Plenty of discoveries await the explorer, writes Pamela Wade

In the fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry it's no longer one size fits all: there's a cruise out there for everyone, whatever your personality and preferences.

Armchair explorer

Matthew Flinders did it first in 1803 in a leaky ship and it took him a year, but next February you can circumnavigate Australia in less than a month on the infinitely more comfortable Queen Mary 2. Start at Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane and call at eight ports altogether, in between enjoying everything Cunard's flagship has to offer. You can also sail the circuit with P&O or Princess Cruises.

Geography junkie


Do a Captain Cook's tour of New Zealand on a cruise from Milford Sound all the way up to the Bay of Islands, calling at Oban, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland, seeing them all as did the discoverers. Most of the big companies do the route, though you have to start and finish in Australia.

Or follow James through the Pacific, visiting whichever islands you fancy. Tahiti is big this year: sail there on the four-masted Wind Spirit, or the Tahitian-themed Paul Gaugin, or get adventurous on the freighter Aranui (there's a new one coming next year).

Cold fish

Antarctica awaits you, spectacular and awe-inspiring, with added whales and penguins. Many cruise lines have specialist, ice-strengthened ships in either the luxury, expedition or adventure category, all with smaller passenger numbers and Zodiacs for getting on to the ice. On-board experts can answer all your questions.;
Warm fish

Snorkel in the bath-warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef, try Scuba diving or even just peer down from a glass-bottomed boat - either way, you'll get up close with a huge variety of cartoon-coloured fish.

From Cairns, go for a few days or a week, tootling along in sheltered tropical waters exploring this natural wonder of the world and learning from the marine biologist on board.
Luxury lover

Lap it up on an all-suite ship where crew may outnumber passengers and every whim is catered for. Both Silversea and Seabourn offer small-ship pampering between Auckland and Sydney and along the coasts of both countries and beyond. Elegant dining, spas, lectures and shows - dress up, dress down and relax, in style.

Foreign culture vulture

See how other people live on a small-ship cruise on the Reef Endeavour through Fiji's Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands, calling at remote villages for a warm welcome from eager schoolchildren, and a front pew at church.

Or venture into Papua New Guinea on Pacific Dawn for an introduction to this untouched and little-seen part of the world: islands of classic white sands set in turquoise seas plus colourful festivals, costume displays and cultural performances by the local people.

Feathers, face paint and a superliner - it's a winning combination.;
Game for a laugh

Take a P&O Comedy Cruise from Auckland for more than just the chance to enjoy a line-up of professional comics at the adults-only Sit Down Comedy Club.

You can also take part in comedy workshops and even try out your own routine onstage in front of a captive audience. It's just one of a variety of themed cruises on offer by the company around the Pacific including Food and Drink, Lifestyle and the Melbourne Cup.

Family fan

Interconnecting rooms, kids' clubs, story time, special menus and babysitters for the littlies, activities and hang-outs equipped with Playstations and karaoke for older offspring - it takes all the tension out of a family holiday. Most cruise companies offer a wide range of facilities and activities to ensure that, together and apart, every family member can have a good time on board.

Anxious about empty horizons? Anti-cyclone? Then it's a land-locked cruise for you. Spend a couple of days relaxing in the Bay of Islands on board the luxury catamaran Ipipiri. Or there's the Murray River, Australia's longest: get together with some mates for mirror water, colourful sunsets, exotic wildlife and barbies and beers on the deck of your own spacious, easy-to-drive houseboat.

If you'd rather leave the navigation to the captain, board the picturesque Murray Princess, a paddle-wheeler, for a few days or a week with shore excursions including nature walks, vineyards and Aboriginal rock carvings.;;