Fantasy lands cast off

"Luxury lite" ... Azamara Journey.
"Luxury lite" ... Azamara Journey. 

SYDNEY Harbour is a hive of activity this month with cruise ship visits including two of Cunard's queens, the Sun Princess, Arcadia, Black Watch and the luxury residential cruise ship The World. March also kicks off a long season of ship launches, beginning with Disney's second new build in two years, Disney Fantasy. The 4000-guest ship, a near-twin to Disney Dream, which launched last year, was named in New York recently by Mariah Carey. Fantasy embarks on a schedule of seven-night Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral in Florida, starting March 31.

The world of river cruising is also bubbling with activity, with the first four of Viking River Cruises' six new "longships" making their debut in Europe this month. Their radical design features spacious staterooms with verandahs, an indoor-outdoor terrace located on the bows for casual dining and environmentally friendly features including hybrid engines.

In May, MSC's Divina will be named in Marseilles by a legend of the silver screen, Sophia Loren, before embarking on a series of seven-night Mediterranean cruises from Venice. This 12th member of the Italian-based fleet is said to have been influenced by Greek mythology, with 13 of its decks named for deities of ancient Greece.

Disney's water coaster.
Disney's water coaster. 

Also in May, Avalon Waterways's new Visionary and Vista will join sister ship Panorama cruising Europe's popular rivers, including the Danube and Rhine. Carnival Breeze then takes to the high seas in June, dividing its time between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and the last of Celebrity's popular Solstice Class ships, Reflection, will make its debut in October.

Package of the week

Book by May 30 to enjoy two cruises on the same ship and explore the best of North and Central America, with this offer from Cruiseaway.

The unusual 30-night package, which departs on September 19, features a seven-night Alaska cruise, a round trip from Vancouver, followed by a 17-night cruise from San Francisco through the Panama Canal to Port Everglades, Florida. Both cruises are on Holland America's MS Zuiderdam.

Komodo dragon, Rinca Island, Indonesia.
Komodo dragon, Rinca Island, Indonesia. 

Priced from $6999 a person, twin share, the package also includes a two-night stay in Vancouver, a three-night stay in San Francisco, a one-night stay at Fort Lauderdale and all flights. 1300 887 590, cruiseaway.com.au.

In brief

  • The renowned filmmaker Philip Bloom will join the expedition ship True North on its first Kimberley cruise, departing from Broome on March 31. London-based Bloom will film the one-week cruise and be on hand to offer advice to guests with an interest in documentaries.
  • Following a recent announcement that guests can marry aboard Cunard's three queens (turn to this week's Cruise special report inside The Sun-Herald Travel for more on Queen Mary 2's weddings at sea), a new brochure has been released detailing costs and inclusions. A wedding package including a ceremony and flowers costs $US2500 ($2376) plus licence fees; they are available on cruises of one week or longer.
  • Crystal Cruises' daytime dining venue, The Bistro, will open in the evenings from next month on Crystal Symphony and from June on Crystal Serenity. It will offer a range of small bites, desserts and late-night snacks accompanied by premium wines and flavoured coffees.

Azamara Journey

LAUNCHED Originally in 2000 and as Journey in 2007 PASSENGERS 694 REGULAR HAUNTS South America, Europe, Asia BEST FOR Couples THE DETAILS An 11-night French and Italian Riviera cruise from Monte Carlo to Rome (Civitavecchia), departing on September 1 and 23, is priced from $3199 a person, twin share. 1800 754 500, azamaraclubcruises.com.

Need to know

1. Journey began life as the R6, one of the defunct Renaissance ships, and was also called the Blue Dream before joining Azamara's fleet.

2. Journey is a "luxury lite" class due to various inclusions in fares, covering gratuities, shuttles, water, soft drinks, coffee and wine at lunch and dinner. Guests have butler service and dining in alternative restaurants.

3. Accommodations fall into four basic categories from inside staterooms to suites, all of which are elegantly appointed using subtle colour schemes. Amenities include complimentary shoeshine service, fresh flowers and use of an umbrella and binoculars.

4. The main dining room operates on an open seating basis but there are two alternatives that can be booked for a nominal fee. Aqualina offers a taste of the Mediterranean, while Prime C is the place to enjoy a classic steakhouse menu.

5. Facilities include a spa and fitness centre with acupuncture therapy, a pool, enrichment programs, wi-fi and several lounges.

Port watch: Komodo, Indonesia

Need to know Komodo is located in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. It's home to the Komodo National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place in the world to see prehistoric Komodo dragons. Ships anchor in Slawi Bay so guests must use tender boats to get ashore.

Do not miss The key attraction of Komodo is the dragons but there are restrictions as those found outside the village and tourist areas can be dangerous. Most cruise guests book organised excursions through their ship but you can book a tour in advance with a local operator. Be aware, however, that if you decide to go it alone, you are likely to be asked to provide proof of your tour before you can board a tender to go ashore.

Q&A

I am taking my first cruise on Pacific Pearl at Easter with my sister. Can you tell me if there are any luggage restrictions?

A. Barbour, Sydney.

Most cruise lines don't have restrictions but how much luggage you take depends on the size of your stateroom, if you're sharing with someone and whether you're flying to join your ship, as restrictions vary among airlines on the number of bags you can take and their weight. On Pacific Pearl, P&O recommends no more than two bags a person, with each bag being no larger than 140cm x 60cm x 40cm and weighing less than 32 kilograms.

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