Cruising in our own backyard is enormously appealing – no long-haul flights, ships that sail from ports in every state, short cruises and round-Australia circumnavigations – and every year there’s more choice than ever before. Here’s our pick of the best Aussie cruises in 2016.
Round Australia Circumnavigations
Sun Princess is doing a 30-day cruise departing October 17, a round trip from Sydney that includes a side trip to Papua New Guinea. Ports of call include Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Alotau (PNG), Darwin, Kimberley coastal, Broome, Fremantle, Margaret River, Albany, Adelaide, Melbourne, Burnie and Hobart.
On October 20, Holland America Line’s MS Maasdam is sailing a 29-day Australia Circumnavigation, round trip from Sydney. It will call at Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Ribbon Reef region, Sherrard Island, the Far North Region, Torres Strait, Darwin, Komodo Island and Bali (Indonesia), Fremantle, Albany, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania and Melbourne.
There are also shorter sectors within the Princess Cruises’ circumnavigations: for example, a 17-day Sydney to Fremantle cruise on Dawn Princess and a 12-night Fremantle to Sydney cruise on Sun Princess.
Short Breaks Year-Round
Carnival Cruises’ Australia-based ships, Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit, offer several three-night ‘Weekend Sampler’ cruises, a couple of five- and seven-night Tasmania cruises and four-night ‘Short Getaways’ in 2016. P&O Cruises offers by far the biggest range of short cruises around Australia now that its fleet of five ships are home-ported in Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, Adelaide, Fremantle and Melbourne.
P&O’s SeaBreak cruises come in several categories: the Classic (two- to four-night coastal hops departing from Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney for destinations such as the Whitsundays, Moreton Island, the Hunter Valley, Margaret River and Port Lincoln); Comedy (three or four nights that include performances by top comedians, comedy workshops and the chance to star in the Comedy Wave Gong Show); and Food & Wine (three-night cruises where you can learn from the pros and join the Pacific Cook Off competition).
For a taste of traditional liner-style cruising, why not join one of the Cunard queens while they’re here on their world voyages? Queen Elizabeth is in Australia in January and February; Queen Victoria and the Cunard flagship, Queen Mary 2, are sailing a series of local itineraries in February and March.
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice is doing several cruises to and from New Zealand until March, but one Australian itinerary is the 17-night ‘Top End’ cruise to Sydney, departing Perth on March 3. It includes one day in Benoa (Bali) and visits Darwin, Cairns, the Whitsunday Islands, Brisbane and Newcastle.
Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess and Golden Princess are based in Sydney and Melbourne until March; Golden Princess returns to Melbourne in October for another season. Diamond is doing a couple of seven-night Australian itineraries in March; Melbourne and Hobart round trip from Sydney, and a one-way cruise from Sydney to Fremantle.
Golden Princess’ six-night Tasmania cruises, round trip from Melbourne, include scenic cruising in Wineglass Bay and Great Oyster Bay, a full day in Port Arthur, a full day and overnight in Hobart plus a full day in Phillip Island.
Royal Caribbean has a record four ships cruising Down Under – Explorer, Legend, Radiance, Voyager of the Seas are in Australia until April, then return in October. Legend of the Seas is home-ported in Brisbane for the first time this season – the other ships cruise out of Sydney. All four sail Australian coastal cruises, including three-day ‘Sampler Cruises’ out of Sydney and Brisbane; these sell out quickly, so book now for December.
Visiting a special event by ship means that all the hassle of organising accommodation and tickets is taken out of your hands – and you can be sure there’s always a party and lots of activities on board.
Tennis fans can join P&O’s Pacific Pearl’s five-night Australian Open cruise, departing Sydney on January 19. The fare includes a two-day Australian Open ground pass ticket, transfers to and from the grounds, and the opportunity to upgrade your tickets to the Rod Laver or Margaret Court Arenas (for an extra charge).
Australia Day is one of Sydney Harbour’s most spectacular events of the year, and what better place to be than on a ship in the middle of all the action? P&O’s Pacific Aria leaves Brisbane for a five-night round-trip on January 24 and will be in Sydney on the big day; Pacific Pearl is doing a three-night Sydney cruise, departing on January 24 and will be moored at a scenic vantage point in the Harbour; Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden are doing the same but departing on January 25; and Pacific Jewel is cruising to Sydney from Melbourne on a four-night round trip.
Melbourne Cup cruises are becoming more popular every year, and 2016 will see four ships sailing south to the race that stops the nation. Fashion parades, stylist workshops and expert tips from veteran race callers are offered on board. Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel depart Sydney for their six-night round-trip Melbourne Cup cruises on October 29; Pacific Dawn is doing a six-night round trip from Brisbane, also departing on October 29; and Carnival Spirit’s six-night round-trip cruise from Sydney departs on October 30.
P&O is offering several add-on packages for the big day, ranging from $141 to $1326 per person. These include a Lawn Stand Ticket ($141); entry to the P&O Enclosure, where guests will enjoy a drinks package, grazing menu, private courtyard area with entertainment, superscreen viewing of the races and betting facilities ($586); and the Rose Room package, which includes a reserved table, a five-course meal, afternoon tea, drinks served at the table, an outdoor viewing area and private betting facilities and bookmaker within the marquee ($1326).