Crystal Serenity helps usher in Chinese New Year in Sydney

Tens of thousands packed into Circular Quay in Sydney last night as the city celebrated Chinese New Year with a massive harbourside party.

Front and centre in the middle of it all was Crystal Serenity, operated by Crystal Cruises. Her 1,070 passengers had a front row view of the colour and light spectacle.

Giant illuminated lanterns representing each of the animals took over the harbour. Two giant roosters vied for attention next to the Sernity’s bow while a giant dragon loomed nearby.

The harbour bridge and Opera House were also bathed in red for the celebrations. It was a spectacular night on the water too and one the Serenity’s passengers won’t forget.

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Big news from Carnival…Splendor is heading downunder.

Carnival Splendor
Carnival Splendor – photo courtesy Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line this week confirmed a major boost for the Australian cruise market announcing Carnival Splendor will be based in Sydney from December 2019.

Just five years ago Carnival started year round cruising from Sydney with the 2,124 passenger Carnival Spirit. Sister ship Carnival Legend is also a regular visitor to Sydney.

Splendor is a big step up though as she carries 3,006 passengers and weighs in at 113,000 GMT – making smaller sister Spirit look slim at just 85,000 GMT.

With stiff competition from Royal Caribbean in Australia’s booming cruise sector the arrival of Splendor will increase Carnival’s capacity in the market by a whopping 66%.

Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy was on hand for the big announcement, made aboard the Carnival Spirit.

She told reporters the move shows the company is seriously committed to the Australian market and it will bring big financial benefits.

“We estimate up to $1 million is contributed to the Australian market each time a ship of this size turns around in Sydney,” she said.

Local farmers and produce suppliers will no doubt be welcoming the news. For a 10 day cruise Carnival will buy almost 20,000 tomatoes and more than 3,000 melons – that is some shopping trolley!

Before she makes her downunder debut Splendor will undergo a major refurbishment and upgrade to ensure she caters to the Australian market with the addition of new  restaurants and a waterpark.

She will arrive from Singapore in December 2019.


Ovation of the Seas turns heads in Sydney again

Ovation of the Seas was back in Sydney this week in time for the summer sun. She is hard to miss as she makes her way across the harbour towards the Sydney Heads and out to sea.

The North Star pod was getting a good work out as passengers vied for a unique sunset experience. The glass pod which can carry 14 people at a time extends 90 metres above sea level and provides 360 degree vistas. Not one for those afraid of heights but the view would certainly be breathtaking.


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Cruising into 2018!

The fireworks have faded over Sydney harbour and revellers are sleeping off a big night after welcoming in 2018. You won’t find a better setting for a giant harbour party than Sydney. The Harbour Bridge and Opera House were the perfect backdrop for yet another fireworks spectacular.

Every day I am very lucky to be able to travel on the harbour and see the cruise ships which come calling. We are in the middle of the peak summer season now and most days there are multiple ships in Sydney. Here are a few of my shots from the past few weeks on 2017.

May 2018 bring even more cruise visitors down under. Happy New Year everyone!

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Ovation of the Seas to return to Sydney

As Royal Caribbean International celebrates 10 years cruising in Australia this summer the line is sending Ovation of the Seas back downunder to kick the party along.

She will return to Sydney next week and you won’t be able to miss her. Here are a few fun facts you may not know about the Ovation:

  • 4,905 passengers
  • 1,500 crew
  • Top speed of 22 knots
  • 346 metres long
  • 41 metres wide
  • 18 decks high
  • She weighs 168,666 tonnes
  • 2,091 staterooms
  • Among her many amenities are 4 swimming pools, a rock climbing wall and a surf simulator

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What’s in a name? Apparently a lot when it’s a Sydney ferry.

Sydney’s newest ferry has finally been named after an online poll and it’s fair to say not everyone is feeling the love.

The public were invited to submit their ideas for names for the new fleet of six inner harbour ferries.

More than 15,000 Sydneysiders gave their suggestions. The first five ferries carry the names of prominent Indigenous Australians Bungaree and Pemulwuy, heart surgeon Victor Chang, eye surgeon Fred Hollows and obstetrician Catherine Hamlin.

So far so good – but it is the sixth vessel which has sent transport bosses into choppy waters.

The whole UK ‘Boaty McBoatface’ episode last year should have been a good predictor of what may happen here. So good in fact that when it came to our final ferry – the most nominated name turned out to be… drum roll please – “Boaty McBoatface”.

Boaty was ruled out as the name is taken so they opted for the next most popular pick – which has delivered us “Ferry McFerryface”.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said “Ferry McFerryface will be the harbour’s newest icon, and I hope it brings a smile to the faces of visitors and locals alike.”

Not everyone is smiling – online the ABC dubbed the name a “stale, unimaginative insult”, Twitter is awash with outrage and indignation, while the Maritime Union says workers are so angry they won’t work on the ferry until it is given a new name.

But plenty of people like the name – they voted for it. Whether it’s cool or cringeworthy is still open for debate but it does go to show a little fun can leave some people ferry unimpressed.

Ferry McFerryface
Sydney’s newest ferry – ‘Ferry McFerryface”. Image courtesy Transport for NSW

A royal birthday celebration as RCI celebrates a decade downunder.

It’s hard to believe Royal Caribbean has only had ships based in Australia for 10 years but this summer the cruise line is celebrating 10 year downunder.

Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) first Australian-based ship was the Rhapsody of the Seas which arrived in Sydney in October 2007 bringing competition for Carnival Australia. Within 3 years the line notched up a major milestone – in December 2010 welcoming the 100,000th passenger to travel on one of the line’s Australian based ships.

The fleet expanded in the years that followed. Radiance of the Seas arrived in 2011 and in 2012 Voyager of the Seas became the first ‘mega ship’ to be based in Australia. As demand for cruising in Australia boomed the 347m long Ovation of the Seas heralded the arrival of ‘supercruising’ in 2016.

RCI started with just 1 ship based here in Sydney but this year will have a fleet of 6 operating in Australian and New Zealand waters.

More than one million passengers have sailed on a Royal Caribbean cruise in Australia or New Zealand in the past 10 years. According to RCI along the way those passengers have consumed a whopping 26,662,480,000 meals and polished off 460,000 bottles of champagne.

To celebrate Royal Caribbean’s 10th birthday in Australia I have compiled an album below of 10 of my best shots of the fleet in Sydney. I hope you enjoy and long may the royal visitors keep calling! #10YearsofRoyal

Radiance of the Seas, sunset
The sun bids farewell to Radiance of the Seas as she cruises out of Sydney harbour. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Radiance of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas docked at Circular Quay in Sydney. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Explorer of the Seas
Explorer of the Seas departing Sydney harbour. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Royal Caribbean liner at Circular Quay
A familiar sight over summer with a Royal Caribbean liner docked at Circular Quay. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Voyager of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas towers over the Sydney Opera House. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Ovation of the Seas
A postcard perfect moment – Ovation of the Seas looking right at home in Sydney in 2016. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Ovation of the Seas bow
Blue skies and blue hull, a perfect combination on a sunny Sydney day with Ovation of the Seas docked at Circular Quay in Jan 2017. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Voyager of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas departing Sydney harbour. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Voyager of the Seas
The sun sets behind Voyager of the Seas as she departs Sydney. Photo by: Jonathon Hall

Voyager of the Seas sunset
One of my favourite photos of all time on the harbour. The setting sun casts a golden glow over Voyager of the Seas. Photo. by: Jonathon Hall

Feature for Cruising News & Pictorial

In October 2010 I was lucky enough to attend the naming ceremony in Southampton of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth to cover the event for Cruising News & Pictorial magazine. The Queen was on hand to christen the ship which carries her name. After formally naming the ship the Queen pressed the button that sent a bottle of Cunard’s own private label Graves Rothschild smashing against the bow as streamers and trumpet fanfare filled the air. I was extremely lucky to snag a front row seat to watch the formalities. You can read my article about the day below.

Queen Mary 2 in Sydney, 2013

It’s always a thrill to see a Cunard queen on Sydney harbour, none more so than the one and only Queen Mary 2. She always looks at home at Circular Quay. Her top speed is about 56kph and she carries 2,695 passengers in luxurious style wherever she goes.  These shots were taken by me back in 2013.

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