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Expedition Cruise Ships

2008

Berlitz Ocean Cruising :nd en 'i<e \hin< ' tha l^tp<t n the quest to build the ideal expedition crLtise ship". Sets new standards.

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MV orion | cruise review

Magical

douglas peebles/stock connection/jupiter images

Melanesia Papua New Guinea is a wild, untamed land full of sorcery, magic and bizarre rites and practices. Some tribes are yet to see their first white face. Take this scene, add the luxurious expedition ship MV Orion, and you too will fall under the spell WORDS AND PICTURES Roderick Eime

C R U I S E I N T E R N AT I O N A L

75


Z

CLIMATE The cruise season begins in May, when it can still be cold and rainy. Days are long (the ‘white nights’) in June and July. Temperatures can rise to 30ºC in St Petersburg and Moscow in August. Late September is chilly.

FAR LEFT Trekking to the famous Dei Dei hot springs on Fergusson Island. LEFT A man from Tufi in a magnificent local headdress. BELOW Witnessing the boiling springs in action.

orion engages wholeheartedly in the humanitarian aspects of the journey ‘mud men’ – fearsome warriors who cake their faces in mud to enhance their terrifying appearance. The way local visits are conducted is a real credit to Orion. Local protocols are respected, customs followed, and all the members of the villages welcomed us with genuine and heartfelt hospitality – the sort that is disappearing in our busy cosmopolitan world. Tami Island (near Finschhafen) and the village of Watam, near the mouth of the mighty Sepik River demonstrate a special bond between Orion and the local communities. To smooth the path, Justin (who speaks fluent pidgin) had previously submitted himself to a chief ’s initiation ceremony and photos of him dressed in the local regalia were gleefully waved about by his ‘new’ family, much to our amusement. And Orion engages wholeheartedly in the humanitarian aspects of the journey too. Most vessels visiting Papua New Guinea leave valuable resources for the local communities such as school materials, books, medical supplies, clothing and hand tools. Orion’s managing director, Sarina Bratton, dedicated a new schoolhouse, built at Watam, exclusively from Orion corporate and passenger support. Our itinerary culminated at the volcano-ravaged port of Rabaul. This was my third visit to Rabaul and despite a new covered market being built, little else had changed. The constant downpour of gritty volcanic ash from Mt Tavurvur offers little incentive to clean up, but here the WWII history, in the form of museums and memorials, is very enlightening. Orion Expedition Cruises burst onto the local scene some four years ago – about the same time as rival operators, but was able to nudge ahead by virtue of the ship’s superior appointments and unchallenged ocean-going ability. She offers guests a level of luxury and on-board facilities in line with superior cruise ships, while still maintaining an expedition ‘persona’. Having said that, her size (100m) and tonnage (4000GRT) hinders her slightly and she is 78

C R U I S E I N T E R N AT I O N A L

unable to fully navigate the river systems the smaller vessels can. A lot of the landings are ‘wet’, meaning you are transported from ship to shore (you may have to wade the last few steps) by rigid inflatable Zodiac boats. While certainly robust and versatile, the boats sit low in the water so you should be prepared for some spray. If you’re planning a voyage to Papua New Guinea, and I hope you are, MV Orion offers a comfortable and luxurious shipboard experience. For me, a highlight was the simply spectacular dragon dance that was put on by the locals in the village of Watam.

,

Eating Out

Main meals are eaten on board, but some villages will offer traditional snacks like sago, yams, pineapple and banana, although these tend to be more demonstrations of hospitality as opposed to proper meals. Green coconut juice is commonly offered to guests!

we sailed with

Orion Expedition Cruises Vessel MV Orion Rating Berlitz 4.5* Duration 11 nights Includes All meals and

ship facilities. Some tours and activities at extra cost. To book Visit www. orionexpeditions.com ITINERARY INCLUDES Day 1 Depart Cairns Day 2 At Sea

Time to explore the ship and introductory lectures. Day 3 Alotau, Milne Bay Access to Alotau township and the colourful markets. Optional tours include WWII relics and history.

Day 4 Samarai

Day 8 Madang

and Kwato Islands Transfer ashore by Zodiac and then enjoy escorted walking tours of these historic islands. Day 5 D’Entrecasteaux Islands Included tour to the Dei Dei Hot Springs on Fergusson Island. Day 6 Tufi Harbour One of PNG’s highlights. Optional tours include trekking, diving and a village experience. Day 7 Tami Island Spend an excellent day with the villagers of this little community. Walk with Orion’s botanist to inspect native produce gardens.

Either included, self-guided or optional tours in and around the town. Diving on an intact B-25 bomber wreck in the harbour. Day 9 Sepik River Fascinating village visit to Watam – perhaps the climax of the itinerary. Zodiac cruising around the mouth of the Sepik. Day 10 At Sea Lectures and relaxation. Day 11 Rabaul Included, self-guided or optional tours of this tropical port town, surrounded by six volcanoes. Day 12 Depart Rabaul to Cairns Airport.

Magical Melanesia  

clipping from Cruise International Magazine (UK) Feb/Mar 09

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