Breaking your way through the ice in the Northwest Passage is one of the last truly great adventures. Expeditions to the north will voyage through isolated islands of the Canadian Arctic, Sally Macmillan says.
There's lots happening in the world of polar expeditions. Last month the wreck of one of British explorer Sir John Franklin's ships was discovered in Canada's Northwest Passage after a 170-year search and interest in voyages to this extreme region is surging.
The Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is famous for its shallow channels and hazardous floating ice. Although summer ice conditions have allowed several successful voyages since Roald Amundsen's historic east-to-west expedition of 1903 to 1906, it's by no means an easy ride.
However, that's not stopping eager modern adventurers. Next August, you can join a Northwest Passage voyage aboard the Russian icebreaker Akademik Ioffe, a sister ship to the Akademik Sergey Vavilov that made the historic discovery. One Ocean Expeditions operates both vessels and its Australian partner, Active Travel, is running the 13-day expedition cruise. It starts in the fjords and frontier settlements of Greenland before charting Sir John Franklin's final path through the isolated islands of the Canadian Arctic, and passengers will see the exact spot where the long-lost ship was found. See activetravel.com.au or oneoceanexpeditions.com.
Luxury expedition ship Silver Explorer (part of the Silversea family) recently completed the line's first journey through the Northwest Passage. It took 23 days to sail about 3500 nautical miles from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Nome in Alaska. Silversea Expeditions has several Arctic voyages scheduled for 2015; see silversea.com.
If you prefer a French accent on your adventure cruise, Ponant has just released details of its 2015 expedition cruises in Alaska and the Arctic Far North. The French line has more than 15 seasons of polar experience, 12 in the Far North, and its three upmarket ships, L'Austral, Le Boreal and Le Soleal, are all ice-rated and equipped with Zodiacs. See ponant.com.au.
MEET THE CREW
NAME: Arlene Cabalbal, from the Philippines.
POSITION: Youth activities co-ordinator, P&O Cruises' Pacific Jewel.
MY JOB: I make sure our young cruisers have an enjoyable and memorable time in kids' club. We keep the children busy and entertained by providing them with the best educational programs we can offer.
MY TYPICAL DAY: Every morning before we open the centres I make sure the kids' club is ready to receive our young cruisers. I check everything is set up and that we always have a safe environment with the help of our fun and energetic youth staff team.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT: At the end of the day when we see the happy faces of not only the children we are caring for but also their parents. That means they enjoyed every moment spent with us and they will keep coming back for more adventures and fun activities.
FAVOURITE PORTS: Isle of Pines and Champagne Bay. The beauty of these islands never ceases to amaze me. I love to lie on the beaches reading a book or watching the view and the guests enjoying the crystal-clear blue water.
TIP FOR PASSENGERS: Don't forget to pack some fun things for our theme night parties - and plenty of block-out for days in the sun.
If you want to explore a port independently, meet the local tourism representatives when they come aboard the ship when it docks. They usually have the best local knowledge and transport advice and hand out maps and brochures.
Short 'n' sweet
Six New Voyages for National Geographic Orion Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic has announced six new itineraries for travellers looking for shorter expedition cruises aboard the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion. Next year you can take voyages in Indonesia, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia that range from 10 to 17 days. Highlights include visits to remote islands, meeting tribal villagers and diving or snorkelling among friendly marine creatures, magnificent reefs and World War II wrecks. National Geographic photographers are on board to help you hone your photographic skills; see expeditions.com.
Grab a ticket to ride
Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Sea returns to Australia for its third season next month. The 3114-passenger (double occupancy) ship – the biggest in the region – will sport an array of exciting new features, added in its multi-million-dollar revitalisation. Highlights include the much-anticipated FlowRider surfing simulator (familiar to anyone who's cruised on Oasis or Allure of the Seas); a 3D cinema; a giant outdoor movie screen that will also feature video game challenges; and three new restaurants. It's not too late to book for the 14-night repositioning cruise from Singapore to Sydney, departing November 25; see RoyalCaribbean.com.au.
Bye bye buffet
When Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden join the P&O Cruises' fleet in November 2015, the traditional buffet will be replaced by a collection of fresh food outlets called The Pantry. The new area will offer a variety of food outlets including a delicatessen, fish and chips and modern cuisine restaurants; each ship will have 15 bars, restaurants and cafes. The popular Salt Grill by Luke Mangan restaurant – established on Pacific Jewel, Pearl and Dawn – will be served with a twist on Pacific Aria and Eden, with Salt Grill Bar offering Luke Mangan cocktails.
OFFER OF THE WEEK
Sail from Rome to Florida next October on Princess Cruises' Island Princess, as part of ecruising travel's latest fly/stay/cruise package. The 37-night trip includes three nights in Rome, three in Fort Lauderdale and return airfares from Australia. The 32-night cruise visits ports in Italy, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, France, Spain and Portugal, with 11 sea days. From $8609; phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.
MSC CRUISES' specials are available on selected 2015 European cruises until November 30. Combine with earlybird flights to Europe for the best value holiday. A 14-night Grand Mediterranean cruise costs from $1588. Phone 1300 028 502, see msccruises.com.au.
TRAVELMARVEL is offering free flight deals to Europe across a range of cruises and tours, when you book by October 31. For example, you can save up to $6400 per couple on a Travelmarvel European river cruise holiday of 21 days or longer that features a 15-day European Gems cruise, departing March to December 2015. Phone 1300 196 420, see travelmarvel.com.au.