New ports, new itineraries and new ships – there’s a lot for Sydney cruise passengers to get excited about in 2016.
P&O continues to expand its rollcall of ports throughout the region. In June 2016, Pacific Jewel will become the first cruise ship to call at Conflict Islands as part of P&O’s Papua New Guinea itineraries. The group of 21 islands surrounds a lagoon that’s home to one of the world’s most biodiverse reef systems. P&O negotiated with eccentric entrepreneur and conservationist Ian Gowrie-Smith to bring ships to his islands – one of the few parcels of freehold-owned land in PNG.
It’s double the excitement when a new ship is combined with a new destination. P&O expanded its stable from three to five ships with the arrival of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in Sydney Harbour in November 2015. Pacific Aria will sail from Sydney and Brisbane; Pacific Eden will sail from Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, Adelaide, Cairns and Singapore.
In 2016, these two new ships will make the company’s first calls to Queensland’s World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island. The first two Fraser Island cruises will be on the 1500-guest Pacific Aria on a round-trip itinerary from Brisbane in April, followed by the 1500-guest Pacific Eden on a round-trip cruise from Sydney in December. Both cruises will be conducted in conjunction with Kingfisher Bay Resort, which offers four-wheel-drive tours of the island’s beaches and bush tracks. Fraser Island is one of 15 regional Australian destinations that P&O has pioneered in recent years (others include Mooloolaba, Hamilton Island and Gladstone).
Newcastle continues to boom as a regional port of call (passengers visit the city or head to Port Stephens or the Hunter Valley on food and wine excursions). In 2016, four ships will call at Newcastle for the first time, including Azamara Quest (January 13, see below), Pacific Aria (January 27), Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (February 22) and Oceania Cruises’ Insignia (May 8). It will be the first time a Cunard ship calls at Newcastle.
Passengers can inject millions into the local economy when a cruise ship spends the day in a regional port. Wollongong is hoping to emulate Newcastle’s raging success when it starts hosting the Royal Caribbean mega-liner Radiance of the Seas from October 2016. The seven-night Tasmania and Australia round-trip itinerary from Sydney includes calls at Melbourne, Hobart and Port Kembla (Wollongong).
When Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, with capacity for almost 4200 passengers, arrives at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal in December 2016, it will become the biggest ship ever based in Australia. It will snatch the record from Explorer of the Seas, a 3100-passenger ship arriving in Sydney in November 2015.
Boutique Azamara Club Cruises (it operates just two ships) is sending a vessel Down Under for the first time. Azamara Quest will cruise from Cairns to Sydney (10 nights, from January 5), from Sydney to Auckland via Port Arthur (16 nights, from January 15) and return to Sydney (13 nights, from January 31). Over 17 nights from February 13, it will port-hop from Sydney to Bali, stopping at tropical destinations such as Port Douglas, Cooktown and Thursday Island.