National Geographic Orion - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

National Geographic Orion

★★★★ +

Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 411 out of 500

Accommodation: 161 out of 200

Food: 308 out of 400

Service: 300 out of 400

Entertainment: 84 out of 100

Cruise: 329 out of 400

Overall Score: 1593 out of 2000

National Geographic Orion Statistics

Size: Boutique Ship

Tonnage: 4,050

Lifestyle: Premium

Cruise Line: Lindblad Expeditions

Former Names: National Geographic Orion

IMO Number: 9273076

Builder: Cassens-Werft (Germany)

Original Cost: n/a

Entered Service: Nov 2003/Mar 2014

Registry: The Bahamas

Length (ft/m): 337.0/102.7

Beam (ft/m): 46.0/14.0

Draft (ft/m): 12.6/3.8

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel/1

Passenger Decks: 5

Total Crew: 75

Passengers (lower beds): 106

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 38.2

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.4

Cabins (total): 53

Size Range (sq ft/m): 175.0-345.0/16.3-32.1

Cabins (for one person): 0

Cabins (with private balcony): 9

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 0

Wheelchair accessibility: None

Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts

Elevators: 1

Casino (gaming tables): No

Slot Machines: No

Swimming Pools: 0

Hot Tubs (on deck): 1

Self-Service Launderette: No

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/98

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: Australian $


For Australia-based ‘soft’ expedition and adventure cruising

Overview. This small ship is enjoyed by mature couples and single travelers that like learning about nature and wildlife in an up close and personal way. Cruising is really the wrong word for this type of eco-travel; it’s more like having a magic carpet whisk to you to destinations most people have never heard of - particularly on the spectacular Papua New Guinea or Kimberley region itineraries.

The Ship. The former Orion (Orion Expedition Cruises) was acquired in 2013 by Lindblad Expeditions, renamed National Geographic Orion and transferred to the new operator in March 2014, when it became part of the Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic fleet. More snorkeling gear and enough diving gear for 24 diving program participants was added, together with an ROV (remote operated vehicle) able to descend up to 1,000 feet (305 meters).

National Geographic Orion features nature- and wildlife-rich expedition-style cruises in high-quality surroundings, in the company of other like-minded travelers. It has all the comforts of home, as well as specialist equipment for expedition cruising. Although small, it has stabilizers, bow and stern thrusters for maximum maneuverability, and a fleet of 10 heavy-duty Zodiac inflatable landing craft and a fishing boat, BeeKay. There is also an aft marina platform for swimming off.

There is no swimming pool, nor is one needed, but there is a hot tub set amid an open deck, which also houses a bar and a small rock garden/water feature. All outdoor tables, chairs, and real steamer-style sunloungers are made of tropical hardwood.

The interior decor is really warm and inviting, providing a cozy, cosseting atmosphere far removed from the majority of today’s larger expedition-style cruise ships. Public rooms include an observation lounge, which opens onto a walk-around open promenade deck; it also connects with the small Health Spa.

Other public rooms include The Lounge (main lounge), a boutique, and a dedicated Cosmos Lecture Hall with surround sound system for lectures and movies. Typically, five expedition, culture, history, and marine biology lecturers are carried on each expedition.

The reception desk is open 24 hours a day, and there’s an Internet-connect computer (A$50 for two hours) in the library, which has green leather seating. Some rooms are clustered around a glass-walled atrium and the single elevator. A special ‘mud room,’ complete with boot-washing stations, is adjacent to a Zodiac/tender loading platform on the port side. The artwork focuses on exploration and myths associated with exploration. According to one myth, Neptune was Orion’s father, for example, while Queen Eurayle of the Amazon was his mother.

This is about as far away from big cruise ships as you can get, with well-planned itineraries to some of the southern hemisphere’s most remote regions, including the islands of Papua New Guinea, Australia’s Kimberly region, ‘Wild’ Tasmania, and Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound and Ross Sea regions. If you want magic moments in soft adventure travel, wrapped in the comfort of some fine, contemporary surroundings and good food, it would be hard to beat Orion. But make sure you can walk well - some expeditions are quite demanding.

When the ship operates in Australian waters - on Kimberly itineraries, for example - an Australian sales tax is added to all wine and beverage accounts. Drinks really should be included with this kind of product. However, bottled water is provided for all passengers at no charge.

Accommodation. There are four suite grades, and two cabin grades; the facilities in all of them are top-rate. All have twin beds that convert to a queen-size bed, a TV set, a DVD/CD player, a mini-refrigerator, ample closet space, and a small personal safe.

The marble-clad bathroom has a small toiletries cabinet, single washbasin, and a large shower enclosure, with a retractable clothesline. Toiletries are by Escada. All the cabinetry was custom-made, and the bathrooms were fitted individually, which is rare in today’s modular-fit world.

There are 13 suites, nine of which have a small ‘French’ balcony (meaning you can just about step out onto it), four Owner’s Suites, six balcony suites, two Deluxe Suites, and one rather odd-shaped but delightful Junior Suite. These have more space, and some share a narrow communal balcony (meaning there is no partition between them), sofa, glass drinks table, and good-size vanity desk. Only the four Owner’s Suites have a bathtub; all other suites/cabins have large shower enclosures.

All cabins display black and white photographs of yachts, by Beken of Cowes.

Dining. The Restaurant has ocean-view picture windows, artwork based on the astrological signs, and operates one open seating. Its low ceiling, however, makes it rather noisy. The cuisine is extremely good and varied, and, in addition to an à-la-carte menu, each dinner includes a four-course signature menu by one of Australia’s new breed of high-profile chefs, Serge Dansereau of The Bathers’ Pavilion in Sydney.

While portions are not large, they are colorful and creative. You can expect to find Tasmanian oysters, crocodile, emu, and kangaroo among the offerings. Place settings include Bauscher china and Hepp silverware.

The ship carries a decent range of mostly Australian wines, including delightful reds such as Wolf Blass Black Label, and Yalumba’s The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz; and whites such as Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series Chardonnay, and Devil’s Lair 5th Leg Chardonnay-Sauvignon. There are less-pricey alternative whites such as the Bunnamagoo Estate Chardonnay, and the Chain of Ponds Unwooded Chardonnay; and reds such as the Penfolds Bin 389, and the perfectly acceptable Bunnamagoo Merlot. If you want Champagne, several are available, such as the top of the range Krug Grande Cuvée, or the tasty Veuve Clicquot. There is no sommelier on board, but the wines are well served by the waiters or maître d’hôtel.

Delphinus Outdoor Café, an open deck aft of the Leda Lounge, serves as an alfresco dining spot for casual breakfasts, lunches, and occasional barbecue dinners.

Continental breakfast and afternoon tea are also served in the Galaxy Lounge. Espressos and cappuccinos are available at no extra charge in two lounges/bars and restaurant, and do try the delicious brownies on the bar counter.

The service staff is Filipino; they are warm and communicate well with passengers.

Entertainment. There is no formal entertainment, although the ship typically carries an entertaining duo. Each evening, lecturers provide daily recaps and fascinating, in-depth talks on marine or plant biology.

Spa/Fitness. The Health Spa consists of a fitness center, sauna, shower enclosure, and a private treatment room (for massages). A beauty salon is located two decks below.

The ship carries a range of personal beauty products used on board and also for sale; creams, oils, and other ingredients are mixed by the therapist and tailored to your own needs.