The South Pacific is traditionally Australia’s favourite cruising destination, but with more ships homeported and infrastructure developments opening up new destinations, Asia is making a serious play for the Australian market. 2013 saw a 30% growth in Asian cruises and this year more than 50 ships will carry 2.7 million passengers around the region – and an increasing number of these passengers are Australian.

But one disadvantage of Asian cruises for the Australian market is that they tend to depart from Asian ports, whereas South Pacific cruises depart from Australia. Potential passengers must then consider the additional cost of flying to an Asian departure point – generally at least $1,000 per person. Factoring this into the per day breakdown of a cruise price can make a South Pacific cruise seem that much more appealing.

To entice Australian cruisers away, some lines are including free flights with selected Asian cruises. Until March 31, Royal Caribbean is offering free return flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth for passengers booking an Asian cruise of 10 nights or longer onboard Legend of the Seas, for departures between 11 June and 10 November. Royal Caribbean told Cruise Passenger that Asia is one of the line’s fastest growing markets and a very popular cruise destination for Australians. APT is also offering free flights for its Mekong River cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia, saving more than $4,000 per couple.

More international lines are also increasing their presence in the region and offering ships that appeal to Australian cruisers. Legend of the Seas will be homeported in Singapore again for the 2015 season. The ship has a long history in the region and Royal Caribbean expects that many of its passengers will be Australian. Princess Cruises Sapphire Princess will return for a second Singapore season in October 2015 while P&O’s two new ships, Eden and Jewel, will also be based in Singapore during their first seasons. Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, will homeport in Shanghai from May 2015 and the newly refurbished Voyager of the Seas will call Hong Kong home from June. These are in addition to lines like StarCruises and Costa Cruises that permanently have ships based in Asian ports. Asian river cruising has also seen massive growth as a new breed of high end small ships launch in the region, cruising on the Mekong, Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers.