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What to book: Here’s what the experts suggest

Australians are already proving delighted to have seen the back of the cruise ban, with travel agents and organisations reporting a spike in bookings after the ban was officially lifted. 

Haydn Long, Public Affairs Manager at Flight Centre says the response to the ban was instant. “As you’d expect, given cruise’s popularity, there’s been a big spike in bookings and enquiry in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s announcement. Our bookings on the first day were up roughly 70%.

“We are expecting a lot of activity in the days and weeks ahead as more and more cruise lines unveil their offerings for the return.”

To celebrate, Flight Centre will be coming out with a new promotion.

We are going out with a campaign tomorrow, 18-31 March, to celebrate.  We are offering an extra $100 On Board Credit for every booking made on 2022 sailings.”

The details are: “Receive a $100 onboard credit per cabin when you book a cruise of 7 nights or more, departing from Australia in 2022, with the following cruise lines: P&O, Carnival Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard or Holland America Line. Offer applies to new bookings made in Flight Centre Australia retail stores between 18 & 31 Mar 22.”

Cruise Agency My Cruises reported a 222% increase in website traffic within 1 hour of the announcement, as well as a 62% increase in enquiries and 27% increase in bookings.

Michael Middleton, general manager of My Cruises shared some more insight.

Up until Tuesday, 2023 international cruise holidays were trending higher

Since the announcement, we’re seeing a resurgence in 2022 enquiry & booking. Today we had a customer confirm a May 2022 sailing so this announcement has not only seen an increase in interest in local departures but also to reassure customer confidence in cruise holidays in 2022 as a whole.”

Mr Middleton also shared his three best-selling local packages, the first being a Delights of the Queensland Coast onboard Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas from Brisbane

six Night Cruise holiday starting from $799 per person.

Also on the table is a New Years Eve Whitsunday Adventure onboard Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas from Sydney, sailing for nine-nights, starting from $1599 per person.

Or if you’re looking to head west, look at this Perth & Kimberley Coast Discovery onboard P&O Pacific Explorer from Fremantle, it’s a fly, stay and cruise holiday with $2000 bonus value, starting from $1990 per person.

Where should you go? 

Sharon Summerhayes owner  of Deluxe Travel and Cruise says while cruise isn’t one-size-fits-all, there are some definite highlights.

“There is no one cruise to suit everyone so talking to a cruise specialist is the best way to ensure you’ll be on the right ship with the right itinerary.  Not every cruise is for everyone, but there is a cruise for everyone!   

Personally, I’m very excited to have Celebrity Eclipse debut in Australia in October, and Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas has a few South Pacific itineraries that overnight in Port Vila so we can explore more.”

Michelle Levins owner of My Cruise Concierge says there’s no better time to return to the seas than the festive season.

“We still have availability for a Christmas/New Year cruise on Grand Princess, always a great time to cruise with a festive atmosphere to shake off the Covid cobwebs.

This is a great one for family groups that over the last couple of years have not been able to accommodate their family at home due to restrictions, they can now book, relax and enjoy some extended family time.”

Craig Bowen, the managing director of Cruise Traveller says to head to the pacific. 

“Try something local – the South Pacific especially Fiji, Asia and New Zealand (now that borders are opening) and of course Australia – availability is getting scarce now though for Aussie trips in 2022.”

Belle Goldie of iTravel Penrith says it doesn’t matter where you book, just do it fast.

“Get on it. Get into your local Cruise Agent and book today don’t wait, demand is at an all time high.”

What’s still available?

Ms Summerhayes says there’s still good availability across the board, but it won’t hang around for long.

“There is still good availability on most lines but I expect that to change dramatically, fast.  We really have missed cruising and now we have confirmation that cruising is coming back, people are booking quickly.  Luxury ships have limited availability already, so booking a luxury sailing quickly is a must.”

Ms Levins pinpoints a few lines that can still accommodate you for the upcoming wave season.

“P&O and Princess have just brought forward their cruising dates to this winter to accommodate travellers eagerly anticipating the return of cruise.  Royal Caribbean and Celebrity still have availability for their upcoming season as do Silversea for clients looking for more luxury cruising.”

While it’s not domestic cruising, Mr Bowen says that if you want to think outside of the box, there’s still availability for 2022 in Antarctica.

“There’s still space [for Antarctica sailings] at good rates as people have been holding back booking this destination due to uncertainty.”

Ms Goldie says the holidays are in high demand and P&O is filling up fast.

We are seeing Christmas , New Years & event cruises being in high demand . Now given we know the return to cruise date for P&O cruises availability is becoming limited . Most cruises are reverting to Domestic sailings which are very popular. My hot tip would be try something different.”

Don’t leave home, come home 

While the lifting of the ban excitingly means you can cruise out of Australia once again, it also means you can cruise to Australia once again. Mr Middleton says it’s a popular option for his customers to jet off across the globe and jump on a cruise take them right back home.

The announcement has also been perfectly timed to take advantage of cruise lines bringing their vessels to Australian waters – sometimes for the first time.  Our customers can’t get enough of voyages that bring them home and we can build in some amazing bonus value with flights, hotel stays, sightseeing & more, all included up front.”

Mr Middleton offered up some options that have been selling well.

What does it mean to be back?

Ms Summerhayes is beyond delighted to see cruising back in Australia at long last.

“It’s been a long, hard road the last 2 years, but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It doesn’t even feel real!

I’m very, very, very excited to hear cruising is about to recommence from Australia.  We have waited so long and watched almost every other area of the world resume, and it’s finally our turn.”

Ms Levins is equally as ecstatic.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the cruise ban is lifting.  It has been a very difficult couple of years for clients booking, cancelling and rebooking cruises. 

Now our clients that were a little nervous about going through that process are booking and we couldn’t be happier.  We have groups that we are currently booking, the groups are just getting larger as they tell their family and friends.”