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Travel Update: COVID-19

Cape York Calling

A cruise from Cairns to Australia's northernmost tip is a breeze aboard the nimble MS Caledonian Sky, writes Gary Walsh.

There’s nothing like a small ship for making the most of an ocean voyage. Limited passenger numbers, intimate onboard spaces, Zodiacs for speedy exploration, and most of all, the manoeuvrability to cruise into small ports and harbours. And the MS Caledonian Sky, which will operate trips for APT in Australian waters in 2021 and beyond, fits the very definition of boutique.

With a maximum of just 99 passengers being pampered by crew members, you can forget about queueing for excursions and Zodiac rides. Suites are spacious and beautifully appointed, with some featuring balconies. The open-air Lido Deck is the place to spend time at sea, with alfresco dining a feature, while the Panorama lounge offers a bar and floor-to-ceiling windows for sharing those views. Meals are offered in a leisurely single seating, and complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served at your discretion all day.

The Caledonian Sky expedition ship cruising through turquoise waters

The MS Caledonian Sky is your transport of delight to some of Australia’s most spectacular coastal destinations, including the tip of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. There’s no more comprehensive cruise through tropical North Queensland than APT’s 9 Day Cape York and the Great Barrier Reef Expedition.

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef and its vibrant turquoise colours
MS Caledonian Sky passengers in Zodiac

Departing Cairns, the journey ventures into the Coral Sea to rarely visited places such as Willis Island, the only permanently inhabited island in the region – weather observers are based there – and an important habitat for turtles and native birdlife. South Direction Island is another place few are fortunate to visit. Here, guests board Zodiacs to explore the island, walking on its sandy beaches, and swimming or snorkelling on its reefs.

Couple sitting on rocks overlooking Lizard Island

Privately owned Lizard Island is a more familiar destination, and a full day there offers the choice of being active or just relaxing on the beach. Walkers can head for Cook’s Look, a 350-metre-high hill Lieutenant James Cook ascended when he was searching for a way through the maze of reefs for the Endeavour. Other walks are available, or guests can visit the world-renowned Australian Research Museum, which focuses on reef recovery work.

History is alive in this region – Restoration Island was named by Captain William Bligh after he recovered there with his men after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. The food they found there restored their strength, before the 19 men climbed aboard their five-metre boat again and set out successfully for Timor.

The lovely, sleepy Torres Strait outpost of Thursday Island is both a destination of historical and cultural interest and a stopping off point for a visit to Cape York, and a chance to stand on the very tip of the Australian continent. Heading south again, the ship now hugs the coast, visiting reefs and cays for swimming and snorkelling en route to Cooktown.

People taking a photo at the tip of Cape York in Queensland

This historic town is a living museum of Cook and Endeavour history, with artefacts from the Endeavour to be seen, and stories of Cook’s landing to be told from an Indigenous perspective. It’s a fascinating and beautiful last landfall before journey’s end back in Cairns.

Experience luxury small ship cruising on board the MS Caledonian Sky with a variety of departures and cruises available in Australian waters throughout 2021.