Friday, 30 January 2009

True North's Kimberley wilderness season ready to go


BROOME - Luxury adventure cruise ship True North will commence its 2009 Kimberley Wilderness Cruise season in March.

True North is a purpose-built ship for the Kimberley coast and river systems.

North Star Cruises Australia general manager Peter Trembath said with heavy monsoonal rains, the Kimberley was being transformed by rivers in flood, towering waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife.

North Star offers a range of Kimberley Wilderness Cruises starting March 14 with a 13-night trip from Broome to Wyndham.

Kimberley Wilderness Cruises also traverse the coastline between Wyndham and Hunter River, and from Hunter River to Broome.

In all, 17 departures ranging in length from 6/7 nights to 13 nights are scheduled throughout the 2009 Kimberley season, which concludes in mid September.

True North’s multiple expedition boats allow passengers to do “what they want, when they want”. It is also the only Kimberley adventure-cruise ship that sails with its own helicopter.

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise prices start from A$9,495 for a 6/7 night cruise.

For bookings and more information contact North Star Cruises www.northstarcruises.com.au

Weekend sailings from Brisbane with luxury boutique cruise ship Fantasea Ammari


The boutique cruise ship MV Fantasea Ammari has added a new dimension to Brisbane getaways with a series of weekend itineraries highlighted by a three day Easter Escape.

The 60 metre, four deck cruising catamaran accommodates 64 passengers in 32 spacious, luxuriously equipped, air conditioned cabins complete with ensuite bathrooms and plasma television screens and has previously cruised the Mediterranean and the Whitsundays.

Now based in Brisbane, the ship will cruise Moreton Bay taking in Tangolooma, Stradbroke and the wrecks with itineraries that include a three day Easter Escape from April 10-12, Mother’s Day cruise options (May 2-3), a cruise over the Queen’s Birthday weekend (June 6-8) and Father’s Day weekend (September 5-6).

The Ammari will also become a luxury viewing platform for Brisbane’s Riverfire Festival, being anchored in the river during the September celebrations

The ship will be available for corporate charters and events and be a familiar sight at special events in the South East.

Ammari will cruise to Townsville for the V8 Supercars race in July, to Sydney Harbour for Christmas, the Boxing Day start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and New Year’s Eve cruises before returning to the Gold Coast for the Magic Millions.

MV Fantasea Ammari CEO Angus Campbell said that the presence of the ship in Brisbane would enable people to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Moreton Bay and surrounding areas as never before.

For reservations or further information call 07 3852 0945 or email ammari.reservations@fantasea.com.au

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cruise Weekly Comment: Hard Edge Adventure


Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Softies eh? I get the impression some folk still think adventure cruising is just another way of sipping cocktails around the pool bar – at a premium price.

Those of you with a taste for the harder edge can do stuff to really get their attention at Silvia’s next dinner party.

Some of the cruise companies will offer a range of activities with gold medal bragging rights like scuba diving, mountaineering, trekking, ice swimming and sea kayaking. The easiest wet one is Pendulum Cove on Deception Island where a volcanic thermal vent keeps a small patch of water warm, but for some that’s cheating. Orion Expedition passengers do the “polar plunge”, an Antarctic Circle tradition in the sub-zero waters of the deep south while drinking a toast to King Neptune. Brrr!

Shore excursions like Greg Mortimer’s Shackleton Crossing is a true heroic trek, following the great explorer’s route across South Georgia – albeit at a more relaxed pace. On the water, a sea kayak is one of the most intimate ways to experience the pristine environments at either end of the Earth and several operators now offer this. Pitching a tent for one night ashore on the Antarctic continent is another way to get a taste of the privations endured a century ago. Captain Scott died in his tent, but you won’t.

So, if you have a hankering for something outside your comfort zone, quiz your agent about the tough stuff. You’ll never live it down!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Aurora Expeditions Antarctic Adventures 2009/10


Aurora Expeditions 2009/2010 Antarctic season features thirteen expeditions on two ice-strengthened vessels that offer camping, kayaking, climbing and helicopter excursions, as well as unequalled wildlife viewing opportunities on the great white continent.

In its ongoing quest to provide the most extraordinary adventures in Antarctica, Aurora Expeditions is offering thirteen itineraries for the 2009/2010 Antarctic season between November 2009 and March 2010, showcasing the beauty, remoteness, history and wildlife of the frozen south and offering the most comprehensive program of adventure activities of any Antarctic tour operator.

Whether travellers want to see the tallest penguins in the world; paddle a kayak in clear waters dotted with icebergs; scuba dive in the remotest place on earth, or follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, Aurora has an expedition that will match their wildest dreams.

Aurora’s 54 passenger ice-strengthened ship Polar Pioneer will undertake ten voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula during the season; while the 100 passenger ice-strengthened and helicopter equipped Marina Svetaeva will make three voyages to ‘Deep Antarctica’ including Commonwealth Bay and the Ross Sea.

While not luxury vessels, both ships provide simple, comfortable accommodation with meals prepared by Western chefs. All voyages include all meals on board, shore excursions, and an in-depth education program with expert commentary and talks by Aurora’s team of naturalists, historians, geologists, expedition staff and special guest lecturers.

The small group size makes it possible for all passengers to go ashore at every landing, allows the wildlife to be observed without disturbance and makes for more relaxed visits to historic sites and scientific stations. The maneuverability of these smaller vessels, along with a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs, allows travellers to visit places conventional ships cannot reach.

Unlike some other operators, Aurora is not concerned with hairdryers, bathrobes, spa treatments, dress codes or room service – the emphasis of its expeditions are on true exploration and discovery in some of the most extreme wildernesses on the planet.

The Antarctic Peninsula is the warmest and most accessible region of the frozen continent, reached by two days sailing from Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of Argentina. In addition to witnessing the most amazing wildlife spectacle on earth, for intrepid travellers, Aurora offers adventure options in the Antarctic Peninsula such as sea-kayaking, camping overnight on the ice, climbing and scuba diving.

The 12-day ‘Antarctic Peninsula for Climbers and Kayakers’ (7 -18 December 2009) voyage offers the chance to climb icebergs and unclimbed peaks or paddle in pristine waters led by some of the world’s most experienced mountain climbers and guides.

The 12-day ‘Across the Circle’ (16 – 27 February 2010) voyage includes the opportunity to scuba dive amongst glaciers and gigantic icebergs and meet seals and penguins in their element in a once-in-a-lifetime underwater adventure.

The 20-day ‘Shackleton Odyssey’, (27 February – 18 March 2010) voyage retraces the epic journey of the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and offers the option for experienced climbers to repeat his alpine crossing on foot from King Haakon Bay to the now deserted whaling station at Stromness.

Voyages will also visit scientific bases and historic sites. Prices for Antarctic Peninsula voyages start at US$5990 (ex-Ushuaia) per person triple share.

‘Deep Antarctica’, the most southerly region accessible by ship, stretches from the Ross Ice Shelf to Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica. It’s a wild place guarded by pack ice and is reached four days sailing across the Southern Ocean from Australia or New Zealand. This area is the stuff of polar legend, with century-old huts and base camps that are literally frozen in time. Voyages also plan to call in at two or three sub-Antarctic islands – home to millions of royal, king and other penguin species, several species of albatross, snorting elephant seals and frisky fur seals.

The 27-day ‘Mawson’s Antarctica’ (11 December 2009 – 6 January 2010) voyage to Commonwealth Bay departs from Hobart, visiting the wildlife-rich sub-Antarctic islands on route to Cape Denison, site of Mawson’s historic hut, and the French Antarctic base, Dumont D’Urville.

The two 26-day ‘Ross Sea Explorer’ expeditions will depart from Hobart (7 January – 1 February 2010, returning to Bluff New Zealand) and Bluff, New Zealand (2 February – 27 February 2010, returning to Hobart). These expeditions aim to sail to the Ross Ice Shelf, dry valleys, and historic huts of explorers Scott and Shackleton. Helicopter excursions are included on all voyages to Deep Antarctica.

Prices for all three voyages start at US$12,590 per person quad share.

Although suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities, these are not ordinary cruises. Weather and ice, not clocks and calendars, set the schedule for a journey here. In the spirit of exploration, landings and activities will depend on ice, sea and weather conditions and the daily schedule may change in line with the dynamic environment.

Aurora Expeditions is a licensed travel agent who can arrange competitive airfares and pre and post touring options in conjunction with these voyages.

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions on 1800 637 688 or visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Freighter Cruises: Cruising with a Difference

Freighter Cruises, a division of the Concierge Travel Group, is now taking bookings for the 2009 & 2010 cruising season.

Australia’s only ‘freighter cargo’ ship agency, Freighter Cruises, specialises in six routes – “Around the World”, Asia, Pacific Islands, Europe, North America and South America.

Freighter Cruises’ qualified Cruise Master, Julie Richards, is Australia’s foremost expert in freighter cruising, and has been with the company since its inception over 20 years ago. Equipped with her extraordinary depth of knowledge in this area of maritime voyages, Julie has unparalleled access to all the shipping lines around the world that continue to take fare paying passengers.

“This is a very specialised and unique area of travel that has gained its popularity among semi-retirees and the retired, who have the time to travel in the leisurely manner required by a freighter trip,” says Julie.

“The experience is not so much the port destinations, but largely the sea voyage itself. Passengers travel in a very ‘dressed-down’ manner, getting to know their captain and crew members; dining with them, playing cards with them and also utilising the same facilities onboard.

“It’s an alternative to the ‘glitz and glam’ of mainstream cruises that the majority of cruise-goers tend to prefer as the level of luxury and comfort is different.

“There are only five companies departing Australia that allow passengers on their cargo ships; we have very close relationships with them after having worked together over two decades.

“Bookings are usually taken at least a year in advance to ensure spots as there are only 3 cabins per cargo ship and timing of connecting services need to be very carefully planned, so we are now booking for the 2009 season,” says Julie.

Due to insurance and safety policies, Freighter Cruises can only book such cruises for clients under the age of 80 at the time of travel.

Freighter Cruises
(02) 8270 4899
www.freightercruises.com.au

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Adventure Associates offers US$2000 air credit

IMMEDIATE antarctic NEWS : 20 January 2009

SEIZE THE MOMENT!

An amazing one-time offer subject to availability and until cabins are
sold, act now.

US$2,000 Air Credit

Travel to Antarctica has never been more attractive, call us for
information about this special end of season incentive. Book and pay
in full on any of the voyages mentioned below (subject to
availability) and receive a US$2,000 per person Air Credit towards the
cost of your flight to Ushuaia, South America to join the cruise.

Offer applies to NEW Bookings only made directly with Adventure
Associates. This special offer cannot be combined with any other
special offer/s available at this time.

Limited Cabin categories available on:-

Crossing the Circle –
15 Day cruise February 9 to 23, 2009 aboard Ocean Nova

Classic Antarctica –
12 Day cruise February 11 to 22, 2009 aboard Clipper Adventurer
12 Day cruise Feb 20 to March 3, 2009 aboard Lyubov Orlova

Antarctic Peninsula,South Georgia & Falkland Islands
20 Day cruise February 15 to March 6, 2009 aboard Akademik Ioffe
20 Day cruise February 21 to March 12, 2009 aboard Clipper Adventurer
20 Day cruise February 22 to March 13, 2009 aboard Ocean Nova

Call our Polar consultants NOW for availability and ask about the
Special Air Credit.

Contact Adventure Associates on 1800 222 141 for information or visit
www.adventureassociates.com

Monday, 19 January 2009

Early bird booking offer for Antarctica - Save US$500pp


Adventure Associates is pleased to announce an amazing
Early Booking offer for specific Antarctic Expeditions during the 2009-2010 season.
Save US$500* per person
and also receive
A complimentary night's accommodation
in a first class hotel with breakfast, in either Buenos Aires or Santiago en-route to Ushuaia to join your cruise of choice.
A complimentary half day tour to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park,
departing from Ushuaia prior to joining your cruise.

Full details

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Tourists burn a trail to Australian Antarctic outpost

Source: Reuters

By Pauline Askin - Reuters Life

An isolated Australian outpost in remote Antarctica has become a popular destination for adventure-seeking tourists, as more tour operators put it on their itinerary for more than just researchers.

The 97-year-old Mawson's Hut, in Cape Denison at Commonwealth Bay, was home to Sir Douglas Mawson and his men during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

It had more than 300 visitors in December -- a record number -- with another 100 expected on the last ship that arrives around January 23.

"It's becoming a more popular tourist destination, I think, because it's part of an increasing trend in Antarctic tourism," Bruce Hull, senior environment officer at the Australia's Antarctic Division, told Reuters.

"By the time the fifth ship arrives at Cape Denison between the 20th and 23rd of January, I think the numbers will be about 400 visitors for 2008/09," he added.

This compares with about 260 visitors in 2006/07, and about 200 visitors in 2000/01.

The gruelling sea and icy conditions makes the six-day passage across the Southern Ocean attractive to only the most daring type of traveler. Four companies, from Australia, New Zealand and Germany, go down to Cape Denison and Hull said the ships posed no threat to the environment.

"All activities in Antarctica are subject to an environmental assessment and each tourist expedition is subject to that," he said. "On the whole most tourist ventures are assessed as less than minor or transitory."

Mawson dubbed Cape Denison the "Home of Blizzards" because of its severe climate and the area is only accessible for a ten-week period, between mid-December and mid-February, when weather conditions are less inhospitable.

Chris Perkins, sales and marketing manager for Orion Expedition Cruises which runs trips to Cape Denison, said Mawson's Hut was a part of Australian history that had now become slightly more accessible.

"It's becoming more popular because more operators are providing ways to get down there. Five or ten years ago it was very difficult, only research ships went there," he explained.

"It's one of the most exclusive and difficult places on the planet to get to. Mawson's Hut is part of Australian history, it's preserved in ice basically, it's kind of like a time capsule," Perkins said.

The average age of visitors to Mawson's Hut is about 45-55 years old, and travelers need to be certified fit by a doctor to be able to go there.

There are also strict quarantine guidelines -- tourists are required to wash and disinfect their boots before they go ashore and clothes and baggage must be checked for seeds and other agricultural items.

Since the beginning of the modern Antarctic tourism industry in 1969, the number of tourists in Antarctica has grown from a few hundred to more than 30,000 each year, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

Copyright 2009 Reuters.

Cruise Weekly Comment: Antarctic Discovery


Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

You hear expedition cruise companies lather on about "adventure and discovery". Mostly you can take that to mean enlightenment on a personal level, but occasionally it is real news.

A couple years back, Quark's passengers aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov were able to claim a "farthest south" record when the great Russian icebreaker broke Roald Amundsen's century-old record in the Ross Sea.

Now news has come from Greg Mortimer's expedition working with the Mawson's Huts Foundation about the discovery of a long-lost food cache left for sledging parties as part of the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE).

"It was a tiny ridge in the white expanse of the polar plateau about 2400 feet above sea level. We observed a cairn surmounted by a tin consistent in shape and construction with kerosene tins associated with the AAE," said Mortimer by satellite phone from Marina Svetaeva. "The tin contains at least three calico bags held in place by a rock. One contains white powder, probably flour and the other a brown substance, possibly pemmican (a food mix favoured by the AAE on sledging parties)."

Built between 1911 and 1914 and full of relics and artifacts, Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay are now heritage listed and painstakingly preserved for the bare handful of visitors who are lucky enough to see them each year in the tiny window of opportunity.

Fiji Annual Sale


'First in Best Room' Cruise Sale

For the first time ever Captain Cook Cruises is breaking down the class divide with a 'First in Best Room Sale'. All levels of accommodation are being sold for the one amazing price where passengers can travel in the most expensive Tabua Stateroom for less than the brochure price of the lowest cabin!

The sale is valid on all Fiji 3, 4 and 7 night cruises, so book early and treat yourself to the best room on the ship and save up to 45%.

Aboard these discovery-style cruises passengers will enjoy an intimate and personal experience of the Yasawa Islands off the north-west coast of the main island of Fiji.

Special expedition cruises to the remote northern Fiji Islands also operate on selected dates during the year.

Guests will visit unspoiled Fijian villages and handicraft markets, experience a traditional village sevusevu ceremony and Meke and Lovo feast and even tour a village school.

As well as experiencing the Fijian culture there is plenty of time for relaxation. Snorkel over amazing coral reefs, laze on warm white sands, bask in crystal clear waters or dive in spectacular blue lagoons. Passengers can even take a glass bottom boat ride to witness the abundance of marine life that thrives on Fiji's coral reefs.

Passengers can choose to stay on-board the 120-passenger MV Reef Escape and be pampered at the ships Senikai Day Spa, or simply relax on the sun deck by the pool or at the pool bar.

'First in Best Room Sale' is on sale from 24 January 2009 until 16 March 2009 and valid for travel until 31 March 2010. Prices start from $897 twin share for the 3 night Southern Yasawa cruise, $1195 for the 4 night Northern Yasawa cruise and $1987 for the 7 night Yasawa Islands cruise and 7 night Northern Fiji Dateline Expedition cruise. Prices include all meals and most activities.

For reservations and enquiries please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free on 1800 804 843, Int +61-2-9206 111, Email: fiji@captaincook.com.au or visit www.captaincook.com.au

Monday, 12 January 2009

Take 20 per cent off Kimberley Cruises


Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises adds 2010 departures to 2009 20% discount deal

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises (PSCC) has added 2010 Kimberley cruises to its 20 per cent discount offer on 2009 cruises.

Bookings for 2009 savings have been extended from December 31 to March 31, the deadline date also set for the offer on 2010 departures.

PSCC has also announced that its scheduled rates for 2010 are the same as 2009.

This discount price on the seven-day cruises between Broome and Mitchell Plateau is from $6,676 a person (normally $8,345) and from $9,676 (normally from $12,095) for the 13-day Broome-Wyndham cruises.

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises has 25 departures for seven-day cruises and two for the 13-day cruise during the March-October season.

Cruising is on board the 25-metre air-conditioned Kimberley Quest II, equipped with a spa on the deck and helipad for scenic flights.

The Kimberley Quest II accommodates just 18 passengers in deluxe twin, deluxe double, superior double cabins and an exclusive flybridge double cabin, all equipped with private ensuites.

Prices include a light aircraft and helicopter flight between Broome and the Mitchell Plateau (on 7-day cruises) full use of the vessel, guided land and water excursions, all chef-prepared meals (and non-stop access to the caffe latte machine on the rear deck).

Cruise highlights are the Horizontal Waterfalls, the spectacular islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, King Cascades, Montgomery Reef and the King George Falls, guided scenic tender rides through a myriad of inlets, estuaries and unnamed creek systems, ancient art sites and colonial settlement ruins.

What’s also in store are swimming excursions to waterfalls and stunning cliff-top rock pools, wandering along deserted beaches, day and night crocodile spotting and fishing for much-prized barramundi, mackerel and trevally ... and lazing under the sun in the spa on the bow deck as the vessel cruises along the region's rugged escarpments and into spectacular gorges, sometimes 80 metres high.

Contact: Tel 08 9193 6131, email cruise@kimberleyquest.com.au or see www.kimberleyquest.com.au.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Ecoventura's Green Vessel


Small Ship Expedition Company Ecoventura Rolls Out First Green Vessel of its Kind in the Galapagos

The visionary, small ship travel company, Ecoventura, announces that one of its fleet of four superior-class motor yachts now sports a new sustainability technology heretofore applied only to small private boats.

Ecoventura’s M/Y ERIC becomes the first hybrid energy tour boat in the Galapagos following a $100,000 installation of 40 solar panels and two wind turbines on the upper deck. The work that began in October 2008 also included replacing canvas awnings with a hard fiberglass top for structural support. The goal is for the solar panels and wind powered generators to provide enough power to initially support approximately 17 percent of the energy formerly produced by two carbon fuel-based generators. This project was financed through a partnership with Toyota, a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund. The target goal is to have full fleet implementation by 2011.

"We want to give our passengers the assurance that Ecoventura has taken every measure to ensure that they enjoy a safe, thrilling adventure without harming the unique wildlife or the fragile environment of the Islands. We all live in this world and breath the same air; the least we can do is try to preserve it for our children and the generations to come,” says Santiago Dunn, president and owner of Ecoventura.

“The Galapagos Islands are a fragile and threatened ecosystem. Ecoventura continues to break new ground in responsible tourism in the Galapagos with its new hybrid energy technology. It is the hope that other cruise and tour companies will see the successful results and follow suit,” Dunn says. In summer 2007, UNESCO put the Galapagos on its World Heritage sites risk list, citing alien species and pollution from tourists and immigrants as key issues.

Toyota’s involvement with the Galapagos Islands began in 2001, when the company partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to help conserve the Islands’ unique ecosystem. Toyota has since supported and/or funded many projects and programs in the Galapagos Islands. These include a redesign of the main fuel-handling facility on Baltra, renewable- energy teacher education workshops, oil and municipal recycling programs and the refitting of Ecoventura’s expedition touring yacht, M/Y Eric with solar panels and wind turbines. Community education and outreach have been key components of all projects.

About Ecoventura: Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with sales offices in Quito and Miami. In operation since 1990, the cruise company transports 4,000+ passengers annually aboard a fleet of three expedition vessels; identical, superior first-class 20-passenger motor yachts with 10 double cabins. The company also operates the Sky Dancer, a 16-passenger dedicated dive live-aboard offering 7-night weekly itineraries visiting the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin. All of its vessels have been purposefully retrofitted to meet or exceed the highest possible environmental standards.

To reserve a cabin or private charter, or to receive a copy of Ecoventura’s 2009 catalog please call toll-free 1.800.644.7972, or e-mail mailtinfo@galapagosnetwork.com. To access current rates, schedules and itineraries you can log onto www.ecoventura.com.

On Nov. 12, 2008, at a ceremony hosted at World Travel Market in London, Ecoventura was awarded with the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award for Best in a Marine Environment, one of 13 overall categories. Distinguished judges noted that Ecoventura contributes to scholarships for education and helps local women develop micro-businesses. Ecoventura was also recognized to be among the first cruise operators to be independently environmentally audited. The award was presented to Santiago Dunn by Justin Francis, managing director of responsibletravel.com, organizers and founders of the Awards and by Amanda Wills, managing director of Virgin Holidays, headline sponsor. In accepting his award, Dunn stated, "We as a company are both humbled and energized by this prestigious award. It is wonderful to be recognized for our past efforts, but our groundbreaking work on setting the bar for responsible tourism in Galapagos has just begun."

Ecoventura reduces carbon emissions in 2008

In 2006, Ecoventura became the first company in Galapagos to offset carbon emissions. The company was successful this past year in reducing total emissions by 10% and currently offsets 4000 short tons of carbon-based emissions per year through clean energy credits purchased through Native Energy.

CRUISE WEST WAIVES FUEL SURCHARGE


AND EXTENDS ALASKA EARLY BOOKING PROMOTION

~Savings of up to $1,210 per Cabin on Popular 2009 Alaska Inside Passage Cruises~

Cruise West, the global leader in small-ship exploration voyages and the largest American-owned cruise line, is extending the Alaska early booking discount and waiving the fuel surcharge for guests who book and pay in full by January 30, 2009. In addition, to encourage new guests to book any Cruise West itinerary, the company is waiving the fuel surcharge on all 2009 cruise itineraries for guests who pay in full by the final early booking discount date. Guests can save up to $690 for a 24-night cruise, based on double occupancy, with the fuel surcharge promotion. Cruise West guests can combine this value with early booking incentives to save additional dollars.

“We realize that in this challenging economy guests are booking their vacations closer to their departure date,” remarked President and Chief Executive Officer Dietmar R. Wertanzl. “Our inclusive pricing along with these added incentives ensure that our guests can continue to enjoy our experience-rich cruises without going over what, for many, is a more conservative vacation budget.”

By booking and paying in full on new or existing reservations by January 30, 2009 guests can save up to $1,210 per cabin, double occupancy, on a 2009 eight-night/nine-day Alaska’s Inside Passage cruise, including one-night hotel accommodations in Juneau. This savings reflects both the early booking discount and waived fuel surcharge promotion. The Alaska Inside Passage itinerary starts at $3,999 per person, based on double occupancy. Alaska cruises range from three-night/four-day to 24-night/25-day and start at $1,149 per person before savings are applied. This promotion may be applied to existing bookings.

The fuel surcharge will be waived on all Cruise West itineraries that depart in 2009. Guests must pay in full by the final early booking discount date of January 17, 2009 for fall Japan; February 6, 2009 for Grand Asia, and Vietnam; and March 27, 2009 for Panama & Costa Rica, Mexico’s Sea of Cort├ęs, Columbia & Snake Rivers, and British Columbia to have the fuel surcharge waived and receive maximum early booking discounts of up to $2,310 per cabin for Grand Asia, double occupancy. To view all of Cruise West’s itinerary options or to book a Cruise West cruise, call 1-800-689-1783 or visit http://www.cruisewest.com/.

All Cruise West voyages offer authentic, life-changing journeys and pricing includes an excursion in every port, transportation to/from the airport, as well as the line’s signature Exploration Leaders who share insightful information on the flora, fauna, culture and history of the region. As always, gratuities are neither expected nor required onboard.

~ Up-Close, Casual and Personal Cruising ~

Cruise West offers the opportunity to explore remote and distinctive destinations throughout North and Central America, Asia, South Pacific and Europe. Small-ship cruising allows for personalized experiences not offered by larger cruise lines. Guest capacities aboard Cruise West’s nine ships range from 78-138. Guests may expect personal enrichment through insightful shore programs, onboard narrative and presentations by local experts from a wide variety of backgrounds. In addition, destination specific materials and an array of books are provided in the onboard library on every vessel. Cruise West considers it a privilege to access some of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas and culturally rich countries. With this in mind, Cruise West views itself as good stewards and encourages crew and guests to act responsibly with respect to the environment and diverse cultures visited.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Rowley Shoals - A Kimberley Coral Atoll Paradise Best Explored in Luxury


The Rowley Shoals, situated 260km from Broome, off the north-west coast of Western Australia, are a true haven of natural beauty.

Especially loved by divers, the Shoals are made up of 3 coral atolls - Clerke Reef, Mermaid Reef and Imperieuse Reef - with shallow lagoons filled with an abundance of marine life and spectacular coral.

Each atoll that makes up the Rowley Shoals is approximately 80 - 90 square kilometres in area, and very similar is size, shape and distance apart.

The Rowley Shoals were named in 1818 by Captain Philip Parker King, who first described their relative positions. He named the most north-easterly of the trio Mermaid Reef, after his ship. The middle shoal was named Clerke Reef after Captain Clerke, who had reported it from a whaler sometime between 1800 and 1809, and the south-western shoal was dubbed Imperieuse Reef after the ship from which Captain Rowley sighted it in 1800.

The Shoals are now considered one of the very best pristine marine environments in the world. With their remoteness, lying on the very edge of the Australian continental shelf, many claim they are the most perfect example of shelf atolls in Australian waters.

The coral gardens of the Rowley Shoals are absolutely beautiful and almost untouched by man. You can dive the area and hand feed the potato cod and maori wrasse, and the colourful reef fish don’t seem to be disturbed by the presence of divers.

As the tides go down, the sea gushes over the edges of the shoals like miniature waterfalls, and the reefs disappear below the water’s surface at high tide, with only the Clerke and Imperieuse island’s sandy beaches showing.

A visit to the “Acquarium” is an essential for the snorkeller. Rivalling the Great Barrier Reef, yet only waist-deep in water, the experience is amazing. It has brilliantly coloured corals, giant clams and more than 600 of the world’s most beautiful fish species at your fingertips! An underwater camera is a MUST!

Another very popular dive experience is a “wall dive”, where you dive along the shoal walls as they are submerged in water. Outer reef snorkelling is amazing, as you explore the sheer coral walls. Clean and virtually undamaged by the effects of man and pollution, you’ll get to see just how spectacular the colours and shapes of the coral are.

Your visit to this amazing place will be a memory that lasts for a lifetime. There’s very few spots like this left in the world nowdays, because of the ravages of mankind, so the Rowley Shoals should be high on your list of holiday destinations if you want an amazing experience. One you can tell your grandchildren about and still remember the beauty and colour of this spectacular location. Definitely one of Australia’s highlights.

Since the Rowley Shoals are 12 hours off the coast of Broome, you’ll need a way to visit them, and there’s no better choice than the magnificent True North, operated by North Star Cruises.

The True North allows discerning adventurers to experience the wilderness of the Rowley Shoals in surroundings more akin to one of the world’s most exclusive hotels! It even travels with a full-time helicopter - an air-conditioned Bell 407!

Spend 6 days in absolute luxury aboard the True North, and experience the beauty of this magnificent location. We have plenty of diving trips for you to take, as well as delicious meals prepared by our master chefs. Relax in total comfort while our all-Australian crew attends to your every need.

For more information about cruising the Coral Atolls of the Rowley Shoals and other spectacular Kimberley locations, visit our website to download our cruise itineraries: www.northstarcruises.com.au

Thursday, 1 January 2009

FOOD CACHE FOR 1911-14 AUSTRALASIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION FOUND AFTER NEARLY 100 YEARS


A food depot established by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) led by the legendary Sir Douglas Mawson, has been discovered nearly 100 years later by a small team of explorers led by Greg Mortimer, founder of Aurora Expeditions.

The cache is at Madigan Nunatak (Nunatak is the Antarctic term for a rocky peak surrounded by ice), named after Cecil Madigan, a geologist with Mawson’s AAE who established the food store in case of emergency for sledging parties.

Found this week, it is 70 kms east-south east of Cape Denison which was the AAE’s base for two years and which is now being conserved by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation which currently has a team of eight working on Mawson’s Huts for the next four weeks.

Mortimer, the managing director of Aurora Expeditions and a member of the first Australian team to climb Mt Everest., flew by helicopter from his ship the Marina Svetaeva, which is carrying 100 passengers on an Antarctic cruise to Mawson’s Huts. On board is a grand-daughter of Madigan, Julia Butler.

Attempts to find Madigan Nunatak in the 1980’s failed with ice covering the rocky peak and only a long bamboo pole protruding from the cache sighted in 1985.

“I have been trying to get to Madigan Nunatak for years” said Mortimer from onboard the Marina Svetaeva. “This year we were in the right place at the right time.”

“It was a tiny ridge in the white expanse of the polar plateau about 2400 feet above sea level. We observed a cairn surmounted by a tin consistent in shape and construction with kerosene tins associated with the AAE” he said. “The tin contains at least three calico bags held in place by a rock. One contains white powder, probably flour and the other a brown substance, possibly pemmican (a food mix favoured by the AAE on sledging parties).

The long bamboo pole which marked the spot for the AAE still remains but now lies on the rocks.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation team which was landed by a Marina Svetaeva eight days ago is carrying out an extensive works programme which includes locating the first aircraft ever taken to the Antarctic and fitting out a special laboratory to conserve the thousands of artefacts left inside the hut when the AAE left for home in December 1913.