When I first laid eyes on the Orion, I was in my top-floor suite at the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns, Australia. Standing in front of a ceiling- to-floor window, I was given an unobstructed view of blue skies and Trinity Inlet directly below.
How convenient, I thought, watching the stately vessel pull up at my doorstep. In my old life, as a married woman, such a spectacle would have engulfed me in a pinch-me moment (“I can’t believe I’m about to take a luxury cruise off the coast of Australia!”), but as a woman travelling solo for the past few years, I was concerned with what I call manly matters such as reading maps and lugging around suitcases. Happily, on this occasion, my ship had found me and, thanks to an overzealous porter, I arrived at the boarding gate in the fashion most of the women gathering there did – with a beast of burden in tow.
Mind you, these ladies would be bringing their beasts on board. One glance at the crowd and I knew that this was primarily a couple’s cruise. No matter, I thought, reminding myself of lessons recently learned: although at times it can be painful to be surrounded by people whose long-ago vows held true, travelling minus the preoccupation associated with being in love or, worse, looking for it can be liberating. You can completely immerse yourself in the experience and selfishly soak up every moment. Which is exactly what I did.
The Orion is an expedition vessel, meaning that unlike mammoth ships offering everything on board a person could want from casinos to rock-climbing venues, the aim of this cruise line is to get you off board. Every day during our weeklong sail to Sydney from Cairns, with the exception of two days at sea, the ship moored seemingly in the middle-ofnowhere in the vast ocean, and we loaded onto Zodiacs, big black rubber rafts that, like giant swimming ants, carried us to remote islands, which most ships are too large to get to. Read more...