June 22, 2013

Viking 2013 Launch 1

Viking River Cruises, the largest, most popular and leader in the river cruise industry, sailing the waterways of Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, South East Asia and China, recently set a world record with the christening of ten new Viking Longships.

Four of the christenings took place in front of a large crowd in Amsterdam, while the remaining six were conducted live via satellite from the Neptun shipyard in Germany.

The simultaneous christening ceremony debuted the ships Viking Aegir, Viking Atla, Viking Bragi, Viking Embla, Viking Forseti, Viking Jarl, Viking Rinda, Viking Skadi, Viking Tor and Viking Var.

Viking Longships_Veranda_Bed_Rnd 2Ten distinguished women from around the globe served as ceremonial godmothers for the new ships, representing the key Viking brand pillars of history, art, education, exploration and discovery.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises commented at the event “Today is a proud day for Viking and for river cruising.  We are honoured to showcase ten of our revolutionary new Longships and to have such a celebrated group of women helping us christen them.  Our guests are explorers, just like the ancient Vikings of our Norse heritage, which is why we deliver authentic and enriching travel experiences like no other cruise line.”

The event was certified by a Guinness World Records™ adjudicator as “The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company”.

Viking plans to break its own record in 2014, with the launch of twelve new Longships.

The new Viking Longships will accommodate 190 passengers in 95 staterooms, and will also feature two Explorer Suites, which will be the largest river cruise suites in Europe complete with 270 degree views.  There will also be seven two-room Veranda Suites, each with a full size veranda in the living room and French balcony in the bedroom; 39 Veranda Staterooms with full size verandas and 22 French Balcony Staterooms.

Viking has released their 2014 River Cruise Atlas exclusively for the Australian and New Zealand market with AUD pricing, featuring new itineraries and twelve new Longship vessels, plus an early booking discount.  They also have a remarkable airfare offer, where travellers can purchase a $995 per person, return economy airfare to Europe, from all major gateways in Australia.  This deal is inclusive of taxes and seasonal surcharges and is offered to a wide range of European gateways.

Viking River Cruises xxx New Ship on Rhine copy_Fotor_2013062222 itineraries are offered in 2014 ranging from 8 to 23 days in length.  While the majority are in Europe, they also journey along the Volga, Neva and Svir between Moscow and St. Petersburg.  In China, where “cruise tours” take visitors to Beijing, Shanghai and the Terracotta Army in Xian, plus a Yangtze River cruise, Viking’s ship features all balcony staterooms.

Itineraries include new destinations such as Portugal, Burma and a new way to see Bordeaux, as well as Old European favourites, such as Grand European Tour and European Odyssey.  Viking has also reintroduced Elegant Elbe, Footsteps of the Cossacks, Magnificent Mekong and Tulips and Windmills.

River cruising is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry; unpack once and let the ship take you right into the heart of towns and cities.

The Aquavit Terrace’s indoor/outdoor viewing area at the bow of the ship and grills for al fresco dining, an elevator for easy access between decks and free shipwide wireless internet service are just some of the many features guests will enjoy on their Viking river cruise.

Viking Longships, with their sustainability upgrades which include on board solar panels and organic herb garden plus energy efficient hybrid engines that reduce vibrations for a smooth ride, offer passengers an unforgettable experience.

Sandra Tiltman 


June 22, 2013
Glenn Hill, Gretel Scarlett & Kirby Burgess Performing at Launch

Glenn Hill, Gretel Scarlett & Kirby Burgess at Launch

Less well known to audiences was his role as a mentor and advisor to many young performers that he worked with over the years.  Following his sudden death in 2008 while performing the role of the Wizard of Oz in Wicked, the Rob Guest Endowment fund was set up as a tribute to this outstanding performer, to continue his work in nurturing and progressing young developing talent in the musical theatre industry.

Now in its fifth year, the Rob Guest Endowment is an established and highly anticipated annual opportunity to showcase some of Australia’s finest upcoming young talent, which culminates in a night of stellar performances at the Rob Guest Endowment Gala Concert.

In 2012, judges auditioned over three hundred applicants in Sydney and Melbourne, drawn from six states, to finally select the top six performers to compete at the Gala Concert.

The 2012 recipient of the Rob Guest Endowment was Glenn Hill, who performed “For Good” from Wicked, at the recent 2013 launch to the delight of those present, along with last year’s Encouragement award winner, Kirby Burgess, and Gretel Scarlett, the 2011 finalist who has now been cast as Sandy in the upcoming production of Grease.

Previously the Gala Concert has been held in Melbourne, but this year it’s Sydney’s turn on 25 November at the Lyric Theatre.

All applicants must be between 18-30 years of age and have well developed vocal, dance and acting abilities to front the panel of judges, who have the task of selecting the best six young performers.  The judging panel is made up of top industry experts and they will award the prize to one of the final six on the night of the Gala Concert.  The prize package will provide financial assistance for their future, as well as access to tuition and industry specialists, both in Australia and overseas, to allow them to develop their skills and knowledge.

Sandra Tiltman    PHOTO: John Pond 


June 22, 2013


Spice I Am is, in our opinion, possibly the best Thai restaurant in Sydney.  Located in Victoria Street Darlinghurst, opposite the famous Tropicana Coffee Shop, the birthplace of TropFest.  The minimalist décor is very elegant and stylish, in dark tones, giving a feeling of warmth.  There is even a semi-private dining area in one corner, perfect if you have a large group.

Bour Tod, a Phuket style fritter

Bour Tod, a Phuket style fritter

When we visited for lunch recently, we received a very warm welcome from Mimi, who after showing us to our table, explained that they had both an a la carte menu and a special lunch menu from which to choose.

The lunch menu offered a good selection of light meals, priced from $9.50, including Fried Fish Balls and Moo Daed Deaw (Marinated Pork Strips) along with Soups and Stir Fries from $14 such as Mee Hokkien (Phuket Style) and Pad Kee Mao (spicy noodles).

Most dishes came with a full description, and many with a picture.

We placed ourselves in Mimi’s hands who selected for us.  Mimi, who is from Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand, patiently explained the ingredients of each dish plus its degree of spiciness.  If we had been making our own selections, we probably would not have chosen many of the dishes selected for us, thus missing out on some incredible flavours.

Spice I Am is the only Thai restaurant in Sydney that serves the entrée, Bour Tod, a Phuket style fritter of green prawns on crispy betel leaf with chilli sauce, crushed roasted cashew nuts and coriander.  Consisting of six pieces, it was outstanding.  $14.50

Next was Pad Prik Pao, a stir fried crispy pork belly, wok tossed with chilli jam and cherry tomatoes.  This was a perfect dish for those who do not want too much spice.  $23.00



For main course, we had Yum Hua Plee, a specialty of the restaurant.  The dish consisted of shredded banana flower salad with king prawns, shredded chicken breast, roasted coconut, shallots, chilli and Nam Prik Pao dressing.  In one word, magnificent.  $29.50

We then tried the Massaman Beef Curry, slow cooked chunks of tender beef in thick, mild coconut curry with onions, potatoes and peanuts.  The restaurant makes its own curry paste, any wonder the dish tasted so good.  $25.00

We could not leave without trying two of the desserts, especially the one with the very enticing name of BTS (Better Than Sex), a toasted brioche served sith pandan coconut gelato, topped with Thai caramel sauce and roasted black and white sesame seeds.  YUM.  $16.00

The other dessert was equally enjoyable, Khao Neaw Dum, warm black sticky rice with Thai smoked coconut cream and pandan coconut



gelato.  $10.50

Some of the seats do not have backs, so if you particularly like a chair, it’s a good idea to mention this when booking.

Spice I Am offers a $40 per person set menu for groups with a minimum of four people.

Co-owner and Executive Head Chef, Sujet Saenkham who is from Central Thailand, has created some memorable dishes.

Take Away Menu with free delivery to surrounding areas.

Spice I Am gets our highest rating.

Spice I Am  Thai Restaurant  –  Dine in & Take Away

296-300 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, 9332 2445

Trading Hours Monday – Sunday     Lunch 11.30 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.   Dinner 5.45 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.

Sandra Tiltman & John Pond    Photos:  John Pond