Arrive in Cairns and transfer to the National Geographic Orion for your South Pacific cruise!
Arrive at The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef system, and sail for Lizard Island. Lizard Island has great cultural importance for the traditional residents—the Dingaal Aboriginal people, who regarded it as a sacred place. Its pristine beaches, with perfect white sand, slope gently away from the shore. Swimmers, snorkelers and divers are rewarded with coral gardens, brightly colored tropical fish and giant clams (one meter in length with spectacular colors). Hike up to “Cook’s Look,” where Captain Cook plotted his route through the reefs; the rewards are 360 degree views. (B,L,D)
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 4,200 miles. This huge area can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. Sail to a remote section on the outer reef and discover a thrilling array of marine life. Snorkel in this pristine ecosystem which features vast amounts of starfish, anemones, multicolored tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles.
In the morning, land on Cape York with the help of a reef pilot. Continue on to Thursday Island, recognized as one of the last frontiers in Australia. Learn about the island’s unique history and culture as you wander through the pearler’s cemetery, where stories of this once dangerous occupation are revealed. In the afternoon, take in the panoramic views from Lion’s Lookout.
Head to the bridge to watch the quiet business of navigation or gather in the lounge as the ship sails to Papua New Guinea. Attend lectures about what is in store for you upon arrival.
Wake in Papua New Guinea, a patchwork of mountains and jungle which is home to some 700 Papuan and Melanesia tribes, each with its own language. The island of Samarai was once an important trading post and stopover between Australia and East Asia. Today, the sleepy island is designated as a national heritage site. Take a zodiac to discover the island’s fascinating history of colonialism, missionaries and headhunters.
Land on Kitava and experience an incredible and festive cultural exchange: dancing, singing and chanting performed by traditionally dressed locals. After the festivities, relax on the beach on neighboring Nuratu Island or snorkel along its pristine reef.
Spend a morning at sea and approach the island of Rabaul, dominated by its smoking volcano. The volcano erupted in 1994, burying Rabaul, now nicknamed the 'Pacific Pompeii.' Observe the old city as the volcano steams in the background. In the evening, watch as members of the Baining tribe perform their fire dances.
Spend the day watching as islands pass by the ship, perhaps stopping on New Ireland and the tiny island groups which are scattered off its shores.
Set sail for Micronesia and cross the equator along the way. Spend a few days at sea in the library, or crack open a copy of James Michener’s book, Tales of the South Pacific, which was inspired by his experiences during WWII. Head to the fitness center, enjoy a sauna, or relax in the hot tub.
Arrive in the Chuuk State and learn about the vast selection of WWII artifacts which are still found in the area. Propellers, torpedoes, cave networks, planes and ships abound are common visuals. Visit the waterside monument to the individuals who died in the massive American air attack of 1944. Snorkel or dive among Chuuk’s renowned WWII shipwrecks, now colorful and blooming with corals.
Enjoy a leisurely morning in the village and views the traditional lifestyles of the locals. Attend dances, demonstrations of house-framing and thatching, mat and loom weaving, rope and net-making, and handicrafts.
Land on tiny Satawal, an island measuring just 1.5 miles long and accessible only by small ships. Watch as the village women present a traditional welcome dance, adorned in lava-lava skirts. Ride in an outrigger sailing canoe which was made of breadfruit wood, or snorkel on the fringing reef.
Land on Ifalik, a picture-postcard tropical island which features a beautiful lagoon and an emphasis on maintaining the traditional ways of life. The chief will grant you permission to wander the island and admire the handicrafts and unique pearl-shell fish hooks.
Board a zodiac and navigate the coral reef of Sorol. Beachcomb along the shores and take a nature walk along the island. View the coconut palms which surround the lagoon and hope to see sooty terns and elegant white-tailed tropicbirds.
Explore Yap Island and learn about the traditional lifestyle which still flourishes in the villages. Fishing, sailing and weaving are still important parts of everyday life. Walk the ancient stone pathways, visit a community house, and view one of the wunbeys, stone sitting platforms used by the elders when there are meetings. Yap is well known for its resident manta rays, which live in the deeper waters surrounding the island.
Arrive in Palau, a fitting finale with the whitest beaches you will ever see, gardens of coral just beneath the clear waters, lakes filled to the brim with "stingless" jellyfish, forests, waterfalls and caves for exploring. Take a slow hike to the legendary Jellyfish Lake for an extraordinary snorkeling experience. The jellyfish in the lake have lost their ability to sting due to centuries of biological isolation.
Disembark in Palau and transfer to the airport for your connecting flights home.