Yesterday was a pretty exciting day in the cruising world, with the announcement of the ICCA industry statistics for 2010 in Australia.

The news was all good; in spite of the GFC and other global dilemmas, cruising holidays are still on the up!

Getting the stats out of the way, the market grew by an impressive 27 per cent with 466,692 Australians taking to the high seas for a holiday. And the top destination we love to cruise is the South Pacific, followed by our own backyard and New Zealand. Further afield, we love Europe the most, then Asia and finally Alaska.

These results aren’t just good news for the industry, but also for Australian cruisers. The continued growth of the market Down Under has brought us firmly into the spotlight, with more foreign cruise lines finally taking us seriously as a cruising population, and increasing capacity locally by sending more ships for Wave Season.

There are also more interesting options to choose from itineraries wise, from short breaks with P&O for anyone who fancies a quick ocean jaunt, to entire circumnavigations of the country for those who have both time and money.

And no longer is it all about Sydney. Other cruising hubs, including Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, are all enjoying regular visits from ships, or are being used as short term home ports, which is good news for their local economies.

From next Wave Season, which kicks off in around five months from now, there’s a dizzying choice of ships to choose from. If you thought it was complex before, wait until you see the new list!

Holland America’s Volendam will be joined by the Zaandam for one season, and then the stylish Vista class Oosterdam for the 2012-13 season. Princess Cruises’ newly revamped Sea Princess makes it debut in September, followed by the massive Diamond Princess in December.

Royal Caribbean is sending Radiance of the Seas in October after a major makeover, and the highly rated Celebrity Century arrives in November, making an appearance for the line for the first time in a couple of years, although she will be replaced by the much-loved Celebrity Solstice the year after. And finally there’s two very different ships to add to the 2012 lineup – the Queen Mary 2 and Carnival Spirit.

So what does this all mean for Australian cruisers? For a start, it’s bit of something for everyone, in terms of cruising facilities and fares to suit all budgets. Ships like Sea Princess, Radiance of the Seas and Carnival Spirit will be particularly great for families, while the Holland America’s vessels and the Queen Mary 2 will suit a more mature traveller.

Probably the most alluring, however, is the Celebrity offering, particularly Solstice. Having cruised on her younger sibling, Eclipse, she will bring a number of innovations to the Australian market, and with her eclectic dining venues and facilities will appeal to couples and younger baby boomers.

The only question mark hangs over the true luxury end of the scale. Although there will be plenty of five-star-plus ships passing through on world cruises, such as those from the Seabourn, Regent and Crystal fleets, but will we ever have one of these elegant beauties to call our own any time soon?

The answer is probably not….but the way surprise announcements have been flowing in relating to our market, who knows? Happy cruising!