The next best thing to owning a megayacht is luxuriating aboard someone else’s. In 2004, Australian Sarina Bratton launched Orion, a 337-foot ship outfitted with 53 cabins, to provide daring sybarites with five-star comfort.
Her itineraries around the Asia-Pacific region are known for having an adventurous bent, channeling the spirit of the ship’s namesake mythological hunter. But what sets Orion Expedition Cruises apart is her conviction that affluent travelers want more than trekking remote corners of tribal Papua New Guinea and penguin-viewing in Antarctica. Bratton believes her passengers deserve fine wines and haute cuisine, a full slate of spa treatments, boutique hotel-style accommodations and smart service. “A cruise with Orion is like a luxury safari on the high seas,” she says.
One of the most memorable trips on Orion is a journey around the Kimberley region on the northwestern coast of Australia. As part of the trip, numerous options for spine-tingling exploits by Zodiac rubber watercraft or helicopter and on foot are offered. Fancy a flight over otherworldly gorges and the massive, beehive-shaped orange and black domes of the Bungle Bungle range to mountain plateaus and crocodile habitats? That’s on the menu. Another tantalizing choice is a shore excursion on which passengers are led to an idyllic watering hole where refreshments and music await.
On a sightseeing trip to Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, a rocky path leads visitors to a gallery of Aboriginal art. An Orion marine biologist is on hand to explain its significance. In stark contrast, another excursion gets guests white-knuckle close to a roaring waterfall while floating on a rubber raft. Any hint of trepidation is wiped out by the exhilaration of the adventure.
When not out and about on a heart-thumping escapade, the grandeur of the Orion pampers to the max. The atmosphere aboard the ship is intoxicatingly rich: Carefully chosen works of art complement the fine wood and thick carpet of the reception area, and a glass elevator graces a vessel-high atrium. The light and airy feeling belies the ship’s reinforced steel makeup, safe enough to maneuver through choppy tropical waters and brave the ice-filled Southern Ocean.
At 345 square feet, the four Owner Suites are Orion’s largest. Amenities expected in a top-of-the-line hotel, but not typically an expedition cruiser, include flat-screen televisions, designer toiletries, DVD/CD players, Internet access, plush robes and 24-hour room service. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for amazing views of the changing blues of the sea and red stone of the Australian coast. The French balconies in the prime accommodations, as well as in the aptly named Balcony Suites, are too narrow for sitting, but when the doors are flung wide, the open-air vista is breathtaking.
Needless to say, the hours of high-energy activity can leave muscles sore. Guests find relief by way of a rejuvenating massage at the spa. Just the effects of flying halfway around the world can wear a person out; for this, we recommend the Total Body Travel Treatment, designed to help you recover the spring in your step. The body is invigorated and exfoliated with dry brushing to aid the lymphatic system, followed by a relaxing body massage. A nurturing facial purifies the skin.
Busy bodies tend to get ravenous, but again, Bratton has it covered. She enlisted the talents of the renowned Sydney chef Serge Dansereau, who believes vegetables and fruits should taste as nature intended: fresh and flavorful. His fish dishes are among the best on land or water. Of course, wines are meticulously selected to enhance the cuisine. Case in point: a Yarra Valley Pinot Gris paired with the chef’s exceptional red snapper with panzanella and basil aioli.
When guests elect to dine alfresco under the heavens, they gaze up at the constellation Orion. Each day, the celestial hunter’s vessel will also be slicing through the sea, seeking adventure and creating new stories to be told.
Orion biologist explains the significance of Aboriginal art at Raft Point, Australia.
Passengers board zodiacs for day expeditions at the stern of Orion.
A Nyinyikay native in the Northern Territory of Asutralia works on a piece of art.