More than a million people took a cruise last year, reaching this “magic milestone” five years earlier than the cruise lines anticipated. And the rush to holiday at sea shows no signs of slowing. Although summer might seem to be a way off, it is only weeks until the next cruise season starts.
The 2015-16 cruise season promises to be another record-breaker, particularly with the expansion of P&O Cruises’ fleet to to five ships. The fully refurbished, redesigned Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will join Pacific Dawn, Jewel and Pearl in November.
P&O is not the only line tooting its ships’ whistles. Royal Caribbean will have four ships sailing in Australian waters and visiting New Zealand for the first time. Explorer of the Seas will join Voyager in Sydney and the two giants will stage a splashy rendezvous on the Sydney Harbour in November.
However, you will have to wait until December 2016 for Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum-class Ovation of the Seas to arrive. Bookings opened in June and Royal Caribbean commercial director Sean Treacy says there were thousands of calls within the first 24 hours.
Golden Princess is Princess Cruises’ season newcomer. It’s also the cruise line’s 50th anniversary this year, so special events will be held on every ship.
Having more ships sailing from more ports is great news for those wanting to cruise. This year there is more choice of itineraries, from short breaks to longer cruises, to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Singapore, as well as the popular Pacific Islands and New Zealand routes.
As more people are discovering, cruising can offer excellent value. While it’s always debatable whether you should book in advance or wait for a last-minute deal, most people book between six and 12 months ahead to make sure they get what they want in the way of ships, cabins and itineraries.
This is why we are looking at what’s on the horizon now, so you can make an informed decision about your next cruise holiday.
As ships steam in and out of port, it can be hard to keep track of who’s who. Carnival Cruise Line has two ships, Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit. These will be home-ported in Sydney year-round; P&O Cruises’ Pacific Jewel is in Sydney year-round, and the line’s four other Australian-based ships (Pacific Aria, Dawn, Eden and Pearl) will cruise out of Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney.
Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess will be based in Melbourne for its first Australian season, from October to April; the ever-popular Diamond Princess joins Dawn Princess in Sydney, staying until March; Sea Princess is sailing from Brisbane, and Sun Princess from Fremantle. This means Princess will now offer year-round cruising from the east and west coasts.
Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas is going to Brisbane for its first Australian season, while Explorer, Radiance and Voyager will all cruise out of Sydney. The other visitors here for the season are Celebrity Solstice and MS Noordam and CMV Astor, which is returning to Fremantle. At the smaller end of the scale, Coral Expeditions (formerly known as Coral Princess) is expanding its operations from the Kimberley and Great Barrier Reef to Tasmania for the first time this summer. The line’s 50-passenger ship, Coral Expeditions I, will sail 16 seven-day itineraries around the island state’s rugged coastlines between November and February.
AT A GLANCE GUIDE TO THE 2015/2016 CRUISING SEASON:
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE 2056-passenger Carnival Legend, 2124-passenger Carnival Spiriting.
BEST FOR Active, multi-generation families, groups of friends, singles.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Green Thunder waterslides, two-deck fitness centre, sports court, three pools, three kids’ clubs plus Night Owls program that allows parents to “go out” in the evening, child-free Serenity Retreat, eight restaurants and cafes, 16 bars and lounges.
GOING TO Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Hawaii, Singapore, Australian coast.
CELEBRITY CRUISES 2850-passenger Celebrity Solstice.
BEST FOR Couples, singles, families with older children.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Real-grass Lawn Deck (featuring the Sunset Bar, lawn bowling and Hot Glass show), 10 restaurants and cafes, 11 bars and lounges (try a cocktail at Molecular Bar), Canyon Ranch spa, three pools, 18 shops.
GOING TO Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Bali, Singapore, Australian coast.
CORAL EXPEDITIONS 50-passenger Coral Expedition I
BEST FOR Active couples, mature singles
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Menu showcasing fresh Tasmanian produce and local wines; open-bridge policy, Zodiacs and 50-passenger expedition boat, spa pool, sun deck.
GOING TO Tasmania cruises from Hobart.
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE 1924-passenger MS Noordam
BEST FOR Couples, mature singles, multi-generation family groups.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Culinary Arts Centre (for cooking demos and classes), Microsoft Digital Workshops program, four restaurants (including specialty venue Pinnacle Grill), 10 bars and lounges, Greenhouse Spa & Salon, fitness centre, two pools, 170-seat cinema, B.B. King’s Blues Club.
GOING TO Pacific Islands, New Zealand.
P&O CRUISES 1500-passenger Pacific Aria, 1500-passenger Pacific Eden, 2000-passenger Pacific Dawn, 1950-passenger Pacific Jewel, 1800-passenger Pacific Pearl
BEST FOR Multi-generation families, groups of friends, singles.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS New restaurants (at least eight on each ship, including Salt grill by Luke Mangan), four age-specific kids’ clubs, child-free Oasis area (which includes a pool on Aria and Eden), new shops, nightclubs, day spa, bars such as MIX Cocktail Bar and Splash swim-up bar.
GOING TO The five ships will sail 250 itineraries that include short breaks (comedy, food and wine, Melbourne Cup), Australian coast, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea.
CRUISE DIRECTOR’S PICK Pacific Eden’s nine-night Pacific Islands round-trip from Sydney, departing December 7; from A$824. pocruises.com.au.
PRINCESS CRUISES 1998-passenger Dawn Princess, 2670-passenger Diamond Princess, 2600-passenger Golden Princess, 1998-passenger Sea Princess, 1998-passenger Sun Princess.
BEST FOR 50-plus couples and singles, multi-generation family groups.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Movies Under the Stars, adults-only Sanctuary, Lotus Spa, Chocolate Journeys edible and drinkable treats, a variety of specialty restaurants including the Chef’s Table, wide range of classes in the [email protected] program.
GOING TO New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australian coast.
CRUISE DIRECTOR’S PICK Golden Princess’ six-day round-trip from Melbourne to Tasmania, departing February 5; from A$1049 princess.com.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL 3114-passenger Explorer of the Seas, 1832-passenger Legend of the Seas, 2143-passenger Radiance of the Seas, 3114-passenger Voyager of the Seas
BEST FOR Active multi-generation families, groups of friends, singles.
ONBOARD HIGHLIGHTS Explorer and Voyager feature FlowRiders and ice rinks; all have two or three pools, rock-climbing walls, between six and 10 restaurants and cafes each, numerous bars, lounges and nightclubs, age-specific kids’ clubs, shops, Vitality Spa & Fitness Centres.
GOING TO The four ships will sail more than 70 cruises in the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and around Australia.