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Sunday 12 September 2010

Guest blogger: Roderick Eime

Guest blogger and adventure cruiser, Roderick Eime, offers us this introduction to the growing phenomenon of ‘expedition and adventure cruising’.

In case you’ve been living under a stone this last year or so, you may have missed the fact that cruising – in big ships and small – is on a rocket at the moment.

One of the reasons that we Australians are seeing a surge in cruise activity is that Americans withdrew almost unilaterally from the travel landscape after the GFC. Some are creeping back, picking up huge discounts, but most stay close to home. Remember that only around one in five Americans own a passport.

Consequently cruise lines are moving their spare floating inventory to our waters to capture our undiminished lust for travel. P&O, Royal Caribbean, Princess and now Cunard have announced expansion to their Australasian programs.

Personally, I’m less of a fan of the big ship experience than the small ship one. Small vessels, sometimes called expedition or adventure ships, are the sort that head off to remote islands and exotic locations where there is often no tourism infrastructure at all. Places like Papua New Guinea, remote Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomons are easy for us to get to but still deliver true ‘wild adventure’.

There are four Australian cruise companies that quickly come to mind as market leaders in this field: Orion, Coral Princess, North Star and Captain Cook. Each have their own particular brand and style that has helped them develop their own loyal following.

Orion Expeditions is, in my mind, something of a crossover, product. It has all the big ship trimmings, but still ventures into ‘uncharted’ waters. It probably has the best ocean-going capability of the segment which allows them to make the voyage to deep Antarctica each year.

Coral Princess were the first to initiate true small ship boutique cruises in this country with overnight cruises on the Great Barrier Reef back in the early eighties. Now their three vessels venture throughout our regional waters to PNG, Vanuatu, New Zealand and the Kimberley.

North Star Cruises operate the gorgeous True North, a compact 36- passenger luxury motor yacht that operates our waters on similar itineraries. It often carries a helicopter and is possibly the most experienced operator in our hugely popular Kimberley region.

Captain Cook Cruises appeal to the 4-star market, offering a more affordable product without the marble bathrooms and gold plated taps. Their Murray River cruise is a leader as is their Fiji sailings, especially the annual ‘Dateline’ adventure that pushes out into the more remote islands.

Still reading? Well why not pop over to the Adventure Cruise Guide (http://adventurecruiseguide.com/) to see whether you are really an adventure cruiser?

Roderick Eime reports regularly on adventure and expedition cruising for consumer and trade media. Read his reports in Cruise Passenger magazine, Cruise Weekly, Escape and Ocean Magazine.

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