Interview with our Director

Cruise Express Director, Hardy Schneider’s passion is travel and has been fortunate enough to have been doing this for over 40 years.  He has a few pearls of wisdom to share…

First, Business or Economy (and why)?

Because I spend up to six months overseas every year hosting and managing our tour groups, I generally travel in Business Class so I can be fresh on arrival and hit the ground running.

Most frequented destination?

Europe, where we host most of our cruise tours, is my main destination with three visits there this year but this year I am also managing tours in the UK, Africa, India, South America and even Antarctica so, yes, I do get around this planet a fair bit!

If I ran my own airline I would…(tell us what you would do differently or better than the way airlines are currently run)

So many airlines are paring back their onboard offerings to cut costs but I think it’s the little touches like a sparkling wine before take-off that passengers really appreciate and miss when it’s taken away which seems to have happened on many airlines recently. Personally, I love carriers that provide passengers with pyjamas so you don’t have to sleep in the clothes you wear on arrival. Little pleasures can make a real difference and I think there is a market segment willing to pay a little more for premium service.

Where’s the worst place you’ve been lost?

I don’t usually get lost but I was once hosting one of our cruise tour groups in Egypt and after I told all our guests, who were heading off for some shopping time in the bustling Grand Bazaar in Cairo, to meet the bus at a designated spot outside the bazaar, I quickly got lost in the bazaar myself. I was hassled by so many hawkers that I lost all sense of direction in the maze of alleyways. I had no idea where I was. It was like a scene from the ‘Life of Brian’, with goats being slaughtered and blacksmiths working on fires all around me. I am very meticulous with time and duty so I was determined to meet our passengers back at the bus on time. Luckily, a local pointed me back to the spot and I arrived just in time but in a lather of sweat although I doubt any of the guests would have known of my preceding panic!

Most memorable overseas dining?

I will never forget the moment a waiter on the five-star Silver Spirit grabbed a huge sword off the wall and swiftly and very spectacularly sliced off the head of our bottle of champagne for an anniversary our party was celebrating. Don’t try that at home! A breakfast on a boat in the Amazon jungle was pretty surreal but another memorable meal was a lunch at Le Train Bleu – the extravagant restaurant inside Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris where English royalty used to dine between trains. It’s the same restaurant featured in the film, ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’, but my experience there was much more refined and relaxed! But my all-time favourite culinary experience can be found at Paul Bocuse’s fine dining restaurant in Lyon, France.

What’s in the suitcase?

There’s always far too much in my suitcase. You would think that after directing so many tours for 15 years I would learn but I often give Imelda Marcos a run for her money with all the shoes I bring. I pack lots of overseas adaptors – to give to our clients who have forgotten theirs – and also our little Cruise Express mascot, ‘Duck’, who travels with us everywhere and insists on being photographed at famous places around the world.

How do you make the most of a spare afternoon in a strange city?

I love to walk so whenever I have a few spare hours I grab a map and advice from the hotel concierge and explore a city on foot. Paris and Vienna are two of my favourite places to wander around.

Any travel tips?

Never leave home without travel insurance and never stop exploring as much of the world as you can. It’s a wonderful planet we live on so travel with open eyes and a positive attitude because life is too short to look for negatives.

What technology do you use?

I bring my iPhone and laptop with me and use free wi-fi to keep in touch with our head office in Sydney.

Best overseas purchase?

If I brought souvenirs from all my trips, my home would be overflowing so I look for special pieces like a rug I bought in Turkey once. It’s in my bedroom so every time I wake up I am reminded of my time there.

Best travelling tale?

We are very passionate about service at Cruise Express but sometimes not everything goes to plan on tour like when a suitcase containing evening formal wear for one of our client couples went missing just before we boarded Queen Mary 2 in Cape Town. I was determined for the bag to turn up so the couple could enjoy the ship’s famous black tie events so I hit the phones, went to the airport cargo area and spent hours tracking the bag from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I was told there was no way the bag could make the ship before we sailed but I spoke to a cargo worker in charge who promised he would have a driver on standby to rush the suitcase to the ship. The ship’s crew were starting to remove the gangways but just as the life boat drill finished I saw the courier car arrive at the wharf. I dashed off the ship and picked up the suitcase. While I was last to board, I had the suitcase finally in my hand. What a relief!

Best thing about travelling?

Visiting new and exciting places and immersing yourself in diverse cultures is a great learning experience but for me the greatest gift of my travels are the amazing friendships you make abroad with locals and also our tour guests. They start as customers and end a tour as family and friends.

Top travel gripe?

Visas are a real hassle to deal with and I don’t like being called an ‘alien’ in airport immigration queues!

If you would like to book a trip with Hardy and his wealth of knowledge, please contact Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.

Why a Hosted Cruise Tour is Your Express Ticket to a Dream Holiday

Whether you want to sail the seven seas on your own or with a group, Cruise Express can book any holiday for you but the cruise tours we regularly host around the world are amongst the most popular holiday options we sell, with many customers enjoying our diverse range of escorted voyages.

From Africa to Antarctica, Europe to America and Great Britain to Asia, Cruise Express is famous for the successful and popular cruise tours we lead to all corners of the globe.

So let’s look at the many reasons that make hosted cruise tours a great holiday option for you to consider on your next journey abroad…

 

Hosted Cruise Tours are:

1. EASY – Escorted tours are the easiest way to see the world. All the paperwork, transfers and travel details are taken care of so your holiday is hassle-free. All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy yourself!

2. SAFE – You’re with a group led by experts so safety is heightened, particularly in more exotic destinations like Africa and South America where it makes sense to travel with a tour group. And if you lose anything or have a mishap or problem, we are there to help you.

3. AFFORDABLE – You enjoy the benefits of the group discounts we obtain. Add up all the inclusions and you’ll see our value-for-money group tour fares are hard to beat. One of the best deals are our exclusive shore excursion packages where you travel with fellow Cruise Express passengers from Australia on our own coach to see the highlights of each port we visit. No need to book your own land tours and no need to queue at the shore tours desk!

4. FUN – Yes we have lots of fun on our tours with a great sense of camaraderie and high spirits shared amongst the group. We often host complimentary welcome aboard and farewell cocktail parties at sea too during our tours and they are also lots of fun!

5. FRIENDLY – It’s almost impossible not to forge new friendships with fellow, like-minded guests on our tours. Clients tell us over and over that the friendships they have formed on tour have lasted many years.

6. STYLISH – Well, the cruise tours we host are stylish anyway, with our guests staying at premium hotels, flying with full-service airlines and enjoying blue ribbon experiences all the way.

7. IDEAL FOR SOLO PASSENGERS – If you’re a lone traveller you’ll be part of the family on our group tours, with everything taken care of for you.

8. FLEXIBLE – You can spend time with the group or on your own whenever you want.

9. INSIGHTFUL – In addition to the friendly Cruise Express host leading the group, local guides also join us along the way, showing us special places you would have missed on your own and giving us a local’s insight into the destinations we visit. You’ll learn all the secrets about the ports we visit, the ships we sail on and the best places to shop.

10. TRUSTED – As one of Australia’s leading specialist cruise agencies and the recipient of many awards, Cruise Express has laid out the red carpet on escorted cruise tours since 2001 so you know you’ll be in good hands!

Call us today on 1300 557 031 for more information or visit our website www.cruiseexpress.com.au

Shore Tours – To Do or Not to Do?

The Journey or the Destination?

Your guide to making the most informed decisions 

Cruise Shore ToursWe all love cruising and we know the journey and the ship are intrinsic elements of a memorable holiday afloat but of course, the ports you visit make a cruise even more sensational. Some die-hard cruisers love nothing more than endless days at sea and don’t even get off in port but for many, the destinations a ship takes you are the main reasons for selecting a particular cruise, so choosing the right cruise shore tours are essential.

So what’s the plan when your ship drops anchor or docks at a port? Should you buy one of the line’s organised cruise shore tours or head ashore to explore on your own?

Research

Long before your cruise read about the places you will visit on your itinerary via guidebooks, brochures, and tourism websites.

That way you can learn what are the must-do sights and experiences. Also be sure to ask your well-travelled Cruise Express Consultant about their suggestions of what to see and do as they may know special, ‘secret’ places off the beaten tourist trail. Armed with this knowledge, you can decide what shore tour to buy, if any, or if you can or should seek out those places on your own.

Shore Tours – Rip off or Money Well Spent?

Booking an organised shore excursion through the ship can come with a hefty price tag, but it’s hassle-free and you know the tour will be professionally run by reputable operators. The ship will also wait for its own shore tour guests to return at the end of the day, even if their tours are running late. Groups on tours usually gain express VIP entry into major attractions. Solo passengers and others may also appreciate the opportunity to see a place with other cruise passengers and the chance to make new friends.

Travelling in more remote or third world destinations may make you feel uncomfortable. Where English is rare or safety and security are issues, then an organised shore tour also makes good sense. If a port visit or tour is cancelled, you’ll also receive a refund from the cruise line.

On the flip side, organised shore tours can involve a bit of waiting and you need to follow the leader and stick with the group which can frustrate budding explorers. Seeing a destination blur through the windows of a coach can also be restrictive for some who may see something they want to see up close.

Cruise Shore ToursCruise Express Shore Tour Packages

Trying to select the right shore tour can be confusing so to make it easy on the many tours Cruise Express hosts around the world, we often offer our groups shore tour packages with a tour in each port. These packages are often cheaper than if you buy them individually through the ship and they comprise of our own Cruise Express guests so you’ll be among friends. There are no booking hassles either, with our team looking after all the details so these packages are well worth considering on our group trips.

Tips for Shore Tours

If you have decided to buy a cruise shore tour, it’s a good idea to book in advance from home. You don’t want to board your Alaska-bound cruise ship only to discover that all the glacier helicopter trips and bear-spotting tours you wanted to do are all sold out. Exciting and unique adventures like these sell quickly so don’t miss out.

Opt for a half-day shore tour, leaving you with time to explore on your own for the rest of the day. You can often also ask your tour driver or guide to drop you off in the centre of town at the end of the tour rather than back at the ship so you can do some exploration and shopping on your own. Shuttles back to the ship can often be free for shore tour passengers doing this.

Whether you’re on a tour or on your own, it’s always a wonderful experience to dine in a restaurant where you can feast on the local cuisine. Some passengers make a point of returning to the ship for lunch because it’s included but occasionally just pull up a chair in a romantic trattoria where the view, sanctuary, and food are what the real memories are made of.

Independent Sightseeing – The Pros and Cons

If you’re willing and able, seeing a port on your own can be freeing, exhilarating and rewarding. By catching local buses, trains or ferries you get to experience a destination as a local. You’ll also meet locals and have time to enjoy places that interest you while grabbing a coffee in a cafe anywhere you want.

In many cities such as Venice, New York, Vancouver, San Francisco, Monaco, Santorini, and Dubrovnik, it’s relatively easy, and a pleasure to walk ashore and explore the city by foot. You don’t need an expensive shore excursion to savour the magic of Venice’s maze of canals and pathways.

But when you’re on your own, you’re on your own, with no help from tour guides and hosts or the cruise line if something goes wrong or you get lost. The ship won’t wait for you if you miss the sailing time either.

There are lots of YouTube videos showing passengers running and screaming in vain down the pier while their ship slips away. Funny yes – unless it’s you! Also, if you’ve organised and paid for your own private tour in advance and the ship doesn’t end up visiting that port, maybe because of rough weather, you may lose your money.

Tips for independent touring ashore

cruise shore tours

After checking a ship’s list of cruise tours you can often see that it’s relatively easy and much cheaper to do the activities on your own. For instance in Juneau, Alaska, you can buy a cruise tour from the ship that takes you up the spectacular Mt Roberts tramway high above the city or you can just walk the short distance from the ship to the bottom cable car terminal and buy a ticket yourself, cutting out the middleman.

When touring on your own, yes, plan ahead certainly, with a rough idea of what you want to see and do but don’t over-plan or over-schedule everything to the last minute. Allow for delays and for unexpected sights that will take your interest. When you’re on holiday it’s easy to forget that locals are not, so be aware that morning and evening rush hours can be busy and may slow down your touring plans.

Use local transport to get around – e.g. ferries, trams or subways and consider bikes as a wonderful way to see a local destination. Taxis, when shared by two or more passengers, can also be an economical way of getting around a destination. If you’re heading to a destination further afield in a cab, be sure to set a flat fare at the start of the trip to avoid being taken for a ride! Hop-on, hop-off tourist buses in many popular destinations are also an ideal way of seeing a city.

If your ship docks some distance from the city, e.g. in Rome, see if a shuttle is available for purchase so you can get to the city and then explore on your own rather than on a group tour. Of course, the big tip when sightseeing on your own is to check the time you need to be back onboard before you go ashore for the day and then keep an eye on the time through the day, leaving plenty of time up your sleeve. It’s always a good idea to be back onboard at least 30 minutes before the recommended time to ensure you are not stressing about missing the boat!

The world’s a beautiful place with lots of amazing destinations to visit so whether you explore them on a tour or on your own, we hope each experience enriches your holiday and your understanding of the many colourful cultures and spectacular places that lie over the horizon.

For your personalised travel specialist, call us today on 1300 766 537.

Bon Voyage from Cruise Express!

Cruise Shore Tours

River Cruising Around The World

More Australians than ever are holidaying on the world’s great inland waterways.

The appeal of river cruising is obvious. Unpack your bags once, sit back and your deluxe floating hotel will take you on an enthralling journey through the heart of a destination.

There’s no rushing, no big crowds, no stress and no day where there’s nothing to see. The ever-changing scenery is entrancing – from romantic vineyards, enchanting castles and quaint villages to rugged gorges, ancient ruins, and wild jungle.

Shore tours and drinks are often complimentary, there’s no seasickness and you arrive in the centre of each town or city, immediately immersing you in the local culture.

It’s a perfect and top-value way to travel!

Overwhelming, the majority of Australians who go river cruising head to the M1 motorway of river journeys – the popular route from Amsterdam to Budapest along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. It’s a beautiful cruise but if you’re looking to expand your horizons to other river cruising destinations, almost 200 river ships sail along 30 inland waterways around the world. Here’s a quick overview of river journeys away from the Amsterdam to Budapest river highway.

River Cruise

Europe

The Danube – Beyond Budapest to the Black Sea. Rivers were the trade routes of yesterday so it’s logical that Europe boasts more river cruise options than any other continent. Did you know, though, that you can cruise beyond Budapest all the way to the Black Sea through intriguing countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Croatia?

Holland and Belgium – The maze of the Rhine Delta can be traced on cruises past tulip fields sprinkled with windmills and charming, medieval towns filled with lace and chocolate shops.

The Moselle – Paris to Amsterdam. Another of Europe’s grand rivers can be sailed from France to Holland via Luxembourg through lands of storybook castles and rolling vineyards.

France – The Loire, Seine, Rhone, Saone, Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. From north to south and east to west, France boasts six major rivers you can enjoy a cruise on. Alluringly destinations like Provence, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Normandy are filled with captivating scenery including grand chateaux and castles, rustic wineries, picturesque hamlets and the sanctuaries of great artists like Monet.

Germany – The Elbe, Havel and Oder Rivers. From Dresden to Hamburg, the Elbe River passes through the verdant vineyards of Saxony and the beautiful Saxon Alps. The Havel and Oder Rivers can be traced from the vibrant city of Berlin north to the Baltic near the Polish border.

Russia – The Volga River. Russia’s two great centres, Moscow and St Petersburg, with their breathtaking palaces, museums, and onion-domed churches, can be seen by cruising along the Volga canal system.

Barge cruising in the UK and France. This is river cruising at its most intimate – quaint and cosy barges carrying less than 10 passengers meandering through the canals and rivers of old-world England and medieval France, through picture-postcard scenery and past castles and impossibly cute hamlets.

Portugal and Spain – The Douro River. Threading its way through Portugal’s romantic, castle-speckled scenery is the Douro, which meanders past vineyards and bewitching villages.

Italy – The Po River and Venice Lagoon. Immerse yourself in Italian Renaissance culture as you cruise the fascinating Venetian lagoon and the reflective waters of the Po to the beautiful city of Mantua.

River Cruise

Africa

Egypt – The Nile. One of the oldest river cruise routes in the world is the Nile – the world’s longest river – with its many ancient ruins and of course the great pyramids in Cairo.

Botswana and Namibia – The Chobe River. Take a river safari on the tranquil Chobe as you search for hippos, elephants and other wildlife close to the iconic Victoria Falls.

Asia

Vietnam & Cambodia – The Mekong. The mighty Mekong has become very popular with Australians on exotic river journeys between Vietnam and Cambodia, with rickshaw rides to local markets and villages.

Myanmar (Burma) – The Irrawaddy River. Immerse yourself in the mysterious, once hidden land of Burma as the Irrawaddy takes you deep into lands frozen in time with gilded pagodas, ornate monasteries and villages where friendly locals still follow a traditional way of life centred on farming.

India – The Ganges, Hugli and Brahmaputra Rivers. These holy rivers can be traced on exotic cruises that unveil scenery filled with temples, tea gardens, palaces, bustling bazaars and national parks that protect Indian rhinos. You’ll also see Indians flock to the shores of these mythical waterways to perform rituals performed for eons.

China – The Yangtze River. See China’s heartland from its most famous river and cruise through the jaw-droppingly dramatic Three Gorges with their sheer cliffs.

River Cruising

South America

Peru, Ecuador or Brazil – The Amazon. A true adventure into wild jungles inhabited by isolated tribal villages where little has changed for centuries.

Call your river cruise travel specialists today at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.