January 3, 2014


Hawaii’s first point of arrival for visitors travelling by air or sea, is usually Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, where both the international airport and the Aloha Tower shipping terminal are located.

After clearing customs, most visitors head straight to the tourist hub of Waikiki where most of the hotels and holiday apartments are located, taking advantage of the famous Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head views.  Even though most Australians live within easy access to a beach, Waikiki seems to have a special allure that draws so many Aussie tourists to Hawaii each year.  Maybe the connection is that most of the sand on Waikiki beach is imported from Australia.

Walking along the beachfront on Kalakaua Avenue is a favourite activity for young and old.  There’s so much to see, with shops and restaurants on one side to tempt you and just across the road is that famous beach.

One of the street sounds visitors first notice is the clang of the bells from the many trolleys circulating through the area. These open sided trolleys with their bench seats, are based on the wooden trolley buses of yesteryear, but have been updated to cater for modern needs.  They ring their signature bell each time they are to depart one of their stops.

They are such a fun way to get around and view all the sights plus they definitely add to the atmosphere, with their friendly drivers greeting everyone as they get on board.  I rode the trolley every day when I was in Honolulu recently, as they were much more fun than getting on the local bus service called “The Bus”.

The trolleys run separate services for Japanese, Korean and English speakers, with the language displayed on the front of the trolley along with the destination.

IMG_2423The Waikiki Trolley’s most popular service is the Pink Line that travels from the Waikiki beachside to Ala Moana Shopping Centre. With 12 clearly marked trolley stops along the route, including Duke Kahanamoku Statue and Hilton Hawaiian Village, the destination for most on board is Ala Moana, stopping just near Nordstrom Department Store. The friendly drivers announce each upcoming stop, ringing their bell once safe to proceed to the next stop.  Tickets on the Pink Line are US$2, exact fare cash only one way and can be purchased on board, or at the Waikiki Trolley Information Desk in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

The Red Line Historic Honolulu Sightseeing Tour provides a commentary while taking in such sights as Iolani Palace, Chinatown and Museum of Art. Ticket holders can hop on/hop off, allowing them to spend more time at a favourite location. The Green Line visits the Aquarium, Diamond Head and Kahala Mall. For those with more time, try the Blue Line Panoramic Coastline Tour that visits Hanauma Bay, Halona Blow Hole and Sea Life Park, taking 2½ hours.

Shopaholics will be pleased to know that Waikiki Trolley also operates a daily reservation only service on an air conditioned mini bus to the Waikele Premium Outlets, where there are over 50 outlet stores, all offering incredible bargains. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough room in my suitcases to take this tour.

Sandra Tiltman        Photos:  John Pond


January 3, 2014

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How do you improve on perfection, that’s the question I asked myself on learning that EUROPA, one of the world’s most elegant ships, had been in dry dock for renovations earlier this year in Hamburg.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA underwent a comprehensive redesign to both interior and outdoor areas where 152 Veranda Suites and 4 SPA Suites received new carpets and furniture. New carpeting, woven exclusively for EUROPA with its own design, was also installed in the public areas, corridors and staircases, as well as renovation work in the atrium and pool area, according to reports.

All 152 Veranda Suites on decks 5, 6, 7 and 9 received a new colour scheme of sandy and natural colours combined with berry tones, giving a fresh and airy atmosphere. The living areas of the four SPA Suites on Deck 7 were also renovated with bright wall closets and new seating furniture.

EUROPA’s atrium has a new colour scheme, carpet islands and contemporary lounge furniture all contributing to making this central area of the ship a comfortable and leisurely place.

The renovation has also enhanced the popular pool area on decks 8 and 9 with new tiles, maritime colours and floating lights, generating an extraordinary atmosphere, especially in the evenings.

A total of 650 specialists worked on the modernisations which included 5,200 square metres of new carpeting, 1,000 square metres of renewed Bolit flooring and applied 25 tonnes of paint to the ship.

Some culinary innovations can also be found on board.  In Restaurant Dieter Müller late risers can enjoy breakfast until 12.00 hrs where, besides breakfast specialities, the menu will feature a daily recommendation, created especially by Dieter Müller.  Now that’s what I call civilised dining times.  Most other cruise ships close breakfast service in the Dining Room by 9.30 a.m.

DSC01935The latest edition of “Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” has awarded the two sister ships in the luxury sector, EUROPA and EUROPA 2, the highest distinction of 5 stars plus. This makes both ships global leaders. “In the 29 year history of Berlitz ratings, this is the first time two cruise ships are in the exclusive 5 stars plus club. No other ships currently achieve such a high standard, which are set by the EUROPA and EUROPA 2 and their crews” said Douglas Ward at the presentation of the Berlitz award to the management of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

From 10-24 June 2014 on a bilingual itinerary through Western Europe from Lisbon to Hamburg, EUROPA will offer its annual food festival, EUROPA’s Best, which will take place onboard in Antwerp.

Known for exceptional music cruises, EUROPA will offer two bilingual classical music itineraries. From 29 April-11 May 2014 the Stella Maris International Vocal Competition will be held while cruising from Limassol to Venice. The Stella Maris concept brings together talented up and coming young singers from the best opera houses in the world in a vocal competition on board, who are judged by the EUROPA audience and a renowned jury.  The Ocean Sun Festival, held during the cruise from Travemuende to Hamburg from 31 August-13 September 2014, features internationally acclaimed classical music stars performing onboard, as well as exclusive concerts at historical sites ashore.

Sandra Tiltman   PHOTOS:  John Pond


January 3, 2014

Kinship, Greg Barrett, 5925

Australia’s leading Indigenous performing arts company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, which creates a truly Australian theatrical experience that connects the spirit of traditional culture with contemporary lives, will be performing at the 2014 Holland Dance Festival in the Netherlands from 25 January to 16 February.

Artistic Director of the Festival, Samuel Wuersten, said “We are so excited that Holland Dance Festival is presenting Bangarra Dance Theatre for the first time in the dancing capital of The Netherlands, The Hague”.

Dutch audiences will not only experience an outstanding performance of contemporary dance theatre but also have the opportunity to participate in two workshops presented by the dancers of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Prior to the Festival opening, Bangarra dancers Deborah Brown and Leonard Mickelo will perform the short work “Moth” in the Festival Gala on 25 January. The full company will then perform “Kinship” on 14 & 15 February as part of the Festival program.

“Kinship” brings together two of Bangarra’s most loved dance works in a theatrical experience by award winning choreographer Stephen Page. The first section features “Brolga”, a creation story inspired by the totemic systems in Australian Aboriginal culture, where every person is assigned a totem related to their clan.  “Brolga” was originally presented as part of the Bangarra production “Corroboree”. The second work “ID” investigates what it means to be Aboriginal in the 21st century and was originally performed in the acclaimed production “Belong”.

Bangarra’s Executive Director, Catherine Baldwin said “The Company was very pleased to receive an invitation for Bangarra to perform at the prestigious Holland Dance Festival. We are excited about bringing a truly Australian Indigenous theatrical experience to such a diverse new audience, alongside the world’s most exciting dance companies”.

Sandra Tiltman 

Picture Credit: Greg Barrett