Berlitz Guide to Cruising 2013 Now Available

by Kevin Griffin 
The latest issue of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” became available in Kindle and e-book format on September 15 and will be available in hard copy next week. This year, the Guide has expanded from 688 pages to 704, reviewing a total of 284 cruise ships.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2
In the year ahead we can look to three ships of new design, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2, coming from STX France, Norwegian Breakaway from Meyer Werft in Germany, and Royal Princess from Fincantieri in Italy, as well as matching sister ships for AIDA, Ponant and MSC.

This year, author Douglas Ward has added a comment on security at US ports. Homeland Security has been so bad at treating cruise passengers over the past couple of years, with significant delays being caused to P&O’s Arcadia, Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa and Fred Olsen ships that one line, Fred Olsen, has decided not to send ships to the US any longer.
Balmoral - Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Indeed, since this news, Saga has made the same decision and both companies are this autumn operating North American cruises that call only on Canadian ports (and in the case of Saga, one cruise from Canada to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba).
Fred Olsen’s 28-night Canadian cruise in the Balmoral left Southampton on September 5 and is today in Havre St Pierre, Quebec, one of eleven Canadian ports called at before her return to the UK.

Some small changes in the Guide are also noted, one being a sign of the times in that Ward has finally removed the reference to “plated service vs silver service.”
Where this section was now heads straight into a new paragraph on “self-service buffets,” where his words remain the same: “strangely, passengers don’t seem to mind lining up for self-service food (reminiscent of school lunches and army canteens) in scandalously overcrowded venues.”
Instead of silver service, Ward has added a comment on “seating arrangements.”

In the spa section, a new list presents the best spas, while in the expedition ship section, the list of ships is in need of an update, although new sections have been added to cover the Northwest Passage (where there will be three full transits and two local transits in 2013) and the Amazon above Manaus heading into Peru, where the port of Iquitos is about three-quarters of the way across the South American continent from the Atlantic.

In the summary section on the major cruise lines the headings have been changed from bold red bars to narrow grey bars, making it slightly more difficult to navigate, while Louis Cruises, now that it is down to two ships, has been moved out. However, the same “so what’s it really like” section summarises each line’sr good and bad aspects.

Louis has now been added to the smaller operators section, as have small ship operators Ambiente, Antarpply, Comodros (now Silversea’s Galapagos operation), FTI of Germany, Harmony Cruises, Oceanwide, One Ocean and Passat.

Meanwhile, on the ships themselves, the size brackets have been changed this year, which has moved some ships into a new bracket. Changes in the “Top 10” for each bracket are summarised below.
Queen Victoria
Under Large Ships (now 1750+ berths instead of 1600+), Queen Mary 2’s Grill class keeps her the top spot, but Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria have dropped from places 2 and 3 to 6 and 7.
This is because rankings 2 to 5 are now taken up by the Celebrity Solstice class ships, and the Queens are followed by three of the Celebrity Millenium class, now “Solsticized.”
The Queens have fallen in ranking because where they were previously rated for their “Grill class” they are now measured on their overall ratings.
Crystal Serenity
The Mid-size ship has gone from 600-1600 to 750-1750 berths, and here Oceania’s Riviera has knocked the Crystal Symphony out of place while Crystal Serenity has retained the number one spot.
Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager have now left this classification, going to “Small Ships,” and this has opened up a couple of spots that have been taken up by P&O’s Adonia and Phoenix Reisen’s Artania in the Top 10.

The Small Ship category has been moved up from 200-600 berths to 251-700 berths, thus bringing the two largest Regent ships into this grouping. But the top spots in this category are taken by Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa (still the top-scoring ship in Berlitz) and eight ships from Seabourn and Silversea.
SeaDream I in London
The Boutique category has gone from 50-200 berths up to 50-250 berths and includes the SeaDream duo, the original Seabourn trio (which last year fell into Small Ships), plus Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic, the two Sea Clouds, Silver Explorer and Hebridean Princess. Orion, Island Sky and Bremen have been knocked out of the Top 10 by the arrival of the Seabourn trio.
All in all, still the bible of the cruise ship guides, it is interesting to see that Berlitz has still not sorted out its disagreement with Peter Deilmann over the rating of the Deutschland, and almost fifteen years after her introduction that ship is still listed as “Not Yet Rated.”

Presumably, the German-flag ship will not allow a Berlitz inspector on board (she was given a four-star-plus rating and a score of 1656 out of 2000 in the 1999 guide but was not listed at all in 2000, to reappear as “Not Yet Rated” a few years later).

The “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” is available for pre-order from for £12.59 (regular £17.99) with free delivery and for purchase from the Amazon Kindle store for £14.82. In North America it is available from for $15.17 (regular $24.99) and the Kindle edition for $24.03.

The 2013 Guide will be available from Monday, October 1.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

The Travel Industry Needs Intrapreneurs

Yep, that's correct - just like the blog post title states.....the travel industry needs intrapreneurs.

What's an intrapreneur? It's an entrepreneur who turns ideas into profitable products and services as an employee of a company.

In today's challenging economy, intrapreneurship hasn't never been more important for the travel industry and among tour operators, tourist offices, suppliers and other tourism-related organizations.

Intrapreneurs provide companies with an entrepreneurial mindset, approach and spark - which in turns brings new revenues to companies by discovering, developing and tapping new markets and opportunities. 

As intrapreneurship is a vital key to the continued growth of the travel industry and trade, I plan to begin blogging and writing on this subject more than ever before in the coming days, weeks and months.

In meantime, you can check out my other blog on the very topic of intrapreneurship. Here is the link:

Air New Zealand Upgrades 777s


Air New Zealand will invest more than NZ$100 million (currently about AUD79.2 million) to upgrade its Boeing 777-200ER fleet of eight aircraft so it can offer the same cabin features as its larger 777-300ERs.

Air New Zealand Deputy chief executive Norm Thompson says the upgrade will ensure the carrier continues to deliver the most innovative product and technologies to passengers on its international network.

Work is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2014 and the aim is to complete it with a year. The upgraded 777-200ERs may well help in the Australia-New Zealand commercial agreement with Virgin Australia.

B777s are increasingly a favoured workhorse of the world’s international airlines. Qantas has none (having chosen some years ago not to buy any) but its new commercial alliance partner Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the aircraft type.

Air New Zealand’s first B777-200ER entered service with the airline in 2005 and the type has proven highly efficient throughout the airline’s network. The 304-seat 777-200ER aircraft currently operate various international routes.

“With the introduction of the 777-300ERs over the past 18 months and the arrival of the 787-9s in mid 2014, the 777-200ER fleet will be upgraded to align the product across all of the three long-haul fleet types,” Thompson said yesterday.

“We will be delivering the latest technology to our customers, including the Inflight Entertainment System developed in conjunction with Panasonic which will bring the latest in technology with improved resolution and capacitive touch monitors to all seats in the aircraft.”

The new system, called Panasonic eXlite will have improved system performance along with significant weight savings through better component design and architecture. Air New Zealand will be the launch customer for the new system on the 777-200ER.

As well as the new IFE system changes, Thompson says the upgrade will introduce the new elements of the Air New Zealand brand refresh seen in the interiors of the 777-300ER and A320 domestic aircraft.

This will see the Business Premier seats on the 777-200ER upgraded to match that on the 777-300ER, and the complete replacement of the Premium Economy and Economy seats.

“Air New Zealand was the first to deliver a lie-flat sleeping experience to our Economy customers through our hugely successful Skycouch product, and we are excited about enabling many more customers to experience this on our 777-200ERs,” Thompson added.

Written by : Peter Needham

Sustainable Tourism Among the Top Trends to Emerge During Virtuoso Travel Week

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Much like 'Fashion Week' establishes style trends for the season to come, leading luxury travel network Virtuoso® revealed during its recent 'Virtuoso Travel Week' conference the latest developments that will set the standard in upscale, experiential travel. For the first time in the event's 24-year history, Virtuoso® preferred travel providers presented news and updates to the media in attendance. Virtuoso, which continues to lead the industry as a trusted source for news and information, identified "sustainable tourism" as a key trend, with top destinations and travel providers expressing a strong commitment to products and practices that support the movement. 

"With more than 340 member agencies in 20 countries and relationships with 1,300 of the world's best travel providers and premier destinations, Virtuoso is perfectly positioned to determine what will attract and interest travelers," said Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso. "Just as 'Fashion Week' is followed by the fashion industry and consumers alike, Virtuoso Travel Week is poised to become the same driving force for the travel industry. This week several of our travel providers shared exciting announcements, combined with some interesting statistics and insight from Virtuoso as well."

Article link:

Israel Tour Ops Respond to Demand for Custom Experiences (by Stacey Zable)

The following article by Stacey Zable and published by Travel Market Report discusses how tour operators are responding to the growing demand of custom experiences in Israel.

Here's the article link:

Culinary and Agritourism: Stepping Up to the Plate (by Doug Rentz)

Hilo Parade 028
(photo courtesy

Looking for a great article on the twin topics of culinary and agritourism?
Here's an excellent article that accomplishes just that by Doug Rentz:

Title of article:
Stepping Up to the Plate -
NTA Members Offer Creative, Sustainable Options in Culinary Tourism

Courier Magazine

Aussies and Londoners flock to 2012 Singapore SingTel Grand Prix

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Aussies and Londoners flock to 2012 Singapore SingTel Grand Prix
·        New data from Amadeus and ForwardKeys shows far-reaching international profile of visitors to Singapore during the F1 period.
·        Top arrivals to Singapore during the 2012 F1 period from Australia, closely followed by the United Kingdom and USA.
·        F1 fans from London currently represent the highest number of bookings from any one city in the world, beating previous city front runner, Sydney.

Sydney, 19 September 2012: Amadeus, a leading travel technology partner and transaction processor for the global travel and tourism industry, in conjunction with Forward Data SL, a market research and consulting company, today unveil travel trends, based on global air reservations, that highlight the impact of the Singapore F1 on inbound travel to the Asian city state.

With just days to go before the qualifying races, the majority of arrivals are expected from Australia, the UK and the USA for the F1 period in Singapore.

Bookings for the F1 period, made until 1 September 2012, show that overall bookings for the F1 are currently 3% lower than at the same time in 2011, reflecting the possible impact of global downturn. However the data shows that a surge in last minute bookings can be expected.

Top trends identified:

v        Australia is the recurrent principal source country overall for inbound visitors to Singapore during the F1 with 23% of bookings, followed by the UK (12%) and USA (8%).
Australia carries over its status as top source country from last year, with fans eager to see if Webber will add to his two wins on the circuit during the famous Singapore night race.

v        F1 fans from London currently represent the highest number of travellers from any one city (9% of total bookings) during this period.
High off the success of the 2012 Olympic Games, it seems Londoners are heading to Singapore for the F1 to continue their support for some of the world's most iconic sporting events that 2012 will see. Sydney follows in second place with 8% and Melbourne with 6% of total bookings.

v        The UK, Australia and New Zealand show recurrent support for the Singapore F1, but New Zealand F1 fans show double digit growth in 2012.
Travellers from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand show higher anticipation when booking for the Singapore Grand Prix than other countries, booking further in advance than neighbouring Asian countries. Current bookings observed suggest that Australia and New Zealand could increase its relevance this year thanks mainly to a huge 34% growth seen in bookings from New Zealand compared to 2011.

v        Last minute bookings tipped to fill the stands.
Despite current booking numbers dipping 3% lower than at the same time last year for the F1 period, it is expected that last minute bookings could still have a major impact on the final picture. Looking at booking data just three weeks before the first race in 2011, 33% of the final 2011 F1 arrival figures had not even been booked yet.

v        Race goers making a long weekend of it; new alternative to the traditional romantic weekend.
Thursday 20th September shows peak arrival numbers (14.9% of total bookings for the period), two days before the qualifying race takes place, suggesting that visitors arriving for the F1 are making a long weekend out of the famous Singapore leg of the circuit this year. Furthermore, 2012 will see more couples arriving in Singapore with one third of current bookings for the F1 period being held by people visiting Singapore with a partner, up 7% on 2011's final arrivals into Singapore.

David Brett, President Amadeus Asia Pacific, said, "Our analysis highlights the significant opportunity for travel providers and businesses in Singapore over the F1 period, particularly between 20th and 23rd September, when hotels are likely to see a surge in bookings. In particular, the research highlights that the window for air bookings to Singapore is not yet closed, with many more last minute flight, and subsequently hotel, bookings still expected in the run up to the event.

"For the travel and leisure industries, understanding traveller behaviour is essential to scale their services accordingly to meet shifts in travel patterns impacting the local region. The Singapore F1 continues to grow in popularity both regionally and globally, and through hosting this level of top-tier sports content, Singapore can reaffirm itself as a key player on the global sporting stage and continue to be a hub for compelling content benefiting both the local community and international fans to enjoy."

Olivier Jager, CEO of Forward Data, added, "Travel trends are an important source of information for travel and leisure companies. By tailoring their commercial offering to external factors affecting traveller flows and profiles by region, travel companies can drive business more effectively. The data used in this survey represents actual bookings made, so travel providers can base their business decisions upon it with confidence."

The forecast provided by, a business intelligence tool launched by Forward Data in partnership with Amadeus, is based on actual air booking data available as of 1 September 2012.

To download a copy of the report please visit:

About the research

Market Research and Consulting Company for the Travel Industry Forward Data SL publishes a web site and a database aggregating Air reservation information worldwide.
This study is based on air reservations processed through online and off-line Travel Agencies worldwide using one of the four leading reservations systems (GDS), as aggregated within database until the (01/09/2012). For more information about data, studies and methodologies, please contact us by email at

Facts, figures and observations published in this document are no projection or extrapolations, but concrete and factual information based on the information available at the time and market fluctuations.  

The analysis is based on all reservations stored in database for travellers around the world that have made an air reservation to travel to Singapore on the period of 16/09/2012 to 23/09/2012 and past equivalent dates.
Reservations aggregated the day of the study represent a total of 74% when compared to actual arrivals for the period of concern in 2011 (As a matter of comparison, at same day and same week in 2011, 77% of  arrivals later observed for 2011 F1 period had been processed).

ForwardKeys background information

Market Research and Consulting Company Forward Data SL, a company registered in Spain, publishes, and an innovating service bringing a new approach to operational traveller data intelligence for Hotels Chains, Tourism boards and Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) leveraging non confidential Air reservation information.
ForwardKeys provides DMOs and Tourism Boards with travellers' trends information and means to monitor and measure the impact of their marketing efforts to drive more business to their destination
ForwardKeys provides Hotel chains with ways to quantify future demand and anticipate market trends to optimize sales, marketing and revenue management efforts, using traveller's reservation, source market, arrival, return date and future travel information.
For more information about our company and services, please contact us at, or visit our web site at

© 2012 Forward Data, S.L.
Forward Data, S.L. is providing the information in this document "AS IS" without warranty and for informational purposes only, and shall not be liable for any damages, including loss of profit or goodwill, for any matter arising out of or relating to the use of this information or any statement made in this document. The information may be used or republished as long as is credited as the origin. ForwardKeys is a registered trademark of Forward Data S.L. Other company, product, or service names used herein may be trademarks or service marks of their respective owners in Spain, the USA or other countries.

About Amadeus

Amadeus is a leading transaction processor and provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry.

Customer groups include travel providers (e.g. airlines, hotels, rail, ferries, etc.), travel sellers (travel agencies and websites), and travel buyers (corporations and individual travellers).

The group operates a transaction-based business model and processed more than 947 million billable travel transactions in 2011.

Amadeus has central sites in Madrid (corporate headquarters), Nice (development) and Erding (operations – data processing centre) and regional offices in Miami, Buenos Aires, Bangkok and Dubai. At a market level, Amadeus maintains customer operations through 73 local Amadeus Commercial Organisations covering 195 countries.

Amadeus is listed on the Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia stock exchanges and trades under the symbol "AMS.MC". For the year ended December 31, 2011 the company reported like-for-like revenues of €2,712 million and EBITDA of €1,039 million. The Amadeus group employs around 10,000 people worldwide, with 123 nationalities represented at the central offices.

To find out more about Amadeus It Pacific please visit

To visit the Amadeus Investor Relations centre please

Classic International Cruises ships arrested

CIC Athena - 'full 2012/13 extended season in Western Australia will go ahead' despite arrest

Three ships in the Classic International Cruises fleet have been arrested for non-payment of bills, Seatrade Insider has learnt.

Athena, on charter to All Ways Travel, Belgium, was arrested in Marseille on Friday. Some 285 passengers were repatriated to Belgium with ‘minimum fuss,’ reports the Belgian tour operator, although the crew remain on board the vessel.

Commenting on the arrest of the 580-passenger Athena, Susanne Hunter, the administration manager of Classic International Cruises in Sydney, told Seatrade Insider the vessel’s full 2012/13 extended season in Western Australia will go ahead.

Hunter, the wife of CIC’s md Australia, Grant, said, ‘the owners and bank are solving the problem and the full 2012/13 programme is going ahead.’

Read Full Report

Growth Markets News Stories This Week: Culinary, Ecotourism, Faith-based and Family Travel

 Keep current on key industry segments with the articles below, each with a link to an NTA member.


Culinary Travel


Faith-based Tourism

NTA member to contact:

Family Travel

Philippine Airlines to Boost Australian Services

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Philippine Airlines will increase its Australian services and operate non-stop flights from both Sydney and Melbourne under a new schedule to be introduced at the end of next month.

From October 28, Philippine Airlines will increase its flights to Manila from five to seven per week - four from Sydney and three from Melbourne.  All flights will be non-stop in both directions, ending the current triangular service between the three cities.

Already offering more direct flights to Manila than any other carrier, Philippine Airlines will provide even greater capacity with its dedicated services for both Sydney and Melbourne travellers.

Flights from Sydney (PR212) will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing 9.45am, while flights from Melbourne (PR210) will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing 9.50am.

All flights will be operated by the airline's modern flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, offering the latest features including lie-flat beds in business class and seat-back entertainment systems throughout all cabins.

The B777 has met with enthusiastic response among regular travellers since its deployment on Sydney and Melbourne routes in June.  It is larger, more spacious and more fuel-efficient than other aircraft used on Australian services.

As Asia's first carrier, Philippine Airlines offers the comfort and convenience of a full-service airline with an expanding network of destinations throughout the Philippines and across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.

For full details and bookings contact Philippine Airlines on 1300 888 725, visit or see travel agents.

Cruise Incentives: A Promising Specialty for Travel Agents (by Ana Figueroa)

One of the growth markets within the cruise business is incentive travel. just published it's second story by Ana Figueroa in a series on cruise meetings and incentives. Here is the opening statement of the article by Ana:

"As the cruise industry sets its sights on the meetings and incentive market with renewed vigor, there are expanded opportunities for cruise-selling travel agents to reel in business clients."

Here is the full article link to Ana's most recent article:

To view Ana's first story in the series published on Sep 13, click here:
Cruise Meetings Sail Onto Meeting Planners’ Radar

High Fashion, High Life At Club Signature As Sofitel So Bangkok Introduces Its Exclusive Lounge Designed By Mr. Christian Lacroix

Sofitel So Bangkok, the city’s first truly urban design hotel, unveiled its unique executive lounge, Club Signature, a masterpiece of high fashion dedicated to the high life inspired by legendary couturier Mr. Christian Lacroix. Offering an unparalleled discovery experience and an extensive range of benefits, Club Signature is a complimentary facility available to guests staying in “So Club” rooms and higher categories.

In a design-driven hotel, Club Signature is, as the name suggests, exemplary of Sofitel So Bangkok's taking interior design to a new level that heightens guests' experience and enhances their lifestyle choices. Giving it a unique ambience is the creative flair of Mr. Christian Lacroix. Known for his dramatic creations for Hermes, as well as his own haute couture line, he has designed everything from lifestyle products, accessories and perfumes to stage costumes for The Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Opera National de Paris.

At Club Signature he has drawn on his inimitable personal touch of French elegance, theatrical flair, fantasy and folklore to produce a surprising ambience created out of imaginative patterns, rich textures and vibrant colours that combine to offer a surprising interplay of images and motifs of old Siam and 19th-century France. Most eye-catching of all is a huge surreal art piece that greets guests as they enter and in which figures in historical French dress are finished with heads of flowers typically found in Thailand.

“In a design-driven hotel, Club Signature is, as the name suggests, exemplary of Sofitel So Bangkok's taking interior design to a new level that heightens guests' experience and enhances their lifestyle choices.”
In this stunning yet totally inviting environment of Club Signature, located in the hotel's 25th floor and open from 6.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m., guests find not only a world of fashion and style, but also a world of ease with a remarkable array of complementary facilities and courtesies, beginning with personalised check-in and a welcome mini-massage at So SPA. For guests’ refreshment, breakfast is served from 6.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., Signature Tea from 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. and Signature Evening Cocktails from 5.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. while coffees, teas, soft drinks, cookies and snacks are available all day.

To keep guests connected, there is free WIFI and complimentary use of iPad (upon availability), as well as daily newspapers and access to E-Books and E-Magazines on iPad at the library corner. Guests may further enjoy unlimited local calls within Bangkok (mobile phones excluded).

Among the many other advantage are two hours per stay complimentary use of Club Signature Meeting Room (upon availability), complimentary pressing of two garment per day, plus express laundry service without additional charge, one day pass ticket for BTS Skytrain or MRT subway, and ExtenSo late check-out until 4.00 p.m. (upon availability).

The access is an offer to guests who stay in So Club rooms or higher categories at no charge. To celebrate the launch of Club Signature, "So Comfy" room guests are extended free access in a special offer available from 16th August and 31st October. This offer is not applicable to groups and cannot be combined with other promotions.

For more information, please contact +66 2 624 0000 or email: H6835-RE[at]

Sofitel So, intense living

Created by Sofitel as a label, Sofitel So personifies its designer hotels vision, the latest addresses, resolutely contemporary. Blending design and pleasure, style and soul, each Sofitel So address aims to express the essence of the destination. A concept that combines Sofitel art de vivre and personal style entrusted to an international name from the world of fashion, the arts or design. Conceived as a story, each address is a new chapter. The book opens with Sofitel So Mauritius and the narrative continues with Sofitel So Bangkok, Sofitel So Mumbai...

Discover Sofitel on
Discover Le Club at Sofitel, the new worldwide Accor loyalty program on

The Fine Craft of Drinking is Revived at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Sydney's Rocks precincts has just become an even more desirable meeting place, with the addition of the neighbourhood's newest local - GRAIN - a bespoke bar by Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.

Stunningly positioned overlooking George and Alfred Streets at Circular Quay off the hotel's lobby, GRAIN combines an overwhelming collection of fascinating artistic and design elements with a cosy year-round indoor/outdoor feel.

Helmed by Bar Manager, David Ramos Hernandez, GRAIN is dedicated to the journey of 'The Fine Craft of Drinking' - from hand-crafted local tap beers by specialist brewers to a largely organic and biodynamic wine list and roving international cocktail list with a contemporary twist.

Hernandez is an intuitive international bar manager with a canny knowledge of the Sydney market. He latterly set up and managed popular small bar, Low 302 in Surry Hills. His credits also include The Argyle, Bayswater Brasserie and Sydney's famed Longrain.

GRAIN'S drinks list reads exotic: Pink Lady, Charlie Chaplain, Left Hand, Diamondback Lounge, Eastern Promise and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Equally the beer menu is expected to enthral all hop specialists, including a bespoke GRAIN lager, sure to create a new wave of bar habitués.

Chef Hamish Ingham - also an import from Surry Hills who owns popular eatery Bar H - worked closely with Hernandez to match cocktail, wine and beer lists with fine bar food. The unique menu includes the likes of Deep Fried Old Man's Saltbush with aioli, oysters by Steve Feletti, yabbies with lemon and herbs, and GRAIN'S own dry aged beef short rib burger.

Designed by award-winning architect Michael McCann, GRAIN brings a strong local bar feel to the city's harbour front. It sports an eye-catching central island bar clad in giant curved slabs of sustainable Queensland Blackbutt timber over a frosted glass inner core. Other highlights include a floating up-lit bottle wall, large grained wooden artisan entry doors giving access directly from George Street as well as the Hotel lobby; a large central fireplace, and retractable glass windows which open to views of the Quay over a beautiful native garden. There are also commissioned artworks that reflect the personality of the bespoke venue.

"GRAIN is a meeting place for locals and hotel guests to enjoy hand-crafted, lovingly prepared food and drinks day and night. It's a bar that pays homage to the origins of alcohol and the intricate grains in the hand-made timbers. As they say, anything worth waiting for takes time and we hope you will spend a little time with us at GRAIN", said Four Seasons Hotel Sydney General Manager, Vincent Hoogewijs.


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Berlin, September 17, 2012 – Dramatic LED art walls are framed by restored art deco and baroque details, next to show-stopping spotlights and ornate gilt displays cases. You've just stepped into the QT Sydney, Design Hotels™ newest member in Australia. Opening today, the hotel is set within two of the city's most iconic buildings – the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theater. While the facades have been restored to their former glory, inside is a stunning mix of original features, curated digital art installations, eclectic artifacts and quirky design pieces inspired by the retail and theater history of the buildings. The service concept is equally fresh.  A first in the city, the hotel's Concierge iPhone and iPad app helps guests create their bespoke travel experiences of Sydney.

Public Spaces
Acclaimed designer Nic Graham's bold design of the hotel is at its pinnacle in the lobby, where historical features are set off by an imposing LED wall of digital art by Daniel Crooks. The space serves not just as a lounge, but as a playground after dark. In conjunction with the city's well-known designers, architects and art connoisseurs, the public spaces bring the magic of the old and new alive. An audio-visual piece playing between levels creates a sensory adventure adjusting to the mood of the elevator and its occupants. All the art work was exclusively selected by curator Amanda Love.

Rooms and Suites
Architect Shelly Indyk has set many quirky nuances across all 200 rooms of the hotel. A deep palette of reds, oranges, yellows and whites is featured throughout the 12 unique room styles. Retaining the original timber floors from 1929, the rooms in the Gowings Building are bright and airy with eccentric touches and embellishments. The adjacent State Theater rooms boast exclusively designed Rothko-inspired carpets and rugs, along with light, playful touches like bowler hat lamps and light fittings. The dark stone bathrooms are accented by oversized signature baths and large separate showers with pin spot lighting ensuring the right vibe. The rooms and bathrooms are finished with unusual collectables and pops of color, making it an appropriate hub from which to explore the creative scene in the surrounding neighborhood.

Food and Beverage
Guests are ushered into the beating heart of the hotel through the door into the Gowings Bar & Grill. The lounge spaces and bar areas, with a selection of cutting-edge DJs, evokes the energy of Sydney – a city that is home to a special group of pleasure seekers and power players. The Gowings Bar & Grill's Creative Food Director, Robert Marchetti is an industry veteran with 24 years' experience in the field. Styled after a brasserie, it offers wood-fire oven roasts and seafood on rotisserie, prepared from the freshest of Australian ingredients, mixed in with handpicked artisan products. For a quick coffee or casual bite, Parlour Lane Roasters at the entry level of the hotel provides a perfect fix. It's a European style café, with experienced baristas serving some of Sydney's best coffee, as well as quick, easy and social breakfasts and lunches. The Parlour Lane Roasters turns into a bustling aperitif bar from the afternoon into the evening.

For the exclusive range of local talent on display in the hotel, curator Amanda Love's expertise was sought. Voted Best Art Advisor 2010 in Sydney's inaugural Art Month awards, she has served on the Board of the Biennale of Sydney, Australia's largest contemporary art event, for the past eight years. She has chosen artists from Australia and New Zealand – Daniel Crooks, Daniel Boyd and Grant Steven – to design the light and video installations in the hotel rooms, lobby and the Gilt Lounge. Additionally, the hotel guest rooms feature works by artist Richard Blackwell from Adelaide, and Sydney sculptor Morgan Shimeld specially commissioned by guest room designer Shelly Indyk.

A touch of glamour has enlivened Sydney's local spa terrain with a new designer wellness concept, spaQ. It follows an innovative service concept, where it caters to those with busy schedules and his/her changing needs and desires. Rather than insisting on a pre-selection of treatments, spaQ encourages you to book a block of time and choose a treatment on the day, using the therapist's knowledge to help guide you. In addition to the six treatment rooms, spaQ exclusively offers a men's traditional barber and a Hammam-spired steam and ice room.

QT Sydney is located in the heart of Sydney's central business district (CBD) and retail precinct. The hotel is in close proximity to Darling Harbour, a tourist and nightlife area, The Rocks, Australia's finest restored historical district, Circular Quay as well as Chinatown and the Opera House. The airport is just a 30 minutes drive from the hotel.

Rates start from 420 AUD.

For reservations, please refer to the webpage

website joins 
Group Travel Family

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Agritourism has been growing in popularity among tour planners in recent years, and now there is a site dedicated to helping the group travel planner find farms, markets and destinations that are tourism-friendly. AgritourismWorld is an online directory that lists more than 1,000 agritourism-related destinations and that encourages tourists to visit the countryside.

AgritourismWorld recently joined The Group Travel Family, along with the BankTravel Conference, Going On Faith Conference, Boomers in Groups, the African American Travel Conference and Group Leaders of America. The addition of agritourism to the organization will integrate farm-related tourism into the group travel industry by creating an awareness of the market to more than 12,500 leaders of travel clubs and groups.

“We openly welcome AgritourismWorld to the group travel industry,” said Charlie Presley, founder of The Group Travel Family. “Agritourism is a valued part of every group’s travel plans, and this site makes it easy to visit a farm, market, bed-and-breakfast or one of over 1,000 destinations.”

At the AgritourismWorld site, a group can search for farms that cater to tourists by state or product. The site allows visitors to find farms that specialize in everything from honey production to alpaca farming. Once group leaders locate farms or destinations of interest, they can click on the farms’ websites to find travel details, ask questions of the owners or schedule group visits.

AgritourismWorld is already the top Google site under the search word “agritourism,” and Presley has plans to increase the reach of the site.

“We have over 1,000 farms listed today, and we will double that by year’s end,” he said.

In addition, the site will target international as well as domestic agritourism destinations. There are more than 100 international listings to date.

The wide range of interests the site offers is a true tourism value. Visitors can find information on destinations from Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Illinois to Biship’s Pumpkin Farm in California, Ten Horse Farm in Georgia and Vashon Farmers Market in Washington. The site will help travel planners find more than 75 interests: Listings include seasons, events, animals, food and beverages, gardens and plants, markets, overnight stays and unusual features, such as corn mazes.

Farms and agritourism destinations that are interested in a free listing may visit the site and submit their venue. Groups can go to and plan a tour year-round.

For further information, contact Gini Dolence at 800-628-0993

USA Travel Guides: Four Ways to New York Tours

Four great ways to experience the New York City, depending on how much time you can afford to spend away from your New York try at least one of them.

The Sky Tour

If you're one of those madly busy people who have a very limited time to see the sights, why not book a helicopter ride and view the city from a birds-eye vantage? These tours last anywhere from 30. minutes to a couple of hours and, what's more, some tours allow you to arrange your own itinerary as well!

Walking Tours

Perhaps one of the few cities on the planet that favors walking over other forms of transport, it's the perfect way to enjoy the surrounds and stretch your legs to make up for the hours spent inside New York conference rooms. If you're lucky to have free days (or even half days!) off to explore, get right away from your New York conference rooms and go walking along the Museum Mile. You could try a literary pub-crawl in Greenwich, where you can pop in for poetry readings and walk in the steps of famous American poets and writers; or just wander around the Rockefeller Center and the Financial District to see the modern, bustling New York you see in movies and television. For an even more authentic experience, you can tour New York with a Big Apple Greeter - resident volunteers who will guide you around the city's neighborhoods and show you the real New York life.

By Bus

If you only have a limited amount of time to escape from your New York conference rooms and want to cram in a lot of sightseeing, guided bus tours are available to make sure you cover the New York attractions that you just shouldn't miss! Many companies offer guided bus tours that range from all-day tours, six-hour tours, or shorter ones, incorporating many must-see sights such as the city's best landmarks, buildings, historical and cultural icons. These tours follow a strict schedule, however, and don't often allow for lingering at any one place. If you have more time, Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours are also available, and will let you see the sights at your own pace.

By Boat

What better way to spend your spare time away from your New York conference rooms than a day on the water? Take a cruise or sail in the harbor, and enjoy a unique perspective of the city. From this viewpoint, by day the Big Apple is certainly impressive, but to see the City That Never Sleeps in its full glory, splurge on an evening cruise - truly, New York at her finest.

Airstream Launched in Australia

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Since 1931 Airstream polished aluminium travel trailers have graced the roads of the world. Collected by Hollywood stars, travelled in by Presidents and dignitaries, obsessed over by owners and those who hope to be, these magnificent hand-crafted Airstreams are now available in Australia for adventurous souls with an eye for style.

Bob Wheeler, President of Airstream USA, joined Alan Imrie and Alison Miers, Directors of Australian company A & A Industries, exclusive distributors of Airstream in Australia, to announce the availability of Airstream for the Australian market.

Initially two models will be available in Australia, the 634 and 736 International Series, factory modified and assembled to meet Australian compliance requirements including 240 volt wiring, Australian electrical switches, conversion for right hand drive vehicle towing and towing hitch. Interior fit-outs include premium brand appliances, a selection of flexible floor plans, fabrics and colour schemes providing for individual taste. Individual customised interiors can be produced to special order at additional cost.

Airstreams are known for superior structural integrity: their semi-monocoque construction weds inner and outer aluminum layers to an integrated aluminumframe. After 80 years of production, the Airstream concept is still relevant today, lowering fuel and horsepower needs.

Built in Ohio, USA, this latest fleet of Airstream Travel Trailers continues the tradition of extraordinary design and hand-crafted quality that has made Airstream world famous, featuring the latest design technology and conveniences in a way that is distinctly Airstream.

Pricing in Australia for the 634 commences from A$115,000 depending on specification and interior finish and the 736 from A$135,000.

We are starting modestly but rumours of our arrival are out already and we have received a number of expressions of interest from individuals, as well as companies interested in purchasing an Airstream to use for promotions or a stand-out mobile office.

Alan Imrie, Managing Director of A&A Industries, summarised the launch saying "We anticipate interest in Australia from a buying public looking for something different, a readily identifiable lifestyle statement and something that I think will really appeal to the outdoors nature of Australians. A balance of art and practicality; classic aircraft styling combined with modern safety, durability and functionality."

Background reference:

The Founder of Airstream, Wally Byam, had a dream to create lightweight travel trailers that slipped cleanly through the wind. And with it was born another dream, one of new freedoms, new places, new experiences, and new friendships. It was a dream so powerful and so enduring that it did far more than create a new way to travel; it created a new way of life shared by thousands upon thousands of families.

In 1929, Wally Byam purchased a Model T Ford chassis, built a platform on it, towed it with his car to a campsite, and painstakingly erected a tent on it. The effort was tiresome and unpleasant, especially when it rained. Spurred on by his first wife Marion, Wally built a tear-drop-shaped permanent shelter on the platform that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove. He then published an article that ran under the headline, "How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars." Readers wrote to Wally for more detailed instruction plans, which he sold at a cost of one dollar each.

The response was extraordinary, earning him more than $15,000. After building several trailers for friends in his backyard, "the neighbours started complaining that I was making too much noise," Wally observed, "so I went out and rented a building." Airstream Trailer Company went into full production in 1932, when fewer than 48 trailer manufacturers were registered for business. Five years later, nearly 400 companies squared off against each other. Today, of those 400, only Airstream remains.

Let's only make improvements

Anecdotes are legion about Wally's passion for product innovation. "Let's not make changes, let's make only improvements," was his familiar refrain. In quest of these, Wally scoured the world looking for efficient hot water heaters, door hinges, butane lamps, chemical toilets, small porcelain sinks and chairs — myriad large and small items that would make an Airstream more functional and liveable. In Europe he discovered a heating system that took up little space but gave off plenty of radiant heat. He borrowed the design, improved it, and renamed it the Byam Burner.

In France he spied a compact gas refrigerator manufactured by Dometic. He arranged for the refrigerators to be installed in Airstreams, making an end to ice-electric refrigerators that required travellers to be constantly on the prowl for ice. More than 50 years later, Dometic still supplies refrigerators to Airstream.

When nothing suitable was available on the world market, Wally urged someone to manufacture it. In 1954 he persuaded Max Bowen, president of Bowen Water Heater Co., to develop the first workable hot water system for a trailer. Other innovations were brought directly to him by customers. Frank Sargent, an engineer, approached Wally in 1960 with a novel toilet valve that used steam pressure for flushing waste into a holding tank. Sargent's Thetford toilets have been used in Airstream models since the 1961 model year. Wally tallied several inventions of his own, including the idea of a flat-sided underbelly to reduce wind resistance, and an 18 x 40 inch escape window in the back of the trailer in case the side door was jammed.

Quality, innovation, and design

The list of "firsts" in the trailer industry attributed to Airstream is a long one, including the first holding tank, the first ladder frame, the first pressurized water system, and the first fully self-contained travel trailer — the 1957 Airstream International. "Self-containment" was a term Wally had coined to describe full freedom from external trailer hook-ups, such as outside sources of power. He once said he wanted to build a trailer that "my lovely old grandmother might tow … to the middle of the Gobi Desert, there to live in gracious metropolitan luxury … without reloading, refuelling, recharging or regretting."

Nearly 80 years after its backyard beginnings, Airstream maintains an unwavering commitment to the tenets upon which it was founded: Quality, Innovation, and Design.

A who's who and what's what

Overseas celebrity owners of Airstream include Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Lenny Kravitz and Sandra Bullock while in Europe Today Celebrity occupants include George Michael, Hugh Grant and Gerri Halliwell.

The most recognised aluminium travel trailer in the world has featured in numerous movies and television shows including NBC's Grey's Anatomy and CSI LA. In season three of The Apprentice, Donald Trump challenged contestants to create mobile business ventures using Airstreams. They have appeared in numerous films including Charlie's Angels, Independence Day and Wall Street II.

For many years a customised Airstream was prominently displayed at MTV's headquarters in Santa Monica, California and a 1960 Airstream Bambi is part of a permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art for excellence in style and design.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and members of Apollo 11 were quarantined for three weeks in a specially built Airstream after returning from the first voyage to the moon.

Several specially built Airstreams are commonly used to transport American officials around the world. Strapped down inside military cargo planes Airstreams have transported Vice Presidents, First Ladies, Generals and Admirals in comfort. First Lady Laura Bush travelled cocooned inside her personal Airstream which had been installed inside the transport aircraft when visiting the troops in Afghanistan in 2008.

Australian website:

US website:  (bear in mind US product differs from Australian product).

Major Taiwan Tourism delegation visits Sydney and Melbourne

Underlining the importance with which it views the Australian market as a potential source of international visitors, a major Taiwan tourism industry delegation is visiting Sydney and Melbourne this week where the tourist office will stage two major workshop events.

Headed by delegation leader,  the President of Golden Foundation Tours Ms Jean Chang, the group will also include the Deputy Secretary- General of the Taiwan Visitors Association, Ms Sophia Yeh and also the Director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau – Singapore, Australia & New Zealand. Mr Arthur Hsieh.

The workshops are scheduled at the Hilton of Sydney on Tuesday and at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne on Thursday. Both have been designed to update the agents and industry staffers attending with all the latest developments taking place in the destination which this year so far has attracted in excess of 49,000 Australian visitors.

Format for both events will be based on a workshop where those attending will be able to meet with their Taiwan counterparts followed by a dinner complete with traditional Taiwanese entertainment.

Taiwan Tourism Bureau Marketing Representative Australia & New Zealand, Ms Pearl Lee said the events built perfectly on the tourist office's current promotional activity in Austraila.

This, she said, includes the launch of the tourist office's biggest ever outdoor advertising campaign which is currently appearing on buses and railway platforms in Sydney and on buses and trams in Melbourne featuring a 'Time for Taiwan' message.

"The key to all this activity is to really underline how serious we are about this market and what a wonderfully multi-faceted travel option we offer to travelling Australians," she said.

"As more Australians are beginning to slowly but steadily discover for themselves, Taiwan offers a unique culture, a gourmetfood experience, bargain shopping, wonderful natural spas and hot spring facilities and overall, great value for money.

"But the visit by the Taiwan delegation is more than just bringing attention to Taiwan – a key part of the mission will be to meet with the people actively selling travel and provide them with the tools they need to successfully sell Taiwan to their customers."

The launch of the MS EUROPA 2’s May 2013-April 2014 brochure for the international marketplace

The launch of the MS EUROPA 2's May 2013-April 2014 brochure for the international marketplace – setting new standards in relaxed luxury cruising

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has launched to the international marketplace its first English language brochure, featuring comprehensive information on the 516-passenger MS EUROPA 2, which will join the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet (currently 4 ships) in May 2013.

This contemporary, new brochure, with pricing in Euro, sterling and USD, features details of:

•           the route concept: 26 itineraries from May 2013 to April 2014 across 4 regions – Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula and Asia – and calling at 123 ports
•           the philosophy – a blend of casual elegance combined with state-of-the-art technology
•           an introduction to the crew (370 plus)
•           the EUROPA 2 facilities: eleven decks – with the largest space per passenger ratio in the cruise industry; all 251 suites (in seven categories) with their own outdoor verandas (minimum size 28 square metres/301 square feet); eight restaurants; six bars; a culinary school; the OCEAN SPA and fitness area; a modern Theatre; and Jazz Club

Built at the STX Europe shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France and promising to set new luxury standards on the worldwide oceans, EUROPA 2 takes to the high seas for her inaugural 14-night voyage on 11 – 25 May, 2013 from Hamburg to Lisbon. The 40,000 ton EUROPA 2 will be positioned as the modern, lifestyle-orientated sister ship of the world's only 5-star-plus ship MS EUROPA (according Berlitz Cruise Guide 2013) and will cater to a sophisticated, international and cosmopolitan audience.

Says Julian Pfitzner, Director Product Management MS EUROPA 2:

"I am thrilled to present our first English language brochure, the design of which we believe succeeds in reflecting our concept philosophy for EUROPA 2, together with the standards of hospitality which our guests can expect.

"With EUROPA 2 we have broken new ground – she represents a casual and modern interpretation of luxury cruises in terms of her design, facilities and entertainment programme. The voyage routes are shorter and thus more flexible – mostly 7 nights – and will appeal to professional working people and families, who have very demanding lives and are looking for individuality, choice and an elegant yet informal atmosphere on board.

"The EUROPA 2 will offer an international atmosphere on board – all our cruises being conducted in German and English. The lecturers also speak English and in addition, English-language excursions will be offered on 10 – 12 selected cruises each year. As a matter of course, anyone interested can also enquire about individual excursion arrangements for all the other cruises.

"We have consciously increased the focus on wellness and fitness; and also decided to forgo some of the cruise traditions such as the Captain's Dinner; and the on-board announcements generally will be reduced to a minimum and be made in German and English at all times."

Personalised service is a priority for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, with 370 crew on EUROPA 2 looking after a maximum of 516 guests, including the options of offering butler and travel concierge services.

New standards will also be set with regards to environmental protection – the EUROPA 2 is the FIRST cruise ship equipped with catalysts (SCR = process of Selective Catalytic Reduction), which reduces the emission of nitrogen oxides by almost 95 per cent.

Travel Agents: For every Hapag-Lloyd Cruises booking by a new customer (that is, for the first time) - placed and confirmed through travel agents until 31.12.2013 - the agent will receive 2% additional commission on the cruise-only price. This applies to all bookings for cruises on board MS EUROPA 2 departing in 2013. Further information at

The EUROPA 2 lead-in fare for 2013, based on double occupancy, is EUR 3,380/ £2,640/ $4,060 per person in a Veranda/Ocean Suite, for a 7-night voyage Lisbon to Barcelona, departing 25 May.

A sample EUROPA 2 voyage in 2013, featuring shore excursions in English: based on double occupancy, costs from EUR 3,880/ £3,030/ USD 4,660 per person in a Veranda/Ocean Suite, for a 7-night voyage Monte Carlo to Valletta, Malta, departing 8 June.

Cruise-only fares include: accommodation in the category booked; full board on the ship; mini-bar in the suite; a different entertainment programme each day; port fees; travel cancellation insurance; bankruptcy insurance; and share of ship fuel costs.

For Reservations: 0049 (0) 40 3001 4580 or for local Agents

For more information on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' exciting destinations and itineraries visit For bookings or brochure requests, please look for your nearest sales agent in your country at, link "Contact & Services".

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