Sister cruise lines Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises are preparing for a bumper Europe 2016 season, together offering 16 of the most modern and innovative cruise ships to sail Europe.
Over 25,000 Australians and New Zealanders will sail on the company’s trifecta of brands over 230 cruises in Europe. In 2008, that figure was closer to 5,000 guests – a huge five-fold increase that is testament to the strength of the demand for the world’s most modern cruise ships.
Those cruise ships will include the world’s newest and biggest megaliners, Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas for Royal Caribbean; four award-winning Solstice Class ships for Celebrity Cruises; and Azamara Club Cruises’ two boutique ships, sailing in Europe for the first time since their multimillion dollar bow-to-stern refurbishments.
Royal Caribbean’s nine Europe-based ships will call at 86 different ports during 119 sailings; Celebrity Cruises’ five ships will call at 92 different ports during 83 voyages; and Azamara Club Cruises’ two boutique sized cruise ships will call at an impressive 106 different ports during just 28 cruises.
“Europe has very much retained its status as one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations and as we commit our very best ships to the region, we’re seeing strong interest from Aussie travellers making plans to return in 2016. As well as having solid advance bookings, we are also experiencing healthy late demand for cruises leaving in the next two to three months,” said Adam Armstrong, managing director, RCL Cruises Australasia.
Globally, Europe is the number two cruise destination in the world – second only to the Caribbean – having received 5.85 million cruise passengers in 2014. Of those, one million came from outside Europe and almost 100,000 were from Australia. After the South Pacific and New Zealand, Europe is Australians’ third most popular overseas ocean cruise destination.
“Pre-booking an inclusive European holiday like a cruise makes very good sense. You can reserve your cabin with only a nominal deposit, locking in the price in Australian dollars and protecting yourself against currency fluctuations,” Armstrong continued. “Plus, there are still some excellent early-bird flight deals available, following the second release from many leading carriers that service a range of Australia-Europe routes.
“A cruise can provide the most relaxing holiday option for a European expedition, allowing travellers to experience multiple destinations in one trip, in comfort and style. Unpack just once and let someone else look after the cleaning, cooking, child-minding and entertainment. Cruising is one of the most affordable ways to experience Europe, with your fare including all accommodation, main meals, transport, entertainment and more. Plus each ship boasts incredible features and a vast array of activities for everyone to enjoy, such as numerous dining options, lounges and bars, shops, gym, spa facilities and kids clubs.”
The most popular European destinations for Australian travellers on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Azamara include Naples, Italy; St Petersburg, Russia and Santorini, Greece. The most popular embarkation port is Rome, which is the starting destination for a third of Australians choosing an RCL Cruises Europe itinerary, followed by Venice at 22% and Barcelona at 17% – all focused on Mediterranean itineraries. Southampton, predominantly servicing the Baltic Sea, follows close behind at 10%.
On the ground in Europe, RCL’s trifecta of brands pride themselves on delivering shore excursion experiences that go beyond the basic city tour.
“We know that when Australians visit Europe, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime style of holiday. Even repeat travellers, since they fly so far, like to do it well. So whilst ashore, Aussies want to make the most of their port time and demand a more tailored shore excursion experience,” Armstrong concluded.
The most popular European shore excursions for Australian guests across all three brands include a comprehensive two day package that take in the sights and culture of St Petersburg, Russia. On Royal Caribbean in Europe tours that allow guests to soak up the taste and culture of Capri, Sorrento & Pompeii during calls to Naples, Italy are also popular. Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises guests are choosing indepth excursions in the village of Oia, Santorini and Azamara Club Cruises has seen record numbers of Aussies booking excursions in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
- Azamara Highlights
Both of Azamara’s luxury boutique ships will be sailing Europe this season following their bow-to-stern revitalizations that will see them look and feel like brand new ships. Azamara Journey will sail the Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea, calling at exotic ports in Croatia, Malta and Greece; while Azamara Quest will spend time sailing the Baltic and Norway before moving south to the Mediterranean. Azamara kicks off the 2016 season when Azamara Journey reaches Ponta Delgada on 13 April.
Choose an 11-night ‘London to the Baltic’ cruise onboard Azamara Quest, priced from $3,599 per person and including a free Premium Beverage Package, up to USD$400 credit for shore excursions and unlimited internet, on top of the many inclusions that come as standard on the boutique cruise line. The sailing departs Southampton on 22 July and includes calls at Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallinn in Estonia, before arriving in Stockholm, Sweden*.
- Celebrity Highlights
“Modern Luxury” brand Celebrity Cruises will have five ships sailing Europe in 2016, including some of the most awarded ships in the region and four Solstice-Class megaliners including Celebrity Eclipse, Equinox, Reflectionand Silhouette, as well as Celebrity Constellation. Each ship will home port in a different location: Venice, Southampton, Barcelona and Rome, to ensure access to all the key European cruise destinations. The season commences when Celebrity Constellation arrives in Rome on 15 April.
Choose a seven-night ‘Greece and Italy’ cruise onboard Celebrity Equinox, priced from $1,239 per person for a Balcony Stateroom, including a free Classic Beverage Package, up to USD$300 onboard credit and 50% reduced deposits. The sailing departs Athens on 18 June and includes calls at Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos and Ephesus in Turkey, before arriving in Istanbul*.
- Royal Caribbean Highlights
Royal Caribbean will usher in a new era for cruising with the world’s two newest cruise ships sailing the waters of Europe. The incredibleHarmony of the Seas – the world’s biggest cruise ship – will debut in Barcelona on a classic seven-night Western Mediterranean itinerary, while Australia’s very own Ovation of the Seas will offer a short season from Southampton, sailing to France and Italy before she makes her way down under. Other Royal Caribbean ships based in Europe include Brilliance, Independence, Jewel, Navigator, Rhapsody, Serenade and Vision of the Seas. The line’s first Europe port of call will be Santorini in Greece, when Splendour of the Seas arrives on 15 April.
Choose a seven-night Western Mediterranean sailing onboard the world’s biggest megaliner, Harmony of the Seas, priced from $1,599 per person twin share, including a saving of up to 30 percent when booked before 31 March. Departing Barcelona on 28 August, the voyage includes calls to Palma De Mallorca, Spain; Provence (Marseilles), France; Florence/Pisa, Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples.*