(12:41 p.m. AEST) -- P&O Cruises (Australia) has unveiled its 2024-2025 programme -- the line's biggest ever season -- with more than half a million passengers expected on 157 sailings across the country, New Zealand and the South Pacific islands.
P&O's fleet of three ships -- Pacific Explorer, Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter -- is set to collectively carry 520,000 guests. This ambitious figure is more than 40 percent of the total number of Australians that took an ocean cruise before the COVID-19 pandemic (1.24 million in 2019).
The record follows last year's comeback season when P&O's Pacific Explorer was the first cruise ship in more than two years to sail out of Sydney Harbour after an extended ban on ocean cruising in Australia until May 2022.
The announcement comes after figures released by the Cruise Lines International Association showed cruise passenger numbers reached 90% of their 2019 total in the latter half of 2022.
P&O's 2024-2025 programme is buoyed by the year-round sailing of two ships, including the traditionally quieter winter months of June to August. Pacific Adventure will be based in Sydney and Pacific Encounter will be based in Brisbane, both of which joined the line after the shutdown. Previously sailing for Princess Cruises as the Star Princess, the 2,600-passenger Pacific Encounter was transferred in 2020, followed by the 2,636-passenger Pacific Adventure, the former Golden Princess, in 2021. The ships are significantly newer and larger than the vessels they replaced: the 1,260-passenger Pacific Aria and 2,000-passenger Pacific Dawn.
The 2,000-passenger Pacific Explorer will operate seasonal cruising from Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Cairns, as well as 12 round-trip cruises from Auckland, New Zealand.
Marguerite Fitzgerald, President of P&O Cruises Australia, said the brand had evolved its offering for 2024/2025 to meet Aussies' preferences for "island getaways, short break escapes, themed events and bucket list destinations”.
"We’ve also introduced more ways for holiday-makers to make unforgettable memories with increased access to exclusive facilities and more choice in entertainment, dining and activities than ever before," Fitzgerald said.
The year-round sailings from Sydney and Brisbane include more than 60 departures on Pacific Adventure and 50 on Pacific Encounter, ranging from three-night cruises to two-week Pacific Island voyages. Among the itineraries are a seven-night itinerary from Sydney to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, and a seven-night cruise from Brisbane with calls to Townsville and Papua New Guinea’s Conflict Islands in January 2025.
"Mini seasons" are planned for Victoria, South Australia and West Australia, with Pacific Explorer offering 14 cruises from Melbourne, eight from Adelaide and five from Fremantle including new one-way Asia Explorer cruises to and from Singapore via Phuket, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang) and Lombok in March 2025.
P&O's new short-break themes include Disco Glam, 90s/00s ("nineties & noughties"), and Aussie Classics music cruises. Access to the private onboard Byron Beach Club will also be expanded for additional mini-suite categories, allowing more guests to enjoy the top-deck pool and bar on Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter.