Royal Caribbean has just booked its best Australian season in 15 years. And later this year will see new ships and even more emphasis on Brisbane.

“Royal Caribbean brand booked more passengers than we booked in our 15-year history,” Vice President and Managing Director Australasia Gavin Smith told Cruise Passenger.

“We operated more cruises than we’ve ever done before. We had 56 cruises. And we’ve got the happiest guests we’ve ever had, with satisfaction survey scores in the sixties and the highest onboard spend.”

And, like his Princess counterpart, Smith is forecasting price rises as the cruise industry recoups its losses after Covid halted sailings. “We’re commanding the highest Australian dollar cruise prices we’ve ever achieved.”

The veteran cruise executive was reflecting on next season’s deployments. It will see Anthem of the Seas make her debut in Australia and New Zealand in the 2025-26 cruise season, based in Sydney. She will be joined by Voyager of the Seas, which will be based in Brisbane.

The two vessels will operate cruises around Australia and to the South Pacific and New Zealand between November 2025 and April 2026.

Some have suggested that the changeover from Ovation of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas meant the Australian market was being downgraded. Smith says the Australian cruiser is still very much sought after at Royal Caribbean’s headquarters in Miami.

“There’s no doubt that we are considered an attractive market,” he said.

The We Will Rock You Show on Anthem of the Seas with a performer in the foreground.
We Will Rock You onboard.

Royal Caribbean’s best season

Smith believes Brisbane will become stronger in coming seasons. Royal saw younger family cruisers from Queensland and 20 per cent of Victorians flying into the port.

“I’m excited about Anthem because the We Will Rock You production show is first class. Our loyalists have been looking for a little freshen-up in the entertainment space.

Voyager is going to be a positive family cruise experience for Queensland. It will give us slightly better access to the islands.”

Voyager of the Seas will include Luganville in Vanuatu for the first time.

Royal Caribbean has seen an amazing drop in the age of new-to-cruise passengers. Ages are down to 40 or 41 years old in Brisbane. This is lower than the new Australian average cruise age of 48.3 reported by Cruise Lines International Australasia recently.

Those passengers who are new to cruising is driving the change, and according to Smith they are “a happy group and they spend good money on board in bars and casinos.”

Voyager of the Seas Royal Caribbean Opera House in Sydney
Voyager of the Seas in Sydney

Which state has the youngest cruise market?

Bookings out of Brisbane are already strong, with many waiting for the final program to finalise their cruises.

Would Voyager of the Seas, as some have suggested, sail year-round from Brisbane?

All Smith would say was:” I know there’s a lot of speculation about Voyager being announced for year round. It might be premature because Voyage is scheduled to head north at the moment.”

The key is Royal’s plans for the region’s first private island at Lelepa in Vanuatau. Smith believes it will turn Brisbane into a very desirable port for families.

“The opportunity for having a private destination would be to get very single minded about seven-night cruising out of Brisbane and doing ten, eleven or twelve nights to New Zealand out of Sydney.

“And can we educate the family market, to fly to Brisbane and buy the seven night cruise to the islands, which has a perfect day  (a reference to Royal’s Caribbean island).

“This would be a wonderful ‘money can’t buy’ experience.. So Brisbane’s becoming an exciting place for us.”

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