AthenaAustralia’s only traditional liner and Western Australia’s own cruise ship, Athena, arrives in Fremantle on Sunday, December 18, 2011, to begin the longest-ever summer season in Australia for Classic International Cruises (CIC).

The season, which will deliver more than $6.7 million in economic benefits to Western Australia in passenger and crew spending as well as stores, fuel and port fees, will begin when the 550-passenger Athena docks in Fremantle around 6am on December 18 at the end of her month-long voyage from Rome.

Athena’s 2011/12 program, which will draw hundreds of east coast passengers to Athena’s home ports of Perth and Adelaide this summer, will be Classic International Cruises’ eighth successive cruise season in Western Australia.

Athena will call into Fremantle 11 times this summer – more than any other ship. The 16,200-ton, classically-styled ship – one of the last remaining ships in Australia to still allow passengers to use traditional streamers at sailaways – will also offer a month-long program in and out of Adelaide in January and February, 2012 – the first and only ship to be based in Adelaide, with return cruises. In total, Athena will make a record 33 calls to Australian ports this summer including 17 in Western Australia and seven in South Australia.

Calls to Sydney (Feb 1, 2012), Darwin, Japan and South Africa are among a season of firsts for Athena this summer, with 15 cruises lasting from two to 40 nights to and from Fremantle and from Adelaide.  Athena’s 2011/12 Australian summer program will be the longest ever for Classic International Cruises by 35 days, extending more than six months from November 15, 2011, when she left Rome,  to May 24, 2012, when she returns to Europe.

Athena’s 11/12 season will also feature:

-       CIC’s first cruise from Fremantle to Japan as part of the line’s longest-ever round-trip itinerary from Australia/Perth – a 38-night voyage to Japan, The Philippines, China, Malaysia and Indonesia

-        CIC’s first-ever line voyage from Fremantle to Europe via South Africa instead of the Suez Canal, departing Fremantle April 14, 2012

-        Athena’s first visits to Darwin, Broome and Geraldton as part of a round-trip cruise from Fremantle to Bali and Christmas Island in February, 2012. This will represent a return to the northern WA coast for the cruise line, which last included Broome in 2006

-       A maiden sail-past for CIC of the seabird-rich Abrolhos Islands off WA – the southern-most coral reefs in the Indian Ocean - as part of a Christmas cruise to Christmas Island and Bali from Fremantle on December 18, 2011

-       A return season from Adelaide, with Athena offering five cruises to and from the SA capital, including round-trip itineraries, in January and February, 2012. The 30-day Adelaide program will be the longest-ever season for an Adelaide-based liner. CIC was the first line to ever base a ship in SA in 2008.

By the end of this summer season, more than 78,000 Australians will have sailed with Classic International Cruises from her home ports here since the line starting offering round-trip cruises from Perth in 2004.

“Our flagship, Athena, has proved increasingly popular in Australia, particularly in our home ports of Perth and Adelaide, with the growing demand leading to our biggest-ever season this summer,” said Classic International Cruises Managing Director Grant Hunter.

“Classic International Cruise is committed to serving the WA and SA markets and is here to stay to ensure  non east-coasters have a quality, affordable cruise product on their own doorstep,” Mr Hunter said. “We are also proud to offer a cruising product that is unique and very different from the other cruise ships based in Australia. Unlike big new ships filled with distractions, Athena offers a return to traditional ocean cruising with personal, old-fashioned service, fine cuisine and a relaxed atmosphere onboard.

“Despite the recent financial slowdown, cruising continues to grow in popularity as an exciting, all-inclusive holiday. All onboard purchases are in Australian dollars and tips are included in the fare, adding to the savings.”

Originally a transatlantic liner, the Portuguese-registered Athena features a wrap-around promenade deck, traditional wooden deck chairs, a pool, fitness centre and sauna, five bars and lounges, nightclub, cinema, showlounge, library, boutiques, cinema and two restaurants. And all cabins have a full-sized bath – a luxury only found in suites on the latest superliners.

Bookings are still available for Athena’s 2011/12 summer season via travel agents.  Two and three night weekend cruises and a five-night holiday cruise on January 2, 2012, are fully booked but other cruises have availability, including some cabins on Athena’s Christmas cruise to Bali and Christmas Island on December 18, 2011. A five-night cruise is available from $945 per person, twin-share.

Athena will return to Australia for her 2012/13 season in Australia, sailing again from Perth and Adelaide.