Australians have taken to cruising so much that it’s predicted more than a million of us will cruise this year (a milestone five years ahead of industry expectations). So what’s led to this boom in holidays on the water?
- Spoilt for choice
During Australia’s annual “wave season” from October to April, more ships than ever are cruising out of Australian ports. The choice can be mind-boggling. Start with working out what type of cruise suits your personality. Are you comfortable cruising with thousands of others? The biggest ships based in Australia are Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas and (from November) Explorer of the Seas, which can both carry more than 3000 passengers. Are you after something mid-size? Try Silversea’s Silver Spirit, which carries up to 540 guests. Want something even more intimate? Be among True North’s 36 guests cruising the Kimberley region’s pristine waters.
- Show me the (value) for money
Add up how much you might spend on a holiday that includes three meals a day, a hotel room and transport costs, and you might find the daily cost of cruising is cheaper. Look out for special cruise deals that could mean you’re cruising to exotic places for less than $100 a day. Some lines, such as Silversea, offer all-inclusive fares that include drinks.
- Less lugging, more convenience
Travelling overland can be tiring. There’s constant unpacking and repacking of luggage, working out transport logistics and schedules, and more. For many people, the best part of cruising is that you unpack once – leaving you free to just have fun. Think you need to take a few weeks off to enjoy a cruise holiday?
- Fun on tap
Everyone’s idea of fun is different. Adrenalin junkies might pick a ship that’s got the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea (Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit) or a surf simulator, rock-climbing walls, mini-golf course and ice-skating rink (Voyager and Explorer of the Seas). Seabourn is offering kayak excursions directly from its ships’ fold-out watersports marina from July in northern Europe. Those after more serene activities can soak in an onsen-inspired facility aboard the Japanese-themed Diamond Princess.
- Access to far-flung destinations
Cruise lines are constantly adding new ports of call to itineraries. P&O has added ports in Papua New Guinea. Silversea will cruise to Cuba this year. Carnival has invested US$85 million in building a new port near Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic that will welcome passengers from October (the last cruise ship to call at Puerto Plata was 30 years ago). Captain Cook Cruises Fiji now cruises to the far-flung Lau Islands in Fiji’s far east near Tonga. These rustic islands offer a glimpse of traditional culture.
- Learn something new
Many ships offer lectures, workshops and classes. P&O runs food and wine cruises out of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne that include live culinary demonstrations, tastings (wine, cheese, whisky and more) and masterclasses. Got a thing for comedy or country music? Look out for special themed cruises. When Radiance of the Seas cruises out of Sydney in October bound for Vanuatu and New Caledonia, she will have high-profile country-music artists aboard including Troy Cassar-Daley, Sara Storer and Adam Harvey. Passengers can take songwriting and guitar workshops or learn the finer points of line dancing and square dancing.
- Family fun
Some ships specialize in entertaining the kids. Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn offer P&O Edge, the largest adventure park at sea. Activities include abseiling the aft funnel, zipping along on the flying fox and conquering an obstacle course. Royal Caribbean offers teen lounge areas and a disco while Celebrity Cruises features one of the largest Xbox experiences at sea.
- Go the river route
Nervous about the motion of the ocean? Try smooth-as-glass river-cruising instead. Glide past medieval churches and pretty cobblestone villages on European rivers such as the Danube, explore the vibrant villages lining Asian waterways such as the Mekong and Irrawaddy, or swing along the Mississippi on a paddle wheel steamer.
- Food, Glorious Food (and drink)
Food is often the highlight of a cruise. Many ships are taking dining to the next level. Diamond Princess features Kai Sushi, an excellent Japanese restaurant. When P&O’s Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria arrive in Australia in November, they’ll unveil The Pantry – a variety of food outlets offering everything from Mexican street food to classic curries that replaces the traditional cruise buffet. As for drinks, the Australian-based superliner Dawn Princess is the first Princess ship to offer a beer and wine garden festival experience at sea. It’s also boasting a new whisky menu that includes five Australian drops.