The paddle wheeler PS Murray Princess was built in 1986 by the Goolwa Ship Construction company. It is currently operated by Captain Cook Cruises which is part of the SeaLink Travel Group.
It has a stern paddlewheel and a steel hull. The ship has an overall length of 70 metres and a width of 14 metres. It was constructed so as to fit in all the locks along the Murray. Although it is quite a big ship it has a shallow draft of 1.1 metres making it suitable for river travel.
Murray Princess can carry 120 passengers in 60 cabins and 28 crew. It is powered by two large Diesel engines and also has forward and aft thrusters, useful for manoeuvring in and out of locks and around tight bends in the river.
The vessel has five decks and they are named after notable characters from the Murray River’s history. I’ll write more about them later.
The lowest deck is Chaffey deck and houses inside cabins 1-9 as well as crew quarters, a small gym and the all-important laundry. This deck is partly below the waterline so the cabins only have portholes. Chaffey Deck is accessed by a set of steep stairs.
Randall Deck houses outside cabins 10 to 34. We are in Cabin 21 on the port side. Overlooking the huge paddlewheel at the back of the vessel is the Paddelwheel Lounge. Here you can make use of the tea/coffee station and bottled water is always available as well. There is a small gift shop and the staff will happily make you a cappuccino. Randell deck is the one you usually use to board and disembark from.
Cadell Deck houses outside cabins 35 to 60 and the Upper Lounge. The Upper Loung area provides excellent viewing of the large paddlewheel at the rear. In one corner of the Upper Lounge is a small library and puzzle table. A large jigsaw is underway. There is also a large wooden box filled with board games availabalbe for passenger use. At the front of Cadell Deck is the Wheelhouse and passengers are welcome to come on up and check out how the crew manage and work this large vessel. The crew are more than happy to show off their ship.
Sturt Deck is home to the large Sturt Dining Room where all meals are provided. When you board the ship you are given a name tag with your first name, your allocated dinner table and your cabin number. Passengers can sit anywhere for breakfast and lunch but at dinner you sit at your allocated table. There is a Bar right at the front of the ship. From the large windows at the front of the ship is a great view of the river as we cruise along. This is a comfortable area with comfy leather chairs and little tables. The perfect spot for a quiet chat, a read or just to watch to river go by. The Sturt Dining Room and the Bar are decorated with timber panelling and plush carpets. Sturt Deck also is home to the Crew Mess and offices.
The top deck is called the Sun Deck, apparently named after a Chinese cook whose name was Sun Lee. The Sun Deck has lots of rattan chairs, little tables and a large sun shade. When it is warm the Sun Deck is another lovely spot to enjoy the river scenery.
Four of the cabins are wheelchair accessible and there is a lift from Randell to Sturt Decks. Quite a few passengers use walking sticks but they seem to be able to get about the ship with no problems.
WiFi is available however due to the high cliffs and the remoteness of some of the areas we travel through the service can be very patchy.
We have had a few discussions with people over the last few days and we reckon the average age of passengers on board is probably around 80. We are probably the youngest on board. Most of the people we talk to have been retired for many years. One couple we spoke with have 14 great-grandchildren and one on the way. Most are ‘young at heart’ though and enjoying travelling. I wouldn’t recommend this trip for young people unless they were a large group that could make their own fun. It certainly isn’t a trip for children.