The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, better known as P&O, established a regular ocean passage between Britain and Hong Kong in 1845, and for almost 20 years offered the only scheduled passenger and mail services between the colony and Europe. Next year, the company will be celebrating its 175th anniversary with discounts on 171 of the 214 cruises it has scheduled for 2012, but anyone hoping to follow the Britain-to-Hong Kong route will be disappointed, as that cruise will not be among those discounted. It's an interesting voyage, nonetheless, with the Arcadia (above, in Venice) departing Southampton on January 9 and putting in at Hong Kong, via the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Vietnam, on February 16. The ship then heads to Sydney via the China coast, Japan and Papua New Guinea on February 16, arriving in Sydney Harbour on March 9. Full-board fares for the Southampton to Hong Kong leg start from GBP3,200 (HK$39,000), and from GBP2,600 for Hong Kong to Sydney. Prices are about double for a luxury suite, but still quite reasonable considering that in the mid-19th century a first-class P&O ticket from Hong Kong to England cost about a year's salary for a senior civil servant. For more information, visit www.pocruises.com and search for Cruise J201.
Families with children who plan on travelling to London in the spring will find interesting new accommodation just a few miles from Heathrow Airport from March 16. The Legoland Windsor Resort Hotel will feature Lego-themed bedrooms that sleep two adults and up to three children, and plenty of Lego-related activity areas and restaurants. March rates start from a fairly hefty GBP309 per night for a family of four, but this includes two days' access to the Legoland theme park (right) and breakfast for all. Significantly cheaper package alternatives are also offered with accommodation at other hotels. For a virtual tour and reservations, go to www.legoland.co.uk.
A new chapter
With the Myanmese authorities rapidly coming in from the cold, thanks to new internal pro-democracy initiatives, it seems likely that Myanmar will become one of the hottest 'new' travel destinations for 2012. Hitherto politically hesitant guidebook publishers around the world are probably already greasing up the presses for first editions, but old Burma hand Lonely Planet released the 11th edition of its guide to the country this month. Now expanded to more than 400 pages with 65 maps, this latest edition has a list price of US$24.99, but is on Hong Kong bookstore shelves for HK$250. The cheapest way to get your hands on the new content is by downloading the book in PDF format at www.lonelyplanet.com. You can download any of the 11 chapters for US$4.95 each, but downloads for the complete book are discounted by 67 per cent to just US$17.49.
Deal of the week
Despite undergoing a rather sanitary renovation between 1996 and 2001, Penang's Eastern & Oriental Hotel (www.eohotels.com) is still one of the more agreeable heritage hotels in Southeast Asia, and Cathay Pacific Holidays is selling two nights there in a deluxe suite, with economy-class flights, from HK$3,690 per person (twin share). Tickets are valid for up to seven days, so you can spend some extra time on the Malaysian island and perhaps move up to the beachfront town of Batu Ferringhi for a couple of nights at the E&O's lesser-known sister property, the Lone Pine Hotel (www.lonepinehotel.com). This was the region's first boutique resort hotel when it opened with just 10 rooms in 1948, and has recently undergone a renovation into a 90-room property that gets mostly positive online reviews. For the E&O package, which will be available until the end of March, go to www.cxholidays.com and look under the Malaysia heading for the Penang Year Round Package, or call 2747 4388 and quote tour reference 11CHLPENBYY001.