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The Murray River is the longest river in Australia and stretches across the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The river is shrouded in legend and tells a story that can take you back thousands of years to the “Black Duck Dreaming” of the Nganguraku people or to a time where paddle wheelers ruled the mighty Murray.
We have always been fascinated by the romance and adventure of life on the Murray, so we jumped at the chance to take a PS Murray Princess cruise. This majestic sternwheeler is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and is an impressive sight to see as it makes its way up the Murray River in South Australia.
So, come along with us as we take you on a journey to discover the beauty and heritage of the Murray River on the PS Murray Princess.
7 Night Upper Murraylands Cruise Overview
Nothing can prepare you for the first glimpse of the PS Murray Princess, even on an overcast day the sight of this paddle wheeler filled us with excitement.
Sitting on the dock at its home port of Mannum South Australia the Murray Princess has the regal air of the old paddle steamers of the Mississippi. Although the boat has an old world charm it is quite young and was built in South Australia in 1986.
The Murray Princess is a confection of sweeping balconies, lounges that look out over the swirling paddle wheel and sun decks that showcase the spectacular views of the river.
A Murray Princess cruise can be as busy or relaxed as you want, there are heaps of activities and tours throughout the cruise and you will be surprised how quickly the day flies by. For those who just want to chill out, grab a book from the library, spend time with a jigsaw puzzle or sit and watch the river glide by.
If you are interested in taking a 7 Night Upper Murraylands Cruise on the PS Murray Princess here is a taste of what you will get.
Day 1 – Boarding our PS Murray Princess Cruise
To get from Adelaide to Mannum you have a few options, there are airport pickups, a bus service from selected hotels or you can drive and park at Mannum. We chose the hotel pickup which made getting to Mannum a breeze. Along the way we were entertained with stories of the region by our bus driver John.
Once there we quickly settled into our room before making our way to the Sturt Bar to try the cocktail of the day, a ‘Procrastinating Pelican’. This delicious concoction was made of Kahlua, Cherry Brandy, Dark Crème de Cacao and blended with cream and coconut milk. It was like drinking a lusciously creamy Cherry Ripe.
With a blast from the horns it was time to go, we flocked on deck and looked out with excitement as the boat pulled away from the shore. We waved goodbye to Mannum and began our journey upstream.
Soon it was time for dinner in the Sturt Dining Room, our first encounter with the superb range of dishes served throughout our Murray River cruise. Be prepared to adjust your belt as the Murray Princess is not the place to be on a diet.
Nightly entertainment was led by the multi-talented Katie. This gifted singer is the mastermind behind the crew entertainment and her bubbly personality will have you in stitches throughout the cruise.
Murder on the Murray Princess
We join Inspector Katie as we put on our amateur detective hats and go sleuthing to solve the ‘Murder on the Murray Princess’.
Day 2 – Departing Caurnamont & sailing the mighty Murray
Waking to a misty morning, early risers were out enjoying the bush setting of our overnight mooring at Caurnamont.
Following breakfast, we had a range of activities to choose from including the Murray Princess fishing challenge and a nature cruise on the vessel ‘Dragonfly’.
Murray Princess Cruise Fishing Challenge
The Murray Princess fishing challenge was a lot of fun and we were hoping to catch one of the dreaded carp which are the scourge of the river. There were lots of bites and although we did not catch any fish, I did have one slippery character steal my hook.
Dragonfly Nature Cruise
We were thrilled to be taking to the Murray River on the ‘Dragonfly’. Not only did we get to see the Murray Princess from the water, but we also got a chance to learn more about the wildlife and conservation of the area.
Our guide was a wealth of information and we were happy to hear that more native fingerlings are being found in this stretch of the river. It was impressive to look up and see whispering kites soar gracefully overhead.
Food & Wine Pairing
The Murray river lands yield one third of Australia’s grape production and is a fruit bowl which provides the nation with a large selection of citrus and stone fruits, almonds and olives.
Cottage industries have taken advantage of this abundance and have infused a local flavour that is unique to the river lands and South Australia.
After lunch we sampled the bounty of the Murray River food and wine trail by tasting a range of wines, cheeses and locally grown gourmet goods. Many of these products are for sale in the gift shop including Convalita Big Tom Tomato Sauce, a rich tangy tomato sauce which is quite addictive.
Murray River Scenery
After an overcast morning, the sun came out to reveal the golden beauty of the cliffs. We passed small communities and campsites with people enjoying their weekend on the Murray. Pelicans drift lazily by and fishermen wet a line at their secret fishing spots.
Crew Talent Entertainment
The crew do a fabulous job of taking care the passengers of the Murray Princess, but they also have hidden talents. We had an opportunity to discover these talents when they put on a show that introduced us to a unique cast of characters and a night full of laughs.
Day 3 – From the Sugar Shack to the historic town of Morgan
With the rhythmic hum of the paddle wheel we set off from our overnight mooring at Sugar Shack. We watched the water drip and splash over the wheel and overhead the colourful Lower Murray River Flag fluttered in the breeze. A trail of waves stretched out behind us leaving a pathway in the river.
Lock 1 at Blanchetown
When the Captain announced that we were entering Lock 1 at Blanchetown we all took to the decks to watch. Locals came and watched too, and we felt like celebrities as they waved and took photos. Of course, the real star of the show was the PS Murray Princess.
First to enter were the crew who drove the tender boats with skill and precision. Next the Murray Princess squeezed in and we waited for the lock water to rise so we could continue our journey upriver.
Paddle Steamers on the Murray River
Our First Officer Ross joined us in the Sturt Dining Room for an interesting talk on the paddle steamers, pioneers and characters that tamed the Murray River. A fabulous glimpse into the history and courage of those early adventurers.
We were surprised to learn that the Murray River ceased flowing for a short time during the drought years between 1914 and 1915. Although the river is constantly changing, looking out over the wide expanse of water it was hard to imagine the river so dry.
After Dark Ghost Tour
The historic town of Morgan was our overnight mooring and in its heyday was one of the busiest Murray River ports in South Australia.
With such a history the town has its fair share of ghost stories so after dinner we said goodbye to the brightly lit Murray Princess and headed out into the night on a spooky After Dark Ghost Tour of Morgan.
Day 4 – Wineries, Museums & Wetlands
It was a beautiful sunny day as we crossed the Murray River on the Morgan Ferry. The short ride was perfect for catching views of the Murray Princess and houseboats making their way down the river.
We joined our coach tour to explore the township of Waikerie before stopping off for lunch and a wine tasting at the Banrock Station Wine and Wetlands Centre.
The Waikerie Machinery & Preservation Museum
If you are interested in machinery memorabilia make sure to check out the Waikerie Machinery & Preservation Museum. There are a fantastic array of vintage farm machinery and cars, a depression hut, old signs and so much more.
Rain Moth Gallery
Waikerie has an range of interesting shops including the Rain Moth Gallery. The gallery displays the work of local artists and has a unique collection of art which showcases the native animals of the region.
Waikerie Silo Art
The Waikerie Silo Art not only transforms a boring old silo into a breathtaking work of art but also sends an important message. This stunning art piece is titled ‘Healthy River Healthy Community’ and was created by artists Garry Duncan and Jimmy Dvate.
The silo features the endangered Regent Parrot, a giant Yabby and an assortment of fish, birds, frogs and turtles.
Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre
A highlight of our Murray River cruise on the PS Murray Princess was our visit to the Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre. This is the place to enjoy stunning vistas, explore the wetlands and savour the fruits of the vine with a lunch and wine tasting.
What really impressed us about Banrock Station was their respect for the environment. Extensive regrowth and regular drainage of the wetlands mimics the rivers natural flow, helping to eradicate carp and encouraging native fingerlings to flourish.
Banrock Station Winery also donates large sums of money to habitats worldwide to promote conservation. So not only do you get to experience great wine but also give a helping hand to the environment.
Day 5 – Vineyards, historic Morgan & the Murray Cup
It was a gorgeous morning on the Murray River, and we pulled up anchor early to head upstream to the Caudo Vineyard
We pass the sandy white beaches that occasionally peek through the dense bushland that lines the riverbank. The river meanders peacefully along its shore, kangaroos spring away to hide while birds flutter and sing in the undergrowth.
Caudo Vineyard sits on a picturesque stretch of the Murray River. Adding to the beauty is the PS Murray Princess which is parked along its shore.
It may be early, but we are more than ready to sample the wines and explore this beautiful vineyard and rose garden. Caudo Vineyard has a fantastic selection of boutique wines, sangrias, craft beer, cider and coffee.
Heading back downstream we returned to the historical town of Morgan. Here we visited the Morgan Museum to learn more about river life throughout the years. The Museum has a fascinating range of memorabilia including a paddle steamer simulator.
It was fun driving the boat in the simulator and I now have a newfound admiration for the Murray River boat Captain’s as steering through rocks and islands can be quite challenging.
We also visited Carmines Antiques which is an Aladdin’s cave of vintage and antique treasures. This shop is packed to the rafters with an intriguing range of curios, art, books and collectables.
Old Wharf Crafts is a small shop that is located on the dock. Here you will find an array of local crafts and a wonderful display of homemade Christmas decorations.
The Murray River Cup
The Murray River Cup is a race like no other and so much fun. Our unique selection of starters got to run the race of their life.
Day 6 – Classic cars, Sheep sheering & BBQ’s
We make our way back downstream to Lock 1 and the weir at Blanchetown. As we approach the lock, we look over to the weir which is teaming with birdlife. Pelicans and cormorants socialise and lie in wait for fish.
This time we enter the lock and wait for the water to lower before continuing out journey to Swan Reach.
Swan Reach has a few places of interest to visit, the Swan Reach Museum, the Mid Murray Classic Car Gallery and the Swan Reach Craft Shop.
For car enthusiasts a trip to the Mid Murray Classic Car Gallery is a must! The gallery is a small museum which showcases a variety of vintage and classic cars which are in pristine condition.
The Swan Reach Craft Shop is a place where you could spend a lot of time admiring the great selection of local craft and produce for sale. The craft shop is the perfect place to pick up a gift or souvenir.
Sunnydale Woolshed Show
We cruised on to Sunnydale where we saw another highlight of our Murray River cruise, the Sunnydale Woolshed Show.
This was a wonderful show with a sheep shearing demonstration, and introduction to the different breeds of sheep and so much more. The show was full of fun and a truly memorable experience.
What better way to relax after our trip to the woolshed than settle back for a rustic bush barbeque? After a superb meal we were entertained with a special show by our crew and spent the night telling tall tales by a blazing fire.
Optional Nocturnal Tour
This optional tour was a lot of fun as we all climbed onboard our cart and were whisked off into the night. The Nocturnal Tour takes you to a Dark Sky Reserve where you will see a range of nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. During our tour we saw western grey kangaroos, emus and more.
Day 7 – Bush breakfast & getting up close to an archaeological site
A boisterous bunch of sulphur crested cockatoos greet a brand new day from the safety of their homes in the cliffs. This was the perfect alarm clock to wake us up as we quickly got ready for our optional Bush Tucker Breakfast Tour.
Optional Bush Tucker Breakfast Tour
The Bush Breakfast Tour starts with a glass of bubbles in a charming bush setting. We all sat down for a bush tucker breakfast with a host of native flavours including Kangaroo sausages, wattle seed pancakes and lemon myrtle butter.
Top it off with gum trees, the mighty Murray River and the tall ochre cliffs of Big Bend and you have perfection.
Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Conservation Park
The Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park is an archaeological site that tells the story of the traditional landowners, the Nganguraku people.
These majestic sandstone cliffs have been used for habitation for thousands of years and this can be seen in the rock carvings that decorate the walls. Each carving depicts an element of daily life in the area and further afield. This is a fascinating place to visit and one that should be visited by everyone.
The lovely crew of the PS Murray Princess really pulled out all the stops on the last night of our 7 Night Upper Murraylands Cruise. We were served a sumptuous degustation menu which included canapes, soup, hot and cold seafood, roast ham & turkey and finished with pavlova.
We were entertained by our fellow passengers and we had the chance thank our crew for making our cruise so memorable.
Meals on the Murray Princess
Before dinner you can enjoy watching the sunset with a cocktail, beer or wine at happy hour.
When you take a holiday on the PS Murray Princess be prepared to be spoilt with the selection of mouth-watering dishes served onboard. Lunch and dinner are an event, and you will not go away from the table hungry.
Those with special dietary needs are well catered for with a delicious range of meals that will meet your requirements.
Lunch is a main meal and dessert finished with tea and coffee. Dinner is either a three course meal or canapes & two course meal. Both lunch and dinner usually have two menu choices per meal.
Dress code in the dining room is sportswear and casual clothes during the day and dressy casual in the evening. For the Farewell Dinner, an evening jacket and tie or long sleeve shirt and slacks for men and a cocktail dress or pants outfit for women.
PS Murray Princess Cruise Cabins
The PS Murray Princess has a total of 60 cabins and staterooms with private bathroom. Cabin choices include staterooms, outside cabins and inside cabins.
Murray Princess Staterooms
Staterooms are spacious and feature a queen bed, mini-bar, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities. Each stateroom opens out onto the outside deck walkway and has lift access. Some staterooms may contain an extra single bed which is great for families travelling together.
Murray Princess Outside Cabins
Most outside cabins contain two single beds with limited double beds available. The rooms have a private bathroom and open onto the outside deck walkway with lift access. Of the outside cabins, four cabins are wheelchair accessible.
Murray Princesss Inside Cabins
Inside cabins open onto a wide inside passageway on the lower Chaffey Deck. The cabins offer twin bedding with limited double beds available. Inside Cabins have no lift access and are only accessible via the stairs.
PS Murray Princess layout and features
The PS Murray Princess is made up of five decks named after important historical figures of the Murray River. The Cadell, Randell and Chaffey Decks house the cabins and lounges while the Sturt and Sun Decks are dedicated to dining, entertainment and relaxation.
The Dining Room & Bar
The Sturt Dining Room features long dining tables which are the ideal place for meeting and making new friends. The dining room is also the venue for many of the onboard activities and entertainment.
The Murray River Queen Club Lounge Bar is on the Sturt Deck and the spot to be for Happy Hour. Each day the Bar introduces a cocktail of the day and offer daily drink specials.
The Paddlewheel Lounge is named after the impressive views of the spinning paddlewheel which can be seen right outside the window. Covering two levels and connected by a spiral staircase the Paddlewheel Lounge is a space for relaxation and a meeting point for friends. On the lower level you will find the coffee bar and gift shop and on the upper level you will find the library and games area.
There are a few viewing decks on the Murray Princess, the largest being the Sun Deck which has an assortment of lounges, tables and chairs, a fantastic area to admire the changing landscape of the river. There is also a small outside sitting area in front of the bar and you can take in the views from the forward and aft decks.
Decks Without Lift Access
The lower level Chaffey Deck and upper level Sun Deck are only accessible by stairs. You will find the inside cabins, guests’ laundry and gym on the Chaffey Deck. The Sun Deck is only accessible by a steep shallow set of stairs.
PS Murray Princess Cruises
Although anyone can take a cruise on the PS Murray Princess, the cruise usually caters to the over 50 age group wanting Murray River holidays with a mix of interesting activities in a relaxing informal atmosphere.
Captain Cook Cruises run a selection of 3, 4, 5 and 7 night Murray River cruises from Adelaide on the PS Murray Princess. Popular Murray Princess cruises include the Murray Princess Christmas Cruise and New Year Cruise.
Want to see more of the PS Murray Princess – Check out our Video
Last Words on PS Murray Princess Cruise Review
We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the PS Murray Princess. There were loads of activities to keep us occupied, we got to learn a lot about the fascinating history of the region and immersed ourselves in the spectacular beauty of the Upper Murray in South Australia.
Would I go on another Murray Princess cruise on the Murray River? Most definitely! It truly was an unforgettable experience.
Have you taken a Murray Princess river cruise? We would love to hear about your experience.
You may also be interested in our review of the Perth Swan Valley Gourmet Wine Cruise conducted by Captain Cook Cruises.
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Disclosure: We were hosted by Captain Cook Cruises who provided the 7 nights cruise, accommodation and optional tours. As usual all opinions are our own.