Papua New Guinea has emerged as a growing cruise destination for Australian travellers with Australia’s leading cruise line P&O Cruises today announcing a big increase in cruises to the nation.
Following the success of two Pacific Dawn cruises to the Milne Bay area and the Trobriand Islands last year, P&O Cruises’ new 2015-16 program will offer its first series of back-to-back cruises to PNG, with most of the itineraries involving PNG destinations exclusively.
The visits follow the expansion of the cruise line’s fleet from three to five ships next year.
In addition to six back-to-back cruises from Cairns by one of P&O Cruises’ two latest cruise ships, Pacific Eden, three other PNG cruise itineraries will sail from Brisbane and Sydney.
The expanded PNG program also includes visits to destinations including Madang, Kavieng and scenic cruising of the Vitu Islands in addition to the locations visited on Pacific Dawn's earlier cruises.
"Our earlier cruises to Papua New Guinea were an outstanding success with passengers enjoying unique experiences that are really only accessible to travellers by cruise ship," said P&O Cruises CEO Ann Sherry.
"I'm delighted that the addition of two more ships has given us the flexibility to increase our PNG itineraries and open up new destinations.
"P&O's return to PNG was only possible because of the strong support of the national government and local authorities particularly in relation to the provision of infrastructure to accommodate cruise ship visits.
"The government recognised the economic benefits of cruise tourism, particularly to remote regions. Pacific Dawn's visits confirmed its potential.
"We are hoping that the government will continue to support cruising as our record fleet now enables P&O Cruises to expand its PNG program and the destinations to be visited."
Commenting on the P&O Cruises announcement, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority CEO Peter Vincent said: “These are exciting times for cruise tourism in Papua New Guinea as the country has a rich and diverse array of cultural and scenic experiences to offer tourists.”
Mr Vincent said PNG Tourism was grateful that P&O Cruises was expanding its cruises to PNG in the coming months and years.
"There are many new and exciting cruise destinations in PNG which P&O can call into and we will assist P&O to ensure these pristine and isolated island destinations become more accessible.
“Our biggest challenge is providing the right infrastructure to cater for large cruise ships especially in the remote islands but the national government has already shown a commitment to developing world class jetties and we are confident that support will continue moving forward into the future.”
Mr Vincent said other new products and experiences have to be developed to add value in the new destinations and PNG Tourism was currently working on that.
The PNG cruises are among 250 cruises in the new 2015-16 program, which will see P&O’s ships sailing into exciting new waters. On offer will be a host of maiden itineraries and inaugural port visits to fascinating destinations such as Dili in Timor L'este, Honiara in the Solomon Islands and Ko Chang in Thailand as well as PNG destinations.
The record program will kick off in spectacular fashion in November 2015 when Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden join their sister ships, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl in Sydney Harbour for a celebration of the expanded fleet.
"Last year, nearly 834,000 Australians took a cruise holiday meaning we are well on our way to achieving the industry’s goal of a million passengers a year by 2015, five years ahead of forecast," Ms Sherry said.
"As the Australian cruise market grows and matures, our passengers are keen to experience new destinations and cultures.
"Papua New Guinea offers all of that and more and we couldn't be happier that our expanded fleet means we can increase the number of PNG itineraries by such a significant amount."