Susan Bonner

In a new feature on KARRYON, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ VP & MD for AU/NZ, Susan Bonner, shares her personal cruise tips & insights while exploring industry trends.

I’m often asked for cruise recommendations and with so many ships and destinations on offer, there’s certainly something for every type of traveller and taste. These, however, are my 2019 must-dos:

 

Europe

There’s no better way to explore both the history and the modernity of this fascinating continent than travelling onboard the world’s most stylish cruise ship, Celebrity Edge. Australian bookings for Edge in Europe are exceeding all expectations, and when she arrives to her new home-port for the 2019 summer, Aussies can prepare to experience the region in a whole new world of luxury.

The brand new Celebrity Edge will bring guests closer than ever before to the Mediterranean Sea with her infinite verandahs and outward facing pool deck design, while visiting more than 25 different European ports in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece, the UK and Monaco over 7-, 10- and 11-nights. Edge sails from Barcelona and Rome from May-November 2019 and joins our award-winning European fleet, including Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Infinity.

 

Alaska

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From threading through ancient glaciers to dog-sledding across snow-packed trails, Alaska is renowned as one of the most spectacular destinations in the world for good reason. It has seen a phenomenal popularity surge over the last five years, with Australians now choosing to cruise Alaska in record numbers. Last year, premium cruise line Celebrity Cruises deployed three modern luxury ships to the region to cater to the demand.

The upward trend for Alaska continues in 2019, and Aussies keen to sample Melbourne’s newest home-ported ship, Celebrity Eclipse, can sail onboard the stylish Solstice Class vessel when she boosts the capacity of the Alaska fleet by 20 per cent this year, taking the place of Celebrity Infinity as she transitions to Europe. Celebrity Eclipse commences her very first summer season down under from December 2020.

 

South Pacific

Think you know the South Pacific? There is so much more to this incredibly diverse region than first meets the eye. Take Vanuatu for example; the harbour foreshore in Port Vila has undergone an incredible facelift, creating easy walking paths along the water’s edge that let you explore the vibrant capital of Efate– the country’s heart and soul–  on foot.

On the way, you’ll find thatched huts flanking the pathway created especially for the traditional weekend mama markets, where travellers can sample locally-grown fresh fruit, veg and flowers, as well as a range of authentic handicrafts. Port Vila is the perfect jumping off point for island hopping, with plenty of nearby islands, beaches and lagoons that are picture perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

With its incredibly friendly local culture, Vanuatu is frequently voted one of the happiest places on the planet. Royal Caribbean’s four feature-packed mega liners Ovation of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas will sail over 27 South Pacific itineraries in 2019, bringing guests to ports such as Port Vila and Mystery Island. Royal Caribbean has been voted the best domestic cruise line by Australian travel agents for the past three years running.

 

New Zealand – but not as you know it

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Time and time again, our guests tell us that this country rates incredibly highly as their favourite destination for cruising, particularly for its friendliness and the vast variety of activities available. A compact trove of adventure and magnificent scenery, New Zealand is also the ideal destination to immerse yourself in cultural and wildlife experiences like a local.

There’s no better way to really get under the skin of a destination than by getting off the beaten track and visiting the smaller, lesser-known locales. Capitalising on its boutique size, high-end cruise line Azamara will offer travellers the unique opportunity to visit some New Zealand’s best-kept secrets in 2019, with maiden calls to Gisborne, Nelson, Kaikoura and Oban, Stewart Island.

Celebrity Cruises new Discovery Collection shore excursions will also enable 2019 travellers to see the best of New Zealand. Crafted with the advice of local experts, each Discovery Collection excursion must fit three criteria in order to be selected for the programme; they must be iconic, exclusive and locally-inspired. Our new Discovery Collection tours in New Zealand include “The Cloak of Mother Earth”, a Kauri forest walk guided by a local and tasting tour of the Bay of Islands, and a “Cloudy Bay and Brancott” wine tour in Picton, where guests can enjoy the company of iconic New Zealand winemakers for the day.

The Discovery Collection has been a real passion project for us; we began with select destination and culinary-focused experiences in the Western Mediterranean at the beginning of 2018, and have now successfully rolled out over fifty of these award-winning excursions on Celebrity Cruises all over the world.

 

Japan

In the lead up to the highly anticipated 2020 Olympics, the desire to travel to Japan is at an all-time high. As cruising ports such as Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Okinawa grace the top of must-do travel lists, the number of Australians travelling to Japan has doubled from 2012 to 2017, flocking to the destination for its epic snow season and cultural and culinary fusion. In 2019, Azamara fleets are scheduled to call into Japanese ports on 334 occasions. This marks a 35 percent increase than 2018, driven in particular by the number of cruises to the region on Azamara Quest.

Adventurers can conquer 13 ports in 15 days in April this year with Azamara’s Japan Intensives, as Azamara Quest calls to off-the-beaten-track as well as larger port cities like Hiroshima and the century-old pilgrimage site of Mount Fuji, Shimizu.

 

South America

While South America is a treasure trove of bucket-list beaches and diverse natural wonders, its many ports can be tricky to navigate overland. With cruising making a comeback as the best way to experience the continent, Azamara’s luxury cruises are offering over 150 enchanting shore excursions to take travellers to this end of the earth. Whether you are exhilarated by a journey through the UNESCO protected Iguazu Falls or want to absorb the energy of Carnaval, Azamara’s immersive Land and Sea Packages will take guests beyond port cities and immerse them in South American culture.

With 1 ship and 30 stunning destinations across 11 different countries, the popular Celebrity Eclipse will also return to South America in 2019. These itineraries will hero top ports: Buenos Aires and Ushuaia in Argentina, and Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro.

 

Galapagos Islands

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Surging in popularity – particularly among cruisers – the unspoiled lush archipelago of the Galapagos Islands is an unmissable destination to surrender your senses to in 2019. The double World Heritage site boasts some of the world’s most beautiful and unique wildlife and fauna, first made famous by Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Celebrity Flora will make her debut from Baltra Island on May 26th, alternating between 10-, 11-, and 16-night tours.

 

What are your cruise predictions for 2019?