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When you need a visa

This is something which is constantly changing. If you arrive at an airport or destination point and you don’t have the necessary visa it can mean no holiday so it is very important to get it right.

On the plus side more and more countries are relaxing visa regulations or allow tourists to apply for e-visas or waivers, even extending the length of time tourists can stay. The e-visa scenario has however opened up a new venue for scammers and the unwary traveller can find themselves paying much more than they need to when their online search turns up an unofficial e-visa website. So if you decide to take this path be wary. You can check on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website to find the link. When you book your travel with us we can do this for you.

Istanbul for a day

We have another day in Istanbul after disembarking from the  ‘Minerva..

We disembarked early in the morning and headed for a hotel which we have booked in the Old Istanbul.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on  board ‘Minerva’, it has something no other cruise we have done has, though we believe that Saga (which do not sail to Australia) has a similar ambience. The cabins are quite simple compared to those on other ships – even the suites which have balconies, however the public areas are like an English country house, spacious and friendly with comfy armchairs and cosy sofas. There are a number of different areas to sit including an excellent library, classified in the Dewey system (though don’t look for a catalogue). There are two bars and two restaurants – both served by the same kitchen, but one casual buffet style and the other formal. Many of the passengers are serial travellers with Swan Hellenic and were discussing past and future cruises and making plans to meet up again at the next cruise. It felt like belonging to a friendly English country club.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Image of Topkapi Palace by Waldo Miguez from Pixabay

After dropping our bags we headed for Topkapi. This was an option on the excursion program yesterday but we had already booked Old Instanbul. Topkapi Palace is like a small town. The residence of the Ottoman Sultans constructed in 1478 it was lived in until 1868 it has 4 courtyards and beautiful gardens in and around the buildings. There is

a library, kitchens, and the famous harem – a town within a town. The Imperial Treasury has gifts to the sultans on display and there are audience galleries, schoolrooms and Turkish baths. While it is very splendid and well worth a visit, it is a little tedious after about an hour or two. This is because it is room after room beautifully decorated with tiles and marble. These rooms have little furniture except the occasional low ottoman sofa. It would be far more evocative if, for example,  the kitchens were set up as they are at Hampton Court Palace in England for example with models of the food and people who would have used them, actually acting out cooking and food preparation. It was a beautiful sunny day however and we enjoyed our time wandering through the gardens. After about 4 hours we set off the find the Spice Market. This was well worth a visit, though it is hugely disappointing not to be able to bring any sices home. I am even wary of bringing home Turkish delight unless it is sealed. The Spice Market or Egyptian Spice Bazaar, is in a very old part of town, under cover and seems to extend for miles. Dozens of stalls selling the same produce make it difficult to decide, but finally I settle on a few boxes of Turkish delight – after tasting it – and ask for them sealed. Our evening was planned to be in a meze house in Taksim, but after taking the tram and funicular to get to this part of town we decided it was too seedy – and that the area around the Agia Sophia and the Blue Mosque looked like they had better restaurants. Next time we need to know where to go as I am sure that Istanbul has some great innovative food. We ended up eating in a run-of-the-mill cafe… have an average meze plate and a meal cooked in a claypot known as guvec – not a meal to celebrate

True North is true luxury!

Yesterday it was my pleasure to go aboard True North, the expedition cruise ship from the Kimberley Coast, on her annual visit to Sydney… Not just passing through but hosting two short sailings to make the most of what Sydney does best: the Christmas – New Year festival. This is a rare opportunity for cruise-lovers to go aboard for a short stay and steal a march on landlubbers with the best view of the Harbour’s activities. There are shore excursions but it would be fair to say this is a 5-star extension of the most popular occupation, dining, with the benefits of pleasant company and 24hour service!

Now usually True North is to be found cruising from Broome to Wyndham and back, a trip she does throughout the winter season. And this must be the best way to experience that region without either wasting time relocating or enduring the heat and dust of an inland stay.
True North’s daily program can include picnics in the wilderness where everyone is flown in – and out – by the ship’s on-board helicopter. This takes your holiday right out of the ordinary and almost into the realms of imagination. Other landings and snorkelling excursions are by tender – she has 3. We all – certainly I do – at times imagine ourselves living in the Australia of the past, in that romantic time of discovery of remote regions. But as you follow in those pioneer footsteps it is true comfort to know that luxury awaits you at the end of the day when you step back on board True North!
After Sydney she journeys to South Australia finishing her sail at Ceduna then going on to Fremantle for yearly maintenance. In February she sails to Dampier before resuming her regular Kimberley couses through to September, after which the sailings are to Rowley Shoals, then West Papua in October (one sailing, almost fully booked already!) and then Papua New Guinea, 3 sailings, before she’ll be back in Sydney again for NYE 2011. And they can invite me back any time… (P.S. The dining was excellent!)

Last minute cruising

There are still a few pre-Christmas cabins left for those who decide at the last minute they would like to take a cruise and avoid the silly season. Yesterday we were able to book a couple on a the cruise of their choice – before Christmas – and we are getting emails everyday about specials and last-minute deals.
So if you fancy escaping the pre-Christmas rush – or need to re-charge your batteries before the relatives arrive and the festive season really gets underway – contact us today – travel@travelchoice.com.au

Life is what happens…

On June 18th Royal Princess suffered a fire in her engine room and has now put back to Port Said, Egypt for repairs. The current cruise is terminated and the cruise scheduled for 25th June cancelled. All passengers will receive a full refund, plus a 25% future cruise credit and be flown home with all expenses paid by Princess.
Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. Reading of the fire aboard Royal Princess brought home that sea voyages carry the thrill of unpredictability: an adventure is there as a possibility every time we embark on a cruise. This mishap aboard Royal Princess is unfortunate and quite uncommon. Nevertheless it seems to have been dealt with promptly and efficiently, and happily there has been no injury, only personal inconvenience and interruption. Passengers are suffering disruption but will be generously compensated by Princess – and it’s even possible some may remember their real adventure in a positive light. After all, travel is about the experience, and the enjoyment of telling the tale is part of it!

Cruise schedule – and 2 great deals – for week beginning March 3

This week you will find the following cruise ships in harbours around Australia

March 3
Sun Princess will be in Melbourne for the day
Diamond Princess will stopover in Fremantle for the day

March 4
Volendam will visit Melbourne and leave again
Millenium will also visit Melbourne for the day then depart for New Zealand
Black Watch visits Fremantle and departs on the 5th

March 5
Sun Princess sails into Sydney for the day
Crystal Serenity arrives in Adelaide and departs same day
Volendam visits Burnie in Tasmania for the day

March 6
Millenium visits Hobart for the day

March 7
Dawn Princess visits Sydney for the day
Sun Princess and Pacific Sun visit Brisbane for the day
Athena visits Fremancle for the day before departing for Asia

March 8
Crystal Serenity calls into Fremantle for the day

If you want to find out more about any of these cruise ships – or their itineraries – contact me at any time – martin@travelchoice.com.au

Cruise deals you might like to think about…
Volendam will be circumnavigating Australia in 2010. Starting in Sydney on March 14 she will sail first to Melbourne, then Hobart and Adelaide, Fremantle, north to the Top End and then Cairns and Brisbane. Contact me for the best fares…

Queen Mary 2 will sail to Asia departing 13 February 2010.
Departing from Hong Kong she will visit Shanghai, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Guam and Rabaul before sailing through the Whitsundays to Auckland and the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and Sydney on 7th March.
Fares include one-way economy flight with Qantas from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide; 2 nights accommodation in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, a return Peak Tram Sky Pass – and all the benefits of a Cunard cruise. These include personalised Cunard White Star service, all meals, port charges and government taxes, group transfers in Hong Kong, 24 complimentary room service – and wait, there’s more. The fares start at $6,999 – this is a new deal. Past Cunard guests also receive an additional 5% off!
Contact me – martin@travelchoice.com.au – for more information. I took this photo from the stern of the QM2 last week.

Diamond Princess in port 12th Dec’08

Diamond Princess in port 12th Dec.

The huge ship at the Overseas Passenger Terminal today is the 115,875 ton Diamond Princess. This is a big ship. Entering service in 2004 Diamond Princess set a new standard in many areas, but chiefly in size and technology, being the first in her class to have a pod propulsion system. There is accommodation for 2674 passengers, in over 1300 cabins, more than half of which have a private balcony, and 28 that are wheelchair-accessible. There are 5 dining rooms, plus 2 alternative restaurants and a poolside hamburger grill; four pools; a library; a casino, a self-service laundrette, and 14 elevators. This is one of the new-generation resort-style cruise ships that, large as they are, may soon be overshadowed by larger vessels that will resemble floating communities.