The Cabins: Our cabin was excellent in all respects, well furnished, large enough for the 2 of us and ample closet space, marble bathroom, 5 star treats plus a large window and blackout curtain. The zip king size bed was comfy and the cabin was quiet. The TV provided some satellite channels, a track map & info for the cruise, webcam view ahead and a webcam of the 90 seat theatre.
The suites were similar but just larger with the Owner's Suites offering tub bath and Juliette Balcony and a living room large enough for a party of 12 (we had one!). The mini-bar is restocked with bottled water by daily room service and while there is no coffee/tea making equipment, the 24 hour service more than makes up for it.
The Ship: The Orion is less than 2 years old but with the fastidious level of maintenance will always look perfect (as opposed to MV Reef Endeavour) with timber cap rails on the deck re-varnished every 2 weeks, the brass/stainless railings every day and an engine room so clean you could eat off the floor - truly!
So you can imagine what the restaurants and everything else is like - just perfect and would meet the highest expectations of clients.
The Crew: The Management is all Australian/European and did a great job making everyone feel relaxed and happy. Their service level and attention to detail was first class.
The Captain & Chief Engineer are full-on professionals and amiable characters who delight in showing off their fine ship with inspections organised. The engine room crew is Ukrainian and they are a very capable & friendly bunch who back up as fully qualified Zodiac skippers. For the record, the ship has a single variable pitch screw, power is diesel electric with a main engine and several smaller backups.
State of the art stabilizers (extendable horizontal fins) minimize roll in heavy seas but like any ship, the lower decks and rear cabins would always be the best for clients who get seasick. The Orion would be the safest ship cruising in Australian waters at any time, probably in the world with reinforced hull, the best nav aids and it gets even better! The crew are continually analyzing the channels as they go, taking new readings from the Zodiacs of the changing depths and not relying on the maritime charts to build up their own navigation data bases. This allows the ship to go to places normally accessed only by smaller ships with a higher level of safety to boot!
The Housekeeping, Galley, Restaurant & Bar staff are all Filipino and are absolutely the best in all respects so I will leave it at that other than they all speak English well & their presentation, uniforms & manners etc left many of the guests for dead.
The Expeditions: These went to well chosen & excellent destinations, falling in to 2 categories:
"Included" excursions - these use their top of the range Zodiac inflatables, very safe and comfortable (but lacking in shade) and powered by 35 HP outboards. For short trips to the beach, pax sit on the side, longer expeditions with rows of seats installed. Generally the guided walks are included but for anything involving vehicles they are often an extra. The exceptions for us were the minibus to Baucau in East Timor and the coach transfers into Wyndham and Kununnurra which we thought were great!
"Optional" excursions - these are provided by independent shore base operators - coach, light aircraft, seaplane, heli etc.. The destinations were well chosen and very interesting but too much to go into here.
Onboard activities: The resident muso's, Hal & Jay are professional and very talented, working together for the first time on our cruise. They were really great.
Summary: The Orion offers an unique opportunity to visit the best of Australian waters in the highest level of comfort, safety and service - no doubt. At the brochure rates it is not for everyone's budget but then they are not trying to be. I felt they had it about 98% right.