It’s been a big year for cruise – and our readers have certainly been dreaming big, with the chance to retire at sea, save on air fares or how to get compensation for port cancellations topping the list of stories you loved to read in 2023.

With this wave season is proving to be our biggest yet, with new ships and more choice, dreaming of life on the high seas and ensuring consumer rights are high on our readers’ minds.

We think that 2024 is going to be an even bigger and better year, with the launch of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas and Princess Sun Princess topping a list of new and exciting vessels.

But for now, let’s take a look back at the year that was 2023 – and what you read most.

10. Melbourne woman homeless after three-year world cruise collapse

Retirement at sea was a hot topic for cruise in 2023 with the first three-year-cruise due to set sail in November. Life at Sea failed to secure a ship by its November sail date, after taking full payments from hundreds of passengers.

Fran Paroissien, 75, took out a reverse mortgage and rented her Hawthorn apartment on a 12-month lease intent on spending her retirement on the world cruise. But since the collapse of the cruise, she was reduced down to couch surfing.

9. ‘I was forced to upgrade despite my sick wife’

In November 2023, a Coral Princess cruise passenger reported that he was forced to upgrade his cabin.

But when he made the booking through travel agency Ozcruising, he had secured a cabin position where his wife would not suffer from motion sickness. Despite his efforts, he was moved to a higher deck at the back of the ship. Find out what happened.

8. ‘I felt like crying’: P&O error leaves cruisers stranded in New Zealand

In September, more than 50 P&O cruise passengers, some elderly, were left on an Auckland wharf after an issue with their visas. The stranded passengers had been informed that they wouldnt require Australian visas to enter Norfolk Island, as they were permanent residents of New Zealand.

But that information was wrong, and they were denied boarding the ship. The information was incorrectly shared by a member of P&O’s call centre team. Pre-cruise communications had said there was a visa requirement, but the information given by a call centre worker to a travel agent resulted in the mix-up.

7. What you need to know if your cruise cancels port calls

Stan Hoey travelled halfway around the world to cruise at the beginning of 2023. His pllane was to visit the beautiful fjords of New Zealand aboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. It was a journey that cost him a total of $48,361.

But a tough stance from Biosecurity New Zealand has meant an important part of his trip of a lifetime was ruined. In January during the 2022/2023 cruise wave season, several ships were turned away from The Land of the Long White Cloud after failing to meet hull scrubbing requirements. Mr Hoey was offered a $100 voucher when more of the ship’s itinerary was scratched. 

He was so angered he sent a letter to the line’s former president Sture Myrmell demanding $9,977 as compensation for the New Zealand leg of his journey, which included a train trip and hotels and flights.

6. Can cruising the high seas in style be cheaper than a retirement village? 

It seems to be one of the hottest topics among our readers. And at the beginning of this year, we found a couple who had set themselves for spending their golden years, cruising. Florida couple Angelyn and Richard Burk, who have set themselves up for retiring on a cruise ship, believe it is cheaper than other forms of retirement.  

And based on Cruise Passenger’s calculations, the figures could be closer than you expect. The Burks have been living on cruise ships for about $120 per day, which comes out to $43,800 per year. 

5. The airfare trick that’s saving travellers up to $11,000 on flights

As the price of flights stayed high this year, flight stories trended well on Cruise Passenger. Savvy travellers found a new way of booking flights that are saving them thousands. Travel agents specialising in booking around-the-world airfares saw a boom as high airfares make their nifty services more valuable than ever. 

Around-the-world fares involve going across multiple continents rather than just to one region and back, and surprisingly, this is often proving the cheaper way to do it. 

4. Update: Cyclone Jasper about to hit Queensland cruise stops

It’s a story that continues with Cyclone Jasper tearing its way through Queensland and the Northern territory. Queensland tourism has been hit hard as cruise lines continue to avoid port calls and destinations that are soon to feel the full effect of Cyclone Jasper.

Carnival was among the last to announce cruise ship itinerary changes as the Cyclone neared Port Douglas and Cairns, plus stops including Airlie Beach and Yorkeys Knob.

3. How small ships outsmart big ships in Europe

Our editor in chief Peter Lynch was in Greece during the height of summer. As cruise passengers steer towards smaller ship, Captain Johannes Tysse of the Azamara Quest had been playing a game of cat and mouse with larger vessels in the area.

Every morning, he would check the port manifests to ensure his passengers don’t have to face long queues in scorching temperatures around Europe this summer. It’s how Azamara’s small ships are beating the big ships at popular ports.

2. Retiring on a cruise ship? Gayle and Vic have been cruising for $150 a day

Gayle and Vic Doe from Yamba have just stepped off their cruise, spending 127 days at sea on eight different ships. The couple who are in their 60s made the decision to semi-retire on cruise ships where they spend a third of the year sailing around the world.

They took their first cruise around 40 years ago, but it was not until 2005 that they became regular cruisers. And in 2019, they did the maths and decided to work for parts of the year to fund their semi-retirement at sea.

1. Aussie couple charged $21,000 for catching Covid on their overseas cruise

Our top cruise story for 2023 was a couple who were charged an exorbitant amount for catching Covid on their cruise. In July, Brian and Loretta Shaw were sailing from New York to Barcelona on the Norwegian Epic when they caught Covid on their cruise.

And after days of isolation and IV therapy, they were handed a $21,000 medical bill. And asked to settle it before they disembarked. When they refused, they were made to sign a deed agreeing they would pay.