Escorted Textile Tours in India! They were such a success last year so there are 2 more this year departing in October and November.
Barbro had the good fortune to cruise on-board MS Koningsdam last month on a 7 day journey from Amsterdam up to the Norwegian fjords. MS Koningsdam being the youngest ship in the Holland America fleet takes up to 2,650 passengers and is a beautiful vessel.
The large number of passengers can feel a bit overwhelming but if you like a more quiet space you will find one. I shared a Veranda cabin (up to 42 sqm) with my mum which gave us enough space. Having a balcony is like flying business class, once you have tried it you do not turn right again!
Sailing into the fjords early in the morning as the sun is going up and being able to open the door and see the landscape drift by, or even better enjoying breakfast out on your own balcony, is a true joy and you will be surprised how quiet a 99,500 tonne ship can move through the water - simply magic!
Our cabin was located on Navigation deck 8 towards the bow of the ship on starboard. For us it was a great location as it was only a level below the spa, gym and sauna. You will also find the food court on that level where you can fight your way through if you like this style of eating. Personally I found the main dining room and the specialty restaurants much better to avoid the crowds and also to be served at the table. On the Observation deck you will find the best bar, The Crow’s nest. A stylish bar providing ample seating for lounging or areas for playing board games or cards or a corner where you can sip on a cocktail and watch the world go by, something you cannot do from a hotel room.
Cruising is simple
• Check in once
• Unpack once
• Entertainment brought to you
• Sail into new ports
• Go for a stroll
• Take a day excursion
• Meet new people and new cultures
• All meals provided for you with the option of trying the local cuisine in each port
• Mix and mingle as much or little as you like and make it to your own journey!
"We have the experience and expertise on which cruise to choose and yes, there is a cruise for everyone!"
South America is a continent which has always intrigued me and my first trip there took place at a time before marriage and children. I didn’t have any friends that wanted to join me so I chose to do a small group adventure.
The journey started in Buenos Aires, and I spent an extra night there before the tour departed so I could have some extra time exploring on my own. I stayed very central so Plaza de Mayo with Casa Rosada (where on the weekends you can take a guided tour and wave from the balcony like Evita did), the Capital Building and the shopping street Florida were all within walking distance.
The next day I met two lovely ladies from Australia who were on the same tour as me, and we took a taxi around the city and saw La Boca (food, colour and Tango), the cemetery in Recoleta & San Telmo, Buenos Aires oldest neighbourhood.
In the evening it was time to meet everyone else in the group which consisted of 12 travellers from 8 countries plus our awesome guide Monica from Peru. You can’t leave Argentina without visiting an Argentinian BBQ restaurant and that’s what we did that evening.
From Buenos Aires we took the ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia in Uruguay. The old town is gorgeous with small old houses, shops, restaurants and cobblestoned streets to wander around until you get lost. We took the opportunity and went horseback riding on the beach here which was fab!
We continued to Montevideo where we stayed in the old town, and on one day took the bus to Punta del Este to spend the day on the beach.
After our relaxing day at the seaside it was time to say goodbye to Uruguay, head back to Buenos Aires on the ferry, and take the night bus to Iguassu Falls. The buses in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil all have a very high standard, so don’t be afraid to use them if you are not limited by time.
To explore these amazing waterfalls properly you need to spend at least 2 nights, so can see & visit falls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side. If a helicopter ride is on your bucket list I highly recommend you do it here. There’s also a bird park where you can see the Toucan as well as a lot of other tropical birds. If you want to be entertained in the evening there’s a restaurant on the Brazilian side where you can go for a dinner buffet and show.
From Iguassu Falls we continued into Brazil and stopped in a city most people don’t go to, Curitiba. Back then it wasn’t very highly ranked by Lonely Planet as far as I remember – but I loved it!! There was a great hop-on-hop-off bus that we went around the city on, and the place had a lovely feel to it. Checking Lonely Planet today they do rank Curitiba higher than they did then, so maybe you should stop here too!
From Curitiba we continued to paradise, Paraty and Ilha Grande. I remember thinking that Colonia was hard to beat, but Paraty did just that! The houses were more colourful, and there were a lot more cafes, bars and restaurants. Then there was the archipelago with islands and turquoise water…absolutely stunning!!! We spent a whole day on a boat cruising around the islands, stopping to explore beaches and going for swims. There was food and drinks on the boat and two guys played Brazilian music.
Ilha Grande was just as nice, but different - no motorised vehicles are allowed, so it’s very peaceful. And there are plenty of walking tracks to explore the rainforest, beaches and waterfalls. We went on another boat trip where be brought our own food and drinks. The crew cooked it all up for us while we were swimming and enjoying some of the 100 beaches. In one of the little bays where we stopped, an old man came in his rowing boat selling ice cream!
Last stop on the trip, Rio de Janeiro. First thing we did on arrival was head up to Sugarloaf Mountain to see Rio by night. Then we went to Copacabana and had Caipirinha’s and fresh coconuts by the beach.
I spent some extra days in Rio so I had time to see Corcovado with Cristo Redentor, Ipanema and Santa Theresa.
Another thing I did, which surprised me since I’m not an adrenalin junkie at all, was hang gliding – and it was pretty awesome!
Going on a small group adventure was great for me. I made great friends with the other people on the tour, and many of them I have met on travels since.
A few years after this trip it was time to visit South America again, this time with my fiancée (now my husband). We went to Santiago first and did some exploring before doing a small group adventure in Peru (that’s another story). We then went on and independently did pretty much the same as my original trip - Rio, Iguassu Falls, Montevideo, Colonia and Buenos Aires, but skipped paradise this time.
So if you’re intrigued by South America, then whatever your style of travel there are a lot of ways to get around. From a backpacker style tour to deluxe independent packages where you get to choose where to go and if you want to stay in 3 star family run hotels, heritage boutique or 5 star luxury – we can tailor a trip to suit.
One of the most varied of Americas 50 states, Hawaii is a tropical paradise. Why not experience it in a different way on an active island-hopping adventure that takes in the very best from hiking, snorkeling, biking and Hawaiian culture, allowing you to dig beneath the surface of three Hawaiian Islands. Visit Pearl Harbor for fascinating history, board Zodiacs for a snorkeling adventure beneath the sea, spend the day cycling on Maui, hike endless trails and visit Pu'uhonua O Honaunau for a dose of culture, with enough time to wind down on the beach.
Recently Jo had a flying visit to New York – the city that never sleeps! A fabulous first visit to a city with so many choices to suit all tastes and budgets.
Jo purchased the New York Explorer Pass which offers 58 activities including Bus Tours, Bike Hire, Museum entry, Boat trips and more! Passes are available for 3-10 attractions and are valid for 30 days from your first visit.
Some highlights of her visit were:
Guggenheim Museum – for the architecture as well as the art.
Neue Gallerie - most famous for housing Klimt’s painting of Adele Bloch Bauer – better known as “The Woman in Gold”.
The 9/11 Museum – a very moving and informative memorial.
The Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. If time allows visit one at night and one during the day for amazing city wide views. If time is short then The Top of the Rock would be Jo's pick for the informative displays.
Stunning architecture such as the Central Library and Grand Central Station (with the “Whispering Corners”).
Broadway Show - Jo went to Kinky Boots which was excellent. She recommends pre-booking theatre tickets before leaving NZ to avoid disappointment.
Pack comfortable shoes for all the walking – Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Times Square and shopping!
Stephen flew with Hong Kong Airlines who now operate daily from Auckland.
He stayed at The Harbour Grand Kowloon Hotel, a five star property located on the Harbour front in Hung Hom. The hotel boasts a great roof top swimming pool which offers fabulous views across Victoria Harbour at any time of the day, and is easily accessible by courtesy shuttle from the Airport. If time is short, a great way to get around is to invest in a 2 day hop-on hop-off sightseeing pass to ensure that you visit all the must see places and attractions.
Stephen also took the time to visit Macau, traveling by Turbojet ferry and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel, located in the historic part of the city. The hop-on hop-off bus tour was a great way to see the highlights of Macau, including the Portugese style Senado Square and the ruins of Saint Pauls, the ancient A-Ma temple and the Vegas style Casino Resort hotels of the Cotai Strip.
Harbour City Travel Recommendations
- We can provide you with prepaid Airport train tickets to ensure hassle free high speed return Airport transfers in air conditioned comfort.
- We can prebook your Macau ferry tickets to avoid the queues.
- Don't miss the Sky 100 Observation deck.
- The hop-on hop-off ticket includes the Peak Tram admission and allows you to jump the long queues.
- Try to visit the Peak tram during meal times when the queues are shorter.
- Stay in Kowloon to enjoy great night views of Hong Kong Island.
- If traveling in June pack for hot weather and let us help you choose a hotel with a pool and a great view!
Come and enjoy a few days with the French in Tahiti.
‘Ia Orana Tahiti’ or ‘Hello Tahiti’!
Who could say ‘no’ to a taste of Europe that’s practically located right on our very doorstep? It may not be Paris but after a short five-hour flight - ‘voila’ - you’re amidst of a whole bunch of Frenchness in a very nice climate. If you’re a fan of French food and language, this is the place for you to visit.
Barbro and Chris left Wellington on a beautiful winters day in June a couple of years ago and connected with a flight via Auckland to arrive in Papeete in the evening. Disembarking the Air Tahiti Nui flight with no air bridge is a delight when you’re met with a balmy 25 degrees, a silky smooth breeze and some traditional island music being sung by the locals.
Arriving on an EU passport was even better as EU passengers have their own much shorter line to queue up in - it makes you feel right at home! I will mention here though that on the return flight it was a bit of a hassle and very slow through the French airport customs.
The local currency is XPF (French Polynesian Franc) and there’s no need to barter in Tahiti, as prices are set. Tipping is optional and not expected. If you don’t hire a car or have transfers pre-booked, then airport taxi transfers are very similar in price to New Zealand. Most taxi drivers are English-speaking so take the opportunity to gain some information about the Islands on your transfer.
For our first two nights we stayed at the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti, which is a great resort for couples, families and single travellers alike as it offers both hotel rooms and apartments. They also offer convenient shuttles into town. The Radisson felt like a sanctuary with its black beach backing straight onto the beautiful pool area, and hearing the waves breaking onto the beach (there is no reef outside the resort) through the wide open doors of our accommodation at night made us feel as though we’d arrived in paradise. The sea was lovely to swim in too.
On our first day at the Radisson, we took a taxi to Carrefour, a large supermarket located 10 minutes away. I'm not a supermarket fan but if you’ve ever been to France and have a liking for French food, then you understand the temptation of buying lots of cheese, pates, salamis, hams and last but not least, a few baguettes. The baguettes are subsidised by the government and cost only 50xpf each, so that’s about 75c New Zealand each. Where else in the world could you get such great bread at such low prices?Is it expensive?
Talking about prices, everybody says that Tahiti is really expensive. I agree that parts of it are but it doesn't have to be. If you stay in self-catering accommodation where you can buy all your own food and prepare it yourself, then you can have a very reasonable vacation. There are plenty of smaller suparettes scattered around the islands, so it is very easy to pick up a fresh baguette and other food first thing in the morning.
The Tahitians’ main income is tourism, with the majority coming from USA, Japan & Europe. They’ve taken a big hit in recent years due to the world recession but for us, it makes for a lovely uncrowded destination close to home. The local Tahitians are a beautiful and friendly people, always greeting you, and if your French isn’t too good, not to worry as most understand English.
Papeete is located on Tahiti Nui, an island with black beaches on one side and light coral beaches on the other. It has a great market (open from early every day) where you can find a good selection of food, handicrafts and the fresh vanilla you can smell in most places. Papeete may not be a European city but the people and their language make you feel as if you are somewhere other than in the Pacific. The shopping is not what you would expect from a traditional French-speaking city with black pearls sold everywhere. If you plan on buying some good quality pearls, make sure you go to a place like Tahiti Pearl Market or Robert Wan, where they’ll provide you with a certificate of authenticity, as the real McCoy has a high price tag.
Off to Moorea
After a few days on Tahiti Nui we took a catamaran ferry across to Moorea. The ferry takes 30 minutes and is a fantastic way to get out to this beautiful island. We picked up a rental car at the ferry terminal but you can also take a transfer, taxi or the local bus.
I’d suggest a rental car as it’s a great way to see some of the island. It only takes about an hour to drive around Moorea, and at the same time you’ve sorted your transfer, will have a chance to pick up some groceries, all while doing some sightseeing along the way. The speed limit is 60km/h and is a very relaxing drive with few other cars on the road. Which is a positive seeing as how you are now driving on the right!
We also took the opportunity to drive up to Belvedere to admire the view of Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay and the spectacular scenery of the caldera. The ocean colours are exactly as what you see in all photographs from Tahiti and her Islands, as is the beautiful high, rugged and bush-clad volcanic landscape.
The following two nights we stayed at Legends Resort Moorea up on the hillside. Our private villa had the most breathtaking views with a Jacuzzi on the deck and all the modern commodities you would need in paradise. The resort also has a horizon pool by the lobby and a restaurant. As you are located on the hillside, they have a 24/7 golf cart pick up service - just dial the reception and they swing by to collect you! Legends Resort Moorea also own part of Motu Island just a few minutes away by speedboat, with several departures every day. It’s a great little day outing to a lovely little island. Like most places around Moorea, the corals are grey with little colour but the variety and colour of fish is beautiful.
Next stop was Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. The garden bungalows here all have their own plunge pools, and the over water bungalows come with their own deck and landing to get into the sea. Although there are several restaurants to choose from at the Hilton, my favourite was a happy-hour bar found amongst the over-water bungalows that served the best crepes I’ve ever had. You can snorkel straight off their lovely beach – it’s very easy and safe with no currents at all and something everybody can try out. The variety of fish is good and will keep you entertained for ages.
We took a kayak trip early one morning through the shallow lagoon waters - there was coral everywhere! We made our way to where all the boats, yachts and ships were moored; most of them privately owned and from all over the world. There were some serious sized yachts, or what I would call ‘private ships’ due to their enormous size! I think via water must be the best way to see the Tahitian Islands and I’m very tempted to come back and sail around some of the Tahitian Island group.Homeward bound
After our wonderful time on Moorea, we headed back to Papeete to connect with our flight departing the following morning. On arrival, we were too early for the "roulottes" – or food stalls - so we ended up in a lovely restaurant where we had a wonderful dinner and absorbed the French way for the last time – for this visit anyhow. Or as they say in France, ’A tout a l’heure’, see you later!
Chris Scott, Harbour City Travel, in a quick debrief on skiing 7 resorts in Japan in February.
Chris and Barbro started with 5 days on Hokkaido with a day at Niseko, a day at Kiroro and 3 days at Rusutsu. Then went to Minakami, Honshu, and had a day each at Naeba, Hodaigi, Kawaba and Kagura.
Highlights included fantastic skiing including powder and some fun in the trees (likes trees), no queues, uncrowded slopes, $45 - $70 for a full day pass and less if skiing for a set number of hours, friendly people, good food, loved the Onsens (hot pools) and in general a neat country to be in.
A couple of minor irritations included continuous loud announcements through speakers over an entire resort and twin tips not fitting into some of the gondola ski racks so needed to take inside but a couple of the gondolas so small that you couldn't fit skis inside longer than 180cms.
Barbro and I travelled Air NZ (good connections) with 1 roller ski bag, one other bag (both 23kgs) with boots in carry-on luggage. Easy to get around including Tokyo train station with the exception of a couple of taxis passing us by because of the ski bag - but not for long.
Barbro and Chris have spent many years (combined 36 seasons) in the mountains working and skiing. Because of this we have built up a network of contacts including having our own wholesale agreement with a worldwide resort distributor, Mammoth Mountain (Ca, USA), some hotels in Colorado and a variety of other suppliers. We have customers throughout NZ booking with us.
Maria has ticked off four of them and some more than once. Number five, The Galapagos Islands are definitely on her bucket list.
Maria's first trip to South America took place in 2005 where she did a 3-week small group adventure tour that went from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro via Uruguay, Iguazu Falls and some amazing beaches in Brazil.
The second trip she did together with her husband in 2008 and they explored the area around Santiago before doing a 3-week small group adventure around Peru including the Inca Trail and the Amazon Jungle. From there they continued on their own to Buenos Aires, Uruguay, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro.
Maria thinks that small group adventures are a fantastic way to travel. You make new friends from all corners of the world. The hassle of travelling is taken care of by your guide as well as the possible language barrier; which she and her husband did encounter while on their own in Montevideo, that's when the Spanish course Maria did prior to travel came in really handy!!
Check out below Maria’s current favourite tour around South America where you get to see the "Big Five" and so much more.
To get to know more about Maria Whitehead's adventures and travel industry experience click here.
South America is a haven for bucket-listers. Filled with must see icons and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it is an essential destination to visit for all travellers fulfilling their dreams.
This exciting 27 day journey around South America ticks off the 'Big Five' bucket list items on the continent. Iguazu falls, Rio de Janiero, Machu Picchu, the Amazon plus the Galapagos in one incredible journey, plus so much more!
From Argentina’s fascinating and historic capital of Buenos Aires, home of the tango, to the mighty and powerful Iguazu Falls and then on to the vibrant, pulsating city of Rio de Janeiro with its breath-taking setting, this is a tour of contrasts. Continuing to Peru, you will discover Lima - the gastronomical capital of the Americas and the funerary towers of Sillustani before you set sail from Puno across Lake Titicaca to the floating reed islands of Uros and beautiful Taquile Island.
Delve into the history of the Incas as you wander the streets of Cusco - the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, before travelling through the Sacred Valley to Peru’s iconic Machu Picchu, Lost City of the Incas. On to the Amazon Rainforest with its rich biodiversity and indigenous tribes where the sights and sounds of the jungle will captivate you. Your South America Circle takes you next to Ecuador and its colonial capital Quito before you fly to the spectacular Galapagos Islands. Cruise between the islands to discover the fascinating and unique wildlife and the rugged yet beautiful landscapes of the Galapagos archipelago.
History, culture, wildlife and a kaleidoscope of incredible landscapes are all revealed on this iconic journey around the unforgettable South American continent.
Are you ready to tick the 'Big Five' off your list?
Check out Barbro's top museums in her home town of Stockholm.
Some people call Stockholm the "Venice of the North". Built on 14 islands, this stunning capital is vibrant and so easy to get around. It's often the weather that decides if you'll walk (it's easy to walk the entire city), take a ferry, bus or underground as you explore all that this amazing city has to offer! Read on as I share a few of my favourite museums, often lesser known and some free to the general public.
The Thiel Gallery - This is one for the art lovers! Located just minutes from the city centre in walled grounds at Blockhusudden in the royal park of Djurgеrden, it's a stunning and serene location.
Hallwyl Museum - discover how the well heeled live in Stockholm at this small wee gem of a museum.
Millesgеrden - one of my favourites, Millesgerden is located on Lidingц, an island just outside the city. Well worth making the trip to this unique museum, plus enjoy a lunch under the large pergola.
Fotografiska - always provides fabulous exhibitions! Even if you're not into photography, you'll enjoy it and the view from the restaurant upstairs is worth the visit alone!
Waldemarsudde - see how the Swedish Prins Eugen lived and fulfilled his dreams as an artist, including studying under Leon Bonnat!
'Trevlig resa och välkommen!' (Safe travel and welcome)
While living and working as an adventure tour leader in China, Maxine was quarantined for a week in Yangshou. Maxine and her team of fellow tour leaders had to remain in one street as part of China’s attempt to contain the outbreak of SARS virus in 2003. Each time they returned to the hotel they had to have their temperature taken, and if it was too high there was the risk of being sent to the ‘hospital’…. A place nobody wanted to go….
Maxine has just arrived into New Zealand from the UK where she’s spent the last 15 years working in the travel industry. She has a wealth of knowledge and so many tales to tell that we couldn’t say it all in one Travel BLAST. All we can say, and with great confidence too, is that you won’t go wrong by contacting Maxine and giving her the chance to assist you with your travel plans.Check out below Maxine’s current favourite tours to China.
The Great Wall of China Trek
‘’I’ve seen many places and ‘The Great Wall of China’ I have to say remains as number 1''. THE BEST SIGHT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE so far. That’s why a Great Wall Trek has to be within my favourite tours in China… see the wall away from the crowds.
This fantastic trek is currently priced at NZD 1,675 per person excluding flights:
Days 1-4. Arrive Beijing; enjoy a Beijing duck dinner. Transfer to Jiankou; trek past watchtowers to Mutianyu before transferring back to Jiankou. Morning trek around Jiankou with its steep mountains and beautiful scenery; transfer to Gubeikou. Walk along the Great Wall of Crouching Tiger near Gubeikou.
Days 5-8. Hike past villages to Jinshanling, Jinshanling circular walk; drive to Beijing via Summer palace & Olympic Park. Beijing City tour visiting hutongs, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. End with a free day in Beijing.
Stunning Tibetan Plateau Tour
‘’China offers so much more than cities, so please try and find the extra time for a more comprehensive and diverse tour. China is not just about Beijing, Xian and Shanghai! The scenery is stunning on the Tibetan Plateau as you’ll see on this tour..'' This diverse tour is currently priced at NZD10,095 per person excluding flights:
Days 1-5. Visit Hong Kong then make your way across the border via beautiful Guilin to the riverside town of Yangshou where you spend time exploring the surrounding lush countryside.
Days 6-9. Fly to Kunming, an increasingly modern city, but still holding pockets of old-world charm in a relaxed atmosphere, then travel overland to Dali. You’ll travel through the foothills of the Himalayas, driving through the mountains (some tunnels are kilometres long) that it used to take weeks to pass. Visit lesser visited towns such as Xizhou and Shaxi. Days 10-16. Travel to Lijiang and spend a day at Tiger Leaping Gorge. A memorable walk in the gorge is a wonderful way to take in its awesome beauty. We travel back to Kumning then onto Shanghai.
Days 17-21. Visit the Pandas at Chengdu then relax on your three night cruise along the Yangzi River and through the famous Three Gorges.
Days 22–28. The tour completes with all the must sees of China. Xian and the Terracotta Warriors and Beijing with all its fantastic sights and the remarkable Great Wall.
Real Luxury Yangste River Cruising
‘’Don’t be fooled, there is only really one true 5* cruise on the Yangtze River, spoil yourself on this remarkable luxury tour - The Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer.'' Price excluding flights is NZD 10,095 per person.
Days 1-3. A luxury stay in the raffles Hotel Beijing including city tours and a trip the Great Wall
Days 4–8. Transfer to Yichang and embark your luxury river ship, enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Yangste river during the next 4 nights, sail through the Three Gorges and enjoy day trips onshore.
Days 9-11. Visit beautiful Guilin and take a day cruise on the Li River to Yangshou before heading to Xian to see the Terracotta Army.
Days 12-15. Spend 3 nights in Shanghai, Cruise the Huangpu River, explore the Yu Garden, and visit Jinxi, an ancient water town.