Tuesday 30 November 2010

Cruise Weekly: Slowly in the Solomons

[read full issue]

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 www.northstarcruises.com.au for updates.

For further information on travel to the Solomon Islands, see www.visitsolomons.com.sb

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 www.seabourn.com.

Kimberley Quest II - Winners at the WA Tourism Awards

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises were announced winners in the category of Ecotourism and silver medallists in Tour & Transport Operators at the Western Australian Tourism Awards on Saturday night.

Highly regarded within the tourism industry as prestigious awards, owners Jeff and Lynne Ralston are very excited of the great achievement and acknowledge the work of the entire team.

The win sees Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises automatically entered in to the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in March 2011.

We are very proud of our achievement and thank you all for your support.

P 1300 156 035
F +61 (0) 8 9193 6303


Thursday 18 November 2010

Step aboard Ponant for an unforgettable end of year

Enjoy a special New Year celebration at sea

Premium French cruise line, Compagnie du Ponant is offering an exclusive collection of cruises for the festive season, including two exciting itineraries to Asia departing from December 2010. Prepare for an unforgettable cruising experience as you journey to exciting destinations in the South China Sea, which are only accessible by small ship. For a limited time, guests can enjoy last minute savings of up to 25 percent on these itineraries.

Ring in the new year as you travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore on the 13-day A Zen New Year cruise onboard Le Diamant. This cruise departs on 28 December 2010 and visits Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Koh Kood, Bangkok and Ko Samui, Thailand; and Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. Cruising highlights include a visit to the royal palace of King Norodom Sihamoi in the lively capital of Phnom Penh; a tour of the emerald Buddhist Temple in Bangkok and a stroll on the impeccable white sand beaches of Kuala Terengganu. This cruise is priced from $3,141 per person twin share in Category E and includes a gastronomic celebration dinner to toast the new year on New Year's Eve.

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 the new year, Le Ponant will offer three 9-day Islands and Marine Treasures cruises sailing roundtrip from Phuket. Guests will cruise the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, past hundreds of picturesque sandy islands. The journey begins in Langkawi, a magnificent archipelago in Malaysia's north-west, known for its abundant wildlife and UNESCO protected parks. Le Ponant will then call into vibrant Penang before heading to Thailand, visiting the beachside ports of Butang, Koh Lanta National Park, Similan Islands, Koh Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nga Bay. Laze on the beach, explore the hidden coves or go snorkelling in the pristine waters. With three departures available on 25 January, 2 and 10 February 2011, the cruise is priced from $4,447 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 950 622 or visit www.traveltheworld.com.au.

Orion II Central America & Mexico - 28 April 2011

Departing Panama on 29 April 2011, this 14-night luxury expedition cruise visits some of Central America's most interesting and intriguing places.

Start your expedition with a once in a lifetime experience transiting the Panama Canal. From there, sail north along the Pacific Coast to Costa Rica, where you will explore the incredible flora & fauna that this area contains. See charming colonial towns & extinct volcanoes in Nicaragua and Honduras, before visiting three of Mexico's most interesting coastal towns - Mazunte, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.

And as with all Orion Expedition Cruises, regional lecturers and expedition leaders will accompany the tour to add insights into the destinations you will explore.

Be amongst the first passengers to sail aboard Orion II and see Central America in comfort and with ease.

For information on the itinerary and pricing click here.

Lindblad - Sold Out

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS HAS REPORTED THAT ITS 2010/11 Antarctica season voyages on board its state-of-the-art expedition ship, the National Geographic Explorer, have sold out.

The first voyage of the season kicked off on 22 Oct, taking guests from Ushuaia to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, before returning to Ushuaia via the Falklands.

As an added bonus for guests, the voyage was accompanied by National Geographic Alumni and world renowned American astronaut, Buzz Aldrin (of Apollo 11 fame).

MEANWHILE Lindblad has also recently released its 2011/12 program which includes an 18-day Falklands and South Georgia voyage, as well as two 22-day Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula expeditions.

As part of the release, Lindblad is offering a complimentary roundtrip charter airfare between Santiago and Ushuaia valued at up to US$2000 for all confirmed bookings for its 2011 Falklands and Georgia expedition booked by 15 Dec.

According to Wild Earth Travel, the Australian and NZ regional representative for Lindblad, spots for the 2011/12 season are filling up fast.

For further details contact Wild Earth Travel at info@wildearth-travel.com.

Behind Orion's Expeditions to Borneo

As you would imagine a great deal of time and effort goes into the preparation of Orion expeditions, whether to the Antarctic, PNG, Kimberley, or, in this instance for Orion II's 2011 four different itineraries that circumnavigate Borneo.

While some MD's can reel off seat pitch and others their wine list of preference for various airlines, the immigration stamps in Sarina Bratton's battered passport hint at adventures behind business trips of a different nature, to places where frequent flyer points are unheard of.

Behind Orion's expeditions to Borneo

In preparation for inaugural visits in 2011 by the expedition cruise ship Orion II, Sarina Bratton, Founder and Managing Director of Orion Expedition Cruises, recently returned from a scouting expedition to Borneo. Accompanied by Expedition Leader Mick Fogg, Sarina spent days trekking, researching and exploring parts of Borneo to finalise bespoke shore activities that Orion's guests will experience in August and September next year.

 "This visit to Borneo exceeded all my expectations on every level" enthused Sarina. "The wildlife is quite simply amazing – orangutans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys are just the beginning. Unfortunately much of the natural habitat has been impacted by logging, plantations, even poaching, so part of the reason behind my visit was to open discussions with a number of wildlife rehabilitation organizations at Camp Leakey, Samboja Lestari and Sepilok to see how we can meaningfully assist with rehabilitating orangutans and other endangered wildlife".

"Beyond the wildlife experiences and National Parks we will visit, our guests will also have the chance to stay overnight in a rainforest lodge retreat, snorkel with manta rays, scuba dive, see historically important World War II sites at Labuan and Sandakan and enjoy cultural interaction with the wonderful, gentle, locals with their longhouses and ancient traditions".

"I am very excited to be able to take Orion's guests there in a responsible, controlled manner, to help contribute to the local tourism industry in a sustainable way".

Why travellers are ruining travel

Fairfax travel blogger, Ben Groundwater, echoes the sentiment of many adventure cruisers:

'Pure' travel experiences are becoming rarer and rarer.

People like me are ruining travel. People like you are ruining travel, too. In fact, the sad truth is that every one of us is killing travel by doing exactly what we love doing: travelling.

There was a great line on one of the news tickers on The Chaser a few years ago, which I'm sure I'm misquoting, but it went something like: "Girl urges friends to visit Cambodia before it's ruined by people like her."

Travel's a catch-22. The more we do it, and the more of us that do it, the more we're killing the experience of doing it.

Read Full Story

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Rajang logjam fails to deter cruises, says Pandaw

A vast island of floating logs, interspersed with dead fish and debris stretching 50km up the Rajang River in Malaysian Borneo, has failed to dent or deter the RV Orient Pandaw from operating cruises on the river.

Malaysia’s Star newspaper reported last week that the vast logjam had reached Sibu town downstream “leaving many people shocked by the scale of what is turning out to be an environmental disaster”.

“This is unprecedented and beyond imagination,” Sarawak State Environment and Public Health Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh told the newspaper. Wong described it as a serious natural disaster which had caught both the public and government off guard – though excessive logging is also thought to have played a part.
Local express riverboat makes its way through the huge logjam on Malaysia's Rajang River. Photo from Hornbill Unleashed

RV Orient Pandaw operates eight-night cruises on the river, Malaysia’s longest. The boat’s purser, Neville Joseph, says the ship was downriver in the delta area when the worst of the logjam occurred.

“There has been no damage to the ship, nor has our itinerary been interrupted,” a Pandaw spokesman said.

“The jam appears to have now eased and future schedules will not be altered. All part of the excitement of a Pandaw river expedition and a real insight into the environmental consequences of excessive logging deep in the Borneo jungles!” Pandaw has scheduled cruises on the river right through to March 2012.

RV Orient Pandaw on the Rajang River
The Rajang is navigable to a ship of RV Orient Pandaw’s size for at least 250km up the Rajang to the Pelagus Rapids, and further on its main tributary, the Baleh River. River levels change frequently and unpredictably. Riverside residents include the Iban, headhunters until the 1950s, whose unique longhouse culture survives. Pandaw cruises visit Iban longhouses, which resemble streets under one roof.

Several days of heavy rain last week in tributaries of the Rajang, leading to high water levels and swift currents, did much of the damage. A sawmill manager estimated the volume of the logs and debris floating in the river at over 300,000m3 (30 hectares or 74 acres).

Land Development Minister Datuk Seri James Masing blamed unscrupulous timber companies for causing “an ecological disaster”. He said that this was the third time in three year such an incident had occurred. He said the state government had laid down rules for logging but what was happening clearly showed that the rules were not being followed.

If tourism takes off on the river, it may eventually provide an alternative to logging.

- Peter Needham

Tuesday 16 November 2010

News from Assam Bengal Navigation

BENGAL MEMORIES - New 4-night Hugli Cruise

From April 2011 we are introducing a new 4-night cruise on the River Hugli, starting and finishing in Kolkata, and visiting the terracotta temples of Kalna as well as the old French and Dutch trading stations of Chandernagore and Chinsura. Accommodation is also available on board for the nights before and after the cruise at a special rate.

The cruise, Bengal Despatch 8, should prove ideal for those who want to visit the longtime capital of the Raj and its surrounding attractions but cannot spare the time for a week's cruise.

HISTORIC HUGLI CRUISE - Additional Sailings

Winter departures of our Hugli cruises have proved highly popular, and we are pleased to announce that we are extending the season to provide a further two departures during April 2011. The 7-night cruises between Kolkata and the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges also include the return leg by rail.

BRAHMAPUTRA - Cruises on the Lower River revived

From September 2011 we shall be reviving our Assam Despatch Cruises 1 and 5, which run between Dhubri on the Bangladesh frontier and Guwahati. Highlights are a visit to Manas National Park on the Bhutan border, the archaeological site of Sri Surya Pahar, and the crafts village of Sualkuchi. The downstream cruise is 4-nights duration while the upstream cruise takes one week. A single departure will operate in each direction, and the transfer is included from Cooch Behar station or its newly reopened airport. Where schedules allow, guests will be able to visit the Royal Palace, memorably described in "A Princess Remembers".


We are delighted to announce that Druk Air, the Bhutan national airline, has just started a twice-weekly flight from Paro to Bangkok via Guwahati. Paro-Guwahati-Bangkok operates on Wednesdays and Sundays, whileBangkok-Guwahati-Paro operates on Mondays and Thursdays. The new connection will prove invaluable for those wishing to link a visit to Bhutan with a Brahmaputra river cruise or a visit to Kaziranga National Park, while the Bangkok link will be a valuable bonus for travellers from Australia, the Far East and the West Coast of America.

Further details of all new cruises, 2011/12 schedules, and additional start dates can be found on our website

Australian travellers should contact Active Travel
on +61 2 9264 1231

Oceanwide Expeditions - Winner of the World Travel Award 2010

We proudly announce that Oceanwide Expeditions has won the World Travel Award 2010 in the category World¹s Leading Polar Expedition Operator.

The presentation of this international price took place during a spectacular gala performance in London on Sunday 7 November.

It was the third time that this prestigious award was categorized by the World Travel Awards Comity. The first time was in 2005, the second time in 2009 and Oceanwide Expeditions was also the winner of both contests.

We thank all partner tour operators and agencies for your ongoing support and confidence in Oceanwide Expeditions¹ polar voyages and look forward to a continuous good cooperation for the years to come.

With best regards,

On behalf of The Team of Oceanwide Expeditions,

Michel van Gessel
Managing Director


SEADREAM Yacht Club is to sail two spectacular near-three week adventures on the Amazon River in 2012 with its 112-guest, 5-star mega motor-cruiser SeaDream II.

Departing Bridgetown, Barbados on February 13 2012, SeaDream II will sail 20-days to Manaus and Iquitos, and 20-days back to Barbados via Manaus, with prices starting from US$12,919pp twin-share inclusive of all onboard 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars, nightly cocktail gatherings, wines with lunch and dinner, power and sail watersports (in ports where permitted,) a 50-course golf simulator, onboard gratuities and port charges.

SeaDream's President, Bob Lepisto said: "We're enormously excited to be adding the Amazon to our itinerary in 2012, particularly as our size and maneuverability will allow our yacht to reach tricky spots like Anavilhanas in Brazil and Iquitos in Peru."

An onboard naturalist will give in-depth talks about the great wilderness, and optional excursions and canoe expeditions will showcase Amazonian tribes, museums, markets and the jungle's exotic animal and plant-life.

SeaDream II and twin-sister SeaDream I were recently rated two of the world's top passenger vessels by Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.

"The expression 'Yachting' is not a sentiment about size; it is a statement about lifestyle aboard our small vessels," Mr Lepisto said. "SeaDream's 56-stateroom mega motor-cruisers offer elegant informality with no need for jackets or ties at dinner, a crew of 95, open bars, wines with lunch and dinner, evening cocktail gatherings, gratuities, all-ocean-view accommodations, and world class dining."

For further details see your favourite travel agent or visit www.seadream.com


SeaDream II' Amazon Itineraries will showcase the best of the Amazon including Cuxiu Muni, Brazil where guests will have the option to take a night canoe trip in search of crocodiles, snakes and other nocturnal creatures.

In Alter do Chao, Brazil SeaDream hosts their Champagne and Caviar "Splash" on one of Brazil's best beaches and guests may take a riverboat cruise on Maicá Lake to see the rare pink dolphins.

In Manaus, Brazil guest will have the option to go "Flightseeing" in single or twin-engine aircraft, soaring over the Rio Negro, Rio Solimões, the Meeting of the Waters, the Amazon River and the magnificent expanse of jungle below.

And while visiting a small village located on Tupinambarana Island, they'll enjoy a "Boi-Bumba" celebration – an exotic ritual of magic, mystery, passion and faith that's a feast for the eyes and ears.

Updated 16 November 2010

Monday 15 November 2010

Win a seven-day holiday to the galapagos islands

Vacations & Travel magazine, together with Adventure World & Gap Adventures, is offering subscribers the chance to win a seven-day holiday to the Galapagos Islands.

The winner and a companion will enjoy Economy Class flights to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, as well as connecting flights to the Galapagos Islands. From here, you’ll embark on the “Comfort Galapagos Gap Adventures Tour” – a fascinating cruise around the archipelago including four nights’ accommodation, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and some meals.

Entry is open to all Vacations & Travel subscribers, so if you haven’t subscribed already, now is the time. Simply fill out the subscription card here and answer three simple questions, or subscribe and enter online vacationsandtravelmag.com

Entries must be received by December 31, 2010, and the lucky winner will be notified by phone.

Explore the Galapagos with Adventure World

The Galapagos archipelago lies around 1,000 kilometres off the coast of South America and is reached via a short flight from Quito, Ecuador. The isolation and late discovery by humans, along with a historical lack of predators, has set the stage for a unique environmental experiment that has developed into an astounding evolutionary showcase. Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with Adventure World’s eye-opening Galapagos cruise and discover this fascinating world for yourself.

The adventure begins in Quito, set 2,850 metres above the sea. You’ll spend one night here before flying to the Galapagos Islands where you’ll be met by your naturalist guide who will assist with transfers to the yacht, moored in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. You’ll visit the Charles Darwin Station, see giant tortoises and learn about Charles Darwin’s studies of Galapagos wildlife.

The coming days will be spent cruising the Galapagos aboard a luxurious yacht, complete with outside decks for relaxing, a dining room and a bar. Cabins come with ensuite bathrooms and air-conditioning and all meals are provided.

Covering nearly 5,000 square kilometres, the Galapagos Islands provide unparalleled opportunities for interacting with wildlife. Over the course of your holiday you’ll have the chance to watch (and swim with) sea lions, as well as ogle endemic bird species such as the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, a variety of finches and the Galapagos mockingbird.

On day five, on the island of Española, you’ll enjoy a stroll to Punta Suarez on the west coast, where gargantuan waves break on jagged cliffs and large bird colonies thickly populate the interior of the island. The waved albatross is seen here from April to December during its nesting season. Large numbers of masked- and blue-footed boobies are also found here, red-billed tropic birds dash madly through the air and both marine iguanas and sea lions are common. A huge blowhole, where the surf is forced through a natural rock formation spouting seawater 20 metres into the air, adds to the island’s impression of untamed beauty.

On the final day of your cruise you’ll stop at San Cristóbal, the easternmost island of Galapagos and one of the oldest, before flying to Quito for onward connections back to Australia. 1300-363-055; 

Entry is open to all Vacations & Travel subscribers, so if you haven’t subscribed already, now is the time. Either fill in the subscription card, subscribe online at www.vacationsandtravelmag.com or call 
02 9555 8100. Entries must be in by December 31, 2010 and 
the lucky winner will be notified by phone.

Saturday 13 November 2010

New Kimberley Cruise - 6-day Captain's Quest

We have put our Captain's knowledge and experience to the test and ask them to create their ideal itinerary along the Kimberley coast. Joining forces they have come up with an expedition that covers the places they love to explore and rarely have the opportunity to visit.

We are therefore very excited to announce this completely new six day expedition which delves into the hidden areas that highlight our Captains' love of the Kimberley. Exploring the area of coast between the Hunter River and Mitchell River which both seven day southern and northern cruises never encounter, this is your opportunity to share in the excitement and revel in new discoveries.

6 Day Captains' Quest 2011

25 September - 30 September
30 September - 5 October

Copies of the new itineraries are attached, otherwise please visit www.kimberleyquest.com.au

Alternatively email cruise@kimberleyquest.com or phone 1300 156 035 for more details.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Orion named Best Responsible Cruise Operator at World Travel Market

Orion Expedition Cruises, the leading operator of five-star expedition cruising in the Australasian region, has been named Best Responsible Cruise Operator at the internationally acclaimed 2010 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards which took place as part of World Travel Market in London on Wednesday 10th November (World Responsible Tourism Day).

Thousands of tourism organisations and travel experiences were nominated by the public in just 13 categories with the central tenet being that all types of tourism – from niche to mainstream – can and should be operated in a way that respects and benefits destinations and local people. These prestigious awards recognise individuals, companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and are providing a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation.

Commenting on Orion Expedition Cruises' award, the judges said: "Orion Expedition Cruises is the only cruise company with Earthcheck certification, and shows a real commitment to the communities it visits. By acknowledging that authenticity can only be realised for their guests by working in partnership with communities, they conduct community research ahead of establishing new ports of call - helping protect cultural heritage and environment while offering real benefits to the places they visit. They have influenced suppliers to make positive changes like moving from plastic containers to cardboard and aluminium bottles over plastic. Cruise is a growth area and this small operator is one to watch."

Commenting on the award, Sarina Bratton, Founder and Managing Director of Orion Expedition Cruises, said: "The destinations visited by Orion have some of the most pristine and sensitive wilderness areas on our planet, with little or no infrastructure to support visits by hundreds of people at one time. Understanding this, we have a social responsibility to develop a marine tourism blueprint that is sustainable, one that is at the forefront of eco-sensitivity and a benchmark for internationally recognisable and environmentally sound operating practices. For Orion, sustainability is more than a fashion, a trend or a compelling need. Sustainability is a core component of our company's originating vision and values. To explore "a path less travelled" requires a gentle step. To work with the challenges and opportunities these environments offer is the starting point of every journey."

Founded in early 2004, Orion Expedition Cruises has developed voyages to encourage guests to become a part of the region they are discovering. It is a unique product that appeals to both local and international travellers alike: people who seek the mental stimulation of new experiences, places and discovery, whilst enjoying the comfort of luxurious surroundings.

Orion Expedition Cruises operates the 106-passenger expedition vessel Orion in the Kimberley region of Australia, the East Coast of Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic Islands, Melanesia, the Spice and Forgotten Islands and Antarctica.

In May 2011, Orion Expedition Cruises will increase the size of its fleet with the addition of a second specialist expedition cruise ship, Orion II. Based on thorough research, and following the success of Orion's recent voyages, Orion II will be based in South East Asia offering a wide range of expeditions that will include Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Borneo, the Inland Sea of Japan and the Russian Far East.

For further information or reservations call 1300 361 012 or visit www.orionexpeditions.com

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Sea Spirit (ex Spirit of Oceanus) Chartered to Quark

Sea Spirit seen here in her former colours as Spirit of Oceanus
when owned by failed US small ship operator, Cruise West

Source: www.cruiseindustrynews.com

Immediately following ISP taking over management of the Spirit of Oceanus, the vessel was renamed Sea Spirit and upgrading work commenced. The vessel was drydocked in Grand Bahama Shipyard, Freeport, Bahamas, where it was upgraded to get ice certification and to be able to operate in Antarctica. Most of the items have been completed, including hull strengthening, rebuilding of water makers, heating, tank work, and the preparation of all public spaces and suites with hook security for all lose items such as chairs, tables, televisions, etc. The vessel’s class was changed to Bureau Veritas, and the hull color changed from white to blue.

On November 2 a charter contract was signed with Quark Expeditions, Toronto, for the Sea Spirit to operate in Antarctica for this winter season. The vessel will be delivered in Ushuaia in December and will operate up until March 6, 2011. Thereafter, the vessel will be available for long-term charter

Monday 8 November 2010



Aurora Expeditions new polar partnership with polar dive experts Waterproof Expeditions will offer guests further excitement on adventure cruises.  The partnership has plenty of synergy with Aurora Expeditions having earned their reputation as a pioneer in polar cruising operating professional, high quality expeditions onboard the Polar Pioneer since 1992 and Waterproof have more than 20-years dive experience in the Polar regions.

Waterproof and Aurora Expeditions are also welcoming renowned underwater photography specialist, Franco Banfi aboard for their 'Across the Circle' voyages, departing February 4 and 15, 2011. Aurora Expeditions' passengers can glean expert information from this world champion in underwater photography. Banfi has received many honours including winning Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Nature's Best and the Gold Celebrate the sea photo award.

His images have been featured in magazines such as BBC Wildlife, GEO, National Geographic, Stern, Scuba Diving, and in countless publications worldwide, making him more than qualified to embark on Waterproof and Aurora Expeditions' new adventure.

For each of these dive and photography expeditions, Waterproof Expeditions will provide experienced polar dive masters, all dive planning and equipment. Divers will be treated to a unique dive container providing comfortable storing space for gear and a heating system for dry suits and BCDs.

There is availability for both divers and explorers on two 12-night departures ( "Across the Circle" Voyages) onboard the Polar Pioneer sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula
04 – 15 February 2011
15 – 26 February 2011

Prices from US$6,400 per person and quoted in US dollars,  includes accommodation, full board and all daily excursions and activities while onboard the Polar Pioneer. The dive package costs an additional US$1140 and includes dive compressor, tanks, weights and belts (divers need to bring their own personal dive gear) and leadership by an experienced Polar Dive Master.  Flights are not included.

**Special offer – Aurora Expeditions are offering 20% off the 'Across the Circle' voyages until 30th November 2010.

PADI Polar Diver Specialty
Waterproof Expeditions has developed the Padi Polar Diver Specialty - a unique chance to become one of the world's first certified Polar Divers. The Polar Diver Specialty Course is exclusive to Waterproof Expeditions and can only be taken in Antarctica below the Antarctic Convergence or below 60 degrees, and in the Arctic above the Arctic Circle.
This course is designed to be an introduction to polar diving, to help the student diver develop the skills, knowledge and techniques necessary for diving in polar environments.

Polar Diving and Snorkelling
For the advanced diver the Polar regions are a unique experience with amazing ice formations and marine life seemingly from another planet such as giant isopods and salps; seals racing fearlessly by, graceful in a way not possible above the surface, and sunlight from above creating a stunning, ever-changing spectrum of colour among the diverse benthos. Snorkelling offers some of the best encounters with large mammals including Antarctica's incredible leopard seal - an adventure experienced by very few.

Full concept for explorers and divers
With the addition of Waterproof Expeditions dive operation the M/V Polar Pioneer effectively runs two trips each with their own dedicated guide(s). For the topside explorers this means much smaller groups on a landing site or on a zodiac cruise. For example, an average of 20 guests on landings and zodiac cruises compared with 100 for most other expedition vessels. The small numbers offer exceptional freedom for dedicated activities and longer, more exploratory cruises causing virtually no disturbance, giving guests more rewarding interactions with the wildlife.

There are also occasions where the 'explorer's and the divers can add to each others' experience. Life in the Polar Regions is very much based under the sea, and divers' perspectives, photographs, videos and presentations on the underwater world have proved fascinating for the above water expeditioners. On many occasions, the boats alert the divers to some wildlife they hadn't seen and vice versa.
\About Waterproof Expeditions

Waterproof Expeditions specialises in unique photography, diving and snorkelling experiences to some of the world's most remote and exotic destinations. From ice-diving in Antarctica's polar waters and underwater filming in the Canadian Arctic to cage diving with great whites in Guadalupe, swimming with sea lions and penguins in the Galapagos and snorkelling with sailfish in Mexico – Waterproof's fascinating destinations and marine life make their trips popular for divers and non-divers alike. All Waterproof Expeditions' departures have an expert guide ranging from renowned underwater photographers and wildlife cameramen to conservationists, explorers and naturalists.

Further information Aurora Expeditions
T +61 2 9252 1033 I F +61 2 9252 1373 I e auroraex@auroraexpeditions.com.au I W www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Thursday 4 November 2010

Sea Spirit (ex Spirit of Oceanus) Chartered to Quark

source: www.cruiseindustrynews.com

Immediately following ISP taking over management of the Spirit of Oceanus, the vessel was renamed Sea Spirit and upgrading work commenced. The vessel was drydocked in Grand Bahama Shipyard, Freeport, Bahamas, where it was upgraded to get ice certification

and to be able to operate in Antarctica. Most of the items have been completed, including hull strengthening, rebuilding of water makers, heating, tank work, and the preparation of all public spaces and suites with hook security for all lose items such as chairs, tables, televisions, etc. The vessel’s class was changed to Bureau Veritas, and the hull color changed from white to blue.

On November 2 a charter contract was signed with Quark Expeditions, Toronto, for the Sea Spirit to operate in Antarctica for this winter season. The vessel will be delivered in Ushuaia in December and will operate up until March 6, 2011. Thereafter, the vessel will be available for long-term charter

Tuesday 2 November 2010

New California Voyage Celebrates 70th Anniversary of The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Lindblad Expeditions will celebrate the 70th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s classic book "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" with a special Baja California expedition that will recall the author’s famous journey and explore the immense natural beauty and ecosystem of the ocean that inspired it.

In 1940, the legendary writer John Steinbeck embarked on an enlightening fact-finding and soul-searching journey along with his biologist friend Ed Ricketts. The pair set out to study invertebrate species along the Gulf of California, but science becomes only a part of Steinbeck’s fascinating day-by-day recounting, which ventures into the worlds of philosophy and high-speed adventure. It’s a portrait of two men at a unique intersection of science and nature, filled with a wanderlust that deeply resonates with readers even 70 years later.

The eight-day “Among the Great Whales” voyage on the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Bird will depart from La Paz, Mexico on January 22, 2011. Following in the path of Steinbeck’s voyage, the ship will travel around the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula from the Sea of Cortez to the nursing lagoon of Bahian Magdalena.

Here, adventurers will get a rare and up-close glimpse at the annual migration of gray whales in the region as they arrive from their arctic environs to the sheltered breeding lagoons. At Isla Espiritu Santo, a site where Steinbeck collected extensive marine specimens, guests can enjoy naturalist-guided walks on the deserted island, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking.

Zodiac landing crafts will offer a water-level whale watching view rarely found in the natural world, and countless chances to observe species ranging from whales to dolphins, blue-footed boobies to frigate birds and more.

Shedding new light on the book and on the journey will be noted Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, professor of English at San Jose State University and a Scholar-in-Residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. She is the former director of the San Jose State University Steinbeck Center and has written and spoken extensively about The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

Also joining the expedition team will be Dr. William Gilly, a National Geographic grantee, who has for the last several years been measuring important mid-water oxygen levels in the Sea of Cortez as part of Linblad’s ongoing expedition operations. In 2004, he led a group, which included Susan Shillinglaw that retraced the 1940 Sea of Cortez expedition in an effort to document long-term changes.

Prices for this special Baja California: "Among the Great Whales" adventure begin at $4,990. Additional departures are available, with a selection of National Geographic photographers, researchers or explorers, on January 29, February 5 and 26, March 5, 12, 19 and 2011.