For decades, the stereotypical image of the Australian cruise holiday fan was a rosy-cheeked retiree, shuffling to the buffet for bottomless prawn cocktails and bingo nights.

It was a bit of a myth. But it managed to put off tens of thousands of travellers convinced that cruise ships were floating retirement villages.

But a seismic shift is underway. The 2023 Cruise Lines International (CLIA) Australasia report paints a very different of the Aussie cruiser. The new face of the Australian cruiser is younger, more adventurous, and prioritises luxury experiences that go beyond the all-you-can-eat buffets and endless cocktails.

What’s more, according to the latest numbers, we’re the fourth-largest cruising nation on the planet, with totals growing over the next four years to an astonishing 1.7 million.

That means an extra 460,000 by 2028 – or the equivalent of 129 new sailings of Majestic Princess with every cabin taken.

Let’s unpack this exciting evolution.

Farewell Stereotypes: Cruising for a Younger Generation

The CLIA report tosses overboard the myth that cruising is solely for retirees. The average age of the Australian cruise passenger has dropped to 48.4 years old. Five years ago the average age was 50.4 years.

Joel Katz, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director in Australasia told Cruise Passenger:

“We are seeing a clear generational change as cruise lines attract new cruisers and younger travellers. The typical age of a cruise passenger has been coming down steadily for many years, both locally and around the world. The average age of an Australian cruise passenger is now just 48.4 years, down from 50.4 in 2019.  The portion of cruisers aged under 40 is now almost a third, or 32.5%.

“Research internationally shows some of the most enthusiastic of potential first-time cruisers are from among the younger generations— Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

“Cruise lines have been broadening the diversity of experiences and different styles of cruising for some time, and this has resulted in incredible choices on board and on shore. Cruise fans know this, and an increasing number of younger people have discovered this too.  But among people who have never cruised before, there are still a significant number who think a cruise is only about bingo and shuffleboard. That means we still have work to do in showing how varied the different styles of cruising have become and the remarkable value it offers.”

This younger demographic of the Australian cruiser is that they are digitally savvy, well-travelled, and possesses a strong desire for curated experiences that combine relaxation with exploration. They’re not interested in simply lounging by the pool all week – they crave itineraries packed with cultural immersion, shore excursions with a focus on authenticity, and opportunities to connect with the destinations they visit.

Steve Odell, Chief Sales Officer of Regent Seven Seas said: “The really great news is that 27% of global cruise travellers are first timers! More time in port and more cultural experiences also stood out which reinforces Regent Seven Seas’ decision to offer more Immersive overnight itineraries.”

Highly commended cruise line for families: Carnival Cruise Line

The rise of multigenerational cruising

Another major demographic change is the rise of multi-generational cruising. Fuelled by grandparents with cash to spend and a hankering to take the whole family on holiday without the heartache of domestic chores, cruise has become a favourite for big family get togethers and many lines now have interlinked suites or cabins to cater for a new generational boom.

Odell had further insights.

“In addition to the top line numbers there is a noticeable growth in the 18-35 age bracket – undoubtedly, multi-generational travel and more availability of shorter cruises are an influence in the local homeport market (28% of cruise travellers travel with 3-5 generations).”

“In the broader CLIA Global report it was eye-opening to see that younger generations are booking with a travel agent at an even higher rate than older generations. This reinforces our commitment and focus on the travel agent community especially as we (at Regent) look to convert GenX and eventually Millennials to our brand.”

A Craving for Culinary Delights

Homogenous buffets churning out endless plates of mass-produced food are definitely sinking without trace. The new wave of Australian cruise goers has a passion for good food. Cruise lines are catering to this by offering a wider variety of dining options, from specialty restaurants featuring internationally-acclaimed chefs to regionally-inspired cuisine that reflects the flavours of the ports of call.

Think freshly shucked oysters while docked in Sydney Harbour, or savouring a plate of steaming pho after exploring the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

AmaDolce offers a lovely seafood buffet

Luxury Redefined: A Focus on Wellness and Enrichment

Luxury for the modern younger Australian cruiser isn’t just about spacious cabins and plush amenities. It’s about an experience that nourishes both the body and the soul.

And cruise lines are upping their game by providing world-class wellness facilities, including state-of-the-the-art gyms, yoga studios with panoramic ocean views, and even onboard spa treatments inspired by ancient healing traditions.

Enrichment programs are also a major draw, with lectures from renowned experts, onboard cooking demonstrations led by celebrity chefs, and workshops that delve into the history and culture of the visited destinations.

Eco-Conscious Cruising

Sustainability is a growing concern for Australians, and this extends to their travel choices. Cruise lines are recognising this by implementing eco-friendly practices, such as using cleaner fuels, reducing waste production, and offering shore excursions that promote sustainable tourism. The new breed of Australian cruise fan appreciates these efforts and actively seeks out cruise lines that are committed to protecting the delicate ecosystems they explore.

Two Diving Crabeater Seals

Adventure Awaits: Embracing the Untamed

The younger Australian cruiser isn’t content with simply ticking destinations off a list. They crave adventure and unique experiences that go beyond the typical tourist trail. Cruise lines are responding with a wider range of shore excursions catering to this adventurous spirit. This could include anything from kayaking through pristine fjords in Norway to white-water rafting down the Mekong River in Vietnam. Imagine zip-lining through the lush rainforests of Costa Rica or scaling the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan – all seamlessly integrated into your luxurious cruise itinerary.

Social Connections: Cruising as a Community Experience

While Australians love adventure, they also value social connection. The intimate nature of river cruises, with a smaller number of passengers, fosters a strong sense of community. Passengers bond over shared experiences, creating lasting friendships with fellow travellers who share their passion for exploration and discovery. Ocean cruises also offer plenty of opportunities for social interaction. From lively onboard entertainment venues to themed dinners that bring people together from all walks of life.

The Bottom Line: A Sophisticated Holiday Option

The new face of the Australian cruise enthusiast paints a picture of a discerning traveller seeking a sophisticated holiday experience.

So, ditch the deckchairs, embrace exploration, and get ready to experience the world in a whole new light. And it will be aboard your next luxurious cruise adventure.

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