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Cruising over the summer horizon
The majestic Dawn Princess in Fremantle. Supplied picture

Australian cruise passengers will have more choice this summer as giants such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean base bigger and more modern ships in our ports.

Carnival will have 19 ships from across its fleet that will make a total of 310 calls at Australian ports.

While five will visit as part of world cruises, a record 14 Carnival Australia ships will offer itineraries from our ports between now and April. These include the 2600-passenger Carnival Spirit, the first Carnival vessel to be based out of US waters, which will cruise to the South Pacific and New Zealand from Sydney.

And there'll be maiden visits Down Under from Holland America's MS Oosterdam and luxury ship Seabourn Quest, which are both part of the Carnival Australia group.

The giant ocean liner Queen Mary 2 is sure to attract plenty of attention when it arrives in Fremantle as part of a round-the-world cruise on March 26.

And four other Carnival Australia ships, Sea Princess and Dawn Princess and ms Volendam and ms Amsterdam will make visits to ports including Fremantle, Geraldton, Bunbury, Exmouth and Esperance.

Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry said itineraries visiting Australia and New Zealand were growing in popularity with 325,000 local and international passengers expected to cruise our waters on Carnival ships this summer.

Royal Caribbean, owner of the world's two biggest ships Allure and Oasis of the Seas, is also set to make a splash this summer with Voyage of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice, both first-time visitors to Australia.

Port Hedland will be the first to see the 15-deck Voyager on November 2 before the ship begins its inaugural Australian cruise when it departs Fremantle on an 18-night circumnavigation of Australia, and then to New Zealand on November 5. Voyager, which has its own ice rink, will cruise from both Fremantle and Sydney this summer with itineraries to New Zealand, Fiji, Tasmania and to South East Asia.

Touted as the "youngest" ship to be based in Australia, Celebrity Solstice will cruise from Perth, Sydney and Auckland on itineraries ranging from one to 35 nights including a round Australia cruise, cruises around New Zealand and a voyage through the South Pacific to Honolulu.

The two ships join the recently refurbished trio, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Celebrity Millennium, in cruising Down Under. While Millennium's is a fleeting visit to Sydney on November 21, Radiance will offer 2-18 night itineraries from Fremantle and Sydney, including circumnavigations of Australia and New Zealand and cruises to the South Pacific and Queensland. Highlights of Rhapsody's sixth Australian season include weekend samplers and 12 cruises to the South Pacific.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Australia & New Zealand commercial director Adam Armstrong said more than 200,000 passengers would cruise on Royal Caribbean ships this summer, up from 35,000 two years ago, with a third of those travelling from North America and Europe.

·Dawn Princess' 17-night Northern Explorer cruise around the Top End and to Lombok departs Sydney on April 28 and arrives in Fremantle on May 15. Fares start from $2499 per person, twin share. princess.com, 13 24 88 and travel agents.

carnival.com.au and travel agents.

·Until October 17, Royal Caribbean is offering $200 onboard credit per cabin and half-price deposits on all cruises, worldwide, of three nights or longer departing after January 1. Included is Voyager of the Seas' 18-night cruise around Australia and New Zealand to Fremantle departing Sydney on February 19 which starts from $2795 per person, twin share with an upgrade to a balcony cabin.

royalcaribbean.com.au and travel agents.