News & ideas to help turn your holiday into a reality
Reviews, tips & insider advice to help with your cruise planning
Amazing holiday ideas to inspire your travels
Explore the sights, sounds and smells of Asia.
JAPAN - BEIJING - NEW ZEALAND - SRI LANKA - WHITSUNDAYS - THAILAND
FUN FACT: KIMONO
Did you know that “kimono,” means ‘thing that is worn’ and the term encompasses many styles, and can be worn for various occasions? A more casual, lightweight yukata is worn during summer festivals and high quality furisode is worn for formal occasions.
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News & ideas to help turn your holiday into a reality
Reviews, tips & insider advice to help with your cruise planning
Amazing holiday ideas to inspire your travels
DESTINATIONS 04 Japan Top 3 08 Canberra in Bloom 12 The best of Thailand â€“ Bangkok and Phuket
14 Beijing and the Great Wall
INSPIRATION 24 5 reasons we love the Whitsundays
27 Five reasons why Vietnam
28 Five reasons why New Zealand is wonderful
Explore the sights, sounds and smells of Asia.
JAPAN - BEIJING - NEW ZEALAND - SRI LANKA - WHITSUNDAYS - THAILAND
MY DISCOVERIES TEAM General Manager Janeece Keller Digital Editor Alison Godfrey Staff Writer Sophie Cullen Designer Jon Wolfgang Miller
PLAN 18 Cruise hacks make
21 Packing for holiday tips 22 Top tips for solo travellers
CRUISING 32 What floats your boat -
choosing the right cruising category
36 Big versus small ship Pacific cruising
Contributors Belinda Luksic, Tatyana Leonov, Thang Ngo, Fiona Harper, Natasha Dragun, Len Rutledge, Roderick Eime Contact @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries firstname.lastname@example.org www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606
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Japan TOP 3
Towering bamboo groves, delicious fresh sushi and glittering golden shrines - Japan has it all. Whether you visit in spring for the cherry blossoms or winter for the snow these three cities will definitely wow you. BELINDA LUKSIC
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COUPLE EATING FRESHLY MADE SUSHI © SHUT TERSTOCK / RUSLAN GUZOV
EAT TILL YOU DROP
The Japanese have a word – “kuiadore” – meaning to “ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” In Osaka - Japan’s kitchen - it’s a word that springs to mind often. There are around 90 Michelinstarred restaurants spread across the city – from the traditional kasekei degustation at Ajikitcho to Koryu’s osamase (chef’s selection) – as well as plenty of inexpensive and good izakayas (gastropubs), yakitori, okoniyami (savoury omelette) and sushi joints. Canal-side in Dotonbori, Osaka’s entertainment district popular for street eats, we nibble on crisp gyoza (dumplings) plump with prawn and pork, sticks of takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and slurp steaming bowls of ramen seated on tatami mats at Kinryu Ramen, before hitting the excellent shopping areas in and around Nami and Osaka Stations. Osaka Castle - a 1990s replica of the original sixteenth century stronghold in Chuo District –
surrounded by six hectares of exquisite gardens and lakes provides a fascinating insight into old Osaka. Set atop a rocky mound, the gabled green and gold trim battlement is worth a peek for its Museum of Oriental Ceramics and tiny dioramas that tell the history of the castle and Japan’s unifying shogun, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. As evening approaches, we swap street-side for sky-high and the Floating Garden Observatory at Umeda Sky Building, a short walk from Osaka Station in the Kita District. While not Osaka’s highest building – that distinction goes to Abeno Harubas, which, at 300 metres, is also Japan’s tallest – it’s one of the best places to get a birds-eye view of the city. The sleek, enclosed lower deck and bar - at night lit to ‘romance level 11’ – has cosy window seats for two, while the upper deck – a circular pathway that wraps around
GOKURAKUBASHI BRIDGE AND OSAKA CASTLE WITH MORNING SUNRISE IN AUTUMN SEASON, OSAKA, JAPAN © AKARAPONG
the building’s twin towers – is the place to be for sunset. As the sun dips in the sky, we do laps of the perimeter, watching the sprawl of the city – a tangle of high-rises intersected by the shimmering band of the Yodo River – transform into a glittering grid of winking lights. M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 5
KIMONOS AND CULTURE
The sun is shining when we arrive at Kinkaku-ji - the three-tiered Zen Buddhist temple known as Golden Pavilion in Kyoto’s north – turning its gilt upper levels incandescent and sending a golden reflection onto the pond in front. Framed by a glowing backdrop of autumn leaves, it’s inexpressibly beautiful. Once the capital of Japan and still its cultural heart, Kyoto is a city steeped in grace and beauty. Home to more than 2000 Buddhist temples and Jinto shrines, including 17 world heritage sites, of which Kinkaku-ji temple is just one, it’s easy to spend a day or week here and leave having barely scratched the surface. Our first day, we take the path most travelled. Starting at Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), once the centre of contemporary culture in Kyoto and a place of peaceful reflection, we walk the cherry tree-lined canal known as the Philosophers Path, a popular spot during cherry blossom season (March to April), 6 M Y D I SCOV ERI ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
and equally stunning in autumn. Past the shrines and hole-inthe wall noodle bars, we stop to watch a coquettish kimonoed maiko (apprentice geisha) pose for photos on the canal bridge before continuing along the eastern mountain walkway of Higashiyama towards Nazenji Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, another much-visited cherry blossom stop. Immortalised by the novel, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, the Gion District between Shijo Avenue and Yasaka Shrine is one of the best places at dusk for geishawatching. It’s also near Gion Theatre, the famous geisha theatre where, December to March the maiko perform traditional dances for Y3150 (A$36). We stop for a green tea and stroll the length of ‘ochayas’ (teahouses), restaurants and kimono stores, excited at the occasional geisha-sighting. Arashiyama, a sleepy village on the western outskirts of Kyoto known for its temples and nature
YASAKA SHRINE © JNTO
ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE KYOTO © JNTO
walks, is where we spend our last day. Standing between willowy bamboo plantations at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, we crane our necks skyward to see confetti green treetops playing peek-a boo with the sky. Later, we cross Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama’s most notable landmark, and continue up the Hozu River, our eyes spoilt by a mish-mash of foliage turned mauve, russet, tawny orange and gold.
TSUJIKI MARKET_ TUNA AUCTION © BELINDA LUKSIC
OLD AND NEW
Forgoing sleep, we join a motley crew at 3am at Tsujiki Markets, the world’s biggest wholesale fish and seafood markets, all intent on one thing – to be one of the 60 allowed in daily to watch the Bluefin tuna auctions. It was here, in 2013, that a world record was made, when a local restaurateur paid 155.4 million yen (A$1.8 million) for a 222-kilogram Bluefin tuna. Curiously, the auction itself is studiously quiet, but the inner market, a hectic flurry of zig-zagging motorized carts and precariously balanced Styrofoam stacks of seafood, is at once, exciting and dangerous. Welcome to Tokyo. Japan’s capital is a city of contrasts: a bustling behemoth of neon-lit skyscrapers and ancient temples, of gaming arcades, sumo wrestlers and quirky cat and owl cafes. At night, we fine dine in Ginza and Shibuya and stop by the ramshackle Nonbei Yokocho (Drunkards Alley),
a narrow corridor of miniscule microbars and eateries, lit up by coloured lanterns, tucked away near the railway bridge in Shibuya. We temple-gaze in Asakusa, trek to Harijuku, famous for its ‘little bopeep’ girls and rockabilly dancing in nearby Yoyogi Park, and visit Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, arguably one of the best galleries in the world. Robot Restaurant, a kooky cabaret show held in a basement in Shinjuku’s seedy Kabukicho district, where bikini-clad girls square off against animatronic robots, proves to be a lot of crazy in-your-face fun, while karaoke here is almost de rigeur. As our trip draws to an end, we catch the shinkansen bullet train to Hakone, an onsen (hot spring) resort town an hour from Tokyo with dress circle views of Mt Fuji. At 3776m, it’s Japan’s highest mountain, an active volcano that on clear days, can be seen as far as Tokyo and Yokohama. Sadly, today
DANCERS AT THE ROBOT RESTAURANT © BELINDA LUKSIC.
isn’t one of them. Instead, we don complimentary cotton yukata robes and slides – the uniform of onsen towns – and spend the day shuffling between bathhouses, soaking in the mineralrich, restorative waters. LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION OR GREAT HOLIDAY DEALS FOR JAPAN? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries email@example.com www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606 M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc over i e s. c o m . au 7
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Bloom Our nation’s capital has well and truely earned the unofficial title of the king of spring. You don’t have to be a gardener to fall in love with Floriade. NATASHA DRAGUN
FLORIADE IS A CACOPHONY OF COLOUR AND DRAMA © VISITCANBERRA M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 9
Every September, the Australian capital bursts into colour with a flower show of epic proportions. It’s just another element of Canberra that adds to its endearing nature. I have a secret soft spot for Canberra – it has this understated sophistication that radiates through its dining, design and art scenes, offering encounters and experiences that are, in equal measure, unexpected and eyeopening. I grew up in the city, strolling along its wide, tree-lined streets and through its vast parks and nature reserves to get to school, not really appreciating the urban rarity of the immense green spaces around me. But that’s what I notice the most
when I return today: the trees, the parks, the lakes, the flowers and the locals’ great love for the outdoors. The Australian capital has one of the best arboretums in the world, home to around 100 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and across the world. And it also has Floriade, an annual celebration of spring that is commemorating 30 years in 2017. Held over 30 days in September and October, Floriade is a cacophony of colour and drama that makes you appreciate just how incredible our flora is. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by the lollipop hues of more than one million bulbs and annuals, blooming into life. There are some
100 species of tulips alone, from Tulipa Rococo to Saigon and Tropical Lady. And every year, they’re displayed in innovative themed gardens. There’s ‘Budding Love’, which sees pansies, tulips and violets planted in garden beds fashioned into love hearts; there’s the ‘Tetris’, where portable planter boxes are packed with blooms of various shades to create a larger-thanlife computer game; and there’s ‘The Wonder of Water’, which pays homage to flowers such as the iris, starflowers and pansies. Rumour has it that gardeners begin working on each showcase up to 18 months prior to the event, they’re that detailed. This year’s edition of Floriade will relive favourite
THE TREES, THE PARKS, THE LAKES, THE FLOWERS IN CANBERRA ARE WORTH A VISIT © VISITCANBERRA
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5 FLORIADE HIGHLIGHTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS YEAR 1 Roving pop-up performances, including drumming circles and acrobats.
2 THE NIGHTFEST MARKETS AT THE FLORIADE INCLUDES ILLUMINATED BRILLIANCE WITH PERFORMANCES, WORKSHOPS AND LIVE ENTERTAINMENT © VISITCANBERRA
themes from the past, although there will also be a number of special instillations to pay homage to three decades of blooms. Local artists are not only involved in creating the incredible floral displays, but are also commissioned to craft sculptures that dot the festival grounds. Back by popular demand are Horizon, an oversized glass globe that reflects the park around you in unexpected ways, and In Plain Sight, a boat that rivals the gardens in terms of its creative use of colour. It’s easy to lose yourself amid the riot of petals – and I quite often do this on purpose when I visit. It doesn’t matter where you end up, there’s always something entertaining at your destination. Given the city’s love
for food and wine, that’s quite often a stall selling craft beer or freshly shucked oysters and champagne. Personally, I find it hard to go past the whiskey and chocolate tastings, which are best enjoyed at sunset on one of Floriade’s NightFest evenings – two weekends of illuminated brilliance with performances, workshops and live entertainment. It’s hard not to be mesmerised by the two giant fireflies that appear in the night sky, twisting and twirling in a spellbinding aerial dance. LOOKING FOR MORE SPRING HOLIDAY INSPIRATION OR DEALS? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries firstname.lastname@example.org www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606
NightFest’s legendary lineup of comedians, including Tripod, Nazeem Hussain and more.
3 The evening soundtrack. Live music this year comes courtesy of Mondecreen, The Gypsy Scholars and Kav Temperley, among others.
4 Wine and chocolate. Head to The Tasting Plate to sample local Canberra produce.
5 Dogs’ Day Out. Bring your four-legged friends on October 14 and you can pose with your pup in a free photo booth and pick up treats at the Pooch Café. M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 1 1
DESTINATIONS THE GRAND PALACE BANGKOK IMAGE BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
Thailand THE BEST OF
BANGKOK AND PHUKET
Bangkok and Phuket are two of Thailand's most popular destinations for good reason. Uncover what makes them each unique and deserving of a visit on your next Thailand holiday. LEN RUTLEDGE Glittering Buddhist temples, colourful floating markets, white sandy beaches, saffron-robed monks, sensual classical Thai dance and beautiful Thai silk are the evocative images of Thailand promoted in its publicity. Amazingly, whenever I go there, I find the reality is even more appealing than the images. I have always found Thailand to be safe, inexpensive and incredibly exciting. It is a country that I unhesitatingly recommend to anyone wanting to experience a vibrant culture that is harmonious, tolerant and uniquely itself. Bangkok, Thailandâ€™s fascinating
capital, is a complex mix of stunning temples and palaces, narrow waterways, horrific traffic jams, delightful markets, intriguing footpath stalls and frantic nightlife. It is a city of dreams. There is so much diversity that almost all dreams can come true here. Dismiss any suggestion that Bangkok is dirty, unsafe or is full of drugs and prostitutes. All major cities have areas less attractive than others but this image can remain completely apart from the experience of the average tourist. Instead you will experience The Grand Palace which is a dazzling collection of golden
pagodas, sparkling spires, and multi-tiered roofs topping exotic buildings. Multiple golden temples with huge Buddha images in architectural styles that will defy your imagination. Some of the worldâ€™s most dramatic shopping malls and department stores filled with the best that is available anywhere. Weekend and night markets that will capture you with their colour and amazing bargains that I know you will not resist The Chao Phraya River with its bustle of barges, sampans, ferries and long-tail boats Amazing Thai food in sophisticated restaurants, hotel
SANDY BEACHES OF PHANG NGA BAY PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
FLOATING MARKET BANGKOK IMAGE BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
BOAT TRAVELLING ALONG THE RIVER IN BANGKOK PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
dining rooms, local food courts and on the street. A huge variety of accommodation options with friendly service at prices less than most other cities. Legendary nightlife from classical dance performances through hotel bars with live music and street bars with rock combos, to spas and massage parlours, and ‘girlie bars’ with bikinied go-go dancers I, and countless other Bangkok visitors, have experienced all this and more in just a week in this thriving city. Stay longer, and hundreds more opportunities open up to you. If Bangkok’s activity becomes a bit too much, I head out of the city on day trips. My favourite is to the Damnoen Saduak floating market. This is situated in the middle of canal-laced, fertile orchards and vegetable gardens. The best way to see it is to rent a boat and cruise the canals with a local boatman. Small rowing boats carrying fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs drift past as they travel from house to house. It is serene. Then you arrive at a central point where there is a jam of boats and suddenly traders have souvenirs and other trinkets and you realise that this is a place of commerce just like a
normal land market. Other tour options are to • Kanchanaburi, site of the worldrenowned Bridge over the River Kwai • Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital for 400 years before it was irreparably destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 • The beach resorts of Hua Hin and Pattaya. You will never be bored! Phuket is a completely different experience. The waves are gently washing the beach and the breeze tickles the palm fronds but I am lost in my own little world. Soft hands caress my skin as the beach massage lady works her magic and I retire from the world. Phuket has me in its spell. It would not be the same if I had been to Patong Beach last night. Here crowds of noisy holiday makers from around the world prowl the streets looking for action and excitement. They can find plenty. The Patong strip is lit up like Las Vegas and there are hustlers, bands, transvestites and tourists everywhere. Most visitors seem to be interested in the bars, massage parlours, go- go bars, discos and shows.
I first came to Phuket in 1978 when the tourism authorities were looking to promote and develop the island and were seeking international advice. In some ways, they have been too successful and I confess to, at times, missing the relaxed, laid-back lifestyle that existed then. Phuket has an abundance of sandy beaches and clear waters and there is a choice between sophisticated resorts on their own little bay, smart hotels in the major centres, and small local properties where peace and quietness is king. For those into sightseeing, some of the fascinating choices are- A round-island tour visiting several beaches and man-made attractions • A day-trip to the Phi Phi islands • A day-trip to dramatic Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island • A visit to the charming Andaman coast at Khao Lak. Sightseeing, relaxing, action or pampering, it’s all available on Phuket. The choice is yours. LOOKING FOR MORE THAILAND HOLIDAY INSPIRATION OR DEALS? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries email@example.com www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606
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Beijing AND THE GREAT WALL China’s massive, heaving capital is both modern and ancient at the same time. Easy to navigate and packed with historic sights, a trip here won’t disappoint. LEN RUTLEDGE
THE GREAT WALL SIMATAI SECTION. © SHUT TERSTOCK / AGOTA KADAR M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 1 5
BEIJING OPERA © HUNG CHUNG CHIH.
Every China visit should start in Beijing. This has been the political, economic and cultural centre of China for over 800 years. The city is huge, polluted at times, always busy, and a wonderful introduction to the world’s most populous country. I love Beijing because it is ancient and modern at the same time. Let’s start with the ancient. All these places are now open to visitors. The magnificent Forbidden City is the largest and the best-preserved imperial palace complex in the world. It has almost 10,000 rooms and is surrounded by a moat and a ten-metre-high wall. For five centuries, this beautiful palace was home to 24 Ming and Qing Emperors. A visit here is mandatory. Immediately to the south is the stark Tiananmen Square, the largest central city square in the world. It was designed to hold a million people. This immense courtyard is surrounded by a variety of significant buildings such as the Great Hall of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, and the National Museum. Beijing has some luxurious royal gardens which will blow you away. You must see; • The well-preserved Summer Palace, with its wonderful natural views and cultural interests. There are over 3,000 man-made ancient structures including pavilions, towers, and bridges here • The elegant 1000-year-old Beihai Park with its lovely lake and White Dagoba • The destroyed Old Summer Palace where you can imagine the previous grandeur.
THE SUMMER PALACE © SHUT TERSTOCK/ GIAN
LUNAR NEW YEAR FEAST © SHUT TERSTOCK/ SUTHEEPHAT 1 6 M Y D I SCOV ERI ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
Then there are the temples. The Temple of Heaven is a real highlight. This was where Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors held the Heaven Worship Ceremony. The temple is the largest of China's ancient sacrificial buildings and is also unique in having some 600-year old trees. Go here in the early morning and, you can see groups of people practicing kung fu. The 29th Summer Olympics left some interesting modern buildings. Two particularly worth seeing are; • The National Stadium, affectionately known as the Bird's Nest, is situated in Olympic Green Village. In winter, it's turned into the world's largest manmade indoor ski slope • The National Aquatics Center designed by Chinese and Australian architects which looks like a huge blue box. Elsewhere, you must see; • The egg-shaped glass and titanium domed National Grand Theatre which is considered one of the best opera houses in Asia • Beijing's Capital Museum, a modern five-storey
TIANANMEN GATE OF FORBIDDEN CITY IN BEIJING ©SHUT TERSTOCK / JORISVO
structure with more than 200,000 important cultural artefacts. Shopping should not be forgotten; • Beijing’s fashionable, trendy area is known as the 798 Art. This has galleries, design studios, art exhibition spaces, stylish shops, restaurants, and bars • The Nanluoguxiang hutong has a history of over 700 years. This lane is famous for its cafes, bars and clothing and handcraft shops and also for its traditional courtyards • Shopping of a different kind is found in Wangfujing. This is anchored by large upscale shopping malls at each end of the pedestrian mall. The street is filled with shops selling traditional Chinese arts and crafts, trendy boutiques, and upscale chain stores. There are restaurants serving everything from western fast-food to Peking duck. Beijing roast duck is the epitome of Beijing cuisine. The dish is mostly prized for the thin, crispy skin. It’s fun to try. Also worth trying is Beijing opera. The makeup, the gorgeous costumes, and the unique vocal style, make this high-class and unusual entertainment which you won’t see anywhere else. There are two simply stunning attractions just outside the city. 50 kilometres northwest is the Ming Tombs Scenic Area, where there are the mausoleums of thirteen emperors. Millions of tourists come here to appreciate its long history and palatial architecture. Then there is the Great Wall snaking north of the
city. In summer you need sunblock, sunglasses and water and good footwear is required always. I suggest a visit to one of the following two sections. Badaling is the best-preserved section, and it’s famous for its magnificent sights and complete military facilities. The top of the wall is 4.5-5.8 metres wide, allowing five horses or ten soldiers to walk shoulder to shoulder. Its magnificence is incomparable. The stairs have handrails and most are not very steep, so it is a relatively easier climb. This was the first section that was developed into a scenic area and opened to the public. Badaling is easily accessible by public transport from downtown Beijing. The Mutianyu section is less crowded. This is the longest fully-restored section open to tourists and there are 23 watchtowers, about one every hundred metres on a mountain ridge. Visitors can ride on the cableway and can descend by the thrilling slide way. Unfortunately, there is no convenient public transportation from Beijing to this section. Many companies provide one-day group tours to Mutianyu and Badaling. These tours usually include a visit to the Ming Tombs afterwards in the afternoon.
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Cruise HACKS MAKE TRAVEL EASY
Love the idea of seeing multiple destinations at once without having to unpack? Cruises are easy, affordable travel opens. But these tips will make your cruise even cruisier. ALISON GODFREY
GET CRUISING WITH THESE TRAVEL HACKS. PICTURE: SHUT TERSTOCK
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Cruising can be wonderful. The wide open space of the sea gives you time to relax and reconnect. You can tick off multiple destinations and only unpack once. But there are a few little tricks that cruise experts tell us will make your cruise even cruiser. Here’s the best tips we have uncovered.
1 PACK DUCT TAPE
On occasion the cruise may hit rough seas. If drawers begin to open, or cabin items go rolling - grab your duct tape and secure them.
2 PACK BALLOONS
When our office manager told us to bring balloons on the cruise we did think it was for a party. But in fact, she says that most cruise ships only have one or two hooks. Even the door handles don’t have surfaces for you to hang things. If you plan on doing washing in your room, then you can blow up the balloons and drape the clothes over them to dry.
3 PACK MAGNETS
Another way to get organised is to bring magnets with you. Many cabin walls are made from metal. So head to the hardware story and grab a bunch of magnets. Then you can attach hooks or even stick up important notes and your
itinerary on the wall.
4 PUT THE BAG UNDER THE BED
Normally when you travel, you stow the suitcase in the cupboard. Experts tell us that on a cruise, you should stow the bag under the bed. Wardrobe space is limited and adding the bag in there will reduce the space for clothes and shoes.
5 STEAM YOUR CLOTHES
Most cruise ships don’t have irons. Fire and cruising don’t go together. They don’t want to take any chances. But what about when you need to wear a fancy shirt or dress to dinner and it’s been wrinkled from packing. Use the steam from the shower. It will un-wrinkle your clothes in no time flat. Alternatively, we’ve been told that you can buy “dewrinkle spray” for clothes. We haven’t tested it though, so we can’t guarantee this will work.
6 BRING A MULTI-CHARGER OR POWER BOARD
Most cruise cabins only have a few power points. These days most people travel with multiple devices. Grab a multicharger and you can plug in multiple devices to the one power port. Or you can always bring a power board.
BOOK ONSHORE EXCURSIONS IN ADVANCE TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT. PICTURE: SHUT TERSTOCK
7 PACK A FIRST AID KIT
Yes, they have first aid on the ship. Yes, they have shops. But save your money and pack medicines that you may be likely to use such as Panadol, gastro-stop, antihistamines and antiseptic cream in a first aid kit.
8 BRING A HDMI CABLE
Love a great night in bed with a good film? Download them onto your laptop and you can use the HDMI cable to watch the films you want to see.
9 PACK AN EXTENSION CORD
As we said, cruise cabins often have limited power boards. Sometimes these are in annoying locations. If you want to use your laptop and it has run out of battery, you will thank us for telling you to pack an extension lead.
10 BUY IN BULK
This is one that surprise us. Apparently some cruise lines give you a discount for buying drinks in bulk. Five beers for the price of four can save you $8 a round. Just pop the extra in the fridge for later.
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NOW YOU HAVE THE CRUISE HACKS THE ONLY THING LEFT TO DO IS GET SAILING. PICTURE: SHUT TERSTOCK
11 BOOK EXCURSIONS IN ADVANCE
A huge part of cruising is visiting the onshore destinations. If you plan on cruising on a large boat, make sure you book your on-shore excursions early. That way you can be sure that you will be going. There would be nothing worse than getting off the boat only to find out that the tour you want to do is all sold out.
12 BUDGET FOR EXCURSIONS
It seems obvious, but many first-time cruisers forget to factor in the added extras. Make sure you know which excursions you want to do and how much they cost. Then factor that into your budget.
13 PACK STICKY NOTES
Need to remember the departure time? What time the bar opens? Or the time you will have your massage? Bring sticky notes and make your own message board on the cabin wall.
14 STAY FIT
A lot of cruises have endless and bottomless food options. You will indulge. You will enjoy it. But maybe find some time to stay fit on board, even if it is just taking the stairs instead of the lift or swimming daily early morning laps in the pool.
15 PACK GINGER First time cruiser? Not sure if you are going to get seasick?
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Ginger is your friend. Ginger helps ease seasickness.
16 CHOOSE YOUR CABIN WISELY
Worried about seasickness? You are better off booking a lower deck room in the middle of the ship? Want a great view and never feel sick? Go for the upper deck edges. Whatever room you choose, think long and hard about what you really want to get out of the cruise. How long will you actually spend in the room?
17 BE HYGIENIC
Sickness can and does spread on ships. To avoid nasties, make sure you have good hygiene habits. Wash your hands properly and perhaps pack some hand sanitiser.
18 NOTIFY THE SHIP OF ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS Even if it is minor. In the event of an emergency the staff will be the ones to help you.
19 WEAR RUBBER SHOES It can get slippery on board.
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ROLL YOUR CLOTHES - YOU WILL NOTICE THAT ROLLED CLOTHES OFTEN COME OUT OF THE BAG WITH FEWER CREASES @ SHUT TERSTOCK
Packing FOR HOLIDAY TIPS
Thinking about packing and unpacking can be a real point of stress for all travellers. So, the best way to beat the stress when you land is to pack right. These are among the best packing tips we have grown to love:
1 CARRY-ON AND CHECKED BAG SHOULD CARRY DIFFERENT TYPES OF ITEMS To some, this is obvious, but to others, this little tip can mean the difference between a carry-on stuffed with socks and one with items that need quick-access. Your carry-on bag will turn into your day-pack once you arrive at your destination. So, to make the transition easier, include personal items like wallet, passport, pen and paper, hand-sanitiser, maps and city guides, books, camera, headphones, and your mobile phone + charger. You’ll avoid lots of stress while flying by having these types of items readily accessible during flight.
2 ROLL YOUR CLOTHES
When you are unpacking, you will notice that rolled clothes often come out of the bag with fewer creases. Also, by rolling your clothes, you will often be able to pack more into your suitcase (psst...see tip #5 below).
3 PACK YOUR SUITCASE IN SECTIONS
Standard rectangular suitcases are easy to mentally divide up into sections. Depending on what is right for you, divide your case into 2, 3, or 4 parts. Each part should only contain similar items. For example, keep all tops in one section, bottoms in another, and under garments + bathing suits in yet another. Or, if you like to pack outfits together, consider packing fair weather outfits in one section, cold weather outfits in another, and shoes + accessories in another. And remember, resection your bag as you start to accumulate clothes that need
washing. Keep those clothes separate to keep things simple.
4 FILL YOUR SHOES
When packing shoes with any structure (ones that can’t be flattened), ALWAYS take advantage of the space inside your shoes. Pack socks, trinkets & extra breakable souvenirs bought while abroad, or (depending on how smelly your shoes are) clothes and other items.
5O VER PACK
(Yes, you read that right!) When it comes to a semi-full suitcase or a jam-packed one, what’s really the difference? Most of us use rolly-suitcases anyways, so as long as your bag still meets flight weight requirements, pack the extra pair of shoes, gloves, pants, or sunglasses! Having just want you want with you while you are on holiday can be a relief and a give you an added sense of comfort when exploring! M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 2 1
TOP TIPS FOR
solo travellers Take a chance. See what you want to see. Itâ€™s far easier to explore the world on your own these days, particularly if you plan your trip well. ALISON GODFREY 2 2 M Y D I SCOV ER I ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY? JOIN A DAY TOUR AND YOU CAN MEET OTHER PEOPLE WHO SHARE YOUR PASSION. PICTURE: KUDLA / SHUT TERSTOCK
Solo travel can be liberating, exhilarating, self-indulgent and daunting. You can do what you want, when you want. You don't need to compromise with anyone. But it can get a little lonely. And sometimes it's tough organising everything yourself. Luckily, with a little planning, you can mitigate the downside of solo travel. Here's a few tips to make the most of your solo holiday.
1 CONSIDER AN ORGANISED TOUR
Not confident about going it alone? Drawn to a destination but feel it's too hard? Organised tours allow you to relax and enjoy the ride. Hotels, transport, tours and flights can all be organised for you. A tour allows you to meet new people with the same interests as you. These days many tours are created with solo travellers in mind - so they have reduced single supplements. You can relax knowing that the tour is full of people who want to travel solo - just like you. Companies such as MyDiscoveries have launched solo tours due to increasing demand. Norfolk Island or Uluru are easy options. Prepared to use your passport? Try the 11 day tour of New Zealand. Or for a really incredible adventure, the 23 day fully escorted Trans-Atlantic tour and cruise for solo travellers. It will take you from Barcelona, through the Caribbean to Fort Lauderale in Florida USA.
2 FIND ACCOMMODATION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU
Will you miss being around people? Or are you really looking to get away from everything? If you're keen for alone time, you should look for hotels and retreats that offer privacy. If you want to meet people along
the way, consider hostels and AirBnb rooms. Most hostels offer private rooms and the chance to interact with other guests in common areas. You'll automatically have something in common as you are all exploring the same town. AirBnb rooms give you the opportunity to stay with locals in their houses. You can ask them for local tips and really delve into the city in a more authentic way.
3 BOOK DAY TOURS END EXPERIENCES
Companies such as Viator and AirBnb now do organised day tours. Try a French class in Paris, a street art walk in Berlin or a cooking class is Xian. No matter what your interest, you can find someone around the world who shares it.
4 DON'T WORRY ABOUT MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION
The best thing about solo travel is that you can be yourself. Don't worry about what people think of you. You most likely won't see them again. Relax, be yourself.
5 BE SPONTANEOUS
It's easy to get single tickets at the last minute for shows when you only need one seat. Sometimes you can scoop tickets at a huge discount. Try asking at the box office on the night, you'll be surprised.
6 TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY
If you are feeling lonely, use technology to connect with people back home. Skype, Facebook chat and What'sApp allow you to do voice and video calls over WiFi. Instal them on your phone before you go.
7 CRUISE AWAY
Thanks to the growing demand
from solo travellers, many cruise lines, including P&O and Royal Carribean, now offer single rooms. Cunard even has gentlemen dance hosts ready to lead single ladies on the dance floor.
8 BE FLEXIBLE
Travelling alone allows you to spend as long or as little in a destination as you want. Remove any travel time restrictions and you will enjoy your holiday more. One of the advantages of solo travel is that you are more likely to be able to snag that last seat on the plane or train. You're also more likely to be upgraded.
9 ASK FOR HELP
If you're unsure of yourself, ask for help. You're more likely to attract trouble if you are standing around looking dazed. Smile, be friendly and confident and you'll find most people are willing to help. Sometimes it's the strangers that you meet on the road that have the most impact.
10 DOWNLOAD MAPS
Navigating your way is often the hardest part of travel. These days you can download maps of the city and public transport. Study them before you go and you will be less likely to get lost. TRAVELLING SOLO AND LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS, OPTIONS AND GREAT DEALS? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries firstname.lastname@example.org www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606 M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 2 3
5 REASONS WE LOVE THE
Whitsundays The Whitsundays is back in business after Cyclone Debbie. New resorts offer sophisticated luxury, old favourites have been renovated and the beaches are back to their sparkling best. TATYANA LEONOV
Looking for an island adventure that has it all? The Whitsundays comprise 74 picturesque islands, as well as the mainland coastal towns of Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Bowen, which are often easy launching pads for island explorations. Only eight of the islands are inhabited. The remainder are little patches of perfection shimmering in the turquoise sea. Here are five reasons we love the Whitsundays: 2 4 M Y D I SCOV ERI ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
1 NATURALLY ATTRACTIVE
Hundreds of beaches fringe the islands. But a few warrant a special mention. Whitehaven Beach is renowned as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with seven kilometres of blinding-white sand that feels as fine as talcum powder. Heart Reef is another crowdpleaser – a beautiful coral configuration that has naturally formed into the shape of a love heart. This incredible sight is best viewed from the air in a helicopter or seaplane.
2 ISLAND RESORTS
Whatever your accommodation style, there’s an island to suit – from motels to beachside bungalows to the ultimate indulgence (Qualia, we’re looking at you). The revamp that has everyone talking is Daydream Island. The popular tourist spot was hit hard by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in April 2017 – and consequently closed for refurbishment. Due to open in November, after a $100 million revitalisation, Daydream Island Resort will have 290 tastefully appointed rooms and brand new facilities, including an Asian fusion restaurant. Much-loved experiences such as the Living Reef,a collection of fish-filled coral lagoons that weave their way through the resort, are back bigger and better than before. It’s what daydreams are made of. M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 2 5
3 SMOOTH SAILING
Sailing in this part of Queensland is superb, thanks to the shelter of the Great Barrier Reef. Take a sailing lesson, skipper your own bareboat yacht, or book a relaxing tour where all you need to do is turn up and enjoy the view. Be sure to bring a camera. Hire a a kayak and explore hidden coves for a more secluded escapade.
4 LAND ADVENTURES
Onshore visitors will love shopping at Airlie Beach on the mainland. The Whitsundays region also has incredible fresh seafood, whether served fried and wrapped in newspaper or as fresh five-star dining. Most of the islands, particularly those that are uninhabited, have exquisite hikes. Or you could simply grab a good book and relax on the beach. LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION OR GREAT HOLIDAY DEALS FOR THE WHITSUNDAYS? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries email@example.com www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606 2 6 M Y D I SCOV ERI ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
5 UNDER THE SEA
Divers flock to the Whitsundays to explore one of the best underwater realms in the world. Whether youâ€™re snorkelling or scuba diving, the coral formations in this part of the Great Barrier Reef are heaving with marine life. Jump in and swim around with hundreds of species of colourful fish, manta rays and turtles for an unforgettable holiday experience.
Five reasons WHY VIETNAM IS CAPTIVATING
Vietnam is rapidly changing. Now is the time to experience this captivating country where the food and architecture is on par with the cultural experiences. THANG NGO
1 CATCH A GLIMPSE OF VIETNAMESE DAILY LIFE
The neighbourhood wet markets are fast giving way to modern Westernstyle supermarkets. Take a detour to one of the local markets where you’ll find seasonal tropical fruit like rambutan, dragon fruit and mangosteen. Pick up a local coffee bean roast (Vietnam is a top exporter) and enjoy home-style sweets you won’t find on the tourist strip, like xôi (sweetened sticky rice) and chè trôi nÓc (glutinous balls in ginger syrup). Get them at low, local prices or at least have fun trying.
2 ENJOY STREET FOOD THAT IS FAMOUS THE WORLD OVER There’s nothing like parking yourself on the
side of the street to watch a bowl of ph being prepared before slurping it down between mouthfuls of cà phê s a đá (condensed milk iced coffee). Order a bánh mì th t (pork sandwich) from a travelling stall and hear the satisfying crunch as the baguette is sliced and ingredients added one by one — order extra pickled radish, pate and chilli.
3 GET LOST AMONG THE ROMANTIC COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
The French left behind some fine examples of early 20th century colonial architecture. Residential examples are disappearing, leaving public buildings to carry on the legacy. Visit the General Post Office by renowned architect Gustave Eiffel and Notre
Dame Cathedral with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the front — two of Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous landmarks. Catch a show in the charming Hanoi Opera House, modelled on Paris’ grand Palaise Garnier.
4 RETRACE THE STEPS OF LITERARY GREATS
As a War Correspondent, Graham Greene frequented the rooftop bar of the Majestic Hotel for the cooling Saigon River breeze. But Hotel Continental is probably the main pilgrimage point for Greene fans because it’s where Fowler, the main character from The Quiet American, spends most of his time. Folwer’s room looked over Rue Catinat (now Dong Khoi St). Greene also stayed at The
Metropole Hanoi (now Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi) when he was writing his most famous novel. That’s also where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Parlour and Charlie Chaplin stayed on his honeymoon.
5 MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES NORTH TO SOUTH
There are still plenty of memorable experiences outside frenetic Ho Chi Minh City and cultured Hanoi. Ha Long Bay’s mysterious beauty captivates visitors, Hoi An’s picturesque 16th century panAsian architecture is a must-see, and the Mekong Delta’s rice paddies and quaint villages are rewarding, off-the-beaten-track experiences.
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FIVE REASONS WE LOVE
For a country about the same size as Tasmania there is an overwhelming amount to experience in Sri Lanka. Here are five aspects you must try and experience. TATYANA LEONOV
Lately, everyone is talking about Sri Lanka – and rightly so. The island paradise is chockfull of amazing sights and experiences, all crammed into a space smaller than Tasmania. This means less time spent getting from sight to sight and more time enjoying everything the country has to offer. Plus, Sri Lanka is not swarming with tourists… yet. Here’s why you should visit now.
There aren’t many other countries in the world with as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites packed into such a small space. There are currently eight UNESCO marvels in Sri Lanka – including the grandiose rock fortress of Sigiriya with its exquisite frescos and the scared ancient city of Kandy – which is home to a famous temple that houses a significant Buddhist relic – what legend claims to be the tooth of the Buddha himself! Of course, there are hundreds of other historical and cultural sights for the curious traveller, including
majestic fortresses dating back to the colonial era, ancient temples and Buddhist ruins.
Sri Lanka is considered to be one of the best wildlife-watching countries in South Asia, with animals such as leopards, elephants, sloth bears and abundant birdlife to observe in their natural habitats. There are over 20 national parks in Sri Lanka and Yala National Park is one of the best, recognised as having one of the highest leopard densities in the world and home to 43 other mammal species.
Secluded powdery-sand beaches, tropical rainforests, grass-carpeted plains and soaring mountains that pierce misty clouds, Sri Lanka is home to many diverse and spectacular landscapes. Whether you simply want to kick back and soak up the sunshine or head out for an active adventure, the panoramas that surround you will astound.
The locals in Sri Lanka love to welcome visitors with their wide smiles and hospitable nature. They are relaxed and laidback and genuinely happy to share their world with those who are interested in learning about it.
If you’re a tea connoisseur, Sri Lankan tea is renowned around the world. The British introduced tea to the island (known as Ceylon at the time) in 1824 and since then the tea-growing (and drinking) scene has burgeoned. Enjoy a cuppa while relaxing in a street-side cafe, join a tea-tasting appreciation class, visit a historical tea estate, learn about the history of Ceylon tea at the Ceylon Tea Museum… there are a plethora of tea experiences in Sri Lanka! LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION OR GREAT HOLIDAY DEALS FOR SRI LANKA? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries firstname.lastname@example.org www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606 M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 2 9
FIVE REASONS WHY
New Zealand IS WONDERFUL Lord of the Rings isn’t the only reason why you should head to New Zealand. This nation is simply spellbinding. FIONA HARPER For a country with a population less than 5 million, New Zealand bats well above average. Approximately half the size of France, few countries pack as much loveliness into their landscape.
1 TO GET ON YOUR BIKE FOR TWO WHEELED FUN THE NZ Cycle Trail is a well-signed
network of 23 country-wide trails suitable for novices through to Tour de France wannabe’s. The Great Rides route covers 2,500km of trails that wind through, around, over and under some of the country’s most spectacular landscape. Snow-capped summits reflected in mirror-like lakes? Tick. Former railway routes winding through wilderness converted into rail trails? Tick. Vineyards, boutique brewers, cider makers and baristas on hand to hydrate parched throats? Tick. So hire a bike or ride your own, either way, New Zealand has nailed it when it comes to cycle touring adventures. nzcycletrail.com
2 YOU CAN EXPLORE THE CITY OF SAILS from the water
Almost a national obsession, the Kiwis know a thing or two about sailing. The island nation has claimed countless sailing trophies including America’s Cup and Whitbread Races along with
60 world titles and 18 Olympic medals at last count. Unleash your inner Sir Peter Blake on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. The City of Sails is a water lover’s pleasure dome – a sheltered water playground blessed with sweeping beaches, dormant volcanoes and national parks aplenty. Find a Kiwi with a kayak or a super yacht and get them to show you around their town by sea.
dream destination for adventure junkies. During winter ski resorts reverberate to the sound of ski bunnies comparing off-piste calamities, their faces aglow with winter sun. Come summer the melted snow reveals a network of trails favoured by hikers and mountain bikers along with cliffs quaintly named by rock climbers such as Bo Peep Slab and Count Duckluar Wall.
3 BECAUSE THE BAY OF 5 FOR THE WORLD-CLASS ISLANDS IS THE BIRTHPLACE FOOD AND WINE YOU OF MODERN NEW ZEALAND THOUGHT WE’D FORGOTTEN, The Bay of Island’s sub-tropical DIDN’T YOU? We’re well aware waterways dotted with islands are New Zealand’s answer to Australia’s Whitsunday Islands — with significant more history and heritage. Considered New Zealand’s birthplace, the historic Treaty of Waitangi was signed here and is one of the country’s most important sites. Oceanfront cottages and guesthouses sit alongside alfresco cafes shaded by vines. Boutiques and bars, boats and beaches, the Bay of Islands is quite magical.
4 FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES ON THE SOUTH ISLAND DOMINATED BY THE SOUTHERN ALPS straddling its spine, glacial valleys, coastal fjords, wildlife and wineries make the South Island a
that we can’t talk about wonderful New Zealand without mentioning its world class wine industry. Marlborough’s sauvignon blanc is world famous but there are a dozen or so wine regions like Otago and Waipara kicking grape-infused goals on the world stage. New Zealand’s restaurant scene is not far behind either. Renowned for fresh seafood and the world’s best lamb (sorry Australia, the Kiwis have got this one) New Zealand chefs are also at the top of their game. LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION OR GREAT HOLIDAY DEALS FOR NEW ZEALAND? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries email@example.com www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606
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What floats your boat? CHOOSING THE RIGHT CRUISING CATEGORY
When it comes to travel trends, nothing has exploded with quite the same magnitude as cruising. SOPHIE CULLEN 3 2 M Y D I SCOV ERI ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
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When it comes to travel trends, nothing has exploded with quite the same magnitude as cruising. Catering for multi-generational getaways, romantic couple’s retreats or adventurous solo expeditions, cruise lines have capitalised on demand from a diverse customer base by crafting voyages for all budgets and preferences. Setting off to sea can be done in style and sophistication, venturing downriver doesn’t have to break the bank. Jump aboard this travel trend, see what the fuss is about and pick a cruise category that suits you.
MAINSTREAM CRUISING, also referred to
as the ‘contemporary’ category, refers to the massmarket, resort-style ships, generally with the capacity for upwards of 3000 guests. The consequences of these big numbers include smaller average cabin size and decent but not exceptional service. The onboard vibes are busy, energetic and potentially noisy; there is always something going on and the climate is communal and social. Activities and facilities generally include pools, waterslides, ice-skating rinks, rockclimbing, Broadway performances, comedy nights, movie theatres, bars, lounges, clubs, gyms and spas. The
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onboard entertainment, affordable rates and special package deals endear these lines to families. Good for: a convenient budget holiday with extended family and active kids, where shore excursions are not a priority. Mainstream cruising is popular for a reason – there truly is something for everyone, and the idea of unpacking once and having everything you need nearby is certainly appealing. You can expect: competitive and affordable rates (but additional onboard costs), lots of families and young people, and a lively nightlife Lines: Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line
PREMIUM AND DELUXE-LEVEL CRUISING also offers a myriad of diversions, although facilities and service are of a distinctly higher quality. State rooms are more spacious, the food and dining options more varied and the décor more refined. Some lines like to provide a more traditional cruising experiences with suggested dress codes and
STAIRWELL OF THE SEA PRINCESS ÂŠ PRINCESS CRUISES
assigned dining, but usually you will find a very relaxed atmosphere with some extra perks like excellent Internet access and more privacy. The differentiating factor between premium and deluxe is typically the size of the boat and its capacity; the more intimate and personalised the experience, the more you can expect to pay. Good for: a little bit of glamour on a multi-generational trip that caters for everyone. Impressive, professional standards are a guarantee, although you should do your research as there is some variation between lines. You can expect: families and couples, great service, extra perks and a spectrum of interesting activities and workshops like movies, cooking demonstrations and snorkeling Lines: Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises
WITH TOP OF THE LINE, luxury cruises, you
get what you pay for. This means high staff to guest ratios (there are often more staff on board than guests), low capacity (guests can be as few in number as 50) and larger rooms (sometimes all cabins are suites with balconies). Sleek, smaller-sized vessels with beautiful interiors promise peace, privacy and an intimate,
ON LUXURY EUROPE CRUISES, YOU WILL DISCOVER BEAUTIFUL RIVERSIDE TOWNS ÂŠ VIKING RIVER CRUISES
personalised experience. The necessary bi-products, however, are fewer onboard activities and no largescale entertainment activities; the focus is instead on demonstrations, lectures and port excursions in interesting spots inaccessible to mainstream cruises. All-inclusive costs cover gratuities like alcohol with meals, and the special extra touches like fresh flowers, quality tableware, bath products, branded linens and sometimes even butler service. Good for: ticking off those bucket-list destinations in supreme style and comfort and spending relaxed, leisurely time with a loved one. You can expect: intriguing, well-crafted shore excursions in lesser-known locations, faultless service from attentive and professional staff and plenty of inclusions Lines: Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Sea Cruises
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BIG VERSUS SMALL SHIP
Pacific cruising You know you want to cruise, but that’s just the beginning. Here’s a few things you need to consider to decide which cruise is right for you. RODERICK EIME Cruising in the Pacific will always hold a particularly fond place in my heart. It was 1971 when my parents took me on my first overseas trip aboard the P&O ship, SS Himalaya. We steamed the well-trodden route between Noumea, Fiji and Auckland on one of the Women’s Weekly Treasure Hunt Cruises and I bet there are one or two of you reading this who remember these landmark voyages, the streamers and the raw excitement of sailing out of Sydney back in ‘the day’. Who could have imagined back then that cruising to the Pacific would be where we are now with so many ships sailing not just from Sydney, but from every port along the east coast. When I threw my last streamer to some unknown person at the terminal, the Opera House wasn’t even finished and double decker buses still worked Sydney streets. Poor old Himalaya, with room for just 1500 passengers, was just two years from the scrappers, but now we have brand new ships sailing almost straight from the yard into Circular Quay - like Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, just eight months old, ready to pick up three times as many guests and
WRITER’S TIP: Decide in advance if you are cruising for a relaxing holiday or an adventurous exploration as this will mean very different ships and costs. If you are unsure about cruising, many cruise lines offer short voyages of just a few days for you to decide if you really have sea legs. whisk them away to tropical island bliss. The islands of the Pacific have responded too with new ports and destinations opening up all the time. The destination list was pretty slim in 1971 with just Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Tonga featuring most often. Now that
list includes Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and French Polynesia with even more frequent visits. The choice of ship and itinerary is so vast nowadays, that sometimes the choice is a bit overwhelming. So now, many cruises later, I can offer more advice than just how to buy (or not) a carved Fijian letter opener. First let’s start with the big ships, as most people will end up on one of these. Let’s take Princess Cruises Dawn Princess as a benchmark vessel suitable for grown-up passengers. When introduced in 2008 and carrying 2000 guests, she was the biggest ship ever to be based in Australia. Multiple themed dining venues ranging from the specialty Sterling Steakhouse to BBQ, pizza and cafe casual, so there’s never going to be a same-old, sameold. There is an enormous range of activities on board for all ages, types and tastes, from old school bingo, movies and shopping to (grand)kids programs, outdoor sports, swimming pools and original musical productions in the theatre. Any ship of this class will offer a wide range of accommodation
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options from ritzy staterooms and suites to more modest, entry-level cabins. Each category will likely offer special services like priority embarkation, dining options, spa and laundry in the Club Class. It’s the kind of self-contained resort ship you don’t have to leave to have a great cruise. These type of ships are also operated here by Carnival, P&O, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Next, there are the so-called mid-sized cruise ships which can 3 8 M Y D I SCOV ER I ES | www. m ydis cover ies. co m . au
often be a bit fancy. These won’t be home-ported in any of the Australian cities, but more likely to be passing through on a world cruise and you can pick up a sector (or ‘leg’) of that cruise as a separate voyage. There will always be an airfare involved in these cruises to get you either to or from the ship. I was invited to inspect the glamourous Hapag-Lloyd ship, Europa2, when in Sydney recently and, wow, was she a lovely ship. With just over 500 thoroughly spoiled passengers, there is
5-star everything from dining to spas, entertainment and shore excursions. Study the itineraries closely and see which sectors pass through the Pacific every year and you’ll find a few interesting stops like Cook Islands, French Polynesia and multiple ports in New Zealand. These type of boutique cruise chips are also operated in our region by Seabourn, Azamara, Oceania, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas. Then there are the dedicated expedition or adventure ships that
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will really get you into some ‘secret’ spots throughout the Pacific. These purpose built ships are set up for remote cruising and place a lot of emphasis on shore excursions, culture, history and nature. The small groups on these ships, often as few as 100 or less, mean intimate exploration with lots of enrichment in the form of naturalist guides and specialist lecturers. If you really want to ‘explore’ the Pacific like the heroic mariners of old, this is the way. While the standard of these ships
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is vastly improved from years ago, some compromises are necessary. Not all will offer theatre-style entertainment or extensive shipboard amenities as most guests come for the destination appeal. Guests with mobility issues may find it difficult. There is so much more to the Pacific than the big ports and these cruises offer the chance to really ‘experience’ the special cultures and natural environments that makes the world’s biggest ocean so special.
The more comfortable cruise lines are APT, Ponant, Silversea and Lindblad, while smaller operators like Aurora, Coral Expeditions, Blue Lagoon, Captain Cook and Heritage Expeditions should not be overlooked thanks to their exceptional itineraries. LOOKING FOR MORE CRUISE IDEAS AND GREAT DEALS? @mydiscoveries @mydiscoveries email@example.com www.mydiscoveries.com.au 1300 404 606 M Y DI S COV E R I E S | w w w.myd i sc overi e s. c o m . au 3 9
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