Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views 28 May 2024

Parisian Restaurant in Latin Quarter, Paris, France

Where do we go from here? Bringing you some of the best options for the rest of the year, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield surveys another week in Travel


As we approach the middle of the year, my mind is engaged with thinking “where do we go from here?” … as in, for the rest of 2024. I’m watching things smooth out — seeing tours that are not quite full, a few airline deals, and quite a few cruising deals coming through (ideal for the new generation of apartment-dwellers who can travel at short notice).


It’s good news that Rex airline yesterday announced it will start flying between Perth and Melbourne. It adds nearly 90,000 seats to the route, bringing competition to the airlines already flying it. Rex will fly a Boeing 737 five days a week, with fares on sale now for travel from June 28. Fares are from $299 each way in economy and $999 in business.


We are all living with increased costs, and that sharpens everyone’s thoughts about price and value. As I have written many times (over many years), they are different things. A price may be cheap, but the experience may be too. A small amount spent on having a bad time is surely a waste of money. Spending more for a truly memorable experience, will be better value. Surely. And in considering this balance, always pay careful attention to inclusions — if drinks, good activities and quality tours are included, that can really start to offset a higher price. Do the maths and you might be surprised.


On that very subject, MSC Cruises last week announced a deal through which guests can extend their cruise with an add-on package with an additional two or three-night accommodation before or after their cruise. This is coupled with a half-day city excursion. Ten of their ships are now offering this new program for summer 2024, across four destinations — Athens, Venice, Rome and Miami. This Stay and Cruise program can be a cost-effective way to turn a seven-night cruise into a nine or 10-night holiday.


In looking for value over the rest of the year, exchange rates aren’t a bad place to start — and the Australian dollar’s exchange rate for Japanese yen will mean that 2024 continues to be THE year for us to visit. It’s not so many years ago that a taxi from the airport to the centre of Tokyo cost about as much as a week in Bali, and for a long time, Japan was an expensive destination for us. But, as I write, a bottle of local beer in Japan might cost just under $3 and a good three-course meal for two at a decent restaurant not much more than $50. A monthly public transport pass to take visitors to all the sites they want to visit will be under $100.


APT Luxury Travel announced savings this week on tours in Japan, South Korea, India and Sri Lanka. There is up to $3600 per couple off selected tours leaving this year and in 2025. The offer ends on May 31, 2024, so call APT’s expert team on 1300 672 534.

A good example of their tours is Enchanting Japan, from Tokyo to Osaka. The 12-day tour, from $12,495 per person on land and rail, pulls together the highlights of Japan in real style. This is quality touring — a “value proposition”. It includes insights into the art of sushi making and a private dinner with a geisha, or one of their apprentices, a maiko.


The good people of Sri Lanka have been to some version of hell and back over recent years. Financially, the country faced unsustainable debt and a massive balance of payments crisis in 2022. The country’s GDP contracted by an estimated 8.7 per cent in 2022, and roughly a further three per cent in 2023, but is expected to return to positive growth in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund. The return of tourists is helping — and the exchange rate is helping that. Sri Lanka is an inexpensive destination for us. A local beer will be not much more than $2, an inexpensive meal in a restaurant could be $3, and a monthly public transport pass isn’t much more than $10.


My Bali launched a five-star, five-night package at Merusaka Nusa Dua, by Mengiat Beach, Bali, this week from $999 per person. (Adding up all the inclusions, I find it is actually worth well over $2000.) Apart from airfares, everything is pretty much done for you, from airport transfers to all-inclusive meals and drinks, and a 60-minute spa treatment. Merusaka Nusa Dua is in the heart of Nusa Dua, and has three-tiered swimming pools and the Spa by MERUSAKA, where treatments integrate a Balinese approach to wellness. There are seven restaurants and bars, with everything from classic Indonesian and Asian tapas to wood-fired pizza. Book by May 31, 2024, for select travel dates from now to March 31, 2025. Call 1300 332 254 or visit


Right now, it can feel a bit tough swapping Aussie dollars for US dollars, British pounds or Euro. I’m expecting to pay at least €5 ($8!) for a coffee in Paris (I’ll be there soon) — but do remember that the price will be lower if you drink it standing up at “the bar”, compared with ordering at a table. A €1 espresso at the bar could be €3 at a table. A latte or “flat white” will be more. (And both will be cheaper at a grocery store, where a flat white could be €2.) But, then, taking good coffee at a French cafe is, well, priceless. For brilliant craft cafe experiences, I suggest:

+ Coutume, on the Left Bank.

+ Cafe Kitsune hear the Palais Royal.

+ Used Book Cafe, in the Marais.

+ Le Peleton Cafe, also in the Marais, and walking distance to the Seine. They also run Bike About Tours.


As I’m sure you know, Paris is hosting this year’s Olympic Games and, interestingly, the Parisian venues are very much in the heart of the city. This is already throwing up challenges for visitors and the travel industry. This week Viking let travellers on a forthcoming Paris and the Heart of Normandy voyage know that, due to preparations for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, some central parts of the city will be inaccessible during their visit. That has prompted changes to the shore excursion program. A Viking spokesperson explains: “At this time, the included shore excursion Panoramic Paris, has been significantly impacted. In light of the situation, we have developed a revised excursion that balances the best aspects of the original while introducing opportunities to experience alternative sites in Paris.”


A thought — if a French cheese factory exploded, would there be nothing left but de brie? And is it true that the fanciest cheese in the world is Paris stilton?

I am looking forward to Paris sites, and avoiding parasites.