Orion II Entertainment & Activities
Being a small expedition ship, Orion doesn't offer traditional cruise entertainment. There are no shows (apart from a crew show one night), no movies, no casino and, heaven forbid, no bingo. The ship's staff led a few fiercely competitive quizzes, although the general knowledge quiz is geared toward Australians. The ship also has an excellent library and a wide range of free DVDs.Every night before dinner, the expedition leaders provide a debriefing on the day's activities and a briefing about what's upcoming. On our cruise, the debriefings were particularly good, as we had a world-class photographer, Sue Flood, who has worked on many of the David Attenborough wildlife documentaries, as one of our expedition leaders. Her nightly slideshows got everybody thinking about their own photographic techniques. In addition to providing tips, Sue ran an impromptu photography competition on the last day of the cruise. While a professional photographer isn't always on the list of guest speakers, Orion does host guest lecturers on every cruise, such as historians or naturalists, whose areas of expertise are related to the cruising region. In addition, the line has an impressive range of photography expertise among its own expedition staff, several of whom were carrying huge lenses on the shore excursions and were happy to offer photography tips to passengers.
During sea days, lectures were held in the main lounge. The expedition leaders gave talks on flora and fauna, and an eminent Australian historian, Peter Edwards, delivered some fascinating lectures on Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.
Almost all excursions are included in the price of these cruises, and almost everybody participates. In southeast Asia, the nature of the ports of call meant that the tours were sightseeing trips with a coach and guide. In some of the more remote areas Orion sails, excursions could be boat trips, guided hikes and sightseeing in small groups with the expedition leaders on the Zodiacs. Some specialty tours, such as bicycle tours or cooking classes, carry a fee.
Some Vietnamese cultural entertainment was included during the shore excursions. In Hue, we were treated to traditional singing and dancing during a splendid buffet lunch while, in Ho Chi Minh City, the whole contingent of passengers went to a riverside hotel for dinner in a beautiful garden, which was accompanied by a fashion show. Orion aims to include more immersive excursions like this on every cruise.
Orion has a mainly open bridge, and passengers were welcomed by Captain Mike Taylor and his officers at any time except during complicated manoeuvres, or when there is a pilot onboard. On one night, we sailed through a huge and moderately alarming storm, which seemed much less frightening once I'd visited the bridge late at night and seen how relaxed the officers were.