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The Australian cruise industry continues its dramatic growth and this month will be the biggest on record.

Many cruise passengers on world voyages taking in the grandeur of Rio de Janeiro, the glamour of Monte Carlo and cinematic skyline of New York conclude at the end of their journey that cruising into Sydney Harbour was the highlight of it all.

It is possibly no surprise then that Australia is fast becoming the ‘it’ destination of cruising. A feature on trends in 2012 on the Cruise Critic website has even gone so far as to call it the new Mediterranean.

Sydney, now the irrefutable cruise capital of Australia, will welcome a total of 26 ships on 33 visits this month, the highest number of cruise ships to visit in any one month – a month-long Festival of Cruising. Across the entire wave season the city will receive at total of 214 vessel visits. The port city received 150 visits last year.

“That’s a 43 per cent increase, with more to come,” says Duncan Gay, Minister for Roads and Ports. “Indeed, next year we already have bookings for 264 cruise ship visits.”

There are in fact so many cruise ships visiting the city this month that some will moor mid-harbour before ferrying passengers ashore. The big names visiting include Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which made a romantic entrance for Valentines Day; Queen Elizabeth, arriving on the 26th February; and UK-based P&O Cruises ships Aurora on February 17, and Oriana on February 23, on which passengers will celebrate P&O Cruises’ 175th anniversary.

Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which represents 13 of the visiting cruise ships, said the Festival of Cruising emphasised cruising’s contribution as the standout success of the Australian tourism sector.

It’s not just overseas visitors who are attracted to Australia’s unique cruise offerings. There has been a huge increase in the popularity of cruising among the Australian public. Classic International Cruises, for instance, recently reported that its ship Athena has just enjoyed her longest and most successful season here yet, with business up seven per cent and a repeat passenger rate of up to 50 per cent.

Cruise lines around the world are trying to get a piece of the Aussie cruise pie. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Spirit has just emerged from dry dock sporting $7 million worth of upgrades, ahead of her arrival in Sydney later this year, most of which are specifically targeted to the Australian public.

The future looks bright for the cruising scene Down Under.