Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Become Gluten Intolerant (Funny) - Ultra Spiritual Life episode 1...

Get Up & Go: P&O Cruises in the South Pacific - an 80 year tradition

Get Up & Go: P&O Cruises in the South Pacific - an 80 year tradition

P&O Cruises in the South Pacific - an 80 year tradition

By guest blogger Roderick Eime

Everyone knows that cruising is just about the hottest thing in travel at the moment. It seems everyone is cruising and everyone else just can’t wait to go.

Just these last couple of years, all the big cruise lines have brought bigger and fancier ships down to Australia to cash in on our enthusiasm for the shipboard vacation experience.

Celebrity Cruises have brought the superb Celebrity Solstice, while Carnival has homeported both Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend in Sydney. The respected US brand, Holland America spoiled us with both Noordam and Volendam while Royal Caribbean Cruise Line have moved a small fleet here with Legend of the Seas going to Brisbane and both beauties, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas squeezing into a very busy Sydney.

Pacific Dawn entered service for P&O in 2007
Old favourites, the luxurious Princess Cruises, have had both Sun Princess and Dawn Princess here for some time. Then there are the many visits by ships on their round the world itineraries like Cunard and Azamara passing through.

But one cruise line stands above all others with their attachment to Australia and that is the 178-year-old Peninsular & Orient Line, known these days as just P&O.

A pioneer of steam ships back in the early 19th century and then known as The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, P&O offered ‘excursions’ to intrepid travellers aboard the mail ships as they completed their rounds to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) and the Mediterranean. The first of these cruises set sail in 1844.

Pioneered here in Australia P&O cruises to the Pacific began in the 1930s with the classic mail steamers SS Strathaird, Stratheden and Strathallen. Their flourishing pre-war Pacific activities included cruises to Norfolk Island, Noumea, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the then New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).

SS Himalaya pioneered the P&O Pacific cruise revival
The SS Strathaird, which sailed for P&O from 1932-61, was of similar appearance to the postwar cruise ships such as the venerable SS Himalaya, Arcadia and Chusan and was one of five ‘Strath’ class steamers that served as both jolly tourist ships and sombre troop transports as well as refugee and immigrant ships; that dark chapter spelling a pause to pleasure cruises until 1953 when routes to the South Pacific were resumed. More adventurous travellers could employ the mail routes to travel as far as India, Ceylon and all the way to England via the Suez Canal or Cape Town.

With mail contracts gradually falling more and more to the new jet aircraft, the former mail ships were again returned to pleasure cruising, the milestone being 1968 when SS Himalaya was homeported in Sydney for dedicated cruise itineraries to the Pacific.

When the much-loved former migrant ship Himalaya was retired in 1974, another milestone for the company was achieved with the acquisition of US cruise line Princess Cruises and the abolition of ‘classes’ on cruise ships (something that didn’t hadn't sat well with egalitarian Australians).

From that time on, it was onward and upward for P&O including the takeover of rival brand Sitmar, well known as operator of the ‘fun ship’, Fairstar. There were several corporate mergers and demergers, but the most significant one came in 2003 when P&O Australia became part of the massive Carnival Corporation along with ten other cruise lines. Carnival then became the largest cruise company in the world. P&O still continued to cruise under its own brand, filling a niche in the cruise market that complemented other Carnival brands like Princess, Carnival and even Cunard. 

‘Pacific’ named ships Pacific Dawn, Pacific Sky, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Sun and Pacific Star all sailed under the popular leisure brand throughout the ‘noughties’ gaining fans and followers who have since ‘graduated’ to other brands in the massive Carnival fleet as their lives’ circumstances changed, but their love of cruising did not.

Now, as we reach 2015, the level of luxury and technical sophistication of the P&O fleet and the world’s cruise ships in general is at a dizzying height. Gourmet restaurants, spa and beauty salons, water slides, surf simulators and even ice rinks can now be found on cruise ships out of Sydney.

This year P&O will expand its current fleet of Pacific Jewel, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl by two to make five vessels in total operating from Sydney. Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will move over from Holland America and join the other ‘Pacific fleet’. The former HAL ships, Statendam and Ryndam, each carry a modest 1260 passengers, compared to 2020 aboard the largest P&O ship currently operating out of Australia, Pacific Dawn, which entered service for P&O in 2007.

P&O Cruises Australia have come a long way from their beginnings as part of the oldest cruise line in the world. Today their five ships service a fun, young and family-friendly market on routes to the South Pacific pioneered more than 80 years ago. Australians certainly love cruising and P&O have been there all the way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In a World First Tourism New Zealand Embraces New Colouring-in Trend

In a World First Tourism New Zealand Embraces New Colouring-in Trend: Tourism New Zealand is giving travellers the opportunity to 'colour their journey' with a series of adult colouring-in sketches available to download from Colouring-in is believed to have the same effect on the brain as meditation has on the mind. Considering these benefits, Tourism New Zealand has created four sketches of iconic New Zealand locations from the new 100% Pure brand campaign...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Get Up & Go: A local's guide to the top 5 things to do in Northern Ireland

Get Up & Go: A local's guide to the top 5 things to do in Northern Ireland

Get Up & Go: A local's guide to the top 5 things to do in Northern Ireland

Get Up & Go: A local's guide to the top 5 things to do in Northern Ireland

A local's guide to the top 5 things to do in Northern Ireland

Guest blogger Lyndsay Scott shares her local knowledge.
Given Northern Ireland's turbulent recent history, this 'wee' country which straddles the north east corner of Ireland has, for many years, slipped under the tourist radar. Even now, Northern Ireland is, too often, left off the tourist agendas of visitors to the island. But times are changing and the world is finally beginning to take notice of what this rough diamond has to offer. In fact, over the past few years, Belfast has proudly hosted a wealth of international events, concerts and spectacles which really shows how much things have changed here.

Truth is, Northern Ireland is charismatic, spirited and with a rugged and varied landscape including dramatic mountain ranges sweeping right down to the sea, she is also breathtakingly beautiful.  Given the unique political situation here, it's a place of fascinating contrasts, where you'll pay for your Guinness with British currency. So if you want to discover the undiscovered, get the full picture and see Ireland from a different vantage point - make sure you head north to unearth the hidden gem of the Emerald Isle.
Here's a local's low-down on the top five things to experience in Northern Ireland:

1. Take in Belfast's street murals

The Northern Irish have a reputation for being a feisty bunch, and it has long been tradition to take to the streets to proclaim political allegiances, mark territories and vent frustrations. As a result, Belfast's troublesome history is literally etched on the walls of its grey, inner-city architecture in a fascinating display of colourful and subversive graffiti.
For an evocative experience, visit the unionist/loyalist areas and gaze up at images of masked gunman swearing allegiance to the British rule. Enter a nationalist/republican part however, and you will see heroes of the resistance movement immortalised on the concrete facades.

But it's not all politics, and recently, murals have appeared in vibrant tribute to some of Belfast's achievements, such as former Manchester United soccer player George Best and the Titanic, which was built in Belfast. To see all the best spots, take a black cab tour with commentary from a knowledgeable local.

2. Hit the coast

While you may not get the ideal beach weather - no matter which way you leave Belfast, you will, at least, be greeted with a coastline to rival the best of them. Head east into County Down and within 30 minutes, you'll get to the seaside resort town of Bangor, and the charming villages of Groomsport and Donaghadee where you can explore sandy beaches and sleepy harbour fronts lined with traditional bars, restaurants and handicraft shops. Award winning pub-restaurant Pier 36 in Donaghadee serves up some cracking seafood. Head west into County Antrim and you'll eventually hit the "North Coast", a celebrated, scenic route through many of the region's top tourist attractions.

3.Walk in the footsteps of giants at Giant's Causeway

Set against a rugged backdrop of the wild North Atlantic Ocean and imposing cliff faces, it's not surprising that this surreal spectacle of towering, hexagonal stone columns rising out of sea is the stuff of legends.  As the story goes, mythical giants carved this UNESCO World Heritage site in an attempt to bridge the gap between Northern Ireland and Scotland. The other explanation is that it was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption - but I know which story I prefer. Visiting this geological, natural wonder is free of charge, but you pay to use the car park and the Giant's Causeway Visitor Experience.

4. Discover Belfast's nautical past at Titanic Belfast

Brought back from rack and ruin, Belfast's former dilapidated industrial heartland has recently had a multi-million dollar facelift, and central to the shiny new "Titanic Quarter" is Titantic Belfast, one of Belfast's premier visitor attractions and a nod to the city's maritime and industrial heritage.
Located on the very slipway where the RMS Titanic was built in the former Harland & Wolff shipyard, the glimmering, aluminium edifice is reminiscent of the world's most famous ocean liner's main prow - or is it an iceberg!?
The world's largest Titanic visitor attraction will take you on a state-of-the-art experience with clever and lively exhibits charting the history of Belfast and the ill-fated ship, which sunk on her maiden voyage. But rather than considering it a maritime disaster, Belfast has began to take pride in the engineering triumph, and it is long running joke in Belfast that "it [the Titanic] was fine when it left us!" For tickets, opening hours and prices visit the website.

5. Grab a pint of the black stuff at a traditional bar

Just like their Southern counterparts, Northern Irish people love nothing more than a "wee drink" [read: a lot of alcohol] and "good craic" [read : good fun]. No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without a trip to the bar for a pint of Guinness - and of course, there are a lot to choose from.  The Duke of York pub is tucked down a cobbled  alleyway right in the heart of Belfast's historic and quirky cathedral quarter. Step into the warmth of the bar and feel your eyes adjust to the dark-wood interior while you gaze up a vast array of enamel signposts and antique mirrors decorating the walls. Irish traditional music makes for a fun and lively atmosphere at weekends.
For a blast from the opulent past, head to the stunning Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street, one of Northern Ireland's best known pubs and one of the finest examples of a former Victorian Gin Palace. Grab a booth, and watch the light flood in through the stained glass windows to illuminate the entrancing mosaic of tiles adorning the grand interior.

For more information on visiting Northern Ireland, contact Discover Northern Ireland on +44 (0)28 9023 1221 or visit the website.