Last week, Rhapsody of the Seas departed Sydney for the last time this season, marking the official end to Australia’s summer cruise season and wrapping up a season full of superlatives for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises – bigger, grander, more beautiful and more popular than ever before. Australians enjoyed the biggest and most innovative ships ever to be homeported here with many features never before seen in the region – such as ice skating on Voyager of the Seas – as well as a real life lawn on Celebrity Solstice, said to be the newest and most stylish superliner based down under.
In all, the Roral Caribbean cruise company had five ships from two cruise lines in Australia for the summer, carrying 170,000 guests – nearly twice as many as the previous season. With three ships sailing in the region, Royal Caribbean International became the largest cruise line in Sydney while sister brand Celebrity Cruises had two ships here for the first time.
“Just three years ago we had one ship offering 15 sailings from Sydney; today we have a fleet of five world class superliners and almost 70 cruises on offer,” said Adam Armstrong, commercial director, Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited Australia. “This season we also introduced the two largest and newest superliners ever based in Australia. The arrival of Voyager of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice made headlines across the country and redefined Australian cruising forever.”
Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas, and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium sailed a total of 67 cruises and visited 54 ports in 14 countries. Compared to the previous season, the number of cruise nights doubled while the total number of cruises sailed increased by 50 per cent.
During the season, the three Royal Caribbean ships sailed 53 cruises and called on 49 ports in 14 countries, including new ports calls to Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Picton, New Zealand. Celebrity Cruises’ 2012-13 Australian season featured 14 cruises calling on 35 ports in nine countries. This included first visits for the cruise line to Port Douglas, Port Hedland, Noumea, Singapore and Bali.
Of course there were many other cruise lines based in Australia, not just for our cruise season, but permanently here throughout the year. It’s amazing that most of these ships sail with a full compliment of passengers; such is our love for cruising.
The 2013-14 Season
Royal Caribbean will be back for another big summer this coming October, with Rhapsody of the Seas the first ship off the mark, arriving in Sydney on 5 October 2013, followed closely by Radiance of the Seas on 11 October and Voyager of the Seas on 7 November. Celebrity Solstice arrives in Sydney on 23 October and Celebrity Millennium calls in for a brief visit on her way from Alaska to Asia.
According to Adam Armstrong of RCI, “Booking momentum is solid for both cruise lines – and prices are increasing slightly – although it’s not too late to book for next summer, with cruises available from under $1,000 per person for seven nights.”
John Pond: As a senior who loves cruising, it so easy to book a departure from an Australian port, no hours of flying to Europe, Asia or The Americas, never the less many Australians do just that, as there are great bargains to be had and so many exotic locations to see. There are many cruises to be had throughout the year, Carnival, P&O, and Princess are based here year round. Cruises may also be booked on the many ships visiting our shores annually.
More home ports, more convenience: For the first time ever, P&O is offering round trip itineraries from all mainland state capitals so one really can cruise to more places from more places. P&O is cruising from Adelaide, Fremantle, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Auckland for our New Zealand passengers. It just keeps getting better and better.
National Geographic Orion 2014 Calendar of Sailings Released
As most dedicated cruisers will realize, Orion Expedition Cruises has been sold to Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet. They have released their Calendar of Sailings for 2014 when, as part of the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet, Orion will be renamed National Geographic Orion.
National Geographic Orion will venture further afield in 2014 with new itineraries that include destinations in Micronesia and the Islands of Moluccas – a heady mix of island cultures, World War II naval and military sites and it is said brilliant snorkeling and diving. All new South Pacific island voyages include the Loyalty Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Millennium Atoll, Tahiti, Pitcairn, Easter Island, while voyages to Antarctica will for the first time focus on the Antarctic Peninsula and the wildlife sanctuaries of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
Popular favorite, Borneo, will again include visits to Camp Leakey for exclusive orangutan and wildlife experiences, and hallmark National Geographic Orion voyages to Australia’s Kimberley coastline remain – one with a variation that includes Rowley Shoals. Additionally, there are expeditions that include Komodo, Flores, Asmat, the Spice Islands, Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef.
JP: With more emphasis on snorkeling and less on luxury, lets hope they do not alienate their main Australian customer base which I have found to be more in the over 50 demographic. John Pond
On most cruise ships based in our waters during cruise season, it has become the practice for cruise lines to levy around $11 per person, per day service charge, that is automatically added to passengers shipboard accounts. Passengers soon learnt that this tip levy could be deleted, with a visit to the purser’s desk.
As more and more cruisers deleted these charges, many opting not to tip at all (many Australians don’t like to tip), poorly paid crew became very disenchanted with their remuneration, as tips make up a major part of their stipend.
When tips are automatically added to your account, they are distributed to the many staff that include servers in the buffet where most passengers eat their breakfast and lunch and to other, behind the scenes staff, such as dishwashers, cleaners etc. Because of this, perhaps more equitable distribution of tips, staff that were used to being tipped individually, such as cabin stewards and dining room waiters and assistant waiters, ended each cruise with less money in their pockets.
Have we seen a drop in customer service, with extra service not being remunerated individually, especially in the cabin and dining room?
As one who cruises a great deal (7 cruises this year), I believe YES, though to a very small extent, especially on the larger ships.
Due to the questionnaire that is handed out prior to the conclusion of each cruise, and which identifies quality of service in almost every area, a high quality of service is maintained. I believe this is mainly due to a certain extent on the fear factor.
WHY? Because of this fear, I have found that dining room food waiters virtually beg their regular diners for a good, sorry excellent, report. Apparently their next shipboard contract depends on outstanding reports.
I have never had bad service on any ship, but I have had outstanding service on many.
The word TIP supposedly means To Insure Proper Service. In some cases (a habit I learnt from my grandfather on my first cruise in 1949 on the P&O Strathnaver) my grandfather, a wonderful man, used to tip prior to receiving a service. WHY I remember asking, his reply was that advance appreciation usually ensures greater service. I have carried this advice throughout my life and occasionally use this method, especially in the United States, where tipping is very much a part of their culture.
I love the shipboard dining experience and I can definitely say that I believe service on ships exceeds that on land in all restaurants, including our best. With the old system, when tips were usually given to ones waiter on the last night at dinner, I noticed that many tables were empty of guests. They had chosen to dine at the buffet, rather than have to give their waiter a tip, who had I feel sure, served them well during the voyage.
In spite of tipping procedures introduced by cruise lines, I will continue to tip cabin and main dining room attendants individually.
Many high-end cruise lines have a no tipping policy. Of course it is incorporated in your cruise fare. Nevertheless, I have seen many passengers on these high-end ships tipping additionally. Unfortunately, this in a way destroys the whole system and we go back to square one.
It should be noted that when ordering drinks from your wine steward or any drinks waiter, a 15% tip is automatically included on your account, a fact that many do not realize.
Also with the popularity of alternate specialty restaurant dining, which is offered on many larger ships, when there is a charge for this restaurant, usually around $30 a head, a service charge is usually included.
Many people enjoy the tipping process, giving a cash appreciation to individuals that have made their cruise experience more memorable. Seeing the joy that a thank you and some financial exchange may occasion makes all parties feel good, but as long as some passengers refuse to tip, I guess the new tipping systems are necessary.
Here’s a good TIP – go on a cruise soon. John Pond ©
MAGAZINES: http://ebook.aprs.com.au/issue/47118 The Retiree eBookhttp://www.cruisepassenger.com.au/ J.P. (21) John Pond facebook SPECTATOR GROUP: http://www.thespectator.com.au/ also CHRONICLE, TIMES, LEADER,Travel Editor representing most of Syney’s prestigeous Eastern Suburbs. Destinations – for the discerning traveller Senior Reviewer TripAdvisor Sandra Tiltman Group: Weekly Travel & Lifestyle Page in Spectator Group www.talkingtravelwithsandrat.com Blog: SANDRATBLOG.COM & MORE.
Every now and then some great cruise deals come across my desk, here is one from MSC that I thought I must pass along. From September 3-9, anyone who books an MSC Cruises’ 2012 Grand Voyage will only pay $1 plus port charges for the second passenger.
The offer applies to five sailings, one aboard MSC Opera from Venice on November 1, 2012, to South Africa’s Cape Town – 19 nights, the first passenger paying from $1319, the second guest from $476, including the port charges.
Other sailings and prices are as follow:
- MSC Magnifica, from Genoa on October 27, 2012 for 17 nights to Santos in Brazil, from $1289 and $426;
- MSC Fantasia, from Genoa on November 11, 2012 for 16 nights to Santos in Brazil, from $1249 and $401;
- MSC Orchestra, from Genoa on November 25, 2012 for 15 nights to Rio de Janeiro, from $1099 and $376;
- MSC Lirica, from Genoa on November 30, 2012 for 15 nights to Antilles in the Caribbean, from $1169 and $376.
In addition to the Grand Voyage specials, MSC Cruises will offer $100 per person onboard credits on 2013 cruises of the Mediterranean and Northern Europe with prices starting at $609pp twin share for a seven-night Mediterranean cruise and from $1288pp, twin share for a 14-night Grand Mediterranean cruise.
Seven-night Northern Europe cruises start at $919pp twin share, 14-night Grand Northern Europe cruises from $2058pp, twin share. John Pond
They have just completed a 6 year remodeling project giving guests the choice of contemporary, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical designs. GM Rene Beauchamp says “The response so far has been very positive, especially from our return guests who now have an opportunity to choose a different experience – depending on the purpose of their stay or current preferences.”
The new décor of the rooms located in the Neo-Classical building, which dates back to 1827, is indigenous to the architectural style and respects the history of the building. The colour scheme and style is different from those in the Hotel’s Modern, Baroque and Renaissance structures. Dominating shades are beige and gold, complementing classical style furnishing in dark brown. Together with the seating area by the window with romantic city views, Czech crystal chandelier and white and gold wallpapers, the new rooms gives feeling of warmth and the grandeur of Old Europe. If planning a visit to Prague, you must stay at this great hotel. John Pond
Four Seasons Hotel Prague Veleslavínova 2a/1098, Praha 1, Czech Republic 110 00
Attended the Helpmann Awards Nominations last night at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. Live Performance Australia (LPA) announced the List of Nominations in each of the 41 categories for the 2012 Helpmann Awards®. The announcement was made concurrently in Sydney with MC Simon Burke; in Melbourne with MC Bert LaBonte; and in Brisbane with MC Bille Brown AM.
Reading the names were David Berthold, Blake Bowden, Michael Cormick, Martin Crewes, Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Nicole Da Silva, Bobby Fox, Lisa Gasteen AO, Tony Gould AM D UNI, Lucy Maunder, Silvie Paladino, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Glaston Toft, and Natalie Weir.
NSW Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Arts, The Hon. George Souris, congratulated the nominees of the 2012 Helpmann Awards® and said Sydney is proud to host this prestigious Australian event for the 12th year in succession. “The Helpmanns are the premiere awards event for the live performance industry.
Additionally, Minister Souris announced that Katharine Brisbane AM is
the co-recipient of the coveted 2012 JC Williamson AwardTM, awarded to distinguished members of Australia’s live entertainment industry for their extraordinary contribution to the industry. It was announced earlier this year that the late Dr Jimmy Little AO would be a 2012 recipient of this award. Katharine Brisbane is renowned in Australia for her dedication to Australian theatre, as a respected reviewer, a zealous advocate for the industry and its people, and an adventurous publisher of Australian plays and performing arts history.
The Helpmann Awards® will be broadcast exclusively the following night on Australia’s arts and entertainment channel STUDIO – channel 132 onFoxtel. See the full ceremony recorded live on Tuesday 25 September at 8.30pm.
Pacific Sun Sails on Final Cruise. P&O Cruises’ Pacific Sun departed Brisbane yesterday for its final voyage before it leaves the cruise line’s fleet.
Affectionately known as “Australia’s favourite cruise ship”, Pacific Sun has been sailing with P&O Cruises since 2004 and has carried more than half a million Australian passengers on hundreds of holidays over that time.
The 47,000-tonne ship was sold by P&O Cruises earlier this year as part of Carnival Australia’s continuing fleet renewal.
As Australia’s leading cruise operator, Carnival Australia has seven ships based in Australian waters including three P&O Cruises’ superliners, three Princess Cruises’ superliners and Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Spirit which will debut in Australia in October.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, (PICTURED) which operates P&O Cruises, said Pacific Sun had been an enormously popular ship.
“Pacific Sun has carried hundreds of thousands of Australians on great holidays and helped build demand for cruising,” Ms Sherry said.
“When Pacific Sun joined our fleet eight years ago, Carnival Australia had two ships based in Australia and now we have seven – so she has certainly played a role in that growth.”
Pacific Sun’s final cruise is a Pacific Island seven-night voyage. Better ships keep coming, John Pond.
MSC Cruises’ sports-loving passengers will be able to combine their holiday with all of the excitement of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. From July 27 July to August 12, 2012, guests across the entire MSC Cruises’ fleet will be able to tune in live to London for the high drama, emotion and tension that the Olympics provide.
More than 2000 hours of the Games will be broadcast via satellite in public areas as well as in guests’ cabins. Coverage will include 29 sports as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, and guests can cheer on their favourite sportsmen and women from the over 10,000 athletes competing in diverse events from archery to triathlon, athletics to volleyball.
In addition, onboard entertainment during this period will be Olympic themed. There will be a colourful parade celebrating different nationalities on every cruise, and the anthems of lesser known countries will be sung around the pool in a fun-filled ceremony.
Guests can place bets on the games, the finals and on the number of medals each nation will take home. Video quizzes on the history of the Olympic Games will also allow sports buffs to show off their knowledge.
For the most competitive guests, five-aside football, ping pong, darts and shuffleboard tournaments will be organised, with medals awarded to the champions of each event. I am a watcher, rather than a participator, John Pond.
P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn sailed from Brisbane on Saturday with a message of support for her home team ahead of the must-win final Origin game at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane this week.
The Brisbane-based superliner proved she was Queensland’s biggest fan with a giant banner measuring 24m by 5m above her bow cheering on the Maroons.
Pacific Dawn’s 1950 passengers will be able to watch the Origin final live on the ship’s newly-installed Big Screen during a call at Vila, Vanuatu, on Wednesday, as part of a seven-night roundtrip Pacific Islands cruise.
At the start of the 2012 season P&O Cruises secured an international rights deal to show live NRL games at sea, including all three State of Origin matches. A must see, John Pond.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL HYDE PARK, LONDON OFFERS GUESTS LONDON 2012 RICKSHAW RIDES AND BESPOKE PICNICS Situated in the heart of London’s Knightsbridge, guests at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London will be one step ahead of the crowds and travelling in style in the hotel’s bespoke rickshaw during the London 2012 Games this summer. Dressed in red, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park’s luxury rickshaw will be available throughout the games, from 27 July until 12 August 2012, to transport hotel guests to the stylish boutiques of fashionable Knightsbridge and the surrounding Hyde Park.
Hyde Park will be the location for several sporting events during the London Games, including the Marathon Swimming in the famous Serpentine Lake. Taking advantage of its unparalleled positioning, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park will be offering luxury picnics for guests, with the option of having a personal butler to care for every need as well.
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Rickshaw Experience starts from GBP 850 per night based on two people sharing and includes: Accommodation for two in one of the hotels Courtyard King rooms. Daily English breakfast. A private ride on board the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park rickshaw. A luxury picnic in Hyde Park for 2 people. Exclusive of VAT and 5% discretionary service charge, valid between 27 July until 12 August 2012 and is subject to availability.
Bookings and cancellations must be made a minimum of 72 hours in advance. Reservations can be made by contacting the hotel directly on +44 (0) 207 235 2000, or through Mandarin Oriental’s worldwide sales and reservations offices or the Group’s direct on-line reservations service, www.mandarinoriental.com.
Attended a most interesting presentation to learn more about the newest ship soon to arrive to our shores. The Carnival Spirit which will be permanently based down under, is set to thrill the young and young at heart.
Peter Taylor, Director Corporate Affairs, Carnival Australia, introduced Jennifer Vandekreeke, Director Carnival Cruise Lines, who originally hails from Carnival’s Miami headquarters and is now based in Sydney. Jennifer heads up the Carnival team here and is supervising the Aussiefication of Carnival Spirit before she begins her full time Australian itineraries.
Jennifer gave us an insight into some of the many new features that are aimed at making Carnival’s Australian based cruises even more exciting for their Aussie passengers. Apart from simple things such as Australian power points in the cabins and not calling main courses “entrees”, there are a myriad of other changes that will appeal to the Australian market, including many food, coffee and wine choices.
Specially made cocktail holders fashioned in the shape of a disco mirror ball put all in the Carnival Spirit and were a taste of what passengers will find on board. Entertainment will reflect Australian tastes, especially in the on board comedy venues. Simple things such as “beef snags” served on white bread with tomato sauce will be available free of charge in the BBQ area.
I can’t wait to review this new addition to our shores, so I will be flying to join Carnival Spirit in Hawaii on her voyage to Sydney in late September. The ship has been refurbished with a host of features sure to delight. Look forward to lots of blogs and articles on this exciting ship.
PHOTOS: Carnival Spirit, Jennifer Vandekreeke & Peter Taylor
Words & Photos: John Pond
Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to Sydney’s Grace Hotel by Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii Tourism Oceania. Hawaiian Airlines flew out two of Honolulu’s top chefs who put on Hawaiian inspired dishes in the main dining room at The Grace Hotel.
At the special opening dinner, attended by travel and media representatives, we were treated to a myriad of dishes inspired by the Hawaiian Islands multicultural cuisine, which is influenced by the many cultures including Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Western and more.
I will have the pleasure of flying to Honolulu in a few weeks where I will be joining the Carnival Spirit on her journey to Sydney. Naturally I will be spending a few days shopping and enjoying the many fine restaurants there.
The Hawaiian Food Festival will continue at the Grace Hotel to the end of June. I highly recommend you try some of this delightful cuisine.
PHOTO: Sherilyn Robinson, General Manager, Sales & Marketing, Hawaiian Airlines with John Pond
Words & Photos: John Pond
Travel the World and its luxury travel partner Tauck have announced the appointment of the first Tauck ambassador for the Australian market, Ita Buttrose AO, OBE. An Australian icon, Ita is a journalist, author and businesswoman who is greatly admired for her stellar career, her wit and charm and her tireless efforts for charities such as Alzheimer’s Australia, of which she is the National President.
Ita says of her new role: “I am excited to be on board as Tauck’s ambassador. Travel is one of my great passions and it’s been a joy getting to know fellow Australians who are long-time ‘Tauckers.’
Established in 1925, Tauck is a world leader in upscale, escorted travel. Family owned and operated, Tauck offers guided all inclusive land journeys, cruises and family travel adventures in 65 countries and all seven continents. The company showcases the “must-see” attractions in each destination, enhancing guests’ experience with in-depth commentary and insights that add perspective and understanding. Tauck complements visits to must-see sites with insider access to “off the beaten path” locations that deliver authentic cultural experiences and are either unavailable or unknown to most travellers. Tauck travellers can be assured that virtually everything is included in their upfront prices, with no hidden fees or surprise add-ons. Tauck works closely with worldwide partners to ensure that travellers receive the best value in the upfront prices offered.
Tauck is launching a brochure dedicated to Australians for travel in 2013.
As Ita sums it up: “Tauck has a special way of opening doors to unique experiences and inspiring moments that will make your holiday truly unforgettable. What more could a sophisticated traveller ask for?”. I agree, John Pond.
New Caledonian Sky marks a bright start for APT. APT’s new association with Noble Caledonia arrives just as the expedition ship MS Caledonian Sky joins sister ship MS Island Sky in the Noble Caledonia fleet.
APT’s General Manager Marketing, Debra Fox said both ships offer a warm and peaceful ambience, “what you might expect from a private yacht or country hotel.” “Both reflect the onboard service standards, comfort and luxury style of APT river ships in Europe, so our passengers will be at home with the Noble Caledonia brand,” she said.
“These luxury expedition ships are the size that allow us to access areas not available to large sea cruise ships, so with inflatable Zodiac landing craft we provide easy discovery shore excursions which is what we deliver on our river ships,” Ms Fox said.
MS Caledonian Sky will first sail around Britain, then north to the Arctic before heading for South America, Australasia and the Pacific Rim. APT will have a number of exclusive sailings, including its 85th anniversary celebration cruise in 2013, hosted by Geoff McGeary, cruising through the seven seas of the East Indies from The Philippines to Darwin.
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. John Pond.
“Innovation and growth have gone hand-in-hand,” he said. “It’s an exceptionally fit business and it’s our customers who have made it so, because they keep pushing us for new experiences, as long as those experiences are supported by the APT way of doing things.”
“Our focus is on our customers, making changes quickly, having control over product standards and service delivery and establishing trusting working relationships with our business partners and suppliers.” ”Being a privately owned company, APT also enjoyed the freedom to create and innovate, and deliver operationally … and quickly. The company’s product diversity, financial security and 85 years of experience are integral elements of continuing support APT received from both agents and consumers,” he said.
European river cruise market had grown at a rate of 22% from 2010 to 2011, APT’s growth rate was 36%. This above average growth rate has APT with over 40% of the market here, which makes APT the largest operator. As a result of the recent growth, APT Head Office in Hampton was bursting at the seams. Last year it moved management, reservations, sales and marketing into smart new premises in Cheltenham which Mr McGeary said immediately delivered service efficiencies to agent customers.
Mr McGeary said APT listened to its customers. He is renowned for his own market research, opting to dine and meet with as many customers as possible when ‘road testing’ an APT cruise or tour. In an exotic location, in a relaxed environment over great food and wine, passengers tend to be unrestrained when offering an opinion or comment, he said. Report by John Pond.
Sandra and I recently had the pleasure of attending a performance of Hairspray featuring my good friend Arthur’s daughter, Stephanie. We were knocked out by the performance. Even though the cast were all amateurs the professionalism shown was equal to the best professional performance. Unfortunately today is the last show at the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club.
Hairspray presented by Rockdale Musical Society & Canterbury Theature Guild is the mother of all musicals. It follows Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, as she sets out to dance her way on to TV’s most popular dance show. Will this ordinary girl realise her dreams, be an inspiration to her mum and win the boy she
Hairspray is the ultimate feel-good show – the happiest, funniest, sunniest musical in the world & is a fantastic family event. Hairspray also tackles some important issues, including personal image, diversity and the power of the individual against a backdrop of the 1960s American Civil Rights movement.
What a great night and extra applause to Stephanie who was so good. There was a cast of around 44 plus a full 16 piece orchestra. Entertainment like this is rare and I applaud all those who put the show together and the Club for showcasing it. John Pond
Over lunch with John Molinaro, GM Uniworld Australia, I heard about all the great new river cruises that are available from perhaps one of the best river cruise lines in the business. I have had the pleasure of cruising on the Danube in one of their fine ships, River Beatrice. Since then they have launched and are about to launch, many new river ships, even more luxurious.
Uniworld have just released a 2013 preview brochure, ideal for all those wishing to book a trip next year and to make it even more appealing they are still offering 2012 pricing for 2013 departures.
Some of the new itineraries include:
13 days Splendours of Italy on River Countess, including 2 nights in Florence and 3 nights in Rome in deluxe hotels.
8 days Highlights of Eastern Europe sailing on the Danube from Vienna to Belgrade.
17 days Grand Danube & Prague through to Belgrade.
Other popular itineraries include Imperial Waterways of Russia, I have this earmarked as a “must do” for next year.
Uniworld river ships are definitely first class, and are on Conde Nast Traveller’s prestigious Gold List. DETAILS: www.uniworldcruises.com.au
MOMENTS OF DELIGHT BY MANDARIN ORIENTAL The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has launched a new version of its popular bespoke film ‘Moments of Delight from Mandarin Oriental’.
The four minute film takes viewers on a journey around the world of Mandarin Oriental, and features many imaginative moments of delight that guests experience when staying with the award-winning brand. Filmed at Mandarin Oriental hotels worldwide, including scenes from Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and New York.
It includes footage from the Group’s most recent openings in Barcelona, Paris and Las Vegas. It also features a specially created soundtrack that has been written and performed by the powerful and sophisticated singer, musician, composer, choreographer and Mandarin Oriental fan, Sa Ding Ding.
Click to view Moments of Delight
John Pond: The Mandarin Oriental Group of hotels are a favourite of mine, I have stayed in their properties around the World, they derserve my 5 star rating.
It has been reported that a couple sailing on the SeabournSojourn was asked to leave after the wife refused to attend the mandatory muster drill.
Apparently only the woman’s husband showed up for the mandatory muster drill, apparently the wife claimed she wasn’t feeling well and said as she had already done the drill before.
After repeated attempts to make her attend from the crew, the Captain even announced over the PA that any person who refused to attend the drill would face immediate debarkation. Apparently the couple did not respond so they were forced to disembark before the cruise had started.
Off course this all came about due to the Costa Concordia tragedy where many lives were lost. They had not yet held their muster drill.
I totally agree with the ships actions. John Pond.
Last night I attended a function in the Jubilee Room at Sydney’s Parliament House.
Most of last year’s winners were present and were introduced by the Hon. George Souris, Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality & Racing + Minister for the Arts, (my goodness, what a lot of portfolios to handle, don’t know where he gets the time).
General Manager of the Tourism Industry Council NSW, Mr Andrew Jefferies, said “NSW bagged a record 11 title wins at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Cairns earlier this year”. He went on to say that the Organisation hoped for many more entries this year and that several incentives were being offered for signing up.
Winners from the regional NSW awards become automatic finalists in the NSW awards to be held in Sydney on 22 November. Winners from the NSW awards go on to represent the State at the National Awards to be held in Hobart in February 2013. Photos & Words: John Pond
Carnival/Costa plan to refloat the Costa Concordia, the cruise liner capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio after hitting rocks on January 13. The ships captain, Captain Francesco Schettino is under house arrest accused of wrecking the ship after he brought it too close to shore and faces charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.
“This will be the largest refloat in history but we think it’s entirely possible,” said Richard Habib, president of Titan Salvage, owned by U.S. group Crowley Maritime Corp, the firm to carry out the refloat. It is said the ship would be refloated by February 2013. After the refloat, the ship is to be broken up for salvage.
A figure of around $300 million has been quoted as a cost for the excercise. Is it possible to save the ship ? I don’t think many would want to sail on her. John Pond
Today marked the start of the Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food & Art. After braving the early morning cold we arrived at Doltone House on Pyrmont Bay. A long breakfast table was set up on their terrace and we were immediately greeted with a glass of Mudgee sparkling wine, which was a great start to the morning.
Natarsha Belling, a Mudgee gal and Channel 10 newsreader, officiated and we heard speeches from Tim Stevens of Huntington Estate, as well as an Deputy Lord Mayor City of Sydney Council, one of the event’s sponsors.
The real star of the breakfast was the wonderful food cooked to perfection by Doltone House. There are events planned until 27 May with the highlight being the food and wine fair featuring Mudgee produce in Pirrama Park this Sunday, 20 May.
PHOTO: Tim Stevens & Natarsha Belling.
Words and photos: John Pond.
Hong Kong is one of my favourite places to visit. A great place to stop over on a visit to or from Europe or as a great destinatin for ones vacation. Guess I am suffering from Hong Kong withdrawals.
HK Tourism Board Australia just sent me some of the attractions planned for their upcoming summer, so I thought I would pass some of them along, thanks MP, John Pond.
During the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular (June 22 – August 31) you can take advantage of the citywide sales across Hong Kong’s glamorous department stores, trendy boutiques and shopping malls where you will be enticed by the very latest and hottest fashion and shoes, fine jewellery, beauty products, watches, electronics and quirky gifts – and the strong dollar makes Hong Kong the perfect shopping destination for the fashionistas amongst us!
For a taste of the city’s colourful events don’t forget the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival (July 2 & 4-8) and the Lan Kwai Fong Music & BeerFest (July 14 & 15).
TRY Newly opened c’est la B located in trendy Causeway Bay, c’est la B is the first of a new café-bar brand hinting at founder Bonnie Gokson’s name with a funky interior and delicious food.
SOHO (South of Hollywood Road) is a lively cultural, dining and shopping district characterised by its vibrant and creative inhabitants and is a must do for every visitor.
CHECK OUT Hong Kongs facebook page at (35) Hong Kong Tourism Board Australia
Avalon Waterways has launched its newest luxury river cruise ships at a double christening in the Netherlands, the latest stage in a major expansion of its successful Suite Ship concept. After the sell-out debut season of Europe’s first Suite Ship Avalon Panorama last year, Avalon Waterways has now introduced sister ships Avalon Vista and Avalon Visionary, to operate itineraries on the Rhine and Danube.
The new ships – each with two entire decks of all-suite accommodation and 30 per cent more cabin space than the average competitor – were launched last week at a ceremony in the historic Dutch harbour town of Enkhuizen. Like Panorama, the Vista and Visionary have been designed with Australian travellers in mind and feature wall-to-wall panoramic windows that draw back to turn the entire suite into an open-air balcony.
Avalon Waterways Managing Director Australasia Stewart Williams said the Suite Ship concept had been an outstanding success, thanks largely to Australian travellers. “Everything about the Suite Ships has been designed with Australians in mind, from the décor and fittings right through to the cuisine and the espresso coffee,” Mr Williams said. “Next year, Avalon Waterways will introduce another two new Suite Ships, Avalon Artistry II and Avalon Expression. They will give Avalon a total of five Suite Ships when they enter service in April and May 2013. I have just returned from sailing on Avalon through Holland, it was a wonderful experience. John Pond. PHOTO: Vista-Visionary, Avalon Vista godmother and President and CEO of Toronto-based Cruise Strategies Ltd, Vanessa Lee; and Avalon Waterways Managing Director Australasia, Stewart Williams.
Celebrate the DIAMOND JUBILEE with a royal stay, ‘AFTERNOON TEA’ and ART AT MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG, one of my favourite hotel groups. Guests staying at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong from now to 10 June, will be able to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s sixty year reign, and the Diamond Jubilee in style, with a quintessentially British Diamond Jubilee ‘Royal Afternoon Tea’ and a rare viewing of a range of royal artwork and photography.
The hotel’s iconic Clipper Lounge will form the backdrop for 27 works of art by HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH Queen Victoria and Prince Albert along with photographs by Lord Snowdon, in conjunction with the Belgravia Gallery in London. The Royal Collection of Art will be for sale and buyers will receive a gift certificate entitling them to a guided tour around HRH The Prince of Wales’s private gardens at Highgrove, followed by a champagne tea.
To complement the lithographs, photographs and etchings by members of the Royal Family in Hong Kong, Mandarin Oriental’s Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky, who cooked for HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip’s 50th anniversary dinner, will offer a truly Royal British Afternoon Tea using the finest of British ingredients.
Offerings will include Rhug Estate Coronation Chicken (created for Her Majesty’s Coronation 60 years ago) and Poached Scottish Salmon Sandwiches; Mini Yorkshire Pudding Roast Beef, Horseradish and Watercress and even Salmon Wellington and Mini Organic Pork Pies. Royal Victoria Sponge (named after Queen Victoria) and Battenberg Cake (rumoured to be one of HM Queen’s favourites) will be part of the sweet treat offerings and no Royal Afternoon Tea would be complete without warm scones, clotted cream, home-made jams and a choice of 17 different teas.
APT cruise food recognised by La Chaine des Rotisseurs. APT has become the only European river cruise line to be inducted into La Chaine des Rotisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organisations. Society membership is considered an achievement of world-class culinary acumen, said APT’s General Manager Marketing, Debra Fox. It means all 10 APT-AmaWaterways co-owned Europe riverships on the water this year are members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs.
Chartered in the 13th century, the society thrived for hundreds of years until the French Revolution brought an end to the guild system. Reborn in Paris in 1950, today membership is by invitation only. The society has grown to include professional chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers around the world, said Ms Fox.
APT fleet’s Executive Chef, Primus Perchtold, directs the menus on every cruise. He has won multiple awards, including three gold medals at the European Championship of Culinary Art. While there is a choice of eight dining options across Aria and Concerto ships and the opportunity to indulge in champagne breakfasts, a client favourite is the onboard hot bread bakeries, where passengers enjoy the freshest of breads during the day … and night. Ms Fox said “Our aim always has been to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations, we’ve made river cruising a tailored luxury-styled experience.” JOHN POND.
Leading cruise line MSC Cruises has stepped up its plans to attract more families by revamping and updating its Kids’ Club programs to satisfy all age groups. It also offers free cruises on all cruise ships to guests aged under 18 years who share a cabin with two adults, needing only to pay port charges.
Programs also feature a broader choice of family events, ranging from parades to scavenger hunts. “Just under 15 per cent of our guests during the year are children, with this percentage rising to 30 per cent during the summer season,” said Daniela Picco, MSC Cruises On Board Marketing Manager. “It’s our job to ensure that they have an unforgettable experience, which means keeping them entertained all day,” she said.
“As 22 per cent of the almost 200,000 under 18s who cruise with MSC every year are between 12 and 14, and 24 per cent are between 15 and 17, it’s also a priority to keep program up to date for teens and make sure that ships contain the latest technology.”
Peace of mind - MSC Cruises has also increased the ratio of staff to children and established new criteria for the hiring of counsellors. This includes the requirement of a college degree in recreation or child care, or the equivalent experience. New dedicated welcome desks for security bracelets have been set up, and pagers and beepers will be available for rent for the parents/supervising adults of children who are three to five years old, children with special medical conditions and children with special needs. John Pond.
Lots of cruise heavyweights in town this week. Boss of Seadream on his annual visit and two newcomers, VPs from Norwegian Cruise Lines, VPs Francis Riley and Braydon Holland. NCL, it was rumoured, in another publication, is planning to position one of their mega ships down under on a permanent basis in the next two years. This is actually not true, but it is on the wish list at this stage.
NCL is better known to Australians for their week long around Hawaiian Islands cruises which are enjoyed by thousands of Australians each year.
Representatives from State of Texas in Sydney to celebrate the first anniversary of direct flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and the new daily service there. There are plenty of reasons to head down south to Texas for a visit next time you go to the USA. Pity they did not serve chilli dogs at the event.
Sarina Bratton, CEO of the very popular Orion Cruise Lines, was in town for a presentation of her latest cruise brochure at Sydney’s Maritime Museum. The event was attended by around 200 past Orion passengers, most keen to book on upcoming cruises. Sarina explained how they were not renewing the lease on Orion II. They are currently on the hunt for a replacement vessel. Orion II will continue cruising until the end of the year.
I must add that one of our most memorable small ship cruises was on Orion I, around the Kimberley region, something that should not be missed by anyone. © John Pond.
Texas PHOTO John Pond. Orion at top, courtesy Orion.
Disney cruises offer family oriented floor shows aboard their ships. Disney’s newer ships are being kept on the east coast of the US, but west coast sailing should be more popular and cheaper, for Australians and New Zealanders. It should be noted that the high cost of onshore excursions has not gone over well as it’s very hard to say NO to children.
An example of these options: the chance to pan for gold with Donald Duck and friends in Skagway ($49-$89), or soar over the Juneau Ice Field in a helicopter, land on a glacier and help prepare a team of sled dogs for mushing ($499-$699). Parents had better bring fat wallets. I wonder if Scrooge McDuck would pay for these options.
Princess Cruises has released its 2013 Europe and Alaska programs, which feature the debut of the new Royal Princess in the Mediterranean as well as Grand Princess’ first-ever Alaska season.
In Europe, Princess will be sailing its youngest fleet ever in the region, with seven ships plying the waters of the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Northern Europe. The line’s newest ship, Royal Princess, will sail on Princess’ popular Grand Mediterranean route, while passengers can take advantage of a variety of other Europe cruise options across the fleet, including the British Isles, Holy Land, Black Sea and Scandinavia & Russia. Fares start from $1309* per person twin-share for a seven-night cruise from Southampton to Spain and France on Crown Princess.
In Alaska, the seven-ship Princess fleet will feature the recently remodelled Grand Princess cruising from San Francisco and will offer the most balcony staterooms in the region, perfect for taking in the spectacular scenery. Alaskan cruises start from $899* per person twin-share for a seven-night Inside Passage cruise on Golden Princess, sailing roundtrip from Seattle. John Pond.
RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS EXPANDS ONBOARD DINING OPTIONS Five new signature dining venues to be added during a four-week long dry dock. When she emerges from a major US$54 million revitalisation this month, Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas will feature five more unique dining options .
“As part of our fleet-wide revitilisation program, Royal Caribbean is taking its most popular and exciting concepts and bringing them Down Under by including them on one of Australia’s favourite ships, Rhapsody of the Seas. Now guests will be able to satisfying their taste buds with everything from melt-in-your-mouth steaks to sushi and a private dining room to choose from,” said Adam Armstrong, commercial manager, Royal Caribbean Australia.
Among the five new highly acclaimed dining concepts debuting onboard Rhapsody of the Seas, guests will be able to experience: Chops Grille: featuring a menu of prime cuts prepared a la minute (open for dinner, USD30 cover charge). Izumi: a sushi bar with hot-rock cooking, the pan-Asian cuisine restaurant is a no-hassle, authentic dining experience. Chef’s Table: An exclusive private dining experience for 14 guests co-hosted by the Executive Chef and Sommelier for an intimate wine-paired five-course dinner (open for dinner, USD95 cover charge). Giovanni’s Table: Royal Caribbean’s new classic Italian restaurant Giovanni’s Table features the flavours and tastes of Tuscany with a menu of favourites including focaccia, fresh pesto, Zuppa di Porcini, Gnocchi di Palate, Lasagna Tradizionale and more (open for lunch and dinner, USD 15 cover charge for lunch, and USD 20 for dinner). Park Café: An indoor/outdoor gourmet market featuring salads, sandwiches, soups and pastries (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, complimentary). Together with the grand 2-story Edelweiss Dining Room, the casual Windjammer Café and 24-hour room service this takes the total onboard dining choices to seven – a number exceeded only by sister ship Radiance of the Seas in Australian waters. Can’t wait to try these new options, John Pond.
Avalon Expands Fleet Sales Hit Record. Avalon Waterways will expand its European river cruise fleet to 12 ships next year, announcing plans for another luxury Suite Ship as its bookings in the Australian market reach an all-time record.
Having already announced the 64-cabin Avalon Artistry II to join the fleet in April next year, Avalon has now confirmed another new Suite Ship for 2013 with the launch of the 83-cabinAvalon Expression the following month. Both ships will be modeled on Europe’s first Suite Ship, the Avalon Panorama, which has been a sell-out success since its introduction last year. It will be joined this year by fellow Suite Ships Avalon Vista and Avalon Visionary which are scheduled for a double christening in May.
Designed with Australian travelers in mind, Avalon’s Suite Ships have revolutionised river cruise ship standards with two entire decks of all-suite accommodation. They offer 30 per cent more cabin space than the average competitor and feature wall-to-wall panoramic windows that draw back to transform each suite into an open-air balcony.
Avalon Waterways Managing Director Australasia Stewart Williams said the response to Avalon’s Suite Ship concept had been outstanding.
“Australia has become Avalon’s fastest growing market worldwide, thanks largely to the success of the Suite Ships,” Mr Williams said. “Our river cruise bookings in Australia are currently 40 per cent above this time last year and 2012 has already eclipsed all other sales records in this market.” Avalon Waterways already operates the most modern fleet of river cruise ships in Europe, with an average age of just under three years. The introduction of Avalon Artistry II andAvalon Expression in 2013 will give Avalon five Suite Ships and an overall European fleet of 12 luxury vessels.
I will be sailing on Avalon in the next few weeks, looking forward to reporting with lots of pictures, John Pond.
MSC CRUISES WELCOMES MSC PREZIOSA TO THE FLEET AND COMPLETES ITS FABULOUS FANTASIA CLASS SERIES. MSC Preziosa to offer perfect mix of technology, elegance and exclusivity. MSC Cruises continues its rapid expansion with the announcement that the company has finalized negotiations with STX France and signed a contract to take over a 140,000 ton cruise ship following the termination of the agreement with the original owner.
The new ship is named MSC Preziosa and will become the 13th addition to the MSC Cruises’ fleet, as well as the precious fourth ship in the series of fantasia-class ships, which include MSC Fantasia, MSC Splendida and the long-awaited MSC Divina. MSC Preziosa is in fact the sister ship of MSC Divina, who is currently having her final touches applied in the STX ship yard in St Nazaire, France, before her christening in May 2012. The new ship represents an investment of 550 million euros and will be delivered at the end of March 2013.
“STX France is delighted with this successful outcome after months of negotiations. The length of time necessary to settle them is the perfect illustration of the challenges faced by the cruise industry in terms of financing, which impact our industry directly. It’s the new Achilles’ heel, after competitiveness, on which our efforts are now focused,” said Laurent Castaing, STX France General Manager. “In this context, the integration of X32 into the prestigious MSC Cruise’s fleet is a relief and a real pleasure for STX.”
MSC Preziosa will boast 1,751 cabins, 26 lifts, and 18 decks, 14 of them for passengers. Guests will be able to enjoy four main restaurants, two speciality restaurants, 21 bars, a casino, four swimming pools, including an infinity pool, 12 whirlpools, a bowling alley, a sports area with playing fields, a fitness centre, a children’s area and the superb MSC Aurea Spa.
MSC Preziosa’s total construction is 45% complete, and her mechanical zones are 70% complete. The best, however, is yet to come! MSC Cruises will soon begin the fitting and furnishing of the 333 metre long, 38 metre wide ship and work its unique Mediterranean magic on turning MSC Preziosa into a stylish masterpiece and a perfect mix of advanced technology, elegance and exclusive services. John Pond
PICTURED: MSC Divina Sister Ship to Preziosa.
Attended Art Gallery NSW Packing Room Prize Announcement. Melbourne artist Raelene Sharp was awarded the Packing Room Prize in conjunction with the 2012 Archibald Prize for her portrait of actor John Wood. The winner was Sydney John Wood is one of Australia’s favourite actors with a career spanning over 40 years. He has also won several Silver Logies for his work in Blue Heelers, Rafferty’s Rules and Power without Glory.
Sharp focused on Wood’s very recognisable, well-known face. “I did a few studies of him to find the right look in order to represent his personality. We have now become quite good friends.”
Born in Melbourne in 1957, Sharp began her career as a graphic artist. She now concentrates on portraiture, although she also paints in other genres. She has received many corporate and university portrait commissions. She is a five-time finalist in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award, winning in 2006. She has also been a finalist in the James Farrell Self Portrait Award and the Black Swan Prize for Portraiture among others, and has been hung in Melbourne’s Hidden Faces of the Archibald Prize – the Victorian equivalent of the Salon des Refuses. She is part of Fusion6, which has had two successful portrait exhibitions in recent years. This is her first time in the Archibald Prize.
The Packing Room Prize gives the gallery staff who receive the entries for the Archibald a chance to vote for their favourite Archibald portrait. This is the Gallery’s head storeman Steve Peter’s 29th Archibald and the 21st Packing Room Prize. Raelene receives $1,000 and a $500 ANZ debit card. John Pond.
Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced today details available on the Gallery’s website at www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au PHOTO: John Pond ©
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE’S ONBOARD DIGITAL WORKSHOP PROGRAM EXPANDED. Holland America Line has expanded its Digital Workshops powered by Microsoft Windows enrichment program with the latest technology and classes for all skill levels. The popular complimentary workshops, led by Microsoft-trained “techsperts” on all 15 ships in the Holland America fleet, teach guests with varying levels of computer and camera experience how to take better vacation photos, make movies, edit pictures and create online scrapbooks.
“The Digital Workshops have consistently been a favorite and the perfect way for guests to share their cruise experience with friends and relatives,” says Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “Our partnership with Microsoft means that our guests will always have access to the latest software and tools, in addition to highly trained ‘techsperts’ who can show them the ins and outs of their computers — for no charge.”
Guests can choose to attend all or just some of the workshops, with each offered at various times and days throughout every cruise. Multiple workshops are held every day. In addition, one-on-one coaching, called “Techspert Time,” also is available for more than 20 hours each week for guests to stop by with questions. SOUNDS GREAT.
JOHN POND: Only problem is I am a Mac person as are many others. I would love to attend similar mac classes. Oh well off to my local mac store.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES TRADE BRIGADE MARCHES DOWN UNDER Six Carnival Sales Team Members with 162 years combined experience head to Australia to partner with the Complete Cruise Solution team. Starting immediately, travel agents across the country will be in for a treat with the arrival of six senior members of the Carnival Cruise Lines US Sales team, that will partner with the local Complete Cruise Solution team to create the ‘Carnival Trade Brigade’. While Down Under, they will help train 1,000 local agents on Carnival Cruise Lines’ key selling points ahead of Carnival Spirit’s arrival this coming October.
Jennifer Vandekreeke, Director Carnival Cruise Lines Australia said: “We’ve had a very encouraging start to the sales season. We’re excited to take that to the next level as we bring a deep understanding of the Carnival brand and product knowledge on the road. We’ll be drawing on the US team’s extensive experience and passion to help bring to life what a Carnival Spirit holiday is all about.” There will be a no-tipping policy and so much more to do, see, taste and try every day of passengers holidays. Also a $300 cash back* offer on cruises sailing from Sydney and Melbourne, which has now been extended to April 14th.
Vicki Tomasino, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Vice President of Sales, said, “We can’t wait to begin our tour of Australia! We’re really blessed in that we’ve been able to experience these ships first hand, It’s not until you’ve seen and experienced the ship that you’ll truly understand the vibe – it’s hard to fathom just how impressive it really is”.
John Pond: The Carnival Spirit sounds a very exciting ship, so much so that I will be heading to Hawaii to join her for her inaugural voyage to Australia. Will have lots to write about her soon.
I don’t usually publish press releases on sales appointments, but as it comes from one of my favourite hotels in Europe, here it is. Mr Ludek Louda has been appointed Director of Sales & Marketing of InterContinental Prague.
He started his hotel career as Director of Sales & Marketing in 2002 at the Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre (IHG). He has worked for travel agency Detur as Country Manager of sales & marketing responsible for Turkey, Tunisia and Greece.
Ludek held executive positions in different 5* hotels, especially in Russia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Turkey – Regional Sales Manager at the Renaissance Moscow, Director of Sales at the hotel Renaissance Atyrau, Director of sales & marketing at the Holiday Inn Samara, Director of sales & marketing responsible for Baltic States, Poland, Germany, Belarus and Russia at the Le Meridien Vilnius – Hotel & Golf Resort.
His last position was DOSM at the Corinthia Nevsky Palace St. Petersburg. Louda was born in Prague where he graduated from University of Economics. He speaks English, Russian and Czech. He loves oriental cuisine. His hobbies are discovering unknown places, downhill skiing, historical literature and movies. John Pond.http://prague.intercontinental.com/?src=ppc_google_brand&cm_mmc=tig-_-icprague-_-google-_-brand
By John Pond. Uniworld is one of my favourite River Ship lines and this is exciting. In 2013, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (www.uniworldcruises.com.au) will add another extraordinary river cruise destination to their collection of itineraries: Italy, the Po River, and the Venice Lagoon. The 13-day Splendours of Italy itinerary combines a 7-night river cruise along the Po River and the Venice Lagoon with a 2-night land stay in Florence and 3-nights in Rome. For those travelers who only wish to do the cruise portion, Uniworld will also offer a cruise-only option for 8-days, Venice & the Po River itinerary.
John Molinaro, General Manager, Uniworld, said: “As the leader in the river cruising industry, Uniworld remains committed to offering its guests an unrivalled travel experience as we continue to identifying new opportunities and unique destinations adapting our itineraries to meet their travel desires. “As a result, we wanted to give travelers the chance to experience the best of Italy, giving them the option to do a cruise only or a cruise and land program offering additional time in two of world’s best known and loved cities, Florence and Rome.”
Uniworld’s new Italy program is designed to bring the region’s art, architecture, music, cuisine, landscapes, culture, religious and political history together like pieces of an exquisite puzzle, creating an immersive and enlightening journey for each of their guests.
Uniworld will be moving one of their award-winning boutique cruise ships, the River Countess, to Venice and the Po River in 2013. The River Countess is being completely refurbished to reflect the spirit and heart of this great destination with all the elegant touches and finesse of a finely painted Italian masterpiece. Molinaro added: “Uniworld made the decision to move the River Countess from her current location along the Rhine, Main, and Danube to Italy. While this is a costly venture to move her, it’s the right decision as we wanted to provide our clients with itineraries to one of the most highly sought-after European destinations onboard one of our prizewinning river cruise ships, especially as many of our past guests have been asking us for a long time to offer cruises in this area.”
Molinaro added: “There is no place in the world like Italy, and Uniworld is the only major river cruise line to offer river cruising here. Cant wait to cruise in Italy. JP
BY JOHN POND: Norwegian Cruise Line has unveiled an intimate, once-in-a-lifetime gourmet dining experience by introducing the Chef’s Table fleet-wide. According to NCL, guests attending the Chef’s Table will feast on a nine-course, upscale menu consisting of unique and contemporary creations using the highest quality ingredients, sophisticated cooking techniques, flavor compositions and captivating presentations. All courses will be accompanied by wines that are specially paired by the line’s Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.
The two-and-a-half hour Chef’s Table dining experience begins with a glass of champagne. A group photo is taken before sitting down to begin their gourmet culinary experience in a luxurious and intimate restaurant setting that provides privacy and exclusivity. The Executive Chef welcomes the group and then describes the first two courses: an Amuse Bouche ‘Molecular Gastronome’ consisting of Spherical Mango, Vodka & Jalapeno Ravioli and an Orange-Wasabi Glazed Ahi Tuna Tartar with freshly-baked Sesame Crisp.
Asparagus Cream will be served for course three, then a Short Crust Tartlet and a delightful Grapefruit and Moscato Granite is served as course number five. Course six consists of a Plantain- Crusted, Pan Seared Sea Bass accompanied by Mango, Papaya & Avocado Salsa and Lobster Veloute and a Milk-Fed Veal Chop with Anna Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach and Truffle Veal Jus rounds out course number seven. Gourmet cheeses is served as course eight and the grand finale, course nine, is dessert, which consists of either a Yogurt-Mousse Dome with Lychee Raspberry Crème, Hazel Sablee and Lime Vanilla Reduction; or a Chocolate Log with ‘Spiced’ Dark Rum, Infused Banana and Cocoa Mousse.
A charge of US$75 per person, including gratuities, also includes a behind-the-scenes galley tour, one group photo and an individual photo with the Executive Chef. The Chef’s Table is limited to 12 guests per exclusive dining experience and is offered once per cruise on board Norwegian ships fleet-wide. JOHN POND I’ve put on weight just writing about this. Can’t wait for my next NCL cruise to partake. Cost of someting similiar on land (if you could find anything similiar) would be 4 times the price. I suggest booking as soon as you board.
Cunard’s magnificent 151,400-tonne Queen Mary 2 claimed the mantle of the largest ship ever to visit Victoria when she arrived in Melbourne this morning.
The elegant liner berthed at Port Melbourne’s Station Pier to spend the day in Melbourne as part of her historic maiden Royal Circumnavigation of Australia, which draws to a close this week. Stretching 345 metres – more than twice the length of Melbourne’s Cricket Ground – and rising 62 metres above the water, Queen Mary 2 is carrying around 2500 guests and 1200 crew.
Her maiden visit to Melbourne is expected to inject more than $500,000 into the local economy, with guests enjoying a day of sightseeing in the city and its surrounds.
PICTURES BY JAMES MORGAN ON BEHALF OF CARNIVAL AUSTRALIA VISIT OUR OTHER SITES:
I spent many hours popping in to chat with the actors and crew, perhaps this inspired my now love of cruising. Captain Stubing and his trusty crew aboard The Love Boat brightened many evenings for millions of viewers and is said to have caused the revival of cruising in the US and beyond.
Last weekend saw Captain Stubing, better known as actor Gavin McCloud, sail into Sydney, as a VIP passenger aboard the Pacific Princess, a ship dear to my heart. This ship used to call Sydney its home for several months each year during our cruise season and was very popular with Australians.
I used to lecture on a multitude of subjects onboard each year. The original Pacific Princess was used in many episodes of The Love Boat and was the setting for the hit TV series.
VISIT OUR OTHER SITES:
Cunard’s 151,400-tonne liner Queen Mary 2 is set to make history again next week when she berths for the first time at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) at Sydney’s Circular Quay on Wednesday March 7 for an overnight stay which will mark the end of her Royal Circumnavigation of Australia.
Bringing Queen Mary 2 alongside at Circular Quay, instead of berthing at Garden Island Naval Base, has become possible following Sydney Ports Corporation’s installation of a new anchoring point, which can cater for larger ships at the OPT. (ABOUT TIME TOO, JP)
The largest ship ever to visit Australia, Queen Mary 2 will be a spectacular sight in Circular Quay, stretching 345 metres along the foreshore and rising 62 metres above the water line – just five metres below the highest sail of the adjacent Sydney Opera House.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which represents Cunard Line in Australia, said Queen Mary 2′s use of Circular Quay confirmed that an upgraded OPT would be an important element in improving Sydney’s ability to handle cruise ship visits.
Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx at Mandarin Oriental, Paris awarded two Michelin Stars Mandarin Oriental, Paris is delighted to announce that just six months after its opening debut, its signature restaurant, Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx has been awarded two stars in the 2012 Michelin Guide, the French guide to gourmet dining.
“I am delighted to celebrate this fantastic culinary award with Thierry Marx and his team”, says Philippe Leboeuf, General Manager at Mandarin Oriental, Paris. “To receive two stars from Michelin is an impressive achievement, particularly only six months after opening”.
Intended as an intimate cocoon for diners, the gourmet restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor pays stunning tribute to Parisian haute couture. Designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have used white throughout, drawing guests into a unique atmosphere that is heightened by the white fabric drapes on the walls and ceiling.
With his creative and innovative cooking, Thierry Marx not only draws inspiration from his native France but also from his extensive travels through Asia-Pacific. His career has taken him to Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan. Using the finest and freshest ingredients, and offering the avant-garde textures and flavours for which he is renowned, Marx has been delighting diners since opening with his unique style and expertise at Mandarin Oriental, Paris’s signature restaurant. Chef Marx also oversees the hotel’s additional restaurants and bars in his role as Culinary Director.
About Mandarin Oriental, Paris Mandarin Oriental, Paris has a premier location on Rue Saint-Honoré, surrounded by history and fashionable shopping. The hotel’s 99 luxurious rooms and 39 suites offer guests an eminently stylish Parisian experience, and are among the most spacious in Paris.
Orion’s Russian Far East. Vodka, volcanoes and brown bears. Limited opportunity remains for modern day adventurers to join like-minded travellers on an Orion Expedition Cruises Russian Far East voyage to the land of ice and fire. Explore places as yet untouched by tourism from the comfort and security of the expedition cruise ship, Orion II, your base camp for the voyage.
Evocative names such as the Zhupanova River, Skaly Lavushky, Yankitcha and Petropavlovsk set the scene. Places that, until recently, remained off-limits to the West today still see a mere trickle of adventurous tourists
Enter the Wagnerian-like Valley of the Geysers, 200 steaming thermal vents from hell, in a Russian military-style helicopter, or, while exploring an abandoned Soviet air base, complete with half tracks and anti aircraft guns, stumbling across a chillingly familiar Iron Curtain image, Lenin, painted on a stone wall. Photograph the prolific wildlife in bird colonies and seal rookeries scattered along the remote coastline. Orion II’s specialist expedition team and specialist lecturers will enhance your time exploring this fascinating region of snow capped mountains and active volcanoes, wildlife, abandoned military bases and traditional onion-dome churches.
10 nights Natural Treasures of the Russian Far East /Orion II - 31 May 2012 or reverse itinerary 10 June 2012 - from $9,360 per person for an ocean view Ocean Suite. I loved cruising on Orion, think you will too, John Pond.
FREE UPGRADES ON MSC CRUISES’ GRAND MEDITERRANEAN PROGRAM. MSC Cruises is offering passengers the chance to “move up in the world” with a free upgrade on a selected number of its Grand Mediterranean cruises.
Furthermore, the family-owned cruise line is offering complimentary transfers between Venice and Genoa to link the back-to-back seven-night Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises which make up the Grand Mediterranean package.
The offers apply to combo bookings on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia from July 20 until October 19, 2012, as well as MSC Splendida and the yet-to-be-launched MSC Divina in October, 2012. “Pay for an inside category one cabin and you will be upgraded to a category six to 10 ocean view cabin on some of the cruises,” informed Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.
“That means you can have an ocean view cabin from $1318 per person, twin share for a combo cruise on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia in October,” she said. “That’s 14 nights for less than $100 a night with the free transfer between ships (Venice and Genoa) thrown in – fantastic value.” On the program, the MSC Armonia sets sail from Venice and calls on Ancona in Italy, Corfu, Greece’s Santorini, Athens and Atgostoli before cruising to Kotor in Montenegro and back to Venice.
Passengers are then transferred to Genoa where they board MSC Sinfonia for a round cruise which includes calls on Civitavecchia (Rome), Salemo (Amalfi Coast), Tunis, Ibiza, Palma and Marseille. In October, with prices starting at $1598 with an upgrade to a category 4 or 5 ocean view cabin, MSC Divina will cruise from Venice to Bari, Katakolon (Olympia), Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik before the passenger transfer to Genoa for a cruise aboard MSC Splendida to Barcelona, Tunis, Valletta, Messina and Civitavecchia (Rome) and back to Genoa. John Pond.
At a glittering event held at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel last night 11/2/12 the International Cruise Council of Australia presented their industry awards to a capacity trade audience from Australia and New Zealand.
ICCA chairman Gavin Smith RCI boss, mentioned the Costa Concordia sinking, indicating it had had little effect on bookings. This was not the case in Europe and the USA where booking are down.
AWARDS WERE GIVEN TO:
Industry pioneer Phil Hoffmann was awarded the the Neil Frazer Award for outstanding contribution to the cruise industry by an individual.
Agency Promotion of the Year – Australia: Just Cruises, “Cruise Sale Week”
Agency Promotion of the Year – New Zealand: Manly United Travel – “APT River Cruise Group Promotion”
Rising Star – Australia: Jamii-Lee Alpen, Ozcruising ACT
Rising Star – New Zealand: Helen Mahoney, Lets Cruise Auckland
Frank Johnson Award for Cruise Consultant of the Year – Australia: Roland Kautzky, Cruiseabout Port Melbourne
Frank Johnson Award for Cruise Consultant of the Year – New Zealand: Sue Grigg, Cruiseabout Ponsonby
Cruise Agency of the Year – Australia, Bronze: Phil Hoffmann Travel
Cruise Agency of the Year – Australia, Silver: Cruiseabout Turramurra
Cruise Agency of the Year – Australia, Gold: Bicton Travel WA
Cruise Agency of the Year – New Zealand, Bronze: Cruise Republic Auckland
Cruise Agency of the Year – New Zealand, Silver: Lets Cruise Auckland
Cruise Agency of the Year – New Zealand, Gold: iCruise Auckland
Neiil Frazer Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual: Phil Hoffmann
Words and Photo John Pond
PHOTO: Gavin Smith
Anyhow thought some of my readers might enjoy these $1 million for 30 second commercial aired during the SuperBowl.
Enjoy, John Pond.
CLICK LINK BELOW:
MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG PARTNERS WITH ART HK TO OFFER A SERIES OF ARTISTIC TREATS
Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is once again the Official Hotel for ART HK, offering guests a series of artistic treats ranging from an exclusive stay, an art-inspired lunch in the Michelin-starred Mandarin Grill + Bar to special cocktails in the M bar.
In collaboration with Art Basel, Hong Kong International Art Fair – ART HK, will this year take place from 17 to 20 May 2012. Located in the heart of the city, the iconic Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong has become the hotel of choice for many leading artists and gallery directors when visiting the city for either business or pleasure. The hotel is offering a special accommodation package. Between the 15 and 21 May, guests can enjoy an exclusive ART HK package:
- Overnight accommodation in a luxurious room
- Breakfast in the Clipper Lounge or Café Causette
- Two tickets to ART HK, including access to the fair, an invitation to the Vernissage on the 16 May, use of the ART HK Lounge, access to all events related to the fair and a complimentary catalogue
- A welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne
- Veuve Clicquot ART HK 12 – LUXE City Guide, exclusive edition
Rooms start at HKD4,899 subject to 10% service charge, per night, subject to availability. Room reservations can be made by contacting the hotel directly on: +852 2820 4202, or by visiting the tempting offers page on our website at www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong
MANDARIN ORIENTAL is one of my preferred hotels with decor and service second to none, John Pond.
Teddy Bears Stay Free at Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest. Ice skating, tobogganing, moonwalking, Segways and swimming in the snow are just a few of the Concierge’s recommended family activities. The Concierge has put together a list of family activities, allowing the guests to see the best of the city in experiences sure to create lots of unforgettable memories.
Ice skating is always popular during winter. The grand lake in the City Park freezes and transforms into Europe’s largest skating rink. Young guests can venture out into the spectacular Buda Hills and enjoy the fun of tobogganing. There are several snowy slopes available ranging from gentle to steep. The science museum Palace of Miracles at the Millenáris allows children to have a hands-on experience and interaction with different scientific principles. Szechenyi and Gellert baths are definite historical sites to visit and enjoy.
Ride bike or Segway and explore the city on wheels. (Forget the kids. I want to do this, JP.) Complimentary amenities include kids´ toiletries, bathrobes, games, books, kids menus and more await a family getaway in Budapest. JP: Budapest is one of my favourite cities and Four Seasons is such an outstanding hotel. Hope to be there soon. John Pond.
In a resounding confirmation of cruise season’s contribution as a major economic event, Sydney is set to host the month-long Festival of Cruising with a record 26 ships making an unprecedented 33 visits during February alone.
So many cruise ships are visiting that several will moor mid-harbour before ferrying passengers ashore to enjoy the many attractions of our harbour city.
Highlights of the Festival of Cruising include the Valentine’s Day arrival of Cunard’s 151,400-tonne flagship, Queen Mary 2 and sister ship Queen Elizabeth’s visit on February 28 for an overnight stay.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which represents 13 of the visiting cruise ships, said the Festival of Cruising emphasised cruising’s contribution as the standout success of the Australian tourism sector.
“The Festival of Cruising underlines the contribution that cruise ships make to the local economy,” Ms Sherry said.
Commenting on the Festival of Cruising, NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris, said the importance of the cruise industry to Sydney and NSW could not be understated.
“It continues to make a valuable contribution to the State’s economy and is an important factor that has helped the NSW Government develop its strategy to double expenditure by visitors to NSW by 2020,” Mr Souris said.
“Cruising is certainly one of the most exciting segments in the leisure market, with continuing strong growth prospects as the record number of liners arriving in the harbour city indicates.
Sydney is recognised by the international cruise industry as one of the most attractive harbour approaches in the world. John Pond