six B737-800NGs as well as 39 narrow body aircraft of the Boeing 737 series, and a network of 42 domestic and international destinations.

By 2013 Garuda Indonesia's aircraft fleet is expected to grow by threefold with a total of 128 aircraft, thanks to new fleet additions comprising 50 B737NGs and 10 B777-300ERs, as well as the ongoing aircraft revitalization measures that will gradually replace old aircraft with more sophisticated and efficient ones.

In 2009, with the arrival of the first new B737-800NGs, Garuda Indonesia will expand their network even further by opening at least 18 new routes in both the domestic and regional sectors.

 Last year the airline successfully completed an audit of more than 900 standards to achieve registration on the IOSA (IATA Operation Safety Audit) Registry, an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess airlines' operational management and control systems.

"This achievement is evidence of Garuda Indonesia's commitment to total quality improvement in the area of service, safety, on-time departures and load factors. It brings us to a period of dynamic and successful change in providing safe, comfortable and reliable air transportation services. Yet another reason for celebration." says Mr. Poerwoko.

Take advantage of Garuda Indonesia's anniversary deal though any good travel agent, or Garuda Indonesia direct on 1300 365 331. But remember to be quick.

Media contact: Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan 02 9977 1011 or 040409 5326

*Taxes ex Darwin $212, ex Perth $211, ex Melbourne $274, ex Sydney $291 as at 23Jan09 and subject to variation. ** Conditions apply.

Image caption: Indonesian Airways aircraft "Seulawah" now rests in the grounds of Taman Mini in the nation's capital, Jakarta


GIVE yourself and your partner a fun, rejuvenating and relaxing Easter break at Solar Springs Health Retreat in the famous NSW Southern Highlands, and you could win yourselves another weekend at Solar Springs for free.

This 3-night special from Good Friday until after breakfast on Easter Monday, is priced from just $820pp and includes twin-share accommodation, all well-balanced meals, a massage and face 'n' feet treatment, and the opportunity to take part in as many of the Retreat's activities as you wish – including games and swimming in the 25-metre indoor heated pool, meditation classes and health talks, cycling, tennis, archery and walking in the adjacent Morton National park.

And the winner of the Great Easter Egg Hunt will be rewarded with another weekend for two at Solar Springs for free.

Solar Springs is about 1.5 to 2-hours by road from Sydney and a little more from Canberra, and while menus are well-balanced to provide adequate protein, healthy fats, whole grains and plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables,  the Retreat also offers wine by the glass at optional cost with dinner.

Vegetarians and others on special diets are also well-catered for.

For full details of this fun, rejuvenating and relaxing Easter special, phone 1800 044 944, or check-out all the Retreat offers on 

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Mushroom Magic in the Canterbury forests

The annual mushroom hunt is on!

An epicurean adventure in Canterbury, New Zealand
It's a recipe for perfection: a five-star chef at your disposal, a luxury country getaway, and pure New Zealand produce gathered that day in the most pristine of environments.
As part of the exclusive two-night Mushroom Hunt package at Otahuna Lodge, Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre will escort guests on an epicurean adventure through the forests and fields of the Lodge in the picturesque Canterbury region. With a cooking lesson and five-star dining experience to follow, Jimmy's knowledge and enthusiasm will ignite your senses and arouse your passion for food.

This extraordinary seven-suite luxury property on the South Island, just a 20-minute drive from Christchurch Airport, is making its mark in food circles with its five-course degustation dinners, paired with perfectly selected New Zealand wines. The Lodge reopened in May 2007 after an extensive renovation by new owners, Hall Cannon and Miles Refo, who swept in from New York to transform this magical historic property.

The Mushroom Hunt starts with a foraging expedition in which expert Jimmy will track down porcini and field mushrooms, abundant on the Lodge's 12 hectare grounds until the end of March. He will then take guests on a personal tour of his extraordinary "potager", or kitchen garden – a one-hectare chemical-free oasis tended by its own full-time gardener. The potager is adjoined by an orchard, abundant with berries, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and quince, hazelnuts and walnuts. The Lodge even grows its own saffron – worth more than its weight in gold!

During a personal cooking lesson in the Lodge's charming country kitchen, guests will see how Jimmy's famous five-course degustation dinners are created – and how to make magic out of mushrooms! They will use ingredients almost entirely gathered fresh on the property, from leeks and artichokes to chicken and eggs.

Guests will then venture further afield on a "Taste Canterbury" food and wine tour, escorted by award-winning food writer Mavis Airey. From the Banks Peninsula to the Waipara Valley, guests will explore the workings of speciality cheese-makers and boutique wineries, tasting house-smoked salmon, single-flower honey varieties and hand-made chocolates.

New Zealand native Jimmy says the Mushroom Hunt package gives diners a rare opportunity to experience a culinary journey from paddock to plate.

"This is as far from the supermarket as you will get – what goes on your plate each night is determined by what is in season in the fields, the forests and the garden," he says. "It's the freshest food you could possibly find. We'll pair things like local venison with autumn vegetables from the garden and match this with a Waipara Valley Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir. It's a completely unique New Zealand dining experience."

The Mushroom Hunt Package, 1 February to 31 March, 2009

Otahuna Lodge's two night mushroom package, depending on the suite and based on double occupancy, ranges from NZ$4000 to $5200 plus 12.5% GST.  Rates include a two-night stay, daily breakfast, evening cocktails and canapés, two five-course degustation dinners with wine pairings, a cooking class and a 'Taste Canterbury' food and wine tour.

For further information or for reservations, phone Otahuna Lodge on +64 3 329 6333, email or visit


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Travel News from Ireland

The g Hotel one of the top three hotels in the world on Condé Nast Gold List 2009
The g hotel has just been named as one of the top three hotels in the world on 'Condé Nast Traveller' magazine's Gold List 2009 for ambience and design, with the luxurious five star hotel scoring a remarkable 96.01 on a scale out of 100, ranking it as one of the most unique hotels in the world. Adding to the excitement and esteem, the g is the only Irish Hotel included on the influential Gold List for 2009. Described as "utterly breathtaking and resolved down to every exquisite detail" by the Gold List reviews, the g hotel offers 101 lavish hotel rooms, designed by milliner Philip Treacy, with each room inspired by the landscapes and seascapes of Galway.
For more information visit
Belfast selected as one of Frommer's 12 hot spots for 2009
"In little more than a decade, Belfast has been transformed from fractured city into a hot city break destination, moving fast towards its 19th-century accolade of Athens of the North. Premier Victorian landmarks such as the City Hall, Ulster Museum, and Ulster Hall are reopening in 2009 after being given a makeover. But towering above the city, it's the glass dome of the sophisticated new Victoria Square shopping centre that's the real emblem of the city's renaissance. The army check points that encircled the city centre during the Troubles are a thing of the past; today you can amble along the Golden Mile for relaxed drinks or enjoy Irish music in Cathedral Quarter bars..."(Frommer's).
No. 1 Pery Square, a luxurious Georgian House, opens in Limerick
The highly anticipated opening of No.1 Pery Square, a stylish boutique hotel located close to the heart of Limerick city and a member of the Private Ireland hospitality collection has opened its doors to guests, with a luxury townhouse offering 20 individually designed guestrooms ranging from classical period style to modern penthouse suites. During renovations two caverns, which were formerly used for coal storage where discovered under the street - they are now exquisite treatment rooms in the urban retreat area of the building. In the basement three safes used by Lord Barrington's family were discovered and are now the ideal wine cellar. The original features of this elegant Georgian building have been preserved to add to the ambiance of No. 1 Pery Square.
For more information visit
Etihad to code share with Aer Arann
Etihad Airways is to extend further its expanding global network by providing its customers with greater access to destinations in Ireland, following the signing of a new code share agreement with Aer Arann, of Ireland. Under the deal, which is now in force, the Abu Dhabi-based airline will place its two-letter 'EY' code on Aer Arann's regional flights from Dublin to Cork and Galway in Ireland and also to the Isle of Man.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways' chief executive, said: "Etihad Airways has developed a strong affinity with Ireland, with Dublin quickly establishing itself as one of our most popular routes, enjoying average seat factors during 2008 of more than 80 per cent. There is great demand amongst our customers to travel beyond the Irish capital, which this new code share agreement now allows."
For more information contact:

Temple Bar TradFest - 28 January - 1 February 2009
From Wednesday 28th January to Sunday 1st February 2009, Temple Bar will come alive to celebrate Irish traditional music and culture. This year the Temple Bar TradFest has a wide range of new and exciting elements as well as many of the old favourites, these include: a Children's Parade, a pub trail, Pipe Bands, Ceili, a Trad Market and Irish culture Workshops, diverse films and a very special photographic exhibition by Nutan.
On the top of all this we have unique concerts, such as: Paddy, Seamus and Kevin Glackin; Solas; Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Tríona Ní Domhnaill, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh & Moya Brennan; Michael McGoldrick and many more. With so much going on, the Temple Bar TradFest is a must see event!
Further Info:
World Rally Championship 29 January – 1 February 2009
The World Rally Championship 2009 will take place in Belfast, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan and Roscommon from January 29th until February 1st. If witnessing rally cars hitting speeds of up to 200kph gets your pulse racing, then book your trip now to see the Irish leg of the FIA World Rally Championship 2009! This is motor racing as it should be – a championship to find the world's greatest driver and some of the most visually compelling sporting moments combined. Located around seven counties in the North West of Ireland, not only do you have some revved up action on the roads, you'll be surrounded by some of the most splendid countryside in the world. If you can't get to Ireland for the event, imagine you are there by putting you and a friend in the driving seat to create your very own online rally video!
For more information on the Rally, visit

Northern Ireland Food Gems revealed in new directory
A new local food directory, which provides information on food producers in counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Londonderry, was recently launched in Enniskillen. Whether its jams, chutneys, ice cream, diary, meat or organic produce the local food directory will navigate you to all the key producers in the region who will tantalise and satisfy your palate. It also features recipes from critically acclaimed Northern Ireland chef Noel McMeel.
The directory is the perfect guide for anyone interested in locally sourced and produced food such as restaurateurs, chefs, hoteliers and the general public. The local food directory is available from Tourist Information Centres in the western region: Killymaddy, Magherafelt, Omagh, Strabane, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau and participating council offices. It is also available to download from their websites.

Spring into Korea's Flower & Food Festivals this April

Spring blossoms come to life mid-April in Korea with festivals to celebrate the beauty of the season. It is also a great time to enjoy some of Korea's traditional food and cultural festivals. The cherry blossoms will start blossoming around the 7th of April and are expected to be in full bloom around 12-13 April.

Visitors need not travel far from the capital city of Seoul to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms. This year the Seoul Metropolitan Government will hold the Namsan Cherry Blossom Festival along the road leading up to Mt. Namsan in the centre of the capital. The festival will run from 9-16 April.

The Festival Eve ceremony on the 9th will run from 7pm on the northern side of Mt. Namsan with light, percussion, acoustic guitar and singing performances. The opening ceremony will start from 7pm on the 10th April in Namsan park with various performances and the lighting of the Cherry Blossoms for night viewing. The best viewing spots will be along what is called 'Jogging Mecca' Road.

Visitors to Korea in April can also enjoy the cherry blossoms in the ancient city of Gyeongju in the south-east of Korea. Here the trees around Lake Bomum make a beautiful sight in Spring. Gyeongju also hosts the Gyeongju Cherry Marathon on the 4th April. Further south Spring comes early with a large Cherry Blossom Festival held in the naval city of Jinhae from 1-13 April.

Traditional Korean drinks and rice cakes are not just foods, they are part of Korean culture. The historic city of Gyeongju hosts the Korean Traditional Drink & Rice Cake Festival is a special festival to celebrate the importance of these in Korean history and culture. This year the festival will be held from 19-24 April. While in Gyeongju don't miss the World Heritage Bulguksa Temple and the beautiful Seokguram Buddha in a mountain temple nearby.

In early May visitors can enjoy the Green Tea Festival at Boseong in the south of the country. The green tea fields are very scenic with some Korean movie scenes being filmed there. At this festival you can not only drink green tea and learn how good it is for the body but participate in experience programs like picking tea leaves, learn the etiquette for preparing, serving and drinking green tea, and try a green tea facial mask to revitalize your skin.

At the same time In the same region enjoy the Damyang Bamboo Festival which is full of hands on experiences for tourists like making bamboo crafts, flying bamboo kites and traditional bamboo musical instrument concerts. The sound of the Korean bamboo flute is unique and very special unlike any other flute you've ever heard.

If you wish to just chase wild butterflies, then visit the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival which runs 24 April – 10 May. Hampyeong is a land of green nature and yellow rapeseed flowers in Spring and the butterflies are drawn here in their tens of thousands.

Further information on all of Korea's festivals can be found on the official travel website or call or email Korea Tourism Organization for a copy of the excellent 235 page free Korea Travel Guidebook today. Email: Phone: 02)9252-1717

Friday, 23 January 2009

andBEYONd/Taj third Indian jungle lodge creates a tiger circuit


~ Birth of a Tiger Circuit ~

Breaking new ground in the Indian tourism industry, andBEYOND/Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces' joint venture, Taj Safaris, offers the first and only unique Indian wildlife luxury lodge circuit offered by one company. The partnership provides guests with the ultimate interpretive wildlife experience in India based on a proven sustainable ecotourism model. Guests benefit from Taj Hotel's legendary hospitality, and the expertise of andBEYOND in delivering a unique, intimate and in-depth wildlife experience.

Taj Safaris' third jungle lodge, Pashan Garh, meaning 'stone house', draws inspiration from the dry-packed stone houses of north-central India. The 12 luxury stone cottages, located a mere 12 km from the park entrance, are spread out along a small stream, and are surrounded by 190 acres of private jungle wilderness. They are set atop a small hill, with magnificent views over the forest and a large nearby waterhole, which has been host to numerous tiger and resident antelope sightings.

The overall design of Pashan Garh is stony and rough hewn, with white marble, leather furniture, and ebony with chocolate highlights. Each room has been created using dry-packed stone. The guest areas celebrate Haveli design, with a spacious central courtyard. The interiors will be a contemporary mix of chocolate linens, block-printed black silks, celadon cottons and cotton lace chandeliers. The Lodge will commemorate the motif of the crocodile, which inhabits the nearby Ken River. Although the structures are rough, chunky and stony, the interiors will be sleek and sexy.

Guests visiting Pashan Garh will fly from Delhi to Khajuraho (Jet Airways), followed by a 60-minute chauffeured journey by road to the lodge, which opened on 15 December 2008.

The intimate guest experience is complemented by warm staff welcomes, butler service and interpretive game drives with andBEYOND-trained naturalists. Delicious Indian fare, prepared by expert chefs, will be discreetly delivered to guests using the unobtrusive butler hatches. Maintaining andBEYOND's reputation for sophisticated simplicity, Pashan Garh has a distinctive and appropriate architectural style reflecting the character of the region in which it is located.

Panna National Park is situated in the Vindhya Hills along the Ken River, and is the most important protected area in India's north-central highlands, as it links the eastern and western populations of resident wildlife. It is a vast plateau dominated by tropical forests, deep ravines, cascading waterfalls and thick teak forests. The terrain is largely rocky and uneven, with mixed dry deciduous forests. The lower altitudes boast tall grasses and closed woodlands. Beautiful bamboo also occurs on the hilly slopes and gorges. Panna is located a mere 50km from Khajuraho, a world-famous World Heritage Site. Panna is home to the majestic Bengal tiger, as well as the sloth bear, leopard, wolf, hyena, and jackal. The reserve is also well known for sightings of nilgai, sambar, chital, wild boar.

About andBEYOND

andBEYOND, formerly CC Africa,  owns and operates 46 luxury lodges and camps in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and India. Many of their lodges and camps are regular recipients of prestigious international travel awards. The company was established more than 18 years ago and its commitment to outstanding local hospitality, sustainable responsible travel and community empowerment is world renowned.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Mornington Peninsula goes gourmet in March

Calling kids, cooks, vegans and tea fanciers, real ale fans, wine buffs and chocoholics

Mornington Peninsula Harvest to Table Festival

Friday March 13 – Sunday March 22, 2009

There's something on the menu for everyone at the Mornington Peninsula's 2009 Harvest to Table Festival in March, with more than 20 events including a food and wine workshop for vegans and vegetarians, breadbaking for kids, real ale workshops, organic tea tastings and degustation menus featuring the best of Peninsula produce.

Organised by Mornington Peninsula Gourmet and running from Friday March 13 to Sunday March 22, the fifth annual festival also features a kitchen garden workshop at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, the Festival of Olives at Olio Zito and a 'Harvest on Horseback' package at Lindenderry of Red Hill which includes wine tastings on a horseback winery tour.

Gourmet getaways are also available at Max's at Red Hill Estate and the Big Blue Backyard retreat at exclusive St Andrew's Beach.

For more information and accommodation bookings:  Mornington Peninsula Visitor Information Centre,, 1800 804 009 or (03) 5987 3078.

Accommodation packages

'Harvest On Horseback', Lindenderry At Red Hill, check in Friday or Saturday.

Enjoy afternoon tea, horseback wine tasting at Red Hill's acclaimed vineyards, a day spa treatment, 3-course a la carte dinner in the Linden Tree Restaurant, one night's accommodation in a Courtyard room, full Lindenderry buffet breakfast and 11am check out. From $350.00 per person, twin share (subject to availability),  (03) 5989 2933.

Max's At Red Hill Estate, group getaway, Friday March 13 – Sunday March 22

Treat up to four couples to a night of luxury accommodation at Max's Retreat hidden in the hinterland of Red Hill.  Enjoy a 3 course lunch at Max's Restaurant matched to Red Hill Estate Pinots, including some rare vintages. $350 per couple with full gourmet breakfast provisions and transfers to Max's Restaurant), (03) 5989 3007.

Play and Stay at Big Blue Backyard, Wednesday March 18

Chef Paul Dempsey headed up the kitchens at a Greek seaside resort for two summers, and is now a masterful Mediterranean chef. Join him in the kitchen for a day as you prepare your autumnal harvest feast, then enjoy it by candlelight with matched wines in the dining room before retiring to your secluded hideaway at exclusive St Andrew's Beach. $495 per person, including breakfast, maximum of four people, (03)  5988 6011.

Complete event listings:

'Barmah Brew' Madhatter's Morning Tea Party, Friday March 13 & 20,

10am – noon.

'Brain Booster' and 'Wise Woman's Tea' are two of six certified organic herbal teas made by naturopath Sue Lyons under the Sue's Brew label. All have health benefits, and will be available for tasting (complete with tasting notes) at Barmah Park Vineyard Café, accompanied by house-made sweet and savoury delights. $30 per person, bookings required, (03) 5978 8049.

Fudgalicious Delights at Peninsula Fudge, Friday March 13 – Sunday March 22

First stop for chocoholics: a tasting bag filled with chocolate fudge sauce, fudge packs and other goodies. Peninsula Fudge and Café, (03) 5986 5904.   

Peninsula Degustation at La Petanque Restaurant, Friday March 13 – Sunday March 22, lunch and dinner

Lovers of the south of France should come and reminisce as restaurant owner Philippe Marquet presents the style of cuisine he used to serve at La Mirande in Avignon and Les Bories in Gordes. Chef de cuisine Simon Buckley's degustation menu is inspired by the flavours of Provence, with seasonal produce, traditional techniques and a twist of originality and modernity. Tasting menu from $55 per person (food only), bookings essential, (03) 5931 0155.  

The Ashcombe Lost Lunch, March 13 – 22, lunchtime

Discover your private table setting under the trees amid the spectacular 25 acre gardens of Ashcombe. A delicious Mazekeepers antipasto platter, local wine and scrumptious homemade dessert completes the romantic dining experience. $50 per person (includes admission and wine), bookings essential, (03) 5989 8387.  

Picnics at Point Nepean, March 13 - 22

Pick up the perfect picnic hamper from the chefs at Big Blue Backyard, then head to Point Nepean and find a peaceful spot to relish it all. $45 per person includes entry to the Point Nepean National Park. Hamper bookings essential,  (03)  5988 6011.

'Real Ale' Workshop, Saturday March 14 and 21, 9am to 4pm

Hickinbotham of Dromana vineyard now makes its own German pilsner, Vienna lager, American brown beer and Irish stout under the experienced eye of vineyard manager Cameron Turner, who is also an expert brewer. All beers are made to the German purity laws of 1516. Cameron and fellow master brewer Laurie Cahir will teach participants how to mash grain and commence the ferment on the first Saturday; on the second Saturday participants will rack the ferment and workshop beer tasting techniques. $240 including lunch both days, limited to 25 people, bookings essential, 03) 5981 0355.

The Chef and the Gardener, Saturday March 14, 11.30am

Join Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove's Chef de Cuisine Barry Davis and gardener/owner Wendy Mitchell in the estate's beautiful kitchen gardens, orchard and olive groves. See, taste and explore the source of the five-course degustation menu you'll enjoy for lunch, which showcases the abundance of Montalto. $85 per person (food only), bookings essential, (03) 5989 8412.  

Breadmaking with the baker, Saturday  March 14 and 21, 2:30 pm.

Red Hill baker Ray Johns has spent more than 40 years perfecting his craft, and will share it with children aged 5 to 12 years at his Flinders bakery. They'll be hands-on in the flour as they learn the whole breadmaking process, including making, kneading, moulding and baking dough. Limited to 15, no charge, bookings essential, (03) 5989 0067.

20km Platter at Darling Park, Saturday and Sunday, March 14/15 and 21/22

Enjoy a platter of authentic local produce from within a 20km radius of Darling Park winery. Red Hill Cheese, Baker Boys bread, olive oil from Main Ridge, Ellisfield preserved quince, Max's dukkah, Somerville pepper pastrami, and more. $25 for two, bookings preferred, (03) 5989 2324.

Morning Sun Vineyard, Thursdays – Sundays, 10am – 5pm

Overlook the vineyard at Morning Sun, and enjoy a flight of three vintages of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir matched to gourmet plates created by Chef Jens Schroeder. $30 per person, bookings essential,  (03) 5989 6571.

Festival of Olives, Sunday  March 15, 10am –  4pm

Get the full story on olives - the olive grove, processing plant, cooking demonstrations, tastings of olive oils and olive products at Olio Zito. Learn how to make the most of extra virgin olive oil for a healthy life style. Free, no bookings required.

Lazy Lakeside Lunch Platters, Sunday March 15, noon - 4pm.

Relax on the terrace beside the tranquil lake at Stillwater at Crittenden, where the Mornington Peninsula meets the Mediterranean in an irresistible platter of local produce created by Chef Zac Poulier. Match it with a glass of fine Crittenden Estate wine (try the racy, zippy Spanish Albarino), and play bocce or cricket with the kids on the lawns. $30 for a platter for two, excluding beverages, bookings advisable, (03) 5981 9555.

Fish 'n' Chips with the Pelicans, Monday March 16  – Friday March 20, lunchtime

Pelican Pantry buys its just-caught fish from the Hastings Jetty Fish Shed right next door. Enjoy the catch that's come in that morning – perhaps sword fish, flat head or sea bream – beautifully prepared with a lemon and caper crumbing, or tempura or beer batter, and accompanied by a glass of wine. Then take the kids and feed the flock of pelicans which eagerly wait for scraps from the fish shed (you can buy scraps for $1 a bag). $24 per adult including a glass of wine, $12 per child including a soft drink, bookings preferred, 1300 850 297.

Seafood, Local & Live, Monday March 16 – Sunday March 22, dinner

A fabulous seafood feast created by The Rocks chefs who source direct from fishing boats moored on the restaurant's doorstep. Local abalone, sardines, scallops, mussels and sea urchins, along with vine tomatoes, soft cheese, asparagus and more in a four course degustation menu. Food only: $80, food and matched premium local wines $115, bookings advisable, (03) 5973 5599.   

Mornington Peninsula Gourmet Seasonal Table, Tuesday March 17,   7pm.
Celebrate your love of food with MP Gourmet, host Kleenmaid and canapés featuring fresh local produce complimented by Darling Park wines. Guest speakers in attendance. $30 for MPG members, $35 for non members (price includes a glass of wine), bookings essential, (03) 5989 4501.

Vegans, Vegetarians and Vino, Thursday March 19

Nazaaray Winery, known for its railway carriage 'tasting room', has invited a doctor along to discuss how vegans and vegetarians can balance the food pyramid and increase protein content.  You'll cook a three course meal, including hands-on use of pressure cookers, to increase your intake of pulses. Recipes for quick, simple and tasty meal ideas provided. Limited to 10, $190 per head, bookings essential, 0416 143 439.

Harvest To Tapas At Salix Restaurant, Friday March 20, 6:30pm onwards

A sumptuous tasting menu of beautiful Mornington Peninsula flavours, minimum 3 dishes, $16 per dish per person, bookings advisable,  (03) 5989 7640.

A Weekend of Seafood at the Tasting Station, Saturday March 21 & Sunday March 22

A weekend seafood extravaganza matched with local wines, with additional tastings of local chutneys, relishes, sauces, olive oils, dukkahs, olives and jams.  Bookings essential, (03) 5982 0522.

Laid Back Tasting With Tunes, Sunday March 22, midday

Sample a platter of the finest assortment of autumn fare matched with two tastings of Box Stallion's award winning wines, while enjoying live music and sweeping views of the vines. $28 for two, bookings essential, (03) 5989 7444.    

Peninsula Hot Springs Dine and Bathe Package, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm.

Gather some friends and soak up late summer stars in rich mineral waters that relax the body. Dinner is a set menu of four delicious options in the fully licensed café. $45 per person, bookings essential, (03) 5950 8777.

For more information and accommodation bookings:  Mornington Peninsula Visitor Information Centre,, 1800 804 009 or (03) 5987 3078.

Monday, 19 January 2009


Pic: ABC News - Kerri Ritchie

After two days of sunshine and with hotels and resorts across the destination reporting a return to "near normalcy", Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto has said it appears Fiji "has finally turned the corner."

Speaking from the organisation's Nadi offices Mr Tuamoto said flood waters had now receded and all main roads were clear for traffic and cruise operations into the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands have resumed.

Mr Tuamoto said that flight services into Nadi International Airport – both international and domestic – were also fully back on track and any backlog of passengers looking to leave Fiji had now been cleared completely with airlines actually reporting spare seats on most services.

Hotel and resorts, he said, were now in the main resuming full services and activities with most staff now able to return to work.

Mr Tuamoto had particular praise for those hotel staff who, rather than return home to their villages and families, had made the decision to stay on at their place work in order to provide as much assistance as possible to guests affected by the recent spate of bad weather.

"Now it's time for the clean-up to begin and for life to get back to normal as quickly as possible for everyone – both locals and our international visitors," he said.


Multimillion dollar renovation complete at Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Cairns

Two year refurbishment project follows hotel rebrand

The renovation project follows the Reef Hotel Casino's rebranding from a Sofitel to a Pullman hotel in December 2008, providing the 13-year old property with a fresh new identity to kick start 2009.

The internal upgrade at the Reef Hotel Casino Complex - which houses the 128-room five star Pullman hotel, conference rooms, bars and restaurants – has been two years in the making.

The Wharf St entrance to the CBD entertainment complex was the final part of renovation to be unveiled this week, along with the renovated Flinders Bar and Restaurant in the gaming area. The casino's general manager Paul McHenry says the restaurant – which complements Pullman's award winning restaurant 'Tamarind' - is a lot more open and efficient and is aimed at making the casino complex more "dynamic, opulent and tranquil".

Pullman Reef Hotel Casino executive assistant manager Adam Rowbottom said the updated Wharf Street entrance provides a dramatic sense of arrival for guests. "The entrance is modern and more efficient, offering easier access for taxis, limousines and coaches. We had some 11,500 visitors come through on New Year's Eve, and frequently welcome large groups into the complex, so the entrance really is important."

Mr Rowbottom says the Abbott St entrance is also being upgraded, and will have a similar feel to the Wharf St entrance.

He added that as part of the Reef Hotel Casino refurbishment, the hotel's meeting and conference rooms and pool have been upgraded for guests, in addition to full external repainting of the complex.

With its contemporary style and décor and choice of bars and award wining restaurants, the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino Cairns is the perfect holiday hotel situated in the heart of the city, overlooking tranquil Trinity Bay.

The hotel is the most prestigious accommodation and entertainment complex in Cairns and features 128 rooms and suite options for those who wish to upgrade to enjoy an indulgent Jacuzzis-style spa bath and private garden balcony.

The complex offers the boutique-style Reef Casino and $4 million Cairns Rainforest Dome, which provides visitors with the opportunity of seeing Australia's wildlife in a picturesque setting. There are a variety of restaurant options, including the award winning restaurant 'Tamarind', which offers Thai fusion cuisine in a stylish setting.

Located adjacent to Cairns Port terminal, the base for charter vessels operating day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, the hotel is ideally positioned for day trips to scuba, snorkel or swim the reef. Other hotel facilities include a gymnasium, spa and rooftop swimming pool that offers expansive city and water views.

Pullman Reef Hotel Casino Cairns is Australia's second Pullman hotel joining the new five-star Pullman network and the Pullman Sydney hotel on 1 December 2008.

Accor's Pullman Reef Hotel Casino Cairns is offering a sizzling summer special, priced from just $189 per couple.

The offer includes overnight accommodation in a Superior Room and a buffet breakfast for two and is valid for sale and stays until 31 March 2009.*

To book visit or call 1300 65 65 65.

Pullman is the upscale hotel brand of Accor. It was designed with the requirements of business women and men in mind. Located in the main regional and international cities, Pullman hotels provide an extensive range of tailored services, access to groundbreaking technologies and the "Co-Meeting" offer, a new approach to organising meetings, seminars and high-end incentives. At Pullman Hotels, business travellers can choose between being independent or relying on the staff available round the clock. Starting 2009, the Pullman network will have 59 hotels in 23 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. By 2015, we expect over 300 establishments around the world.

Accor, the European leader and a major global group in hotels, the global leader in services to corporate clinets and public institutions, operates in nearly 100 countries with 170,000 employees. It offers to its clients over 20 years of expertise in two core businesses:

- Hotels, with the Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1 and Motel 6 brands, representing 4,000 hotels and nearly 500,000 rooms in 90 countries, as well as strategically related activities, such as Lenôtre.

- Services, with 30 million people in 40 countries benefiting from Accor Services products in employee and public benefits, rewards and loyalty and expense management.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Trails of Indochina releases new Halong Bay junket

The perfect option for Vietnam travellers looking to include world famous Halong Bay in their itinerary, Trails of Indochina's cruise specialist Cruise Halong has released a new three-day luxury cruise on board the traditionally built Halong Jasmine.

Complete with an elegant restaurant, two bars, a small library and a massage room, the 24-berth junk provides its guests with an ideal opportunity to visit this unique part of the world in a manner unchanged for centuries while enjoying all the comforts of the 21st century.

The Halong Jasmine's cruise program includes exploring the of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed region's famous limestone caves and grottoes, visits to floating villages and local schools by kayak.

Passengers also have the opportunity to participate in traditional temple ceremonies as well as trekking, cycling and exploring the region's famous Cat Ba Island and its national park.

The program also includes a number of lectures delivered by a representative of the Vietnamese government's Department of Conservation underpinning the role the government is playing in helping to preserve the region, its long term plan to turn Ha Long Bay into a 'living museum' are also expected to form part of the overall program.

The three-day program, which includes all on board meals, accommodation and cruise activities, is priced from USD$346* per person twin share.

*Conditions apply. Please note prices do not include international airfares.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


A new year is upon us and, as ever, many organizations and publications are coming out with their lists of top destinations to visit for 2009. Many European destinations have featured on the various top ten lists of worldwide destinations to visit – most of which are easily accessible with a Eurail Pass.

Frommer’s have tipped Berlin, Germany as a hot destination. The historic city of Berlin is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, making 2009 the perfect year to visit this destination. Those interested in European history can expect special exhibitions, memorials, tours and walks.

The Travel website BootsnAll, aimed at Independent Travelers, also cites Berlin as one of their top choices, claiming that it is also “noticeably cheaper” than most of Europe’s tourist-filled cities.

In these difficult economic times, much focus is on the more affordable destinations. The UK’s Herald newspaper has recently released a report on the top economical destinations to visit in 2009. Included in this list is Bulgaria, which has just become a Eurail One Country Pass member.

Situated in Southeastern Europe, Bulgaria offers a picturesque and varied landscape ranging from high-peaked mountain ranges to coastal towns on the black sea. The passenger railway network covering over 6,200 kilometres (3,850 miles) offers good domestic as well as international routes, with direct trains to major cities such as Budapest, Bucharest, Thessaloniki and Belgrade. The Bulgarian railways carry 34 million passengers annually.

Another popular destination in Eastern Europe is the Czech Republic, which has this year become a member of the Eurail Global Pass and Eurail Select Pass schemes. Its capital Prague is ranked among the top ten tourist destinations in Europe, according to Euromonitor International[1].

Rail is a popular means of transportation in the Czech Republic. Of the more than 6.5 million tourists arriving in the country annually, nearly a quarter travel by rail. The dense railway structure, which is continuously being modernized links the capital, Prague, to many interesting cities and villages within the country, as well as having excellent international connections. The capital cities of both Vienna and Berlin can be reached directly in less than five hours.

Undoubtedly finances will play an important role on how and where we travel in 2009 and there are clearly some affordable destinations in Europe; coupled with a Eurail Pass offering freedom, flexibility and value for money, you can be assured of a relaxed and enjoyable trip.

Since adding the Czech Republic, the Eurail Global Pass is now valid in 21 participating countries. Eurail also gives you the opportunity to custom-make your own rail pass by choosing three, four or five adjoining countries. For more targeted trips, smaller one and two country passes are available.

Eurail Passes are available from authorized sales channels: ACP Rail International (; Eurail; Flight Centre (;; Rail Europe (North America:, rest of the world:, and STA Travel (

Discover Thailand : explore the Kingdom with THAI's special fare $209* per person during 2009

Discover Thailand : Explore the Kingdom with THAI's special 2009 fare from USD209 per person.

Choose any 3 domestic flight sectors within Thailand for one fare : USD209 per person plus taxes. Additional sectors are available from USD69 per person per sector, up to a maximum of 8 sectors.

THAI flies 40 times a week from Australia non-stop to Thailand with connections in Bangkok to a choice of 12 domestic destinations.....these include the northern cities of Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and the popular beach resorts of the south such as Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui.

The Discover Thailand fare is an ideal way to explore the far reaches of this varied and unique Kingdom. The special fare is available for travel completed by 31 December 2009 with a maximum stay in Thailand of 3 months. Only the first flight sector has to be booked prior to arrival in Thailand which allows travellers a completely flexible travel experience with subsequent flight coupons left open-dated.

The whole family can take advantage of this special fare with children paying 50% of the adult fare and infants (not occupying a seat) paying 10% of the adult fare.

Contact travel agents for full fare conditions, bookings and ticketing.

For more information about THAI's domestic network, log on to and download a copy of THAI's 'Travelling THAI' brochure (November 2008) issue.

*Conditions apply. Fares quoted are based in US Dollars and converted to the appropriate Australian Dollar amount at the time tickets are issued. Domestic Thailand taxes must be added to all fares shown. Fares between Australia and Thailand must also be added. Contact travel agents for more information and the latest special fares.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Valentine's Day with Captain Cook Cruises

Fall even more in Love this Valentine's Day

What could be more romantic than taking your loved one on a sumptuous dinner cruise on picturesque Sydney Harbour this Valentine's Day? Captain Cook Cruises is hosting three special Valentine's Dinner packages on Saturday February 14, all guaranteeing one of the best Valentine's nights you and your loved one will ever have.

The standard Valentines Dinner is perfect for those who wish to enjoy the spectacular beauty of Sydney by night with their loved one. This dinner package includes a welcome glass of champagne on arrival, a chocolate selection gift, a delicious 3-course Valentines Dinner Menu and background music for only $99 per person.

For something really special, cruise aboard the prestigious MV Sydney 2000. The MV Sydney 2000 Valentines Dinner is perfect for lovers wanting an intimate and romantic night. Dinner includes a welcome glass of champagne on arrival, a chocolate selection gift, a mouth-watering 3-course Valentines Dinner Menu, an open bar of still and sparkling wine, beer and soft drinks and live music and dancing and is $129 per person.

For those who really want to impress the Valentines Gold Dinner is the ultimate five star dining experience aboard MV Sydney 200.

Lovers will be treated to priority boarding at 6.30pm, a welcome Cocktail on Star Deck, a glass of Veuve Cliquot Champagne on seating, a chocolate selection gift, guaranteed window seating, a scrumptious 4-course Valentines Gold Dinner Menu, an open bar of still and sparkling wine, beer, house spirits and soft drinks and live music and dancing. The MV Sydney 2000 Valentines Gold Dinner is $199 per person.

All Valentine's Dinner cruises depart Saturday 14 February 2009 at 7.00pm from No.6 Jetty Circular Quay and at 7.30pm from No.1 King Street Wharf Darling Harbour. Cruises disembark at Circular Quay at 10pm and at King Street Wharf at 11pm.

For reservations and enquiries please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free on 1800 804 843,

Int +61-2-9206 111 or email: or visit

Movie Drives Publicity Boom for Australia as a Travel Destination

As the international travel market contracts, Baz Luhrmann's Australia is keeping the country's profile high around the world, Tourism Australia Managing Director Geoff Buckley said today.

"Our international offices are reporting very significant interest in the country from media and travel companies as the film opens around the world and Tourism Australia's 'Come Walkabout' campaign rolls out," Mr Buckley said.

"Whilst we are realistic that the global financial crisis will result in a decline in international visitors to Australia in 2009, we believe that by keeping Australia front of mind amongst consumers we can minimise the impact of the crisis this year and lay a foundation for a return to growth in 2010."

Mr Buckley said editorial coverage about the country as a travel destination generated as a result of Baz Luhrmann's movie and Tourism Australia's campaign had already reached a combined audience of more than 580 million people.

"We recognised early on that we could leverage the film for destinational coverage and that is exactly what has happened," Mr Buckley said.

"We've hosted more than 40 international media visits for publications as varied as Bild-Zeitung (Germany), Gala (France), The Sunday Times (UK), Dong A (Korea), The Star Weekender (Malaysia), OK (USA), Daily Telegraph (UK), Paris Match (France), and Men's Journal (USA).

"These media have been sent to all parts of the country for a contemporary experience of the themes of our 'Come Walkabout' campaign and the film Australia all while helping to spread the word about how an Australian holiday can transform you, and now they've gone home to write about it.

"Even film critics who have never visited Australia have provided glowing endorsements for the country with one UK critic saying that after seeing the film they were tempted to visit their travel agent," Mr Buckley said. "Robbie Collins in The News of The World told his paper's readers, 'You'll laugh, you'll cry, and when you get home you'll be straight online, looking for cheap deals to Sydney'."

Mr Buckley said the combination of the film's publicity and the 'Come Walkabout' campaign has correlated with a significant increase in visitors to, Tourism Australia's consumer website and the primary call to action for its campaign activities.

"Visitor numbers to our website from all markets where the movie and campaign were released have increased by approximately 17 per cent from the previous December, which is traditionally a very slow month for traffic," Mr Buckley said.

"The December figures are the highest numbers in twelve months, and we expect these figures to continue to rise during our traditionally busy period between January and March."

Mr Buckley said the performance of the film in key international markets has also assisted in generating positive word of mouth about the country, particularly on online blogs. Australia has ranked number 1 in each of the three weeks since opening in Spain, Sweden and Denmark and still ranks near the top of the box office in other key markets including Germany, France, UK and New Zealand. The film is yet to open in major markets like Japan, Italy and China.

"To date tens of millions of people around the world have spent their hard-earned dollars to go to a cinema to see a film that showcases the land and the people of Australia. That is a big win for the country," Mr Buckley said.

"The knock-on effects are too early to call but just one example is the sight all over Paris of the posters with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman embracing in the golden light of the outback with the word Australia emblazoned across them – it is a stark and welcome contrast to one of Europe's whitest winters on record."

Twentieth Century Fox International reports that after opening in the number one position in many key markets, the film is currently ranked number three overall at the (non-US) international box office after three weeks in release in most markets and worldwide has ticket sales of approx USD$150 million.

After seven weeks in its home territory, Australia is still ranked at number seven with over 3 million admissions to date and the movie is on track to be the second biggest cinema release in 2008.

"Whilst Tourism Australia has its own measures for the success of our campaigns, we consider every single person who buys a ticket to the movie as a bonus potential traveller to Australia. This is potential which is absolutely vital for our industry right now," Mr Buckley said.

"In just one case in the US an Aussie Specialist travel agent took a group of clients to the movie and by the end of the evening had booked a 50 thousand dollar trip to Australia.

"While it is still early days for our campaign internationally these results to date are making sure that Australia is front and centre in the minds of prospective travellers across the globe," Mr Buckley said.


Edgewater Resort Wanaka Provides Stress Solution This Year

Edgewater Resort has just released a new 'Lakeside Unwinder' package, ideal for couples needing to de-stress in 2009.

Edgewater Resort is location on absolute lakefront land and offers a tranquil haven to escape from the increasing pressures of day to day life.

Couples are often planning their year ahead now and book in advance, so the package is valid until 30th September 2009.

"Although many have just returned to work after their Christmas break, a subsequent break scheduled later in the year, is something to look forward to", says Trish May from Edgewater Resort.

The two night package features accommodation in the Resort's one-bedroom suite, a voucher to be pampered at Soak Day Spa, complementary mountain bike hire and breakfasts.

Air New Zealand flies directly into Wanaka, from Christchurch daily. Edgewater Resort is located only one hour from Queenstown airport.

The package, priced at $NZD 340 per night, can be booked directly online at

Edgewater Resort is a 65 all suite resort which holds a four star plus Qualmark® grading. In the last five years over $5million has been spent on upgrading the property. Ongoing improvements are occurring in 2009.

Hamilton Island is “two perfect” for Valentines Day

Show that someone special in your life just how much you love them by spoiling them with an unforgettable romantic experience at Hamilton Island this Valentine’s Day.

Treat them to the Romantic Escape Package in one of Hamilton Island’s Palm Bungalow, Whitsunday Holiday Apartments or Reef View Hotel rooms.

All packages are specially designed to add something extra special to your romantic holiday and include full buffet breakfast daily, a Banjo Paterson Twilight Sail around the surrounding Whitsunday islands, the choice of a luxurious Denison Star dinner cruise or three course set dinner at the waterfront Romano’s Italian Restaurant and a bottle of chilled sparkling wine.

Couples will also enjoy unlimited use of catamarans, paddle skis, windsurfers and snorkelling equipment plus complimentary airport/marina - resort transfers.

The most popular choice for intimate and romantic getaways is Hamilton Island’s 5-star Beach Club. Reserved for adults, the Beach Club has stylishly appointed beachfront accommodation, a private beachside infinity edge swimming pool, exclusive bar, restaurant and 24 hour holiday host service.

When it comes to dining at the Beach Club, let your mood decide. From a private candlelit dinner on Catseye Beach, to something more social in intimate and natural surroundings, the Beach Club promises gracious, attentive, and unobtrusive service of superbly innovative and traditional cuisine.

Hamilton Island is perfectly situated on the Great Barrier Reef, amongst the 74 Whitsunday islands. Whether you are after a romantic getaway, a honeymoon to celebrate the beginning of your life together or the most idyllic wedding location, Hamilton Island is the ideal destination to spoil that special someone, including yourself.

Jetstar, Virginblue and Qantaslink flights arrive and depart from Hamilton Island’s airport every day from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns while the Hamilton Island Marina provides a convenient gateway to the mainland and other Whitsunday islands.

A four night Romantic Escape Package starts from just $787.00* per person twin share. Bookings can be made by calling Hamilton Island on 13 REEF (13 7333) or

*Subject to availability. Offer valid until 31 March 2009.

Indulge Your Valentine at Hyatt Regency Perth

Gershwin’s Private Dining at Hyatt Regency Perth is offering a special five-course dinner menu with French champagne on arrival and a live pianist providing entertainment throughout the evening. To truly indulge your loved one, stay the night and enjoy the romantic touches of Hyatt’s Amour accommodation package.

Now used for private dining and intimate events, Gershwin’s will be open for Valentine’s Day and Executive Chef Mark Sainsbury has created a divine dinner menu stretching over five-courses allowing diners to savour the taste sensations. Menu items include a mezze entrée with Japanese style oysters, a main of oven roasted beef tornado and grilled lobster medallions, plus a live dessert station including a chocolate fondant. To heighten the dining experience, guests may also choose to include the Gershwin’s Wine Room selection matching wines to each course.

For a slightly more casual setting, Joe’s Oriental Diner has a three-course set dinner menu including an entrée of oysters prepared three ways and sautéed chicken in ginger chilli sauce with Chinese greens for main.

As Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, it is the perfect excuse to make a weekend of it. Hyatt Regency Perth’s Amour Package is made for romance with champagne, chocolates and flowers on arrival, full breakfast for two in the stylish new Cafe restaurant plus a 1pm late check-out.

Reservations details:
Amour Package: Phone 13 1234 or visit
Gershwin’s Private Dining: Phone 9225 1204. $145 per person or $175 with wine selection.
Joe’s Oriental Diner: Phone 9225 1239. $40 per person.

Celebrate all things Australian this Long Weekend

For a true-blue dinky-di Australia Day long weekend, why not visit a part of Australia that you have never seen before? From the red heart of Central Australia; the green depths of the Daintree Rainforest; the vibrant colours of the Great Barrier Reef; to the rugged alpine mountains of Tasmania, Voyages has got it covered with the best Australia has to offer.

From secluded natural havens for the ultimate in peace and solitude, to family holidays overflowing with options, Voyages' island resorts cater to everyone this Australia Day.

At Brampton Island, grab a pie with tomato sauce and join in a game of Test Match Cricket, thong throw tournament or gumboot toss. At night enjoy a special Australia Day menu featuring wattle seed damper, poached barramundi, bush cheese cake and much more.

Heron Island will be hosting a big BBQ lunch for all guests to enjoy which is included as part of the standard meal package option.

RED CENTRE – Northern Territory
Come and visit the cultural heart of Australia – the Red Centre. There’s no better way to experience its richness than with Voyages Hotels & Resorts. Stay at Ayers Rock Resort or Longitude 131° and choose your own adventure with over 65 tours on offer. Continue on toward Kings Canyon Resort or Alice Springs Resorts for the full Red Centre experience.

Cradle Mountain Lodge is a wilderness retreat nestled high in the Tasmanian wilderness, on the edge of the World Heritage Listed Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park. Cradle Mountain Lodge welcomes serious hikers and city slickers alike, looking to enjoy the serenity and splendour of this magnificent part of Tasmania this Australia Day.

Silky Oaks Lodge & Healing Waters Spa is an oasis of elegance and beauty nestled on the edge of the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, one of the world’s oldest rainforests. Guests can immerse themselves in a range of activities including; guided rainforest walks, 4WD adventures over the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation, canoeing, swimming, river cruises and even a spot of shopping or golf at nearby Port Douglas.

To book your Australia Day long weekend adventure call Voyages Hotels & Resorts direct on 1300 134 044 or visit

Rare Antarctic Discovery

A group of passengers on board Aurora Expeditions voyage to Commonwealth Bay made the
discovery while exploring the Madigan Nunatak (‘nunatak’ is the term for a rocky peak
surrounded by ice), led by Greg Mortimer, expedition leader and a veteran of more than 100 Antarctic voyages.

The rare food cache was found last week, 40 kilometres east south east of Cape Denison, which was the AAE’s base for two years. The location was named after Cecil Madigan, a geologist with Mawson’s AAE who established the food store in case of emergency for sledging parties.

Attempts to find Madigan Nunatak in the 1980s failed with ice covering the rocky peak and only a long bamboo pole protruding from the cache sighted in 1985.

Mortimer, the founder of Aurora Expeditions and also a member of the first Australian team to climb Mt Everest, was leading the group of passengers on a helicopter reconnaissance from his ship, Marina Svetaeva.

“I have been trying to get to Madigan Nunatak for years,” said Mortimer. “This year we were in the right place at the right time.

“We observed a cairn highlighted by a tin, consistent in shape and construction with kerosene tins associated with the AAE, on a tiny ridge in the white expanse of the polar plateau about 2400 feet above sea level,” he said.

“The tin contains at least three calico bags held in place by a rock. One contains white powder, probably flour and the other a brown substance, possibly pemmican, a food mix favoured by the AAE on sledging parties.”

The long bamboo pole, which marked the spot for the AAE still remains but now lies on the rocks. The find is significant because it extends the archaeological boundary of the site associated with the AAE of 1911-1914.

Also on board the voyage as guest lecturers were Emma McEwin, great granddaughter of Sir Douglas Mawson; Julia Butler, grand-daughter of Cecil Madigan; and historian Estelle Lazar, who confirmed that the group of passengers were probably the first people to see the cache since Madigan left it there in 1912. Eight members of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation were also on board being transported to the site to undertake important conservation and restoration work on the historic huts over the next month.

Aurora Expeditions has two more scheduled expeditions to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica this season, and will be conducting another expedition to Mawson’s Antarctica in December 2009.

For further information and bookings call (Aus only) 1800 637 688 or visit

Romance and roses at Radisson Resort

Make Valentine’s Day on Saturday February 14 extra special with dinner at Radisson Resort Gold Coast. Dine indoors and enjoy views of golf course greens and the palm-fringed swimming pool or dine under the stars on the pool terrace.

The AUD$140 Valentine’s Night dinner for two includes a three-course gourmet meal with a glass of sparkling wine and a beautiful red rose on arrival. Book before January 31 and receive a complimentary bottle of wine.

Executive chef Volker Koepke has designed a menu of sensuous dishes to whet the appetite. Choose the Ocean Trio or Meadow Trio entrée and be prepared to be impressed.

The Ocean Trio features poached prawn tails with northern mango and thousand island dressing, a Pacific oyster on wilted leek with tomato and coriander salsa as well as
Tasmanian smoked salmon on an oriental mushroom risotto.

The Meadow Trio tempts the tastebuds with minted chicken and lime salad in a crispy cornet, petit lamb rubbed with smoked paprika accompanied by lemon and cucumber raijta, and a pork tender filled with brie, rolled in crumbs and served on beetroot hay.

Move on to gourmet main courses based on either beef, fish or chicken. Volker’s
beef tenderloin topped with a grilled field mushroom and fried quail egg on potato
roesti with broccolini, asparagus, and bourbon butter will satisfy the heartiest appetite.

The grilled king snapper with garlic prawn tails on green pea purée with kipfler potatoes,
asparagus and roasted capsicum salsa is a melody of tastes and textures.

The corn fed chicken filled with peppered mango and sweet tarragon with pumpkin risotto, buttered spinach, broccolini and smoked tomato coulis is a feast for the senses.

Sweet lovers will find the desserts irresistible. Try the Semifreddo Amore, concocted from fig and pistachio semifreddo and served with Galliano coffee jelly and chantilly.

The Dark Temptation is a decadently rich dark chocolate mousse with vanilla anglaise and lychee salad. The grand finale is coffee and Friandise liqueur.

Book a Radisson Romance package with the Valentine’s Night dinner, overnight accommodation in a stylish room and breakfast for two for AUD$319.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Queensland Dream Job

Tourism Queensland is searching the globe for candidates for what it describes as the “Best Job in the World” – an AUD$150,000 six-month contract for the role of Island Caretaker based on a Great Barrier Reef island.

Airfares and live-in accommodation on tropical Hamilton Island are included and applicants can come from anywhere in the world. A broad range of experience will be considered and the successful candidate must be willing to explore the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel, make friends with the locals and generally enjoy the tropical Queensland climate and lifestyle.

According to Tourism Queensland’s CEO Anthony Hayes, if the job sounded too good to be true, there was one catch.

“The successful applicant will need to live on Hamilton Island for six-months, travel amongst the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef and report back on their adventures to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates,” said Mr Hayes.

“They’ll also have to talk to media from time to time about what they’re doing so they can’t be too shy and they’ll have to love the sea, the sun, the outdoors - which may of course not appeal to everyone.” Mr Hayes said while the “Best Job in the World” might sound like an elaborate marketing and PR campaign it was in fact a genuine job.

“Yes, this is part of a unique Tourism Queensland strategy to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef internationally, but candidates will have to go through a genuine recruitment process,” Mr Hayes said.

“They will need to submit an application, take part in interviews, meet Australian visa requirements and will have set duties.

“The fact that they will be paid to explore the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel and generally live the Queensland lifestyle makes this what is undoubtedly the best job in the world.” Mr Hayes said the “Best Job in the World” campaign would kick off a three year, $1.7 million global marketing strategy aimed at increasing the profile of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef islands, which stretch from Bundaberg in the state’s south more than 2,600 to the Tropical North.

“No one has done anything like this before and the concept aims to showcase Queensland’s unique island experiences and provide something different in what is a very competitive global travel environment,” he said.

“We want to show the rest of the world just how amazing the islands of the Great Barrier Reef are through the eyes of someone who is exploring the destination first-hand.” According to Mr Hayes the “Best Job in the World” was the type of cutting edge marketing strategy Tourism Queensland was renowned for.

“We have one of the most amazing destinations in the world and as Queenslanders we are fortunate to have it all on our doorstep,” he said.

“We want to open our doors to the world and invite one lucky person come and live the Queensland lifestyle themselves for six months and then tell the rest of the world about their experiences.” Mr Hayes said some people might question whether it was risky to let an unknown and unqualified individual become the lynch-pin for a major international marketing campaign “When we first floated the idea with our industry partners they absolutely loved it and we have received fantastic support from local industry in the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef” he said.

“I think the biggest risk will be that the successful candidate won’t want to go home at the end of the six months,” he said.

Mr Hayes said the successful candidate would be paid a salary package of AUD $150,000 for the six month contract and would receive return airfares from the nearest capital city in their home country, accommodation on Hamilton Island, travel insurance for the contract period, computer, internet, digital video and stills camera access, plus travel to a number of the other Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Applications open from January 10 to February 22, 2009. Tourism Queensland and their representatives in international markets will select ten candidates and visitors to will have the chance to select one Wild Card candidate. The final 11 shortlisted candidates will be flown to Hamilton Island in early May for the final selection process and the six-month contract will commence on July 1 2009. The campaign activity will run in the Australian domestic market and 10 key international markets, making it Tourism Queensland’s first truly global campaign.

“The campaign will be supported by extensive PR and digital marketing activities, advertising in major national print and online media outlets throughout the world, tactical cross- promotion marketing with local travel and media partners and in store promotion with participating travel partners,” he said.

Mr Hayes said the campaign was being funded cooperatively by Tourism Queensland, major partner Hamilton Island, regional partners and local industry.

“This is a legitimate job which is open to anyone and everyone,” Mr Hayes said.

“Well almost everyone – as much as I would love to, I don’t think I’ll be allowed to apply.” Potential applicants can apply on and visitors to the site can learn more about Australia’s unique Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

For information on the destination please visit

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