September 5, 2013

DSC00010Fresh from the pristine islands of New Zealand, the Ikana Easy Steam GreenshellTM Mussel range, was introduced to Australians only last year. Unique to New Zealand, they are one of the healthiest, most delicious, gourmet super foods available, combining the freshness of organically grown GreenshellTM Mussels with the gourmet delicacy of steam cooking.

Made with freshly prepared, chef inspired sauces, free from artificial flavours and colours, they are lightly blanched then snap frozen to lock in the flavours and goodness. They are packed in ʻeasy steamʼ trays which means they can be microwaved and cooked from frozen in just 5 minutes, perfect if unexpected guests pay you a visit.

Coming in two delicious sauces of White Wine & Cream and Soy & Ginger, I always have trouble deciding which I like the best. I thought the best solution was to just serve both of them, either with rice or pasta. My dinner guests were amazed that the mussels came from a packet instead of fresh from the fish shop.

Sandra Tiltman  

PHOTO:  John Pond



July 11, 2013

DSC00001During Sydney’s recent rain, my umbrella decided it had had enough when a gust of wind turned it inside out, leaving me stranded in the street with rain pelting down.

Without an umbrella, I ran into the nearest shopping arcade to purchase a new one to get me home dry.  Looking through the umbrellas on display a rather unusual one caught my eye.  It was a Blunt Umbrella, a brand I had not seen before. This umbrella’s ribs each had blunt tips which were covered in material, making them safe to use in crowded streets, unlike the more traditional umbrellas which almost cause injury to the person standing next to you.

This unusual umbrella was very easy to open and felt secure to use in the windy streets.  I came to the realisation that it was just a waste of money to buy another poor quality umberella that would let me down again, so I decided the Blunt umbrella was for me.

Designed by New Zealand engineer, Greig Brebner, this stylish urban umbrella would be at home in the streets of the world’s fashion capitals.  It was hard deciding which colour to select from the red, yellow, blue and black ones available in the shop, but I thought a yellow one would match my coat.

After trying the umbrella out on the way home, I decided to get the collapsible model as well, so I can keep it in my bag.  Now I don’t have to worry whether I will be caught in the rain.  Sandra Tiltman    Photo:  John Pond


June 28, 2013

ms Oosterdam at Sea

Two of Holland America Line’s popular vessels, Oosterdam and Volendam, both favourites amongst Australian travellers, will be returning for the 2013-14 cruise season.  Their planned sailings will visit more than fifty ports of call around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific islands.

Between October 2013 and March 2014 there will be multiple departures offering round trip sailings from Sydney, or Sydney to/from Auckland, visiting ports such as Wellington, Napier and Tauranga plus Fiordland National Park and Bay of Plenty, some of the most amazing scenic cruising in the world.

“Over the past few years the popularity of the Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific region has grown tremendously because of its beauty and diversity,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. “Our array of itineraries includes popular ports, stunning island visits, extended stays, overnight calls and enticing pre- and post-cruise options to make the trip in this spectacular region a memorable experience.”

During the 2013-14 season Oosterdam will sail four 14 day cruises from Auckland to Sydney or reverse, as well as three 14 day New Zealand Discovery voyages round trip from Sydney.  There will also be five round trip sailings from Sydney of the 14 day Pacific Treasures cruise, visiting New Zealand and the South Pacific including Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji.

SA06-05110For those who want to spend more time at sea, Volendam will depart Sydney on 20 October 2013 for a 34 day round trip Australia Circumnavigation, featuring more than 20 ports.  Ports on the counterclockwise trip around the continent include Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Townsville, Cairns, Darwin, Exmouth, Fremantle (Perth overnight), Esperance, Port Lincoln, Adelaide (overnight), Kangaroo Island, Melbourne, Burnie and Hobart.  Highlights on the voyage are Komodo Island and a beautiful sunrise call at Lizard Island and sunset call at Booby Island off the coast of Australia.

Departing 20 November 2013, passengers will have the opportunity to travel Melbourne to Singapore on board Volendam.  As well as featuring two days of scenic cruising in The Great Barrier Reef, the 19 day cruise will have stops at Sydney, Burnie, Hamilton Island, Cairns, Darwin, Komodo Island and Semarang, before arriving in Singapore.

One of a kind itineraries are also offered at the beginning of the season with sailings from North America to Sydney.  Volendam’s 21 or 24 day South Pacific Crossing departs Los Angeles or Vancouver on September 25 and September 28, 2013.

Oosterdam’s 24 or 27 day South Pacific Crossing departs Los Angeles or Seattle for Sydney on September 29 and October 2, 2013 and includes an overnight call at Honolulu.  Oosterdam returns to North America on a 28 or 29 day South Pacific Crossing from Sydney to Seattle or Vancouver on April 13, 2014.  The repositioning cruises provide an excellent opportunity to visit the South Pacific and Hawaii, as well as enjoy more relaxing days at sea.

Collectors’ Voyages on Oosterdam and Volendam offer combined back-to-back itineraries from 28 to 58 days covering Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific and are perfect for those who seek a more extensive cruise experience.

Cruisers wishing to make the most of their time in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific can add a three or five night pre or post cruise land tour to the Great

Barrier Reef, Uluru National Park or the Blue Mountains National Park, home of the famous “Three Sisters” rock formation.

Sandra Tiltman    Photos:  Courtesy Holland America


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 


March 25, 2013

QM 800w

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 was berthed at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal on Tuesday morning, March 19.  The surrounding area in the historic Rocks was buzzing with activity.  Lines of taxis were waiting to transport the disembarking passengers, delivery trucks unloading supplies for the next voyage plus the many excited Sydneysiders who had just come down to see this famous ship.

Docking facilities at the Terminal have recently been lengthened to accommodate this giant Queen, which previously could only dock at the near by Garden Island Naval Base.  I am sure the Base’s Admiral is very happy about not having to move his naval vessels to make way for the Queens.

Queen Mary 2’s arrival in Sydney from her historic New Zealand circumnavigation marked the return of some items from the State Library of NSW’s renowned Captain James Cook collection.  The items, which had been on display in the liner’s library during the twelve night voyage, included personal possessions which the master navigator had with him on his 18th century voyages to New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Items included Cook’s tea caddy and a spoon, also signed 1768 correspondence about his preparation for the first New Zealand voyage on Endeavour and an excerpt from Cook’s handwritten draft journal from his first voyage to New Zealand, including his account of Endeavour’s arrival at Poverty Bay and a violent first encounter with Maori.

This is the second time the State Library of NSW has entrusted Queen Mary 2 with items from its prized collections.  In 2012, Queen Mary 2 carried Matthew Flinders’ historic journals and map atlas from his circumnavigation of Australia on the liner’s own maiden circumnavigation of the country.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry said the Cook items had been a highlight for the Australian and New Zealand guests onboard during the historic voyage.

“We’re so grateful to the Library for allowing Queen Mary 2 to take these Captain Cook possessions on a similar journey to his 18th century exploration of New Zealand, albeit under vastly different circumstances this time,” Ms Sherry said.

Queen Mary 2’s circumnavigation included a maiden visit to Milford Sound in New Zealand’s stunning World Heritage listed Fiordland National Park, where she made history on becoming the largest ship to visit.

Sandra Tiltman      Photo:  John Pond




November 4, 2012

Known around the world for its sheep, dairy industry and magnificent scenery, or not necessarily in that order, New Zealand is fast becoming a world leader as a producer of fine quality food and wine.

I recently attended a demonstration of an innovative New Zealand product with a hard to forget name, Mad Millie Cheese Kit.  Held at Neilson Park, the demonstration was presented by Danielle Dixon, who appeared as a contestant in season three of Masterchef Australia.  Danielle held us all spellbound as she made cheese making, look so easy and so much fun.  Just to prove how easy it was, Danielle asked several members of the audience to come up and assist her.  I am not known for my culinary skills so I did not rush to volunteer, but after watching the demonstration, I can’t wait to try making some cheese myself.  Mozzarella appeared to be one of the easier varieties to make, so I think I will start with that.

With their head office in Auckland, Mad Millie creates DIY food kits that enable the adventurous, and not so adventurous, home cooks to create many varieties of cheese in their own kitchen.  These easy to use kits provide everything needed to get started, except the milk.  Even the most inexperienced home cooks can create their own mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone and feta to name but a few.  Once they become more confident they can move onto other varieties such as camembert and blue vein.

Cheese is made from souring milk by adding an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar or by using a bacterial culture.  This causes the milk to separate into the curd, the solid part from which most cheese is made, and also the whey, which is the liquid.

One of the most important reasons for making your own cheese is that you know exactly what has gone into it and that there are no artificial ingredients.  Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you present your own hand made cheeses that taste so good.  Sandra Tiltman