SAIL TO NZ

One of the record number of cruise ships heading to New Zealand this summer is Europa 2 which was named the top cruise ship in the annual Berlitz Guide to Cruising.
One of the record number of cruise ships heading to New Zealand this summer is Europa 2 which was named the top cruise ship in the annual Berlitz Guide to Cruising.

New Zealand has been rattled by an earthquake, but this is not expected to affect the itineraries of the many cruise ships sailing there this summer. The main ports affected by the quake – Wellington and Marlborough – are already back in action.

A record number of passengers are cruising to New Zealand as word spreads internationally of the country’s stunning clean, green landscapes – seen so evocatively in films such as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The country also has the advantage of deep water ports to accommodate the giant cruise ships that now sail to Australasia.

The youngest and most luxurious ship ever to cruise to New Zealand, Seabourn Encore, arrives in February, just one month after she is officially named in Singapore.

Also sailing several cruises to the North and South Islands of New Zealand is Royal Caribbean’s 167,000 tonne giant Ovation of the Seas.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia’s Brett Jardine says a record 33 ships will be cruising New Zealand waters between now and April next year.

These ships will make almost 800 visits to New Zealand ports, with port calls to many new destinations, including Stewart Island at the very tip of the South Island where the flightless Kiwi bird is found.

Mr Jardine says the record season reflects New Zealand’s growing popularity as an international cruise destination. “The country’s popularity as one of the world’s hottest cruise destinations is clearly evident this summer.”

A typical cruise itinerary tends to include Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, Port Chalmers and Fiordland. Bay of Islands, Napier and Picton also receive a significant proportion of cruise activity.

Research has shown that up to a quarter of cruise passengers return to New Zealand within a year of their cruise for a more in-depth visit.

Other maiden visits to New Zealand this summer, mainly from the port of Sydney, include the luxury Azamara Journey which sails in scenic Milford Sound; Norwegian Star which makes seven maiden calls; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 which debuts in Auckland on December 20 with eight inaugural calls around the country; and Oceania Cruises’ Sirena which makes six maiden calls to local ports.

 

SO POPULAR

Seabourn's Seabourn Encore will have the feel of a private yacht with onboard marina
Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Encore will have the feel of a private yacht with onboard marina

Australian cruisers cannot believe their good fortune. Suddenly, every cruise line wants their patronage. What’s more those same cruise lines are sending some of the newest ships in their fleet Down Under.

January sees the arrival in Australian waters of Seabourn Cruise Line’s newest ship, Seabourn Encore, which carries 600 guests and creates the feel of a luxury yacht with pampered guests. She even has a marina at the ship’s stern so that guests can get off with ease for a day kayaking, wind surfing or snorkelling.

Encore will be making nine maiden calls to Australian ports from Darwin to Geelong between January 22 and March 17.

Built in the Fincantieri shipyard, Seabourn Encore has just reached an important maritime milestone with the completion of sea trials off the coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea.

Her first sailing on November 30 will be a 34-day cruise from Athens via the Suez Canal to India and on to Singapore for a gala naming ceremony in early January, before she sails to Australia, seabourn.com

Next month, the world’s sixth largest cruise ship Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, launched only this year, will sail into Australian waters after a season in Asia. Based in Sydney, she will sail itineraries to New Zealand and the South Pacific islands until late February when she cruises back to Asia, returning to Australia in November 2017 for another summer in local waters.

Ovation carries almost 5000 guests, has 25 onboard dining options, 35 bars and cafes, and all manner of attractions to engage guests, royalcaribbean.com.au

 

 

STRANDED IN MYANMAR

Myanmar's Strand Hotel in Yangon which is just about to open after renovations has a "sister" in The Strand river cruise.
Myanmar’s Strand Hotel in Yangon, just about to reopen after renovations, has a “sister” in The Strand river cruise ship.

Myanmar has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 countries to visit in 2017.

Indeed, switched-on international travellers are already in Myanmar, often on a river cruise to see the country’s glorious sights, including sky-piercing golden stupas and pagodas, en route between the ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay.

australiancruisingnews.com notes that another cruise is now in the limelight as the legendary Strand Hotel in Yangon has added The Strand river ship to its portfolio.

It certainly adds a further touch of class to the river scene as the Strand Hotel was built in 1901 by the legendary hoteliers, the Sarkies brothers. No sooner had she opened, than the Strand Hotel became known as “the finest hostelry east of Suez”.

Right now the Strand Hotel is in the final stages of renovations, and due to reopen within weeks, in all her refined grandeur.  Overseeing the operations is the vice-president of the Strand Hotel, Olivier Trinquand, who says the building’s total integrity has been retained, with the addition of contemporary touches such as air-conditioning and an up-to-the-minute communications system.

Frenchman Olivier says cocktails in the rattan furnished Sarkies Bar and the hotel’s fine dining room will continue to offer distinctive tastes of Myanmar, while service will hark back to colonial days, with a butler to unpack/pack luggage and iron guests clothing.

Such dedicated service is also found on The Strand  river cruise, which carries a maximum of 42 passengers for 4 days on the Ayeyarwady (Irawaddy) River from Bagan to Mandalay (or in the opposite direction).

The Strand cruise has access to private moorings close to landmarks along the river, and a highlight is an exclusive overnight mooring at Ava which allows passengers access to the beautiful temple of Maha Aungmye Bonzan after the crowds leave in the evening. The Strand is also the only river operator to offer visits, on north and south bound itineraries, to the photogenic U-Bein teak bridge, which was built in 1850 across Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura.

The Strand currently offers passengers booking a Superior Suite for a minimum of one night at The Strand Hotel, and a Strand Cabin on The Strand cruise between Bagan and Mandalay, complimentary round-trip domestic flights from Yangon to connect with the cruise, thestrandcruise.com

 

 

 

 

TRICK OR TREAT

The American celebration of Halloween has spread world-wide, including celebrations on Australia's Sydney Harbour where Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Spirit was welcomed by a sea-going coven of witches.
America’s annual celebration of Halloween has spread world-wide, including celebrations on Australia’s Sydney Harbour where Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Spirit was welcomed by a sea-going coven of witches.

Witches, warlocks and all things ghostly and ghoulish have been celebrated across the world in recent days, including spooky antics on Sydney Harbour as Carnival Spirit sailed into her home base at the weekend.

Sporting pointy black hats, flowing capes and perched on high-flying brooms, a coven of witches – paragliding and water-skiing – swooped on the 88,500-tonne as 2600 guests onboard looked on.

In the spirit of Halloween, Carnival Spirit also became home to a scary eight-legged guest Fangelica a huge redback spider, which sailed into town on the ship’s bow.

australiancruisingnews.com notes that Halloween is celebrated annually across the US-based Carnival Cruise Line’s 24-ship fleet, including its two Australian ships, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend. Guests onboard all these ships enjoyed a range of Halloween activities at sea, including costume parties, themed movies, trick or treating and fun dining menus featuring witches’ brew, spider snacks and scary cheesecake.

Carnival Spirit regularly sails from Sydney on week-long cruises to the South Pacific taking in New Caledonia’s island of Mare, Noumea and the Isle of Pines, while longer cruises also visit the ports of Denarau and Suva in Fiji.

Carnival Legend follows similar South Pacific cruise itineraries, and sometimes take in Vanuatu, or cruises across to New Zealand, carnival.com.au

 

 

 

TAKE A VOYAGE

 

It seems that Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson prefers to go on a sea-going voyage rather than an ocean cruise.

Originally, Sir Richard named his latest venture – a cruise line – as Virgin Cruises. Of late, he has ditched “cruises” and replaced it with “voyages”. Apparently,  Virgin Voyages better matches “the daring, unexpected adventures” the new fleet plans to deliver.

australiancruisingnews.com understands the good knight is on a mission to change cruising for good, and “create something that is really fun.”

Virgin Voyages has just announced a contract for three ships to be built by the Italian ship builder Fincantieri, featuring a futuristic design, and adopting a new clean energy system that will save thousands of tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The plan is for this bold new fleet to offer an irresistible holiday at sea. There are also reports that passengers on board the new fleet of ships will be known as “sailors”.

Steel cutting for the first Virgin Voyages’ ship will begin early next year, with the keel laying later in the year. The yet to be named vessel is expected to sail into Port Miami in 2020 for voyages in the Caribbean, and will accommodate 2700 passengers and 1150 crew, virginvoyages.com

DUAL-ROLE

The in demand Aranui 5 carries passengers and freight on destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti
The in-demand Aranui 5 carries passengers and freight on destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti

There is always big demand for berths on ocean-going vessels that carry cargo and passengers, and the new freighter Aranui 5 is a prime example of that demand.

As australiancruisingnews.com notes this freighter is fully booked this year, and almost at capacity next year for her destination-rich-itineraries in Tahiti. As a result 2018 booking are already being taken.

Aranui’s 14-day cruises sail to nine islands across three French Polynesian archipelagoes – the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands – which are some of the most beautiful untouched islands in the world.

The Australasian representative for Aranui Cruises, Laurent Wong, says the freighter’s fare includes shore excursions at 17 scheduled ports of call, a twice weekly laundry service, all main meals, and a complimentary glass of wine with on board lunches and dinners.

He says Aranui 5 is an authentic seafaring adventure with all the comforts and ease of cruising. “As a working ship, she also offers a rare experience to see first-hand the freighter’s operations as it dispenses a lifeline of food, fuel and mail, to the remote island ports she visits.”

Her itinerary includes Bora Bora and its famed blue lagoon; the chance to walk in the footsteps of writer Robert Louis Stevenson and artist Paul Gauguin on Nuka Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa in the Marquesas; as well as calls to the picturesque Tuamotu ports of Rangiroa and Takapoto.

During the roundtrip cruise from Papeete (Tahiti) the freighter drops off cargo while guests head off on excursions that include hikes, 4WD tours, visits to archaeological sites, and a picnic on a secluded beach in Bora Bora. Throughout, the guests enjoy all the comforts of a cruise ship, including a restaurant, bars, computer room, and outdoor swimming pool.

In late 2015, Aranui 5 replaced Aranui 3 which had spent more than 12 years servicing the remote Tuamotu and Marquesas archipelagoes. There is no Aranui 4 as the number is considered bad luck by the third generation Tahitian-Chinese family who own the cruise company, aranuicruises.com.au

 

 

HURRICANE WATCH

 

A shot of Royal Caribbean's idyllic Labadee private resort in Haiti before Hurricane Matthew blew through. Latest reports says there was little damage in that area of Haiti.
Royal Caribbean’s idyllic Labadee private resort in Haiti before Hurricane Matthew blew through. Latest reports say there is little damage to this area of Haiti, though other parts have been devastated with more than 900 lives lost.

Foul weather can throw travel plans into chaos as it did this past week with Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the Caribbean and the south-eastern states of the USA.

Tragically, the fierce hurricane with its high winds and torrential rain, devastated Haiti where more than 900 lives were lost, and wrecked havoc on the Bahamas, before heading to Florida on mainland USA.

Throughout, international cruise lines monitored the weather  24/7, and changed ship itineraries to avoid wild conditions.

As australiancruisingnews.com notes, the US Coast Guard quickly closed major ports to cruise ships in Port Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Port Jacksonville, Palm Beach and Florida’s Key West. Those ports have since reopened.

Affected were ships in the fleets of Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruises, and Fathom, which all diverted away from Hurricane Matthew or cancelled sailings.

Haiti is a fixture on Royal Caribbean’s cruise schedule, with the line’s idyllic 260-acre private beach resort at Labadee regularly enjoyed by passengers.

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley says that in Haiti, Labadee was thankfully spared the worst of the storm, and that the cruise line is already providing aid and supplies to the people of Haiti.

“Together with our longtime NGO partner, the Pan-American Development Foundation (PADF), we are providing relief supplies to affected areas near Port-au-Prince, and money to buy tarps, water, and food for areas hit by the storm.  Hospitals are operating, and medical supplies will be needed.  We have also sent mattresses, sheets and blankets to some hard hit areas, and our ships will also be dropping off supplies,” Bayley said.

Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay in the Bahamas, and Carnival Cruises private island Half Moon Cay, also in the Bahamas, experienced minor damage from Cyclone Matthew, but will be ship-shape by the time cruise ships there arrive later this month.

 

TOP 10 CRUISE SHIPS

Last week’s post by australiancruisingnews.com focussed on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, the world’s 6th largest cruise ship, which will spend her first summer in Australian waters.

Within hours of that posting readers were asking which other cruise ships are rated in that Top 10 list.

As it happens, the international cruise line Royal Caribbean is the list’s major player with eight of its fleet in the Top 10. The only other player is Norwegian Cruise Line which has two of its growing fleet, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Epic, on the list. That cruise line was last month named Europe’s leading cruise line for the ninth consecutive year by the World Travel Awards, and gained the world’s best cruise spa award.

Norwegian Cruise Line, which has two of the world's largest ships on the Top Ten list, is renowned for its distinctive hull design.
Norwegian Cruise Line, with two of the world’s largest ships on the To p Ten list, is renowned for its distinctive hull designs.

The newest ship on the list is Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, which claims the tallest water slide at sea, and sits first on the Top 10 largest cruise ship list.

So here are the Top 10 with some vital statistics included.

  1. Harmony of the Seas, launched 2016, tonnage 226,963, carrying 5479 passengers, twin-share.
  2. Allure of the Seas, launched 2010, tonnage 225,282, carrying 5492 passengers, twin-share.
  3. Oasis of the Seas, launched 2009, tonnage 225,282, carrying 5400 passengers, twin-share.
  4. Quantum of the Seas, launched 2014, tonnage 168,666, carrying 4180 passengers, twin-share.
  5. Anthem of the Seas, launched 2015, tonnage 168,666, carrying 4180 passengers, twin-share.
  6. Ovation of the Seas, launched 2016, tonnage 167,666, carrying 4180 passengers, twin-share.
  7. Norwegian Escape, launched 2015, tonnage 164,600, carrying 4248 passengers, twin-share.
  8. Liberty of the Seas, launched 2007, tonnage 160,000, carrying 3798 passengers, twin-share.
  9. Norwegian Epic, launched 2010, tonnage 155,873, carrying 4,100 passengers, twin-share.
  10. Freedom of the Seas, launched 2006, tonnage 154,407, carrying 3782 passengers, twin-share.

MISSING OUT

Panda art is just one of the many attractions on Ovation of the Seas which sails into Australian waters for the summer cruise season.
Panda art is just one of the many attractions on Ovation of the Seas which sails into Australian waters for the summer cruise season.

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, but is missing out on hosting the world’s sixth largest ship, Ovation of the Seas, this summer.

australiancruisingnews.com has learnt there are a few issues with the size of the channel to Port Phillip Bay – the gateway to the port – and with the city’s Station Pier.

Ovation of the Seas, part of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s giant fleet, is 18-storeys high and 348 metres long.

Royal Caribbean’s Cameron Mannix,  says talks are under way with Melbourne’s Port Authority, and the company is very hopeful that “sometime in the future” Ovation will sail into Melbourne as the cruise line is very committed to that port..

Royal Caribbean’s growing fleet – the company has recently focussed on building giants of the seas – has eight in the Top 10 list of the world’s largest cruise ships.

Ovation is the largest, newest, and more technologically advanced cruise ship ever to call Australia home for summer. She was launched earlier this year, carries around 6500 passengers and crew, and has a host of never-before-seen features on board, such as a sky dive simulator, aerial observation pod, robotic cocktail shakers, a skating rink, bumper cars, and a circus school.

Her arrival is a wake-up call for other cruise lines which have often sent “hand-me-downs” to Australian waters, and she will redefine the face of cruising Down Under.

Ovation is now in Asian waters, and will sail from Singapore to Australia on a Cruiseco charter on November 30. Fremantle (the port closest to Western Australia’s capital Perth) will be the first port of call on December 6, and then she cruises along the continent’s southern coastline to South Australia’s capital Adelaide, then Tasmania’s capital Hobart, before sailing into Sydney Harbour on December 15, cruising.com.au/ovation-of-the-seas-exclusive-charter

During her season Down Under Ovation of the Seas will be home ported in Sydney and will cruise to ports in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, royalcaribbean.com.au/ovation

 

CRUISE MOVES

The race is on as international ships sail off on repositioning cruises that will take them into Australasian waters for the summer cruise season Down Under.

As australiancruisingnews.com notes, it is no accident that when winter moves into the northern hemisphere, cruise companies send their fleets off to chase the sun.

A bird's eye view of the pool deck on Celebrity Solstice which spends her year between Alaska and Australia.
A bird’s-eye view of the pool deck on Celebrity Solstice which spends her year between Alaska and Australia. The cruise ship will be given an extensive $A11-million revitalisation in dry-dock in Singapore before her summer Down Under.

For many seasoned cruise lovers, a repositioning voyage is perfect. It is longer than the usual 14-night (or less) cruise, there are many more sea days (with no ports of call), and the ship will cross mighty oceans, or cut through iconic canals such as the Suez or Panama, or visit several tropical islands that are not normally featured on a one-cruise itinerary.

Right now many international cruise ships, which have spent several months in scenic Alaska, are sailing off to warmer climes. Some will sail down the California coast to Mexico, or to Central America, or through the Panama Canal for the Caribbean islands, or to Miami (Florida).

Others many have spent summer in the Mediterranean, and are sailing west on a trans-Atlantic voyage to warmer waters in Florida and the Caribbean.

Others again will have their sights on Australasia.

Holland America’s Noordam, which spent the northern summer in Alaska, is already sailing from Vancouver (Canada) for Sydney (Australia) and the southern summer. Later Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas will sail from Seattle (USA) to Australia via Hawaii, and the South Pacific islands of Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia.

At the same time Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice is sailing for 19-nights from Honolulu (Hawaii) to Australia via French Polynesia and New Zealand. On arrival in Sydney she sails off again on a 14-night cruise to Singapore, via Queensland and the Northern Territory (Australia), and Indonesia, where she will spend nine days in dry-dock for an extensive $11-million revitalisation, before returning to Australia for the summer.

Also sailing south from Hawaii are Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas and Carnival’s Carnival Legend.

Other cruise ships have spent a season in Asian waters sailing between China, Japan, and Vietnam, and will have their sights on Australia for the summer,  including Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess, which cruises from Beijing (China) in mid-October for Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and on to the Australia ports of Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, where she home ports for summer.

Finally, sailing from China to Australia is Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, the world’s sixth largest cruise ship, which is certain to be the “talk of the town” when she arrives Down Under in December.