Wednesday 30 November 2011

Woman claims she was imprisoned on cruise ship for 12 years

An Australian resident has told ABC's Lateline TV program the Church of Scientology imprisoned her on its cruise ship The Freewinds.

1968-built, 360-passenger cruise ship,
The Freewinds, is operated by
the Church of Scientology
Valeska Paris says the Church of Scientology's leader David Miscavige sent her to the ship when she was 18, to prevent her mother taking her away from Scientology.

Ms Paris says she ended up being on the ship for over a decade, and was unable to leave The Freewinds for the first six years without an escort.

She has also described the church's leader David Miscavige as a psychopath and says he should be put on trial.

Read the full report

Saturday 26 November 2011

Tourists' iceberg dilemma

An iceberg the size of the ACT is
blocking access to Mawson's Hut.
by Craig Hoggett | The Mercury

TOURISTS forking out top dollar to visit Mawson's Hut for centenary celebrations this summer are likely to face disappointment as the "Antarctic factor" heaves an enormous icy obstacle in ships' paths.

Expedition cruise ship MV Orion is due to start its 19-night Southern Ocean voyage on Thursday, with prices for the 100 passengers starting at $19,365 a person.

Orion expedition leader Don McIntyre said the Antarctic always had challenges but an iceberg the size of the ACT blocking access was "unique".

"Whilst it's not looking good, no one will know until we get there," Mr McIntyre said.

"We always maintain a simple philosophy we work with the Antarctic factor. You cannot dictate terms with Antarctica, it lets you in at its pleasure you have to work with it, you can't fight it."

A 2500 sq km tabular iceberg was part of a much larger ice mass that broke free from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987 but subsequently broke up as it drifted westwards.

Parts of the "B9B" iceberg have grounded on the approach to the Mawson's Hut site at Commonwealth Bay.

Read Full Story

Friday 25 November 2011

Quick, your tea is getting cold

Dear Expedition Cruisers,

I’m pleased to say we have experienced the highest volume of bookings on record over the past month. Now that we are approaching the end of our successful “Cup of Tea with God” advertising campaign which introduced our best savings for 2012 expeditions, I wanted to give you further detail and prior knowledge of how our new yield management system operates.

The advertised Guaranteed Savings across both ships and all destinations comes to a close at 5pm on 30th November. From that date onwards, the savings and specific stateroom category availability will change by destination and departure date. These will be reviewed on a weekly basis and updated on our website, or you can find them by calling our customer service agents. As with the airline yield systems, some grades of accommodation will be closed, some will have reduced savings and some may remain at the same level.

I show below an example of variation to fares after 30th November. All prices are per person, twin share.

The Kimberley – 10 nights. Fares up to 30th November range from $6,825. From 1st December, fares will range from $7,280 on two departures and from $7,735 on the majority. Ten of the 16 sailings no longer have Category B Staterooms available. Click here for more details.

Borneo – 10 nights. Some of the Camp Leakey – Faces in the Forest departures are sold out. Other departures are from $6,520, and as of 1st December will be from $6,930. The Sabah Highlights, Across the Wallace Line and Rajahs, Riches and Rainforests departures are from $6,520. Some of the departures have limited availability in certain grades of accommodation. Deluxe Suites are proving to be the most popular. Click here for more details.

Papua New Guinea – 11 nights. The March departures no longer have Category B Staterooms available. Category A Staterooms remain from $7,835. The first October departure is now from $9,400 and the last October sailing is from $6,750. Click here for more details.

Inland Sea of Japan – 10 nights. I’m pleased to see that the 10 night voyages are selling well, particularly after spending a lot of time with our Japanese representatives last week. The lead fare will move from $7,490 to $7,955 on 1st December. The 8 night Japan fare will remain the same. Click here for more details.

Russian Far East – 10 nights. The Category B Ocean Suites will increase from $7,490 to $7,955. Click here for more details.

Antarctica – 18 nights. Was from $16,460. There are no Category B Staterooms remaining and therefore the lead price is now $19,115. Click here for more details.

Please remember the Guaranteed pricing remains in effect only until 5pm next Wednesday, 30th November 2011.

Please call our Customer Service team on 1300 361 012 or contact your travel agent.

We all look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.

Sarina Bratton
Founder and Managing Director
Orion Expedition Cruises

Thursday 24 November 2011

Oceanic Discoverer hits reef in PNG

Source: Cruise Weekly

CORAL Princess Cruises’ 72-pax Oceanic Discoverer has had a “minor” incident, hitting a reef near Papua New Guinea.

Early reports indicate that no significant damage or injuries were sustained.
According to a company spokesperson, the cruise continued as normal to its scheduled
conclusion the following day.

“The ship is in Cairns at the moment and is having her survey, part of which has been to inspect the hull as a precaution,” the spokesperson said.

The ship’s next voyage, a 15-night Melanesia expedition, is expected to depart Cairns on 28 Nov as scheduled.

Ecuador government clarifies new Galapagos regulations

Charles Darwin Research Station (R.Eime)
Due to a misunderstanding created by a press release issued on 11 November (“Ecuador to Limit the Number of Visitors to the Galapagos”), Ecuador would like to clarify the new rules and regulations in regard to cruise routes and frequencies to and around the Galapagos Islands. These regulations come into effect on 1 February 2012.

Firstly, the new regulations do not affect visitors to the Galapagos Islands, but are aimed at the archipelago’s boat owners and operators. Visitors to the islands, however, must stay for a minimum of three days / four nights, but can stay as long as they like on the islands, or at least as long as their tourist visa permits.

The new regulations require that as of 1 February 2012 all tour companies that operate cruises in the Galápagos must implement itineraries for their boats that last for 15 days/14 nights. During that period the boat cannot visit the same site in the archipelago twice, the exception being the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

Operators can divide their boats’ 14-night itineraries into a maximum of four segments. Therefore the duration of cruise tours for visitors is not limited to four days, as the original release suggested, and tour operators can continue to offer visitors tours of more than four days. It is expected that operators will cut the 14-night schedules into two 7-night itineraries or two 6-day/5 night and one 5-day/4-night itineraries.

The new regulations also require cruise operators to include the airport on San Cristóbal Island into the 14-night cruise schedules. The aim being to take the pressure off the airport on Baltra Island and distribute the volume of visitors more evenly throughout the archipelago.

The purpose of the new regulations is to reduce visitor numbers at 15 of the current most visited sites, give equal access to all boats at sites, increase the use of underused sites, and reduce the total number of visitors by cutting out shorter itineraries. It is also hoped that the new regulations will result in a more intimate and enjoyable experience for all visitors to the Galapagos Islands.

The new regulations also aim to improve the zoning of activities on some of the islands; as well as re-assessing the size of boats that can visit certain locations; while improving the trails at several sites.

Through more intelligently designed itineraries, the new regulations should reduce the fuel consumption of cruise vessels, and result in a reduced carbon footprint created by tourism in the archipelago.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

EC editor on assignment: L'Austral in Antarctica


* travel completed *
Your EC blogmaster, Roderick Eime, sailed aboard Ponant's newest luxury expedition vessel, L'Austral, during its first visit to Antarctica. See press results.

Monday 21 November 2011

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) in Antarctica Clarification

IAATO today issued a clarification on an IMO regulation that came into force earlier this year banning the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Antarctic Treaty Area and how its members are dealing with the ban.

“IAATO and its members have received calls from prospective Antarctic travelers and from the media confused about the HFO ban,” said Steve Wellmeier, executive director of IAATO. “There is some misunderstanding on the extent of the ban’s impact on Antarctica-bound cruise vessels, particularly the larger passenger vessels that generally use fuels defined as HFO.”

Media outlets have erroneously reported, for example, that large ships are banned altogether from operating in Antarctic waters as a result of the amendment to Annex 1 of the IMO MARPOL Convention, which came into effect August 1, 2011. This is not the case at all, according to Wellmeier. The ban prohibits the use and carriage of such fuels, and requires that ships traveling in the area – whether passenger or cargo ships – use and carry only lighter grade distillate fuels. Only vessels that are engaged in securing the safety of ships or in search-and-rescue operations are exempt.

“IAATO members who are operating large cruise ships to Antarctica are fully complying with the new regulation. Three Holland America Line vessels and one Azamara Club Cruise vessel plan cruise-only voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula this season,” he added. During the previous 2010-11 season, IAATO members operated a total of seven cruise-only vessels to Antarctica. Cruise-only vessels are defined by IAATO as those carrying more than 500 passengers, with no opportunities for shore landings in Antarctica.

Smaller expedition and mid-size vessels – those carrying 500 or fewer passengers – that are currently operated by IAATO members are not affected by the fuel ban, as they use and carry lighter distillate fuels such as marine gas oil or marine diesel oil.

A complete listing of IAATO members and vessels can be found in the membership directory and vessel directory of the IAATO website:

IAATO Launches New Website

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has launched a new website, providing a wealth of new information for prospective travelers to Antarctica. The new site also features an expanded Media Center for journalists and enhanced features for IAATO members.

“The familiar URL remains the same, but the similarity stops there,” noted IAATO Executive Director Steve Wellmeier. “The new site provides much better graphics and navigation tools, including a search function and site map. One of our goals is to provide accurate information for the Antarctic traveler, particularly in the area of environmental stewardship, guidelines for visitors, and answers to the many questions they might have.”

Friday 18 November 2011

Micronesia Revealed - Orion expedition

Micronesia Revealed: a voyage in the true spirit of expedition cruising

In the true spirit of expedition cruising explore some of the world's greatest environmental and maritime treasures, pristine in isolation, far from the tourist mainstream. This Orion II Micronesia Revealed twelve night voyage between Rabaul and Palau combines some of the world's best snorkelling and diving spots, World War II battle sites, shipwrecks, chains of coral atolls and remote island cultures.

Snorkel with manta rays on untouched coral reefs the size of suburbs or dive the shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon. Join friendly villagers to absorb their rhythmic, throbbing, traditional dances. Visit outlying islands where visitors are a rarity, even today.

Exploring the vastness of the world's largest ocean, the Captain will be checking the charts for remote atolls among this scattering of 600 plus islands – a perfect workout for the Zodiacs and the chance to visit places where man rarely steps ashore.

From virgin forests and the unique birdlife in Tingwon to the cultural traditions of Manus and Yap, the Japanese ship graveyard of Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, and a great eco system of coral reefs, you will be enthralled as we explore the oceanic wonder of Micronesia.

Palau, with its famed Rock Islands, regarded by many as the most beautiful island group on the planet - 200 limestone islands, topped with jungle, sitting in transparent waters - is a fitting conclusion.

Special offer: Save 40%

Fares from $5,320 (usually $8,870) per person, twin share for an ocean view Category B suite – representing a saving of 40% if booked before 30 November 2011


Disembark the optional direct charter flight from Cairns and board Orion II in Rabaul for the twelve night Micronesia Revealed Voyage of Discovery. 

Cairns / Rabaul, Papua New Guinea / Tingwon Island / Nauna, Manus Province / Lorengau, Manus Province  / Truk Lagoon (Chuuk) / Satawal Atoll, Yap State / Ifalik Atoll, Yap State / Woleai Islands, Yap State / Sorol Atoll, Yap State / Yap, Yap State / Ngulu Atoll, Yap State / Koror, Palau (overnight onboard) / Koror, Palau

Details of Micronesia Revealed voyage itinerary available at

For reservations, or to obtain an Orion brochure featuring Micronesia and itineraries for 69 voyages to 17 countries and 174 destinations stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East, 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:

A Dose of Real Aloha

Safari Explorer carries just 36 pax
by Roderick Eime, Adventure Cruise Guide

Vessel: Safari Explorer, 36 pax
Location: Molokai, Hawai'i

"Cruise Ships not welcome!" "Cruise Ships Go Home!" You'd think with placard-wielding protesters and chants like this greeting you at the wharf, you'd washed up on some hostile, alien shore. The truth was quite the opposite. Here on the Hawai'ian island of Molokai traditional cruise ships would not be welcome. There's no infrastructure to speak of and it's a shallow little port with no tender access or embarkation facilities. Heck, there isn't even a McDonalds or set of traffic lights. There is absolutely no danger of seeing a Carnival or Celebrity ship here any time soon.

Diving the famous Cathedral on Lānaʻi
"It's their right," Thadeus, our guide and a local for over 40 years, tells us,"and it's not that we disagree with them. They just don't understand you're not a cruise ship. "

Molokai is home to around 7000 permanent residents who live a blissfully remote, traditional Hawai'ian laid-back lifestyle. There's organic farming of coffee, root crops and frangipani flowers. What little tourism there is consists of hiking, dinky museums and cultural experiences. Since the other Hawai'ian Islands have succumbed to a westernised, somewhat sterile, mass market tourism the imperative to preserve one island with an unadulterated Polynesian persona is strong – and the locals all agree on this. The issue is not banning tourism, it's managing it sustainably and respectfully. Small groups with low impact and high relative yield is exactly what Molokai needs - and the community leaders know that.

Native Hawaiian, Barbara-Ann,
enlightens visitors to Maui
Aboard American Safari Cruises' (ASC) tiny 36-passenger vessel, Safari Explorer, we are greeted by a delegation of the most senior Molokai community elders. It's made very clear to us that we are welcome. Each one of us is met with a traditional Hawai'ian 'honi' forehead-to-forehead greeting and a giant bear hug that typifies the sincerity of the Polynesian way of life here.

As every passenger is ferried from the wharf in two minibuses for our day's excursions, we are stopped at the end of the street by a young woman holding a sign that says plainly, "No cruise ships". "Oh, that's my daughter-in-law," says Thadeus with resignation, and with that she beams a big grin and waves back. She approaches the car and leans in to kiss Thadeus. "Good morning! Don't worry, we know you're not a cruise ship!" she says waving us on our way.

The message is clear. Tourism needs to be managed delicately and the ASC offering is exactly that. If each weekly ASC visit was full for the entire five month season, it would equal less than half a regular cruise ship. Our cultural and nature-based experiences are electrifying, or to use the playful local phrase "gives you chicken skin". From the commercial intensity of Waikiki, through the middle ground of Big Island and Maui, there's room for a closely guarded backwater of authenticity - and Molokai is the stronghold. I wonder if there's a 'No Cruise Ships' T-shirt? I want one.

Best known for their Alaska products, ASC's new 7-night Hawai'ian itinerary visits Big Island, Molokai and Maui. For details, contact Ultimate Cruising on 1300 662 943

Thursday 17 November 2011


The stunning Sea Cloud II, the last windjammer ever built on which guests can experience the sails actually being set and marvel at sailing manoeuvres performed by hand without any buttons being pushed will sail the Panama Canal for the first time in January 2012.  Often referred to as the "Switzerland of South America" Costa Rica will be a special feature in two separate Sea Cloud II sailings as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Granada in Nicaragua.

There are two round trip sailings departing from Puerto Caldera (San José) in Costa Rica on either the 16th or 23rd January 2012.  Each cruise combines the experience of sailing along the Pacific coast with a variety of shore visits to the most beautiful National Parks of Costa Rica. Biologists, local guides and lecturers on board will unveil the wonder of Costa Rica's countryside to guests whilst they also enjoy the highest level of comfort that a luxury sailing ship has to offer.

Rates for each seven night/eight day cruise commence from €2,995 per person for a guaranteed outside double cabin and include all excursions, six meals a day and personally selected wines and soft drinks.

For more information please contact Sea Cloud Cruises on

Visit  or Toll-free Ph:  1300 583 572

The Sea Cloud Cruises fleet

The Sea Cloud II was put into service in 2001 and is the younger sister of the legendary Sea Cloud, which was built 80 years ago for the American entrepreneurial married couple Edward Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post. On the main deck of the Sea Cloud the eight original cabins are still preserved in the luxurious style of the 1930′s. With only 32 cabins, 64 sailing enthusiasts and recreation seekers have the opportunity to sail to the most beautiful destinations in Europe, Central America and the Caribbean in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

The 47 cabins on the Sea Cloud II are furnished in a similar style and on board there is also a sauna and fitness area as well as massage treatments for relaxation.

The fleet of Sea Cloud Cruises is rounded off by an elegant river yacht, the River Cloud II with 44 cabins, which traverses the most beautiful rivers in Europe between April and October.

Schedule of Top Family Cruises on Small Ships

Small Ship Cruise Expert AdventureSmith Explorations

Selects Top Family Voyages for 2012

The active travel company that secures matches between adventure-seeking clients and a treasure trove of small, expedition ships, AdventureSmith Explorations (, beckons families with a line-up of 2012 child-friendly cruises from Alaska to Borneo.

AdventureSmith Explorations represents the world's largest collection of small cruise and expedition ships carrying 12 to 148 passengers. Aboard smaller yachts and vessels families are free of the bells-and-whistles distractions and onboard diversions of large vessels. The focus instead is on guided. off-ship adventure excursions such as hiking, sea kayaking, wildlife viewing and cross-cultural opportunities.

Some small ships set aside special departures dedicated to family programs and pricing discounts for teens and children. With advance notice (usually 12-18 months ahead) the smallest vessels accommodating 12 to 32 or more can be chartered on a private group basis making it easy for families to travel when they want.

"Most importantly," said Director Todd Smith, "small ships offer mixed generations personalized experiences focused on authentic nature and culture such as kayaking among icebergs, spotting monkeys in the rainforest, swimming with sea lions, and even catching piranha in the Amazon."

The company's 2012 top family cruises include:

Late Fall – Early Spring

- Baja - Experience the Aquarium of the World aboard the 22-passenger Safari Quest with departures Dec 24-31, 2011 and Dec 31-Jan 7 (special $400 off ages 12-19) and over spring break: Mar. 3-10 and Mar. 24-31, 2012. There's a 25 percent discount for ages 12 and under.


- Panama Canal & Costa Rica aboard the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Lion from now through March. There's a $500 savings ages 18 and under.


Early Spring - Mid Summer

- Galapagos on 20-passenger Eric or Letty or Flamingo, with family departures between Mar. 4-Apr. 8 and May 27-Aug. 19. Discounts are 25 percent off for ages 11 and under and 15 percent off for ages 12-17.  See:

- Hawaiian Seascapes aboard the 36-passenger Safari Explorer, with dedicated family cruises in 2012; Mar. 8-15 and Mar. 24-31 and in 2013; Mar. 9-16 and Mar. 30-Apr. 6. There's a 25 percent discount for ages 12 and under.


- Alaska Eastern Coves Adventure Cruise aboard the 60-passenger Wilderness Adventurer, with designated family trips June 23-30, July 21-28, Aug. 4-11, 2012. There's a 25 percent discount for ages 12 and under. See:

- Glacier Bay National Park - Discover Glacier Country aboard the 22-passenger Safari Quest with departures June 22-29, and July 20-27, 2012. There's a 25 percent savings on ages 12 and under. See:


- Galapagos aboard the 100-passenger National Geographic Endeavour with year-round departures. Ages 18 and under save $500.


- Peruvian Amazon Cruise aboard the 28-passenger Delfin II with year-round departures. There's a 20 percent discount for ages under 12


- Borneo - Camp Leaky / Faces in the Forest cruise aboard the 100-passenger Orion II with year-round departures. Ages 2-15 save 75 percent when sharing with two adults.


Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Tahoe City, CA along the northern shore of Lake Tahoe.  P: 800-728-2875 toll-free or 530-583-1775. E: / W:

2012 - 2013 A&K Antarctica Brochure Now Available


Hot off the Press

Antarctica is experiencing renewed interest with the latest Attenborough documentary 'Frozen Planet' currently screening on TV. Extraordinary landscapes and wildlife abound - one of the continent's beaches boasts the greatest mass of animals on the planet. The nearby remote sub Antarctic island of South Georgia also has a rich wildlife biodiversity, with over 1,500 recorded species, many found nowhere else on earth.

Celebrating 100 years since the first Antarctic expedition, global travel company Abercrombie & Kent releases its new 'Antarctica' brochure. Experts in expeditionary cruising to the White Continent, the brochure marks A&K's 21st year of operation there with an extraordinary tally of over 150 journeys. See why a voyage to Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime.

Click to view online or download your copy

Alaskan Dream Cruises 'optimistic'

66-passenger Admiralty Dream

Alaskan Dream Cruises, the Sitka-based, native-owned small ship operator, is "optimistic" about its second year after an encouraging finish to its inaugural season. "Our inaugural season for 2011 definitely had a slow start, but thank goodness for last-minute bookers," reports Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michael Wien. “The end of the season was encouraging, and that gave us the confidence and boost to move into 2012,” he says.

Wien told Cruise Business Review that ADC aims to carve out a unique niche for itself that will distinguish the small ship line from its competitors. "At Alaskan Dream Cruises, we want to make sure our guests have an overall experience of what life is like in Alaska. We’re going to have a strong native cultural influence to make sure guests have a good understanding of the rich history of native culture in the Southeast."

Commenting on the sudden expansion by small ship lines in Alaska since the failure of Cruise West, he notes, "With the demise of Cruise West more boats were available. With that, the three cruise lines [Alaskan Dream Cruises, American Safari Cruises, and InnerSea Discoveries] picked up the boats and are designing their own business model and highlights. And whatever cruise line you choose, it’s a great way because they all have a different angle."

For now, Alaskan Dream Cruises is not looking to increase capacity as it builds brand awareness with its existing fleet of two ships, carrying 42 and 66 passengers respectively. "We are currently focusing on the 2012 itineraries aboard the Alaskan Dream and Admiralty Dream," Wien emphasizes. However, the line does own another former Cruise West vessel, renamed the Baranof Dream, which is being held in reserve and is available for charter.

New Ship Charters for ISP Fleet

Source: ISP

During the last several weeks a number of charter extensions and new charters have been signed for the ISP-managed fleet.

Sea Discover:

The vessel is on charter to Siemens Wind UK as an accommodation vessel in the Irish Sea in connection with the installation of offshore wind turbines. This charter has been further extended up until March 20, 2012.

Sea Voyager:

Sea Voyager has been chartered to St. Mary’s College to be used as an accommodation vessel. It is expected that redelivery will be early 2012.

MV Quest

For a number of years Polar Quest, Sweden, has had the Quest on summer charters, and this agreement has now been extended for an additional three summer seasons, up until and including the 2015 summer season.

Clipper Adventurer:

Quark Expedition, Canada operates the Clipper Adventurer in Antarctica for winter seasons and this contract has now been extended up until March 2015, with further options. The vessel continues to be on summer charters to Adventure Canada and Albatros Travel.

Sea Spirit:

Quark also operates the Sea Spirit in Antarctica in the winter and this contract has been extended until March 2014, with further options.

Scotia Prince:

The passenger ferry Scotia Prince is on charter to Flemingo Duty Free, operating between India and Sri Lanka. This contract has been extended for an additional 12 months until May 2013.

Friday 11 November 2011

EC editor on assignment

Your editor and expedition cruise blogger will be away until the 16th November aboard American Safari Cruises in Hawaii.

LAST CHANCE to secure Orion 2012 earlybird special!

Broome & The Kimberley Holidays have secured additional cabins on an exclusive cruising package onboard Orion in 2012. Witness the Kimberley coast burst to life after a monsoonal wet. NOW is the last chance to take advantage of our fantastic earlybird savings and secure your place onboard Orion for this incredible Kimberley Waterfalls Cruise - but hurry earlybird sale ends 30 November 2011!

This Exclusive Kimberley Cruise Holiday includes:

·         Return flights from your home port
·         1 night's accommodation in Darwin
·         10 night cruise from Darwin to Broome aboard Orion including all meals
·         Transfers throughout
·         BONUS 1 night's accommodation in Broome
·         BONUS Lunch Experience for 2 at Matso's Broome Brewery

12 night/ 13 day package departing Sydney or Melbourne from $7799*pp - including return flights
12 night/13 day package departing Perth from $7569*pp- including return flights

2012 departures:
Broome to Darwin – 22 April, 12 May, 1 June, 21 June, 11 July, 31 July, 20 August, 09 September*
Darwin to Broome – 12 April*, 2 May, 11 June, 01 July, 10 August, 30 August*.

*Advertised price is based on these departures when booked before 30th November 2011
Passport is required
See our website for full conditions

Ph: 1300 245 565 or visit

Monday 7 November 2011

Adventure Cruising in PNG: The PNG Paradox

Coral Princess Cruises were the first to return to PNG in 2005
For Australians tempted by Papua New Guinea’s adventure and intrigue but not willing to forego their creature comforts, the growing cruise industry offers a combination of luxury and adventure for an unforgettable experience.

According to the Australian Cruise Industry, cruising is becoming increasingly popular with Australian travellers with a 27 per cent increase in numbers in 2010 compared to 2009, and the South Pacific has the largest share of this market. While PNG remains one of the last, largely un-touched tourist destinations of the world, the growing cruising industry is cashing in on the Australian fascination with our closest neighbour.

Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority’s (PNG TPA) Australian Representative, Michael Woods said the comfort of cruise ships is a massive draw card for travellers who are looking for a relaxing holiday but who also want that adventure hit.

“Cruising allows the more discerning travellers who still want a taste of adventure to be able to experience the incredible culture, snorkelling, landscapes and birdlife of PNG combined with the onboard comfort of a cruising vessel,” Mr Woods said.

“Different specialised cruising companies can provide you with unique opportunities, like cruising up the amazing Sepik river to visit remote villages, or gaining access to beautiful islands off the coast of PNG – it’s no wonder cruising is increasing in popularity.”

Cruising enthusiasts and even first time cruisers should take note of the specialist cruise companies each offering a different kind of experience to their passengers.

Orion Expeditions Cruises’ luxurious Orion and Orion II will set sail in March and October 2012 to explore the islands of Papua New Guinea with their specialist expedition team. Orion Expeditions is offering an early booking incentive of 25% off all PNG voyages for those who book before 30 November 2011 for the 2012 season. Normally $8,995 per person for twin share in an ocean view stateroom, the reduced rate on offer is $6,745. To book email or call 1300 361 012.

Coral Princess Cruises boast a unique vessel, built specifically for this part of the world, allowing passengers to explore parts of PNG that are inaccessible to many other cruise ships. The Oceanic Discoverer is designed to be able to travel in shallow water meaning a trip up the mighty Sepik River is made possible. While the incredibly scenic Sepik River is popular for canoeing and fishing, Coral Princess Cruises’ passengers are also able to visit remote villages along the Sepik that are renowned for their artists and woodcarvers. Prices start at $8,690 per person, twin share for 10 nights Alotau to Rabaul or vice versa or $9,090 per person, twin share 12 Nights – Cairns to Rabaul or vice versa. For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises on 1800 079 545 or visit

For travellers to PNG who really crave that luxury experience but not the price tag, North Star Cruises have announced half price upgrades for their PNG Adventures in Paradise cruises departing in 2011. The offer is open to both new and existing bookings and provides passengers with the chance to experience the next level of cabin luxury at a fraction of the cost. The offer is only available for a limited time. Contact North Star Cruises for more details or to book or call 08 91921 829.

2012 marks the 70th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the war at Kokoda and to commemorate the occasion, Aurora Expeditions have launched a special voyage to run in April next year that will visit historical sites from Alotau to Rabaul, ending with a dawn ANZAC Day service in Rabaul. An on-board historian will share knowledge and stories of war history. This 13-day expedition starts from $5,690 per person quad-share, including all meals on board, shore excursions and lectures. Sea kayaking surcharge is $995 and scuba diving stops will be organised on board. Aurora Expeditions’ Experts on +612 9252 1033 or 1800 637 688 (freecall within Australia) or visit

For more information about Papua New Guinea visit

Orion Photography expedition to Vietnam - book now and save up to 30%

Here is an opportunity for enthusiastic photographers to hone their skills while on location in one of the world’s most photogenic settings, Vietnam. This 9 night voyage onboard the expedition ship Orion II includes visits to no less than 4 World Heritage sites - Hue, Hoi An, My Son and Ha Long Bay - providing ample opportunity to capture the cultural, historic and geographic diversity of Vietnam.

In association with Better Digital Camera magazine, under the knowledgeable guidance of internationally recognised photographer Nick Rains, this voyage is designed to appeal to photographers of all levels – while not forgetting their partners (whose interest in the finer points of photography may well be less enthusiastic!).

The voyage commences following a night onboard Orion II berthed in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City – the perfect location from which to explore this bustling city – and includes Hoi An’s Colonial Quarter, with its French influence, and the exquisite Hindu temples of My Son, so old they pre-date Angkor Wat.

Whether it is the organised chaos of the Saigon River, busy with sampans, exploring the traditional fishing village of Baie de Cu Mon, rarely seen by outsiders, exploring Nha Trang’s Communist Party headquarters, or the beach brewery and $1 lobsters for lunch, this voyage will deliver an unmatched range of graphic photo opportunities.

Nick will be holding regular workshops onboard before taking you on location along with members of Orion’s specialist expedition team. His travel photography workshops include professional advice and instruction on understanding and optimizing camera settings, selecting the best lens for the occasion, framing your subject and ‘capturing the moment’ along with instruction on the dark art of digital editing-software and printing.

Explore, experience and shoot from dawn to dusk, then relax, compare images and enjoy superb cuisine, wines and company by night onboard Orion II. Examples of images from Nick Rains’ earlier visits to Vietnam are available for reference at Please attribute to Nick Rains if using any of these images.

Orion II’s 9 night Vietnam Explorer photo expedition departing 30 March 2012 Ho Chi Minh City to Haiphong (for Hanoi) includes Nha Trang, Baie de Cu Mon/Bai Nam Beach, Da Nang (for My Son and Hoi An), Chan May (for Hue), Ha Long Bay & Cat Ba.

Special offer: Save 30%

Fares from $5,135 (usually $7,335) per person, twin share for an ocean view Category B suite – representing a saving of 30% if booked before 30 November 2011

For reservations, or to obtain an Orion brochure featuring Vietnam and itineraries for 69 voyages to 17 countries and 174 destinations stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East, 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:

Details of Vietnam Explorer itinerary available at

Additional information:


International Photographer. Nick Rains, studied Zoology at university in Britain which led him to a career in photography. Over the years Nick has worked with the Australian Tourism Commission, Tourism NSW, Penguin Books, Readers Digest Books, Shell Petroleum, BBC TV, Sports Illustrated, World Heritage Commission, Australian Geographic plus many more. He is involved with teaching and writing and is the editor of Better Digital Camera magazine.

Friday 4 November 2011

New Brochure: Wild Earth Tavel

Building on the experience of Heritage Expeditions, the team at Wild Earth Travel now offers a vast array of small ship experiences from once in a lifetime icebreaker expeditions to cultural cruises on the waterways of Europe. Do you hanker to explore the globe by sea, but the words 'cruise ship' fill you with dread? Wild Earth Travel promises there will never be any organised entertainment, fancy dress or deck games on their voyages - unless of course you are looking for that sort of thing!

Wild Earth Travel cruises offer the opportunity to leave the beaten path, explore and discover. The staff includes some of the most experienced expedition leaders and cruise specialists in the industry who are passionate about small ship travel.

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of our just released brochure that is full of exciting expedition and small ship cruising opportunities, please contact us on or visit and a brochure will be on its way to you. The 2012 brochure features voyages worldwide and contains many new and exciting destinations.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Bargain late season cruising with Star Clippers

Cruisers seeking an experience far from the madding crowd (and the opportunity to save 25% on fares) should check their travel diaries for September/October next year.
That's when the graceful 170-passenger clipper ship Star Flyer will sail seven voyages to exotic ports in North Africa, Spain and Portugal as the busy Mediterranean summer cruise season draws to a close.
Each cruise is discounted by 25% for bookings made before January 31.
The cruises start with eight nights from Southampton to Lisbon on September 1 calling at Brest (France) and the Spanish ports of La Coruna, Vigo and Lisbon priced from $2679.
From Lisbon on September 9, Star Flyer sails for six nights to Malaga (Spain) via Portimao, Portugal, Cadiz, Tangier, Gibraltar and Motril (from $1999).
Then, from September 15 until October 20 there are five seven-night Malaga/Malaga cruises from $2339 calling at Casablanca, Tangier, Cadiz, Gibraltar and Motril.
Star Flyer will then head across the Atlantic for a season in Costa Rica and Central America.
All prices quoted are after the discount, and include port taxes, all meals and entertainment on board.
For reservations contact your travel agent, or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599 or <> <> <>

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Alaskan Dream Cruise Review

by Louise Goldsbury, Editor, Cruise Weekly

Alaskan Dream (Louise Goldsbury)
As sunset approaches, a black bear walks along the shore and suddenly jumps into a stream, pouncing on a salmon. He splashes around a few more times, unaware or unconcerned that five tourists are only metres away.

I’m watching from the safety of my Zego runabout (like a large jet-ski) after zipping along the glassy water of Hobart Bay – new cruise line, Alaskan Dream Cruises’ exclusive playground.

We have the whole site to ourselves overnight, with plenty of time to go sea-kayaking and riding ATVs around the old logging roads through coastal rainforest. In a destination that is famous for cramming six superliners into one port, it’s a treat to be alone in Alaska.

For the past few days, our small ship has escorted 35 passengers around the glory of Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, to view humpback whales, seals and sea otters, and to go zip-lining down North America’s tallest flying fox. Last night we feasted on locally caught king crab at Orca Point Lodge – another wilderness retreat not used by any other cruise line.

Only in Juneau is it impossible to avoid the crowds – but there is one way to escape. From next year, Alaskan Dream will offer the option of a guided walk along the Mendenhall Glacier, landing on the ice by helicopter. I snuck off for a preview, and it was the highlight of the week. To be walking on a glacier is an amazing experience after days of gazing at them.

Wearing ice-friendly boots, we are led around the blue-white wonder, exploring its tall walls and deep crevices, and at a flowing river of water, we stop to scoop up a handful for a drink.

Back onboard is another opportunity to imbibe an iceberg, when Ernie the bartender uses a freshly crushed piece to create ‘glacier martinis’. I’m fairly sure this makes them healthy! The nightly social hour is a great way to meet your fellow passengers.

My voyage saw an affable mix of American, British, Australian and New Zealanders.

Owned by a Native Alaskan family, the company’s other standout feature is its cultural program, with expedition leaders and guest speakers from the local Tlinglit tribes explaining the sights, history and traditions of the region.

Alaskan Dream: 42 passengers, 23 cabins
Highly recommended

Editor’s verdict: If the thought of forging through Alaska in a big ship leaves you cold, Alaskan Dream provides the ultimate alternative. Without doubt, this was my favourite cruise of the year (out of 12 so far).

The spectacular destination, well-planned itinerary, exclusive access, fun activities, great seafood, friendly crew and Tlinglit touches offer the whole package of adventure, scenery, culture and comfort.
Book now for 2012 An eight-day ‘Inside Passage Sojourn’ on Alaskan Dream, departing from Sitka, is priced from US$3,229 per person twin-share including guided shore excursions and activities (except the zip-line and glacier walk), gourmet meals and wine with dinner.

From next year, a Stikine River jet-boat tour will be included.

Three-day and six-day cruises are also available, priced from $1,495 per person.

To book, contact the Small Ship Adventure Company on 1300 650 481 or see

Ocean Magazine - Ocean Cruising - Issue 40

Open publication Mentions: Kimberley, True North, Great Escape, Kimberley Escape, Mekong, Zegrahm, One Ocean, Ponant