17/02/2011 - 00:00

Freo joins cruise circuit

17/02/2011 - 00:00

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WESTERN Australia is fast becoming an essential stop on the luxury liner circuit as Fremantle celebrates its busiest cruise calendar since the heady days of the 1970s.

Freo joins cruise circuit

WESTERN Australia is fast becoming an essential stop on the luxury liner circuit as Fremantle celebrates its busiest cruise calendar since the heady days of the 1970s.

Legendary ocean liner Queen Mary 2 will dock at Fremantle today (Thursday) just days after the $300 million, ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn made its maiden call to the port.

Sojourn is the third cruise liner to call at Fremantle since January and there are 11 ships scheduled to make 39 visits to the port city this year, up from just 28 visits in 2010.

One of the highlights of the busy cruising schedule is the maiden visit from Queen Mary 2’s sister ship and the newest liner in the Cunard fleet, Queen Elizabeth, in March.

The maiden visit of the Queen Mary 2, the biggest cruise liner to grace Australian waters, attracted crowds of more than 100,000 people last year.

A number of the popular liners, including Classic International Cruises’ Athena and Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess, now base their ships in Fremantle for the summer season, meaning the port is the start and finish for their journeys.

Fremantle Ports says this signals strong local demand for cruise holidays as well as the city’s growing profile on the international circuit.

Peak cruise tourism body Cruise Down Under estimated the 2009-10 cruise season contributed as much as $95.2 million to the Perth region, up from $36 million a year earlier.

In total, 100 new guests boarded Sojourn when it docked in Fremantle this week, outlaying as much as $2,400 a day to join the ship’s 111-day maiden voyage from LA to Europe.

Australians now account for Seabourn’s third biggest customer group, sitting behind the US, Europe and the UK. However, the number of Australians booking Seabourn cruises has tripled over the past 12 months.

Seabourn chief executive Pamela Conover says the operation’s fleet of small ships is perfect for adventurous Australian travellers.

“Australians love to explore exotic locations ... our fleet of small ships travels to remote locations all over the globe, including many ports where larger ships can’t go,” Ms Conover says.

Marketed as an ultra-luxury ship, Sojourn sleeps up to 450 guests on a decadently appointed, 11-deck vessel. But it’s the attention to detail from the army of 333 staff that elevates the Sojourn experience into the realm of ultimate cruising.

Seabourn international sales manager Marshall Livingston describes the crew as “clairvoyant.”

“Almost before you know it one of our crew members will have offered you what you want,” Mr Livingston says.

This floating silver service has a luxury price tag to match, with fares starting at $50,000 per person for the full 111-day tour and rocketing to $263,500 per person for one of the top suites.

The Sojourn is the second luxury vessel Seabourn has launched in two years with a third, the Seabourn Quest, slated for launch in June this year.

These three, virtually identical craft represent an investment of $900 million for Seabourn in the global luxury cruising market, and bolsters its fleet to five.

Mr Livingston says this top-end slice of the tourist market has remained relatively stable through the Global Financial Crisis with all Seabourn craft sailing fully booked.

The guest demographic remains firmly middle aged, although the average age on Seabourn ships has come down to a more youthful 56.

The design of the Sojourn provides balconies for 90 per cent of the berths and guests can choose from one of four restaurants, two swimming pools, six bars and lounges and a two-deck spa.

 

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