First came the biggest growth rate in the world and more than a million cruisers. Now Australia is gearing up for its biggest wave season ever.
All our favourite lines are planning more homeported ships and itineraries, which promises a bumper season and some great bargains for Australian cruisers.
P&O is headlining a stellar season with five ships converging on Sydney Harbour in November for a giant party. The line’s newly expanded fleet – including the new Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden – will sail into the harbour in a spectacular convoy on November 25.
It will bring 15,000 interstate and local passengers and crew to the heart of Sydney and attract many thousands more onlookers with a concert and party.
The line said its 2015-16 program will feature 250 cruises from eight different homeports across its five-ship fleet, which also includes Pacific Dawn, Jewel and Pearl.
Four of the ships will return to Sydney Harbour to celebrate Australia Day in January. In total, the ships will make a record 96 sailings from Sydney in 2016 – up 35 per cent on this year.
Not to be outdone, Royal Caribbean International will homeport its 3800-guest megaliner, Explorer of the Seas, in Sydney from November this year and will base Legend of the Seas in Brisbane for the 2015-16 summer season. This will take the brand’s Australian fleet to an unprecedented four ships.
The 2000-guest Legend of the Seas will homeport in Brisbane in December for five months to meet the growing demand from Australian and international passengers wanting to experience cruising Queensland and the South Pacific.
Royal Caribbean’s two other liners, Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas, will also call Sydney home during a hectic wave season.
Together, the four ships will offer more than 70 itineraries in Australian, South Pacific and New Zealand ports.
Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Solstice and Azamara Quest will also be in town, with the Solstice returning to Sydney for its fourth season while the 716-guest Azamara Quest will sail for the first time Down Under, offering five voyages in the region between December 2015 and February next year.
Carnival Australia which operates P&O Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line and Seabourn is also looking forward to a big year. Carnival will have 17 ships cruising in local waters apart from the five P&0 vessels.
In November, Carnival Spirit, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel will sail from Sydney to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup, and Pacific Dawn will join them from Brisbane.
For those looking to spend Christmas at sea there’s a wide choice of itineraries. Celebrity Solstice, Carnival Legend and Pacific Eden will depart Sydney for New Zealand and Queensland for Christmas, and Pacific Aria will sail to Far North Queensland from Brisbane.
Boutique upmarket ship True North will operate two four-night cruises in and around Sydney for Christmas and New Year.
“There’s no question that the 2015-16 summer cruise season will be the biggest on record for Australia as we welcome more ships than ever before to our shores,’’ said Brett Jardine, general manager of Cruise Lines International Association Australasia. “We’re already the fourth-largest region in the world for cruise ship deployment and there’s more growth on the cards.”
Next year is also looking good for cruise.
Among some of the new ships to arrive on Australian shores in December 2016 will be Royal Caribbean’s newest billion-dollar megaliner, Ovation of the Seas, arriving in Sydney in December next year.
The $1.3 billion ship is under construction in Germany and is expected to sail in April next year. She will have 18 decks and accommodate 5000 passengers and 1500 crew. The megaliner will be the fifth ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet for the 2016-17 summer season. It will be the brand’s third ship in the Quantum class and herald as the most technologically advanced ships in the world.
Norwegian Cruise Line will deploy Norwegian Star to Asia and Australia in 2016-17, the first time since 2001-2002.
On January 16, 2017, Norwegian Star will sail a 21-day South-East Asia and Australia itinerary from Hong Kong, China to Sydney, Australia. Ports of call include Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam; Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand; Singapore; Bali (Benoa) and Komodo, Indonesia; and Darwin, Cairns, Airlie Beach and Brisbane, Australia.
Norwegian Star will sail a 12-day Australia and New Zealand sailing on February 6, 2017 from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand.