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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Small Ship Cruise Specialist Shares Insider’s Knowledge Of Alaska

#expeditioncruising .

The small ship cruise expert, AdventureSmithExplorations, boasts a knowledge base second to none when it comes to discovering the real Alaska, both by land and by sea.

Todd Smith, Adventure Smith Explorations’ visionary founder and president, in his early life was a guide in Alaska. Seeing a void in what was being offered to cruise guests, he worked with operators to add more and better off-ship activities to best capture the real essence of the Alaskan experience. In doing so, he helped to pioneer “adventure cruising” in the region. Today he works closely with his team of specialists on how best to avoid over-touristed places and routes in order, as he says, “to experience Alaska right.”

“We can confidently say we have more small ship cruise options in Alaska than anybody else,” Smith adds. “These along with our land programs translate to countless outstanding opportunities to get off the beaten path and into remote coves and wilderness regions that large ships can’t access. It truly is the best way to see wild Alaska.”

In summer of 2017, cruise guests accounted for 57 percent of the state’s nearly 2 million visitors. Fewer than 10 percent sailed on the kinds of small ships that Smith’s company offers in Alaska and around the globe, proving that small ships are a way to get off the beaten path.

Because of an extensive inventory in Alaska, the company is reporting that plenty of options are still available for 2019 cruises, including on the new 100-guest National Geographic Venture sailing its first Alaska season in May 2019. Other itineraries still open for 2019 include:

  • Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness is an eight-day cruise through Southeast Alaska on National Geographic Venture or on sister ship National GeographicQuest. For families with two adults traveling with children under age 21, the rate is 50 percent for the first child and free for the second child. Complimentary round-trip airfare is offered between Seattle and Alaska on select departures.
  • Alaska’s Glacier Country is a new eight-day itinerary for 2019 with especially good space aboard the SS Legacy. On select departures look for a $600 per couple air credit; grandparents traveling with grandchildren can save $500.
  • Northern Passages & Glacier Bay over eight days explores backcountry wilderness between Juneau and Sitka on any of three Wilderness ships (between 60 to 76 guests, depending on the vessel).
  • Last Frontier Adventure is a new itinerary for 2019 aboard the 58-guest Admiralty Dream or 49-passenger Baranof Dream. The eight-day journey begins in Sitka and ends in Juneau. 
To help clients select small ships and/or itineraries that best fit their interests, Smith’s team has prepared 6 Insider Tips to Travel Alaska in the Best Way as follows:

- Explore by Small Ship --Alaska is a place you must experience by sea. Some of the state’s most iconic features (glaciers, whales, and fjords) are best accessed by ship; many towns are only accessible by ship. Visitors can short change their Alaska experience by choosing a ship and/or itinerary that in the end don’t suit their interests. For instance, big ships sometimes cruise some 700 nautical miles in one day; small ships take a week on such a stretch. Not to mention the disparate travel experiences: “Most travelers do not go to Alaska for midnight buffets and crowded port towns filled with tchotchkes; they go to be immersed in the environment,” underscores Smith.
- Know How Small You Want to Go -- Small ships (12 to 100 passengers) vary greatly in size and feel, ranging from owner-captained yachts to larger expedition vessels with onboard hot tubs and cabins with balconies. Fitting ships to clients is AdventureSmith’s mission, with every Adventure Specialist spending time exploring Alaska via small ship to learn the differences of each vessel before passing on those insights to passengers. 


- Think Outside the Boat -- It’s a given on a small ship that guests spend a lot of time off the boat exploring the wonders of land and sea: daily hikes, Zodiac rides, guided kayak tours, stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling (with a thick wetsuit provided).
- Take a Moment to Enjoy the Solitude -- Something many travelers crave but can’t always pinpoint is their need for remoteness and solitude. “Alaska is the perfect destination for unplugging,” says Smith who, when an expedition leader in Alaska, would always guide his guests to sit in silence for a few minutes when out hiking on a trail. “At the end of the trip many remarked this time experiencing the vast Alaskan solitude was one of the most powerful experiences of the whole trip.”
- Relax, You Will See Wildlife -- Travelers bring wildlife bucket lists with them to Alaska. “Let go of your expectations and be prepared to be taken aback by what you see on both land and water,” suggests Smith. Anchoring in dark coves and staying at a wilderness lodge deep in the mountains offer up-close interaction with both the landscape and wildlife.

- Don’t Keep the Great Land to Yourself -- Alaska is a place to make lifetime memories that become even better when shared with friends and family. Travelers can greatly benefit from reduced rates generated by a group. Some ships offer savings for a certain number of travelers booking together. “Groups can save significantly by chartering the ship to design your own experience. Learn more about Alaska for Kids and Alaska Charters to bring the whole gang!” Smith says.

For details on all of AdventureSmith Explorations’ small ship cruises, itineraries, availability and for 2019 and 2020 reservations, please call 866-575-2875 toll-free or visit the company website.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

From on board True North. Great Whites in the Bight

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: Neptune Islands, SA

Our Great White Shark was a little late to the party, but here he is. (RE)

Ever since the 1975 thriller JAWS burst onto the cinema screens, the world has been terrified of sharks, the Great White Shark (GWS) in particular. It's true, the GWS is the only shark species that targets mammals, feasting on pinnipeds wherever they can be found – and very occasionally mistaking us for the flippered variety.

Here aboard True North we're sailing through the nutrient-rich waters of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, perhaps the most populous location in the world for these monstrous beasts. It was here, just outside Port Lincoln, where the famous cage scenes from JAWS were filmed – with a live shark.

In recent years, Australia has been in a minor media frenzy with a blip in shark attack numbers and numerous theories are being put forward. But from a public perspective, the biggest fear we have stems from our ignorance of these animals who are, for all intents and purposes, just going about their business.

Alf Dean World Record 1200kg Great White caught at Ceduna in 1959. The bait? A dolphin.

In the early and mid-20th century, fishermen would revel in the chase, eagerly displaying their trophies including the largest fish ever caught on a hook and line, Alf Dean's 1200kg Great White landed right here at Ceduna. Great Whites over 6 metres and 2000kg have also been recorded, caught using harpoons and barrels. GWSs have been a protected species in our waters, along with all sharks, since 1990.

For more than ten years, shark cage diving has been available in Port Lincoln with two or three operators including Rodney Fox and Calypso Star, with True North using the latter since Southern Safari was first offered. As this is my second Southern Safari, so it is my second dive with Calypso Star.

Get a bite of this!

Now, as you can imagine, there has been some debate about the merits of shark cage diving especially when it comes to attracting the animals with fish guts. Rules have tightened, so it is now no longer permitted to feed the sharks, just lure them.

Our day started slowly with lots of schooling trevally hoovering up the tuna scraps while the water rinsed thick with blood. It wasn't until a couple of hours had passed until our only circumspect candidate arrived, a modest 3-4 metre specimen (pic above). No thrashing or breaches, our shark merely cruised among the frenzied fish for perhaps an hour, then decided there was nothing to eat and wandered off toward the nearby seal colony. A sighting nonetheless. Tick.

Even though there was no comparison to my first wild encounter where three sharks fought tooth-and-nail for the bait, True North guests certainly had an up-close experience with the ocean's apex predator and hopefully found a new respect for these perfect animals, the product of millions of years of evolution.

More information on True North Adventure Cruises:

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

From on board True North: Peaking Pearson

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: Pearson Island, SA

Australia has more than 8000 islands within our maritime borders and there aren't too many uninhabited in that total. Pearson Island is the second largest within the Investigator Group at 213 hectares and the the group's highest point at 231m.

Named in 1802 by, you guessed it, Matthew Flinders who did not state the source but Flinders typically named his discoveries after benefactors or crew.

Today a group of us will summit the imposing granite outcrop on this human-free island, inhabited only by the cutest rock wallabies, some tiny dragon lizards, a few bird species and a scattering of pinnipeds.

Australian fur seal greets us (RE)

We are accompanied by Pat Walsh, a ranger with SA Parks who gives us the lowdown on this isolated archipelago.

“There has never been any human habitation here on Pearson,” he tells us, “but sheep were run here for a short time in the 1840s.”

The islands have enjoyed progressive levels of protection since 1916 and now include the waters as a marine reserve, an announcement that did not please recreational fishers who enjoy the rich bounty. More recently the Pearson Isles have been back in the news following Sea Shepherd's Operation Jeedara in response to BP's plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

As our tenders put the landing party ashore, we receive curious stares from several fur seals cavorting in the shallows. Great expanses of golden granite extend all the way from the summit to the shore with large sandy patches sustaining sheoak, tea tree, ruby saltbush and rock fern. Pat was particularly chuffed to find a big West Coast Mintbush (Prostanthera calycina) which he tells us has all but vanished from the mainland because “pretty much everything likes to eat it”.

The delightful Pearson Island Wallaby, a relative of the mainland Black-Footed Wallaby (RE)

As I remembered from my only other visit here 10 years ago, a family of little rock wallabies live among the boulders, peering out occasionally as the clumsy bipeds shuffle around shore.

We set off uphill in a steady climb to the summit, calves burning as we pick our way through the low scrub which gives way to spindly shrubs and finally bald granite at the top where a stiff breeze keeps us in check. No parkour for me. The prospect of a heavy fall through the ample gaps bearing on my mind. Obligatory snapshots completed we head back down where True North sits like a child's tiny bathtime toy out in the bay.

Back aboard, chefs Luke and Gav have a healthy feast of abalone, fresh caught whiting and colourful salad waiting for us.


From on board True North: Pinnipeds on Parade

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: Thistle Island, SA (near Port Lincoln)

Cruise attendant, Jaimee, cavorts with a local at Hopkins Island (supplied)

The Australian Sea Lion is certainly one of the darling species in the South Australian wildlife catalogue. Best known for their favourite beach at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island (KI), these delightful critters are distributed all along the southern and western coastline between KI and as far west as the Abrolhos Islands. But all is not well in the pinniped* world.

As we swim among them here at remote Hopkins Island a few clicks offshore from Port Lincoln, the young animals taunt and tease us with playful antics, posing for our cameras and nibbling curiously on our fins. It's an idyllic life out here for them. Or so it seems.

Australian Sea Lions
Australian Sea Lions haul out on Hopkins Island (RE)
Australian Sea Lions have enjoyed protection for almost 100 years since the hunting of all pinnipeds ceased in the mid-1920s. While their boisterous cousins, the fur seals, have recovered substantially in that time, the story has not been the same for the sea lions.

Fur seals and sea lions were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 19th century.
Sea Lions fared particularly badly as their populations are slow to recover.

“Sea Lions have a peculiar site fidelity called philopatry,” Natalie Hill, our resident naturalist aboard True North tells me, “which means once a colony disappears, it's gone for good. With no females left to pass on the the hunting and breeding history to their offspring, the colony will never reestablish. Fur seals, on the other hand, can recolonise pretty much at will.”

As a result of the unregulated hunting throughout the 19th century, the sea lion has vanished from all sites in Victoria and Bass Strait and populations elsewhere have been painfully slow to recover, so much so that perhaps fewer than 12,000 individuals remain.

Young Australian Sea Lion comes to check me out (RE)

“Sea lions are listed by the IUCN as EN (endangered) and the slow breeding animals are particularly vulnerable to habitat disturbance and are unfortunately still found in bycatch, “says Natalie. “but methods are now in place to hopefully reduce this with the introduction of Seal Exclusion Devices (SEDs) in trawler nets.”

A Seal Exclusion Device is designed to allow seals to escape trawler nets.

They are also on the menu for the only mammal-eating shark, the fearsome Great White.

Swimming with these fun-loving mammals is certainly one way to draw attention to their plight and commercial swims are available out of Port Lincoln and Baird Bay for regular tourists.

True North continues its voyage through South Australian waters before concluding in Ceduna.


* pinnipeds are all Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

One Ocean Expeditions new itineraries for 2019

#expeditioncruising .
One Ocean voyages

After welcoming the new year, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) is looking toward an exciting 2019 with the launch of new innovative itineraries, continuing the thread of their core pillars of exploration, and enhancing science and educational programming with an array of special guests and experiences.

New Whale Watching Voyage from Lindblad Expeditions

#expeditioncruising .
Lindblad Expeditions Whale Watching Voyage

If you like spontaneity and have flexibility, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic has just added three upcoming expeditions that could be the whale watching experience of your lifetime. Inside Magdalena Bay: Where the Whales Are is a special five-night voyage that’s unique, fun, wild, action-packed, close to home, and filled with extraordinary gray whale encounters.

This is no ordinary whale-watching experience. Magdalena Bay is where gray whale mothers, calves and juveniles end the longest mammal migration on earth. It has been part of Lindblad’s itineraries in Baja California for over 30 years, but this is the first time they are focusing an entire voyage on this splendid bay and its environs.

Guests will be literally living among the whales on the 31-cabin National Geographic Sea Bird, which will serve as the floating base camp for the adventure. See and hear them around the ship, and venture out in Zodiacs for exhilarating up-close encounters with curious calves and gentle mothers. You will be immersed in the rich marine life as the ship explores two distinct areas where whales congregate.

Beyond the whales, there is so much more. Explore the mangroves by kayak. Mountain bike over Sahara-like stretches of dunes (there is a fleet of bikes aboard). Beach comb endless beaches studded with sand dollars. Revel in the vastness and serenity as you view the many species of birds in this world-renowned region. Explore mangroves by kayak or paddle board. And explore it all with a team of expert naturalists and a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor.

This compact 6 days/5 night voyage includes three departures: March 13, 19, 24, 2019. Rates begin at $3,290 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin. Plus, book now and receive complimentary round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Loreto.

For reservations or additional information on Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic voyages to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth, visit, call 1-800-EXPEDITION (1-800-397-3348), contact your travel advisor, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Kids Free in Alaska with Lindblad

#expeditioncruising .

*Bring a Child or Grandchild to Alaska for 50% Off, and Second Child for FREE*

Family Travel in Alaska

Following the recent launch of the line’s newest addition to their fleet, National Geographic Venture, Lindblad Expeditions has announced a special family offer for select Alaska voyages in 2019. Sister ship to National Geographic Quest - the line’s first ever new build which launched last summer, the new Venture brings the Lindblad Alaska fleet to four in 2019.

The family offer is applicable on select departures of the 8-day Exploring Alaska’s Coast Wilderness and is based on two full-paying adults bringing one child (22 and under) for 50% off, and a second child for free when traveling together.

The voyages are set aboard the 50-cabin National Geographic Venture and National Geographic Quest, and the 31-cabin National Geographic Sea Lion. Rates begin at $5,990 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin, with the starting rate for the first child $2,995. Savings do not apply to extensions. New bookings only.

Lindblad continues the celebratory spirit on any Exploring Alaska’s Coast Wilderness voyage with a new onboard Milestone Package. Geared for guests getting the whole clan together for a life-changing expedition to mark personal achievements and milestones—the big birthdays, anniversaries, multi-generational reunions, graduations, retirements, vow renewals—the complimentary amenities include:

• A special in cabin welcome gift upon arrival
• 5% off for groups of 8 or more
• A $150 Gift Card to use on board—for an item in the Global Gallery, a treatment in the LEXspa, a bottle of champagne with dinner, or to apply toward the bar tab
• A complimentary voyage DVD
• Complimentary custom group photograph taken by the LEX-NG Photo Instructor—to capture the moment
• A celebratory cake, served with flair on the evening of choice

The Milestone celebration is available for new bookings only, and must be communicated at time of booking. Group cancellation terms apply, and it is not combinable with certain offers.

For reservations or additional information on Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic voyages to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth, visit, call 1-800-EXPEDITION (1-800-397-3348), contact your travel advisor, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

From on board MV True North. Koala trouble on Kangaroo Island

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: American River, Kangaroo Island, SA

Kangaroo Island koala at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (supplied)

Everyone loves koalas. They're cute, furry and oh-so cuddly, but here on Kangaroo Island (KI) they are something of a bother, not the least to themselves.

With True North safely anchored in Ballast Head Harbor(1) at American River, our half-day coach tour aboard SeaLink was ready at 7am to whisk us from the jetty and off into the heartland of Kangaroo Island.

Our first stop is at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately run animal refuge covering 20 square kilometres of largely undisturbed mallee and eucalyptus wilderness. Opened in 2011 it mainly protects some 200-400 koalas, with 20 or so visible to visitors at any one time, sitting contentedly in their manna or bluegum trees.

Now there's trouble in paradise because the koalas are beginning to eat themselves out of house and home, exhausting their preferred leafy foodstuff. What I had forgotten was that koalas are not native to KI, instead in 1920 a small troupe of 18 animals was moved to the island from Victoria where they had been savagely hunted for their fur. This act of conservation has been somewhat too successful with numbers reaching around 50,000 today(2). What to do?

Lethal culling has been ruled out, relocation back to the mainland is too stressful for the animals (although trials are still be done in the Adelaide Hills and Blue Mountains), so a program of sterilisation is being undertaken with the hope further population growth can be prevented.

Visitors enjoy Remarkable Rocks (SeaLink)

With our knowledge of local koalas considerably enhanced, we set off again for more routine sites, namely the iconic Remarkable Rocks and Admiral's Arch with its resident fur seal population at the far western end of KI.

There's time for more fishing and local sightseeing in the afternoon before another superb dinner from chefs Luke and Gav.

1. Early Australian spelling used 'harbor' without the 'u' in all South Australian ports, including Victor Harbor, Ballast Head Harbor and even Adelaide's main commercial port, Outer Harbor.
2. modelling done by the University of Adelaide based on 2015 survey data.


From On Board: True North in South Australia: Victor Harbor


From on board MV True North II
Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: Victor Harbor, SA

True North visits South Australia every year (RE)

The waters off South Australia are renown for their big creatures, not all of them friendly. But the story of tuna fishing is certainly one of outstanding success and yes you can actually swim with these massive, powerful fish in the open ocean.

Early this morning, True North motored imperiously past Rosetta Head and through Encounter Bay where Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders had their famous rendezvous in 1802, dropping anchor in the shadow of Granite Island, a couple decent casts from the beach at Victor Harbor. (yes, that's how it's spelled)

Once operated out of the tuna capital of Australia, Port Lincoln, the whole operation is now located across the Gulf, just over an hour south from Adelaide and under the new name of 'Oceanic Victor'. Not only do we get to swim in the pen as these muscular missiles dart around in bursts of up to 70kmh chasing prostrate pilchards tossed in amongst us, we learn about their physiology, life-cycle and commercial importance.

Southern Bluefin Tuna - always on the prowl (RE)

Once cheap sandwich filler and petfood, Southern Bluefin Tuna ((Thunnus maccoyii, aka SBT) now commands tens of thousands of dollars per fish on the auction floor in Tokyo. The quota is around 6000 tonnes annually and is valued at more than $400million in export dollars. SBT are raised in “sea ranches” after they are caught wild in the ocean and fattened to market size.

True North guests up close and personal with giant Southern Bluefin Tuna (RE)

The 40-odd fish here in the pen are around 50-60kg each and consume at least one kilo of pilchards each per day. These are hungry fish and weigh more than 100kg by the time they hit the market in Tokyo.

The tuna certainly are fascinating fish, but the 'cuteness' award goes to the pair of Port Jackson sharks rescued as bycatch from local fishermen. Christened Lilly and Charlotte by the team at Oceanic Victor, they are soaking up the cuddles and tummy tickles. Yes, really. They sit with us for an hour, posing for photos and nuzzling for more attention like a couple of friendly puppies. They live in their own big tank and can swim off at any time, but seem determined to spend as much time with us as they can.

Charlotte just loves a good tummy tickle (RE)

Back to True North for another fabulous lunch prepared by chefs Luke and Gav before we set out across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island to catch the next days' feed, namely the superbly tasty King George Whiting famous in these waters and – thanks to our expert guides – we bring back a healthy catch of these delicious fish.

True North remains here at Kangaroo Island for the next few days, sampling local pleasures and more fishing!


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) looks to an exciting 2019

#expeditioncruising .

After welcoming the new year, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) is looking toward an exciting 2019 with the launch of new innovative itineraries, continuing the thread of their core pillars of exploration, and enhancing science and educational programming with an array of special guests and experiences.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Save on 2019 UnCruise Small Ship Adventures


UnCruise Adventures offers savings on sailings in Alaska, Costa Rica/Panama

UnCruise Adventures, an award-winning small ship cruise line, heads into the new year with up to $600 savings on select adventure cruises in Alaska and Costa Rica/Panama. Ships carrying 22-90 guests sail adventure cruises with included activities and a focus on nature and wildlife.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

PONANT releases Asia, Oceania & the Indian Ocean Collection 2019-20

This newly released 'must-read' brochure features an exciting range of PONANT cruises and expeditions to fascinating destinations, the very names of which generate an unabashed sense of wanderlust.

Zanzibar, the Marquesas Islands, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Vanilla Islands, Malacca, Indonesia, Guam, Papua, French Polynesia, Easter Island and Vietnam being just some of the exotic locations visited.