Looking back at 20 years of cruising
Cruising has undergone a spectacular evolution over the past two decades with traveller numbers from Australia and New Zealand growing exponentially.
To say Australians and New Zealanders have fallen in love with cruising over the past 20 years would be an understatement. In 2002, a mere 116,308 Australians and 26,510 New Zealanders took a cruise.
With double-digit growth most years, those figures are now a whopping 1.35 million Australians and 112,000 New Zealanders, according to industry body CLIA.
Why is cruising so appealing to Australians? “Australians have always wanted value for money,” says Cruiseco’s CEO, Nic Cola. “We plan complex and all-encompassing trips to overseas destinations and cruising enables guests to achieve this at great value. The shipboard lifestyle mirrors our lifestyle, in the way of pools, eatery options and entertainment.”
In 2020, every aspect of a cruise holiday has changed. Dining, for example. Once, celebrity chefs turned up their noses at cruising – but today they’re queuing to get onboard. Crystal Cruises has Nobu Matsuhisa. Thomas Keller is on Seabourn and Curtis Stone on Princess Cruises, while Luke Mangan was persuaded by P&O to open the first Salt grill at sea in 2009, on Pacific Jewel.
Entertainment has evolved from sequins, feathers and songs from the shows to actual Broadway productions – look at Royal Caribbean, with We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia, or NCL with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
MSC has three ships with a purpose-built arena for Cirque du Soleil shows, which passengers can enjoy at a fraction of the price of a shore-based Cirque production.
Cruise ships are getting larger, for sure, but not every line has gone the big-is-beautiful route. Luxury lines including Silversea and Seabourn have discovered that around 600 is optimum for high-spending customers. Newcomers are snapping at their heels; Oceania Cruises, Azamara and Viking Ocean, all launched in the past two decades and operating 15 ships between them, have successfully fine-tuned the concept of affordable luxury.
One of cruising’s great successes is the industry’s chameleon-like ability to respond to change and challenge. Here, Cruiseco has led the way. After the Bali bombing in 2002, Cruiseco jumped into action to offer Australians an alternative holiday option, sailing from home ports. When SARS further threatened Southeast Asia in 2003, Cruiseco committed to filling cabins on Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo and Superstar Leo, both of which redeployed to Australia. The horrors of 9/11 shook travellers’ confidence to the core but again, Cruiseco worked flat out to charter ships and offer holidaymakers an adventure that didn’t involve flying.
Happier events have inspired the growth of the cruise charter business, too. Cruiseco was the first company to charter a P&O ship for Australia Day and a sell-out charter with Azamara marked the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015.
Cruiseco also created the first modern-day circumnavigation of Australia, on Pacific Princess, in 2005, and took Australians to distant shores for top sporting events – the One Day Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007 and the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.
Here’s to the last 20 years, and to the next 20 to come.
The future of cruising
The number of cruise passengers departing Australia and New Zealand has doubled over the last 20 years, but what does the future of cruising hold? Cruiseco’s CEO Nicola Cola gives us the low down
To say Australians and New Zealanders have fallen in love with cruising over the past 20 years would be an understatement. In 2002, a mere 116,308 Australians and 26,510 New Zealanders took a cruise. With double-digit growth most years, those figures are now a whopping 1.35 million Australians and 112,000 New Zealanders, according to industry body CLIA.
Why is cruising so appealing to Australians?
“Australians have always wanted value for money. We plan complex and all-encompassing trips to overseas destinations and cruising enables guests to achieve this at great value. The shipboard lifestyle mirrors our lifestyle, in the way of pools, eatery options and entertainment.”
Given the relatively small size of Australia’s population, have we reached saturation point with cruising?
“I think we have the right quantity of ships visiting. But we want to see cruise line brands continue to bring newer ships to our region, opening up different dining and entertainment concepts, which Australians are ready for.”
What do the next 20 years hold?
“We’re seeing many cruise lines activating future-proofing strategies by appealing to families and affluent younger cruisers. The Mediterranean will continue to grow, with alternatives to major ports introduced in response to overtourism. Australians will look increasingly to expedition cruising, too, as more ships enter the market. Coastal Australian cruising, though, will need to entice more inbound passengers to remain viable as Australians graduate to opportunities further afield.”
Where would these be?
“I’d like to see closer fly–cruise destinations open up – itineraries departing familiar places such as Bali or Fiji to places within those regions not easily accessible from Australia. Imagine cruising Tahiti, the Philippines and Micronesia with ease! Indian Ocean cruising is in its infancy, too, and with better air connections, could see increased support.”
And what’s on your wish list?
“Choice and customisation. Choosing a beverage package or dining package for a day or a week. Joining a cruise at any port I wish to and disembarking at any port I wish to. There are exciting times to come; the future for cruising is bright.”