Saturday 28 November 2009

Antarctica To Asia: Orion Expedition Cruises Expands with the Addition of a Second Specialist Expedition Cruise Ship

Orion Expedition Cruises is to increase the size of its fleet with the addition of a second specialist expedition cruise ship to join the existing 106 passenger Orion.

Orion Expedition Cruises today released details regarding the forthcoming long term charter of Clelia II, a 100 passenger all-suite luxury expedition cruise ship, to be renamed Orion II. The ship, configured to Orion's exacting requirements, is scheduled to commence expedition voyages under the Orion Expedition Cruises banner in May 2011.

Making the announcement today from on board Orion in Sydney Harbour, Sarina Bratton, Orion's Managing Director, was upbeat about the expansion of the business she started in 2004, citing a strong existing market – despite tough current worldwide economic conditions – and growing interest from international markets in expedition cruising in this part of the globe.

A loyal Orion past-passenger base, resurgent growth by independent travellers and significant opportunities afforded through charter and incentives markets have provided the platform for the expansion.

Based on thorough research, and following the success of Orion's recent voyages, Orion II will be based in South East Asia offering a wide range of expeditions that will include Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Indonesian archipelago, Japan and Borneo. Details of destinations and itineraries will be released in 2010 once voyage details and expedition team scouting are finalised.

Recently subject to a €13 million (A$21 million) refurbishment undertaken by the present operators, with emphasis on technical enhancements and upgraded environmental systems, the ship will also undergo additional cosmetic enhancements to bring her fully into the Orion style.

Commenting on the additional range of destinations and itineraries, Sarina said that Orion Expedition Cruises will be able to provide exclusive expeditions from Antarctica to Asia, and the Kimberley to Melanesia and New Zealand, with the two ships offering a balance of onboard service and luxury combined with unique personal experiences in environmentally and culturally sensitive parts of the region. Together, Orion and Orion II will be two of the most modern and capable expedition cruise ships cruising in Australasia.

The long term charter of a second purpose built ship able to access remote regions in comfort is a further step to fulfilling the company's original vision to have Orion Expedition Cruises regarded as the operator of choice in the Asia Pacific.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email:

About Clelia II / Orion II Clelia II, will continue to be marketed and operated until April 2011 by Travel Dynamics International, New York, a leading U.S expedition cruise company serving the American educational and cultural non-profit groups.

Originally launched in late 1990 as Renaissance Four and re-launched in 2009 after extensive technical refurbishment, redecoration and other improvements, the all-suite Clelia II offers fine small-ship cruise travel. In May 2011, the ship will be renamed Orion II.

This private yacht-like cruise ship accommodates only 100 guests in 50 suites, each of which affords ocean views, measuring 215 to 285 square feet, and appointed with a sitting area or separate living room, twin or queen-size beds, spacious closets, and air conditioning.

• Satellite TV, DVD/CD player • Telephone • Mini-refrigerator • Marble-appointed en-suite BESPOKE SMALL-SHIP AMENITIES Decorated with rich fabrics, handsome wood, polished brass, rare antiquities and fine works of art, the ship's public spaces are warm and inviting. These include:

• Library with Internet access • 2 Lounges with audiovisual facilities • State-of-the-art gym/spa • Beauty salon • Boutique • Hospital • Elevator serving all passenger decks • Dining room • Two sun decks • Jacuzzi • Swimming platform Clelia II complies with the latest international and U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations and is outfitted with the most current navigation and communications technology as well as retractable fin stabilizers for smooth sailing, an icestrengthened hull for Antarctic voyages and a fleet of Zodiacs to enable easy shore access in remote locations.

Clelia II carries a staff of 65, providing a ratio of over 1 crew member for every 2 guests. Taken together with her limited guest capacity, excellence of design, craftsmanship and material, Clelia II's spaciousness and intimate ambience combine to make her ideal for distinctive cultural and expedition voyages.

About Orion Expedition Cruises Founded in early 2004, Orion Expedition Cruises is the only world class expedition cruise line operating from Australia to pristine wilderness areas in Antarctica, the Kimberley, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia and Asia. Orion is known worldwide for its new and diverse itineraries and sustainable operations.

Orion is designed to fulfil the desire of the sophisticated traveller for experience driven, cultural and nature based tourism that allow for a more informed and indepth interpretation of, and interaction with, destinations and their people.

Providing the comfort and luxuries that today's travellers expect in a specially designed vessel that provides access to areas otherwise largely unreachable through conventional means, Orion truly provides a path less travelled.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Capture the Kimberley with Steve Parish and Coral Princess

Over aeons, the Kimberley coast of Western Australia has been scored and scoured by wind and water and painted with a super-saturated palette to form one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth. But its harsh beauty is challenging to capture photographically, which is why a 10-night Coral Princess cruise under the photographic tutelage of world-renowned nature photographer, Steve Parish is a rare opportunity.

Steve Parish – who rarely conducts photography classes – will draw on his 40 years of photographic field work in diverse Australian landscapes to inspire guests aboard the Oceanic Discoverer to capture their own vision of the Kimberley.

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

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

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

Steve Parish is one of Australia's most accomplished nature photographers. His images of the Australian landscape and wildlife are recognised around the world and he has published numerous books.

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

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

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises on 1800 079 545 or visit

Sunday 22 November 2009

Cruise Weekly: Ready ... on your Marquesas ... go!

Location: Port of Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia

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If there ever was a perfect outpost as sanctuary for troubled artists, refuge for wayward seamen and magnet for restless adventurers, then the far flung islands of the Marquesas would have to be it. Sure, you can catch one of the easy flights from Tahiti and bum around, but for an authentic arrival, come as Cook, Porter and Melville did; aboard ship.

Get this brochure
Unless your name is Packer, whose private ship is moored in Tahiti as you read this, you could not conduct a more thorough exploration of this dramatic, geologically youthful archipelago than with the Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM) sailing year round with Aranui 3.

For the trivia-minded, this the location favoured by the disturbed French master, Paul Gauguin, and publicity-exhausted Belgian pop idol, Jacques Brel. Both, despite contrasting, if short, relations with the locals, also chose to be buried here.

As with all true adventure cruises, this is a voyage of discovery and learning. Each island port reveals a little more of this fascinating culture and its catastrophic demise. Although modern Marquesans enjoy comforts provided by their French colonial overlords, the 8000 'survivors' are the tail end of a prominent civilisation that numbered around 100,000 until the beginning of the 19th Century. Although freedom to practice (most) ancient arts and customs is restored, white man has a lot to answer for in the Marquesas.

The Aranui 3 is the CPTM's fifth vessel to ply this route, an exclusive freight/passenger operation that has grown from humble beginnings over 50 years. This newest vessel was built to a German design in Romania in 2003 and flies the French flag. GRT is 7000 tons and passenger capacity is 198 across four grades from fancy suites (14) with balcony, nine deluxe staterooms, 63 standard cabins and 18 berths in three dormitory-style rooms. Expect to spend your time mingling with worldly folks from all over. Our near-capacity complement consists of mainly Germans and French, with a scattering of Americans, Canadians, Brits and sundry EU countries. We are bankers and academics, builders and cab-drivers, flashpackers and corporate refugees. Average age is around 60, but under 50s should also be encouraged. It's a great opportunity to exercise your second language and swap tall tales with seasoned travellers. Friends are made easily in this eclectic human trail mix.

With any cruise like this you need personal versatility. The schedule will almost certainly be interrupted or altered en route due to the primary function of freight delivery. Difficult cargo and sea conditions will dictate time in port and shore activities offered. There's no point bleating “... but the brochure says ...!” because it warns you that [stuff] will happen and it does. You're in Polynesia and all that 'island time' means, but it's also extraordinarily remote and challenging. In my mind, none of this is sufficient reason not to go because the Marquesas are definitely one of the few remaining corners of the world worth every effort.

Book through a speciality cruise office such as Ultimate Cruising in Ultimo (Sydney) who have specific experience with these products. Discounts are sometimes offered and ask lots of questions. For further information, visit

Cruise vessels on alert as four icebergs are spotted drifting towards New Zealand

At least four icebergs are bearing down on New Zealand, drifting only a few hundred kilometres off the South Island coast and moving closer by the day.

NZ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research oceanographer Mike Williams said four icebergs up to 250m in length had been spotted by fishermen about 80km northwest of the Auckland Islands, 400 to 500km off the coast of New Zealand.

The mass of icebergs was first spotted about two weeks ago by Australian Antarctic Division researchers working on Macquarie Island. Satellite imagery showed the icebergs, were now tracking northeast towards the South Island at about 1 to 2km an hour, Mr Williams said.

Rodney Russ (pic left) expedition leader on the polar tourist ship “Spirit of Enderby” and an expert on Sub Antarctic New Zealand said this is the first time in almost 40 years of visiting this area that he has seen icebergs so far north.

"They currently appear to be moving north at about 1.25 kilometers per hour. It is possible that they might reach New Zealand intact - but they are showing signs of deteriorating and breaking up," he said.

"We first sighted them 10 miles off the eastern entrance to Carnley Harbour in the Auckland Islands. Weather and sea conditions at the time prevented a closer inspection but as conditions improved today and we were able to locate them and sail close by”.

"They had traveled 19 nautical miles to the north and they currently lie six miles east of Port Ross at 50 38'S, 166 25'E," he said.

The "Spirit of Enderby" left the Auckland Islands on Wednesday (November 18) bound for Macquarie Island and fully expects to encounter more icebergs as they were seen by researchers, based on Macquarie Island, last week.

"The crew of the vessel has been put on special 'iceberg lookout' as these icebergs pose a significant risk to shipping. We have never had 'iceberg alerts' in the Sub Antarctic islands before. 'Iceberg lookouts' are a feature of our Antarctic voyages but have not been deemed necessary on a Sub Antarctic Expedition, but maybe that will have to change," he said.

Heritage Expeditions is a New Zealand award winning expedition travel company, which specializes in worldwide natural history small group expeditions for the discerning traveler to areas such as the Ross Sea, Antarctica, the Sub Antarctic Islands, subtropical Kermadec Islands, Pacific Odyssey and the Russian Far East.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Quark's Khlebnikov free of ice in Weddell Sea

Status Details
Vessel: I/B Kapitan Khlebnikov
Time: 1534 UTC / 1034 EST
Location: 61 degrees 4.9' S, 58 degrees 13.5'W
(Drake Passage)

Quark Expeditions reports the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov has successfully navigated the pack ice of the Weddell Sea and is now in open water, on the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.

The scheduled return to port (November 16, 2009) was delayed due to weather conditions including heavy pack ice, which restricted the vessel's ability to maneuver effectively. During the delay, all 101 passengers, 23 staff and 60 crew on board remained safe and comfortable.

A highlight of this particular voyage included a special departure to visit the emperor penguin colony near Snow Hill Island. Shane Evoy, Quark's Expedition Leader onboard, reported on November 17, 2009, that "although the delay may cause complications for return travel, all passengers are enjoying the extra time we have spent at the Snow Hill Island Emperor Penguin rookery and seeing the icebreaker in action".

The vessel is now expected in the port Ushuaia at 10:00 am the morning of November 22nd. The ship will then take on fresh stores and pick up the passengers awaiting their scheduled journey. Passengers will embark later that same day. The expedition has been adjusted to take into account the delayed departure.

"On behalf of Quark Expeditions I would like to thank all passengers participating in these voyages for their good humor and spirit of adventure in accepting these unexpected changes. Like true adventurers, they have risen to the occasion in embracing both the thrills and challenges that travel to the wondrous Polar Regions entails," says Patrick Shaw, President of Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions continues to work with travel agents and companies to ensure that the delayed passengers can efficiently continue their travel home.

For additional details, please visit

Tuesday 17 November 2009

National Geographic CSD partners with Hurtigruten in geotourism

National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) and the Norwegian coastal liner Hurtigruten have signed a cooperation agreement to enhance Hurtigruten’s destinations along the Norwegian coast.

Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances a place’s geographical character. It’s tourism that sustains the destination’s distinctiveness—its nature, culture, history and the well-being of its residents.

When Hurtigruten and National Geographic Society Center for Sustainable destinations (CSD) now enter this cooperation it’s done to safeguard and develop Hurtigruten’s unique destinations along the Norwegian coast – known as some of best destinations in the world.

- Hurtigruten is almost unique in the world. With Hurtigruten you are really a part of Norway, part of a Norwegian tradition. The crew is Norwegian, the food and experience is Norwegian. Hurtigruten is uniquely identified with the country it operates in. That’s not true with conventional cruiseliners, says Jonathan Tourtellot, National Geographic CSD Director.

The cooperation is formalized and established in a Code of good practice with the intention to help Hurtigruten to become even better. Hurtigruten has served the passengers, the ports and the Norwegian coast since 1893 bringing freight and passengers back and forth between 34 daily ports of call. This year round service gives the coastal voyager a dimension beyond a travel product. In some ways Hurtigruten already fulfills the performance of National Geographic geotourism principles. The company wants to enhance this even more.

- National Geographic pinpoint what we understand as a unique character of Hurtigruten. In many ways Hurtigruten have a mission besides presenting the beautiful Norwegian coast to tourists. This mission is exercised in cooperation with our environment- our destinations as our local partners. Hurtigruten supports and depends on strong and sustainable destinations and want to improve our skills and performance on this field. By this we will enhance what makes Hurtigruten unique in the world, Hurtigruten CEO Olav Fjell says.

National Geographic CSD, with their knowledge of sustainable destinations and geotourism, is highly recognized in one of the world`s largest industries – tourism. For Hurigruten this cooperation is important. It`s internally seen as a confirmation of good practice and but also as a possibility to improve skills within a field more and more important for future tourism.

-This cooperation will strengthen and clarify Hurtigruten’s unique position as the original coastal voyager. The Norwegian fjords have already won several prizes as the world`s best travel destinations. This happens partly because Norway as a nation has the wisdom to manage our nature and our culture with sense and in a sustainable way. After almost 120 years in service it’s vital that Hurtigruten operate in accordance with sustainable principles related to both nature and our destinations along the coast, says Christian Bue Nordahl, Global Brand Manager in Hurtigruten ASA.

About geotourism

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect and develop a place's distinctive character.

About National Geographic CSD

Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) is dedicated to protecting the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship. The core strategy for achieving this mission is geotourism. Working with many allied organizations, both global and local, CSD helps develop and disseminate information for adopting the geotourism approach—by destination communities, by tourism professionals, and by travelers themselves.

About Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten is the original coastal voyager. Since 1893 Hurtigruten has served the passengers, the ports and the Norwegian coast bringing freight and passengers back and forth between daily ports of call. This year round service gives the coastal voyager a dimension beyond a travel product – Hurtigruten is a part of its destination – the Norwegian coast.

Friday 13 November 2009

Tall Ship Soren Larsen

First the good news……

After extensive repairs and refitting, according to the owners the Tall Ship Soren Larsen is due to sail from the repair yard at Whangarei in New Zealand to Auckland on 17th November and will be fully operational from the 28th November 2009.

From 22nd December until 27th February the ship has a full schedule of 4 & 5-night voyages between the breathtaking Hauraki Gulf near Auckland & the spectacular Bay of Islands.

Then the better news……

To encourage you to make your plans to join one of these cruises Outdoor Travel are offering discounts of approximately AU$200 - 250 per person on the 5-night voyages travelling in December 2009 or in January & February 2010.  All inclusive cruises will start from AU$990 for 4-nights or $1190 for 5-nights (not including airfares)

After April 2010 the ship will embark on its Pacific voyages and we hope to hear shortly about the date it will return to Australia for the voyage across the Tasman to Auckland possibly in October or November 2010


Friday 6 November 2009

Orion Sub Antarctic voyages

A rare opportunity to visit one of our planet's most important biodiversity regions

Orion's expeditions to remote and rarely visited Sub-Antarctic islands

The Australian and New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, regarded by UNESCO as one of the worlds' precious regions of unique biodiversity, will be visited by the luxury expedition cruise ship Orion in December 2009 and again in 2010.

Recognised for their volcanic and glacial geological formations and extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna this area has the highest diversity and abundance of seabirds found anywhere in the world. Over half of the world's seabirds, some of which exist nowhere else, call this region home.

Joining Orion's specialist Expedition Team to assist guests maximise their understanding of the important biodiversity of this region will be a number of guest lecturers including British zoologist and naturalist Dr John Sparks; threatened species ecologist with Birds Australia, Glenn Emke, and Neville Peat, who wrote the 1998 World Heritage Area nomination for the New Zealand Sub Antarctic islands. 

With convenient embarkation in Bluff (Invercargill, New Zealand) or Hobart, Orion will visit Australia's wildlife sanctuary at Macquarie Island, plus Campbell, Stewart, Snares and Auckland islands as well as spending time exploring New Zealand's beautiful Fjordlands, including Milford Sound with the world's tallest sea cliffs.  

These expeditions, with departures in December 2009 and 2010, particularly suit nature lovers and keen wildlife photographers as well as those with a spirit of adventure interested to visit places of outstanding importance yet rarely seen.

Judy Parker blogs on Orion in Indonesia

The Expedition Team lead by Justin Friend has prepared us for what promises to be a great adventure, but always with safety in mind. We have listened dutifully to their directions as we are slicked down with sunscreen and bug spray, and have bottled water, cameras and good walking shoes. They warn you ahead of time that it will be hot with little shade and the walk through the park will take about 2 ½ hours. We were on the 2nd Zodiac before 8:00 am but it was already very warm and well on its way to hot. We met our Park Ranger guide, Donnie, and were soon on our way down the path in search of these giant lizards.

Read More

Thursday 5 November 2009

Murray Princess Cruise Sale - Save 25%

Save 25% on Summertime Murray River Cruises

The PS Murray Princess, the only accommodated paddle-wheeler on the Murray River, is offering 25% off 3, 4 and 7 night cruises throughout Summer.

Passengers will discover the hauntingly beautiful and dramatic South Australian outback, its unique flora and fauna, the rich legacy of old riverside ports and the rivers history and culture.

The historic cruise starts with the ship itself, PS Murray Princess, a modern replica of the paddle wheelers that cruised the Murray in the 1800's. The two spacious paddlewheel lounges feature polished wood and gold trimmings, an elegant spiral staircase and spectacular two-story glass windows of the working paddle wheel.

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 lowlands attract an amazing array of Australian wildlife and over 350 species of birds. Led by on-shore guides, passengers can enjoy nature walks, 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.

Visit local vineyards and sample the produce of the food and wine trail that has made the region famous and enjoy all the festivities of an Aussie-style campfire barbecue on the river bank.

Prices for the three nights Discovery Cruise start from $581 per person twin share, from $775 per person twin share for the four nights Outback Heritage Cruise and from $1197 per person twin share for the seven nights Murraylands & Wildlife Cruise.

This offer is valid for sale until 28 February 2010 and for travel from 01 December 2009 until 28 February 2010 and includes all meals, accommodation, an exciting range of shore-side tours, scenic coach transfers from Adelaide or onsite car parking and all onboard facilities including use of two spas, two saunas, sun deck, two bars, two lounges, single sitting dining saloon and entertainment

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

Wednesday 4 November 2009


SAVE up to 30 per cent – The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World

MyBentours has announced a massive saving of up to 30 per cent on selected voyages and dates for its popular Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyage product – a cruise renowned for its breathtaking scenery as it follows Norway's dramatic coastline from the ports of Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the far north.

"This is a spectacular journey that has well earned the reputation as 'the most beautiful voyage in the world' – the dramatic scenery and the endless small inlets with their towns and villages and rich cultural heritage make this one of the most unique travel experiences," MyBentours Business Development Manager Mark Dribbus said.

The 30 per cent early bird discount applies to all new bookings made by December 31, 2009, for the 12 day Norwegian Coastal Voyage 'Bergen to Bergen via Kirkenes' cruises departing between Jan 1- April 14 and Sept 15-Dec 31, 2010. Passengers are offered a further 10 per cent reduction if they have travelled with Hurtigruten in the last 3 years. For those travelling from April 15-Sept 14, 2010, a 15 per cent early bird discount applies.

"If this has always been on your client's wish list, we urge them to take advantage of this one-off offer and make the journey to this stunning region," Dribbus said.

Book Early & Save up to 20 per cent on Hurtigruten's voyages to remote Greenland and Arctic 

Hurtigruten has introduced up to 20 per cent early bird discounts on its 9 day 'Greenland – Glaciers and Icebergs' product – a voyage that encompasses the pristine beauty of the remote Arctic Circle.

"This is an experience of a lifetime; mountains covered in snow, stunning ice fjords, lush green valleys, traditional small towns and settlements and of course the wildlife – it is a journey into another world, the land of the midnight sun," MyBentours Mark Dribbus said.

The 20 per cent early bird discount is valid for all bookings made by December 31, 2009. For departures from July 29-August 12, a 10 per cent early bird discount applies.

The cruise includes cabin of choice aboard the specially built explorer ship MS FRAM, all meals onboard, return flight Copenhagen-Kangerlussuaq, 8 days of cruising, transfers and a range of Greenland excursions.

Other Arctic voyages include 13 night 'Southern Greenland' departing July 16 – save 20 per cent; 14 night 'Voyage to the Inuit North' departing August 19 – save 10 per cent; 11 night 'South and East Greenland'  departing Sept 2 – save 20 per cent; 10 night 'East Greenland & Scoresby Sund' departing Sept 13  – save 20 per cent.

"These voyages showcase this remote, untouched region of the world in comfort and style. Our ship, the MS Fram, can take you to its remote corners to offer you an absolutely unique perspective that really makes it a trip of a lifetime," Dribbus said.

MyBentours the leading travel company for Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic's celebrates it's 30th Anniversary in 2009 have an extensive cruise and tour program for 2009-2010 seasons. The program is a smorgasbord of independent and escorted tours and cruises, activity tours and sightseeing for the region all year round. Tour programs also feature Finland, Iceland, Ukraine and as a new destination, Poland. MyBentours is the Preferred Sales Agent (PSA) for Hurtigruten Group, and General Sales Agent (GSA) for Icelandair and Gota Canal in Australia and New Zealand. MyBentours is part of TUI Travel PLC. 

Cruise Europe with Expert Lecturers and Guest Speakers Aboard Voyages of Discovery

Next season is all about Discovery
Award-winning Voyages of Discovery are delighted to launch their new dedicated brochure for the 'Mediterranean & Black Sea' and 'Scandinavia & Northern Waters'. The new brochure offers potential passengers a flavour of each cruise and a glimpse of what they can expect onboard; a true voyage of discovery and an opportunity to see the world in its true colours.

The experts who enlighten passengers on the destinations to be visited are not only on board the ship, but also contribute so much behind the scenes. Every itinerary, lecture and shore excursion is meticulously planned, so no two cruises are ever the same – just one of the reasons many of our passengers return year after year.

Explore the Mediterranean and Black Sea
As with every Discovery cruise programme, a range of intriguing destinations awaits – discover the great civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome; visit the churches and galleries of Rome and Florence, and navigate the canals of Venice. Explore the Near East, taking in the sites of Ephesus, the lost city of Petra, fabled Troy, the great city of Istanbul and the battlefields of the Crimea. There is perhaps no better way to discover the diverse heritage of these regions than in the company of distinguished guest speakers, many of whom have been specially selected by BBC History magazine.

Scandinavia and Northern Waters
The Scandinavia & Northern Waters programme of cruises departing from Harwich ventures from the Arctic to the Baltic; from the majestic palaces of St Petersburg through the spectacular Norwegian fjords to the wildernesses of Iceland and Greenland. There is also the opportunity to circumnavigate the British Isles, visit the picturesque Channel Islands and explore some of the great monuments of northern France. These voyages are not only about history and culture; they are a feast for lovers of nature and beauty too. Passengers may discover some of the world's greatest natural wonders, flora and fauna; the dramatic scenery and geysers of Iceland together with the breathtaking polar bears and Arctic tundra of Spitsbergen and Greenland.

These waters have also had an enormous impact on the world in which we live today. Accompanied by experts like Antony Hopkins, former Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, we will follow in the footsteps of the Vikings who ploughed these waters on their own voyages of discovery in search of wealth and adventure.

Guaranteed value for money – Fares now from only $1,355!
Whilst we are proud of our new look brochure, we are equally proud to be able to offer even better value whilst still travelling in 4-star comfort. We are very pleased to have been able to reduce all brochure fares by 20% in order to offer the best possible prices for these fascinating itineraries.

With prices now from just S1,355, it is little wonder Voyages of Discovery was awarded the coveted 'Best Value in Specialty Cruising' Award in the UK this year for the third year running, and cabins are likely to book quickly. Here is what is included in the price of every cruise:

• All meals from breakfast through to late-night snacks, complimentary tea and coffee at any time of day or night plus Captain's cocktail parties and gala dinners. The brochure includes sample menus and details of all our restaurants and dining facilities

• All onboard entertainment. This includes a renowned lecture programme, informative talks by port lecturers and guest speakers and there are artistic workshops on many cruises

• We guarantee that there will be no fuel or currency surcharges and no price increases after booking

• All gratuities are included and there are no service charges.

The brochure contains full information on the cruise itineraries together with details of all the restaurants, bars and facilities onboard. The brochures also capture a sense of the intimacy of the Discovery experience; a perfect home from home shared with around 650 like-minded guests enjoying excellent cuisine and exemplary service in a relaxed atmosphere.

Request a brochure today
Visit to download a copy or call 02 9959 1380 to receive a copy by post.

Hurtigruten Charters to Australian Gas Project

source: Cruise Critic

Hurtigruten is saying farewell to Finnmarken -- at least for a year and a half. The expedition line has signed off on an 18-month charter, with an option for an 18-month extension.

The 15,530-ton, 639-passenger ship is being chartered to Boskalis Australia Pty Limited, a global provider of dredging and maritime infrastructure services. Finnmarken will provide marine construction support (carry supplies) on the Gorgon project in Western Australia, which involves the development of a natural gas plant.

Because the contract will commence early in 2010, booked passengers on Finnmarken's scheduled Coastal Voyages will be impacted by the move. A spokesman for the line tells us most displaced passengers will be moved over to the 11,204-ton, 475-passenger Nordlys. Those with suite accommodations, however, will be offered similar accommodations onboard Midnatsol or Trollfjord because the slightly smaller Nordlys doesn't have enough suites to put up all affected guests (Midnatsol and Trollfjord are nearly identical in size to Finnmarken).

If you are booked on a Coastal Voyage aboard Finnmarken, you needn't do anything at this time. The company will be contacting affected passengers directly.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Pandaw's Maiden Ganges Cruise

by Paul Strachan, Founder Pandaw Cruises

Now both the upstream and downstream voyages are over, I am taking stock and trying to work out if they were a success or not. My own feelings are mixed, as are the evaluations and reports we receive from the intrepid who came with us. Some say it was brilliant and others are asking for their money back. Where do I begin?

First of all we made it. For the first time in living memory, certainly since the 1920s, a passenger vessel made it all the way from Calcutta to Varanasi. That is 1,280km in 14 days. Given the challenges of low hanging power lines, bridge restrictions, high flow rates, dealing with bureaucracy through three separate states, etc, this was an achievement. Many said it could not be done. They said the same when we started on the Irrawaddy in 1995 and on the Mekong in 2002. Once again we cracked it.

On the plus side I would say the excursions are fascinating – there is a lot to see and do along the banks of the Hugli and Ganges, more than on the Mekong and as good as the Irrawaddy. The riverscape really is amazing – varied and full of contrasts. There are lots of dolphins and bird life is rich. The village people are warm and welcoming and there is none of the hassle you would expect of India. There is no doubt this is one of the most beautiful river cruises in the world. Given the mess of India’s land infrastructure surely the only way to see this wonderful country.

Read the rest of Paul's blog here

Cruise Weekly: Battle of the Mekong

If you believe the industry hype, river cruising is riding the rocket of small ship and adventure products in a rapidly growing cruise market. I tend to agree. The anecdotal evidence points to more travellers seeking out products away from the traditional sea and coastal routes and looking inland to the great waterways.

One of the most famous Asian rivers, the Mekong, is set to stage a great showdown as operators from all over the globe take on locals in their own “warships” in an attempt to outdo each other for market share.

For those who didn’t get an A in geography, the Mekong is the 10th longest river in the world and stretches 4350km through Indochina. Working backwards from the massive delta at the bottom of Vietnam, it cuts a swathe through Cambodia, forms virtually the entire western border of Laos with Thailand and Burma before disappearing onto the Tibetan Plateau through China’s Yunnan Province.

Unfortunately the entire length is not navigable due to modern dams, rapids and shallows and most cruising is restricted to the lower reaches and Cambodia’s Tonle Sap.

“The French had a good crack at it though,” Trevor Lake of Discover Asia reminds me, “but like so many early European adventurers, they were hopelessly under-equipped and it really was a comedy of errors.” (Read ‘River Road to China’ by Milton Osborne)

Trevor, by the look of him, has been travelling in Asia since forever and he makes several important observations about choosing a Mekong river cruise.

“With so many vessels and styles to choose from, and new ones launching all the time, travellers really need to discuss their plans with an experienced agent. It’s absolutely imperative that you find the right vessel to match your expectations.”

His company represents all the major cruise lines, many of the tiny ones too, and is one of the handful of agents able to speak independently for all products.

Robert Fletcher of Active Travel is another expert agency operating for over 25 years across the major lines who believes the Mekong cruise market is about to reach a defining moment.

“River cruising is a sound product and will remain so unless the Battle for the Mekong leads to ridiculous discounting and dilution of the concept and quality. I think 'The Battle' is on the brink - either the Mekong cruise market stays as a fairly exclusive experience with relatively high standards or it is reduced to a mass market, low cost, low service exercise with bums in berths as the driving force.”

The major players are:

La Marguerite, (main pic above) a brand new 46-cabin luxury cruiser, built locally to luxury standards and decorated to reflect the colonial elegance, although externally she resembles many modern river cruisers. Still some teething issues, but shows great promise.

Heritage Line’s opulent Jayavarman is certainly one of the most anticipated vessels claiming “a marriage of avant-garde French colonial design with enchanting Indochine architecture”. The launch date has been revised from September to November and its itineraries boast Angkor Wat and Mekong Delta explorations.

The well-known Pandaw cruise line operates two vessels, the RV Tonle Pandaw and the RV Mekong Pandaw. While they rate a more modest 3.5 stars, they offer a rustic elegance that is in perfect harmony with the surroundings.

Trevor’s tip however may not suit all types, but challenges how we view river cruising.

“I just adore the Toum Tiou vessels from Compagnie Fluviale du Mekong ( In my opinion they are the perfect way to experience the Mekong, compact, personal and thoroughly authentic. My other favourite would be to take a luxury private sampan – just the two of you – and travel undetected through the floating markets and villages. Brilliant!”

Both Richard and Trevor seem to be saying the same thing: choose carefully, consult an expert and avoid the cheaper alternatives. Meanwhile the ‘battle’ rages.

Active Travel

Discover Asia

Monday 2 November 2009

Fiji Boutique Cruise: A picture of beauty

Serafina Silaitoga, The Fiji Times

IT can almost blind you. If you're not careful about screening the beauty of Albert Cove and Ringgold Atolls with your naked eyes, then you'd certainly go blind.

It sits behind Taveuni and Rabi islands in the northern division.

The blending colours of the blue skies, crystal clear shallow waters, white sandy beach with a backdrop of green is breathtaking.

That's just how stunning and powerful nature portrays itself through the picturesque setting of trees, birds, coconut trees and mountains.

There is no village or people on the Ringgold Atolls, except wild goats while four families occupy Albert Cove.

The surroundings of both areas have been left untouched. Neither logging of trees, burning of bushes or digging for gravel and sand has ever been done in these areas.

The Albert Cove bay sits on the northern tip of Rabi Island where the families live in typical Banaban built bure.

Upon arrival, while on the Tui Tai Expedition cruise ship, I noticed two men walk out from their bure with a mat, which they spread under a tree while another walked towards them with a basin.

Grog session was the first impression I had and this is their normal Sunday routine after a prayer session in the morning.

With no church at the bay, the four families who belong to the Methodist church have prayer sessions every Sunday morning as part of their church service.

The group sat with their basin of grog on the beach and waited for the arrival of tourists on board the Tui Tai Expedition ship.

Although no special welcome ceremony was accorded for the guests, the villagers, some of whom travelled from Wallis and Futuna said the weekly visit by special guests was like a breath of fresh air.

"It's just us here with our children and wives and having visitors is like breathing fresh air, a different kind of air that comes from the town area," said Bill Naka'u, a villager at Albert Cove.

"Sure we live amongst beautiful scenes tourists come to see. When they come to see and breathe the fresh sea breeze, we get to meet new friends and know more about their countries and that's life for us."

The villagers have also seen financial benefits as guests buy bu (coconuts) and other fruits the villagers sell.

Mr Naka'u said at times the cruise company buys baskets of bu, pawpaw and bananas from them.

"We are happy to have them over at the bay every week because we want to meet new friends and they also help us financially by buying fresh fruits from our gardens," he said.

The clear blue skies on this sunny afternoon tempted a few guests on board to go out for romantic lunches on the beach.

And this is not new for the crew of Tui Tai who on every visit to Albert Cove set up tables at different spots on the beach for couples to have lunch.

Program administrator Losefati Ligairi said Fiji's nature particularly in the northern division is what tourists look for.

"This is paradise for them. It is exactly this beauty that we have in our own country that has attracted tourists from overseas and being involved in the tourism industry for 20 years, this is what I have seen," he said.

"Every trip to Albert Cove there is always lunch on the beach especially during beautiful sunny days and we have to prepare ourselves to cater for their needs."

Listening to our conversation, a group of tourists who were relaxing and sunbathing behind us nodded their heads as I searched for their thoughts.

"Yes, you people of Fiji are so blessed," said Enric Onzak, an American first timer to Fiji.

"You all don't realise just how special your place is until we come and tell the locals how indescribably beautiful your country is.

Onzak, 18, said he has heard a lot of locals are migrating overseas, for greener pasture.

"I understand people move for better living but when it comes to nature, I think Fiji just has it because this is not a normal sight back in my country although we have spots of natural beauty but not as good as what you have here in Fiji," he said.

"This is just so natural and the people of Fiji are so blessed."

The writer was a guest of Tui Tai Expedition Cruises

Sunday 1 November 2009

Blue Lagoon offers 30 per cent early bird’ discount on 2010-11 cruises

Fiji's iconic Blue Lagoon Cruises is offering huge savings on all three, four and seven-day Yasawa Islands cruise programs with the release of a 30 per cent "early bird" discount.

The offer applies to all 'Club' and 'Gold Club' programs booked for travel from 01 April 2010 until 31 March 2011.

The boutique cruise specialist's only stipulation is that all bookings must be made before a 31 December 2009 cut-off date to qualify for the 30 per cent discount.

The discount means prices for the 'early bird' start from just AUD318.00* per adult twin share for a three-day/two-night 'Club' cruise.

All Blue Lagoon Cruises programs include all meals and cruise activities ranging from daily shore excursions and snorkeling (complete with free snorkeling equipment) safaris to fish feeding, fishing and glass bottom boating.

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

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

See for all pricing and full itineraries.

For cruise reservations telephone Blue Lagoon Cruises in Lautoka, Fiji, on +679 666 1622, facsimile +679 666 4098 or via email on