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Holland America Line held a grand opening ceremony for its new luxury guest accommodations at McKinley Chalet Resort Friday, June 14. Officially dedicating the new Ridge View building that opened for the 2019 Alaska cruise season, the ribbon-cutting celebration was attended by Arnold Donald, Carnival Corporation and plc president and CEO; Stein Kruse, chief executive officer of Holland America Group and Carnival UK; Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line; Charlie Ball; executive vice president, land operations and customer service for Holland America Group, and several other staff members, business partners and community members. Also attending were representatives from Alaska State Senators Lisa Murkowski’s and Dan Sullivan’s offices and Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker.
 
The new 99-room addition features the first-ever junior suites at the McKinley Chalet Resort where guests stay on Holland America Line’s award-winning Land+Sea Journeys. Fifty-four of the new rooms are luxurious junior suites with balconies, larger living areas and enhanced amenities including heated bathroom floors and a stunning floor-to-ceiling map of Denali National Park and Reserve.
 
“Holland America Line is continually enhancing our hotel offerings in Denali, and the latest addition of this incredible new building with junior suites offers our Alaska guests some of the best rooms in Denali with stunning balcony views,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Many of our Alaska cruise guests are seeking premium accommodations and culinary experiences on their land tour just like those on their cruise, so we were thrilled to celebrate the opening of the new Ridge View building at our McKinley Chalet Resort. These new rooms and suites – in addition to the amazing Denali Square we opened a few years ago with dining, shopping, entertainment, fire pits and more – create an authentic and relaxing lodge-resort experience that makes our guests’ Alaska trip even more memorable.”
 
The new rooms are an extension of Holland America Line’s overland Alaska experience to Denali, which includes the McKinley Chalet Resort hotel and Denali Square, a gathering area to relax, shop, dine and enjoy music and entertainment. The addition is located just west of Denali Square, with views of Mt. Healy and Denali National Park and Preserve.
 
The new three-story facility, named Ridge View, features junior suites and standard rooms with modern rustic-chic décor. All junior suites have balconies, so guests can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding Alaska wilderness while relaxing on their private deck. The first two floors have central, open-air lobbies with cozy furniture and gas fireplaces. The third floor has open public deck space with tables and loungers so guests can take in the panoramic scenery.
 
The new rooms are an exciting addition to the McKinley Chalet Resort, Holland America Line’s magnificent 68-acre hotel property on the Nenana River. The hotel — featuring guest rooms, dining facilities and extensive walking trails — serves as home base for all adventures in and around Denali National Park, such as the full-day Tundra Wilderness Tour included on most Land+Sea Journeys as well as optional flightseeing, ATV adventures, fly fishing, river rafting right from the hotel property and more. All accommodations feature stylish décor and premium amenities.
 
Alaska-based companies that worked on the project include general contractor Ghemm Company, Inc., based in Fairbanks. Lead architect Heliotrope is based in Seattle, Washington, and also developed Karstens Public House at Denali Square. Heliotrope worked with the Fairbanks office of Alaskan architectural firm Bettisworth North. Costigan Integrated of Seattle served as project manager.
 
Denali Square Complex Immerses Guests in Alaska Culture
Steps from the new rooms, Denali Square lies at the heart of Holland America Line’s Denali property and is centrally located between the main area of the McKinley Chalet Resort and the riverfront guest rooms.
 
The largest building in the complex is Karstens Public House, the grand 7,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant showcasing outdoor deck seating and views of the neighboring mountains for dining guests. At the center of Denali Square sits an amphitheater with a covered performance stage and bench seating for guests to enjoy a variety of local shows and ranger talks. Those wanting to quench their thirst or listen to live music can visit Gold Nugget Saloon, home to the Music of Denali Dinner Theater.
 
Denali Square also features fire pits, outdoor seating, retail shops offering local goods, and an artist-in-residence cabin where Alaska native and local artists display and discuss their works. Walking paths in and around Denali Square show off the property’s mountainous landscapes and beautiful setting.
 
Land+Sea Journeys Offer Most Comprehensive Alaska Adventure
Holland America Line’s Land+Sea Journeys combine a three-, four- or seven-day Inside Passage or Glacier Discovery cruise with in-depth overland tours to the Yukon and Alaska’s interior.
 
Holland America Line is the only cruise company to combine must-see sites such as Denali National Park and Preserve — the centerpiece of every Land+Sea Journey — with rare ones such as Dawson City, in the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush Country. Offering up to three days at Denali for wildlife viewing and spectacular scenery, Land+Sea Journeys are designed to highlight the best of Alaska’s wilderness, wildlife, native culture and history.

To find out more contact your nearest Mondo Travel Specialist on 0800 110 108.

Source: Francis Travel Marketing 

submitted by -- Tony Terrill

The spectacular paddlesteamer, the PS Emmylou, the world’s only wood-fired cruising paddlesteamer, was relaunched on the 1st September 2018.  Following a specially designed luxury upgrade and fit out, the Emmylou launched with an extended 3 – 4 night programme. Looking to expand, Director, Craig Burgess approached Francis Travel Marketing to represent Murray River Paddlesteamers in New Zealand. 

"We are delighted to be working with Francis Travel Marketing as Tony and his team have consistently been market leaders in the wholesale cruise space and represent many outstanding cruise companies around the world" said Craig Burgess. "Small boutique river cruising is a fast growing segment of cruising worldwide and we think Paddlesteamer Emmylou provides a unique way for New Zealanders's to experience a river cruise close to home."

Taking passengers through some of the most pristine and intact ecological forests, to places of geographic, historic and Aboriginal cultural significance, the PS Emmylou travels along the world’s third longest navigable river, to world heritage wetlands, and the world’s largest red gum forest.  

With only nine cabins, and the Murray River as muse, this boutique steam-powered cruise, is able to moor alongside outstanding river wineries, drop in to local producers, pause to explore heritage sites such as the 1860's Perricoota Station, and access ancient Murray River tributaries on the MV Kingfisher with an environmental specialist.  

The refitted contemporary cabins include fine linens topped with silky duvets, with the boats’ premier cabin, the Emmylou Suite located on the front Upper Deck, with French Doors opening to a private deck and 180 degree views of the river.

Onboard dining, prepared by the Emmylou’s Chef, features local food and wine from across the Heathcote and Perricoota wine regions.  Riverside campfires are offered in the evenings, with stunning night skies to complete this unique experience.

River Cruises:
1-Night for ‘Weekend Escapes’
2-, 3- & 4-Night Upper Murray River Cruising:
·         2-Night ‘Highlights’ with an eco and wine focus
·         3-Night offers ‘Discovery cruise’
·         4-Night offers ‘Explorer cruise’ covering 160 river kilometres

New onshore experiences in the 2-, 3- & 4-night river cruises include:
·         Overnight mooring at historic Perricoota Station with guided tour, and dining in the mansions Packing Shed
·         Guided eco tour aboard MV Kingfisher at the World Heritage Listed Barmah Wetlands with over 230 bird species
·         Wine and providore tours, visiting local farms with outstanding artisanal produce
·         Lunch at the award-winning riverside Morrisons Winery

Transport and Accommodation from Melbourne:
·         Echuca Moama set along the Murray River is just two and half hours from Melbourne by car; regular train services are available from Melbourne and/or Bendigo.
·         A private limousine can be arranged to pick up guests directly from Melbourne hotels with delivery to the Emmylou.
·         Return transfer to and from Melbourne including stay at Hilton Doubletree available.

Background:
In the early 1800's, 110 paddlesteamers travelled along the Murray in Echuca. Today, only five wood fired paddlesteamers remain, with the PS Emmylou the world’s only remaining wood-fired paddlesteamer to offer overnight cruises. The PS Emmylou is driven by a restored 1906 steam engine and calls the historic Port of Echuca home, where the largest number of working paddlesteamers in the world are moored.

For more information and bookings, please contact Mondo on 0800 110 108.

Source: Francis Travel Marketing

submitted by -- Tony Terrill

Eleanor Hughes heads outside to experience life in the Arctic Circle on a recent visit to Finland.

The skis on the front of the red and black Lynx machines look like gigantic transformer pieces, the track at the back an oversized Lego bit. But weighing 300kg, these snowmobiles are definitely not toys.

After brief driving instructions, I'm still not confident to take control. I mount the back of one. John, from my tour group, takes the front seat and attaches a springy cord from the snowmobile to his overalls. If he comes off, the snowmobile will stop. It won't if I do.

I cling to the grips positioned slightly to the rear on either side of my thighs as the snowmobile jars over the equivalent of judder bars on a road, but these humps of ice have barely any space between them. I'm thankful when we get off them and on to the frozen Ounasjoki River. The jarring turns to jiggling and shaking and doesn't stop. Viewed from above we must look like scurrying ants on a blank wall as we follow Markku, our guide from Lapland Safaris, across the great white expanse leaving Rovaniemi behind.

My black helmet bangs up and down on my head over every bump as we roar along, but it keeps my face and head warm. The visor fogs up occasionally, I hope John's doesn't.

Marrku shows ice-fishing novices how it’s done.

After a while we take a left turn and enter a track, metre-high snowbanks either side of it, into pine forest. Markku puts his hand up several times to stop us so that everyone catches up. Then, pulling his left hand down twice like a train driver pulling a steam whistle cord, he signals we're off again.

John negotiates bends and hills like a pro, albeit a slow one. When Markku waves his arm we slow further to find a snowmobiler coming the other way. John remembers to keep to the right of the track, which may possibly be a road in the summer - there are occasional stop signs.

My fingers are icy, despite woollen gloves and mittens, I play the piano on the grips to warm them and try to take my mind off the coldness seeping into my toes by looking for shapes in the snow laden trees. A tree my height is so completely covered it resembles Casper the ghost. Treetops wear white nightcaps. Some branches bear such a load it's a wonder they haven't snapped.

We come out of the forest on to the great expanse of iced-over Pikku-Mellalampi Lake. It's hard to tell it is a lake; it could be a field under all that white. But this is Spot X. We're about to partake of one of Finland's popular sports, ice-fishing.

From the sled he's been towing, Markku brings out an auger, a large corkscrew-type tool about a metre and a-half in length. He winds it into the ice ... and winds ... scoops out loose ice ... winds ... scoops ... and winds some more ...

After what seems about 10 minutes, a gush of brown water flows on to the white ice. He's drilled through, roughly, half a metre of ice. Scooping loose ice from the water with a colander-like ladle, Markku then unwraps a bundle of plastic, 12-inch long rods that resemble children's toys. They look as if they might break with a good tug on the end of the line. The red rubber maggot and tiny silver-coloured sinker on the end of the nylon line is dropped into the 20cm-wide hole and goes slack quite quickly. The lake can't be more than 2m deep. Bringing the line up from the bottom with three turns of the reel, Markku jiggles the rod up and down. I take several photos, having to take my mittens off to push the shutter button. I regret it. My hands sting and ache from the cold, the pain like that from spending ages searching for something in a chest freezer. I clap and rub them vigorously but it's probably five minutes before the pain recedes.

I let a line down into the icy water of the hole John drilled and jiggle the rod, bouncing on the spot trying to keep my feet warm. Oversized boots, (supposedly loose keeps feet warmer) and three pairs of woollen socks aren't cutting it. How can anything survive in the water below me?

After maybe 30 minutes the surface of the hole begins to freeze over. The nylon line resembles one of those scientific experiments that grows crystals on string - but on this occasion it's icicles.

I give up. Not a nibble. An information board, situated near the lake edge - I presume it's the edge as the snow covered ground rises - shows what could be caught. I peruse pictures of perch, pike, trout, poach and whitefish then crunch over the snow to seek warmth in an open-fronted lavvu, tepee-like, nestled among pines. A fire throws out warmth, sausages brown and the hot berry juice is delicious. I don't want to leave the cosiness.

Plucking up courage, I drive the snowmobile on our return journey. It does the equivalent of a few bunny jumps before I get used to the accelerator button. Too scared to go fast in case I hit a snow bank or tree and wreck the machine which may cost me 980 ($NZ1670) for compulsory deductible expenses - the insurance excess - I'm like a very elderly driver to begin with. My travel insurance doesn't cover me for snowmobiling either ...

I wrestle the handlebars to navigate corners. The skis on the front tend to slide into the grooves already made by other machines and trying to get out of them takes a bit of muscle. After a while my right thumb and hand ache from holding the accelerator button down, although they're warm. The accelerator button is heated, as are the handlebars. Bliss. I want to wiggle my thumb and hand but taking my thumb off will stop the machine. Moving my hand around a bit, I manage to position my palm on the accelerator. Relief. The windscreen seems to distort my vision and I don't know whether to look through it or above it. I do both. By the time we get back to the Ounasjoki River I'm braver - there's nothing to run into, it's several hundred metres wide.

Pushing the accelerator button to max, I get up to 40kmh. It feels faster. Markku stops us and checks to see if anyone would like the snowmobile key changed to another that will give more power.

Those who take the fast option are soon black spots in the whiteness, apparently reaching speeds of 70kmh. I race back to Rovaniemi more slowly, better late than never, rather proud of my new skills.

The writer travelled courtesy of Bentours and Mondo Travel on a Bentours "Follow the Lights'' tour.

Source: https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/travel/ice-finland-snowmobile

 

submitted by -- Gayle