GREAT CRUIS­ING ES­CAPES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

THERE’S still time to bag a berth aboard Cu­nard’s swish Queen Vic­to­ria when it cruises from Los An­ge­les to Syd­ney as part of its maiden world voy­age in the new year. The 1980-pas­sen­ger liner, to be named by Camilla, Duchess of Corn­wall, in Eng­land on De­cem­ber 10, is Cu­nard’s sec­ond big­gest liner (top hon­ours go to its sis­ter, QM2). The 24-night leg from Los An­ge­les to Syd­ney will in­clude Honolulu, Pago Pago, Lau­toka, Auck­land, Napier and Welling­ton, be­fore it heads to Melbourne and Syd­ney, where it will ren­dezvous with QE2 on its farewell visit to Aus­tralian wa­ters. Fares from LA to Syd­ney (depart Jan­uary 30) from $8199 a per­son. More: 132 441; www.cu­nard­line.com.au. Toast the coast: Sav­ings of up to $3000 are on of­fer for Su­per­Star Gemini’s 12-day cruise along Aus­tralia’s east coast in the new year. Gemini, which leaves Cairns on Jan­uary 24, will head through the Whit­sun­days and down to Bris­bane and Syd­ney, re­turn­ing to Cairns on the same route. World­wide Cruise Cen­tre has pack­aged the cruise with re­turn air fares from Syd­ney and a three-day stay in Cairns with a Ku­randa Rail and Rain­for­est day tour. From $2998 a per­son (air taxes ex­tra); must be booked by the end of Oc­to­ber. More: 1300 137 445; www.Cruise­Cen­tre.com.au. Stream of in­ter­est: River cruis­ing may of­fer calmer wa­ters but it’s rid­ing the crest of a wave. Many in Europe are re­port­edly sold out for next year and Bic­ton Travel is al­ready tak­ing ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est on 2009 trips. Even so, cab­ins are avail­able on its Euro­pean Gems Am­s­ter­dam to Bu­dapest cruise de­part­ing Au­gust 20, sail­ing on Avalon’s new ship, Im­agery. The fly­cruise pack­age in­cludes three nights in Am­s­ter­dam pre-cruise and three nights in Prague af­ter­wards, as well as the 14-night river cruise call­ing at cities in Ger­many, Slo­vakia, Aus­tria and Hun­gary. From $10,233. More: (08) 9339 0277; www.bic­ton­travel.com.au. Af­ford­able ice: Antarc­tic cruis­ing is usu­ally off lim­its to bud­get trav­ellers but Geckos Ad­ven­tures is do­ing its best to change that. In Novem­ber next year Geckos will start 11 and 12-day Antarc­tic cruises de­part­ing Ushuaia, Ar­gentina, on an ices­trength­ened ex­pe­di­tion ves­sel that car­ries a max­i­mum of 110 pas­sen­gers, along with ex­pe­di­tion staff — nat­u­ral­ists, wildlife ex­perts, sci­en­tists and his­to­ri­ans — and Rus­sian crew. From $4725 a per­son, cruise only. De­par­tures from Novem­ber to March. More: 1300 854 500; www.geck­osad­ven­tures.com. It takes two: Europe’s big­gest cruise line, Costa Cruises, is stag­ing the world’s first tango fes­ti­val at sea in Novem­ber. The Fes­ti­val of Tango will sway across the Mediter­ranean aboard the 3780-pas­sen­ger Costa Con­cor­dia dur­ing a seven-night round-cruise from Rome, sail­ing on Novem­ber 25. Dance classes may pause for ex­cur­sions at ports in Italy, Spain, Ma­jorca, Tu­nisia, Malta and Si­cily. From $1534 a per­son, flights ex­tra. More: 132 459; www.costacruises.com.au.

Barry Oliver

Lit­tle sis­ter: Cu­nard’s Queen Vic­to­ria

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