Friday, June 4, 2010

Airlines heat up Queenstown summer with more Aussie capacity

Queenstown gets another boost this summer with Australian airline Qantas announcing today (Friday) it would add an additional seven return services between Melbourne and the resort.

The news comes hot on the heels of Air New Zealand’s announcement last week that the national carrier was almost doubling its trans-Tasman seat capacity into the resort from December.

Destination Queenstown Chief Executive Tony Everitt says it’s fantastic to see such confidence in the resort from both Qantas and Air New Zealand.

“We’ve had great support from the airlines for this coming ski season and now the momentum will continue into the summer,” he says.

“Australia remains one of Destination Queenstown’s core marketing focuses as we promote the town as a premier four season lake and alpine resort. Queenstown offers an exciting short haul holiday proposition to the Australian visitor and with more direct air accessibility the appeal is even greater.”

Queenstown Airport Corporation Chief Executive Steve Sanderson says it’s obviously great news for Queenstown and the Lakes District region.

“We’re delighted with the additional capacity and look forward to some busy seasons of arrivals and departures from Australian travellers.”

Qantas’ additional weekly flights will operate from December 18 2010 until January 29 2011 and are on top of supplementary flights added to support demand throughout winter.

Air NZ will run an average of 4.5 flights a week during summer, up from 2.6 last year as well as 13 winter flights a week this season.

Pacific Blue operates two return services a week between Sydney and Queenstown during summer.

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Mt Cook Mackenzie snowfall bodes well for winter

A week of consistent snowfall in New Zealand’s Mt Cook Mackenzie region has created outstanding conditions for the launch of this year’s ski season.

Last Thursday (27 May), Mt Dobson had its biggest single dump of snow since 1986, reporting between 1m to 1.2m in the carpark alone. With a snow base of 130cm, it’s likely the mountain will open earlier than its scheduled 1 July launch date.

The recent snowfall also bodes well for Roundhill which is launching big mountain skiing this year. Roundhill has always been popular for its family-friendly beginner and intermediate runs but its new rope tow, the world’s longest and steepest, will now open up access to some of the biggest terrain in Australasia. Advanced skiers and riders will be able to experience the thrill of challenging big mountain terrain through the amazing steeps, chutes and big wide open spaces of The Two Thumb Range. Roundhill is scheduled to open on Saturday 3 July and has a snow base of approximately 1.2m.

Ohau ski field currently has 75cm on the upper mountain and final preparations are underway for opening day on Saturday 26 June. Its laidback, friendly atmosphere is particularly popular with southerners who often book a dinner, bed and breakfast package at Ohau Lodge and enjoy a great social day up the mountain. With mains power now running to the ski field, skiers and boarders will be able to check out snapshots of the mountain’s conditions every 10 minutes on Ohau’s website.

The snow tubing park at Alpine Springs is scheduled to reopen on 3 July and is bigger and better this year with a longer, wider, higher and faster state-of-the-art snow slope. The snow tubing slope is the perfect complement to the other popular activities in the Alpine Springs complex which houses outdoor hot pools, an international size ice skating, ice hockey and curling rink, and a boutique day spa.

Serious powderhounds can enjoy the ultimate in backcountry skiing and boarding with unique Southern Alps adventures like glacier skiing and heliskiing.

For guaranteed fresh tracks, deep powder and no queues, heliskiing is the ultimate exhilaration. The Mt Cook Mackenzie region is home to a number of heliskiing companies which provide exclusive access to some of New Zealand’s highest and most challenging terrain as well as stunning picture postcard scenery.

Small groups of intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders can also take an unforgettable journey down New Zealand's longest glacier with Southern Alps Guiding or Alpine Guides. At 27km long, the Tasman Glacier offers up plenty of opportunities to explore ice caves and seracs, amazing ice features sculpted by the elements.

The various backcountry adventures are scheduled to start on 1 July but are likely to be earlier due to fantastic snow conditions.

Destination Mt Cook Mackenzie General Manager Phil Brownie is delighted with the recent snowfall and says it was perfect timing.

“This has set us up to launch the season with a bang. The landscape is looking stunning and the snow has provided the ski areas with great coverage for opening. Hopefully we’re on track for a bumper winter season.”

For more information about winter holidays in the Mt Cook Mackenzie region visit

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Further special discounted rates at Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti

Enjoy some special discounted rates at the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti where you can enjoy the lush surroundings and beautiful ocean views, courtesy of Tahiti Vacations.

The Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti offers all the amenities expected of top Tahiti hotels, as well as warm island hospitality and a tranquil atmosphere, inviting guests to relax and unwind.

Free services available to guest include:

· 24hr access to business centre
· Daily cultural activities programme
· Twice weekly yoga lessons
· Kids Club for 4 – 14 years
· Free internet
· 24hr access to fitness centre
· Sauna

Currently through Tahiti Vacations the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti is offering a discount day use of $180 including tax from 10am to 6pm or 2pm to 10pm.

The Parisian breakfast, which includes French pastries and baguette, butter and spreads, a choice of fruit juice and a hot drink, is also currently being offered at a discounted rate of $24 including tax.

To take advantage of these special discounted rates or for more information, please contact:

Tahiti Vacations
Telephone: 0064 9 969 9562

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Celebrity chef set for encore performance at Millbrook Resort

One of New Zealand’s most celebrated chefs is set to send food lovers ‘wild’ with delight at this year’s American Express Queenstown Winter Festival.

The hugely successful ‘Millbrook and Brown’ show will return with an afternoon of gastronomic delights featuring a live cooking demonstration from renowned Kiwi chef Al Brown, who together with Steve Logan, owns the acclaimed Logan Brown restaurant in Wellington.

Back by popular demand after a previously twice sold-out show, Al will be starring on Monday 28 June from 12 noon at Millbrook Resort’s award-winning Clubhouse Restaurant for an encore performance.

Guests at ‘Millbrook and Brown’ will be treated to an afternoon filled with Al’s charming, witty and sometimes downright rude banter, top kitchen secrets and a four-course tasting menu superbly matched with Gibbston Valley wines.

With his unique and personable style, Al’s demonstrations have been described by previous attendees as an “absolute delight” and a festival highlight. Al, who is passionate about wild game and local seasonal produce, will present a menu that includes citrus-cured salmon gravlax with fresh wasabi panacotta, paua steak with cream of fennel and salsa verde, duck confit with kumara fondant, lentils and caramelised apple, finished off with a divine sticky date steam pudding with almond brittle semi-freddo.

Al’s individual and entertaining personality has won him great success and a huge following, particularly in his role on TVNZ’s Hunger for the Wild programme.

“It’s a real pleasure to be invited back to Millbrook and the 2010 festival,” he said.

“I’ve had a brilliant time over the last two years and I’m delighted to do it all again with another bunch of enthusiastic foodies. So if a leisurely afternoon by the fire eating terrific food washed down with exceptional wines appeals to your senses then come and join me at Millbrook.”

Tickets for this extraordinary event are $129 and can be purchased online at or by phoning 0800 FESTIVAL.

The American Express Queenstown Winter Festival is being held from 25 June to 4 July 2010, celebrating 36 years of winter fun with 10 days of totally outrageous and uniquely Queenstown events.

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Jane Austen’s Southampton ‘party pad’ re-launched as a Mercure hotel after major upgrade

The Southampton hotel where Jane Austen danced the night away for her 18th birthday has been re-launched as the Mercure Southampton Centre after the completion of a major refurbishment and upgrade.

It was in 1793 that Jane, her family and friends took over the “Assembly Room” at the then Dolphin Hotel to celebrate her birthday. Dancing was a great passion of the young Jane, and her 18th birthday soiree was the prelude to her attending balls in many of the great houses in Hampshire, and for these to be featured regularly in her novels.

Jane subsequently lived in Southampton between 1805-09, and visitors today can retrace her connection with the city and the surrounding Hampshire countryside through organised tours.

The Mercure is housed in a Grade II listed heritage building that has stood in the heart of Southampton since 1423, and the High Street hotel has survived Nazi bombers and architectural scars of modern development to be one of the city centre's most cherished landmarks.

Jane Austen’s legacy lives on in the hotel with the Jane Austen function suite, where she held her 18th birthday. The function space contains two striking bay windows, reported to be the largest in Britain, as well as two stone carved fireplaces, facing one another across the length of the room. The venue is capable of hosting dinners for up to 100, and is very popular for weddings.

The atmospheric 90-bedroom hotel is a significant addition to the Mercure network in the UK. Mercure hotels are known for their individuality, each with their own distinctive character. These range from city centre hotels to country manors in key provincial locations. Mercure Southampton Centre is the 33rd hotel to join the Mercure UK network.

The extensive refurbishment undertaken by Mercure has been sensitive to the historical qualities of the building, ensuring the hotel offers a modern and contemporary feel, whilst retaining its historic charm.

Jonathan Sheard, Director of Operations, Mercure UK and Ireland comments: “We are delighted to have been able to restore this well-known local hotel to its former glory. Its central location, close to Southampton’s main shopping areas and the historic harbour, will make Mercure Southampton Centre the natural choice for visitors to the city.”

Mercure General Manager, Neil Brailsford, added: “It’s great to see this local hotel come alive again after all the hard work. The age and history of the hotel makes it truly unique and we didn’t want to lose this during the refurbishment. The building is steeped in tradition and it was often visited by the timeless author, Jane Austen, hence our new Jane Austen suite.”

Mercure Southampton Centre Hotel also features the contemporary and stylish restaurant. Using locally sourced produce for its extensive menu, the restaurant caters for all tastes, making it perfect for business or pleasure. The menu is perfectly complemented by a selection of wines specially selected for Mercure hotels.

Rates start from GBP55 per night per room.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

New big mountain skiing experience gives Roundhill the edge

The world’s longest and steepest rope tow will open up access to some of the biggest terrain in Australasia at New Zealand’s Roundhill Ski Area this winter.

The ski area, located near Lake Tekapo in the South Island’s majestic Mt Cook Mackenzie region, has always been popular for its family-friendly beginner and intermediate runs but the new rope tow will now add advanced terrain to the mix.

At 1,473m long with a 626m vertical rise and top elevation of 2,133m, the Heritage Express Rope Tow triples Roundhill’s vertical and gives access to the amazing steeps, chutes and big wide open spaces of The Two Thumb Range.

Roundhill co-owner Christian Burtscher is thrilled with the development and says it will definitely add a whole new dimension for skiers and riders of all ages and abilities.

“Roundhill has always been popular with families and intermediate skiers because of its wide open spaces, relaxed vibe and all day sun but now we have a new area completely dedicated to giving more advanced skiers and riders the thrill of challenging big mountain terrain.

“This is completely unchartered territory for our diehard fans who come year after year. I can’t wait to see their faces after they’ve made their first tracks and got a taste of how amazing the terrain is.”

Heavy snowfalls last week, which saw Roundhill receive more than a metre of snow in four days, came at the perfect time according to Mr Burtscher.

“The entire ski area is blanketed. We’re averaging about 1.3 metres of snow on Roundhill itself and our new big mountain terrain is looking amazing. Snowmaking has begun on Roundhill, the rope tow will be completed this week and the staff are absolutely pumped and can’t wait to open.”

Roundhill’s excellent snow conditions are music to the ears of the Austrian, Canadian and Swiss Women’s Olympic ski teams who will be training there this year.

Roundhill ski area is scheduled to open on 3 July. Its ski area terrain is now Beginner 20%, Intermediate 45% and Advanced 35%. An adult day pass costs $70.

For more information visit

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Glacier exploration on ice for winter

One of New Zealand’s most unique tourist attractions has once again been put on ice for the winter season.

Glacier Explorers, the company that provides spectacular close encounter iceberg and glacier cruises on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake within the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, will resume operations when the lake thaws in late August.

The company’s three-hour Tasman boat cruises (90 minutes on the lake) are fast becoming a must-do activity for those who visit Aoraki Mount Cook. Passengers are not only able to cruise the icebergs but also receive spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and some of the best photographic opportunities in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and World Heritage Area.

Operations Manager Bede Ward says it’s been a great season and tourists and guides alike have been treated to some unforgettable moments.

“Earlier in the season, passengers aboard two Glacier Explorers boats witnessed a real show-stopper when ‘Taniwha’, our largest iceberg (400m long by 300m wide by 100m high) in the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, rolled over and split in two right before their eyes. It was absolutely amazing!”

This year Glacier Explorers introduced a third new boat to its operation which, combined with an existing nine-seater boat, now gives it a maximum capacity of 54 per trip.

Mr Ward says the increased capacity gives Glacier Explorers greater flexibility to cater to the increasing group market.

“Three years ago our core business was two trips a day but operations have now expanded to five trips a day and six in the peak eight weeks of the season,” he says.

“People want to see New Zealand’s longest glacier while they can and Glacier Explorers provides an awesome, up close experience.”

According to Mr Ward, new initiatives such as instant online confirmation through the company’s website and using Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo Tours as an alternative to Glacier Explorers in inclement weather have proved to be a success, especially for group tours.

“We bought Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo Tours last October and it’s the perfect complement to Glacier Explorers. It gives people more options, particularly when we get those 10% ‘weather’ days when Glacier Explorers can’t operate because of bad weather. It’s also a year-round rather than seasonal activity so is great for the winter months.”

For more information about Glacier Explorers visit

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Winter Specials at Exclusive Retreat

Pakiri Point Boutique Lodge – a new, exclusive retreat just 70 minutes North of Auckland is offering hugely reduced rates as a “Winter Indulgence Special”.

A two night indulgence package is only $499 per room including full breakfast service. A one night stay is $299 and also includes full breakfast service.

A “Pristine Luxury Winter Package” is also available with a variety of extras including golf, horse riding, champagne, fine dining and spa treatments.

Guests at Pakiri Point Lodge can relax fireside and enjoy the exceptional hospitality and culinary offerings at this cliff top location. With just five ocean facing suites, all guests experience the ultimate in tranquillity and luxury.

The region hosts a number of boutique wineries, artisan produce and crafts in and around Matakana which is only 15 minutes from Pakiri.

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In celebration of the Sex and the City 2 (SATC2) movie release nationwide, Adventure World is offering fans the chance to follow in the fabulous foursome’s Manolo-clad footsteps and experience the unique and exciting cultures of Abu Dhabi and Morocco.

Escape to the alluringly apt movie setting of Abu Dhabi and take a journey on a desert wildlife safari, relax in the lush oasis or live it up in the vibrant city. Discover the exotic setting of Morocco where filming of the movie actually took place and explore the charming culture and rich heritage of the land.

Adventure World is offering a number of SATC2 inspired packages to help fans of the flick take the stress out of planning, giving them freedom to create their own glamorous adventure.

Packages include:

“Essential Abu Dhabi Package” 3 Days/2 Nights from NZ$579pp*
Enjoy two nights accommodation at the three star Park Inn Yas Island. For an additional NZ$415 per person, upgrade to the five star luxury plus option at the Emirates Palace.
Package includes: breakfast daily, return airport transfer, sightseeing as specified, a welcome pack and the services of our local representative.
Activities include an exhilarating 4WD tour into the desert dunes with a visit to a camel camp and a traditional Arabian evening at a Bedu encampment.
*This exclusive two-night package is valid between 01 June and 31 October 2010.

“Anantara Desert Island Resort & Spa” 3 Days/2 Nights from NZ$1230pp*
Spend two nights at the five star luxury Anantara Desert Island Resort & Spa and embark on an unforgettable island escape in the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The island is a three hour journey from Abu Dhabi airport and is home to one of Abu Dhabi’s largest wildlife reserves - a haven to thousands of animals, a bird sanctuary and several million trees and plants. The resort has 64 luxuriously appointed air-conditioned rooms with TV, safe and mini-bar.
Package includes: breakfast, two on-site activities per day, meet and greet and return road transfers from/to Abu Dhabi airport.
Activities include wildlife viewing, guided game trail walks, kayaking, mountain biking, snorkelling and archery.
*This exclusive two-night package is valid between 01 June and 31 October 2010 and season surcharges apply.

“Essential Marrakech” 3 Days/2 Nights from NZ$428pp*
Head to Morocco and enjoy two nights in the heart of Marrakech at the Atlas Ansi Hotel.
Marrakech is the second oldest imperial city of Morocco and is known as the mecca for trade and crafts.
Package includes: a full day tour of Marrakech, meals as specified, return airport transfers and sightseeing as specified with an English speaking guide.
The Marrakech city tour includes visits to the Koutoubia, Badia and Baha Palaces, the Saadian Tombs, Dar Si Said Museum and finally Djemaa El Fna Place - the famous square in the medina renowned for its continuous hustle and bustle.
*This exclusive two-night package is valid between 01 June and 31 October 2010 and season surcharges apply.

For more special deals to Arabia, further information or to book any of the above packages, please call 0800 899 111 or visit

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Cathay Pacific Airways is featuring a variety of its “Cathay Pacific Signature Dishes” on flights this year, bringing authentic flavours from the airline's home city of Hong Kong to passengers from around the world.

From early this year, Cathay Pacific has been introducing, phase by phase, a selection of local Hong Kong favourites that are truly authentic in taste and appearance, including congee, hot pot rice, noodle soups and Chinese desserts. The signature dishes are being served in rotation throughout the year in First and Business Class cabins.

Eleven different types of home-style congee are being served for the first time in First and Business Class. Among the varieties on offer are braised preserved vegetable pork rib congee, shredded chicken with bean curd skin congee, and dried bonito and peanut congee.

The hot pot rice, offered in First Class, featured all the traditional elements of the dish including a crispy rice base and infused flavours from various toppings such as minced pork patty with mui choy vegetables, chicken and mushroom with Chinese sausage, and spareribs in black bean sauce.

Cathay Pacific’s renowned noodle soups, such as shui gow with rice vermicelli, shrimp wonton noodle, barbequed duck with lai fun noodle and beef brisket noodle, are also offered in First and Business Class. Traditionally prepared wonton and shui gow dumplings together with fresh soup stocks prepared with top-quality ingredients allow passengers to savour the authentic tastes of Hong Kong.

Chinese sweet soup desserts, freshly prepared in the flight kitchens, will be introduced on Cathay Pacific flights for the first time in August. Double boiled papaya with snow fungus sweet soup, lotus seed paste sweet soup, and green bean and rice dumpling sweet soup are a few of the desserts that will give passengers a taste of Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific Manager Catering Services Charles Grossrieder said: “As Hong Kong’s home carrier we are proud to serve the best of Hong Kong’s rich and diverse cuisine on our flights. Our aim is to provide a feeling of home for local passengers and at the same introduce new and exciting tastes to travellers from different parts of the world.”

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Take Your Mind, Body and Soul on a Pilgrimage Downunder this Winter!

Forget the cold and dreary days this season – escape to the sights and senses of an historic European adventure with a Camino de Santiago Downunder workshop.

Even more exciting, if you choose to travel the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in 2010, you will be a part of its Holy Year – which doesn’t recur for another eleven years!

Camino Downunder offers comprehensive workshops for Kiwis contemplating travelling the awesome Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Western Europe.

Also known as the Way of St. James, since its inception in the 9th Century the Camino de Santiago has become one of the most iconic and famous long distance walking tracks in Europe today. Those on the pilgrimage begin their route in France and finish at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.

Whenever St James's day (25 July) falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Holy or Jubilee Year – marking an opportunity to embark on the pilgrimage in one of its most revered years.

Travellers from across the globe are unified in their belief that the pilgrimage represents a unifying and humanizing experience for all those who walk it – irrespective of their religion, motives or culture. On the track, your mind body and soul will be enriched with awe-inspiring sights that will stay with you for years to come.

To give Kiwis a taste of what to expect from this once-in-a-lifetime journey, French and Spanish language teacher Marc Grossman brought his passion for the Camino de Santiago downunder. His classes and workshops – aptly named Camino Downunder – aim to communicate all facets and aspects of the pilgrimage to Australian and Kiwi audiences.

“While travelling on the route myself, I observed fellow Australian and Kiwi compatriots struggling with many issues including language barriers and difficulties understanding the policies, protocols and procedures of being a 21st century pilgrim,” says Grossman.

“Our mission is to comprehensively prepare all participants irrespective of age to successfully and confidently undertake their greatest long distance walking journey, whilst armed with deep knowledge and insights about the Camino.”

The Camino Downunder workshops help potential travellers prepare, understand and appreciate the universal pull and attraction of the life-changing experience that is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

Workshop attendees learn how to navigate along the Camino, successfully move between and among cultures (including specialised Spanish vocabulary and verbal expressions), as well as learning the history and exquisite environment of the region. Workshops also help travellers to better understand how the registration system works including the $30-$50 -a-day living costs (accommodation, utilities, food and ablutions).

Grossman’s workshops will take place in Auckland and Queenstown. The Auckland workshop will be held on Saturday 3rd July 2010 at the Parnell Trust, Jubilee Building, 545 Parnell Road, Parnell. The Queenstown workshop will be held on Saturday 10th July 2010 at Rydges Lakeland Resort, 38-54 Lake Esplanade. Workshops cost $175 per person, or $300 for couples. Registration begins at 8.30AM for a 9AM start and 5PM finish.

For more information visit

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Recycling Scheme Turns Mobile Phones Into Money

Mobile phone users will be paid for their old and unwanted handsets as part of an innovative New Zealand-first mobile phone recycling and recovery scheme. aims to fully recycle as many mobile phones as possible within New Zealand, and give corporations and individuals the chance to put extra money in their pockets and help the environment too.

The phones recycled within New Zealand will be on-sold to emerging and developing nations including India, Russia, South America and China.

“There are around 1.8 million unused mobile phones gathering dust in cupboards and drawers within New Zealand alone,” says director John Wilson.

“ encourages both individuals and businesses to send in their old mobiles for recycling and eventual sale to emerging and developing countries experiencing high demand for mobile phones.

“Kiwis will be able to help stop inappropriate and dangerous waste ending up in landfills and provide developing countries with affordable access to mobile phones, and at the same time make cash,” says Wilson.

The website offers a step-by-step guide to recycling mobiles for cash.

Mobile phone users will be asked to input their mobile make and model before grading their phone from ‘A’ (as new condition) down to a ‘D’ (poor condition, i.e. major scratching and missing battery or back cover).

Users will be given a price based on their input. Prices start from $1 for old phones and go up to $512 and payment will be made within five working days.

“When receives an order and it meets our terms and conditions, customers receive a payment direct to their bank account,” says Wilson.

Phones beyond repair will be used for parts and the company aims to recycle 75 per cent of all phones received.

Any surplus product not returned to a working category is stripped for parts to assist the correction of future faulty products.

“Handsets contain a number of hazardous components such as plastics, cadmium, lead and mercury in the batteries which are potential environmental threats if they are just thrown away rather than recycled,” says Wilson.

Users will be asked to remove old SIM or memory cards, as well as any existing data stored on the handset, before sending their phones to

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Toast Martinborough Wine Food & Music Festival

Now in its 19th year, Toast Martinborough is the annual showcase of quality wine produced in the award winning region.

Held on the third Sunday in November, the festival sees the population of the small Wairarapa town swell tenfold as wine and food lovers from throughout the country and internationally come to celebrate the release of the new vintage and enjoy New Zealand’s premium wine, food and music festival.

Each of the participating vineyards features a selection of new and limited release wines superbly matched to culinary delights from Wellington and the Wairarapa’s top restaurants, and accompanied by some of New Zealand’s finest live entertainment.

With most of the largely boutique vineyards located within walking distance of each other, the festival provides a unique opportunity to sample some of the world’s best wines within a charming wine village atmosphere.

Tickets on sale 6 October through Ticketek. Alternatively, join Friends of Martinborough for preferential booking options.

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Indonesia’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia, today took the first step in rebuilding its long-haul international network with the launch of a new daily service from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Dubai. Amsterdam is the first of several major European destinations which Garuda Indonesia intends to add to its fast-growing network over the next four years, including Frankfurt, London, Paris and Rome.

Garuda Indonesia’s re-entry into Amsterdam, after an absence of almost six years, marks a significant step forward in the airline’s global expansion strategy and its transformation into one of Asia’s most successful and profitable airlines. The new Jakarta-Amsterdam service provides passengers with greater connectivity and convenience and the choice of an alternative gateway between Asia and Europe. Garuda Indonesia becomes the first Indonesian airline to reopen flights to Europe after the European Union’s (E.U) ban prohibiting Indonesian carriers from operating in European airspace was lifted in July last year.

“Europe will play an integral role in our five-year ‘Quantum Leap’ strategy which includes growing our international network as well as developing new concepts for both business and leisure travel. Establishing a strong presence in Amsterdam and the rest of Europe is an important element in meeting these growth targets,” said Emirsyah Satar, President and CEO, Garuda Indonesia.

“We’re also planning to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) before the end of this year and our return to Europe is pivotal in determining the success of the IPO. We want to raise approximately US$300 million to support these long-term growth plans”, added Satar.

The daily service operates from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport using the airline’s technically advanced 222-seater Airbus A330-200 aircraft with a two-class configuration - carrying 36 passengers in Executive Class and 186 in Economy Class. In Executive Class the aircraft offers fully reclining flat bed seats with 74 inch seat pitch. The aircraft also features individual touch-screen LCD screens in all classes; state-of-art in-flight entertainment systems with touch-screen Audio & Video On Demand (AVOD) delivering a choice of 25 feature films, 250 audio tracks and 25 video games.

“We are honoured that Garuda Indonesia selected Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to be the first airport to re-open connections to Europe. We are very delighted to have Garuda Indonesia back with this new daily service between Jakarta and Amsterdam. The new service also offers hassle free connections via Schiphol airport to many European destinations. Garuda Indonesia’s return to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol opens a new area for passengers to travel between Asia and Europe. Passengers can also choose Jakarta as an alternative gateway to Southeast Asia and Australia. We are confident this route will strengthen relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands, both in business and leisure”, said Pieter Verboom, CFO Schiphol Group.

Garuda Indonesia was recently upgraded to a four-star rating by Skytrax, the global benchmark for airline service standards, confirming the improvement in its front-line product and service quality. It was also named the ‘World’s Most Improved Airline’ at the Skytrax 2010 World Airline Awards in Hamburg, Germany last month. The Skytrax World Airline Awards is the airline industry’s most comprehensive and prestigious measure of service quality and is based on survey results from nearly 18 million international passengers.

“We have invested heavily in developing a service culture known as the ‘Garuda Indonesia Experience’ which combines warm Indonesian hospitality with quality service and comfort. In addition, we will introduce an ‘Immigration On-Board’ service which will allow passengers entering Indonesia to have their travel documents processed on-board, eliminating the need to queue at immigration counters upon arrival,” said Agus Priyanto, EVP Commercial, Garuda Indonesia.

Flight GA88 takes-off from Jakarta everyday at 20.40, arriving in Dubai at 02.00. It departs again at 03.15, arriving in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport at 08.00 the next day. The return flight departs Amsterdam at 11.00, arriving in Dubai at 19.30. The same aircraft departs again at 20.30, arriving in Jakarta at 07.55.

To connect with the Amsterdam bound service, Garuda Indonesia has introduced direct flights into Jakarta from Sydney and Melbourne. These new direct flights commenced in August 2009 and on 23 July 2010 direct flights from Perth to Jakarta are scheduled to begin.

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Queenstown Winter Festival-goers getting ready to rumble

The countdown is on – only four weeks to go before a select group of Kiwi celebrities and Queenstown locals square off at the Winter Festival’s spectacular new charity boxing event.

Featuring 11 three-round bouts in front of a 1200-strong crowd at Queenstown Events Centre, the highly anticipated Mountain Scene “Thriller in the Chiller” on Sunday 27 June is expected to be a real knockout.

TV2 Lotto presenter Russell Harrison won’t be pulling any punches in his celebrity match up with former Kiwi rugby league hero Tawera Nikau after Nikau went one up in their Rotorua bout last year.

Another celebrity encounter will see TV3 Sports Tonight presenter Howard “Dobbo” Dobson go head to head with Times FM radio presenter Clint Brown.

Festival Director Simon Green says excitement is already building for the local bouts which will see representatives of Queenstown’s various business industries put their pride on the line for charity.

“These guys have worked really hard for the past four months to be match-ready and it’s been quite a life-changing experience for them. They’ve had huge support from the community and the atmosphere on the night is going to be electric. It’ll be a great night out and it’s all for a good cause,” he says.

The contenders are now into their final weeks of preparation after four months of training with Braden Lee and Darryl Giddens of Fight Science Gym.

All Thriller in the Chiller boxing bouts will be under the tight control of the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association. The bouts, in no particular order, include:
• Harcourts’ Richie 'The Assassin' Anderson and Albert 'The Velvet Sledgehammer' Voschezang from Bayleys. Real estate agents by day, the usually mild-mannered pair are vowing to put their best fist forward for their companies.
• The knives will be out when the Bathhouse’s Dugi 'Duganaught' Anderson and Sombreros Mexican Cantina’s Drew 'Hot Jalapeno' Harmer duke it out on behalf of their restaurants. The two heavyweights are fairly evenly matched so expect plenty of guts and glory.
• The battle of the bars - longtime Chico’s owner Grant 'The Brain Eraser' Murphy will take on Revolver’s Jono 'The Stampeding Southpaw' Stapleton. Both have been training hard and are raring to go.
• Local sparky Lee 'Lights Out' Exell and stonemason Scott 'The Golden Bear' Winter will test each other’s mettle in the “Trade Off”.
• There’ll be swinging and swirling as golf enthusiast Ben 'Bandy The Basher' O’Malley from Millbrook Resort takes on wine buff Tom 'Tommy Tiger' Macaulay from Amisfield Winery.
• Entertainers Shaun 'The Mantis' Vining and Shay 'The Muss' Muddle will show the crowd a good time.
• It’ll be a mighty matchup between Queenstown’s media magnates Richard 'Ginga Stinger' Thomas from Mountain Scene newspaper and local Radioworks boss Tim 'The Rock' Lockhart.
• Will money talk when it comes to the Blue collar versus White Collar bout? ANZ Bank’s Elliot 'The Money Shot' Daniel takes on Stewart Motors mechanic Luke 'The Smasher' Smeets.
• It’s all about Girlpower as new recruit Justine ‘Quick Draw’ McCall from SKYCITY Casino takes on AJ Hackett Bungy’s Vicki ‘Pow Pow’ Zadrozny after her original opponent retired through injury. While Ms McCall is at a training – and height – disadvantage, she’s more than happy to take it on the chin for charity.

Mr Green recommends Thriller in the Chiller attendees bring plenty of money along with them because there will be some “amazing items” up for grabs at the charity auction. All proceeds will go to the Festival’s official charity, the Wakatipu-based Bruce Grant Youth Trust which helps local youth achieve their dreams.

Tickets are still available from $39.

The American Express Queenstown Winter Festival runs from 25 June to 4 July 2010. For more information or for a programme please phone 0800 FESTIVAL (03 441 2453) or visit the Festival website

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Upgraded slope makes tubing ‘snow much fun’

Snow tubing at Alpine Springs will be bigger and faster this winter thanks to modifications to its state-of-the-art snow slope.

The snow tubing park, part of the Alpine Springs complex located on the shores of Lake Tekapo in the Mt Cook Mackenzie region, now features a snow slope 50 metres longer and 5 metres higher than before.

The tubing park is scheduled to open on 3 July for the New Zealand school holidays, but may open earlier thanks to excellent snow cover from recent heavy snowfalls.

Alpine Springs director Karl Burtscher is excited about the latest developments.

“We launched the snow tubing park last year and people absolutely loved it, so we thought we’d make it even better by making it higher, longer and faster. I’ve had a go on the new slope and it’s awesome.

“Snow tubing has been a big drawcard for us, particularly with families because it’s affordable and great fun for all ages. Anyone can do it - you don’t need any experience or expensive equipment, you just sit on the tube and go. We have 30 snow tubes, some slow and some fast, as well as snowmaking and floodlighting to provide the best possible conditions.”

The snow tubing park complements Alpine Springs’ other facilities which include outdoor hot pools, a boutique day spa, a café, and an international size rink for ice skating, ice hockey and curling which converts to an inline/roller skating rink in summer.

“Our aim is to offer an affordable one-stop relaxation and recreation package for visitors and locals all year round,” says Mr Burtscher.

With this in mind, Alpine Springs has also created a new $199 Family Hot Pools Pass. The five-day pass is designed to provide cost savings to families who are high users of the hot pools.

“We get families coming in who want to soak in the outdoor hot pools every day or night of their winter holiday so the new pass is ideal for them - they get excellent savings,” says Mr Burtscher.

In line with the rest of Alpine Springs, which recently picked up a Qualmark Enviro-Silver Award, the Snow Tubing Park has been developed with a strong focus on sustainability. Snowguns are hooked up to the complex’s sustainable, energy-efficient refrigeration and heat regeneration plant which recycles and cools water from the hot pools and the ice rink.

The snow tubing park will operate 10am to 9pm Monday to Sunday during the winter season.

Alpine Springs developments still in the pipeline include private hot pools and a cooler pool for the summer months.

For more information about Alpine Springs visit

Snow Tubing Park prices
Child (5-12 yrs) $11.00
Youth (13-18 yrs) $13.00
Adult $15.00
Senior (60+) $13.00
Family Pass (2 adults, 3 children) $58.00

More about Alpine Springs

Alpine Springs has three hot pools shaped in the configuration of the local glacier lakes, Pukaki, Ohau and Tekapo. The pools are fed by underground spring water and are nestled amongst New Zealand natives typical of the local alpine area, and terraced to provide majestic views of the surrounding Southern Alps and Lake Tekapo. Pathways from changing rooms to bathing areas are heated for maximum guest comfort.

The boutique day spa is a peaceful haven within the complex which has views over the pools and out to Lake Tekapo. It encompasses four treatment rooms and offers a full range of treatments including massage, hot rock massage, reflexology, facials, body wraps, manicures, and pedicures. The main complex also features a large sauna, steam room and plunge pool.

The international size outdoor ice rink operates from early April to late September and is a stunning setting for skating, ice hockey and curling. It is then converted to an inline/roller skating rink for the summer months.

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Australasian travellers now make up more than 20 per cent of all guests on Silversea Expeditions aboard the state-of-the-art Prince Albert II.

Demand is such for this all-inclusive luxury expedition product that guests are booking far in advance to secure their place on the fascinating voyages that take in both Polar Regions, as well as enticing destinations in Central and South America, Great Britain, Ireland and Africa.

Karen Christensen, Silversea’s regional director Australia & New Zealand, commented: “Since Prince Albert II’s debut, this region has really embraced our new style of expedition cruising. After two sell-out seasons, Australasia has emerged as a high yield, early booking market that is now Silversea Expeditions’ second largest source of guests after the United States.”

Prince Albert II completed a hugely successful 2009 season of 25 sell-out voyages and the 2010 and 2011 expeditions are selling fast. From June to September 2010 a series of Arctic adventures are on offer exploring the Svalbard Archipelago, Iceland, Greenland or the Canadian Arctic, and the Antarctic season runs from November 2010 to February 2011 with 8 round-trip Ushuaia voyages navigating Drake’s Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula.

New expeditions currently on offer include a Discovering Central America voyage in October 2010, taking in the wildlife, indigenous tribes and historic sites of the Dominican Republic, Netherlands Antilles, Panama and Costa Rica, and a Cape to Cape Adventure in March 2011, following explorers’ footsteps to Cape Horn, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Tristan Da Cunha and Cape Town. A 22 day West Coast of Africa sailing from Cape Town to Dakar, Senegal is taking place in March 2011, and such is the appeal of this itinerary that the expedition is already fully sold out. Due to strong demand, this programme will also be offered in 2012.

Part of Prince Albert II’s great appeal is the totally all-inclusive nature of the product, with fares that cover all shore excursions with a highly experienced expedition team; the largest accommodation of any expedition ship; butler service; wines and drinks throughout the ship; gourmet menus by Relais & Châteaux, and all gratuities. And with a maximum of 132 passengers, guests aboard Prince Albert II have numerous opportunities to go ashore in destinations such as Antarctica, where only 100 passengers at any one time may land.

Karen Christensen added: “With suites selling so quickly on these expedition voyages, we do encourage travellers to book early to avoid disappointment.”

For more information please contact Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or toll free 1300 306 872 (Australia) or 0800 701 427 (New Zealand), or visit

Silversea Cruises is recognised as an innovator in the luxury segment, offering guests large-ship amenities aboard its intimate vessels, Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and the new Silver Spirit, all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents. Silversea has been named Best Cruise Line by readers of Luxury Travel Magazine Australia for the past six years. For two consecutive years Silversea has been named ‘Best Luxury Cruise Line’ in the TravelWeekly Asia Awards and for nine consecutive years "Number One Small Ship Line” in the Readers' Choice survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the USA. In 2007 Silversea was the only cruise line named in the UK edition of Condé Nast Traveller’s “Top 100 Luxury Travel Experiences”, at the same time topping the Small Cruise Line award for the eighth time. Silversea has been selected as "World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line” seven times in the Travel + Leisure (USA) readers' poll and was rated Number-One luxury cruise line by high-net-worth consumers in the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index.

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Air New Zealand to slash check-in times with new kiosks

Air New Zealand has launched a new kiosk check-in experience for passengers flying to Australia.

Passengers travelling to Australia from Auckland International Airport will now able to check themselves in, with more than 1500 Australian-bound passengers using the new technology yesterday.

"This brand new experience provides our customers with a more convenient and faster way to check-in," says Air New Zealand Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims.

"Not only is it a friendlier and more welcoming area with staff no longer stuck
behind desks, but we also expect it will reduce check-in queuing times by up to 50%.

"Currently passengers must check-in at least 90 minutes prior to their Australian flights, but if the new process succeeds in reducing check-in time as expected, then Air New Zealand will look to reduce the 90 minute deadline."

Passengers simply scan their machine readable passports at a kiosk, where they will then be issued with a boarding pass, and bag tags if they are checking in luggage.

Customers then take their bags to the 'bag drop' area, where ground staff will scan the bag and check the passenger's ID.

"We set ourselves the challenge to transform our customers' experience of the airport, so they have a seamless experience from checking-in through to walking off the plane at their destination," says Mr Sims.

There are 18 new self-service kiosks in the economy check-in area, and six new kiosks in the premium check-in area.

The check-in experience will be available to Air New Zealand passengers who are travelling to an Australian destination with: a New Zealand or Australian passport; any passport with a machine readable zone on their passport, or any passenger on another passport type holding a valid electronic travel authority (ETA).
Over the next nine months, the New Zealand carrier plans to progressively introduce new kiosks at its Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch international check-in areas.

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Te Papa, with Queensland Art Gallery, and Queensland Museum, presents Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth in the Visa Platinum Gallery, Level 4, from Saturday 19 June – Sunday 12 September. Admission is free.

Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth brings together a stunning selection of over 40 tapa works from around the Pacific. The exhibition features works from Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Hawai’i, Futuna, the Solomon and Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu.

‘Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth is the result of a successful collaboration between Te Papa, Queensland Art Gallery, and Queensland Museum’, said Michelle Hippolite, Te Papa’s Acting Chief Executive and Kaihautū.

‘This exhibition also offers a rare opportunity for Te Papa to display for the first time two of the largest tapa pieces from its collection – a 22.7 metre long ngatu laumina created for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and also used on the occasion of the funeral of Queen Salote of Tonga in 1955; and a stunning contemporary 5.7 metre anga (tapa) from Mangaia in the Cook Islands.’

Other highlights in Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth include rare works such as an 18th century Hawaiian kapa, intricate ceremonial masks from Papua New Guinea, and examples of hiapo from Niue, where it has not been made since the late 1800s. Since its introduction from South-East Asia, cloth made from the beaten bark of paper mulberry, banyan, and breadfruit trees has played an important role in island cultures in the Pacific. For generations, this cloth has been an essential part of everyday life, as well as being worn and exchanged in familial and political ceremonies and performances. The designs that they carry constitute some of the Pacific’s most breathtaking artistic works.

Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth explores the stories embodied in these cloths. With their evocative visual language of bold and intricate patterning, barkcloths have been likened to tattoos: another skin that envelops the wearer in cultural significance and beauty.

The opening events programme on 19 & 20 June includes Tongan ngatu, Samoan siapo, and Fijian masi-making demonstrations; Tongan and Tokelauan musical performances; floortalks by the exhibition’s curators; and much more.

This exhibition is organised by Queensland Art Gallery, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Queensland Museum. It has been curated by Maud Page, Queensland Art Gallery’s Curator of Pacific Art, in collaboration with Te Papa’s Senior Curator Pacific Cultures, Sean Mallon, and Imelda Miller, Assistant Curator Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies, Queensland Museum.

Full event details and a downloadable catalogue are available on:\paperskin.

Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth
19 June – 12 September 2010
Visa Platinum Gallery, Level 4
Te Papa
Free admission

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Mount Yasur in Vanuatu erupts, shrouding the area in volcanic ash

Just days after Vanuatu’s archipelago was rocked by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, Mount Yasur’s rumblings on Tanna Island turned into a full-scale eruption, sending a plume of volcanic ash 1800 metres into the air.

Despite the treat of ash, airline services have not experienced widespread turmoil.

Air Vanuatu services between Port Villa and Tanna Island remain unaffected however the ash has caused minor flight disruptions with Air Cal in neighbouring New Caledonia..

Located in the South Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire’, the region is renowned for its ongoing seismic activity and volcanic eruptions.

“The Mount Yasur volcano has been very active the last three days and the eruption is ongoing,” confirmed New Zealand’s Meteorological Service’s Tristan Oakley.

The department however issued a precautionary warning to airlines to avoid the ash, which now has spread 340 square kilometers across the archipelago.

So far Mount Tanna is causing more havoc on the ground with reports of the volcanic ash contaminating the drinking water.

Of the 6,000 villagers living near the mountain it has been reported that no evacuations have been organised at this point in time.

Access to the volcano however has been restricted although resort owners confirmed that tourists were driving to the fringe of the mountain to watch the natural spectacle, blanketing their vehicles in ash.

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a travel advisory saying Australian visitors were “strictly prohibited” from visiting the volcano.

Vanuatu’s archipelago, located northeast of New Zealand was also struck by three major earthquakes less than seven months ago.

Written by Jill Walsh

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Hit the slopes at Perisher Before the School Holidays and Save Up To 30% with Off-Peak Deals

PERISHER, NSW (1 June, 2010) -- The 2010 Perisher snow season starts officially on 12 June, three glorious weeks before the NSW school holidays commence on 3 July. Savvy skiers and snowboarders know to beat the school holidays and save.

Perisher, the largest snow resort in the southern hemisphere, always provides superior value with four unique ski resort areas (Perisher, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes and Guthega), on just one ticket. But there are even better deals to be had in the off-peak lead-up to school holidays.

More Snow For Your Dough

Ski, Board and Stay from $82 a day!
Package includes:
5 nights accommodation
5 day Perisher Lift Ticket
June from $413 per person
July - August from only $655 per person
September from only $441 per person
Bonus: Up to $120 Gift Card per person to spend on hire, food and beverage or Skitube.

Snow NSW Package
5 day package staying at ‘The Station ' from $1093 per adult and $785 per child
Package includes:
5 nights accommodation;
5 breakfasts and 3 dinners;
5 and 1/2 day lift ticket including ‘First Timer' Lessons
5 days' hire of skis, poles and boots
Available for travel between 25 June - 3 July, from 18 July - 21 July, and 22 August - 4 September
Bonus: Up to $120 Gift Card per person to spend on hire, food and beverage or Skitube.

Or, if you want to take the family but still visit Perisher off peak, book:
On Snow Kids
Kids stay free with two paying adults for 3, 5 or 7 nights
Package includes:
On snow Accommodation at either Corroboree or Matterhorn Lodge
Breakfasts & Dinners
$489 per adult for 3 nights in Value Season (11 June to 3 July)
$879 per adult for 5 nights - Save $335
$1133 per adult for 7 nights - Save $446

"The snow season is a great time for the whole family to get together," said Gary Grant, Perisher's General Manager of Marketing, Sales and Hospitality. "But individuals and groups of adults are always surprised to hear how much cheaper Value Season is before the holidays -- and you have fewer people on the slopes so you can get more skiing in."

NSW school holidays are from July 3 to July 18. Queensland's school holidays start and end a week earlier, from June 26 until July 11. For bookings, please phone 1300 369 909.


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New Airpoints Dollars Credit Card with Complimentary Flight Gets Kiwis Flying Faster

Key features:
1 Airpoints Dollar for every $75 spent on goods and services
2 $250 spend = 1 Status Point
3 Complimentary direct domestic return flight each year, exclusive to American Express
4 Annual fee $395
5 Interest Free Days – up to 55
6 Annual percentage rate (interest rate) 19.95% (current as of 1 June 2010)
7 Special Benefits package:
- Airpoints joining fee waiver (currently $50)
- Airpoints annual account fee waiver
- Koru joining fee waiver (currently $250)
- Koru annual membership discount of $145 (pay $350 instead of $495)
Terms and conditions apply
For more information visit

American Express and Air New Zealand today announced an innovation in credit card flight rewards, tailored for the frequent flyer.

The new Air New Zealand American Express Platinum Card promises to get Kiwis flying faster. It features a complimentary return domestic flight each year – which is a first for a New Zealand flight rewards card and exclusive to American Express.

In addition, it has an outstanding earn rate and a great range of other benefits. American Express Vice President Consumer Products Australia and New Zealand Rob Hennin says the new card with partner Air New Zealand is unlike any other. "Our brand is built on premium products and services, and to live up to that promise we had to do something really special. That’s why this card has a complimentary return domestic flight every year.“We want to excite the market, and are thrilled to introduce an Airpoints Dollars credit card for those serious about accumulating points solely for travel.”

The card features lead the market, and Mr Hennin says the complimentary domestic return flight can be redeemed immediately. “There is no spending threshold to be met. Why should customers have to wait to start flying? This card is the fastest way to get your wings.”

In addition to the annual return domestic airfare, Cardmembers receive generous rewards and benefits, earning one Airpoints Dollar for every $75 spent, and one Status Point for every $250 spent. The joining fee for Air New Zealand Airpoints is waived and so too is the joining fee for Koru, Air New Zealand’s exclusive airport lounge, saving a combined total of $300. The annual Koru membership fee is discounted by $145.

As an introductory offer, customers have the chance to accelerate their Airpoints Dollars balance even further, with a bonus 200 Airpoints Dollars when they spend $500 over three months on their new card.

Today’s card launch follows another highly successful collaboration between the partners: in March, Air New Zealand became an American Express Membership Rewards redemption partner – allowing Cardmembers to transfer loyalty points to Air News New Zealand. Since then Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars have been the number one rewards redemption for American Express Cardmembers in New Zealand.

Simon Pomeroy, Air New Zealand Head of Customer Loyalty says American Express Cardmembers have demonstrated their enthusiasm for flying with the national airline. “Points redemptions have exceeded our expectations. We are confident this new card, it’s complimentary flight and great earn rate, will prove to be very attractive.”

The new card is strongly branded, featuring Air New Zealand’s Koru and the equally distinctive American Express Blue Box. It provides a direct link to Air New Zealand flight rewards and is a logical extension of American Express’ offering in New Zealand, added Mr Hennin. “American Express is innovating and developing products that are right for the times. This new premium market-leading card will get customers flying even faster.”

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Hermitage Hotel to launch backpacker accommodation

Plans are underway at Aoraki Mt Cook to convert The Hermitage Hotel’s former Glencoe Lodge into a 50-room backpacker lodge and bring back the much loved Chamois Bar (pronounced Shammie). The conversion is designed to offer a more complete range of accommodation and entertainment choices at one of New Zealand’s most spectacular destinations.

The lodge, to be called Mount Cook Backpackers, will offer a mix of dorm rooms, single and double rooms, and self contained units.

It will comprise 20 four-bed dorm rooms with ensuites, 23 double/twin rooms with ensuites, and seven one-bedroom units with bathroom and cooking facilities. Prices will start at approximately $35 for a dorm bed.

The original Chamois Bar will undergo a makeover and relaunch complete with a new beer garden.

A favourite local watering hole for many years, the new-look bar will keep the same vibe as before, offering a relaxed and friendly place to enjoy an evening drink, pub meal, game of pool and big screen TV. It will also host events and themed evenings on a regular basis.

The Hermitage Hotel’s General Manager Andrew Cleverley is excited about the new offerings and believes visitors and locals alike will benefit.

“Mt Cook is a both a small community and a world-renowned destination so it’s very exciting to be able to expand its current range of accommodation and entertainment choices to better cater for different budgets and tastes,” he says.

“Demand for backpacker priced accommodation has grown in response to the increased range of activities on offer such as the Glacier Explorers iceberg cruise, 4WD & Argo tours, Stargazing, and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre’s 3D movie, planetarium and museum.”

Mr Cleverley says the layout of Glencoe Lodge was ideally suited to a backpacker lodge.

“It has budget rooms in good condition, a large entertainment, bar and function area and a central location in Mt Cook Village.

“It’s also very satisfying for us to be able to reopen the public bar. It will provide a more casual night out than the hotel can provide and has previously been considered by many residents as the heart and soul of the village.”

Mount Cook Backpackers and the revamped bar are scheduled to open on 1 October. They will be operated and marketed independently of The Hermitage Hotel.

Hermitage Hotel

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South African Tourism launches into the Social Media space

New Zealand travellers now have the opportunity to become an expert on all things South Africa with the launch of South African Tourism’s social media initiative.

The South African Tourism Australasia office has developed a blog at which is being launched in conjunction with a Twitter page as well as two Facebook pages dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand traveller.

The new social media initiative aims to be content rich and engaging for the consumer; hosting a myriad of helpful South African travel tips from new deals, tours and activities, to suggested accommodation and local hints and secrets. For the football fanatics, the Twitter page will provide followers with updated World Cup news including match updates on the success of the All Whites.

As well as keeping up to speed with all things new and exciting in South Africa, visitors can have all their travel questions answered by the local South African Tourism office. The new Facebook and Twitter pages offer a unique two-way communication between travellers and South African Tourism. It also offers the New Zealand traveller to share their own South African Adventures.

“Globally, South African Tourism has had a presence in the social media space for some time, however we are very excited to be able to provide relevant news and updates on South Africa specific to the New Zealand traveller using this platform,” said Bangu Masisi, General Manager, South African Tourism, Australasia.

“We understand that the world’s focus will be on South Africa in just 11 days time, with the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and believe this is the perfect opportunity to embark on a journey in this space locally and engage with travellers who find the World Cup as inspiration to travel to South Africa in 2010 and beyond.

“Our blog, Facebook and Twitter pages provide not only a platform on which to provide consumers with real time information on South Africa, it is also a place where travellers can ask questions; and receive one-on-one advice from our team,” concluded Ms Masisi.

To hear the news, share stories and find out more about travelling to South Africa, New Zealand travellers can become a fan of Kiwis travelling to South Africa on Facebook at!/pages/Kiwis-Travelling-to-South-Africa/

For more information on South Africa, visit

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Queen Mary 2 Australian Circumnavigation - Registrations to Close June 16

Cunard Line has announced that it will close registrations for Queen Mary 2’s historic circumnavigation of Australia at 5pm (AEST) on Wednesday June 16.

Only Cunard past passengers and people who have registered their interest online will be able to book on the voyage when sales open at 9am (AEST) on July 13. Sales to the general public will not open until the following day.

Cunard Line said today it expected cabins on the February 2012 voyage to be in strong demand.

“Almost 3000 people have already registered their interest, and with most registrations covering two people, that means we have close to 6000 people indicating they want to be part of history on this voyage,” said Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia which represents Cunard Line.

“It’s a spectacular response and one that underlines just how special this voyage will be.”

Ms Sherry said three round-Australia sectors would be offered to passengers – 22 nights sailing from Sydney on February 14, 2012, 20 nights sailing from Fremantle on February 8 and 21 nights sailing from Adelaide on February 11. Fares will be announced late June.

Expressions of interest can still be logged at

Cunard Line said that each registered person would be able to book one cabin only on the voyage.

The largest ship ever to visit Australia, Queen Mary 2 will call at eight Australian ports during her circumnavigation including Sydney, Fremantle, Adelaide and the Whitsundays as well as maiden visits to Cairns (Yorkey’s Knob), Darwin, Melbourne and Brisbane. Her circumnavigation will also include a call at Bali.

The Australian deployment will be the longest Queen Mary 2 has been based in one country outside of her northern hemisphere homeports of Southampton and New York.

Designed to reflect the best of Cunard’s heritage and traditions, Queen Mary 2 is one of the most spacious ships at sea. She carries 2620 guests and more than 1200 crew, and boasts 10 restaurants, five pools, the largest ballroom at sea, the largest library at sea and the world’s first floating planetarium.

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Talks fall apart between BA and union, fresh five-day strike begins

British Airways travellers can expect more disruptions to their journeys as talks between British Airways executives and the union representatives have fallen apart, signalling the second wave of industrial action.

Following close on the heels of a five-day walk-out by Unite members last week, the union is launching a fresh round of strikes starting Sunday and set to run until Thursday the 3rd of June.

"Now on day 13, the £7m-per day strike is costing BA at least £91m. Unite says it is "unreasonable" that BA is blocking a deal by refusing to move on the no-cost item, staff travel concessions," said the union in a statement.

Talks between the two parties are understood to be focusing on the reinstatement of travel perks for union members who had the benefits stripped away in the first round of strikes. Both sides are blaming the other for the collapse in talks.

British Airways is claiming that it will be able to fly more services during this round of strikes due to "more cabin crew than expected" deciding to show up to work.

Long-haul services from Heathrow will increase 10% up to 70% of services, which short-haul services will increase by 5% up to 55%.

London City and Gatwick Airport will continue to operate as per normal.
"At this stage British Airways expects to fly more than 75 per cent of customers who hold a booking between May 30 and June 3. This equates to around 65,000 customers flying each day," says the airline.

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Matariki Festival at Te Papa 2010

In early June the star cluster Matariki (the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters) will reappear in our dawn skies, staying for almost 12 months. The Māori New Year begins with the first new moon after Matariki’s reappearance and, from 10 June, Te Papa is bringing this special celebratory period to all people of Aotearoa New Zealand with an 18-day Matariki Festival (

The theme of this year’s celebration, ‘Waka – the journeying and coming together of people’, resonates throughout Te Papa’s exciting Matariki events programme, which includes a comedy extravaganza, modern and traditional music and dance, Star Lab sessions, and special activities for children.

Seven specially selected taonga (treasures) will be on display on Rongomaraeroa, Te Papa’s marae on Level 4. For Māori ancestors, Matariki’s stars foretold whether it would be an abundant or lean season for food. The taonga on display, used in gathering, harvesting, and preserving of traditional foods, are a window on the past and demonstrate the skill, ingenuity, and knowledge of Māori ancestors. One of Te Papa’s curators will give free floortalks on 10 & 17 June, exploring the ways in which these unique taonga were used.

Don’t miss the Seven Sisters and Seven Brothers concerts featuring Bella Kalolo and Leon Wharekura, and a dozen other top home-grown performers, or the Matariki arts and crafts village where Māori and Pacific artists will display traditional jewellery, and demonstrate their skills in weaving, carving, and tā moko.

2010 sees the return of the hugely popular Kaumātua Kapa Haka on Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 June. Featuring senior performing groups from across Aotearoa New Zealand, this event is a unique opportunity to see popular items performed by leading exponents of the art. Can’t make it to Te Papa? This event will be streamed live on the internet to communities around the country and the world on – so tell your family and friends, and join us as the drama and magic of this remarkable event unfolds.

The annual Matariki Gala at Te Papa has become a highlight of Wellington's social calendar, bringing together the city's cultural, artistic, and corporate communities to celebrate the Māori New Year.

This year's event features a stellar line-up of entertainers, including Ngā Tai e Wha performing all time Māori favourites; Samuel Family Dancers tapping up a storm; Bella Kalolo belting out edgy soul; Ngā Divo Māori singing opera classics; and Leon Wharekura and band taking you through to midnight. Seats are limited and reservations are essential. Call Sonya Davis on (04) 3817006, or email at to book. All bookings will be confirmed upon receipt of payment. A percentage of all ticket sales will be donated to the Matariki Education Fund. The fund provides Te Papa with the ability to offer an educational experience to children who would otherwise miss out on such an opportunity.

Other highlights include the fun-filled Te Huka ā Tai Whānau Day on Sunday 20 June with storytelling, games, and hands-on crafts for all the family; the opening weekend of Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth, featuring a moko village, Pacific dance, a fashion show, and tapa demonstrations; and taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) performances.

Te Papa thanks the following companies and organisations for their generous support of the Matariki Festival at Te Papa: NZ Post, TelstraClear, The Southern Trust, Te Puni Kökiri, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Te Māngai Pāho, and Wellington City Council. Te Papa also welcomes Matariki Education Fund sponsor, Crown Forestry Rental Trust.

Matariki is a time to reflect, and a time to spend with family and friends – a time to appreciate the people around us. Come and celebrate the Māori New Year at Te Papa!

Visit for a full list of events.

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Colosseum underground to open: Walk in the footsteps of the gladiators

The underground of the Colosseum, which has remained a mystery for centuries, will soon open.

After months of work to make the area safe, officials have announced that the public will be allowed to tour the section starting late summer.

Architect Barbara Nazzaro said tourists will be able to see the spaces where gladiators prepared for fights and lions, tigers and bulls were caged before entertaining a bloodthirsty public.

The reopening of the hypogeum, or the underground, and other parts of the ancient arena follows an extensive restoration of the Colosseum.

Nazzaro said the historical site, however, needs more funding to survive in the long term.
The authorities are now in search of sponsors to help finance a 23-million ($40-million) restoration and maintenance project.

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Retreat, Meet and Revive Distinction Style in Queenstown

Distinction Nugget Point Boutique Hotel in Queenstown has put together a warm winter welcome for conference and meeting groups looking to retreat, meet and revive.

Opulent yet uniquely intimate in design, and supremely positioned in a dramatic setting above Queenstown’s famous gold-rich Shotover River, Distinction Nugget Point is perfectly placed to offer luxury boutique hotel conferences and meetings at their best.

General Manager Ken Edwards said Distinction Nugget Point’s alpine setting made it the perfect retreat, even though it was just 15 minutes from Queenstown International Airport, a short drive from Queenstown and only 500m from the access road to Coronet Peak, Queenstown’s leading ski field.

“Delegates will be ensured of a warm welcome when they step into the lobby with its plethora of artwork and roaring open fire,” he said. “Delegates can choose from one of our 36 luxury suites, each stylish and eclectic and all well appointed and spacious. They all have either a private patio or balcony with garden or river views, marble bathrooms and super-king beds, which easily split into twin beds if delegates wish to share. River View suites all come with spa baths.”

Mr Edwards said Distinction Nugget Point had a spacious Board Meeting Room, which could comfortably accommodate up to 26 delegates. "The room opens out onto a large deck with beautiful views, or leads through to our wine cellar and media room, and a private bar and lounge area is perfect for after-meeting drinks,” he said.

As for the ‘revive’ element of the package, Mr Edwards said guests could sweat it out with a workout in the property’s spacious gym or have a game of squash or tennis with colleagues. “Alternatively delegates can take a half or full day out of their programme to enjoy the winter wonderland that is Queenstown. We offer a full ski concierge service for all of snow-related needs such as ski passes, lessons, gear hire and transport. We’re lucky that Queenstown has more than 220 different excursions and activities for delegates to enjoy, and our conference and meetings team is on hand with solutions for team building, soft or more adventurous activities.”

The Retreat, Meet and Revive Package is priced from NZD205 (incl gst) per delegate twin share.

It includes luxury overnight accommodation in a garden view suite, breakfast, a day delegate meeting package including morning and afternoon teas and a working lunch, cocktail hour with Chef’s selection of canapés, complimentary Board Meeting Room hire and complimentary use of screen, whiteboards, flat screen TV and DVD. It also includes one complimentary upgrade into a Presidential Suite.

The rate for single occupancy is from NZD305 (incl gst). This package is valid until December 31 2010 for all new bookings of 10 rooms or more confirmed by September 30 2010. Terms and conditions apply. Further details are available at Larger groups are welcome to book the entire hotel and its facilities.

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Hitch up to a Husky

Skiers who are planning a trip to Whistler in Canada for the Northern Hemisphere ski season might like to try their hand at a completely different activity when they feel like a break from the pistes.

How about hitching and harnessing a team of Alaskan Racing Huskies? The Soo Valley Dog Sled Tour is through a former logging area alongside the frozen waters of the Soo River. Travellers can join in the fun by helping the professional dog sled “Musher” to hitch and harness the team, and if conditions are suitable, you can even take a turn at driving the team (accompanied by a guide, of course).

Wrap up warmly for the three hour trip which costs from $NZ246 per person, and includes transport from Whistler Village, a professional guide, the dogsled team, a safety briefing, and an essential hot drink and cookie.

Contact your travel agent or Adventure World on 0800 899 111 or go to for more information.

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Reg and Jim’s Extraordinary Taxi Ride Begins!

Tomorrow Kiwi mates, Reg and Jim, winners of The Extraordinary Taxi Ride Promotion, will be hailing a cab to cross a thousand kilometres of Western Australia.

The Extraordinary Taxi Ride Worldwide Promotion involves a 10,000 kilometre taxi ride across Western Australia – with seven sets of international passengers from New Zealand, WA, Singapore, Malaysia, New South Wales, Victoria and Germany travelling on different legs through the State’s extraordinary experiences. The Extraordinary Taxi Ride can be followed at and the NZ site:

Reg is a Property Manager in Wellington and his mate Jim is a custom shoemaker, who created shoes for Lord of the Rings and has since continued a tidy trade in making shoes for a number of celebrities.

When Jim is not crafting new soles, he’s searching for interesting souls – satisfying his wanderlust with world travel and reporting on all of his adventures in his blog:

Reg and Jim will be hailing their cab on the 01st of June and heading to The Gibb River Road for nine days, starting with an iconic 4WD adventure across the Kimberley – one of the world’s last true wilderness areas.

Reg and Jim will then ditch the 4WD to return to their trusty taxi but not for long because the next stop will be cattle mustering and then barramundi fishing. After all of that the boys will have earned a well-deserved rest under waterfalls and in hot thermal springs. Highlights include staying at El Questro Wilderness Park and Home Valley Station.

Best of luck Reg and Jim!

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SAA - daily flights from Sydney

South African Airways (SAA) has welcomed the announcement that QF/SA codeshare flights to Johannesburg will now depart Sydney every day from 21 September, 2010.

SAA's Head of Australasia, Thevan Krishna said: "We're delighted that we can now offer daily flights out of both Sydney and Perth. We are seeing strong interest in Africa as a business, recreational and VFR destination and the additional flight will help address that demand."

"With the Football World Cup about to kick off next month, the focus of the world will be on South Africa. New and improved hotels and improved airport and transport infrastructure reflects a major investment in our future and we are confident more Aussies will visit us in the future."

"SAA is acknowledged as the leading airline in Africa with the most comprehensive network and number of connections to all major cities on the continent. Now with 14 flights each week from Australia and very competitive fares, we're confident of an even brighter future," Thevan said.

Note: SAA flies non-stop from Sydney to Johannesburg six days a week and daily from Perth, with connections to the largest network in Africa. SAA is consistently voted the 'Best Airline & Cabin Crew in Africa' winning it for the 16th consecutive year in the Travel Weekly Globe Awards in London. SAA took out top honours at the recent WTA awards in London, with three awards in the Africa category. SAA is a member of STAR, the world’s largest alliance reaching 916 destinations in 160 countries. For more information on SAA flights and reservations :

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