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Sunday, November 17, 2019

MSC: Is this the future of cruising?


[updated]

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 www.msccruises.com.au  or www.msccruises.co.nz 





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
lptravel.to/wonders 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.

LONELY PLANET'S WONDERS OF THE WORLD

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


#onlyinthailand

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 https://www.swoop-arctic.com/greenland/south/kayak-expedition

www.swoop-antarctica.com

 

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!



Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Raffles Singapore is back after massive makeover





Raffles Hotel Singapore, which is owned by Katara Hospitality, global hotel owner, developer and operator based in Qatar; and managed by Accor, has officially celebrated its reopening (18 October 2019).

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New Melbourne to Margaret River direct flights


Castle Bay in the Margaret River region
Exploring one of Western Australia’s most diverse destinations is now easier thanks to Jetstar’s new direct flights between Melbourne and the Margaret River region.

Lonely Planet Reveals Its Top Picks for 2020



Global travel authority Lonely Planet has chosen Lord Howe Island as one of the world's Top 10 Regions for next year in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2020, released this morning.

Best in Travel 2020 is Lonely Planet’s 15th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations and journeys for the year ahead. The best-selling, inspirational travel yearbook highlights the top 10 countries, cities, regions, and best-value destinations that Lonely Planet's experts recommend for 2020. This edition places particular emphasis on sustainable travel experiences— ensuring travellers will have a positive impact wherever they choose to go.

Lord Howe Island is ranked fifth on the book's list of Top 10 Regions 2020.

"Parked in the middle of nowhere 600km off the Australian coast, this visually stunning island makes an instant impact on the senses with its jaw-dropping World Heritage–listed beauty," writes Lonely Planet. "Two soaring green mountains overlook a perfect lagoon and the world’s southernmost coral reef; perfect crescents of beach and splendid hiking trails through the lush forest add to brilliant outdoors possibilities."

"This onetime volcano’s isolation makes it a refuge for many endemic species, as well as plentiful birdlife," Lonely Planet says. "The island is a shining example of sustainably managed tourism; only 400 visitors are allowed at any time, and you are encouraged to participate in a series of ecological projects. Lord Howe’s remoteness and manageable size make it an idyllic escape."

Lonely Planet's Top 10 Regions 2020 are:


1. Central Asian Silk Road
2. Le Marche, Italy
3. Tōhoku, Japan
4. Maine, USA
5. Lord Howe Island, Australia
6. Guizhou Province, China
7. Cadiz Province, Spain
8. Northeast Argentina
9. Kvarner Gulf, Croatia
10. Brazilian Amazon

Australia is also represented on a number of the book's other top lists for 2020, including:

Best New Openings

8) Great Southern Train Journey, Adelaide–Brisbane

"One of the latest luxury routes that prove rail travel will never die as long as people enjoy a day’s leisurely journey through beautiful landscapes and a night of being gently rocked to sleep in their own private carriage, the Great Southern will run three- and four-day routes between Adelaide and Brisbane, offering opportunities to stop at national parks, beaches and cities, with a luxurious cabin and gourmet food options to enjoy onboard."

Best New Places to Stay

5) Mount Mulligan Lodge, Queensland



"Embrace the Australian outback and Mt Mulligan (Ngarrabullgan), an 18km-long flat-topped monolith, at this lodge in the northern reaches of Queensland. Built on a working cattle station by the Morris family, Mount Mulligan Lodge has used the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a framework and also endeavours to protect and restore the surrounding environment."

Best New Food Experiences

8) Di Stasio Città, Melbourne

"Open since February 2019, this long-awaited venue from an Australian restaurant stalwart has more than met the sentimental hype. ‘Ronnie’ Di Stasio pioneered his first restaurant, Rosati, thirty years ago and now he’s back in a beautiful Brutalist building, with video installations by Australian artists and the city’s best pasta."

Best Sustainable Trips for Families

9) Tasmania

"Tasmania is a magical place for families. From treetop walks to messing about in boats, and from frolicking on the sand to the family-friendly ‘Discovery Ranger’ activities available in the national parks, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy; and the beauty of it is distances are small. There’s also a strong ethos of using locally sourced (and delicious!) produce and a long-term sustainable approach to wildlife conservation and wilderness protection."

Each year, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel lists start with nominations from Lonely Planet’s vast community of staff, writers, bloggers, publishing partners and more. The nominations are then whittled down by our panel of travel experts, who shortlist in line with criteria such its topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor.

Other Best in Travel 2020 highlights include:

· The Top 10 Countries to visit in 2020: Bhutan, England, North Macedonia, Aruba, eSwatini, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Liberia, Morocco, and Uruguay

· The Top 10 Cities to visit in 2020: Salzburg, Austria; Washington, DC, USA; Cairo, Egypt; Galway, Ireland; Bonn, Germany; La Paz, Bolivia; Kochi, India; Vancouver, Canada; Dubai, UAE; and Denver, USA

· Top 10 Best Value Destinations to visit in 2020: East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia; Budapest, Hungary; Madhya Pradesh, India; Buffalo, USA; Azerbaijan; Serbia; Tunisia; Cape Winelands, South Africa; Athens, Greece; and Zanzibar, Tanzania.

www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel features tips and videos on visiting each destination, as well as a chance to win a Silk Road adventure for two. The Top 10 Cities can also be explored with Lonely Planet’s Guides app.

LONELY PLANET'S BEST IN TRAVEL 2020; 224pp, full colour, 165mm x 210mm, hardback, AU$27.99.

Monday, October 21, 2019

New Flinders Ranges Tour is an outback discovery experience



Flinders Ranges Odysseys has launched a new ultimate three-day Flinders Ranges Outback Tour beginning 3 April 2020. This amazing tour offers exclusive accommodation and incredible food and wine, all while discovering the spectacular and rugged scenery of Wilpena Pound and the magnificent Flinders Ranges.

Over three-days, guests will explore the 540 million-year-old Flinders Ranges in luxury air-conditioned Mercedes Benz vehicles, in small, intimate groups of up to eight people, accompanied by a personal local tour guide.

Accommodation is at the award-winning Rawnsley Park Station in luxurious Eco Villas or one-bedroom Holiday Units. Overlooking the southern side of Wilpena Pound and surrounded by seclusion and breath-taking views, Rawnsley Park Station provides the perfect base for exploring South Australia's beautiful Flinders Ranges.

Departing from Adelaide, day one visits the old copper mining town of Burra for morning tea and Orroroo for lunch before arriving at Rawnsley Park Station. On the way, stop at Kanyaka Station Homestead Ruins and see what’s left of this once massive sheep and cattle station of about 950 square kilometres.

That afternoon admire the beauty of the Flinders Ranges on a Sunset on the Chace tour. With Wilpena Pound as the backdrop, see a picturesque sunset overlooking the stunning Chace Range, while enjoying a glass of sparkling wine and gourmet canapes.

Finish the day off with a delicious two-course dinner in Rawnsley Park Station’s Woolshed Restaurant - an authentic Australian converted woolshed serving delicious Modern Australian cuisine.

Day two begins with an opportunity to take an early morning scenic flight with Chinta Air (additional charges apply), to gain a true appreciation of the scale and grandeur of Wilpena Pound.

Then spend the morning touring the southern Flinders Ranges seeing the local sights, the picturesque Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges and partake in one of the many peaceful walks.

Enjoy a scenic drive to the Prairie Hotel, Australia’s #1 Outback Hotel recognised as an “unmissable outback experience”. Indulge in one of their signature Antipasto Platters, before taking the Moralana Scenic drive back to Rawnsley Park.

That evening join a tour of the old woolshed before being treated to a mouth-watering three-course Lamb Tasting food experience. Try local lamb from the property, showcased, and prepared in three different courses, served with matching Clare Valley wines. Finish off dinner with South Australian ports and local cheeses.

On the final day enjoy morning tea and the phenomenal views at Mt Remarkable, before continuing to the charmingly secluded Clare Valley, to meander through the countryside of one of Australia’s oldest wine growing regions dating back 150 years.

Here enjoy wine tastings and a delicious three-course lunch before returning to Adelaide.

The three-day Flinders Ranges Outback Tour starts from $2242.00 per person, twin share and includes all accommodation, meals, morning pick-up and evening set-down at selected Adelaide CBD hotels, personalised touring, expert commentary from a local driver/guide, all entrance fees, special permits and all activities. The Chinta Air scenic flight is an additional cost.

The tour will operate twice a week, departing every Monday and Friday with extra departures from December 2020 until February 2021.

For further information and bookings visit www.kangarooislandodysseys.com.au , T: +61 8 8553 0386, E: kireservations@kiodysseys.com.au

Thursday, October 17, 2019

New tours from Peregrine

From food tours in Turkey to cruising the coast of Borneo, Peregrine Adventures has revealed a range of new trips set to depart in 2020 that will offer new and exciting options for travellers to visit relatively untouched destinations in popular hot-spots.



“We’re excited to launch our new trips for 2020. From exploring ancient ruins in Sudan, uncovering the history of Russia, and exploring Cyprus in depth, there are many great small group adventures to take next year. Our focus will remain on sustainable, experience rich travel and this is evident by new trips taking Australians on more adventures of a lifetime, with the support of a local leader and comfortable accommodation ensuring a good night's sleep after a day exploring,” said Brett Mitchell, Managing Director for Asia Pacific at Peregrine Adventures.

Top 12 new trips from Peregrine Adventures in 2020: 

Ancient Sudan Experience: Undertake an ancient adventure in Sudan to discover the country's old gods and ancient empires. Over eight days, travellers will visit ancient archaeological sites and ruins and experience the history of Sudan through museums, cities and necropolises. Highlights include visiting the Nubian pyramids and tombs, the 3300-year-old temple at the foot of Jebel Barkal and experiencing the more modern Sudan through viewing souks and chai houses.
Trips start from $4,226 per person in a twin share room.

St Petersburg and the Siege of Leningrad: Embark on a limited edition tour to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad. On this seven-day trip, travellers will venture deep into historical St Petersburg (previously known as Leningrad), exploring the places and events which define a turbulent time in Russia’s history. Highlights include spending time with a war veteran and survivor of the 900-day Siege, staying overnight in a picturesque cottage on the largest lake in Europe - Lake Ladoga, and staying a night in the wing of Catherine’s Palace - the former summer home of Russia’s royal family. 
Trips start from $2,440 per person in a twin share room.

Russia in Depth: Travel to Russia for an in-depth history lesson of some of the countries lesser-known, fascinating cities. On this trip, travellers will spend 12 days travelling east from Moscow to Yekaterinburg discovering the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery, studying the delicate carvings and craft of a Siberian Shaman and folk artist in Tobolsk and enjoying a local feast at Leo Tolstoy’s estate. Highlights include exploring the legends of Tolstoy and the Romanov family, traversing a part of the Trans-Siberian Railway and toasting the Europe-Asia border over a champagne and caviar lunch. 
Trips start from $4,046 per person in a twin share room. 

Turkey Food Explorer: Explore the contrasting flavours and faces of Turkish cuisine and culture on a 12 day food tour. On this trip, travellers will embark on an adventure through the spice bazaars of Istanbul, the Anatolian wine cellars of Goreme and beyond, to Gaziantep - the country’s kebap capital. From food to fascinating sights, highlights include visiting the Blue Mosque, witnessing whirling dervishes and visiting the ancient Gobeklitepe - an ancient archaeological complex, all whilst exploring the local cuisine and specialities.
Trips start from $2,588 per person in a twin share room.

Jewels of Turkey: Travel to Turkey  to witness the cosmopolitan delights of Istanbul to the Roman remains of Ephesus and Pergamon. This 15-day trip is held across low-season where travellers will experience the best of Turkey without the crowds, touring Goreme’s Open Air Museum, wander throughout the ruins of Ephesus and relax in the hot springs of Pamukkale. Highlights include travelling with a local guide in Turkey’s capital Istanbul, being guests at a mesmerising performance of the Whirling Dervish in Bursa and strolling the alleys and lanes of the ancient Kaleici in Turkeys favourite Mediterranean city; Antalya.
Trips start from $2,156 per person in a twin share room.

Cyprus: North to South: Discover the wonders of North and South Cyprus on this 13-day tour of the Mediterranean’s best-kept secret. Travel from Famagusta in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus to Nicosia, a lively city that is Europe’s last divided capital. Explore ancient ruins, cathedrals converted to mosques, untouched coast and rugged mountains on this immersive adventure. Along the way, be humbled by Cypriot hospitality, stunned by charming villages and satisfied by hearty meals of fresh produce and regional delicacies.
The trip starts from $3,866 per person twin share. 

Lower Zambezi Experience: Independent: Combine rugged safari’s and creature comforts in the Lower Zambezi region on a trip to Zambia. On this four day trip, travellers try their luck at searching for the Big Five, wander through the wilderness during bush walks, explore Zambia on a canoeing adventure and take a relaxing boat cruise. Highlights include dining under the stars on the banks of the Zambezi river, spotting elephants and hippos on a private verandah and travelling with a local guide.
Trips start from $3,380 per person in a single or twin share room.

Eastern Europe Experience: Discover the beautiful Balkans, from metropolises; to meadows and mountains on a 16 day Eastern Europe Experience. On this trip, travellers will adventure through Serbia and Bulgaria before finishing in Istanbul, explore through lesser known villages such as Drvengrad, roam across Serbian meadows in Tara National Park and experience the culture and cuisine of the Balkans. Highlights include visiting Nis, known for its association with the Serbian rebellion, embarking on a cruise through the marshes of Ropotamo Nature Reserve and experiencing a gastronomical cooking experience with an expert in Western Serbian cuisine.
Trips start from $5,846 per person in a twin share room.

Tibet’s Shoton Festival: Travel from mainland China to Tibet and experience the splendour of the ancient Shoton Festival on this 8-day tour in the summer. Begin and end in the capital of Sichuan – Chengdu – and journey into the Lhasa, the capital and spiritual heart of Tibet. Here you will encounter ancient mythology, historic temples and rich and fascinating culture the region is known for. Watch pandas at a research centre in Chengdu, discover the grand former residence of the Dalai Lama, be captivated by a monk debate and celebrate Shoton with locals and pilgrims.
Priced from $3,650 per person twin share.

Cruising the Outer Islands of Croatia - Split to Dubrovnik: Board the Lupus Mare and explore the outer islands of Croatia from Split to Dubrovnik. On this eight-day trip, travellers will experience the old-world charms of Croatia aboard a small ship, witness the coastlines and ] swim in the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea. Highlights include exploring the military tunnels under the island of Vis, built by Tito to hide his navy’s submarines. Enjoy wine tasting and local delicacies on the tiny island of Lastovo and discover the Roman and Illyrian ruins amongst the forest on Mljet.
Trips start from $3,542 per person in a lower deck standard double room.

Russian High Arctic Odyssey: Travel on a once-in-a-lifetime trip across polar deserts and glaciers to witness wildlife that is unique to the Arctic. Starting and ending in Helsinki, on this 22- day trip, travellers will visit sites significant in the history of previous polar exploration and discover the majestic ecology, wildlife and geology of the arctic region. Highlights include visiting the untouched areas of Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya, searching for polar bears and visiting the immense glacier at Inostrantseva Bay.
Trips start from $24,500 per person in a triple room.

Borneo Coastal Cruising: Cruise along the untouched coastlines of Borneo to discover this truly wild destination. On this small ship Adventure Cruise, travellers will spot wildlife in Borneo’s forests, visit the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Brunei followed by tea with a local in a sleepy water village and learn how to craft the perfect plate of Umani with a local Melanau cook in Mukah. This trip will take travellers of 50 or less to visit smaller ports and access hidden gems for a truly local experience. Highlights include an optional canopy walk through the rainforest of Ulu Tempurung National Park and soaking in both the crystal-clear waters of the ocean and mineral-rich volcanic mud pools of Pulau Tiga.  
Trips start from $4,005 per person in a lower deck standard double room.

Best of Spain and Portugal: Explore the best of Western Europe on this comprehensive 27- day tour of Spain and Portugal.  Taste fine wines and produce from farm to table, wander white-washed villages and medieval towns and uncover authentic culture. Highlights include exploring icons like the Alhambra Palace, Madrid, Guimaraes and Santiago de Compostella, get a behind the scenes look at Porto’s best cafes, immerse yourself in nature at Picos de Europa National Park and get transported back in time at an emotional fado performance in Coimbra.
The trip is priced from $12,947 per person twin-share. 

For more information or to book visit: https://www.peregrineadventures.com/en-au

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