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ADVENTURE CRUISING


HISTORY OF ORION II


Cantiere Navale Ferrari of Italy built the ship for Renais- sance Cruises in 1991. Its original name,


Renaissance IV, was changed to Clelia II when it became the private home of Clelia, the sister of EasyJet owner Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. In 2009, the ship


received a £13m refit and was briefly operated by Travel Dynamics Interna- tional, an American company. In 2011, Orion


to the Inland Sea of Japan. It included visits to three top Japanese gardens, ancient Samurai and tea houses, Matsue’s five-storey wooden castle and the Torii shrine at Miyajima, the one that appears to float on water at high tide.


O


ne of the many advantages of an Orion cruise is that a full programme of excur- sions is included in the price. Some


alternatives are offered for a fee but, on my cruise, there were few takers. The inclusive programme was too good to miss.


All expeditions were exceptionally well planned and managed by chief expedition leader Alastair Newton and his colleagues. The atmosphere was


also helped by this being a small ship; everyone is off within minutes and expedition leaders have time to learn your name, interests and preferences. Of all the excursions, I particularly enjoyed the geisha performance of music and dance at Higashi Chayagai, Kanazawa. I have always been intrigued by the elaborate kimonos, white makeup and secretive lives of geishas but did not expect to be so bowled over by their graceful movements and charming engagement with us. At Aomori, I was entertained by Hayakawa Sensei, a man claiming to be one of Japan’s last real Samurai. Dressed in elaborate armour designed to strike fear in the enemy, he demonstrated his prow- ess. As he flashed his long, curved sword it was


Expedition Cruises took it over, did further refurbishment and renamed it Orion II. The company only started in 2004 yet its original ship, Orion, has already won a fistful of awards. Founder and managing director Sarina Bratton (former Vice President and General Manager Asia Pacific for Cunard Line) is determined Orion II will be the best of its class in the world. The quality of the ship; the high ratio of 70 well-trained staff for just 100 guests; top-quality food and fascinating excursions are all the order of the day. But Bratton is also


strongly committed to eco-tourism and forging close partnerships with the communities guests visit, some of whom have no prior experience of tourism.


 Winter 2011-12 I WORLD OF CRUISING 73


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