We all know that Australia is a larger, less exciting version of New Zealand, but did you know that it is also a popular cruise destination? Many ships from a wide range of cruise lines are making their way Down Under to enjoy the sights of OZ, with numerous itineraries from Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne to the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Asia. Big ships, small ships, luxury ships and even river-going ships ply the various waterways and offer fantastic holidays to keen Kiwi cruisers.
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Sailing into one of Australia's wonderful port cities is an unforgettable experience. The four major coastal cities are fast becoming busy cruise hubs.
Cruises from Sydney: Sydney is quite a sight to behold from the water, with a striking Harbour Bridge and distinctive Opera House. Ships dock at Circular Quay or the White Bay Cruise Terminal. Sydney has an attractive CBD, and it's not just window dressing - there is depth to this city. Enjoy the wonderful dining scene, cultural attractions and urban beaches. Popular shore tours include city sightseeing, trips to the Blue Mountains and visits to Bondi Beach.
Cruises from Brisbane: Brisbane in sunny Queensland is all about the lifestyle. It has a laid-back and creative vibe which fits perfectly with year-round warm weather. Portside Wharf is the cruise terminal and a freight terminal downstream is an alternative if they are too big to fit under the Gateway Bridge. The famous Gold Coast is a short drive from Brisbane and many lines offer shore tours there, so passengers can experience the numerous theme parks.
Cruises from Melbourne: The capital of Victoria is a stylish and culturally diverse place, with amazing and edgy dining and arts scenes. Its many character-filled neighbourhoods offer a variety of things to do and see. City tours are common for visiting cruise passengers, and alternatively many lines offer excursions into the surrounding countryside to see wildlife - the Healesville Sanctuary is a popular destination. Ships dock at Station Pier on Hobsons Bay.
Cruises from Fremantle: The port of Perth, Fremantle is a town on the Indian Ocean coast in Western Australia. Ships dock near the town centre, and from there you can take a train or shore tour into Perth, only 20 kilometres away. Other activities on offer in the area include outings on the Swan River which runs through the city, trips to beautiful Cottesloe Beach or Rottnest Island, and wine tours. Different cruise lines offer different shore excursions, so check out your choices before you sail to make the most of this gorgeous part of the country.
Australia Cruise Lines
You are spoilt for choice with Australia cruises. Many northern hemisphere-based cruise lines have turned their focus Down Under as the country's enthusiasm for cruising has grown exponentially in past years.
P&O Australia is the only big-ship line which operates exclusively out of Australia and New Zealand. Their fleet of five ships offer itineraries taking in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and occasionally south-east Asia. Try a P&O Australia ship for complete immersion in the culture, from marmite and fabulous coffee on the menu to Australian Dollars used everywhere as onboard currency.
Princess, Carnival, P&O and Royal Caribbean are all committed to providing a range of cruises to and from Australia. Princess has five ships regularly spending seasons there, including the Golden Princess to be based in Melbourne. Carnival tested the waters with their Sydney-based Carnival Spirit, and she will be joined by sister ship Carnival Legend after having undergone a makeover to suit the fun-loving Aussie crowds. P&O's Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl are luxury options, while Royal Caribbean is no stranger to the market, having offered cruises from Australian ports to the South Pacific Islands for years. Now, five of their fleet are regulars in the southern waters, and the Explorer of the Seas will be the biggest ship cruising from Australia.
The options don't stop there! Luxury lines are also represented, with Celebrity basing their beautiful Celebrity Solstice in Australia over summer seasons, along with the Celebrity Century. Small boutique lines including Azamara, Silverseas and Seabourn are also commonly spotted in Australia's ports, and Cunard calls in regularly as part of its world voyages. Small lines like Captain Cook offer adventurous river cruises.
Australia Itineraries: Cruise Destinations
Not many countries have such a variety of destinations, the world's smallest continent and biggest island. A domestic cruise from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Fremantle offers a world of itinerary options.
Northern Queensland is tropical and beautiful, with endless stretches of white sand, rainforest, chilled-out towns and the incredible Great Barrier Reef just offshore. The Whitsundays are a popular destination, a beautiful island resort with plenty of watersports available. Ships also call in to Port Douglas and Cairns, from where passengers can take diving tours on the Reef.
Cruises from Melbourne or Sydney to Tasmania are a favourite, offered by P&O Australia, Princess and Royal Caribbean primarily. This island state is covered by wilderness, and outdoor recreation is the name of the game. Ships call in at Hobart, the biggest city, the Port Arthur Historic Site, beautifully scenic Wineglass Bay and occasionally Burnie on the north coast.
A full or partial circumnavigation of Australia is a fantastic cruise holiday. Cruises from the east coast to the west coast will take in either the top or bottom end of the country, starting in Sydney or Brisbane and finishing in Fremantle. A cruise right around Australia is rare, but Princess offer the occasional four-week Round Australia itinerary, which includes a stop at Bali in Indonesia.
Those who just want a taste of cruising will enjoy the short break cruises by P&O Australia, many of which are themed - Food and Wine and Comedy Cruises are among the three-night itineraries which do not have port stops, but plenty of onboard entertainment instead. Sandy and sunny Moreton Island in Queensland has recently become a P&O destination, and a four-night trip will take you there and back from Sydney.
Tips for an Australia Cruise
Make sure you have your camera! Australia is a stunning country and you will want to record it. Get off the ship and explore! The highlights of Australia go far beyond the coast, and shore tours make it easy to experience the port without worrying about missing the boat. Bring and use plenty of sunscreen! Australia is a bit iffy on the Ozone layer front, so it is important to protect your skin.