Thursday, 29 September 2016

North Star Sails Into 30 Years

#expeditioncruising .

North Star Cruises Australia has sailed into 30 years of continuous operations.

The now revered adventure-cruise operator first cruised Western Australia's remote Kimberley coast during 1987 when founding director Craig Howson commenced fishing type charters along a coastline that was and still is largely inaccessible from land.

Howson discovered that the Kimberley was a haven for adventurers who were easily spellbound by more than 2,500 rugged islands and numerous navigable river systems crowned with stunning gorges and majestic waterfalls. When he mixed-in some of the best sports fishing action that you could imagine, unique wildlife encounters and, opportunity to see pristine examples of ancient rock art - the recipe for success was almost complete.

The last ingredient was making sure all could be enjoyed 'in style' and in 1999 North Star launched the first TRUE NORTH – a 28-guest adventure-cruiser that was more akin to a floating boutique hotel complete with a roof-top helicopter.



The Rowley Shoals, 300 square kilometres of undisturbed coral that conveniently lay off the Kimberley coast, added to the already sumptuous 'menu' and an annual repositioning cruise along the West Australian coast also quickly developed a strong following. The TRUE NORTH was soon boasting sales more than 2 years in advance and in response North Star launched the current 36 guest TRUE NORTH.

The bigger boat introduced greater operational capability and with North Star's loyal following ever-clambering for new destinations the company was able to expand its horizons.

In its launch year the new TRUE NORTH began exploring the picture perfect islands of Papua New Guinea and much like the Kimberley, the area became an instant hit with the adventure-hungry. In more recent times the company has added the Raja Ampats and Komodo Island to its busy sailing schedule.

North Star's brand director, Peter Trembath, happily trumpets the one thing that has not changed “The experience has always been king! Obviously life on-board is very different to a big ship environment – but we are also a very different option when compared to the more traditional expedition cruise. Expedition cruises tend to involve more time at sea and there is less focus on off-ship activities. Clearly the North Star difference is the company's unrelenting focus on giving the guest maximum opportunity to truly experience the destination and, the TRUE NORTH is purpose built to do just that!”

Featuring a shallow draft that allows the TRUE NORTH to go where bigger ships cannot, an exceptionally high crew to guest ratio of 22:36, six dedicated expedition boats and a ship's helicopter – there are few other examples of craft so keenly configured for discovery and adventure.

North Star's itineraries also never depart from theme – sea days are specifically excluded to ensure that every day on-board is an activity day and each day of every itinerary features multiple activities. The reoccurring theme really is tailor-made for the holiday-maker who is looking for much more than a holiday!

And not forgetting modern cuisine that is supplemented with the catch of the day, a stunning Australian wine list, a stylish ship's lounge and alfresco bar, spacious cabins complete with private facilities and satellite telephones - it's no wonder that guests often remark “that's the best holiday I have ever had!”

North Star is planning to celebrate the milestone year with several end of year cocktail parties on-board the TRUE NORTH and, a gala event is scheduled to be held in Broome during May 2017.

Bookings: Contact North Star Cruises on (+61 8) 9192 1829 or email cruise@northstarcruises.com.au


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

True North returns to Barossa Valley in 2017

#expeditioncruising .




Visits to Seppeltsfield and Magill Estate retained in TRUE NORTH itinerary

The TRUE NORTH’s 2017 Southern Safari is again set to feature the world-famous Barossa Valley.

Guests on the 2016 sojourn out of Adelaide were treated to a bonus when lunch at historic Seppeltsfield and wine tasting at Penfolds Magill Estate were first added to the itinerary.

“The day was a big-hit with our guests so keeping both experiences in the Southern Safari line-up was an easy decision to make” reports North Star Cruises brand director Peter Trembath.

Guests will start their Seppeltsfield visit in the original 1851 homestead and discover the history of the Seppelt family before being treated to a private tasting in the “Trophy Cellar”. Lunch follows at “Finos” the estate’s celebrated restaurant.

After lunch entertainment includes a visit to the ‘Jam Factory’ - a contemporary craft gallery housed in Seppeltsfield’s historic stables.

And a late afternoon visit to Magill Estate will serve as a stunning prelude to embarkation on the TRUE NORTH.

Magill offers breathtaking views of the Penfolds vineyard and guests will indulge in a luxurious experience of storytelling and tasting before continuing onto the TRUE NORTH for their first night on board.

And Mr Trembath is quick to mention that visiting the Barossa is just the start of the wining and dining “The TRUE NORTH has a revered reputation for cuisine and the Southern Safari features Port Lincoln bluefin that melts in your mouth, oysters from Coffin Bay and some of Australia’s most reliable in-shore fishing for delectable blue swimmer crabs and King George whiting.”

“Plus, not forgetting that we spend 2 days exploring must-see Kangaroo Island. We also cage dive with great white sharks, visit the rarely visited Pearson and Franklin Islands and, discover some of Australia’s most beautiful coastline!”

The Southern Safari departs Adelaide on Jan 16 2017.

Bookings: Contact North Star Cruises on (+61 8) 9192 1829 or email cruise@northstarcruises.com.au

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

West Africa’s back on the Saga cruise map


#expeditioncruising

2018 cruise programme includes The Gambia and Dakar



Saga Cruises has released its new programme of 2018 sailings which include putting West Africa back on the cruise map. The 20 night Saga Pearl II ‘Traditions of the Canaries and Africa’ Cruise gives guests time to go ashore in Banjul, in The Gambia, and Dakar, in Senegal.

The themed cruise will focus on West Africa’s culture and traditions and includes talks by an anthropologist about local culture, customs and current issues. Authentic African dishes are prepped by a local chef and there is a traditional performance by Gambian dancers plus an art, dance and music performance in Dakar.

Banjul is the tiny capital of The Gambia and the political centre of the oldest democracy in Africa. The country is actually little more than the banks of the mighty River Gambia, set on St Mary’s Island, where the river joins the Atlantic.

Dakar is on West Africa’s westernmost point and the capital of French-speaking Senegal. Here there is a frenetic buzz of activity and visitors can try their hand at bartering in the craft markets for traditional embroidery, woodcarvings, metalwork and costume jewellery or just relax in the sunshine and taste the local mint tea.

Although Dakar is West Africa’s oldest European city, it is the most westernized and bears the legacy of Africa’s French colonial past, especially in the downtown Plateau area, where the architecture has echoes of southern France.

James Langley, Saga’s Head of Marine Operations, said:

“We’re delighted to offer our cruise passengers ports of call in Banjul and Senegal. Enrichment and immersion is a key part of our cruise itineraries and these ports will provide passengers with unforgettable sights, amazing experiences and wonderful memories.”

This 20-night all-inclusive* cruise on January 8, 2018 sails from Southampton and also makes calls to São Vicente, in the Cape Verde Islands, 300 miles off the coast of West Africa; Santa Cruz, La Palma and Arrecife, Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands; Funchal, Madeira and Portimão and Lisbon, Portugal.

The Traditions of the Canaries and Africa 20-night cruise starts from £2,799 departing from Southampton on January 8, 2018 and returns to Portsmouth on January 28, 2018. Price includes UK travel package to and from Southampton, all meals and entertainment, *all-inclusive drinks which include selected wines at lunch and dinner, Saga house-branded spirits, draught beer and lager, non-alcoholic cocktails and all and soft drinks, afternoon tea, 24-hour room service, welcome cocktail party, unlimited tea and coffee in selected venues, free Wi-Fi internet, all on-board gratuities, porterage, free shuttle bus to nearest town centre (whenever possible and when the ship is berthed more than 500 yards away), optional travel insurance and additional cancellation rights, or a discount if passenger has own insurance.

‘Price based on two people sharing the lowest available Inside cabin and includes any relevant booking discount. Fare was correct at the time of sending and is subject to availability and change. Further terms and conditions apply. Please call for details.’

(Saga Holidays – Cruises)


Cruise Aranui for a genuine Polynesian tattoo

#expeditioncruising .


One of the joys of taking a cruise on board the Aranui 5, is the opportunity to become immersed in Polynesian culture as the ship docks at some of the most remote islands in the world. Among the shore experiences which take this philosophy to the next level, is the chance to have a traditional Polynesian tattoo, carried out by a native artist in what is considered to be the birthplace of tattooing.

“The best holidays leave lasting impressions, but some of our passengers go a step further and opt to imprint a symbol of their experience directly on to their skin,” says Jules Wong, Marketing Director for Aranui. “We aim for full cultural immersion and this is one of the ways travellers can take a piece of the Marquesas home with them.”

In traditional Polynesian culture, tatau (tattoos) play an important role in society, symbolising major life events, rites of passage, social status, heroism, hunting and fishing prowess, family identity and religious power.

Popular crewman 'Mahalo' (R Eime)
The Polynesian art was revived in the 1980s after a long prohibition period enforced by missionaries, and has become increasingly popular worldwide due to its unique aesthetic and rich history.

Since the ancient tattoo process is very time consuming and involves the use of wooden tools and a serrated comb made of bone, passengers’ tattoos are applied using modern equipment by artists who adhere to the highest standards of safety and cleanliness. Western techniques are combined with traditional art to create a distinctly Polynesian look.

Passengers board the Aranui 5 in Papeete, Tahiti, for an awe-inspiring 14-day holiday, which stops in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Bora Bora in the Society Islands, as well as in the Marquesas.

Other onshore experiences include hikes, visits to sacred ritual sites, encounters with local artisans, a visit to renowned French artist Paul Gauguin’s grave, snorkelling in the truly translucent waters of the atolls, a trip to a pearl farm and delicious picnics on white-sand beaches.

Prices for a 14-day voyage, including all taxes, start from Euros 2,528.54 in a class C dormitory (no children under 16 years) and from Euros 3,891.23 in a standard double cabin, based on two sharing. This includes all meals and wine during meals on board, planned excursions, expert lecturers and guides, a primarily Polynesian crew, plus facilities such as a swimming pool, fitness room, spa, bars, restaurant, lounges, library, video and computer room.

For further information about cruises on board Aranui 5, visit www.aranui.com

Monday, 26 September 2016

Reasons to visit the Arctic in 2017 as Canada Celebrates its 150th Anniversary

#expeditioncruising #ExploreCanada .

As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, specialist adventure cruise operator, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), reflects on the successes of the 2016 cruise season, highlighting why 2017 will be a great time to travel to the Canadian High Arctic.


RECORD-BREAKING WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS & NATURAL PHENOMENA

During 2016 OOE’s guests enjoyed record-breaking numbers of polar bear encounters – with no less than 91 separate sightings on one voyage alone!

In addition, there were frequent sightings of humpback, beluga, grey, pilot and bottlenose whales, as well as rare fin whales and the mythical narwhal.

Bird lovers were treated to staggering numbers of thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars and black guillemots to name but a few.

Plus, passengers on late season voyages witnessed the mesmerizing spectacle of the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky on several occasions.

FULFILLING CULTURAL EXCHANGES & INNOVATIVE COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Visits to remote Inuit communities are among the highlights of a voyage with OOE, giving passengers a fascinating insight in to an ancient culture and providing the opportunity to experience the warmth of the people who inhabit Canada’s north.

Inuit guides also travel on board the ship, adding their insider knowledge and cultural interpretation during each voyage.

NEW CRUISES ADDED DURING CANADA’S 150TH YEAR

Four new, exclusive Canadian Arctic voyages – departing during July and August - will be added to OOE’s cruise programme for 2017, in recognition of this historic anniversary year.

Among them is the nine-night Pathways to Franklin – A Voyage of History (14-23 August 2017) departure, focusing on early Arctic exploration and the ill-fated Franklin expedition of the 1840s, in which 129 men perished and two ships vanished for almost 170 years.

OOE played a significant role in the discovery of one of these ships, HMS Erebus, in 2014, while the second, HMS Terror, was discovered by a research ship just two weeks ago.

Passengers will explore the vast breadth of the Northwest Passage and visit key landing sights in remote areas, which would otherwise be inaccessible.

ON BOARD EXPERTS

Several departures during 2016 hosted historians and curators from the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Scientists and researchers from the prestigious Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Vancouver Aquarium and Parks Canada joined other voyages.

During 2017, an impressive roster of some of the world’s leading Arctic experts, guest speakers and Canadian icons will join OOE’s experienced team. They are committed to providing fascinating presentations, hosting lively discussions and accompanying off-ship excursions, ensuring that a wealth of knowledge is always available to interested passengers.

OOE offers northern charter flights to these remote destinations at competitive prices, starting from just US $1200pp return from Edmonton or Ottawa to the point of embarkation / disembarkation.

Prices for Canadian Arctic cruises start from US$5495pp based on nine nights’ triple share, including the use of polar clothing, meals onboard and daily excursions.

For more information on One Ocean Expeditions’ Arctic 2017 cruises, visit:

http://www.oneoceanexpeditions.com/arctic/dates_and_prices.php

Thursday, 22 September 2016

NEW 2017 Wild Earth Travel brochure: Worldwide Small Ship Cruises

#expeditioncruising .





The new 2017 Wild Earth Travel small ship cruise brochure is now available.

If you are planning to head across the world or stay closer to home in 2017 you will find a comprehensive collection of small ship and expedition cruising options for everyone.

Wild Earth Travel now on Facebook




Captain Cook Cruises dive lover's dream Fiji Cruise Package

#expeditioncruising .

Dive Fiji like never before with Captain Cook Cruises four-night Northern Yasawa and Tivua Island cruise and dive package aboard small ship cruise vessel MV Reef Endeavour. Priced at only $2268 per person, it not only offers savings of $880 per person but guarantees divers will dive at different and untouched locations each day, while accessing the most remote and pristine areas of Fiji.

This amazing four-night Northern Yasawa and Tivua Island cruise and dive package includes 20% off porthole cabin fares with a free upgrade to an ocean stateroom and seven dives throughout the cruise, including at new Tivua Island dive wreck Raiyawa.

The cruise visits some world class dive spots and offers guests two dives each day, always in different locations. Dive groups are small in numbers and dives last about 40 minutes. All scuba diving is operated by Viti Water Sports, a PADI5 Star Dive Centre, and cater for certified, occasional and first time divers.

First time divers can learn to dive onboard, practicing all the basics skills in the pool and then experiencing their first open water dive in the warm clear waters.

Passengers can experience seven free dives on the four-night cruise and choose from over 15 dive sites including The Blue Lagoon, The Zoo, The Maze, Babylon Caves and Mistiq, all offering a different dive experience from diving through caves and canyons, over breathtaking coral gardens, to wall diving and diving through amazing marine life including pelagics and sharks.

According to Captain Cook Cruises passenger and avid diver, Mike Agnew, "Diving on the 4 day Yasawa Cruise is a must. You visit so many more locations than you could from a resort – all different, all interesting and the dive crew can pretty much select dive sites for your preference – drift, macro, wide-angle, shark, swim-throughs – all in great visibility. We never even saw another dive boat, let alone had to share a dive site. Fantastic!"

Diving Raiyawa, Captain Cook Cruises Fiji's newest dive site just off Tivua Island is also included in the package.   Having only opened this year, Raiyawa, has been turned into a wreck divers dream. Offering an exciting dive for advanced divers, divers descend down through misty, rich waters with the ship coming into sight like a ghost ship.

 "MV Raiyawa was a great dive. Easy descent (and ascent) along the bow-line, lots of fish around and in the wreck, spooky nooks and crannies and plenty of cut-outs to allow safe penetration through big or small hatches. I thoroughly recommend it as a dive." Says Mr Agnew.

As well as visiting world class dive sites, the four-night cruise also visits the private island of Tivua, the Sawa-l-Lau limestone caves and blue lagoon and cruises the spectacular passage from Yaqeta Island to the Yasawa's northern reaches.

Along the way passengers visit remote villages, churches and schools and take part in traditional village sevusevu ceremonies and Meke and Lovo feasts.

There is also plenty of time for relaxing on warm white sandy beaches, swimming in crystal clear waters, snorkelling over amazing coral reefs, stand up paddle boarding and even taking a glass bottom boat ride to witness the abundance of marine life that thrives on Fiji's coral reefs.

Stay on-board and be pampered at the ships Senikai Day Spa, or simply relax on the sun deck by the spa or pool or grab a cocktail at the pool bar.

The four night Northern Yasawa and Mamanuca cruise and dive package is on sale until 30 November 2017 and valid for travel until 31 March 2017.  Prices start from only $2268 per person, twin share, offering a savings of $880 per person.

Fares include 20% off porthole cabin fares with a free upgrade to an ocean stateroom, seven free dives throughout the cruise, shipboard accommodation, all meals, guided village, school and island tours, snorkelling and glass bottom boat excursions, daily island stopovers and water activities, hikes and Kayak safaris, on board entertainment, kids club (5-9yrs), onboard Wi-Fi, 24-hour self-service tea and coffee bar, post cruise transfers to Nadi and Denarau hotels and Nadi airport and use of the ship's facilities including a swimming pool, spa's, mini gym, sun deck, cocktail bar and library.

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises on T: +61 9126 8160 or from within Australia: 1300 To Fiji (86 3454), Email: fiji@captaincookcruisesfiji.com.fj or visit www.captaincookcruisesfiji.com


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Complete refit for National Geographic Endeavour ll

#expeditioncruising

The National Geographic Endeavour ll is undergoing a complete refit and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic has provided us with a video showcasing the progress.



The video shows the transformative refit, what's being done and a glimpse of what "shipboard life" will be like on board this expedition vessel. The ship will sail Galapagos voyages, starting in January 2017.

View the video here

As the newest ship to sail in Galapagos, National Geographic Endeavor II -- the former Via Australis -- has a shallow draft to get up close to land and wildlife sights, views from all public spaces, large windows in cabins and suites. It also features a twin Zodiac loading platform.

Accommodating 96 guests in 52 cabins and suites, the new vessel will cater to a mix of families, friends, couples and solo travelers, according to Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

The ship offers the choice of suites on two decks, double cabins with beds that can be configured as two twins or a queen, seven sets of connecting cabins for families and friends, triple cabins, and dedicated solo cabins, which are equal in size and amenities to the doubles.

Macquarie Island Closure: Last chance to visit an active base

#expeditioncruising .


Australasian expedition company Heritage Expeditions has been visiting Macquarie Island every year for the last twenty five years. A highlight of our voyages for many expeditioners is our time spent at the Australian Antarctic Division's permanent research station at Buckles Bay.

At the base, rangers escort expeditioners around the station, giving an insight into what it is like to live on one of the most remote islands on the planet, where the only crowds are the Elephant Seals and penguins jostling for space on the rugged beaches.

Established in 1948, the permanent research station will close at the end of March 2017.

This austral summer, take the last opportunities to photograph, explore and learn more of this working base. Limited Cabins are available on the following departures that explore Macquarie Island.

Birding Down Under - Departs 16 November 2016
Galapagos of the Southern Ocean - 4 December 2016
East Antarctica: In the Wake of Mawson - 16 January 2017
Ross Sea: In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton 11 January 2017 and 10 February 2017 departure.

Contact info@heritage-expeditions.com to book.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Autumn’s Small Ship Cruises in Pacific Northwest

#expeditioncruising

Vivid Color, Wine Harvests, Oysters and Curated Food Vendors

The spectacle of changing foliage, wine harvests, rare oysters and curated food vendors are bonuses while traveling this fall on Pacific Northwest waterways with small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations (http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/).


All of the cruises are accessed through gateway cities in the Pacific Northwest. Two cruises expound on the lore and meanderings of four remarkable rivers, while another cruise explores the beauty of the San Juan Islands and the Olympic rainforest.

“Autumn is a bustling time in the Pacific Northwest, especially along the paths of small ship cruises, which take into account changing colors and local harvests. It’s a special time when travelers can actually experience and taste the bounty on board,” shares Todd Smith, Founder and President of AdventureSmith Explorations. Here are three recommended small ship cruises:


Rivers of Wine - roundtrip from Portland, OR: Washington and Oregon vineyards saw their first picks of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes in mid-August. But here the wine harvest lingers into November, which means that Rivers of Wine cruise departures through the Columbia River Gorge can showcase the behind-the-scenes drama of vine to bottle. Vineyard tours and tastings over eight days are paired with four rivers -- Columbia, Snake, Willamette and Palouse – on this wine-focused itinerary aboard the 88-guest replica steamer S.S. Legacy. All wine, premium spirit and microbrew tastings, and the insights of a guest wine expert, are included in the cruise cost. This region is a hot spot for vintners. In Washington alone there are more than 850 wineries; the Walla Walla appellation boasts nearly 3,000 acres of these planted vineyards. Passengers disembark here on day 3 of the cruise to tour numerous wineries, including the unique Dunham Cellars located in a remodeled World War II era airplane hangar. Sailing from Portland, guests witness the city’s famed crimson-red ornamental maples. Portland’s Japanese Garden is a riot of color this time of year and a recommended pre- or post-cruise stop. The per person double rate is from $3,695. The last trip this season departs Oct. 29. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/rivers-wine-history-cruise-columbia-snake-river


Columbia & Snake Rivers Journey – sails between Portland, OR & Clarkston, WA: This 7-day cruise operated by the renowned Lindblad Expeditions features National Geographic guides and experts on board and comes with a culinary focus: each meal is harvested from farms along the rivers and through the company’s Food Alliance affiliation. Lindblad Expeditions says they are the only Food Alliance Supply Chain Ally in the travel industry, ensuring that the food they serve is produced by well-treated workers; that meat products come from humanely raised animals; and that the regional soil, water and wildlife habitats are protected and enhanced. Some of the region’s providers supported on this itinerary include Country Natural Beef, a cooperative of 120 family ranches; Tillamook Cheese, made up of 110 dairy farms committed to animal welfare and dating back to 1909; and Draper Valley Farms, the pioneer of Washington- and Oregon-raised fresh chicken since 1935. Guests will also be able to visit a Hood River family farm where they can sample fresh fruit and see the orchard outfitted with fall colors. Guests also enjoy the spectacle of huckleberry plants painting the hillsides gold, scarlet and orange.

Pairing with the cuisine are local wines representing the various growing areas along the Columbia and Snake rivers as well as regionally brewed beers. Among the many craft brewers, guests will discover two of the region's most notable: Full Sail Brewing and Deschutes Brewery, both committed to socially responsible practices. Wine and craft beer tastings are complimentary during each evening's guide recap and dinner. Additional pours and alcoholic drinks are available at additional cost. The per person double rate is from $4,750. The last trip this season departs Oct. 25. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/columbia-and-snake-rivers-journey


Olympic Wilderness & San Juan Islands - roundtrip from Seattle, WA: This active (paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking) 8-day cruise aboard the 76-guest Wilderness Discoverer explores the Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands while celebrating harvest season with a particular taste of the sea. On many departures, guests get to visit with the five generation family-run Hama Hama Oyster Farm as it enters its peak September through April season. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Hama Hama’s oyster beds sit at the mouth of one of the shortest, coldest and least developed rivers in Washington, yielding a clean, crisp flavor. Guests sample the farm’s classic, beach-grown Hama Hamas and tumble-farmed Blue Pools.


“I think our oysters are a special local treat,” says Hama Hama’s Lissa James Monberg. “Because our company has been here a long time, we strive to be excellent stewards of the environment and great employers, and we really care about producing a quality product.” Lissa or one of her coworkers joins the 76-guestWilderness Discoverer to explain how they farm, discuss oyster flavor with tastings and demonstrate how to shuck like a connoisseur.

In this region ornamental maples and quaking aspens display their fall foliage, but a detour into the Cascade Mountains reveals the gold of big-leaf maples and larch that transforms its needles from green to bright yellow in October. The per person rate is from $1,895. The last trip this season departs Nov. 19. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/san-juan-islands-cruise

For information on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises worldwide, itineraries, availability and reservations, Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or visit http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ideal Isolation: Aboard MV True North in WA's remote Rowley Shoals [video]

#expeditioncruising .

Location: Rowley Shoals Marine Reserve, WA


Ten years ago when I first sailed with North Star Cruises, owner and founder, Craig 'Craigo' Howson told me "You have to come to the Rowleys. It will blow your mind."

I am pleased to say that I have finally made good my promise to see this magical marine sanctuary for myself aboard his now multi-award-winning boutique small ship, MV True North.

click to enlarge
Located 260kms WNW off shore from Broome, this superbly isolated tropical reef system exists in a world of its own. While still visited by recreational users and fishers, the roughly 200 square kilometres are divided into 'sanctuary', 'recreational zone' and 'general use', so there is plenty for visitors to sustainably enjoy under the auspices of WA's Department of Parks and Wildlife (from 2013).

I'm told less than 300 divers are likely to visit in the course of any year and probably about the same number of recreational fishers. The two atolls, Clerke and Imperieuse, have their own lagoon and reef systems maintaining healthy populations of fish at every level of the food chain from tiny algae nibblers to massive predator species. Fish you are likely to see at any other reef system throughout the tropics, but in greater numbers all living together as they should, forming a healthy marine ecosystem.

Pristine reefs are part of the Rowley Shoals (Oli Olroyd / North Star Cruises)

Aboard True North is US-born marine biologist Dr Justin Rizzari.

"What makes the Rowley Shoals special is their unusual isolation, setting them far away from human influences like unregulated fishing and agricultural run-off," says Justin, "Most problems almost all world's reefs suffer from are virtually unknown here and we have a system of rare ecological integrity."

Enjoying such a natural wonder in the company of family and friends is one of the great advantages of cruising with luxury operators like North Star Cruises and I've been most fortunate to coax my daughter away from her gruelling day job to join me out here for a brief safari into this aquatic wilderness.

Beach sundowners on an uninhabited sand spit, 200Kms offshore. (R Eime)
A day aboard True North is as fast and furious or laid back as you want to make it. For the high-energy types, there is a constant offering of fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling, backed up with gourmet cuisine prepared by two expert chefs and the supreme comfort of this 36-passenger,  private motor yacht. Others can relax in the comfortable lounge, cocktail or cappuccino at hand, with a 360-degree absolute ocean view to destress to.

Double roasted pork belly aboard True North (R Eime)
While it is easy to catch small and medium size rock cod, trevally and emperor in the permitted lagoon areas, the big ones present more of a challenge. The massive aerobatic sailfish patrol the Indian Ocean just outside the reef and, I can tell you, hooking one of these ferocious monsters or a feisty tuna is a whole new ball game for this occasional fisher. Be prepared with lots of lures, upper-body strength and patience before you land one of these - and then say goodbye as you set it free again.

Wrestling the mighty sailfish (Oli Olroyd / North Star Cruises)
Underwater, the vast carpet of hard and soft corals is all but untouched by humans and it's a joy to see such expanses comprising 28 species of staghorn coral alone with their abundant populations of colourful reef fish and marine creatures.

North Star Cruises offer just two 5-day Coral Atoll Expeditions each year in September. For dates and prices see, www.northstarcruises.com.au

by expeditioncruising.com editor, Roderick Eime, aboard True North



Friday, 9 September 2016

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ HANSEATIC completes second Northeast Passage

#expeditioncruising .



For the second time Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ HANSEATIC navigates the Northeast Passage successfully

· Expedition ship HANSEATIC braves the legendary sea route again
· 4,577 nautical miles between Murmansk/Russia and Cape Dezhnev
· Route: from Tromsø/Norway trough the Northeast Passage to Nome/Alaska/USA
· Wildlife observations: 86 polar bear sightings

In the early morning of September 7th, 2016, MV HANSEATIC, one of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises‘ two expedition vessels, has once again navigated successfully the Northeast Passage. In 2014, the HANSEATIC was the first non-Russian cruise ship to navigate this legendary sea route. After sailing a total of 5,542 nautical miles, the ship will arrive in Nome on September 10th and officially end its cruise.

The Northeast Passage is the legendary sea route in the Arctic Ocean, which runs along the north coasts of Asia and Europe, from the Bering Strait to the White Sea. The HANSEATIC expedition voyage departed from Tromso/Norway on August 16th, 2016. The first port of call was Murmansk/Russia, where the adventure of the Northeast Passage started officially. After cruising through the Barents Sea/Arctic Ocean, HANSEATIC stopped at anchor in Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, before the ship went on through the Kara Sea to Severnaya Zemlya. Other stops at anchor took place off Siberia, Wrangel Island and Chukchi Island. The Northeast Passage officially ended at 06.00hrs on September 7th, when the ship rounded Cape Dezhnev.



The cruise was fully booked. The crew organized 20 landings and tours with the 14 on-board Zodiacs, rubber boats, which are well suited to expeditions. During spectacular wildlife observations, guests saw walruses and polar bears. On one island, 16 polar bears at the same time were seen, some even mothers with their babies. In total 86 polar bears were counted from the bridge.

Captain Natke summarizes the cruise: “The Northeast Passage is a spectacular voyage and always will be. This route is not comparable to a regular cruise. Nature impresses with unique and exciting insights. On this cruise we have seen a high number of polar bears. I have never before seen so many polar bears on an Arctic cruise. Furthermore, we have seen the fantastic Northern Lights and enjoyed three sunny days with blue skies at Wrangel Island”.



Reservations: International guests, as well as travel agencies, can now make use of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new free-of-charge phone numbers when requesting or booking a cruise. United Kingdom: 0800 0513 829,United States & Canada: 877 445 7447 or 800 334-2724, Belgium: 0800 79 421, the Netherlands: 0800 0220 459; all other countries, please call +49 40 30703070 (English-speaking hotline) – or - send an e-mail tosalesteam@hl-cruises.com or visit www.hl-cruises.com/contact-services for local agents.

For more information on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ exciting destinations and itineraries, visit www.hl-cruises.com.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Kids cruise free to the bottom of the world this December

#expeditioncruising



Special offer ends October 31, 2016

Until October 31, 2016, one child under 18 can cruise to the bottom of the world this December with every paying adult, thanks to a new offer from Patagonian cruise line, Australis.

Australis – Latin for ‘southern’ – offers unique, all-inclusive expedition cruises every summer to Cape Horn and the sky-blue glaciers and fjords of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.

The free child offer is valid on six cruises aboard the 210-passenger Stella Australis in December, 2016. Three of the cruises are three-night journeys from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas departing December 7, 14 and 21, 2016. The other thee departures on December 10, 17 and 24 (special Christmas cruise) are four-night sailings from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia.

Under the offer, available for bookings made before October 31, 2016, a ticket covering one adult and one child 17 or under sharing one cabin is available from US$2440 for the three-night cruise. A second adult in the cabin can cruise from an extra US$2440. A family of four can use two cabins, with the cost US$2440 per cabin – one free child per each paying adult.

All guests enjoy complimentary, guided excursions and nature lectures as well as a free open-bar. Cuisine aboard includes local dishes as well as Chilean and Argentine wines. English and Spanish are spoken onboard.

Australis is the only operator to offer regular cruises through the region, with the family-owned Chilean cruise line also offering more opportunities for travellers to step ashore on fabled Cape Horn than any other line.

From September to April each year, Australis operates regular three to seven-night expedition cruises from Ushuaia and Punta Arenas – the two southern-most towns in the world – through the mountain and glacier-lined fjords of Tierra del Fuego, the Magellan Strait and Beagle Channel. Included in fares are zodiac excursions ashore to places like Cape Horn, named 400 years ago this year by Dutch explorers, as well as Wulaia Bay and Pia Glacier. An average of seven massive tidewater glaciers can be seen on most Australis sailings while wildlife along the way includes elephant seals and Magellanic penguins.

Stella Australis offers lounges, gym facilities and cabins with extra-large panoramic windows (almost floor to ceiling) to see the amazing scenery bathed in extended summer daylight.

Facts:

Australis operates 3-, 4- and 7-night programs between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia from September until April annually. See www.australis.com for details. Bookings can be made through South American specialist agency, Movidas [www.movidas.com.au]


South America Experts
South America Experts


New express cruise and fly journey to Antarctica

#expeditioncruising

The Antarctica Express Air Cruise

Book 6-day air/cruise adventure by December 15, 2016, and receive US$3400 air credit per couple to help cover flights to South America

A new deal from South American travel specialists, Contours Travel, offers Australians the quickest and most affordable way to experience the majesty of Antarctica - cruising to Antarctica by ship before returning to South America by air.

Bookings made for the new 'Antarctica Express Air Cruise' by December 15, 2016, will receive a US$3400 air credit per couple, which can be used to pay for international flights from Australia to Argentina, where the cruise begins. Departures are available from November, 2017, to January, 2018.

The four-night cruise, which will see passengers explore far horizons few Australians get to experience, departs from Ushuaia in southern Argentina and sails across the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica's South Shetland Islands. Highlights include stepping ashore on legendary Cape Horn, sailing through ice-filled bays and a visit to a penguin colony.

Aboard the modern, 67-passenger expedition ship, Ocean Nova, guests will sail from Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel towards Puerto Williams in Chile, the southernmost town in the world. On the second day they will sail to famous Cape Horn, where, weather-permitting, they can board a zodiac and set foot on the bottom of South America. The ship will then cross the Drake Passage on the way to the wild and pristine South Shetland Islands in Antarctica, where passengers can see wildlife, icy peaks, massive icebergs and visit a penguin colony by zodiac. The endless Antarctic daylight will see exploration continue well into the evening so that guests can make the most of their short visit to Antarctica.

After the four-night cruise, passengers will disembark at Fildes Bay on King George Island, and visit Chilean and Russian research bases before boarding a charter flight back to Punta Arenas in Patagonian Chile for a final night's accommodation.

The six-day air-cruise can be added to other tours of South America available from Contours Travel.

The six-day Antarctica Express Air Cruise costs from A$8254 per person, twin-share, and bookings made before December 15, 2016, will attract a US$1700 per person air credit which can be used to book international flights through Contours Travel. The package includes zodiac excursions and the flight from the South Shetland Islands back to Punta Arenas in Chile. Departures are available on November 29, December 8 and 31, 2017, and January 14, 2018.

Call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or visit www.contourstravel.com.au

Expedition to Polar Paradise

#expeditioncruising


by Kerry van der Jagt 

There are few more memorable moments in Arctic cruising than your first Zodiac landing. Wrapped in fleece, rolled in Gore-Tex and carrying enough camera gear to shoot an entire David Attenborough documentary, stepping ashore on Svalbard feels like a mission to Pluto.