Record season: Australia welcomes first cruise ship

By ,   September 28, 2015 ,   Cruise Industry

Australia gears up for its following huge summer season. The 'wave season' is a 7-month period which starts at the end of September with the arrival of the 1st international ship and ends when the last one departs Sydney Harbour in late April and heads back to the Northern Hemisphere.

Australia's wave season is once again set to create new records as 2015-2016 will witness a 21 %increase in capacity over the previous season; 5 cruise ships will make maiden calls Down Under; all 5 of P&O ships will arrive in Sydney on November 25 simultaneously, staging a historic event.

Most of the major lines are bringing additional vesels to the region and base them further afield in Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth's Fremantle.

However, Sydney remains the capital of cruising and will host 41 cruise ships this coming season including both international and locally based vessels. February is expected to repeat the tradition as the busiest month, witnessing 44 ship calls.

The first overseas cruise ship to arrive on September 29 from the Northern Hemisphere is Diamond Princess. She will return Down Under after a season in Japan. Refurbished in 2014 with Kai Sushi restaurant and Izumi Bath House especially for the Japanese passengers, Diamond Princess is also a hit with Australians.

In 2015-2016 Princess will position 5 ships in Australia. Sea Princess will be based in Brisbane, Sun Princess will sail from Fremantle, Golden Princess will embark on her maiden Australian season from Melbourne, and the newly refurbished Dawn Princess will be based in Sydney, to boast the new Beer & Wine Garden Festival, a renovated buffet restaurant renamed World Fresh Marketplace, a new Italian cafe Amuleto and new whiskey menu in ship's Wheelhouse Bar.

Golden Princess will be the first in fleet to debut the innovative dining concept Crafted by Curtis, following a partnership between the line and celebrity chef from Australia Curtis Stone. Eventually, all Princess ships will feature the concept along with a Curtis restaurant.

Royal Caribbean also brings the largest ships Down Under. On October 9, Radiance of the Seas will be the first of four ships of the line to arrive in Australia, sailing into Sydney Harbour. This season the line will debut the Explorer of the Seas. The 138,194 GRT ship, which is slightly bigger than her sister Voyager of the Seas, recently emerged from refurbishment and now boasts the innovative FlowRider surfing simulator, an ice-skating rink and enormous central interior promenade. Voyager will arrive on November 5 and Explorer of the Seas on November 28. Both ships will meet in a special event in Sydney on November 28. The 4th ship of Royal Caribbean, Legend of the Seas, will be for the first time positioned in Brisbane from December 10. She will operate on South Pacific cruises until April next year.

Sister line Celebrity Cruises will also base its elegant Celebrity Solstice in Sydney. The ship will arrive on October 21 for her 4th season in Australia, and will sail around the South Pacific and New Zealand over 5 months, enhanced by suite perks and a dedicated dining venue for suite passengers - the Luminae restaurant. Celebrity Millennium will make a 1-night call in Sydney on March 29, which is part of a longer itinerary in Asia.

The big news for Royal Caribbean is the arrival of Azamara Club Cruises,  its other brand, with the 694-passenger Azamara Quest on January 4. The visit will mark the maiden voyage of the ship Down Under. Azamara Quest will operate 5 voyages with departures from Auckland, Cairns and Sydney.

Carnival Cruise Line will position two ships in Australia for the season. Carnival Spirit will return to Sydney on September 14 after the US$44 million refurb in Singapore. The Spirit will feature a big movie screen, new Mexican-themed restaurants and bars including the RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Cantina & Tequila Bar, and Guy's Burger Joint. Also new features, already revealed onboard sister ship Carnival Legend, include the RedFrog Pub and Cherry on Top lolly shop. The Legend will arrive on October 15 for a season of cruising South Pacific.

Holland America Line will position two ships in Australia. MS Noordam will make her maiden visit. On October 19 ms Volendam will sail into Sydney to undertake a 34-day Australian circumnavigation. Noordam will arrive on October 25 to operate on several voyages between Auckland and Sydney, as well as on a 14-day roundtrip cruise from Sydney to New Zealand. The ship will also offer two South Pacific 12- and 13-night sailings which may join the New Zealand itinerary.

The major news for P and O Cruises is the addition of Pacific Aria (former Ryndam) and Pacific Eden (former Holland America's Statendam). Both ships, at nearly 55,500 GRT, are smaller than the current P&O trio, and will accommodate fewer passengers, each around 1,500. Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden were completely refurbished with line's new Pantry concept (which replaced the buffet), and speciality restaurants including Luke Mangan's Salt Grill, pan-Asian Dragon Lady and dinner-only Italian Angelo's.

All P&O cruise ships were upgraded in the past year and now Pacific Jewel boasts the new Pantry, Pacific Dawn features the new-look Waterfront Restaurant, Pacific Pearl now has the Edge Adventure Park. On November 25 all five PO ships will be in Sydney Harbour. Following the event, Pacific Aria will be deployed to Brisbane. Pacific Eden will operate voyages from Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle and Adelaide.

Several cruise ships are set to drop into the largest cities of Australia as part of global circumnavigations. Costa Luminosa will make her first visit to Australia. Launched in 2009, she will call at Melbourne and Sydney in March as part of her 108-day world cruise.

Other cruise ships calling at Australian ports during round-world itineraries include the three Cunard ships: the grand Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth (with an overnight stay in Sydney and a visit to Newcastle) and Queen Victoria (calling twice at Sydney and making stops at Airlie Beach and Kangaroo Island.

Two P&O World Cruises ships Arcadia and Aurora will be also visiting, as is HAL's Amsterdam, which will dock on Valentine's Day at White Bay. White Bay terminal will welcome a number of five-star luxury ships, including Seabourn Odyssey, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Crystal Serenity and ms Europa. On February 22, Oceania Marina will feature an overnight in Sydney, while Insignia will be the last for the season international cruise ship to visit Sydney on May 9, 2016.