Ocean princesses rule the waves in local waters
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