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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Antarctica - one of the great expedition cruises

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 30, 2016

Of all the great expedition cruises available in our world of amazing adventures, Antarctica tops the bill.

Nowhere else on earth can you come as close to experiencing what it would be like to visit another planet as you can in Antarctica.  The frozen world of the great southern continent is ever changing, ever beautiful, ever terrifying.

Just when you are silently watching penguins at play on the water’s edge, your whole world is suddenly shattered by the roar of a glacier tearing itself apart as it meets the ocean.

It is this unique challenge of the region that has drawn explorers, scientists and adventurers to its shores for more than a century. Its mysteries lay hidden under the white world that enshrouds it all year round.

But it wasn’t always so. When Antarctica was closer to Australia, the ice continent was covered in massive forests.  As the gap between the two great lands widened, the seas grew colder and so did Antarctica’s climate.

Today it is perpetually covered in ice and snow, held prisoner by the cold currents of the Southern Ocean.

When you take an expedition to Antarctica you will be one of a select few who visit its shores each year. It is estimated that only about 35,000 travellers make the trip annually, using two different routes.

 

 

Most head to the bottom of South America via Argentina or Chile and cross the Drake Passage, taking two days to reach the ice. 

 Many expeditions also visit the Falkland Islands and the stunning South Georgia where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried at the former whaling station known as Grytviken.

The other route departs Australia / New Zealand and is much more challenging.  If you choose to travel from Hobart or New Zealand, it takes about seven days to cruise to the Ross Ice Shelf. It is the more isolated of the two routes and can only be reached by genuine ice breakers.

If the weather is kind, you will get to see Scott’s hut on Ross Island which has been frozen in time since 1912 with more than 8000 items, including food, still on the shelves.

Shackleton’s hut is also on this island and Mawson’s hut is at Cape Denison.

Now, there are a few things you need to be wary of when booking an Antarctic cruise and this is why you need to chat with the experts at Expedition Cruise Specialists.

 

 

Firstly, you will find larger cruise lines advertising a cruise to the Antarctic, but they only view the ice from a distance; they don’t go ashore. A good guide is to remember only 100 passengers per cruise are allowed ashore at any given time.

Since 2011, all ships operating in the area must use lighter grade distillate fuel which protects the environment. This meant that a lot of the heavy oil burning ships operating south of latitude 60 could no longer cruise in the region. Some cruise ships have since introduced a load of the legal fuel on board which they can use in the restricted zone.

However, they still don’t risk entering the ice flows or taking passengers ashore. If one of these ships became stuck in ice, it would be a major disaster.

On a genuine expedition cruise you will have access to a ship that can handle icy conditions and heavy weather, a fleet of zodiacs, professional grade equipment and expert guides and lecturers. Before departure they will advise you on clothing requirements and take down details of any medical problems or dietary needs you may have.

You will be in good hands and if you are lucky, you will see penguins, orcas, seals, whales and a wide variety or birdlife. November through to April is the best time to see penguins.

Lastly, if you are keen to go next year may I recommend you talk with the Expedition Cruise Specialists as soon as possible and begin planning the ultimate expedition cruise.

Click here to see Expedition Cruise Specialists' list of recommended Antarctica expeditions.

 

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

 

The Great Barrier Reef; Jewel in Australia's Crown

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 25, 2016

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world’s greatest living natural wonder and every adventurer should experience it at least once in their lifetime.

And by experiencing it, I mean you have to get out there and immerse yourself in all its treasures. It is on the bucket list of adventurers from around the world and most have it high on their list of list of “must sees”.

The first time I saw it from the air, I was stunned by its amazing colours and its immense size. From the air the reef looked like giant opals set in a vivid blue ocean; a true jewel in Australia’s crown.

Like many Australians, I never fully appreciated what we have right here in our own front yard. Many normal  tourists 'do' a day trip out of Cairns or Townsville and get to see the reef for a couple of hours. And those sections of the reef have been mangled and partially destroyed by generations of day visitors.

The only way to truly appreciate it is on an expedition cruise out of Cairns. You see, the Great Barrier Barrier Reef is the only adventure where you are part of a living landform with millions of corals, plants, fish and sea life.

 

great barrier reef cruise aboard coral expeditions II

 

An expedition ship like Coral Expeditions II takes you right to the heart of the reef. It backs up next to an unspoilt, pristine reef far from the tourist crowds. You simply snorkel off the back platform which is lowered into the water to allow easy access.

For the more adventurous you can go SCUBA diving and for those who aren’t so experienced at water activities, you can take a ride on the glass bottom boat. In fact, you don’t have to be particularly fit to do a trip like this: most people can do it and enjoy it.

This type of cruise also allows you to visit isolated places like Pelorus Island and Lizard Island. Now, sitting on the beach at Lizard in the warm tropical air with the Coral Sea glistening in front you is one of life’s great pleasures.

You walk out into the warm water and snorkel on to a ribbon reef, one of many in the area. The sheltered blue lagoon at Lizard is one of the best you will experience anywhere in your travels.

At Pelorus Island, you can snorkel right off the beach on to the stunning fringing reefs and then go exploring the pristine and fragile environment ashore. Pelorus is the northernmost island of the Great Palm Island Group.

 

great barrier reef live aboard cruise

 

Once again, it is one of the many little known treasures of this region. On my cruise, we had a barbecued feast cooked on the beach by the ship’s captain.

The longer cruises visit historic Cooktown, once the busiest port in Queensland outside Brisbane.

Life on board Coral Expeditions II is very relaxed and informal. After a day of exploring breathtaking wonders, you sit around on deck in the late afternoon chatting excitedly with your fellow guests.

Then you enjoy a sumptuous a la carte dinner with enlightening conversation. I was particularly moved by the enjoyment of overseas visitors who saw our Reef as the Holy Grail of world exploration.

There is something life changing about seeing the reef in such a unique way and in sharing that experienced with a special group of friends.

So do yourself a favour and don’t put it off any more... go see our unique natural treasure and I guarantee you will be amazed.

 

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

 

Two FREE Nights at Palm Cove's Reef House

When you book your 3, 4 or 7 night Great Barrier Reef cruise before 31 March 2017 (for departures before 30 June 2017), Expedition Cruise Specialists are throwing in two FREE nights accommodation at Palm Cove's beautiful Reef House hotel and spa! 

This great deal is subject to availability so get in quick! Call us on 1800 90 20 80 (Australia) or send us a message for more information and bookings.

 

great barrier reef cruise expeditions

 

 

Aranui recalls the golden age of island cruising

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 19, 2016

If the thought of rushing around the South Pacific with thousands of people is not your cup of  tea, there is an alternative which recalls the golden age of island cruising.

It allows you to explore far-flung areas of French Polynesia where modern cruise ships never go.

Aranui 5 combines a freight service to the islands of Tahiti with a passenger cruise. You can follow in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Gauguin and Somerset Maugham who all explored this region on steam powered freighters that also carried passengers.

The distinctly designed ship came into service last year and is the latest evolution from a company that has been providing this kind of cruise for more than 60 years.

 

Aranui 5 cruising Tahiti

 

Aranui Cruises began life in 1954 to service two of the more isolated island groups and link them with Papeete. In 1978, it began a service to Marquesas and in 1984, the original Aranui was converted to provide a passenger service.

The Marquesas Islands was a little known archipelago in those days, but word spread and the Aranui became a popular adventure for those seeking unspoilt islands.

In the following 30 years more than 45,000 international visitors experienced the unique style of cruising and soft adventure. It found a market amongst people who wanted to immerse themselves in a traditional type of island exploration.

The ship is designed to provide a laid back, friendly unhurried type of cruise experience. The suites and deluxe staterooms have their own balcony which means you can watch the islands glide by in privacy.

 

aranui 5 cruising cabin marquesas

 

A quality dining experience each evening is backed up by a performance from the Polynesian-influenced Aranui Band after dinner.

Aranui 5’s 14-day cruise visits nine islands across three striking and distinct French Polynesian archipelagoes - the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands - showing off some of the most naturally beautiful and untouched islands in the world, all with the comfort and ease of cruising.

The destination-rich itinerary includes Bora Bora and its famed blue lagoon, plus  Nuka Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva in the far-flung Marquesas; and the Tuamotu ports of Rangiroa and Fakarava with picturesque white sandy beaches.

During the round-trip cruise from Papeete, the freighter dispenses cargo while guests disembark and explore a range of complimentary excursions including hikes, 4WD tours, visits to archaeological sites and a picnic on a secluded beach in Bora Bora.

 

The freighter Aranui 5 cruising in Tahiti

 

Now, Aranui Cruises is getting into the festive spirit, with an impressive shipboard credit offer available on select Aranui 5 cruises through the beautiful islands of French Polynesia.

Under the offer, all new bookings for Aranui 5’s March 7, 25 and April 13, 2017 departures made by January 31, 2017 will receive an onboard credit of approx. $425* (36,000xpf) per person to spend in the ship’s boutique, bars, spa and fishing.

The deal adds even more value to an Aranui 5 cruise fare, which already includes a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of added value including shore excursions through the 17 scheduled ports of call, a weekly laundry service, all main meals and a complimentary glass of wine with onboard lunches and dinners.

Prices for the 14 day Marquesas Islands expedition start at $6,363 (AUD) per person twin share. For the budget-conscious, a berth in a four berth dorm costs $3,875 per person. Cruise depart fortnightly throughout the year.

For more information visit our website.

 

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

 

Tahiti cultures on an Aranui 5 cruise

Sea Cloud Cruises - Rated World's Best

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 11, 2016

In all the world, there is no experience quite like the thrill of standing on a wooden deck and feeling the surge and towering majesty of a great ship under sail.

I have been fortunate to spend many days under canvas down through the years and I never lose the enjoyment of sailing aboard a ship made to ride the wind.

Like a steam locomotive, a sailing ship is a living thing to me. It creaks and groans as it glides along before the breeze, with the ocean gently brushing along its sides and the crew working together to get it safely to a faraway destination.

 

sea cloud cruises in the caribbean

 

It masters the wind, yet in a strange way the wind is its master.

There are a handful of traditional sailing experiences available around the world and the very best is Sea Cloud Cruises based in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

According to my acquaintance and fellow cruise writer Douglas Ward, Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II are the best of the boutique sailing ships. And Douglas should know, because he is editor of the legendary Berlitz Cruise Guide, the bible of the cruise industry worldwide.

“A kind of stately home afloat, Sea Cloud remains one of the finest and most exhilarating travel experiences in the world,” he wrote in the latest edition of the cruise guide.

Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II have a beautiful retro decor which conveys the feeling of yesteryear and a slower pace of life.”

I concur completely. A sailing ship forces you to slow down and place yourself amongst the elements.

 

sea cloud cruising the caribbean

 

It is one of the strange truths of the travelling life that the slower you go, the more you see and feel.

On board a stunning, traditional mega yacht you are far removed from the air conditioned, regimented, plastic, crowded world of modern cruising.

You get to know your fellow passengers and the service on board these ships is second to none

Relaxation is the key to the success of these ships. You get to refresh yourself completely.  And you do so while exploring centuries old seafaring routes around the Mediterranean under sail.

 

sea cloud cruises dining

 

Sea Cloud is an 85-year-old four mast barque which was fully restored and updated to modern cruise standards in 1979 (you can read more about her fascinating history here). Sea Cloud II was built in 2001 and is a modern interpretation of its traditional sister ship.

Sea Cloud Cruises offers themed cruises to suit clients with special interests such as music, cuisine and cycling. This means you can combine the dream of a holiday aboard a mega yacht with your love of the finer things in life

I note that the experts at Expedition Cruise Specialists are very keen for their valued clients to experience this kind of adventure next year. You can make big savings by booking before the end of year on three themed cruises.

 

They are:

 

Classical Moments of the Mediterranean - Valetta (Malta) to Valencia (Spain) - 9 nights from Valetta 28 October 2017 

Book by 30 December and save $250 per person. Price from $3,995 per person.

 

Culinary Cruise - Barcelona (Spain) to Porto (Portugal) - 8 nights from Barcelona 26 May 2017

Book by 30 December and save $230 per person. Price from $3,525 per person.

 

Cycling Cruise - Hamburg (Germany) to Bilbao (Spain) - 10 nights from Hamburg 21 August 2017

Cycling package can be added to the standard cruise at an additional cost of $795 per person.

Book by 30 December and save $280 per person. Price from $4.415 per person.

 

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

Taking Photos of your Adventures

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 09, 2016

One of the main reasons we undertake an expedition cruise is to capture our adventures in photos and videos.

We do this so that we can to share them with our family and friends and to act as cherished record to keep. It is amazing to get back home and share your cherished memories with your loved ones.

On expedition cruises I have seen everything from $50,000 state-of-the-art camera setups with 1000mm lens and all the bells and whistles down to people using their mobile phones and laptops to take a snap.

I guess it all comes down to how serious you are. If you want quality photos and videos without the hassle of all the extras, a top-of-the-range compact camera such as a Canon G15 Powershot which I use will do everything you want on a trip.

 

 

This type of compact point-and-shoot camera has a high image quality, a good telephoto 5x lens and also takes high quality HD video. They retail for around $400 to $500 and take normal SD cards.

Single lens reflex (SLR) cameras normally have a higher quality capture system and better lens systems. If you are intent on photographing wildlife and scenes and want them to be up close and sharp, this is the type of system you want. I have found camera packages such as a Nikon with extra lens, for around $1000 from leading retailers.

A water resistant camera such as a GoPro is recommended if you are taking zodiac rides in rough water or going near to waterfalls. They cost $500 plus, depending on the extras you want.

If you prefer video for your trip, may I recommend a high end camcorder such as a Panasonic. The latest camcorders are superb. I use a $750 one to make HD videos and it is better than my original high priced JVC professional camera which cost me $16,000.

 

 

The reason I prefer a camcorder for videos over a normal camera which shoots video is the stability it provides. If you practice holding the camcorder to your eye you can get it fairly steady. There is nothing worse than video that is jumpy and looks amateurish.

This is the reason professionals always use a tripod when they can, especially when shooting scenery.

However, don’t despair. There is an excellent alternative for travellers which provides stability but doesn’t have the bulk of a tripod. This is a monopod which clips into the base of the camera and provides excellent stability. I use one whenever I can. Monopods are cheap and only 30cm long when retracted. I clip mine to my camera bag and it cost $100.

If you are travelling to the Antarctic or the Arctic, you need to practice taking photographs with your gIoves on. In some places it is just too cold to take your gloves off and click the shutter button or adjust the lens.

I once filmed a glacier in New Zealand’s South Island, jumping out of a helicopter, and it was so cold, my hands were numb. I had to use my thumb to take the picture...with a thick ski glove on. The camera stopped functioning at one stage because of the minus 20 degrees temperature, but it was an old fashioned film camera with a manual lens. Modern digital cameras seem much more resilient.

Once you have taken your photos, you then want to share them with the world. Unlike major cruise liners, WiFi connections on expedition ships are often extremely limited or even non-existent so you can’t simply send them off to Facebook, Instagram or via email.

So, you need to store your photos properly until you get home. I download my photos on to a small laptop and I crop them and work on them every night of the cruise. I also download all my videos.

I keep the digital cards in a moisture proof clip top plastic container. I don’t re-use the cards after I have downloaded them. This is an extra safety procedure in case the computer breaks down.

 

 

Facebook is the modern version of the old fashioned slide show where Uncle Arthur would spend six hours on Saturday night showing us the 1,000 photos and miles of 8mm films he took on his three week visit to the Blue Mountains. 

Now we can share our creations with the world, simply by tapping a key stroke.

I would love to hear from fellow travellers on our Facebook page about their photographic tips for particular locations.  I’m sure there is a lot of great information available from our readers and fellow adventurers. So head on over and join the conversation.

 

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