Monday, January 19, 2015

Get Up & Go

Get Up & Go

Cruising with Concern


Addressing the Top 5 concerns of potential cruisers
(Compiled by Fast Cover Travel Insurance)
Aussie cruisers are taking over! Well, not exactly, but for the first time ever we’re number 1 in the world for cruises per capita, even eclipsing the USA. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about or have some reservations, here we address the most common concerns of the potential cruiser:

Potential cruiser concern number 1: Cruising is expensive

Cruise passengers tell us they are fearful of the cost of a cruise. However cruises can be recognised as one of the most cost-effective ways to holiday around the world. There is no other way to get all-inclusive accommodation, food and transport all day, everyday. Depending on your flexibility, your dream destination and the time of year, there are cruise deals on offer all year round and the early bird specials are always the most cost effective! 


Potential cruiser concern number 2: What if I don’t like what’s on the cruise?

If hatted restaurants are your thing, upmarket boutiques or spa treatments and private jacuzzis, rest assured there is a cruise out there for you. Cruise companies work hard to keep up to date with the latest activities and greatest trends. You’ll receive a daily on board newsletter detailing available activities and the best part is, all you have to do is turn up. Do your research before you depart to find the cruise best suited to you!
                                         Celebrity Solstice.

                                              Diamond Princess.

Potential cruiser concern number 3: What if there’s no one my age?

Contrary to the common misconception that cruises are primarily for octogenarians (or those close behind), more and more multi-generational families and travellers are taking on the cruise scene. According to the 2014 cruise passenger data over a third of passengers are under the age of 60! Different age groups enjoy different activities – reading and relaxing, attending a cocktail party or more educational and engaging activities like cooking classes, rock climbing or ice skating for the kids. There really is something for every age.


Potential cruiser concern number 4: With that many people on the boat, I’ll have to queue to get into things and I hate queuing!

Be concerned no more! Nowadays, you can pretty much do all of your bookings online, not only for the main dining room, but also the spa, shore excursions and other activities, as soon as your booking is confirmed with the cruise line. When you arrive check out the activities, set up a meeting with the concierge or activities organiser and lock them in to ensure you don’t miss out.

Shore excursions and eating at local restaurants can be organised by the ship's concierge - or you can book online.

Potential cruiser concern number 5: Internet access is woeful

Extremely costly and also painfully unreliable, internet access on board a cruise ship is in truth, woeful. Depending solely on the weather conditions and the number of other passengers trying to surf the net, can be very frustrating. But you’re meant to be escaping the outside world anyway, right?

Our tips? Try a time when the least number of passengers are also trying to connect, or ask the staff members where the best spot on the ship is for getting a reasonable connection.
                                         Getting ready to plate up lunch on the Diamond Princess.
                                         Seadream YachtClub

With any type of holiday, there’s bound to be pros and cons. But with 36 ships making a total of 650 port visits around the country this cruise season, cruising is definitely becoming a more popular and tailored holiday option for Aussies. So with a little bit of research, we doubt you’ll have any trouble finding the one that suits you!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Get Up & Go: Bergen . . . .brrrr, chilly but ulitimately cool!

Get Up & Go: Bergen . . . .brrrr, chilly but ulitimately cool!

Bergen . . . .brrrr, chilly but ulitimately cool!

Ice magic

Bergen, Norway: a little colour from one seriously cold town. Guest blogger Belinda Jackson sailed with the cool people.

Dark days, freezing temperatures, treacherous ice and limb-numbing snow: what’s not to love about travelling in the world’s extreme north and south?
The Danes even have a word for the addiction that sees intrepid travellers spending their lives exploring the polar regions: polarhullar.
After several days sailing in the Arctic Circle on the coastal passenger and freight shipping route the Hurtigruten, I’m below the circle and back in the (relative) comfort zone of the Norwegian town of Bergen, trying to describe the snowy-hail mix I’d experienced further north, in Rørvik. I’m grappling with the description of the small, tightly formed balls of snow that were powdery, almost dry to the touch.
“Sorry, in Norwegian we don’t have a hundred names for snow,” says a Bergen man. “But in Bergen, we do have a hundred names for rain,” and everyone around him laughs knowingly.
Bergen, you see, gets 265 days’ rain each year.


                                          Bergen - pretty as a picture!

“And last year, we had 300 days’ rain,” adds his friend. Yes, they’re counting. It’s midwinter, with no sun and it’s absolutely pelting down. I can’t wait to go outside.
Despite its dreary winter weather, Bergen is picturebook charming, with its quaint timber waterfront buildings, all pitched roofs and summery colours against the darkening sky. This gloomy winter’s eve, the brightest shops on the waterfront are selling delicate glass Christmas ornaments and knitted snowflakes. Even the town’s McDonalds is situated in an elegant old building, dishing up en smak av Norge, their Taste of Norway burger served with the country’s most famous cheese, Jarlsberg.


My hotel, the nattily named Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret (above), is right on the waterfront in historic Bryggen. The hotel is a short walk to the Fløibanen – the shiny funicular that takes you to the top of Mt Fløyen, 320m above sea level, to buy moose fridge magnets and take in the panorama of the Norwegian coastline – and close by Fisketorget, the city’s fish market.
I know, it doesn’t sound toasty, but the glamorous, modern glass market spills across the waterfront, and does a racy trade in fish and chips, fresh crab and tastes of hot-smoked spiced salmon. In the 800-year-old market, its most famous resident, a colossal Svalbard polar bear (stuffed), overlooks the treasures of the cold sea spread out for us chilled shoppers. Stock up on eminently packable gifts or picnic fare such as tinned king crab, reindeer salami and tubes of the iconic Norwegian Mills cod roe kaviar – the rich bounty of the Arctic.


Surrounded by the city’s twinkling lights, eating kaviar and toasting the snowy peaks with hot cocoa, polarhullar is guaranteed.
For more information: visit bentours.com.au, hurtigruten.com, clarionhotel.com, visitbergen.com and visitnorway.com.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Bentours, bentours.com.au.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Get Up & Go: Put some spice in your life

Get Up & Go: Put some spice in your life

Put some spice in your life

Get Up & Go guest blogger Jac Taylor adds some spice to our day.

Most travellers come to Penang looking for postcard-grade paradise. It has all the ingredients, after all: swaying palm trees, buffet-toting resorts, photo-available monkeys in the trees and enough beaches that, somewhere, there’s a secluded spot in the sunshine with your name on it.
I came for paradise too and, when you’re a travel writer who’s genuinely on holidays, the most holiday-like thing you can do is to go ON the beaten track. Be a tourist. Hang your camera around your neck and remember to be wide-eyed about the fun, touristy stuff. So it seemed only fitting to log onto the resort WiFi, once ensconced by the pool amongst an international array of toddlers splashing their little hearts out, and look up the top tourist spots.


Number One on the list didn’t really grab me, to be honest, being a garden tour – but being nothing if not dedicated, I found a lovely man in the nearby town who was willing to let me borrow his brother’s car for a tidy sum, and set off to see what all the fuss was about.
The Tropical Spice Garden is beautiful. Thoroughly, peacefully, heart-fillingly nice. The guides simply can’t wait to show you how pretty it is, as well as how clever Mother Nature has been, giving all these plants a thousand and one uses – most of which are downright fascinating. A pathway crisscrosses up the mountainside and is best taken slowly, since every leaf and berry seem to tell a story; if you’re an avid photographer, you’ll be moving at a snail’s pace.


We saw how cinnamon bark looks when still attached to a tree, and heard stories of lives lost when spices were worth more than gold. We handed around freshly dried cardamom pods to sniff, and tasted fresher-than-fresh ginger tea. Up the top of the incline, a schmickly turned-out cooking school enlightened aproned visitors, elbow-deep and grinning from ear to ear.


What I saw over the rise past the school, though, widened my own grin: a timber treehouse serving spicy cocktails, overlooking the azure waters far below. This alone is worth the visit, but keep enough ringgit in your wallet for the most fragrant souvenir shop I’ve seen. Fresh whole nutmeg, pure citronella oil spray, you name it, and – as long as you declare it all – you can bring it back home and, quite literally, add a little spice back into your life.


Jac Taylor is a travel writer, photographer and TV producer who has more than a passing interest in top travel attractions. Her new website The Travel Ten (www.thetravelten.com) launches in(February).