All ship-shape getaway \ Holidays on the high seas are where it’s at, writes Kendall Hill
n case you hadn’t noticed, cruising is booming. such as Cunard, Holland America and Seabourn. More than 21 million holidaymakers are forecast But that success hasn’t come without a lot of hard to set sail this year, according to the Cruise Lines work on her part. International Association, and Australians are When Sherry, a former banking executive and leading the surge. government bureaucrat, took the reins at Carnival We’re now the world’s fastest-growing market in 2007, she inherited an industry in turmoil. for holidays afloat. Last year 700,000 eager Aussies Cruising’s reputation had been rocked by headed off onto the seven seas; by 2016 that number the death of Dianne Brimble, the Brisbane is expected to hit a million. mother-of-three who died at sea This raises several questions. Chief among them aboard P&O’s Pacific Sky. A lengthy – why? What’s the big attraction of booking a coronial inquest in 2011 found Mrs holiday on board a floating amusement park Brimble had died after being with thousands of strangers? How is it that “unknowingly drugged” by three ships an industry that seems to be a magnet for fellow passengers. bad news – remember last year’s Costa In a lecture to Griffith will be here Concordia tragedy in Italy in which 32 University in May, for the passengers died, and the 4200 people adrift Sherry acknowledged oz open aboard the crippled Carnival Triumph in the scale of the task February – can still be the star performer of she faced. “To rebuild global tourism? confidence, it was clear The answer, according to Carnival Australia CEO that nothing short of total Ann Sherry, is word of mouth. Horror headlines industry transformation would apparently count for little against the goodwill be acceptable,” she said. “The spread by cruise converts. ‘anything goes’ reputation of “Even though there have been issues in the last cruising had to go. And it has.” 12 months … that’s not the experience of people Compounding what Sherry calls cruising here,” says Sherry who, as regional chief of cruising’s “reputational issues” was the world’s biggest cruise company, oversees a fleet the fact the local fleet was tired, and of six permanent ships in Australia and another four limited itineraries did little to entice seasonal vessels. Australians aboard. Thanks to Carnival passengers “trusting each She set about getting more investment, other’s word of mouth”, the line has a returning newer vessels and opening up destinations. But passenger rate of more than 50 per cent and carries her priority was “getting rid of the poor behaviour about two-thirds of all Australian cruisers on lines and poor image on P&O ships and changing the 28 The weekly review \ NOVEMBER 6, 2013
Clockwise from left: The pool on Pacific Jewel; Queen Victoria; Carnival Spirit in Sydney (JameS morgan);
P&o arcadia’s cinema; Waterfront restaurant on the Pacific Pearl; Seabourn odyssey in melbourne.
customer demographic, changing the product”. Cracking down on anti-social behaviour was top of the to-do list. Carnival introduced closed-circuit TV, security and responsible service of alcohol guidelines, and it began making examples of passengers who behaved badly. “We take people to bed, we stop them drinking, we block their cards, we shut the bars,” says Sherry. “We are very diligent now in managing the environment for the enjoyment of all. If people are really poorly behaved and don’t shift their behaviour, then we disembark them.” Sherry also introduced Australians to new brands – such as the 2667-passenger Carnival Spirit, now based permanently in Sydney Harbour – and promoted the diversity of itineraries available. More choice of destinations, ship sizes and types of cruise. “It was about segmenting the market, getting the right product for the customers, modernising the product,” Sherry says. Australianising it, too. Carnival realised that what floats the boats of its American and British patrons would not work in Australia. Food, drinks and entertainment have all been tailored to the local market. Everything from beer to coffee has a local flavour, and dining features more Asian dishes, grass-fed rather than US-style grain-fed beef, and Luke Mangan-branded restaurants on all P&O ships. “A Luke Mangan restaurant on a ship sends a signal about the sort of product that it is,” Sherry says. Likewise, having food-and-wine cruises where
vignerons showcase local vintages attracts a different demographic to “people who once came on board to drink cheap alcohol. You change the product and that then attracts a different group of passengers”. Another key ingredient in Carnival’s turnaround has been opening new destinations in Australia and regionally. Recent additions to the ports of call include Moreton and Kangaroo islands, Exmouth – gateway to the Ningaloo Reef – Broome and, coming soon, Norfolk Island. Last month, P&O ventured into the wilds of Papua New Guinea, a stark departure from its usual destinations. The Pacific Dawn sailed out of Brisbane for nine-night adventures calling at Alotau, Milne Bay and the Trobriand Islands. A highlight was local communities banding together at Alotau to stage their canoe festival – “an incredible event”, says Sherry – and exotic tribal handicraft markets. Closer to home, in another first, Carnival will bring shiploads of passengers to Melbourne for next year’s Australian Open tennis. P&O routinely brings punters into Port Melbourne each November for the Melbourne Cup, but in January it will have three ships here for the annual grand slam. New experiences, new ships and a new attitude have contributed to cruising’s improved fortunes. “We would not have had the growth if we hadn’t built confidence in the local market,” Sherry says. \ email@example.com » www.carnival.com.au NOVEMBER 6, 2013 \ The weekly review 29
outdoors \ eddIe MORTON Makes a feasT Of The bass cOasT TRaIl Give this a go GeorGe Bass Coastal Walk \ Two hours one way, easy-to-moderate grade, and doable in a pair of good runners. www.parkweb.vic.gov.au InverloCh hIre Boats and Charters \ Treadwells Road, Inverloch. 5674 5588 Drive to Inverloch Charters just outside Inverloch. Take out a boat and catch a fish. No licence needed. The waters in the Inverloch inlet are calm, and it’s the best way to explore the coast from the ocean. arChysurf tours \ Louisa Court, Inverloch. 0400 180 505 You can’t come to the Bass Coast, or anywhere on Victoria’s coast, without at least trying to ride a wave. Archysurf Tours is run by local surfing pro Luke Archibald, who knows where to go to avoid the crowds. archysurftours.com.au
stay here euGenIe’s luxury aCCommodatIon \ 16 Ramsay Boulevard, Inverloch, 5674 6121 Luxury would be an understatement. This boutique hotel, formerly a house, has four large suites perfect for a weekend getaway. Large en suites, views of the coast from the top balcony, a pool and spa make this the only option for the romancing couple trying to get a dose of ultra-relaxation on the weekend. www.eugenies.net.au
30 The weekly review \ NOVEMBER 6, 2013
ippsland is a place of extremes and pleasant surprises. follows the route of the explorer George Bass, who discovered While huge Southern Ocean swells funnel through Bass and named Western Port Bay and much of the southern edge Strait and pummel its shoreline year round, storms of the Anderson Peninsula more than 200 years ago. flood Gippsland’s grassy plains during the winter and fires The walk is listed as easy and is doable in a good pair of ravage its bushland during the summer. runners, but you will still be relieved to arrive at the Kilcunda But for all its fury, it’s still one of the state’s most diverse, General Store for a feed and a milkshake at the other end. exciting and delicious destinations. If you’re game, the Bass Coast Rail Trail continues the trek Stretching from the New South Wales border to Bass for a further 16 kilometres over Kilcunda’s trestle bridge. The Strait and encompassing the Great Dividing Range, Wilsons trail is easy and on gravel and leads all the way to the township Promontory, Strzelecki Ranges and Gippsland Lakes, there is of Wonthaggi. no way you can see it all in a day, a week, or even a month. Delyse Graham and her sister Suellen Wilkie own the It’s a land of dairy farmers and their cows, fishermen Kilcunda General Store, which doubles as the town’s post and their boats, artisans and their knick-knacks, office. They bought it about four years ago with the aim connoisseurs and their wine, adventurers and their of transforming it into the “culinary gateway” to the landscapes, but at no point do you feel like the locals Bass Coast. Safe to say, they have done exactly that. “for all are gloating about it. “I think over one glass of red wine too many, my its fury, it’s The Bass Coast is only a tiny part of what is on sister and I decided to buy this place … We wanted diverse and offer in this great region and forms the proverbial to raise the bar and make people realise the Bass exciting’’ front line of Gippsland. That said, there is no better Coast really is a destination for good food,” Graham way to introduce yourself to this part of the world than says. “We really wanted to bring something special to by hiking its rugged and violent coastline. Kilcunda and show off the region’s great local stuff. A lot Starting at San Remo’s Punch Bowl Road is the George Bass of people turn right when they hit that roundabout and head Coastal Walk. It is a little more than seven kilometres long and off to Phillip Island, so the Bass Coast remains a bit of a secret. finishes at Kilcunda. It takes about two hours to complete the The walk attracts a lot of hikers year round, however, and it’s walk, but it packs in a lot of breathtaking views of the coastline pretty spectacular, to say the least.” along the way. While the Bass Coast is primarily a surfing and farming From the start, at the Punch Bowl viewing platform, region, food is becoming a drawcard for the area. Restaurants you get an immediate sense of how heavy the ocean is here. and trendy cafés are opening every year, and the monthly Stories of fishermen snatched from the cliffs by giant freak Inverloch Farmers’ Market is a smorgasbord of produce. waves are not told just to deter adrenalin junkies. It happens, So here’s a tip, try to time your visit accordingly. and often. That said, there are two forks in the track (see signs) “I think I speak for all the restaurateurs and café owners where you can safely descend to the beach and explore the reefs when I say we would love to see more businesses come in and and rockpools. up the ante,’’ says Graham. Over epic sandstone cliffs, dunes and paddocks, the walk “For a region to become a culinary destination, there
The coffee collecTive
The Coffee ColleCTive \ shop 1, 50-52 McBride Avenue, Wonthaggi, 5672 4555 perhaps the best spot on the coast for a feast of local produce in very trendy surrounds. Brother of surfer luke Archibald, James .recently opened this café and restaurant with Melbourne’s iconic styling in mind. Bare red brick, pulled pork sliders and a cracking wine list make this place a must if you are in Wonthaggi.
The GeorGe Bass coasTal Walk
needs to be at least a dozen or so places for people to go and eat … I can comfortably say this region is definitely on the way.” The summer months along the Bass Coast – like those on its western equivalent, the Surf Coast – lure the crowds and inflate the population from the everyday 29,000 to well over 70,000 between December and January. So booking any holiday in peak season is essential. Whether you are a holidaying family, a romancing couple,
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a roaming grey nomad or just a keen hiker looking to escape the crowds, you will be definitely spoilt for choice on the Bass Coast. It is well worth keeping it on your radar. firstname.lastname@example.org » Kilcunda General Store, 3535 Bass Highway, Kilcunda. 5678 7390 » www.destinationgippsland.com.au
RACv Club RAdius ResTAuRAnT \ 70 Cape paterson-inverloch Road, inverloch, 5674 0000 Talk about getting a meal with a view. The RACV Club’s Radius Restaurant sunday buffet is a great way to finish your stay on the Bass Coast. Bookings and a camera are a must. beACh box CAfé \ 6a Ramsay Boulevard, inverloch, 5674 3112 located in the centre of inverloch, the Beach Box Café is perfect for morning staples: coffee, a big breakfast and home-made muffins. Get in quick, though, because this little café packs out fast.
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NOVEMBER 6, 2013 \ The weekly review 31
Sure the Big Island has dramatic lava landscapes to explore, but Kona also offers a host of fascinating foodie adventures. Top of the list is a meander through Kona coffee country in the cool highlands with stunning views of the coast. More than 600 small family-run specialty coffee farms along a 50-kilometre strip of the pretty Mamalahoa Highway, and many such as Greenwell Farms and Hula Daddy, offer guided tours and tastings. Larger Japanese-owned Ueshima Coffee Company even offers a tour where a guide explains different roasting styles so you can create your own coffee label and custom roast. Drop into Holuakoa Gardens and Café for a perfect coffee as well as scrumptious slow-food treats. Visit Original Hawaiian Chocolate, the first company to grow, handpick, sun-dry and process only Hawaiian-grown cocoa beans. It offers tours on Wednesday and Friday mornings where you explore the farm and learn how the pods are transformed into chocolate. \ » www.ucc-hawaii.com » www.originalhawaiianchocolatefactory.com » www.holuakoacafe.com/
the big island
The recently renovated Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay is a beautifully landscaped property built on lava rocks at the water’s edge. The spacious rooms have large decks and there’s a curvilinear pool and waterslide for the kids plus an activity centre that organises everything from volcano excursions to kayaking trips. The buzzy Rays on the Bay restaurant has fabulous water views and its lights often attract stingrays that glide past in the evening. Best of all, the hotel is serious about celebrating Hawaiian culture. \
Sam Choy’s is the perfect place to toast the sunset over the water in Kona while sampling poke, marinated tuna with green onion and ogonori or seaweed, which is one of Hawaii’s signature dishes. Follow this with a seafood laulau with the freshest of local fish, shellfish and fresh vegetables wrapped in tea leaves and steamed, or a Big Island rib-eye with shiitake mushroom cream sauce and fried Maui onions. Owner chef Sam Choy also hosts a television cooking show and was a founding contributor of Pacific Rim cuisine. \
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NOVEMBER 6, 2013 \ The weekly review 33