…in addition to seeing the Northern Lights!
Aside from being voted the happiest country in the world in 2017, Norway is a true winter wonderland and one of the hottest destinations for Australians right now.
Cruise Express Director, Hardy Schneider has escorted many trips to this majestic part of the world and it still rates as one of his ultimate destinations. “Aussies love to travel, and we particularly love countries like Norway because it is so truly polar opposite to how we live in Australia. Most of us haven’t touched snow as it’s falling, let alone taken a husky sled ride, met reindeers, stayed in a hotel made of ice, or spent time in snow-shrouded villages and wilderness”.
While seeing the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) is a bucket list experience, there is more to this stunning country. It is so fresh and pristine throughout, is full of incredibly in-depth history, and with so much to see and do off the beaten track, time will be the only thing you won’t have enough of!
A few of Hardy’s favourites include a trip to the most northerly point of Europe, the North Cape, a visit to beautiful Vigeland Sculpture Park, the historic Viking and Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo and Holmenkollen, one of the world’s largest ski jumps. He also recommends staying at Fleischer’s, a historic hotel in Voss, experiencing breathtaking railway journeys along frozen waterfalls and endless fjords.
With so much to see and do, one highlight has to be cruising from Bergen to Kirkenes onboard one of Hurtigruten’s iconic ships, such as ms Kong Harald, named after Norway’s reigning monarch. Travellers will enjoy views of spectacular coastal scenery and visit many local port calls, dropping off and picking up anything needed by the locals, from milk and mail to cars and passengers.
“While photos are delightful, it’s really hard to capture the feeling and atmosphere. The people are so friendly, it’s an experience that will take your breath away time and time again,” says Hardy.
For those with more time on their hands, and a love of nature, we recommend an Iceland extension. This incredible country is alive with glaciers, geysers, stunning (often frozen) waterfalls, volcanic activity and geothermally heated pools. There are steam baths such as the Blue Lagoon or the lesser known Mývatn nature baths too plus it means more chances to see the Northern Lights!
There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot of memories to gain – contact us so we can organise your cruise, anywhere, anytime! For details on our 2020 Norway escorted voyage click here.
The Southern Rail Spectacular lived up to its billing – it was spectacular!
The Southern Rail Spectacular – a new and first-ever 5-day adventure – offering the opportunity to ride behind one of Australia’s most famous locomotives, the legendary Beyer-Garratt 6029. This 265-ton monster, the largest locomotive ever to operate in Australia, is just part of this heritage rail tour from Sydney to Victoria and back in August of 2018.
Written by Cruise Express client and train enthusiast, Ken Ticehurst
The Cruise Express’ team spent over a year in planning this monumental journey and with a mountain of red tape to climb, the team put together an amazing array of 11 steam and diesel engines and 33 carriages to make five train sets for the journeys.
Below are a few highlights I’d like to share:
Day 1: Leaving Sydney Central station at 5:18am the train, hauled by two heritage diesels, travelled on the goods line, passed the dead centre of Sydney (Rookwood) and on to the main southern line. The Beyer-Garrett 6029 was attached at Junee. At Yass Junction, the train waited for the Melbourne bound XPT to pass. It was a great sight to see the 6029 & XTP together.
Day 2: After an overnight stay in the lovely Atura motel in Albury, we joined the first run of the Spirit of Progress on standard gauge tracks for the trip to Melbourne. It was a smooth ride in air-conditioned carriages, and a stop for lunch at Seymour, allowed time to visit the rail museum. Overnight in Melbourne at Vibe Savoy hotel was also most pleasant.
Day 3: The train to Castlemaine was hauled by two steam locos, one A class and one K class, and another set of carriages. At Castlemaine another set of heritage carriages were provided, with the A class Loco pulling the train to Maldon. Two special carriages, Macedon and Tambo, were used in the old Overland express in years gone by. A stop at Muckleford was provided so that we could photograph the train doing a run through the station.
Day 4: Another train, with K707 at the lead, took the group to Newport rail yards for an inspection of the fascinating activities undertaken to restore many locos and carriages. After lunch the Spirit of Progress train once again headed for Albury.
Day 5: Another night at the Atura, at 6.30am we headed in 3 coaches to Canberra. As unpredictable as any travel can be, heritage rail journeys are no exception! After all the planning, ARTC announced that track work would extend to Monday. The Beyer-Garrett took the train to Moss Vale where it was decoupled and the two diesels were attached for the return to Sydney.
The organisation was first class. So much work behind the scenes was necessary to make a most enjoyable experience for the 150 travellers. Each day a staff member would bring a large card showing times and places for the following day. Nothing was too much trouble. The heritage rail personnel were all volunteers and really love what they do.
Congratulations to the Cruise Express team for a job well done!
Enjoy more of our spectacular photos from this history-making journey here.
If the idea of a holiday that includes NO shopping, cooking, cleaning, sitting in traffic or scooting around to after-school activities sounds appealing then read on Mums (and Dads)!
For most of us, family getaways over the years have involved packing up the car for that trip up or down the coast, a few nights here and there, trips to the airport, stopovers and jetlag… what part of that is a ‘holiday’?
Instead imagine starting your well-deserved break only a few minutes down the road while still being able to travel to new destinations, enjoy delicious meals (that you didn’t make), have someone else make your bed and even clean the bathroom – every day! Yes, we are talking about a cruise holiday. Here are some points for you to consider when thinking about organising a local cruise:
Close to home: Once those bags are checked in at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay (or White Bay depending on which ship you are cruising on) you are officially ‘on holiday’. It’s that simple – all a little too exciting!
All inclusive: Experience twice daily cabin service, almost all day dining, 24/7 room service, entertainment around the ship day and night including live shows, a gymnasium, and many child-friendly activities – it’s all included. PLUS revel in spa treatments, high-end dining and local touring (at additional cost).
Kids Club: No surprises here! Kids Club is divided into age groups (from 3 years old) with age-appropriate activities, facilities and evening events. Some cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International offer baby ‘club’ (usually from 6 months) and evening babysitting services – usually for a nominal fee.
Fun for the kids (meaning life is easier for you): At the end of the day, you want the entire family to have a wonderful holiday. Many of the ships cruising to and from Sydney have water slides, rock climbing walls, wave-surfing pools and zip lines which are huge hits with older kids. On these child-friendly cruises, there will be lots of kids onboard so your troops can make friends easily. A word of warning, if you actually want to spend lots of time with your children then cruising may not be for you!
Holiday festivities: Yes there are more children onboard in school holidays (although you’d be surprised how many cruise outside these times) but if you are able to sail during peak holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the experience onboard is out of this world. For example, during the festive season ships are decked out with all the trimmings and you might spot the odd roaming group of carollers! Or perhaps you might take part in a ship-wide Egg Hunt during an Easter cruise. Remember the onboard staff are also celebrating and are far from home, family and friends so be extra nice to them.
Intergenerational: Cruising is a great holiday option for three generations of the one family as you can be as independent or together as you like. There are so many activities onboard that everyone will have something to do from bingo to enjoying cocktails at a fancy bar to simulated skydiving.
Room tips: If your children are small, sharing a four-person cabin with bunks is ideal but if they are older, you’ll be falling over each other. Many ships offer interconnecting cabins or you can opt for neighbouring cabins – next to each other – or an Oceanview or Balcony cabin and an Inside cabin directly opposite the hallway to save money.
Balcony safety: Some parents may worry about little ones falling off balconies – it’s actually not possible to ‘fall’ as they are high. It is hard to even access the balcony for littlies as your balcony door is so heavy. However, if your little monkeys are young (and love climbing), we still suggest a balcony cabin requires adult supervision at all times. An interior room with a virtual balcony or oceanview cabin with a window or porthole will be just as exciting for the kids and you won’t need to keep an eye on them as much.
While cruises are available year-round to and from Sydney, during our warmer months (Nov-Apr) more ships visit our shores giving even more options. We can help you choose which ship is best for your family and then secure the best cabin/s available.
There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot of R&R to gain – contact us so we can organise your cruise, anywhere, anytime!
When is the best time of year to travel to Antarctica?
We all know that wherever you journey in the world you will be impacted by the time of year. However, more than any destination, the time of year you travel to Antarctica will make a big difference. There is no perfect time to visit Antarctica – each and every day is inspiring and magical.
With the help of our expedition specialists’, we have highlighted what to expect during different months:
Early summer offers pristine conditions with more snow and the largest icescapes largely undisturbed from winter. It is still a very cold time of year however the polar ice has begun to break up. It’s important to know that some areas may still have limited access. The scenery is truly captivating, incomparable to any other time of year, yet the wildlife may not be quite as plentiful.
Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adélie penguins do come ashore to breed. Their courtship and nest building can be quite comical to watch. By the end of November, there are plentiful nests full of eggs. Other wildlife to enjoy include seabirds such as petrels, skuas and albatross. While there are no guarantees, the elusive Emperor penguin can sometimes be found during special icebreaker tours along the Weddell Sea.
At this time of year, South Georgia, known as the home of King penguins, is also the area where Elephant seals are courting and breeding.
This time of year offers the warmest days (as high as 5 deg C!). There is also a lot of sunlight (around 20 hours a day) so it’s also a great time for photography.
December and January are traditionally the most popular months to visit. There is the added bonus of plentiful penguin chicks beginning to hatch. With longer warmer days, this time of year is also great for more and longer land expeditions.
For history enthusiasts, the ice surrounding East Antarctica is breaking up enabling tours to the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott. While this is a spectacular time, travelling to Antarctica over Christmas and New Year’s are unfortunately the most expensive.
Now the temperature begins to drop again and while the land is more rocky and muddy, there is still a lot to enjoy. Penguin chicks have started to grow their adult coat and have begun to fledge. This can bring in predators such as Leopard seals which not ideal for the chicks but a spectacular sight for us.
Fur seals are more bountiful and their pups have become more independent, sometimes becoming quite playful with visitors. Much of the wildlife has retreated to the sea by this point. However these months are the peak time for sighting whales such as Humpbacks, Sperm and Orca which have returned south to feed.
The Sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the Falklands have a large and different array of flora and fauna. The islands can be just as spectacular if not more than Antarctica. Unfortunately, there is still no calm time for crossing the notoriously rough Drake Passage. Please read our blog on alternative suggestions on how to reach Antarctica if this concerns you.
Go on, what are you waiting for?
There’s more to it than meets the eye!
Those who have never been on a river cruise may have preset views of what it entails. We are here to bust some myths so it becomes a holiday considered by everyone!
River cruising is for older people only
You probably already know this but cruising (in all its forms) is booming globally. Things are changing too, especially when it comes to river cruising. The average age for cruising is falling and cruise lines are providing more choices and activities including long-walking shore tours, hiking, kayaking, cycling, yoga and gym sessions. River cruising really has a place for everyone – the young and the old, singles, couples or families. There are even river cruise lines that specialise in family travel or travel for the under 45’s. For those content with the non-active kind of holiday, you can still do as little or as much as you like on a river cruise. It’s really all about options.
River cruises are prohibitively expensive
With any holiday (as with pretty much most things in life), some are expensive and some are not. There are so many river cruise companies with some offering budget and others luxurious options. You just need to ask our team of Cruise Travel Specialists to find out the range of holidays available and what’s included. Those on a budget can find great deals that might surprise and many of the more traditionally ‘expensive’ luxury cruises also offer great value packages so don’t dismiss them.
If you compare cruising with a ‘non-cruising’ holiday, we urge you to factor in the actual costs and time taken to arrange flights, transfers, car hire, accommodation, meals, drinks, tours etc. If you really do the maths, you’ll find that river cruises are actually great value, particularly as many include gratuities, entertainment, shore tours, airport transfers, sometimes flights and even drink packages!
If you only think of the Rhine or the Danube when it comes to river cruising – we are here to let you know that there are many, many more options!
River cruising is possible throughout most of the world but if we’re staying in Europe, we suggest considering checking out river cruising in Spain, Hungary, Ukraine, Portugal or the many rivers throughout Russia.
Further afield you could consider these too – the Mississippi, the Nile, the Mekong, the Amazon, the Chobe, the Irrawaddy, the Yangtze and the Ganges – so exciting just thinking about the possibilities!
Similarly to larger ocean cruise ships, no two river ships are the same, no destinations or experience is the same, no history, entertainment, food, culture, flora and fauna… the list goes on. River cruising is so diverse.
The reality of river cruising is that you can do as much or as little as you like. Many passengers find they have more to do than imagined, including onboard immersion and educational seminars. What you won’t be doing is the grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and cleaning!
While you can certainly stay onboard while docked, many of the river ports you’ll visit will have sights and activities including markets and shopping, museums and monuments, castles and cathedrals, as well as great dining options and watering holes at your ‘boat step’.
Depending on the destination you can immerse yourself in the culture, history and nature on a shore tour – one is sure to tickle your fancy!
River cruising isn’t for families
This may have traditionally been a reality, but the industry has transformed with some river cruise lines offering multi-generational holidays, especially during school holiday peak periods. Catering to all generations, many now have interconnecting cabins and appropriate onboard activities and shore excursions.
This is such a wonderful way for children to experience travel, but keep in mind at the end of the day, the size of river cruise ships. It’s still not for those children who have excessive energy needing vast spaces to climb and run!
Good news though is that if holidaying with children isn’t your ‘cuppa tea’ – there are still a lot of journeys to choose from (and don’t go in school holidays), just ask one of our cruise travel specialists!
You’re always on tour
If you think river cruising is all about large tourist groups being guided around crowded markets, museums and cathedrals sends shivers down your spine, then we have good news! While that can be the case, it isn’t necessarily the norm. Onshore tours are always optional, they don’t run all day for the most part, and small group guided walks are often an alternative.
Remember you never HAVE to join an organised tour, it’s free choice. When river ships are docked, often for the day, you can join part of the tour or explore the town and surrounds by yourself – just don’t miss your transfer and/or ships departure as they won’t wait for you!
So now is the time to investigate river cruising! We’re here to help you with any query or booking. Just call 1300 766 537 or check out our latest river cruise delights!