(10:35 a.m. AEST) -- Pacific Pearl is set to be farewelled next year, P&O Cruises Australia has just announced this morning. A commercial arrangement has been reached to transfer the ship, as part of the line's ongoing fleet expansion and renewal program.
The 1987-built Pearl will leave the fleet in April 2017, having completed 294 cruises for P&O, carrying more than half a million passengers over five years.
P&O Cruises Australia president Sture Myrmell said the 1800-passenger Pacific Pearlhad become a firm favourite with Australians and New Zealanders during the 63,786-tonne superliner’s time with the fleet. However, as rumoured for some time, an older ship had to make room for the latest additions of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, plus Pacific Explorer, which joins the fleet next year, and a larger, newly built ship in 2019.
After its local launch in December 2010, Pacific Pearl became New Zealand’s first superliner, beginning with an eight-night cruise from Auckland to the South Pacific.
“Pacific Pearl made a huge contribution to building the cruise category in the region, particularly in New Zealand, introducing thousands of holidaymakers to the joys of cruising,” Myrmell said. “In addition to contributing to the growth of cruising in Australia, Pacific Pearl played a big part in growing the New Zealand season by more than 20 per cent over the past four years. This year, P&O Cruises is sailing from Auckland for a record 140 days.
“P&O Cruises remains the only cruise line to homeport from New Zealand and we are committed to the market. Following Pacific Pearl’s farewell in 2017, Pacific Jewel will become New Zealand’s ship and will sail from Auckland for two months from September 1 offering fantastic holidays to the Pacific Islands before returning again in 2018.”
Myrmell said Pearl’s departure was part of the ongoing evolution of the P&O brand.
“Farewelling Pacific Pearl is a natural progression in which we are increasing the size of the fleet while redefining modern cruising in this part of the world. This is a very exciting time for P&O Cruises and our guests and is part of our long-term commitment to grow the cruise market.”
Pacific Pearl’s last New Zealand cruise -- a four night cruise to the Bay of Islands -- will depart Auckland on March 23, 2017. The final P&O voyage will be a 16-day cruise to Singapore departing Auckland on March 27, 2017.
---By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor