In a major boost for the Australian tourism industry, the world’s largest cruise line—Carnival Cruise Lines—has announced that it will base one of its cruise ships full time in Australia. The 88,500 ton Carnival Spirit will be the largest cruise ship ever to sail year round from Australia when she arrives in Sydney in October 2012 to operate a schedule of 8-12 day voyages to the Pacific Islands. The move represents the first time Carnival Cruise Lines has ever ventured into Australian waters and reflects growing confidence in cruising in the region.
Carrying 2,667 passengers, Carnival Spirit will be the first ship to be based in Sydney that is too tall to sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Rising nearly 53 metres above the waterline, Carnival Spirit is more than three metres taller than the specified clearance height for ships passing under the Bridge. Because of its height, Carnival Spirit will be based at the only cruise facility east of the Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay’s Overseas Passenger Terminal.
As the largest cruise ship sailing from Australia year round, Carnival Spirit offers a wide range of onboard facilities and features, with approximately two-thirds of its cabins featuring private balconies—the most of any Australian-based ship. Aimed at fun-loving Australians seeking vibrant, active holidays with a broad diversity of on-board choices, Carnival Spirit offers a host of areas for outdoor fun, including a 22 metre corkscrew water slide, four swimming pools, a miniature golf course, jogging track and a sport court. Guests have their choice of 16 lounges and bars, including a 1,170-seat three-deck-high theatre. In addition to a two-level main dining room, Carnival Spirit features a reservations-only steakhouse and an expansive casual poolside restaurant. The ship also houses a two-level health spa with wrap-around ocean views and an Internet café.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which represents Carnival Cruise Lines’ Australian deployment locally, said the cruise line’s move into Australia was testament to both the recent growth and the ongoing potential of the local cruise industry. “Cruising is booming in this country because it offers passengers a great value holiday that includes accommodation, top quality food and loads of entertainment that appeal to all age groups,” Ms Sherry said.
Carnival Spirit will offer a year round schedule of 8 to 12-day cruises to the Pacific Islands and a selection of 13-day sailings to New Zealand beginning Oct 25, 2012, with the program expected to go on sale by the middle of this year. The shipboard experience will be tailored to the Australian market with onboard spending in Australian dollars and no tipping required.
Ms Sherry said while the primary market would be Australians and New Zealanders, Carnival’s strong brand recognition in the United States would play a role in attracting more US tourists to Australia. Carnival Spirit’s deployment meant there would be seven Carnival Corp ships cruising full time from Australia by the end of 2012, ensuring the industry was well on its way to reaching its target of one million passengers by 2020, if not sooner, she said. Other Carnival Corp brands operating fulltime in Australia include P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises. “It is amazing growth considering there were just two ships based in Australia year round in 2007,” Ms Sherry said. “This really underscores Sydney’s position on the world cruise map and our resolve to keep growing the market with multiple brands that appeal to customers.”
And what about the areas left in the wake of Carnival Spirit’s departure? At this time there is no plan to replace her in her seasonal San Diego homeport for Mexican Riviera cruises, but Carnival has no plans to abandon Alaska and will announce a replacement ship when deployment for 2013 has been finalized.