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Cruising is currently the fastest growing travel in Australia. Every week thousands of passengers embark on a new and exciting adventure. You might think that cruising isn’t for you, but you would be wrong. Cruising suits almost everyone. With one packaged price that includes so much your cruise will have you barely lifting a finger or your credit card- unless you want!

There is an element to cruising I have not experienced in any other form of travel, and it’s that you are taken care of. From the moment you step onboard to the moment you say goodbye. There is the Cabin steward who is there for you morning and night, making sure you don’t lift a finger when it comes to making your bed and tidying up your mess. Your waiters at dinner who may stay the same every night or may change, either way you will get to know your favourite servers from around the ship and they will get to know you. The entertainment staff are there to do exactly what you think, keep you entertained. If you regularly attend the scheduled activities they will remember you and will always enjoy a laugh or two with you and other passengers. By the time you step off the ship you won’t just be missing your holiday you will be missing the friends you made in the crew!why choosing cruise holiday

There’s nothing like a holiday when you don’t have to worry about a thing. With cruising you will generally get to experience a few ports and towns sometimes even in different countries. On a regular land based trip doing this means getting up in the morning and checking out of your hotel and making your way to the next destination. Traveling between places is often the most stressful part of a holiday. With cruising after a long beautiful day in port you return to the ship and join in the activities and events or just hit the hay, and when you wake up you’re in a new exotic place. Don’t forget those important sea days as you get from one place to the next. A sea day is exactly what you need to start and finish your cruising trip. Relax and watch the endless open ocean drift by as you are transported to and from your destinations!

Cruises are a one of a kind holiday, with so much included you will wonder why you didn’t take one sooner!

Thank you for reading!

Elizabeth Wittwer

Breathtaking Bali

For many Australian’s Bali is like a second home. It’s easy to see why, with beautiful coastlines, cheeky wildlife, smiling locals and affordable, luxurious accommodations. There’s so much more to Bali than Kuta, although Kuta itself just had a big overhaul making it much cleaner and modern. I’ve always said that Bali is where business moguls are heading, creating designer restaurants and bars that would cost a fortune to visit in Australia, but in Bali they can run them at a fraction of the cost. This has lead to the development of many hot spots that are huge draw cards for Aussies. Gone are the days of returning from Bali with a Bintang singlet and a Bounty headband, now we are returning with designer clothing and tales of fancy beach clubs with spectacular vistas.

Wherever you choose to base yourself in Bali be sure to get out and explore, as I have outlined for you below, each area has their own distinct point of view. Pre book your day tours to ensure creditable guides and transportation.all you need to know about bali

Kuta & Legian

These are the main tourist districts of Bali. The main street – Jalan Legian runs down the centre of Kuta and boasts shops selling souvenirs and surf clothing, massage parlours, bars and restaurants. Recently at the top end of the street, right on the beach, they have developed the Beachwalk Shopping Mall. This sleek urban leisure hub shows the immense effort going into freshening up the vibe of an area that was becoming a little tired. After my first visit to Bali back in 2007 I would have suggested steering clear of this area, being a little dingy and over run with tourists. After my last visit however, I would definitely recommend this area. After all, this is the heart of Bali.

Seminyak

Long known as the designer end of the tourist stretch of Bali, this area does not disappoint. Seminyak is full of boutique resorts and villas and shops, with hand crafted home wares, jewelry, artwork and designer clothing. Seminyak is also home to many of the renowned beach clubs and hot spot restaurants of Bali. Some of my all time favourites are Ku De Ta, Ultimo and La Lucciola, and some of my new favourites are Potato Head Beach Club, W Restaurant and Bar and Motel Mexicola. All of these places serve outstanding food in beautifully designed establishments. Seminyak is also a hub for beauty treatments with many spas to choose from. Things may not be quite as cheep here as in Kuta, but you’re getting good value for money.

Jimbaran Bay & Uluwatu

Located in the south west of Bali these are stunning costal areas. Jimbaran Bay is lined with BBQ Seafood restaurants where you can sit on the beach, watching a magnificent sunset and eat until your heart desires. Uluwatu sits atop stunning peninsula and is home to the Uluwatu Temple and some of the best surfing spots in Bali. Make sure to add the Rock Bar to your itinerary, sitting out over the ocean nestled into a secluded limestone cliff it’s easy to see why it’s one of Bali’s most photographed locations.all you need to know about bali

Nusa Dua

With affordable luxury resorts boasting large grounds and a plethora of facilities there’s no wonder this 5 star resort district has been a favourite with Families and Honeymooners for quite some time. The coastline here is expansive and less crowded and is only a 25-35 minute drive into Kuta. Nusa Dua is home to the Bali Collection, a shopping, dining & entertainment centre, and is the hub of Water Sports in Bali. I highly recommend taking a boat tour from Benoa Harbour out to Lembongan island, the white sand beaches and colourful reef’s make this a day to remember.

Ubud

Lined with rice fields and locals crafting handmade home wares and paintings, this lush mountain area is a cultural haven away from the hustle and bustle. Here you’ll find retreats surrounded by jungle, craft markets, the Monkey Forest and beautiful temples. Ubud is a holistic centre with retreats designed to relax the body and mind. Here you can also get out and enjoy untouched nature, get up close and personal with animals, go for a bike ride through the jungle or raft along the Ayung River.

Sanur

Sanur is what I imagine Kuta must have been like 30 years ago, a quaint stretch of beach with tourists enjoying sea side massages and authentic dishes at locally owned restaurants. Very uncommercial, this 5km beach stretch is lined with a pedestrian path and markets. The beach here is protected by a reef, making it an ideal place to relax in the ocean.

Balinese hospitality is warm, inviting and generous. It’s so easy to relax and lose yourself to the spiritual culture of this Indonesian paradise. Read a book, bike through the jungle, hike to view a spectacular sunrise, reconnect with loved ones, delight in international cuisines, snorkel in pristine waters, leave all your stress behind and you wont be disappointed.

Thank you for reading!

Jenna-belle Hall

July 20, 2015
Costa Rica Travel Tips

Costa Rica has it all

What better place to tell you about than the one I just visited! For the last two weeks I have travelled coast to coast to find out what makes Costa Rica a top tourist spot for travellers near and far. Costa Rica, per square meter, is the most diverse country in the world. From the South Eastern beach towns to the National Parks and the Northern Countryside, I must say there is definitely something here for everyone.

Something you need to know when travel to Costa Rica.

Overall Costa Rica is great value, it’s not as cheap as some areas of Central America but the country is quite developed and very clean, you can even drink the tap water! Transport to and from cities is readily available on shuttles or can be achieved for a lesser cost on public transport if you are willing to invest the time. Be prepared to pay a small fee to use public bathrooms, brush up on your basic Spanish and pack your sunscreen (it’s expensive to buy it locally)!

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, the Caribbean Coast

Our journey started in Puerto Viejo, a small Caribbean influenced town in the South East of the country. There is a very relaxed atmosphere here with local vendors lighting up the streets selling handcrafted souvenirs and eclectic bars filling the night with pure enjoyment.Pristine beach at Punta Uva

Stay:

You can’t really go wrong; this town is small and easy to get around. Staying a few blocks back from the beach can be beneficial, as it tends to be a lot quieter.

Eat:

Roadside vendors selling BBQ meats are cheap and delicious as are the Sodas (family run restaurants) serving local cuisine at a great price. Then there are lots of quaint restaurants, many still seemingly run by families, making them good value and the food fresh and delicious. I really enjoyed the pizza at Bar Pizzeria Restaurante va a seguir, the breakfast at Bread and Chocolate and the vibe at KOKi (the ceviche here is renowned too).

Top 3 Activities:

  • Hire a bike and explore the coastline. We hired them for $5 for 24 hours and made the journey to Punta Manzanillo, this 24km round trip was breathtaking, gliding through the jungle and catching glimpses of pristine beach along the way.
  • Head to the Jaguar Rescue Centre, a one of a kind rehabilitation centre for all sorts of wildlife.
  • Take a Chocolate Factory tour.

Tamarindo, the Pacific Side

Step the luxury up a notch in Tamarindo. Here you will find large scale, luxurious resorts and fine dining restaurants. Located on the Pacific Ocean side, in the North West of the country, this ocean paradise is highly equipped for tourists making it the perfect spot for those who like to simply relax and soak in the atmosphere.

Stay:

Diria Beach Resort is in the best location, splash out and stay at this amazing ocean front Resort otherwise make sure you’re within about a 500m radius.

Eat:

There are lot’s of upscale restaurant’s in Tamarindo offering international cuisine and lots of seafood. For cheaper eats, head back a few blocks from the beach where you will find smaller, but still really tasty, hole in the wall and family restaurants. Some of my favourites stops here were for the tacos at Green Papaya, the coffee at Café Tico and the breathtaking sunset view from The Ocean restaurant.

Top 3 Activities:

  • Lean to Surf! The waves at Playa Tamarindo are perfect for beginners and the cost of board hire and lessons is really reasonable.
  • Take a tour out to the waterfalls, hike through the jungle to explore nature’s most beautiful water features.
  • Explore the outer beaches, like Playa Conchal with crystal clear water crashing onto the sand which is made up of millions of tiny shell fragments.

Tortuguero National Park, the Turtle Conservation Park

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Trekking through the jungle in Tortuguero National Park

We took a 3 day, 2 night G Adventures tour into Tortuguero National Park. If you want to see wildlife, this is the perfect tour. We saw birds, frogs, sloths, lizards, caiman and turtles! The park is a conservation area and is made up of canals, lagoons, rivers and ocean. There is a lot involved in getting to and around this area so a guided tour was absolutely the way to go. 

Must Do:

Make sure to take a Turtle tour if it isn’t already included in your package, this was absolutely a highlight for me. Tortuguero is home to the second largest green sea turtle nesting beach in the world so your chances of seeing a mother laying her eggs is very high (check the seasons for best viewing). You’ll take a boat out late at night and wait as the turtle watchers find a mother coming ashore to lay and bury her eggs. The locals here are very respectful of the turtles and the environment and love to share these experiences with tourists.

For this trip we stuck mostly to the coastal areas with a short stopover in San Jose. There are lots of other areas of Costa Rica to explore, top of the list for next visit will be the mountainous areas of La Forturna & Monteverede for which we have been told there is great rainforest hiking and volcano sightseeing.

My favourite thing about Costa Rica is Pura Vida, which translates to Pure Life and is the mantra in which the locals live by. Everyone is happy and blessed, going about their daily activity with such pure energy. Embrace the culture, try something new and you’ll definitely make some new friends along the way.

Thank you for reading!

Jenna-belle Hall

If you are here it probably means you are thinking of booking your first cruise or have even booked it! The idea might be scaring you, you have no idea what to expect, but don’t worry, if there is one thing I know about cruises it’s that they have you covered!

Packing for your first cruise:

No matter how long your cruise is 3, 9, 14 or 100 nights you always start off on embarkation day with no idea of what is to come! You pack and plan and then finally the day arrives and it’s time to get on the ship! Excitement aside there are one or two things you should know about arriving at the terminal.

First when packing make sure you pack a day bag with anything you might want as soon as you get on the ship as you will be dropping off your main luggage at the terminal and won’t see it until you are back at your cabin! Your day bag should definitely include any important documents e.g. Passport or Photo ID (for domestic cruises only) and also any prescription medication, you may want to pack your bathers for a swim and your camera to mark this momentous occasion.

Don’t worry too much though; it won’t be long before your luggage is available at your cabin! After dropping off your bags there is usually a wait to check in (bring something to entertain the kids and maybe some snacks as sometimes this can take a while!).
When you check in they will take your photo and give you your cruise card! This card acts as a few different things: your cabin key, your id for getting on and off the ship in port and also as your charge card. On Cruises you can spend as much or as little as you want and you use your cruise card to make payments for those things you do buy!

You are finally onboard, now what?

Each cruise line produces a daily newsletter and sends them to your cabin, this way you know exactly what is on throughout the day, and this could be anything from spa seminars to trivia to the nightly shows onboard. The newsletter will usually also have a note from the captain and daily specials in the onboard shops, it will also provide you any important information about attire for the night (themed nights and formal nights) and what time you need to be back onboard when in port! Not ready to fill your holiday with scheduled activities? Then explore! There is so much to see on these ships, so many places to make your “local” so many wonderful people to meet and make friends with including crew and passengers. Or if none of this tickles your fancy then the best bet is to find a spot near the pool order a drink and kick back and relax!

Port days vs. Sea days.

You have settled in and got into the swing of life onboard, your sea days are filled with relaxing and testing your knowledge at trivia – on things you almost never need at home and tomorrow is your first day in port!

On sea days your only worry is waking up before the buffet stops serving breakfast but on your port days there will be a few extra things to think about. The day before your cabin steward will place some extra information in your cabin about the port you will be stopping at next, this will include all sorts of things such as local customs and what to do while you are there. First time cruising and everything you need to know about it.

Your ship will either be docking or you will tender depending on the port and they will usually tell you all the information you need to know about getting off and on the ship. You will need to bring with you most importantly your cruise card and some form of ID (it’s not advisable to get off the ship without your passport in foreign countries) also bring with you anything you might need for the day.

Most people don’t like getting off and on the ship more than once in a port but that is entirely up to you! In port days it doesn’t matter what you do, for example you could book an excursion through the cruise line themselves or just get off and wonder around the local area for a shop. The only thing that does matter is making sure you are back onboard by the time the ship states (this is usually around the 4.30-5pm mark but is different for every itinerary and every port).

Cruise organised shore tours can be a great way to discover a port you have never visited before. For a fee you can book in one or two tours in a day (depending on the length) and there is almost always something for everyone.

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Elizabeth and Hannah

For example on my last cruise we went snorkelling on a remote island one day and on a bus tour to the World War Two relics of the area the next. The tours can sometimes leave you slightly out of pocket though so if you prefer you can wait until you arrive in port and there will usually be plenty of people offering tours right from the dock.

The benefit of booking direct through your cruise line is the tours will always be scheduled to get you back on time for the ship leaving, and if they are running late the ship will wait! If you do go off on your own you have to be mindful the ship won’t wait for you if you are not back on time.

The end of your Cruise:

Unfortunately as with all holidays it must come to an end sometime. The ship’s crew won’t like reminding you of this but have to at some point. You will receive forms towards the middle to end of your cruise that ask about the day of disembarkation.
If you have an early flight you will need to be off the ship with enough time to get through customs and to the airport. Filling out these forms is important to make sure you make your post cruise transportation or just to make sure you get an extra sleep in! Once these forms are filled out you will be given luggage tags and information that tells you what time you will be getting off the ship.

Packing up your cabin is sadly done on the last night and your bags need to be placed outside your cabin door to be collected, the luggage tags correspond with the time you will be disembarking so they will be available in port when you get off.

Depending on what time your ship gets back to port you could be in for a particularly early morning. If you have purchased any duty free alcohol you will have to pick this up from a centralised point on the ship, and then you will have to be out of your cabin. Don’t worry, they still serve breakfast so you won’t get kicked onshore with your stomach rumbling!

Onshore operations are quick as they have to get ready for the next cruise, you will be scanned off the ship one last time as you say goodbye and then you will go through the cues to get to your suitcases, then through customs (on international cruises) and then finally you are free.

With all of the good (fun times and new friends) and the bad (getting up and saying goodbye on the last day) of cruising you will never regret the time you spent onboard. I can vouch for the effort of the crew in giving you the best holiday possible, you will make lifelong friends and memories on a cruise, and as you step off board you will be wishing you were stepping back on!

Thank you for reading!

Elizabeth Wittwer

Travel Tips:

How to stretch the weaker Australian dollar when travelling overseas!

How to stretch your Australian Dollar further when travelling overseas

1- If you plan ahead, consider different destinations and be smart about where to go. The Aussie has lost ground against multiple currencies this year but it’s still going great guns in Asia,

2- Pay for as much as you can of your travel before you go. This way you lock in a rate and you know how much you have left to budget for spending money.

3- You can generally save by shopping around for discounts on airfares and packages.

4- You may shorten your stay or opt for four-star accommodation rather than five.

5- Cruising is a good option for falling dollar better than other types of holidays because the accommodation, transport, meals and entertainment are all included in the fare. And cruising on Australian-based cruise lines where the AUD is the onboard currency, means you can travel overseas without having to worry about foreign exchange shifts.

6- Avoid airports and tourist areas as the currency exchange businesses in these areas have a captive audience and will offer the worst exchange rates and higher fees and commissions.

7- Try to pay in the local currency rather than the dollar when using credit cards or travel money cards as Australian funds attract higher fees and a steep exchange rate.

8- Travel money cards lock in foreign currency at that day’s exchange rate. You won’t be charged withdrawal fees from international ATMs, and you avoid the sting of overseas credit card charges.

Thank you for reading and hope you will have great holiday!