More Australians are opting for holidays in the luxury cruising and expedition space according to travel agents. While much has been said about major cruise lines downsizing their Australian operations, luxury appears to be thriving.

The luxury cruise space recently has seen huge developments, with Regent Seven Seas announcing their brand new ship, and ship class, Seven Seas Prestige.

Furthermore, Cruise Traveller, an Australian cruise agency specialising in small-ship sailing, was appointed the exclusive Australian Partner for the new luxury expedition line, Atlas Ocean Voyages.

Cruise Traveller Managing Director Joseph O’Sullivan said the small ship market is thriving, as luxury cruisers have not been affected by the cost of living crisis, and have continued revenge spending.

“As CLIA has reported in its latest figures, the small ship cruise market has expanded robustly, and as experts in this space…the demand for a small ship, boutique, expedition, and ultra-luxury cruises has, clearly, never been higher, driven by travellers’ desire to travel with fewer people to more unique destinations on more immersive itineraries.”

Why luxury cruising is on the rise in Australia

Expert cruise agent, Kelly Henderson from ILoveCruising says she’s seeing more and more Aussies opt for the luxury route.

“Since cruising has returned post Covid, I’m seeing a huge shift in the luxury and small ship cruising market. I’m seeing a much larger number of clients choosing this type of cruising for a number of reasons. 

Henderson sees four reasons why more Aussies are opting for luxury cruising

  • A desire for increased levels of luxury and comfort
  • Less passengers meaning less chance of potential onboard illness
  • Better itineraries which means better excursions seeing more locations in-depth
  • More included in the fare with often everything on board & excursions included

Henderson says cruisers are looking for a more personalised experience.

“Clients are moving more towards this type of cruising to see new places, experience new things, and have more focus on them. They’re not getting lost in the buffet on board or lost in the hallways trying to find their rooms.

“Luxury and small ship cruises have proved that focusing more on personalized experiences, catering to individual preferences and offering bespoke services that enhance the overall experience.”

O’Sullivan from Cruise Traveller says he’s seeing plenty of ‘regular cruisers’ making the jump to something a bit more upscale. As well as first-time cruisers looking for something new.

“We are definitely seeing regular cruisers more frequently opting for a premium experience on smaller, luxury, expedition ships. But very sizeable growth for the small ship market is also coming from people who have never cruised before.

“New-to-cruise is now a huge market for the upmarket expedition ship sector, with increasing numbers of people boarding smaller ships for their first holiday at sea, driven by the fact these vessels offer in-depth expeditions to pristine and more remote places, so it’s principally destination which is the decider. The exciting thing for the broader cruise market is that these first-time cruisers return home not only loving the destination but also loving the experience of being on a ship.”

Which luxury cruising destinations are running hot?

By all accounts, the Kimberley is the place to be for adventuring Australians.

O’Sullivan says: “From an expedition and adventure standpoint, the Kimberley is seeing extensive growth. It’s one of the world’s great expedition destinations and it’s right on our doorstep, with more and more Australians getting to experience it thanks to the entry of more luxury expedition ships in the region.”

Henderson has seen similar interest spikes in the Kimberley, as well as others who are looking to immerse deeper on the East Coast.

“Within Australia, you’ll find most of the small ships, luxury cruising & expedition cruising that sells best in the Kimberley coast and surrounds. The unique access to the Kimberley Coast and its offshore islands is full of rich history are a must-do on many bucket lists.

“Another top seller in this market is The East Coast & Great Barrier Reef. Another part of Australia is full of history & known as Australia’s tropical playground. These itineraries let you dive below the surface to see the true and hidden beauty that is Australia.”

What are the luxury trends to watch out for?

Henderson has seen the following trends in the luxury space

  • Longer sailings: “There has been an increasing popularity in longer sailings among luxury and small ship cruises. These voyages often cater to travelers seeking extended exploration and more immersive experiences at sea.”
  • Closer-to-Home Sailings: “There’s a growing trend towards sailings that depart from and return to closer-to-home ports within Australia. This has been influenced by a desire for convenience and ease of travel logistics. Clients aren’t wanting to fly far to cruise or spend the excess money for long haul flights.”
  • Wanting an all-in-one price: Henderson says it’s proving enticing that smaller/luxury lines will often include airfares and transfers in their cruise package, making it easier to budget your holiday and know the final price.

Cruise Traveller sees younger travellers looking for luxury

  • O’Sullivan says: “The expedition cruise sector is attracting increasing numbers of younger travellers who have decided they want richer and more meaningful experiences and they don’t want to wait until they’re older.”

Are Aussies tired of the same old?

Another reason suggested for why Aussies might be looking towards luxury and expedition cruising is that smaller ships can go to a wider variety of ports, allowing Aussies to see new cruise destinations beyond what they may be used to.

Henderson says: “There’s a possibility that more Australians may lean towards luxury cruising, especially if they seek new and diverse destinations beyond what main cruise lines can typically offer unless we start seeing better offerings of new ships and destinations on the current standard cruise lines.

“Luxury cruises will provide access to the smaller, more intimate ports and more exclusive experiences that may appeal to travelers looking for the more unique and less crowded destinations.”

O’Sullivan says: “Smaller ships can go to smaller and more remote destinations which aren’t changed or altered by their arrival. Smaller ships carry fewer people with fewer processes so guests can really relax and truly experience the magic of a place.”