The ship: Silver Discoverer
The cruise: The Kimberley, WA
Departs: Darwin or Broome in April & May
Why we love it: Silversea, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise lines, will base its new expedition ship in Australia’s outback next winter. This adventure includes aerial flights over the Bungle Bungles and Mitchell Falls, a zodiac ride through the Horizontal Falls, and exploring the region’s Aboriginal rock art and beaches. After a hot day, you come back inside to gourmet food, free drinks and your own butler.
The ship: Celebrity Solstice
The cruise: Semi-circumnavigation
Departs: Perth (Fremantle) on 21 Feb 2014
Why we love it: Imagine a ship with a top deck covered in grass, where people can picnic, play bocce or have a sunset drink at the Lawn Club. Add poolside cabanas, an oceanview day spa, several excellent restaurants and an ice-topped martini bar. This has to be the best way to cover half the country in 17 days. Ports include Port Hedland, Darwin, Airlie Beach, Brisbane and Newcastle, before ending in Sydney.
The ship: Queen Mary 2
The cruise: Full circumnavigation
Departs: Sydney on 19 February or Brisbane on 21 February
Why we love it: A chance to experience the traditional cruising style of the world’s most famous ocean liner. It’s exciting to get dressed up for black-tie nights and afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters. But it’s not all formal: there’s a 3D cinema, a planetarium and great bars. For superior service and accommodation, book a Princess Grill or Queens Grill suite.
The ship: True North
The cruise: Southern Safari
Departs: Adelaide on 15 January
Why we love it: A rarely offered voyage along South Australia’s coast from Kangaroo Island to Ceduna on a 36-passenger expedition yacht. Optional activities include cage-diving with Great White Sharks, snorkelling at Port Lincoln, swimming with seals at Stokes Bay and lunch on a deserted beach populated by penguins. The itinerary starts with a day trip to the McLaren Vale wine region.
The ship: Voyager of the Seas
The cruise: Sydney roundtrip to Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.
Departs: Sydney on 4 February
Why we love it: The eighth largest cruise ship in the world is longer than the Sydney Tower is tall, so it packs onboard a lot of facilities and entertainment. In between the days of fun at sea, you can knock off three capital cities in a week, including an overnight stay in Tassie.
The ship: Dawn Princess
The cruise: Australia & New Zealand
Departs: Melbourne on 11 April
Why we love it: This circumnavigation stops at Sydney, Brisbane, Port Douglas, Darwin, Broome, then pops over to Lombok, Indonesia, before sailing down to Fremantle, Albany, Adelaide, and back to Melbourne. It’s possible to board in Sydney and add on a cruise around both islands of New Zealand.
The ship: Pacific Dawn
The cruise: Comedy SeaBreak
Departs: Brisbane on 26 July
Why we love it: P&O’s guest comedians are high-profile, genuinely funny and almost always offensive. Nothing is off limits at these adults-only shows. Passengers can also attend comedy workshops to have a go themselves. For daytime fun, the ship was recently equipped with laser tag, flying fox lines, funnel climbs, high rope swings and a Segway obstacle courses, creating what is claimed to be the biggest adventure park at sea.
The ship: Coral Princess
The cruise: Great Barrier Reef
Departs: Cairns every Friday
Why we love it: Three, four or seven nights are spent at exclusive reef moorings, away from the day tour groups, waking every morning on this 50-passenger vessel with all-Australian crew. Enjoy snorkelling, SCUBA diving and glass-bottom boat trips accompanied by a marine biologist. First-time divers can have an introductory lesson, with all equipment provided (for an extra charge).
The ship: Carnival Spirit
The cruise: Melbourne Cup voyage
Departs: Sydney on 2 November 2014
Why we love it: Race-goers arrive in time for the big race and get two nights of floating accommodation, docked on the edge of the city. For kids, the ship’s Green Thunder waterslide, with a vertical drop, is almost as thrilling. Be sure to have dinner at the top-notch steakhouse.
The ship: Murray Princess
The cruise: Murray River
Departs: Adelaide – dates not yet announced
Why we love it: For something different, this old-style paddlewheeler navigates the inland river highway of the Murray-Darling system, past submerged forests, sandstone cliffs and Aboriginal sites. Every two years, the cruise extends to Renmark near the Victorian border, offering a rare opportunity to sail 420km and through five locks, when conditions are suitable.
An optional tour to the Barossa Valley is another bonus.
Louise was awarded 2013 Best Travel Writer at the AFTA’s National Travel Industry Awards.