WHEN I went to Dubai to cruise the Middle East in early 2010, my ship was docked next to the Queen Elizabeth 2. From its distinctive black hull to its sleek ocean liner styling, it is an iconic ship in every sense of the word. The QE2 cruised the oceans for almost 40 years and was one of several ships largely responsible for the evolution of modern-day cruising.
Just 14 months before I saw it in Dubai, the QE2 had completed its last crossing of the Atlantic and was handed over to new owners in the tiny emirate for a reported £50.5 million (about $76.9 million). Only recently, however, has its fate finally been decided. In a striking contrast to Dubai's reputation for modern glitz, the ship will remain at Port Rashid as a hotel with much of its furnishings and decor intact, and is set to open late next year.
A few weeks ago in Britain, marking the 175th anniversary of P&O, seven of the line's fleet came together for the first time in Southampton in a grand event. Paying homage to the line's history, Carnival Australia has launched a website, 175yearsofcruising.com.au, which celebrates the colourful heritage of P&O and invites travellers to upload their stories and memories.
Crystal Symphony may have 17 years of cruising already under its belt, but it looks as good as new again after a fourth large-scale refurbishment costing $US15 million ($14.66 million). The 922-guest ship has redesigned public spaces, staterooms featuring "do not disturb" doorbell systems, and "junior cruisers" areas for teens and children.
More details have been revealed about NCL's Project Breakaway. The first of two ships, called Norwegian Breakaway, is set to launch in April, with features including a seafood restaurant by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, an exclusive production of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages and a three-storey sports complex including a bungy trampoline.
Package of the week
Experience the 100th Anzac Day in 2015 with this package from Cruiseabout. Departing from Fremantle on March 25, it includes a 35-night cruise on MSC Poesia to Civitavecchia (Rome).
Ports of call include Albany, where many Australian soldiers began their journey to Gallipoli, the Cocos Islands, Colombo, Istanbul, Anzac Cove, Athens and Santorini.
Guests will be able to watch a live telecast of the Gallipoli service on April 25 on board the ship, and attend a special ship's service. Priced from $23,769 a person, twin share, until September 30. 1300 769 228, cruiseabout.com.au.
Orion Expeditions has a one-off, eight-night golfing cruise from Lyttelton to Auckland in 2013, departing on February 16. Play golf at some of New Zealand's most spectacular courses, including Royal Wellington and Kauri Cliffs.
Oceanwide Expeditions has chartered Sea Spirit for the 2012 northern European summer season. It will cruise Greenland and Iceland from Spitsbergen in Norway.
MSC Cruises has a new range of drinks packages, which can be prebooked by calling reservations. Options include water-only, beer and wine, and packages allowing for unlimited drinks at meal times, or unlimited drinks for 24 hours.
LAUNCHED 2002 PASSENGERS 1970 REGULAR HAUNTS Alaska, Panama Canal BEST FOR Couples, families THE DETAILS A seven-night Voyages of the Glaciers cruise in Alaska, departing on May 22, is priced from $954 a person, twin share. 1300 551 853, princess.com.
Need to know
1 Coral Princess is mid-size by today's standards, blending international style with Princess's signature features. Eighty-three per cent of the staterooms have private balconies, ideal for cruising Alaska and for "Ultimate Balcony Dining".
2 The ship had a major overhaul in 2009, emerging with new features including an adults-only Sanctuary and a Movies Under the Stars screen. Other unusual features include a wedding chapel, a swim-against-the-current pool and an oversize outdoor chess game.
3 Accommodation comes in six configurations, from roomy staterooms to spacious balcony suites. The decor is simple, with a focus on blues, greens and earth tones, and accents of coral. Standard features include flat-screen televisions and decent-size refrigerators.
4 There are plenty of culinary options beyond the two dining rooms, with traditional or flexible dining. Alternative venues include the elegant Sabatini's Italian Restaurant, and the pub-style Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse.
5 For its size, the Coral Princess has plenty of facilities: three swimming pools, a children's splash pool, a fitness centre and spa, six lounges, an internet cafe, and a golf putting green. Kids are well catered for with clubs for toddlers to teenagers.
Port watch: Quebec City, Canada
Need to know This ancient walled city is a port of call on leaf-peeping cruises of Canada and New England during autumn. Most cruise ships dock at the terminal at the heart of the downtown historic district, making the sights easy to explore on foot. Taxis are also available if you want to venture further afield.
Do not miss Quebec is ideal for walking and the city is divided into two levels: the Lower Town and Upper Town. Top picks when it comes to the sights include the historic Place-Royale, the striking Chateau Frontenac and the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Quebec, which dates to 1647. Save time, however, for a meander through the narrow streets and alleys to enjoy the cafes, antiques and art galleries. Of the excursions out of town, a drive along the Beaupre Coast and the magnificent Montmorency Falls are worth considering.