November 25, 2015 will long be remembered as an historic day in the iconic harbour city of Sydney, Australia. On this day, the five ships of the Australian P&O Cruises fleet rendezvoused in a spectacular five-ship extravaganza, marking the first time that five ships of an Australian cruising brand have graced the city.
The event marked the culmination of the PACIFIC EDEN’s maiden voyage, as well as the naming ceremony of both PACIFIC EDEN and her fleet mate PACIFIC ARIA; while passengers and crew aboard PACIFIC PEARL, PACIFIC JEWEL and PACIFIC DAWN looked on.
PACIFIC EDEN’s maiden voyage:
The 1,500-passenger PACIFIC EDEN (ex. STATENDAM), along with her sister ship PACIFIC ARIA (ex. RYNDAM) are the newest members of the P&O Australia fleet. With well over one million Aussies cruising this season (a record!) the addition of these two ships is most welcome in the booming local market.
The ships have recently completed large refurbishments in Singapore, which took some 250,000-man hours to complete. PACIFIC EDEN’s refurbishment was completed first, allowing the ship to make way to Fremantle, Australia to commence her maiden voyage to Sydney; while PACIFIC ARIA made a direct passage to Sydney.
Alongside in Fremantle, the 55,451-ton PACIFIC EDEN took on a full complement of passengers and made way for Sydney. For regular P&O Cruises travellers, PACIFIC EDEN and PACIFIC ARIA are a bit of a change from the existing fleet. The ships are smaller than the other Australian P&O cruise ships, and retain their Holland America colour scheme, with the addition of P&O Cruises branding, making them stand out among their fleet mates.
Regular P&O travellers will recognise a number of signature rooms aboard both ships, including the popular Waterfront Restaurant. The restaurant is situated at the stern end of each ship; offering sweeping views for diners who enjoy open seating in a casual atmosphere. The menu is a mix of Australian favourites and includes much-loved items such as steak, prawns and Pavlova!
Other recently added familiar P&O spaces aboard include a New Zealand Natural café, a Salt Grill, the Dome nightclub and the Mix Bar. These areas have all been fully refurbished since the STATENDAM left Holland America service.
However other areas of the ship retain a very “HAL” feeling, and as such the ship is likely to attract an older, more discerning passenger than the traditional P&O Cruises target market. This is likely P&O’s aim, with the two ships marketed as bring a new level of luxury into local waters.
Being former Holland America ships, both PACIFIC EDEN and PACIFIC ARIA offer P&O Cruises passengers with some of the largest, most well appointed cabins in the market. Staterooms are spacious, with even the smallest inside cabin offering a writing desk, two seater couch and extremely generous storage space.
In all, the voyage was a great success with the ship attracting media attention during her various maiden calls in Australian ports. However, the most notable aspect of the voyage would occur on the final morning, thanks largely to the presence of the four other ships of the fleet.
Five Ship Spectacular:
Festivities commenced early in the morning, with the five ships in sight of each other by 5:00am, each making their way towards Sydney Heads. As the sun started to rise, the vessels moved into close proximity of each other, with the elder of the fleet, PACIFIC PEARL taking a lead position.
In a magnificently timed and well-orchestrated nautical dance, the remaining fleet moved into position, to form a ‘flying V’ formation. Sailing slowly in very close quarters, the fleet maintained a synchronous formation as news helicopters flew overhead.
Then, suddenly and without warning, PACIFIC EDEN and PACIFIC ARIA, positioned on the outside of the formation, dramatically broke formation and circled back behind the fleet. This move allowed PACIFIC PEARL, PACIFIC JEWEL and PACIFIC DAWN to make their way into the harbour and drop anchor in anticipation of the newer ships arrival.
PACIFIC EDEN circled behind PACIFIC ARIA, before both ships made their way into the harbour, passing their waiting fleet mates with whistles sounding. Both vessels anchored off Fort Dennison where their official naming ceremonies took place.
The ship’s were named by Australian actor Kate Richie and singer Jessica Mauboy, with both ‘godmothers’ holding iPhone’s and tweeting the names to the world live at the ceremony.
Of the naming ceremony, Ann Sherry, CEO for Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises commented, “Both Jess and Kate are well known and well-loved around the country. They epitomise modern Australia and really embody the new look and feel of P&O Cruises so we are delighted they will be naming these very special ships – and in such a modern way.”
Following a daylight fireworks display, the two newest members of the fleet made berth; before rendezvousing with the rest of the fleet in the early evening.
Here, five simultaneous concerts took place (one on each ship), with a large fireworks display marking the finale of the event, Eager onlookers gathered on the banks of the harbour to witness the spectacle were not disappointed and the five whistles could be heard echoing across the harbour as the sound of the fireworks faded into the night.
With the fleet sailing from Sydney at around 10:00pm, it brought an end to well over a year’s planning. A spectacular event had taken place in the Harbour City, and one that will long be remembered by those who witnessed it.
Chris Frame Bio:
Chris has a passion for passenger ships, history & travel. His interest in ocean liners started when he read a book about the Titanic as a boy. He has since travelled extensively aboard cruise ships and is a regular guest speaker aboard Cunard and P&O’s fleet, as well as at maritime museums and formal dinner functions.
In 2007 Chris collaborated with Rachelle Cross on their first book, QE2: A Photographic Journey. Since then the pair have written over a dozen books about maritime history and modern cruise ships.
Chris has regularly appeared on television news, documentaries and radio as a subject matter expert for ocean liner and cruise ship history, as well as aviation.