A classic experience aboard the Athena
A classic experience aboard the Athena

Classic International Cruises will continue a tradition of cruising from WA when Athena arrives in Fremantle for a ninth successive summer of itineraries.

Remarkably, that December visit will be the 84th time a Classic International ship has berthed at Fremantle and passengers can again look forward to a range of itineraries along the WA coast and introductory "cruises to nowhere" as well as a rock'n'roll-themed cruise featuring a live band, a Christmas journey to Broome and Bali and a 38-night Far East voyage which visits 11 Japanese ports. New in 2012-13 is a five-night cruise to Albany and Esperance during the Easter long weekend.

Classic International Cruises first included Fremantle on its itineraries when the Funchal arrived in December 2004 before the 550- passenger Athena began yearly visits in 2008. Small by modern standards, Athena is favoured by those who enjoy getting to know other passengers and the ship lacks the crowds and queues found on some bigger liners. Athena's size also allows it to enter ports that are off limits to bigger vessels.

But the small ship experience doesn't mean passengers are stuck for choice. Athena has both formal and casual restaurants, five bars and lounges, a nightclub, a show lounge, a casino and a cinema as well as a pool, fitness centre and sauna. All cabins have a shower and a bathtub while the 43 suites have jacuzzis. The wraparound deck is dotted with old- fashioned wooden deckchairs, adding a traditional, seafaring feel. Locally bought food and drink is taken on board each time Athena arrives in Fremantle, and there's a lot of it. As many as 4300 bottles of WA wine are used every summer season and for each extended cruise, more than 60,000 tonnes of food is loaded as the chefs prepare to serve around 2625 meals each day.

According to Classic International Cruises managing director for Australia, Grant Hunter, about a third of Athena's Australian passengers are return visitors attracted by traditional cruising.

"It's cruising as it was meant to be, with a sense of the ocean and all its mystery, adventure and nautical traditions, and that special personal touch often lacking in today's hectic age," he said.

·Athena's three-night New Year's ocean cruise to nowhere departs on December 30 and costs from $795. The 38-night Far East voyage from Fremantle on February 18 visits Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia and Christmas Island and costs from $5995. The five-night Easter cruise from Fremantle to Esperance and Albany departs March 28 and costs from $1095 while the four-night Rock'n'Roll cruise from Fremantle to Albany and Bunbury departs April 2 and costs from $795. All prices are per person, twin-share. Brochures and bookings are available through travel agents. classicintcruises.com

The West Australian

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