Australians love of luxury

Australians are fuelling a new shift to luxury in the cruise market, seemingly happy to say: If you are going to cruise, you may as well do it in style.

The Australian cruiser is now more likely to buy spacious staterooms, butler services, fine dining packages and indulgent spa treatments.

A survey of five-star cruise lines have all reported a steady spike in the number of Australian cruisers on luxury voyages.

Cunard has seen a 40 per cent surge in the number of Australians signing up for it’s world voyages and Mediterranean fly-cruise itineraries scheduled for 2015.

Australians are now the line’s third largest market after the UK and US. And a high proportion of Australian passengers are first time Cunard cruisers.

On board the flagship Queen Mary 2, a significant 61 per cent of Australians guests this year have been newcomers to the brand while Queen Victoria reported that 39 per cent of Australian passengers were first time Cunard customers.

“Overall, our Australian guest numbers have risen by almost one-third in 2014, with the number of Australians we are carrying on Mediterranean cruises more than tripling compared to 2013 and world voyage guest numbers also rising 20 per cent,’’ Cunard International Development Director David Rousham said.

Royal Caribbean International has also seen a large proportion of Australians on its Celebrity Solstice and Azamara Club Cruises particularly in Europe and the Caribbean.

“This strong demand for luxury cruising from Australians is one of the reasons Azamara Club Cruises is having an Australian season down under for 2015-16.

Our bookings from Australians for suites on board Royal Caribbean ships in this market are very strong,’’ said Sean Treacy, Asia Pacific commercial director for RCL.

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony said Australian passengers are an important market and numbers have grown steadily over the years. Australia is now ranked the top three position, after the US and UK.

US passengers make up 75 per cent of its market and the remaining 25 per cent is dominated by cruisers from the UK, Australia and Japan respectively.

Seabourn has also experienced a steady growth of Australians taking luxury cruises.

“This is part of a worldwide trend as more passengers from the US, Europe and Australia sign up for luxury voyages. Australia is among our top four markets,’’ a spokesperson said.

Seabourn is now building a bigger luxury ship estimated to cost more than $300 million – the fifth in its Odyssey class fleet – to be ready by 2018. Another new Odyssey ship is also under construction and expected to be finished in 2016.

Angus Crichton, general manager of Evergreen Tours has also noticed that Australians have developed a taste for luxury and prefer to repeat the same experience in different parts of the world by sticking to the same brand.

The launch of its two Evergreen starships, Emerald Sky and Emerald Star this year on the River Danube and Rhine has been dominated by Australian cruisers. The ships can take accommodate 182 passengers each.

Bookings on Evergreen’s luxury  RV Mekong Navigator in Vietnam and Cambodia in 2016 has already had a good response from Australians, he said.

Small luxury line SeaDream has seen a 12 per cent increase of Australian holiday makers on its two 112-passenger ships this year particularly on cruises from Istanbul to the Gallipoli via the small port of Kepez.

“We are seeing more Australian baby boomers who have developed a taste for travelling in luxury. They have the money to travel at a certain standard of luxury.

“There has also been a strong growth of small groups and corporate charters as part of their sales and incentive tours,’’ business development manager Julie Denovan said.

Diane Patrick from Willtrans International said; “Throughout my 27-years experience, the Australian luxury cruise market has continued to grow and stands well in the global market.  Contributing to this is the ongoing evolution of the onboard experience, unique itineraries and the value that genuine ultra-luxury cruising provides for the client.

“An itinerary example would be Crystal Cruises launch of their inaugural 32-day Northwest Passage voyage from Anchorage to New York in August 2016. A sell-out in 3-days with cruise fares commencing from US$21,000 per person. . At the other end of the spectrum and adding to overall growth, new-cruisers can sample the Crystal luxury experience by including a seven-day cruise around the Mediterranean or Baltic during their longer European holiday.

“Exploring new destinations has been a key focus for Regent Seven Seas Cruises and their decision to include a selection of complimentary shore excursions in every port in the all-inclusive onboard policy has been widely popular with Australian travellers.  Excellent value for the guests visiting any global destination but so important for maximising the shoreside enjoyment in countries such as South America and Alaska.”