WHAT’S YOUR BUD­GET?

There’s a ship and a trip for everyone, no mat­ter how much you want to spend on a hol­i­day

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - CRUISING - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON

The ad­van­tages of a cruise hol­i­day are leg­endary. Board the boat and un­pack once, wake up in a new des­ti­na­tion every morn­ing, eat and drink at restau­rants and bars a short stroll from your bed­room, end­less ac­tiv­i­ties to oc­cupy every mem­ber of the fam­ily, and that’s be­fore the money stuff is even men­tioned.

Not only are eat­ing, sleep­ing and see­ing in­cluded in the cost – and the bulk of the bill paid up­front to make bank-ac­count main­te­nance a breeze – but cruise com­pa­nies are work­ing harder than ever to guar­an­tee some­thing to suit every hol­i­day bud­get.

SOME­THING FOR EVERYONE

A re­cent finder.com.au re­port re­veals Aus­tralians can cruise for as lit­tle as $107 a per­son a night on a P&O ship with the av­er­age price sit­ting at $115 for Royal Caribbean, $137 on Hol­land Amer­ica Lines, $144 with Princess, and $185 on Celebrity.

“Cruis­ing can be a great op­tion for those look­ing to save a lit­tle money as

not only is ac­com­mo­da­tion and trans­port cov­ered in the cost but food and en­ter­tain­ment are too,’’ says finder’s travel ex­pert An­gus Kid­man.

“The av­er­age cost of a do­mes­tic cruise with Car­ni­val is $150 per per­son per night and a ho­tel of a sim­i­lar stan­dard, such as the Mantra, costs an av­er­age $96 per per­son per night. So while cruises may seem a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive, you need to re­mem­ber that, un­like a tra­di­tional ho­tel, it’s an all-in­clu­sive hol­i­day.

“If you find it hard stick­ing to a bud­get while on hol­i­days then cruis­ing is an op­tion worth ex­plor­ing and be­cause it’s largely all in­clu­sive, and you pay up­front, that lim­its on-board spend­ing and helps avoid the dreaded posthol­i­day bill shock.’’

SEEK­ING SOME­THING LUXE

It’s rich pick­ings for those ea­ger to treat them­selves with Aza­mara and Cu­nard bring­ing ves­sels to Aus­tralia dur­ing cruise sea­son, Vik­ing and Scenic – tra­di­tion­ally river cruis­ing com­pa­nies – ex­pand­ing to the ocean, and ho­tel chain Ritz-Carl­ton build­ing a lav­ish yacht to let guests ex­plore the seas in style.

Cruise Ex­press man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Meg Hill says “the lux­ury end of the mar­ket is grow­ing rapidly’’ with brands in­vest­ing in new ships and re­fur­bish­ing the ex­ist­ing fleet to serve those look­ing to spend more money.

“Cruis­ing is per­fect for peo­ple con­sid­er­ing a lux­ury hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence as ships tend to be smaller, of­fer­ing an in­ti­mate and so­phis­ti­cated bou­tique ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as the per­son­alised service,’’ she says.

“Th­ese small ships call at less-vis­ited ports, pro­vid­ing the lux­ury of step­ping off the ves­sel in the cen­tre of town rather than fac­ing a long coach trans­fer from the com­mer­cial port, and many of­fer ex­tras from shore ex­cur­sions and an open bar to spe­cialty din­ing and ship­board Wi-Fi.

“Lux­ury brands are in­creas­ingly fo­cused on des­ti­na­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence im­mer­sion – the trend is to spend longer in port – and it’s also com­mon to co-or­di­nate their visit with key events like the Monaco Grand Prix.

“Fares can be more af­ford­able than peo­ple think, es­pe­cially at the be­gin­ning or end of the sea­son such as the Mediter­ranean in March or Oc­to­ber, but ex­pect to pay from $500 a per­son a day for a lead-in bal­cony suite on a pre­mium ship.’’

A CHOICE IN CABIN COST

Not only is there va­ri­ety be­tween ships but trav­ellers must de­cide on cabin cat­e­gory. State­rooms start with sim­ple in­side rooms with­out a win­dow, in­creas­ing in size and service to grand mul­ti­storey vil­las that come with higher price tags.

As an ex­am­ple, Celebrity Sol­stice,

Celebrity’s “lo­cal’’ ship sail­ing Aus­tralian, New Zea­land and South Pa­cific itin­er­ar­ies – lets trav­ellers em­bark on a 12-night jour­ney to the Great Bar­rier Reef from $2349 a per­son for an in­te­rior cabin or $3109 a per­son for a bal­cony suite right up to $29,725 a per­son for the pen­t­house.

“Celebrity rep­re­sents a level of at­tain­able lux­ury for those look­ing to step up their hol­i­day,’’ says Royal Caribbean Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager Adam Arm­strong. “We of­fer a range of state­rooms, cater­ing to dif­fer­ent needs and bud­gets, and 85 per cent of the state­rooms have bal­conies.”

ITIN­ER­ARY FOR EVERY BUD­GET

Just as ships and cabin cat­e­gories cater to dif­fer­ent hol­i­day bud­gets so do itin­er­ar­ies. TravelManagers per­sonal travel man­ager De­bra Mavin says hol­i­day mak­ers can set sail for as lit­tle as $100 a night on a repo­si­tion­ing trip.

“A repo­si­tion­ing cruise is when a ship needs to re­lo­cate from one lo­ca­tion to an­other at the be­gin­ning or end of a sea­son, with em­barka­tion and dis­em­barka­tion ports dif­fer­ent, and it’s an ideal way to pick up a non-tra­di­tional itin­er­ary that’s ex­cep­tional value as they can be half as much as reg­u­lar sail­ings,’’ the NSW-based agent says.

“A shore or ‘taster cruise’ from two to five nights is an af­ford­able in­tro­duc­tion to cruis­ing and I’m see­ing growth in pop­u­lar­ity here with ex­tended fam­ily and friends cel­e­brat­ing spe­cial mile­stones on a ship due to the af­ford­abil­ity with trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion, meals and en­ter­tain­ment in­cluded in the fare.

“A longer cruise is ideal for peo­ple who like va­ri­ety – mul­ti­ple coun­tries, ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent cities, en­joy­ing on-board ex­pe­ri­ences at leisure – and they can start at $149 a per­son a night for a six-night trip to Tas­ma­nia to $245 a per­son a night for an 111night around-the-world voy­age on the Queen Vic­to­ria.’’

PIC­TURE: CELEBRITY CRUISES

The lux­ury cruise mar­ket is ex­pand­ing, but there are ships to suit all bud­gets.

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