Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Revolution On The Australian Seas?

Photo courtesy of Pilettes

The last five years has seen dramatic changes in the Australian cruise market. Traditionally the domain of P&O who were the sole company to have a ship based in Australian waters year round the market has since been flooded with American competitors.

The view from the travel industry from what I have seen is that the competition has been welcomed. Although it is nice to support an Australian company P&O had long lost their direction in the glorious seas of having a monopoly. The ships were tired, the reservations call centre had been outsourced and were atrocious to deal with and cruising in Australia was stale.

Enter Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises to shake it all up. With the Australian cruise market revitalised and new ships coming each and every year boasting first class features like indoor ice skating, cinemas, wave riders, water slides and speciality dining experiences P&O needed to do something new. They were no longer competitive in the family cruising bracket they had always specialised in and they knew it.

In a complete turnaround P&O have re-positioned themselves as a couples cruise specialist. The new brochure touting the two new ships on the way, the Eden and the Aria as well as makeovers for all the current ships have hit the shelves. Young and sexy models are seen relishing the cruise experience in all their childless glory and the company reps are working hard to ensure travel agents are aware they are now a couples orientated cruise experience.

Interestingly it is not the first time P&O have had to re-vamp their image. After the on-board death of 42 year old mother Dianne Brimble in 2002 in a suspected drug overdose the company scrambled to shake the image of the party hard cruise experience that they had been labelled with in the Aussie psyche. It took some time but they did manage to reposition themselves as a family friendly experience which worked well for many years, until now. The big boys have moved in and taken their position in the Aussie market.

So apart from the sexy young models in the brochures what else has P&O done to appeal to their new market? The newly renovated rooms, two pool decks, adults only retreat and a premium cinema are all a good start but much of the re-vamp is centred around what P&O are calling their Food Revolution! Banking on the current foodie trend happening in the under 40's age group P&O are attempting to revolutionise the way you eat on your cruise.

Banishing the buffet, three words I love to hear. Gone are the salad bars and bain marie's that have plagued cruising for too many years. Welcome "The Pantry". Heralded as an international marketplace featuring eight fresh food outlets "The Pantry" boasts individual stations each featuring their own specialist world cuisine. As you can imagine with my penchant for world cuisine this has sparked my interest.

Mouth-watering Mexican from tacos to burritos, the curry house featuring spicy Thai, Indian, Caribbean, South African and Singaporean curry's, pasture fed beef and slow cooked pork at the Fat Cow Carvery, gourmet desserts at the Sugar Bar and gourmet seafood at Hook's Fish and Chips it all sounds very enticing.

Launching on the Pacific Pearl in June time will tell if this is a food revolution or a "buffet" disguised in "marketplace" clothes. The liberal use of gourmet always brings out the sceptical side of me. But till June I will take it all at face value. It is great to see an Australian company that has been in a rut burst on to the scene with a new concept for Aussie cruisers.
Originally posted on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 by

Monday, 9 March 2015

Is Optimism Ruining My Life?

 A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.

I have always been an optimistic person. I tend to look to the future with hope, planning away under the assumption that all will turn out the way I have envisioned. My planning crosses over with dreaming at times but that is what drives me forward, you have to have something to live for, to strive towards.

Of course there is no problem with being optimistic, if you have ever spent much time with a "glass half empty" type of person you will know which is the better to be. The problem comes in that I have a tendency to want it all and it stresses me out. I have trouble just going to work day in and day out and not planning for the future and I am rarely satisfied with the Status Quo.

So with all this thinking and planning and hoping where do I draw the line? Where do I say enough is enough and live for today?

There is a fact of life that is hard to hide from. It is called reality. Whilst I do strongly feel reality can be shaped by optimism I am enough of a realist to know you cannot control everything. Does expecting the best possible outcome set you up for serious failure? What happens when things don't go your way or what if you can't have it all?

This is where my major conundrums of wanting it all comes to a head.

I want to travel the world but I want  the great Aussie dream of owning your own home. Balancing the money to incorporate both is tricky and my husband is constantly trying to focus my attention on the task at hand of saving for and building our own home.

I want to cook and eat my way around world cuisines and cultures but I want to look like those Cross- Fit chicks you see on the internet. It's a fine line in experiencing and following your passion of cooking and eating and becoming bed ridden with obesity.

I want the perfect house but I loathe house work to my core. I want to live a simpler life but the trappings of first world consumerism are like a Venus Fly Trap, enticing in their beauty but deadly once ensnared.

It goes on and on I want, I want, I want and I want to stop wanting. Quite frankly I know deep down I have it all and it is completely unreasonable to keep asking the universe for more.

 I know this tendency to want it all and the feeling of being entitled to it is a first world issue. It disgusts me to the core but I am yet to find a way to just be. Be in the moment, be satisfied and stop looking forward and wanting wanting wanting.

The great thing about travel is that it opens your mind and eyes to what you really have and what is important in life. If kids living off the contents of a garbage tip in Cambodia or a family of twelve living in a one room in Indonesia isn't enough to make you appreciate the privileged world we Australians live in then nothing will. Unfortunately to really reinforce those lessons I so crave I feel I have to travel and so continues the vicious circle of wanting.

Funnily enough this wanting is one of the reasons I write this blog. It helps me focus my attention on one thing, I plan and write and cook and it keeps my head grounded for a time without drifting in to fanciful plans for the future that are far off, unobtainable or unreasonable. It is something I can do that doesn't cost money yet brings new experiences. It brings the world to me without the constant need to go out to it.

Does anyone else suffer from optimism in this exaggerated form or is it just me?

Originally posted on Monday, 9 March 2015 by

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Germany Bound

It is just over one week till I head off on my first work related sojourn of the year. You know it is a tough life but someone has to do it. I must for the benefit of my clients experience the five star river cruise with APT from Amsterdam to Nuremberg. I just must! How else can I possibly do my job properly. I just must eat that five star food, drinks those all inclusive drinks for a week and wander the medieval towns like Bamburg.

Travel agent famils are an interesting thing. You head to the airport for your flight. You wander around the check in desks trying to suss out who the other travel agents are and it is a surprisingly easy task. They are generally female, predominantly aged between 25-45 and are looking at you with the same quizzical look you are looking at them with. When recognition dawns you have the usual small talk, where are they from, what chain do they work for and then based on your immediate and shallow appraisal of them you either hope they are your room mate or hope to hell they are not.

As the group of agents increases in size as you all find each other you start to form cliques of like minded people and you depart your homeland with hopes and expectations. From the hellish existence that is economy class long haul travel you emerge at the other end a little worse for wear and you hit the ground running. If the gods of travel shine on you you may actually score an upgrade to business class and once in my life I actually scored First class. I have yet to meet another agent who has been upgraded to First class, score!

You may have noticed if you read this blog regularly that I have done a European River Cruise before and I was not glowing of the experience. You can read more about my French River cruise right here. I still won't disclose which company that was with as they did pay for me to go and I will not bite the hand that feeds but it is a different company than this trip so I am hoping for a different experience. It may seem hypocritical of me to pan a travel experience and then turn around and do the same thing again but you have to remember the whole point of these trips and the reason we are paid to go on them is not for our own personal enjoyment. We are there to experience it first hand so we can then be experts in it and on sell it to the consumer. Of course it does help in the on selling process if you have a good time but that is out of our control and up to the company that they present themselves in a good light.

I am going into this trip with new expectations which I do believe will be positive as your experience is largely interpreted by your expectations. My largest complaint from my first river cruise experience was that it was dull and slow paced. There isn't really anything to be done about this. I need to remember that it is a product largely sold to an older market. I cannot expect my age group to be catered for. I need to relax a little more and enjoy that aspect for what it is.

My next biggest problem was that there was no cultural immersion. It was like we were isolated in our own little world on the river cruise ship. I do think this cruise will be a different experience. The Australian river cruise companies first started plying the waterways of Europe on a standard Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary, they have been doing it for many years and have built up a strong network of suppliers and experiences in the area. The issue in France was that it was a new destination for them. They had taken their boats, plopped them on the Rhone and had not built a strong program around this. The chef on-board was Eastern European and I loathed nothing more than to be eating goulash in France, a bloody travesty. So in heading off on one of their well worn trails I have my fingers crossed.

The service and inclusions were of a very high standard so I expect that to carry across this time. What I am most looking forward and really the main reason I take any travel agent famil is the destination itself. I am not a cruiser. I don't travel to see a ship I travel to meet the people, eat the food and see things I cannot see at home. I have been to Germany in my early 20's but let's be honest, the main thing I remember from my Contiki Tour is the inside of a Munich beer hall.

The unique aspect of a river cruise is that it takes you into the heart of both big cities and small towns. You dock right there in the centre of everything and you can take your guided tour or you can set off on your own to explore. I have been reading up on where we are going and I am most looking forward to Bamburg. It looks like a postcard, the wooden framed houses, cobble stone streets has formed a vivid image in my head that hopefully isn't unrealistic.

So I will report back to you with all the ups and downs upon my return in late March and for now you can enjoy these lovely images courtesy of Wiki Commons. Bless the internet.

Staatstheater Nuremberg. Image courtesy of De: Benuteer:Stern


Bamberg. Image courtesy of Asio Otus

Bamburg. Image Courtesy of Asio Otus

Originally posted on Tuesday, 3 March 2015 by