Cunard to Base Queen Elizabeth in Sydney

(9:30 a.m. AEDT) -- Cunard has chosen Melbourne over Sydney as its main homeport when based in Australia for the 2019-20 summer. The Queen Elizabeth will spend a record 101 days down under, operating six roundtrip cruises from Melbourne and two from Sydney.

Itineraries will include South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea between December 2019 and March 2020.

The new 2020 Australian deployment will be almost double the length of Queen Elizabeth’s scheduled 54-day season early next year, which will see the ship sailing from Sydney and Melbourne during February and March 2019.

Cunard senior vice president Simon Palethorpe said Queen Elizabeth’s two-month 2020 season reflected the importance of the Australian cruise market to Cunard as well as Melbourne’s growing attraction as a cruise hub.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen unprecedented growth in demand for the Cunard experience in Australia so it made sense for us to invest further in the market and extend the sailing season of Queen Elizabeth even more in 2020,” Palethorpe said. “Our new 2019-20 summer season will not only feature more cruises, it will also offer some exciting new itinerary options which we hope will entice even more Australians to experience Cunard’s legendary service and style.”

Palethorpe said the December arrival of the 2,080-passenger Queen Elizabeth meant it would spend Christmas in local waters -- a first for Cunard’s current fleet of Queens.

The festive voyage from Melbourne to New Zealand is scheduled to spend Christmas Day cruising the Tasman Sea, Boxing Day in Fiordland National Park and New Year’s Eve in Auckland, enjoying the world’s first firework spectacular as a new decade begins.

Other cruises from Melbourne will include South Australia and Tasmania, before sailing to Sydney for two roundtrip voyages including a new 14-night cruise to Papua New Guinea, featuring the line’s maiden calls to Conflict Islands and Kiriwina.

Other maiden visits for Cunard during the summer season include Esperance in Western Australia, while it will be the first time for Queen Elizabeth to go to Albany, Whitsunday Islands and Darwin.

Launched in 2010, Queen Elizabeth is the youngest in the cruise line’s current trio of Queens. Highlights include a a ballroom, a two-storey library, 10 restaurants and cafes, a games deck featuring paddle tennis, croquet and bowls, and a three-deck Royal Court Theatre seating 800 guests and offering private boxes.

Full details of the 2020 World Voyage season will be released on March 13, with the program scheduled to go on sale on March 20, 2018.

--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor