Cruise Passenger Issue 47

Page 1

ships big & small • ocean, adventure & river cruising • best holiday destinations

BURMESE Issue 47, autumn 2012 AUS $9.95 (inc GST)


ISSN 1445 4180


• European river cruise worth $14,580 • 9 nights in Hong Kong

best voyages

• wildlife in borneo • the kimberley & beyond • montreal to new york


high-stepping into

antarctica Adventure cruise expert Roderick Eime packs his sequins and pearls for an unusual Antarctic sojourn.


Scott and Shackleton

would turn in their graves. Women in Antarctica? Unheard of. But go one step further and create a wantonly luxurious cruise ship for champagne-sipping amateur adventurers complete with high-kicking Parisian showgirls and you have an expedition of the burlesque. Vive la France! Enter Compagnie du Ponant (or just Ponant) and its new-generation boutique vessels and you have a whole new genre of adventure cruising. Ponant has been around since 1988, specialising in smallship and sophisticated cruise products. The company’s first vessel, Le Ponant – yes, the one in the 2008 Somali pirate

drama – is a gorgeous 64-pax, threemasted sailing ship in the mould of Star Clipper or Wind Star. Le Diamant, a 1974-built expedition ship, was added in 2004 but sold (along with Le Levant) to make way for a trio of state-of-the-art vessels. Le Boréal launched in May 2010, L’Austral in May 2011 and the third is set to launch mid-2013. “When we started the company in 1986, we wanted to re-raise the French flag in the cruise industry,” said Captain Jean-Philippe Lemaire, master of L’Austral and one of the founding team of Compagnie du Ponant. “We wanted to use small, niche vessels with much conviviality on board,

targeted to high-class passengers.” Technically, the vessels are a wonder. Sitting on the back deck one sunny afternoon, I watch the massive 142-metre, 10,944-ton ship slalom through the ice field like an oversized runabout. I learn that this impressive manoeuvrability is thanks to a state-of-the-art diesel-electric propulsion system coupled to twin, twostage (Becker) rudders that can turn to 80 degrees on full lock. Sometimes she moves a little too effectively between the icebergs, sending glasses and crockery crashing to the dining-room floor. Although L’Austral carries conventional anchors, these are required only for the toughest conditions, as a ‘dynamic


cruise region focus

adventure Gentoo penguins

Basking seal

Guests take a brisk hike to Brown Bluff

highs • M agnificent state-of-the-art vessel and passenger facilities. • Excellent sea-keeping.

Antarctic Zodiac excursions

L’Austral in French accent in Antarctica Paradise Harbour


positioning system’ keeps the vessel in place with the aid of satellite GPS technology. Further ‘green’ credentials are bestowed courtesy of advanced wastewater treatment, low-energy lighting and the capacity to switch between heavy and light marine diesel fuels, depending on the region. There are two restaurants, both offering dining in single seatings. The larger, Restaurant Le Coromandel, is free seating, fine dining and à la carte, while the smaller, Restaurant Le Rodrigues on Deck 6, requires bookings but offers a more casual setting. House wine is included with meals in both. The cuisine is generally of high quality, if a little inconsistent at times. Each stateroom and suite is fitted with a flatscreen TV coupled to an inflightstyle entertainment system. Bathtubs, installed on Le Boréal, were deleted from Compagnie du Ponant’s subsequent ships and bathrooms aboard L’Austral have just showers – with L’Occitane products.

The cuisine is generally of high quality, if a little inconsistent at times … Accommodation is available at six price levels, ranging from the smallest, at just under 18.6 square metres with a foursquare-metre balcony, to the palatial 45-square-metre owner’s suite that has a vast nine-square-metre private balcony. Staterooms on Deck 6 (Mahé) also enjoy butler service and two in every three cabins, shipwide, have private balconies. There’s a big gym, oh-so-swish Sothy spa, a flexible kids’ club, wheelchair access throughout, a plush observation lounge bar/library, pool and satellite Wi-Fi internet access (for a fee). Zodiac operations, as they do with most vessels in this category, take place from an easily accessible transom at the stern. Safety procedures are well reinforced and there are always plenty of staff members on hand to assist passengers in and out of the rigid inflatable Zodiacs, each of which carries up to 12 passengers. At this, the softer end of soft adventure cruising, some of the activities might be seen as overly cautious compared to those

lows • S ome excursions too brief. • Lectures superficial.

fact file offered aboard harder-edged traditional vessels such as the former Soviet ones that pioneered this modern age of expedition cruising. Consequently, some of the onboard lectures and ‘enrichment’ experiences tend to be cursory, as the expedition staff tries to find a balance that suits the ship’s broad audience, extending across three languages. While the official ship’s language is French, English is widely and fluently spoken by frontline staff. There is some concession for German and Spanish

will raise the eyebrows of diehard polar ‘expeditioners’. It is a surreal contrast to be cavorting with Adelie penguins at 5pm, surveying the menu for a fourcourse degustation dinner at 7pm and, with a tummy full of French plonk, flopping into the theatre at 9pm to watch a titillating floor show. Mercifully, L’Austral does not have a casino. Compared to those faded sepia photographs of hardy explorers holed up in their winter quarters, bashing out tunes on the mouth organ and accordion,

Her presence in these hallowed waters will raise the eyebrows of diehard polar ‘expeditioners’. speakers, but it remains to be seen how the team will cope with the growing number of Chinese guests who are coming on board. This unapologetically hedonistic yacht was primarily designed to spend the majority of her time loafing seductively in the Mediterranean or Caribbean and her presence in these hallowed waters

the relative excess of Les Folies Ponant does little to re-create the heroic era of Antarctic exploration. Nevertheless, le trio du Ponant opens some of the most remote regions of the planet to anyone with the desire and wherewithal, and does so with a modicum of environmental awareness. I suppose that is truly ‘liberté, égalité et fraternité’.

Cruise line: Compagnie du Ponant Vessel: L’Austral Star rating: 4 Max. passenger capacity (double occupancy): 264 (limit of 200 pax for Antarctica) Total crew: 139 Passenger decks: 6 GRT: 10,944 tons Entered service: May 2011

BOOKINGS Departure: December 1, 2012 Itinerary: 11 days/10 nights on board L’Austral, roundtrip Ushuaia Ponant bonus fare: The leadin fare is $5,309 per person, twin share, and as this is a bonus fare, it is capacity controlled and can change at any time. Pricing is correct as of December 2, 2011. Contact Travel the World on 1300 950 622 or visit LAN Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, and offers service to more than 60 destinations in South America. For more information, visit or phone 1800 221 572.


region spotlight Lake Argyle

Discover DISCOVER A cruise is just the gateway to Australia’s It’s the world’s worst-kept secret. Australia’s Kimberley and spectacular North-Western region – plan your Western North West region was voted by Cruise next trip to this ancient land with advice from Passenger readers as the top adventuredestination for Australians and our seasoned adventurer. WORDS: RODERICK EIME cruise ranks high on the global list of ‘must-do’ Bungle Bungles


expedition cruises. But once you’ve taken your cruise – pulled a thrashing barramundi from the Hunter River, gazed in awe at the dizzying precipices above Mitchell Falls and shot the wild waters of the horizontal waterfalls – what next? The mesmerising ancient landscapes of the Kimberley extend way past the coast. A journey inland will take you to the eye-boggling Bungle Bungle Range (now more correctly known as UNESCO World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park), along the famous Gibb River Road and through some of the

Wandjina artwork by Roger Burgu

Reddell Beach, Broome Magnificent sunsets


wildest, oldest and most fascinating territory imaginable. Kununurra and its man-made miniocean, Lake Argyle, is full of its own outback adventure, and those keen to follow cinematic themes can trailblaze Hugh and Nicole’s Australia or venture to the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater, recast as a place of nightmares in the film Wolf Creek. There are various group tours on offer – 4WD, flight-seeing, trekking – or you can set off on your own self-drive adventure, throwing down a swag at any of the area’s campsites or checking into one of several homestead ‘resorts’. Take your pick from any of these destinations and ideas, then extend your cruise adventure into one of Australia’s newest and most remote holiday destinations.

Wolfe Cre ek crater

top trip

Survey the beauty of ocean and outback on a combined cruise-overland tour with APT. The 25-night small-group odyssey incorporates 15 days touring the vast Kimberley region by luxury 4WD coach and 10 nights aboard the acclaimed Oceanic Discoverer. Tour Code: GKCOD25 Operates: April through October From $16,895 per person;


Destinations Broome




Cable Beach camel rides

You could easily call Broome the de facto capital of the North West. Once, it was a ramshackle outpost for pearlers and itinerant fishermen, but wealth from pearls, mining and tourism has elevated the town way beyond its rough beginnings. Broome is also the major port for adventure and expedition cruisers heading out along the Kimberley coast, so almost all passengers will spend some time in this remote community. Apart from pearl outlets and the seemingly-mandatory Cable Beach camel rides, there are some excellent Aboriginal art galleries, and the hovercraft rides over Roebuck Bay come courtesy of one of the last commercial hovercraft ride operators in the world. Getting around the port town is easy and cheap on a hired scooter.

PER PERSO • Stay five N nights for the p from 1 Apri l to 30 Jun rice of four e 2012 • Includes full • Return B buffet breakfast dail y roome airp ort transfe rs

Recommended accommodation • P inctada McAlpine House, Broome • Pinctada Cable Beach Resort and Spa, Cable Beach

Artist Clifton Bieundurry

Hovercraft tours


Aerial view, Lake Argyle

The outback town of Kununurra in the East Kimberley, near the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, is the logical end to the Gibb River Road, and the ideal location at which to start or finish a Gibb River Road drive (see p36). Kununurra is also the location of the famous Argyle Downs (Durack) Homestead Museum, site of the original family property of the pioneering Duracks. Most of it is now submerged by the equally famous man-made Lake Argyle. And if you haven’t fully satisfied your cruising urge, day cruises are available on the lake.

Did You Know? The volume of water in Lake Argyle exceeds 10 million cubic metres; nine times that of Sydney Harbour. By comparison, Warragamba, when full, holds less than half the volume of water of Lake Argyle.

Recommended accommodation Pinctada Kimberley Grande


ENJOY FIVE LUXURIOUS NIGHTS FOR THE PRICE OF FOUR Relax beside your choice of two lagoon style pools. Dine in one of four distinctively different restaurants and bars. Book yourself in for some pampering at Chahoya Spa & Salon. And with Cable Beach on your doorstep enjoy morning walks and fabulous sunsets.

Visit *Terms and conditions apply. Travel period 1/04/2012 – 30/06/2012. Price quoted is twin share staying in a Garden View Studio. Visit for full terms & conditions.


Derby’s jetty


Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing

Pronounced Derr-bee, this town of some 4,500 people was the first European settlement in the region and the site of a jetty built in 1894 to service the growing pastoral industry. The streets are lined with massive boab trees, and history buffs will enjoy following the Derby Pastoral Trail, which leads to the wharf and takes in the Wharfinger House Museum, Derby Pioneer Cemetery and the Old Derby Gaol.

Did you Know?

er Wharfing

useum House M

Derby was famous in the 1920s as the terminus of Australia’s first scheduled aviation service. West Australian Airways Ltd, run by Norman Brearley, began this service with its first flight on December 5, 1921.

Giant boab trees

These two towns along the main Great Northern Highway (National Highway 1) would make useful stops if you were driving the loop from either Broome or Kununurra using the Gibb River Road in one direction. Fitzroy Crossing, as the name suggests, is set on the namesake river and is the spot to base yourself for explorations of the Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge National Parks. You can even stay at the Crossing Inn, built in 1897 as a shanty pub and trade store for long-distance travellers. Halls Creek is a historic gold mining town located on the northern edge of the Great Sandy Desert; from here, you can set off for a tour of the Bungle Bungles or, if you are so inclined, take an aerial sightseeing flight instead. The town is also the stepping-off point for a drive to the fascinating Wolfe Creek Crater National Park where you can explore a massive, 850-metre-wide meteorite crater. You’d have to go to Arizona to see a bigger one. For comprehensive tour and travel planning information, visit the region’s official tourism site:

Windjana Gorge National Park

Cruising to the heart of nature with Aurora Expeditions CENTRE ONE CRUISING

Scotland, European Arctic & Russian Coast

Chrissie Goldrick

Small group voyages, flexible itineraries, regular Zodiac landings, expert staff, educational lectures on board and open bridge policy attract adventurous souls keen to explore some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Scotland & European Arctic

Prices start from AUD$7,500 per person** Wild Scotland and the Faroe Islands – Explore the untamed coastline and islands west and north of Scotland by Zodiac or kayak. Discover intriguing channels and hidden lochs, seabird colonies, and waters are patrolled by whales and dolphins. Or celebrate our 16th season in the European Arctic! Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland – home to the mighty polar bear, walrus and whales, active volcanoes, spectacular glaciers and deep fjords.

Russian Coast

Prices start from USD$8,450 per person** We return once more to the captivating Russian Coast. Brown bears, sea lions, otters, jagged peaks and Kamchatka’s snow capped volcanoes of the Russian Far East all give way to polar bears, walrus, pack ice, secret military life and World Heritage-listed islands of the Russian Arctic. For a more intense exploration, why not link two shorter voyages back-to-back?

Order your FREE Scotland, European Arctic and Russian Coast 2012 brochure today! E: T:+61 2 9252 1033

antarctica | european arctic | russian coast | kimberley coast | papua new guinea ** Prices valid from 3 August 2011

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15/12/11 10:21 AM

A 4x4 Adventure from


Take your time …

The Wandjina are watching

Chamberlain River

The Wandjina are the spirit gods of the Kimberley who, local Aboriginals maintain, control the weather. Their images abound throughout the caves and craggy overhangs of Australia’s rugged North West. For countless thousands of years, the Aboriginal peoples of the Kimberley, with such evocative names as the Ngarinyin, Wororra, Wunumbul and Unggarangi, kept watch over the Wandjina figures, just as their spirits kept watch over them. Today, privileged visitors can still see these images in all their mysterious glory, gazing down from their cave-ceiling frescos. Distinct from their distant cave relatives, the mysterious Gwion Gwion (or Bradshaw) figures, the Wandjina have a more modern connection with the indigenous people of the region. Typically mouthless and depicted full length, the Wandjina spirits are believed to possess great power over the natural elements and all around them, and are held in the highest respect. The landscape of the Kimberley is among the oldest formations in the world, dating back some 1.8 billion years. Those used to wandering the bleak landscapes farther south along the Nullarbor will notice the complete lack of fossils. “There are no fossils,” comes the matterof-fact reply from Carly, a naturalist guide at El Questro Wilderness Park. “These rocks were formed before there was any life to fossilise.” Let that sink in before you return your gaze to the deep orange hues of the ultra-hard sandstone cliffs along Chamberlain Gorge. The namesake river, replete with fresh, crystal-clear water, is home to a seemingly endless supply of mighty barramundi, guarded by a permanent squad of freshwater crocodiles. Just over 100 years ago, white Europeans brought cattle to the Kimberley from the east in search of new

Coburn Range

pastures, a heritage recalled in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. Pioneering Irish-born drover Patrick Durack established Argyle Station in 1884 after he and his brother Michael brought about 7,000 head from Queensland, arriving with about half of them left. If ever an unforgiving land epitomised the bush spirit of early European settlement, it is the Kimberley.

4WD safety

Don’t set out unprepared. Here’s a checklist: • Unless you are an experienced off-roader, don’t venture off the main routes. Travel in convoy wherever possible. • Always carry basic spares such as water, fan belts and spare tyres. Know how to change a wheel. In the event of breakdown, always stay with your vehicle. • Have both a mobile phone (with coverage) and a CB radio. Know how to use it and how to access the emergency channels. • Come equipped with a GPS navigation system or a GPS-enabled smart phone. • Ensure you’re properly insured. • Always drive according to the conditions. The typical 4WD has a high centre of gravity and can tip over if not loaded properly. Take your time: there’s no rush. • Don’t drive into water or long grass without checking first; hidden hazards can mean the end of your journey. • Avoid throwing stones up onto fellow road users. Stay well back when following other cars or trucks. Allow oncoming trucks and large vehicles the whole road width, pulling over if necessary.

“That’s The Best Holiday I Have Ever Had!” An adventure on the TRUE NORTH is one of Australia’s most revered holidays! Bigger ships cannot go where we go! Our itineraries exclude lengthy periods at sea and feature frequent daily excursions. We deploy comfortable expedition boats (not rubber boats) and discover wilderness in small groups. An AUSTRALIAN crew uniquely chaperones every experience and most cruise options feature an onboard helicopter. Beware of imitations and discover for yourself why our guests consistently remark “that’s the best holiday I have ever had!” The Kimberley Wilderness season commences in March. North Star Cruises pioneered adventurecruising in this stunning region – nobody knows the Kimberley like we do! Book now to ensure the best cabins on the best trips of the year!

North Star Cruises Australia Telephone: (+61 8) 9192 1829 36


Blessed with a clean, permanent water supply but cursed with oppressive heat and humidity, the Kimberley Getting there tolerates man’s presence but offers little comfort. Domestic flights to Broome The 400,000-hectare El Questro Wilderness Park • Qantas operates direct flights to Broome from Perth, is still a working cattle station and provides a range Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. There are direct of accommodation options for intrepid visitors. From flights to Perth daily, but direct flights to other capital humble riverside camping plots to the ultra-exclusive cities operate seasonally. Connecting flights are El Questro Homestead, visitors can indulge their passion available from these hubs to all other capital cities. for outback living, whatever their budget. For months in mid-2007, the area was swarming with • Virgin Blue operates direct flights to Broome from cast and crew filming key scenes for Luhrmann’s epic – Adelaide and connecting flights from all other capital today, those with a flicker fetish can revisit many of the cities. film’s locations and share yarns with locals who took part. • Skywest and Airnorth provide connections between About 40 kilometres south of Wyndham along the Broome, Kununurra and Darwin in the Northern King River is the unassuming Digger’s Rest Station, a Territory. Airnorth has connecting services between knockabout homestead that was home to more than Karratha and Port Hedland. 90 crew during several weeks of filming. Today, it’s back Flights to North West towns from Perth to its regular persona of quaint, simple fishing camp • F rom Perth, Qantas has daily direct flights to Karratha, and lodge, but the tiny bar and games room still bears Port Hedland, Paraburdoo, Newman and Broome; the evidence – dozens of autographs scrawled on the Airnorth direct weekly flights to Kununurra; Skywest wall. “We had some pretty wild nights here,” confesses direct flights to Kununurra, Broome and Port Hedland. Alida Woodland, who runs the property with husband Virgin Blue offers daily direct flights from Perth to Roderick. “We put almost 100 tents out the back and Broome, Karratha and Newman, and Air Australia built that new ablution block. It looked like an army operates direct Perth-Derby flights five times a week. camp here for about two months.” Follow the track down the Karunjie Road and you’ll see the wide mudflats used to film some of Australia’s stock-mustering El Questro Homestead fact file scenes. With the ample Pentecost River to the west and the vast Cockburn Regional activities: Ranges to the east, this landscape Fishing, 4WDing, trekking, epitomises the harsh territory and stark flight-seeing, camping beauty of the Kimberley. Continue along the rough track Accommodation: and you’ll get to Home Valley • El Questro Station, another site frequented by 1300 863 248 (toll-free, the Australia cast and crew. “Baz just within Australia) or loved the view across the (Pentecost) 03 9426 7550 river toward the Cockburn Ranges,” 104 kilometres west of says Nicolle Fenech, who manages Kununurra via the Great the station with husband Chris, “so he Western Hwy and Gibb River spent a lot of time filming the vistas Rd; and sunset panoramas in the movie.” • Home Valley Station Home Valley Station is a 08 9161 4322 recently refurbished ‘destination’ 31 kilometres north of property, offering visitors quality Kununurra Airport via the accommodation, food and even Great Northern Highway; conference facilities. Owned by the Indigenous Land Council on behalf of • Digger’s Rest Station the Balanggarra people, Home Valley 08 9161 1029 is a TAFE training college where locals 47 kilometres south learn hospitality and pastoral skills. of Wyndham; Meanwhile, the Wandjina cast their hollow eyes down impassively on those below, their task long pre-defined in Nearest airport: Emma G the Dreamtime, their destiny beyond Kununurra (KNX), serviced by orge our reach and comprehension. Qantas, Skywest, Airnorth

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