Ship-shape down un­der

The wave sea­son will be big­ger and bet­ter than ever

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - HELEN HUTCHEON

WHEN Royal Caribbean’s Rhap­sody of the Seas ar­rives in Syd­ney on Oc­to­ber 5, it will sig­nal the start of a record-break­ing 2013-14 wave sea­son of in­ter­na­tional cruise ship vis­its to Aus­tralia.

Car­ni­val Aus­tralia’s year-round res­i­dent ships — Pa­cific Dawn, Pa­cific Jewel, Pa­cific Pearl, Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess and Car­ni­val Spirit — will be joined by some of the most mag­nif­i­cent lin­ers afloat.

They will open up a new win­dow of sea hol­i­days, rang­ing from a 41/ month re­turn trip to Eng­land for peo­ple who don’t like to fly, to short ‘‘sam­pler’’ cruises for those who want to dip a toe in the wa­ter.

World­wide Cruise Cen­tres has come up with the ‘‘no-fly ad­ven­ture’’. Pas­sen­gers leave Syd­ney aboard Queen Mary 2 on March 14, on a 56-night voy­age to Southamp­ton via the Suez Canal. They de­part Southamp­ton on July 12 on a 49-night sail­ing back to Syd­ney via the Panama Canal aboard Dawn Princess (which will be re­turn­ing from a world cruise).

‘‘The nine weeks be­tween the two voy­ages are a per­fect fit for vis­it­ing friends and re­la­tions,’’ says a spokesman for World­wide Cruise Cen­tres. ‘‘ The weather should be per­fect for tour­ing and our agents are on hand to make coach, train, car rental and Euro­pean river cruise book­ings.’’

At the other end of the spec­trum, Celebrity Cruises is try­ing to win over timid sailors with a three-night round cruise to nowhere from Syd­ney on Jan­uary 17 aboard Celebrity Sol­stice. The 2850-pas­sen­ger ship, which ar­rives in Syd­ney on Oc­to­ber 23 for a sec­ond ex­tended sea­son un­til April next year, will op­er­ate cruises to New Zealand and the South Pa­cific and will cir­cum­nav­i­gate Aus­tralia.

Celebrity Mil­len­nium passes through Syd­ney in Novem­ber en route from Hawaii to Hong Kong via Bris­bane, Air­lie Beach, Cairns and Dar­win.

Celebrity Cruises, founded by the Chan­dris Group, hence the dis­tinc­tive Greek sym­bol ‘‘X’’ for ‘‘chi’’ on its fun­nels, is a wholly owned sub­sidiary of Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional.

Royal Caribbean will have three ships in Aus­tralia again — Rhap­sody of the Seas, Ra­di­ance of the Seas and Voy­ager of the Seas. (Rhap­sody will be mak­ing a sev­enth ex­tended sea­son, Ra­di­ance a third and Voy­ager a sec­ond.)

Voy­ager of the Seas wowed Aus­tralians dur­ing its sell-out in­au­gu­ral cruises with fea­tures such as an iceskat­ing rink and DreamWorks an­i­mated char­ac­ters. Barbie doll-themed cab­ins have since been added.

The ul­tra-lux­u­ri­ous Yachts of SeaDream is mak­ing its first visit to Aus­tralia next year with SeaDream II sail­ing from Bali on Jan­uary 18 for Cairns via In­done­sia, Dar­win, Seven Spirit Bay, Cape York, Lizard Is­land, Low Is­land and Port Dou­glas. And speak­ing of ul­traluxe, Sil­versea’s in­com­pa­ra­ble Sil­ver Shadow and Sil­ver Whis­per are re­turn­ing, along with Crys­tal Cruises’ 922-pas­sen­ger Crys­tal Sym­phony.

Princess Cruises pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive Alan Buck­elew, who was in Aus­tralia this month, be­gan op­er­at­ing an­nual trans-Tas­man cruises in 2003 with Star Princess. The com­pany’s 2670-pas­sen­ger Di­a­mond Princess re­turns in Novem­ber and will be here un­til Fe­bru­ary. Ocean Princess and Pa­cific Princess will make brief vis­its.

Hol­land Amer­ica Line, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 140th an­niver­sary this year, again will de­ploy two ships in Aus­tralia — the 1926-pas­sen­ger Oos­ter­dam and the 1432-pas­sen­ger Volen­dam — and its Am­s­ter­dam will visit dur­ing a world cruise.

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