Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marco Polo on sale in Australia

Cruise Abroad director Peter Marshall, who has been retained by Transocean Tours to continue his representation of Marco Polo in Australia, has released a 2008/09 brochure with discounted fares in Australian dollars.

As previously reported, Marshall was appointed gsa for Orient Lines in Australia in 1995 when it was owned by Gerry Herrod.

He told Seatrade Insider today the 16-page full-colour ‘Experience Marco Polo’ brochure is currently being distributed to the agency network and will be available on his stand at the second annual Gold Coast Cruise Expo on September 7.

‘Marco Polo has never been so affordable,’ Marshall said. ‘Transocean has managed to keep costs down while, at the same time, maintaining the ambience that has made this classic ship so popular with Australian passengers.’

They are being encouraged to have a white Christmas on the 11-night Ushuaia/Ushuaia December 17 ‘Antarctic Christmas’ cruise that has been reduced from A$4,095 to A$3,170 (US$2,742) per person twin-share.

The fare for the 13-night ‘Antarctic New Year’ round cruise from Ushuaia on December 28 has been reduced from A$4,855 to A$4,125 (US$3,569).

The 850-passenger ship’s six-night ‘Springtime Fjordland’ round cruise from Tilbury on April 22 next year costs from A$185 (US$160) a night.

Ocean Odyssey Won't Sail This Winter

Indian Ocean Cruises’ 200-passenger Ocean Odyssey, which has been berthed in Mauritius since the spring having completing a second season of voyages around the southwest coast of India, will not be cruising this winter, Seatrade Insider has learnt.

A spokesperson for the Foresight-owned company said the plan was always to use the ship as a floating hotel in the off season which is why the vessel was in Mauritius, but confirmed that the ship will not cruise the Indian Ocean this winter.

Ocean Odyssey underwent an extensive $5m refit in Greece in 2006 prior to a summer charter operation in the Med. Its Indian cruising venture started in January 2007 from Goa. In its current state the 1965-built ship would not comply with SOLAS regulations after 2010, the spokesperson added.

During the past two winters Ocean Odyssey has offered expedition cruises on six-, eight- and 14-night voyages in regional waters, including exclusive access to the Lakshadweep archipelago.

40% off 7-Night Fiji Cruises

Save 40% on Captain Cook Cruises seven nights Yasawa Islands Cruise and seven nights Northern Fijian Dateline cruise. Prices start from as little as $1562 per person twin share and cruises must be booked before September 30th, 2008 and travel taken before March 31st, 2009.

The weekly 7 nights Yasawa Islands Cruise is the ultimate Yasawa Islands adventure.

Passengers experience a 'real' Fijian culture, visiting unspoilt Fiji villages, shopping at local handicraft markets, touring a village school and church, hearing a children's choir sing and taking part in a traditional sevusevu ceremony, Meke and Lovo feast.

As well as being immersed in Fijian culture, passengers can laze on white sandy beaches, enjoy a massage under a palm tree, swim in crystal clear waters, dive in spectacular blue lagoons, snorkel over amazing coral reefs or witness the abundance of marine life from a glass bottom boat.

The Northern Fijian Dateline cruise, which departs only seven times this year, takes passengers beyond the Yasawa Islands to the International Dateline, visiting remote and exotic tropical Fijian islands, rarely visited by other travelers along the way.

Passengers also visit historic Levuka, Savusavu's hot springs and the Bouma Waterfall and the cruise is rich in Fijian culture, history and art.

The weekly seven night Yasawa Islands cruise departs Denarau Marina on Saturday's and Tuesday's at 2.00pm and returns Saturday's and Tuesday's at 9.00am. The Northern Fijian Dateline Cruise departs Denarau Marina at 2.00pm on Tuesday October 7 and November 4, 2008 and returns the following Tuesday at 9.00am.

Prices for both cruises start from $1562 per person twin share, normally $2604 and include accommodation, all meals and on and off shore activities.

Join Orion in 2009 to discover the other side of Asia

Orion, acclaimed for its expeditions to the Kimberley and Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea and the Antarctic is heading to places less visited in Asia as part of its 2009 Calendar of Sailings.

The coastline and islands of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia beckon and there is no finer way to experience these culturally exotic destinations than as a guest onboard the purpose-built 5 star expedition ship, Orion.

In addition to visiting some of Asia's major centres, Orion's Gulf of Siam and Vietnam Explorer expeditions provide the opportunity to experience Asia from a different perspective, often far away from the crowds.

Pulau Tioman, lying off the east coast of Malaysia, is endowed with miles of coconut palm lined white beaches and crystal clear water – no wonder it was the setting for the film Bali Hai. It remains one of the world's most beautiful islands and an Orion destination.

From the unhurried lifestyle of fishing villages to exploring the undeveloped parts of Koh Samui and Koh Kut, Orion's languorous voyage contrasts wondrous sights of waterfalls, free flowing streams and snorkelling over pristine reefs with wide boulevards and historic buildings of the French colonial influence in Ho Chi Minh.

Visit a beguiling 200 year old village at Nha Trang, in Vietnam, where home-made beer is still sold, roadside, from the keg, and stroll beaches secreted away from the resorts where vendors carry buckets of lobsters and crabs for sale. Market economy rules, even in thinly disguised communist states.

Unlike larger ships that occasionally visit Ho Chi Minh (mooring at sea) Orion will berth 60 kilometres up the Song Sai Gon (Saigon River) virtually in the middle of the city, just minutes walk from the French built Post Office, Notre Dame cathedral and the shopping areas, art galleries, museums, bustling markets and top quality restaurants and bars.

Reach out and touch some of Australia's modern history. With Orion as your base, connect with the Vietnam War at the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels (where they still show anti-American Vietnam War propaganda films), and visit places the names of which are etched into Australian's minds – Da Nang, Vung Tau, Nui Dat, Long Tan.

These voyages provide a balance of history, culture and relaxation on sublime islands and beaches as well as exposure to Asian chaos in the markets. From Sihanoukville in Cambodia, guests will be able to visit Phnom Penh and the renowned UNESCO world heritage listed temples at Angkor Wat, with exquisite bas-relief Hindu stories on the walls and ancient temples overgrown with trees and foliage.

For a different view, experience a tethered balloon flight above the temples, an elephant ride to witness sunrise from the top of a temple or travel through rice paddy fields in a horse cart enroute to an extraordinary village – complete with schools, homes, and shops – literally floating in a lake.

These two exclusive Asian Orion Voyages of Discovery cultural expeditions balance traditional and modern Asia, with plenty of time to mingle with the locals and take in the sounds, colours and fragrances of these fascinating destinations.

Orion's expedition team and specialist guest lecturers enhance the experience with comprehensive briefings and onboard workshops designed to provide insight and understanding.

The two itineraries can be taken back to back to provide an exciting voyage highlighting much of Asia's mystique.


Gulf of Siam Explorer – 29 September 2009 - 11 nights. Singapore, Tioman Island, Kuala Terengganu, Ko Samui, Ko Kood, Kampot (for Angkor Wat), Ho Chi Minh.

Vietnam Explorer – 10 October 2009 - 11 nights. Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang (overnight for Hue), Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Sihanoukville, Ko Phangan, Singapore.

Fares Guide:

Fares begin from $8,600 per person for an ocean view Category B stateroom

Suites begin from $11,860 per person for a Junior Suite

Owners’ Suites with French Balcony are $18,010 per person

An additional fuel charge of $50 per person per night applies


Orion information: When referring to Ho Chi Minh it is always written as such but in spoken reference it is still referred to as Saigon.


Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is the world's latest and Australia’s only purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship.

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 www.orionexpeditions.com

For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email: info@orioncruises.com.au

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cruise West enhances its Panama and Costa Rica itineraries

Six themed cruises, two additional departures and new land tours to enjoy!

Cruise West has enriched its 2008/09 season in Panama and Costa Rica with numerous enhancements to its 2008 and 2009 Between Two Seas itineraries. In addition to added departures and six themed cruises, travellers will also have the option of taking on one enhanced and two new land tours which highlight the stunning flora and fauna native to Panama and Costa Rica.

The 10-day Between Two Seas voyages onboard the 100-guest Pacific Explorer travels the entire Panama Canal to take in such sights as the San Blas Islands and Kuna Indian Village, Portobelo. Guests continue to the remote Emberá Village in the Darién Jungle, Coiba National Park, Golfo Dulce, Caletas Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park, which offer prolific wildlife viewing opportunities.

Departures are available from Panama to Costa Rica on 10 November; 11, 29 December in 2008 and 16 January; 3, 21 February; 11, 29 March; 16 April; 4 May; 9 November; 28 December in 2009. Meanwhile, reverse sailings from Costa Rica to Panama are available on 1 November; 2, 20 December in 2008 and 25 January; 12 February; 2, 20 March; 7, 25 April; 31 October; 19 December in 2009.

At no additional cost, Cruise West will offer two exclusive PENTAX photography cruises on 2 December 2008 and 2 March 2009 which are co-hosted by professional PENTAX photographer Kerrick James. James will conduct hands-on workshops throughout the cruise to help guests capture unmissable highlights from their South America adventure. Guests also have the option of travelling in the company of a Panama Canal expert on 11 December 2008 and 7 April 2009. The guide will share knowledge about the history and future expansion of the canal.

Cruise West will also be offering two new land tours: a 3-day visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest and a 5-day stay in the Tortuguero National Park. Guests will immerse themselves in the serenity of the Monteverde Cloud Forest with a guided walk through its butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Alternatively, they can observe nesting turtles on boat excursions to Tortuguero National Park.

The enhanced Costa Rica land tour will offer six days in Sarapiqui and Arenal, Costa Rica. Guests visit the world-class Gold Museum, the majestic La Paz Waterfall Gardens and an Eco-Center tour in the company of local school children. At the Hacienda Pozo Azul, guests have the option to participate on the thrilling canopy zip line tour, a float or river rafting trip or a chocolate and pineapple plantations tour.

Prices start at US$3,799 per person based on double occupancy. Guests can take advantage of early booking incentives of US$350 per person when booking the cruise and paying in full by 27 March, 2009 for departures October through December 2009.

Travel the World can assist with bookings for Cruise West, as well as put together combined flight/cruise packages. Please contact Travel the World on 1300 766 566 or visit the website www.traveltheworld.com.au.

Cruise Weekly Comment: Global Warming has expedition cruising on the boil

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Global Warming has expedition cruising on the boil

With reports of record numbers of cruise vessels visiting the polar regions, it’s clear that adventure cruisers are busting to see the rapidly changing environment before it’s too late.

Centre stage are the majestic polar bears whose northern kingdom is literally melting beneath their mighty paws. Broken and dispersed ice make it difficult for the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore to trap seals, hence the bears are beginning to suffer.

Epicentre of polar bear cruising is Svalbard (Spitsbergen) north of Norway and numerous cruise companies, large and small, offer polar bear cruises to the most northerly inhabited land on Earth. Some products, such as those offered by Sweden’s Polar Quest, could have you in the company of just eleven other enthusiasts on a tiny converted maritime vessel tip-toeing through the ice pack. Adventure cruising is, by nature, environmentally conscientious, so smaller vessels often deliver the most rewarding results even if some of the big ship comforts are surrendered.

Greenland is also attracting a growing fleet of disaster voyeurs as throngs of mesmerized passengers crowd the decks to observe the disintegrating glaciers along Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord and visit Inuit communities at impossibly named places like Ittoqqortoormiit and Myggebugten.

Antarctica, perhaps because most of the ice is attached to an enormous continent, is resisting catastrophic change although some scientists argue that recent, republic-sized icebergs are the harbinger of worse to come. Either way you look at it, our polar regions are in the midst of great upheaval and the urgency to see them during this global transition is sending tourists there in droves.


Take a cruise holiday in fabled Tahiti like you're holidaying on your own yacht with Talpacific Holidays' 7-night fly, cruise and stay packages that include three nights aboard the mega motor-cruiser Haumana with just eleven other couples looked after by sixteen crew.

Pre-Christmas packages from November 24 to December 6 this year include return air and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, 2-nights at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort (including a special gift for Honeymooners,) a night at the Novotel Rangiroa Lagoon Resort, 3-nights cruising on Haumana, a night back at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and all airport transfers.

The Haumana cruise includes a Traditional Tahitian Welcome, escorted beach and bush walks, village tours, kayaking, snorkelling, game and hand-line fishing with an onboard fishing guide, shark feeding, and a 4-star French picnic at which tables and chairs are set in a peaceful island's shallow waters.

Haumana sails the tranquil Rangiroa Lagoon in the Hollywood-like Tuamotu Archipelago, with dining a highlight and a fusion of French and Polynesian accompanied by complimentary wines with lunch and dinner.

Prices start from $5629pp twin-share from Sydney, and from $5799pp from Brisbane or Melbourne if booked by December 3 (unless sold out earlier.)

For full details see travel agents, phone Talpacific Holidays on 1300 137 727 or check out www.talpacific.com.au ; longer packages with 4- or 7-nights aboard Haumana are also available at slightly extra cost.

Exploring the Canadian High Arctic Region on an `Anti-Cruise'

By Hugo Miller

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- On the bridge aboard the Lyubov Orlova, Captain Andrey Rudenko whispers commands to his crew in Russian. It is past 11 p.m. and even the long Arctic days have come to a close, leaving the bridge dark but for the green glow from the ship's radar and instrument panels.

Rudenko, 46, negotiates the shoal-laced waters near the mouth of Frobisher Bay before turning north toward the Arctic Circle.

``You never know what will happen working in the Arctic,'' says Rudenko, who went to sea at 15 from his hometown of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. ``The ice is not a joke.''

While comfortable Caribbean cruises still attract a steady crowd, Arctic eco-tourism, its rougher, less glamorous cousin, is growing as awareness spreads of both the region's beauty and fragility. The Lyubov Orlova is one of its flagships and reflects that down-to-earth ethos.

Built in 1976 in the former Yugoslavia, the black-hulled vessel has no swimming pool or hot tub but instead features a lounge where regular wildlife lectures are held. Though refitted last year, it's no Pacific Princess and the walls of the ship's library still feature photos of the 1930s Soviet film star whose name the vessel now bears.

Northward Cruise

``This is the anti-cruise,'' says Dugald Wells, laughing as he welcomes a visitor aboard. Wells is president of Cruise North Expeditions, which operates the Lyubov Orlova in the summer.

Our expedition charted a 10-day course from the port of Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, a Canadian territory the size of Western Europe with just 35,000 people, northward to tiny Resolute on Cornwallis Island.

After coming aboard and settling into the comfortable if utilitarian cabins, guests gathered on the main deck to start the trip with a glass of champagne and a ``briefing'' from Cruise North's Chilean-born expedition leader. Then as evening fell under gray skies, we weighed anchor and began navigating our way down 240-kilometer-long Frobisher Bay.

We awoke the next morning to rough seas and fierce winds as the Lyubov Orlova reached the Labrador Sea. Guests less prone to seasickness tucked into breakfast while I stuck to tea and sought fresh air up on deck. Most meals are served buffet-style and the three-course lunches and dinner prepared by the Russian galley crew are hearty. There is plenty of fresh fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch and dinner to satisfy calorie-conscious eaters.

By mid-morning the first icebergs began to appear: eerie pale-blue peaks set against the gray ocean and leaden skies. They provided a welcome distraction to the rough seas, which by early afternoon calmed as the ship steered toward Cumberland Sound.

Arctic Views

Pangnirtung, a former Hudson's Bay Co. trading post, was the first stop on the route northward and afforded a chance to stretch our legs. Its fjord offers both shelter from the cold, northern wind and stunning views into Auyuittuq National Park, the easternmost of Canada's Arctic preserves.

A fleet of black rubber inflatables whisked us the few hundred meters from ship to shore. An hour's ramble took us quickly out of Pangnirtung, population 1,325, past glass-smooth water that perfectly reflected the mountains flanking the fjord's shoreline, to the entrance to Auyuittuq.

The name means ``the land that never melts'' in Inuktitut, the local aboriginal language. Sadly, that is no longer true.

``Thirty years ago, the ice in the fjord was frozen until the end of June,'' said Davidee Kooneeliusie, a Parks Canada warden sitting outside a bright-red hut that marks the entrance to the park. ``Now it's not reliable from the end of April.''

Bear Watch

As the ice melts earlier, the bears lose their seal-hunting grounds sooner and move inland in search of food, he said. That creates a headache for Kooneeliusie, who has spent 35 of his 58 years as a warden. One of his main jobs is keeping trekkers passing through Auyuittuq safe from the increasing number of bears in the park.

I had to disembark in Pangnirtung to catch a flight back to Iqaluit, so I did not manage to see firsthand any of the beasts that measure up to 10 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds. Other travelers later reassured me that there were plenty of sightings further north as the ship headed into icier waters.

Before leaving Iqaluit to fly south, I met Pitseolak Alainga, an Inuit reservist who acts as what he calls the Canadian army's eyes and ears in the Arctic, as he prepared his boat for exercises with the military.

``This whole bay used to be iced over in summertime,'' said Alainga, 41, lightly dressed for the Arctic summer in a red hooded sweatshirt and windbreaker.

A generation ago, hunters would skim across the frozen bay on dogsleds to get to seal-hunting grounds on the ice-pack edge, he said. Now they have to rely on motorboats and expensive fuel.

Perilous Waters

``Our elders in the '60s said there'll be a drastic change coming in the community,'' Alainga said. ``Forty years later, it's happening.''

He knows the dangers Arctic waters can bear. In a 1994 seal- hunting trip that went disastrously wrong, he was one of just two men who survived.

``I lost my father, four of my uncles and three cousins,'' Alainga said, his face blank. The solidly built father of three said he survived 72 hours submerged in icy water only because his rubber waders provided some insulation from the cold.

As ice becomes less reliable, younger Inuit need to be warned of its dangers, Alainga said.

``It's harder for the young guys, we tell them to be careful out there, changes are happening.''

WHEN TO GO: The best time to visit the Arctic is in August or early September when the daytime high temperatures are in the mid- to-high 50s and the region's waterways are at their most ice-free.

HOW TO GET THERE: First Air, run by the same Inuit-owned company as Cruise North Expeditions, offers daily flights to the Arctic from Montreal. Cruise North can help book at discounted prices.

WHAT IT COSTS: The High Arctic trip, Cruise North's most expensive, runs from Aug. 18 to Aug. 28, 2009, and will begin in Kuujjuaq at the tip of Northern Quebec. Fares from next year range between US$6,595 and $7,295 per person on a double-occupancy basis depending on what level deck you choose, with more spacious suites available from $7,295 to $9,095 per person, respectively. That includes all meals and drinks, but excludes alcohol, flights (about $1,535 Montreal-Arctic round trip) and taxes. The 2008 High Arctic trip sold out in January, the company says. Bookings made by January 2009 get a $400 discount per person.

(Hugo Miller writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this story: Hugo Miller in Toronto on hugomiller@bloomberg.net

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nomade Offers Private Yachting Escapes in Serendipitous Tahiti

One of Tahiti and her islands' favourite cruise experiences, Bora Bora Cruises, has relaunched with a new website and product line-up as Nomade Yachting Bora Bora.

Nomade Yachting is renowned for its two Australian-built, 20-stateroom luxury cruisers Ti'a Moana and Tu Moana, which offer four “private escape” itineraries from their base on the serendipitous island of Bora Bora.

"The Nomade Yachting concept is to sail from island to island while onboard your private yacht, in a world where elegance, serenity and pampering are the only priorities," said Nomade Yachting’s Patrick Picard-Robson.

"It is a private yacht experience and not a cruise experience, so we have rebranded our product as Nomade Yachting Bora Bora rather than the inappropriate Bora Bora Cruises."

Mr Picard-Robson said Nomade Yachting offered four private escapes, with all yacht amenities organised for guests by a private butler who was at their exclusive disposal throughout the voyage and “just a mere VHS radio call away".

“On offer are two daytime adventures with snorkelling equipment and kayaks, and two evening private escapes using one of the yacht's tenders and a butler to provide canapés, cocktails and champagne.

"There really is no limit to the private experiences we can create, including an evening á deux under the stars, island safaris, Polynesian weddings or private charters, where individuals or groups can sail our pristine waters attended to by a well trained and discreet staff of 43 staff per vessel. Clients only have to dream and we will endeavour to make it come true.”

Travel Associates is offering a generous fly-cruise package that includes return economy airfares from Sydney to Papeete with Air Tahiti Nui, two nights pre and post-accommodation in the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti, return airfares from Papeete to Bora Bora, three nights pre and post-cruise at the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort in a motu bungalow, six nights on a Tu or Ti'a Moana Lagoon Yacht Cruise, all airport transfers in Papeete and return transfers on Bora Bora from AU$14,284 per person ex Sydney and AU$14,580 from Melbourne or Brisbane. To book go to www.tahitinow.com.au or call Travel Associates on 1300 017 849.

For more information about Nomade Yachting Bora Bora go to www.nomadeyachting.com and to find out more about Tahiti and her islands call Tahiti Tourisme on 1300 655 563 or visit www.tahitinow.com.au.

CAPTIONS: Images show the Tu Moana, one of two super luxury cruising yachts operated by Nomade Yachting, and a smaller craft used to offer passengers a romantic sunset private escape.


frank linn and david ellis

Trust the travel guides, the websites or the brochures? Frank Linn, David Ellis and some mates explored New Zealand's Wellington, based solely on the recommendations of mates who reckoned they knew it. Could they be trusted?

Where to eat and drink, what to see and where to stay were the key questions. So we decide to live dangerously and see how their recommendations pan out.

Recommendation 1: Lodgings. Something central, easy walking distance to everything, and "good value." They all suggest the Novotel. We book, getting one of Accor's weekend deals; it's only a few blocks to the waterfront and shops so we're off to a good start.

Recommendation 2: Te Papa Museum on the waterfront. Perfect because it's  bucketing down and we need somewhere to hide. Here's a fabulous insight into New Zealand's geography, history and peoples.  We weren't told, though, about the The Brewery Bar 50 metres away: a self-discovered gem.

Recommendation 3: Dinner, and its Saturday night. On the list are Logan Brown, Floriadata, Matterhorn, Juniper, Concrete, Martin Bosley – and the "cheap and cheerful" Momma's Kitchen which is what the wallet dictates: Sorry, Momma's doesn't take bookings and there's a 40-minute wait. Floriadata, a smart, buzzy sort of place is next, but it too doesn't take bookings and, as Kevin O7 would say, Do You Know What? A 45 minute wait. Cold and wet, we stumble into La Casa for some home-style Italian fare. It's not on the list but their lasagna's big and with the salad and a Pinot Noir hits the spot.

Recommendation 4: Breakfast at Pravda. But it's not open Sundays! Thanks. Ever resourceful we lurch on and discover Lido in the City Square that comes up trumps.  (We finally make brekkie at the Leninist-themed, minimalist Pravda a few days later, and it proves most worthwhile.)

Recommendation 5:  Start the day with the cable-car from Lambton Quay, close to the Novotel, to the top of the city, then a stroll through the Botanical Gardens. Vote? Thumbs up.

Recommendation 6: Hire a car from Europcar at the airport for the 70-something k's to quaint and gourmet Greytown and check out the pub and the chocolate shop. The pub is great for lunch with exceptional local food and wines enjoyed on the sunny verandah. And the building's something of an original take-away: it got there by truck from Wellington.  At Schoc Chocolate we sample chilli chocolate, chive, lemongrass, rosemary and herb and sea salt chocolate.  Top marks, and purchases made.

Recommendation 7. Motor on to vineyard country and stay at the two-storey colonial-style Martinborough Hotel, dine in their award-winning restaurant, play some snooker in the Whiskey bar, and have a beer with the locals. It's Sunday evening, so the restaurant's closed, the snooker table has made way for more restaurant tables due to Chef's expanding reputation, but the bar's open and serves a light meal. The upstairs high-ceiling bedrooms (claw-foot bath, tasteful decor, wide balcony) are superb, as is breakfast the next day. Worth visiting – and we get in at around half price this Sunday night via a last- minute hotel website (and despite what the website says, the restaurant is open.)

Final Recommendation 8: Back in Wellington, take a spin along the sea-level Scenic Route around the headlands west of the city, the beaches and the cute timber residences (occupied both by weekenders and commuters) hugging the base of the cliffs. An easy, gorgeous drive made all the more pleasant by a flat sea and relatively clear sky; give this a tick.

And while on the road, we're advised, check the Chocolate Fish Café and the bar in the timber-clad Maranui Surf Life Saving Club. And do you know what? Chocolate Fish is no more and the surf club stops serving at 5pm; a pity because it seemed warm and friendly.

We drive on and find La Bach café/bar. A perfect setting for a cleansing pilsner and a cool Sauvignon Blanc. But do you know what? Sorry, we're waiting on our liquor licence! So we head off over the hills and find ourselves in Cuba Street where we successfully become the night's first patrons at the Floriadata .Very good indeed.

(IF you don't have any friends able to share their experiences of Wellington, go onto www.wellingtonnz.com)


Record number of cruise ships in Canadian Arctic this summer

Source: Canadian Press: Bob Weber, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Polar bears and glaciers may be icons of northern climate change but they are also swelling the sails of Nunavut's tourism industry.

A record number of cruise ships are plying Canada's Eastern Arctic this summer and some remote communities are welcoming an average of two a week.

Industry and government officials say there's still plenty of room for growth, but they're also cautious of overwhelming tiny hamlets with populations barely larger than those in the ships moored off their shores.

"You kind of wonder if you're in a museum sometimes," said Mike Richards, senior administrative officer in Pond Inlet on the northern tip of Baffin Island, where 14 boatloads of the camera-toting curious are expected to have docked between the end of July and the beginning of September.

A total of 26 cruises have been scheduled for this season - four more than last year, said Mark Young of the territorial government. That's more than 3,000 visitors sailing the Arctic and dropping in on communities from Grise Fiord to Kimmirut.

Those figures are tiny compared to cruise boats in Greenland, which expects 55,000 tourists this season in ships that can accommodate more than 2,000 passengers.

But for Nunavut, small is beautiful, said Prisca Campbell of Quark Expeditions, which has been running polar tours since 1991.

"We're not keen to change the Arctic to accommodate 2,000-passenger ships," she said.

Wildlife and majestic scenery are probably the main draws for most Arctic tourists, but cultural exchange is also part of it. Cruise directors get in touch with local officials when they want to visit a community and residents often pull together a program to entertain visitors.

"(We do) bannock-making, sealskin-cleaning, carving demonstrations - things that tourists might be interested in," said Akeego Ikkidluak, Kimmirut's senior adiminstrative officer.

Inuit sports such as the high kick and cultural activities that include throat singing are also demonstrated. Guides take people around town - not that most Arctic communities offer much in the way of shopping, dining or architectural delight.

"They're usually horrified by the price we pay for groceries and necessities," said Richards. "They just kind of wander around looking at these shabby old buildings and think, 'How do people live like this?"'

Sometimes, children follow the visitors and ask for handouts.

"You can't control the kids."

Those are the kinds of impacts tour operators try to avoid, said Jillian Dickens of Cruise North, an Inuit-owned sailing operator since 2005.

"I don't think it's a good thing to encourage," she said.

"We have to be really careful about respecting the communities. What's important is communication between the ship and the community to have equal benefit."

Some communities specifically ask visitors not to bring handouts such as candy, said Campbell. In some of the Russian hamlets that Quark visits, tourists who want to leave something behind for young people are asked if they'd like to contribute to a fund for basketballs and hockey sticks.

"We are sensitive to that in communities where we go."

Tourists do drop about $250,000 into Nunavut's cash-starved economy. Most goes to carvers and other artists, but performers and tour guides are also paid.

"It brings in a big influx of cash in the summer," said Young. "(Tourists) could drop close to $40,000 in one community in one six-hour stay."

The money's welcome, said Ikkidluak

"It's not a big, big deal, but it's a deal."

And demand remains strong.

Dickens said bookings have increased 50 per cent over last year.

"It's the only part of tourism in Nunavut that's growing."

That growth will continue to be limited because none of the territory's 24 coastal communities has docking facilities, forcing visitors to run up on beaches in Zodiac boats. Larger communities such as Iqaluit are unable to provide any services such as refuelling, which would increase economic spinoffs.

Still, Campbell said, the waters that generations of explorers suffered to chart are going to see more and more tourists.

"We think there's extraordinary potential and we think it's going to be around for a long time."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lindblad’s seventh ship sets sail

Source: Seatrade Insider

Lindblad Expeditions’ seventh ship, National Geographic Explorer, is carrying its first passengers on a 14-day voyage from Iceland to Greenland.

The ice-class expedition vessel (ex Lyngen), which Lindblad Expeditions acquired last year from Hurtigruten and extensively rebuilt, now carries 148 passengers in 81 outside cabins.

‘With the tools and technology housed on board, she is the ultimate 21st-century expedition vessel,’ said Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder and president of Lindblad Expeditions. ‘She is also a beautiful ship that has been built with careful attention to detail and comfort.’

Equipment includes a remote operated vehicle that can explore to depths of 1,000 feet, a remote controlled crow’s nest camera with real-time footage broadcast on high-definition LCD screens within each cabin, an electronic chart system broadcast on a cabin TV channel, 11 Zodiacs and 36 double kayaks.

The vessel also offers a glass-enclosed observation lounge, a spa, library, bistro and restaurant.

Orient Lines announces its ship

Photo: © Ian Boyle, 18th July 2008

Source: Seatrade Insider

The new owners of Orient Lines confirmed they have acquired Maxim Gorkiy, which will be renamed Marco Polo II and embark on its maiden voyage from Barcelona April 15. A price was not disclosed.

Florida entrepeneur Wayne Heller, who bought the rights to the brand earlier this year, said his company will do everything to recreate the original Orient Lines concept, including longer, destination-intensive itineraries, a comprehensive enrichment program and value for money.

The respect for tradition will extend to renaming the decks and many public rooms on the new ship as they were called on the first Marco Polo, hiring Filipino crew and reinstating the crew show that always ranked as line’s top-rated entertainment.

Marco Polo II will carry 650 passengers and offer multiple, open-seating dining venues. The ship is ice-classed and able to operate in polar waters. Itineraries will range from 10 to 37 days, with a mix of traditional marquee ports such as St. Petersburg as well as lesser-known ports such as Bordeaux, Honfleur and Szczecin (for Berlin).

Built in 1969, Maxim Gorkiy was owned by Sovcomflot and has been sailing under charter to Germany’s Phoenix Reisen for many years. It underwent refurbishments in 1988 and 1995. The steam-turbine vessel will end its service for Phoenix this winter and enter an extensive drydock that will include any needed SOLAS 2010 updates.

‘The ship is in meticulously perfect condition. Very little work needs to be done but whatever work is needed, we’ll do it,’ Heller said. He said V.Ships is advising on technical issues.

The original Marco Polo is still operating, under different owners. But Heller said he is not concerned about confusion as that vessel is not currently marketed in North America, which will be Orient Lines’ primary customer source.

Heller said Polo Club members will keep their standing with the new Orient Lines, and whatever commission agreements travel agents held with the previous operator, NCL Corp., will be honored.

Bruce Nierenberg, evp, said the company will soon launch a direct mail campaign to Polo Club members, is hiring a seasoned field sales force and will begin making sales calls on agents. ‘We’ll definitely go after the British market,’ he added, saying that Australia, New Zealand and Germany are likely to be other targets.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coral Princess Wraps Up a Quarter Century in New Zealand

Coral Princess Cruises will wrap up its 25th Anniversary year with a celebratory 12-night cruise of New Zealand's east coast, hosted by company founders Vicki and Tony Briggs, who pioneered expedition-style cruising in Australia a quarter of a century ago.

The company's luxury small ship, Oceanic Discoverer is a far cry from its first vessel – a converted submarine chaser – but the original ethos of experiencing great natural beauty, diverse cultures, dramatic coastlines and remote islands remains strong. The New Zealand Aotearoa cruise from Milford Sound to Auckland is designed to reveal facets of New Zealand even the locals don't know about, in the spirit (but not the discomfort) of the first ship-based explorers.

Departing from World Heritage Milford Sound and travelling to Auckland, the cruise explores the remote reaches of Milford and Doubtful Sound – described as New Zealand's most spectacular waterway - but also ventures into rarely-visited Dusky Sound. Stewart Island is renowned for its unusual bird life, including kiwis and penguins, and marks the southernmost point on the voyage. Heading north along the east coast, the ship stops at secluded Akaroa Harbour, where it's possible to swim with dolphins, while Kaikoura is known as the best destination for whale watching.

The Tory Channel marks the entrance to the beautiful blue-green waters of Marlborough Sound, where Oceanic Discoverer's guides interpret the history and natural attractions on guided walks. The trip also takes in Art Deco Napier, historic Gisborne, the active volcano on White Island and there's time to explore the beaches and caves of the remote Mercury Islands, before ending the trip in Auckland.

The family-owned company is eco-accredited and owner, Tony Briggs has been instrumental in establishing environmental guidelines for tourism operators in Australia and the South Pacific.

"Looking back at our achievements over the past 25 years I am extremely proud that our company is now recognised as Australia's longest established and most awarded cruise line," said Captain Briggs. "This cruise is our opportunity to say thank you to all our loyal guests, many of whom have travelled with us numerous times over the last 25 years."

The Oceanic Discoverer accommodates a maximum of just 72 guests, as well as a purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, and a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs to allow passengers to intimately explore the secluded bays and inlets.

The 12-night New Zealand Aotearoa cruise departs from Queenstown on February 28, 2009 and costs from $7190 per person in a Main Deck B stateroom, including all meals, excursions and taxes. Guests will also be treated to a 25th anniversary cocktails and dinner celebration and will receive a copy of the Coral Princess Cruises 25th anniversary pictorial book.

For further information, call 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Fiji

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

My first trip to Fiji was as a nine-year-old aboard P&O’s Himalaya, so any return to the friendly islands is always a nostalgic affair and gives me a chance to compare progress over the years.

My stay at the beautiful 5-star Radisson Resort Denarau Island reminded me that accommodation has improved exponentially in Fiji, especially on the exclusive island just outside Nadi where all the big names line up.

Out on the water, I sampled Captain Cook Cruises’s two key products; a 4-night Yasawa Island adventure aboard Reef Escape and a 3-night Sailing Safari aboard the classic brigantine, Ra Marama. The latter normally operates day tours, but was filling in for Spirit of Pacific (pic left) while in for servicing.

The sailing safari is a real Gilligan’s Island affair, with overnight stays at the low-impact Barefoot Lodge on Drawaqa Island. While not for everyone, it is a romantic and authentic tropical island escape perfect for couples and families. Wake up each morning to the sound of waves lapping on the beach just 20m away and swimming with the local Manta Rays is a huge attraction. (Yes I did!)

The 3, 4 and7-night cruises all operate aboard the stalwart MV Reef Escape, originally built by CCCs for the Hawkesbury River back in the late ‘80s. Not the newest vessel in Fiji waters, it nonetheless maintains a loyal following and is clearly popular with many repeat cruisers.

At time of writing, CCCs have no plans to change vessel or itineraries in Fiji although the ex-Matilda day boat, the catamaran Aussie One, will bolster the corporate charter fleet there later this year.

CCCs continue to offer great value for adventure cruisers. New offer just announced is 40% off the 7-night cruise for bookings made before 30 September. Check out the website for more offers. www.captaincook.com.au


Cruiseco has released a brochure of exclusive out-of-the-ordinary Northern Hemisphere cruises aboard the expedition ship Discovery in 2009, including discounts of up to fifty per cent for early bookings, special rates for singles in select cabin categories and included London stays and transfers with cruises starting in the UK.

In all there are twenty-three cruise options in the Black Sea and Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the Baltic, Russia and neighbouring northern waters, the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, and North Africa between April 26 and November 2 2009.

Prices begin from a low $1444pp twin-share for a Cruise to the Riviera from Harwich on September 2 2009 that includes a night in London with airport/hotel/Harwich transfers, and 7-nights aboard Discovery to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Almeria (Spain,) and Nice – this price including a 50% discount if booked 90-days in advance.

Other cruise packages range from nine to 41-days with Early Booking savings of 20- to 47-per cent depending on departure dates; prices are inclusive of all dining, nightly show-lounge entertainment, destination lectures and onboard gratuities.

For a brochure and the name of the nearest to you of Cruiseco's 150 cruise specialists Australia-wide, phone 1800 225 656 or visit www.cruising.com.au 

MORE ABOUT DISCOVERY: The boutique 21,200-tonne Discovery has two restaurants as well as al fresco on-deck dining, four lounges and five bars.

Her onboard lecturers are matched to each cruise and can include experts in fine arts, specialists in such regions as the Middle East or the lands of the Vikings, explorers who've been to Mt Everest, the Arctic, Antarctic and South America, retired diplomats or marine historians.

The ship has a lecture theatre and cinema, library, bridge club, card room, shops, internet centre, two pools (one with retractable roof,) two Jacuzzis, a gymnasium and health centre, and beauty salon.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


david ellis

WHEN mining engineer George Pilz heard in the 1880s of gold to be found in the mountains that tumbled down to the sea around what was to eventually become known as Alaska's Inside Passage, he had no intention of hiking into such inhospitable terrain himself.

Instead he sat back in his office and put out word that if any of the local Indians could bring gold to him, he would reward them for their finds... and come to a deal on searching for more of this white man's treasure that the locals appeared to see little value in.

Some weeks later a chief named Kowee arrived on Mr Pilz' doorstep in Alaska's then-capital Sitka, and showed him a pouch-full of small nuggets recovered from a stream on the mainland opposite Mr Pilz' Baranof Island.

Getting excited, George Pilz hired several itinerant prospectors to go off with Chief Kowee in the hope they could find his El Dorado.

Sadly for him, his prospectors were more interested in hooch than hiking the rugged mountains, and swapped most of the food and fossicking supplies he'd given them, for the local firewater produced by tribes they met along the way… returning to Baranof Island with the news that if there was gold, there wasn't much of it.

Mr Pilz was pondering his next move when Chief Kowee once again turned up on his doorstep, insisting gold was to be found if the right people were sent to find it.

This time George Pilz hired two respected prospectors named Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, and with Chief Kowee they headed for what was to be dubbed Gold Creek – and at the head of this readily recovered handfuls of nuggets "the size of peas and beans."

An ecstatic George Pilz put a larger expedition together and within weeks word had spread south to the United States that there was gold for the taking in them thar Alaskan hills.

The Rush of 1880 was on.

A 65-hectare site was mapped out for a prospectors' camp-site at the foot of the mountains, and within a year this became the first new town to be founded in Alaska since it had been bought by America thirteen years earlier from Russia for a mere US$7.2m.

At first it was called Harrisburg after Richard Harris, but this was later changed to Juneau and quickly boomed with the explosion of one of the world's greatest gold rushes.

Soon mines replaced hand-fossicking the icy creeks and streams for the precious metal, and by the early 1900s more than fifty stamp mills were working around the clock pounding the resultant ore.

And while Alaska's capital was moved from Sitka on Baranof Island to Juneau, like all good things the gold boom ground to an end, although not until around 40-million ounces of the precious stuff had been recovered and with small amounts still being mined to this day.

Gold's demise, however, left Juneau anything but destitute: over 1-million tourists now flock into town each year, most of them by cruise ship between the warmer months of May and September. They visit the old gold mines and stamp mills, and gawk at the unbelievably spectacular scenery that includes the snow-capped and spruce-draped mountains, and the extraordinary Mendenhall Glacier that's over 2.5km wide, 30-metres high at its face and 16km long, and regularly sheds house-size chunks of ice to reveal its dramatic aqua/electric blue interior.

And there's excellent shopping, dining and museums, while Juneau's a treasure-trove of trivia: its one of the world's few capitals not to be served by road from the outside world, with all everyone and everything coming by sea or air.

Yet despite this it's actually got more vehicles than its 31,000 residents.

And amongst more important 'services' subsidised by the local government is the town brewery… while parts of the town itself actually sit on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold, because as it grew, it spread over many of the 'tailings' from the old mines.

Only problem is, to retrieve this fortune, Juneau would first have to be demolished.
(For information about visiting Juneau by cruise ship, local ferry or air, contact Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays on 1300 79 49 59 or www.canada-alaska.com.au)



. JUNEAU – built on one of the world's greatest gold rushes

. HISTORIC AJ Gold Mine and stamp mills, one of over fifty that once flourished here and now a tourist attraction.

(photos: Alaska State Library)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why I Love The Bali Writers Festival

Your body's just been pampered with a heavenly Balinese massage; now it's time to feed your mind with a talk by a famous author.. If you love Bali, and books, then the Ubud Readers And Writers Festival is a gift from the gods.

It's a chance to sip a fresh mango juice at a café overlooking a tranquil rice field, then wander down the road to mingle with literary types.
After an hour or two of workshops, debates, and lectures, it's probably time to find another café, tuck into some nasi goreng and continue talking about books with the friendly person you met at the last lecture.

The annual festival takes place each October in Ubud - Bali's cultural capital, in central Bali. Founded in 2004, the festival was dreamed up by Janet De Neefe, a Melbourne woman who moved to Ubud after falling in love with a Balinese man 24 years ago.

Janet herself is a best-selling author. Her book Fragrant Rice tells of her life with Ketut, with whom she has had four children, and the richness that Bali has brought to her life. (It's also peppered with recipes, as Janet is also a brilliant cook who runs several Ubud businesses, including two restaurants and a bakery.)

Deciding on the festival, said Janet, was "my way of bringing international visitors back here," after the Kuta bombing in October, 2002.

"The effect on our community at that time was enormous and Ubud suffered greatly," she explained. "Many people lost their jobs and for a long time a deep sadness prevailed.

After Fragrant Rice was published, she said, "I'd attended some writer's festivals and then it struck me; why not have one in Bali?"

"With its beautiful ricefields, tranquil surroundings, and wonderful guesthouses and hotels, I just knew Ubud would be an ideal venue."

She formed a committee of supporters, and got to work..

The week-long event begins impressively; with a feast, speeches, then a stunning Balinese dance held at the Ubud Palace. The next few days are a whirl of stimulating talks, food, and workshops, with visitors from Åustralia and across south-east Asia.

Former United Nations assistant secretary general, Shashi Tharoor and Man Booker prize winner Kiran Desai were two favourites at last year's festival. "It's so informal, you feel like you can wander up and ask these people questions without any sense of imposing on them," says Perth film-maker Melissa Hasluck. "I thought the festival was great."

I still have fond memories of the inaugural festival, when a small group of us signed up to join Tony Wheeler, the guru behind the Lonely Planet series, on a guided tour of Ubud. Through the ricefields we trekked, as Tony pointed out temples and other glorious landmarks. We then sat at a small restaurant and chatted about travel.

By day, Balinese volunteer drivers were on hand to whisk us from one venue to another.

A highlight for me was hearing a witty speech by festival regular Nury Vittachi, the Hong-Kong based author of the Feng Shui Detective series.

Inspired by his talk, I bought his book on the spot at the waiting trestle table and asked him to sign it.

We later bumped into each other at the beautiful Lotus Café, overlooking a sea of lotuses and an ancient temple. "Can I buy you a banana juice?" he said politely, as he and his three friends sat down. (Ubud's informality lends itself to this sort of thing.)

Nury, a veteran of many international writers festivals, was entranced by Ubud. "The local people I've met are so friendly and charming, and the children are gorgeous," he raved. "But I also find the expat community interesting. I can see how Bali has seduced them to stay indefinitely."

All the visitors I spoke to agreed they'd loved their week at the festival. Some of us stayed at five star hotels, while those on a budget were content to enjoy the charm of inexpensive home-stays. As ever, the meals were delicious and inexpensive. Aside from the festival, I managed to squeeze in some cycling through nearby villages, whitewater rafting and a stroll through the ricefields.

Try to allow enough room in your suitcase to amass a few treats; I flew home with not just a new Balinese painting, but an armload of books from my newfound friends..


For details visit website www.ubudwritersfestival.com

Cruise West Announces 26 Itineraries In 29 Countries For 2009 Season

Five New Itineraries Enhance Small Ship Line's Growing Repertoire

SEATTLE – Leading small-ship cruise line Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com) has announced 26 itineraries for the 2009 season, including four new and one re-introduced cruise. The four new voyages will visit Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, the Danube River, the East Indies and Melanesia; the Vietnam itinerary is being re-introduced by popular demand.

The 2009 cruises include stops in 29 countries and 165 ports worldwide. The voyages will include 253 departures throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific, with visits to 29 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Alaska, Cambodia, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Romania and Vietnam. Cruise West's nine small ships (with capacity ranging from 78-138 guests) allow for the company's trademark "up-close, casual and personal" experience, an opportunity not offered by larger cruise lines. Cruises range from three-night/four-day to 24-night/25-day, and start from $1,149 per person.

"Our Quyana Members (past guests) asked us to add new destinations and Cruise West listened by delivering four new distinctive itineraries and reintroducing Vietnam in 2009," said Dick West, chairman and managing director. "I personally scouted the Galapagos itinerary and the Danube River cruise. In honor of Cruise West's first European river cruise, I will host a Chairman's cruise on the first departure. As with all Cruise West voyages, these new itineraries will offer guests the hallmark Cruise West adventure - an authentic experience."


· Cruise West introduces the GALAPAGOS onboard the luxurious 40-guest Isabela II. The 10-day tour will start with two days in Quito before flying to Baltra Island to board the ship for an eight-day cruise. A post-cruise Machu Picchu Land Tour option is available. Three departures will be initially offered on August 23, August 30 and September 6, 2009.

· Cruise West ventures to Europe for the first time with its 11- or 12-day Danube River cruise VIENNA TO BUCHAREST onboard the elegant new 148-guest Amadeus Diamond ─ 2009 marks this vessel's inaugural year. This cruise highlights exclusive tours in Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and cruising in the Danube Delta. Four departure dates will be offered: July 16 and 24, 2009; and October 13 and 21, 2009. Add on a pre- or post-cruise Prague or Transylvania Land Tour.

· VIETNAM is reintroduced by popular demand. Originally offered in 2007, this 12-day itinerary cruises Haiphong to Ho Chi Minh City via Ha Long Bay, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang and the Mekong River. One departure will be offered on November 21, 2009 onboard Cruise West's flagship, the 120-guest Spirit of Oceanus. Add-on a pre- or post-cruise Cambodia and Angkor Wat Land Tour.

· Cruise the exotic East Indies, SINGAPORE TO SYDNEY for the holidays onboard the Spirit of Oceanus. Offered December 16, 2009, this new 17-day itinerary transits the waters of early European explorers and will feature mysterious cultures steeped in ancient history in Indonesia. Spend New Year's Eve in Sydney! Port calls to be announced fall 2008.

· Extraordinary islands throughout Melanesia are featured on the new 17-day SYDNEY TO FIJI voyage departing December 28, 2009. Visit isolated cultures and pristine waters in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and more. Port calls to be announced fall 2008.

2009 Itinerary Updates
· COLUMBIA RIVER CRUISES: Twenty additional departures of the Columbia River itineraries have been added. Four spring and six fall departures of the delicious Taste of the Pacific Northwest epicurean cruise have been added, increasing from three initial departures in fall 2008. Ten spring and 15 fall departures of the popular and historically based River Voyage of Discovery itinerary will be offered, up from 12 total departures in 2008.

· PANAMA & COSTA RICA: An extended season, one enhanced and two new land tours are offered on the nine-night Between Two Seas itinerary, traveling from Panama City to San José, Costa Rica or reverse, onboard the recently upgraded 100-guest Pacific Explorer. Highlights include traversing the entire Panama Canal and visiting the remote Emberá Village in the Darién Jungle. The enhanced cruise/land tour includes the 10-day cruise plus five nights of accommodations and adventures in Sarapiquí and Arenal, Costa Rica. The two new land tours include a two-night/three-day Monteverde Cloud Forest visit and a four-night/five-day stay in Tortuguero National Park.

· ALASKA: Alaska's Inside Passage itinerary will offer an extended cruise season with value pricing and two new add-on land tour options: two nights at a Denali Backcountry Lodge in conjunction with the four- or five-day Glaciers of Prince William Sound cruises; or a four day fully escorted Denali land tour traveling roundtrip from Anchorage in conjunction with the nine-day Alaska Whales & Wilderness cruise.

For further details on Cruise West's itineraries, visit www.CruiseWest.com or call (800) 689-1783.

~ Up-Close, Casual and Personal Cruising ~

Cruise West offers the opportunity to explore remote and distinctive destinations throughout North and Central America, Asia and the South Pacific. Small-ship cruising allows for personalized experiences not offered by larger cruise lines. Guest capacities aboard Cruise West's nine ships range from 78-138. Guests may expect personal enrichment through insightful shore programs, onboard narrative and presentations by local experts from a wide variety of backgrounds. In addition, destination specific materials and an array of books are provided in the onboard library on every vessel. Cruise West considers it a privilege to access some of the world's most pristine wilderness areas and culturally rich countries. With this in mind, Cruise West views itself as good stewards and encourages crew and guests to act responsibly with respect to the environment and diverse cultures visited.

For more information, call 1-800-689-1783 or visit www.cruisewest.com.


david ellis

AUSTRALIA's playing host over the next few months to one of our most  unusual maritime visitors, the diminutive 6,800 tonne MV Doulos that's the world's oldest active ocean-going passenger ship.

And while several hundred thousand of us will go aboard for a bit of a sticky-beak as she works her way from Brisbane to Fremantle between now and November, it's unlikely that any more than a handful – if even that – will take up an invitation to sail on her.

That's because this classic little liner, that was originally launched as a freighter in 1914, is no longer a cruise ship – she's the world's biggest floating book fair from which have been sold more than 15-million books in 20 years, providing funds to allow her to give away many more times that number to worthy causes.

Owned and operated by Germany's non-profit charity GBA Ships e.V,  Doulos plies the oceans of the world to distribute books and literature resources to the under-privileged, provide medical aid, distribute food and clothing, help with construction projects, encourage inter-cultural understanding, and enthuse young people into becoming more effective in life and service.

And while a major task is to also spread the message of Christianity, Doulos' 330  volunteer crew and staff – from her Australian Captain, Ashley McDonald through to her doctor, engineers, radio operators, seamen, cooks, waiters and laundrymen – do so without "Bible bashing"  those they come in contact with.

Doulos was built as the cargo ship Medina in Newport News, USA in 1914 and worked the American coast over the next 34-years, being sold then to a Panamanian company that converted her into a 1000-passenger ship re-named Roma to ferry pilgrims from South America to Italy and back for the 1950 Roman Catholic Holy Year.

Afterwards Roma brought migrants from Europe to Australia, but that short career ended abruptly when she was arrested in Newcastle and laid-up for a year over a dispute about bills.

When finally released she was bought by Italy's Costa Line and re-named Franca C to carry holidaymakers between Italy and Argentina, before being remodeled yet again into a luxury First Class liner to ply the Mediterranean – and in the 1960s to pioneer the ultimately lucrative cruise market out of Miami, Florida.

She was sold by Costa in 1977 to Germany's charitable Good Books for All (subsequently renamed GBA Ships e.V.,) and this time re-named Doulos – Greek for "slave."

She's sailed over 350,000 nautical miles, and visited 600 ports in 100 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. More than 20-million people have visited her library and shopped at her book fair, toured the ship, and enjoyed cultural performances and displays by her 40-nationality officers and staff who, while not doing voluntarily aid or construction work, do similar shows ashore for charities, elderly peoples' homes, schools and hospitals.

Captain McDonald, then an Australian Navy officer, and his wife Alison a speech therapist, met in Darwin and married in 1955. They were living in Fremantle when Doulos first visited there in 1999 and were amongst over 200,000 who toured this unique vessel during her first Australian tour – and a year later with a 21-months old daughter, accepted offers for Ashley to become volunteer 2nd Officer and Alison a voluntary speech therapist.

After four years aboard they returned to Fremantle where Ashley rose to Deputy Harbour Master, before in 2005 being invited to this time become Doulos' Captain.

"I didn't need to read that email," Alison recalls. "The look on Ashley's face told me everything." Captain McDonald tossed-in a 6-figure salary to work for free as Master of Doulos, while Alison abandoned her own career to once more work as a volunteer speech therapist on board and at ports they would visit.

Now, with three daughters, like all others aboard they not only work for free, but raise funds to support themselves and Doulos' running, charitable and religious work.

Although of the latter, as the Mayor of Catania in Italy says: "Those on Doulos don't speak about religion – they're an expression of it."

(DOULOS is in Brisbane until August 17, Sydney August 21 to September 8, Geelong September 11-29, Albany October 4-8 and Fremantle October 10-28; to visit phone Wilhelmsen Lines Australia (02) 9255 0800.)


DOULOS off Sydney Opera House on a previous visit in 1999.

BOOK a place – visitors to Doulos' vast library and book fair that sells and donates books to worthy causes.

Captain Ashley McDonald with Doulos in the background.

(Images: Michael Kenyon and GBA Ships e.V.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Orion's cultural expedition to Arnhem Land

This exclusive Orion cultural expedition provides rare access to remote Arnhem Land indigenous art communities, with plenty of time ashore to meet and talk with many artists, view and purchase original artworks and visit important galleries. Orion's expedition team and specialist guest lecturers enhance the experience with comprehensive briefings and workshops.

Departing Thursday Island in Torres Strait on 25th April this 7 night voyage concludes in Darwin on 2nd May, 2009.

Spectacularly located at the northern tip of Australia, Thursday Island is the perfect location to commence this fascinating expedition. A visit to the Gab Titui Cultural Centre reveals exquisite Torres Strait art that reflects the many unique cultures and traditions of the island communities and the islander's bond to sea and land.

Orion then explores the remote coastal regions of Arnhem Land, stopping at some of the most important indigenous art centres, many with limited access due to their isolation and the need for permits to enter indigenous reserves. Travelling the coast on Orion is the perfect way to visit these significant art communities.

This voyage will appeal to those interested in indigenous art from both aesthetic and investment aspects as well. Colin and Elizabeth Laverty – whose lifetime of collecting Australian contemporary art has culminated in one of the world's most important collections of Aboriginal art – will join the voyage to share their thoughts on the importance of Australian indigenous art; while Howard Morphy, Director of the Research School of Humanities at the Australian National University and extensive author on Australian Aboriginal art will also offer insight to provide a better understanding of indigenous art in Australia.

They will be joined by Hetti Perkins, a member of the Eastern Arrernte and Kalkadoon Aboriginal communities. Currently Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of NSW Hetti has worked with indigenous visual art for over twenty years.


At Yirrkala Orion's guests will be met by a local Yolngu family. Following a traditional ‘cleansing’ with a time honoured smoke ceremony there will be face painting and tasting of oysters, freshly cooked mud crab and speared fish. Guests will receive first hand insight and share some distinctive Yolngu cultural experiences. The Buku – Larrangay Mulka Art Centre is one of the most prominent indigenous art centres in northern Australia.

Yolngu Art is based upon inherited designs which originate with ancestral beings that created the land. A special feature of Elcho is the Morning Star poles: feather decorated funeral rite poles each distinctive to their clan groups.

Recognised nationally and internationally, Maningrida is one of the powerhouse art areas of central Arnhem Land. Bark painting, pandanus weaving and wood carvings – especially the Mimi spirits – are all distinctive features of the artistic endeavour. A visit to the excellent Djiom Museum is a highlight, showcasing the richness of the ceremonial apparel and intricacies of the material culture.

Before arrival in Darwin, guests will visit the Munupi Arts at Pirlangimpi to view the distinctive features of Tiwi art, including ceramics and carved totemic Pukumani funeral poles. In addition Orion guests can take a journey back in time by visiting the remnants of Fort Dundas – one of the original attempts to colonise the Top End.


Fares Guide: 7 night Orion voyage / 25th April 2009: Thursday Island, Torres Strait; Yirrkala, Northern Territory; Elcho Island, NT; Maningrida, NT; Pirlangimpi (Melville Island);Darwin, Northern Territory.

Fares begin from A$5,200 per person for an ocean view Category B stateroom

Suites begin from A$7,075 per person for a Junior Suite

Owners’ Suites with French Balcony are A$10,615 per person

Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is the world's latest and Australia’s only purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship.

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 www.orionexpeditions.com

For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email: info@orioncruises.com.au

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Kamchatka

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Expedition cruising has evolved somewhat from the hard-core voyages that rekindled this travel sector in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, some ‘adventure cruises’ are simply hedonistic boutique yachts with champagne on tap, but just last week I was reminded that the core product is still alive and well.

At a recent industry function I caught up with travel doyen, John Borthwick, and asked him about his recent trip to Kamchatka aboard Aurora Expeditions’s 100-berth Marina Svetaeva, a trusty former Russian survey vessel of the type that helped springboard Antarctic and Artic tourism after the fall of the USSR.

“There’s not much out there?” I inquired, recalling my own visions of bleak Siberian plains. John nearly choked on his entrée.

“Well,” he spluttered indignantly, “if you overlook the volcanoes, grizzly bears, walruses, sea otters, reindeer and Koryak shaman!”

John then proceeded to enthrall the table with dizzying accounts of vast stampeding herds of reindeer, packs of marauding brown bears and the graceful antics of the sea otters.

The Kamchatka Peninsula, asserts John, is Russia’s Alaska or Kimberley without a tourist in sight.

“It’s at the extreme of remote wilderness beauty, totally unpopulated and bursting with wildlife,” he finished, leaving us agog.

This was Aurora’s first Kamchatka expedition and NZ’s Heritage Expeditions is also exploiting the region, but the seasonal window is narrow and access complicated, so it will remain, for the time being at least, a niche destination to be savoured by a fortunate few.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


John Crook & David Ellis

THE locals of the tiny western Victorian village of Moyston are wondering why if  they've been virtually forgotten in this the 150th year of Australian Rules football, even though it was in a paddock close to here that local Aboriginal children played a game destined to become the nation's Number One football code.

For they say many officials of today's game appear to have overlooked the role of these children and the game they called 'marngrook' that had them running, kicking and catching a ball made of a possum hide stuffed with feathers or charcoal.

The only white fella amongst the rough and tumble of those early games in the dust of the Wimmera, was a chap named Tom Wills: he spoke the local language, played their Aboriginal games with them on his father's cattle property called Lexington, and whilst he gets a few mentions in AFL circles, his role and that of his playmates appears today to have been largely ignored.

And this is despite the fact that Wills went on to join a committee that drew up the first rules of The Melbourne Football Club at a meeting in East Melbourne's Parade Hotel in May 1859, and to play for Melbourne and then Geelong, captaining both fledgling teams in 1859 and 1860 respectively.

And on one early occasion, with a lack of players and officials, he both played and umpired in the one match.

By October 1896 the Victorian Football League had been formed with eight teams on its books: Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, South Melbourne and St Kilda; within four years this had grown to twelve teams – often made up of first grade cricketers who used VFL to keep fit in winter – and in 1982 the South Melbourne Football Club relocated to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans.

By the late 1990s the game had spread nationally with teams in all mainland States and the name was changed from the Victorian Football League to the Australian Football League.

Which is why the townsfolk of Moyston had been expecting big things in this the year of AFL's 150th anniversary, with local songwriters putting words to music about Tom Wills and his town, and historians dusting off records of how the game has grown from the dust and the sounds of happy kids booting a rag-tag ball between the Moyston gum trees in those far-off days.

Sadly such recognition appears not to be on the horizon, even though most of the thousands of tourists who've passed through Moyston have stopped to pay homage to the game that was born here in the shadows of the Grampians.

But it's not been all muscle and testosterone that have helped the survival of this town: there's a small but growing cultural community of writers, poets and artists who have settled in the foothills of the local national park and display and sell their works in the town's only store and a number of galleries and studios.

There's also been a general increase in the local population, with the draw-card a lower cost of living, a quality country life-style and a close proximity to the larger towns of Stawell and Ararat, the latter just 15 kilometres away. 

Moyston is a cute little place with a smattering of houses, hobby farms and larger commercial holdings, a bluestone church, a general store, a couple of B&B's, and a collection of boutique wineries scattered amid the surrounding countryside.

Go visit, have a picnic on the grounds of the local football club, stroll through the rose gardens that are home to the memorial to Tom Wills and his Aboriginal mates, have a chat with the locals – and then drop a note to the AFL and reprimand them for ignoring this important little slice of their game's history.

After all it was Moyston that gave us 'footy,' which in 150 years has not just spread its wings Australia-wide, but has gone international and is now played in Canada, Japan and New Zealand.


Moyston is 239 kilometres north west of Melbourne
B&B accommodation includes Grochan Country Retreat Tel : (03) 5352 4797, and accommodation options in nearby Halls Gap range from backpacker facilities to the five-star Marwood Retreat.



. MEMORIAL to Tom Wills and his Aboriginal mates who used a stuffed possum hide ball to play 'marngrook,' the forerunner to today's AFL.

. RETREAT to the bush – part of the 5-star Marwood Retreat snuggled in the leafy Grampians.

. SLEEPY town: tiny Moyston is home to an active cultural community.

(Images: John Crook)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Dangers of Travel

Since that fateful day in September 2001, our attention has been drawn to all manner of travel dangers. Our lives are limited by our fears, and we all know someone who’s too scared to fly. Some people, of course, are mortified at the thought of even walking out the door. All of life's a risk, but what are the real odds of meeting your maker while taking a holiday or business trip?

In The Air

Cubana Ilyushin Il-62M CU-T1218

Your chances of surviving an airline crash are, at best, 50/50. On the flip side, the odds of your being the victim of one are reassuringly slim. According to a US study, in any 12-month period you have a 1 in 200,000 chance of death by falling down the stairs (ie of every 200,000 deaths, one is a stairway accident) compared with 1 in 300,000 of dying in an “air or space accident”, taking into account all types of flying things. That same study cites the most dangerous transport act as “car occupant”, with a sobering mortality probability of just 1 in 20,000.

By restricting your air travel to large airliners on the world’s best airlines, your safety is significantly enhanced. Qantas, for example, has never lost a passenger despite nearly 60 years of continuous service. Statistics vary wildly, as do the methods and data used, but according to another US study, commercial airline travel presents a slightly higher risk than death by lightning strike – about 1 in 5 million.

A rule of thumb: as the size of the plane decreases, so the risk increases. Similarly, your choice of airline can significantly increase the chance of a catastrophic end to your holiday. For the safety obsessed, here’s a list of the safest airlines in their respective regions. (The numbers refer to the “fatal events rate” – ie deaths per million flights.)

Asia: Qantas (0.00)
Africa: South African (0.63)
North America: South West/America West/Hawaiian (0.00)
Latin America: Mexicana (0.53)
Europe: British Airways (0.27)

The safest aircraft: the Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 are accident-free. So far.

Some planes are clearly past their expiry date. Older 737s, 727s, DC-9s and A300 series aircraft are finally being retired, but those still flying present a higher than average risk. Of more recent flying machines, Fokker’s F-28 and the McDonnell Douglas MD11 have more than their share of mishaps. As for older Russian and Chinese aircraft … hitch-hiking would be a less hazardous option.

Air travel in the former Soviet Union, Central Africa, China, PNG and Colombia is the most hazardous, although accurate data, understandably, is hard to get.

Airlines you can safely avoid (based on frequency of losses in recent times): Cubana, TAM (Brazil), Egypt Air, Iran Air, Royal Jordanian, India Airlines, China Airlines (Taiwan), Korean Air and Turkish Airlines.

On The Road


Since the unbridled carnage of the mid-1970s, Australia has reduced its road traffic fatalities every year - to the point where we are now equal to, or better than, OECD standards. Seatbelts, road upgrades, safety awareness, driving culture and improved vehicle standards have all contributed. However, in the Northern Territory, road fatalities run at three times the national average.

When comparing Australia to the rest of the world, you have to be careful to compare like with like. There are the so-called “mechanised” countries and, conversely, “non-mechanised” countries. Australia, of course, falls into the former category, whereas a country like the Central African Republic does not.

As you’d expect, the mechanically challenged lands enjoy far fewer fatalities and lower risks than the automobile-bound ones. However, the fewer cars in such places often create carnage as they try to share roads with clumsy ox-carts and bicycles. The concept of mechanisation is clearly catching some developing countries by surprise. China, where the WHO claim 600 die each day have, you’ll be refreshed to learn, passed their first road safety legislation last year.

To differentiate the various states-of-affair, the two commonly employed methods for measuring traffic accident statistics are the ‘rate’ and the ‘risk’.

The Rate: road deaths per 100,000 of population.
The Risk: road deaths for every 100 million vehicle kilometres travelled.

A recent report by UK travel journalist Simon Calder stated: “Statistically, Australia is a much more dangerous place to drive than Britain; the fatality rate is nearly three times higher.” Sorry Simon, but that’s rubbish.

Australia and Britain are both “mechanised” OECD-standard countries with respectable accident records. Given that English drivers spend most of their time in traffic jams, it’s surprising they even get the chance to have fatal accidents. But for the record:

The Rate: Australia: 8.8. UK: 6.0. OECD Median: 10.3
The Risk: Australia: 0.9. UK: 0.7. OECD Median: 1.1

… and Australia’s figures include that wild variation in the Northern Territory.

Risky mechanised countries to be aware of: Turkey (7.3), Malaysia (2.6), Greece (1.9), Portugal (1.6), Korea (1.5), Poland (1.5) and USA (1.5).

Other Figures To Chew On:

Highest Death Toll: China (with a bullet) – heading for 250,000 per year
Highest Fatality Rate: Armenia (277) Lowest: Madagascar (0.2)
Highest Fatality Risk: Turkey (7.3) Lowest: Bhutan (0.08)

Safest Australian State (or Territory): ACT Risk: 0.3 Rate: 3.1
Least Safe Australian State (or Territory): NT Risk: 3.2 Rate: 27.7

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has revealed details of its 2009 schedule of expeditions for the Prince Albert II, calling for the 132-guest luxury expedition ship's deployment in French Polynesia from mid-March to late October 2009.

The ship's positioning in Tahiti is the result of numerous efforts and successful meetings between Silversea and the French Polynesian government.
An exciting collection of new itineraries will feature the less-travelled regions of Polynesia ranging from the southernmost Austral Islands to the sprawling Tuamotu Archipelago and the northernmost Marquesas Islands. Highlights of the 2009 French Polynesia program include:

Nestled in the Tropic of Capricorn, the remote Austral Islands lie hundreds of miles south of Tahiti and enjoy a slightly cooler climate. Tubuai, largest of these volcanic islands, is probably best known for the failed landing attempts of the H.M.S. Bounty. (The island's villagers assaulted the unwelcome ship with a barrage of stones, and ultimately the mutineers sailed off to Pitcairn.) Prince Albert II and her fleet of 8 Zodiac boats will explore the unique culture, flora and fauna of Rapa, Raivavae, Tubuai, Rurutu and Rimatara on five 11-day, roundtrip journeys from Papeete. Silver Sailing fares start at US$3,897 per person, double occupancy.

The mountainous islands of the Marquesas are located nearly 900 miles northeast of Tahiti and just south of the equator. With a lush, vibrant terrain bursting with myriad exotic flowers and fruit trees, it's easy to understand how this tropical paradise captivated the artist Paul Gauguin, who made the Marquesas his adopted home. On four roundtrip journeys of 14 days from Papeete, Prince Albert II's expedition team will lead in-depth explorations of Fatu Hiva, Pua Mau, Hiva Oa, Atuona, Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva and Tahuata, as well as Manihi and Fakarava Island in the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Society Islands of Bora Bora and Tahaa. Silver Sailing fares start at US$4,917 per person, double occupancy.

The isolated Tuamotu Islands, northeast of Tahiti, comprise the world's largest chain of atolls. Its 78 sparsely populated coral islands span over 900 miles of aquamarine waters. Dotted with quaint villages, coral churches and an abundance of wildlife - from bottlenose dolphins and coconut crabs to the rarest of birds - this remote archipelago offers endless possibilities for real Robinson Crusoe-style adventures. Departing from Papeete, Prince Albert II will embark on five 10-day expeditions to the Tuamotu islands of Tikihau, Rangiroa, Apataki, Arutua and Fakarava, as well as Raiatea, Maupihaa and Huahine in the Society Islands. Silver Sailing fares start at US$3,597 per person, double occupancy.

In the spirit of true adventure, all itineraries are unstructured by design. Following only a tentative schedule that allows for moment-by-moment flexibility, expeditions stay longer at sites of particular interest, or make slight detours whenever weather, nature or mere curiosity dictate.

The Prince Albert II offers full-scale exploring from an ultra-luxury base at sea, in true Silversea style. With the largest average size accommodation of any expedition ship, guests will enjoy spacious, ocean-view suites (many with French balconies or large private verandas), sumptuous gourmet cuisine, warm hospitality and personalised service (with a crew-to-guest ratio of nearly 1 to 1), and Silversea's generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, bottled water, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities. Plus, complimentary Butler Service is provided in the Grand and Owner's Suites.

"We are delighted to base the Prince Albert IIin beautiful Tahiti for a series of explorations next year," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea's president and CEO. "The South Pacific is home to magnificent natural vistas and some of the world's most intriguing cultures, offering our guests the perfect setting for mind-enriching, authentic adventures."

"We are pleased to welcome the prestigious Prince Albert II to French Polynesia," said the President of French Polynesia, Gaston Tong Sang. "Since taking office, it has been my goal and intention to take all necessary steps to enable Silversea to visit the region. The Prince Albert II is a true luxury vessel with a privileged clientele that is attracted by cultural and authentic travel experiences."

Mr. Tong Sang added, "The itineraries and land programs designed by Silversea are in sync with our tourism positioning as well as our aims for the islands and remote archipelagoes development. The unique voyages developed by Silversea will enable travellers to discover the unknown beauties and treasures of our five archipelagoes in exceptional luxury."

For the balance of the year, the Prince Albert II will offer a series of Antarctic explorations with convenient roundtrip departures from Ushuaia.

For more information please contact Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or toll free 1300 306 872 (Australia) or 0800 701 427 (New Zealand), or visit www.silversea.com

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