Ocean princesses rule the waves in lo­cal wa­ters

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

AS you may ex­pect from some­one who has just ef­fort­lessly berthed a gi­ant cruise ship at Syd­ney’s Dar­ling Har­bour, af­ter squeez­ing un­der Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge with a mere 2.5m to spare, cap­tain Peter Rus­sell looks suit­ably pleased with him­self. But he mod­estly de­flects com­pli­ments: ‘‘ I could teach my four-year-old grand­son how to do it in five or 10 min­utes,’’ he says. Wind, he says, is the big­gest prob­lem. The ami­able York­shire­man has just heard he will be com­mand­ing the 77,499-tonne Sun Princess through­out 2008. It is the big­gest cruise ship based in Aus­tralia and is squarely aimed at the lo­cal mar­ket: even the on-board cur­rency will be Aus­tralian dol­lars. Rus­sell is just back from the ship’s first jaunt in th­ese wa­ters, a 28-night cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of Aus­tralia, and is about to em­bark on a sold-out 14-night cruise to New Zealand. Rus­sell has his wife Mer­rilin along for com­pany, though she’s shop­ping in Syd­ney when we meet. He spent 33 years work­ing on oil tankers in Bri­tain —‘‘she’s seen all the best re­finer­ies’’ — be­fore re­tir­ing for two months, when he was lured back on to the high seas by Cu­nard. The Sun Princess, which will sail out of Syd­ney, Melbourne and Fre­man­tle, will be joined at the end of 2008 by a sec­ond Princess Cruises ship, Dawn Princess, which will un­der­take a 103-day world cruise. Prices for Sun Princess, which takes 1950 pas­sen­gers, start at $1432 a per­son (eight days Syd­ney-Tas­ma­nia). More: 132 488; www.sunprincess.com.au.

Wild side: Ex­plore the di­verse wildlife of the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands off Ecuador aboard the lux­ury yacht Mon­ser­rat II, which has just eight cab­ins. Its 10-day cruise costs from $3217 ex Quito; flights ex­tra. Save 15 per cent by book­ing be­fore De­cem­ber 15. More: 1300 135 088; www.imag­i­na­tive-trav­eller.com.au.

Back to back: Can’t get enough of life at sea? Here’s the an­swer, wal­let will­ing. Cruise Ex­press says it is re­spond­ing to pub­lic de­mand with its new se­ries of back-to-back cruises. Here are two ex­am­ples: two 12-night Grand Princess cruises from Venice to Rome and Rome to Lon­don, from $8490 a per­son, in­clud­ing flights from Aus­tralia. A 12-night cruise around Bri­tain on the Grand Princess, de­part­ing Lon­don, fol­lowed by a 12-night cruise from Lon­don to Nor­way on the same ship; from $8990 a per­son, also with flights ex Aus­tralia. More: 1300 766 537; cruise­ex­press.com.au.

Po­lar bare: Ad­ven­ture As­so­ciates of­fers three ways to ex­plore the frozen con­ti­nent: trips aboard a pur­pose-built ice­breaker, on ice-strength­ened ves­sels and on ex­pe­di­tion ships that of­fer a bal­ance of ad­ven­ture and com­fort. All op­tions in­clude in­ter­na­tional spe­cial­ists on ev­ery­thing from po­lar ex­plo­ration to Antarc­tic birds and marine life. Next year’s trips in­clude a re­turn of its em­peror pen­guin ex­pe­di­tions with three de­par­tures from Ushuaia, Ar­gentina, in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. From $US11,500 a per­son; flights ex­tra. More: 1800 222 141; www.ad­ven­ture­as­so­ci­ates.com.

Cruis­ing plus: World­wide Cruise Cen­tre has a sail, stay and play pack­age com­bin­ing three nights at a Tahiti re­sort, four nights in Las Ve­gas, an eight-night Nor­we­gian Star cruise to Mex­ico and four nights in Cal­i­for­nia’s Ana­heim with a two-day Dis­ney Park Hop­per Pass. From $3979 a per­son, in­clud­ing flights ex Syd­ney, for a March 15 de­par­ture; air taxes ex­tra. Must be booked by De­cem­ber 16. More: 1300 137 445; www.Cruise­Cen­tre.com.au.

Chill thrills: Like your cruis­ing with ice? Aurora Ex­pe­di­tions has un­veiled its 2008-09 Antarc­tic pro­gram with more than a dozen ex­pe­di­tions planned. Ad­ven­ture seek­ers should in­ves­ti­gate its Ice­bergs and Em­per­ors voy­age, a 27-day ex­pe­di­tion. De­part­ing Ho­bart next De­cem­ber, the voy­age nav­i­gates the coast­line west of the Ross Sea to Com­mon­wealth Bay, where it’s hoped pas­sen­gers will visit Douglas Maw­son’s hut. He­li­copter flights give pas­sen­gers a bird’s-eye view of the area; from $US12,290 ($14,040); flights ex­tra. More: 1800 637 688; www.au­ro­ra­ex­pe­di­tions.com.au.

Dou­ble up: Sin­gle sup­ple­ments are a long­stand­ing bone of con­tention among solo trav­ellers. One ini­tia­tive is the ‘‘ share with a stranger’’ scheme of­fered by Cruiseabout and Marco Polo on eight Euro­pean cruises from April to July. Th­ese in­clude a six-night cruise of the fjords of Nor­way from $1195 a per­son, and a ni­nenight cruise around Bri­tain and Ire­land from $1995; flights ex­tra. More: 1800 007 131; www.cruiseabout.com.au.

East­ern prom­ise: See seven east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries with­out un­pack­ing on Trafal­gar Uni­world’s 15-day Danube river cruise. In­cludes city tours of Vi­enna, Bratislava, Bu­dapest, Bel­grade and Bucharest. From $4365 a per­son, in­clud­ing wine with din­ners, shore ex­cur­sions with lo­cal guides and lec­tures. De­par­tures April to Oc­to­ber. More: www.trafal­gar.net.au.

Par for the course: Har­vey World Travel has a fly-cruise pack­age on Rhap­sody of the Seas’ five-night round trip out of Hong Kong to Viet­nam and China. From $2255 ex Syd­ney, with one night’s pre­cruise ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Park Ho­tel in Hong Kong, trans­fers, tips, taxes and port charges. Hong Kong add-on pack­ages avail­able. On-board lux­u­ries in­clude a minia­ture golf course. More: 132 757; www.har­vey­world.com.au.

Royal oc­ca­sion: Sail from Los An­ge­les to Syd­ney on Cu­nard’s 2000-pas­sen­ger Queen Vic­to­ria, to be launched by Camilla, Duchess of Corn­wall on Mon­day. The ship, on its maiden world voy­age, will leave Los An­ge­les on Jan­uary 30, drop­ping in on Honolulu, Pago Pago, Fiji, Auck­land, Napier, Welling­ton and Melbourne, ar­riv­ing in Syd­ney on Fe­bru­ary 23. Fares for the 24-night cruise are from $3999 a per­son. More: 132 441; www.cu­nard­line.com.au.

Look­ing north: Cap­tain Cook Cruises has re­leased seven 2008 de­par­tures for its North­ern Fiji Is­lands cruise ex­plor­ing ar­eas where tourists rarely ven­ture. Early book­ing prices start at $2048 a per­son; flights ex­tra. The seven-night trip de­parts Fiji’s De­na­rau Ma­rina. More: 1800 804 843; www.cap­tain­cook.com.au.

Rhine old time: CroisiEurope of­fers 76 Euro­pean river cruis­ing op­tions, from four-day quick­ies to 13-day cruises on the Danube. The Rhine Val­ley and Lorelei Rock is a five-day re­turn Rhine cruise from his­toric Stras­bourg. From $955; flights ex­tra. More: 1300 669 369. Barry Oliver For other cruis­ing deals, see Travel& In­dul­gence ’ s hol­i­day pack­ages, up­dated daily, at www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd/

Take a bow: Crowds turn out in Fre­man­tle to see Sun Princess, the big­gest cruise ship to be based in Aus­tralia

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