Everyone knows the Melbourne Cup is 'the race that stops a nation,' but for many it's also a party that starts with a cruise. With more Australians cruising than ever, it should come as no surprise that Melbourne Cup cruises are an increasingly popular method of getting to the great race.
Traditionally, a trip to Flemington Racecourse on Cup day means buying grandstand tickets and joining the crush at Flinders Street Station. If you're lucky, you can then squeeze onto the next available train with thousands of other punters crammed in en route to the famous track.
For a growing section of racegoers, however, the only way to travel is in style – with raceday tickets and coach transfers included in the cost of a range of increasingly popular Melbourne Cup cruise packages.
With interstate guests continuing to flock to Melbourne on Cup day in record numbers, race organisers have come up with a novel solution to the city's dwindling stock of hotel rooms during the Spring Racing Carnival.
This year, the Carnival Spirit will join P&O's Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl in dropping anchor in Port Melbourne on race day, creating thousands of additional rooms in a city already teeming with punters and pundits alike.
Throw in onboard entertainment, champagne breakfasts and lavish after-parties and it's little wonder plenty of interstate visitors are choosing to cruise to Melbourne to celebrate the nation's most iconic horse race.
Value For Money
With close to a million Australians now taking a cruise each year, Carnival Cruise Lines was understandably keen to get in on the Melbourne Cup action.
"We knew that in order for us to call Carnival Spirit truly ‘Aussified,’ we had to take her to an iconic sporting event down under – and we couldn’t look past the Melbourne Cup," explains Carnival's Vice President Jennifer Vanderkreeke.
With the Carnival Spirit having relocated from California to its new home base in Sydney, Carnival's Director of Sales Anton Loeb says value for money is one of the reasons so many locals are now hitting the high seas.
"You pay a pretty affordable fare, you come on and you have your accommodation, all your main meals, all your entertainment is included," he said.
"The fact is that you can experience all this together and (still) do something new."
Cruising's booming popularity means there'll be a fourth ship in town during next year's Melbourne Cup, with P&O's refurbished Pacific Dawn set to join sister ships Jewel and Pearl – as well as the Carnival Spirit – in heading to Port Melbourne.
It's not just ocean liners getting in on the act, with plenty of sightseeing operators offering their own raceday itineraries.
Melbourne River Cruises dock adjacent to Flemington Racecourse and will provide gourmet dining and television monitors to watch the race, while a number of Sydney Harbour cruises let you take in all the action against the backdrop of the city's iconic skyline.
What was once viewed by some as an outmoded means of voyaging is these days one of Australia's hottest travel trends, leaving plenty of punters believing they've backed a winner by booking a Melbourne Cup cruise.