Thursday, 31 March 2011

Adventure Galapagos Cruise Vacation: AdventureSmith Explorations Announces Romantic Getaways

MY Grace
Active cruise specialist AdventureSmith Explorations, the travel company that secures matches between adventure-seeking clients and a treasure trove of small expedition ships, announces a series of celebrity commemorative cruises in the Galapagos this April.

Four themed expeditions aboard M/Y Grace honor the occasion of the April 19, 1955, wedding of Hollywood royalty Grace Kelly to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. They then honeymooned on this 146-foot luxury yacht that was gifted to them by Aristotle Onassis.

Guests will be welcomed with champagne and Ecuadorian chocolates along with conservation lectures by scientists of the Darwin Foundation. Each guest will receive a photo book of the expedition covering the history of the vessel and details of the royal couple’s honeymoon.

“The M/Y Grace is widely considered one of the most romantic ships to cruise in the Galapagos,” claims Todd Smith, founder and president of AdventureSmith Explorations. “We have always recommended this ship to couples on honeymoon or celebrating a special anniversary. These special departures will make the experience even more special.”

M/Y Grace offers nine spacious staterooms of up to 200 square feet to accommodate 16 guests. All staterooms feature private bathrooms, individual climate controls, safe boxes, telephones and plenty of storage space for clothing and luggage. See:

The dates set aside for this special cruise are: April 2 – 9, April 9 – 16, April 16 – 23, and April 23 – 30, 2011. Per person, double rates begin at $6,795 for this luxury experience. AdventureSmith is currently offering $500 off per cabin on these special departures. See:

The Grace cruise packages begin and end in colonial Quito, Ecuador and include Quito hotel accommodations, airport/hotel transfers, round trip flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands and a half day tour of the Quito’s old town, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.

About the M/Y Grace


Although M/Y Grace looks as young and chic today as the princess who honeymooned aboard her in the 1950s, she is nonetheless what the French call “une femme d’un certain age” born in 1928, just before The Crash silenced the Roaring Twenties. She has surrendered none of her youth’s glamour to the scars and wrinkles of a gallant life, including a stint chasing submarines during World War II. Combat aged on her, but benefactors like Aristotle Onassis, John Issa, and Prince Rainier ensured she was kept in the style to which she was accustomed. Now, as the M/Y Grace, she plies the waters of the Galapagos Islands, once again the elegant hostess to carefree, adventurous, perfect parties.

Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Tahoe City, California along the western shore of Lake Tahoe.  Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or 530-583-1775.
Email: travel@AdventureSmithExplorations.com or visit: www.AdventureSmithExplorations.com

CRUISECO’S EXCLUSIVE SMALL-SHIP CRUISING WORLD-WIDE

A FOURTEEN-night cruise aboard the 57-stateroom Island Sky from Stockholm to Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark and Scotland, is one of over forty small-ship experiences world-wide with Noble Caledonia, and available in Australia exclusively through Cruiseco.

The eleven independently-owned ships of Noble Caledonia (exclusing MS Island Sky which is solely owned by Noble Caledonia) range in size from just six to 100 staterooms, cruising waters as diverse as the Caribbean Islands or Antarctica, Scandinavia or Scotland, Russia or Morocco, the Baltic, Galapagos, Greece or Assam…

There's also a choice of European river cruising, and even a Golfing Expedition to the Islands and Highlands of Scotland.

And rather than traditional "big ship" cruising, the vessels of Noble Caledonia offer a yacht-like ambience with inter-active guest speaker and port briefings, and entertainment at night that's generally quiet music in a lounge or bar.

The 16-night package with Island Sky on August 9th this year includes a hotel night pre-cruise in Stockholm, a night aboard ship in Stockholm before cruising, 14-nights on board Island Sky, a hotel night post-cruise in Edinburgh, return airfares and taxes from Australia, shore excursions, and all meals aboard ship including house wine, beer or soft-drinks with lunch and dinner. It is priced from $10,899pp twin-share.

For a free 70-page brochure detailing ships and their itineraries, and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies who are exclusive sellers of Noble Caledonia in Australia, visit www.cruising.com.au

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA BY REPLICA COLONIAL RIVERBOAT

CRUISECO has a series of exclusive charters of the replica colonial riverboat Indochina Pandaw on the Mekong River between Saigon and Angkor at substantially-reduced prices.

These cruises on select dates between October this year and September 2012 will take guests from the bustle and vibrancy of Vietnam into the jungled serenity of ancient Cambodia, with highlights along the way including towns abounding with French Colonial architecture, an eco-village, floating markets, rice fields, a silk-weaving village, visits to a rural school and orphanage, the fabled temples of Angkor Wat, and the solemnity of the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh.

Cruiseco has packaged these 7-night cruises with return airfares and taxes from mainland capitals, two nights at the Deluxe Caravelle Hotel in Saigon and two in the deluxe Raffles Hotel D'Angkor in Siem Reap, all transfers, and extensive daily sightseeing with local guides including aboard local ferries, river motor-boats and even a trishaw; the 60-passenger Indochina Pandaw includes most meals, soft drinks and local beer and spirits, onboard gratuities and government taxes.

Package prices begin from $4369pp for the first passenger and from $2999 for the second passenger sharing a cabin. For full details, itineraries and optional 3-day/2-night add-ons in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, visit www.cruising.com.au

ADDITIONAL CRUISE INFORMATION: The near-new Indochina Pandaw is a faithful reproduction of the riverboats of the one-time Irrawaddy Flotilla Company that carried passengers and freight into areas of Asia early in the last century, and which even today are still inaccessible by any means other than riverboats.

The ship features teak and brass, broad promenade decks, an observation deck, a restaurant whose sides open-up to take in the expansive views, and roomy cabins with luxury ensuites.
 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Itinerary and Date Changes for Orion II Launch Season

Clelia II with mocked up Orion II livery

Orion Expedition Cruises advises itinerary changes due to the later than anticipated delivery of Orion II combined with the current situation in Japan.

The vessel, currently operating as Clelia II, is due to undertake a scheduled dry dock prior to delivery to Orion Expedition Cruises. Due to the time required for additional technical work the owners have advised that delivery will be delayed up until 20 May 2011. OEC’s planned interior upgrade works remain unaffected by this delay.

Orion Expedition Cruises has revised its launch schedule as follows:

* Inaugural voyage 10 June to 4 July 2011
* Russian Far East 4 July to 18 July
* Inland Sea of Japan 18 July to 28 July
* Ryukyu 28 July to 11 August
* Borneo 11 August to 21 August


All itineraries post 21 August 2011 are unchanged.

Guests are being contacted individually to be advised of these date changes and to assist with any adjustments to travel plans.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website www.orionexpeditions.com

Polar ship, Akademik Ioffe, far from 'retired'

Active Travel, Australian agent for One Ocean Expeditions has reacted strongly to a recent press release from Quark Expeditions claiming its ship, the Akademik Ioffe, had become out-dated. One Ocean has recently taken over full charter of the Akademik Ioffe for the next three seasons and claims it is the best expedition ship operating in Polar waters.

"This really is an extraordinary statement from Quark management', said Active Travel Marketing Manager Richard Cunningham. "Quark continues to work with the Sergei Vavilov, the sister-ship of Akademik Ioffe, which – according to Quark's own website is 'recognized as one of the finest expedition ships to ever sail the polar seas'. Perhaps they simply have too many ships in their portfolio and have forgotten that the two vessels are – to all intents and purposes – identical!"

In taking over full charter of the Akademik Ioffe, One Ocean Expeditions is making several onboard improvements. These include a wellness centre, complete with massage therapist, a hot water spa, upgrades to all cabins with new mattresses and extensive amenity upgrades.

"In fact", said Cunningham, "there's so much happening on the Ioffe that it will soon cease to look like a sister ship to the Vavilov, so we're comfortable with Quark's claim that the Vavilov is ONE OF the finest expedition ships to sail the polar seas".

Active Travel has released its 2011/12 Antarctic cruise programme which includes many new and innovative activities, such as an overnight kayaking adventure and the chance to ski on the peninsula itself. Call 02-9264 1231 for more details or visit www.activetravel.com.au


Monday, 28 March 2011

SPECIAL GUESTS JOIN TRUE NORTH IN 2011

North Star Cruises Australia is pleased to announce that some very special guests are scheduled to embark on the adventure-cruise ship TRUE NORTH during 2011 for part of the 'extraordinary people in extraordinary places' campaign.  Special guests to be announced for the first phase of the campaign include pioneers from the arts and entertainment industry with many more to be announced later in the year. 

Jacinda Bayne
To kick off the campaign, guests will enjoy the company and insight of Jacinda Bayne who is a much-lauded landscape artist and recent winner of the Mandjar Art Award. Jacinda will surely be in awe of the 'waterfall season' when she joins a Kimberley Ultimate cruise in early April and guests will have unique opportunity to see Jacinda bring this spectacular landscape to canvas.

Multi-award winning art teacher, Mark Norval is fast establishing himself as a TRUE NORTH favourite. Mark's relaxed and informal lessons were very popular with guests when he completed a 2010 Kimberley cruise and the inspirational Kimberley will again be 'centre of piece' when Mark rejoins the TRUE NORTH in late April.

Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie will be a real treat for guests embarking on the TRUE NORTH in May. At 22 years of age Sarah is already a pianist, vocalist and composer of remarkable flare and technique. Sarah has performed at some of Australia's highest profile jazz events and alongside headliners such as James Morrison and Michael Buble. Sarah's performances in the ship's lounge are bound to compliment an already impressive stage.

True North also welcomes Linda Klarfeld who is one of Australia's most accomplished bronze sculptors. Her works can be seen in many venues from places of worship to sporting halls of fame. However, when Linda joins a Kimberley cruise in August it will be the first time that she has taken her art to sea. Linda will offer guests opportunity to 'try their hand' at sculpting and some may even be fortunate enough to have their Kimberley experience immortalised in a very different form indeed!

Phil Ceberano and Russell Robertson
True North is thrilled to welcome back one of Australia's most talented guitarists, Phil Ceberano.  Phil has previously impressed True North guests with his entertaining performances – both on and off the stage when he embarked on an 'Ultimate Kimberley' cruise in April 2010. This time Phil teams up with good mate and former AFL Star, Russell Robertson. Phil and Russell met during the filming of the TV show 'It Takes Two' where Russell was runner-up performing with Phil's sister the fabulous, Kate Ceberano.  The pair went on to record Russell's debut album 'Higher' with Phil producing and performing.  Phil & Russell perform around Australia for many one-off VIP events. No doubt we have a couple of characters on our hands and the entertainment is bound to extend well beyond the ship's lounge!

For more information visit http://www.northstarcruises.com.au

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Quark Expeditions Retires Expedition Vessel Akademik Ioffe

Akademik Ioffe in Neko Harbour (c) Ewen Bell

Quark Expeditions said the Akademik Ioffe has sailed its final voyage for the polar specialist. The former Russian research vessel converted to an expedition ship had become out-dated, said Quark President Hans Lagerweij. “The 21st century polar travelers want cabins with private facilities, stylish public areas, and a choice of places to congregate to share a drink,” he said.

The 107-passenger vessel was a time capsule of the early years of polar travel, when spartan efficiency was enough to satisfy the early adopters. The contemporary polar traveler is more sophisticated, unwilling to forgo the creature comforts for the thrill of adventure.

The 112-passenger Sea Spirit, Quark’s first luxury vessel, will fulfill the Ioffe schedule in the Antarctic in 2011-12. Every cabin has king or twin beds, facilities en suite, a seating area and exterior views. Some cabins have balconies. Drinks are free and a 10MB communication access card is included in the per-person price.

The education program, shore landings and concern for the environment that polar travelers have come to expect from Quark are transferred to Sea Spirit. Its limited capacity ensures the ship is eligible to visit all Antarctic landing sites.

Polar travelers who book an Antarctic cruise aboard Sea Spirit will save 15 percent off the published fares if they book before April 29. This savings does not apply to triple cabins, but it does apply to the ship’s Owner’s Suite.

Quark Expeditions has extended its hours. Phones now are open 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. For more information, call 888-892-0171 or visit www.quarkexpeditions.com.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Captain Cook Cruises Launch New Fiji Cruise

Children on Rabi Island perform for passengers (c) R Eime
Captain Cook Cruises is excited to be launching the first ever Fiji cruise to circumnavigate Vana Levu, Fiji's second largest island, the seven nights Discovery Cultural Cruise onboard the MV Reef Endeavour.

The Discovery Cultural Cruise will explore the beaches, islands, rivers, towns and rainforests of the remote north and discovers the three different cultures of the Ellice Islanders (Micronesia), Bananas (Polynesia) and Fijian (Melanesian) peoples.

The seven nights Discovery Cultural Cruise has four scheduled sailings for 2011 including 07 June, 02 August, 04 October and 06 December.

"Our new cruise is the only one of its kind operating in Fiji and provides passengers with a unique opportunity to explore and discover the remote north of Fiji. We are so happy to be launching this cruise and we hope it brings even more tourists into Fiji." Said Jackie Charlton, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, Captain Cook Cruises.

The Discovery Cultural Cruise visits Tivua Island, beautiful Nananu-i-ra Island and Yadua Island where passengers visit the Crested Iguana Sanctuary and swim with gentle Manta Rays. A trip to Kia Island, the world's third longest barrier reef, promises passengers an unforgettable snorkelling or glass bottom boating experience.

Passengers also visit the schools, meet villagers and enjoy an introduction to the different culture and lifestyles of the Ellice (Polynesian) and Banabas (Melanesian) on Kio and Rabi Islands and discover the traditional Fijian culture, with a village sevusevu ceremony, meke and lovo feast.

The cultural experience continues with a visit to the thriving market of spices, fish, poultry, goat and local products in Vanua Levu's largest town, Labasa, followed by a trip to Fiji's deepest river, Dreketi River, where by tender passengers explore the river, passing villages and towering rainforests.

Each day passengers can relax, swim or snorkel at a picturesque islands including Druadura Island, Galoa Island, Yaqaqa Island and Mana Cay Sali Sali Island or choose to stay onboard the MV Reef Endeavour and enjoy a cocktail by the pool or beauty treatment at the ship's newly renovated Senikai Spa.

Captain Cook Cruises regular 7 night cruises continue to operate and the former "Dateline" cruise has been re-named "Discovery Heritage Cruise" reflecting the significant historical points of interest visited on the cruise including crossing the 180 degree meridian.

The Discovery Cultural Cruise departs Denarau Marina on Tuesdays at 2.00pm and disembarks at 9.00am the following Tuesday. Early Booking Saver fares start from just AU$1399 per person twin share and includes shipboard accommodation, all meals, guided village and island tours, glass bottom boat excursions, on board entertainment and use of the ship's facilities including a swimming pool, spa, sauna, sun deck, cocktail bar and much more.


For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free from Australia on 1800 804 843; Int +61-2-9206 1111, Email: fiji@captaincook.com.au or visit www.captaincook.com.au.

New Rooms and Refurbishments for Fiji's MV Reef Endeavour


Captain Cook Cruises has recently completed an extensive rebuild and renovation on Fiji cruise ship, MV Reef Endeavour, with the ship now featuring brand new suites and interconnecting family rooms and a refurbished spa and gymnasium.

Tabua Suite (bedroom)
The ships top deck Tabua Staterooms have been transformed into luxurious and much larger one bedroom Tabua Suites. The suites feature separate bedroom and lounge areas, two ensuite bathrooms, television, mini-bar and tea and coffee facilities.

Families will now have the choice between the new and spacious interconnecting family rooms which sleep two adults and two children or the inside family cabins which sleep four people in bunk style accommodation.

Family Cabin (4-berth)
The Reef Endeavours Senikai Spa has had a complete refurbishment. The spa is now in a more spacious Tabua Stateroom and can offer couples massages at the same time, perfect for honeymooners who book a "His & Her" package.

Senikai Spa has also undergone a total new colour design and now features plush blue carpet, freshly painted beige walls and black wooden furniture and room trimmings, giving the spa a new chic, modern but relaxing atmosphere.

An outdoor massage area has also been set up next to Senikai Spa, so passenger can combine a relaxing spa treatment with spectacular views of the Yasawa Islands. Massages are still available by Senikai Spa on all the islands the cruise visits.

Passengers can now get their daily exercise in the Reef Endeavours new gymnasium that has been fully equipped with two bikes, treadmill, rowing machine, weights, gym ball and boxing gear.

"These rebuilds and refurbishments complete a whole new experience for our many repeat passengers and something exciting and unique for passengers embarking on their first cruise. Now Passengers will continue to be welcomed by the friendliest people in the world in an even more comfortable and relaxed environment." said Nick Hortle, CEO, Captain Cook Cruises.


For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free from Australia on 1800 804 843, Int +61-2-9206 1111, Email: fiji@captaincook.com.au or visit www.captaincook.com.au.


Nile River Cruise Operator Fails

3500 travellers impacted


Source: Cruise Critic/Sue Bryant

Nile river cruise specialist African Safari Club folded yesterday, March 16, leaving some 500 clients overseas in Egypt and Kenya, and thousands more with forward bookings affected.

River cruiser, MS Da Vinci
A notice appeared on the Swiss-owned company's Web site yesterday stating that there would be no further outbound African Safari Club flights, and that flight tickets for booked holidays would not be valid. According to a report by the trade newspaper TTG, the collapse will affect up to 3,000 passengers who have booked future Nile cruises and Kenyan safaris. Of the 500 currently holidaying overseas, up to 190 are in Egypt.

Financial details of the collapse have not been revealed, but tourism in Egypt has been severely affected by the uprisings that occurred earlier this year, while consumer confidence in Kenya is weak because of the unstable security situation there.

African Safari Club was founded more than 40 years ago by a group of Swiss investors, and had a U.K. office in Bromley, Kent. In 1990, it acquired the 5,600-ton ship Royal Star, which operated cruises around the Indian Ocean until 2008. Meanwhile, the company had in 2006 started offering Nile cruises on the M.S. Star of Luxor and later, the five-star M.S. Da Vinci and the four-star M.S. Fleurette.

Luckily for passengers, the UK arm of the company was government bonded and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advises anybody with a booking to first contact their travel agent, or if they booked direct, their credit card company. All other customers should claim a refund from the CAA, information about which is now available on www.atol.org.uk.

All passengers currently on holiday will be flown home at the end of their trip, according to the CAA.

Notice on their website reads:
African Safari Club has ceased trading as of 16 March 2011

Customers due to travel
There are no more outbound African Safari Club flights. If you were due to travel on a African Safari Club holiday you should NOT go to your departure airport as your flight tickets will NOT be valid.

Any customers that booked through an agent should contact that agent in the first instance. Customers who made a direct booking using a credit card should contact their credit card provider. All other customers should make a claim from the CAA. Information about making a claim will be provided shortly at www.atol.org.uk

Customers currently abroad on holiday
The CAA will be making arrangements to ensure customers of African Safari Club can fly home at the end of their holiday. All inbound flights from Kenya and Egypt will operate as planned.

Kamu Lodge Offers Two-Day Mekong River Cruise in Laos



Kamu Lodge, an adventure camp on the banks of the Mekong River near Luang Prabang, Laos, has launched a two-day river journey deep into the heart of Lao culture and a Buddhist way of life that has remained almost unchanged for centuries.

The traditional Lao long boat embarks at 9 a.m. from Luang Prabang and journeys upstream to Dan Village, a secluded place where locals are working to rebuild a Buddhist pagoda.

The next stop is Doun Khoune, the private shrine of King Sisavangwatana, the last king of Laos. This is followed by a visit to the Pak Ou Caves, where devotees have left thousands of Buddhist icons over the years.

“Buddhism is as much a part of Lao history and tradition as sticky rice and fish sauce,” said Kurt Walter, group general manager of Apple Tree Group Hospitality. “Seeing these shrines and holy places up-close is as near as you can get to the soul of this country, to what makes the people tick. It’s not just a religion, it’s a whole way of life.”

After the caves, guests will have a traditional lunch at a local restaurant before re-boarding and visiting two more villages, populated by the Hmong and Kamu people. The Hmong are Christian and believe in shamanism, while the Kamu are animists and pray to the souls of the forests. Guests will have the opportunity to visit local homes and schools, and engage with the locals, whose friendliness and hospitality are well-known.

In late afternoon, the boat docks at Kamu Lodge, a one-of-a-kind base camp that combines the comforts of a hotel with the cultural traditions of Laos and an environmental sensibility. Two hours north of Luang Prabang, the lodge is secluded and does not have TV or wireless Internet.

A gourmet dinner made from local ingredients is served overlooking the Mekong, and guests spend the night in soundly constructed safari tents that come with en-suite bathrooms, balconies, hot water and electricity from solar panels.

“Kamu Lodge is fully committed to a low-impact experience, but that doesn’t mean we skimp on comfort, whether with our excellent mattresses, fully stocked bar, or the fixtures we’ve added to the long boat to make sure you travel the Mekong in style,” said Walter.

Guests can also try planting rice, fishing and archery in a field shared with the neighboring village. The next morning after breakfast, the boat returns to Luang Prabang. The package prices starts at $237 net per person, based on twin occupancy and includes accommodation, full board, river and shore excursion, as well as guide fees. For more information, contact Sales and Marketing Director Santisouk Phimsavanh at smdl@appletree-asia.com.


Monday, 21 March 2011

RECORD BREAKING WET SEASON FOR THE KIMBERLEY

The crew of the adventure-cruise ship TRUE NORTH is sailing into the ultimate Kimberley waterfall season. The Kimberley has enjoyed a record breaking wet season with Kuri Bay recording 1395 millimetres in a month, the highest monthly rainfall recorded in Western Australia. Crew-members aboard the mighty TRUE NORTH have confirmed that the ‘waterfall season’ is living up to its name. Anyone who has travelled aboard the TRUE NORTH during the waterfall season will tell you there’s nothing better than seeing the Kimberley coast in all its glory.

The period immediately following the wet season presents the best opportunity to see iconic features such as Kings Cascade, Mitchell Falls and the King George Falls at their thundering best. The whole region is transformed by rivers in flood, towering waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife. Billabongs are swollen, immense wetlands are alive with birdlife and the barramundi will be biting!

Guests on the TRUE NORTH enjoy unique daily experiences including helicopter flights to remote and otherwise inaccessible locations.

This year’s ‘waterfall season’ kicked-off on the 12th March. This is always one of the most popular times of the year and the remaining cabins won’t last long. For up to date availability, please click on the following link: http://www.northstarcruises.com.au/sailingschedule.asp?Date=2011 or email North Star Cruises at cruise@northstarcruises.com.au

The multi-award winning adventure-cruise ship, True North, allows discerning guests to experience wilderness in surroundings more akin to one of the world’s most exclusive hotels.

Lavish features include:

* A sundeck, forward observation lounge, ship’s lounge, alfresco bar, internet café, plasma screens with interpretive information, lower deck dining room with large panoramic windows, and fine dining.
* All cabins feature enhanced décor, en-suite facilities, in-house entertainment and satellite telephones.
* Multiple expedition boats (6) allow passengers greater opportunity to do “what they want, when they want”.
* To add another dimension to adventure – most cruise options feature an onboard helicopter.
* The purpose built True North is able to explore the upper reaches of shallow river systems.
* Adventure-cruises are conducted all around the Australian coastline and in the stunning waters of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

PNG: Sailing into the unknown

At Bien village on Sepik River,
visitors are greeted warmly
and spectacularly.
Picture: Kendall Hill
THE gentleman beside me is quite naked apart from a crown of vivid parrot feathers, ropes of shell jewellery crisscrossing his torso and two strips of tapa cloth slung from his waist to barely cover the naughty bits.

We are strolling along a hibiscus-fringed path and chatting away as if this is the most natural circumstance in the world. Which it is if you happen to be in constantly surprising Papua New Guinea.


READ FULL STORY




Expedition cruise line gets up close with a Sepik village

Sarina Bratton surrounded by Watam villagers.
THE village of Watam on Papua New Guinea's north coast isn't easily found on a map.

Accessible only by boat, it is barely a pinprick in the dense jungle through which the ice-blue Sepik River flows. Silt oozes from the river's mouth into the Bismarck Sea like an exhalation on a frosty day.

Here a group of latter-day adventurers lays anchor and goes ashore. The subsequent encounter -- the first between the villagers of Watam and a group of Westerners -- is anachronistic against a 21st-century backdrop.

READ FULL STORY





Thursday, 17 March 2011

Wrangel Island Wilderness Cruise

Polar Bears, Puffins, Walrus and Whales. Heritage Expeditions are making a 13 day journey along the truly remote coastline of far East Russia, through the Bering Strait and up to the wilderness wonderland of Wrangel Island. We'll have a series of workshops on board the ship, and then get on the ground to chase wildlife with the lens. Bring your best telephoto, your laptop and get a discount when you join the photography group!
  • Births on the voyage start from $6,800
  • Charter flight from Nome is $750 return
  • Charter flight from Moscow is $1275 return
  • Tundra Buggy option is $1250 and limited to 5 people
  • Tour runs August 8-24, 2011.

Itinerary and more details

American Cruise Lines’ Queen of the West Renovation Near Completion


Extensive renovation continues to make the impressive sternwheeler even better

American Cruise Lines, a leader in small ship cruising, announced today that the multi-million dollar renovation of the Queen of the West, which operates one week cruises from Portland, Oregon, is now nearing completion. Reconstruction of major areas including passenger staterooms, community areas, the galley and engine room, continues in Portland and progress remains ahead of schedule.

The renovations will provide a more comfortable and elegant atmosphere for cruise passengers. New furniture for the entire ship, custom built in North Carolina, is ready and has arrived in Portland.

A new authentic paddlewheel has been built along with additional propulsion equipment that allows for quieter, smoother cruising while having less impact on the environment.

Other additions such as larger staterooms, more private balconies and a new library have already been completed. New carpet is being laid and decoration throughout the Queen of the West is being revamped.

“American Cruise Lines is delighted with the work being performed on the Queen of the West,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President, American Cruise Lines. “We are excited to welcome passengers aboard this spring for cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.”

About American Cruise Lines
American Cruise Lines operates the newest fleet of small ships in the industry and offers more than 20 unique itineraries along the inland waterways and rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River system and East Coast of the United States. To learn more about American Cruise Lines, visit our website at www.americancruiselines.com or call (800) 814-6880.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Expedition ships have evolved from spartan to luxury vessels : Travel Weekly






By Donna Tunney / Travel Weekly

For some people, "expedition ship" still brings to mind an image of a workhorse vessel navigating ice floes while a captain bellows orders to his crew and passengers huddle for warmth against a gale-force wind.

But that image wouldn't reflect reality, at least not anymore.

Companies that specialize in this niche market readily admit it's all about the destination experience, not the cruise experience, but the promise of arriving there in comfort and style is what keeps affluent, adventure-seeking guests booking their products.

Read Full Report

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Hurtigruten Announces Top 10 Excursions on their Classic Six-, Seven-, and 12-Day Norwegian Coastal Voyage

North Cape Plateau, Guided Tour of the Arctic Capital Tromsø and A Taste of Vesterålen Take Top Three Spots

Leading Hurtigruten's list of its 'Top Ten Excursions for 2010' – with more than 55,000 guests in this year alone – is a trip across the 71st parallel to the magnificent sub-Arctic landscape of the North Cape Plateau, the northernmost point in continental Europe.  The journey is one of more than 40 diverse excursions, priced from $32, designed to immerse guests in the culture and history of Norway while enjoying one of the company's classic six-, seven- or 12-day Norwegian Coastal Voyage itineraries.  Coming in second and third, respectively, are the tour of the Arctic Capital Tromsø, including a visit to the stunning Arctic Cathedral, and 'A Taste of Vesterålen,' a guided tour illuminating the history and landscape of the lovely town. 

"The North Cape is a fantastic experience for everyone – and a must-see for many of our guests," says Trond Øverås, Hurtigruten product and marketing director.  One of the Cape's first tourists, in 1664, was priest Francesco Negri from Ravenna, Italy – and he wrote "Here I am at North Cape – at the very edge of civilization – and I can say that my hunger for knowledge is satisfied. Now I can travel home content if God permits." 

The other winners, in order, are the unforgettable Midnight Concert in the Arctic Cathedral; a visit to the Russian Border; the Geiranger fjord (Panorama 2), a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle; Breakfast at the North Cape; the ancient Nidaros Cathedral & Ringve; and the Glacier Adventure in Svartisen.  Because the 'Top Ten' list is based on the number of visitors, some of the smaller group excursions, such as dog sledding and the bird watching safari, did not make the list but are often fully booked.

Despite the success of their current offerings, the award-winning company continues to create new options. "We are constantly working with suppliers to develop new and improved excursions," says Øverås.  "Having been around since 1893, Hurtigruten has good, close contacts to draw on along the coastline as it strives to develop the best possible travel product for its guests. That is one of our clear advantages."

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 and Europe in the spring.  The company's fleet of 14 intimate ships, carrying 100 to 646 passengers, allows passengers to enjoy unique destinations in a relaxed atmosphere.   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: (877) 301-3117; fax (888) 524-2145; for brochures (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Get Up Close with Arctic Wildlife and Geology with Aurora Expeditions

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Why go to the Arctic with anyone other than Aurora Expeditions?

This company of prolific adventurers is celebrating 15 seasons of exploring the European Arctic.

Dr Paul Willis will accompany Aurora Expeditions' 'Geology Insight' voyage, interpreting the remarkable natural wonders of volcanoes, the world's largest fjords and rocks that are over 600 million years old. Dr Paul Willis is a renowned palaeontologist, geologist and regular science reporter on the ABC TV show Catalyst. Join him on a voyage filled with entertaining tales and a wealth of knowledge on Arctic geology. Paul has just returned from Antarctica after collecting fragments of a meteorite he discovered last year.


Aurora Expeditions will allow you to stretch your legs on mountain walks and tundra whilst you search for reindeer, musk ox, or an Arctic fox. Zodiac cruises will bring you up close to walrus, whales, seals and polar bears.

Jewels of the Arctic - 10th August and 2 September 2011

(14 days from AUD$7655 including ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)


This adventure combines the best of Spitsbergen and Greenland, with a taste of Iceland. Cross from Spitsbergen's rugged northwest coast over the Greenland Sea to fantastic icebergs and the fairytale landscape of granite spires rising 2000 m above the fjords. Be welcomed by local Inuits and learn some of the trade secrets of their culture.

Dr Paul Willis will be accompanying the "Jewels of the Arctic "voyage, departing 2nd September 2011.

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions or your local travel agent. www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or 02 9252 1033.

Ten things you may want to know about the Arctic before you go:

1. Polar bears are only found in the Arctic and are the largest land predators on Earth. The largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing 1,004 kg and was four meters long

2. Despite being the smallest of the 5 Oceans, the Arctic Ocean covers about 14 million square kilometres, and is frozen for most of the year.

3. Today, the Arctic region is home to almost 4 million people, a majority of which are non-indigenous settlers. Indigenous people make up roughly 10% of the population of the Arctic and they continue to carry out traditional activities while adapting to the modern way of life.

4. Iceland is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity. 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries, and natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating.

5. Outside Antarctica, Greenland has the second largest ice cap in the world. 85% of the country is covered by inland ice, which rise up to 3000 m above sea level.

6. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, at 78° north, for 125 days from mid April until mid August, the sun never fully sets creating the 'midnight sun'.

7. Polar bears actually have black skin. The polar bear's coat is made of clear, colorless hairs. The hairs scatter light, making it appear white (or sometimes yellow, depending upon the angle of the sun). The bears' black skin absorbs the heat from the sun and the six-inch layer of fat under their skin insulates them from the extreme cold of the Arctic circle.

8. Penguins do NOT live in the Arctic, you'll need to head south to see them!


9. You can go sea kayaking with expert guides and paddle amongst glaciers and icebergs of Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland's coast.

10. The scientific name for walrus, Odobenus rosmarus, means "toothwalkers". Walrus can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes. Walrus have extra blood to carry oxygen which makes up about 12 percent of their weight, compared to seven percent in humans.

Additional Voyage Information:

Spitsbergen Odyssey - 11 July, 21 July and 31 July 2011

(11 days from AUD$6080 including ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)

Explore the home of the polar bear. There are no open sea crossings on this discovery voyage where you'll find deep fjords, mysterious desert mountains and seals and whales in the Arctic pack ice. This voyage offers the best chance for finding polar bears and features wildflower walks, trapper camps and historical remains of whaling stations. Avid divers will love the inaugural arctic scuba dives which begin on this voyage on 31 July 2011

About Us

Aurora Expeditions are the pioneers of ship-based adventures. The staff and owners remain committed to small, low-impact groups keen to experience the Arctic in many ways whether by walking, scuba diving, and sea kayaking or sitting quietly and absorbing the surrounding magnificence. Aurora Expeditions is a founding member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, dedicated to leading expeditions that respect the environment and local cultures.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

American Safari Offers Holiday Cruises in Hawaiian Islands


M/Y Safari Explorer carries just 36 guests

American Safari Cruises is offering two week-long Hawaii holiday cruises between Maui and the Big Island during its inaugural season in the islands. The flagship, the 36-guest luxury yacht Safari Explorer, begins cruising in the Hawaiian Islands in October. The holiday cruises depart Dec. 19 and Dec. 27.

On the Dec. 19 cruise from Maui to the Big Island, the yacht will be decked out in holiday decorations. The Dec. 27 cruise from the Big Island to Maui will anchor off Lanai, the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, on New Year’s Eve.

Both cruises will explore Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Molokini and The Big Island. Outfitted for active adventures, the yachts carry kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, wet suits, a sailboat and a tube for thrilling rides behind the skiff. Two expedition leaders guide hiking and kayaking tours. Bicycles are also available for guest use.

The Safari Explorer has an on-deck hot tub, sauna, exercise equipment, a wine library and a large-screen TV in the main salon. Cuisine is prepared with fresh local ingredients, and the complimentary bar offers premium spirits, fine wines and microbrews. All staterooms offer Tempur-pedic mattresses, flat-screen TV/DVD players and iPod docks. Upper category staterooms feature Jacuzzi tubs; suites have private step-out balconies. The guest-crew ratio is 2 to 1, with an all-American crew that includes two professional naturalists, masseuse and captain.

Prices start at $5,695 per person, double occupancy, and include transfers, port fees and taxes and all activities except optional excursions. For more information, call 888-862-8881 or visit www.americansafaricruises.com.


Cruise Ships Safe After Japan Tsunami

A screen grab taken from news footage by Japanese public broadcaster NHK on March 11, 2011 shows capsized ships at a port of Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture.

Initial reports indicate that all cruise ships in Japanese waters at the time of the 8.9 quake and subsequent tsunami are safe and undamaged.

Vessels included Azamara Quest, QM2 and other ships. Experts attest that ships at sea in deep water will be unaffected by a passing tsunami. Only those in port or shallow waters are at risk.

Oceania Cruises' Nautica is also currently planning to make its upcoming port calls as planned in Kobe and Okinawa, both hundreds of miles from the quake zone.

A report that mentioned a 100-passenger ship being swept out to sea and missing has been clarified. The ship, owned by a Ishinomaki-based ship builder, was found and all 81 persons declared safe. It was not a "cruise ship" as mentioned in some reports.

eWaterways heading Down Under

source: etravelblackboard

Online small ships operator eWaterways will expand into the Australia and New Zealand market following the appointment of Peter Smith as its new General Manager on Wednesday.

Formerly the head of NRMA Travel and Leisure’s Creative Cruising department, as well as at ZUJI and OctopusTravel, Mr Smith said it was a good time for eWaterways to move into the region.

“Small ships have traditionally been hard to find and book, just like hotel rooms were 10 years ago,” he said.

“It’s the right time for the product here, given growing consumer demand for cruising, our comprehensive range of niche small ship supplier content, and the simplicity of the eWaterways technology platform.

“In short, we’re doing for small ships, what OctopusTravel helped do for hotel bookings ten years ago.”

eWaterways CEO and co-founder Daniela Wagner said Mr Smith’s experience and reputation in the Australian market would be a valuable asset to the company.

“We are confident that with him at the helm we will see significant growth in AU/NZ, which we believe is a perfect and substantial market for this product,” she said.

Mr Smith’s appointment sees him reunite with his old colleague from OctopusTravel Daniela Wagner, who was previously its managing director.

As part of his new role, Mr Smith’s first focus will be to introduce the business to Australian travel agencies.

Uniworld Announces New Ship to Sail Mekong River


  • 3-Year Lease from Pandaw, starting 2012
  • Sister ship to  Orient Pandaw

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has announced that it will operate a new, 60-passenger river cruise vessel along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, starting in January. The ship, the River Saigon, is being built by Pandaw River Cruises, which is leasing it to Uniworld under an exclusive, three-year charter agreement. The seven-night “Mekong River Exploration” cruise between Saigon, Vietnam, and Siem Reap, Cambodia, will be paired with a seven-night land tour for a 14-night vacation, according to Janice Tully, CTIE, Uniworld’s senior vice president, sales. For more information, call 800-733-7820 or visit www.uniworld.com.

Victoria Cruises to Rename Two Rebuilt Ships Lianna and Selina

Victoria Queen will become Victoria Lianna

Victoria Cruises has decided to re-launch two of its vessels -- the Victoria Queen and Victoria Star -- as the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina, respectively.

“Initially, our intention was to update the look and feel of these ships to bring them up to speed with our newest vessels, while preparing them for the fleet-wide introduction of our Executive Deck program,” said James Pi, chairman of Victoria Cruises, who named the ships after his grandchildren, Lianna and Selina Pi.

“Rather than settle for marginal improvements, however, we ultimately decided a full overhaul was necessary, particularly in the case of the Victoria Queen and Victoria Star, which saw several decks gutted and rebuilt from scratch,” Pi said. “Essentially, the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina will have the appearance of entirely new ships with little or no resemblance to their previous incarnations.”

Throughout the winter season, Victoria Cruises has invested millions to overhaul Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina, as well as the Victoria Prince, which will retain its original name. All three vessels will feature renovated lobbies and hallways as well as new carpeting throughout the ships. All staterooms will be enhanced with new curtains, and in some cases, new furniture as well.

The Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina will get an entirely new deck featuring an additional Executive Lounge and à la carte restaurant for Executive Deck passengers (third and fourth decks), as well as an elevator.

“There’s a fine line between a structural renovation project and a new build, and we’ve certainly blurred that line,” Pi said. “The fact we started with previous vessels is merely a technicality. Passengers who have sailed the Queen or Star would never believe they were on the same ships.”

The new ships were projected to be ready for the beginning of the regular sailing season in mid-March, but now the Selina and Lianna will be delayed for two weeks. Passengers booked on those ships March 16 to 31 will be placed on other five-star ships sailing no more than one day before or after the original departure date. Where necessary, Victoria Cruises will make land arrangements at the cruise line’s expense to prevent changes from impacting the passengers’ connections and overall tour schedule.

Beginning in April, Executive Deck passengers on the Victoria Lianna, Selina, Prince and Empress will receive the same enhanced privileges as passengers on the Victoria Jenna, Anna and Katarina. This includes concierge service, enhanced accommodations and ship placement, access to VIP areas, à la carte meal service, private cultural lessons and reserved seating for evening entertainment.

In addition to Executive Suites, the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina also feature a number of spacious Superior Staterooms on its Executive Decks, which afford guests the same privileges and amenities as Executive Suite passengers.

“After we expanded our Executive Deck program to the Victoria Anna and Victoria Katarina, we noticed a trend in terms of booking requests from our tour partners,” said Larry Greenman, manager of public relations and customer service for Victoria Cruises. “Our newer premiere-class vessels were selling out in record time. While this winter’s renovations were an enormous undertaking, the end result places these ships on equal footing with our flagship, the Victoria Jenna,” Greenman said. “In fact, we anticipate the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina will now become our most requested ships.”

As an American-managed company adhering to the strictest Western standards, Victoria Cruises retained an interior design firm from New York to plan and oversee the renovations. Additional cosmetic alterations for the Victoria Prince and Victoria Empress are currently being considered and tentatively scheduled for next winter so as not to impact the regular cruise season.

A number of U.S. tour operators have already blocked significant space on the newly installed Executive Decks of the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina, which will feature 101 Superior Staterooms, seven Executive Suites and two Shangri-La Suites with a total passenger capacity of 220 guests. For more information, call 800-348-8084 or visit www.victoriacruises.com.

Victoria Cruise are represented in Australia by Helen Wongs Tours

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mountaineer, marathon runner and polar explorer leads an Arctic End of an Era trip

The legendary expedition icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov makes a farewell circumnavigation of the Arctic from July 10 to September 13, 2011. Quark Expeditions, the voyage operator, announced today that Laurie Dexter, Member of the Order of Canada, will be the Expedition Leader.

Dexter eminently qualified to lead the most unusual world cruise offered in 2011

In 1988, for 91 days, as a member of the Soviet-Canadian Polar Bridge expedition, Mr. Dexter skied from Russia to Canada via the North Pole. Having lived on Baffin Island for 13 years, he speaks the language of the Inuit, Canada's northern indigenous people. Since 1993 he has led more than 50 commercial expeditions to the Arctic.

When he is not leading expeditions to the polar regions, Mr. Dexter is a marathon runner and mountaineer. Among his feats are running 10 marathons in 10 days and making numerous first ascents of Arctic mountains.

Laurie Dexter is a webinar special guest, March 15, 2011

Quark Expeditions is hosting an online information session with Mr. Dexter as special guest, Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 3 PM eastern. The 45 minute session focuses on The Northeast Passage, the Russian sea route from Asia to Europe, which begins July 10, 2011 in Anchorage, Alaska. There are a limited number of seats for the online webinar. Participation is free, but registration is required.

The Northeast Passage is the first segment of the Arctic Circumnavigation, which has two additional segments -- Greenland Semi-circumnavigation and Arctic Passage. Travelers can purchase the entire voyage, or segments. The per person price for a twin berth aboard The Northeast Passage begins at USD $36,690 per person.

The webinar will be archived and questions can be asked in advance

Quark Expeditions will archive a recording of the information session for travelers who cannot attend the live event. Questions may be asked prior to the event by email. They should be sent to online@quarkexpeditions.com. Put Webinar Question in the subject line.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Welcome to the Wet Season!


We hope you've enjoyed a great start to 2011, and we look forward to keeping you informed of all the fun and action taking place across the Kimberley during the new season now just upon us.

If you ask any long-time Broome or Kimberley local how this year’s Wet Season is faring, you will hear a resounding "it's been amazing!”

After one of the biggest Wet Season's on record, it promises to be an impressive year in the Kimberley and we are excited about what we'll discover on our Kimberley Classic Adventures beginning next Saturday.

From December onwards we have had constant heavy rain on most days, amidst some of the most spectacular storms. It has bucketed down in the streets of Broome, and the heavens have opened onto the Kimberley Coastline, with Kuri Bay receiving an incredible recorded 1300 mm! While sadly the East has suffered terrible flooding, over here in the North West we have welcomed the wet conditions, for to us it brings the intense power and action to our countless magical waterfalls, making the Kimberley Coast one of the most astounding and majestic places on earth.

Renowned professional Kimberley photographer Yane Sotiroski, had the very good fortune of viewing the coastline by helicopter recently, and came back with some stunning snaps taken from the air. You can view the gallery here. Yane has lived in Broome since the age of 5, experiencing a lot of Wet Seasons over the years, and on reflection Yane says "this year I'd have to say is one of the best. This truly is a beautiful part of the world. I think this year the Cascades, Mitchell Falls and the mighty King George will be flowing well into the Dry Season." Have a look at Kings Cascades thundering down in this very short video taken from the chopper. Taken from a phone camera!

Yane will be travelling on the 13 night Kimberley Classic Adventure departing April 2nd and welcomes budding photographers to join him for an unsurpassed photographic experience in the Kimberley due to the sensational conditions. Yane will be available for on-site photographic workshopping and advice. To view Yane's photographic work visit www.yane.com.au

For anyone considering cruising the Kimberley Coast, with time to travel this year, you would be absolutely mad not to take advantage of this year's phenomenal Wet Season follow-on.

If you're keen to join in this experience we have just 3 Horizon View Staterooms remaining on the 2nd April 2011 departure (the 2nd cruise for the season), and only 2 Horizon View Staterooms remaining on the 30th April departure for our 13 night Kimberley Classic Adventures. Email us or phone 08 9193 5983 for more information.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Great Gap Adventures in the Great White North

Gap Adventures reports double the interest in tours to the Arctic following Bruce Parry’s groundbreaking new serie

Inspired by the new BBC documentary, travellers are flocking north in search of incredible and icy experiences.

Following Bruce Parry’s “Arctic”, the leading independent adventure tour operator’s already popular expedition cruises, calling at Spitsbergen and the High Arctic, have witnessed a surge in interest with almost double the number of calls and online enquiries in recent weeks.

Recent travel programmes such as “Arctic”, “Human Planet” and “Planet Earth” have all helped showcase this part of the world that, until recently, has been unexplored by most. With a greater range of Arctic holidays available, the region is becoming more accessible and the destination a hot spot for adventure seekers, according to Gap Adventures.

“The polar regions of the planet epitomise adventure and provide unparalleled experiences,” says Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Gap Adventures.

“Perfect for cold weather and adventure enthusiasts, a trip on board Gap Adventures’ M/S Expedition showcases the wintry wildlife and breathtaking scenery that makes the Arctic so appealing.”

Arctic Highlights and Polar Bears is a thrilling expedition that gets travellers exploring out on Zodiacs and on foot. This 14 day cruise departs on 4 September 2011, with prices starting from £2859 per person. Sailing from Reykjavik, Iceland across the Greenland Sea to East Greenland and onwards to Spitsbergen, travellers will come face to face with the unique wildlife and local communities of this remote landscape.

Norwegian Fjords and Polar Bears, a 15 day expedition departing 30 May 2011, will have travellers exploring the Shetland Islands, Lofoten Islands, Tromsø, Bear Islands and Longyearbyen in the north Atlantic, with prices starting from £3059 per person. Adventurers on this cruise will have the chance to view the partial solar eclipse on 1 June 2011, weather permitting, as the ship will be in Lerwick on the day with an unrivalled view.

Incredibly, passengers who book a space on a selection of the Arctic cruises by 28 February 2011 will also receive a 25 per cent early-booking discount.

The newly renovated M/S Expedition is uniquely equipped to meet the demands of cruising in polar environments. With one of the highest average cabin sizes in her class and multiple large public areas, the ship provides an exceptionally safe, spacious and comfortable expedition experience for all her guests. Alongside a highly experienced crew, the ship offers one of the best ratios of expedition team experts to guests – one expert for every 10 guests.

For more information, visit www.gadventures.com

Rare Arctic Wonders Await Travelers on Hurtigruten's 9-Day "Kingdom of the Polar Bear"

Majestic polar bears and Svalbard reindeer roaming icy tundra, Moffen Island's walrus colony, and Hornsund Fjord, with its dramatic vertical cliffs and imposing glaciers, are among the rare Arctic wonders travelers can experience on  Hurtigruten's 9-day "Kingdom of the Polar Bear."   The MV Polar Star, specifically designed to explore areas inaccessible to most other ships, travels roundtrip from Longyearbyen to the farthest corners of Spitsbergen and explores a diverse and fascinating landscape of Arctic tundra, impressive fjords, stunning national parks and scenic islands.  Guests experience the impressive culture of Spitsbergen firsthand with an array of ports and excursions ranging from a charming folklore show in Barentsburg to Sjuøyane ("Seven Islands"), the northernmost point in the Svalbard Archipelago and the closest most will ever get to the North Pole.  Prices for the voyage, which has 11 departures between June 9 and August 18, range from $6,419 to $10,080 per person, double.

After a day of guided sightseeing in Longyearbyen that includes the Svalbard Museum and Svalbard Gallery, the MV Polar Star embarks on its roundtrip journey, stopping first in Barentsburg and then Ny Ålesund, the northernmost permanently inhabited Arctic Research Station.  Venturing past the "Seven Icebergs" and entering North West Spitsbergen National Park, guests explore the whaling history of breathtaking Magdalenefjorden before sailing past the walrus colonies of Moffen Island and across the 80th parallel towards the North Pole.  After passing through scenic Sorgfjorden and navigating the Hinlopen Strait, the ship arrives at the face of Bråsvell Glacier – a seemingly infinite branch of the Nordaustlandet Nature Reserve –continuing its journey past snow-capped peaks to stunning Hornsund, a spectacular fjord defined by steep cliffs and mammoth glaciers. 

Fares include the cabin grade of your choice; transfers as applicable; all meals on board, with a selection of drinks for those in suites; one night in Longyearbyen before the voyage, including breakfast and sightseeing; roundtrip economy class flights between Oslo and Longyearbyen; and a wind and water proof jacket.  International flights are additional.

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 and Europe in the spring.  The company's fleet of 14 intimate ships, carrying 100 to 646 passengers, allows passengers to enjoy unique destinations in a relaxed atmosphere.    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: (877) 301-3117; fax (888) 524-2145; for brochures (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Viking Launches 'Magnificent Mekong' For 2012

Ahead of the launch of its main 2012 brochure, Viking River Cruises has released its 'Magnificent Mekong' programme with massive savings for early bookers.

Double discounts, giving savings of up to £1000 per person, are offered on any Mekong departure booked by 30 June, 2011 for travel in 2012.

The early release of the programme follows huge demand for the 16 day 'Magnificent Mekong' itinerary, which combines a land tour of Vietnam and Cambodia with a seven-night cruise on the 66 passenger RV Tonle, a graceful, French colonial-style vessel hand finished in brass and teak.

For 2012, Viking has doubled the number of departure dates on this holiday to 38, with cruises year-round, from 2 January to 24 December 2012.

The comprehensive itinerary gives guests the opportunity to discover two countries, two cultures and two ways of life linked by Indochina's most important river, the Mekong.


Along the journey, highlights include visits to the ancient Khmer monuments at Angkor Wat; the chance to explore the floating markets of the Mekong Delta and the old city of Hanoi in Vietnam; as well as visits to the elegant French colonial capital of Phnom Penh and the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City.

Other escorted tours include a visit to hilltop Wat Hanchey and the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey; a small boat excursion through the Kampong Chhnang wetlands; a Cyclo tour featuring the Royal Palace and National Museum in Phnom Penh with an excursion to the Killing Fields; and a visit to the visit of Prek Touch.

Prices start from £2,699 per person (with £1,000 discount) and include return flights from London to Hanoi and from Ho Chi Minh City (or vice versa); a seven-night river cruise with river-view stateroom; two nights' hotel stay in Hanoi, three nights in Siem Reap and two nights in Ho Chi Minh; 14 guided tours with audio headsets; and the internal flight between Hanoi and Siem Reap. A programme of 'Cultural Highlights' featuring a traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony and a visit to the Siem Reap arts and craft school, plus a 'Culture Curriculum' programme giving language lessons and talks are also included.

For those will more time to explore the region further, Viking also has two add-on packages with two nights at Ha Long Bay priced from £299 per person, or three nights in Bangkok from £599 per person with escorted tours included throughout.

Australian travellers should check local prices and conditions at:
www.vikingrivercruises.com.au


Monday, 7 March 2011

The Fate of HMS Beagle After Darwin´s Voyage to the Galapagos Islands

HMS Beagle (centre) from an 1841 watercolour by Owen Stanley,
painted during the third voyage while surveying Australia.

HMS Beagle was the ship that sailed around the world with the young naturalist by the name of Charles Darwin on board. The ship was sold for scrap in 1870 but until now it´s final fate has remained one of the world´s great naval mysteries.

A discovery has been made by Robert Prescott of St Andrews University, who is one of the world´s leading marine archaeologists. He says that he is quietly confident that the final resting place is near Potton Island in Essex, UK. Geophysical techniques and an advanced ground-penetrating radar located a buried structure which matches the size and shape of the Beagle.

Techniques used to see if the timbers are from the Beagle include testing the ship´s bilges for remains of tiny marine organisms called diatoms. Certain species of diatom are found in specific areas of the world so they are hoping to find diatoms unique to the Pacific or Australian waters. So far the results have been very positive but for incontrovertible proof one well recognized tropical diatom must be found.

HMS Beagle was one of the commonest classes of warships built by the Royal Navy. The 90ft, 10-gun brig was launched in 1820 at Woolwich Royal Dockyard on the Thames. It was later refitted as a hydrographic survey vessel and set off on its great journey with Darwin as a passenger in 1831. For five years it carried out detailed surveying of the tip of South America and in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin suffered terribly from seasickness and apparently spent most of his time in his hammock while at sea. It was remarked that it was almost unheard of for a passenger to suffer from seasickness from start to finish of a five year long voyage!
The voyage was to be, however, the most important event in Darwin´s life. He observed the local variations among the birds and animals he found and it is from his cabin on the Beagle that he developed his theory of natural selection. These discoveries were consequently published in his book, ´On the Origin of Species´, in 1859. His book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over generations through a process of natural selection. He said that animals live longer when best adapted to their environments and produce more offspring and therefore species slowly evolve. His theory of evolution certainly caused an outcry at the time!

After the Beagle returned from its infamous journey it was used as an anti-smuggling patrol vessel along the Essex Coast. Further investigation by Prescott uncovered that the Beagle was moored mid-stream on the River Roach where it could intercept smugglers. It was not a popular permanent fixture as it was claimed it harmed the oyster beds. Final records from 1870 show that it was auctioned for £525 to local scrap merchants, Murray and Trainer.

A small dock on the north bank of the River Roach has been the focus of the team from St Andrews and this is where they think it was left after it was stripped.

Prescott says that the discovery is of great importance. "Most of the upper part of the ship may have gone, but we have the lower parts and hull, and who knows what remnants of Darwin´s trip may still lie down there". We shall have to wait and see.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

American Cruise Lines’ Mississippi Sternwheeler Ahead of Schedule

Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Corp.

American Cruise Lines, a small-ship cruising specialist, announced that construction of its new 140-passenger Mississippi River sternwheeler is ahead of schedule. The new sternwheeler is currently under construction at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md. The hull is nearly complete and the superstructure is taking shape.

The paddlewheeler will recreate the grandeur of past riverboats, while incorporating the latest safety, environmental and construction technologies.

This is the first overnight paddlewheeler built for the Mississippi River in nearly 20 years. It will have large staterooms, almost all with private balconies. The ship will have a grand salon, card room, library, sky lounge, showroom and Internet lounge.

Unlike the previous riverboats that had offered cruises on the Mississippi, American Cruise Lines’ new paddlewheeler will have the option of cruising at a significantly higher speed to make the most imaginative itineraries possible.

American Cruise Lines will operate the riverboat over the entire Mississippi River system. A number of seven-night cruises will carry passengers up to St. Paul, Minn., on the Mississippi River, and Pittsburgh, Pa., on the Ohio River. For more information, call 800-814-6880 or visit www.americancruiselines.com.


Blue Lagoon Cruises offers big savings with seven-day Yasawa cruises for price of four

Fiji's iconic Blue Lagoon Cruises is offering seven-day Yasawa Island cruises at four-day pricing on all departures booked for travel from 01 April 2011 until 31 March 2012.

Bookings do need to be made before 30 March 2011 to take advantage of the special offer.

The discount means pricing for the seven-day cruises starts from as little as AUD1192 per person twin share in the boutique cruise company's 'hibiscus' class cabins.

This represents a saving of AUD526 per person on normal pricing.

Pricing includes all onboard accommodation, all main meals, morning and afternoon tea, cruise and cultural activates.

The daily cruise activity program includes daily shore excursions and water-based activities. These range from snorkeling safaris and fish feeding to bush walking, fishing and glass bottom boating.

Cultural experiences include visits to remote villages, Kava ceremonies and a day spent at Blue Lagoon Cruises' private island of Nanuya Lailai.

A feature of the Nanuya Lailai visit is a traditional torch-lit Fijian 'Lovo' feast taking place on the island's famous white sand beach.

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

*Conditions apply. All cruises are subject to availability. Please note prices do not include international airfares or beverages (other than tea or coffee).

Quark Expeditions Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Quark Expeditions, a polar travel specialist, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a new ship and other changes. “In January, we added Sea Spirit to our fleet for a new level of comfort in polar cruising,” said Hans Lagerweij, president of Quark. “In February, our sponsorship of ‘Antarctica: Photographs by Santiago Vanegas’ at the Atlanta airport successfully launched our new mobile website. Now March has begun with an unexpected honor. Travel and Leisure has nominated us as World’s Best Tour Operator."

Quark will operate a 66-day World Cruise from July 10 to Sept. 13. The cruise will visit Anchorage, Alaska; remote islands in the Russian Arctic; Svalbard in Norway’s Arctic region; Greenland; and the Northwest Passage, the northern route to Asia in the Canadian Arctic.

Most of the voyage will be conducted in continual daylight, as the route is far above the Arctic Circle. Never to be repeated, this World Cruise will include more opportunities to see polar bears, walrus, and musk oxen in the wild than any other wildlife cruise in 2011.

The Arctic Circumnavigation is the last time Quark’s flagship Kapitan Khlebnikov (right) will carry passengers through northern waters. The conventional icebreaker retires as an expedition vessel in March 2012.

Special guests will sail on the voyage. Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen will participate in the segment known as the Greenland Semi-circumnavigation, Aug. 4 to 24. In the 1970s, the Dane spent a number of years patrolling the remote and virtually uninhabited eastern shore of Greenland by dog sled. He was a member of the SIRIUS dog patrol, a special division of the Danish Royal Navy charged with protecting the sovereignty of the world’s largest island.

Irish filmmaker and polar explorer John Murray has spent a lifetime documenting the polar regions for international television. In 2002, he backed the Irish Canadian Franklin Search Expedition that sought the remains of Sir John Franklin's lost ships. He will spool his films and present an insider’s view of contemporary Arctic exploration aboard Arctic Passage Aug. 22 to Sept. 13.

While sailing the Northwest Passage through the Canada Arctic, participants can earn marine navigation certification from Starpath School of Navigation. The school’s founder, David Burch, will provide hands-on training during the voyage in a full navigation station. The training is included in the cost of the expedition.

The per person cost, based on twin occupancy, is $88,990. All cabins have facilities en suite and exterior views. Helicopter sightseeing and Zodiac cruising is also included. For more information, call 888-892-0171 or visit www.quarkexpeditions.com.