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Sunday 21 April 2024

Multiple cruises cancelled as new ship will not be ready





When you book a cruise on a brand-new ship you are taking a big risk: as thousands of would-be cruisers discovered this week.

Princess Cruises has announced new ship Star Princess’ debut will be delayed by months - and that nine planned cruises have had to be cancelled, Travel Mole reported.

Princess and leading Italian ship builder Fincantieri announced a mutual decision to postpone the delivery of the Sphere Class ship from July 29, 2025, to September 26, 2025.

So bad luck if you have a booking.

“Despite our relentless pursuit to deliver the ship in late July, it has become evident that additional time is required,” said John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises.

The new inaugural sailings of Star Princess will be round-trip from Barcelona and include an 11-day Mediterranean cruise on October 4, 2025, and a seven-day Mediterranean cruise on October 15, 2025.

They will precede a 14-day transatlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on October 22, 2025, for the ship’s first Caribbean season.

Guests booked on any of the cancelled voyages will be given three options: book any Princess cruise worldwide, including aboard the new Star, sister ship Sun Princess, or any other Princess ship.

Guests who elect to re-book will receive future cruise and onboard-credits depending on the cruise they select.

But customers will also have the option to cancel and receive a full refund, which you'd expect many of them to take.

Star Princess is the second in the new Sphere Class of ships for Princess, following sister ship Sun Princess, which debuted in February.

These ships feature The Dome, an industry-first geodesic feature on the top deck, and The Sphere, the suspended glass Sphere Piazza at the centre of the ship.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Discover some Barossa wine gems - and then linger longer



Schubert Estate makes wines of power and precision, but tends to fly under the radar compared to some its higher-profile Barossa neighbours.

I've been working my way through some impressive wine releases and added their new tasting room to my "to do" list for my next visit.

The pioneering Schubert family planted vineyards along Roennfeldt Road in the Barossa in 1915, selling grapes to many neighbour wine producers.

In 2000, a small parcel was retained, yielding a single barrel of wine carrying the Schubert Estate name and the image of a goose - which the family chose as a symbol of courage, strength, and adventure.

Almost a quarter of a century on, winemaker Matt Reynolds produces artisan wines of style and substance.

The winery recently took out a Double Gold/ Diamond Trophy award at the Sakura Japan’s Women’s Wine Awards. 

For visitors, Schubert Estate "recently opened a magnificent new wine room and three-bedroom luxe residence", reports wine business consultant Howard Duncan.

The Wine Room (below) is open Monday-Friday11am-4pm and at weekends by appointment. The structured tastings include a complimentary sample platter and last for around 45 minutes.


Wines are also served by the glass and bottle, and can be paired with a gourmet platter.

For those wanting to stay awhile, the recently unveiled Residence, a classic old homestead, is set among he vineyards and gardens and offers premium self-contained accommodation for up to six people.

There are three double bedrooms, two with en suite bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen.

See https://schubertestate.com/pages/the-residence


Where you must pay $12 just to have a vessel from which to enjoy your wine

 


A key element to enjoying fine wines is using quality stemware.

I know several wine lovers who take their own wine glasses to restaurants to ensure they get maximum pleasure from expensive bottles. Sometimes they will take glasses specific to the variety they will be drinking.

But if you are attending the Clare Valley Gourmet Week then you'll do as you are told.

You will buy a polymer wine tumbler made in the US for $12 and use it. Or else. That $12 is on top of your entry fee, of course.  

Want to bring the wine glass you purchased at last year's event? Sorry. No go. Off with your head.
 
The organisers of Australia's longest-running wine and food festival - celebrating 40 years - this week proudly announced "your passport to the Festival - 2024 Official Gourmet Glassware".

They added: "We're excited to announce our brand-new GoVino Gourmet Glasses, which are durable, shatterproof, eco-friendly, and dishwasher safe! These are available to purchase for $12 at all festival venues (marked on the program) and will be used to serve your wine. Pick up at your first stop and enjoy at events throughout the week.

"Please be aware that due to this exciting change, last year's glasses will not be accepted at any venue."

That's telling them. Hospitality at its finest.

You WILL use an imported glass that is not made from glass. You WILL pay $12 for it even though it can be purchased on line and in retail outlets for far less. You WILL enjoy drinking from a tumbler rather than stemware.

I've asked the organisers for their comments/Whether this is a commercially driven decision or not. I'll let you know. 

# Two very high profile Clare Valley producers have made contact to say they will be ignoring the directive and using their own high-quality stemware. “A quality focus is important”. 

Friday 19 April 2024

New market to lift Sydney beachside suburb



The Sydney beach suburb of Maroubra is to get a new monthly food and goods market featuring more than 100 stalls.

The new markets will be held at Broadarrow Reserve from May 5 and will include a selection of fresh produce, artisan food products, fashion, homewares, crafts, plants, flowers, and art.

There will also be onsite dining areas and a variety of vendors selling foods for immediate consumption.

There will also be a section of the market edicated to vintage and recycled goods.

The markets will be a collab between Randwick City Council and market curators Cambridge
Markets.

Randwick Mayor Philipa Veitch says the new markets will bring together the community and help
boost the local economy.

“Not only will the Maroubra Beach markets activate a wonderful outdoor public space, but they will provide residents with another great event to look forward to each month and give Sydneysiders from outside the area another reason to visit our beautiful beachside suburb,” Veitch said.

“In addition to the markets, there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops at Maroubra Beach for everyone to explore and enjoy.

”“Residents wanted markets that offered a variety of things, from fresh produce to artisan and
general goods.”

Cambridge Markets director Madelienne Andersen said: “We’re so delighted to bring a monthly
market to this beachside location. Markets are such a great way to strengthen community spirit,
bolster local economies and support small business, as well as showcase emerging artisans.

"This monthly event is for everyone to enjoy. Come down for breakfast, lunch or a coffee and browse the incredible array of merchandise on offer. All our stallholders are very passionate and happy to chat with customers about their products."

The markets will run on the first Sunday of each month from 8am–2pm.


Mudgee now offers a chic stay under canvas


Mudgee is a fast-growing gourmet destination and visitors can now enjoy staying in "chic eco tents" with the launch of new accommodation at Parklands Resort Mudgee.

The deluxe addition to Mudgee’s accommodation offering sees guests treated to four poster beds, Mudgee providore provisions, continental breakfast hampers and sunset wines on the deck.

In addition, the eco-tents are pet friendly, so canine friends are welcome to enjoy the stay (for an additional fee).

The 15 brand new eco-friendly canvas tents, known as Mudgee Retreats, boast luxurious four-poster king-size beds with private en suite bathrooms.

As part of the Parklands Resort complex, the Retreats are surrounded by 30 acres of countryside but are close to the town centre. Facilities include access to a private tennis court, indoor pool, fitness centre and heated spa.

With a commitment to sustainability, each of the Retreats have been built using the Eco Anchor foundation system and Eco Decking flooring made from recycled rice husk composite material that provides thermal insulation.


Shaun Ormbsy, Head of Commercial at owning group Elanor Hotels, said “After seeing an increase in demand for sustainable and immersive travel experiences, we developed Mudgee Retreats at Parklands Resort Mudgee as an alternative option for travellers looking for an authentic glamping experience in the heart of Mudgee.

"Our Retreats are ideally located a stone’s throw away from the historic town centre and close to some of the region’s best wineries and restaurants, so guests can immerse themselves in the beauty of Mudgee and then relax at the end of the day in the ultimate in comfort and sustainability.”

Overnight accommodation at Mudgee Retreats starts from $698 per night and includes a continental breakfast for two people.

For more information see https://parklandsresort.com.au/accommodation

Images: Amber Hooper 

Thursday 18 April 2024

Marriott swoops to sign up Japanese hotels



If you've booked into an independent hotel in Japan for the summer season you might just find yourself staying in a Marriott.

Marriott International has just signed a re-branding deal with Japan’s HMI Hotel Group to convert seven existing HMI properties in five major Japan cities.

The deal will see the hotels rebranded to Marriott Hotels and Courtyard by Marriott properties, Travel Mole reports.

The Marriott Hotels properties rebranded are:

Grand Hotel Hamamastu to Hamamastu Marriott in Naka-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture

Hotel Heian no Mori Kyoto to Kyoto Marriott in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture

Hotel Crown Palais Kobe to Kobe Marriott in Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture

Rizzan Seapark Hotel Tancha Bay to Okinawa Marriott Rizzan Resort & Spa in Onna Village, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture

The properties planned for Courtyard by Marriott are:

Hotel Pearl City Kobe to Courtyard by Marriott Kobe in Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture

Hotel Crown Palais Kokura to Courtyard by Marriott Kokura in Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture

Hotel Crown Palais Kitakyushu to Courtyard by Marriott Kitakyushu in Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture

“We are very pleased to welcome these properties to the fast-expanding portfolio of Marriott International properties across Japan,” said Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific excluding China, for Marriott International.

“Conversion continues to drive a robust growth for the company on a global scale.”

The Japanese hotels are located in several of the country’s most popular travel destinations.



Visiting this country? Be very afraid



The US Department of State issues travel advisories for its citizens visiting destinations around the globe.

Its website has several warnings for one particular country that "terrorists have targeted, and could continue to target".

Visitors should "remain vigilant toward their personal security and exercise caution".

They should be "aware that robberies, burglaries, assault, and auto theft are common in larger cities and that foreign visitors in popular tourist areas are targets for pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and petty thieves."

Night-time is particularly dangerous. 

"Be careful when visiting bars or clubs in the entertainment areas of major cities, as “bar brawls” and other assaults sometimes occur. You should watch out for drink spiking when consuming alcohol with unfamiliar people".

Which country are are our trigger happy US "friends and allies" talking about? Australia, of course.

Check out the dangers here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Australia.html

Note: As of March 31, a total of 208 people had been killed and 419 people had been wounded in 125 shootings in the US this year. In Australia there has been one mass killing in 2024, in which seven people died.

Image: Juli Bell, Scop.io 

The pitfalls of BYO: always ask first


BYO has been popular with Australian diners for decades. While it may be an alien concept in many other countries, in Australia many eateries offer the option.

BYO stands for “bring your own”, and it means that you can bring your own wine, usually, to a restaurant, whether that business is licensed to sell alcohol or not.

In the 1970s, many small restaurants were able to open without having to pay thousands of dollars for a liquor license. Today, many restaurants do hold a liquor license but still offer diners the choice between BYO and purchasing from the house wine list.

Some offer this option for free, others impose a charge still known as "corkage", even though over 90% of wines in Australia are sold under screw caps.

But corkage can be a source of controversy.

A corkage charge covers the cost of the restaurant's glasses, ice bucket and the assistance of the waiting staff. 

BYO is particularly popular with members of the wine industry, who get to bring expensive wines to dinner without paying a restaurant list mark-up, and with collectors, who can bring older wines from their cellar that would be unlikely to feature on wine lists.

The problem is that restaurants set their own corkage rates and there are no industry guidelines. It may vary from a charge per person, or per bottle. Anything from a nominal $1.50 per person to as high as $50 per bottle in a top-end establishment.

But if you don't check first there can be unpleasant surprise when the bill arrives, as Hunter Valley wine industry personality Leigh Dryden posted on LinkedIn this week.

Dryden works for Hunter wine producers Hart & Hunter, so is familiar with the industry norms.

"We all love a good BYO and we don't mind paying a fair corkage fee especially if we have some quality wine in our cellars," Dryden said.

"A mate of mine and his wife went to a local restaurant here in Newcastle over the weekend, its a reasonable standard, so-so wine list but it had BYO but here is the kicker. "At the time of booking he discussed about bringing his own wine, no worries from the venue, no mention of the corkage fee, upon arrival no mention by the wait staff concerning the corkage fee, paying the bill once again no mention about the corkage fee - the assumption was they may not have one, or choose not to enforce it.

"Sadly this was not the case , after arriving home my mate thought the bill was a little heavy given they had taken their own wine and had not had a big lash out the bill was very overweight.

"On the bill was a fee for $38, so next day he rang the owner of the venue and he was told the fee was for corkage, wooooo this is pretty hot given the average fee in Sydney is around $6 per person.

"After much discussion it was admitted that there had been a mistake and [the restaurant] would reduce the fee to $25."

So a lesson there. Always ask first.

"The fact that no one had made mention what the fee was at any stage is very unprofessional," Dryden says.

"The moral of the story: people are prepared to pay for fair value, they are not prepared to be ripped off, and, more importantly, not suitably communicated to concerning the corkage fee practices."

Image: Yoann Jezequel, Scop.io 


Wednesday 17 April 2024

Go West - and double the length of your stay



Fancy a country coastal break in Western Australia?

Seashells Hospitality Group has launched an offer to double the length of your stay at Seashells Broome and Seashells Mandurah properties.

As part of the Double Your Stay offer, prices for a one-bedroom self-contained apartment start at just $130 per night at Seashells Broome for a four-night stay, and $148.50 per night at Seashells Mandurah for a four-night stay.

And the perks escalate from there: reserve three nights and enjoy a six-night retreat, or opt for five nights and settle in for a 10-night escape.

Seashells Broome (top image) is located 300 metres from Cable Beach and has a choice of self-contained one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom bungalows surrounded by tropical gardens and blessed with a resort-style temperature-controlled swimming pool.

Seashells Mandurah is perched on the shore of Comet Bay, providing sweeping ocean or Marina views. Choose from one- and two-bedroom apartments using this offer.

The Double Your Stay offer is available for bookings made between April 17 and May 19 for stays in 2024 and 2025. There are some blackout dates.

There are, of course, some drawbacks: bookings must be pre-paid at the time of reservation and are non-refundable with non-transferable dates. Travel insurance is therefore recommended.

The offer is not valid for Seashells Yallingup and Scarborough due to limited availability.

For bookings call 1800 800 850or visit www.seashells.com.au.



Champagne producer seeks a cutting edge

The Champagne industry is hugely competitive.

You have Champagne houses owned by global conglomerates, family businesses and grower-producers all looking to sell to the same consumer base.

A point of difference can be a key selling tool - and Maison Duval-Leroy hopes to cut through by appointing French fencing champion Manon Apithy-Brunet as its official sabreuse.

The art of sabrage (the flamboyant technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre) has been attributed to the Hussars who fought under Napoleon Bonaparte. 

They are said to have used this method of opening bottles when celebrating their victories.

Now, leading website the drinks business reports that artisan producer Duval-Leroy has launched a video filmed at the Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte, 50km south-east of Paris, showing fencing champion Apithy-Brunet and Louis Duval-Leroy (the sixth generation of the family) perfecting the art of sabrage.

Duval-Leroy says mastering the art of sabrage calls for “a suitable weapon, a steady hand, finely-honed skills and a certain flair”, so naming sabre champion Apithy-Brunet to represent the Champagne house worldwide was “an obvious choice”.

Apithy-Brunet, who just happens to be very glamorous, is a two-time European sabre champion, Olympic teams gold medallist and will compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8EF04WfWnE  

Tourists detained for failing to buy in shop


You know when you are on an organised tour and have been deposited at a shop where you have zero intention of buying. 

The shop sells tat, or you have no interest in a carpet. Or an elephant carving.

What if you were then held against your will until you purchased something?

Don't laugh. It's not fanciful/ It actually happened to a tour group in China recently, Travel Mole reports.

This tour group was detained in a bedding shop for hours after refusing to buy goods, during a tour in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, the South China Morning Post reported.

Video posted online showed staff at the shop guarding the exit doors and refusing to let the tourists leave unless they made purchases.

The tour group was reportedly detained there for several hours.

The tour was organised by Liaoning Youde International Travel Service and conducted by a local tour operator. Maybe an operator to avoid.

One of the tour guests reportedly complained they had been duped as there had been no sightseeing visits but only stops for shopping

“I hadn’t expected that all of our activities in Xishuangbanna would be about shopping,” the tour guest told the SCMP.

The Xishuangbanna Market Supervision and Administration Bureau said the bedding shop was ordered to cease operations. And the local tour guide, who was not licensed, was fined.


Image: Rob Sexton, Scop.io

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Holiday Inn goes big on the Sunshine Coast


The booming Sunshine Coast region of Queensland is to get a new high-rise international brand hotel.

IHG Hotels & Resorts today announced the signing of a Holiday Inn & Suites property, partnering with Felix Capital to open Holiday Inn & Suites Caloundra Sunshine Coast in early 2028.

Overlooking the beach, the new hotel will form part of a mixed-use development in the heart of the Sunshine Coast.

The 160-room hotel will include 33 suites and feature Holiday Inn brand hallmarks including an open lobby, all-day dining restaurant and lobby café, meeting spaces, a fitness centre, outdoor pool and Kids Club.

The hotel's signature will be a rooftop restaurant and sky bar.

Caloundra is a 90-minute drive from Brisbane, and just 35 minutes from Maroochydore Airport.

A light rail with connectivity from Brisbane Airport was recently announced by Queensland State Government, to be completed in advance of the 2032 Summer Olympics in Brisbane.

Cameron Burke, Director of Development, Australasia & Pacific, IHG Hotels & Resorts said: “We're delighted to be bringing our Holiday Inn & Suites brand to the Sunshine Coast and thrilled to be partnering with Felix Capital on this exciting hotel in Caloundra."

When the customer is wrong. Very wrong.

 

Times are tough in the hospitality industry. 

Costs are rising, good staff are hard to find and even harder to hold on to, and customers are resisting price increases. 

We've all heard stories, probably from friends, as to how they've booked dinner at a couple of places and will decide later which one to visit. 

They may, or may not, bother to cancel their second reservation. 

Because a lot of people are assholes. 

Which is why many restaurants are now demanding deposits when you make a booking. Non-refundable if you cancel without a reasonable excuse. 

Here's an example. 

A small regional business that I know recently took a booking for 80 people: a group who wanted to get together for drinks after an event. 

That meant the establishment had to halt serving food, drinks and coffees to the public - including regular customers - for a couple of hours. And put on an extra staff member for the bar. 

What happened? Of the 80 people who booked, 33 turned up. 

And they ordered an average of one drink each. 

No apology. Just entitlement. 

So next time you are forced to stump up an non-refundable deposit you can think people like them. 

Image: David Rubin, Scop.io  

Head south for some exclusive gourmet experiences



Time spent on the New South Wales south coast is always time well spent and the Shoalhaven Food Network has just announced a new reason to hit the region.

The Shoalhaven Gourmet Getaway will be an an innovative long weekend tour as part of the Autumn Celebration of Food.

Starting by rail from Central Station, Sydney, on Friday, May 31, the event offers food enthusiasts an all-inclusive trip through the Shoalhaven’s gastronomic landscape.

The adventure begins with a “picnic” lunch for the train journey.

Guests will then enjoy visits to some of the region’s top restaurants and venues, including Farmgate in Nowra, Cupitt’s Estate in Milton, Ponte Bar and Dining in Nowra, Swordfish Brewery in Sussex Inlet, Ramox and Gallery at Bundanon, a Jervis Bay Mussels Cruise in Huskisson, and the delights of Berry.


 "Comfortable accommodation" and door-to-door coach transport are promised.

Event Highlights include the Ponte and Pasta Buoy Collaboration Event: a four-course dinner by former The Ledbury chef Sam Smith (a local boy made good) and Thiago De Paiva Menezes (owner, operator and sommelier of Ponte).

There will also be an Indigenous Food and Cultural Experience with Doug Innes-Will at Ramox in Bundanon, and a long lunch at Cupitt’s Estate Winery (above) with a three-course meal hosted by Rosie Cupitt with matched local wines.

Only 40 places are available. The price is $1400-$1700 (inclusive of accommodation, transport, activities and dining). Bookings: www.shoalhavenfoodnetwork.com.au

For additional details about the Shoalhaven Gourmet Getaway and the 2024 Autumn Celebration of Food, visit website: www.shoalhavenfoodnetwork.com.au


Monday 15 April 2024

Airlines switch flight routes amid Middle East Tensions



Planning to fly to/from or over the Middle East? Prepare for schedule changes, delays or cancellations.

Qantas is just one of several major airlines to announce the re-routing of its international flights to avoid airspace over the Middle East amid escalating tensions in the region.

The decisions come in response to growing concerns over the safety and security of air travel following Israel's ongoing bastardry (sorry, murderous self-defence tactics).

In addition to Qantas, airlines including Emirates, Etihad Airways and British Airways have also made adjustments to flight paths.

Qantas has said it will re-route its flights between Australia and Europe to avoid flying over the Persian Gulf and Iraq.

British Airways has announced that it will temporarily suspend flights to and from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qantas's direct Perth-London flights will now stop in Singapore for re-fuelling.

This is due to the extra distance required to avoid "at risk" airspace in the region. Qantas says it could add several hours to the total journey time.

SWISS, meanwhile, announced that "in view of the latest developments in the Middle East, we have decided to suspend SWISS flight operations to and from Tel Aviv Airport (top) until further notice. At SWISS, the safety of our crews and our passengers always has paramount priority.

"We continue to monitor the situation in the Middle East as closely as possible. Our specialists are constantly assessing all the available information, and are also in close and regular contact with all the relevant authorities both locally and in Switzerland."

The US, UK Canada and Australia have all issued advisories urging their citizens to stay vigilant and monitor developments closely.

The UK Foreign Office issued an urgent travel warning for more than a dozen countries in the southern Mediterranean and Middle East region.

”There is rising tension between Iran and Israel. Any military action could escalate quickly and could pose risks for the wider region,” it said.

“If you are in the region, or considering travel to the region, monitor news updates and continue to check FCDO travel advice.”

The travel warning covers Dubai, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia. Also included are Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Oman and Lebanon.

In the United States, the State Department issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for Israel.


Direct Sydney-Santiago flights reinstated



Good news for flyers who hate layovers en route to their final destination.

LATAM Airlines has just announced the re-introduction of direct flights from Sydney to Santiago four times per week, starting from October 28.

This cuts out the tiresome stop in Auckland.

LATAM now offers daily direct flights between Australia and Latin America, departing from both Sydney and Melbourne.

In September last year LATAM re-started Melbourne-Santiago direct flights three times weekly.

The addition of the Sydney-Santiago direct flights completes the schedule.

LATAM originally launched direct flights between Sydney and Santiago in 2019 but paused the services due to the pandemic.

LATAM resumed operations from Sydney to Santiago via Auckland in March 2022 with three weekly services and quickly scaled up to daily flights by December 2022.

The move to reintroduce direct flights will enable up to 1,200 passengers per week to enjoy the convenience of travelling directly from Sydney to Latin America in under 13 hours.

The direct services will have a flight time of 12 hours and 50 minutes.



All LATAM Airlines flights between Australia and Chile are operated on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft featuring economy, premium economy and premium business cabins

“We’re thrilled to restart our direct flights from Sydney to Santiago to meet the demand of travellers in Australia," said Chris Ellis, LATAM Airlines manager for Oceania.

"This significant milestone for LATAM Airlines brings Latin America closer to Australians, whether they're flying for business, leisure, or cultural exploration.

"From October, passengers can choose from daily direct services between Australia and Chile, including four direct flights from Sydney and three from Melbourne every week, in addition to our flights via Auckland. That’s a wealth of options for our customers.”

From Santiago, LATAM offers connections to over 144 destinations.

For bookings and more information on the direct flights from Sydney to Santiago, please visit LATAM Airlines' website. https://www.latamairlines.com/au




Regional tourism is collateral damage in the Middle East



The Middle East is a huge area - and tourism right across the region is suffering from the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza.

And it is not just flights being re-routed. 

The Egyptian capital of Cairo, for instance, is approximately 450 kilometres from Gaza, but tourism in Egypt has slumped.

My former colleague Peter Lynch was recently in Egypt for Cruise & Travel Magazine's coverage of river cruise specialist Uniworld's Nile cruises on board the SS Sphinx (top image).

He reports that "Egyptians are suffering huge and unfair economic collateral damage thanks to Gaza conflict many miles away".

He added: "While we sailed in tranquillity along the world's longest river, the only evidence of the conflict was the way the Egyptian pound was plunging in value against the Australian dollar. Good news for us - but bad news for our Egyptian friends."

Lynch reports on Egyptologist Ramadan Bassiouny, who has sailed the Nile for 30 years with Uniworld. He has helped thousands of travellers – including hundreds of Australians – discover the  secrets of his country’s centuries-old culture.

“Please tell your people they will be welcomed and it is safe,” he says.

Australians once account for 30% of Uniworld’s two-ship fleet on the world’s longest river. but numbers are dwindling as the goverment warns against travel to the Middle East.

Just FYI, noted gourmet Lynch reports the food is excellent on boards the SS Sphinx. "Stuffed pigeon is the specialty, and the desserts are to die for," he told GOTR.

For details and special offers on Egypt see Uniworld’s website here. Also check out https://cruisepassenger.com.au/




Sunday 14 April 2024

Seriously cool: it is iceberg season


For The Titanic, an encounter with an iceberg ended in tragedy.

But for many visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador, on Canada's Atlantic Coast, getting up close and person with an iceberg is top of their "to do" list.

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the best places in the world to see icebergs of all shapes and sizes that drift past every spring and summer.

Iceberg season has just launched and icebergs can be seen from land, on a boat tour, or drinking one straight from your cup.

But with 29,000 kilometres of coastline, even a frozen skyscraper can be hard to find. That's why the locals have made life easier for tourists by creating Iceberg Finder - an interactive map that tracks icebergs in real time.

You've got to love the evocative names of some of the local spots where you might o iceberg spotting too. I particulary like Black Tickle and Heart's Content.

You can follow Iceberg Finder on Instagram to stay up to date with recent sightings, photos and information.

Good news for tourists is that iceberg season is during the warmer months. Newfoundland can be bitterly cold from September onwards. I tried it and survived. Just. 

Image: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
 

Seoul Searching: Uncovering the mysteries of Korean culture

While many tourists are familiar with the history and culture of countries like Japan, China and Indonesia, South Korea remains something of a mystery. North Korea even more so.

For those who would like to delve a little more into Korean history - let's call it Seoul Searching -  the 2024 Spring K-Royal Culture Festival, in collaboration with the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, will be held in Seoul's historic royal palaces.

Their names are tongue-twisters: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, and Gyeonghuigung, but they and the Jongmyo Shrine will host events from from April 27 to May 5.

This will be the 10th edition of the festival, which drew over 675,000 visitors last year.

The opening ceremony, themed Love for the People will re-imagine King Sejong the Great's historic proclamation of the Hunminjeongeum script in 1446.

So not an event for everyone, but certainly of interest to history buffs.

Gyeongbokgung Palace will host immersive programs offering insights into the Joseon Dynasty's royal court.

From May 1-5, the Time Travel, King Sejong program will offer a glimpse into palace life during King Sejong the Great's reign, while the Royal Music Concert - Harmony of 100 Court Musicians' Song in Peaceful Times (snappy title that), promises a showcase of traditional Korean musical instruments on May 4-5. Sweet Seoul music. 

The Palace Musical - Sejong, 1446 will return from April 28-30, while Gyeongbokgung's Heungryemun Square will host the K-Heritage Market, offering traditional crafts and cultural products in a lively atmosphere for a more mainstream audience.

There will be several other activiies dotted around the Korean capital. Advance reservations for paid programs can be made via Ticketlink, with free events also requiring reservations.

For detailed information, visit the websites Cultural Heritage Administration Royal Palaces and Tombs Center (https://royal.cha.go.kr/ENG/main/index.do), Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (https://www.chf.or.kr/chf/eng), or K-Royal Culture Festival (https://www.chf.or.kr/fest/en).

It would probably have been easier to have one website, but maybe that is a cultural things. Or maybe not.

Saturday 13 April 2024

UN Tourism and Croatia to work on sustainablity



UN Tourism is to work with the Government of Croatia and the University of Zagreb (above) to establish a research and development centre focused on sustainable tourism.

Croatia currently serves on UN Tourism’s Committee on Tourism and Sustainability, having chaired it between 2019 and 2023.

Alongside the Government’s record of promoting responsible and sustainable tourism practices, its support for UN Tourism’s core values make it the ideal location to host a collaborative platform to drive innovation and catalyse positive change in the tourism sector, the organisation said in a statement.
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"Croatia leads by example in growing tourism in a sustainable manner," UN Tourism said.

"This landmark centre will engage stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia, and civil society to will address some of the most critical challenges facing tourism, including reducing the environmental impact of tourism.

" The centre will prioritize initiatives to minimize waste generation and plastic usage, thereby mitigating the environmental footprint of tourism activities.

"By promoting the adoption of renewable energy sources and implementing energy-efficient practices, the centre aims to reduce carbon emissions associated with tourism operations".

Recognizing "the urgent need to address climate-related risks", the centre will support adaptation strategies to enhance the resilience of tourism destinations and communities.

"The centre will also work to safeguard the cultural heritage and livelihoods of local communities by promoting responsible tourism practices and equitable distribution of benefits and "through rigorous research and data analysis", the centre will provide policymakers with the evidence needed to formulate effective policies that balance tourism development with environmental and social considerations."

It will also serve as a hub for "cutting-edge research and knowledge exchange, delivering timely insights and best practices for the sustainable development of tourism".

In Zagreb, the Minister of Tourism and Sport of Croatia, Nikolina Brnjac, and UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the research facility.

“Croatia leads by example in growing tourism in a sustainable manner," Pololikashvili said:. "The new research centre in Zagreb will contribute to UN Tourism’s commitment to data-driven policymaking at the regional, national and destination level, ensuring tourism grows responsibly and inclusively, for the benefit of communities everywhere.”

The University of Zagreb was founded in 1669 and is the oldest and biggest university in south-eastern Europe.

The one time of the year to avoid Thailand

 

Thailand is one of my favourite travel destinations but there is one time I would never visit again: during the Songkran festival, which is currently underway.

If you want to be relentless targeted by young people wielding high powered water pistol, or buckets full of cold water, then be my guest. Many young folk love it. 
 
If you are not in that demographic choose any other time to visit.

Officially, Songkran, or Thai New Year, is framed as public water fights acting as a cleansing ritual. But it has, in some cases, become a Thai excuse for hooning. You can expect to end up soaking wet several times a day if you are silly enough to emerge from your hotel.

 The event has somehow been recognised by UNESCOs as an Intangible Cultural Heritage event.  

The Tourism Authority of Thailand thinks it has a tourism booster on its hands, teaming with the BBC to help promote the festival to a global audience.

The collab ad will run until June 15 and highlights the social and cultural impact of Songkran via an animated character going through various Thai experiences.

Songkran is officially on April 13 every year, but the largely good natured water fights extend over several days across the country. 

Our Thailand correspondent reported there were 162 people killed and 1,279 injured in road accidents over Songkran. 


The Wild, the Innocent and the Margaret River truffle



Margaret River is one of Australia's pre-eminent wine regions, but it also wants to build a reputation for truffles.

Truffle hunting experiences will be available in the heart of the Margaret River region this winter - a first for the area.

The Margaret River Truffle Farm is offering experiences following the farm's truffle dogs, Alby and Taz, as they lead the way through rows of oak and hazelnut trees in search of the rare funghi.

The Margaret River Truffle Farm is a family-owned and -operated property, using farming techniques with minimal intervention to produce highly-prized black French truffles.

The owners have been working to get their farm ready for visits and truffle hunts, and will start offering these experiences this winter, Tourism Western Australia reports.

Go in style and Forage Safaris will include the farm's truffle hunting experiences in the tour itineraries for 2024 - with the goal of providing a bookable product in 2025.



Go In Style is offering Margaret River Truffle Tours in June, July and August - with one-hour or two-hour experiences available with truffle hunting, and the opportunity to taste truffle and the range of truffle-infused products.

The two-hour experience also includes premium tastings, such as truffle on soup, pate, and pizza.

Forage Safaris is offering a full-day food, farm and wine tour, featuring truffle hunting during the 2024 truffle season, from June to August.

Truffles have been growing near the towns of Manjimup and Pemberton in Western Australia's south west for decades, producing 70% of Australia's truffle supply.

Truffle hunts are also available at these truffieres through the months of June, July and August, at Australian Truffle Traders and Truffle Hill.

The Truffle Kerfuffle festival will, meanwhile, return to the town of Manjimup from June 28-30. Visitors can go truffle hunting, taste their way through the Festival Village, meet farmers and growers, discover local wine and produce, and indulge in truffle laden experiences with leading chefs.


Images: Rachel Claire 

Friday 12 April 2024

Want to buy some booze? How about a free mini break thrown in?


Imagine being offered a free day trip mini cruise, or three-day break, so you can buy cheap booze.

That's the deal being offered by French wine shops Calais Vins (above) and Olivier Vins in partnership with P&O Ferries.

The promotion sees British citizens being offered free ferry trips across the English Channel from Dover to Calais to buy tax free wine, leading industry website the drinks business (www.thedrinksbusiness.com) reports.

There is, however, a catch. 

Isn't there always?

British travellers hoping to take advantage of the offer are being asked to make a minimum pre-order of €300 ($492) to buy wine from Calais Vins and Olivier Vins.

And a pre-order of €700 comes with a three-day getaway, the companies have said.

Calais Vins has reported a significant uptick in British customers, despite changes to alcohol allowance brought on by Brexit (the gift that never stops taking).

UK residents were previously able to transport any amount of alcohol for personal consumption across the channel.

Post-Brexit, each adult can bring a maximum of 18 litres of still wine into the UK.

Also permitted are an allowance of either four litres of spirits or nine litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or alcoholic drinks up to 22% ABV, although this allowance can be split. The allowance for beer is 42 litres.

Despite Brexit challenges, Calais Vins says it saw a 57% increase in British customers from 2022 to 2023. The retailer attributed the surge to a different factor - a 9.6% rise in alcohol prices in the UK.

Jérôme Pont of Calais Vins said: “Our British clientele understands the value of purchasing wine from us. They seek more than just cheap booze; they recognise that, by coming here, they can find top-quality wines ranging from €10 to €25.”

Free wine tastings are also on offer. 

But P&O Ferries, regular readers may remember, dismissed 784 of its crew in 2022 and replaced them with cheaper agency staff, some of which are being paid less than minimum wage.

Should you be in the UK and are tempted, here's the link: https://www.wine-calais.co.uk/   

Discover the drive to some of Australia's best autumn festivals



Autumn is a quiet time of year for the tourism industry, but the people at Avis still want people out in their rental cars.

So as we welcome in cooler days and longer nights, Avis Australia has compiled a gastronomical guide of foodie festivals and events for the months ahead. As you would.

Most GoTR readers would already be familiar with most of these food and wine festivals, but here is a reminder from seafood celebrations in Victoria, beachfront bashes in Noosa, and sustainability-first events in Central Western NSW.

NSW

Orange F.O.O.D Week

April 5- April 14, 2024

Uncover Australia’s oldest regional food festival and celebrate the Autumn grape harvest in Orange. Held over 10 days in April - with just a couple remaining - this sustainability-driven foodie fest is an opportunity to sample delicious fresh produce and enjoy Orange’s community charm.

Newcastle Food Month

April 2024

Over the entire month, visitors to Newcastle can enjoy culinary events, pop-up restaurants, wine tastings, and chef-led masterclasses.

VICTORA

Taste of the Goulburn

April 27, 2024

Visitors can explore the rivers and ranges of the Goulburn Valley region in Central Victoria, meeting the region’s best producers, chefs, growers, and winemakers. Take home local produce as you enjoy chef demonstrations, food vans and eateries, and live music and entertainment.

Wild Harvest Seafood Festival Mallacoota

April 26-28, 2024

The Wild Harvest Seafood Festival celebrates the abundance of seafood in East Gippsland and its Indigenous heritage. Spotlighting local businesses and the charm of the Mallacoota region.

QUEENSLAND

Noosa Eat & Drink Festival

May 30-June 2, 2024

With 75 events spanning over four days, this event comprises over 80 local and international exhibitors with events on the Noosa beachfront and the interior.

Gourmay Mary Valley

May 2024

Culminating with Festival Day on Saturday, May 25, The GourMay Mary Valley festival is a month-long celebration of the farmers, producers, and creators of the Mary Valley region. Events include farm tours and cooking classes.

Scenic Rim Eat Local Month

June 2024

Hop in your Avis rental (spot the nifty marketing plug there) to drive an hour south of Brisbane and the Gold Coast to the Scenic Rim. Here, you’ll find paddock-to-plate food across 130 events, and 50 farms, including the highlight Winter Harvest Festival.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Taste Great Southern

May 2-12, 2024

This is one of Australia's best regional festivals, showcasing over 30 events hosted by local chefs, including regional food and wine festivals, long lunches, degustations, and community markets.

Shore Leave Festival

April 24-28, 2024

Shore Leave is Geraldton's seafood festival. Uncover the region's rich history during Shore Leave’s program that includes a seafood market, marine tours, live music, and the Midwest Paddock to Plate event featuring guest chef Matt Moran.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week 2024

May 17-26, 2024

Celebrating 40 years in May, this is Australia’s longest-running food and wine event. Over three weekends, discover just what makes this winemaking region so special, as you explore local wineries and eateries, before coming together at the Long Lunch finale event. See top image of Pauletts Wines.

 

 

 




Thursday 11 April 2024

Air India bans another pilot who failed an alcohol test




In my view any airline pilot who fails a breath test while on duty should be sacked with immediate effect.

If an Air India pilot who likes a drink fails a test, however, they get a slap on the wrist and three months on the naughty step.

Air India this week took what it describes as "disciplinary action" after another of its pilots failed a pre-flight breathalyser test.

This time it is a female pilot, which is relatively rare, Travel Mole reported.

The unnamed pilot was given an automatic three-month suspension, which means she could be back flying passengers by July.

The pilot serves as a first officer flying Boeing 787 jets and failed the test before a scheduled flight from Delhi to Hyderabad last week.

Air India has not publicly commented on the issue. It's probably too ashamed.

All crew members are required to take a pre-flight alcohol test before duty under India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation rules. 

Earlier this year, Air India dismissed a pilot who failed a breathalyser test shortly after flying an international flight.

The pilot tested positive for alcohol after completing a flight from Phuket to Delhi.

The pilot was the senior in the cockpit, working the flight with a newly-appointed captain, unlike the latest case where the boozy pilot was caught before taking to the air.



Meet Tasmania's latest luxury getaway


Located just outside one of Tasmania's loveliest villages - Evandale - Leighton House is Tasmania's latest luxury getaway.

Just down the road from Josef Chromy Wines, and a short drive from Launceston, Leighton House can cater for between two to 12 people and is a beautiful period homestead.

Potential highlights include an al fresco sauna and spa experience, or enjoying a glass of wine in front of one of the home's fireplaces.

The Georgian home, built in 1840, consists of three grand bedrooms with en suites and a study, while a new wing is home to an open-plan kitchen, living and dining and upstairs, a bunk room featuring six double bed bunks, a teen retreat and pool room.

Conceptualised by Hobart architectural firm, Core Collective, the new building is designed to complement the original home, clad with locally-sourced carbon neutral bricks made 15km away in Longford.

A protected courtyard and glass atrium connects the old and new parts of the home.

A sandstone wellness platform sits in the landscaped garden with mountain views, featuring a hot tub, sauna, yoga platform and fire pit.



The property sits on 300 acres of farmland with views of the Ben Lomond Mountain Range and Western Tiers and a position on the South Esk River.

For food and wine lovers, Leighton House is placed at the start of the Tamar Valley wine route and is a stone's throw from Launceston's food scene. It is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, one of only 49 around the world.

Comforts include high-speed wifi, two OLED Samsung TVs, an Audio Technica record player, Electrolux oven and cooktop, Breville Oracle Coffee Machine and a barbecue and pizza oven.

See https://leightonhouse.com.au/

Images: Adam Gibson

Wednesday 10 April 2024

When Chinese flavours meet Peruvian ingredients in Melbourne


Melbourne has one of the most cosmopolitan restaurant scenes on the planet, but it is about to get its first restaurant devoted to the Peruvian-Chinese fusion food known as chifa.

La Chinesca (now closed) offered some chifa dishes a decade ago but Casa Chino, to open on Thursday in hip Brunswick, will focus on the cuisine created by Chinese migrants when they encountered unfamiliar ingredients in the South American country more than 100 years ago.

Casa Chino will be a 90-seat bar and restaurant concept showcasing dishes that marry the aromatic spices of Cantonese cooking with the vibrant ingredients of Peruvian fare.

The venue is a sibling of Brisbane's Casa Chow and part of the Talisman Group, led by industry veterans Vincent Lombino and Jared Thibault, who have devised food and beverage concepts for QT Hotels and Ovolo Group.

Peruvian-Belgian culinary expert and head chef Kevin Galdo has put together the menu.



Dim sums and Peruvian-style skewers called brochetas will star, along with wok-fried rice and noodle dishes. So dishes like crab and prawn toast with creamy rocoto, tobiko and bonito, and blistered pepper skewers with salsa blanca and furikake.

Thibault has crafted a cocktail menu that celebrates the quintessential Peruvian spirit, pisco, with a selection of pisco sours alongside a curated collection of international wines.

“Embarking on this culinary adventure, we have meticulously curated each dish to serve as a sensory gateway to the vibrant flavours of chifa in Peru," says Lombino.

"We aim to create an immersive experience, allowing guests to feel a profound sense of connection and escapism with every sip and bite.

“Casa Chino beautifully captures the essence of our concept, emphasising the heartfelt nature of our endeavour. A significant portion of our menu is a tribute to the cherished family dishes that Jared's late wife [Fiorella Aguila] grew up with in Peru, adding a deeply personal touch to our offerings.

"As chifa cuisine gains momentum, we’re thrilled to be one of the first to bring our interpretation of chifa to Australia and into the rich fabric of the Melbourne and Brunswick dining scene, sharing not just a meal, but a piece of our hearts and the rich culinary heritage that inspired us."

To celebrate its grand launch, Casa Chino will be hosting a Block Party on Friday, April 12, from 5-7pm.

For details see www.casachino.com.au

Chandon joins prestige grouping of Australian wineries



Sparkling wine specialist Chandon is the newest member of Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia (UWEA).

The Yarra Valley business, a pioneer of premium sparkling wine in Australia, was established in 1986 and is based in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, just an hour from downtown Melbourne and Tullamarine Airport.

Chandon’s cellar door, restaurant, and wine lounge offer vineyard views and a range of experiences.

Chandon is Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s (LVMH) sparkling-wine maison, founded in 1959 by Robert-Jean de Vogüé in a bid to create world-class sparkling wines outside Champagne.

Guests visiting Chandon can experience one of the most extensive ranges of méthode traditionnelle wines in the country and enjoy experiences including the Sparkling Brunch and the Behind the Bubbles experience.

One of the highlights of a visit is the Riddling Hall (below).
 


For those seeking a relaxing long lunch experience, Indulge with Étoile offers a seven-course degustation menu paired with Chandon’s new blend, Étoile.

Diners can enjoy ingredients like Victorian rock lobster, Yarra Valley salmon caviar, Pacific oysters, and Brisbane Valley quail.

Sarah Myers, executive officer UWEA, said: “We’re thrilled that Chandon has joined the Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia collective. It’s an extremely well-respected global brand and brings a wealth of experience to the table, especially when it comes to sparkling wine production, .

“We’ve currently got a strong contingent of wineries that offer sensational sparkling wine experiences, from House of Arras and Josef Chromy in Tasmania to Pizzini and Brown Brothers in Victoria’s King Valley, along with Printhie in Orange, New South Wales."

Mat Janes, consumer business director at Chandon, said: "We stand alongside wineries committed to excellence, each with their own unique story and distinctive vision. We are proud to represent our sparkling heritage and dedication to quality among such an outstanding collective of award-winning wineries that offer immersive experiences, truly capturing the essence of Australian winemaking."

I enjoyed a bottle of Chandon 2017 Vintage Brut with my tasting group this week - and it was outstanding.

Chandon (formerly branded as Domaine Chandon) is located at 727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, and is open seven days.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Casella family switches on to solar power



Casella Family Brands, the home of [yellow tail] wine, today switched on the largest solar facility in the Australian beverage industry at Yenda, in New South Wales.

As part of Casella's commitment to achieving Net-Zero emissions by 2050, the new 8,740-panel solar facility will provide clean, renewable electricity to the company’s Riverina production site.

“Switching on our multi-million dollar invested solar facility in Yenda - the largest solar facility in the Australian beverage market - is a major step forward for the industry and our business,” said John Casella, CEO of Casella Family Brands.

“We’re in a stable position, and this investment has been made with a long-term strategic outlook to support our brands and the Australian wine sector.

“We have long invested in the regions where we operate, supported our growers during challenging market conditions, and will continue building on the stable base we have to ensure the longevity of the sector.

"Using clean energy will result in substantial long-term cost savings for the business. Overall, integrating solar power into our business's energy strategy will bring financial, environmental, and strategic benefits that contribute to long-term success and competitiveness.

"As a family-owned business, we’re committed to playing a role in ensuring the resilience of the Australian wine industry for generations to come and striving to ensure a sustainable global wine sector.”

The facility is capable of generating 11.53 GWh of clean electricity per year, which will offset 7800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, which is enough to meet the electricity needs of approximately 1900 Australian homes, or equivalent to planting 325,000 trees.

Casella Family Brands owns [yellow tail], Peter Lehmann Wines, Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra, Baileys of Glenrowan and Morris of Rutherglen as well as brewing several beer brands. 


Vintage & Vinyl returns to the Adelaide Hills


Food, wine, cider and music. 

It sounds like the perfect ingredients for a weekend treat, and Sidewood Estate’s Vintage & Vinyl is back again for a fourth year. 

For one weekend only, at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, the event will run on April 20-21. 

The festival will be curated for adults only on Saturday, and for families on the Sunday. 

“From the moment you arrive, you will be spoilt for choice," says Sidewood Estate ambassador Serena Moorghen. "Delicious food choices, amazing wines and cider and entertainment, all to the cool tunes! What’s not to enjoy?”

The annual Grape Stomping Comp is back again, giving guests a chance to show off their stomping skills and win prizes.

Gourmet offerings will include wood-fired pizzas, paella and spit-roasted meats, along with Sidewood wines and ciders, along with guests Uraidla Brewery and Glen Ewin. 

Tickets start at $12 for kids and $33 for adults. For more info visit www.sidewood.com.au

Image: Frankie the Creative

Monday 8 April 2024

Qantas adds 20 million extra seats for frequent flyers



Qantas has made a big move to try to win back the affection of its frequent flyers.

The airline announced today that Qantas frequent flyers will have access to over 20 million more reward seats with the launch of Classic Plus Flight Rewards, a new way for members to use their Qantas points to book flights.

The change is being promoted as one of the biggest expansions of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program in its 35-year history and will reportedly make it easier to travel to destinations including London, Tokyo, New York and Singapore using Qantas points.

While usually requiring more points than the existing Classic reward seats, Classic Plus will offer much wider availability, while Classic Plus reward seats are also eligible for upgrades.

The points required to book Classic Plus reward seats will vary - like normal airfares - which means they’ll be lower during off-peak periods or when booking early, and higher during peak periods. During sales and promotions, prices for Classic Plus reward seats may drop below a Classic reward seat on the same route.

Classic Plus reward seats can be booked from today on Qantas international flights departing Australia for travel from July 1, 2024, exclusively via qantas.com and will be rolled out across the rest of the airline’s international and domestic network on Qantas-operated flights by the end of the year.

By the end of calendar year 2024, when Classic Plus has fully launched across the international and domestic network, members will have had access to 20 million new reward seats for travel across the rolling 12-month booking window. 

And the airline promises there will be a similar level of availability on an ongoing basis.

“The Qantas Frequent Flyer program is an integral part of Qantas and has always been about recognising our customers for their loyalty. We’ve spent a lot of time listening to members about how we can better reward them,” said Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson.

“We’re adding over 20 million new flight rewards with the launch of a new type of reward seat called Classic Plus. It’s one of the biggest expansions we’ve made to the Frequent Flyer program in its 35-year history.

“The growth and success of Qantas Loyalty is driven by engaged members who earn and redeem points across the frequent flyer program, including with our partners, and that’s why we’re investing in making more seats available to book with points.”

Qantas says it will continue to offer more than 5 million existing Classic rewards seats across Qantas, Jetstar and 45 partner airlines.

These, however, can be problematic. I invested in a business class seat using points for a recent overnight trip from Bali back to Australia.

My flight had to be changed, however, for Jetstar operational reasons, and even though I paid for a business class seat I didn't get one; or lounge access, or priority boarding. Nothing at all, in fact. I'm still waiting for Qantas to reimburse those points.

You'd think this would happen automatically. But apparently not. Here comes another stressful encounter.    

So while the extra seats are good news, the system still needs some work.