Agents are reporting new-to-cruise clients are booking up in record numbers, with one saying first timers now outnumber regular passengers. And ironically, the new and enhanced health protocols which make cruise safer than hotels are being cited as the reason.
One of the newby cruisers is Reece Hammond and his fiance Bec. Mr Hammond, a tenancy advisor from Adelaide, was handed honeymoon planning duties for his upcoming wedding in September, and his research led him to cruise.
“I was very happy that the honeymoon planning got handed to me as my job, as the weddings pretty much been taken over by her.
“We’re both very different people, I’m sort of adventurous, outdoors, early riser and she’s more crowds, action-packed, waterslides, socialising and so on.
“I found something like a cruise would be an opportunity to do things that suit both of us and appeal to both of our interests. As well as the opportunity to stop at different ports and see different things and while we’re there, we can do things that would tick both our boxes.”
Another big draw for Mr Hammond was the value for money, a benefit he had previously been sceptical about.
“I’ve never been on a cruise before and I’ve always avoided it when holidaying because, thinking for the amount of money you pay, I hate to be sceptical, but there’s got to be something wrong.
“But looking into it lately, with cruise restarting in Adelaide, it’s been in your face a bit more, about ‘oh you know cruise ships coming back to Australia’, so I did a bit more research and talked to some people.
“My research sort of pointed me in the direction of Royal Caribbean being perhaps the best suited ships.”
Trying to navigate the world of cruise, Mr Hammond posted on a Royal Caribbean Australian Facebook group and received an overwhelmingly comprehensive and warm response, with 66 comments on his post.
“It was great to get so many responses, from people that have had different experiences and recommended different things. At times I felt like I was asking too many things or that my questions were too basic for such an experienced group, but everyone was very happy to answer my seemingly basic questions
“People gave quite detailed responses, which is important to me because peer information is more important than what the lines themselves advertise.”
Now Mr Hammond is looking towards destinations like New Zealand and Hawaii as he plans the first cruise for him and his wife to be.
“We’re looking to keep it pretty local and we’re both considering exploring New Zealand and we’re also suckers for warmer weather, there was a pacific cruise from Sydney to Hawaii, then a few nights there and you fly home.
Someone else has suggested I look into the new Virgin Voyages, so there was one cruise from Singapore to Sydney via Bali, with very affordable fly cruise packages.”
Mr Hammond isn’t too phased about COVID, seeing it as part of everyday life.
“We’re not too concerned about COVID, as restrictions have eased quite considerably. Our family’s been through a home quarantine and we’ve all had it.”
For now he’s simply dreaming of the moment he and his fiance get to step into their room for the first time.
“We love that moment of when we’ve gone on holidays and opened the door to our room. We’ve always sort of paused and got our cameras ready, so I can imagine the walk onto the boat and opening the door to the room knowing this is our place for at least the next 10-14 nights and we’ve got this whole city to explore and be pampered with. It’ll just be that breath of fresh air, literally.”
The wave of new cruisers
Mr Hammond appears to be far from the only person to be heading down this part, Belle Goldie, owner of iTravel Penrith, says new cruisers are booking in droves.
“There has been a massive uptake in the ‘new to cruise’ bookings. I would say it’s 60/40 at present. Especially locally. New to cruise are loving the local itineraries!
“We all know the Die Hard Cruise fans will be the first in line to board when the ships return next month but there will also be an excited bunch of new to cruise there.”
Ms Goldie says post-COVID people want easy travel, and cruise offers exactly that.
“It’s the ‘ease’ of cruise. People hear stories from experienced cruisers who tout stories of how easy cruising is .
“No having to worry about who is driving home or the need to find local restaurants or even how to get there. Post Covid travel needs to be simple and easy. It’s the value, food and all in one atmosphere that draws people in.
“I’m finding families who would normally fly and travel to holiday are now enquiring and booking cruises. It’s the ease of getting on a ship in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne and starting your holiday the moment you step onboard.”
Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise is seeing a similar pattern, noting the cruise hype is so strong that people don’t want to miss out.
“I have had an influx of first time cruisers book for this coming season. It’s really quite extraordinary the amount of new cruisers booking at the moment!
They have friends and family who are cruisers and with the hype around cruising right now, have a little bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).”
Advice for first time cruisers
If you’re reading this and are starting to crave fresh ocean air yourself, here’s what the experts say about booking your first cruise.
Ms Goldie says time is of the essence.
“Book early. Don’t wait. Most of the cruise lines first sailings from Aus are already sold out. Christmas and New Years and speciality cruises like P&O’s Melbourne Cup or Elvis cruises are selling fast!”
Ms Summerhayes says getting in touch with an expert will ensure your first experience is all smooth sailing.
“It’s important for a first time cruiser to get on the right ship with the right itinerary for them. Not all cruises are for everyone, but there IS a cruise for everyone. Talk in depth with a cruise specialist to ensure you’ll be on the right cruise for you.
“They all look fantastic on websites, but talking to a cruise specialist that has done them and knows the real differences will be invaluable to your experience.”
You can find great advice right here.