Luxury hotels, luxury tours, luxury at the pointy-end of the plane for an international flight.
We all love those experiences, though sadly they are often far too expensive!
These days decadent luxury is also found on the cruise ships in international waters where high-end passengers are invariably known as valued “guests”.
To find out more about luxury at sea, reporter Veronica Matheson chatted to Adam Armstrong, the Australasian Managing Director of Silversea Cruises, about the company’s new flagship Silver Muse which is currently sailing in Australasian waters.
Silversea is marking the inaugural season of Silver Muse in Australasian waters by launching a fundraising campaign to aid Australia’s drought-stricken farmers.
Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg circumnavigated the world in 80 days, but australiancruisingnews.comnotes that today’s cruise ships prefer a far slower pace.
Viking Cruises has just announced what has to be the longest ever world cruise, a 245-day continuous journey that will visit 59 countries with calls into 113 ports. (The full itinerary is seen on the map below.)
The cruise on the 930-passenger Viking Sunwill take in every continent except Antarctica, and will even circumnavigate South America on a path that is rarely taken by cruise ships. Capital cities and lesser known places around the world are on the itinerary as well as remoter islands and tropical getaways. There will be 22 overnight port stays to take in must-do sightseeing further afield.
Leaving London (Greenwich) on August 31 next year, the Viking Sun cruise will also end in London on May 2 the following year.
And the cruise cost?
From $US92,990 – or $US380 a day – including a business class international airfare, transfers to and from the ship, all gratuities and service fees, and even free alcohol on board.
For those who cannot spare 245 days at sea, there is the option of joining the cruise from London to Los Angeles (sector covers 127 days) from $US47,995 or a 119-day cruise from Los Angeles to the UK from $US45,995.
Interestingly, Viking’s last world cruise ended on May 5 this year in London after a mere 141 days at sea.
THERE is no disputing the cruise industry is buoyant around the world with passenger numbers continuing to grow. Even those who consider themselves landlubbers are now dipping their toes into international waters.
Most cruise lines are opting for larger ships to meet demand, turning them into lively resorts at sea with onboard attractions to suit all-comers.
australiancruisingnews.com notes that the latest arrival to Royal Caribbean’s fleet, Symphony of the Seas, (zip-lining is one of a myriad of onboard activities) has instantly become the world’s largest cruise ship as she sails her maiden voyage in the Mediterranean from the increasingly popular Spanish port of Barcelona.
So which are the mega giants of the seas, and what are their vital statistics?
Symphony of the Seas, launched just weeks ago, tonnage 228,081, carrying 5,518 passengers.
Harmony of the Seas, launched 2016, tonnage 226,963, carrying 5479 passengers.
Allure of the Seas, launched 2010, tonnage 225,282, carrying 5492 passengers.
Oasis of the Seas, launched 2009, tonnage 225,282, carrying 5400 passengers.
Quantum of the Seas, launched 2014, tonnage 168,666, carrying 4180 passengers.
Anthem of the Seas, launched 2015, tonnage 168,666, carrying 4180 passengers.
Ovation of the Seas, launched 2016, tonnage 167,666, carrying 4180 passengers.
Cruising international waters is no longer the sole domain of “the nearly dead, the over-fed, and the newly-wed” so it is crucial that travelers know what is happening on the cruise scene on the world’s mighty oceans and rivers.
With that focus in mind, Australiancruisingnews.com has returned.
As a seasoned travel writer who stumbled on the joys of cruising years ago, I am now addicted to life on board a ship, be it big or small. I constantly dream of sea-going adventures and hope that my sharing these days at sea will inspire my readers.
Right now a fleet of international cruise ships are navigating the Southern Hemisphere tempting Australians and New Zealanders to stretch their ‘sea legs’ with a vast array of cruise choices.
Not that those Down Under need much convincing as cruising is the fastest growing area on the travel scene.
The South Pacific remains the most popular overseas destination for Aussie cruisers due to the proximity of those island. But, the place to watch is across “the ditch” – the Tasman Sea with over 100,000 passengers cruising to New Zealand annually.
It is the preferred destination of the super liners such as Ovation of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s fleet, which carries around 8,000 passengers and crew. Ovation, and other cruise ships of its size, need deep harbors and have no trouble finding those around New Zealand’s North and South Islands.
Within months, a fleet of cruise ships will be leaving Australasian waters for summer ports in the Northern Hemisphere.
Australiancruisingnews.com will keep readers posted, so keep on checking in…
South Pacific Islands are the big winners from the boom in cruising Down Under this summer.
As more cruise lines add Australia and New Zealand to annual itineraries, the search is on to find new regional ports to excite cruise passengers. There is no doubt that most of those on board cruise ships are in search of sun and sand, as well as a dash of culture to show the cruise has been “to another country”.
Pacific islands such as New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Fiji, have all experiencing a growth in visitor numbers with more frequent cruise ship arrivals, and have lifted their tourism game to meet the needs of this new breed of traveller.
The South Pacific has long been a favourite with P&O Cruises’ five ships – Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden, Pacific Pearl,Pacific Dawn, and Pacific Jewel – which are all based in Australian waters year-round.
Now they are being joined by ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleets.
Australian-based Caroline Brunel, of New Caledonian Tourism, says that 20,000 visitors fly into the capital Noumea annually for a holiday. However, recent figures show that over 400,000 visitors also arrive on cruise ships to spend time in Noumea, the capital of the main island Grand Terre, as well as at the port of Lifou on the Loyalty Islands, and on the Isles of Pines.
Caroline says it is great to see so many visitors arriving by ship, but their short time in port means that they do not see a great deal of the islands.
“Often they arrive on a Sunday or Monday when many places are closed, so they do not have time to experience New Caledonia’s culture which is rich in French and Melanesian flavours. However, they are have a taste of island life and often come back for a longer holiday on land.
Caroline says those who return can easily drive around the main island, Grande Terre, which it is about 350 km in length and about 70 km wide in most places. Many visitors will stay overnight in a Kanak (traditional islander) village and enjoy a bougna feast of meats and vegetables soaked in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves, and buried in the ground to cook for several hours.
australiancruisingnews.com’s favourite fare when visiting the French territory is to head to the marked to buy the crustiest baguette, the ripest cheeses, and a reasonably priced bottle of French wine to create “a picnic made in heaven”.
Cruise ship guests are a fickle bunch. There was a time when all they wanted was a holiday at sea.
Of late, they have expected restaurants aboard to be on a par with those on land. That happened.
Then they wanted Broadway-style entertainment. That came too.
Currently, the requests are for more time exploring ports on cruise ship itineraries. That is happening too.
The boutique cruise brand Azamara Club Cruises (Royal Caribbean is the parent company) has long made destinations the hero of its world-wide itineraries. Now Azamara has expanded that programme further with longer stays in port, more overnight, and night tours.
This year alone Azamara will take guests on its two recently revitalized ships Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest– which each carry 690 guests – to more than 200 ports, in 68 countries, including 195 late night stays and 82 overnight stays.
Azamara’s President and CEO Larry Pimentel says, “Our land product will be curated to ensure guests get to connect, in a personalised and unique way, with the people in the destinations they visit. This may occur through people-to-people interaction, cultural experiences, or by enjoying local food and beverages, music and others events.”
There will be country intensive voyages to allow guests to travel deeper and experience more of a given country such as Japan, Italy, Spain, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, or Croatia.
Expanded world events and themed voyages are also scheduled, such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the World Cup, British Open, Venice Redentore Festival, and wine and yoga themed voyages.
Experiences, such as a visit to a theatre, or pub, or a local home, farm or villa are also scheduled, with the option of overland tours during the voyage as well as pre or post voyage experiences.
In Australasian waters this season, an example is Azamara Journey’s executive chef taking guests to a market in Hobart, Tasmania, to choose the freshest ingredients, while the ship’s sommelier will go with guests to a local distillery for an insight into making and tasting spirits.
In Napier, New Zealand, some guests will ride off on the ship’s bikes to visit fishing villages, enjoy the dramatic landscape, and stop at the country’s oldest winery for refreshments.
That highly commercialised St Valentine’s Day has arrived, but romance really is an option at any time of the year.
Some holidays at sea really do pull the romantic strings big time.
Having sailed on Star Clippers’ ships, australiancruisingnews.com believes these fully masted vessels tick all the romantic boxes, and really are akin to private yachts.
Right now Star Clippers operates three of the world’s largest and tallest full-crewed sailing vessels, where half the fun comes when passengers “help” the crew hoist the sails to catch the wind.
Star Clippers has put together some of the romantic experiences on tall ship itineraries.
Champagne fireworks: If the timing is right, guests can sip champagne on the teak deck of a tall ship while watching the rosy glow from Italy’s Stromboli (off the coast of Sicily) during a late evening sail-past. Showers of fire and molten lava are often sighted from this active volcano.
Fresh footprints: Voyage on the four-masted Star Clipper, under thousands of feet of billowing sails, to explore exotic Indonesian islands where virgin white sand beaches, haloed by crystal clear turquoise sea, offers a taste of Robinson Crusoe’ lifestyle.
Loving Venice: Truly one of the world’s most beautiful ports, a sail along Venice’s Giudecca Canal on a clipper ship offers views of majestic old palaces and churches, and that’s before a gondola ride when guests are serenaded by a rich-voiced gondolier.
La Dolce Vita: A clipper cruise along the Italian Riviera offers time on shore to wander the narrow streets of Portofino, a former fishing village that is now one of Italy’s most fashionable and romantic towns. And once exploring is over there is time for a cooling limoncello granita.
Caribbean rhythm: Discover seductive Cuba – the current hotspot on every travellers’ wish list – where samba, salsa and swaying palms rule. This must-see tropical destination has to be visited right now, before too much of the island’s authentic Caribbean lifestyle changes.
Star Flyer andStar Clipper, each carry 170 guests, while Royal Clipper carries 227 guests. Flying Clipper, with 300 guests, will join the fleet next year, starclippers.com
It is hard to ignore the cruise bargains that are floating around the internet and the print media right now. Whichever port a traveller wants to cruise to, there seems to be a bargain cabin (they are called suites these days) waiting to be snapped up.
In Australia the offers are reaching their peak as school holidays have ended – increasingly families are taking their brood on cruises during the summer break – and the loads have eased.
Cruise line websites offer special deals, so do wholesalers, and travel agents. It is just a question of where to cruise to, and when.
Those who are free to go at a moment’s notice will often wait for last-minute sales, or book around 90 days before a cruise to snap up a good price, and a reasonably situated cabin.
And let’s face it, a cruise holiday is great value. Often prices start around $A100 a day which includes accommodation, all meals, entertainment, and most facilities on board. Where on land is such value offered?
Australians have taken to cruising like ducks to water and are one of the world’s fastest growing passenger markets. Tentative first-timers usually book their first cruise holiday from the port nearest their home, then look further afield, often taking a long haul flight to join a cruise with an itinerary of ports that really appeal.
As australiancruisingnews.com notes, word-of-mouth has played a huge role in the success of cruising Down Under where more than 1-million Australians (just over 4 per cent of the national population) took a cruise in the past 12 months. The popularity of cruising among Australians has not gone unnoticed by the major cruise lines that now send many more ships from their fleet Down Under. Until recently only the locally based P&O Cruises based ships permanently in Australian waters, but now other shipping lines stay in local waters for many months through summer.
Indeed, the major problem in Australian ports right now is capacity, particular in Sydney – the main attraction for international visitors – to accommodate more and larger ships at existing terminals, especially as some mega liners are unable to sail under the iconic Harbour Bridge.