Island exclusive The remote Indian islands of Lakshadweep, known as the Laccadive Islands until the early 1970s, are opening up this month with the start of a 15-day cruise operating from Goa. The MS Ocean Odyssey (left), carrying Swedish officers and an international crew, will visit three of the islands by way of the mainland coastal ports of Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum and Tuticorin, as well as the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. The company describes Lakshadweep, the smallest of India's union territories, as comprising 'uninhabited islands, coral atolls, pristine lagoons and crystal-clear seas rich in marine life', and claims the ship provides the exclusive and only means of visiting the three islands. The MS Ocean Odyssey can accommodate 250 passengers with a crew of 120 and has been afloat in various guises since the mid-60s. Facilities include a spa, gym and swimming pool with two Jacuzzis. Cruises will depart twice monthly from Saturday. For a closer look at the ship and a detailed itinerary, visit www.indianoceancruises.net . Flights of fancy Tomorrow, The Peninsula hotel relaunches its Fly & Dine package: a 15-minute flight by helicopter around Hong Kong, taking off from and returning to the hotel's rooftop helipad, plus lunch or dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants. The price starts at HK$5,490 for two people. This covers the flight and lunch at the Verandah, while more expensive packages include a four-course dinner at Gaddi's or Felix for HK$6,440 and a six-course dinner at Spring Moon for HK$6,290. A pre-flight safety video is shown in the China Clipper, the hotel's top-floor helicopter departure and arrivals lounge, which is designed along the lines of the China Clipper flying boats that served Hong Kong in the 1930s. For reservations, call Heliservices (HK) on 2802 0200, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.heliservices.com.hk . Tee total The sprawling Empire Hotel and Country Club (right) in Brunei is running a Golfing Escapes to the Empire package, which includes two nights' accommodation for two people, with breakfast, two buffet dinners each, unlimited golfing at the country club, 18 holes at the Jerudong Park Country Club, 100 balls at the Empire driving range and several other extras for B$1,770 (HK$8,800), plus 10 per cent service. The package will be available until the end of the year. Because Brunei is a dry country, you'll have to take your own alcoholic beverages, but incoming duty-free allowances are more generous than those permitted by most countries. For a virtual tour, and reservations for this and other packages, visit www.theempirehotel.com . New horizons Purveyor of 'exciting, unique small group tours and tailor-made adventure travel to some of the least-visited and untouched countries in the world', tour operator Undiscovered Destinations does indeed have some off-the-beaten-track corners on its itinerary. Places being offered include Bangladesh, East Timor, Angola (its most popular destination), the Congo, S?o Tome and Principe, Uganda, Eritrea, Panama, Sudan, Oman and Nicaragua. The company is based in Britain but you can depart with it from your country of choice. For more details, brochure downloads and a slideshow masquerading as a movie presentation, visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com . Shopping by the book Shopsmart Bali & Lombok: The Unbiased Guide for Those Who Love (and Hate) to Shop, published this month, bills itself as the only objective guidebook to Bali written specifically with the shopper in mind. At 740 pages, it's hefty for a shopping manual and comes hot on the heels of a book in the same series on Singapore. A thousand shops in 30 categories are covered within six areas (Denpasar, Kuta, Lombok, Seminyak, Sanur and Ubud), and information is also given on accommodation, restaurants and spas (and an absence of paid advertising backs up claims of objectivity). Also, 10 per cent of profits from the book will be donated to local charities. Shopsmart Bali & Lombok should be available in local bookshops from the middle of this month, priced HK$140. Pricey package Every now and then, a major hotel or resort chain unveils an outrageously extravagant travel package that is as much about publicity as anything else. The latest is an offer from Mandarin Oriental, which includes a private-jet tour taking in three of its properties, in Miami, New York and Washington. Featuring the customary 'dazzling array' of luxuries, the Fantastic Jet Set Journey includes three nights in the presidential suite of each hotel (New York, above), with meals specially prepared by their executive chefs. In New York you'll be taken to the Metropolitan Opera, jazz at the Lincoln Centre and one of Broadway's Tony-award-winning plays or musicals, with similar itineraries in Miami and Washington. Transfers will be provided from the US airport you arrive in to the first city and between hotels and airports. The price for all this (and too much more to mention here) is a tidy US$220,000 for two people sharing. The good news is that tax is included. For further information, contact any of the above-mentioned hotels through www.mandarinoriental.com . Deal of the week Cathay Pacific Holidays' Standard Fukuoka Package includes round-trip, economy-class flights and two nights' accommodation from a reasonable HK$3,700 a person, twin-share. Your hotel at this price will be the Hakata Tokyu Inn, or, for another HK$200, you can stay at the Hakata Excel Hotel Tokyu (both www.tokyuhotels.co.jp ). International hotels on offer include the Hyatt Regency Fukuoka, for HK$4,180, and the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka (below), for HK$4,610 (both www.hyatt.com ). Fukuoka is the closest Japanese city to mainland Asia and has long been a point of entry for Chinese and Korean goods and culture, hence it has more of a flavour of these countries than does the rest of Japan. It was also named one of the 'World's 10 Hottest Cities' by Newsweek recently. Breakfast is included at all the hotels mentioned, as is travel insurance. The deal will be available until April 30, with a few high-season surcharges. Bookings can be made through www.cxholidays .com or by calling 2747 4388.