Thursday 31 March 2016

Star Clippers names new ship in 25th anniversary year

25 years ago in 1991 Star Clippers launched its first ship "Star Flyer", a recreation of the classic sailing ships of the 19th century.

The company decided that the best way to celebrate this silver anniversary would be to give the fleet and their many repeat passengers a brand new sailing ship.

Star Clippers has announced the name of their fourth ship, to be launched at the end of 2017. The Flying Clipper will be the biggest and the most ambitious of the Clipper fleet to date, carrying 300 passengers, measuring 8770 tons GRT and powered by 35 sails totalling more than 6.350 m2. It is a near replica of the dramatic France II ordered in 1911 at La Gironde shipyard Bordeaux, which was the largest square rig sailing ship ever built.

SPV Flying Clipper will be the world's largest square rigger and the largest ship of its kind afloat today.

Star Flyer, Star Clipper, the current flagship Royal Clipper and the new vessel are the realisation of Mikael Krafft's lifetime dream. This Swedish yachtsman and entrepreneur has succeeded in making sailing ships commercially viable again, 100 years after their original demise, recreating the "Golden Age of Sail".

The ships sail Mediterranean waters in the summer months and relocate to the Caribbean and Cuba for winter, with a new route in Asia starting in December 2016, on board Star Clipper. In Summer 2017 Star Clippers will create history again sailing in Indonesian waters for the first time with 19 departures between May 6th and October 14th 2017, and sailings of 7, 10, 11 and 14 nights, from Bali and Singapore, including Bali round trips and itineraries from Bali to Singapore and reverse.

Star Clippers has consistently sought new and adventurous destinations for their guests, many of whom sail time and time again with the fleet, the repeat guest rate being more than 60% . In 2014 Star Flyer started sailing Cuban waters when the company was one of the first lines to receive permission from the Cuban government. In 2016/17 new 10 night itineraries from Havana to Cienfuegos will be introduced, while Royal Clipper will continue her popular sailings in the Caribbean during winter 2016/17.

The new ship, Flying Clipper, will have three pools, one that funnels sunlight through the ship's atrium into the elegantly appointed dining room. There will be a water sports platform in the stern for use when the ship is at anchor and a variety of cabin grades, including 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner's suites. A restaurant in the light-filled atrium will accommodate all passengers for open-seating dining and a glass Dive bar for our younger guests will occupy several compartments of the ship .

Regular guests will be delighted to discover their favourite hallmarks of all Star Clippers ships, such as the cosy library, the bowsprit net and the popular, al fresco Tropical Bar, where evening entertainment takes place. While the ship will have ecologically sound, high-tech engines, it will, like its sisters, rely on wind power and its sails wherever possible.
Notes to editors:

Star Clippers operates three of the world's largest and tallest sailing vessels. Visiting ports often untouched by larger cruise ships and offering passengers the activities, amenities and atmosphere of a private yacht, Star Clippers is recognised as one of the premier speciality cruise lines.

Passengers can enjoy the romance of sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service provided by an attentive crew. All three ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, a convivial Tropical Bar on deck and a comfortable piano bar and are large enough to offer first class accommodation and dining, but small enough to call into intimate ports, untouched by large cruise ships.

The two smaller ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, take 170 passengers each, with a crew of 74, while Royal Clipper carries 227 with a crew of 106.

For more details, call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit
For bookings and further details, see Star Clippers specialist Cruise Express


Shipyard: Brodosplit shipyard, Split, Croatia
Tonnage: 8,770 grt
Hull: Steel
Passengers: 300 in 150 cabins
Crew: 140
Sail: area 6,350 m2
Rig: Five-mast barque
Facilities: Three pools; massage and beauty treatments; water sports platform with equipment; library; function room; piano bar; Tropical Bar; deck bar; sports bar; open seating dining
Cabins: 150 cabins including 34 suites with balconies plus four owner's cabins.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Aqua Expeditions Hosted Departures



Guests will be invited to join Aqua Expeditions CEO and Founder, Francesco Galli Zugaro and celebrated Chefs, David Thompson and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino on a series of Mekong and Amazon River cruises in 2016.

These hosted voyages will provide guests with an insight into the entrepreneurial vision, local inspiration and design details that have combined to create exceptional luxury small ship cruising, incredible travel adventures, absolute comfort and wonderful dining experiences at a relaxed and easy pace on two of the world’s most fascinating waterways.

With the creation of Aqua Expeditions and building of three beautiful cruisers - Aqua Mekong, Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon - Francesco Galli Zugaro, a modern-day adventure seeker, realised his dream of bringing the world to remote and untouched locations and providing an opportunity to interact with beautiful people - young and old. At the same time, guests are able to delve into the culture and history of local communities along the rivers’ paths and see amazing animal, bird, fish and plant life across breathtaking landscapes.

In addition to the experiences available to guests on all Aqua Mekong cruises, Francesco will take guests on the hosted voyages on a bike riding adventure to local markets along the Mekong and kayaking on the gentle flows of the Amazon to spot the captivating local wildlife. Francesco will also share his vision which lead to Aqua Expeditions, over evening cocktails.

New Youth Pricing Structure and Special Itineraries Make Polar Regions more accessible for Families


One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), the leading expert in small ship adventure cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica, is enjoying a positive response from families to its brand new youth pricing structure. The company, which is now offering a 25% discount for young people aged up to 17 years, and 20% off for those aged from 18-21 years who can prove they are in fulltime education, is also featuring a number of family-focused activities on selected voyages.

The new pricing structure is applicable to all of OOE’s departures, however there are three specific family-friendly voyages, which also include special activities for younger passengers. These are Fins & Fiddles, a 10-day trip to Canada’s Atlantic Maritime Provinces in July, plus two Christmas voyages in the Antarctic, departing on 17 and 18 December 2016.

Special family itineraries will incorporate ‘hands on’ activities in the field, with binoculars and journals provided for youngsters; a mini lab in which specimens can be viewed under a microscope, plus a programme of social events including a movie night with popcorn, a games night and on-deck identification of wildlife.

OOE is also keen to ensure that educational programming is available for younger passengers. Presentation staff will have versions of their talks on wildlife, photography and history designed for a younger audience, with the aim of stimulating and engaging them in the wonders of the Polar Regions.

Andrew Prossin, MD at OOE, says: “We are committed to making access to the Polar Regions easier for adventurous families by introducing a special pricing policy. The feedback we have had so far is that customers are overjoyed with the new pricing options when looking to travel with their children and, as a result, we are taking an increasing number of bookings from families.”

Families can expect to learn about the early explorers during their voyage, see hundreds of seabirds, have the chance to spot pods of whales and seal colonies and take trips by zodiac to get up close to wildlife and also visit traditional communities within the region.

Adult prices for a family trip with OOE, based on triple share, range from US $2995pp (Fins & Fiddles 16-26 July 2016) to US $10,095pp (Christmas in Antarctica, 17-27 December 2016).

Prices include all meals/afternoon teas (menu options and half portions will be available for children), use of on board expedition rubber boots, wet weather gear, shore excursions, landings, educational presentations, expedition guides, naturalist staff, and hospitality staff, an ER trained English speaking physician, guided hikes/walks, complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day, access to a multimedia room and download stations and accommodation on board, as well as all applicable visitor and port fees. Price for 17 December departure also includes flights Punta Arenas/Stanley and King George Island/Punta Arenas.

Youngsters receive membership to OOE’s Young Explorers Club, an embroidered badge and certificate, plus specialised pre-departure information.

For further information please contact One Ocean Expeditions or visit OOE’s site:

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Jewel of the Russian Far East: Ice Floes to Volcanoes - Polar Bears, Brown Bears and more



Opportunities are still available to join the Ultimate Bear Watching Expedition this year. Family owned and operated expedition travel company Heritage Expeditions pioneered expedition cruising to the Russian Far East, one of the least explored regions of the world, home to plentiful wildlife and jaw-dropping scenery. We are now offering the opportunity to combine two of our most interesting cruises and save. Combine Heritage Expeditions' ever popular Across the Top of the World 29 August departure to Wrangel Island with Jewel of the Russian Far East and  save 5%.

Travel north to the wildlife haven of Wrangel Island, where powerful Polar Bears roam the immense landscape that has remained virtually untouched for thousands of years. We'll then begin our voyage south, exploring the Chukotka coastline including local villages where we are warmly welcomed. We'll weave our way in and out of the spectacular fiords of the Koryak Coast, before cruising the Kamchatka coastline on the lookout for Kamchatka Bears as they amble across the landscapes of mountains painted in vibrant colours.

Book now and save 5% on this 28 day adventure like no other. Also receive a one way charter flight from Nome, Alaska for $1000 USD (usually $2000)

Across the Top of the World 29 August departure 

Jewel of the Russian Far East

See for more information. To book email,  or call Freephone on 0800 262 8873 (NZ), 1800 143 585 (Aus) or 1866 285 7884 (US & Canada). Contact us for more information.

Image Credits L to R: Polar Bear Viewing – Alex Fergus, Brown Bears in Kamchatka – Jenny Ross

For Worldwide Small Ship Cruising contact our in-house specialists –
Wild Earth Travel: /

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Coral Expeditions wraps top notch 15-16 Tassie season

After a highly successful inaugural Tasmania season, Coral Expeditions has released dates and rates for 2016-17 Tasmania sailings, adding 9 new departures throughout December and January.

The release of the second season comes after the expedition cruise line wrapped up with a sell-out February.

"Our Tasmania itineraries have been a hit with both new and returning guests. We're proud to be the only small ship expedition operator in the region, offering rare insight to the state by opening the door to one of Australia's most breathtaking coastlines,' said Group General Manager, Mark Fifield.

Tasmania's pristine coast lines and its diverse weather conditions have provided Coral Expeditions' guests a taste of true expedition style cruising.

"It is such an ecologically fascinating area for us to explore. Like any of our cruises we have the flexibility to change and adapt our daily program and activities to suit our guests needs and also the changing environment, which is the beauty of small ship cruising; it's a real adventure.' said Dennis McDowall, Expedition Leader.

"We've discovered some new areas and located opportunities for our future expeditions," McDowall said.  

Coral Expeditions' second Tasmania wave season will run from 14 November 2016 – 27 February 2017.

For all dates and pricing visit

To view Coral Expeditions' Tasmania cruise watch here

To read Captain Nathan Clark's inaugural Tasmania voyage log visit

Discover Europe's Rich Culture With Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic's New 15-Day 2016 Europe Itineraries


Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, the leader in expedition travel, has released its new Europe brochure, offering extraordinary voyages, including six new 15-day “guest-inspired” itineraries to some of the old continent's most storied and fascinating destinations.

Sven Lindblad states, “When we originally announced our Europe program, we offered guests a 10% savings on any two or more voyages in any sequence or combination. What happened was an impressive display of creativity by our guests, resulting in highly popular, unique itinerary combinations. And from now on we are offering these “guest inspired” itineraries to everyone.”

Onboard National Geographic Orion, Lindblad's new 15-day expeditions explore Europe's magnificent sights and include complimentary extensions to four unique, culturally rich locations.

From the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Baltics to the vibrant Mediterranean sun, Lindblad Expeditions' European Voyages offer unique and exclusive opportunities, plus an onboard concierge to ensure guests a truly customised, memorable European experience.

The following are Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic's new Europe itineraries for 2016/2017, launching in May. Rates are per person, in Australian dollars, based on double occupancy in a category one cabin. All new itineraries have been combined with a $1,500 special savings offer, with all activities, bar tab and crew tips included, and a complimentary extension.

Sardinia, Corsica and Menorca to the Iberian Coast (complimentary post-extension to Lisbon & the Wild Ribatejo Valley)

This 15-day expedition showcases the beauty of the western Mediterranean and its array of unique culture, scenery and captivating history. A complimentary three-day extension discovers Lisbon's long history of great explorers, making for a fitting and memorable conclusion to this extraordinary voyage. This adventure departs from Monaco on May 8 and disembarks in Lisbon, Portugal on May 22. Prices start at $16,980 and include a complimentary three-day extension post voyage, and a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

The French Atlantic Coast to the Isles of England & Wales (complimentary pre-voyage extension to Bordeaux, St. Emilion & the Wine Country)

Following the D-Day trail from the beaches of Normandy across the English Channel, this 15-day adventure is rich in historical significance and small town heart. A complimentary three-day tour of Bordeaux's famous wine country before departure is part of this journey. This voyage will start in Bordeaux, France on May 29 and finish in Dublin, Ireland on June 12. Prices start at $16,980 and include a complimentary three-day extension, and a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

From Ireland and the Scottish Isles to the Norwegian Fjords (complimentary extension to Norway's Fjords & Flam Railway)

An unforgettable journey that traces Ireland's staggering coastline and disappears into the incredible beauty of the Scottish Isles, before following the region's Norse ties to Norway. Once in Norway, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers a complimentary three-day tour of the Fjordlands and its Flam Railway. Departing June 19 from Dublin, Ireland and disembarking July 3 in Bergen, Norway, prices for this journey start at $16,980 and include a complimentary three-day extension, as well as a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

The Nordic Nations: Norway, Sweden, Denmark & Finland (complimentary extension to St Petersburg: Russia's Imperial City)

Setting out with an awe-inspiring cruise through Norway's Hardangerfjorden, this itinerary takes in some of the world's most dramatic landscapes, exploring the great capitals and charming trade villages of the north, painted with enchanting medieval heritage. A complimentary four-day extension exploring the intriguing city of St. Petersburg, Russia makes for an unforgettable conclusion to this adventure. Starting in Bergen, Norway on July 31 and finishing in Tallinn, Estonia on August 14, prices for this adventure start at $16,980 and include a complimentary four-day extension, and a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

Across the Baltics to Scandinavia (complimentary extension to St Petersburg: Russia's Imperia City)

This 15-day experience will see travellers visit the famous sail routes of the Hanseatic League, touching down in cities portraying starkly contrasting eras, from the forward thinking Copenhagen and Stockholm to the Old Towns of Tallinn and Riga. Compliments of Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, guests can extend the journey with a four-day tour of Russia's spectacular imperial city, St. Petersburg. This expedition will depart from the Estonian capital, Tallinn on August 14 and disembark there on August 28. Prices for this adventure start at $16,980 and include a complimentary four-day extension, as well as a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

The Low Countries, Germany & The French Atlantic (complimentary extension to Bordeaux, St. Emilion & the Wine Country)

From Copenhagen to Brittany and Normandy, the 15-day journey offers travellers exclusive access to world-class museums, culinary arts, and some of the continent's best-preserved medieval architecture. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic's complimentary three-day extension explores France's legendary wine country, in Bordeaux and St. Emilion. Commencing in Copenhagen, Denmark on September 4 and disembarking in Bordeaux, France on September 18, prices for this exclusive journey start at $16,980 and include a complimentary three-day extension, as well as a $1,500 discount if booked by June 30, 2016.

Small Ship Cruising with Families - Eight Reasons Why It’s the Perfect All-Ages Vacation


Taking the children on a small ship expedition cruise to an exotic destination is a no brainer when it comes to a one-size-fits-all family vacation. So explains cruise expert Todd Smith, founder of AdventureSmith Explorations and speaker at the upcoming TMS Family Travel Summit in South Walton, FL.
“Our emphasis on small ship expedition cruises and land-based wilderness adventures aims to bring families of all ages together while experiencing the world’s most spectacular regions in security and comfort. We use the firsthand experience of traveling with our own children, parents and grandparents to help clients choose the right itinerary and ship for today’s family,” Smithexplains.
Smith points out that different vessels (ranging in average size from 12 to 100 passengers) and off-ship focus can shape the overall cruise experience. It is important to know what amenities are offered, what daily activity options there are, what the cabins are like and if kid-friendly meals are served…just for starters. That’s where the sage advice and insider’s expertise of a helpful consultant comes into play.
As to why a small ship cruise? Smith and his team of cruise experts came up with these eight reasons why families and small ship cruising are a perfect match:
1. Safety. Small ships offer a contained, controlled environment, allowing families to travel to remote wilderness locations and into new cultures comfortably and safely. Small ships allow guests to paddle in front of a glacier, walk a remote beach with no other footsteps, encounter wildlife and visit isolated villages—experiences that can prove difficult for families to achieve on their own—in a secure, efficient and child-friendly way.
2. Action. Off-vessel activities such as hiking, kayaking and snorkeling offer a chance to get away from the ship to experience nature and culture up close. Soft adventure options allow the whole family to experience the wilderness together on excursions like guided paddle trips through mangrove swamps and skiff tours looking for wildlife.  It’s important to note that off-ship activities are usually included in the cruise tariff.
3. Choice. One of the best features of a small ship cruise is the ability for each guest to chooseadventures based on ability levels. For example, on a recent cruise in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, anAdventureSmith traveler was able to snorkel with her brother at a sea lion rookery, while her father took a guided skiff tour in the same area, photographing and waving to her while she was in in the water. Hikes are often offered at varying distances and terrain difficulties, and there’s always a choice for quiet time on board.
4. Education. Naturalist guides are trained to work with younger travelers and keep kids excited, engaged and learning about wildlife, conservation and sustainability. Shared family experiences on board and off instill a lifelong love of nature and travel, while creating memories that will last families a lifetime. 
5. Connection—and Disconnection! Televisions, movies and video games take a backseat to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. On most small ships, a family usually disconnects from devices and reconnects with each other and nature. Think no cable TV (DVDs are often available for movie-watching in cabins), and often no cell service and WiFi due to cruising in remote wilderness regions.
6. Camaraderie. While every day is a new adventure on a small ship cruise, the crew and guides are constants who encourage conversations with them and other passengers. The result? Everyone comes away with new friends.
7. Consistency. As accommodations are the same each day and night, children will rest well without the hassles of packing and unpacking. Meals are intimate and many diets and preferences can be accommodated with prior notice. Because kids have special tastes, menus are often arranged to satisfy their appetites and meal times.
8. Custom. Think about the fun when traveling with other families. Some small ship cruises have family-designated departures. This means that likeminded families with children of similar ages enjoy such added-value programs as crafts, pizza and movie nights and more. Or large families may customize their own cruise by chartering an entire ship. AdventureSmith offers charter options with as few as eight guests.
AdventureSmith’s Todd Smith is a testament to all these points, as he has traveled extensively with his wife and two young boys around the world, and chartered a Galapagos yacht specifically for family travel. Read about his Galapagos family charter and how/why he chose the yacht he did, and more details about family travel with AdventureSmith.
As for suggested family cruises, Smith and his team have these to consider:
-Ecuador: Eclipse Galapagos Cruises – with designated family departure dates.
-Pacific Northwest: Northern Passages and Glacier Bay – an active wilderness cruise with multisport activities that offer a variety of levels and options for entire family.
-Central America: Costa Rica & the Panama Canal - explore the region with top guides, special rates for children. The season is wintertime; November through March.
For information on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises, itineraries, availability and 2016-2017 reservations, telephone 800-728-2875 toll-free or visit

Monday 21 March 2016

SeaTrek Sailing Adventures 2017 Sailings


At SeaTrek Sailing Adventures, we are pleased to announce the release of our 2017 schedule, a fanciful mix of old favourites with a few as-yet-unannounced surprises, including some big names that we know will have people banging on our hatches to get on board. We kick off the season in April with our ever-popular Dances, Dragons and Magical Lakes’ cruises between Bali and Komodo, and onwards through to the Spice Islands around September and October, before we find ourselves in Raja Ampat for snorkelling and paddling towards November and the end of the year as the trade winds turn favourable in the east.

Our award-winning Expert-Led Expeditions are again leading the way to adventure and exploration and include our Tribal Weaving tours with Sue and Dave Richardson, Rafaella Commitante’s Orangutan Cruises to Borneo, two discovery tours through the magical Spice Islands ­– Ian Burnet’s East Indies Spice Exploration and Nick Burningham’s Spice Routes/ Spice Wars – Jeffrey Mellefont’s historical journey through the archipelago’s Seafaring Traditions, a Seabird Research trip with Gert de Jong, and Dr Tony Whitten’s Wallace Trails and Sails and the search for the Birds of Paradise.

Food and literature lovers can enjoy not one, but three food cruises this year with Bali luminary, Janet DeNeefe. First off is the Ubud Food Festival cruise, followed by the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival cruise, where she will be blending literature with the flavours, spices, and culinary secrets of Indonesia in the company of some very special guests, and finally the Circle of Spice cruise to the fabled Spice Islands themselves.

Our Customised Cruises have become more and more popular over the past two years with families and special groups looking for that something a little bit different, and Katharina has been pretty busy. But it’s early days yet, so watch this space for more surprises and specialty cruises as they come to light. At the moment, these are some exciting things under negotiation, but we will be making announcements later in the year. In the meantime, you can rest assured that they will be well worth the wait and made available as soon as we are able.

Click here to download the full 2017 Schedule.

Grand Maple Leaf Explorer to Canada and Greenland perfect for couples and singles

From the stirring sight of a heart-shaped mountain in Uummannaq, Greenland, to a train journey across the prairies to the Canadian Rockies, 'Grand Maple Leaf Explorer' is a superlative holiday in all respects.

The latest offering from luxury boutique voyage and cruise specialist Cruise Traveller starts with a flight to Ottawa from Australia. The holiday lasts 23 nights and includes a fabulous cruise from Quaasuittuq to Kangerlussuaq, two names that will intrigue your friends if you send postcards. Quaasuittuq is also known as Resolute, which is easier to spell.

'Grand Maple Leaf Explorer' departs Australia for Canada's capital on 14 August 2016. Packed with highlights, the holiday is attractively priced for couples and for single travellers. Prices start from A$23,395 per person, twin share, and single travellers can enjoy sole-use occupancy of a Category 3 inside cabin from A$25,155 while the offer lasts.

The prices include international flights from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne to Ottawa and return from Vancouver.

The ship is Ocean Endeavour, which carries no more 198-passengers and is perfect for expedition cruising. Outfitted with twenty Zodiacs, advanced navigation equipment, multiple lounges and a top deck observation room, Ocean Endeavour is purpose-built for comfort in remote environments and is rated 1B ice class.

On the cruise, search for polar bears and walrus in far north Baffin Island. In Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay) visit a traditional community who live in the shadow of towering cliffs, amid nesting habitats for seabirds and seas frequented by narwhals and bowhead whales. At Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), locals will welcome you with throat-singing and Inuit games, before you explore Baffin's mighty fjords. Zip along in Zodiacs among freshly calved icebergs off Ilulissat, and hike around Itilleq Fjord. Spectacular Sondre Stromfjord makes a glorious finale to the trip.

Other highlights of the 11-night expedition-style cruise aboard Ocean Endeavour from Resolute to Kangerlussuaq include:

The site outside Uummannaq where the famous Greenlandic mummies were discovered.
Ilulissat ice fjord, where 90% of the north Atlantic's icebergs are born.
Niqinganiq (Isabella Bay), a bowhead whale sanctuary, the world's first Inuit-managed reserve of its kind.

The cruise offers educational presentations, interactive workshops and evening entertainment. All shipboard meals are covered in the price, including on-deck barbeques and afternoon tea, 24-hour coffee, tea and snacks. Hors d'ouevres and  snacks are served during evening recaps.

Tour highlights are just as memorable. They include:

Travel aboard Canada's VIA Rail from Toronto to Jasper on the famous 'Canadian' route. The original stainless steel 'streamliner' railcars, made famous in the days of classic rail travel in the 1950s, have been totally refurbished, with air conditioning, café car, lounge car and dome car.
Stay in Jasper in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Ascend the summit of Sulphur Mountain Travel in the Banff Gondola for an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of the Rockies

In addition, there are two nights of free accommodation, one at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel Ottawa (or similar) and another at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel Toronto (or similar).

The seven-night Across Canada rail/coach tour from Toronto to Vancouver includes a sleeping berth aboard VIA Rail's Sleeper Touring service for three nights between Toronto and Jasper.

Hotel accommodation is included for four nights, (at the Fairmont Park Lodge Jasper, Fairmont Banff Springs hotel Banff and Sun Peaks).

Also included: charter flights from Ottawa to Quaasuittuq and from Kangerlussuaq to Toronto.

To impart the flavour of land touring on 'Grand Maple Leaf Explorer', the itinerary for just one memorable day takes in an Ice Explorer ride on the Athabasca Glacier, then a stop at the award-winning Glacier Skywalk to experience a glass-floored observation platform 280 meters over glacier-formed valleys and waterfalls. Continue along the Icefield Parkway with stops at Lake Louise, Bow and Peyto Lakes, the Crowfoot Glacier and the Athabasca Falls.

Remember to keep your camera or smartphone handy for sightings of bears, elk, moose and mountain sheep!


Wednesday 16 March 2016

Ponant announces four new vessels


The world’s only French-flag cruise line and leader in Polar expeditions, PONANT, has signed a letter of intent for the order of four ships from VARD, the Norwegian subsidiary of the Italian FINCANTIERI group. The order is the first step in a project to expand the company’s fleet since it was bought by ARTEMIS, holding company of the Pinault family, in 2015.

A new phase in the expansion of the PONANT fleetAt the end of a tendering process, conducted by Barry Rogliano Salles and involving several top European shipyards, PONANT, has selected VARD (Vard Holdings Limited) to build its next four ships with delivery of the first one expected in 2018. With an exterior designed by STERLING DESIGN INTERNATIONAL, the ships will be equipped with the latest environmental preservation technology. They will join the Company’s emblematic sailing yacht Le Ponant and its sisterships, Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial, four state-of-the-art yachts built by FINCANTIERI between 2010 and 2015.

In keeping with its philosophy, PONANT has again opted for small-capacity, intimate ships. The four newcomers will be 128m in length with 92 staterooms, and have a crew of 110. Ice Class ranked and equipped with the latest technologies, these expedition ships will be easy to manoeuvre and able to reach sites that larger vessels cannot access.

French designer Jean-Philippe Nuel has again been given the task of designing the interiors. His remit is to create an ethnic chic universe inspired by driftwood, natural materials and colours, reflecting the spirit of sophisticated yet authentic adventure, in the image of the destinations proposed.

After White Expeditions, enter the Blue and Green ExpeditionsIn a fast growing sector of the cruise market, PONANT is reaffirming the relevance of its business model focused on the buoyant expedition niche. Leader in Five-Star Expeditions to the polar regions, the company is bringing all its expertise and knowhow into developing this concept that combines an exclusive blend of luxury and exceptional destinations.

On board the Company’s four new ships, Blue Expeditions will for instance focus on exploring Oceania, its lagoons and secret islands, while Green Expeditions will take passengers amongst other places to South America’s best preserved sites, Orinoco River in Amazonia, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, or the Indian Ocean.

The result will be a host of unusual itineraries to get as close as it is possible to local cultures, rare and exceptional flora and fauna, during excursions on a unique fleet of Zodiacs with naturalists on board.

Thus, PONANT intends to strengthen its position as the reference of a new style of luxury cruising under the French flag, combining exceptional itineraries and five-star facilities, unique on the market, aboard small capacity vessels.


Australia : 1300 737 178 or + 61 2 8459 5000

New Zealand : 0800 44 32 62 |

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Crystal announces new expedition vessel, Crystal Endeavor


by Aaron Saunders,

Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez announced the introduction of Crystal’s first luxury expedition megayacht, the Crystal Endeavor.

Debuting in August 2018, Crystal Endeavor was named after Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavor, which discovered Australia and New Zealand over 250 years ago. It’s an appropriate designation, given that Crystal Endeavor will sail to some of the world’s most remote and unexplored places, including Antarctica and the Far Arctic. (EC editor notes that James Cook's vessel was spelled using British English: Endeavour)

“With Crystal Esprit, we discovered there are many guests, young and young at heart, who enjoy sports at sea and discovering remote islands, and as the interests and age of luxury travelers increasingly vary, we will continue to expand our collection of luxury travel options,” says Crystal president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez. “Luxury means something different to virtually everyone, and we strive to meet and exceed the wishes of the discerning modern luxury traveler. Crystal Endeavor will cater to a particularly daring audience, one who values luxurious comfort and amenities as much as life-changing adventures.”

The megayacht will be the first purpose-built Polar Code compliant yacht in the world with a PC6 Polar Class designation. Because of this, Crystal Endeavor will be able to cruise in the world’s Polar Regions during the summer and autumn in medium “first year” ice which may include old ice inclusions that other vessels typically can’t negotiate because of the risk it poses. Crystal Endeavor will also be fitted with the state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, with computer-controlled systems to automatically maintain the ship’s position with its own propellers and thrusters. This will enable the megayacht to float atop coral reefs and other underwater wonders without utilizing anchors, which can damage the terrain or other underwater wonders in waters too deep for anchors.

In addition, Crystal Endeavor will also have a Remote Operated Vehicle – or ROV – which Crystal says it will send down to explore sunken wrecks, specifically mentioning the RMS Titanic, which lies on the floor of the Atlantic in 12,500 feet of water. Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage.

The 200-guest capacity Crystal Endeavor will offer extreme adventures by air, sea and land with a complete range of gadgets that includes two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two, 7-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, fishing facilities, paddle boards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV. To further deliver guest experiences distinct from any other expedition vessels,Crystal Endeavor will be equipped with SEABOBs – the world’s most technically advanced and powerful underwater scooter – that allows you to move gracefully underwater.

“Crystal Endeavor will absolutely set a new bar for expedition luxury travel,” says Rodriguez. “We have proven time and again that Crystal is the pioneer in luxury, and this megayacht will change the game entirely – the possibilities for expedition travelers will be virtually limitless.”

Chasing the total solar eclipse aboard Ponant's Le Soleal


Guest contributor, Justin Friend, has his sun and moon align aboard Ponant's Le Soleal

Le Soleal at anchor in the Spice Islands (J Friend)


For two days the relatively unknown island of Ternate has been the centre of the earth for many expedition oriented people. A significant sub group of these adventurous expeditionary folk are affectionately known as “eclipse chasers”.

The whole underlying reason for Le Soleal to be in the Spice Islands at this specific point in time is due to the fact that we have just experienced a total solar eclipse. The world leaders in astronomical travel, TravelQuest International have put this expedition together, hand in hand with Ponant.

TravelQuest are best described as purveyors of the extraordinary and the amiable president of the company Aram Kaprielian is personally travelling on board Le Soleal to experience this astronomical event along with his guests, over 80% of whom are regular TravelQuest clients with many many eclipses under their belt.

But before the eclipse starts to dominate our adventures we still had to explore Ternate, which was now overflowing with visitors aware of the impending eclipse event and the fact that Ternate is the best place to view this event.

The essentially non-existent tourism industry of Ternate was stretched to its absolute limits. For our group of cruisers to be able to be transported to the main sites in Ternate involved acquiring a convoy of buses that belong to the Indonesian National Police, with POLISI emblazoned on the bus sides, and complete with blue flashing lights we wound our way through the narrow bustling streets of Ternate, red lights being optional when you are in a police vehicle.

Sultan's  Palace
The longest continuous sultanate in Indonesia has its home in Ternate, and as would have been customary in the days of spice traders, we presented ourselves to the Sultans Palace for our official welcome. Members of the royal family were on hand to greet us and chat, and as is also customary, numerous dances took place, that included participation from those among us who did not have two left feet.

The afternoon in Ternate was set aside for a visit to a centuries old clove farm, however our police buses were too big to get into the plantation so dozens of private cars turned up at the port as our next available form of transportation. Although I certainly recognise the significance of cloves to the history of the region, I, and many other like-minded adventurers opted out of the multi-vehicle convoy to “clove heaven”, and took the opportunity to wander the bustling streets.

'eclipse chaser' gets in the swing
Everywhere you looked visitors from both wider Indonesia and indeed globally were scouting for their position to view the impending eclipse. One group I passed were from the Hong Kong Astronomical Society, another came from the dramatically named Soldiers of the Red Dragon Astronomical Division of the Peoples Republic of China. But we did not need to worry about such things, nor did we need to worry about cloud from the island interfering with eclipse viewing, as we had our trusty vessel Le Soleal to chase the open skies and give us a wide stable platform to view this phenomenon.

Leaving the crowds of observers in our wake Le Soleal steamed out in between Ternate and the larger land mass of Sulawesi. TravelQuest had brought their own astrophysicist in Rick Fienberg who in the imminent build up to “first contact” (the point where the moon starts to obscure the sun) was Captain Debien’s constant companion. Together the two plotted and schemed through the night and into the next morning.

Watching the weather patterns, changing the course of the ship several times, until we were steaming north into perfectly clear skies as daylight broke, leading us forward to a head on collision with the impending eclipse. The ample deck space and extreme stability of Le Soleal, provided the perfect base for the dozens of cameras and telescopes now appearing all over the outer decks.

Professor Fienberg provided an informative commentary as the eclipse unfolded, and the hard work he’d put in with the captain paid off as perfect weather heralded the arrival of the eclipse. Cheers and gasps of awe echoed from the decks as totality was achieved, the moon entirely obscuring the sun yet creating the glowing corona bursting out from behind the moon. TravelQuest boss Aram breathed a sigh of relief as his team, together with Le Soleal, had pulled it off and delivered perfect eclipse viewing conditions to the masses on board.

This was my second total eclipse and whilst I may not quite be an “eclipse chaser” there is something magical about bearing witness to such an astronomic event while drifting at sea, and whilst the eclipse has now passed, our adventure continues we have snorkelling and wildlife walks still to come in Sulawesi before we head to Borneo in the days ahead.

For more info about TravelQuest Tours, see

Justin Friend is an experienced
expedition leader and proprietor
of Austronesian Expeditions 

MiNDFOOD Magazine: Southern Exposure, Macquarie Island


Wildlife rules the roost on the subantarctic islands of Australia and New Zealand

Words Roderick Eime

Like a chorus line of overweight, bad-mannered beer drinkers, they gather to recite the only lyrics they know. Cavernous mouths agape and bulbous heads akilter, it’s a strangely musical sound despite the random, belching monotone each can only manage.

Sunday 13 March 2016

Star Clippers tall ships to sail Indonesian waters

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers will be sailing in Indonesian waters for the first time in 2017. The company, which operates three magnificent, fully-crewed clippers, is offering a choice of 19 departures between May 6th and October 14th 2017, and sailings of 7, 10, 11 and 14 nights, from Bali and Singapore, including Bali round trips and itineraries from Bali to Singapore and reverse.

The four-masted Star Clipper, will voyage under thousands of feet of billowing sails sailing between lush, culturally unique and exotic port calls and drop anchor close to coconut-white coves that typify Indonesia's thousands of islands, mirroring a Robinson Crusoe adventure, as the ship calls into tiny jungle-and-sand islands, haloed by crystal clear turquoise sea and white sand beaches.

Indonesia's towns and villages provide the opportunity for guests to experience the exoticism of Hindi culture, eccentric looking gods, with incense wafting through the balmy air, and colourful sights and scenes with bustling streets and markets, returning at the end of each day to the spectacular Star Clipper, where sundowners are served on teak decks before dinner and a memorable departure to the strains of Vangelis's "1492 Conquest of Paradise" and on to the next exotic adventure.

Highlights of the six new itineraries in Indonesian waters include the opportunity to view Komodo Dragons, the world's largest living species of lizard that live on Indonesia's islands, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres (10 ft)and including birds and mammals among its carnivorous diet.

Of particular interest to Star Clippers' guests will be the opportunity to see the `Pinisi' traditional Indonesian sailing ships, with their long, elegant bow, towering twin masts, streamlined wooden hull and seven billowing sails. These hand-built ships, continue the spirit of the golden age of sail which ended in the west in the early 20th C, before being recreated by Star Clippers, and thrived in Indonesian waters until recently. A port call into the traditional villageof Wera provides the opportunity to see these traditional craft being made and sailed.

The compact size of the Star Clippers' vessels enables the ships to sail waters uncharted by most commercial cruise lines. Typical of the type of port call that this opens up to guests is a call into the island of Pulau Satonda, off the northern coast of Sumbawa, formed by a volcanic eruption on the sea floor millions of years ago. Satonda is a natural volcanic island, also a Marine National Park, with towering mountains that shelter a beautiful salt-water lake in the crater, and surrounded by a wealth of coral reefs.

Other memorable highlights include an optional excursion to Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, 2,329m high, set in the middle of a vast plain and protected nature reserve known as the "Sea of Sand". Locals throw offerings of fruit, rice, vegetables and livestock sacrifices into the caldera for the mountain gods on the fourteenth day of the Hindu festival of Yadnya Kasada.

In the southern part of central Java guests will have the opportunity to visit the Borobudur Temple Compound, built in the 8th and 9th centuries, and one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. Also of immense local cultural interest is the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple on Bali, built in 1663. Resembling a vast, layered Christmas Tree the temple complex is on the shores of Lake Bratan, with its cold, tropical climate, and the temple complex is used for offerings ceremonies to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess, Dewi Danu.

In the spectacular Indonesian waters Star Clippers complimentary water sports offer will keep the energetic sports crew busy, as guests will enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing off many of the beaches and islands included in the exotic itineraries.

Star Clippers founder and owner, Mikael Krafft, said "The Indonesian waters will really bring out the very best of a Star Clippers cruise and the natural scenery and spectacular sights will provide an exceptional back-drop for our beautiful ship, Star Clipper. Guests will enjoy the most memorable sailings in some of the most beautiful waters in the world, while daytime activities will be eclectic, exotic and each day will bring opportunities for new adventures."

A 7 night Indonesia sailing on board Star Clipper, cruise only, costs from 3.185 AUD per person, including all meals on board & port charges.

More information visit  or call 1300 295 161

Crossing the Line - Molluccan Sea at the Equator


Guest contributor, Justin Friend, has an encounter with King Neptune

Days at sea can be a point of contention on an expedition ship. In the mainstream world of the large cruise ships, days at sea are expected and commonplace and allow one to use the climbing wall, graze further on all you can eat buffets, fight over sun chairs on the pool deck and other mundane activities to while away the hours as you cross the Atlantic or where ever you may be. But expedition ships are a different breed, and days at sea generally only occur when there is no other option and those days are utilised as times to further enhance your knowledge and the experience of your chosen destination.

Ponant is the latest in an increasingly longer line of cruise operators making the transition from “luxury yacht” style brand to a more expedition focussed program. Le Soleal is essentially a brand new ship having only been launched in 2014 and whilst sounding like a classic marketing line, she truly is the latest and greatest when it comes to ships designed for expedition voyages. With her heritage deep in the Ponant line however, she is well equipped in the luxury department as well. The Ponant brand sits within a corporate stable of other high end French-based brands such as Gucci, giving rise to the affectionate nick name “the Gucci cruise line”. Ponant is further stretching the boundaries of the “hybrid luxury/expedition cruise” that is leading the current surge in expedition cruise popularity with its brand new ships and fine classical service.

So what does that mean for a consumer of expedition cruises on a day at sea, or indeed any other day, onboard a luxury expedition yacht such as Le Soleal? To give an example, the slightly larger size of Ponant’s vessels compared to say the last decades generation of luxury expedition ships (think MV Orion or similar) gives rise to a slightly larger crew. Ponant’s ships of course have an Expedition Leader (EL) and the pre-requisite team of experts to fill your head with knowledge of where you are and what you are doing. But the larger crew allows for such “classic” crew positions as a “cruise director” (think Julie of Love Boat fame). And Le Soleal’s cruise director is world class. The all singing, all smiling Simone is a breath of fresh air on an expedition and having such a capable person to enhance the guest experience from the “luxury yacht” side actually frees up the expedition leader and his team to focus purely on the hard-core expedition side of things, a formula that seems to be working well here onboard.

Today as we continue steaming north on the Molluccan Sea and across the equator, still deep in the spice islands, Simone and his team presented an elaborate “crossing the line” ceremony that was all class and worthy of a Gucci experience. Shellbacks, who are fellow guests that are virgins to crossing the equator by sea, were dressed in togas and paraded around the deck in a stage managed, choreographed event that King Neptune himself would have been proud of. But it’s still an expedition and the likes of our ships botanist, Dr Greg Calvert were still on hand to present detailed lectures on what those spice producing plants we saw yesterday really were. Likewise veteran expedition marine biologist Mark “Harry” Christensen, who was in fact the man who trained me as an expedition leader some decades ago, filled our heads with facts as to what was going on in the underwater world around us.

Shipboard lecture
Days at sea are inevitable, even on expedition ships. They are part of the experience for you to make the most of. So I’m signing off now so I can get a couple more champagnes in on deck before the next round of mind blowing lectures on my Gucci expedition to the spice islands and beyond.

Justin Friend is an experienced
expedition leader and proprietor
of Austronesian Expeditions 

Thursday 10 March 2016

Murray River Loxton Cruise 2016 Dates Announced

Captain Cook Cruises has announced the 2016 dates for its popular seven night Mannum to Loxton and Loxton to Mannum cruises on board small ship paddle-wheeler the Murray Princess.

The Mannum to Loxton cruise will depart Mannum at 4.30pm on Friday 25 November and disembark in Loxton at 9am on Friday 2 December, 2016. The Loxton to Mannum cruise will depart Loxton at 4.30pm on Friday 2 December and disembark in Mannum at 9am on Friday 9 December, 2016.

This historic 339km voyage between Loxton to Mannum in South Australia only operates once every year and follows in the wake of the great 19th century pioneers on a unique journey through three Locks.

"We are very excited to be operating this incredible cruise again this year. Both cruises are very popular with guests who want to explore Australia's outback history from Loxton to Mannum and it is also part of Australia not many people have seen or experienced." Explains Donna Gauci, General Manager, SeaLink South Australia.

The Loxton cruise visits Katarapko, Cobdogla Creek, Overland Corner, Old Distillery, Morgan, Sunnydale and Piggy Flat/Coolcha for overnight stops with shore excursions along the way.

Each day features exciting day trips including a visit to the amazing Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve - one of Australia's most significant archaeological sites, for a guided boardwalk tour of ancient rock carvings and to learn about Aboriginal history.

Guests will fall in love with the animals at a visit to a Native Wildlife Shelter and enjoy a fun and very interactive Australian Woolshed Show.

In many of the historic towns guests will be able to learn about the early settlers and their families on fascinating guided walks and visits to historic museums. Some townships even date back to the early 1800's.

There's a food and wine trail that enables tastings at a rustic cellar door and an Aussie-style campfire barbecue dinner to be enjoyed on the river bank.

Along with this once in a lifetime journey there's an abundance of nocturnal wildlife including kangaroos, hairy-nosed wombats, tortoises and many other species that may be spotted on the riverbanks.

Birdwatchers can view the prolific birdlife including pelicans, wrens and swans while all guests will delight in the breathtaking river scenery as they cruise past towering limestone cliffs, through picturesque gorges, sandbars and fascinating submerged forests.

The seven nightLoxton to Mannum cruise are priced from $2098 per person twin share, inside cabin including accommodation, all meals, guided nature walks, eco-excursions, onboard presentations, the Captain's Dinner and Cocktail Party, live entertainment, use of ship's facilities including a sauna, spa, sun deck, bar, two lounges, restaurant and mini gymnasium and complimentary scenic coach transfers pre cruise from Adelaide to Loxton and post cruise Mannum to Adelaide.

For Further information and bookings please contact:

T: 1300 729 938 from within Australia or +61 9 8202 8697 from Overseas



Monday 7 March 2016

Indonesia's Spice Islands: It's all about the nutmeg



Guest contributor, Justin Friend, sends this dispatch from Indonesia's Spice Islands

The sun appeared over the horizon, just in time to bathe the conical volcanic peaks of the Banda Islands in a stunning orange hue, perfectly synchronised with our arrival of course.

I'm on board Ponant's Le Soléal for an 11-day expedition through the Spice Islands and Borneo and after a day at sea full of high quality lectures and presentations, we've arrived at our first destination: Banda Neira.

Despite being only a few hundred miles from Australia, the European history connected with these islands pre-dates Australia's European history by several centuries. And the simple reason behind that is all about spices.

The Banda Islands are the genetic home of the nutmeg plant. Ternate to the north of here, and our destination in two days from now, is the origin point of the clove plant. The monetary value attached to nutmeg and cloves together with other plants such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon from nearby island groups drove the early European exploration and colonisation of not only the Spice Islands to Australia's north, but in fact much more globally.

Indigenous tribes of Indonesia of the late 19th century

When Christopher Columbus "discovered" America, he was actually looking for these fabled islands. Hence, the oft forgotten accidental discovery of Australia by the Dutch, long before the British "rediscovered" it, occurred due to the Dutch looking for quicker routes to the Spice Islands.

But today was all about the Banda Islands and the nutmeg! A traditional welcome awaited us as we were led ashore by renowned Australian expedition leader, Mick Fogg. During the ceremony baskets of nutmeg once worth thousands of dollars at the peak of the spice trade were presented to the ship's representatives. Local youth performed a nutmeg picking dance for us before we ventured off to explore the township on Banda Neira.

Fort Belgica
The narrow streets were lined with vendors selling all kinds of wares from bags of fresh spices to centuries old Dutch coins and equally old glass bottles. The main buildings of the township are remnants still from the early European colonisation and high on the hill overlooking the harbour stands the Dutch-built fortress of Fort Belgica, the scene of decades of fighting between the Dutch and just about every other European power. All of it over nutmeg.

After the morning's exploration, and of course a sumptuous serving of fine French influenced lunch back on board, the afternoon was time for a different kind of exploration. Directly opposite Banda Neira lies Gunung Api, a conical volcano complete with a solidified lava flow stretching down into the sea. This lava flow, which is only around 25-30 years old has become the substrate base for a dynamic coral reef teeming with tropical fish life. Mick and his team set up Zodiac platforms for us to snorkel from and for a reef system that didn't exist 30 years ago, it was stunning.

To top off our visit, shortly after our departure, Captain Mickael Debien steered Le Soléal on a slight deviation that saw us sail right past the island of Run. I have no doubt a great deal of you reading this have never heard of the island of Run, nor its significance in world history. So to cut a very long story short, whilst the British who occupied Run and the Dutch who occupied the rest of the Bandas were fighting over the spices all those centuries ago, they came to a compromise deal whereby the British would hand over Run to the Dutch and in return the Dutch would forfeit their far-flung colony of New Amsterdam to the British. The Duke of York promptly travelled to New Amsterdam to take possession of this new territory and promptly renamed it New York.

The fact that a great deal more people today can tell you were New York is compared to the isolated remote backwater of Run is indicative of who got the better deal.

Justin Friend is an experienced
expedition leader and proprietor
of Austronesian Expeditions