Home safe, and quickly turning his attention to the latest in cruising, visa tips for trips to China and Bali, and a celebration of Spring in the Swan Valley, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield surveys another week in Travel
HAPPY TO BE HOME
It’s good to be home. Many readers will know that I was in Marrakech and the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco when the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck. The hotel I was staying in swayed violently and I fled down five floors of stairs. A home in the old medina, which I had left an hour before, was damaged, as were villages in the mountains. I explain the lessons learnt in the following pages. My personal thanks to the many readers who contacted The West to inquire after my wellbeing — and that of my faithful suitcase, Casey. We got separated but, thanks to the Apple Airtag hidden in his innards, I watched him make his way home alone, from Marrakech to Casablanca, Doha and then Perth Airport. Resourceful little chap.
FAIR OLD DEMAND
There’s so much demand for travel in Egypt that on Wednesday, Viking announced additional Nile River sailings through to 2026. Viking’s 2024 Egypt season is nearly sold out and 2025 is selling well.
Some of the newly announced voyages will be on Viking’s newest Nile River ship, Viking Sobek — which won’t even debut until 2025. Viking Sobek can carry up to 82 guests in 41 staterooms. Sobek will be Viking’s sixth ship sailing the popular 12-day Pharaohs and Pyramids itinerary. Viking claims to be the only Western company to build, own and operate ships on the Nile.
The Pharaohs and Pyramids itinerary begins a three-night stay in Cairo, where travellers can visit the Great Pyramids of Giza. They then fly to Luxor, and the Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and board a Viking river ship for an eight-day round-trip cruise on the Nile, visiting the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens and the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings.
The strong demand has led to an early opening of bookings for Sobek’s inaugural season and for 2026 departure dates across the entire Nile River fleet. viking.com
Record-breaking response to new ship Icon of the Seas has prompted Royal Caribbean to open its seven-night voyages from Miami three months ahead of schedule. An insider says the cruise line had its single biggest booking day and highest volume booking week in its history when Icon was first revealed in October 2022. Royal Caribbean has released Icon’s 2025-2026 holidays to private island Perfect Day at CocoCay and new destinations Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, and San Juan in Puerto Rico. Bookings opened on September 13. RoyalCaribbean.com/Icon
APT Luxury Travel is really focused on solo travellers. For example, this week it announced there will be no solo supplement for all cabin categories on its Magnificent Europe river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. The all-inclusive trip is from $6995 per person. A spokesperson says: “Whether you love the independence, rediscovering yourself or meeting new people, travelling solo opens up a whole new world.” APT’s 13-day Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights trip is from $8995, with no solo supplement. Enchanting Japan is from $17,295. Phone 1300 672 534 or a travel agent.
SPAIN IN VIETNAM
Spanish hotel group Melia Hotels International has extensively renovated its first hotel in Vietnam, Melia Hanoi. The recently completed makeover includes renovating suites and an overhaul of the hotel’s restaurants. General manager Santiago Cabre says: “Given our Spanish roots, stellar cuisine and a just as impressive atmosphere to enjoy a meal or a drink are essential.” In the lobby, Garbo Bar draws inspiration from the golden era of 1950s Hollywood, with a gold and emerald green bar counter and classic cocktails. It also offers a selection of tapas and afternoon tea. Melia Hanoi’s all-day restaurant, Mosaico, has Mediterranean fare throughout the day and aims to have the best international breakfast buffet in the city. Expect delicate pastries baked in-house, Spanish Iberico ham and a juice bar.
Founded in 1956 in Majorca, Spain, Melia Hotels International has more than 380 hotels working or in the pipeline, in more than 40 countries.
On Wednesday Wendy Wu Tours confirmed it had reinstated China visa processing on behalf of its clients. It is the first time that the Chinese Visa Centre has granted this privilege to a touring company in Australia since 2018. An insider tells me it is an “exclusive arrangement”, brokered by Wendy Wu Tours in Sydney. It means that travellers no longer must make an appointment, travel in person and queue to lodge it. wendywutours.com.au
BALI MADE EASIER
Thousands of West Australians will head to Bali for the September school holidays, and Indonesia Institute founder Ross Taylor has this update on how to prepare for an easier arrival . . . Visa-on-Arrival All tourists from Australia need a Visa-on-Arrival (VoA). You can apply online before you leave Perth, but honestly it’s too complicated and doesn’t really save any time. A better idea is to put $55 per family member to one side.
When you arrive, head to the VoA counter, pay the fee (which is 500,000 rupiah or the equivalent of about $50 each) to the immigration officer. The VoA will be issued and be pasted into your passport.
Arrival form All arriving passengers must submit an arrivals card upon arrival. These cards are not given out on the aircraft, so a much better way is to go online two days before departure (search “arrivals forms Bali”) and you can complete the form and be given a QR code that can be swiped on arrival at the “smart check-through” counter. This will save additional queuing time.
Cash After collecting your luggage, exit and buy Indonesian rupiah, if you want, at the money changer. It’s safer to buy your local currency there and at a much better rate than at Perth Airport.
Card It’s also a good idea to take with you a spare debit card such as the WISE card and then keep your primary credit card locked away.
Taxi There is an official taxi counter just outside the terminal if you need one.
Homeward When you are heading home, try to get to the airport three hours before departure. It is quite common for it to take at least 90 minutes to get through immigration and check-in.
The West’s TV guru Clare Rigden has given me a tip. She’s pointed me towards the SBS series Paradise Kitchen Bali with Lauren Camilleri. Clare says: “I had a quick watch and it’s a sweet show.” Australian-Balinese chef and host Lauren leads the culinary journey through the island of her heritage. She left Australia when she was 18 to reconnect with Bali — and to make a difference. She is co-creator of Bali’s plant-based restaurant, Kynd. A 10-part series, each episode focuses on a specific ingredient, revealing old recipes and innovative techniques. Paradise Kitchen Bali with Lauren Camilleri premieres on Thursday, September 21 on SBS Food and SBS On Demand.
VALLEY IN SPRING
Entwined in the Swan Valley is on for three days from October 6 to 8. There are hands-on masterclasses and high teas, long lunches and dinners. Some examples:
Friday There is a Jazz and Tapas Fusion at Estate at Chapel Farm in Toodyay Road, Middle Swan. From 7pm to 11pm, tickets are from $65 to $85. Catherine Summers will provide the melody to match the tapas bits.
Saturday There are 21 events, including Swan Valley Sisters and Friends 6th Annual Market Day at 1715 Gnangara Road, Henley Brook. It is from 9am to 2pm and there is free entry. It’s a chance to buy jewellery, art, condiments, fresh produce and plants.
Sunday Bee Safari is at The House of Honey on Great Northern Highway, Herne Hill, from 9am to noon. For $120 for adults (children half-price), tour the hives, extract honey, see inside a working hive and pour your own jar of honey.
Tickets and more information at entwinedinthevalley.com.au