Australian cruisers have been in love with the Cunard line for many years but what really sparked the current infatuation was the royal rendezvous of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 in Sydney Harbour in February, 2007. Cunard's flagship QM2, which entered service in January 2004, recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its maiden arrival in Sydney with another royal rendezvous in the harbour, this time with QE2's successor, Queen Elizabeth.
David Rousham, Cunard's vice-president of international development, then announced that in 2019 Queen Elizabeth would be based in Australia for two months, the longest time any Cunard ship has spent in our region. Queen Elizabeth, which was launched in 2010 and is the youngest of the three sister ships (the other is Queen Victoria), carries a maximum of 2080 passengers.
When it arrives in February 2019 Queen Elizabeth will have just had a major refit, "so our youngest Cunard ship will be looking her most luxurious best as she starts this new chapter in Cunard's long and illustrious 179-year history," Rousham says.
Between February and April 2019, Queen Elizabeth will sail seven cruises from Sydney and Melbourne to New Zealand, South Australia and Tasmania. Cruises include two round-trip New Zealand voyages – one from Sydney and one from Melbourne – and three round-trip voyages including Tasmanian itineraries – two from Melbourne and one from Sydney. The cruises are a major highlight of Cunard's 2019 world voyage program, which will be released in Australia next week, with bookings opening on March 30.
"Whenever Cunard's itineraries have included round-trip options from Australian ports and visits to New Zealand the demand has always been tremendous," Rousham says.
If you are yet to experience a Cunard cruise, this is a great opportunity to sail with a line that celebrates its maritime heritage onboard modern ships. Formal nights, expert speakers, dances and traditional afternoon tea in the Queens Room and classic liner decor are among the many highlights.
Can't wait two years to cruise on Queen Elizabeth in Australian waters? The ship will be back in Sydney in February 2018 on its world voyage from Southampton, offering shorter legs on the way in from America and out to Asia – however, you'll need to book soon as many cabins are fully booked already. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth is cruising in the Mediterranean, northern Europe, Scandinavia and the Canary Islands for the rest of 2017. See www.cunardline.com.au
MEET THE CREW
NAME Simone Mele, from Italy, living in Gothenburg, Sweden
POSITION Cruise Director, Ponant's Le Boreal
MY JOB I am responsible for the onboard entertainment – the musicians, dancers and my own musical-comedy show – and guest relations, as I speak six languages. I also assist with Zodiac operations.
A TYPICAL DAY… starts at 7am. I'm in the office by 8am, meeting with the captain and expedition leader to check on the day's excursions; we always have a plan B in case the weather changes. Then I'm on the marina deck overseeing Zodiac embarkations until lunchtime, when I have an hour's rest. In the afternoon I host quizzes and chat with guests and in the evening host shows
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT When I'm on stage. I love hearing people laugh – I really enjoy that direct reaction from the audience and, of course, it's a great ego boost!
FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS Sydney, Rio de Janeiro – and my home in Gothenburg.
INSIDER TIPS On an expedition cruise pay attention to the instructions on Zodiac trips – your safety is paramount.
Make sure your waterproof backpack really is waterproof when you're on any on-water excursion, and wrap your camera or smartphone in a plastic bag inside the backpack in case of leaks.
Scenic is offering a one-off 15-day cruise along the Volga River between Moscow and Stalingrad (Volgograd) on board the 112-passenger Scenic Tsar, departing on September 30, 2018. It starts in Moscow with two full days to explore the city's 450-year-old St Basil's Cathedral, the tsarist treasures of the Kremlin's Armoury and historic Red Square; an unusual excursion is meeting cosmonauts at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Among the many highlights of the cruise are Yaroslavl, one of Russia's oldest cities; Nizhny Novgorod, where you can ride Europe's longest and highest cable car; and the Tartar village of Tugan Avylym, near Kazan. The cruise ends with two full days in Stalingrad. A three-day add-on to St Petersburg is also available. See www.scenic.com.au
All shook up
Six of the world's best Elvis impersonators will board Radiance of the Seas on November 6, 2018, for the seven-night Cruise'n'Groove – Elvis Meets the Legends cruise. American Elvis tribute acts Shawn Klush, Justin Shandor, Elvis to the Max, Dean Z, Jake Rowley and Bill Cherry lead the line-up and a full 13-piece "Elvis in Concert" band will entertain guests with Elvis' many hit songs. Thirty music acts from Australia and the US will perform during the cruise and concerts will also celebrate music legends Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. There will be themed Viva Las Vegas and Blue Hawaii parties, Elvis trivia quizzes and Elvis and Priscilla lookalike contests, artist meet and greets and fun photo opportunities. Cruise Express is offering earlybird fares on the round-trip cruise from Sydney to the Pacific islands. See www.cruiseexpress.com.au
More foodie cruises
P&O Cruises' three-day Food and Wine cruises have proved to be a big hit with passengers so this year the line is offering 21 of them, departing from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Fremantle and Adelaide. P&O's president Sture Myrmell says the increase in groups of families and friends booking on foodie cruises could be attributed to popular cooking shows and culinary inspiration on Instagram. He says: "Each of our Food and Wine cruises varies, but on every itinerary guests can learn from expert culinary talent including top Australian chefs such as Luke Mangan and TV personalities Will and Steve from My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef 2016 winner Elena Duggan." See pocruises.com.au
DEAL OF THE WEEK
Sail from Malaga in Spain to Bridgetown in Barbados on Voyages to Antiquity's boutique ship Aegean Odyssey with Cruise Traveller's new 26-night fly-cruise package. The ship departs Malaga on November 9, 2017, and visits Seville and Cadiz in Spain, Casablanca, Marrakesh and Agadir in Morocco, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde islands. Shore activities, gratuities and drinks with dinner are included and expert speakers will be on board. From $11,395 when booked by May 31; phone 1800 507 777. See cruisetraveller.com.au
ECRUISING.TRAVEL's 19-night fly-cruise-stay package from Singapore to Australia onboard P&O Cruises' Pacific Eden starts at a bargain $1899. Departing Singapore on August 10, it calls at Lombok, Komodo Island, Bali (overnight stay), Dili (East Timor), Darwin and Cairns. Three nights' accommodation and two nights in Cairns plus airfares are included. Phone 1300 106 466. See ecruising.travel
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Choose up to five free offers when you book a cruise on Norwegian Jewel by April 10. The ship is sailing in Australia and New Zealand from November 2017 to February 2018. Offers include a free beverage package; a specialty dining package for six specialty restaurants; 250 minutes free Wi-Fi; $US50 aport shore excursion credit; and the option to bring a third and fourth guest at a reduced rate. Phone 1300 255 200. See www.ncl.com.au