(10:03 a.m. AEST) — Papua New Guinea’s uninhabited Conflict Islands, one of the most remote and peaceful atolls in the world, will be opened up to cruising from next year. Unveiling its 2017-18 program, P&O Cruises announced Pacific Jewel will make the first-ever cruise ship call to the privately-owned islands in June 2016.
The addition of Conflict Islands expands P&O’s exisiting Papua New Guinea itineraries. In a landmark partnership for the region, the line worked with entrepreneur and conservationist Ian Gowrie-Smith to bring cruise ships to his arhcipelago — one of the country’s few parcels of land owned freehold. The group of 21 islands surrounds a blue lagoon that is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse reef systems.
In 2017 P&O will also offer its first international «sea break» short cruise, with Pacific Eden’s second Cairns season including four-night roundtrip itineraries to Alotau in Papua New Guinea and scenic cruising through Kawanasausau Strait and Milne Bay.
The latest program, which goes on sale on November 17, also features the first cruise calls to Fraser Island and several itineraries for Queenslanders to experience this month’s additions to the fleet, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which will join Pacific Dawn cruising from Brisbane between July 2017 and March 2018. Brisbane departures include 30 short breaks to holiday favourites such as Hamilton Island, the Whitsundays and Newcastle.
P&O Cruises’ senior vice president Sture Myrmell said short cruises of two to four nights were a standout feature of the overall program, with a record 85 on offer from five home ports. It is also the first to include the line’s expanded fleet, with Pacific Explorer set to join P&O in 2017 and operate a range of Pacific Island, Sea Break, Australia and Main Event itineraries from Sydney.
Three ships (Pacific Dawn from Brisbane and Pacific Explorer and Pacific Jewel from Sydney) will cruise to the 2017 Melbourne Cup, while in 2018, Pacific Explorer will make its Australia Day debut in Sydney Harbour alongside Pacific Aria.
P&O also confirmed it will again cruise to the Australian Open tennis tournament, and then Pacific Jewel will be based in Melbourne from November 2017 until March 2018, offering 18 cruises including a new 12-night New Zealand itinerary which features Stewart Island and Fiordland National Park, a New Year’s cruise to the popular Pacific Islands and Sea Breaks to Eden in New South Wales and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
On the west coast, Pacific Eden will return to Fremantle to sail 10 cruises from April to June 2017, including a new nine-night itinerary featuring P&O’s first scenic cruising along the Kimberley coastline, as well as the return of Indonesian cruises and short breaks to Esperance and Margaret River.
In Asia, Pacific Eden is returning to Singapore to offer two week-long itineraries around Thailand and the Andaman Islands. Meanwhile, Christmas and New Year cruises will depart from three Australian ports.
The first 100 cabins booked on a new program itinerary will receive special extras including priority check-in and tenders, welcome gift packs and onboard credit.
Myrmell said the company was particularly thrilled to bring the wonders of PNG within reach of more Australians.
“We have been pioneering cruising in the Pacific for eight decades and are still discovering fantastic cruise destinations for our guests. Papua New Guinea is one of the most extraordinary places on earth and even though it’s our neighbour, its picturesque islands are relatively untravelled – until now,” Myrmell said.
“With the expansion of our fleet between 2015 and 2017, the destination and itinerary possibilities are endless. We’re taking modern Australian cruise holidays to the next level in the coming years — it’s a very exciting time for local cruising.”