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Life

The way to travel in 2016

When cruise ships parade into the harbours of the world and get fanfare normally reserved for royalty, you know that cruising is more than back in fashion – it is the way to travel, today’s ‘jet set’ are now called the ‘cruise crew’.

Three of the key factors for cruising’s amazing resurgence are: the incredible facilities on board today’s modern ships; the wondrously varied on-shore excursions; and phenomenal range of never-before-visited destinations. And things are only going to get better in 2016.

The modern cruise ship is light years from the behemoths that sailed the waterways of years gone by. These days, there are more boutique-style ships catering from 680 - 1,250 guests – consequently, there is a heightened sense of intimacy and a personalised holiday experience. Staff and crew attend to your every whim and remember your individual preferences, there are no lines, going ashore and returning on board takes minutes rather than hours, and life just seems to proceed at a more relaxed pace.

Facilities and entertainment have been described as a floating five-star hotel crossed with the best of a theatre district. Everything from bespoke spa services to English-style libraries, a live pianist, classical string quartet, dynamic vocalists and spectacular headliners. You may also wish to try your luck in an elegant Monte Carlo-style casino. Some cruises even have guest lecturers who might be historians, naturalists or former ambassadors, eager to share insider knowledge.

Guests’ suites are a personal sanctuary with state-of-the-art custom-made furnishings such as plush ‘Tranquility Beds’ with1,000-thread-count linen, lavish marble-infused grand baths (with a private half-bath for guests), showers, luxurious sitting rooms and private teak verandas. Guests are even given their own range of fine Bvlgari bath amenities^.

On-board dining has really stepped up. Celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin are providing signature dishes at a range of dining options from French bistro, gourmet Italian, contemporary Asian, French country cuisine, American steakhouses and more and matched with wine lists to rival any Michelin-starred restaurants.

ADVENTURES ASHORE

One of the major highlights of today’s cruising adventures are the amazing off shore activities, and if you are a lover of food + wine, there are some tantalising travels waiting to be had.

Imagine docking in Monte Carlo and then trekking into the countryside to discover the culinary treasures of Provence on a three-night stay at the Château de Berne. Help prepare a traditional Provençal lunch at the château using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the chef’s gardens, learn about local olive oil production and embark on a tasting and tour of a private wine cellar.

Or how about cruising into Rome (Civitavecchia), and then enjoying a three-night stay in Tuscany, including a hands-on cooking class at Villa Pandolfini and a walking tour of Florence’s legendary attractions such as Michelangelo’s David and Ponte Vecchio.

When ships moor at Athens, guests can visit an open-air Greek market and sample locally made cheese and olives then learn how to prepare traditional Greek dishes alongside a top Greek chef. Top that off with wine and ouzo tastings and a food and wine pairing lunch at revered Varoulko, home to Greece’s top-awarded Michelin star chef.

NEW DESTINATIONS, NEW MEMORIES

Of course, with significant advances in cruise ship technology and the smaller boutique style of ships, there are new ports of call becoming available to guests who are seeking new adventures. In 2016, these include such enviable destinations as: La Paz, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Bandol, France, Porto Santo, Italy, Trieste, Italy; Vlissingen, Netherlands; Helsingborg, Sweden; Catalina Island, California; Gaspé, Quebec; and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, just to name a few.

Yes, the world of cruising has come a long way. Luxurious, intimate and engaging, there are exotic culinary adventures and fantastic new discoveries waiting for you to explore.

To find out more details about some of these great cruises visit Oceania Cruises.

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Life
Switzerland: expand your wine horizons
When you think of travelling through Switzerland, images of breath-taking natural scenery and exciting cities full of art and culture no doubt come to mind. But do you also picture stopping at cellar doors to taste world-class wines? If not, you need to expand your Swiss horizons, because this diverse country is home to over 200 types of vines, at least 40 of which are indigenous and have histories dating back to ancient times. What’s more, with only extremely limited quantities made, you’ll only find 1-2% of Swiss wines outside their homeland. There are seven wine regions throughout German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland: Eastern Switzerland ; Geneva ; Lake Geneva Region ; Three Lake Country ; Ticino ; Valais ; and Graubünden . Heritage haven For winelovers who like a dose of history with their tastings, the Lake Geneva region is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Lavaux Vineyard . Dating back to the 11th century when Benedictine and Cistercian monks called the area home, this fascinating site features 14 kilometres of terraced vineyards stretching above Lake Geneva. These incredible vines are still producing wine, with Chasselas, a full, dry and fruity white, the most common. For keen walkers, two routes wend through the region, both taking around two hours and starting at Grandvaux station with one finishing at Cully and the other at Lutry . For a more sedate tour, there are also two miniature train excursions on either the Lavaux Panoramic or the Lavaux Express. In the glass As well as Chasselas, a visit to the Lake Geneva Region will see you sampling unique expressions of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Further south-west in Geneva itself, you’ll also find Chardonnay, Riesling-Sylvaner (Müller-Thurgau), Pinot Blanc, Aligoté via Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris through to Gewürztraminer and Viognier Gamaret, and in the reds, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. For another lakeside wine experience, the Three Lake Country will see you again savouring Chasselas, as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Home to the highest vineyard in Europe at 1,150 metres above sea level, Valais is another region that sees Chasselas at the top of its whites list, while Pinot Noir is the most common red. However, you’ll also find varieties here that few outside the area have heard of, including Petite Arvine, Amigne, Humagne Blanc, Humagne Rouge and Cornalin. Heading further east and south of the Alps is the Italian-speaking Ticino region, where 90 per cent of the wine produced is Merlot. They even make a white called Merlot Bianco. Less common red varieties include Bondola, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and in the whites, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Sauvignon and Semillon. “Great things come in small packages” is the motto of German-speaking Switzerland where Pinot Noir and Riesling-Silvaner are the most common varieties. Local specialties include Räuschling and Completer, along with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
Life
Calmer Waters at Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 20 Apr 2017
Well on the road to recovery from cyclone winston, Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji is keen to welcome visitors to bliss out in its unique brand of tranquility.  At the end of the day, according to Fijian legend, even the sun needs to sleep and it does so behind one of Fiji’s islands. Malolo, part of the Mamanuca group of islands to the west of the mainland, was believed to have been created by the gods as the sun’s bedroom, hence the local saying, “Na siga e dromu I Malolo”, meaning, “Malolo, the island where the sun comes to rest.”  While Malolo is a usually a picture of serenity, back in February 2016 it, along with the rest of Fiji, endured Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall in the region. At its most intense, it saw winds of 230km/h. Amid the devastating damage that saw 40,000 homes destroyed, 44 people lost their lives and around 350,000 were seriously impacted.  But in the aftermath, Fijians were keen to let holidaymakers, particularly loyal Australian tourists, know that they were still open for business. While some resorts were flattened, others sustained only minor damage and could reopen fairly quickly. Tourism is a key driver of the local economy and Fiji could not afford to have people staying away when it needed them most.  Thankfully, although visitor numbers initially dropped, by October they were healthy again and Fiji is looking forward to returning to its position as an R&R mecca for work-weary Australians. Malolo was one of the islands that was able to welcome tourists back reasonably quickly and today, its adults-only haven,  Likuliku Lagoon Resort , whose name means “calm waters” is a soothing sanctuary for holidaymakers looking to relax in incredible luxury. A Pristine Welcome
Whether you choose a  chopper or boat to get to Likuliku , it’s the sight of the lagoon’s beautifully deep blue waters that provides the first welcome to your Fijian holiday.  This sheltered haven once provided refuge for war canoes, but today its pristine waters have been declared a marine reserve, known locally as “Na tabu”, so they’re teaming with sea life that darts in and out of the crevices of the coral reef.  The next greeting comes from a serenading group of resort staff whose melodious greeting is followed by a unified cry of “Bula!”, one of many to come. This one-word, all-purpose salutation is heard hundreds of times a day throughout Likuliku, making you feel your presence is greatly appreciated at all times.  Aside from its idyllic location, Likuliku is rendered unique by its overwater bures (rooms). Usually associated with the resorts of the Maldives, these wonders of engineering are a first for Fiji. In a line of 10 sitting out from the shoreline, these suspended sanctuaries provide an uninterrupted view between the deck and the great blue blanket of sea.  But you don’t even have to leave the living room for an aquatic experience, with glass-bottomed floor panels giving a great glimpse of the plethora of fish and their saltwater friends.  Coral Concerns
A week in an  overwater bure  comes at a premium price, but as the Group General Manager, Steve Anstey explains, “They are complex. They cannot just be built anywhere and their construction and maintenance is difficult and costly.” Part of the complexity lies in the fact that they have to be built on a flat seabed surrounded by coral reefs, with the latter providing essential stability.  But if that’s ringing environmental alarm bells, never fear, as Steve describes, “We were all acutely aware and concerned for our precious reef during construction and together with the Mamanuca Environmental Society, we took elaborate steps to protect them at all times.”  As well as the tides, the overwater bures have to withstand extreme  weather events like Cyclone Winston and thankfully they stood up to its incredible ferocity.  Lizard Lodgers Although the sea life is certainly the star of a visit to Likuliku, there’s another wild inhabitant that’s stealing a spot in the limelight. You have to look very carefully, but in a vegetation-filled enclosure near the resort’s main building are some unique lizards lounging around.  The Malolo Iguana was though to be extinct until a chance find in 2010 saw an injured one rescued from behind of the Likuliku bures. Unfortunately, this little guy didn’t survive, but much to the delight of iguana aficionados the world over, several more have since been found, seven of which call the resort home as part of an observation and breeding process. Five Star Sustenance
Diet is obviously crucial to maintaining the health of the iguanas and behind the resort, several native plants are grown in the kitchen garden. This little patch of carefully tended vegetables, herbs and local fruits also provides sustenance for Likuliku’s two-legged guests and executive chef Shane Watson can be found there throughout the day, picking produce for his  ever-changing menu .  Shane was part of the resort’s opening team in 2007 and stayed for two years before spending very successful stints in Sydney, Thailand and finally, Perth, where he took the Print Hall restaurant to two Chef Hat-status in just two years. Having returned to Likuliku in 2015 with his wife and daughter, Shane clearly relishes the relaxed vibe of Fiji living. At the same time, though, the cogs of his culinary mind are in constant motion, rising to the challenge of island cooking.  While he grows a variety of fresh produce in the garden, a lot of his ingredients arrive by barge and if something goes awry with the delivery, a good imagination in the kitchen is critical. Thankfully, Shane has good relationships with local suppliers, especially for fish, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing with sourcing regular supplies. An early challenge came when Shane met a doctor who’d started a prawn farm. So he took the half-hour drive on sealed roads followed by a further two hours up through the hills only to discover the ‘farm’ was a tank in which he found about 20 prawns!  Another challenge came early on when Shane happened upon a local who kept ducks and ordered 20 in one go. But it turned out this was the whole flock, so when he returned for more, there were none left. Thankfully, this farmer has since mastered his trade and now provides a steady supply.  One of the constants throughout Shane’s tenures has been mud crab, which he handpicks from the trees. Yes, you read that correctly. Wrapped in reeds, these live crawlers are hung up by farmers in the roadside foliage ready to sell to passers by. Shane is a regular customer as it’s a feature of one of his signature breakfast dishes, the very popular mud crab omelette. While the omelette features consistently, the rest of the menu changes daily and with the seasons. Shane will also design a personal menu to cater for dietary needs. Blissed Out
As the sun settles into its ‘bedroom’, Likuliku winds down too, leaving its well-nourished guests to retreat to their bures, the sound of the calm waters lapping against the sand the perfect closing soundtrack to a day in paradise.
Life
Be still my Indian heart
Words by Kathy Lane on 14 Jan 2016
It was love at first sight, smell and taste. My sensory affair with India began when I visited just over a year ago and I’ve been besotted ever since. I was lucky enough to travel to India for the first time with Melbourne’s Epicurious Travel, experiencing a customised version of their ‘Indian Odyssey’ adventure.   When I headed back six months later, I added a side order of Kolkata and opened my heart even further to the joys of this incredible country. One of the greatest sources of my adoration for India is her food, which is prepared with care and tradition after daily trips to the market. At our first stop, Delhi, breakfast is a revelation. There is the delicious simplicity of the masala omelette, featuring a creamy eggyness that plays with the acidic tang of tomato and the subtle heat of chilli. Then there’s the savoury melange of the breakfast masala dosai, a rice and lentil batter fermented overnight then fried and served as a long, crisp pancake roll stuffed with a spicy potato curry. Black mustard seeds, fenugreek and fresh curry leaves deliver a gentle punch in the potato, while the dosai is served with a colourful array of sambars and chutney that are like nothing I have ever tasted. The crunchy coconut sambar and spicy tomato chutney are unbelievably fresh with a lingering depth of spicy, exotic and addictive flavours. Chandni Chowk bazaar in Old Delhi is a crazy, mysterious labyrinth of narrow laneways that all seem to lead inwards, while its main drag is a frantic explosion of cars, trucks, taxis and trolleys, where vendors sell their wares with vocal abandon and a sea of people crush the pavements. In the depths of the market streets, fruit and vegetable sellers perch on their haunches, or lie resting, their fresh, bright produce by their sides. Young men push flat-bedded trolleys of melons, gourds and greens, looking for the next buyer. Fresh watermelon juice is pressed and loaded with ice, giving some relief from the stifling heat. Pots of oil splatter as they cook delicious jalebi – a saffron-tinted disk of pastry with hints of cardamom and rosewater that play with the lingering sweetness. Vegetable samosas are the ultimate savoury street food. Potato and peas mixed with an array of aromatic spices: cumin, garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric, their crisp pastry delicious and satisfying. We eat chicken kebabs fresh from the tandoor, strung onto metal skewers with onion and green capsicum, covered in a spice mix of cumin, turmeric and garlic, and served with a pot of bubbling dal. India has a love affair with dal, its shades and flavours unique to each region. In northern India, dal makhani features an array of dark beans and lentils flavoured with chillis, garlic, ginger, onions and unique spice mixes. When ours arrive, a knob of garlic butter has been placed in the bottom of the copper serving pot. The steamy dal is placed on top, its heat melting the butter and creating a lava-like explosion of flavour as its garlicky goodness infuses the beans. Rich, textural and highly complex, its lasting flavours linger in my memory. The bustle to the iconic From Delhi, we travel by bus to Agra, enjoying the countryside, where villagers barter at their local market, tend their land and mend things. Indians can fix anything it seems – including our broken down bus – with garages and workshops in every town, faces and hands stained from the grimy work, the air heavy as the scent of automotive oil mingles with village life. The ultimate monument to love, the Taj Mahal, is a sight to behold. Its majesty at sunrise breathtaking in its beauty, its painstaking construction a work of symmetry and wealth, the ultimate jewel in Agra’s – and India’s - crown.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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