The cruise critique

There’s a world of choice when it comes to cruising around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Small expedition ships with just a handful of passengers rub shoulders with multi-deck mega liners. There are ships for adventurers, for families and for those who prefer to lie by the pool. So how to choose? Luxury Travel magazine has a wrap up of the luxury ships cruising the region this season.

True North

Guests: 36

Crew: 20

Passenger Decks: 3

Length: 164 feet

The smallest ship in the region might lack the facilities of mega liners, but it more than makes up for it with the places it can go. With a shallow draft it can reach stunning waterfalls in the Kimberleys or cruise down jungle rivers in Papua New Guinea. There’s also a helicopter onboard if you want to venture further afield. This is the ship for adventurous cruisers, so expect to be snorkelling, diving, fishing or exploring rather than flopped by the pool. 

northstarcruises.com.au

 

MS Caledonian Sky (APT)

Guests: 110

Crew: 75

Passenger decks: 5

Length: 297 feet

This all-suite ship has been through a few incarnations and was branded the Caledonian Sky in 2012. Suites are spacious and around half have balconies. While entertainments are limited, there are a couple of sun decks for lounging (though no swimming pool), a lounge and bar, a small gym and a salon/massage room. Expect super fresh seafood in the dining room – the crew will either catch it themselves or buy it from local fishermen. 

aptouring.com.au

 

Silver Discoverer

Guests: 120

Crew: 96

Passenger decks: 5

Length: 338 feet

Silversea’s newest ship joined the fleet in April this year. Accommodations are all suites and come with extras like butler service, mini bar stocked to your preference and evening turn down service. This is a vessel built for adventure with a fleet of 12 zodiacs and a glass bottom boat for excursions, and a diving programme for experienced divers. There are three dining options onboard and all operate on an open seating policy, meaning you can dine where and when you want. 

silversea.com

 

National Geographic Orion

Guests: 102

Crew: 75

Passenger decks: 6

Length: 338 feet

The Orion joined the National Geographic fleet in March this year and has recently undergone a refurbishment of the public areas. Toys onboard include tandem kayaks, a glass bottom boat and an underwater remotely operated vehicle that can go hundreds of metres below the surface. Education makes up a big part of journeys on the Orion, so there’s a large lecture theatre and well stocked library, and a photography instructor accompanies every voyage.

nationalgeographicexpeditions.com

 

Wind Spirit

Guests: 148

Crew: 90

Passenger decks: 4

Length: 360 feet

This four-masted sailing ship is designed to feel like your own private yacht. The atmosphere onboard is casual with no formal or theme nights and no scheduled activities. None of the staterooms have balconies and outdoor space is limited because of the complex sail machinery, but there are plenty of water sports on offer to keep you entertained including a banana boat, kayaks, sunfish sailboat, windsurfing boards, scuba and snorkelling equipment, and four Zodiacs.

windstarcruises.com

 

Aranui III

Guests: 200

Crew: 65

Passenger decks: 6

Length: 386 feet

This is not your average cruise ship. Part passenger ship and part cargo freighter, the Aranui III plies the waters between Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands, delivering food and fuel to remote islands without an airport on a two week journey. There are plenty of creature comforts onboard, including a swimming pool, sun deck, two bars, restaurant and a small shop. The rooms are fairly basic, but most of the suites have balconies where you can watch the palm trees glide by. 

aranui.com

 

L’Austral

Guests: 264

Crew: 139

Passenger decks: 6

Length: 466 feet

There’s a distinct French atmosphere onboard L’Austral, from the deck names to the interior design. It’s one of five ships operated by Compagnie du Ponant and feels like a sleek super yacht. Rooms are quite small compared to other ships in the class, but most have balconies and the transparent glass walls (with a sliding privacy panel) in the bathroom mean you never lose sight of the view. 

en.ponant.com

 

m/s Paul Gauguin

Guests: 332

Crew: 217

Passenger decks: 7

Length: 517 feet

This ship was specially designed to sail the shallow waters around French Polynesia and is one of the most spacious on the market with a passenger space ratio of 58 (classified as excellent). Most of the staterooms and suites have balconies, and there’s an onboard retractable watersports marina for a host of activities. The staff are local Tahitians, meaning that the Polynesian experience permeates throughout the whole ship from the butlers to the wait staff and entertainers. 

pgcruises.com

 

Seven Seas Mariner

Guests: 490

Crew: 345

Passenger decks: 8

Length: 566 feet

This ship was the first all-suite, all-balcony ship in the world when it was launched in 2001. The spacious suites are seriously plush with king size beds, walk in wardrobes, marble bathrooms and L’Occitane amenities. The Mariner and its sister ship the Voyager are both home to Signatures, the only permanent Le Cordon Bleu restaurants at sea, and on some cruises gourmet workshops themed around the ports of call are run by Le Cordon Bleu chefs. 

rssc.com.au

 

Seabourn Odyssey

Guests: 450

Crew: 330

Passenger decks: 8

Length: 650 feet

The largest ship in the Seabourn fleet (at triple the size of its sister ships), the Odyssey came into service in 2009. More than 90 per cent of the staterooms have balconies and the ship has the second highest passenger space ratio in the industry. With all that space you can expect more features including two swimming pools, four restaurants, casino, theatre for performances, nightclub and a large spa. All suites have a large bathroom with separate shower and bathtub, a separate living area, nightly turndown service and champagne on arrival.

seabourn.com

 

ms Volendam

Guests: 1,432

Crew: 615

Passenger decks: 10

Length: 781 feet

There’s a garden theme onboard the ms Volendam and you’ll be surrounded by fresh flowers as well as floral motifs on the walls and furnishings throughout the ship. It’s also known for its art collection with paintings, sculptures and even Renaissance-era Italian fountains in the public areas. Passengers staying in the top two suite categories have access to the private Neptune Lounge, which has refreshments, a personal concierge, lounges and a library.

hollandamerica.com

 

Crystal Symphony

Guests: 922

Crew: 545

Passenger decks: 12

Length: 781 feet

Amulti-million dollar refurb of the Symphony was completed in 2012, so everything onboard feels brand new. It’s one of the few luxury lines in this region to offer a dedicated space for children and teens, and youth staff are onboard during school holiday and summer sailings. Menus at the Japanese-Pervuian Silk Road restaurant and the Sushi Bar are designed by celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, and Nobu-trained chefs are in the kitchen.

crystalcruises.com

 

Oceania Marina

Guests: 1,250

Crew: 800

Passenger decks: 11

Length: 785 feet

The largest ship cruising in the region, the Marina has a few ultra luxe touches like a grand staircase designed by French jewellery and crystal house Lalique, and three Owner’s Suites furnished with Ralph Lauren Home products. There’s a Canyon Ranch Spa onboard from the famed American health retreat and Jacques restaurant, the first restaurant from French celebrity chef Jacques Pépin anywhere in the world.

oceaniacruises.com

The Marina has a few ultra luxe touches like a grand staircase designed by French jewellery and crystal house Lalique.

Featured cruises / 3 of the best

27-day Sydney to Papeete
Departs: Jan 20, 2015
Price: from A$12,059 per person
 
Cruise up the east coast of Australia and out through the crystal clear waters off Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia. The cruise moves at a relaxed pace with eight days at sea, and spends three days anchored off Bora Bora for plenty of time to explore. 
 
16-day Australia & New Zealand
Departs: Dec 21, 2014
Price: from A$8,008 per person
 
The Seabourn Odyssey takes passengers from Sydney to Melbourne and then on a loop around New Zealand. The voyage takes in the stunning Milford Sound and stops at Timaru, Akaroa (near Christchurch), Kaikoura, Wellington, Picton and Tauranga (near Rotorua), before finishing up in Auckland. There’s the option to spend a couple of days off the ship to visit Queenstown and see more of the Fiordland National Park. 
 
10-day Kimberley Coast Cruise
Departs: May-Sept, 2015
Price: from a$9,995 per person
 
Follow the West Australian coastline from Broome to Darwin onboard the MS Caledonian Sky with APT. The cruise visits the Lacepede Islands, home to huge bird colonies and green turtles, the Buccaneer Archipelago with the famous Horizontal Falls, Montgomery Reef and the King George River. Passengers go ashore at Bigge Island to explore caves with ancient indigenous rock art and there’s the opportunity to take a helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls.
 
 
 
 
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