Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views 26 December 2023

Wedge Mountain Lodge & Spa.

Bringing you tastes, sounds, icons and openings, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield reviews another week in Travel


For Christmas in Canada we might have been baking cookies together. In Denmark, it might have been rice pudding with a touch of vanilla — and herring pickled and spiced with cinnamon, cloves and sandalwood. In Germany, there’s “stollen”, a fruit cake wrapped in marzipan. Yulecake in Norway, baklava in Greece, nougat in Spain, panettone in Italy. In Sicily, not cannelloni or cassata but buccellato — a fig and almond cake. In Iceland, we might expect a leg of lamb and “leaf bread” made from thin sheets of dough. In Finland, there’s a spiced swede bake (yes, swede, the root vegetable, which is boiled, mashed, mixed with cream, nutmeg and treacle, and baked). South Africans might indulge in malva pudding, a sponge cake with apricot jam. In Madagascar, there’s chicken and coconut stew, and lots of lychees.


Exploring Eden Books has some interesting cooking titles:

+In The Slow Road Cookbook ($44.95), Kirianna Poole shares lessons learnt travelling for five years with her husband and three kids in their vintage VW Kombi campervan. Poole had plenty of time to think up simple, hearty food that’s perfect for cooking while camping. Poole is also the author of The Small Kitchen Cook ($39.95).

+ Fire to Fork ($39.95) has more than 200 pages full of cooking tips, recipes and camp-oven cooking over the fire. It is the culmination of years of work by Harry Fisher, founder of Youtube and Instagram channels Fire To Fork.


I’ve heard polyphonic singing in Georgia (the country in the Caucasus), and it is haunting. The rich Georgian polyphonic tradition dates back to at least the 4th century, and lots of contemporary choirs specialise in sacred and folk songs.

World Expeditions now has a Singing and Walking in Georgia Adventure from September 10 to 22, 2024. Led by choir master Stuart Davis, there will be music, culture and visits to ancient villages, mountain ranges, glaciers and UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites.

Stuart, who has been a key part of the Sydney choir scene for many years, explains: “Music and singing is an immensely significant aspect of Georgian culture.”He says his companions can expect to be immersed in music and song. He will lead them through the cities of Tbilisi and Kutaisi, the ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe, and the Svaneti region. Under his expert guidance, they will participate in singing workshops with Ialoni ensemble and Didgori, learning the intricacies of Kakhetian traditional polyphonic songs.

The 13-day itinerary starts from $4790 per person (flights not included). and 1300 720 000.


The world’s greatest soccer player Lionel Messi is the official icon of new mega cruise ship Icon of the Seas. The Royal Caribbean International ship debuts in January 2024, with Leo at the exclusive naming celebration in Miami. He won the Ballon d’Or award eight times and was named TIME magazine’s 2023 Athlete of the Year when he joined Royal Caribbean partner and new Leagues Cup winner Inter Miami CF. He says Icon of the Seas has features designed for making memories.


Canstar’s 2023 Travel Insurance Star Ratings and Awards have laid bare not only the significant rise in the cost of cover, but also the impact of drinking alcohol while abroad.

+ The research shows the cost of insurance has risen by an average of 11 per cent — from $337 per policy in 2022 to $375 in 2023.

+ A Canstar spokesperson warns: “Travellers need to be aware that they could find themselves footing the bill if drinking in another country leads to a major medical event or any other form of loss.”

Canstar conducted more than 19,700 travel insurance quotes for 54 international and domestic insurance providers to determine six offering outstanding value to Australian travellers. They are:

+ International: InsureandGo, Tick Travel Insurance and World2Cover.

+ Domestic: Qantas and Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

+ Seniors: InsureandGo and Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

+ Cruise: Go Insurance and Qantas.

Canstar, founded in 1992, is a research agency which specialises in comparing brands.


Adrianus Warmenhoven, head of cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, is passing on this warning about hackers using stolen or hacked credit card details to buy plane tickets. They then offer the tickets for sale at prices that are “too good to be true” through phishing websites that may look legitimate, but aren’t. The victim pays for a fake ticket, the fraudsters send a booking confirmation, and the user only finds out about the scam when the time to travel comes. Adrianus says: “This scam is especially dangerous because it is so difficult to detect. Since the scammer is the initial buyer, they remain the point of contact for the official ticket seller, so the scammed traveller has no way of finding out that their booking was cancelled before they need to board the plane.”

These are the tips from the team at NordVPN:

+ If the price is too good to be true, it probably is fake.

+ Be careful with “last-minute” deals. Hackers always try to sell the tickets they bought with stolen money as soon as possible.

+ Learn to identify phishing websites. If you enter a suspicious website, inspect it for grammar mistakes, flashy ads, or poor design.

+ Buy your tickets from trusted distributors.

NordVPN is the VPN service provider, and used by millions of internet users worldwide. Connecting to the internet through VPN encryption guarantees privacy.


+ Wedge Mountain Lodge and Spa in Whistler (pictured at the top of the page) has opened in the heart of the top Canadian ski resort town north of Vancouver. But guests will need to carve out more than $50,000 a night in peak season and more than $25,000 a night in shoulder season. And there’s a three-night minimum stay. The purpose-built lodge is brainchild of the Holdsworth family. Keltie Holdsworth, part-owner and founder of the lodge, says: “Wedge Mountain Lodge is the realisation of the years of experience we’ve had hosting large groups in managed homes. We designed the property to mimic a European-style ski-chalet, but enhanced with modern design elements, added amenities and the personalised services of a luxury hotel.”

+ The first 40 rooms to be renovated at The JW Marriott Auckland, in New Zealand, will be open and ready to book early in 2024.

+ ParkRoyal Hotels and Resorts Serviced Suites Jakarta opens in January, 2024. In the Thamrin Nine complex, in Jakarta’s business and retail district, these long-stay suites blend modern accents with social spaces. There are 180 units in six suite categories, with one or two bedrooms. There’s a pool, gym, sauna and residents’ lounge. The opening coincides with Batik Air’s direct flights between Perth and Jakarta.


A new international cocktail festival is set to debut in South Africa in 2024. AJABU, in Cape Town and Johannesburg in March, is Africa’s first bi-annual international cocktail and spirits festival. It is curated by Colin Asare-Appiah and Mark Talbot Holmes. A spokesperson for AJABU says: “As interest in the cocktail and spirits industry continues to rise globally, Africa has been left out of the conversation and this festival aims to change that.”

PS Ajabu is a Swahili word meaning mystery. An okapi is a giraffid — a “zebra giraffe” or “forest giraffe”.