Tuesday 30 September 2008

Saigon company to launch new ship

Source: Seatrade Insider

Saigon-based Trails of Indochina will launch the first ship for its new Heritage Cruise Line in August next year.

The 58-mtr Jayavarman, which is being built in Vietnam at a cost of around US$4m, will operate three-, four-, five- and eight-day cruises between Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the port for Angkor Wat.

The family-owned Trails of Indochina, which was established in 1998, is also the major shareholder in Halong Cruises which operates one- and two-night cruises around Halong Bay with the luxury junks Jasmine and Ginger (pic above). A third junk, Violet, will enter service next May.

Brett Morgan, the Queensland-based representative for Trails of Indochina in Australia and New Zealand, has told Seatrade Insider that Jayavarman will be the most luxurious boutique cruise ship on the Mekong River.

Morgan said each of the 27 staterooms will have a private balcony and the ship’s facilities include a spa, shop, library and two spacious lounge areas. He said the dining room will serve Asian and Western cuisine.

Morgan said plans for a second Heritage Cruise Line ship are on the drawing board.

Cruise Weekly Comment: Helicopter Crash

The Bell 407 lands on True North on a cruise prior to its mishap

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

I must admit that news of a second helicopter crash in the Kimberley inside two weeks has given me some goose bumps. I flew with Slingair, the first to lose their machine in a quadruple fatality over the Bungle Bungles, on a fixed wing charter after a week aboard True North where I made numerous flights in their now sunken Bell 407.

True North's machine was like brand new to me and flew faultlessly throughout the cruise. All passengers wore automatically-inflating life jackets and the great big doors were easy to get in and out of. Thankfully, no one lost their lives in what must have been a hair-raising event. There is some mystery however, as to why the flotation devices attached to the landing gear did not activate and an investigation is now under way.

So what does this mean for the many expedition vessels that employ helicopters either on board or as optional flight-seeing tours? Helicopters add an extra dimension to any cruise experience and are invaluable on many polar itineraries.

There is a degree of risk assessment in any form of travel and helicopters are nowhere near the top of any 'most dangerous transport' list. Statistics are traditionally dominated by the rattly minibus and motorcycle, even crossing the road rates way up there, especially in SE Asia, Africa and the sub-continent. I, for one, will continue to fly in helicopters and light aircraft knowing that the taxi ride to the airport will constitute the single highest risk factor on any given trip.

No matter where you are or what you're doing, assess the risk, enjoy yourself and travel safely.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Niche Cruising

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

It's true, some people just shouldn't go expedition cruising.

Lamenting with a good friend who was just back from a stint as expedition leader, we discussed some of the people we had both encountered over years of adventure cruising. Expedition cruising is a niche product and it just doesn't suit everyone, no matter how much they might think they are the adventurer.

Just as money doesn't buy good manners, the often high price tag of expedition cruises is more a reflection of the mind-boggling logistics, impossibly remote locations and penalty for provisioning for small numbers. Itineraries, as I've discovered, can often be completely turned upside down; landings skipped due to weather, ice or tides or, just as easily, new experiences conjured out of thin air as opportunities arise.

As an agent, it's difficult when a client wants something exotic and is more than willing to pay, but has mismatched expectations. Not every wildlife encounter is an Attenborough event, seas get rough in the Antarctic (especially if you're on an icebreaker) and maybe there isn't the shipboard facilities they may be used to like hairdressers, room service or entertainment.

From my experience, most expedition cruisers don't come from the wider cruising community. It's rare to find another passenger raving about their latest big ship voyage, instead you're more likely to find financially independent baby-boomers who have racked up scores of countries and have a wealth of rich adventures under their belts already. They have little tolerance for the madding crowds, contrived tourist experiences or synthetic Las Vegas-style facades.

However, as I've mentioned previously, the converts are true die-hards constantly on the lookout for new destinations and experiences. Timid, poolside cocktail sippers need not apply.

Friday 19 September 2008


CruiseMart is offering free return air and a night's accommodation at Invercargill in New Zealand to join two cruises to Antarctica aboard the boutique expedition ship Orion in December of this year and January 2009.

And as well as this exclusive offer the December 2008 cruise will feature onboard talks and tips by renowned photographer, Ken Duncan.

The December 11 2008 departure will visit Snares and the Auckland Islands with their profuse birdlife, the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island that's been described as one of the Wonder Spots of the world and home to 20,000 breeding pairs of penguins and the relics of an old whaling station, and cross the Antarctic Circle to Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay for a visit to Mawson's Hut that still stands today as it was on his departure in 1913.

There are also nine days cruising the region before the 100-passenger Orion ends this 16-night expedition in Hobart.

A 20-night return package on January 12 2009 sails from Invercargill's port of Bluff for Enderby Island with its vast penguin colonies, Macquarie Island, Cape Adare and the Ross Sea region bounded by the Ross Ice Shelf that's the size of France, volcanic Campbell Island with its forty bird species, and 11-days cruising the region.

Packages include all onboard meals, entertainment and educational programs, and Zodiac landings; the 16-night December package is priced from $18,325 and the January 2009 20-nights from $22,905 (pp twin-share.)

Details on 1300 305 920 or www.cruisemart.com.au

Cruise the Bay of Islands with Coral Princess and Save 20 Per Cent

Coral Princess Cruises is offering a get-in-early special for the Christmas holidays, with 20 per cent savings available on Auckland to Bay of Islands expedition cruises for departures between December and February.

The five-night Bay of Islands cruise aboard Coral Princess’s purpose-built luxury expedition vessel, Oceanic Discoverer, departs from either Auckland or Paihia, exploring the hidden coves and spectacular coastline of the far north-eastern tip of New Zealand’s North Island.

Cruising through the Bay of Islands reveals the many natural attractions that have long amazed explorers, yachtsmen and tourists, such as the Hole in the Rock – a rock ‘tunnel’ etched by wind and waves; Deep Water Cove; Roberton Island and Urupukapuka – the largest island in the Bay of Islands.

Carrying a maximum of just 72 guests, Oceanic Discoverer provides all the comforts and facilities of larger cruise ships. But unlike the big cruise ships, Oceanic Discoverer is small enough to access remote sites such as beautiful Whangaroa Harbour – where she was the first cruise ship ever to visit.

Oceanic Discoverer travels with a purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, and a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs to allow passengers to intimately explore the secluded bays and inlets of this remarkable destination. On-board naturalists and experts interpret the natural surroundings, both on the ship and when guests disembark to swim in the clear waters and on guided bushwalks.

With savings of up to $1,420 per stateroom, prices start at $2,392 per person twin share with the 20 per cent discount applied. This includes accommodation, all meals, activities and excursions during the cruise, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, group transfers (one-way between Auckland and Paihia) and landing fees. There are departures from both Auckland and Paihia between December 24, 2008 and February 5, 2009.

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

Thursday 18 September 2008


Science guru and media personality Dr Karl Kruszelnicki will be one of the special guest lecturers on board Aurora Expeditions’ ‘Icebergs and Emperors’ voyage to Commonwealth Bay Antarctica, departing Hobart on 12 December 2008.

Dr Karl is best known for his ability to make science accessible to everyone. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and his weekly radio program is one of the most popular in Australia.

Also on board this special voyage will be Emma McEwin - great granddaughter of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson. The voyage plans to visit Mawson’s historic hut, the isolated base camp of the 1911 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, and the site of one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. Emma’s unique insight into the life of this Australian legend will be the subject of her onboard lectures.

Greg Mortimer, AO, mountaineer and veteran of more than 100 Antarctic voyages will lead the expedition. A limited number of places are still available on the 27-day voyage, travelling on the ice-strengthened vessel, Marina Svetaeva. A fleet of inflatable Zodiacs and two on-board helicopters will allow travellers to access some of the most remote regions of the frozen continent. Prices start from US$12,290pp.

Murray Princess 50% Summer Sale

Summer is finally here and to celebrate Captain Cook Cruises is letting the second person cruise for half price on any of its 3, 4 or 7 night Murray River Cruises.

The sale starts 20 September 2008 and ends 15 January 2009 and passengers can cruise between 01 November 08 and 28 February 09.

The historic cruise starts with the ship itself, PS Murray Princess. Finished with polished wood and gold trimmings and featuring a winding staircase, full-length windows and a paddle wheel encased in glass, these features help replicate the paddle wheelers that first cruised the Murray in the 1800's.

It's then full steam down the Murray between the Blanchetown area and Murray Bridge for 280kms of incredible terrain, wildlife and Australian history and culture.

The Murray Princess cruises past towering limestone cliffs, through picturesque gorges and along riverbanks lined with mallee scrub, red gum forests and century old stone causeways.

The wetlands attract an amazing array of Australian wildlife and over 350 species of birds. Led by on-shore guides, passengers can enjoy nature walks, nocturnal eco-tours and learn about the ecology of the river.

Each day features exciting day trips to historic ports, sacred Aboriginal sites, a sheep station and woolshed and a native wildlife shelter.

There's a food and wine trial that enables tasting at a number of vineyards and cellar doors, and in the evening, an Aussie-style campfire barbecue on the river bank.

All cruises depart from Mannum. The three nights Wetlands Discovery Cruise departs every Friday at 4.30pm and prices start from $775 for the first person and from $388 for the second person. The four nights Outback Heritage Cruise departs every Monday at 4.20pm and prices start from $999 for the first person and from $500 for the second person. The seven nights Murraylands & Wildlife Cruise departs every Friday and Monday at 4.30pm and prices start from $1596 for the first person and from $798 for the second person.

Prices include all meals, accommodation, onboard facilities, most tours, scenic coach transfers from Adelaide or onsite car parking.

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

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Orion on acquisition hunt

Michael Bruce - Travel Weekly

Orion Cruises has abandoned plans to purchase a new-build vessel and will instead look at acquisitions within the next 12 months, founder and managing director Sarina Bratton has said.

Bratton told Travel Today the sale of 94 per cent of the business to Denver-based KSL Capital Partners earlier this year – Bratton retains six per cent – has given Orion the capital base to expand further.

“They saw the benefit and the merit of expanding this brand. They’re coming to understand more about this sector of the industry. They know hotels inside out but when it comes to operating a ship they don’t know a lot. But the thing is they back people.”

She said a number of discussions had been held with shipyards, but the “exorbitant” cost involved in building a vessel meant it was not feasible.

“What we’ve decided is to focus on what other vessels and/or companies might be out there as a potential acquisition,” Bratton said. She refused to say what approaches had been made, but expects to have an acquisition bedded down within 12 months.

Bratton said the marketing scope of KSL’s portfolio of North American leisure and tourism brands, such as Club Corp and Western Athletic Clubs, would also benefit Orion. “We’re the equivalent of a 50-room hotel so your marketing reach is very limited,” Bratton said, pointing to KSL’s huge membership bases as a “really powerful” tool.

Expedition cruising: can adventure be luxurious?

By Jane Archer - telegraph.co.uk

What makes a perfect expedition cruise – luxury, lectures or roughing it? Jane Archer gives her opinion.

Can an expedition ship also be a luxury ship? The question has been ringing in my ears ever since Silversea announced earlier this year that it had bought a ship with an ice-strengthened hull and was doing it up to offer luxury discovery-style cruising.

[Read full story]

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: PNG

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

If ever there was a destination perfect for adventure and expedition cruising, it would have to be Papua New Guinea.

I'm about to set sail for PNG again next week and this will be my fourth visit. I can't imagine getting tired of visiting this wild and colourful country so close at hand.

Australians still need to overcome reservations generated by decades of bad PR. True, some places you just want to stay clear of, Port Moresby for one. But in the Solomon and Bismark Seas to the north and northwest, up the mighty Sepik River and over to the Louisiades, there is a Papua New Guinea seldom seen by mass tourists.

Compact, low-impact expedition vessels like Orion, Oceanic Discoverer and True North are now regularly plying the friendly waters, stopping at tiny islands with villages of just a few hundred inhabitants and absolutely no tourism infrastructure at all. No touts, trashy nick-nacks or wharf urchins to upset your experience, just a pure and unadulterated cultural encounter.

Just as expedition cruising is not for everyone, neither is PNG. Passengers need to be open-minded, intellectually self-sufficient and prepared to embrace the experience as it is presented. The modern vessels offer plenty of comfort and even luxury for softies like me, so it's not all hard going.

There's great diving and snorkeling, fishing, brilliant tribal art, raw dance and rituals to make your eyes pop and anthropological and wartime history in abundance.

Most itineraries take place after the Kimberley season closes in September and each operator usually only conducts two or three voyages each season of between seven and 14 days. Website: www.png-tourism.com

Into the Heart of Borneo*

An Expedition on the Mighty Rajang River on the new RV Orient Pandaw

Borneo, the second largest island in the world after Greenland, has one of the most diverse eco systems on the planet, its primary rain forest home to a vast number of species of flora and fauna.

Now part of Eastern Malaysia, Sarawak was ruled for exactly one hundred years by the Brooke family, known as the Raja Brookes, and only joined the British Empire after the war, gaining independence in 1966.

The Rajang River, at 640km is the longest river in Malaysia, flows across Borneo from Sarawak into Indonesian Kalimantan. Though well know to many from Redmon O’Hanlon’s classic Into the Heart of Borneo, there is very little tourism here due to the river’s remoteness and lack of facilities. The scenery is magnificent – a total jungle experience with the rainforest tumbling into the fast flowing river.

The Rajang is navigable on a ship of Pandaw’s size for at least 250km until the Pelagus Rapids, and further on its main tributary the Baleh River. The river is peopled with the Iban, headhunters till the 1950s, whose unique long house culture survives well to this day, blending well animist tradition with modernity.

There is much to do and see upriver, whether just gazing at the amazing scenery or visiting long houses traditional and modern. In these river towns we can explore the architectural vestiges of the Brooke Raj. Jungle treks, for all levels, are a must as are long boat trips to the Pelagus rapids. Wildlife is in abundance and crocodiles, monitor lizards and the hornbill (national bird of Sarawak) common sights.Downriver, the prosperous Chinese city of Sibu with its old shop houses, markets and friendly inhabitants, is a calm reflection of an old China that probably no longer exists in mainland China. Sibu with its rich surrounding farmlands and tropical climate is an important agricultural area.

Sibu is the world’s biggest producer of pepper and at Sareiki we will visit pepper farms, fruit plantations that boast seven kilogram pineapples and a host of other exotic fruits. The sea port of Thanjung Manis is a centre of traditional songkat textile production and we will visit weaving workshops.

Sibu is well served with several daily flights to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Brunei and Kuching (Air Asia and MAS) thus connecting with international flights to Europe or other Asian cities.

The most delightful city in South-East Asia, Kuching offers a glimpse of what Singapore or Bangkok must have been like half a century ago. Laid back, yet full of hip cafés and bars, the traditional Chinese shop houses as yet untrammelled by greedy developers. The serene Sarawak River flows through the city centre, flanked by gorgeous Brooke Raj palaces, courts and a glistening white fort that marks the first White Raja’s landing.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ BREMEN successfully passes through the Northwest Passage

- The Only Cruise Ships In the World to Offer this Legendary Voyage Again in 2009 -

Under the command of Captain Ulf Wolter, Hapag-Lloyd’s expedition ship MS BREMEN has completed its crossing of the Northwest Passage. On September 1, 2008, the BREMEN docked in Point Barrow, Alaska, at the western end of the legendary sea route, ending its crossing of the passage. The 142 passengers experienced one of the last great adventures on the planet, traveling over 4,000 nautical miles (approx. 4,603 miles). The vessel holds the highest ice class rating (E4), which allows the 4-star expedition ship access through the Arctic ice independently.

Excerpts from the captain's log affirm a smooth voyage, which started on August 12, 2008, in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. On a largely quiet sea, with good visibility, the passengers on deck and on the Zodiac excursions experienced a panorama of icebergs, glaciers and tundra.

The first polar bears were sighted early in the voyage in Dundas Harbour, an abandoned settlement on Devon Island. Moving westward, these “Kings of the Arctic” were encountered almost every day. Narwhals, musk oxen, polar foxes and flocks of seabirds, also made the cruise a true adventure. Besides wildlife observations, the journey also followed the trails of historic expeditions and everyday Arctic life in small Inuit settlements. After 25 exciting days, the BREMEN reached Nome, Alaska on September 6, where it ended its voyage.

The BREMEN and HANSEATIC, the two expedition ships in the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet, takes turns crossing the Northwest Passage every other year, and are among the few ships to travel this route. In August 2009, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will exclusively offer the only Northwest Passage cruise ship itineraries on the HANSEATIC and her sister ship the BREMEN. For the first time in Hapag-Lloyd Cruises history both ships will meet in the Northwest Passage, travelling in opposite directions – the BREMEN from Greenland and the HANSEATIC from Alaska. If conditions are ideal, the ships will meet at the halfway point and celebrate an icy beach party and reciprocal visits on board. The HANSEATIC’S and the BREMEN’S itineraries will be fully bilingual.

For more information on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ exciting destinations and itineraries visit www.hl-cruises.com. Further information is available from your travel agent or from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Ballindamm 25, 20095 Hamburg, Germany, phone: +49 / 40 / 3001 4600, fax: +49 / 40 / 3001 4601.

Friday 12 September 2008


Silversea has today released details of 2009-2010 voyages to the vast white wilderness of Antarctica, aboard their new ultra-luxury exploration vessel Prince Albert II.

The season starts on 1 November 2009 with an 11 day Chilean Fjords sailing from Santiago to Ushuaia. Ports of call and exploration include Niebla, Ancud and Puerto Natales in Chile plus several days cruising the Chilean Fjords, the Magdalena National Park and Magellan Strait. All inclusive, cruise only fares start from US$4946 per person double occupancy.

Silversea has scheduled eight round trip Antarctica voyages from Ushuaia from November 2009 to February 2010. Eleven day itineraries will navigate Drake’s Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula. Each day explore by zodiac with an experienced and adventurous expedition team, visiting penguin rookeries and scientific research stations. Cruise only fares from US$6596 per person double occupancy per suite.

Prince Albert II offers the largest average size, all ocean view accommodation of any expedition ship. Cruise fares include complimentary wines and drinks throughout the ship (even hot rum toddies in the Antarctic). You can dine when and with whom you wish or have complimentary in-suite dining. Experienced knowledgeable expedition staff and lecturers enhance the Silversea expedition experience. All gratuities are included.

Silversea’s Prince Albert II will also offer three 17 day expeditions from Ushuaia during the 2009-10 season visiting the Falklands, South Georgia, South Orkneys, Elephant Island, the Antarctic Peninsula and Drake’s Passage. Cruise only fares start from US$9146 per person, double occupancy.

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

Silversea Cruises is recognised as an innovator in the luxury segment, offering guests large-ship amenities aboard four intimate vessels, Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, and Silver Whisper, all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II in 2008, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents. Silversea has for the past four consecutive years been named Best Cruise Line by readers of Australia’s Luxury Travel and Style magazine and for two consecutive years, ‘Best Luxury Cruise Line’ in the TravelWeekly Asia Awards. For nine consecutive years, Silversea has been named "Number One Small Ship Line” in the Readers' Choice survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the USA and in 2007 was the only cruise line named in the UK edition of Condé Nast Traveller’s “Top 100 Luxury Travel Experiences”, at the same time topping the Small Cruise Line award for the eighth time. Silversea has been selected as "World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line” seven times in the Travel + Leisure (USA) readers' poll and was rated Number-One luxury cruise line by high-net-worth consumers in the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Kimberley

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

I'm almost embarrassed to say it has taken me this long to get to the Kimberley.

Such is the demand for Australia's premier adventure cruise destination that passengers are having to book many months, sometimes years ahead.

I've just spent six days aboard the multi-award-winning, True North, an acknowledged Kimberley expert. We're all aware of the other acclaimed itineraries by Orion, Coral Princess and Kimberley Quest, but with twenty-plus years of intimate experience, knowledge of the uncharted river systems, off-the-radar rock art sites and an onboard helicopter, the North Star Cruises product is hard to beat.

I wish they wouldn't use the term ?finest of fine dining?, because bare feet and t-shirts sort of precludes that experience. The food, however, is beyond reproach. Ex-Cable Beach Club chef, Ian ?Irish? Prendergast received a standing ovation on the last day as a fitting tribute to his efforts. The wine list, with many beautiful Margaret River vintages, will please finicky tipplers too.

Days were jam-packed with activities including fishing, light trekking, freshwater swimming in gorgeous hidden spring-fed water holes, usually with a sublime waterfall under which to rinse off and, of course, the breathtaking helicopter flight-seeing.

Premium cabins are equivalent to better 4-star hotel rooms and everything is meticulously maintained by an all-Australian crew. Just three years old, it still feels brand new.

I just had time to chat to luxury doyenne, Claudia Rossi-Hudson, as she embarked for the next six night instalment. We may be seeing much more of North Star Cruises.

Web site: www.northstarcruises.com.au Ph: 08 9192 1829

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Cruise West

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Adventure cruising should come with a warning: "This product is addictive"

Speaking to passengers aboard expedition vessels, it's clear that once hooked on the concept, it's very difficult to kick. Like some illicit intoxicant, you just want more.

Finding new destinations and experiences is a challenge, albeit a pleasant one. Some devotees will stick with a favourite vessel and exhaust its itineraries, while others will seek new operators in order to access previously uncharted waters. For those many passengers who are beginning to run out of possibilities in our immediate region and have done the obligatory Antarctic odyssey, one small ship cruise line is beginning to make their presence felt in our market.

CruiseWest is a long-established, US-based adventure cruise operator whose story goes back some sixty years to when a far-sighted Chuck West first operated niche adventure tours into the remote reaches of Alaska. Now with his son Dick at the helm, CruiseWest operate nine vessels with passenger capacity under 100 devoted to exploring locations that encompass almost the entire Pacific Rim and much in between. A member of the much-coveted Virtuoso network, CruiseWest supply a product that meets their demanding standards for service, comfort and importantly, enrichment. Their extensive catalogue of nature-based itineraries from Costa Rica and Mexico to the Bering Strait and Japan will keep adventure cruisers busy for a long time.

CruiseWest is represented in Australia by both Alaska Bound and Travel the World