New Small Ship Cruise Services in the South Pacific – Other Cruise News: The Keewatin is Prepared for her Homecoming

by Kevin Griffin

As ships get larger and larger it is pleasing to see new small ship services opening up at the other end of the size scale, two of which in the South Pacific have recently come to the attention of The Cruise Examiner. A new organisation called Pacific Schooners has been formed to offer 7, 14 and 22-day cruises around the Cook Islands in the 30-passenger saili-assisted Tiare Taporo, which has recently been converted from a Grand Banks side trawler. Further to the south, a company called Island Escape Small Ship Cruising, now offers 5- and 6-night cruises in Vanuatu, Tonga and New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in the 24-passenger catamaran Island Passage. Further north, on the Great Lakes, the new owners of the former Canadian Pacific passenger ship Keewatin are preparing to have her towed from Douglas, Michigan, were she has spent the past forty-five years as a museum ship, to her old home port of Port McNicoll, Ontario, on Georgian Bay, where she is to become the centrepiece of a new resort development, and possibly a new cruise ship port as well.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

New Cruise Services in the South Pacific

An organisation called Pacific Schooners, under the direction of Capt Daniel Moreland, has acquired the 130-foot former Nova Scotia deep sea trawler Zebroid and intends to place her into service this April as the Cook Islands supply ship Tiare Taporo.

The name honours a famous vessel of the past that served the Pacific between 1913 and 1968, and when the new Tiare Taporo enters service she will be the first trading schooner to deliver cargo and carry passengers under sail in the South Pacific for more than a generation.

The new ship, which has been undergoing refit at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, will soon be commencing her long voyage south. Once in service, there will be three different categories of accommodation, catering for up to 30 passengers. These include exclusive “Ariki” suites, with double bed, en suites and small lounge, “Standard” double cabins with shared facilities and “Tere Bunks” in a shared bunk room with shared facilities.

As a 30-passenger supply ship capable of carrying between 200 and 300 tons of general cargo, she will trade throughout the Cook Islands. Scheduled routes will include 22 days to all of the Northern Cook Island Group, 14 days to the entire Southern group and one week trips to Aitutaki and Palmerston. 

Each route will offer a minimum of six round trips per year out of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. She will also be available for charter.

The 7-day voyage will depart Rarotonga for Aitutaki and Palmerston, return from Palmerston via Aitutaki again and then call at the uninhabited atoll of Manuae before returning to Rarotonga. The 14-day voyage, which includes all of the southern group, will depart Rarotonga for Mangaia , Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, Takutea, Manuae and Aitutaki before returning to Rarotonga.

The 22-day northern group voyage will depart Aitutaki for Suwarrow, Nassau, Pukapuka, Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn before returning to Aitutaki. Each voyage will generally involve a stop of two full days and a night at each island to allow ample time for excursions and explorations.
Fares for these voyages will include meals and excursions.

A little further to the south, another small ship, one now finds the Island Passage, a beautifully-appointed small adventure ship sailing the islands of Vanuatu, Tonga and New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands.

Measuring almost 500 tons, the Island Passage is equipped to travel on 5- and 6-night cruises to inaccessible areas while delivering a high level of passenger comfort.
On board are twelve spacious en-suite cabins, large dining room and saloon, an alfresco bar and generous outdoor spaces. In the galley, the chef works with fresh local ingredients to create meals that reflect the day’s activities.

And especially if people don’t want company, the 24-passenger ship can be chartered for one’s own little group, as if she were a private yacht.

For trips away from the ship, Island Passage carries purpose-built landing craft, three large tenders, sea kayaks, a five-seat helicopter, fishing and snorkeling equipment. During each journey, an eight-person crew is on hand to share their knowledge of the ocean and local activities.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

The Keewatin is Prepared for her Homecoming

This story concerns a 105-year-old former Great Lakes passenger ship, the Keewatin, which is the last remaining passenger steamship of Canadian Pacific, that once spanned the globe with routes on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Great Lakes, the Bay of Fundy and the British Columbia coast.

At 3,856 gross tons and with dimensions of 350 x 44 feet, the Keewatin has just been rescued from an uncertain future to become the centrepiece of a new resort development at her old Georgian Bay home port of Port McNicoll, Ontario.

Completed in 1907, she was completed as part of five Canadian Pacific passenger ships built in Govan, on the Clyde, in 1906-08, the others being her sister ship Assiniboia, the Empresses of Britain and Ireland, built for the North Atlantic trade, and the Princess Charlotte, which was built for Canadian Pacific’s Vancouver to Alaska Service.

The Keewatin is shown at Douglas, Michigan, near Saugatuck, where she has been used as a maritime museum for the past forty-five years. She has been shorn of her lifeboats in order to lighten ship for a scheduled June tow from Douglas to Port McNicoll.

In the foreground is the dredging equipment that has been hired to cut the channel from Douglas that will free her. The Edwardian steamship had been lying in a bed of mud until last month, when she was finally floated again, and after inspection is said to be in marvellous condition.

This dredging, which is being paid for by the ship’s new owners Skyline International Development Corporation, will also open up the dock at Douglas to small cruise ships such as Travel Dynamics’ 2,354-ton Yorktown, 257 x 43 feet, which is scheduled to call at nearby Saugatuck several times this year on her cruises between Detroit and Chicago.

The Yorktown has a passenger capacity of 138, compared to Keewatin‘s 280 when she was in service between 1908 and 1965. For those wishing to cruise the Great Lakes in 2012, the Yorktown will be offering a total of thirteen 7, 10, 11 and 14-night cruises, with fares from $3,995 for seven nights, including the cruise, all port charges, lectures, shore excursions and wine with lunch and dinner.

When she arrives at Port McNicoll, the Keewatin, shown here during her last days of regular service between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, will become a floating community centre and centrepiece for Port McNicoll’s renaissance.
Plans are to build a resort hotel and condominiums and rebuild the old dockside railway station to its original plans.

On board, Keewatin will also feature a museum on her main deck and a kind of market in her old main cargo deck, which in her last years was used to carry about forty auromobiles.

This will also be made available for community functions. Berthed very near to her old berth, from which she used to sail from every Wednesday for Sault Ste Marie, Port Arthur and Fort William (the last two now called Thunder Bay), the ship will become the centrepiece of what has until now been a sleepy Ontario town.

When she arrives at Port McNicoll, the Keewatin, shown here during her last days of regular service between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, will become a floating community centre and centrepiece for Port McNicoll’s renaissance.
Plans are to build a resort hotel and condominiums and rebuild the old dockside railway station to its original plans.

On board, Keewatin will also feature a museum on her main deck and a kind of market in her old main cargo deck, which in her last years was used to carry about forty auromobiles.
This will also be made available for community functions. Berthed very near to her old berth, from which she used to sail from every Wednesday for Sault Ste Marie, Port Arthur and Fort William (the last two now called Thunder Bay), the ship will become the centrepiece of what has until now been a sleepy Ontario town.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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