Sue Bradbury joined the Star Clipper for the trip of a lifetime

All aboard for a sea-going Indonesian adventure aboard the Star Clipper

Guest writer Sue Bradbury sail into paradise aboard the Star Clipper

Erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, visits to communities who bury their family next to their doorstep, swimming in a caldera and searching for dragons – hardly the ingredients of a normal holiday.

But then, cruising around Indonesia in a luxuriously-appointed, four-masted sailing ship with ninety other passengers and 78 crew was never going to be anything other than extraordinary.

Eye-opening? Undoubtedly. Memorable? Certainly. Life-changing? Whilst it may sound like an exaggeration, I honestly think so, yes. Travelling with my two flat-mates from long-ago university days, the omens were good from the start.

After landing in Bali, spending one night in a tucked-away bed and breakfast delight that proved the epitome of warm, Balinese hospitality, we headed into the first of a succession of impossibly beautiful sunsets.

As the sails filled and billowed to the rousing chorus of Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis, we collectively felt a million miles away from daily chores and routines and were instead confronting the unknown and undreamt of.

Adventure, in relatively safe, companionable and very comfortable form. Indonesia is made up of thousands of volcanic islands in what is known, with good reason, as the Ring of Fire.

Look up at the flattened-out peaks that regularly hove into view and there are often a cluster of clouds above them, the only bubble of vapour in an otherwise clear blue sky. When our captain first pointed out what was happening, I found it hard to believe I was watching an eruption.

Not a violent one in that instance – just a steady discharge of steam. When the three of us later joined an excursion to Mount Bromo in Java, after a climb that started on horseback and ended with steps, we peered into a turbulent cauldron that last unleashed its lava-filled might three years ago.

Yet, beyond the sea of sand and swirling dust that surrounds the peak and its ominous active crater, farmers tend their land and families raise their loved ones. Death could be one shocking blast away, but life goes on regardless.

That sense of being in a place that experiences some of Nature’s more extreme moods was reflected in our changing voyage itinerary.

We were on a sailing ship – small enough to anchor in idyllic locations that no massive cruise-liner monster could ever hope to access but, when going ashore in a tender often meant disembarking into thigh-deep water and wading to the beach, weather conditions and currents had to be respected.

That was why, on our first day, we didn’t land on Gili Kondo – a tiny, uninhabited coral-reef island to the east of Lombok that promised wonderful snorkelling. The sea was unusually choppy, so our captain rightly decided we should view the low-lying, perfectly white-fringed sandy outcrop from our ship’s upper deck, rather than risk a boat transfer.

We still got our photos and, whilst we may not have been able to go diving in the impossibly clear blue water on that occasion, there were plenty of other opportunities to do so in similarly memorable places to come.

A highlight of our journey was always going to be Komodo National Park and it didn’t disappoint. Home to the world’s largest, heaviest and, by a long stretch, deadliest lizard, this was a land of dragons.

Our guides, armed only with what looked like a simple pitchfork, found at least five on a trek that took us into the island’s wild, untamed hinterland. Lying flat to the ground, legs splayed to the side, talons and tail inert, the individuals we discovered looked deceptively sluggish.

One bite from those shark-like teeth, however, and a venom is unleashed that kills within hours. As for being slow, those massive bodies, with their folds of snake-like skin, can run almost as quickly as a sprinting human.

Ruthless (they’re known to eat their own young), solitary (given their cannibalistic tendencies, hardly surprising) and full of silent menace, they tolerate visitors to their remote, untamed kingdom but there’s no question who’s really in charge.

Despite strict instructions to stick together, I unwittingly managed to switch the group I was in when we overlapped at an observation point.

Worried that my friends would think I’d been eaten (they weren’t!), I hung back when we reached the makeshift market at the end of our route, so I could reassure them I was safe as quickly as possible.

Gazing towards the path we’d just walked along and where my original group would shortly be appearing, I watched as a Komodo nonchalantly emerged from the undergrowth.

A much livelier beast than the ones previously spotted, it crossed the track in a purposeful manner - unaware of, or simply uninterested in, my presence. The moment passed but the impression left is indelible.

That’s equally true of our whole trip. Members of a generation that rarely took gap years but, motivated perhaps by our offspring and their tales of far-flung travel, we’re just as hungry to see, know and experience more.

I never thought I’d be welcomed into a community that still cooks on open fires, hangs dead chickens from the rafters to ward off evil spirits and reveres their ancestors by entombing them next to their thatched-roof home but I have now – and loved it.

Add to that the wonder of spending several hours on one of only seven naturally pink beaches in the world (coloured that way thanks to the microscopic animals that leave a red pigment on the coral reef); the fascination of meeting villagers on the north eastern tip of Sumbawa who still build ships without mechanical tools and entirely out of wood; the joy of snorkelling off a tiny uninhabited island formed millions of years ago by one of the largest, most devastating eruptions in human history and the huge sense of achievement felt having walked seven kilometres along a dirt track in searing heat to discover a magical waterfall – unforgettable moments bound together by shipboard camaraderie, delicious food, immaculately-presented accommodation, laughter, fun and fellowship.

Indonesia offers vast, stunning landscapes, primeval wildlife and dramatically different lifestyles. Sailing around it on the Star Clipper, the three of us forged new friendships, shared the buzz of exploration and re-discovered such youthful energy and enthusiasm that one of us climbed a mast, two of us swam in mid ocean and all three of us climbed a volcano.

A holiday? No, it was so much more than that.

FACT FILE

The 10-night Bali to Bali cruise costs from £1,995 per person. For more information, visit www.starclippers.co.uk


Visit the Seychelles, Maldives and Andaman Islands.

Set sail with 10 new itineraries in Titan Travel’s new ocean cruise brochure

Cruise first-timers and enthusiasts alike can now choose from an even wider selection of cruise itineraries with escorted tour specialist, Titan Travel (0800 988 5873, www.titantravel.co.uk), as the operator launches 10 new itineraries in its new Ocean Cruise brochure for 2019 and 2020 sailings.

Working with some of the finest ocean cruise lines the enhanced menu reaches far and wide from the azure waters of The Seychelles, Maldives and Andaman Islands with Fred Olsen to the cool waters of Iceland and Greenland on the expedition style MS Ocean Diamond. A choice of new Azamara cruises combine an ocean cruise with time on land in Japan and on the Iberian Peninsula. Or for a special celebration the luxurious new Orient Express, Venice and a Deluxe Mediterranean Cruise starts with a journey aboard the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express before gliding through the Mediterranean in five-star comfort with Regent Seven Seas.

Every Titan Travel holiday is expertly crafted to embrace the standout highlights of the region and unforgettable moments shared between travellers. Furthermore, guests of Titan can look forward to a host of added extras and benefits, including its renowned VIP door-to-door service which collects travellers from their home meaning their holiday starts as soon as they leave home.

Orient Express, Venice and a Deluxe Mediterranean Cruise

Its luxury all the way on the ultimate rail and cruise experience combining a journey on the elegant Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, with its unique old-world charm before joining an all-inclusive eight-night cruise aboard the magnificent Regent Seven Seas Voyager. Sip champagne as you sail out of Venice with stops in ancient Ravenna and Split. See the historic city of Dubrovnik and the beautiful harbours of Kotor and Corfu. Then explore Taormina and the lemon scented Sorrento before finally arriving into Rome. Departs 11 July 2019, 12-days costs from £7,999 per person.

Italian Lakes and Dalmatian Coast Voyage

For island hoppers this 13-day cruise and tour on board Azamara Pursuit begins on the serene shores of Lake Garda and the bustling city of Venice before cruising along the Dalmatian coast to Greece. Sailing past the hundreds of beautiful islands that hug this dramatic coastline with stops that include Kotor, Pula and Korcula, before exploring the great city of Dubrovnik. Departs 07 June 2019, 12 nights cost from £2,849 per person.

A Taste of Iberia

Alternatively, join Azamara Journey for a relaxing 13-day cruise and tour of the Iberian Peninsula. Begin by following in the steps of Portuguese royalty with a stay in a 15th century palace close to Lisbon and the historic town of Sintra, before cruising along the coast, paying homage to the great explorers of the Age of Discovery, and discover the secret war time tunnels dug into the rock of Gibraltar. Round off the voyage with a traditional Spanish tapas as the ship reaches Barcelona. Departs 02 September 2019, 12-nights from £2,799 per person.

The Seychelles, Maldives & Andaman Islands with Phuket

Further afield a new option in conjunction with Fred. Olsen combines three nights Phuket with a 14-night cruise on Boudicca where passengers can bask in the breath-taking beauty of the Indian Ocean and take their pick from a collection of world-class white sandy beaches along the way. Hopping between a string of paradise islands in the Andaman sea, there is also the opportunity to join a traditional Thai cooking class in Koh Yao Noi. Departing 13 November 2019, 19 days costs from £3,699 per person.

Stunning Islands and Cities of Southeast Asia

Alternatively, join Fred Olsen’s Boudicca for a 20-day cruise combining beautiful islands with the striking cities of Southeast Asia. Begin with three full days in Bali to enjoy picturesque beaches, ancient temples, sprawling rice terraces and exotic cuisine. Stare up at the great skyscrapers of Singapore; enjoy the tranquillity of Phuket’s temples and pale, tropical beaches and discover Buddhist relics hidden in Yangon’s gold-topped Schewdagon Pagoda. The cruise concludes Sri Lanka’s bustling capital and the calm of nearby Negombo. Departing 18 January 2020, 20-days costs from £3,999 per person.

Discover Japan

As all eyes turn to Japan ahead of the Olympics get ahead of the crowd on an 18-day cruise and tour on board Azamara Quest.  Soak up Japan’s incredible, cosmopolitan capital with two nights in Tokyo before circumnavigating the whole country on a two-week voyage, including a day in Busan, South Korea’s ambitious city. Each port allows for opportunities to experience the modern and the traditional with wonderful temples and castles, volcanic hot springs and beautiful parks, old-world tea houses, and delicious seafood and vast landscapes of mountains and skyscrapers. Departs 01 September 2019, 18-days costs from £5,099 per person.

Costs include flights, accommodation, transfers and excursions plus the VIP Door to door travel service while for more information on holidays from Titanm, see www.titantravel.co.uk or call 0800 988 5873.

 


The MS Bellejour offers top quality luxury river cruising with Titan Travel

Titan launches its new River Cruises itinerary brochure for 2019 season

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Titan (0800 988 5873, www.titantravel.co.uk) has launched its brand new River Cruises brochure for the whole of the 2019 season, showcasing the range of 24 new itineraries on the Dutch Waterways, Rhine and Danube on board its exclusively chartered river cruise vessels MS Serenade 1 and MS Bellejour.

Following the success of Titan’s exclusive charter of MS Serenade 1 (which began in March 2017), new for 2019 Titan has expanded its river cruise programme with the addition of the 4 star+, 180-passenger MS Bellejour to offer a series of cruises on the Danube.

Introducing Bellejour

The MS Bellejour offers luxurious design and comprehensive facilities to ensure that all guests enjoy every aspect of their cruise, including a wellbeing spa, a restaurant and lounge bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a spacious sun deck with wraparound views to make the most of the river cruise experience. Combined with Titan’s exceptional service and onboard Tour Manager, cruise journeys aboard MS Bellejour will be truly unforgettable

Refurbishment completed on MS Serenade

Meanwhile, the stylish MS Serenade 1 has completed a makeover of the cabins and restaurant ready for the 2018 season. By chartering these two ships, Titan is able to create a unique experience on board, with everything from food and excursions to entertainment, all carefully curated by Titan’s team of travel experts.

Launch offer

This brochure offers the first occasion to book a river cruise for the 2019 season and as an added bonus for those early bookers who confirm their cruise holiday by 26 June 2018 there is the advantage of the low £99pp deposit.

2019 Cruise options include…

For a Spring escape at the start of the 2019 season MS Bellejour will offer a 6-day no-fly cruise of the ‘Dutch Waterways and Tulips’ (departing 1 April and 6 April 2019 from £999 pp). Taking in the sights of the Netherlands along the Dutch Waterways highlights including a visit to the world famous Keukenhof Gardens and a cruise along Amsterdam’s ribbon of 17th-century canals.

MS Bellejour will then transfer to the Danube for the rest of the season to offer a choice of itineraries including the 13-day Voyage to the Black Sea’ (departing 7 July or 25 September 2019 from £2,599 pp). Perfect for those who want to explore off the beaten track this is the chance to sail the lesser known stretch of the Danube, visiting five different countries and the cities of Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Constanta as well as a daylight cruise through the natural wonder of the Iron Gates gorge.

For the 2019 season MS Serenade 1 will offer dedicated departures along the Rhine with a particular highlight for art lovers being the 8-day ‘In The Footsteps of Turner’ itinerary (departing 22 August 2019 from £1,599pp). Featuring four special talks by expert art historian Gerald Deslandes, the cruise celebrates the famous painter’s fascination with the Middle Rhine, exploring the region’s medieval fortresses and fairytale castles, picturesque villages and magnificent cities. And in contrast to the artist himself, who lost his entire luggage, Titan will escort travellers in comfort and convenience.

Late availability for 2018

The brochure also features late availability on a range of MS Serenade departures for 2018. This includes itineraries with the addition of a hotel stay, such as the 10-day Lucerne and the Legends of Germany’ itinerary (departing 4 October 2018 from £1,899pp). Combining a seven-night cruise with two nights at the characterful Wilden Mann hotel in lakeside Lucerne.

All prices include Eurotunnel, ferry crossings or flights, the cruise on MS Bellejour or MS Serenade 1, a range of included excursions and visits, most meals with unlimited wine, beer, soft drinks and mineral water at lunch and dinner, the services of an experienced Titan cruise director and tour manager and Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service*.

Expanded regional flights

Adding to the flexibility of departing from the regional airport that is most convenient for them Titan has increased the number of regional flights for travellers to fly internationally to join their cruise. On arrival they will then receive a complimentary transfer between the destination airport and ship and back at the end of the cruise.