Visiting the land down under? Queensland is Australia’s second-largest state, and its coast is a top choice for exploring by cruise.
With seafood feasts, island hopping, unique wildlife and the world’s largest coral reef system all on the agenda, planning your days onshore are about to get particularly difficult.
Best Queensland cruises
Queensland has a lot to offer the intrepid traveler so your biggest problem is going to be how to fit it all in. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on who to choose to cruise with.
Best for your buck: Celebrity
Sure, Celebrity’s not the cheapest cruise line out there but you can’t beat the quality and value for money on offer. Complimentary upmarket restaurants and room service, a comprehensive enrichment program and high-end shows are on the itinerary. Some sailings even include an overnight in Cairns to spend more time at the Great Barrier Reef.
Comfy, family-sized cabins, pools with waterslides, kid-friendly dining and entertaining stage shows are just the beginning. P&O makes it easy for parents to spend time with their kids while creating opportunities for everyone to have their own space. Parents can drop their kids off for activities like hosted dinners and themed dance parties.
If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles of a modern cruising holiday, Royal Caribbean certainly packs a punch. Think live music during the day, dance parties at night, grand theatres with a mix of guest performers and production shows, water parks and adventure activities such as rock climbing, ice skating and laser tag.
Room service included
No free alcohol
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card
The company that brought you The Love Boat keeps the romance alive with its cruising escapes fit for couples of all ages. Onboard you’ll find opportunities to relax in the spa with a couples massage, savor dinner for two, indulge in a slow dance or just watch the sunset at sea over a glass or two of champagne.
Room service included
No free alcohol
No price matching
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Best for luxury travelers: Regent
If your idea of a holiday includes white-gloved service, spacious suites and premium amenities, then Regent’s got you covered. Low staff-to-guest ratio, exquisitely prepared cuisine, complimentary shore excursions, thoughtful onboard enrichment programs and butler service in penthouses are all part of the package.
When choosing cruises for this list, we look at the quality of routes available from each cruise line, prioritizing well-paced itineraries with port stops at key destinations around Queensland.
We also consider onboard dining options, weighing the number, variety and overall quality of restaurants against passenger reviews. Finally, we weigh cabin amenities against each price point, looking for cruise lines that are known to deliver the highest value.
We also seek out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.
When is the best time to cruise to Queensland?
Queensland is a year-round cruise destination, with seasons opposite to ours. This huge state boasts 4,333 miles of coastline and the cruise ports can usually be divided into two regions: its capital, Brisbane, and the Far North that includes ports like Cairns, Airlie Beach and Port Douglas.
With a huge variety of weather to plan around, here are some key considerations to factor into your planning:
Best weather. In general March to May and September are ideal months to visit when you’ll find great conditions for both sightseeing and water activities.
Wet season. Summer and spring are when you’ll find the most rain and the potential for tropical storms so plan ahead and consider cruise travel insurance to make sure you’re covered for any disappointments.
Far North Queensland. Up north, the weather tends to stay warm year-round. Summer temps can be hot and humid with an average high of 90°, while winters experience sunny days and evenings that can drop down to the low 60’s. Due to the heat and potential of storms, summer is when you’re likely to find fewer tourists.
Stingers. During the period between October and March, box jellyfish are prevalent enough that visitors to the region surrounding the Great Barrier Reef need to wear a stinger suit when swimming in the inner reef.
What are the must-do cruise excursions in Queensland?
Green Island, Cairns. Swap your cruise ship for a catamaran and set sail for this island on the Great Barrier Reef where you can hike through the rainforest and snorkel with schools of tropical fish.
Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast. Make a beeline for the home of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and get up close and personal with kangaroos, koalas, snakes and, of course, some Aussie crocodiles.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, Cairns. Witness the ancient Dreamtime story as indigenous performers bring their culture to life through traditional art, dance and interactive demonstrations.
Kuranda rainforest, Cairns. Get a taste of the tropics when you jump aboard a cable car or scenic railway for an exhilarating ride framed by rugged mountains and waterfalls.
Mossman Gorge, Cairns. Located inside of Daintree National Park, this relatively untouched part of Australia is home to home to more than 430 species of birds and 315 species of mammals including ringtail possums, cassowaries and Boyd Forest Dragons.
Great Barrier Reef scenic helicopter (various locations). See the magic of the outer reef from above where the water is clear enough for you to spot stingrays, dugongs, turtles, dolphins, sharks and even whales during winter.
Current cruise deals
Royal Caribbean sale: buy 1 get 1 60% off cruise fares, up to $150 free onboard credit and kids sail free
Endless summer, exotic wildlife and iconic natural sites are calling your name. Make Queensland your next cruising destination with our top cruise deals to help get you there faster.
Frequently asked questions
Sunscreen is a must as the sun’s rays here can be particularly harsh, even when you can’t feel them. After-sun gel for when you inevitably miss a spot and insect repellent are also handy. Your days will be warm, even in winter but a sweater or jacket are needed for cooler nights. Some cruise lines are more casual than others but most have at least one “formal night” or dress code for the nicer restaurants.
You can nab a shorter cruise for as little as $250 with a company like Royal Caribbean or P&O but if you really want to explore Queensland, a seven-night journey starts around $600 a person. Sailing with a luxury liner like Regent will fetch upwards of $600 a night.
Lengthy one-way world cruises depart from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver or Honolulu and include at least a full day in Queensland. If you’ve got less time to play with or wish to spend more time on the ground, you can combine a visit to Australia or New Zealand with your Queensland cruise with departures from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth and Auckland for as few as three nights sailing.
Cristal Dyer is a travel writer at Finder. She has been writing about travel for over five years and has visited over 40 countries around the world. Cristal currently travels full-time, writing about her favourite cities and food finds, and she is always on the lookout for amazing flight deals to share.
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