I enjoyed a marvelous experience cruising the Top End of Australia – the Kimberley region west of Darwin.
Darwin is a somewhat smallish, almost ‘frontier-like’ town rebuilt since a devastating typhoon in December 1974 almost destroyed the town. Vibrant with new moneys both from the Northern Territory as well as from burgeoning iron ore resources which are ‘aplenty’ in this region of red rocks, I spent a day exploring town. Darwin has a new waterfront development with water park, trendy restaurants, and condominiums overlooking the harbour. Its shopping streets newly umbrella-ed with sun-protector covers as defense from this tropical zone’s intense heat are a social gathering spot in town. I also visited the Contemporary Gallery of Art that was highlighting modern works on paper, acrylic and oil paintings, and sculptures in a juried show heavy with Aboriginal art influences. Darwin is near one of the major Aboriginal reserves and Kakadu National Park.
Our ship awaited its complement of 85 passengers on the September sailing. Boarding was easy, gracious and welcoming. I found myself the solo American on board this Australian adventure cruise. This particular cruise is a draw for Aussies from all over the continental nation as it is almost inaccessible by land without a major investment in driving time, on-road adventures and long days in vehicles. I was really delighted to have a total immersion course in Aussie humour, adventurous spirit and fascination with their own country.
We were lucky to have a well-regarded film crew on board for our 10-day adventure; they do a travel program on an independent basis and have exposure in Australia, the UK and other countries as well. All on the ship became ‘extras’ in the film although the team of four young men never intruded but only added fun and excitement to our explorations each day.
Using zodiacs to explore the rivers, bays and the huge Montgomery Reef of this tropical sea where tides can vary up to 15 feet, we saw Australia’s natural environment up close and personal … saltwater crocs kept us out of the water much to their chagrin, amazing sea eagles, ospreys and other raptor species soared overhead, we searched for and found humpbacked whales on migration, sea snakes and dolphins along our smooth sailing via East Timor and back to the Kimberley range. This trip was a nature exploration — on the seas, hiking overland, on zodiac rides through the emerging reef structures — all this balanced by onboard lectures by our exploration leaders who were specialists in botany, deep sea diving, Aboriginal culture /artistic expressions and general love of the environment.
Dining on board was always varied and excellent. Delicious breakfasts buffet style downstairs in the dining room or out on deck … hand-made omelettes cooked on demand, yoghurts and fruit choices, cereals and a variety of baked bread stuffs. Lunches out of deck were varied — salads, soups, themed menus and always interestingly presented. Dinners ran the gamut — barbecue on the back deck with the chef doing the honors grilling fresh fish, steaks, prawns cooked to perfection to a full gourmet meal one night prepared by the chef and his staff. Afternoon teas with a trivia competition amongst guests were hosted by the two entertainers on board — Fran and Gus. Fran was the perfect hostess keeping the afternoon/evening events going; Gus’ fantastic saxophone or piano medleys could not be matched — both were low-key and welcoming. We had a crew entertainment evening which found hidden talents amongst the cabin, deck, bar and restaurant staff.
Returning to Darwin at the end of the cruise was the only sad moment we had on board … leaving felt like leaving one’s family behind knowing that we might meet up some time in the future or maybe not. I certainly hope I can enjoy such an experience again soon!!! Too many fascinating places yet to see and how better to do so than aboard a fine vessel in good company.
Images and post provided by Helen Land, Luxury Travel Advisor. Find out more about Helen and our other travel consultants →