Pacific Jewel first major cruise ship to visit Timor-Leste

Freshly refurbished after its recent drydock in Singapore, cruise ship Pacific Jewel headed to the tiny Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste last weekend, where it became the first major cruise ship to call at the port of Dili. Australia played a key role in Timor-Leste's struggle for independence, which it achieved in 2002, and the local community was out in force last Saturday to welcome Pacific Jewel's passengers.

P&O Cruises is expanding its itineraries after the recent success of its cruises to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, said, "In addition to taking our passengers to otherwise remote destinations offering fabulous scenery and cultural experiences, cruise tourism can become a valuable part of island economies." Pacific Eden will call at Dili in September 2016.

Cruise lines are always on the lookout for new destinations to visit, and in the last couple of years a whole raft of exciting new ports of call have opened up to visiting ships. Cuba has long been closed to US-operated cruise lines but as of December 2014, it is welcoming more visitors and the major cruise lines are poised to pounce once the embargo is fully lifted. Meanwhile, Canadian-owned Cuba Cruise is reporting record bookings for its 2015-16 season.

Kamchatka, on the Far East Russian Peninsula, is an up and coming region for luxury cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises as well as small expedition ships operated by adventure companies such as Heritage Expeditions.

Silversea Expeditions has 88 new ports of call on its 2016 itineraries, including such exotic spots as Gough Island, Saint Helena; Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles; Ko Phra Thong, Thailand; and South Cinque Island, Andaman Archipelago.

And later this year, Cunard will be one of several major cruise lines to call at the newly opened Amber Cove port in the Dominican Republic. Famous for being a location for the original Jurassic Park movie, Amber Cove, a gateway to the spectacular Puerto Plata area, is expected to attract 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year.