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"Slow boat" options - Europe to Aust/NZ

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"Slow boat" options - Europe to Aust/NZ

Old 9th Jan 2012, 12:20
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Geneva
Posts: 188
"Slow boat" options - Europe to Aust/NZ

A routing query for the seasoned long-haul travellers of the SLF forum:

In July-August, I will be obliged to travel from Geneva to Australia (east coast) and New Zealand with my wife and our three young children, ages 5, 3 and 2. No sane person would voluntarily undertake such a journey with 3 kids of this age, so rest assured we are not doing it for fun. Alas, the budget will not stretch to 5 J-class tickets, so we'll be down the back. On the plus side, we have plenty of time - up to five weeks for the trip.

So I have been pondering ways of minimising the pain, and have hit upon the idea of the tramp steamer approach, making not one but several stopovers, and thus (as far as possible) avoiding being on a plane for more than 6 hours or so at a time.

One such possibility I found is Emirates, which would allow us to go Geneva-Dubai-Colombo-Singapore-Brisbane-Auckland-Sydney-Bangkok-Dubai-Geneva, all on Emirates metal and for not much more than a simple GVA-AKL return.

Another idea is round-the-world, with Star Alliance offering Geneva-Zurich-Singapore-Sydney-Auckland-Vancouver-Toronto-Geneva on SQ/NZ/AC. But this is over CHF 4,000 - approaching the cost of a cheap J-class return - and also has a couple of long sectors.

Any other ideas? We want to avoid LHR, FRA and transiting the US (all based on bitter experience), but are up for anything else.
Gibon2 is offline  
Old 9th Jan 2012, 13:17
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: UK
Age: 68
Posts: 137
Gibon, I have had similar thoughts myself over the years. I often go to SYD or PER to see relatives. Usually it is a straight thru run. The thing that gets me is the time zone changing. I'd love to move thru different time zones more slowly to adjust more easily to the longer time I spend in Oz. I'm in London so I've thought of a south/north zig-zag route something on the lines of London to Europe somewhere. In calmer days then to Cairo, although now perhaps Istambul or Jordan. Then Dubai/Abu-Dhabi/Qatar region. Then Colombo, Bangkok or KL or Singapore, Bali, Darwin then either Perth or Sydney. As I say, this is based purely on a gradual adjustment to the body clock. I've also thought of going much further south from Europe overnight to Capetown, then Mauritius then up to Colombo and then on as described above. In terms of round the world I guess across the Pacific in a zig-zag time zone fashion could also be done but the problem is the North American part to Europe. A large time zone difference so one I would avoid if I were doing it on the basis of avoiding large time zone changes. It sounds a fun way of getting about in any event and would love to hear on what you finally decide.
gdiphil is offline  
Old 9th Jan 2012, 14:15
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Finland
Age: 74
Posts: 465
Regarding the long sector from US to UK.

I always try and route Boston to LHR on my return as BA (and maybe others) has a daylight BOS - LHR service.

It leaves at 0815 but is better than JFK as the airport is just a short and affordable taxi ride from the centre of the city.

Even in first, I hate night sectors and avoid whenever I can.
finncapt is offline  
Old 9th Jan 2012, 14:44
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Cumbria
Posts: 170
Well, if you've got 5 weeks - go by SEA !!!!

I no nuthing about this but I found
Passenger Service to and from Australia & New Zealand with The Cruise People
How to travel from the UK to Australia without flying

and I'm sure many more are available

and it looks no more expensive than by air!

best of luck
G&T ice n slice is offline  
Old 9th Jan 2012, 15:28
  #5 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Lemonia. Best Greek in the world
Posts: 1,692
Back in the 90s I used to fly to Aus about 8 times a year. After various experiments, I found that the worst trip was Aus to UK straight thru. Whenever possible, I did not do that, and stopped over for 2 or 3 nights in Singapore. I tried 2 stops and 3 stops on the Aus to UK route, but found no real extra benefit, so one 2 or 3 night stop was the best for me.
Going from UK to Aus, I found that going straight through was my best approach. Stopovers didn't seem to help. I would just get there, and then try to rest/be a tourist (rather than work) for at least 24 hours.
Ancient Observer is offline  
Old 9th Jan 2012, 23:10
  #6 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 1,082
I don't know who the local equivalents of the UK agencies like Trailfinders and STA but I would seek them out. They specialise in this kind of thing.

They even know about ideas like splitting the ticket up into separate (and hence cheaper) legs. I will repeat my perenial warning about doing that (although I don't really think it applies here). Separate tickets are separate contracts. So even if you buy 2 ticket A-B and B-C on the same airline they are NOT a connection and if you miss B-C because A-B is late or rescheduled or any reason the airline may want to charge you a new fare for a replacement B-C ticket.

Don't run away that you MUST travel on the same airline throughout. Airlines have agreements to cover segments one doesn't; nothing to do with codeshare or alliances (although that may be the case) just commercial arrangements and, again, using an expert agency, can help you find things like that.

If sea travel does appeal have a look at cruises, particularly round the world cruises. Cruises don't always go round in a circle, some are one-way (I went Seward Alaska to Vancouver BC) and the RTW cruises will often sell legs (as well as the whole deal).
Hartington is offline  
Old 10th Jan 2012, 00:57
  #7 (permalink)  
Paxing All Over The World
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Hertfordshire, UK.
Age: 64
Posts: 9,287
This sounds like a great idea and one that I have on the list for when time and money permit.

There are two main approaches: Use an experienced agency/shop/site to co-ordinate it all for you and a DIY. Whilst an agent will charge a fee, they should have insider knowledge and a range of fares and hotels that you could not find in days of searching online.

Also, if you buy the tickets piecemeal (both travel and hotel) you may find many of the websites charging you that dreaded booking fee each time. An agent, ought to be able to charge you in one, or bite sized chunks to avoid some of those charges.

You will also find that RTW packages can be put together on the web site of the airline alliances: Here are two of them: oneworld and Home - Star Alliance but don't forget Sky Team. If you look through the carriers in each group - you will get an immediate idea of their scope and routes. At a quick glance, they all have RTW planning/booking buttons on their front page.

Lastly, you might want to consider method of payment as regards accruing Frequent Flyer Miles, likewise, if you go with an alliance RTW. There is an opportunity to haul in an enormous amount of FFMs. The trick being to plan the expenditure and not make a purchase soley to get FFMs. But a credit card that has points that can be exported to the chosen alliance group, will make a huge difference by directing all the points into a single pot. Not for this trip but for the next!

We look forward to hearing the choices - in a few months time!

ps It occurs that, on such a long and complex trip, you will have a considerable amount of paperwork and/or confirmation numbers for various bookings. I would suggest planning to scan all of them and take them with you on a USB stick. Further, I would cache the files online (password protected) so that if you lose your bags (even temporarily) you would be able to recover booking and itinerary information.

When travelling alone or in a pair, it's one thing to 'busk it' but not with children. Also, add copies of health documents, innoculations etc. Whilst most authorites will want originals/replacments, if you can print out copies to show them (whilst waiting for replacements) it will greatly reduce the hassle. I am currently planning a six week RTW (although mainly NZ + OZ) and will be doing this even though only two of us travelling.

Last edited by PAXboy; 10th Jan 2012 at 13:28. Reason: spelling
PAXboy is offline  
Old 10th Jan 2012, 09:13
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Beyond the Blue Horizon
Age: 60
Posts: 836
Woulde fully agree with PAXBOY re USB stick a true god send when you have a large number of docs. As for routing the world is your oyster pick places you want to see on route and go have a look !. I would try to keep to one carrier to get air miles for next trip but that is just my view and I know other disagree. However Africa / Far East / Oceania great places to explore. Would personaly not bother with routing back through Canada as it is (and I say this with due care to the many Canadians I know) "similar" to the USA in many respects.

As for length of flight I would try to limit to max of 5- 6 hrs in one hop in the back but you may have to stretch that in certain areas.

If going by sea I think there are some Cargo ships you can still get rooms on which for me would be more intresting than a cruise ship option, however with kids in tow this I admit would be difficult.

Look forward to hearing the route you chose and have a good trip.
Mr Mac is offline  
Old 19th Jan 2012, 16:32
  #9 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Geneva
Posts: 188
Thanks to all for the helpful and interesting replies. Here is the route we have ended up booking: Geneva-Dubai-Singapore-Auckland-Cairns-Sydney-Singapore-Colombo-Dubai-Geneva.

Here is how we booked it:

1. Return ticket on Emirates, Geneva-Singapore, coming back via Colombo (booked on Emirates website).
2. Open-jaw return ticket on Singapore Airlines, Singapore-Auckland and Sydney-Singapore (booked on SQ website)
3. One-way on Air New Zealand, Auckland-Cairns (booked on Air NZ website)
4. One-way on Qantas, Cairns-Sydney (booked on QF website)

The cost was a little more than the all-Emirates routing I mentioned in my first post, but this separate ticket option avoids some doubling back and extra domestic legs in Australia, and has generally much better departure times (Emirates seems to like taking off in the wee hours of the morning).

Some lessons I have learned in putting all this together:

1. Travel agents (at least here in Switzerland) are not any better at putting complex itineraries together at reasonable prices than a reasonably experienced traveller with a browser is. Nothing they found was cheaper or in any way better than what I found myself, and on top of that you have to pay the agent fee. Not worth it. The only advantage I can see of using an agent is that they can book and hold the various tickets until everything is organised, and then you pay in one hit. Doing it yourself on the internet, you risk booking and paying for one ticket (e.g. GVA-SIN) and then finding you can't get seats at reasonable prices on the next one (SIN-AKL), even though they were there when you checked a few minutes earlier. I tried to minimise this risk by doing the bookings as simultaneously as possible, in multiple browser windows.

2. The "multi-city" option on airline and online travel agent websites is generally useless for more than a simple stopover or open-jaw. Most of them just gave up with an error message when presented with more than 3 stops. Others would cope, but come up with absurd prices. The notable exception was the Emirates booking engine, which is very capable and flexible, produced sensible options, and only started giving silly prices if several non-Emirates sectors were included.

So, now I just have to wait for July...
Gibon2 is offline  
Old 31st Jan 2012, 23:25
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Windsor
Posts: 21
I've got family in Brisbane and been meaning to get out to see them for years - just don't relish the 22hr flight. So I hit on a routing that seems to minimise the pain. Fly LHR - JoBurg and then on to Perth. and thence to Brisbane. The fist leg can be done as an overnight trip with minimal change in time zone. Routing from Joburg is a 15 hr flight but again an evening take off and landing in the evening. Means minimal jet lag. Have yet to try it as cost is 50% higher than flying direct. *Thinks* how many miles (ooops Avios ) have I got so far ??
Fender Strat is offline  
Old 1st Feb 2012, 00:10
  #11 (permalink)  
Paxing All Over The World
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Hertfordshire, UK.
Age: 64
Posts: 9,287
I've considered the JNB-PER as I have friends in both. The problem is that the route is only served by Qantas now (with SAA code share) so there is no competition and I found the cost of a single was prohibitive, particularly in biz! My plan was an RTW but if you return on that route, it might not be a problem.

If you used SA to JNB and then their code share, that might work or the BA and QF share for OneWorld.
PAXboy is offline  
Old 2nd Feb 2012, 14:46
  #12 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Geneva
Posts: 188
For those organising and booking complex trips themselves, I found that TripIt (www.tripit.com) is an amazingly clever and helpful tool. You just forward to it all your e-mail confirmations for flights, hotels, cars, etc, and it automatically analyses all the data and compiles it into a single itinerary, which you can then sync with your online calendar, iphone or whatever. It's pretty impressive.
Gibon2 is offline  
Old 2nd Feb 2012, 21:35
  #13 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: North West UK
Posts: 531
I know you have booked it now and I do not know your detailed itinery, but our last long trip with the kids was made an awful lot better by staying in a city for a few days before moving on. Even a couple of nights and say a day and half's worth of relaxation and some sightseeing made a huge difference than simply getting on and off planes.
Espada III is offline  
Old 3rd Feb 2012, 08:36
  #14 (permalink)  
Prof. Airport Engineer
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Australia (mostly)
Posts: 726
Hi Fender Strat,

I’ve done the trip a few times from Europe to Australia via South Africa. I’ve also done the trip Jo’burg-Perth many times. I’d not be overly keen on the routing UK-JNB-PER-BNE.

The transfer in Perth and the domestic flight from PER-BNE are the problems. Perth is rather hopeless. The terminals in Perth are miles apart, and this gives you the hassle of hauling your luggage between the terminals, waiting for the bus to take you to the domestic terminal for the BNE flight, and then sitting in the bus for quite a while as it chugs its way around the town to get to the other side of the airport. If it is summer, then the considerable Perth heat adds to the discomfort.

When you arrive in Perth, your luggage has to clear customs there without the option of transshipment to BNE. So you have to haul it to the domestic terminal yourself, and check it back in. Loading and unloading it on the bus, which is not very luggage friendly, adds to the trip.

Finally, you have the last leg from Perth to Brisbane, with a 4-5 hour grind across the continent in a narrow body jet with typical narrow body seating. Rather a comedown from the international widebody seating, and at the end of a long trip, it is simply unpleasant.

My own preference would be to hub through the Middle East or Asia where (at best) you can connect to BNE directly, or (at least) through Sydney which is a short domestic flight to Brisbane. If you are fixed on going through Jo’burg, then take the Jo’burg-Sydney flight on Qantas, and it is an easier short hop to Brisbane from Sydney.

Last edited by OverRun; 3rd Feb 2012 at 14:44.
OverRun is offline  
Old 28th Aug 2012, 11:49
  #15 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Geneva
Posts: 188
Well, we're back - all still alive, didn't have to murder any of the kids. Five weeks, 9 sectors, 5 countries, 4 airlines, far too many security queues. For those who may be interested, here are some thoughts and conclusions on the "slow boat" option:

1. It works pretty well on the whole, but is highly dependent on the ease or getting into and out of airports. Singapore is a winner here; Dubai a disaster. Colombo, somewhat surprisingly, wasn't too bad.

2. It's certainly a great help with managing jet lag - we took a week to come back from SYD, with stops in Singapore, Colombo and Dubai (each about 2 time zones apart), and arrived in Geneva with body clocks almost correct.

3. For travel with young kids, we discovered the length of the flight is less important than the time of departure. The 9-hour overnight flight from SIN to AKL was easy to manage because the kids slept through most of it. In contrast, the 6-hour flight from DXB to GVA, and the 5-hour one from AKL to Cairns, both leaving around 09:00, were a real challenge, with 3 fully rested and charged-up youngsters wanting constant entertainment. Next time, we will pay closer attention to the schedules, rather than the sector length.

And some random observations:

1. 10-abreast vs. 9-abreast seating on a 777: we had a good opportunity to compare, as we went from an EK 777-300ER (10-abreast) to an SQ 777-300ER (9-abreast). The EK seats weren't too bad - maybe a little narrow across the shoulders. But the aisles are very narrow. The SQ seats weren't noticeably wider, but there was a little less leg-room - I guess this is the trade-off. Overall, there was much less difference than I expected: we were about equally (un)comfortable in both.

2. Air New Zealand doesn't have online check-in. Just doesn't have it. Bizarre.

3. The A380 really is very quiet inside - contrast with the 777 is impressive.

And now the Gibon2 Awards:

Best cabin crew: Emirates - always cheerful, hardworking, thoughtful, great with the kids, seem to be enjoying their work, really make a nice atmosphere on board. Singapore Airlines also good, if a little mechanical. QF and NZ: (sigh) friendliness is a good thing, but it's just not a substitute for competence and efficiency.

Best in-flight entertainment: Emirates, by a wide margin. Big screens, huge choice, and has the big advantage of being available as soon as you board. Just plug the kids in, and you can get on with organising yourselves in peace. Honorable mention to QF and NZ, which to my surprise both offered personal screens on short-haul narrowbodies.

Best landing: Air New Zealand A320, Auckland to Cairns, 2 August - approached from the north, into a gusty south-easterly. Bumped and lurched violently all the way down. I was ready for a big thump, but somehow the pilot pulled off the perfect greaser. First officer was flying.

Dumbest boarding procedure: Emirates, Dubai. Bussed to 777 parked at remote stand hundreds of miles out in the desert. First bus dropped pax at front stairs. Second bus dropped pax at rear stairs. (This might be a good plan if pax were put in buses according to seat row - but they weren't.) I leave to your imagination the scene on board as pax boarding from the rear tried to get to their seats at the front, and vice versa, in the impossibly narrow aisles of an EK 777. Needless to say, we left 30 mins late, although boarding had started on time.
Gibon2 is offline  
Old 28th Aug 2012, 12:30
  #16 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: LSZA & EGWU
Posts: 106
Finally, you have the last leg from Perth to Brisbane, with a 4-5 hour grind across the continent in a narrow body jet with typical narrow body seating. Rather a comedown from the international widebody seating, and at the end of a long trip, it is simply unpleasant.
As already pointed out, 3-4-3 configurations on 777 equipment is quite widespread nowadays (EK, EY and even KL).
Victor Inox is offline  
Old 29th Aug 2012, 21:04
  #17 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: moraira,spain-Norfolk, UK
Age: 78
Posts: 348
slow boat

If you really mean slow boat, I am shortly travelling 28 days
to Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), by boat, then a week in Bangkok,
finally 15 days on re-positioning Cruise liner to NZ.
I usually reposition each European winter, this time I am not
in a hurry. Total cost about 10K € for two people, shore excursions excepted, so not too bad really.
esa-aardvark is offline  
Old 29th Aug 2012, 21:25
  #18 (permalink)  
Paxing All Over The World
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Hertfordshire, UK.
Age: 64
Posts: 9,287
MANY thanks Gibon2 for reporting back in such a detailed way. I hope that other readers will find your update as interesting as I did - and amusingly written.
PAXboy is offline  

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