A wel­come flotilla of new­com­ers

More and big­ger ships will of­fer even greater choice for lovers of the sea this com­ing sea­son, writes Brad Crouch

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - CRUISE SEASON PREVIEW -

AUS­TRALIA will wel­come sum­mer with its big­gest cruis­ing sea­son ever – in more ways than one.

The big­gest flotilla to visit Aus­tralia, the big­gest fleet of cruise ships ever based in Aus­tralia and by far the big­gest ships to call Aus­tralia home are all part of the com­ing sea­son.

For hol­i­day-mak­ers, that means the big­gest-ever choice of deals, itin­er­ar­ies and ships, from bou­tique lux­ury lin­ers to fam­ily fun ships to adults-only cruis­ers to mega float­ing re­sorts.

While Aus­tralians can cruise from home all year round thanks to P&O Cruises’ and Princess Cruises’ ships based here, the sum­mer sea­son re­ally gets un­der way from Oc­to­ber when a fleet of ships ar­rives for a sea­son cruis­ing from Aus­tralia to South Pa­cific is­lands, New Zealand, Asia and Aus­tralian des­ti­na­tions.

Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional’s Rhap­sody of the Seas – fresh from a $54 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment with up­grades in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple new din­ing op­tions – and big sis­ter Ra­di­ance of the Seas arrive back in lo­cal wa­ters in Oc­to­ber for an­other Aus­tralian sea­son. RCI also has the big­gest ship ever based in Aus­tralia on its way for a Novem­ber de­but.

Voy­ager of the Seas is one of the 10 big­gest cruise ships afloat, with fa­cil­i­ties such as a rock-climb­ing wall, in-line skate track and ice-skat­ing rink; a day spa with more than 100 treat­ments; 14 bars and 11 din­ing op­tions; and the in­no­va­tive in­door

main street’’ mall and en­ter­tain­ment area. For kids, the DreamWorks Ex­pe­ri­ence means they can dine with their favourite char­ac­ters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Mada­gas­car or catch the char­ac­ter parade.

The 137,276 ton, 3840-pas­sen­ger Voy­ager’s Aus­tralian sea­son will fea­ture New Zealand, South Pa­cific and Aus­tralia itin­er­ar­ies rang­ing from one to 18 nights, sail­ing from Sydney and Fremantle.

Carnival Cruises, the world’s big­gest cruise line, will make its mark in Aus­tralia in Oc­to­ber with the ar­rival of its first ship to be based in Aus­tralia, Carnival Spirit, sail­ing from Sydney for South Pa­cific cruises.

The 88,500 ton, 2600-pas­sen­ger Carnival Spirit will be based in Aus­tralia year round, liv­ing up to the com­pany logo fun ships’’, with fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing the fastest and steep­est wa­ter­slide at sea as part of a water­park, chil­dren’s clubs with child mind­ing un­til 3am, an adults-only

seren­ity’’ re­treat, 16 bars and lounges and four swim­ming pools.

Hol­land Amer­ica Line re­turns to Aus­tralia, with its pre­mium cruise ships bring­ing el­e­gance and re­lax­ation. Volen­dam, known as the flower ship for its reg­u­lar fresh flow­ers and flo­ral themes, has cruised in Aus­tralian wa­ters in re­cent sea­sons and this year is joined by big sis­ter, the 82,305 ton, 1926-pas­sen­ger Oos­ter­dam, which will run 10 to 25-day itin­er­ar­ies around Aus­tralia and New Zealand. HAL’s Am­s­ter­dam will also call, as part of a longer voy­age.

The 122,000 ton, 2540-pas­sen­ger Celebrity Solstice ar­rives in late Novem­ber for its in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralian sea­son. The up-mar­ket ship, one of the 20 big­gest cruise ships in the world, fea­tures an ex­pan­sive Lawn Club area of real grass on the roof. The 317m long ship has 15 bars, 10 din­ing op­tions, day spa for pam­per­ing, large gym, casino, two mid-ship pools and ad­ja­cent adults-only so­lar­ium pool, Broad­way-style the­atre, night­club and plenty more.

The 550-pas­sen­ger Athena re­turns to Aus­tralia for an­other sea­son based out of Fremantle and Ade­laide, of­fer­ing 19 cruises from Novem­ber this year to May next year. The ship’s sea­son will in­clude calls to ports such as Robe in South Aus­tralia and Port­land in Vic­to­ria, an Easter cruise and a rock n’ roll theme cruise.

Princess Cruises will have Sun Princess cruis­ing from Bris­bane, Dawn Princess based in Mel­bourne, Sea Princess re­turn­ing for a sec­ond sea­son out of Sydney, and me­ga­liner Di­a­mond Princess of­fer­ing six cruises be­tween Sydney and Auck­land from De­cem­ber to March.

As well as ships based in Aus­tralia such as P&O’s Pa­cific Jewel, Pa­cific Pearl and Pa­cific Dawn, and those com­ing here for the sea­son, there will be a steady stream of ships call­ing in for sec­tors of longer cruises.

Lux­ury line Sil­versea will have 382-guest sis­ter ships Sil­ver Shadow and Sil­ver Whis­per, with their all-suite ac­com­mo­da­tion, but­ler ser­vice and com­pli­men­tary drinks. Sil­ver Shadow will have two 14-day voy­ages be­tween Aus­tralia and New Zealand in Jan­uary, while Sil­ver Whis­per will of­fer Los Angeles-Sydney, Papeete-Sydney and Sydney-Hong Kong sec­tors as part of a world voy­age.

An­other lux­ury small ship line, Se­abourn, will have Se­abourn Odyssey and Se­abourn Quest in our wa­ters. Se­abourn Quest will make its maiden visit to Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary next year, call­ing at Sydney, Bris­bane, Hamil­ton Is­land, Townsville, Cairns and Thurs­day Is­land as part of a 116-day world cruise, while Se­abourn Odyssey will sail in lo­cal wa­ters for al­most three months as it ex­plores In­done­sia, New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

Other ships vis­it­ing dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son in­clude the P&O ships Ar­ca­dia and Aurora, Cu­nard’s el­e­gant Queen Vic­to­ria along with flag­ship Queen Mary 2 mak­ing its maiden cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of New Zealand, Costa Cruises’ Ro­man­tica and Deliziosa, Celebrity Mil­len­nium, Crys­tal Sym­phony, Bal­moral, Seven Seas Voy­ager, Asuka II (one of Ja­pan’s largest cruise ships), Colum­bus 2, Is­land Sky, Saga Ruby, Marina, Ar­ta­nia and Europa.

Bear in mind ships com­ing to Aus­tralia for the sum­mer sea­son, and leav­ing at the end, of­ten have good deals on these re-po­si­tion­ing cruises.

Carnival Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Ann Sherry says it will be a land­mark sum­mer.

Carnival Aus­tralia now has seven ships based here full time, so cruis­ing is well and truly a year-round in­dus­try in Aus­tralia and sum­mer is the peak, when we wel­come all of our in­ter­na­tional ships and tens of thou­sands of pas­sen­gers to our shores,’’ Sherry says.

Some ships are vis­it­ing as part of a big­ger world cruise but in­creas­ingly we are see­ing other ships be­ing based here in Aus­tralia for sev­eral months, which is fan­tas­tic as it re­flects the grow­ing de­mand for cruise hol­i­days Down Un­der.’’

In­ter­na­tional Cruise Coun­cil Aus­trala­sia gen­eral man­ager Brett Jar­dine says: This year we’ll be wel­com­ing plenty of maiden vis­its, with ships like Carnival Spirit, Royal Caribbean’s Voy­ager of the Seas and Se­abourn Quest mak­ing their in­au­gu­ral calls Down Un­der.

There will be dozens of dif­fer­ent ships sail­ing our wa­ters. Be­tween them, the ships will make hun­dreds of vis­its to Aus­tralian ports, in­ject­ing mil­lions of dol­lars into lo­cal economies.

The ar­ray of vis­it­ing ships is the best re­minder that there is a cruise ship out there for ev­ery­one.’’

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