I CRUISE TO RIO
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.
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.
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.
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.