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Cruises to Cairns

Cairns (Photo:Martin Valigursky/Shutterstock)

About Cairns

Cairns, Australia's closest port city to the Great Barrier Reef, was once little more than a jumping-off place to the reef or the remote Daintree rainforest to the north. Now, with the busiest airport and cruise port in Australia's northeast state of Queensland, and enough tour operators to plan a month of activities, there's reason for travellers to venture beyond the reef and the rainforest.

Most cruise passengers won't have enough hours to do the best of what Cairns offers -- a major diving or snorkelling trip to the outer reef, for instance, takes a full day -- but there are plenty of tour choices that are unique to Australia. They include a half-day snorkelling trip to see an amazing array of sea creatures on a nearby portion of the reef, hugging a koala at a tropical zoo, or just hanging around the beach of a city-built saltwater lagoon swimming pool designed to separate tourists from the crocodiles that frequent some of Cairns' ocean beaches.

Cairns is a pedestrian-friendly city that buzzes with travellers day and night. Don't miss its vibrant waterfront. Within 10 minutes from the cruise terminal (if you dock downtown), you'll find shopping, dining and, most important to the economy of Cairns, dozens of tours designed to get you out of town. Excursions include bungee jumping and white-water rafting, glass-bottom boat rides and a Skyrail cableway that runs above the rainforest canopy.

  • Why go to Cairns?

  • Cairns Cruise Port Facilities?

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Island Princess
Island Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)
Island Princess

111 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

1,190 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
$20,999*pp
$189/night • inside Cabin

Princess

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Seabourn Sojourn
Seabourn Sojourn
Seabourn Sojourn

140 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line

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Seven Seas Mariner
Seven Seas Mariner (Photo: Regent)
Seven Seas Mariner

21 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

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Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse

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Virgin Voyages

Queen Victoria

iCruise

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Silver Explorer

16 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Cairns
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises

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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

118 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Seabourn Sojourn

80 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line

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Seabourn Sojourn

59 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line

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Queen Victoria

108 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Southampton
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

104 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Southampton
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Seabourn Ovation

32 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Auckland
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line

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Seabourn Odyssey

30 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Auckland
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line

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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

41 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Island Princess

111 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Cruise Line:Princess Cruises

Princess

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Queen Victoria

81 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Island Princess

97 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises

Princess

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Celebrity Eclipse

11 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises

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Serenade of the Seas

13 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean

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Celebrity Eclipse

11 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises

CheapCruises

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Coral Princess

14 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Brisbane
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
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Wind Spirit

7 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Noumea
Cruise Line:Windstar Cruises

Windstar Cruises

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Crystal Symphony

27 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

62 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
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Oosterdam

32 Night
Cruise to CairnsDetails

Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
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Why go to Cairns?

Pros:

The closest port to the Great Barrier Reef enables a half-day snorkeling or dive trip

Cons:

Most visitors will not have time to spend a full day on the reef

Bottom Line:

Weather permitting, see the reef by catamaran, yacht, helicopter or seaplane

Cairns Cruise Port Facilities?

Services such as ATMs, coffee shops, Internet cafes, restaurants, a casino, shopping and representatives for land and water tours are readily available in the Cairns central business district (CBD).

Outside the main cruise terminal, to the right, is a map on a signpost, which shows two choices for walking, both of which meet after about 10 minutes. Either way, you can't go wrong. One choice is a paved path along the water toward restaurants in a building called The Pier, which overlooks a marina. The other choice is to cross Wharf Street and follow the footpaths toward the Esplanade. If you choose the Esplanade path, you'll soon pass an ATM, an Internet cafe, a casino and a travel agency with agents ready to book day tours.

Good to Know?

Crocodiles and jellyfish. A good rule of thumb in Australia is don't swim where there isn't anyone else in the water, or if you see a sign warning against swimming. The estuarine or saltwater crocodiles are the largest crocs on earth, and they hang around muddy areas such as the tidal coastline at Cairns. The waters of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef are also home to two of the most deadly jellyfish in the world - the box jellyfish, which inhabits coastal waters, and the Irukandji. The latter is mostly at sea, but northerly winds can sometimes bring them to the reef and to coastal beaches.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Most of Cairns' city tourist attractions are within a 20-minute walk from the CBD.

By Taxi: Metered are readily available in the CBD for activities such as the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which is a 20 minutes' drive from downtown Cairns. Even if you call for a taxi at Yorkeys Knob, they can be hard to come by.

By Rental Car (called "car hire" in Australia): Rentals are available. Remember to bring your driver's license from home. Driving is on the left side of the road.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Australia has its own dollar; visit XE.com for current rates. ATMs are plentiful and are the cheapest way to acquire local currency. Credit cards generally are accepted in shops and restaurants, though not at outside markets. Expect a foreign currency transaction fee from a few cents to a few dollars for each ATM and credit card use.

Language?

An Australian brand of English, varying in accent by region, makes even pronouncing the name of this town a bit of a challenge. From locals you'll hear CANES, CANZ (though never CAHNS), and something that sounds like Cairns with the "r" mostly implied by retracting and lifting the back of your tongue near the roof of your mouth.

The rest of Aussie English is a problem only when the speaker is talking about something you might never have heard of, such as a dingo or a wallaby, or using slang like "arvo" (afternoon) or "esky" (insulated cooler).

Where You're Docked?

Cairns has a cruise terminal on Trinity Wharf, minutes from the heart of the compact city centre. The terminal has an information booth normally staffed when a cruise ship is in town. Tourism reps can offer directions and a local map.

Larger cruise ships that cannot anchor at the main cruise terminal use tenders to ferry passengers to and from Yorkeys Knob, a northern beaches suburb located a 15-minute drive from Cairns. Cruise ships provide a shuttle service into the centre of town, usually for a fee.


Cairns Cruise Reviews
We've done the area previously- but new visitors - get on a tour and get out of town there is nothing much in Cairns itself.... Read More
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lissie
Cairns was lovely. We hired a car and did some sight seeing. Works out cheaper and more fun provided you have done some homework before hand... Read More
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fnryan
I arrived late and thus was not able to enjoy Cairns; however, the airport was excellent and my experience in port was exceptional (given how Coral Expeditions went above and beyond to help me get to the ship).... Read More
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helliottcruise
Cairns is not a particularly attractive city, lots of backpackers and families. The attractions are obviously the reef and hinterland. No point in lingering in Cairns and again,gouged for shuttle bus.m... Read More
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Capricornia7

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