Cruise ports of call: Sydney


Australia’s largest city – and its iconic waterfront – is becoming more and more popular for cruises

The Sydney waterfront is perhaps the most recognisable in the world, thanks in no small part to its iconic Opera House. One of the incredible things about cruising into the capital of New South Wales is the opportunity to pass by this breathtaking structure and the impressive Harbour Bridge.

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and its port is the busiest cruise destination in a region that is experiencing considerable growth. According to Clia, last year there were 1.2 million Australian cruise passengers, with the 21 per cent increase over 2015 figures continuing a 12-year run of double-digit growth. P&O Australia remains the best-known cruise lines for Aussies, but other lines are increasingly sending (ever larger) ships Down Under. Royal Caribbean International followed up the deployment of Explorer, Voyager, Radiance and Legend of the Seas in 2015 and 2016 with the summer homeporting of Ovation of the Seas in 2017 and 2018.

“The cosmopolitan city of Sydney is an exciting metropolis to explore at leisure on either side of a cruise,” says Amanda Darrington, sales director UK & Ireland at Royal Caribbean International. “Embarking on a Down Under adventure with Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas opens up possibilities to explore Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

“Extraordinary shore excursions invite guests to see the city’s full charm from day trips to the iconic Bondi Beach and Sydney Opera House, to exploring the wonderful wildlife at Sydney Zoo. And for the adventure-seekers, there’s plenty of opportunity to ride the waves or get out of the city and explore the Blue Mountains on a shore excursion.”

It’s not just Royal Caribbean, though. Over the next year, the likes of Columbus (Cruise & Maritime Voyages), Dawn and Sea Princess, Celebrity Millennium, Queen Mary 2 (Cunard) and Marina (Oceania Cruises) will all sail out of the city. In Columbus’s case it’s an epic cruise back to its homeport of Tilbury, but most are round-trip itineraries to ports in Queensland, Tasmania, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands, or longer repositional cruises to ports in Asia.

“As one of the world’s most dynamic and beautiful cities, Sydney continues to be a ‘marquee’ port, offering travellers an abundance of pre- and post-cruise ship options,” Adam Marshall, New South Wales Minister for Tourism and Major Events, says. “From the best in art, culture, food, shopping and vibrant events and festivals – Sydney has something for everyone.”

There are two ports in the city: Overseas Passenger Terminal (the main port, used by most of the big cruise lines) is on the corner of the Circular Quay, moments from the Harbour Bridge, while the White Bay Cruise Terminal is a little further out. A melting pot of different cultures, Sydney is a fantastic city to eat in – with its street food second to none: try, for example, Spice Alley in Chippendale, where you can find a range of different Asian cuisines, from Singaporean to Cantonese.

Of course, Sydney also has some of the word’s greatest beaches: from the bustling to isolated, the best-known (Bondi and Marley) to the more off-the-beaten track (Chinamans Beach, Mosman and Lady Martins Beach, Point Piper). It’s also, of course, an incredible destination for surfing.

Simonne Fairbanks, the COO of, which offers up to 16 per cent commission, said that the city “never disappoints and the iconic view from the cruise ship as it enters the spectacular harbour just takes your breath away.

“One of our most popular excursions takes in 11 of the most popular Sydney attractions and is valid for use over two days – Darling Harbour, The Rocks, the Opera House, Watsons Bay, Luna Park, Shark Island are all included.

“My own personal favourite is the ‘Northern Beaches and Ku-ring-gai Tour’. A small group tour visiting 28km of the world’s best beaches and ocean views.  Also taking in the impressive natural beauty of the Ku-ring-gai National Park, with its ancient Aboriginal sites and Aussie wildlife. It is fun also to go to Palm Beach, which you might recognise as Summer Bay from Home and Away.”

Sydney may not be the cheapest destination in the world – especially when it comes to dining and public transport – but it’s a port that’s worth embracing. With more cruises calling there than ever, there are plenty of opportunities to see it.

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