Asia is set to target Australian cruise passengers this year, as more take advantage of cheap air deals and the region’s growing fleet of familiar brands.
In 2015, 95,000 Australians travelled to Asian ports like Singapore to board to board the region’s fleet of 60 vessels for cruises of seven days or more.
The number is believed to have grown strongly since, as ships like Ovation of the Seas and Diamond Princess extend seasons in the city state, and budget carriers like Scoot step up their operations.
Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Star Cruises and Dream Cruises have all increased itineraries in Southeast Asian countries, with luxury brands Ponant and Seabourn also adding Asian journeys. Norwegian Cruise Lines is set to join them this year.
Asia is also receiving a number of new build ships with the latest facilities, gourmet restaurants and luxurious cabins. The Majestic Princess and Norwegian Joy are both sailing to the region in just a few months.
The Genting Dream will be homeported from Singapore from November this year while her new sister ship, the World Dream sets sail from Hong Kong and Nansha.
River cruise ships – Australian favourites like APT, Scenic and Avalon all have vessels based in Asia – have increased their presence on the Mekong and Irrawaddy.
Princess and Royal Caribbean have already created a strong market for Asian cruises among Australians.
Cruise Passenger recently visited the Diamond Princess in Singapore, and some 1,200 of the 2,700 passengers boarding were from Australia.
Many told us they were taking up to three cruises back-to-back. A Princess spokesperson said Australians were particular regulars and their numbers were increasing.
Many of the ten ASEAN nations – Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao, and Brunei – are planning major tourism investments in cruise.
A conference last week, which marked the ASEAN group’s 50th anniversary this year, heard the Philippines is already putting millions into port work in Manila. Star Cruises is basing the city’s first homeported ship in the city shortly.
Malaysia and Indonesia are also planning port work to grow itineraries and shore excursions.
The top destination for Australians visiting ASIA are: Singapore, Langkawi (Malaysia), Bali (Indonesia) Siem Reap (Cambodia), Penang (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Yangon (Myanmar), Ho Chi Minh city (Vietnam) and Manila (Philippines).
Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President International Gavin Smith, a former MD of Australia and New Zealand, told Cruise Passenger he anticipated Asia’s cruise market would double in the next 10 years.
He said the appeal to Australians was that cruising in the region was “exotic but also familiar”, with the brands Australians know offering more diversity and air travel making the region accessible.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the ASEAN ten-nation grouping, a series of special cruise itineraries are on offer –and all can be found in a 114-page online ASEAN@50 brochure here.
The ten-nation push is designed to add another 12 million visitors to ASEAN’s 109 million tourists in 2015.