Orion zodiacs in Kimberley, Australia. These inflatable
boats, originally designed for expedition work, allow
access to sites that are normally
inaccessible to travelers. Above: the 340-foot Orion.
Based in Australia, the 100-guest Orion is arguably the
most sophisticated “expedition” cruise ship
plying the seven seas today. Launched in 2003, the vessel
is both the epitome of elegance and a standard-bearer for
environmentally friendly cruising. Itineraries include popular
destinations like Australia's Great Barrier Reef and
Antarctic, and more offbeat locations like Papua New Guinea
and the Indonesian archipelago.
Built in Germany, the 340-foot Orion can anchor and maneuver
in much smaller bays and coves than larger cruise ships.
The hull is ice-reinforced for polar voyages, while Blohm
& Voss retractable fin stabilizers make open-ocean crossings
much more comfortable.
Onboard facilities include a state-of-the-art lecture theater
with surround-sound and armchair seats, an observation lounge
(with expansive sea views) where early-riser breakfast and
afternoon tea are served, and a well-stocked library with
a laptop for Internet service. Wireless net is available
through much of the ship. A glass elevator in the atrium
connects all decks.
The 53 staterooms and suites are divided into eight different
price categories, ranging from the well-appointed “D”
class staterooms to the lavish French Balcony Suites with
their queen beds, lounge area and floor-to-ceiling picture
windows. All rooms feature ocean views, flat-screen TVs,
mini-fridges, Escada bathroom amenities, ample storage space
and a personal safe.
Orion's biggest trump card is food, with a delectable
menu created by chef Serge Dansereau of the celebrated Bathers'
Pavilion restaurant in Sydney. By no stretch of the imagination
is this ordinary galley fare – meals reflect the fresh
ingredients so readily available Down Under and the eclectic
culinary traditions of the lands through which the ship
passes. Among Dansereau's signature dishes are goat
cheese cappelletti with anchovy burnt butter, rainbow trout
with fennel and capers and roast venison loin with potato-gratin
Wash it all down with a superb selection of Aussie and New
Zealand wines. And then work it off the following morning
at the ship's Vega Health Spa. In addition to a wide
variety of massage and spa treatments normally only available
on dry land, the spa features a sauna and gymnasium with
“Dragons, Dili and Dreamtime” is a marvelous
multicultural cruise that Orion will offer this July and
August. Starting from Darwin on Australia's wild and
remote Top End, the ship sails due north across the Indian
Ocean to the eastern end of the Indonesia archipelago.
Zodiacs carry guests to a beach landing on fabled Komodo
Island, where the world's largest (and most deadly)
lizards roam the dry tropical forest. Orion then heads for
the pristine coral reefs around Flores Island, set against
a backdrop of primeval volcanoes. The ship also puts into
Dili, capital of East Timor, one of the globe's newest
nations and a place of bygone Portuguese colonial charm.
Heading back to Australia, the tone of the voyage changes
dramatically once again as Orion cruises along the coast
of Arnhemland, one of Down Under's most remote corners.
Shore excursions include a visit to the stunning Aboriginal
rock paintings at Mt. Borradaile, helicopter flights over
Kakadu National Park and barramundi fishing in estuaries
where giant saltwater crocodiles dwell. From AU $6,860 per
Orion Expedition Cruises
+61 2 9033 8700; www.orioncruises.com.au