Carnival Spirit

(10.40 a.m. AEST) -- Carnival Spirit will not be based year-round in Sydney in 2018, after plans were announced today to send the ship to Shanghai for the Australian winter season of that year. The surprise move is also expected to open up new itineraries between Australia and Asia.

The seasonal deployment will follow the ship’s scheduled dry dock in Singapore in autumn 2018, with the ship returning home to Australia in spring 2018.

The 88,500-tonne, 2,680-passenger, 2001-built Carnival Spirit will be the first Carnival Cruise Line ship to operate cruises from China.

Spirit wasn't the first choice of ship for China. Last year, the cruise line selected Carnival Miracle to relocate to China in 2017, followed by Carnival Splendor in 2018. But in February, Carnival delayed its entry to the region for another year. With this switch to Spirit, Carnival Miracle will now stay in North America in 2018.

Announcing the decision, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said Spirit was selected for China due to its availability and proximity, given its planned Singapore dry dock.

“It is important for the Carnival brand to establish a presence in the Asia cruise market and after evaluating many different options we decided that the seasonal deployment of Carnival Spirit in 2018 was the best opportunity for us,” Duffy said.

Duffy said Carnival remained committed to the growing Australian cruise market.

“Carnival Spirit has performed strongly in its home market of Australia since its Sydney debut in 2012 and it will continue to be based there, with Carnival Legend again joining her sister ship Down Under over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 Australian summers.

“The two ships have proven extremely popular and we look forward to continuing to deliver Carnival’s fun holiday experience to existing and new Australasian guests over the coming years,” she said.

The decision for Carnival Spirit to cruise from Shanghai for a season relates to 2018 only, with plans remaining in place for Carnival Splendor to be positioned in China full-time, starting in 2019.

The 2018 Australian program for Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend will be announced later this month, featuring some itineraries to and from Asia as a result of Carnival Spirit’s China season, as well as other new local holiday options. Details of Carnival Spirit’s China itineraries will also be released at a later date.

---By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor