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Tuesday 4 December 2018

Spice up your life on Ecruising’s The Culinary Dream through Asia journey

Foodies and gourmets, rejoice, and get ready to satisfy your epi-curious itch on Ecruising's ultimate gastronomic odyssey – The Culinary Dream through Asia Rail and Sail journey.

Departing on 27 February 2019, this mouth-watering 24-night itinerary takes in some of southeast Asia's most celebrated food destinations as well as a 2-night train trip aboard the iconic Eastern & Oriental Express, hosted by celebrity chef, Luke Mangan, and a 15-night cruise from Myanmar to Indonesia.

Your journey begins in Singapore where you will have 2 nights to explore the city's famous Hawker stalls at your leisure, before boarding the Eastern & Oriental Express. Over the next 3 days, join Luke for a series of tours and cooking demonstrations as he shares his passion for Asian cuisine, and immerse yourself in the tranquil scenery of rural Malaysia and Thailand, before arriving in Bangkok on 3 March 2019. Highlights en route include stopovers in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar in Malaysia's Perak Province, visits to Thailand's notorious River Kwai Bridge and the Thai-Burma Railway Museum, a bicycle tour through Thai rice paddies and cooking classes.

From Bangkok, you'll fly to Yangon in Myanmar where you spend one night before boarding Silver Discoverer on 5 March 2019 for an exciting 15-night Silversea Expedition – taking in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands and a semi-circumnavigation of Sumatra and Java.

One of India's most remote territories, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are slowly opening up to tourism and the cruise offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the Islands' indigenous tribal communities. Relax and explore some spectacular beaches or, if you are feeling more energetic, snorkel with an astonishing array of sea creatures including snappers, Napoleon wrasses, moray eels, nudibranchs, eagle rays, stingrays, star fish, lionfish, and many more.

Entering Indonesian waters, cruise highlights include a stopover in Banda Aceh on Sumatra's tip, with its solemn monuments commemorating the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami; an immersion into the traditional farming and fishing lifestyle of Indonesia's picturesque Simeulue Islands; astonishing demonstrations of agility from the Nias Islands' famous stone jumpers; and a visit to a traditional matrilineal Minangkabau village in West Sumatra's lush highlands.

Also on the itinerary are visits to Java's UNESCO World Heritage site of Ujung Kulon National Park; the awe-inspiring volcano of Anak Krakatoa rising dramatically from the Sunda Strait; the stunning Karimunjawa Marine National Park with its 27 islands surrounded by dazzling corals; the Great Mosque of Sumenep built in 1763; and the active volcanos of Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.

Disembarking in Bali on 20 Mach 2019, spend the final 3 nights of your journey discovering the unique and exotic flavours of Balinese cuisine. Visit the famous Gianyar Night Market, indulge in a traditional Megibung dining experience and try your hand at making local dishes at a Balinese cooking class, before flying home to Australia on 23 March 2019.

Departing on 27 February 2020, prices for Ecruising's 24-night The Culinary Dream through Asia Rail and Sail journey start from $15,359 per person twin share, including all accommodation, return economy class airfares from Australia, transfers, and all meals and selected beverages aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express and on board Silver Discoverer.

Sunday 2 December 2018

Norwegian Jewel comes home after massive refurbishment

Norwegian Jewel’s Second Local Season Underlines Norwegian Cruise Line’s Ongoing Investment in and Commitment to the Asia-Pacific Region

Fresh from a multi-million-dollar, bow-to-stern refurbishment Norwegian Jewel has returned Down Under, arriving in Sydney over the weekend for the official commencement of her 2018/19 local cruising season.

Norwegian Jewel underwent refurbishment last month as part of the company’s Norwegian Edge® fleet refurbishment program, reaffirming the company’s commitment to elevating the standard of excellence across the fleet. Local and international guests alike will experience the spectacular transformation during Norwegian Jewel’s second Australia and New Zealand season, in which she will take in the beauty of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific before travelling back to Asia to embark upon several sailings in the region.

Norwegian Jewel’s entrance into the local market in 2017 has been a game changer for the Australasian cruise sector, due to the brand’s unrivalled freedom & flexibility, world-class dining, award-winning entertainment, immersive itineraries, extensive on-board activities and wide range of accommodation options - from solo studios to interconnecting rooms and balcony suites, to the exclusive The Haven by Norwegian®.

“Local cruisers have really embraced Norwegian Jewel, and with thanks to our valued trade partners, bookings since her first Australasian season have exceeded all expectations. 2018/19 will be Norwegian Jewel’s second local season – with a third already confirmed for 2019/2020 – reflecting Norwegian’s long-term commitment to strengthening our presence in Australasia,” Steve Odell, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia Pacific for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

“Norwegian Jewel’s return to local waters also enables us to showcase to local cruisers and the industry Norwegian’s commitment to the continued enhancement and elevation of its fleet as part of our Norwegian Edge® program. We’re delighted to be the first to be able to show off her re-designed staterooms, refurbished restaurants, bars and lounges and new-look public spaces to our expanding local market. The Australian hit ‘Velvet’ will also be making its debut at sea onboard Norwegian Jewel, with this headline show being another exciting first for our region,” continues Mr Odell. “Norwegian Cruise Line’s consistency of product offering across the entire fleet is unrivalled, making Norwegian Jewel a wonderful local showcase for our many international cruise offerings, including Hawaii and Europe.”

Azura main dining room (supplied)

Guests aboard Norwegian Jewel can truly ‘feel free’, with no set dining times, no pre-assigned seating and no strict dress codes. Onboard amenities include 16 high quality dining options, unrivalled for a ship of her size, ranging from Teppanyaki and sushi to French, Italian, Brazilian and pub classics, as well as a choice of 15 bars and nightclubs, boutique shopping, a library and video arcade. Outdoors, there are swimming pools, hot tubs, jogging tracks, a basketball and tennis court, as well as the Mandara Spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness centre.

With Norwegian renowned for award-winning entertainment, Norwegian Jewel returns with two new Broadway-quality shows for guests, ‘Rock You Tonight’, packed with 70s hits from the likes of Queen, Journey and The Who, and exclusive Australian hit musical ‘Velvet’, featuring disco classics, circus acrobatics and cabaret. The refurbished ship also boasts two new venues - The Pit Stop, an All-American vintage-inspired bar; and late-night hotspot, Bliss Ultra Lounge.

During her 2018/19 season, Norwegian Jewel will embark upon scenic Australia and New Zealand voyages, including a 16-day itinerary departing Sydney on December 20, visiting Eden, Burnie, Akaroa Napier, Tauranga and Auckland. In January, Norwegian Jewel will set sail on a 13-day Australia and South Pacific voyage where she’ll visit some of the most beautiful ports in the world including Isle of Pines, Lifou and Airlie Beach. February 2019 sees Norwegian Jewel heading to Southeast Asia, and in March she will depart Singapore on a 12-day adventure exploring exotic ports including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi en route to Hong Kong.

For more information or to book a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, please contact a travel professional; call Norwegian in Australia on 1300 255 200 or in New Zealand on 0800 969 283; or visit

Saturday 1 December 2018

Seabourn - the last word on luxury at sea

Words: Ian MacTavish

Not many of us live right beside the sea. My wife and I certainly don’t. But you’d have to be a long way from any coastline to be unaware of the growing numbers of lovely large white vessels moving in and out of ports around the world.

With their decks buzzing with excited passengers looking forward to a short or long cruise they represent the fastest growing sector of the travel industry.

Cruising has never been more popular and the corners of the world served by sea-lanes have opened up for so many in the last twenty years.

The lure of the oceans.

Any cruise has a number of immediate attractions over land-based travel.

You don’t have to pack and unpack. No need to book in and out of hotels, or find transport every other day. You have a very short walk to all you want. Food. Drink. Pool. Deckchair. Spa. Dancing. Casino. Theatre.

After sunset, after a sleep, you see a new part of the world, a fresh discovery, appearing over your balcony rail every morning.

To top it off there is the romance of the sea ... something so reassuring in the humming and the gentle movement of the hull beneath you.

Which size cruise fits you?

Talk to your friends. We did because we seemed to be the last to take to the seas.

We listened to stories of the latest megaliners, fabulous craft the size of villages, with thousands of people and unbelievable facilities.

Some of our mates love large hotels. Huge spaces, bars everywhere, the buzz of crowds. But we’ve always liked intimate, boutique gems and that steered us towards the company known for it’s smaller ships.

OK you may miss out on water slides or surfing pools, but on a ship with less than 300 suites you can go into smaller ports, and mingle with a compact selection of like-minded travellers.

Thinking smaller for bigger rewards

Seabourn is right at the top of the luxury cruise lines.

No point in hiding. We found it among the most expensive.

But wow, what an experience!

Not only did we not want for anything, but the levels of personal service and the added touches were also above and beyond anything we had experienced before. The ratio of crew to guests is one of the highest.

Even in the space of ten days, we got to know by name most of the crew serving us day by day. They come from all over the world and cheerfully give you an interesting insight into their backgrounds. They remembered many of our preferences such as seating for meals and favourite snacks. 

Seabourn Encore: Pool deck.

How Seabourn defines luxury.

We met the Cruise Director on the second day out and had a couple of conversations with him. He had been with the company for 27 years, starting as an onboard entertainer. We asked how his systems work so well; his most telling statement was: “We make things personable. We encourage guests to chat with us and each other. Temporary friends maybe, but it generates an atmosphere you won’t find on a larger ship or hotel”

That’s how it is. Intimate, informal and individual.

Crewmembers are always ahead of you, anticipating what might make your day even better.

In your chosen bar, the barman remembers your favourite drink, and it appears. No need to run up a tab or settle up on the last day. It’s all included.

Need another bottle of champagne in you suite’s fridge? It’s all included.

Choice of some of the world’s fine wine at dinner. It’s all included.

An evening concert and dinner ashore. All included

Feels so gooooood!

Comfort you take for granted. Our suite’s ensuite had twin basins, a separate shower and bath (a tub on a softly swaying ship is a great experience), piles of fluffy towelling and shelves filled with products from Molton Brown of London.

A huge bed. Balcony, fridge, lounges and a table for dining in, which we did one night, each course brought as it was prepared.

The restaurant meals are amazingly good, especially at Restaurant2, which we made sure we booked as soon as we boarded.

My wife is tapping me on the shoulder to mention The Spa. It’s mainly a girl thing, and they deserve every hour of it. Emerging radiant, she says nowhere has treated her so well. The sheer choice of luxurious pampering is amazing. Just look at the brochure.

How to sum up the Seabourn Experience.

We haven’t been on all the ships at sea. But it is difficult to imagine anything that could top our Seabourn adventure.

For us it was sunshine, sipping and sightseeing in a Mediterranean summer. You might choose quite another part of the world. The oceans await you. Your horizons may be very different. But I bet onboard you’ll fall in love with what we did.

All in all, we did many things we had done before but with a level of perfection thanks to the sparkle of the Seabourn team. With their proven tradition of ultra-luxury, we would step onboard any of their ships, anywhere in the world in a heartbeat.