Tuesday 26 December 2017

SeaDream in the Caribbean's treasured islands

SeaDream Yacht Club whose mega motor-cruisers SeaDream I and SeaDream II have just arrived in the Caribbean for a season there until April of next year, is enjoying growing interest amongst Australians adding a week aboard these super-luxury twins in the Caribbean after an American holiday, or even to round-off a USA business trip.

"The Mediterranean during the northern summer is the popular destination for Australian SeaDreamers," says Sales Director Australia, Julie Denovan. "But more and more are looking to sail a week or more in the Caribbean during our annual seasons there from October to April, much of the appeal being that each of our twins carries a maximum of just 112 guests served by 95 crew.

"And equally appealing is that while we begin and end our sailings at major island ports, because of our size we're able to enjoy the rest of the week at picturesque islands and coves that cruise liners can't even think about.

"At many of these islands we've arrangements with their owners and landholders to enjoy exclusive use of their beaches and waters for swimming and maybe even coral reef diving, and we take our own beach bars and barbecues ashore for tropical island lunches

"And at least once every sailing we hold our Signature Champagne and Caviar Splash beach party at which our guests enjoy these delicacies served by the crew from a surfboard while all are waist-deep in the sea," Ms Denovan said.

"But while we have whole days to ourselves at such treasured little islands, we still have time in larger ports like St Barts that are famed for their shopping."

SeaDream's destinations in the Caribbean include Jost van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, Bequia, Marigot, Saba and St Barts. Seven-night sailings start from US$3191pp twin-share including SeaDream's award-winning cuisine, wines and bar drinks, power and sail water-sports, use of the golf simulator and fitness centre, port charges and taxes, and even crew gratuities.

= = =

For more details, call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit www.cruiseexpress.com.au.
For bookings and further details, see SeaDream specialist Cruise Express

Monday 25 December 2017

Cruiseco Adventurer’s new 2018/2019 program is released


Cruiseco is delighted to unveil the Cruiseco Adventurer's new 2018/2019 program, offering travellers the opportunity to authentically explore the heart of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Guests can experience a luxurious 11-night holiday from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia (or the reverse route), including a sumptuous seven-night voyage along the Mekong River. 15-night holiday experiences enable guests to see the most untouched areas of Hanoi and Halong Bay, before joining the Cruiseco Adventurer itinerary in Ho Chi Minh. For those who have time to add even more exploration to their cruise adventure, three and four-night extensions are available in: Hanoi and Halong Bay; Angkor; Hanoi and Sapa; Hanoi; and Hanoi An.

Carolyn Mackley, National Marketing Manager, Cruiseco, said,

"We are pleased to provide our guests with the wonders of these two ancient countries, which are rich in cultural heritage. Our bespoke itineraries offer travellers a unique glimpse into the captivating culture, rituals and architecture of these two magnificent countries."

Guests can expect to experience the floating markets, the French Gothic Cathedral in Cai Be, the Royal Palace and spectacular Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh, temples, a Buddhist monastery and meditation centre in Oudong, Ta Prohm the temple that famously featured in Tomb Raider, and Cambodia's 800 year old Angkor Wat, the world's largest temple, plus much more.

Designed to accommodate only 60 guests, the vessel includes a dining room, bar, large sun deck, pool and spa facilities, providing an all-inclusive luxury river cruising experience.

"Our onshore excursions led by local guides enable travellers to meet the locals and learn about their customs, cuisine, culture, daily lives and language. Whilst the exceptional service onboard, assures an intimate and unique holiday experience. Guests can choose to add specifically designed extensions, enhancing their exploration of Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Angkor," added Mackley.

· Prices start from AU$4,799* per person, based on twin share for 11 nights, travelling from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia (or the reverse route); and

· Prices start from AU$6,929* per person, based on twin share for 15 nights, travelling from Hanoi to Siem Reap.

· See the brochure or website for pricing of additional excursions.

"With savings of more than $1,500* on selected voyages aboard The Cruiseco Adventurer on departures in February and March, there has never been a better time to explore these spectacular countries," commented Mackley.

Fares include: return economy airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth; a seven night luxury cruise on board Cruiseco Adventurer including all main meals, local beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and onboard gratuities; two night stay at The Caravelle Hotel in Saigon; two night stay at Raffles Hotel D'Angkor in Siem Reap. For those on the 15-night voyage, in addition to the above, fares include: two night stay at Melia Hotel or Sheraton Hotel in Hanoi; extensive sightseeing with expert local guides; and all transfers.

To find out more or to make a booking, contact your local Cruiseco Travel Agent, visit www.cruising.com.au or call the Cruiseco Concierge on (02) 9492 8520.

*Prices are subject to availability and are subject to change. Terms and conditions apply.

Sunday 24 December 2017

SeaDream to visit Cuba 2019

SEADREAM  Yacht Club has been overwhelmed with bookings for its first-ever season into Cuba in early 2019, with past passengers snaffling 80% of the space within 10 days of the launch, even though it is almost a year-and-a-half away.

Cuba's colour, richness and culture is truly embraced with shore excursions included in its sailings there, and with all being from capital Havana to the historic south coast port of Cienfuegos, or vice-versa.

The mega motor-cruiser SeaDream II that carries just 112 guests and 95 crew will open the company's inaugural Cuba season on January 26 2019 with 9-days from San Juan in Puerto Rico to Cienfuegos via the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

And to follow will be its eight, 1-week sailings that will open doors to a rare world that few have ever had an opportunity to experience, and embracing Trinidad, Cayo Largo (also known as Key Largo,) Isla de Juventud, Maria la Gorda, a day at sea, and a day and overnight in Havana.

SeaDream II with 'twin sister' SeaDream I entering Marigot in St Barts in the Caribbean
 – SeaDream II will have two days here on a 9-day re-positioning sail from
Cienfuegos in Cuba to the Caribbean on April 1st 2019.

Then after these sailings, SeaDream II will cross to the Caribbean with a 9-day voyage through the British Virgin Islands, and the British and French West Indies.

SeaDream's unique Cuba sailings will start from US$5089pp twin-share, including its award-winning cuisine, wines and bar drinks, power and sail water-sports, use of the golf simulator and fitness centre, port charges and taxes, and even staff and crew gratuities.

For more details, call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit www.cruiseexpress.com.au.
For bookings and further details, see SeaDream specialist Cruise Express

Thursday 21 December 2017

Lindblad Expeditions Launches Citizen Science Pilot Program

#expeditioncruising #LindbladExpeditions

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, the global leader of expedition cruises and adventure travel experiences, has completed the first stage in their pilot Citizen Science BioBlitz in the Sub-Antarctic, marking the first ever biodiversity assessment done by citizen science in South Georgia. With a resounding 80% guest participation, the goal was a digital record of every living organism that they encountered.

Grytviken (Lindblad)

Lindblad's first BioBlitz series was launched aboard the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer on two November voyages in one of the planet's most wildlife-rich locations. In the Southern Ocean, data is scarce and exceedingly expensive to collect by classic scientific survey expeditions. Enter citizen science, where Lindblad's guests – equipped with a camera or iPhone on hikes, Zodiac cruises and along beaches - made a real and meaningful contribution to science, with 7,500+ photos contributed documenting the Sub-Antarctic ecosystems and marine systems of these remote places.

The program is being spearheaded by Lindblad naturalist Dr. Jimmy White, who has coordinated education and research teams for national universities, international non-government organizations, and documentary companies, and whose expertise lies in the coordination and implementation of field education and remote area research.

"By providing our guests the opportunity to participate in a BioBlitz, our goal is to inspire and engage travelers with more accessible, meaningful and personal wildlife experiences, through wildlife photo-ID, to ultimately improve the science and understanding of the Antarctic ecosystems and marine ecosystems of these remote places," said Dr. White.

Retired NASA Astronaut Kathleen Sullivan, onboard as a Global Perspectives guest speaker, noted the parallels that she saw with the experiments she conducted while on the space shuttle, and the citizen science programs featured on the Lindblad fleet. "The Lindblad-National Geographic vessels bring a greater number of people to a greater number of places than professional scientific parties can touch in a year. That's such a fantastic resource."

Guests will have another opportunity to participate in the Citizen Science BioBlitz on the upcoming 19-day South Georgia and the Falklands expedition departing March 6, 2018. Highlights include: walk amid one of the world's great wildlife spectacles: tens of thousands of stately king penguins on a single beach; observe magnificent albatross in the Falklands, and see Magellanic penguins peeking from their burrows; hike in the footsteps of "the Boss," Sir Ernest Shackleton, and hear his tale of survival; paddle a kayak amid curious fur seals, explore in a Zodiac among the bergs, and bring your photography skills to the next level side-by-side with a National Geographic photographer.

Joining the March 6th voyage as Global Perspective guest speakers are adventurers Peter Hillary and Jamling Tenzing Norgay, sons of the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Hillary is the first second-generation to climb Mt Everest, he has climbed the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on each of the seven continents) and he has been on over 40 mountaineering expeditions around the world. Jamling did not idle in the shadow of paternal legacies. He is a member of a living dynasty of climbers, with 11 of his relatives summiting Mount Everest. Jamling's spiritual journey has led him to an attachment to the Himalayan region and its majestic jagged 8000-meter peaks.

Rates begin at $16,990 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin. This voyage also makes the crossing one-way from South America to the Falklands by air rather than sea, allowing guests one more full day among the incredible penguin colonies of South Georgia.

For reservations or additional information on Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic voyages to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth, visit www.expeditions.com, call 1-800-EXPEDITION (1-800-397-3348) or contact your travel agent.

Video 1 and Video 2 from BioBlitz expedition

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Ponant new luxury Icebreaker

#expeditioncruising .

PONANT, leader in luxury polar expeditions and the only French cruise line, confirmed the order for the first electric hybrid icebreaker, propelled by Liquefied Natural Gas. A very first in the cruising world.

PONANT announced the order for the first electric hybrid cruise icebreaker, with LNG propulsion, the Ponant Icebreaker, therefore reaffirming its place as the world leader in luxury polar expeditions.
Following a public tender led by Barry Rogliano Salles and in which top European shipyards took part, PONANT decided to appoint VARD (VARD Holding Limited), FINCANTIERI’s Norwegian subsidiary, to build the exceptional unit. Delivery is scheduled for 2021.

PONANT is working with the best international experts to execute this world first.

Aker Arctic, an internationally renowned company specialising in the development and design of the most demanding icebreaking vessels

Wärtsilä for the best Dual Fuel diesel engines on the market

GTT, the supplier of an innovative storage technology for LNG Fuel

ABB, a supplier of the most powerful Azipod® Units on the market and electric hybrid structures
And the ship design was created in joint co-operation by Stirling Design International and Aker Arctic.
With just 135 staterooms and luxury service, the innovative vessel is « Clean Ship » certified and environmentally friendly. The ship will take passengers to never explored polar destinations, such as the true geographic North Pole (90 degrees North Latitude), the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and Peter I Island.

Monday 18 December 2017

Windstar Cruises New Signature Expeditions Program Featuring Alaska

Windstar Cruises Announces New Signature Expeditions Program Exploring Rarely Seen Wonders Of Alaska

Windstar Cruises is serving up intimate adventures and active enrichment with a luxurious twist announcing the launch of Windstar's Signature Expeditions which will offer high touch experiences both onboard ship and in the marine and wildlife environments where the award-winning boutique line sails.

The new Signature Expeditions program kicks off in May 2018 with Windstar's greatly anticipated return to the Great Land of Alaska.

"We are offering travellers the chance to slow down and truly enjoy scenic immersion cruising amongst the glaciers and wildlife, and we have the perfect size ships for Alaska, period," said Windstar Cruises President, John Delaney.

"With the addition of our brand-new Signature Expeditions, our comprehensive land tours and exciting roster of shore excursions, each guest will get to experience the best of adventure, breathtaking nature, and completely personalised service in an incredibly immersive yet completely uncrowded cruise."

"Our experienced team has created the most intensive Alaska experience available in small ship cruising today and we can't wait to proudly welcome guests to Windstar's Alaska. It's all about our unique style of casual yet luxurious adventure."

With One Ocean to Antarctica: First to the Frozen Continent

#expeditioncruising .

Zodiac cruising through the ice.

Story and images by John Maddocks

I'm early and I'm excited. It's the start of the spring expedition cruise season to Antarctica, and I'm on the first ship leaving Ushuaia in Argentina, the most southerly city in the world. At this time of year, we'll experience the Antarctic in all its ice-covered grandeur. It's an exhilarating prospect.

After all, ice is what this pristine, other-worldly wilderness is all about. Ninety-nine per cent of Antarctica's 14 million square kilometres is covered in ice, some of it four kilometres thick. Sea ice can double the size of the continent in winter, and much of it will still be there when we arrive.

There are, of course, many other exciting aspects of this trip. On the way to Antarctica, we visit the Falkland and South Georgia Islands, renowned for their incredible history and wildlife. Our first zodiac landings get us up close to Magellanic, rockhopper and gentoo penguins, upland geese, fur seals and hundreds of black-browed albatrosses nesting side by side in tall tussock grass on cliff edges.

We find friendly locals in the Falklands' capital Port Stanley, keen to welcome us to their remote outpost. This colourful town of 3000 residents boasts a government house and cathedral, but the most interesting attraction is the excellent, quirky museum. It houses fascinating collections that bring the islands' social and natural history to life.

While at sea on our way to South Georgia Island, accompanied by circling albatrosses and giant petrels, we attend engaging lectures by a naturalist, ornithologist, photographer and historian. Legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried on the island and we learn of his exploits before visiting his grave next day at Grytviken, a former whaling station. After his ship was trapped in ice and sank in 1915, Shackleton and five others sailed a 6-metre lifeboat 1500-kilometres across the treacherous Southern Ocean from Elephant Island to South Georgia. This feat is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest small boat voyages of all time.

South Georgia is home to spectacular nature experiences. Standing on Salisbury Plain with over 100,000 King penguins as well as elephant and fur seals is the closest I've ever been to wildlife. The experience is heightened because these creatures have no apparent fear of humans.

At gorgeous Gold Harbour we witness elephant seals mating, one of the most dramatic and confronting events in nature. The massive males, which can be six-metres long and weigh up to 4,000 kilograms, fight each other for the right to mate with around 50 females. At one point we have to quickly move out of the way of a huge male as he confronts another contender and then mates with a female. Other females and young seals nearby scatter to avoid being crushed. Our naturalist tells us that the mating season is brief, so we wouldn't have seen this exceptional event if we'd arrived several weeks later.

After our memorable wildlife encounters on South Georgia, we head to the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. When they come into sight several days later, my ice dreams become reality. Incredible, jagged, snow-covered mountains dominate the horizon, flanked by massive glaciers. Brash ice covers much of the water's surface and huge icebergs appear.

Our first landings exceed every expectation. The sheer scale and beauty of the place is staggering. We are overawed, insignificant in the ice. We have made it to the end of the world, and now we know why we've come. We wanted to stand in a place like no other, a place that can bring you to your knees with its majesty.

The colours in Antarctica are surprising. Masses of all-encompassing white snow and ice are offset by blue, grey and even black ice. Occasionally an exposed rock will feature bright orange lichen beneath a bright blue sky.

Each landing at places with exotic names such as Wilhelmina Bay, Yankee Harbour and Half Moon Island is different. We see Antarctica's largest gentoo penguin rookery and a massive chinstrap penguin colony. There is even some excitement as we're forced to abandon a landing and return to the ship when the wind rises unexpectedly and blows large chunks of brash ice into our landing site.

After four days, we leave Antarctica for our last adventure: crossing the notorious Drake Passage to Argentina. It's reputedly the roughest piece of ocean in the world and I've heard that its moods range from 'Drake shake' to 'Drake lake'. I'm rather relieved when it turns out to be the latter, as we enjoy two days of smooth sailing.

This provides a great opportunity to reflect on the highlights of the voyage. There's a presentation of the best photos taken during the journey, many of which are superb. Ultimately, however, it's a trip that no photos can adequately capture. We've visited places in less than three weeks that took explorers like Scott and Shackleton three years to reach. Remote frozen landscapes, incredible wildlife encounters and a constant sense of adventure make this a mind-blowing experience, and one not to be missed.

The writer travelled as a guest of One Ocean Expeditions.

Fact File: Getting There: Air New Zealand flies to Buenos Aires via Auckland and code shares with Aerolineas Argentinas for flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. www.airnewzealand.com.au

Cruise: One Ocean Expeditions have cruises to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica commencing as early in the season as October 20, 2018.

Visit www.oneoceanexpeditions.com or phone 133 368 123 (In Australia)

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


1. A magnificent black-browed albatross follows our ship.

2. Rockhopper penguins nesting in the Falklands.

3. A black-browed albatross nesting.

4. A king penguin feeding its baby on South Georgia Island.

5. Love elephant seal style.

6. King penguins and elephant seals at Gold Harbour.

7. Jagged mountains rise out of the Antarctic Ocean.

8. Zodiac cruising through the ice.

9. Hiking in Antarctica.

10. Chinstrap penguins.  Image by Jo See.

11. Weddell seal having a snooze.

Friday 15 December 2017

From aboard NG Quest in Costa Rica: Hippy love birds in the Jungle

#expeditioncruising #LindbladExpeditions .

It's a beautiful hippy love story that began in Germany in 1969. Trudy and Ron were footloose and fancy-free when they met in Cold War Hamburg and fell in love. They hooked up and travelled to Australia where they were married before heading back home to the US.

With the Vietnam War going sour for the US, the pair decided to head to South America but only got as far as Costa Rica before their old van broke down and the money ran out. Long story short, they bought some beachfront land on the Golfo Dulce in 1974, set up a cocoa and banana farm, built a new house, had two children and stayed in Costa Rica ever since.

When a blight wiped out much of Costa Rica's cocoa trees in the '80s, the pair shifted to tourism and today at Casa Orquideas, we're visiting a beautifully manicured and maintained miniature botanical garden alive with birds and bursting with colourful exotic blooms.

“Lindblad first came here almost by accident about 20 years ago,” Trudy tells me, “and I hope they keep coming, but the upkeep is starting to wear us down.”

With the children gone, Ron and Trudy have put the 70 acres of Casa Orquideas on the market, so if you are looking for your own slice of tropical paradise, Trudy would welcome your offer.

These images were obtained in about an hour just sitting and watching the birds come to the feeding station. I would have ticked a few new species off my list if I'd had one. I'll let my birder friends have some fun spotting the species before I add captions.

Thursday 14 December 2017

From aboard National Geographic Quest in Costa Rica: Osa Peninsula

#expeditioncruising #LindbladExpeditions .

Lindblad Expeditions organic safari on the Osa Peninsula 

Landing at Playa Blanca (RE)

If ever I needed a refresher in just what expedition cruising was all about, my first day with Lindblad in Costa Rica was all it took.

A glorious tropical morning among 'pinch me' scenery was just the start as we landed on a picnic-ready beach at Playa Blanca on Costa Rica's remote Osa Peninsula. Guests split into groups, each heading to their chosen excursion where we would visit families who owned and operated subsistence-level farms, each with their own specialities.

The trio of mocking macaws (RE)

There would be time for two excursions either side of a BBQ lunch under a huge tree that played host to a trio of Scarlett Macaws. The three brilliant parrots sat high and aloof cavorting and preening among the branches, looking down on the curious, clumsy mammals with an air of comic disdain.

My first exploration was to the sugar cane farm of Johnny Rodriguez, whose family had been cultivating and harvesting the sweet, bamboo-like product for some 50 years. His 95-year-old father-in-law, Carmine, still sprightly, was busy helpingout too. Johnny was proud as punch with his 100yo 'trapiche', set up to crush the long juicy stems while his horse hauled the heavy beam attached to the old grinder.

Johnny squeezes the sugar cane in the ancient method (RE)

While the family farms several root and fruit crops, the sugar cane is the long-standing tradition. Here the 100 per cent organic product is processed into molasses plugs called 'tapa de dulce' through a boiling and purification process with their own wood-fired stove and hand-made mahogany moulds. We see the whole process from whoa-to-go, each stage eliciting a satisfying smile from Johnny. His wife Naomi meanwhile is busy mixing up a sweet concoction of molasses, nuts, coconut and milk powder while the children look on in delight.

After lunch and a mocking from the three macaws, we are treated to a short cultural display from young schoolchildren in traditional costume before setting off for our second installment.

A twirl after lunch from local schoolkids (RE)

Here I chose the Finca Kobo cocoa farm for reasons that don't need explaining, but was delighted to discover far more than the humble chocolate beans on offer. Our guide, Juan-Luis, delighted in walking us through a tiny section of his 50ha farm that grows some 85 different varieties of fruits, spices, herbs and vegetables. And not your average greengrocer selection either. We ogled such exotic crops as custard apple, noni, cinnamon, turmeric, jackfruit, star apple and several varieties of citrus and guava.

“The noni is full of anti-oxidants and vitamin C,” says Juan-Luis as he slices the pungent fruit with his Vitorinox, “the taste is not nearly as bad as the smell.”

And he's not kidding. The innocent looking fruit has an aroma something like a mix of ripe blue cheese and eau de laundry basket. We think of the many health benefits that outweigh the unfortunate perfume as we consume the slices through clenched lips.

Conquering the alien jackfruit (Calin Laine)

Next, a ripe jackfruit the size of a rugby ball is plucked from a relieved branch. With the outer texture of a sun-ripened iguana, the husk is spilt open to reveal innards that could have come from a Ridley Scott movie. Slimy, glutinous tentacles conceal marble-sized seeds and despite its alien, anemone-like appearance, is so delicious, our greedy hands clutch at the flesh like delinquent vultures.

We did eventually get to the cocoa process and learned the dirty secrets of the big confectionery companies who strip out the best stuff (like the pure cocoa butter) and leave us with a mere hint of sugar-inundated chocolate wrapped in shiny paper and marketing hype. Suck on that for a moment.

All jokes aside, the family-owned, community attractions here on the Osa Peninsula are an enlightening example of how tourism can resist the temptation to become a mass-market commodity and maintain sustainable, eco-friendly operations that are a joy to experience. For more information about the local tourism initiative, see www.caminosdeosa.com

For more information about travel on any of Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic vessels, see www.expeditions.com

Tuesday 12 December 2017

One Ocean celebrates 10th Anniversary

#expeditioncruising .

As winter releases its grip on the Antarctic, the sea ice begins to recede and marine wildlife returns to the region, leading expedition cruise operator, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), celebrates its 10th year of transporting intrepid travellers to the ‘White Continent’.

The beginning of the Antarctic season is the optimum time to view wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere as many species return from warmer climes. The waters are rich with marine life, bringing humpbacks, orcas and minke whales to feed on abundant schools of krill. Penguins head back to rookeries in the thousands as the mating season begins. Weddell and leopard seals become playful and hungry, feeding on the fresh ocean delicacies brought by the new season. It’s an ideal time for keen photographers to take picture perfect shots of plentiful marine wildlife!

It’s also the time of year when many scientific research stations re-open on the Antarctic Peninsula. OOE supports and facilitates world-leading oceanographic and marine mammal research. The organisation – which puts education, polar exploration and science at the forefront of its values - provides more than 120 days per year of ship time for accredited science projects.

Carefully selected research partners travel alongside guests on OOE polar cruises, conducting relevant and meaningful research projects while on-board. Amongst them, renowned scientists and academics include Dr Ari Friedlaender, a university professor and leading marine mammal researcher involved in a ground-breaking whale feeding study. Ron Naveen, Founder of Oceanites, is also a regular on board, conducting important penguin behaviour and census research work, and supporting innovative climate change and polar environment studies.

“At One Ocean Expeditions, we are committed to supporting on-going scientific research, as well as offering our guests and staff the opportunity to meet and interact with acclaimed experts in the intimate setting of our expedition vessels”, says Aaron Lawton, Operations Director at One Ocean Expeditions.

Expedition cruising to the Antarctic is the ultimate experience, not only for scientists, amateur and professional photographers, but for families and intrepid travellers who have adventure at heart or a deep appreciation of the environment, ocean and wildlife. OOE’s 10-night 'Christmas in Antarctica’ voyage is certainly one to add to the Bucket List! Price starts at USD9, 195 per person sharing a triple cabin.

Other options include the 10-night ‘Antarctic Marine Mammal’ voyage and the 10-night ‘Antarctic Peninsula Adventure’ voyage in March 2018, when guests will have the opportunity to witness leading scientists conducting and explaining their research. Their investigations will provide vital information on the feeding patterns, social habits and the role that wildlife, especially whales, play in the Antarctic ecosystem.

OOE’S 2017/18 Antarctic expedition cruises start from USD$11,295 for a 10-night voyage in a private twin cabin on one of the company’s fleet of premium ice-strengthened ships. Included in the price is on board accommodation, all meals, room amenities, daily zodiac excursions, expedition gear package and educational seminars and lectures led by expert staff and renowned guest speakers.

For more information on One Ocean Expeditions’ Antarctic voyages visit: https://www.oneoceanexpeditions.com/dates-and-rates

NG Quest: Panama Canal Transit and Barro Colorado Island

#expeditioncruising .

From aboard NG Quest in Panama

Prof Meg Crofoot from Uni of California chats with Lindblad guests

Expedition leader, Margrit, was justifiably pleased with herself when we scored a daylight transit slot through the Pedro Miguel Locks on the Caribbean end of the canal. Small, low priority vessels like NG Quest often find themselves waiting until well after sundown for a spot.

But we weren't heading straight through just yet. Lindblad Expeditions have, through friendly back channels, managed to obtain a landing permit at Barro Colorado Island. What was once just another hilltop in the valley, it became a 1560 hectare island as the massive Gatun Lake was created during the flooding of the canal more than a century ago.

Wildlife sought refuge on the outcrop as the waters rose and as a result, created a natural refuge for the animals that once inhabited the now submerged jungle floor. It became a formal nature reserve in 1923. In the 1960s, the Smithsonian Institute arrived and established their tropical research station which now hosts more than 200 scientists and researchers who work year round on various projects.

Part of the Smithsonian's Tropical Research Institute

During our walk through the jungle we came upon Prof. Margaret 'Meg' Crofoot from the University of California (Davis) and her small team who were engaged in a study of primate interaction.

“There are some interesting behaviours among the troupes of Capuchin monkeys who live here,” Prof Meg explains as we rest along the steamy path, “the distinct communities sometimes socialise and at other times clash. We're studying the factors that might influence group decision making.”

A bit further along we find Roland Kays from the University of South Carolina who is here studying mammals. He is about to release a kinkajou sporting a new GPS collar. The animal is about the size of a cat and waits timidly inside the cage for its release. With the serene face of a possum, it also reminds me of the cute cuscus we found in PNG. With the trap door open the little guy gingerly sneaks out and makes his way into the undergrowth without any sense of urgency.

A shy kinkajou is released with a new GPS collar

As we complete our circuit of the jungle trek, our attention is drawn to frequent crashing and thrashing from within the undergrowth as little agouti (cat-sized rodents) forage in the leaf litter and noisy monkeys of some sort cavort up in the canopy. Birds sing constantly and we manage to catch sight of a vivid Rufous Motmot as well as a bold green and red Slaty-tailed Trogon which are endemic to the region.

Slaty-tailed Trogon (M)

Soaked to the skin even after this mild exertion in the steamy jungle, we make our way back to NG Quest to complete our transit as an escort to Windstar's Star Breeze through the Miraflores Locks and into the Pacific.

For more information about travel on any of Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic vessels, see www.expeditions.com

Monday 11 December 2017

PONANT 2019 Sub Antarctic islands


A photographer's wish-list of bird and marine wildlife

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand & Australia with PONANT

A voyage to the Sub Antarctic Islands provides the perfect opportunity for bird watchers, wildlife photographers and nature lovers to observe in close-up the extraordinary density and variety of bird and marine life found on and around this scattering of remote islands lying to the south of New Zealand and Australia.

Strict restrictions on annual visitor numbers to the Sub Antarctic Islands apply, resulting in a mere trickle of tourists - a small fraction compared to the numbers of visitors to the Galapagos and even less than the numbers who scale Mt Everest each year. Protected by their remoteness these islands of impeccable natural beauty are breeding grounds for vast colonies of penguins and giant petrels, and home to pods of orcas, fur seals and sea lions.

"There are few places I have ever encountered in my 20 years of remote area travels that impress as much as the Subs" says Expedition Leader Mick Fogg, veteran of over 300 expeditions (including over 20 just to the Sub Antarctic islands). "Isolation is the main attraction here, a protected realm where wildlife abounds. Whether it be the welcoming committee of thousands of penguins when we alight from our Zodiacs onto a black volcanic sand beach, or a swelling disturbance in the water that marks the emergence of an orca, savour the moment, for we will be right in the thick of things."

Last year, Nathalie Michel and Margot Sib, the photographic team onboard, captured a series of exceptional wildlife images which are currently available to view at https://au.ponant.com/subantarctic-islands-gallery/  

"These photographs brilliantly capture examples of what we encountered last time and will surely whet the appetite of anyone interested in joining us onboard Le Laperouse for her inaugural Sub Antarctic voyage in February 2019."

"To be launched in mid 2018, this purpose-built small luxury expedition ship with just 92 suites and staterooms all with balconies, will provide an exceptional 'base camp' for daily activities as we explore these remarkable islands in the company of the rest of our specialist Expedition Team," continued Mick. "This is an extraordinary voyage where every fiord and island we visit is UNESCO World Heritage classified. No wonder the 2018 expedition sold out some time ago, so I recommend quick action to secure space on this February 2019 Le Laperouse voyage."

Sub Antarctic expedition overview:
16 nights Sub Antarctic Islands voyage departs Dunedin 23 February 2019 bound for the famous Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds and then on to The Snares and Auckland Islands and Australia's own Macquarie Island. This expedition includes Campbell, Antipodes and Bounty Islands en-route returning to Dunedin.

Macquarie and New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands expedition

Comprehensive voyage details are available at:


23 February 2019 to 11 March 2019 - Dunedin - Dunedin  

LE LAPEROUSE, 17 days / 16 nights. 25% Ponant Bonus.

From A$13,300pp* in Deluxe Stateroom with balcony

*Ponant Bonus fare in AUD per person, based on a double occupancy, including port taxes, yield managed, correct at time of writing – 16/11/17. Refer to au.ponant.com for T&Cs.

Fare includes accommodation onboard as booked, all meals onboard, selected wines, beers and spirits, Open Bar, 24 hour room service, Zodiac exploration and shore excursions, boot hire, lectures and presentations.

Please note: This is a limited offer.


To receive a copy of the PONANT Expedition brochure with complete details of this and 64 other expedition voyages, or for more information, please contact your travel agent or PONANT directly in Australia: 1300 737 178 or 612 8459 5000 / or in New Zealand: 0800 44 32 62

Or email reservations.aus@ponant.com to request your copy of Luxury Expeditions.

Further information available on the website:  au.ponant.com

Cruise the Mekong River with World Expeditions – and take the kids for free!


Take the kids for free on the family trip of a lifetime along the mighty Mekong River, from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the Cambodian town of Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, next July or October school holidays.

World Expeditions is offering a second cabin for two kids aged under 18 at no extra cost, when you book one cabin for two paying adults, at $3,290 per person. Price includes 7 nights aboard a luxury river cruiser and all meals.

The Mekong Explorer River Cruise Family Deal is valid on departures on 7 July, 4 August, 6 October and 20 October 2018 trips only and is strictly limited to availability.

More information at www.worldexpeditions.com or call 1300 720 000.


First glimpse: National Geographic Quest in Panama

#expeditioncruising .

From aboard National Geographic Quest in Panama

(c) Lindblad Expeditions
First Impressions

It's always with some excitement that I get to sail aboard a brand new ship and especially when that ship is the first new build in Lindblad's history and the only purpose-built expedition ship designed and built from scratch in the USA thus far. I say 'thus far', because Quest will be joined by a sister vessel, Venture, in June 2018. The pair will supplement the stalwart and much-loved vessels, Sea Bird and Sea Lion operating Alaska, Sea of Cortez and Latin America itineraries. (Editor's Note: I had previously understood the Sea Lion and Sea Bird would be retired, but have since been advised they will stay on fleet.)

My first impression is that of a ship built expressly to purpose. Lindblad's 50 years of expedition cruising has certainly provided plenty of insight into what's needed in an expedition ship. NG Quest is unpretentious and sturdy, even utilitarian in design and appearance. Forget gleaming, mirrored salons, chandeliers and abstract canvas art. Instead we have a relaxing and versatile lounge designed for the dual purpose of lectures and AV screenings as well as refreshments, bar and library. Walls throughout are decorated with giant National Geographic images of stunning wildlife and vistas.

Deluxe Cabin (Cat 4) 

The 50 twin cabins are easily spacious enough for two and come in five categories across three decks, one of which includes private balconies. There are no TVs or minibars, but every category has a writing desk and ample storage. Help yourself beverages, tea, coffee and snacks are always available in the lounge.

Dining is in the single-sitting, bistro-style area at the stern (just below the sundeck) and serves both buffet and plated menus depending on the occasion. Food is healthy, fresh and nutritious served in modest portions. Lots of fruits and vegetables, baked and grilled lean meats with plenty of colour in the salad bar. Sorry, but I haven't found the all-you-can-eat pizza bar and hamburger stand yet – and I hope I don't.

Versatile lounge and bar (RE)

Great effort has gone into making this ship comfortable and practical for expedition itineraries. The transom or 'fantail' is located at the stern just above the water line and makes for hassle-free access to the Zodiacs, something many ships in today's global fleet still have trouble with.

Also aboard are double and single kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkelling kit for all. At time of writing, there is no provision for scuba diving, but I will keep asking. For healthy types there is a small gym and LEXspa treatment salon. A small 'Global Gallery' boutique/gift shop also stocks quality clothing and souvenirs.

NG Quest at anchor in Gatun Lake, Panama (RE)

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic have always taken seriously the concept of 'low impact' travel. It pleases me to see every opportunity to minimise waste has been taken. Obvious things many cruise lines only pay lip service to like refillable bathroom gels, no drinking straws and tough stainless water bottles filled (and refilled) from double-filtered taps and very minimal use of plastics. Hand-wash and sanitisation stations are in all public spaces.

It's an exciting time generally for expedition and adventure cruising around the world and it's great to see a pioneering brand like Lindblad preparing for the onslaught by strengthening their core values and not succumbing to flashy distractions.

For more information about travel on any of Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic vessels, see www.expeditions.com

Saturday 9 December 2017

Wild Earth Travel in new partnership with Zegrahms

#expeditioncruising .

For nearly 30 years Zegrahm Expeditions have been discovering the world, they live this passion by taking inquisitive explorers to the farthest corners of the globe - on adventures by land and sea that are outside the realm of traditional travel.

Sample itinerary

Wild Earth Travel - the small ship cruising specialists.
View 2018 Small Ship brochure today! 


Monday 4 December 2017

IAATO launches 'One Stop' app for Antarctic field staff and visitors

The launch of the new IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica app makes it quick and easy for Antarctic staff and visitors to access essential information while in the field.                 

To mark Antarctica Day (1 Dec), the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has launched a free iOS and Android app for staff guiding visitors in Antarctica that makes it quick and easy for users on-the-go in the field to access essential information, without the need for a phone signal.

IAATO, a member organisation formed in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic, developed the new Polar Guide: Antarctica app to include existing operational procedures and guidelines for wildlife watching, visiting specific sites, being a responsible Antarctic visitor, preventing the introduction of alien species and more. The app is also intended to be a useful resource for anyone visiting or keen to learn more about Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty and the work being done to preserve the continent's extraordinary landscape and wildlife.

"The new IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica app is the perfect support tool for IAATO staff in the field." said Lisa Kelley, IAATO Head of Operations. "Users can quickly refer to essential information in order to meet all IAATO and Antarctic Treaty System requirements for safe and ethical operations on and around the white continent.

"Given the importance of the Antarctic Treaty System for IAATO's mission of environmentally responsible travel and as a shining example of peaceful international collaboration, it seemed fitting to launch the app on Antarctica Day, which celebrates the signing of the Antarctic Treaty 58 years ago. "

IAATO members work together to develop, adopt and implement operational standards that mitigate potential environmental impacts.

The app will allow users to stay up to speed with the latest IAATO vessel and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) information for effective yacht and ship operations; and enable them to support Antarctic science and conservation while enhancing their experience in Antarctica by checking out selected citizen science projects.

Lisa added: "Antarctic travel, like other sectors, has changed and grown considerably over the last two decades. Our members are continuously researching new technology to strengthen our policy of safe and responsible travel while always abiding by Antarctic Treaty requirements.

"By using the IAATO Polar Guide: Antarctica App, you can feel confident that you are doing your utmost to protect Antarctica's great wilderness; a cause IAATO members have dedicated themselves to since the organisation's inception."

IAATO Polar Guide:  Antarctica can be downloaded now for iOS and Android.
Issued by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.