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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Watch Whales while Cruising the Kimberley with Coral Princess

The world's largest humpback whale migration sees up to 6000 whales heading up the 'superhighway' along Western Australia's coast to calve in the warm waters off the Kimberley between August and November. Coral Princess extended its Kimberley cruise program last year – and discovered that late season whale watching is 'simply incredible'.

"We lost count of how many whales we saw on the voyage. We had daily sightings, and several came within metres of the ship, with mothers appearing to 'show' their calves to the human onlookers," said Vicki Briggs, Director of Coral Princess Cruises.

"We're used to seeing whales on our voyages, but the late season departures were incredible in terms of the frequency of sightings, and for the experience of seeing mothers and calves interacting."

Coral Princess Cruises has added extra departures for its most popular cruise - a voyage exploring the remote Kimberley coast between Broome and Darwin – extending the season from its usual start in April through to October.

The 10-night Kimberley cruise visits Kuri Bay, home of the South Pacific pearl industry, and ventures ashore to view the world-famous Bradshaw (Gwion) paintings, - the world's oldest known indigenous art – and the towering, 80-metre King George Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Western Australia. There is an optional helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau for views of the impressive four-tiered Mitchell Falls, as well as excursions into secluded gorges and to rock pools perfect for swimming. The cruise explores the Buccaneer Archipelago – made up of 800 islands – and includes an exhilarating Zodiac ride through the 'Horizontal Waterfall', where the tide floods between rocky cliffs.

The Kimberley wilderness of Western Australia is three times larger than England with a population of just 30 000.

Coral Princess operates two ships in the Kimberley. The Oceanic Discoverer accommodates a maximum of just 72 guests and travels with a purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer and inflatable Zodiacs. Coral Princess accommodates a maximum of just 48 guests. In true expedition style, the itinerary may vary to take maximum advantage of opportunities to venture ashore, to explore the many waterfalls, river systems and reefs  - or to stop and watch the whales!

Prices for the 10-night Kimberley cruise start at A$6850 (A$6950 in 2011) aboard Coral Princess and A$8250 (A$8450 in 2011) aboard Oceanic Discoverer. Prices are per person, twin share and include the cruise, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board and group transfers. There are regular departures from both Darwin and Broome between April and October.

For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess Cruises at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Orion Releases 2011 Expedition Voyages Brochure

Orion Expedition Cruises has just released its new, expanded, 2011 Expeditions brochure, which features the company's two ships, Orion and (to be introduced in May 2011) Orion II.

The 94 page brochure covers 49 voyages to 17 countries and more than 170 remote and exotic destinations stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East.

Destination summaries by region provide useful reference for potential expedition travellers and highlight the differences between typical mainstream cruising and the rewarding physical and intellectual experiences to be had on Orion's luxury small ship expedition voyages.

"The introduction of Orion II to the fleet in 2011 has inspired us to present our range of exciting year-round expedition cruises within a quality photo-image format to best portray our varied destinations and 5 star ships. Expansive landscape photography reflects seascapes and cultural interaction typically encountered on Orion expeditions and the expanded range of 27 different itineraries provides plenty of choice for potential guests".

"Orion's ecologically and culturally sustainable expeditions provide authentic experiences in remote and seldom visited destinations. Onboard lectures and shore-side interpretation by our expedition team allows our guests to absorb the surroundings and cultures unknown to mainstream tourism", commented Sarina Bratton, Managing Director of Orion Expedition Cruises, when announcing the release of the new brochure.

The luxury life onboard is revealed through Orion and Orion II's range of accommodation and facilities, (including floor plans for Staterooms and Suites through to Owner and Penthouse Suites) and examples of onboard facilities that include boutique, massage, spa, elevator and lounges – and Serge Dansereau's award winning cuisine.

The brochure has a useful pricing supplement with early booking incentives, rewards and notes on how to reserve your Orion Expedition.

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.

2011 voyage highlights:

• 13 Kimberley Expeditions, with inclusive Bungle Bungle flights
• Orion's inaugural West Papua and Maluku Voyage of Discovery
• Orion II's Voyage of Discovery to the Russian Far East
• Discover the ancient cultures on Orion II's Inland Sea of Japan voyage
• 7 Borneo voyages which will circumnavigate the island
• 2 Tasmanian Food and Wine focused voyages
• Orion's inaugural Exploration of the Antipodes
• 3 Orion Antarctic Centenary voyages of celebration to Commonwealth Bay (Mawson's Hut) and the Ross Sea (Scott and Shackelton's huts)
• Lord Howe Island and Aotearoa, including the active volcano at Mt White island
• Christmas in New Zealand's spectacular fjordland and sub-Antarctic islands
• 8 voyages to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, including the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh and Angkor Wat

Additional information

Orion II's inaugural voyages in 2011 include the Russian Far East, an in-depth exploration of Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia (including a visit to Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument), and the Inland Sea of Japan.

Orion's itineraries feature 13 voyages exploring Australia's Kimberley coast, the rarely visited indigenous art centres of Arnhem Land, and a voyage to the Spice Islands. Voyages to New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic islands will include the rarely visited Chatham, Antipodes and Bounty islands, while Orion's Papua New Guinea itineraries feature an exciting new voyage across northern Papua to West Papua and Maluku.

An electronic version of the Orion 2011 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 through specialist expedition cruise travel agents.

Fares Guide:
All prices per person, twin share.

5 nights Great Barrier Reef / Orion: Fares from A$3,715 for an ocean view Category B stateroom; A$5,125 for a Junior Suite; Owners' Suites with French Balcony are A$7,780.

7 nights Gulf of Siam Explorer / Orion II: Fares from A$5,705 for an ocean view Category B Ocean Suite; A$7,910 for a Junior Suite; Penthouse Suites with Balcony are A$11,480.

10 nights Inland Sea of Japan /Orion II: Fares from A$8,150 for an ocean view Category B Ocean Suite; A$11,300 for a Junior Suite; Penthouse Suites with Balcony are A$16,400.

10 nights Kimberley Expedition / Orion: Fares from A$9,100 per person for an ocean view Category B stateroom; A$12,550 for a Junior Suite per person; Owners' Suites with French Balcony are A$19,055 per person. All prices twin share.

14 nights Ryukyu Islands and Sabah /Orion II: Fares from A$11,410 for an ocean view Category B Ocean Suite; A$15,820 for a Junior Suite; Penthouse Suites with Balcony are A$22,960.

18 nights Mawson's Antarctica / Orion: Fares from A$19,365 per person for an ocean view Category B stateroom; A$26,710 for a Junior Suite per person; Owners' Suites with French Balcony are A$40,555 per person. All prices twin share.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cruise Diary: True North in the Kimberley

Few places in the world cause Australian eyes to light up brighter than the Kimberley, and the True North, crowned by its own helicopter, is ultimate way to experience it. This is a very abbreviated account of what to expect on a one-week adventure.

Day 1: From Broome we're transferred by light aircraft to the Mitchell Plateau where our helicopter awaits. A 15-minute ride and we land on the True North in the Hunter River below. What a way to start a cruise! A group has already set off on a three-hour hike, while the later arrivals choose between fishing or sightseeing on one of the six tenders. We reunite for dinner and a chance to meet our fellow passengers, while entertained by special guest, guitarist Phil Ceberano, who performs an acoustic set every night.

Day 2: Dressed only in our swimwear, everyone gathers on the bow for an intimate encounter with King Cascade. The captain edges the boat so close to the waterfall that we're all drenched – and loving it. Afterwards, two tenders venture out to the Ampitheatre Waterfall for a heavier aqua-pounding. Others have spent the day fishing, mud-crabbing, walking, or taking a scenic helicopter flight, so there are many stories to share throughout the evening.

Day 3: The highlight of the trip takes place today: a "heli-picnic" at Melaleuca Falls. The chopper shuttles passengers to a beautiful swimming hole where we enjoy a BBQ of fish, crab, prawns, steak and salads. We walk up to the waterfall and sit on a ledge behind the cascading water – an exhilarating experience. The rest of the afternoon is passed with a few drinks under the paperbark trees, before the helicopter whisks us back to the boat for dinner.

Day 4: I join a tender ride out to Montgomery Reef, home to turtles, birds, sharks and dugongs. Back onboard, our local guide Jarrad presents a talk on the Kimberley wilderness as we head down the Sale River for a short walk to another swimming hole. While some passengers fly off for a night of "heli-camping", the remaining 20 have a fancy-dress party to celebrate crewmember Mikey's 21st.

Day 5: More fishing and sightseeing down the Glenelg River, followed by a Kimberley-style day spa at Ruby Falls where we smear ourselves with mud. Continuing on to Steep Island, we embark on a 30-minute trek up to see one of the region's most accessible sites of Wandjana rock art. After dinner is the lively quiz night, which my team wins, of course.

Day 6: A tour of the bridge and engine room kicks off the morning, then a helicopter ride over Talbot Bay and the mining islands of Koolan and Cockatoo. Unfortunately the effect of the Horizontal Falls is spoiled by the neap tide, but our disappointment is washed away with a couple of beers and a game of cricket on the snow-white sands of Silica Beach – a good Aussie end to a great Australian adventure.

For details, see

Where to Stay in Broome: The new Pinctada Cable Beach Spa Resort is the only official five-star accommodation in town. Managed by Marilynne Paspaley AM, the 72-room resort has a pool with spa and lap lane, alfresco dining, poolside café, cocktail lounge, gym, day spa, meditative garden and landscaping by Jamie Durie.

A few minutes walk from Cable Beach, it's a relaxing and friendly spot to stay before and after your Kimberley cruise. The ambience is enhanced with native plants, boab trees, original artworks and breeze-capturing balconies on all spacious studios. Airport pick-up is available.

For bookings, see

Louise Goldsbury is the editor of Cruise Weekly, available FREE to all cruise lovers in Australia and New Zealand. Sign up at