If you want to go cruising for the 10th time or the first time, here is your guide to the different cruise liner companies.

The Australian appetite for cruising is insatiable. The market has reportedly grown by 15-20% every year for the last six years. And yet we still can’t get enough. The recent announcement that the Queen Mary 2 will circumnavigate our continent in February 2012 just proves how important Australia and Australians are to the cruise operators.

Currently only one company has ships ‘home ported’ in Australia, Carnival., but more and more ships are on their way for a summer season.

AT has the beginners guide to cruise ship company’s. We have used a hotel star like rating system for convenience; there are no official ratings so these are our ratings only.

Classic International Cruises 2.5 Stars

A true entry level budget cruise only based in Perth in the Australian Summer, the Athena by CIC is a cheap cruise alternative in WA. A relatively small vessel she is easily overlooked in the Australian waters.

Ships You May See:
Athena

P&O 2.5 to 3 Stars

The entry level cruise ship liner has had its ups and down in the Australian market. It can be an incredibly cheap holiday and suitable for families. They have four liners in the Australian market full time. Well almost full time as the Pacific Jewel is causing enormous headaches for parent company Carnival and passengers alike as the drive shaft is being repaired and three cruises have been cancelled as a result. Do not confuse P&O Australia with its sister company P&O Cruises UK who’s ships are Oriana and Arcadia, the UK operation is more upmarket .

Ships You May See:
Rhapsody of the Seas

Princess Cruises 3.5 to 4 stars

Sister brand to P&O this is a more refined and sophisticated experience than the RCI and P&O brands without ostracising families. The ships are typically a little more indulgent and sedate. The services also live up to a slightly higher standard.

Ships You May See:
Sun Princess*, Dawn Princess*, Sapphire Princess, Diamond Princess, Pacific Princess

Holland America 4.5 to 5 Stars

The Holland America line is also owned by Carnival but operates as a completely separate entity and flies somewhat below the radar here in Australia. The liners are easily identifiable by their names, if it rhymes with Amsterdam then it’s theirs. These beautifully crafted vessels lay on the old world European charm and sophistication for guests who lap it up.

Ships You May See
Volendam, Amsterdam

Cunard 4.5 to 5 + stars

The ships that Australians most aspire to for the high end experience the Queen liners, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria all straddle the 4.5 star to r5star experience. Rooms vary from typical upmarket suites to the exceptional exclusive butler-serviced Princess and Queen suites. The old world charm is all on show with chesterfields around every corner and trained ‘partners’ for any passenger looking for a ballroom twirl but their partner is laid up with a bad hip. Yep this is exceptional and stylish service with all the toppings.

Ships You May See
Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth

SilverSea 5+ Stars

This is the pinnacle – “omfg how amazing is that” cruising. Each suite has a butler, the services is incredibly efficient and the total experience the finest on the seas. The SilverSea cruising is the ultimate in cruising life.

Ships You May See:
Silver Shadow

Seabourn

Again part of the Carnival family this is the super premium brand similar to the SilverSea experience. Both will have the highest level of passenger to staff ratios, include wine with dinner and maybe even lunch and be the equivalent of a luxury lodge on the sea – small passenger numbers, intimate, private and exclusive.

Yachts You May See
Seabourn Sojourn

Please note we have limited the cruise liners to the majority of “big ship cruising” liners that are in Australian waters this summer. Other ships to visit Australia this summer include:

  • Seven Seas Navigator by Regent Seven Seas – 4.5 to 5 Stars
  • Europa By Hapag Lloyd Cruising –5+ stars
  • Asuka II By NMYK Cruises – 4.5 to 5 Stars
There are many more cruise brands that fit somewhere into this matrix. The best guide we can recommend for global cruising is the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.
Email me for more qlong [at] australiantraveller.com