Australians are awash with cruise options
ALMOST half a million of us sailed off on a cruising holiday last year, according to recent figures released by the International Cruise Council Australasia. That’s close to one in 20 Australians and a 27 per cent increase on 2009, the biggest rise since figures were first compiled nine years ago.
Australians are developing a broad taste for cruising in all its forms: ocean cruising on board small, medium or large liners; river cruising down the historic waterways of Europe and Asia; and expedition cruising to farflung reaches of the globe.
The percentage rise represents the largest national growth across the globe, leaving aside New Zealand (with its much smaller population).
Some of this surge reflects the patterns of ‘‘serial offenders’’ — that is, those of us whose feet hardly touch land before we are busy planning our next waterbased adventure, whether it’s to exotic South America or the Antarctic or, closer to home, to New Zealand to follow the Wallabies and enjoy rugby matches during the World Cup later this year.
Two main factors help explain our ongoing enthusiasm for all things cruising, according to ICCA chairman Gavin Smith: the increase in the number of ships sailing into local waters, facilitating hassle-free local experience (no long-haul flights and pesky airport transfers), as well as the continued strength of our currency.
Another trend that makes regular cruising more appealing is the increase in lifestyle and fitness facilities on board — state-of-the-art gym equipment, jogging tracks, golf simulators, boxing rings and even climbing walls — allowing passengers to maintain their land-based regimen or explore new activities.
Popular destinations remain the South Pacific and circumnavigations of Australia and New Zealand, with European and Asian itineraries accounting for 8 per cent. River cruising doubled in popularity last year.