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Having fun with new Australia Tourism Campaign, plus great cruise deals

Ya gotta love a country with a sense of humour. And that’s definitely Australia.

I loved their Super Bowl commercial (it was great to see the American ones for a change) with Chris Hemsworth and Paul Hogan and other famous Aussies of both a human and animal nature. Good, cheeky fun, and with a nice message about one of my favourite countries.

Turns out Tourism Australia is launching a $36 million campaign to lure more Americans Down Under and that the talk of a sequel to Crocodile Dundee was a bit of a gag. (Hopefully that’s not the same for the preview for “Solo,” the new Star Wars movie coming out this year based on the character Han Solo.)

The U.S. dollar is riding high against the Australian dollar; which is hovering around the same 80 cent mark as the Canadian loonie. And with cold winds whipping across much of the U.S., it’s not a bad time to display photos of glorious beaches in Sydney, Perth and the Gold Coast and cute kangaroos and the magnificent scenery around Uluru (Ayers Rock).

I’ve been to Oz three times now, including a month-long stint in Sydney as Olympics Editor for the Toronto Star during the 2000 Summer Games. I’ve also managed visits to Melbourne and the wine country and coastline of Victoria and to Queensland on a couple of occasions, where I got to see the Great Barrier Reef, little but wonderful Dunk Island, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and Fraser Island.

Lord Howe Island is a magical destination that’s part of New South Wales. JIM BYERS PHOTO

I’ve been three times to Sydney and also magnificent Lord Howe Island, located a couple hours off the coast of Australia on the way to New Zealand. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, with lovely lodges and unforgettable scenery (as you can see).

I also got to visit Uluru, the equally impressive rocks and scenery around Kata Tjuta (formerly known as The Olgas) and also Kings Canyon. I adore the coast of Australia, but to me if you miss The Outback you’re missing Australia. It’s a tremendously spiritual place that wraps itself around you and seeps into your soul.

Uluru is a mystical, magical part of Australia. JIM BYERS PHOTO

It’s also physically unlike any area I’ve seen of the world. The desert in the U.S. southwest comes close in parts, but it’s not quite the same. If you don’t go to the Outback, you’ll still have a great trip Down Under. But you’ll be missing the heart and soul of this magnificent country.

GREAT CRUISE DEALS FOR WAVE SEASON

My friends at TravelPulse in the U.S. (I work for their Canadian outlet) have a great item on cruises in today’s website; a story with an offer for great deals on a series of wonderful cruises with the likes of Uniworld, MSC and Norwegian. I’ve never been on any of those cruise lines, but I’ve had fantastic trips with Silversea, Royal Caribbean, AMAWaterways, Viking Cruises and Sea Dream Yacht Club.

I had a great time in Bordeaux on my AMAWaterways cruise last summer. JIM BYERS PHOTO

I wasn’t sure about cruising on the first trip I took 14 years ago but I had a great time and I’ve loved the others I’ve taken. The ships are marvellous and amazing to behold, the food excellent and plentiful, the entertainment is great. Best of all in some ways is that you get to go all over the place and see great destinations in a series of cities or countries but only unpack once.

Can’t wait to go on another one…

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