P&O Cruises Australia has announced calls to one of the most remote island groups in the world – the privately-owned Conflict Islands in Papua New Guinea – starting next year

With its expanded fleet cruising from eight homeports between 2016 and 2018, the cruise line has released details of its latest itineraries which will see P&O continuing to pioneer new cruise destinations including the uninhabited Conflict Islands and Queensland’s Fraser Island.

In June 2016, Pacific Jewel will become the first cruise ship to call at the untouched Conflict Islands as part of P&O’s Papua New Guinea itineraries. A picturesque group of 21 islands surrounding a blue lagoon that is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse reef systems, the name of the archipelago is in stark contrast to the reality, according to P&O, with the Conflict Islands considered one of the most peaceful places on the planet.

In a landmark partnership for the region, P&O has worked with eccentric entrepreneur and passionate conservationist Ian Gowrie-Smith to bring cruise ships to his islands – one of only a few parcels of land owned freehold in Papua New Guinea.

Further bridging the gap with Australia’s exotic neighbor, P&O will offer its first international sea break in 2017 with Pacific Eden's second Cairns season including four-night roundtrip itineraries to Alotau in Papua New Guinea with scenic cruising through Kawanasausau Strait and Milne Bay.

Senior Vice President Sture Myrmell said: “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 neighbor, its picturesque islands are relatively untraveled – until now.

“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.”

The latest program, which goes on sale on November 17, also includes the first cruise calls to Fraser Island, with Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden set to offer short breaks to the pristine Queensland island from Brisbane and Sydney.

Ensuring Queenslanders get a taste of both of the latest ships, the Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will have stints joining the Pacific Dawn cruising from Brisbane between July 2017 and March 2018. Among the lineup of 30 short break departures, the ships will cruise to Aussie favorites, including Hamilton Island, the Whitsundays and Newcastle (for the Hunter).

Satisfying Australians’ increasing desire to recharge with short breaks, Myrmell said cruises of two to four nights were a standout feature of the new program with a record 85 on offer from five home ports.

The latest program is the first to include the expanded fleet, with Pacific Explorer set to join the P&O family in 2017, offering 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 her Australia Day debut in Sydney Harbor alongside the Pacific Aria and the cruise line will make its fifth appearance at the Australian Open.

In a coup for Western Australia, the Pacific Eden will return for an encore Fremantle season from April to June 2017, offering a series of 10 cruises including a new nine-night itinerary featuring P&O Cruises’ first scenic cruising along the Kimberley coastline as well as the return of popular Indonesian cruises and short breaks to Esperance and Margaret River.

The cruise line will also offer its longest summer season in Melbourne. The Pacific Jewel will call Victoria home for 109 days 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. Guests can also combine a six-night Southern Getaway to South Australia and five-night Taste of Tasmania cruise to get the most of the southern coastline. 

Asia cruising is also set to heat up in winter 2017 with Pacific Eden returning to Singapore to offer two week-long itineraries around Thailand and the Andaman Islands including calls to Ko Chang and Krabi in Thailand and Sabang in Indonesia. The week-long itineraries can be combined into a 14-night Asia extravaganza.

Meanwhile holidaymakers can avoid expensive flights and have a fuss free Christmas and New Year with friends and family on one of 12 cruises departing from three Australian ports over the height of the holiday period in 2017.

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