The West Australian cruise season shifts into top gear next month when several international cruise ships arrive in Fremantle with thousands of passengers ready to tour Perth, the Swan Valley, and further afield.
A notable absence is the cruise ship Athena, a regular in port for the past decade, which is not sailing from Europe this year for a summer Down Under.
However, another annual visitor, Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2, will sail into Fremantle on March 26 on her 106-day annual world cruise from Southampton.
QM2's fine nautical lines and British traditions always attract crowds of onlookers for glimpses of the stately liner, which is now regarded as an icon on the international cruise scene.
All cruise ships, including QM2, berth at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal on Victoria Quay and the best places to see the ships entering or leaving the harbour are on the western end of Victoria Quay at the Ferry Terminal, or on South or North Moles where there is free parking.
If the WA Government has its way, cruise ships will become an even more vital part of the local economy.
There are plans for port improvements already in the pipeline for next season and beyond to encourage year-round visits by cruise ships.
In 2011-12 the cruise industry generated $185.7 million in WA, a 150 per cent increase on the previous year.
WA is seen as a safe destination for cruise ships which visit Fremantle, Broome, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, Geraldton, Exmouth and Port Hedland. A new marina facility is planned for Augusta to provide an important gateway to the Margaret River wine and food region.
Making its debut in Australasian waters for the summer season, Celebrity Solstice, with 2850 passengers, arrives in Fremantle next month for a 17-night Top End cruise to Sydney via Port Hedland, Bali, Darwin, Cairns and Brisbane.
Some of Princess Lines' fleet are already regular visitors to Fremantle with Dawn Princess, carrying almost 2000 passengers, scheduled for April, May and June arrivals this year.
Dawn Princess' first visit of the season on April 16 is part of a 25-day round-Australia voyage from Sydney. It sails to Bunbury on April 17 and Albany on April 18, then along the continent's south coast to South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, then Sydney on April 28.
From there Dawn Princess sails a 17-day Northern Australia Explorer cruise that arrives in Broome on May 8, before Lombok in Indonesia and Fremantle on May 15.
A 12-day cruise to Singapore follows via Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, and Phuket, sailing into Singapore on May 27.
From Singapore, Dawn Princess sails a 14-day cruise to Fremantle via Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Sihanoukville (for Cambodia's Angkor Wat), Bangkok and Ko Samui in Thailand, and Lombok, arriving Fremantle on June 10.
A 16-day round sailing from Fremantle leaves the same night via Christmas Island, Semarang (Indonesia's gateway to Borobodur), Bali and Lombok, and the Kimberley Coast to Broome on June 22, Geraldton June on 25, and Fremantle on June 26 on Dawn Princess' final visit this summer.
Silver Whisper overnights in Fremantle on February 12-13 on its 115-day world cruise from the United States, which takes in many ports south of the equator from Africa to South-East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia. Silver Whisper's other port of call in WA is Albany on February 11.
Holland America's Amsterdam also overnights in Fremantle on February 25-26 after a port call to Albany on its 115-day world cruise from Florida that also takes in many ports south of the equator.
- Other cruise ships in Fremantle this year: *
Costa Deliziosa (March 8)
Voyager of the Seas (March 9)
Saga Ruby (March 19)
Sun Princess (September 3 and September 29)
Volendam (November 8-9)
Radiance of the Seas (March 22 and November 9)
Costa Neo Romantica (December 13)