With Sarah, our regular cruise contributor away on a new adventure, I looked back over the top stories from the Cruise Sale Finder blog, and picked out some of the most intriguing highlights of 2016 so you can see just how amazing it's been for Aussie cruising.
New Ships & Lines
One of the biggest changes that cruise lines can make is introducing new ships to a fleet or region - this is especially exciting for regular cruisers who can look forward to enjoying entirely new environments. Plus, every now and again a new cruise line will appear with its own unique take on cruising.
- Fathom, a cruise line that focuses on social impact travel, embarked on their maiden voyage in May 2016. Although most lines emphasise leisure and indulgence, Fathom takes a slightly different approach, allowing passengers to give back to the communities that the cruise visits with initiatives like English classes, conservation efforts and more.
- Holland America Line is known for their traditional elegance and understated class, and the ms Koningsdam is undoubtedly the epitome of these ideals. The first ship in the new Pinnacle class, the launch of ms Koningsdam in 2016 marks the opening of a new era for HAL. While Australian cruisers will have to head to the northern hemisphere to experience this impressive new vessel, there's always a chance she'll head down our way sometime soon.
- The second ship in Carnival Cruises Vista class won't join the fleet until March 2018, but it did get a name (Carnival Horizon) and cruisers have been tantalised with some of the features that the Horizon will include: the Skyride, an exciting mix of cycling and ziplining, an IMAX theatre, and a WaterWorks Aqua Park are just a few of the attractions in store for Horizon cruisers in 2018.
- The beautiful Emerald Princess made her way to the Southern Hemisphere, landing in its new home port of Sydney Harbour November 15th. Later that same day, she sailed on down to New Zealand with an inaugural call to Auckland. The Emerald will sail the southern pacific waters until May 2017 when she heads back up to Alaska.
- In one of the most exciting developments for cruisers Down Under, Royal Caribbean's impressive megaship the Ovation of the Seas arrived in Sydney on the 15th of December and will be sticking around in Australasia for some time to come.
New features and upgrades
Not only are new cruise ships popping up all the time, existing vessels that cruisers know and love either had upgrades announced in 2016, or debuted exciting new features. The world of cruising is ever evolving to keep up with the times and present cruise lovers with new and better experiences.
- MSC Cruises, known worldwide for their cosmopolitan flavour and European-style cruising, are staying on the cutting edge thanks to a new partnership with Samsung.
- Royal Caribbean knows that cruising isn't just about what happens on the ship, so they introduced a bunch of new shore excursions for voyages around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. A handful of the all new things to do: biking down Mt Wellington in Hobart, experiencing glow worm caves and giant kauri trees in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, tasting your way across Tauranga with a Coastal Cuisine Tour, tropical jet boating in Cairns and craft beer sampling in Wellington.
- Internet at sea doesn't have the greatest reputation, but Royal Caribbean looks set to change that, having rolled out the VOOM internet service across their whole fleet in 2016. Labelled â€œthe fastest internet service at seaâ€, VOOM is changing the face of connected cruising. Carnival and P&O also rolled out new internet plans and packages - good news for tech savvy cruisers!
- Australia's highest rated cruise ship in 2015 returned in 2016 after an $11 million makeover. The Celebrity Solstice not only received suite enhancements and general touch ups but a handful entirely new features including Tiffany at Sea (the first Tiffany & Co. store at sea in Australia), butler serviced Lawn Club Cabanas and a new outdoor cinema so cruisers can catch a movie while relaxing on the real grass lawn.
Relaxing on Celebrity's real grass lawn has never been better.
Tips for cruisers
Along with keeping you up to date on cruise news and hooking you up with all the best cruise deals, the team at Cruise Sale Finder also tries help out with top tips and tricks to make the most of your next cruise - below is a selection of some of the most popular guides in 2016:
- Cruises are well known for aiding relaxation, but which are the most relaxing cruises on earth? We picked our top 5 for true leisure enthusiasts.
- Cruising is a fun family holiday option, but packing for your kids isn't always that fun. We did a quick video tutorial on how to pack for a cruise with kids.
- As you've seen above, 2016 was a big year for cruise connectivity - we took a look at the secrets behind some of the fastest internet at sea.
- Port days are often used for excursions, but is it worth staying on the ship sometimes? Here some of the unexpected reasons to spend your port stay aboard.
- Big ship or small ship - which do you prefer, and what are the real differences between the two?
- Guaranteed status cabins: what are they and how can they save you a bunch of money on your next cruise?
- Staying considerate will make your cruise experience much smoother - check out our top tips on cruise etiquette.
- Amy, our resident cruising veteran, gave cruisers behind-the-scenes secrets and pro-tips for cruising in Alaska.
Cruising allows you to experience all the majesty of Alaska with none of the hardship.
Amongst all the good news in 2016, there was also the unfortunate incident of Cyclone Winston in February which ravaged the beautiful Fijian islands, prompting the declaration of a month-long state of disaster. A number of cruises had to alter their itineraries, and many cruise lines pledged donations toward the recovery effort. Fortunately, everything is now back to business as usual for cruisers heading to Fiji.
Bits and pieces
2016 brought some intriguing bits of news that don't quite fit into a neat, cut-and-dried category - here are a few of the best tidbits:
- Carnival Cruise Line had an auspicious milestone in 2016, welcoming their 500,000th cruise passenger in Australia. The family that tipped the numbers over the half million mark were surprised by Carnival with a special reception including cake and balloons.
- The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro ended up as something of a fiasco, but luxury cruise line Silversea stepped in to help save the day. After multiple issues with the Olympic village, American basketball athletes turned to the Silver Cloud, at port in Rio, for accommodation.
- Cruise ships from several different lines came to the rescue rather more literally this year. The Sun Princess rescued five people from a fogbound vessel adrift off the coast of Vanuatu, while the Carnival Spirit and Pacific Pearl worked together to come to the aid of a disabled yacht northeast of Sydney.
Cruises to the rescue!
We've had our say about great cruising moments in 2016, but we'd really love to hear from you about what you've loved the most about cruising this year - whether it's a special trip you took, a new ship you're excited to experience or something else entirely, let us know about your 2016 cruising highlights in the comments.
2017 is shaping up to be an even better year for cruising than this year, so get the jump on the New Year and find a cruise that you can fall in love with!