So many cruising options in Australia
Everything you need to know about cruising Down Under
With so many options, planning a cruise can be somewhat daunting for first-timers. So, where do you start?
Let's talk to the cruising expert
First-timers will typically start with a shorter cruise: breaks of three or four nights or week-long itineraries. For example, P&O's 'Pacific Island Hopper' or Carnival's 'Pacific Islands' cruises are ideal 7-8 night trips.
"We find a lot of retirees and well-travelled guests opt for longer cruises of 14-plus nights" Sam says.
Where are the cruise ports in Australia/NZ?
From Sydney, there are many cruises to the South Pacific. Itineraries taking in New Caledonia and Tahiti tend to be around one week, with longer itineraries often including Fiji as well.
Cruises from Brisbane travel up the Queensland Coast or to the islands of the South Pacific, and you will find plenty of week-long trips out of here. Over the warmer New Zealand summer months (November-March) there are a handful of NZ cruises departing Brisbane on a round trip.
Although not quite as busy as Sydney and Brisbane, the ports of Auckland, Melbourne and Perth (Fremantle) see a lot of cruise ship action. The summer cruises from Auckland are often NZ itineraries travelling in one direction around the country and across to Sydney or Melbourne over a fortnight. There are also South Pacific cruises from Auckland, but these are only on P&O Pacific Pearl and during winter (May-June), says Sam.
"This is actually a better time to visit the South Pacific Islands with the drier weather, less rain and therefore less humidity."
The cruise ships departing Fremantle will travel to Asia, normally visiting Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand along the way. These are generally either return cruises or one-way itineraries concluding in Singapore. The 'Across the Top' of Australia cruises will also start or end in Fremantle, passing from one coast to another.
The Stars of the Holiday: the Cruise Ships
"They're well-known for outstanding family holidays, especially with their on-board kids club" Sam says.
"P&O have three- and four-night cruises which are great for everyone: first-time cruisers, family reunions and birthday celebrations, hens/stag parties. And although they're not aimed exclusively at the party crowd, these guests certainly book. Examples include the Moreton Island Cruise, and Food and Wine, Lifestyle and Comedy cruises which have no port stops, but specialise in on-board activities and entertainment."
"Princess Cruises generally don't have as many families on-board as P&O" says Sam. "Their local Australia and NZ cruises attract people who have travelled with P&O before and want to try something else. This cruise line also has world trips from Australia, but you will find that guests who do these cruises are mature and rather more well-travelled."
Celebrity Cruises is the sister cruise company to Royal Caribbean, and are a star rating above, depending on the ship. "There are, typically, fewer families than on Royal Caribbean but these ships still have Kids Clubs to cater for children between three years through to teens" notes Sam. Passengers are, generally, 40-plus years old.
"Holland America and Cunard enjoy large repeat passenger followings, and although these ships have Kids Clubs and activities to suit the families, we don't see a lot of them travelling on these" says Sam. Again, passengers are generally over 40 years old.
What if I have a special diet?
"With adequate notice, if there are specific dietary requirements, we can pass on these requests" says Sam. "Once you're on the ship, it's always best to make yourself known to your head waiter/waitress or maitre d' and they can ensure your dietary requirements are met."
"Also, baby food is not provided and you will need to bring your own. All food must be unopened, sealed and in original store-bought containers."
Sam's key tips for the perfect cruise holiday
- How long? Find your cruising feet by starting out on a shorter cruise. The South Pacific cruises or even short breaks are an ideal option.
- Embarkation point. Make sure you choose your nearest cruise port - you might save yourself additional travel expense and vacation down-time.
- What's on offer? Ask about facilities and attractions on board for the whole family. Also, for couples, you might want a bit more peace and quiet, with not too many kids running around.
- Shore tours. Check out the shore tours offered. You might want to book your own.
- Plan in advance. Book well ahead, at least six months, to ensure you get the best choice of cabins.