The Cruise Director: Biggest ship to ever sail Australian waters

There are less than three weeks to go until the newest, biggest ship ever to sail in Australian waters arrives in Sydney Harbour.

Ovation of the Seas will have cruised from Fremantle (its first port of call on December 6), to Adelaide and Hobart before it sails through The Heads about 5am on December 15. It will then make its way to its summer home, the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.

Singer Dami Im, of Eurovision fame, will be on board as a special guest and will perform in the ship's spectacular Two70 multidimensional entertainment venue to celebrate the ship's debut in Sydney.

"The $US1 billion ship will challenge everything you thought was possible on a cruise holiday, so it's fitting that she'll be given a truly royal welcome – by the people of Sydney and also by Dami, who has also been breaking records this year," says Adam Armstrong, managing director, Royal Caribbean Australia & NZ.

Ovation of the Seas is the world's fourth largest cruise ship, after three of its Oasis-class fleet mates. Queen Mary 2, previously the biggest ship to visit Australia, is a few metres shorter in length and accommodates a maximum of 3090 passengers over 12 passenger decks. Ovation is 18 decks tall, 347 metres long, 41 metres wide, carries up to 4905 passengers and 1500 crew and steams along at a brisk 22 knots.

The ship will introduce new and seasoned cruisers to an array of incredible experiences that are exclusive to Royal Caribbean. The North Star viewing capsule rises more than 90 metres above the ocean for incredible views, while those looking for more thrilling action can try sky diving on the Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator or surfing on the FlowRider. As on every Royal Caribbean ship there's a rock climbing wall, although Ovation's is even more massive than usual, and the SeaPlex area boasts bumper cars, a roller-skating rink, basketball court and a trapeze school.

If you want to see the ship's arrival in Sydney Harbour, there are several vantage points: Bradley's Head, on the North Shore; Cremorne Reserve at Cremorne Point; Mrs Macquarie's Chair in The Royal Botanic Gardens; Luna Park and North Sydney Swimming Pool, near the ferry wharf at Kirribilli; Hickson Road Reserve under the Sydney Harbour Bridge; and, of course, Circular Quay. Ovation will be in port until December 16, when it sets sail on the first of 15 itineraries to Tasmania, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

MEET THE CREW

NAME Antonio Miguel Mendes, from Portugal

POSITION Food & Beverage Director, P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn

MY JOB I am head of food and beverage operations onboard the Pacific Dawn. In collaboration with the provisions team and other departmental heads, I oversee the planning of the vessel's supplies – not only food and beverages, but also many other hotel related items. In addition to overseeing the operational requirements of the bars, restaurants, room service, events and galleys, I also assist the hotel director as needed with any other matters related to guest experience.

A TYPICAL DAY I'm usually on duty around 6am, depending on arrival times to ports of call, and usually will end around the later part of the evening, with an afternoon rest in between.

FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT Walking around any of my venues and seeing the look of satisfaction on our guests' faces. If it's food or beverage related, that makes it even more special.

FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS I would say Havana, Cuba, for its natural beauty and also Sydney Harbour for its impressive Harbour Bridge. When schedules allow, the South Pacific Islands are the perfect spot to relax in my off time, with Fiji ranking high on my list.

INSIDER TIPS Don't miss out on any of our great gastronomic experiences and concepts, in particular Salt grill by Luke Mangan.

Ships' bathrooms can be short of storage space, so pack a toiletry bag you can hang on a peg or over the door. Sea to Summit TravellingLight™ have two sizes, $34.95 and $39.95. See travelgear.com.au

NEWS

Bottom of the world

Patagonian cruise line Australis has announced that its new ship, the 210-passenger Ventus Australis, will make its maiden cruise in January 2018 as part of Australis' 2017/18 season of "bottom of the world" voyages to Cape Horn and the glaciers and fiords of Tierra del Fuego. Custom-built for cruising the southern tip of South America, Ventus Australis will replace the smaller Via Australis, which was sold earlier this year. It will be a twin sister to Stella Australis, featuring floor-to-ceiling cabin windows, a free open bar, complimentary guided excursions, nature lectures and gourmet cuisine that showcases local dishes and Chilean and Argentine wines.

Australis is the only operator to offer regular short cruises in the region and zodiac excursions ashore to Cape Horn are one of the big highlights. See australis.com

To be shore…

Viator operates tours in more than 2400 destinations worldwide and has just released its top 10 shore excursions for cruises bound to the South Pacific and New Zealand. Last season, Viator's most popular excursion was the Taieri Gorge Railway and City Sightseeing tour from Dunedin in New Zealand's South Island, closely followed by a seven-hour Rotorua Highlights tour from Tauranga. Other top NZ picks are the half-day Ultimate Wine Tour from the art deco town of Napier; and highlights of Marlborough from Picton. In the South Pacific, there's a guided country tour from Noumea in New Caledonia; a Zipline Canopy Tour in the Vanuatu jungle from Port Vila; a Jet Boat Safari on the Sigatoka River in Fiji; and a spectacular helicopter trip in Tahiti. Prices are competitive. See viator.com

Murray River festivities

Celebrate the festive season with a relaxing holiday along the Murray River on Captain Cook Cruises' seven-night Christmas cruise departing on December 23, or a three-night New Year's Eve Cruise departing December 30. The Christmas cruise includes a traditional lunch, carols and a visit from Santa. The New Year's Eve cruise includes a spectacular New Year's Eve dinner and dance hosted by the ship's captain and officers. Both cruises, onboard the newly refurbished paddle-wheeler MS Murray Princess, leave from Mannum and sail through spectacular countryside and riverside towns and villages. Guided eco-walks and bird watching from the ship's flat-bottomed boat are among the highlights; fares for the three-night cruise start at $1016. See murrayprincess.com.au

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Cruise Traveller's 18-night fly-cruise-stay Geishas to Glaciers package starts on May 1, 2017, with three nights in Tokyo, with a day tour to Mt Fuji and Hakone, before you board Silversea's Silver Shadow for a 14-night cruise to Seward, Alaska. Ports of call include Aomori, Hakodate and Kushiro in Japan, Petropavlovsk in Russia, and Dutch Harbour, Kodiak and Homer in Alaska. A scenic rail trip and overnight in Anchorage are also included. From $$10,925 when booked by January 31; phone 1800 507 777. See cruisetraveller.com.au

MORE DEALS

UNIWORLD Save $800 a couple on the 13-day India's Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges river cruise and tour from New Delhi to Kolkata when booked and deposited by January 16, 2017. The package includes seven nights onboard the Ganges Voyager II, five nights in Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, airport transfers and gratuities. From $12,929; phone 1300 780 231. See uniworld.com

EUROPEAN WATERWAYS Book by December 31 for 10 per cent off selected hotel barge cruises in Italy and France in 2017. They include the 20-passenger La Bella Vita, in the Venetian Lagoon and Po Valley; the eight-passenger Rosa, in south-west France; and the 12-passenger Panache, in Alsace Lorraine. Phone 1800 828 050. See gobarging.com

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