Summit Restaurant & Bar – Sunday lunch

A definite favourite, we love coming here.   The fabulous quilt work of Brisbane City laid out before your eyes, never fails to impress.  Even on a cloudy, moody day, the breathtaking, birds eye view of Brisbane gong about daily life, is not dulled in any way. 

 Our table was near the window, with this framed view through a low window pane, next to the where we sat.   An interesting moving picture, with planes  clearly visible as they arrived or departed Brisbane airport.  

The larger windows around the room were wide open, allowing the fabulous cooling breeze, swaying the tree tops next to the restaurant, to keep you cool during lunch.  Natural air conditioning has to be the best around.   Huge fans around the room, caught the dancing breeze and spread it across the entire restaurant area to benefit all the diners.

 
What do we like about this restaurant?   Location, food quality, presentation, high level of service and the choice in value.   Definitely ticks the boxes and covers the reasons why we keep coming back.   Today I decided to trial their $30.95 two course lunch menu.  This one gives the choice of the mixed entree and main, or a main & dessert.   For $39.95 you can have all three, or, if you’re not particularly hungry, choose the main only for $19.95.  

The mixed entree arrived first, with a most delicious demitasse of cold soup , sitting alongside the spiced pork & glass noodle spring roll, warm ciabatta, and a flavoursome chilli lime syrup, zucchini & corn fritter.  A delightful mix of entrees, not overly spicy, in fact very much to my taste, providing a wonderful pop of flavours between all the foods.   Most enjoyable.  

Next were the mains.  Hubby had chosen to go with the ƅl La Carte menu.  Here you have the choice of full size or small plates.  Today he had chosen the small plate of seared wagyu rump cap to follow his entree choice of natural oysters.   Certainly well enjoyed as every morsel of the both dishes were completely demolished! 

 
My main choice on the two course lunch special was one of my favourite dishes, Atlantic salmon.   Cooked to absolute perfection with the enjoyable melt in the mouth salmon, a perfect accompaniment to the leek & pea vegetables, potato gratin and a light lemon butter sauce.  A combination to get those juices flowing.  

If you haven’t visited here yet, you should,   After drinking in the amazing tapestry of views surrounding the mountain, take the time to enjoy a lunch whilst still catching glimpses of Brisbane during your dining experience.  Yes there is a little walk to get here from the car park, which might involve a steep incline if you park in the lower car parks, but it is worth every step.   Enjoy!
  

Link Apartments, Portside Wharf Precinct, Hamilton, Brisbane

  For a long time we have enjoyed the odd visit to Portside, usually to enjoy a relaxing meal.   However, on this occasion, we took the time to spend a few nights in the precinct to enjoy the fireworks on New Years Eve and explore the facilities on offer.

Usually choosing the  city for New Year, we wanted to avoid the big crowds this time round. Plus were also,looking for something a little more reasonably priced as city accomodation prices, rise immensely just for the one night.  A little research inspired us to book into the Link Portside Apartments.     For a full, modern, fully self-contained apartment, prices are affordable, with better value if you stay an extra night or two.  Well appointed, with your own balcony, these apartments are certainly clean and comfortable.   Apartment is definitely roomy enough for a couple.   Two fans, one over the bed in the bedroom, plus airconditioning in the main living area, help to cool the apartment. We did find the bedroom was a little hot unless you left the air conditioner to run longer, assisted by the two fans.   As long as you prepared in advance, there was no problem cooling the bedroom down before you retired.   To be fair this was the only point we did notice.   Balance this against all the pluses for this property though, and it definitely receives the thumbs up.

Not a high rise, 4 levels, but to be able to take the lift downstairs emerging a few steps away from the shops, is very convenient.   Your car stays tucked up underground, making use of the free parking attached to the apartment booking.

Supplies are easy from the IGA across from the apartments.   Friendly staff, coupled with a supermarket style shop, make it easy to pick up the items you need for your kitchen pantry. A short stroll towards the river, through the restaurant precinct, and you can take a stroll long the foreshore, or simply enjoy the views offered in this area.   Always someone out testing one of their water sport craft on the Brisbane River. Only takes a leisurely walk and you can catch a ferry to the city as well.

Prefer a movie?  Check out Dendy in this complex.   Good value tickets, plays buy your wine or beer at the bar, and the helpful staff will pop it in an ice bucket for you to take in with you.  Very clean tidy and roomy theatres make this much better value than gold class.

A smattering of retail shops provide an outlet for the shoppers amongst you.   For those cruising, should you need to come to Brisbane before or after  your cruise, consider staying here, as you simply wheel your luggage a couple of hundred metres around the corner and hey presto, there’s the cruise terminal, right on your doorstep. 

Next to the cruise terminal are the infamous Eat Street Markets, where the variety of food is endless.    Latest attraction for the markets, is the outdoor drive (or walk in) movie theatre.

One has to mention, the very helpful, well informed ladies taking bookings and checking you in.   They make the process easy and painless.

Must admit, Portside is one of my personal favourite parts of Brisbane.   šŸ˜„šŸ‘ 

Wyndham Cruises, Surfers Paradise

Seated at the iconic bar ‘Howl at the Moon’, I snapped a photo of what was to be our cruise boat for the afternoon.  Today was the opportunity to use a birthday voucher, which included a two hour buffet lunch cruise for two.   Leaving from Cavill Avenue, along one of the many man made canals, the wharf is easy enough to find.  Ticket office for voucher confirmation or to purchase tickets, is located around the corner of the bars, on the street front.  

A few cruises were tied up along this wharf, departing at different times for different purposes.   Boarding is easy enough, with the captain checking rickets before directing cruisers along the ramp to the boat.  Staff onboard then direct you to your table.

Big windows line the sides of the boat, allowing everyone a view of surrounding areas.  Upstairs, an open top deck with seating provided, gives the opportunity to lounge in the sun and enjoy the scenery with the wind in your hair, or a chance to enjoy many photo opportunities for the duration of the cruise.  Your lunch table setting includes a rubbish bowl for the prawn bodies and a water bowl for refreshing the hands after dissecting said prawns.  Bar prices are very reasonable, with beer, wine and basic spirits as well as a couple of jam jar cocktails, slushies and soft drink.  Not an extensive menu, but definitely sufficient for the cruises.  The Captain is seated inside the boat and gives a commentary throughout the cruise, pointing out locations of interest.  Captain Tony had a fabulous sense of humour, popping in added extras along the way, which, unfortunately, were only picked up by a handful of those onboard as most were not really listening.  We on the hand, did enjoy his dry sense of humour.

Lunch was superbly fresh, with plenty of salad, prawns, sliced ham, chicken and fabulously fresh buns available.  Tables were directed to the buffet by the staff, to ensure everything flowed, with an opportunity to return for more if you wished.  Tea, coffee and fruit were also available.  After cruising through various canals and past many mansions on islands, you are passing the Palazzo Versace, touted as the most luxurious hotel on the Gold Coast.  Surrounded by millions of dollars  berthed at the marina, the hotel peeks through the masts and various decks, with the canal frontage, not revealing the extent of the luxury inside.

SeaWorld theme park & resort lie along the strip next to the Palazzo Versace.   Beaches were filled with families enjoying the many water sport opportunities available to this area, or just a simple family picnic on this fabulous day.

 As well as views of those multi million dollar homes,  (one including its own canon!), an incredible array of boats, all shapes and sizes, you most likely will pass paraglider, jet skiers and canoeists.   So keep the camera handy!
 To top off this cruise, you are afforded some simply spectacular views of the Gold Coast skyline, showcasing the many high rises piercing the fabulously blue skies we enjoyed on our cruise day.

 Locals, tourists, everyone should take the opportunity to view the glitter strip from a cruise.   There are a number available, however check out Wyndham Cruises.  Aside from the lunch buffet, they do run other cruises including morning & afternoon tea.  

More photos are at Dine Live Travel on both Facebook & Instagram. #wyndhamcruises #dinelivetravel

Remember to take your camera, and listen to the Captains commentary, it could very well put a smile on your dial !  

Port Denarau – Fiji

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Right next to the expensive looking boats bobbing around on their moorings, is a modernised shopping area. This area has been designed with tourists in mind. Port Denarau itself is located close to the Nadi airport, as well as a number of resorts.

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Restaurants abound here, including Hard Rock Cafe. There’s even McDonalds in Fiji which, I to be honest I found a shame.

Maybe I’m just used to Vanuatu where these takeaway places are unheard of. However you are most definitely spoilt for choice with many restaurants in this precinct. If you are coming off a cruise ship, you probably won’t be looking for a meal, although you won’t have trouble finding a table somewhere to watch the world go by as you enjoy a cold Fiji Local beer or cocktail.

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Jacks is one of the popular shops within the precinct for souvenir’s and gifts.
Here, one of the shop assistants will probably carry your shopping basket and accompany you round the store, happily giving you answers to any questions you may have.

Upstairs, on the left of the shopping centre, there is a large duty free shop catering for all you duty free purchases. Just below this shop, you will find the Bula Bus. These are continuous and you can hop on for a very nominal fee, to either take a sightseeing tour around or hop on and off at your leisure, whenever you find something of interest to you.

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Enjoy your time here, this is definitely a tourist orientated spot. Very pretty, clean, tidy and with most tastes catered for.

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Another stop on some cruises, is the Isle of Pines. When you first see this island, the number of pine trees spread across the island, does make it seem appropriately named. Pine trees give the impression of a very spiky hairdo, as their tops pierce the sky above,

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Tenders are used to transport passengers to the island where locals greet you with twisted plant headgear for each passenger. Here you may find a few available taxis, if you would like a look around the island.

Water surrounding the island, is beautifully clear, providing ideal snorkelling areas.

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For the best snorkelling, closest to the wharf, take a stroll down the road, past the markets, to the rock. Here, you have a relatively sheltered area, with some fantastic fish to see, especially up close to the Rock. Keep in mind it is taboo to climb onto the Rock. As always it is important to respect other cultures and beliefs when in their country.

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There are a few market stalls, enough to purchase your trinkets without having to much choice. They certainly help to give you a leisurely stroll back to the wharf. AUD are accepted here as well as local currency.

Enjoy the snorkelling- you never know who may be watching !

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Vanilla Farm – Lifou, New Caledonia

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The first and only time we have booked a tour onboard a cruise, was to the Vanilla Factory, Lifou, New Caledonia. A couple of things drew us to this tour, firstly, compared to all the other tours it seemed to be reasonably priced. Secondly, it sounded interesting and we thought would be a good way to have a drive over the island for a look around.

Turns out we were right on both counts. Our minibus took us through the little local townships via some of the island scenery on our way to the factory. Always fascinating to drive through another country and take a peek into their way of life. The most colourful looking area was the local cemetery where flowers adorned all the graves. Most of the traditional huts and houses, did not have windows. We did pass by a couple of the local schools, churches and a few villages, while the factory itself was down a grassy track, next to one of the vanilla farms.

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We were escorted through the local farm by our two guides, where we saw the vanilla bean plants as pictured above. After an informative session on vanilla, everyone meandered their way through the farm track, stopping to take photos of the farms inhabitants, coconut crabs, a massive snake and the pigs.

After the farm tour, we entered the factory itself to see the vanilla process. Only eight people work in this factory at its peak. Somewhat surprising when this is a main factory for vanilla in the pacific area.

At the end of the factory tour we were given tastings of vanilla food and drink, a vanilla bean packet to take home, plus we could purchase from the small souvenir shop.

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Highly recommend this tour, not only is it interesting and informative, it is a great way to have a look around the island.

Outside the factory we were all amused by the farmers dog who spent his entire time tailing the goat who was tethered to a high running wire, then leaping in the air periodically to try and catch the buoys on the wire.

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Lifou -New Caledonia

As your ship cruises into the bay, you will spot the lonely white church atop the point of the island. Shortly you will hear the anchor drop as the ship starts the process of disembarking passengers to head over to this uplifted limestone island.

Pretty. This is the word I have most often heard people use to describe Lifou. (Lifu). Tenders transport passengers across to the island. The wharf is over a beautiful beach area where snorkelling is popular. Here there are some colourful fish, and if you are in the right place at the right time, you could swim with large turtles who inhabit the bay.

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The village directly off the wharf, contains a cluster of thatched native huts. Vibrant markets full of locally made and other trinkets, take up a large partially enclosed area. Hair braiding, local foods and other activities are also on offer.

From the dock area you can walk to different areas close by. Keep in mind that although you will see mini buses etc as you land, these are pre booked for tours and your chance of finding a driver to take you around the island would be slim, if at all. The church and snorkelling bay on the other side of the point are a relatively close walk, not flat however with some uphill walking involved.

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As with any of the island stops, there are a variety of tours which can be prebooked. This is the only stop where we have prebooked a tour, to the Vanilla Farm. This one was definitely worth booking and hence a post with write up on the tour will be published in the next couple of days.

We did speak with a family at the wharf, prior to boarding the ship, who were very disappointed after having booked a swim with the turtles, which was not cheap. Unfortunately on this day, they never saw a turtle on their tour. However three large turtles appeared close to the wharf, casually feeding as they cruised around the bay. Somewhat bitter sweet for this family who did get to see turtles, without needing to pay.

Keep an eye out for this whale like point topped with a church, on your cruise, it means you are about to drop anchor at Lifou.

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Mystery Island, Vanuatu

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Straight up I will admit a soft spot for this beautiful uninhabited island. There is something about cruising into the area and seeing this tiny little island for the first time, which helps realign your perspective on life. The sun combines with the aqua blue sea closely surrounding the island, to create gorgeous sparkling diamonds, dancing across the top of the water.

Yes uninhabited, also taboo to stay on the island overnight, however there is an airfield running the length of the island. Perhaps not the most upmarket airport terminal around, but most certainly very cute!

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Ni Vanuatu travel by boat from nearby islands to sell their crafts and provide entertainment to cruise ship visitors. Permanent market huts are set up on the island to cater towards the visitors. Kindy children sit in their groups beneath the big shady tree branches, singing songs, while their curious eyes follow the ship passengers. You can tell when someone has stopped to listen, the volume of the singing increases, as the children throw all their enthusiasm into the songs. A delightful sound as you traverse the island.

Photo opportunities with ‘cannibals’ are provided. I must admit a giggle at this cannibal who was having a heated discussion on his mobile phone during our stopover.

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Our second visit to the island was Christmas Day last year. To spend Christmas Day snorkelling these beautiful waters was an incredibly relaxing experience. One of the hardest decisions for the day, do we walk round the island on the whiter than white sand, or wander down the middle, along the grass airfield. Sand tracks meandering through the shady trees thriving on the island, provide another option for exploring.

A word of warning should you choose the airfield option, this airfield us in regular use, you may need to duck for cover as a plane comes in for landing. Even on Christmas morning, two flights arrived and departed, somewhat unexpected on an island like this.

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Definitely a place for snorkelling, you will no doubt find the beckoning of the gorgeous aqua sea, very difficult to resist. A nice quiet area is located down the opposite end of the island to where you land. Fewer people make the five-ten minute trek down there, preferring to stay close to the landing dock. Leaving you to enjoy a peaceful uninterrupted snorkel. You may even find yourself in middle of a school of darting fish.

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Be sure to take a cruise stopping off at Mystery Island, you won’t regret your decision.

Salt Grill – by Luke Mangan

Time to write about our favourite fine dining whilst cruising experience. We have enjoyed the pleasurable culinary experience, which is Salt Grill, on a number of occasions, mainly onboard Pacific Dawn, with one dinner at the Hilton Hotel, Surfers Paradise.

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We discovered Salt Grill on our first cruise. There is a surcharge for this restaurant as it is not one of the included meal options onboard. For us though, it was well worth the surcharge.

Service here has always been impeccable. Well above the standard we have ever experienced anywhere else. Staff are well trained, attentive, and, if you interact with them, they will respond in kind. Each cruise, we have found by the second or third dinner, drinks appear without ordering, based on what they remember we ordered previously. A small personal touch some might not enjoy, but we do,

Now, upon boarding for a cruise, we unpack before visiting Salt Grill to book in for dinner on the first evening. They always have a half price surcharge on the first evening as well as for the last couple of sea day lunches. Throughout the cruise Salt Grill is dinner only, however the decision to open for lunch on the last couple of sea days, with a half price surcharge, has been a popular one.

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The complimentary breads delivered to the table after your arrival, are most enjoyable. By now you are starting to realise the thought put into marketing of the celebrity chef. Olive oil accompaniment is Luke’s own, dishes are marked with Salt Grill, by Luke Mangan, and a list of items to buy, including the olive oil is on the menu. All however, completed somewhat tastefully, without the overpowering of most marketing.

We adore the food presentation in this restaurant, with meals beautifully presented every time. The menu isn’t what I would classify as extensive, however it does cater for most tastes. Meals we have enjoyed, at both restaurants have been of high quality.

After enjoying the onboard experience so much during our first two cruises, withdrawal symptoms sent us searching for Salt Grill in Australia. An email booking through to the Hilton in Surfers Paradise explained we had loved Salt Grill so much onboard, that we were now wanting to find that experience in Australia. A booking was duly confirmed for us to celebrate our anniversary. We were not disappointed. The night we dined, we were given a very quiet area, private area to ourselves. Our waitstaff were fabulous, with a great sense of humour. Food was divine, topped off with a complimentary dessert from the kitchen.

Yes we are definitely devotees of Salt Grill. One or two other restaurants have come close, one in fact equal, however we are still searching for the one to beat our experiences at Luke Mangans restaurants.

Cruising Insights

Time to share a few more onboard cruising insights.

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Absolutely adore the sense of humour our cabin stewards have had. Treat the staff with respect and they will brighten your day, every day! These beautiful people generally work the first three months on board of 12 hour shifts, seven days per week at sea, for board and lodgings only. Yes they are unpaid. After the trial three months, they are paid a salary- usually not a big salary. For most of the cabin/hospitality crew, their earnings are sent home to their families. Depending on contracts, crew can be on board for 3, 6, 8 or more months at a time. That’s why you become their family.

On the Christmas cruise last year all the different staff were excited about finishing work on Christmas Eve and heading back to the crew deck for secret santas and a Christmas party for each crew area, except the cabin stewards. We were told by our steward it was left to the manager of each crew area to organise the party for their staff. Unfortunately cabin crew missed out.

Spare some time for your crew. Most of these people, especially cabin & hospitality, think and treat the cruisers like royalty, no matter which cabin you are staying in. They generally love to interact, and will do anything to make your cruise memorable. We have never had bad service on three cruises. We have however observed some people treat staff with disrespect , there are some amazingly ignorant people in this world.

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Atrium Christmas Markets on board Pacific Dawn. Look carefully and you can see the fake snow. There is duty free shopping and a variety of shops onboard. No doubt you are looking for a bargain. After a few days on board there will probably be a sea day with markets. These are popular, and you can find some good buys here. Keep in mind though, there will be more, and sometimes better specials later in the cruise. Often the last few sea days before you return home, is the opportunity to pick up a bargain, as they roll more sales to tempt as many cruisers as they can.

Most South Pacific cruises will include a stop at Port Vila. Onboard, they will tell you the duty free alcohol is cheaper than Vila. It’s not. They will also tell you that if you buy onboard then find it cheaper in Vila, take a photo and bring if back to ship then they will match the price. Well good luck taking a photo- you are not allowed to take a photo in Vila’s duty free. I can assure you though the alcohol etc is much cheaper there than the ship. Much cheaper!

Yes you pay for your alcohol on board, however, you can still come across some palate soaking freebies! Art auctions, normally held over a few days, attend these, enjoy the free bubbles…..as you view the artworks, always a fantastic selection of memorabilia and art. The champagne waterfall…more free bubbles! Attend a whiskey tasting or cocktail making class or a wine tasting. It might cost you the price of a couple of drinks but for that you’ll get to taste or make at least double that. Keep an eye out in the daily newsletter, check all the listings for the next day, you can have a great time on board for quite cheap. Enjoy!

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Whiskey tasting, yes water supplied but you also have the opportunity to taste some very expensive whiskey. Well worth it!

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