Elderly gap year

The biggest names in cruising are down under this week to take part in cruise trade conference Cruise3sixty Australasia.

The one-day event features global brands like Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Cruise Passenger interviewed, Hurtigruten’s general manager director Kathryn Beadle who was one of the prominent speakers at the event.

She said the Australian market was strong, and has doubled from 11 percent in 2011 during the winter seasons to 26 percent last year.

One of the most popular cruises is the Northern Light voyages, where holidaymakers see mother nature light up the sky and create an ever-changing backdrop.

The reason behind the growth, Ms Beadle believes, is that Australians aged 50 and over are seeking a product that will give them a gap year experience with the comfort of a warm bed.

“I call them the ‘Gold Car Backpackers’,” she said. “The youngsters have all gone and done their European rail journey and come home with all their stories.

“Now their parents want to do something equally as exciting but with a little more comfort than their children.”

When asked if the line would look at introducing white glove service similar to Silversea Expeditions, the answer was it wouldn’t fit the Hurtigruten brand.

“There’s a lot of people when they go on a holiday they want to be pampered, enjoy luxuries that they’re used to but also experience the destination to a certain degree,” she explained.

“I think with us it’s a bit it’s in the middle. Nobody has to rough it up but in some of the things we do there is a bit of an edgy element.

“With us you’re also more immersed with the local culture, the local environment and the local terrains.”

Despite the line’s growing success in Australia, Ms Beadle said the company faces three challenges:

One is the misconception that the line is a ferry service for locals and not a cruise line.

“People get on and off and the dynamic is changing all the time,” she added.

“We’re all guilty of going on holiday and rarely actually meeting someone from the destination but this gives our guests the opportunity to interact with the local people.”

The second challenge is convincing their Norwegian staff that it’s okay to wake up guests when the Northern Lights appear.

“We’re slowly getting them there but they aren’t completely comfortable waking people up at midnight.”

And finally, conveying how different the Hurtigruten product is from other cruise lines.

“There are a lot of other lines that promote themselves as a hotel at sea,” she added.

“Ours is the destination and the authenticity of exploring the destination from the culture to the food to the people, which is not what you necessarily get with other lines.”

Keep an eye on Cruise Passenger over the next few days for more news straight from Cruise3sixty.

You can also join the conversation by following the official Twitter hashtag – #C360OZ.