Cruise giants heading Down Under for bumper summer season

Australia's busiest summer cruise season is about to start with almost 600 ship visits scheduled over the next few months.

The biggest ship in our waters will be Cunard's glamorous Queen Mary 2. At 151,400 tonnes and 345 metres long she remains the largest vessel to ever come here.

For the first time, all three Cunard ships - Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria - will be in Australia during the same season when they visit during February and March.

Queen Mary 2 will be undertaking her second circumnavigation of Australia with calls at Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Whitsundays, Darwin, Bali and Adelaide.

Although bookings opened last month, there are some berths remaining for the 23-night circumnavigation leaving Sydney on February 19, with fares from $5699 a person double occupancy.

The Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will only visit Sydney and Brisbane.

The industry's national body, Cruise Lines International Association Australasia, reports that its member cruise lines will have a record 34 ships in Australian waters between October 1 and April 30, making 588 calls to Aussie ports, up from 559 calls and 33 ships last year.

It is not only the big ports such as Sydney and Melbourne that will reap the benefits, but smaller ports such as Geelong, Eden, Robe and Exmouth that are on itineraries for ships including Pacific Pearl and the luxurious Seabourn Sojourn.

Seabourn Sojourn, and sister ship Seabourn Odyssey, have some of the most exclusive all-suite accommodation available at sea as well as the largest spa on any ultra-luxury vessel.

Both ships carry only 450 guests, providing the highest space-per-guest ratio in the cruise industry.

CLIA general manager Brett Jardine said the number of visits to Australian ports was great news for the economy.

“As cruising grows in popularity we're seeing new opportunities open up for smaller ports along our coast to share in that growth and build their local tourism. It's a win-win - passengers love the new destinations and different ports, while communities benefit from the economic value each ship brings, as passengers take in the sights and enjoy local tours and shopping. Each ship visit can inject up to $500,000 into a port."

The big cruise season reinforces Australia's position as one of the fastest-growing cruise markets in the world with the number of Australian cruise passengers growing by an average 20 per cent a year over the past decade.

Almost 700,000 Australians went on a cruise last season.

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