Written by 12:50 pm Ports

Cruise Guide: Expedition-style voyages bring nature to life

By Michael Coleman

While Europe and the Caribbean beckon cruise travelers like never before, expedition-style voyages to some of the world’s most captivating natural locales are drawing Baby Boomers in droves. 

Those seeking a respite from the packed, mass-market cruise experience need to look no further than two intimate, soft-adventure sailings to the Great Barrier Reef and the west coast of South America.

Coral Princess Cruises offers tours through October to the outer Great Barrier Reef including visits to Thetford Reef, Sudbury Cay, Coates and Nathan Reefs, Dunk Island, Hinchinbrook Channel and Pelorus Island. Guests will sail aboard the 54-passenger Coral Princess, an expedition-style cruise ship.

It won’t be a totally rugged outdoor experience, however. Onboard facilities include a dining room, a modern air-conditioned lounge, sundeck and pool; reference library; phone and fax facilities; cocktail bar and shop. There’s even a marine biologist and a glass bottom excursion vessel to bring the experience to life.

Meanwhile, a 20-day expedition cruise which follows the path of the Humboldt Current along the coastline of Peru and the Chilean fjords to Cape Horn, aboard Polar Star offers wildlife fans an opportunity of a lifetime to observe and photograph up to 50 species of seabird, 20 species of cetacean, endemic land birds and ancient creations. 

The 100-passenger vessel, a former icebreaker converted to expedition cruising, features outside cabins and private facilities. The ship also has a fleet of Zodiacs for shore excursions and cruises. 


Great Escape 

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest complex of coral reefs and islands in the world, covering an area half the size of Texas. It has more than 2,900 individual reefs and about 900 islands, fringed by white-sand beaches and turquoise water.

Coral Princess, based in Cairns, Australia, has partnered with the Orpheus Island Resort to create the six-day land and sea package. The privately-owned resort, nestled in the coral-fringed Orpheus Island Marine National Park, will serve as a three-day hideaway. With a limit of just 42 guests, privacy is assured and the company policy of no telephones, televisions, nightclubs and children is a plus for those seeking a true getaway Down Under. Seven-course meals are featured, nightly.

The resort also offers ecologically sensitive, educational programs from picnics on secluded beaches to snorkeling, kayaking, guided walks and sunset cruises.

The trip includes two nights in an air-conditioned stateroom aboard Coral Princess and three nights at the resort; a seaplane transfer; all meals; complimentary scuba experience; onboard presentations by marine biologists and unlimited use of motorized dinghies, paddle skis, catamarans, canoes, snorkeling equipment, local snorkel trips, fishing gear, tennis, bushwalking and selected interpretive activities on Orpheus Island.

 The trip departs Cairns on alternate Saturdays until October 7 or Townsville on alternate Sundays through Oct. 8, 2006.


South America Bound

Adventure-seeking nature lovers may instead look to Polar Star’s South American voyage. Guests can book passage on either the November 3, 2006 trip from Lima, Peru to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, or the scheduled November 2, 2007 expedition. The package includes accommodation aboard the Polar Star, onboard meals, transfers, services of expedition leaders and shore excursions.

 The sailing includes a visit to Valparaiso, Chile, a day trip to the national park in Puerto Montt, Chile and a visit to Puerto Eden, a small community only accessible by sea and home to Kaweskar Indians, once a nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers.

The voyage is presented by UK-based wildlife tour operator, WildWings. 

Since opening its doors 14 years ago as a travel agency for bird watchers, the company has since designed exclusive travel products ranging from space and deep sea expeditions to bird, whale and dolphin watching tours.

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