Cruise Options Expanding Across Indonesia

Small, Custom Tours The Best Way To See Many Islands

By Johnny Morris, The Telegraph

The message from the ship’s PA system was as crystal clear as our view of the smoking island. “For passengers wishing to climb the active volcano the captain has secured clearance for landing.”

It was a surprise addition to the schedule. Minutes later we were skimming towards the hot spot in zodiacs. Trousers rolled up for landing, I began to see the benefits of an “expeditionary” cruise on a smaller ship.

anak krakatau Indonesia volcano

I had joined Ponant’s Le Soléal in Singapore for a 12-day voyage through the Indonesian islands to Bali. On day three we dropped anchor in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

Our schedule had promised a gentle sail around Krakatau’s archipelago – not a visit to the world’s most famous volcano because, as pub-quiz aficionados know, Krakatau is an ex-volcano.

After its eruption in 1883 – the most violent volcanic explosion in recorded history – Krakatau collapsed into the sea, creating a massive caldera. All that remains are a few shattered islands and the legend of a bang heard as far away as Sri Lanka.

Luckily for visiting vulcanologists, and the local tourist industry, Anak Krakatau, or Son of Krakatau, began emerging from the waters in 1927. Although not as dramatic as the original, it has grown (at an average rate of five inches a week) into a fully functioning volcano. Photos show a full arsenal of eruptive party tricks: fire fountains, streaming lava, spatter bombs and even the odd seismic wobble.

The hike up Anak Krakatau was a lesson in geomorphology. After the brief shade of virgin forest, we climbed black slopes punctuated with scorched casuarina and fig trees, plus a few flowering plants that find a home in the fertile lava. On the surface were granite rocks the size of bowling balls hurled from the volcano’s core. Local guides led us to a spot where the fine black lava stopped and a barrier of steaming hot rocks began.

cruise Indonesia

Far below, Le Soléal looked like a toy boat afloat in Krakatau’s caldera. It was a fair way down but she was moored close enough to assure us of a quick getaway if Anak awoke.

The unscheduled excursion was “typical of the core spirit of Compagnie du Ponant”, explained Jerome Pierre, Le Soléal’s cruise director, over beers in the ship’s Grand Salon. Starting out with Le Ponant, a three-masted luxury yacht for just 64 passengers, the line’s fleet will grow to seven in 2018 (in December Ponant announced the launch of the first LNG-powered electric hybrid cruise icebreaker).

The original barque is kept on as the company’s talisman, while mega yachts provide a niche offering for the luxury market. Le Soléal was the first French passenger vessel to navigate the Northwest Passage.

It is difficult to associate the harsh discipline of an Arctic crossing with the ship’s interior design. First impressions are of a fashionable Champs-Élysées boutique. Soft leather furniture lends communal areas a chic air, while reception desks in white Corian scream boutique hotel; likewise the well-groomed staff.

My cabin offered a refreshing white palette, with a pencil-line motif from shower to balcony giving the look of luxury yacht accommodation. Only the look, I’m afraid, as most materials were faux – leather, veneer wood and plastic orchids.

Despite this, interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel has created a sense of uncluttered elegance. Clearly, what he saved on surfaces he has spent on fittings, with slick designer lighting including the best bedside lamp I have ever seen.

Borobudur Java Indonesia

As we sailed east we visited the world’s largest Buddhist temple at Borobudur and the railway system of central Java constructed by Dutch colonists. Excursions highlighted the gap between the earthy thrust of Indonesia and the sophisticated languor of life on board.

In the busy port of Surabaya, after battling with high humidity, waves of scooter traffic and the frenzy of a morning market, I staggered up the ship’s gangplank to indulge in an air-conditioned pedicure, petits fours and a classical piano recital. Often Le Soléal felt like an exclusive arrondissement of Paris adrift in the South China Sea.

This dizzying contrast of cultures reached its height as we approached Komodo Island, home to the world’s largest lizards. “You only need to worry if the dragon swishes its tail,” warned Tajudin, our National Park ranger. Cue tail swish. “Forget the photograph now, madame!” Cue screams and a scattering of passengers as the nine-foot long carnivore began its starting sprint. Thankfully, Tajudin had his trusty cleft stick handy and pinned the lizard’s neck before it ran amok.

Komodo dragon Rinca island

On Komodo it was essential to follow the guide’s flag to stay safe. As we stomped through mangrove forest up to folds of virgin green savannah, there was a genuine nervousness among the group.

Basking lizards are the colour, size and shape of fallen trees (and there were many big logs around). Their forked tongues can sense blood up to six miles away; they can swallow a goat whole and eat up to 80 per cent of their body weight in one sitting, yet can exist on just 12 meals a year. Oh, and unusually for lizards, the males are monogamous and have two penises – poor fellows.

I was full of cautious respect when we came across two dragons slumbering by a waterhole. In all, we saw five and I enjoyed visiting them in their own habitat rather than staring at caged beasts.

On board we prepared for an evening of fine dining and contemporary ballet. Ponant aims to offer a taste of French art de vivre, which included crêpes suzette cookery lessons, illuminating lectures on Indochina from a French perspective, and a few dull PowerPoint talks on wildlife. We were treated to piano recitals, arthouse films starring Catherine Deneuve, and an interpretation of Picasso’s life through contemporary dance that I could have done without.

All very highbrow – until Jerome Pierre announced a pirate-themed fancy-dress evening, quizzes and crab-racing.

There were French officers and bar staff with Maurice Chevalier accents; gentle spa treatments, and beauty products from a Paris-based salon. Among excellent French wines were surprise vintages from the south of the country.

Read The Full Story About Cruising Indonesia

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and CEO is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia


Indonesia Not Ready For More Cruise Ships

Indonesia Boosting Port Capacity For Cruises

Steven Young, a top official with ship operator Carnival UK, visited Indonesia‘s booth during the 2014 Cruise Shipping Miami exhibition with one important purpose: To find out whether there has been infrastructure and facility improvements in the country’s ports and shipping industry.

Indonesia cruise

The Jakarta Post reports that Young, head of port operations & services with the world’s largest ship operator, wanted to make sure that Indonesia had fulfilled its promise to develop its ports and facilities.

“Our ship came to Semarang [Central Java] months ago and was upset with the condition of the port. I came here to find out if improvements had been made,” he said, referring to his cruise line Costa Victoria.

On his visit to the Indonesian booth, Young was welcomed by and had a discussion with Ali Sodikin, general manager of Benoa Port, whose parent company, port operator PT Pelindo III, also supervises Tanjung Mas Port in Semarang.

golf Indonesia

During the brief talk, Young asked the Indonesian port authority if it had improved port facilities, including dredging the access channel and the turning basin. Improvements would ensure that every ship could enter and anchor in the port safely.

Responding to the inquiries, Ali said the port authority — with the help of the Transportation Ministry — had dredged the access channel and the turning basin in Semarang Port to accommodate larger ships.

The port operator, Ali said, was also in the midst of improving Benoa and Celukan Bawang (Bali), Tanjung Perak (Surabaya), Tanjung Tembaga (Probolinggo) and Kumai in Central Kalimantan.

Young was not the only global ship operator representative who wanted an update on port conditions in Indonesia. Representatives from Holland America Line, Salen Ship Management AB, Carnival Australia and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, to name a few, also met with Indonesian delegates to get updates on infrastructure development as well new tourist destinations in the archipelago.

Indonesia travel and tourism

Data and media reports have shown the potential of the cruise shipping industry in Indonesia and, generally, in the Asia-Pacific region. During the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, also highlighted the potential too.

“Virtually anything is possible,” Goldstein said about the potential for Asia and the Australasia region.

He said Indonesia was home to potential tourist destinations but unfortunately did not provide enough facilities. “The industry is still struggling and infrastructure development is very slow,” Goldstein added.

Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry director for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibition (MICE) and special interests promotion, Rizki Handayani, who also attended Cruise Shipping Miami, said the government needed to develop ports to achieve its target of welcoming 500,000 cruise ship passengers by 2016.

marine tourism Indonesia

“The number of cruise ship passengers visiting Indonesia is on the rise. The issue here is the fact that our ports cannot accommodate large ships,” she said, adding that the number of cruise passengers had reached 200,000 in 2013.

Rizki emphasized that the target of seeing 500,000 cruise passengers by 2016 could be achieved if the government improved some of its ports, particularly Benoa Port in Bali, and also developed new tourist destinations to support the domestic cruise shipping industry.

Hong Kong, which claims to be Asia’s cruise hub, currently operates two terminals: Ocean Terminal and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Both can accommodate large ships measuring up to 300 meters in length. They are also equipped with ship repair and engineering maintenance facilities.

Benoa, in the meantime, has been seeing improvements, albeit slowly.

With one of the world’s longest coastlines, Indonesia has plenty of tourist destinations. Unfortunately, many points of interests, such as in Semarang and Bali, are not accessible to large ships. Meanwhile, Sabang Port, in Aceh, which is ready to accommodate large ships, has no tourist destinations to offer.

Mt. Merapi Java Indonesia

Cruise ship passengers who stop at Sabang Port, for example, have to take smaller boats and then buses, before reaching points of interest in the province. This situation has deterred tourists from visiting the area.

According to Rizki, Indonesia has more tourist spots than its neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Thailand. Cruise ship passengers usually only visit Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand as well as Kuala Lumpur, Malaka and Penang in Malaysia.

“Indonesia has opportunity,” Rizki added.

Indonesia has at least 100 destinations to offer, including those in remote areas accessible to mid-sized ships. If the government develops Benoa Port to accommodate larger ships, more passengers would visit Indonesia. “My message is clear. The government needs to seriously work on this issue. The entry of large ships will bring more tourists who will spend more money and eventually drive the economy in tourist areas,” she said.

Purba Robert Sianipar, assistant to the deputy minister at the Coordinating Economic Ministry, criticized the Transportation Ministry for working too slowly.

Robert said the government needed to take the issue of port development into account because it would have positive effects on the economy.


Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia