New Australian Cruise Line Announced

"It was logical that I would want to create a new entrant to the growing Australian cruise market," said Sarina Bratton, after recently launching Orion Expedition Cruises, featuring the 106-passenger, 4,000-ton Orion, Australia's first world-class expedition cruise ship.

Bratton, the former founder and managing director of Norwegian Capricorn Line, is managing director of her latest endeavor.

"My vision evolved with a view to create a unique product that would grow, rather than cannibalize existing markets or duplicate the product offerings of the big cruise lines or model the itineraries on the well-serviced routes," she said.

Bratton pointed out that expedition cruising seemed right because much of Australia lacks the shoreside infrastructure to support mainstream cruise products.

"Australia's varied coastline lends itself to this style of cruising," she added.  

The Orion is currently operating expedition cruises for Travel Dynamics International, and is scheduled to arrive in Sydney in March 2005.

Built at the Cassens Shipyard in Emden, Germany, the Orion features an ice-strengthened hull, bow and stem thrusters and accommodations that distinguish it most from other expedition ships, Bratton said.

"I spent three years searching the world for the right ship," she pointed out. "I wanted high levels of comfort, yet a ship small enough to allow access to places that larger vessels would be unable to reach."

While specific details are still pending, according to Bratton, the Southern Hemisphere winter will include Darwin, Broome, the Kimberly Coast, Arnhem Land, East Timer and Cape York. Southern Hemisphere fall and spring will showcase the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. Southern summer will have the Orion heading south from Sydney to Tasmania and on to Antarctica.

There will be 42 cruises in the first year and pricing will range from approximately (U.S.) $450 to $1,050 per person per night.

"With worldwide cruising experiencing extraordinary growth, it was only natural the same would happen in Australia," she noted, adding that many Australians, having extensively traveled the world, are now wanting to experience even more of Australia - seen as a safe destination by both domestic and international travelers.

The Australian cruise market grew by 32 percent from 116,338 in 2002 to 153,769 in 2003, with a doubling of that number projected by 2007.

Bratton said she plans to have a second ship operating within a period of three years.

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