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Expedition Cruise News & Views

Two FREE nights when you cruise the Great Barrier Reef

Posted by Andrew Castles on September 21, 2016

 

We can't think of a better way to experience Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and tropical north than by small ship, and Coral Expeditions can take you to the best parts of the 'Reef, Rainforest and Islands' on their intimate 44-guest classic catamaran Coral Expeditions II.

Departing from Cairns, these 3, 4 and 7 night cruises provide ample time to swim, snorkel and dive at exclusive reef moorings away from the day tour crowds. A marine biologist leads included glass bottom boat tours and informative presentations about the myriad marine life that calls the reef home. You'll also enjoy plenty of time ashore exploring rainforests and pristine islands, including Lizard, Fitzroy and Pelorus. Back on board, the chef serves up fantastic dining experiences, including one of the best seafood buffets you're ever likely to encounter whilst the all Aussie crew take care of your every desire.

Cruises depart weekly, year round. Click here for more information.

 

Special Offer

Coral Expeditions has an incredible package on offer to ensure that you make the most of your stay in Tropical North Queensland. Book any 3, 4 or 7 night Great Barrier Reef cruise by 31 March 2017 for cruises departing until 30 June 2017 and enjoy 2 FREE nights at the renowned Reef House in the picturesque village of Palm Cove plus transfers to and from the ship.

 

 

During your stay at the Reef House, enjoy the Brigadiers Punch & canapés served in the Lounge Daily at Twilight; hosted by the General Manager, luxury concierge services and porterage, free Wi-Fi and use of DVD player and DVD collection. You will also have access to the Brigadier Lounge book exchange, secure car parking, bottled water in your room on arrival, as well as bikes, fishing gear and sketching kits. Book today on a 3 or 4-night cruise, or combine the two for the ultimate 7-night reef experience!

 

Conditions: Special offer is combinable with Coral Expeditions 'Xplorers Club' past guest discount. Cruise & accommodation is subject to availability. Enquire for full details.

 

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 a yet un-named sister ship for 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.

Choosing the Best time of year for Kimberley Cruising

Posted by Andrew Castles on August 30, 2016

Ready to tick that that once in a lifetime Kimberley expedition cruise off your bucket list but unsure about the best time of year to experience Australia’s wilderness coast? Our guide outlines each of the Kimberley’s three distinct seasons to help you choose the time of year that is right for you.

As a starting point, cruises on the Kimberley Coast only operate between mid April and October each year, so you can put a line through October to March straight away as its simply too hot, humid and wet, not to mention the added danger of the cyclone season.

The Kimberley’s three seasons:

 

Waterfall Season (April & May)

One of the main drawcards of the Kimberley Coast is its iconic waterfalls - including the towering 80-metre King George and four-tiered Mitchell Falls. Most of the coast’s falls are fed by the Kimberley’s drenching wet season rains, so the earlier in the season you go the more spectacular the falls are. The landscape will also be covered in a brilliant green hue, as vegetation regenerates thanks to the downpour.  It’s not uncommon for the occasional grey and rainy day during this period, and it can still be quite humid, which can make walks ashore a bit more taxing. In our view seeing (and hearing) the full force of the falls more than makes up for the extra humidity and an occasional wet day.

king george falls on a true north kimberley cruise

 

Peak Season (June, July and early August)

The most popular time of year to travel to the Kimberley, probably because the ‘dry season’ weather is characterised by clear blue skies and balmy days, which makes for a welcome escape from the southern states’ winter chill. Depending on the amount of rain during the wet season, there might be some water still flowing over the big falls as late as August, but it will be a trickle at best. One notable exception is the iconic King Cascades on the Prince Regent River; these falls are spring fed and will have a flow year round. If you can’t bear the thought of another chilly winter then June and July are probably your ‘go to’ months to experience the Kimberley Coast.

kimberley cruising at montgomery reef aboard Great Escape

 

Whale / Wildflower Season

From August to early October each year the Kimberley Coast is the world’s epicentre for whalewatching. Up to 30,000 humpbacks make their way from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm tropical waters of the Kimberley Coast to breed and give birth, and you will have the best seat in the house when travelling on an expedition cruise. It’s common practice for the skipper to idle the ship’s engines and drift with the tide whilst these majestic mammals put on playful displays around the ship. This late in the season it’s likely that Mitchell Falls and King George Falls will be dry (you can always see Talbot Bay’s Horizontal Falls at least!), but you’re likely to have more wildlife encounters due to native fauna having to travel further, out in the open in search of water. Wildflowers are also blooming, covering the ground in a carpet of colourful native blooms.

whale watching on a kimberley cruise

 

Our Verdict

So which should you choose? It really comes down to where your interests lay; waterfalls or whales. But we think it would be a real pity to miss the grandeur and jaw dropping beauty of some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls. So if we were forced to choose, then May, when the humidity has started to drop off, is the ideal time to explore the Kimberley Coast on a small ship cruise.

For more top tips or to book your 2018 Kimberley Cruising call us on 1800 90 20 80 or contact us via email

Top 3: Most Luxurious Amazon Cruise Suites

Posted by Andrew Castles on July 13, 2016

It used to be that a cruising expedition in the Amazon Rainforest required not just a sense of adventure, but also the ability to ‘rough it’ on ships that had seen much better days. But now - with new ships featuring all the mod cons seemingly being launched every year - you can still have all the adventure of an Amazon expedition, whilst travelling on some of the most stylish small ships in the world.

So, we got to thinking about which of these ships offers the most spectacular suites that will leave you picking your jaw up from the floor whilst simultaneously adding an Amazon expedition to your travel bucket list! We’ve done all the hard work for you and narrowed down the choices to rank what we think are the three most opulent suites on the Amazon today.

Here’s our countdown – be warned though, the WOW factor is high!

 

Number 3

The Ship: Aria Amazon

The Suite: Design Suite

 

Aria amazon cruise suite luxury

Designed by the innovative Peruvian architect Jordi Puig, all 16 Design Suites on the Aria Amazon measure a spacious 23 square metres (250 square feet), meaning there’s plenty of room to sit back and relax. Floor to ceiling windows offer uninterrupted viewing of the passing river scenery, polished timber flooring adds to the ambience and of course each suite has individually controlled air-con. The en suite bathrooms feature a rain shower and luxurious, organic bath amenities incorporating the latest eco-sensitive technology.

Soft lighting, natural fibres and neutral hues create a relaxing and luxuriously comfortable enclave where one’s only challenge may be to decide whether to gaze upon the Amazon from atop the California king size bed, dressed with 100% Peruvian cotton high thread count sheets or while lounging on the cozy window-side day bed, binoculars in hand.

See Aria Amazon Expedition

 

 

Number 2

The Ship: Delfin III

The Suite: Amazonia Suite

 

Delfin II cruise suite amazon luxury

The 43-guest Delfin III (formerly Amazon Discovery) was launched in October 2015 - making it the newest ship operating in Peru's Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The single Amazonia Suite is the ship’s most sought-after room, and at 55 square metres (597 square feet) it’s larger than some of the apartments I’ve lived in! Located on the second deck at the front of the ship, those lucky enough to call it home during their expedition will enjoy breathtaking views of the river and rainforest through forward-facing 180 degree floor to ceiling windows.

Awaken to a breathtaking vista from the comfy bed, complete with luxurious Peruvian linens and European duvet. A cosy sofa is positioned to allow for reading, whilst keeping a close eye on the passing scenery. A standalone bathtub really turns up the feeling of luxury. But that’s not all; guests will also receive a complimentary 60-minute spa treatment, a fully-stocked mini bar and laundry services during the expedition.

See Delfin III Expedition

 

 

Number 1

The Ship: Delfin I

The Suite: Deluxe Suite

 

delfin luxury amazon cruise suite

For several years now it’s been our favourite Amazon suite, and even with the arrival of some new contenders we still think Delfin I’s Deluxe Suite has more WOW factor than any of its nearest rivals.

With interior space measuring 34 square metres (360 square feet), there is plenty of space to enjoy, even before you consider the additional 32 square metres on the private terrace. The cool water plunge pool is a real jaw-dropper and makes Delfin I the first and only river vessel with this luxurious feature.

Located on the main deck, the two spacious Deluxe Suites feature a king size bed that are wrapped by 180° panoramic windows stretching from floor to ceiling, a mini bar, in-suite seating area with a sofa bed, fine Peruvian cotton linens, environmentally friendly amenities, silent A/C units, hot water, hair dryer, safe deposit box and internal communications system.  

See Delfin I Expedition

Five top tips to choose the perfect expedition ship

Posted by Andrew Castles on June 23, 2016

So you’re ready to sign up for that once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list expedition cruise you’ve had your eye on for years, but don’t know which ship offers the best experience? In this short guide we’ve pulled together our five best tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff:

 

Tip 1.     Consider the cruising conditions

 

50 years of victory north pole cruise

 

Even if you’re a top-of-the-tree loyalty club member with a particular cruiseline, make sure you don’t lock yourself in before doing the proper research. You’ll need to consider things such as tides and sea conditions to work out which ship best suits the destination. And don’t overlook smaller, local operators (rather than the major international lines), often they will have quite a few secret spots up their sleeves that the biggies don’t know about.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Some choices are obvious; if it’s your ambition to reach 90 degrees north (otherwise known as the North Pole), then a powerful icebreaker will be your best bet. Other times the answer won’t be so simple and will require a bit of investigation.

 

  • Tides (yes really). Australia’s Kimberley Coast - one of the world’s hottest destinations for expedition cruisers - is renowned for its 13-metre tides (that’s over 40 feet!) governing access to rivers and tributaries, meaning that larger expedition ships offer more restricted itineraries than their smaller counterparts with shallower drafts.

 

  • An expedition that includes a lot of open-water steaming will be more comfortable on a larger ship, and definitely one with active stabilisers. Areas of the Drake Passage and Southern Ocean (for Antarctic expeditions) can be really hairy, and a bigger ship will offer a more comfortable crossing – just make sure it doesn’t have more than 100 guests though (see below).

 

  • If your preferred itinerary requires several ‘days at sea’ make sure your ship has enough in the way of entertainment or lectures to keep you amused on those days.

 

  • When cruising in the polar regions make sure the ship has individually-controlled heating so you can ‘set and forget’ your own comfortable cabin temperature (also applies in reverse for the tropics).

 

Tip 2.     Consider passenger numbers

Sure, bigger expedition ships are likely to offer more onboard dining and entertainment options, but sometimes more passengers can also hinder exploration. If you’re headed for Antarctica be aware that only 100 people are allowed to land in the same place at any one time. If you’re on a small ship of up to 100 passengers, then you get a chance to go ashore every time. If the ship is larger, sometimes you might miss out as others have ‘their turn’.  I know that would annoy me - so make sure you pick a ship that limits its passenger numbers to under 100 when travelling to Antarctica - even if it normally accommodates more.

 

antarctic cruise aboard sea spirit

 

Tip 3.     Check out the cruiseline’s demographic

Have a good look at the promotional photos issued by the cruiseline to get a feel for the demographics of their typical client. If you’re an active adventurer always champing at the bit to put on your shoes for a long hike, you might be disappointed if the activity levels are toned right down to cater for a not so young-at-heart clientele. Checking out photos from previous expeditions - and reviews on sites such as www.cruisecritic.com - will give you a good idea of what to expect.

 

Tip 4.     Find out which excursion tenders are used

 

whale watching on antarctic cruise

 

Zodiacs (heavy-duty inflatable dinghies) are the mainstay of the expedition cruise industry, but make sure your ship of choice has enough of them to be able to move travellers quickly! You don’t want to be sitting on board waiting for your turn to be ferried ashore whilst others are in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounter. Some cruiselines have come up with ingenious inventions to move guests quickly and it’s also worth considering whether the ship offers use of kayaks, paddleboards, bicycles and other expedition equipment to allow you to get out and explore at your own pace.

 

Tip 5.     Make sure the expedition team is top notch

 

aboriginal art on a kimberley cruise

 

The best expedition teams can turn a good expedition into a life-changing journey. Not only are they responsible for ensuring day to day plans go off without a hitch, they will also be behind the scenes solving dramas (weather, technical malfunctions, unhappy locals) before you even know about them. Typically, the best expedition leaders spend their time working in one region - Alaska is a good example - which they know like the back of their hand, rather than following a ship on its annual schedule all around the world.

Also keep an eye out for guest lecturers, resident photographers and other experts joining an expedition team - they can really add a new dimension to the experience. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for more details about the expedition team - most cruiselines will be more than happy to provide you with their bios ahead of time.

 

So there you go - our five top tips to consider in choosing a ship for your next expedition. Contact our expedition specialists for more expert advice and top tips!

 

true north at king cascades on a kimberley cruise