From remote islands in the South Pacific untouched by modern civilization to the rugged northern coast of Australia to the extreme reaches of Antarctica, Orion Expedition Cruises affords its guests a rare window into a world most travelers will never see. The superior design of the MV Orion luxury expedition ship allows it to “access the inaccessible,” including the icy seas of the Antarctic Circle. At the same time, the company’s partnerships with local communities ensure Orion guests a warm welcome into tribal cultures that few are invited to experience.
For 2010, the cruise line’s popular expeditions – including the Antarctic, the Kimberley region of Australia, Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand – will still be offered, but a range of shorter sailings have been added, including 7-night East Coast, South Australian and Tasmanian explorations stretching from Cairns to Hobart.
New itineraries visit six new destinations in Papua New Guinea, as well as new parts of the exotic Spice and Tanimbar Islands. Additionally, for the first time, guests can enjoy an expedition that includes Irian Jaya, world-famous for its Asmat Art.
Orion’s once-in-a-lifetime adventures are led by an expedition team of experts in their respective fields– marine biologists, anthropologists, nature photographers and astronomers, depending on the voyage’s purpose and destination. Inflatable heavy duty Zodiacs transport guests to shore for day excursions, while Orion’s state-of-the-art lecture theater accommodates educational presentations back on ship.
The cruise line’s itineraries vary by season to take full advantage of each region’s unique appeals. They include:
Kimberley and Arnhem Land (April – September)
The rugged coastline of Australia’s northwest abounds in dramatic scenery and fascinating cultural experiences. Highlights include the historic coastal town of Broome, known for its pearl diving and palm-fringed Cable Beach; the wild and remote Kimberley coast, home to spectacular gorges, inlets and waterfalls; and the fascinating indigenous art of the Arnhem Land.
· Kimberley Expedition (10 nights): This voyage through Western Australia and the Northern Territories sets sail from Darwin and travels southwest along the coast to Broome, or vice versa. Guests visit sites rich in Aboriginal culture and explore the natural wonders of the Kimberley coast.
OPERA UNDER THE STARS®: One of this expedition’s August departures also includes a night of OPERA UNDER THE STARS®, a world-class concert of Australian operatic performers at the spectacular new Cable Beach Amphitheatre.
Art of Arnhem Land (7 nights): Departing from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, this voyage is hosted by Australia’s pre-eminent collectors of indigenous art, who introduce guests to the remote art communities of the Arnhem Land coast.
Kimberley – Art of Exploration (10 nights): Departing from Darwin, Orion will offer a unique itinerary exploring the remote Kimberley coastline, from Darwin to Broome. The Kimberley is one of the world’s great art galleries where Aboriginal people have painted for many thousands of years, leaving a rich, imaginative and continuing record of their spiritual identity.
Pearls of the Kimberley – pathways Sailing (8 nights): Exclusively for Orion’s pathways reward program guests, this sailing departs Broome on August 19, 2010, and will make stops at seldom-visited places, including Rowley Shoals, one of the world’s most pristine marine environments. Paspaley Pearls will host a special event at Australia’s first South Sea Pearl Farm, Kuri Bay, where Orion guests will learn to grade the harvest and sort the pearls. The special voyage will also include two nights accommodation at Pinctada Cable Beach, Broome’s new five star resort and spa experience.
Papua New Guinea (March/April/October 2010)
Orion’s voyage to Papua New Guinea will reveal yet another aspect to its wonderful cultural diversity and the breathtaking scenery unique to this remote land. From volcanic tropical fjords and the flooded crater that is Rabaul’s Simpson Harbor, to pristine white sand beaches, the beauty of Papua New Guinea is wonderfully varied.
New Guinea Islands Adventure (11 nights): An 11-night exploration of this rich culture encompassing amazing diving, ancient tropical fjords and pristine beaches. The remote and exotic Lamassa and Duke of York Islands are a feature of these spectacular expeditions, so guests may expect to be enchanted by the friendly welcomes of the locals.
Wild Papua New Guinea and Bismarck Archipelago – Voyage of Discovery, Pathways Sailing (10 nights): A true Voyage of Discovery, this 10-night expedition will present a brand-new cultural experience that has never been encountered before. Travelers who are fortunate enough to make a journey through these isolated islands become immersed in an array of experiences found nowhere else on the globe. Guests will also have an opportunity to snorkel from pristine beaches and relax on white sandy shores. (Please note this voyage is only available to past guests.)
Papua New Guinea Cultural Highlights (11 nights): On this 11-night expedition guests will be enchanted by the rich culture and friendly welcomes of these exotic islands – from iconic handicrafts, pristine beaches and amazing diving to active volcanoes, ancient tropical fjords and the iconic Sepik River.
To fulfill every island traveler’s wish to take a “Trip of a Lifetime,” Orion Expedition Cruises and ISLANDS magazine have teamed up to offer a custom-tailored exploration: The ISLANDS Magazine Melanesian Discovery. It will follow a unique itinerary balancing authentic cultural experiences with comfortable luxury amenities, must-see sights with stops, where no other cruise lines visit.
· ISLANDS Magazine Melanesian Discovery (16 nights): Departing from New Zealand on March 1, 2010, guests will be hosted by Orion’s expert guides and ISLANDS editors, who will provide access to exclusive sites, explain special cultural demonstrations, lead once-in-a-lifetime excursions and much more. Stops include Isle of Vanuatu, Solomons, and Papua New Guinea.
Australian East Coast, Melbourne, and South Australia (April/November/December 2010)
Orion’s exploration of the islands of tropical North Queensland will reveal the beauty of Australia’s World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, with ample opportunity for basking on white sandy beaches and snorkeling over vibrant corals teeming with tropical marine life. The ship’s Tasmania voyages include seldom visited World Heritage and pristine wilderness areas. As guests land by a heavy duty Zodiac along the magnificent coastline, they will discover a land of rich forests, rugged mountains and sparkling highland lakes.
Great Barrier Reef (6 nights): Guests are introduced to Hardy Reef, with its coral expanses beckoning snorkelers, the exclusive luxury resort of Hayman Island, and Percy Island for a kayaking adventure or leisurely afternoon on a shaded beach, then enjoy a few leisurely days at sea before disembarking in Newcastle.
Tropical Reefs & Culture (6 nights):
Departing from Cairns, Orion will explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for 6 nights. The itinerary will include a beach barbeque, swimming, snorkeling, sea kayak exploration and cultural interaction with the Torres Strait Islanders in Thursday Island.
Great Barrier Reef (7 nights): Orion’s exploration of Australia’s World Heritage Great Barrier Reef is designed to ensure guests’ experiences of the Barrier Reef like no other. Orion’s Expedition Team will guide guests to white sandy beaches enabling amazing snorkeling, reef walks and kayaking. This voyage is perfect for those seeking to experience the Great Barrier Reef in a way that is far removed from the typical bustle of resort crowds.
Orion’s Zodiac safaris allow guests to snorkel and swim over a pristine and seldom visited section of Hardy reef, alive with corals and teeming with myriads of tropical fish. Hayman Island is Australia’s most celebrated private island destination, where guests will have access to many of the facilities of this luxury resort. On Percy Island, guests will enjoy kayaking in this idyllic setting whilst the ship’s attentive crew prepares a seafood beach BBQ.
Australia’s Wild Southeast – Voyage of Discovery (7 nights): Orion’s East Coast expedition will embark in Sydney sailing down the coast into the beauty of Jervis Bay and the surrounding natural bushland. Orion will continue south stopping at Phillip Island with its famous penguins and arrive in Melbourne for the first time ever.
Southern Australia Culinary Delights (7 nights): Departing Melbourne, Orion will sail west to South Australia – a first for the ship. This food and wine-focused voyage is perfectly timed as a prelude to Christmas, and with visits to the Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island, Eyre Peninsula and Fleurieu Peninsula, guests will return home with plenty of culinary inspiration.
National Parks of Tasmania (7 nights): Over one third of the state is reserved in a network of National Parks and in November 2010, Orion will visit this pristine wilderness. Guests can spend time amongst the magical rugged landscape and plentiful wildlife on Flinders Island, hike at Wineglass Bay, explore convict history on Maria Island or sample the local oysters at Coles Bay.
Wild Tasmania (7 nights): In December, Orion ventures into Tasmania, a place renown for its amazing diversity. On this 7-night voyage, guests will discover World Heritage and Wilderness areas of Tasmania as they land by a heavy duty Zodiac along this rugged and magnificent coastline. The Port Davey region is one of the most spectacular in Australia. The area has experienced little human impact and as a result remains a pristine World Heritage destination. Maria Island is a special place with historical ruins, sweeping bays, rugged cliffs and mountains and remarkable wildlife. Created with convict labor, Port Arthur presents impressive architecture, delightful gardens and chilling prison facilities – this is a must to explore.
Orion’s Asian itineraries take guests on unforgettable journeys to exotic island destinations such as Bali, the Spice Islands and the virtually inaccessible Forgotten Islands of Maluku; world-famous attractions in Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia; and bustling cities from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh. Among the many highlights are the dragons and pink sands of Komodo, Vietnam War history of China Beach, the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, the ancient history of Asia’s trade routes, and tradition of Asmat Art. 2010 also marks Orion’s inaugural visit to Irian Jaya, famous worldwide for its vibrant Asmat Art woodcarvings.
Spice Island Adventure – Voyage of Discovery (9 nights): Journeying from Darwin to Bali, this voyage offers a chance to explore the forgotten Islands of Maluku, the underwater paradise of Alor, the uninhabited island of Satonda, and the fishing village of Kenanga, with stops in Komodo and Sumba as well.
Gulf of Siam Explorer – Voyage of Discovery (11 nights): Guests depart from Singapore on an adventure along the picturesque coastlines of Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia that ends with a morning sail up the Sai Gon River to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where an overnight stay caps off the voyage.
Vietnam Explorer – Voyage of Discovery (11 nights): Departing Ho Chi Minh, this expedition offers an in-depth view of Vietnam, from its war history to the cultural treasure houses of Hoi An and Hue, before sailing on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia – known as the gateway to the Angkor Wat, and the island paradise of Ko Phangan, Thailand. The journey ends in Singapore.
Forgotten Islands – Voyage of Discovery (10 nights): The Forgotten Islands of Maluku are so named because their inaccessibility has left them far off the tourist path. This voyage affords a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the vibrant reefs and ancient, untouched cultures of these stunning islands as guests travel from Bali to Cairns, stopping also in Komodo, Yamdena Island and Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
Spice Island Adventure (10 nights): This voyage promises to capture the excitement of old places and traditions captured anew. History and customs, long forgotten, are re-discovered as guests visit exotic Kisar, Alor, Maumere, Komodo, Sumba and Rote. This voyage embarks and disembarks in Darwin allowing convenient air connections to the Top End.
Forgotten Islands and Asmat Art (10 nights): Orion will explore Wallacea, the legendary deep water area that separates the Australian and Asian continental plates, home to a unique blend of flora and fauna. Discover the beauty of these tropical islands, the history of ancient trade routes as you follow in the wake of the early navigators and traders who opened this new world of spices, gold and pearls. Stunning islands and ancient cultures, including world-renowned Asmat Art, mark this amazing expedition.
New Zealand and Sub Antarctic (February/November/December)
From Auckland, with its beautiful bays, beach-studded islands, and wine country, to the protected wilderness of South Island, to the sub-Antarctic Snares Islands, New Zealand abounds in wonders both natural and cultural. In 2010, Orion explores the majesty of New Zealand’s Fjordland and geographical wonders on both the north and south islands. On Christmas, guests – for the first time ever – will experience the holiday in the Fjordland, rich in distinctive flora and fauna.
Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure – Voyage of Discovery (13 nights): This island-hopping adventure is paradise for nature lovers and photographers, taking Orion guests to the wilderness islands of World Heritage-listed Macquarie and Campbell, the Auckland Islands and Snares Islands, as well as the spectacular New Zealand fjordlands.
Christmas in Fjordland (7 nights): World Heritage listed Fjordland as one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. From the natural beauty of Milford Sound to the spectacular Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, guests will experience the best that this sought after destination has to offer. This 7-night voyage offers spectacular cruising though pristine wilderness in the very heart of Fjordland National Park, the largest in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world.
New Zealand Highlights (10 nights): Orion will explore this amazing landscape with a voyage to both the north and south islands. The beauty of magnificent fjords and lush tropical rainforests are sure to take guests’ breath away. Guests will see abundant wildlife on New Zealand’s southern islands as well as majestic mountains and waterfalls that spill from the towering cliffs.
Orion’s Antarctic expeditions afford a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the most extreme reaches of the earth while comfortably ensconced in five-star luxury. Each voyage’s course is dictated by Mother Nature, given the unpredictable weather conditions, but rewards the adventurous and flexible guest with an experience shared by only a very few fellow world travelers.
Mawson’s Antarctica – Commonwealth Bay (18 nights): Sailing from Bluff and ending in Hobart, Tasmania, Orion takes guests on an awe-inspiring adventure past towering glaciers and snow-shrouded mountains to Commonwealth Bay, where they can step inside the huts left behind by Mawson’s historic Antarctic expedition.
Scott & Shackleton’s Antarctica – Ross Sea (20 nights): Leaving from Tasmania, these 20 night voyages cover some of the polar regions famously charted during the first race to the South Pole by pioneering explorers Scott and Shackleton. The Ross Sea coast extends from the ice shelf northwards until it reaches the very tip of Victoria Land and Cape Adare. During our time in the Ross Sea Region we will attempt a variety of opportunistic landings, subject to weather conditions.
Founded by Sarina Bratton in 2004, Orion Expedition Cruises operates one 53-cabin luxury expedition vessel, the MV Orion. The only true international-standard, five-star expedition vessel operating year-round from Australia, Orion boasts the highest staff-to-guest ratio of any Australian-based ship. Its advanced features have set new standards in maritime and environmental design, including the highest classification of ice-strengthened hull possible (before an ice breaker). Orion accommodates 106 guests and 75 crew members and offers all the luxuries associated with a mega yacht. In 2008, Orion Expedition Cruises was purchased by KSL Capital Partners; Sarina Bratton has remained a significant shareholder and managing director of the company.