Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape

Is it bitumen all the way to Uluru?

Dilvin Yasa


We are four couples planning a trip to Alice Springs and Uluru in August (hopefully). Whenever we’re on an adventure together, we usually like to travel in a minibus so we’re planning to fly to Alice Springs, then hire a 2WD minibus for the journey.

After an initial two to three nights in Alice, we’re looking at driving to Kings Canyon, where we’d like to stay for a couple of nights before driving on to Uluru for a further two to three nights.

Our concern here is whether all the roads around there are sealed – we’re not able to take the rental vehicle on unsealed roads. Can you please advise?

The great news here (aside from the fact you’re about to enjoy a truly extraordin­ary adventure) is that you will not need to worry about having any awkward conversati­ons with your hire car company upon your return.

With your planned itinerary, you can follow the Stuart and Lasseter highways and Luritja Road between Alice Springs and Kings Canyon, which is around a five-hour drive.

Although there are dirt road turn-offs available via the Mereenie Loop or Ernest Giles Road, these scenic options are only for those who have both a 4WD and the appropriat­e permits; stick to the major highway and you’ll be fine.

For the Kings Canyon to Uluru section of your trip, you can return to the Lasseter Highway via Luritja Road, turn right at the highway intersecti­on and follow it all the way to Uluru. Unless you detour onto a dirt road (again, not suitable for a 2WD), it’s a sealed road all the way so you’re good to go.

In these uncertain times, where do we stand if our cruise in October gets cancelled again? The last time around, we made the decision to take the bonus cruise credits instead of a cash refund, but if this upcoming one is cancelled, would we be able to revert back to a cash refund of our original fare or would we have to take another cruise credit?

Unfortunat­ely, things are no longer straightfo­rward in these troublesom­e times. While a Cruise1st spokespers­on says most cruise lines will be willing to offer a full refund now if the cruise is cancelled due to Covid-19, the decision will ultimately come down to the specific terms and conditions of the individual cruise line.

To give you an idea of what various cruise lines are currently offering in these situations, Holland America Line says if guests have applied future cruise credits (FCCs) from an impacted sailing to a future sailing that is later impacted, this will be automatica­lly returned to their membership so they can decide if they wish to cancel this and opt for a refund. The only time a guest who opted for a FCC cannot choose a refund is if they have used a portion of the FCC as this is considered used.

Watarrka National Park, NT. Below: Royal Caribbean cruise.

Most cruise lines will offer a full refund if the cruise is cancelled due to Covid-19

If you took Royal Caribbean’s bonus 125 per cent FCC option the first time around as part of Covid-related sailing suspension­s and used to it to book another cruise which is then also cancelled by the company, you will be given the option to reinstate the cruise credit or opt for a full refund of the original cruise fare within a specific time frame.

Meanwhile, Hurtigrute­n states that if it was to cancel the new voyage you would be eligible for a full refund. Your best bet? Speak with your cruise line about its specific policy and remember that all passengers are entitled to regular Australian and state consumer provisions.

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