Sailing for singles

Solo in the Southern Ocean

Small can be beautiful for solo travellers. The expedition ship MV Le Boreal accommodates 264 passengers but luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent caps passenger numbers to Antarctica at 200, so everyone can be transferred to shore more efficiently.

Passengers heading to Antarctica are promised one of Le Boreal's 104 balcony cabins, which means there's room to accommodate solo travellers, who are charged a single supplement of 30 per cent.

Solo passengers usually comprise 10 per cent to 12 per cent - or 20 to 24 people - of A&K's Antarctic sailings, which means you won't be Robinson Crusoe if you sign up on your own.

A&K's vice-president of business development, Bob Simpson, says the burgeoning solo-traveller market has been underserved but, as it grows, "we've definitely realised as a group this is something we need to focus on". Simpson says 70 per cent of A&K's solo travellers are women and they're usually in their mid-50s or older.

Spend 15 nights aboard Le Boreal on A&K's 17-night Antarctica, Falkland Islands and South Georgia expedition, departing Buenos Aires on December 17. It costs from US$US13,995 ($13,125) a person twin share; the single supplement costs from $US4195 for bookings by June 30. See abercrombiekent.com.au.

Elsewhere in the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean Cruises has noted the solo trend and is adding six single cabins to its Australian-based superliner Radiance of the Seas (prices yet to be announced).

Park action on petrol sniffing

Opal fuel - the low-aromatic unleaded petrol developed by BP to help reduce petrol sniffing in at-risk communities - is now available in Kakadu National Park.

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The Department of Health and Ageing and Tourism Top End are encouraging tourists driving through the park to choose Opal, which is safe to use in any engine that's compatible with regular unleaded 91 and the same price as regular unleaded petrol. Opal has been sold in parts of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia since 2005.

In towns where it has replaced regular unleaded fuel, petrol sniffing has fallen by up to 94 per cent.

In Hermannsburg in the Northern Territory, break-ins, vandalism, car thefts and sniffing-related injuries have dropped significantly.

See health.gov.au/stoppetrolsniffing.

Jubilee in regal company

Foreigners like to poke fun at Australians' fondness for public holidays but the British, who just gave themselves a day off for the royal wedding, aren't far behind. The Queen marks her diamond jubilee next year, and the country has declared June 5 will be a special bank holiday in her honour. As well, the late May bank holiday has been shifted to June 4, to create a four-day break.

This will give cruise-ship fanatics a reason to travel to Southampton, where the Cunard line will have its three queens in port on June 5 next year: the newly minted Elizabeth, Victoria and Mary 2.

Travelscene has a five-night round-trip cruise on the QM2 departing Southampton on June 5 for Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris. It costs from $1651 a person, twin share. See travelscene.net.au.

Jump on the ski season

With the early winter weather, Perisher has already had a practice run for the upcoming snow season, which officially launches on the June long weekend. Last week, it opened for 10 hours over two days, with proceeds donated to charity.

Early-bird deals at Perisher and Thredbo include lift tickets for skiing until June 24 from $109 and $107, respectively, for a one-day adult ticket.

On the opening weekend, Perisher will host the Snowy Mountains of Music Festival, with Eric Bogle, Ash Grunwald and Christine Anu on the bill. See perisher.com.au, thredbo.com.au, snowymountainsofmusic.com.au.

Meanwhile, Snow Australia has launched a website devoted to information about nine key resorts in NSW and Victoria. See www.snow-australia.com.

Sahara closes its doors

The neon camels have been switched off. The Moroccan-themed Sahara Hotel and Casino, which opened on the Vegas strip in 1952, closed this month - a victim of the recession as well as bigger, slicker casino-resorts. The Sahara was once a hangout for Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Frank Sinatra-led Rat Pack that included Dean Martin and Sammy Davis jnr. It also had a cameo in the original Ocean's 11 movie.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

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