THE DARLING OF THE MURRAY RIVER


I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the P.S. Murray Princess. She was moored at her home port of Mannam where I peered down towards her from the cliff tops. There she was looking absolutely regal with her two tall ornamental smoke stacks, coupled with the ornately decorated superstructure reflecting a glorious time gone by. As we approached, the red carpet was rolled out for our boarding as our ports were delivered to the cabin that I would call home for the next seven days as we cruised up the Murray River. I was soon to discover that the interior was just as stunning –  the floor to ceiling windows in the paddlewheel lounge allows passengers to watch the stern wheel working, while the upper deck lounge is serviced by twin polished brass spiral stair cases. The Murray Princess is an authentic paddlewheeler, not one of the immitation paddlewheels which adorne many tourist watercraft where the smaller paddlewheel is nothing more than ornimental. 

My 12sq metre  stateroom opened onto the outside deck, offering some truly spectacular views. The room held a large double bed with twin electric blankets as the outside temperature can be allitle nippy dring winter on the river. The double wardrobe, chest of draws, bar fridge, toiletries, and esentials such as electric jug, tea & coffee ensured that I was very comfortable.

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Accomodating only 120 passengers, the Murray Princess is able to foster a warmth and friendliness that often gets lost on larger cruises. The Captain and crew know the river intimately and are delighted to share with you their knowledge and stories. The lounges and dining saloon are spacious with a character and charm of yesteryear – grand in name, yet relaxed and informal by nature

Stunning as she is, not even the Murray Princess could overshaddow the incredible scenery and wildlife that we encoutered on this trip. Following our afternoon departure, ww found ourselves in a world of flowering wattle trees, overhanging willows, and flocks of pink & grey galahs. The roosting pelicans’ stately flypasts into the sun set was a sight to behold.

Along the way we made stops at some of the riverside ports which give life to the beautiful South Australian outback where we were able to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the local cultures. During our stop in Blanchetown I took the walk to the Burk Salter’s Station Winery where the locals told stories abou how it is to live on the land, raise a family, and make good wine. To verify his stories, I made sure I sampled some of his craft. Story checks – in fact the wine was so good that I ordered some to be sent home!

One of the highlights of the week was the Sunnydale onshore woolshed show complete with a big bush bonfire BBQ. Everybody got into the spirit of the night and there was plenty of passenger participation when it came time to hockey pokey. The crew bush band and choir also made and appearance that evening.

Each stop allows passengers to do as much or as little as they want, but with so many attractive options being presented, most people took advantage of as many activities they could. There were wonderful boadwalk tarils, and guided nature walks; small boat safari tours of pristine wetlands; the chance to discover the 800 year old river gums which still show the scars from when the local Aboriginal people cut bark to make canoes.

The landstops were also a a great chance to get stuck into some decicious bush tucker! From the BBQ we enjoyed marinated beef & kangaroo fillet, lamb kebabs, gourmet bangers, and chicken drumstick along with grilled veg, and potatoes & pumpkin baked on the coals.

Another highlight has to be the stop in the Barossa Valley were we were able to get lunch, sightsee, and of course drink wine! I mad sure that I paid a  visit to the iconic Chateau Tanunda. Built in 1890, some vines are 165 years old making it Australia’s oldest chateau. The next stop was McGuigan wines, the home of the very impressive looking Chateau Yaldara. The afternoon’s wine tasting was a great experience and both vineyards are well worth a visit.

Sadly all too soon the cruise was over, but I could not have asked for a more perfect week of Australian history, mystery and romance all rolled into one. From the ancient red gum forests to the limestone cliffs, this cruise gave me a whole new appreciation of the life this river brings to some of the driest, yet most stunning parts of Australia.

Captain Cook Cruises offer 3,4 & 7 night Murray River cruises with a variety of accomodation options available. For bookings and information, please visit www.murrayprincess.com.au