Australia’s leading cruise company, P&O Cruises, today announced it will double its fleet over the next two years to keep pace with Australians’ growing love affair with cruising.

The company’s decision to add another two modern superliners, each carrying about 2000 passengers, to its Australian operation is the biggest ever investment made by a cruise company in this region.

The first ship, to be named Pacific Jewel, will begin sailing year round from Brisbane in December 2009. A second superliner will arrive in late 2010 and will sail from Auckland and possibly Sydney, but this is yet to be decided.

The two ships will join Australia’s first superliner, Pacific Dawn, which has been a major success since she began sailing from Sydney in November 2007, and Brisbane’s popular Pacific Sun.

The announcement means:

· P&O Cruises’ fleet will increase to four ships – twice the size of any other cruise company operating in Australia.
· Brisbane will welcome its first full-time superliner, the 70,310-tonne Pacific Jewel, in December 2009, building on the success of Pacific Sun, which moved to Brisbane in 2007.  At the time, Pacific Sun’s arrival represented a 40 per cent increase in passenger capacity in the Queensland market.

Pacific Jewel is the sister ship to Pacific Dawn and features 198 private balcony cabins.
· Fremantle will become a home port for a P&O Cruises’ ship for the first time with the arrival of Pacific Sun in December 2009. The decision to expand into a new market is in response to West Australians’ passion for cruising, which has been steadily growing in recent years.
· P&O Cruises will continue to sail from Auckland with Pacific Sun and, from 2010, a new superliner offering a range of cruising seasons.
· Once the two latest ships are added to the fleet, P&O Cruises will be carrying about 8000 passengers and 3000 crew at any given time.*

Pacific Jewel and the second ship are presently operating in Carnival UK’s Ocean Village fleet as Ocean Village 2 and Ocean Village respectively. Itineraries for Pacific Jewel will go on sale in December 2008.

Ann Sherry, Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Australia which owns P&O Cruises, said the popularity of cruising was growing steadily because Australians wanted good value, relaxing holidays.

“In these tougher times, cruising is the success story of Australian tourism because people are increasingly looking for good value holidays, paid in Australian dollars but still want to travel to exotic destinations,” Ms Sherry said.

“It is commonsense that the current economic conditions mean people will think twice about their discretionary spend but we have found that cruising is holding its own because it is good value and allows families to budget.

“The appeal of a P&O Cruises’ voyage is that a passenger’s ticket covers accommodation, food and entertainment.  Plus any additional onboard spending is in Australian dollars so there is no worry about fluctuating international currencies.”

Ms Sherry said the ships will include an abundance of balcony cabins and offer amazing new amenities that would differentiate the product, including P&O Cruises’ largest spa area with ocean-view treatment rooms, a child-free oasis, a circus show with a high-wire act and bikes and kayaks for onshore adventures.

The International Cruise Council of Australasia’s most recent figures show a record 252,000 Australians took an ocean cruise last year, representing a 14 per cent growth in the industry.  It is the third year in a row the industry has grown by double-digit figures.

In May this year, Access Economics found the cruise industry’s total economic contribution in 2006/07 was A$734 million.

“Based on current growth rates, the industry is on track to contribute in excess of $1 billion by 2010 – a significant contribution to the Australian economy,” Ms Sherry said.

“Our announcement today sends a clear message to governments that they need to think  seriously and strategically about ensuring cruise shipping facilities are cost efficient and adequate to meet the industry’s potential.”

Australia’s premium cruise line, Princess Cruises, will continue to operate its sister ships Dawn Princess and Sun Princess from Sydney, Fremantle and Melbourne.