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Monday, December 2, 2019

Plan a 'Shop-Cation' Road-Trip to Central NSW Before Christmas

Are you planning Christmas? Businesses in Central NSW are encouraging Sydney-siders to take a 'shop-cation' road-trip to stock up on quality, home-made gifts, and buy from the bush, rather than mass-produced goods from overseas.

Central NSW Tourism has researched the best boutiques, retailers, producers and Christmas markets to help you plan a 'shop-cation' road-trip before Christmas, or jump online and buy direct. The region begins just two-hours' drive West from Sydney and includes Oberon, Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Millthorpe and Parkes.

Fill your empty boot with home-made jewellery, patchwork quilts, baskets, toys, antiques, bags, ceramics, clothing, honey, wine and relishes; and of course, the friendliest customer service.
  • Beeline Beewares - Gifts from the Beehive - owned and operated by Frank and Jenny 'The Lazy Bee and the Double D Ranch'products include honeycomb, beeswax candles, lip balms and balms.  
  • Unearthed Homewares - an ever-changing range of premium and affordable lifestyle products, including gorgeous art, furniture, cushions and rugs. Stocking brands such as Juju & Co, Woolf Leather, French Country, Mayvn, Peppermint Grove.
  • Finns Store - a piece of Canowindra's history, the iconic Finns Store is situated in the main street of Canowindra. Finns Store has been fully renovated and now sells fabulous gifts, jewellery, women's clothing, unique furniture and incredible coffee & light meals.
  • Penelope Haddrill Hats- luxury handmade hats, made from the highest quality materials, such as unique millinery summer panamas, straw hats, winter fedoras and race hats.
  • The Hall Condo – specialising in men's clothing such as jackets and leisurewear, they also stock gifts like ceramic travel coffee mugs, women's and children's wear.
  • Angus Barrett Saddlery – quality made saddlery and leather goods such as bags, wallets, belt, cases dog collars etc. All products are designed to work and made to last
  • Beekeepers Inn - a huge variety of locally produced honey with a café, brewery and farm-shop.
  • The Corner Store Gallery – host regular 'pop-up-shops' by local artisans such as Fiona Schofiled Millinery and The Journey Person Handmade.
  • Jan Parlett's Country Experience – the most magical Christmas store with displays, ornaments, decorations and Christmas trees. There are also homewares, gift lines, prints and signs.
  • Grenfell Furniture– an extensive collection of furniture, bedding, home wares, gifts, and clothing. Unique, hard to find pieces are at exceptional prices and mostly handcrafted.
  • Grenfell Shoes – specialising in quality shoes made to last, as well as handbags, luggage and accessories, owner Maria provides exceptional service and an online store.
  • Woolerina – beautiful quality, ethically made merino wool clothing including singlets, jumpers, jackets and dresses for the whole family, made with love and designed to last
  • Made of Fridays – a gorgeous gift, art and design store with regular Christmas workshops. A great place for hats, pots, jewellery, books and clothing.
  • Ooshka - a baby, kids, homewares and lifestyle boutique, with a love for all things unique, there are gorgeous soft toys, colourful clothes and accessories for mumma.
  • Wholesome Blend - perfect for the heathy foodie, selling natural and organic products, healthy snacks, organic coffee, produce and various pantry items.
  • Coopers Antiques – where every item has a story, Coopers sell a huge variety of furniture, curios, artwork, lighting and jewellery, sourced from estates, auctions and private collections.
  • The Long Arm Farm Café and Produce – the best place to buy from local farms including a variety of pork produce such as bacon, hams and hocks, local truffles, jams, relishes and recycled timber crafts.
  • King's Antiques & Collectables – full of English antiques, collectables, old wares, decorative items, vintage tea-wares and Goddard's Polish. Indulge your secret love of Antiques Roadshow and explore with owners Martin and Judy King.
  • Arts Gallery - The Tablelands Artists Co-operative Gallery opened in 2018 and sells amazing locally produced artworks, pottery, pastels, oils, acrylics, photography, etchings, watercolours, textiles, jewellery and accessories.
A Few Christmas Markets
  • Bathurst Outdoor Expo and Christmas Markets, 16-17 November. An annual event with a wide variety of exhibitors filling the three beautiful pavilions of the Bathurst Showground. Enjoy the festival atmosphere with food and market stalls, entertainment and rides.
  • Oberon Farmers Christmas Market, 7 December. Buy direct from the stalls of local businesses selling beeswax candles, patchwork quilts, beautiful chopping boards, craft and produce.
  • Cowra Christmas Street Festival6 December.Enjoy over 100 market stalls selling everything including local produce, crafts, homewares, clothing, jewellery, delicious food and more.
  • Forbes Christmas CarnivalFriday 13 December. There will be a fantastic array of market stalls, food and beverage stalls, activities for children, jumping castle, dancing, giant games, stage entertainment and musicians
  • Millfest Street Festival, 14 December. An end of year street festival in Millthorpe's historic Pym Street with live music, stalls, local wine, beer and food.
Central NSW includes Oberon, Bathurst, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lachlan, Orange, Parkes and Weddin.
To plan your shop-cation roadtrip to Central NSW go to

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Veriu opens at Sydney’s Green Square

Leading innovator in the apartment hotel and micro-apartment space, Veriu launched its new, state-of-the-art hotel yesterday, in Sydney’s newest urban town centre – Green Square.

The launch marks another welcome addition to the rapidly evolving Green Square precinct, and is Veriu’s fifth property in Australia, joining a stylish collection of boutique and loft-inspired hotels & suites in Camperdown, Broadway, Randwick and Central Sydney.

With Veriu leading the charge in micro-apartment innovation, CEO Zed Sanjana is delighted to offer guests another exceptional property, this time drawing inspiration from a new and vibrant district.

“We’re really excited to be launching another unique micro apartment hotel, our fifth in the Sydney market, in one of the inner city’s most strategically important industrial and office precincts, at the convergence of Alexandria, Rosebery, Zetland, Beaconsfield and Waterloo. The opening of Veriu Green Square strengthens our footing into the micro-apartment hotel space; using clever and innovative design, our apartments can offer our guests great versatility with spaces for sleeping, sitting, a kitchenette and shelving for storage, surpassing the traditional hotel room in terms of flexibility and making it the perfect accommodation option for our core target, the short and long stay corporate traveller. Green Square is a fast-emerging precinct, where we know this hotel will satisfy the growing demand of corporate and leisure travellers searching for boutique, design-driven, flexible accommodation in a location not currently well supplied in terms of hotels and serviced apartments.”

The Veriu Hotels & Suites brand is set to grow exponentially in the next three years, with Veriu announcing its plans for interstate expansion earlier this year. Veriu will launch into Victoria from 2022 with two projects in Melbourne – the first, Veriu Collingwood, in partnership with Gurner TM, followed by Veriu Queen Victoria Market with Melbourne-based developer PDG Corporation. Together, the two Victorian additions will increase the portfolio to about 600 rooms and apartments operating or in development under the Veriu Brand.

Guests staying at Veriu Green Square will have access to the full suite of top-notch offerings and amenities for which the brand has become increasingly synonymous, delivered with its signature quality and innovative style. As with Veriu’s other 4 properties, the hotel features cleverly configured and contemporary spaces, ranging from sophisticated Hotel Suites (including Accessible Hotel Suites for those with limited mobility) to Studio Micro-Apartments perfectly ‘suited and booted’ for longer stay solo travellers, to Family Micro-Apartments designed to sleep four people comfortably.

Veriu Green Square’s appeal is not just confined to the hotel’s accommodation offering. On-site Italian restaurant, Freddie Green’s, is shaping up to become the destination for big flavour Italian dishes made with fresh, locally sourced produce. With a menu designed by one of Sydney’s most respected chefs, James Metcalfe of JRM Hospitality, Freddie Green’s will provide both Veriu’s guests and local residents with a little taste of Italy right on their doorstep.

The new 144-room hotel is built on the original Australian store site of luxury auto trader, Mercedes-Benz, close to the heart of the new town centre. The hotel was designed by award winning architect, Ashkan Mostaghim, inspired by the history of the site, with various elements paying tribute to the luxury car brand and its products.

Boasting a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, the newly minted suburb of Green Square is expected to undergo rapid expansion in the next few years, with the City of Sydney committing $540 million over the next decade to create world-class community facilities including an innovative new library and plaza, an aquatic centre, a creative hub and more.

Ideally located just two train stops from Sydney Domestic Airport Station, Veriu Green Square also offers direct access to Sydney CBD, only minutes away. With rooms and suites designed to allow guests to ‘live smarter’, not to mention a uniquely cool reception ‘desk’, lobby lounge bar, on-site gym, dedicated workspaces and conference room, the hotel is expected to appeal to both business and leisure travellers looking to settle in Veriu’s latest neighbourhood hotel.

Bookings for Veriu Green Square are now open. To book, visit

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Colorado welcomes early snowfalls

Snowstorms at the weekend delivered a welcome cover of powder at several resorts across Colorado that are scheduled to open this week, with further heavy snow continuing ahead of Thanksgiving tomorrow (28 November). Aspen Mountain and Snowmass’ openings were brought forward by five days to Saturday 23 November with top to bottom skiing and riding, whilst locals in Telluride were revelling in a Bluebird Day on Saturday after 15 inches of snow was received from one storm, ahead of opening day this Thursday. Skiers and boarders everywhere are hopeful this is a sign of another great season to come for Colorado’s 28 ski areas and resorts.

Aspen Mountain opened on Saturday with 3,200 vertical feet of top to bottom skiing and riding serviced by the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, and Bell Mountain Chair. Runs include Bellissimo, Upper Copper, Deer Park, Dipsy Doodle, Easy Chair, One and Two Leaf, Pumphouse, Silver Bell, Blondie’s, Pussyfoot Silver Dip and Spar Gultch. This new terrain will add 88 new acres of skiing and riding, bringing the total acreage to 148 on Aspen Mountain. The Sundeck restaurant and Ajax Tavern is open with food and beverage options. Aspen Mountain lifts are running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to open Saturday 7 December.)

Snowmass, which also opened early at the weekend, offers a total of 60 acres of terrain with skiing and riding from the Village Express midway unload point along Upper Scooper to Lower Hal’s Hollow to the bottom of Fanny Hill, as well as at Elk Camp Meadows accessed by the Elk Camp Gondola. The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster is now up-and-running and the Elk Camp Restaurant is also open with food and beverages. The Village Express lift is operating from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the Elk Camp Gondola running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Beaver Creek opened on Saturday 23 November, ahead of its scheduled 27 November opening date, with more than 70 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain accessed by two lifts – Centennial Express Lift and Haymeadow Express Gondola – which commenced at 9:00 a.m. The Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School also began with Spruce Saddle and the Ice Cream Parlour now open daily for on-mountain eats.

Telluride is starting the season with 35 inches of snow in the past week, with more on the way ahead of its official opening day on Thursday 28 November. More than one foot fell on Saturday alone as locals celebrated a Bluebird day in the mountain town and a further foot of fresh powder last night. Lifts in the resort will being turning today ahead of its Thanksgiving opening.

Vail, which officially opened for the 19.20 season on 16 November, has also announced that trails off Northwoods Express and Sourdough Express are now open (as of Monday 25 November), for a total of 360 skiable acres, 29 open trails and 5 chairlifts.

Steamboat was originally scheduled to open on Saturday 23 November, with the opening day brought forward by one week to 15 November, signaling the resort’s earliest opening in 50 years. The season commenced with the Christie Peak Express featuring 50 acres, 1,100 vertical feet and 10 trails including Sitz, Sitzback, Jess’ Cut-Off, Vogue, lower Short Cut, Stampede, Boulevard, upper Giggle Gulch and Right O Way, as well as Desperado Carpet and select features in Lil’ Rodeo Terrain Park. Lessons are available with Steamboat SnowSports School and the Outlaw Mountain Coaster in action. The new Steamboat gondola was also opened on Sunday 24 November, which increases capacities and decreases ride times.

Other ski areas and resorts in Colorado opening this week include Crested Butte and Purgatory today (27 November) and Echo Mountain on 29 November.

This wave of resort openings follows many record-breaking early openings this season, with Arapahoe Basin opening on 11 October; Monarch celebrating its earliest opening since 1969 on 1 November, Winter Park having its earliest opening on record on 2 November following 40 inches of snow in October. Keystone and Breckenridge both had the snowiest October on record with 48 inches at Breckenridge (which opened 8 November) and 44 inches at Keystone (which opened 1 November).

For more information about Snow’s Perfect State, Colorado, and its 28 ski areas, visit

New sustainable events initiative launched to protect the reef

New initiative recognises the importance of the natural environment by the sector

Business Events Cairns and Great Barrier Reef have today launched a new initiative at their annual Sell TNQ event. The new program, named 'Nurturing Nature', sees five Cairns' hotels commit to donating $5 per delegate to local environmental and wildlife causes for events booked and held in participating hotels next year. The program is part of larger efforts to nurture the natural environment on which the local business events sector is built on.

"Without our natural environment in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, we wouldn't have a visitor economy or business events sector. This new program is one of many ways the industry is giving back to local environmental causes whilst providing another way for delegates to leave a legacy," commented Rosie Douglas, General Manager of Business Events Cairns and Great Barrier Reef.

Hilton Cairns, Pullman Cairns International, Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Riley, A Crystalbrook Collection Resort and Shangri-La The Marina Cairns are all taking part in an effort to shine a light on the sustainability credentials of hosting a business event in Cairns. The donations per conference attendee will go to one of four locally based charities including Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Tropical Animal Rehabilitation Centre and North Queensland Wildlife Trust.

In addition to the donation from each hotel, the properties undertake their own initiatives to conserve energy, water, shop local and give back to the local community. Hilton Cairns have a ban on plastic straws, single use plastic, soap aid and is piloting a number of other initiatives for the hotel group in the Asia-Pacific region. The Crystalbrook Collection boasts recycled wooden key cards, paperless check-in and check-out and coat hangers made from recycled cardboard. Low food miles is the mantra for their restaurants with the Crystalbrook Station beef farmed just a three-hour drive away.

Douglas continued to outline the environmental sustainability credentials of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef saying: "In Cairns, one of the most notable factors for conferences is the fact delegates can reduce their footprints significantly compared to other destinations. Our airport is a short drive to the city centre and once here, delegates can move from venue-to-venue on foot or take an electric bus," she said.

To take part, conferences need to have a minimum of 20 attendees and they must book and have their event within 2020 although Douglas says some exceptions might apply if planners speak directly to participating venues.

For more information on the initiative visit

Monday, November 25, 2019

Intrepid pays $600k for seaweed. Is this a good investment?

Intrepid Travel’s not-for-profit arm, The Intrepid Foundation, has announced the funding of Australia’s first marine permaculture platform, using seaweed to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.

“This result is the second biggest in our fundraising history, which indicates just how passionate our travellers and the public are about positive solutions to climate change,” Intrepid Travel co-founder Darrell Wade said.

The campaign has exceeded two fundraising targets, raising more than $600,000 since April this year.

The ‘seaweed solution’ will see the trial of Australia’s first marine permaculture platform offshore in Tasmania’s Storm Bay. Seaweed grows incredibly fast and was touted as a solution to the climate crisis in Damon Gameau’s film 2040.

“The remarkable thing about the campaign has been the sheer volume of donors. Thousands have opted to vote with their wallet, even if only with a dollar, and invest in climate action at a time when politicians have failed to,” Wade said.

In a climate action good news story, the first target of $350,000 was exceeded in four months, while the second-round target of $250,000 was raised in just over two months.

The Intrepid Foundation partnered with The Climate Foundation to fund the research through the University of Tasmania. They are currently exploring new projects to fundraise for further climate change solutions.

“One thing is clear: people are not done giving their support for climate action. And neither are we,” Wade said.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Make the Australian Dollar Go Further in New York City #SeeYourCity


Enjoy 2-for-1 Tickets to Broadway, Museums, Tours, Attractions, Performing Arts and Prix-Fixe Menus at Top Restaurants

NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organisation, today announced the return of NYC Winter OutingSM, which will run from January 21 to February 9, 2020.

NYC Winter Outing combines NYC & Company’s three signature programs—NYC Broadway WeekSM, NYC Restaurant Week® and NYC Must-See WeekSM—creating ultimate value across the five boroughs. During the three-week period, select Broadway shows, attractions, museums, tours and performing arts will offer 2-for-1 tickets and nearly 400 restaurants will feature prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner.

Additionally, the City’s hotels offer the most attractive rates of the year. Further details on NYC Winter Outing can be found at Reservations for these winter value programs commence on January 8, 2020.

The NYC Winter Outing landing page provides inspiration through a handful of mini-itineraries, curated to unique traveller interests, that include an NYC Restaurant Week, NYC Broadway Week and NYC Must-See Week activity: “An Art-Filled Day in NYC,” “A Classic Day in NYC,” “A Family Day in NYC” and “A Glam Day in NYC.”

“Following an overwhelmingly positive response, we’re pleased to welcome NYC Winter Outing back for its second year, adding unmatched value to the enchanting experiences offered across the five boroughs during the winter months,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.

Brooklyn Bridge Park in Winter © Julienne Schaer

New this year, NYC & Company’s global partnership with Mastercard provides Mastercard holders with exclusive offers that take advantage of NYC Winter Outing, including early access to reservations and tickets.

“It is Mastercard’s priority to provide cardholders with Priceless experiences in top travel destinations around the world across the passions that bring us together. Partnering with NYC & Company to simultaneously promote theater, dining and culture in NYC is the perfect way to emphasize that commitment,” said Cheryl Guerin, executive vice president of North America Marketing & Communications at Mastercard.

NYC Winter Outing details—including the 21 shows participating in NYC Broadway Week; museums, tours, attractions and performing arts venues participating in NYC Must-See Week; and restaurants participating in NYC Restaurant Week—can be found at This landing page also features’s “favoriting” tool, which allows visitors to save a list of NYC Winter Outing participants that will be bookable once reservations for all three programs go live on January 8. Visitors can also sign up for emails to receive a reminder—including the “favorited” list—once the reservation period opens.

As of today, visitors can also book overnight accommodations at select hotels listed at to take advantage of some of the best rates of the year. For more comprehensive content on hotels, visit

Sunday, November 17, 2019

MSC: Is this the future of cruising?


Our committed cruiser casts a critical eye over one of the world's most advanced cruise ships, the newly launched MSC flagship, the 6000-passenger Grandiosa. Words: Roderick Eime

We all know the cruise industry has attracted criticism in recent times for some environmentally unsavoury practices. Whether it is the discharge of wastewater, air pollution or overuse of single-use plastics, the global multi-billion-dollar cruise industry certainly has some questions to answer.

I'm here in Hamburg for the very festive launch of MSC Grandiosa, the brand new180,000 GT, 331m flagship of the world's largest privately-owned cruise line. We are fed and refreshed in regal style as this giant ship is welcomed into the world's luxury cruise fleet and screen idol, Sophie Loren, is on hand as usual for the ribbon-cutting in front of the world's travel media and more than 14,000 travel agents.

Sophia Loren is the godmother of MSC's entire cruise fleet (supplied)

But apart from her staggering statistics, the cruise line has integrated some of the latest maritime technology into Grandiosa's design, making her one of the most environmentally friendly such vessels afloat despite her ample proportions.

Grandiosa is the first of three MSC's Meraviglia-Plus ships, all of which employ state-of-the-art exhaust scrubbers to remove 98 per cent of such harmful emissions as sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide. As something of a tech geek, I was impressed to learn that extra catalytic converters (similar to those in your car) turn harmful nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogen gas and water.

While most large cruise ships continue to burn Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) at the rate of about 200-250 tonnes per day, others are converting to light marine diesel, a fuel identical to that which we pump into road vehicles. Unlike HFO, it floats and evaporates if spilled and produces much less harmful byproducts when burned. New generation cruise ships currently under construction by MSC and others will employ Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) exclusively, vastly reducing - but not eliminating - emissions.

“Our focus on innovation since we built our first cruise ships only in 2003 ensures that we have one of the most modern fleets at sea as well as one of the highest environmentally performing, “said  Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises executive chairman in a press conference at the launch, “And, thanks to our long-term planning, this will allow us to already achieve a fleet-wide 29 per cent reduction in carbon intensity (rate) by 2024 vs. 2008, well on our way to meet the 40 per cent reduction target set for 2030.”

We don't need to be mathematicians to work out that MSC Cruises will not meet its promised carbon neutral status by January 2020 while continuing to use fossil fuels, so an intensive carbon offset campaign is underway to supercharge their carbon neutrality efforts. Now obviously I haven't audited each of these initiatives, but I can report MSC's stated strategy.

“We will work with leading providers in carbon offsets able to offset CO2 emissions with the highest level of integrity,” said Mr Vago, “Our vision is to also invest in projects that provide quantifiable community benefits, protect the environment and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

From press materials obtained from MSC and my own independent enquiries, I've been able to find out more about these 'green' mechanisms.

MSC Grandiosa and her environmental features. CLICK TO ENLARGE

No Discharge 

One thing I can confidently report is that you won't see any ugly images of MSC ships emptying their bowels into the sea as has been seen elsewhere. All wastewater is processed on board with their Advanced Wastewater Treatment System  (AWTS). The system separates solids that are removed from the cycle and treated separately. This bio 'sludge' is dehydrated and compacted into high-grade ‘pellets’ which can either be burned as a fuel source or offloaded to a certified shore facility. Because of their high-grade organic quality, these soil-like pellets can be added to landfills to enhance composting action or even used as agricultural fertilizer. The reverse osmosis filtered and UV-treated water is close to municipal 'tap' quality and is perfectly safe to return to the sea. I'm told that MSC executives even drank the water in a demonstration of its purity. Wish I'd seen that.

Silent Running

As evidenced by my own experience on board, Grandiosa is a silent ship. This is achieved by isolating and insulating the otherwise noisy machine spaces eg engines, generators etc. The massive engines themselves are mounted on 'silent blocks' and the whole space is insulated with sound deadening material. This not only creates a more comfortable space for guests, but also for marine mammals who are bombarded by ship-generated noise. The propellers too have a bubble generating feature that counters the noise created by propellers at full speed.

Slippery Ship 

We've seen several new hull designs appear on the scene recently. MSC's state-of-the-art hydrodynamic hulls are not so much revolutionary, but rather a refinement of existing 'bulbous bow'  design, where computer modelling has helped create the optimum shape that offers the least water resistance or 'drag'. Like in cars and airplanes, a 'slippery' design allows higher speeds without using extra power and hence emissions. The industry standard 'bulbous bow' is that big round protrusion at the front of a ship that sits below the waterline and guides the water around the hull, greatly reducing the engines' effort in propelling the vessel, hence less fuel consumed and less emissions produced. Non-toxic anti-foul paint is also used on the hulls to prevent marine growth build-up.

Power Play

All ships generate their own electricity using generators powered by the same fuel as used by the engines. Obviously, the less work these engines need to do, the more efficient and the cleaner is the whole package. In the case of most modern cruise ships, the main engines are used to generate electricity for the electric motors that drive the propellers. These propellers are housed in massive rotating pods (Azimuth Pods or just 'azipods') beneath the stern that removes the need for old-fashioned rudders and makes the ships much more maneuverable, especially at low speeds when docking. If Titanic had installed azipods, there's a good chance she would have dodged that iceberg!

Other power-saving measures include ultra-low-power LED lighting throughout the ship and intelligent air-conditioning that monitors interior temperatures and redistributes heat instead of regenerating it. The 26 intelligent elevators fascinate me too. You select your floor and the next elevator is indicated. The computer system optimises elevator movements, vastly reducing wait times and minimises unnecessary lift travel.

One of the topical issues with ships in port is their burning fuel while berthed. While most modern ships have the emission controls already discussed, it nevertheless is beneficial if ships can switch off their oil-burning generators while in port. All MSC ships are shore power ready, meaning they can 'plug in' just like you would do with a caravan at a powered site. The problem is, as I've discovered, is that there are only about two dozen ports in the whole world able to offer shore power to cruise ships. This is a complex discussion for another time, but obviously needs to be addressed.

Plastic Fantastic

It seems every day there are heated discussions and finger-pointing in regards to plastic reduction, disposal and recycling. MSC and the other big lines are feeling consumer and regulatory pressure and responding – some more effectively than others. From my own superficial investigations, MSC does not yet have a perfect scorecard, but I'm pleased to report many of the most offensive single-use plastics like straws, cutlery and bottles are almost gone. Almost.

MSC have instituted many procedures to deal with this waste sensitively for example, I was told that the supply chain was intimately examined to identify where waste can be reduced if not eliminated. For example, many of the bulk cleaning liquids and detergents used behind the scenes are now delivered as solid concentrate, eliminating hundreds of tonnes of plastic packaging in one fell swoop.

Sea Change

An artist rendering of Ocean Cay 

Of particular note is MSC's concern with the health of the oceans. To this end, they are embarking on projects which protect and restore ocean and coastal habitats while also absorbing more CO2 than current levels. These so-called Blue Credits are earned by dealing directly with the health of our seas and rivers, bearing in mind that the ocean is a very efficient absorbent of atmospheric carbon dioxide, accounting for the absorption of more than one-third of human-caused emissions thus far.

To this end, MSC in conjunction with marine biologists and conservationists, are rejuvenating a derelict sand mining island in the Caribbean, to be called Ocean Cay, turning it into a marine sanctuary that guests can enjoy during their cruise as an enriching shore excursion.

Geek Solutions and Tech Fun

Aboard ship, numerous hi-tech features makes guests' experience more enjoyable including Zoe, the virtual assistant that keeps tabs on your schedule, bill and children; smart elevators that direct you to the next elevator going your way; extensive adults and children's entertainment including a full-size F1 simulator and head-spinning VR games – all of which could easily be the subject of their own feature.

In summary, when you add in superior dining and guest service levels, well-appointed cabins and suites as well as class-leading theatrical shows including the only Cirque du Soleil at Sea, you have very near the perfect combination of features for the best possible cruise experience. But hey, don't take my word for it.

For more information on the MSC Cruises, visit  or 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Lonely Planet's Wonders of the World Reveals 101 Great Sights and How to See Them

Includes Great Barrier Reef & the Daintree Rainforest, Uluru, and Lord Howe Island

From Antarctica and the Amazon to Victoria Falls and the Great Wall of China, Lonely Planet's Wonders of the World showcases 101 spectacular sights – and how to experience them on any budget.

Published November 2019, Lonely Planet's Wonders of the World is both inspiring and practical, with expert advice, best-value itineraries, beautiful photography, and local secrets.

Australia is represented by Great Barrier Reef & the Daintree Rainforest, Uluru, and Lonely Planet's number-five region to visit in 2020, Lord Howe Island.

The book features human-made wonders that people may already know, such as the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat. But Lonely Planet's destination experts have also selected less famous sights that are equally captivating: the entwined tree bridges of Meghalaya in India, the intricate Islamic architecture of Naqsh-e Jahan in Iran, and the massive Buddhist temple of Borobudur in central Java. Museums with remarkable collections of wonders have also been included, such as the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands and the British Museum in London.

The natural wonders chosen for the book are no less impressive: giant trees in California, cascading lakes in Croatia, multi-coloured hills in China, great waterfalls, the world's biggest cave, and such natural phenomena as the wave of cherry blossom (sakura) that sweeps across Japan each spring, and the light show of the auroras across the planet's northern and southern extremities.

Thanks to Lonely Planet's network of travel experts and 45 years of experience, the book also includes guides to each of these wonders, with recommendations on the best times to visit, how to get there, and where to stay and eat - however deep your pockets. Two sample itineraries cover short and longer trips to allow travellers to make plans based on the time and funds they have available.

To celebrate the launch of Wonders of the World, Lonely Planet in conjunction with G Adventures will be giving away a trip for two, including flights, to one of four destinations featured in the book. Consumers simply need to purchase a copy of Lonely Planet's Wonders of the World from any participating retailer, visit the competition website at and enter their details to be in the running to win. The competition runs from now until 31 January 2020, and the winner will be drawn in February 2020.


Published: November 2019
ISBN: 9781788682329
368pp, hardcover
Price: AU$44.99

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

‘Being Well’ at Great Value in Bangkok During Holiday Season


Outstanding Three-day, Two-night stay for two offer with a focus on well-being

The upscale lifestyle wellness 235-room and suites Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 is offering guests a $378 three-day, two-night ‘Being Well’ holiday season package for two.

Focused on well-being, the offer includes a 60-minute wellness activity with a choice of Aromatherapy Massage, Ancient Thai Massage, Muay Thai Class and Personal Fitness Training.

Also included are a daily buffet breakfast, complimentary in-room minibar, 15% discount on standard menu at Well Spa, 35% discount on food on a la carte menu at Eat Well Café, complimentary access to Well Fitness, outdoor salted water swimming and group exercise classes, and a special rate on extended nights. One free date change is available at least seven days prior to the original check-in date.

Available from now until 31 March 2020 with a supplement charge of $24 net per night applied for stays between 25 December 2019 and 10 January 2020.

More than half a million Australians visit Bangkok each year for holidays and business.  Many like to stay where they feel welcome, at a home away from home, in the world’s most popular travel destination.

The Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20, supports good living in a city that rarely sleeps and is providing a distinct advantage for visitors looking to maintain healthy lifestyles.

The hotel is located in central Sukhumvit, a global tourism destination where you can experience everything Bangkok has on offer – restaurants and bars, clubs, retail malls, food markets, bespoke tailors, handicraft outlets and more. The Well Hotel is an easy walking distance from the BTS Skytrain (Asok), MRT Subway (Sukhumvit), Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre and luxury malls such as The Emporium, The EmQuartier and Terminal 21. On the pavements and streets in between, hawkers sell souvenirs and knock-off designer goods, luggage and footwear as well as roadside eats, beauty and massage.

From here, long walks can be launched, Yoga, Muay Thai or workouts hosted at the Well’s open-air pool and fitness centre where high stress and demanding work lives are put back into balance. 

Around the corner at the EmQuartier, guests can access Bounce, one of Bangkok’s newer fitness and fun experiences.  It is an adrenaline playground comprising interconnected trampolines, adventure features, padding and airbags.  Suitable for all ages – pre-schoolers and teenagers through to fitness enthusiasts and corporate groups.

Nearby Benjakiti Park is one of Bangkok’s most popular parks offering space for joggers, walkers and cyclists.  Further afield is Lumphini Park providing 2.5-km of paths for walkers, joggers and cyclists who exercise at sunrise and sunset to avoid the heat of the day. Here you will find children’s playgrounds, beautiful flora and magnificent trees, boats on lakes, hundreds of birds and even monitor lizards.

The RSM Academy at Rajadamnern Stadium, the original home of Muay Thai, offers a welcoming platform for enthusiasts of all ages and abilities to explore the art of Thai boxing.

The three-year-old Well Hotel Bangkok has five-room categories to suit all guest needs. All rooms and suites have comfortable beds, work desks, mini-bar, personal electronic safety box, 46-inch smart TV, telecoms, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi throughout and LAN cable in room and mobile device charging stations. 

Each Executive Suite and Executive Room is equipped with an exercise bike, yoga and Pilate’s equipment. Guests can also join the free group exercise classes daily. In addition, a microwave and printer on request are provided in all Executive Suites.

Other facilities include the Eat Well Café, The Twist Bar & Bistro, Pool Bar, Well Spa, Fitness Centre and an outdoor rooftop swimming pool. Meeting and event spaces are available for corporate meetings or small to mid-sized events. For security, the hotel has HD CCTV in public areas and a key card system for guest areas and elevators. A 24-hour room service, in-room dining, baby-sitting service, currency exchange, laundry and dry cleaning, valet parking and shoeshine service are also available to ensure a relaxed and pleasant stay.

The Twist Bar & Bistro is located on the ground floor of Memory Wing. It is a perfect place for an intimate dinner, or with friends just to catch up for a chat, a memorable cocktail and a wealth of appetizing Thai and Western meals.  The restaurant has a touch of Art Deco design with a modern twist evoking the glamour and romance of the prohibition-era of the 1920’s and 30’s. Besides the comfortable and cosy dining area inside, there is also an outdoor terrace where patrons can take in the scene. The menu changes seasonally and daily specials using fresh ingredients are offered with a main focus on Western cuisine.

Open during the day the Eat Well Café focuses on traditional fare and Asian fusion. The café features only healthy fresh ingredients. Breakfast is also served daily in the café.

The Pool Bar is located on the Level 7 of Welcome Wing offering, herbal drinks, juice, cocktails, beers and light snacks.

The hotel has the magic mix to bring to life the hotel mantra of “live a healthy lifestyle while travelling. The Wellness Centre has a Well Spa, Fitness Centre and Rooftop Saltwater swimming pool. Well Spa is offering 100% natural therapies with natural products and essential oils in all treatments and massages. The hotel prides itself as a lifestyle wellness hotel. The concept is highlighted by the three main messages which are sleep well, eat well and stay well.

Designed by leading Thai architectural and design company, BEGRAY. The project started with the renovation of a post-modern building which is now Memory Wing. Later the second building was built in the same fashion, named the Welcome Wing featuring the lobby. The architect was inspired by the old houses and buildings in Sukhumvit area that portray the classic Thai twist design harmonizing the old and the new with the touch of art deco. It is aimed to bring an exceptional hotel experience to the guests who appreciate classic design but do not want to compromise on the ideal location of the Well Hotel Bangkok.

A combination of health and wellness, comfort and style plus responsive staff are corner stones of the Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

See More Icebergs than People on Greenland Kayaking Getaway

Despite being the largest island on the planet, Greenland continues to retain a quiet air of serenity, offering the opportunity to enjoy an authentic wilderness escape in the midst of spectacular icy scenery, inhabited by seals, whales, caribou, arctic fox and hare.  

For adventure lovers hoping to visit the island's most scenic waters, specialist tour operator, Swoop Arctic, welcomes both experienced and novice kayakers to join its 15-day South Greenland Kayak Expedition, with departures June through to September 2020.

Travelling via Reykjavik or Copenhagen to Narsarsuaq Airport, the kayaking adventure begins with a crossing of the great Narsaq fjord, with its many icebergs, low mountains, waterfalls that flow in to the sea and numerous seals for company along the route.

Throughout the trip, kayakers will marvel at the gifts provided by Mother Nature as they paddle past ice sculptures, under arches and alongside floating ice, sometimes venturing in to areas such as the Torsukattak fjord zone which, hitherto, have been relatively uncharted by kayakers.

Among the sights that leave a lasting impression on every visitor, are the three massive Qaleraliq glaciers, gateway to the 2,500km icy plateau leading to northern Greenland; the omnipresent Inlandis ice sheet and the second largest glacier in the world.  The roar of ice cracking or collapsing from the glacier in to the sea is a colossal reminder of why halting global warming is imperative.  

Paddling is interspersed with hiking and exploring on foot, with participants having the chance to trek to Lake Tasersuatsiaq, where they will be rewarded with panoramic views across the Greenlandic ice cap.  Undoubtedly, local wildlife such as caribou, arctic fox and hare will be spotted along the way.

The final day of the expedition is spent exploring the striking agricultural town of Narsaq, where the houses are painted in vibrant hues of red, blue and yellow, kitchen gardens provide the locals with plentiful fresh produce, and inhabitants jokingly refer to themselves as cowboys, as a nod towards their sheep and cattle farming roots.

Paddlers may choose to take optional excursions (available at an additional cost) to Qaqortoq, described as Greenland's most charming town, and the norse ruins of Hvalsey Church.  

In addition, following a boat transfer from Narsaq to Narsarsuaq, there will be time to explore the Bluie West One museum, the former US military base, where time has stood still since it was used in WWII.

Prices for the South Greenland Kayak Expedition start from £1916 per person, based on twin share.  Accommodation is in hostels for two nights and under canvas for 12, with all meals, expedition guides, kayaking equipment, transfers and return travel to Narsarsuaq included.  

For further information, visit


Monday, November 4, 2019

Chiva-Som Reopens for a New Era Of Wellness

The Chiva-Som International Health Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand, has reopened its doors, marking the completion of the fourth and final stage of its renovation - the first major works since its launch over 24 years ago - and welcoming a brand new era of wellness.

Famed as a pioneer of the wellness industry, guests return to Chiva-Som year after year for its world-class facilities and the wellness team's unparalleled skill and depth of knowledge.  Spanning the course of five years, the highly anticipated refurbishment has seen the resort accommodation and all of the facilities and public areas redesigned and transformed to enhance the 'hardware' offering and cement its status as a leader in the wellness industry.


Chairman and CEO of Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Mr. Krip Rojanastien, said of the launch:  "Embarking on such an transformation was a major commitment, but the time was right to ensure the 'hardware' is in place to take Chiva-Som into a new era of wellness.  We are immensely proud of the results and are very much looking forward to welcoming our guests back to the rejuvenated resort, which nonetheless retains the Chiva-Som DNA.  As the resort embarks on its 25th anniversary year in 2020, we hope it will continue to inspire wellness for clients old and new".


The new-look resort will unveil the final improvements to the Health & Wellness area, the Bathing Pavilion, Niranlada Medi-Spa, and its much-loved seaside restaurant, the Taste of Siam.  New signature interiors feature teak, Thai silk and bamboo complemented by a calming, contemporary colour palette, offset by plenty of natural light. The Spa and Physiotherapy treatment rooms have been refined and refreshed to include a new hydrotherapy suite and flotation chamber, whilst the Bathing Pavilion now incorporates a sunbed area, separate male and female changing rooms plus a brand new hydro pool delivering new hydrotherapy functions. The Niranlada Medi-Spa has been transformed to offer a warm and welcoming space, home to a discreet facial analysis room, various treatment rooms and a make-up room.


The Taste of Siam showcases the renowned wellness cuisine which has been developed over many years by Chiva-Som's accomplished culinary team.  Skill and technique are combined with the freshest of organic ingredients - many grown in the resort's own organic gardens - to deliver masterful cooking that is packed with flavour and nutrients in equal measure.  The restaurant can now accommodate up to 100 guests with additional seaside seating, whilst the open kitchen has been brought indoors to create a casual, interactive dining experience.  An improved layout ensures guests can always enjoy uninterrupted sea views, come rain or shine.


For Chiva-Som bookings in Australia contact your travel agent or a Chiva-Som Specialist on 1300 857 437. 

Doors open at Hotel Chadstone Melbourne, MGallery by Sofitel

The ribbon has been cut to mark the unveiling of Hotel Chadstone Melbourne, MGallery by Sofitel, with the first guests arriving last Friday (1 November) to enjoy Melbourne’s newest luxury destination.

Qatar Airways A350-1000 makes its Australian debut

The first A350-1000 aircraft to touch down in Sydney and Canberra

Qatar Airways was the global launch customer of the A350-1000 in 2018

Canberra and Sydney today welcomed the first scheduled state-of-the-art Airbus A350-1000 flight, with Qatar Airways QR0906 Doha to Sydney-Canberra route landing at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport just after 6:00am on Friday morning, before making its way to Canberra Airport and touching down at 8:40am.

Sustainability at the Heart of New Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa New Zealand

Central Otago's new luxury lodge will have sustainability at its heart when it opens its door later this year.

Located amongst the vines of Central Otago's founding winery, the Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa will offer the ultimate in relaxed luxury, fine wine, culinary excellence and 5-star personal service.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Hyde Perth Kitchen + Cocktails now open

Perth’s hottest poolside party offers LA vibes and Mediterranean bites

Accor & sbe Entertainment Group have now opened their second world class venue in Australia with Hyde Perth Kitchen + Cocktails, residing at the all-new Art Series hotel, The Adnate in Perth’s CBD.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Why you should always ask for seconds on your inflight meal

Today I must congratulate both Malaysia Airlines (MH) and their inflight catering supplier, the massive international dnata group, for showing our small media group around their compact Halal facility here at Sydney Airport.

Congratulate? Why? Because apart from showing us the stringent hygiene protocols and checks and balances at various steps in the meal preparation, we were able to see the extent of food waste that occurs in the airline industry every day. Normally an airline or caterer would be timid about revealing such matters.

Sheathed in disposable smocks and hairnets, we are ushered to a wash station where we sanitise our hands. Curiously, our hairnets all denote our status. Workers wear plain white, first aid staff wear yellow and leading hands wear red. We, as visitors, are capped in a simple, demure blue.

We weren't allowed to photograph the Sydney kitchen, but here is a picture of dnata's Singapore kitchen during a ministerial tour.

Everything in the preparation room, about the size of a small aircraft hangar, is stainless steel. Implements are not shared between stations or processes and hot food temperature is measured by a thermometer gun and meticulously recorded.

Okay, I grimaced at some of the single-use plastic still being used here, indicative of every airline currently in the skies, but also at the amount of sheer waste that occurs in airline catering.

I hasten to point out that the airlines are hamstrung in their ability to do anything but destroy uneaten meals and the associated packaging because of our strict quarantine rules. You see, ANY food - or any THING that has come in contact with food (packaging, containers, disposable cutlery etc) - is unpacked by hand from the returning trolleys inside a secure room at the catering facility. Washable items like bowls and plates are loaded into a big washer, but everything else is dumped unceremoniously into a dedicated Sulo bin for incineration, including unopened drinks, snacks and whole meals.

Business class meal being served on an MH A330 (file image MAS)

“Our hands are absolutely tied in this matter,” regional manager for Malaysia Airlines, Giles Gilbert tells me, clearly uncomfortable at the process we are all witnessing, “but the rules are very strict and there is absolutely no room to move. Everything that comes off an international flight goes in that bin and is incinerated. End of story.”

Wastage is higher from the premium cabin apparently because many passengers board with a belly full of lounge food and drink. MH’s online preordering, being introduced across the network, will hopefully minimise wastage.

MH Fish curry economy meal. (file image)

dnata is able to work with food recovery programs like OzHarvest, but this is only for food surplus that is procured locally and hasn’t travelled outside our borders.

We are seeing just a small example of this quarantine process in action and are not permitted to take any photographs within the sterile zone. I can only imagine what volumes are involved in one of the huge facilities like Qantas or beyond that, the cruise industry.

A media handout image of dnata chefs examining produce (dnata)

On a daily basis, 32,000 meals are served across the MH network, including 18,000 of the airline’s famous satay sticks, all of which are hand-cooked in a single kitchen in Kuala Lumpur.

As you would expect, meals are prepared to a budget but when I enquire, both MH and dnata are guarded on this topic. Another source indicates airlines budget for around $30-35 for a premium cabin meal and around $10 for economy, so I will assume MH is in that vicinity.

Coming soon to a MH flight near you:
Chef Nelly's beef short rib.
Prior to our kitchen tour, we meet some of dnata’s chefs including Nelly Robinson, 30, who is known locally for his restaurant nel. on Wentworth Avenue here in Sydney. We sample freshly cooked prawn sambal and beef rendang directly from the MH menu and both are superb. Chef Nelly has just completed preparations to introduce a new dish, a beef short rib in honey BBQ sauce that requires a 2-day preparation. Gilbert sighs, knowing the process that entails, but he’s committed to upping the steaks - if you’ll excuse the pun.

Gilbert also candidly acknowledges that MH had some ground to make up in airline performance, but was able to share some encouraging data that included leaps in On-Time Performace (OTP) to 89% (up from 60s just two years ago) and a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 13, up from negative numbers as recently as 2018. This puts them ahead of American (3) and United (-8), but trailing the airline industry benchmark of around 40.

Food, of course, is a big influencing factor in NPS determination, so no wonder MH and dnata are making a show of this today.

“Malaysia Airlines wants to treat passengers respectfully,” Gilbert adds, “just like Malays would treat their own guests at home and food is such an important ingredient in Malaysian hospitality.”

From my experience, MH has always been a leader in onboard service from crew attitudes through to cuisine and now I am assured this can only get better still. One thing I will always remember after today is to never be shy to ask for seconds!

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The Expeditionist
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