Wednesday 31 December 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers and subscribers

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers and subscribers. Happy travels in 2009!

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Tasmania The Movie - Bigger Than Australia!

Tourists to shun Australia in 2009: report

By Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop - ABC News

A new report says Australia is about to suffer its biggest drop in the number of overseas visitors in 20 years.

Tourism Australia's independent forecasting committee says the industry will take in $1.8 billion less in the two years to 2010 than it predicted just four months ago.

The Tourism Forecasting Committee says inbound travel will fall by 4.1 per cent next year because of the global financial crisis.

The drop would be the worst since the Australian pilots' strike sapped visitor numbers by 7.5 per cent in 1989.

The report also says outbound travel will fall by 2.6 per cent - its first downturn since the international outbreak of SARS hit the industry six years ago.

The forecast, to be released today, also stymies expectations that falling petrol prices and the lower value of the Australian dollar will fuel a boom in domestic travel.

The Tourism Forecasting Committee predicts the number of domestic trips will drop by 0.9 per cent but its chairman, Bernard Salt, says the blow will be softened by a dramatic rise in spending.

"A lot of Australians, instead of travelling overseas with a weak dollar, will spend their vacation money locally and that will offset the expected decrease in overseas visitors," he said.

Mr Salt says that will lift the industry's takings by 0.3 per cent to $90.6 billion next year.

Job losses

The industry's peak body, the Transport and Tourism Forum, says it is shocked by the prediction that domestic leisure travel will fall.

Its executive director, Olivia Wirth, says Australia's regional tourism hubs will be hardest hit.

"There will definitely be job losses in those regions which rely on tourism," she said.

"There are some regions Australia-wide, including Cairns or the Northern Territory or Tasmania, where tourism accounts for well into 20 per cent of employment in these town centres."

Mr Salt says airlines and hospitality businesses will also be badly affected.

Ms Wirth is calling on state and federal governments to inject money to boost domestic travel.

"This is not going to be a blip, this is going to be at least a 12-month decline in tourism to Australia," she said.

"We need to make sure that the governments can actually work on a regional stimulus package for the tourism industry."

The Transport and Tourism Forum's recent survey of the industry found the number of bookings for the first quarter of 2009 were the worst on record.

Tasmania's healthy hotel bookings buck national figures

Source: ABC

Tasmania is bucking the national trend when it comes to hotel occupancy.

Bookings are strong across the state right up until February.

Steve Old from Australian Hotels Association says however work needs to be done to attract business after February.

"The first thing that we should be doing is investing money into destinational marketing and continue to promote Tasmania and get people down here," he said.

"We've done a great job with the Tasmania movie ads off the Australia movie and a number of other things.

"But we can't stop there.

"This is the perfect opportunity for us to really do some marketing to make sure that come March-April we really turn the corner and we don't have to go through a lull."

While the industry is buoyed by the latest hotel figures it is bracing for a downturn.

Daniel Hanna of the Tourism Council says Tasmania boasts a number of unique events at this time of the year and the full impact of the global credit crunch will not be felt for a few months.

Mr Hanna says the state will have to market itself aggressively if it is to stay ahead of the game.

"We don't know as a state how we'll hold up," he said.

"We are hoping that Tasmania can hold up better than other states and if we're aggressive in the market and promote ourselves strongly there's no reason why we can't grab a bigger slice of the national pie even though that pie may be shrinking."



For the second consecutive year, Trafalgar Tours has won the "Best International Tour Operator" award in Travel Weekly's prestigious Readers' Choice Awards. The award was announced on December 11th during Travel Weekly's awards gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Travel Weekly's annual Readers' Choice Awards are an open-ended survey, and nominees are suggested by Travel Weekly's readership of agents, industry marketing executives and the CEOs of the world's largest travel companies. Those same readers honored Trafalgar with the top award from a list of seven nominees in the International Tour Operator category.

"We are honored that the readers of Travel Weekly have recognized Trafalgar for the quality, value, reliability and hassle-free nature of our authentic destination touring experience, and for the high levels of customer service we provide to both our clients and travel agent partners alike," states Paul Wiseman, President of Trafalgar Tours. " We know that in times like these, travel agents appreciate Trafalgar's commitment to paying generous commissions, keeping our pricing stable and providing a product and value that result in record passenger satisfaction levels and profitable repeat business for those same passengers' travel agents. Our thanks go out to the readers of Travel Weekly, and we are looking forward to continuing to earn their support and respect."

Trafalgar Tours' customer service ratings achieved record levels in 2008, and their upcoming 2009 itineraries include a number of exciting new features designed to provide travelers with an even more authentic, local destination experience. In 2009 Trafalgar will also be launching unique, innovative customer relationship management initiatives designed to strengthen the bond between Trafalgar, travel agents and the travel agents' clients. Trafalgar also recently introduced the innovative Trip Gift Registry program to allow passengers' relatives and friends to help celebrate a special occasion by funding part of their Trafalgar tour.

On a Trafalgar expertly designed travel experience all the organizational hassles are taken care of, so you can truly relax and delight in the journey with friendly fellow travelers. You will enjoy accommodations in first class, well-located hotels; the services of a Trafalgar professional Tour Director and driver throughout; and fascinating sightseeing with expert local guides. The Trafalgar experience is steeped in the history, customs and culture of each exciting destination, ensuring no one misses out on any hidden treasures. It really is a case of "Dream. Pack. And leave... the rest to us."

Trafalgar Tours was established in 1947 and has 61 years of experience providing exceptional worldwide vacations to Europe, Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America and China.

For more information and reservations, see your travel agent or call (866) 544-4434 or visit Brochures can be ordered online at

2008: Travel Trade's Readers Choice Awards voted Trafalgar 'Best Tour Operator'

2007: Travel Weekly's Readers' Choice Awards voted Trafalgar
'Best International Tour Operator'

Monday 29 December 2008

Live your Dream: Join the Rich List with Summer Luxe New Zealand and Fiji Travel Specials

Navigate Oceania, the New Zealand and Fiji luxury collection of 28 lodges, retreats and private islands have released 23 NEW! ways to live your dream and join the rich list this summer.

Treat yourself to a luxury break in the most sought-after locations in New Zealand and Fiji. Offers include complimentary luxury picnic back pack hampers at the exclusive Treetops Lodge in Rotorua, from Waipoua Lodge complimentary entry to the nocturnal world of the rare kiwi in the Waipoua Forest, a two-hour cruise in the vintage steamer Ernest Kemp on Lake Taupo from Chalet Eiger, a 5 hour Hawkes Bay Art and Heritage cultural experience tour compliments of Greenhill Lodge, and courtesy of the exclusive luxury lodge Wharekauhau Country Estate a complimentary guided Martinborough wine trail tour combined with a Wharekauhau station guided tour. In Fiji stay longer in paradise at #1 Trip Advisor listed Navutu Stars Resort in beautiful Yasawa Islands. Stay 4 nights pay for 3 and receive an upgrade to the gourmet meal package. Whether it is an indigenous Maori or wilderness experience, a gastronomic delight, spa escape or for a decedent weekend break, we have a summer package perfect for you.

Karine Thomas, director Navigate Oceania said, 'This summer is the ideal time to experience luxury lodges, resorts and private island escapes in your own backyard at unprecedented prices for locals. Never have I seen our own luxury escapes discounted to the levels they are. The economic turndown is taking bite with our international travellers, but giving us locals some great opportunities to try our own luxury travel product at the very best time of year'.

All packages valid to 31 March 2009 and priced from NZ$450.00 per couple per night and include luxurious accommodation in either a luxury bed and breakfast, lodge or boutique hotel, gourmet breakfast and many other complimentary added values.

All 23 Summer Luxe special offers are available on the Navigate Oceania website

For reservations or more information, contact your preferred travel agent or book directly with the luxury lodge, resort or private island direct from the Navigate Oceania website.

Saturday 27 December 2008

The Hotel Windsor’s Summer Interlude

Three Nights for the Price of One Allows You to Relax and Recuperate After Year End Festivities

Exhausted by Christmas festivities? Need to recuperate after New Year’s Eve? Escape to Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor, which is again offering its popular three-night Summer Interlude package, tailor-made for those looking for the perfect city break.

The package offers three nights for the price of one, with a choice of accommodation. Prices range from $150 per night for a traditional room to $355 per night for a luxurious suite. The package is available from now until January 16 2009. Full details are available at The Hotel Windsor’s website ( The package is subject to availability and a nominal surcharge will apply to stays over New Year’s Eve.

“Our Summer Interlude package is incredibly popular with people wanting to take some time out from what is always a busy time of year and enjoy a quiet few days at Melbourne’s most famous hotel,” The Hotel Windsor CEO and general manager David Perry said. “Our renowned hospitality and service, and our proximity to all of Melbourne’s leading attractions, ensure guests take advantage of this special opportunity and return each year to enjoy a relaxing break.”

The 180-room Hotel Windsor was built in 1883, pre-dating some of the world’s leading grand hotels including the Savoy in London, which was built in 1889, the Waldorf Astoria in New York which dates back to 1893, and the Ritz Paris which opened in 1898.

The World's Worst Taxi Rides

by Don Willmott -

And how to avoid being scammed

In the past we've extolled the virtues of "The World's 10 Best Taxi Rides"—interesting and sometimes beautiful routes that can add fun and excitement to what might normally be just another trip across town. But what about the flip side?

Everyone has a taxi horror story to share, a tale of woe that may involve scamming, intimidation, extortion, physical threats, drunken driving, faulty shock absorbers, unending traffic jams, malfunctioning meters—or simply hellacious body odor. Add infrequent but terrifying armed robberies and kidnappings, and simply sticking out your arm on the sidewalk can seem like a dangerous roll of the dice.

What should you worry about most? The Mexican kidnappers? The Russian thugs? The Sao Paulo gridlock? Collisions with elephants in Thailand? In reality, your biggest problem will be simple scams or miscommunications that escalate into shouting matches hindered by language barriers. Taxi drivers around the world have perfected the art of loud righteous indignation that's meant to intimidate, especially when they attract a crowd of curious onlookers who back them up and enjoy the show. It's up to you to decide when to cut your losses, pay up and get out of the situation.

Naturally no city that wants to maintain a good business environment and attract tourism can allow this vital point of contact with its visitors to be uncomfortable or dangerous, so in most places, taxis are heavily regulated and carefully controlled. Guidebooks are full of suggestions about how to distinguish real taxis from fakes and what to do once you slide into the back seat. Having scoured much of this advice and listened to a few juicy horror stories, here are some common-sense tips that can work in any city you visit, even those we've identified as spots for potential taxi trouble.

Know what a legitimate taxi looks like. From Moscow to Manhattan, unlicensed gypsy cabs will respond to your outstretched arm and offer you a ride. Proceed with extreme caution. Why would you get into an unmetered, uninspected car with an unsupervised mystery man who may or may not speak your language? Take a minute to find out what the real taxis in the city are supposed to look like. If you do want to try a gypsy cab, don’t get in if anyone other than the driver is in the car, and don't put your belongings in the trunk, where they can easily be held hostage.

Have enough local knowledge to avoid scamming. Even the quickest glance at a map should give you some sense of the direction you should be heading and how long it should take. Long airport trips are always scammers' favorites. Keep an eye on the meter (make sure it's running unless you're on a flat-fare journey), and don't be afraid to speak up if you feel you're being taken for a ride.

Know the currency and the tipping policy. You've stumbled off the red eye and retrieved a handful of won, rupees or pesos from the ATM. How much are they worth? Do you have small bills? Can you identify the coins? The last thing you want is to wrestle with the driver over your bankroll and follow up with a debate about the tip, if tipping is customary. It's up to you to know the currency and the customs.

Depend on your hotel concierge for advice. He or she can explain the local taxi routine to you, call for dependable rides, and advise you on how long your trip should take and what it should cost. The concierge can also help you decide if a private hired car would make more sense, especially for a busy business traveler who has to make several stops throughout the day or a tourist who's short on time. In many cities, especially in Africa and South Asia, the private option is surprisingly affordable.

Behave yourself. Remember: a taxi ride is a business transaction, and it's important to hold up your end of the deal, even if you've had an unpleasant trip. And at the end of a long night, make sure you or one of your companions is sober enough to remain civil and keep your wits about you when it's time to pay.

Thursday 25 December 2008


Air Tahiti Nui will suspend direct flights between Sydney and Papeete, Tahiti, from April until October, 2009.

Subject to Government approval, the airline will offer three weekly flights from Sydney via Auckland, with trans Tasman sectors operated by code share partner Qantas and Auckland-Papeete services operated by Air Tahiti Nui.

"This decision has been made as a result of the ongoing global economic crisis," said Craig Lee, Regional Director Australia for Air Tahiti Nui.

"We regret any inconvenience this will cause to passengers from Australia, and we will rebook those affected by this change on our code share flights via Auckland," he said.

Mr Lee said travel to Tahiti had been strong from Australia, but the global financial crisis meant the airline had to consider new ways of achieving significant cost reductions while continuing to offer services throughout the network.

"This reduction in flights is part of a broader programme to cut costs worldwide during the northern summer schedule period, while continuing to offer passengers the ability to fly with us to Tahiti," said Mr Lee.  "Offering services via Auckland enables us to continue providing service to the Australian market. We will review this arrangement when economic conditions allow."

Until February, Air Tahiti Nui will continue to offer four weekly services from Australia – two nonstop Sydney-Papeete flights and two code share services via Auckland.

From 07 February,  the schedule from Sydney will change to one nonstop service and two code-share flights via New Zealand, with scheduled Sydney – Papeete flights due to be suspended after the 28 March departure.

From April until October, subject to regulatory approvals, Air Tahiti Nui will offer departures from Sydney to Auckland at 0715 every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. These will connect with the airline's flight TN 102 from Auckland to Papeete, departing at 1325, crossing the international dateline and arriving in Papeete at 2025 the previous evening.

Air Tahiti Nui will continue to operate its Sydney sales office.

For more information, contact Air Tahiti Nui on 1300 732 415 or visit


Tales By The Sea

This summer, get ready for a good old fashioned feel good story time! As part of the new special themed nights, passengers on board the Spirit of Tasmania can get ready to enjoy a different type of entertainment. Two aspiring young characters, Tez (Kieran Bullock) and Tones (James Tresise) will share their tales as they take you on a journey from Tennant Creek to Tasmania.

Join them on their journey as they engage audiences in an interactive show, filled with improvisation, comedy, and story-telling tales that will have passengers hooked on this theatrical performance.

With backgrounds in comedy and street theatre, Tez and Tones will be sure to make passengers enjoy their sailing experience even more. The performances are scheduled to take place Friday 19 December 2008 departing Melbourne at 9am and departing Devonport Monday 5 January 2009 at 9am. Don’t miss out as they are guaranteed for a laugh!

Charles Griplas, Spirit of Tasmania’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “We have had a wonderful response from our themed nights so far. Tez and Tones is something for everyone to take pleasure in…even the little ones. Passengers will be sure to enjoy this fun and quirky form of entertainment”.

The Tez and Tones Project will also appear in the renowned ‘Taste of Tasmania’ festival (28 Dec – 4 Jan), where they will be performing in a 24-hour live-in theatrical experience, engaging in the community while in character.

“It will be an enjoyable event for passengers to add to their memorable journey onboard so take advantage of the special themed day sailings and let the tales begin!” Mr Griplas.

Wednesday 24 December 2008



After a further and consistent decline in global oil prices over recent months, Virgin Blue today announced it would drop altogether fuel surcharges on Virgin Blue domestic services and would again reduce fuel surcharges Pacific Blue trans-Tasman and Pacific Island flights – which is the second reduction in as many months.

The last time Virgin Blue increased its fuel surcharge was back in February 2008 in response to successive record hikes in the cost of jet fuel and the airline resisted further fuel surcharge increases when oil reached record peaks of USD$145.00 per barrel in July this year.

Effective 31 December, in the Australian domestic market Virgin Blue will eliminate its fuel surcharge from $19.00 for a one-way domestic flight to zero ($0.00). For Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue one-way international flights, the fuel surcharge will be cut by $10 to $25 (down from $35).

Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said: “Just last month we cut our fuel surcharges by 20% to $19.00 for a one-way domestic flight and $35.00 for Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue one-way international flights; and now we are removing them altogether on Australian domestic routes and cutting them again on our international sectors as a reaffirmation of our commitment to ‘keeping the air fair’. When we launched Virgin Blue eight years ago that was our catch cry – ‘keeping the air fare’ – and it represented our commitment to bringing sustainably low air fares to the Australian domestic aviation market; and it is a historical fact that average fares have been kept much lower ever since.”

“We are reluctant to increase the cost of air travel but those record high jet fuel prices this year forced us – along with airlines around the world - to introduce a levy to cover those costs. We base our decisions on fuel surcharges on a floating average - not the spot price – and now that we have seen a consistent reduction in that it is only fair and right to pass those savings onto our Guests,” Mr Godfrey added.

Multi award winning airline Virgin Blue and international carriers Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue currently operate a fleet of75 modern Boeing 737and Embraer E-Jet aircraft flying to 26 Australian and12international destinations including New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatuand the Cook Islands. Virgin Blue was the first airline in the world tolaunch a Government-certified carbon offset program, where Guests can offset the carbon emissions from their flights. Virgin Blue Group has also announced plans to launch Australia's newest international airline, V Australia, set to commence flights between Australia and the USA in the first quarter of 2009, subject to regulatory approvals

Chiva-Som's Detox Retreat is the ultimate New Year Resolution

Start the year with a clean bill of health

If you've been indulging in the festivities this season and are about to kickstart a health plan, than where better to make the transition than the world's award winning health resort – Chiva-Som in Thailand.

Chiva-Som has nine health retreats on offer in 2009 including a Detox Retreat that will cleanse your body, clear your head and restore energy. The retreat spans 5-nights to 7-nights, 10-nights, 14-nights, 21-nights and 28-nights, and focuses on the elimination of toxins through the skin and organs. Guests first experience a 3 to 5-day monitored cleanse followed by Chiva-Som's famous Spa Cuisine which allows the body to adjust to a healthier diet.

During their stay, guests attend an individual health and wellness consultation where they are provided with daily supplements to ease them through the Detox. Each day they receive a choice of massage, participation in the resort's fitness and leisure program and use of the Water Therapy Suites including Steam, Sauna and Jacuzzi.

The Retreats also include tailored treatments, with a 5-night Detox Retreat incorporating a Cleansing Body Cocoon, Detoxifiying Balneotherapy (a combination of sea salts, marine algae and essential oils with underwater jet massage), a Private Stretch session and Thailand's unique abdominal massage, Chi Nei Tsang.  Guests experiencing a 7-night Detox Retreat or longer can choose to move from a Natural Detox program to an Ultimate Detox which includes Colonic Hydrotherapy and Maya Massage – a deep colon-cleansing massage.

Other Retreats on offer at Chiva-Som in 2009 include:

Chiva-Som Experience Retreat
Chiva-Som Fitness Retreat
Chiva-Som Spa Pampering Retreat
Chiva-Som De-Stress Retreat
Chiva-Som Physical Renewal Retreat
Chiva-Som Yoga Retreat
Chiva-Som Weight Management Retreat
Chiva-Som Holistic Health Retreat

A 5-night Detox Retreat is priced from US$2,575 per person, twin share for an Ocean View room plus 17.7% service charge and VAT. Travel the World can also arrange fly/stay packages at Chiva-Som ex-Australia, by telephoning 1300 766 566.


Windstar announces spectacular savings on European itineraries in 2009

From Expedition and Adventure Cruising

April and May 2009 Departures

Visit some of Europe's most beautiful and iconic ports in France, Italy and Spain onboard the luxurious and intimate motor sailing yacht, msy Wind Surf, the most spacious vessel in the Windstar fleet.

The crystal waters of the Mediterranean will soothe and rejuvenate… as will the knowledge that you've netted a terrific fare! Travel the World has announced savings of up to $3,738 per person on three European cruises onboard Windstar in April and May 2009.

Barcelona to Rome Cruise

Savings of up to $3,360 have been announced on the 7-day Barcelona/Rome cruise, with cruise-only fares for as little as $2,683 per person, twin share. You will depart Barcelona on 26 April 2009 for the glamorous harbours of Menorca and Mallorca in Spain's Balearic Islands. Continuing on to the unspoilt Costa Verde of Italy's Sardinia, you will take in idyllic beaches before sampling the outstanding wines and cheeses in Porto-Vecchio on the rugged French island of Corsica. You will return to Rome via the lovely Portoferraio, Italy.

Rome to Nice Cruise

For those preferring to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans, savings of up to $3,711 have been announced on the 7-day Rome/Nice cruise, with fares from $2,683 per person, twin share. Departing Rome on 10 May, you will cross the Mediterranean to Ischia, island of medieval villages and towering cliffs, then onwards to Amalfi. A day of sailing leads to the bustling port of Livorno, gateway to Tuscany, followed by stunning Monaco, Monte Carlo. After an overnight stay at the romantic Villefranche-sur-Mer, you'll arrive in Nice, France.

Nice to Rome Cruise

Sailing from the flower-filled boulevards of Nice on 25 May, savings of up to $3,738 have been announced on the 7-day Nice/Rome cruise, with fares from $2,297 per person, twin share. Two days in Monte Carlo are followed by a morning on the Italian harbour of Portofino. A call at Livorno offers a chance to dip in the gorgeous Gulf of Poets before sailing on to Portoferraio, where you can visit Elba, Napoleon's chosen island of exile.

All cruise fares include meals, entertainment and activities, such as the complimentary water sports program and gym facilities. As with all Windstar vessels, the 312 passenger msy Wind Surf boasts luxurious amenities and a 'yacht like' atmosphere.

This offer is valid for all new bookings, until sold out, and full payment is required at the time of booking. The cruise fare includes fuel surcharge and Cruise NDA's of between $262-$538 per person. Taxes of between $115-$131 per person are additional.

For further information or to make a booking with Windstar, contact Travel the World on 1300 766 566 or visit the website

The Luxe Manor's Romantic Italian Cuisine and Passion Inspired Themed Suite Set the Scene for Valentine's Day 2009

The Luxe Manor, in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, welcomes Valentine's Day 2009 with a gourmet set dinner, champagne, jazz and the most romantic suite in the hotel on offer.

Available exclusively on Saturday 14th February 2009, the 5-course Valentine's Dinner at Aspasia has been designed with indulgent romance in mind for HK$1,988 per couple.

To begin the luxurious meal, guests are served Calvisius Caviar on Celery Root Foam, Balik Salmon, Artichoke and Veal Jelly, followed by a White Bean Emulsion with Black Truffle in Serrano Ham and Savoy Cabbage. The indulgence continues with Slow Roasted Lobster served with Asparagus Agnolotti and Lobster Basil Jus, followed by a main course of Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Morel Mushroom and Pinot Sauce, Foie Gras on Pumpkin and Tangerin Puree. The Valentine's Dinner is completed with Warm Rosemary Apple Tarte Tatin, Champagne Rose Sorbet, Hazelnut Crisps and Vanilla Espuma.

The Valentine's Dinner also includes two glasses of after-dinner Champagne served in Dada Bar + Lounge, The Luxe Manor's new bar, completed with live Jazz music.

For a truly exclusive Valentine's experience, The Luxe Manor's 'Liaison' suite is available for HK$10,000 a night.

The 'Liaison' suite is a romantic love-nest designed for two offering a bespoke round bed built into a curvaceous upholstered wall in soft creams and rich reds including classically inspired details from a by-gone era such as Venetian mirrors. The Liaison suite inspires whispered intimacies of classic romance.

Guest's benefits exclusively for the suite include round trip limousine transfer from any Hong Kong location, welcome Champagne on arrival, breakfast for two at Aspasia, 24hr butler service, Aspasia Valentine's dinner in room or in Aspasia, Romantic Jazz at Dada Bar + Lounge, free local calls and wired / wireless internet connection throughout.

All prices are subject to availability and 10% service charge.

Specialising in freshest imported ingredients and memorable cuisine, advanced booking at Aspasia is recommended with reservations at (852) 3763 8800. 

The Luxe Manor is managed by GR8 Leisure Concept Ltd., a Hong Kong based hospitality group.

Note to editors: The Luxe Manor (pronounced as deluxe manor) is the complete name of the hotel.

Available exclusively on Saturday 14th February 2009, the 5-course Valentine's Dinner at Aspasia has been designed with indulgent romance in mind for HK$1,988 per couple.

The Valentine's Dinner also includes two glasses of after-dinner Champagne served in Dada Bar + Lounge, The Luxe Manor's new bar, completed with live Jazz music.

The 'Liaison' suite is a romantic love-nest designed for two offering a bespoke round bed built into a curvaceous upholstered wall in soft creams and rich reds including classically inspired details from a by-gone era such as Venetian mirrors.


Race in to Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide for a 40% saving!

23 December 2008: The 2009 Tour Down Under once again promises to be the biggest and most exciting cycling race staged outside of Europe – particularly as it heralds the return of the greatest cyclist in history, Lance Armstrong, in his comeback race since retiring in 2005.

Be part of the action with a stay at Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide for just $190 per night, 3 night minimum stay, including breakfast for 2 people each day – a saving of over $100 a day off the special event period rate. The Mercure's 'Tour Down Under' package* is valid throughout the race period from 16 – 26 January and provides the perfect base to access the race start and finish and marshalling areas at the end of each day's racing.

Join the excitement roadside to cheer on the world's cycling elite as they battle for the right to wear the prestigious Ochre Jersey or be there as teams arrive back from a day's racing at Victoria Square. Grab an autograph from your cycling heroes or just chill out and soak up the atmosphere with a drink from the bar.

Centrally located on North Terrace, the historic style Mercure also provides the ideal base from which to explore Adelaide's cultural and gourmet delights. Built in 1918, the hotel's original marble façade complements a new contemporary style interior, recently refurbished to provide modern day comforts. Sky City Casino, Adelaide Convention Centre and Rundle Mall shopping precinct are all within walking distance from the hotel.

The Tour Down Under sets off from Norwood on 20 January, weaving through the streets of Adelaide and up to South Australia's iconic wine regions in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley, before heading south through McLaren Vale and the picturesque Fleurieu Peninsula over a grueling 6 days and over 800km of cycling.

There is also a chance to see Lance Armstrong race in the Cancer Council Classic on 18 January, a 51km precursor sprint event to the Tour Down Under that starts in Adelaide's Rymill Park.

To book your 'Tour Down Under' package at the Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide visit or phone the hotel direct on 1800 888 222 and quote "TDU"

* Subject to availability. Package is a minimum 3 night stay valid 16 to 26 January 2009.


It’s Christmas again – and this year Hawaiian Airlines has a gift with a difference for its friends in Australia – a three-course Christmas dinner recipe from celebrated Maui chef and restaurateur Beverly Gannon, who is also the airline’s own consulting chef.

Bev owns two of Hawaii’s most famous restaurants, both on the magnificent island of Maui – the iconic Hali’imaile General Store (which has just celebrated its 20 year anniversary) and Joe’s, in coastal Wailea – and her guests have included some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Sharon Stone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alice Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Bryan Adams, Willie Nelson and Jason Alexander – to name a few - have all dined at Hali’imaile General Store, established on a former pineapple plantation in upcountry Maui, while Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan and Ray Romano are among the many celebrities to eat at Joe’s.

“Hawaii is one of the world’s most iconic holiday destinations – and with our restaurants we have added a culinary dimension to any visit,” said Chef Bev. “Our guest list includes a real Who’s Who of show business, and reflects not only the dining experience we offer, but the enduring appeal of Hawaii as a vacation location.”

For those yet to decide what to serve for Christmas dinner (or for any get together at all during the festive season) Chef Bev offers this three-course suggestion – as a starter, her famous Spicy Crab and Shrimp Napoleon, followed by a main course of Herb Roasted Tenderloin with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce and rounded off with a Pina Colada Cheesecake! All three recipes are attached.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Sherilyn Robinson, Sales and Marketing Manager Australia for Hawaiian Airlines, said: “We are proud to have Bev Gannon as consulting chef to our airline, bringing her considerable expertise to our menu design, and adding even more value for our customers. Unlike our main competitor we offer authentic Hawaiian service, and we include meals, drinks and main screen entertainment in our air fare between Australia and Hawaii.”

For more information about Bev Gannon and her Hawaiian restaurants, visit And for more information about visiting Hawaii, and Hawaiian Airlines nonstop flights from Australia to the Islands of Aloha, visit

Hawaii is also the perfect stopover destination for passengers travelling to or from one of the 10 US mainland destinations served by Hawaiian Airlines.

Monday 22 December 2008

Otway Fly Abseiling

The Otway Fly has introduced abseiling from Tower 15 on its tree top canopy walk. Visitors can take in the beautiful views of the ancient rainforest , then abseil 25 metres down to the rain forest floor.

“It’s an exhilarating experience and is a first for tree top walks” says Elaine Burridge, General Manager. “We wanted to bring a new attraction to the area and had the perfect opportunity to add another element to the Otway Fly experience”.

Tower 15 is on the "off" ramp of the Fly. Guests can experience the walk with the 47m tower and cantilever, then drop off the Fly onto the track on the return to the visitor centre.

The first guest said “I was so excited to be the first person to take off from the Otway Fly and am definitely going to bring my friends to give it a go, it’s amazing!”

Westcoast Adventures will conduct the abseiling and have been operating since 1993. They’re well known for providing adventure activities and have introduced thousands of people to the exciting recreational activities in the area.

“We’re passionate about educating people about the rainforest and have many programs in place for schools, universities, corporate teams and social clubs. Part of the education is experiencing the rainforest and it’s a good way for people to have fun and want to help us preserve this beautiful asset.” says Burridge.

Westcoast Adventure’s staff have a genuine love of the outdoors and are passionate about preserving the outdoors for future generations. They’re experienced and qualified, and enjoy sharing their experiences with others.

“We’ve teamed up with one of Australia’s best qualified operators and the region will see great benefits” says Burridge “I can see this being a very popular activity, which has generated a lot of interest”.

You don’t have to have any previous abseiling experience. The crew will put you in a safety harness and talk you through the simple instructions.

The Fly is directly accessible from Phillips Track and is 15 minutes' drive from Lavers Hill, 45 minutes from Apollo Bay and 40 minutes from Colac. Travelling time from Melbourne via the Princess Highway is 2.5 hours. Travelling time via the Great Ocean Road is 3.5 hours. Worth the journey.

And don’t forget you can save with our joint adult ticket offer with the Cape Otway Light Station and Otway Fly for only $28.50 (conditions apply).

Phone 03 5235 9200 for information or check the website at

Otway Ollie Tree Top Dragon

An ancient dinosaur egg hatched on the 20th of November 2008 on a rainforest path and adopted by the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. Ollie now calls the breathtaking cool temperate rainforest home.

“Ollie has so much fun and loves playing on the 600 metre long, 25 metre high elevated tree top walk. It’s the worlds longest and highest treetop walk, and it’s a kingdom fit for a dinosaur. He’s always running up to his lair at the top of the 47 metre high tower for a birds eye view through the canopy over the wet eucalypt & cool temperate forests” says Elaine Burridge GM.

Ollie is a very good baby dinosaur but all he wants to do is have fun! That’s why Ollie has invited all his new friends to come and play with him at his home, Otway Fly, on the 27th of December to 11 January.

“Ollie has giveaways for the kids and he is very, very excited! Ollie just can’t wait to show his dinosaur kingdom where there’s plenty of flora and fauna to see. Come and play on his new playground & go abseiling” Burridge says. On some weekends in January, there will even be Ollie’s real life cousins, the Roaming Reptiles, there to touch and play. Check the website for details

Ollie loves taking his new friends down the prehistoric path where they can see and learn more about the world of his dinosaur ancestors, which have been extinct for over 100 million years. Follow the trails through his Myrtle Forest home. Like Ollie, the Myrtle lives at the Fly and remains the keeper of millions of years of secrets.

“Ollie has been stomping around making lots of appearances in Geelong at the Westfield shopping centre and even the Apollo Bay Day Care Centre where he had a great time at his first ever Christmas party” says Burridge. You can check him out at Facebook under Otway Ollie.

The Fly is directly accessible from Phillips Track and is 15 minutes' drive from Lavers Hill, 45 minutes from Apollo Bay and 40 minutes from Colac. Travelling time from Geelong is only 1.5 hours inland. Or if you have all day, take the famous scenic route along The Great Ocean Road. Well worth the journey.

Visit the Fly between 27 December to 25 January (inc) between 9am - 10.30am, first Adult pays $19.50 for Fly entry, 2nd Adult receives 50% off entry. Not valid with any other offer, conditions apply.

RACV and other Australian Motoring Association Members (NRMA, RAA, RACQ etc), upon presentation of membership card, will receive a discount on Adult ticket prices.

Don’t forget you can also save with our joint adult ticket offer with the Cape Otway Light Station and Otway Fly for only $28.50 (conditions apply).
Gift vouchers are available and are the perfect present for those hard to buy for. Phone 03 5235 9200 for information or check the website at
For further media information contact Elaine Burridge on 0417 089 589 or Debbie Howie PR on 0417 572 228

Otway Fly Tree Top Walk - winner of 2008 Powercor Colac Otway Tourism/Hospitality Award

A Journey Less Ordinary with Scandinavian Airlines

Ever wondered where you find the best Martini in Scandinavia; what's the latest fashionable restaurant in Delhi; what the best morning, midday or evening experience is in Chicago; or where to get the best bargains in Tokyo? Or how about the best public transport route in New York; where to power lunch in Beijing; or where to dine alone in Seattle?

To find the best insider tips in its long-haul destinations, Scandinavian Airlines sent local correspondents to check every corner, peer down every side street and look under every stone to update the 2009 version of its unique guidebook, Our World. Launched last year, Our World became a huge success worldwide and is now available in a brand new, fully updated version.

A sleek guidebook like no other, Our World offers its readers the chance to discover the true hidden gems that will make them feel like a local, not a tourist, in the destinations they visit. The guide also contains tips from the SAS crew, as well as from SAS International's CEO, Lars Sandahl Sørensen.

Our World covers all SAS long-haul destinations, as well as its Nordic hubs: Bangkok, Beijing, Chicago, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dubai, Helsinki, New York, Oslo, Seattle, Stockholm, Tokyo and Washington DC.

Our World is published by P&R Publishing on behalf of SAS. P&R Publishing also publishes the immensely popular SAS Crew Guides. All guides can be purchased for €15 from

SAS also offers more than 60 FREE City Guides on it's website covering destinations across it's network including SAS’ newest intercontinental destination Delhi, as well as SAS' other Asian gateways Tokyo, Beijing and Bangkok. These guides provide information you need about global destinations featuring basic facts, history, sightseeing, entertainment, restaurants, hotels, important addresses and detailed maps.

“The SAS City Guides are somewhat more dynamic than your typical travel guide, with content on what's up and the best tips, sourced from our own SAS crew and customers, says Lars Olofsson, General Manager SAS Australia and New Zealand. “ This makes for some great exploring, regardless of whether you are a first time or regular visitor to the destination.”

Download your FREE SAS City Guide at

Friday 19 December 2008

Last Minute Bookings Boost

With many families choosing to save their dollars this year, bookings started off slowly for what is usually a very busy period.

Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove however has seen a late surge in bookings for January.

General Manager Patrick Hardy says traditionally this period is heavily booked by mid November, however most families were holding off and shopping around for the best offer.

“Our 21% off your stay offer to celebrate our 21st birthday, is starting to take off,” said Patrick.

“In the last week we’ve seen a considerable increase in bookings from Gold Coast locals who are preferring to holiday at home, as well as many families within the one to three hour drive market,” he said.

Families wanting to holiday at this award winning resort and celebrate Hyatt’s coming of age with the special ‘21% off your stay’ offer can do so until 31 January.

Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove is one of the Gold Coast’s favourite resort hotels and is situated on the northern end of the Gold Coast in the exclusive residential community of Sanctuary Cove. The luxurious resort hotel was named Australia’s Leading Golf Resort 2007 and 2008 and is also home to the magnificent one-acre salt water beach lagoon pool which was recently listed as one of the country’s best resort pools.

A stay at Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove is perfect for families wanting to holiday on the Gold Coast but not be right in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Hyatt is only a short drive from the Gold Coast’s major theme parks and adjoins The Marine Village which offers over 90 specialty tenants including restaurants, cafes, a movie theatre and boutiques.

There’s no better time to stay at this resort. The ‘21% off your Stay’ offer is available to book until 24 January 2009 for stays through to 31 January 2009.

For more information on the award-winning Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove and the ‘21% off your Stay’ offer visit or call reservations on 13 1234.

Only One Stop To New Zealand

Grand Pacific Tours, the New Zealand Luxury Coach Holiday specialist, has just released their 2009/10 season programmes. With some major changes incorporated.

For the first time in the company’s history all of the coach programmes are included in the one brochure. The 10, 11, 16 and 19 Day Luxury Coach Holidays plus the 19 Day Rail/Coach Holiday and the inclusion of the 15 Day Ultimate New Zealand Experience as a pull-out supplement, means that anyone contemplating a New Zealand Coach Holiday only need refer to the one brochure.

The 19 Day Rail/Coach Holiday includes an exclusive overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands on the newly built catamaran Ipipiri, which was the original Maori word for the area. Grand Pacific Tours is the only Australian Tour Operator that has been given the rights to include the overnight cruise into a tour series during its inaugural year. Accommodation is in King Staterooms with private facilities and sea-views whilst dinner will be of local produce including seafood and BBQ.

The 19 Day Grand New Zealand Tour has changed slightly with the inclusion of the wine growing Wairarapa Region on the North Island. Travellers shall be treated to a pre-dinner Wine & Cheese Experience, which will be presented by a local wine or cheese maker at the newly renovated Copthorne Hotel & Resort, Solway Park. A tour of the region incorporating Carterton, Greytown and Martinborough takes in an area that is not visited by any other tour operator.

The inclusion of the 15 Day Ultimate New Zealand Experience featuring the most expensive coach built to date in Australia within the main brochure is to highlight the diversity of product on offer by the company. Also both the 10 Day South Island and 16 Day Highlights tour shall have select departures where traveller’s can upgrade to travel on the Ultimate Coach and experience the luxury, comfort and style that has already won it accolades from the industry and past clients.

A new innovation that the company has introduced is ‘Wine Time’ where each hotel shall provide a discounted drink offer for one hour prior to dinner. This enables everyone to socialise with their fellow traveller’s reliving the day’s highlights. This is described in more detail over a two-page listing of benefits when people travel with Grand Pacific Tours.

Grand Pacific Tours will continue to guarantee all published departure dates and prices and of course there is the peace of mind that all bookings must be made through a licensed Travel Agent.

Brochures are available now from Grand Pacific Tours and can be ordered or viewed online at or by calling 1800 622 768.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Australians addicted to cruising

Of 20.5 million Australians, 263,435 took a sea cruise holiday last year - or almost one in every 80 men, women and children. Another 11,761 Australians bobbed along the rivers and canals of Europe. The 2007 total is a 116 per cent jump over a five-year period, according to an umbrella body, International Cruise Council Australasia.

Cruise officials say their leisure niche is poised for another bumper year - and will be less buffeted by the stormy seas of economic turbulence than the rest of the troubled travel industry. Holidays afloat clearly give a big chunk of the Australian public what it wants - not that all cruise aficionados are attracted for the same reasons. Some go aboard for the onboard party atmosphere - intent on dining, drinking and nightclubbing. Others seek out quiet hideaways to read, play board games and unwind from hectic onshore careers. One woman I met on a ship boasted of travelling on nine cruises and never going ashore at any port of call. Shipboard life was enough for her. Others rate highly the freedom from repeated packing and unpacking. As the cruise people put it, "destinations come to you".

Twin trends are the increasing popularity of ever-larger ships carrying more and more passengers - and, proving these aren't for everyone, simultaneously growing business for small, specialist vessels going to off-the-beaten-track destinations unable to accommodate seagoing giants. While choice is vast - where there's water, cruising usually exists - potential pitfalls exist for anyone shopping for a cruise break.

Ways to avoid these include:
- Researching as much as possible about your chosen route and vessel (including checking on whether the ship is aimed mainly at the old, the young, in-betweens or all age categories).
- Using a specialist travel agent with well-honed knowledge of the cruise business.
- Having a back-up plan if your first choice of vessel and destinations aren't available - so that you aren't talked into something unsuitable. After all, if your heart is set on a dream trip to the icy Antarctic, a cruise across the tropical South Pacific - no matter how good - could leave you feeling disappointed.

Where do Australians go? Statistics from International Cruise Council Australasia reveal more than six in 10 opt for the waters of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Asian destinations attract roughly nine per cent of the market, with Alaska and Europe (mostly the Mediterranean) luring slightly less. South America, Africa, Antarctica (where high prices keep numbers down) and the rest of the world are a mere seven per cent.

Most passengers want voyages of eight to 14 days, with five to seven days the next most popular. However, a growing minority of passengers pick longer cruises. Australia is poised this summer for its biggest cruise season on record, according to Carnival Australia, the country's largest operator with Cunard Line, Princess Cruises and P&O among its brands. Twelve Carnival ships will make 225 calls at Australian ports. Passenger numbers are "up 20 per cent on last season," says Ann Sherry, chief executive officer of Carnival Cruises Australia. Many passengers fly to join cruise ships for segments of multi-country voyages, with flights and hotel stays built into the price. For instance, Australians can board these ships here - and disembark at a foreign port to fly home. Or, some passengers fly to join cruises in the Mediterranean or Caribbean - and then take flights back to Australia. However, many Australians prefer locally-based ships - such as P&O's Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun - which often pick them up and drop them off at a port close to home.

These two ships have added two-night and three-night mini-cruises to their menus. The same ships' longer cruises commonly include Australian and New Zealand ports as well as destinations in nearby South Pacific island countries such as Fiji and Vanuatu.

Big ships usually include a choice of restaurants and bars as well as nightclubs, cabaret lounges, shops, spas, child-minding centres, swimming pools and other amenities. Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess - based in Australasian waters this summer - may seem gigantic: it carries 2,700 passengers and 1,100 crew. But compared to some vessels - particularly the latest American vessels based in the Caribbean - it's a minnow. For instance, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas accommodates 4,700 passengers.

While these will enable more people to cruise, added capacity comes at a bad time. Worsening economic conditions particularly in the important United States market have dented demand.

Discounting, already common in the industry, is expected to become even more widespread making cruises to destinations such as the Caribbean more affordable as shipping lines try even harder to woo non-American travellers.

Wow factor is an important marketing device on the biggest ships - with artificial rivers, waterfalls and so on. The industry, well positioned in the "mature" market, is trying to broaden its appeal to young adults with the addition of rock-climbing walls, bowling alleys, ice skating and the like. More than ever, it's important to pick a vessel on which you'll feel most comfortable. Antarctic cruises feature highly on many a wish list. Most leave from Ushuaia in Argentina with some departing from Punta Arenas in Chile. The Antarctic is a fast-growing niche. Last year 612 cruises ships visited the frozen south, nearly twice as many as five years previously. Again, do your homework. Many ships deployed for Antarctic cruises don't have ice-strengthened hulls. "As soon as there's floating ice around they move out quickly," says Benjamin Krumpen, an executive of German-based Phoenix Reisen which sends many passengers to the Antarctic. (A Canadian ship sank last year after hitting an iceberg, 1000 kilometres from Cape Horn, but all aboard were quickly rescued and there was no loss of life). What's more, a shipping industry code of practice ensures vessels with more than 500 passengers aren't allowed to conduct shore excursions. Some ships merely give views of northernmost ice.

Joining Australia-based Orion, with ice-strengthened hull, does not require a trip to south America. It uses New Zealand's Bluff and Australia's Hobart on its Antarctic and sub-Antarctic exploration voyages. The Orion takes 106 passengers in five-star environs and has benefited from a preference, in part of the market, for small ships and expedition-style cruising with plentiful shore excursions and knowledgeable lecturers. (Other Orion voyages include Papua New Guinea, Australia's remote Kimberley region and Asian ports). Papua New Guinea can also be explored on Aurora Expeditions' Marina Svetaeva. This ice-strengthened Russian vessel is also used for Aurora's Antarctic voyages and visits to the Russian Far East. Melanesian Travel Services uses its small but comfortable Kalibobo Spirit to explore the coastal villages of Papua New Guinea as well as cruise down that country's mighty Sepik river or to PNG's Trobriand Islands.

Prefer Europe's rivers and canals? Globus is among companies marketing cruises along the rivers of Europe, where there's a trend among repeat visitors to cruise along lesser-known waterways. It's wise to check with operators that land excursions cover what you want to see.

Western Australia's far-flung Kimberley region, with its rugged coastline and broad rivers, is explored by Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises' 18-passenger Kimberley Quest II.

Guests stay in roomy cabins with spacious en suites. The vessel is small enough to visit remote upriver locations. Mangrove-lined tributaries are reached aboard motorised dinghies. Shore trips include rambles to ancient Aboriginal rock art, scenic waterfalls and other spots as well as to a crashed World War II aircraft.

Aboard, passengers quickly get to know their fellow travellers in an environment showcasing good food and drink. Amenities include a swimming pool and library.

Among Kimberley Quest II's competitors in this region is North Star Cruises' 36-passenger True North which has added the option of exploring little-visited parts of the South Australian coastline, promising chances to eyeball great white sharks as well as visiting Kangaroo Island and McLaren Vale wineries.

Other small-ship forays include Captain Cook Cruises' voyages on the Great Barrier Reef, Murray River, Sydney Harbour (a weekend mini-cruise) and in Fiji. A modestly-priced alternative is a cruise on Australia's only remaining mixed-use assenger-cargo coastal ship.

A lifeline to the Torres Strait, laden with general cargo, Sea Swift's MV Trinity Bay sails northbound from Cairns every Friday, returning on Wednesdays. Some passengers choose the round-trip, others go either northbound or south (flying in the opposite direction or loading a vehicle aboard so they need drive only up or down Cape York Peninsula).

Because most of the trip is within the reef, sailing conditions are usually very calm. A maximum of 38 passengers have a choice between en suite or shared facilities with standards akin to those in a mid-market motel.

Other than a bar and restaurant, amenities found on large vessels are absent. Ports of call include Horn Island and Thursday Island where optional tours are available. But the MV Trinity Bay - which seldom advertises - is often sold out. So, book early. Another oddball option: the last of the world's grand mail ships, Andrew Weir Shipping's RMS St Helena which sails from South Africa's Cape Town to one of Britain's few remaining colonies, the island of St Helena (which has no airport). It takes 128 passengers in luxury, as well as mail and other cargo. St Helena - where passengers can remain ashore for about a week while the ship makes a side-trip to Ascension Island - is populated by about 7,000 people. It's delightfully old-fashioned, a time-warp "little England" of little crime and genteel manners. People are of mixed African, Asian and European descent. Narrow winding roads head to the island's scenic interior. Several hotels cater to visitors.

The isolated colony - where exiled Napoleon died - is the ultimate in getting-away-from-it-all. As an islander put it to me, today's biggest cruise liners could accommodate almost the entire population of this lonely pinprick in the Atlantic Ocean.

Taiwan – a safe haven far from the madding crowd

Australians who have put their holiday travel plans on hold due to recent terrorist attacks might like to consider Taiwan as their holiday destination. Taiwan is not only fascinating and beautiful, it’s also safe. According to “Taiwan has a low incidence of crime including petty crime.” -making it an ideal alternative to some of the world’s current hotspots.

Religion plays a major role in the lives of the peaceful Taiwanese people Buddhism, Daoism and folk religions are their traditional forms of worship, but what makes Taiwan unique is that with the exception of a small number of purely Buddhist temples, most of the island's traditional places of worship combine all three traditions.

Taiwan offers a smorgasbord of delights for the Australian traveller who enjoys Asian culture; Vibrant cities and historic towns, fresh and varied cuisines to tempt the taste buds, lush forests and clean city streets.

Highlights of a visit to Taipei would include a trip to Taipei 101, currently the world’s tallest building and a visit to the National Palace Museum which houses more than 620,000 relics dating back over 5,000 years. There are also numerous historic temples to visit, exciting and varied night life and performing arts, night markets and modern shopping malls.

The local countryside is beautiful and unspoilt. Take a day trip to Yangmingshan for bush walks or Yeliu to view the rocks eroded by the sea and wind and unwind surrounded by the beauty of nature. The wonderfully serene Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge with cliffs of marble are also easy short trips from Taipei.

For a tranquil, peaceful holiday suitable for tourists of any age, explore the wonders of Taiwan with its relaxed and friendly people. This unique island nation really does offer something for everyone at low cost and high value.

For further information contact Taiwan Tourism visit

Wednesday 17 December 2008


A 14-night cruise package from the UK next September to the
fascinating Baltic region and Russia's St Petersburg - including return air from Sydney to London and two nights there pre-cruise – is available with an exclusive saving of up to 40% off the normal price if booked early through Cruiseco.

The classic 650-passenger Saga Ruby that operates cruises exclusively for the over-50s, will sail from Dover on September 4 2009, transiting the Kiel Canal and visiting Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg for two days, Tallinn in Estonia, Riga (Latvia,) Warnemunde for a visit to Berlin, Copenhagen, Mandal in Norway and Southampton.

Cruiseco's Early Bird prices for bookings made before March 8 2009 include all onboard fine dining, entertainment, onboard gratuities, and such diversions as traditional daily English afternoon teas, ballroom dancing to a full orchestra, classical concerts, lessons in the onboard Computer Learning Centre, and guest speakers covering a diversity of subjects.

The Early Bird price for this package, that also includes return air and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns or Perth to London, two nights pre-cruise stay in London and return
airport/down London and pier transfers, begins from $6,669pp twin-share ($6,557 ex-Perth.)

For full details phone 1800 225 656 or visit for the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise specialist travel agency Australia-wide.

V Australia: Ho Ho Ho!! It’s Off To The USA We Go...For AUD$1199* return

V Australia Launches “Not Deer Christmas Cheer” Sale And Gears Up For 27 February 2009 Take Off

V Australia Airlines is bringing Australian travellers an early Christmas treat, offering return airfares to the United States of America for up to 45% off the normal economy fare. V Australia goes on sale today with thousands of AUD$1199* fares up for grabs from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles.

The sale follows confirmation of V Australia’s new launch date of 27 February 2008. The airline’s original launch date of 15 December 2008 was delayed due to industrial action at the Boeing factory in Seattle, which slowed down the delivery of V Australia’s launch aircraft.

V Australia has announced it will take delivery of its first brand new 777-300ER on Australia Day (26 January) with the aircraft due to touch down on Australian soil for the first time on Monday 9 February, following the fit-out of special cabin features post Boeing handover.

The delivery date has paved the way for V Australia to confirm the launch date of Friday 27 February 2009 for its historic trans-Pacific inaugural flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. The airline will initially operate three weekly direct services before ramping up to daily flights from 20 March 2009 following the delivery of additional 777-300ER aircraft.

V Australia Executive General Manager, Scott Swift, said, “While we never took our foot off the pedal, the team is now in full flight preparing for the delivery of our first aircraft, subsequent approval processes and of course the actual launch of Australia’s newest long haul airline.”

He continued, “From the outset, we committed to launching an airline that offered an outstanding and innovative three class option across the trans-Pacific. We also committed to offering value for money fares and the $1199* return all-inclusive fare currently on offer is almost half the normal fare and is very much in the spirit of V Australia and the festive season.”

The AUD$1199* sale is for flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles and is on sale now until 29 December 2008 with a travel period 1 March 2009 – 24 October 2009. V Australia has also confirmed Wednesday 8 April 2009 as the revised launch date for direct Brisbane-Los Angeles flights, with three weekly direct flights to LA, the gateway to the USA.

All New 2009 New Zealand and Fiji Luxe Travel Experiences

Navigate Oceania, the collection of 28 inspired New Zealand and Fiji luxury lodges, retreats and private islands announces for 2009 eight new luxe individually themed experiences. Rediscover adventures and experiences with new luxe themes of Spa, Culture, Wilderness, Adventure, Discoverer, South Pacific, Wine and Gourmet.

Karine Thomas, Director of Navigate Oceania said "Never has the time been more right to visit New Zealand and Fiji. NOW is the time to discover the very best lodges, retreats and private islands of New Zealand and Fiji and take advantage of extremely good local exchange rates versus US$ and UK₤ exchange rates of near 40% increase in the past 6 months. In New Zealand,  travel from your lodge by private light aircraft to whale watch in the Pacific Ocean, experience magical benefits of indigenous Maori well-being remedies using the renowned microbacterial properties of wild Manuka honey with locally sourced blossoms, herbs and china clay in restful and reviving therapies for men and women – individually designed, or by special chiefs permission in sharing the traditional Fijian Kava Ceremony gain access to the ancient fire walking sites and be initiated into the secret rituals local tribesman undertake to walk the hot stones safely. The very best of our Navigate collection brings unprecedented experiences  to the international traveler".

Treat yourself to a luxury break at one of these eight stunning luxe properties in the most sought after locations in New Zealand and Fiji with unprecedented savings.  Whether it's to rejuvenate, relax, experience gastronomic delights or for a decedent short break.

All experiences are valid to 31 March 2009 and include the very best accommodation in your choice of a luxury lodge, retreat or private island.

For consumer travel enquires contact the New Zealand and Fiji Specialist; Southern Crossings on +64 9 309 5912, email or visit their website

• The Navigate Oceania Collection of 28 inspired destinations and unique experiences from New Zealand and Fiji's finest boutique hotels and luxury lodges, an exclusive private island, villas, spa destinations, a luxury expedition-style cruise, and a private motor yacht. Our members are: New Zealand Cavalli Island Retreat and Spa, Cavalli Islands; Paihia Beach Resort and Spa, Bay of Islands; Bay of Island Lodge, Bay of Islands; Oceanic Discoverer; Mission Hills, Bay of Islands; Paihia Beach Resort & Spa, Bay of Islands; Waipoua Lodge, Waipoua Forest; Takatu Lodge & Vineyard, Matakana, The Boatshed, Waiheke Island; Stafford Villa, Auckland; Cotter House, Auckland; Seafields, Whitford; Maungatautari Lodge, Cambridge; Hamurana Country Estate, Rotorua; Kawaha Point Lodge, Rotorua; Treetops Lodge & Wilderness Experience, Rotorua; Chalet Eiger, Lake Taupo; The Millar Road Family, Hawke's Bay; Wharekauhau Country Estate, Martinborough; The Bolton Hotel, Wellington; Ohtel, Wellington; Edenhouse, Nelson; Claremont Country Estate, Canterbury; Huntley House, Christchurch; Elm Tree House, Christchurch; Wapiti Park Homestead, West Coast; Takaro Spa Retreat, Te Anau; Fiji Navutu Stars Resort, Yasawas; Royal Davui Island. For more information on our experiences, visit

New Summer 2009 Experiences:
• Spa experience: Manuka Honey Spa Retreat Experiences on Cavalli Island. Experience the magical benefits of indigenous Maori well-being remedies and a range of unique organic treatments delivered by New Zealand's very best spa therapists. They carefully combine the renowned microbacterial properties of wild Manuka honey with locally sourced blossoms, herbs and china clay in supremely restful and reviving therapies for men and women – each individually designed.

• Culture: Legendary Love Experiences at Kawaha Point Lodge. The award-winning luxury of Kawaha Point Lodge sits serenely on the water's edge of Lake Rotorua. Your day of romance and unforgettable scenery starts by private helicopter direct from Kawaha Point Lodge to Mokoia Island where a knowledgeable guide takes you deeper into this triumphant love story. Then a luxury motor yacht takes you back across Lake Rotorua to the Kawaha Point Lodge private jetty.

• Wilderness: Walks on the Wilderness Side at Treetops Lodge & Wilderness Experience. Every guest also receives a map with guides to extensive safe, self-guided walks that helpfully identifies native birds and introduced animals you might see. With seven trout fishing streams, four lakes, riding, mountain-bike expeditions and over 70 kilometers of hiking or walk trails, Treetops offers every guest a new unforgettable walk – and much more – on its wilderness side.

• Adventure: Abel Tasman & West Coast Wilderness by Sea & Air at Edenhouse. Enter the world-renowned Abel Tasman by boat to experience golden beaches, turquoise waters, native bush and pristine marine reserves. After lunch take off from Awaroa Beach by fixed-winged aircraft or helicopter and then fly for up to two hours. Share unforgettable bird's-eye views of Abel Tasman National Park, flying over Golden Bay to Farewell Spit, the longest natural sandbar in the world. Your air-expedition flies on down the West Coast following the route where it meets the crashing Tasman Sea, seeing coastal forests and New Zealand's unique Nikau palms. Land at Karamea, probably New Zealand's most isolated town, to enjoy a drink with the West Coasters at the Karamea Village Hotel.

• Discover: Whale, Fossil Fossicking and Wine Experiences at Claremont Country Estate. First, fly scenically to Kaikoura by private light aircraft where you will share the astonishing experience of whale watching in the Pacific Ocean, by boat or aircraft.  Your second day starts with a fascinating guided Land Rover safari through the 2,400 acre Claremont Estate to view the astounding natural formations called God's Marbles and then you go fossil fossicking with local paleontologist Leigh Love who guides you to areas of the Waipara riverbed known to contain marine fossils and remarkable geological features.

• South Pacific: Legendary Fire-walking Experiences at Royal Davui Island, Fiji. Your Fijian-firewalking experience begins with a boat ride across the lagoon waters from Royal Davui Island to Dakuibeqa on Beqa Island. Here you must first request permission to gain access to the ancient fire-walking site by sharing a traditional Fijian Kava Ceremony at the chief's residence. Only then will you be initiated into the secret rituals that the men must undertake in order to cross the hot stones safely – like remaining celibate from their wives for 14 days. Then, safely back across the lagoon to the relaxing sanctuary of Royal Davui, where this privileged experience concludes with an authentic firewalking ceremony.

• Wine: Cycles & Vines Experiences at Greenhill Lodge. Pedal power is a fun and eco-friendly way to explore vineyards, and the world-renowned Ngatarawa Triangle region and Gimblett Gravels appellation are within a few minutes of Greenhill. First you choose to be 'On Yer Bike' from mountain bikes, tandems or rickshaws and then we help you select a suitable route.

• Gourmet: Tasting the True Wharekauhau Experience at Wharekauhau Lodge and Country Estate. See the day-to-day life of classic sheep raising, and dine on the estate's prize-winning Texel lamb that uniquely marbles delicate fat throughout its fine flesh. It's complemented with home-grown produce from the estate's pesticide-free gardens, including asparagus, tomatoes, herbs, the tasty Pajaro strawberry – even watercress. The terroir of the Wairarapa's exceptional pinot noir wines perfectly underpins the nature-true flavours from Wharekauhau's pastures and gardens.


The Hunter Valley has a reputation as the perfect destination for couples, but what many don't realise it's that it also perfect for families, especially with Hunter Valley Gardens offering over two weeks of Australiana School Holiday Fun from 3 – 18 January 2009. To celebrate the school holidays, Kids Stay, Play and Eat for Free, making it even more affordable for a family getaway (valid from 1 Jan to 31 Jan).

Packages start from $189.00 per room per night at the Grand Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens and include accommodation for two adults and two children under the age of 12; free breakfast for two children when their parents buy breakfast; free dinner for two children from the kids menu when dining with their parents; and a free gift for children on entry into the adjacent Hunter Valley Gardens. The hotel will also be screening children's movies nightly from 6.30pm to keep the kids amused while mum and dad can enjoy a Hunter Valley wine in peace.

As part of the Australiana School Holiday festival, the award-winning international display garden will host a number of events designed to educate children and celebrate the heritage of Australia including Aboriginal craft and painting, face painting, free Australian flag temporary tattoos and Aboriginal dance and musical performances.

Children will love the Storybook Garden which celebrates all their favourite nursery story characters including Jack & Jill, Humpty Dumpty, Alice in Wonderland, and Little Bo Peep. For adults there are 11 other gardens including an Italian grotto, Chinese garden, Indian Mosaic Garden, all linked by pathways and walks that the whole family can enjoy.

The Hunter Valley Gardens complex includes everything you could want for a family holiday including the Hunter Valley Steakhouse, Hunter Valley Gardens village with a range of boutiques and restaurants, Roche Wine Cellar Door, picnic areas, playgrounds and more.

The 72-room hotel provides a range of accommodation styles including studio suites, garden studios, spa rooms, family rooms and suites, so families can choose what best suits their needs.

Leisure facilities include tennis courts, a resort-style pool, sauna, spa, and Lodge Library, with the Hunter Valley Gardens Village – and all its attractions - right at the doorstep.

Recently recognised as Best Significant Tourist Attraction at the 2008 Hunter Tourism Awards, Hunter Valley Gardens is set before the Brokenback Ranges in the heart of the Hunter Valley, with 60 acres of magnificent garden displays including eight kilometres of pathways, 6000 trees, 600,000 shrubs and more than a million plants. The gardens showcase ten internationally themed gardens, which provide a fantastic location in which to relax.

For bookings phone the Grand Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens on (02) 4998 2000

Tuesday 16 December 2008


Eighteen leisurely days cruising the islands of the South Pacific from Sydney to Hawaii is selling aboard the luxury Dawn Princess from just $2899pp twin-share – a saving of $800 per person over previously advertised prices if booked through, and including a night post-cruise in Waikiki and air from Honolulu back to Sydney*.

The 77,500 tonne Dawn Princess will cruise out of Sydney on April 18 next year for four laid-back days at sea before visiting Nuku'alofa and Vava'u in Tonga, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, a day and a night in Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Christmas Island, and two final days at sea before arriving in Honolulu where there's a night at the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel.

Dawn Princess, that's the length of three football fields, offers Princess Cruises' Anytime Dining with dishes created by chef-members of the famed Chaine des Rotisseurs gastronomic society, and a choice of a Traditional Dining Room, a specialty Steakhouse, 24-hour bistro, a poolside hamburger and hot dog grill, patisserie, pizzeria, and an ice-cream bar.

There's also an extensive choice of bars and lounges, two nightly live-stage showrooms, late-release movies, four pools, a sports court, spa with ocean-view gym, and a "listening library."

For full details phone 1300 369 848 or visit * Air taxes and fuel surcharges applicable at time of booking are additional.

Qantas Takes Delivery Of Second A380

Qantas took delivery of its second A380 aircraft in Toulouse, France, overnight.

The Executive General Manager of Qantas, Mr John Borghetti, said the aircraft would arrive in Sydney tomorrow morning, 17 December, and begin operating services between Melbourne and Los Angeles and Sydney and Los Angeles on 22 December.

Qantas’ third aircraft is scheduled to be delivered on 27 December. Its arrival will allow the airline to commence A380 services between Sydney and London via Singapore on 16 January 2009.

“The first Qantas A380 has been operating up to three services a week between Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles since October, and its performance has more than matched our expectations, with customer feedback extremely positive,” Mr Borghetti said.

“This second aircraft will allow us to increase frequency to Los Angeles to as many as six return services each week.

“The delivery of aircraft three will see Qantas commence of three return services per week between Sydney and London Heathrow in January.” Mr Borghetti said the second A380 had been named Hudson Fysh in honour of one of the founders of Qantas and the airline’s first Managing Director.

“All of our A380s are being named after pioneers of Australian aviation. Our third aircraft will honour another Qantas founder, Paul McGinness, while aircraft four, to be delivered in the first half of 2009, will be named after Fergus McMaster, the third founder of Qantas and its first Chairman,” he said.

Qantas is scheduled to take delivery of a further four A380s in 2009, and a fleet of 20 aircraft is scheduled to be in service by the end of 2013.

Cruise Holiday Checklist for Plain Sailing

As Australia prepares for its biggest cruise season ever, the International Cruise Council Australasia has come up with some tips to help holidaymakers choose the right cruise for their next vacation.

More international ships have put Australia on their ‘must-visit’ list than ever before this summer – including Royal Caribbean International’s impressive Rhapsody of the Seas, Holland America’s Statendam and Amsterdam and Cunard Line’s legendary QE2 and brand new ocean liner Queen Victoria.

Cruise Council General Manager Brett Jardine said the busy summer cruise season reflected growing demand for cruise holidays in Australia and worldwide. Mr Jardine said the Council’s 23 member cruise lines had 30 new ship builds planned over the next three years, with ships ranging from large ocean cruise liners to small expedition ships and river cruise vessels – giving potential passengers even more variety.

He recommended potential cruisers head to the Cruise Council website, to start researching their holiday.

“Our website provides information on each of our members and the different types of cruise product they offer – from river cruising in Europe to ocean voyages around the world,” Mr Jardine said. He said the Council had 10 simple tips for people planning a cruise holiday:

1. Research – take a moment to think about your perfect cruise holiday and decide how much time you have, how much you can spend and who you will travel with. This will make it much easier to decide which cruise holiday is for you!
2. Ship – modern-day cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes offering a wide variety of cruise holidays to suit everyone, from small luxury vessels cruising Europe’s rivers to megaliners offering a huge choice of onboard activities like rock climbing and dance lessons.
3. Destination – if you have a particular destination in mind, chances are that there’s a cruise ship that goes there. As the popularity of cruising holidays grows, so too do the number of destinations that ships visit each year – from unspoilt South Pacific ports, to the historic cities of Europe and the exotic cities of Asia.
4. Season – compare your availability with the best time to travel to your preferred destination. Places like Alaska are only accessible during the Australian winter, others like the Caribbean are great to cruise to year-round, while kids love to travel with playmates the same age during school holidays.
5. Knowledge – make sure to speak with a cruise expert to help you organise your dream cruise. The Cruise Council website’s Travel Agent Search will put you in touch with an accredited travel agent in your local area.
6. Cabins – when it comes to your home-away-from-home, think about what sort of holiday you want. If you plan to spend little time in your cabin, opt for a smaller, inside cabin and take the savings with you as extra spending money. A larger cabin might suit a longer voyage or for a little luxury, choose a private balcony and soak up the incredible views.
7. Dress – cruise passengers often look forward to the chance to dress up on their holidays. Some cruise lines have very casual dress codes while others can be quite classy, particularly on formal nights. It’s a good idea to check dress codes for the cruise ship you select.
8. Deals – book as far in advance as possible to get the best deals and choice of cabin on your cruise holiday. And don’t forget if you are travelling with a group of friends or family there may be special group deals.
9. Packages – cruise lines offer a host of services designed to take the stress out of planning your holiday and save you money. Many will offer special deals on flights and accommodation in the cities where your cruise begins or ends, as well as transfers to the ship.
10. Paperwork – taking out comprehensive travel insurance is a must to ensure any hassle-free holiday. Before you book, make sure your passport is current for at least six months after the date you return home and also check with your travel agent or cruise line if any visas are necessary.

“Our other recommendation is that travellers leave their day-to-day worries on the dock when they board their ship and focus on relaxing to make the most of their cruise holiday,” Mr Jardine said. “Your cruise ticket is also your ticket to leave the grind of the real world behind for a true holiday.”

For more information visit

Sunday 14 December 2008

Get lost with Hidden Italy – off the beaten track

The demand for walking tours in Italy has increased dramatically in recent years, and why not asks Simon Tancred of Hidden Italy, a boutique travel company based in Sydney. What could be better than wandering through some of the most spectacular and peaceful areas of Europe, going back in time to places far removed from the push and shove (and expense) of the classic destinations like Rome, Florence and Venice, with the added bonus of finishing the day with a real sense of achievement and a clear conscience, ready to enjoy the best of Italian regional wine and cooking: fresh, seasonal and local?

“….. We are happy to be able to tell friends that we went to places and saw things that few tourists get to see. The views of the coast that we were privileged to experience were eye-popping. We feel we had the best of both worlds on this trip. With time off the beaten path in the green quiet and beauty of the hillsides and time at some of Italy’s best bustling resort towns, we consider this the trip of a lifetime.” BC, Amalfi Coast 2008

Hidden Italy was one of the pioneers of this style of travel and has been organising walking tours in Italy for over 15 years. “Fortunately,” says Tancred, “the local Italian authorities have become much more aware of the heritage and tourist value of preserving these ancient paths. Many of these that might have been lost in the past under road works or rural expansion, have now been saved.”

Hidden Italy incorporates sections of these paths into its seven self-guided walking itineraries in Italy, like the dizzy stairways carved from living rock by Etruscan slaves 2500 years ago in southern Tuscany; stone paths leading out of Assisi that date from the time of St Francis; and medieval pilgrim paths that run between San Gimignano and Siena.

"I still feel the thrill I experienced as I walked down the steep hill on stones that the Romans had gathered and walked on centuries ago with the walls and turrets of Orvieto suddenly coming into view – a once in a life time experience.” AL, La Tuscia 2007
Each 6 to 8 day itinerary is a continuous walk going from one village to another and covering from 10 to 18 kilometres a day. The walkers’ bags are moved every morning and their hotels and evening meals are waiting at the end of the walk. Each walker is given a set of detailed maps and walking notes and, just in case, there is 24-hour back up from the local tour managers. “A few people have taken wrong turns along the way, but fortunately we haven’t lost anyone yet.”

The walks go from the easiest, from Montalcino to Montepulciano walking through the rolling hills of southern Tuscany, to the more demanding Amalfi Coast, which includes the famous ‘Walk of the Gods’ into Positano on the last day. The most popular walk in recent years has been to the Cinque Terre in northern Italy, with its breath-taking coastal views and picture perfect fishing villages.

"We loved every moment of our walking trip. The organisation, instructions and service were all excellent. The food in the restaurants was quite delicious and very generous… We adored Vernazza and the superb accommodation you arranged there. We loved all the walks through forests and along the coast and the extra special bonus of having our luggage looked after and not having to worry about it." SW, Cinque Terre 2008

“These are walks, not hikes,” explains Tancred, “but you still need a good level of fitness and a sense of adventure. Most of our self-guided tour clients are aged between 35 and 55 but we get plenty of older people doing the walks as well. In fact some of our most enthusiastic walkers are well into their 60’s and beyond.”

“…… PS. As if the tour wasn't good enough, my one off hot romantic date with the New York journalist in Lipari has turned into something else entirely… All I can say is molto grazie!” KM Sicily 2008

The self-guided walks can be scheduled to suit the client’s dates. Hidden Italy also runs guided walking tours to Italy (Sicily in May and Venice and the Lakes in September/October).

For more information and bookings go to or contact Simon Tancred on 0416 439795.

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