Sailing Down Under

Visitors enjoy a panoramic view of Hobart, Tasmania, from the Pinnacles Boardwalk on Mount Wellington.

Visitors enjoy a panoramic view of Hobart, Tasmania, from the Pinnacles Boardwalk on Mount Wellington.

While North Americans know about major Australian ports such as Sydney or Melbourne, they may not be as familiar with the other “Down Under” destinations accessible on a cruise vacation. Here’s a look at seven of our favorite cruise adventures.

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Hobart, Tasmania: Ships calling in Tasmania will increase from 60 to 94 vessels during the Australian summer season of 2016-2017. Hobart, Port Arthur and Burnie will receive the most visits. Hapag-Lloyd CruisesEuropa 2 will call at all three ports on its “Merry Christmas in Australia” sailing, departing December 18 to Auckland, New Zealand and ending in early 2017 in Sydney. Cruisers going ashore might head out to enjoy scenic views of snow-covered Mt. Wellington, stroll in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens or Salamanca Market to shop everything from truffle oil to hand-made souvenirs, or check out the historical Theatre Royal with its ornate ceiling.

Cruisers might also book a day trip up the River Derwent on the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) Ferry and spend the day tasting Moorilla wine and dining in a local eatery, while exploring unusual artwork. Historically, Tasmania was a jumping off point for Antarctica explorations of the early 1900s, so shore trips that include the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum provide a fascinating view of that era’s hardships. In addition, those arriving at Hobart in the early 1800s were mainly convicts, and cruisers can learn about that history at Penitentiary Chapel, Sarah Island and Port Arthur.

This fall, Carnival Spirit’s seven-day cruises from Sydney will include calls in Melbourne and in Hobart and Port Arthur, Tasmania.

This fall, Carnival Spirit’s seven-day cruises from Sydney will include calls in Melbourne and in Hobart and Port Arthur, Tasmania.

This fall, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Spirit will sail seven-day roundtrip cruises from Sydney that includes three calls — Hobart and Port Arthur in Tasmania and Melbourne in Australia. In addition, Carnival also offers five five-night cruises from Sydney or Melbourne to Tasmania on several ships for 2017-2018; these cruises call at both Hobart and Port Arthur, Tasmania. On February 17, 2017, Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Solstice sails a 12-night “New Zealand Cruise” that ends in Sydney. Most calls are in New Zealand, but it stops at Hobart too.

Near the cruise ship terminal is the new MACq 01 hotel, opening in mid-2017; its interior will shed light on real Tasmanian characters — heroes, villains, explorers, inventors, convicts, bush-rangers, first people, industrial giants and political mavericks. Tourism Tasmania reports that cruisers can take a new behind-the-scenes “Feeding Frenzy” tour at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary; Par Avion has some new fly-and-dine packages; and Drink Tasmania offers new tours focused on tastings of Tasmania’s whiskey, wine, beer and ciders.

Visitors to the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park will get a chance to spot the famous and fierce Tasmanian Devil.

Visitors to the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park will get a chance to spot the famous and fierce Tasmanian Devil.

Burnie, Tasmania: As Tasmania’s fourth largest city, Burnie boasts shops, restaurants and the Burnie Regional Art Gallery with prints by Australian artists. Cruisers can learn about how saddles or boots were made at the Burnie Regional Museum. Inland is Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with glacier lakes, high grasslands, mountains and a rainforest. The national park is the place to see the famous and fierce Tasmanian Devil. Sun worshipers can find beaches at Devonport and Ulverstone. The old lumber village of Penguin has the world’s largest penguin statue (great for selfies) and a nearby penguin rookery.

Norwegian Cruise Line will send Norwegian Jewel to Australia and New Zealand starting fall 2017 through early 2018. In addition to voyages that visit both countries and Papua New Guinea, Norwegian Jewel will sail seven Sydney round-trip cruises, including a five-day Sydney-Tasmania-Sydney cruise departing November 12, 2017, and a nine-day voyage leaving December 14, 2017, that visits Eden, Kangaroo Island, Burnie and more. Onboard, guests will experience Australian cuisine such as regional beef, lamb, seafood, fine wines and ales, and enjoy the ballroom spectacular, “Burn the Floor.”

For those wanting to go in-depth, Holland America Line’s Maasdam offers a 32-night “Australia Circumnavigation,” roundtrip from Sydney on October 21, 2017, that visits Burnie, Tasmania and various other Australian and South Pacific ports, such as Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Cairns, Sherrard Island, Darwin, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Exmouth and others.

Margaret River, Australia: This vibrant coastal area appeals to both fitness buffs and eco-explorers. Just steps from the jetty are white-sand beaches and seaside towns. The Ngilgi Cave, discovered in 1899, has stunning rock formations and interpretive areas detailing Aboriginal culture. But, for many, Margaret River means wine. More than 120 wineries, including Aravina Estate, dot the landscape.

Princess CruisesSun Princess offers many Australia voyages that are enticing for their depth into the continent. A 29-day “Round Australia” itinerary, covering 15 ports, departs October 5, 2017. This voyage calls at Margaret River, Adelaide, Fremantle, Hobart and Burnie, among other ports. On October 8, 2017, clients can book a shorter 11-day “Southern Australia Explorer” segment by that ship from Sydney to Fremantle (Perth), Australia.

In addition, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, departing January 27, 2018, on its World Cruise will have a 28-night segment from Cape Town, South Africa, to Sydney, with calls at South Africa, Reunion, Mauritius and Australia, including Margaret River.

Broome, Australia: Dinosaurs once roamed this area, so cruisers on a shore trip might examine Jurassic footprints preserved in reef rock at Gantheaume Point. In town, options include perusing Chinatown’s pearl showrooms, shopping for crafts and jewelry at Broome Courthouse Market and Aboriginal art at the Short Street Gallery; or chowing down on “mud crabs” in a local restaurant.

On February 1, 2018, Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony will operate a 14-day voyage from Port Louis, Mauritius to Fremantle, Australia. Pictured is the Crystal Penthouse with Verandah.

On February 1, 2018, Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony will operate a 14-day voyage from Port Louis, Mauritius to Fremantle, Australia. Pictured is the Crystal Penthouse with Verandah.

Princess has a robust portfolio of voyages that call at Broome and other Australian ports too. On February 1, 2018, Crystal CruisesCrystal Symphony will operate a 14-day voyage from Port Louis, Mauritius to Fremantle, Australia. This trans-Indian Ocean voyage will call at Broome and Geraldton, Australia. In addition, Azamara Club CruisesAzamara Quest visits Broome during a 16-night “Java Sea & West Australia” sailing on December 6, 2018.

Kimberley Coast: In Western Australia, the Kimberley, an area of wilderness, is built on ancient sandstone with desolate mountains, rock art galleries, waterfalls and thousands of islands, many of which are seabird breeding colonies. Ponant’s sleek, modern L’Austral makes its Kimberley debut in 2017; several 10-night voyages depart from July through September 2017. The mega-yacht has upscale service and 132 outside cabins. Photographer and adventurer Mick Fogg will lead the Ponant expedition team on an itinerary that includes Hunter River, King George Falls, Mitchell Falls, Montgomery Reef and Horizontal Falls.

Silversea guests on a Zodiac explore King George River Falls, Kimberley Coast.

Silversea guests on a Zodiac explore King George River Falls, Kimberley Coast.

Silversea ExpeditionsSilver Discoverer will sail a 10-night “The Kimberley - Australia’s Hidden Treasure” voyage on April 6, 2017. It spends several days here for eco-adventure. The region’s tides are unusual — as high as 36 feet — so on one of many outings, cruisers and their guides board Zodiacs for an exhilarating ride through Horizontal Falls before exploring Cyclone Creek, a sandstone gorge with some geological formations formed two billion years ago.

Brisbane, Australia: Some Princess itineraries include Brisbane or “River City.” Sea Princess’ 15-day “Northern & Western Australia Explorer” voyage departs Fremantle on November 18, 2017, and calls at Broome, Darwin, Port Douglas and Yorky’s in Australia and Alotau in Papua New Guinea before ending in Brisbane. Many city visitors like to take a small boat ride along the winding Brisbane River to view the central business district on one side and South Bank — a magnet for galleries, man-made beaches, performing arts venues and entertainment spots — on the other. Thrill seekers can stand atop Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge.

Other activities in the Brisbane area may involve viewing of wildlife at the Australia Zoo, founded by the late Steve Irwin of “The Crocodile Hunter” fame; perusing sea life, including turtles, whales and rays at North Stradbroke Island; admiring city views from SkyPoint, and heading for the Scenic Rim, Somerset and Lockyer Valley for waterfalls, farmlands and rolling hills. Moving forward, a new Howard Smith Wharves Revitalization project is going to transform the riverside near Story Bridge into a new Brisbane landmark. Construction begins this summer; ultimately, it will have open space, a boutique hotel, exhibition center, restaurants and cafés.

If guests prefer a land-based journey in and around Brisbane, but would like to combine that with a short cruise to nowhere, Royal Caribbean International’s Legend of the Seas sails a three-night cruise roundtrip from Brisbane on December 2, 2016, and January 6, 15, 29 and February 8, 2017; the ship is being sold to Thomson Cruises, but will still operate these voyages prior to leaving the fleet in March 2017.

For those on a pre- or post-cruise stay, several new Brisbane hotels are opening soon, one of which, Johnson Hotel, an Art Series hotel, will offer art tours and in-room art channels, plus guests can use the hotel’s branded Smart Cars and Lekker bicycles to explore the city.

One fun new option? The Bunyip Scenic Rim Resort is launching a full-day cooking experience, “The Scenic Kitchen.” Chef Ray Boyer will give instruction while guests prepare their meal overlooking the Great Dividing Range, high atop Mount French. Classes are $285 per person and include morning tea, guided tours, a three-course meal and matching wines.

Whitsunday Islands, Australia: Oceania CruisesSirena sails a 34-day “Southern Cross Sojourn” roundtrip from Sydney to Brisbane, Broome and other Australian and Indonesian ports, along with the Whitsundays, departing March 6, 2017. This site consists of 74 islands within the Great Barrier Reef. Whitsunday Island itself has lovely beaches, including the famed Whitehaven Beach, plus superb views at the Hill Inlet scenic overlook.

Cruisers who really want a luxurious day in the isles can rent a fully crewed yacht. Or if guests simply want to kick back and relax ashore with resort pampering, Hamilton or Daydream are among the isles with major resorts. Seabourn Cruise Line calls at Hamilton on Seabourn Encore’s 16-day “Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Coast” voyage, departing Benoa (Denpasar), Bali, Indonesia, and ending in Sydney; other calls include Darwin, Townsville, Cairns and Mooloolaba, Australia, plus other ports in Indonesia.

New this year: Heart Hotel and Gallery Whitsundays, a luxury boutique hotel, opens in Airlie Beach in September. It will have a restaurant, bar and a top floor art gallery hosting exhibitions from local artists. Airlie Beach itself offers beaches, shops and eateries, plus a parklands swimming lagoon overlooking the ocean that’s popular with families. Airlie also attracts many young adults and has a party reputation, as visitors enjoy drinks, dancing and socializing at pubs, clubs and bars lining the town’s main street.

Not surprisingly, the Whitsundays offer quiet coves and pretty secluded spots for yachting and water sports. Or, if clients are visiting on a small ship, these often have water sports platforms so guests can go for snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing or take a banana boat ride. 

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