Australia’s cruise community – which holds the world record for the highest number per head of the population – has strongly backed calls for a resumption of sailings. But they’ve also sent a clear message on vaccination: make sure passengers and crew are fully vaccinated.

An exclusive Cruise Passenger sentiment survey of our 140,000 newsletter database reveals little hesitancy about the jab, with over 91 per cent saying they will be getting a vaccine once it is available.  Over 93 per cent say full vaccinations for crew and passengers are a must before they will book.

They also give a firm thumbs up to a resumption of cruising, with over 83 per cent backing the Cruise Lines International Association Australasia model of starting with ships based in states and sailing with only intrastate passengers.

The survey shows stronger support for vaccinated cruises than at any time since Cruise Passenger started taking the temperature of how passengers felt about the 18-month long pause in sailings. While our surveys have shown some changes as lockdowns and case numbers have changed, the resilience this time demonstrates cruisers want to get back on the water.

Asked when they would be booking, over 42 per cent answered “immediately” – the highest figure so far, and a vote of confidence in the health protocols that cruise lines have put into place, as reported by Cruise Passenger over the past few months.

But perhaps pragmatically, a massive 57 per cent said they were planning on booking in 2022.

Asked what would motivate booking, half said when all passengers and crew were vaccinated – underscoring just how important this policy will prove in the coming months. Some lines, particularly those who cater for families like Royal Caribbean, are finding this demand a hard one to exercise in practical terms.

Princess Cruises
Health workers on Princess ship

Hygiene and safety protocols were next most important, and flexible booking and cancellation policies have remained at third most important for the past 18 months – a clear warning to lines who are still producing complex rules about refunds that passengers will take their revenge when bookings reopen in earnest.

Only 5.3 per cent said low prices were the most important fact in booking – the lowest it has been on the survey.

Some lines in Europe have suggested charges as high as $170 for COVID tests for those passengers who have not been vaccinated.  Our readers believe all treatment and tests on board should be free.  Eight out of ten want that security.

More than half of our readers still have credit with cruise companies and only 28 per cent have redeemed future cruise credits in the past 12 months, meaning many are sitting on the hands and waiting for cruise to resume.

Cruise Passenger readers are split down the middle about whether they will stick by thyeir usual cruise line.  Over 50 per cent said they would – but 10 per cent said they would definitely change, and 35 per cent said they weren’t sure yet.

But lines with smaller ships look like big winners. Just under 40 per cent would like to sail on smaller ships, and just under 10 per cent say they will upgrade to luxury.

Where are you dreaming of going?  Australia and New Zealand are the stand out favourites at a massive 85 per cent in the preference ratings. Europe comes next at almost 20 per cent and Asia just behind at 16 per cent.

And the cruise industry can give itself a pat on the back.  A big 83 per cent of readers believe the industry handled the COVID crisis very well (26), well (6.6) or as best they could.