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Review: Aranui 5 Marquesas Islands Cruise

Posted by Marilyn & Bob on July 21, 2023



To book your Aranui 5 French Polynesia cruise contact Expedition Cruise Specialists today on 1800 90 20 80 (+61 7 4041 2101 from outside Australia).


Find out more about Aranui 5


See the Marquesas Islands Itinerary


Aranui 5 Cruise Review


Marilyn & Bob from Queensland, Australia travelled on Aranui 5’s 12-day Marquesas Islands Cruise in June 2023.


Aranui 5, is the cruise ship with a difference. Actually, it has more than one difference. Firstly, it is small, no more than 250 travellers. Secondly, it also carries cargo as well as passengers. Thirdly, it goes to islands that few other ships visit. Fourthly, it has what must be the happiest crew to be found on any ship afloat.

Aranui 5 takes its cargo and passengers to various islands in French Polynesia. Our 12-day Marquesas islands cruise took us to Rangiroa and Makatea, which are part of the Tuamotus and then on to six of the Marquesan Islands: Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva. We will start with the first and last islands we visited, Rangiroa and Makatea. You could not get a greater contrast in two islands that are only 30 kilometres apart. Rangiroa is the world’s second largest atoll, just a string of small islands (motus) strung around a lagoon. This lagoon is so large in fact that I did not realise we were in one. The islands on the far side are out of sight. The one that the ship stopped at was typical of atoll islands; low, only a few metres above sea level and narrow. It was only a short walk from the lagoon to the ocean.

And now the contrasting Makatea, an ex-phosphate mining island with the reef around it only extending a few metres from the shore. The bottom drops away so sharply that ships cannot anchor there. Aranui 5 drifted gently offshore with the skipper keeping it in more or less in the same place with gentle touches to the throttles and bow thrusters. Where we landed there is only a narrow stretch of flat land. Next comes the cliffs. For most of the island these rise around 200 metres, straight up. Makatea looks quite well covered from the water but I thought it would be less so when we progressed inland. This wasn’t the case and our walk across the island, just over four kilometres, was in shade most of the way. The excursion offered the choice for passengers to walk across and back, walk across and get a ride back or go over and back in a car.





Next stop the Marquesas Islands. High, rugged and spectacular, the only variation is in the amount of green coverage.

First up, Nuku Hiva, the island which has the main town of the group. Compared with some of our later ports this was a very easy job for the skipper to bring Aranui 5 alongside the wharf. Once we loaded into a fleet of (mostly) Toyota four door utes, with extra seating in the back for another four, our convoy set off, up and down and around the island. When we were not weaving up hairpin bends, we were weaving down.  

Not to be missed on this island is the archaeological site Kamuihei, where there is a giant banyan tree with a stage below. It is where a Marquesan group performed for us, and what a performance. It is not to be missed. Lunch was typical island fare of pork, goat, chicken, fish with salads and breadfruit. This was a worthwhile excursion, as long as you are not prone to car sickness.





On to the island of Ua Pou. Impress your friends by giving this island’s name the correct pronunciation. It is called "Wapoh”. Once docked, it was all action stations for the cargo handling crew. Two small and two large forklifts were lowered to the dock and then the cargo was craned off. Numerous containers and various bits and pieces were taken ashore. Plenty of locals gathered on the dock to collect their goods. We found it very easy to just sit and watch the activity.  

But we couldn’t sit for too long as there was walking to be done. First it was up to the cross for a good view over the village and the bay. Then down in the bay, where young school children were getting lessons on paddling the outrigger canoes.  Later in the day, when school was over, a bunch of older kids came down to the dock to swim. The ship had three hawsers (thick ropes) leading from the stern to the same bollard. This gave the kids a wonderful opportunity for some fun. They would walk out on one line while hanging on to another for support. And then fall in. As I have observed on other islands, the children are lousy swimmers but are drown proof. It was good to see that the Aranui skipper was quite happy to let the kids have a lot of fun with these mooring lines.  





Next stop, Ua Huka. Definitely only a daylight manoeuvre to moor in the bay here. Two cargo barges were lowered into the water, one on either side, with the ship’s stern mooring lines on them. These barges then headed to the shore, allowing a crew member from each barge to leap ashore with the mooring lines to drop the loop over the bollard before jumping back on the barge. Not an easy task. The ship was now anchored securely in the middle of the bay. After watching a car being delivered ashore by barge it was time for the day’s activities. Into the 4WD utes for a drive to an arboretum (small botanic garden). Here we were introduced to some of the local trees and fruits. From there we were driven to a cultural museum and also a small sea museum. The latter I found very interesting. Then lunch and walk/drive back to the ship.   





After Ua Huka we went to the Island of Hiva Oa. The day’s main activity was a visit to a cemetery, getting there either by bus or foot. Here we could see the graves of both Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. Then, back to the ship for lunch and a lazy afternoon. Anyone wanting to go to the village could catch the bus. We chose to go for a short walk near the dock and then watch the cargo handling. Nowhere near as uninteresting as it sounds. Next day an early start while the ship rounded the eastern most point of the island and anchored off Puamau. Anyone wanting to go could load into the 4WDs again and be taken to an archaeological site called Te I’lpona. This has been very well restored in a beautiful setting. Definitely worth the visit.  





That afternoon we cruised down from Hiva Oa to Tahuata and dropped the anchor in a large bay. Into the barges once again for a visit to the village of Vaitahu and the catholic church.

Our next stop was Fatu Hiva, where we anchored in the bay off the village of Omoa. This was a day for the energetic. Those who wished to do so could walk from this village over the hills to Hanavave – a hike of some 15 kilometres. Around the half way point a picnic lunch was waiting for them. While they were walking there, the ship upped anchor and motored to Hanavave. While the ship’s literature put this down as a difficult walk, the general consensus was that it was not all that difficult, the weather was on the walker’s side as it was overcast.  

Our final stop of this memorable journey was Makatea. After a busy day exploring, we motored away from the island at about 5:00 PM, heading for Papeete. Tonight was our last dinner on board, and it came with an unexpected and wonderful surprise. The dining room doors opened, and we walked in to be greeted by the kitchen and dining room staff, lined up on either side clapping us in and singing. This delightful gesture was just so Aranui. A fantastic finish to a great 12 days.





The Nitty Gritty


We learned a few things on this voyage that could be useful to other people considering this cruise.

When making the arrangements we were told that we could deposit our luggage at the dock at 9:30 AM but we could not board until 12 noon. When we dropped off our bags at about 10:30 AM, we were told we could board immediately.

Obviously, we knew we could select the type of cabin that we wanted and then, almost at the last minute, we found we could also select the deck that we wanted. If you book a cabin with a balcony we would suggest choosing the starboard side if available. The ship berths on the starboard side and passengers going ashore when anchored out also load into the barges on this side.





The captain and the other officers usually eat with the rest of the crew but if they are invited to dine with travellers they are happy to do so. Four of us made the invite and the skipper, 1st and 2nd officers and the chief engineer all dined with us. They were really nice people and we had an enjoyable evening with them talking about how the ship works, their families and life in general.

For travellers who like going hiking there are some organised hikes varying in length from four to 15 kilometres. On most islands there is a cross up on a hill which generally has a dirt road or track up to it. These lookouts typically provide wonderful views of the bay and the island.

Be warned if you want to purchase and bring handicrafts home to Australia you need to do your research as most are made of wood, seeds and tapa and may result in some questions from customs and quarantine!


Our Aranui 5 Cabin

Our cabin aboard Aranui 5 was a Superior Deluxe cabin, #8405, located on the starboard side of the ship. The most outstanding feature of our cabin was how soundproof it was. We were so surprised there was not even any noise when other people flushed their toilet. The only time we could hear voices was if we had our door to the balcony open and even then they were not loud. The cabin was much roomier than we thought it would be and with the extra space on the balcony it was very comfortable. There was more than ample space for our clothes, suitcases and bits and pieces. The en suite was also larger than anticipated and was well supplied with soap, shampoo and conditioner.





Dining Aboard Aranui 5

On our trip we were amazed at the sweets, they were exceptionally presented and the Captain shed light on this, telling us that there was an expert on board teaching their staff about desserts and presentation. How lucky were we. Fruit is always available at breakfast but if you want more it is hard to get on the islands. There is a bounty of handicrafts to buy but very little fruit, although there is plenty growing. We managed to get some occasionally.

Tahitian Poisson Cru, or ia ota in Tahitian, is the national dish and there was a demonstration on board on how to make it and a tasting after. This was the best “raw fish” dish we tasted. It was available in various iterations every time we went to restaurants on Islands for lunch. 

Unless you are a very big eater, food was plentiful with three courses for lunch and dinner and a buffet for breakfast. The food was predominantly French with some pasta and local fare. 

The three course lunches and dinners were really good. Everyone received the same entrée, main and sweets, there was no choice but this was fine as long as you were not a particularly fussy eater. The food was varied and very nice, we never heard anyone complain about it. Travellers with special dietary needs were catered for. The wines were all French – reds and whites. They did somewhat match wines with the meal, ie whites with fish, but we were able to change this if we wanted reds. There was one bottle shared between four travellers each meal, and after that bottle was finished you had to pay for more. I was lucky because Bob does not drink wine, so I only had to share with three people!  

There were tables for two, four, six or eight people and I think the tables could be adjusted to larger groups. It wasn’t necessary to reserve a table, you sat where you wanted to. We occasionally arrived later for dinner and so chose to sit with a French couple. As we don’t have any French language skills it was up to them to test their English, which they did and were most gracious as their English was not that good. 





Dress Code aboard Aranui 5

Dress was casual at all times on the ship. Aranui 5’s cabins are air-conditioned with little or minimal adjustment, so if you feel the cold then you need to take this in to account. In the bar, dining room and all other inside areas of the ship are air conditioned, so once again dress according to your needs. For excursions on shore, long skirts are not a good idea because of getting in and out of the barges and the utes that go to various places. Of course, when walking light clothes are a good idea. We did not have any trouble with flies, mosquitoes, sand flies etc.

Medical Team

There was a Doctor and Nurse who not only attended to people on the ship but came along on all excursions with their very big medical kit container. One of them always went on the hikes, we were most impressed.

Aranui 5 Pool

The ship’s pool was small, which is to be expected, and people did not go in it when the ship was moving as the water sloshed about. It had good stairs to accommodate older people. 


Our Verdict


It was a fantastic cruise, we really enjoyed it and would recommend other people to seriously consider doing this trip. Aranui 5 is an excellent ship going to out-of-the-way but worthwhile places to visit. The other group that contributed to us having a good time were the other passengers. They were a diverse group, from different countries and backgrounds. People were very friendly and we made some good friends who we will keep in contact with.



Marilyn & Bob (above with Wenda from Aranui Cruises) travelled on Aranui 5’s 12-day Marquesas Islands cruise in June 2023. 

Some photography in this review has been provided by Marilyn & Bob, other images have been sourced from Aranui Cruises. Images may not be reproduced without consent from the photographers.

Review: Kimberley Cruising aboard Reef Prince

Posted by Alana House & David Fuller on October 10, 2021


Cruising the Kimberley is a one-in-a-lifetime experience that deserves a place on everyone’s bucket list. The majestic wilderness destination, located in Western Australia’s far north, is filled with dramatic gorges, remote islands and stunning rivers that are best explored by boat.

We were introduced to the region’s magic in May 2021 and our happy memories of the trip will linger with us for many years to come - we’re already dreaming about making a return visit.

The first thing to consider when organising a Kimberley cruise is to choose the boat that best suits your needs. We were fortunate to have Andrew Castles at Expedition Cruise Specialists to guide us. He discussed our expectations and fitness levels, then advised us to choose a smaller vessel – the Reef Prince.

The Reef Prince was given a multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2019 and offers great value in a relaxed, stylish setting. It features a spacious dining and living room, plus a selection of shaded outdoor spots to admire the spectacular views.



As the Reef Prince only takes 36 passengers – in 18 cabins, all with en suites - and is a compact 38- metre low-draught catamaran, it can visit destinations that are challenging or impossible for larger ships to navigate. It also offers more opportunities to disembark and explore on land.

However, a small ship may not be the ideal option for anyone who isn’t relatively fit and adventurous, as there is some climbing involved to visit the more interesting Indigenous art sites and waterholes. Fortunately, we were both eager and able to take part in all activities on offer.

The energetic crew played a major role in our enjoyment of the trip. They included a chef who’d worked at a hatted restaurant, a daredevil first mate, a laconic captain and one of the best Kimberley tour guides in the business. Everyone on staff was incredibly helpful and passionate about their work.

As for the cruise itself, it was magical, from waking up to the most incredible sunrises at sea to sipping sparkling wine under the stars at night.

It’s tough to choose, but here are our top six cruise highlights:


1. King George Falls

While many Kimberley cruise boats are too large to cross the sandbar at the mouth of the King George River, the Reef Prince can slip over and glide down to the famed King George Falls. The journey is every bit as spectacular as the destination, with dramatic ochre cliffs towering over the boat on each side. Our first glimpse of the double set of falls as they tumbled down the cliffside into the 60-metre-deep water below took our breath away. Other unforgettable moments came as we sat on the bow of a tender with the falls cascading onto our heads and our seafood lunch with a front row view of the falls.



2. King’s Cascade

Cruising along Prince Regent River to King’s Cascade was another amazing waterfall moment. We arrived in the late afternoon and climbed up the waterfall to swim in a waterhole at the top. It was breathtaking to watch the sunset on the rocks above the waterfall, gazing out over the stunning Prince Regent National Park as the sky streaked with pink and gold rays.

3. Montgomery Reef

Montgomery Reef has been described by David Attenborough as the eighth natural wonder of the world, due to the rapidly falling tide that creates a series of streams and mini-waterfalls off the reef. We explored the reef in tenders, as turtles popped their heads out of the water every few seconds and small sharks and manta rays darted around us. Afterwards, we motored to a sand “island” that had emerged near the reef during the low tide and wandered along its virgin shores.

4. Fishing

We hadn’t expected fishing to be a trip highlight, as we’d never tried it before, but it was a surprise winner for us, both as spectators and participants. The Reef Prince crew regularly took passengers on fishing trips and it was wonderful to eat our fresh catches at lunches and dinners. The boat also has two fishing chairs at the rear, where the passengers gathered on our last day at sea to shout encouragement and cheer as bonito tuna and golden trevally were reeled on board. Eating the tuna as sashimi an hour later was a delicious treat.



5. Dinner under the stars

The crew surprised passengers on the last night of our cruise by arranging tables on the prow of the boat for a dinner under the stars. We anchored at North Perron Island and long tables were draped in white tablecloths and decorated with shells and candles. We sipped pre-dinner cocktails and watched the glorious sunset before eating slow-cooked pork shoulder and asparagus pasta with lemon posset for dessert. As darkness fell, we gazed in awe at the Milky Way, which shone clear and bright above us.

6. Wildlife

A large part of the enjoyment of the cruise was spotting the native animals – wallabies hopping on rocky cliffs, sea eagles soaring majestically, tawny nurse sharks cruising behind the boat, flying fish scooting along the surface of the water and crocodiles sunbaking or emerging from the water. Our personal favourite moment was watching three brolgas majestically take flight from a sandy beach.

However, every day was different and included unforgettable moments, from exploring a crystal-scattered beach on a remote island to boating at high speed through Horizontal Falls to peering through the windows of a crashed World War II plane to sipping a beer while cooling off in a waterhole. 





We loved the opportunity to grow our photography skills aboard the Reef Prince and got some great tips from our cruise director, who offered lessons to interested passengers. Visiting numerous Indigenous sites also introduced us to the fascinating history of Aboriginal art and inspired us to buy several artworks to enjoy on our walls at home.

Our Kimberley cruise on the Reef Prince was one of the most relaxing holidays we’ve ever had. There is no mobile phone reception on the cruise and we chose not to pay for wifi. It was blissful to disconnect from the modern world for 10 days. We spent many peaceful hours sitting on deck, watching the amazing scenery slide past, nibbling on cheese and crackers when the Captain announced afternoon tea was served, reading books and chatting to our fellow passengers.

Months later we are still in contact with the new friends we made aboard the Reef Prince. We regularly reminisce about how lucky we were to share the holiday of a lifetime together.


Alana House & David Fuller write about their adventures at



Alana and David joined the Reef Prince's 10-night Kimberley cruise from Broome to Darwin in June 2021. To secure one of the last remaining cabins for 20223 - or book for 2024 - please call the expert team at Expedition Cruise Specialists today on 1800 90 20 80 or visit


Review: India's Brahmaputra River Cruise

Posted by Vicki Briggs on May 02, 2019

Cruise India's Brahmaputra River


Last month I had the pleasure of joining Assam Bengal Navigation’s newest river ship Charaidew II on a voyage along northern India’s Brahmaputra River. India is a destination I’ve wanted to experience for many years, so when the opportunity arose to join my good friend Gianna on this seven-night cruise I jumped at the chance.


The Itinerary

The Assam region is located in the northernmost part of India, close to the foothills of the Himalaya. The Brahmaputra River is the region’s main waterway, flowing through Tibet, into India and down through Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal. The river itself is ever-changing, meaning that the ship’s charts are constantly being updated from voyage to voyage. As the river conditions are so variable it is generally only safe to cruise during the daylight hours, with the ship safely anchored overnight. 

Our itinerary was the 7-night ‘River Island’ program, cruising the Brahmaputra between Steemer Ghat and Jorhat. The cruise itinerary takes in the highest navigable reaches of the river and showcases the unique culture of the area, fusing Indian and S.E. Asian influences. Highlights include a visit to Sivasagar, the old capital of the Ahom kings, as well as to Majuli Island with its unique Hindu monastic communities famous for their dance drama. 


Brahmaputra River cruise map


The major drawcard for Gianna and I was the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kaziranga National Park, as we were keen to see and photograph as much wildlife as possible. We had our hearts set on catching a glimpse of a Royal Bengal Tiger (the park has also earned the distinction of having the highest density of these beauties), but alas on this occasion we weren’t fortunate enough to spot one. Our cruise director told us they had seen a Bengal Tiger patrolling the riverbank on the previous trip, but as is the case with wild animals you do have to be a little lucky on occasion. Not to worry however, as the park is blessed with a variety of wildlife including the world’s largest population of the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros and the Indian Wild Water Buffalo. The park also supports large populations of Indian elephants, Indian bison, Barasingha (swamp deer), and Capped Langur along with myriad birdlife including the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-tailed Eagle and Himalayan Griffon. 

We visited Kaziranga on two occasions during the voyage, the first time we ventured ashore in the park included a wildlife-spotting tour on the back of an elephant, a new experience for me.


Kaziranga NP elephant tour


When we weren’t in Kaziranga we were stopping at the traditional villages that line the river bank. We particularly enjoyed these villages as they were so untouched by tourism; it was interesting watching the locals go about their everyday business as we strolled through the villages, whether they be praying in the town’s temple or sitting at a traditional handloom weaving colourful fabrics. Of course they don’t get many westerners up in this part of the world, so everyone we met was keen to have a selfie with us and the people were so warm and friendly. The village visits were a definite highlight for us, and typically we had a couple of hours to explore and interact with the locals each time we went ashore.


Weaving brahmaputra river cruise


On each occasion when we returned from an excursion to the ship we were met by the crew bearing cold towels and refreshing beverages and we particularly enjoyed the crew’s attention to the small details such as these.

The itinerary is quite gentle in terms of physicality, anybody with a reasonable level of mobility will be able to enjoy it without too many problems. Most of the activities were scheduled for the morning, with the afternoon put aside to cruise to the next day’s location. While cruising aboard the ship there were activities to take part in, including the opportunity to dress in colourful saris (a lot of fun) and an interesting cooking class with the ship’s chef where he taught us about spices and preparing traditional Indian curries. We were also lucky enough to enjoy a performance by local Assam dancers on the first night of the cruise, and music from a renowned Buddhist flutist later in the trip.


Indiai cruise


A note about transfers to the ship…

To join the cruise we flew from Delhi into the city of Guwahati. We were met on arrival at the airport by the ship’s local representatives (driver and guide) for an included private car transfer to the Charaidew II. The car was modern and well-maintained and we enjoyed the four-hour ride through the countryside, which included an impromptu stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant offering some of the best Indian cuisine we enjoyed during our travels.

At the conclusion of the cruise we were flying out from the city of Dibrugarh and again a private transfer was provided. En route our attention was drawn to some amazing prayer calls emanating from a temple and the driver and guide were only too happy for us to drop in for a quick visit. 

The transfers were very well organised and we felt very safe in the hands of our skilled driver (the roads in India can be quite an experience!).


Read the Daily Newsletter from each day of the expedition.


Village India Brahmaputra River Cruise


The Ship:  Charaidew II

Assam Bengal Navigation operate a small fleet of river ships in India on both the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers. We were lucky enough to cruise aboard the brand-new Charaidew II which they had launched just eight weeks prior in mid-January 2019.

At 44 metres in length, the Charaidew II provides extremely comfortable accommodation for up to 36 travellers sharing 18 cabins and approximately 30 crew. We were travelling during the ‘off-peak’ time of year, so the ship wasn’t full, but we did note that there was plenty of public space so we don’t think the ship would ever feel too crowded, even with a full complement aboard.


Charaidew II lounge


The ship’s decor reflects traditional Assamese design, with touches of colonial elegance, brought to life by hand-woven cotton fabrics. The lower deck houses the comfortable dining room, with the bulk of the cabins located on the mid deck. On the top deck you find the lounge and sun deck, both pleasant locations to sit back with a good book or to take in views of the river. There’s plenty of comfy chairs to make yourself at home, and a bar to purchase a refreshing drink (tea/coffee and water/fruit juices are included at no additional cost). In the lounge you also have access to complimentary WiFi, which allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family at home and share some of our photographs each day.


Charaidew II dining room


There’s also a small gym on board, along with a spa offering massages and beauty treatments (additional cost). 

Being brand-new, the ship is in excellent condition and the crew did a great job ensuring she was looking at her absolute best each day.


The Cabin:  Double Cabin

The Charaidew II offers three grades of accommodation; there are two highly sought-after Deluxe Cabins (32 square metres) with private balconies, 12 Double / Twin Cabins (22 square metres) and four standard Cabins (16 square metres) that are also available to solo travellers. 

Gianna and I shared a Twin-bedded cabin on the mid deck. We were very impressed by the generous size of the accommodations and enjoyed the fact that the French Balcony allowed plenty of fresh air in while an insect screen kept the bugs at bay. The cabin featured individually-controlled air conditioning, comfortable beds (you may choose either a double bed or two singles), a writing desk with chair, plenty of hanging space and an electronic safe. There were also in-cabin tea and coffee making facilities and a small bar fridge.


Charaidew II cabin


The cabin’s en suite was also very well designed, with a full-size shower (there was never a shortage of hot water), toilet, basin and hairdryer. Complimentary Biotique toiletries were provided and replenished during the daily servicing of the room.


The Dining

We were particularly looking forward to sampling some local cuisine during the cruise, and we enjoyed the menu the chefs in the galley were able to produce. As the ship’s guests originate from all around the world the menu offers a combination of western and Indian dishes and we did find that the spice had perhaps been ‘toned down’ a little to suit most palates. We recommend a gentle word to the chef if you would prefer a more spicy offering, they are sure to oblige.

Breakfast and lunch were served as buffets in the dining room, with a typical array of bacon, sausages, and eggs (cooked to order) on offer. There was also a variety of fruits, yoghurts and cereals for those keen on a lighter start to the day. Tea and coffee and fruit juice are also on offer throughout the day. If you prefer an espresso-style coffee (rather than typical filter coffee) there is a barista in the lounge but do note that these premium coffees come at an additional cost on board.


dining aboard Charaidew II


Lunch was again a buffet, featuring a mix of both western and Indian dishes. At lunch each day you also make your dinner selection for that evening’s meal choosing from a small a la carte menu. Dinner typically consisted of four courses, a soup, entrée, main and dessert. On one occasion we enjoyed a bonfire BBQ ashore for the evening meal which was a highlight.

If you like to indulge in a glass of wine with your evening meal there is a small selection available on board for purchase. While the wine list is not expansive, we did find that the choices on offer were more than adequate and reasonably priced. 


Our Verdict

For the uninitiated, India can be an assault on the senses; the constant movement, noises, smells, colours and crowds in cities like Delhi and Varanasi can take a bit of getting used to. In comparison, the pace of life on the river can be very genteel and our time exploring the Brahmaputra River aboard the new Charaidew II allowed us the opportunity to experience a completely different – and unexpected - side to this amazing country. 

Rarely visited by the tourist masses, the Assam region is full of friendly people and interesting discoveries and we suggest there is no better way to experience this part of the world than on a 7-night cruise aboard Assam Bengal Navigation’s new Charaidew II. 

So if India’s on your bucket list, make sure you add the Brahmaputra River to your itinerary – you wont regret it!

For more information about cruising India’s rivers contact our expert team today on 1800 90 20 80 (+61 7 4041 2101) or visit

Click here to visit our Charaidew II webpage.


Photographs courtesy of Vicki Briggs, Gianna Galeotta and Assam Bengal Navigation. Not to be reproduced without written permission.


cruising india's brahmpautra River

Review: Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness

Posted by Vicki Briggs on September 01, 2016


Vicki & Tony Briggs review Lindblad Alaska cruise


Tony and I were lucky enough to join Lindblad Expeditions in August to cruise Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park aboard one of their expedition ships, the National Geographic Sea Bird. We had wanted to explore this part of the world for many years, and it’s fair to say that Alaska didn’t disappoint. Here’s our review of the trip.

The Itinerary

We chose the seven night Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness expedition between Juneau and Sitka, both relatively easy small cities to reach. Highlights of the expedition included exploring Glacier Bay National Park, a visit to historic Petersburg and lots of wildlife encounters. There were excursions each day, and regular walks ashore (moderate difficulty). We also loved the opportunity to jump in the kayaks (they have both single and double) to paddle out from the ship amongst the glaciers. Happily for us we encountered lots of wildlife, from feeding brown bears to playful whales and that most iconic American symbol, the Bald Eagle. You can view a map of our voyage below.


Lindblad Alaska cruise map


You don’t need to be super fit to join the expedition, anyone with a general level of mobility will be able to get a lot out of the trip. There were some longer walks (optional) that do require a bit of stamina if you are inclined to join them.

Although we travelled in August - the peak of the North American summer - being so far north it was of course still quite cool. When packing for this voyage always think about layers. On some of the walks ashore the sun did manage to peek out and having the ability to peel off a layer or two was a godsend.

Being seven nights long the itinerary was an ideal length for us as it was part of an extended trip in the US. If you’re after a longer expedition however, Lindblad Expeditions do offer a 15 day adventure between Sitka and Seattle, which includes Haida Gwaii.


The Ship: National Geographic Sea Bird

Lindblad Expeditions currently operate two sister-ships on their seven night Alaska programmes, Sea Bird and Sea Lion. Tony and I travelled aboard Sea Bird. Launched in 1982, she carries 62 guests (plus 25 crew) and at just 50 metres in length she is small enough to access all the coves and tributaries you want to explore on a cruise like this. Indeed the ships are small enough to pull close to shore to allow guests to see brown bears feasting on a kill, an encounter we were lucky enough to experience.


Lindblad's National Geographic ships in Alaska


While not state-of-the-art, both Sea Bird and Sea Lion are hardy little ships with a lot of charm, and once you’re settled in you will realise they have everything you need for a successful expedition, including a fleet of zodiacs and a number of single and double kayaks. Recent refurbishments have brought the ships up to date somewhat, but you do need to moderate your expectations; these ships were built as true expedition ships over 30 years ago and don’t have all the bells and whistles you are likely to find on new ships today. Having said that, we thought the ship was very comfortable and was well suited to the itinerary. There was a pleasant dining room and other spaces to gather with fellow travellers to check out the stunning views whilst underway. For those seeking a little pampering there is also a small spa / beauty salon.


Take an expedition cruise in Alaska with National Geographic


Both Sea Bird and Sea Lion will be retired over coming years as two new ships join the Lindblad Expeditions fleet, the first being National Geographic Quest in 2017 followed by National Geographic Venture in 2018. Slightly larger than the existing ships, these new vessels will accommodate up to 100 guests.


The Cabin:  Category 2

Our first thought once being shown to our cabin for the week was “wow, it’s compact!”.  At around 8 to 9 square metres (about 100 square feet) there’s not a great deal of space, but once you’ve unpacked, put the suitcases under the bed and settled in you will find there’s more than enough room to relax. Our cabin, which was designated Category 2, had two single beds, as is the case in most of the cabins on these ships, and they are laid out in a ‘L-shape’ fashion.


Comfortable rooms with Lindblad in Alaska


All rooms open directly on to the deck, and with a large window you’ll always be reminded that you’re in Alaska by the wonderful views right outside. For added privacy there are curtains on all windows. Other amenities include temperature control and also WiFi access, which does incur a small additional cost.

Of course each cabin has its own smallish en suite, with toiletries including shampoo and bodywash replenished daily. The rooms are serviced daily by the unobtrusive crew with towels regularly changed.

Slightly larger Category 3 cabins also offer the option of a Double bed.


The Dining

Dining during the cruise was hearty and plentiful. Breakfast and lunch were served as buffets in the dining room, whilst dinner was offered as table service from a small a la carte menu. Outside of meal times there is always something to nibble on if you’re a bit peckish. Each night Tony and I marvelled at the massive platters of cheese and local Dungeness crab served during pre-dinner drinks, we had to be very restrained to ensure that we would be able to fit in our clothes by the end of the week!


The dining room aboard Lindblad's ships in Alaska


Dinner was always a popular event, with a throng of travellers eagerly awaiting the nightly dinner call… exploring Alaska takes a lot of energy that needs to be replenished! Inside the dining room the seating is open, meaning you can choose to sit with friends, or mingle about and join others on their tables. It’s always great to sit with some different folks for dinner, you’ll find that you end up meeting many fascinating people who have interesting stories to tell.

The dining is by no means Michelin-star quality, however it is plentiful, hearty, and fresh. Lindblad Expeditions also pride themselves on their sustainable food program, meaning that all produce used on board must me sustainably produced and farmed.


The Expedition Team

Lindblad Expeditions are noted for their expedition teams, and we couldn’t fault ours. Made up of three Guest Lecturers, along with Expedition Leader Linda, and a photographer/videographer, the expedition team ensured our experience in Alaska exceeded our expectations. The expedition team know this part of the world like the back of their hands. They knew where we were likely to see brown bears, the best places for walks and had a wealth of knowledge that was simply incredible and a joy to listen to. On most trips a native Tlingit interpreter joins the ship for a day to share some local tales and secrets.


Wildlife on Alaska cruise with Lindblad

Our Verdict

Tony and I loved our time aboard Sea Bird, and Alaska certainly surpassed our expectations. For us, no one “does” Alaska better than Lindblad Expeditions, and in a large part these plaudits are due to their exceptional expedition teams, certainly ours was the best we’ve ever travelled with.

This is a trip we highly recommend to everyone, and with Lindblad’s two brand new ships coming online over the next 18 months we’re sure the experience will be even better.

This expedition departs during the northern summer, between May and August each year. For more details and upcoming departures click here or telephone us for further information and bookings.