East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Thursday, 9 February 2023

A stylish new way to explore Halong Bay

A day spent cruising beautiful Halong Bay is just about mandatory for anyone visiting Vietnam.

There are dozens of ships doing the trip, some of them older and more comfortable than others.

Now Ambassador Cruise is lifting the bar with the launch of a day cruise on a new vessel with restaurants and bars, an outdoor jacuzzi and a glass bridge.

The cruise line will launch the new experience in the UNESCO World Heritage site from Friday.

The new ship features spacious sundecks across two floors that total 324sqm and 250sqm, and offers 360-degree views of Halong Bay and its myriad limestone karsts.

There are two restaurants, two bars, an entertainment area for live music, and that large open-air jacuzzi.

The five-metre glass bridge jutting from the vessel’s bow aims to inspire photographers.

The new craft is 95m long and is being promoted as the largest and most luxurious ship to sail Halong Bay’s waters.

Ambassador Cruise is also the only Halong Bay cruise line to include an elevator for the elderly and people with disabilities.

The new ship can caters for up to 500 passengers and the itinerary includes Sung Sot Cave, a buffet lunch, Ho Dong Tien Cave, Trong Cave, Me Cung Cave and Cua Van Floating Village.

The cruise anchors off Titov Island whose scalable heights offer panoramic views of the bay and afternoon tea is served on the vessel’s sundeck.

A round-trip shuttle bus links Hanoi with Halong Bay via an expressway that opened in 2018, cutting the drive time between the destinations in half to two hours - good news as that previous drive was tiresome in the extreme.

Nguyen Cao Son, founder of Asia Premier Cruises Corporation, which owns Ambassador Cruise, said February was the right time to launch the day cruise, following the the travel resurgence and 2018s launch of both the expressway and Van Don International Airport, located 50km from Halong Bay.

“The day cruise opens up Halong Bay in an exciting new way for many travellers, particularly those who can’t squeeze an overnight cruise into their schedule and yet now have the opportunity to experience this breathtakingly beautiful destination in style in a day,” he said.

Ambassador Day Cruise II is priced from $158 (VND 2.625 million) including day cruise program, round-trip shuttle bus transfer from and to Hanoi, one buffet lunch, onboard insurance, tax and service charges, sightseeing fees and afternoon tea on the sundeck.

For more information see ambassadorcruise.com.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Tripadvisor tripped up by culinary prankster

Do you look to Tripadvisor for advice on where to dine?

In Montreal, you might have been tempted by what was until recently the No.1 ranked restaurant in the city: Le Nouveau Duluth.

Le Nouveaux Duluth garnered some amazing reviews and had the highest Tripadvisor rating of the city’s 3,678 listed eateries.

There was only one problem. It did not actually exist.

Le Nouveaux Duluth was created by a hacker/hoaxer and his friends aiming to underline how unreliable online ratings sites can be.

Readers of Tripadvisor were regaled with comments about the restaurant's proximity to a beach (Montreal is lacking in beaches), valet service, private and buffet dining and live music.

Le Nouveau Duluth had 85 published reviews, all of them giving it five stars, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.

But anyone heading to its alleged location on the corner of Duluth Avenue and St Denis Street, was left baffled and disappointed.

Oh dear.

“On this occasion, a failure in human moderation practices meant the fake listing remained live on the platform longer than it should have,” Tripadvisor said in a statement. “The listings - including the reviews and photos associated with the listing - are now inactive.”

The fake restaurant was all in the imagination of comedian Charles Deschamps, who is not a fan of online reviews. 

He says he finds them "problematic", as, obviously, are Tripadvisor's algorithms.



Why staying on the right tracks can enhance a European travel experience

The last couple of times I have visited Europe, I have stayed on the rails as much as possible.

Trains in Europe are fast, efficient and comfortable - sometimes just a bit too popular. And they take you from city centre to city centre, rather than depositing you at some airport in the middle of nowhere.

I Italy last summer, I used several trains that were fast, efficient and on time - and they didn't lose my luggage..

There are several reasons why one should consider exploring Europe by train and the team from Rail Europe have shared their top reasons to pick trains over planes, buses and cars. They are, of course biased, but make several good points.

1. Hassle Free

With no check-in queues and traffic-related issues, one can simply show up at the train station minutes before the train departs (unless it's the Eurostar or Thalys, which require a little bit more time). The convenience of city centre to city centre connections also ensures one gets to the final destination quicker.

2. Freedom and Flexibility

With the choice of passes and point-to-point tickets, travellers can decide the options that best suit their needs, and go anywhere and at any time across 33 countries in Europe. This also makes day trips and short excursions convenient.

3. Cost Effective

When booking in advance, travellers can save a significant amount of money. And when travelling on overnight trains, there are savings on hotel costs, too. Families can also enjoy savings as children under 16 travel for free when accompanied by an adult in Switzerland, and the Eurail Pass allows free travel for children under 11.

4. Comfort and Convenience

Trains in Europe offer comfortable and spacious seats with lots of leg room across all classes. In addition on-board dining services (trolley or restaurant/bar carriage), most modern trains also have power points available for charging electronic devices - and some offer wifi. And unlike air travel, there is also no baggage limit on trains - which some guests make the most of in annoying ways.

5. The views, the views

One of the biggest highlights of train travel is the exposure to some great views. Try to get a window seat to take in the ever changing landscapes, colours, architecture and more.

6. Environmentally Friendly

Trains, especially the well-established high-speed rail systems such as the Eurostar, France’s TGV, Spain’s AVE, Italy’s Italo and many others, emit a lot less carbon than air and road options.

7. Social

Europe has an extremely efficient rail system used by most locals. To get acquainted with the people and learn more about their culture, or obtain some tips and local insights, travellers can easily strike up a conversation with other fellow passengers in the relaxed environment of a train.

For more information and bookings, check out www.raileurope.com, which has been a partner of train operators for 90 years. International travellers who want to travel by train easily throughout Europe can also book their travel - including Eurail passes - directly through the website and app. Rail Europe is headquartered in Paris.

Cheers to a small town whose producers have big ideas

Meeniyan is a small country town - home to fewer than 1000 people - on the South Gippsland Highway between Leongatha and Foster in Victoria.

Despite its size and relative isolation, the hamlet is home to Meeniyan Square (above), a rustic outdoor event space that hosts regular events as being home to Meeniyan Pantry and Cellar, which is a deli, café and music venue.

Every second Sunday, Meeniyan Square hosts a farmers market.

Now two popular Gippsland brands are embarking on a new collaboration with Sailors Grave Brewing joining forces with Trulli to create a new gourmet destination aimed at locals and travellers alike.

Sailors Grave, from nearby Orbost, will have launch a fully kitted-out bar in a renovated shipping container with eight beer taps on February 17 to coincide with the Meeniyan Garlic Festival.

It is planned that The Sailors Grave Outpost will be a hub for the brand to host events, launch beers and to build a bigger connection to greater Gippsland.

“When we could holiday during the last two years of Covid we obviously had to stay close, and we kept on landing back at Meeniyan, largely due to its central location but also because we kept on being drawn to the hospitality of the Trulli family.” says Gab Moore from Sailors Grave.

"We were looking for an outpost for Sailors Grave that was still in Gippsland but closer to our market in Melbourne.”

Sailors Grave Brewing was established in 2017 in the historic old butter factory in Orbost but its beers are now sold across Australia as well as in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the UK.

Trulli, meanwhile, has undergone many transitions and now offers woodfired pizzas, pastries, bread, and gelati, all produced on site. The deli offers a diverse range of products from cheese and meat to pantry items and a wine cellar, specialising in produce from Gippsland.

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Are you ready for Tasmania's first queer woodchopping event?

David Walsh and his teams at MONA like to shock and surprise - and they have come up with perhaps Tasmania's most niche event for this year's Mona Foma festival.

Tourism Tasmania has partnered with Mona Foma to support an artistic event called The Tasmanian Queer Woodchop Championships, which aim to raise awareness of Tasmania as a holiday destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers.

The partnership coincides with Australia hosting the internationally renowned LGBTQIA+ festival WorldPride for the first time.

A marketing campaign for The Tasmanian Queer Woodchop Championships has been developed to target LGBTQIA+ audiences attending WorldPride in Sydney.

The free event will take place on the tennis court at MONA - just north of Hobart - at 3:30 pm on Friday, February 24.

Woodchopping is very popular in Tasmania and is a traditionally a high testosterone event.

The Mona Foma team say The Queer Woodchop is "where the classically male-dominated world of timbersports meets joyous queerness in an interactive spectacle of flying wood and fabulousness"

Guests are told to expect "Agfest meets nightclub and country-fair camp".

No tickets are required and the event will be followed by the Mona Sessions, where pop-provocateur Peaches will be performing The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Show. Get tickets here.

Celebrating 150 years of one of Australia's iconic pubs

One of Australia's most famous hotels - the Coogee Bay Hotel - is celebrating 150 years in 2023 with a year-long party kicking off with a birthday bash this March in The Garden, before the re-launch of legendary live music venue Selina's. 

The festivities will showcase the venue's history while embracing plans for the future.

The celebrations will be divided into three distinct phases, The Legacy (February-April), Forever Young (May-August) and Many Happy Returns (September-November). 

A specially commissioned mural by local artist Charlie Nivison from Silly Pear will take centre stage during the celebrations. 

Coogee Bay Hotel managing director Chris Cheung says: "We are beyond thrilled to be celebrating 150 years of creating memories at Coogee Bay Hotel, starting off with our Big Birthday Bash at The Bay in March. 

"We invite the community to come reflect on decades past with our new historic museum, live music and the debut of a spectacular artwork mural to kick off a milestone year for our venue.

"Our anniversary campaign is a reflection of our past, present, and future and we couldn't be more excited to share it with our valued customers, sponsors, and the community. We look forward to continuing to provide a top-notch experience and giving back to the community that has supported us throughout the years."

The Big Birthday Bash will be held on March 26 from noon until late. 

Later in the year, the hotel will be hosting a variety of community-focused events including market days for local producers to display their wares. 

Live music fans will be excited by the re-launch of Selina's, an iconic beachside music venue in the 1980s and 90s that has hosted the likes of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Midnight Oil and INXS. 

To stay up to date on events and activities planned throughout the year see coogeebayhotel.com.au/whats-on