Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Orion III is very likely for 2013

by Louise Goldsbury, Editor, Cruise Weekly

Orion Expedition Cruises is yet to debut Orion II in Asia, but plans are already underway for a third ship.

Australia's Orion Expeditions has had such success with the impending launch of its second ship that a third vessel is set to be added within the next three years.

Speaking exclusively to Cruise Weekly, Sarina Bratton, Orion’s founder and managing director, said: “The way things are going, I absolutely expect we will do.

“I have already had some discussions with ship owners and we normally have to work two to three years in advance,” she said.

A launch of Orion III in 2012 was “maybe a bit early, but maybe 2013”, Bratton revealed.

The proposed destinations for a third ship remain under wraps while the company pushes ahead with next year’s program on the new Orion II.

The brochure for 2011 cruises in the Russian Far East and Asia will be released in late April or early May.

Options include Kimberley expeditions with complimentary flights over the Bungle Bungles; three first-time Orion voyages – ‘West Papua and Maluku’, ‘Exploration of the Antipodes’ and ‘Antarctic Centenary’; Tasmanian food and wine cruises; Lord Howe Island and Aotearoa; Christmas in New Zealand’s fjordland and sub-Antarctic islands; Orion II’s cruises of the Inland Sea of Japan; the Russian Far East; a circumnavigation of Borneo; and eight voyages to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, a “smattering of space” is still available this year on the original five-star, 100-passenger Orion for cruises in Australia.

The most immediate opportunities are for ‘Wild PNG & Bismarck Archipelago’, departing 07 April; ‘Tropical Reefs & Culture’ on 28 April; ‘Art of Arnhem Land’ on 04 May; and several Kimberley cruises between May and September 2010.

“The way things are going, I absolutely expect we will do”

“We have got the most exciting destinations on offer in the Asia Pacific – whether you’re interested in the wilds of Borneo, the cultural aspects of Cambodia, Vietnam or Japan, the remote wilderness of PNG or our brilliant experience in the sub-Antarctic, we’ve got it covered,” Bratton said.

Details of all 2010 and 2011 voyages are available at www.orionexpeditions.com.

CRUISE 5-STAR ON ORION INTO ONE OF OUR “LAST FRONTIERS”

Ecruising.travel has a series of 10-night fly/cruises later this year aboard the boutique expedition ship Orion along one of Australia's "last frontiers," taking guests from Darwin to Broome with such unique diversities as flight-seeing the world-famous Bungle Bungle ranges, getting up-close to Australia's most spectacular waterfalls, and wetting the line for reef and feisty surface fish.

The packages represent savings from 30- to almost 50-per cent on ecruising's five sailings on May 11, June 20, July 20, August 9 and September 6 – and also include a free hotel night in the historic pearling town of Broome post-cruise.

After departing Darwin, Orion visits Jaco Island, Wyndham for the Bungle Bungles, King George River and Falls, Vansittart Bay, the Hunter River for the Mitchell Falls, Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, Talbot Bay for the unique Horizontal Waterfalls, Cape Leveque and the Lacepedes and Broome.

Regional expert lecturers and onboard expedition leaders escort guests on shore excursions, while there are kayaks and snorkelling equipment for when Orion is at anchor, and the opportunity to bottom fish for Golden Snapper, Parrot Fish and Rock Cod, or troll for Trevally and Queen Fish.

Return air from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide, all onboard gourmet dining, entertainment and educational programs are included in the price that starts from $9449pp twin-share – or from $8999 for those who've sailed previously on Orion; gratuities are neither required nor expected.

For full details phone 1300 369 848 or visit www.ecruising.travel

Friday, 26 March 2010

India's Remote River of Tea: The West Australian

The engines pushed and pushed, churning great clouds of silt in the water, but we were stuck.

The Brahmaputra River, a wide voluminous waterway, carries enormous amounts of water and silt all the way from Tibet on its journey to the Bay of Bengal, where it joins forces with the mighty Ganges just north of Calcutta.

The current flows strongly around the port town of Guwahati and spreads out to create immense sand bars - and the MV Charaidew is stuck on one.

Read Full Story


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

And the (Kimberley) Quest begins in 2010...

After spending the last four months exploring Sydney, northern New South Wales and Queensland and playing host to past passengers, travel agents, media and interested clients, the Kimberley Quest II is back in familiar territory cruising the Kimberley as she begins her maiden voyage for the 2010 season.

Proving to be as spectacular as predicted the Kimberley is certainly putting on a great show.

Alive with colour and new life, the rugged gorges are engulfed with water cascading over their ancient escarpments. Masses of delicate flora flourish and dominate the landscape which is complemented by an abundance of bird life. Back to accommodating just 18 passengers, those onboard are enjoying the intimacy that only a small vessel can provide.

The unforgettable sights and breathtaking scenery are once again revealing what is described as 'the ultimate Kimberley experience'.

Cabins are still available for 2010. For more information visit www.kimberleyquest.com.au

The North Pole Debate Still Rages

In September 1909, the American adventurer Frederick A Cook announced that he and two Eskimo companions had just returned from the North Pole after a journey of nearly two years. His bold claims were immediately met with derision by another US veteran of the ice, Robert E Peary. He claimed his own expedition was the first, reaching the Pole on 6 April 1909, conveniently overlooking his Negro manservant, Matthew Henson, who possibly reached it ahead of Peary. More than 100 years later the claims of both these egotistical self-promoters raise serious doubts despite debates supporting both efforts.

Last year, to celebrate the anniversary, British explorer Tom Avery recreated Peary's trek using replica equipment and dog sleds and actually completed the trek in less time despite a much thinner ice pack.
In truth, any claim about a journey to the North Pole during this era must be doubtful because of the elusive nature of the objective and the inherent inaccuracies of the instruments of the time.

William Mills, the late keeper of collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), author of 'Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia' and a regular polar traveller himself, noted:
"Neither Cook's nor Peary's claim has been conclusively disproved, and both have their defenders, but informed consensus is against both claims. Commander Richard Byrd's claim to have made the first aircraft flight to the Pole on 9 May 1926 is similarly controversial and recent evidence suggests that in fact he turned back about 100 miles south of the Pole, though again he too has his defenders. If Cook, Peary, nor Byrd is to be believed, the first to see the Pole were those on Roald Amundsen's airship Norge on 12 May 1926. However, it was the Soviet's 1948 aircraft landing that is generally considered to be the closest to the exact geographic goal."

Despite these other attempts, the most sensational "northing" occurred on 17 August 1977 when the Soviet nuclear icebreaker Arktika became the first surface vessel to reach the Pole.

Today, the Arktika's sister ship, 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory), makes annual sorties to the exact location of the geographic North Pole thanks to modern satellite navigation. Unlike Peary, Cook or Henson, expeditioners authenticate their achievement with a certificate and can immediately silence any dinner party detractors.

Reaching the North Pole

Next Departure 4th - 18th August 2011
Group Size 10
Departing From Helsinki, Finland
Ship Details 50 Years of Victory

Wild Earth Travel
53B Montreal Street, PO Box 7218
Christchurch New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 365 1355
Fax: +64 3 365 1300


Yangtze River Cruise Lines Veering Towards 5-Stars

As the Yangtze River Cruise business matures after completion of the Three Gorges Dam project, visitors are looking for luxury. In a country where the terms "4-star" and "5-star" are thrown around loosely and often defined by the supplier, if you want luxury, best to go to the top level. Also it's wise to read reviews online.

Currently there are 12 5-star river cruise ships operating out of Chongqing, and there are eight more five-star luxury ships to be launched in the next 3 years.

"With such a modern fleet of luxury river cruisers it's a great time to indulge in a Yangtze river cruise. We find many of our guests want this experience as part of their longer, multi-city China tour. We can offer a cruise from any supplier as part of a tour package," says Judy Huang, Travel Manager at The China Guide ( http://www.TheChinaGuide.com ).

The better cruise lines offer gourmet food (Western and Chinese) and luxurious accommodations. There are activities on board including Chinese painting, kite flying, acupuncture, massage, tai chi, dumpling making and other traditional Chinese activities.

Cruises are generally 3 or 4 nights, depending on if you are going up or downstream between Chongqing and Yichang. You can also do a 7-day river journey between Shanghai and Chongqing.

"There are a lot of cruise lines to choose from, and they aren't always honest about their quality," adds Judy Huang. "We help clients make the best decision for their budget based on our experience. Aside from some excellent 5-star ships, there are also some less expensive ships that give a good experience as well. Since we have been doing this for years, we are familiar with all the cruise lines.

"The China Guide ( http://www.TheChinaGuide.com ) can help you plan a Yangtze River Cruise and can even make it part of a custom China wide itinerary.

Blue Lagoon value adds Yasawa cruises with FJD200 bar credit

Fiji's iconic Blue Lagoon Cruises is offering a FJD200* bar credit plus a complimentary bottle of champagne and fruit bowl per cabin on all three, four and seven day Yasawa Island cruise programs booked before 21 April 2010.

Valid for travel until 16 June 2010 the special offer must be booked via Travel Experiences & Magic!, telephone toll free on 1300 669 489 

All Blue Lagoon Cruises' programs are fully inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner plus morning and afternoon tea.

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 Blue Lagoon Cruises' private island of Nanuya Lailai plus visits to remote villages and Kava ceremonies.

Prices start from AUD450.00* for a three-day/two night cruise per person twin share.

Four-day/three-night cruises are priced from AUD600.00* per person twin share while seven-day/six-night prices start from AUD1725* per person twin share.

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

 

Coral Princess Cruises Banishes Single Supplements on the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral Princess has banished the bane of the solo traveller – the ubiquitous 'single supplement' – on its three, four and seven-night Great Barrier Reef cruises.
 
Single travellers can opt for their own private cabin aboard Coral Princess II at no extra cost, a saving of up to $965 on the 7-night cruise. Coral Princess cruises weekly between Townsville and Cairns over three nights, or over four nights departing Cairns and travelling north to Lizard Island and return. The cruises can be combined as a seven-night voyage.

Coral Princess Cruises pioneered small-ship cruising on the Great Barrier Reef, exploring remote islands and reefs normally off-limits to island-based tourists, where snorkelling or SCUBA diving on pristine stretches of coral reef is a matter of simply diving overboard.

The cruises show off some of the world's best snorkelling, swimming and coral viewing spots en route, such as Thetford Reef and Sudbury Reef. The three-night voyage visits Dunk Island and cruises through the Hinchinbrook Channel, while the four-night cruise stops at Cooktown and Lizard Island.

Coral Princess II accommodates a maximum of just 44 passengers and is equipped with a glass bottom boat and inflatable zodiacs for daily reef and shore excursions to deserted coral cays; to wander in ancient rainforests or to explore historic sites. There's even a BBQ on Coral Princess's own private island – Pelorus – with no one in sight but fellow Coral Princess passengers.

Qualified marine biologists and a SCUBA diving instructor are also on board to explain the natural history and biodiversity of the area, making a snorkel or SCUBA dive in the sparkling blue waters even more fascinating. 

The offer is open for new bookings by genuine solo travellers for all departures in 2010 and until further notice. Prices start at $1 496 per person on the three-night cruise ex Townsville or Cairns, or $1 896 per person for the four-night cruise from Cairns to Lizard Island and return, with weekly departures year round. Prices include accommodation, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, group transfers, activities and excursions during the cruise, and landing fees.

For further information and reservations contact 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Time to Jump Aboard Aurora Expeditons

Dear Expeditioners,

It's been a while now since I was last in touch with you and already this season's Antarctic Peninsula voyages are coming to an end.

Last month we hosted a Scottish Heritage Evening at our Sydney office, so thanks to all of you that joined us in making it such a fantastic evening! Special guest Kerry Farmer from The Australian Society of Genealogists advised us to how to trace our Scottish ancestry while Andrew Derbidge, Cellar Master for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society shared his insights (and humour) on Whisky appreciation.

Our information nights have been such a success that we are planning to host more evenings around Australia so keep an eye out on the Aurora website events page or email us to register your interest.

Next month I will be on board our new vessel, Oceanic Discoverer to undertake some research for new itineraries in the Kimberley region. As we also use the Oceanic Discoverer for our Papua New Guinea voyages, it will be the perfect opportunity for me to experience the vessel first hand. I look forward to updating you on my experiences next time!

Best wishes,

Joanna Schuetz
Sales Manager
Aurora Expeditions
jo@auroraexpeditions.com.au

Silversea committed to growing Aussie market


Expedition ship, Prince Albert II

Ultra luxury European liner, Silversea Cruises have reaffirmed its dedication to the Australian market, which delivers 15 per cent of the company’s business and is its fastest growing market, according to visiting Chief Operating Officer, Ken Watson.

Mr Watson, in Sydney earlier this week, said this region was one of the most profitable markets for the cruise line, with more Australians requesting higher-end Suites resulting in the highest daily rate.

Silversea Cruises is also the only luxury cruise line in the region to have a dedicated sales office in Sydney, which Mr Watson said was further proof of its dedication to the region.

In 2011, Silversea’s Silver Shadow will launch a 30-day Circumnavigation around Australia, which Mr Watson said was already 60 per cent full, mainly with Australian guests.

“We try to be the best ultra luxury European cruise line,” Mr Watson said, adding that “being European differentiates us from other American brands”.

Silversea are also heavily promoting its specifically designed Expedition ship, Prince Albert II, of which Australians represent 20 per cent of its customers.

For more information on Silversea’s 2010/11 voyages, visit: www.silversea.com

WEIGHING UP CRUISING’S BIG AND SMALL

A conference of cruise-specialist travel agents in Canberra has been shown something of the diversity in size of cruise ships now available to holidaymakers.

After hearing about the merits of ships big, ships small, ships medium-size, European river cruisers and Asian river-adventure boats, this picture was shown of the truly Big and the Small

It's Royal Caribbean Line's brand new Oasis of the Seas (225,282 tonnes, 5,400 passengers and 2,165 crew) dwarfing SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I (a tiny 4,300 tonnes and just 112 passengers and 95 crew) as they shared a berth in St Thomas in the Caribbean this month.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

OMG! Announcing Cruise West's New Blog

Generated by Guests & Crew Around the Globe

Seattle, WA (March 15, 2010) – Travel the world via Cruise West's (www.cruisewest.com) new Voyages of the Great Explorers blog.  Guests, Captain and crew will share daily stories and observations at sea with daily posts from the line's inaugural world cruise, Voyages of the Great Explorers that departed Singapore on March 6, 2010, aboard the 60-suite Spirit of Oceanus.

Cruise West invited guests to become bloggers on each of the 24 voyages associated with the world voyage.  Encouraged by a free camera and Internet time, the line has had a good response from willing guests.  Follow the journey online or book one of the voyages and join in the adventure.  Blog submissions will also be posted to the line's Facebook page where consumers and travel agents are encouraged to become a fan, and Twitter via the hash tag #VOGE.

Sample Blog submission from a visit to Langkawi Island, Malaysia -- "Today we cruised up the Kelim River to visit a fish farm where we walked among the floating 'ponds' to see various species of the fish they raised and then we were treated to a demonstration of the spitting fish, a wild fish from the river. The fish spits at its prey, causing the prey to fall in the water and its eventual demise. Very amazing."

Blogs from around the world in the coming months may include "TISWLOOTW" (Today I saw whales leaping out of the water), or "ICBTSTCOB" (I can't believe the spectacular temple complex of Borobudur), or "TFISGIMNL" (The food is so good I may never leave)!

Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com), the world's leading provider of small-ship explorations to the most fascinating destinations on earth, invites guests to book one or multiple segments of the 2010 or 2011 world voyages.  Each of the 24 meticulously crafted itineraries from Asia to the Mediterranean, Europe to the Americas and throughout the South Pacific, offers the most discerning and well-traveled guests an array of distinctive choices and authentic experiences.  Savings are still available.  For further details, visit www.CruiseWest.com, call 800-296-8307 or contact a travel professional.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Chimu Adventures Offers 25% off Antarctica Expeditions

Latin America and Antarctica specialist Chimu Adventures is offering 25% off the MS Expedition Antarctica cruises.

The special is valid for all departures in the 2010/2011 season and all expeditions such as the classic 11 day voyage and the longer 20 day 'Spirit of Shackleton' route.

Director of Chimu Adventures, Greg Carter, believes the deal gives people the opportunity to pick up a real bargain in getting to Antarctica. Carter claims, "with the 25% off discount, prices are starting from around $AUD 3775 for the 11-day classic expedition. This is really unbeatable value!"

The offer is available for bookings made before 30th April 2010 and is commissionable for agents.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Quark Expeditions Announces Arctic 2010 Expedition Leaders

Five experienced Expedition Leaders are returning to the Arctic in 2010, announced Vermont-based polar adventure specialist Quark Expeditions. "Expedition Leaders are the X factor," said Patrick Shaw, president. "The best ELs add something extra to an expedition through their personalities and passion for the regions through which they lead travelers."

To celebrate the announcement, travelers who book one of four select Arctic voyages will receive a free extended stay in Oslo, Norway or Reykjavik, Iceland. These packages have a retail value of $1100 and $663 per person respectively.


Quark's Expedition Leaders have various backgrounds. Some are scientists, some historians, many are wildlife specialists and some are skilled yachtsmen and kayakers. All have worked their way up through the ranks to the position. The experience they gained as Zodiac drivers, naturalists, and lecturers is essential for their role as Expedition Leader.

New Zealander Graham Charles is an internationally renowned kayaker with an irreverent sense of humor and unquenchable enthusiasm. Graham will be leading expeditions to Spitsbergen, Eastern Greenland, Iceland and the Canadian Arctic from July 8 to August 20, 2010.

Dr. Kirsten le Mar uses her training and experience as a field biologist as Expedition Leader aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. Kirsten will lead three End of an Era expeditions from Anadyr, Russia to Resolute, Canada in 2010.

Canadian Brandon Harvey studies orcas when he is not leading an Arctic voyage. Between June and September 2010, he will lead expeditions to Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland aboard the 46-passenger Akademik Shokalskiy.

David "Dutch" Willmott has always been drawn to adventure travel in wild places. He has sailed and raced yachts all over the world. He will be leading expeditions to Spitsbergen, Svalbard in June 2010.

David "Woody" Wood started working on expedition vessels as a bartender, so his people skills are well honed. He is an experienced Zodiac driver and can handle firearms -- essential in the Arctic. He will be leading expeditions to Spitsbergen, Svalbard from July to August 2010.

Jan Bryde will lead Quark's Arctic trip to the North Pole, July 9 to 23, 2010. 50 Years of Victory, the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker is Jan's home away from home.

Extend Your Stay

The Oslo extended stay offer is available on three departures: Introduction to Spitsbergen, June 21 to 28; Spitsbergen Explorer June 27 to July 7 or July 14 to 24, 2010. Guests who book any of the listed expeditions will receive a package that includes 1 night in Longyearbyen and 2 nights in Oslo.

The Reykjavik extended stay offer is available on Iceland, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, August 3 to 20, 2010. Guests who book this voyage will receive a package that includes 4 nights in Reykjavik, Iceland.

To receive more information about the Arctic offer and Quark's Expedition Leaders go online or call toll free 888-892-0171.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Silhouette Cruises in the Seychelles

Silhouette Cruises Ltd was established in 1997, offering Seychelles cruises aboard S.V. Sea Shell. In response to the enthusiastic interest generated by this unique brand of cruises, a sister ship S.V. Sea Pearl, was acquired in 1999. Since then, Silhouette Cruises have introduced two modern and luxurious sailing yachts, S.Y. Sea Star and S.Y. Sea Bird, capable of covering greater distances and reaching further destinations.

All four vessels follow standard itineraries for part of the year mainly in the "inner islands" of the Seychelles. They can also be chartered for tailor-made cruises around any of the islands of the Seychelles. The directors of Silhouette Cruises have unequalled knowledge and experience of the islands and have operated boats in the region for many years and are happy to give advice on itineraries to suit clients' needs.

Contact:

Silhouette Cruises
P.O. Box 336
Victoria, Mahé
Seychelles

Office tel (248) 32 40 26
Mobile (248) 51 40 51
Fax (248) 32 43 65
E-mail cruises@seychelles.net

Web site: www.seychelles-cruises.com



VARIETY CRUISES LAUNCHES NEW RIVERS OF WEST AFRICA CRUISE IN DECEMBER 2010

Variety Cruises will set sail on its new cruise adventure to West Africa in December 2010. The Rivers of West Africa cruise will explore a land of lush vegetation and cultural beauty by way of the winding Saloun and Gambia rivers. Passengers will spend eight days aboard the newly renovated PEGASUS mega yacht. Embarking from Dakar, Senegal, the program sails from December 17, 2010 through March 18, 2011, with fares beginning at $2,490 per person, per week. An excursion package is available at an additional cost.

THE PEGASUS

Passengers will sail aboard the mega yacht Pegasus, which hosts just 46 guests with 23 cabins in a relaxed, congenial atmosphere. The vessel, which will be fully refurbished in March 2010, affords magnificent sea views as guests stroll 2,500 square-feet of open deck, furnished with comfortable deck chairs and spaces for delightful al fresco meals. Passengers can relax with friends in the handsomely appointed lounge, browse in the well-stocked library or enjoy ocean-view dining in the spacious restaurant area. A platform on the stern enables swims right off the ship when weather and anchorage conditions permit.

Life on board centers around the indoor/outdoor lounge and the American bar on the upper deck. Friendly service on-board is provided by the captain and his experienced marine and hotel crew members. Cabins are equipped with twin or queen size beds with large windows or portholes. All cabins offer en suite bathrooms with shower, TV/DVD players, hairdryers, individually controlled air conditioning and safety deposit boxes.

ITINERARY

The Rivers of West Africa cruise departs Fridays from Dakar in Senegal and sets sail to Djiffere via the Saloun River. From Djiffere, passengers have the unique opportunity to explore the vibrant village of Joal Fadiout, a fishing community built entirely of shells.

The cruise continues along the Gambia River to the following ports of call:

* Tendaba, home to Kiang West National Park and the Baobolong Reserve
* Kuntaur, a thriving port village on the Gambia river
* Janjangbureh, location of River Gambia National Park, a conservations sanctuary for chimpanzees, hippopotamuses, Nile crocodiles and many bird species
* Banjul, the capital city of Gambia and nearby the Nature Reserves of Abuko and Makasutu

The Rivers of West Africa cruise fares begin at $2,490 per person, per week, which includes:

* Accommodation in double or twin cabins with private SH/WC & air conditioning.
* American buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
* Coffee, tea and water free all day.
* Use of fishing and snorkeling equipment (subject to availability).
* English speaking Gambia River Expert.

Fares do not include shore excursions or crew gratuities.
Optional pre or post land program extensions feature seven days in Mali and Timbuktu. Explore the charming local markets of vibrant Mopti, and revel in the beauty of the impressive mud brick Grand Mosque of Djenné. Spend a full day in Timbuktu, and discover why it is has earned the nickname “City of Mystery.”
For more information on Variety Cruises’ Rivers of West Africa program, please visit www.varietycruises.com, or call 1-866-944-8498 (Canada) and 1-800-319-7776 (US).

About Variety Cruises

Variety Cruises offers luxury, premium and casual experiences in old-world or cosmopolitan locales. Founded in 2005, it is one of the largest small ship cruise company worldwide with a fleet of more than 17 fully owned vessels, including cruise ships and luxury yachts. The family-owned company offers scheduled tours through Greece, Turkey, the Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean, and a charter yacht program that further traverses the globe. Itineraries are a unique opportunity to savor the cultural, architectural, historical and natural diversity of each port. With a private, convivial and relaxed ship environment, fine cuisine and personalized service, the company is positioning itself to become the choice for travelers seeking a superb small ship cruise experience. Variety Cruises is affiliated with key travel organizations, including: United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), Ensemble, Vacation.com, Central Holidays, TravelSavers, Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance (NCMA), Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN), National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA), Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel (NEST), International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) Vacations.

American Safari Cruises Releases 2011 Dates and Rates


In advance of its 2011 comprehensive all-destination brochure due out this summer, American Safari Cruises announces dates and rates through November 2011 for four destinations: Alaska’s Inside Passage, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia and Snake rivers, and the Pacific Northwest.

“Because our yachts have small guest contingents and seasonal sailings, space fills up rapidly,” says Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing, “and we want to give travel agents plenty of time to secure their clients’ preferred dates and destinations.”

Alaska

In 2011, all three of the company’s luxury yachts will spend two full days in Glacier Bay National Park on eight-day, seven-night cruises roundtrip from Juneau.

• The 145-foot, 36-guest Safari Explorer will sail May 13 through Sept. 2 on 17 departures; prices begin at $4,895 per person double occupancy.

• The 120-foot, 22-guest Safari Quest will cruise May 20 through Sept. 2 on 16 departures, including two Kids-in-Nature sailings geared for families with young children; prices begin at $5,495 per person.

• The 105-foot, 12-guest Safari Spirit sails May 13 through Aug. 26 on 16 departures; prices begin at $6,095 per person.

The three yachts also offer two 15-day, 14-night cruises between Seattle and Juneau: The Safari Explorer departs Seattle April 29 and Juneau Sept. 9 with prices beginning at $8,095; the Safari Quest departs May 6 and Sept. 9 beginning at $8,295; and the Safari Spirit departs April 29 and Sept. 2 beginning at $9,995.

All yachts are available for a full private charter, which includes the crew, fuel, port taxes, from-yacht excursions, food and spirits; prices begin at $78,995.

Mexico

The Safari Spirit’s eight-day, seven-night cruises in the wildlife-rich wilderness of Mexico’s Sea of Cortés run Nov. 20 through Dec. 27, 2010, and Jan. 8 through March 19, 2011, roundtrip from La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. A burro trail ride, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with sea lions, whale watching and hiking are all included activities. Prices begin at $6,995.

Columbia and Snake rivers

For its eight-day, seven-night cruises on the ruggedly beautiful Columbia and Snake rivers, American Safari Cruises offers six river expedition and seven wine and culinary theme departures aboard the Safari Explorer in spring 2011 and Safari Quest in fall 2011.

The wine and culinary cruises will feature guest sommeliers and executive chefs to help guests expand their knowledge of wines and how to pair them with specific menus; guests will tour five Washington wineries. The river expedition cruises will focus on the plentiful wildlife, Columbia Gorge cliffs and waterfalls, eight lock and dam transits, and the colorful history of the area. Both cruises include a jet boat tour of Hells Canyon; prices begin at $4,295 per person.

Pacific Northwest

The Safari Spirit has five scheduled eight-day, seven-night cruises roundtrip from Friday Harbor, Wash., in September and October 2011. The itinerary includes the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands, Princess Louisa Inlet and city stops at Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. Prices begin at $6,095 per person.

American Safari Cruises’ inclusive sailings feature gourmet cuisine; complimentary fine wines and premium spirits; all from-yacht activities; onboard kayaks and motorized skiffs for close-up exploration; and a 2 to 1 guest-crew ratio. Staterooms offer private bathrooms with heated floors (some Jacuzzis), DVD players and Tempur-pedic mattresses.

Hawaiian Islands weeklong yacht explorations to Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island begin Oct. 26, 2011, and run to May 3, 2012. Dates and rates are available now; full details will be released by the end of March 2010.

Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus Inaugural World Voyage Commences


Singapore by night

Cruise West’s (www.cruisewest.com) maiden world voyage aboard the 60-suite Spirit of Oceanus set sail from Singapore on March 6, 2010, with 71 delighted guests (including two solo travelers who are participating on the entire 335-day circumnavigation) and 72 crew.

Guests were welcomed to a special gala at the legendary Raffles Hotel on March 5 that included the hotel’s signature Singapore Sling cocktail, entertainment by a traditional Chinese orchestra, a mystical fortuneteller accompanied by a parrot with ‘divination’ capabilities, a warm welcome by Captains Reidulf Maalen, Malcolm Scanlan and Boris Tsvetkov and a sumptuous dinner featuring Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. In addition, each guest received a monogrammed fan with hand painted Chinese calligraphy of his or her name, ending the evening with a city tour by night via Trishaws. Concluding the festivities on embarkation day, March 6, was a champagne toast and a colorful, raucous Lions Dance, said to be an auspicious way to begin such an extraordinary series of voyages.

Captain Maalen remarked, “This is truly a grand moment for the Spirit of Oceanus, her guests and her crew. No other line, big or small, has endeavored to circumnavigate the world in 335 days. I am thrilled to be at the helm of five of the 24 voyages and be a part of making history.”

The first of 24 distinct voyages, a Southeast Asian journey, will travel for 15 nights from Singapore to Chennai, India, making stops at Malacca, Malaysia; Georgetown, Penang; Langkawi; Phuket and Kho Yao, Thailand; Similan Islands; Rangoon, Myanmar; and the Andaman Islands en route to Chennai. This is not an ordinary voyage – guests will enjoy exclusive and fascinating included excursions, further exploration of remote islands via Zodiac and presentations by expert guest lecturers.

There’s still time to book one or multiple segments of the 2010 or 2011 world voyages that range from 9 – 18 nights. Each meticulously crafted itinerary from Asia to the Mediterranean, Europe to the Americas and throughout the South Pacific offer the most discerning and well-traveled guests an array of distinctive choices and authentic experiences. Savings are still available. To book a Cruise West voyage or for more information call 1-800-689-1783.

Cruise West Ventures to Patagonia 2011 -- By Land and By Sea


Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com), the world's leading provider of small-ship explorations to the most fascinating destinations on earth, ventures to rugged and mysterious Patagonia in 2011 with four departures aboard the spacious 64-cabin mv Via Australis.  The new 8- or 10- night journey highlights hotspots in Chile by land and cruising through renowned channels, scenic bays and glaciated fjords from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas.  Save $600 per person by paying in full by April 30, 2010.

Patagonia is like no other place on earth offering impressive landscapes, beautiful vegetation and a variety of marine mammals and wildlife.  The journey includes two nights in the thriving city of Santiago where guests will partake on a private walking tour, lively folkloric dinner show and a full day touring Casablanca Valley, one of Chile's supreme wine regions, and historic Valparaiso, once the residence of poet Pablo Neruda.  Board the mv Via Australis in Punta Arenas, an included flight away, and head out to sea on a custom-designed 5-night voyage, cruising through the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel that separates the islands of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, making a stop at Magdalena Island to visit the immense colony of Magellanic Penguins.

Continue onto Ainsworth Bay located inside the Alberto De Agostini National Park that offers a sun-polar Magellanic forest, and if the timing is right, elephant seals lounging on the beach; explore a scenic amphitheatre of glaciers via Zodiacs in Brookes Bay; and search for marine mammals around Carlos III Island and Rupert Inlet, known for its unique biodiversity.  After navigating across Desolation Bay en route Pia Fjord, explore smaller inlets by Zodiac, stopping to hike to a look out point offering spectacular views of the entire glacier tongue of Pia Glacier.

Last day of exploration includes majestic 'Glacier Alley;' Cape Horn National Park, declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005; and Wulaia Bay, once the site of the largest Yamana aboriginal settlement. Disembark in Ushuaia and continue by plane to Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires for one last night of fun including a farewell Tango dinner show and city tour.

The 10-night program includes two extra nights in Puerto Natales with private escorted tours of majestic Torres Del Paine National Park and Milodon Cave, where in 1895 the remains of extinct animals such as the Sabre Tooth Tiger and the Milodon (giant sloths) were found.

Choose from four departure dates: January 26, 31; and February 5 and 10, 2011.  Prices start at $6,095 per person for the 8-night and $6,795 for the 10-night program, before savings, and include internal flights, all excursions and hotel nights as listed.  Save $600 per person by paying in full by April 30, 2010. Note the journey operates one-way between Santiago and Buenos Aires or reverse, depending on departure date.  For further details, visit www.CruiseWest.com, call 800-296-8307 or a contact a travel professional.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

After The Wet, the Kimberley Waterfalls and Mighty Rivers Flow


The famed Kimberley Waterfall Season is just around the corner – and the luxury adventure cruise ship, True North, is giving guests the opportunity to experience the Kimberley at its very best!

The True North kicks off the 2010 Kimberley Wilderness Season next month.

North Star Cruises' General Manager Peter Trembath said the period immediately following the monsoons presented as the best opportunity to see iconic waterfalls such as Mitchell Falls and King George Falls at their thundering best.

"In fact, there's no better time to see the Kimberley," said Mr Trembath.

"The whole region is transformed by rivers in flood, towering waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife," he said.

"Billabongs are swollen, massive wetlands are alive with birdlife, and let's not forget the barramundi will be biting!"

"True North's guests enjoy unique experiences you just can't find anywhere else, including helicopter flights to secluded locations every day of the cruise."

"This is always one of the most popular times of the year and the remaining cabins won't last long."

As an added bonus, this year's Kimberley Wilderness season  will feature a range of special guests including:

Guitarist Phil Ceberano provides classic accompaniment on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruises 2A Wyndham to Hunter River (27 March – 3 April) and 2B Hunter River to Broome (3 April – 9 April)

Kimberley  Artists Mark Norval & Donny Woolagoodja introduce the oldest paintings known to man on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruises 4A Wyndham to Hunter River (24 April – 1 May) and 4B Hunter River to Broome (1 May – 7 May)

Renowned artist Douglas Kirsop unlocks the secrets of landscape painting on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 5 Broome to Wyndman (8 – 21 May)

New  talent Andrew Tischler will astound with his life-like paintings on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 6 Wyndham to Broome (22 May – 4 June)

Geologist Phil Playford presents his theories on global warming and more on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 7 Broome to Wyndham (5-18 June)

Celebrity Chef Ryan Carey cooks up a storm on board Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 8 Wyndham to Broome (19 June – 2 July)

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

The first cruise of the season departs on March 13.

Kimberley Wilderness Cruise prices start from $10,495.

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

Monday, 8 March 2010

Cruise the Kimberley with Coral Princess and Photographer, Steve Parish

Coral Princess Cruises has teamed up with world-renowned nature photographer, Steve Parish to help passengers 'capture' the magnificence of the Kimberley, on a 10-night cruise between Broome and Darwin.

The brilliant light of the Kimberley both inspires and challenges photographers: the intense palette of the landscape is undeniably dramatic – but to capture the extreme contrasts photographically and render them accurately requires a little insider knowledge. Ten days under Steve Parish's tutelage is a precious insight into the tricks of the trade.

Over aeons, the Kimberley coast of Western Australia has been scored and scoured by wind and water and painted with a super-saturated palette to form one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth. Steve Parish – who rarely conducts photography classes – will draw on his 40 years of photographic field work in diverse Australian landscapes to inspire guests aboard the Oceanic Discoverer to capture their own vision of the Kimberley.

Over 10 days, cruising between Broome and Darwin, Parish will conduct a series of workshops, informal discussions and field excursions, covering topics such as the philosophy of nature photography and connecting with the landscape; style and technique; different subjects and – most relevant to the Kimberley's extremes – working with light.

The 10-night Kimberley cruise visits Kuri Bay, home of the South Pacific pearl industry, and ventures ashore to view the world-famous Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings, - the world's oldest known indigenous art – and the towering, 80-metre King George Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Western Australia. There is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls, as well as excursions into secluded gorges and to rock pools perfect for swimming. The cruise explores the Buccaneer Archipelago – made up of 800 islands – and includes an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the 'Horizontal Waterfall', where the tide floods between rocky cliffs.

The Oceanic Discoverer will carry a maximum of 68 passengers in luxury, with a complement of highly-experienced staff, including naturalist guides and guest lecturers

For Parish, whose work is recognised around the world and who has published numerous books, photography is "about promoting an understanding of the importance of nature. The first step has to be to light a fire in someone — inspire them to learn more, inspire them to genuinely become one with nature, urge them to connect with it and to celebrate its beauty and diversity."

The 10-night Coral Princess Kimberley Cruise with Steve Parish departs Broome on September 20, 2010, costing from $8750 per person, twin share, cruise only, in a Main Deck (Category B) stateroom.

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises on 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au.



Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Is Expedition Cruising the Purest Ecotourism?

Out in the wide world of commercial travel, cruising is enjoying a revival. Buoyed by the new wave of gigantic, luxurious vessels carrying up to 5000 passengers for as little a two hundred dollars per day, the allure is understandable.

In Australia, cruise passenger numbers have tripled in less than ten years. In 2009, around 350,000 travelled on a cruise ship. In 2002, it was 116,308. All sectors and geographic areas are enjoying growth including river cruising, adventure cruising and boutique products.

“It’s a thrill to see Papua New Guinea really hitting its straps as a cruise destination now,” says Tony Briggs of Coral Princess Cruises, “and our projections for New Zealand are also exciting thanks to some new strategic marketing.”

Overseas in the US and Europe, things were certainly gloomier and the big lines, replete with sparkling new vessels and empty cabins, discounted like never before to counter the GFC blues. Our own operators also felt the loss of inbound passengers, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Orion Expeditions from doubling their fleet and itineraries.

But is all this exciting expansion good for tourism in emerging and fragile destinations? Many of us recall the experience of going ashore from a big ship in Fiji in the 1980s and ‘90s. Merchants, touts and traders out in force, extracting every penny from the tourists. Beads, shells and the dreaded carved wooden knives now decorate mantelpieces from Bondi to Birdsville.

Since the early ‘90s, adventure and expedition cruising has been on a steady upward curve. Small ships, ice class vessels, river steamers and boutique cruisers have carried inquisitive soft adventurers to remote tropical islands and chilly polar regions in search of enrichment and excitement. Small numbers, little or no infrastructure and strict environmental protocols mean an experience in contrast to those aboard their bigger brethren.

Recent attention to climate change and environmental degradation has accelerated a certain urgency among thinking travellers to see our rapidly changing planet. Some scientists predict our children will see a complete disappearance of the polar ice cap in their lifetime.

Expedition and adventure cruising in low impact vessels, carrying small passenger numbers (often 100 or less) to destinations with little or no tourism infrastructure is quite possibly one of the purest forms of ecotourism.

While icebergs and penguin colonies often come to mind when thinking of expedition cruising, destinations much closer to home can yield the same ‘other world’ experience. Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Indonesia and our own remote Kimberley coast and Great Barrier Reef transport travellers to a world much like that encountered by 18th and 19th century explorers.

The increased demand for adventure cruise itineraries can be viewed as a positive indicator among the travelling public. A growing awareness of our fragile planet and its disappearing cultures and wildlife urges more and more conscientious tourists to venture out in search of the “experiential and transformational” promised by adventure marketers.

RIVER CRUISE INTO ‘LOST CAMBODIA’ OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM

PANDAW River Cruises that operate replica 19th century colonial riverboats on the waterways of South-east Asia, will take guests on a rare cruise experience later this year into the upper reaches of the Mekong River and the little-visited “Lost Cambodia” of Somerset Maugham.

Just two 10-night journeys will be made upstream from Saigon to Siam Reap, and two downstream back to Saigon, with all meals, local beers and spirits, soft drinks, mineral water, tea and coffee and a daily “local cocktail” included in the price, that starts from US$4950pp twin-share and from US$1950 for a single cabin.

The 38-cabin Tonle Pandaw will sail these unique adventures with highlights including the great Mekong Delta, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, tribal villages, trishaw, and sampan and “Cyclo” excursions, a silk-weaving village, centuries-old temples, and now-dilapidated once-grand French colonial towns.

There will also be an excursion to Cambodia’s rare river dolphins, a road trip to the rarely-visited temples of Sam Bor, and a visit to an orphanage supported by Pandaw River Cruises.

A hotel night in Saigon pre-sailing and one in Siam Reap post-sailing are also included; the downstream itinerary has slight variations to that upstream.

Upstream sailings are on October 10 and November 1 and downstream on October 20 and November 10; airfares are additional. Details from travel agents, phone Pandaw River Cruises on (02) 8080 5622, email jlbati@ozemail.com.au or visit www.pandaw.com

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Orion Itinerary Changes for Kimberley 2010

Now including Bungle Bungle complimentary flight-seeing and an overnight in Broome at no additional cost

Orion Expedition Cruises is enhancing its Kimberley itineraries for the 2010 season, offering the most inclusive Kimberley experience together with service standards unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere.

Due to a change in interpretation of Australian Government rules governing cruise ships in the Kimberley region, Orion is slightly altering its Kimberley itineraries. This provides the opportunity to enhance the itineraries with the following additions - at no extra cost to guests:

* Visit to the port of Wyndham - opportunity to visit Kununurra, heart of the East Kimberley
* Inclusion of complimentary flight-seeing over the famous Bungle Bungle ranges
* Inclusion of one night's complimentary accommodation in one of Broome's finest hotels including breakfast and transfers
* Now an 11 night holiday for the original cost of 10 nights

First brought to the world's attention only 25 years ago, the Bungle Bungle ranges are part of Purnululu National Park, a natural wonder seen firsthand by only a privileged few. The ranges are best experienced by air and are a short flight from Wyndham or Kununurra. Orion Expedition Cruises will be the only operator in the region to offer this amazing experience as part of its Kimberley voyages at no additional cost.

Orion will also be providing overnight accommodation in one of Broome's top hotels before or after the 10 night voyage, thus providing guests with an 11 night holiday for the cost of the usual 10 night expedition.

Operationally, Orion will leave Australian waters to comply with international voyage requirements - this will provide guests on board with a relaxing and enjoyable day at sea to enjoy the premium 5 star comforts and facilities on board Orion.

Orion's Kimberley season runs from May to September, offering guests a range of twelve 10 night cruise itineraries between the tropical city of Darwin and historic pearling town of Broome (and vice versa).

Fares Guide:

Pricing remains unchanged

2010 Kimberley Expedition fares begin from $9,100 per person for an ocean view Category B Stateroom. Junior Suites begin from $12,660 per person for a Junior Suite and Owners Suites with French Balcony are $19,055 per person

Expedition fares are per person twin occupancy, include accommodation, all meals, flight seeing over the Bungle Bungles, one night complimentary accommodation in Broome and selected activities ashore.