The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

JUDG­ING by the har­bour city’s re­cent fas­ci­na­tion with Queen Mary 2, when su­per­liner Sun Princess glides over the hori­zon on Oc­to­ber 24 it is as­sured of a warm wel­come to Syd­ney.

Princess Cruises is de­ploy­ing this pre­mium ship, which car­ries 1950 pas­sen­gers, in Aus­tralian wa­ters on a per­ma­nent ba­sis; it re­places the much smaller 670-pas­sen­ger Pa­cific Princess.

Princess Cruises says the Aus­tralian cruise mar­ket, which has been ex­pand­ing at 18 per cent an­nu­ally for the past two years, has reached a point where a much big­ger ship is re­quired to meet lo­cal de­mand.

Sun Princess, weigh­ing 77,000 tons and mea­sur­ing 261m, was the largest cruise ship in the world when it was launched in 1995. It will be the big­gest liner to pass un­der the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge (with a mere 4m clear­ance, on­look­ers and pas­sen­gers alike may be hold­ing their col­lec­tive breath).

But mea­sure­ments are only part of the pic­ture. Step­ping aboard, first im­pres­sions do count and the mid­ship atrium is a light, soar­ing space, ef­fec­tively con­vey­ing glam­our. A glass-en­closed lift and sweep­ing mar­ble stair­cases de­liver guests to re­cep­tion, restau­rants, bou­tiques, lounges and bars scat­tered on mez­za­nine lev­els. It is a vast area, yet the feel is in­ti­mate. This de­sign ob­jec­tive is echoed else­where on board in many small group­ings of chairs. Quiet places to read or drink are eas­ily found.

Bore­dom is sel­dom an is­sue in this minic­ity. There are four pools, five spas, a mod­ern gym, sports deck and casino. Cruis­ing is all about self-in­dul­gence, so a mas­sage in the Lo­tus Spa is all but oblig­a­tory. Meals are never dull, with a be­wil­der­ing choice of food avail­able in two el­e­gant restau­rants, a buf­fet, pizze­ria, steak­house and pool­side ham­burger grill. (Good luck, di­eters.)

An in­ter­net cafe caters to e-ad­dicts and the li­brary has deep chairs fac­ing panoramic win­dows. Fab­u­lous live shows and re­vues are of­fered in the tiered theatre. Inside state­rooms are as well ap­pointed as those with a view (more than 400 state­rooms fea­ture private bal­conies); all of­fer en­suite bath­room, television, re­frig­er­a­tor, hairdryer and safe. The con­cept of ‘‘ pre­mium cruis­ing’’ comes into play with ex­tras such as bathrobes and qual­ity toi­letries.

Cou­ples trav­el­ling alone will find Sun Princess ro­man­tic and re­lax­ing, but ac­tiv­i­ties and spe­cial meal­times are also pro­vided for young­sters from three to 17.

News of the su­per­liner’s ar­rival is al­ready re­flected in book­ings. Sun Princess is mak­ing nine cruises de­part­ing Syd­ney be­tween Novem­ber 7 and March 9, 2008, and there is much in­ter­est in two 28-day cruises cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing Aus­tralia with fares from $6995 a per­son. How tempt­ing to add on 14 days to New Zealand, drift­ing amid the fjords. Other cruises take in the South Pa­cific and Tas­ma­nia.

In April next year, Sun Princess will leave Syd­ney for a few months to start a sea­son sail­ing out of Fre­man­tle, mainly to Asia. It seems this el­e­gant but fun-lov­ing Princess is set to be a hit on both sides of the coun­try. Leonie Coombes

New hori­zon: Syd­ney-bound Sun Princess

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