The Benefits of Booking your Holiday with an Agency

 

As online influence and purchasing have increased exponentially in the last few years, it seems that personal interaction with your reputable Travel Agency is falling by the wayside – but is it?

Agency or DIY?

When it comes to important decisions like our large purchases and big-ticket holidays, we still crave a human at the end of the line, or shock horror, even face to face!

Outlined below are a few reasons why we believe developing a long-term relationship with a travel agency is so important to achieving your best holiday, for the best price without any unsuspecting traps for holiday disasters.

Expertise – just when you need it

Like any professional, whether it be a lawyer or doctor, a Travel Specialist is just that, a specialist. Highly trained and in most cases with many years if not decades of experience, they are fully invested to get to know you, to listen well, know what questions to ask, and to offer advice on how to make your holiday the best it can possibly be.

They also have all the inside knowledge of visa and passport requirements, port details, embarkation and so much more.

Most agents can also help you with little insights and tips – like where to find the best pizza in New York or a great bar in Santorini!

Great prices and value

With so many offers out there, it can be really confusing to know if you are getting the best deal and value for money. Remember that your Travel Specialist has access to exactly the same deals cruise lines directly offer, and in some cases are able to offer even lower pricing, intervening with suppliers on your behalf.

It pays to ask – depending on allocations and offerings for different ships and destinations, Cruise Express can be as much as 10 percent lower in price than the actual cruise line!

What you see online is not necessarily the best price, and prices do fluctuate frequently. We recommend that you simply always ask the question.

They get to know your personal needs and preferences

They aren’t just selling you a product, it’s also a service, and you can’t have one successfully without the other. Once a relationship has developed, your Travel Specialist will know so much more about you and will do everything they can to meet your needs within your budget.

Many clients return year after year knowing they will be taken care of so that their holidays are stress-free.

Although on occasion you may pay a slight amount more for agency expertise, the time and money you spend with them will be returned to you many times over in the form of perks, upgrades, convenience, great service and someone to call if things go wrong on your holidays.

Added peace of mind

Price isn’t everything and sometimes what you need is really good after sales support. If something goes wrong you have the peace of mind knowing you can call 24/7 and speak to someone.

Remember, if you buy online, you aren’t dealing with a faceless online booking agency or a website provider making it hard to contact anyone.

Escorted tours offer experiences like no other

Escorted tours are another travel agency specialty. Enjoy having a highly experienced tour leader who knows the ins and outs of your destination, insider tips on where to go, special access to places, special contacts with inside local knowledge, and touches that are not available to other travellers.

While most of us would like to spend much more of our lives travelling, for many it isn’t really an option, so when we do embark on these inspiring journeys, it’s important to do it to the best of your capability, utilising the best of the best available to you.

We recommend chatting with friends and family about their positive travel experiences and the travel agency they use and have developed a rapport with.

Call, email or drop in – and trust your instincts. And, of course, we are always here to help!

Click here for an ultimate holiday experience or call us 1300 766 537

 

Magnificent Birds of the Kimberley

An extremely geographically diverse region, twice as large as Victoria, many bird-watching enthusiasts would regard the Kimberley as an absolute bird paradise. While there are over 500 species throughout Western Australia, Broome is home to 330 of them and is consequently regarded as the most important region in the country for shorebirds (home to nearly a quarter of the world’s total population). This destination is a must on a bucket-list for everyone who loves these magnificent creatures.

While some are unique to certain areas, many species can be found throughout the Kimberley. One of these is the spectacular Eastern Osprey, the ultimate predator along the Kimberley Coast skyline. When you visit we also suggest you keep an eye and an ear out for the Sacred Kingfisher with their distinctive calls. This region is also home to the Eastern Reef Egret and if you are lucky you may spot a dancing Brolga!

Ashmore Reef

Located on Australia’s North West Shelf, 610 kilometres north of Broome is Ashmore Reef. This incredible life-sustaining reef provides several marine habitats and species in and out of the ocean.

It is here you will find around 50,000 breeding pairs of various kinds of seabirds, including colonies of bridled terns, common noddies, brown, red-footed and masked boobies, eastern reef egrets, frigate birds, tropic birds, roseate, crested and lesser crested terns.

The Rowley Shoals

Another stunning destination to observe birds is The Rowley Shoals, about 260 km northwest of Broome. The Rowley Shoals is a group of three atoll-like coral reefs on the edge of one of the widest continental shelves in the world. It is home to many ocean bids as well as a nesting site for the red-tailed tropic bird, home to one of only two of Western Australia’s colonies, and the rare, newly discovered white-tailed tropic birds.

Other beautiful species found at Rowley Shoals include the wedge-tailed shearwater, brown booby, eastern reef-egret, white-breasted sea eagle, ruddy turnstone, large sand plover, crested and sooty terns and the white-throated needletail.

Browse Island

Browse Island also is a spectacular destination to observe breeding seabirds and migratory shorebirds including the brown booby, frigate bird and eastern reef egret.

As the Kimberley is so extensive, it’s important to keep in mind that many species migrate or are nomadic and move with the seasons, so if you are really keen on spotting a particular species you may need to do a lot more in-depth research.

If you have extra time and are feathered friend keen then we recommend you take a look at the Broome Bird Observatory in Roebuck Bay, a super passionate organisation dedicated to educating visitors about the birds that live and visit the area. They also provide tours, accommodation and camping/tent facilities.

Click here to find out more about our life-changing journey in 2020 with Ponant and National Geographic.

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.