Australia’s biggest cruise season ever was marked today by the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas – the first of seven ships from the line to sail local waters this summer.

For the first time ever, all three RCL Cruises brands will be based down under, with Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and new arrival Azamara Club Cruises offering 95 itineraries around Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Asia.

Royal Caribbean will carry a quarter of a million guests – with almost 60,000 of them coming from overseas countries including the USA, Canada, UK and Germany.

Regional Vice President Gavin Smith said in a statement: “Today marks the start of a record-breaking season in which we will double our guest capacity, introduce a new cruise brand to the region and offer a total of seven ships – around 20 percent of RCL’s global fleet.”

The news followed the announcement that P&O are increasing their fleet in home waters with another Princess ship joining the five who will present a gala display on Sydney Harbour on November 25.

Royal Caribbean International, will welcome Explorer of the Seas, which sets sail from Barcelona today en route to Sydney. The 3,800-passenger megaliner will take the title of Australia’s largest cruise ship from her twin sister, Voyager of the Seas, and the ships will meet in beautiful Sydney Harbour on Saturday evening on 28 November for a historic big-ship harbour rendezvous.

It will take place three days after P&O’s gala start to its five-ship fleet.

Both Voyager Class vessels are the largest cruise ships based in the southern hemisphere and have recently emerged from a combined USD$160 million bow-to-stern facelift, equipping them with brand new features never seen before at sea in Australasia such as the FlowRider surf simulator and revolutionary Interior “Virtual” Balconies.

Royal Caribbean is also basing a ship in Brisbane for the first time. From 8 December, Queenslanders will have Legend of the Seas, when she commences sailing from Portside Wharf, Hamilton with no less than 15 itineraries.

The seven ships will make 185 port calls and 85 turnarounds in Australia this season, which is expected to inject more than $185 million into the local economy in passenger spending alone.