Review: American Airlines Business Class
Quentin Long settles into a Business Class seat on an American Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner from Sydney to LA. American Airlines flies comparatively under the radar in Australia (bad pun intended) – despite being the largest carrier in the US, it was the last to commence direct flights to the Land Down Under.   But while American Airlines has an established route from Sydney to LAX, Australian travellers are set to become a lot more familiar with the carrier if its aspirations of a joint venture with Qantas are realised. The US Department of Transportation has tentatively approved an arrangement that will see the airlines team up to offer direct flights from Brisbane to Chicago and Brisbane to San Francisco - final approval for the deal should be announced in the coming weeks. Pre-departure As a founding member of the oneworld alliance and subsequent cosiness with Qantas, it’s no surprise that our national carrier supplies the lounge service. The seat The configuration for business class on the 787 Dreamliner is 1-2-1, with the A and L seats (the single window seats) being the pick owing to their outward-facing privacy. The two middle seats, D and H, face each other, and while you can see your neighbour’s screen, it’s not a problem.   Regular readers of my reviews will know that my pet peeve when flying business class is not having enough space for all my office detritus that enables me to use this section of the cabin for its intended purpose: working up in the clouds. However, all my gear fitted with ease into the ample storage and space.   The seat lies flat and the biggest ‘mattress-pad’ found in any business class, from e-commerce bedding sensation Casper, turns it into a soft- and cloud-like bed for a comfortable sleep. The jim-jams (another business class addition I look forward to) are also from Casper and the best I have had the pleasure of wearing in the skies.   A final word on the seat: it’s been a long time since I found a seat-belt confusing, but I’m ashamed to admit that I required the attendant’s assistance with the over-shoulder, car-seat style – it was very much a grandpa tying to configure the VCR moment. [caption id="attachment_48885" align="alignnone" width="600"] Enjoy the recline[/caption] Food and entertainment And on to the best meal I have ever had in the air; not American Airlines’ famous sundae, not the lamb shank or the duck ragout from the main meal, but the ‘mid-flight snack’: the Riverine steak sandwich with sautéed onions. It’s a chunky feast beautifully cooked (or reheated at 30,000ft) for a melt in your mouth treat.   The entire inflight menu is courtesy of Aussie chef Sean Connolly. The starter is extravagant; the attendant drizzles olive oil from a pipette over the watermelon, feta and pomegranate salad.   The main options range from the aforementioned shank and duck, as well as a mezza plate and Tandoori chickpea creation. But I opt for the Petuna ocean trout with ‘tourneéd potatoes ’, which is tender and flaked like it’s been prepared at a top restaurant.   It’s all served in front of my seat’s huge screen that comes with a set of Bose headphones. However, the interface is irritatingly counterintuitive and clumsy, while the selection isn’t enticing enough to prevent me from pulling out my laptop.   As a sign of the times, I’d banked on the wi-fi working seamlessly to complete some work for appointments in LA. And it didn’t. Mark it down, 2019 is the year that business class isn't what it should be unless it has serviceable wi-fi.   [caption id="attachment_48884" align="alignnone" width="600"] Each seat’s huge screen comes with a set of Bose headphones[/caption] The IT Verdict American Airlines’ Business Class has the foundations of a great experience. The basics (the seat, bedding and food) are very, very good.   The entertainment and wi-fi are a bit of a letdown, but are compensated for by the other elements. [caption id="attachment_48886" align="alignnone" width="600"] The basics are very, very good[/caption] Details: American Airlines Sydney to Los Angeles Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Seat 4H Seat: 8/10 With plenty of space and no toe curling it’s a great experience to lie flat. The Casper mattress, pyjamas and doona make for a good night’s sleep. Amenities: 6/10 The amenities kit is basic and a little stingy on the goodies, but it does come in a great Cole Haan bag. (Ed update: "Based on customer feedback"  the amenity kits have been updated since our flight). Food and Wine: 8/10 The menu is thoughtful and the execution lives up to the promise, while the steak sarnie is a thing of beauty. Service: 7.5/10 The crew were very attentive, efficient and helpful without being overbearing. Entertainment: 6.5/10 It’s a great screen, but a shame about the interface and selection. The wi-fi failure was very disappointing. Lounge: N/A Qantas supplies the lounge.
The best and brightest hotel openings around the world
The latest and greatest hotels, resorts and unique stays to check into and check out right now. Gorgeous George, Cape Town Housed over two heritage Cape Town buildings (one Edwardian, the other dating to the 1920s), Gorgeous George definitely lives up to its bold moniker, with each of its 20 rooms and 12 suites exuding a sophisticated industrial chic vibe (thanks to the use of concrete and steel) softened with African influences, Delft-inspired ceramics and a colour palette of blues, whites and greens.   There’s a restaurant, bar and sexy rooftop pool terrace. [caption id="attachment_48875" align="alignnone" width="600"] Gorgeous George definitely lives up to its bold moniker[/caption] Market Street, Edinburgh Sandwiched between historic buildings in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Market Street’s sleek Brutalist facade (rendered in milky sandstone) instantly sets it apart within its surroundings.   Inside it’s more of the same: sleek interiors (designed by FG Stijl) with modernist furniture scattered throughout the 98 rooms and public areas including a Champagne lounge. The whole thing is tied back to its location with the unexpected use of traditional Scottish tartan. [caption id="attachment_48877" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll fine Market Street sandwiched between historic buildings in Edinburgh’s Old Town[/caption] The One Palácio da Anunciada, Lisbon Retrofitted into a 16th-century palace in the heart of Lisbon, each of The One Palácio da Anunciada’s 83 rooms and suites marries modern interiors with pretty flourishes of colour and texture. The light, elegant aesthetic also pervades its restaurant and bars; sitting under the ornate ceilings in the signature Condes Ericeira Restaurant (below) is worth the stay alone. [caption id="attachment_48878" align="alignnone" width="600"] Expect modern interiors with pretty flourishes of colour and texture[/caption] Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London Originally opened in 1902 (as the Hyde Park Hotel), the grand Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London’s well-heeled Knightsbridge district has reopened after a multi-million-pound renovation (and a headline-making blaze that broke out in June 2018 just one week after the completion of works).   The interiors have been luxuriously reimagined by designer Joyce Wang, with a subtle Asian influence running throughout. Every one of its 141 rooms and 40 jaw-dropping suites have been given a facelift, as have its restaurants and bars including the light and pretty Rosebery. [caption id="attachment_48876" align="alignnone" width="600"] Designer Joyce Wang heroes a subtle Asian influence running throughout[/caption] Kāmana Lakehouse, Queenstown, New Zealand Kāmana Lakehouse is the latest addition to Queenstown’s hotel offering. [caption id="attachment_47314" align="alignleft" width="600"] The beauty of the Kamana Lakehouse[/caption] Located high above Wakatipu Lake, the boutique property’s 73 rooms feature contemporary design (inspired by the Kāmana bird and its natural habitat) and luxe amenities, while the Living Space provides guests with a convivial social space complete with fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows with views to the lake and the surrounding mountains. LUX North Male Atoll, Maldives With bright jolts of colour that pop against the endless blue of sky and sea, LUX* North Male Atoll in the Maldives sets itself apart from other properties in this paradise. [caption id="attachment_47313" align="alignleft" width="600"] Walk the jetty at the new Lux Maldives[/caption] Its 67 two-storey residences sit on the beach or over water, each boasting a rooftop area, private pool and butler-style host. There are numerous restaurants, one overseen by the Maldives’ only Peruvian chef, Beach Rouge with its pool-club vibe, and an over-lagoon wellness spa. Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong Reflecting Phuket’s unique history and culture through its decor and guest experiences, the 180 spacious and vibrant rooms of Hotel Indigo mimic the area’s tropical location and buzzy nightlife. [caption id="attachment_47310" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take in the views at The Cloud rooftop swimming pool[/caption] There’s also a 24-hour fitness centre, authentic local dining experiences and a Muay Thai boxing ring with professional trainer on site. Four Seasons Bengaluru In the Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), Four Seasons has installed the 230-room Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru and Four Seasons Private Residences into the hospitality, retail and corporate Embassy ONE development. [caption id="attachment_47309" align="alignleft" width="600"] Outside the Four Seasons[/caption] Conveniently located 30 minutes from the airport and well connected to the CBD, the sleek hotel features a selection of dining options, a pool, lush botanic gardens and spa. Iraph Sui, Okinawa Located in Japan’s unique tropical paradise, the luxurious rooms of this boutique property all have balconies overlooking white-sand beaches, with several boasting private pools. Plus the spa incorporates local Okinawan ingredients. [caption id="attachment_47311" align="alignleft" width="600"] The pool at the Iraph Sui[/caption] Tengile River Lodge, South Africa Luxury safari and experiential travel company andBeyond has recently opened the brand new Tengile River Lodge, a luxurious lodge in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and boy is it magical. The nine-suite lodge offers a high level of exclusivity and sense of tranquillity with a contemporary bush design. Each of the suites features a private deck with a swimming pool, an outdoor lounge and a master bedroom that opens out onto a luxurious bathroom with an outdoor shower and views over the river. Built with an extremely light footprint, using sustainable construction materials and an environmentally friendly design, the lodge has also been cleverly positioned on a bend of the Sand River, so that each suite is nestled in the tree line along the riverfront and boasts a magnificent view out over the Sand River, an area inhabited by a world-renowned diversity of wildlife. The elegant design concept is based around blending luxury with the natural landscape and bringing the outdoors inside, drawing inspiration from the textures of the surrounding bush. Pullman Luang Prabang, Laos This new five-star resort is located 10 minutes away by car from Luang Prabang’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town. [caption id="attachment_44535" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Located in Luang Prabang, it is within 2.9 miles of Night Market and 3 miles of Mount Phousy[/caption]   Its 16 hectares encompass 123 modern guest rooms with large terraces, a two-bedroom villa and a healthy scattering of infinity pools and streams. The Pullman Luang Prabang is now the largest hotel in town, but its low-rise architecture – which draws on traditional Laotian influences – sees it blend in well with the surrounding natural landscape.   Guests can dine on international cuisine at L’Atelier and sink a cocktail overlooking paddy fields at the Junction. One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda   Promising a real once-in-a-lifetime experience, One&Only Nyungwe House sits within the dense Green Expanse of a tea plantation, next to Ancient Montane rainforest.   Wild experiences such as chimpanzee Trekking or walking among majestic mahogany trees allow guests to max out the incredible setting.   The 23 rooms and suites combine local African craftsmanship with a contemporary look and feel, Plus there’s a Spa that uses natural products from luxury brand Africology. FREIgeist Göttingen, Germany   Located in the historic university town of Göttingen, in Germany’s Lower Saxony, Hotel Freigeist is a relentlessly modern new build (and a member of Design Hotels) featuring 118 rooms.   The décor continues the theme, with wood and copper fittings throughout contrasted against a palette of grey bricks, neutrals and shots of blue, and Basquiat-inspired artwork.   The whole thing has a Nordic vibe (enhanced by the on-site sauna), but in Intuu, its signature restaurant, it’s Japanese/South AmericaN Fusion all the way. Omaanda, Namibia   Omaanda is nestled in the Namibian savannah in the heart of the Zannier private animal reserve. Its 9000-hectare footprint, which offers lashings of peace and quiet and natural beauty, houses 10 luxury huts inspired by traditional Owambo architecture.   Ambo Delights restaurant offers cuisine inspired by the best local produce, while the bar at the edge of the heated swimming pool has views over the savannah. The Shangai Edition    A perfect blend of old and new Shanghai, the 145-room Shanghai EDITION sees Nanjing Road’s 1929 Art Deco Shanghai Power Company building fused with a new-build skyscraper.   Its various food and drink options include star chef Jason Atherton’s HIYA (translated to ‘clouds in the sky’), a Japanese izakaya-inspired eatery on the 27th floor. Six Senses Maxwell, Singapore   The Six Senses group has had a busy year, having already opened properties in Singapore and Fiji; now comes Six Senses Maxwell.   A sister property to Six Senses Duxton, the wellness brand’s first city hotel, the 120-room property is also retrofitted into a historic Singapore colonial-style building and features Euro-chic interiors courtesy of French architect and designer Jacques Garcia. The Apurva Kempinski, Bali   The first Kempinski hotel to open in Bali is a suitably grand reflection of Balinese architecture and craftsmanship.   Situated in the Nusa Dua area of the island, the hotel boasts 475 rooms, suites and villas and all the requisite inclusions expected from the luxury brand, from five dining options to a 60-metre swimming pool to an ocean-facing spa and a cigar and shisha lounge.   It even has its own beachfront wedding chapels.  
Unmapped: Where luxury and adventure meet
Unmapped – the new name in small group tours– is taking intrepid travellers in their 30s and 40s to some of the world's most exciting destinations. Currently offering tours to Sri Lanka, Oman, Mexico, Bali and Komodo, and Morocco, with a maximum of 14 travellers on each tour, Unmapped gives you the opportunity to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations and make meaningful connections with fellow travellers at the same time. What can you expect on a tour? Unmapped promises action-packed adventure, incredible food experiences and luxe-boutique accommodation.   The key to Unmapped adventures is you; a community of people who want to embrace new experiences, smash their comfort zone and learn about different cultures – all with a group of people who could become friends for life. [caption id="attachment_48840" align="alignnone" width="600"] The indigo alleys of Chefchaouen.[/caption] Make memories in Morocco From the snowy peaks of the High Atlas Mountains to the rolling dunes of the Sahara Desert, Morocco is made for adventure. On this tour, starting in Casablanca, you’ll have the chance to explore some of Morocco’s most interesting towns and cities. Trip highlights - Meander through the souks and explore the beautiful Kasbah Oudaias in Rabat - Enjoy a home-cooked dinner with a local family in the blue city of Chefchaouen - Spend the night in a former palace located within the walls of Fes’ ancient medina - Hike to undiscovered waterfalls in the scenic Talassemtane National Park - Enjoy a sundowner at the best vantage point in Fes - Hike through Ifrane National Park in the Middle Atlas Mountains - Four-wheel-drive through the Sahara to a luxury desert camp - Take a camel ride to watch the sun rise above the dunes - Cycle through a labyrinth of palm and olive trees in Skoura’s palm grove - Take in the dramatic scenery as you travel through Morocco's highest pass, Tizi n'Tichka - Experience a traditional hammam and massage in one of Marrakech’s most luxurious spas [caption id="attachment_48841" align="alignnone" width="600"] World-renowned Moroccan cuisine.[/caption] Inclusions - 13 nights’ twin share accommodation, including one night in a luxury desert camp - Transport by air-conditioned minibus, 4WD and camel - 14 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners - All activity costs included - English-speaking local tour guide - Maximum 14 fellow travellers   Take advantage of Unmapped's exclusive offer for International Traveller readers. Quote code INTRAV to receive the special price of $3999 (usual price $4191). Unmapped's next Moroccan adventure departs 9 September.   To find out more, visit www.unmappedtravel.com, email letsgo@unmappedtravel.com or call us on +61 2 9286 8973.
Raising the bar: Bali’s hottest bars
Impossibly beautiful scenery, laidback vibes and an Indonesian twist on the art of aperitivo are all the ingredients necessary to make the bars in Bali enviable the world over. With the rattle of a Boston shaker and the melodic clink of ice, here are the best bars in Bali from Ubud to Uluwatu and beyond. Ubud A spiritual heartland, Ubud is the cultural centre for all things Balinese, but it also knows how to unwind. Appreciate flavours of the island at The Night Rooster Cocktail Bar. Here, drinks are prepared by local ‘alchemist’, Raka, using local ingredients and his homemade bitters.   To take in Ubud’s lush scenery, head to the rooftop at Copper Kitchen and Bar where views of Batukaru and Mt Agung will impress as you sip ethically sourced tipples under festooned lights. [caption id="attachment_48938" align="alignnone" width="600"] The trendy interiors at Copper Kitchen and Bar are almost as nice as the views.[/caption] Uluwatu On Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu’s dramatic cliffs are bejewelled with luxury resorts and villas. But you needn’t be a glamorous guest to enjoy the bar scene here.   Begin at Sundays Beach Club, where you can intersperse complete relaxation with bursts of energy. Glide onto the water from the club in a kayak and work up an appetite for your next stop: Cire at Alila Villas. Truly feel you’re at the end of the earth here as you gaze out to the horizon between sips of your cocktail. [caption id="attachment_48940" align="alignnone" width="600"] Enjoy panoramic ocean views and a tantalising menu at Cire at Alilia Villas.[/caption] Lombok Island Bali's neighbouring island is a surfer’s nirvana, but come ashore and you’ll find this island knows how to mix a good tipple. Start with the attention-seeking view at Aura Lounge and Bar, but tear your eyes away from the glittering vista of Selong Belanak beach long enough to order from their sustainably driven menu. [caption id="attachment_48942" align="alignnone" width="600"] Aura Lounge and Bar is South Lombok's best kept secret.[/caption] If you still haven’t had enough sea-gazing, settle in at The Kliff at Katamaran in Senggigi for sunset drinks. Prolong your session here with something from the fresh seafood grill. Canggu Bali’s hipster surf haven, Canggu is always down for a good time. Try boho art bar Ji Terrace by the Sea. With panoramic ocean views, it's a favourite of the design set. Named after a local break, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Old Man's. This colourful club has a focus on healthy, fresh flavours. Come evening, the place to party is cool, grungy surf-and-skate bar, Pretty Poison, complete with its own skate bowl. Seminyak This beachside-style enclave is a hot spot for sleek bars. A good start is Mrs Sippy, where the mantra is ‘sip, swim, sunbake, repeat’. [caption id="attachment_48943" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bali's largest saltwater pool haven, there's a reason Mrs Sippy is Seminyak's holiday hotspot.[/caption] For something a little more laid-back, head to Akademi Bar at Katamama. One for serious cocktail enthusiasts, this is more than a bar; it's also a classroom, where you can take tutelage in mixology and local ingredients.   To find out more or to plan your own bar-hopping adventure in Bali and beyond, visit indonesia.travel.
Hotel review: The Mulia, Nusa Dua, Bali
It’s one of Bali’s most luxurious beach resorts, complete with butler service and a Sunday brunch that’s the stuff of legends. So what’s it really like to stay at the Mulia in Nusa Dua? Danielle Norton checks in. Details The Mulia, Mulia Resort and Villas, Nusa Dua, Bali First impressions On arrival at The Mulia we’re greeted by a man proffering a bowl of frangipani flowers. He positions one behind each of our ears and then, as we cup our hands in prayer position, he pours frangipani scented oil into them. Rubbing our palms together, we step into the resort, our senses activated as we transition from the outside world to this new one.   At this 30-hectare property in Nusa Dua guests are far from the hectic crowds and bustling streets of Bali’s more tourist-oriented areas. Comprised of the Mulia Resort, the all-suite The Mulia, and the Mulia Villas, this property is refined and elegant, polished like a marble bust in a museum. In fact, it contains huge walls of rare blue marble and it’s the perfect place to escape from the world for a little while. We check in for two nights in the beachfront Earl Suite at The Mulia and two nights in the one-bedroom villa. [caption id="attachment_48257" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sweeping pool views will take your breath away.[/caption] The suites The Mulia suites are enormous, as is everything on the property. The rooms, the furniture, the grounds; all aspects of the hotel are grand. The suites are like mansions with a foyer, lounge room, powder room, bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and bathroom with separate toilet and shower. There’s also an outdoor balcony with a double day bed, a huge Jacuzzi and a breakfast table.   Sweet treats and fruit await guests in their rooms. After a long day of travelling, slipping into the Jacuzzi (run by one’s butler, of course!), eating macarons and contemplating the idyllic tropical beach and the garden lights twinkling below is just the ticket to refresh weary bones. [caption id="attachment_48246" align="alignnone" width="600"] The patio at the Earl Suite.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48247" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bathroom in The Earl Suite.[/caption] The villas One of five options villa options including the Mulia Mansion, the 500-square-metre one-bedroom villa is completely private and secure. Guests have their own personal swimming pool, an outdoor pavilion, manicured garden, and an enormous house in which to bathe, sleep and relax. The indoor Jacuzzi is in a glass room, surrounded by lush plants and opens onto an outdoor shower.   The suites and villas at the Mulia come with full butler service. The butlers are internationally trained and all are skilled enough to attend to a president or royal who may stay in one of the exclusive pads (for these you must request access and the price is upwards of $20,000 per night). [caption id="attachment_48248" align="alignnone" width="600"] Unwind in the Earl Suite.[/caption] The food Each of the five-star restaurants in the resort has an overflowing smorgasboard of cuisines to suit every palate.   Japanese restaurant Edogin has a ramen noodle station as well as a mountain of seafood, sushi, sashimi, rice balls, lobster tails. In the centre of the room stands a spotless teppanyaki grill. On surrounding ledges are plates of fish, clams, mussels, scallops, chicken and beef. Once guests make decisions about their desired ingredients, the fresh delicacies are cooked by highly trained chefs and delivered to their table.   At the ice-cream counter choose from green tea, white sesame, ginger, raspberry, chocolate or vanilla and ask the chef to cut it through on the large ice bench with lychees, strawberries, chocolate sprinkles, toasted flaked almonds, macadamias, sultanas, mango, granola or kiwi fruit. [caption id="attachment_48252" align="alignnone" width="600"] The rooftop at Sky Bar.[/caption] The Lounge Despite the enticing doughnut bar and collection of pastries, order one of two signature Mulia breakfasts: crab cakes with eggs Benedict, or wagyu beef on brioche, from the à la carte menu. Afternoon tea (either a selection of Indonesian sweet and savoury treats, or a classic European high tea of sandwiches and petit fours) is also served here. With a view straight out to the poolside regal statues for which the Mulia is famous, it is a stunning place to enjoy a meal. Indulge even further and choose something from the cocktail list. The Cafe This restaurant contains several mini restaurant kitchens. Guests can choose from Indian cuisine, Indonesian curries or noodles, Korean barbecue, Japanese sushi and much more. The pièce de résistance of this restaurant is the dessert room, which is, in fact, two rooms. One contains a spinning wheel of ice-cream flavours, decadent toppings as well as cookies, cakes and slices. The other has a fairy floss machine next to a coconut pancake cooking station, windows filled with doughnuts and racks of cookies to choose from. Table8 This Chinese restaurant has authentic, regional dishes, cooked to order. Honey-glazed pork, succulent roast duck, tofu, octopus, stir fries, dim sum, noodles and a selection of yoghurts and toppings to satisfy any craving. Try the oolong tea and watch, mesmerised, as the bud blossoms in the glass. [caption id="attachment_48249" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dramatic interiors at Table8.[/caption] Soleil The Sunday brunch buffet at this magnificent 230-seat restaurant is booked out weeks in advance. Always extravagant, there is an incredible array of delectable food displayed. Cheeses from around the world, an assortment of breads, and a dedicated vegetarian table piled high with spring rolls, salads, corn cakes, rice paper rolls and quiche co-exist with towers of oysters and prawns, platters of salmon, a carvery, curries, soups, mounds of cakes, slices, jellies, and even a chocolate fountain. Don’t miss the tortellini on the à la carte menu. There are also a range of bars to discover, including beachfront Sky Bar, which serves up a tapas menu alongside cocktails, spirits and wine. [caption id="attachment_48250" align="alignnone" width="600"] Soleil is the magnificent 230-seat restaurant where brunch is booked out weeks in advance.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48251" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous Soleil Sunday brunch.[/caption] Services Wellness/The Mulia Spa The Mulia Spa has 20 plush treatment rooms. Guests can choose from an extensive menu of facials, scrubs, massage styles and beauty services to create their perfect spa day. Therapists are trained to exacting standards and the massage and beauty treatments are world class. [caption id="attachment_48253" align="alignnone" width="600"] Guests can choose from an array of facials, scrubs, massage styles and beauty services.[/caption] All Spa Daymaker program options start with an hour of access to the hydrotonic pools. With distinct zones offering spa jets to different parts of the body, bathers move from cool to heated hydrotonic baths and back again, according to preference. From there they can enjoy the steam room and sauna before cooling off in the uber-cool ice room. Refrigerated to zero degrees, the room has the ambience of a futuristic science lab. The pile of ice on the centre dome, which guests can use to rub on aching muscles, glows as the lights change from pink, through to blue, then to green. [caption id="attachment_48254" align="alignnone" width="600"] The words Relax and The Mulia go hand in hand.[/caption] Pools Guests have access to six pools across the property; the Oasis Pool and the Aqua Pool are exclusive to guests of The Mulia and Mulia Villas. Resort guests can use the other four magnificent pools which all have poolside service. [caption id="attachment_48255" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take in a view of The Ocean pool.[/caption] Gym facilities The gym is a state-of-the-art facility open from 6am till 10pm. Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, water aerobics, core classes and a range of other balance and strength classes are available throughout the day. We start our mornings with yoga on the grass facing the ocean, listening to the waves rolling in. Kundalini and Hatha breathing techniques help us sink further into our poses as we practise. We stretch our limbs then work on our abs. By the end of the session, the sun is bright in the sky and we head to breakfast feeling energised knowing we have already completed a decent workout. [caption id="attachment_48256" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sweat at the state-of-the-art gym.[/caption] Children’s facilities Guests are able to bring a nanny into the resort to attend the fantastic Mulia Kidz club. Alternatively, your kids can be privately minded in their room and around the resort. Nearby activities/tours available: Tours can be arranged through butlers or the resort’s reception staff. We took a day trip to Ubud, only an hour away. The real Bali is not far from the luxurious paths and gardens of the Mulia, if you want to discover it. The IT Verdict: For privacy and exclusivity, the Mulia is a dream for travellers who want to fly in, enjoy the luxury of an international-standard resort, swim, eat well and jet home again. Location: 8/10 Beachside but out of town, the charm of this hotel is that there’s nothing else around. Style/character: 10/10 Every element, from the welcome chocolate treats, to the extravagant, plush decor, to the soft, spongy bath mats, is exquisite. Service: 10/10 Rooms: 10/10 Food and Drink:10/10 Value for Money: 9/10 Even though you get what you pay for at the Mulia (incredible service, accommodation and food), the prices are a little steep. Price: (per night) Mulia resort rooms start from $530, the Mulia suites start from $1049 and Mulia Villas start from $1370. Best thing The final touch is the butlers pushing our luggage trolleys to the airport check-in desk, then directing us to the immigration gate. From the first moment to the last, it is this kind of spectacular attention to detail that makes the Mulia so special. Getting there Chauffeur service from Denpasar airport.
Where to eat, stay and play in Brittany, France
Boasting Megalithic monuments, extensive, pink granite coastline and fortified cities, France’s north-west region of Brittany (or Bretagne to the French) is so diverse in landscape and rich in history that it is well worth a diversion from Paris. Saint-Malo Famous for its medieval ramparts that circle the city, and the narrow, cobbled streets within, Saint-Malo is the perfect place to explore during your French getaway. Dating back to the first century BC, this port city boasts a storied history of pirates, a ‘Mad War’ between the French and the Bretons before Brittany became part of France in 1532, and German occupation in the Second World War. If only these walls could talk. [caption id="attachment_48130" align="alignnone" width="600"] Grand Rue in Mont Saint Michele[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48128" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beauty of Le Mont Saint Michel[/caption] Where to eat Le Cambusier and Maison Hector Being a coastal town that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Saint-Malo has no shortage of fresh seafood. Head to family-run Le Cambusier to try the best of coastal French cuisine, with a menu boasting dishes like fresh sea bream fillet in seaweed butter with creamy artichokes and pan-fried scallops, with fettuccine and maple syrup.   Address: 6 rue des Cordiers, Saint-Malo Maison Hector, Gaufrerie et Sandwicherie Head here for a sweet treat. It serves an amazing range of crepes, ice-cream and doughnuts, but of all the incredible desserts at this tiny establishment, the Nutella doughnut takes the cake. Do not leave Saint-Malo without trying one, but please do grab a napkin on your way out.   Address: 11 rue Porcon de la Barbinais, Saint-Malo Where to stay La Maison des Armateurs La Maison des Armateurs is one of few hotels located within Saint-Malo’s fortifications. Situated in a traditional building, but will full modern amenities (think granite exterior with lush velvet interiors), you can immerse yourself in the history of the city while staying in luxury.   Rates start at $140 per night.   Address: 6 Grand rue, 35400 Saint-Malo [caption id="attachment_48126" align="alignnone" width="600"] Saint Malo[/caption] Where to play Mont Saint-Michel Although there are plenty of things to see and do within the walled city, an hour’s drive from the centre will land you at the foot of one of France’s most historic, and awe-inspiring, monuments. Located on an island just off the north coast – and technically in Normandy, Brittany's neighbouring region – the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel was built as a tribute to the Archangel Michael in the eighth century, and has served as a perfectly preserved religious monument ever since.   From a distance, the spires of the abbey – which has housed knights, monks and paupers for centuries – can be seen looming over the city.   You can choose from several tours while in this small medieval town, but the best investment is in a ticket to the top of the abbey. Setting you back €10 per adult, the ticket allows you to make your way to its summit, exploring its history and taking advantage of the views across the marshlands below.   If you make it early enough in the morning you can witness the monks in song, as they participate in the morning vespers service. [caption id="attachment_48129" align="alignnone" width="600"] The courtyard of Mont Saint-Michel abbey[/caption] Rennes The capital city of Brittany, Rennes is a cobbled-street city with impressive open squares, period buildings and great boutique shopping. History buffs will also want to explore the nearby mythical forest of King Arthur while in Rennes. [caption id="attachment_48152" align="alignnone" width="600"] Rennes Saint Peter Cathedral[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48151" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beauty of Rennes[/caption] Where to eat La Saint-Georges creperie Breton crepes are arguably the tastiest in all of France and are best eaten at La Saint-Georges creperie. Make your selection from the novelty menu theme of famous Georges throughout history. You can order a George Clooney, served with spinach, tomato, basil, goat’s cheese and scoop of cucumber sorbet, or the George Michael, with ham, cheese and button mushroom, among many others.   This creperie is also one of the finest furnished restaurants in Rennes, with green velvet chairs, a fireplace and black walls reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy.   Address: 11 rue du Chapitre [caption id="attachment_48150" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through Renne's cobblestone streets[/caption] Where to stay Balthazar Hôtel & Spa Rennes – MGallery by Sofitel A culmination of modern and vintage design, this five-star hotel is the perfect place to base yourself when in Rennes. Located in the city centre, the Balthazar has spa facilities, crisp decor and a rooftop patio overlooking the city. The underground pool, a luminous blue, is an oasis of quiet.   When you’ve finished up your swim, why not go and relax in the sauna?   Rates start at $281 per night.   Address: 9 rue Maréchal Joffre [caption id="attachment_48149" align="alignnone" width="600"] The mighty cathedral[/caption] Where to play King Arthur’s Forest Head 30 kilometres west of Renne to explore King Arthur’s Forest: the mythical woodlands of Brocéliande, today known as Paimpont Forest, where many scenes from Arthurian legend played out. In the forest you’ll find the historic Château de Comper, which houses the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien. [caption id="attachment_48154" align="alignnone" width="600"] Intricate windows at château de Comper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48153" align="alignnone" width="600"] Brooding mystery at King Arthur's Forest[/caption] Between March and October, the centre hosts exhibits exploring the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot, the wizard Merlin and Vivien, Lady of the Lake. A ticket will set you back $11 per adult.   After a tour through the castle, consider a meander through the forest. Head to the Valley Without Return, where King Arthur’s half-sister and sorceress Morgan Le Fay, is said to have banished unfaithful lovers, or to the Tomb of Merlin, where the wizard is said to be buried.   Signs and information posts are scattered all throughout the forest, making the experience an educational as well as mystical one. Dinan Another small historic town, Dinan boasts the title of the most well-preserved small town in Brittany, with a warren of streets hosting local craft shops, bakeries and boutiques. The buildings – some dating to the 13th-century – are divided by a river, lined with waterside restaurants. [caption id="attachment_48141" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dinan streets appear frozen in time[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48142" align="alignnone" width="600"] Building facade[/caption] Where to eat Chez Odette Bongrain Situated directly on the river La Rance, in a medieval, exposed beam and clay establishment, Chez Odette Bongrain is a testament to French cuisine. With cream and herbed mussels, doused in white wine and Champagne tossed salad with goat’s cheese and baguette, both tradition and imagination are used in the creation of dishes.   Head to 9 rue du Quai for the best meal in Dinan, but make sure you book in advance. [caption id="attachment_48135" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cobblestoned street in Dinan[/caption] Where to stay Hôtel Arvor Dinan This hotel, formerly a convent, has a history of its own. With polished stone walls, period interior and attention to detail (please take note of the gorgeous key cabinet in the concierge), this hotel is perfect for any visitor wanting to fully immerse themselves in the history and culture of this medieval town. Great service and even better location.   Rates start at €134 euros per night in peak season, and €84 in low season.   Address: 5 rue Auguste Pavie   [caption id="attachment_48137" align="alignnone" width="600"] Your bed awaits...[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48136" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beautiful facade[/caption] Where to play Dinan Castle and the streets of the old town Head to Dinan Castle, and walk the 13th-century ramparts or explore the streets of the old town, soaking in the medieval, half-timber, half-clay homes with thatched rooves. If you are lucky enough to be travelling through Dinan in July, the town is host to a medieval festival. Residents and visitors dress in costume and stalls line the ramparts. Beware though, Dinan in summer gets very hot (especially under layers of period costume).   [caption id="attachment_48139" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Dinan castle[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48138" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through the medieval old town[/caption] Carnac Renowned for its megalithic stones of the same name, Carnac is another glorious beach town that is a must-see on your trip to Brittany. [caption id="attachment_48145" align="alignnone" width="600"] The glorious beach town of Carnac[/caption] Where to eat Restaurant La Calypso La Calypso is one of the best places in Brittany to enjoy the pearl of the ocean, having been in the oyster business since 1880. Renowned as one of the best restaurants in the region, La Calypso boasts equally delicious stuffed scallops and grilled lobster, for those who aren’t fans of oysters.   Address: 158 rue du Po Where to stay Hôtel Les Salines de Thalazur Carnac Unlike the other towns in the Brittany region that offer period-centric accommodation, this hotel in Carnac screams modern. With all the modern amenities you’d expect and only a stone’s throw from the major attractions, Les Salines is a great place to centre yourself while in this glorious town.   Address: 2 Avenue de l'Atlantique Where to play The megalithic Carnac stones and Carnac-Villes Museum of Prehistory The 6000-year-old monuments known as the megalithic Carnac stones are not to be missed on a trip to Carnac. The story has it that the 3000 stones, almost all standing to attention in lines, were once a legion of Romans marching before they were frozen in time. Other stories suggest that the Neolithic people used the stones to map the stars and to decide when to plant and when to harvest their crops. [caption id="attachment_48144" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Megalithic Stones of Carnac[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48143" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through the French fields[/caption] Regardless of the purpose of the stones (which is still disputed) the Carnac stones are a magical monument worthy of a half-day of exploration.   To complement your trip to the megalithic stones, and to learn more about them, head over to the Museum of Prehistory – an authentic experience that’s well worth the $11 entry fee. Saint-Cast-le-Guildo Saint Cast, another coastal town in the north of Brittany, is the perfect place to settle in for a romantic getaway. With a quiet, local ambience, it’s arguably the region’s most relaxing holiday destination. Where to eat Bar Restaurant Le KNell’s Being a quiet local town to the west of Saint-Malo, food in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo is authentically French.   Le KNell’s, a restaurant and bar directly on the beach, offers the world’s best mussels in a pot of white wine and cream sauce. Enjoy your dish as you sit on the sand, looking out to beach Pen Guen.   Address: 40 Avenue de Pen Guen Where to stay Airbnb it Make the most of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo’s enviable coastal location by finding an Airbnb property to call your own right on the beach.   ‘Maison Familiale avec Vue Splendide sur la Mer’ is a beautiful old house perched on a hill above Pen Guen beach. It is spread over three floors and, with the capacity to sleep 10 people, offers great value for money with rates starting at $280 per night. Complete with its own rose garden and just a half-minute walk to the sea, you might find you’ll never want to leave. Where to play Surrounding beaches and Fort La Latte Beaches are the main attraction at Saint-Cast-le-Guildo: head to Pen Guen beach or Pointe de la Garde and plonk yourself on the shore with a book and a picnic.   If you’re up for a bit of physical activity you can trek to Fort La Latte, also known as Château de la Roche Goyon, for another fortified building experience and history lesson. [caption id="attachment_48133" align="alignnone" width="600"] The ocean at Pointe de la Garde Guérin[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48134" align="alignnone" width="600"] Trek to Fort La Latte[/caption]
A first-timer’s guide to Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakech is undoubtedly one of the most mesmerising cities in the world, filled with sights, scents and colour. Work your way through its fascinating neighbourhoods, past its breathtaking architecture, sampling its culinary wonders and discovering its must-do attractions. Morocco’s fabled ‘Rose City’ is a mesmerising metropolis fringed by rolling desert, oasis-like palmeries and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.   Marrakech’s rich heritage dates back nearly a thousand years; what was once an old caravan town along the sub-Saharan trading routes flourished into one of the great cities of the Maghreb. Nowadays the blush-pink ramparts, soaring minarets and medieval-plan medina are a constant reminder of the imperial city’s storied past.   Artists, writers and musicians have long been seduced by Morocco’s ‘Jewel of the South’. Travellers find themselves entranced by the heady atmosphere, riot of colours and chaotic collision of Berber, Arabic and French cultures that lay the foundations of modern Marrakech. Design lovers will delight in the blend of ancient artistry and today’s thriving creative scene that makes up the very fabric of the city.   Iconic French fashion designer and former resident Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “A visit to Marrakech was a great shock to me. The city taught me colour”. Whilst the maze-like medina, with its tangle of alleyways and bustling souks might overwhelm the senses – one can just as easily find respite in the secret rose-scented gardens, the pools of palatial hotels and terrace cafes with sweeping views over rose-tinted rooftops, palm trees and Moorish architecture set against a bright blue sky.   So if you feel the allure of the exotic, chaotic and utterly enchanting Marrakech, here’s our guide to finding the magic among the mayhem. Getting there  Qatar Airways flies from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth to Marrakech via Doha and Casablanca. Best time to visit Avoid the scorching summer. Visit in spring (mid-March to May) when the roses are in bloom in Morocco, or enjoy a mild autumn (from September to November). Neighbourhoods The Medina This is the Marrakech conjured up in everyone’s imagination. Getting lost in the labyrinthine alleyways is all part of the experience. The 11th-century, UNESCO-listed old town is surrounded by 16 kilometres of rammed-earth walls. Once you venture inside one of the city’s grand gates it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. While the dusty, narrow backstreets are mostly for foot traffic, make way for pack-laden donkeys and buzzing motorcycles. [caption id="attachment_47539" align="alignleft" width="600"] Shopping for Berber rugs is a must in the souks.[/caption] The souks (markets) have barely changed in centuries. Souk Semmarine, the main artery that runs through the medina, is piled high with pottery, fabrics, carpets, leatherwork and antiques. As you delve deeper into the vibrant bazaar you’ll witness workmen noisily plying their trade in the blacksmith’s quarter, the dyers’ souk strung with richly coloured skeins of wool, stalls spilling over with leatherwork and handcrafted carpets as well as the Spice Square heavily perfumed with the scent of amber, musk and orange blossom.   You’ll probably hear the carnivalesque Djemaa el Fna before you see it (hint: follow the drumbeats and Gnawa music). It’s the pounding heart of the medina, brought to life at dusk as hundreds of makeshift stalls are spread across the historic square and locals gather for an evening out. Ville Nouvelle During the French protectorate in the 20th century, the ‘New Town’ was built adjacent to the medina. The wide boulevards lined with tangerine trees, European bistros and Art Deco buildings are in stark contrast to the old town.   The Gueliz district is the locale for high-end restaurants, expensive boutiques and numerous art galleries, whilst the upmarket Hivernage, on the western edge of the medina, is where you’ll find the ultra-luxe hotels such as La Mamounia and the Royal Mansour. Mellah The separate 15th-century quarter is where the Jewish community once resided. Remnants of its Jewish history are the Miaara Jewish Cemetery and a few remaining synagogues. Kasbah Bab Agnaou is one of the most impressive gateways into the old citadel. The medina’s southern district is known for its stately Saadian architecture and arty cafes. [caption id="attachment_47544" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals gather in the medieval walled city[/caption] What to do Sip mint tea overlooking Djemaa el Fna Secure yourself a spot on the terrace of Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier as the sun begins to set. Order a pot of Moroccan mint tea (a sweet amber-coloured tea made with fresh mint and sugar) and sit back to watch the open-air theatre unfold in the famous square below. [caption id="attachment_47549" align="alignleft" width="600"] Tea is served at Riad Yasmine[/caption] There’s a dizzying spectacle of soothsayers, snake charmers, magicians, fire-eaters, drumbeat dancers, airborne acrobats and mischievous monkeys performing tricks. Cooking Moroccan cuisine Learn how to make a tasty tagine, as well as other local favourites at La Maison Arabe’s cooking school. The half-day workshops are run by the historic riad, which was the first in Marrakech to open a restaurant for foreigners and entertained notable guests such as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Jackie Kennedy.   Your efforts will be rewarded at the end of class when you get to tuck into a feast of Moroccan flavours in the elegant dining room. The workshop costs around $88 per person. Hit up a Hammam A hammam (bathhouse) is a unique Moroccan cleansing and purifying ritual. For first timers, it’s advised to visit a hammam tailored to tourists. Splurge on a spa day at the splendid Royal Mansour, even if it’s just to see the other-worldly, white-laced interiors. Opt for the 75-minute signature treatment. [caption id="attachment_47547" align="alignleft" width="600"] The lush courtyard here is its crowning glory[/caption] Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech’s headline-grabbing attraction opened its doors in 2017. The museum is dedicated to the life and work of celebrated French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The building has a wow factor of its own – curvaceous lines, intricate lace-like brickwork, as well as an earthy terrazzo and terracotta facade. Berber Museum The small but fascinating museum located inside Jacques Majorelle’s former studio is a great introduction to Berber history and culture. The space exhibits over 600 Berber and North African objects collected by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. La Maison de la Photographie The former fondouk (merchant warehouse) has been repurposed into a gallery for vintage photography. Beautifully curated exhibitions showcase Morocco through the nostalgic lens of the past. Café Clock Located deep within the Kasbah district Café Clock is as much a cultural hub as it is a cafe. Events include hikayat (traditional storytelling) evenings and Berber-style music and dancing. If you do stop by for lunch, order the legendary camel burger. Secret Garden The recently renovated Le Jardin Secret has opened its doors to the public. It’s a true sanctuary in the Moussaine district of the medina. Find shade beneath the elaborate pavilion, take a stroll through the palatial grounds and admire the gardens brimming with lavender and fruit trees – olive, pomegranate, fig and date to name a few. There’s an admission fee of about $7 for the gardens. Jardin Majorelle The botanical oasis dreamt up by French painter Jacques Majorelle is a must-visit for fashionistas as the iconic blue villa later became the home of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The couple found inspiration in the dreamy setting, where whimsical grounds are bursting with vivid bougainvillea, bamboo pathways and lofty cacti. [caption id="attachment_47541" align="alignleft" width="600"] Inside the Jardin Majorelle, with its signature blue villa.[/caption] Beldi Country Club A charming hotel favoured by glamorous jet-setter types, Beldi Country Club is a mere 15 minutes away from the city centre on the outskirts of Marrakech. Here you’ll uncover an eco-chic paradise – a sprawling five-hectare retreat with swimming pools, ancient olive trees, rose gardens and a glorious greenhouse. Where to shop Travellers have no trouble parting with their dirhams in this city. After your first spin around the souks, you’re likely to have walked away with a Berber rug under your arm and a pair of butter-soft babouche (leather slippers) on your feet. Once you’ve exhausted the souks, here are some worthwhile retail alternatives. Leave room in your luggage. In fact, bring an empty suitcase! Souk Cherifa A hip galleria-style shopping spot with boutiques sandwiched among the traditional souks. The stores are located in Mouassine neighbourhood, a somewhat up-and-coming design district within the medina. [caption id="attachment_47542" align="alignleft" width="600"] Exploring the souks of the medina is a quintessential Marrakech experience[/caption] Chabi Chic It won’t surprise you to know that two very stylish Parisian women are behind this contemporary store in the heart of the medina; it sells pottery, tableware, decorative objects and fashion accessories. Mustapha Blaoui This long-standing emporium is a treasure trove of beautiful Moroccan pieces; from intricate lamps, quality carpets to larger furniture. La Maison ArtC A high-end boutique in Gueliz run by Israeli designer Artsi Ifrah who lives and works in Marrakech making one-of-a-kind pieces from vintage fabrics. Historical sites El Badi Palace Visit the scattered ruins of a Saadian sultan’s 16th-century palace. The grand scale of the complex hints at El Badi Palace’s former glory, meanwhile beauty can still be found in the shimmering pools and sunken gardens. [caption id="attachment_47543" align="alignleft" width="600"] The ruins of 16-century El Badi Palace[/caption] The Saadian Tombs Said to be the only remains of the Saadian dynasty that ruled over Marrakech during the golden age of 1524–1659. Impressively laid with Carrara marble and decorative plasterwork, the extravagantly embellished tombs were long forgotten until they were rediscovered in 1917. Romantic spots A riad is a centuries-old Moroccan mansion transformed into a guesthouse, typically with an interior courtyard. Marrakech is the mecca of Morocco’s hip riad scene, with hundreds of atmospheric and often very affordable lodgings in the heart of the ancient medina. Hidden behind nondescript doors, many riads vaunt lush gardens, idyllic pools and sun-soaked rooftop terraces. [caption id="attachment_47545" align="alignleft" width="600"] Riad Yasmine’s photogenic plunge pool[/caption] El Fenn This eye-catching riad is luxuriously outfitted by Vanessa Branson (sister of Richard Branson) and Howell James. El Fenn remains a perennial favourite for aesthetes as each corner of this exquisite guesthouse pops with jewel-like colours and contemporary art. L’Hôtel Marrakech The passion project of British designer Jasper Conran, where guests sleep in luxe salons, each with a four-poster bed. The swoon-worthy interiors recall the glamour of the 1930s and boast Conran’s own personal collection of antiques. Dar Kawa Talented Belgian tastemaker and textile designer Valérie Barkowski transformed her Marrakech residence (formerly a 17th-century townhouse) into an intimate guesthouse. A sophisticated monochrome palette of black and smoky-grey is set against a bright, white backdrop. Riad Yasmine If you don’t mind sharing the sun loungers with a few posing Instagram influencers, taking a dip in this picture-perfect plunge pool is one of the perks of staying at Riad Yasmine. Riad Secret Jardin As the name suggests this is a peaceful haven, cleverly concealed behind heavy cedar doors. It’s owned and run by former French fashion duo Cyrielle and Julien, and while the saffron-yellow tadelakt (plastered) walls, stucco arches and filigree balustrades all impress, it’s the lush courtyard that makes it truly special. [caption id="attachment_47546" align="alignleft" width="600"] On the roof at the peaceful haven of Riad Secret Jardin[/caption] Riad Mena & Beyond This six-room riad is a design-enthusiast’s dream, with individually bedecked rooms that combine mid-century minimalism with Moroccan style. Plus, it has Philippe Starck-designed bathrooms, a heated outdoor pool and a bougainvillea-draped courtyard. [caption id="attachment_47540" align="alignleft" width="600"] Tranquil spots are easy to find at Riad Mena & Beyond[/caption] Where to see architecture  Ben Youssef Madrasa This 14th-century masterpiece was once the largest Qur’anic school in North Africa. It remains one of the finest examples of Arabic architecture in Marrakech. Koutoubia Mosque While non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques in Morocco, you can admire the towering minaret from across the city and listen as the muezzin’s call to prayer echoes throughout the walls of the medina. [caption id="attachment_47538" align="alignleft" width="600"] The towering Koutoubia Mosque[/caption] La Bahia Palace The opulent 19th-century palace was once home to the harem of notorious vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed, with sumptuous rooms for his four wives and 24 concubines. Exceptional examples of Moroccan craftsmanship can be admired in the details here.
Couple looking out window of suite on river cruise in Europe
Europe Taster Cruises with Avalon Waterways
Europe: so far away, so much to do, and never enough time... so let Avalon Waterways take care of it for you. When planning a trip to this fascinating continent it’s hard to choose where to go and how to do it. Do you tick off the classic European destinations such as Paris, London and Rome or discover some of the lesser known cities and towns. Do you travel by train or plane? Do you join a bus tour? Do you hire a car? Or do you sit back and discover Europe from its rivers?   River cruising through Europe is one of the most majestic ways to explore this great continent. You experience different countries, cultures, languages and cuisines with complete ease – no need to tackle a map, board a plane, or pack and unpack your suitcase (as clichéd as it is, it’s the true beauty of cruising). As you travel along the mighty waterways considered the lifeblood of Europe, your suite window provides the frame for an ever-changing and fascinating landscape – hillside vineyards, ancient gorges, medieval towns, historic windmills, crumbling castles, half-timbered houses and more. It’s magical, but it’s not always an option for all travellers to Europe… until now. [caption id="attachment_47454" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sit back and relax as you cruise to your next destination.[/caption] Travellers who want to add a cruising component to their European holiday but are time poor – or simply don’t want to spend a week or more on board a ship –will love Avalon Waterways’ new short cruise options for 2020. The luxury river cruise company is the first in Europe to offer ‘taster’ cruises of three, four and six nights, catering to those who want to see Europe from a different perspective in a shorter time, as well as first-time cruisers who want to, ahem, test the waters and learn what river cruising is all about.   Despite being much shorter in length, Avalon Waterway’s new cruises still pack a punch when it comes to experiences. With many smaller towns and villages dotting Europe’s riverbanks and with most sailing done at night, there’s more time for sightseeing and less time spent getting from A to B – which, incidentally, is a delightfully scenic experience on board a river cruise anyway. So it’s a win-win all round. [caption id="attachment_47457" align="alignnone" width="600"] The serenity of cruising through Europe is second to none.[/caption] In just four days, you can experience Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, cruising from Vienna to the brilliant Hungarian city of Budapest on A Taste of the Danube. You will sail through the picturesque Wachau Valley with the choice to bike through its vineyards, take a tour of an 11th-century Benedictine abbey in Melk, stop in the 18th-century town of Bratislava and walk its cobblestoned streets, and enjoy an on board performance by local Slovakian musicians. [caption id="attachment_47455" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll along the Danube in your final stop in Budapest.[/caption] If you have five days, you can explore one of Europe’s most important rivers, the Rhine, on A Taste of the Rhine. Boarding in Amsterdam, you’ll visit the 2000-year-old city of Cologne, sample wine in the hilly town of Rudesheim, cruise through the picturesque Rhine Gorge, and choose to explore the Dutch countryside by bike.   While the six-day Heart of Germany cruises on the lesser discovered Main River and Main-Danube Canal, with optional visits to the historic rally grounds used by the Third Reich at Nuremburg, the old Bavarian town of Rothenburg, and a walk through the medieval town of Bamberg. [caption id="attachment_47456" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience the rich history and culture of quaint Bavarian towns.[/caption] Life on board Avalon Waterways’ ships is all about the balance of luxury and comfort. The cruise company is known for its spacious Panorama Suites, which are 30 per cent larger than most standard river ship staterooms and designed so all beds face the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. These windows open up to create open-air balconies, the only ones of their kind on Europe’s rivers. And life on the river banks is filled with fascinating experiences from walking tours through historic towns, to active excursions such as cycling and hiking, to immersive experiences such as an art class or chocolate making, to indulgent pursuits such as sampling regional delicacies and wine tasting. [caption id="attachment_47449" align="alignnone" width="600"] Discover vineyards on one of many shore excursions.[/caption] Even if you are travelling to Europe on a whirlwind, Avalon’s new taster cruises are the perfect addition to your holiday, allowing you to view this continent from a different perspective. And if you’re a first time cruiser, it’s the perfect way to discover the magic that is river cruising.   Book now Prices start from $1140 per person for A Taste of the Danube; from $2164 per person for A Taste of the Rhine; and from $2182 per person for The Heart of Germany. Book now for 2020 for the best deals on offer, which include savings of up to $6800 per couple on select Avalon Waterways cruises. For more information head to avalonwaterways.com.au P.S. Everything is included in your Avalon Waterways’ fare: all meals, which usually comprise of the regional cuisine you are travelling through and include local wine and beer at lunch and dinner, onboard activities and entertainment (such as wine appreciation, historic lectures and live music), land excursions led by local guides, as well as complimentary wi-fi, coffee and tea, L’Occitane bathroom products and access to the on board fitness centre and whirlpool.   Any questions, head on over to avalonwaterways.com.au
ili - the first handheld portable translator
The best travel gadgets for your next adventure
If you spend a lot of time travelling, firstly, you’ve come to the right place. And secondly, you will be well aware of the advantages travel gadgets can bring to any adventure you embark on. If you’re headed for a getaway, no trip is complete without a couple of digital accessories. Here are 10 of our favourite sidekicks to help make your journey as stress-free as possible. Victorinox Connex Collection – the luggage with a brain As a company that works in travel, you better believe we have tried and tested our fair share of suitcases. And we know better than anyone, a good one can make all the difference.   Enter, Victorinox.   If you aren't familiar with the innovative styling of this luggage brand, you're probably aware of some of their other incredible successful inventions – like, say, the Swiss army knife? [caption id="attachment_47224" align="alignleft" width="600"] Sleek suitcase style for every adventure[/caption] Like the knife, their range of Connex luggage is designed with the same level of finesse, utilising on high quality materials with a striking, linear design.   As the name Connex suggests, the hard and soft side cases are perfectly connected, allowing for customers to mix and match across the collection.   They are also available in 100% pure polycarbonate or polyester, both lightweight yet extremely strong.   And as far as state-of-the art components go, their extra-quiet wheels and integrated multi-tool for on-the-go charging of electronic devices is top of the range.   Imagine that, never running out of battery during your travels again!   Ili – to stop you getting lost in translation According to research conducted by Booking.com, two thirds of Aussies believe they’re wasting their holidays, citing language barriers as their biggest obstacle.   To help travellers overcome this, the website partnered with ili, a device that will make you think you’re living in an episode of Black Mirror.   ili is a hand-held translator that lets you speak English directly into its microphone and have your words translated into Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish. Not only is ili super-fast, giving you answers in as little as 0.2 seconds, but – and here’s the beauty of this device – it also requires zero internet connection.   Need directions in a foreign country? Unable to order food at a restaurant? Need to communicate with locals in lesser-known towns? ili can help you with that. Super Straps – to take the weight off your back For most travellers, carrying a heavy backpack all day is just an unfortunate reality – and so are the trips to the chiropractor that come as a result. That’s why Super Straps are the new necessity. The ergonomic design that retrofits to your backpack can lighten your load by up to 47 per cent, instantly relieving shoulder, back and neck tension when your bag gets heavy.   For those keen on facts and science, we got you. Super Straps work by creating an arc that helps distribute the weight of your backpack across five times its surface area. After attaching them, you pull on the cords to shift the entire weight closer to your spine. Your posture will thank you later. Slick Gadget glass screen protector Is there anything worse than a cracked phone screen? We think not. Investing in a glass screen protector is a basic necessity for all tech-savvy travellers.   This titanium armour and liquid glass screen protector from Slick Gadget creates a durable coating for your number one travel accessory. The device repels oil and water, plus it is antimicrobial, heat tolerant, flexible and breathable. It is also 500 times thinner than a human hair... Weird? Yes. Cool? Also yes.   Considering how much we rely on our phones these days, the assurance that comes with guaranteed screen protection basically pays for itself. Scrubba – the pocket-size washing machine When you’re a traveller, the key to looking like you have it all together (and haven’t spent the last two weeks running for planes and trains), is clean clothes. Enter Scrubba, the pocket-size washing machine. [caption id="attachment_42653" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Scrubba portable washing machine[/caption] The key to Scrubba is its unique design. The flexible internal washboard provides a machine quality wash in just minutes, making it the perfect accessory for busy travellers, outdoor adventurers and campers.   Described as a modern take on those old-fashioned washboards, it only takes Scrubba six steps to send your clothes from zero to hero. Simply fill, roll and clip, deflate, rub, rinse and dry. And you won’t throw your back out while doing it. PakMaster – keeps your clothes crease free Another key to looking like you have it all figured out, is when your clean clothes are also ironed.   The Pakmaster, created by Victorinox Travel Gear, is a clever and practical accessory designed for crease-resistant packing, and will save the day in any sartorial emergency. [caption id="attachment_42651" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Pakmaster helps keep your clothes crease free[/caption] The device ensures shirts, blouses, trousers, jackets and everything in between, arrives at your destination with almost no wrinkles. A board eases the task of folding, as the accessory opens flat for effortless positioning of garments. FixnZip – an instant zipper fixer This little tip is for all those times you’ve broken a zip, taken it to get fixed and thought ‘there’s got to be a better way!?’   The FixnZip is a replacement zipper slider that you can install sans tools or sewing. It works on a wide range of travel and outdoor recreation items including luggage, tents, duffle bags, dresses, pants, skirts, handbags and sleeping bags.   The device comes in three sizes: small, medium and large, and like a metal chameleon, each FixnZip has the ability to fit an array of different zippers. LOFO – the world’s first lost and found app When any app creates a solution to an old-world problem, you know it’s going to be a game-changer. Enter, LOFO: the first global centralised market place for people to find their lost items or pets.   In short, LOFO is a lost and found app, helping the 78,000 Australians that lose an item every day.   The intelligent active matching algorithm will match lost items with found ones based on the information provided: such as location, colour etc. With both the loser and the finder receiving an instant notification of the match.   Forgetful humans, rejoice! Quicksand Mat – for sand-free beach time While there is an array of things that can go right at the beach, there’s also an array of things that can go very wrong. And getting sand everywhere is definitely one of them.   By investing in a sand-free mat, like the Quicksand Mat, travellers can watch sand, dirt and dust disappear before their very eyes.   The double layer weave is made from 100 per cent PE fabric, making it perfect for both camping and the beach. It also comes complete with four schmick D-rings around the outer, allowing it to be firmly affixed to the ground.   And should you have a little too much fun on your mat, rest assured. They can be easily cleaned and dried. LuminAID solar-powered inflatable light When an item’s popularity stems from an appearance (and subsequent investment) on Shark Tank, you know it’s good.   For those who have better things to do than watch a business-themed reality TV show, allow me to introduce you to the LuminAID. Basically, this handy contraption exists as a solar-rechargeable light that inflates to diffuse light like a lantern. It’s perfect for camping, hiking, and all other times light is required.   When fully powered, the highly efficient battery can last for up to 16 hours on the low setting, and eight to 10 hours on high. It’s also waterproof, lightweight and extremely entertaining to look at. The Trtl Travel Pillow – for sweet dreams inflight If you’re reading this article, chances are you love to travel. But with an affinity for travel can come a lot of time attempting to sleep on planes. If you’re like us, and the idea of using inflatable and bean-filled pillows sends a shiver down your spine, you best keep reading.   The Trtl Pillow is the answer to all of your plane-sleeping-woes. Upon initial inspection, it looks like a neck brace, which features an H-shaped wire support system that can support your head during rest.   Not only is the Trtl a scientifically proven long-haul neck support pillow, but it is half the size of a traditional travel pillow, machine washable and can be easily attached to luggage. SteriPEN – a magic (water purifying) wand There are already plenty of food-related camping hacks that can come in very handy on the camping trail, but when it comes to water, it’s best not to take shortcuts.   The SteriPEN is the world’s leading manufacturer of ultraviolet, handheld water purifiers – and if you’re into H20 health – an extremely necessary investment.   The device charges by USB and when on a full battery, will treat up to 50 litres of water.   It’s also extremely simple to use: just put one end into the water you’re attempting to treat, swirl it around a few times and voilà. Safe drinking water for travel, outdoor recreation and home emergencies.
Where to eat and drink in Hong Kong
When it comes to food, there are not many places on Earth where the locals take more delight in the act of eating, or where they have so much choice of where to go, than Hong Kong; the pursuit of food is almost a national sport here. From one-star Michelin restaurants where a bowl of noodles costs just $3 to fine dining to rival anything in Europe to funky eateries where the locals indulge their love of flavour and design, it’s all on the table here. To eat:  More for less It is ridiculous how many Michelin-starred restaurants Hong Kong has, but the awarding of this culinary accolade need not imply that a meal is going to cost you through the nose. Hong Kong has a raft of local, no-frills restaurants in possession of one Michelin star or a Michelin recommendation (one star adjacent), where the food is wonderfully flavoursome and shockingly inexpensive. Tim Ho Wan You might have heard of this humble chain, who have a number of outlets in Hong Kong serving up some of the best dim sum you are likely to taste. The wait can be long, but it’s worth it for the pork buns alone. [caption id="attachment_46642" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Michelin Star Yum Cha at Tim Ho Wan[/caption] Tsim Chai Kee Expect steaming bowls of noodles and wontons: the broth is delicious, the noodles wonderfully chewy and the wontons plump and plentiful.   Where: Wellington Street, Central Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan Fried Buns A standing-only bolthole serving up pan-fried soup dumplings that are crispy on the bottom and filled with pork swimming in aromatic soup.   Where: Lyndhurst Terrace, Central Hidden gems Mrs Pound  There are restaurants and bars to be found down every alley in Hong Kong, but a true hidden gem is Mrs Pound in the Sheung Wan neighbourhood, a speakeasy hidden behind a lock shop. Inside there’s a street food inspired menu.   Where: 6 Pound Ln, Sheung Wan [caption id="attachment_46643" align="alignleft" width="600"] Laksa prawn dumplings at Mrs Pound (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Yat Lok A lowkey, unassuming joint that fits in among the many food haunts in Hong Kong Central. Line up for the roast goose – which garnered its reputation for its shatter crisp skin and delicious flavour.   [caption id="attachment_46644" align="alignleft" width="600"] Award winning goose at Yat Lok in central (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: 34-38 Stanley Street, Central Djibouti Remember that “open a restaurant in an alley trend”? Well, Hong Kong invented that. And one of the first was Djibouti. Even now, the restaurant/bar attracts a cool crowd attempting to get their hands on the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Come for the baba ganoush, stay for the lavender-based cocktails.   Where: Shop 1, G/F, 2 Landale Street, Wan Chai High end RyuGin It has long been a boasting opportunity for Hong Kong travellers to say they have enjoyed a meal at RyuGin. Located on the 101st floor of the ICC, Hong Kong’s tallest building, the modern Japanese restaurant offers lucky diners panoramic views of West Kowloon’s harbor and Hong Kong’s skylines. As for the food, Michelin star chef Seiji Yamamoto flies ingredients from Japan on the daily, with the ten-course Kaiseki meal earning the restaurant two Michelin stars.     Where: West Kowloon, Hong Kong L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon If it's French fare in small portions you're after, you'll feel right at home at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.   Located within The Landmark (HK's luxury shopping center), the restaurant is owned by legendary chef Joël Robuchon, who holds the most Michelin stars in the world.   Where: Shop 401, 15 Queen's Road Central, Central To drink: No matter what you choose to drink, there’s guaranteed to be an outlet close by dedicated to serving it up in style. Cupping Room Coffee culture is thriving in Hong Kong, where the locals like their brews served strong. Cupping Room has four cafes serving up its own beans roasted in Hong Kong. Filters Lane At Filters Lane in Central the young staff busy themselves creating the perfect cup of brewed coffee from the beans they have roasted in the New Territories or imported blends. Even the decaf is thick, dark and robust.   Where: 111 Caine Rd, Mid-level, Hong Kong Craftissimo If your taste runs more to beer, you are going to want to visit Craftissimo in Sheung Wan, a dedicated craft brews bottleshop, or search out Craft Brew & Co. that has craft beers on tap. [caption id="attachment_46645" align="alignleft" width="600"] Craftissimo for dedicated craft brews (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: Tai Ping Building, Shop D, G/F, Sheung Wan, 22-24A Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan
Beautiful Tahiti
Islands of Tahiti: what you don’t know will charm you
When it comes to French Polynesia, it’s often these little-known gems that captivate the seasoned traveller.  The Islands of Tahiti are pure perfection. Over-water bungalows might be synonymous with the Islands of Tahiti, but what do you say to renting your own private patch of pristine waterfront or pitching a tent in a lush camping ground? Dotted around some of the most spectacular parts of each island, campsites and Tahitian guesthouses (also referred to pensions or fares) gift visitors the opportunity to connect with locals and immerse themselves in traditional French Polynesia life. [caption id="attachment_46539" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Tahiti Islands has beach life down to a fine art.[/caption] Frolicking with whales is an everyday activity No visit to the Islands of Tahiti is complete with a mandatory cocktail-sipping-on-a-hammock session, or snorkelling vibrant coral reefs, but the adrenaline junkies among us need not miss out. Why not swim with pods of humpback whales in Moorea (in waters so rich with marine life you’ll feel like the bay leaf in ray and black-tip reef shark soup), hike the lava tubes of Tahiti and enjoy drift dives in Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass and Fakarava’s Tumakohua Pass?  Fist pump the air and repeat. [caption id="attachment_46540" align="alignnone" width="600"] Crystal clear views from above.[/caption] You can holiday on a shoestring Those without Swiss bank accounts can (and should) apply; budget-friendly accommodation, meals and activities are available on each of the islands – yes, even the fabled celebrity playground of Bora Bora. Close your eyes and picture roadside food trucks serving up the most decadent of crepes and super-fresh poisson cru, scenic island adventures courtesy of next-to-nix bicycle hire and those aforementioned campsites perfectly located by endless azure lagoon. As for those coral-fringed motus and beaches teeming with rainbow pops of tropical fish? The best things in life really are free. [caption id="attachment_46541" align="alignnone" width="600"] Unlike anywhere else.[/caption] You have a choice of festivals Whether you’re into cycling, running, tattoos or fashion, you can rest assured that somewhere, on one of the Tahiti’s stunning islands, there’s a festival that’s just right for you. Will you ink up at Tatau I Tahiti Tattonesia, take part in one of the Moorea Marathon or take a front row seat at Tahiti Fashion Week? The choice is yours – just don’t miss Heiva I Tahiti, the biggest cultural event on the calendar which engulfs the islands over a month-long celebration every July. There are 118 islands While there’s no denying the difficulty that is getting past the beauty of Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti, continue to push on through the vibrant lagoons and white sand patchwork (hardly the most taxing journey you’ll ever make), and your curiosity will be rewarded with a series of remote islands loaded with largely unknown experiences. [caption id="attachment_46542" align="alignnone" width="600"] Like an aquarium, without the glass.[/caption] Swim with migrating humpback whales and hike majestic peaks in Rurutu, zigzag up the flanks of an extinct mountain to reach the archaeological sites of Ua Huka and opt out of society entirely by renting a private island escape on Tikehau. This really is a ‘choose your own adventure’ holiday – Tahitian-style. [caption id="attachment_46544" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sneak peak![/caption] For books and further information, visit Tahiti Tourisme.
Azamara Pursuit Cruise Ship
7 reasons to take a trip aboard the Azamara Pursuit
Not your average mode of transportation between Ol’ Blighty and marvellous France, but as I learnt, climbing aboard the Azamara Pursuit is absolutely the best way to do it, and there are a few reasons why… It should be made clear before you read another word, that I, Olivia Mackinnon love cruising.   It’s in my DNA, you see. My parents actually met while working on board what they called, ‘The Love Boat’, but I suspect it was just a regular boat, with no links to TV cruising royalty whatsoever.   So for as long as I can remember, I have been wooed by the incredible grandness of cruise ships, and up until recently, I’d never been lucky enough to board one in the Azamara fleet.   The brand new Azamara Pursuit was setting off for her maiden voyage, and I had been invited on the two-night journey to experience all she had to offer… Grand is an understatement [caption id="attachment_46070" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Azamara Pursuit is grand in scale[/caption] Landing in London and then travelling to Southampton, UK, I was instantly desperate to climb aboard Azamara’s newest ship, Pursuit as soon as I clapped eyes on her. One of my favourite things to do aboard a ship is familiarise myself with the facilities: ‘Where is the restaurant, how far is my cabin from the pool, where is the spa?!’ I’m simply not satisfied until these questions are answered. However, aboard Pursuit I was enamoured with the luxury feel of the ship. The detail in every hand rail and piece of art. As a small-time cruiser, I simply didn’t feel worthy.   The common areas were furnished with incredible plush chairs, decorated with velvet trimmings and chic finishes, while the restaurant took the whole ‘white tablecloth’ dining experience to a new level with a sense of European style I haven’t ever seen on board a ship before. [caption id="attachment_46073" align="alignnone" width="600"] Spending time in the common areas was a joy thanks to this stunning and comfortable arrangement[/caption] The cabin The feeling of luxury was extended down the hall of the starboard side – as I’m sure it was on port side – and all the way inside my cabin. The bathrooms had more sink space than I was accustomed to. There was an established seating area, a roomy balcony and a beyond-comfortable bed. In fact, with the deluxe sheets combined with the gentle sway of Southampton’s River Itchen, I don’t know if I’ve ever slept so soundly.   I was particularly fond of the colour palette used in the cabins, a mix of moody greys, deep woods and a touch of blush. The marble finishes added a chic cherry to an already delectable cake.   Also, the shower pressure was near-normal – maybe even on par with what you’d get at home. Anyone who has ever cruised before will understand what a big deal that is. A Titanic experience, minus the tragedy What excited me about this trip was that I was going to get the chance to arrive in an entirely different country by the time I woke up in the morning. Yep, we were en route to Cherbourg, a port city in France where you could delight in both French naval history and quality croissants for the day. I also learned that this was the place the Titanic made its final stop on its fateful journey to America – but I tried not to focus on that as I disembarked. [caption id="attachment_46074" align="alignnone" width="600"] The furnishings were elegant, comfortable and luxurious[/caption] If that sounds appealing to you, visitors to Cherbourg are encouraged to visit Cité de la Mer, one of the port’s main tourist attractions, where you can find out more about the infamous ship’s final visit. The on (and off) board delicacies The Pursuit frequents many European ports during its varied itineraries, which means the food always complements your destinations. During my day in Cherbourg I was treated to fresh crepes, soft cheese, macarons and sparkling wine. I pretty much had to roll back to the ship. [caption id="attachment_46071" align="alignnone" width="600"] There are many sights to take in and they aren't all experienced from the ship's deck[/caption] Back on board, passengers celebrated the ship’s maiden voyage with a decadent oyster and Champagne buffet dinner. Chefs were ready and waiting at a personalised pasta station, ready to combine fettuccine with pesto, or spaghetti with carbonara sauce if your heart so desired. It’s differences like these that showcase the level of care – and luxury – you can expect to experience on board an Azamara ship – and from what I hear, the Pursuit’s elegance is certainly no exception to its sister ships: Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey. The pool Despite being August, the weather was a little cooler during our short cruise, and I’m almost certain that I was the only guest to brave the ship’s water amenities. I swam not only in the pool’s accompanying spa on the main deck, but also in the larger spa provided to guests before their scheduled treatment, as an indulgent precursor to what is already guaranteed to be a ‘cloud nine’ level of pampering.   Due to the lack of company in the spas, I felt there was more than ample room – my only gripe would be that they could be made a little warmer – however on a standard August day in Europe I imagine the cooler temperature would ordinarily be ideal. Destination Immersion experiences [caption id="attachment_46072" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just because you're on a cruise ship doesn't mean you don't get to experience the culture of the ports you travel to and from[/caption] The thing that makes the Azamara fleet different to regular luxury cruises is its desire to get passengers off the ship at port and truly immerse them in the activities and culture of that destination. This is what they call their ‘Destination Immersion’ programming.   For example, during my time in Cherbourg on the Pursuit’s maiden voyage, in addition to being treated to iconic French delicacies, we were also wowed by a side-splitting performance by a French dance ensemble. The short itinerary meant that while a full-day of exploration wasn’t an option, Azamara brought a taste of Cherbourg’s culture to us at port – and we loved every second of it.   Sailings with longer itineraries can expect even more incredible immersive experiences. From a three-day/two-night stargazing experience in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to exploring the inside of a volcano in Iceland, they somehow manage to make it about guaranteeing you have as great of a time off the ship as you will on board. They get around, a lot As of 2019, Azamara’s very first Melbourne departure will take place – and the list of destinations worked into their itineraries is longer than ever. This year, the ships will visit a record 250 ports across 69 countries with 94 overnight stays and 145 late-night stays – meaning you get the most out of the places you want to visit. Plus, this year marks the first visit to Alaska – yippee!

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