It begins in February 2010 with a New Zealand adventure that travels from the Victorian city of Invercargill to Auckland Island with its sea lion and penguin colonies. And it ends in February 2011 with a once-in-a-lifetime voyage to Scott and Shackelton’s Antarctica. Orion Expedition Cruises has released its 2010 Calendar of Sailings, revealing a year of extraordinary travel experiences through the waters of the South Pacific, transporting its guests to destinations only a fortunate few ever see – all in five-star luxury aboard the purpose-built, 53-cabin MV Orion. The 2010 calendar marks several firsts for Orion, including its maiden landing at Melbourne and first-ever journeys to South Australia and Tasmania. As an added incentive, guests who book early will be rewarded with saving up to 15 percent off the full fare*.

Led by seasoned expedition teams, each Orion adventure features land excursions by day, with inflatable Zodiac boats taking guests to otherwise inaccessible shores. Evening offers gourmet dining and champagne under the stars aboard Orion, as well as educational presentations in the ship’s state-of-the-art lecture theater. On the 2010 calendar are the following memorable itineraries:

February 3: New Zealand Highlights (10 nights). From Invercargill, with its stately Victorian and Edwardian architecture, guests are transported by coach to the fishing port of Bluff on the southern tip of New Zealand. Thus begins an unforgettable voyage through the abundant natural wonders of the north and south islands, with stops in Milford Sound, Dusky Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Wellington, Marlborough Sounds, Napier and White Island. The journey ends in Auckland. Prices begin at $6,490** for a stateroom.

March 1: ISLANDS Magazine Melanesian Discovery (16 nights). From Auckland, Orion sets sail on a northern course for Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, with stops at intriguing, rarely visited islands in Vanuatu and the Solomons along the way. Among these are the idyllic Isle of Pines with its eight Kunie tribes; Tanna Island where guests can hike an active volcano; Espiritu Santo, where James Michener penned “Tales of the South Pacific”; Utupua Island for exceptional snorkeling; and Santa Ana island, whose inhabitants are known for their fine woodwork. Prices begin at $9,430.**

March 27 and October 11: New Guinea Island Adventure (11 nights). Spectacular diving, pristine beaches, and ancient tropical fjords are the focus of this voyage. Leaving from Cairns, Orion ventures to Rabaul, stopping along the way at unforgettable destinations such as Deboyne Lagoon with its shipwrecked WWII-era Japanese Zeros; Egum Atoll, rich in marine wildlife and vast species of birds; and the remote Lamassa and Duke of York Islands, known for their natural beauty and friendly locals. Prices start at $7,135.**

April 17 and October 22: Papua New Guinea Cultural Highlights (11 nights). An introduction to the mysterious art and tribal cultures of the Sepik River and Tufi region, the voyage also includes the four idyllic atolls of the Tami Islands, the hot springs of Fergusson Island, and the lively harbor of Milne Bay, among other memorable adventures. Prices start at $7,135.**

April 28: Tropical Reefs & Culture/Northern Queensland (6 nights). This jaunt through Northern Queensland leaves from Cairns and takes guests to Lizard Island with its coral gardens and giant clams just offshore, Stanley Island, home to fascinating indigenous rock art, Orion Reef (a white-sand spit ideal for snorkeling), and more, before ending at Thursday Island. Prices start at $3,540.**

May 4: Art of Arnhem Land (7 nights). Departing from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, this voyage is hosted by Australia’s pre-eminent collectors of indigenous art, who introduce guests to the remote art communities of the Arnhem Land coast. Prices start at $4,120.**

May – September: Kimberley Expedition (10 nights). The rugged coastline of Australia’s northwest abounds in dramatic scenery and fascinating cultural experiences. Highlights include the historic coastal town of Broome, known for its pearl diving and palm-fringed Cable Beach; the wild and remote Kimberley coast, home to spectacular gorges, inlets and waterfalls; and the cosmopolitan northern capital of Darwin. An August 27 sailing includes a special performance of the world-class OPERA UNDER THE STARS® at the Cable Beach Amphitheatre. Prices begin at $7,395.**

May 31: Kimberly – Art of Exploration (10 nights). From Darwin to Broome, this voyage takes guests on an art- and nature-themed adventure through northwestern Australia. Stops include the northernmost town of Wyndham – the gateway to the art centers of Warmun and Kununurra; fascinating Aboriginal rock art at Vansittart Bay, Bigge Island and Montgomery Reef; and the natural wonders of the spectacular King George River and Falls – viewed by Zodiac or helicopter, and Mitchell Falls. Prices start at $7,215.**

July 10: Spice Island Adventure (10 nights). This round-trip from Darwin offers a chance to explore the forgotten Islands of Maluku, the underwater paradise of Alor, and the 14 active volcanoes and fascinating villages of Maumere, Flores. There are also stops in Komodo, home to the Komodo dragon, Sumba with its fascinating island culture based on three social strata, and more. Prices start at $5,890.**

September 26: Forgotten Islands and Asmat Art (10 nights). This Asian expedition launches from Darwin and visits the intriguing “forgotten” islands of Malaku, including tiny Kisar and Yamdena Island, where villagers will lead guests on a tour of Sangliat Dol; several of the 90 Aru Islands, known for their natural beauty; the Agats Museum on the island of New Guinea; Thursday Island to explore the rich history of the Torres Strait; and Orion Reef and Lizard Island for snorkeling. The journey ends in Cairns. Prices start at $5,890.**

November 2: Great Barrier Reef (7 nights). Orion’s Expedition Team guides guests through an exploration of Australia’s World Heritage Great Barrier Reef that is far removed from the bustle of resort crowds. Zodiac safaris allow guests to snorkel and swim over a pristine and seldom visited section of Hardy reef. The voyage also includes a visit to the exclusive luxury resort of Hayman Island, and Percy Island for kayaking or a leisurely afternoon on a shaded beach, and ends in Sydney. Prices start at $4,120.**

November 9: Australia’s Wild South-East – Voyage of Discovery (7 nights). Embarking in Sydney, guests sail down the East Coast of Australia into the beauty of Jervis Bay and the surrounding natural bushland. The voyage then continues south, stopping at Phillip Island with its famous little penguins. This expedition marks an Orion milestone with the ship’s first-ever arrival in Melbourne. Prices start at $4,120.**

November 16: Southern Australia Culinary Delights – Voyage of Discovery (7 nights). Created for the epicurean traveler, this culinary adventure leaves from Melbourne and – in another first for Orion – journeys west to South Australia. Here, guests enjoy visits to the Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island, Eyre Peninsula and Fleurieu Peninsula, returning to Melbourne with plenty of culinary inspiration. Prices start at $4,120.**

November 24: National Parks of Tasmania (7 nights). Orion offers guests a rare opportunity to explore the pristine wilderness of Tasmania (over a third of which is preserved in a network of National Parks). Adventures include the rugged landscape and plentiful wildlife of Flinders Island, hiking at Wineglass Bay, the ruins of a convict settlement at Maria Island, and the local oysters at Coles Bay. The journey begins at Melbourne and ends at Hobart. Prices start at $4,120.**

December 1: Wild Tasmania (seven nights). Beginning and ending in Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania, this unforgettable journey explores the island’s World Heritage and wilderness areas, with landings by Zodiac along the rugged coastline, from spectacular Port Davey to Maria Island to Coles Bay for oysters and Tasmanian wine. Prices start at $4,120.**

December 8: New Zealand & Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure (13 nights). Traveling from Hobart to Dunedin, New Zealand, this island-hopping adventure is paradise for nature lovers and photographers. Guests explore the wilderness islands of World Heritage-listed Macquarie and Campbell, the Auckland Islands and Snares Islands, as well as the spectacular New Zealand fjordlands. Prices start at $8,425.**

December 21: Christmas in Fjordland (7 nights). Leaving from Dunedin, New Zealand, this voyage makes the ultimate holiday gift for shutterbugs. The journey highlights the spectacular scenery of the wilderness islands of Campbell, Auckland, Stewart and Snares Islands, as well as the New Zealand fjordlands. Prices start at $4,120.**

December 28: Mawson’s Antarctica – Commonwealth Bay (18 nights). A once-in-a-lifetime adventure for intrepid travelers, this voyage sails from Dunedin past towering glaciers and snow-shrouded mountains to Commonwealth Bay, where guests can step inside the huts left behind by Mawson’s historic Antarctic expedition. Prices start at $15,345.**

February 1, 2011: Scott and Shackleton’s Antarctica – Ross Sea (20 nights). From Christchurch, the MV Orion crosses the Antarctic Circle to visit penguin breeding colonies in the Ross Sea Region. Guests will also observe elephant seals, Hooker sea lions, and the endangered Wandering Albatross as they visit sites charted by explorers Scott and Shackelton in their historic race to the South Pole. Prices start at $17,050.**

Cruise Industry News Email Alerts