Traveller Letters: The 'lovely upside' to our ban on international travel

RELATIVELY SPEAKING

There is a lovely upside to the COVID-19 restrictions on overseas travel. For me, and I'm sure for many families, travel in Australia has meant a wonderful increase in family visits. Apart from our usual Christmas gathering of my sons and their families from interstate, since July 2020 my home in Coffs Harbour has welcomed a niece and her husband en route to Byron Bay for a babymoon, a niece, her husband and two children quarantining outside Sydney before continuing to the Sunshine Coast, my Queensland nephew and his partner celebrating an early Christmas here with his Sydney mum and his sister and her family, my brother popping up from Sydney for a long weekend and, most recently, my sister and brother-in-law staying over en route to a Byron birthday.

Cathy Harnack, Toormina, NSW

LETTER OF THE WEEK

PLUNGING STANDARDS

Why is it that appliances to make coffee have disappeared from hotels and holiday apartments (except on the most expensive top floors with Nespresso machines)? Twice recently (in Tasmania and the Northern Territory) we have booked accommodation with "full" kitchen facilities - including dishwashers and stoves - and neither time were coffee presses/plungers or any other type of coffee making machine provided. Surely with a full kitchen advertised these should be provided? Is this a COVID thing?

Dianne Rooney, Melbourne, VIC

EDITOR'S NOTE Traveller shares your annoyance. We encourage the domestic accommodation industry, at a time when so many Australians are holidaying at home due to border closures, to do better with its coffee provisions. Instant coffee, particularly, is an instant turn-off for many travellers, not to mention a cop-out in an era when espresso is arguably the national drink.

KEEPING HOPE AFLOAT

Like Brian Johnston, in his "love boats" cover story (Traveller April 24), I am a big fan of cruising and have done more than I can remember on both ocean liners and river cruises. Optimistically, I have booked a Cunard cruise to New Zealand in January, 2022. Meanwhile, I have been exploring new places and rediscovering old places in Victoria and am about to do another self-drive silo trail art trip with friends. At least we won't have to worry about being caught interstate in case of a sudden border closure.

Marie Nash, Balwyn, VIC

SIZE MATTERS

We have had some amazing cruises on small eco-ships to the Antarctic, the Galápagos Islands and Alaska that were able to take us off the beaten-large-cruise-ship track, with time to explore some fascinating and largely uninhabited places. But in amongst the arguments for the positives of cruise ship travel, there are major negatives. I've seen the nightmare of huge numbers of people swamping a small place, like the l'Ile des Pins, for example, where an approaching cruise ship had the local people rushing to put up barriers to try and prevent invasions into their villages. To be in a floating rerun of "if it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" by spending a mere day in each port, dashing around in large groups on a schedule to take in the highlights would be no contest with staying in such a place for a week or more to savour its delights. And as a lover of food, the temptations of all the "four-course meals,...specialty dining and beverages" would have me rolling off the gangplank like a butterball by the end (not a look that I aspire to).

Anne Ring, Coogee, NSW

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WHAT'S UP, DOCK?

It is not only the Northern Territory not that's allowing cruise ships to dock (Traveller Letters, April 17). Friends were due to leave Cairns on a cruise on April 30 through the Barrier Reef. The cruise has been cancelled because the Queensland government would not allow the ship to berth in Cairns.

Susan Mathew, Lindfield, NSW

TRACK STARS

My wife and I, both in our 80s, recently enjoyed a holiday with a difference – heritage train travel through the Riverina region of NSW with Cruise Express. They have cleverly diversified their business in these difficult times to sustain the loyalty of their regular clients. We visited Griffith, Junee, Leeton, Cootamundra; enjoyed great hotel accommodation; visited farms and wineries; Opera at the Piccolo Farm near Griffith; an excellent cheese factory at Coolamon – and much more. Clever initiatives in difficult times.

Ken Follows, Erina, NSW

We had a very pleasant trip to visit relatives in Tamworth last week via the Xplorer train. Friendly and helpful staff and a buffet serving hot lunches made the six hour journey a dream. However, my wife and I were inexplicably allocated seats apart from one another. On boarding we were told this was as a result of social distancing rules. So travel now and you're guaranteed to have a vacant seat next to you. The flip side, I imagine, is that the trains are running at half capacity, so book early.

Ross MacPherson, Seaforth, NSW

FLY ME TO THE MOON

Tasmania's West Coast is unique and I'm glad that the often maligned Queenstown is getting the renewal and respect it deserves with a world-class mountain bike trail being developed on Mt Owen and an overland track from Cradle Mountain through to Tullah ending in Queenstown in the works. It's well worth the winding drive from Hobart and Launceston to experience the changing landscape. I remember when I first went to Queenstown in 2017. It was drizzly, cool and strangely haunting with the moonscape mountains encircling the town. Tracks Cafe, Cafe Serenade, The Empire Hotel and Penghana Bed & Breakfast were always busy and tourists loved the scenic railway. Queenstown showed itself to be full of tough, resilient and welcoming people who lived through a massive socioeconomic shock when the mine closed but who found new ways to stay afloat with a thriving art and ecotourism scene.

Clare Raffan, Campsie, NSW

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