TORRES STRAIT ISLANDS,
Western Australia’s Kimberley region has been captivating cruise visitors for years – but now the “next big thing” in Aussie cruising looks to be taking off. Expedition cruise operator Ahoy Buccaneers is making its first foray outside its base in the Kimberley to visit the Torres Strait, with its first cruise departing in October. Five more departures are planned next year. Scattered across a 150km stretch of ocean between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait archipelago is home to stunning blue waters, dugongs, dolphins, giant marlin and sea turtles. The round trip from Horn Island visits reefs to snorkel, fish and marvel at the beauty of nature, as well as a chance to enjoy a beer at Australia’s most northerly pub – the Torres Hotel on Thursday Island.
Cruise company-owned private island ports are a growing trend and Royal Caribbean is upping the ante with its Perfect Day Island Collection of private island destinations. First is its existing private island, CocoCay, which is undergoing a $260 million upgrade to feature a massive waterpark, zip line, helium balloon attraction and beach club by the end of next year. It’ll have a 41m-high waterslide – the tallest in North America, says president and CEO Michael Bayley.
TAHITI ITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA
A little island with big surf, Tahiti Iti has been calling to surfers for years as the home of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo – and now cruisers are about to discover Tahiti Iti. The island is the smaller sister island of Tahiti Nui, and is the star of Paul Gauguin Cruises’ newest itinerary. In June this year, Paul Gauguin will become the first cruise line to visit Tahiti Iti’s port city of Vairao. The seven-night cruise departs from Papeete, and visits Huahine, Motu Mahana off the coast of Taha’a, Bora Bora and Moorea. The cruise industry’s love affair with French Polynesia continues to boom, with 11 cruise lines already scheduled to call at Bora Bora in 2019.
It’s the destination on everyone’s lips and cruising – like the rest of the tourism industry – is booming in Japan. Princess Cruises is expanding its Japanese itineraries, with Diamond Princess to visit a record 41 ports in Japan next year, including six brand new destinations – Gamagori, Himeji, Matsuyama, Niigata, Miyako and Takamatsu. Princess Cruises Australia and New Zealand vice president Stuart Allison says Japan is the fastest growing in popularity for Australians over the past five years with 175 per cent growth in visits since 2011. Cunard Line is also ramping up its immersion into Japan, with its ship Queen Elizabeth to make five maiden calls across the country planned over the 2019-20 season, while Norwegian Cruise Line has recently launched its first Japanese cherry blossom season cruises.
Off the radar for years, Egypt is now having a celebrated return to the tourist scene – and cruising the Nile is one of the best ways to see the country’s top attractions. Stretching 6670km, the river is credited as the world’s longest and the bucket-list attractions of ancient Egypt are second to none. Scenic’s first Egypt tour in five years departs this month, featuring a Nile cruise, and – thanks to “phenomenal” interest – the company is already adding new departures. It follows Viking Cruises’ launch of its elegant new Nile ship, Viking Ra, this month – with demand so strong that departures are already sold out for this year and next. Be quick if you’re keen to travel in 2020.
Alaska has skyrocketed up the charts in 2018 to be named the hottest destination among US travel agents