Tuesday 31 May 2011

Cruise Weekly: 2012 River Cruise Guide

Clipper Cruise Special Caribbean, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama Canal

A 14-night sailing cruise through the southern Caribbean, calling at a string of exotic islands and ports along the northern coast of South America and culminating in a crossing of the Panama Canal, is scheduled for November 6 this year.

The luxury clipper ship Star Flyer will operate the cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados to Balboa, Panama, after a 29-night re-positioning cruise from Cannes.

After leaving Bridgetown, Star Flyer stops for a laid-back beach day at one of the 30 magical Grenadine islands before heading for the popular tourist port of St George's Grenada.

Closer to the Venezuelan coast, ports of call include the islands of Margarita, famous for stunning white-sand beaches, and Blanquilla, home of the renowned "Venezuelan Wall" a 300m drop-off of coral and sea life which plummets straight down only 20m from the shore.

Star Flyer continues westwards along the northern coast of South America stopping at three islands in the Lesser Antilles -- Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba – a mecca for scuba divers from many parts of the world.

Next is the pulsating tropical city of Cartagena in Columbia, a racy party scene for wealthy Latin Americans and Europeans  -- a prelude to the quiet Panama Canal crossing which takes around 10 hours to reach the Pacific Ocean terminal port of Balboa.

The 14-night cruise costs from $6210 including all meals and entertainment on board, port charges and gratuities.

From Balboa, Star Flyer will operate a seven-night cruise to Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica (from $2900) where it will be based until March 2012 cruising the pristine coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

All three ships in the Star Clippers fleet -- flagship Royal Clipper, Star Clipper and Star Flyer -- are currently sailing more than 70 wide-ranging itineraries to the best of the Mediterranean's cruising playgrounds until October when they head west to the Caribbean and  Costa Rica.

For reservations contact your travel agent or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or email:starclippers@creativecruising.com.au

Blount Small Ship Adventures Offers Two Ontario Cruises In 2011

Blount Small Ship Adventures is offering two new cruises this year that feature Canadian waterways in Ontario. The small size and unique design allow its ships to sail through waterways that bigger cruise ships cannot reach.

The company also offers savings of up to $1,000 per couple on select departures of the Ontario cruises when booked by Aug. 5, 2011. It is valid on new bookings only. Plus, AARP members receive up to $100 in shipboard credit.

The itineraries were developed as part of a partnership between Blount and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership. One of the cruises travels from New York City to Toronto, while the other goes from Toronto to Midland, Ontario, with a highlight on Georgian Bay.

“Skylines & Islands: New York City to Toronto” includes New York’s small towns, including Little Falls, Sylvan Beach and Oswego, as well as the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Thousand Islands and Niagara Falls. The ship will retract its pilot house to cruise the Hudson River and the Erie Canal.

“Discover Ontario: Scenic Georgian Bay” cruises the Welland Canal and explores Cleveland, Detroit and Goderich, Ontario. The cruise also sails on Georgian Bay and visits Manitoulin Island and Midland before returning to Toronto.

There are four 2011 departures. “Skylines and Islands” between New York City and Toronto departs on July 13 and Aug. 5. “Discover Ontario: Scenic Georgian Bay” departs on July 14 and July 25. The July 14 departure is not eligible for $200 discount per couple. For more information, call 800-556-7450 or visit www.blountsmallshipadventures.com.

Monday 30 May 2011

Unique South American Cruise / Tour


A voyage to the Galapagos Islands on a private yacht, a round-trip to Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham luxury train and a stay in the Amazon rainforest are just a few of the highlights on an exclusive cruise/tour now available through ecruising.travel

The tour includes de luxe accommodation and breakfast throughout, all meals aboard the Yacht La Pinta, including beverages with dinner and several special feature lunches and dinners during the tour.

This unique 23-night itinerary departs on April 4, 2012. After international flights from Sydney, the tour starts and finishes in Santiago and includes 12 nights accommodation and expertly guided sightseeing at key attractions in Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

Various cities tours, a full day wine tasting in the Cachapoal Valley, the sacred Valley of the Incas and rainforest walks are just some of the activities.

The seven-night voyage to Galapagos includes daily lectures and briefings and land tours led by experienced naturalists.

The entire package costs from$15,559 and includes all taxes, port charges and entry fees, but is only for sale until July 4.

More details from ecruising.travel on 1300 369 848 or check-out www.ecruising.travel 

Oceanwide Expeditions offers 'Leica' photo workshops onboard m/v Plancius

Oceanwide Expeditions offers  'Leica' photo workshops for beginners and advanced photographers on board MV Plancius

You are interested in wildlife and photography in the Arctic and Antarctica?

You have not obtained the basic skills of photography yet, or you would like to travel with like minded experts?

Photo workshops powered by 'Leica' on board m/v Plancius will be the answer for those who want to enhance their photographic skills while travelling to the most stunning and breath taking regions of the word during expedition cruises to Antarctica or High Arctic. 

The seasons in the polar regions are diverse , there is a lot of wildlife and great landscapes to be discovered. You will bring a piece of this, your personal photo memories, back home

Oceanwide Expeditions announces a special cooperation with "Leica" . Experienced experts  from renowned German 'Leica Akademie'  will supervise photo workshops for beginners and advanced photographers onboard polar explorer vessel MV Plancius. Everybody is welcome to participate, no previous experience required.

The workshop groups (up to 20 participants per guide per landing, and up to 14 participants per guide on supplemented voyages) will be accompanied by a photo expert during activity ashore. Participants with a  special interest in photography use their personal photo equipment or test 'Leica' cameras free of charge .

Photo lectures and practical workshops will be offered during sea and landing days. Participants will learn more about objects, exposures and photo composition.

The workshops do not intend to instruct on how to use specific camera models, but more to give an insight on better photo results by respecting basic rules of photography. Photographers can also take part in other activities of their choice.

Photo workshops are mostly free of charge during 'Basecamp' voyages and other selected voyages. Workshops with supplement guarantee more focus on  photography in exclusive small groups (experts and those who want to become experts).

Free photo workshops are open for all passengers (beginners and experts). The workshops must be pre-booked with Oceanwide's reservation departments prior to departure. All photo workshops are powered by 'Leica' (except PLA29, 2012).

Antarctica 2011-12:

PLA29, Basecamp Plancius, 27 Feb – 29 Mar 2012 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

PLA30, Polar  Circle - Antarctica, 09 Mar – 20 Mar 2012 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

PLA31, Antarctic Peninsula, 20 Mar – 29 Mar 2012 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

Arctic 2012:

PLA06, Basecamp Plancius, 25 Jun – 04 Jul 2012 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

PLA13, Northeast Greenland, 26 Aug – 07 Sep 2012 : supplemented with USD 420 p.P.,  group limited 5 – 14 persons

Antarctica 2012-13:

PLA22, Basecamp Plancius, 22 Nov – 03 Dec 2012 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

PLA23, Antarctic Peninsula, 03 Dec – 13 Dec 2012 : supplemented with USD 420 p.P.,  group limited 5 – 14 persons

PLA30, Basecamp Plancius, 26 Feb – 09 Mar 2013 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

PLA31, Polar  Circle - Antarctica , 09 Mar – 20 Mar 2013 : supplemented with USD 420 p.P.,  group limited 5 – 14 persons

PLA32, Special photo and wildlife voyage Antarctic Peninsula 20 Mar – 29 Mar 2013 : free of charge , all passengers can participate

Sunday 29 May 2011

SMH: A feeling for ice

Following a fine tradition, Ben Groundwater goes on expedition to a wilderness no longer so inaccessible.

Robert Falcon Scott knew the feeling. So did Sir Ernest Shackleton. Both Antarctic pioneers undertook brave missions in their quest for the South Pole and both had to deal with a similarly pressing issue: money. Or a lack of it.

Budgets were tight. The famed adventurers had to scrounge around London looking for benefactors, pay their crew next to nothing and live off the bare bones just to make their dreams of polar exploration come true.

Sounds familiar. Modern Antarctic adventurers - also known as tourists - have the same problem. Our polar journeys may not be as pioneering but they're certainly heavy on the wallet. You don't get to the world's least-visited continent without coughing up serious dough.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/a-feeling-for-ice-20110526-1f6jo.html#ixzz1Nhnfaqqf

Solo in the Southern Ocean

by Katrina Lobley - The Age / SMH

Small can be beautiful for solo travellers. The expedition ship MV Le Boreal accommodates 264 passengers but luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent caps passenger numbers to Antarctica at 200, so everyone can be transferred to shore more efficiently.

Passengers heading to Antarctica are promised one of Le Boreal's 104 balcony cabins, which means there's room to accommodate solo travellers, who are charged a single supplement of 30 per cent.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Solo passengers usually comprise 10 per cent to 12 per cent - or 20 to 24 people - of A&K's Antarctic sailings, which means you won't be Robinson Crusoe if you sign up on your own.

A&K's vice-president of business development, Bob Simpson, says the burgeoning solo-traveller market has been underserved but, as it grows, "we've definitely realised as a group this is something we need to focus on". Simpson says 70 per cent of A&K's solo travellers are women and they're usually in their mid-50s or older.

Spend 15 nights aboard Le Boreal on A&K's 17-night Antarctica, Falkland Islands and South Georgia expedition, departing Buenos Aires on December 17. It costs from US$US13,995 ($13,125) a person twin share; the single supplement costs from $US4195 for bookings by June 30. See abercrombiekent.com.au.

Elsewhere in the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean Cruises has noted the solo trend and is adding six single cabins to its Australian-based superliner Radiance of the Seas (prices yet to be announced).

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/activity/cruises/sailing-for-singles-20110527-1f7od.html#ixzz1NgsRi1jZ

Saturday 28 May 2011

Great American Riverboat Revival Planned

Source: Seatrade Insider

The American Queen, the largest steamboat ever built

A group of seasoned cruise, travel and ship operating veterans with a missionary zeal to revive riverboating in America have joined forces to create the Great American Steamboat Co. starting with the largest steamboat ever built.

The 436-passenger American Queen would begin operating in April next year on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

‘This would be the first of a fleet of coastal and river vessels under the US flag,’ company president Christopher Kyte told Seatrade Insider in an exclusive interview.

The Great American Steamboat Co. is close to finalizing its acquisition of the American Queen for a reported $15.5m. Built in 1995 for $60m by the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., the 418-foot vessel has been under the control of the US Maritime Administration since late 2008 after operating briefly for Ambassadors International’s defunct Majestic America Line.

Kyte said only that the asking price had been $28m and estimated it would cost $100m to build the American Queen today.

The new company plans cruises of three, five, seven and 10 nights from Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Chattanooga. Stops at historic towns and cities in America’s heartland, active excursions including hiking and biking and an emphasis on superb dining are highlighted. Rail-riverboat and rental car packages will be available.

Kyte, the founder and chairman of Uncommon Journeys, a specialist in train and ocean liner travel, is among the ardent ship buffs who comprise the management of the Memphis-based Great American Steamboat Co., which plans to open operations and reservations by Aug. 15.

John Waggoner, president and ceo of HMS Global Maritime, the operator of a vast flotilla of US-flag vessels from ferries to high-speed craft to riverboat casinos, will act as chairman. Delta Queen Steamboat Co. veterans Jeffrey Krida and Russ Varvel will serve as ceo and vp sales, respectively.

Kyte and the HMS group were bidding against each other for the American Queen when they decided to join forces. All share a passion for riverboats.

Krida had ordered the vessel’s construction when he led Delta Queen in the 1990s. It entered service in 1995 and later operated for American Classic Voyages and the Delaware North Companies before going to Ambassadors International.

Kyte described the American Queen’s condition as ‘excellent. The government did a beautiful job of keeping it.’ He said the vessel could be ready to sail in a matter of weeks but a three- to four-month drydock is planned that will add technological upgrades to improve operating efficiency.

The new owners also plan fresh touches like outdoor dining on the top deck, and the renowned American chef Regina Charboneau has been tapped as executive chef.

‘Food will be a centerpiece of the whole voyage, and hopefully what people go home remembering,’ said Kyte, describing the culinary concept as ‘really elegant, refined Southern cooking.’

While the vessel will be steeped in history, nostalgia and tradition, the company will provide active, contemporary features such as bikes on board to use in port, and fitness and wellness programs.

The Great American Steamboat Co. will market nationally and internationally. Agreements are being finalized for UK and Australasian representation. Within a year of American Queen operating, further vessels are envisioned.

Meanwhile, American Cruise Lines, which fields the 120-passenger Queen of the West on the Columbia and Snake rivers, is building its own classic paddlewheeler, Queen of the Mississippi, to enter service in August next year with seven-night cruises priced starting at $3,995. The vessel will carry 140 passengers, making it much smaller than the American Queen.

The Great American Steamboat Co. plans a range of voyage lengths with an entry price point for three-night cruises starting at under $1,000. Some short round-trips will satisfy demand for group business, Kyte said.

‘The more competition the better and the more awareness the better,’ he added. Even with the Queen of the Mississippi and the American Queen in operation, there will be roughly half the beds on the Mississippi as a decade ago. During the same period, the target market of over-55s has grown by 20m.

The Great American Steamboat Co. will focus on mature travelers seeking adventure with comfort. Rail-riverboat packages are planned, along with a Hertz program enabling passengers to drive to the boat and drop off their car.

Among the itineraries, a seven-night fall foliage cruise from St. Louis to St. Cloud will stop at colorful towns like Red Wing and Winona, with excursions offered to historic Galena in Illinois. ‘Sailing on embarkation day will be 9 or 10 p.m. so people can easily make same-day connections by air or train,’ Kyte said. Passengers could even attend a Cardinals game in St. Louis before embarking.

The American Queen has operated for several owners, but Kyte believes his group has the winning strategy. ‘It’s a passionate goal for everyone involved,’ he said, noting that Krida led Delta Queen ‘at its most popular and profitable time, in the mid-1990s.’

Waggoner had his eye on the American Queen even before Kyte himself, and he’d made a bid for the Cape Coastal ships some years ago.

As for Kyte, Uncommon Journeys is a master at packaging vacations focused on American history and culture. ‘We were always the top producer for the American Queen in every iteration, under Sam Zell in the 1990s and when Delaware North acquired it and American Classic Voyages,’ he said.

Memphis provides the perfect central location for the headquarters, as Kyte sees it, with half the American Queen’s itineraries sailing past, a good labor pool and a great hospitality school at the University of Memphis. ‘And city government, at all levels, really wanted to have us. They rolled out the red carpet in Memphis.’

Moreover, a new pier is ready to take the ship. Kyte described the Beale Street Landing as ‘glorious. It will trump anything on the river.’

He’s also inspired about creating hundreds of American jobs. ‘All up and down the river are great little towns like Madison, Indiana. A lot of heart and soul of those towns disappeared when these boats went away. It’s a huge amount of pride in bringing them back.’

Kyte called riverboats ‘a great American story. There’s nothing more iconic than what Mark Twain called floating wedding cakes. This is the stuff of dreams.’

Friday 27 May 2011

Visit Sydney Ice Bear and WIN a trip to the European Arctic with Aurora Expeditions!


Aurora Expeditions sponsors Sydney Ice Bear!

In conjunction with WWF Australia, 1millionwomen and Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Aurora Expeditions is proud to be sponsoring Sydney Ice Bear.

On 3 June 2011, world renowned sculptor, Mark Coreth, will carve a 9-tonne block of ice into a polar bear at Sydney's Customs House in time for World Environment Day to help raise awareness of climate change and its effect on the plight of the polar bear.

Aurora Expeditions invites you to visit the life-size melting ice sculpture between 3 - 10 June at Custom House Square, Circular Quay, to touch it, learn more about the plight of the polar bear and the need for action on climate change. Singer Katie Noonan will perform at a FREE World Environment Day celebration on Sunday 5 June between 12.30pm – 1.30pm.

Also, by supporting the Sydney Ice Bear or donating online at sydneyicebear.gofundraise.com.au you will have the chance to WIN a trip of a lifetime to the European Arctic with Aurora Expeditions, worth over $20,000, to explore the realm of the polar bear for yourself. Click here to enter!

For more information visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/sydneyicebear

Also, don't forget to check out our great European Arctic & Russian Arctic deals here! 

www.auroraexpeditions.com.au | +612 9252 1033 | info@auroraexpeditions.com.au

Two small ship cruise operators unveil new itineraries for 2012

Silversea Silver Explorer, formerly Prince Albert II

By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

This item was written by Johanna Jainchill of industry publication Travel Weekly. Jainchill is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.

Silversea Cruises is offering three new West Africa itineraries in later summer and fall 2012 on the 132-passenger Silver Explorer, the luxury line's expedition ship, formerly called the Prince Albert II.

On Sep. 16, 2012, the ship is scheduled to depart on a 17-day cruise from the Canary Islands to Accra, Ghana, calling in Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, before arriving in Ghana

From there the ship offers a 10-day round-trip cruise from Accra that visits Sao Tome, Sao Tome & Principe, Benin and Togo. The ship then departs on an 18-day trip to Cape Town, South Africa, calling in Angola, and Namibia before arriving in Cape Town.

Paul Gauguin Cruises' 332-passenger, Tahiti-based ship, the Paul Gauguin, will operate three new itineraries in 2012.

A 20-day South Pacific Discovery trip to Australia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and the Cook & Society Islands departs in January 2012 and combines a cruise with hotel stays.

Later that year, an 11-day Island of Whales trip departs Sept. 1 and will visit Rurutu, the "Island of Whales," at the height of whale-watching season, while the ship's 12- and 13-day Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Islands cruises depart in October and November.

Adventure Life Reviews New Amazon Luxury Cruise Ship M/V Aria

Aqua Expeditions MV Aria
The award-winning travel company Adventure Life is pleased to announce a series of Amazon cruises aboard M/V Aria, only the second luxury cruise ship to explore the northern Amazon River in Peru. The 147-foot luxury vessel was custom built by Peruvian architect Jordi Puig and completed in early 2011 to offer an extraordinary level of comfort and indulgence. Adventure life is offering 4, 5 and 8 day trips from May - December with prices starting at $2,550. For more information or to read Adventure Life reviews, visit www.adventure-life.com or call 800-344-6118.

"The M/V Aria offers one of the most intimate Amazon experiences available," said Adventure Life Operations Director Jonathan Brunger. "With a maximum of 32 guests plus crew, this ship provides extremely high-end dining and sleeping accommodations, and phenomenal access to Amazonian wildlife."

The M/V Aria offers a relaxed lounge, outdoor Jacuzzi, fitness center, gourmet cuisine and modern navigation technologies. The ship's 16 luxury suites each measure 240 square feet and feature sitting areas and large picture-windows with panoramic Amazon River views. Renowned Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has created an exclusive menu consisting of fresh Peruvian that promises to be a Peruvian culinary feast for the senses, paired with premium South American wines.

Click to view
brochure online
Adventure Life cruises aboard M/V Aria include guided jungle explorations; encounters with bald uakari monkeys, squirrel monkeys, saddleback tamarin monkeys, sloths and many other species; opportunities to photograph rare gray and pink freshwater dolphins; a visit into Pacaya-Samiria Reserve; encounters with locals in the native village of Puerto Miguel; and skiff excursions into the bowels of the Amazon forests. Here is a link to the full itinerary - www.adventure-life.com/cruises/ships/mv-aria-220/luxury-amazon-2277 or call 800-344-6118.

Australian travellers should contact Scenic Tours

Thursday 26 May 2011

Compagnie du Ponant keen to grow Aussie Market

Sourced from:
L'Austral heading down under in 2012
by Louise Goldsbury, Editor, Cruise Weekly

The French cruise line wants to carry 1000 Australian passengers a year by 2012.

LUXURY YACHT CRUISE OPERATOR, COMPAGNIE DU Ponant, is the latest to chase the Australian cruising market.

And the company is putting its money where its mouth is, with the newest addition to its fleet, L’Austral due to visit Australian waters in March next year for the first time.

L’Austral launched just last month and the company’s international sales director, Stephen Winter, recently visited Sydney to host events with Ponant’s local representative, Travel the World

“Now is a good time to create a buzz in the local market,” said Winter.

“Our objective is 1000 passengers by 2012out of Australia, combining both individuals and groups,” he told CW.

“We combine luxury and adventure with French style and cuisine”.

During a series of lunches earlier this month, Winter showcased the Ponant product for agents with the innovative use of iPads featuring on-board videos and images from the ships which have Swarovski crystal chandeliers, fine French cuisine and of course lots of flowing Champagne

Compagnie du Ponant had no business from Australia prior to 2009 and its partnership with TTW, but the past two years has been “an easy transition”, Winter said.

Next year the 132-cabin L’Austral will sail from Noumea to Darwin, with stops along the Gold Coast meaning Aussie cruisers will be able to see her up close.

The mega-yacht offers two restaurants, a sun deck with swimming pool and bar, day spa, crystal chandeliers and spacious staterooms with balconies.

“We combine luxury and adventure with French style and cuisine, we travel to exotic locales worldwide and we do it in small ships of maximum 260 guests,” Winter said

Compagnie du Ponant has four other luxury vessels - Le Ponant, Le Levant, Le Diamant and Le Boreal.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Aurora Expeditions Begin Voyages to Where Few Have Ever Been - The Russian Arctic and Russian Far East

Aurora Expeditions is once again pushing the boundaries of expedition travel with voyages to the Russian Arctic and Russian Far East; a land of complex history, unique cultures, inspiring landscapes and astounding wildlife.

Aurora Expeditions 'Voyage to the End of the Earth' is a 14-day adventure to the Russian Arctic departing Murmansk. Prices start from US$8,080 per person.

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

Last Minute offer – Aurora Expeditions are offering 15% off "Voyage to the End of the Earth"

 'The Ring Of Fire', our Russian Far East voyage,  will unlock the mysteries of the Kuril Islands, taking you deep into a wildlife and geological wonderland. Departing Petropavlovsk-Kamchatasky, this 13-day voyage will showcase the lush valleys, lakes and rivers, and snow capped volcanoes of Kamchatka's east coast. Brown bears feast on berries and salmon. Our fleet of Zodiacs will carry you to intimate viewings of spectacular seabird, Stellar sea lions, whales and otters and seal colonies. Prices start from US$7,250 per person.

Special offer – Aurora Expeditions are offering 10% off the Ring of Fire voyage!

Both voyages will set sail on Aurora Expeditions brand new ship, Akademik Shokalskiy. This ice-strengthened research ship was built in Finland in 1982. Fully refurbished in 2008, the ship provides accommodation for a maximum of 54 passengers as well as two dining rooms, lounge bar, lecture theatre, sauna and an 'Open Bridge' policy.

Aurora Expeditions' Russian Coastline voyages are staffed by premium expedition leaders, naturalists, historians and geologists and the Russian crew are keen to show off their country's natural beauty – delivering some of the finest expedition cruises in Russia.

Deeply committed to education and preservation of the environment, Aurora Expeditions' philosophy is to respectfully visit these wilderness areas, in turn creating ambassadors for their protection.

To view the full Russian Coast program visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

Contact our Expedition Experts at www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or call +61 2 9252 1033.

A New ALOHA! American Safari Cruises Celebrates Inaugural Season in Hawaii with Travel Credit Incentive

Hawaii bound vacationers have an extra incentive to book an inter-island yacht cruise aboard American Safari Cruises’ 36-guest Safari Explorer. To celebrate its inaugural season in Hawaii, the line is offering guests a $150 per person travel credit for reservations made from June through July 29, 2011.

Safari Spirit carries just 12 guests

Sailing weeklong or 10-night active, adventure itineraries between Maui and the Big Island from November 2011 through April 2012, the all-inclusive, upscale 36-guest Safari Explorer visits Moloka’i, Lana’i and Molokini.

Guests who book between June and July 29, 2011 will receive a travel credit of $150 per person or $300 per couple. The credit is intended to help guests defray air costs to the Hawaiian Islands where they will embark on their adventure cruise.

“We are confident guests will be thrilled with the experience of seeing and experiencing Hawaii up close on an upscale yacht,” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “This is a brand new vacation option in the Hawaiian Islands, and we hope the travel credit aids in the decision-making process to try an adventure un-cruise in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

Jacox says the un-cruise defines the active, up close and personal style of adventure travel that makes American Safari Cruises different from other cruise vacations. The Safari Explorer is the only small-group expedition yacht offering overnight cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

Flexible yacht itineraries focus on the leeward side of the eastern-most Hawaiian Islands. The unstructured itinerary allows time for seeking wildlife such as Manta rays, dolphins and humpback whales. Outfitted for active adventures, the yacht’s well stocked water sports equipment includes kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, wet suits, sailboats and inflatable skiffs for up-close excursions. Guided snorkeling tours are a highlight throughout the trip. Two knowledgeable expedition leaders guide hiking and kayaking tours. Bicycles are also available for guest use on Moloka’i and Lana’i.

Exclusive cultural tours have been arranged for guests in Moloka’i including guided hikes, visiting and restoring a family’s ancient taro terraces, “talking story” with native Hawaiians and a private, authentic Hawaiian pa’ina (feast).

The Safari Explorer has an on-deck hot tub, sauna, exercise equipment, a wine library and two large-screen TVs in the main salon. Exceptional cuisine is prepared with fresh, local ingredients and the complimentary bar offers premium spirits, fine wines and microbrews. The active spa environment includes a complimentary massage and yoga classes. All staterooms offer Tempur-pedic mattresses, flat screen TV/DVD players and iPod docks. Upper category staterooms feature Jacuzzi tubs and suites have private step-out balconies.

Fares start at $4,995 for the seven-night cruise and $6,495 for the 10-night cruise, both per person, double occupancy. Itineraries feature exclusive excursions and include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; exquisite meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews; and all port charges, taxes and fees. An all-American crew has a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1 and includes Hawaii residents who have personal knowledge of the islands. To book a Hawaiian yachting adventure or to request additional information, contact your travel agent or American Safari Cruises at 888-862-8881 or sales@americansafaricruises.com. Mahalo.

In Australia: Ultimate Cruising 1300 662 943

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Cruise Weekly: Blue Lagoon Cruises to New Islands

"Warriors" perform a meke at Daliconi school (Roderick Eime)
Location: Lomaloma Village, Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau Group, Fiji Islands
17°17'32"S 178°59'12"W

It’s always an exciting time when an established adventure cruise operator announces something new. Established Fiji small ship line, Blue Lagoon Cruises, announced earlier this year they would conduct the first ever cruise visit to the Northern Lau Group, way out east of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island.

The usual small ship stops of Taveuni, Kioa, Rabi, Levuka and Qamea now includes the island of Vanua Balavu with village visits at Sawana, Lomaloma and Daliconi, places all but unheard of on the tourist map. More than 100 little islands and atolls are spread throughout the group, but less than one third are inhabited.

The little school at Daliconi has our 50 passengers and crew clapping wildly as the kids put on a performance of traditional dances that they’ve been rehearsing for weeks. When the formalities are done, carton after carton of donated books are hauled up to the school house while passengers hand out caps, t-shirts and toothbrushes.

Even for adventure cruises the experience is pretty raw, but the excitement of locals at the school and later at the Tongan village of Sawana is palpable, with the later turning on a lavish morning tea and mini Polynesian dance festival.

Polynesian maidens at Sawana, near Lomolomo, Vanua Balavu. (Roderick Eime)

The sparsely populated Lau Group is historically significant for several reasons. It is the birthplace of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the first prime minister of Fiji and founding father of modern Fiji. It also has a tradition of trade and ‘diplomacy’ between Melanesian Fiji and Polynesian Tonga. That ‘diplomacy’ includes several episodes of war and was the hideout for the famous Tongan chief and warlord Ma’afu in the mid-1850s.

Credit to Blue Lagoon Cruises (BLC) for quietly whittling away at a long-standing policy of non-engagement with the corrupting influences of tourism established early on by Kamisese Mara. I’d say that tourism as we know it will take a long time to establish in the Lau Group, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Currently just one or two modest guest houses and homestays are serviced by a single 18-seater aircraft weekly. The ferry? The word brings both bemusement and resignation. It apparently almost never calls.

Newly installed BLC CEO, Tim Stonhill, has picked up the cruise line and given it new vigour after drifting slightly off course a couple years ago. Immediately noticeable is the quality and consistency of the food and dining experience - a quantum leap from my 2009 experience.

Now on the longer voyages is the monohull MV Mystique Princess, a 1996-built, 57m vessel with 36 spacious twin cabins. She travels well at sea and is holding up despite her age yet Stonhill is keen to get a refit and refurb under way for the BLC glamour flagship as part of his fleet-wide upgrade plan.

MV Mystique Princess (Roderick Eime)
The Historical and Cultural Cruise runs again on 15 August and 14 November 2011. See www.bluelagooncruises.com

Getting to Fiji

Air Pacific, Fiji’s national airline has been connecting the world with the South Pacific for 60 years, awarded ‘Best Airline in the South Pacific’ by readers of Global Traveler Magazine for the third year running. Whether traveling in Tabua (Business) Class or Pacific Voyager (Economy) Class the natural island warmth of the cabin crew will ensure the journey to the destination begins with a smile. Air Pacific’s fleet of Boeing 747’s, 767 and 737’s fly from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Nadi and beyond to Honolulu, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Auckland, Christchurch, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati. All flights allow a Fiji stopover and include complimentary meals, beverages, checked baggage and in-flight entertainment.

Air Pacific flies daily from Sydney to Nadi (from $468 AUD pp excl taxes return) and Brisbane (from $448 AUD pp excl taxes return) and four services per week from Melbourne (from $608 AUD pp excl taxes return).

For more information or to book your flight call 1800 230 150 or visit www.airpacific.com

Midway Atoll - The Ultimate Albatross Paradise

Laysan Albatross © WantExpeditions

Despite its notorious role in WWII, Midway Atoll boasts the largest assemblage of tropical birds AND the largest Albatross colony in the world! An insular territory of the US, Midway is comprised of three islands, Sand, Eastern and Spit, and in 1988 was designated a National Wildlife Refuge. Today nearly 3 million individual birds breed and nest on virtually every square foot of available habitat, so don't be surprised to wake up to a resident albatross awaiting you on your doorstep. Also on the Monument, we'll discover the second most endangered seal –the Hawaiian monk seal, rearing their young on Midway's beaches.

One also can't forget the hundreds of threatened Green Turtles growing up to 400lbs that haul out to rest on island shores. Plus the resident pod of nearly 300 spinner dolphins will entertain you each day with an acrobatic show of antics and beauty as they frolic in the nearby waters. With snorkel gear we'll explore a complex community of coral reef fishes and invertebrates of over 250 species flourishing in the Monument's protected waters.

On this trip we'll also play a direct role in conservation by participating in habitat restoration and beach clean ups, as that the Monument suffers a great deal from debris drifting in from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So, whether it's the water, wildlife or history you seek, Papahānaumokuākea's calling is different for each person, but one thing is for sure, Midway Atoll is certain not to disappoint. Join us on this fantastic tour to a wildlife paradise few have visited!

Our historic voyage in Feb 2012 can take only 16 people and we are offering USD 750.- OFF for the last 4 spaces, in order to be able to close this trip for bookings and start arranging all necessary details with the park services.




Basecamp Plancius

- Special voyages to a once forbidden land -
24th May 2011 – Imagine what it would be like to spend the night camping under the stars in the most remote location on earth. Or coming face-to-face with a humpback whale as you kayak through crystal clear waters. How about scaling a mountain that few have seen, let alone climbed?

Antarctic expedition specialists, Wild Earth Travel, are offering a truly different way to experience Antarctica through their 'Basecamp Plancius' voyages. Instead of moving from site to site as is usually the case with most Antarctic cruises, these unique expeditions on board the ice-strengthened MV Plancius, will stay for two or three days at specific locations with the ship acting as a 'base camp', giving adventurous travellers the chance to experience a wide range of activities including mountain climbing, glacier walking, hiking and snowshoeing, field camping, and sea kayaking.

Two to three camping nights will be offered on each voyage, and all passengers will have the opportunity to try kayaking at least once on one of the full days of kayak excursions planned on each trip. On designated snowshoe/hiking voyages, easy, moderate and more demanding walks are offered to suit everyone's capability. Three to four glacier excursions are planned per voyage and climbers who wish to reach higher grounds will be able to take advantage of at least one outing.

All activities are conducted by experienced guides and most do not require any specialist technical skills. All equipment is provided. For those who do not wish to be quite so adventurous, there is a full program of zodiac and land excursions. Workshops with a professional photographer are also offered for both beginners and advanced photographers.

The focus of these expeditions is on a deeper exploration of the Antarctic continent, with a detailed education program delivered by a team of lecturers and field experts in marine biology, geography, geology, glaciology, ornithology and history.

The MV Plancius was specially built for oceanographic exploration and completely refurbished in 2009 to accommodate 114 passengers in comfortable cabins with private facilities. A spacious observation lounge and bar has large windows offering full panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Ten inflatable craft and two gangways guarantee swift landing operations, meaning greater time ashore. The ship also has an open bridge policy where passengers can join the officers and learn about navigation, watch for wildlife, and enjoy the view.

Prices start from AU$6,463/NZ$8,797 and include all regular activities.

Wild Earth Travel has one of the most comprehensive ranges of small ship Antarctic expeditions available in the southern hemisphere with a wide selection of vessels and itineraries covering areas from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Ross Sea and Commonwealth Bay.

For further information call 0800 WILDEARTH (within NZ), +64 3 365 1355 (outside NZ) or visit www.wildearth-travel.com

About Wild Earth Travel

New Zealand-based Wild Earth Travel specialises in small ship expedition style travel focused on conservation and educational travel experiences. Whether you want to kayak with dolphins, march with the penguins, see the northern lights or sip Chianti beneath the vines, Wild Earth Travel has a cruise to suit in destinations such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Africa, Asia, North & Latin America, Northern & Southern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Polar Star Expeditions Closes

by Kevin Griffin - The Cruise Examiner

Last Tuesday, Polar Star Expeditions’ parent company Karlsen Shipping Co Ltd announced in Halifax that it has ceased trading. At the request of the Toronto Dominion Bank, which is owed about $4.6 million, PricewaterhouseCoopers have now been appointed as receivers to the assets of Karlsen Shipping.

A further $750,000 is said to be owed to Norway’s Sparebank. The company’s chief asset is the 100-berth icebreaker Polar Star, which it purchased from the Swedish Government in 2000 and has been operating as an expedition cruise ship since 2001.

Polar Star has not had an easy time of it of late. Last year, the vessel having lost one of its engines, had to operate part of the season on just one.

Then, on January 31 this year she hit an uncharted rock at Detaille Island in the Antarctic and breached her outer hull. Three ships that were in the vicinity evacuated her passengers and part of her crew but she lost the rest of her 2010/11 Antarctic season and had to go to Las Palmas for repairs.

Now, Spanish authorities have seized the ship against a $1.4 million bill for the repairs in Las Palmas, where she remains. And the ship’s twenty-seven crew, under the leadership of Cap Jacek Lisiecki, have set up a web site to try to raise funds to repatriate them. They are said to be owed $250,000 in back wages, as they have not been paid for three months.

Meanwhile, operators such as Oceanwide and Quark have been making offers to book passengers who had previously been reserved on the Polar Star to cruise in Spitsbergen this summer. It is now unclear as to whether any charter can still be made, even by the receivers, with Spitsbergen Travel, who normally charter her during the summer months.

Out-Of-The-Way Ports take Center Stage on Compagnie du Ponant’s 2011 Boston-Montreal Fall Foliage Sailings

Ponant's brand new Le Boreal

Luxury yacht cruise company Compagnie du Ponant has announced one of the most extensive Fall Foliage itineraries available from any cruise line – with 11 ports of call, nine of them in Canada, and several only accessible to the yacht-size ships.

Highlights include the small village of Perce, near the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula; Tadoussac, the oldest surviving French settlement in the Americas; Magdalen Islands, home to descendants of the more than 400 shipwrecks in the archipelago; and, of course, the historic cities of Boston, Quebec City and Montreal. The 11-day itinerary, aboard the luxury mega-yacht Le Boréal, sails from Boston to Montreal on Sept. 16, 2011, with the reverse itinerary departing on Sept. 26. Fares of $4,312 to $11,408 per person, double are currently 20% below brochure fares ($5,390 to $14,260) due to the company’s unique Ponant Bonus program – the more in advance the booking, the greater the savings.

Compagnie du Ponant is also offering a $400 per stateroom shipboard credit for new guests booking by May 31, 2011.

Ponant’s philosophy is front and center on this cruise as it is on all of them: sailings designed for the traveler who prefers to explore off-the-beaten–-path, unspoiled destinations. The New England and Eastern Canadian fall foliage is truly a never-ending panorama of colors and offers a wonderful opportunity for the guests to get both a taste of the season’s beauty and the advantages of the intimate environment of yacht travel.
The one-year-old, 264-passenger Le Boréal sets sail from Boston to spend a day in Bar Harbour, where guests can opt to explore this very-Maine of destinations on their own or take an optional tour of Acadia National Park.

In Halifax, the cultural center of the Atlantic Provinces, a tour to the 60-person seaside village of Peggy’s Cove is available, while North America’s largest historical reconstruction, the 18th-century Fortress of Louisbourg, is the main attraction in Louisbourg. Bird lovers get an eyeful on the optional Gannet Colony Walk just outside of Perce on Bonnaventure Island – 250,000 of them to be more specific. Havre St. Pierre is the jump off point for a boat ride through some of the 30 islands and 1,000 islets and reefs of the Mingan Archipelago, and a long stop in Saguenay, considered to be the province’s most beautiful area, offers time to explore its national park and stroll along it river.

The sailing comes to an end with back to back visits to two of Canada’s most prized cities: Quebec City is a jewel on the St. Lawrence River while 400-year-old Montreal has a foot in the old and new, mixing Gallic tradition with a non-stop nightlife. Both cities offer a litany of things to do and sites to see – taking in the old towns with their cobblestone streets and European flair; visiting any of the dozens of galleries and museums; dining at world-class restaurants; or shopping to the heart’s delight along Quebec’s Petit Champlain and Montreal’s Saint-Paul Street.

Designed in a seamless blend of tradition and innovation, Le Boreal boasts two restaurants specializing in both haute and country French, several spacious lounges, a fully-equipped Carita spa, a theater, a games area, two open-air bars, a swimming pool, a library, a fitness area and a staff to guest ratio of greater than 1:2. The 132 well-appointed cabins, 124 with private balconies, have king size or twin beds, a desk, minibar, dressing table, marble baths with showers, L’Occitane products and all the latest technology, including flat screen satellite TVs and Wi-Fi. Both ships employ advanced waste water treatment, reduced fuel consumption, lower exhaust emissions and dynamic positioning to reduce environmental impact.

Included in all sailings are all meals (wine, beer and soda during meals included), entertainment, excursions, Captain’s welcome and farewell parties and 24-hour room service. Lectures, guides, naturalists and expedition leaders are included on select sailings. Port charges/taxes, gratuities and transfers are additional.
Established in 1988 by Jean Emmanuel Sauvée and Philippe Videau, Compagnie du Ponant is a division of CMA CGM, the world’s third largest container shipping group. (www.ponant.com)

Victoria Cruises Adds Cultural Excursion

Victoria Cruises’ has redesigned ships and added a new excursion

Victoria Cruises, which has redesigned and rechristened the Victoria Liana, Victoria Selina and Victoria Prince, is launching a new shore excursion to Guqin Terrace in Wuhan, China, for 2011 sailings of its eight-night Three Gorges Discovery program in the upstream direction. It replaces the Hubei Provincial Museum on upstream sailings for a limited time through the 2011 sailing season.

Gugin Tai, or Heptachord Terrace, is on the bank of the Moon Lake, with dramatic scenery surrounding a teahouse and arboretum, commemorates the ancient legend of the friendship between famous musician heptachordist, Yu Boya, who lived here between 770 and 476 B.C., and a woodcutter, Zhong Ziqi, who gave him the appreciation of his music that musicians dream of. Zhong Ziqi died before they could meet a second time, and Yu Boya played, once again, by his friend’s grave and smashed his heptachord, never to play again.

“Guqin Terrace is quite remarkable both in terms of scenic beauty and historical intrigue,” said Larry Greenman, manager of public relations for Victoria Cruises. “Our guests will find the Terrace's peaceful setting exceptionally relaxing while absorbing its colorful background and developing an appreciation for one of the world’s oldest and most unique instruments.”

Victoria Cruise are represented in Australia by Helen Wongs Tours

Monday 23 May 2011

Travel Weekly: Orion Increases PNG Voyages

Travel Weekly: How is Orion's cruise program for Papua New Guinea (PNG) shaping up for 2012?

Sarina Bratton: For the first time both Orion ships will visit PNG in 2012. The two ships have been chartered by US organisations for the Solar Eclipse off Port Douglas. The Orion II will have her maiden call in Australia in November 2012 (as part of this charter), and then we will operate from Cairns to Rabaul on our established 11-night PNG Cultural Highlights itinerary, followed by an exciting inaugural Micronesia expedition departing Rabaul and including Tingwon and Manus en-route to the Micronesian islands and Palau.

Read the rest of this interview


Aurora Expeditions Provides $20,000 Trip of a Lifetime with ‘European Arctic Adventure’ Prize

Visitors to Sydney Ice Bear at Customs House Square from Friday 3 June to Friday 10 June will experience first-hand the impact of the human footprint on our natural world. The life-sized ice sculpture of a polar bear will melt over the first three to four days after its installation, as members of the public touch the sculpture, revealing its skeleton – an apt metaphor for the plight of this endangered species.

A lucky Sydney Ice Bear supporter will win the trip of a lifetime to the European Arctic to explore the realm of the polar bear for themselves. Expedition cruise company Aurora Expeditions has provided the prize, the Spitsbergen Odyssey, a cruise for two valued at more than $20,000 including airfares, airport transfers, ship accommodation and shore excursions in July 2012. The cruise explores the coast of Spitsbergen, encountering deep fjords, abandoned whaling settlements, pack ice and wildlife such as seals, walrus, whales and polar bears during the voyage.

“We’re pleased to support Sydney Ice Bear, in raising awareness of the need to preserve and protect our natural environment. Nowhere is the need for action on climate change more evident than in the Arctic. Every year the Arctic temperature increases at almost twice the rate of anywhere else, causing sea ice cover to decline, affecting the habitat of polar bears and other animals, and the Inuit people who rely on them,” Lisa Bolton, CEO , Aurora Expeditions said.

The public will have the opportunity to enter the Aurora Expeditions competition from Monday 23 May to Friday 17 June online at www.facebook.com/sydneyicebear or at the Sydney Ice Bear stand, Customs House Square from 3-10 June. For more details about Aurora Expeditions’ voyages to wild and remote areas of the world visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au

“We like to think of our passengers as lifelong ambassadors for the preservation and protection of these sacred places. Sydney Ice Bear gives everyone the opportunity to experience that level of awareness,” Ms Bolton said.

The second prize winner will receive a Luxury Weekend at Sydney Harbour Marriott with 2 nights in a deluxe Opera view room and full buffet breakfast valued at $1630 while the third prize winner will receive a family pass to Sea World to visit the only polar bears in Australia, including a special “Behind the Scenes Tour” of Polar Bear Shores with one of Sea World’s passionate and knowledgeable Polar bear carers. Two runners up will also win family passes to Sea World to get up close with the polar bears.

The public will be encouraged to touch and be photographed with Sydney Ice Bear, the creation of British sculptor, Mark Coreth, and also attend the free World Environment Day celebration on Sunday 5 June to hear music and speakers urging the need for positive action now on climate change.

Supported by the Purves Environmental Fund, Sydney Ice Bear will raise much-needed funds for the three partner environmental organisations, WWF-Australia, 1 million women and Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). Each of the three groups will have information booths in Customs House Square, providing information about personal action on climate change. To donate visit sydneyicebear.gofundraise.com.au

Sydney Ice Bear is sponsored by the City of Sydney, The Sydney Morning Herald, Aurora Expeditions, Cafe Sydney and Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel. Supporters include Sea World, Climate Friendly, greentomatorcars, International Conservation Services and Momentum2. Sydney Ice Bear thanks Vivid Sydney for its cooperation.

Polar Star captain claims crew is stranded in Spain

The Canadian operator of the 105-passenger Polar Star, damaged after striking an uncharted rock in Antarctica in January, went into receivership this week. And the captain of the expedition ship said the move left the 27-member crew stranded in Spain, where the vessel underwent repairs.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday placed Halifax-based Karlsen Shipping Co. Ltd., parent company of Polar Star Expeditions, in the hands of receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc., reports the Halifax Chronicle Herald. The longtime Antarctica operator was reportedly millions of dollars in debt.

Read Full Story

Saturday 21 May 2011

Aqua Expeditions’ New River-Cruiser, M/V Aria, Sets Sail

The M/V Aria, Aqua Expeditions’ second luxury river-cruiser on the Peruvian Amazon, set sail this past Friday on its maiden voyage with 21 passengers aboard. The brand-new addition to the Aqua Expeditions fleet features 16 specially designed cabins with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, a fully air-conditioned top deck with observation lounge as well as the Aqua Expeditions’ signature Amazon Grill with menu designed by award-winning Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.

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

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

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

Bargains for late-season Cruisers

As the Mediterranean swings into bustling cruise mode, Star Clippers is offering some exotic sailings for those who choose to travel in the quieter late-season months of September and October.
The three tall ships of the Star Clippers' fleet -- the flagship Royal Clipper (227 passengers and 106 crew) and the two smaller sister ships Star Flyer and Star Clipper (170 passengers and 70 crew)  -- will operate the end-of-season cruises from ports including Rome, Athens, Cannes and Monaco.
Two bargain-priced seven-night cruises on Star Flyer on October 1 (Monaco to Cannes) and October 8 (Cannes to Malaga) start at $2350 including 25 percent discount for bookings before June 30.
On September 3 Star Clipper has a special seven-night fly/cruise from Athens to the Greek Isles and Turkey from $4869 including a 25 percent discount for bookings before June 30. The price includes return airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide with Emirates.
Royal Clipper will sail from Civitavecchia (Rome) on September 3 for seven nights to Ponza, Sorrento, Capri, Taormina, Lipari and Stromboli. (Fly-cruise from $5709). On October 8 the same fly/cruise starts at $4649 with a 25 percent early booking discount.
On October 15 Royal Clipper operates a 12-nights cruise from Rome to Lisbon calling at ports in Italy, Spain, Morocco and Portugal from $5300 cruise-only. A 50 percent discount for children may apply.
All three clipper ships combine the thrill of traditional sailing with the ambience, service and facilities of a private  high-tech yacht.
For reservations contact your travel agent or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or email:starclippers@creativecruising.com.au <mailto:starclippers@creativecruising.com.au>
www.starclippers.com <http://www.starclippers.com>



MS Mekong Sun - now running the upper Mekong
Active Travel has released its 2011-2012 Great Riverboat Journeys brochure with a comprehensive selection of cruises and cruise packages featuring the Irrawaddy, Chindwin, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mekong rivers.  The specialist Asian cruise operator reports an increase in enquiries for the upper Mekong, running between Thailand and Laos, perhaps as a reaction to the increasing 'busyness' of the popular Siem Reap-Saigon section of the river.

Among its wide choice of Mekong options is a 7-day tour showcasing the best of this remote and unspoiled region. Highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Luang Prabang, a 5-day cruise on the MV Mekong Sun, the celebrated Pak Ou caves and the Kuang Si waterfalls. Included in the cost is a free night's pre-cruise accommodation in Luang Prabang in a traditional guest house. There are regular departures from July, with prices from E785 (A$1060) per person, twin share. Breakfast is included each day, along with lunch and dinner whilst cruising.

The MV Mekong Sun is an intimate teakwood vessel purpose-built for this shallow stretch of the river. Accommodation is in 14 twin-bedded cabins, with ensuite facilities, and there's a restaurant, bar and spacious sundeck.

For further information call Active Travel in Sydney (02) 9264 1231 or Canberra (02) 6249 6122.

Or visit www.activetravel.com.au

Orion II Ryukyu Islands expedition - fugu, samurai and onsen

Orion II inaugural Ryukyu Islands expedition 
Join the specialist expedition team onboard the newly re-fitted Orion II for her maiden Ryukyu Islands voyage; explore from Japan through the rarely visited sub-tropical Ryukyu Islands to the Philippines and Sabah.  

This 14 night voyage – with special pricing equivalent to a 10 night voyage - features diverse elements for adventurous spirits seeking cultural experiences far removed from the predictable tourist hotspots of Asia, including two destinations unique to this voyage, Shimonoseki and Kagoshima, plus a visit to Coron Palawan in the Philippines, the first by a foreign ship. 

Guests can try their hand at the fine art of preparing Fugu – poisonous puffer fish, (Fugu sashimi washed down with sake anyone?), warm their feet in a volcanic heated foot bath, explore an impressive cave and underground river system and remove their clothes and inhibitions in a very elegant private hot spring onsen (public bath).  

Active volcanoes and traditional samurai castles contrast with beautiful bays and islands perfect for snorkelling and diving, while a buffalo cart ride across tidal flats, cultural performances, art galleries and exploring a little township with bars and cafes example other dimensions to this voyage. 

Reminders of World War II abound, including visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as a fascinating Kamikaze museum and, in Okinawa, a former Japanese Imperial Navy HQ underground tunnel command centre.  

The significant red Shuri Castle has many ancient links to the unique system of paying tribute to both Japanese and Chinese emperors and an archaeological dig site guests may visit contains some of the oldest human remains found in Asia. 

Orion II's visit to Coron Palawan will be celebrated with welcoming cultural displays, performances and interaction. Guests will have time for snorkelling, relaxing in hot springs, a village visit and scenic Zodiac cruising to capture the dramatic sunset.  
This voyage features:
  • Unique Japan content in Kagoshima and Shimonoseki
  • WWII History in Okinawa
  • Unique sub-tropical Japan including snorkelling in Iriomote
  • Unique Ryukyu Culture in Okinawa
  • Filipino culture in Baguio and Coron
  • Snorkelling and beaches in Puerto Galera and Coron
  • Volcano and hot springs in Kagoshima
  • Hot Springs in Coron
  • Exclusive art gallery access in Kagoshima
  • Incredible art gallery access in Baguio at BenCab
  • Fugu fish cuisine in Shimonoseki; Filipino banquet in Baguio
  • First foreign ship to visit Coron
Lecturers in the expedition team include: 

Amy Loewen - Japan expert, many years of experience leading groups in Japan
Grace Winer - expert geologist to provide interpretation on the regions stunning and active geology
Justin Friend to lecture on Filipino and Ryukyu cultures
Expedition Leader Alastair Newton with many years experience in the region

2011 Ryukyu Islands Voyage of Discovery: 

28 July 2011: 14 nights, KOBE, Hiroshima, Shimonoseki, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Ryukyu Islands - Okinawa, Iriomote Island – San Fernando (for Baguio), Puerto Galera, Coron , KOTA KINABALU 

14 night fares from $8,150 per person for an Ocean Suite
Junior Suites begin from 10,400 per person
Balcony Suites are $14,700 per person
Penthouse Suites are $16,400 per person
All prices twin share.

This voyage is essentially repeated with some additional content as Shanghai to Borneo in 2012. 
Details of itinerary available at http://www.orionexpeditions.com/expeditions/japan/voyage_summary  

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

For reservations or to obtain a brochure of 2011 or 2012 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.  

Email: info@orionexpeditions.com 

Monday 16 May 2011

Ocean Magazine - Ocean Cruising - Issue 37

Open publication Mentioned: Kimberley Cruising, Hanse Explorer, Heritage Expeditions, Wrangell Island, Silhouette Cruises Seychelles, Orion, AdventureSmith, Alaska, Oceanwide, Japan, Borneo

Sunday 15 May 2011

The Galapagos - "It's not a cruise - it's an expedition"

About a year ago my wife and I decided we'd really like to visit the Galapagos - after all it had a fundamental influence on Darwin's "Origin of the Species" and is home to a wide variety of unique wildlife. As we investigated the idea we decided that since Ecuador and Peru are (relatively) close, it made sense to combine a the Galapagos trip with a tour of Peru.

A Galapagos tour is best done by boat, and we considered a number of options - small catamaran, sailboat or larger tour ship. Which would be best?

Read Full Report

Saturday 14 May 2011

Editor on assignment until 23 May

Expeditioncruising.com editor, Roderick Eime, will be on assignment until 23 May aboard Blue Lagoon Cruises' Mystique Princess on their Historical and Cultural Cruise.

While I will use every opportunity to update these pages, there may be some lulls while away.


Friday 13 May 2011

Gap Adventures Offers Discount on Early Season Sailings to Antarctica

Travellers save $1000 on select bookings aboard the M/S Expedition.

To celebrate the launch of the upcoming Antarctic sailing season, Gap Adventures, the world's adventure travel leader, announces an early bird sale. Travellers who book on the first two sailings of the Antarctica Classic in-Depth tour, departing November 7 and 18, will receive a $1000 discount.

"We're excited to introduce the new Antarctic cruising season," says Will Bennett, Gap Adventures' director of operations aboard the M/S Expedition. "A visit to Earth's southernmost continent is truly a once in a lifetime experience, filled with many opportunities to see and photograph breathtaking scenery and extraordinary wildlife."

The sale applies to category one to three cabins only. Promo code: early_season_ant_2011_1000.

"The early season saving is one of many examples of our ongoing commitment to lead with service," adds Bennett. "We offer the best value and most affordable pricing in the industry."

The 13-day expedition introduces explorers to the magic of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. Arriving in the coldest, driest, and windiest continent is part of the reward for navigating the Drake Passage. Gap Adventures' expert guides and lecturers – including Frank S. Todd, one of the most recognized authorities in the world of penguins – provide knowledge and insights that really bring the nature and history of the region to life, and serve to create an adventure of a lifetime.

For more information on the sale and tour, visit http://www.gapadventures.com/ms-expedition-cruises/antarctica-cruises/.

Additional Savings

Travellers visiting Antarctica with plenty of time who wish to explore Ushuaia and experience the culture of Buenos Aires enjoy 25 per cent off pre or post-cruise flight and hotel add-ons. Arctic travellers exploring the frosty north also receive the same discount (25 per cent) on pre and post-cruise flight add-ons to and from Longyearbyen.

For more information on the add-ons and sale, visit http://www.gapadventures.com/ms-expedition-cruises/.

Thursday 12 May 2011

50 Degrees North Releases Unique Small Ship Exploring West Coast of Greenland - S/V 'Rembrandt van Rijn'


Travel operator and Nordic specialist 50 Degrees North has just released new Greenland West Coast voyages on board a newly fitted 34 passenger sailing vessel. S/V 'Rembrandt van Rijn' was built as a herring lugger early last century and has undergone a complete rebuilding and refurbishment program in 2011. It will be introduced to Greenland for the Arctic summer of 2012, providing a much needed small expedition vessel for this region.

Highlights of the voyages in Greenland include whale safaris with possible sightings of narwhals, icebergs, hot springs, incredibly birdlife and an insight into the Inuit culture. An 8 day voyage on the S/V 'Rembrandt van Rijn' is priced from AU$ 2230 for twin share private cabins with portholes.

S/V 'Rembrandt van Rijn' was rebuilt as a three-mast passenger sailing schooner in The Netherlands in 1994 and sailed in Spitsbergen (1994 – 1996) and in Galapagos (1998 - 2001). The vessel underwent a complete rebuilding and refurbishment program in 2011. The communication and navigation equipment has been completely revamped according to the latest SOLAS regulations.

The 'Rembrandt' measures 56 meters in length (168 ft.), 7 meters in width and has a draft of 2, 5 meters. The maximum engine speed is 9 knots. She has an experienced crew of 10 on board including two expedition guides. The vessel can accommodate a maximum of 34 passengers in 17 twin cabins (1 twin cabin with porthole - shared shower and toilet), 6 twin private inside cabins (with shower and toilet, no porthole), 10 twin private cabins (with shower, toilet and porthole). A spacious restaurant on board the vessel allows all passengers to have their meals at the same time. The vessel furthermore consists of a separate bar including a reading table. The ship is well suited for expedition cruising among small islands and offers good open deck viewing areas, even when under sail. The inflatable rubber crafts (zodiacs) enable landing and wildlife viewing opportunities in otherwise inaccessible areas.

Small ship expedition cruising and wildlife fans can visit www.fiftydegreesnorth.com for more information. For more details, contact 50 Degrees North - brochure e-mail: info@fiftydegreesnorth.com.

About 50 Degrees North:

50 Degrees North Pty Ltd is a wholesale travel operator specialising on the area north of the 50th parallel north, as well as Antarctica (50 degrees south). The company is fully licensed, and a full member of the Travel Compensation Fund.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Kimberley Quest Cruise Deal

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises offers "summer sail" 15% discount for Kimberley coast adventures

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises has launched what it is calling a Summer Sail for its Kimberley coast cruises on the boutique Kimberley Quest II, just weeks before the start of winter.

PSCC is offering a 15 per cent discount on remaining cabins for the seven-day Southern Quest package operating between Mitchell Plateau and Broome over the winter-spring June-September 2011 season.

The deal means the price of the seven-day cruise is from $7093 per person twin share (normally from $8345) which includes cabin with ensuite, 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, scenic light aircraft Broome-Mitchell Plateau flight and helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls in the transfer to the 18-passenger Kimberley Quest II.

Excursions to waterfalls (like King Cascade), rock pools, rock art, whale spotting, fishing and scenic tender excursions to the likes of must-see Horizontal Falls and Montgomery Reef are on the itinerary.

Cruising between destinations, there is plenty of time to take in the view from the spa on the forward deck or find a shady spot to read.

Contact: Tel 08 9193 6131, or see www.kimberleyquest.com.au

Why the Summer Sail tag?

Comment from Director, Lynne Ralston: "We have applied the summer tag because of summer-like weather the northern part of the continent experiences during this season. We'll be experiencing temperatures in the low to mid thirties and hopefully it will persuade chilling southerners to see this spectacular 'wow' piece of Australia in the most accommodating weather."