Saturday, 18 November 2017

Proof that the travelling public are idiots

Where can we see the wild haggis? Can you teach me Spanish in an hour? 

If you ever had any doubt that that travelling public was slightly lacking in the IQ department, a new survey released by the Traveldoge hotel chain in the UK removes all doubt. 

These are Brits, so sympathy is required, but can seriously imagine rocking up at the reception of your local hotel and asking to use it as the venue for the school nativity play? 

The budget hotel chain polled staff across its 552 UK properties about the weirdest requests they had received. 

Blackpool South Shore was asked to move a guest’s entire room closer to the beach as they wanted to hear the ocean, while London Tower Bridge was expected to accommodate a yacht.

Another team were asked if they could stay up all night sewing crystals onto a wedding dress.  

In Slough, the team was asked directions to The Office to meet Ricky Gervais’ fictional character, David Brent. 

One Halifax guest wanted to be taught Spanish in an hour to impress Spanish investors, while one at Fort William asked about the local haggis population. 

Not forgetting the optimistic guest who wanted Travelodge staff to transform into wedding planners, asking if they could arrange for a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

Which train goes to Hogwarts? 

Please can you stop the wind from blowing? 

Am I able to bring Spyro, my 7ft Komodo Dragon, to stay with me as part of your pet policy? 

Please can you fill my room with pink inflatable flamingos?

All in a day's work for Travelodge staff. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mitolo unveils new wine and food complex in McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale winery Mitolo has unveiled a new $3.5 million cellar door and restaurant complex.

The new facility offers personalised tasting experiences and Italian-accented food.

The Mitolo family has used 10 shipping containers as the basis for its tasting room, restaurant and event space – an ultra-modern, architecturally designed structure that also incorporates glass, concrete and timber.

“Nothing prissy,” said Mitolo brand founder Frank Mitolo. “A masculine structure just like the big red wines of the brand.”

Mitolo is the first McLaren Vale winery to make use of shipping containers.

The structure is the creation of local architect firm Tectvs, its director Francesco Bonato and interior designer Dina Giannone.

It covers around 24,000 square metres and is a reinvention of the classic Italian "sagra", a popular pop-up festival organised to show off local food and drink.

The landscaped exterior features fresh produce for use in the restaurant.

“I wanted this space to represent the brand and its people,” Mitolo said. “It needed to be unique and special - but it’s not about the building, it’s all about the wines.

“Terroir really defines our wines, and enables us to produce wines that are unique and expressive of place. And each wine comes with its own distinct personality and story.”

It’s now 18 years since Mitolo teamed up with winemaker Ben Glaetzer to launch his own brand.

Mitolo Wines is known for classic Australian shiraz, cabernet and grenache but the family’s Italian heritage is proudly displayed in their winemaking techniques and other coveted Mitolo wines like vermentino, sangiovese and sagrantino.

And guests can match the wines with a complimentary tasting plate for one from the new on-site restaurant, Bocca Di Luppo.

Head chef Tom Jack’s menu owes much to Italian tradition but it comes with a modern twist.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Wine industry newcomer makes a big impact

Lost Buoy Wines has made quite an impact on the marketplace since launching its first wines just three years ago. 

Based in McLaren Vale and owned by the Kelley family, Lost Bouy has boomed from producing two wines and a few hundred cases in August 2014 to eight wines and 8,500 cases in 2017. 

The estate vineyard, from which the brand-leading Cliff Block Shiraz and Lion Point Shiraz ($30+) are sourced, is located on a cliff top overlooking Port Willunga, while the fruit for the rest of the range, labelled Lost at Sea ($20-25),  is sourced from growers.

With experienced winemaker Phil Christiansen on board and former Schild marketer, and human dynamo Anna Watson running the show it is no surprise that growth has been so rapid.

And with an exciting pinot noir project launching next year, and some covetous eyes being cast at Tasmania, the expansion is not over yet. 

Watson hosted the first Lost Buoy dinner in Tasmania last night (the Apple Isle is the brand's No.2 market after South Australia) and I caught up with her the following morning when she was typically upbeat. 

Sales are buoyant (see what I did there) in Australia and export markets including Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada. 

"It's been a very exciting time," says Watson. "The whole team has been working hard to spread the word about quality and value - and it's great that is paying off."

# Stay tuned for some exciting news on the pinot noir project very soon. 



Good vibes all round on board the Norwegian Jewel

You can tell a lot from smiles. The cruise guests embarking and disembarking the Norwegian Jewel in Hobart this week almost all had smiles on their faces.

Similarly, the crew, making their first visit to the Tasmanian capital, went about their onboard duties clearly happy to be playing their various roles. 

There's a good feel about the Norwegian Jewel, part of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) fleet that has just begun her inaugural Australia and New Zealand season. It's clearly a happy ship with a good mix of age demographics

As the first Norwegian Cruise Lhomeportto home port in Australia for a full cruising season, Norwegian Jewel’s arrival reflects Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings long-term focus on the region, following similar announcements from sister brands – Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – that they are more committed than ever before to Australia and New Zealand.

NCLH recently announced that Norwegian Jewel will return to Australian waters in 2018/19 – fresh from a multi-million-dollar bow-to-stern refurbishment – for a series of home-ported sailings. 

She is a light and airy ship with no fewer than 16 different dining options, making sure  even the fussiest guest does not get bored with the culinary offerings. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Norwegian Jewel to Sydney for her highly anticipated inaugural Australia and New Zealand season, said senior VP Steve Odell. "Norwegian Jewel’s arrival breaks the mould when it comes to freedom and flexibility, ushering in a new style of cruising with no set dining times, no pre-assigned seating and no dress codes, giving Australian travellers the unique opportunity to create bespoke cruise holiday experiences any way they want.” 

“The way Australian cruisers have embraced Norwegian Jewel’s inaugural season has exceeded our expectations, with the current booking season already close to capacity before it has even started.

"Norwegian Jewel’s 2018/19 season is now on sale, and early booking activity indicates it is set to be another ground-breaking one.” 

For those seeking the ultimate in luxury, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private enclave – The Haven by Norwegian features the most luxurious accommodation on board with a 24-hour butler, dedicated concierge service and a private sundeck.

The ship boasts those 16 impressive dining venues (half of them included in the tariff), along with 15 bars and lounges including dedicated Champagne, sake, mojito, whisky and cabaret bars, as well as a poolside bar for afternoon cocktails at sea. 

Guests keen to explore the raft of dining possibilities on board can indulge in Brazilian steakhouse Moderno, Japanese specials at Teppanyaki Room, authentic American fare at Cagney’s Steakhouse, Tuscan country flavours at La Cucina, and sushi and sake at Chin Chin.

On board on Wednesday, we enjoyed some impressive French flavours (and great service) at Le Bistro. 

Entertainment options for cruisers include Australia’s own Burn the Floor dance cabaret,  magic and comedy shows and acrobatics by Le Cirque Bijou. There is an impressive spa facility and a large on-board theatre. 

During her November 2017 to February 2018 time in local waters, Norwegian Jewel will embark on a total of nine sailings commencing with the current five-day sampler to Tasmania, visiting Burnie and Hobart before returning to Sydney. 

Other season highlights include a nine-day voyage calling at regional gems such as Eden, Kangaroo Island and Burnie, departing December 14, and a series of 10- to 16-day Australia and New Zealand itineraries visiting destinations including Milford Sound and the Bay of Islands.

Following her inaugural Australian and New Zealand season, Norwegian Jewel will travel to Asia, and then on to Alaska for the Northern Hemisphere summer before making her way back to Australia and New Zealand next year. 

The 2018-2019 home-ported sailings are now on sale and offer a number of new itineraries, taking in destinations such as Cairns, Hobart, Milford Sound and Tauranga, as well as sailings to the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and a transpacific voyage from Vancouver to Tokyo (Yokohama).

Norwegian Jewel can host up to 2,376 guests. Built 12 years ago and set for an off-season refurb, she has 1,069 professional crew.

For further information visit; or ring 1300 255 200 in New Zealand. 

# The author was a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line and Norwegian Jewel will host the Sunrise breakfast program on Channel Seven when it docks back in Sydney on November 17. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Tasmanian tourism leader spreads his wings to Victoria

Rob Pennicott, one of Tasmania's leading tourism entrepreneurs, will use "boats like the world has never seen" in his first eco-tourism project outside the Apple Isle.
Three amphibious, rigid inflatable boats with retractable wheels at the bow and stern are being built in Western Australia for his venture into Victoria's Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park.
The vessels will cost Pennicott Wilderness Tours $850,000 each.
“I’ve got the lead on the world on these boats," Pennicott told the Hobart Mercury newspaper. "There will be a lot of interest from the boating fraternity, but they are under wraps until sea trials in January.”
The Brand Tasmania Council member has built up an impressive, multimillion-dollar business running high-speed journeys out of Bruny Island, the Tasman Peninsula and Hobart. 
The tours have opened up southern Tasmania’s spectacular coastal scenery to hundreds of thousands of tourists. 
“I like to think of our new venture off Wilsons Promontory as a Tasmanian export," Pennicott said.
"I’m a Tassie boy, and it has taken 10 years in the making to get to this point. I’m very excited about it. I’m over the moon to be given this opportunity."
The Victorian Government has approved the venture which will employ 30 people and inject $10 million a year into the local economy when it begins operations in October 2018.
The design for the new amphibious craft was selected because it will minimise environmental impacts.
The boat's footprints will mainly consist of wheel tracks on beaches, which will only last until the next high tide.
The vessels will be 11.5m long, weigh 10 tonnes fully laden and be powered by twin 350hp Yamaha outboard engines.
They will cruise at around 25 knots and — except for their wheels — are similar to existing Pennicott Wilderness Journeys craft, but more open, with only a small canopy at the stern.
Each boat will carry two crew and up to 20 passengers. The boats will run three-hour tours from a beach at Tidal River into Norman Bay, out to the Anser Group of islands, Kanowna Island, circumnavigate Skull Rock and head back via the Glennie Group and Norman Island.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Major export award for small family winery

Small South Australian winery Wines by Geoff Hardy has been named Australian Exporter of the Year at the Optus My Business Awards for 2017. 

The event is the longest-standing business awards program in Australia, and identifies and acknowledges the achievements of Australia’s best companies.

Wines by Geoff Hardy is a family-owned and -operated wine business and took out the award against other well-known Australian companies, including Australian success story aussieBum.
K1 by Geoff Hardy cellar door

“This is a remarkable achievement by our company and we are of course very honoured to be included in such great company,” CEO Richard Dolan said.

“We have a small and very dedicated team, which have all been essential to the continued growth we’ve had in our export markets.”

Wines by Geoff Hardy has seen huge developments in its overseas markets over the past few years, recording double-digit export growth each year for six consecutive years.

Between 2011 and 2016, the company’s export sales grew by a massive 885%. 

“While sales to China have played a major role in that growth, we have also opened new markets in India, Finland, Sweden, UK, Hong Kong and Canada with further markets opening soon in Peru, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan,” Dolan said.

“We still have plenty of scope for further growth in the UK and mainland Europe, as well as North America, where we have little to no representation. We are actively looking for new partners in these more traditional markets, together with other new and emerging markets in Asia.

“In addition to our success, the nomination of fellow South Australian family wine business, Patritti, in the same award category is great news for the broader industry - wine is one of our state’s largest exports and this shows that there’s still plenty of opportunities to grow out there.”

Wines by Geoff Hardy is made up of three South Australian wineries run by Geoff Hardy - Pertaringa in McLaren Vale, K1 by Geoff Hardy in the Adelaide Hills and Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy. 

The company produces around 1.2m bottles of wine per year, with fruit sourced from a variety of premium regions across South Australia. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Now you really can enjoy Breakfast at Tiffany's

Well over half a century after Audrey Hepburn starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's, which I'm reliably told is one of the most romantic movies ever made, the famous New York jewellery store has opened a café where movie lovers can enjoy a morning tea.

The new eatery, which opened over the weekend, offers an opportunity for customers at Tiffany & Co’s Fifth Avenue flagship store, including foreign tourists who account for a big chunk of sales, to get a taste of the glamorous lifestyle enjoyed by Hepburn’s Holly Golightly character.

Tiffany has struggled to appeal to younger shoppers, many of whom have shunned the type of traditional jewellery, such as solitaire engagement rings, that is the brand’s mainstay, Reuters reported.

The new Blue Box Café on the fourth floor of the Fifth Avenue store is "designed for customers who have always dreamed of having Breakfast at Tiffany,” the company said in a statement.

The eatery, decorated in Tiffany’s signature robin-egg blue motif, offers breakfast at $US29, excluding tax and tip.The menu is based on “American classics made with the highest quality, regionally sourced ingredients.”

And for later sleepers, the café also offers a $US39 pre-fixe lunch and $US49 high tea.

The fourth floor also houses Tiffany’s new luxury Home & Accessories collection.

“Both the café and redesign of the Home & Accessories floor reflect a modern luxury experience,” said Reed Krakoff, the chief artistic officer of Tiffany & Co.

"The space is experimental and experiential – a window into the new Tiffany.”

Founded in New York in 1837, Tiffany & Co. bills itself as the world’s premier jeweller and America’s house of design.