Shipshape facelifts

CARNIVAL Spirit makes its debut in Sydney this week. The focus of this week's ship profile has undergone two major renovations this year to ensure it suits the Australian market.

Ships have makeovers for many reasons, however. For P&O's Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl, recent refurbishments were designed to bring its three ships into line, offering a similar experience from accommodation through to entertainment options.

And for Carnival Dream, which entered dry dock last month, its refurbishment is part of a fleet-wide upgrade dubbed Fun Ship 2.0. New additions include RedFrog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Tequila Bar and Cherry on Top, which sells sweet treats and clothing.

For other ships, refurbishments are aimed at eliminating wear and tear, and add new or trending features that cruisers demand.

A ship-wide renovation of Windstar Cruises' Wind Star has been completed, and it now features refreshed facilities from new furnishings to an expanded seating area for the verandah.

Azamara Club Cruises' two ships will also be renovated, starting with Quest next month. Both ships are set to have their exterior profiles updated with a new dark-blue hull, and new carpets, upholstery, colour scheme, deck furniture and updates for the spas.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America will be treated to a major makeover in March.

The 14-day overhaul will include the addition of 24 new luxurious suites, four inside staterooms and four studio staterooms, the installation of ship-wide wi-fi, an upgraded fitness centre, and new carpet throughout.

Finally, three of P&O's British ships, Ventura, Oceana and Arcadia, will have significant work done to them in the next few years. Ventura will benefit from 18 new single staterooms, Oceana will have its spa updated and Arcadia will receive a new nightspot.

Package of the week

Cruise Holidays is offering a trip on Diamond Princess combining Asia and Alaska. The 23-day voyage starts in Beijing on April 28, travels through ports of call in China, South Korea and Japan, then crosses the north Pacific to Alaska, calling at Anchorage, cruising past the Hubbard Glacier and through Glacier Bay National Park, and other destinations through to Vancouver.

This comprehensive package includes flights to and from the cruise, a four-night pre-cruise stay in Beijing with two full-day tours taking in the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall, and one night in Vancouver. Priced from $5899 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 305 920 or see, cruiseholidays.com.au.

In brief

Barbados has announced plans for a new $US30 million cruise terminal in Bridgetown. The project will take about two years to complete, and will have a rum and sugar theme. The first phase includes two piers expected to handle the world's largest cruise ships.

In the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy, a new lifeboat policy has been adopted for the cruise industry. Under the new rules, and as part of overall safety drills, cruise lines must fill their lifeboats with crew members and launch them at least once every six months.

Disney Cruise Line's Magic recently arrived in Galveston for the first voyage of many from the Texas port of call. Paying tribute to the Lone Star State, the ship's funnel sported a cowboy hat, with crew members and Disney characters waving from the upper decks.

Carnival Spirit

LAUNCHED 2001 PASSENGERS 2124 REGULAR HAUNTS Australia, New Zealand, south Pacific BEST FORCouples, families THE DETAILS A 10-day cruise to New Caledonia and Vanuatu, departing Sydney on April 29, is priced from $1127 for an interior twin. 1300 385 625, carnival.com.au.

Need to know

1 Spirit is Carnival's first ship to be permanently based outside the US. At 88,500 tonnes, it is too large to sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and will be the largest to call Australia home year-round.

2 Two big upgrades this year have made the ship better suited to the Australian market. Its exterior livery was refreshed, new facilities were added, and the interior benefited from new carpet and a fresh coat of paint.

3 Spirit's spacious staterooms were updated with flat-screen televisions and a bold decor featuring orange and red tones. Eighty per cent have ocean views, 632 have private balconies and there are new interconnecting staterooms across most categories.

Although most of the ship's original dining venues remain the same, food and drinks menus have been "Aussified" to feature more local choices. Additions to the dining line-up include the Taste Bar and the alfresco Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ.

5 Pick of the facilities include a new adults-only Serenity retreat, an updated spa and fitness centre, and a sports court. Kids have three dedicated clubs, and the new WaterWorks features Green Thunder, the steepest and fastest water slide at sea.

Port watch: Norris Point, Canada

Need to know On itineraries, it's often referred to as Bonne Bay, a picturesque community in Newfoundland and gateway to the Gros Morne National Park. A docking pier is rumoured to be planned, but for now ships anchor in the bay and use tenders to transport guests ashore. Once there, limited transport is available but the town is easy to explore on foot.

Do not miss Gros Morne National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, is at the top of any sightseeing list. It's an area of great natural beauty and wildlife, with activities including hiking and boat trips through the freshwater fiords. In the Bonne Bay area, other sights include the Julia Ann Walsh Heritage Centre, the Bonne Bay Marine Station, and Jenniex House and lookout, which is a typical old saltbox house that is partly over water and has striking views of the bay.

Q&A

What are the best excursions in Rio de Janeiro?
- A. Bondari, Rockdale.

Much depends on whether you are a first-time visitor and what activities you enjoy. Top of your list should be an excursion to Sugarloaf Mountain, which offers commanding views from 396 metres above the waterline, and the 30-metre-tall Christ the Redeemer Statue on top of Corcovado Mountain.

For something different, opt for a jeep ride through the hand-planted Tijuca Forest in the city, or a favela tour, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the impoverished urban villages where many of Rio's citizens live.

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