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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Murray River Cruising with Captain Cook Cruises [video]

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lindblad all but sold out

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by Louise Goldsbury, editor, Travel Daily Cruise Update

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic is “stronger than it’s ever been” with more than 95% occupancy for the first half of 2014 across its fleet, including the Asia-Pacific’s National Geographic Orion, the company has said.

Jeremy Lindblad, business development director, Lindblad Expeditions-Australia, told TD Cruise Update that NG Orion has fewer than 40 cabins available
this year in total.

Cruise winners hailed ROYAL Caribbean Cruise Lines was named Best Cruise Operator - Australian Based Operation at the sell-out National Travel Industry Awards on Sat night.

RCI vice-president Asia-Pacific Gavin Smith thanked the industry for its support and hailed sales manager Peter McCormack and his team as “the leading voice in sales in the travel industry.”

The winner of Best Cruise Operator - International Based Operation was APT, which had a huge night, also taking out the awards for Best Tour Operator - Domestic and Best Tour Operator “This means that we are more than 96% full for the year on this ship,” he said.

Lindblad also reports “more than double” the number of Australian pax booked with the company from 2013 to 2014.

“While these guests are travelling with us across all 10 vessels, the majority still occupy the National Geographic Orion,” he said.

“The sky really is the limit in terms of anticipated sales growth for the next six to 12 months here, and we are excited to continue developing itineraries that cater to our Australian passengers,” Lindblad added.

National Geographic Orion was renamed and upgraded with new exploration tools and an expanded expedition team in Mar this year.

Itineraries include the Coral Sea: Papua New Guinea to Fiji; Fiji to Tahiti; Tahiti to Easter Island; Treasures of the Indian Ocean: Zanzibar and the Seychelles; and Indian Ocean Odyssey: Seychelles, Maldives & Sri Lanka.

See www.expeditions.com for more information.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Crystal cruises to sail Northwest Passage in 2016

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The “World’s Best” Crystal Cruises is introducing a new expedition-style voyage traversing the Arctic Ocean via the legendary Northwest Passage – one so mysterious and remote (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle), that explorers spent centuries seeking the passage, until it was first completed successfully by Roald Amundsen just over 100 years ago.


Crystal will be the first luxury cruise line to ever navigate the route, maneuvering through 900 miles of majestic waterways lined with spectacular glaciers, towering fjords, and vast unspoiled landscapes away from mainstream civilization and tourism, north of mainland Canada. Beginning August 16, 2016 in Anchorage/Seward, Alaska, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will sail for 32 days from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean/New York City.

Crystal Serenity in Antarctica

“Crystal’s inaugural Northwest Passage offers guests the opportunity to begin a new story of thrilling adventure, all the while indulging in the world’s very best luxury vacation experience,” said Crystal President Edie Rodriguez. “The voyage combines intrepid adventure, the great outdoors, and immersive cultural experiences with Six-Star service as only Crystal can deliver.”

Crystal’s Executive Vice President Thomas Mazloum spearheaded the strategic planning of the itinerary, with the help of Expedition Voyage Consulting by EYOS Expeditions, providers of bespoke expeditions to the most remote regions on Earth in safety and luxury.

“From reviewing operations with Canadian officials to meeting with Inuit elders of the Arctic who have provided their backing, our team has spent almost two years diligently gathering the field experts, information, resources, and support to ensure an epic experience that is exceptionally rewarding and safe for guests and crew, and respectful of local lands and cultures,” says Mazloum. “During this voyage, speakers will enlighten guests on information regarding climate change, and how it has impacted this passage. With the recent retreat of polar ice, the time is right for us to lead the way within the travel industry, as Crystal has done throughout our 25-year history.”

Following in the footsteps of intrepid explorers, the once-in-a-lifetime journey through once-unpassable waterways marks Crystal’s maiden expedition-style itinerary and a break from many cruising traditions. Approaches to itinerary scheduling, destination visits, onboard offerings, and safety standards are all new or enhanced, with major changes including:

A flexible itinerary: Extra “surprise” days are built into the schedule to allow unplanned “calls of the wild” for polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, scenic helicopter flights, and/or seeking out the best wildlife and weather on the advice of local specialist guides.

New adventures ashore: Crystal will introduce “Wilderness Adventures” that take guests across polar tundra, up ice-strewn fjords, and into scenic coves to explore areas in and near maiden ports-of-call. Travelers will also be able to respectfully visit the small, remote communities and uninhabited, unscheduled spaces/lands/waterways en route – often with champagne waiting at the other end. Although some excursions will only be determined “in the moment” based on circumstances and environment, Crystal will spend the next two years planning a plethora of excursions and “Arctic safaris” involving kayaks, Zodiacs, a helicopter, ATVs, fishing, hiking, climbing, golfing at the world’s northernmost nine-hole course, and even possible camping and/or overnighting away from the ship. Voluntourism opportunities to help local lands and communities will also be offered complimentarily to guests and crew via the line’s “You Care. We Care.” program.

New enrichment: A 14-person expedition team of experts in a variety of subjects -- including a local Arctic guide, scientists, and accomplished wildlife and landscape photographers -- will not only provide lectures on subjects such as the science and history of the area, but also offer hands-on seminars and workshops, host dinners with guests, guide wildlife watching from the ship, and accompany excursions, where appropriate.

Respect & understanding of the local culture: Guests will be given a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the lifestyles of these small and remote communities during port visits, with activities created in partnership with the communities. Designed to show modern life today in the Arctic, as well as the rich cultural heritage of the region, visits will include demonstrations of local arts and crafts, Arctic sports, traditional drum dancing and throat singing, and tastings of local foods, such as Arctic char and bannock bread.

Onboard experience, expedition-style: Embracing the spirit of expedition, Crystal’s usual onboard atmosphere of rest and relaxation will be relaxed even further with wardrobe (complimentary parkas, boot rentals, outfitter recommendations, and no “black tie optional” nights) and cuisine that, although still gourmet, is modified to reflect the locale and limited ability to re-supply goods and store waste during the month-long voyage.

Ports-of-Call: Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Nome*, Alaska; Ulukhaktok*, NW Territories; Cambridge Bay* and Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Ilulissat*, Sisimiut*, and Nuuk, Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Newport, Rhode Island, and New York, New York. (*=maiden call)

Waterways: North Pacific Ocean; Bering Sea & Bering Strait; Chukchi & Beaufort Seas; Amundsen Gulf; Dolphin & Union Strait; Coronation Gulf; Dease Strait; Queen Maud Gulf; Victoria Strait; Larsen Sound; Franklin & Bellot Straits; Peel Sound; Parry Channel; Barrow Strait; Prince Regent Inlet; Lancaster Sound; Croker Bay; Navy Board Inlet; Eclipse Sound; Baffin Bay; Davis Strait; Labrador Sea; North Atlantic Ocean.

Enhanced safety and environmental standards: Crystal Serenity and its escort vessel will be using low-sulphur Marine Gas oil fuel, exceeding environmental regulations. The escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment, as well as personnel specifically trained in its use. In addition, it will serve as a platform for a helicopter and zodiacs, and be manned by a crew highly experienced in all aspects of operating safely in this unique area.

The first call in the Canadian Arctic is planned for the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, a settlement of just a few hundred people on the shores of the Amundsen Gulf, just 1,400 miles from the North Pole. “The community is very pleased to see the thought that has been given to ensure that the experience for the passengers, as well as the residents, is positive and beneficial,” said William Bennett, Senior Administrative Officer of the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok.

With the new cruise comes a new booking process. A 20% initial deposit will be required to secure all bookings, with $500 of the deposit being non-refundable. Starting July 17, the initial booking window will only be available to guests who have sailed with Crystal before (i.e., Crystal Society members). Non-members may add their name to a waitlist, and remaining space, if any, will open to the public on September 2. Crystal Adventures will open for pre-reservation 18 months in advance of the cruise.

All-inclusive “Book Now” fares start at $19,755 per person, double occupancy, with an additional Crystal Society savings starting from $495/person and $3,000 included in savings if booked by August 29, 2014.

Crystal Cruises’ passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more “World’s Best” awards than any other cruise line, resort, or hotel in history.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

New Travel Indochina’s 2014-16 Asia River Cruise Portfolio

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Travel Indochina’s 2014-16 Asia River Cruise Brochure

Travel Indochina’s 2014-16 Asia River Cruise Portfolio sets sail amid strong growth and new product announcements


Travel Indochina has launched its 2014-16 Luxury Asia River Cruise Portfolio contained in its expanded 84 page guide amid extremely strong growth in the sector and with a partnership announcement that it will be handling all Australian Travel Trade bookings for the newest small ship luxury cruise in Asia, Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong.

In the three years since establishing the product suite, boutique small ship Asian River Cruising has become Travel Indochina’s second most important market segment following the company’s core Small Group Journeys, registering 130% growth in the last year alone.

Managing Director, Paul Hole is buoyed by the growth in the sector which offers travellers a unique opportunity to gain greater access and deeper insights into a traditional way of life along Asia’s most iconic waterways.

“Having personally shared the experience of sailing on small boats along the Mekong, I’m more resolute than ever to bring this style of travel to travellers who prefer this style of exploration,” explains Hole.

“We’ve been sourcing more exclusive experiences as we develop an increasingly extensive product suite of quality cruise experiences and carefully crafted itineraries to meet our travellers’ demand, and importantly with a flexibility of offerings between tailor made and scheduled departures and itineraries.”

“We’re especially excited to announce our partnership with Aqua Expeditions for the Aqua Mekong, which will set a new standard of small boat luxury on the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia. Aqua Mekong has the aesthetics and facilities equal to the most sophisticated five-star hotel, features world class cuisine designed by Asia’s top ranked chef, David Thompson and offers its own deck mounted tenders to provide on shore excursions into the heart of Mekong life, culture and nature. Luxury of the likes of this ship has never been seen by Australian river cruise aficionados unless they have been lucky enough to travel on Aqua’s Amazon based vessel.”

Travel Indochina’s newest guide to Luxury Asia River Cruising, which incorporates Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, India and China, includes cruise itineraries and details for boutique small ship river cruising along the Mekong, Yangtze, Ganges, Irrawaddy and Chindwin. The only dedicated brochure in the market with such a large range of boutique river cruising options across Asia, the 84 page ‘Guide’ to cruising provides detailed ship information covering cabin selections, cuisine, on shore excursions, itinerary highlights with pre and post touring options, deck & cabin plans and dates and prices for a range of departures to help travel agents and travellers identify the most appropriate cruise.

In addition to the Aqua Mekong, Travel Indochina’s cruise portfolio also includes the addition of two other cruise ships due to launch in late 2014 and early 2015; Haimark Luxury Expeditions’ Irrawaddy Explorer and Ganges Voyager I. Plying Burma’s Irrawaddy River and India’s Ganges River respectively, these two new cruise ships exude comfort and elegance while offering British-colonial era inspired luxury with quality service delivered by exceptionally high crew to passenger ratios.

Travel Indochina offers exclusive charters and preferred partnership sailings on the following Cruise Ships:


Aqua Mekong (Aqua Expeditions), Mekong River (set to launch September 2014)
The Jahan (Heritage Line), Mekong River
Jayavarman (Heritage Line), Mekong River
The Luang Say Lodge & Cruise, Northern Mekong
The Vat Phou Cruises, Southern Mekong
Mekong Sun, Upper Mekong
Irrawaddy Explorer (Haimark), Irrawaddy River (set to launch September 2014)
RV Paukan 2007, Irrawaddy River
Sanctuary Ananda, Irrawaddy River
Belmond Road to Mandalay (Belmond), Irrawaddy River
Belmond Orcaella (Belmond), Irrawaddy River and Chindwin River
Ganges Voyager I (Haimark), Ganges River (set to launch January 2015)
Victoria Cruises fleet, including Victoria Jenna, Victoria Anna, Victoria Katarina, Victoria Sophia, Victoria Selina and Victoria Lianna, Yangtze River
Yangzi Explorer, Yangtze River

***

About Aqua Mekong

Setting a new standard for small luxury cruising up and down the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia, the Aqua Mekong is the only ship on this stretch of the river to offer a fully equipped fitness centre, library, screening room, outdoor evening cinema, observation deck and a top deck river facing infinity edge style pool.

The ship features 20 Design Suites measuring 30m2 and facing the Mekong River. Eight suites have private balconies and 12 panoramic windows with 4 metre sofas to leverage the view.

Guests dine on world class indigenous cuisine created by Asia’s top ranked chef, David Thompson, as Executive Chef. Incorporating the Mekong’s diverse culinary traditions, the on board chefs offer guests cooking classes to share Aqua Mekong’s inventive and authentic dishes. Cultural and environmental lectures are also offered on board.

Uniquely, Aqua Expeditions has invested in four deck mounted launch speedboats to provide twice or three time daily on-shore excursions. Four professionally trained guides lead guests deep into the Mekong’s tributaries and on foot among Khmer pottery villages, remote Vietnamese mountain monasteries and the cultural treasures of Phnom Penh. There are also ten bicycles aboard the Aqua Mekong to allow guests to ride along the riverbanks.

Inaugural Sailings

Inaugural Phnom Penh – Saigon 8 Day / 7 Night Aqua Mekong Encounter with 3 night cruise accommodation departs 28 September 2014, from $4,395 pp twin share

Inaugural Saigon – Siem Reap 12 Day / 11 Night Aqua Mekong Luxury Expedition with 7 night cruise accommodation departs 01 October 2014, from $8,868 pp twin share

About Travel Indochina

Travel Indochina has been operating Small Group Journeys and tailor-made holidays to Asia since 1993. Offering journeys to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Burma, Mongolia and Bhutan, Travel Indochina has seven offices across its Asia destinations, Western tour guides and English-speaking local guides.

Travel Indochina’s idea is simple – to explore and share the essence of Asia’s history, culture, natural beauty and, most importantly, people. The company has a commitment to responsible travel and a belief that travel is an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, cultures and wealth.

For more information and bookings, Travel Indochina’s Asia experts can be contacted on 1300 365 355 or online at www.travelindochina.com.au.

For great travel adventures and stories, follow the Travel Indochina team at www.travelindochina.com.au/blog, on Twitter @travelindochina or check out our photos on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelindochina/






Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Big names in small ships win T+L awards

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Winners of small ship and river cruise lines at Travel + Leisure Best of 2014 awards

Tauck ms Savor
Tauck's latest Inspiration-class river boat, ms Savor, launched in June. World's best?
Click to enlarge. Read Full report at T+L

Monday, 14 July 2014

Aurora Expeditions at the Antarctic Tourism Talks in Chile

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Puerto Williams
Puerto Williams. (Flickr user: guideviaggi)

Aurora Expeditions has been a major contributor during important talks in Chile this month to discuss the country’s tourism development and planning. The tourism expansion includes opening Chile’s access to Antarctica after last year’s launch of Aurora Expeditions’ new Antarctic itineraries that include departures from Puerto Williams, the country’s most southerly port.

Aurora Expeditions’ Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Bolton, attended the talks in Santiago, Chile on 3 July 2014 as part of a collaboration organised by the Chilean Navy.

“I am delighted to be able to be a part of, and assist in, the development of Chile as a new Antarctic gateway, helping to support and sustainably develop the growth of the Antarctic tourism industry.”

“This coming Antarctic season will be Aurora Expeditions’ first in operating expeditions in and out of Puerto Williams. The Chilean Government, from both tourism and naval sectors, has made a strong commitment and investment in the region, which for us as a tour operator, means we’ll be able to run smooth operations in and out of the Chilean port.”

“Puerto Williams really offers a perfect starting or ending point for Antarctic expeditions, with its wealth of nature and amazing mountains backdrop, as well as it’s vicinity to Cape Horn – a place that every Antarctic passenger hopes to get a glimpse of.”

In conjunction with the Chilean Tourism Minister, the Director of Public Works, and other companies interested in providing support services to the region, Bolton was involved in discussing topics such as tariffs, increased airport capacity and fuel supply, as well as collaborating with other public services in the region.

Aurora Expeditions will begin to operate expeditions in and out of Puerto Williams from this coming 2014-15 Antarctica season. There is still opportunity to join Aurora Expeditions’ inaugural voyage into Puerto Williams. The ‘Spirit of Antarctica’expedition will depart from Ushuaia on 6 December and finish in Puerto Williams on 17 December 2014. Prices start from US$8,700 per person and include a tour of Puerto Williams and a flight to Punta Arenas.

For more information please contact Aurora Expeditions on +61 2 9252 1033 or visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au.

Exploring Ancient Turkey by Sea with Peter Sommer Travels


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Yacht sailing Aegean

Archaeological tour specialist Peter Sommer Travels is set to explore some of the most remarkable ancient sites of the Mediterranean this September on a series of spectacular yacht expeditions in Turkey.

Four upcoming itineraries will travel through magnificent coastal scenery aboard traditional gulets, wooden schooners, visiting picturesque villages, unspoilt coves and fascinating ancient ruins.

Each expedition caters to small groups of no more than 16 guests, travelling at a lazy pace along Turkey’s south-west coast. Hosted by expert guides with academic backgrounds in history, art and archaeology, they combine the remarkable past of the ancient lands with an idyllic journey and a chance to sample the region’s superb food and wine.

The eight-day expeditions cost £2125 per person twin share (approx A$3870) and include:

Cruising to Ephesus - beginning in Bodrum, this cruise heads north to the stunning ruins of Ephesus, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the Mediterranean. En route it visits sites including the ancient harbour of Iasos, the sanctuary to Zeus at Labraunda and the great oracular temple at Didyma. August 30 to September 6, 2014. Max 14 pax.

Cruising the Carian Coast – from Mediterranean to Aegean – sailing west from Göcek to Bodrum, this cruise offers a mix of fantastic ancient sites like the monumental wonders of Knidos and Kaunos, plus spectacular landscapes on one of Turkey’s least-developed stretches of turquoise coast. September 6 to 3, 2014. Max 16 pax.

Cruising Western Lycia – exploring a superb mountainous coast and its extraordinary culture, with plenty of opportunities to swim in crystal waters. Discover the world’s best preserved Roman lighthouse at Patara, the stunning ancient site at Xanthos, and the beautiful villages and ruins at Kekova. September 13 to 20, 2014. Max 14 pax.

Cruising the Carian Coast – Aegean to Mediterranean - heading east from Bodrum to Göcek, visiting the rock-cut temple tombs of Kaunos and the beautifully preserved marble city of Knidos. This itinerary offers a perfect combination of magnificent ancient sites, quiet coves, beautiful walks and glorious swimming. September 20 to 27, 2014. Max 14 pax

Specialising in small-group expeditions, Peter Sommer Travels offers more than 20 different expert-led land tours and gulet cruises among the ancient sites of Turkey, Greece and Italy.

The company is headed by archaeologist and documentary maker Peter Sommer, who in 1994 walked 3,200km across Turkey retracing the route of Alexander the Great. He later worked on a BBC documentary, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, and created a 19-day tour of the same name, cited as one of the world’s ten best educational holidays by National Geographic Traveller.

For full details and bookings contact Peter Sommer Travels in the UK on 0011 44 1600 888 220, email info@petersommer.com or visit www.petersommer.com.

*Tour prices include transport, accommodation, most meals, crew and guide services, and all entrance fees and tips on excursions. Excludes airfares.