Perth Australia

Americans do not include Western Australia normally on their itinerary, which is a shame since it has a lot to offer. It is a six hour plane ride from Sydney, which adds to your travel expense. This state is a destination on its own, and worthy of two or three weeks to explore what it has to offer. There are only 1,500,000 people in the state, which is one third the size of Australia. It is large enough to take Alaska, California and Oregon into its borders. Its coastline stretches 13,000 miles along the Indian Ocean. It has more millionaires than anywhere else in the world, because of the mining industry. It also has huge million acre ranches, a fantastic wine region, the best surfing in the country, and a great barrier reef the Ningaloo, which is better I think than the reef in Queensland because it is close to shore.

I once spent four weeks on a bus, on my own, taking a tour through the entire state, so I could see if it was worth sending anyone there. It was a great experience. I was one foreigner with 27 retired Aussies aged 72 to 94 who took a bus trip each year to take a break . I stayed in some tiny hamlets, in unique little hotels, and ate Barramundi (white fish) every night. It is certainly the path less traveled. On each of my visits I have covered a different region, and it is very different to the rest of the Australia.

Australia lost 25 percent of its men in World War II and was desperate for immigrants. In the 1950’s, I think half my class at graduate school emigrated to the land down under. Britain called it the brain drain due to so many young people leaving, and I think 99 percent of them ended up in Perth. For ten pounds, (U.S. $14 ) you got a six week cruise, with your belongings, and many people were also given land.

You will find lots of British people there on holiday, visiting relatives who emigrated after the war.

One in four people own a boat, so there are lots of expert sailors. Because of the tropical climate, they have many keen tennis players and golfers. With magnificent beaches, surfing is popular.

Perth, the state’s capital, is jumping. Hotels are usually full not with tourists, but with business people from around the world. There are some outstanding restaurants and good shopping. Thanks to the wave of development, Perth has risen to the top of Australia’s hot list. The New York Times ranked Perth as one of the world’s top cities to visit, and Chicago Tribune voted Perth one of the best cities for solo travelers. Freemantle, just 30 minutes from Perth, is the port city, and does a roaring trade in anything to do with boats. It has become a very popular port of call in the cruise industry. The Ritz Carlton Hotel chain has announced that it will build a luxury hotel in the city. Starwood and Hilton are also going to build new properties. There were very few five star luxury hotels at one time. This is changing.

South of Perth is the Margaret River region where the shoreline gives way to the vineyards of over 215 wine producers and more than 95 cellar doors.

This state is synonymous with wildlife, boasting an impressive diversity of native fauna. Swim up to frolicking wild dolphins in Rockingham, and see whales and penguins. The wild flowers are most spectacular, with over 12,000 different species with 100,000 flowers to view during the season, which is July through September, and some species which require more warmth bloom in the late spring, during the months of October and November. The Kings Park Botanical Gardens are very unique if you are interested in plants, with over 150 different species of orchids.

I recommend a few days in Perth, and then go explore one of the five distinct regions of the state, such as the Kimberley’s, take a cruise from Broome to Darwin, or take a camping safari, which is a wonderful experience. You’ll find wild rivers, lots of wildlife, and adventure opportunities galore.

Places You Need to Add to your Bucket List

(This article was recently post in USA Today)

Travel is changing the world rapidly, and your bucket list should transform with it. Tourist-packed sights are the new normal in many places, thanks to expanding affordable air routes. Expand your bucket-list travel beyond the typical tourist favorites with these underrated islands, countries and cities around the world.

Portugal

The gateway to Europe, Portugal isn’t just an affordable alternative to glitzy metropolises like Paris. It’s also an understated bucket-list travel destination home to both awe-inspiring natural wonders and culturally rich cities.

Bustling Lisbon’s mosaic-paved squares, hilly streets and world-class cuisine make it a must-see and must-taste — try the vinho verde, bacalao and pastel de nata while you’re there. Then head to Porto for coastal charms that include cobble-stoned neighborhoods, colorful boats, the port wine scene for which it’s named, and the famous Hogwarts-inspiring bookshop, Livraria Lello. Find your way to sea cave-dotted Lagos, or head west to the Azores, the Portuguese island chain in the middle of the Atlantic. Portugal may be a  small nation, but it’s the perfect place to pack in colorful culture and outdoor adventure.

Minneapolis

If the word “Minnesota” doesn’t spark thoughts of brewery-hopping, outdoor adventure, live music and historic art, then it’s time to get acquainted with Minneapolis. Discover bucket-list travel in an unexpected — and easy to reach — U.S. city when you visit sights such as the the rushing Minnehaha waterfall, try some of the best beers in the U.S., explore green parks and shorelines like Chain of Lakes, and take in famed art museums in the larger of Minnesota’s Twin Cities on the Mississippi River. The food and craft beer scene here are on the rise, and Minneapolis has a beloved live music and cultural scene to boot — Seventh Street Entry’s First Avenue music venue has been a favorite among locals and visitors alike since 1970.

Bolivia

For a South American escape without the built-up hotels and tourist hordes, head to lesser-known Bolivia. From glassy lakes and vast salt flats to mountain ranges and dense rainforests, Bolivia’s varied terrain and climate zones mean you can experience every type of adventure activity, or stick to the environments you like best. The unique culture, wildlife and festivals mean you can explore pre-Incan ruins, spot monkeys in the national parks, and dive into cultural events like Oruro Carnival, which is recognized with a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Mallorca, Spain

The Balearic Islands of Spain are the perfect alternative to the overrun Greek isles and Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Party-centric Ibiza is the most famous of the Belearic Islands, but for a true bucket-list travel escape, choose the island of Mallorca instead.  Palma, Mallorca’s capital, is famous for architectural delights like Moorish castles and Gaudi works that echoes the architect’s Barcelona masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. Explore cultural sites, lounge on idyllic beaches and revel in Spain’s vibrant nightlife.

Sri Lanka

Newly visitable Sri Lanka has been a bucket-list travel spot in-waiting since its decades-long civil war ended in 2009. The island nation known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean is a triple-threat destination, with safari drives, tea plantations and white-sand beaches beckoning visitors from around the world. Enjoy Indian-influenced seafood; learn about the local Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim communities; and spot elephants and jaguars in Yala National Park. The Sri Lankan people are eager to share their customs and are easily accessible if you opt for a local-led tour like Intrepid Travel’s Real Food Adventure Sri Lanka, which includes cooking classes in family homes.

Houston

Texas is having a moment, thanks to evolving cities like diverse Houston — a newly bike-able hub that’s dotted with beer gardens, museums, manicured parks and dining options rivaling those in packed cities like New York and Los Angeles. Houston is affordable and undiscovered by most tourists, with a walkable downtown historic district (Market Square) as well as a Midtown rife with high-end eateries and breweries.

Head to Karbach Brewing or Saint Arnold to taste Texas-style beers, then traverse downtown on a BCycle bike for just a few dollars, bop around the Museum District’s 19 institutions, or head west to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park for an inspiring water monument unlike any other. Food offerings and beer gardens here are often al fresco or New Orleans-influenced, and Houston has been called the most diverse city in the nation — making it a unique Texas hotspot.

Cruising with Special Needs

 

(Recently posted in Travel Agent Central)

The accessible travel/special needs market spends $13.6 billion a year on vacations and travelers with special needs take 32 million vacations a year, according to Special Needs Group (SNG), which rents medical equipment to clients requiring it on a cruise.

But while cruising is an easy vacation choice for many Americans eager to head off to tropical isles or bucket list destinations, those with mobility challenges or a family with an autistic child may think a cruise simply wouldn’t be doable.

Not so fast, say trade experts who work to assist clients with special needs and suppliers who assist in providing services for these travelers. To them, cruising can be the perfect choice.

Delivering Accessibility 

Late last year, Dana Salem-McCarthy, franchise owner, Dream Vacations, Novelty, OH, sailed on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Vista. She made it a point to speak to many physically challenged or disabled guests she met onboard about their experience.

Overall, she said they liked the ship and most felt it was easy to negotiate. She believes that cruise lines have done much in recent years to cater to those with special needs, particularly as they design new ships.

“The industry is really making sure a cruise vacation is for everyone,” says Salem-McCarthy. New ships often have pools with lifts, some accessible staterooms, ramps to most levels and doors to prime public spaces that may open with a button touch.

When it comes to accommodating special needs and mobility challenged clients, “it’s just a matter of doing things in a bit different way,” emphasizes Debra Kerper of Easy Access Travel, Carrollton, TX. She’s a Cruise Planners franchise owner.

Photo by of Debra Kerper
A wheelchair/scooter user herself, Kerper books cruise vacations for many clients with physical challenges.

Her clients range from stroke survivors to amputees and those living with MS. Others have breathing or joint issues or are paraplegics and quadriplegics. Some are simply slower walkers.

Easy Access Travel is offering an accessible Alaska cruise on Norwegian Bliss, departing August 2, 2018. Those who book early can secure a fully accessible stateroom with roll-in shower.

“We welcome all with physical challenges, your families and friends,” the agency says on its website.

In addition, Kerper has an “Accessible Southern Seas” voyage planned on Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas on February 2, 2018.

Her top tip for consumers: “Be honest about any mobility challenges or special needs when talking to your travel agent.”

In turn, she recommends agents ask the client whether they use a scooter to shop in a grocery or department store? If they do, she says it’s advantageous they rent one while on a cruise as it will enhance their independence and make the vacation more enjoyable.

The reality? Many clients don’t realize the sizable distances between Point A and Point B on big ships. On a mega-ship, simply getting from the stateroom to the dining room can involve more steps than the client may ever walk in a week or two at home.

More Tips for Assisting Clients

Start early in planning, as accessible staterooms tend to book up quickly. Plus, agents need to have time to arrange for equipment rentals.

For questions, many cruise lines have dedicated phone desks to answer any pre-cruise special needs questions. Their “accessibility policy” is often listed on their website.

Pick the ship and itinerary carefully. Check the accessible facilities for the specific ship operating the client’s desired itinerary.

Compare ships – both big and small – based on the individual client’s needs. Small ships may not have elevators or accessible staterooms (some do, some don’t). Big ships typically have many accessibility features like pool lifts or accessible staterooms.

But slow walkers may find a small ship easier to navigate, as distances are less. Small ships also typically dock in the heart of a city center, without the need for a long walk down a pier or through a terminal. Some river lines also have designed shore excursions for “slow walkers.”

Look for a cruise itinerary with few, if any, tender ports. That means clients won’t need to get in and out of a tender, a small motorized boat that takes guests to shore in ports where the ship is unable to dock. Sometimes, even those who can walk may not be able to step down or climb out of a swaying tender.

In addition, cruise lines often prohibit power chairs or scooters in tenders. Even if they are accepted, crew members typically have sizable discretion to prohibit those if they feel the water is too rough.

Keep in mind that many foreign ports and ancient sites aren’t ADA-accessible. So Kerper is among agents who arrange accessible shore excursions. Her shore trips cover all the “accessible” bases from the transport method to the specific route involved and use of accessible restrooms.

Medical Equipment Rental

When cruisers head to sea, they may need to rent such equipment as a mobility scooter, power wheelchair, oxygen, nebulizers, hospital-type bed, power lift and more. Agents can assist clients in booking that equipment, and at the same time, earn commission in working with some providers including Special Needs Group (SNG).

SNG says all its equipment is cleaned and tested pre-rental, and in many cases – such as for a scooter – is delivered directly to the client’s stateroom.

A 24-hour emergency hotline provides “peace of mind” to clients if any issue develops; in some cities worldwide, SNG’s equipment can be swapped out or repaired on the spot, should an issue occur.

Salem-McCarthy’s most recent booking with SNG was for a 2018 Carnival cruise visiting Hawaii. “My client is 6’7″ tall and weighs 280 pounds, and needed a scooter for the cruise,” she says, noting that SNG was so easy to work with on the equipment rental.

Scootaround also provides equipment rental services on cruise ships. Delivering scooters, wheelchairs, power chairs and oxygen concentrators, it works with more than 25 cruise lines at several dozen major ports throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Autism Cruises

Families with an autistic child or adult family member also may wonder if a cruise is the right vacation choice for them. Celebrity Cruises and other lines say they’re autism friendly.

Royal Caribbean International is among the lines that says it will, upon request, make every reasonable effort to accommodate guests with cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another resource? Autism on the Seas (AotS) organizes and staffs cruise and resort vacations for families with an autistic child or adult family member.

Its Travel Agent Commission Sharing Program will allow travel agencies to obtain the company’s staffed cruise services for their clients and earn a bit of commission as well. Agents can sign up at the AotS website and there are several different ways AotS will work with agents.

AotS plans dozens of autism/special needs group cruises this year on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and others. Among those is Norwegian Dawn’s June 30 roundtrip from Boston to Bermuda.

Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Onboard, AotS’ professional staff will arrange specialized respite and private activities so guests can use entertainment venues in an accommodated/assisted manner. Separately, AotS offers a cruise assistance package designed for independent travelers.

Clearly, mobility and special needs cruising is a growth opportunity for the trade. On its website, SNG says that more than 24 million Americans with disabilities would travel more frequently if their special needs were better met.

Viking Adds Historian to Some Cruises

Ready to be schooled in history on your next cruise? Viking Cruises has created a new resident historian program on its ocean ships that goes way beyond the usual on-board lectures.

This team of historians lead refresher courses on the history of European art, music, architecture and other cultural subjects.

Viking describes the program in a statement as providing passengers with “high-level historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey …”

The first three historians sail on Empires of the Mediterranean itineraries and lead roundtable and dinner discussions about subjects such as the Greek sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles, women explorers and Venetian naval power. They lecture in the ships’ theaters and even hold one-on-one “office hours” for passengers who want to know more.

The 10-day Empires cruise starts in Venice and stops in Koper, Slovenia; Zadar and Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Olympia, Santorini and Athens in Greece.

Prices start at $2,999 per person, which includes shore excursions, Wi-Fi, beer and wine, spa and fitness center access, port taxes and fees and airport transfers.

Mark Callaghan, who has a PhD in history and specializes in 20th century European art and culture, will lecture on the Viking Sky. European military historian Lt. Col. Tony Coutts-Britton will sail aboard the Viking Sea. And Fenella Bazin, who specializes in the Vikings era and modern Norway, will appear aboard the Viking Star.

Lectures will be filmed and shown on the ship’s in-room entertainment system. The series will be available to all Viking river and ocean ships next year.

The new program complements other cultural programs introduced last year on Vikings’ ocean cruises. The cruise line brought New York’s Metropolitan Opera to sea by showing the HD video of “La Boheme” and partnered with the Munch Museum in Oslo to provide daily “Munch Moments” about the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Info: Viking Ocean Cruises, (866) 984-5464 or contact a travel agent

 

Best Airlines In The World

Given the recent news about a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane, many travelers are wondering which airlines they can trust. Luckily, TripAdvisor just announced the winners of its first annual Travelers’ Choice awards for airlines, revealing travelers’ favorite carriers in the U.S. and around the globe.

Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

TripAdvisor reveals the best airlines in the U.S and world.

The 50 award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of airline reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide, over a yearlong period. Factors including outstanding service, quality and value were all taken into consideration when tabulating the list.

Top Ten Airlines in the World

1. Emirates, United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore Airlines, Singapore

3. Azul, Brazil

4. JetBlue, United States

5. Air New Zealand, New Zealand

6. Korean Air, South Korea

7. Japan Airlines, Japan

8. Thai Smile, Thailand

9. Alaska Airlines, United States

10. Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia

Class of Service Global Winners

Best First Class: Emirates, United Arab Emirates

Best Business Class: Aeroflot, Russia

Best Premium Economy Class in the World: Air New Zealand, New Zealand

Best Economy Class in the World: Emirates, United Arab Emirates

North America Awards

Top Major Airline: Delta Air Lines, United States

Top Midsize & Low-Cost Airlines:

1. JetBlue, United States

2. Alaska Airlines, United States

3. Southwest, United States

4. Virgin America, United States

5. Westjet, Canada

Why Travelers Visit ER.

(recently published in Conde Naste Magazine)
This is why you’re most likely to be hospitalized when traveling the globe—and how to avoid it.

These days, it might seem that the ubiquitous selfie, now considered deadlier than a shark bite, is responsible for the majority of life-threatening incidents suffered by tourists—in recent months, travelers have fallen victim to both crocodile attacks and death-defying falls in the name of getting that perfect shot. Yet despite being located all over the globe, emergency rooms tend to see the same issues come through their doors every day: stomach problems, chest pains, headaches, fevers, and coughs. And when it comes to travel destinations known for their mountain ranges or brilliant surf, for example, physicians working at emergency rooms are familiar with other ailments, too—those far more specific to their place on the planet.

Here, what travelers to Colorado, Central America, the Caribbean, and more, are up against.

Stings in the Sea

Where: The tropics

“In Hawaii, we see a lot of marine life stings and injuries,” says Howie Klemmer, M.D., the chief of emergency medicine at Queens Medical Centerin Honolulu. Yet, while (sometimes incredibly) painful, Klemmer says you can actually treat a jellyfish, rockfish, or Portuguese man-of-war sting—or a sea urchin-run-in—yourself.

Vinegar, for one, kills the venom-filled nematocysts [stinging cells] in a Portuguese man-of-war’s tentacles, he says, adding that most lifeguards in Hawaii carry vinegar-filled spray bottles and are trained in treating the stings. Just don’t rub or ice the area: “That causes the stinging cells to secrete more of the toxin,” he says.

As for a rockfish sting? That one will be particularly painful, Klemmer notes, but hot water (not scalding, but as hot as you can handle) will kill the toxins. If you’re in considerable pain or notice your pain getting worse, head to the ER to be safe.

The Flu

Where: Asia

It’s possible to pick up influenza anywhere. But, in general, thanks to concentrated, temperate cities in China and elsewhere across Asia, the flu spreads more easily, notes Christian Arbelaez, M.D., M.P.H., an emergency medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts who has traveled the world with groups like Partners in Health and participated in disaster relief for events like Hurricane Katrina. In fact, doctors in the field tend to look to Asia to see what kinds of flus might be headed toward other parts of the globe, he notes. A flu shot is an important preventative health measure no matter where (or if) you’re traveling. General hygiene practices like hand-washing, or carrying a decent hand sanitizer with you, can play a big part in keeping you healthy, too.

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Where: Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, the tropics

Zika, the mosquito-borne virus, made plenty of headlines this past year and in some places, it’s still a threat, says Arbelaez. In tropical areas, travelers are also more prone to other mosquito-borne illnesses, like West Nile, he notes. Pay attention to travel notices for Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Zika—which doesn’t always show symptoms—poses a particular threat to pregnant women or those that could potentially be pregnant and their sexual partners, he says. Those at risk should avoid travel to infected areas—thankfully, there are currently plenty of Zika-free destinations to choose from.

Of course, Zika isn’t the only thing to be aware of. Travelers are also prone to other mosquito-borne illnesses, like dengue fever, Arbelaez notes. Those traveling to a malaria zone should visit a travel clinic in advance for malaria tablets—make sure to start them as directed, usually a couple of days before you arrive at your destination. In addition, try to stay at places with air conditioning and window screens, opt for long sleeved shirts, and use an EPA-registered insect repellant. Travelers to Brazil take note: The country is currently experiencing a yellow fever outbreak, according to Arbelaez, so make sure to get vaccinated before you go.

Altitude Sickness

Where: The mountains

“We are at 9,000-plus feet elevation, so we see a lot of people with acute mountain sickness,” Marc Doucette, M.D. the director of emergency medicine at St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado says. If you’re in the mountains and notice a headache, nausea, difficulty sleeping, or shortness of breath, the high heights could be affecting you. (Docs also see more serious cases of altitude issues, called high-altitude pulmonary edema, when fluid develops in the lungs, he says.)

Keep altitude woes at bay by ascending slowly, suggests Doucette. Spend a night or two at 5,280 feet in Denver on your way up, for example. (You’ll be hard-pressed to leave the city’s Art Hotel.) Drink plenty of water and skip excess booze, too, he says.

And remember: “Having previously lived in the mountains or coming out here on a regular basis does not necessarily make you immune to altitude sickness.”

Foodborne Illness

Where: Developing countries; cruise ships

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 30 to 70 percent of travelers come down with cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea—a.k.a. “traveler’s diarrhea”—from contaminated foods. High-risk areas for foodborne illnesses include parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America, the CDC says. Cruise ships—because of crowded quarters—can also be a hotbed for the stomach flu norovirus, notes Arbelaez (we all remember the headlines).

If you’re traveling to a high-risk destination, stick with bottled or boiled water, as H20 can be a huge source of contamination (and this includes foods, like salads and fruit, as well as ice cubes, that you might not think about), says Arbelaez. Make sure to visit a travel clinic before your trip for proper vaccinations and to ask about any preventative measures you can take (like filling preventative prescriptions). And if you’re off on a cruise, be vigilant about hand-washing.

Emerald Waterways Adds New Cruises

Emerald Waterways is adding three new cruise itineraries on the Rhine River in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium to its 2018 lineup.

Additionally, the river cruise line is expanding its EmeraldACTIVE program of excursions and tour choices aimed at the active traveler, and it has added a River Cruising Guarantee to automatically cover every guest for delays or cancellations due to weather, high or low water, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns or labor strikes. The complete 2018 river cruise program is detailed in the company’s full-color, 112-page brochure, now available to order on their website in hard copy and downloadable versions.

New offerings for the 2018 season are as follows:

The Classic Rhine itinerary will sail from Amsterdam to Frankfurt (and take a detour down the Moselle River) and explore new ports — including the German towns of Xanten, known for its Roman Archaeological Park; Cochem, for a visit to the Imperial Reichsburg Castle; and Bernkastel, with its sloping vineyards where guests will enjoy a wine tasting at a local winery.

The Majestic Rhine, sailing from Frankfurt to Basel, takes guests to the spa town of Baden-Baden in the Black Forest, and includes two excursions to the Alsace region of France. In Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region, a canal boat tour shows off the town’s history and beauty, while a visit to Colmar, with its picturesque cobblestone streets and Medieval and early Renaissance buildings, offers the opportunity to tour a well-preserved historic area and visit an array of museums.

Sailing roundtrip out of Amsterdam, the Charms of Holland & Belgium cruise allows for an in-depth discovery of the city before setting sail for Dordrecht and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kinderdijk Windmills. In Belgium, a guided tour of Antwerp appeals to history buffs and art lovers alike, while back in the Netherlands, guests will discover Maastrict, the country’s oldest fortified city, and the towns of Edam or Volendam.

Samoa Is It Ready for American Tourist

I was asked by the Minister of Tourism from the Islands of Samoa if I would visit them to advise if they are ready for the American tourism market. I was honored, and went for an eight day visit. I had been recommended to them as a specialist, a journalist, and had visited most of the South Pacific many times.

All I knew about Samoa, was that it is the closest island to the equator, and an hour from the Kingdom of Tonga.

I flew from Los Angeles to Apia, the capital, and the flight was full of people from Tonga and Samoa returning home from visiting their relatives in the States.

Samoa is 100 years behind some of the other South Pacific destinations, but it was better than I had expected. No posh resorts, high rise buildings, big names, fast food, and no traffic lights, although they did have some paved roads. I inspected 13 hotels on three islands. This is a place you would go to just collapse, and do nothing. There are very few tourists, and those were all New Zealanders. The ocean was the warmest I have ever been in, and I was told you have to be an expert if you want to surf — the reefs are very dangerous. There was no one on the beaches, and it was hot and humid. The temperature doesn’t change all year, hovering in the high 90’s.

The Samoa culture is strong, and you must wear white on Sunday to go to church. The churches were packed, and you get fined seven pigs if you miss the service. There was wonderful singing and dancing during the service.

There was nothing to buy. The quality of goods in the markets was poor, and the selection of fruit and vegetables was what you expect to find in the tropics. The menu was chicken or fish.

The villages are very segregated. There are large thatched pavilions (fales as they call them) with no walls. Men sleep in one, and women and children in another. They bury their dead in the garden in front of the main pavilion, in large tombs decked out with flowers. Before the missionaries changed their custom, they used to put the deceased in a canoe, set it on fire and push it out to sea.

The ferry between Upolu and Savii was an experience. I went on the new boat, and it was rough for the two-hour journey. The other boat lets islanders take their animals onboard, so it was like Noah’s Ark, with goats, cattle, chickens and everyone sitting on the deck.

The most interesting place to see was the pineapple plantation home of author Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived on Upolu for several years and is buried with his wife on a hill behind his home. It is now a museum.

The nicest hotels were Aggie Grey’s and Sinalei. The owner of Aggie Grey’s was supposedly the model for Bloody Mary in the movie South Pacific. They put on an outstanding show, and Mrs. Grey’s daughter was one of the star dancers. The family made their fortune selling hamburgers to the U.S. Marines stationed on the island in the Second World War. This was a popular destination for the Peace Corps.

The show “Survivor” was filmed here.

Because it’s off the beaten track, there are no bargain packages which include air and accommodation like there are in other parts of the South Pacific, which I think is a drawback. If you have been everywhere else in the South Pacific and want an adventure and a long journey to get there, then by all means try Samoa. The government executives I met with thanked me and said they will rely on getting their tourists from New Zealand and Australia, which are a lot closer.

What An Expert Says About Cruising

 

(Recently posted in Escape.com)

He’s clocked up more than 100 cruises — but he still can’t get enough.

So there’s not much Adam Armstrong doesn’t know about cruising.

“Every cruise I take makes me want to take another,” says Armstrong, the managing director of Royal Caribbean Cruises for Australia and New Zealand.

Growing up in a fishing family in northern England, Armstrong was introduced to life on the water from a young age, and since embarking his first cruise as a teen, he’s been hooked.

Now based in Sydney, he took some time out from travelling the world to share his tips and tricks with Escape.

From the essential gadget to take on a cruise to the one region that’s shaping up as the “next big thing” for Aussie cruisers, Armstrong gives us his insider advice …

The Norwegian fjords are one of the best places to explore on a cruise ship.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CRUISE DESTINATION?

From Australia, it has to be the South Pacific islands, they really are paradise. But when I’m in Europe, I love cruising the Norwegian Fjords, they’re absolutely stunning.

WHERE IS THE NEXT UP AND COMING CRUISE DESTINATION?

Flight connections to Asia cruise ports like Singapore and Hong Kong are faster and more affordable than ever before, so there’s never been a better time to explore the region by sea.

Cruising in Asia is such a great way to visit so many phenomenal places in one holiday, without the hassle of constantly repacking your luggage and traipsing from one hotel to the next. A cruise lets you travel in comfort from country to country at night, arriving at a new destination each morning.

Hong Kong is at its best from the water.

WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU ALWAYS PACK FOR A CRUISE HOLIDAY?

I recommend gentlemen should pack a simple navy blue suit for a cruise holiday, as it can be formal or informal depending on the occasion.

I never cruise without a longer iPhone charger cable. Plug sockets aren’t always in the most convenient locations …

WHAT’S THE BEST CURE FOR SEASICKNESS?

I’m from a big fishing family and I cruise a lot … but if I do happen to feel a little queasy, I find the best solution is to get out on deck, take in the fresh sea air and look at the horizon.

WHAT’S THE ONE THING EVERYONE SHOULD DO ON A CRUISE?

Relax. There is so much to do and see on board — but sometimes you just have to sit back, chill out and do nothing at all.

Relax, and look at the horizon: Two cruise must-dos.

YOU TRAVEL A LOT FOR WORK. WHAT ARE YOUR BEST FLYING TIPS?

I love flying for work. I always try to sit as far forward on a plane as possible (regardless of cabin class!) so I can get off the plane quickly at the other end. I’m also very loyal to one particular frequent flyer program so I can guarantee lounge access, extra luggage allowance, priority boarding, advance seat selection and so on; together these make a real difference to a frequent traveller.

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST TRAVEL MISTAKE?

Trying to cram too much into a holiday. Less is more.

HOW DO AUSTRALIAN CRUISERS DIFFER TO THE REST OF THE WORLD?

Coffee is important! We bring in extra baristas and coffee machines, and we’ve even changed the beans we use in coffee for our ships in Australia. Aussies also demand great wine at a good price — and since this country is blessed with some of the best wines in the world, our ships stock plenty of Aussie wine wherever we sail.

Royal Caribbeans Oasis of the Seas is the big