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Aurora Expeditions was founded in 1991 by adventure-loving couple Greg and Margaret Mortimer and over the years the company has taken thousands of like-minded travellers to some of the world's most remote destinations. Aurora Expeditions spearheaded ship-based adventures such as mountain climbing, sea kayaking and scuba diving in Antarctica and the Arctic; today, snow-shoeing, snorkelling and skiing in Antarctica are equally popular activities.
Greg, a mountaineer and geologist by profession, is renowned for his pioneering spirit; he was the first Australian (alongside Tim Macartney-Snape) to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1984; other firsts include reaching the summits of K2, Annapurna II and Chongtar in the Himalayas – all without oxygen – and Mounts Vinson and Minto in Antarctica.
He was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to mountaineering, among several other awards, but he is quite embarrassed by the fact Aurora's first-ever newbuild expedition ship is named after him. "It's very odd and quite disconcerting – I don't think I'll ever get used to it," he says, "but of course it's a great honour."
Greg Mortimer – the ship – is the first of its type in the world; as Greg – the man – says, "It's a big deal for a little Australian company and it's pretty bloody exciting to be putting an Australian stamp on a world industry." The 104-metre ship will be the first expedition vessel to feature the Ulstein X-Bow – it looks rather like the nose of a plane or submarine and is designed to slice through waves with much greater stability than a traditional bow while maintaining speed. Because it uses less fuel to get through the waves, it also improves fuel efficiency and reduces air emissions.
The ship will carry 120 passengers in Polar regions and 160 when it cruises warmer seas. Although IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) regulations allow a maximum of 100 passengers to go ashore at any one landing site in Antarctica, Greg Mortimer accommodates 120 passengers on the basis that up to 30 passengers opt for sea-kayaking trips at each anchorage.
Following Greg Mortimer's maiden voyage to Antarctica in late October 2019, the ship will operate 20 more expeditions in the 2019/2020 season with itineraries spanning Antarctica (Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands) and the Arctic (Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, East Greenland, Jan Mayen, Iceland and Norway). Itineraries to non-Polar regions will be announced later this year; see auroraexpeditions.com.au
THE PORT Dublin, Ireland
WHO GOES THERE Azamara, Celebrity, CMV, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Fred.Olsen, HAL, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Oceania, P&O UK, Princess, RSSC, NCL, Royal Caribbean, Saga, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking, Windstar.
WHY WE LOVE IT Ireland's capital is packed with historic buildings, lively pubs, high-end shops and galleries and beautifully landscaped parks. If you only have a day there, you won't be able to cram everything in, so take some time off touring to have a coffee or drink and enjoy a chat with the locals.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Take a cab, tram or shuttle bus from your ship to O'Connell Street in the city centre and join a hop-on, hop-off bus tour or a literary, history, beer and whisky, or foodie walking tour – check this site for some free, small-group tours dublinfreewalkingtour.ie [dublinfreewalkingtour.ie]. The main attractions are within easy walking distance of each other and most are on the south side of the River Liffey. Within the area between O'Connell Bridge, St Stephen's Green and Christchurch Cathedral, you'll find Trinity College (for the 9th-century Book of Kells), Grafton Street (for shopping and buskers), Temple Bar (on the north side, across the Ha'penny Bridge) and 13th-century Dublin Castle. A day tour to Powerscourt Estate takes you out of town and into the famously green landscape of County Wicklow.
MUST SEE Guinness Storehouse, Dublin's No. 1 attraction; St Patrick's and Christchurch cathedrals; the Gate and Abbey Theatres; and Temple Bar, for the nightlife.
MUST EAT Galway oysters; cockles – small saltwater clams – and mussels; Irish stew (in winter); soda bread; boxty, a type of pancake made of finely grated fried potatoes; colcannon, another potato-based dish; barm brack, a sweet bread made with sultanas and raisins; Guinness cake topped with cream cheese.
NEED TO KNOW Ships dock in three different areas: large ships at Alexandra Quay, smaller ships at North Wall Quay Extension and some lines also dock at Dun Laoghaire (two kilometres, two miles and 12 kilometres respectively from the city centre).
Carnival Corporation is the world's biggest cruise company, with 102 ships operated by its nine lines.
Hide and Seek
Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas will host Australia's Biggest Game of Hide and Seek on February 18, when it is docked in Sydney Harbour. Aussies aged eight and above will have the chance to play a mega version of the favourite childhood game around the megaship as part of a fun competition. Two games – one for adults 15 and above and another for kids aged 8-14 – will see competitors seek out hiding spots onboard in an attempt to outwit the 'Seekers' – played by Australia's national Hide & Seek team, The Nascondingos. The last person to be found in each game will take home the major prizes, including $10,000 and a Royal Caribbean family cruise. To compete, head to royalcaribbean.com.au/hideandseek and enter by midnight Monday, February 5.
If you're keen to discover more about expedition cruises in the Canadian Arctic, Cruise Traveller is hosting an Adventure Canada information event on Tuesday, March 13 at the Pullman Quay Grand in Circular Quay. Matthew James ('MJ') Swan, son of Matthew Swan (founder of the award-winning Adventure Canada), will talk about the 30-year-old family company and its plans for 2019. MJ is an expedition leader and grew up in the Canadian Arctic; Adventure Canada specialises in expedition cruises to Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Northwest Passage trips, on board the recently refurbished, 198-passenger Ocean Endeavour. Exclusive offers will be available on the day; register your interest in attending the event by emailing email@example.com.