MSC Grandiosa joins the world's megaship fleet

BIG SHIP BONANZA

Norwegian Encore and MSC Grandiosa, two of the largest, most innovative ships in the cruise business, have set sail in the past couple of weeks. A third, Carnival Panorama, is due to join the world's megaship fleet next month.

The 4000-plus passenger Norwegian Encore is the 17th ship in NCL's fleet and the final model in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway-plus class of ships, which includes Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy. Norwegian Encore is now cruising out of Miami on its inaugural Caribbean season.

Each Breakaway-plus ship has added new activities, such as a top-deck ropes course, virtual reality complexes, laser tag and the super-popular go-kart track. Norwegian Encore continues the evolution and boasts all these features, some bigger and better than ever. New to Encore is the Italian restaurant Onda by Scarpetta, from a well-known upmarket restaurant chain in the US, and The Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, which is headlining a packed entertainment repertoire. See ncl.com

Meanwhile, MSC Grandiosa was christened by veteran MSC godmother Sophia Loren (its her 15th MSC Cruises ship) in a lavish, multi-venue ceremony in Hamburg, and is now sailing seven-night Mediterranean cruises from its home port of Genoa. The massive, 6300-passenger ship is the first of the line's Meraviglia Plus Class and is billed as one of the most environmentally advanced cruise ships at sea.

Onboard attractions include two original new shows from Cirque du Soleil at Sea, a 93-metre-long Mediterranean Promenade lined with international shops and restaurants, an immersive art experience, children's areas designed in partnership with Chicco and Lego, and a virtual digital cruise assistant called Zoe in every cabin. See msccruises.com.au

TAIL TO SAIL

Virgin Australia Holidays' Tail to Sail packages combine return flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to Miami with cruises on Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady. From Miami, Scarlet Lady's itineraries include destinations in the US, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. "Our distinctive personality is at the heart of everything we do, and this is a great opportunity for Australians to experience the famous Virgin hospitality across multiple travel experiences," says Paul Scurrah, CEO of Virgin Australia. Fares start from $3420, departing Sydney and including a four-night cruise. See travel.virginaustralia.com

IN THE PINK

On January 11, 2020, Esperance Island Cruises in Western Australia is operating a one-off sailing to Middle Island to see the bright pink Lake Hillier, a spectacular natural phenomenon. "It's a really special tour and very few people have the opportunity to get up close to Lake Hillier because it's extremely isolated – it takes about two hours to cruise there from the Duke of Orleans Bay, which is 100 kilometres east of Esperance," says Jaimen Hudson, manager at Esperance Island Cruises. The one-day cruise is limited to 40 passengers and costs $320. See esperancecruises.com.au

FOODIE HEAVEN

The countdown is on for the February launch of the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' newest ultra-luxe ship. Among its many enticing features is a new collection of cooking classes to be held in the Culinary Arts Kitchen, a state-of-the-art space with 18 workstations. Two-hour classes will teach passengers how to prepare and cook menus from regions visited on Splendor's inaugural season – the Caribbean and Mediterranean – plus an imaginative selection of plant-based dishes. The new classes will be expanded to Seven Seas Explorer in April 2020. See rssc.com

CRUISEQUIZ

Which cruise line's ships all have names ending in "dam"? The company has strong historic links to Holland. Last week's answer: Greg Mortimer

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RECYCLING STYLE

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CONSTANT CRUISER

BOB CONLEY, KELLYVILLE, NSW

NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN

60

LAST CRUISE

We've just sailed from Long Beach, Los Angeles to Singapore on Carnival Splendor, calling at Maui, Honolulu, Guam, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City. This was a 25-day repositioning cruise – Carnival is bringing Splendor to Australia after refitting it in Singapore for the Australian market. Before that we sailed on MV Royal Crown, a 90-passenger river ship operated by Teeming River Cruises, on a nine-day Dutch canal cruise. Teeming does not include tips, sightseeing or alcohol, and runs extremely low-priced river cruises. It provides an app you download on your mobile phone that shows the ship's location in each port with all the local sightseeing options plus walking instructions, so guides are not necessary. It is virtually impossible to get lost! Excellent food, fantastic service and friendly cruisers made this a fantastic choice.

NEXT CRUISE

We've booked a cruise on MSC Seaview, from Barcelona to Dubai in November next year.

DREAM SHIP

Any Celebrity or Royal Caribbean ship, preferably with a majority of adults cruising on them. We find that children do not behave on most cruises unless they are properly supervised.

DREAM CRUISE

My wife and I enjoy sea days, so any lengthy cruise, preferably repositioning, would keep us happy.

DREAM PORT

Auckland, because it is so convenient to get to the city from the ship.

BEST CRUISE TIP

Use white-out to put the first letter of your surname on all sides of your luggage – makes it super-easy to spot your bags for collection at cruise terminals and airport carousels.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CRUISE

Send 250-word submissions for Constant Cruiser to sally.macmillan@traveller.com.au. Use the same format as right and attach a high-resolution photo of yourself. All published contributions receive a $50 voucher from Travelgear.com.au

Travelgear.com.au has a huge range of travel accessories, from international SIM cards to luggage and gift suggestions and ships free to Australia and New Zealand. See travelgear.com.au

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