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Cruising Australia’s southern coastline

Cruising Australia’s southern coastline

Cruising Australia’s southern coastline

Newly refurbished with every imaginable indulgence, Crystal Serenity is the most stylish way to explore Australia’s southern coastline.

It’s the middle of summer, but I’m wrapped in every layer of clothing I have with me. A gust whips my hair as I pull out binoculars to get a better look at sea birds gliding over the white tips of the Southern Ocean swells, crashing against the bow of the ship and sending a salty spray along the promenade where I stand. It’s bitterly cold – which is perhaps not surprising given our proximity to Antarctica, around 4,500km to the south. But it’s also completely invigorating, a moment of wind and wild waves that makes me feel alive.

For now, I have the entire deck to myself – but when the sun comes out and the swell eases, other passengers join me to admire the horizon and the lights of Hobart fading in the distance. It’s my first day on Crystal Serenity and her week-long voyage from the Tasmanian capital to Perth – a slice of the ship’s round-the-world journey and its first appearance in Antipodean waters since being remodelled at the end of 2018. Following in the footsteps of her only ocean-cruising sister, Crystal Symphony, Serenity is now one of the classiest ways to circumnavigate the globe, uniting impeccable service and incredible style across its public spaces and cabins.

All accommodations have ocean views, and most – like my Seabreeze Penthouse – come with expansive balconies too. I spend long hours here, sipping champagne and snacking on canapés delivered by my butler, Pavel. He also ensures my minibar is stocked with my favourite beverages, and that the box of handmade chocolates on my table is constantly replenished with dark truffles. Then there’s the spacious walk-in wardrobe (perfect to store all the outfits I’ve brought with me) and the impressively huge bathroom (which boasts the most luxurious rain shower I’ve ever experienced).

Penthouse Living Room on Crystal Serenity. Image: Supplied

On our sea days, I don’t feel any urgency to get out of my queen-size bed, its high-threadcount sheets and down pillows too good to tear myself away from in a hurry. When I do rise, I wrap myself in a plush robe and enjoy fresh coffee on my velvet sofa. 

A new addition to the ship, the Seabreeze Penthouses are extremely spacious, with their inclusion taking Serenity’s passenger numbers down from 1,070 guests to just 980. Despite being at near-capacity on our sailing, the ship is so cleverly designed that there are moments when I feel like I have her almost entirely to myself.

I stroll the corridors, exploring the dozens of intimate venues intended for creative pursuits: the cosy library with its aroma of vintage books; the games room, where friends gather to challenge each other over a round of Bridge; and the theatres, where guests are entertained by a magician by day and Broadway-style shows by night.

Every sailing features movies and enrichment lectures about upcoming ports, as well as more active pursuits, such as dancing lessons and yoga. But when the ship is rocking, I skip anything that requires me to be on two feet, and instead head to the spa or one of the 10 restaurants and bars.     

Like the cabins, many of Serenity’s dining venues have been re-imagined, and a number of them are completely new concepts. At the formal Waterside restaurant, you can choose between modern and traditional menus – think house-smoked ocean trout or truffled Portobello mushrooms on the former, and prawn cocktails on the latter.

Light-filled and buffet-style during the day, Marketplace transforms into a Brazilian churrascaria after dark, with open grills turning out flame-licked skewers of seafood and meat. There are also dumplings and noodles at Silk Kitchen & Bar, and ice-cream sundaes at Trident Grill. Meanwhile, my favourite place for a sunset cocktail is Palm Court, where floor-to-ceiling glass at the bow provides an outlook over the changing colours of the sky.

And then there’s Stardust Supper Club – a pop-up dinner-and-a-show concept that’s only available once or twice every sailing. It’s perhaps the most fun dining experience of the trip – there are sequins and feather boas (and that’s just the guest dress code), as well as Rat Pack-inspired live music and dancing, and a four-course degustation with matched wines.

Serenity’s petite size also means that there’s no painful queuing and long waits to get on and off the ship when we do reach the shore. Arriving at Kangaroo Island – one of two new Australian ports for this cruise – I’m on land in no time, getting a feel for the island on a food-and-wine focused day trip. There’s a gin sampling, which gives us a taste for Australia’s very first gin distillery. We also learn about the importation of Ligurian bees to the island, sampling honey-infused beers and ice-cream while we listen.

Day three we stop in Adelaide, where some passengers do ghost tours while others head toward the Barossa Valley for a lesson in new-world wines. And then we reach Western Australia – where I have my first experience of Albany, the state’s oldest permanently settled town and a place where beaches are so pretty you’d swear postcards were invented just to show them off.

In Busselton, Serenity’s other maiden port call, I rise early to run along the longest wooden pier in the Southern Hemisphere, curving out to sea for a staggering two kilometres. This part of WA is also the gateway to Margaret River, and thanks to my morning exercise I feel no guilt when signing up for a day tour to try three of the region’s top wineries. My last mouthful of the day happens to be a bold Bordeaux-style chardonnay that is deliciously oaky and the colour of sunshine – it’s at once rich and comforting, complex and moreish. A bit like Crystal in a glass, really. crystalcruises.com

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