For the first time in the company’s illustrious 179-year history, Cunard is to homeport a ship in Australia.
The Queen Elizabeth – a 90,900 tonne luxury Cunarder – will offer cruises from Sydney and Melbourne for two months in 2019.
The 2080 guest Queen Elizabeth will offer seven different itineraries to New Zealand, South Australia and Tasmania from the two capital cities between February and April in 2019.
On offer will be a short five-night “taster” itinerary targeting newcomers, David Rousham, Cunard’s vice-president International Development said.
“Whenever Cunard’s itineraries have included roundtrip options from Australian ports and visits to New Zealand, the demand has always been tremendous,’’ he said.
This will be the longest deployment Down Under for any of Cunard’s three ocean liners – Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, the youngest of the fleet.
Both QM2 and QE had a “royal rendezvous” in Sydney at the weekend – to make the 10th anniversary of their first such journey to Sydney, which brought the city to a standstill as Sydneysiders sought the best views of the luxury ocean liners.
By the time she homeports in Australia, Queen Elizabeth would have undergone a major facelift and would be looking her best as she sails in Australian waters.
“Australians love the Cunard brand. Each ship has its own quirkiness. QM2 and its transatlantic cruises has a very strong North American following, Queen Victoria is very British and Queen Elizabeth has the most international passengers,’’ Mr Rousham said.
Australia is the number three source market for Cunard after the UK and North America. For world cruises, Australia is number two after the UK.
A total of 16,000 passengers from the UK and 12,000 Australians will sail on the Cunard’s world cruises this year. More than 800 Australians have already booked to cruise on Cunard’s Baltic cruises in 2018.
Mr Rousham said that when Queen Elizabeth anchored at Athol Buoy last weekend, the company faced problems getting passengers off the ship especially those in wheelchairs.
“Tendering guests in wheelchairs from Athol Buoy is very difficult and there are no easy answers,’’ Mr Rousham said.
Bookings to cruise with Queen Elizabeth when she is homeported in Australia will go on sale on 30 March. See cunard.com for more details.