Tuesday 27 July 2010

Cruise Weekly: Romance and Adventure Under Sail

Anyone who loves ships cannot deny the spendour of a fully-rigged windjammer, all canvas unfurled and propelled by a stiff breeze. This unquestionable allure is not lost on many passengers seeking an out-of-the-ordinary cruise experience. Yet these magnificent ‘divas of the seas’ also seem cloaked by a veil of mystery, romance and intrigue.

Best known to Aussie cruisers are the shapely Star Clippers, only recently withdrawn from service in the Andaman Sea off Thailand. Windstar too, once busy in Tahiti, has left our region after a devastating fire aboard Wind Song in 2002 and headed to more lucrative waters of the Mediterranean and Caribbean. French line Ponant’s 88m, three-masted flagship, Le Ponant, briefly skippered by Somali pirates, also forms part of the world’s luxury sailing fleet.

Last week, however, I was introduced to one cruise line I confess I knew little about. German company, Sea Cloud Cruises, operates the only sailing ships in the rarefied air of the Berlitz 5-star category. What’s more remarkable is that their original vessel, the 96m, four-masted barque, Sea Cloud, will celebrate its 80th birthday next year after an extensive, yet sensitive modernisation in her birthplace, Bremerhaven.

Originally built in 1931 as Hussar by the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel for the New York heiress Marjorie Merriweather-Post, she was the world's largest private yacht of its day. No expense was spared in the design and construction and it apparently still retains the original solid gold taps in the marble trimmed bathrooms.

The United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies acquired the ship in 1935 after marrying the recently divorced heiress, renaming it Sea Cloud. The gallant vessel was used by the US Coast Guard as a weather ship and submarine hunter during WWII and was stripped of her rigging and fitted with an array of deck guns and depth charges.

Interestingly, during her naval service, Lt. Carlton S. Skinner drafted 50 Afro-American sailors into the crew, creating the first fully integrated ship in the US Navy.

Drama, intrigue and adventure continued into her postwar history. Majorie Post reluctantly sold her in 1955 after a US Navy-funded refit to notorious dictator, Rafael Trujillo, the brutal head of the Dominican Republic, apparently trading it for a secondhand Vickers Viscount airliner.

In 1961, after the strongman’s assassination, reputedly a CIA hit, his family fled aboard Sea Cloud (then named ‘Angelita’) with the body and lots of cash but was turned back. She was then sold to a cruise company in 1965 but impounded. Liberated by the glamourous 26-year-old philanthropist, Stephanie Gallagher, for use as a floating school, it was reclaimed by the owners and a sordid legal battle began.

Another period of inactivity ensued during which time Sea Cloud deteriorated badly. She was rescued again, this time by a consortium of German businessmen and maritime men and women led by Harmut Paschberg and painstakingly returned to service as a luxury passenger vessel. After fifty years, Sea Cloud had finally come home.

For more information on this enthralling saga, visit www.seacloud.com

Join Aurora's specialist photography expedition to Antarctica

Aurora Expeditions have created a special photographic expedition for just 27 passengers. Accompanied by two professional photographers, David Burren and Martin Bailey from LuminOdyssey, this voyage is for all levels of photographers.

This 25 day trip begins in Ushuaia at the Southern tip of Argentina and cruises south over the Drake Passage to spend a week on the Antarctic Peninsula. Time will be spent exploring the historic and rich wildlife at Vernadsky Station, taking in the  spectacular rugged coastline from Lemaire Channel to the Gerlache Strait as you head northwards to King George Island. You will be greeted by fur and elephant seals as well as adelie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. As you continue north, you will witness the spectacular cliffs of the Falkland Islands, home to an abundance of breeding birds and the world's largest black browed albatross colony at Steeple Jason Island as you steam towards Atlantic Patagonia. Following the steps of Darwin, you will explore the abundant wildlife, visiting Puerto Desaedo, Bahia Bustamante and the waters around Peninsula Valdes. Enjoy the spectacle of majestic orcas feeding on young sea lions at Punta Norte before you sail into the port of Mar del Plata.

Whether you're using film or digital, a compact camera or an SLR, you will return with the essence of Antarctica captured by your lens. This may be an iceberg shining on a slate grey sea, minke whales spouting beside the ship, and clouds, pre-dawn pink, which morph into ice-draped mountains.

For digital camera photographers, resident experts, David and Martin will explain how to process and organise images with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. Prior to the voyage David and Martin will be available to advise you regarding your photography equipment. During the passage to Antarctica they will present classes and seminars to help prepare you for the Peninsula & Falkland Islands, and these will continue throughout the voyage.


David Burren: David is a renowned photographer and teacher. He teaches colour management and digital processing at Photography Studies College in Melbourne. David has photographed the natural world on all seven continents, from the deserts of outback Australia to the cold of the Antarctic summer and the Arctic winter. David's personal site:


Martin Bailey: Martin is a British nature and wildlife photographer based in Japan, and is known to many photographers through his popular podcast, blog and workshops. Martin's personal site: martinbaileyphotography.com

Aurora Expeditions pioneered ship-based adventures and remain committed to small, low-impact groups keen to experience Antarctica in many ways, whether it is climbing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, photography or sitting quietly and absorbing the surrounding magnificence.

Aurora Expeditions is proud to be the first Australian member of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATTO), dedicated to leading expeditions that respect the environmental guidelines and codes of conduct.

Prices start from US$9350 and include ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions or your local travel agent. www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or 02 9252 1011 www.facebook/auroraexpeditions

Aqua Expeditions to Launch New Ship in April 2011

Digital impression of MV Aria, due to launch in 2011
Peru-based Aqua Expeditions plans to launch its second vessel on the Peruvian Amazon in April.

Aqua Expeditions CEO Francesco Galli-Zugaro announced plans this month to launch the second Aqua Expeditions vessel on the Peruvian Amazon, the M/V Aria, in April 2011. The M/V Aria features 16 specially designed cabins with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, a fully air-conditioned top deck with observation lounge as well as the Aqua Expeditions’ signature Amazon Grill with award-winning Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.

In addition to these amenities, the M/V Aria will also boast an exercise room and an outdoor Jacuzzi with sun deck, a unique addition to accommodate the discerning and fitness conscious traveler.

“We are thrilled to announce the launch of the world’s second five-star luxury vessel to sail the Amazon,” says Galli-Zugaro. “The M/V Aria will provide the ever-growing number of travelers who wish to explore one of the world’s last great wilderness areas with a one-of-a-kind travel experience.”

The boat’s itineraries will vary from those of its sister ship, the M/V Aqua, but will also explore remote areas of the Amazon River. The 24-crew member M/V Aria is staffed with four world-class nature guides and will also include an Amazon wildlife reference library and air-conditioned multimedia room.

For more information, visit www.aquaexpeditions.com.

Polar Adventures With World Expeditions

What's New

Independent adventure holiday specialist World Expeditions has just launched its Polar Voyages 2010/11 brochure, brimming with new and exciting voyages – including for the first time the Russian Arctic and Far East, a region that was until recently ‘off limits’ to western visitors!

With 20 voyages and over 60 departures, this is one of the most comprehensive ranges of polar trips ever presented in a single brochure, featuring the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, Falkland Islands, the remote Ross Sea, Scotland, Greenland, Norway or the high Arctic region of Spitsbergen.

In addition to the new brochure, as of the 2011/12 season, World Expeditions will offer a fresh approach to experiencing Antarctica: a new fly/cruise option that allows less time at sea and lower prices but still the same quality voyage.

Antarctic journeys sail from Ushuaia via the Falklands to South Georgia and onto the Antarctic Peninsula – but now a series of special voyages are planned that will utilise a charter flight, allowing for the trip to start/end at Port Stanley in the Falklands, shortening its duration to 15 days (as opposed to the usual three weeks).

The fly/cruise option will save time and money (the charter flight will be included in the trip rate) without compromising on the Antarctica experience, as it will include the same number of landing days as on regular South Georgia departures.

All World Expeditions’ polar trips emphasise on animal encounters and maximum shore time, with many offering the opportunity to kayak, dive – and even camp on the Antarctic mainland for a night!

To celebrate the launch of the Polar Voyages brochure, World Expeditions now has a selection of special offers. All new polar voyages bookings will receive 5% discount, while there are savings of up to 25% on selected trips/departure dates:
  • Around Spitsbergen: Save 25% off the following departures: 4 August 2010, 14 August 2010 and 17 August 2010
  • Discover Antarctica: Save 15% off the following departures: 10 December 2010, 25 January 2011 and 22 February 2011
  • Antarctica Encompassed: Save 25% off the following departures: 4 November 2010 and 22 November 2010
  • Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula: Save 20% off a twin private cabin on the 17 February 2011 voyage
  • Across The Circle: Save 20% off a twin private cabin on the 26 January 2011 voyage

The generic 5% discount is valid only for new bookings made by 30 July 2010, directly with World Expeditions and for polar trips departing before March 2011. Cannot be used in conjunction with the trip specific discounts outlined above.

*For more information and bookings please call 0800 0744 135 or visit www.worldexpeditions.co.uk

- World Expeditions is independently owned and a truly global company, with offices in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Auckland, Ottawa and Montreal.

Monday 26 July 2010

Orion extends accommodation offer to include New Zealand

Orion's Christmas in Fiordland

Imagine Christmas Day and Boxing Day onboard the award winning 5 star expedition ship Orion, being wined, dined and pampered while surrounded by the spectacular World Heritage-listed New Zealand fiords.

PLUS receive 3 nights accommodation at the luxurious Sofitel Hotel & Spa in Queenstown, before or after the voyage, with the compliments of Orion Expedition Cruises.

Your 7 night Christmas-with-a-difference voyage commences in Dunedin, then, after a day to relax and settle into the rhythm of life onboard enroute to Jackson Bay, you will experience the grandeur of New Zealand's fjords, with spectacular glacial hanging valleys, lush rain forests and plunging waterfalls, as Orion's Captain explores deep into Fiordland.

You'll see abundant wildlife from on board Orion or close up from her expeditionary Zodiacs. Seals and dolphins abound so bring your camera to capture that magic moment. From the natural beauty of Milford Sound to the spectacular Dusky and Doubtful Sounds and Stewart Island, you will experience the best that this region has to offer - all wrapped up in the 5 star comfort and service of Orion and her 75 crew.

A Christmas holiday unlike any other, with degustation Christmas fare in World Heritage surroundings.

Special offer: extend your holiday with an inclusive accommodation packages at no additional cost

Orion guests travelling on the 21 December 2010 departure can add the following pre or post voyage accommodation option, staying in one of the finest properties available:

Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa – (3 nights) includes transfers, breakfasts and a half day winery tour.

This inclusive package is an extension to Orion's existing 'Experience Australia' voyages where guests can enjoy inclusive stays at some of the finest and most sought after properties in Australia. Email sales@orionexpeditions.com for your brochure.

Prices for this Orion Expedition Cruises inclusive package starts at the regular price of $6,040 per person based on twin share in a Category A stateroom and above. Please check with Orion Expedition Cruises reservations representative to confirm inclusions on 1 300 361 012, email sales@orionexpeditions.com or see your travel agent.

Accommodation package must be chosen at the time of booking. Subject to availability. For guests not wishing to take the inclusive accommodation package, savings of up to 15% are available. Some conditions apply.

7 -night Christmas in Fiordland voyage:

Departing 21 December 2010

Dunedin, Jackson Bay, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Stewart Island, Dunedin

Fares Guide 

Fares begin from $5,200 per person for an ocean view category B stateroom (excludes pre or post accommodation offer)

Suites begin from $7,175 per person for a Junior Suite (category JS)

Orion's spacious Owners' Suites with French Balcony are $10,890 per person

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website www.orionexpeditions.com

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: info@orionexpeditions.com

Coral Princess Offers 20 Per Cent Off Selected Kimberley Cruises

Exploring the ruggedly beautiful Kimberley coastline aboard Coral Princess Cruises' exclusive small ships is even more appealing this spring with a 20 per cent discount on cruise prices and an offer for singles to cruise at twin share prices.

The offer is available on selected 10-night journeys departing during October 2010 aboard Oceanic Discoverer.

Coral Princess's 10-night voyages cruise between Darwin and Broome through one of the planet's oldest and most awe-inspiring sea and landscapes. Rivers carve their way through ancient, eroded mountains that were once the height of the Himalaya, dropping in champagne waterfalls such as the 80-metre King George Falls. Excursions ashore visit rock art galleries where Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings - the world's oldest known art - record a human history stretching back 50,000 years.

The cruises explore the 800-odd islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, including an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the Horizontal Waterfalls, and there is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls.

The voyages also coincide with the annual humpback whale migration along the Western Australia coastline, providing guests with exhilarating whale watching opportunities.

The offer is valid for new bookings made from July 1 to August 31, 2010 or until sold out on selected October 2010 departures of the Kimberley expedition cruise program.

The discounted prices for the 10-night Kimberley cruise start at $6600 aboard the 72-passenger Oceanic Discoverer. Prices are per person, twin share and include the cruise, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board and group transfers.

Single travellers cruise at the twin share rate aboard selected October 2010 departures of the Oceanic Discoverer. Prices start at $8250.

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises on 1800 079 545 or www.coralprincess.com.au.

Coral Princess Offers 20 Per Cent Off Selected Kimberley Cruises


Exploring the ruggedly beautiful Kimberley coastline aboard Coral Princess Cruises' exclusive small ships is even more appealing this spring with a 20 per cent discount on cruise prices and an offer for singles to cruise at twin share prices.

The offer is available on selected 10-night journeys departing during October 2010 aboard Oceanic Discoverer.

Coral Princess's 10-night voyages cruise between Darwin and Broome through one of the planet's oldest and most awe-inspiring sea and landscapes. Rivers carve their way through ancient, eroded mountains that were once the height of the Himalaya, dropping in champagne waterfalls such as the 80-metre King George Falls. Excursions ashore visit rock art galleries where Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings - the world's oldest known art - record a human history stretching back 50,000 years.

The cruises explore the 800-odd islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, including an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the Horizontal Waterfalls, and there is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls.

The voyages also coincide with the annual humpback whale migration along the Western Australia coastline, providing guests with exhilarating whale watching opportunities.

The offer is valid for new bookings made from July 1 to August 31, 2010 or until sold out on selected October 2010 departures of the Kimberley expedition cruise program.

The discounted prices for the 10-night Kimberley cruise start at $6600 aboard the 72-passenger Oceanic Discoverer. Prices are per person, twin share and include the cruise, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board and group transfers.

Single travellers cruise at the twin share rate aboard selected October 2010 departures of the Oceanic Discoverer. Prices start at $8250.

Friday 23 July 2010

Heritage Expeditions launch new icebreaker voyages

Award-winning expedition travel company Heritage Expeditions has signed an agreement with the MV Polar Star for all Antarctic and sub-Antarctic voyages aboard the former Swedish Icebreaker.

One of the most expeditionary vessels operating in the region with a capacity of just 100 passengers, the MV Polar Star will be operating in Antarctica from November through to March and offering a range of expedition voyages to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

The vessel's icebreaker hull offers unrivalled levels of safety in Antarctica's icy waters and also the ability to explore where others are unable.

Heritage Expeditions has successfully operated expeditions from Australia and New Zealand to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica for nearly twenty years and the opportunity to expand into the Antarctic Peninsula was a logical move.

With a full program of expeditions visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands and South Georgia Heritage Expeditions now offers the most comprehensive range of Antarctic and Southern Ocean expeditions. The expeditions aboard the MV Polar Star will be marketed under Heritage's small ship cruising brand, Wild Earth Travel.

Heritage Expeditions' new Antarctic itineraries depart from Ushuaia, Argentina between November and March each year, ranging in length from 10 to 19 days with prices starting from US$5,260 (AU$6,331) pp.

To celebrate its inaugural season in the Antarctic Peninsula, there are 35% savings for the first three departures for bookings made before August 10th, including the South Georgia and Antarctica expedition, the Antarctic Peninsula expedition and the Antarctic Peninsula Christmas expedition. There are additional 20% discounts on selected departures throughout the season.

For further information please visit:


Thursday 22 July 2010

Captain Cook's New 2011 Dates for Northern Fijian Dateline Cruise

Captain Cook Cruises has released the 2011 dates for its seven nights Northern Fiji Dateline Discovery Cruise and due to the cruises popularity an extra two departure dates have been added.

The new 2011 departure dates are: 05 April, 03 May, 07 June, 05, July, 02 August, 06 September, 04 October, and 01 November 2011. Remaining 2010 dates include 03 August, 07 September, 05 October and 02 November.

The Northern Fiji Dateline Discovery Cruise is an amazing cruise that reveals the unique history, art and culture of the Northern Fiji Islands and allows passengers the ultimate experience of standing' on the International Dateline.

Developed after months of extensive research and searching for secluded and exclusive locations, passengers are taken beyond the Yasawa Islands to very remote and exotic tropical Fijian islands. 

Day trips include the historic island of Ovalau which still features 19th Century colonial architecture and waterfront promenades from colonial rule, the Bouma Waterfall lagoon on Taveuni Island, the extinct volcanic crater, hot springs and thriving markets on Savusavu, a special children's choral church service at Waiyevo and of course the 180th Meridian – the arbitrary Dateline between today and tomorrow on Taveuni Island.

There is plenty of swimming, snorkelling and diving off picturesque islands including Tivua, Nanuyakoto, Savusavu Bay, Nananu-I-ra and Sali Sali Island.

One of the most endearing features of this cruise is the generous welcome from Fijian village locals living on islands rarely visited by tourists.  Passengers will be given the extraordinary opportunity to experience village life and partake in a kava ceremony, enjoy a traditional 'lovo" (earth oven) feast and dance to the drum of the meke (dance).

For those with limited time the 7 night cruise can be split into 3 or 4 nights, starting or finishing at various Northern Fijian islands including Savusavu, Taveuni and Levuka.

Prices for all three night Northern Fiji Dateline cruises starts from $839 per person twin share, the four nights Northern Fiji Dateline Cruise starts from $1049 per person twin share and the seven nights Northern Fiji Dateline Cruise starts from $1749 per person twin share.

Price includes shipboard accommodation, all meals, guided village and island tours, glass bottom boat excursions, on board entertainment and use of the ship's facilities including a swimming pool, spa, sauna, sun deck, cocktail bar and much more.

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

Helicopter Voucher included on Great Escape Cruises

The Great Escape Charter Company is celebrating 10 years of Kimberley adventure and to mark the end of this special year, the adventure cruise specialists have just released a fantastic offer of a complimentary helicopter voucher for all new reservations on the remaining 2010 August and September cruises.

“Given the late rains that the region has experienced recently it is a great time to be cruising the Kimberley coast and enjoying the fantastic waterfalls” says Chris Tucker, Captain of MV Great Escape, who has been exploring the region for nearly 25 years. “This is also the best time of year to witness the Humpback Whales as they migrate along the Kimberley coast to the calving grounds.”

If people opt for the 13 nights Kimberley Classic Adventure from Broome to Wyndham or vice versa, the complimentary chopper voucher affords guests the opportunity to experience the


This encompasses flights over the Horizontal Waterfalls, Montgomery Reef, Prince Regent Nature Reserve & the Mitchell Falls – what way to enjoy the Kimberley!! Offer valid until 14th August 2010.

If people do not have two weeks to spare, the 7 nights Southern Kimberley Experience is a great choice for exploring Broome to the Mitchell Plateau and the voucher is for


This includes flights over the Horizontal Waterfalls, Montgomery Reef, & Prince Regent Nature Reserve. Guests still have the opportunity to enjoy the Mitchell Falls anyway, as the transfer flights to/from the vessel fly over this area and this helicopter flight is included in the cruise price. Offer valid until 17th September 2010.

For more information or availability, call Liz or Lisa at the office of The Great Escape Charter Company 08 9193 5983

*(conditions apply, not to be used on conjunction with any other offer).

The helicopter vouchers will be issued upon receipt of the final cruise payment.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

North Star’s Cash Back Offer Makes a True North Cruise Even More Affordable

North Star Cruises has announced a new cash-back incentive to travel on the award winning adventure-cruise ship True North.

The offer applies to the following cruises this year:

- Kimberley Wilderness Cruises 12, Wyndham to Broome, August 14-21, 2010
- Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 14, Wyndham to Broome, September 11-24, 2010
- All 2010 Coral Atoll Cruises 2010
- All 2010 Solomon Sojourns 2010

North Star General Manager Peter Trembath said savings of up to $4,999 are possible.

"There's never been a better time to book a cruise on True North," said Mr Trembath.

"The cash back offer has arrived just in time for the exciting second half of the year sailing schedule."

Mr Trembath said the remainder of the 2010 season was action packed:

• Dry season - what dry season? Late rainfall is a bonus for guests booked on the revered Kimberley Wilderness Cruise where fishing, waterfalls and rainforest hikes are part of the experience.

• Broome events season: The Broome Race Round is in full swing culminating in the Broome Cup on August 14. The popular Opera under the Stars is staged August 28. Broome events are perfect timing for a Kimberley Wilderness Cruise.

• Wine sommelier Michael Tamburri joins Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 12 (Wyndham to Broome) to add another dimension to an already action packed itinerary which features the stunning King George Falls, fishing for barramundi on the Drysdale River, exploring ancient Bradshaw rock art and more.

• Kimberley Wilderness Cruise 14, Wyndham to Broome attracts another bonus - a 10% shoulder season discount.

• Coral Atoll Cruises to the stunning Rowley Shoals commence in September. The Shoals boast crystal clear waist deep water teeming with a huge variety of fish and brilliantly coloured coral.

• November heralds the maiden voyages to the beautiful Solomon Islands and its exciting mix of culture, vibrant coral reef, history and stunning South Pacific vistas.

Conditions apply - for more information contact North Star's adventure partners at cruise@northstarcruises.com.au or visit the web site at www.northstarcruises.com.au

Monday 19 July 2010

Aurora introduces scuba diving on voyages to the Kingdom of the Polar Bear

(c) Waterproof Expeditions
Aurora Expeditions have launched the High Arctic 2011 brochure with voyages to Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland. In this fifteenth season of exploration, Aurora Expeditions has introduced a new voyage, "Iceland &Greenland Explorer focusing on Greenland's south east coast as well as a new optional activity - scuba diving.  Under sea divers will delight in a realm of huge kelp forests alive with crabs, sea butterflies, sea hedgehogs, jellyfish and arctic fish. Those who would prefer to stay above the sea can opt for the ever popular sea kayaking, available on most voyages.

Aurora Expeditions will always surprise and delight our clients with magical sights. Imagine a walrus swimming in your wake, or a polar bear stalking a seal in the pack ice or the midnight sun breaking through the clouds to play across the wilderness of tundra, fjords and distant mountains.

The kingdom of the polar bear is best reached by Aurora's Polar Pioneer. This small ice strengthened ship takes a maximum of 54 passengers and has the flexibility to reach places closed to larger vessels.

 Choose from three enchanting voyages whose highlights include:

Spitsbergen Odyssey (11 days from $6080 including ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)

Explore the home of the polar bear. There are no open sea crossings on this discovery voyage where you'll find deep fjords, mysterious desert mountains and seals and whales in the Arctic pack ice. This voyage offers the best chance for finding polar bears and features wildflower walks, trapper camps and historical remains of whaling stations. Avid divers will love the inaugural arctic scuba dives which begin on this voyage on 31 July 2011.

Jewels of the Arctic (14 days from $7655 including ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)

This adventure combines the best of Spitsbergen and Greenland, with a taste of Iceland. Cross from Spitsbergen's rugged northwest coast over the Greenland Sea to fantastic icebergs and the fairytale landscape of granite spires rising 2000 m above the fjords. Be welcomed by local Inuits and learn some of the trade secrets of their culture.

Iceland & Greenland Explorer (11 days from $6180 including ship accommodation, all meals onboard, all shore excursions, lectures, medical services, port charges and taxes)

This inaugural voyage visits the Westman Islands via the the colourful port Heimaey. One may hike to the still warm rim of Eldfell, an active volcano, or photograph the puffin cliffs before heading to the wild ice laden fjords of Greenland. Here passengers can expect vast tubular icebergs and an impressive array of wildlife. Cruise into unchartered waters with this inaugural voyage and feel the true thrill of being an explorer.

Aurora Expeditions are the pioneers of ship-based adventures. The staff and owners remain committed to small, low-impact groups keen to experience the Arctic in many ways whether by walking, scuba diving, sea kayaking or sitting quietly and absorbing the surrounding magnificence.

Aurora Expeditions is a founding member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, dedicated to leading expeditions that respect the environment and local cultures.

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions or your local travel agent. www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or 02 9252 1011 www.facebook/auroraexpeditions

Thursday 15 July 2010

Orion presents pearls and opera in the Kimberley

Exquisite pearls and fine opera combine as naturally as champagne and caviar or Orion and the Kimberley, and this year two Orion Kimberley voyages provide exclusive inclusions for those interested in the finer things in life.

Join either 10 night Orion voyage and receive an invitation to the highlight of Broome's cultural events calendar of the year, OPERA UNDER THE STARS®, featuring performers of national and international acclaim including soprano Antoinette Halloran, tenors Aldo Di Toro and Stuart Skelton, and baritone, James Clayton.

* August 19, 2010 Pearls of the Kimberley or
* August 29, 2010 Kimberley Expedition

In addition, the Pearls of the Kimberley voyage incorporates Orion’s first visit to Rowley Shoals plus a Paspaley Pearls special event held at their South Sea Pearl Farm, Kuri Bay, including a cocktail party featuring opera singers flown in for this exclusive private performance.

Both voyages include Orion’s signature Kimberley explorations highlighting the visual drama of 3,000 kilometres of Kimberley coast with its ancient indigenous rock art, vast tidal changes, emerging reefs, dramatic waterfalls and prolific marine life – all experienced in a relaxed atmosphere of five star comfort under the watchful eye of 75 professional crew.

Additional information

Pearls of the Kimberley

Departing Broome - August 19, 2010

BROOME, Rowley Shoals, Nares Point, One Arm Point, Kuri Bay, Camden Harbour and Sheep Island, Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, BROOME.

Highlights include the three atolls of Rowley Shoals, one of the world’s pristine environments, with extensive marine life including giant cod, maori wrasse, turtles, dolphins, manta rays and whales. Snorkel and swim in this aquarium-like marine park, home to over 200 species of coral and more than 650 species of fish.

This is followed by a Paspaley Pearls special event at Australia’s first South Sea Pearl Farm, Kuri Bay, where Orion guests will learn to grade the harvest and sort the pearls. This will culminate with a cocktail party featuring renowned opera singers Sharolyn Kimmorley AM; soprano Rachelle Durkin and tenor Matt Morgan, flown in for a private performance.

This voyage will also include two nights accommodation at Pinctada Cable Beach, Broome’s new five star resort and spa experience. Enjoy the award winning OPERA UNDER THE STARS® featuring an outstanding cast of opera talent.

Kimberley Expedition – OPERA UNDER THE STARS®

Departing Broome - August 27, 2010

BROOME, (overnight onboard including OPERA), Cape Leveque, Talbot Bay/Horizontal Waterfalls, Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, Hunter River (for Mitchell Falls), Bigge Island, Vansittart Bay, King George River and Falls, DARWIN.

Commence your 10 night Kimberley coastal expedition with an invitation to this award winning, world-class event, OPERA UNDER THE STARS® featuring an outstanding cast, each acclaimed for their thrilling performances in the world of opera. This vibrant and inspiring group of stars will perform together under the stars at an exciting new venue, the Cable Beach Amphitheatre - situated adjacent to the turquoise waters and white sands of one of the world’s most picturesque beaches, Broome’s stunning Cable Beach.

OPERA UNDER THE STARS® 2010 will feature a sublime programme of music highlighting repertoire for both the Lyric Tenor and Heldentenor voices including gems such as “Cielo e Mare” from La Gioconda by Ponchielli and “Winterstürme wichen dem wonnemond” from Wagner’s Die Walküre. Also featuring will be the moving final scene from Act I of Puccini’s La Bohème; the divinely inspired duet “Au fond du temple saint” from Les Pêcheurs de Perles by Bizet and the rousing tenor aria “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot.

Price Guide:

Fares begin from $9,100 per person for an ocean view Category B Stateroom.

Suites begin from $12,550 per person for a Junior Suite and Owners Suites with French Balcony are $19,055 per person.

Expedition fares are per person twin occupancy, include accommodation, all meals, landings and selected activities ashore plus invitation to OPERA UNDER THE STARS® in Broome on Saturday 29th August and inclusive accommodation in Pinctada or Cable Beach Resort.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website www.orionexpeditions.com

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: info@orioncruises.com.au

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Cruise Weekly: For a Real Adventure Mix, Just Add Ice

Position: 79 deg 19’N, 10 deg 36’E

At this latitude, Spitsbergen is a place that should be encased in ice, but the warm Gulf Stream keeps the world’s most northerly inhabited land freakishly thawed. And this is were I am going to get my first lesson in real sea-kayaking. Judd Hill is the kayaking guide aboard Aurora’s Polar Pioneer, the stalwart former-Soviet vessel used so successfully by the company founded by Aussie adventurer and mountaineer, Greg Mortimer.

After the initially complex ordeal of wrapping my ample self into a dry suit, donning a waterproof ‘skirt’ and gloves and inserting the whole clumsy package into the wobbly kayak we are away on our little water-borne adventure. Paddling the still waters in front of 14th July Glacier is straightforward enough and the occasional chilly splashes certainly keep me alert. The receding glaciers of Spitsbergen are calving off great chunks as the warm summer sun melts them. Beginning with a sound like a howitzer blast, hundreds of cubic metres of 50,000 year old ice plummets into the bay. A rolling crescendo of thunder accompanies the collapse and a mini tsunami rolls out into the bay.

“Never get closer than me to the glacier face,” warns Judd, recalling earlier moments of ‘excitement’, “and never get caught in shallow water (were breakers will form and swamp you). See that neat berg over there? Let’s check it out.”

We paddle a few hundred metres over to the largest berg in the bay, a bright blue almost architecturally formed mass about the size of a ten storey building. And remember, we’re only seeing the top floors. Judd is still cautious, “That’s close enough.”

No sooner had his warning sounded, than chunks the size of refrigerators start dropping off the side of the berg, then a whole side sheers off with a mighty rumble and splash. “Wow!” is the only word that I can manage. The change in balance is enough to upset the equilibrium and the entire mass begins to rotate; slowly at first, back and forth. More bits collapse like sunstruck guardsmen fainting - and then the climax. Like Neptune himself coming forth, the giant cube upends itself in its own mini-cataclysm showering the surrounding water with more high-velocity fragments. When it’s all over and my throat is hoarse from hollering, the water around us is choked with icy debris and we have to clobber the pieces and ride high over lumps to escape the carnage. As I look over to Judd, I see him loading a hefty block into his kayak, his face smeared with boyish satisfaction, “That’s going in our whisky tonight!”.

Polar Pioneer

Doing It: Aurora Expeditions, in conjunction with Southern Sea Ventures, offer sea kayaking as an option aboard their 10-night Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen itinerary annually in July. For further information, contact Aurora Expeditions on 1800 637 688 or visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Getting There: THAI flies 40 times a week from Australia to Bangkok : double daily from Sydney and Melbourne, daily from Perth and 5 times a week from Brisbane : with daily non-stop connections to 13 major cities in Europe : including Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. Winter Network Sale fares start from $1,885 per person return in economy class from Sydney (for sale until 15 Aug, travel by 30 Nov ’10). Fares are available for travel from Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth and in Royal Silk Business Class or Royal Silk/Economy combination fares. Contact travel agents for the latest special offers and promotions or log on to www.thaiairways.com.au. Stop Press : Frequent Flyer points accrual are on offer for all THAI travellers until 30 Sep ’10.

Monday 5 July 2010

See the grand cities of Europe by Tauck river cruise

Imagine visiting the great cities of Europe without having to worry about the suitcases? This is just one of the many appealing aspects of river cruising, along with the spacious accommodation, superior service and fine dining that travel with you onboard your luxurious Tauck riverboat. Leaders in river cruising, Tauck have one more appealing reason to choose river cruising – its 2011 Romance of the Rhine and Danube river cruise tour.

Tauck – who are represented in Australia by Travel the World – offer river cruise tours throughout Europe each summer along the Danube, Rhine and Maine Rivers connecting many of the must see European cities.  The Romance of the Rhine and Danube combines two of Tauck's most popular river cruises, the Strasbourg to Prague Serenade and The Blue Danube taking guests from the northern French city of Strasbourg to the Hungarian capital of Budapest.  

Departing from May to September 2011, the 19 day tour travels through five countries - France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary via the Rhine and Danube Rivers. The tour begins in Strasbourg where guests enjoy a two night stay at the Sofitel and discover the old and new parts of the city before boarding ms Swiss Sapphire for their riverboat cruise. Over the next 14 days, the luxurious riverboat transports guests to Germany's Black Forest and Gothic Renaissance castles, to a cultural interlude 'Bavarian style' and onto the Main-Danube Canal, a gateway for Europe river cruising.

The medieval hearts of Nurnberg and Regensburg are included in the itinerary, which also features Austria where you can visit Mozart's birthplace of Salzburg and wander the enchanting city of Vienna. Slovakia follows, with plenty of sightseeing and shopping available in Bratislava before the final port of Budapest where you disembark. Guests are accommodated for two nights at the InterContinental and enjoy daily excursions through the city's cultural and historic sites.

ms Swiss Sapphire has been custom designed to accommodate no more than 118 guests in luxurious accommodation, making it more spacious than other riverboats of the same size which accommodate 140 or more guests. Tauck has a very high number of suites and junior suites and there are floor to ceiling windows in 85% of cabins. Panoramic windows are also featured throughout the riverboat and guests can choose from two dining options including the more casual Lido Bar. Each tour includes a Cruise Director and a Tauck Director for every 40 guests to oversee arrangements.

Travel the World has announced a unique offer for the Romance of the Rhine and Danube, starting at AU$10,350 per person twin share which includes Tauck's private shore excursions valued at AU$1,789 per person. The 19 day tour includes the Strasbourg to Budapest river cruise and two night's accommodation in Strasbourg and Budapest. Also included are most meals, transfers, port charges, wine with dinner on board the riverboat. Special Single Savings of AU$1,200* are also available.

Past Tauck guests can also enjoy two complimentary hotel nights when they book any 2011 European River Cruise before September 30, 2010 as part of Tauck's Gift of Time promotion. New travellers with Tauck will also receive a free overnight hotel stay to enjoy either before or after their cruise.

To obtain further information about Tauck or to make a booking before 15 August, please contact Travel the World on 1300 766 566 or visit www.traveltheworld.com.au.

* Applies to the 26 May 2011 River Cruise Tour. Conditions apply.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Ponant sails to Asia for the first time

Enjoy early bird discounts of up to 25 percent off all sailings
Sydney, 1 July 2010 – Premium French cruise line, Compagnie du Ponant will be sailing to Asia this year for the first time in its cruising history. Ponant's intimate three-masted ship, Le Ponant along with the majestic exploration vessel, Le Diamant will offer cruises to scenic towns and magnificent ports in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and China starting from November 2010.
To celebrate Ponant's first cruising season in Asia, Travel the World is offering discounts of up to 25 percent off all Asia sailings for guests who book before 31 August 2010.
Six Malaysian ports feature on Le Diamant's 9-night Diamonds of Siam and Pearls of Malacca cruise from Phuket to Singapore. Departing on 23 November 2010 and 11 March 2011, guests will visit Langkawi, Penang, Belawan, Pangkor, Port Kelang and Malacca, Malaysia. This cruise is priced from AU$3,275 per person twin share.
On 2 December 2010, Le Diamant will sail a 14-night Mekong Delta to Ha Long Bay itinerary from Singapore to Hong Kong, featuring ports such as Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Da Nang, Chang May (Hue), Halong Bay and Hai Phong, Vietnam. This cruise is priced from AU$4,707 per person twin share.
Le Diamant will also offer a 12-night Reveries on the China Sea cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore, which takes place during the festive New Year period. Departing on 28 December 2010, the itinerary highlights include Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Ko Kut or Ko Chang, Bangkok and Koh Samui, Thailand; as well as Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. This cruise is priced from AU$4,145 per person twin share.
As the largest ship in Ponant's fleet, the 8,282 tonne Le Diamant was built with exploration and comfort in mind. Offering 113 air conditioned cabins with full ocean views, Le Diamant has numerous leisure and entertainment facilities, including a panoramic observation lounge, three restaurants, a deckside pool and a lively club lounge.
In 2011, Le Ponant will offer three 8-night Thailand and Malaysia cruises sailing roundtrip from Phuket. The itinerary offers ports of call in Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia; Butang, National Park Koh Lanta, Similan Marine National Park, Phi Phi National Park and Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. With three departures available on 25 January, 2 and 10 February 2011, the cruise is priced from AU$4,581 per person twin share.
Guests will cruise in the intimate yacht-like atmosphere of Le Ponant. With just 32 cabins, Le Ponant offers two sophisticated restaurants and lounges, a sun deck and luxuriously furnished cabins. The cruise line's distinctive French touches include menus prepared by a French chef, a wide selection of wines and superior service from the ship's attentive crew.
For further information about Compagnie du Ponant or to make a booking, please contact Travel the World on 1300 766 566 or visit www.traveltheworld.com.au.
Note: All pricing is based on an indicative exchange rate of 0.66 and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Cruise fares include all meals, accommodation and entertainment onboard, as well as safety and port taxes.