• A Journey through Bhutan – Part 1

    Day 1

    After spending a restful night at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel in Bangkok (the hotel is right at the airport – perfect for those early morning flights), we flew from Bangkok to Paro on Druk Air. Linda and I both felt the service was great and sparked our understanding of the Bhutanese people and how friendly they are. Also – when you travel to Bhutan, make sure you have an assigned seat on the left side of the airplane heading there, and right side coming home – incredible views of the Himalayas! Of course, booking with SWAIN and Amankora, almost guarantees that! Continue Reading

    November 11, 2011 • Asia, Ian Swain Sr • Views: 6031

  • A Journey Through Bhutan – Part 2

    Day 4
    Last night, we walked about 10 minutes from the lodge and settled down to a log fire in the middle of the neighbor’s farm land. We were served a drink of locally brewed rice alcohol and were led into a stone building. The wooden tub had been filled and the back of it was separated with a wooden divider, from which the hot water flowed in. Stones were heated on a fire and placed in the back area. As each stone was added, the water temperature would rise. In the water was a local herb which not only added fragrance, but felt healing and soothing.  The bamboo doors were opened and we had an incredible view of the valley. What an incredible experience but after an hour, we had to get out and head off down the hill to the lodge and a great dinner. Continue Reading

    November 11, 2011 • Asia, Ian Swain Sr • Views: 2552

  • 25th Anniversary Celebration

    We departed on QANTAS’s A380 non-stop for Melbourne, Australia! I love this aircraft and the great service onboard. 14 hours later, we landed and were on our way to The Langham Melbourne. Ben Sington, the General Manager, and his team do such a great job for our clients and for us whenever we are in town. Melbourne itself is a wonderful city. Located on the banks of the Yarra River, the city is renowned for its sidewalk cafes, laneways, and wonderful restaurants. I love coming down here and exploring a little more each time.

    25th-Anniversary-Celebration Continue Reading

    November 2, 2011 • Australia, Ian Swain Sr • Views: 2541

  • Wolgan Valley – Revisited

    Cities: Blue Mountains, New South Wales

    I was fortunate to visit Wolgan (located west of Sydney, Australia about 3 hour’s drive) the day before it opened in 2009, and spent a couple of hours with Joost Heymeijer (the General Manager) who showed me around, beaming with delight as he had been since ground breaking so everything that was there, Joost organized! Continue Reading

    August 28, 2011 • Australia, Bloggers, Ian Swain Sr • Views: 2907

  • Corfu, Greece, Our first Villa Experience!

    Cities: Athens, Greece; Corfu, Greece

    This July, we all left Philly heading to Athens, Greece. My wife Linda, 4 of my children, Lianda, Ian II, Lorianna and Dilan and Ian’s girlfriend Kristen. We landed and headed to the Grand Bretagne in the city and checked in to our suites and rooms overlooking the Syntagma Square and Parliament buildings. We arrived right after the demonstrations that had been occurring, but they were contained to an area and heavily secured by the local police teams. It is a beautiful city – a great walking city, which we immediately embarked on. Continue Reading

    August 28, 2011 • Bloggers, Europe, Ian Swain Sr • Views: 20182

  • Fijian Reef Endeavour Cruise

    Cities: Mamanuca Islands, Sacred Islands, Yasawa Islands

    By David Thomas – Swain Tours – Sydney Manager

    I happened to be in Fiji at the same time as Ian, here for the Fijian Tourism Exchange (BFTE). Prior to this conference I was fortunate enough to enjoy a 3 night Southern Yasawa’s cruise with Captain Cook Cruises.

    Captain Cook Cruises is a family owned operation, and in Fiji offer a range of Day Cruises to surrounding islands and 3, 4 and 7 night options onboard the refurbished Reef Endeavour, taking in the islands, beach, heritage and culture of Fiji.

    Day 1

    The 3 day cruise I am boarding departs from the new Denarau Marina on a Saturday at 1pm. Check in is very smooth and seamless and luggage is taken care of and not seen again until inside my cabin on board. The Denarau Marina has been built up over the years and now home to many shops and restaurants and a great spot to spend a little time pre or post cruise. At 1pm we board the City of Nadi vessel and are tendered out to the Reef Endevour awaiting our arrival in Nadi Bay. During this short 20 minute tender ride our Marine activity expert explained and discussed many of the activities that could be done in the water during the trip, from snorkelling pristine coral reefs to Introductory and Certified Dive opportunities.

    Once onboard we were greeted by the fantastic Fijian crew who were always smiling and amazing singers when the opportunity arose. After a light lunch of sandwiches and pastries was served, most guests checked into their respective cabins and prepared for our first snorkelling opportunity which was about 90 minutes away at a small coral cay in the Mamanucas island chain.

    Our host from Captain Cook was the lovely Jackie Haworth-Charlton and we used this opportunity to take a look around the vessel and at some of the new cabins & suites on board. The Reef Endeavour is a small ship catering to 140 passengers with 65 Cabins and Staterooms.

    We checked out the new Suites first, there are 4 of these, see the attached photo. They are very comfortably equipped and are 2 cabins turned into 1 suite which leaves a great living space and retains the 2 bathrooms so guests can have his and hers bathrooms. These suites will be very popular and definitely the way to go for those clients looking for more space and comfort. Next we saw the new Interconnecting family cabins, perfect for a family and retain the 2 bathrooms and take away the need to walk outside the cabin to get to the other members of the family . The group I was travelling in were in a Stateroom Cabin and was very comfortable for the 3 night cruise and had everything we needed and let in plenty of light from the outside through the windows. We also checked out the lower deck cabins and for those on a budget I was quite surprised as although only with portholes, there was still plenty of light in the cabin.

    Other features we checked out were the dedicated dining room, lounge and bar, swimming pool on the back deck and plenty of lounge areas inside and out on all decks to relax including 2 jacuzzis on the top deck.

    Back to the cruising and after a short 90 minute sail we arrived at the Coral Cay for some snorkelling action . The Reef Endeavour has an excellent tender boat system with a hydrolic tray at the rear that catches the tender from below and raises it to the deck level for easy boarding and disembarkation of the tender for all excursions. Out to the Coral Cay and many guests just relaxed on the beach and had a swim while I joined a group which went out in the glass bottom boat to snorkel over the reef. At the conclusion of this trip it was back to the Reef Endevour for a shower and freshen up before the Captain’s Dinner tonight.

    The Captain’s Dinner started with pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the Lounge Bar area as the sun set over the Fiji Islands. From there it was down to the dining area for dinner. The menu was varied and had 3 choices for entrée, main and dessert. You need to remember you are on a cruise, and they don’t try to serve 5 star gourmet meals , but it is good fresh creative meals with excellent service. After dinner the local crew put on a show with plenty of singing and dancing.

    Day 2

    This morning the vessel had sailed to the Sacred Islands and moored in spectacular cove which became my favourite snorkelling stop of the trip. We were here for the morning and after a hearty breakfast I made my way to the main deck to prepare for snorkelling to see 5 friendly Reef Sharks had come out to greet us this morning. They were of no danger to anyone on the boat but a spectacular sight. Once onboard the glass bottom boat and after the proper safety briefing it was into the water for some brilliant snorkelling around the reef and surrounding cove. The colours and fish here were amazing and we found ourselves in the water for nearly 90 minutes before swimming into the beach to relax, soak up some sun and have a cold beer.

    Back to Reef Endeavour for lunch and as the vessel departed for the Yasawa’s, all passengers made their way to the top sundeck for a lunch which today was a selection of great curries, which they do really well in Fiji.

    After lunch we continued cruising past stunning islands and dramatic landscapes before mooring in another beautiful cove on the back of Waya island. Back for some more snorkelling and relaxation on the beach, the water here was a brilliant warm temperature. After a few hours it was back to the vessel and being a Sunday, it was time to prepare for a visit to a nearby village and to attend their evening Church service. Nearly all the passengers went over to the village for this service and the only rule was that for clothing, knees and shoulders must be covered. Jackie kindly lent me a Sulu (a traditional Fijian sarong) and away we went to experience the church service. It definitely was interesting and mostly spoken in the local language, and remember there is no air conditioning inside the church but it only went for about 30 minutes, and was definitely worthwhile. All guests gave a small donation to the church to the collection plate, the singing and hymns were the highlight – I think everyone in Fiji has a great voice! On board again and another great dinner and tonight we sat at the Captain’s Table which was which lots of fun and dinner concluded with a Tribal fashion show from the crew.

    Day 3

    Another day of brilliant sunshine in Fiji and we awoke to a spectacular views of the nearby surrounding mountains. Breakfast was served and back to tenders for more snorkelling and diving for those inclined. After lunch this afternoon one of the highlights of the trip, the village and school visit. Today it was officially the first day back at school after holidays for the Fijian children and not the usual schedule, really a clean up day before lessons start tomorrow. The kids put on a great singing performance and then afterwards grabbed the hands of many of the cruise guests to personally show them inside their classrooms and what they had been learning. There was also a small handicrafts market put on by the local village women. Once back on board Reef Endeavour it was time for swim and then prepare for the evening lovo feast held over at the neighboring village. Tonight being the final night was all about Fijian culture and many of the guests went over early for a village tour where we then met for another small handicrafts market, then the much anticipated Meke ceremony with the village chief and of course a chance to try the local Kava. This was followed by a fantastic outdoor buffet where we sat on the beach and with a glass of wine in hand and enjoyed the food and the final night setting. On the tender back to Reef Endeavour the full moon was a spectacular sight lighting up the surrounding ocean, mountains and the vessel. Dessert was served on board and many of the guests continued in the lounge for some further singing and dancing.

    Day 4

    Hard to believe it was all over, so much had been seen and so many activities over the past few days, as our Captain onboard Reef Endeavour mentioned the vessel, while not being 5 star, they do manage to give all the guests a 5 star experience and the service and smiling faces that is second to none. This was displayed at the final farewell, I looked around the guests onboard and every person had a big smile on their face, and were singing and clapping along with the crew as they sang some of their great songs with their brilliant voices to farewell those of us that came as guests, but leave as friends!

    Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji can be booked by your Swain Consultant and would work well as a stand alone Fiji sop-over or maybe combined with a Fijian Island stay .

    [nggallery id=13]

    May 20, 2011 • South Pacific Islands • Views: 4141