What’s new in cruising for 2018
WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS DANCE IN THE NORWEGIAN NIGHT SKY
Open your travel diaries, cruisers, because it’s time to start planning for next year.
The 2018-19 cruise season will set new standards in terms of enticing itineraries designed to show passengers unfamiliar destinations and fresh ways to experience the world’s great oceans and rivers.
Whether you want to drink mojitos and dance the salsa in the Caribbean, see a tribal dance group on a remote Papua New Guinea island or watch the northern lights dance in the Norwegian night sky, there’s a voyage for you.
Temptingly, cruise companies are now releasing their 2018-19 brochures with lucrative earlybird deals including free airfares, while companies such as Imagine Cruising are packaging deals in a season with many highlights. Here are some.
ON COURSE TO CUBA
Largely off limits for so long, cruise lines such as Carnival and Norwegian are setting course to the communist outpost of Cuba.
Holland America Line next year will run round-trip cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, featuring calls at Havana and Cienfuegos as well as Caribbean ports, priced from $1199 a person, twin share, for a season ending April 18, 2018.
Australia’s Scenic is famous for river cruising but in August 2018 launches its luxury ocean mega-yacht Scenic
Eclipse, complete with two helicopters and seven-seat submarine, with destinations including Cuba in its sights. A 14-day round-trip cruise from Miami departing October 5, 2018, calls at nine ports sailing around the nation, priced from $14,295 a person, twin share.
Princess Cruises’ 2018-19 Australia and New Zealand program features four ships: new flagship Majestic Princess, Golden Princess, Sun
Princess and Sea Princess. They will offer almost 100 cruises from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Auckland over seven months, calling at 72 ports in 18 countries including Queensland’s Moreton Island.
One of the more fascinating maiden calls will be to the remote Conflict Islands in Papua New Guinea. This idyllic archipelago of 21 islands with pristine reefs and abundant marine life was bought sight unseen by Aussie tycoon Ian Gowrie-Smith who wants to turn much of it into a marine reserve.
A 12-day Brisbane round-trip cruise departing December 16, 2018 calls at Alotau, Kitava, Rabaul, Kiriwina Island, Conflict Islands, Kawanasausau Strait and Milne Bay.
P&O made its maiden call to the tranquil islands last year and is expanding its PNG offerings taking guests to fascinating areas such as the Trobriand Islands. A 14-night P&O trip, departing Brisbane on February 9, 2018, calls at Alotau, Madang, Wewak, Vitu Islands, Rabaul, Kiriwina Island in the Trobriand group, Kitava and the Conflict Islands, priced from $1299 a person, quad share.
River cruise companies such as Uniworld, APT and Scenic are seeing strong demand for the food and winethemed cruises out of beautiful Bordeaux, particularly from travellers who have enjoyed the better known European river cruises.
Leisurely itineraries explore the Garonne and Dordogne rivers as well as the Gironde estuary, the villages, wineries and chateaus of the Aquitaine region and historic towns such as Cognac and Bergerac.
Bordeaux itself is a wonderful drawcard with its gorgeous honeycoloured stone buildings and revitalised, pedestrian-friendly Port of the Moon waterfront area, so named because of the crescent shape of the Garonne River at that point.
Kangaroo Island, Komodo Island and the Kimberley are among regions close to home on the hot list’s horizon for many cruise travellers. Viking Cruises’ new ship Viking
Spirit, scheduled for delivery next year, will spend the summer of 201819 based in Australia. Its itineraries include calls to Lombok and Komodo National Park in Indonesia to see the famed Komodo dragons, as part of a 17-day Sydney-Bali or reverse trip calling at 11 ports with departures on November 30, 2018 and March 10, 2019.
The French are also coming, with French-flagged line Ponant running expedition cruises to the remote, spectacular Kimberley region next year.
Four 10-night voyages on L’Austral during July and August 2018, between Darwin and Broome, will include highlights such as the Hunter River, King George Falls, Mitchell Falls, Montgomery Reef and Horizontal Falls and the chance to see the Gwion Gwion and Wandjina rock art.
In 2018-19, P&O will have record ship deployments for both Brisbane and Adelaide. Calls in SA will include Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln, both magnets for overseas and local travellers. See KI’s famed wildlife and landscapes and sample Port Lincoln’s delicious aquaculture – perhaps even take a shark cage dive.
RIVERS OF MYANMAR
For river cruising, Myanmar’s Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers are standout destinations for 2018 and companies such as Avalon, APT and Sanctuary Retreats offer luxury cruises.
Like Cuba, the former Burma was largely off limits for tourism for many years. Cities such as Yangon and Mandalay are fascinating, the diverse mix of cultures is sometimes bewildering and the temples and pagodas are extraordinary.
ALL POINTS POLAR
For travellers past their polar pioneering prime, companies such as Silversea, Ponant and Scenic with its new Scenic Eclipse are offering luxury expedition voyages taking in places such as Iceland, Greenland, the Russian Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, while major cruise lines sail Canada-Alaska routes.
The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, where polar bears outnumber humans, is an increasingly popular cruise destination – as well as expedition
ROTORUA ... ANOTHER POWERFUL DRAWCARD WITH ITS BUBBLING MUD POOLS AND STEAMY GEYSERS
lines, mainstream cruise lines such as Princess Cruises, MSC and Holland America Line putting it on 2018 itineraries.
THE BALTIC IS HOT
Waters less travelled have an intriguing appeal for the cruiser and the Baltic Sea of Northern Europe, which has ports in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Finland and Sweden, fits the criteria. Combine historic cities such as St Petersburg with rugged landscapes, add nearby Scandinavia and you have cruise packages that sell out well in advance.
Adelaide travel agent Phil Hoffmann says about 30 per cent of his clients flying to Europe last year were connecting with a cruise holiday, with the Baltics popular.
A 15-day Viking Cruises “Viking Homelands” trip in June, 2018, calls at 11 ports including Stockholm, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Bergen, priced from $8299 a person, twin share.
NEW HOME HOT SPOT
Newcastle is emerging as a local cruise hot spot thanks to an upgraded cruise terminal paving the way to visit the region’s beautiful beaches and Hunter Valley wine country.
The upgrade will allow bigger cruise ships to visit – Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas will make its maiden visit on February 10, 2019, as the largest cruise ship to call. RCI will base three ships in Australia for the 2018-19 season – Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas – and will offer 61 sailings ranging from three to 23 nights, sailing to ports in Australia, NZ, Fiji, French Polynesia, Malaysia, New Caledonia, Singapore, the US and Vanuatu.
CROSS THE TASMAN
NZ’s South Island Fiordland National Park, with its majestic landscapes of Milford, Dusky and Doubtful sounds, makes our trans-Tasman neighbours an ongoing hot spot for cruisers.
Rotorua, from the port of Tauranga in the North Island, is another powerful drawcard with its bubbling mud pools and steamy geysers.
All major local lines have cruises planned for 2018-19 with a wide variety of itineraries on offer.
RCI’s Radiance of the Seas has a 10-night NZ voyage departing Melbourne on February 23, 2019, and calling at Sydney, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington and Picton with a cruise of Milford Sound, before arriving in Auckland.
Viking ship Odin at Budapest on the Danube River (main); and the glorious vistas of Norway await when you visit Breiskrednosi observation site (above right).
Cruisers travelling with Ponant can view the unique rock formations of the Kimberley first hand, with the cruise line running expedition cruises there (above); view the colourful houses of Bergen, on a “Viking Homelands” tour; watch monks in Old Bagan, Myanmar, as the country opens up to tourism (right); and visit the remote Tobriand Islands, PNG.