What our clients are saying....
We absolutely loved the trip. Everything you put together for us was excellent. Really! There were no mishaps!
All trips to and from the airport to the hotels worked out fine. The Harbor Cruise was lovely. The tour company for the Blue Mountains was top top notch. The guide, Alex, was one of the best any of us had ever experienced. In fact, the tour company owners came to the pier to see if we were satisfied and to see us off the the last leg. Great choice of tour companies. We were very happy with the apartment in Port Douglas. The location was good, the apt was lovely and large enough for us, the pool and BBQ grill great and the manager Sue was very helpful. Another great choice.
All the tours in Ayers Rock were also great. The Kata Tjuta on Day 1 and Ayers Rock on Day 2 were both amazing and we enjoyed speaking with the tour guides. The camel ride was hokey but fun and I enjoyed speaking to the cameleers as well. What a lifestyle! These apartments were very basic but entirely functional.
These were the tours you set us up with. We also filled in with: driving around the Gold Coast beaches on our own, the boat Quicksilver in Port Douglas for diving and snorkeling (a highlight for me). Hiking in the Rainforest, Stargazing in the Outback, and Phillip Island for Koala bears and the little penguins. (We did the VIP tour - definitely worth it). And tons of walking and taking trams around the cities.
I would definitely recommend anyone to use your services. Thanks for all your help.
Sue & Frank, NY - Apr 2013
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Our trip was AMAZING!! Everything was perfect ~ down to the last detail! We loved our itinerary and wouldn't change a thing. Every tour was great as were the hotels and drivers. I want to give a special shout out to the Kangaroo Island folks who were just so special. They bent over backwards to show us their "home" and we loved it. We can't say enough about our experience with them. Please feel free to use us as a reference for your company as we are true fans! Thank you for all of your help. We only wish Australia was closer (and less expensive) so we can go back. Thanks again
Karen & David NY - Mar 2013
I've been so busy catching up from my time away from work so I just now have an opportunity to let you know about our trip.
We had a great time and everything you planned for us was exactly as promised and described. There were no surprises or disappointments and the trip went off without any problems. Qantas is a wonderful airline and they made the very long flights very comfortable and pleasant. Much better than the US carriers!
The Adina in Sydney was a terrific experience. The room was so spacious and having the kitchen and laundry in the room was a bonus. The location was perfect and the staff was excellent. The Hibiscus in Port Douglas was fine as well. Hotels in Port Douglas are obviously more low key than in Sydney. The room again was nice and large for the 4 of us and the location was again perfect and the pool was very welcome in the heat and humidity. Staff was very friendly as well. All the tours you arranged were very enjoyable. The guides were all very professional and knowledgeable and they really went out of their way to show us a good time.
The Harbor Cruise was a perfect way to relax after a long flight and the Captain Cook Cruise company was very nice. We had a terrific guide showing us the sights in an entertaining fashion and the service/coffee/snacks were perfect for the trip.
The Quicksilver Barrier Reef excursion was very impressive and well organized and we all felt very safe in their hands.
The Blue Mountain tour company called us the day before the tour to warn us that the weather might not be good and gave us the option of rescheduling or cancelling without penalty. That was a very nice gesture on their part and we were very happy that we went ahead with the tour as planned and had great weather all day.
The owner of Boutique tours actually came to see us at our hotel the day after our Wildlife tour to apologize for the behavior of one of the other guests on our tour. That is a level of service and caring that I have not often seen in our travels and was very impressive. The guide went out of his way to compensate for this other guest's poor attitude and the tour turned out to be so enjoyable despite her complaining. Boutique tours is highly recommended by our family for any of your future clients.
The Adventure North tour was a great experience and different from anything we have done before. The only thing I would suggest is to warn clients that the tour is somewhat challenging physically (particularly the Mud flats and Mangrove walks). We might have dressed differently for the day and been better prepared for the challenge, however the day was very memorable and we had a great time.
All of the airport transfers were promptly on time and the vehicles were comfortable and the drivers very friendly and helpful.
I would like to thank you again on behalf of myself an my family for everything you did on such short notice. I'm sure we will wind up back in that part of the world in the future and I can promise you that you will be the 1st person I call (or e-mail) when we begin making plans. I will try and give you more notice next time!
Alan, NY - Mar 2013
Joanne: I wanted to let you know the trip was really great. All the arrangements you made were excellent. The hotels were outstanding the travel arrangements were consistently accurate. The day trips were well worth it. I want to especially commend Blue Diamond tours. The trip to the Blue Mountains was breathtaking. The tour operators were great. The owners even came to meet us at the ferry. One suggestion for other travelers is to take the free walking tour of Sydney. It covers a good chunk of the city and you learn a lot of history and interesting facts. Plus they give you suggestions for fun things to do in town like Tuesday nights at the Australia museum which has food and drinks and entertainment. All of your recommendations were good ones. I will definitely recommend Aspire to anyone going to Australia. We loved the country and the people. We will definitely go again, next time to Melbourne to see the Australian Open. Thanks again.
Paul & Jennifer NY - Mar 2013
Shelley, We just got back last night and had the best time of our lives! The itinerary that you put together was perfect. We loved the Bed and Breakfast in New Zealand with Janet and Colin making us feel right at home. Mike and I loved the caves and found Waitomo to be such a cute town. However, we went to Melbourne and found we loved that city too! We decided to do the tour that included the March of the Penguins and we loved it. The Great Barrier Reef was a blast and the Beach Club could not have been any more perfect. Mike and I loved both the tours that you scheduled for us in Hamilton Island. We decided to do scuba diving on the reef tour and it was amazing! The hotel in Sydney could not have been in a more perfect spot! We loved the city and did lots of day trips along with the harbor cruise. The hotels in Australia all greeted us with champagne and a cute note. We were so touched and took over 900 pictures. It was the best trip ever and we loved everything!!!!! Thank you so much and we would recommend you to anyone!!!
Chrissy & Michael, NJ - Jan 2013
The trip was a true "bucket list" trip - Shelley with Aspire Down Under did a phenomenal job of putting together all the elements we wanted, but kept it within our budget. She was great when we needed to make some major changes about 6 weeks out, and continued to take care of us all the way through the adventure. We had a wonderful time and created some life-long memories. I recommend Shelley and Aspire Down Under at the top of the scale! The first of our two most memorable parts was the day in Queenstown, NZ when we took the Shotover High Five tour in the morning (including a Shotover Jet boat ride, helicopter ride, tour of Skyline Queenstown, luge rides, and Skyline gondola ride back to Queenstown. The second was the fabulous Coral Princess cruise (5-day, 4-night) of the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns, Australia - I cannot say enough about this incredible cruise - everything from the staff, the accommodations, the food, the snorkeling and intro to scuba, the lectures, the other guests - everything was just amazing. I am SO impressed with the Coral Princess cruise company.
Sara, Murrieta CA - Jan 2013
Hi Phil, Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. Here's our thoughts on various aspects of our wonderful trip:
All had a high standard of comfort and cleanliness. The only hotel that seemed a little worn (though still clean and comfortable) was the one at the Ayers Rock Resort -- but obviously the key issue was the convenience to the two events we had there. The Radisson in Sydney was fantastic -- definitely on the luxurious end. The Adelaide Roof Garden was very nice indeed, very helpful staff, and the location was FANTASTIC! Being right next to Rundle Street and so close to the Art Museum, the river, the Botanic Garden was great. (We loved Adelaide, by the way. We probably wouldn't have gone there if it weren't for the Ghan, and yet we would definitely recommend it as a destination in itself.) Lovely room in Alice Springs (a peacock kept hanging around outside our balcony so that was definitely a bonus.) It was a bit outside the town, but we didn't mind that. We took a walk into town on the day we left and revisited the galleries. We also loved the apartment in Port Douglas -- another great location, three blocks to town, three to the beach, four to the marina.
2. Drivers and Tours.
Even when our only contact with a driver was the trip from hotel to airport or vice versa, there was a high standard of professionalism. No one was ever late and all were uniformly helpful. Moreover, all of them seemed enthused about the city or area of the country we were in and had lots of useful tips.
The tour guides:
On our trip to the Blue Mountains there were 10 of us, I think. Johnny was the guide and was very informative and interesting. We had a great day. Kangaroo Odyssey with Terry was the standout. Informed, intelligent, attuned to what our interests were, a great wildlife guide -- and it turns out, a former chef. We were blown away by the lunches in the bush -- we truly had not imagined anything like that. This was one of the greatest vacation experiences ever! Jerry was our guide for the afternoon in Alice Springs. He also was quick to see what we were interested in and was very informative. We really enjoyed Alice Springs. At Uluru -- the Sounds of Silence dinner was just fantastic. I'm amazed by the level of organization -- and it was a great chance to meet other travellers, mostly other Australians. For the sunrise tour, we were with one other family -- our guide was Kelly. Another great experience -- both her style and her level of expertise. In Port Douglas we were in big groups of course -- first to the Great Barrier Reef and then to the Rainforest. I think that were we to do this again in the future we would go snorkeling on a smaller boat, but we had no idea of whether or not we'd like it before we went so this was a good choice, particularly since there was also the semi-submersible. We loved the Aboriginal Cultural Park -- again I was struck by how well they organized so many people of different ages. It was entertaining, informative and everyone there from the performers to the staff in the restaurant was extremely nice and professional. The rainforest visit was great -- the gondolas, the walk on the rainforest floor, and the little train back. The only drawback is that it's an extremely long day -- from our point of view we might have skipped the train and taken the gondola back because that was the point at which we were feeling wiped out. We definitely wouldn't skip the cultural park.
The premium economy was great -- we're very glad we splurged on this. The flight was surprisingly bearable. Because we'd never flown on smaller trips like those we took inside Australia, we hadn't realized how hassle-free such flying can be, requiring far less time for check in and luggage pickup etc. So that made even those days that included a flight not a total loss. We enjoyed the Ghan, and slept surprisingly well, but we imagined we would see more (I suspect that we passed through some of the most interesting scenery in the night.)
Anyway, it was a great trip. When we met Australians, they said they thought we'd chosen some great places to go and were intrigued by how we'd planned such an interesting trip. We had a great travel agent was of course our response. I still can't believe we saw so many parts of the country and yet didn't feel rushed. Thank you again for all your help.
Barbara & Tom, NJ - Dec 2012
Hi Shelley, I just wanted to let you know that we made it back from our trip safely yesterday. Erin and I both really enjoyed Fiji, but we absolutely loved New Zealand! It was a truly amazing honeymoon and we really appreciate all of the hard work you put in to make it happen! We will definitely recommend Aspire Down Under to our friends, and we hope to make another trip back down to New Zealand and Australia in the next year or two ourselves..
Jonathan & Erin, Birmingham AL - Nov 2012
Joanne, I want to share with you that this was the best vacation we have taken in years. Air NZ was incredible and the Muri Beach Spa and Resort was fabulous. Thank you for your help in making this one of our most memorable holidays.
Diane, NY - Oct 2012
Sharon, We just arrived back from our honeymoon in Australia. Everything was outstanding! All the arrangements were perfect and the hotels were great. The wildlife tour out of Sydney was excellent - the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and we got to see a lot of interesting wildlife so we definitely recommend it if others ask about it. Lizard Island was stunning - we are very happy we added it into our trip. Thanks for all your help and guidance for our trip. Everything was setup perfectly and was hassle-free. Thanks.
Adam & Ariel, NY - Sep 2012
Shelley we can not thank you enough for the amazing planning you did for us on our honeymoon. Every hotel tour and transfer was spot on and amazing. The only thing we were disappointed in was all of the rain you planned for us! Haha. It really did rain a lot but it didn't dampen our spirits.
Every tour in Australia was absolutely fantastic. The great barrier reef was like swimming in an aquarium even though the ride home was rough to say the least. Jungle surfing was the coolest. I have to send you a picture of me flying upside down in the rainforest. My wife was so nervous for it but the staff there was great. She had the hugest smile on when it was all over. On the Blue Mtn tour we fed a baby wallaby joey straight from the pouch! One of the highlights of the trip for sure. The Yarra Valley wine tour was absolutely beautiful. The scenery and wines there are stunning. The camel ride at ayers rock was super cool too. We got an amazing sunset there which made it even better. The West Macdonnell ranges watering holes were awesome. We saw wild dingoes which acted like our dog at home which made us miss him even more.
The hotels in NZ were great and the wine tasting trip to Waiheke island was fantastic. Solscape eco lodge in Raglan was so cool too bad the surf was knee high. Nelson was great but the rain wouldn't stop. Abel Tasman NP is stunning.
Fiji was absolutely spectacular as well. The planning for the boat trip to Tavarua could not have been better as we lucked into a 10-12 foot swell with perfect conditions. A dream come true. Melanie loved it as well. Ian Muller is a Fijian legend and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him. The Intercontinental is the most amazing hotel on the planet. Im so glad we picked it. We ended up going to the local village on our las day and it touched us so much. Such a stark contrast to the resort. I ended up giving half the clothes in my suitcase to them.
Shelley I can not thank you enough for all of the hard work you did for us. Every hotel you booked for us Melanie and I looked at each other and said "this is amazing". We met so many cool people and saw so many beautiful sights that when someone asks us "how was your honeymoon?" I wont even know where to start.
I cant thank you enough for an amazing job.
PS we're still in LAX awaiting departure but wanted to tell you how nice it was to see your email. Truly professional.
Christian and Melanie, NY - Aug 2012
Can't tell u how pleased we were with our trip!!!! Absolutely fantastic service with everyone, and we loved our Great Ocean Tour guide, John!!!!!! He was awesome! We had fun even in the rain!!!! Saw tons of koalas and Roos! Many beautiful parrots. Our drivers, flight, Crown Metropol, and most of all Silky Oaks was supreme!!! Wouldn't have changed a thing, and you did an outstanding job!!! The people were amazing friendly everywhere!! We want to do great white cage diving next! All the best and look forward to the next expedition!!! Great job, Kerrie!
Jacqueline, LA - May 2012
Hi Joanne, I've been meaning to write to you ever since we came back from our wonderful trip. It couldn't have been better!! We had the time of our lives and the plans you made for us just worked out perfectly. We loved the hotels and the tours that you chose for us. The Hilton in Surfers Paradise was "over the top," the Mandolay in Port Douglas was outstanding and in such a great location, and the Holiday Inn in Sydney was just perfect also in its location. We were thrilled to be able to walk through the Rocks section of Sydney, head down to the Harbor, and have everything be so close to the hotel. We came back from Australia not only feeling that we had seen a beautiful country and had a wonderful time, but that we had learned so much from the Rainforest and Mudflat expeditions, in our time with the Aborigini artist, and through the great Reef adventure. Honestly, I will always remember this trip. It was worth every penny!! Thanks so much!
Barbara, CT - May 2012
Joanne from Aspire Down Under was God-sent. We had the best time on our New Zealand trip. It was laid out with the most intricate detail and professionally crafted to out needs. I highly recommended to anyone who is planning to visit New Zealand.
Saurabh C. Tampa, FL - May 2012
Shelley, Shelley, Shelley, the trip could not have been better!!! Jim remarked at least every other day how wonderful the accommodations were, how remarkable the people are, and how smoothly the days went by. We talked about you quite a bit. There were a few points that were exceptional that I wanted to point out. The Rees Hotel in Queenstown was fantastic. The Grand Mercure Monnaco in Nelson was to die for (we upgraded to a one bedroom apartment which was fabulous--very English Country style. We went to the Wilson's Abel Tasman Kayaking which was fantastic. Toured the Doubtful Sound on our own with Real Journeys. I could go on and on. Suffice to say that it was fantastic. Thank you for putting our dreams into a reality.
Nancy K - Feb 2012
I want to thank you for arranging for us possibly one of the best trips I have ever taken. I had never used a travel agent before but knowing so little about this area of the world I thought I had better. To be very honest, I wasn't sure how things would go and if the extensive itinerary you had planned for us would go smoothly. There were so many flights, shuttle pick ups and tours that I was sure that something had to fall apart somewhere. Well, much to my delight I was proven so very wrong! Everything happened like clock work and exceeded our expectations.moon experience for us. I will remember it always.
John & Erica, FL - Dec 2011
The tours were amazing, other than the few large tours (which we knew would be on the larger side, Sounds of Silence, Philips Island and Milford Sound-they were great too) the largest tour we had was 7 people! How wonderful was that! The tour guides were professional, knowledgeable, friendly and very, very accommodating. Seit tours in Ayers Rock told us they were new to the business but you never would have guessed it by the way the conducted the tours, we felt like friends were showing us places that they loved. My daughter was so thrilled with everything we did. The hotel in Palm Cove was lovely and we were thrilled not to be in the hustle and bustle of the city of Cairns. The wine tour in New Zealand was fantastic and the bush and beach tour led by Kevin was such a pleasure, it was too windy to eat our picnic lunch at the beach as planned so he drove us to his home and we ate on his deck overlooking the Tasman Sea, a memory my daughter and her friend will never forget
I could go on and on with stories of the wonderful tours, tour guides, lovely hotels and smooth transportation transfers. I just had to thank you from the bottom of my heart for providing for us the perfect vacation!
Tammy, NJ - Dec 2011
We just returned from our honeymoon on Wednesday morning, and I wanted to THANK YOU for all of your hard work. We had a wonderful time. Everything was handled meticulously. Thank you, especially, for encouraging us to stay at the Four Seasons in Sydney despite the Trip Advisor reviews. We absolutely loved the hotel and do not understand how anyone could criticize the service. Their breakfast was incredible, and it was such a pleasant surprise to learn that it was already included.
Royal Davui was the most relaxing, romantic, luxurious place I have ever been AND John was in heaven with the diving and snorkeling. If you have any other honeymooners in the future, please feel confident highly recommending Royal Davui to them.
John and I plan on returning to Australia again to revisit Sydney and see Melbourne and Kangaroo Island in the future. When we do--even if it's not for a few years--I will certainly be contacting you again. Thank you for creating such an outstanding honeymoon experience for us. I will remember it always.
John & Erica, FL - Dec 2011
Hi Phil, Hope all is well! The honeymoon was amazing! Every location and hotel accommodations were perfect. The car services were great and very reliable. They also had so much information to share as well as travel tips. It was a trip of a lifetime. We will definitely encourage others to utilize Aspire should they ever have the opportunity to visit your beautiful homeland. Hopefully we can make it back one day to visit the areas we missed. Thank you for a great honeymoon. It was spectacular.
John & Meg, NY - Nov 2011
Joanne, My wife and I wanted to thank you for helping plan out such a great trip for us. Our only regret is that we did not have enough time to explore all of Australia or stay long enough for the Rugby World Cup. However, that gives us an excuse to go back again. Thank you so much for working with us. We will definitely recommend you to our friends. You are the best! Best Wishes
Geoffrey & Jane, CA - Oct 2011
Thank you Phil. We had a wonderful, memorable trip. Fiji was absolutely wonderful and exactly what we were looking for. We absolutely loved Matangi and the staff. Tom, the wedding coordinator was great to work with and he did a wonderful job, and had a beautiful wedding. It was really sad to leave because it was so beautiful and we had grown so close to the people. It was really nice to have such a big trip go stress free and smoothly. We really appreciate all your help in planning and creating such a wonderful trip for us.
Jacqui & Ross, CT - Oct 2011
Dear Shelley, please put me in your next commercial. I'd love to sing your praises. When we had plane trouble because of Volcanic ash which was beyond everyones control it was comforting to know your associate cared. Our itinerary was perfect. Through your careful orchestration we saw as much as possible in the limited time we had without being soo over booked that we wouldn't have enjoyed it. I would love to see more of each place we visited but would not have left anything else out to do so. Someday I would just love to go back. The hotels and transfers were all great!!! Each hotel had a great location and great service. The Queenland hotel view was spectacular. We were able to fly both ways to Milford sound. Pleas contact me as I am serious about a commercial!!!
Ava & David, New York - Aug 2011
Joanne, Cory and I wish to thank you for what was, without question, the most spectacular vacation of our lives. From the moment we arrived in Savusavu and put ourselves in Aspire Down Under's fully capable hands, to the moment we touched down at LAX on December 18th, we were in heaven. The entire itinerary was seamless, and every detail was just as you said it would be. We didn't have a single hiccup, and that's due entirely to the professionalism, courtesy, and attention to detail that you have exemplified from day one of our interaction. I know I'm not always the easiest customer to deal with (I believe that my name and photograph are in the dictionary right next to "obsessive compulsive"), but you never made me feel anything other than cared for, and that manifested itself on the journey itself, which was simply tremendous. Should we ever venture back to that part of the world, and with any luck we will, you and Aspire Down Under will be our first point of contact.
Cory & Stark, New York - Jul 2011
This is a thank-you for arranging a fabulous trip to Australia for my wife and me. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The accommodations were wonderful -- we had a view of Uluru from our room at the Desert Gardens Hotel and had a grand panorama at the Shangri-La that included Sydney Harbor Bridge on the left and the opera house on the right. All of the drivers were knowledgeable, courteous and prompt; we had no complaints. Yes, we did have a bit of rain on our trip to the Blue Mountains, and the sea was pretty choppy on our way to the Great Barrier Reef, but it was a wealth of new experiences. We won't hesitate to recommend Aspire Down Under to anyone who's planning a trip to that part of the world
Fred & Mary, Colorado - Jul 2011
June 18, 2010 - Australia > Port Douglas > Mandalay Luxury Beachfront Apartments
"Arrived in Port Douglas to the best surprise of trip so far. The Mandalay Luxury Beachfront Apartments are great. 20 yards and you walk through the dunes and onto 4 mile beach. 4 mile beach is the perfect N Queensland beach, endless sand, great surf and plenty of winter sun. Compared with some of the larger resorts which are set quite a way back from the beach, quite a bonus. The ground floor beach front apartment we have is spacious, modern, fully equipped kitchen, day bed and outside dining patio. Tough to ask for more. Macrossan Street is less than a 5 min walk and endless dining options, boutiques and of course a bakery for the best meat pies."
Shelley, our honeymoon was amazing, thank you so much for all your help! We absolutely loved everything we did, and owe a lot of that to you. I've already passed your name along to a friend that was on the fence about going to New Zealand. Since we came back, she's decided to take the trip, and i passed along your name saying you were fantastic. Thank you again, and I'll keep passing along your name to anyone else that we convince to go to New Zealand. I'm in love with Queenstown especially, what a fantastic little city
John and Courtney, Atlanta - June 2010
June 10, 2010 - Australia > Hamilton Island > qualia
"Qualia meet and exceeded all my expectations. The reality for once matched the buzz. It's setting at the far end of Hamilton Island ensures privacy and once you enter the gates, peace and tranquility is all around. Great landscaping and nature gum trees abound. The Leeward and Windward pavilions are both impressive in their right, however I would strongly recommend anyone considering qualia to go with the Windward pavilion. Not only do you get the personal plunge pool, the pavilion design just feels superior. With a new pricing plan for accommodation and breakfast only imminent, it will make the Windward pavilions pricing more attractive. The dining is exception, the lunch I experienced was a pleasure, food, service and a great view over pebble beach. Impressive."
Hi Shelley: We just wanted to let you know how our trip to New Zealand went. We had a fantastic time. Thank you so much for the big part you played in it. All the hotels, tours and shuttles went as planned and we enjoyed them all so much. Our favorite place was Queenstown and the Brown's Boutique. What a wonderful three night stay. The room was great with a beautiful view. The hosts Donald and Jillian were perfect. The other hotels were good too. No complaints. Our only complaint is that we didn't spend enough time in New Zealand. There is so much more we want to see. Maybe someday. We did arrange for a tour to kiwifruit country. Our concierge in the Auckland Hyatt lined it up for us. We hired a trip by van. It was expensive but we had a great time. Since I am a kiwifruit farmer it was especially meaningful. The drive alone through the countryside was worth the trip and the drivers were so friendly and informative. We had a great time on the rest of our trip to Australia too. Thanks again
Mark and Deb, California - June 2011
May 19, 2011 - Australia > Palm Cove > Angsana Resort & Spa.
"Palm Cove is considerably small than Port Douglas and most of the accommodation is directly on the sea front. The Angsana is the only resort to have direct beach access (i.e. no road or mangroves/dunes to walk over/through). The Angsana rooms are impressively large and the whole resort is relaxed 5 star. Very easy to unwind - kick back in a hammock under the palms and listen to the waves. The location is superb and varied eating choices within 5 min walk along the sea front. Thoroughly enjoyed my stay."
Hi Phil, The trip that was planned for us was almost perfect. We had magnificent weather, only one day of rain and got to see Mt Cook and the Franz Josef without clouds. All of the places where we stayed were great especially the Orari (Christchurch), The Dairy (Queenstown), Franz Josef Glacier Retreat (Franz Josef), The Resurgence (Riwaka), Bay of Islands Lodge (Opua) and the Waipoua Lodge (Northland). I would suggest that the Pancake Rocks, while very nice do not require an overnight stay. I would suggest flying into Whangarei and then driving on to the Bay of Islands. It is a longer drive than from Kerikeri, but it is a very nice drive and you wouldn’t be hit by these Remote Location Fees which are strange since a lot of tourists drop off their cars at Kerikeri after being in the Bay of Islands. Finally the two tours we had were wonderful. The Jet Boat up the Dart River and the one to Abel Tasman National Park were most enjoyable. All in all we had a wonderful time and would recommend your agency without any reservations.
Barbara and Larry, Massachusetts - Feb 2010
February 15, 2011 - Australia > Cairns > The Lakes Resort
"Just spent 3 nights at the Lakes Resort in Cairns. Great size apartments, blocks of apartments based around landscaped gardens, pool area and BBQ. Location is ideal for day tour pick ups. This is the thing about Cairns accommodation, you spent nearly all of the day out on activities, whether reef, rainforest, town, etc, so you want the accommodation to be easily accessible and reasonably priced. The Lakes offers both. If you want to explore downtown, the walk is approx 20 mins, the bus is simple or a cab takes less than 5 minutes. Would recommend dinner along the esplanade with a lot of options. The Lakes does have a dining bistro on site or of course you can buy in and cater for yourself with the full kitchen and dine outside on the apartment terrace."
Sharon and Joanne: I thought I would pass this on regarding the Air Pacific trip my wife and I just completed. The flights with Air Pacific were great (business class - Tabua).
Air Pacific a real bargain for business class (Tabua - pronounced tambua) and economy, giving an opportunity to stop over in Nadi (pronounced Nandi) for a day or so en route to either New Zealand or Australia. Great service in LA at the Los Angeles Club. The flight was very nice - good, courteous service; plenty of food. The 747s have been refitted earlier in the year and are very nice. Business class seating very open and comfortable. Inbound clearance at Nadi with baggage pick up very quick and courteous. Taxi's plentiful
I did a lot of reviews of Air Pacific before booking the trip; virtually any negative comments were unfounded based on our experiences. Negative comments concerning "old aircraft - worn interiors" have been fixed by refurbishment of the aircraft in 2009.
Greg & Jill, Los Angeles - Feb 2011
February 17, 2011 - Australia > Palm Cove > Kuranda Rainforest Day Tour
"Took the scenic railway to Kuranda which was really pleasant. Had a wander round the arts and crafts shops and market then headed to the Skyrail and took the gondola back down, this was just spectacular for me. So green and suspended in mid air like that with the carriage to myself was just special. At the bottom went to Tjapukai, the Aborginal culture centre. I threw a boomerang (which came back both times!) and launched a spear which didn't fare so well."
Hi Joanne, We wanted to send you a special "Thank You"!!!! Our trip was wonderful. Everything you put together went absolutely "perfectly"!!! We loved Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. The people were friendly, warm and so helpful. Our favorite hotels were Sebel Reef and Spa in Palm Cove and the Amora Hotel in Sydney. The outback hotels were fine and what we expected in that area. The Grand Chancellor in Melbourne was centrally located and clean. All the Qantas flights were great and they provided wonderful service. We loved the Radisson on Fiji. Again the hotel and people were great. "Sounds of Silence" was an amazing experience, as was the Great Barrier Reef. All the day tours you put together for us were will worth it. Thank you Joanne.
Betty & Don, Connecticut - Feb 2011
Hi Shelley, Just wanted you to know how much we enjoyed our holiday to Australia and the New Zealand cruise. Sydney was amazing and we loved the Grace Hotel...rooms were big, buffet breakfast a great way to start the day, and super location. We found the companies that did the Hunter Valley wine tour and Blue Mountain tours very professional. The tour guides were amazing in their knowledge and we learned so much. Only wish we could have stayed longer and seen more of the country. Thanks you so much for all the travel arrangements. Everything went very smoothly and we have wonderful memories.
Nancy & Barry, Toronto - Feb 2011
Wonderful! Aspire Down Under was very easy to work with and would make adjustments as I requested. Through this company I had planned 2 tours in each city, where we spent 4 days in Sydney, 4 days in Cairns, and 3 days in Melbourne. From snorkeling and kayaking in the Great Barrier Reef to watching the Little Penguins on Phillips Island, it is hard to choose the most memorable. We covered a lot of miles and experiences in just 12 days. All of it was fantastic, seeing the Sydney Opera House, Daintree Rainforest, Blue Mountains, Yarra Wine Valley, Melbourne, the list keeps going.
Judy, California - Dec 2010
Aspire Down Under worked with us to create an itinerary that really met our specific goals for this trip. Very professional travel company. Standing in a rain forest and looking up at the Franz Josef Glacier. The Yellow-eyed Penguin Reserve (Otago Peninsula). Tranz-Alpine train trip. The Siberia Valley tours: Fly-Hike-Jetboat and the Milford Sound flight and cruise. The Mitai Hangi Concert and Feast in Rotorua. While all of our accommodations were good our favorites were the Bayview Chateau Tongariro (quite grand) and the Makarora Wilderness Resort (rustic).
Anne, New York - Nov 2010
November 11, 2010 - Australia > Hayman Island
"Hayman is just a fantastically located island, the natural beauty of this part of the Whitsundays is hard to beat. The resort has been considered the premier spot for many years, true it may have lost some of its prestige, but it is still a great place. I had a lagoon view room and the birdlife and fauna of the lagoon is quite a contract to the pool view rooms and the large wrap around pool. The beach at Hayman is great and the sand bars at low tide provide endless walks. The dining options I experience were first class and the breakfast tables overlooking the water is a great way to start the day."
Shelley and Aspire Down Under were absolutely wonderful. Every piece of the itinerary ran smoothly - airport transfers, flights, hotels, tours...we couldn't have been more satisfied. Aspire was extremely helpful in selecting destinations and tours that suited our personalities - and we had a blast for the entire 30 days. We had an amazing time - it was the trip of our lives (so far!). Australia was fantastic! We loved the Sydney Bridge Walk, the Blue Mountains, the Gold Coast and Hamilton Island. It was the perfect honeymoon. What we loved even more was New Zealand. What a gorgeous country and people! Our favorites were the Fox Glacier heli-hike, Christchurch, and especially Queenstown. Honestly, we loved every bit of our trip.
Vanessa, New York - Sep 2010
Hey Joanne - Scott and I just got back from the trip of our lifetime. It was amazing. Thank you so much for putting it together. Everything was just as we wanted and much more. Fiji was so great and the Amora Jamieson was a lot of fun. Everything went so well I just wanted to thank you. Talk to you soon
Jo Ann and Scott, New York - May 2010
Thanks Sharon. My wife and I returned from our honeymoon on Friday and we had such a great time! Just wanted to say thank you for your services - I will be referring you to everyone I know interested in traveling to the other side of the world.
Micah and Nicole, New York - Oct 2009
October 21, 2009 - Australia > Palm Cove > Sea Temple Resort & Spa.
"Moved along the beach to the Sea Temple. Separated from the beach by small stream and mangroves and the resort is lushly landscaped. The Sea Temple is relatively new and has a very cool, calm and minimal decor and feel to it. The rooms are spacious and modern with full kitchen facilities and a cool shaded outdoor seating area or balcony. I really liked the location compared with the Sea Temple in Port Douglas which is considerably further out from the main street/dining. Of course with the resort's dining choices etc you may not want to venture out. Again very impressive and would highly recommend."
"Thank you for arranging the welcome wine/champagne at both hotels. Also, I must say that the car pick up arrangement and coupons upon arrival were really helpful. Overall, I must say that I've never used a travel agent/agency and was REALLY pleased with the overall service and organization. I would highly recommend your company and think you did a fantastic job. We really enjoyed every moment of our honeymoon"
Christine and Sean, Los Angeles - Los Angeles - Oct 2009
Finally put together the files from our trip.
Ed - Washington DC - Jul 2009
Our trip was absolutely PERFECT!! I cannot thank you enough for arranging everything. When we arrived at Sea Temple, the documents were waiting for us, we had no problems whatsoever. The tours were booked and buses showed up on time to pick us up for the Poseidon Reef trip and for the Kuranda tour.
Thank you for recommending the Sea Temple and the Intercontinental, we loved them both. The Sea Temple was beautiful - we loved the modern, trendy décor and the pool was huge. Our room was a studio so we assumed it would be tiny. Well, when we walked in, we couldn’t believe the size of the Jacuzzi tub. It could have fit 4 people! The room was a nice size, everything was clean and the bed was especially comfortable. We really enjoyed our stay and would recommend it to others.
We did the introductory dive on the Poseidon, that was exciting. The crew and the lunch on board were fabulous. The Kuranda tour went smoothly as well. The views from the train and the sky rail were incredible. Both tours highly recommended.
Next was Hamilton Island. I can’t put into words how spectacular Qualia is. The view from the Long Pavilion as soon as we walked in left us speechless. Yes, the place is super-expensive, but it is worth every penny. The Windward villa with the private pool is a MUST. We were in that pool every day. It’s bigger than an average plunge pool, it’s 5 feet deep! There are amazing views from every room. We woke up every morning to the blue sky and blue water and trees blowing in the wind. We enjoyed the same view from the outdoor day bed. The golf buggy was great and the helicopter tour to Whitehaven is a MUST. Guest services were especially wonderful. They couldn’t do enough for us, they were extremely friendly and helpful. When we left, they gave us a book about Hamilton Island that most of the staff had signed to congratulate us on our wedding. It was very special. Needless to say, I would encourage anyone to stay at Qualia.
We were a bit depressed when we left Qualia, but were so glad to stay at Intercontinental in Sydney. The location was perfect and of course the executive lounge was awesome. We really made good use of it – ate breakfast there and enjoyed the free tasting plates from 5-7pm. The views were fabulous. Our room was a nice size and everything was comfortable. When the front desk person found out we were just married, he offered to send up complimentary champagne and a cheese/fruit plate. That was a nice touch. We did the Harbour Bridge climb!! We chose the twilight tour and it was awesome!! There were fireworks at Hyde Park when we reached the summit, even the guide didn’t know about them so that was a pleasant surprise.
Again, thank you for arranging this wonderful trip for us. We really have nothing to complain about, everything was really amazing and made our wedding that much more special and memorable.
Christina & Gamal - New York, NY - Nov 2008
I’m sorry it has taken so long for this e-mail to come, things didn’t slow down much after the wedding. I just wanted to thank you so much for doing such a wonderful job planning our Fiji/Australia honeymoon. Everything was PERFECT from the locations to the hotels to the activities…it was everything we wanted and things ran so smoothly! We had an amazing time! We will definitely recommend you to anyone! Hopefully we’ll be making a trip back in the future. Thanks again!
Megan & Joe - New York, NY - Oct 2008
My husband and I had a little more than a month to plan our belated honeymoon to Australia and were wondering if we'd be able to pull it off in so little time. So, although I generally like to plan vacations on my own, this time we decided to go to Aspire Down Under. We met with Sharon who immediately put us at ease, letting us know that we still had time to plan a great vacation. During out first meeting with her, we described the places we'd like to see, the activities we were interested in trying and also gave her our budget. A week later, we met with her a second time and she had a draft itinerary of our trip that included everything we had asked for plus some activities which we would never have thought of on our own (like surfing on Bondi Beach and a safari in the Red Centre). She also got us a great deal on airfare. In the end, we had an amazing time in Australia! It was even more enjoyable because we didn't have to stress out about the details of planning a trip -- Sharon did the leg work for us. At Aspire Down Under, they have a wealth of information about Australia and New Zealand and are able to zero in on what you want to tailor a trip just for you. They're also simply a pleasure to work with--very personable and friendly. If I were to plan another trip to Australia (as I hope to), I would definitely go back to Aspire Down Under.
Jim Michael & Michelle - New York, NY - Oct 2008
Sharon, Your assistance really added to the quality of our visit to New Zealand. Your guidance about where to go and your help in arranging domestic flights within the country made a big difference. We liked the Brothers Boutique Hotel in Dunedin that you selected: it had been a Christian Brothers residence until remodeled 7 years ago. A far more elegant lodge is in Nelson, the Te Puna Wai Lodge, which was beautiful and the two owners similarly helpful and friendly. Thrifty Car Rental was excellent. We discovered on Air New Zealand that what it calls "premium economy" is in fact the same as Business Class, with all the advantages that means. What they call Business Class is really first class (a category they do not use) and differs from Premium Economy only in having flat beds. Same flight attendants, same excellent food, china, linen, wine etc. So it's helpful information to know what the labels translate to. Thank you for your help
Judith & Richard Rabkin, New York, March 2008
Shelley, This email is LONG overdue! I just wanted to say thank you for planning our Australia trip last August! We had the time of our lives! Everything was fabulous from our seats on the plane to every hotel we stayed in and tour we took. The best part about the excursions you planned is that so many of them were so small. It was like we had our own personal tour guide everywhere we went. I also felt like everything I had mentioned to you was addressed, the whole vacation was exactly what we wanted. I definitely want to go back someday and when we do, Aspire Down Under is who we will call! Thanks for making the celebration of my husband graduating law school a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your advice and knowledge! Thanks again!
Christie Tinker, Dallas, February 2008
Shelley, as you are aware Linda and I have just returned from our trip. We had an excellent time and in no small measure it was due to your assistance, planning and efforts. The rooms and all the services that you arranged for were great. We would not hesitate to recommend your organization to others. Thanks again for all of your assistance and guidance. It was greatly appreciated.
Ken and Linda, New York NY, October 2007