Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cruise Weekly Comment: New destinations for adventurers

Le Boreal and L'Austral

The first time most of us heard about the largest French-flagged cruise line was when Somali pirates commandeered the luxury sailing vessel Le Ponant last April as she was returning from her Indian Ocean itineraries.

Commandos freed the hostages, recovered the vessel, took six Somali prisoners and ensured Ponant Cruises massive global PR.

Now the company is more interested in trumpeting its two new builds.

Le Boreal, a 142m super luxury expedition cruiser, is scheduled to enter service in May 2010 followed by her sister, L'Austral, 12 months later.

Although final specifications may change, both vessels will have 132 twin staterooms and suites, two restaurants, a theatre, health club, beauty salon and medical centre.

Fitted out to luxury standards, either or both may well take five Berlitz stars and dethrone Hapag-Lloyd's Hanseatic as the world's most luxurious expedition vessel.

Both are designed to Ice Class 1C. Orion, by comparison, is constructed to the much tougher 1A.

Destinations being touted by Ponant for these new vessels include Antarctica, the Canadian Arctic, the Amazon and South-East Asia.

Currently Ponant's only other "real" expedition yacht, Le Diamant, is carrying out polar duties.

When both join the fleet, Ponant will have five vessels in total. Pricing for Le Boreal cruises will be in the region of AU$600 a day.

A rare opportunity from Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten, meanwhile, has announced a rare opportunity to visit Marguerite Bay, below the Antarctic Circle on the Western Coast of the peninsula where one of the few accessible Emperor Penguin colonies exist.

Late in last season, Quark's Ocean Nova was briefly stuck on rocks there and I'm sure Hurtigruten's Fram will be staying well clear of the shallow parts as she visits during her 17-day voyage.

Visit the "wild side" of Scotland

Homegrown adventure operator, Aurora Expeditions Expeditions, has surprised some with the announcement of a "wild side" of Scotland cruise for June next year.

Aboard will be Scottish historian Carol Knott, who has lived and worked in the Outer Hebrides for the past 20 years. As a field archaeologist she has focused on the history of remote communities and the lives of the people who have lived there from early times.

The 5000-year-old Neolithic village of Skara Brae, where you can still see stone furniture in the long-abandoned houses, is sure to be a highlight for history and archaeology buffs.

The new voyage will be aboard the 54-passenger Polar Pioneer with prices starting from $7,155 per person for a triple-share cabin.

Even now, it's not too late to make a decision to travel to Antarctica this season - use the lower than usual loadings to score yourself a bargain rate.

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