Cruising is enjoying renewed allure for Australian travellers, heightened by Cunard’s Queen Mary 2’s circumnavigation our coastline early next year.
The vessel’s voyage around the continent will see the biggest ship ever to visit our shores call at eight ports in five States and the NT. She’ll call at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Fremantle, the Whitsundays, Cairns (Yorkey’s Knob) and Darwin, with a quick detour to Bali, in a 28-day program. Arriving from Cape Town, she departs Freo on February 8, Adelaide on February 11 and Sydney on February 14, then circumnavigates the country (so visiting Freo, Adelaide and Sydney twice) before embarking ex Sydney for Singapore on March 7.
Jointly, the cruising industry aims to roughly double its Australian manifest to a million passengers a year within the next decade, but if you’re thinking of helping out by jumping aboard QM2, forget it: her program this time is entirely sold out – a good measure of our enthusiasm for mucking about in boats. (I was planning to fly Sydney-Freo to make the return cruise, but dates clashed. No doubt I’ll regret it when QM2 fever’s at its peak in 2012!) You can, however, see if you can yet squeeze in on Princess Cruises’ “Best Sale Ever” packages, open till October 14. Deals include 13-night New Zealand holidays from just $1399pp twin share. The NZ itineraries are for departures from this month through to March, visiting eight Kiwi ports including Dunedin, Wellington and Napier. Despite Christchurch’s misfortunes, NZ’s enjoying renewed popularity too, thanks to focus on the Rugby World Cup running up to Auckland’s Eden Park final on Sunday October 23, and the All Blacks’ blinding play. (The Wallabies, generously, have been visiting Christchurch this week to raise funds for the community after the earthquake-prone city was further depressed when its scheduled Cup matches were cancelled).
Meanwhile, some stats to whet the appetite: the $800m QM2, launched 2004, the world’s longest vessel, carries 2620 guests, 1253 crew, has 10 restaurants, five pools and the biggest ballroom afloat. At 345m long, the 151,400t ship is over double the size of QE II and two-thirds the length of Sydney Harbour Bridge. She hosts 11 restaurants, 14 bars, eight shops including Chanel and Hermes boutiques, four outdoor swimming pools (one with retractable glass roof), golf simulators, a basketball court and usual games such as bowls, croquet, shuffleboard, quoits, and a giant chess board. Wi-fi’s in every stateroom. One of the most technically-advanced ships ever, she has three thrusters allowing her to turn in her own length without tugs, simply manoeuvred by a joystick on the bridge. Stabilisers reduce the ship’s roll by 90%. Her 17 decks rise the height of a 23-storey building above the waterline. Stood on her stern, she’d be 40m taller than the tip of Sydney Tower. Over an estimated 40-year lifetime, she’ll travel the equivalent of 12 times to the moon and back. She uses and washes 87,000 pieces of china and glassware daily.
The line was founded in 1839 by Samuel Cunard, mainly to carry mail between Britain and North America. Near a century later, it acquired the transatlantic fleet of its rival White Star Line (quite some time after White Star’s Titanic disaster. A Cunard liner, Carpathia, rescued some Titanic passengers). QM2’s sister ship, the Queen Victoria (2014 passengers), debuted in late 2007, a year before the departure of the famous QE II from the fleet in late 2008. Then a new Queen Elizabeth (2092 passengers) was launched in late 2010.
Info: The keen uptake of its 2012 local program has seen QM2 schedule a 12-night circumnavigation of New Zealand in March 2013. Departing Sydney, from $3329pp, the ship visits Auckland, Wellington, the Bay of Islands, sails through the waters of Milford Sound and makes her maiden call at Christchurch.
Princess Cruises (a sister line to Cunard and P&O) has its Northern Explorer (Australia’s Top End) with fares for the 17-night voyage starting at $2999pp, departing Sydney or Fremantle in April and July 2012. Itineraries take in scenic cruising through The Kimberleys and calls at ports including the Whitsundays, Port Douglas and Broome.
See your travel agent, www.princess.com or call
13 24 88.