For Western Australians keen to cruise their home state’s spectacular coastline, there are more options than ever to choose from. And, as Justine Costigan discovered, it can be a fascinating (and luxurious) way to explore the coast.

Words Justine Costigan

There is approximately 20,781kms of Western Australian coastline and exploring all of it by ship could take up to two weeks or more, depending on the number of stops on your itinerary and the size of your ship. While many passengers happily cruise for weeks or months, if you’re keen to see more of the state, a short voyage is a fine introduction to the vast possibilities of WA cruising.

One of the ship’s five swimming pools

One of the ship’s five swimming pools

A segment of Diamond Princess’s first 33-night circumnavigation of Australia, our five-night journey between Adelaide and Fremantle included two-and-a-half days at sea and two full-day shore stops, off„ering a taste of the attractions of the southern coast and an all-too brief glimpse of life on board.

Ocean views from DiamondPrincess’s stern

Ocean views from Diamond Princess’s stern

It was a good time to experience the Diamond Princess. After 10 years in service, the ship underwent a $30 million refurbishment in early 2014. To the general upgrade, two new Japanese inspired spaces – a sushi bar and Japanese bathhouse – were added, a reflection of the fact that the ship spends half the year cruising in and around Japan and South-East Asia.

Designed to give passengers a taste of Japanese culture and life, the result is a ship that still feels like it’s a part of the Princess family but has a subtle Japanese flavour.

From Adelaide, the Diamond Princess spent two days at sea crossing the Great Australian Bight to reach Albany.

We needed these two days just to get our bearings – the ship has 10 levels, five pools, five main dining rooms and three specialty restaurants, plus a gym, spa, numerous bars and cafés, two
theatres, an art gallery, a ninehole putting course and a casino.

It’s both a little intimidating and exciting, but there’s certainly no shortage of activities to keep you busy if the lure of simply staring out to sea, counting stars at night or taking a leisurely walk around the deck has little appeal.

Most cruise lines make a big fuss of their wine and food – o„ffering specialty restaurants in addition to their standard dining rooms as well as carefully selected wine lists, guest chefs and cooking classes – and the Diamond Princess is no diff„erent.

We find it impossible to resist the temptation to visit the ship’s new Japanese restaurant. Kai Sushi is a standout experience, with Japanese-born and trained chefs creating fresh sushi and sashimi to order in typical theatrical style.

The indulgent Izumi bathhouse

The indulgent Izumi

Two days at sea passed quickly with a visit to Izumi, the ship’s new Japanese bathhouse, an easy way to spend an afternoon. Izumi is modelled on Japan’s upmarket oensen, the hot springs experience famous throughout the country, and is the largest Japanese bath area at sea. Resting in the open-air hydrotherapy pool, after an hour or so in the indoor baths and sauna, is a very pleasant experience.

Our first stop after a calm and relaxing two days at sea is Albany, the beautiful harbour town that’s home to the recently opened National Anzac Centre.

In late 1914, 41,000 Australians left the town for the European battlefields of the First World War on ships that sailed through the harbour. Leaving from that same harbour 100 years later, after
several hours immersed in the town’s history, I doubt a single passenger who visited the centre that day would have watched Albany disappear from view without thinking about those men and women.

After another night on the ship we arrived in Busselton. As there’s no port in the town, the Diamond Princess anchored in Geographe Bay and passengers were taken on small tender boats to shore.

We were welcomed by a school band, local dignitaries and a red carpet. A special reception to mark the first cruise ship to Busselton, it was clear the town was thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome passengers ashore.

There are many options for exploration in Busselton and shore excursions can be as jam-packed or as relaxed as you wish. We opted for a full-day Margaret River tour that included a visit to Vasse Felix’s cellar door and restaurant, Thompson Estate and several local producers including Vasse Virgin, Gabriel Chocolate and Colonial Brewery – giving us both a taste of the region’s produce and its spectacular coastline.

After only a few days on board, we formed a strong attachment to our stateroom, the sta„ and the sense of tranquility that comes from being pampered in this exclusive world at sea.

After our introduction to exploring WA’s coast by ship, it’s clear why more and more Western Australians are choosing a cruise as a way to explore their state, Australia and the wider world

Fast facts

The Diamond Princess is based in Australia throughout our summer season and cruises Japan and South East Asia in our winter.
Always pack a rain jacket and non-slip shoes for wet and windy weather, no matter what season you’re travelling in, and sturdy walking shoes if you plan to join any shore excursions. Don’t forget to pack cocktail attire so you can join in the fun on formal nights.
Including Albany on your cruise itinerary. The new National Anzac Centre’s thoughtful and informative exhibition won’t leave you unmoved
Exploring Western Australia by sea is a unique way to see the state. It’s also a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable starting point for journeys further afield to east coast Australia, the Pacific and South East Asia. WA itineraries may include segments on international cruises (subject to availability) or destination specific WA cruises.

From Fremantle, head north to explore the Coral Coast or journey further to Broome.

To the south, destinations include Busselton, Albany and Esperance. Kimberley cruise itineraries include WA-only voyages as well as Broome to Darwin, exploring remote and secluded destinations along the way

For more information on a range of voyages and destinations, visit Cruise Club – Cruises Online

To find out more about this cruise, call RAC Cruise Club on 1300 655 898 or call into an RAC Travel centre.

Exclusive onboard shopping.

Exclusive onboard shopping.

Justine Costigan was a guest of Diamond Princess.