Cruising

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The allure of Cape Town

<p>Sometimes it seems that Cape Town isn’t really part of Africa at all. Rather it’s a hipster chunk of Europe that somehow found itself at the bottom of Africa. The locals spend a lot more time discussing coffee and cuisine than you’d expect to find in the wild Dark Continent.<br /><br />The city is in a sublime location. When discussing the world’s most picturesque harbour cities we always find Sydney, Rio, Vancouver on the list. But for bay cities, Cape Town must reign supreme with Table Mountain looming behind it.<br /><br />Here are some of the highlights.<br /><br /><strong>Table Mountain</strong><br />For early mariners, the first sight of the flat summit of Table Mountain announced they were safely around the Cape of Good Hope and a well provisioned port lay ahead.</p> <p>Today, taking the <a href="http://www.tablemountain.net/">cable car</a> up to walk around the mountain and survey the city and bay beyond is the one essential thing to do. Walk around the corner and you can see most of the way to the Cape and over the upmarket suburb of Camps Bay and Hout Bay beyond.</p> <p>One unexpected delight of this excursion is the furry mammals you’ll find up there. They are called dassies or rock hyrax and look like marmots or large rats, depending how kindly you view them. But their closest living relative is the elephant. You’ll need a big step in imagination to see the family resemblance.<br /><br /><strong>Victoria and Alfred Waterfront</strong><br />The ongoing redevelopment of the waterfront has been a crowning glory to the city. Lots of hipster coffee shops, all the mainstream brand shops and a great African arts and crafts hall.</p> <p>I bought a painting made from used tea bags in a dedicated charity shop. Whoever in the village had the idea, it was inspired. And it is the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront – not the Victoria and Albert Waterfront because it’s named after the queen and her second son, not her long-lamented husband.<br /><br />Cruises leave from here too – a sunset cruise is a great way to see this spectacular city and the mountain from the water and if you’re lucky you may see the “tablecloth” roll in.<br /><br /><strong>Food</strong><br />Cape Town has always been a cosmopolitan city and that’s reflected in the food. Whether seeking Cape Malay or any international cuisine there will be choice – and the local meat, fish and produce are excellent.</p> <p>You’ll find game, from crocodile to kudu, on many menus, too. The best restaurant in town is The Test Kitchen that is listed as one of the world’s best. But book well in advance and even then, good luck getting a table.</p> <p><strong>Company’s Garden</strong><br />Right in the heart of the city are the Company’s Garden, created in 1650 and featuring a large statue to Cecil Rhodes.</p> <p>Whether you appreciate the legacy of Rhodes or see him as an oppressor, wandering through the gardens is a pleasant way to cool down in the city. If you want a more expansive garden, head to the Botanic Gardens in the shadow of Table Mountain.<br /><br /><strong>Winnebagos on the roof</strong><br />Before the rest of the world’s hotels thought of sticking seven Airstream mobile homes on the roof of premises, the <a href="http://granddaddy.co.za/">Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel</a> on Long St did it first – and then put a rooftop cinema in the middle. It may not be five star but it’s certainly unusual.<br /><br /><strong>Robben Island</strong><br />If you wish to visit Robben Island it’s a very good idea to book tickets in advance as they often sell out. <br /><br />Most of us know of Robben Island - the flat 2x3km island about seven km from Cape Town - as the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner during South Africa’s apartheid era. The 3.5 hour tour has two distinct parts.</p> <p>The first is a general tour of the island where you learn that it also served as a leper colony and an animal quarantine staion. The circumnavigation includes a stop where penguins can be seen on the beach.</p> <p>That’s a soft introduction to a tour of the prison on which you’re shown around by a former prison inmate. I asked out guide if he found it hard to be back here and he said that it took him a couple of years to come to terms with it. Of course, you are shown Mandela’s cell and learn how hard conditions in the prison were.<br /><br /><strong>Cape of Good Hope</strong><br />If there is one essential tour out from Cape Town, it’s down to the Cape of Good Hope. This is not the southernmost point of the African continent but it is one of the world’s three Great Capes – the other two are Cape Horn and WA’s Cape Leeuwin.</p> <p>It’s a rugged place and there’s always the chance to see wildlife like antelopes, ostrich, baboons and zebra.</p> <p><strong>Penguin patrol</strong><br />There are quite a lot of penguins to be found in the waters off Cape Town. These are African penguins and they look a lot like the Magellanic penguins of South America. Both are sometimes called jackass penguins for the braying sound they make. They can be seen on a tour of Robben Island.</p> <p>Or if you wish to get close to them you can head to Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town or Stony Point near Betty’s Beach – both have boardwalks and charge an admission fee.<br /><br /><strong>Helicopter overview</strong><br />If you are in Cape Town when the weather is good, it’s worthwhile taking a helicopter flight out over the bay for a spectacular aerial view of the city. We used <a href="http://www.nachelicopterscapetown.com/">NAC Helicopters</a> and the grand panoramas made the short flight great value.</p> <p><strong>Staying</strong><br />Cape Town has a wide range of hotels. Many are at the V&amp;A Waterfront. A personal favourite is the <a href="http://www.westincapetown.com/">Westin Cape Town</a>, particularly the Executive Club with a lounge that offers unsurpassed views across the city to Table Mountain.<br /><br /><a href="http://tintswalo.com/atlantic">Tintswalo Atlantic</a> is a very alternative option. It’s a unique luxury boutique hotel on Hout Bay, located within the National Park.</p> <p>The waves lap the rocks below your balcony so you feel very much in the wild although the city and airport are only minutes away. The wild surrounds and the absolute luxury within create a</p> <p> very special experience.<br /><br /><strong>Cape Province delights</strong><br />Whether your interest is in the whales and sharks of Hermanus, the Cape flowers, the wines of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, or setting off on the Garden Route, Cape Town is the perfect starting point. Just a few days here will convince you that Africa is a wonderland ripe for exploration.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/the-allure-of-cape-town.aspx"><em>Wyza.com.au.</em></a></p>

Cruising

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Cruising to a New Zealand holiday

<p>Back in the 1970s, well before cruising was travel’s growth area, I took a Sitmar voyage from Sydney to Wellington on the Fairsky. Of the 461 cabins, only seven had private bathrooms (I guess The Seekers didn’t have those when they worked their fare to the UK onboard the ship in 1964).</p> <p>That was a world away from modern cruising as epitomised by Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas that has been a regular feature in Australian waters over the past few summers. Its 2500 passengers appreciate the stunning Centrum area amidships: soaring seven storeys high, the exterior walls are clear glass so from the lounges and bars you are constantly looking at the sea and sky.</p> <p>The walls of the elevators are glass, too, so as you ascend you are either looking down to the central Deck 4 bar or out over an ocean panorama. Radiance OTS (as fans write it) is a big ship, but you can never forget you are at sea.</p> <p>This summer, Radiance will be based in Sydney and will undertake several return voyages to New Zealand. Cruising at 25 knots, it takes just two sea days to cross the Tasman and, starting at the top, you explore the delights of our neighbour from the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Akaroa (for Christchurch) and Dunedin before exploring Dusky and Milford sounds and returning to Sydney.</p> <p>The <a href="http://travel.wyza.com.au/Great-Deals/13-night-New-Zealand-Cruise">13-night cruise</a> departing on March 28, for example is a great mix of excursion days and sea days. Modern ships provide so much in entertainment and facilities that you feel short changed if there aren’t a few sea days to simply explore and appreciate the ship.</p> <p>The last time I sailed on Radiance was through the Panama Canal before the newly expanded canal was opened. It was a tight fit; indeed sailing into Gatun Locks was rather like putting a cork back in a bottle. The canal locks designed by the US for the 1914 opening are all the same size: 110 feet wide by 1050 feet long. In similar imperial terms, Radiance is 105.6 feet wide and 962 feet long so we fitted, but only just, and we left some paint behind. Radiance of the Seas displaces 90,090 tons and, over its 12 passenger decks, carries 2114 passengers in double cabins or a maximum of 2501 served by more than 850 crew.</p> <p>There’s a wide range of dining options on board from a Brazilian steakhouse to the Italian cuisine of Giovanni’s Table. Besides an English pub, there’s the enjoyable and rather eccentric Schooner Bar and Colony Club that you enter past old canon and gunpowder kegs. It has gyroscopic self-levelling billiard tables, using technology created for North Sea oil platforms.</p> <p>Of course there’s a day spa, casino, gym, nightclub and theatre, but there’s also a giant outdoor movie screen, a climbing wall up the funnel, golf simulator, mini-golf and a basketball/volleyball court. On cold days, the jungle-like African-themed glassed solarium and pool is a delight. If you are making an intergenerational voyage, you’ll be happy to see that kids of all ages are catered for. Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6 to 36 months) have combined with Fisher-Price to create interactive activities.</p> <p>There are two divisions of Adventure Ocean: the youth program (3 to 11 years) offers everything from scavenger hunts to science experiments while the teen program (12 to 17 years) offers a teen space, parties, separate dinners and an elaborate water slide at their pool.</p> <p>It’s no wonder that cruises from Australia to New Zealand are rapidly increasing in popularity. Not only is NZ delightfully close, but it’s packed with a wide range of scenery and activities – from the warm beauty of the Bay of Islands to the wilds of the southern fiords. And there’s no better way to explore the maritime highlights than by ship.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/cruising-to-a-new-zealand-holiday.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></em></p>

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South America's big 5: Where to travel

<p>If you’re seeking trends in travel look no further than the terms “7 Wonders” and “Big 5”. The original Seven Wonders were of the ancient world and few survive today.</p> <p>However, now you can find any number of variations on modern, natural, big, exotic, new, manmade, etc, wonders to the power of seven.</p> <p>The original Big Five was a list of the most dangerous animals in Africa: lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard and elephant. Now there’s a South American Big Five but rather than danger they represent the continent’s most desirable adventure destinations. It’s certainly a list to aspire to: Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands, Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon and Iguazu Falls.</p> <p>There’s enough there to justify several return trips to South America.</p> <p><strong>Machu Picchu</strong><br />Hidden within the Andes, this Inca citadel is perched on a ridge with a deep river valley on all sides. Few who make the trek along the Inca Trail to come into the sanctuary through the Sun Gate will believe that it is at considerably lower elevation than the entry city of Cusco.</p> <p>Machu Picchu is a mystical place where little of its original purpose is known. The Peruvian government has tried to limit visitor numbers but it can still be crowded, particularly when the day trippers arrive on the trains from historic Cusco. To fully appreciate it you need to stay overnight to be there early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the crowds have gone and you feel alone with the ruins and the mountains.</p> <p><strong>Galapagos islands</strong><br />Like Antarctica, the Galapagos is a place where local wildlife regard humans as largely irrelevant. For those who love nature it’s paradise. It’s beautiful, too. And there’s the historic element that this is where Darwin found the basis for his proposal that natural selection was the basis of evolution.</p> <p>You can explore some of the Galapagos on a land-based tour, but the best option by far is to take a cruise. If you have a chance to snorkel with playful sea lions do it – it’ll provide a lifetime of funny memories.</p> <p><strong>Rio de Janeiro</strong><br />The Marvelous City is perhaps the most dynamic destination in the world. The setting is superb from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to the cable car up Sugarloaf while Christ the Redeemer (a modern Seven Wonder) looks on from Corcavado.</p> <p>Just watching the scene on any of the beaches is worth the visit alone. But Rio has a dark side so it really is a city to explore with someone who knows where to go – and where not to go.</p> <p><strong>The Amazon River</strong><br />The greatest river in the world is surrounded by the largest rainforest on earth. The Amazon is more than 10km wide in parts and carries by far the greatest flow of any river. Everything else is on a similar scale. There are catfish that weigh more than 80kg and anacondas that exceed five metres in length and weigh almost 100kg. Then there are the birds, from colourful parrots and toucans to tiny hummingbirds.</p> <p>The lower river is where it is widest and can be navigated by ocean-going vessels. But it’s in the upper reaches that you really feel you are in a remarkable forest with an incredible river flowing through it. You need at least a few days to experience it. Swimming with piranha, anyone?</p> <p><strong>Iguazu Falls</strong><br />Okay, first we need to clear up the name. The name is a derivation of a local name but the local Argentinian town is Puerto Iguazú while Brazil’s is Foz do Iguaçu or Iguassu. <br />No matter which side (and ideally both) the falls really are a sight. Effectively, a whole giant river pours out of the jungle into a large horseshoe gorge over some 300 falls, the largest of which is simply known as the Devil’s Throat. On the Argentinean side you can stroll a series of walkways through the falls while the Brazilian side offers an amazing panorama.</p> <p>Unless you are heading off on an extended holiday along the Gringo Trail (the Latin version of the ancient Hippy Trail across Asia) it’s unlikely you’ll cover all this on a single journey. At least that was true until now.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/south-americas-big-5.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></em></p> <p> </p>

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Macao: A visitor’s guide

<p>“Macao? That’s a long way to go to place a bet.” A friend declared when I told him I was going to Macao for the week. I reminded him I didn’t gamble and explained that I was going there for the other side of Macao: great food, lots of attractions and good entertainment. Macao is also small enough that it’s easy to see in a few days.</p> <p><strong>Background</strong><br />Macao is a peninsula and a series of islands (less than 30 square kilometres in all) to the south west of Hong Kong. Like its neighbour it’s an autonomous part of China. It was a Portuguese enclave for almost 450 years until it reverted to China in 1999 two years after Hong Kong. It’s now a Special Administrative Region, which means that it retains its own legal system and has its own currency (the Pataca) and locals hold Macao passports.</p> <p>While almost all of Macao's 650,000 population is Han Chinese and only two per cent are Portuguese there’s still a strong Portuguese influence across Macao. That’s not only in the signage and the architecture but also in the food.<br /><br />The histories of Macao and Hong Kong are fascinating. Perched at the edge of an extremely reclusive ancient China they were the sole trading links between China and the rest of the world for a long time.</p> <p>Macao remains a rather disjointed destination. There’s old Macao at the tip of the peninsula and from there a couple of long bridges lead to Cotai where most of the casinos are located. It’s effectively dehydrated ocean: much landfill has been added to fill in the area between Taipa and Coloane islands.</p> <p>Beyond lies relatively undeveloped Coloane, invariably referred to as “Macao’s lungs” where you’ll find the cleverly designed <u><a href="http://www.macaupanda.org.mo/e/info/default.aspx">Macau Giant Panda Pavilion</a></u> where giant pandas live in close to their natural habitat. Macao’s airport lies offshore on more completely reclaimed land to the east. Looming over it all is mainland China that’s generally as close as the adjoining suburb.</p> <p><strong>Macau or Macao?</strong><br />Both are correct. In modern Portuguese it’s Macau but English uses the archaic Portuguese Macao. A Macao passport uses both.</p> <p><strong>Heart of the nation</strong><br />The whole of the historic centre of Macao is scattered across just a few city blocks. A short walk from the port takes you past the building where Ian Fleming met the role model for Goldfinger to Senado (or Senate) Square with its distinctive wave-patterned mosaic.</p> <p>The pedestrian path leads past innumerable shops and food stores to the facade of St Paul’s Church, first built in 1580 and destroyed by fire in 1835. Macao’s most notable historic feature, the stabilised, richly decorated granite structure is at the top of a set of stairs that’s nearly always crowded with people grabbing selfies.</p> <p>Next door is the Monte Fort, which offers great views of the city, and the impressive Macao Museum built into the base of the fort. It’s a good place to understand the tiny nation’s convoluted history.</p> <p>However, the best viewpoint over the city is provided from the top of the 338 metre <a href="http://www.macautower.com.mo/">Macau Tower</a> where there are both observation decks and restaurants. If you’re really brave you can also bungy jump from the tower.</p> <p><strong>Getting there</strong><br />Macao is the perfect add-on to a visit to Hong Kong and Australian visitors don’t need a visa for either destination.</p> <p>Indeed, if you catch a Cathay Pacific flight from Australia you can take a <a href="https://www.turbojet.com.hk/en/">70-minute ferry</a> connection from Hong Kong Airport’s Sky Pier directly to Macao without going into the city.</p> <p>If you are flying Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong and your ticket or frequent flyer status allows you lounge access, check out the airline’s new Pier Business Lounge that is one of the world’s most stylish with an excellent open kitchen.</p> <p>Macao and Hong Kong tie in seamlessly when planning your accommodation, too. Macao is mainly a weekend destination so you’ll find good mid-week deals. Hong Kong is business so it can be (relatively) quiet at weekends when deals may be offered.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay</strong><br />Choosing accommodation in Macao comes down to why you’re here.</p> <p>If it’s for history you should stay on the Peninsula. <u><a href="http://www.sofitel.com/gb/australia/index.shtml">The Sofitel</a></u> at Ponte 16, particularly the 17th-floor Club Sofitel, is excellent. If you’d like to stay within history, there’s the boutique 12-room <a href="http://www.saotiago.com.mo/about_us-introduction">Pousada de Sao Tiago</a>built inside a 17th Century Portuguese fortress.</p> <p>Macao is not only one of the richest countries in the world, it’s a much larger gaming destination than Las Vegas. The casino strip over on Cotai reveals this with some truly monumental hotels. The 3000-room <a href="http://www.venetianmacao.com/">Venetian Macao</a> has a replica of Venice’s campanile at the front. Some 330 luxury brand shops (sorry “Shoppes at Venetian”) are built around an indoor canal where you can take a gondola ride. The recently opened 3000-room <a href="http://www.parisianmacao.com/">Parisian Macao</a> next door has a half-sized Eiffel Tower at the front where you can dine at a lower level or visit the viewpoint at the top. Down the road, the new 1700-room <a href="http://www.wynnpalace.com/">Wynn Palace</a> offers a cable-car ride around an artificial lake with fountains and light show. It’s all over-the-top but good fun. Unlike Vegas you could spend days here and not see a poker machine or gaming table though they are only metres away.</p> <p>While there’s a lot of shopping in the hotels, much of it is in the rarified haute couture category and, even then, the prices appear higher than the same items in Australia, the USA or even France and Italy. However, out on the streets there are definitely bargains to be found in everything from cameras to ceramics, clothes to electronics.</p> <p><strong>Food and culture</strong><br />While Macao has a typically bustling Chinese street scene that’s great for photography it operates at an altogether slower pace than Hong Kong or the big cities of China. So, in a way, it feels like a welcome step back in time.</p> <p>With 22 buildings and 8 public areas that are World Heritage sites it’s no wonder it has appeared as the backdrop in many movies. Indiana Jones, James Bond and Johnny English have all visited.</p> <p>The blending of Portuguese and Chinese culture has permeated the food scene, too. In Iberian unity there’s a Spanish influence, too and they all come together to form Macanese cuisine. That makes Macao a very special destination for foodies.</p> <p>Here are four of the many dining options that will give you a good taste of Macao across various districts.</p> <p>For Macanese cuisine, visit Restaurante Litoral at 261-A Rua do Almirante Sergio, just around the corner from the A-Ma Temple in the old town. It’s decorated in Portuguese style and has a long history in hospitality. A featured dish is spicy African chicken from a fusion of Portuguese colonies worldwide.</p> <p>The delightfully light Macao Portuguese Egg Tart is quite a variation on the original Portuguese pastry. Visit Lord Stowe’s Bakery in the rustic little fishing community of Coloane Village where it was created by an Englishman, the late Andrew Stow who melded English and Portuguese egg tart recipes. There’s a Lord Stowe Bakery in the Venetian complex, too.</p> <p>Wynn Palace Wing Lei Palace serves Cantonese dishes at a superb level of taste and presentation. It’s too new to have a Michelin rating yet, but I expect it to be regarded highly.</p> <p>Old Taipa Village is not far from the Cotai casino strip but its narrow lanes and cobbled streets seem a world away. Here you’ll find <a href="http://antoniomacau.com/">Antonio Macau</a>, an affable Portuguese restaurant that is well regarded by locals and critics alike. The wines and many of the ingredients are imported from Portugal and you’ll find it’s a fun night of good food and wine.</p> <p>More information for Australian visitors to Macao (including free apps) is available <a href="http://www.visitmacao.com.au/">here</a>.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/macao-a-visitors-guide.aspx">Wyza.com.au</a>.</em></p>

Cruising

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7 reasons to go sailing on a small ship

<p>Small ship adventure cruising is the Goldilocks of nautical holidays. Smaller than a floating casino, but more spacious than a 40-foot schooner or catamaran.</p> <p>You’ve got your own room, your own bed, your own shower and ensuite, but there aren’t 17 decks to navigate every time you want to get a coffee. You can enjoy a breakfast buffet or an a la carte dinner, but it’s hardly the Bacchanalian food-fest you’ll find on the larger liners (that being said, the food is excellent – bring some forgiving pants). Basically, small ship cruising is for anyone who doesn’t feel at home on a large cruise liner, but can’t face the sometimes cramped quarters of a smaller yacht. A happy medium that’s better for travellers, and for the environment.</p> <p>Here are seven reasons to ditch the big cruise liners and try something a little more intimate.</p> <p><strong>1. See places the big ships can’t reach</strong></p> <p>This is the big one. Because smaller cruise ships and yachts don’t have casinos, gyms, theatres, swimming pools and all the rest, the focus is actually on the destination, not the boat (which is why you flew halfway around the world in the first place, right?) There’s more shore excursions, more dining in local restaurants or dancing in local bars, more time spent stretching your legs. And the beauty of small ship cruising is that you can do all of this on islands where the big liners never go.</p> <p>Every man and his dog crowds into the alleyways of Mykonos and Santorini, but how many get to see the charming town of Poros, or the island of Aegina? How many explore Kynthos and Poliegos, or stop off for a dip on some uninhabited island that Google’s never heard of? That’s the real advantage of a small ship cruise – you leave with memories of places, not just pools.</p> <p><strong>2. Get on and off as you please</strong></p> <p>A small practical difference that adds a lot to your itinerary. And it’s one you get to actually observe in real time. When you disembark on Mykonos, you can walk straight into town and, as you do, you can look out to see and watch the huge cruise liners parked a kilometre off shore, their decks already crammed with people queuing for the sea ferries and little boats to shuttle them to the island. If they forget their sunglasses, or feel like a quick afternoon nap, it’s a real hassle to get back on board. But not with small ship cruising.</p> <p>Each time you disembark you’re given a small card; just flash that card and you can walk up the gangplank and onto the ship. Come and go as you please. Do a little shopping on Syros, drop it off in your cabin, then hit the town again for a retsina and a plate of Cyclades olives. It’s a little luxury the big boats don’t get.</p> <p><strong>3. It’s better for the environment</strong></p> <p>Big cruise brochures always do a good job of promoting pristine environments and crystal clear waters, but the reality isn’t really so sunny. This year it’s estimated that 24 million people will cruise the world’s oceans on board 220 different liners. Each of these is usually powered by an enormous diesel engine (some as tall as three storeys), and emits dangerous levels of sulphur dioxide, not to mention the sewerage from about 3000 people each day.</p> <p>Now adventure cruising is not 100 per cent emission-free (but Peregrine offset 100 per cent), but it is far less damaging to the environment, and a greener alternative for those who are environmentally conscious.</p> <p><strong>4. Swimming off the boat</strong></p> <p>Many people will take diving into the clear waters of the Mediterranean over a crowded pool of chlorine any day. Small ships may not have on-board pools, but a shallow draft allows them to pull right into secluded bays on uninhabited islands where a cruise ship could never dream of sailing.</p> <p>When we were cruising in the Greek Islands, we sailed beneath the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion, rounded a corner, and dropped anchor near a little beach. Everyone got changed and dived into the water (which was a balmy 23 degrees). The staff were on standby with kayaks, noodles, fresh towels and a warm shower to wash off the salt. We splashed around and watched the sun go down, then dried off and settled down at the back bar for a game of Uno. There wasn’t a single boat in sight. All we could hear was the wind and the sound of Adrianna the bar lady mixing drinks. Not a bad way to end the day.</p> <p><strong>5. Personalised service</strong></p> <p>Because adventure cruising is limited to around 50 people (the numbers differ with each boat, but on average you’ll probably be sailing with around 35 people) you actually get to know the staff. They become your friends, your family. For our cruise we had Joseph, our intrepid guide and leader (with a truly wicked sense of humour), Yannis the hotel manager who looked after the restaurant and our rooms, Adrianna behind the bar (who quickly became everyone’s favourite person) and a whole crew of waiters, deckhands, navigators, chefs and room service.</p> <p>The service is personal and attentive (there’s even a laundry on board) and we really felt pampered from start to finish. It’s a nice change from the anonymity of larger boats, where you may not see the same people from day to day, and the staff have no hope of remembering your name.</p> <p><strong>6. More space and comfort</strong></p> <p>Large cruise ships are run a little like airlines: it’s a volume game. The idea is to cram as many paying customers per square inch as possible. Sailing on a small ship though, you get the feeling the cabins were designed with real people in mind. Each one is roomy and light, with its own ensuite. There’s air-con if you get warm, a cupboard to hang your suits and a safe for valuables (just don’t lose the key). If you had to put a star rating on it, it’d be around 4-star.</p> <p>There are sacrifices that you make for being on a smaller ship – you can usually hear the engine running in the background, there are only a handful of communal areas, the corridors are narrow and the pitch of the boat can be severe in rough weather – but the advantages more than make up for it. It’s the difference between staying in a boutique B&amp;B and a big hotel chain.</p> <p><strong>7. Fresh local flavours</strong></p> <p>Eating on a big cruise ship is an almost industrial enterprise. The flavour doesn’t matter quite so much as the metric tonnage. For a buffet fiend, you’re certainly left with a feeling of tremendous value, but it’s a stretch to come home and say you tasted anything that could be described as ‘authentic’. Adventure cruising is a bit different. There are still buffets, but they’re prepared with care by a small team of local chefs who really know the region’s food. They’re made from market-fresh produce, and designed to reflect the traditional flavours of a destination. That means they change depending on the cruise.</p> <p>In Greece it might be char-grilled octopus with lemon, Cyclades olives and handmade dolmades (washed down with some ouzo that will clear your sinuses from now until eternity). In Spain? Perhaps fresh paella and crispy patatas bravas. There’s even a special themed night on each trip, where the chefs go all out and whip up a feast of fresh local fare. And the good food doesn’t end when you step off the gangplank.</p> <p>Because you’ve got your own local Cruise Director, it’s easy to get tips on the best market stalls to visit, the bars with the punchiest grappa, or (in my case) a little taverna in a shady alley on Syros, overhung with blushing bougainvilleas.</p> <p>Written by <strong>Peregrine Adventures. </strong>Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/7-reasons-to-go-sailing-on-a-small-ship.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></p>

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Discover the world and yourself with a golden gap year

<p>Traditionally the domain of the teenager or early twenty-something, the ‘gap year’, a period where you take some extended time out to discover the world and yourself, is fast finding favour with the Baby Boomer.<br /><br />Also known as the ‘golden gap year”, increasingly Baby Boomers are spending extended periods of time overseas purely for a holiday but often bundling volunteering at a grass roots level, with their trip.<br /><br />Latest figures from Travel Associates (part of the Flight Centre group), reveal a <br />37 % increase in flights with no return date and an upswing in bookings for holidays of about 7- 9 months duration.<br /><br />After deciding to take a hiatus from his job as a school principal, 59-year-old Gus Van der Haas decided to plan an extended trip covering more than one continent. <br />In October, Mr Van der Haas will begin his six-month journey in Asia, where he will be helping with a local school literacy program. From there he plans to go to South America and finish his break in Europe holidaying.<br /><br />“I’ve always been confined in my job to the short school holiday periods, so it was a dream of mine to take an extended break discovering multiple countries and cultures I know very little about,” Mr Van der Haas said.<br /><br />Baby Boomer clients are increasingly taking up the idea of an extended holiday or ‘life break’ where they can devote their time to fulfilling bucket list style travel dreams and invest in their holidays, says national marketing manager at Travel Associates, Adrian Clarke.<br /><br />“Growth has been coming from older, full-time employed or retired holiday seekers looking for unique experiences and to do something where they can make a positive contribution,” he added.<br /><br />He said the most popular styles of volunteerism for Travel Associates clients is community-based, working with human development projects, in orphanages or teaching positions and conservation.<br /><br />One of the most popular volunteering destinations is Asia, however Africa is surging in popularity with Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania according to Travel Associates.</p> <p><strong>Top tips for planning your golden gap year</strong></p> <ul> <li>If travelling to more than one country, try to pick ones that are in close proximity to keep flight costs lower</li> <li>Consider travelling as a group, not only can you save money, but it’s a great way to meet like-minded people</li> <li>Create the ultimate bucket list and get packing </li> </ul> <p><em>Written by Danielle Cesta. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/work/employment/golden-gap-year.aspx"><em>Wyza.com.au.</em></a></p>

Cruising

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Our top tips for retiring overseas

<p>John, 62, is a Australian who has decided to move overseas in order to make a lifestyle change. Working as a barrister in Sydney, John was an outwardly successful man – but he found he didn’t enjoy life to the absolute fullest. Though he had a great house, great friends and was making reasonable money, John wasn’t happy.</p> <p>‘I was bored. I was just representing the same type of criminals all the time, drug traffickers and the like, and it was getting to the point that I was looking for new challenges in life.’</p> <p><img style="width: 449px; height: 253px;" src="/media/7828395/john-edit_449x337-1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b048a5565f49433f905ed61a5937a7b1" /></p> <p>John was also overweight. ‘I was very concerned about my health,’ he added.</p> <p>After visiting some friends in Vietnam, John decided to pack up and take off. He rented out his home and that easily covers his accommodation and the bulk of his lifestyle in HoChiMinh City (Saigon).</p> <p>He lives in a 3-bedroom two bathroom apartment in the central leafy part of the city and pays just $1000 a month.</p> <p>John was rejuvenated and his health dramatically improved.</p> <p>Whether you live overseas for three months, three years or permanently, before you pack up and take off, here are some basic issues you need to cover first.</p> <p><strong>Get your finances in order before you leave</strong></p> <p>Make sure that your superannuation pension stays tax free while you are overseas. If you have a self-managed super fund, it will need to be restructured to ensure it remains a complying fund. If you are relying on the age pension for income, you will need to be eligible for, and already receiving, that pension before you relocate.</p> <p><strong>Organise your long-stay visas from Australia.</strong></p> <p>There are retirement visas available in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. You will need long stay visas for Europe unless you have an EU passport.</p> <p><strong>Take out an international health insurance policy</strong></p> <p>It is worth the expense. There is a very competitive global market for health insurance products. Use sites like medibroker.com to compare products.</p> <p><strong>Rent before you buy in your new country</strong></p> <p>It may be best not to buy at all – property rules for foreigners can be complex and, in Southeast Asia at least, rents are cheap.</p> <p><strong>Get on top of technology.</strong></p> <p>Get set on Skype, Viber and Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family</p> <p><em>Written by Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/work/employment/tips-for-retiring-overseas.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></em></p> <p> </p>

Cruising

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Could this be the cruising industry’s saving grace?

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cruising is a massive holiday go-to, with an estimate of 25 million passengers expected to go on one in 2019. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, despite the joy this may create for cruise lines – they face more risks and dangers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Technology may just be coming to the rescue however, with researchers and cruise lines working hard to test a new wireless system, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">LYNCEUS. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This software may have the ability to keep track of every passenger boarding a cruise. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Antonis Kalis, Head of Research and Development at </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">SignalGeneriX</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, told </span><a href="https://www.euronews.com/2019/06/24/abandon-ship-how-technology-is-coming-to-the-rescue-of-the-cruise-industry"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Futuris</span></a> <span style="font-weight: 400;">cruise lines would have the ability to integrate a tracking device in a key card or bracelet. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Various cruise companies already provide electronic tools for their passengers so that they can make purchases or access their cabins.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The bracelet would also have the ability to find every passenger in a crisis situation through a wireless network covering the whole ship. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For the sake of privacy however, developers maintain the function would be a resource used only in “real emergencies.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chief executive of </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">OptionsNet</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">IT Services, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yiannis Panaretou, said the system would provide a valuable resource to locate missing people on cruise ships. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The ship safety officer can see where the crew and passengers are located, and there’s a way to focus on a single missing person — you can use a search panel to find exactly where that person is.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What makes this new technology even better is that it will be able to trace passengers who go missing at sea by integrating the device into life jackets. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rescuers would have access to additional handheld antennas or have drones or helicopters that would have the ability to send signals that smart life jackets would be able to automatically pick up. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This cutting edge technology is already being tested by major cruise lines, and are expected to be rolled out for commercial use in the near future. </span></p>

Cruising

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The best places in the world to cruise

<p>Alaska’s Glacier Bay has been named the number one cruise destination in the world by Cruise Critic.</p> <p>The cruise reviews website analysed the results of all the reviews for 2018 for their third annual Cruisers’ Choice Destination awards.</p> <p>Sydney was named the top port in Australia and New Zealand. The top port in the South Pacific was Mystery Island.</p> <p>“Our data regularly shows that whether you’re a first-time cruiser or you’ve sailed dozens of times, destination is a top consideration when shopping for a cruise,” Cruise Critic senior executive editor Colleen McDaniel says.</p> <p>“While tropical destinations will always be popular among cruisers, what’s really exciting to see is the rise in esteem of destinations more known for their immersive and experiential offerings – places like Havana, Edinburgh and Arles.</p> <p>“By awarding top destinations and now the best lines that visit them, we’re even better able to connect travelers with standout experiences available in the incredible places they’re looking to explore.”</p> <p>The full list of Cruise Critic first-place winners includes:</p> <p><strong>Australia and New Zealand:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Sydney</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Coral Expeditions</p> <p><strong>South Pacific:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Mystery Island</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Carnival Cruise Line</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Ponant</p> <p><strong>Asia:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Singapore</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Azamara Club Cruises</p> <p><strong>Alaska:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Glacier Bay</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: UnCruise Adventures</p> <p>Top Cruise line with a private island:</p> <p>Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay</p> <p><strong>Hawaii:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Kauai</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Carnival Cruise Line</p> <p><strong>Eastern Mediterranean:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Dubrovnik</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Variety Cruises</p> <p><strong>Western Mediterranean:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Villefranche</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises)</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Viking Ocean Cruises</p> <p><strong>British Isles and Western Europe:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Edinburgh</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Royal Caribbean International</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Viking Ocean Cruises</p> <p><strong>The US and Canada:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Quebec City</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Pearl Seas Cruises</p> <p><strong>Carribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda:</strong></p> <p>Top port: King’s Wharf</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Island Windjammers</p> <p><strong>Western Caribbean and Riveriera Maya:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Havana</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Viking Ocean Cruises</p> <p><strong>Southern Caribbean:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Curacao</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Island Windjammers</p> <p><strong>Mexico:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Huatulco</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Princess Cruises</p> <p><strong>Baltics and Scandinavia:</strong></p> <p>Top port: St. Petersburg</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Celebrity Cruises</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Viking Ocean Cruises</p> <p><strong>Panama Canal and Central America:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Puerto Quetzal</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line:Norwegian Cruise Line</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Windstar Cruises</p> <p><strong>South America and Antartica:</strong></p> <p>Top port: Buenos Aires</p> <p>Best Large Ship Line: Norwegian Cruise Line</p> <p>Best Small Ship Line: Australis</p> <p>Feel like you need to go on a cruise now? We do too.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/the-world-s-top-cruise-destinations/">MyDiscoveries.</a> </em></p>

Cruising

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3 simple cruise packing hacks you need to know

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Packing for a cruise may seem like the same ritual as it is for a holiday, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unlike resort getaways or adventure travelling, cruising can, for the most part, be a pretty isolated experience when thinking about how close your ship is to land. A quick trip to the local supermarket for a bottle of sunscreen and a floppy hat or a stop at the chemist to stock up on medicine is not possible when you are on a cruise if you are not willing to pay the hefty price tag.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So without further ado, here are some simple cruise packing hacks so you’re not left stranded without your swimmers or a spare pair of undies while you’re thousands of kilometres away from shore.  </span></p> <p><strong>1. Pack your carry-on like it is the only bag you’re taking on your trip</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cruise lines do warn travellers to pack similarly to this tip, however, many overlook it although they NEVER should. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you climb aboard, it is important to keep in mind that your carry on is mostly the only bag you’re allowed to keep with you when you first step on the cruise vessel as your big luggage filled with all your necessities are delivered to you by stewards. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While this may seem convenient, it means your bags may not get back to you for hours or even days (depending on the cruise line’s size and efficiency). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So make sure you are prepared to go the distance with your small backpack, sun bag or mini suitcase. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A carry-on can be the lifesaver you didn't know you needed if your bags decide to take a vacation on their own. </span></p> <p><strong>2. Pack all sorts of outfits</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Packing for a cruise can be pretty straightforward but you must come prepared for any occasion because depending on the length of your stay on board, there will be plenty of festivities guests are welcome to dress up or down for. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So whip out those heels and the gorgeous gown you’ve been wondering if you’ll ever get to wear again and pull out the suave leather shoes because most cruise lines famously host “formal” nights which ask guests to dress to the nines. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Depending on the itinerary as well, cruisers will be asked to bring supplies and a special outfit for themed holiday nights such as “Mexican Fiesta” or “‘80s disco.”</span></p> <p><strong>3. Bring the jacket you didn’t think you would need</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No matter how hard the sun promises it will beat down throughout your trip, it is always essential to bring a jacket as those long, drawn-out nights at sea can get pretty chilly. It can also be a lightweight jacket and a windbreaker just to ensure those heavy winds are no match against you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most importantly, be safe and don’t pack what you’re not allowed to.</span></p>

Cruising

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Insider travel tips: 10 reasons not to travel on long weekends

<p>If you are retired, or enjoy independent work hours, one of the benefits is you don't have to run with the pack. Or do you just want to travel smarter, not harder and get more bang for your buck? School holidays and long weekends are good time to put off travel and enjoy a well-earned break at home.</p> <p>Here are 10 reasons why this travel insider says it is a good idea to sit back and relax and enjoy a staycation.<br /><br /><strong>1. Inflated airfares</strong><br />The crush of people wanting to travel on a long weekend means you'll rarely find a deal that is genuinely attractive. Those who have to travel will face high airfares due to demand. Airlines have perfected scaling airfares to maximise their returns so if you can travel when others can't you'll pay a lot less. <br /><br /><strong>2. Traffic jams</strong><br />Turn the radio or TV on towards the end of a holiday break and you just know there will be bulletins detailing the traffic delays getting back into the city in time for work. This is a Sydney speciality.</p> <p><strong>3. Crowded airports</strong></p> <p>The scene from <a href="http://t.dgm-au.com/c/185116/69171/1880?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.booktopia.com.au%2Fdvd-movies%2Fplanes-trains-and-automobiles%2Fprod9317206045683.html"><em>Planes, Trains and Automobiles</em></a>depicting crushing crowds and cranky patrons perfectly depicts the horror of long weekend travel. Do you really want to be one of them?<br /><br /><strong>4. Kids everywhere</strong><br />We love little people and traveling with the family can be a great experience but traveling with lots of other people's kids rarely is! If you’re a grandparent, give your kids a break and enjoy your grandchildren at home. <br /><br /><strong>5. Queues, queues, queues!</strong><br />Long weekend lines can be long. Whether it's a museum, gallery, or attraction you almost certainly will spend more time in the queue waiting for tickets or bustling to the end of the line.<br /><br /><strong>6. Madding crowds</strong><br />Once you do get into your event, the crowds don't miraculously disappear. You could be scrunched up against other patron with limited breathing room, or the precious prime vantage point for a picnic has already been discovered by another group or ten.</p> <p><strong>7. Dire dining</strong></p> <p>"I'm sorry, your selection is not available".  You've been salivating over those BBQ ribs ever since you spotted them on the menu, but long weekends inevitably means your favourite selection is sold out. And after that disappointment you’ll probably be slugged with a long weekend service fee. <br /><br /><strong>8. Sold out!</strong><br />Peak times means peak popularity so you need to do planning – and paying – ahead just to ensure you’ll get into the place you’ve travelled to visit.<br /><br /><strong>9. Harried staff</strong><br />Extra crowds put extra strain on staff, too. So don’t expect the same level of service when you’re just one of an endless stream of patrons.<br /><br /><strong>10. The last resort</strong><br />Resorts fill quickly for peak holiday times and while that’s great for their bottom line it may mean you can’t stay where you wish or in your preferred room. And forget about the welcome upgrade on arrival. <br /><br />The long weekend can instead be a perfect time to discover your hometown or neighbourhood while everyone else is away.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/10-reasons-not-to-travel-this-long-weekend.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></em></p>

Cruising

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3 reasons why you need to visit Mystery Island

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While it may seem difficult to believe, there is more to cruising than endless cocktails and poolside lounging. Cruising is an efficient way to see new and exciting destinations that you really can’t find anywhere else. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One location that has proven to be a favourite amongst veteran cruisers is Mystery Island, not just for its mystique and beauty but also for its seclusion and being the perfect example of a South Pacific paradise. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here is why you must put Mystery Island on your cruising checklist. </span></p> <p><strong>1. Mystifying natural attractions</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This gorgeous island doesn’t have a whole lot of man-made eye sores and locals rely on the natural allure of the land and seascape to attract wide-eyed tourists. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some of the incredible feature’s tourists are promised is the pristine white sands, the balmy waters that are perfect for a quick dip or a long swim as well as a wildly colourful marine life to get lost in. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The best part about this stunning attraction? It is all natural and all there for you to explore. </span></p> <p><strong>2. Endless island activities</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An awesome aspect of cruising is the among of island activities that are on offer for all cruisers. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">While there is the option of becoming one with the island culture and generally blending in amongst civilisation, there are options to snorkel amongst the stunning marine life and shipwrecks or take a dip or two into the waters far from land. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Travellers can also laze on the sand, take a stroll through the local markets and indulge in a souvenir or two and even dine on some fresh lobster while listening to a local band in complete serenity. </span></p> <p><strong>3. Incredible excursions to explore the sea world</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mystery Island truly is a clandestine journey you will not want to come back from, and the sea life and excursions are one of the main reasons you will want to stay on the tiny South Pacific dot. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just some options travellers can indulge in include, fishing with a local guide, glass-bottom kayaking through vibrant coral reefs and a short ferry village to see what modern life is like for the locals. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Further, tourists can get right up close to the best bits of the coral habitat by being taken through an intimate journey with local snorkelers and then marvel in the glorious sea life by taking a sea trip in a glass-bottom boat. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Either way, whether you are on land lazing in the shade, strolling through the local markets or putting your nose right up to the gorgeous coral life, you will never want to leave Mystery Island.</span></p>

Cruising

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The tips you need to know before jumping on a cruise

<p><strong>The earlier you book, the cheaper</strong></p> <p>Sorry, procrastinators: Most cruise lines now favour early booking promotions over last-minute deals, and the least expensive rooms sell out first. For the lowest price, book right when we announce an itinerary, often about 18 months out.</p> <p><strong>Got robbed? Not our problem</strong></p> <p>We’re not required to report thefts of less than $10,000, so no one knows how much petty crime really happens on board. But it’s a lot: Leave your valuables at home.</p> <p><strong>We can protect you from pirates</strong></p> <p>We really do train for pirate attacks (even though they’re extremely rare). We can’t share many details, but let’s just say that our ship’s fire hoses are good for more than fighting fires.</p> <p><strong>Leave your car off-site</strong></p> <p>If you’re arriving by car, do not park in the cruise terminal, as they invariably charge a small fortune. Off-site car parks typically cost half as much, offer shuttle service to port, and have your car waiting with the AC on at trip’s end.</p> <p><strong>The threat of sexual assault is real</strong></p> <p>You’re twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise as you are on land, a 2011 study found, and two thirds of assailants are crew members. Yet cases are hard to prosecute, with alcohol often involved and police often not on board. Stay safe by sticking with a friend.</p> <p><em>Written by Michelle Crouch. This article first appeared in <a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/cruising/24-secrets-cruise-lines-wont-tell-you?page=23">Reader’s Digest.</a> For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></em></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

Cruising

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Why you must try a music-themed cruise

<p>Whatever your musical tastes, chances are there’s a music-themed cruise to suit you. But what is it all about?</p> <p><strong>Play on</strong></p> <p>The phenomenon of specific music-themed cruises started in 2004 with the Jam Cruise. Still running today, this annual floating five-day music festival departs Miami, Florida, and features funk, rock and jazz bands – plus musical workshops and other entertaining distractions.</p> <p><strong>Musical genres</strong></p> <p>Music cruises fall into two categories: single-themed ‘headliner’ cruises that showcase a well-known band or musician accompanied by one or more support acts; and gigantic music festival-style cruises with dozens of acts, often from across different genres playing on multiple stages, floating platforms, poolside and anywhere else a set of speakers can be plugged in.</p> <p>There is, quite literally, no musical genre that goes unrepresented, either. Rhythm and blues cruises, world music cruises, reggae, ska, bluegrass, pop, classical – whatever you are into, cruise companies will put a boat under it and push it out to sea. You can also set sail on a trip back in time on a ’60s Flower Power cruise, a ’70s Rock and Romance cruise, an ’80s cruise guest hosted by Rick Springfield and endless others.</p> <p>Theatre productions have also gotten in on the act, with Broadway Cruises becoming more popular, too. Exotic destinations include Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. You could find yourself on board with the stars from Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, Les Misérables, Rent and more. Then there’s the Elvis tribute cruise, a genre unto itself, packed from port to starboard with hip-swivelling impersonators and featuring Elvis and Priscilla lookalike contests, Elvis trivia nights and even Elvis cooking shows.</p> <p><strong>Big names on big boats</strong></p> <p>If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen Status Quo, Def Leppard or Kenny Rogers doing the rounds of the music festivals lately, it’s likely they’re playing to fans on the high seas. Even mega-stars such as KISS have realised the potential of the cruising market and have been appearing on sold-out KISS Kruises for the past seven years.</p> <p><strong>Taking it a little slower</strong></p> <p>If your tastes lean towards more refined ocean-going, you might consider a European river cruise, plying the waters of the Rhine and the Danube. Some operators ferry passengers to and from the regions’ classical music festivals, while others hold classical concerts aplenty on board, with the Saxon Organ Academy delighting passengers along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Strasbourg, and the London Festival Opera offering the same service along the Danube from Budapest to Vienna – the cradle of European classical music.</p> <p><strong>What to pack</strong></p> <p>For an Elvis Cruise, pack your blue suede shoes. For all others, you’ll just need a sense of fun and a strong singing voice. Or, for the types of cruise where more energetic participation is called for – such as the flamenco, boot-scooting or ballroom dancing cruises – you’d be wise to pack sturdy flamenco shoes, boots and ballroom attire, respectively.</p> <p>Don’t forget to stow a few items you might want autographed, too. Cruise guests have been known to come aboard with old guitars, artists’ headshots and more in the hopes of snagging a celebrity signature. Now that’s a music cruise memento that will have you sailing back for more.</p> <p><em>Written by Greg Barton. This article first appeared in </em><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/cruising/rockin%E2%80%99-boat">Reader’s Digest.</a><em> For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, h</em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRN93V">ere’s our subscription offer.</a></p> <p> </p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Cruising

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The 5 most beautiful beaches in the world

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whether it’s a family-friendly holiday resort or a secluded oasis isolated by a stretch of sand – there are more than enough options for every type of traveller. Here are the 5 best beaches you must see.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Maundays Bay, Anguilla</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Blessed with the perfect beach, Maundays Bay might just be the ultimate destination. Ideal for families and even those wanting an undisturbed holiday to themselves – this getaway takes the prize as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><strong>2. Kiawah Island, SC</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kiawah Island is a mostly gated community however has public beach access where the sand is pristine white, the water is shallow and has lifeguards on duty. It’s the perfect family holiday in the United States.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Considered one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean, Trunk Bay has calm and clear water, an underwater snorkelling trail and a fascinating history – what more could you want?</span></p> <p><strong>4. Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This 1,000-acre private island is what dreams are made of. Accessible only by a boat ride from Providenciales, it is home to one luxury resort and a few private and exclusive villas. This is the perfect vacay if you want to do it in perfect seclusion.</span></p> <p><strong>5. El Nido, Palawan, Philippines</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This gorgeous beach shockingly manages to be kept under the radar despite it being constantly being talked about online. El Nido is home to over 50 beaches and has some of the world’s finest white sand.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Scroll through the gallery above to 5 of the most beautiful beaches in the world.</span></p>

Cruising

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How to make the most of your cruise holiday

<p>If you’ve always wanted to give cruising a try but you’re a bit worried you will end up feeling bored with nothing to do but to wander up and down the ship for days? Well, here’s some news for you, cruising can be anything and everything you want it to be. Here we list some tips on how to make the most of your next cruise holiday.</p> <p><strong>Take the right trip</strong></p> <p>It may sound obvious, but choosing the right cruise is the first step to making the most of it. Finding a balance between port stops and cruising time is important and above all it comes down to personal preference. If you’re more interested in spending time onboard a ship than you are exploring the sites then some of the larger cruise-liners might be the thing for you. Some ships are virtually floating cities, with pools, movie theatres, shops, clubs, gyms and live shows.</p> <p><strong>Make a plan</strong></p> <p>Most cruises will provide you with plenty of time to explore the local ports along the journey so to prevent yourself from merely passing time on land, you can do some research beforehand. Map out a handful of interesting sights for each destination or ask the crew for their expertise and advice on what to see. Isn’t it curious how the most memorable experiences often happen when we get out of our comfort zone!</p> <p><strong>Indulge</strong></p> <p>Cruising can be as entertaining or as relaxing as you prefer. You may want to set aside a whole day just for pampering. Now a-days most cruise ships will have a day spas where you can get a relaxing massage, sweat out the toxins in a sauna and coat yourself in all kinds of rejuvenating balms.</p> <p><strong>Bring a book</strong></p> <p>Consider bringing a good selection of books and magazines for when you’ve had enough of all the action and need some quality downtime. We recommend taking your iPad or Kindle so you can bring a virtual library without sacrificing precious bag space.</p> <p><strong>Learn something new</strong></p> <p>Being on a cruise is the perfect time to reflect on your goals and your dreams for the future and perhaps even learn a new skill. Download an audiobook on your smart phone and brush up on your foreign language skills or book in a personal training or golf lesson onboard the ship.</p> <p>However you chose to spend your time on your next holiday, we hope you have a blast!</p> <p><em>Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/how-to-make-the-most-of-your-cruise-holiday.aspx"><em>Wyza.com.au.</em></a></p>

Cruising

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3 ways to save BIG on your next cruise

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cruise lines give families, couples and solo travellers affordable ways to holiday on a budget. However, there are always a few sneaky ways to skim hundreds of dollars off your cruise without losing out on any perks. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are three ways you can save BIG on your next cruise. </span></p> <p><strong>1. Travel agents are your best friend</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many may already know this, but travel agents can be a traveller’s best way to hitting the savings jackpot and skimming hundreds off your next holiday. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Not only is it their job to find you the best deals with the best perks and additional features, they’re an excellent source of information and a way to find an itinerary that works for you on the cruise line and cruise ship that suits your needs the best. </span></p> <p><strong>2. Look at the right time</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Take advantage of new sailings by reading the itineraries released at different times of the year. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cruise lines are constantly sending out email newsletters throughout the year, hoping to stumble on a traveller who is willing to dish out some coins for a holiday. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The best part is, these newsletters come with some of the best sales programs and peak travel options. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s also best to book 12-18 months prior your next cruise as this is when the sales are at an all-time high – after all cruise lines want to fill up their numbers quickly. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cruise lines like Carnival release their itineraries between June and July each year while P&amp;O send out programs in the Spring/Summertime in March and in the Winter around October. </span></p> <p><strong>3. First in, best dressed</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Savvy cruisers typically have one essential skill under their belt – they’re notorious early birds. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The longer you leave yourself to book a cruise, more often than not you will get much less options. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Planning ahead not just allows you time to plan your travel, save upwards of hundreds of dollars and get the cabins and perks of your choice – it also gives travellers time to rethink their option. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you book a cruise 12-18 months out from when your holiday is set to sail, cruisers are given a cancellation option that can often leave you with all your money back in your bank account without even a cancellation fee. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While not every step or trick may work for you, it is best every traveller considers what will work best for them before they take the leap and book their cruise. </span></p>

Cruising

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The magic of the Maldives

<p>The dark water is alive with hungry sharks, and I’m in the middle of this frenzy. The ravenous beasts, the bigger ones easily three metres long, jostle me as the chunks of food are doled out under the glare of a waterproof floodlight. A brave lone stingray also tries his luck while a few timid reef sharks patrol the pack’s perimeter.</p> <p>Thankfully, these nocturnal sharks are not your typical man-eaters, like an understudy for JAWS. They are the big brother of our own Wobbegong and clearly used to human proximity here in the waters off the Alimatha resort in the remote Maldives. Nevertheless, an inadvertent nip from any of these gregarious ‘puppy dogs’ is going to be painful.</p> <p>So, what the heck am I doing here? I challenged my local guide, Teddie, to show me some sharks, and he certainly rose to the challenge. This little tale is all part of my ‘cruise’ aboard a local dhoni boat among the lesser visited regions of the Maldives.</p> <p>When people think of expedition cruising, it’s easy to think it’s all about ships like the trusted and sturdy ex-Soviet oceanographic vessels through to the new wave of luxurious ‘champagne’ adventurers venturing to out to the remote corners of the world’s oceans.</p> <p>Here in the Maldives, expedition cruising takes on a much more rudimentary guise in the form of these traditional local ‘dhoni’ boats. These antique-looking wooden vessels have worked the Maldivian atolls for centuries, transporting goods and ferrying locals across the vast expanses of water that separate the inhabited islands making up this expansive oceanic republic.</p> <p>Global operators like World Expeditions work with local boat owners to provide this fundamental, yet enriching experience here in the middle of the Indian Ocean.</p> <p>Our all-wooden vessel, the 20m ‘Gahaa’ (meaning: North Star) cruises at a leisurely eight knots between the atolls that comprise this aquatic country to the SW of Sri Lanka. Accommodation is in four twin cabins with a crew of five who look after our every need. Our ‘cruise director’ is young ‘Teddie’ who guides us on snorkelling trips out on the myriad coral reefs and enlightens us on the ways of the Maldivians who have lived, fished and traded on these flat, tropical islands for centuries.</p> <p>Don’t bring your sequins or tuxedo, this is rustic, bare boat travel in the local style. If you’ve travelled on a sailing yacht or small motor cruiser, you’ll get the idea, but don’t get the notion you’ll get a turndown service and pillow chocolates.</p> <p>Geographically, the Maldives are one of the most widely dispersed nations anywhere in the world, but is the smallest autonomous Asian country in terms of usable land area and population, which numbers around 400,000. The capital Malé occupies its own little island, on the southern edge of North Malé Atoll where the airport is also located.</p> <p>The vast majority of international visitors will land at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE) and be whisked away by floatplane or speedboat to some platinum resort to spend their time in blissful isolation. As wonderful as these resorts are, the experience does little to expose travellers to the culture and wider environment of these vast tropical atolls*. Our modest little boat, on the other hand, can stop pretty much anywhere we like to either stroll the sandy beaches or snorkel the clear waters and reefs.</p> <p>We spend our days in a blissful state relaxing on the sun decks, swimming and snorkelling with interruptions in the form of meals prepared by our resourceful cook. Fish, salads and vegetables cooked to local recipes are delicious and healthy and occasionally supplemented by something we catch along the way.</p> <p>Maldivians, however, are at something of a crossroads. With the highest point of land anywhere in the country just 3m above sea level, the rising oceans threaten the very existence of these hardy people whose ethnicity and language is a unique mix of Tamil, Hindu and Arabic. Even their native tongue shows influences from all races and their written script is an endemic blend of the complicated-looking squiggles of each culture and language group.</p> <p>The famous coral reefs of the Maldives are under the same pressures as similar reefs all around the world as ocean acidification, water warming and the many human influences take their toll on the beautiful marine formations created over millennia of slow accretion. Nevertheless, we see all manner of common ‘aquarium’ species of reef fish, hawksbill turtles, rays and dolphins.</p> <p>The dhoni experience is certainly a contrast to that typical of most visitors and a unique way to explore local communities and the environment away from the cloistered environs of the fairytale resorts.</p> <p><strong>Fact file</strong><br />The World Expeditions 5-night dhoni adventure includes all meals, airport transfers and accommodation on board a private Dhoni on a twin share basis, tourist taxes and tour permits as well as basic snorkelling equipment with local guide and crew.</p> <p>The writer travelled as a guest of <a href="http://www.worldexpeditions.com/au/index.php">World Expeditions.</a> </p> <p>* the word ‘atoll’ is derived from the Maldivian language and means “circular groups of coral islets” that are most often formed by the subsidence of extinct volcanoes.</p> <p><em>Written by Roderick Eime. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/exploring-the-lesser-visited-atolls-of-the-maldives-aboard-a-traditional-dhoni/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

Cruising