Nature’s Ultimate Playground

The Sub-Antarctic region holds incredibly unchartered abundance and diversity

While most of us are very familiar (and some even luckier to have been) to the Antarctic, the Sub-Antarctic is a little less familiar and far less touristed. Located in the southern hemisphere, immediately north of the Antarctic region, the Sub-Antarctic includes many islands in the very southern parts of the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

The Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia are the ultimate in eco-tourism and have UNESCO World Heritage status, with some of the best-preserved and protected nature reserves in the world! These islands are so pristine and remote, and enjoy some of the most abundant and often endemic wildlife, with rare plants, birds and other animals. Fortunately, the isolation and harsh weather of the region are partially responsible for having kept tourists at bay and the New Zealand Government strictly controls shore visits.

Visitors are treated so sightings of fur, leopard and elephant seals, along with giant petrels, Auckland shags and Campbell Island teals, one of the rarest flightless birds in the world. 10 of the world’s 24 species of albatross breed in these islands, with five being endemic to the region. Campbell Island has six species, including the largest breeding population of southern royal albatrosses, the largest albatross in the world.

10 species of penguins inhabit the islands, two of them endemic (the Snares crested and erect-crested penguins), as well as king, royal and yellow-eyed penguins. Not uncommon are sightings of southern right, humpback and sperm whales, particularly around and in the harbours of Campbell Island.

The history of this region is fascinating and disturbing. Over the centuries, particularly in the 1800s, mankind wreaked havoc on the region, destroying much in its wake including a great deal of seal and whale slaughtering, even sea lions were hunted to extinction on the mainland (they are still critically endangered and confined mostly to the Sub-Antarctic).  

Not surprisingly, there were a significant amount of shipwrecks in the area in the 1800s. What seemed like a good idea at the time, was to provide provisions for survivors, so ‘castaway’ depots were created on land including Campbell Island. As technological advances in shipping meant the different trade routes by steam were embraced, these depots were abandoned. Unbelievably, these abandoned pigs, rabbits, goats, and rats annihilated vegetation, feral cats wiped out many native birds and sheep even developed self-dropping fleeces!

 

The introduction of invasive species including rats, rabbits, feral cats and farm animals was also catastrophic. While it is an ongoing issue for many of the islands, there is slow progress and in some areas, painstaking eradication programs have been successful, enabling many islands to flourish again.

Fortunately, a great deal of work has been done in preservation and conservation for many decades and for those preferring to travel to an uncrowded, immersive and unique destination, the Sub-Antarctic is the ultimate destination. 

To find out more about how you can visit this remarkable destination click here.

How would you like to travel to Antarctica?

This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…

It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.

An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!

With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:

EXPEDITION CRUISING

Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.

Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.

If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.

  

Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!

The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!

CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES

Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.

One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.

The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.

Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

FLY & SAIL

If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.

Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.

The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.

FLY OVER

Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.

It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.

From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!

For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email info@cruiseexpress.com.au. 

 

Australia’s Last Great Wilderness

Why The Kimberley?

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontiers, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet.

Whether you travel by land, sea or air, there is no doubt every visitor will be impressed with the abundance of wild coastlines and seas, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, deserts and sandstone hills.

With an area encompassing over 427,000 km2, The Kimberley is three times the size of England!

The Beauty of Exploring by Ship

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty, and stunning diversity. As you relax in luxury onboard Ponant’s Le Lapérouse you will discover first-hand, the abundance of wilderness, secluded beaches, spectacular waterfalls and indigenous rock art and history.

Onboard you will also enjoy Ponant’s renowned gastronomy, complimentary beverages and shore adventures including the Ord River, El Questro, or why not try a Bungle Bungle scenic flight.

Kimberley

 Flora & Fauna

Annually, over 35,000 humpback whales visit The Kimberley coastline, where they give birth to and nurture their calves before heading back to the summer feeding grounds in Antarctica.

The region is one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offers sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish including catfish and barramundi.

Unfortunately, The Kimberley faces a number of serious environmental issues, including climate change, large wildfires, weeds, feral animals and cattle grazing degradation.

Melting Pot of Culture

For hundreds of years, the “Macassans”, people of the Indonesian Archipelago, interacted with Indigenous Australians. Although the British landed on The Kimberley shores in 1688, Portuguese, Dutch and the French also continued to visit throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

While cattle grazing on the grasslands was popular in the mid-19th century, the gold rush of 1886 brought many Europeans and Chinese to the area, particularly Halls Creek. Also around this time, pearl fishing became a major industry, with Japanese and Malay divers joining the multiculturalism that became typical of Broome.

Come Along!

With so much to immerse yourself in, a trip to the Kimberley by ship has to be one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime.

For more details on our Ponant Kimberley sailings for 2020 click here. Alternatively, call 1300 766 537 to speak with one of our Travel Specialists as we would be delighted to help.

 

Why You Should Add Rail To Your Holiday Journey List

So Many Reasons to Explore the World By Rail

The wise old adage about the journey being more important than the destination, couldn’t be more appropriate for railway journey holidays. While epic odysseys such as the Trans-Siberian Express, the Alaska Railway or The Scottish Highlands are trips of a lifetime for many, there are also many adventures to discover throughout Australia.

Cruise Express has begun introducing rail as an add on to many of our cruising holidays. Many of the rail itineraries are exclusively organised by Cruise Express so are not available elsewhere. Below are a few good reasons Rail Journey Holidays are becoming more popular:

Nostalgic Charm – Restored heritage trains are a wonderful travel alternative, taking you through spectacular landscapes, culture and history. With a touch of romance, rail journey holidays will transport you into a bygone era when rail was a common way to travel.

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever

Exclusive Destinations – Cruise Express is taking iconic trains to destinations that are often untouched by heritage rail tourism. Travel in comfort through majestic alpine scenery, along panoramic coastal routes, or spectacular gorges. Remote destinations can have limited or no access by road or sea, leaving rail the best way to meander through some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

Immersion – While air travel may be a great way to arrive at your destination faster, there is so much of the sensory experience missed, including stops along the way to really immerse yourself in a local experience. Sit back, relax and watch the scenery, culture and history unfold all around you.

Relaxing Holiday – Rail travel is affordable, comfortable and relaxing with no airport transfers, jet lag or traffic to worry about. You have the choice to mingle with other friendly passengers, sit back and relax, stretch your legs and walk around, eat, drink or sleep – the choice is yours.

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever

Care-free Holidays – Rail journey escorted tours are a perfect balance of inclusions and freedom for singles, friends, couples or families. Organised local tours offer unique insider perspectives, yet we recommend getting off the beaten track to create your own priceless memories.

Keeping Couples Happy – Combining rail and cruise is a great combination for couples that don’t necessarily agree on the best way to travel – be adventurous and try both – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Financially Friendly – Most of the holiday costs are covered in a rail or rail and sail holiday. All inclusions are clearly defined in your itinerary to make budgeting easier. Enjoy the comforts of a premium holiday for exceptional value, and let Cruise Express take care of the rest!

Quality Inclusions – Cruise Express tours are like no other, offering unique experiences including Platinum Class travel, exclusive food and wine tours, private dinners, concierge services, and ship vantage points on Sydney Harbour for one of the world’s most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Remember, when the whistle sounds and the wheels turn, your adventures begin.

Call Cruise Express today on 1300 766 537 or see our list of rail journeys here to have your own rail experience!

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever

How to Choose the Right Cruise

Are you plotting and planning to spend a small part of next year on a cruise ship?

With an ocean of cruises now available worldwide, Cruise Express is here to help you navigate your way on how to choose the right cruise.

There are more than 70 ocean-going cruise lines in the world operating over 300 liners on the seven seas – so which cruise line and which ship is best for your dream holiday? Each and every one is subtly different, delivering a distinct experience to match a certain type of passenger.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a cruise, so let’s explore a few of them…

Size Matters
One of the biggest factors in choosing the best ship for you is the size of the vessel. Ships today range in size from small yacht-like vessels carrying less than 100 passengers to mega-liners five times larger than the Titanic, accommodating over 6,000 passengers.

Smaller ships – boast more exclusive and intimate atmospheres. You get to know the crew and fellow passengers very quickly and it’s easy to find your way around, and if you’ve forgotten your sunglasses as you hit the pool deck, it’s a quick stroll back to the cabin. Smaller ships can also dock in smaller ports near the center of town with embarkation/disembarkation usually being quick and crowd-free.

Keep in mind though that smaller ships are less stable than bigger ships – an important consideration if you are prone to seasickness. By economies of scale, cruises on smaller ships are typically more expensive than cruises aboard larger liners.

Larger ships – offer affordable fares and a bigger range of facilities and activities, with more choices for entertainment and dining.  However, they tend to be less personal with, for example, boarding and disembarkation being more regimented.

Just like the children’s story about ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, there are also mid-sized ships carrying between around 1,000 passengers that you might find are just right for you!

Classic versus Modern
Would you like to sail aboard the latest and greatest ship with all the mod cons or a classic liner built 30, 40 or 50 years ago? There are some beautiful older ships that offer a traditional cruise experience without the bells and whistles of today’s mega ships. But the latest liners offer lots of affordable balcony cabins, a vast array of gourmet dining venues and lots of activities and attractions to entertain including ice skating, flying foxes and rock climbing.

Sea or Port Days
This issue divides many cruise fans. Some love visiting lots of ports during a cruise while others prefer lots of long and leisurely days at sea. A mix of both is usually ideal. Some seven-day cruises in Alaska, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean offer just two days at sea so it’s best to pick a cruise itinerary wisely.

Port-intensive cruises take you to lots of destinations but you will be busy and you may end up spending more during your many trips ashore. Meanwhile, cruises with fewer ports tend to be more relaxing and ideal if you like nothing more than basking in a deck chair and staring at the boundless ocean.

Style of Ship
Just about everyone loves the idea of a luxury liner but it‘s important to consider how comfortable and relaxed you will be on a five-star ship with black tie balls, dress protocols and fine dining. It suits some discerning cruise fans but not others who may like to sail aboard a more relaxed, fun-focused ship with a broader range of passengers and late-night show lounges and discos.

Some ships and cruises are more suited to older passengers while others are geared to young couples or families with extensive kids clubs so it’s vital you know something about the ship you plan to spend your holiday on.

Typically, the longer the cruise, the older the average passenger. Cruises in peak seasons like Christmas and school holidays attract younger passengers. The style of Ship you cruise on is also influenced by the nationality of the cruise line operator. Many cruise lines are American which suits most Aussie cruisers but others are English, German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian or French.

Of course, there are locally based cruise lines here in Australia tailored just for Australians. If you like your spa treatments or gym workouts, there are some ships that have bigger and better health and beauty facilities than others.

Some ships have traditional, fixed dining times, which certainly have their appeal – while others allow you to dine anytime you like and other ships offer both systems. And then there are ships (mostly older vessels) with mostly twin beds instead of double beds. Some ships have no balcony cabins and a handful of suites while others have all balcony cabins or whole decks of suites. And there are cruise lines which offer enrichment and learning via numerous onboard lectures and workshops while on others bingo and belly flop contests are the go.

So you see there is a LOT to consider when choosing a cruise, especially for novice cruisers. The key is to let the experts help you select the right holiday and at Cruise Express, our experienced staff have collectively experienced hundreds of cruises right around the world. Our team is trained to match each client to the right ship so that you enjoy exactly the type of cruise holiday you want, expect and deserve. Cruising is our passion and we know our ships and all their different personalities and it’s our mission to ensure you end up on the ship and the cruise that provide memories you’ll always cherish.

So when you next choose to cruise, contact us at 1300 766 537 at Cruise Express and let us help you find the cruise just for you.