When I lived in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Clifton Gardens 20 years ago, my upstairs neighbour was Cunard shipping executive Sarina Bratton. Sarina went on to become the world’s first woman to found a shipping line - Orion Expedition Cruises – and in today’s log I briefly tell her story. But first a television program you might want to watch. In March this year, the popular Channel 9 travel show Getaway sent a film crew (anchored by presenter Jules Lund) to experience MV Orion’s inaugural expedition voyage in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
As the first Getaway segment went to air last Thursday, I was aboard Orion on the last leg of a most splendid journey around the islands to our north. But I’ll be tuning in for the second segment which goes to air this week [Thursday 9 November, 7.30 pm DST in the Eastern States].
Sarina Bratton is the founder and managing director of the five-star ‘soft adventure’ Orion Expedition Cruises, which also has financial backing from Marilynne Paspaley of the eponymous pearls to property group. Marilynne, an engaging and personable former stage and television actor, and husband Gary occupied Orion’s owners’ suite on the first leg of our PNG cruise.
Sarina Bratton now lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with her husband and daughter. An outstanding athlete, at age 17 she held national sporting titles in gymnastics, diving and trampoline. But when injury cut short her sporting career, she took a working holiday in Europe which led directly to her involvement in tourism.
On International Women’s Day this year Sarina won the coveted Australian Veuve Clicquot Award to recognise her leadership skills and contribution to tourism. Presenting the award, Janet Holmes à Court said, “Through Sarina’s persistence and perseverance she is creating a company that is exciting and innovative. Her vision to develop Australia as a cruise destination through the development of innovative itineraries has generated significant economic benefit.”
Two years ago Sarina’s dream of starting her own line became a reality with the launch of the Orion. She nurtured every detail from the galley to the engine room, hand-picked destinations, selected top expedition staff (including the inimitable Justin Friend) and worked with local communities to allow the ship to access those 'paths less travelled'.
“It’s tough starting a new business,” says Sarina. “You work very long hours and you have to put everything into it, which I’m not afraid of. I’ve got the best ship for the job and I’ve got a fantastic team working with me.”