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Cruise Views

Keeping Afloat for Australia's 200th Birthday

December 06, 1987|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers.

SYDNEY, Australia — The tall ships may be a main feature on the official program when Australia throws its 200th birthday party in 1988, but at least eight cruise ships are also going to be there during some of the yearlong celebration.

With a little planning you can coordinate a cruise aboard the Princess' Sea Princess, the Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sea, Royal's Royal Odyssey, Cunard's Sagafjord and QE2 or Sitmar's Fairsea--with a special bicentennial event Down Under.

If, for example, you want to be in Sydney for the re-enactment of the arrival of the first fleet, as 11 square-riggers sailing in from London join about 60 tall ships in the magnificent harbor on Australia Day, Jan. 26, all you need to do is book a cruise.

The 17-night cruise sailing Jan. 28 aboard Princess Cruises' gracious Sea Princess gives you three days in Sydney before leaving for New Zealand and Tahiti (from $3,669 to $8,761 per person double, including air from the West Coast).

Bicentennial Ball

On Feb. 15 Cunard's flagship, the QE2, is hosting a gala Bicentennial Ball, an official event of the celebration on board for all passengers, Australian dignitaries and entertainers.

You'll be on the guest list if you book either a Jan. 27-Feb. 15 sailing between Los Angeles and Sydney (from $4,230 to $21,300 per person double with air) or a Feb. 15-March 17 cruise between Sydney and Singapore ($6,410 to $31,500). Both are segments of the 1988 world cruise. The latter also calls at Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

As the tall ships will be in Hobart, Tasmania, Jan. 10-14, passengers taking the Jan. 3 U.S. departure on Royal Cruise Line's Royal Odyssey will have a chance to see them Jan. 13 during a port call at the Tasmanian capital.

The next day both the Royal Odyssey and the tall ships will be on their way to Sydney, with the cruise ship arriving two days ahead of the sailing ships, which will be taking part in the first-ever tall ships race in the Southern Hemisphere. Cruise fares for this 15-day package, featuring a 12-day cruise between Auckland and Sydney, range from $2,698 to $4,898 per person double, plus air add-on.

Brisbane's Expo doesn't open until April 30, but visitors will be able to get an advance peek from a paddle-wheeler cruising the river or from the site's monorail.

Calls at Brisbane

Cunard's Sagafjord calls at Brisbane during its four-continent, 110-day odyssey on a 22-day segment from Sydney to Hong Kong departing Feb. 23 ($6,460 to $15,080 per person double, with air).

P&O's Canberra, under the banner of Canberra Cruises, will call at Sydney Feb. 24 and 25 during its 100-day world cruise. Segment passengers will be able to join or leave the ship there, with 18-day segments as low as $1,600 per person for four-berth cabins without private baths.

The Bicentennial G'Day segment (22 days from $6,058 with air from the West Coast) of the Royal Viking Sea's Grand Circle Pacific cruise will sail from Sydney on March 5 and include a maiden call at picturesque Albany, an old whaling port that was the first white settlement in Western Australia.

The cruise will make an overnight stay in Fremantle and Perth, site of the 1986 America's Cup race, during the monthlong Festival of Perth.

sh Adelaide Festival

The world-renowned Adelaide Festival is March 4 through 26, with performances by Dame Joan Sutherland and other international artists, along with aboriginal "Dream time" art, plays and music.

The Royal Viking Star is scheduled to call at Adelaide on March 11 during a 16-day cruise departing Auckland on March 1 and arriving in Sydney on March 15.

Also on the itinerary is an overnight in Hobart with an excursion to the notorious Port Arthur penal colony and an all-day stop in Melbourne. Prices begin at $4,159 per person double, including air fare from the West Coast.

The most exotic of all is an expedition to the remote Kimberley region in northwestern Australia, visiting aboriginal villages for a corroborree get-together, paying a call on a crocodile colony and feasting daily on local shrimp, lobsters and barrimundi.

Runaway Success

A runaway success last year when offered for the first time, this program aboard Salen Lindblad's 30-passenger expedition catamaran, Kimberley Explorer, is scheduled all year during 1988, so it's easy enough to combine it with a visit to Brisbane's Expo between April 30 and Oct. 30.

This period is also the cooler, dry season in the tropical north, with low humidity and little or no rainfall.

Passengers can choose from a 13-day cruise between Darwin and Broome ($4,260 per person double occupancy plus air), a 17-day package that travels via Singapore and a 21-day package that includes two days in Sydney before the cruise and two days in Perth afterward. Get details from Salen Lindblad Cruising, phone (800) 223-5688.

Sitmar's Fairsea will venture into Australian waters for the first time next fall and winter with 14-day sailings between Sydney and Papeete and 12- and 13-day cruises between Sydney and Auckland.

Ports of call, depending on the cruise, will include the Whitsunday region of the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Hobart and Melbourne. Prices will range from $1,995 to $5,420 per person double, plus port charges and air add-ons.

Passengers booking at least three months in advance qualify for a $200-$300 early-booking discount. The Fairsea's sister ship Fairstar is based in Sydney all year.

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