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

 

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!

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.

The Truth About River Cruising

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!

It’s predictable

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.

Ho-Hum boring

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 Cruise

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!

How would you like to travel to Antarctica?

This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…

It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.

An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!

With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:

EXPEDITION CRUISING

Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.

Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.

If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.

  

Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!

The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!

CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES

Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.

One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.

The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.

Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

FLY & SAIL

If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.

Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.

The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.

FLY OVER

Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.

It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.

From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!

For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email info@cruiseexpress.com.au.