Q I'm contemplating a trip to Australia. Most tours include Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney and Brisbane on the east coast. I'm interested in seeing more of Australia, particularly the west coast. Can you suggest sources for a more extensive Australian trip?
A I checked with 22 tour companies and only one marketed a trip that included both coasts. But this makes sense because the distance between the coasts of Australia is almost as far as the coasts of the United States, a huge area for one tour to cover.
If you prefer an escorted trip with hotel accommodations, I recommend doing two tours -- one that encompasses the interior and east coast, and another that covers the west coast. For example, Qantas Vacations (800-252-4162, www.qantasvacations.com) offers a 28-day all-inclusive coach trip that includes Sydney, Adelaide, the Northern Territory, Darwin on the north coast and the entire length of the east coast; cost without airfare starts at $5,564 per person double.
Then fly to Perth and take an 11-day all-inclusive coach tour along the west coast to Broome offered by Discover West Holidays (fax 866-553-3343, www.discoverwest.com.au); cost is about $2,000 double.
If you're more adventuresome and on a budget, Panorama Holidays (800-660-5494, www.panoramaholidays.com) offers a 45-day trip that covers most of Australia, including both coasts, for $4,650 per person double -- but you camp at night. You could also do an independent tour, opting for McCafferty's motor coach Australia Pass, good for unlimited travel up to a year; cost is about $1,344.
Plan the trip with a travel agent who specializes in Australia. A list of certified agents is available from the Australian Tourist Commission, 800-333-4305, www.australia.com.
I toured the Hawaiian islands with Norwegian Cruise Line and passengers were not allowed to take liquor onto the ship. And if you bought it duty-free onboard, you couldn't get it until you disembarked. How common is this?
NCL has one of the strictest policies against taking alcohol on board, but most cruise lines restrict bringing on the hard stuff. Most ships also require that alcohol purchased at port or from onboard duty-free shops be held until disembarkation. The lines say they merely want to stop underage drinking and over-imbibing, but the policy also ensures that passengers purchase high-markup booze from the ship bars.
Princess, until last year, was one of the few lines that allowed passengers to carry on their own bottles, but it now prohibits all alcoholic beverages from being brought on board. Most lines, including Carnival, Holland America, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, allow passengers to bring a bottle of wine or champagne to celebrate a special occasion; an $8 to $15 corkage fee is charged if the wine is consumed in a dining room.
We'll be in Zurich in late spring and would like to hike the Alps for about a week, but it seems the passes may still be snow-covered. Do you know of hiking areas in Switzerland near Zurich where we could trek?
Instead of hiking inn-to-inn, where you'll have to traverse mountain passes, you may want to do day hikes from a central location. If you stay in one place, you also won't need your luggage transferred or have to carry heavy rucksacks.
I recommend heading to Meiringen, a village about 85 miles south of Zurich that's served by a direct train. Nearly 200 miles of well-marked hiking trails are accessible from Meiringen. You might consider staying at the Hotel Gletscherblick (fax 011-41-33-972-4045, www.gletscherblick.ch), located in a cable-car accessible village above Meiringen; the lodge has rooms, including breakfast and dinner, starting at $81 a night in winter.
Organized hiking tours are generally not offered until June. Switzerland Tourism (877-794-8037, www.myswitzerland.com) can help organize an independent customized trip.
Many readers took exception with my claim that you don't get as seasick when you stay higher on a ship (Travel Q&A, Dec. 29) "The higher you are, the more likely you are to feel the motion," said Kirsten Coombs of Columbia. "The motion on a cruise ship is just like a pendulum in reverse. The bottom moves less, thus you are more likely to feel stable at a lower spot. In fact, on our trip in the Caribbean during Hurricane Isadore last fall, the night we hit the worst part of the hurricane was when everyone went down to the 4th and 5th decks to reduce their nausea." David Epstein of All Ways Travel in Bethesda said, "Usually your advice is right on, but, like a see-saw, the cabins with the least motion are those closest to the center. This means low on the ship . . . and not too far forward or too far aft."
Okay, I'll concede that scientific evidence does not support my contention. But I've done a lot of boating and a little cruising, and I always feel better the higher I go. Any experts out there have an explanation for why I have this apparently all-in-my-head, no-basis-in-reality reaction?
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