P&O Cruises Australia Up To Five Ships – Other Cruise News: More Sydney Harbour Celebrations – One Out One In For China

by Kevin Griffin

Last week was a great week for Sydney-siders as two separate events were held in their wonderful harbour. Not to be content with the Wednesday arrival of all five of the P&O Cruises Australia fleet for the christening of its two newest units, Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria, Saturday saw the arrival of the two largest cruise ships serving Australia with Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. Elsewhere, one Chinese ship has been withdrawn while other Chinese owners have acquired a third ship.


P&O Cruises Australia Up To Five Ships

The big event of the year occurred last Wednesday in Sydney when all five of P&O Cruises Australia’s fleet sailed into Sydney harbour for the double christening of the line’s new 1,266-berth Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria. P&O also took the opportunity to note that it had been offering cruises from Australia for more than eighty years, since they were first offered in the 1930s cruise boom.

November 25th, 2015: all five of P&O Cruises Australia's fleet sailing into Sydney harbour

November 25th, 2015: all five of P&O Cruises Australia’s fleet sailing into Sydney harbour

Refitted at Sembcorp Marine’s Admiralty Yard in Singapore in just twelve days by a team of 2,000 people, these two ships had traded since their delivery in 1993 and 1994 as Holland America Line’s Statendam and Ryndam.

Together, the five ships in P&O Australia’s enlarged fleet have 7,460 lower berths but with all beds full they can accommodate nearly 9000 passengers. The addition of the two ex-Holland America ships effectively adds another 50% berth capacity to the P&O fleet.

On Wednesday at dawn, the 1,596-berth Pacific Dawn, 1,708-berth Pacific Jewel and 1,624-berth Pacific Pearl were joined by the two newest but smallest members of the fleet, the Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, while the last two were re-christened for service in the P&O Australia fleet.

The Pacific Aria

The Pacific Aria

In a unique decision, the two ships have kept their Holland America colours with the exception of the replacement of the Holland America logo on their funnels by the letters P&O. At one stage it had been intended to add a wide white riband to their hulls, but even this idea was abandoned, either as a cost-cutting measure or in an effort to differentiate the pair from the rest of the fleet as they offer additional facilities.

The interesting thing about these two ships is that they have been registered in the UK and P&O Australia thus now operates the largest fleet of British-flag cruise ships, although based Down Under. With the exception of the UK-registered Britannia, the P&O Cruises UK fleet is all registered in Bermuda.

Now being part of the Holland America Line group, it seems quite natural that P&O Cruises Australia should be taking on a couple of former Holland America ships, even if their senior officers come from the UK and sometimes Italy, a tradition that survives from Sitmar days.

P&O Cruises Australia will be taking on another Holland America Line Group ship when Princess Cruises’ Australian-based 1,950-berth Dawn Princess moves to them in May 2017. As Pacific Explorer she will become the largest ship in the P&O Australia fleet.


More Sydney Harbour Celebrations

The two biggest cruise ships based in the southern hemisphere met in Sydney Harbour on Saturday when Royal Caribbean International’s 3,114-berth Explorer of the Seas was welcomed to its new Australian home by twin sister Voyager of the Seas.

The Explorer of the Seas

The Explorer of the Seas

In trying to beat P&O Australia’s claims of 9,000 passengers on five ships, Royal Caribbean threw in their crew numbers in order to be able to proclaim that their two ships carried more than 10,000 passengers and crew into Sydney harbour.

The Explorer of the Seas was arriving from a 16-night Australia and New Zealand voyage from Fremantle, with passengers from more than thirty countries on hand to witness her maiden arrival into Sydney.

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas

The Voyager of the Seas thereafter departed Sydney on a 7-night Tasmania sailing, outward bound for Melbourne.

At 138,194 gross tons, the Explorer of the Seas takes the crown of Australia’s largest cruise ship from Voyager of the Seas.

Along with the 2,146-berth Radiance of the Seas sailing from Sydney and the 1,800-berth Legend of the Seas from Brisbane, Royal Caribbean International can now boast the newest ships sailing in the region.

Even this record will be surpassed next year however, when the 4,180-berth 168,666-ton Ovation of the Seas arrives in Sydney for the first time in December 2016 after a summer season of cruising in China.

One Out One In For China

Speaking of China, HNA Cruise Company Ltd is shutting down its one-ship cruise operation with the 1,486-berth Henna. Its 1986-built Henna was built as Carnival Cruise Line’s Jubilee in 1986 and purchased from P&O Australia, for whom she had been trading as the Pacific Sun, in 2012.

The Carnival Jubilee, currently Henna

The Carnival Jubilee, currently Henna

The Henna has faced stiff price competition in 2015 with the arrival of not only more but also newer ships into the Chinese cruise market, with Royal Caribbean, Costa and Princess all active and others having announced that they will serve China too.

HNA indicated that they will still be involved in the cruising business, but with the experience gained and their database, this may be more in a role as sales agents.

Elsewhere in China, it has been reported that Hong Kong-based New Century Cruise Lines have acquired the 650-berth Aegean Paradise.

The Aegean Paradise at Santorini, Greece on October 5, 2014 (Photo courtesy Peter Jaggs at shipparade.com)

The Aegean Paradise at Santorini, Greece on October 5, 2014 (Photo courtesy Peter Jaggs at shipparade.com)

This ship, built in Japan in 1990 as Orient Venus, was acquired by Greek owners in 2006 and has traded since under a number of different names. She has recently been trading for Turkish operator Etstur.

Rather than in the main cruise market, however, New Century Cruise Lines will operate the vessel as a casino ship off the Indonesian island of Batam. She has previously traded in China, as Hainan Cruises chartered her for a short period in 2011 as the Hainan Empress.

The acquisition gives New Century a third cruise ship, along with the Leisure World, originally Norwegian Cruise Line’s Skyward (1969), and Amusement World, originally Swedish Lloyd’s Patricia (1967), which are also used on gambling cruises.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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