I CRUISE TO RIO

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - ASK THE EXPERT DOC HOLIDAY - KIM CULYER

My hus­band would like to do a cruise of South Amer­ica around Christ­mas. Where do I start? DOC ® Start by look­ing at Ocea­nia Cruises (ocea­ni­acruises.com), a com­pany with a cruise de­part­ing De­cem­ber 14 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to San­ti­ago in Chile. The 20-day jour­ney in­cludes ports such as Sao Paulo in Brazil, Buenos Aires (Ar­gentina), Punta del Este in Uruguay, Ushuaia (Ar­gentina), Punta Are­nas (Chile), the Chilean Fjords, plus loads more.

There are full days in each port giv­ing you plenty of time to ex­plore and free shore ex­cur­sions included to the ma­jor at­trac­tions.

Aza­mara (aza­ma­r­a­clubcruises.com) has a cou­ple of itin­er­ar­ies you should also con­sider, in­clud­ing a 21-night de­par­ture on De­cem­ber 1. It be­gins in Lima, Peru, ends in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina, and in­cludes Chile, the Falk­land Is­lands and Uruguay.

Or if you fancy liv­ing it up in Rio for New Year’s Eve, look at their ship sail­ing De­cem­ber 22. This 15-night itin­er­ary also in­cludes Ar­gentina and Uruguay.

Some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent is the Vik­ing (vikingcruises.com.au) de­par­ture from the Car­ib­bean to the Ama­zon. It’s over 22 days and in­cludes 11 guided tours and eight coun­tries.

SELF-DRIVE IN THE US

We are look­ing at a cruise de­part­ing from Florida and are con­tem­plat­ing a self-drive trip around the south­ern states of the United States be­fore or af­ter. What are your thoughts? DOC ® If you can spare the ex­tra time then I think it will be a great op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence some of the best parts of the US, par­tic­u­larly as you are al­ready there. Look at do­ing a cir­cle trip; this way you can drop the car back at the orig­i­nal hire de­pot and avoid a oneway drop-off fee.

Start by mak­ing your way west to the state of Lou­i­si­ana, to New Or­leans, a city full of his­tory, mouth-wa­ter­ing food and mu­sic. Make sure you in­clude the Ware­house Dis­trict down­town, where you’ll find de­li­cious food, bars and mu­se­ums. Also Bour­bon Street for the bur­lesque bars and Canal Street near the French Quar­ter.

The next state on your itin­er­ary could be Mis­sis­sippi, the birth­place of Blues mu­sic. Ex­plore the south­ern cul­ture, see where Elvis was born and take a boat ride out over the wet­lands to spot ’ga­tors.

Mem­phis in Ten­nessee would be a good place to head next, par­tic­u­larly if you’re into coun­try mu­sic, Elvis or whiskey. This is where you’ll find Grace­land plus the stu­dio where B.B. King and Johnny Cash recorded.

Other mu­sic sites in­clude the Stax Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Soul Mu­sic, Rock ’n’ Soul Mu­seum and the Blues Hall of Fame. The Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame is in Nashville and you might like to fol­low the Ten­nessee Whiskey Trail be­tween the two cities.

From here and de­pend­ing on your time frame, you could keep head­ing north into Mis­souri and Ken­tucky or turn south to Ge­or­gia.

Sa­van­nah is a lovely spot where you can em­brace old-world charm with water­front build­ings dat­ing back to the early 1800s.

A tip when hir­ing your car, check you will have un­lim­ited mileage and that the hire com­pany does not limit the right to cross state lines. Most don’t, but a cou­ple do, and if some­thing hap­pens they are un­able to pro­vide ser­vice or a re­place­ment car. The big­ger com­pa­nies should be okay as they usu­ally have de­pots in ev­ery state, but you do need to check. Make sure you sight and keep a writ­ten copy of their pol­icy.

CHEAP FLIGHT CAU­TION

Do you know about a web­site, with an of­fice in Syd­ney, that of­fers dis­count busi­ness fares? DOC ® A cou­ple of web­sites of­fer first and busi­ness class flights at amaz­ingly cheap prices and I would sug­gest, if it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is. I know of in­stances where a travel agent took pay­ment for a fare, but used their own or bought fre­quent flyer points to make the book­ings. If you end up with a flight reservation us­ing some­one else’s points, it will be in vi­o­la­tion of the terms and con­di­tions of the fre­quent flyer pro­gram and you could face a can­celled ticket, or worse a re­jec­tion at the air­port. Also, you will not earn any points or sta­tus cred­its for the flights.

Al­ter­na­tively, it could be any one of hun­dreds of le­git­i­mate travel agents based in Syd­ney, who are ad­ver­tis­ing an air­line spe­cial.

The best way to check their le­git­i­macy is to make sure they are mem­bers of ATAS, the Aus­tralian travel agents ac­cred­i­ta­tion scheme. This sets the qual­ity bench­mark for the travel in­dus­try and en­sures cer­tain cri­te­ria and stan­dards are met and main­tained.

Next give them a call and ask lots of ques­tions – you will get a good feel for their busi­ness prac­tices by speak­ing with some­one.

JA­PAN OP­TIONS

My hus­band and I thought it might be nice and not so taxing to part-fly and part-cruise to Ja­pan and then fly di­rect home. Can you help with op­tions? DOC ® Princess Cruises (princess.com) of­fers some lovely cruise itin­er­ar­ies in­cor­po­rat­ing Ja­pan. For in­stance you could con­sider fly­ing to Singapore. Then hop on the Princess South-East Asia and Ja­pan cruise. It de­parts from Singapore and vis­its Viet­nam, Hong Kong, Taipei, Osaka, Shimizu and Tokyo. This cruise is over 12 days on the Di­a­mond Princess.

KOWLOON CALL­ING

We ar­rive in Hong Kong at 3.20pm and our con­nect­ing flight to Rome does not de­part un­til 12.40am. Our lug­gage will be booked straight through. Would a train trip into Kowloon and a Star Ferry ride be fea­si­ble? DOC ® Def­i­nitely. You will have about six hours to spare, so head to the train sta­tion in the air­port and take the 24minute ride to Kowloon. There are de­par­tures ev­ery 10 min­utes. Wan­der down to the Tsim Sha Tsui prom­e­nade, en­joy the har­bour views, the Av­enue of the Stars, grab some lo­cal dim sum and if you have time, take a ferry ride or visit one of the cul­tural cen­tres.

PIC­TURES: IS­TOCK

BRAZIL Climb Rio de Janeiro’s fa­mous steps, Es­cadaria Se­laron; Elvis and whiskey fans head to Mem­phis, and en­joy stun­ning har­bour views from a Star Ferry in Hong Kong.

MEM­PHIS

HONG KONG

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