Australians love January. It’s shorthand for holidays in the sun. And a holiday where you can do as little or as much as you like is what Royal Caribbean International does best. The cruise line has always been the big innovator. Passengers are amazed at the onboard facilities, asking, “What will they think of next?” Want rock climbing? They have it. Ice-skating? Check. A surfing machine where you can hang 10 and get wiped out? No problem. Street parades with cartoon characters like Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda? Sure thing. Plus there are restaurants galore, from hamburger joints to three-tiered glamorous dining rooms. Royal Caribbean has a fleet of 23 ships, and four of them are sailing in Australian waters this summer. Legend of the Seas is cruising from Brisbane, so with departures from two capital cities, here are the best Royal Caribbean cruises in January 2016!
January 6, 2016: Explorer of the Seas, New Zealand Quest, 11 nights – departing Sydney
[This same itinerary also operates on January 17, 2016]
Everyone loves our neighbour across the ditch, and January is the perfect time to visit clean and green New Zealand. There’s plenty of time for wine-tasting as you circumnavigate the North Island and pop into the tip of the South Island as well. After two days crossing the Tasman, Explorer of the Seas weaves through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds to dock at Picton. From there it’s a short drive to many renowned wineries specialising in sauvignon blanc. Next stop is Wellington, where it’s de rigueur to ride the red cable car and visit the acclaimed Te Papa Museum. Napier is a favourite with art deco lovers, who will relish a walking tour. Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty is the branching-off point for visits to steamy Rotorua or a day at the beach at nearby Mount Maunganui. The final port is Auckland, where a ferry trip to Waiheke Island is a must.
January 7, 2016: Radiance of the Seas, 12-night South Pacific Paradise – departing Sydney
What could be more enticing than a place called Champagne Bay? Not only is it beautiful, this little beach on Vanuatu’s island of Espiritu Santo lives up to its name. At low tide you can see little bubbles fizzing about, formed by gas escaping from a spring below the sea floor. Radiance of the Seas visits this patch of paradise midway through a Pacific cruise, where every port has something special to offer. Noumea offers a touch of Paris, while the Loyalty Islands’ ports of Lifou and Maré are acclaimed for their excellent snorkelling, with vibrant corals and abundant marine life. Port Vila is that classic South Seas town where great shopping and authentic island life can be savoured, while tiny Mystery Island offers the chance to totally unwind before heading home.
January 8, 2016: Voyager of the Seas, 14-night New Zealand Journey – departing Sydney
How about surfing on the top deck as you cruise out of Sydney Harbour? Voyager of the Seas has the amazing FlowRider, a new surfing machine where passengers can jump on a boogie board to test their skills or take a few spills. Or how about tackling the rock-climbing wall as the huge ship makes its way through New Zealand’s famed Fiordland? There’ll be no shortage of things to do on sea days and plenty of action on land at five great ports. There are calls at Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Picton and Dunedin, plus scenic cruising through the Bay of Islands. The highlight for many will be a day spent sailing the length of three sounds – Dusky, Doubtful and famous Milford – each with towering cliffs and waterfalls.
January, 10, 2016: Legend of the Seas, 7 nights Queensland Coast – departing Brisbane
It’s always sunny in Queensland, so a week of coastal cruising means the weather will be perfect. Brisbane’s home-ported ship, Legend of the Seas, will mosey up and down the coast, calling at two ports and sailing close to islands and coral cays. What’s more, the ship becomes a floating hotel in Cairns, spending a night at Trinity Wharf, a mere stone’s throw from the centre of town. From Brisbane, Legend spends a full day at sea before anchoring offshore in the beautiful Whitsundays. Passengers can take trips to the reef or be tendered ashore to the vibrant hub of Airlie Beach. Then it’s north to Cairns for a two-day stay. How about taking a day tour to Kuranda or a dip in the city’s man-made lagoon? Heading south again, the ship cruises around the coral cay of Willis Island, home to an important weather-monitoring station.
January 17, 2016: Legend of the Seas, 8 nights South Pacific Bliss – departing Brisbane
How about a short break to wind down before the school holidays are over? There’s a chance to snorkel on a tiny island, shop for great duty-free and perhaps pick up some French fashions. Sailing from Brisbane, there are eight nights in the balmy South Pacific including four long blissful days at sea. Mingle with the locals at Noumea’s public market just a short walk from the wharf. In Mystery Island there’s little to do save snorkel, swim and tuck into the barbecue lunch. But in Vila, make sure you wander down the main street and shop for last-minute souvenirs. They’ll also be time to splash about in the refreshing Mele Cascades before the ship sails.
January 30, 2016: Voyager of the Seas, 10 nights Fijian Delight – departing Sydney
Holidays are over for some but not the fun-loving crowd aboard Voyager of the Seas. There’s 10 days of bliss and a chance to slip into Fiji Time. There are also opportunities to practise French in Noumea and say “Bula” in Fiji while exploring Suva and Lautoka. Freewheelers might like to cycle around Noumea’s beautiful bays and beaches. Others will love the imposing Tjibaou Cultural Centre high on the hill. In Suva, have a cocktail in the newly re-opened Grand Pacific Hotel, a Colonial-era gem. In Lautoka, take a snorkelling trip or learn about Fijian village life on a guided tour. With five days at sea, there’s also plenty of time aboard Voyager to go rock-climbing, ice-skating and even surfing on the FlowRider.
The Best Royal Caribbean Cruises in January 2016
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