THE third ship of four making a Down Under debut this summer arrives in Sydney this week: Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.
Boasting a 138,000 tonnage, it is huge, with alluring facilities including 10 pools and whirlpools, a Vitality Spa offering more than 100 treatments, and a signature rock-climbing wall. Another unusual attraction is the DreamWorks experience - interactive entertainment with popular characters from films such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. The ante was upped yet again recently, however, thanks to a new partnership between Royal Caribbean and the toy brand Mattel. Its new Barbie Premium Experience brings the world's most popular doll to the ocean with themed staterooms, tea parties, fashion shows and more.
In recent years, business partnerships between cruise lines and famous brands have grown but they're not all aimed at kids. Food is another area, with more lines inviting celebrity chefs and restaurateurs to direct their culinary offerings or open restaurants. Holland America is giving one of its popular dining venues a new twist after teaming up with the iconic Le Cirque restaurant of New York. At least once a voyage, across most of its fleet, the by-reservation-only Pinnacle Grill is transformed, with menus, wine selections, table decorations and basic decor reflecting an authentic Le Cirque experience.
Oceania's two new flagships, Marina and Riviera, have owners' suites lavishly decorated from Ralph Lauren Home, while in the entertainment stakes, Norwegian Cruise Line has the unusual and famous Blue Man show straight from Las Vegas. Finally, Seabourn has recently announced that it has a new official timekeeper. In a partnership with the Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot, guests across its fleet of six boutique ships can see the hours tick by thanks to new, elegant wall clocks.
Package of the week
CruiseAway has a 35-night package visiting Europe and North America. Departing from Sydney on March 26, it begins with a three-night stay in Las Vegas followed by a night in New Orleans, then joins Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas for a leisurely cruise across the Atlantic to Civitavecchia (Rome), a triple back-to-back voyage visiting ports of call including Jamaica, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Livorno, Toulon and Athens. Finally you fly back from Rome to Sydney through the United Arab Emirates, enjoying a two-night stay in Dubai. Priced from $4999 a person, twin share; must be booked by November 30. 1300 887 590, cruiseaway.com.au.
P&O Cruises' 2014 holiday program will include the line's first visits to the South Australian ports of Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and Robe, as well as new cruises from Melbourne. Pacific Jewel will join the Brisbane-based Pacific Dawn in offering 34 departures over the winter months.
Companion Cruising is a new online travel agency that aims to make cruising affordable for single travellers. It works by matching people to share staterooms: if a match is found, each person pays a fare based on the number of people sharing the room, rather than the sole-occupancy fare.
Coral Princess's next Victories in the Pacific series, visiting the south Pacific's major World War II battlefields, is a 10-night cruise on Oceanic Discoverer hosted by military historian Mat McLachlan. It departs Port Moresby on November 13 next year.
LAUNCHED May 2012 PASSENGERS 72 REGULAR HAUNTS The Mediterranean BEST FOR Couples THE DETAILS A seven-night Romantic Rivieras cruise, a round trip from Nice with departures on July 14 and 21, and August 4 and 11, is priced from $2637 plus $360 port charges a person, twin share. (02) 9959 3696, www.discovertheworldcruising.com.au.
Need to know
1 At a cost of €29 million ($34.5 million), the luxurious Variety Voyager was built in Greece. At 68 metres long, and with a shallow draft of just 3.5 metres, it is one of five mega-yachts in the world able to visit hard-to-access destinations.
2 Exuding luxury from aft to stern, the ship has a sleek, modern design, plenty of deck space and accommodation with ocean views. It is the first seagoing vessel to become a member of the exclusive Preferred Hotels & Resorts organisation.
3 It has five accommodation types based on location, ranging from lower-deck staterooms with twin portholes to an upper-deck owner's suite. The decor is a palette of soft tones, with warm wood, and facilities include a mini-fridge, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes.
4 There is a single restaurant that can seat all guests at the same time, has floor-to-ceiling glass sliding windows and serves Mediterranean cuisine. There is also outdoor seating for 50 people.
5 Voyager also has a lounge on the main deck, which seats 75, and a bar serving drinks, including fresh juices. The ship is wi-fi enabled, with a small internet corner, and the mini spa has a massage room, sauna and some fitness equipment.
Port watch: Cooktown, Australia
Need to know Unspoilt, remote and surrounded by a stunning landscape, Cooktown is one of north Queensland's hidden gems. Located on the Cape York Peninsula at the mouth of the Endeavour River, it's also a historic frontier town. Ships anchor off shore and use tender boats to transport guests to a pier in town.
Do not miss Cooktown is easy to explore on foot independently, with top local attractions including the James Cook Museum and Cooktown History Centre, and best photo ops including the Mick the Miner statue near the wharf, and the Captain Cook statue in Bicentennial Park. Save energy to head up Grassy Hill late in the day, where James Cook stood to search for passage through the reef; the panoramic views are worth the effort. Pick of the excursions include anything involving fishing, hiking or four-wheel-drive explorations, and tours that visit some of the local waterfalls and beaches.
What does the term "line voyage" mean?
- A. Zara, Fairfield.
A line voyage is a historical term relating to ocean liners, from when they were the most common mode of transport around the globe. Scheduled line voyages connected world ports, such as Sydney with Southampton, or New York with Amsterdam, moving people from one country to another. Air travel largely wiped these voyages out, with a few cruise lines such as Cunard offering them occasionally. The next-best thing today is a grand voyage of a region or continent, or a world cruise, which can take up to 120 days.