Australia will welcome the largest P&O Cruises World Cruising ship to visit its shores in 2013, when the 3100-passenger Azura sails Down Under as part of the biggest world cruise program ever launched.

At 115,000-tonnes, the 290-metre long Azura will be one of the largest ships ever to visit Australia and is too tall to fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Launched in the UK last year by the Australian-based prima ballerina Darcey Bussell, Azura is the headline act in the 2013 program which also features epic cruises onboard Arcadia, Aurora and Adonia. Azura will be the youngest member of P&O Cruises’ seven-ship fleet to visit Australia.

Announcing details of the 2013 world program today, P&O Cruises Managing Director Carol Marlow said the cruise line would enjoy a ‘triple A’ summer in Australia with three of the four world cruise ships - Azura, Aurora and Arcadia – collectively making 11 calls to Australian ports during February and March 2013.

Ms Marlow said the 2013 program would be the largest yet for any cruise line, with the four ships visiting 94 destinations in 52 different countries and covering more than 130,000 nautical miles.  The program represents a 23 per cent increase in world cruise capacity compared to 2012 and comes as the cruise line celebrates 175 years’ heritage of cruising.

In addition to the four full world cruises, 18 line voyages between the UK and Australia or New Zealand are also available on Aurora, Arcadia and Azura.

Fares on the world voyages start from:

 $1949* for 13 nights cruising on Azura from Singapore to Melbourne, departing February 10, 2013. The sector is part of Azura’s 110-night Grand Odyssey which sails from Southampton on January 7, 2013 and visits the Middle East, India, Australia and South Africa

$3519* for 22 nights cruising on Aurora from San Francisco to Sydney, departing January 30, 2013. The cruise comes during Aurora’s 106-night World Circumnavigation departing the UK on January 7, 2013 and visiting the US, Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Egypt and India 

$4199* for 24 nights cruising from Sydney to San Francisco on Arcadia, departing February 28, 2013. The sector is part of Arcadia’s 99-night South America and Pacific Adventure departing Southampton on January 5, 2013 and visiting South America, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia while sailing by Cape Horn, Easter Island and transiting the Panama Canal.

$3819* for a 20-night cruise on Adonia from Rio de Janiero to Valparaiso, departing March 1, 2013.  The cruise is part of the ship’s 85-night night exploration of South America visiting 17 countries with calls to exotics ports such as Salvador, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima as well as the Caribbean.

Ms Marlow said the 2013 program offered great value with early booking discounts of 10 per cent and onboard spending money of up to £2200 per couple available for those who book by December 31, 2011.

Full world voyages and line voyages will go on sale on at 5pm on Thursday July 14 while sector voyages will go on sale from 5pm on Friday July 15.

Ms Marlow said Azura would call at Fremantle (February 17, 2013), Adelaide (February 21) and Melbourne (February 23) on her maiden world voyage with an overnight stay in Sydney (February 25-26) before sailing to Brisbane (February 28) and Cairns (March 3).

“Azura’s maiden world cruise visits many ports of call for the first time – including those in Australia – the home of her Godmother Darcey Bussell,” Ms Marlow said.

“Her maiden call into Sydney will be celebrated in true P&O Cruises’ style when we hope to reunite Darcey with her ship for the first time since performing her Godmother duties in April 2010.”

Ms Marlow said Azura’s maiden world voyage was a classic itinerary featuring some of the most exciting and cultural destinations around the world.

“The ship itself takes inspiration from around the globe, with an Indian fine dining restaurant, Sindhu, Italian inspired casual restaurants Verona and Venezia, and wines from all over the world selected and served by the glass in The Glass House wine bar.

“These features combined with her variety of bars, restaurants, dance floors, spa, gym, shops, theatre and library make Azura the perfect ship for travelling the world and many of our passengers will be excited to hear that she will be offering her maiden world cruise so soon after entering service.”