Dubai to London on Dawn Princess 2011

Dubai is one of the most changeable and changing cities in the world. Blink and you might miss another architectural marvel fill the skyline. You can walk for miles in shopping malls that are outrageous, fabulous and jaw dropping.  Go skiing on a black run, ice skating, find your perfect gold and diamond bracelet, see fountains that light up at night and ‘dance’ to music or sit at one of the many cafés have a cuppa watching the world go by.  

Our 2011 group of travellers were amazed and delighted with our first destination and while we had several activities as a group, many spent hours exploring this city with new friends.  Some took the opportunity to visit the Burj Al Arab for a sumptuous afternoon tea with million dollar views and also Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world.   

On our last night in Dubai we visited a Bedouin camp enjoying a sumptuous feast while relaxing in traditional Bedouin style on cushions and carpets.  The ladies tried henna tattoos and all enjoyed the excellent belly dancer.

Boarding the Dawn Princess for the cruise section of our holiday is always a joy. As always, staff are welcoming, cabins well appointed and cuisine excellent, our home away from home for the next 4 weeks.  Easing into shipboard life with a few sea days before our first port of call encourages people to wind down into holiday mode while familiarising themselves with the ship.

Salalah, Oman is a non tourist type of town yet it appears the Queen of Sheba may have lived nearby.  We toured the ruins of an ancient palace, overlooking a lagoon, watching flamingos feed.  Off out into the rugged rocky desert to view 2000 yr old frankincense trees, along a jagged coastline with blowholes and soaring cliffs.  Returning to town we visited the souk for frankincense and myrrh, oils and perfumes, with many other delights available.

More sea days to enjoy the many activities of the ship and those organised by tour leaders Amanda, Gretha and Leeanne.   

Petra, Jordan is hidden in one of the many folds of the mountains of the Negev desert.  Walking into Petra along the narrow winding canyon it’s easy to see how this community was kept secret for so long.  Finally we stepped out to view the treasury building made famous in the movie, Indiana Jones and the last crusade.  But there is more to see of this hidden city, a roman amphitheatre, Nabataean rock tombs and amazing geological features.   

Following sea days include a transit of the Suez Canal and an early arrival in Port Said.  The canal is an awe inspiring piece of engineering; all dug by hand with shovels. 

Cairo, Egypt is the biggest city in Africa, busy, bustling, bursting with life and home to the mighty Pyramids of Giza.  Nothing can prepare you for your first visit it is everything you imagine and more.

Jerusalem, Israel, historically fascinating and of great religious importance to many people the world over.   A walking tour through the old city finishing at the Western (wailing) Wall and a stop in Bethlehem on the West Bank opened our eyes to the differences and similarities of people and religions.

Mykonos, Greece an island of blue and white buildings, clear blue water on golden beaches with the hot sun in a wide expanse of blue sky.  Picture perfect and we all took lots of pictures.  A day to drink Greek coffee, send postcards or just laze away your time shopping, snoozing, or visit the beaches where swimsuits are optional!

Istanbul, Turkey a city thought to be the jewel in the crown of so many empires, as it is the gateway to Europe or the Orient depending which side of the Bosphorus you stand. A walking tour though the home of Sultans, St Sophia, Blue Mosque and the roman ruins highlight the richness of over 1000 years of history.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli Peninsula allowed us to see what our soldiers saw in that early morning in April nearly 100 years ago.  A moving service and wreath laying was held with a performance of the Dawn Princess Choir, made up of over 150 passenger volunteers, who  practised every day for the service.  Nearly the whole ship attended with standing room only.

Athens, Greece, settled as a place to worship the goddess Athena and birthplace of democracy but only if you weren’t a woman or a slave!  However both women and men made it to the top of Acropolis with great city views and temples that amaze the mind and lift the spirit. Of course we also made time to wonder the plaka, the old part of the city with interesting shops and restaurants       

Citivecchia, Italy, gateway to Rome the eternal city. The Vatican and the Colosseum are highlights for many, so stops were included but we also travelled through the city like locals; on foot. A walking tour lets you discover the treasures hidden down cobbled lanes and squares no bus could ever reach.

Livorno, Italy, stepping-off port for the Tuscan countryside and the picturesque village of San Gimignano.  This hill top village is everything you imagine a Tuscan village could be.  City walls built to protect the village. Cobbled narrow streets which twist and turn with unexpected vistas across rolling hills covered in sunflowers, wheat fields or vineyards.

Monaco, a tiny principality surrounded by France made famous when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and put it on the jet set map.   We landed by Tender going past multimillion dollar yachts anchored in the harbour some with helicopters! Touring along the corniche gave us extensive views, while walking past the ‘Palais du Prince’ less than a week after Prince Albert got married with all the decorations still in place was a treat . We also crossed the border to Nice for coffee and a chance to sample local delicacies at the market such as socca, cherries and flat peaches.

Barcelona, Spain, famously home of many Gaudi architectural wonders including the Sagrada Familia.  Strolling along La Ramblas to see the ‘living’ statues, sampling tapas and sipping sangria filled many peoples time on a hot lazy afternoon. 

Lisbon, Portugal, a city shaken to near obliteration but rebuilt into a people friendly city with verdant green gardens and ‘wild’ lands through and around the city and a short drive to Sintra the home of palaces, castles and luxury homes. Returning to the ship via the coast road allowed us to gasp with wonder at windsurfing skills this area is world famous for.

Le Havre, France a huge bustling container port but it took only minutes to leave the hustle behind heading for Giverny and Monet’s Garden.  Our only day of rain for the whole trip didn’t dampen our spirits.

Dover, England, white cliffs of ‘that’ song fame and rolling green downs of southern England are a delight to drive through on a sunny day heading to one of the most iconic cities in the world, London.  Disembarkation off the Dawn Princess was a breeze with just a short holdup due to misplaced luggage.  Located a short stroll from Harrods, our hotel was welcoming and comfortable which eased some of the sadness we felt as out amazing journey was coming to an end. Our final organised activity was a tour of London with some of the famous blue badge guides. These guides hold so many interesting stories and facts in their memories that any question asked was answered with ease.

On our final day there was time for shopping before the small group who were returning to Australia headed to the airport.  The majority of the group took the opportunity to extend their stay in Britain and Europe to visit friends and family or visit that special place on your bucket list.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will make a 12-night cruise to New Zealand from Sydney in March 2013

The Queen Mary 2 will visit Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, the Bay of Islands and Milford Sound, with fares from $3329.

The cruise will go on sale in Australia/New Zealand on 13 July 2011 – a day ahead of the global launch.

Cunard says the sailing has been sparked by strong bookings for the ship’s planned 2012 circumnavigation of Australia.

As well as the 12-night cruise, there’ll be a 19-night option including a Sydney to Fremantle sector.

Queen Mary 2 will be on a 106-night world voyage, which will go on sale at 10pm on 14 July this year, with pre-registration available from 4 July.

The same arrangement has been announced for Queen Victoria’s 2013 world voyage.

Discounts will be offered on bookings made by 31 December this year.

Please contact Cruise Offers on 1800 616 434 for further information or if you wish to pre-register. For all other cruise enquiries please visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au.

Royal Caribbean to base Voyager of the Seas in Sydney

Royal Caribbean Cruises has just announced that its “megaliner” Voyager of the Seas will be based in Asia and Australasia from 2012 – including a five month season based in Sydney from November 2012.

The 3840-passenger vessel will also cruise in China between June and October 2012, and will be the fifth Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited ship sailing in the region in 2012/13 – alongside Rhapsody of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium.

“There are clear opportunities in the China and Australia markets, which are key areas for Royal Caribbean International’s global development,” said CEO Adam Goldstein at a press conference in Shanghai.

Royal Caribbean Australia MD Gavin Smith said the positioning of Voyager down under “demonstrates our company’s tremendous belief in the future of this region and we are extremely honoured to shape the future of cruising in Australia”.

Voyager of the Seas has 1556 staterooms and will introduce a host of innovations including its ‘Royal Promenade’ indoor main street, an ice rink, skating track, golf simulator and inside cabins with a view.

She will operate 12 New Zealand, South Pacific and Australian itineraries ranging from one to 18 nights, sailing from Sydney and Fremantle.

Royal Caribbean said the cruises were due to open for sale early next month.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for more information.

Cruise Offers Wins Cunard, Princess & P&O Awards

Cruise Offers and Travelrite International were very pleased to reach the top sales awards for Cunard and Princess (Diamond Agents) and high sales (Sapphire Agent) for P&O. The photo shows the Directors of Cruise offers and Travelrite, receiving their partnership plaques for 2011 with David Clarke and Sally-Anne from the Cunard, Princess and P&O brands. Thank you to clients who have booked with Travelrite or Cruise Offers making this possible.

Left to Right
David Clark, Sandra Walliss, Neville Walliss, Simon Walliss, Shawn Walliss, Nigel Walliss, Sally-Anne Matthews

Ship to capture Spirit of Australia

Carnival Cruise Lines will strip away the American essence of the Carnival Spirit and “Aussify” the vessel ahead of its Australian deployment next year. Recently appointed director of Carnival Cruise Lines, Jennifer Vandekreeke, who is overseeing the launch of the brand in Australia, revealed details of the ship’s new features at a media event in Sydney yesterday. The deployment of the Spirit in Australia will be the first time a Carnival ship has been based outside of the US year-round. Cruises went on sale on Monday 2 May 2011. Vandekreeke revealed that Australian dollars will be accepted on board while restaurants and bars will offer an Australian menu, as well as local beer and wine. Carnival also hopes to bring a cafe culture on board by working with well-known Sydney baristas to train staff. The design has also taken into account Australia’s penchant for “outdoor culture” with a giant water slide, the steepest to feature on a cruise liner, Vandekreeke said.
The Spirit’s first Australian season will start in October 2012,
with eight 12-day cruises to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Zealand.

Contact Cruise Offers on 1800 616 434 for details.

Celebrity Millennium to cruise in Australia and Asia in 2012

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has just announced the 2012 deployment of Celebrity Millennium, which will operate a series of Asian itineraries, visiting Australia on her way to Singapore during the previously announced down under deployment of Celebrity Solstice.

The 2158-passenger Millennium, which has previously spent several seasons cruising in Australia, will offer repositioning cruises from Hawaii to Sydney and from Sydney to Singapore, with the vessel fresh from an “extensive refurbishment” scheduled for April 2012 which will see the addition of 107 new AquaClass staterooms.

The Hawaii-Sydney sector will coincide with the November 2012 solar eclipse, while the vessel’s newly announced Asian season includes eight 14-night cruises from Singapore and Hong Kong, with ports of call including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Halong Bay.

Millennium’s new 2012/13 Asia itineraries will open for sale on Saturday 09 April.

For all prices and itineraries visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au

Art Festival Cruise on the Sun Princess to New Zealand

Fifty two painters, led by artists Greg Allen, Amanda Hyatt and John Lovett have now returned to Australia after a wonderful two weeks aboard the “Sun Princess” as it cruised to New Zealand.

The tour commenced in Sydney and in the two day trans Tasman crossing the painters settled down to work under the expert tuition and guidance of their selected artist.

Each day at sea began with a painting demo in the Shooting Stars Nightclub which the group had reserved especially for them on their days at sea. After their respective workshops, individual painters were free to continue their painting or, as many did, explore the ship or participate in many of the activities on board.

Day three and the “Sun Princess” had arrived at the Bay of Islands in the north island of New Zealand This was our first land based painting day. A quick trip by ferry to Russell and the three workshops then commenced with each artist selecting a location along the beautiful seashore of this historic town. After lunch the group then enjoyed a brief visit to Waitangi Treaty House before rejoining the ship once again. After all this painting and sightseeing, everyone had worked up quite an appetite for dinner which was admirably attended to in the Regency or Marquis dining rooms.

For the next seven days, the painting group visited towns and cities along the eastern seaboard, including Auckland – a wonderful painting location was selected by the artists at Devonport across the harbour affording magnificent views of the City of Sails, as Auckland is known – Tauranga and a visit to Wai O Tapu thermal wonderland at Rotorua and the art deco town of Napier. The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, completed our last city on the north island before we crossed the strait, which separates the north and south islands.

Our first port of call in the south island was idyllic Christchurch, where the groups set up their painting easels alongside the beautiful Avon River and its historic bridges. In the afternoon a couple of the groups continued their painting in Cathedral Square, the scene of much devastation with the terrible earthquake only a short few days after our visit. Our last port of call in the south island was Dunedin with its Scottish heritage. The day culminated in a visit to historic Olverston House which was widely acclaimed by all

After all of the excitement of painting and visiting in such wonderful surroundings many of the group certainly would have liked more painting time on land. However, these thoughts soon disappeared as the ship sailed through Fiordland in the south west corner of New Zealand. This magnificent scenery was made all the more brilliant under a bright blue sky.

During the next couple of days the group settled once more into their final on board painting workshops, buoyed by the critiques of their paintings by the artists and the wonderful displays of their favourite works of art, for all to see.

A highlight of this time was the group painting by Greg, Amanda and John as they painted a large three sheet painting of the “Sun Princess” as it toured Milford Sound. One of our group kindly donated this to the ship and this was gratefully accepted by the Captain – we hope that this work of art will be on display for all future travellers on the “Sun Princess” to see.

This was first painting workshop / cruise conducted in this part of the world by The International Artist Magazine and Travelrite International and was judged by all as being a great success – a great way to combine their love of painting under the watchful eye of internationally acclaimed artists whilst enjoying the sightseeing of our wonderful neighbouring country.

The 2012 Art Festival Cruise to Queensland is now on sale visit the following link for details.

http://www.cruiseoffers.com.au/Default.aspx?tabid=39&SearchType=2&resultpage=1&DisplayCruiseLine=RC&ShipCode=RH&cruiseid=772760

P&O Cruises launch 2012-13 program including depatures from Melbourne

Departures from Melbourne and more short breaks are features of P&O Cruises massive new 2012-13 program.

On sale from March 31, the new program is P&O Cruises’ biggest ever and features a record 126 voyages between June 2012 and April 2013, with great value fares from $749* per person for a seven-night cruise from Brisbane and $1199* per person for a 10-night cruise from Sydney.

The program offers 24 cruises of less than a week, including more of the themed cruises that have proven such a hit with passengers, such as food and wine getaways and comedy cruises.

Highlights include a three-night Australia Day long weekend cruise from Sydney in January 2013 onboard Pacific Pearl, plus a new four-night Christmas shopping cruise from Sydney to Melbourne in early December on Pacific Sun, with fares on the shopping cruise priced from $649* per person.

The new program also features two new Australian ports of call, with Pacific Sun visiting Port Lincoln and pristine Kangaroo Island in South Australia on a coastal cruise. Fares start from $899 per person quad share for a nine-night cruise from Fremantle to Sydney departing on October 23, 2012.
Meanwhile, P&O Cruises has added Melbourne to its line-up of homeports, with the cruise line returning to the Victorian capital to offer seven summer cruises from late 2012, in addition to regular voyages from Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle and Auckland.

Jenny Lourey, Senior Vice President of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the new program offered more cruise itineraries than ever before, with destinations ranging from Asia to Tasmania, as well as the Pacific islands.
“Not only do we offer great places to visit, our ships are a destination in themselves. No matter where you’re cruising, the fun begins the moment you step onboard a P&O Cruises’ ship,” Ms Lourey said.

“Whatever your age, our ships offer a great range of features to make your holiday memorable – from spectacular aerial circus acts and great kids’ clubs through to delicious meals at Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill Restaurant and relaxing treatments in the spa.”

The new program also offers travellers front-row seats for the total solar eclipse in November 2012, with Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn sailing to the Pacific islands and northern Queensland to ensure the ships offer the best vantage points for the eclipse. Fares start from $799 per person quad share for a seven-night cruise onboard Pacific Dawn departing November 10, 2012.

Meanwhile, Brisbane will see 36 cruise holidays on offer onboard Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun, including 25 of the popular seven-night cruises to the Pacific Islands or exploring the Queensland coastline. Cruises start from $749 per person quad share for a seven-night Queensland cruise onboard Pacific Sun departing July 8, 2012.
Fremantle will welcome home Pacific Sun for a third season of cruising in 2012, offering a mix of short breaks, Western Australian cruises and longer voyages to Asia between August and October 2012.

Twelve-night cruises to Indonesia calling at Bali and Komodo Island are priced from $1099 per person quad share.

Pacific Pearl will return to Auckland for another season of cruising from New Zealand, sailing five cruises of between three and 15 nights between April and May 2013. Fares start from $1299 per person quad share for a 10-night cruise to the Pacific Islands departing May 8, 2013.

Australian travellers will also have the chance to celebrate the birth of cruise holidays, with two special voyages planned in August 2012 to mark 175 years since the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company signed its first contract to deliver mail by sea and 80 years since P&O Cruises’ first Australian cruise.

Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel will meet in Sydney Harbour on August 22 and set sail in tandem on special heritage cruises, featuring tailored entertainment including a 175th Anniversary Gala dinner, a heritage art display and fascinating guest speakers. Fares on the nine-night Pacific Jewel cruise start from $1199 per person quad share.

For more information, Cruiseoffers on 1800 616 434 or visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au

* Fares are quad share. Subject to availability, conditions apply

Queen Elizabeth Maiden Voyage

Sandra and I have just returned to the new Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, after attending the naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, UK.

The new Queen Elizabeth was named by HRH Queen Elizabeth in an impressive ceremony late on a sunny Monday afternoon. Almost 2000 guests from all over the world cheered as the Queen released a bottle of champagne which hit the ship with a loud bang and set of fireworks and a celebratory display of streamers. During the ceremony we were entertained by the massed bands of the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang, had everybody on their feet as she sang Amazing Grace. It was a great British event!

Queen Elizabeth is sister ship to Cunard’s Queen Victoria with gross tonnage of 90,000 tons, passenger capacity of 2068 and 1005 crew. The decoration is more subdued that Queen Victoria with a concentration on mellow timber colours. The aft sun deck and pool area has been enlarged, a Midships bar has been added on Deck 3, and the popular Cafe Carinthia has been extended. The Queen’s Room remains the central focus of the ship. The Queen checked out a gold bust of herself and a specially commissioned portrait in the Queen’ Room this afternoon Queen Elizabeth sets sail tomorrow on her maiden cruise to the Canary Islands. She will land in Australian ports in February 2011 during her first world cruise. She will deliver a wonderfully elegant travel experience to everybody who loves the Cunard style of cruising.

Filed by Travelrite International’s Neville Walliss from Queen Elizabeth in port at Southampton, Monday 11 October 2010.

Travelrite have a range of specials Queen Elizabeth escorted cruises sailing from Australia. Visit  http://www.travelrite.com.au/escorted_cruises.shtml for details.