Cruising in the northern hemisphere is one of the best and most affordable ways to follow the sun and see some amazing destinations. But there are also some warmly inviting options closer to home. Bernadette Chua reports.
The loveliest thing about the South Pacific is that while it’s considered to be winter there, it’s still warm. It’s the most popular destinations for Australians to cruise to – whether you’re looking for a family fun holiday or something more intrepid. For affordable fun with the family or friends, P&O cruises to the South Pacific year round, visiting places such as Isle of Pines, New Caledonia and Fiji. Other lines plying the tropical waters include Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line – for a multigenerational holiday, Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises for immersive and food-oriented sailings. If you fancy somewhere a little different, smaller lines such as Paul Gauguin and Captain Cook Cruises take you to remoter parts, with activities such as diving around Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, and Aranui sails around the exotic Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Other lesser-visited destinations including Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea can be visited with luxury lines such as Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal Cruises, which offer unique shore excursions such as meeting local tribes and experience island culture.
Whether you want to take a river, small-ship or ocean cruise, the many different countries and cultures of Asia will keep drawing you back. Singapore, Hong Kong and China are three of the regions’ big cruise hubs. Royal Caribbean homeports its ships year round in Singapore and China, and Asia’s first dedicated luxury cruise line, Dream Cruises, sails out of the Lion City as well as Hong Kong. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Joy sails out of Tianjin (Beijing). Cruises from Singapore visit ports in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia (see pages 76-78 for shore excursions in Kuala Lumpur, Patong and Phuket). Visit Japan to see the wonderful temples in Kyoto, the cherry blossom in March and April and the bright lights and wacky fashion of Tokyo. Okinawa, known as the Hawaii of Japan, has wonderful beaches and wildlife (see page 81). Princess Cruises, one of Australia’s favourite lines, is a regular visitor to Japan. Diamond Princess even has the largest Japanese spa on board, complete with an onsen.
It’s still the most popular fly-cruise region for Australians and who doesn’t love a Mediterranean summer. Some of the world’s largest cruise ships from MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean regularly sail out of ports such as Rome and Barcelona. The region receives millions of cruise visitors a year, drawn by its warm weather, culture, great food and history. In April, the world’s biggest ship, Symphony of the Seas, will launch from Barcelona. All the big names in cruise visit this wonderful part of the world including Cunard, Crystal Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seaborn. Italy, France, Croatia, Greece and Spain are popular with the larger cruise lines. Discover the crystal blue waters of the Greek Islands or see the wonders of Athens such as the Parthenon and visit the Central Market which sells souvenirs and antique trinkets. If you’re looking for a quieter holiday, smaller lines such as Katarina, which is based in Croatia, offer guests a more intimate experience. Katarina’s vessels range from yachts to unique sailing ships that can access the islands and smaller inlets of the Croatian coast.
The winter months are the best time to explore Australia’s northern coastline, where the Dry Season brings warm sunny days. APT offers small-ship cruises of the Kimberley region where you can see secluded gorges and impressive rock faces on ships such as Caledonian Sky. APT’s experienced expedition team will take cruisers out on Zodiacs to discover Australia’s wildlife and awesome natural surrounds. For family cruises, lines such as Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia sails north from Brisbane to places such as Airlie Beach and Cairns, which are still warm during the Aussie winter. However, if you don’t mind the cold, one of the most interesting winter itineraries on offer in during winter is P&O’s Dark Mofo cruise, which takes you to the famous winter solstice festival organised by the whimsical Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). It’s an extremely special cruise held by the all-Australian cruise line. Sailing from Sydney, the itinerary includes a ticket to the winter feast as well as entry to MONA, which has provocative installations.
Canada & Alaska
Often package together, Canada and Alaska are stunning destinations to visit during our winter months. During the northern summer in Alaska, the sea traffic through the Inside Passage gets pretty hectic with numerous cruise ships loafing around the tranquil waters at places such as Glacier Bay, soaking up the crisp air and eye-popping scenery. The big ships sail from Seattle or Vancouver, stopping occasionally at villages and towns such as Ketchikan where the enterprising locals are eager to embrace the 2,000 or more cashed-up tourists and crew. For a more intimate exploration of the glorious waters of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, expedition and adventure cruises from the likes of Lindblad Expeditions, UnCruise Adventures and Alaskan Dream Cruises are an attractive option. Excursions by Zodiac allow a dozen or so passengers and a guide to investigate wildlife sightings, birds, plants and geographic features at leisure. Lines such as Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Holland America Line will be sending some of their best and biggest ships to the region for the northern summer months. See page 68-71 for more on Alaska.
This stunning region is best visited during our winter. The Arctic has dramatic landscapes, ice, unique wildlife and indigenous tribes draw visitors during the northern summer months, from May to September. Almost endless daylight offers adventurers plenty of time to experience the diverse landscapes of the Land of the Midnight Sun and see animals such as polar bears, whales, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes, musk oxen, reindeer and numerous birds. Cruise lines such as Hurtigruten, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred. Olsen offer year-round sailings into the Arctic Circle.
Popular with northern hemisphere cruisers, this is the region where the latest and biggest ships sail. Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have their largest ships sailing here, carrying millions of passengers a year to enjoy the warm weather and stunning beaches. The Caribbean is a prime spot for water sports such a diving, snorkelling and wind surfing, or just laying by the beach. There are 7,000 islands to choose from, with blue seas, sandy beaches and luscious green forests. Many of the islands were colonised by the British, French or Dutch and their influences remain, with the likes of Victorian town squares and cathedrals. From bustling Barbados to pulsating Jamaica and St Maarten, the Caribbean is an explosion of colour mixed with the heady smell of rum and calypso music. Lines such as Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises even have their own private islands for their cruisers.