Rolling down the Murray River
THE sound of water gently lapping, the call of the birds at sunrise, the breath of the breeze through the gum trees, the Murray River makes for smooth sailing with the PS Murray Princess.
Owned and operated by Captain Cook Cruises, this iconic paddle steamer offers a choice of three-, four- and seven-night tours.
Firmly ensconced within its target market, the classic riverboat seamlessly transports 120 guests along the Murray, showcasing a plethora of Australian wildlife set amid a raw rugged landscape.
To set the mood and tantalise our taste buds, we overnight at the Mercure Grosvenor Hotel in North Terrace, Adelaide.
After a scrumptious buffet breakfast we board our coach at the door and make our way to Mannum, the home port of the PS Murray Princess.
It's mid afternoon in early winter as we embark on a four-night Outback Heritage Cruise visiting Blanchetown, Swan Reach, Sunnydale and Ngaut Ngaut.
Featuring a host of daily activities and entertainment, our voyage is further complemented by the luxury of time to sit back, relax and watch the world go by.
The ambience is of a bygone era, when the river and its ports were a hive of activity as hundreds of paddle wheelers cruised the Murray River.
Propelled by an authentic stern paddlewheel and renowned as the largest in the southern hemisphere, the PS Murray Princess was faithfully designed before being purpose built in 1986.
This grand lady of the waterways offers the charm of yesteryear as shevisits old riverside ports, vineyards, a woolshed and also an Aboriginal conservation park.
The crew welcomes guests and with a minimum of fuss, bags are delivered to cabins and we're soon making our way up stream.
With 60 cabins and staterooms to choose from, each with private bathroom ensuite, air-conditioning and a few home comforts, you will settle in easily and quickly.
A library, bar, spa, sauna, lounges, guest laundry and gift shop are on board ensuring every comfort.
There's no need for sea legs, the PS Murray Princess makes her way in a leisurely manner. With a top speed of just six knots, she moves along effortlessly with the gentlest of movement.
We enjoy pre-dinner welcome drinks and an early dinner in the dining salon. The only consideration for the next few days is what to wear and what to eat.
In fact this is easy, as the atmosphere is one of comfort and each day's menu offers a delicious selection with something to suit the most discerning palate.
There's no rush, just ample time to sit back and relax. Forget the day to day chores, everything is taken care of. Take in the scenery and chat with guests or maybe even a celebrity.
Julie Goodwin recently partnered with Captain Cook Cruises to share her expertise in the kitchen with several cooking demonstrations from her latest cookbook Gather.
This cooking cruise could well become become an annual event with the next one scheduled for March 2014.
At just 67.4 metres, the PS Murray Princess allows guests to mingle easily and with Julie's outgoing personality, it isn't long before everyone is on a first name basis.
Securing overnight at Caurnamont, we awake to a sea of mist, a stunning sight interrupted only by an abundance of wildlife which often includes pelicans, blue wrens and black swans.
The PS Murray Princess continues her journey with each day and evening bringing something new as we pass through locks, journey along rust-red gorges and witness glorious sunsets.
Guests have the option to do very little or do a lot. A variety of onboard activities are punctuated by memorable meals including an onshore country barbecue and spectacular captain's buffet.
Unique and unforgettable, a Captain Cook Cruise will have you hooked line and sinker.
* The writer was a guest of Captain Cook Cruises and Mercure.