I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published July 4th 2013
Port of Call - Cruising From Melbourne
It's not that long ago that if you were a Melburnian contemplating an overseas cruise, you needed to factor into your budget return air fares to Sydney in order to catch the boat.
But times are changing and today the Port of Melbourne is quickly positioning itself as a major port on the international cruising calendar.
Some of the worlds great ships including the Cunard Liner QUEEN VICTORIA are frequent visitors to Melbourne
The Australian cruise season runs from Spring until the Autumn and the 2013 -2014 season will see a total of 28 different cruise ships, large and small, tie-up at Station Pier on a total 77 different occasions.
Not all of those will take on passengers at Melbourne but some, including Princess Cruises, the most frequent operator ex-Melbourne, offer a variety of trips throughout Australasia and the South Pacific.
Ships lik Royal Carribean's RADIANCE OF THE SEAS will carry you to some idyllic destinations - seen here at Champagne Bay, Vanuatu
Others like Royal Caribbean's VOYAGER OF THE SEAS sand the stately Cunard Liner QUEEN MARY 2 will venture further afield to destinations such as China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.
Both Princess and P&O will run several 13 night trips to New Zealand and return which include cruising through the magnificent fjords of the South Island.
DIAMOND PRINCESS arriving at Melbourne's Station Pier
Until recently I was a non-believer when it came to cruising. I had absolutely no desire to isolate myself on a ship with a couple of thousand people I didn't know. But I was talked around fortunately and enjoyed perhaps the most relaxed and enjoyable holiday I've ever undertaken, much of that enjoyment due entirely to the professionalism of the ship's crew and the on-board service.
Even if you're not contemplating a cruise yourself just watching these majestic vessels enter or leave port can be a fantastic spectacle.
The Cunard Liner QUEEN ELIZABETH and CHRYSTAL SERENITY berthed at Station Pier
A ships tender ferries passengers back to RADIANCE OF THE SEAS at Lifou in the Loyalty Islands
Arrival and departure time-tables are available on the Port of Melbourne website.
A great vantage point to see the ships passing through The Rip, the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, is the car park behind Fort Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Ships pass through The Heads 3 hours before their scheduled arrival time at Station Pier or 3 hours after departure.
To see vessels like QUEEN MARY or QUEEN VICTORIA make passage through one of the narrowest and most difficult harbour entrances in the world is truly a sight to behold.
DIAMOND PRINCESS berthed at Melbourne's Station Pier
But while ship watching is interesting and often intriguing it just doesn't stack up against actually stepping on board, setting sail for all manner of destinations and enjoying everything these majestic vessels have to offer.
Ian, did you depart from Melbourne and if so (or otherwise) do you have any suggestions for cruises and where we look them up. I've been thinking of this for ages, so one that left melbourne and wasn't too expensive (if there's such a thing) would be great. I'd appreciate any comments, thoughts or suggestions from you or other weekend notes writers or readers. Thank you.