New 5-star $6.75m cruise vessel announced for Murray River

Rob Blackburn - 2009 - The Murray

Murray River Paddlesteamers announced it will build a brand new $6.75 million, five-star river vessel offering year-round, all inclusive, overnight cruises from the Victorian river town of Echuca.

Cruise dates, itineraries and special launch fares are expected to be released in mid-2023, with a 10 per cent commission for travel agents and bonuses for multiple bookings.

The 35m long 40-guest vessel will become Australia’s first five-star river cruise experience, the largest paddlesteamer in the Southern Hemisphere and the only wood-fired, five-star accommodated paddle steamer in the world.

The vessel is expected to make its debut journey along the Murray in late 2024 and has been supported with $2.25 million in funding by the Victorian Government’s Regional Tourism Investment Fund.

Artist impressions of the new PS Australian Star (Rob Blackburn/supplied)

The paddlesteamer boasts 20 luxury cabins, a fine-dining restaurant, a panoramic lounge, a function area, bars, outside relaxation space and hybrid propulsion featuring a vintage, refurbished 1907 Richard Garrett and Sons wood-fired steam engine. The three-deck vessel has the interim project name PS Australian Star, with Murray River Paddlesteamers planning to launch a nationwide competition soon to select its permanent name.

PS Australian Star will offer year-round, back-to-back cruises lasting three and four nights with guests able to combine the two cruises for a longer, more immersive seven-night cruise.

The new boat will be the third vessel in Murray River Paddlesteamers’ fleet based in Echuca, joining the  Paddlesteamers, PS Emmylou and PS Canberra. The 16-guest PS Emmylou currently offers a schedule of two, three, four and six-night cruises which are now 99 per cent sold out for 2022. From 1 April 2023 these will change to the new scheduling of three, four and a new 7-night cruises before PS Australian Star takes over the schedules.

Murray River Paddlesteamers director, Craig Burgess said PS Australian Star would prove a “game-changing” visitor experience that would meet surging demand for premium, overnight river cruises.

“The support of the Victorian Government in helping to fund this high-quality development is very much appreciated and brings forward this exciting project by at least three years,” Burgess said.

“Australians love cruising, and they love the Murray River but they want comfort and facilities akin to those on European rivers.

“Demand for overnight cruises on the Murray is at record levels so as a hero visitor drawcard, PS Australian Star will help tap that demand, boost the local economy, create new jobs and cater for the most discerning of visitors, attracting new domestic and international visitors to our region for the first time”.

Burgess said the new, bigger and more luxurious vessel, which will be built in Mildura, Victoria on the banks of the Murray River using local contractors, trades and suppliers will have strong appeal to charter groups and also national tour companies seeking a larger capacity river vessel for their guests. He said when PS Australian Star debuts in late 2024, PS Emmylou would focus on the booming business for day sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises and overnight charters, alongside fleet mate, PS Canberra.

Features of the new PS Australian Star:

  • All accommodations will open to a verandah and encompass a range of styles from King & Queen suites to generously proportioned Queen & Twin bed cabins. All will offer luxury linen, ensuite, seating area and a writing desk.
  • Discovery Lounge and outdoor seating.
  • Redgums fine-dining restaurant with a fresh menu every day showcasing local produce and cuisine.
  • Authentic onshore experiences and onboard enrichment programs focusing on the region’s natural heritage, rich history and indigenous culture.
  • Eco-friendly features such as LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows that maximise natural light and an energy-efficient, hybrid steam/diesel propulsion system.
  • Inclusive value: fares will be all-inclusive, offering complimentary shore excursions, onboard meals, lectures, Wi-Fi and beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

Featured Image: Artist impression of PS Australian Star (Rob Blackburn/supplied)

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