by Teresa Ooi and Peter Lynch

Australians looking for small-ship luxury cruises will be spoilt for choice in 2018 as the sector booms and lines bring more vessels to Sydney.

But cruisers had better be quick. According to Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Australians are booking cabins so far out that the line is set to release itineraries for 2020.

Lisa Pile, vice president sales Australia/New Zealand for the line, said 2019 will be a “bonzer year” – and the early release of 2020 programs is because passengers are forward booking the best suites in record numbers.

The average Australian luxury cruise is for 12 days at $20,000 per suite. Some are taking two suites and removing the divider walls to accommodate family. One woman even booked a suite for her clothes.

The Australian boom in luxury cruising has attracted some of the best-known names – with three visiting Sydney this week to showcase their ships.

Newest entrant Viking Ocean Cruises brought in Viking Sun, promising new-build Viking Orion will be here for three months in December, and even longer in 2019.

The freshly refurbished Seven Seas Navigator also visited – one of several Regent Seven Seas sailings in Australia that increases the line’s presence by 30 per cent.

Oceania Cruises berthed Regatta, and revealed Australia has become the second most important market after America for the line. Oceania’s vice president of sales for Australasia, Steve McLaughlin reported record interest.

Regatta will spend 56 days in Australia and New Zealand, returning for an even bigger season from November 2018 to March 2019.

According to Steve Odell, Norwegian Cruise Line’s senior vice president and managing director Asia Pacific: “In 2016, Regent Seven Seas ships spent just two days in local waters. Strong demand led to that increasing to 60 days during 2017 in Australia and New Zealand while this year, vessels in the fleet will be sailing in our region for some 90 days.”

Viking Ocean Cruises is also planning an assault on the Australian market. While the line’s small ships don’t claim a luxury label, they are certainly above premium.

According to Michelle Black, Viking’s managing director, Australia and New Zealand, Australians are starting to get the brand. One particular hot seller for Australia has been the North Pacific Passage cruise, a 22-night journey from Japan to Canada. The trip next year will be 50 per cent Aussie – a company record.

So who should you choose? And what do you get for your money?

Read our verdict on Viking Sun here.

Read our verdict on Regent Seven Seas Navigator here.

Read our verdict on Oceania Regatta here.