International Travel

Consultant of the Month - Carol Horlock travels to Dubai

Wednesday 11 June 2014 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Last month, our WTP Leisure Travel Consultant, Carol Horlock visited Dubai an has shared her experience below:

Wednesday 14 May

On arrival, we collected our luggage and passed through Customs & Immigration without hassle.  We were separated in Groups according to Hotel allocation - We met our Arabian Adventure Transfer Guide and Coach transfer to our Hotel for the next 5 Nights.

Arrival at our Hotel- JUMEIRAH EMIRATES TOWERS best described as a very warm Welcome from The Hotel Manager Imran Changezi, Director of Sales Anne Liiyanage and our very lovely host from Germany Sales Manager-Leisure Kathrin Bauer.

Check-in was efficient – note all Passports’ were retained for scanning, we were advised they could be collected the next morning.    My room on 23rd floor, 2307 was large with a sitting area, large bathroom with Bath, Bidet, large separate shower, in room safe, Hairdryer and Mini Bar.  Bathroom Cabinet was cleverly designed with a large mirror plus a magnetic/light mirror.

After freshening up we met in the Hotel Lobby by Travco, Ground Operator for transfer to FAIRMONT THE PALMS, A Beachside location for a Welcome Function where we were greeted by Kim Tomlinson, Emirates Queensland Sales Manager Veronica Rainbird and Julie King from Dubai Tourism.  The evening was spent networking with associations and partners in this wonderful location with Food Stations set up to cater for all tastes, including some local delicacies. http://www.fairmont.com/palm-dubai/

Thursday 15 May

Transfer by Meeting Point UAE our Grand Transport to MEYDAN RACECOURSE (the richest Racehorse in the world is held here/Hosted by Meydan Hotel’s the DTCM Workshop included presentations by Key Partners and Suppliers. The new logo for Dubai Tourism featured.

Workshop – 4 minute tabletop presentations including Hotel’s, Operators and Suppliers.

Desert Safari – This experience not to be missed – reach by 4WD Dune Driving through the Desert has been renamed Dune Cruising, not to be confused with Dune Bashing (I declined the Dune Bashing but have it on good authority I did not miss anything with the 4WD Sand Experience being pleasurable).  The evening involves Falcon Viewing, Belly Dancing, Henna tattooing, and Arabic style buffet under the stars in the Bedouin-style camp.  Seating on huge cushions with the opportunity to experience the aromatic shisha.

Friday 16 May

MY DUBAI DAY – 41 Teams in Groups of 6 met at Dubai Mall (largest Shopping Mall in the World with 1200 shops) All Teams were provided with compulsory to wear Dubai T Shirts sporting the new Logo, Emirates Cap and Lanyard.  The event was sponsored by 1001 Events.  All Teams were provided with I Pads and instruction on how to complete the challenge for the day, involving a series of tasks to be combined with photographs uploaded to facebook.  The day started with access to At the Top of the Burj Khalifa, Tallest Building in the World. http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/


Set times with a short lift journey to floor 124.  Magnificent views of Dubai.  Any Visitors wishing to experience this definitely need to book.  Cost for General Admission set times- AED125.00 (Approx AUD38.00 per Adult) – Fast Track tickets available –AED400.00 Per Adult (Approx AUD$118.00)

The day concluded with Cocktails and Canapes at The Madinat Jumeirah on the Beach watching the sunset over the Burj Al Arab, a very special event, recommended to any extended stay Guests in Dubai.

 Saturday 17 May

Transfer by SNTTA Ground Operator for our Walking Tour of the old Souk Area, through the spices Souk on the Deira side, a good way to experience the Middle Eastern Culture, an opportunity to visit the Gold Souks (average cost $123 per gram, here you can bargain for as much Gold as you would like at the huge amount of Gold stores of various standards and type.  www.soukalbahar.ae

Walk to the Creek and board the traditional Abra (Water Taxi) to cross the Creek, on the other side the walk continued to Bastakiya an area established at the end of the 19th Century by Arab textile and pearl Trading Immigrants from Iran.  The area is being restored to provide Tourists with some of the Heritage and History of the Region and includes Galleries and Museum.  Located in the heart of old Dubai is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural understanding – A Traditional Emirati Brunch can be enjoyed – highly recommend this during any visit to Dubai www.culture.ae

 Sunday 18 May

Transfer by Gulf Venture (Virtuoso onsite) to Ski Dubai – Snow Resort, the First Indoor ski resort in the Middle East – bring the beanie and Gloves

ATLANTIS-AQUAVENTURE - http://www.atlantisthepalm.com/marineandwaterpark.aspx

The Ultimate Adventure and Water Park located at Atlantis The Palm – here you can float on the water all day, Scuba Drive, Visit the Dolphins, take in the amazing Lost Chamber Aquarium.  Ideal for Family visitors

Gala Dinner at Atlantis The Palm – An amazing array of Food from some of the 21 Restaurants at the Resort (including Nobu).  To top that off was the “Chocolate River” a 100kg of chocolate which circulates along a metal channel for dipping Fruit and other delicacies.  The amount and display of food was totally hedonistic.

The Group of 11,  I shared these experiences with, including Craig Brown, Senior Sales Executive who ensured that we all had a fantastic famil in Dubai.

SUMMARY

Best time to Visit Dubai – January/February – Best weather and for shopping sales, include 25 – 75% off

What is happening in Dubai -  www.dubaicalendar.com

Dress – Cultural sensitivities prevail – in Public areas Conservative, i.e. shoulders and knees should be covered.

Currency - Dirhams approximately 1$AUD = 3.41 Dhs Currency can be purchase in Australia, Bank for Currency Exchange.

Language – Arabic is official – English is widely spoken (80% expats make up the population of Dubai)

MarHuba = Welcome/Hello
Shukran = Tann k y ou
Na’am = Yes
La” = No

This opportunity was very beneficial as I had neither flown on Emirates, nor been to Dubai.  The experience was invaluable in my ability to provide informed advice to my clients, in particular since the Emirates/Qantas relationship has evolved and many more clients are stopping in Dubai.  Emirates has an excellent stopover programme check for promotions on emiratesagents.com/au

Dubai can be recommended as a stopover destination or for a more extended holiday that may include Abu Dhabi and Oman.  For clients who seek a shopping experience, the choices and options are endless.  I visited only 3 of the shopping malls which would probably take 12 months or more to explore, Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre. In Dubai Mall you can find Dubai Aquarium, KidZania and At The Top Burj Khalifa, as well as high end stores and labels, such as Harvey Nicholls, Bloomingdales, Hambleys famous fine London Toy Store, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer Mango, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Coach etc. etc.

My sincere thanks to Emirates,  Dubai Tourism, Jumeirah Hotels and World Travel Professionals for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this excellent experience which I am sure will be mutually beneficial to all concerned.  I look forward to sharing knowledge gained with my colleagues.

Top 4 African Safari's

Tuesday 29 April 2014 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Looking for something exciting, something unforgettable? Look no further than an all inclusive African Safari. Leave all the worries behind and immerse yourself in nature at its finest. Whether it be by train, car, small group or private safari; let the local tour guides take you up close and personal with animals larger then life. 

We have hand picked the Top 4 Best Safaris, offering you a variety of options for a holiday that suits you and your individual requirements. 


Four African Country Safari -
Fully Accommodated - 23 days from $6225*

• Small Group Departure • Breakfast included daily • Locally Guided • 3 Star Accommodation • Airfares and taxes included • Wildlife, Culture & History

A unique safari visiting four breathtaking countries; South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Enjoy the added comfort of 3 star accommodation, a fully equipped safari vehicle and services of a professional tour leader. All accommodation featured on this safari offers private en-suite facilities.

Full offer details >> 
For bookings and enquires, Click Here >>

African Train Safari -
Johannesburg to Victoria Falls (or vice versa)- 18 days from $7275*

• Unique train journey • Includes breakfast & dinner daily • Inclusive & optional touring daily • Airfares and taxes included

This 18 day journey enables participants to visit six countries in style. The route is carefully crafted to deliver stunning once in a life time experiences on a daily basis. The train travels leisurely between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, allowing numerous calls at destinations in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. As the tracks unfurl you will gain rare insight into the cultural and geographical cocktail that makes Southern Africa so vibrant and exciting. 

*See full offer details >> 
For bookings and enquires, Click Here >> 

Affordable South Africa
Singles Only Departures - On locally escorted tours of South Africa- No Single Supplement

Adventure Destinations are pleased to announce “Singles Only” departures on some of our best-selling South African guided tours, allowing single passengers to enjoy the company of other solo travelers but still experience the privacy of a single room, without having to pay any single supplements.

All the tours have been carefully planned to experience the absolute best of the chosen destinations. Southern Africa has a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s favourite travel destinations so join a group of likeminded individuals as you journey through Southern Africa, enjoying luxury transport, exquisite accommodation and fine dining. 

*See full offer details >> 
For bookings and enquires, Click Here >> 

Southern Africa - Small Group
Accommodated & Fully Serviced Camping Safaris

Travel on a small group accommodated or fully serviced camping safari that offers an authentic experience for the “young at heart” traveller.

*See full offer details >> 
For bookings and enquires, Click Here >> 

Bucket List Makers... Swimming with whale sharks

Wednesday 2 October 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Whether you have started writing your very own bucket list, generating one as you go, or thinking about building one, here is another experience we believe should make the cut; Swimming with Whale sharks in Borneo. 

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. They are slow moving animals and do not fear; they are filter feeding fish and pose no significant danger to humans. They like to swim around the tropical and warm waters. So, whilst enjoying the beauty of the open sea, why not swim next to a fish that can grow to over 12 meters, which is longer then your average bus? 

As we understand this may terrify some readers, we have come up with some other examples of things to do in Borneo. If swimming next to a fish that has a mouth span of around 1.5 meters doesn’t float your boat, how about hanging around with some Orangutans? Borneo also offers great trekking trails, bird watching at its finest and the chance to explore caves. 

Check out specialised tour packages available >>
Creat your own specialised tour package,  Contact our friendly team and enquire today >> 
Watch a video on Whale Sharks in Borneo >>

The Top 10 Most Beautiful Cities in the World.

Monday 12 August 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Bruges
A small city with big beauty. Bruges imitates what life would be like in the late middle ages. With medieval architecture and every little hidden gem is a snap shot of a fairytale. This Photogenic little city even puts the postcards to shame.

Florence
Known as the birth place of ‘renaissance’ and the ‘Tuscan capital’, this seductive and romantic city is home to some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. The colourful buildings and sunsets in the afternoon will have you wanting to take permit residence in this gorgeous city.

Paris
The heart of France has a long list of beauty. The art, the culture, the food and the museums. Known as the city of light, your heart will skip a beat when you see the Eiffel tower in all its glory. You will not just visit Paris, you will in fact fall in love with this cobbled street beauty.

Lisbon
The capital of Portugal is full of contemporary culture. The locals make you feel at home with their easy-going charm. As an all year round destination, Lisbon makes every season more beautiful then the last.

Venice
‘The city of water’, ‘The city of bridges’, ‘The floating city’, ‘The city of canals’. There is a never ending list of names for Venice, but one that sums it up perfectly for us.. ‘Undoubtably, the most beautiful city built by man’.

Prague
When Mirrored off the Vltava river, you get a sense of just how beautiful and magical this city is. The vibrant city full of culture, music art and countless churches, this enchanted city is one not to be missed.

Rio De Janeiro
Rio De Janerio offers something for everyone. From the breathtaking landscapes, to the laid back beaches. You can relax on the white sands beach or take full advantage of the nightlife, the dancing in the street and the numerous festivals all year round.

Amsterdam
Known as the Venice of the north, this quaint little city is full of beautiful canals, parks and relaxing charm. Amsterdam has a history of non-conformism and known for its progression. Amsterdam is the perfect place for those who just want to enjoy life without the hustle and bustle.

Rome
Rome is where you see history at it finest. With the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, and for all of those romantics; why not make a wish in the stunning Trevi Fountain. At every turn you can stumble across magnificent piece of history, and great food.

Budapest
A gorgeous city with a youthful atmosphere. Budapest has a pulsating nightlife. Spending the day walking along the river, and heading to the spas, you can really take in the city’s beauty.
  

A Real life fairytale...

Wednesday 3 July 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

There is one thing that most Fairytales have in common, that is the presence of a Castle. Ever wondered how all the Princesses and Princes felt in their luxury castles? Well wonder no more. We have shortlisted our favourite castles from around the world. Your next holiday could involve dungeons, real life forts, stories of knights and kings. It’s the holiday for all the big kids; the kids at heart. But just be warned, you may have to sell that glass slipper to visit all of these mythical properties.

Neuschwanstein CastleA 19th-Century Romanesque Revival Castle located in Bavaria, Germany. The Neuschwanstein Castle is the ultimate fairytale castle. The surroundings itself are unbelievably beautiful. Used as an inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castles in Disneyland parks, you know it has to be spectacular. The tall towers, and the countless windows, you can imagine Rapunzel throwing down her long hair. Although it may not be possible staying the night, a tour of this remarkable property will be the starting point into creating your very own fairytale castle (even if it is just for the kids in the backyard).

Visit the Neuschwanstein Castle >> 

Château de ChillonSituated on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, with the picturesque alps in the background, its the perfect setting for a fairytale. Built in the 12th-Century and expanded in the 13th, this medieval fortress is filled with history and legends. On a sunny winters day, the sparkles shinning off the lake, the snow on the alps, it no wonder this is where Lord Byron wished to resign.

Visit Château de Chillon >> 


Château du Haut-KoenigsbourgRestored by a specialist in medieval fortification, The Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg still today is an accurate model of the prestigious castle; down to the mill, the spiral staircases and the drawbridges. The castles original grandeur has been recreated and is a major piece of European history. The castle has been listed as a Monument of History since 1863. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Alsace in France. Sitting in the midst of the Vosges Mountains, if there happens to be a queue, you’ll be happy with the view.

Visit Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg >> 

Conwy CastleDescribed as the "best preserved suite of medieval private royal chambers in England and Wales", this 13th Century Military architecture is on of the finest Castles in Europe. Although there are many Castles in Europe, not all have played an important role in several wars like the Conwy Castle. The Conway Castle has been well preserved and stands a very proud medieval fortification till this day.

Visit Conwy Castle >> 
 

Bran CastleCommonly known as “Dracula’s Castle”, this beautiful Castle is well off the beaten path. Situated between Transylvania and Wallachia in the lush green mountains, Bran Castle looks like a fairytale in every way. With secret passage ways inside the building and Queen Marie’s furniture that dates back to the 1920’s through out the castle, you will feel like you have taken a step back in time. Sit in the sun in the gorgeous courtyard, and don’t forget to get a priceless picture from the upstairs balcony. The views are worthy of those of Royalty. 



Visit Bran Castle >> 

My Lightening Trip to London

Thursday 11 April 2013 | By William Coulston |

Courtesy of British Airways I had two business class tickets to London last Tuesday on the inaugural 777 flight and I arrived back in Oz yesterday – still not sure what time zone I’m on anyway…… my review

British Airways

This was the inaugural Boeing 777-300 service new aircraft and into Terminal 5 Heathrow

Seats - we had row 12 the two seats together in the middle facing backwards. With the pearlised screen to block out your neighbour on the aisle this became a very nice private space - however we had no perception of anything as we could not see any windows

You also have to climb over the person on the aisle seat when they are sleeping trying very hard not to hit their legs which I did twice!

There were a couple who had the backward facing window seat and the forward facing aisle seat so they face each other and could talk I would probably opt for this next time.

Seat in any position very comfortable - more so than Emirates Business Class seat which I don't like in bed mode and on a par with the Qantas Skybed or United's Business Class seat which I do like

However there is no where to place things like magazines and the seats need a small drinks tray between the seats to put your glass on and save putting your meal tray down. There is a drawer at the bottom of the seat on the side which fits shoes and magazines and assorted odds and ends

Food and beverage

the meals are served on a tray with a cloth which is placed on your tray table

Not stylish enough - I prefer Emirates or Malaysian where a cloth is placed on your tray table then your tray with another linen cloth is placed on that

Salt and pepper in paper sachets not shakers which was disappointing

My main course Sydney to Singapore was terrible and the scrambled eggs into London you could have bounced off the wall, however London via Singapore to Sydney the meals were stunning.

Wine - only sav blanc white or two reds - no chardonnay

Champagne is Tattinger

There is a self service food and wine snack bar which is great on the long sectors

Entertainment - fantastic a huge range of movies etc and the screen is quite large

Flight was full except the last sector I did go and check out Premium Economy and economy Personally I would not pay for Premium as the seats did not look that much bigger than economy (of course depends on the service level) The new First cabin looks stunning and I loved the window treatment 

Airports

Express Path Sydney works very well both for passport and security checks and also on arrival

I did not like Terminal 5 Heathrow – very grey very clinical could have been anywhere –One point to note

Walking into the vast departures check-in hall there is no clear signage where to go if you are Business Class Tell clients to turn right and head for the “First” check-in area at the end of the Hall Business class is just before it.

Airport Lounges

Sydney – Qantas Business Class lounge – full and we struggled to find two seats and as usual no snack food – give me finger sandwiches anytime

Singapore – British Airways own lounge – great showers and good selection of food and wines etc

London Terminal Five – BA Galleries – very hard to get to whoever designed this terminal’s flow must have taken something!

Very Large lounge nicely divided into different spaces the showers are one floor down between the First lounge and the Concorde room

Great view of one runway

Reasonable selection of food being evening the dinner offerings were disappointing and looked un-appetising – curries or pasta and a small salad bar

BA Terminal Five Arrivals Lounge was great and the scrambled eggs and hash browns some of the best I’ve ever had

Easy to find walk out into public arrivals hall take the lift to 3rd floor and its right in front of you

Only downside – no public phone except for a strange credit card phone push button 1 for local calls in the Uk and I kept getting a USA international operator!

Car Transfers

Carey Limousines – very good

The driver was booked for 7am and I had asked them to meet us at the arrivals lounge

At 6.55am the chauffeur walked in to locate us

New black Mercedes E class

Just Airports Limousines

http://www.justairports.com/

I used this company from London City to Heathrow

32 pounds one way which for London is a very cheap price you either pre-pay with a card or pay the driver cash

Booked the car for 5.00pm pickup driver came a tad early

Comfortable 4 seater estate car that would take 3 passengers and 3 cases and bags

Not a limo but clean and comfortable and miles better than battling the London tube at peak hour!

They charge an extra 5 pounds for arrival service plus car parking

Hotels

I stayed one night at the Goring and one night at the Ritz

I also had site inspections and lunch at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and Claridges

Site inspections and afternoon teas at The Four Seasons and the Savoy

Site inspection at the Stafford

Always book Virtuoso rates at these hotels

If I could take the best of each hotel and mix it together you would have the best in the world 

Best for location– the Ritz, The Stafford and Claridges

The Goring is a five minute walk to Victoria Station or a 20 minute walk past Buckingham Palace to get to Piccadilly

The MO is opposite Harvey Nichols and 5 minutes walk to Harrods

The Savoy is a  2 minute walk to Covent garden


I loved The Goring ( being upgraded to the Belgravia Suite helped! ) a stunning two room suite with silk used as wallpaper

I love the character of the hotel, the staff and the quirkiness

The room light switch - you press one of four buttons –bright, calm, cosy or oohhh!

Best bathroom I have had for ages except it took ten minutes to get the shower to go from either ice cold or boiling to perfect

also the king size bed had a split mattress not the best I’ve slept on 


The Mandarin Oriental is very Victorian in style lots of marble in the lobby area,

Fabulous restaurant very buzzy

The rooms I saw were ok but did not grab


The Stafford

Perfect location in St James

very small uninspiring lobby

loved the bar with an amazing collection of collection of caps

the rooms are spread over the main building and across a courtyard in the mews

some rooms/suites OTT e.g. same wall paper pattern used on the ceiling

I have clients who will only stay here but it did not grab me 

 

Claridges

I would stay here next time as the location is perfect

We had a beautiful lunch with exquisitely served food in the lobby restaurant

Rooms are huge and decorated either in art deco or Edwardian style

We were much fussed over here and felt very special

The Royal Suite I liked but the Ritz Royal Suite is better

The Map room is amazing and is the business centre – a very relaxed place to sit and check your emails

 

The Four Seasons

Stunning

loved this hotel only downside location at Hyde Park Corner -  a bit of a walk to get anywhere

The hotel does have a new black phantom Rolls Royce limo for free use by guests within a mile of the hotel

We were treated to this stunning car which took us back to the Ritz - people stopped and starred when we arrived back at the Ritz!!

Felt very special

Fabulous afternoon tea with Bollinger

fabulous rooms and suites some with terraces on the first floor

there is a stunning arrivals lounge on the top floor with a perfect view across London fro Westminster past the wheel to the new Shard

 

The Ritz

We were upgraded to a Junior Suite - the hotel has smoking floors – which for my travelling partner was great and windows that open which for me was even better

Did I liked it?  Yes however  - It was missing that x factor although the room grew on me

Afternoon Tea was still being served at 8pm in the Palm Court however this is on the side of the lobby and did not intrude

Breakfast in the beautiful restaurant being served by waiters in tails and white tie we did feel like we were royalty – at 7.30 am

We were the only two in the Restaurant – the same at the Goring the morning before – very quiet

Very nice however Goring's breakfast was better and my hollandaise sauce was served cold not warn which was not good

The bathroom was disappointing with plain large white tiles on the floor

Otherwise the suite was delightful - very French in style

 

The Royal Suite is amazing and at 3500 pounds per night not outrageous

I was shown a superior king bed room  perfect marble bathroom so maybe my suite was due for a bathroom upgrade

The banquet conferencing rooms in the adjoining William Kent House were astoundingly beautiful

 

The Savoy

Loved it

Stunning lobby and very switched on staff everyone knew who I was and that a car had been booked to go to Heathrow

Lead in rooms very very small - don't sell - upgrade here

I saw the Maria Callas Suite which had great views over the Thames

Afternoon tea was very nice and the two bars are fabulous

Downside for me is the location - I much prefer being in Mayfair

London

This was my first time back in London in many years - it had not changed - I still love Mayfair

The congestion charge must be working as the traffic was light in the centre of the city

Last Thursday Fortnum and Mason was empty and you could have shot a cannon ball down Regent Street and not hit anybody

That day it was freezing cold and it did snow

The next day - last Friday  - completely different - still very cold but shops full and around Oxford Street and Regent street many many people

Buckingham Palace now has selected evenings when the palace staterooms are open for exclusive viewings at 70 pounds

in April right through to end of the year bookings through the Royal Collections web site

The Tube - Oyster cards cost 5 pounds to buy then you top up. Its cheaper just to buy a paper day ticket

my zone 1-2 cost 8 pounds

Pret a manger shops everywhere offering great value for sandwiches and snacks

Likewise Marks and Spencer food shops offer a great range with price similar or cheaper to here

Petrol is around 1.35 pounds per litre so not cheap if you are self driving

No graffiti and I only saw two people begging the city is clean gleaming and sparkling

In a nutshell that’s my 62 hours last week in London

The Ritz London

Wednesday 10 April 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Already famous for being one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, The Ritz Hotel has received a little more news coverage as of late due to Margret Thatcher, as she was one of The Ritz loyal residents. This magnificent hotel that sets the benchmark by which other hotel are measured, is full of rich history and covered in elegance and style. 

Since 1906 the Hotel has been host to many of the Rich and Famous. This summer The Ritz London is excited to be a participant of the Coronations Festival, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation. 

The Ritz London is offering ‘The Festival Fantastic Program’. 

 

To see full details, Click Here >>
To contact our friendly team and enquire today, Click Here >> 

The Unusual Hotels Around the World....

Monday 11 March 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Dog Park Inn. Cottonwood, Idaho
The largest beagle in the world is not just a landmark for Idaho, but it’s also a Bed and Breakfast. The larger beagle known to the locals as ‘Sweet Willy’ is made out of wood, sleeps 4 guests and offers a barking good time.  

Jules Undersea Lodge. Key Largo, Florida
Originally designed in 1970, Jules’ Undersea Lodge offers the delight of eating, sleeping and living underwater. Whilst enjoying the view from your underwater room, take in how it feels to be on the inside, because soon after you arrive you will be enjoying it from the other side too.  

Tianzi Hotel. China
This 10 story high building that is often mistaken for a statue, stands for good fortune, prosperity and longevity. Built in 2000 it still hold the guinness world record for the biggest image building in the world.

Sandcastle Hotel. Weymouth, United Kingdom.
Sleep under the starry skies, wake up to the rising sun and feel the sand... EVERYWHERE! I personally don’t know a single soul who likes the feeling of sand in their bed, let alone a bed made out of sand, but this is what you get at Sandcastle Hotel, UK. It’s definitely the most practical take on sand sculpting I’ve seen, but in saying that, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable take on the art either 

IKEA Sovhotell. Stockholm, Sweden. 
Capitalising on the expression, ‘shop ‘till you drop’, an IKEA store located within a Stockholm shopping centre, allows customers to do just that. After noting a considerable number of customers stealing some quick zzzz on their bedding displays, IKEA decided to flip the problem on its head. They now offer customers a short stay in the custom built ‘Sleep Hotel’, complete with special pillows, sleeping masks and even headphones. 

The Microcube. Sweden.
Fancy hiding away in the picturesque forests of Sweden? The Microcube Hotel is suspended amongst the trees and includes its very own bathroom and roof terrace, and is almost completely camouflaged with its surrounds.

Ice Hotel. Sweden
Behold the world’s largest hotel made from ice and snow - Shiver me timbers! The entire hotel is quite the construction, with it melting away and being rebuilt each and every year. Visitors sleep on a bed made from ice, and the surrounding furniture also takes this same icy form. With temperatures sitting at around the -5 degrees celsius mark, it’s best you pack something warm! 

Drain Pipe Hotel. Austria.
As unappealing as it may sound, it turns out that this drain pipe hotel option, is one of the more luxurious options we’ve found. Offering its own version of luxury, the pipe is fitted with a queen bed, nightlight and storage space, all set amongst the beautiful mountainside.  

Hobbit Motel. New Zealand.
This quaint little addition started as a working farm, and is now a unique hotel drawing in visitors from across the globe. The self-contained Hobbit rooms aren’t however the only sight on show at Woodlyn Park, they also offer a Train Motel, Plane Motel and Boat Motel - How is one to decide? 

Kumbuk River Resort. Sri Lanka
An Eco-lodge on the banks of a beautiful river, set in the midst of a beautiful wildlife sanctuary. Sounds normal right? It is, until you spot your sleeping quarters for the evening, inside the tummy of an elephant! The 2-story villa takes the shape of an elephant and is the reason for Kumbuk River Resort’s renowned infamy. The combination of the amazing surrounds and the novelty of the accommodation are great reasons to give this hotel a try.   

Smile and Check out The Happiest Cities in the World

Wednesday 20 February 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Rio De Janeiro
With an abundance of outdoor performances, cultural attractions and festivals, the people from the city of the renowned ‘Carnival’, sure know how to be happy. With years worth of culture and a buzzing atmosphere, the city makes everyday living feel like an exciting and adventurous holiday. Locals live in bold colour, they get dressed up and they dance through the streets - It’s a beautiful city brimming with breathtaking colours.

Sydney
Australia is known for their down-to-earth, fun-loving folk, so it’s no surprise that Australia has made the list, two times over. The relaxed vibe, stunning beaches and an array of eateries are just a few of the reasons why the people of Sydney are in spot number two, and are some of the happiest people in the world.

Barcelona
Having fine architecture on your doorstop from the famous figurehead, Antoni Gaudi would be enough to keep a lot of people very pleased. Now add a rich history, great shopping, beaches, as well as endless tapas and sangria, and you have yourself an amazing place to live. With its amazing weather and position as one of Europe's fastest improving Cities, it’s no wonder the people of Barcelona can’t wipe the smiles of their faces.

Amsterdam
Imagine riding around a quaint little city on a stylish vintage bike; taking in the pristine parks, and breath-taking canals; stopping for some melt-in-your-mouth poffertjes and exploring the amazing city which comes alive every evening. This charming place is always entertaining and keeps the locals of Amsterdam an always happy, bunch of people.

Melbourne
Known as Australia’s fashion capital, Melbourne provides a relaxed atmosphere, mixed with strong hints of culture and class. Often referred to as the ‘Garden City’ and home to over 4.1million Melbournians, the city combines a city landscape, with bay-like beaches, diverse cuisine and an abundance of cultural activities. Ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, it’s no wonder Melbourne also made its mark on our happiness scale.

Madrid
The Capital and largest city in Spain is host to many influencers in the European Union, with their taste in fashion, food and fun, second to none. In addition, Madrid offers plenty of museums and culture, mixed with its party lifestyle and flamenco twist. Top off your experience with a visit to their beautifully, well-kept parks... The perfect place to nap under a tree with some Ensalasilla Rusa and do as the locals do, unwind.

San Francisco
From the cable cars, to Fishermans Wharf, everyday in San francisco is like being on the set of a movie; the nightlife, the dining, and the iconic golden gate bridge. People travel far and wide to cross The Big Red Sir Bridge, and the lucky people of San Francisco can take a stroll across it whenever they wish. The very pleased people of San Francisco are so pleased with their town in fact, that they’ve made our top 10 too! 

Rome
A saying I believe all the people of Rome live by “Eat well, Travel often”. With its beautiful surroundings, amazing history, their selection of fine wines, and an array of boutique restaurants bordering every laneway - It’s no wonder the Romans lead the good life.

Paris
The city of love offers more then just a sparkling Eiffel Tower to keep the locals happy. The cheeses, breads and pastries; the beautiful clothes and chic locals, as well as the pebbled pathways and stunning museums... What’s not to be happy about? Did you know however that Parisians also average 10 weeks of holiday time, each and every year? It’s no wonder they’re happier than ever.

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is an energetic city, filled with energetic people. The city offers a little bit of everything, there’s an abundance of sunshine, it provides highly affordable living and they ensure Sunday’s are set aside for relaxation. They shut down shop, spend time with their family and friends, or simply take it easy.   

Top 10 Cities with the Best Beaches...

Monday 4 February 2013 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Rio Je Janeiro- Brazil
Where age and body shape means nothing, but wearing a one piece will be frowned upon. Rio Je Janeiro is the place to get into that Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
and show off some skin. Indulge in some cheeky cocktails and play a quick game of paddleball.

Miami- USA
Anyone who is a ‘anyone’ is seen at Miami Beach. Your almost assured to see someone famous. Though the Miami Strip comes alive at night, the beach in itself is an event. It’s where the bold and beautiful come to freshen up their tan, or just to flaunt what they’ve got.

Valencia- Spain
Bordered by Tapas bars and endless sangria, a day down on Valencia beach is a day well spent. Enough beach for almost everyone in Valencia, you will have no problem finding a spot. Either spread out your towel and catch some rays, or hire a couple of sun beds and get comfortable.

Santa Cruz- California
Santa Cruz has something for everyone. With the historical amusement park on the broad walk, complete with the old Big Dipper; Surf Spots for the egger big wave surfer; Off-leash dog beaches for all the dog lovers; or you can sit and watch the pelicans dive for food. Santa Cruz makes you feel like a character in your own movie. A definite spot to sit and take in its charms and quirks.

Sydney- Australia
Australia is well know for its beautiful beaches in its every corner, though one city that has ever-growing popularity is Sydney. The Capital of New South Wales continues to draw visitors in with the picturesque beaches, the warm weather, the waves, and the boys in blue protecting the shores of Bondi Beach may be helping too.

Barcelona- Spain
4.2km of sandy beaches to play with, though in the summer time it seems this just isn't enough. Barcelona at anytime of the year is quite busy, though through summer the seaside is more lively and busy then the Autobahn in Germany. If traveling in Summer, once you have your spot, be sure to be in for the long hall. There are many locals walking around selling coconuts and cold beverages so a whole day in the busy paradise is easy done.

Tel Aviv- Israel
The temperatures are hot in Tel Aviv so hitting the water will be a must, but be sure to steer clear of the jellyfish. You’ll come across many people in next to nothing, but usually looking very fashionable. After a nice cool off in the water, find one of the many men walking around with ice creams and popsicles to hit that sweet spot.

Tangier- Morocco
Where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic you’ll discover there is more to do then work on your tan. Take a stroll along the sand or let a camel do all the work for you. This relaxed city is enticing and after a day on its beautiful beaches, treat yourself to some of its fine seafood.



Palawam- Philippines
It hard to choose just one of the many beautiful beaches that the Philippines has to offer, but Palawan has to top the cake. No photo could not do these beaches justice. Whilst relaxing in this postcard location, watch the locals ferrying between the villages or explore some of the jungle surroundings. The scenery will take your breathe away.

Brighton- England
Only an hour away from the fast-paced London City and your in the Beautiful Seaside town of Brighton. Still with all the perks of the big city, such as classy restaurants and bars and clubs, Brighton is relaxed and offers nothing but a good time. The heat may not be the main reason for getting in the water most of the year, but the clear aqua water will be.   

The top 10 Cities in the World for 2013...

Thursday 13 December 2012 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

AmsterdamThis picturesque city is the largest of all cities in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is Vibrant and well known for its diversity. This amazing city mazed with beautiful canals offers an exciting nightlife, festivals all year round, as well as world famous museums and historical sights. The perfect place to unwind, ride a bike, dine on pancakes and enjoy the cobbled canal-side walkways.

For more Information on Amsterdam >> 

San FranciscoSan francisco is located on the West Coast of the United States and is renowned for its cool summers. There is plenty to see and do in this amazing city - Firstly check out the museums, parks and beaches, but secondly, don’t forget the famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and its former prison, as well as China town.

For more information on San Francisco >>

LondonLondon is full of endless landmarks, history and beautiful, well kept parks. There is no shortage of markets, street restaurants and diverse nightlife. London is excitingly noisy, distinctively multicultural and boasts the perfect contrast of a city which remains rich in history whilst promoting innovation and forward movement. The frantic energy within the city is endless, it captures you and is kind enough to take you along for the ride.

For more information on London >>

HamburgHamburg is known as Germany’s Gateway to the the world, this is due to it having the country’s biggest port and the second busiest port in Europe. When in Hamburg make sure you take a stroll around the port, walk through the city centre and around City Hall. If you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time, and you’re able to keep your eyes open, check out ‘Night of Museums’, in which over 50 museums take part to keep the history and culture on-show until 2am. In addition, Hamburg is currently hot on the heels of Berlin as the European capitol of cool, we recommend you jump on the bandwagon ahead of the cool crowd and beat them to the punch!

For more information on Hamburg >> 

Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the perfect mixture of fairy tales, modern day living, smooth jazz and hard bass. It’s hard for the city to be considered a holiday destination alone, and is rather a place of constant discovery. There’s much to see and do in Copenhagen, from day trips to the beach and amusement parks, plus you can also take part in their varied event calendar, including the Copenhagen Jazzfestival, Copenhagen Pride, Night of Culture and the MIX Copenhagen Film Festival. The splendour of this jam packed city is complimented by its intimate surrounds and offers a taste of everything and something for everyone.

For more information on Copenhagen >>

BarcelonaInfamous for partying, it’s likely that Barcelona is atop many other ‘best-of’ party lists, but as a city, we have found it offers visitors with so much more. There’s an abundance of outdoor markets, street entertainment and fiesta’s, shopping, museums, churches and outstanding architecture. At every turn, visitors can marvel at monuments, gardens and buildings, with each telling the historical tale of the city. An ideal place to simply wander, get lost, be amazed and find new wonders with each and every new day. With great food to be found in secluded lane-ways and salty fresh seafood paella by the beach, Barcelona has it all... and then some!

For more information on Barcelona >> 

Hobart Tasmania’s capital city may be the smallest capital city in Australia but it’s rich in natural beauty and amazing landscapes. Hobart is home to the majestic Mount Wellington, many wineries and vineyards, as well as the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory. A nice way to end your day of activities is to head out on a boat cruise or to enjoy the live music, great atmosphere and delicious food on offer at one of the many local pubs or bars.

For more information on Hobart >> 

Seoul Seoul is South Korea’s Largest city and blends just the right amount of ancient traditions with cutting edge digital technology. There are many breath-taking Buddhist temples, endless street vendors, extraordinary architecture, markets and shrines. Seoul is known for its dynamic trend-setting and non-conformist style, as well as their many activities, including adventure sports, amusement parks and beautiful mountain climbs.

For more information on Seoul >> 

Mexico CityDowntown Mexico City is an urban area filled with Historical buildings and landmarks. Mexico City has also been known as the City of Palaces, due to the large number of stately buildings. Mexico city boats the largest museums in the world, ensuring there’s plenty of history and culture to soak up on your visit.

For more information on Mexico City >> 

Christchurch Christchurch is filled with buildings that show its English Heritage, especially along the Worcester Boulevard. The city is better known as the Garden City, which is well deserved when you see the trees that grow as if in a forest all around the city. After sitting around the Botanical gardens head to the Christchurch art Gallery, pick up some snacks from the farmers markets and get involved in a creative workshop, before ending your evening with a dabble at the Casino.

For more information on Christchurch >> 
  

Start planning next years trip- 2013 top 10 countries

Tuesday 13 November 2012 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

1. Sri Lanka:Sri Lanka has so much to offer in the way of heritage, culture, pristine views and festivities. This small, tropical and warm island in the Indian Ocean is a must-visit for 2013. Every year in mid April, Sri Lankan's celebrate the Sinhalese and Hindu new year festivals, as well as a symbolic Buddhist festival in August. The festivals consist of cultural dances, decorated elephants, fire and whip-dances, as well as various other cultural celebrations.

Find out more about travel in Sri Lanka >>

2. MontenegroIn terms of size, Montenegro is a small Country but it is filled with overwhelming beauty. It has amazing walled towns; well preserved historic monuments; the second largest canyon in the world and a coast that is just as good, if not better than its well known neighbor Croatia. Montenegro is filled with so much natural beauty that you could get lost for days within its mountainous landscapes or down at the popular glacier lake, Black Lake.

Find out more about travel in Montenegro>>

3. South KoreaOne of South Koreas most popular destinations is its capital Seoul. Seoul has many famous sites including the Seoul Tower and even a Teddy Bear Museum. During mid July also check out the city of Boryeong in Chunchungnam-do where they host a Mud Festival with an abundance of cultural insights. In your spare time South Korea is a great Country for hiking and trekking or learning some famous martial arts like Taekwondo.

Find out what to do in South Korea >>

4. EcuadorEcuador is a small and diverse South American gem. In this amazing country you can come across volcanoes, pacific beaches, blue lakes, greener than green valleys and even the Amazon. The country is well known for its adventure sports such as hiking, horse riding, biking, kayaking and snorkeling. Whilst walking through the many markets and colonial towns it’s evident that the Ecuadorians live a relaxed way of life. They adopt a slower pace, they’re friendly and more than happy to take the time for a chat with a stranger; perhaps in some part, their positive outlook is due to the beautiful plant life and amazing array of native birds which surround them.

Find out more about Ecuador >>

5. Slovakia

Located in Central Europe, Slovakia is a small country with a great and vivid history, as well as an ideal destination for relaxation. The country is filled with well marked hiking tracks, some of which leading to mineral and thermal springs. The country has 9 national parks for you to go and explore, with their castles and chateaux’s another must-see for visitors. For an adventurous and off the beaten track holiday, Slovakia is your answer.

Find out more about Slovakia >>

6. Solomon IslandsThis Island Nation is made up of over 1,000 islands which are separated into 9 main island groups. Situated in the South West of the Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Islands are very humid all year round with the slightly cooler months being June through August. The Solomon Islands are filled with cultural beauty, something which must be taken advantage of on your visit here. Whilst on one of their many islands, try and get hands-on with some of the cultural activities, which are undertaken on a daily basis by the island’s natives. The locals are very friendly and by getting an insight into their way of life your experience will only be even more enriched.

Find out more about Solomon Islands >>

7. IcelandDespite the misleading name, Iceland is generally quite a warm place. Full of plenty of natural beauty, Iceland is absolutely stunning. During the month of June you can soak up as much of this beauty as you like as the sun barely sets, and night fall never really hits. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained on those long and seemingly endless days, why not try hiking or ice climbing on glaciers, whale watching or visiting the Blue Lagoon, a famous geothermal spa.

Find more about Iceland >>

8. TurkeyTurkey has beautiful beaches, and more history and culture than you could imagine. Turkey is the perfect place to explore and get lost in old ancient ruins and architectural heritage. Turkey is more then 3 times the size of the United Kingdom, so if you do venture to this amazing country be sure to spare plenty of time to make it to all of the notable landmarks, including Gallipoli Cove.

Find out more about Traveling Turkey >>

9. Dominican RepublicDominican Republic is a Caribbean country with warm weather almost all year round. Though a lot of the country consists of rugged highlands and deep valleys, the real beauty is in all its little perks and pleasures. For example, the supremely tasty food which is served in unique outdoor restaurants (ideal for people watching), and also turn into lively venues of an evening; another pleasure, try indulging in the great and inexpensive shopping at the countries capital Santo Domingo; and of course the picturesque beaches, clear water and many beautiful national parks which have made the Caribbean so very famous.

Find out more about Dominican Republic >>

10. MadagascarMadagascar is a very unique island country situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Due to it being so isolated, Madagascar has been found to contain a mix of plants and animals which you can’t find anywhere else in the world. To see some of these rare sights, a visit to Madagascar’s largest reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha which is a UNESCO heritage site, is a must. While you’re there you should also experience the kayaking, windsurfing and even the deep sea fishing on offer. BUT - Make sure you pick the right time of year to visit or you could be stuck with some serious and heavy rain.

Find out more about Madagascar >>

LauncherOne...

Wednesday 31 October 2012 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

Virgin Galactic's New LauncherOne and Air Launch Rocket are set to transform satellite launch. Also set to be the lowest price in the market.  Virgin Galactic is dedicated to dramatically reducing the price of getting to space. 

Check out the amazing work by Virgin Galactic and keep upto date with all the news! 

Let the Books Guide you...

Monday 15 October 2012 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

With all the technology today its no wonder why the old traditional guidebooks are not the first thing some pack when preparing for an adventure. Of coarse they can be heavy, expensive and if you're not careful, out-of-date. But, there are advantages to the travel guide books that many of us may have forgotten.

Not all travelers like to keep to the beaten pathways, they prefer to venture off-track. In this case, internet access and cell phone coverage may be hard to come by and if you're in an area without reception, your guide book will become your best friend. That little binder buddy is a guaranteed go to for cultural and historical information, plus save on international roaming rates by flipping through the pages of your book, rather than searching through endless pages of google search results.

If you require more than just the basic information, purchasing a guidebook is a great option. It's well researched, detailed, reliable and provides an easy to use, well indexed approach to travel... And what's even better, no batteries or pesky power adapters are required!
  

Lonely Planet Guide books on basically anywhere in the world >>   

Company on track for first powered flight by end of year

Wednesday 10 October 2012 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

 

Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, has recently announced that its passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle, SpaceShip Two (SS2), successfully completed its first glide flight test. The spaceship;s engine, RocketMotorTwo (RM2), underwent another successful full duration test fire, marking the first time the company and its partners have undertaken test flight and test firing on the same day. Both milestones prime Virgin Galactic to reach powered flight by the end of the year.
More On Virgin Galatic  

Packing Tips for Outer Space

Tuesday 17 July 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

You’re probably aware that space tourism is just around the corner with Virgin Galactic. It’s difficult to imagine what the experience may be like and what the standard norms are for packing your bags and hopping on board for a journey out of this world, literally.

From take-off to landing, the flight duration is between 90 and 105 minutes. Passengers will experience approximately 4 minutes of complete weightlessness.

As weight regulations are of the strictest concern, travelers are going to have to be very careful about what they take on board. The complete set of regulations haven’t yet been finalised, however many gadgets and objects will be prohibited for safety reasons.

Electronics

For most of the flight electronics will be working. iPods and iPhones have been given the okay. After all, there’d be nothing like your favourite track and a Facebook check-in from outer space. Due to weight and size restrictions, laptops wont be allowed on board. But really, who’s complaining?

Clothing

As the Virgin spaceships are pressurized, there wont be any need for pressure suits. The company is designing flight suits, which will be provided for passengers. Trendy ones, so we’ve heard. 

Bringing a pair of clean socks on board is encouraged, as passengers will be prohibited from wearing their shoes. This is for safety reasons, as there’s a decent chance your foot may greet someone’s head.

Passengers have little more than hairstyles and lipstick to work with to perfect their look, as they will on camera for the duration of the trip.

Want to get on board?

World Travel Professionals were personally selected to become an ASA (Accredited Space Agency). Tickets for this ‘out of this world’ experience are $200,000 with deposits starting at $20,000. For more information, you can contact our National Sales Director Greg Wilken.

Email: Greg Wilken
Phone: 1800 067 819

What Makes a Good Traveller

Wednesday 11 July 2012 | By Zoe Bruce |

Measuring how well one travels is tricky task. It depends largely on what the traveller wants to achieve and how they go about it. But whether its relaxation, discovery or adventure, there are certain qualities that all travellers should aim to adhere to maximise their experience. Naturally, some people have stronger immune systems than others, some people blend effortlessly with locals, and some have an exceptional talent for picking up languages. These things will impact the way one travels enormously, however shouldn’t determine your ability to travel.

Here is a list of qualities that all people should embrace, to obtain more from their travel experience...

Have an open mind:

Although you may not relate to or understand the beliefs, culture, laws or religion of a place and its local people, you must keep an open mind, and of course respect it. A foreign country to you is home to many others.

Feed your interests:

Don’t hesitate to explore your interests; ask questions and seek more information. More often than not, you’ll be thrilled at your discoveries and they’ll find yourself falling in love with different cultures.

Be considerate:

You may be there for a good time, but locals are generally there for a long time. Be mindful of your surroundings and your behaviour. Never damage anything or dispose of anything disrespectfully. The locals will appreciate it.

Limit your expectations:

Do not demand of or expect others to speak or understand your first language. A common mistake, particularly amongst english-speaking travellers, is their assumption that everyone else speaks English too. It’s not the case, however it often makes travel more interesting. Try to learn the bare basics of the national language of the countries you visit.

Pack some positivity and a sense of humour:

From time to time things do go wrong, and you may find yourself in a difficult or stressful situation. Don’t panic. You may even find that missing the last train by just half a second lead you to another great adventure, or makes for a terrific story down the track. Embrace the detours of your trip and you’ll find the best situations are sometimes disguised as the worst.

Diary of a Leisure Travel Specialist #3

Thursday 19 April 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

William Coulston
United Airlines and Dorchester Hotels New York and Los Angeles
26th October to 3rd November

Flights

United Airlines Business Class

Airlines use counter A and B for check-in in Sydney. Counter A is for First Class, Business Class and 1K passengers. Counter B is for Economy Class. They also use the Air New Zealand lounge which was quite busy but very comfortable. On board I was seated in a backward facing seat on the Upper deck of a Boring 747-400. My only complaint with this aircraft type is the air gets so dry but that’s at the fault of Boeing, not United. Coming home from LA I was in a forward facing seat on the upper deck.

The on board service was very professional. The seat when in the bed position was very comfortable, with enough space to turn over easily. I slept a good nine hours after taking two pills to try and do so! After take-off from both Sydney and Los Angeles, a dinner service is offered. There are hot snacks available throughout the flight and about an hour out of San Francisco, a hot breakfast was served too. I have no complaints at all about the quality of the food or beverages that were served. The crew were continually checking the cabin and kept topping up glasses of water.

The flights across America were operated by a Boeing 757 3 class aircraft offering United Premium Service. I was seated in Business Class with more leg room than on the International flights! Much alike to the other flights, a very professional cabin crew made the journey as comfortable as possible. On this aircraft they hand out digi-players, which had the full range of United’s very comprehensive audio and video to watch. Some worked and some didn’t, much to the crew’s embarrassment. Mine worked. I was amazed on arrival at JFK International Airport how small the terminal is that United use (and oddly share with British Airways and Cathay Pacific).

Hotels

New York: THE CHATWAL, A SHERATON LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL

130 WEST 44TH STREET
NEW YORK, NY 10036 USA

www.thechatwalny.com

Contact Gemma Keating, Director of Sales and Marketing: gkeating@thechatwalny.com

We finally arrived at this hotel 23 hours after leaving Sydney and nearing midnight (New York time). A very discreet entrance leads you into a beautiful art deco two-story space (I actually felt like I was back on board Queen Mary 2). The hotel is small having only 50 rooms and 26 suites. The entire 10th floor can be booked as the Barrymore Suite (4,500 square feet, Three King bedrooms, One Double). The Barrymore Suite offers the exclusive use of the Penthouse floor with four spacious guest-rooms, two sitting and dining rooms, two kitchenettes, four full bathrooms, the master with an oversized Jacuzzi bath and raindrop shower. The private outdoor space includes a private heated outdoor terrace and a 1,000 square foot roof deck overlooking 44th Street.

My room on the 8th floor was very comfortable. Apart from the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore, I have never seen so much detail in a room fit out. Deep burgundy leather covered walls, whisper-quiet air conditioning, silk curtains. I only vaguely heard a siren outside in the street on the third night. Tan leather straps on the suitcase rack and bathroom supplies by Asprey of London, the most amazing mini bar with quarter size bottles of spirits and 12 jars of assorted treats. The room grew on me and being welcomed back to the hotel by name each time I walked back into the lobby was delightful.

The bed was very comfortable. I have only two complaints. One is the technology used for the phone (the black console you can see beneath the lamp) that controlled everything including the curtains and air con, I had to call a technician three times as the phone part of the device wouldn’t work. The console screen also glowed brightly and it took quite a bit of button-pushing to work out what button turned the screen off. I am not a great fan of these sort of units. My only other criticism was the very high telephone charges. A three minute call to Sydney cost me $61.00 and a two minute call to a local New York mobile cost me $22.00!

The bathroom was in deep burgundy. The loo did everything except sing – it even had its own remote control and there was a TV hidden in the full length mirror!

We had dinner in the Lamb’s Club restaurant which is the hotel’s only food outlet (all very red and very happening). When we arrived late at night, the two story lobby was filled with the sounds of a jazz singer from the bar on the first floor.

Breakfast was here each morning, the service was very efficient and the staff highly polished. Although, I still haven’t been served tea properly in America. Each morning I had both the New York Times and also a copy of the Australian Newspaper delivered to my room.

The hotel has free wifi and supplies laptops for free to use whilst you are in residence. This was very useful for me as I don’t have a laptop and I could keep on top of my emails.

The Hotel’s location is amazing! You walk out onto the footpath, turn left and after 100 meters you arrive at Times Square. If you turn right, you’re a comfortable seven minute walk to Fifth Avenue.

Overall, I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the Chatwal. It’s a little bit groovy, very discreet and has an amazing bar and restaurant. The best value for me in New York was the hop-on-hop-off double decker sightseeing bus tour! I had prepaid this but Times Square is swarming with people selling tickets for the different companies.

Times square

I am not quite sure why the above group were dressed as Statues of liberty, but they were fun! New York was amazing; very clean. I loved the energy and the vibe! Everywhere you look, there’d be a café, a bar, a foodie, a something. A few closing down signs in 5th Avenue were the only signs of any recession. Queues were long for both the 9/11 memorial and the observation deck of the Empire State Building . The temperature was a bit of a shock! Note to self: when packing don’t always believe the 5 day weather forecasts. It got VERY cold and zooming around New York on the top of an Open Double Decker bus became a bit brisk! It even started to snow as we were leaving and we were one of the last flights out of Kennedy before the airport was closed with an unseasonal savage snow storm!

Los Angeles: THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL

9641 Sunset Blvd Beverly Hills
California 90210

www.beverlyhillshotel.com

Contact Luz Limperio, Regional Sales Director: limperio@beverlyhillshotel.com

On arrival in LA we were met and transferred to the Beverly Hills Hotel. This Hotel is one of the most legendary on the planet and it lived up to the hype. I loved it!

On Saturday evening, we were waiting in the lobby for a site inspection. It was very Hollywood; lots of glamorous gowns and jewels passing by into the ball room for a America’s Top Model or something of the like.

The whole feel of the hotel was special. The staff were amazing; the level of service very high, as I had expected. The hotel is located on 12 acres of grounds where the famous bungalows are. We were only able to see inside one due to high occupancy. The hotel is very discreet about who is staying. We had dinner as a group in the famous Polo Lounge and this is where I had breakfast each morning. My Breakfast bill (which the hotel covered) shows the benefit of booking a Virtuoso Room rate. On day one, I had a pot of tea (served correctly this time, with cold milk) an orange juice and eggs benedict - $68.00. My last morning I had tea, a juice, a fruit plate and pancakes - $48.00.

I stayed in room 235. It was large and very comfortable. I had my own outside terrace to wave at the tour buses as they took photos of me.


The Beverly Hills Hotel also offers a complimentary car service within a three mile radius of the hotel. The car in question is a very smart current model black Mercedes S class limousine. I used this to travel to and from Rodeo drive. I could get used to a personal chauffeur very quickly!

HOTEL BEL AIR

701 Stone Canyon Road
Los Angeles 90077

http://www.hotelbelair.com/

Contact Luz Limperio, Regional Sales Director: limperio@beverlyhillshotel.com

We were very fortunate to be among the first people to visit and inspect the newly reopened Bel-Air Hotel. This hotel is not for everyone (for example, me). I loved the Beverly Hills Hotel, although I was not so keen on the Bel-Air, whereas the rest of the group loved it. The pool area of the Presidential Suite was divine. We were treated to lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s latest restaurant. The man himself joining us at the end of the meal! The level of service during lunch was astounding. The bar area was delightful. Discretion is the byword at this hotel, they asked us not to take photos if a guest was visible. The hotel feels more like a resort within one of the most exclusive residential areas on the planet.

Diary of a Leisure Travel Specialist #2

Friday 13 April 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

William Coulston - Singapore Trip, 2011

PRE-DEPARTURE & STOP OVERS

I flew to Singapore from Sydney, via Kuala Lumpur using Malaysian Airlines, Business class. I checked myself in a day prior to departure and changed my seat allocation on both flights online. Simple process.

The Malaysian check-in and luggage drop at Sydney was opposite the Qantas Business / First counter. It was very fast and efficient and right by the express customs entry point.
 
Malaysian has its own lounge at Sydney airport, which is downstairs next door to the Emirates Lounge. It’s a very comfortable space with a good range of light snacks. You can also order Malaysian style hot food, cooked to order and served at your table.

Terminal 2 in Changi is a very restful place with amazing orchid displays. It was empty at 5.45am, but by 6.15 it was beginning to buzz.
 
The Malaysian lounge in Terminal 2 however, was disappointing. It was merely a plain room with tub chairs, but they did serve a good scrambled egg. Malaysian’s flagship lounge at KLIA in the satellite terminal is excellent, as is the smaller lounge in the main terminal with a great choice of food and beverage.
 
FLIGHTSI was very impressed by my Sydney to KL flight via Boeing 747 - 400. The service was excellent and genuinely friendly, from a very polish cabin crew. The aircraft is in an impeccable condition.

The video system was okay. About 40 movies with many new releases, however all are playing on a loop and are not on demand. The in-flight magazine did specify which video number related to which film so it took a bit of flicking to find the film I wanted to watch.

The seats were very comfortable, however don’t lie flat, rather at a 15 degree angle when in bed mode. The best seats in Business Class are the exit row on the Upper deck.

A highlight was the Satay service on both long flights. Yesterday’s snack service was satay sticks followed by medallions of lobster then cheesecake. A good wine list is also offered. Only a choice of juice is offered pre-take off.

I liked the colours in the Business Class cabin; the table cloths are a light teal green. The white line cloth on the meal tray has scalloped edges, for those who appreciate the minor details.

We had a two hour transit in KL, then a 737 to Singapore. The seats this time around were red flying Jason recliners. For a short flight very late at night, it was nice to see they still served a light meal.

I did find KL International Airport signage very confusing and it took me a while to find the Malaysian Lounge. The train between the two terminals is out of action but there is a continual bus service running. My suitcase was off fast and my car and driver was waiting outside the Customs Hall at Singapore, I was pleased to see.
 
I travelled from KL to Sydney via a Boeing 777. I’m a fan of the 777 and had seat 1D this time. The space between the rows in this Business Class cabin seemed more than on the 747-400. My luggage failed to make the flight and I spent a lot longer in Sydney Airport on arrival than I’d intended.
 
All in all, I would have no hesitation in recommending Malaysian Airlines Business Class, and considering the airfares through to Europe in Business Class are under $6000, it offers amazing value.
 
HOTELSSWISSOTEL THE STAMFORD

By the time I arrived at the hotel it was well past 1am. The check-in was slow even with my Swiss Club Gold membership.

My room, 4751 on the 47th floor was large, comfortable and functional. Very good for a business traveller. Every room has a small balcony. It’s a heart stopping moment when you step out onto your 47th floor balcony and the heavy sliding glass door closes behind you! “William; last seen stuck on a balcony high above the city!” - I was picturing tomorrow’s tabloids.

The breakfast served in Café Swiss left me cold. I ordered room service the following morning for 7.30am. The door bell rang at precisely 7.30am. The charge for an American breakfast SGD$47 was excessive.

The bed had a continental quilt on it. It was too hot for me so I pulled the quilt out of the cover and the cover was too cold. I asked housekeeping for a blanket and sheet instead of the quilt. They put the quilt back in the cover and left the blanket folded neatly on the end of the bed. This was repeated for two days. It took housekeeping until the third day to work out that I wanted; a top sheet and then a blanket on the bed instead of the quilt.

The conference was in the Raffles City Convention Centre, which is between and connected to the Swissotel and the Fairmont Hotel. Apart from a dinner in the ballroom at Raffles Hotel (across the road), I did not leave the Swissotel or the conference centre for three days! Raffles City is very clinical in look and feel.
 
A highlight was a Moet Chandon champagne reception on the Helipad which is the roof of the Swissotel the Stamford – 75th level. Oh by the way, the roof has no railing!!! It took me a good five minutes to climb the last five steps. To get onto the roof you take a lift to the Equinox Bar on the 71st Floor, then you climb up the fire staircase 5 floors to the roof!  I needed a drink after that.


 
Speaking of drinks – expensive. I had a Bacardi and coke in the Equinox Bar and that set me back SGD$21.

FULLERTON HOTEL

A Virtuoso hotel. I was very impressed by the lobby / lounge areas and I loved the pool, which is on the second level facing the city. I also adore the garden area that faces the bay side on the ground floor.

I was in a Quay Room on the 6th floor which had a wonderful balcony and views towards Parliament and the Clark Quay area. The room itself wasn’t overly large. The walls were a soft yellow and the pillows were wonderful.

You need to insert your room key card into the slot just inside the room to make most of the electrics work. It took me a little while to work that one out and why I could not get the curtains to open or close. Maybe the pace of the last three days was numbing the brain.

I had access to the Straits Club (executive lounge). A very nice afternoon tea was served at 4pm and free flowing Moet, open bar and substantial canapés between 6pm and 8pm. My only criticism of the Straits Club is the lack of seat level windows and view, which is out over the river and the city. All the staff I encountered remembered and used my name every time.

My car and driver was waiting on time at 4.30am yesterday morning to drive me back to Changi Airport.

FULLERTON BAY HOTEL

This Virtuoso hotel is a 10 minute walk from the Fullerton via a passageway to One Fullerton then a short walk in the open air. This property is simply stunning.

The photos do not do justice to the attention to detail that the designers have incorporated into the rooms and public spaces. The tiles on the floor from the entrance to reception shimmer.The pool area is amazing – I loved it. The one room I saw I could move into and live in. The safe looks like a Louis Vuitton white travelling trunk.The use of light brown marble and deep brown wood veneers is stunning, too.


 
CAPELLA

Capella is also a Virtuoso hotel, located on Sentosa Island making it roughly a 15-20 minute drive from central Singapore. An old Colonial building is used as the reception area, conference facility and restaurant. A Norman Foster designed curved building is used for accommodation. I saw a Capella Suite and a Constellation Suite (with an outdoor hot tub); both are very modern, large living spaces with views down over the terraced pool area and toward the sea. It’s a shame the sea is full of tankers at anchor, taking away a bit of that resort feeling.

I did not warm to Capella as I found the Foster accommodation wing too modern for my taste. However for clients who want a 5 star deluxe resort away from the hubbub of Singapore city then this is the place to be.
 
MARINA BAY SANDS

You cannot miss this astounding three tower hotel. I only saw the lobby area and the hotel was swarming with people. The Sands Sky Park which is the long structure that tops the three accommodation towers is a resort deck with pools, etc.

However this is also open to locals and tourists. Some of the conference delegates who have seen this hotel said there were long queues waiting to gain access to the Sky Park.
 
SINGAPORE IN GENERALThe city, when I managed to get up to Orchard and Scotts Road, was buzzing. There is a new shopping complex called ION located across the road from the Marriott at the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road. It’s filled with designer label stores and fabulous jewelers like Harry Winston. Taxis were very cheap.
 
Singapore has been off the radar recently, particularly as a stopover destination.
It still is a very green, clean and somewhat clinical city. But for shopping and the chance to stay in some stunning hotels, I would recommend a few days on the way to or from Europe or before or after a cruise.
 

Diary of a Leisure Travel Specialist

Wednesday 11 April 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Summary of the cruising expedition of William Coulston. With insider tips and knowledge on everything from flights to dresscodes to meal time, from a World Travel Specialist.

Qantas domestic flight - Sydney to Adelaide

The Qantas domestic terminal departures level is now very stark. There are no check-in counters, just lots of do it yourself check-in and bag tagging spots. There are a couple of service counters. The Qantas Club was fairly quiet on this Saturday morning.

The flight

I noticed that there are two types of Qantas Cabin Crew. One can be labelled “Old school”; those who have been flying for years and still love their job. They are fresh, natural and genuinely friendly. The other is the “New school”; those who have not been flying long. They are usually girls in their 20’s (sometimes men), with a “Don’t talk to me, I am a flight attendant” attitude. They generally have drastic hair and makeup, as opposed to simiple and subtle. We had three of the former and two of the latter on our flight – the difference was glaring!

All in all, the flight was great. We had exit row seats on a 737- 400. It was very comfortable with loads of extra leg room. A good breakfast was served, which was far superior to Air New Zealand’s lame offering last week from Sydney to Rotorua.

Stamford Plaza AdelaideI found the hotel tired and dark. The lobby was well-lit but the bar area of the lobby was a little too dim. I’d rate the hotel 4 star – but only just.

What I lovedNothing, really. Nothing stood out quite enough.

What I likedThe location and the radius rate of $141.00 for the room.

The hotel concierge booked a limo via smart car for us to take us from the hotel to the pier (www.smartcaraustralia.com). Very efficient service. The cost was $77.00. I suspect a taxi would have been nearly double that as it’s a long way to Port Adelaide.

What I did not likeThe cork pin board on the wall of our bedroom with all of the hotel’s “specials” pinned on it. $33 for breakfast? We walked around the corner and had McDonald’s...

Queen Mary 2This is the most amazing ship I have ever been on! It’s a purpose built ocean liner and the ship’s décor, public rooms and cabins are stunning.


What I lovedOur cabin; the best cabin in terms of fit-out and comfort we’ve experienced.

The pillows; ultimately comfortable.

The library was amazing; it had about 6000 books!

Everywhere you turned there was something about the long history of the Cunard and White Star Lines - White star was the owner of Titanic and the line merged with Cunard last century.

The single fresh red roses on every table in the Britannia Restaurant!

The European waiting staff who fussed over us in the Britannia Club Restaurant on Sunday night.

Afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room. I could have been in the Ritz in London!

Sailing into Sydney Harbour Tuesday morning with the Queen Elizabeth behind us – an amazing couple of hours and something we’ll never forget.

What I likedThe passengers! We felt right at home and talked to many. Some were doing the whole 3 month cruise and some like us just a couple of day. The were mostly Brits and Aussies.

The shopping onboard was great.

The bar prices and wine list prices. The ship operates in US dollars so with ours at parity I was very happy with my room account.

What I did not likeThe lack of recognition in the bars or Britannia Restaurant.

The service at breakfast and lunch in the Britannia Restaurant was robotic. The service at dinner time on a Monday night was the worst that we have ever experienced.

The dress code was either formal, semi-formal or elegant casual in the evenings. I had to wear a jacket (a suit) for the elegant casual night.

The self service laundry was very small.

The two hour queue for a taxi at Glebe island after we cleared the baggage hall (obviously not Cunard’s fault) - Although with a quick phone to Natalie and an Astra Limousine was there in 15 minutes to take us home (thank you Natalie!)

Final notesQueen Mary 2 is large and has four restaurants of different standards. Where you eat is dictated by what cabin or suite grade you have paid for:

BRITANNIA GRADE
Britannia Grade is comprised of the bulk of the ship’s passengers who have booked inside, outside or balcony grade cabins. They have two sittings for dinner either 6pm or 8.30pm

BRITANNIA CLUB GRADE
The Britannia Club Grade allows single sitting anytime between 6.30pm and 10pm. On Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victorias, this restaurant is a section of the main Britannia Restaurant which has been sectioned off with its own entrance. On the new Queen Elizabeth, they have created a completely separate restaurant. An enhanced menu with additional dishes available. There’s more space between tables, as well as enhanced flat-wear and plates. We dined here as guests of one of my clients on Sunday night and it was fantastic; European waiters, excellent service and I felt like I was somewhere like the Grill at the Savoy Hotel in London!

PRINCESS GRILL GRADE
Prince Grill Grade passengers can enjoy a separate small restaurant with a further enhanced menu and better service. They can also use the Queens Grill lounge and Queens grill deck terrace.

QUEEN'S GRILL GRADE
The Queen’s Grill Grade passengers stay in penthouses and luxury suites. They have access to another small restaurant beside the Princess Grill offering some of the finest food and service at sea. They also have a concierge lounge.

On the final day, most ships leave empty cabins with the doors open after passengers have checked out so people can have a quick look at the different grades of accommodation. We took this opportunity to take a sneak peak inside the Queen Mary Suite (about $450,000 for the 3 month world cruise!) It has its own private lift and connects with the Queen Anne suite. A very nice space however it still had an old box TV. Our cabin had a flat screen. The Queen Anne Suite had no balcony.

Travel Diary - 10 days in Austria

Friday 30 March 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

12-22 November 2010

FLIGHTS

Emirates A380 Economy Class Sydney to Dubai

Before departing, I had use of the Emirates Lounge in Sydney. I have used this lounge on numerous occasions and it’s always a very comfortable space to sit in with a very nice selection of food and beverages.

On the flight, I had an exit row seat and was very grateful for the extra leg room as the flight was full. The best economy class seats on the A380 are the window seats, the row behind the exit row being 68A, 68K, 81A and 81K. There’s no seat in front of these as the exit row in front is only two seats, so there’s an amazing amount of space! The A380 is a fantastic aircraft; it’s quiet and the air onboard seems fresher than onboard a 747. The service was good, the meal was tasty and I enjoyed a glass of Austrian white wine.

Upon arrival in Dubai I had to queue for half an hour with hundreds of others to pass through security to enter the transit area. The transit area goes on forever and was packed with people. From 5am to 9am seems to be the peak time. For those who do not have access to an airline lounge, there are two basic pay to enter lounges called Marhaba offering light refreshments, however there are no showers in these lounges. I did find showers in the main concourse but there were no towels and I couldn’t locate a facility that sold or provided towels. Marharba services can also arrange escorts to and from the aircraft but from what I understand, there is no queue jumping at security or immigrations. Visit their website for more information >>

B777 Business Class Dubai to Vienna

After being down the back for 14.5 hours, B777 Business Class to Vienna was a treat! Very comfortable seats that form a fully flat bed. The service was excellent from a very professional crew. An amazing desert trolley was presented after the main course. Arrival in Vienna was very easy; no forms, no formalities.

A340 Economy Class Munich to Dubai

On the A340 Economy Class Munich to Dubai, I once again had an exit row seat. A short 5 hour flight with good service.

A380 Business Class Dubai to Sydney Check-in

The A380 Business Class Dubai to Sydney was very comfortable. The lunch service was outstanding; bordering First Class service standards for many airlines. Every course was nicely presented and served individually. The seat converts to a fully flat bed, however I was very uncomfortable with the pillow as the head rest when in bed mode is high and makes the pillow even higher. I did sleep, however be warned, the last two rows of Business Class on the A380 have the “bar” directly behind. The rest of the group I was traveling with were in these seats and did not get a wink of sleep during the 14 hour flight because of the constant chatter and noise from this social area. Though, this bar is a great place to go to sit, stretch and relax away from the main cabin. I could even order a martini if I wished. The Emirates ICE in-seat entertainment system is amazing with a huge range of films, though not many recent releases. Also, you have an in-seat telephone which worked (I phoned home twice from 35,000 feet). Emirates is a premium airline with an outstanding product.

HOTELS

The Imperial Hotel Kartner

In Vienna, I stayed at The Imperial Hotel Kartner. I stayed here on my first visit to Vienna about 13 years ago, too. It still is as sumptuous as it was then and is still the preferred residence of visiting Heads of State. The hotel was built in 1863 as the Vienna Palace of the Prince of Wuttemberg. It became a hotel in 1873. It maintains an efficient and discreet service; the concierge knew my room number and gave me my key each time I returned, before I even asked. The hotel may be over the top for some people; it is all marble, onyx and crystal chandeliers. On this occasion I found my room, even though quite sumptuous, lacking warmth. The formal (hard) settee and chairs were not conducive of flopping down in front of the TV to relax, especially after the long flight from Sydney. The costs were pretty steep as well. I had 4 shirts pressed and 10 items laundered which came to 140 euro! A call to a local Austrian mobile cost me 15 euro.

If you’re interested in staying here or would like some more information, contact Rosemarie Regner, Director of Leisure Sales: Rosemarie.regner@starwoodhotels.com >>

Hotel Sacher Philharmonikerstraße

I absolutely love this hotel. Very residential, very sumptuous, yet not “over the top”. The owner of the Sacher Hotels is a lady, which is reflected in the soft furnishings. The rooms and fabrics are gorgeous. I could have easily flopped down on the settee and settled in for a night. I would recommend this as the best in town.

If you're interested in staying here or would like some more information, contact Harti-Wagner, Chief of Sales and Marketing: wein@sacher.com >>

The Ring Hotel Karnter

From the outside, the Ring Hotel Kartner looks like an 18th century building. Inside it’s modern and simplistic. It’s worlds away from both the Sacher and the Imperial. A modern Bistro with two original Andy Warhol paintings of Marilyn Monroe. The rooms are comfortable, the design is hip and happening.

If you're interested in staying here or would like some more information, contact Roland Hamberger, Director of Sales and Marketing: Sales@grandhotelwein.com >>

Hotel Sacher Schwarzstrasse

Just the one night here in Salzburg. This hotel is located right beside the river; so many of the rooms boast beautiful views of the water, the old town and the castle. My room was very small with an equally small bathroom, however the soft furnishings were wonderful, the bed blissfully comfortable and I could work the TV easily. At the Imperial in Vienna you needed a degree in computer science to operate the TV! I was very impressed when I came back to my room early in the evening. I had unpacked my suitcase and had strewn clothes over the bed. The maid had folded these all up and left them neatly on the chair. She had also hung up all of my jackets. My room service order was beautifully presented. All the staff used my name at all times. If service is key for you, you will love this hotel!

If you're interested in staying here or would like some more information, contact Evelyn Wickoff, Director of Sales: ewickoff@sacher.com >>

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The reception and gala dinner in the Great Gallery at Schonbrunn Palace Vienna was the ultimate highlight - it was an amazing night! This is the room where the Austrian Government holds State Dinners for visiting Head of State. Just gazing up at the ceiling above me during dinner was an experience!
  • The Austrian Tourist Office and all the local authorities pulled out all the stops to highlight the best that Austria has to offer.
  • Flying one stop from Australia to Vienna was fantastic!
  • I loved Vienna; the great pride the locals have in their Imperial past is very obvious! It’s a wonderful city to walk around in and just immerse yourself in the culture and history. The shopping is good and the local coffee houses are a treat. I found costs on par with Australia with the current strength of our dollar against the euro.
  • I could open the windows in all of the hotels I stayed in. Now, that’s something I like to see in a hotel!
  • Salzburg; I loved the old village. However even in November there were many tourists in groups (like us), I think it would be swarming with people in summer time.
  • The drive from Salzburg to Innsbruck was really great with amazing scenery!
  • The German high speed ICE train I took (first class) from Innsbruck to Munich last Saturday was on time, clean and efficient.
  • Austria as a destination – I would highly recommend it. A wealth of history, stunning scenery, wonderful cuisine and, being located in the “heart of Europe”, it’s easily accessible.

Travel Tips - Enjoying Istanbul

Thursday 29 March 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

The beautiful Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey. Here are a few tips and busted myths to help you maximise your stay.

  1. Istanbul is among the culturally-richest cities in the world. It's uniquely both European and Asian. Get amongst the diversity that the city has to offer; try new foods, meet new people. Its a rare and rich experience.

     
  2. Jump on a ferry and cross the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus divides Europe and Asia, and connects the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. For no more than a couple of dollars, you can enjoy a delightful ride across the Bosphorus and embrace the gorgeous skylines. Aim to catch a sunset, you'll be glad you did.

     
  3. Despite what you may have heard, Istanbul isn't exceptionally dangerous for women traveling alone or in small groups. In fact, Turkish culture is enormously hospitable. Locals have been warmly welcoming all travelers for centuries!

     
  4. And no ladies, it isn't mandatory that you cover up. Istanbul is a modern and stylish city; the fashion's hip and trendy. You'll see a mixture of dress-codes, from head scarves and traditional villiage-wear to no scarves and mini skirts. So you can be yourself. Just remember to bring a scarf to wear into any of the gorgeous mosques.

     
  5. You wont run out of things to do. A few must-see historic sites to get your "To-do List" underway include the Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, the Topkapi Palace and the Islamic Arts Museum.

     
  6. Visit a traditional Hamam for some soaking and steaming - your skin will love you for it! For the ideal experience, you'll want a steam, bath and scrub, and a massage.

Guzel vakit gecirin (Turkish for have a wonderful time)!

For more information, or to book or enquire about a unique experience of your own in Istanbul contact us today >>
Or, if there's any other destination that you'd like more information on, let us know >>

Top 10's Best 10 - Travelscene Holidays

Monday 13 February 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

 

BALI

KUTA LAGOON RESORT & POOL VILLAS from $268 pp.

SAVE up to $206 per couple
Kuta Lagoon Resort & Pool Villas is located in the heart of Kuta, a short walk to Kuta Beach, shops and entertainment areas. The resort features a lagoon style pool with pool bar, 24-hour restaurant and day spa, situated in the heart of Kuta. Stay 7 nights including breakfast daily, return transfers, 2 FREE bottles of beer plus FREE daily scheduled shuttle bus to Kuta Beach for only $268 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr-30Jun12 & 16Sep-31Oct12

BONUS!
Includes 2 FREE nights + EXCLUSIVE: 1 FREE lunch for 2 guests



PHUKET, THAILANDPHUKET ORCHID RESORT & SPA from $213 pp.

You SAVE up to $352 per couple
Phuket Orchid Resort & Spa is less than two minutes walk from Karon Beach. It is the ideal location to take advantage of the many water sports and offers two swimming pools surrounded by palm trees, lush gardens and poolside bar and kids club (5-11yrs). The hotel also has its own shopping centre for daily needs, beach wear and handicrafts. Stay 8 nights including breakfast daily, return transfers, plus 1 FREE 3 course Thai or Western Dinner^ for 2 guests for only $213 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01May-30Jun12

BONUS!
Includes 4 FREE nights + EXCLUSIVE: FREE 3 course dinner for 2 guests^



FIJICLUB FIJI from $169 ppSAVE up to $350 per couple
Comfortable, relaxed and located on Nadi Bay and close to the airport and town, Club Fiji offers bures just metres from the beach with views across the ocean and the Mountains of the Sleeping Giant. Stay 6 nights in a Garden Court Bure including breakfast daily and FREE return airport transfers for only $169 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr-30Jun, 21Jul-14Aug and 26Aug-31 Oct12

BONUS!
Includes 2 FREE nights + EXCLUSIVE: FREE pizza dinner for 2 guests

VANUATU

COCONUT PALMS RESORT from $349 pp.

SAVE up to a massive $474 per couple
Set in tropical gardens and located only 5 minutes from the heart of Port Vila Coconut Palms Resort offers a great value for money holiday. Stay 7 nights in a Superior Orchid Room including breakfast daily and return airport transfers for only $349 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr-30Sep12.

BONUS!
Includes 3 FREE nights + AU$100 food & beverage credit per room per stay

COOK ISLANDS

CLUB RARO from $395 pp.

That’s a SAVING of up to $144 per couple
Set amongst beautiful winding mosaic pathways, swaying palms and tropical gardens, Club Raro creates a warm, friendly and relaxing atmosphere to put you in the holiday mood. Stay 6 nights in a Standard Room including tropical breakfast daily and return airport transfers for only $395 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr - 31Oct12.

BONUS!
Includes 1 FREE night + NZ$100 food & beverage credit per room per stay

HAWAII

MIRAMAR AT WAIKIKI from $371 pp.SAVE over $442 per couple
Perfectly situated in the heart of Waikiki, the Miramar At Waikiki offers guests classic and attentive Aloha service just steps away from world class shopping and dining and a leisurely 1-½ block stroll from the World Famous Waikiki Beach. With 4 restaurants and a swimming pool with poolside bar, it is an ideal choice for those seeking quality service and prime location. Stay 6 nights including transfers for only $371 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr-30Sep12.

BONUS!
EXCLUSIVE room upgrade + 2 FREE nights included

ANAHEIM

SHERATON PARK HOTEL from $597 pp.

Receive a USD$125 GIFT CARD
The Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort, ideally located within walking distance to the Disneyland Resort, the Anaheim GardenWalk and the Anaheim Convention Center, is your perfect Southern California haven. Settle into one of our 490 guest rooms and suites, all featuring private balconies with views of either the lushly landscaped patio and pool area or the Disneyland Resort and GardenWalk. Stay 5 nights including a 2-Day Disneyland Resort 1-Park per Day Ticket for just $597 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01Apr-31Oct12.

BONUS!
Includes USD$125 Resort Credit gift card per room

LAS VEGAS

CIRCUS CIRCUS HOTEL & CASINO from $422 pp.

That's a SAVING of up to 20%
On the northern end of the Strip, Circus Circus Hotel & Casino is a full service resort with all the round-the-clock excitement of a Las Vegas casino and starring the world’s largest, permanent circus and America’s largest indoor theme park! Offer includes an amazing Grand Canyon Overnight Tour that also takes in Lake Mead & Hoover Dam. Stay 5 nights including a Grand Canyon Overnight tour for just $422 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 01-12Apr12 & 22-26Apr12.

BONUS!
EXCLUSIVE reduced rate on Grand Canyon Tour

HONG KONG

HARBOUR PLAZA NORTH POINT from $232 pp.

That’s a SAVING of up to $124 per couple
Harbour Plaza North Point is located in one of Hong Kong’s most progressive areas between the exciting Causeway Bay and Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, 24-hour room service, Wi-Fi internet and FREE shuttle to the airport express station, Causeway Bay and Cityplaza Shopping Mall. Stay 4 nights including, return transfers, plus 1 FREE High Tea set for 2 guests for only $232 per adult twin share.
Valid for travel 1-10Apr12 & 1May-16Sep12.

BONUS!
Includes 1 FREE night + FREE High Tea for 2 guests

LONDON

PARK INTERNATIONAL HOTEL from $345 pp.SAVE $272 per couple
Located in fashionable Kensington, the Park International Hotel offers high quality accommodation, dining, entertainment and leisure facilities, along with warm and friendly service from the dedicated team. Having recently undergone a renovation the Park International Hotel ensures a comfortable and relaxing stay. Stay 5 nights including an EDF Energy London Eye Standard Ticket for only $345 per adult twin share. Valid for travel 01Apr-21May12, 7-24Jun12, 9-16Jul12 & 11Sept-31Oct12.

BONUS!
EXCLUSIVE: Includes 1 FREE night

Click here to download the complete Travelscene Top 10's Best 10 Brochure online >>

Click here for Bookings and enquiries >>

 

Conditions: Valid for Sale to: 10Mar12. Prices are per person based on 2 adults sharing the cost of accommodation. Surcharges apply for travel outside of the above dates. Taxes and prices are correct as at 03Feb12, are subject to change without notice & subject to availability. Special conditions apply for bonus offers. ^Phuket Orhid Resort & Spa; 3 course dinner is a set Thai or Western dinner and only valid 1 per room per stay. Bali Visa: A visa is required and payable on arrival in Denpasar. A 30 days for approx. AUD$26 (USD$25). A departure fee is payable in Denpasar at a cost of approx AUD$19 (Rp150,000). Hawaii: Room upgrade is from Standard to City View. Las Vegas: Price is based on Sun-Thu night stays.Stay/Pay specials are only valid on consecutive night stays and free nights are already included in cost. Prices do not include taxes or charges collected directly by third parties. Savings based on cost of free nights or reduced rates, included meals, upgrades and included value add-ons. Surcharge may be imposed on credit card transactions. Please see Top 10 flyer for full conditions.

Refinery 29 Dream Vacays

Friday 3 February 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Refinery 29 is an online global hub of fashion, beauty and shopping for trend-savvy individuals worldwide. This article by the R29 team is packed with inspiration for stylish travel-lovers. Four Refinery 29 Editors shared their dream escapes and divine packing lists so that readers can spend their holiday in style. These delightful stylish escapes are comprised so well, you'll want to follow them to a tee!

Here's a sneak peak:

Dream Vacay 1.: Belize

By: Christene Barberiche, Editor in Chief
Accommodation: Matachia Resort & Spa
She says: "I'm really not a beach vacation person, but Belize has been at the tippy-top of my dream vacations list for like, ever. Finally, this March, I'll be booking a week's escape at the (hopefully!) magical Matachica Resort & Spa. There's just something about tropical rainforests, quiet beaches, Mayan ruins, and a good hammock that seems to fit the bill right about now."
Read more >>

Dream Vacay 2.: Mexico City

By: Piera Gelardi, Creative Director
Accommodation: Condesa DF
She says: "I'm not great at sitting still so I love me some city vacation! I've heard such amazing things about Mexico City in the past few years and I'm dying to go check out the melding of old and new in the city and the blossoming art and music scenes. I'm going to call Condesa DF home for the five days I'll be there in March. It's in the 'SoHo of MC."
Read more >>

Dream Vacay 3.: Hokkaido, Japan

By: Connie Wang, Global Editor
Accommodation: Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei
She says: "When they say Japan has everything they really mean it. On the northern island of Hokkaido, you can go on a skiing session in the mountains, explore the hot springs in their many national parks, and get blitzed at a bar on Sapporo (in Sapporo, their capital city) all in the same day. Oh, also gorge on some of the best seafood in the world."
Read more >>

Dream Vacay 4.: Courchevel, France

By: Kristian Laliberte, Senior Editor
Accommodation: Les Airelles
He says: "As much as I'd love to be on the beach, I want to get in some skiing this season. In Courchevel, I can still work on my tan and get some deep powder. It ain't VT — the Trois Vallées is one of the largest ski resorts in the world. Plus, the apres-ski scene isn't just hot cocoa — there are designer boutiques, glam creperies, and oui, even nightclubs."
Read more >>

Bizarre Hotels from Around the Globe

Wednesday 1 February 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Are you seeking a holiday that promises a genuine escape from reality? Here's eight bizarre accommodation options that promise a truly out-of-this-world experience.

1. The Balancing Barn, England

This hotel was designed and built by Living Architecture, a holiday home company from the UK. Using modern architecture and high quality materials, and situated in the peaceful and beautiful Suffolk, it was designed to work on the connection between environment, architecture and happiness - a perfect balance in fact.

2. Wild Brown Bear Hotel, Finland

The incredible surroundings are the focal attraction of this hotel. A fairy tale setting for wildlife-lovers and nature-enthusiasts. It provides the opportunity to spy on bears and wolverines, kayak through the peaceful lakes and commune with Finland's natural side.

3. Hotel Saratoga, Cuba

Hotel Saratoga screams "ultimately cool"! Its rooftop pool overlooks some of the best views in town, and is high enough to diminish the noisy hustle and bustle of the city! If you're nearby Havana, this hotel is the place to stay.

4. Akköy Evleri Cave Hotel, Turkey

This rock-cut hotel is situated in Cappadocia. It comprises of fire boutique rooms designed as caves and built in ex-cave houses. This caveman style experience doesn't lack exceptional service either.

5. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

This amazing place is located on the edge of Ngorongoro volcano, promising superb views over the Savannah. The surrounding conservation area, protected by UNESCO, places hotel guests on the path of wild animals. Marvelous safaris await you with this truly African experience.

6. Adrère Amellal Ecolodge, Egypt

This resort is closely situated to the Sahara desert, allowing its guests to explore its freedom and unspoilt beauty. With no phone, no internet and no electricity, this true escape from reality is all about astonishing sunsets over the sand dunes with not a single distraction at all.

7. Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

From the walls and floors to the beds and chairs, everything here is made entirely from rock salt. This unique hotel is located on a vast expanse of white salt on the Eastern shores of the Great Salar de Uyuni. Enjoy the great night views of the stars, light shows on the salt lake, relaxing salt spas or the salty golf course.

8. Great Orme Lighthouse, Wales

This old lighthouse was built in 1862 and was used as a warning for ships up until 1985. Today it comprises of a beautiful history and a 180 degree view over the cliffs of north Wales and the Irish Sea - for those who like a room with a view!
 

Click here to enquire about or book your own out-of-this-world experience >>

10 Must-See Destinations for Beach Lovers

Monday 30 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Whether it’s for the marine life, wild parties, skinny dipping or soothing time in the sun, beaches make for a satisfying escape from reality. The diversity of experience from beach to beach is astonishing. Here’s a handful of the world’s most incredible beaches - must see destinations for beach-lovers!

A Nudist’s Paradise:
Paradise Beach, Rab, Croatia

The Croatian island of Rab has claimed its title as the birthplace of modern skinny dipping. Permission was granted in 1936 from city authorities to bathe naked in the inlet of Kandalora, and people from all over the world have been doing just that ever since.

Sandy Hot Tubs:
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

At Hot Water Beach in New Zealand, you can dig up your very own man-made hot tub. Nearby volcanos on the edge of New Zealand’s North Island develop large underground reservoirs of extremely hot water. The water cools slightly as it escapes to the surface, emerging at temperatures as hot as 64 C.

Short and Sweet:
Lover’s Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico

This semi-hidden cove sits on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. The beach is small and the sea can get rough, so these dramatic landscapes are best enjoyed via a quick boat cruise. Short, and very sweet.

The Beach of the Bohemian:
Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay has a unique appeal for travelers, with pubs, cafes, bookshops and buskers lining the streets. With a lingering scent of the flower power generation, many artists, musicians and and beach-bums call this slice of paradise ‘home’.

Party, Party, Party:
Las Salinas, Ibiza, Spain

This 1,600 meter-long crescent of sand in the island’s southernmost tip, is the most happening beach of them all. With music blasting from Las Salinas’ beach bars from morning till night, this is the place to be for beach-goers that love to party.

Action and Activity:
Cape Maclear, Malawi

Cape Maclear sits on the edge of Lake Malawi; a lake so large it feels like an ocean. The huge abundance of fish species and marine life - and the absence of brine, sharks and jellyfish - have labelled this destination heaven for divers and snorkelers.

Luxury on the Water:
Sun Island Beach, Maldives

Considered by many to be the world’s best beach, this treasure in the middle of the Indian Ocean is a luxury-lovers’ favourite. Many are drawn by thought of sleeping on the water, literally. Nearby coral reefs attract thousands of tropical fish, snorkelers and divers too.

A Penguin’s Paradise:
Boulders Beach, Cape Town

Here you’ll discover one of the the scenes that South Africa is most famous for - penguins on a beach. Boulders Beach is home to a colony of 3,000 jackass penguins that can be easily spotted waddling in and out of the water.

“The Beach”:
Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Well-known for it’s role in the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this picture perfect beach attracts thousands of visitors each day. The white-sandy shores are hugged by steep limestone cliffs. Coral reefs make it an excellent spot for snorkeling too.

A Dreamy Escape:
Matira Beach, Bora Bora, Tahiti

With the softest sands and calm waters, Bora Bora is the ideal destination for true beach lovers. Embrace the tourist spirit and feed the sharks, hunt for pearls or look through World War II memorabilia while your there.

TripAdvisor Names the World's Top Hotels

Tuesday 24 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |


Image: Garonga Safari, Phalaborwa

Comparison Website TripAdvisor has issued its 10th annual Traveler's Choice Awards list of the world's 25 best hotels, based on millions of rankings. That's right; decided by guests, decided by - you! Here are the top rankings:

Best Hotel in the World:

The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, Belize

Best Luxury Hotel in the World:

Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo


Image: Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo

Best Bargain in the World:

HueNino Hotel in Hue, Vietnam

Best for Service in the World:

Arcadia Residence in Prague, Czech Republic


Image: Arcadia Residence, Prague

Best B&B and Inn in the World:

The Twenty One in Brighton, England

Best All-Inclusive in the World:

Garonga Safari Camp in Phalaborwa, South Africa


Image: Garonga Safari Camp, Phalaborwa

Best Relaxation and Spa in the World:

BollAnt’s im Park in Bad Sobernheim, Germany

Trendiest Hotel in the World:

Villa Zest Boutique Hotel in Cape Town, S.A.


Image: Villa Zest Hotel, Cape Town

Passing Time on Long Flights

Monday 23 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Here are a few tips to keep yourself occupied and survive long, international flights.

1. Learn a couple of phrases in a foreign language

Whether you read a phrasebook and aim to memorise a few sentences or take an mp3 player with audio lessons and aim a little higher, improving your understanding of the local language (of your destination) is always a great idea and a great way to pass the time!

2. Movie marathon

Everybody has a “must-see” movie list, that they never really get around to making time for, right? A few months prior to your travels, start jotting your list down, and organise these movies to watch on your flight.

If you don’t have a must-see movie list, here’s a few travel films that will get you excited for your journey:

7 Years in Tibet -- based on one of several books by Austrian Heinrich Harrer about mountain climbing in extreme conditions, this movie tells the tale of his 7 years in Tibet during its takeover by China.
Amelie -- a French film about a 23 year old waitress living in Paris who tries to spread joy to the people who surround her.
Baraka -- a beautiful movie with no dialogue revealing images shot around the global of animals and humans interacting with the natural environment and the surroundings we’ve created.
L’Auberge Espagnole -- set in Barcelona, the movie reveals the tale of a young Frenchman sharing an apartment with Italian, English, Danish, Belgian, German and Spanish roommates. He comes to learn Spanish, but learns much more about himself.
Before Sunrise -- a romantic about two strangers who meet on a train and spend the evening together in Vienna. The movie explores the accelerated feelings that come with traveling.

3. Catch up on sleep

If you can force yourself to drift into a snooze, you’ll be feeling fresher on arrival, and the time will surely fly by a lot quicker. Ask for a pillow, eye mask and ear plugs if they’ll make you more comfortable.

4. Stretch your legs

This exercise should be done regardless of whether your 16 hour flight is thrilling or boring. Stretching your legs and walking multiple laps of the cabin every two hours or so will help you to avoid blood clots.

5. Make a friend

This obviously relies heavily on who you’re sitting next to. If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated next to someone who is approachable, speaks the same language and has interesting stories to tell. Many lasting friendships can be forged by random conversations on long flights.

It’s easy to strike up a conversation, after all you’re both crossing continents and most likely for different reasons, for different lengths of time, and so on. Be friendly, listen as much (if not more) than you speak, and enjoy the company.

6. Read a book

A book is a great companion on your flight; you can pause at any time and continue reading throughout your trip too. Travel tales make great, inspiring reads when you’ve embarked on a journey of your own. Educational reads about your destination or the world in general are also a great idea. If you’re traveling with a friend, make sure you both carry a book that neither of you have read. That way, once you’ve both finished reading, you can swap books. You’ll have two books each, without the extra weight.

7. Write in your journal

You can reflect on your travels, feelings or experiences. Write an article, poem or story. Make a to-do list, or a don’t-do list. Set goals, plan your future or even draw it. With pen and paper, the possibilities are endless.

8. Listen to music

Particularly if you’re picky with your taste in music, bringing your own audio device is generally a safe way to go. Try french musical group Deep Forest for a moving and relaxing beat; the ‘ethnic electronica’ vibe is soothing, yet inspiring - perfect for embarking on a new and exciting journey.


Travel safe and enjoy the ride!

Seven Trips for Seven Types of Travellers

Monday 16 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Where’s the best place to escape the grind and remember that a whole world is still out there? A mountain. A beach. A Greek idyll. Only you know who you are and what suits you.

But we’ve got a decent idea. Actually, we have seven. What follows are seven trips for seven traveler types, all of whom deserve an adventure this year - and a friendly 2012 reminder to not forget the sunscreen!

1. The outdoorist: Mount Whitney, California, United States

Challenging, and accomplishable. Consider 4,421-meter Mount Whitney; the tallest peak in America’s lower 48 states, and reputedly the highest walk-up summit on the globe.

Not all make it to the top, but the vast majority come during the mountain’s short climbing window between June and August when the 18-kilometer Whitney Trail - the most accessible route up - isn’t caked in snow and ice.

What’s the payoff along the way? Glistening streams, wildflowers and waterfalls. Waiting at the top is an eternal view of California’s Owens Valley and of course, those equally eternal bragging rights.

2. The beach baron: Boracay, Philippines

The world is filled with ranked beaches, but one worth putting on the radar is Boracay, a resort-studded speck of an isle about 320 kilometers south of Manila, which placed second in 2011’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Beach Awards.

Less than 10 kilometers long, Boracay’s powdery shores are complemented by enough top resorts, full-service spas, kite-surfing rental shops and full-body beach massage touts to keep everyone happy.

Summer 2011 reports of a giant development involving four new hotels and additional tourism projects on Boracay, which will no doubt draw an even larger wave of beach aficionados. That makes 2012 the year to get there before they do!

3. The wildlife lover: Pantanal, Brazil

Pandas, whale sharks, gorillas, white rhinos. The odds of glimpsing any endangered species in the wild are shrinking fast. So are their natural habitats, with a few hopeful exceptions.

Take the Pantanal, southwestern Brazil’s vast tropical outback, which recently garnered a spot on CBS’s "60 Minutes" as one of the last remaining reliable places to spot giant anteaters, giant otters, hyacinth macaws and - one of the world’s most elusive and threatened charismatic mega-fauna - jaguars.

Your best chance of spotting one, or many, is likely in the Pantanal. “So far, we’ve had multiple jaguar sightings on every trip, including several indescribable ‘wow’ moments,” says Ged Caddick, a veteran naturalist and founder of Terra Incognita Ecotours, which runs a variety of wildlife journeys around the world.
Nearly half of the tour is based on a river bank at a Jaguar Research Camp in a remote state park where guests cruise up and down with their zoom lenses waiting for those "wow" moments!

4. The eternal honeymooner: Santorini, Greece

Is it a good time to be planning that dream honeymoon to Greece - a beautiful country in its third year of economic crisis and which is now on the brink of punishing debt restructure? “Greek tourism is actually not doing as badly as you might think,” The Guardian recently noted. This in spite of the fact that “according to credit ratings agencies, Greece is a worse economic bet than either Pakistan or Ecuador.”

Bottom line: if there’s a safe, romantic haven hiding out in any country this financially bungled, it has to be Greece’s eternal newlywed-magnet isle, Santorini. With stark volcanic cliffs and strings of whitewashed villages, the pride of the Cyclades may have actually been buoyed by the falling euro, with reports of “banner years” in 2010 and 2011 -- and promising signs in 2012.

Couples who are rightfully drawn to Santorini are a world apart from all that. They’re too busy escaping on cruises to the neighboring islet of Thirasia where a quiet cliff-top taverna has a glass of ouzo and plate of fava beans with their name on it. Or basking in hot mud springs on the nearby “Burnt Islands” of Palaia Kameni and Nea Kemeni. Or parking in the seaside town of Oia for one of the world’s most life-affirming sunsets, joined by other starry-eyed couples who haven’t encountered a business section in days.

5. The coffee whisperer: Blue Mountains, Jamaica

Savoring a sunrise and local joe in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains is the world’s most honest caffeine buzz. Blue Mountain Coffee - Jamaica’s magic bean - is commonly hailed the finest, scarcest premium coffee in the world! It can be tough to find a genuine cup of this full-bodied wunderbrew even in Jamaica, unless you go straight to its source in the island’s rugged east end - about as removed from Jamaica’s beach traffic as you can get.

The Blue Mountain Coffee crawl begins at Craighton Estate, a historic, 18-hectare plantation only 30 minutes' winding drive from Kingston. The tour begins with a cup of just-brewed 100 percent Blue Mountain Coffee on the estate’s grand Victorian balcony and continues with a trip through the property’s aromatic grounds.

The place to savor the bold Blue Mountains is Strawberry Hill, a mountain retreat with private luxury villas and gardens covered with coffee bushes, mango trees, bamboo and tropical flowers.

6. The cultural anthropologist: Pyongyang, North Korea (and beyond)

Yearning for a real getaway where you can form your own firsthand, sociopolitical opinion about how economic globalization affects industry and local communities? Taking a trip with Global Exchange is like hanging out in a National Geographic special.

The U.S.-based human rights organization leads hundreds of short-term “Reality Tours” around the world, all geared toward getting travelers in touch with the planet at the grassroots level. Enlightening trips to more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America explore a range of local topics from health and the environment to education and civil rights.

7. The big eater: Sardinia, Italy

“Agritourism” may sound like a new travel buzzword, but the concept has been big in Italy for decades - particularly in rolling country steeped in local, agrarian tradition, like Umbria, Tuscany and (our favorite, further out) Sardinia -- one of the country’s most rustic corners.

Hundreds of rural properties throughout Sardinia’s four provinces open their farmhouse doors to travelers craving an authentic taste of outer-Italian-isle-style farm life. Accommodations vary from simple farms in the Barbagia to Costa Smeralda agri-villas with vegetarian cuisine and relaxation classes. Agrarian activities run the gamut. Some farms offer horseback tours and guided hikes. Others operate more like moderately priced bed-and-breakfasts. Few hosts expect that their guests will actually be interested in putting in a day’s work behind the plow.

A handful of agritourism web sites list farms with links to homepages and online booking options all over Italy. Try Agritour and Agritalia. Regional agriturismo offices can provide further information.


CNN Go, Turner 2011. <CNNGO>
 

You May Want to Leave These at Home

Friday 13 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

When traveling internationally, always check the luggage and arrival conditions relevant to your destination before your trip. You’d be surprised how many travel conditions exist that you wouldn’t expect. Here’s a few of the most bizarre conditions of arrival that we’ve discovered.

1. Kinder Surprise Eggs, United States
U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized about 25,000 Kinder eggs in 1,700 separate incidents in 2010, and the agency reissued a longstanding warning against the import of the chocolate treat this year right before Easter.
Kinder Surprise eggs are banned because they have “a non-nutritive object imbedded” in them, and thus pose a potential safety hazard to children below the age of three. American children have to travel to Canada to know the delights of the world’s greatest chocolate-plus-toy combination.

2. Marmite and Vegemite, Denmark
The yeast-extract spreads which Aussies prefer were banned in Denmark a few months ago on the basis that Marmite and Vegemite are products that contain “enhanced vitamins.” It seems that if you really need vegemite on toast to start your day, you will need to make a road-trip of it.

3. Cordless telephones, Indonesia
Alongside the usual restrictions on bringing live animals and produce into the country, Indonesian authorities have also prohibited travelers from bringing in cordless phones without an approved license. Fairly odd.

4. Electric pans, toasters and irons, Cuba
Count household appliances among the ‘dont’s’ for your packing list when you head into Cuba. Fresh animal products? Also banned. Printed material against public morality? No. That electric frying pan you were sitting on the fence about? Sorry. No chores for you, you’re traveling!

5. New articles of clothing, Malaysia
Malaysia limits visitors to three articles of new clothing in their baggage upon entry to the country, and anything beyond the allowance is subject to duties. It’s unclear how this restriction can be enforced or monitored, but just in case, be sure to wear all your articles of clothing at least once before touching down on Malaysian soil.

6. Chewing gum, Singapore
The ban on chewing gum in Singapore is well known. Nevertheless, it’s always good to remind people again that this actually isn’t an urban myth.

 

This information is correct at time of writing, but laws are subject to change. Always check the conditions for arrival into a country before your trip.
CNN GO, 2011 <cnngo>

Getting Lost in Venice

Thursday 12 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Venice, Italy is renowned for the beauty of its setting. Commonly considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, it’s little wonder that it attracts around 50,000 tourists every day!

One thing that everyone should know before heading to Venice however is that this is a city that does sleep. Despite the number of tourists pouring into Venice each day, the city has essentially no nightlife. Most visitors are day-tripping, and you’ll likely find that most restaurants are clearing their last tables by 10:30pm.

So how would you soak up the romance on your trip to Venice? If you’re sharing the moment with your sweetheart then enjoy quiet pizzas, local markets, simply wander arm-in-arm and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. The incredible architecture and artwork of this city give it character that you wont find anywhere else.

If you’re visiting alone, don’t be displeased by the ‘love-scene’. Traveling to Venice solo gives you the opportunity to flirt with life; discover relaxation, history, culture, beauty and even yourself. Romance is a state of mind, don’t be afraid to enjoy it on your own.

For those accustomed to late nights, don’t adjust your sleeping time. Rather, use these peaceful evenings to wander the streets. The city is safe and you’re on an island, so you probably wont get lost - but you should try! The sound of the water in the narrow canals clapping on the edges of crumbling buildings should help you lose yourself in your dreamy thoughts, at the very least!

To book your holiday or enquire about getting lost in Venice click here >>

Travel Risks NOT Worth Taking

Friday 6 January 2012 | By Maria Boskovski |

Following our recent blog article “Travel Risks Worth Taking”, we bring you five travel risks that need to be avoided at all costs!

1. Going barefoot.

Even in the most isolated locations, broken or sharp objects can still be hidden in the sand or cracks in the path. Cuts on the feet are prone to serious infection, so going barefoot isn’t an option. Invest in some all purpose sandals and avoid the risk completely.

2. Gambling in Casinos.

When traveling to poorer countries, although the risk may seem minor, it’s rewards certainly aren’t worthy of it. Not only is casino gambling a great way to lose money, but unrecognised and underground casinos are almost always nasty places. Profits are often funneled to questionable citizens that cultivate criminal activity. In respect of the struggling locals at the very least, don’t patronise casinos.

3. Booking tight connections.

Booking tight flight connections may seem like a good idea when you’re feeling positive and excited for your trip. However, flight delays are completely out of your control. Missing a flight can cost you loads of time and money. The best way to avoid the situation is by leaving plenty of time between flights. Consider staying over night; you can explore the location and get plenty of rest, too.

4. Getting “wasted”.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few evening drinks while you’re traveling. Just be mindful so that things don’t get out of hand. Having too much to drink and finding your way back to your hotel late at night in a foreign town can make you an easy target.

5. Not buying travel insurance.

Travel insurance is a necessity. A lot of things can happen whilst your traveling abroad, including injuries, having your possessions stolen or needing to cancel your trip. Having an insurance company to back you up will be a great advantage to you in these situations. It’s cheap and quick and easy to buy, so really there’s no excuse not to have coverage!


Rest Up, Travel Well.

Thursday 8 December 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

With travel plans - long lists of things to do, feelings of excitement and even large amounts of stress tend to follow. This can make it particularly difficult to keep yourself well rested and feeling fresh from the get-go! But without a good rest and lots of energy, you’ll likely reduce the quality of your experience. Here’s a few tips to help you rest up and keep you buzzing so that you can make the most of your trip!

Be ready a day early
Before leaving, you’ll probably have a bunch of things you need to have completed. From packing your suitcase, to finalising office tasks and organising your pets for when you’re away, the list is long and will have you on your toes. Set yourself a deadline to have everything you need completed two nights before you leave - and stick by it! Cross completed tasks off your list. The extra day will allow you enough time to deal with anything that didn’t quite go to plan and any last minute tasks. And of course, the day before you leave is yours to use for rest. Get lots of sleep and see a friend for lunch. Resting up and enjoying this day is crucial to setting the tone of your trip, and should be treated like a crucial task, too.

Travel comfortably
Particularly for long flights, wear clothes as loose and as comfortable as your own pajamas. Getting sleep on a plane is tricky enough as it is, but wearing jeans wont do you any favours! Taking an extra pair of socks and a shawl on board are a good idea, too. If the air-con gets a bit too much, you can slip on your socks. The shawl gives you the option of using it as a wrap-around, pillow or blanket. And if you don’t mind the extra weight, horseshoe shaped pillows are a great accessory for neck support, too!

Pack some snacks
Advising the flight attendant not to wake you during meal time is a good idea. Try and get as much uninterrupted sleep as possible. They will most likely serve you your tray after you wake up. Pack some dried fruit, mixed nuts or other nutritious snacks so that you can have something to eat any time you feel like it. Also, drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Better yet, drink water every time it’s offered to you!

Adjust your watch
Slipping into the timeframe of your destination as early as possible will allow you to adapt to your new routine. Adjusting your watch to he local time of your destination as soon as you get on board obviously wont give you the instant ability to switch your body-clock over - however, the earlier you start adapting, the better.

Pick your own room
When booking accommodation, particularly hotel accommodation in any city, specify that you do not want your room facing the busy thoroughfares. Not only are you more likely to get a good nights sleep, but you’ll more likely enjoy a better view! If you’re a really light sleeper, take a pair of ear plugs just incase.

Happy holiday!

Things to Know Before You Go

Monday 28 November 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Here's 14 things that you should know to avoid problems and maximise your time abroad:

  1. Print your entire itinerary and flight tickets/confirmations and store these with your passports. Try to avoid relying on Internet access.
     
  2. Always be patient and polite. The person you’re speaking to could be the difference between getting a flight that night or having to spend it at the airport.
     
  3. Do your research. Destinations like Thailand and India often offer accommodation and food at half the price in off-season, with little change in weather.
     
  4. Have local currency when you arrive (preferably small denominations). Exchanging money at the airport when you land is generally expensive. If you do have to exchange at the airport, shop around if possible. The first one you encounter is likely to be the most expensive.
     
  5. Sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender. They usually know a lot about the town, have lots of great tips and might introduce you to some locals.
     
  6. Understand that you never have time to see EVERYTHING, and be okay with it. By seeing less, you’re often experiencing a whole lot more.
     
  7. You’ll never regret learning at least some basic expressions of the language. If possible, sign up to a language course when you arrive. It’s usually a great place to meet other travellers, too.
     
  8. If you’re on a long bus trip and there’s a break, make sure you keep an eye on the driver – when he/she gets back on the bus, it’s most likely time to leave.
     
  9. Don’t keep all your cards and cash together. In the unfortunate incident of having something stolen, this will help you avoid losing both.
     
  10. Keep a “promise book” with you (even if it’s just the back of your travel journal). Use this to help you keep the promises you make to the people you meet on the road (e.g. sending the photo you took of them). Be good to your word.
     
  11. Take every opportunity you can to plug your electronics in and keep those batteries charged.
     
  12. Know well in advance the visa requirements for all your destinations. Some can take weeks to obtain.
     
  13. Bring a sarong with you. It’s light and can be used for so many things, like covering yourself in holy places, as a towel and as a beach/park blanket.
     
  14. Bring ziplock bags. They‘re great for holding things together, storing damp or dirty clothes, as well as potentially messy items like suncream and moisturising lotion.
     

Make the Family Holiday Memorable For Your Child

Thursday 3 November 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |


Younger children in particular aren't likely to recognise and remember significant family moments. Here’s a list of tips and activities to make your family holiday memorable for them, as well as memorable (and peaceful) for yourself.

Works a ‘treat’
Particularly for lengthy flights and car rides, children may get restless and tired. Keep them entertained by packing a small bag of affordable toys of different sorts (appropriate to their age). Each half hour to an hour, present them with a new toy. It’s likely to keep them amused and well-behaved. Don’t forget to pack some snacks, too.

Rested, not restless
If you’re travelling by car, try to take a 20 minute pause every two hours. Look out for parks and rest stops. A change of scenery will be nice and refreshing, and it’s important to stretch when sitting for long periods of time.

Disposable cameras
Buy an inexpensive disposable camera for your child to carry around during the holiday. When you get home you can create a memory book from your child’s perspective. They make lovely keepsakes!

Postcard stories
Buy a postcard or two for your child at each destination. Writing stories or moments on the back of postcards will help them remember their holiday. Get them to include the date and place names too. You can punch a hole in the bottom corner of each postcard and place them on a key ring, for a fun way to document their trip.

Get them involved
Go through your holiday plans with your child or children before you leave. Show them travel brochures or photos in books or on the internet. As you make your way there, point out buildings, parks and places. Share your excitement with them.

Keeping Your Possessions Safe - Tips for Tourists and Travellers

Wednesday 2 November 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Tourists and travellers are often major targets for criminals. You may be culture savvy or a terrific globetrotter, but there are people out there who make a living thieving the valuable possessions of vulnerable foreigners. Here are a few tips to help you keep your belongings safe.

Watch out for pick-pocketers
Pick-pocketing is more common than you think. When out and about, always keep your wallet, phone and other valuables in your front pockets, and be conscious of them at all times. Try to avoid crowded places, and be aware of people getting too close for comfort. Placing rubber-bands around your phone and wallet will make it more difficult to remove them smoothly from your pockets.

Carry a ‘fake’ wallet
Your own safety and well-being is more important than your possessions. If someone threatens to harm you in a mugging, your best bet is to hand over your wallet. Carrying another wallet in your back pocket containing a small amount of local currency is usually a good idea. You can hand over the ‘fake’ wallet, and wont lose important cards or a lot of money.

Stay awake
Travelling may be tiring, but try to avoid falling asleep on public transport. You’d hate to wake up to find that someone has helped themselves to your belongings. In the instance where you’ve got no other choice but to rest your eyes during your 10 hour flight delay, keep your bag on and under you. Take the time to make sure that none of your possessions are accessible.

Make like a local
Study the map before you arrive. Roaming the streets with your hand held map and a backpack may attract some unnecessary attention. Try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. When visiting poorer countries with high crime rates, it might be an idea to leave your iPod earphones out of sight when you’re strolling through town.

Drink responsibly
It’s understandable - you’re on holiday and you want to have a good time. Drinking sensibly however, generally allows you to make wiser decisions. You don’t want to see a wonderful night turn to disaster after stumbling back to your hotel via unfamiliar streets.

Keep a note in an old shoe
Particularly if you’re staying in a hostel or motel, take a pair of shabby looking sneakers and keep some cash tucked away inside. If your room gets robbed and your possessions are swiped, chances are your shoe will still be there with enough money to sort yourself out and make the next move.

Travel Risks Worth Taking

Wednesday 26 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

The world is at your feet. Be adventurous and risky. Here's five travel risks with reaping rewards that you can't afford not to take!

  1. Go somewhere you never thought you’d go.
    There’s no such thing as an uninteresting destination. Pack your curiosity and a bit of adventure, and make the most of the opportunity. Rather than going somewhere because it was recommended to you, step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere that no one you know has ever been. Provided your willing to embrace a new culture and get to know the locals, you’ll likely find that there are incredible people everywhere in the world.
     
  2. Challenge yourself.
    To challenge your beliefs and perceptions is potentially the most rewarding travel risk that you can take. People accross the world are likely to have very contrasting upbringings, and the ability to gain perspective about the lives of others and the world at large is to take up an opportunity for a wonderful new experience. You’ll often find that it leads to the rexamination of your own assumptions, allowing you to change in profound ways. Know that no learning experience is an unfortunate experience, and allow yourself to make the most of this.
     
  3. Try new food.
    In this day and age, it’s possible to travel the world and order only familiar foods from English menus and American fast food chains. Allow yourself instead to experiment with new foods and take up the opportunity to try local delicacies whenever you can. Popular regional dishes will most often feature fresh ingredients and an amazing unique taste. Do your research where you can and avoid the street food that could potentially leave you feeling sick, but don’t avoid trying new things completely. It’s a small risk to take to sample the flavours of the globe.
     
  4. Communicate.
    Stepping into a country where you don’t know a word of the local language can be intimidating and scary. Don’t be shy and make the most of international language - smiles, laughs and even broken sentences will say more than silence. Locals will often appreciate the friendliness of foreigners who attempt to say hello. And for those of you who are willing to go the extra mile, learn the basics of a foreign language. It can only do good things for your mind.
     
  5. Ignore emails for weeks.
    You wont miss 'em.

Five Tips to Tame Your Flying Fear

Friday 21 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Giving into your fear of flying can cause you to miss out on some fantastic travelling opportunities. Those however, who do find the confidence to face their fears and visit distant lands discover an amazing sense of accomplishment, as their journey is all the more gratifying if they’ve had to conquer their fears simply to arrive. Here’s five tips to help you tame those fears!

  1. Know Your Odds

    Don’t try to block the fear out of your mind completely, and then face it full throttle once you arrive at the airport. You will suddenly come to terms with the fact that you’re about to board a plane, and are likely to start to panic. Take the time to do some background research.

    According to OAG Aviation, you have a 1 in 5.4 million chance of being involved in a plane accident with at least one fatality on any given flight. According to Plane Crash Info, this means that a passenger would have to take one flight every day for 21,000 years before they would be involved in a fatal wreck. If you’re already feeling a little more comfortable, take the time to research more statistics like these - the information is hardly limited.
     
  2. Prepare Yourself

    Knowing what to expect on board will help stop your mind from jumping to conclusions in the midst of your panic. Familiarise yourself with the sights and sounds of flying. Speak to friends who travel often and get an idea of what take-off and experiencing turbulence is like, so you know what you may encounter before you leave.

    If you feel the need to go the extra step, there are plenty of great support forums or information sites that you can go to. Flying Without Fear is a great website and it provides stacks of free content - you can even listen to sounds that you can expect while flying and find out exactly what they mean.

  3. Pick Your Seat and Buckle Up

    If it’s turbulence that gets your hands shaking, then aim for a seat in the centre of the plane. Although you can’t eliminate turbulence completely by sitting in a different seat, sitting between the wings is likely to reduce the bumpiness of your ride. The valve above you will also provide cooler air, which may come in handy if you’re working up a nervous sweat.

    Rumours state that, in the rare incident of something going wrong, every centimetre of slack in your seatbelt triples the g-force of impact experienced by your body. And although there isn’t statistics available to prove this theory right or bust the myth completely, the thought of it is calming. So tighten your seatbelt, do allow yourself room for comfort and leave it buckled while your sleeping.
     
  4. Pretend You’re On a Bus

    It sounds a bit ridiculous but it’s more common than you think. Sit back, close your eyes and imagine your on a bus. If you find yourself experiencing some turbulence, your bus is now travelling along a bumpy dirt road. It’s a great trick for calming the nerves temporarily. Just be aware, travelling for too long while your conscious without the ability to see movement can also leave you feeling a bit sick in the tummy. Don’t spend the entire flight with your eyes closed, singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus...” in your head!
     
  5. See a Doctor and Get Some Sedatives

    If you’re still not feeling any more confident, and you’ve read this entire article cringing at the word ‘flight’ each time it appears - sedatives may be an option for you! In some cases, getting around your fears is a lot less likely to happen than it is cancelling your flight. If this is the case, there’s no harm in making an appointment to see your doctor.

    Sedatives are great for calming the nerves, or in some cases, wiping you out for the greater portion of your flight. Explain the situation to your doctor and together you can make a decision on the most suitable dosage for you. Just don’t take them until you arrive at the airport, or prior to driving. Don’t fall asleep in the waiting area and miss your flight, either!


Have a safe and happy flight!

Three Life-Changing Things to Gain from Travelling Solo

Tuesday 18 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |


From 'time out' in primary school, to final exam study, to long walks on the beach - isolating yourself has always been a good way to take the handle on your emotions and give yourself the opportunity for growth and progress. It's no surprise that a journey alone can lead to life-changing gains.

  1. Responsibility

    The price of greatness is responsibility. Embarking on your journey, you will find yourself standing alone in a country that was so recently foreign to you. The challenge to take care of yourself and your possessions will force you to regain trust in others and build your own confidence.

    Much alike to your health, safety and possessions - Your experiences demand responsibility from you also. Taking the opportunity to create your own path is an important responsibility; it is your guide to self-reliance, independence and possibility.

    Weeks, months or even years later, when your journey has come to an end, you can look back and realise that every high point, discovery and memory was the work of your own actions.
     
  2. Future Dreams

    Time spent alone, particularly far away from the pressures of everyday life, provides an opportunity to reflect and plan ahead, which will help you determine what you want from life.

    With a clear and refreshed mind you can tackle the big questions and prepare to head home ready for action. Scribble, draw, write or record your thoughts and inspirations as you progress along your travels. Think of it as a tool for an enhanced outlook on your future or as reference points for great memories.
     
  3. Learning to Love

    When travelling alone you’re forced to adapt. Blending into places, situations and established groups becomes a priority, and inevitably presents opportunities for friendships and connections to develop. When you’re so far from your comfort zone, you develop a whole new level of appreciation for people, whereby gestures of kindness from strangers are felt with the deepest of gratitudes. The ability to view others in a new and positive light is a great way to recognise the value of a new friend.

    Travelling alone provides a platform for the acceptance of others, regardless of cultural differences. Discover passions for other places, cultures and people and in-turn discover your own character.

10,000 Free Round-Trip Tickets to Japan

Friday 14 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Here’s your chance to see Japan, with an opportunity like no other!

The country’s reputation has been tarnished by fears of earthquakes and radiation. In a desperate attempt to lure tourists back into the country, Japan Tourism Agency is giving away 10,000 free round trip tickets!

What’s the catch? All you need to do is be willing to publicise your trip through the use of blogs and social media sites.

In March this year, a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster, having a huge impact on the number of foreign visitors to Japan. In the first three months that followed the disaster, tourism dropped as drastically as 50% compared with the same time in 2010.

Japan Tourism Agency has requested more than 10 billion yen to pay for the tourism campaign and plans to open a website to solicit applicants interested in free tickets. Applicants will have the opportunity to sign up as early as next April. All they have to do is submit a written application detailing their travel plans in Japan and what they hope to get out of the trip.

The successful candidates will have to pay for their own accommodation and meals. They would also be required to post a review of their travel experiences online. Influential bloggers who are likely to spread the word that Japan is a safe place to visit are likely to have an advantage in the competition.

So for social media gurus and lifestyle bloggers, this is a wonderful opportunity. A free round-trip to Japan is a great reward for an online hobby, and sharing your experience is a decent price to pay!

Honeymoon Tips

Tuesday 11 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

You’ll have plenty of time to travel together, but only one honeymoon. Here is a list of honeymoon tips to ensure you make the most of it!

  1. Plan early. Allowing yourself enough time to research and explore your options means you’ll more likely find and do exactly what you want.
  2. Make decisions together. This moment marks the beginning of your life as husband and wife - share it as much as possible.
  3. This is the one holiday where you can really splurge on accommodation - Guilt-Free! Even if you don’t plan to spend much time in your room, you’ll want the time you do spend in your room to be really special.
  4. If you plan to take your spouse’s name, you probably wont have the time to update your passport, driver’s license and other documents before you leave. You may be excited to start using your married name, but if you haven’t legally changed your name, use your maiden name on visas and tickets so they match to avoid delays and complications.
  5. Don’t be shy - speak up and let everyone know that you’re honeymooners! It’s an exciting moment. Not to mention, you will most likely get spoilt with specialty treatment like complimentary champagne and chocolates.
  6. Pack a sense of humour and remember to relax. After an exhausting wedding-planning period and big day, this is a great opportunity for you to sit back and enjoy some stress-free time by each other's side.

If you would like assistance with planning your perfect honeymoon or for more travel advice, contact us today. Have a happy honeymoon lovebirds!

Holiday Packing Tips

Tuesday 4 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Packing smart is all about avoiding the inconvenience of overpacking and the regret of forgetting all the things you need. This article reveals five holiday packing tips that will help you strike the perfect balance!

1. TRAVEL LIGHT. This widespread travel tip doubles as a mistake that’s made, again and again. The size of your luggage depends mostly on the length of your stay. Unless you absolutely need to take a suitcase, aim to minimise your luggage and take a carry bag. You’ll eliminate checked baggage fees, be less likely to lose your belongings to theft, as well as minimise your stress levels - greater mobility makes delays and plan changes a lot easier to deal with.

2. PLAN YOUR OUTFITS. Throwing in every garment of clothing you own that is suitable for warm weather or compliments a tan is not the best packing strategy. Try to organise your outfits in advance. Also, take your favourite clothes - looking good is feeling good, and you want to feel good while your on holiday. Finally, try to choose colours that match or compliment each other, so you can mix and match if need be.

3. MAKE LISTS. Don’t go looking for your passport and favourite pair of shoes 10 minutes before you leave. Leave a drawer or section of your carboard for gathering garments and items a week or two before you leave. This will make it easier to avoid wearing things you know you’re going to take days before your trip. Make a list of things you can organise one week, three days, two days and one day prior to leaving - and place them into the designated drawer as you cross them off the list. As you check items and tasks off the list, you can stress less or recognise urgency as necessary. A final checklist is also very helpful, so you know you’ve got everything you need as you’re walking out the door - things like your mobile phone, phone charger, toothbrush, wallet and passport may seem obvious, but can slip your mind, especially if your mind is already on holiday!

4. PLAN YOUR PACK. Don’t just throw everything into your suitcase or carry bag and hope that it zips up. Have all the contents of your suitcase folded and placed on your bed. Once you’ve gathered everything you need, you can see which items need to go in first, and which ones you can place on top or tuck into side pockets.

5. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Contact the hotel you will be staying at in advance and find out what toiletries and services are provided. Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel and towels are the most common amenities. Also, take the time to surf the net and find out what the weather has been like over the last few days, as well as what the dress code is like at the restaurants and bars you plan to visit.

Cardiff, Wales

Wednesday 30 March 2011 | By Leigh Thompson |


With its unassuming charm and friendly locals, it would be easy to mistake Cardiff for a large country town as opposed to the bustling capital city of Wales, but this capital city has not only retained its warmth, but has also surged forward with a vibrancy and edginess to rival other larger European capitals. Located a little under 3 hours drive from London, Cardiff is the new must-see city in the UK. Having family living on the outskirts of Cardiff has afforded me plenty of time to soak up all that the city and indeed the south of Wales has to offer, and I can't rave about it enough. 

For those of you not completely 'sold' on Wales as a destination just yet, let me give you a few little tips that will whet your appetite....

Should you decide to stop for no more than a day or two, I would recommend that you start in Cardiff, and what better place to begin your exploration than with the aptly named 'Cardiff Castle'! Located in the centre of the city, the castle is definitely not difficult to find, and offers expansive grounds as well as guided tours. My tip would be to allow 3 hours for the Castle visit and to take a guided tour of the Victorian Castle Apartments which showcases some really stunning themed rooms (the nursery and the Arabic rooms are two of my favourites)!From here, the choice is yours - City Sightseeing has  double-decker buses departing from the castle's doorstep which offer hop-on / hop-off tours of the city which is a great way to orientate yourself and get an overview of the city. Opposite the castle there is one of my favourite Welsh souvenir shops which offers everything from rugby jersey's to traditional wood-carved Welsh Love Spoons. Alternatively you could just wander through the arcades and do a spot of shopping! Keep an eye out for café’s selling Welsh Cakes and Lamb Oggie’s if you’re wanting a snack – they are delicious!

About a 5 minute drive from the centre of the city is Cardiff Bay, another of my hot tips for you. The Wales Millennium Centre is a gorgeous, modern addition to the largely traditional architecture in the city. Designed to express ‘Welshness’, it has been constructed with Welsh Slate, Glass, Wood and Metal, all sourced from Wales. It is a centre for performing arts and cultural performances. If you are not keen on a tour of the facility, I would suggest that you at least have a little wander around at your own pace, and if you get the chance to see it all lit up at night, all the better! No matter how many times I have seen this building at night, I still find it just spectacular! Afterwards, you can grab a bite at one of the many restaurants that line the bay. I recommend a drink and a wood-fired pizza at Bar Cwtch (Welsh for ‘cuddle) directly opposite the Millennium Centre.

If you are a Dr Who or a Torchwood fan, you would already know that both shows are shot on location in and around Cardiff, so you may be interested in visiting the Dr Who Museum in Cardiff Bay and then visiting sites that feature in the shows. ‘The Hub’ from Torchwood is located right in front of the Millennium Centre!

 If however, you are not so much into the TV side of things, you may wish to pay a visit to the National Museum in the centre of Cardiff which is home to the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris. The Welsh are particularly pleased that they have managed to keep hold of Renoir’s La Parisienne painting, in spite of France’s desire to have it returned to Paris!

If you only have a couple of days in Cardiff, you can see that they will be easily filled with that which is on offer in the centre of the city… My next task will be to entice into venturing a little further out into the South of Wales!

http://www.cardiffcastle.com/

http://www.wmc.org.uk/

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/

http://www.visitwales.com/

Bali, Indonesia

Thursday 13 January 2011 | By Rebecca Scaffidi |

Accommodation:Dynasty Resort, South Kuta
The Dynasty Resort has recently been renovated and had 312 newly refurbished guest rooms. This is a great family resort with plenty of activities for kids. The resort has 3 swimming pools, a spa and gym. There is also ‘The Den’ teen’s club and Kid’s playground. If you need some time away from the kids there is a child care centre and an adult area equipped with a Lazy pool and Sunset bar.

If you have a family and are looking to keep the kids entertained, this is the place for you.

Dine at:Ku De Ta
This is a beautiful bar/restaurant that is located right on the beach. You can go here for Dinner or Just cocktails and Nibbles. Either way, the time to get there is about 6pm as you will be in a prime location to witness a gorgeous sunset.

Ultimo’s
This is a fabulous Italian restaurant in Seminyak that has incredible food at very reasonable prices. You must book here as it gets very busy.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co 
If you’re after something fun you must stop past Bubba Gump’s. They specialise in Prawns, but they also know how to cook up a mean steak. The staff are very friendly and if you order a margarita you’ll get a special surprise.

Best Buy:The Discovery Shopping Mall in Kuta has everything from Brand shopping to hand-made goods. This is a must see if you love to shop. My best buy was a pair of coral coloured Guess sandals.

Highlight:I had 2 highlights on this trip. The first would be spending the day at Waterbom Park.  This is a great day out for the whole family… You have adrenalin pumping waterslides for all ages, lazy pool for those who want to relax and a kid’s water playground area for the little ones. Waterbom Park will keep everyone entertained.

The second highlight would have to be going ATV riding. This was so much fun! You get on a 4-Wheeler motor bike and follow your instructors around the muddy and uneven terrain. Expect to get covered in mud.
You can organize this and many other outdoor activities through Bali Adventure Tours.

http://www.baliadventuretours.com/

South Wales

Monday 10 January 2011 | By Leigh Thompson |


After introducing you to Cardiff and some of the great things that it has on offer, I think that it's time to go a little further afield and explore some of South Wales. I’m hoping that you are adventurous enough to want to hire a car, in which case I have the perfect little ‘loop’ in mind to introduce you to South Wales! 

Let's get you started in St Fagans, just on the outskirts of Cardiff - it's the perfect place to begin an introduction to Wales. Here you will find the St Fagans National History Museum of Wales, which, as the name suggests, offers a look back at the history of Wales. This isn't one of those 'everything behind glass' type of museums though, this is an interactive open-air museum set in the grounds of a 16th century manor with live demonstrations. Over the past 50 years, they have actually moved, a variety of historical buildings, brick by brick, into the grounds, and re-assembled them into a little historic 'village' of sorts. It's a great way of learning about the history of the Welsh and what makes this part of the UK so different.

From here, it's off to the village of Caerleon which was home to one of Britain’s’ permanent Roman Legionary Fortresses, and, what some believe, to be the location of King Arthur's Round Table. Set on the banks of the River Usk, Caerleon has some of the most intact Roman Barrack Buildings in all of Europe. It's up to you whether you park in town and do the little heritage walk which will take about an hour, or whether you just drive to the different sites. The amphitheatre and fortress remains are only a couple of streets from the centre of town, and are just lovely to walk around whilst trying to picture them in there original state, just be careful if there's been a little bit of rain, as it can get quite muddy! You must also visit the The National Roman Legion Museum in town which really gives you an idea as to what the ruins were in their prime. The museum also houses many artefacts that have been dug up through the excavations of the sites as well as some fascinating pieces that locals have simply dug up in their backyards! I would also suggest a little wander around the Parish Church yard which is just beautiful.

From Roman Legions to Cistercian Monks, we move east, just north of Chepstow to Tintern Abbey. One of my most favourite places in Wales, Tintern Abbey is a spectacular sight! Dating back to 1131, it was only the second Cistercian in Britain and thrived for 400 years until King Henry VIII’s reign, when he decided to seize control of all of the monasteries and take anything of value into the King’s Treasury! It wasn’t long until the Abbey fell into ruin, but thanks to poets like William Wordsworth, tourists fell in love with the romantic idea of the ruins and started to flock to the site, which forced the government to finally help with its’ restoration. Located in the Wye Valley on the banks of the River Wye, you can see why poets and tourists have been falling in love with the romantic setting for centuries. Whenever I visit the Abbey I am left in awe at the sheer size of it! I could go on and on, but I’d rather you just go visit it for yourself! I will finish off this introduction at the half way point of this suggested ‘loop’.


With its’ recent history built on the back of the Coal Mining Industry, no visit to Wales could be complete without a visit to a Coal Mine, and ‘Big Pit’ in the Brecon Beacon’s town of Blaenavon was the King of the Welsh Coal Mines. Closed in 1980, the mine re-opened as a Museum in 1983, and offers visitors a look at what was once a fully functional coal mine. Many of the guides that work there were actually miners at the site prior to its closing and offer stories and insight that are beyond those that you’d read in a book. The ‘inside’ museum offers photographs and a range of mining tools and trinkets that were used in Big Pit’s 120 year history which gives you a real sense of what life was like for the miners and their families, whilst the ‘outside’ museum offers visitors the chance to descend the depths of the 300 foot mine. Whilst I will never forget the feeling of being at the bottom of that mine and imagining how appalling the conditions would have been for those that worked in it, Big Pit will always be remembered by me as the first place that I ever saw snow!

Departing from Big Pit will have you driving through the Brecon Beacons National Park, one of Wales’ three National Parks. Soak in the splendour as you make your way East and then South through Wales’ famous ‘Valley’s’ on your way to Caerphilly. If you get the chance, try to stop in Merthyr Tidfil for a little wander and enjoy the fabulously melodical accents of the locals born in the Valley’s.

Your next stop will be Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Wales, located in the heart of Caerphilly town. To me, this is what a castle should be - big and imposing, with a drawbridge and a moat (there is even a turtle in the moat!)! Its history dates back to around 1270 when Gilbert ‘The Red’ de Clare ordered its construction in an effort to defend South Wales from an invasion by Llewelyn the Last, of North Wales. The Castle was a bit of a military marvel of its time, and thankfully, with few alterations to the core design, it remains a perfect example of 13th Century Medieval Architecture. Keep an eye out for ‘The Green Lady’ who is said to haunt the ivy-covered battlements!

Not too far from Caerphilly, almost back in Cardiff is the more fairy-tale inspired Castell Coch. Built on the site of a 13th century fortress, this castle is relatively new as far as castles go and was constructed from about 1871 by the 3rd Marquess of Bute (he was responsible for much of the newer construction in Cardiff Castle). Set in lush forest, with green conical roofs and a drawbridge, one could be forgiven for expecting a fairy Princess to come skipping out of the castle – it really is a bit of a fantasy location! My first visit here was when I was 12, and it remains one of my favourite castles!

Should the idea of doing all of this driving be a little daunting to you, I would recommend a locally owned Tour Company called ‘See Wales’ to take you to most of the sites that I have recommended. These small-group tours operate daily from Cardiff and showcase three separate parts of South Wales. The tour guide and owner of the business, Paul Harris is a wealth of knowledge and manages to bring the tours to life in a way that only a local, incredibly passionate about his country really could - you won't find any dry, boring moments in any of these tours!! I have done all three tours a couple of times and have had a ball each and every time - I couldn't speak highly enough about the experience.

See you in Wales!

St Fagans - http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/stfagans/
Caerleon - http://www.caerleon.net/
Tintern Abbey - http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=6&PlaceID=132
Blaenavon - http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/bigpit/
Caerphilly - http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=6&PlaceID=39
Castell Coch - http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=6&PlaceID=48

Bulgaria and Romania

Monday 10 January 2011 | By Ruth Carlton |

After 12 days of cruising from Venice to the Black Sea and back to Istanbul, in total luxury, the time had come to discover two more countries of the old Eastern Block, countries that found themselves left behind the Iron Curtain, for so many years, Bulgaria and Romania.

Even though I have visited many areas of the old Communist Bloc, I was not prepared for the interesting panorama and ancient historic treasures that were in store for me, the amazing mix between East and West, Europe and Orient!

Bulgaria is the smaller of the two countries and has gone through the troubled Communist Era better than its neighbour. Sofia is the capital, a very beautiful European small capital, with all the trimmings such as a host of eateries, cafes, a flea market etc. The 5th Century St Sofia Basilica is “in the shadow” of the magnificent Alexander Nevski Cathedral, but it is nonetheless one of the most important sights and symbols of this capital: St Sophia Church provided the name change of the medieval city of Sredets (ancient Serdica) to Sofia, in the late Middle Ages. The Basilica is dedicated to the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia Istanbul!).

Plovdiv is about two hours South East of Sofia and is the second-largest city in Bulgaria. It is an ancient city dating back 8000 years built around seven hills and it was controlled by the Romans. What a sight to stroll through the Old Town seeing its 18-19th Century Bulgarian City architecture, Orthodox Churches, Muslim Mosques and a Catholic Cathedral! And then, to my surprise, there is the 2nd Century Antique Roman Amphitheatre “patched” on one of the seven hills - breathtaking! The Old Plovdiv with its colourful special houses nowadays is an original living museum showing so vividly the undying values of the cities six millennia long history! A mention needs to also go the the Etnographic Museum, one of the most interesting in the country. But let us not forget: Plovdiv is an old trade centre, hosting such events as an International Trade Fair since 1892 (one of the biggest in the Balkans), the Festival “A stage on a crossroad” amongst more.

Heading North is the Valley of Roses an area which has had a rose-growing industry for centuries and which produces 85 percent of the World’s Rose Oil. But do not expect a World Class or historical presentation! No doubt wonderful when the roses are in bloom, but in general very basic, except for the produce!

On the way to the Valley, SHIPKA is a must on an itinerary, for the visit of the Memorial Church, or better known as the Church of the Nativity. It was erected after the Liberation as a monument to both Russian and Bulgarian dead, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78. Its location is South of the Stara Planina Mountains and its golden domes and the green and pink coloured façade look amazing against the mountains! The 50 m high spire houses 17 bells!

Further on the road North lies the City of Kasanlak, close by is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Thracian City of Seuthopolis, with the Tomb of Seuthus III. The Historical Museum Iskra is a must!

Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria’s medieval capital and one of the oldest settlements in the country has a history of more than 5 millennia; the first traces of human presence date from the 3rd millennium BC on Trapezitsa Hill, one of the three hills that the town is built on. The Town is a living museum and the history is well documented it the nightly Sound and Light Show.

A good hour’s drive North is the mighty Danube, the border between the two countries. The Border Crossing Town of Ruse leads to Romania and its capital Bucharest. This European Capital with some 3 Million Inhabitants was called “Little Paris”, in the early 1900! Not surprising though when you travel through the wide tree-lined boulevards you are reminded one of the glorious Belle Eqopue! 

Bucharest is today a bustling Metropolis. The recent history of Bucharest – and Romania – is nothing short of deeply troubled, and little shows the contrasts better than Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue) linking the Arch de Triumphe with the monsterous Ceausescu Palace second largest only to the Pentagon! Only after the terrible Civil War in 1989 was Romania given the opportunity to re-establish itself as a World identity.

A few hours North of the capital lies the Carpati Mountain range, Romania’s Ski area, and on the way Sinaia and Peles Castle – a mountain area that made the German born King Carol I of Romania and his wife Elisabeth feel at home! Peles Castle could be in Bavaria! The Royal Couple kept well in touch with the rest of Europe, and in particular with Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. Sinaia also has a 17th Century Monastery. Bran Castle is not far, and thus we enter the World of Count Dracula! Whilst Dracula is a fictional character in the novel, the people of Sighisoara will tell you differently: their local by the name of Vlad Dracula was born there in 1431 but resided and became the ruler of Walachia – and this despite the incredible legends that surround Transylvania! Sighisoara, by the way, is worth more than a quick stop on the way through: founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th Century (when it was called Schassburg) is still one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns of Europe! It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 9 towers, cobbled streets, burgher hourses and churches which rivals the streets of Old Prague and Vienna!

Let me go back to the Southern Carpathian Mountains, and we find Brasov – Kronstadt at the time – which means Corona, Crown City (coat of arms of the city is a crown with oak roots). Brasov is the second-largest city in Romania, with a fortification around the city, with several towers that were maintained by different craft guilds. Brasov is also a big industrial center and was even more so during the Communist area. The Black Church is tha largest gothic church in Romania, with also one of the largest organs in Eastern Europe.

The German influence in Transylvania is enormous: the seven walled citadels populated by the Saxons were known in German as the Siebenburgen. The other Siebenburgen citadels were: Bistita (Bistritz), Cluj (Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Sebes (Muhlbach), Sibiu (Hermannstadt) and Sighisoara (Schassburg).

And then Sibiu, the largest and wealthiest of the seven walled citadels – the guilds paid for the construction of both impressive building and fortifications for protection – the Old Town retains the grandeur of the earlier days and there is still a distinctly Germanic feeling. Sections of the wall still stand, narrow streets, steep-roofs 17th Century buildings with gable overhangs, church-dominated squares such as Great Square and Little Square! Cross the Liar’s Bridge, and another mention needs go to to the Bruckental Art Museum, one of the best in Romania!

The way back to Bucharest leads past Cozia Monastery built in 1388 and one of the country’s most valuable monuments of medieval architecture. The area of Wallachian’s old capital was Curtea de Arges, with its 6th Century Monastery, Dedication Day Assumption of the Virgin 15 August. The Monastery houses some very valuable paintings, and in the pronaoes, some of the country’s rulers are interred such as for instance King Carol I and his Wife Queen Elisabeth, King Ferdinand and Queen Maria and King Carol II. 

If you are interested in History and Art, and if the mix between the West and the Orient fascinates you, a visit to Bulgaria and Romania is well worth a trip! However, in order to get the full benefit, it is most important to only join a very small group and professional local guides, in fact the best option is a private tour and private guide which makes it so much more satisfying!
 

Lay Back in San Fransisco

Tuesday 14 December 2010 | By Jamie Fraser |

San Fransisco is a lovely, laid back city with plenty to do and the general population are very nice. The population has just topped 1 million, which is a real surprise when you experience the vastness of the city. This would probably explain why the people are also so laid back. 

People, weather and geography

Although Fisherman’s Wharf is popular with tourists and offers plenty, I would not suggest that a leisure traveler actually stay in the area. The nightlife is poor (much to my surprise). I spent the weekend at Fisherman’s wharf, and there is not much to do other than dinner. Bars/pubs are not populated and are only scattered around. During the day, the vibe is a lot better. Plenty of people and bustling. I would recommend that visitors stay around Union Square where there are plenty of cable car services which will take you right through to Fisherman’s wharf (about a 20-30 min journey). You cannot beat the Handlery hotel for value for money. Location is fantastic. Be sure to call into the bar two doors down ‘Lefty O’Doul’s’ for an excellent evening of entertainment (at the piano bar). Macy’s is just metres away from the hotel as is Union square.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Handerly Union Square, which has a 4.5 star rating. This hotel is right in the heart of the city and just metres away from Union Square. The service was great with very helpful and attentive staff. Also, the Owner / Manager is always floating around and welcomes all the guests in. Some great benefits for visitors include a recently refurbished restaurant (Feb 2010), business centre with free internet and a swimming pool. This is a wonderful family run business in an amazing location; I would recommend it to all visitors. 

Shopping, entertainment, day tours, transport etc….

I would not suggest anyone to do the ‘Go cars’. They are very dangerous, and it is difficult (particularly for the driver of the vehicle) to even take in the city highlights as they would be concentrating too hard trying to avoid collisions and other obstacles! These cars were very dangerous and stressful to operate. The driving routes covered everything although you were required to drive in the city with trams, cable cars and inner city traffic. The speed of the vehicles are capped at 35 miles/hour and you are always holding up traffic. The GPS onboard cuts out completely when you drift off the tour route which will notify you of an incorrect route. Larger people would also find these cars uncomfortable as they are very small and compact.  

They are Good fun but perhaps not worth the stress. 

General Notes

For all new visitors to the US I advise that you do a little research on the tipping etiquette in order to avoid potential embarrassment. 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!   

Delta Hotel - Victoria, BC. Canada

Wednesday 4 August 2010 | By Marion Picot |

Beautiful and Vibrant!

My husband Donien and I were very eager and keen to explore this beautiful and vibrant city during our Canadian holiday. On Vancouver Island, City of Victoria we headed to our hotel, the Delta Ocean Pointe Victoria.

We quickly realised it was the best spot to be, as it overlooked the harbour and faced downtown Victoria, Parliament House along with the magnificent and opulent Empress Hotel. For those who appreciate the finest of high tea services, for CAD$55 the Empress hotel is the place to go.

A bridge separates downtown Victoria and the Delta Hotel; it is an easy walk but if you do not fancy the exercise, the hotel’s valet is more than happy to drive you in their complimentary shuttle. Of course tipping is always appreciated!

After a pleasant and efficient check-in we were promptly shown to our room. Looking more like a suite with a large sitting area, we were instantly captivated by the amazing view of the inner harbour which always seems to be on the move with the water taxis, ferries or even the seaplanes coming and going all day.

We hastily unpacked for our 2 night stay and as we put away our clothes in the draws we discovered a little baby’s t-shirt which had obviously been forgotten by the previous occupant of the room. This bought back memories of our own two little ones who were not that little anymore; we both tried to remember just how small they were. We put it aside, finished unpacking and headed out to take in some fresh air. On our way out, we dropped off the little t-shirt at the front desk.

After an invigorating walk in the city we returned to the hotel. As we were expecting our Canadian friends’ imminent arrival we checked at the reception to see if they had checked in and the receptionist thought we were coming in regards to the message left in our room.

No we have not gone back to the room yet, so she explained the message and that they were extending the 1st night complementary. The receptionist informed us that due to the very high standards and expectations of the DELTA HOTELS if a detail in the room has been overlooked (in our case a piece of clothing was left behind) their policy is to offer the 1st night accommodation free; yes free of charge! We were absolutely blown away and very thankful. Back in the room we check the message on the phone and the front office staff was deeply apologetic about this matter, which confirmed the conversation we had at the desk.

We were really impressed by the service offered by DELTA - It is called “Blue Ribbon Guarantee”.
We then realised that in the bathroom there was a note displaying the following message:

We are so confident that your room will be in perfect order when you check in that we back it up with our famous Blue Ribbon Guarantee!

Delta’s Blue Ribbon Guarantee ensures that your room has been carefully cleaned and prepared for your comfort and enjoyment. We have confidence in our team – so much so that if any item is overlooked, we will offer you a complimentary night during your stay.

Like other hotels the Delta Victoria also offer CAD$10 food and beverage voucher if you decline the housekeeping service; so if you are planning to stay only 1 night or 2 it is worth considering doing your part in helping the environment.

Another standout on arrival in the room was this comment card:



We have never came across a message like this offered by any other hotel. Again the attention to detail in insuring the client satisfaction was well above expectation. Even if we would not have received the complimentary night, we do recommend the Delta Ocean Pointe Victoria for his location and service.

Delta Ocean Points major facilities:

  • Indoor lap pool, jacuzzi and gym free of charge
  • Bar with plasma TV to follow a hockey game
  • Fine dining restaurant
  • Beauty and hair salon
  • Valet service (including free downtown shuttle)
  • Conference room on a ground level with the harbour view (wedding took place during our stay)

For your reference APT tours, Scenic Tours use DELTA properties in their Alaska & Canada program.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  

Pamplona, Spain

Tuesday 20 July 2010 | By Claire King |

San Fermin Festival - Running of the Bulls 


One of the craziest things you can ever do, is feel the need to run with six 800 tonne bulls through the narrow cobble stone streets of Pamplona in Spain. Over the years it has become tradition for travelling Aussies to join in on the fun and festivities of the annual San Fermin Festival. And I thought us Aussies could throw a good party!

For one whole week, the town of Pamplona comes alive with music, dancing, parties and people running around in a sea of red and white trying to avoid having sangria (and then flour) poured all over them from an overhead balcony. 

If you are after a slow, quite, relaxing and tranquil holiday, then Pamplona in July isn't the place for you! 

We had been travelling throughout Europe in a campervan for 8 months when Pamplona was one of our final things to experience. When we arrived at the one and only campsite just outside of the city on the opening day of the festival, we were welcomed by familiar Aussie accents, thousands in fact and there wasn't a spare piece of grass to pitch a tent in the entire grounds. It was overflowing with electricity and energy. Music was pumping, the crowd was dancing and you could easily have been mistaken for being at a festival somewhere in Australia. It was great! We then headed into town to get into the spirit of things. We also realised quite quickly that we looked completely out of place as we weren't wearing the traditional red and white colours. Didn't take us long to find somewhere to buy suitable clothing though, every second shop had only red and white items to choose from. And very reasonably priced! 

As the first Encierro was to be run at 8 o'clock the next morning, the boys decided they should familiarise themselves with the 800 metre course. They say that if you're crazy enough to run with the bulls through the confined streets, you're better to pick a short section of the course to run with them as you will never be able to run with them the whole way. The bulls can run at a pace of 65-75 km p/hour which is certainly not slow!

The first stretch has always been considered the most dangerous because on this initial stage the bulls burst out of their pen full of energy and are on top of the runners in an instant. To be more exact, it´s the third part of this stretch which is the really dngerous part. There is no protective fence on this part which leads into the small square in front of the Town Hall and so, there is no place you can duck into out of the way of the rampaging bulls. There is also a stretch which is called Dead Man's Corner and this could be exactly that. It is a sharp 90 degree right hand bend that you do not want to be standing on the wrong side of when the bulls get there. Every morning before the fireworks go off at 8 o'clock signally the start of Encierro, they water down the streets leaving the cobblestones very slippery and of course when the bulls come into that corner, they have no way of slowing down. This results in them sliding into the wall and if you are silly enough to be standing on that side of the bend, then I'm afraid that's why it got it's name of Dead Man's Corner!

The run finishes with the bulls and people running through the 3 metre wide corridor and ends up in the bull ring - Plaza del torro which is bursting at the seams with spectators not game enough to participate in the adrenalin filled event. Mind you, even as a spectator, there is plenty of adrenalin running through your body, particularly if you have family members running in the event! Of course if you loose your balance in the corridor coming into the bull ring, then you risk being trodden on by not only other people scrambling for their lives but also the six 800 tonne bulls and the four 1000 tonne steers that run with the bulls to keep them going in the right direction....ouch! 

And just when you think that all is over and that is crazy enough, at the end of the run with thousands of people running around the bull ring, they release bull after bull to chase the mad participants around! 

It's absolutely unreal, something you will NEVER see in Australia and really is a "must do" something to experience ! 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!    

Porto, Portugal

Friday 18 June 2010 | By Emma Watt |

An Ideal Destination for Port Lovers

I was fortunate to experience a number of mini-breaks as you do when living in London. The usual places were covered and sometimes repeated ie- Paris! One place that stood out for me was Porto in the northern part of Portugal. It’s also not too surprising that Porto, as the name suggests, is the birth place of the well known fortified wine - Port.

“Great – let’s go there!” Emma thinks to herself whilst scrolling through Easyjet’s specials.

We finally arrived in Porto after a 4am rise in London to get out to Gatwick and couldn’t have been happier to be off the plane and with baggage within about 15 minutes. We found our way to the tram line and to our hotel after another 45 minutes. Checked-in, showered and scanned a map. Right, let’s have a drink to celebrate.

We enjoyed four days there which was probably just enough time to cover the highlights (could easily give it a week depending on your taste for Port). We spent out first day on foot, exploring the streets, getting lost, walking through the shanty villages and thoroughly absorbing Porto.  

There’s two distinct sides to town – the port side (Villa Nova de Gaia) and the old town (Porto). Both sides are separated by the Douro River and the bridges that link them. As with most towns centred on water there’s a lot of activity on the river banks and where we had dinner most nights. 

After day one, feeling that we’d satisfactorily explored the old town, we moved on to the Port side – for the remaining 3 days. 

In Porto just about everything can be done on foot. The port cellars are clustered together, joined by little cobblestone alleys, working up a reasonably steep hill. Naturally, we started at the top and worked our way down. We visited the Croft Port house and did a small tour through their cellars. It was amazing to find a bottle with a vintage of 1841; we just don’t have that history here in Australia. 

A little out of town (about 20 minutes in a cab) is the beach and the costal part of town where the River Duoro stems from. Although not as spectacular as some of Portugal’s other beaches it provides another focal point to the city with more restaurants/shops and bars. The area (Matosinhos) lends itself to a more modern atmosphere, noticeably populated with the younger Porto inhabitants.

We were there in May 2007 about 5 days after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (near Lisbon). Even in the short time we were there the Portuguese people displayed their exceptional hospitality and were genuinely interested to know where we were from and if we enjoyed their home town. It was as if there were trying to convince us that Portugal is a good place and that the bad publicity should not put anyone off visiting.

That it shouldn’t…It’s a beautiful place. I’d definitely go again! 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!    

A Stunning and Memorable Destination

Wednesday 16 June 2010 | By Sonya Dwarte |

BULA!

After a three and a half hour flight we arrive in beautiful Fiji. Our flight arrived late at night so we stayed at the Mercure in Nadi which was only a 10 minute transfer ride. I found the mercure a great hotel for a stopover as it is close to the airport, clean, comfortable, features a delicious buffet breakfast plus the staff were also extremely welcoming.

The next day we drove to Denarau Island which is only a 15 minute trip from Nadi. Denarau Island is a beautiful island located across a little bridge from the mainland of Fiji. Boasting a stunning golf course at its centre, extravagant housing on either side and luxury resorts perched at the end. 

Denarau harbour is a great spot and has grown to include many cafes, including; The Hard Rock Café, Thai and Indian restaurants, clothing stores, souvenir shops and a local supermarket. Denarau harbour is also the main marina where the ferry boats go to the mamanuca islands.

Later that morning we boarded the island hopping ferry, 'Awesome Adventures,' giving us a chance to see many of the other islands. After a 6 hour boat ride plus a 45 minute tinny ride we finally arrive at the exclusive Yasawa Island Resort. Given my experience on the open seas I would highly recommend a plane or helicopter alternative in order to get to Yasawa Island resort. This will ensure you avoid sea sickness and save time. As a side note, the water was quite calm however the duration of the trip is the primary downside to this mode of transport.

Since we where all exhausted from our long boat ride we chose to postpone to resort inspection to the following day and instead indulged in some cocktails in the pool. Yasawa Island resort is very private and exclusive, nestled on its own little island it's an ideal destination for honeymooners!

The next day we had another long boat ride back towards them main land.  On our journey back we stopped at an array of islands and I would have to say that the highlight for me was LikuLiku Lagoon Resort situated on Malolo Island. This was yet another luxurious and amazing resort featuring over water bungalows, perched atop crystal clear, blue water.

Around the corner from LikuLiku we continued to inspect Malolo Island and the Malolo Island Resort. This island and in particular, this resort will always hold a special place in my heart. It has recently been refurbished and plays host to beautiful, private cottages sitting along the beach. 

With a few hours to spare before the boat picked us up we decided to go snorkeling… and for someone who is usually petrified at the thought, it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had!... I never knew that Nemo was actually real!!

Over the next 3 days we inspected The Sofitel, The Radisson, The Hilton, Sheraton resort and spa and the Westin. The Sheraton Resort and Spa and the Westin are conveniently located next to one another, and I would nominate these as the best resorts in the area. With the two properties owned by the same company, guests of these resorts are given access to the facilities of both. This makes for excellent value for money!

There is a local shuttle bus that picks up from all the resorts on Denarau and from Denarau marina, at the small cost of $4.00 for the entire day, passengers are free to hop on and off as many times as they wish.

During my stay on Fiji I also had the privilege of visiting the Taikim Village. It is a village supported by charities with the aim of housing women and children who have nowhere to go or who suffer from abuse. While we where there we helped build a little hut, we also sung and danced with the children and purchased community made clothing and handicraft, with all proceeds going back into the community.

All in all Fiji was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to go back one day. I highly recommend Fiji, boasting lovely weather, crystal clear water and friendly local communities - It is both a stunning and memorable holiday location.

Venaka! (Thankyou).

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!     

  

Vietnam and Cambodia

Tuesday 18 May 2010 | By Ros Bulat |

No Longer just for the young

Vietnam and Cambodia are without a doubt the current hot spots for travelers and caters to all travel tastes and ideals. Many years ago the area was probably more suited to adventure travellers, the young and those prepared to give up the comforts of home but no longer…. It really does offer something for everyone.

One great example of this is cruising the mighty Mekong onboard the Mekong Pandaw. It is not only very comfortable, it is also inspirational. Wet season (June – October) is the best time to cruise and experience tapestry of river life.

These small ships can penetrate remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. Whilst you are offered a real adventure experience, travellers are cushioned with incredible comfort, fine dining, great cocktails and choice wines, not to mention extraordinary levels of service.

Cruising upstream between Saigon and Angkor is immensely practical for the traveller as it makes it possible to connect three important destinations on one trip, with easy plane connections at either end: Saigon the exotic Frenchified former capital of South Vietnam, Phnom Penh, the quaint Cambodian capital, and the stupendous World Heritage monuments at Angkor. One need no longer check in and out of hotels and endure bumpy roads to visit these magnificent places. 

A special 13 day Cruise and Tour is offered to perfectly combine the highlights of these magical countries. Starting in Saigon, you have the opportunity to see historic landmarks, such as the former Presidential Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda and the War Museum and finishing in Siem Reap where you experience the famous, and one of the world’s most impressive ruins, Angkor Wat. 

Complete packages including airfares from Australia are available from $4499 per person twin share.
If you have some extra time, or the “Orient of the East” is more to your liking, Hanoi is a great contrast. The people and sights are very different in the North of Vietnam. From Hanoi you can easily visit such places as Halong Bay, where the rock islands and caves jut from the bay like a scene from a James Bond movie – it’s tranquil and majestic! 

Another unique experience is a visit to Sapa. The province is located in the very north, on the Chinese border. The 3 night tour to Sapa includes an overnight in each onboard a private train and a night in Sapa.

No visit to Vietnam is complete without a stopover in Hoi An. Located half way down the east coast, this World Heritage listed town is a step back in time. Don’t let this leave you thinking you cant stay in wonderful accommodation, because you can. In Hoi An you can have your tailoring done in no time at all and at a fraction of the costs of most Asian cities. Take along that favourite piece of clothing that you don’t want to let go of and have them duplicate it. 

An 8 day extension tour of Vietnam to cover Hanoi, Hoi An to Saigon is available before the Mekong cruise from just $1690 per person.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!    
  

A Unique Arabian Experience

Friday 14 May 2010 | By Ros Bulat |

A beautiful blend

Dubai is a city of contrasts, a land where the old and the new, traditional and modern, east and west blend seamlessly to produce a fascinating, mysterious, exciting place with a distinct personality all of its own. It’s a welcoming city with a charming ambience rooted in traditional Arabic hospitality, topped with an ultra modern flourish. A kaleidoscopic mixture of people and cultures brings to the city a unique and fascinating combination of influences. In Dubai people can enjoy one of the worlds highest standards of living. Hotels here rank amongst the worlds finest, and cuisine from national to international is superb. Shopping in Dubai features some of the best Worlds goods at competitive prices. Being a tax free port with low import duties, Dubai’s retail prices are extremely reasonable. Bargaining is a part of shopping in Dubai, while boutiques, some electronics shops, department stores and supermarkets operate on a fixed price basis, most other outlets consider friendly negotiation a way of life. It gets even better during the two shopping festivals – Dubai Summer surprises held every year from June to August and The Dubai shopping festival held in March or April.

Dubai is an extremely safe city, with almost no crime and travelers are sure to be charmed by its warmth and friendliness. Speaking of warmth – May to September is summer when daytime temps range between 40 and 48 degrees, the humidity level can vary from 30 to 100 percent. Although everything is air-conditioned, you may like to consider going in the winter months. Perhaps an ideal time of year to experience the worlds largest indoor snow skiing centre!

The desert in Dubai is the most captivating and breathtaking aspect of the place. Arabian history and mythology has revolved around it for centuries and for generations the Arabs have taken pride in the golden sands of the desert, where their caravan trails crossed and where stories of bravery and courage where told. Today you can experience the same mystique of the desert but in a slightly different way; dune driving, sand skiing, and camel riding.

The sundowner dune dinner is an absolute must. Start with an off road driving adventure through the desert dunes in 4wd vehicles, visit an oasis plantation and witness a beautiful desert sunset, followed by a delicious BBQ dinner in a Bedouin camp setting, with belly dancing.

Getting around Dubai is easy; taxis are inexpensive, safe and efficient with well trained and courteous drivers. The taximeter should read AED3 at the start of the trip. A fixed scale of charges is applicable to trips outside the city boundaries and the price should be agreed with the driver before commencing the journey. If you prefer to drive yourself Australian citizens do not require an international drivers license, although you will need to drive on the “wrong” (right) side of the road. Public transport buses also offer an extensive network that covers all areas within the city.

You will find Dubai an amazing destination in its own right or perhaps consider it as a stopover on your next trip to Europe.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  
  

Travelling With Kids

Wednesday 7 April 2010 | By Ros Bulat |

A new experience for you and for them

Just because you have a child (or even a few of them) that doesn’t mean that you and your family are obligated to stay home during the holidays. It also doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of fun.

Where

The first thing to consider is, what destination. The same destinations you enjoyed as a couple may not be what will fit now you are a family. Perhaps a driving holiday in New Zealand with a 12 and 14 year old in a car might not be ideal for your family!

Remember it’s the kid’s holiday as well. What will they enjoy? Depending on the age perhaps a resort or product where a kids club is available. This way you can all have your own fun. Get the kids involved in making the decision and perhaps a project or homework on the destination for fun. 

Flying

Selecting an Airline can also be important. Try and avoid flights that have too many stops when you have a better schedule available. “Are we there yet” can wear very thin after a few hours! If you have the choice, select an Airline with inflight entertainment systems. Many Airlines now have computer games and individual movie screens at each seat. This is a real winner with the kids, hours of entertainment.  And don’t forget a few inflight snacks, not all airlines have these so plan ahead and take some of the kids favourites.

There’s work to be done to make sure those hours on the flight pass as well as they can. When booking enquiry regarding special meals. Not only do the Airlines offer many dietary required meals, they also offer kids meals. The first benefit to this is that the kids will get food they might actually eat but more importantly they get fed first. So you can focus on them getting fed before you get your meal. A childs meal is not automatic, they must be requested. If you have an infant many airlines also have special packs onboard, these need to be requested also. They include things like nappies, formular etc.  

Packing

Pack as light as you can. Take only what you need. If the kids are big enough to carry (pull along these days) their own luggage, ensure the bag is the right size for them. Or as an alternative perhaps two people need to share one suitcase if it is larger. The less bags you have the better if you intend to catch taxis or hire cars. If you are going to a great shopping destination don’t forget the old trick of packing a smaller suitcase full of your clothes inside a larger empty one. This way you have two cases to bring home with all that shopping.

Before You Go
It may be an idea to see your doctor before traveling, not only to check the health requirements for the destination you have chosen but to ensure your travel medical kit is stocked. Your doctor can suggest some basic medical supplies that will help you out in some common situations. 

Your Stay

At your destination plan ahead and have your transfer and hotel booked. The last thing you will want to do on arrival is be looking for these services. If you have a small child ask regarding child restraints for transfers and cars, in many countries they are not common.

Many hotels in the world only cater for a maximum of 3 in a room, often this is a fire regulation of the country. So if Apartments are not an option, two rooms may be required. Don’t forget to ensure your Travel Agent requests interconnecting rooms. This is never guaranteed, but don’t assume that the hotel will room you next door. Often computer systems automatically do the room allocation and it doesn’t take note of the kids ages.

What a great experience for the kids to travel to a different country and perhaps a different culture. Give them some local currency and explain how much it is equal to in Australian Dollars. If you are in a culture where bargaining is expected you will find they pick this up quickly. A 10 year old will be an expert come the end of the first day. In fact they will probably be a better negotiator than Mum and Dad. And what a story they will have to tell back at school.

Food in foreign countries comes down to common sense. Don’t let them eat out of food carts! Drink bottled water (even in populated cities) and keep the diet as similar as they have at home. Often when people get sick it’s not because they have eaten bad food its just very different to what they would eat at home. IE If you don’t eat spicy food at home, try and avoid it on holidays.

With all that said, get the kids looking at the world globe head to your local agent or call World Travel Professionals for some great family holiday suggestions.
  

Southern Laos

Wednesday 16 September 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

A Land for All Seasons

When most travellers think of Laos, they think of Luang Prabang its picture-perfect setting. Meanwhile, southern Laos, specifically Champasak Province, is rarely mentioned. However, the mighty Mekong running through the heart of its landscape, offers a combination of astounding natural beauty, spectacular waterfalls, friendly locals and delightful accommodation that is rarely matched by its neighbouring countries.

Quirky Pakse, the capital of Champasak, with three flights a week from Vientiane, is the starting point for anyone wanting to explore southern Laos. Although you can visit many of the attractions by taking day trips from Pakse, it is far more rewarding to explore these places as overnight stays.

Chasing Waterfalls

For a landlocked country, Laos boasts an impressive number of rivers and streams at Champasak. It is also where most of the country’s coffee plantations and spectacular waterfalls (Tad in Lao) are.

Of the three main, dramatic waterfalls, the best known is Tad Fane, twin waterfalls located on the edge of the Dong Houa Sao National Protected Area and gushing down a 250-metre deep gorge in a thundering crescendo.

Tad Hang is the lowest level fall, the smallest and gentlest and where most of the accommodation can be found.

Tad Suong is the most impressive of the three, but requires transport and a steady set of knees if you are planning to walk up to the top.

Cultural Treasures

Champasak Province is also home to some of the least visited – and hence still beautifully intact – ancient ruins. The two must-see places are Phou Asa Mountain in Xe Pian National Protected Area and Wat Phou in the former royal seat of Champasak town.

Xe Pian, is about 1 hour from Pakse, is one of the most important biodiversity areas in Indochina, known for its large mammals and rare water birds.

Elephant trekking to Phou Asa is part of the Mekong Development Tourism Project (MTDP) to develop the capacity of local communities. These graceful creatures gently transport you under the forest canopy, through lush rice fields and steep climbs, until you reach the summit with stunning panoramic views.

Wat Phou is more intact and believed to be one of the most impressive Khmer ruins outside Cambodia.

There are no shops, restaurants or tours, no paved road to the temple located at the foot of a steep mountain, the only thing other than the amazing temple is a group of giggly Thai ladies and local worshippers.

Wat Phou is around an hour and half from Xe Pian, 8km from the charming riverside town of Champasak and requires a ferry crossing.

The Serene 4,000 Islands

Sii Pan Don, more commonly known as 4,000 Islands, is the southernmost part of Champasak province, and so called because the mighty Mekong splits itself into numerous channels, forming islands of every imaginable size.

The largest of these islands is Don Khong, the birthplace of the country’s former President and a truly chilled out place. The best way to see this beautiful island full of paddy fields and small winding roads along the riverbank is on a bicycle or a moped.

Khone Phapeng, is known as “The Niagara of the East” and said to be the largest waterfall by volume in South East Asia. The falls, a kilometre wide and 30 metres deep, not only lets out a booming roar but also separates the upper and lower Mekong.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!     

Prague, A Unique Destination For All

Wednesday 26 August 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

Prague is a living fairy tale

Cobbled streets, amongst its ornate buildings and shop windows aglow with glistening crystals.

It's amazing what just a couple of decades of freedom can do. Prague has always been beautiful and historic. Now it's fun, too. No other place in Europe has become so popular, so quickly. And for good reason: Prague has something on offer for everyone!

For the Family

Prague ZOO is said to be one of the best in Europe and could easily keep your kids busy for one entire day. One of the most appreciated pavilions is the Indonesian Jungle and the Monkey Island where you can gaze on the jungle flora and fauna and practically play with the cute Lemurs. Another place that your kids will love is the Children’s ZOO, a specially built farm where the kids can enter some enclosures and play with many of the animals.

While in Australia we do have an amazing, natural water wonderland, at Prague’s Seaworld they have done a wonderful job in combining nature with man’s amazing technological feets. The 1,000 square meters and 75 tonnes of specially adjusted ocean water, in which live a huge number of coloured sea and ocean fish and corals, will wow any water lover.

Situated in the Old Count’s Chambers of Prague Castle, the Prague Toy Museum is said to be the second largest museum of its kind in the world. In the seven exhibition rooms are toys collected from all over the world, starting from the ancient Greek times through to the modern phenomenon that is “Barbie!”

Spekbl and his son Hurvinek are two Czech legendary marionettes that have been amusing children in over 30 countries since the 1920s. Performances are available at the Marionette Theatre for children to enjoy.

For the Shakers and Movers

Prague's is filled with a lively music scene and back street surprises, such as the Lennon Wall on Kampa Island, splashed with "all you need is love" and "imagine" graffiti, honour the beloved singer-songwriter. This is matched with an abundant restaurant choice, including the only Michelin Star Restaurant in Eastern Europe, Allegro.

For the Rest of Us

Prague was the only Central European capital to escape the bombs of the last century's wars — it is one of Europe's best-preserved cities. It's filled with sumptuous Art Nouveau facades, offers tons of Mozart and Vivaldi performances and very reasonable prices and brews the best beer in Europe.

Prague Castle is certainly a special attraction. Set like a small town within its own city walls, it is the largest ancient castle in the world (570m long and on average 128m wide). Prague Castle has been the ruling seat of many Czech Kings, Holy Roman Emperors and of more recent times, Presidents of the Czech Republic. No wonder it is the most visited site in Prague.

Wenceslas Square, named for the "good king" of Christmas-carol fame, is the lively heart of modern Prague. St. Wenceslas, who was the wise and benevolent 10th-century duke of Bohemia, presides over the square on horseback. The square (actually more of a broad boulevard) is a stage for modern Czech history: The Czechoslovak state was proclaimed here in 1918. In 1968, the Soviets put down huge popular demonstrations here (you can still see patches covering bullet holes on the columns of the National Museum). And 20 years later, in November 1989, hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Czechs gathered here to celebrate the imminent freedom of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. Not far from the square is the Museum of Communism, ironically nestled between a McDonald's and casino. The museum is a hodgepodge of artifacts from the Czech Republic's 40-year stint with Soviet economics.

Prague's focal point is the Old Town Square, a market square since the 11th century. Today the old-time market stalls have been replaced by cafés, touristy horse buggies and souvenir hawkers, but the square is still beautiful. Facing the square is the towering 14th-century Tyn Church, with its fanciful spires flanking a solid gold effigy of the Virgin Mary. The pointed 250-foot spire rising from the square marks the 14th-century Old Town Hall, famous for its astronomical clock.

Karlova Street, winds through medieval old Prague to the much-loved Charles Bridge. The glorious, statue-bedecked bridge, commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1357, is lined with market stalls and street musicians, offering a pleasant and entertaining stroll.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!      

A Golfing Holiday, But, One for the Whole Family

Tuesday 4 August 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

One of you is golf mad and the other… not so much.

In fact, one of you, not mentioning which one, couldn’t tell the difference between a 9-iron and a waffle iron. Sound familiar?

Makes planning nearly every holiday a potential battleground.
Why not pick a destination that can cater for all the family?

Almost every resort these days offers access to golf: if not right on-property, then through some convenient arrangement with a nearby course. Some resorts make extra effort to get families golfing together. Within Australia, we have an abundance of amazing Golf Courses, many with extensive resort facilities for the whole family and many just a short distance from home.

Novotel Twin Waters

Built around a private lagoon, Novotel Twin Waters is a tranquil retreat on the Sunshine Coast with activities to suit every member of the family. While the kids are being cared for and entertained at the kids' club, parents can be pampered at the over-water day spa or play a round of golf at the nearby links. 

Dunk Island

Dunk Island, a jewel off the north Queensland coast, is arguably Australia's most beautiful tropical island. Rainforest tumbles onto a white sand beach, while blue butterflies flit in dappled light; meanwhile, the whole family is having a ball, playing golf, riding horses along the beach, or relaxing in the spa. The kids' club provides activities all day long.

Planning on travelling abroad?

In the past some may have considered Hawaii a great place to stop on the way to your destination. Not now! Between the sightseeing, the beach and the shopping, make sure you tee off early to fit it all in. Hawaii is a destination for the whole family. In particular the outer Island of Maui and Kauai, as they are more relaxed than the main Island.

Las Vegas… luckily is open 24 hours! You can now take Las Vegas as a serious destination in its own right. Take in a show, shop till you drop and the people watching is always an eye opener as is the Natural Wonder of the Grand Canyon. Many famous movie stars travel to Las Vegas for a golf holiday to escape from their celebrity status for a few days. For example, Hollywood legends like George Clooney and Matt Damon are both golf players who have been spotted blissfully swinging their golf clubs on Las Vegas golf courses with virtual anonymity to the general public.

And let’s not forget Bali, Thailand, Fiji, New Zealand, Dubai, Ireland and so on. All are fabulous destinations with great activities for both the golfer and non-golfer. For the budding junior golfer, there are many destinations and programmes that cater for them also. 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!      
  

New Zealand

Tuesday 9 June 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

Close to Home, but an 'Other Worldly' Experience! 

Do you want a holiday that gives you the opportunity to sample different cultures, discover amazing landscapes, meet unusual creatures and tackle new challenges that is close to home. Look no further than New Zealand.

Ask a New Zealander and they will tell you its God's own country and the "Paradise of the Pacific". But we must concede, in so many ways New Zealand deserves this description. However, the most common mistake for travellers it not allowing sufficient time to travel throughout New Zealand. If you want a holiday that is affordable, relaxing but also involves some adventure, then you should discover or rediscover New Zealand.

Some of the highlights are:

DOCtor Nature
Remember those school camps where you would huddle up in basic cabins, tell ghost stories and get acquainted with a long drop? Relive those memories with your family and friends at a DOC hut, located along the Department of Conservation’s tramping tracks. Get back to basics and enjoy the peace and quiet without the TV or mobile phones.

Dine Among the Vines
New Zealand wine is definitely something they are proud of, and their Pacific Rim-style cuisine is pretty impressive, too. Enjoy both at a winery restaurant, where an expert sommelier will recommend an exquisite wine to complement every dish, and you can dine alfresco among the vines – a treat well worth a weekend escape to one of New Zealand’s fabulous wine regions.

Beer Hops and Brewery Crawls
Although New Zealand wine often hogs the limelight, when it comes to tourism, their locally brewed beer are just as honorable. Breweries are scattered around the country from quiet rural brewpubs to busy inner-city boutique breweries, and each has its own unique style: organic Pilsners, Belgian beer, decadent chocolate beer and dark lagers with strong hops are just some of the brews on offer.

Experience Maori Magic
In the Maori language, the word Maori means “normal” or “ordinary”. But the Maori culture is far from ordinary – it is special and unique to New Zealand.. There are many Maori experiences throughout the country where you can learn about their intriguing culture, experience their warm hospitality and be inspired by the traditions that have been passed on through generations.

Island Hop
We all know that New Zealand consists of two main islands, but did you know that over 60 small islands make up the country as well? Stewart Island and Waiheke Island are great places to kick back on a beach, but if you want to get off the beaten track, then check out the Poor Knights Islands (Tutukaka), Kapiti Island (Paraparaumu) and White Island, an active marine volcano just off the coast of Whakatane.

Great Tracks and Trails
Literally thousands of tracks and trails are entwined through both the North and South Islands – deciding on what track to tackle first is the hard part! That’s why DOC has compiled a list of Great Walks featuring New Zealand’s premier walking tracks, all of which will test your endurance and blow your mind.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!       

Voyage to India

Monday 1 June 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

An Experience of a Lifetime

When you travel do you always want to feel comfortable, relaxed and in control of events. If so, don’t go to India.

There your senses will be assaulted by a myriad of experiences showcasing the multilayered and complex history of the country, its religions, its culture and its people. All 1.2 billion of them – generally full of passion and smiles and usually on the same road as you are. However, if you want an experience of a lifetime read on and hear just a little of what our valued client, Patricia O’Connor of Brisbane has to say regarding her recent travel experience.

A month in India sounds a long time, but it really only gives you a taste, a tempter of how intriguing and wondrous this very colourful sub-continent can be.

Our trip started in Delhi – the New and the Old - with wide well planned boulevards, crowded back streets discovered by rickshaw, old colonial buildings, elegant hotels– a city much greener and dustier than anticipated. 

A highlight was the one week train trip through Rajasthan on the Palace on Wheels regarded as one of the best train travels in the world. Commencing in Delhi it travels to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, the Ranthambore National Park, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Agra and back to Delhi.

Certainly there is a lot of humanity constantly pushing at you in Rajasthan – this is uncomfortable for all, unsettling for some – be prepared. You certainly see a number of medical conditions not seen daily back home.

However, the wonders are many – the Pink City of Jaipur with the elephant ride up the hill to the Amber Fort; Jaisalmer with its imposing fort full of traders, Jain temples; Jodhpur – the Blue City – with another magnificent fort – full of ornate and intricate carvings, paneling and jewels. With lunch at Umaid Bhawan Palace, now a magnificent hotel, but once one of the largest private residences in the world, with fantastic food. Udaipur, the City of Lakes; and finally Agra, with its fine fort, and the most famous mausoleum in the world, the Taj Mahal. The images are so familiar, but the experience will be carried forever in the soul.

Our trip then continued with a flight to Kerala, a total change of mood and scenery, a magical de-stressed time created by wonderful staff, accompanied by an unparallel culinary experience of southern Indian food. Transferring to Kochi, one could sit for hours and watch the Chinese fishing nets at work. Continuing to Goa, with all the romance of its Portuguese history and food. Again, the food in Goa combined the best the spice and sea had to offer.

Lastly to Mumbai for a couple of nights at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel – an experience nearly denied by recent happenings. With my room looking straight over the Gateway of India, it was a fitting spot to farewell India. Barely two months after the gutting of the hotel, its reconstruction of the Palace wing appears nearly complete – Like a phoenix rising from the ashes – a testament to Indian resilience and pride. Mumbai was more appealing than anticipated, a constant mix of old and new, rich and poor, the thriving commercial hub of the continent.

To travel enjoyably in India it is a must to do a few things – One, practice preventive health care with appropriate vaccines, medications and habits. Two, work with travel companies that intimately know the country and have people “on the ground” – Exotic Destinations working with World Travel Professionals produced an interesting and safe itinerary. Three, have a tour company “on the ground” that are reliable – we found Sita fantastic, efficient , punctual and able to handle any extra requests.

Security was heightened in India – understandably and thankfully. To be honest we had thoughts of canceling after the terrorist episode, but thankfully we did not.

The wonderful culture and people, great food, fantastic shopping – all made India a travel experience.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!    

Orion Cruising

Tuesday 12 May 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

The ultimate of cruising in style

This custom built 5-star luxury vessel is in a class of its own. Build to handle just about any conditions. World Class sophisticated dining and Beverages included is only the start of this experience.

During the summer months its ice-strengthened hull allows the most spectacular expeditions to the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Island. During the winter months enjoy the unspoilt wilderness of the Kimberley’s. During the seasons outside this the various Itineraries range from the Exotic East to the unspoiled remote areas of PNG. Some of the most amazing and rarely seen places on our doorstep.

When our client Ron returned from a recent experience he said it was a fantastic experience,

“Highly recommended for those that want activities, great food and great service!”

Passengers as far as from England say……

"The passenger areas are fitted out more for expeditions to Bond Street than the outback."

Peter Hughes / Daily Telegraph (UK) 15th March, 2008: (Kimberley)

"Orion does expeditions the way Ralph Lauren might do dungarees." 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!     

Stunning Scenery and True Charm, Ireland

Tuesday 14 April 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

Ireland - amazing touring routes and sensational drives……..

Absorb the magic of Ireland at your own pace; driving along dramatic coastlines, past serene lakes, over wild mountain terrain and green rolling hills, enjoying the infectious friendliness and humour of the people you meet along the way.

Ireland is the perfect touring destination with quaint roads and lanes with historic buildings and ruins around every corner. Explore country mansions and gardens, romantic castles, charming villages and atmospheric pubs with traditional music as well as a host of world-class attractions.

Ireland’s Capital Dublin is a vibrant, cosmopolitan centre. Dublin is filled with Georgian boulevards, historical buildings such as Trinity College and Dublin Castle. Then there are the more ‘interactive’ museums such as the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. Take a drive out of Dublin city-centre to the pretty coastal villages of Dalkey, Killiney. These are the perfect places for U2 spotting!

The wonders of Ireland are well known, however few realise the beauty and vibrancy of its Northern region. You can cross from coast to coast in a couple of hours, yet every mile is brimming with scenery, history, local colour, legend, activities and attractions. Visit Belfast with its young and vibrant atmosphere full of great shopping, food, music and trendy new pubs. Birthplace of the Titanic with a rich history of shipbuilding, Belfast glows in its Victorian architecture.

Venture into St Patrick’s country and soak up the legacy of Ireland’s patron saint. Derry is another gem, Ireland’s only completely walled city with a history dating back 1,000 years. The Causeway Coastal route which meanders along the Northern Coast and takes in the World Heritage site, the Giants Causeway is one of the most scenic coastal drives in Europe if not the world.

Western Ireland

The Western region of Ireland is bursting with stunning scenery and a rich literary, historical and musical culture. The West is home to four of the nation’s national parks, the cliffs of Moher, numerous Islands, and the majestic River Shannon. The West is a part of the island which casts a unique spell of its own.

Southern Ireland

The South of Ireland has been welcoming tourists for 250 years! The famous lakes of Killarney, the much-loved ‘Blarney Stone’, the beautiful crystal from Waterford and the coastal delights of County Cork are just samples of this region. Inland the pastures and meadows of Carlow and Kilkenny roll and sweep in unchanging beauty.

Eastern Ireland

The East of Ireland is the cradle of ancient Irish aristocracy with over a thousand castles guarding the land from the coastal waters of the Irish to the shores of the serenely flowing Shannon. The East is spoilt with an array of golden beaches, romantic gardens and is home to the sport of Kings with a rich horse breeding and racing history.

Where else in Europe would you find roads so free of traffic through such spectacular scenery? Unwind on a driving holiday, Irish Style. Click Here to find out more about Ireland. 

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!   
  

Tahiti - It's Paradise

Wednesday 8 April 2009 | By Ros Bulat |

When you think of Tahiti, you think of turquoise blue waters, seclusion, and luxury.

Tropical landscapes of crystal clear azure lagoons surrounded by soaring volcanic peaks; of love and romance; of gentle goddesses and fierce warriors, it is the stuff of dreams and legends. The first explorers returned home from here boasting that they had discovered heaven on earth! Tahiti reminds us that life is short and that there is a world of beauty and tranquillity just waiting to be discovered. A truly magical place which is guaranteed to steal a piece of your heart. Marlon Brando loved this place so much; he bought his own private atoll – Tetiatoa. By 2008 you will also be able to enjoy this little piece of luxury, with a 35-villa eco resort being built in the late actors trust, to be aptly named “The Brando”

With an average yearly temperature of 26 degrees– Tahiti is a year round destination. You can find accommodation at all ends of the scale, from your five star luxury to Family-run 'Bed and Breakfast' style pension accommodation.

For those of you who like to 'island hop', what better way to move around than on a cruise? From large ocean liners, to super-yachts to private sailing charters, you just need to unpack once and let someone else 'move the scenery' for you.

Tahiti has been seducing honeymooners, romantics, adventurers and holidaymakers for years. Activities both land and sea are abundant – diving, sailing, windsurfing, swimming with dolphins and sting rays, shark feeding, 4 wheel drive adventures, horseback riding, jeep safaris and of course you can’t beat a round of golf on the majestic setting of Atimaono golf course near Tahiti’s remote and unspoiled peninsular. Tahiti & Her Islands is also home to some of the best surf breaks in the world, not to mention hosting the Billabong Pro Surf tour, among others.

Papeete is your starting point, and the capital of Tahiti, the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. Boasting fabulous restaurants, markets and a lively nightlife. A must do in Papeete is to dine at a colourful roulotte (food wagon) Lining the harbour every evening roulotte’s serve an amazing array of affordable French and International cuisine. If you are a market lover like me don’t miss the public market “Le Marche” with hundreds of stalls filled with traditional Tahitian made crafts

Moorea is located 17 kms northwest of Papeete – a short 10-minute flight, or a 30-minute ferry ride. With breathtaking scenery and magnificent volcanic mountains covered in lush greenery. Be prepared to fall in love with Bora Bora at first sight, lying 259 kms north west of Tahiti in the Leeward Society Islands. This is definitely paradise and must really be seen to be believed!

Tahiti is a truly special place, somewhere you can mix a bit of French Chic with South Pacific charm.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!      

Singapore, Worth Exploring

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The hotel is approximately 30 minutes from Changi Airport. It is situated opposite Singapore harbour and is linked to Marina Square Shopping Mail. The new Suntec Singapore and Esplanade are within a few minutes’ walk. The Singapore flyer (equivalent of the London Eye) is 10 minutes stroll and an excellent place to view the amazing city of Singapore and its harbour. Raffles is also only 10 minutes away.

The hotel is modern and stylish yet has a strong Oriental feel to its design. There are 449 luxurious rooms and 78 suites. All rooms are equipped with plasma TV and cable channels, mini bar, DVD player, CD and high speed wired and wireless internet. It has 5 restaurants and an amazing 25 meter pool, fitness centre and of course spa. Everything you would expect and more from a 5 star hotel. The rooms are huge and luxurious and the location is great.

Singapore City

Singapore itself is a vibrant and buzzing city. Definitely a place to explore. Taxis are frequent and reasonable. There are many city tours available which will show you China town including a Chinese temple, Little India, and of course the National Museum of Singapore. If travelling with children the Botanical gardens and the Singapore Zoo offers a great night safari. Sentosa Island offers a beach resort, Universal Studios and the Aquarium is one of the largest in Asia.

Evening: Restaurants and NightlifeThe main areas to head for are Clarkes Quay where you will find the harbour edge lined with an extensive variety of restaurants. There are also music bars and nightclubs. You can also visit the street vendors for a taste of local flavour. Another popular location is Chijmes which is a converted convent school with a great selection of various restaurants in a central outdoor location. For a slightly more exclusive evening you could head for ’Oosh’ for great Japanese or Malaysian cuisine in a lush outdoor setting and private dining. All of these locations can be reached by taxi in approximately 10 minutes. Singapore is very accessible and offers something for everyone  and is a great stop-over destination.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  
  

Eastern and Oriental Express

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

Choo, Choo, Chugga, Chugga. 

The train is as you would imagine with beautiful wood panelling and crisp linen table clothes with beautiful crystal glasses and fine china. There is also a bar car where in the evening a pianist will play or Thai dancers will perform. At the back of the train is the Observation Car which is partially open air to enable you to take in and view the passing scenery to its best potential.

 There are three cabin types. Each cabin has a private ensuite and is equipped with air conditioning, a hairdryer and safe. 


The Pullman:There are 30 Pullman compartments which are approx 62 squared feet. During the daytime the compartment is a private lounge provided by banquette style sofa. At night the seating converts to an upper and lower bed. A separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC is provided.

The State Cabin:

There are 28 state cabins which measure 84 square feet. A private lounge during the day with a banquette style sofa and fixed chair, and one moveable chair. Fixed daytime seating converts to two single beds at night. There is a separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC.

The Presidential Suite :Each Presidential Suite measures 125 square feet . The cabins are styled as a private lounge during the day with banquette style sofa and fixed chair, and two moveable chairs. Fixed daytime seating converts to two single beds at night. There is also the separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC. The extra facilities include an Ipod docking station and CD player. Guests in Presidential Suites enjoy the additional benefit of a complimentary bar in their cabin.

There are two sittings for lunch and dinner and there are 2 dining carriages where your table will be prebooked for you alternating between the two carriages to ensure you experience both carriages . You can dine on a table of 4 or a table of 2. If you are travelling as a party of 2 but wish to dine with other passengers this can also be arranged for you. 

Your Journey Begins
Day One
The Orient Express departs from Keppel Road Station where you will find the Orient Express check in desk and departure lounge. Your journey begins with a late morning departure. Your bags are brought to your cabin where your Steward offers you a warm welcome and explains all the services available to you. The train crosses into the peninsular of Malaysia via the causeway of the straits of Johor and the journey continues north whilst you savour your 3 course lunch. The passing scenery is vast oil-palms and rubber plantations and rural settlements.

Afternoon tea is served in your cabin, whilst cocktails are served in the bar or observation car. Your 4 course evening meal is a true delight with a beautiful menu, offering the most amazing western and eastern cuisine. Whilst you are having your evening meal your steward is transforming your compartment into a cosy bedroom.

After dinner the train stops at Kuala Lumpur railway station where you will disembark for a stroll along the platform.

Day 2
Through the night the train continues its journey through lush forest and rural west-cost towns of Malaysia. Breakfast is served in your compartment. At nine o’clock the train arrives at Butterworth station where you disembark for the ferry crossing to Penang and a guided introductory tour of Georgetown. Here you will walk through the local markets and jump on a tuk-tuk to explore the mosques, temples, churches, bazaars and colourful shophouses. You rejoin the train for lunch and afternoon tea. The train crosses into Thailand and the scenery changes to include Thai temples and bustling stations.

The evening is truly a chance to be wined and dined by the best chefs and attentive waiters. As you prepare for your last night on board.

Day 3
After breakfast in your compartment you disembark to see the famous River Kwai Bridge before cruising on the river. You are given the opportunity to photograph the Orient Express crossing the Bridge. There waiting for you is a local historian who is the creator of the museum who provides a very interesting overview of the railway and the bridge. At the landing point you travel by motor coach to the Thailand-Burma railway museum and the Don Rak war cemetery. It is truly an interesting and moving experience and extremely informative.

When you arrive back on the train there is time for one more delicious three course lunch as the train proceeds towards Bangkok arriving in the afternoon at Bangkok Hualampong Station.

Porters will take your luggage for you and on the platform, arrange for it to be taken to your taxi or next form of transport.

May we suggest continuing on your journey as we did and heading on to the amazing Oriental Hotel in Bangkok.  

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  

Bangkok, A Sensory City

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

The Oriental Hotel

Bangkok is a city that attacks the senses it’s noisy, smelly, busy but exciting and vibrant. It takes 45 minutes to transfer to The Oriental hotel. Which is tucked down a typical Bangkok side street which opens up to show the Oriental Hotel. The lobby is a breath taking mix of eclectic modern and traditional furnishings with the most amazing fresh flowers.

There are 258 rooms and 35 suites. The rooms are large and luxurious, featuring a huge marble bathroom, plasma television, mini bar and internet. The beds are enormous and there is a butler on every floor to attend to every room not just the club floor.

But the most amazing aspect of this hotel is its location right on the Chao Phya River. The view from the rooms is amazing and the hotel uses its position to its full potential with terraces, restaurants and breakfast being served on the terrace to make the most of the view.

The hotel boasts some of the most amazing restaurants, including; Japanese, Le Normandie – French, Lord Jims - International Seafood, Ciao – Italian and Sala Rim Naarn a traditional Thai restaurant and cooking school, this is on the opposite side on the river and the hotels launch takes you across. Here you can also book into the hotels famous cooking school or just enjoy a great evening of delicious Thai food and be entertained by the Thai dancers... Oh and the cocktails are definitely worth a try!

After an amazing meal why not go to nearby Sirocco restaurant and bar, located on the 65th floor. Here you can see the lights of Bangkok for miles around you.

By day Bangkok offers shopping galore with Thai silk, tailor-made clothing, handbags, jewellery and of course the huge market of fake and copied items. There are of course the temples and floating markets or why not just experience a Thai massage either at the hotel or at a local parlour where a 2 hour back and neck massage is only AU$ 20.00. You will need it after visiting the great, big Zara store that is also here!! 

We travelled around the city by using the sky rail which saved time by avoiding the congestion. However it is also great fun to jump on a Tuk Tuk if you are feeling really brave - just hold on.

Sadly we only had one day in Bangkok which was not nearly enough. I can’t wait to go back but already I know it’s a great destination for a stopover.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  
  

Distinct Culture and a Taste Sensation

Monday 29 December 2008 | By Ros Bulat |

Sri Lankin Journal

Brimming with colonial grandeur the beautiful island of Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon) is emerging as one of the world’s great new luxury holiday destinations. Hanging like a pendant from the ear of India this is an island truly blessed. Sri Lanka’s main languages and religions were inherited from India, but her culture and society have unique and distinct qualities. Signs of Portuguese, Dutch and British influences linger in institutions such as Churches, tea estates and forts, not to mention music and food.

Six years on from the devastating affects of the Boxing Day Tsunami – Sri Lanka is a true survivor. Most of the West Coast beach hotels have long reopened and have also benefited from a full refurbishment looking better than they have done for years. In fact in a clear vote of confidence several international hotel and luxury resort brands have moved to establish presence here.

Sri Lanka offers many varied experiences!

The coastal south of Colombo has magnificent palm lined beaches. Try the Kandyan dances, a procession of elephants, or the masked devil dance. Explore the temples and 60m high solid brick dagobas (Buddhist shrines) of the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonaruwa. Head for the hill country where the heat of the plains and the coast fades away to reveal gorgeous rolling hills carpeted with tea plantations. Many rave about the surfing breaks at Arugam Bay, Kirinda and other beaches, if that is your thing! There are a dozen major national parks inhabited by elephants, leopards, monkeys, crocodile and deer. As Sri Lanka is but a relatively small Island a lot can be covered in a compact time period.

Recipes brought in by traders & invaders have left there mark and naturally there is an Indian influence but there are also Dutch, British, Arab and Portuguese flavours. Unlike the increasingly informal consumption of food in many countries, eating in Sri Lanka is still a ritual. To truly enjoy a Sri Lankan Curry you must forget any thoughts of cutlery and prepare to dine with your fingers – but remember not to use your left hand!

If wildlife in particular is of interest, perhaps consider a visit to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, set up to save abandoned or orphaned wild elephants. Roaming freely around the sanctuary there is no where else you are likely to see so many elephants at close quarters.

If you offer the Manhouts (keeper) a few Rupee, he will let you jump in for a swim with one of the giants – a wonderful experience!  

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!    

Winter In Europe

Tuesday 23 December 2008 | By Ros Bulat |

Exploring Europe during the winter is one of the best-kept secrets in travel!

Winter is such an enchanting time to visit Europe; in fact it should be mandatory that at least once in your lifetime you experience the magic of a White Christmas in this part of the world.

If you are worried about going to Europe during winter – don’t be! You will find the weather is often surprisingly mild, the city streets and attractions less crowded than during the summer, and the local shops filled with incredible winter bargains. Not to mention the great deals you can get on airfares and tours before you leave.

How about a visit to the Christmas Markets in Rothenburg, where you are plunged back into the 16th century as you enter through medieval walls and follow the narrow cobblestones streets to the market square with its town clock, or what about the sparkling festival lights of Prague and Budapest? Or a Mozart and Strauss concert in Vienna. 

Winter offers you a chance to see Europe in a whole different-albeit dimmer-light. The season presents you with a chance to put on your woollies and hike snow covered peaks, or squeeze into a tux and go to an opera gala.

Winter has charms of its own. Instead of a seat at an outdoor cafe, think of wandering through Venice's wintry fog, peering into the city's steamed-up windows in search of a cosy café or, better yet, think of eating rich, winter foods beside a roaring fire beneath the intricately carved timber-beams of an historic guild hall restaurant in Basel, Switzerland. 

In winter, European cuisine changes dramatically. Southern Mediterranean dwellers wouldn't think of eating heavy cream sauces in summer. But once the leaves fall off the trees, European kitchens burst into winter mode. Creamy, long-cooking sauces, preserved duck and goose, root vegetables, and the roasting of wild game all contributing to aromas that will leave you wishing you could stay in Europe forever. 

Of course some places are indeed quite chilly. But the south of Italy, Spain, Portugal and most of Greece are pretty balmy in winter. Winter is a great time to visit Spain's Andalucian trio of Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Or perhaps you'd rather take a winter visit to almost deserted Pompeii with a stopover in Naples in order to eat some of the best food in Italy. So Why not travel in winter? Hotels and airfares are cheap, and sweaty summer crowds are a dim memory!

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!      
  

Ski Canada

Monday 3 November 2008 | By Ros Bulat |

Ski Canada – Big White

Big White is situated in British Columbia, Canada and is open from Mid November until mid April . Primarily accessible from Kelowna which is a regional centre approximately 1 ½ hours away.

A snap shot of Big White:

  • 56 km from Kelowna, BC
  • Average snowfall of 7.5m per season
  • Base elevation of 1508 M and the summit at 2318m, Village at 1755
  • 118 runs, serviced by 16 lifts over an area of 3052 hectares
  • Novice runs to Black runs
  • Restaurants, cafés and bars to suit all tastes
  • Approx 17,000 rooms on sale every night! Youth Hostels, Chalets and Condo’s
  • Most accommodations have excellent lift access
  • Plenty of off ski activities, especially for Après skiers

The resort area offers child care, full ski instructors teaching kids, beginners and experienced alike. Locals offer a FREE guided your of the mountain several times a day to orientate new comers. The fact that most of the staff on the mountain is not coincident… the resort is owned by Australians.

All in all a perfect destination for Australians!

Let’s hear from our very own client Peter Kent of Brisbane.

"I first experienced Big White in 2004/05, it was mine and my family’s first skiing experience and we had such a good time we have planned to return ever since. When we decided to go on holidays this Christmas there was no contention, we easily settled on returning to Big White.

Our holiday was coordinated with a group of over 50 Adults and kids, all friends from Brisbane. The kids were always busy. There were so many Après ski activities that after the first few days we needed to have a day off to recharge! Most did pre and post Ski arrangements, some at the Californian Theme parks and some at other ski resorts and some a warm up in Hawaii.

Both times we have been to Big White the local “Kelowna Rockets” Ice Hockey team had a home game. If you want to see a “blood sport” then Ice Hockey is for you. The locals don’t seem to be happy until they see a fight! They are in the palyoff’s this year so they all seemed to go away happy.

Overall Big White is a definite on the list for skiers. It always has great snow. The only down side is access. Kelowna can be pron to closure due to fog. When we were due to return to Australia the airport was closed for 3 days. We ended up hiring a car and driving to Vancouver (approx 4 hours) to catch the following day’s flight. All car hire, last minute Vancouver hotel and the change in flight was done with minimal hassle (to us) by our friend Ros Bulat at World Travel Professionals. Wouldn’t go travelling without her! 

We had a great time. Happy Skiing"  

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  

Hawaiian Island Pleasures

Thursday 12 June 2008 | By Ros Bulat |

Hawaii offers so much more then people expect. 

Home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the world’s tallest sea mountain. Birthplace of surfing and the hula! Formerly the seat of a royal kingdom. 

There are primarily six major islands to visit in Hawaii: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii’s Big island. You’ll find each island has its own distinct personality and offers its own adventures, activities, and sightseeing opportunities.

Honolulu is located on the Island of Oahu, where the timeless, natural radiance of the Islands meets the modern luxuries of today. Hike down a lush mountainside, just minutes away from a soaring cityscape. Feast at a luau under the stars one night, dine at a five-star restaurant another. Sunbathe all day on the North Shore then dance all night in Waikiki. There’s no shortage of things to do on Oahu. And the shopping is great!

And for the Golfers! Over 30 public and private courses are located on Oahu. Including such renowned courses as Ko’olau and Luana Hills Country Club. Luana Hills is perhaps the most beautiful golf course on Oahu. Located in the back of beautiful Maunawili Valley on the windward side of the island. It was the first course in Hawai'i designed by Perry Dye and his famous brother, Pete - one of the most accomplished golf architects in America. The Dye brothers made sure to incorporate many of their trademark design features, including a variety of forced carries off the tee, bunkers bordered by railroad ties, par-3's over water to island greens, and fairways that fall off steeply into bunkers and ravines. Luana Hills is set in awesome natural surroundings beneath the deep green folds of the Ko'olau Mountains. The front nine plays across the lower slopes of Mount Olomana, while the back nine winds its way through a tropical rainforest with dramatic changes in elevation. Local residents refer to it as "Jurassic Park" because there are few signs of civilization, only the surrounding forest and the mountain peaks overhead.

Just near by is The Kahala Hotel & Resort, one of the many amazing properties marketed by Leading Hotels of the World. The Kahala Hotel and Resort is located on a secluded beach but just ten minutes from the world class shopping and entertainment of Waikiki. This legendary hideaway resort in Honolulu's plush Kahala district is a favourite with presidents, international royalty and celebrities alike.

This luxury resort offers an extensive range of facilities to suit every need including: Spa facilities, fitness centre, Beach activities, Bikes, Kayaking, Surfing, Tennis and more. For the Junior member of the family the “Keiki Club” is a perfect place for them to have fun and learn about the Hawaiian culture. Full activities are arranged for kids between 5 and 12. 

AMAQ members have a special offer available through World Travel Professionals. As a destination or a stopover on route to the US Hawaii offers you the best of everything. While our Australian Dollar is almost one for one, it’s the perfect time to escape.
~ Aloha ~

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!