A new Princess Cruises ship is big news this year, but so is the number of smaller luxury vessels arriving on our shores. Peter Lynch reports.

This year’s wave season will see Australia spoilt for choice as never before, with more ships in almost every sector vying for the hearts and minds of passengers.

The big-ship battle will see Princess Cruises’ much anticipated Majestic Princess pitted against Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, sailing out of Sydney on her second season.

Dare to compare? These are two very different ships, with Majestic setting a new standard in the premium class as the youngest and biggest Princess we’ve seen in Australia in a long time.

Majestic Princess in Australia, 2018/19 cruise season
The youngest and biggest Princess we’ve seen in Australia in a long time. Image: Princess Cruises

She’s elegant, sophisticated and loaded with new experiences Australia is going to love.

Ovation, on the other hand, is a Quantum class vessel that is a young family’s delight, with rides like North Star, Ripcord and Flowrider. But her food offerings, duplex suites and entertainment push her past most contemporary class vessels.

Majestic Princess arrives in Sydney on September 15 – expect fanfare – and Golden Princess, Sea Princess and Sun Princess are completing the Carnival premium line-up.

Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas will arrive on October 6, followed by Explorer of the Seas 20 days later. Ovation of the Seas won’t be in Australia until late November, but it will be for her longest season yet.

Celebrity Solstice will arrive on October 20, good timing, as the world of cruising is excited by the line’s new Edge ships. Solstice, an enduring favourite here, will get an exciting multi-million-dollar Edge facelift by 2021.

Celebrity Solstice, Australian 2018/19 season
Celebrity Solstice will arrive in Australia on October 20. Image: Celebrity Cruises

The Norwegian Jewel will be another exciting arrival – after a successful first season last year, the line is investing in a major facelift. She’ll be in dry dock in October, ready for her arrival in November. While the details of her refurbishment have not been revealed, NCL said they believe the Australian and New Zealand market will be thrilled with the changes.

Then there is the arrival of Queen Elizabeth – a luxury Cunard vessel sailing for a season in Australia. History in the making indeed.

In another first, in March next year, we’ll see the MSC ship, the MSC Magnifica in Sydney for a port call.

But it’s at the small ship luxury end of the market that Australia will notice a big difference this coming season.

The most exciting arrival will be the Viking Orion. This brilliant, 930-passenger vessel is, like her river counterparts, drop-dead gorgeous. Viking insists she is not luxury – but they’re just being shy. You can see for yourself on December 16.

Seabourn Sojourn also arrives in December, along with the new Seabourn Encore. Again, beautifully designed ships with a relaxed luxury feel and just over 600 passengers.

More excitement comes in February when Ponant’s Le Laperouse arrives for a season that will see her sail the Kimberleys.

She’s almost brand new, and features the revolutionary Blue Eye underwater lounge. Again, a brilliant new design and great itineraries make this a welcome addition to our season.

Ponant's Blue Eye Lounge
Ponant’s Le Laperouse features the revolutionary Blue Eye underwater lounge

Regent Seven Seas, which boasts some of the world’s most luxurious ships, will also be in our waters. Seven Seas Mariner will sail a 36-night circumnavigation of Australia in December. Seven Seas Navigator will also sail around Australia.

Azamara Quest will be sailing from Australia on New Zealand and Asian itineraries.

Among the luxury lines passing through, we can expect the terrific foodie ship Oceania Regatta, which arrives in January, and a brace of Silverseas – Silver Whisper and Silver Muse – which will be at White Bay on February 2.
Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, as well as Queen Victoria, will make calls.

Low-key Holland America will sail Amsterdam, Noordam and Maasdam, with passengers mostly from the American market.

There is also a strong showing from lines who continue to sail year round in Australia.

Carnival Australia had 19 ships sailing in Australia during the wave season last year, including family-friendly Carnival. This year, P&O is promising record sailings, including the largest number of journeys from Adelaide.

Regional NSW will benefit from the cruise boom as more ships will call at ports outside of Sydney with Eden, Newcastle and Port Kembla seeing a leap in cruise visits.

A total of 15 cruise ships will head for the Sapphire coast and call at Eden as work is already underway to expand Eden’s wharf so it will be able to accommodate larger cruise ships. This will make Eden (population: 3,151), the first port of call for ships sailing from New Zealand. Eden will also become a popular stop for Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Norwegian Cruise Lines over the next 12 months.

Newcastle will receive 10 cruise ships, up from five last year while Port Kembla will host two ships after receiving its first-ever cruise ship the previous year.

This comes as the NSW State Government investigates Port Botany as an option for Sydney’s third cruise terminal to reduce the pressure on Sydney’s low capacity.