GREAT NEW YEAR ES­CAPES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Ahoy there: Un­der the jaunty per­sona of Cap­tain Rivers, Syd­ney-based travel jour­nal­ist Brian John­ston has launched River Cruise Insight, a blog and Face­book page ded­i­cated to river cruis­ing. There are newsy up­dates, ship re­views, FAQs and first-hand fea­tures and pho­tos on this fast­grow­ing hol­i­day trend in Europe and Asia. More: river­crui­sein­sight.com; face­book.com/river­crui­sein­sight. Gourmets on the go: Walk­a­bout Gourmet Adventures has a spe­cial on its April 5-25 Fol­low the Moor­ish Trail hol­i­day from Valencia to Mar­rakech. Par­tic­i­pants will walk in Spain’s Sierra Ne­vada and through the an­cient vil­lages of Las Alpu­jar­ras; other high­lights in­clude Granada, Ronda, Seville, Fes and the High At­las moun­tains of Morocco. Book by Jan­uary 31 for a deal of $8185 a per­son twin-share (a sav­ing of $700 a per­son). More: (02) 9871 5526; walk­a­bout­gourmet.com. On the fast track: Ja­pan’s Shinkansen ser­vice, bet­ter known as the Bul­let Train, will cel­e­brate its 50th an­niver­sary in Oc­to­ber. The sleek trains reach speeds of up to 320km/h and thou­sands of pas­sen­gers are trans­ported daily. Ja­pan hol­i­day spe­cial­ist Tours­gallery is of­fer­ing es­corted small-group trips fea­tur­ing rail­way jour­neys and ac­com­mo­da­tion that in­cludes tra­di­tional ryokan; 14-day tours from $5850 a per­son twin-share (add air­fares). More: 1300 307 317; tours­gallery.com. Tai­lor-made Europe: Hol­i­days to Europe is pro­mot­ing a per­sonal concierge ini­tia­tive run by Dawn Ta­bet of Italy and France Va­cances; this ex­pe­ri­enced es­cort can de­sign a per­son­alised tour in ei­ther desti­na­tion, with one week priced from about $3450 a per­son twin-share based on four or five-star ho­tels, per­sonal driver and meals and sug­gested itin­er­ar­ies. Ta­bet is also avail­able to ac­com­pany tours be­tween May and Oc­to­ber. More: hol­i­daystoeu­rope.com.au. Golden op­por­tu­nity: Wendy Wu Tours has a new nine-day Golden Tri­an­gle tour of In­dia that in­cludes the Taj Ma­hal in Agra, the World Her­itage-listed ghost city of Fateh­pur Sikri, and the Palace of the Winds in the pink city of Jaipur; from $3337 a per­son twin-share with most in­clu­sions, de­part­ing from ma­jor cap­i­tal cities in April, Septem­ber, Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. More: 1300 727 998; wendy­wu­tours.com.au. Coral cuts: Coral Princess Cruises has 30 per cent off its Great Bar­rier Reef cruises of three, four or seven nights from Cairns. Sav­ings are valid on book­ings made be­tween Fe­bru­ary 1 and April 30 on se­lected de­par­tures to De­cem­ber 31; the three­night itin­er­ary de­parts Cairns on Fri­days and cruises the Hinch­in­brook Chan­nel, Thetford and Nathan Reefs, and in­cludes a rain­for­est walk on Dunk Is­land and bar­be­cue on Pelorus Is­land. More: 1800 079 545; coral­princess.com.au. One at a time: Sil­versea has a wide range of sin­gle-oc­cu­pancy spe­cials on its cruises this year; for ex­am­ple, an 11-day voy­age from Monte Carlo to Is­tan­bul aboard Sil­ver Wind from April 14-25 costs from $6438 for solo trav­ellers. More: 1300 306 872; sil­versea.com. Din­ing deal: Rayavadee, a five-star re­sort of spa­cious vil­las and pavil­ions within Krabi’s Ma­rine Na­tional Park on south­ern Thai­land’s An­daman coast, has an­nounced a half-board of­fer for book­ings made by Jan­uary 31 for stays from May 1 to Oc­to­ber 31. The din­ing deal ap­plies to min­i­mum seven­night book­ings across all room cat­e­gories and in­cludes daily break­fast plus lunch or din­ner (ex­clud­ing bev­er­ages). More: rayavadee.com. Rock and loll: Molly Mel­drum will be at the helm, as it were, of Cruiseco’s fourth an­nual Rock the Boat voy­age of the South Pa­cific de­part­ing Syd­ney on Oc­to­ber 12; fea­tured acts dur­ing the nine-night cruise on Rhap­sody of the Seas in­clude Daryl Braith­waite and the An­gels, and other en­ter­tain­ment cov­ers daily dance lessons and mee­tand-greet ses­sions with artists. From $2729 a per­son, twin-share. More: (02) 9492 8520; cruis­ing.com.au. Cool news: It is never too early to plan a ski trip to New Zealand; Qan­tas will in­crease ser­vices be­tween Syd­ney and Queen­stown dur­ing the Easter school hol­i­days and of­fer daily flights in peak snow sea­son. More: qan­tas.com.au.

A re­cently launched spe­cial­ist blog is de­voted to river cruis­ing

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