Cruise industry insiders have warned that Australian cruise prices are set to jump from 20-30% to the next season as the industry “rightsizes” to the local market. But there is a way to avoid the steep rises.

Major cruise lines have slashed capacity in a concerted effort to bring prices into line with those overseas.

But savvy cruisers may be saved by what the lines call “dynamic pricing”. This means that the suites and cabins change prices as demand ramps up.

In simple terms, the fewer cabins that are available on board, the more expensive they will be. This leads to cruises with more bookings, having a more expensive price.

An investigation by Cruise Passenger shows that some cruises in the 2025 season are cheaper right now than those in 2024. But they won’t stay that way.

So it’s all the more important to book ahead to beat the price rises.

Ovation of the Seas sails through Milford Sound, New Zealand
Ovation of the Seas sails through Milford Sound, New Zealand.

The table that proves you can save

A Royal Caribbean 10-night cruise to New Zealand is currently $3199 for December 2024 and just $1957 for December 2025. This doesn’t signify that prices are decreasing but rather shows the 2024 cruise is significantly more booked than 2025.

Knowing that cruises are increasing in price by about 20% year-on-year, we can calculate in May 2025, that if you want to book that same Royal Caribbean cruise, assuming bookings happen at the same rate, it will cost you $3838.80.

This means by booking now you would save $1881.80. As Royal Caribbean is sailing with fewer ships in Australia over the coming seasons than in the past, there will be fewer cabins available and even higher prices come next May.

If this sounds unconvincing, compare older Royal Caribbean fares to current fares. This Cruise Passenger article shows a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Brisbane for eight nights from $699 per person for last February, a great deal due to Australia’s previously overinflated cruise capacity.

There is currently one South Pacific Cruise for eight nights available for February 2025 and it’s already at $1368 per person. This represents a 51% increase in price, in just three to four months since the cruise last February.

While this is an isolated cruise, it demonstrates the principle, that whether it’s easy to see yet or not, prices are soaring, and booking now is the way to beat them.

CruisePrice now for December 2024 Price now December 2025Projected 2025 Price in May next year (20% rise)
Seven nights with Carnival to the South Pacific$3199 $1957$3838.80
13 nights to New Zealand with Princess$1399$1279$1678.80
13-nights to New Zealand with Princess$3810$2909$4572
All cruises are roundtrips from Sydney, and prices for an interior cabin

So why are Australian cruise prices rising?

Cruise Passenger contacted cruise expert and leading agent Michelle Feilberg says cruise prices are rising as a result of a ‘right-sizing cruise market’. This means that cruise capacity was previously too high in the country leading to a surplus in demand, but now lowered capacity will lead to an increase in prices.

“When Australia was lucky enough to have Resilient Lady, Celebrity Edge, and Disney Wonder all homeported here for the first time, together with P&O, Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean, yes there was over capacity. Particularly in Brisbane and Melbourne and this did reflect in the pricing.”

Feilberg says P&O and Carnival are good bets as the year-round lines generally drop their prices when the other ships arrive.

“My prediction is that locally P&O and Carnival will continue to offer some discounts for the summer seasons, whilst the other ships are in town. But they will not be last minute based.”

Where will we see the steepest jump in Australian cruise prices?

Ovation of the Seas sailing into Sydney Harbour

Feilberg feels that the demand in Sydney is still strong, but the infrastructure is simply lacking.

“I still believe that the lack of infrastructure in Sydney is the number one key issue.  Demand for sailings out of Sydney was always there. The problem was that many people did not wish to fly to another port first to join a local cruise.

“So rightsizing for the other ports, perhaps, but not for Sydney. Sydney can fill far more ships than what is being offered in the 2025/26 season.”

The lesser capacity of ships in Sydney will mean cruising out of Sydney could set you back plenty more than cruising from ports with less demand and more capacity, such as Brisbane.

“The pricing in Sydney even for this 2024/25 summer is higher than an identical 3-4 night cruise on Royal Caribbean sailing out of Brisbane, where the same cabin out of Brisbane could easily be $200-300 cheaper.”

Sydney’s cruise capacity is currently the subject of much debate, with cruise lines such as NCL pointing directly to it as a reason for reducing their presence in Sydney. The line has deployed three ships in the region.

How to keep cruising as a good value holiday

The good news is that cruising still represents an excellent value holiday compared to the other ways to vacation. However, Feilberg also has a few tips on how to keep your costs down.

1. Book well ahead of time

“Cruising still represents excellent value on a per person per night basis compared to other styles of holidays. To bag a bargain, I have two suggestions: one is the more obvious and that is to get in early. There is far less likely to be last-minute deals, however, if there are, they would be available around the 80-90 days before the sailing.”

2. Cruise with your mates

The other tip is simple, which is to travel with strength in numbers to beat the increase in Australian cruise prices.

“Secondly, take your mates! Group sailings are a fantastic way of saving in a number of ways. Group rates are often available, group private shore tours, some agencies offer referral discounts and most lines can offer you a little something onboard like a space to have private drinks for example, if you have enough people.   The more in your group, the better the opportunity to save overall.”

Cruise passengers feel the brunt of the increase of Australian cruise prices

Plenty of cruisers have told Cruise Passenger of their difficulties in watching the prices on their favourite holiday increase.

Royal Caribbean cruiser Barry McMahon said even from November 2023 to March 2024 he’s seen a huge rise.

“I did 10 nights on Ovation of the Seas out of Sydney to NZ in November 2023 and I’m looking again for March 2024 and it’s over $1200 extra! I’ve already booked the March cruise but this time with an interior cabin instead of an extra large balcony, and it came out to the same price.

“This will be my last Royal Caribbean cruise unless they decrease costs. Carnival is so much cheaper plus there is a bonus of onboard credit included.”

Cruisers like Rob Jones said they’ve had to pause cruising altogether due to the rise in Australian cruise prices.

“The cruise prices have risen far more than what I consider fair and reasonable. For that reason, I have no intention of booking any in the future. Once my current lot of bookings have come and gone, I’ll holiday by some other means. Of course, I’ll keep abreast of pricing but will only book if the price suits me.”

Jon Daniels says as a solo cruiser, life has gotten a bit trickier and also said he’d experienced that it’s cheaper to cruise out of Brisbane. 

Quantum out of Brisbane often had some discounts, especially the transpacific to Honolulu.

“But yes they have gone up in price. Pre-covid I could get a solo cruise for around $250AUD a night. Now it’s more like $359-400AUD a night on cruises in late 2024 and next year.”

Karen Porter said she’s looking to cruise out to New Zealand and Australian cruise prices aren’t looking pretty.

“They sure have we booked last year for New Zealand this April just gone but we had to cancel due to hubby having to have an operation it cost us $3,400 for 12 nights in a balcony room and now if we want to go it’s now $4,800.”

Another cruiser Dee has also seen Australian cruise prices skyrocket for Royal Caribbean.

“Royal Caribbean has gone up tremendously after Covid it’s terrible. For example, before Covid, I could book two balcony cabins for 8 people for around $6000 during the January school holidays for an eight to nine-day cruise and I would always book around a year in advance.

“Now it’s around $11,000 and up. We’re platinum level with Royal Caribbean but after Covid, we have sailed with Carnival as it is more affordable.”