How to Slow Down Fast

Time is a precious commodity today, amidst the breakneck pace of modern life. Which is why slow travel has become one of the fastest growing holiday trends right across the globe

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia, where our vast and pristine landscape offers a compelling reminder to stop and take stock of our surrounds. And what better way to do just that than by embarking on a heritage rail journey back in time? In this spirit, Cruise Express has your ticket to slowing down, fast.

Pioneering this nostalgic mode of travel, Cruise Express transports passengers to a golden era of romanticism. Unique heritage rail and sail experiences are specially designed to help you switch off and slow down. Like their new ‘Southern Aurora’ tour, which takes you on an eight-day adventure by sea and rail – traversing the country from Sydney to Tasmania and back. Daydream out the window from your private compartment aboard the historic Southern Aurora train and disconnect from your devices; or laze on deck aboard Australia’s latest cruise ship, Explorer Dream and let the meditative ocean calm you down.

By offering a unique combination of rail and sail adventures, Cruise Express allows you to reconnect with old world pleasures. Travelling by rail is particularly peerless in its grounded potential. You will embark and alight in the centre of town, journeying through gentle, eye-pleasing scenery along the way. In this sense, rail travel proves both comfortable and relaxing. Which makes it the perfect way to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of your journey – without the highly-strung pressures of modern-day life.

If you’re from Melbourne, Cruise Express also allows you to recharge close to home through their ‘Northern Explorer’ rail and sail tour – taking you along the eastern seaboard to Sydney by rail and back by sea. Or venture further afield with international steam train journeys like their ‘British Isles Rail & Sail’ experience. Once aboard, you will have the chance to travel through gorgeous countryside, visiting some of the remotest corners of England and Wales.

Take in the russet and gold tones of the great moors of West Country, for instance, and seek solace in the rolling hills of Snowdonia National Park. Gaze up at the clouds or across vast plains as you relish the relaxing simplicity of travel – just as it used to be.

Nature often acts as our most powerful reminder that time is incredibly precious, and Cruise Express brings you closer to nature at every turn – whether your journey of choice may be by ocean voyage, heritage rail or both. So set your sights on a slower speed and take the time that you deserve to return to some of the simpler things in life.

All aboard!

* For details on the exclusive rail and sail holidays offered by Cruise Express, 
click here.

Nature’s Ultimate Playground

The Sub-Antarctic region holds incredibly unchartered abundance and diversity

While most of us are very familiar (and some even luckier to have been) to the Antarctic, the Sub-Antarctic is a little less familiar and far less touristed. Located in the southern hemisphere, immediately north of the Antarctic region, the Sub-Antarctic includes many islands in the very southern parts of the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

The Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia are the ultimate in eco-tourism and have UNESCO World Heritage status, with some of the best-preserved and protected nature reserves in the world! These islands are so pristine and remote, and enjoy some of the most abundant and often endemic wildlife, with rare plants, birds and other animals. Fortunately, the isolation and harsh weather of the region are partially responsible for having kept tourists at bay and the New Zealand Government strictly controls shore visits.

Visitors are treated so sightings of fur, leopard and elephant seals, along with giant petrels, Auckland shags and Campbell Island teals, one of the rarest flightless birds in the world. 10 of the world’s 24 species of albatross breed in these islands, with five being endemic to the region. Campbell Island has six species, including the largest breeding population of southern royal albatrosses, the largest albatross in the world.

10 species of penguins inhabit the islands, two of them endemic (the Snares crested and erect-crested penguins), as well as king, royal and yellow-eyed penguins. Not uncommon are sightings of southern right, humpback and sperm whales, particularly around and in the harbours of Campbell Island.

The history of this region is fascinating and disturbing. Over the centuries, particularly in the 1800s, mankind wreaked havoc on the region, destroying much in its wake including a great deal of seal and whale slaughtering, even sea lions were hunted to extinction on the mainland (they are still critically endangered and confined mostly to the Sub-Antarctic).  

Not surprisingly, there were a significant amount of shipwrecks in the area in the 1800s. What seemed like a good idea at the time, was to provide provisions for survivors, so ‘castaway’ depots were created on land including Campbell Island. As technological advances in shipping meant the different trade routes by steam were embraced, these depots were abandoned. Unbelievably, these abandoned pigs, rabbits, goats, and rats annihilated vegetation, feral cats wiped out many native birds and sheep even developed self-dropping fleeces!

 

The introduction of invasive species including rats, rabbits, feral cats and farm animals was also catastrophic. While it is an ongoing issue for many of the islands, there is slow progress and in some areas, painstaking eradication programs have been successful, enabling many islands to flourish again.

Fortunately, a great deal of work has been done in preservation and conservation for many decades and for those preferring to travel to an uncrowded, immersive and unique destination, the Sub-Antarctic is the ultimate destination. 

To find out more about how you can visit this remarkable destination click here.

Idyllic Japan

Showcasing its exquisite beauty and distinctive culture, these less-visited destinations will bring you closer to the ‘real’ Japan

 

Here’s a snapshot of what to expect of this one-of-a-kind destination, and where the real Japan comes to life:

Akita

Tucked away in the far north, culture buffs love Akita for many reasons. One is that the rustic town, dubbed Japan’s ‘True North’, is as far away from the country’s big cities as you can get. Also, many of its attractions are natural wonders, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami Sanchi, where you can see Japan’s last remaining virgin beech forests. If you happen to cruise in spring, it’s also a top spot for viewing the cherry blossoms.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima was the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in 1945, but today it’s a thriving modern city. One of its most popular attractions is the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, instantly recognisable for its red, floating torii gate. It’s also famous for okonomiyaki, a delicious pancake made with flour, egg, cabbage, pork, shrimp or seafood topped with sweet sauce, mayonnaise, dried seaweed and dried fish flakes.

Miyazaki 

Miyazaki is a popular honeymoon destination for locals, thanks to its balmy climate and lovely beaches. It is home to several ancient shrines, the most important being the Miyazaki-jingu Shrine, built 2600 years ago to honour the former Emperor Jimmu. Miyazaki is also famous for a local tipple called shochu, which is similar to vodka. One of the best places to try shochu is at the Shusen-no-Mori brewery in nearby Aya.

Aomori

Aomori’s autumn foliage is captivating, especially when viewed from a cable car flying across the top of the Hakkoda Mountains. The ‘land of apples’ is also a gateway to uniquely Japanese attractions, including the ancient Hirosaki Castle, which is surrounded by cherry trees, and the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site that showcases the reconstructed foundations of a Jomon-era settlement.

Kanazawa

This charming fishing port, called ‘Little Kyoto’ by locals, has much to offer the culturally curious visitor — teahouses in Higashi Chaya district, the Nagamachi Samurai District, and the Ninja Temple. Top of your list, however, should be the Kenroku-en garden; built during the Edo period, it is considered to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.Toba

Toba is nestled at the north-eastern end of the Shima Peninsula, a castle town and seaside city where locals believe that gods reside. It’s also a gateway to the magnificent Ise-jingu shrine, a collection of 125 sacred shrines that spans an area the size of the centre of Paris. More than 1500 rituals are held here every year, for the prosperity of the Imperial family and world peace.

Otaru

Walking among Otaru’s network of canals, it’s impossible not to be enchanted by beautiful heritage buildings and mansions that bring Japan’s history to life. Located near Sapporo, it’s also a popular spot for anyone who has a sweet tooth – the town has lots of irresistible bakeries.

Okinawa

Having its own language, music, traditions, arts and crafts makes the Okinawa group of islands distinctly different from mainland Japan. A key attraction for visitors is Shuri Castle – a former hilltop palace of the Ryukyu Dynasty, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was almost destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa. It is now home to lovingly restored buildings.Tokushima

This 16th-century castle town is best known for a colourful mid-August dance festival, Awa Odori, which attracts many spectators and dancers for the traditional ‘Fool’s Dance’. Tokushima is also blessed with natural wonders, including the spectacular gorge and intricate vine bridges of the remote Iya Valley, and the whirlpools of Naruto.

Hakodate

Hakodate, which sprawls across two bays, is famous for views of towering Mount Hakodate – accessible by the Ropeway cable car– spectacular landscapes and superb fresh seafood. On any given day here you can wander past historic red-brick warehouses on the waterfront, explore the architecture of the Motomachi district, or walk through Fort Goryokaku, a huge star-shaped citadel and Japan’s first Western-style fortress.

Cruising onboard the glamorous Diamond Princess will give nature-loving travellers the opportunity to head off the beaten track and experience the true wonders of this idyllic country. 

Visit www.cruiseexpress.com.au/cruise-list/blossoms-of-japan-2020/ to find out more about our

Blossoms of Japan 2020 fully escorted tour.

 

Words courtesy of Joanna Hill.

Pacific War History

Brought to Life

 

One of the final frontiers of the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea is a naturally beautiful, historically and culturally rich destination.

Unknown to many people, New Guinea was the site of conflict during both World War I and World War II, says Mat McLachlan, founder of Australia’s leading battlefield tour company, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours and host of the Mat McLachlan WW2 History Cruise. In fact, the Anzacs’ very first action during World War I was not Gallipoli, but New Guinea.

New Guinea during WWI

The North-Eastern part of the island of New Guinea, plus a number of nearby islands, was part of the German colonial empire. This section of the island had been operated by a German protectorate from 1884, before it was taken by Australian troops in 1914.

In mid-August that year, just weeks after the outbreak of the World War I, 2000 soldiers and naval reservists set sail from Sydney Harbour to German New Guinea. The objective was to seize and destroy German radio stations transmitting from the island, ahead of the departure of Australian troopships for Europe and the Middle East. On 11 September 1914, 25 men went ashore at Rabaul to take out the Bita Paka wireless station. Although the mission was a success, the Battle of Bita Paka saw the first Australian soldiers die fighting for their country.

 

Japanese invasion

On 23 January 1942, the Japanese invaded New Guinea — landing at Rabual on the island of New Britain. The first coastal village to be captured by the Japanese, it was turned into a fortress so impregnable that the Allies never attempted to capture it. A massive military complex serving more than 97,000 Japanese soldiers and thousands of accompanying personnel, it was the main Japanese base in the South Pacific.

To guard against air bombardment, the Japanese dug 800 kilometres of tunnels to house their command centres, barracks, storehouses, and a hospital. The tunnels are still there and there are numerous war sites to see in and around the town.

Milne Bay was another key strategic point for World War II in the Pacific. Australian troops arrived in Milne Bay in June 1942 and worked alongside American comrades, carving roads and three airstrips out of jungle and swamp. For the Japanese, it was essential to claim this region back to progress their takeover.

During the night of 25 August 1942, 2,000 Japanese marines attacked the Allied base. The ensuing battle lasted three weeks and the Allies claimed victory. Today, remnants of Japanese landing barges used in the battle can still be seen.

“The Battle of Milne Bay was a turning point in the Pacific War as it was the first time the Allied forces decisively defeated a Japanese offensive on land. This battle largely marked the beginning of the end for World War II in the Pacific,” says Mat.

To find out more about the Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours WW2 History Cruise, head to www.cruiseexpress.com.au/cruise-list/ww2-history-cruise/

Words courtesy of Mat McLachlan

Families that Holiday Together…

The joys of holidaying with the ‘entire’ family

Booking a cruising or any holiday for multi-generational families is increasingly popular and while holidays are a chance to get away from it all, holidays with the family are more about bringing everyone together, without having to spend all your time together and it’s great value for money…sounds appealing…. read on!

It’s becoming increasingly common for grandparents, their children and theirs to take a holiday together. Destinations that have been on the increase include Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Europe and Vietnam.

It is still relaxing, affordable and guaranteed to create a lifetime of incredible memories, especially for the little ones to treasure.

Outlined below are a few of Cruise Express’ favourite suggestions to help grandparents, parents and children have the best cruise holiday possible!

1. Size Counts – Choose a larger resort-style ship which offers more facilities for kids and teenagers and more activities (including yoga, cooking and craft classes) for different age categories. Bigger ships also carry more kids so your brood can make friends more easily. Best of all, adult-only retreat areas on the larger family size ships offer a real-time out!

2. School Holidays – If you can and your grandkids/kids are young enough and not in senior years at school, take a cruise outside school holiday periods when there are more cabins available and fares (even airfares) are more affordable. You’ll be surprised at how many other kids there will be onboard for children to mix with.

3. Balcony – If there are young ones traveling with you on a multi-generational, a balcony cabin is not recommended for safety reasons. An outside 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 constantly. Some cruise ships now, like Royal Caribbean’s ‘Ovation of the Seas’, offer ‘virtual balconies’ in their inside cabins – live feed of what is occurring outside, dock or ocean!

4. Rooms – There are many options here including suites, sharing a 4-person cabin with bunks, interconnecting cabins, or you can opt to get neighbouring cabins – next to each other or one outside/balcony cabin and one inside cabin directly opposite the hallways to save money.  Grandparents also may want to look at treating themselves to a suite!

5. Activities – Many larger cruise ships today have water slides, rock climbing walls, wave-surfing pools and flying foxes which are huge hits with all children.

6. Package – Before you leave or as soon as you board, look into buying a soft drink/ice cream package for yourself and possibly for the children so they can enjoy unlimited refreshments during the cruise, saving you/them money in the long run.

7. Kid’s Clubs – Encourage the children and allow yourselves to take advantage of the Kid’s Clubs. That way they can have lots of fun and you can enjoy a relaxing time together, meeting up as a family as you wish.

8. Dinner Sittings – If your kids are under 12, opt for the first sitting dinner or book earlier dinner times if your ship offers open dining.  If you are travelling in a multi-generational group, we recommend making bookings as far out as possible to avoid disappointment, especially for the specialty restaurants.

9. Ashore – When ashore don’t try to pack too much into the day, particularly in hot, tropical zones, as the kids will tire quickly. A morning excursion could work best before returning to the ship for a late lunch and afternoon siesta!

10. Duration – Shorter cruises of under 10 days are better suited to multi-generational families. There are weekend and 5-day cruises from Australia or longer 7-10 day cruises to Queensland or through the South Pacific which the kids will love.

Call us today on 1300 766537 to find out what is available, where and when!

There are many cruise lines that offer great multi-generational cruising options, and we also suggest to visit our website to find out some current amazing discounts with Royal Caribbean this summer and get the most suitable options for your family holiday!