From ship to shore, and more, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield explores another week in travel
As you read this, I’m in Reykjavik, Iceland, preparing to fly home via Dublin — the quickest way to get back for final preparations for our Festival of Travel on Saturday, August 19.
I’ll have plenty of fresh-off-the-boat stories to tell at the University of Western Australia Club in Matilda Bay.
For I sailed here from Norway, stopping at the Faroe Islands, on the ship Viking Jupiter.
After exploring the fjords of Norway, we set off west, in the wake of the Vikings — a new, smaller, and welcomed Viking invasion of the Faroes on this ship of 920 travellers.
On both the crossing there and next leg, across the North Atlantic to Iceland, we had virtually mirror-glass seas — grey-green with a hint of pink.
The Viking Jupiter is Scandi-chic, with all sorts of elegant nooks and crannies. It takes up to 930 passengers (a really good size of ship), yet I can always find somewhere to sit quietly alone.
I am often on the top deck with no-one else in sight.
But, one of the things that I notice most are the carpets.
Possibly I can divide cruise ships into two categories — those with bad carpet designs and those with good. And there wouldn’t be many in the last category. Viking Jupiter most certainly is.
Our award-winning cruise writer Michael Ferrante will be presenting information sessions at the Festival of Travel. Choosing the right ship on the right itinerary is crucial (as I think we have with this voyage, on which I am joined by 29 readers). Michael, who is just back from a Hurtigruten voyage in Norway, will offer all sorts of advice.
Get your Festival of Travel ticket here. A ticket is $20 and that includes admission to the 15 sessions presented by the Travel team, continual presentations from the stage in the main exhibition hall, and the auditorium. Come and say hello. A reminder that it’s on Saturday, August 19, and we have guest number limits.
The council in Amsterdam has banned cruise ships from the city centre, in line with its commitment for sustainability, and to reduce visitor numbers. Twenty million people a year visit Amsterdam. Having promoted tourism for decades, the Dutch capital is now trying to limit visitor numbers.
The central cruise terminal on the River IJ, near Amsterdam’s main train station, will close.
Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova grew up in Sokolov, a small town in the Czech Republic. It is close to the border with Germany, two hours from Prague. Although Marketa moved to Prague on her own when she was 14 years old to train, it prompts me to mention highlights for visitors in Sokolov:
+ Sokolovsky Castle and Museum. There are 13 halls of exhibits, telling the story of the region and its mining history.
+ The Falconer’s Fountain. Until 1948, the town was called Falkenau an der Eger, named for Sebastian Wastl, a legendary falconer who founded the city. There is a stone statue of him with his dog.
Reader Lucinda Smith has sent me an email with the subject line “Doppelganger”. Lucinda writes: “We recently returned from a fabulous eight-week holiday to Italy, incorporating a sneak peek into Slovenia and Croatia. I took this photo of my husband Ian, as we walked up the helical ramp of Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, left. I feel he bears a striking resemblance to yourself, with his trademark hat. So much so, that we saw you regularly throughout our travels of Italy!”
Lucinda kindly adds: “I am an avid reader of the West Australian Travel section on Saturdays and have discovered and travelled to the many interesting holiday destinations in your articles.”
MEMORIES GOOD AND BAD
Reader Libby Maddern also kindly says she reads us “from cover to cover”. She writes in response to our recent story by Jo Stubbings on a bus trip in Japan. Libby says: “I agree with her comments regarding unexpected happenings making a memorable holiday. Our bus journey with friends Pete and Val took us to Cambodia and Vietnam.
“The Cambodian part of the journey was with a wonderful tour guide and went without any incident. Then came the Vietnam part — a bus full of senior Aussie folk was greeted by tour leader: ‘Gidday, how they hanging?’
“On tour, we stopped for a longer lunch than usual before we were to head to Ha Long Bay. On the return to the bus we realised we had been robbed — money, cameras and videos were gone. We went off to the police station to give statements, which were translated into Vietnamese, while chickens and a rooster kept us entertained for hours. The bus full of saddened Aussies rocked and rolled into the night, to the sway of a bus that seemed to have two gears. We loved Ha Long Bay and the tour. It surely was a memory that we will never forget.”
I’ve replied to Libby: “I never leave anything on a bus, anywhere, even when a driver says they are they are staying with it.”
BALI'S CHIC BISTRO
Restaurants seem to open just about every week in Bali. Bar Vera is among the latest. It is in the 11-room boutique Further Hotel in Pererenan, and serving European cuisine to up to 65 diners, using French technique on locally sourced ingredients. The owners say its inspiration comes from present-day Parisian wine bars and bistros. The name, Bar Vera, also pays tribute to the neighbourhood bistros of Europe. Vera is derived from Veritas — the virtue of truthfulness, which a spokesperson says is reflected in the place’s menu and service.
GOLD FOR VALUE
Great Southern is a scenic train journey along the east coast between Brisbane and Adelaide. Guests booking before September 15 are being offered a free three-night stay in Brisbane or Adelaide, with breakfast included, for guests travelling in “gold twin” between December 15 and February 5, 2024. It’s the icing on the cake of the all-inclusive Great Southern rail adventure, which has multi-course, regionally inspired cuisine, wines to match, and immersive off-train experiences in places such as the Grampians, Port Stephens, and Coffs Harbour. Prices are from $2595 per person in gold twin and $2475 per person in gold single.
Hear more about it at the Festival of Travel. The Journey Beyond team will be there with the details.
Remember our once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse of 2023? Well, the next one is on April 8, 2024, with its thin “path of totality” off the coast of Mexico. Yeah, go figure. Holland America Line is sailing the Koningsdam and Zaandam into position for the total eclipse and will have extra astronomy experts on board. Bill Prince, vice-president of entertainment for HAL, says: “We’re positioning our ships in the perfect location for guests to see the eclipse. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
For engaging travel close to home, expedition cruises in Papua New Guinea stand out for me — and yet, they are easy to get to and do. My pick is Coral Expeditions’ Forgotten Islands of PNG. There’s a return charter flight from Cairns, then 12 nights to remote islands and villages and World War II battlegrounds. It includes visiting Rabaul, Laughlan Atoll and the Trobriand Islands. It is from $9940 per person, twin share.