We went on this trip with four friends because we wanted a leisurely, relaxed look at the wonders of the lower Murray and its onshore communities, in a small group. We wanted to be able to take time to experience the magnificence of our surroundings and learn what we could about the wildlife and landscape, indigenous significance, river history. We didn't want lots of people, razzamatazz and hectic activity. The trip was perfect.
Initally, seeing a group of elderly people (some with walkers) coming on board did give us pause, but they were up for everything, we were all well catered-for in the activities and facilities. With 36 guests, there were enough for a good mix, and few enough for activities to be easily managed.
The food was really excellent, varied, fresh and with all sorts of dietary requirements managed well. Tea, coffee, etc. were available all the time. And the two chefs were charming. Drinks were extra, with a pretty fair range,and though some of the wines were a bit expensive, the house alternatives were OK.
There was a good range of onshore outings, from walks (probably a little less extensive than we'd have liked, but there were opportunities at many of the stops for individual walks), bus tours for night-time wildlife spotting and seeing the towns and onshore places of interest, Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Site where excellent local indigenous guides led us through a truly significant ancient archaeological site, and a knockout visit to the Mypolonga Primary School where the pupils welcomed us, showed us around, and explained how they all work together to run their award-winning craft shop, which amongst other things produces goods for the Proud Mary (delicious chocolate-covered local apricots). A trip to a yabbie aquaculture enterprise and almond orchard was really well done. ,There was an Australian Foods dinner, very well-done, an onshore evening barbecue with a musician and group involvement, which could have been dodgy but was thoroughly enjoyable.The final night Captain's Dinner was also above expectations; we'd not been keen about the idea of a special dress-up event, but this managed to be both low-key and classy, and with some inventiveness by guests to make it fun...paper serviettes fashioned into bowties for the fellows, some cheap tiaras bought onshore to add some pizzaz.
Cabins were very comfortable, with double or ensuites, and very well serviced (beds made, turned-down each night with pillow chocs). One couple complained about generator noise on one or two nights, but we were unaffected.
Staff were excellent - Captain knowledgeable, affable and with expert insights and commentary. Cruise Director and the onshore bus driver were also very friendly and efficient, attentive to all guests, and genuine with no glib polish or superficiality. Cabin and wait-staff were also very capable and considerate. The only mismatch was our guide on a small-boat tour of lagoons (not sure he was the "expert ecologist" advertised in the brochure) who was intersting but felt the need to include political denigration and rubbishing of scientists into his commentary.
Two of our group were bussed from Adelaide to meet the cruise; we four others had our cars and camper trailer accommodated (at additional cost) while we cruised. This was all managed efficiently.
Everything went smoothly and calmly, no rush or fuss. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing exploration of the Murray. Most importantly, there was plenty of time to sit outside (on the deck in front of the bridge and on the large rear deck, with comfy chairs and tables) and relish the lovely slow and quiet progress up this mighty river - the cliffs and lagoons, magnificent red-gums,prolific birdlife. Travelling in August, the river was quiet with the dozens of big houseboats were moored, so it was beautifully quiet.
Booking service was efficient and personal too - we had to delay confirming as two of our friends were travelling in the outback, but all was handled beautifully.
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