Anyone venturing down to Circular Quay in Sydney on Saturday 13 February would have discovered a rather peculiar sight: two ocean liners moored at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. It was the first time the city welcomed two ships to the same dock at Circular Quay, with another two luxury vessels (Seabourn Odyssey and Silversea‘s Silver Whisper) moored at White Bay Cruise Terminal at Rozelle. It was visual proof of the booming popularity of cruising among Australian travellers.
The phenomenon was made possible by the two ocean liners in port: the 686-guest Azamara Quest, in her inaugural Australian season, and Ponant‘s Le Soléal, arriving in Sydney for the first time. At just 142 metres long with 132 guest cabins, the French-flagged ship is among the youngest in the world.
To celebrate her inaugural visit, Ponant invited media and travel trade guests aboard the sleek, chic ship to sample her at-sea grace. Le Soléal is the epitome of elegance, with interiors designed by Jean-Philippe Nuel for a feel that is more private superyacht than the mega-cruisers that normally have pride of place at Circular Quay. From the hull up, Le Soléal and her sisters (Le Boréal, L’Austral and Le Lyrial, launched in May 2015) have been built for expedition cruising, equipped with ice-rated hulls, zodiacs and a large marina. On board, two restaurants, a spa by Sothys Paris, a main lounge for tea, cocktails and dancing, a theatre for lectures and nightly performances, and a pool heated during polar voyages provide a sense of intimacy and relaxed living, whether exploring the Sub-Antarctic Islands or island-hopping in Micronesia.
Prior to the visit, CLIA Australasia, the Port Authority of NSW and Ponant Chairman Asia Pacific, Sarina Bratton, held a media conference to discuss the historic berthing. February 2016 is set to be the busiest cruise month for Sydney, with 27 different ships making 45 calls over just 29 days.