Welcome to the next instalment in a series of articles from Cruise Advice in which we showcase some of the best cruise destinations around the world. Here, we will share some information about where you can cruise if joining a ship from these ports. As well, you’ll find some recommendations on how to spend a few days seeing the sights before heading to the port or after you get back.


Dubbed “the beating heart” of Far North Queensland, Cairns is well established as the capital of the region. It’s quite a unique place – large enough to cater to a strong population but still able to offer that small town feel. One long main street acts as the city’s spine and serves as the main strip from which much of the rest of Cairns branches.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns, with the city providing a multitude of options for exploring both the Great Barrier Reef to the east & the dense, tropical Daintree Rainforest to the north. In fact, over 600 tours operate from the city every day. The laid-back lifestyle exuded by the locals gels with the year-round warm weather, popular sporting events and regular festivals keeping Cairns firmly on Queensland’s tourism radar.

How can I get to Cairns?

Cairns is well served by international, domestic, regional and rural airlines and is the major gateway of Far North Queensland. Direct flights operate daily into the city from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and a wide range of regional centres nearby, while travellers from Adelaide, Perth, Gold Coast and New Zealand can also directly fly into the city, albeit on a slightly less frequent basis.

The regional accessibility of Cairns to rural Queenslanders has opened up the cruising industry to a whole host of towns and centres nearby who no longer have to venture to Brisbane or Sydney to begin their sea holiday.

Visitors from several points in Asia (Hong Kong, Manila and others) can also easily reach Far North Queensland without first having to travel via one of the major capital cities.

Where can I cruise from here?

Despite the year-round warm weather, Cairns doesn’t currently have a cruise market that can sufficiently sustain a year-round presence from one or more of the major mass-market cruise lines. That said, ships regularly base themselves in the city for parts of the year and call in for a visit on other cruise itineraries throughout the year.

While in town, P&O Cruises operates cruises to the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and into Asia from its temporary base in Cairns. In PNG, travellers are whisked off to island destinations including Alotau, Kitava, Kiriwina Island, Rabaul, Gizo Island, Kawanasausau, the Conflict Islands and Honiara, among many others.

The smaller adventure line Coral Expeditions has the Great Barrier Reef firmly entrenched in its DNA and operates its multi-day cruises around the islands for a longer part of the year.

For international cruise lines visiting Australia during brief sojourns during the summer peak season, such as Silversea Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Ponant and others, Cairns will often serve as the final stop on repositioning voyages from Asia and then in turn, the start of the voyage further down the east coast to Sydney and New Zealand.

Which ships will I find sailing from Cairns?

Cairns will welcome P&O Cruises for a brief season later this year when Pacific Eden comes to town for its round-trip voyages to PNG and the South Pacific. The aforementioned adventure cruise line Coral Expeditions has its small ship Coral Expeditions II cruising to the smaller islands of the region for large parts of the year. From time to time, it is joined by fellow expedition vessels True North and L’Austral from the Ponant stable.