Cruising’s big summer season
The 2017/18 summer cruise season is shaping up to be one of the biggest yet. Jasmine O’Donoghue presents the highlights.
The Australian cruise industry is heating up for the peak 2017/18 cruise season, with this summer bringing a range of exciting new developments.
Close to 60 cruise ships will sail in Australian waters, making more than 1,200 port calls around the country and a number of ships will grace Australian shores for the first time, including Viking Ocean Cruises’ new ship Viking Orion, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel and Oceania Cruises’ Regatta.
Cruise lines will also venture to new destinations, with maiden port calls scheduled ranging from Thursday Island in Queensland to Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, with CLIA member lines making close to a total of 50 maiden calls to coastal towns and cities.
Key highlights of the season to look out for are:
The arrival of Oceania Cruises’ Regatta
On 15 December Oceania Cruises’ Regatta will arrive in Tasmania’s Burnie, marking the ship’s inaugural Australian visit. The vessel will sail into Sydney Harbour on 20 Dec from Auckland before embarking on a 34-day circumnavigation cruise, calling in at the likes of Brisbane, Fraser Island, Cairns, Darwin and Esperance. She will then embark on a 13-day Sydney to Auckland cruise before journeying to Bali. Regatta is the flagship of the fleet and features four open-seating restaurants and eight bars and lounges.
Crystal to Papua New Guinea
Crystal Cruises has announced its first-ever voyage to Papua New Guinea, which will sail from Sydney on 17 February on Crystal Serenity. The 23-day voyage will sail up the east coast of Australia, stopping by the Whitsunday Islands, Cairns and Cooktown before arriving in the island nation of Papua New Guinea, where it will stop at Alotau and Kitava. After a couple of stops in the Solomon Islands it will then call at Rabaul before continuing to the Philippines. On 17 Feb, Crystal will have both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony in Sydney Harbour, with Symphony to depart down under via a New Zealand cruise.
Celebrity’s sampler returns
When Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice arrived on 20 October for her sixth season in Australia, the ship operated her first two-night sampler cruise for Aussie travellers in three seasons. During the season the cruise line will offer 17 sailings ranging from two to 18 nights, 32 ports during the season. This season Celebrity Cruises is offering more opportunity to explore destinations at night, with overnight calls to Cairns, Sydney and Melbourne. Solstice is also operating two new Queensland cruises, calling on Cairns and Port Douglas.
Norwegian Jewel‘s inaugural Australian season
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel will begin its first Australian and New Zealand season in November. Sailing into Sydney Harbour for the first time on 12 November, the 2,376-passenger ship will embark on a five-day Taste of Tasmania cruise the same evening. The ship will pack in nine sailings around Australia and New Zealand through to February 2018 before heading to Singapore. Highlights include a nine-day voyage taking in regional gems such as Eden, Kangaroo Island and Tasmania’s Burnie. The ship boasts seven specialty dining venues, nine complimentary restaurants, and 15 bars and lounges, a poolside bar and “The Haven by Norwegian”, where the ship’s top accommodation is located, along with a sundeck reserved for the exclusive use of guests of The Haven.
Azamara’s biggest year down under
Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Journey will return via the west coast for the first time in January 2018, calling to Perth (Fremantle) Exmouth, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance in West Australia and Kangaroo Island and Adelaide in South Australia for the first time. Highlights include Azamara’s new country intensive voyages, starting with an Australian Explorer Cruise. Journey will end her Aussie season with a first for the line, kicking off the 102-night World Journey in Sydney — which will call to 60 ports in 29 countries. In the calendar year of 2018, both Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest will visit Australia, with Quest returning in December 2018.
Seabourn Encore‘s Aussie encore
Seabourn Cruises’ Seabourn Encore will spend her second season in Australian waters this year, after making her debut in Feb, at the time claiming the title of the youngest cruise ship to visit Sydney. During her time down under she will sail New Zealand and South Pacific cruises, including the 16-day Australia & New Zealand and 34-day New Zealand & Coral Sea Jewels. The ship is also scheduled to return again in 2018/19 season.
Princess’ expanded “Across the Ditch”
Phase two of Princess Cruises’ Across the Ditch program is being rolled out on trans-Tasman cruises this summer, introducing 50 new shore excursions and a refreshed menu. This year’s edition is designed to “further immerse guests in NZ culture and cuisine” and will offer more opportunities for guests to learn about Maori heritage and participate in traditional customs. A new menu will tie in local delicacies such as a traditional Hangi dinner, New Zealand lamb and pavlova, complemented by New Zealand beers. New shore excursions include a Piha bush and beach eco tour in Auckland, a Te Puia Thermal Reserve, Maori arts and Agrodome tour in Tauranga and Mt Sunday.