Monthly Archives: August 2019

The Manning River has received a boost of fresh spring water from Barrington Tops making it a great place to take a dip.The fisherman noticed it first and now word has spread.
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Natural springs at Barrington have “let go” and the result is a significant, although temporary, rise in the water level of the Manning River.

“It happens from time to time,” said Killawarra dairy farmer and chairman of the Manning Water Users Association, Robert Walsh.

At Killawarra, the Manning River was flowing at 181 ML (mega litres)on Monday, swelling to a peak of 508 ML by Wednesday. The change in the amount of water flowing meant levels went up by as much as nine inches.

“There’s an old wives’ tale that says this is a sign a rain event might be coming,” said Robert.

In the meantime the water is looking the best it has looked for a while.

“It is in a very healthy state and crystal clear –great for swimming,” added Robert.

Local farmers are well aware of the spring discharge which helps out in times of drought.

When their dams have dried up they often pump from the river to irrigate their properties.

But as dry conditions continue, the river can suffer and as levels drop pumping restrictions can come into force.

This is when a natural boost to the amount of water in the river –seemingly for no apparent reason –is a welcome relief.

“Indifficult times it helps out considerably,” explained Robert.

Local farmers haven’t had any pumping restrictions lately –there has been more than enough water to irrigate. Unfortunately, most of them can’t afford to pump.

Despite dry dams Robert and other local farmers are reluctant to switch on their pumps.

“Most of the dairy farmers can’t afford the electricity bills,” he said.

Hopefully the old wives tale is true and that plenty of rain is onthe way to fill the dams. Before this happens though you might want to take a dip in the Manning.

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TOUGH GIG: Judges John Smith, Pia Jessen and John Chapman had a tough choice choosing the winners. Pictures: Belinda-Jane DavisImagine capturing a polar bear chewing on a salmon, or two eagles fighting over prey.
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A photographer could wait for hours, or years, to capture these moments and next month they will be on show for the Hunter to admire.

Maitland has become a hub for photographers across the globe to exhibit their work and the 2017 Maitland International Salon of Photographycompetition is no exception.

With more than 5500 entries from 50 countries this year’s quest is the best in the group’s 58-year history.

And the competition is stiff.

Maitland International Salon of Photography secretary Petro Holowinskyj and president Ian English look at Dany Chan’s work Grizzly Feeding on Salmon.

JudgesJohn Smith, Pia Jessen and John Chapman assessed the nature prints, which is one of several categories,on Friday at Maitland City Bowling Club.

This year the group added a digital travel imagecategory and it has been very popular.

Ms Jessen said the composition of the photoand the quality of the print was important, but the main focus layin what the print portrayed.

“It’s about the storytelling, it’s about how that image tells a story of the natural wild,” she said.

Maitland International Salon of Photography secretary Petro Holowinskyj and president Ian English with Roy Killen’s Secure Catch.

“Once they do that the other photography elements have to be considered.”

Mr Chapman said the group had an impeccable reputation across the globe and photographers worked hard to create a photograph that was worthy of an accolade in the competition.

The entries, and the winners, will be displayed in a pavilion at Maitland Show on February 17, 18 and19.

Camera clubs will be invited to view the print and digital collection between February 20 and 22.

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Chef Chui Lee Luk. Photo: Brook MitchellSingapore-born Sydney chef Chui Lee Luk began with work experience alongside Christine Manfield at Paramount, then worked with Annabel Savill at Emporio Armani, Kylie Kwong at Wockpool and others. Joining the team at Claude’s in 2000, she eventually bought the acclaimed restaurant and received a three-hat rating. She now has a new venture, as chef at Tim Clark’s new 169 Darlinghurst.
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See 169darlinghurst南京夜网419论坛FAVOURITE TABLE

Xin cuisine in the Concorde Hotel, which is a favourite of locals for dim sum. I love visiting KL because it’s possible to find dishes I remember from childhood as well as see the local cuisine evolving. Here, you’ll find old style Cantonese dishes that feature local ingredients, such as rice noodles served with dried prawn sambal. It’s also essential to Cantonese dim sum that pork is used in dumplings, and this is one of the few places in town which does have pork on the menu. See kualalumpur.concordehotelsresorts南京夜网. LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY

South Indian thali meals at Fierce Curry House in Bangsar. One of the famous things about KL is the mamak and Indian curry houses. There is authentic biryani on the menu here, presented in a metal container sealed with dough to seal in the moisture. Alternatively, go for the vegetable dishes, such as spiced okra with chapatti bread. You’ll have to be a fan of spicy hot food; it’s as spicy as its name suggests.  (No website; 16, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar.) BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET

There aren’t any secrets in a food-oriented place like KL. One of my favourites is New Ocean on Jalan Imbi. This place is an old-school Chinese seafood specialist. I like the Kam Heong Crab with curry powder, dried shrimps, garlic and curry leaves, again, Chinese style cuisine given a local spin. (No website.) MUST-TRY DISH

Sample the dosas from Devi’s Corner in Bangsar and breakfast like a local. They’re served like a large cone with curry sauces, sambars and chutneys. My secret indulgence is the super sweet Teh Tahrik, pulled tea. (No website.)  FAVOURITE INDULGENCE

Nasi lemak, which is coconut and pandan leaf rice served with condiments or accompaniments that you choose. Accompaniments include grilled local fish, eggplant curry, beef rendang or Malaysian-style fried chicken. This is something I can eat all the time. Try any of the stalls in Kampong Baru. A BIG NIGHT OUT

Sitka Restaurant in Bukit Damansara. This represents contemporary Malaysian cuisine featuring sustainable, locally-sourced produce. Some dishes to look out for: deep fried buns filled with spoon soft beef brisket. Another stand-out is local organic chicken liver parfait with meranti berries (a local tree shrub). See sitkarestaurant南京夜网. BEST TIME TO VISIT

Go when the tropical fruits are actually in season and that’s around September. I say this because I’ve been frustrated by fruit-mongers telling me that they don’t have this or that fruit and that they’re available “around September”. I like to indulge in greedy amounts of mangosteens, rambutan, langsats, soursop and sapodilla. The tropics also have varieties of bananas that we don’t get to see in Australia.

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Snorkelling in Queensland’s Airlie Beach. The snow-covered peak of Mount Vesuvius volcano is seen from the archaeological excavations of Pompeii in Naples, southern Italy.
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Market stall at Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. Photo: iStock

Ocean rafting at Airlie Beach.

Swimming with whal sharks in the Andaman Sea. Photo: iStock

Airboat, Florida Everglades.

Chateau de Malmaison, formerly the residence of Emperess Josephine de Beauharnais. Now manor house used as a Napoleonic musee national.

Fancy cycling down a volcano when you go ashore in Maui? Or exploring Pompeii with a small group of fellow passengers when you dock at Naples? Maybe swimming with whale sharks is more your thing. Whatever rocks your boat, shore excursions on ocean and river cruises now offer almost limitless choices. From visiting historic sites to wildlife encounters, adventurous activities and gourmet tours, you’re sure to find something that appeals, wherever you cruise.

As the booming cruise business continues to expand, cruise lines are now catering for a raft of different travellers – families with young children, multi-generational families, couples and solos of all ages and interests, and seasoned cruisers who are looking for more in-depth experiences of ports of call.

While the nature of cruising means that the ship usually spends one day in a port, which obviously limits how much you can see or do, more cruise lines are providing late-night departures and overnight stays to extend time ashore. Others are starting to offer off-ship tours that can last for a few days

River cruise lines vie with each other to provide ever-more “exclusive” experiences – banquets in palaces with the royal owners, private access to famous museums and galleries – and ocean lines are following suit. Azamara Club Cruises was one of the first to offer passengers cultural events that you couldn’t organise independently, unless you had unlimited spending money. And as on river cruise shore tours, you don’t pay extra for AzAmazing Evenings. GOURMETCRUISE LINE: Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Reflection

THE DESTINATION Barcelona, Spain

THE EXCURSION Gourmet tapas hopping. Sample Catalan cuisine at three restaurants in two different neighbourhoods – the Born Quarter and Barceloneta – and enjoy a walking tour of the famous Boqueria market on Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter en route. Drinks at the restaurants are included.

INSIDER TIP Boqueria market is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

ESSENTIALS 4 hours. From $US115; celebritycruises南京夜网 CRUISE LINE Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seven Seas Marina

THE DESTINATION Punta del Este, Uruguay

THE EXCURSION Parrillada grilling lessons at La Salamora. Learn to cook meat like the locals at a beautiful country eco-ranch. Sample traditional appetisers and drinks and prepare a classic South American dessert while the meat sizzles – then enjoy a hearty lunch.

INSIDER TIP Definitely not for vegetarians.

ESSENTIALS 6.5 hours. From $272; rssc南京夜网 CRUISE LINE Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Journey

THE DESTINATION Tallinn, Estonia

THE EXCURSION Chocolaterie workshop. Enjoy a hands-on lesson in the art of truffle making with the master pastry chef at renowned café and patisserie Chocolaterie de Pierre, after a stroll through the medieval streets of Tallinn’s lovely Lower Old Town (just to work up an appetite).

INSIDER TIP Don’t even think about dieting.

ESSENTIALS 3.5 hours. $US201; azamaraclubcruises南京夜网/en-au CRUISE LINE Oceania Cruises, Oceania Marina, Nautica, Riviera, Sirena

THE DESTINATION Funchal, Madeira

THE EXCURSION Wine-tasting, market tour and lunch. The ship’s Culinary Centre chef accompanies this delicious culinary adventure, which includes a tasting session at a 17th-century monastery where Madeira wines are made and a bar stop to sample the island’s popular drink Poncha. A visit to Mercado dos Lavradores farmers’ market will whet your appetite for lunch at a lively local restaurant.

INSIDER TIP Wear loosely fitting clothes.

ESSENTIALS About 7 hours. $US245.70; oceaniacruises南京夜网 CRUISE LINE APT, Aria-class ship

THE DESTINATION Lyon, France

THE EXCURSION Dinner at Michelin-starred chef Paul Bocuse’s L’Abbaye de Collonges restaurant. Set on the banks of the Saône a few kilometres north of Lyon, L’Abbaye is not only renowned for its cuisine, it features an amazing collection of restored fairground organs. You’ll be escorted by Australian winemaker Bruce Tyrrell, who is accompanying this Wine Series cruise.

INSIDER TIP Follow Bruce Tyrrell’s choice of wines.

ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact APT; aptouring南京夜网419论坛

[15-day Romantic Rhône & Seine cruise, August 2017] CRUISE LINE Avalon Waterways, Avalon Panorama

THE DESTINATION Regensburg, Germany

THE EXCURSION Guided city walk. While exploring this beautifully preserved city on foot, you’ll visit the 17th-century Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany’s oldest restaurants; it’s been in operation in one form or another since 1146. Grab a beer and enjoy a sausage with sauerkraut and mustard while taking in the lovely views along the river.

INSIDER TIP Leave room for tasting more German beers after dinner.

ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact Avalon Waterways. avalonwaterways南京夜网419论坛

[13-day Beer-Themed Blue Danube Discovery cruise, July 2017] CRUISE LINE APT, Aria-class ship

THE DESTINATION Grignan, France

THE EXCURSION Domayne Bramarel truffle farm. Gilles Ayme’s great-grandfather planted truffle oaks on the farm in the 1800s and harvested the first “black diamonds” in 1850. Today, Gilles’ highly trained labradors demonstrate truffle hunting and the tour includes informative discussions and a tasting session in the farmhouse.

INSIDER TIP Buy a truffle treat in the Domayne’s shop.

ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact APT. aptouring南京夜网419论坛

[8-day Rhone Treasures, May and July] CRUISE LINE Scenic, Scenic Diamond

THE DESTINATION Cognac, France

THE EXCURSION Remy Martin estate. A “petit train” takes you around the 292-year-old estate because the area it covers is so enormous – 6000 barrels of the precious brandy are stored in 29 buildings. The presentations and tasting sessions are highly professional and you learn an impressive amount about how this delectable spirit is produced.

INSIDER TIP Enjoy a snooze on the bus back to the ship.

ESSENTIALS Full day trip to Cognac; scenic南京夜网419论坛

[11-day Bordeaux round-trip cruise, April to October (except August)] ADVENTURE

CRUISE LINE Princess Cruises, six ships

THE DESTINATION Juneau, Alaska

THE EXCURSION Dog-sledding on Mendenhall Glacier. Fly over Juneau’s famous glacier by helicopter for spectacular aerial views, then mush along the ice and snowy terrain on a thrilling dog sled ride.

INSIDER TIP You’ll be weighed before you board the helicopter and have to leave everything except your camera at the base.

ESSENTIALS About 2.75 hours. $US589.95; princess南京夜网 CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of Hawaii

THE DESTINATION Maui, Hawaii

THE EXCURSION Cycling down Haleakala volcano. You’re driven to the 3048-metre high crater rim at sunrise, then follow the guide down 21 heart-stopping switchbacks. Stop en route for photo opps and at the historic town of Hali’imaile for breakfast.

INSIDER TIP You have to be a minimum of 1.52 metres tall, aged 12 or over and weigh less than 114 kilograms.

ESSENTIALS About 4 hours including 45-minute bike ride. $332; princess南京夜网 CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Aria

THE DESTINATION Hamilton Island, Queensland

THE EXCURSION Off-road ATV island tour. Explore the island by racing along scenic fire trails on quad bikes and photograph stunning Whitsunday vistas from less-visited vantage points.

INSIDER TIP The driver must be 16 or over – bring your full or provisional driver’s licence with you. Your passenger must be 13.

ESSENTIALS 2 hours. From $179.99, per vehicle; pocruises南京夜网419论坛 CRUISE LINEPrincess Cruises, Island, Caribbean & Coral Princess

THE DESTINATION Costa Rica

THE EXCURSION Zip-lining in Veragua Rainforest. In the hills overlooking Limon, fly up to 45 metres above tropical rainforest canopy and streams in 10 spectacular traverses.

INSIDER TIP Don’t even attempt it if you’re afraid of heights. You must weigh less than 122 kilograms and the minimum age is five.

ESSENTIALS About 4.5 hours. From $US99.95; princess南京夜网 WILDLIFECRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Eden

THE DESTINATION Exmouth, Western Australia

THE EXCURSION Whale shark swim. Knowledgeable guides take you on a boat cruise around Ningaloo Reef where whale sharks swim just below the surface, allowing you to snorkel alongside them (without touching).

INSIDER TIP Snorkelling kit, morning tea and lunch are provided.

ESSENTIALS 7 hours. Adults from $429.99, children (12 and under) from $289.99; pocruises南京夜网419论坛 CRUISE LINE Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the Seas

THE DESTINATION Akaroa, New Zealand

THE EXCURSION Swim with dolphins. Dive off the tour boat into the waters of picturesque Akaroa harbour to swim with the world’s smallest dolphins and penguins.

INSIDER TIP You must be able to swim at least 50 metres and be prepared for water temperatures of about 17 degrees in summer.

ESSENTIALS About 2.5 hours. From $170.28; royalcaribbean南京夜网419论坛 CRUISE LINE Holland America Line, Zandam, Noordam

THE DESTINATION Haines, Alaska

THE EXCURSION Kroschel Wildlife Refuge. For many years, TV actor-director Steve Kroschel has rescued orphaned or injured wild animals and given them sanctuary in his 24-hectare park. On Steve’s personally guided tours you’ll have close encounters with moose, reindeer and a rare wolverine, among many other native animals.

INSIDER TIP Have your camera ready at all times.

ESSENTIALS About 3.75 hours; adults $US139.95, children (under 12) $US69.95 per child. hollandamerica南京夜网 CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden

THE DESTINATION Kangaroo Island, South Australia

THE EXCURSION Seal Bay. Experienced local guides lead this tour to Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you can see endangered Australian sea lions in their natural environment of coastal vegetation, dunes and beach from lookouts on the boardwalk.

INSIDER TIP The entrance fee contributes to ongoing research and conservation.

ESSENTIALS 4.25 hours. Adults from $169.99, children (12 and under) from $159.99; pocruises南京夜网419论坛 OUTDOORSCRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Eden

THE DESTINATION Broome, Western Australia

THE EXCURSION Broome hovercraft tour. Skim over sand flats surrounded by mangrove forests on a fascinating narrated hovercraft ride. You’ll see preserved dinosaur tracks and learn all about Broome’s coastal environment.

INSIDER TIP A great family outing.

ESSENTIALS 1.5 hours. Adults from $139.99, children (12 and under) from $99.99; pocruises南京夜网419论坛 CRUISE LINE Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Valor, Sunshine, Pride and Magic

THE DESTINATION Port Canaveral, Florida, US

THE EXCURSION Airboat tour, Central Florida Everglades. A 15-person airboat whisks you over land and water from a fish camp outpost to protected wetlands and fresh-water marshes, home to Florida alligators and a rich assortment of birds and reptiles.

INSIDER TIP Bring insect repellent.

ESSENTIALS 3 hours. Adults $US71.99, children $US52.99;

梧桐夜网carnival南京夜网  . CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Aria, Dawn, Explorer, Jewel and Pearl

THE DESTINATION Airlie Beach, Queensland

THE EXCURSION Ocean rafting. Learn about marine life on the reef as you zip along the beautiful coastline, then look out for turtles while you’re snorkelling in clear, warm water.

INSIDER TIP Snorkelling equipment, stinger suits, wet suits and lunch are provided.

ESSENTIALS 4.5 hours. Adults from $189.99, children (12 and under) from $149.99; pocruises南京夜网419论坛

CRUISE LINE Royal Caribbean, Ovation and Radiance of the Seas

THE DESTINATION Tauranga, New Zealand

THE EXCURSION Kayaking. Paddle across peaceful Lake Rotoiti on your way to the Glow Worm Cave, where you’ll see the magical bioluminescent light created by millions of these tiny creatures. Then head off to Manupirua Beach to relax in warm geothermal pools.

INSIDER TIP You’ll be paddling for at least two hours so you need to be fit.

ESSENTIALS About 6.5 hours. Adults from $238.08, children from $172.28; royalcaribbean南京夜网419论坛 ANCIENT HISTORYCRUISE LINE Princess Cruises, Pacific, Sea Princess & Majestic Princess

THE DESTINATION Aqaba, Jordan

THE EXCURSION Day tour to Petra. A two-hour bus trip through the desert takes you to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, where you join a guided walking tour. Over about six hours you will see many monuments including tombs, theatres, obelisks and temples, carved out of distinctive red sandstone.

INSIDER TIP Be prepared for at least nine kilometres of walking in blazing sunshine.

ESSENTIALS 10 hours. From $US229.95; princess南京夜网CRUISE LINE Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Constellation, Reflection and Silhouette

THE DESTINATION Naples, Italy

THE EXCURSION Behind the scenes Pompeii tour. Discover some of Pompeii’s most fascinating discoveries on a private tour of the archeological site’s Applied Research Laboratory and enjoy an intimate group stroll through the ruins.

INSIDER TIP Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Pompeii – it’s incredibly hot in midsummer.

ESSENTIALS 4.5 hours. From $US149.00; celebritycruises南京夜网 CRUISE LINE Crystal Cruises, Crystal Esprit

THE DESTINATION Mykonos, Greece

THE EXCURSION Exploring the sacred island of Delos. After a 45-minute caique (local boat) trip from Mykonos, you’ll disembark on Delos to walk in the footsteps of ancient gods and goddesses. Magnificent ruins include Doric temples, markets, an amphitheatre, houses with mosaics and the famous Terrace of the Lions statues.

INSIDER TIP Keep your phone and camera in a waterproof bag in case you’re splashed on the way to the island.

ESSENTIALS About 4.5 hours. $109; crystalcruises南京夜网 MODERN HISTORYCRUISE LINE Oceania Cruises, all ships except Oceania Regatta

THE DESTINATION Gibraltar

THE EXCURSION Gibraltar Under Siege. Learn about Gib’s oldest inhabitants, the Rock Apes, explore the 18th-century Great Siege tunnels and visit the Gibraltar Museum, which was built on the site of the old Moorish Baths.

INSIDER TIP Don’t touch or feed the Rock Apes and keep your possessions close – these playful animals are wild and wily.

ESSENTIALS About 2.75 hours. $141.70; oceaniacruises南京夜网 CRUISE LINE Avalon Waterways, Avalon Creativity

THE DESTINATION Normandy, France

THE EXCURSION Normandy’s landing beaches. It is only when you see the coastline and visit sites such as Omaha Beach, the Pointe du Hoc monument and the American Cemetery that you get an idea of the scale of the D-Day operations in 1944 and the extent of the carnage that took place in Europe in World War II.

INSIDER TIP You will shed tears.

ESSENTIALS Full day trip; [on 8-day World War II history-themed cruise round-trip from Paris, July] avalonwaterways南京夜网419论坛

[on 11-day Paris round-trips] CRUISE LINE Uniworld, River Ambassador

THE DESTINATION Dachau, Germany

THE EXCURSION Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The sign at the bottom of a monument at the centre of the camp reads, in several languages, “Forgive, but never forget”. An experienced local guide takes you around the camp, Dachau Museum and Jewish Memorial Chapel and offers additional insights into the horrifying history.

INSIDER TIP Nothing can prepare you for this sort of reality check.

ESSENTIALS Half-day; uniworld南京夜网

[on 10-day Jewish Heritage cruises, Munich to Cologne, May to November] CULTURECRUISE LINE Scenic, Scenic Gem

THE DESTINATION Giverny, France

THE EXCURSION Monet’s house and gardens. Jump on one of the ship’s e-bikes at Vernon and take a self-guided tour of the beautiful estate that is a living work of art itself.

INSIDER TIP The gardens are planted to look their best in every season and are open from March to November. There are always crowds.

ESSENTIALS Easy 5-kilometre bike ride; scenic南京夜网419论坛

[on 11-day Paris round-trips] CRUISE LINE APT, AmaVida

THE DESTINATION Porto, Portugal

THE EXCURSION Porto Old Town. See narrow cobbled streets and squares flanked by colourful tiled terraced houses, the 12th-century Sé do Porto cathedral, elegant shopping avenues, dozens of cute cafes and bars – and enjoy a port tasting in Gaia.

INSIDER TIP Go to Ribiera in the evening to hear fado music.

ESSENTIALS Half-day; [on 14-day Lisbon-Madrid cruises] aptouring南京夜网419论坛 BEFORE YOU GO

RULE ONE: OPEN SESAME

Check the day and date you arrive in port and find out what attractions will be open – for example, many museums in Europe close on Mondays and that fabulous fresh food market you’re hoping to visit may operate only on Saturday mornings.

RULE TWO: ALL IN THE TIMING

Shore excursions can take a full day or three to four hours. You’ll usually take a bus to the destination and it’s worth checking how much of the tour time is taken up travelling there and back; if travel times aren’t listed in the excursion itinerary, do a quick calculation on Google maps. If you have to sit in a bus for three out of four hours to visit a temple, say, you might choose to see something closer to the port.

RULE THREE: CANCELLED OUT

Even when you book a ship’s shore excursion in advance, be aware that it can be cancelled by the time you board the ship if there aren’t enough takers. So it’s worth having an alternative plan, or getting advice from your travel agent or cruise line about how popular your chosen tour is likely to be. Conversely, if there’s something you are really keen on doing, don’t leave booking it until you get on board.

RULE FOUR: CRY FREEDOM

If you prefer to do your own thing but like the security and convenience of being dropped off and picked up – particularly when the port is quite a distance from the destination, such as from Civitavecchia to the centre of Rome – take advantage of ship-arranged bus trips that allow you free time to explore.

RULE FIVE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Pick a tour that suits your level of fitness – if it’s too easy it could be slow and boring. Common sense prevails but to make it easier to choose, ships’ shore excursions are usually graded according to how easy or challenging they are in terms of mobility and pace; for example, if you click on the relevant icons on a Princess Cruises’ excursion description you will see a detailed outline of whether it is easy, moderate, strenuous or wheelchair accessible. SHIP TOURS v GOING IT ALONE

WAITING GAME

Booking a ship’s shore excursion takes all the hassle out of planning and if there is any delay on the tour, the ship will wait for you.

DO IT YOURSELF

Organising your own tour can save money. Research and book in advance, or check out the ship’s onboard port information and consult local tourism representatives who come on board.

FARE’S FARE

Sharing a taxi with fellow cruisers can be cheaper, more flexible and fun than doing a bus tour with dozens of other passengers.

IN SYNC

Book a tour with a company such as Viator that syncs with cruise ship visits in most ports around the world – they cost less than most ship’s tours.

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Kevin Muscat, Melbourne Victory’s coach, looked unimpressed when asked on the eve of the Big Blue clash with Sydney if the current league leaders, unbeaten in 16 A-League matches coming into Thursday night’s game, could be the best A-League team ever.
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“Not at this stage” was Muscat’s peremptory response as he went on to give reasons why his team had the beating of Sydney, and how Graham Arnold and his men knew it.

Victory are not far off Sydney, but they haven’t got the beating of Sydney, at least not yet this season.

On Thursday night it went close, but wasn’t quite good enough to dent the Sky Blues’ long unbeaten run when a Filip Holosko header and a blistering Bernie Ibini shot first cancelled out James Troisi’s opener and then ensured Sydney would stretch their unbeaten streak to 18 A-League games spread across two seasons.

And while Sydney are still some way short of being the greatest A-League team ever – it is sobering to think that their lengthy run without defeat is now only half as long as the record set by Brisbane Roar –  they can at least start to believe that their aim of becoming the 2017 version of The Invincibles in not just a pipe dream.

Arnold has challenged his side to become the team that has the greatest season ever in terms of points amassed in a 10-team competition with 27 matches.

The best points haul in that configuration so far was the 57 achieved by Western Sydney Wanderers in their debut campaign in 2012/13.

After Thursday night’s win Sydney is now 11 points clear at the top (from Victory) and has 43 points from their 17 games. It now needs only 15 points – five wins from the last 10 matches – to surpass the Wanderers total and statistically become the greatest team in the league’s 12-season history.

And, on the evidence they have presented all season, there is no reason why Sydney cannot go on with the job.

Unlike the tiki-taka Brisbane teams with which Ange Postecoglou set records, Arnold’s Sydney are not particularly easy on the eye. That is probably why they are not getting the adulation from neutrals that Brisbane received.

Not that that will worry Arnold and his players.

There is little flamboyancy about Sydney. There are few virtuoso displays of skill, not many silky passages of play, little in the way of breathtaking individual actions.

Arnold’s Sky Blues are, however, relentless. In the way of Western Sydney in that club’s first campaign, they have a habit of crushing and squeezing the opposition, first stopping them from playing and then imposing themselves on their rivals.

But they are sharper up front than Tony Popovic’s Wanderers were four years ago.

In that initial campaign Western Sydney only scored 41 goals in their 27 matches, conceding 21.

With 10 games left in the current home-and-away season Sydney have already scored 38 goals, conceding only eight.

Sydney are strong mentally: when they go behind they don’t panic. The sense of self-belief is immense, says Arnold, with a group who like and trust each other, a team who have come together and grow in understanding as the season has progressed.

They are not impregnable – as Fahid Ben Khalfallah showed when he embarrassed the makeshift full back Aaron Calver on several occasions in the first half on Thursday night, helping to create Troisi’s goal. Marco Rojas also went close in the opening period, and in truth Sydney didn’t offer much of a threat until Milos Ninkovic’s excellent cross found the head of Holosko to put them back on terms.

Victory did dominate the opening exchanges of the second half but there was always a feeling that when they didn’t take their chances – Ben Khalfallah hit the bar, goalkeeper Danny Vukovic made a point-blank save from Leigh Broxham – then Sydney would somehow find a way to grab the win.

Sydney will never have a better chance to take not just the Premier’s Plate but the A-League title.

They have not won a trophy in seven years – their last came in that Grand Final win on penalties against Victory in 2010 – and they are now in pole position to take the Plate and win their home semi-final, which would give them hosting rights for the title decider.

Mathematically they could still be caught, but who would bet against them now?

For Victory the job ahead is now to regroup for the upcoming derby against Melbourne City on February 4.

Muscat has consistently refused to use fatigue as an excuse for the fact that his side has now lost three matches on the spin – away to Wellington and Perth and home to Sydney – but it has played a part.

Victory get a nine-day break now, and Muscat will need his players to rest and then regather themselves for the final third of the campaign: if they are to derail the Sky Blue express they will need to match Sydney in effort and mindset. Muscat would like nothing better than to end the streak – if it is still going by then – when Victory next meet Sydney in the NSW capital in March.

“I’m not walking away from tonight terrified,” was his message after the game. “I will never give up trying to catch them. We haven’t been opened up tonight. We haven’t been out-passed or outplayed. I was really happy with the football we played.”

Muscat believed his side created more chances than Sydney when they went down to 10 men after centre back James Donachie was sent off.

“We scored a very, very good goal but it’s disappointing at the moment that we’re making some decisions defensively that are resulting in goals.”

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