Friday 31 December 2010

Day 20 – Objective: Campbell Island

The day began at 0600 with wake-up calls, mustering the troops for breakfast and briefing. This morning's landings were presented as a military operation. The first group would hit the beaches at 0830 and face the enemy almost instantly they boarded the Zodiacs to shore. Instead of entrenched machine guns and land mines, the obstacles included a scary 40-knot wind blowing across the harbour driving sleet and rain like shrapnel. The first party wouldn't meet their objective for almost eight hours after a mighty hike across 'the saddle' down to Northwest Bay and back for extraction mid-afternoon, all the time savage gusts assailed them. Casualties began arriving back aboard within two hours, wet and bedraggled, the initial resistance had forced a partial withdrawal, but the survivors valiantly pursued their target. A second wave landed at 1030 and a third at 1400 which included several survivors of the first assault. The whole significance of this beachhead was to secure sightings and photos of the great albatross that breed here. Rodney even called it the 'Albatross Headquarters of the Southern Ocean'. After the day's operations and a hearty meal of lamb shanks and pork belly, Ewen's photography competition winners were announced and the day was declared a success.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Days 15 – 19 The Screaming Sixties and Furious Fifties

Spirit of Enderby pitches into a big wave (pic: Peter Diddams)

"Beyond the Roaring Forties there are the Furious Fifties and Shrieking Sixties, for the storms that ravage these regions become more and more severe as one proceeds further south.” - Herbert Ponting 1921

After five days at sea, Spirit of Enderby finally drops anchor in our refuge in Perseverance Harbour at Campbell Island. Like rabbits in springtime, hibernating passengers emerge from their cabins alerted by the sudden stability of the ship. After the bucking and rolling of the Southern Ocean, one could be forgiven for thinking we'd run aground. In truth, it wasn't as bad as legend would have it, but to call it a doddle would still be an understatement. It gave us a chance to sample the privations of extended time at sea battling queasy tummies, cabin fever and just plain boredom. The seas were too rough to be climbing up and down to the lecture theatre, so improvised laptop movie screenings, card games and humble book reading tested our resilience. Even so, our heated, well-stocked vessel was a paradise compared to last century's heroic explorers who bunkered down in pitching wooden sailing boats urged on by pitiful steam engines with as much power as a couple of Zodiac outboards. There were no mutinies to put down, no dogs and ponies to rescue from rogue waves, no frostbite or scurvy. Ewen's photo competition has been a huge hit with many passengers entering an impressive portfolio of images. We sat down, playfully bickered over the winners and are ready to announce the results to an eager audience tomorrow after a busy day planned ashore on this remote sanctuary.

Sunday 26 December 2010

South Georgia ski crossing 2010 successfully accomplished

An international team of six participants and two mountain guides have successfully completed their self supplied ski crossing of South Georgia following the historical footsteps of Shackleton, Crean and Worsley along the route across the glaciated interior of the remote South Georgia island from King Haakon Bay to Stromness. The ski team accomplished the traverse in 4 days, 3 nights with field camps at Murray Snowfield, Great Nunatak and Fortuna west side. The expedition hauled sledges and used skis for the entire way.


Exclusive South Georgia, 03 - 17 December 2011 (15 days), Port Stanley - Port Stanley, including flights from Santiago de Chile:
This is an expedition for real explorers! A group of up to 12 ski explorers and mountain guides will attempt to traverse, unsupported and self supplied, the island of South Georgia with skis hauling their own pulkas (sledges). The skiers will cover a total distance of 40 – 50 km retracing sections of the historic Shackleton route from 1916.

The voyage isPLA23 Exclusive South Georgia an exciting expedition not only for the tough adventurer. There are two adventure options available: the normal sea voyage for “sea explorers” (with zodiac excursions and hiking options) and the land expedition for “ski explorers”! The sea explorers will circumnavigate the Island in 8 days (06 - 13 December, 2011), while at the same time the ski explorers will attempt to traverse the Island on a self supplied ski trek from the South coast (King Haakon Bay) to the North coast (Stromness Bay) in minimum of 4 days (06 - 09 December, 2011).
On arrival day at King Haakon Bay, the expedition members will spend a night close to the shore preparing for their crossing. expedition will then embark on their ski trek across alpine passes and glaciers aiming for reunion with the ship at Stromness Bay. After both expeditions have rejoined, all passengers will then continue to enjoy the latter part of the South Georgia cruise itinerary (10 - 13 December, 2011).

The expedition will be back in Port Stanley on 17 December, 2011.

A group of up to 12 ski trekkers pull their own sledge (30-35 kg) with personal and shared equipment (food, stoves, fuel) in mountainous terrain. The sledge can be carried as a backpack on stretches without snow. Ski trekking involves elements of ski mountaineering, glacier travel and winter camping. In general participants must be physically conditioned and experienced in order to participate in strenuous exercise in alpine environments with sometime extreme weather. In addition, ski trekkers must be familiar with skiing and crevasse rescue techniques that can be learned in Alpine Introductory Courses.

More details about the voyage PLA23

Saturday 25 December 2010

Day 14 – Bracing Blizzard and Polar Plunge

As the captain turned to set a course for Campbell Island, the Antarctic weather gave us a fitting send-off with a stiff, snow-laden gale from the north west. The giant bergs still lurked all around, ominous and powerful, reminding us we were the ones in their territory. One ceremony remained before our final farewell; the polar plunge. Yes, as it sounds, adventurers strip back to swimmers and scamper down the gangway for a very quick dip in the icy waters – and icy they are. With Christmas hats, Hawaiian leis and surf shorts, brave bodies dunked themselves off the platform and quickly scurried back up the steps amid yelps and hollers. Back aboard, Christmas festivities were begun a day early to capitalise on the 'white' theme delivered in the form of whirling snow flurries. Deck the decks, indeed.

Friday 24 December 2010

Day 13 – Too much ice

For days we have been admiring the magnificent ice structures towering out of the ocean. Some as high as 50m covering many square kilometres, the equivalent of free-floating islands. But today we cursed them, or at least I did. By early afternoon it was clear our southerly path to Dumont d'Urville was blocked by a belt of heavy ice. Spirit of Enderby had valiantly confronted this obstacle, time and time again attempting to skirt or break through the pack that kept us 32 miles from our objective. Rodney came over the PA system with the news. We would spend our early Christmas in the ice, then head north back to Invercargill via Campbell Island. The French base had already warned us of heavy conditions when their own icebreaker, Astrolabe, had been delayed. SoE is not an icebreaker in the strictest sense, instead she is an ice-strengthened vessel with a bow that can barge and shove its way through the floating pack, but there is a real risk of getting trapped if the currents close the door behind us. True icebreakers are much more powerful with a hull that rides up on the ice, cracking it under the weight of the ship. As we turn to head away from the impenetrable mass, three lonely Emperor penguins and several boisterous Adelies line up to farewell and commiserate us. Such is the nature of this land, full of promise and disappointment in equal measure.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Day 12 – return to Cape Denison

Caption: Postmaster, Dr Dave (centre) and his companions have five weeks' work ahead of them at Mawson Hut

To our mild surprise, Rodney announced that we had returned to Cape Denison during the night as the ice had been too heavy to make our intended landing at Port Martin, the former French base. We held off in the morning and went back for our last visit to Mawson's Hut after lunch. I took this opportunity to meet the three members of the Mawsons Hut conservation team who had arrived on the French vessel, Astrolabe, the day before yesterday (Day 10). Dr Dave from the team gave me a little rundown on their activities over the next five weeks and invited me over to see their digs at Sorensen Hut behind the hill to the east. A relatively modern hut, it contained all the kit used by today's expeditioners and stood in stark contrast to the meagre and rudimentary facilities afforded Mawson's team 100 years ago. Dave agreed, most generously, to stamp my little logbook and showed me the pile of philatelic covers and letters Australia Post had burdened him with for special marking. “They gave me a crash course, so I am now officially the postmaster of Cape Denison,” he said with a twinkle of pride, “I'll get through these during the next blizzard!” As a mark of farewell, the breeze quickened to a mild wind, enough to remind us that if it wanted to, it could muster 100 knots or more of bone-chilling katabatic tempest. We were grateful for the restraint.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Day 11 - Icebergs and whales

It's day's like today that define the entire Antarctic visitor experience. After breakfast we pulled anchor at Commonwealth Bay and set off in search of the world's largest iceberg. Twelve months ago, two massive ice bodies the size of small European republics squared off. The 2500 sq km iceberg, B98, bore down on the similarly sized Mertz ice tongue, a floating extension of the mighty glacier of the same name. The resulting collision snapped off the tongue creating two ice masses that contained billions of tons of frozen water. Now breaking up, huge tabular bergs the size of Pacific islands are now adrift along the coast. Towering as high as 30m with sheer white cliff faces, they look like monstrous polystyrene carvings with escorting fragments and 'bergie bits' ranging in size from office blocks to station wagons. We set out in Zodiacs to cruise among them when a young fin whale is attracted to our noisy outboards. He circles and dives, surfacing occasionally for a close look and even showering the passengers from his blow hole. The encounter lasts almost an hour before he tires and retreats, leaving us with plenty to gloat about over dinner.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Day 10: Home of the Blizzard

Location: 66 deg 60' S, 142 deg 37' E
Vessel: Spirit of Enderby, 1750 tons, 50 pax, 71.6m

If I was hoping for a re-enactment of Mawson's legendary 'Home of the Blizzard', then I would be bitterly disappointed. After ten days travelling south through NZ's sub-Antarctic islands, then Macquarie Island to reach this 'Great White South', instead of some howling gale and the devastating fury of nature, we found ourselves motoring sedately ashore on a millpond. The sun peeps through a thin cloudy layer occasionally and many of us are stripped back to shirt sleeves. Not frostbite or gangrene, but sunburn.

Commonwealth Bay, or more precisely, just off Cape Denison, is where Heritage Expeditions' Spirit of Enderby is anchored. A short Zodiac ride delivers us to the very site used by Mawson and his team for landing their stores and themselves, then we follow the same path to the hut and wait patiently for our turn to tour inside. With windows boarded up and skylights closed, it's all but pitch black inside, but Rodney Russ is there with his flashlight pointing out the empty bunks, still with the famous names engraved; Hurley, Ninnis and Mertz are just three. Provisions, books, crockery and utensils still line the shelves almost as if the residents still expect to return. The hut is one of the famed suite of historic Antarctic huts preserved and restored for posterity and as a living memorial to the brave (and sometimes foolish) men who ventured south in the name of science and glory.

“We've been coming here every year since '98 and to the Antarctic since'93,” says Russ, who's modest, family-owned company is one of the true pioneers in Antarctic tourism in the Ross Sea region, “and in all that time we've never missed a landing here. Sure, they are not always as easy as they were today, but we make it.”

Antarctica and especially the deep southern regions around the Ross Sea make for some of the most extreme expedition cruising available. The possibility of rough seas, small vessels and disappointment make this a journey for the hardiest travellers. Yet the cross-section of passengers is surprising. The youngest is 22 and the oldest well over 70. All possess a commendable sense of adventure and are eagerly waiting at the gangway when departures are announced. Few mention any desire to travel aboard the big vessels for pleasure, instead it is the destination and experience they crave with the ship merely a means of fulfilling their passion.

To call this type of voyage a 'cruise' is to do it a great disservice. It is every bit the true quest and holds faithfully to the fundamental urge that drove Mawson, Shackleton, Scott and so many others to seek this mysterious and foreboding land. Thankfully today we can do it in vastly more comfortable ships with state-of-the-art equipment.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Day 9 – approaching Commonwealth Bay and the Antarctic Circle

“The sun, already high in the heavens, for we were in latitude 65degS, bathed it with light, causing it to stand out in vivid contrast to the cobalt ocean and sombre gloom of the distance. As I gazed at the wonderful and, to me, novel sight, I felt that we were at last really at the threshold of that Great White South – whence providence alone knew how many of us would return.” So wrote Herbert G. Ponting of his first sighting of an Antarctic iceberg as he sailed south with Scott in 1911 aboard Terra Nova. His century-old prose still precisely reflects the feelings of anyone sighting their first mighty tabular iceberg, sometimes as big as entire city blocks.

The day also delivered Emperor and Adelie penguins, seals and both Blue and Humpback whales. Although the dense pack ice slowed us to a crawl at times, the captain pressed on, crunching and crushing his way through the tight crumble of smashed bergs. Open seas were reached again, spread like an archipelago with massive bergs large enough for two postcodes. As I write we creep south at about 6 knots, the Circle just beyond the horizon and just beyond that, Mawson's fabled Land of the Blizzard.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Hurtigruten Celebrates Historic Voyage of Fridtjof Nansen, Replicating Svalbard-Bergen Sailing; 10% Savings Offered thru Dec. 31

In 1896, a year before Hurtigruten began ship service along Norway's west coast, Fridtjof Nansen's polar exploration ship, Fram, began her "triumphal journey" home to Norway after a three-year stint in the Arctic's polar ice, a point further north than any human had ever been.  In celebration of this historic achievement, Hurtigruten's modern deluxe expedition ship, also named MS Fram (honoring the original), will sail a near identical route – taking in the majesty of the northern reaches of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago known for its stunning fjords and glaciers and abundant wildlife, and the west coast of Norway, beginning at the world's northernmost town of Honningsvåg and ending in the Hanseatic port city of Bergen.  Guest booking the Sept. 7, 2011 departure of "Polar Bears, Islands and Fjords" by Dec. 31, 2010 save 10% -- $4,639 to $6,149; fares after Dec. 31 are $5,154 to $6,832 per person, double.

Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, home to upwards of 2,000 polar bears, and is the starting point for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  After a night in Longyearbyen, the 318-passenger MS Fram heads out, taking in some of the many spectacular highlights of the region: the remote Russian community of Barentsburg; magical Magdalenefjord set in the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park; crossing latitude 80° to visit the populous walrus colony on Moffen Island; exploring the former mining town of NY Ålesund, population 35; and finally heading to Bjørnøya (Bear Island), well known for its seabird colonies.  Sailing across to the Norwegian mainland, guests are treated to what has been described as "the world's most beautiful voyage" by Lonely Planet.  Highlights include Tromsø -the Capital of the Arctic, the Trollfjord, Lofoten Islands, the beautiful coast of Helgeland and UNESCO-listed Vegaøyan, the western fjords with Geiranger, Nordfjord and Olden, with a grand ending in Norway's cultural center, Bergen.

The original Fram is the only wooden ship to venture out on explorations of both the North and South Poles.  It modern version has done the same – sailing in the remote waters of Antarctica, Greenland and Spitsbergen – albeit with luxuries not found on other expedition ships.  Its size offers easier access to ports and up close views of wildlife, and its deluxe status provides more of a yacht environment versus the more common mega ship experience.  The ship boasts excellent conference and meeting facilities, a large glass-enclosed observation salon offering panoramic views of the outside scenery, restaurant with ocean views, wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools, a bistro, a guest bridge for viewing selected data from the ship's bridge and a ship's library.  Its specially equipped tender lobby makes expeditions to shore in PolarCirkel boats both safe and comfortable.

Fare includes the voyage in the cabin grade of your choice; transfers as applicable; flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo, including all taxes and fees; one night in Longyearbyen prior to the voyage, inclusive of breakfast and city sightseeing; all meals on board; and a wind and water proof jacket.  Suites include a selection of drinks with meals on board.  International flights and optional excursions are additional.

Hurtigruten is a world leader in expedition cruising, sailing to the most remote of destinations including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic's Spitsbergen as well as year round along Norway's coast and Europe in the spring.  Additional information on all of these adventures, as well as brochures and reservations, can be obtained from travel agents or Hurtigruten's visitor-friendly web site,; or by phone: (800) 323-7436; fax (888)-524-2145; for brochures (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day.

Hurtigruten is represented in Australia by Discover the World Marketing. For more information see your local Travel Agent or contact Hurtigruten on 1800 OCEANS (1800 623 267)

Day 8: at sea en route to Commonwealth Bay

Folks use the 'down time' of sea legs for all sorts of things. Many are sorting their thousands of images on laptops and updating journals while others just relax with a book or catch up on some sleep. Our run out of Macquarie is relatively smooth and aided by a following sea, so lectures and documentary screenings are back on the schedule. One other thing about these voyages is that they attract the hardiest adventurers. In our midst we have corporate consultants, a movie animator, a former whaler, sundry scientists, biologists, teachers and academics as well as regular folks. The international mix includes the US, UK, Poland, New Zealand, France, Russia and Australia.

Ewen is proving a minor celebrity with his photography tuition, while expedition crew, Dean and Tess enthral us with their documentaries on Macquarie Island. Naturalists Adam and Martin fill us in on all the intimate details of seabird and seal behaviour while conversations with fellow travellers more than fill the voids between.

At current rate of travel, we expect to reach the continent in around 48hrs, so there is plenty more time for edification and chit chat.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Day 7: Macquarie Island

Deceased elephant seal, Macquarie Island
Today's excursion involved a guided tour of the base and surrounding with Ranger Helen. It seemed the young 'weener' elephant seals were even more curious than at Sandy Bay and several passengers enjoyed close encounters with inquisitive pups who came close to check them out. What a comic scene with colourful, plastic-wrapped adventurers sprawled out on the sand coming nose-to-nose with eight-week-old seal pups. What must they have thought of us?

Gentoo penguins with nearly fledged offspring stood to attention as our group made for the historic base, first established sixty-ish years ago. It is clear that station staff are a cheery, stoic sort of lot relatively resistant to the privations of remote life. The couple of team members who came aboard for a meal hooked into the grapes and fresh fruit like crazy. Back on base, we were treated to a fabulous Devonshire Tea in the mess hall and mug-for-mug, the base coffee was a clear winner. Souvenirs were disappointingly scant, but we posted our postcards and stamped our passports all the same.

Entertainment for the afternoon was provided by the meteorological guy releasing one of his twice-daily balloons carrying little boxes of sensors the size of Dick Smith kits with tiny antennae like twisted paper clips. “Get your pictures quickly, as I won't be hanging on for long in this breeze.” and away it went, quickly disappearing in the low-hanging mist.

A UNESCO World Heritage site for its geological value, Macquarie Island has had several lives. First as a sealing base where the massive 5-ton elephant seals were stripped of their blubber and rendered. Then it was the penguins' turn in the pot before finally the whole place reverted to a protected nature reserve and scientific outpost. Much time is now devoted to the eradication of feral pests like rabbits and rats. Cats were successfully removed about eight years ago – all at great cost.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Captain Cook Cruises' Murray Princess, Adelaide & Kangaroo Island Combo

Enjoy the best of South Australia with this fantastic cruise and land package from Captain Cook Cruises. Enjoy three or four nights cruising the spectacular Murray River aboard its only paddlewheeler, the Murray Princess, one night in Adelaide and two full days on Kangaroo Island.

Passengers will spend the first part of their trip cruising the beautiful Murray River and exploring the big river gorges, bio-diverse Murray riverlands, unique flora and fauna of the outback and experiencing exciting day trips to historic ports, sacred Aboriginal sites, a sheep station and woolshed and a native wildlife shelter.

On-board passengers will enjoy outside cabin accommodation, all meals, the use of two spas, two saunas, a sun deck, two bars, two lounges, a single sitting dining saloon and great entertainment.

Following the cruise, a complimentary scenic coach will transfer passengers to the Mercure Grosvenor Hotel in Adelaide. Arriving at midday guests will enjoy one night's accommodation and have all of Adelaide's main tourist attractions including Rundle Mall, Skycity Casino, museums and art galleries at their feet.

A coach will then transfer guests the next morning to Cape Jervis where they will join the Sealink Ferry to Kangaroo Island.

Day one on Kangaroo Island will feature a full day Seal Bay Discovery Tour including a delicious lunch. Guests will then settle into their choice of overnight accommodation on the island.

On day two, guests will enjoy a Remarkably Wild tour that also includes lunch before returning to Penneshaw for the return ferry and coach to Adelaide. For a few dollars more guests can upgrade to the late afternoon flight from Kangaroo Island to Adelaide.

For people with a love of food and wine, an optional full day Barossa Valley Tour is available when disembarking the Murray Princess at Mannum. Those on the tour will return to Adelaide at 5.30pm that day in time for the transfers the following morning to Kangaroo Island.

Prices for the five night package starts from $1604 per person, twin share and includes three nights on the Murray Princess, one night at the Mercure Grosvenor Hotel and one night on Kangaroo Island. The six night package starts at only $1874 per person, twin share and includes four nights on the Murray Princess, one night at the Mercure Grosvenor Hotel and one night on Kangaroo Island. 

Prices are valid to 31 March 2012.

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises toll free on 1800 804 843; Int +61-2-9206-1111, Email: or visit

Day 6: Macquarie Island

Ewen catches up with some old friends
Mercifully, the seas abated to allow us a relatively calm landing at the Australian base on North Head to collect our guides and head to our landing point at Sandy Bay.

Ashore we were met by hordes of Royal and King penguins and belching, snorting masses of elephant seals. The older animals formed scrums of ill-mannered disorder; pushing, biting, roaring at each other. Recipient beasts seemed remarkably compliant despite the barrage and shuffled their considerable bulk to accommodate the aggressor.

Around the periphery, younger “weenies” flopped on the sand, often upside down, basking in the meagre sunlight. Their doe eyes opened briefly to inspect us as we wandered past, often acknowledging us with a short snotty snort. Unlike the feisty fur seals of the Auckland Islands, the elephant seals seemed content to tolerate us and some of the group joined the little basking pups spread out on the grey sand.

Inquisitive penguins escorted us around,sometimes coming close to peck at a shoe lace or bag strap. The delightful animals seemed equally amused at our antics as we theirs. The Royal penguin rookery is about the size of three football fields, jam-packed with nesting birds, all placed about pecking distance from the next. And the smell is something one never forgets.

Monday 13 December 2010

Day 5 en route to Macquarie Island

'The movements of the ship are beyond description. Gunwales were underwater most of the time, the decks awash and forecastle head was mostly lost to sight as the ship, recovering from her drop into the troughs, plunged into the waves ahead.”

Thankfully the above quote is not from our voyage, but from Mawson's of 1929. Even so, it is easy to imagine the fury aroused in the seas at this latitude. While our voyage was a little milder, Expedition Leader, Rodney Russ, confided it was one of his more 'energetic' in 20 years.

The little 'Spirit of Enderby' ploughed on at a modest 8 knots toward Macquarie Island tossing us hither and thither making dinner service an amusing event for the few hardy souls who came to eat.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Day 4: Auckland Islands

It seems hardly remarkable now to mention the constant rocking and pitching of our vessel. Suffice to say it's like trying to sleep in a tumble dryer, but the passengers and I seem to be holding up remarkably well. A few spare places at meals only.

Today's challenge is to climb a muddy, rocky 200m bluff to see a Mollymawk colony on the main island of the Auckland Group. A party of twenty kitted up for the ordeal which was simple enough except for treacherous puddles of knee-deep muck interspersed with slippery tracks through the abundant tussock grass. The weather smiled on us and the cameras went crazy.

Back aboard it was an afternoon and evening of predictable, incessant undulation as we traversed the notorious stretch of water en route to Macquarie Island which we'll reach early on Day 6.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Day 3: Enderby Island, Auckland Island Group

Fur seals love to play. This one pretends to charge me. Very convincing. Pic: Amy Christensen
Another early start, although a mercifully less violent night. We spent the whole day ashore exploring this little island once home to a cattle herd and all the attendant pests that brings. Cats, mice and rabbits have all been “removed” leaving it to breeding sea lions, albatross and the darling yellow-eyed penguins as well as numerous other waders, parrots and tits. There are a few exciting moments as sea lions test our resilience in mock charges. Some of us charge back and a ceasefire is established.

I agree to join the hardy walkers and we complete a circumnavigation of the island on foot. All the while we negotiate with sea lions for safe passage and give right of way to toddling penguins among the impeding tussock grass. We detour through the spooky forest, populated with low mossy and gnarly trees that seem to grab at you. Soggy peat bogs lie in wait and occasionally a friendly tomtit appears to show you the way. A perfect setting for Peter Jackson's next movie.

Several shipwrecks, including the Derrycastle and General Grant have left a tragic legacy and there is a plaque commemorating the dead - a stark reminder indeed.

Friday 10 December 2010

Day 2 Snares Islands

Snares at Sunrise (c) Ewen Bell

If we thought this would be a gentle introduction – how wrong we were. At midnight we hit seas and the rocking began. Anything not nailed down quickly flew about the cabin, including a full bottle of Canadian Club that landed squarely on my foot. Some sorry looking faces at breakfast this morning.

Our Zodiac cruise inspected the endemic Snares Crested Penguin as well as sea lions cruising playfully among the kelp. A cry came out for a young leopard seal patrolling the shore in search of inattentive penguins to snatch. Expedition leader, Rodney Russ, regaled us with tales of stowaway convicts cast ashore on these tiny islands. They apparently spent seven years before rescue and re-incarceration but these islands are now declared human-free and no-one sets foot here anymore.

Back aboard we are out into the swell again, en route to Enderby Island.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Day 1, 9 December: Invercargill and Port of Bluff, NZ

I'm sure everyone had similar feelings. We were setting out on a 25-day voyage to cross some of the roughest seas on the planet and to follow the brave handful of explorers who set out in flimsy craft one hundred years ago to explore the mysterious East Antarctica.

Made famous by Sir Douglas Mawson in his work, 'Land of the Blizzard' the Terre Adelie coast of George V Land, which includes Commonwealth Bay and Cape Denison, is one of the windiest places on Earth. Mawson's hut, unfortunately located at this spot, is our destination.

With photographer and colleague, Ewen Bell, we sip final frappés at the world's southernmost Starbucks in Invercargill (46:25 degrees) before boarding 'Spirit of Enderby' in the nearby port of Bluff. At 4.30pm, accompanied by a small flight of petrels and shearwaters, we head south and our odyssey is begun. Tomorrow we pass the Snare Islands, home to more seabirds than the entire British Isles (or so I'm informed)

Editor Heading South for Summer

Hi Adventurers

I'm just about to head out to Invercargill to join Heritage Expeditions East Antarctica voyage. Be sure to check in for blog updates.

Happy Christmas, see you next year!


Wednesday 8 December 2010


CRUISECO has a fascinating series of fly/cruise packages aboard the 4-star small ship Spirit of Adventure in Asia in 2012 that have no added costs for shore excursions, because with Spirit of Adventure there's a choice of guided shore tours included at all ports of call.

Carrying a maximum of just 412-guests, the 9,570-tonne mini-liner also includes a program of lectures by experts in a diverse field from archaeology and history to the arts, culture and cuisine, with these experts often joining the half- or full-day port excursions with local English-speaking guides.

Cruiseco has a choice of eight fly/cruise packages between January and May 2012 on Spirit of Adventure as she journeys from Australia to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, Hong Kong, and back through South-east Asia to India, across to Dubai, and from there to Aqaba in Jordan.

Prices begin from as low as  $3874 twin-share for a 14-night fly/cruise package from Port Kelang in Malaysia on March 19 2012 to Phuket, the Andaman Islands, Sri Lanka, and Kochi, Mangalore and Mumbai in India.

This includes return air and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, the 14-night cruise with all onboard dining, gratuities and daily excursions.

For detailed itineraries of all packages and prices from all capital cities, together with the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies, visit

ADDITIONAL SHIPBOARD INFORMATION: Spirit of Adventure offers exquisite dining in a choice of formal and casual venues, and nightly entertainment ranging from cultural shows by local performers (depending on ports of call) to classic ensembles and recitals.

And as well as the guest lecturer programs, there's a range of enriching activities from trying your hand at watercolour painting to card games. The ship has a pool, indoor health spa, beauty salon, fitness room, library, internet and bicycles available at no cost for those wishing to explore ports of call on their own.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Cruceros Australis Unveils New Ship, Stella Australis

To celebrate Cruceros Australis' 20th anniversary, the adventure cruise company has commissioned and unveiled a new ship, the Stella Australis, set to launch this December.

The Stella will have a capacity of 210 passengers in 100 cabins, each 177 square feet, featuring picture windows, independent climate controls, private bathrooms and a satellite phone. For those guests on the prowl for more commodious accommodations and larger beds, superior cabins are available.

Travelers will enjoy five decks:

The Patagonia Deck includes a galley and the Patagonia Dining Room, accommodating groups of four, six and eight people.

The Magallanes Deck, the second deck, includes a reception area and a giftshop where guests can purchase a variety of equipment for expeditions as well as large picture windows that are more than three feet wide and four feet tall.

The Tierra del Fuego Deck, the third deck, includes the Yamana Lounge with a bar and a game room. The cabins on this deck feature even larger picture windows that are nearly five feet wide and five feet tall.

The Cabo de Hornos Deck on the fourth deck includes the Sky Lounge with windows the largest windows of all, five feet wide and nearly six feet tall.

The Darwin Deck includes the Darwin Lounge, bar and fully-equipped gym with large glass panels overlooking the sea.

Travelers with Cruceros Australis take a trip to the end of the world to explore the southernmost regions of South America including Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

Additional highlights include Ainsworth Bay and Glacier Alley, as well as a number of small group excursions including a trip to Magdalena Island to visit the Magellanic Penguins.

Expedition leaders prepare and present daily lectures in both English and Spanish to complement the educational component of the expeditions. The talks take place both on theship (with audio-visual support) and on land during excursions.

Orion continues its winning ways

Building on its reputation as the premier expedition cruise product in Australasia, last night (6th December 2010) Orion received the prestigious Cruise Passenger Magazine Readers' Choice Award for Best small/adventure ship - for the sixth year in a row.

This award caps off a successful year for Orion Expedition Cruises that, in November, included recognition as the Best Responsible Cruise Operator at the international 2010 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards and, earlier in the year, an Honorable Mention, Education in the 4th Annual Conde Nast Traveler Save the World Awards for initiatives undertaken with local schools in Papua New Guinea.

Locally, at the 2010 Australian Gourmet Traveller Travel Awards in the single category for cruising, Orion Expedition Cruises scooped the Best Cruise Line (Global) accolade ahead of other finalists including Cunard, Silversea and The Yachts of Seabourn.

Australia's favourite small ships announced

The Cruise Passenger Readers' Choice Awards were held at a stylish function in the Observatory Hotel, close to Sydney's home of cruising, Sydney Harbour, on Monday evening, December 6, 2010.

Cruise Passenger magazine is Australasia's Number One cruise publication for lovers of big ship voyages, intimate small ship river cruises and everything in between. Featuring a round-up of the latest news from the cruise world, new cruise liners to hit the industry, popular cruise ports and land-based tour options, plus features on family cruising and expedition cruising, Cruise Passenger is jam-packed with all the latest information from the ever-expanding cruise sector.

Best Adventure/Small Ship Cruise Line
1st: Captain Cook Cruises
2nd: Orion Expedition Cruises
3rd: Aurora Expeditions

Best Adventure/Small Ship Cruise Ship
1st: Orion
2nd: True North
3rd: Coral Princess

Read full release with all winners in all categories

Monday 6 December 2010


For many cruising Australians, it's an intriguing, little-known part of the world –- from the Caribbean, along the northern coast of South America, through the historic Panama Canal to the pristine Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

With a good quality atlas, a little help from everyone's friend Google, and 21 days in which to explore, a string of  (sometimes unpronounceable) ports of call leap from the pages:

Bridgetown (Barbados), St George's  (Grenada), a ' Captain's Choice' island in the Grenadines Group, Margarita Island and Blanquilla (Venezuela), Kralendijk (Bonaire), Willemstad (Curacao), Oranjestad (Aruba), Cartagena (Colombia), San Blas Islands, Balboa, Isla Iguana and Isla de Coiba (Panama), then five places in Costa Rica – Golfito, Isla del Cano, Drake Bay, Quepos, Curu National Reserve, Isla Tortugas and Puerto Caldera.

The cruise is the combination of two on the clipper ship Star Flyer that can be taken separately – 14 nights from Bridgetown on November 6   next year through the Panama Canal  to Balboa  (from $6210 per person including port charges and gratuities); and seven nights from Balboa on November   20 to Puerto Caldera from $2900.

A discount of 25% (50% for children) applies for the seven-night cruise for bookings before April 30, 2011 subject to conditions.

Star Flyer will be based in Puerto Caldera until March 12, 2012, when the ship and the two other clippers in the fleet (Royal Clipper and Star Clipper) will make westbound crossings for a season in the Mediterranean.

All three clippers offer a novel cruise experience, blending the adventure of traditional sailing with the luxury of a modern cruise ship.

For reservations contact your travel agent, or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or <> <>


Blue Lagoon Cruises set to create world-first tourism opportunity with maiden cruise to Northern Lau

A year in the making, Blue Lagoon Cruises has created a world-first tourism opportunity for visitors to Fiji in the process becoming the first cruise operator to offer itineraries to the area known as 'The Exploring Isles' - the rarely visited Lau Island group.

Effective 16 May 2011 the boutique cruise specialist's 35-berth MV Mystique Princess will set sail on its inaugural voyage to the Lau Islands as part of a seven-day itinerary.

The ship's crew will be complimented by a local cultural expert who will join the voyage to provide presentations and background on the unique regions to be visited en route.

The itinerary encompasses a cruise along the southern side of Vanua Levu towards isolated Kioa Island. A highlight of this port of call is the greeting afforded by the local people who paddle canoes out to meet the ship resplendent in traditional costume.

From Kioa, MV Mystique Princess sails for Rabi, home to the Banaban islanders who settled there in 1945, before setting sail for the 'garden island' of Taveuni. Highlights of the visit include a visit to the majestic Bouma Falls and a crossing of the 180th Meridian which dissects the island.

From Taveuni the cruise heads east for an early morning passage to Vanua Balavu in the heart of the Northern Lau.

Highlights of the Lau visit, first seen by Captain James Cook in 1774, include Qilaqila Island, the jewel in the crown of the Lau group's 'Bay of Islands'.

This is where passengers will in effect be among the first ever humans – certainly the first non-Fijians - to have swum in these crystal clear waters where visibility extends beyond 80 feet.

The ship's passengers will also have a fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in Lauan culture when they visit Daliconi and Sawana villages, many of whose inhabitants have never met people from beyond their island chain.

A high spot of the visit to Sawana is a performance of a 'Meke' – a traditional dance – seldom seen outside of Lau.

The cruise concludes with a visit to the island of Ovalua and the World Heritage listed Levuka.

Here passengers will have time to explore the former federal capital before heading back to Blue Lagoon Cruises' home port of Lautoka on the northern coastline of the main island of Viti Levu.

Blue Lagoon Cruises CEO Tim Stonhill said the new Lau cruise represented a tremendous opportunity for cruise lovers seeking something very different to experience a beautiful part of the world hitherto side-stepped by international tourism.

"Not only will our passengers be some of the first people to visit this pristine region, they will also be presented with a rare insight into four ancient, unique and living cultures – Melanesian, Micronesian, Polynesian and Lauan," he said.

"Our decision to sail into this region opens up a new and exciting chapter for Fiji tourism."

"At the same time by operating this program in a very controlled manner we are helping to create a sustainable and environmentally responsible tourism opportunity to the benefit of all Lauan people."

Echoing Mr Stonhill's words, the Chairman of The Vanua Balavu Tourism Council, Mr Jone Vave, whose committee has played a major role in helping to make the new program possible, said he is over the moon with Blue Lagoon Cruises' decision to begin cruising into the region.

"Everyone here is thrilled and very excited with this development and the opportunity it presents for us to present our unique culture, history and unspoiled natural environment to the world," he said.

Two more Lau itineraries have been scheduled for 15 August and 14 November 2011, full details of which can be viewed on the Blue Lagoon Cruises website located at

Pricing for the seven-day cruise program starts from AUD2515 per person twin share.

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

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

Saturday 4 December 2010


Cruiseco has 7-nights on the fascinating Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia aboard the replica colonial river steamer Indochina Pandaw that carries just sixty passengers – and with new bookings made by December 17 is priced from just $5999 for the first passenger and a low $1399 for the second passenger sharing a cabin.

This value-plus saving is for a sailing from Siem Reap (Angkor) to Ho Chi Minh's My Tho Port (Saigon) on March 6 2011, but Cruiseco has other specially-discounted "second passenger savings" on a range of other sailings from December 26 this year to March 27 2011.

All include return economy air from Australia, two nights twin-share pre-cruise at the deluxe Raffles Grand d'Angkor in Angkor, and two nights post-cruise at the deluxe Caravelle Hotel in Saigon with breakfasts daily, daily sightseeing with expert local guides, and all transfers.

Indochina Pandaw's 7-cruise includes breakfasts daily, select lunches and dinners, daily shore excursions including by sampan, local ferries and trishaws with expert local guides, local beer, spirits and soft drinks on board, and 5-star service.

For detailed itineraries from Angkor to Saigon or vice-versa, together with the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies, visit

ADDITIONAL CRUISE HIGHLIGHTS: Highlights include floating markets, French colonial buildings and an 1875's monastery, a traditional brick and tile factory, Cambodia's Silver Pagoda, museums highlighting Khmer culture, temples, a silk-weaving village, Angkor Thom with its famous Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King.

There is also an opportunity for a moving "Killing Fields" visit in Phnom Penh and by contrast the chance to dine at the legendary Foreign Correspondents Club.

Indochina Pandaw is a faithful replica of the river steamers of the colonial Irrawaddy Flotilla Company that burned all 600 of its vessels in the 1940s to prevent them being used by the advancing Japanese Army. The 30-cabin vessel features promenade decks with cane furnishings, teak woodwork, brass fittings and large cabins – giving the ambience of holidaying aboard a private motor yacht rather than a cruise vessel.

Friday 3 December 2010

Cool it this summer - Orion's Sub Antarctic and Antarctic voyages

While the rest of Australia swelters under the summer sun a handful of spaces remain for a fortunate few onboard the expedition cruise ship Orion to follow paths pioneered by historic polar explorers to the World Heritage listed Sub-Antarctic Islands and mainland Antarctica.

Orion 13 night Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure / 15 January 2011: Secluded and seldom visited, these Sub-Antarctic Islands have UNESCO World Heritage status recognising one of our planet's most important bio-diverse regions with their volcanic and glacial geological formations and extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna.

This region has the highest diversity and abundance of seabirds found anywhere in the world, some of which exist nowhere else.

Orion 21 night Scott and Shackleton's Antarctic expedition / 27 January 2011: Departs from Hobart, heading for Macquarie Island, then crossing the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees south bound for the Ross Sea with visits to polar explorers Scott and Shackleton's historic bases.

These important time-capsule buildings reveal how these 'heroic era' explorers lived with plentiful examples of clothing, books, food, crates, sleds, ropes and kerosene tins remaining, literally frozen in time.

The southern part of the Ross Sea is icebound for some 9 months of the year and few ships venture here; those that do principally to supply the scientific stations.

These expeditions particularly suit modern-day adventurers, those with an interest in polar exploration, nature lovers and keen wildlife and seascape photographers, as well as anyone with an adventurous spirit interested in visiting remote places of outstanding historic and ecologic importance.

The Mawson's Huts polar expedition has sold out however limited space remains on each of the following voyages:

Orion 13-night Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure / 15 January 2011: Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, secluded and seldom visited, these Sub-Antarctic Islands have UNESCO World Heritage status recognising one of our planet's most important bio-diverse regions with their volcanic and glacial geological formations and extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna.

The remnants of the old whaling station on Macquarie Island, the high cliffs and numerous caves and arches formed by marine erosion on Campbell Island and the enormous sea stacks on the southern peninsulas of Snares present dramatic contrast to the prolific bird life, penguins, fur and elephant seals, sea lions, killer whales and unique flora seen in this remote region.

This region has the highest diversity and abundance of seabirds found anywhere in the world, some of which exist nowhere else. Birds of a feather flocking together.

Orion 21 night Scott and Shackleton's Antarctic expedition / 27 January 2011: Departs from Hobart, heading for Macquarie Island, then crossing the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees south bound for the Ross Sea with visits to polar explorers Scott and Shackleton's historic bases.

These important time-capsule buildings reveal how these 'heroic era' explorers lived with plentiful examples of clothing, books, food, crates, sleds, ropes and kerosene tins remaining, literally frozen in time. The specialist expedition team will provide insightful background to enhance the experience.

The southern part of the Ross Sea is icebound for some 9 months of the year and few ships venture here; those that do principally to supply the scientific stations, making this a rare opportunity for visitors to experience this remote and fascinating region.

Orion, with the benefit of oversized stabilisers, retractable sonar and ice strengthened hull, provides her 100 guests with the needs of today's adventurers: technology, safety and creature comforts that include fine food and wines, a gym, boutique, hairdressing, sauna and massage facilities - as well as 80 staff and specialist expedition crew to look after every need.

Orion's 10 inflatable Zodiacs, the perfect expedition transport, will be put to good use for landings ashore in both Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands.

13 night Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure – departs Dunedin for Hobart 15 January 2011 Dunedin / Fiordland / Stewart Island / Snares Island / Auckland Island / Campbell Island / Macquarie Island / Hobart

Fares from $10,630 per person twin share for an ocean view Category B stateroom

Suites from $14,660 per person twin share for a Junior Suite

Owners' Suites with French Balcony are $22,265 per person twin share

21 night expedition: Hobart / Antarctica / Christchurch - departs 27th January 2011 Hobart / Ross Sea region / Campbell Island / Snares Island / Christchurch

Fares from $22,590 per person for an Ocean View category B Stateroom

Suites from $31,160 per person for a Junior Suite

Orion's spacious Owners' Suites are $47,315 per person

NOTE: Please note that all Antarctic voyages are subject to possible variation according to prevailing weather conditions and as such are opportunistic in nature. On occasion intended destinations will need to be changed for safety or other reason.

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:

Hurtigruten Expands Roster of Unusual & Educational Cruises for 2011


With the demand for unusual and educational experiences on the rise, Hurtigruten has created an expanded roster of fascinating theme cruises for 2011 – and with eight unique itineraries ranging from classical opera and photography to astronomy and New Year's celebrations to birding and polar explorers, there is an option for everyone.  Early-booking prices on reservations made by Dec. 31, 2010, available on most voyages, offer savings of up to 20% and range from $722 to $4,989 per person, double.  Voyages booked after Dec. 31 range from $722 to $5,252; suites are priced higher.

·         "Astronomy Voyage" gives guests the chance to see (without the interference of city lights) and learn about the Arctic night sky as well as the Aurora Borealis, with renowned guest lecturers and a visit to the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromso; high demand means there are now three departure dates available: Jan. 29, Feb. 20 and Mar. 25.

·         "Winter Digital Photography Voyage" offers photographers with varying degrees of experience the opportunity to capture a diverse range of subject matter, from wheeling sea eagles to brightly painted fisherman's boats, in the company of a seasoned photographer – Beginners Level, Jan. 11; Intermediate Level, March 8.

·         "Celebrations in the Arctic" – ringing in the New Year as no one else can - with the countdown held on the North Cape, Europe's most northern point, departing Dec. 26, 2011.

·         "Opera Voyage" is an opera-lover's dream trip - daily concerts on board and a Norwegian New Year's Concert at Oslo's Concert Hall with a tour of the Opera House the next day - Jan. 6, 2011.

·         "Birds of the Nordic Coast" takes place as millions of migrating birds return to the Arctic for nesting and shows guests why Norway can justifiably be called "Nature's Wonderland" - a true ornithological event with lectures and stellar bird-watching opportunities - May 20, 2011.

·         "Norway's Big Day Out" celebrates Norway's Constitution Day and gives guests a deeper understanding of the Norwegian culture that Hurtigruten has been a part of for more than 100 years – departs daily May 6-16, 2011.

·         "Hall of the Mountain King" is a classic voyage that immerses passengers in the music and background of Edvard Grieg, Norway's best-known classical composer, and a program of captivating on board lectures and piano recitals – Oct. 9 and 15, 2011.

·         "The Ice-Breakers" delves deep into the history of the polar explorers, their voyages and the culture and inhabitants of the Polar Regions; lectures and optional excursions ranging from a Viking feast to the Polaria Centre enrich the experience – Oct. 14, 2011.

Hurtigruten is a world leader in expedition cruising, sailing to the most remote of destinations including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic's Spitsbergen as well as year round along Norway's coast and Europe in the spring.  Additional information on all of these adventures, as well as brochures and reservations, can be obtained from travel agents or Hurtigruten's visitor-friendly web site,; or by phone: (800) 323-7436; fax (888)-524-2145; for brochures (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day.

Hurtigruten is represented in Australia by Discover the World Marketing. For more information see your local Travel Agent or contact Hurtigruten on 1800 OCEANS (1800 623 267)

Save 15% when booking back-to-back Russian Arctic voyages


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When you book on both of our 'Secrets of the White Sea' & 'Voyage to the End of the Earth', back-to-back, you will SAVE 15% off the total price*

Secrets of the White Sea, 17 July to 26 July 2011

Steeped in history stemming back centuries, the White Sea is home to an abundant display of ancient cultures. Isolated fishing villages, prehistoric labyrinths, medieval monasteries and harsh gulags; the World Heritage-listed Solovestskiy Islands also offer a magical piece of Russia's north. From mushroom gatherers to Orthodox monks, we meet people who are proud and protective of their remarkable heritage.

Secrets of the White Sea' will open up a world of exquisite Arctic beauty. Departing Murmansk, this 10-day voyage will showcase the Arctic summer, as it turns tundra-covered coasts of the Kola Peninsula into colourful displays of local wildflowers. Our fleet of Zodiacs will carry us to intimate viewings of spectacular seabird and seal colonies, whilst our experienced expedition staff will help unlock the secrets of this historic-clad region. Prices start from $US6,900 per person. Kayaking option available. Click here to view the voyage itinerary.

Voyage to the End of the Earth, 26 July to 8 August 2011

Discover a region so remote and wild, that few have ever been. The 191 pristine islands that make up Franz Josef Land were the planets last major landmass to be discovered! Uninhabited, minus a few Russian border guards, this is the realm of the polar bear, walrus, seals and the elusive beluga whale. Only accessible by sea, the region has only been open to foreigners since 1991. This geological wonder really is the world's last frontier, virtually untouched and waiting to be explored!

Aurora Expeditions' 'Voyage to the End of the Earth' is a 14-day adventure and one of the only ways to reach this Arctic wonderland. Departing Arkhangelsk, we hope to visit the once forbidden Novaya Zemlya before pushing to the outer limits of the Barents Sea, reaching the ice-capped islands of Franz Josef Land. Prices start from US$8,080 per person. Kayaking option available. Click here to view the voyage itinerary.

For more information on the voyages and other travel arrangements, please contact our expeditions experts on 1800 637 688 or email

Order a brochure here

*Conditions apply. Not valid with any other offer. Offer ends 31 December 2010.

Aurora Expeditions – Level 2, 88 George Street The Rocks, NSW 2000 Australia. Ph +61 2 9252 1033

David Bellamy To Host New Tall Ship Cruise aboard Star Flyer

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cruise the coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the company of David Bellamy, one of Britain's most respected authors, environmental campaigners, broadcasters and botanists.

Bellamy will escort a group of Star Clippers guests from the UK on a week-long adventure in December 2011 on board the 170-passenger tall ship Star Flyer, visiting some of the world's most pristine rainforest and beautiful beaches. The offer includes a private reception for the UK guests; two lectures by David Bellamy; and an escorted shore excursion with the botanist in Playas del Coco.

As well as the honour of travelling with such a respected authority on conservation, the holiday includes further chances to explore the volcanoes and cloud forests of Costa Rica. Before Bellamy boards Star Flyer with the guests on December 11, the group stays for two nights at the five-star Royal Corin Hotel, with breathtaking views of the famous Arenal Volcano, one of the ten most active in the world. There are excursions to a local farm, as well as the Tabacon Springs near Arenal, which have healing properties, and dinner at the hotel, overlooking the erupting volcano.

The week-long voyage from Puerto Caldera includes some of the most beautiful beaches and anchorages along the Pacific costs of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, among them the surf resort of San Juan del Sur; the half-moon bay of Playas del Coco, with spectacular wildlife; National Park Santa Rosa, famed for its cloud forest and wildlife; Samara, for kayaking and bird-watching; Puerto Carrillo; the National Reserve of Curu, with a good chance of spotting whales and dolphins; and the remote Isla Tortugas (overnight), before returning to Puerto Caldera.

The 11-night tour costs from £2,239 per person and departs December 8, 2011. The price includes return flights from London to Costa Rica; transfers; three nights' hotel accommodation; seven nights' full board accommodation on Star Flyer; two exclusive lectures by David Bellamy; one shore excursion hosted by David Bellamy; guided tours on the pre-cruise section; and watersports from the ship.

About Star Clippers:

Star Clippers operates three of the world's largest and tallest sailing vessels. Visiting ports often untouched by larger cruise ships and offering passengers the activities, amenities and atmosphere of a private yacht, Star Clippers is recognised as one of the premier speciality cruise lines.

Passengers can enjoy the romance of sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service provided by an attentive crew. All three ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, a convivial Tropical Bar on deck and a comfortable piano bar and are large enough to offer first class accommodation and dining, but small enough to call into intimate ports, untouched by large cruise ships.

The two smaller ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, take 170 passengers each, with a crew of 70, while Royal Clipper carries 227 with a crew of 106.

Win a 10-day Cruise aboard Tui Tai

Every year, Teva invites a few lucky adventurers like you to hang out with us in epic locations around the world.

In 2011, the Teva House is setting sail around the tropical paradise of Northern Fiji for 10 unforgettable days aboard Tui Tai.

We’ll be visiting remote beaches, snorkelling over incredible reefs, kayaking to local villages, hiking and rafting through wild rainforest gorges.

If this is your idea of a good time, enter now.
Begin Date: November 17, 2010 at 12:00pm
End Date: December 19, 2010 at 12:00am
How to Enter: Enter online at, complete the entry form.
Entry Restrictions: Sweepstakes open to residents over 18 years of age in Australia ONLY. Void where prohibited by law.
Prize: A grand prize of a trip to Fiji April 1 – April 11, 2011 for winner and a guest.
Full Official Rules apply, please see the following link for details: Rules and Regulations

Thursday 2 December 2010

Win a $54,000 Cruise to the North Pole with 400 words

If you're a writer who can ignite the passion of readers with an engaging and exciting travel post, and who can use your social networks to get the most votes, this is your Arctic cruise to win.

How The Contest Works
Enter the competition by posting a short essay (200 to 400 words) on this website. Tell us why you qualify to be Quark's Official Blogger to the North Pole. The 400 words must also include a short story about a unique trip or travel experience you've taken, as well as your photo. Then, reach out to your social networks to get the most votes.

How To Win
At noon eastern time, February 15, 2011, the competition will close. A winner will be selected from the top 5 entrants (chosen by the most votes) by a panel of judges including a professional travel blogger, Quark's President, a member of Quark's Expedition team and a member of the Marketing team.

Who Can Enter

The competition is open to nearly everybody. For exceptions, read the complete rules. Entrants must be 21 by November 20, 2010. A valid passport will be proof of age.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Cruise Weekly: Slowly in the Solomons

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Location: Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands
8 deg 26.3'S, 157 deg 56.9'E
Vessel: True North, 50m, 36 pax

True North viewed from their onboard helicopter
Here at anchor in one of the world's largest saltwater lagoons, the Solomon Islands offers one of the few remaining unexploited adventure cruise locations on the planet. Luxury expedition ship, True North, rocks gently in the middle of this vast body of water, ringed by mysterious, mist-enshrouded mountains and low, densely wooded islands. A couple of yachts snoozing nearby and some canoes beached on a tiny strip of sand are the only reminder of human habitation in this remote archipelago.

Warriors on Tetepare Island
make a traditional greeting
Just this morning dozens of local artisans set-up an ad-hoc market for us on nearby Uepi Island, lining the ground with an array of intricately carved bowls, ornaments and totems representing both the real and mystical life abundant in this area. Hammerhead sharks, angel fish, turtles and warrior faces superbly inlaid with mother-of-pearl shell are just a few of the subjects elegantly depicted in local rosewood and ebony. Scuba divers arrive from their morning foray into the brilliant submarine world of vivid hard and soft corals, fans, anemones and their brightly coloured resident fish of all shapes. At the jetty, a dozen or more reef sharks form greedy scrums as chunks of fish scraps are dropped into the water.

This perfect vista is a world away from the hectic scenes of 1942 and '43 when Japanese destroyers ran nightly fast convoys from Rabaul to Guadalcanal in a desperate attempt to resupply their struggling campaign against the entrenched US Marines. One of these destroyers collided with the future US President, John F Kennedy, aboard the famous PT-109 in the straits just to the north. Many of these islands bore witness to some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific theatre of WWII and the waters around the islands are littered with the wrecks of both Japanese and US warships and aircraft.

Passengers disembark True North
by tender for day excursion
Small ship cruising, broader eco-tourism and battlefield tours are injecting valuable funds into the tiny Solomon Islands economy, hopefully reducing the reliance on unsustainable logging and fishing that is currently damaging the environmental balance in some areas. Secluded island resorts like Uepi, Tetepare and Tavanipupu, dot the region but offer less sophisticated amenities than similar resorts in, say, Fiji and Vanuatu, instead relying on their undeveloped “back to nature” appeal. These factors and a more involved land title system, means the Solomon Islands will develop more slowly and resist the wholesale tourism development that can sometimes tarnish an otherwise authentic tropical island experience.

For now at least, exclusive, well-managed adventure cruise itineraries like that offered by North Star Cruises can cover a dozen or more locations throughout the archipelago in a self-contained, low impact style that perfectly suits this delicate cultural and ecological environment.

At time of writing, a repeat of the 7-night Solomons Sojourn for 2011 is unconfirmed, but stay tuned to for updates.

For further information on travel to the Solomon Islands, see

For flight information, see Solomon Airlines

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Seabourn Announces Changes in 2012 Asia Deployment

Seabourn Pride

Responding to strong demand for some of its more exotic itineraries, The Yachts of Seabourn has changed some of the published itineraries of two of its yachts during the first quarter of 2012. The 208-guest Seabourn Pride, which had been scheduled to sail 12-day cruises of Vietnam and Thailand between Hong Kong and Bangkok, will instead sail between Hong Kong and Singapore on five 14-day voyages that will each include a call at the up-and-coming beach resort community of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Departure dates are scheduled between Jan. 4 and March 14, 2012. The revised schedule also includes one 14-day voyage departing Feb. 15, 2012, and sailing roundtrip from Singapore to Penang, Phuket, Langkawi, Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, the Malaysian metropolis of Kuala Lumpur and more.

The Seabourn Legend will start 2012 sailing among the islands of the Indonesian Archipelago, on 10- and 12-day itineraries between Singapore and Bali that include hard-to-reach places such as Komodo, Sumba, Flores, Gili Sudak and Kura Kura. Five departures are scheduled between Jan. 3 and Feb. 16, 2012.

Following the additional Southeast Asian voyages, each of the two Seabourn yachts will reposition to Europe on a pair of longer voyages, the “Jewels of India & Arabia” sailing from Singapore to Dubai in 18 days and then the “Wonders of Arabia & Egypt” from Dubai to Athens in another 18 days. Seabourn Value Fares offer savings up to 65 percent, with fares starting at $3,999 per person, based on double occupancy. For more information, call 800-929-9391 or visit