Thursday, 26 November 2015

From aboard Coral Expeditions I, South-East Tasmania.


Weather: Strong winds 35-40 knots. Sea: 3-4m swells.

Coral Expedition I. 35m, 50-passenger catamaran cruises at 12 knots.
At anchor near Woodbridge showing new 'navy grey' hull.
With stunning ocean scenery, precipitous sheer cliffs, fascinating wildlife and rich history, the remote southernmost reaches of Tasmania have been crying out for a dedicated small ship cruise product for years.

Cruise ship visits to the delightful capital city Hobart are nothing new, and the shore-side offering has been growing steadily over the years to the point where a new dedicated cruise ship terminal is now in operation within an easy stroll to the city centre. Many of the traditional cruise ships offer comprehensive shore excursions to the wine regions or historic Port Arthur. Even simple city walks are enriching with precincts like Salamanca Place offering all manner of interesting diversions for casual visitors.

Yet beyond the reasonably accessible city limits lies a whole other world of possibilities.

Recherche Bay, Cockle Creek, Bruny Island and the surrounding national parks to the south are full of great places to visit. While ashore, we take a vigorous hike to the lookout at Fluted Cape on South Bruny Island, to take in the wild scenery and meet a few of the locals like the Swift Parrot and wallabies who live in the park. In the village below, the Bligh Museum is a wonderful, if compact, trove of memorabilia dedicated to the early explorers of the region, particularly William Bligh who anchored here along with the French around the end of the 18th Century.

Enjoying the view from Fluted Cape
The 'holy grail' for expedition ships in this region however is remote Port Davey in the far Southwest National Park. Accessible only by ship or light plane, Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour contain natural treasures that send conservationists and nature lovers into a frenzy. Listed by UNESCO primarily for its rare temperate rainforests and wild rivers, the vast rugged area includes many rare and threatened species of flora and fauna, perhaps even the last redoubt of the legendary Tasmanian Tiger.

Tender landing passengers (dry) directly onto beach near Cockle Creek
Since the late '90s, the more adventurous small ships have attempted to make Port Davey a feature of Tasmanian itineraries. I'm told the first exploration by a modern expedition vessel was by Clipper Odyssey, closely followed by Akademik Shokaleskiy in February 1999 with Clipper Odyssey venturing beyond Port Davey into Bathurst Harbour.

In 2006, Strahan-based small ship operator, World Heritage Cruises, also added Port Davey to their portfolio of overnight Gordon River voyages in the brand new, 24-passenger catamaran, MV Explorer. Ultimately that company withdrew overnight voyages and the ship was sold overseas, deciding instead to stick with their tried and tested day cruises on Macquarie Harbour.

Orion Expedition Cruises followed in early 2006 with the 100m MV Orion, making numerous attempts to enter Port Davey during their west coast season, not always successfully. By 2008, Tasmania was off the menu.

As this was my first time back aboard a Coral Expeditions (formerly Coral Princess Cruises) vessel for several years, it was encouraging to see the company's first all-new ship in tip-top trim. New company owners have injected much needed funds into the fleet upgrade program which will see on-going improvements to all three vessels. Coral Expeditions (formerly Coral Princess) was launched in 1988 to replace the aging Fairmile-class launch and herald a new era for the company which has grown to the three-vessel fleet it is today.

Anyone familiar with Tasmanian waters will tell you things can get pretty hairy with weather blowing straight in from the Southern Ocean. The west coast in particular gets more than its fair share of battering and one of the chief reasons the south west coast remains virtually uninhabited is thanks to this inhospitable treatment.

And here we are on the verge of summer, rugged up against biting winds and chilly temperatures. When the warming sun makes an appearance, it's a delightful respite, like the day it graced us for our hike to Fluted Cape. However the seas have not been kind, with winds whipping up an uncomfortable swell and Captain Nathan of Coral Expeditions I has (so far) delayed our westward attempt in the hope the oceans settle sufficiently to allow a reasonably comfortable passage.

Expedition cruising, as you've read here and elsewhere many times I'm sure, is all about flexibility of itinerary. Because of the nature of the destinations attempted, ships are always at the mercy of the elements, predominantly wind, ice and tides. As such, passengers must bring with them an attitude of preparedness and not be dogmatic about schedules as it will always be the captain's call whether any passage is safe (or not) to attempt.

Voyage plan. (click to enlarge)
Consequently, if you are keen on sampling Coral Expeditions new Tasmanian itinerary, keep your fingers crossed for Port Davey by all means, but be mindful that conditions may well prevent the ship from making the 250km+ roundtrip from South East Cape. Either way, there will be plenty to see and do in the relatively calmer waters of the south-eastern region.

More information:

Sunday, 22 November 2015

New expedition ship being built in Croatia

#expeditioncruising has learned that a new contract has been awarded to Croatian shipbuilder, Uljanik, for a 237-passenger, 10,000GT luxury cruise ship for delivery in 2018.

Based on those dimensions, the new ship would be the same general size as Ponant's current fleet the latest of which, Le Lyrial, was built by at Fincantieri's Ancona (Italy) shipyard.

Uljanik has not disclosed the identity of the purchaser, but new ships are also expected from Lindblad and Seabourn in 2018.

Other designs fitting this broad category include:

STX France’s Project Ulysseas, a 145m, 200-passenger design revealed in March this year.

Knud E Hansen’s expedition ship design with 150 cabins and heavy-duty, ice-rated hull.

Sunstone Project Unlimited, first muted as far back as 2007 is a US design for a hi-tech ice class expedition ship.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Tales from the Arctic. Aaron Russ explores the Northwest Passage.


Aaron Russ - Wild Earth GM

Aaron Russ, Wild Earth Travel's General Manager, can often be found leading expeditions on board small ship cruises around the world. He has led well over 100 small ship expeditions to the world's most interesting regions, with a particular favourite being the Polar Regions.

Aaron is always keen to share his experiences with our community of interested travellers. Read an excerpt of his trip report below to hear more about his experiences leading an expedition across the Northwest Passage, where Polar Bears hunted Beluga Whales, indigenous people generously shared their local traditions and the jawdropping scenery continued to amaze.

Aaron also recently led expeditions around Svalbard, read his Svalbard Trip Report here.

I have previously had the opportunity to explore the Canadian Arctic and Greenland extensively in the course of my time as an Expedition Leader, but I knew that this voyage would be different. Sailing from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Nome. Alaska we will complete a full transit of the NorthWest Passage sailing from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean via the Canadian Archipelago and northern coast of Alaska. This epic voyage following in the footsteps of the great Norwegian Explorer, Roald Amundsen, is a 22 day voyage that sees us traversing nearly 5000nm and a third of the globe through one of the most isolated regions on earth.

We fly into Greenland on a specially organised charter flight from Montreal, leaving behind the late summer heat and landing just north of the Arctic Circle in Kangerlussuaq. Our ship Le Boreal waits at anchor in the fjord and with all aboard we depart for the 100+ nautical mile journey to the open ocean. Along the way we pass vast acreages of tundra where the occasional Musk Ox can be seen grazing in the distance. In total our group is just shy of two hundred passengers, spread across 4 spacious decks of Le Boreal. While this is a larger group by expedition standards at no time does the ship seem crowded and with a staff or 18 and crew of 145 every detail is taken care of.

To read more about Aaron's epic Arctic adventure, click here.
Click here to view Wild Earth Travel's small ship cruises throughout the Northwest Passage.
To view more of Aaron's images from the Northwest Passage, click here.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Fire aboard Ponant Le Boreal. Passengers evacuated. No injuries reported.


Reports reaching us from various sources suggest a fire has broken out aboard Ponant's luxury expedition ship, Le Boréal, apparently in the engine room as it approached the Falkland Islands.

Royal Navy helicopter plucks passengers from the deck of Le Boreal

There were no injuries to passengers or crew from the fire, which was "of a technical nature" and has been extinguished, the line says.

View of liferaft from Port Stanley rescue helicopter.
Pilot Scott Robinson lifted 25 persons from this raft.
Rescue crew member, Terry Mooney, comments on Facebook: "a fire in the engine room, everyone evacuated except 11 crew, it is now under tow. 2 RAF and 1 Bristow winching and 2 BIH evacuating the people to MPA. fire and emergency services out assisting with the evacuation of people. busy day."

Ponant says passengers were transferred to sister ship L’Austral,  also was in the region, and are being taken to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands to be repatriated to their homes. The remainder of the Le Boréal sailing has been cancelled.

Royal Navy River Class Patrol Vessel HMS Clyde, was diverted to assist in the operation (MoD)
The Falkland Islands government later reported that all passengers from the Le Boreal's life rafts had been safely transferred to L'Austral, which was sailing for Stanley. The remaining 78 (mainly crew and 12 pax) who were transferred to land by SAR helicopters have now arrived in Stanley by coach via Mount Pleasant.

Le Boreal is now anchored safely with captain and skeleton crew on board.
More at Cruise Critic 

- this report will be updated as news comes to hand

PONANT announces new destinations for 2016 - 2017

Extraordinary voyages that include South Africa, Madagascar and the Seychelles Islands for the first time, plus new itineraries in the Pacific, Latin America and Asia

French Luxury & Expedition cruise line PONANT has just released an expansive brochure featuring an enticing range of itineraries for sailings between September 2016 and May 2017.

The 140 page brochure, available through travel agents or direct from PONANT in Sydney, is also available for download

For the first time PONANT ships will visit South Africa, voyaging from Cape Town to Durban, visiting the rarely visited Scattered Islands in the Mozambique Channel, and on to the idyllic islands of the Seychelles archipelago.

The brochure details a selection of 62 luxury voyages, 28 designated as Expeditions, with itineraries that include Japan, Vietnam, Australasia, Java, Borneo, Tahiti and Melanesian islands, east and west coasts of South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Antarctica.

Varying between 7 and 17 nights, but mostly of 10 nights duration, those with wanderlust can sign on for extended voyages - Grand Voyages that feature a 79 night itinerary wending from Hong Kong to Auckland; 45 nights from Panama to the Antarctic Peninsula; 51 nights from Milford Sound to Osaka, including Indonesia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Sub-Antarctic Islands; or 54 nights from Ushuaia, Argentina, crossing two oceans and including visits to remote British Overseas Territories, Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale Island and Gough Island, en-route to the Seychelles Islands.

Whether it be dramatic Fogo, 'the island of the volcano'  in Cape Verde, mythical Easter Island, far flung South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, the eco-systems of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers,  or the limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay, the voyages in this brochure will entice potential travellers interested in engaging, adventurous voyages, as well as those seeking a luxury cruise, happy to just settle back and relax, complimentary drink within reach.

Extend the holiday experience with well conceived shore excursions and land-based pre-cruise options. In South Africa, visit Zulu villages in Phezulu Reserve, while Pumba Private Reserve provides the chance to see the famous Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant). From Pisco, South America, take a flight over the extraordinary Nazca Lines, an archaeological enigma of gigantic size. Visit the beautiful temples of Prambanan and Borobudur in Java or experience the biodiversity of the Kinabatangan River, home to Proboscis monkeys and endangered Orang-Utans. In Cambodia, the Kingdom of Angkor awaits your pleasure. The brochure provides more tempting options.

PONANT's luxurious small ships: L'Austral, Le Soléal, Le Boreal and Le Lyrial, represent the youngest fleet in the world. With a maximum of 132 staterooms and suites (just 122 on Le Lyrial), enjoy the difference PONANT offers, including, for traditional sailors, cruising the Caribbean or Cape Verde islands under sail onboard the classic three masted yacht Le Ponant.

Enjoy French ambiance and style in luxurious surroundings with the amenities of large ships and the benefits of small ship cruising - access to lesser visited places, travelling in the company of like-minded fellow guests, attentive crew, chic surroundings - the feeling of being on your own private yacht rather than a floating mega mall.

Some voyages are designed as pure luxury cruises, perfect for relaxing holidays in style, while others have the added designation of Expeditions, taking advantage of the ships' compact size and manoeuvrability to probe hidden waterways, before launching Zodiac expedition craft for adventurous close-up opportunities. Throughout these cruises, specialist lecturers will enhance the experience, while Expedition voyages will also have a specialist expedition team on hand to guide, inform and enhance the experience.

All is revealed in the brochure.

Email to request your copy of the PONANT 2016 to 2017 voyages brochures and start planning.


•  Please note that all pricing exampled below is per person, twin share. Pricing is yield managed, reflecting current advance purchase Ponant Bonuses, many at 30% savings, currently available. 14 voyages feature special Single Traveller fares. Fares are yield managed and prices will increase as space is sold.

62 Itineraries range from 7 to 72 nights, many including Complimentary Excursions

From A$6,380 pp twin share for a 12 night Christmas voyage - The Mysteries of Melanesia - Cairns to Port Vila: 16th December 2016, L'Austral. Twin share, Deluxe Stateroom, private balcony, deck 3. (25% Ponant Bonus Fare)

From A$5,600 pp twin share for a 12 night cruise - Cordillera & Andean Secrets -   Valparaiso to Guayaquil: 18th March 2017, Le Boreal. Twin share, DeLuxe Stateroom, private balcony, deck 3. (30% Ponant Bonus Fare)
From A$5,360 pp twin share for a 7 night cruise - Cape Verde - Praia to Praia: 12th November 2016, Le Ponant. Twin share, Marie Galante Stateroom, Ocean View cabin, (30% Ponant Bonus Fare)

From A$9,370 pp twin share for a 15 night Expedition cruise - Scattered Islands & Seychelles - Durban to Mahe: 2nd April 2017, Le Lyrial. Twin share, DeLuxe Stateroom, private balcony, deck 3. (30% Ponant Bonus Fare)

From A$38,200 pp twin share for a 79 night Grand Voyage cruise - Hong Kong to Auckland: 13th November 2016, L'Austral. Twin share, Prestige Stateroom, private balcony, deck 4. (Ponant multiple voyage Bonus Fare applied)


Details of all PONANT 2016 - 2017 voyages including itineraries, pricing, pre cruise options and shore excursion highlights are available at:

Contact your travel agent, or PONANT on Australia: 1300 737 178 or + 612 8459 5000 / New Zealand: 0800 44 32 62, or email to request a copy of the 2016 - 2017 brochure                          

Further information available on the website:

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Quark's Ocean Endeavour hits ice. Forces cancellation of sailing.

Quark Expeditions Inc. had an incident involving the ship Ocean Endeavour near the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica (Lat/Lng:-62°21.0239‘, -62°18.6631‘) at approximately 3:30 AM local time Sunday 15 November.

Ocean Endeavour sustained some damage above the water line to the aft port side of the vessel after encountering ice. There are no passenger or crew injuries, and there has been no damage to the environment. The Master of the vessel performed temporary repairs to ensure safe passage north to Ushuaia for arrival as scheduled tomorrow 17 November.

Due to this unexpected incident, the Ocean Endeavour will need to undergo repairs and a Maritime Authority inspection. Consequently, Quark has made the difficult decision to cancel the Nov. 17, 2015 departure.

Passengers booked on the sailing are being given a full refund, and the company will also cover flight costs not reimbursed by travel insurance, up to $500 per person. If passengers want to rebook for the current season, Quark will move them to other Antarctica sailings, including those that are longer, at no additional cost, or rebook for next year at the same price they paid this year.

Source: and Cruise Critic

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Lindblad celebrates 50 years. Memorabilia search.



Renowned expedition travel company searches for memorabilia to mark the first non-scientific mission to Antarctica and birth of a new travel category

In 1966 Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first ever citizen-explorer expedition to Antarctica - at the time it was almost as extraordinary as a lunar launch would be today. It also marked the creation of the category of expedition travel.

Lars-Eric opened up remote regions of the world and countless opportunities for so many, helping them to experience and think of the planet differently. In 2016 Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic will honour Lars-Eric’s vision and courage in a myriad ways as they mark the 50th anniversary of these two major milestones.

Their efforts begin with a search for memorabilia from Lindblad voyages in the 60s or 70s – from the legendary first expedition to Antarctica in 1966 to other remote parts of the world. The search is on for:

· Expedition photos – ideally with Lars-Eric Lindblad and/or his expedition team

· Vintage ship photos or photos aboard the ship

· Original voyage documents including vintage luggage tags, patches, pins or other collectibles: jackets, t-shirts etc. plus any short Lars-Eric stories/anecdotes

· Postcards or letters from people on Antarctica or other voyages

The collection of memorabilia will be used in a multitude of ways, including being featured (with credits) in the updated version of Lars-Eric Lindblad’s autobiography, Passage to Anywhere that will chart the history of expedition travel from 1966 to now.

To share your materials, send negatives and/or collectibles via tracked mail (please insure any items of value to you) to: Lindblad Expeditions, c/o Rebecca Orman, Level 2, 8 West Street, North Sydney, NSW 2060. Small digital files should be emailed to; and large digital files can be uploaded to Items will be photographed and returned via tracked mail.

For more information, please visit