P&O Cruises' Pacific Eden emerged from its recent refurbishment in Singapore sporting the line's dramatic Southern Cross livery across its bow and several million dollars' worth of new facilities, fixtures and fittings inside. The two-deck Marquee Show Lounge has been given a stylish new look and feel with a black, white and emerald-green colour scheme, while The Dome night-spot has had a navy-blue and white nautical-themed treatment.
Pacific Eden and Aria were both extensively refurbished in 2015, before they joined the P&O fleet, and part of any ship's life involves constant maintenance and upgrades. When it was in dry dock, Pacific Eden's cinema, spa, gym and teen areas HQ and HQ Plus were also given a makeover; new carpets and outdoor furniture were installed in select mini-suites and balcony cabins.
However, as new ships arrive on the busy cruising scene boasting ever-more exciting and elaborate features, it's important to keep older ships competitive and do more than basic maintenance. P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said the latest refurbishment was part of the cruise line's commitment to continually evolve and enhance the design of the fleet. "A key part of that process is to deliver a stylish, modern look and feel across the ship's public spaces and produce venues that would be more at home in a high-end resort than on a cruise ship."
Pacific Eden arrives in Cairns next week, where it will be based until early November, cruising to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Whitsundays. It will then sail out of Sydney on a series of short cruises until February next year.
Holland America Line has three ships coming to Australia for the upcoming cruise season – MS Noordam and MS Maasdam for five and three months respectively, plus visits from MS Amsterdam on its Grand Asia and Pacific voyages. As part of that line's US$300 million refurbishment program, it is updating suites, entertainment and dining venues in all its 14 ships.
Noordam was among the first to have a makeover that added new furnishings, decor, amenities and upgrades for all its suites. The Crow's Nest became a new interactive destination centre, Explorations Central (EXC), a program encompassing tours, lectures and local cultures that is being rolled out across the fleet.
As cruise ships are built to last 30 or so years, it pays to keep them working well and looking fresh – it's not all about the new kids on the block.
THE PORT Fremantle, Western Australia
WHO GOES THERE Azamara, Celebrity, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), Crystal, Cunard, Holland America Line, Princess,
Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean
WHY WE LOVE IT Freo has beautifully preserved 19th century buildings and the port's maritime and convict history co-exists happily with contemporary boutiques, edgy eateries and a laid-back beachy lifestyle.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Cruise ships dock at the passenger terminal on Victoria Quay, a 15-minute walk to the centre. If you plan to go further afield – day trips to Pinnacles Desert or Rottnest Island, for example – check out tours offered by your ship or local operators. Public ferries go up the Swan River to Perth's CBD and Captain Cook Cruises offers several scenic cruises around Fremantle and to Perth. Explore Fremantle on foot with self-guided routes supplied by the visitor centre; they include the Manjaree Indigenous heritage and the convict trails. Fremantle Markets have been going since 1897 and are loved by locals and tourists alike – open from Friday to Monday, it's a top spot for eating and enjoying live music as well as shopping. A free bus service, the Central Area Transit system, takes you to key attractions in central Fremantle.
MUST SEE Western Australian Maritime and Shipwrecks Museums; Little Creatures brewery; heritage sites including the Round House, Arts Centre and Fremantle Prison.
MUST EAT Seafood at Fishing Boat Harbour's restaurants and cafes; Indian, Italian, Asian and Mod-Oz cuisine in a variety of casual and upmarket eateries; snacks, drinks and coffee at the Cappucino Strip.
NEED TO KNOW The Fremantle Doctor is a cooling breeze that blows in from the Indian Ocean during the hot, dry summer.
Do cruises make you fat? Only if you ignore all the fresh, healthy food on the menus, drink too many sugary cocktails and don't do any exercise. Just like at home really …
HAL's Panama Canal line-up
Travellers who have always wanted to transit the lakes and locks of the Panama Canal will have eight Holland America Line ships and 19 cruises to choose from between September 2017 and May 2018. Cruises that traverse the Panama Canal between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean will range from 14 to 23 days and depart from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, San Francisco and Vancouver. "History comes to life as you witness up close what it took to connect these two oceans," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. "Everyone should transit the Panama Canal at least once in their lifetime." Onboard programs will offer expert talks about the history of the famous waterway, as well as cultural and culinary experiences. See hollandamerica.com
Azamazing Evenings Down Under
Azamara's two boutique ships will both be back in Australia next year – Azamara Journey in January, for four cruises, and Azamara Quest in December, in time for New Year's Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour and five cruises in early 2019. The line has just released details of the ships' Azamazing Evenings, exclusive events that take place once on every cruise. A Taste of Western Australia in Perth, An Evening Symphony at St Paul's Cathedral in Wellington and a concert by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Hobart feature on select Azamara Journey local sailings; Azamara Quest is offering An Evening of Fine Wine and Entertainment in Adelaide's National Wine Centre in December 2018. Azamazing Evening Events are complimentary but are incredibly popular, so bookings are essential. See azamaraclubcruises.com/en-au.