P&O boosts Australian fleet with two new ships

P&O Cruises is expanding its Australian fleet from three to five, with two new vessels joining the line next year.

The move, coupled with an increase in the size of the Princess fleet and two new ships from Royal Caribbean, indicates a strong shift towards basing more ships in Australia waters.

Home porting, as the industry calls it, means more Australians will be able to take a cruise without flying.

P&O also maintained that the ships will help the industry hit its target of one million cruisers.

1,258-passenger MS Ryndam and 1,258-passenger MS Statendam will be transferred from the Holland America Line to P&O to be based year round in Australia from November 2015.

Currently, the line has three ships in its Australian fleet – Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn.

The two additional vessels will be similar mid-range to the three existing P&O ships and will be completely refurbished to feature a range of onboard activities tailored to the Australian market.

Full details of the refurbishment will be announced in the coming months, as well as the new ship names, itineraries and homeports.

Carnival Corporation chief executive Arnold Donald described the cruise growth in Australia as “eye-popping”, with the company experiencing a 130 percent growth in passengers over the past five years aboard its P&O, Princess, Holland America, Cunard and Carnival Australia ships.

“By any measure, Australia is one of the top performing cruise markets in the world, with an eye-popping average annual passenger growth rate of 20 percent over the past decade,” he said.

Carnival Australia, which operates P&O, chief executive Ann Sherry said the new ships are a signal that P&O is moving into a new generation.

“It will also accelerate progress in reaching the industry goal of a million passengers a year by 2016 – four years earlier than forecast,” she said.

Senior vice president Tammy Marshall said the ships are the perfect size for the Australian market.

“They are intimate, offering space, comfort and style, giving passengers more destinations to choose from, more onboard experiences to indulge in and more reasons to cruise,” she said.

With the addition of the two new vessels, the Carnival Group, which includes P&O, Carnival Australia and Princess Cruises, will have 12 ships home-ported in Australia over the coming years.

Among the new ships include Golden Princess, which will be based from Melbourne during the 2015/16 season and Carnival Legend, which will arrive in Sydney for her first visit in September.