Friday, 5 March 2021

Holidays in space may be closer than you think

Given mankind cannot conquer traffic congestion or buses that turn up all in a row, a holiday in space may seem a far-fetched proposition.

An American tech company, however, says it hopes to deliver a cruise-like space experience before the end of this decade, EuroNews reports.

The Gateway Foundation's ‘Voyager’ space station is currently in development, with the goal being to provide rooms for up to 400 people.

Its circular spinning frame should allow the structure to emulate an artificial gravity level similar to Mars - 40% of Earth's own.

The project aims to provide an assortment of cruise ship-like opportunities to eat, relax and work, including a health spa, cinemas, and bars.

The space hotel will have the capacity to circumnavigate the planet in just 90 minutes if all goes well.

The logistics will be devised by Orbital Assembly, a space construction company. They have developed the Structure Trust Assembly Robot (STAR), which will build the hotel in-orbit upon completion of successful gravity testing.

“The station will be designed from the start to accommodate both national space agencies conducting low-gravity research and space tourists who want to experience life on a large space station with the comfort of low gravity and the feel of a nice hotel,” the OAC website says.

A date is set to begin construction in 2025, with the expectation that the hotel will be fully operational by 2027.

The works are modelled from ideas first created by groundbreaking rocket scientist Wehrner von Braun, late Nazi rocket scientist who was a key figure in NASA’s Apollo space program.

“This will be the next industrial revolution" says Gateway Foundation founder John Blincow.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

No Irish. Holidaymakers banned because of their surnames

A leading British holiday company has admitted it used list of Irish names in a bid to exclude gypsies and "travellers" from its holiday parks.

Pontins has agreed to change its work practices after disclosure the disclosure it refused or cancelled bookings made by certain people with an Irish accent or surname.

The racism was investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after it was revealed by a whistleblower, the BBC, iNews and other British media outlets reported. 

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said such discrimination was "completely unacceptable".

The EHRC said Pontins had an "undesirable guests" list on its intranet of mainly common Irish names to identify people it did not want at its parks. The names allegedly included Boyle, Keefe, Gallagher, O'Donnell, McGuiness, Murphy, and O'Reilly.

The EHRC said Pontins staff monitored calls and refused or cancelled bookings made by certain people with an Irish accent or surname, and Pontins' commercial vehicle policy excluded gypsies and travellers from its holiday parks.

By declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group, Pontins was "directly discriminating on the basis of race" and breached the 2010 Equality Act, the EHRC said.

Alastair Pringle, executive director at EHRC, said: "It is hard not to draw comparisons with an 'undesirable guests' list and the signs displayed in hotel windows fifty years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people.

"Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement."
Pontins aims at the family market and offers budget holidays.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Wine and waterslides in the Hunter Valley

When Mum and Dad have had their fill of wine tasting and gourmet excursions, kids can enjoy themselves at the new heated water park at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort.

Now open to guests of the hotel, the new Water Splash Park was designed and built by White Water Australia and is over two storeys high, complete with an assortment of slides, flutes, showers, water cannons and jets designed to entertain the whole family.

The Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley - part of the IHG Group - offers the most comprehensive collection of kids facilities and activities in the region with the water park adding to a mini-train, carousel, a converted tug boat, the Water Dragons kids club, pony rides and the new Hunter Valley Kids Cottage.

“The Hunter Valley has perhaps been seen more as a destination for adults wanting to go to wineries, play golf or attend conferences, but we've transformed the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley into a resort for both discerning adults and children,” said hotel owner Dr Jerry Schwartz.

“The missing ingredient in the resort's inventory was a water park, and I'm pleased to say this has really added something substantial to the Hunter Valley's tourism attractions.

“Importantly, the water is heated through our environmentally-friendly Cogen plant that also heats the resort's main pool. The addition of heated water will make it attractive for families visiting during much of the year.”

Hotel General Manger Mark Winterton said: “This is a time when Australians are exploring their own backyard, so upgrading the hotel's resort facilities is very well-timed by Dr Schwartz.

“The Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is now a o-e stop destination for families, couples and groups of friends. Our resort offers 414 hotel rooms and villas, 18-hole championship golf course, two swimming pools and Ubika Day Spa."

For more information see


Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Splash out on a worthwhile economy bonus experience

There can be fewer better travel bonuses than having an empty seat next to you when you are flying in a cramped economy class airline cabin. 

Emirates is offering a sweet deal for passengers to stretch out with the use of adjacent economy seats for $US55 to $US165 plus tax depending on the route. This follows a similar offering from Air New Zealand. 

The  Emirates seats cannot be booked in advance and only available for purchase on the day of travel at check-in, Arab News reported.

Emirates passengers can purchase up to three empty adjoining seats - although how cabin crew will enforce the blocked out bookings remains unexplained.

The Dubai-based  carrier said the new scheme will be offered to all economy class customers with a confirmed booking, but there will be no option to pre-book the empty seats.

Customers who are likely to purchase extra seats include couples, parents traveling with in-lap infants, and those who want to be socially distant while travelling amid the pandemic. Or those who simply want more room to move. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) now expects that the airline industry will remain cash negative throughout 2021, leaving airlines looking for new revenue streams. 

How to explore overseas without leaving home

Are you missing the cultural experiences you gain from a trip to Europe, or a tour around Japan?

Meet ClassBento, which has a selection of cultural workshops in Sydney ranging from a Japanese Ikebana flower arranging class to an authentic Italian pasta-making and gnocchi-making class to a Turkish mosaic lamp workshop.

Among classes scheduled for this autumn are chances to visit Japan in Glebe, get a taste of South American cuisine in Lane Cove or sip Turkish tea and assemble a traditional mosaic in Darlinghurst

The perfect opportunity to help discover your creativity, learn a new skill and make something amazing, instead of watching another re-run on TV. 

ClassBento connects anyone looking to try new experiences with top Australian artists, makers and foodies with hundreds of experiences to choose from, running day, night and even on weekends. All are held in a Covid-safe environment.

ClassBento donates to Dementia Australia with every booking and some classes can be done online, meaning even those not in Sydney can participate.

To find out more or book a workshop, visit

Monday, 1 March 2021

Brisbane boom continues with another new hotel


Brisbane's hotel boom continues with Courtyard by Marriott announcing the opening of its first hotel in the Queensland capital. 

Located in the South Brisbane business district, the 134-room Courtyard by Marriott Brisbane South Bank is the fifth Marriott International property in the city.

"We are thrilled to bring the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Brisbane," said Sean Hunt, Area Vice President, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific, Marriott International (he must have an extra-large business card).

"The opening of Courtyard by Marriott Brisbane South Bank marks the 26th Marriott property in the country, indicative of our commitment to expanding our footprint in Australia. 

“Courtyard by Marriott is one of the fastest growing brands globally, and we foresee tremendous opportunities for the brand in the country.”

Located south of the Brisbane River, the hotel is only a few steps away from South Bank, Brisbane's leading lifestyle and cultural quarter featuring 17 hectares of lush parklands, world-class restaurants and hundreds of enjoyable events all year round.

The Gallery of Modern Art, The Wheel of Brisbane, the Queensland Performing Art and the Streets Beach are among the nearby attractions. 

The property has 24 suites each featuring a private balcony, galley style kitchenette with dishwasher, microwave, full-size fridge, and en-suites bathrooms. 

The guest rooms are equipped with flat-screen televisions, work desks and high-speed internet access.

The hotel houses an all-day dining restaurant, Café63 and leisure facilities include a 24-hour fitness centre and an indoor heated pool. 

“I am excited to welcome guests to the new Courtyard Brisbane South Bank and bring a new experience to the Brisbane market,” said general manager Mark Snell. 

For more information visit  

Sydney's newest wine bar to offer a taste of Europe

Sydney’s newest CBD wine bar, Vini Divini, has opened with a huge central bar, al fresco seating, a Mediterranean wine-influenced menu and a wine wall stocking more than 1000 bottles from 10 different countries, as curated by Rockpool Dining Group’s former head sommelier.

Vini Divini will offer one of the biggest “by the glass” selections in Sydney and the diverse wine list has been designed to be accessible, showcasing producers from around the Mediterranean ; from regions of France, Italy and Spain as well as countries such as Greece, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. 

Star local labels like the Canberra region's Clonakilla, Rikard from Orange and Vinden Estate from the Hunter Valley are also featured. 

Meaning “divine wines” in Italian and aiming to embody la dolce vita (the sweet life), Vini Divini will focus on the enjoyment of wine, food and good company with a European vibe.

French-born sommelier Raphael Mulligan collaborates with small, independent winemakers and distributors to regularly update the list, drawing on his experience heading the wine program at Eleven Bridge, as well as working at Rosetta, Rockpool and Tapavino.

Complementing the wines is a menu of delicious Mediterranean dishes and mezzé-style plates led by chef Seda Güç, including baba ganoush made fresh each morning, beetroot-marinated artichokes with toasted almonds, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with fregola salad and caramelised apple, and a selection of salumi and cheeses.

Adding to the Mediterranean vibe is Vini Divini’s interiors, featuring wall-length prints of iconic Italian movie stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni (sounds dated to me, but there you go), the wine wall sourced from Italy, a slab of Iranian rainbow pink onyx on the kitchen island-style bar, velvet armchairs, plush rugs from Belgium and that outdoor seating overlooking Wynyard Park.

The wine bar also offers a private dining room tucked away at the back.

“Vini Divini is all about bringing people together to laugh, enjoy wine, break bread, and share stories and ideas,” said Belgian-born owner Philippe Gilbert.

“Close relationships with friends and family, and the interactions one has in a community, are central to the Mediterranean lifestyle – and we wanted to bring this to life at Vini Divini.”

The newest addition to the Brookfield Place precinct at 60 Carrington Street near Wynyard, Vini Divini is open Monday to Friday for all-day dining from noon to late.