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Monday, August 31, 2009

Cruise Weekly Comment: Adventure Cruising – Aussie Style

For lots of people, the idea of an adventure cruise means some far off, distant land, icebergs and glaciers. But some dinkum Aussie operators provide world-class products right here from our favourite cities.

Of those operators sailing Australian-flagged vessels with all-Australian crew, North Star Cruises in Broome, Coral Princess Cruises in Cairns and Captain Cook Cruises in Sydney come quickly to mind with itineraries covering the entire coastline of Australia, including the Murray River.

Iconic destinations such as the Kimberley and Great Barrier Reef are well covered, but dig deeper and you’ll find semi-secret locations such as the Rowley Shoals in WA and Cape York and Arnhem Land across our Top End. North Star Cruises continue their Southern Safari out of Adelaide that covers Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula with the exciting “Jaws” shark cage dive as highlight.

Coral Princess Cruises, one of the premium operators in the Kimberley, are even offering a free Great Barrier Reef Cruise for every new booking in the Kimberley this year. (this offer was supposed to expire end August, but tell them CW said it was extended by 7 days for subscribers only!) Otherwise a 15% earlybird applies for 2010 dates.

It’s a bit harder to keep track of some of the smaller operators offering niche products, but Pearl Seas Cruises, Cannon Charters, Great Escape (pic r), Matrix, K2O and One Tide all offer intimate vessels of around a dozen passengers and can be booked through the one-stop Kimberley Cruise Centre or direct. These little ships are great for divers, fishers and small corporate or family groups.

The multi-award-winning Orion Expedition Cruises are an Australian Private Company operating the 106-passenger Bahaman-flagged Orion. The “grand dame” of our adventure fleet, Orion offers the nearest thing to a big ship experience, yet still keeps that adventurous touch. Their just-announced 2010 brochure includes a wealth of local cruising options including our east coast, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia – many of which are firsts for Orion. The loyal following will have plenty of reasons for repeat cruises next year and new cruisers may want to try them too.

So if you’re hankering for an adventure cruise and don’t want the jetlag, there are stacks of great opportunities in brilliant vessels right on our doorstep. Print this page now, race into your favourite travel agent and get aboard!

Cruise Passenger Newsletter

Deal of the Week

No Single Supplement!
Kimberley Coast on board Oceanic Discoverer
Broome-Darwin 10 nights
21 Sep & 12 Oct 09
Darwin – Broome 02 Oct 09
$7750 single occupancy

Call 1800 288 266

Friday, August 28, 2009

Orion Expedition Cruises' 2010 Voyages Brochure Just Released - A 5 Star Brochure for 5 Star Expedition Cruising

Orion's latest full colour brochure, just released, features evocative colour spreads, some by award winning Australian photographers Ken Duncan and Earl Carter (along with winners of the Orion Photography Competition) depicting key destinations, along with an overview of guest experiences and life onboard.

In addition to destination features including the Kimberley and Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea, the Spice Islands, New Zealand and Antarctica, the 2010 brochure contains useful information for potential expedition travellers, demonstrating the differences between typical mainstream cruising and the stimulating physical and intellectual experiences to be had on an Orion expedition voyage.

The brochure contains comprehensive information on Orion's range of 5 star accommodation and facilities, (with floor plans from Staterooms to Owner's Suites) and examples of onboard luxuries such as boutique, massage, spa, elevator and lounges – and Serge Dansereau's award winning cuisine.

If a photo tells a thousand words then video goes one better. The brochure also contains a DVD providing a taste of some of the destinations visited and typical cultural, historic and wildlife experiences encountered along the way.

Included with this year's brochure is a useful lift-out reference booklet containing in-depth itinerary details by destination, pricing (with savings for early booking) and Calendar of Sailings for all expeditions throughout 2010 and early 2011.

Brochures are available by contacting Orion Expedition Cruises on 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate), through the website at email or through specialist expedition cruise travel agents.

Expansive landscape format and photography reflect seascapes and vistas typically encountered on Orion expeditions.

The cover features a dramatic photo of Orion alongside a waterfall in New Zealand's spectacular fjord land. Internal spreads include Orion at the mouth of the Hunter River in the Kimberley, Mawson's Huts in Antarctica, King George

Falls, cultural dance groups and remote beaches in PNG and Melanesia, and wildlife encounters on New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctica.

In 2010 Orion has Australia covered - for the first time Orion will be visiting every Australian State - plus Macquarie Island and Antarctica. Two coastal highlights voyages that include Victoria and South Australia in November will round out visits to every State and the Northern Territory.

Expeditions also include Melanesia, remote islands of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, New Zealand fjord lands and sub-Antarctic islands.

2010 voyages feature
• 6 new rarely-visited island destinations in Papua New Guinea
• 3 new ports in the exotic Spice and Tanimbar Islands
• Orion's inaugural visit to Irian Jaya, famous worldwide for its vibrant Asmat Art woodcarvings
• New Australian coastal voyages from Cairns to Hobart including World Heritage listed marine parks, nature reserves, national parks and wilderness areas
• Inaugural voyages to Melbourne, the Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island, Eyre Peninsula and Fleurieu Peninsula
• Christmas in New Zealand's spectacular fjordland

The Antarctic continent remains a strong Orion drawcard for adventurers lured by the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the historic Antarctic explorer bases of Mawson, Scott and Shackleton.

Those seeking warmer climes can cruise our own Great Barrier Reef – perfect for shorter breaks in one of the most beautiful parts of the world – and easily accessible through major gateways.

An electronic version of the Orion 2010 brochure can be downloaded from or a printed version mailed directly simply by contacting Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate), emailing or visiting your travel agent.
General email:

Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is the world's latest purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship, featuring an unmatched range of onboard facilities.

With 75 crew and a maximum of just 106 passengers Orion offers the highest staff to guest ratio and guest to public space ratio of any ship based in Australian waters.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website

Monday, August 17, 2009

Orion keen to increase international booking and acquire second ship

Australia's Orion Expedition Cruises plans to boost UK sales before it buys a second ship.

The cruiseline's ship, Orion, sails between Darwin and Broome in the Kimberley, Northern Australia, and to Papua New Guinea and Antarctica.

However, founder and managing director Sabrina Bratton, in London last week on a UK/US sales trip to raise trade awareness of the cruiseline, said she is keen to increase international bookings and buy a second ship.

"Despite economic conditions, it's still expensive to build, so we are looking to buy. We are a profitable company with a 35% repeat factor. But that brings its own challenges as it means we have to offer new destinations and itineraries for repeat passengers," she said.

Bratton said the second ship would cruise around Asia, which would attract repeat guests as well as the UK market.

"We are offering a cruise from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City, and we want to build on that. Our research shows there is demand for Asia."

Orion cruises are priced in Australian dollars, but Bratton said a pound-based brochure would be produced as UK business improves. As well as specialist cruise agents, she is targeting retailers and operators with a strong database of well-travelled clients who are not cruisers but are looking for something different.

Australians account for 90% of Orion's passengers, excluding charter business, with Brits and Americans making up most of the remaining. Bratton expects 60 British passengers this year, worth about £315,000.

If Orion adds the second ship, Bratton hopes the UK and Europe will account for 25% of sales. She said: "We have representation in South Africa and Asia but we have identified the UK as the biggest growth market after the US."

She said the new ship would be small - Orion holds just 106 passengers - so it can visit remote destinations.

Source: Jane Archer - TravelWeekly (UK)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coral Princess Expands in the Kimberley in 2010 – with Early Bird Discounts!

An exploratory cruise along the wild and beautiful Kimberley coast – much of it only accessible by sea – is Coral Princess Cruises' most popular voyage. In the just-released 2010 Kimberley & Across the Top of Australia brochure, the company is offering an unprecedented 36 departures and, for the first time, an early bird discount of 15 per cent.

Responding to popular demand, Coral Princess – which pioneered small-ship cruising in the Kimberley 14 years ago, has added 4 departures to its 2010 complement, with a choice of vessels: the 48-passenger Coral Princess or the luxurious 72-passenger Oceanic Discoverer.

And for bookings on voyages departing between April 01 and May 17, 2010, a 15 per cent discount off the cruise-only cost applies to all cabin categories. These departures coincide with the early stages of the Top End dry season, when the many waterfalls that plummet directly into the sea or into dramatic gorges are at their most spectacular.

The Kimberley wilderness of Western Australia is three times larger than England with a population of just 30 000. Coral Princess's 10-night voyages cruise between Darwin and Broome through one of the planet's oldest and most awe-inspiring sea and landscapes. Rivers carve their way through ancient, eroded mountains that were once the height of the Himalaya, dropping in champagne waterfalls such as the 80-metre King George Falls. Excursions ashore visit rock art galleries where Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings - the world's oldest known art - record a human history stretching back 50,000 years.

There is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls, and bushwalks to idyllic swimming holes. The cruise explores the 800-odd islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, including an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the Horizontal Waterfalls, where the largest tides in the southern hemisphere force their way between rocky cliffs in a formidable display of the forces of nature.

Prices for the 10-night Kimberley cruise start at $6850 per person, twin share, aboard the Coral Princess and $8250 aboard Oceanic Discoverer, including all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, excursions and group transfers. There are regular departures from both Darwin and Broome between April and October 2010.

At the beginning and end of the season, the Kimberley cruise can be combined with an 11-night voyage, Across The Top of Australia, between Cairns and Darwin, exploring the remote reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York, Torres Strait, Arnhem Land and the Cobourg Peninsula – visiting places of exquisite beauty and cultural significance so remote that they can't be reached any other way. Departing in March, April and October, prices for this 11-night cruise start at $6850 per person. There is a 10 per cent discount for booking the two cruises together.

Next year, Coral Princess is venturing into the Kimberley by both land and sea, with a 24-night Kimberley Cruise & 4WD Expedition, combining the 10-night cruise and a 4WD tour through the Kimberley's rugged and beautiful interior.

The 4WD journey travels the length of the legendary Gibb River Road, stopping at million-acre El Questro station to hike into Emma Gorge and soak in the hot pools of Zebedee Springs. Further along the road, Lake Argyle is the largest man-made lake in the Southern Hemisphere, with 18 times the capacity of Sydney Harbour. A highlight of the road trip is World Heritage-listed Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, and 'camping out' in style overnight at the award-winning Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge.
The 24-night Cruise & 4WD Expedition starts at $12 745 aboard the Coral Princess and $14 145 aboard Oceanic Discoverer. Prices are per person, twin share. This includes the cruise and 4WD transport, all meals and group transfers.

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises on 1800 079 545 or visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Forget Global Warming, now it's Economic Climate Change

With economic indicators starting to look slightly more positive, adventure cruise operators are hoping passenger numbers return to pre-GFC levels.

Orion Expedition Cruises MD, Sarina Bratton, reminds us she is still on the look out for Orion II to take the company further afield to Asia and the Pacific Islands while North Star Cruises have scheduled a return to West Papua in 2010 as well as a 10-night first timer to the Solomon Islands en route to Sydney for their annual stay in the harbour city.

Meanwhile some operators have found the last few weeks particularly testing.

The classic sailing ship, Soren Larsen, was struck by a rogue wave en route to the Cook Islands and is back in NZ for repairs, while the new luxury Amazon River cruiser, Aqua, was boarded by armed bandits (twice!) who robbed passengers and crew.

Fortunately there were no significant injuries in either case and Aqua at least is sailing again at near capacity.

Amanresorts announced the debut of Amanikan, a custom-built 105-foot coastal cruiser built in the style of traditional wooden Indonesian vessels known as Phinisi. This vessel will form part of the uber-luxe company's new 7-night Komodo Expedition which includes diving and an exclusive resort stay for a trifling \$US22k per couple.

Aussie favourites, Aurora, with new CEO, Lisa Bolton at the helm, are doing a refit of itineraries. Exciting news is their partnering with Coral Princess Cruises for PNG as well as Kimberley from 2010 and a reaffirmation of itineraries in the Russian Far East.

Logistics for deep Antarctica are still a sticking point and I'm told an announcement is due this week which will clarify some issues.

The stalwart Akademik Ioffe was made surplus by Quark Expeditions and gleefully snapped up by ONE OCEAN for their 2010 Antarctic program who promise to lift the bar with adventure options including kayaking, camping, hiking and Zodiac cruises.

The Canadian company is represented in Australia by Active Travel of Canberra. Active Travel, who also represent a wide range of river vessels and destinations, tell me there's a real battle brewing for bragging rights on the Mekong.

Heritage Cruise Lines has pushed back the launch of their brand new, The Jayavarman, to November and as indicated previously, Pandaw are not going down without a fight with expanded river itineraries as far afield as Borneo.

Other snippets include the deployment of Prince Rainier's private yacht, now refurbished and renamed M/Y Grace, to the Galapagos as well as Lindblad's announcement of Neil Armstrong joining their Nov.15 departure to Antarctica aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

UK-based travel giant, TUI Travel PLC acquired adventure cruise and tour company Zegrahm Expeditions and its sister company, Eco-Expeditions to add to Quark and Peregrine. The company now owns over 200 travel and leisure brands.

The next few weeks will reveal even more developments as adventure cruise operators rise to the challenges of the new economic climate.