More than 1.2 million Australians took a holiday at sea last year – a 21 per cent jump on the previous year, the biggest increase on record.
To be exact, 1,281,159 people chose to board a cruise in 2016, the Cruise Lines International Association Australasia’s (CLIA) 2016 Australian Ocean Passenger Cruise Industry Source Market Report shows.
CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said: “That’s one in 19 Australians taking a cruise, making this the highest per capita ratio in the world.”
Australia’s favourite cruising destination was the South Pacific, attracting more than 42 per cent of ocean cruise passengers, with Australia and New Zealand also popular.
“With many of these local cruises calling at 34 regional ports and anchorages around the Australian coastline, local communities benefit from the injection of valuable tourist dollars into the local economies,” Mr Katz said.
The most popular length of cruise last year was eight to 14 days, but short-break cruises for four days or less grew by 59.7 per cent in 2016. Cruises of 22-plus days also rose by more than 20 per cent.
Carnival Australia helped power the wave of extra cruisers, with nearly 80 per cent of the additional 222,378 passengers travelling on ships from its seven lines: P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, Holland America Line, Seabourn and P&O Cruises World Cruising.
Carnival Australia executive chairman Ann Sherry said: “We are very proud of Carnival Australia’s part in cruising consolidating its position as the most successful sector of Australian tourism, with more than a decade of double-digit annual growth in passenger numbers.”
The addition of P&O Cruises’ Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in November 2015, provided a big increase in local capacity.
RCL Cruises – which incorporates Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, as well as boutique line Azamara Club Cruises – also increased capacity.
RCL Cruises managing director Adam Armstrong said: “We are seeing a cruise market that is on a growth path quite unlike anything that’s been seen in the world, outside of China.”
RCL Cruises added two ships to its locally based fleet in 2016, including Ovation of the Seas, the country’s largest and most modern megaliner, with capacity for 4,905 passengers. Explorer of the Seas was also added to the local fleet.
CLIA Australia’s Mr Katz said the growing capacity and wide variety of cruising options were “capturing the imagination of Australians, with more Australians discovering that cruising is an easy, relaxing and value-for-money way to holiday”.
And with Australians spending 12 million days at sea last year, who can argue?
* Featured image: Ovation of the Seas in Sydney.