The Cruise Director: Cruise ships arrive for their first visit to Australia
The first of the summer visitors have now arrived – Celebrity Solstice and Radiance of the Seas steamed into Sydney Harbour a couple of weeks ago and Voyager and Explorer of the Seas will be here next week, to embark on the busiest Wave Season Australia has ever experienced.
As well as welcoming back many familiar faces, during the next few months we will see some notable ships on their first-ever trips Down Under, making nearly 70 maiden calls to ports in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands.
"Anyone wanting evidence of the continuing rapid growth of the cruise industry in Australia just needs to look at the horizon this summer," said CLIA Australasia commercial director Brett Jardine. "It's going to be an exciting time for communities around Australia as they welcome these wonderful ships and share in the $3.6 billion in economic benefits that flow from cruise tourism in Australia annually."
Royal Caribbean's much-heralded Ovation of the Seas will be the biggest, newest ship to visit Australia; it arrives in Sydney in December to sail 15 itineraries ranging from three to 15 nights to Tasmania, New Zealand and the Pacific islands.
In January, the new super-luxury Seabourn Encore sails into Sydney, fresh from its official naming in Singapore and taking over the title of youngest ship in town from Ovation of the Seas. Between January and March the 600-passenger ship will make nine maiden calls to regional ports from Darwin to Geelong.
The 3082-passenger Emerald Princess is also making its debut Down Under, joining four other Princess ships in the region for the season; after calling at Fremantle and Melbourne it will be based in Sydney, offering cruises to Tasmania, New Zealand and the Pacific islands until April.
Azamara sent one of its two popular small ships, Azamara Quest, to Australia for the first time earlier this year and now it's sister ship Azamara Journey's turn. Between February and March the 686-passenger Azamara Journey will sail six cruises in Australia and New Zealand.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' top-rated Europa 2 is visiting Australia and New Zealand on three long cruises between December and January, and Oceania Cruises' most recent acquisition, Oceania Sirena, is also making its inaugural visit to our region. One of its cruises is a 34-day round-trip from Sydney to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia in March; ports of call include Broome, Exmouth, Kangaroo Island, Geelong, Hobart and Eden.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star is sailing between Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia from January to March, on four itineraries ranging from 12 to 31 days. You can't miss the ship's colourful hull – and its sister ship, Norwegian Jewel, will be based in Sydney for the full 2017-18 season.
MEET THE CREW
NAME Alistair Inch, Scottish
POSITION Guest services manager Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas
MY JOB … is to provide exceptional customer service to all our guests through the front-desk operation, manage our loyalty program, concierge and group services and all printed materials on board.
A TYPICAL DAY I spend time in the morning in the office dealing with administrative tasks, then walk my areas and try to spend as much time as possible chatting with our guests. I like to be on the floor, socialising as much as possible to make sure everyone is having a great time.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT Any time that I get to help a guest and make sure their cruise experience is memorable gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction.
FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS I am very lucky as I've seen most of the world. I loved my time in Alaska and the Holy Land. I do, however, feel that the best is still to come as I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of visiting Australia and New Zealand this season.
INSIDER TIPS You would be amazed how much information you can get by using the interactive menu on your stateroom TV. You can check your account balance, book excursions and receive messages. This can save you a lot of time lining up at the guest services desk.
The SwissCard Classic, made by the famous Swiss Army Knife company Victorinox, is so slim it fits in your wallet yet contains 10 useful tools, a ballpoint pen and scissors. See victorinox.com for local stockists.
You're invited to Scenic's 30th
Scenic has launched a massive birthday sale to celebrate 30 years in the business. Since beginning life as a domestic coach tour operator in 1986, the company has evolved into one of Australia's most successful travel companies, now specialising in cruising and travelling to every continent and more than 60 countries across the globe. To mark this special occasion, Scenic is offering a raft of never to be repeated deals across its entire portfolio, including river cruises in Europe and South-East Asia and Canada and Alaska land/cruise holidays, with some great deals for solo travellers. You could also win an all-inclusive France river cruise for two people valued at more than $23,000; head to scenic.com.au to enter.
The Strand Cruise Myanmar
Launched in December 2015, The Strand Cruise is a luxurious 28-cabin vessel that sails three and four-night itineraries between Bagan and Mandalay on Myanmar's Irrawaddy river. A highlight is an exclusive mooring overnight at Ava, allowing passengers access to the temple of Maha Aungmye Bonzan after the crowds have left in the evening. The Strand Cruise is also the only operator on the river to offer visits to the famous U-Bein bridge on both north and south-bound itineraries. December is considered to be the perfect time to visit Myanmar and The Strand Cruise is offering special rates on departures this coming December, including a complimentary stay at the newly renovated Strand Yangon hotel. See thestrandcruise.com.
Small ships, big adventures
Looking for an adventurous cruise with just a few fellow passengers next year? Wild Earth Travel specialises in small-ship cruising and has more than 1000 itineraries on offer, on board ships that accommodate eight to 150 passengers and range from expedition vessels to luxury ships. The company is run by expedition leaders who have years of first-hand experience of the places and ships featured in its brochures and website, so they are well-placed to advise on what voyage will suit you. The 2017 Wild Earth Travel brochure is out now and offers earlybird deals on cruises in Alaska, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Mediterranean, Tasmania and Tahiti – among other sought-after destinations. See wildearth-travel.com.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
Fly home free from Auckland when you book a 15-night New Zealand cruise on Azamara Journey with ecruising.travel. Departing Sydney on February 19, 2017, the ship visits Melbourne, Hobart, Port Arthur and all the highlights of New Zealand's North and South Island. Fares start from $4589 when booked by November 30 and include selected drinks, gratuities and an AzAmazing Evening event. Phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.
RUSSIAN TRAVEL CENTRE is offering new low prices for two-room suites on board river ship MS Tolstoy on 11-day cruises between St Petersburg and Moscow. Fares start from $2987 for September cruises, $3550 for May, July and August, and $3775 for June. Valid for bookings made by January 13, 2017; phone 1300 668 844.
CRUISE TRAVELLER's 20-night fly/cruise/tour includes an 11-night Italian Indulgence road trip from Rome to Venice, a night in Venice, a seven-night cruise from Venice to Athens on board Regent Seven Seas Voyager and return flights from Australia. Departing October 8, 2017, fares start from $13,695 when booked by November 30. Phone 1800 507 777, see cruisetraveller.com.au.
The story The Cruise Director: Cruise ships arrive for their first visit to Australia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.