Australia’s only traditional liner, Athena, will begin Classic International Cruises’ ninth annual season in Australia next summer with a new 36-night voyage from France and Italy to Australia, with maiden visits to ports in Albania and Montenegro.

Offering the only dedicated, self-contained line voyage from Europe to Australia, the 580-passenger Athena will sail from Marseille in the south of France on November 12, 2012, and from Rome two days later, bound for Australia, where she will be the only cruise liner based in Perth and Adelaide next summer.

The 36-night voyage from Marseille to Perth features three new ports for voyage between Europe and Australia for Classic International Cruises - Livorno in Italy (for trips to Pisa and Florence), Kotor in Montenegro and Durres in Albania, an ancient and picturesque coastal city on the Adriatic Sea. Also on the itinerary are Dubrovnik, with its fortified walls, Port Said in Egypt where passengers can travel to the pyramids, the stone age city of Aqaba in Jordan, where trips to the ancient city of Petra are available, exotic Salalah in Oman, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore.

Purpose built for ocean cruising when she served as a trans-Atlantic liner, Athena will arrive in Perth on December 18, ready for a five-month season of cruises from Fremantle and Adelaide.

Classic International Cruises Managing Director, Grant Hunter, said the new voyage would appeal to Australians flying to Europe for a European holiday later this year, with passengers able to end their holiday with a leisurely cruise home with a mix of exotic ports and carefree days at sea.

“Other international cruise lines may offer a cruise sector from Europe to Australia as part of longer, round-the-world voyages but Athena is the only ship to offer a dedicated, self-contained and traditional line voyage between the two continents, with Australian dollars as the onboard currency,” Mr Hunter said.

“A voyage aboard Athena is 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,” Mr Hunter said. “Attentive, old-fashioned service and fine cuisine are the hallmarks of the Classic Cruising experience.”

In contrast to the rapid growth of ever-expanding resort-type superliners, with their rock climbing walls, flying foxes, skating rinks, rides, boxing rings and long queues, Classic International Cruises offers a return to what it calls the ‘Classic Cruising Experience’ where crew escort passengers to their cabins on embarkation and know their names throughout the cruise in an intimate, friendly and relaxed setting.

The classic-styled, 16,000-ton Athena features traditional wooden deck chairs, pool, fitness centre, five bars and lounges, casino, library, cinema and two restaurants. Athena has 277 spacious cabins and each boasts a bath – a luxury only found in suites on the latest superliners.