World's best event-based cruises in 2019

With memories of January's exciting Australian Open fresh in our minds, now is the time to book for next year's event for the best choice of cabins and offers. P&O partners with Tennis Australia and the 2020 cruise package on Pacific Explorer includes the six-night, round-trip cruise from Sydney (departing January 19), onboard presentations by tennis personalities and two days in Melbourne with Ground Pass tickets and transfers.

Having on-the-spot accommodation organised is a big plus when hotel rooms in cities hosting sporting events and festivals are at a premium; another bonus is that ticketing and access to the event are often part of a cruise package.

There are some great event-based cruises coming up this year, starting with the Cannes Film Festival (May 14-25) and Monaco Grand Prix (May 23-26). Cruise lines calling at Cannes during the film festival include Azamara (also going to the Grand Prix), Celebrity, MSC, Regent Seven Seas and Royal Caribbean; those going to Monaco for the Grand Prix include Crystal, Sea Dream, Silversea, Star Clippers and Windstar.

Back in Australia, P&O's Pacific Explorer sails to Hobart for Dark Mofo, the annual festival celebrating the winter solstice. The six-night, round-trip cruise departs Sydney on June 18; a major highlight of the two-night stay in Hobart is the Winter Feast, a contemporary take on the medieval midwinter banquet that's held on the docks. Fares include a priority pass to the Winter Feast and admission and return ferry trip to the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona).

Venice's Redentore Festival (Feast of the Redeemer) is an important event for the city, held every third weekend in July. Celebrations include a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday night (July 20); MSC's Musica and Sinfonia will be in port that weekend.

Azamara's 12-night, golf-themed cruise from Edinburgh to Southampton, departing on July 17, takes in the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. Keen golfers can also play at five world-famous courses during the cruise.

Another major event in the British Isles that you can cruise to is The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held from August 2-24 at Edinburgh Castle. Cruise lines visiting while the Tattoo is on include Azamara, Celebrity, Fred.Olsen, Holland America Line, Oceania, Princess, Silversea and Viking.

Cruises to the Melbourne Cup this year will go from Brisbane (P&O's Pacific Dawn, over seven nights) and Sydney (P&O's Pacific Explorer and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Spirit, over six nights). Fashion shows, parties and tips from onboard racing experts add to the festive atmosphere and the ships spend two days in Melbourne (November 4 to 6).

SHORE THING

THE PORT Dover, Britain

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WHO GOES THERE Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Disney, Fred.Olsen, HAL, Oceania, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Saga, Seabourn, Viking.

WHY WE LOVE IT Dover, famed for its white cliffs, is the second-biggest port in England after Southampton and the main ferry port for Calais in France. It is one of five historic Cinque Ports in Kent and Sussex (the others are Sandwich, Hastings, Hythe and New Romney) and is within easy driving distance of the beautiful cathedral city of Canterbury and picturesque Kentish towns and villages such as Deal, Whitstable (of oyster fame), Faversham and Tenterden.

TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? There are three cruise terminals – Terminal 1 is a restored 1914 building – about 1.6 kilometres from the town centre. Shuttle buses to Market Square and Dover Castle run regularly from the cruise port. If you only have limited time, a guided tour that combines Canterbury and Leeds Castle (which is celebrating its 900th anniversary this year) is a good option – and there is also plenty to see in Dover itself.

MUST SEE Medieval Dover Castle, the largest in England, and its underground tunnels; the Roman Lighthouse, Britain's oldest standing building; the Roman Painted House, dating back to about 200AD; South Foreland Lighthouse, on the white cliffs; Dover Museum, for the Bronze Age boat; Dover Transport Museum, for vintage car and train buffs; the White Horse Inn, dating from 1365; Maison Dieu, the oldest of the Town Hall buildings, founded in 1203.

MUST EAT Fish and chips and Dover sole are the obvious choices, and there's a wide range of pubs, cafes and restaurants in town and nearby serving everything from traditional roasts to Indian and Italian food. The Dover Marina Hotel is home to celebrity chef Marco Pierre White's Wheeler's Fish and Chips and Mr White's English Chophouse.

NEED TO KNOW Train journeys from Dover to London take an average of 1 hour 45 minutes. Book tickets online in advance for significant savings – try thetrainline.com.

ESSENTIALS visitkent.co.uk

CRUISEFACT

Spectrum of the Seas, setting sail in April, will be the 26th ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet and the first in the line's new Quantum Ultra Class.

NEWS

Celestyal

Greek line Celestyal Cruises is extending its Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean season in 2019 and 2020, sailing from March to December, and is also introducing new destinations for its two mid-size ships, Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia. The ships are returning to Istanbul, calling for the first time at Canakkale – the nearest town to the site of ancient Troy – and Volos on the Greek mainland, for tours to the famous Meteora monastery. Celestyal's new seven-night Three Continents cruise sails to the Greek islands, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt and Israel. The 2019-2020 brochure is now available online and bookings can be made at its new Australian website. For a limited time, fares for the four-day Iconic Aegean cruise start at $769. See australia.celestyalcruises.com

New ships for Oceania and RSSC

Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, both part of the flourishing Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings (NCLH) company, have placed orders for three new ships – two 1200-passenger Allura-Class vessels for Oceania and a third 750-passenger sister for Seven Seas Explorer and Splendor of the Seas for RSSC. The Allura-class ships, which will be an "evolution" of the line's popular 1250-passenger Marina and Riviera, are scheduled for 2022 and 2025 and will bring the Oceania fleet to eight, while the RSSC ship, its sixth, will make its debut in 2023. NCLH is spending about €575 each on the new Oceania ships and about €475 million on the RSSC ship. Meanwhile, interest in Seven Seas Splendor has been so keen that bookings for its inaugural season broke company records in April 2018. See oceaniacruises.com, rssc.com

Solo-only river cruises

Riviera Travel is adding a ninth sailing in Europe this year exclusively for solo passengers, tripling its number of solo-only departures in 2019. The seven-night cruise from Lyon to Avignon in France on the 76-cabin river ship MS William Shakespeare departs on October 14, 2019. The company also offers a selection of solo-only cabins on every cruise it operates in Europe. Riviera's international sales manager for Australia, Thomas Morgan, said increasing demand led to the new cruise. "It can be frustrating for solo travellers to find good-value river cruises that don't come with hefty supplements. Our solo-exclusive river cruises include everything a solo traveller needs for a great holiday, which means a cabin or suite all to yourself – with no single supplement." Fares start from $3999. See rivieratravel.com.au

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