A new ship joins the international fleet heading Down Under next summer: Dream Cruises' Explorer Dream. The 1856-passenger ship, known to many cruisers as the former Superstar Virgo, has just been relaunched following a $US30 million transformation. Among its new features are The Palace, a private "ship within a ship" complex with 40 luxurious suites and villas; a family-friendly Sportsplex area; and 15 restaurants and bars.
Acclaimed Australian chef Mark Best, whose signature restaurants debuted on Explorer Dream's sister ships when the line launched in 2016, has introduced his Seafood Grill on the new-look Explorer Dream. Best's dishes at the alfresco restaurant combine "the extraordinary produce of Australia" with his distinctive twist on traditional Asian cuisine; local cruisers will love the Champagne Brunch menu that includes sourdough toast with Vegemite.
To find out more about where the ship will fit into the local scene, we spoke with Brett Dudley, founder and chairman of ecruising.travel. He has cruised on sister ship Genting Dream in Asia and says, "It's exciting to see Dream cruises bring Explorer Dream to Australia and being a smaller ship, she'll be able to fit under the Harbour Bridge.
"She will appeal to families and people who prefer smaller ships and are price-conscious – we currently have local Dream cruises from $70 a day. If you're looking for a more upscale experience, The Palace is impressive. It has an exclusive pool area and dining venues and an exceptionally high staff-to-guest ratio of one-to-one. And with so many restaurant options across the ship, cruisers will be spoilt for choice."
All-In with Windstar
Following a recent trial on select cruises, small-ship line Windstar Cruises has introduced an All-In Package of onboard amenities across its fleet of six ships. Priced at $131 per person, per day, the package includes unlimited Wi-Fi, unlimited laundry service, hotel and beverage gratuities, and the Captain's Exclusive Beverage Package that covers all wines by the glass, all beer selections, all mini-bar beverages and a broad assortment of cocktails. Windstar sails in Tahiti and the South Pacific, Alaska, Europe, trans-Atlantic, Canada and New England, Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Call 1300 749 875 or email email@example.com
Riviera Travel, which offers European river cruises at substantially lower fares than many other cruise lines, has 10 solo-only sailings in its 2020 program. Itineraries range from five to eight days, departing between March and November, with fares starting from $1829 for solo travellers for a five-day "Amsterdam, Kinderdijk and Dutch Bulbfields'' cruise in the Netherlands. Riviera also offers a selection of solo cabins on every cruise and every ship year-round – by 2020 it will have 14 ships, named after famous British writers, sailing on Europe's waterways. See rivieratravel.com.au
When Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009, it was the world's biggest cruise ship and the forerunner of three more Oasis-class megaships. Ten years on, Royal Caribbean is spending $US165 million "amplifying" Oasis, ahead of its Caribbean season sailing out of the line's new terminal in Miami. New features include a Caribbean-inspired pool deck that will feature a Splashaway Bay kids' aquapark and The Lime & Coconut signature bar; famed Quantum Class staple, Music Hall; the Perfect Storm trio of waterslides and the Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea. See royalcaribbean.com.au
What is smashed against a ship's hull when it is christened? Last week's answer: October 15, 2019
STOW IT IN THE BAG
A limited-edition backpack designed by renowned travel-equipment company Fjallraven and two Swedish artists not only looks good, but buying one does good. A percentage of sales helps support the Arctic Fox Initiative, a fund that supports projects that protect and preserve flora, fauna and biological diversity. The Kanken Art range of backpacks and laptop bags comes in a variety of sizes and designs and all are made from a hard-wearing, water-resistant fabric. $149.95; see fjallraven.com.au
Karen Nebauer, Berowra Heights, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN: Seven
LAST CRUISE: From Barcelona to Venice on Royal Princess. It is a beautiful ship that had only recently made its maiden voyage. The ports were all exotic and filled with wonders from the ancient world – as a history buff, my husband was in heaven. Kusadasi in Turkey was a magical surprise, with the Ephesus ruins being one of the highlights. We stayed in Venice for a week – it was a fabulous cruise that will be a treasured memory.
NEXT CRUISE: From Sydney to Port Douglas on Ruby Princess, in October. Having never been to Queensland before, we are excited about experiencing some of Australia's majestic beauty. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and wandering through the Daintree Rainforests are just two excursions we have already booked.
DREAM SHIP: It would be one that caters for both couples and for families travelling with children. A ship that has facilities geared for boisterous toddlers and teens plus areas where couples can escape to enjoy the peace and serenity of being surrounded by the ocean.
DREAM CRUISE: One where each port visit is followed by a sea day. This would allow time to relax and recharge the batteries in order to fully appreciate the next port.
DREAM PORT: One where the ship docks at the port, within walking distance of the city we are visiting, enabling maximum time to explore all the city has to offer.
BEST CRUISE TIP: Go to every event and join in a few of the offered activities. Some of the games nights I've attended have been more entertaining than the shows.
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