GREAT CRUIS­ING ES­CAPES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

A RECORD 330,949 Aus­tralians took a cruise in 2008, a 26 per cent rise on the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures just re­leased. Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the South Pa­cific were the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions.

In­ter­na­tional Cruise Coun­cil Aus­trala­sia chair­woman Karen Chris­tensen says the rise is the re­sult of in­creased ca­pac­ity in the mar­ket, more itin­er­ary op­tions and a grow­ing aware­ness of cruis­ing as a value hol­i­day.

‘‘ In th­ese tougher times cruise hol­i­days have more ap­peal than ever be­cause they in­clude trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion, meals and en­ter­tain­ment in one fare,’’ she says.

Euro­pean river cruis­ing con­tin­ues to cap­ture the imagination of Aus­tralians, with fig­ures in that area more than dou­bling. French flair: On the sub­ject of river cruis­ing, Vic­to­ria’s Out­door Travel is of­fer­ing 20 per cent off in­clu­sive ho­tel barge cruises in France on se­lected trips in 2009. Its seven-day Bur­gundy cruise, start­ing in Di­jon, is from $2820 (nor­mally $3620) if booked by April 15; flights ex­tra. In­cludes sight­see­ing with wine tast­ing and all meals. The dis­count also ap­plies to its Am­s­ter­dam to Bruges eight-day Bike & Barge cruises, sav­ing $465 a per­son. From $1675 a per­son (usu­ally $2140). More: 1800 331 582; www.out­door­travel.com.au. Half price: Still in Europe, Cruise Ex­press has halved the price of lux­ury cruises in France this Au­gust with a 15-day, all-in­clu­sive trip from the beaches of Nor­mandy in the north to the Mediter­ranean in the south. From $2788 a per­son, in­clud­ing on­board meals, wine with din­ner and sight­see­ing; flights ex­tra. Book­ings must be made by the end of March. More: 1300 766 537; www.cruise­ex­press.com.au. To the reef: Coral Princess Cruises has re­leased its lat­est Bar­rier Reef sched­ule with new land and cruise pack­ages. Coral Princess and Coral Princess II cruise weekly be­tween Townsville and Cairns for three or four nights, de­part­ing Cairns and trav­el­ling north to Lizard Is­land. From $1496 a per­son, flights ex­tra. More: 1800 079 545; www.coral­princess.com.au. Beat the rush: There’s noth­ing like get­ting in early. Cabins on Cu­nard’s Queen El­iz­a­beth, un­der construction in Italy, go on sale on April 2, about 18 months be­fore the de­but of the $1.1 bil­lion ship. Weigh­ing 92,000 tonnes, the 2100-passenger liner is due to be launched in early 2010. Ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est are in­vited. More: 1300 766 537; www.cruise­ex­press.com.au. Barry Oliver

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