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Thursday 30 November 2023

Meet a Melbourne sandwich shop with a spicy difference


Sometimes simple ideas are the best ideas.

Like pairing the humble sandwich with some tasty Indonesian flavours.

And creating a cool, café vibe that just about anyone can afford to enjoy.

That's what happened when owners Barry Susanto (a fine dining chef, top image) and Erwin Chandra (a barista) created Warkop during Covid.

The initial outlet in Richmond dates back to 2021 while 13 Little Collins Street in the CBD opened its doors in May.

Along with house-made sweet and savoury dishes and fresh salads, the CBD sandwich menu offers Susanto’s roast pork with sambal burrata, salted lettuce and black garlic on Shokupan bread; and tempeh, tofu, sprouts, lettuce with gado gado sauce on a toasted focaccia.

Both outlets quickly became popular pitstops for local workers, and for tasty takeaways.

Now there are more Warkop outlets likely to follow - as Melburnians growing to love slightly off-the-wall dishes like smoked duck sandwich and sambal bawang (fried shallots).

Or more recent sweet additions like a cruller with kaya (Indonesian coconut jam), or a pandan lamington (below).

 Warkop, which translates to coffee shack in Bahasa Indinesia, recently unveiled a new menu with lighter breakfast dishes and refreshing summer drinks like Matcha Lemonade and a Calamansi Fizz (below).

For breakfast think sausage and egg muffins with Barry's zingy bazzinga (spicy mayonnaise) sauce, or a smoked beef dabu dabu (chilli condiment) sandwich.

Chef Barry is very much hands-on. He was manning the kitchen, and the front counter, when I stopped by on a recent Sunday.

He told me everything is house-made and the menu constantly adjusted to match Australian palates with Indonesian heat.

A small but impressive team takes turns in everything from sandwich making to clearing plates with craft taken seriously. You'll hear frequent calls of "Yes Chef". 

Warkop was recently named in the Good Food Guide's Top 40 Cafes of 2023.

Prices are very reasonable and a visit is certainly worthwhile next time you want to add some sunshine to your sandwich.

Think possibilities like beef brisket rendang with house-made pickles and cheese in light rye, or Warkop fried chicken with kohlrabi, pickles, bazzinga sauce and cheese on a potato roll (super tasty).

To finish, perhaps a sambal matah cheese cruller, or maybe a coconut and jackfruit friand. There is a selection of coffees.

“We wanted to do our bit and contribute to the revival of the Melbourne CBD’s lively foodie scene," says Barry.

 I think they have succeeded. Such a fun spot - and nothing costs over $17. 

Trading hours are Monday-Friday 7am-3pm and weekends 8am-3pm. 

The writer was hosted by Warkop CBD


New wine producer out of the blocks like a rocket

If you haven't heard of Glenhope Vineyard it might be the right time to get the new wine producer on your radar.

The Macedon Ranges label has just released its inaugural eight wines - and they are crackers across the board - and all retail for under $40 a bottle.

The undulating 450-485 metres Macedon Ranges site was first planted with vines in 1995 by Tom Lazar from Virgin Hills, and has long sold fruit to some some high-profile producers including Bindi, Silent Way, Latta Vino, Joshua Cooper and others.

In 2021, James and Marlin Gevergizian went in search of a rural retreat in the Macedon Ranges, bought the property and set their sights on becoming top growers and producers in the region.

For the 2022 vintage, they put aside grape parcels for their own label.

With the help of vigneron Scott Harrington and vineyard assistant Flynn Kelly, they had a brilliant start to the journey with the Gordon Knight Trophy for Best Winery in Show at the 2023 Macedon Range Wine Show.

Not bad for a wine producer that was at that time without a single bottle to sell.

Now that has been rectified, I have tasted through the range and am genuinely impressed.

It is rare to taste eight wines from one label and not find a couple of weaker releases. Not here. These are excellent across the board.

The range - all from 2022 - comprises six wines at $38: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and two shirazes: B5 Ferrosol and B3 Granitic, along with a pinot noir shiraz blend for $32 and a Rosé for $28.

The lifted, floral and very varietal Cabernet Franc was my favourite, but I also had a lot of time for the composed Malbec and the fresh, vibrant, carbonic macerated "nouveau" blend.

All were solid and self assured. Dangerously gluggable, in fact with great fruit doing its thing without too much interference. 

With 94 acres under vine, Glenhope is the region’s biggest vineyard. It is planted to chardonnay and riesling as well the varieties used in the new releases.

The soil profile extends from granitic at the elevated end of the site, to sandy loam, and an ironstone-rich volcanic loam on the eastern ridge. 

The site is 450-485 metres above sea level with diurnal temperature ranges that mean slow ripening periods with long ‘hangtime’ during the growing season, which stretches well into May.

Viticulturalist and winemaker Harrington has worked in Central Victoria, the Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley and the Macedon Ranges over 25 years with stints at various domains across Europe.

He has been guided by mentors including Paul Bridgeman (Levantine Hill) and Steve Webber (De Bortoli Yarra Valley).

The wines are attractively labelled and effectively colour coded. 

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Tyrrell steps up into major regional role

Chris Tyrrell, a member of one of the most famous families in the Australian wine industry, has been elected as the new president of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association (HVWTA).

Tyrrell, the CEO of Tyrrell’s Wines, replaces Stuart Hordern, senior winemaker at Brokenwood, who stood down after his two-year term.

At the HVWTA AGM, a new executive was also elected, including Sasha Degen of Degen Wines and Hunter Valley Stays as vice president.

Tyrrell, part of a fifth-generation Hunter Valley family, becomes the sixth president of HVWTA.

He is the third Tyrrell to take on a similar role, following on from his father, Bruce, and grandfather, Murray, who were presidents of the old Hunter Valley Vineyard Association.

“It is with pride that I take on this role to continue the excellent work of Stuart and the HVWTA team," Tyrrell said. "In Sasha, I am joined by someone with a strong connection to both the wine, accommodation and tourism industries and who plays a key role in the advocacy issues facing our region.

"Her commitment to enhancing the visitor experience aligns with our focus to develop world-class experiences for our visitors.”

HVWTA CEO Jennie Curran thanked the new board executive and board members for their time, insight and commitment to the region, noting: “in Stuart, Chris & Sasha, I see the best of the Hunter Valley, passionate leaders with a strong connection to place and who share the same objective: to make our region the best it can be."

HVWTA is a not-for-profit, membership-based wine and tourism organisation.

Pictured: Vice president Sasha Degen, president Chris Tyrrell and CEO Jennie Curran. Supplied.

Is this hell on earth?

This, believe it or not, is a promotional pic of new cruise ship Icon of the Seas.

To me it looks like hell on earth. An American theme park but with less taste and decorum.

It accompanied the news that Royal Caribbean has taken delivery of Icon of the Seas.

The 250,800-tonne ship, boasting 20 decks, becomes the largest cruise ship in the world.

It has capacity for 7,600 guests and with crew members aboard that adds up to nearly 10,000 people on the high seas.

What a horrendous thought.

But don’t expect any negativity in the glossy magazines and travel supplements. They would’t exist without cruise industry advertising, so have to remain positive

“We are celebrating more than a new ship; it’s also the celebration of the culmination of more than 50 years of innovation to create the ultimate vacation experience,” said Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty.

Icon of the Seas will sail to Cadiz, Spain, for some finishing touches before a transatlantic voyage to its new home in Miami, Travel Mole reports.

The maiden voyage, a week-long Caribbean cruise, is scheduled to depart on January 27, 2024.

The ship features 40 bars and restaurants, seven pools, a FlowRider wave simulator and a mini golf course.

There are 28 different stateroom categories including the three-level Family Townhouse.

Not for me thanks.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

From saddles to skin-care products, head bush for Christmas presents with a difference

One country region of Australia is urging consumers to turn their backs on mass produced and homogenous goods, and instead take a trip to the bush to do some Christmas shopping.

The Granite Belt, around 2.5 hours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, says it is opening its doors, farms, and workshops and urging people to come and experience fresh mountain air and buy from the bush this summer. 

“With the countdown to Christmas 2023 well underway, the annual pre-Christmas pilgrimage to Queensland’s Granite Belt is really becoming a thing,” says Martin Cooper, president of the local not-for-profit tourism association, Granite Belt Wine & Tourism.

“It’s fantastic country here and looking greener than ever. We’re seeing visitors and extended families looking for gifts with meaning and that give back, with many taking pre-Christmas escapes from the shopping crowds and humidity of the coast.

“There’s just so much to do here. From incredible national parks to dining with more than 50 wineries in the region, the area has become a destination of choice in summer. We don’t BYO here, we PYO (pick your own) with strawberries and fresh stone fruit grown right here on the Granite Belt.

“There’s no better place to buy from the bush for gifts with meaning."

The locals say they have everything from Christmas trees to horse saddles on offer.

Local saddler Lyle Kent, of Kent’s Saddlery in Stanthorpe, says: “People come into our store, and they say we want to support small business and buy Australian made. What my wife and I love about this place, we employ local people, and this contributes to their livelihood and the flow-on effect is amazing.”

From wines to cheesemakers, apple pie makers, leather goods, jam makers, luxe skin care makers, the region says it has plenty on offer for a Christmas present with a difference.

Local grape grower and winemaker Tim Coelli runs Twisted Gum Wines with his wife Michelle.

“The Granite Belt wine makers are small-scale producers and it’s reflected in our specialised wines here," he says. "It means you’re literally drinking wine on the ground from where the grapes are grown.”

Sourcing local ingredients and taking inspiration from a local National Park, Washpool Supply Co in Stanthorpe is a local natural skin care maker, where they teach visitors how to create and make their own soaps and a range of luxe, organic products.

“When you buy from the bush, you’re supporting not just one person, or one business, you’re supporting everyone," says owner Emily Thomas. "We’re a community here and we support each other.” 

Local attractions include granite outcrops with freshwater swimming holes, Girraween National Park, Sundown National Park and Nundubbermere Falls camping area and Storm King Dam.

Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt lie high on the Great Dividing Range, around three hours from the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.

For information about visit the Granite Belt this summer see

How hotels could cut their costs - and prices - right now

I recently stayed in a hotel with an in-room trouser press.

A trouser press.

In all the years I have stayed in hotels I cannot recall ever having used a trouser press.

The same with in-room alarm clocks.

So many times have I been woken at 4am by these infernal gadgets that I now unplug them when I enter a room, giving me an extra power socket I can use.

So why do hotels persist in giving guests facilities they no not want, and do not need?

Many hotels could save costs, and reduce prices to customers, if they gave them only what they want in a room. Which in my case is a bed, a shower that works, a toilet, decent light, a chair, a desk, accessible power/USB points and fast, free wifi.

That's it. I rarely use the kettle and the free tea and coffee, as I am uncertain how often the unit has been cleaned. Others may feel differently.

Nearly every hotel room has a solid landline phone. But who uses them nowadays, particularly as they are often designed so you need to dial 1 # 101 to get a line, or 1 # 2345 to talk to room service?

Nearly everyone who travels nowadays has their own mobile/cell phone, which includes an alarm function that is easy to use.

But still 95% of rooms have those big old clunky pieces of uselessness - which need to be cleaned daily and for which the hotel often charges you an arm and a leg to use.

Likewise, who needs pay-per-view TV options? If you travel you can almost certainly stream from your own device rather than paying $9.99 for a dodgy porn film that will earn yuo a wry smile when you check out..

There are others; fax machines in business centres, for instance. When did you last use a fax machine?

How about individual sewing kits? Ever used one?

And don't get me started on "resort charges" imposed when you are checking in at 11pm and out at 6am and the facilities you are being charged for - like swimming pools - are not available.

There is also the question of minibars with $10 mini bottles of gin, $6 packets of potato crisps and $8 beers. These need to be checked, and re-stocked every single day, which is why their contents are so expensive.

Put a vending machine somewhere people, have a few packets of food behind the reception desk, or just give your guests empty fridges they can stock themselves.

In room stationery? Bin it. Ear plugs? Only if a hotel is particularly noisy. All those extra cushions? no thanks. 

Come on hotels. Listen to your customers. You could save money and so could we.

Image: Kristina Borzova,

Monday 27 November 2023

A Melbourne hotel where hospitality shines


Some hotels are part of the travel industry. Others are part of the hospitality industry. 

The Pullman Melbourne on the Park is definitely on the second side of the ledger, a hotel comfortable in its skin. 

With French management and polyglot staff it delivers old-school service with a smile, something that is not often found nowadays. 

Four examples from my recent stay:

# I arrived extremely early in the morning and asked to leave my bags before returning to check in. "No problem at all. We have your room ready for you now." Welcome news as I had begun my travels at 4am. 

# I sampled the excellent savoury/sweet high tea offering. Perfect for two people, a lot for one. No problem to have the rest of the morsels delivered to my room for later enjoyment.

# The pump action body wash in my room ran empty during my stay. I went to reception to ask for some soap but was gifted a new luxe body wash container and was told I was welcome to take it home.

# I was clearly baffled by the high-tech coffee machine at breakfast but a kind waitress took the time to come and make me a short black - without being asked.   

It is the little things like this that make a hotel a warm and welcoming place. And I'm sure, like me, you've stayed in hotels where everything is a hassle for the overworked staff. 

The Pullman Melbourne on the Park is not a new property. It's been around for decades. I fact. I stayed here regularly around 30 years ago when it was the Hilton on the Park. 

One thing has not changed: the superb location. 

It is right at the edge of Melbourne's city centre but away from the hustle and bustle. 

Opposite the city's sporting hub overlooking the iconic MCG and Rod Laver Arena - my well-equipped room had views of both - and the property is adjacent to the tree-lined paths of the Fitzroy Gardens. 

The hotel is a large one with 419 rooms, including several suites and the luxe William Clarke Sky Villa. 

The rooms are restful and quiet but you are just a 15-minute walk from Flinders St Station and 10 minutes from Chinatown and the many eateries of Flinders Lane. 

There is also a tram that stops directly outside the hotel, linking you to most parts of Melbourne with ease. 

There are the elements you'd expect of a five-star hotel: a swimming pool and fitness centre, the Cliveden Bar and Dining, air con, soundproofing, a pretty spectacular buffet breakfast, good fast wifi, and room service. 

I really had nothing at all to complain about over two excellent nights. 

One suggestion: make sure to try the cross-cultural high tea: it is spectacular. Think the usual delights but with native ingredients and a touch of Asia, accompanied by a glass of Chandon Blanc de Blanc, of course. 

So finger sandwiches, certainly, but also homemade pork and nashi pear sausages with bush tomato relish or maybe a chicken corn empanada with chipotle mayonnaise. And leave room for the sweet treats. Executive chef Mihir Mandal is on top of his game.    

And try to book a room that offers access to the executive lounge on the 18th floor. It is great have somewhere to pop into to read the newspaper and grab a cup of tea, or enjoy some canapes and free-flowing pre-dinner drinks.

Refreshments and light nibbles are served all day should you be peckish at any time.

For more details see

# The writer was a guest of Pullman Melbourne on the Park.

Cruise industry chaos in both hemispheres


More bad news for passengers on board “the cruise that will go anywhere that will take us”. 

The proposed stop in Port Arthur is off due to “bad weather”. But bus transfers from Hobart will be available. 

I’m not sure anyone books a cruise to spend up to five hours in a bus. 

And then it got even worse for long-suffering cruise passengers. 

In Brisbane, Royal Caribbean’s Quantam of the Seas sold too many cabins - leaving several groups of travellers unable to embark. 

What a shambles this industry is. 

In the southern hemisphere, cruise passengers looking towards exploring some of the highlights of New Zealand will instead be visiting Tasmania and the south coast of New South Wales.

In the northern hemisphere, gullible folk who signed on for a three-year luxury cruise around the globe will be going absolutely nowhere after their cruise company discovered it did not have a suitable ship.

Cruise companies have a record for shooting themselves in the foot, but the latest catastrophes were biggies, even the by industry's lofty standards.

First off the blocks was P&O Cruises. Owned by Carnival Corporation and headquartered in Sydney, P&O is led by Sture Myrmell, who is a big cheese in the cruise business in Australia.

Yet P&O was not organised enough to have the barnacles scraped off the hull of one of its ships before entering New Zealand, where they are considered a biohazard. The ship was turned around. 

Those affected included a couple who had planned to disembark the cruise and get married in New Zealand. Their wedding had to be scrapped.

P&O had planned to have the ship's hull cleaned by divers off the Bay of Plenty but weather forced that plan to be scrapped. There was no back up plan.

And P&O decided not to wait for better weather but instead divert back to Hobart, Port Arthur and Eden, which was not what those on board the Pacific Adventure (above) had booked and paid for on their 13-day 'Kiwi Adventure' voyage - which will not visit New Zealand at all.

The barnacles are not wanted in New Zealand, but are apparently fine in "clean, green" Tasmania.

In a statement provided to passengers on board, and later shared on social media, P&O said: "Unfortunately the weather has not aligned with the predicted forecast and conditions dramatically changed upon the divers entering the water [to clean the ship]."

Some passengers wanted to return to Sydney, but this was not possible.

Passengers were given a $300 on-board credit and a 50% credit for a future trip, but P&O later said "a more generous compensation offer had been provided after feedback from affected customers".

Translation: Enough passengers kicked up a stink to make us do better."

P&O Cruises Australia, like all cruise companies, alerts customers in its terms and conditions that changes to the itinerary can sometimes be made during the voyage. But that usually covers weather and political occurences, not the company failing to plan properly.

P&O can get in the bin along with Optus.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Turkey, a lot of rich folk were stranded after signing up for a cruise that sounded too good to be true. And was. 

Those who signed up and paid for the Life at Sea inaugural cruise - billed as three years travelling in a luxury cruise ship - found there was no ship at. 

Many were left having sold or rented out their homes and with nowhere to return to CNN reported.

The cruise line told passengers that it has no ship, and had cancelled the departure, promising to refund those who’d signed up for cruises costing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Good luck with that. 

The cruise was originally due to depart Istanbul, Turkey, on November 1, but shortly before that date, departure was postponed to November 11 and relocated to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and then to November 30, again from Amsterdam. 

A total of 111 cabins were apparently sold. 

The company has said it will make repayments in monthly instalments, starting from mid-December. It has also offered to pay for accommodation until December 1 and flights home for anyone now stranded in Istanbul. 

Life at Sea Cruises had reportedly been planning to buy the AIDAaura, a ship retired this summer by AIDA Cruises, a German subsidiary of Carnival Corp. 

It was due to be rechristened as the MV Lara and to be renovated before the voyage. Life at Sea Cruises advertised the ship on its remarkably amateurish website without owning it. 

On November 16, however, Celestyal Cruises said it had purchased the AIDAaura.

Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Turkish-based Miray Cruises, which operates Life at Sea, said he was "extremely sorry for the inconvenience”. 

He said that while the company had made the down payment for the ship, investors “declined to support us further due to unrest in the Middle East.”

Ugurlu also told passengers that day that the company then tried and failed to buy another ship, and that it was working on a third. Remarkably, bookings are still available on the website. 

The message: If you are booking a cruise then do your homework, know your rights and be prepared to scream and holler if necessary. 

Sunday 26 November 2023

Rioja: a great place for a wine tourism talkfest

Logrono looks like a great spot for a junket. 

It is in the Rioja wine region in Spain and this week hosted the UNWTO Global Conference on Wine Tourism.

The tourism organisation reports that the conference had “the focus placed firmly on inclusion and sustainability for local communities and territories”.

But what was done? 

A few platitudes are forthcoming as we were told the event decided “paving the way towards inclusive growth, especially in rural areas, requires clear policies and a commitment to embracing digital transformation and innovation. Recognizing this, the conference brought together key stakeholders and leaders from across the growing wine tourism sector to address priorities including education, skills development and the effective use of data.”

What they actually decided remains a mystery. 

We do know the event welcomed thought-leaders - such a great phrase - from both emerging and established wine destinations, including Argentina, Armenia, Chile, France, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the US. 

“As well as celebrating the growing interest in wine tourism, the event made clear the challenges for building more competitive destinations and transforming demand into economic growth and social inclusion. Over two days, workshops and masterclasses focused on:

• Skills development and a better understanding of the impacts and trends of wine tourism were identified as crucial elements to create value and promote wine regions, ultimately enhancing their competitiveness.

• With the impact of climate change affecting the sector, experts debated how to progress sustainability in wine tourism as well and progress digitalization for better processes. Participants discussed the need to harmonise data collection, the use of new data sources and innovative strategies for expanding new products, outreach on social media, utilizing cutting-edge digital tools, and leveraging new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, to create knowledge and a seamless experience.”


I’m not sure we are any the wiser. But I’m sure everyone had a great time. 

Australia was not officially represented, as far as I am aware.

Maybe next time, when the conference will be hosted in that global hotbed of wine tourism: Armenia. 

Vietjet boosts its Australian presence

Bamboo Airlines may have suddenly exited the local market, but Vietjet Air is making it easier than ever for Australians to fly to the increasingly popular destination of Vietnam for a holiday.

Vietjet is now flying from both Adelaide and Perth to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the first Vietnamese carrier to link to South Australia and Western Australia.

The expansion comes under a year after Vietjet made its debut in Australian skies.

During that period Vietjet has doubled its weekly flights to Australia, offering 58 weekly flights starting from December.

South Australian Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison said: “Vietjet’s Adelaide route opens up significant avenues for tourism and trade, strengthening our ties with one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.”

VietJet Air is a Vietnamese low-cost airline based in Hanoi.

It was the first privately-owned airline to be established in Vietnam, being granted its initial approval to operate in November 2007. 

It launched in 2011 and has enjoyed rapid growth.

Currently, Vietjet operates around 400 flights daily covering destinations across Vietnam and international ports in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, mainland China, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Effervescence is a sparkling success story

Look. There is Ed Carr, Australia's most-awarded sparkling winemaker from House of Arras. He's talking about the importance of aging cool-climate bubbles until they are ready to be released. 

Over there is Nat Fryar from boutique producer Bellebonne. She's chatting about the key role that chardonnay plays in her wines.

And here is Claudio Radenti from Freycinet Estate talking in his own understated way about his winery's recent show successes.

Oh, and over there is industry pioneer Andrew Pirie revealing the philosophy behind his Apogee label.   
Tasmania's leading sparkling wine producers get together each year for the Effervescence festival that celebrates the state's ongoing success. 

It is a chance for wine lovers to get one-on-one with producers and ask them questions you've always wanted to ask. 

But this is not just an event for wine nerds.

Hosted by Josef Chromy Wines, Paragon Wine Estates and Pinnacle Drinks, in conjunction with Events Tasmania, the three-day event is held each November.

In addition to masterclasses for the aficionados, there is also the chance to chill out on the lawn with a glass of Delamere, Holm Oak or Josef Chromy bubbles, or to boogie the night away at Bubbles and Beats. Or even do some yoga in the vines. 

The grand tasting, the centrepiece of festivities, features a diverse selection of wines made by producers spanning the entire state.

If the technology of winemaking is your thing, then masterclasses hosted by panels of experts (above) look at topics including dosage levels and differences between local styles and the wines of Champagne.

For those who want to enjoy wine and food matches, Timbre Restaurant and Josef Chromy both offer that opportunity.

There is, however, some bad news.

Effervescence Tasmania has become so popular that many of its events sell out well in advance.

So while the next event is still 11 months away, it is probably worth your while getting on the mailing list, or keeping an eye on the website for the 2024 line-up.

Check out for updates.  

Friday 24 November 2023

Is Kazakhstan on your travel radar?

Have you got some Kazakhstani tenge that you are keen to spend?

The Kazakh capital of Almaty is about to become a viable holiday destination for Australians with news that AirAsia X (AAX) will be flying direct Kuala Lumpur four times a week from March 14 next year.

Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Its largest metropolis, Almaty, is a long-standing trading hub.

AAX's entry into Central Asia marks a significant milestone for the medium-haul airline, opening up new horizons for globetrotters, adventure seekers, foodies, and those who are looking to explore different cultures.

Almaty offers a blend of tradition and modern lifestyles.

FlyThru connecting services are on sale now from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan, His Excellency Bulat Sugurbayev said: “The AAX entry into Kazakhstan signifies a remarkable milestone in our nations' relations.

"This strategic initiative not only strengthens the cultural and economic ties between Kazakhstan and Malaysia but also provides affordable options for travellers in the region to explore the captivating beauty of Almaty, and the whole of Kazakhstan - the world’s 9th largest country with digital competitiveness outpacing several European, Asian, and American nations.

"The direct connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and Almaty is poised to elevate tourism and trade, enhancing the bonds between our two nations. We welcome this great milestone and look forward to the positive impact it will bring to both countries.”

AirAsia X CEO, Benyamin Ismail said: “This is an entirely new market for AAX and a strategic route to expand into, bringing other parts of the world closer to south-east Asia.

"As our first foray into Central Asia, the expansion into the Kazakh market is a strong testament to our vision and determination to explore new territories as well as resuming services to our most popular destinations post pandemic.

"The move to introduce direct flights to Almaty is expected to foster significant trade, commerce and education interchange, considering Kazakhstan's status as the wealthiest country in Central Asia.

“As AirAsia X celebrates 16 years of connecting people this month, we remain committed to providing unmatched connectivity with the best value fares to everyone’s old and new favourite destinations. With this new route we aim to not only enhance travel opportunities between two great and populous destinations, but also to bolster the existing bonds between Kazakhstan and Malaysia in addition to enriching socio-economic sectors in both nations.”

Fares from from Kuala Lumpur start from RM1,499 (under $500) all-in one-way with economy seats or from RM3,399 (around $1200 one way on a premium flatbed.

There will be flights from Kuala Lumpur returning from Almaty every Tuesday, Thursday. Saturday and Sunday.

Hotel housekeeper makes off with big haul

When you stay at a luxury hotel - paying big money for the privilege - you expect hotel management to have vetted the staff.

Not so in one unnamed hotel at Knightsbridge in London.

A hotel housekeeper has been accused of stealing a suitcase of jewellery worth £350,000 ($668,000_ - and she has apparently gone on the run to her home country of Romania.

British media reports that detectives are searching for Marinela Manolesu, 28, who was working in an unnamed hotel in the upmarket area when the jewellery was allegedly taken on October 8.

More than 20 items including necklaces, bracelets and watches were stolen.

The Metropolitan Police said the woman fled the UK around a week later and travelled to Romania, and that officers have contacted the authorities there.

The housekeeper had reportedly only been working at the hotel for a short time before the theft.

But I must say that if I had over a half a million dollars worth of gear in my luggage, then I would not leave it in my hotel room for the staff to half inch.

That, surely, is what safes are for.

Thursday 23 November 2023

New releases pay tribute to Margaret River pioneer

Looking for a truly special chardonnay, or two?

This week saw the release of the 2022 Kevin John Legacy Full Moon Fruit Day Chardonnay and the 2022 Kevin John Legacy Flower Day from Cullen Wines in Margaret River.

The wines were unveiled on what would have been the 101st birthday or Margaret River wine prioneer Kevin John Cullen, father of current winemaker and guardian of his legacy Vanya Cullen.

“The story of the Kevin John Legacy Chardonnays was born with biodynamics and the observations that different, unique extraordinary wines were made around the biodynamic calendar; planets influence the wines," Vanya Cullen says.

The first wine in the series was made in 2013, Moon Opposite Saturn, flower day harvest, flower day barrel, with wines harvested on the biodynamic flower day. barrels made on every aspect of the biodynamic flower day, harvest of trees, cutting of staves, and making the barrel.

"We made comparisons in 2014 with the same wine with a fruit day barrel, and flower day barrel, and explored the comparisons of Moon opposite Saturn harvest and flower days," Vanya Cullen says.

"All different and uniquely alluring in their own individual ways. Since then we have made 2016 fruit day, 2020 fruit day, 2021 fruit day and flower day, and now we release these truly artisanal 2022 duo of wines.

"These artisanal wines are a point in time of harvest. Each year we do not know whether there is a wine worthy of being that and it comes down to harvest and the timing of wine and the planets."

The wines will cost you $350 a bottle, but are made in minuscule quantities.

I enjoyed the elegance and purity of the Flower Day wine tonight. Tomorrow might be a different story with the fuller Fruit Day wine coming to the fore.

Vanya says: "I found the wines opened up after a few days of opening." So I'm trying that right now.


Mother's Milk gets American nod of approval

It is a fair bet that many Australian wine lovers are not familiar with the Mother's Milk label. 

In the US, however. Mother's Milk 2021 Shiraz was named #38 of the top 100 wines in the world for 2023 by the mass-circulation Wine Spectator magazine. 

Mother's Milk is produced by Barossa-based First Drop Wines and owner John Retsas kindly sent me a bottle. 

Noteworthy for its comic strip-style label, Mother's Milk is a big, bold shiraz, full of flavour, that commonly retails for $25 or under in Australia. Like the winery cellar door (above), it makes a statement. 

Mother's Milk has been matured for 15 months in old French oak hogsheads and has been described as "soft and slurpy".

Think dark berries and blackcurrants, well-integrated oak, a hint of spice and a long, soft finish on the palate. Perfect for a barbecue.  

“The 2023 world of wine included strong vintages, second acts, generational succession and turnaround stories," said Jeffery Lindenmuth, executive editor of Wine Spectator

"The Top 100, our annual year-end snapshot, offers a reflection on the wines that made the year special- from the traditional to the new wave, played out in regions across the globe.

"Our list is a broad picture of the year in wine, and we’re thrilled to share our top picks, comprised of consistent performers and new honorees.”

Retsas was delighted with the recognition in the world's biggest-selling wine publication. Mother's Milk was the only Australian wine selected.

“We are very proud and grateful to be included in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2023," he said. 

"This is the second consecutive year our Mothers Milk Shiraz has been included in this prestigious collection of wines. Truly remarkable recognition considering that it is an affordable everyday wine that speaks of its region, variety and purity of winemaking."

Through blind tastings performed by Wine Spectator’s editors, the top 100 bottles were chosen from over 9,200 wines. Selections were based on four criteria: quality (based on score), value (based on price), availability (based on the number of cases made or imported into the US) and the “X-factor”-  story and excitement behind the wine.

The top wine from Australia and New Zealand was Kevin Judd's 2022 Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at No.10.

The full list can be found online at

It is the time of the year for travel discounts

It is that time of the year. Right across the travel industry, operators are keen to sell you a trip before they close for the Christmas-New Year holiday.

This week I got news of deals from Riviera Travel River Cruises and AirAsia.

Luxury European cruise line Riviera Travel River Cruises reaches its 40-year milestone in 2024 and is celebrating with discounts for its Australian guests on new sailings.

For all 2024 and 2025 sailings booked between now and December 31, guests will get $1,000 per person off on seven-night cruises and $1,500 off on 10-14-night sailings.

Guests who book in this period will also enjoy a complimentary superior drinks package for all sailings in 2024-2025, along with complimentary wifi and complimentary shore excursions.

Stuart Milan from Riviera Travel said: “We’re excited that we are offering our best-ever promotion to fans of River Cruises in the Australian market, we are confident that you will enjoy our award-winning service.”

Cruises on offer include the Rhine, the Danube, or the Douro.

Prices start from $1,199) per person for a seven-night Burgundy, Rhone and Provence river cruise.

Riviera Travel’s fleet of 12 luxury ships is also one of the youngest in Europe, with no ship older than six years. See

AirAsia, meanwhile, this week announced its Black Friday sale with fares reduced for travel from now until September 2024 across the Tasman or from Australia and NZ to Asia at discounted prices.

Offers include flying from Auckland or Australia to Malaysia from under $250 or from Sydney to Bangkok from $329.

The AirAsia X Premium Flex lie flat flatbeds are also on sale starting from $339 across the Tasman or from $669 from Australia to Kuala Lumpur.

Fares on sale from now on four AirAsia airlines until November 26. See

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Lovedale Long Lunch to celebrate a major milestone

Festivals come and festivals go.

But the Hunter Valley’s much-loved wine and food event, the Lovedale Long Lunch, is celebrating its 30th anniversary next year and early bird tickets have just been released. 

To be held on May 18-19, 2024, Lovedale Long Lunch is a progressive lunch, with some of the Hunter’s leading chefs teamed up with six of Lovedale’s best wineries to offer guests wine, food, and live entertainment.

The six host wineries for Lovedale Long Lunch 2024 are Allandale Winery; Emma's Cottage Vineyard (image below); Gartelmann Wines; Saltire Estate; Sandalyn Estate; and Tatler Wines.

Tickets are available for either the Saturday or Sunday, or both, and you can visit two wineries per day.

A shuttle bus will run continuously between wineries, or guests can organise their own transport.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this fabulous event in 2024," says Matt Dillow, owner and chef at Gartelmann Wines and The Deck Café.

"It showcases some of the Hunter’s finest food, wine and entertainment at some of our best boutique wineries.

“Lovedale Long Lunch is the Hunter Valley’s signature wine and food event, which attracts strong visitation to the region."

Saturday Package: Early Bird: $99 + booking fees, until January 15. General Release: $129 + booking fees. Inclusions: Entry on Saturday, two main meals, one dessert or cheese plate, one souvenir wine tasting glass.

Sunday Package: Early Bird: $79 + booking fees, until January 15. General Release: $79 + booking fees. Inclusions: Entry on Sunday, one main meals, one dessert or cheese plate, one souvenir wine tasting glass.

Weekend Package: Early Bird: $149 + booking fees until January 15. General Release: $169 + booking fees. Inclusions: entry on Saturday and Sunday, three main meals, two desserts or cheese plates, one souvenir wine tasting glass.

For more information on Lovedale Long Lunch or to book tickets visit

Cabernet cabaret: Coonawarra and Margaret River join forces

Coonawarra and Margaret River are Australia's two premium growing regions for cabernet sauvignon but the two rivals are joining together to promote the grape variety.

Details of the biggest Australian Cabernet Symposium (ACS) have been unveiled with Coonawarra and Margaret River joining forces.

The event will see producers, growers, suppliers, students, marketers, decision makers and aficionados attend the Symposium, which will be held on February 1-2, 2024.

Earlybird tickets are now available until December 7 via

Traditionally hosted by Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated (CGWI), the 2024 ACS is being presented in association with Wines of Western Australia (WoWA).

ACS committee chair Dr Catherine Kidman said that the 2024 event will be the biggest Australian Cabernet Symposium ever held.

“We are delighted to be working with our WA colleagues to bring to life the most comprehensive program to date," she said.

Wine writer and author Katie Spain will be the MC.

Experts will include Phil Brodie, senior winemaker at Te Mata in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand; Vanya Cullen from Cullen in Margaret River; and Professor Stephen Tyerman from the University of Adelaide.

“Focusing on the 2024 theme Supporting Cabernet Sauvignon into the Future, the symposium will bring attendees up to speed with the latest cabernet developments occurring in the fields of wine research, viticulture, winemaking and marketing both in Australia and overseas, and provides an unparalleled opportunity to network with the Australian cabernet community,” Kidman said.

On day one, presentations and masterclasses will be simulcast live to and from the ACS hub at Parker Coonawarra Estate and at the Margaret River HEART satellite venue for Western Australian attendees, followed by dinners in both states.

Day two, in Coonawarra only, will give attendees the opportunity to see first-hand the latest in viticultural and winemaking innovations out in the field.

To book tickets and for more information about the Australian Cabernet Symposium, visit

Saffire, sparkling wines and a special weekend

So you really want to splurge on a special weekend designed to captivate lovers of sparkling wines? 

Champagne expert Tyson Stelzer will bring Billecart-Salmon and premium Tasmanian sparkling houses together for a special weekend at luxury resort Saffire Freycinet next year. 

Seven of Tasmania’s finest sparkling wine makers will feature over two nights, August 16-18, 2024, with the highlight a Billecart-Salmon Nicolas François vertical tasting masterclass. 

This is a rare chance to explore the past and present of the greatest prestige cuvée of Billecart-Salmon; featuring vintages 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002, 1998 and 1996 poured from magnums.

Stelzer (below) said it was a rare privilege to bring together the finest prestige cuvée of Billecart-Salmon alongside the best sparkling winemakers of Tasmania for the special weekend.

“Cuvée for cuvée and vintage for vintage across history, I rate Billecart-Salmon’s prestige cuvée Nicolas François as one of the top three sparkling wines in the world," he said. 

"Provenance is everything in Champagne and tasting six of the greatest old vintages back to the legendary 1996 direct from the museum cellar of the house in rare magnum format is a unique privilege."

Guests will also meet seven of Tasmania’s premium sparkling winemakers from producers Apogee, Bellebonne, Clover Hill, House of Arras, Kreglinger, Lowestoft and Wellington & Wolfe, and will taste 25 of the state’s finest wines including the House of Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged Méthode Traditionelle and Bellebonne Blanc de Blancs.

A weekend highlight is an interactive masterclass with House of Arras with Australia’s most-awarded sparkling maker Ed Carr. 

Produce-driven menus in Palate Restaurant and barbecues on the terrace will complement the free-flowing premium sparkling wines and Champagne. A tasting menu has been designed by very talented chef Paddy Prenter for the gala dinner.

“Guests can expect beautiful seafood with oysters coming from Melshell oyster farm in Dolphin Sands, Tasmanian rock lobster from our surrounding waters and octopus from the north of the state at Stanley," says Prenter. 

"The exceptional Wagyu beef from Robbins Island is unparalleled and perfection garnished with Tasmanian truffle, along with aged lamb loin, and farmed venison from Springfield Farm.” 

Saffire GM Patrick Barrie.“Tyson says: has a loyal following for our winemaker events here at Saffire, and in 2024 we are taking this weekend to a new level."  

All this luxury won't come cheap. 

All-inclusive rates on the Saffire Sparkling Weekend start at $7,500 per suite for two guests. The Saffire Sparkling Weekend is now open for bookings. 

See , or call (03) 6256 7888. 

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Lost in translation. Parts 1 and 2

UPDATED (read to the end) 

Translations can be trap for the unwary, as China Eastern Airlines discovered this month.

The airline was at the centre of social media scorn after it was revealed that the English translation of its business class menu had an item listed as ‘imported dog food with okra’.

Oops. The mistranslation blunder left passengers baffled and the airline stupidly did not respond to media requests for an explanation - leaving itself open to further ridicule.

The menu listed several other items that were quite normal: grilled steak, a seafood stew, and stir-fried chicken.

But the menu also featured dubious dishes like 'corn dragon bone soup', ‘mushroom juice’ and ‘vanilla shrimp,’ Travel Mole reported.

Translation blunder followed by PR snafu. China Eastern might need some serious help. 

Then Steve McMeechan discovered an even worse translation faux pas - this time served up by a sweary Japanese hair care product (below).

As Steve pointed out: "It might just be me, but if I was a Japanese manufacturer of mass produced affordable hair products destined for overseas English-speaking markets that required instructions printed in English, I might think to myself - 'hey, maybe we should get someone who understands English to proofread the label before we go ahead and print a million of them'."

You have to wonder how many people they offended. And who hated them quite so much.   

What are the best cities for foodies? One viewpoint

Melbourne and Sydney both like to consider themselves international centres of gastronomy, but one recent global survey finds they do not rate.

London? Yes. New York? Yes. Paris? Yes.

A recent data study finds London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Dubai, and Barcelona lead the index, offering both high quality and diversity of food experiences, according to a new ratings system from Holidu, a holiday rental portal.

Holidu commissioned a study to explore the richness of culinary landscapes in 75 cities worldwide that were selected based on their strong presence in multiple rating directories, acknowledging both renowned food hubs and emerging gastronomic destinations.

For travellers seeking cuisine diversity, London (100-100), New York (92.5-100) and Paris (91.5-100) are the best destinations. Dubious, I know, but worth discussing. 

Bollocks, but fun. 

Your foodie experiences (based on activity and visual experience indexes) will be the best in Tokyo (100-100), Barcelona, Spain (99.8-100), and Dubai (99.1-100). OK. Even more dubious.

The city with the most Michelin starred restaurants is Tokyo, with 282, followed by Paris with 163, and Kyoto with 133, the report says.

The index essentially attempts to compare a ceviche in Lima to a salt beef bagel in New York. Which is, of course, impossible. 

“Whether you’ve always dreamed of trying monjayaki on a hidden street of Tokyo or dining on machboos at a Bedouin feast in the Dubai desert, this study is the ultimate foodie bucket list,” says Sarah Siddle, senior PR manager at Holidu.

“Every delicious destination in this index can offer inspiration to food industry professionals such as ourselves, as well as burgeoning chefs, gastronomes and globetrotters.”

View the complete food city destination index here:

Image: Borough Market in London. Winsor Dobbin 

Monday 20 November 2023

Mumm takes a step into the unknown with Central Otago sparkling

You need to keep your wits about you when you visit a wine retailer nowadays.

When you see a bottle with a G.H. Mumm label, you may expect you are getting a bottle of sparkling wine from one of the world's most high profile Champagne Houses.

But the House of Mumm is a wide- ranging beast.

The Pernod Ricard-owned brand, which dates back to 1827, also has a range of Mumm Terroirs sparkling wines that extends from Marlborough in New Zealand to Tasmania

The Mumm Terroirs series celebrates wine regions known for producing pinot noir, building on Maison Mumm’s almost 200-year history of crafting pinot noir-forward wines

Now G.H.Mumm has announced the release of Mumm Central Otago Blanc de Noirs; the latest addition to the Mumm Terroirs collection.

It is the first time a Champagne house has worked in the Central Otago region to produce a sparkling wine.

As you'd expect, the wines is a bold, flavoursome release that has an RRP of $60. It is not just an aperitif, it can be enjoyed with full flavoured dishes.

Winemaker Jamie Marfell, who is based in Marlborough, has been creating still and sparkling wines for two decades, including from theCentral Otago region.

“Central Otago is the crown jewel when it comes to premium pinot noir in New Zealand, so I was pretty excited to liaise with the best growers in the region when we decided to look at the region for the launch of our third New Zealand sparkling,” he said.

Each of the sparkling wines in the Mumm Terroirs collection celebrates a region’s unique terroir.

The collection includes last year’s excellent Mumm Tasmania Brut Prestige release and, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, Mumm Marlborough Brut Prestige and Mumm Marlborough Brut Rosé.

Meet a cocktail that's good enough to eat

It is cocktail time.

When the sun comes out and Australians head outdoors - and upstairs - then cocktails come into their own.

Sydney cocktail bar Dean & Nancy’s on 22 - promoted as a homage to classic hotel bars of golden eras past - overlooks the city from the A by Adina Hotel in downtown Sydney.

Its new Above the Clouds cocktail menu features the venue’s first edible cocktail: Rocketman (above) - which is an astronaut-shaped ice-cream crafted from Haku Vodka and Mapo lemon and fior di latte ice-cream.

Other highlights across the new menu include the Space Taco with taco spice mix-infused Patron tequila; Alien on Holiday with pistachio orgeat syrup, Hendrick’s Gin, fino sherry, lime, aloe vera, and green kiwi; plus the Starry Night (below) with Roku gin, mango, kaffir lime leaf, tincture, and Perrier.

“Living and working in a microgravity environment requires culinary ingenuity and creativity,” says restaurant and bar manager Stefano Filardi, who clearly talks the talk.

“Back on earth, we’ve applied a similar technique to create a cocktail menu that reflects the energy of the city as seen from Level 22 and above.”

Above the Clouds features 17 playful cocktails, many of them edging the $30 mark.

Dean & Nancy on 22, Level 22, 2 Hunter St, Sydney NSW. Open Monday-Sunday: 4:30pm till late.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Making tourism easier for people with disabilities

Travelling with a disability can be difficult. 

Even able-bodied people can struggle to cope with stairs,  access to public transport, and poorly designed public spaces. 

With 1.3 billion people globally estimated to have a significant disability, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) says it has joined with key partners to further make tourism more accessible to all.

The UNWTO Conference on Accessible Tourism was held for a second time in San Marino this week, powered by the Ministry of Tourism of Italy and in partnership with the European Accessibility Resource Centre - AccessibleEU, an initiative of the European Commission. 

The result was San Marino Agenda, "a clean action plan for disability inclusion in every part of the tourism sector".

Talk is, of course easy. Action is much harder. 

At this year's two-day event, over 200 delegates discussed policy advances such as the international standard ISO 21902, which caters both to host communities and visitors, and covers the entire tourism value chain. 

The event featured a ministerial toundtable, bringing together San Marino, Italy, Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan, Czechia and Israel, to discuss governments' roles in advancing accessibility through policies, strategies and standards.

Innovation in accessible tourism was one of the key themes, with speakers presenting new solutions in access to transportation, leisure, MICE and tourism services. 

These included SEATRAC helping wheelchair users to bathe in Greece, city-wide Braille touchpoints and the first certified blind tour guides in Cape Town, and the fully accessible waterfront in Rimini.

Small steps. 

With one in six people expected to reach the age of 65 by 2050 more action is clearly needed. 

"Baby boomers" already account for over one third of the EU population and 70% of the EU citizens with disability have financial means to travel.

So that's a key driver. Money talks. 
The UNWTO said: "The Action Agenda is seen as a game changer for disability inclusion and tourism's contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, with a commitment from it's those attending the conference to achieving concrete results.

"It includes measures to advance training, develop measurement systems and increase industry awareness of the advantages of a diverse workplace."

Image: Matt Doheny,

Sparkling star Clover Hill takes a different direction

Leading Tasmanian sparkling wine producer Clover Hill has unveiled a major change in direction. 

Clover Hill, which has been at the vanguard of Australia's cool-climate winemaking wave for three decades, is to cease making vintage wines in commercial quantities and focus on crafting multiple vintage, or MV, sparkling wines. 

Winemakers Robert Heywood and Ben Howell, along with general manager Ian White, announced the changes, which are aimed at producing stellar sparkling wines with "freshness and consistency".

The move is in direct contrast to rival producers big and small - from House of Arras to Henskens-Rankin - where making vintage wines that age gracefully is very much the focus. 

The Pipers Brook-based producer will still make some small-batch vintage wines for cellar door and wine club members, but not for public sale. 

And Heywood says that while a vintage wine from an exceptional vintage down the track may occur, attention will now be focused firmly on MV wines. 

The flagbearer is the Clover Hill MV Exceptionelle - a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier that certainly offers excellent value for an RRP of $45-50. The current release is a very fresh, chardonnay-driven aperitif style.  

Owned by Goelet Wine Estates family (Taltarni and Clos du Val in California), Clover Hill's first vintage was in 1991, well before Tasmania became an industry darling for its precise cool-climate wines.

Ian White and Robert Heywood 

Heywood says the aim is to produce wines that consistently reflect the terroir of Tasmania, regardless of who the winemaker is - and there have been several over 30+ years.

Wines will be strongly chardonnay-dominant with 10 hectares of extra vines being planted to keep up with demand. 

The Clover Hill team says it wants to demystify wine and that reserve wines held on lees in tanks under pressure, blended with the base wine from a specific vintage will ensure freshness and character and help deliver a house style consistently, year in, year out. 

The baseline blend will be around 65% of the current vintage and 35% from the two previous vintages. 

The multi-vintage concept will transition across the entire portfolio over the next 3-4 years - so if you have a favourite vintage style that you want to cellar, it may pay to pick some bottles up sooner rather than later. 

"This is a new philosophical approach and a sharpening of winemaking focus to improve quality and consistency," says White. "We can help change the narrative from winemaker to defining the house style."

Heywood points out that 95% of wines from Champagne are non-vintage wines that reduce fluctuations in style. 

"We have some of the best sparkling wine fruit in the world," he says. "And we will be able to release them at the optimum date. It's an exciting time for us with a lot of upside."

Still in the planning stage are ideas to ensure correct stock rotation and labelling, that reflects the date a particular wine was disgorged. 






Saturday 18 November 2023

Thanks for flying with us: would you like a free cruise?

Sir Richard Branson has never been one to shy away from a publicity stunt.

But even by the the flamboyant British entrepreneur's standards this week's headline grabber was a doozy.

Passengers on a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Hobart were treated to $7000 cruise vouchers. Just because.

Branson, speaking via FaceTime through the plane’s PA system, told the passengers they would all get a free cruise.

Virgin Voyages’ ship Resilient Lady will start cruising from Melbourne's Station Pier from next month.

The adults-only Resilient Lady is the first new Virgin travel product to arrive Down Under since the launch of Virgin Australia in 2000. Cabins will start from $149 per person, per night with up to $1000 in inclusions.

The flight was chosen as its route is the same as Virgin Voyages’ first ‘Mermaiden’ voyage in Australia on December 11.

“Today, you happen to be travelling on the same route as our Aussie Mermaiden Voyage,” Branson said.

“To celebrate this milestone, I’m pleased to gift each adult on board a free Virgin Voyages cruise.”

The Resilient Lady’s itineraries from Melbourne will include calls in Hobart, Burnie, Sydney and across the Tasman to New Zealand.

Virgin Australia Chief Marketing Officer Libby Minogue said the airline was delighted to create a wonderful experience for guests to celebrate Virgin Voyages’ arrival.

“We are laser focused on creating wonderful experiences for our guests and today is a great example of the Virgin brands joining forces to deliver Australians new experiences in the air or at sea,” she said.

Virgin Voyages CEO Nirmal Saverimuttu said excitement was building for the arrival of Resilient Lady, which is currently sailing from Athens to Australia.

"There will never, ever be better prices to experience our award-winning dining, entertainment and wellness onboard the luxurious Resilient Lady," he said. "This is a new way of cruising Down Under and we can't wait for Aussies to sail with us.” 

Resilient Lady will dock in Australia for the first time on December 4 in Sydney, before heading to Melbourne for the Mermaiden Voyage on December 11.

Branson will be coming to Australia to celebrate the historic voyage, so expect more headline-grabbing stunts.