Aus­tralians are awash with cruise op­tions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

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.

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