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Set Sail from Sydney – Best Short Cruises for a Long Weekend

A short-break cruise is just the thing for first-timers, time-poor and seasoned cruisers alike and Sydneysiders have lots to choose from, pretty much year-round. Just think – no flights involved and no traffic to battle on the way to your weekend getaway – you turn up at the cruise terminal, board the ship and get straight into relaxing cruise mode.


Australia-based P&O Cruises, which operates five ships – Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl – has the lion’s share of this sector of the cruise business, while Carnival Cruise Line’s two Australia-based ships, Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit, sail about one short cruise (two to five days) a month. Dawn Princess has one cruise, a two-day Sydney to Brisbane jaunt, departing onApril 20.

Dawn Princess Sydney to Brisbane Cruise in April 2016


During the 2015-16 summer season, Royal Caribbean is offering four sampler cruises on its visiting ships Explorer of the Seas (three) and Radiance of the Seas (one).


P&O SeaBreaks cover a range of different experiences. The shortest are two-day  Classic cruises, which set off from Sydney and sail to a destination such as Wilsons Promontory without stopping at a port. Similarly, three- and four-night Classic cruises don’t stop anywhere – ideal if you enjoy sea days and are in the mood for sleeping in, lazing by the pool and generally lapping up some much-needed R&R. Pacific Eden has a two-day departure on Sunday February 14 – why not book in for a romantic Valentine’s Day escape?


Three-night Food and Wine cruises are a popular option and there are about one a month leaving Sydney between November 2015 and August 2016. Held on board Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, Food and Wine cruises host a selection of activities such as live culinary demonstrations by top chefs, wine-tasting, cocktail classes and barista workshops.

Pacific Pearl Cruise Sampler Cruise in January 2016


Don’t miss a special lunch or dinner at Salt grill by Luke Mangan – it’s a good idea to book a table as soon as you board the ship. Pacific Aria, Eden and Jewel now feature the new Pantry venue, which has replaced the traditional buffet – cuisines include Indian, Mexican and Asian as well as meat-lovers’ dishes at Fat Cow and good old-fashioned fish’n’chips at Hook’s.


Laughter is the best medicine, as the saying goes, and there’s nothing as therapeutic as having a good belly laugh. P&O SeaBreaks include regular three-night comedy cruises that have plenty to entertain both grown-ups and kids. You’ll meet some of Australia’s best comedians around the ship as well as seeing them perform on stage, enjoy adults-only and family-friendly shows at the Sit Down Comedy Club – and budding comedians can join workshops led by the pros to hone their skills for the Comedy Wave Gong Show.


Check out Sydney round-trip departures on Pacific Jewel, Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden and Pacific Pearl. There’s also a four-night comedy cruise from Sydney to Auckland on board Pacific Pearl, leaving on January 31.


If you can stretch a long weekend to four or even five days, you could head to Queensland’s Moreton Island and Sunshine Coast or Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne on a P&O Cruises’ four-day SeaBreak. Carnival Spirit also operates four-day cruises to Moreton Island and Mooloolaba during the winter months.


Moreton Island is one of the few places in Australia where you can hand-feed dolphins in the wild; other adventurous sea-based activities include snorkelling, parasailing, catamaran cruising and fishing. On land you can take quad-bike tours and Segway safaris on the beach or go sand tobogganing on the dunes.

Pacific Eden Moreton Island Cruise in January 2016


Sunshine Coast cruises call at Mooloolaba, which is renowned for its beautiful beaches and laid-back atmosphere. Swimming with whales and a day-trip to Australia Zoo are among the shore tours on offer – or you can just enjoy a dip in the sheltered waters of the Pacific Ocean.


Cruising south of Sydney, discover why Mornington Peninsula has long been a holiday playground for Melbournians. Highlights of the picturesque region include the Peninsula Hot Springs – one of three natural hot springs in Australia – and its vineyards and cellar doors. Craft breweries, cider-makers and distilleries are relatively recent additions to the Peninsula’s thriving food and wine scene.


Keen shoppers always enjoy visiting Melbourne, but there’s a lot more to Victoria’s capital city than fashionable boutiques. A two-hour tour by electric bike takes you along comfortably flat harbourside bicycle paths, kids will love a trip on the steam train Puffing Billy through the Dandenong Ranges and a colonial tram tour of the city includes a four-course lunch served on board the tram.


Carnival Spirit offers two five-night cruises to Tasmania in January and one in April. The ship docks in Hobart and Port Arthur for a day each, so there is ample opportunity to explore one of Australia’s most picturesque harbour cities as well as the country’s most historically significant convict site.


One popular Hobart tour goes to the Cascade Brewery, five minutes’ drive from the CBD in the foothills of Mount Wellington. The brewery has been operating continuously since 1824 and the two-hour visit takes in all aspects of the beer-making process – including tasting at the end.


At Port Arthur you can join a tour that gives an overview of the site’s ruins and restored buildings as well as a drive around the Tasman Peninsula. Chocolate tasting at Federation Chocolate Factory and a traditional Devonshire cream tea at Dunalley are also on the menu.


Radiance of the Seas has a four-day Tasmania sampler cruise, departing Sydney on December 11; it spends one day in Hobart and three at sea, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the ship’s many facilities.


One of the best places to celebrate Australia Day is on Sydney Harbour. Festivities include the annual Ferrython and Tall Ships races, sailing regattas and spectacular parachute displays. Concerts will be performed from a roving waterborne platform and in the evening the skies will be alight with fireworks.


P&O Cruises has two ships sailing out of Sydney that will be docked right at the heart of the action: Pacific Pearl and Pacific Eden. Pacific Pearl’s three-day Sydney round-trip cruise leaves White Bay Cruise Terminal on January 24 and Pacific Eden’s three-dayer leaves on January 25.


If you’ve never set foot on a ship before, this is a great time to sample a cruise – but be quick, cabins are filling fast!


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