Monday 28 February 2011

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Bids Farewell to MS COLUMBUS


• MS COLUMBUS leaves the fleet in May 2012

• All cruises up to May 2012 will take place and remain unchanged

• COLUMBUS crew to transition over to COLUMBUS 2

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will be taking MS COLUMBUS out of its fleet one year earlier than planned, by mutual agreement with Conti, the Munich based group of companies and owner of the ship. All cruises offered up to May 2012 will be taking place on the COLUMBUS as scheduled. The ship is to be replaced in spring 2012 by her successor COLUMBUS 2. 

The farewell to the COLUMBUS is the logical conclusion resulting from the strategic business development in the premium segment. The successor ship, COLUMBUS 2, will be welcomed to the fleet in spring 2012 and offers a passenger capacity of 698 persons. "The COLUMBUS 2 is a modern ship. She provides more diversity and comfort at a very good price/performance ratio and represents for us an economically attractive expansion of our capacity in the premium segment," said Sebastian Ahrens, Managing Director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

The COLUMBUS will be offering her world tour 2011/2012 as planned. At the end of that voyage, on 7th May 2012 in Nice, the ship will depart the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet. Only two published cruises following the world tour will be cancelled.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will be offering special deals for re-booking onto the COLUMBUS 2 for any customers who have already booked these two cruises. The crew of the COLUMBUS and the senior officers will be continuing their activities on the successor ship COLUMBUS 2, ensuring high quality and good service from the very beginning.

Adventure is the new luxury: ILTM

Relaxing and tranquil getaways are out for luxury travellers, who are instead opting for adventure and culture filled holidays.

According to International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) marketing director Simon Mayle, while spa and luxury resorts are still in demand, post GFC the company has seen an incline in people looking for unique and behind the scenes experiences.

Read Full Report
at etravelblackboard

An Orion Expedition to Islands Lost in Time

Dragons, spices and megaliths

Orion's Spice Island Adventure explores one of the most extraordinarily bio-diverse regions on Earth, a handful of rarely visited islands situated just north of Australia.

Centuries ago the Spice Islands were the source of the world's most valued foodstuffs, the most treasured commodities of their time. Spices enriched a chain of traders and merchants with profits beyond belief, multiplying in value perhaps a thousand-fold by the time the spices reached the markets of Europe.

Dotted among the thousands of islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, only nine islands supported the Myristica fragrans tree, the source of nutmeg and mace, while just six more islands provided the right combination of soils and micro climate to support a myrtle tree whose dried flower buds were known to the Chinese as 'fragrant nails' but are best known as cloves.

Komodo Dragon
More than 3000 years ago cloves were traded in Persia, and Romans were able to buy spices originating from the east of Indonesia. In the 16th century Magellan and Vasco da Gama opened the way for Europeans and the trading houses of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. In 2011 Orion Expedition Cruises will again open the way for more adventurous (albeit these days culturally sensitive) spirits with an 11 night expedition to explore a region where few outsiders ever set foot.

Being part of Wallacea, the legendary area that separates the Australian and Asian continental plates, it is home to many unique flora and fauna species, particularly birdlife. Here towering volcanoes, many still active, rise from the depths of the sea. Tropical islands appear through the soft light of morning, a hint of kretek - aromatic clove and tobacco blended cigarettes - wafts on the breeze. Bright costumes and colourful customs bring ancient legends and traditions to life as you explore remote island villages.

This expedition includes a visit to Komodo and the chance to see the world's largest lizards. Growing to over 3 metres in length Komodo dragons are an impressive sight, and whereas they don't spit flames like those of mythical dragons they can be seen dribbling blood-red saliva after feeding - equally impressive.

Remote Pink Beach, so named because of crushed red organ pipe coral sand, is perfect for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing on the beach - options available to make the most of time spent on this stunning beach.

Ashore, on the island of Alor the predominantly Christian villagers are friendly, their culture as intriguing as it is enduring, exampled by the existence of Moko drums which can be traced back to the Dongson period in Vietnam around 350 BC.

The residents of Sumba, an uplifted coral limestone island once known as Sandalwood Island by early European traders, retain a strong cultural heritage resistant to the outside influences of Christianity, Hinduism or Islam. Orion's guests will be welcomed by Sumba villagers wearing traditional woven ikat fabrics to see imposing ancient megaliths that adorn the entrances to Sumba villages.

As on all Orion expedition voyages, the specialist Expedition Team, selected for their knowledge and practical experience in fields that include botany, marine biology, anthropology and history will share their in-depth knowledge to enhance guest experiences.

This 11 night Orion Spice Island Adventure has captured the imagination of Orion's Expedition Team. The heady blend of local culture, European discovery, geology, unique flora and fauna all wrapped and presented in a series of beautiful islands largely lost in time promises to be a voyage of a lifetime.

Spice Islands Adventure - 14 July 2011 - 11 nights
Darwin, Kisar (Maluku), Alor, Maumere (Flores), Komodo, East and West Sumba, Savu, Rote, Darwin

Fares Guide:
Fares begin from $8,175 per person for an ocean view Category B Stateroom
Suites begin from $11,275 per person for a Junior Suite
Owners' Suites with French Balcony are $17,120 per person

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, 1300 361 012 or your travel agent. Email:

Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is the world's latest and Australia's only purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship.
With 75 crew and a maximum of just 106 passengers Orion offers the highest staff to guest ratio and guest to public space ratio of any ship based in Australian waters.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Up the Murray with a paddle

The majestic Murray River is steeped in tradition and history, so what better way to see a slice of the dramatic Outback than a seven-day Murray cruise on an authentic paddle-wheeler? The PS Murray Princess is the kind of boat in which you wouldn't be surprised to bump into Mark Twain in the lounge. It departs historic Mannum, birthplace of Murray River trade, wending its way both up and down the river passing ancient red gum forests, towering gorges and ochre-coloured 90m limestone cliffs on the way to other historic ports and lush vineyards. Highlights include leaping into smaller vessels for a tour of the river's backwaters, where you'll see some spectacular wildlife, and an afternoon spent bussing around the Barossa Valley sampling some of the finest drops it has to offer. You can hike boardwalk trails and relax at a special campfire barbecue on the bank on your last night. The boat leaves at 4.30pm Monday and Friday from Mannum (complimentary coach transfers from Adelaide available) and the price is from $1280 twin share for an inside room, valid for sale to March 31, with all meals and many shore excursions included.

See Captain Cook Cruises

Secrets of the Kimberley

The relative cool of autumn is a fine time of year to take in one of the world's last great wilderness areas, the Kimberley.

Its coastline is a craggy land of deep gorges, coral reefs and mangroves, and World Expeditions ( or 1300 720 000) gives travellers a window on this wild land from their expedition cruise boat Odyssey on a nine-day cruise, accessing the Kimberley coastline without the need for weeks of punishing bush-bashing in a 4WD.

The cruise leaves Broome and heads north into this unforgiving place, where you'll encounter such remote gems as the thousand-island Buccaneer Archipelago with its horizontal waterfalls, white sandy beaches and Aboriginal sites.

The accent is on day walks and shore exploration, including visits to the Lacepede Islands, Montgomery Reef, Sale River, Prince Regent River, King Cascade and Camp Creek.

From Naturaliste Island passengers will have the chance to take a stunning helicopter flight over the Mitchell Falls before flying back to Broome.

All meals are included, as are Zodiac excursions and helicopter transfers.

The trip departs continually from the beginning of April, also operating in reverse, and costs $7200 for a standard cabin.


Star Flyer
The tall ship Star Flyer will operate in the Baltic for the first time next year, sailing into some of the world's great seafaring ports including Copenhagen, St Petersburg and Stockholm.

The 170-passenger square-rigger will also call at smaller ports rarely visited by bigger ships offering a rare opportunity to cruise the scenic islands and coastlines of the Baltic and Scandinavia.

In May, a series of short cruises out of Hamburg and Warnemunde/ Rostock, a German port with a great sailing tradition, will coincide with the spectacular annual Sailing Parade of tall ships from many parts of the world.

A discount of five percent applies to all bookings before January 31, 2012. For some cruises the discount is 10 percent. Children may qualify for a 50 percent discount.

Highlights of Star Flyer¹s new Baltic season (from May to September 2012) include:
  • three cruises of 10 or 11 nights, including an overnight in St Petersburg, round-trip from Stockholm, renowned for the dramatic scenic route that all ships take, entering or leaving the historic harbour through an archipelago of hundreds of tiny islands. Ports of call include Visby (Sweden) Tallinn (Estonia) Helsinki, Hanko and Mariehamn-Aaland (Finland). Fares start at $4737.
  • seven nights Oslo/Copenhagen calling at Marstrand, Goteborg, Halmstad and Helsingborg (Sweden) and Kalundborg (Denmark) from $3162.
  • seven nights Hamburg to Oslo calling at List-SYlt (Germany) Esbjerg (Denmark) Kristiansand and Arendal (Norway) and Stromstad (Sweden) from $3319.
All prices are per person and include port taxes and all meals and entertainment on board.

Other cruises include a five-night voyage from Southampton to Hamburg, via Amsterdam, including two full days at sea to enjoy the sensation of sailing on an authentic tall ship; a seven-night voyage returning into Southampton from Hamburg via Amsterdam, Ijmuiden,

Antwerp and Zeebrugge; and five, six and seven-night sailings to and from Warnemunde/Rostock, visiting ports in Germany, Denmark and Poland, Sweden and Oslo.

Mikael Krafft, the Swedish founder of Star Clippers, said: "It has always been my dream to bring one of our square-riggers back to myown personal roots in Sweden, and to offer our guests the opportunity to sail in a region that has such a magnificent heritageof tall ship sailing. As well as the Baltic¹s capital cities, we have included several small, very beautiful ports of call in our summer 2012 programme, to show our guests the incredible diversityof this stunning region, not to mention some of the finest sailing conditions in the world."

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.

All three ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, a convivial Tropical Bar on deck, a comfortable piano bar and first class accommodation and dining. The two smaller ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, take 170 passengers each, with a crew of 70, and Royal Clipper carries 227 with a crew of 106.

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

Saturday 26 February 2011

Introducing Hanse Explorer, exclusive, luxury expeditions

Unique, private and into the unknown – sail off on an expedition with the Hanse Explorer to extraordinary places while enjoying all of the luxuries of a private yacht. The “Hanse Explorer” is specially designed as an ice-breaker yacht, enabling her to sail around the world, including the polar regions up to the Northwest Passage. Of course, she also has the best sea-keeping characteristics in tropical waters, too. Nothing follows a detailed timetable. Instead, clients and the crew discuss what course to take. Trips with the ship’s own Zodiac to remote bays remain private with a maximum of 12 passengers. On-board kayaks, snorkelling and diving equipment complete the experience.

Mediterannean Discovery with Smithsonian Journeys

Aegean Odyssey, 378 passengers

Smithsonian Journeys, the Smithsonian Institution’s travel program, announced three all-inclusive cruise deals to the Mediterranean for this spring and summer. Prices start at $3,195 and include international airfare, shore excursions in each port, lecture program by onboard experts, gratuities to shipboard staff and more. If booked by March 31, travelers receive stateroom savings up to $1,500, based on double occupancy. Savings for solo travelers are also available with no single supplement for cabin categories C-N while supply lasts.

The three Mediterranean cruises take place aboard the 350-guest Aegean Odyssey. “The Wonders of Turkey and the Greek Isles” (June 23 to July 6) and “The Glories of Greece and Turkey” (July 1 to 14) feature similar itineraries. Included excursions showcase significant cultural sites, such as palaces and sacred sites of the Greek islands, the ancient cities of Ephesus and Aprodisias in Turkey and World Heritage sites in Athens and Istanbul. Both cruises feature a three-night hotel stay in Istanbul and a two-night hotel stay in Athens, with excursions and leisure time in both cities. Prices start at $3,195 if booked by March 31 and include international airfare.

“Splendors of Italy and the Dalmatian Coast” (May 31 to June 15) begins with a two-night stay in Rome. Travelers will then cruise to Corsica and Sardinia and spend three days in Sicily. Following a day on Malta, travelers will sail to the Dalmatian Coast for three days in Croatia, with two days exploring Dubrovnik and another day in Split. The cruise concludes with a two-night hotel stay in Venice, with a private evening visit to St. Mark’s Basilica among other excursions. Prices start at $3,750 if booked by March 31 and include international airfare.

These deals include international roundtrip airfare from select East Coast gateways (with add-ons from the Midwest and West Coast), accommodations aboard ship and in hotels, most meals, shore excursions in each port, lecture program by onboard experts, all onboard gratuities, selected wine with dinner, baggage handling, and transfers (if booking airfare package), port and service charges and emergency evacuation insurance. For more information, call 877-338-8687 or visit

Venetians across the wild and charming Adriatic with Sea Cloud Cruises : Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II

Sea Cloud Cruises offer the best sailing waters Europe has to offer and their cruises along the coastlines of Croatia and the Peloponnese showcase both spectacular nature combined with cultural treasures, traditions and glorious cities.

Highlights of the Adriatic sailings include the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia and her imposing fortresses, the medieval town of Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo and the UNESCO World heritage sites of Split, Croatia. The spectacular Bay of Kotor in Montenegro is a key feature with its narrow alleys, old churches and enticing bakeries, Kotor is a tourist’s delight.

The fine menus on board the Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II will delight even the most discerning gourmets. Sea Cloud II has already been given the honour of being accepted by the international Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

A seven night/eight day cruise leads in at *€3,675 per person for a deluxe double bed cabin on Sea Cloud II departing La Valletta, Malta on 04 June and arriving into Venice, Italy on 11 June 2011.

Alternatively, there is also a seven night/eight day cruise from Venice, Italy to Piraeus/Greece from 21 to 28 June 2011 with rates for a deluxe double bed cabin on Sea Cloud II available from *€3,675 per person.

There are two round trip seven night/eight day cruises on the legendary Sea Cloud departing Venice on the 8th and 15th August 2011 consecutively. Rates for a twin bed cabin are available from *€3,795 per person.

*These prices include the sailing cruise with the selected cabin class, six meals per day as well as premium quality wines and beer with meals

How about a 20-day Pacific Garbage Cruise?

Algalita Marine Research Foundation has partnered with Pangaea Explorations to offer an opportunity to become part of a scientific study expedition. Voyaging from Hawaii to Vancouver, British Columbia, on board the 72 foot vessel, Sea Dragon, you will participate in studies being conducted on the impact of plastic waste accumulating in our oceans. Not only will you be contributing to science, you will have an "up close and personal" experience with the devastation being cast upon our ocean environment. What better educational tool to bring back with you than having seen it for yourself?

Research Objectives:

* Vertical Distribution of Microplastic - A series of stacked trawls will descend 5 meters below the surface to investigate the affect of sea state on the vertical mixing of microplastic particles.
* POPs on Plastic - Samples of plastic pollution will be collected in order to analyze them for the absorption of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
* Spatial Distribution of Plastic Pollution in the North Pacific Gyre - We intend to collect 50+ sea surface samples from the North Pacific Gyre to better understand the type and abundance of microplastic particles along a transect from Hawaii to Vancouver, BC.

Hope fades for survivors of expedition yacht Berserk, lost in Ross Sea

by JANE HAMMOND, The West Australian

Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson says there is little hope of finding any survivors from a Norwegian expedition yacht missing off Antarctica after the vessel's empty life raft was discovered floating in the icy waters of the Ross Sea this morning.

The life raft was the second found in as many days by the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin, called in to help in the search for the 14m yacht Berserk.

The first life raft discovered on Thursday morning was thought to belong to a New Zealand naval vessel also looking for the missing yacht.

The description of the life raft found this morning matches that of the one belonging to Berserk. It was recovered half full of water, encrusted with ice and with a torn canopy.

Stormy weather has plagued the area in recent days hampering the search effort and threatening any chance of finding the three missing crew members of the Berserk, alive.

Capt Watson said the position of the raft was around 70km north of the position where a distress signal was issued by the Berserk on Wednesday evening and was consistent with the drift and wind.

"The Sea Shepherd crew has been conducting the search on a very disciplined grid for over 24 hours. The crew is confident that if the yacht Berserk were still afloat it would not have drifted as far north as the life raft, and would have been discovered," Capt Watson said.

"All indications are that the Berserk has sunk and that it sank very quickly.

"The conditions at the time were extremely high winds, extremely low temperatures, very heavy seas, and numerous and very dangerous growlers."

Capt Watson said it was likely the three crewmen had been lost at sea and recovering their bodies would be very unlikely.

"In my opinion, the conditions at the time of the distress call presented some very serious threats to such a small vessel. Considering that the distress signal was automatically sent and the lifeboat appears to have been released after the vessel was submerged, my opinion, and I hope I am wrong, is that the Berserk sank rapidly at the point where the distress signal was first detected in a depth of about 500 metres and a distance some six miles (9.6km) off shore.

"Considering the extreme conditions it is unlikely, but not impossible that any of the crew were able to leave the vessel before it was lost. Unfortunately we have seen no evidence of survivors."

The Steve Irwin is helping in the search for crew members from the yacht Berserk, which disappeared while on a polar expedition on Wednesday evening.

Two of the five crew members of the Berserk have been located in Antarctica, while the rest remain missing.

The two-man exploration party consisting of Jarle Andhøy, Berserk’s captain, and passenger 18-year-old Samuel Massie, was discovered about 160km inland bound for Ross Island on Thursday.

They were due to meet the remaining crew, two Norwegians and a British national, at Shackleton's Hut on Ross Island.

The New Zealand Navy vessel Wellington and Heritage Expedition’s ‘Professor Kromov’ (Spirit of Enderby) is also searching for survivors.

The Steve Irwin was on its way back to Hobart after a successful campaign to save more than 700 whales from being harpooned by Japanese whalers when it received the call to assist in the search.

The 14m, steel-hulled yacht offered berths to expeditioners as it sailed around the world.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Vanuatu: Jungle tumble

Thirty metres high above ground at Pentecost, a man prepares
himself for the leap of faith. Photo / Susan Buckland

Land divers leave Susan Buckland in awe, risking life and limb to prove their manhood.

Thirty metres high above ground at Pentecost, a man prepares himself for the leap of faith.

Are you going to see the land divers of Pentecost Island?" asked the check-in assistant for the Vanuatu flight. She looked excited. "Some say they inspired the bungy jump. But diving to the ground is braver by far."

Read Full Article

Kapitan Dranitsyn returns for Oceanwide

Oceanwide Expeditions have chartered the Russian icebreaker, "Kapitan Dranitsyn", for a 10-day expedition to Franz Joseph Land in July this year.

Kapitan Dranitsyn
While the vessel, "Kapitan Dranitsyn", may be unfamiliar to many adventurers, it is virtually identical to her sister ship, the famous Kapitan Khlebnikov.

The proposed itinerary is Kirkenes (Norway) – Murmansk (Russia) – Franz Josef Land – Murmansk (Russia) – Kirkenes (Norway) - between July 17-27, 2011.

For more details download this flyer (PDF 800kb).

Oceanwide Expeditions' Grand Finale: 2-for-1 Offer

Oceanwide Expeditions’ final Antarctic performance of the season is definitely the grand finale, offering the best possibilities for encounters with humpback whales.

And there is more: we will cross the Polar Circle, with kayak-options and exploratory shore landings offered at no extra charge.

On this voyage, two people travelling together pay just for one. Twin cabins are available for a total US $ 7,490 for two persons. Two quadruple berths available for a total US $ 6,150.

Voyage PLA30: Antarctic Polar Circle
Whale watching, kayaking, exploratory shore landings, aboard 4* passenger vessel “Plancius”
15 – 26 March 2011

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Quark Expeditions Awards North Pole Voyage to Indiana Blogger

Quark Expeditions named Giovanni Savaglio, of Munster, Ind., the winner of its “Blog Your Way to the North Pole” contest. The 2,535 votes he received from blog readers put Savaglio in the top five, qualifying him for the prize. A four-man selection committee reviewed the top five, choosing Savaglio to become Quark’s official blogger to the North Pole, June 23 to July 7.

“I met my wife eight years ago on a Quark expedition to Antarctica,” Savaglio’s post began. “She from the U.K., I from the USA, it took a journey to the South Pole to find each other on this greenest of planets, at one of its whitest of places.”

His post continued with an account of encountering a hurricane that prompted an unscheduled overnight stay on Penguin Island. “I had come to Antarctica seeking to follow in the footsteps of my hero Ernest Shackleton. Little did I know that I would get a taste of what Shackleton and his crew had to endure.”

Hans Lagerweij, president of Quark Expeditions, was on the selection committee. “Giovanni touched me with his thought that the unexpected is part of polar travel,” he said. “That is so true!” The prize is a trip for two worth $54,000. Savaglio and his wife will be flying to Helsinki, Finland, where they will spend the night before joining Quark’s charter flight to Murmansk, Russia. Murmansk is the homeport of Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet.

For 14 days, they’ll sail the Arctic Ocean, crushing through ice up to 10 feet thick. When they reach the top of the world, they will have a barbecue on the ice. They will participate in the shortest circumnavigation of the world as they stroll around the North Pole sign provided for the occasion.

On the return south, Savaglio and his wife will visit Franz Josef Land, uninhabited islands only 10 degrees from the North Pole. Polar bear and walrus sightings are expected on the ice that surrounds the islands all year. The voyage includes helicopter sight-seeing and Zodiac cruising at ice level. All shore activities are included in the package, as well as the shipboard education program. The 20th Anniversary Voyage is almost sold out.

Quark launched the competition to celebrate its 20th anniversary as a polar expedition specialist. The first voyage in 1991 was to the North Pole. For more information, call 888-892-0171 or visit

American Cruise Lines Welcomes Wave Season with Record Sales

American Cruise Lines, operator of the newest fleet of small ships, announced record sales today at the start of what it is predicting will be a strong "Wave Season."

Each of the past five weeks has broken previous company sales records. "We predicted significant sales growth this year and have yet to be disappointed," said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines. The company has since scheduled more cruises on its most popular itineraries in response to demand.

Beebe attributes the sales growth to a number of important factors, the largest of which may be American Cruise Lines’ new tiered commission structure for travel agents. "We are working with more new travel agents and our existing travel partners are booking more cruises than ever," said Beebe.

As sales continue to grow, American Cruise Lines operates new ships that are set to cater to guest expectations. The renovations on Queen of the West are near completion in Portland, Oregon and it will be back in service this spring. Passengers can expect an even better cruise experience with larger staterooms, new furniture, and more private balconies.

The Mississippi Paddlewheeler’s construction is also well underway and ahead of schedule with tickets being booked well in advance of its scheduled debut next summer.


Former Cruise West Chairman Dick West Eyes New Venture

Richard “Dick” West, former chairman of shuttered Cruise West, is looking at re-entering the world of small-ship cruising. West is considering launching a company called Explorer Cruises, which would market overseas small-ship products in the U.S., putting together groups and perhaps eventually charters.

West said Cruise West had entered into similar arrangements to sell a limited number of cruises on lines such as Cruceros Australis in Patagonia and Canodros in the Galapagos Islands. In addition, a ship such as Spirit of Oceanus, which was sold in the waning days of Cruise West, still has a following. West said he was considering such as options as finding past onboard exploration leaders to serve as “Pied Pipers” on the ship or perhaps he would lead a group. Spirit of Oceanus was renamed Sea Spirit and now is operated by Quark Expeditions. Although the Cruise West databases are now owned by new operator InnerSea Discoveries, West said he is still has contact with Cruise West customers through Facebook and other ways.

Cruise West closed on Sept. 18 after operating for 64 years in Alaska. The company was started by Dick West’s father, the late Chuck West, who was known as “Mr. Alaska.” Although he’s now calling his own start-up Explorer Cruises, West said that name is a “placeholder” that might be changed. He does not have a website for the company yet, but he can be reached by email at

Return To Sender - 118 Years On Hurtigruten Keeps Postal Traditional Alive

Sirius - served Hurtigruten in the 1890s (simplonpc)

Did you know that on board Hurtigruten it is possible to send a postcard or letter home with a unique Hurtigruten stamp? Having started life 118 year ago as a service carrying mail, freight and locals to remote areas along the coast, the traditions are still alive today with passengers able to buy Hurtigruten stamps on board and the whole postal process on board is manual and as such, these stamps have become a collectors item.

The stamps come in five designs detailing iconic places along the coast including: Geirangerfjord; the Arctic Circle; Trolljord, North Cape plus one is dedicated to the ship on which they are bought. For added authenticity, the stamps are also give an extra special touch on board - they show the date on which the passenger passed the location depicted on the stamp.
As the stamps have no value specified on them, the mail is passed onto the Norwegian postal service in a special envelope. It is at this point that the post receives its postmark and is distributed. The Hurtigruten stamp collection is available for mail within Norway and Europe and costs 25NOK for a postcard or letter to Europe.

Petter Overa, hotel manager on Hurtigruten's ship Trollfjord comments: "No machines are use on board, we do everything manually giving the process a personal and authentic touch. When we sail into Geirangerfjord or cross the Arctic Circle many passengers rush to buy their stamps date marked with the day they were there. It's a great tradtition to think Hurtigruten started life delivering mail and here, 118years on we are in our own way, still carrying out this role."

A six day Voyage South from Kirkenes in the far north to Bergen in the south costs from £1043pp on a full board basis from 15 April - 31 May.

Saturday 19 February 2011

“Awesome” wet season bodes well for Kimberley coastal cruising

A very wet, yet “awesome” wet season will mean spectacular waterfalls for the March-May start of the Kimberley cruise season, according to Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises which has been operating cruises there for 17 years.

PSCC Director Jeff Ralston said Broome had 400mm of rain in January alone, compared to 140mm last year, “so there is already plenty of water across the region to sustain the spectacular nature of our waterfalls and rock pools”.

“While we are mindful of the damage and heartache brought by big summer rains in the eastern states, for our tourist industry the rains here are awesome and that will mean great conditions for seeing the Kimberley coast at its very natural best,” he said.

Kimberley cruise discounts for 2011 and 2012

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises is offering discounts on its seven and 13-day Kimberley coast cruises this year and next year -- a five percent discount for two or three cabins booked together or a 10 per cent discount for four-plus cabins booked together.

PSCC operates the boutique Kimberley Quest II, a nine-cabin/18-passenger cruiser, on seven-day cruises between Broome and Mitchell Falls and Wyndham and the Mitchell Falls plus 13-day cruises between Broome and Wyndham.

PSCC Director Jeff Ralston said there was still availability across the March-May start to the season which continues until October.

The seven-day cruises are from $8345 per person twin share and the 13-day itineraries are from $12,095. There are four cabin styles.

The prices include private cabin with ensuite bathroom, all chef-prepared meals served on the shady stern deck or in the air-conditioned lounge, full use of the vessel and guided land and water excursions. The seven-day cruise price also includes a light aircraft and helicopter flight between Broome and the Mitchell Plateau.

On 12 of 25 departures, naturalist and researcher Tim Willing is on board to provide expert commentary on this region’s stunning flora and fauna.

Excursions to waterfalls, rock pools, rock art, for bush walking, bird watching, nature viewing, and fishing (to eat) and scenic tender rides to the must-see Horizontal Falls and Montgomery Reef are on the itinerary. So too is time out to relax in the spa on the forward deck, or to help yourself to the caffe latte machine day and night on the stern deck.

Contact: Tel 08 9193 6131, or see

Friday 18 February 2011

Tourist Ship Sinks on Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. Twelve Dead.

Twelve passengers asleep below decks were unable to escape the rapid sinking of the Truong Hai

The Truong Hai, one of about 100 small ships that offer tours of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, sunk on Feb. 17 at 5 a.m. Vietnamese time, killing 12 people, two from the United States. The boat sank while passengers were sleeping. Early reports suggest that there were 27 people aboard. Among the dead are tourists from countries such as Britain, Australia, Sweden, Japan and the two from the United States.

Fifteen passengers were rescued by other touring boats nearby. Ha Long Bay, a Unesco World heritage is popular with cruisers who come to view the limestone formations that jut out from the waters. This incident follows a 2009 sinking that cost the lives of five passengers and the 2006 storm that capsized many boats, killing 13 people, though no tourists were among the dead. In 2002, two boats were capsized killing several. “The boat took one minute to sink," said Stefano Corda, of Palermo, Italy, who was quoted in an AP report. "We went to the exit, and the boat was almost vertical," Corda said. "I grabbed my friend, we went out and it was so fast."


Thursday 17 February 2011

Intrepid and TUI combine to form PEAK Adventures

Intrepid Travel and TUI Travel PLC have agreed to enter into a strategic venture that they say will create an independently managed global leader in adventure travel. The proposal will combine Intrepid Travel with TUI Travel's international portfolio of adventure brands to create PEAK Adventure Group. PEAK Adventure GroupD will be run by an experienced management team with a solid background in the adventure travel sector. Darrell Wade, the co-founder and CEO of Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel, will become CEO of the new venture and the board will be chaired by John Wimbleton, managing director of TUI Travel PLC’s Specialist & Activity Sector.

The remaining PEAK Adventures Board members will be newly appointed Managing Director Geoff Manchester and Matt Beard from Intrepid Travel, Darren Mee and Jackie Watson from TUI Travel, and Bob Welsh, former CEO of VicSuper Pty Ltd who joins as an independent director. The executive team reporting to Wade will be made up of six senior figures across both companies and the managing directors of the individual businesses.

The new group will consist of more than 20 businesses with a combined revenue of circa £230 million/AU$400 million. Together they will take 340,000 passengers to all seven continents. Brands included in the venture are Adventure Center, The Adventure Company, Adventure Tours Australia, Country Walkers, Exodus, Gecko's, Guerba, Headwater, Imaginative Traveller, Intrepid Suntrek, Intrepid Travel, Oz Experience, Peregrine, Pinnacle Tours, Sawadee, TrekAmerica and WesternXposure. The businesses forming PEAK Adventures will operate a multi-channel and multi-brand strategy, which will provide new opportunities for growth including new products, markets and destinations.

The company’s said the proposed strategic venture will have no impact on the existing trade and business relationships of any of the brands within PEAK Adventures. "With the adventure travel market set to grow significantly in the coming years, this new venture will firmly position PEAK Adventures as the sector’s global leader,” said Wade. “In addition to providing a one-stop shop for adventure experiences, the creation of an independently managed company offers enormous potential to introduce new products for agents to sell while cost synergies across the business will potentially deliver greater value holidays to a fast-growing sector.” For more information, visit and


Steve Jones of Travel Today comments:

A new chapter in Arctic polar cruising

Adventure Canada takes majority stake in a new partnership with Cruise North Expeditions

Cruise North Expeditions, a subsidiary of the Inuit-owned Makivik Corporation, is pleased to announcea new partnership with Adventure Canada that will continue to offer polar cruises with the cultural content and Inuit staffing that has become a trademark of Cruise North Expeditions.

In 2011, Cruise North Expeditions departures will be merged with Adventure Canada's Clipper Adventurer schedule, including dedicated CNE programming. The Clipper Adventurer, a sister ship of Lyubov Orlova has benefited from extensive renovation and offers an ideal blend of safety, comfort and functionality that makes it a leader in the field. Cruise North passengers will enjoy enhanced comfort and programming through the new joint venture. 

Beginning in 2012, Adventure Canada and Cruise North Expeditions will each continue their traditional offerings of dedicated sailings with Inuit staff, itineraries and programs specially designed to bring benefit and opportunity to the people who call the Arctic home.

About Cruise North Expeditions

Cruise North Expeditions was founded in 2005 by the Makivik Corporation of Quebec, a highly successful investment corporation born of the first modern-day Aboriginal land claim settlement agreement in Canada (the JBNQA of 1975). Makivik also owns the well-respected First Air and Air Inuit.  Cruise North Expeditions earned a place on Conde Nast Traveller's prestigious "Green List" for their environmental efforts and commitment to helping preserve Inuit culture through tourism.

For more information on Cruise North Expeditions please visit or call 1-866-263-3220

About Makivik Corporation

Makivik Corporation is an Inuit organization mandated to protect the rights, interests and financial compensation provided by the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first comprehensive Inuit land claim in Canada, and the more recent offshore Nunavik Inuit Land Claim Agreement that came into effect in 2008. Makivik actively promote the preservation of the Inuit culture of Nunavik communities.

For more information on Makivik Corporation please visit
About Adventure Canada

Adventure Canada is an award-winning tour operator based in Mississauga, Ontario that has been providing comfortable and educational voyages to the Arctic, and the world, since 1988. With a special blend of academics, thoughtfully planned itineraries, high quality lecturers and programming and old fashioned fun, Adventure Canada's innovative style has been recognized by fellow leaders in the travel industry with recent awards from the Travel Industry Association of Canada Business of the Year Award, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador's Cruise Vision Award and the National Geographic Top 100 Tour Company Award.

For more information on Adventure Canada please visit or call 1-800-363-7566.

Lindblad Expeditions Launches Expedition Photography Program

Lindblad Expeditions has launched Expedition Photography, a service that features a Lindblad-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor on every departure. The initiative capitalizes on the symbiotic link between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. Guests can also rely on the assistance of a trained instructor (also a naturalist), who has completed a training program developed by Lindblad and National Geographic.

The Expedition Photography program will also roll out pre- and post-voyage amenities through a micro-site that is in development. Guests will have password access to a private section containing enhanced documents, packing lists, a webinar, instructional videos, geography-specific photography tips, FAQs and photo instructor bios. Once aboard, guests may partake in breakout sessions with hands-on-teaching, photography talks and photo instruction on walks and Zodiac cruises.

Post voyage, the site will let guests share their photographs, compete for photo honors, create books as lasting keepsakes and more. For more information, call 800-EXPEDITION or visit

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Ecoventura Supports “Pack with a Purpose” Program in Galapagos

Ecoventura, which operates small expedition vessels in the Galapagos region, has teamed up with “Pack for a Purpose,” a charitable organization whose mission encourages travelers to save room in their travel luggage for five pounds of school or medical supplies to donate to communities they’re visiting.

What a traveler brings is determined in advance with the tour operator. For example, in the Galapagos, Ecoventura’s team notes that one youth organization needs computer equipment, digital cameras, scanners, a sound system, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, rulers, English teaching books, English/Spanish dictionaries, software and ecology-focused teaching aids. Another organization for physically and mentally challenged children needs puzzles, rubber balls, crayons, modeling clay and colored pencils.

“We invite people to ask us what they need to pack,” said Doris Welsh, Ecoventura’s director of sales and marketing, adding that 400 pencils and five deflated soccer balls can add up to five pounds to help poor communities.

As an ecology-minded and socially responsible tour company, based in San Cristobal, Ecoventura supports various initiatives that benefit the local population in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal. With a population of 5,600, San Cristobal has the second-largest population in the islands after Santa Cruz. It is the fifth-largest island and the only island with fresh water and an airport in town.

Through the foundation “Gotitas de Esperanza” (Drops of Hope), Ecoventura has pledged to sponsor the salaries for teachers and physical therapists who work at the Alejandro Alvear School on San Cristobal Island. During the day, the school provides therapy for children with Down Syndrome and other physical disabilities. In the evenings, the school serves the adult population through programs such as teaching sign language for the hearing impaired. For more information, call 800-644-7972 or visit

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Cruise Weekly: Antarctica: Putting the adventure in adventure cruising

As a drama-filled Antarctic season draws to a close, some operators will be counting the cost.

A&K reluctantly cancelled one chartered sailing of the French-flagged Le Boreal after an unspecified mechanical issue, while Travel Dynamics International was forced to cancel the December 8 sailing for Clelia II after a freak wave smashed a bridge window. Clelia II, soon to be Orion II, also damaged a propeller last year. The YouTube video shot from the shadowing National Geographic Explorer was unnerving to say the least.
Unsettling video of Clelia II making hard
work of a Drake Passage Crossing

But more excitement was yet to come. The Polar Star, carrying several Australian passengers, stuck an uncharted rock and ruptured the outer hull ultimately forcing the evacuation of the ship and the cancellation of the balance of their season. Fortunately there were no serious injuries in any of these incidents and, perhaps just as importantly, there was no oil spilled.

Every year sees another grounding or ‘incident’ and, as we discussed in this column six months ago, cruise numbers will decrease next season as the large, heavy-oiled vessels withdraw from the region. In 1992, 12 vessels conducted expeditions to Antarctica, while last season it had grown to 51 after having peaked at 55 in 2007/08. Still, the vast majority of travellers are Americans (30+%) which accounts for the trailing off of landing passengers since 2008; down to less than 20,000 from a 2007/08 peak of over 30,000.

So as operators, passengers and regulators take stock of this eventful season, how will polar tourism proceed? Will the much talked about principles of promoting environmental and socially responsible travel fall by the wayside as travellers continue their rush to the diminishing ice?

Passengers abandon the sinking
Explorer in 2007 (Michael Nolan)
Ironically, just as the disaster flick ‘Titanic’ stimulated interest in cruising, so too did the 2007 sinking of the Explorer. Anecdotal evidence suggests the massive global coverage of the event caused an inquiry spike for Antarctic cruises about this time. Disasters don’t dissuade travellers it seems, merely financial confidence.

“More and more cruise lines have added Antarctica to their itineraries. And many tour operators, accustomed to voyaging in ‘tamer’ waters, are leasing adventure ships to offer Antarctic voyages, too. Given the increasing numbers of reported ship mishaps in Antarctic waters, it is not hard to conclude too many guests and operators alike may be undertaking this too lightly.” - Lindblad Expeditions

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) with 99 members, attempts to govern tourism in Antarctica with a voluntary code limiting passenger numbers during landings in a place without police, a Coast Guard or government. It’s administered largely by goodwill; a commodity usually rated a distant second to commercial imperative.

"You can't actually stop people from going there," Denise Landau, the IAATO's Colorado-based executive director, told National Geographic Magazine in 2007, "All you can do is manage what you've got, and that's what we're trying to do."

Currently the major authority is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) who governs safety and ship standards. Their recent enforcement of upgraded fire protection standards have seen some older vessels fall out of the expedition fleet. But ultimately it will be us, the travelling public who enforce environmental standards on the operators by choosing to travel, or not. And the more of us who travel, the greater will be our number of advocates and ambassadors for Antarctic protection.

Sunday 13 February 2011

Orion II refurbishment scheduled for April 2011

Source: Maritime Executive
Digitally altered image showing the current Clelia II as Orion II

ALMACO has been awarded a contract by Orion Expedition Cruises to perform an upgrade of public spaces, passenger suites and outdoor areas on their new vessel, Orion II.

Orion II is a sister ship to Noble Caledonia’s Island Sky which ALMACO completed a refurbishment project on in 2010. Orion Expedition Cruises selected ALMACO due to their experience with this size and type of vessel.

Built as a yacht-like expedition cruise ship by Cantieri Navale Ferrari of Italy in 1991, after a number of years as a private yacht the vessel underwent an extensive technical refit. The planned refurbishment, to be done during a scheduled dry dock during April 2011 will bring her into the Orion style, and she will thereafter be renamed Orion II.

The works will include a combination of refurbishment and upgrading of soft-furnishings across the vessel, including all fifty passenger suites and bathrooms, the lobby, main lounge, dining room, library, and public bathrooms.

Hebridean Island Cruises Makes North American Debut

Hebridean Island Cruises has launched its North American presence with offices in Fort Lauderdale and a new North American website at Carrying 50 guests with a passenger-to-crew ratio nearing one-to-one, the 2,100-ton Hebridean Princess sails to Scotland and other destinations in the region.

“We are delighted to introduce this new and exciting cruise brand to our U.S. and Canadian region, especially at a time in our industry when avid cruisers and mature travelers are seeking a one-of-a-kind vacation experience,” said Steve Novello, president of All Discovery Cruising-North America. “Initial sales and market feedback have been extremely positive, and we are seeing incredible interest from our new website.”

All Discovery Cruising is the marketing trade arm for all cruise brands in its portfolio -- Hebridean Island Cruises, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery.

The Hebridean Princess attracts many repeat guests, including Queen Elizabeth and members of her family when the ship was privately chartered in 2010.

In 2011, Hebridean Princess offers four- to 10-night cruises to ports along the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as well as to Ireland, England, the Channel Islands, Wales and Northern France. Most cruises depart from the Scottish port of Oban. Other departure ports are Greenock, Invergordon and Leith, Scotland; Portsmouth and Tilbury (London), England; and Cardiff, Wales.

Hebridean Princess sails to remote coastal villages, islands, and inaccessible locations in bays and lochs that are normally visited by only private yachts. Hebridean’s signature “Footloose” cruises incorporate a walking adventure along the Scottish Highlands, tailored to both seasoned walkers and those who prefer a gentle stroll. Guests who prefer a mysterious element might enjoy the seven-night “Hebridean Surprise” itinerary departing Oct. 4 roundtrip from Oban, when only the captain knows the full details of the itinerary.

All meals (including picnics ashore), beverages and select wines, spirits and champagne are included, as well as privately escorted tours, a guest speaker program, and all port charges and gratuities. Also included are activities such as the use of the ship’s bicycles, fishing, bridge, speedboat rides and more. Meals in The Columba Restaurant include with fresh local ingredients, and black-tie gala dinners are offered on every cruise.

The Hebridean Princess, which has the décor of a country home, has 30 cabins, with 10 single-occupancy cabins, each designed and named after Scottish Isles, castles, lochs and sounds. The Tiree Lounge has a large Inglenook-style fireplace and large panoramic windows. The five passenger decks also offer a well-stocked library, a gym, two lounges, a conservatory and a restaurant.

Hebridean’s new North American website includes virtual tours, online brochures, information about webinars and how to sign up for news and promotional offers.

“We look forward to welcoming our U.S. and Canadian guests aboard the Hebridean Princess and reaching a similar level of recognition as she received in Europe over the years,” Novello said. “We’ve made it easier for our market to consider a Hebridean Princess cruise as guests and travel agents are now able to book in U.S. dollars and establish a local relationship with our North American team. Together with her sister brands, 2010 marked a successful sales year for the North American region, with fourth-quarter results that almost doubled our gross quarter revenue for the same quarter in the prior year.”

Most cruises aboard the Hebridean Princess sell well in advance of its March-through-November season with four- to 10-night all-inclusive fares starting at $1,860 per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Travel agents can take All Discovery Cruising’s video-based training at For more information, call 877-600-2648 or visit

Saturday 12 February 2011

Travel Indochina Luxury Mekong Charter

Source: Seatrade Insider
Digital rendering of the new vessel, The Jahan

Travel Indochina Australia has chartered the maiden voyage of The Jahan which is being built by Vietnam’s Jayavarman Cruise, operator of luxury Mekong River ships.

Described as a boutique floating hotel, the 70mtr 950gt vessel leaves Saigon on October 29 on her inaugural eight-day voyage between Saigon and Siem Reap.

With an elegant British colonial decor, The Jahan will have 22 cabins, including two Jacuzzi Suites and will carry a Cambodian and Vietnamese crew of 40.

Features include a shop, library, an observatory, pool deck, gymnasium and steam room.

Travel Indochina Australia md Paul Hole said full details of the charter of The Jahan will be in the company's first brochure to feature a cruise product due for release next month.

Vessel Specifications:
Built: 2010/11
Vessels Registry: Vietnam
Type of Vessel: River vessel
Length: 70 m
Beam: 12.5 m
Draft: 1.7 m
Decks: 4 — lower, main, upper, pool deck
Gross tonnage: 950 tons
Cruising speed: 12 nautical knots
Crew: 40 (Cambodian and Vietnamese Crew)

Friday 11 February 2011

Orion's Inland Sea of Japan - Samurai, Sake and Soba

Orion Expedition Cruises' new ship Orion II will be making her inaugural voyages to Japan in June and July 2011. The ten night Inland Sea of Japan voyages live up the promise of a path less travelled, with the specialist expedition team introducing guests to insider experiences, many exclusive to Orion.

Orion II will visit Kanazawa, one of the few places in Japan where geisha culture is still alive, its 100 year old former geisha house retaining the look and feel of 19th century Japan. Guests will enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at Kenrokuen Garden, considered to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Ponds, fountains, waterfalls, pagodas and bridges harmonise within landscaped gardens first established in the 17th century by the feudal lords of Kaga as their private garden.

Cruise the moat surrounding imposing Matsue Castle; learn to make Soba noodles; stroll the main street of Sakaiminato with hundreds of bronze statues depicting animated cartoon monsters and enjoy a visit to Sakai's Sake brewery to sample their fine rice wine.

The path less travelled varies according to each voyage, including an introduction to the strict code of the samurai when guests meet a direct descendent of the Shoguns. Or guests may witness an extraordinary special event, the Sumo of the Bulls. Far from the barbaric Spanish bull rings, and in keeping with the respect shown to Ushioni, the great bull demon, participating bulls are treated with great respect. Two massive bulls pit their intuition against each other, locking horns until one of the bulls is brought to its knees, the other declared the victor.

Other experiences include traditional drumming with Japan's best Taiko drum troupe, Kodo, and a trip in a Taraibune - round barrel boats traditionally used to collect abalone and other molluscs from narrow coves.

An added attraction on these voyages is a side-trip to Busan (South Korea) with its world renowned Jalgachi Fish Market, arguably the best of its kind in the world, where every kind of edible sea creature is on sale.

With Orion even traditional Japanese highlights have an unexpected twist. A visit to one of the most recognisable images of Japan, the large vermillion coloured O-Torii symbolic entrance gate to the Miyajima (Shrine Island) is itself visually spectacular, yet when Orion II visits guests will be treated to an exclusive Kagura performance, with sacred music and dance of traditional ceremonies held in Japanese shrines.

The visit to Hiroshima revolves around the Peace Park, Peace Museum and the A-Bomb Dome and includes meeting one of the few remaining survivors of the actual bombing who will relate personal experiences of that day and life since the bombing in Hiroshima (the lecture will be translated into English).

Art lovers will be excited when, in Kurashiki with its cobblestone streets and boutique shops lining the river, guests visit the Ōhara Museum of Art. Established in 1930 by Magosaburō Ōhara, the museum houses works by El Greco, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, and Renoir.

Mixing traditional highlights with the unexpected - providing fascinating insights into the culture, history and geography of a region - is part of Orion's DNA, revealed this time during inaugural expeditions to Japan.

PLEASE NOTE: some aspects of these itineraries may change as arrangements are finalised and not all shore experiences are included on each voyage - refer to Orion Expedition Cruises or your travel agent for detailed itineraries. Check for latest updates on

Orion's voyages to the Inland Sea of Japan all start and finish in places with international flight access. Kobe and Aomori are the points of embarkation or disembarkation.

Fares Guide: Pricing onboard all Orion and Orion II voyages is in Australian dollars.

Early booking savings currently available

2011 Inland Sea of Japan - Discovery of an Ancient Culture 10 night fares begin from $8,150 per person for an Ocean View Suite/Category B. Junior Suites from $11,300 per person and Penthouse Suites with balcony are $16,400 per person

Expedition fares per person twin occupancy include accommodation, all meals, landings, port charges, gratuities and selected activities ashore.

Additional information:

Orion Expedition Cruises' itineraries for 2011 will include 49 voyages to 17 countries and more than 170 remote and exotic destinations stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East including Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the Inland Sea of Japan (onboard Orion II) and Australia's Kimberley coast and Arnhem Land, New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic islands and Papua New Guinea (onboard Orion).

Akin to a private mega-yacht, accommodating just 50 couples, Orion II's staff of 70 professionally caters for the needs of everyone in an unobtrusive yet attentive way.

All 50 suites and staterooms have ocean views, marble bathrooms, flat screen TV and DVD/CD player, internet accessibility and choice of queen or twin bed configuration.

Elegant throughout, Orion's features include a sauna, health spa and gym, boutique, library with internet access, a wide range of water sport activities, plus a choice of dining areas and innovative menus created by multi-award winning chef, Serge Dansereau.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website
For reservations or to obtain a brochure of 2011 voyages call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) / 0800 444 462 (New Zealand) or see your travel agent.


Hurtigruten Is Recognized with Six Awards - 2 Gold & 4 Silver - at the Prestigious 54th Annual HSMAI Adrian Awards

Award-winning cruise line Hurtigruten added six more accolades to its impressive award roster last week when it was recognized with two gold and four silver Adrian Awards by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at the 54th annual Adrian Awards Competition, held at the New York Marriott Marquis on Jan. 31.  Widely considered to be the world’s largest and most prestigious travel marketing competition, the black tie event played host to nearly 1,000 industry and agency professionals and honored the top companies and individuals in hospitality, travel and tourism for achievements in advertising, public relations and digital marketing.

 “These awards hold major international significance,” says Trond Øverås, product and marketing director, Hurtigruten ASA.  “Major efforts have been put into the winter product development and the Gold Award in this category gives us a special satisfaction.”

“This year’s Adrian Awards highlighted an unprecedented level of talent and creativity from travel and hospitality sales and marketing professionals,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI.  And with nearly 1,200 international entries – judged by 200 top executives from all sectors of the industry – the competition was fierce.

Hurtigruten Awards
Gold – Winter Campaign – Print media
Gold – Campaign Consumer – Complete Campaign
Silver – Summer Campaign series – Print media
Silver – Hurtigruten Cross Sales – Brochure
Silver – 1893 Ambassador – Loyalty Program
Silver – Port to port – Television

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 and fall.  The company’s fleet of 14 intimate ships, carrying 100 to 646 passengers, allows passengers to enjoy unique destinations in a relaxed atmosphere.  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: 877-301-3117; fax (888)-524-2145; for brochures (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day.

Thursday 10 February 2011

CCC Sale on Northern Fiji Discovery Heritage Cruise

Captain Cook Cruises is offering 20% off their 7 nights Northern Fiji Discovery Heritage cruise, where passengers can enjoy the unique experience of standing on the International Dateline. The sale is available until 31 March 2011 and valid for travel until 31 March 2012.

The Northern Fiji Dateline Discovery Cruise is an amazing cruise that was 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 where they learn about the unique history, art and culture of Northern Fiji.

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 Wairiki 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, 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).

The Northern Fiji Discovery Heritage cruise has seven scheduled sailings for 2011 departing on 05 April, 03 May, 05 July, 06 September, 01 November, and two scheduled departures so far for 2012 departing on 03 January and 06 March.

Sale prices for the 7 nights Northern Fiji Discovery Heritage cruise start at only $1399 per person, twin share and the cruise departs Denarau Marina at 2.00pm.

Prices 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 1111, Email: or visit

Kingdom of the Polar Bear: The West Australian

We cautiously exit the inflatable boat.

Ten at a time, we land on the pebbly beach, our guides already well ahead of us, scouting for sightings of the world's largest terrestrial carnivore.

The island of Spitsbergen, north of Norway, is one of just a handful of the remaining polar bear hotspots in the world.

With a world population of this majestic mammal possibly as low as 20,000, there is a real urgency among adventure travellers to see this creature in its native habitat.

Clutching loaded rifles, our guides are 100m ahead of us making sure we don't surprise any unseen or sleeping beasts.

Regulations require guides to carry loaded rifles and flare guns, but in over a decade of operation, Aurora's expedition staff have only ever fired two warning shots; a testament to good planning, careful observation and prompt action.

Read Full Story at The West Australian

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Demand High for Alaska Cruises

He Who Hesitates May Not Make Cut for Alaska Small Ship Cruise This Season;
Increased Demand, Diminished Inventory Cited as Factors

Considering an Alaska cruise vacation this year? Then best be an early bird, advises small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations, the active travel company that secures matches between adventure-seeking clients and a treasure trove of expedition ships.

Todd Smith, founder and president, said a number of forces converging on this year's Alaska cruise season mandate booking early. Travel is rebounding and with the State of Alaska doing more marketing, demand is up. Alaska sales are up over 30 percent from last year for Smith's company alone that is poised to see its biggest-ever Alaska year. Plus Cruise West that once controlled 30 percent of the Alaska cruise inventory is no longer in business.

"Because of more demand at a time of less inventory, we're suggesting that people make their travel commitments earlier than usual in order to assure themselves space on a small expedition ship of their choice," Smith said.

He suggested that folks looking for a Cruise West alternative consider Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird or Sea Lion. The industry's top on-board naturalists and expedition leaders have been slated for this program.

Another option is the Alaska Island Spirit Cruise aboard the Island Spirit, offering exceptional value and a combination of nature, wilderness and authentic port stops.

New to the scene are two redesigned vessels being introduced this season that are expected to fill up quickly because they offer a high level of land-based adventure activity, said Smith. These are InnerSea Discoveries' Eastern Coves Adventure Cruise and Western Coves Adventure Cruise aboard either the 156-foot, 49 passenger Wilderness Adventurer or the 169-foot, 49 passenger MV Wilderness Discoverer.

For the first time in the history of Alaska cruising, guests aboard these two state-of-the-art ships will be able to pick and choose from such traditional activities as in-depth wilderness explorations by Zodiac, kayak or naturalist guided walks, to new, ground-breaking optional activities such as overnight wilderness kayaking, hiking and camping, expert fishing charters from the ship (local guides/boats rendezvous with the vessel to take clients fishing for the day) and flight-seeing. There will be some new activities included in the programming as well such as paddle boarding, caving and snorkeling.

Smith said that as many of the bigger expedition vessels are beginning to fill up, more travelers are considering AdventureSmith Explorations' selection of adventure yachts.

"From luxury to floating base camps we have an active Alaskan yacht cruise for every ability and budget," he said. For example, Smith points out:

Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise;

Alaskan Safari Yacht Cruises;

Active Inside Passage, and

Active Prince William Sound Discovery Cruise

About Adventure Smith Explorations

AdventureSmith Explorations is the global leader in small ship, adventure cruise vacations. Company founder Todd Smith helped pioneer the concept of wilderness cruising that combines the comforts of a small cruise ship with the adventure of sea kayaking, hiking and exploring remote wilderness areas ashore. The company matches guests with the top names in small ship cruising as well with intimate, boutique ships that may not make the radar of most travelers.

In moving through exotic natural environments and exploring vibrant native cultures seldom associated with more mainstream cruise itineraries, AdventureSmith Explorations dedicates its efforts to small footprint, sustainable travel and has launched a carbon free cruising initiative. Its off-the-beaten-path destinations include Alaska, Baja, Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Hawaii, Peru, the Arctic, Antarctica, and Australia.

The company's mission is to give back to the individuals, communities and environments touched by AdventureSmith Explorations trips by connecting travelers with a network of grassroots and global nonprofit partners worldwide including the Alaska Natural History Association, Neotropica Foundation and Galapagos Conservancy. The company was named by National Geographic Adventure as one of "The Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth" and is the recipient of Conde Nast Traveler's prestigious "World Savers Award."

Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Tahoe City, California along the western shore of Lake Tahoe.  Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or 530-583-1775. Email: or visit:

Media Alert

2 For the Price of 1 Antarctica Cruise Special! Book the 11 day small ship voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula aboard the M/V Plancius for the February 22-March 4, 2011 departure and receive two for the price of one. This means every second person travels for free. This offer pertains to any superior, twin or quadruple class cabin. Space is limited, contact AdventureSmith Explorations' Antarctic experts now. Trip details:

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Hunters Target Russian Polar Bears

A mother polar bear and first season cub photographed from the
deck of a cruise vessel in the Chukchi Sea. Photo: Roderick Eime

A group of concerned scientists and environmentalists have called for the Russian Government to block passage of legislation that may see the re-introduction of polar bear hunting in the remote Chukotka region of Russia.

"Many people are concerned about the situation with polar bears worldwide. Several populations are known to be declining, among which is the Chukotka-Alaska population.  It is well known that poachers in Chukotka kill up to 300 animals per year.  Introducing a quota would in reality, only serve to legalize the poaching," their partition reads in part.

Addressed to the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Yury Trutnev, the group, led by Deputy Director of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wrangel Island State Natural Reserve, Nikita Ovsyannikov, said the decision to reintroduce a quota could be a serious threat to the local bear population.

Russian media has reported that there are from 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild, including up to 7,000 in Russia. Russian experts say poachers kill from 300 to 700 bears annually. Melting Arctic ice affects the climate of the entire planet. Global warming has already driven polar bears to cannibalism and may threaten the lives of a quarter of the world's population by 2100.

Last month, the biodiversity program coordinator at WWF-Russia, Vladimir Krever, said polar bear hunting, with an annual quota of 29 animals per year, might begin on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula next year.

The illegal trade in polar bear hides, a species in steady decline throughout the Arctic, is on the rise in Russia. 

Monday 7 February 2011



The True North, one of the finest adventure-cruise ships in the world has significantly reduced prices for many of its 2011 and 2012 North Star Cruise options. The company explained that the move to lower prices was an affirmative action designed to keep North Star in-step with a changed market.

The company's general manager, Peter Trembath, said "the changes are consistent with North Star's reputation for being a market leader and will surely make our cruises even more irresistible to the discerning adventurer!" 

In addition to lower prices –  North Star also announced 4 completely different options to cruise the magnificent Kimberley region: 

The Kimberley Ultimate has always been North Star's flagship adventure. A two-week soirée along the Kimberley coast featuring a wild and beautiful panorama of rugged mountains, spectacular gorges and majestic waterfalls. Plus unexplained rock-art, extraordinary wildlife and monster barramundi!

Kimberley Gorges (7 nights)

The Kimberley Gorges itinerary features the northern half of the Kimberley Ultimate cruise. Here the landscape is dominated by the Kimberley's stunning gorge country including the Berkeley River, the King George Falls and the Mitchell River. The cruise includes helicopter/aircraft transfer to Broome.

Kimberley Islands (6 nights)

The Kimberley Islands itinerary features the southern half of the Kimberley Ultimate cruise. A totally different Kimberley experience featuring the exhilarating Horizontal Waterfalls, intriguing Montgomery Reef and the mighty Price Regent River. The cruise includes helicopter/aircraft transfer from Broome.

Kimberley Snapshot (7 nights)

And finally, the best of the best! For those pressed for time or perhaps considering the budget – the Kimberley Snapshot is the flagship Kimberley Ultimate itinerary condensed into a single week. The cruise features several Kimberley icons including the King Gorge Falls, the Hunter River, the Prince Regent River, Montgomery Reef and the Horizontal Waterfalls. 

The multi-award winning adventure-cruise ship, True North, allows discerning guests to experience wilderness in surroundings more akin to one of the world's most exclusive hotels.  

Lavish features include:
  • A sundeck, forward observation lounge, ship's lounge, alfresco bar, internet café, plasma screens with interpretive information, lower deck dining room with large panoramic windows, and fine dining.
  • All cabins feature enhanced décor, en-suite facilities, in-house entertainment and satellite telephones.
  • Multiple expedition boats (6) allow passengers greater opportunity to do "what they want, when they want". 
  • To add another dimension to adventure – most cruise options feature an onboard helicopter.
  • The purpose built True North is able to explore the upper reaches of shallow river systems.
  • Adventure-cruises are conducted all around the Australian coastline and in the stunning waters of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
For more information visit