What's New for Ocean Cruising in Australia and the South Pacific

Pacific Princess in Sydney, Australia(Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Nearly 800,000 U.S. visitors travel each year to Australia, among them travelers arriving on a South Pacific cruise or embarking an oceangoing cruise ship at such ports as Sydney or Melbourne. So, what’s new for Australian cruising?

With 25 percent more summer 2020-2021 capacity “Down Under” than any other cruise line, Princess Cruises will position six ships – one third of its global fleet – in Australia for the first time. The 670-passenger Pacific Princess will return for a four-month deployment, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of Princess’ first roundtrip cruise from Australia on the original Pacific Princess, which appeared in the 1970s-1980s “Love Boat” TV series.

Princess offers two- or three-day voyages to weeklong sailings and longer cruises too. A six-day “Australia Getaway” on Sea Princess will depart from Adelaide, Australia on February 15, 2021 and call at Melbourne, plus Burnie and Hobart, both in Tasmania, before ending in Sydney.

A 28-day “Round Australia” itinerary on Sea Princess will sail roundtrip from Sydney on February 21, 2021. Calls will include Hobart, Burnie, Melbourne, Adelaide, Albany, Margaret River (Busselton), Perth (Freemantle); Broome, Darwin, Cairns, and Brisbane. Guests also cruise the Kimberley Coast and visit Alotau (Milne), Papua New Guinea.

During a Margaret River (Busselton) call, many cruisers often head out to the area's wineries and enjoy wine tasting. Photo at right is courtesy of Margaret River Gourmet Escape. 

For the first time, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxurious 500-passenger Europa 2 will sail to Australia’s western coast in early 2021; it’s an English-German speaking ship attracting an international clientele.  Guests can go sand boarding in the desert, gaze at the Valley of the Giants’ red tingle trees and possibly encounter dolphins, emus and koalas.  

Europa 2 will sail a 16-day “Premiere: Western Australia” itinerary from Melbourne, Australia, to Benoa, Bali, Indonesia. Along the route, guests will visit Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Albany, Australia’s oldest town, plus they’ll sip and savor in the Margaret River wine region. Other calls will include Fremantle (Perth), Geraldton and Exmouth, and the cruise ends in Bali. It’s also an In2Balance wellness/fitness cruise.

Between October 2020 and March 2021, Silversea Cruises will sail to 49 destinations in eight countries in and around Australia and New Zealand. One highlight? By combining three voyages—Sydney to Fremantle (Perth), Fremantle (Perth) to Bali, and Bali to Sydney—travelers will complete a 50-day circumnavigation of Australia onboard Silver Muse, which will make multiple port calls in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, the ship will operate voyages between Sydney and Auckland. A 16-day voyage departing December 20, 2020 will call at Melbourne and Burnie, and then head for New Zealand ports, before ending with an Auckland overnight.  

Azamara’s 2021-2022 schedules will feature many global maiden calls. One is at Fraser Island, Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the world’s largest sand island with rainforest growing from the dunes. Guests can spend a day on the beach or head out whale watching.

Azamara’s 18-night “Australia Intensive Voyage” on February 23, 2021 will provide opportunities for plenty of time ashore with three late-night stays and three overnights in port. The 684-passenger Azamara Pursuit calls at Mooloolaba, Airlie Beach, Cairns and Darwin, plus Benoa, Bali, before ending in Singapore.  One plus is that Azamara’s tours in Australia are operated by Abercrombie & Kent.

Pre-cruise, land-stay options for Azamara include the Kuranda Rainforest (The Kuranda train is shown above, courtesy of Tourism Australia) & Great Barrier Reef, a scenic option with eco-exploration; “Rail & Sail Australia: Indian Pacific,” a railroad journey across the continent; “Uluru: Ayers Rock at Longitude 131,” a visit into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park; and two “Stay Local Sydney” options, one that includes the Blue Mountains.

Truffles are prized in western Australia and Crystal Cruises focuses on Perth’s Perigord black truffles in Episode 5 of its new video series, “Crystal Cruises Presents: A Culinary Journey Hosted by Jon Ashton.” Ashton visits Perth eateries to learn how local chefs incorporate truffles into their menus and, back on Crystal Serenity, he and Alfred Napotnik, chef de cuisine of the onboard Prego, create a classic gnocchi and black truffle dish. The video is viewable on Crystal’s YouTube Channel.

Sailing “Down Under” is one highlight of Crystal’s 2022 World Cruise “Myths, Marvels & Monuments: A Cultural Mosaic” on Crystal Serenity. Voyage length varies from 86 to 116 nights, depending on boarding/disembarkation ports (Los Angeles, Miami or Monte Carlo).

The voyage will feature Australian port calls in Sydney (overnight), Eden, Melbourne, Adelaide, Busselton, and Perth; along with a Panama Canal transit and calls in New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Egypt, Israel, the Black Sea, Central America, the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

For wellness fans, Seabourn’s 2020 “Wellness in the South Pacific” cruise onboard Seabourn Encore will depart February 21 from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney. Exploring many ports in New Zealand, the ship also will call in Australia at Melbourne, Phillip Island, Eden and Sydney. The sailing will also offer Ventures by Seabourn, the line’s optional program of expedition excursions

Check out the cute march of the fairy penguins in the photo below; photo is courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Park,

Onboard, Seabourn's guests can attend onboard wellness seminars from Dr. Andrew Weil (who designed Seabourn’s wellness program) and other experts; they’ll talk about diet & nutrition, healthy aging, mind-body healing, hypnosis, the microbiome, vitality, genetics and brain health.

Oceania Cruises 684-passenger Insignia will spend more than a week in Australia during its “2021 Around the World In 180 Days” World Cruises. Departing Miami on January 9, 2021 and culminating in New York City on July 9, 2021, this six-continent voyage will cross three oceans and visit 44 countries. Recently revitalized, the ship has 342 all-new suites and staterooms and a Canyon Ranch Spa.

Australia port calls will include Sydney, Brisbane, Whitsunday Island, Cairns (overnight), Thursday Island and Darwin. On Thursday Island, history buffs can peruse Green Hill Fort and the cannons which once guarded the island's main approaches. During an exclusive Brisbane shoreside event, Oceania’s guests will dine on traditional barbeque and watch an Aboriginal show. 

Cunard Line has unveiled its fleetwide Oceans of Discovery voyage program for November 2020 through May 2021; highlights will include full World Cruises and in-depth itineraries. In 2021, the line's flagship, Queen Mary 2, will offer the classic East-West, full World Cruise voyage to Australia and Asia, Southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

Queen Elizabeth will operate four roundtrip voyages from Melbourne and four from Sydney, sailing to South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. New in 2021 is a pair of “open-jaw” New Zealand voyages, sailing from Sydney to Auckland and in reverse.

During cruisers’ free time in Sydney, one fun option is a distillery tour/tasting experience. Gin, vodka, whiskey and rum are infused with everything from fruit to seaweed. Among the options for independently minded guests who wish to explore the local distillery culture on their own are the Archie Rose Bar in the Cannery Rosebery and Brix Distillers in Surry Hills.

For a 120-night Asia-Pacific circumnavigation that includes Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the South Pacific, Regent Seven Seas Cruises plans “Elements of the Pacific,” a Seven Seas Mariner voyage to 59 ports in 17 countries with 18 overnight stays including two in Australia – Sydney and Brisbane. Cruisers can visit 43 UNESCO World Heritage Sites incuding the “Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens” on a Melbourne call and the “Wet Tropics of Queensland” on a visit to Cairns.

Among the new shoreside experiences is “Classical Rendezvous in Sydney” on February 22, 2022. Cruise guests will enjoy a three course-lunch at a local venue, prior to an afternoon classical music concert at Sydney Town Hall, famed for its marble stairs, ornate stained glass, golden highlights and the world’s largest tubular pneumatic organ.

This year, Holland America Line’s 1,258-passenger Maasdam is sailing a series of EXC (Explorations Central) In-Depth Voyages in the South Pacific. Voyages offer special lectures, interactive workshops and cultural programs and the ship carries Zodiacs for EXC Tours.  

For a holiday cruise down under this year, Maasdam’s 14-day “Southern Australia Holiday” cruise will sail roundtrip from Sydney on December 23. Ports will include Eden, Melbourne, Port Arthur, Adelaide, Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island, Portland, Burnie and Phillip Island, as well as scenic cruising of Cape Raoul.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a big draw for those who love snorkeling, diving and eco-adventure. Celebrity Cruises’ 2,850-passenger Celebrity Eclipse will sail a 14-night “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef” voyage from Singapore on November 24, 2020. Ports of call will include Darwin, Cairns (Yorkey’s Knob), Airlie Beach, Newcastle and Sydney. At Cairns, cruisers can head out to overnight on the Great Barrier Reef or go rafting in the rainforest.

Australia has many gorgeous coral reefs. Photo above is courtesy of Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree.

Celebrity will offer multiple cruises in the region. On February 4, 2021, Celebrity Solstice’s eight-night “Australia and Tasmania” voyage will sail roundtrip from Sydney to Adelaide (overnight) and Hobart.with several days at sea. During the two days in Adelaide, wine lovers can opt for the “Taste of Barossa” excursion into the Barossa Valley.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s winter 2020/2021 itineraries include voyages on the recently revitalized 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel, with bow-to-stern enhancements; it will begin sailing Australia and New Zealand cruises starting October 9.  On February 14, 2020, the vessel will sail from Sydney to Wellington, New Zealand, on a 14-night itinerary calling at Burnie and Melbourne, plus many New Zealand ports.

Fifteen shore excursions including “Discovering Sydney” will be included in the cruise fare or guests sailing on MSC Cruises’ 118-night 2021 World Cruise on the 3,223-passenger MSC Poesia. Sailing from Genoa on January 5, 2021, the ship will visit 33 countries including Australia with calls at Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Full World Cruise guests will receive a meal-time drinks package and 30 percent off laundry services.

Only seven miles from Brisbane is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with 130 resident koalas. Cruisers can hold a koala, hand feed kangaroos and meet koalas and other Australian wildlife in natural settings.

For who plan a land stay/tour in Australia but would love to cruise for a few days to enjoy the shipboard experience, Royal Caribbean International’s two- and three-night “Sampler Cruises” sail roundtrip from Sydney with no port calls. In addition, four-night and five-night “Tasmania Cruises” spend one port day in Hobart, or alternatively a day in Hobart and another in Port Arthur, plus the line has many longer voyages too.

Ships include Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas. A 10-night “Queensland Cruise” will depart roundtrip from Sydney on Serenade of the Seas. Departing October 20, 2020, the ship will call at Brisbane, Cairns (Yorkeys Knob), Airlie Beach and Newcastle.

Carnival Cruise Line also will operate three-day sampler voyages roundtrip from Sydney on multiple dates through 2021. Also, the 2,680-passenger Carnival Spirit sails a 10-day “Great Barrier Reef” itinerary that will call at Gladstone, Airlie Beach, Cairns (Yorkeys Knob), and Port Douglas, along with scenic Willis Island cruising.

Horse racing anyone? Clients can enjoy dressing up in their race day finery as Carnival Spirit will sail a six-night “Melbourne Cup” voyage roundtrip from Sydney on November 3, 2019; Carnival Splendor also will sail a racing-focused itinerary on November 1, 2020. Cruisers will arrive in time for the racing festivities with three days in Melbourne. Included in the fare is general admission entry into Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, plus transport to and from the racecourse. General admission entry into Kennedy Oaks Day with transfers is also included.

Many smaller vessels including those from WindstarCruises, Coral Expeditions, Crystal Expedition Cruises, Ponant and SeaDream Yacht Club also have upcoming "down under" voyage options. Look for more on those in Part 2 of this update later this week. 

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