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It’s good news for cruise fans. This summer’s wave season promises to be the best yet.
Words: Toni Eatts.

The waters around Australia, New Zealand and across the South Pacific will be rippling with cruise ships as we experience our busiest wave season yet.

“It’s an exciting time for the industry,” explains Brett Jardine, general manager of the International Cruise Council of Australasia (ICCA). “We have a target of one million passengers by the year 2020, and with strong wave seasons, that’s becoming increasingly possible.”

Ann Sherry, CEO Carnival Australia, shares Brett’s excitement.

“The upcoming cruise season will be one to remember,” she says. “Not only will we have a record 15 ships cruising in our waters under our Carnival Australia umbrella, we’ll also be celebrating the Australian debut of three fantastic vessels from our cruise lines – P&O Cruises’ Pacific Pearl, Seabourn Sojourn and Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth.”

In fact, a high point of the season will be February 22 and 23, when Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 will grace Sydney with their presence. “We’re looking forward to another spectacular royal rendezvous on Sydney Harbour,” Ann says.

Cunard will also share the joy with other cities. Queen Mary 2 will visit Fremantle on February 17 and Adelaide on February 20 en route to Sydney while Queen Elizabeth heads to Melbourne on February 25 and Fremantle on March 1.

Other season highlights include the maiden visit by Silversea Cruises’ new ship Silver Spirit and the return of Holland America Line’s Volendam in November for a three-month stay that will last until late February.

Meanwhile, P&O Cruises is busy preparing for the naming of Pacific Pearl in Auckland on December 21. “We’re very excited to be welcoming our fourth ship to our fleet,” Ann says. “Pacific Pearl will sail a season of five cruises from Auckland before arriving in Sydney for her Australian debut on February 3.”

This fourth ship makes this wave season P&O Cruises’ biggest summer ever.  “We’ll be carrying tens of thousands of passengers on holidays to the South Pacific and around Australia and New Zealand,” Ann says.

In addition, Adam Armstrong, commercial manager of Royal Caribbean Cruises Australia, is eagerly awaiting the return of Rhapsody of the Seas on October 16. “We’re looking forward to matching last season’s stellar performance, where she carried an unprecedented number of Australians and New Zealanders onboard,” says Adam. “Our program is quite different this year, with a much broader mix of itineraries, including our long-awaited return to the islands of the South Pacific.”

Another summer regular is Classic International Cruises’ Athena, which is based in Fremantle. Grant Hunter, managing director of Classic International Cruises Australia, says CIC is “aware of the market potential”.

In the seven summers CIC has had a ship based in WA, Grant has noticed Australians’ interest in cruising has increased and other cruise lines have been drawn to the region.

“The growth in the number of Australians cruising has prompted international cruise lines to homeport vessels in Australia,” he says.

This trend also includes the increased number of ships offering itineraries in Australasian waters, and RCI’s Adam Armstrong points out the reasons for this.

“The cruise market is growing and this is driven by both international and local demand; local travellers are discovering the advantages of cruising from their doorstep, and international guests are keen to discover this part of the world by sea.”

All of which is good news for the ICCA and Brett Jardine. “The increased capacity means more Australians and New Zealanders have the chance to experience cruising,” says Brett. “We already know that once someone takes a cruise, they are highly likely to become a repeat customer, so this means growth.”

And it’s not just cruise lines who are winners.

“As cruising grows, everyone benefits – hotels, airports, local ports, local tour operators, restaurants and shops as well as the providores who supply the ships all benefit,” Brett says.

Ann Sherry agrees. “So many ships mean more dollars for our economies,” she says. “Ships not only carry passengers, they also carry crew, who are equally keen to shop and experience the local culture. Every time a ship arrives in a town, ripples are felt – from local taxi drivers to retailers.”

This season is huge, Brett warns, and “the reality is that anyone wanting to jump on a ship at the last minute has probably missed out.”

With 2011/2012 set to break all records, however, you have plenty of choice for next summer. “Bookings are strong and next summer will be the summer that cruising puts its stamp on Australia,” says Brett. “There’ll be a massive increase in capacity, up to around 20,000 berths a day.”

Brett urges cruise fans to “be part of this historic cruise season. If you’ve got friends who have never been cruising now’s the time to organise them to take a cruise next summer. It’s going to be an incredibly exciting time.”

Who else is visiting

Take a look at the ships cruising Down Under this summer and keep an eye out for them in the port nearest to you. Even better, go cruising on one of them! To check dates, go to the cruise calendar in the latest issue of Cruise Passenger Magazine..

Classic International Cruises: Athena

Crystal Cruises: Crystal Serenity

Cunard Line: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines: Balmoral

Holland America Line: Volendam, Amsterdam

Orion Expedition Cruises: Orion

P&O Cruises: Pacific Jewel, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Sun, Pacific Pearl

P&O UK: Oriana, Arcadia, Aurora

Peter Deilmann Cruises: Deutschland

Princess Cruises: Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sapphire Princess, Diamond Princess

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Voyager

Royal Caribbean International: Rhapsody of the Seas

Saga Cruises: Saga Ruby

Seabourn Cruise Line: Seabourn Sojourn

Silversea Cruises: Silver Shadow, Silver Spirit