Listen up, it's free

Orion Expedition Cruises is hosting a series of free talks to entice new cruisers to get on board its luxury expeditions to Antarctica, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and the Kimberley. Australia's so-called "Antarctic couple", Don and Margie McIntyre - who spent a freezing year living in a hut on Commonwealth Bay - will share their views of what to expect from a cruise to the world's southernmost continent.

Other speakers include Orion expedition leader Darrin Bennet and diver Max Maguire. Bookings essential. 1300 361 012.

The frozen planet

Commemorate the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott's journey to the South Pole on one of the cruises offered by eWaterways. There are two 12-day cruises on board the Plancius, departing November 22 this year and February 26, 2013, both round trips from Ushuaia, Argentina.

Priced from $8070 a person, twin share, highlights include a cruise through Drake Passage, expeditions to view gentoo penguins, humpback whales and Vernadsky Station.

The Plancius is also cruising the South Pole for 12 days from March 9 this year, and in 2013, priced from $8070 a person, twin share.

It will call at Deception Island and cruise Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay, famous for icebergs. 1300 503 669,

Ashore your way

Oceania Cruises has 1000 new tours and packages for guests to customise excursions and save money. Starting with Europe, there are three options.


A la Carte allows guests to buy excursions on board or in advance (earning a 10 per cent discount). Your World Collection is a new option, where guests can put together a minimum number of excursions based on the number of ports of call on a cruise and save 25 per cent overall.

For a fee covering the entire cruise, Ultimate Passport Collection guests can book unlimited excursions and save up to 40 per cent.

Gulet value

For travellers on a budget who fancy a cruise with a difference, Beyond Travel is offering a range of affordable cruises in Turkey on traditional-style gulets. The intimate, two-masted sailing ships are often family-owned and their petite proportions allow them to access smaller ports. They make frequent stops for swimming, snorkelling and for guests to explore tiny islands.

There are several eight-day cruises to choose from this year, one of which is an Aegean Sea Cruise, a round trip from Bodrum, with ports of call including Cokertme, English Harbour, Karacasogut, Tuzla and Kisebuku. Cruises are priced from $345 a person during April and May and could be an affordable add-on to a visit to Gallipoli for the Anzac Day celebrations. 1300 363 554,

Profile: Sea Princess

LAUNCHED 1998 PASSENGERS 1990 REGULAR HAUNTS Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, China, Japan, Alaska BEST FOR Families THE DETAILS A 13-night cruise to New Zealand in the 2012-13 season, a round trip from Sydney, is priced from $1699 a person, twin share. 13 24 88,

Need to know

1 Sea Princess has enjoyed another life as P&O's Adonia but returned to Princess Cruises in 2005. Its identical sibling ships are the Sun Princess and Dawn Princess.

2 While operating from Sydney the onboard currency is Australian dollars and entertainment choices are geared towards the local market. It is one of a record six Princess ships based in, or visiting, Australia this summer.

3 There are 975 staterooms, more than 400 with private balconies, and many categories, from inside accommodation to suites. Decor is fairly basic but facilities include a TV, fridge and plenty of closet space.

4 There are two main dining rooms, one offering traditional fixed seating and the other flexible dining. Pick of the specialty venues includes The Sterling Steakhouse and if you have a balcony stateroom, consider romantic Ultimate Balcony Dining.

5 Features include a giant poolside Movies Under the Stars screen, a child-free Sanctuary relaxation area, two show lounges including a 550-passenger theatre, four pools and three dedicated clubs for kids.

Port watch: Foynes, Ireland

Need to know Thirty-nine kilometres inland on the River Shannon, Foynes is both a charming village and major port and is famous for its role in the early development of aviation. Ships dock in the port and the village is only a short walk away.

Do not miss Foynes claims to be the birthplace of Irish coffee and has plenty of places to try one. A scenic cruise on the Shannon Estuary is also a popular pastime. Essential to any sightseeing list, however, is the Foynes Flying Boat Museum. It tells the story of early aviation from 1939 to 1945, when the first full trans-Atlantic flights operated out of Foynes, and features a replica of the Yankee Clipper, the Pan Am flying boat that made the journey. An excursion to Limerick, just 33 kilometres away, is another option.

Q & A

I've heard you can save money by booking excursions independently rather than on a ship. Is this true?

R. Browne, Richmond.

This is true but there are some considerations. First, you need to choose carefully where to go it alone because some destinations are better explored as part of an organised group for safety reasons and it is also best to avoid a country where language could be an issue. Finally, don't go too far afield in case of any mishaps. And remember, if you are late back to the ship from an independent tour, the ship won't wait for you.