Orion has three bars -- four if you count ordering drinks in-cabin through room service; the Leda and Galaxy Lounges mentioned previously and outdoor Sun Deck Bar on Deck 6. One nice feature is that the bars serve various espresso-based coffee drinks (cafe latte, macchiato, cappuccino, etc.) without charge.
The centerpiece of each day's activities is a pre-dinner get-together in the Leda Lounge for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a "recap and briefing" by the expedition staff. In the recap they review the day's shoreside activities, usually with a video or Power Point presentation, followed by a discussion of the assets, attributes and activities of the day to follow, also organized and illustrated with projected video and graphics.
During the day as well, there are often lectures presented by specialists from the expedition staff or other onboard experts.
Evening entertainment revolves around a small number of musical soloists. On our sailing there was a pianist and a keyboard/guitarist/singer. Both shared the nightly entertainment, playing background music at tea and hosting the daily team trivia game. Team Trivia on Orion is very well attended, in part owing to the fact that the daily prize for winning, rather than key chains or luggage tags, is a round of free drinks for the victorious team. There are other evening offerings including the old chestnut, "Liar's Club," and a crew talent show.
Experiences off the ship are broken down into two categories: "inclusions," and optional shore excursions. The shore excursions, for which there is a charge, usually include more costly experiences, or those for which the ship and/or staff are unequipped to provide, such as helicopter flights, bus tours and scuba diving.
The ship's Zodiacs, for which there is no additional charge, are central to the daily inclusives. The Zodiacs are either used as sightseeing/exploration vessels for encounters with natural phenomena, as anchored platforms from which passengers can snorkel, or to tender passengers ashore where nature hikes and other explorations are led by members of the expeditionary team. On our sailing, these included a hike to the top of Cape York, the northernmost point of Australia, an exploration of villages on various outlying islands in the Torres Strait, and a fascinating tour of Aboriginal rock art and cave paintings on what has become a virtually uninhabited island in modern times.
Orion Public Rooms
Like most small ships, there is never any perceptual confusion onboard Orion as to whether you are on a ship or floating hotel. The feeling here is nautical to the extent of being almost yacht-like. Passenger flow issues are nonexistent; every spot on the ship is reachable from any other spot in five minutes or less. All passenger-accessible places are clustered in a mere four decks linked by two stairways and an elevator.
There are three main public rooms; Deck 4's Leda Lounge is the ship's intimate gathering spot for pre- or post-prandial cocktails, entertainment, nightly briefings and recaps, and the better part of the ship's entertainment offerings. Just outside the Leda is the ship's library, incredibly well stocked for a ship of this size, with books, DVD's and board games. Attached to the library is the ship's Internet cafe, a franchise of MTN, parent of the well-known "Digital Seas" operation. There is only one laptop computer for public use here, but Orion is wired for Wi-Fi, with hot spots in both the Leda and library. Internet access can be purchased in one- or two-hour blocks -- two hours costs $55 Australian (worth about $44 in U.S. currency), which applies either to their computer or passengers' laptops.
At the top of the ship on Deck 6 are two other public rooms, Cosmo Lecture Hall and Galaxy Observation Lounge. The Cosmos Lecture Hall has complete audio/video and presentation facilities with theater-style seating (each seat also has a fold-out writing surface in one arm). Cosmos is used for larger briefings and lectures as well as afternoon movies. Forward of Cosmos on the same deck is the Galaxy Observation Lounge with panoramic windows and a sweeping observation deck. Galaxy is also the venue for early riser continental breakfasts and daily afternoon high teas (followed by team trivia).
Orion Spa & Fitness
Besides offering snorkeling and hiking as onshore activities, Orion carries a number of two-person kayaks which they haul ashore on beach days. The staff and crew will confide to you that the combination of kayaks and Zodiacs, more than anything else, represent what differentiates expedition from conventional cruising.
Though there is a sun deck, it is mostly shaded by an upper deck overhang (reportedly Aussies, like mad dogs and Englishmen, avoid the midday sun). There is no pool, per se, but there is a whirlpool, which is filled with water opposite in temperature to the water under the hull (heated for Antarctica; unheated for the more tropical sailings on the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea and the Kimberley's along Australia's northern coast).
Orion has a pocket-sized spa, sauna, hair and nail salon, and fitness facility. Though they may be small by conventional cruise standards, they are mighty in guest-pleasing power, and for that matter, unusual in their very existence for an expedition ship.
The gym, with five machines (stairstepper, treadmill, two exercycles, elliptical cross-trainer), free weights and mats may seem limited in scope, but this represents a very high per capita capacity -- the typical conventional ship would need about 200 machines to maintain the same ratio!
The spa had a surprisingly extensive menu of treatment options, sans gimmicks or heavy-handed sales pitches, and may offer one of the best massages I've ever had, delivered without hype or rushing. Golly, Toto, I don't think we're at Steiner's anymore.