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Published on Mar 01, 2014

Cruising in Australia - spoiled for choice

So many cruising options in Australia

Everything you need to know about cruising Down Under
There's a dizzying line-up of cruise ships and vacation packages for Australians to consider when planning a holiday on the high seas. It's all a far cry from just a few years ago, when only a handful of ships regularly cruised the South Pacific.

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
Sam Corlett-Wood from knows exactly how to find Australiam cruise holiday bargains. She has helped thousands navigate the myriad of deals on offer. Her inside knowledge allows customers to identify their perfect ship and itinerary.  

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?
Main departure ports are Sydney and Brisbane, with ships such as the Carnival Spirit, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel based in Sydney, and the Pacific Dawn cruising exclusively from Brisbane. The Dawn Princess, Sun Princess and Sea Princess cruise from Australia when not on World Cruise itineraries and are often seen at both of these major cruise ports.

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."
From Melbourne, many ships will journey to Tasmania or New Zealand with return itineraries. More recently, there have been some cruises from the city which take in the southern coast of Australia, including fabulous Adelaide.

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.
"These are really popular and fill up fast" warns Sam. "They're also longer, around 15-17 days, so we generally book older generation or well-travelled guests on these cruises."

The Stars of the Holiday: the Cruise Ships
When it comes to which liner to travel with, competition is extremely fierce. But P&O, Carnival and Royal Caribbean are highly recommended, with a fantastic industry reputation.

"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?
Catering to restricted diets is generally not a problem. All mainstream cruise lines (P&O, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Cunard) can provide food for those guests who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian or require gluten-free, low fat/salt or kosher meals. All allergies can also be catered for.

"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."
Sam advises clients with food allergies to carefully check before eating food at a ship's buffet restaurants.

"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.


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