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Sea Spirit receives multi-million dollar upgrade

Posted by Andrew Castles on June 15, 2017

One of our favourite polar vessels the M/V Spirit has just returned to service following a multi-million dollar refurbishment of all 54 passenger suites. Each suite has been completely refurbished with new carpeting, draperies, bed linens, upholstery, new furniture and fixtures. Best of all, all bathrooms are completely renovated with new tile throughout, stone vanity top with integrated mirror, designer sink and rain shower. A welcome retreat, indeed, after a day of exploring the polar world!

Check out our photo gallery below to see some photographs of the stylish new suites.

If you would like to experience the upgraded Sea Spirit for yourself, we still have a few rooms left for the coming 2017/18 Antarctica Season, and some great Earlybird offers (be quick as they finish soon!) on 2018 Arctic voyages and 2018/19 expeditions to Antarctica.

For more information about Sea Spirit and her polar expedition itineraries click here

 

Sea Spirit Owner's SuiteSea Spirit Owners Suite sitting

Owner's Suite bathroomSea Spirit Premium Suite

Sea Spirit Deluxe SuiteSea Spirit Deluxe Suite balcony

Sea Spirit Main SuiteSea Spirit Classic Suite

Ten of the Best: Expedition Cruises for Snorkellers

Posted by Andrew Castles on June 07, 2017

If you’re a keen snorkeller looking for your next holiday idea, we’ve pulled together 10 of the best places to snorkel around the world on an expedition cruise. The list, in no particular order, includes bucket-list destinations like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands through to little known paradises like Kiribati's Southern Line Islands and Raja Ampat.  Contact the team at Expedition Cruise Specialists to start planning your next great adventure today.

 

1.    Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

 

Great Barrier Reef cruise Coral Expeditions

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is at the top of the bucket-list for water lovers. Stretching over 2,000 kilometres along the Australian coast, ‘the Reef’ wows visitors with its colourful corals and amazing sealife. Although coral bleaching is a concern, there are many parts of the reef still worth seeing (check out our recent blog on this topic). Three, four and seven-night expedition cruises depart Cairns aboard Coral Expeditions II each week.

 

2.    Indonesia’s Raja Ampat

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Snorkelling Raja Ampat in Indonesia

Home to over 70% of the world's known coral species, incredible marine life and outstanding natural beauty, Indonesia's Raja Ampat should be on every snorkeller’s bucket list. There’s expeditions on offer on various ships, including True North, Coral Discoverer and the Ombak Putih.

 

3.    Belize Barrier Reef

 

lighthouse reef belize national geographic quest cruise

The dazzling undersea of the Belize Barrier Reef is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in terms of biodiversity. You can snorkel and dive it on National Geographic Quest’s  9 Day Belize and Guatemala expedition cruise.

 

4.    Kiribati’s Southern Line Islands

 

Orion cruise southern line islands kiribati

An 8 day cruise aboard National Geographic Orion takes you from Tahiti to Kiribati’s Southern Line Islands. It is one of the healthiest reef systems in the world and a rare place virtually unmarred by the touch of humans, which is why it was identified by the National Geographic Pristine Seas project as one of the few places researchers can study to see how reefs and undersea ecosystems looked before humans.

 

5.    The Seychelles 'Garden of Eden'

 

Seychelles cruise aboard the Pegasus

Hop from island to island aboard Variety Cruises’ 44-passenger Pegasus and snorkel over colourful coral reefs on this memorable eight day small-ship expedition around the Indian Ocean’s beautiful Seychelles.

 

6.    Galapagos Islands

 

Galapagos Islands Cruise with Lindblad National Geographic Expeditions

Snorkelling in Ecuador’s offshore Galapagos Islands is all about the marine life. You will be able to snorkel with marine iguanas, frolick with sea lions, green sea turtles, Galapagos penguins and an incredible variety of colourful reef fish. National Geographic Endeavour II, Ocean Spray and Sea Star Journey all offer week long expeditions in this nature-lovers’ paradise.

 

7.    Melanesia’s Louisiade Archipelago

 

Louisiade Archipelago expedition cruise true north

The Louisiade Archipelago offers some of the finest snorkeling in the South Pacific. There’s thrilling in-water activities at “Fish City” on Rossell Atoll and colourful corals at Egum Atoll to explore. You can even snorkel and dive over WWII aircraft wrecks. You can experience Melanesia aboard the True North.

 

8.    Australia’s Abrolhos Islands & Rowley Shoals

 

Abrolhos Islands cruise Eco Abrolhos

Located well off the vast coast of Western Australia, the Rowley Shoals and Abrolhos Islands offer spectacular snorkelling opportunities. Rarely-visited, the reefs are particularly well-preserved with myriad sea life to view. In the Abrolhos Islands you can also snorkel over the wreck of the legendary ship Batavia. Visit the Rowley Shoals aboard True North, and the Abrolhos Islands aboard Eco Abrolhos.

 

9.    Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago

 

Mergui Archipelago snorkelling cruise burma myanmar

Myanmar’s (Burma) Mergui Archipelago offers some of Asia’s best snorkelling - along with the interesting Moken culture of the ‘Sea Gypsy’ people. Only recently opening up to tourism, many of the best snorkelling spots can be found in Lampi Marine National Park. Discover it all on an 8 day expedition aboard the Andaman Explorer.

 

10.  Antarctica

 

Antarctica might be a surprising addition to our list as we tend to think of snorkelling as a warm water activity. Luckily, on their cruises Aurora Expeditions supply specially designed Waterproof© Snorkel-Drysuits, gloves and a hood to keep the icy-cold polar waters at bay. Through crystal clear waters snorkellers will discover the amazing mobility and speed of penguins entering and exiting from the ice, marvel at the beauty of sculpted icebergs below the water and also witness marine life such as crustaceans, isopods, starfish and nudibranchs.

Kimberley Cruising Is Definitely One For Your Bucket List

Posted by Andrew Castles on May 18, 2017

If you are looking for the perfect destination for your next holiday in Australia, you need to consider Kimberley cruising with Expedition Cruise Specialists.

Kimberley cruising is by far the most outstanding holiday option for those who enjoy first class accommodation, fine food, excellent service and exceptional itineraries that are designed to allow guests the opportunity to really experience the destination.

The Kimberley region is one of the most stunningly beautiful and unspoilt destinations in the world.

 

Kimberley Quest II on a Kimberley Cruise at Raft Point
 

To really appreciate the magnificence of this remote paradise, you need to be able to get up close and feel the spray of the waterfalls, listen to the calls of the wildlife and breathe in the freshest of air.

For an unforgettable experience to treasure for the rest of your life, sail on one of the multiple expedition vessels that take guests away in small groups to experience wilderness ‘up close’ and, to add yet another dimension to your adventure.

Several of the Kimberley Cruising options even feature an onboard helicopter.

The team at Expedition Cruise Specialists will be able to help you plan your dream Australian holiday on one of their magnificent vessels that will provide you with the luxury of first class accommodation and service as well as exclusive day tours to remote and stunningly beautiful locations.

 

True North Kimberley Cruise Helicopter
 

The carefully crafted and unique itineraries include activities such as;
Scenic walks
Helicopter flights
Fishing
Culture tours
Picnics
Nature 
Exploring 

Kimberley Cruising Seasons

Cruises on the Kimberley Coast only operate in between mid April and October each year, due to the rest of the year being prone to uncomfortable hot, humid weather conditions and the chance of cyclones.

The Kimberley’s Three Seasons:

Waterfall Season (April & May)

Iconic waterfalls are one of the main draw cards of the Kimberley Coast, including the towering 80-metre King George and four-tiered Mitchell Falls. 

The landscape will be covered in a brilliant green hue, as vegetation regenerates with the rains.


Great Escape on a Kimberley Cruise

 

Peak Season (June, July and early August)

If you have had enough of the cold winter then June and July are probably your best and most popular time of year to travel to the Kimberley, because this is the Dry Season and the weather is characterised by clear blue skies and balmy days.

The iconic King Cascades on the Prince Regent River are spring fed and will have a water flow year round. 

 

Beach BBQ on a Kimberley Cruise

 

Whale & Wildflower Season (August, September and early October)

The Kimberley Coast is the world’s epicentre for whale watching with up to 30,000 humpbacks making their annual journey from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm tropical waters to breed and give birth.

Often your skipper will idle the ship’s engines so these amazing creatures can put on a playful display around the ship. 

The wildflowers are also blooming, covering the ground in a carpet of colourful native blooms.

The three seasons for cruising this awesome region are all very special in different ways, offering a completely different tour experience.

 

Mermaid Boab Tree on a Coral Discoverer Kimberley Cruise

 

Speak to an expedition specialist:

Phone: +61 7 4041 2101

Freecall: 1800 90 20 80 (within Australia)

Email: info@expeditioncruisespecialists.com

Is the Great Barrier Reef still Great?

Posted by Andrew Castles on May 16, 2017

 

For decades, travellers from all corners of the globe have been drawn to Australia’s tropical north by one single allure, the dream to snorkel or dive the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Growing up, we’d all seen pictures of 'the Reef' in exotic magazines like National Geographic and wondered whether the corals could really be THAT blue, THAT red and THAT yellow, and whether the fish really would look like Nemo. For most visitors the answer has always been a resounding “YES”, the reality matched the expectation.

But, over the past couple of years we’ve been hearing a lot more about the Reef, and not all of it good. Global warming, coral bleaching, forests of dead coral and potentially even the future of the entire reef under threat being a common theme.

So it begs the question; What’s really happening to the reef and is it still worth visiting?

Rebecca Finlayson, a qualified Marine Biologist at Coral Expeditions - the region’s only multi-night cruise operator - sat down to answer all the hard questions for us!

 

 

There has been a lot of talk about coral bleaching. Can you explain what this is? Is this a natural phenomenon?

Bleaching is when the coral expels the microscopic algae that lives in its tissue. This algae gives coral its colour and so when it is expelled what we see is the white calcium carbonate that coral utilises. It’s a bit like the bones inside of humans; some coral has this calcium carbonate internally, while others use it more like an exoskeleton. The coral becomes bleached when it becomes very stressed, and ‘thinks’ that expelling the zooxanthellae (or algae) is its last chance to survive. Just because coral has bleached does not mean it is dead, but conversely, dead coral will always be bleached. If the stressful factors around the coral are eliminated or reduced, coral can draw back in the zooxanthellae and recover from the event. However, if it remains stressed, it will not draw the zooxanthellae back in, and the result is that it will usually die around three months after the bleaching event. On our cruise programmes we saw some bleaching in specific locations, with more recovery in some areas and less recovery in others.

 

Some people are saying “the reef is dying / dead”. Is this true?

It is a very bold statement to declare something as ‘dead’, particularly something as large as the Great Barrier Reef. Although certain areas of the reef do not look what they did 10, 100 or 1000 years ago, it can be for a number of reasons; some places will even look better than they did years ago. The whole reef is continually going through different stages of development and replenishment and as a result different areas of the reef will look different to each other.

 

If tourists want to travel to see the reef, are there any areas that the reef are completely untouched?

No areas of the reef are 100% ‘untouched’ except the designated pink zones. These are the areas most stringently managed in the Reef, and no operator has ever or will ever enter these areas. However with our own private moorings at some sites on all itineraries - including the Ribbon Reefs - usually there are no other ships in sight, and in these locations, the reef is truly spectacular.

 

Can you tell us a little about the condition of the reef where Coral Expeditions II visits?

On the 5 night Northern Expedition from Cairns I have noticed the bleaching a little more, and in some locations, the coral looks a little different to what it used to. Equally through, it has recovered almost fully in other areas. Generally, I see the reefs visits on the 3 night Southern expedition virtually untouched by bleaching and the coral looks as it always has - beautiful.

 

 

Where on the Coral Expeditions itineraries will you find the best diving/coral/marine life?

In my opinion, the Ribbon Reefs on our Northern Expedition are the most spectacular. But others are also beautiful, including Thetford Reef and Steve’s Bommie.

 

During a Great Barrier Reef cruise aboard Coral Expeditions II, will travellers notice any coral bleaching or damage?

They may notice a little bit of bleaching, but equally, recovery is evident in many areas. The main area that is still noticeably different is Lizard Island, however this being a fringing reef goes through large changes quite regularly. It is a learning experience for our guests too to see the differences in not only reef types but bleached, undisturbed and recovering reefs as well.

 

What’s the typical reaction of a guest on a Coral Expeditions guest when they see the reef?

Usually astonishment - our guests are impressed beyond what they expected! The diversity in fish is something that our guests find magical, but our guests are often most impressed by the coral. We quite often hear our guests remark that the Reef is ‘the only place where the coral is just as interesting to look at as the fish!”

 

Do we need to “hurry up and see the reef before its gone”?

No. Nobody has a crystal ball, and the Reef is the kind of place that you can return to again and again, as it is alive and constantly changing. Sounds like a good excuse for a holiday to me anyway!

 

 

So there you have it, according to Bec it is not all doom and gloom. Indeed on our own recent 3-night cruise aboard Coral Expeditions II we were simply blown away by what we saw, the snorkelling was the best we’ve ever experienced and most of our travelling companions (from all over the world) agreed.

Simply put, there is no better way to experience the Great Barrier Reef than with the team at Coral Expeditions. Their small ship, the 44-passenger Coral Expeditions II, calls at exclusive parts of the Reef where there’s no other travellers around and you feel like you have the reef all to yourself. You’ll learn a lot during your cruise from people like Bec, and enjoy first class service from the rest of the young Australian crew. And the food.. oh the food. How the chef manages to prepare spectacular meal after spectacular meal in such a small galley we will never know!

If you would like to learn more about joining a three, four or seven night Great Barrier Reef cruise aboard Coral Expeditions II click here or call us today!

 

For more about the Great Barrier Reef visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website.

World's Top Ten Best Expedition Cruises - 2017 Edition

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on March 06, 2017

A journey to the Top of the World featuring the North Pole has just been named the world’s greatest expedition cruise.

And in a major coup for Australia’s tourism industry, Kimberley cruising in Western Australia runs a close second in the list of the 10 most highly rated expedition cruises world-wide.

The world’s Top 10 was announced by the leading experts in this exclusive field, Expedition Cruise Specialists. General Manager Andrew Castles revealed the rankings which were based on each destination’s “wow factor”, affording traveller’s unique life experiences.

There were some unexpected destinations in the rankings including Kiribati and Iceland. Surprise omissions include the much-touted Amazon and Africa which is still developing as a cruise destination.

 

1. TOP OF THE WORLD (NORTH POLE)

For generations of explorers and adventurers, a journey to the Arctic and the North Pole has been the ultimate expedition. Mr Castles said: “Pristine landscapes, bountiful wildlife, indigenous tribes, polar bears and natural phenomena give the Arctic a unique appeal and make it the world’s best expedition destination.”  Getting to the North Pole is difficult, but the world’s most powerful icebreaker, the nuclear-powered 50 Years of Victory, makes it possible.

 

North Pole Top of the World Expedition

 

2. THE KIMBERLEY COAST

The sheer scale and awesome beauty of the Kimberley has to be seen to be believed. Every visitor to this stunning region returns home a changed person. Mr Castles is one such person and he admits to a being a long term fan of the region.  “Kimberley cruising aboard Coral Discoverer or True North takes you through the daunting canyons, waterfalls and untouched wilderness of Australia’s north west wonderland and has to be experienced to appreciate how amazing it really is.”

 

Kimberley Cruise aboard True North

 

3. ANTARCTICA

Our southern neighbour offers the unique combination of amazing wildlife and awesome landscapes frozen in time. According to Mr Castles there are many ways to see experience the region, but one unique adventure is the Base Camp Ortelius expedition. “Designed for Antarctic exploration the Ortelius acts as a floating base camp while anchored for several days in specific locations. You can explore by kayak and zodiac on the water or go hiking in snowshoes and even mountaineering. There is nothing quite like it.”

 

Expedition cruises to Antarctica include ice camping

 

4. ALASKA

Glaciers, ice covered mountains, frontier towns and pristine waters make Alaska one of the most sought after destinations on earth. Mr Castles said it was a very popular region, but aboard a ship like the new National Geographic Quest you can get far away from the normal cruise routes. “This type of cruise is not just a sightseeing trip, it is a full on journey for people who enjoy hiking and physical activities. You immerse yourself in a world of fjords, ancient villages and stunning forests.”

 

Close to nature on an Alaskan expedition cruise

 

5. PAPUA NEW GUINEA

It is the people decorated in their traditional dress, dancing and singing with great joy and happiness that make Papua New Guinea such an inspiring place to visit. Cruising through unspoilt islands and visiting remote villages is an unforgettable experience. Mr Castles said:  “Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s last great frontiers. You will experience magical and rarely-visited islands aboard small ships such as the luxury Coral Discoverer and enjoy a voyage rich in culture, history and natural beauty. Papua New Guinea is home to the largest area of intact rainforest outside of the Amazon and guests will discover magnificent scenery ranging from colourful coral atolls to volcanic mountains, pristine waterways and mighty rivers.”

 

Papua New Guinean villagers welcome Coral Discoverer ship

 

6. GALÀPAGOS ISLANDS

Every lover of wildlife, sea life and unique experiences rates the Galápagos Islands right at the top of their list of places to visit. “It is a region offering many expedition experiences from smaller catamaran ships like Ocean Spray and Sea Star Journey through to Lindblad Expeditions’ impressive National Geographic Endeavour II. Whichever way you see it, you will be mesmerised by the experience.”

 

Discover the Galapagos Islands on a small ship expedition

 

7. CANADA'S NORTH WEST PASSAGE

Seen as the “impossible” sea journey for generations, modern specially designed ice-rated ships have made the daunting North West passage accessible. Mr Castles said the Akademik Ioffe offers a crossing to Greenland that is one of “life’s great trips”. “On the way explore the remote Northwest Passage and the stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline before crossing to Greenland. Wildlife is a major drawcard of this 13-day expedition, venture through the home of the polar bear, musk ox, caribou and walrus.”

 

Voyage through Canada's North West Passage aboard Akademik Ioffe

 

8. INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO

Our near neighbour is a surprise inclusion, but beyond the tourist hordes of Bali lies a region full of friendly people, unknown islands and crystal clear lagoons teeming with life. You will immerse yourself in the Komodo National Park and Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands from an intimate perspective, cruising through a panorama of islands and encountering new wonders on a daily basis. For example, a 7-day voyage of discovery aboard the 24-passenger Ombak Putih offers a cross-section of remote beaches, quiet coastal villages, jungle-clad mountain ranges, towering volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, tribal rituals, a mysterious lake, and the legendary Komodo Dragons.”

 

Cruising Indonesia's many islands

 

9. ICELAND AND NORTHERN LIGHTS

Iceland is the new wonder destination for expedition travellers. Mr Castles said this one off expedition  combined the unforgettable waterways of the region with the fjords of Greenland, remote settlements and the chance to experience the famed northern lights. ”There is nothing else quite like it,” he said.

 

Expedition cruise to the Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis

 

10. KIRIBATI’S SOUTHERN LINE ISLANDS

Way out in the Pacific is a remote region which is virtually unknown to most adventurers. However Mr Castles said the “wonders of this amazing paradise were both above and below the water.” Aboard National Geographic Orion you will discover that the notion of tropical paradise is alive and well - as are some of the world’s best dive and snorkel sites. The expedition explores from Rangiroa’s sparkling lagoon to the verdant peaks of Tahiti’s neighbor, Moorea. This voyage maximises your time in some of the most vibrant undersea sites in the world. Plus, there’s time to stroll pristine beaches, kayak peaceful coves, and experience true Polynesian hospitality. 

 

Southern Line Islands cruise aboard Orion

 

Dallas Sherringham is a media professional, world traveller and regular contributor to our blog.