Australia set for vibrant cruise season this summer

View on a rough sea, with waves of the open ocean from a boat. Dramatic landscapes of the Atlantic Ocean.
Edited by Travel Weekly


    Australia is gearing up for a spectacular summer cruise season, bringing new ships, new cruise lines and more than 1800 port calls in destinations around the country.

    Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said the 2023-24 season was likely to be one of Australia’s busiest, with the number of ships visiting the region set to exceed pre-pandemic levels.

    “Australia will welcome around 70 cruise ships over the 2023-34 season, which is well above the 60 or so scheduled to visit in 2019-20,” Mr Katz said. “Together these ships will spend a total of 1848 port days in Australia – 18% more than in 2019-20 – resulting in billions of dollars in passenger spending in communities around the Australian coast.”

    CLIA today hosts almost 650 industry delegates from across Australia and New Zealand at its annual Cruise360 Australasia conference in Brisbane, the first time the event has been held in Queensland. More than 20 speakers and panellists will take part, offering international insight and inspiration to an audience of travel agents, cruise line executives and industry supporters from across Australia and New Zealand.

    Among newcomers to the Australian cruise scene this year will be Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruise Line and Scenic, which will each deploy ships in this region for the first time.

    “This year will offer more variety and choice than ever before, making 2023-24 one of the most exciting cruise seasons in recent memory,” Mr Katz said. “Australia has become one of the most vibrant cruise regions in the world, and this means more options than ever for cruise fans.”

    CLIA Chair in Australasia Ben Angell said the approaching summer schedule reflected strong demand for cruising in Australian waters.

    “The sheer number of ships and increasingly diverse range of itineraries on offer across our region highlight the strength, resilience and underlying demand of our local cruise industry, both as a source market and a destination,” Mr Angell said. “Cruise is back, and back bigger and better than ever.”

    A total of 27 CLIA cruise lines will operate ships in Australian waters over the coming summer season and into 2024, including:Azamara Cruises’ Azamara Journey will sail a variety of cruises in the region, arriving in Geraldton in mid-December then sailing the Great Australian Bight with visits to Albany, Esperance and Kangaroo Island before making her way across the Tasman for a series of New Zealand voyages. Journey will also be in Sydney Harbour over the New Year period and will cruise back through the Bight to Hong Kong as she departs Australia in late February. Azamara Onward will also sail in Australian and New Zealand waters from mid-February as a part of a World Cruise itinerary.

    Carnival Luminosa.

    Carnival Cruise Line is offering fun for everyone with an array of exciting itineraries across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Carnival Luminosa arrives in Brisbane in October for her homeport summer season, while Carnival Splendor is based year-round in Sydney. Carnival Cruise Line delivers fun, memorable holidays to families and couples at great value.

    Celebrity Edge

    Celebrity Cruises’ billion-dollar ship Celebrity Edge will debut in the region from December 9 for its inaugural sailing from Sydney. Itineraries offered onboard this award-winning resort at sea range from six to 13 nights, visiting an impressive collection of 22 ports across Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, with departures from both Sydney and Auckland.

    Coral Expeditions operates three Australian-flagged expedition ships in Australia – Coral Discoverer (72 pax), Coral Adventurer and Coral Geographer (120 pax) – which will offer small-group itineraries in the Kimberley, Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, and the Torres Straits. In addition to an inaugural series of voyages in Asia on Coral Adventurer, Coral Expeditions will offer an extended season between October and March along the West Australian coast, South Australia, and New Zealand onboard Coral Geographer. This year celebrates the line’s 40th year of operations.

    Crystal will return to Australia and New Zealand in December under the new guardianship of the A&K Travel Group. Following a multi-million-dollar refurbishment, Crystal Symphony will dock in Fremantle on December 6 on the first of five voyages in local waters including overnight stays in Adelaide, Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne for New Year’s Eve. Crystal Symphony will depart from Sydney on January 4 for a 68-night Grand Journey to Singapore via New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, northern and south-east Asia. Crystal Serenity will also visit Australia and New Zealand as a part of her 125-night 2024 World Cruise, arriving in Auckland on March 9 and departing Perth on March 27.

    The world’s famous ship, Queen Elizabeth cruise ship docked at Circular Quay.

    Cunard is looking forward a season filled with many highlights including the Great Australian Culinary Voyage featuring chef Karen Martini, the inaugural Sporting Greats and Wellness Voyage with sportsmen Brett Lee and Adam Goodes, as well as sailings to New Zealand, Queensland and the South Pacific. All three Cunard ships, Queen Elizabeth, flagship Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will call into Australian ports.

    NEW: Disney Cruise Line is bringing the magic of a Disney holiday to families and fans in Australia and New Zealand during its “Disney Magic at Sea” cruises from late October 2023 through February 2024. Sailing aboard the Disney Wonder, guests can enjoy unique itineraries ranging from two to six nights, departing from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland.

    Heritage Expeditions offers bucket-list voyages aboard its luxurious 140-guest flagship Heritage Adventurer, sailing from New Zealand to the Subantarctic Islands of Australia and New Zealand, to Antarctica and the Ross Sea, along Australia’s iconic Kimberley coast, and around New Zealand’s three main islands. More intimate and in-depth New Zealand explorations around Fiordland, Stewart Island and Marlborough Sounds are offered on the luxurious 18-guest expedition yacht Heritage Explorer.

    Holland America Line’s Noordam will kick off its Australia and New Zealand season from November to April, departing from both Sydney and Auckland. Travellers can choose from a range of enticing 7-14 day itineraries along the east coast of Australia and New Zealand, crossing the Tasman Sea. A January 27 sailing from Auckland to Sydney will feature the vibrant “Pub Choir” from Brisbane, known for their lively and participatory performances. As part of a global cruise itinerary, the line’s Zuiderdam will visit in January 2024.

    Norwegian Spirit

    Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Spirit will once again home port in Sydney and New Zealand from December until March, offering a series of seven 12-day open-jaw itineraries, including a festive cruise where guests will celebrate Christmas Day at sea and New Year’s Eve in majestic Milford Sound. Two re-positioning cruises showcasing the South Pacific including Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Samoa Islands and French Polynesia will round out Norwegian Spirit’s 2023-24 local season.

    Oceania Cruises is preparing for a return to Australia and New Zealand with three ships sailing in local waters. Insignia, Regatta and Nautica have been recently re-inspired as part of an ambitious OceaniaNEXT initiative. The fleet will cruise the coast of Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, and New Zealand with further stops in Kangaroo Island, Burnie, Darwin, and Melbourne. Twenty-two destination-intensive itineraries will begin or end in Australian ports, as well as several international voyages sailing through the region. The 656-guest Regatta will be the first to arrive in Broome on December 4.

    P&O Cruises Australia will have nearly 90 sailings this summer, on its three ships Pacific Adventure, Pacific Encounter and Pacific Explorer, departing from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland. Australia’s favourite cruise line will once again be taking guests on unforgettable holidays to explore their own backyard, and the South Pacific.

    PONANT luxury expedition ships Le Lapérouse and Le Soléal have been operating in the Kimberley region since April this year, as well as the superyacht Le Ponant which is finishing her Kimberley season. Le Lapérouse will finish her Kimberley season early October before starting sailing in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Australia’s east coast and New Zealand’s Fiordlands, and the Chatham and Subantarctic Islands, before her return to the Kimberley for the 2024 season in April. Le Soléal will also remain in the region after October with itineraries in Melanesia, New Zealand and Micronesia. She will also operate two 21-night sailings to Antarctica’s Ross Sea from Dunedin in early 2024.

    Royal Princess (Supplied)

    Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess will commence her maiden season in Australia from homeport Sydney on October 23. It will be the first time Princess has had two Royal-Class ships homeported in Sydney, where sister ship Majestic Princess will also be based. During this season, Royal Princess will sail on 14 voyages around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

    Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer will return to Australia and New Zealand for the second time in December, offering 12 itineraries including a Festive Sailing from Sydney to Auckland and ports around New Zealand. Meanwhile, Seven Seas Navigator sails into Australia in December on her Singapore to Sydney New Year Down Under sailing, visiting Queensland ports on the way to Sydney. She also visits New Zealand with two sailings in March including a South Pacific voyage from Papeete to Auckland and a journey to Australia and Bali on her Kiwi & Aussie Brilliance sailing.

    Royal Caribbean is counting down to its biggest summer ever, with Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas returning to Australia to sail from Brisbane and Sydney. The season also welcomes Brilliance of the Seas for its first season down under, sailing from Sydney. Quantum will offer a choice of cruises between three and 13 nights exploring Queensland’s stunning coast and the untouched beauty of the South Pacific. Ovation will set sail on its fifth season in the region with a mix of 20 cruises, including sailings along New Zealand’s rugged coastline. Highlights of Brilliance’s season in Australia include new destinations for Royal Caribbean including Kangaroo Island and Gladstone.

    Scenic Eclipse and Scenic Eclipse II Antarctica Landscape

    NEW: Scenic Luxury Cruises will operate the ultra-luxury Scenic Eclipse II in Australia and the South Pacific region for the first time from April 2024. The new Discovery Yacht will enable guests to indulge at up to 10 dining experiences, eight bars and lounges, 550sqm Senses Spa with dedicated yoga and Pilates Studio, two vitality pools, spacious suites – all with verandas and butler service. Scenic Eclipse II is the first cruise operator to offer submersible underwater exploration in the Great Barrier Reef and the most expansive discovery program in the Kimberley region, with its two on board helicopters, providing guests with flightseeing experiences to unique landings, directly from the ship.

    Seabourn cruises allow guests to experience bucket-list destinations while unwinding with stunning views from their suites. Seabourn Odyssey arrives in Auckland on November 23, before a summer of cruising from Sydney, exploring the wonders of Australia and New Zealand.

    Silversea will bring Silver Muse, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper to Australia from December to March. The ultra-luxury line offers almost three dozen voyages in Australia and New Zealand, including visits to Tasmania and destinations in the South Pacific region and Asia. Silversea’s cutting-edge ship Silver Nova will arrive in Australian waters at the end of 2024, with revolutionary sustainability credentials and culinary and wellness experiences.

    Resilient Lady

    NEW: Virgin Voyages, Richard Branson’s award-winning, exclusively adult cruise line, will make its debut in Australia this summer with the maiden arrival of Resilient Lady in December. Resilient Lady will sail around Australia and New Zealand, offering a mix of itineraries ranging from two to 14 nights from her new home port in Melbourne. In late March 2024, the ship will depart Australia for a 44-day repositioning cruise to Athens.

    Windstar Cruises’ all-suite yacht Star Breeze will return to Australasian waters once again in 2023 in December and January, offering a raft of sailings where luxury, adventure and discovery converge to create the ultimate sailing experience, calling in on iconic gems, from the vibrant Sydney Harbour to the majestic Milford Sound.

    APT Travel Group will offer voyages with APT aboard Ponant’s ships Le Laperouse and Le Jacques Cartier as part of their luxury expedition cruise program in the Kimberley, and new for 2024 the Travelmarvel brand will partner with Heritage Expeditions and their Heritage Adventurer under a charter program, also in the Kimberley, offering coastal cruising between Broome and Darwin.

    Other CLIA cruise lines visiting Australian waters this season include Aida Cruises, Costa Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd, Nicko Cruises, and P&O UK.

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