The Orion – Best Hotel in PNG

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I’m still not clear about what my Facebook pal Justin Friend’s job is on Orion,  a luxury cruise ship which usually tip-toes into Madang at dawn and scurries out at dusk. His primary duty seems to be to live up to his surname. It seems that he organises a million things that would never occur to me. Anyway, yesterday he organised a visit aboard Orion  for me and my gorgeous wife, Eunie.

The joke aboard Orion  is that, when in port anywhere in PNG, it’s the best hotel in the country. Well, I’ve not been to all of the hotels in PNG, but I’m inclined to say that it’s no joke. From glitz to service, especially service, I’ve seen nothing to compare with it since I stayed in the Hanoi Horison Hotel. A place such as that would normally not be on my itinerary, but I booked a room on the Internet for US$80 per night.

Here’s a shot that I filched from Google Images of Orion  strutting her stuff:She’s a single constant-speed engined ship with a variable pitch propeller, two double-jointed rudders, and bow and stern thrusters. She can turn in her own length. She was purpose built (and, man, is she built! ) for getting into and out of small, interesting ports. She spends much of her time cruising Antarctic waters. I’ll give that a pass.

The bridge was like Disneyland to me. They have so many wonderful toys to play with:Note the golf ball knobs on the controls.

The crew is primarily Filipino and the engineers are Russian. Orion  was built in Germany. She’s simply the biggest Mercedes Benz that I’ve ever seen. This is the deck bar. I can imagine myself schmoozing here with the rich folks. I’d have to go browsing through the used clothing shops here in Madang for a new wardrobe:There is also a huge lecture hall. I’m dedicating myself to wangling a cruise on Orion  as a guest lecturer. There must be something  that I could talk about. I used to do cruise guiding and lecturing on the Melanesian Discoverer  until the tourism industry collapsed and the boat was sold.

Here is the dining room. No matter what I was wearing, I’d feel like a bum in here:Everything is so perfect, that it seems as if it’s not quite real. I kept expecting to hear a director yell, “Cut; that’s a wrap.” and see a crew of stage hands come in to tear the whole thing apart.

Well, somebody’s got to cook all of that delicious food, some of which we consumed at a sumptuous luncheon buffet:It all happens in the galley, which was very businesslike. There was no screaming chef, at least I didn’t hear him scream. He was a very dignified looking fellow, German as I remember. By the way, Orion  has two  captains who take turns commanding the ship. That seems comforting to me.

It never occurred to me that cruise ships might have elevators, but that just goes to show what a bumpkin I am:

Orion’s  elevator runs up the middle of a huge circular well in the centre of the ship which also features a stunning spiral staircase. The entire top of the well is glass, so the natural daylight, and moonlight I guess, illuminates the three deck high area. Everything is incredibly shiny and colourful. Yet nothing comes off as gaudy.

This is the kind of atmosphere you can expect everywhere aboard Orion:The Walter Mitty in me imagines me in a black tux with a burgundy cummerbund and bow tie to match, a Walther P-38 bulging in my armpit, and a mysterious and beautiful spy whispering secrets in my ear beside this staircase on Orion.

The watchword on Orion  is service. The boat usually sails with a passenger to crew ration of about one to one, which seemed incredible to me. Justin was particularly proud of this notice board. Note the grid of little squares:There is a picture of every passenger there. Crew are required to know the names of the passengers at any table which they serve. Justin mentioned that one of the most common questions of the passengers is, “How do they all know my name?”

That’s class, baby! If this ship were really a woman I would fall deeply in love with her in an instant.

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11 Responses to “The Orion – Best Hotel in PNG”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    What a fabulous boat and crew. This might even tempt me to Antarctic waters! Great post. As I said on FB, they should give you a free cruise for all the business I bet this great post sends their way!

  2. MadDog Says:

    Justin says that their Antarctic cruise is usually fully booked, so get in there early; it’s very popular. I’d do it except I can’t stand cold. The most popular place on the ship is the sauna which has one side that is entirely glass. You can sit in the sauna and watch the icebergs go by. He said that they had a Bulgarian Doctor on one cruise down there who sat naked in the sauna during most of the crew. I wonder if he was a Buddhist?

    Anyway, it would be a very luxurious way to see the Antarctic.

    I don’t expect to get anything out of the plug. The visit, delicious lunch and Cascade beer were ample. We have nothing near that kind of luxury any closer than Cairns.

  3. Walt Says:

    Thanks for the glimpse of this ship … I have a feeling that’s as close as I’ll be getting to that kind of travel!

  4. MadDog Says:

    I know how you feel, Walt. The only way I’ll ever get on there is as a guest lecturer. I’ll probably have to sleep in the suana.

  5. Steve Bennett Says:

    I once saw this ship at Tufi. Spectacular it was as it came into the Fjord… it then turned around because the Capt’n got the scares. So everyone disembarked via Rubber Duckies.

  6. Colin Huggins Says:


    Truely a magnificent floating “5 star+ hotel”.
    I know people who have been able to AFFORD the price and have cruised around PNG islands and also off the Kimberley Coastline in WA. They told me it was just unbelievable.
    Unfortunately I can only dream of such luxuries these days, unless I win the “Pools” or “Lotto”.
    However I would not be doing the cruise to the Antartic – snow and the cold do not agree with me!!!!
    A very interesting report – thanks for the photos, you lucky bastard being able to even step onto the “floating palace”.

    Green with envy

  7. I Shall Now Tease You | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] no major tease, so don’t get confused. I didn’t have time the other day to work on these two panoramas which I shot on Orion.  This is, as you might well imagine, The […]

  8. Walt Says:

    Hmm … “guest lecturer” … you know, MadDog, that may not be such a bad fit for you.

  9. MadDog Says:

    Well, one can hardly blame him. Have you ever seen a German’s reaction when someone bumps his Mercedes? I have and it’s not pretty.

  10. MadDog Says:

    Colin, thanks for the nice review. I’m in the same income class, I’m afraid, but I’ve always been a lucky bastard. Just look at my wife!

  11. MadDog Says:

    One lives in hope, Walt.