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Cruise travel news: 4 cruising updates that advisors need to know

Have you missed any recent cruise travel updates? Expert cruise contributor Sally Macmillan helps bring you up to speed with the latest intel in this weekly wrap of what's making waves in cruising right now.

Have you missed any recent cruise travel updates? Expert cruise contributor Sally Macmillan helps bring you up to speed with the latest intel in this weekly wrap of what’s making waves in cruising right now.

1. Seasonal Spirit is back

Cruise travel_Norwegian Spirit in Sydney
Norwegian Spirit at the Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal.

After a successful maiden cruise travel season Down Under last year, Norwegian Spirit is set to return to our shores next month. The 2,032-guest ship will dock at White Bay, Sydney, on December 23, heading off the next day for the first of a series of Australia and New Zealand cruises between December and March 2024.

Norwegian Spirit underwent a US$100 million transformation in 2020 – new-look interiors, extra staterooms and new dining venues were created in Norwegian Cruise Line’s most extensive ship refurb ever. The investment has clearly paid off – Norwegian Spirit is one of the line’s most popular ships, even though she’s considerably smaller than 2022’s Norwegian Prima and 2023’s Norwegian Viva

Norwegian Spirit will return to Australia and New Zealand in December for her 2024-2025 cruise travel season – now’s the time to make the most of special offers.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Jewel is sailing in Asia for the first time in three years – highlights include overnights in Phuket, Osaka and Benoa (Bali). NCL is also deploying Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun in the Asia Pacific for eight months between October 2024 and May 2025, with the latter coming to Australia from December to March.

Look out for our Features Editor Gaya Avery’s report on her recent cruise aboard Norwegian Viva.

For more information, visit ncl.com

2. Arctic to Antarctica

Viking Octantis
Viking Octantis with zodiacs, kayaks and a special operations fleet in Antarctica.

As Viking’s ultra-contemporary twin expedition ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, embark on their third season in Antarctica, the cruise line announced that “to meet strong demand”, the 2025-26 season is now open for booking.

Itineraries include the incredible 87-day expedition from Nuuk in Greenland to Ushuaia in Argentina, departing in September 2025.

“We are pleased to introduce even more opportunities for the curious traveller to experience this phenomenal region in Viking comfort,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. 

“Our guests can explore some of the most pristine destinations on Earth in the most responsible way possible while also participating in meaningful scientific discoveries. On my own trip to Antarctica, I witnessed firsthand the incredible scenery and wildlife this fascinating continent has to offer. 

“In my view, everyone should experience Antarctica at least once in their life.” 

For expedition cruisers with budget and time to spare, Viking’s Grand Journeys are a big drawcard. Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis recently completed their inaugural Longitudinal World Cruises – 71 days from Duluth, Minnesota, to Ushuaia and 71 days from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Ushuaia. Both ships will sail on similar itineraries in October 2024. 

Viking continues to expand at a rate of knots. The line has four new oceangoing cruise ships on order; the first, Viking Vela, is due to set sail in October 2024. They will be slightly larger than the current collection of nine 930-guest ships but will feature the same layout and Scandi-style interiors.

Australian cruise travel advisors and their clients are invited to check out Viking Orion, Viking Sky and Viking Neptune – when the three small ships visit ports on Australia’s east coast during the 2023-24 summer cruise season.

For more information, visit vikingcruises.com.au

3. Record breaker

Icons of the Seas
Icon of the Seas

Quantum of the Seas is already sailing out of Brisbane, and Brilliance and Ovation of the Seas arrive in Sydney this week, so local Royal fans have plenty to look forward to.

Gavin Smith, Vice President and Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand, Royal Caribbean International, said: “It’s exciting to see all of our three award-winning ships in Australian waters for Royal Caribbean’s biggest and best season yet! 

“In fact, 30 per cent more holidaymakers compared to last summer have set out to join us for their summer getaways, where they’ll enjoy everything from show-stopping entertainment to the ultimate in relaxation for a lifetime of memories.”

Over in Finland, VIPs from Royal Caribbean International and shipbuilder Meyer Turku, plus some 1,200 crew members and workers, gathered on November 27 to celebrate the official handover of its newest ship, Icon of the Seas. See our report here.

The mighty Icon now takes over the title of “biggest cruise ship in the world” from her fleetmate Wonder of the Seas. Icon has 20 passenger decks, compared to Wonder’s 18; accommodates a maximum of 7,600 guests rather than Wonder’s 7,084; and is three metres longer and one metre wider. 

Although Icon’s vital statistics are mind-boggling, it’s not all about size.

Icon of the Seas is the world’s largest, but above all, the world’s most advanced cruise ship,” said Tim Meyer, CEO of Meyer Turku. “Together with Royal Caribbean, we set the bar exceptionally high in terms of design, technology, safety and reducing energy consumption.” 

For more information, visit royalcaribbean.com

4. Big river savings

Riviera Travel River Cruise
Riviera Travel River Cruise

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, UK-based Riviera Travel is offering savings of $1,000 and $1,500 per person on its seven-night and 10- to 14-night European river cruises in 2024-25. The offer is valid for bookings made until December 31, 2023, and guests who book during this period will also receive a free Superior drinks package, plus free WiFi and shore excursions.

Riviera Travel River Cruises operates a fleet of 12 ships, all six years old or younger, that accommodate between 126 and 176 guests. They sail on all the major European rivers, including the Douro in Portugal, the Seine in France and the Dutch Waterways.

The company is well-known for offering remarkably low fares. For example, fares start from $1,199 per person for the seven-night Burgundy, Rhone and Provence itinerary departing October 18, 2024.

Riviera Travel Channels Director Stuart Milan said, “We’re excited that we are offering our best-ever promotion to fans of river cruises in the Australian market. We are confident you will enjoy our award-winning service.”

Over the past five years, Riviera Travel has hosted more than 100,000 guests on its river cruises and says it is very supportive of the travel agency community, accepting bookings exclusively from advisors. 

For more information, visit rivieratravel.com.au