Ditch the car, the great Aussie cruise trip is the new way to see our coun­try

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

Aussies are in­fat­u­ated with cruis­ing our coast­line and it doesn’t look like the af­fair will end soon. The Cruise Lines In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion re­ports Aus­tralia will wel­come “an un­prece­dented num­ber’’ of pas­sen­ger lin­ers this cruise sea­son – about 60 – and they’ll make more than 1000 port vis­its be­fore the end of April. CLIA Aus­trala­sia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Joel Katz says cruis­ing re­mains one of the pre­ferred ways to travel around Aus­tralia.

“The ex­pand­ing range of re­gional cruise op­tions has prompted a surge in lo­cal pas­sen­gers choos­ing to cruise close to home,” Katz says.

He says 26 per cent of Aussie cruis­ers are book­ing do­mes­tic travel.

“Based on last year’s trends, we ex­pect to see itin­er­ar­ies un­der 14 days re­main most pop­u­lar, but we are see­ing trips of more than 22 days surge in pop­u­lar­ity, grow­ing by over 20 per cent. With these trends we ex­pect another ex­cit­ing sum­mer sea­son with thou­sands plan­ning their next jour­ney dur­ing Plan-A-Cruise Month.”


Royal Caribbean Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam Arm­strong says cus­tomer feed­back sug­gests cruis­ing is tops with lo­cals keen to ex­plore their own patch be­cause “guests can de­light in the travel it­self rather than just the des­ti­na­tion’’.

“For a vast is­land like Aus­tralia, cruis­ing re­ally does make sense and in­stead of driv­ing hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres, Aussies can take the leisurely op­tion by win­ing and din­ing in spe­cialty restau­rants, watch­ing a show, try­ing unique on-board ac­tiv­i­ties, and wak­ing up in a new port each day,’’ Arm­strong says.

“We’re see­ing de­mand con­tinue to grow for our Tas­ma­nian and short-sam­pler voy­ages, which saw a 21 per cent in­crease in Aussie pas­sen­gers last sea­son, and we ex­pect that num­ber to grow by a fur­ther 39 per cent this sea­son such is the de­mand for lo­cals to ex­plore their own back­yard on a cruise.

“The port most vis­ited by our Aussie guests last sea­son was Ho­bart, where MONA and Mount Welling­ton prove to be a big pull, and Dar­win came in sec­ond with of­fer­ings like the jump­ing croc­o­diles and Litch­field’s wa­ter­falls ap­peal­ing to guests.’’


The big­gest devel­op­ment in do­mes­tic cruis­ing is the ad­di­tion of new des­ti­na­tions with com­pa­nies ex­pand­ing the in­ven­tory of port vis­its and shore ex­cur­sions to help va­ca­tion­ers see bucket-list lo­ca­tions around the land.

Wol­lon­gong is a pop­u­lar stop on Royal Caribbean jour­neys af­ter Ra­di­ance of the Seas made the city a new pas­sen­ger port last Oc­to­ber and up­grades to the Port of New­cas­tle will open the Hunter to mega­ships with Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-largest boat, Ex­plorer of the Seas, set to call in Fe­bru­ary 2019. P&O re­turned to Townsville in April 2017 af­ter a sixyear ab­sence – the com­pany will test the city’s abil­ity to serve as a home port next Septem­ber by con­duct­ing a mini turn­around that will see 400 pas­sen­gers board Pa­cific Eden – and Aza­mara is adding re­gional cen­tres to the West Aus­tralian coast.

“When look­ing for new ports we con­sider a num­ber of fac­tors, such as whether the lo­ca­tion is a good fit for itin­er­ar­ies and if we’re able to dock close to the city cen­tre,’’ says Aza­mara di­rec­tor of des­ti­na­tion plan­ning Michael Pawlus.

“In 2018, we’ll be in­tro­duc­ing our Aus­tralian Ex­plorer which is an im­mer­sive way to see Aus­tralia and in­cludes maiden calls for the line to Ex­mouth, Fre­man­tle, Bun­bury, Esper­ance and Al­bany as well as Kan­ga­roo Is­land and Ade­laide.’’


While itin­er­ar­ies are packed with port stops there will al­ways be days spent at sea and ev­ery ship’s crew toil to keep pas­sen­gers en­ter­tained when there’s noth­ing but deep blue in­side the hori­zon.

“Mod­ern cruise op­er­a­tors must of­fer an on-board prod­uct that ap­peals to more peo­ple, with a range of in­ter­ests and tastes, and that means serv­ing up ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing sea days that go be­yond the tra­di­tional ship en­ter­tain­ment,’’ P&O Cruises pres­i­dent Steve Myrmell says.

“P&O aims to of­fer more choice, with more than 60 ac­tiv­i­ties on board ev­ery day, and pas­sen­gers can grab a thrill on the long­est wa­ter­slides at sea or chill out dur­ing a game of lawn bowls with a panoramic ocean view on the out­door green.”

P&O’s Pa­cific Dawn boasts the Edge Ad­ven­ture Park with a climb­ing wall, zip-line cross­ing the sun deck, pool and kids’ wa­ter park, day spa, af­ter­noon tea cre­ated by celebrity chef Luke Man­gan, an out­door screen for al­fresco movies, nightly the­atre shows and theme par­ties.


Trav­ellers look­ing to ex­plore the Aus­tralian coast aren’t limited to board­ing a big ship. Sev­eral smaller fleets – in­clud­ing Coral Ex­pe­di­tions, True North, Kim­ber­ley Quest, Tas­ma­nia Boat Char­ters and Ahoy Buc­ca­neers – of­fer itin­er­ar­ies that nav­i­gate scenic stretches from Tas­ma­nia to the Kim­ber­ley.

“We’re find­ing that, as Aus­tralians be­come sea­soned cruis­ers, many seek more in­ti­mate and au­then­tic ways to ex­pe­ri­ence our beau­ti­ful coast­line by ship,’’ Ahoy Buc­ca­neers owner Shel­ley Gould says.

“On our Kim­ber­ley cruises, our 26guest yacht can get into the chan­nel of the mag­nif­i­cent Montgomery Reef and into the heart of Sil­ver­gull Cove, places larger ves­sels can’t reach, and it’s spe­cial to ex­pe­ri­ence the raw magic with just a hand­ful of fel­low guests in­stead of hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers on a larger liner.

“Aboard smaller ships the crew be­come your friends and it’s eas­ier to make friends with other guests. With less reg­i­men­ta­tion and no queu­ing or crowd­ing, it’s more re­laxed aboard, our ves­sel is small enough to of­fer spon­tane­ity and our itin­er­ary is flex­i­ble so we go where the weather and wildlife are best,’’ Gould says.


Kara Lane from ecruis­ing. travel says there’s never been a bet­ter time to book a do­mes­tic voy­age with com­pe­ti­tion be­tween cruise com­pa­nies and the in­creas­ing num­ber of ships serv­ing Aus­tralia com­bin­ing to bring bet­ter rates.

“For a three-day es­cape, prices start at $349 a per­son for a twin share in­side cabin through to $959 for a bal­cony, while seven-day sail­ing can start from $979 a per­son, and to se­cure the best deal when trav­el­ling with the fam­ily in hol­i­day pe­ri­ods book early as triple and quad-share cab­ins go first,’’ she says. “For other trav­ellers, last-minute spe­cials are great, es­pe­cially if you’re not fussed on cabin lo­ca­tion and can de­part at a mo­ment’s no­tice, and cruise lines al­ways have spe­cials run­ning so check in­clu­sions with every­thing from com­pli­men­tary up­grades and on-board cred­its to free Wi-Fi and bev­er­age pack­ages on of­fer.’’


Ex­plor­ing coastal des­ti­na­tions such as Hell­fire Bay in Esper­ance, WA, (above) is on Aza­mara’s 2018 itin­er­ary; Ho­bart was Royal Caribbean’s most vis­ited port by Aussies last sea­son and Wol­lon­gong is a pop­u­lar stop.

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