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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

It’s Orion whale watch time in the Kimberley

Late July through to September in the Kimberley is prime time to view pods of migrating whales – and what better way to see the largest humpback whale population in the world head north from the Antarctic to rest and calve than from on board the luxury expedition cruise ship, Orion?

With 3,000 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline and over 1,000 rarely visited islands, this land, so ancient it pre-dates the existence of fossils, ranks as one of Australia’s, and the world’s, truly remarkable destinations.

Join with Orion’s specialist Expedition Team and create your own dreamtime stories when you to view pre-history Gwion Gwion and Wandjina rock art, land on remote islands and beaches, explore gorges, venture into a labyrinth of waterways in search of saltwater crocodiles or climb to the plateau next to the highest waterfall in the Kimberley, King George Falls.

Conveniently embarking and disembarking in Darwin or Broome, Orion’s 10-night voyages combine the contrasts of exploring the ancient and magnificent Kimberley wilderness, incredible at-sea experiences and the historic pearling town of Broome with its cafes and art galleries. All this plus the chance to see migrating humpback whales, estimated to exceed 20,000 individuals, breaching, tail slapping and blowing.

For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email: info@orioncruises.com.au

Orion Kimberley Expedition voyages – Select from 7 voyages between 20 July and 16 September 2010.

10 nights: Darwin/Broome and v.v. typically including King George River and Falls, Vansittart Bay, Hunter River (for Mitchell Falls), Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, Talbot Bay/Horizontal Waterfalls, Cape Leveque, the Lacepedes – refer to specific itineraries for details.

Only Orion’s Kimberley expeditions include one night’s accommodation in Broome pre or post voyage plus a Bungle Bungle sightseeing flight at no additional cost.

Fares Guide:

Fares begin from $9,100 per person for an ocean view Category B Stateroom.

Suites begin from $12,550 per person for a Junior Suite and Owners Suites with French Balcony are $19,055 per person


Blue Lagoon offers discount on 16 August ‘Historical & Cultural Dateline’ cruise

Fiji's iconic Blue Lagoon Cruises is offering a 30 per cent 'early bird' discount to all passengers booking a berth on its 16 August 'Historical & Cultural Dateline Cruise'.

This unique cruise offers an extremely rare opportunity to visit Fiji's remote north-eastern reaches, an area that rarely receives attention from the outside world.

Highlights of the seven-day/six-night cruise include a visit to the seldom visited islands of Kioa and Rabi and a crossing of the international date line at Taveuni.

The Yadua Passage, the Druadrua and Kavewa Islands and Macuata on the north-eastern part of Fiji's second biggest island, Vanua Levu, also feature in the program.

New for 2010 is a picnic lunch in a coconut grove en route to Taveuni's Bouma Falls and a traditional Fijian afternoon tea before heading back to ship.

A high spot of the overall cruise is the greeting by Kioa islanders, resplendent in traditional war dress, paddling out to greet passengers in outrigger canoes as part of their traditional welcome ceremonies.

Day six of the program is spent onshore at Blue Lagoon Cruises' private island of Nanuya Lailai in the pristine Yasawa island group.

Cruise activities include daily shore excursions and water-based activities ranging from bush walks, snorkeling safaris, fish feeding, fishing and glass bottom boating.

Cultural experiences include a 'Lovo' feast on Nanuya Lailai, visits to remote villages and Kava ceremonies.

The boutique cruise specialist has positioned its popular Mr 36-berth MV Mystique Princess on the program.

Valid until 10 August 2010, the 30 per cent discount means pricing for the cruise starts from AUD1888* per person twin share which includes all meals, all accommodation and cruise/cultural activities.

A full Historical & Cultural Dateline Cruises' itinerary can be viewed at www.bluelagooncruises.com.

For cruise reservations telephone Blue Lagoon Cruises in Lautoka, Fiji, on +679 666 1622, facsimile +679 666 4098 or via email on reservations@blc.com.fj.

*Conditions apply. Please note prices do not include international airfares or beverages (other than tea or coffee).

Thursday, 24 June 2010

SEA CLOUD HUSSAR: Spanish shipyard files for bankruptcy

On 19 June 2010, the Spanish shipyard Factoria de Naval Marin filed for bankruptcy, resulting in a halting of the construction work on the largest full-rigged three-mast passenger ship ever built, the "SEA CLOUD HUSSAR". Following repeated delays in delivery, the shipyard is still unable to offer a completion date for the vessel. To safeguard its interests, the shipping company has therefore demanded reimbursement of the downpayments secured via bank guarantees. Sea Cloud Cruises is now in the process of examining how the construction of this vessel could possibly be finished.

For the most part, the vessel is in fact already completed and basically ready to launch. The interior fitting of the SEA CLOUD HUSSAR had already come to a halt earlier this year when one large supplier filed for bankruptcy.

Hermann Ebel, owner of the SEA CLOUD HUSSAR, expressed his continued interest in the completion of the cruise liner: "Together with all the parties involved, we are endeavouring to ensure the vessel is completed. However, we first have to wait for the Spanish court to appoint a receiver, but we do not expect any tangible results before the summer break."

Sea Cloud Cruises has been a blue-chip cruise operator since 1979. The 79-year-old four-masted bark "SEA CLOUD" has set the standard for all other vessels marketed by the Hamburg-based shipping company. Guests are invited to set sail to the most stunning destinations in Europe and the Caribbean on board of one of two stately windjammers or an exclusive river yacht.

For more information please visit www.seacloud.com

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

TREASURE ISLANDS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN


In the burgeoning world of big-ship cruising, a small family company with a fleet of luxury sailing ships is re-discovering hidden treasures along the spectacular coastline and islands between Athens and Istanbul.

In the 2011 European summer, the Monaco-based Star Clippers will offer six new Mediterranean itineraries and make 10 maiden calls to picturesque ports in places generally inaccessible to mega liners.

The new ports of call include Canakkale, which has historical links to wars from the Trojan times to the Gallipoli campaign; several Greek ports including the long golden beaches of Skiathos; Skopelos, the film location for Mamma Mia: the tiny volcanic island of Poros, a favourite with the rich and famous, and Skyros.

Others are the Agean gem of Chios, the glamorous Greek islands of Kos, Myrina on the island of Lemnos, and the port of Sarti on Halkidiki, with its blue seas and imposing green mountains.

Among the six new itineraries for the 170-passenger Star Flyer are: Greek Isles and Turkey (seven nights between Athens and Istanbul); Yachtsman's Paradise (Istanbul/Athens) visiting seven of the 10 maiden-call ports; Monaco-Malta and Malta-Athens calling at ports in Corsica, Sardinia, Tunisia, Sicily and Greece; Western Mediterranean ­Ligurian (four seven-night round-trip cruises from Monaco or Cannes calling at L'lles Rousse, Bastia, Portoferraio, Portofino, Hyeres, Sanary-sur-Mer and St Tropez); Western Mediterranean ­Tyrrhenian from Monaco or Cannes to Calvi, Bonifacio, Costa Smeralda, Giglio, Lerici and St. Tropez.

Following the sell-out Monaco Grand Prix sailings this year, Star Flyer will be moored in Monte Carlo on May 26 2011 for the time trials, and again on May 29 for the actual race.

The other two ships in the fleet, the 228-passenger flagship Royal Clipper and 170-passenger Star Clipper, will also have a busy summer season around the Mediterranean, before moving to the Caribbean for the northern hemisphere winter season.

Star Flyer will also cross the Atlantic to new pristine sailing grounds along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Prices start from under $3000 per person for the seven-night itineraries including taxes and all meals and entertainment on board. Early booking discounts of up to 35% are available.

For reservations contact your travel agent or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599
or email: starclippers@creativecruising.com.au  www.starclippers.com


Monday, 21 June 2010

Exclusive Rainforest, Cruise and Reef Island Package Epitomises Luxury and Indulgence!

Australian and family owned operators Orpheus Island Resort and Coral Princess Cruises and Thala Beach Lodge have launched a brand new tropical North Queensland escape like no other, epitomising extravagance by infusing luxurious and diverse experiences to create seven days of pure indulgence with the Rainforest, Cruise and Reef Island Package.

With an unrivalled selection of accommodation and activity inclusions, this unbelievable package epitomizes luxury and allows complete immersion into the diverse experiences available in Tropical North Queensland.

From $AUD 5,295 per person twin share, this sensational seven night package will immerse travellers in luxury and create life long memories with its fantastic array of inclusions:

• All accommodation including two nights in unique five star eco resort accommodation nestled in a forest canopy, two nights aboard an award winning expedition style cruise ship on the Great Barrier Reef and three nights beach front accommodation on an exclusive island hideaway.
• Complimentary Introductory Scuba experience, presentations by Marine Biologists and unlimited snorkeling on the Coral Princess Cruise.
• Complimentary guided onsite tours including a unique coconut odyssey, stargazing, tree planting, nature walks & bird watching at Thala Beach Lodge.
• Unlimited use of motorised dinghies, paddle skis, catamarans, canoes, snorkelling equipment, local snorkel trips, light fishing gear, pools, gymnasium, recreation room, tennis court, bushwalking and selected interpretive activities at Orpheus Island Resort.
• Most meals and transfers to/from each accommodation
• And much more!

This package is valid for a limited time and is subject to availability, conditions apply.

All over the 145 acres of Thala Beach Lodge, guests find themselves in an unsurpassed enchanting, relaxing environment. The Lodge is fully eco accredited for ecotourism and consists of private deluxe timber bungalows that sit spectacularly atop a headland with breathtaking views of untouched coastline.

Enjoy a rich experience among wildlife, native forests and natural beachscapes from bungalows built high on stilts and nestled in the forest canopy providing a magical and unobtrusive relationship with the natural world. Time spent relaxing on the timber-decked verandas is always well rewarded with sightings of birds, butterflies, possums and sugar gliders.


Let multi award-winning Coral Princess Cruises introduce you to all the hidden jewels of the Great Barrier Reef. With 27 years experience and an unrivalled reputation for cruising excellence, our exclusive itineraries introduce the very best of the Great Barrier Reef and tropical islands in total comfort and unmatched style. A maximum of just 50 guests ensures an intimate and personalised experience, and our three and four night small ship cruises allow you to swim, snorkel and SCUBA dive amid the fish and corals in the clear tropical waters.

Or you can join our marine biologist aboard the glass bottom boat, stroll golden sandy beaches on remote coral cays or visit secluded tropical islands and ancient rainforests, while our on-board experts interpret the natural wonders of the reef, rainforest and island habitats. We'll show you the reef most visitors never see – and you can choose to be as adventurous or as relaxed as you please.

Orpheus Island Resort combines pristine beaches and premium holiday accommodation to amaze even the most seasoned holiday maker. With a strong focus on natural beauty, relaxation and amazing food, Orpheus provides the perfect location for a weekend of sophisticated extravagance.

With the 21 room property limited to a maximum of 42 pampered guests, visitors can relax with premium service, exquisite cuisine and total seclusion. Privacy is assured with the exclusion of telephones, televisions, day-trippers, nightclubs or children under 15 years of age.

Enjoy the aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef aboard the scenic flight transfer as you fly over the sparkling water from Townsville to Orpheus Island. To kick off the holiday with style, guests are personally welcomed with a fresh fruit cocktail.


For bookings or further information contact Orpheus Island Resort on +61 7 4777 7377 or email bookings@orpheus.com.au

Package Itinerary

Lose yourself in seven nights of pure indulgence from $AUD 5259 per person twin share with the following inclusions:

A unique Thala Beach Lodge experience:

• 2 nights accommodation in Eucalypt Bungalow air-conditioned accommodation
• Private car return transfers between Thala & Cairns Airport / City / Wharf
• Choice of a la carte dinner or a dining hamper delivered to your room
• A la carte lunch or a picnic hamper delivered to the beach
• Dinner is inclusive of a choice from extensive collection of fine Australian wines
• In-room bar including wine, spirits, beers, soft drinks, snacks, tea & coffee
• Regular scheduled transfers to and from Port Douglas daily
• Tree planting, guided nature walks and bird watching tours with Thala's local naturalist guides
• Star Gazing at Thala's specially designed observatory
• Evening presentations/entertainment by local specialists
• Buggy transfers around resort on request

An unforgettable Coral Princess Cruise:

• 2 nights in stateroom air-conditioned accommodation
• All meals, morning and afternoon teas, 24 hour tea and coffee station
• Complimentary Introductory Scuba experience
• Presentations by Marine Biologists
• Unlimited snorkelling
• Orpheus - Cairns: Pelorus Island, Hinchinbrook Channel & Family group of islands, Dunk Island Resort, Thetford & Moore Reefs
• Cairns - Orpheus: Thetford Reef, Sudbury Cay, Coates or Nathan Reefs Dunk Island Resort, Family group of islands, Hinchinbrook Channel & Pelorus Island
• Complimentary transfer to/from Orpheus Island Resort

Orpheus Island Resort seclusion and luxury:

• One-way scenic flight transfer between Orpheus and Townsville
• 3 nights beachfront accommodation in an Orpheus Retreat room
• Meet & greet with fresh fruit cocktail
• All meals (a la carte breakfast, alfresco dining or gourmet picnic lunch and seven course degustation-style menu each evening). NB: Seven Course Degustation menu is substituted with a "Wok Night" once a week.
• Complimentary bottle of sparkling wine.
• Unlimited use of motorised dinghies, paddle skis, catamarans, canoes, snorkelling equipment, local snorkel trips, light fishing gear, pools, gymnasium, recreation room, tennis court, bushwalking and selected interpretive activities.

Wine Expert Joins True North Kimberley Wilderness Cruise

Respected wine sommelier Michael Tamburi will lead a food and wine soiree along the magnificent Kimberley coastline in August.

Mr Tamburi, who has owned and operated Perth's La Vigna fine wine outlet for 22 years, will join a two-week Kimberley Wilderness Cruise departing August 14.

North Star Cruises General Manager Peter Trembath said Michael would add a new and exciting dimension to the cruise.

"Michael will be sharing his amazing wine knowledge with our guests who will also enjoy gourmet produce including a bounty of freshly caught fish," said Mr Trembath.

"Michael is a respected wine educator, national judge and media commentator."

"It will be an exclusive experience which will result in a very special Kimberley Wilderness Cruise indeed!"

As an added bonus, guests who book a two week Kimberley Wilderness cabin before June 30 will also receive either four night's accommodation at the Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa or, a Linneys gift voucher valued at $2000.

Other highlights of a Kimberley Wilderness Cruise include:

-       Ancient rock art
-       A panorama of rugged mountains
-       Spectacular gorges
-       Barramundi fishing
-       Mud crabbing
-       Croc-spotting
-       Champagne heli-flights at dawn
-       Helicopter picnics to remote locations

North Star's two week Kimberley Wilderness Cruise operates between Broome and Wyndham. Guests can stay onboard for the entire cruise or, they can opt for a one week itinerary either disembarking or embarking in the Hunter River. 

Helicopter & light aircraft transfers (via Broome) are included in the one week itinerary.

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise prices start from $10,495 (one week trip).

See the itinerary at: http://www.northstarcruises.com.au/kwc_wyndhambroome.asp

For full itineraries, departure dates and prices visit www.northstarcruises.com.au


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Adventurous Asians Embrace Expedition Cruising

20% of Silversea's Asian Customers Select Prince Albert II as their Ship of Choice

An increasing number of Asian travellers will sail on Silversea's luxury Expedition cruise ship, Prince Albert II. this year  representing around 20% of the company's regional business. The biggest regional market for the ship is China followed by Hong Kong.

Demand is such for this all-inclusive expedition product that guests are booking far in advance to secure their place on the exploration voyages that take place in both Polar Regions, as well as exciting destinations in Central and South America, Great Britain, Ireland and Africa.

Melvyn Yap, Silversea's Regional Director Asia, commented: "Since Prince Albert II's debut, this region has really embraced our new style of expedition cruising. After two sell-out seasons, Asia and more specifically China, Hong Kong and Singapore have emerged as high yield, early booking markets with the mainland leading the way.

We have been aggressively targeting new-to-Silversea and first-time cruisers by going after a larger share of the lucrative baby boomer market and are seeing phenomenal growth in this market segment.  Younger people have the money and time to travel, and can appreciate the exceptional value a luxury cruise offers when compared to land-based vacations.  In the United States our target market is couples aged 45+; a mix of retirees and successful entrepreneurs, but in Asia our market is couples, slightly younger in age than the company's overall profile. They tend to be successful business people and young professionals; lawyers, doctors, dentists and accountants, who have a love of food and wine but also a sense of adventure. Of particular interest to this younger clientele is the Prince Albert II."

Prince Albert II completed a hugely successful 2009 season of 25 sell-out voyages and the 2010 and 2011 expeditions are selling fast. From June to September 2010 a series of Arctic adventures are on offer exploring the Svalbard Archipelago, Iceland, Greenland or the Canadian Arctic, and the Antarctic season runs from November 2010 to February 2011 with 8 round-trip Ushuaia voyages navigating Drake's Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula.

New expeditions currently on offer include a Discovering Central America voyage in October 2010, taking in the wildlife, indigenous tribes and historic sites of the Dominican Republic, Netherlands Antilles, Panama and Costa Rica, and a Cape to Cape Adventure in March 2011, following explorers' footsteps to Cape Horn, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Tristan Da Cunha and Cape Town. A 22 day West Coast of Africa sailing from Cape Town to Dakar, Senegal is taking place in March 2011, and such is the appeal of this itinerary that the expedition is already fully sold out. Due to strong demand, this programme will also be offered in 2012.

Part of Prince Albert II's great appeal is the totally all-inclusive nature of the product, with fares that cover all shore excursions with a highly experienced expedition team; the largest accommodation of any expedition ship; butler service; wines and drinks throughout the ship; gourmet menus by Relais & Châteaux, and all gratuities. And with a maximum of 132 passengers, guests aboard Prince Albert II have numerous opportunities to go ashore in destinations such as Antarctica, where only 100 passengers at any one time may land.

Yap added: "With suites selling so quickly on these expedition voyages, we do encourage travellers to book early to avoid disappointment.  We expect the demand for this category to continue growing over the second half of 2010."

For more information on Silversea Cruises, please visit www.silversea.com.

Intrepid offer 20% off Antarctica

One of the things that has us totally addicted to travel is the 'wow moment'. That incredible instant when a real life experience slaps you in the face and says "do you realise where you are and what you are doing?" Like watching the sun rise over the Himalayas, riding a camel through the Sahara or dancing along with a Bollywood movie crowd.

Very few places can compete with Antarctica for pure wow factor, so Intrepid is thrilled to be returning to this amazing continent and we have jaw-dropping special deals to help you set sail on the adventure of a lifetime. Plus there is still 10% off our Top 10 trips and you've got the chance to WIN a fantastic Australian adventure. So when you add that all up, 'wow' doesn't even come close this week!

There is no adventure on earth quite like it. Sailing through the Southern Ocean to be one of the few people to set foot on the Great White Continent. Exploring with expert guides and having close encounters with penguins, searching out migrating whales and taking in the sensory overload of pink night skies, turquoise waters and white ice - welcome to the wow factors of Antarctica!

To celebrate Intrepid's new Antarctic adventures aboard the purpose-built icebreaker Polar Star, we're offering up to 20% OFF. Order our inspiring new brochure today and book before 15 August to receive 20% OFF selected departures and cabins, plus there are great early bird discounts and a free accommodation package on offer!

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Cruise West Sails the Mississippi River


Exploring the Big Easy by Small Ship

Cruise West, a global leader in small-ship explorations, today announced two new itineraries sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, starting in March, 2011.  These inaugural voyages will take place aboard the Spirit of America, formerly the Spirit of Glacier Bay.

"Many of our loyal customers asked us to bring the Cruise West small-ship experience to the Mississippi and other 'heartland' rivers... and we are delighted to be able to deliver an experience that will surprise and delight guests with a perspective of the South that can only be achieved by small-ship," shared Dick West, Cruise West's Chairman and Managing Director.  "My family is extremely proud to offer guests the opportunity to sail an American flagged ship on one of the most iconic American rivers."

Known to many as America's Great River Road, the Mississippi is North America's longest river.  For centuries, it has played a major role in commerce as a vital transit route for passengers and freight of every description –  including cotton, timber, food, and Appalachian coal.  The writings of Mark Twain turned the river into a cultural icon as well.  So today, a cruise on the Mississippi is an adventure through history and literature, as well as spectacular vistas.

"This market has been underserved since 2008 with the departure of Majestic Cruise line," commented Dietmar Wertanzl, Cruise West's President and CEO. "We are proud to be the only cruise line offering overnight cruises on these great American Rivers."

Guests will enjoy the iconic South, while sailing the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis, taking in the sights of white mansions, lush gardens, historic plantations, and poignant civil war monuments.  In addition to exceptional scenery around every bend, guests on this 7-night itinerary will enjoy all of the following:
  • Stopping in Vacherie to visit Oak Alley Plantation, the most photographed plantation in the South.
  • Visiting The Myrtles – "America's Most Haunted House."
  • Discovering the spectacular antebellum and Victorian architecture of picturesque Natchez, Missouri.
  • Touring Vicksburg National Military Park, scene of the Civil War battle that gave the North control of the Mississippi.  
  • Strolling through Helena, Arkansas – one-time home to no fewer than seven generals of the confederacy.  
The second new river voyage – a 7-night excursion further upriver – begins and ends with two hotbeds of American music, Memphis and Nashville. Guests will follow the Mississippi north to Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio River. They will cruise on upriver to the Tennessee and the narrow Cumberland River. On this journey, guests will enjoy:
  • Exploring the charming and historic town of New Madrid, Missouri.
  • Taking in numerous galleries and the Center of Maritime Education in Paducah, Kentucky.
  • Walking through Fort Smith – a Civil War staging area once occupied by Ulysses S. Grant.
  • Touring Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Dover, Tennessee, site of the first major Union victory.
  • Discovering Clarksville, Tennessee, one of the South's most historic cities and home to memorable architecture and attractions.  
Between these itineraries, guests may choose from 8 departure dates with prices starting at $3,499 before savings and include all excursions and hotel nights as listed.  The New Orleans to Memphis (reverse dates noted with asterisk) dates include March 19, April 9*April 16, and May 7*, 2011.  The Memphis to Nashville dates include March 26 and April 2*, 23, 30*,2011.  Guests can save $600 per person by paying in full by July 30, 2010.  For further details, visit www.CruiseWest.com, call 800-296-8307, or contact a travel professional.

See Rare Emperor Penguins This October -- for Free!

Are you a lover of the environment and Antarctica? Do you have a friend you'd love to travel with to the southernmost continent to encounter wildlife and scenery few have ever seen?

Visit www.AdventureWithJulie.com and tell us in less than 300 words why you should be Quark's next voyager to Antarctica. You'll be in great hands with special guest Julie Scardina, Animal Ambassador for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, as she shares fascinating stories of animal training and conservation, and travels with you on a Snow Hill Island safari for a rare glimpse of Emperor Penguins (those cute creatures featured in the March of the Penguins).

If you win, you'll be joining one of our most popular trips (already sold out), on one of the final voyages aboard legendary icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. Don't delay and enter now!

Contest details: Your entry will be voted on by the public, so encourage people to vote for you. Entries with the most votes could win. Contest closes August 31, 2010.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Cruise Weekly: The most feared (and revered) man in world cruising.


This is Douglas Ward, a former band leader aboard Queen Elizabeth who worked his way through numerous roles with Cunard (including Cruise Director,) Fred Olsen Line, P&O, Royal Mail Lines, Shaw Savill and Union Castle Lines. He eventually gave up working for them all in 1982, after 17 years on the world’s oceans.

In his years at sea, Ward became increasingly interested in the workings of cruise ships and the variations in their offerings and onboard cultures. He became an inadvertent expert and was quickly sought after for his views and opinions and worked with other frequent passengers to form the International Cruise Passengers Association who published the much-read newsletter, Porthole. It’s still published today as fully fledged magazine.

In 1984, Ward was approached by a progressive and forward-thinking travel publisher and asked to produce a comprehensive international guide to cruising.

"Our Association by then had over 4000 members and I could see the potential of what the publisher had in mind," Ward says. "It took me 18 months to write the first 250-page guide that reviewed 120-ships.

"It was to be updated every three years, but in 1990 we decided to publish it annually. Its 700-plus pages and 500,000 words simply cannot be expanded any further."

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that we are talking about the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, now in its 25th year of publication and featuring over 270 ships including the enormous Oasis of the Seas.

So much for retiring, Ward still spends around 200 days a year at sea reviewing and rating cruise liners and boutique vessels. His vast experience gives him unparalleled insight into the cruise industry’s developments and trends.

In an interview with USA Today’s Gene Sloan, Ward was asked which he considered the most noteworthy of recent in cruise ships.

“Celebrity Solstice, because the ship has taken all the elements of Celebrity's former ships, updated them, and added some new ones – such as the first real grass lawn at sea, and a real Corning Glass hot glass blowing studio. The ship also is commendable for using 80 solar panels to provide power for its elevators.

“And Seabourn Odyssey, because it's the first small "luxury" market cruise ship to debut in several years, while the large resort ships have taken all the limelight.”

And disappointments?

“The quality of fitting-out of some of the newest ships leaves much to be desired (particularly the smaller "luxury" vessels, some of which have so many support pillars positioned in odd places). The interior decor is simply not built to last, and new ships always smell of glues, plastics and synthetic carpets.”

Ward goes on to state he looks forward to sampling the new-builds appearing on the market like Ponant’s Le Boreal, NCL’s Norwegian Epic and the tall ship Sea Cloud Hussar, while lamenting some of the passing trends in cruising like sailaway paries, streamers and slipping service standards on some vessels.

Like any ratings system, there are winners and losers. Consistent top raters are the smaller luxury vessels like Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa, The Yachts of Seabourn and Seadream Yacht Club, all of which score well over 1700 out of a possible 2000. At the other end, Ward mentions such cellar-dwellers as easyCruise Life, Grande Caribe and National Geographic’s Sea Lion and Sea Bird, all under 800 points total.

The 2011 edition is due out in October and until then, cruise industry heavyweights will bite their nails in anticipation.

And Ward's last word on modern cruising? "To see better facilities for handicapped passengers, and in this age of less formality, while casual is okay, sloppy certainly is not."




Monday, 14 June 2010

American Cruise Lines Prepares for Queen of the West Launch


American Cruise Lines said upgrades to its newly acquired Queen of the West are underway and the company is anticipating a successful first season in the Pacific Northwest, starting Aug. 7. American Cruise Lines is converting 17 staterooms to private balcony rooms and adding a library lounge on the third deck. The company also is upgrading the existing lounges and dining room with new furniture and other amenities.

American will operate one-way itineraries between Portland, Ore., and Clarkston, Wash., including the Columbia River Gorge. With this relaxed cruising schedule, American plans to improve the quality of shore excursions and bring onboard local talent from historians to entertainers. Weekly departures are scheduled through October. The company said many of this year’s cruises are sold out or close to it, and that 2011 bookings are becoming very popular.

American Cruise Lines' modern ships, each carrying no more than 120 passengers, are designed to navigate America's inland waterways and rivers, docking in the heart of each port and taking you where larger ships could never go.

A longer season is scheduled for next year, from April through November. For more information, call 800-814-6880 or visit www.americancruiselines.com.

LEADING US CLIMATE EXPERT, DR. JASON BOX, OFFERS INSIGHT INTO GLOBAL WARMING ABOARD HURTIGRUTEN'S "IN THE WAKE OF THE VIKINGS" - ICELAND-GREENLAND-CANADA SAILING

Hurtigruten has announced the addition of foremost Greenland climate expert Dr. Jason Box as a guest lecturer on its 14-day "In the Wake of the Vikings." Dr. Box, associate professor of geography at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, has traveled to Greenland 18 times over a span of 15 years, studying and witnessing the effects of global warming, and offers considerable experience and insights into the island's geography and culture. As a contributing author to "Climate Change 2007," which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year, Dr. Box has appeared as an expert on CBS News, NBC's Today Show and the Discovery Channel and been quoted in The New York Times and numerous other venues. This incredible odyssey, departing Sept. 26, 2010 from Iceland aboard the deluxe 318-passenger MS Fram, encompasses some of Greenland’s and eastern Canada’s most spectacular natural and historical landscapes. Booking by July 31 means savings of 25% -- reduced fares are $4,743 to $9,316 per person, double. Passengers who book suites also receive free round-trip airfare from JFK or Newark Airports.

Making use of multimedia lectures and Q&A sessions, Dr. Box will leave Hurtigruten's guests with a clearer understanding of one of the world's most discussed climate issues, global warming, and its effect on Greenland’s glaciers and climate. "We bear witness to a pivotal moment in Earth's climate history with Greenland at the epicenter of that change -- as its glaciers react to the planet's warming," explains Dr. Box. "During my lectures, I will be focusing on the current state of research undertaken by myself and other leading scientists and discuss some of the possible solutions and options available." Other onboard experts from numerous disciplines, including geology, marine life, environment, history and culture, will also be on hand and will join the landings and shore excursions where passengers have the chance to get close to the culture, wildlife and communities of Greenland’s most isolated areas.

Before boarding the MS Fram in Reykjavik, Iceland, guests can take in some of the cosmopolitan city’s many museums and shops or sightsee among the glaciers, waterfalls and geysers just outside the city's boundaries. Four days are spent exploring the eastern and southern villages of Greenland including visits to Køge Bay, where the Greenland ice cap races to the sea; Umivik, the starting point of Fridtjof Nansen's epic first crossing of the Ice Cap; and Qassiarsuk, where Erik the Red in exile founded a colony that persisted for some 500 years. The ship then heads across the Labrador Sea, stopping in Newfoundland and then turning south to Halifax via St Anthony, Bonne Bay and Baddeck in Nova Scotia -- taking time to visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: L’Anse Aux Meadows, where Norse settlers began to get a foot hold in North America; Red Bay; and Gros Morne National Park; among other excursions.

Sailing aboard The MS Fram means large, comfortable lounges with panoramic windows and wonderful views from large outdoor decks; no need to dress up for dinner (unless you want to) and open seating; fresh seasonal ingredients, plenty of incredible seafood and a comprehensive wine list; multilingual tour directors; comfortable cabins - from the smaller inside accommodations to the large outside suites that offer TV, mini-bar, queen-size beds and numerous bonuses including a free bottle of champagne, two free shore excursions, complimentary wine with lunch or dinner and a free round of mini bar use; and a friendly and well-informed crew, ready to offer assistance and suggestions when asked. The public areas also include an Internet café, a wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools.

All sailings include cabin category selected, three meals daily aboard ship, lectures, services of naturalist guides, specified land excursions and PolarCirkel boat landings, ship transfers, government fees, cruise taxes and port charges. Add-on airfares from dozens of North American gateways range from $100 to $600. Prices do not include airline fuel surcharges, air taxes and ticketing fees of $439 to $489.

Hurtigruten is a world leader in expedition cruising, sailing to the most remote of destinations including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic’s Spitsbergen, as well as year round along Norway's coast. Additional information on all of these adventures, as well as brochures and reservations, can be obtained from travel agents or Hurtigruten's visitor-friendly web site, www.hurtigruten.us; or by phone: (800) 323-7436; fax (888) 524-2145; 24-hour number for brochures, (800) 582-0835.

Eco-friendly Cruising With Star Clippers

As cruise ships get bigger and their impact on the environment is increasingly under scrutiny, Star Clippers’ full-rigged, tall ships offer a cleaner, greener way to cruise.

Star Clippers has been incorporating eco-friendly systems and practices on its three tall ships for years. Most significant, of course, is the fact that the vessels’ major source of energy - wind propulsion - is both abundant and emission-free.

“At Star Clippers, we always try to maximise the amount of time we are under wind power,” says Captain Farhat Shamim, vice president of operations for Star Clippers. “Not only so that our guests can experience a true tall ship sailing experience, but because this also reduces the amount of fuel we consume. A cruise under sail is much easier on the environment.”

In the Caribbean, where the wind is most predictable, the ships operate under wind power up to 70 percent of the time, thus minimising use of the auxiliary engines, which also power the air-conditioning and provide electricity for the day-to-day operation of the ship.

When Star Clippers ships do consume fuel, it is a less-polluting grade. “All our vessels only use very pure, high-quality low-sulphur gas oil; for this we were awarded the International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate,” Shamim continues. “Star Flyer was the first ship in the world to receive this certificate. Later, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper received the same certification.”

When it comes to managing the waste products generated on board, Star Clippers has a straightforward policy. Reduce the amount of waste created; recycle as much as possible; and ensure proper disposal of the remaining waste. Crew training plays a vital part in reducing and recycling waste, while technology does the rest.

For example, only eco-friendly, biodegradable products are used for cleaning on board the three ships. Super-concentrated formulae that employ innovative packaging and dispensing methods are used to keep waste to a minimum.

Wastewater is contained in holding tanks while a vessel is in port or close to shore. After a stringent treatment process, this water is discharged when the vessel is outside national limits and special zones in accordance with international regulations. Extra measures have been taken for the ships sailing in truly fragile environments; Star Flyer, for example, has just completed a season in French Polynesia and this coming winter will sail the pristine waters off the coast of Costa Rica. A pilot project on Star Flyer for advanced wastewater treatment using a ‘membrane bioreactor’ system has been a success; the new system completely sanitises and removes all solids from wastewater before discharge.

Star Clippers is also taking steps to protect the environment when it comes to educating the guests. Dr Mariano Peruzzo, a highly qualified marine biologist, has been stationed on board Royal Clipper for more than a year now. He was employed by Mikael Krafft, Swedish owner and founder of Star Clippers, to live and work the ship, giving talks to the guests and educating them on the subject of marine conservation in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

But there’s more to the job than just delivering the daily slide shows. “Early morning, I start with whale watching on the bridge,” says Peruzzo. “Sometimes guests join me for a short visit, usually with the first strong coffee of the day. We have shore excursions every day and dives each afternoon, which I lead. We have lectures in the forward lounge every evening or late afternoon.

“On some days, I participate with the guests on the shore excursions, especially when they go somewhere with really interesting geological stuff, like Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands, or Mount Etna, collecting stones and plants.”

In March this year, more than 70 passengers aboard Royal Clipper joined Mariano for a beach cleanup in St Kitts. The passengers worked to improve turtle breeding grounds in North Friar’s Bay in preparation for the nesting season of the region’s endangered leatherback turtles.

The effort was initiated by Star Clippers and in collaboration with the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network and Kantours, St. Kitts. The passengers managed to collect and remove 652 pounds of garbage from the fragile turtle habitat and the event was such a success that similar activities are being planned for next winter.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

IN THE HEART OF THE ICE CONTINENT, VISIT ANTARCTICA WITH HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES’ EXPEDITION SHIPS


Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Small Expedition Ships Won’t be Affected by New Bans That Will Keep Large Cruise Ships Out of Antarctica Starting in 2011

he International Maritime Organization adopted a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil for ships sailing in Antarctica this month, effectively meaning that beginning August 1, 2011 most large cruise ships will no longer be able to sail in Antarctica. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ two expedition ships, the 5-star* MS HANSEATIC and the 4-star* MS BREMEN have always used diesel fuel, state-of-the-art waste disposal systems (rubbish-incinerator and biological sewage treatment plant on board) and environmentally-friendly underwater paints (TBT-free), which will allow both ships to continue this very popular route in 2011 and beyond. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ expedition ships carry no more than 184 passengers. Zodiac (small motorized boats) landings, under the guidance of experienced experts who give detailed instructions to passengers about proper conduct while in Antarctica, never exceed 20 people.

łWe support all changes to current regulations, if they are geared towards protecting and conserving Antarctica, said Sebastian Ahrens Managing Director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. łWith our passengers, cruises to Antarctica have not suffered a loss of fascination in that the secret of an unforgettable cruise to Antarctica is to have a small-ship operator that offers trips off the beaten paths. And this is exactly what our expeditions are all about ­ all under the premise of leaving the environment intact.˛

Hapag-Lloyd cruises is an active member of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) ­ a voluntary union of Antarctic tour operators that have agreed to promote ecologically sustainable tourism in the Antarctic continent and, at the same time, benefit from the experience of the other members.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will be offering two Antarctica international (German/English) cruises in early 2011 on the MS HANSEATIC and the MS BREMEN. Both ships are well equipped for travel in difficult waters, with both holding the highest ice class ranking for passenger vessels (E4). Also shallow drafts and high manoeuvrability allow the ships to enter waters larger cruise vessels cannot reach. Guests explore the world’s best-kept secrets in zodiacs (small motorized boats) with only 10-12 guests. Onboard experts include a team of experienced scientists, expedition leaders and specialists who guide landings and offer guests the rare opportunity to observe plant and animal life up close. Both ships also have warm parkas and rubber boots for all passengers on-loan.

The Antarctica itineraries below offers guests a once in a lifetime experience to view the gigantic colonies of birds, particularly penguins as they gather for the start of their summer in Antarctica. In addition to observing the massive bird colonies, guests will also have the opportunity to hike on the Falkland Islands, explore South Georgia, bath in the hot waters on Deception Island and observe the gleaming icebergs and whales in the Antarctic Sound.

MS BREMEN: ANTARCTICA and the ANTARCTIC CIRCLE

(South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle)

Dates: January 5 ­24, 2011 (19 Days)

Embarkation: Ushuaia/Argentina, Disembarkation: Ushuaia/Argentina

Rate: Starting at $11,710* per person based on double occupancy for an outside cabin, rate includes flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.

MS HANSEATIC: ANTARCTICA

(South Georgia, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula)

Dates: January 7­26, 2011 (19 Days)

Embarkation: Ushuaia/Argentina, Disembarkation: Ushuaia/Argentina

Rate: Starting at $13,640* per person based on double occupancy for an outside cabin, rate includes flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.

For more information on other HANSEATIC AND BREMEN international cruises, visit www.hl-cruises.com.


Monday, 7 June 2010

Save 30% on 7 nights Captain Cook Fijian Dateline Cruise

Captain Cook Cruises is celebrating its 40th Birthday in 2010 with a massive sale offering up to 30% off Fiji Northern Dateline cruises.

The sale is valid to 30 August 2010 and valid for travel until 31st March 2011. As an extra bonus for families a separate children's bunk cabin is available at no additional charge with payment of two or more children 3-17 years with accompanying parents or guardians.

The Northern Fiji Dateline Discovery Cruise is an amazing cruise that reveals the unique history, art and culture of the Northern Fiji Islands and allows passengers the ultimate experience of standing' on the International Dateline.

Developed after months of extensive research and searching for secluded and exclusive locations, passengers are taken beyond the Yasawa Islands to very remote and exotic tropical Fijian islands.

Day trips include the historic island of Ovalau which still features 19th Century colonial architecture and waterfront promenades from colonial rule, the Bouma Waterfall lagoon on Taveuni Island, the extinct volcanic crater, hot springs and thriving markets on Savusavu, a special choral church service at Waiyevo and of course the 180th Meridian – the arbitrary Dateline between today and tomorrow on Taveuni Island.

There is plenty of swimming, snorkelling and diving off picturesque islands including Tivua, Nanuyakoto, Savusavu Bay, Nananu-I-ra and Manava Island.

One of the most endearing features of this cruise is the generous welcome from Fijian village locals living on islands rarely visited by tourists.  Passengers will be given the extraordinary opportunity to experience village life and partake in a kava ceremony, enjoy a traditional 'lovo" (earth oven) feast and dance to the drum of the meke (dance).

The 7 night Northern Fijian Dateline Cruise package departs in 2010 on 3rd August, 7th September, 5th October and 2nd November and is priced from $1749 per person twin share, normally from $2499.

Price includes shipboard accommodation, all meals, guided village and island tours, glass bottom boat excursions, on board entertainment and use of the ship's facilities.

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free from Australia on 1800 804 843; Int +61-2-9206 1100, Email: fiji@captaincook.com.au or visit www.captaincook.com.au.

 

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

ADVENTUROUS AUSTRALASIANS EMBRACE EXPEDITION CRUISING

Prince Albert II completed a hugely successful 2009 season of 25 sell-out voyages and the 2010 and 2011 expeditions are selling fast. From June to September 2010 a series of Arctic adventures are on offer exploring the Svalbard Archipelago, Iceland, Greenland or the Canadian Arctic, and the Antarctic season runs from November 2010 to February 2011 with 8 round-trip Ushuaia voyages navigating Drake's Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Australasian travellers now make up more than 20 per cent of all guests on Silversea Expeditions aboard the state-of-the-art Prince Albert II.

Demand is such for this all-inclusive luxury expedition product that guests are booking far in advance to secure their place on the fascinating voyages that take in both Polar Regions, as well as enticing destinations in Central and South America, Great Britain, Ireland and Africa.

Karen Christensen, Silversea's regional director Australia & New Zealand, commented: "Since Prince Albert II's debut, this region has really embraced our new style of expedition cruising. After two sell-out seasons, Australasia has emerged as a high yield, early booking market that is now Silversea Expeditions' second largest source of guests after the United States."


New expeditions currently on offer include a Discovering Central America voyage in October 2010, taking in the wildlife, indigenous tribes and historic sites of the Dominican Republic, Netherlands Antilles, Panama and Costa Rica, and a Cape to Cape Adventure in March 2011, following explorers' footsteps to Cape Horn, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Tristan Da Cunha and Cape Town. A 22 day West Coast of Africa sailing from Cape Town to Dakar, Senegal is taking place in March 2011, and such is the appeal of this itinerary that the expedition is already fully sold out. Due to strong demand, this programme will also be offered in 2012.

Part of Prince Albert II's great appeal is the totally all-inclusive nature of the product, with fares that cover all shore excursions with a highly experienced expedition team; the largest accommodation of any expedition ship; butler service; wines and drinks throughout the ship; gourmet menus by Relais & Châteaux, and all gratuities. And with a maximum of 132 passengers, guests aboard Prince Albert II have numerous opportunities to go ashore in destinations such as Antarctica, where only 100 passengers at any one time may land.

Karen Christensen added: "With suites selling so quickly on these expedition voyages, we do encourage travellers to book early to avoid disappointment."

For more information please contact Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or toll free 1300 306 872 (Australia) or 0800 701 427 (New Zealand), or visit www.silversea.com

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS INTRODUCES NEW VOYAGES

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS INTRODUCES THREE NEW LIFE-CHANGING VOYAGES FOR 2010/2011

Lindblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com), the pioneering expedition travel company with a strong commitment to responsible travel, has announced three new itineraries for 2010/2011.  These new journeys provide travel explorers a diverse range of destinations for life-changing encounters with beauty, wildness and the seldom-seen.

·         Upper Amazon voyages explore the rain forests of Peru's Pacaya-Samiria Reserve -- bordered by the Marañón and Ucayali rivers -- where the mighty Amazon is formed.  This new 10-day exploration of the Upper Amazon takes guests through wild lands of unsurpassed beauty aboard the Delfin II, which accommodates only 28 guests. Our Expedition Leader and experienced local Naturalists will help guests see and learn about the remarkable flora and fauna of the region, while the chef presents the finest Amazonian-Peruvian gourmet cuisine on the river.  Dates include Aug. 28, Sept. 11 and Dec. 18, 2010 and Jan. 15, Jan. 29; Feb. 12; April 30; May 7, 14, 21; Sept. 3, 10, 17, 24 and Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26, 2011. Rates begin at $5,590 per person based on double occupancy.

·         Exploring New Zealand's North & South Islands is an in-depth exploration of these islands, as well as Stewart Island, with forays into famous sounds discovered by Captain Cook.  Its volcanic landscapes are breathtaking, from the snow-covered mountains and fjords of South Island to the cliffs and indented coastlines that run the entire length of the journey.  The voyage will spotlight the unique wildlife that results from New Zealand's long geographic isolation. Guests will walk on an active volcano, see a land steeped in Maori culture, and discover a side of New Zealand few know aboard the 68-guest Oceanic Discoverer.  The 17-day journeys depart Jan 31 and February 12, 2011.  Rates begin at $11,990 per person based on double occupancy.

West Africa & Islands of the Atlantic explores five distinct and welcoming regions – Senegal, Gambia, Western Sahara, Cape Verde and the Canary Islands – offering a dazzling array of cultures, scenery, wildlife and experiences to inspire even the most experienced world traveler. See vivid birdlife and the legendary baobab trees, walk the dunes in the beautiful desert of the Western Sahara, and experience the daily life of Africa through its lively markets and music.  The 13-day expedition aboard the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer departs April 7, 2011. Rates begin at $9,820.     


For daily itineraries and additional information on Lindblad Expeditions' new voyages and other expeditions to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on earth visit  www.expeditions.com or call 1-800-EXPEDITION .

About Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is an expedition travel company that offers voyages in the Galápagos, Antarctica, Baja California, Alaska, Costa Rica, Panama, Egypt, the Arctic and beyond. The company works in alliance with the National Geographic Society to inspire travelers to explore and care about the planet. As pioneers of global exploration, the organizations work in tandem to produce innovative marine expedition programs and to promote conservation and sustainable tourism around the world. Lindblad Expeditions has been named  "#1 Small Ship for Families" and one of the best Small-Ship Cruise Lines (Travel + Leisure's World's Best Value Awards 2009); "The Best Ships in the World" and "The Best Itineraries" (Condé Nast Traveler: Truth in Travel Awards 2008 and 2006), and Conde Nast Traveler 2009 Gold List for Cruise Lines.


RETRACE THE JOURNEY OF COLUMBUS TO THE NEW WORLD


It's your turn to discover the 'New World'

In August 1492, Christopher Columbus set out to find new trade routes to India and Asia. Instead he discovered the 'New World'.

Now you can follow the journey of Christopher Columbus aboard the 17-day cruise 'Discovery of the New World', one of Voyages of Discovery's unique exploration themed cruises navigating through Latin America and the Caribbean.

The routes taken by Columbus are the basis for the cruise beginning in Spain then crossing the Atlantic Ocean to arrive in Barbados.

The cruise departs from Malaga, Spain on 18 November, 2010, and arrives in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 4 December 2010, prices starting from AUD$2010 per person twin share, excluding airfares.

The cruise features nine island destinations -  Malaga, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Funchal, Antigua, St Kitts, Dominica, St Lucia and Barbados.

"Christopher Columbus was one of the most important explorers in history and this cruise really showcases that," said Craig Bowen, Managing Director of Cruise Traveller, which promotes Voyages of Discovery to the Australian market.

"Discovery of the New World gives passengers a deeper understanding of the exploration pursuits of Columbus," Mr Bowen said.

"The fact that the islands featured are some of the most beautiful in the world only adds to the experience."

In true classic liner style the 553ft MV discovery provides plenty of room to relax and to learn. Accommodating 650 passengers, the ship has an abundance of facilities on board including two restaurants, three lounges, five bars, a library, a lecture theatre and a cinema.

Aboard the MV Discovery the education continues with informative guest speakers on hand to impart expert knowledge about each of the destinations visited.

For more information regarding this Voyages of Discovery, or to make a booking contact Cruise Traveller by email sales@cruisetraveller.com.au, or call 1800 507 777.

 

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cruise Weekly: Last Hurrah for Big Ships in Antarctic Waters


You want the good news or the bad news?

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reckons that the new heavy fuel oil ban on ships travelling through Antarctic waters will have a dramatic impact on tourist numbers to the region. But read between the lines to see what this concern is all about.

IAATO members already work to strict ‘guidelines’ (not rules) that seek to enforce an operational code among visiting expedition vessels. This includes things like:

* no more than 100 passengers ashore at any one time at any one location;
* vessels carrying more than 500 passengers do not land; and
* no waste disposal.

Any operator breaching these would be quickly outed by conscientious passengers, staff and competitors.

"These criteria represent absolute minimum standards which must be enforced in the area," said Caroline Schacht of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Hamburg. "Unfortunately, far too many shipping lines have not signed the treaty."

Such has been the success of Antarctica as a tourist destination, demand has soared.

The first paying passengers travelled with Chilean and Argentinean naval ships in the 1950s before Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first dedicated expedition in 1966. From a base of about 2000 passengers in the mid-1980s, passenger numbers have increased at least 1000 per year to the point where over 40,000 visited in the 2008/09 season – although not all landed.

So the hoo-ha about drastic reduction in visitor numbers is a bit of a distraction as all we are losing are the cruise-by voyeurs who inflate those figures anyway. Good riddance.

“It will only be the large, cruise-only vessels that are affected,” says IAATO’s executive director Steve Wellmeier, “not the smaller, expedition ships that most people think of as Antarctic cruising.”

The fuel ban is mainly a reaction to the growing number of ‘incidents’. It seems every season at least one vessel runs aground or worse. Critics, with some justification, believe that an environmental disaster is looming.

"I am greatly concerned that unless we take action, there will be a serious maritime casualty involving a tourist vessel in Antarctica, and we will be faced with a humanitarian and environmental disaster," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said at an Antarctic Treaty meeting last year.

This action will certainly eliminate the large vessels carrying the offensive heavy bunker oil not unlike the gooey stuff washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico. All ships making landings in sensitive areas carry light fuel oil, like common diesel – still not perfect, but much easier to deal with in the event of an emergency.

Like so many ‘pristine’ environments, we end up loving them to death, and the natural reaction is to limit the number of vessels and sailings.

Sebastian Ahrens, managing director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises in Hamburg, whose company helped set up the IAATO, would prefer operators to be strictly regulated rather than rely on voluntary compliance.

"If you cruise along certain parts of the Norwegian coast, the authorities keep a very close watch, but for the Antarctic no clearly defined rules apply,” he said.

It’s only a matter of time before adventure travel in Antarctica is subject to enforceable regulations and capped numbers. Good for operators with licenses, but what about those who want to go?

The fuel ban comes into effect in August 2011.


Wild Earth Travel announces new Icebreaker Expeditions

A sister company to longtime Antarctic operator Heritage Expeditions, Wild Earth Travel has for many years promoted and operated expeditions to South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Starting in November Wild Earth will be operating expeditions aboard the Icebreaker MV Polar Star. As the only icebreaker regularly operating on the Antarctic Peninsula the Polar Star offers unrivalled access with all the comforts of a top quality expedition vessel. The vessel will be operating Antarctic Classic and South Georgia Expeditions in addition to its special Antarctic Circle and Weddell Sea Expeditions and it is on these expeditions that the vessels capabilities really shine!

Dates and prices have already been released for the 2011-12 Antarctic season and a 5% early booking discount is currently available on all bookings for the 2011-12 season.