What an enjoyable 4 nights cruise! From the moment we were greeted by the crew at the red carpet as we boarded on our first day to the farewell to the crew as we departed on the last day this was an enjoyable cruise. The pace is relaxing with the right amount of down time, onboard and offshore activities.
This is not the cruise for young people and there were no children on board. The cruisers were almost all retirees. Even the fabulous entertainer was in his late 70’s. You wouldn’t know it though as his energy levels would tire out a much younger person.
The 4 night cruise departs from Mannum at 4.30pm every Monday and returns again on Friday morning. The route goes upriver past the iconic cliffs at Big Bend, through Lock 1 at Blanchetown before turning around and coming back downriver.
The first day includes a compulsory safety briefing for all passengers and a Welcome Dinner in the Sturt Dining Room. The Dress Code for the dining room is sportswear and casual clothes during the day however smart casual evening wear is encouraged.
The vessel moors overnight near Cournamount. Day 2 has the ship leaving its mooring at 7.00am and continuing upriver. Breakfast is served from 8.00am. A morning stretch class is held on the Sun Deck each morning led by the young-at -heart entertainer.
This day includes a morning talk by the First Officer on the history of the paddle steamers, pioneers and engineers that tamed the river. Lunch is at 12.30 followed by a DVD presentation called ‘Source to the Sea’. This is a short documentary of an event that took place in 2001 and celebrated the Centenary of Federation.
During the day the ship passes by the famous limestone cliffs of Big Bend. These giant cliffs tower over the four storey vessel below and are home to many thousands of birds.
In the afternoon the ship passes through Lock 1 at Blanchetown and this is a sight not to be missed by all passengers. We were particularly amused by the antics of the scores of large Pelicans as they swoop in and land in the turbulent waters of the weir where they can catch any fish that come over the weir.
The ship moors for the night just past the double vehicle bridges at Blanchetown. Following dinner was a game of chance called the Murray Cup and this involved passenger participation. It was a lot of fun and the winner of the Murray Cup has to hold on to it day and night for the remainder of the cruise to redeem special privileges. If however they allow the Cup to be stolen the privileges go to the person who holds the Cup.
The third day of cruising sees the PS Murray Princess head back downriver through Lock 1 again. The morning exercise class was held and a game of Bingo was hotly contested in the dining room.
Around midday the vessel moors at the historic riverside town of Swan Reach. Passengers can alight and do a walking tour of the lovely little town. Swan Reach was settled, as many SA towns were, by German settlers in the early 1800’s. The little town has a museum, a private Classic Car Gallery, a Craft & Produce Shop and the Historic Swan Reach Hotel.
The Historic Swan Reach Hotel started life as the Swan Reach Homestead until 1899 when Emma Hasse, the wife of the then owner, applied for and was granted a liquor licence. The Hasse family ran the Hotel up until 1914 when it was purchased by its current owners. The Hotel has a lovely large outdoor area with great views of the river below. It’s a great spot for lunch and cool beverage.
The vessel departs Swan Reach after lunch and travels downstream to the area known as Sunnydale right under the cliffs of Big Bend. The ship moors for the night at a permanent campsite. Here it was all aboard carts for the Sunnydale Woolshed Tour. All passengers are loaded onto carts for the short drive along the dusty track to the Woolshed where the family put on a great show in their historic Woolshed.
Back on the carts to the campsite and we found the crew had moved the bar into the camp and were busily preparing a scrumptious BBQ dinner. The long tables were set with colourful gingham tablecloths and there was a circular fire pit in the centre of the camp.
After dinner passengers could join a Nocturnal Tour. This was a cart ride through the bush where the guide pointed out the various wildlife using a spotlight.
The delicious BBQ meal was served following a fabulous musical number put on by all the crew. The crew look like they really enjoy this night and their happy moods are infectious.
The next morning a Bush Tucker Breakfast is an optional extra for those who would like to try bush tucker or passengers can join the Captain for a bush walk after breakfast.
The ship departs from Big Bend and again you get a really good look at these incredible cliffs as we cruise slowly by. We arrived at Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Conservation Area mid morning and here we are treated to an excellent tour by the local Aboriginal people who are proud to share their stories and culture with passengers. Some of the rock carvings we were shown date back over 8,000 years and indicate continuous occupation of the area by Aboriginal people. Ngaut Ngaut was a meeting place for other tribes to come to trade and this is evidenced by stones from far away places such as Lake Mungo and even the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. This fabulous tour was a highlight for me.
The PS Murray Princess departs Ngaut Ngaut and continues to cruise downriver. Lunch is served followed by a Trivia Quiz. Later in the afternoon those passengers who like a bit of adventure can partake in a ride on the tender boat. Life jackets must be worn and the tender boat zooms along and around the Murray Princess, even crossing the huge wake a few times spraying the passengers. This was a bit of fun.
The ship moors up at an area known as Younghusband. The Farewell Dinner is held on this last night and is a six-course degustation meal. The food was fabulous and enjoyed by all. The evening was made memorable by most passengers making the effort to get dressed up and the great dancing music provided by our entertainer, Bobby.
The last morning is always a melancholy one as you need to have your packed bags outside your room by 7.00am before heading to the dining room for the last breakfast. The ship gets underway and a short two hours later is pulling up to the wharf in Mannum right on time.
The red carpet is rolled out again and the crew line up to say a fond farewell to passengers as they depart to continue their travels. We had a fabulous time made more enjoyable by the crew who obviously enjoy what they do, the great food and wine and the spectacular scenery and natural beauty of the mighty Murray River.