Remote small ship cruises are few in number but huge in bucket list experiences and memories. Perhaps the most notable of remote small ship cruising is the True North, a 164-foot, 18-cabin super yacht run by North Star Cruises, which plies the waters of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The ship carries not more than 36 guests on 4 to 13-night itineraries that go from Australia’s most adventurous wilds to rarely trod jungles in the South Pacific. But you’ll be completely pampered no matter how remote the paths get, with gourmet meals, outfitter assists, naturalist guides and even a private helicopter.
North Star Cruises launched True North in 2005, but the idea for such a venture came to light many years earlier when founding director Craig Howson took a half-dozen passengers and a smattering of crew to some isolated areas in Western Australia during a fishing expedition on a converted crayfish trawler. Word travels fast Down Under and Howson soon found a continuous flow of interest for these trips. The concept easily transformed to a focus on exotic sailings packed with luxury amenities.
These remote small ship cruises might be considered un-cruises. They are not for people who enjoy midnight buffets or drinking watered down cocktails while watching kids do dive bombs into a top deck pool. The True North offers quiet luxury and sails to places where unearthly silence takes over.
Consider these activities: cruising the Kimberly Coast around northwest Australia and sailing into ancient narrow gorges of steep red sandstone and waterfalls. Fish for your dinner in waters where kingfishers dive, or go mud-crabbing along empty beaches. Swim in a billabong, hunt for black-lip oysters, then visit a working pearl farm.
Head North on the True North: Cruising Papua New Guinea
For travelers that want to head even further north on the True North, Papua New Guinea calls with wild sea life, uninhabited islands, rarely visited villages and a jungle river cruise into the very heart of darkness.
North Star Cruises offers seven 7 to 11 night itineraries into the wilds of Papua New Guinea, each centering on different locations, experiences and action-packed activities. For instance, on the Adventures in Paradise 10 night cruise, the True North crosses the Bismarck Sea to the beautiful Louisiade Archipelago for a focus on the stunning islands and reefs. Passengers helicopter over an active volcano as well as swim with manta rays, snorkel along stunning coral walls and, claim isolated sand cays for sunset cocktails before beach feasts of fresh catch on the barbie.
The 11 night Sepik Soiree takes a different tack as the True North turns inward on the mighty Sepik River for a 62-mile journey through dense jungles to the stilt-villages of Kambaramba Lake where whole communities live suspended above the water. There, find the Angoram carvers market, selling their rare and valuable artworks. En route listen to the distant thunder of the split-log drummers from Manus Island.
On a 7 night voyage through West Papua, considered the last frontier of the Indo-Pacific and immerse in the immense biodiversity of Cenderawasih Bay, the bay of the birds of paradise and where some of the world’s largest aquatic species reside. Here guests swim with whale sharks, gentle giants that enjoy romps with humans – one of the many snorkeling adventures to be had on this trip.
For those travelers who do not want to venture too far off the map, North Star Cruises also sails the south eastern and southern coasts of Australia, including a four-day sailing around Sydney that offers an experience of this iconic destination like no other. The route runs during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, summer in these parts, commencing with festive dinners Sydney Harbour. Guests cruise the famous harbour followed by cruising on the Hawkesbury, helicopter flights to the Hunter Valley for some sublime wine tasting, swimming and bush walking through the surrounding national parks.
The True North’s southernmost cruise departs from Adelaide on the 9 day Southern Safari. Guests take in the South Australian coast from Kangaroo Island to Ceduna, experiencing white sandy beaches, uninhabited islands and sheltered bays. Adventures will also be of the tasting variety, as guests sample the fine wines of the famous Barossa Valley, dine on southern bluefin from Port Lincoln – the tuna fishing capital of Australia, enjoy Coffin Bay oysters and King George whiting and blue swimmer crab from beautiful Streaky Bay. Guests also cage dive with the great white sharks off the Neptune Islands and swim with the seals at Stokes Bay. There is time for a beach picnic as well as fishing for snapper and flathead. A hike to the top of Pearson Island offers glorious panoramas.
Luxury Life on the True North
Stateroom cabins come in three configurations ranging from 129 to 161 square feet, each sleeping two passengers in comfort. Cabins are located on three decks and all include in-cabin entertainment systems and satellite telephones. The upper deck and mid-deck staterooms feature panoramic windows but most of the action takes place on deck or out in the wilds. Cruisers are accompanied by a crew of 22, six aluminium expedition boats and a Eurocopter 130 B4 (considered to be the quietest and most spacious tourism helicopter).
Especially considering the continuously changing and break-taking surroundings, dining on this remote small ship cruise can be considered some of the best in Oz. The True North chefs cook according to what comes in that day, what is caught, what is brought in the local markets and what is created from impromptu onboard cooking sessions with guests.
The ship’s naturalist entertains with engaging stories complemented by wall-mounted plasma screens.
And yes, there is Internet onboard as guests retire to the ship’s lounge, the alfresco bar or the Internet café for conversation and communication with the outside world.
Although snorkel gear is provided and some diving gear is available for hire. Night dives are offered but guests need to bring their own light source. Best for guests to check with the North Star sales team should diving be a must-do on any of the itineraries. As a remote small ship cruise, especially one that goes to some of the clearest freshwater lakes and most exotic seas on the planet, getting wet is not an option. It is a requirement.
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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