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Expedition Cruise News & Views

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.

The Wild Side of Expedition Cruising

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on November 04, 2016

One of the major reasons we all undertake expedition cruises is to enjoy close encounters with creatures in the wild.

There is nothing quite like standing on the beach next to seals, watching bears eat salmon in the redwoods or gaze in wonder as a pod of orcas glides by your zodiac.

So, how likely are you to see wildlife on your cruise? Well, finding wildlife is not an exact science. Bears don’t simply sit under the same tree all year waiting for the tourists to arrive.

Emperor penguins migrate inland in March and the only way to see a tiger in the wild is to see it before it sees you.

 

 

However expedition cruising gives you the best chance to see wildlife because you go to places most normal tourists never see.

The expedition leaders on your cruise have their favourite places where they can depend on finding wildlife. They often work with local guides and rangers to find out where recent sightings have been made.

I was quite surprised on one expedition cruise to find out how much work goes into finding those hard-to-see critters. The expedition leader was continually phoning ahead by satellite to track down wildlife. He spent several hours on the radio talking to locals about whale sightings.

It all paid off after a few days when an aircraft scout spotted a pod of whales cruising along the coast.

In places like the Amazon, the best way to see rare wildlife is to take a cruise that works with local guides. They know the places to find animals like the capybara, the world’s largest rodent.

 

 

I have been lucky enough to have some amazing wildlife encounters around the world, but my favourite was a cruise along the Zambezi River in Africa.

We went ashore at various points to go on wildlife walks with a local guide who was carrying a very large gun. We saw giraffes, water buffalo, elephants and a rare rhino. One night just after dark, we went ashore on a lion walk and came across an elephant herd.

Now, the last thing you want to do with a wild elephant herd is to split it in two. We managed to split it and our guide became very concerned about the situation.

He continually stopped to listen to the sounds of the animals coming from upwind, cupping his ear and concentrating deeply while we all held our breath.

He convened a meeting of the group by torchlight and whispered to us. “We need to get back to the boat which is over there,” he said pointing out the route.

“We need to go one by one and we need to walk quickly and quietly from one tree to the next. You have to get across the clearing quickly,” he reiterated.

“When I say ‘Go’ you go and don’t stop.” It was my time to run and I stopped beside a huge tree. An elephant swished by in the grass, hardly making a noise. It is amazing how quietly they can move.

I guess that elephant was just as scared as I was. We all returned to the boat safely and headed back to the main expedition ship.

We were all “wowed” by the chef on board who turned out gourmet meals time after time. For this meal, he cooked up a stunning tiger fish which we had caught earlier in the day.

 

 

As we enjoyed our meal on the back deck, washed down with a fine Stellenbosch sourced sauvignon blanc, the sounds of Africa took over the night air. We couldn’t see Africa, but we could hear it, smell it and feel it.

Our guide explained that he was extremely worried about what happened earlier in the evening. “An American visitor was killed by an elephant there recently. He stopped to take a photo between trees and the flash went off on the camera. This stunned the elephant and the poor guy was trampled.”

It was a sobering thought that expedition cruising puts you right into the middle of true-life adventures.

This is the unique feature of expedition cruising and the reason it is becoming so popular around the world.

 

 

Inspired to seek out wildlife on an expedition cruise? Here's some of 2017 best adventures for wildlife enthusiasts:

Marine Mammals of Antarctica - join the world's per-eminent cetacean experts on a voyage to the white continent

Whale Sharks of West Papua - swim with whale sharks in Indonesia's Cenderawasih Bay

Baja California among the Great Whales - cruise Mexico's Sea of Cortez in search of the grey whale

Home of the Polar Bears - Explore Wrangel Island in Russia's Far East

Mighty Orangutans of Borneo - Cruise the Kalimantan coast aboard a traditional schooner. 

 

 

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

Preparing for your Expedition Cruise

Posted by Dallas Sherringham on October 27, 2016

Getting ready for your expedition cruise depends very much on where you are going.

Obviously clothing and equipment for your Antarctic adventure will be completely different to a walk in the Amazon rainforest.

However, there are certain items and personal requirements that go hand-in-hand for all expedition cruises.

The very nature of most expedition cruises requires that you be reasonably fit. Now, I have seen people in their 80s handle a cruise to New Guinea or the Kimberley with ease, so you don’t have to be extremely fit.

However I would advise a certain amount of fitness and mobility is required if you are going to go ashore each day.

Having said that, you can certainly stay on board the ship for the duration of the cruise. You don’t have to go ashore if you are not confident.

For example, when I cruised on Coral Expedition’s Kimberley adventure some years ago, there were some guests who went on the Xplorer boat each day, but didn’t go ashore. This was easy for them because the Xplorer loaded right off the back deck. You simply walked out through the dining room and the boat was sitting right there, ready to step aboard.

Excursion tenders like the Xplorer make it easy for most people to visit wild places.

 

If you have a medical condition it is essential that you tell the staff on board, especially your expedition leader, so they can keep an eye on you.

The experts on your ship will never put you into places that require advanced fitness. They have to ensure that every expeditioner can get ashore safely and with ease.

To prepare, I always do some walking every day and I include a few gentle hills to put some fitness into my legs and body. I also walk on the beach and in shallow water along the shoreline. It helps in getting your balance and being used to 'wet' landings.

Each day your expedition leader will advise you whether it is a 'wet or 'dry' landing. On a wet landing you will require sturdy sandals or some sort of footwear that can handle being submerged and walking on rough surfaces like coral and rocks.

A wet landing like this one requires suitable footwear or good old bare feet.

 

Equipment required will be explained to you by your expedition cruise line well before you leave home.

However the 'no brainers' include a wide brimmed hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, a water bottle, wet wipes, sunglasses that are firmly attached, binoculars and very sturdy backpack.

If you have prescription glasses, make sure they are firmly attached and can withstand a substantial blow. I always recommend that you take a second pair of glasses and leave them on board the ship 'just in case'. A second pair of sunglasses is also suggested.

On one expedition cruise, I saw a lady from France lose her glasses under a waterfall.  She had a spare pair, but they were sitting in her apartment in Paris. The lady had a substantial vision impairment, so she struggled to get through each day for the rest of the trip.

Clothing includes a water resistant jacket, loose fitting comfortable day wear, casual wear for nights and, as I always recommend, a pair of shorts. It is amazing how many people show up for expedition cruises with clothing more suitable for the Queen Mary than a journey through the wilderness.

They are generally people who have done a lot of normal cruising but have never been on an expedition.

“I didn’t realise everyone would be wearing shorts and T-shirts with sandals. I wish I had known, I bought long pants and joggers,” is a common comment I hear.

Finally, a suggestion that is close to my heart. Purchase a water resistant, and preferably, waterproof camera bag for your prized possession. Spray is a constant hazard on expedition boats. I would go for Go Pro type camera if you are going to be doing a lot of exploring on the water or around waterfalls.

I destroyed a brand new Canon camera standing next to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The haze from the falls formed a faint mist that penetrated everything.

These days I download my photos on to a small laptop each night on board ship.  It’s too late when you get home and find you have lost all your precious photos.

 

Dallas Sherringham is a media professional, world traveller and regular contributor to our blog. Some imagery has been supplied by Michael Osborne.