A record number of cruise ships are sailing to Australia over the coming months, including a flotilla of newcomers that have been dispatched to our shores.
The latest statistics released by peak cruise industry body Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in May 2015 show that 38 ships from its member cruise lines will sail the oceans into Australian waters this summer, with an unprecedented eight ships making their maiden visit Down Under.
The cruise season will kick off with the arrival of Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess in Sydney on September 29, with the ship based in Sydney for a season of 14 cruises throughout summer.
The bumper season will also see mid-sized ship Azamara Quest make its first-ever call to Australia in January 2016. With its capacity of just 686 guests, the ship has the advantage of being able to sail to places such as Bordeaux and Bangkok, where larger cruise lines can’t. Other ships include the 2200-berth ship Costa Luminosa, which has a Formula One driving simulator and outdoor skating rink; Holland America Line’s mid-sized ship MS Noordam, where features include a Culinary Arts Centre and museum-quality paintings; P&O Cruises’ Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which have said bye-bye to the buffet in favour of a more contemporary dining concept; Ponant’s Le Soléal, with its oh-so-sleek and contemporary interior; Princess Cruises’ 2600-guest Golden Princess, the biggest ship ever to home port in Melbourne; and the Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, which features the new FlowRider surf simulator.
Carnival Australia’s CEO Ann Sherry claims Australia isn’t only the world’s fastest growing source market for cruise passengers, but is also in huge demand as a destination.
“We’re a coastal nation and Australians have a huge affinity with the sea so they love cruising and are keen to explore their own backyard as well as the broader Pacific region,” she says. “For overseas visitors, Australia offers thousands upon thousands of kilometres of beautiful shoreline, spectacular harbours and very inviting cities and towns so it makes sense that more cruise ships are being based in local waters or visiting over summer.”
CLIA Australasia Commercial Director Brett Jardine described the growth in maiden ship visits as “another clear indicator of the surging popularity of cruising”.
“Cruise lines around the world are looking for new destinations and new home ports for their ships and Australia is hot property right now,” he adds. “Not only do we have fantastic ports to visit and great weather, we also have a population that can’t wait to cruise and that’s encouraging more cruise lines to send more ships our way.”
With Australia named as the fastest-growing cruise market in the world, CLIA expects to see that trend continue to spike upward after the nation’s biggest ever-cruise season over the 2014-15 summer period.
“The cruise market in Australia has been growing on average at 20 per cent each year for the last decade and the number-one reason that more and more people are cruising is because it represents great value,” says Jardine.
This summer, there will be an impressive 40 maiden port calls by cruise lines to cities and regional towns ranging from Lizard Island, Gladstone and Port Douglas in the north to Burnie and Hobart in the south. Pacific Aria will also visit Gladstone and the port of Hamilton Island. Jardine adds that 21 ships will make a total of 330 round-trip cruises from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Fremantle over the 2015-16 summer.