March 2, 2011
For the 2012-2013 season, Celebrity's swanky Celebrity Solstice and Holland America's contemporary and just refurbished Oosterdam will be based Down Under, occupying a cruise region that's traditionally been a dumping ground for older, smaller vessels.
These latest announcements come just weeks after Carnival Cruise Lines revealed that it will base its 88,500-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit in Australia year-round starting October 2012.
During winter 2012-2013 (the Southern Hemisphere's summer season), the 122,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice will operate a series of 12- and 13-night voyages between Sydney and Auckland. The ship, the first ever to feature a grassy park and glass-blowing studio, will also make a circumnavigation of Australia. Solstice will arrive in Sydney in December 2012 after a repositioning voyage from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia. It will replace the line's 71,545-ton, 1,814-passenger Celebrity Century, which was built way back in 1995 (though was updated five years ago).
Holland America's 82,305-ton, 1,916-passenger MS Oosterdam, with its fabulous Culinary Arts Center and cozy Explorations coffee cafe, is about a third larger than HAL's current "new" ship in the region, the 60,000-ton, 1,440 passenger Volendam.
Fewer details are available on Oosterdam at this point, though we do know it will operate 10- to 25-day itineraries in and around Australia and New Zealand.
Do the new big-name deployments have you pondering a cruise Down Under? Weigh in below.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor