Benefits of Cruising with Friends

As the old saying goes, we can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends – and let’s face it, everything’s better with friends – they get us (and forgive us)!

On a cruise holiday, your friends are there to share when you order everything on the main menu, they are on your team for trivia, your dance and silent disco partners, as well as backup singers for karaoke.

Cruising with friends is not just the basis for a wonderful time, they keep us in a holiday mindset and together, you’ll create memories to talk about for decades to come.

The Best of Everything

The best thing about cruising is that it offers something for everyone, and you don’t have to do everything together all the time. On your days at sea, or in port you could go in different directions, and still meet up for a cocktail and dinner in the evening, and then explore the shows and nightlife.

Less Organising

Depending on the type of cruise, duration and number of friends you are travelling with, a cruise holiday overall requires less organising, so no-one has to be the coordinator!

Although specialty dining, dining times, and shore or self-tours are something you may want to consider planning before you go so as to avoid any issues onboard, particularly if you are with a large group, numbers may be tricky to book for at the last minute. Your trusty cruise specialist travel agent (i.e. us!) can help with this.

You have a Security Blanket if Cruising Makes you Nervous

Having a friend to help keep you calm or make you laugh when the waves are rocking the boat a little too much is priceless.

If you are away on a longer trip, having a friend or two can help feelings of being homesick. Not only do they get you, but they’ll also get your ‘Aussieness’, and most importantly, understand why you miss Vegemite!

Your Kids have BYO Friends

If you are traveling with other families, the kids usually know each other and are hopefully on good terms. Depending on the age of the children and your need for a little time-out, there can often be no need for kids clubs when they have friends from home to hang out with.

Ring in the Holiday Festivities

A cruise with friends can be so much more than a relaxing (or partying) trip to the islands. Festivities from across many cultures and continents are celebrated onboard most cruise lines, including Valentine’s Day, Sunday Super Bowl, Dr Suess’ Birthday, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and even Cinco de Mayo.

Don’t forget your fancy dress outfit if you are really planning on getting into it!

Love of Themed Cruising

Increasingly popular are an almost countless number of ‘themed’ cruises being offered on the high seas. If you have friends who have the same interest as you, this may be a great option for you to consider.

Themed cruise holidays range from food and wine appreciation to rock, operatic and country music cruises, holistic/wellness, yoga, astronomy, political, religious, LGBT, golf, history, gardening, poker, crochet, fashion, fitness, and sci-fi themed (to name a few). There are even nude cruises!

Plan Well to Avoid Pitfalls

While travelling with friends (or family) with no one having to cook, clean or think too much, can seem like a great idea, we do recommend a few things so that this isn’t the first or last one you have together. Before you go, please consider:

  • Differences – interests, budgets, travel style, ability and fitness/energy levels.
  • Be True to You – don’t feel you have to do what everyone in your group is doing, it is your holiday so if you want to sleep, dance, be lazy, hit the gym – just do it! Perhaps discuss this up front.
  • Appointing a Leader – it’s great to appoint someone who is happy to wear the co-ordinator hat, research pricing for the cruise and shore tours and basically communicate it all to the group. Use What’s App!
  • Planning Ahead – we mentioned this earlier if it is a large group you will have a hard time getting the ship or cabin you may want, dinner reservations, shore tours etc.
  • Staying an Extra Night – if you are traveling from interstate or overseas, don’t book your flight to or from the ship on the same day as embarkation/disembarkation, anything can and does happen with travel and you may literally miss the boat!

The Kimberley – Your Guide on What to Expect, When and Why

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontier, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet and certainly one of the most unspoiled destinations in the world.  

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty and stunning diversity. The abundance of wildlife and waterfalls, indigenous rock art, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, and can often only be accessed by smaller ships and zodiacs.

The region’s remoteness and tropical climate can make exploring this part of the world difficult. Cruising, especially small expedition ships, will allow you to discover this vast and expansive coastline with ease, taking you to destinations that aren’t accessible by land.

With so much diversity we often get asked when is the best time to cruise The Kimberley and what will you see during the different seasons?  Generally, the optimal time is from April through to September. Although you can travel from October through to March, it is extremely hot and humid with substantial rainfall and thunderstorms, often flooding and closing main roads – so perhaps not such an appealing time for most!

Remember, that Mother Nature still determines everything, so please take this as a guide not as gospel!

Waterfalls – April to May

This coast is known for its iconic waterfalls,  including Mitchell, King George and Horizontal Falls and early in the dry season these falls are at full force. The falls are fed by the regions wet season so the earlier in the season you go the more vibrant and spectacular the falls are going to be. The region will also be very green during this time due to the rain. The weather during this period can still be a little grey with quite high humidity and there can be the occasional rainy day, so it is still a little bit of a gamble, particularly in April. However, seeing the falls at their fullest will surely make up for the changing weather.    

Peak Season – June to July

This is definitely the most popular time of year to visit The Kimberley. Primarily because it is cooler, the weather is dry, the skies are blue and generally speaking the temperatures are comfortable. The falls will still be flowing although they will most likely not be at their fullest.

The roads are pretty much in good condition by now and the waterfall swimming pools are full and clean. Remember that the nights in certain areas like the Bungle Bungles can be cool.

Whales – August to September

By August most waterfalls have dried up to a trickle, and most rockpools, although starting to get low, are still clear and great for swimming. This late in the season it is unlikely that Mitchell Falls and King George Falls will still be flowing.  

However, this is the season for wildlife encounters. Being a world-class whale watching region, The Kimberley is home to the world’s largest population of Humpback whales. Up to 30,000 Humpback whales swim from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm waters of The Kimberley to breed and give birth.

In addition to Humpback, Southern Right and Blue whales make their way along the coast, sometimes coming close to shore with their calves. The best time to observe these gentle giants tail-slapping and breaching is around noon, when the sun is directly overhead, although it can happen at any time!

An expedition cruise during these months brings you up close a personal with these majestic mammals, watch on as they often put on playful displays around the ship.

But wait – there’s more…

This spectacularly vast region is also one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offer sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish, including catfish and barramundi.

Cruise Express offers luxury expedition cruises to this region with Ponant. These do sell out quickly so enquire today to secure the sailing date and cabin you want. For details on our 2020 options see here.

 

 

Foodie Heaven at Sea

Often referred to as the best cruise line for lovers of great food and wine, Oceania Cruises has carved out an impressive epicurean niche for itself in this often competitive foodie industry.

Comparable to world-class dining destinations in New York, London and Paris, Oceania has won numerous food industry awards from Town and Country, Fodor’s Travel, Cruise Critic and Travel Weekly’s Readers Choice.

Oceania

Offering the finest cuisine at sea™, Oceania’s legendary Master Chef and Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin believes in sourcing the best food from around the world. Chefs onboard all Oceania ships are committed to the highest quality authentic cuisine, believing that our connection with dining experiences lasts long after a meal has ended.  

Previously a chef at the renowned five-star Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris, Pépin has also created incredible gastronomic dining options in the La Reserve dining rooms onboard Marina and Riviera. The new seven-course gastronomic experience, called La Cuisine Bourgeoise, is limited to 24 guests and features classic French cuisine such as lobster souffle, cream of porcini with sautéed duck foie gras, and 72-hour slow braised short rib with gnocchi au jus.

Oceania offers numerous cuisines and dining venues to suit every palate and dining mood, ranging from European inspired cuisine of the Grand Dining Room to steaks, chops and seafood at Polo Grill, gourmet Italian at Toscana, country French at Jacques or the contemporary flavours of Asia at Red Ginger.

Don’t miss the vintage wine and gourmet menu pairings, uniquely designed by the onboard sommeliers or simply indulge in Oceania’s well respected and varied wine cellars at sea with wines to suit every palate and occasion.

Enhancing the culinary experience onboard Oceania’s O-class ships, Marina and Riviera, is The Culinary Center, a hands-on cooking school at sea, with fully equipped state-of-the-art teaching kitchens for hands-on cooking lessons. Culinary Discovery Tours™ are offered at selected ports where passengers have the opportunity to accompany Chefs to shop for fresh ingredients at local markets and experience authentic meals in private homes or local restaurants.

With all meals included onboard all Oceania voyages (including complimentary room service), the multiple open-seated fine dining options and decor will have you disbelieving you are dining at sea!

Call us today on 1300 766 537 to find out what offers we have available with Oceania Cruises.

Reasons why you should visit Norway now

…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.

Northern Lights

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”.

Norway

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, as well as experiencing breathtaking railway journeys along frozen waterfalls and endless fjords.

Norway

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.

Norway

“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!

Fleisher's Hotel

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.

Spectacular Southern Rail

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.

Heritage Rail

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.

Southern Rail

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.