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Finally, a day at sea to explore the new ship.

Otaro is on the west coast of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. From there we sailed north to the Russian island of Sakhalin, but now we’re heading largely east across the Sea of Okhotsk to the Kuril island chain that links the top of Japan to Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

You may wonder why these islands are Russian rather than Japanese. So does Japan. The four southernmost islands are still in dispute, so we’re avoiding those on this voyage.

How different is Orion II?

As we’ve come to know the ship, the perverse answer would be: “very, but not much”.

Nothing is where you’d expect.

Starting from the top (reached by much more utilitarian staircase and lift than Orion I), deck 6 has four penthouse cabins with balconies, the Jacuzzi deck forward and the lifeboats and funnels astern. Deck 5 has balcony cabins and the outdoor dining area plus a massage room. Deck 4 has lots of cabins plus the large multi-purpose club lounge, bar and library – behind that is a small gym with panoramic windows over the stern. Deck 3, at the top of the gangway, has more cabins, reception, the shop and the main lounge, where presentations and recaps are held. Unlike Orion I, deck 2 also has guest cabins as well as the restaurant and medical centre.

In the short time that Orion has had the ship it’s done a remarkable job of making it feel ‘Orion’. That’s partly due to the Filipino crew who remember your name and your favourite drinks. But the operations and daily scheduling have been carried across from Orion. Serge Danserau has already spent a lot of time in the galley with chef Lothar to ensure the high standards of cuisine are carried across from one ship to the next.

We may be seeking certain functions in the wrong place, but it already feels like an Orion cruise.

Words by: David McGonigal

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