Originally from Sydney, 10 years ago our favourite TV travel mama, Catriona Rowntree, fell in love with a Victorian farmer, and the rest is history! New town, new love, kids, so much change! But what hasn’t changed since she started juggling farm life and motherhood (she’s got 2 beautiful boys) is her passion for travel and her 23-year career as a presenter on Channel Nine’s Getaway.

Firstly, tell us a little bit about your family/kids and where you call home.

You can’t pick where a cupid’s arrow will strike, and this city chick fell for a hot farmer when I least expected it. We live on a beautiful sheep and grain property just outside of Melbourne, that I’ve turned into a little slice of Tuscany with a dash of Provence thrown in. Big red geraniums and lots of lavender will do that.  My boys have no idea how fortunate they are to grow up with such a whopping big back garden. They’re both the absolute loves of my life, I feel like I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, due to their love. Both are chatterboxes, but bizarrely so different. Andrew physically can’t sit down. Has to kick a ball, compete at everything and move at one hundred miles an hour, yet is so cuddly with me. Phew. Charlie is me, loves to shop, loves a museum, loves to read, we are just so happy in each other’s company. Did I mention he loves to shop? Did I hit the jackpot or what? When we go to his favourite place, Melbourne Museum (he calls it ‘Melvin’s Museum’) he says ‘Mum, priorities, we start at the gift shop.’ Now that’s a boy of my own heart. Andrew on the other hand, when I asked him what gift he’d like me to bring home from the Cook Islands he said ‘nothing Mum, oh, maybe bring home a coconut.’ He has the $2 coconut by his bed as we speak. Nuts…coconuts!

You’ve been described as Australia’s best-travelled woman. Explain how you’ve juggled it all since the boys were born. 

Well I thought my career would be over once I moved away from Head Office and started breeding. But technology has changed all that and my boss said ‘as long as you can get to an airport I don’t care where you live.’ So I’ve forced myself to become organised (not a natural trait) and every work request is met with a simple question to my husband ‘does this work for our family?’ If my children are surrounded by love and their routine stays the same then I can dip in and out to travel. Oh, and as long as I come home with LEGO, my boys are happy.

What is your all-time favourite holiday destination?

I’ve always gone to Hamilton Island for work and now I take my children. They just love all the activities, ‘keep ‘em busy’ I say. I think we do tend to like the water and by jay (I mean joy) can be found skiing down a mountain or by the beach, but with children I just need to keep them occupied and give them lots of cuddles.

You’ve recently released a new book, The Best of World Cruising, featuring the top 40 ocean and river cruise destinations around the world. What’s the best cruise you’ve done with the kids?

My children love a cruise in all its varied forms. We hired a Halvorsen at Easter and explored the Hawkesbury, my Bucket List trip was taking them on The True North to experience The Kimberley (‘its Barra-dise mum!’) and they loved island hopping around the Exumas, part of The Bahamas, where they swam with both pigs and sharks, random I know. 

We really want to sample a Disney cruise too, that’s on our a bucket list. You see there’s a cruise for every budget, every interest, that’s why I had to write a book on it to make it easier to choose!

How long did the book take to put together?

It is certainly jam packed full of fabulous information. A solid year and it was hell. It doesn’t come naturally to me to sit for hours and be quiet to write. The cruise part was easy, the writing – a wrench. I also reached out to fellow travellers who I admire to share their tips. Sir Richard Branson, Wendy Wu, Livinia Nixon. They’re just nutty about travel and loved sharing their stories.

Number one rule when packing for a holiday…

Don’t take away anything you’d be upset to lose, the pain of loss lingers. Also, don’t pack anything that crushes, take a photo on your phone of your luggage in case you lose it, take half of what you think you need (more shopping space) always nick the plastic shower cap at hotels. Great to cover dirty shoes in your suitcase or a wet cozzie when you can’t resist that last swim.

I never board a plane without…

Something to read. You lose your mind when your battery dies and it gives you a legitimate reason to not talk to the over sharer sitting next to you!!

Dream destination?

Endless and ever added to. I’d love to see the cherry blossoms of Japan, take my children to swim with whale sharks, experience The Palio in Siena. This is why is still adore my job, the Bucket List is infinite.

And finally, care to share with us a funny parenting story?

My mother in law bought my children guinea pigs, which we all know means I had to care for them. I went away for a quick trip, we had a cold snap and sadly Harold and Henry kicked the bucket. I arrived home and asked my son ‘where did they go?’ And he pointed to the sky and said ‘I’m sorry Mum, they’ve gone up to Kevin’s.’

Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or just starting, let Catriona fill you in on everything you should know before stepping on board in her new book ‘The Best of World Cruising’, published by Hardie Grant. RRP $35.00.