Singapore and Hong Kong are the new hot destinations for Australian cruisers.
Royal Caribbean Line has doubled the number of Australian passengers heading to Asia to over 30,000 last year.
This means that RCL has cornered almost a third of the total number of 95,000 Australians who cruised to Asia in 2015.
RCL managing director Adam Armstrong said demand for short Asian cruises from Singapore and Hong Kong has increased significantly, with the line doubling the number of Australians heading north in 2015.
Great air routes and flight pricing are probably fuelling the soaring numbers.
“Singapore and Hong Kong are well known on the tourist map and two of the best connected cities. It is so easy for Australians to jump on a flight to either city and go on a cruise. You can now even fly direct to Singapore from Canberra,’’ Mr Armstrong said in an exclusive interview with Cruise Passenger.
“Hong Kong and Singapore are exciting cities and most Australians feel comfortable and safe visiting them and going on a cruise. While there are a number of first time cruisers, almost 25 per cent of our passengers are repeat guests. Many tend to spend a couple of days in the city pre or post cruise as both destinations promise great food, exotic culture and fabulous beach getaways.’’
Most Australians choose to go on short cruises from Singapore which will take them up the coast of Malaysia to Thailand and Vietnam. Others who head to Hong Kong usually opt for a longer two-week cruise from HK down to Vietnam and Singapore.
With eight ships plying the Asian waters including five RCL ships, two Celebrity Cruises and one Azamara Club Cruises, the line has a lot of inventory to fill.
Mr Armstrong said that fewer Australians have ventured on cruises from Shanghai as the cruise itineraries are more tailored towards Chinese tastes.
“Australians do not feel as comfortable or familiar with Chinese food, language and entertainment. These ships target the local Chinese market. RCL tends not to promote such itineraries in Australia.’’
He said the line is seeing strong booking patterns among Australian families going on Asian cruises from Singapore and Hong Kong particularly during school holidays in October, over Christmas and New Year.
With the fourth largest ship in the world, Ovation of the Seas, scheduled to arrive in Sydney on December 15, he said its arrival will present new challenges as more than 4000 passengers disembark and another 4000 prepare to embark the ship.
“We are introducing the next generation of checking in passengers with the use of up to 30 iPads on top of the 50 counter staff. There will not be too much queueing as there will be 25 to 30 iPads around to help check-in passengers. We have tried the new system successfully in China, New York and Singapore.’’
However, he said Ovation’s arrival may pose some challenges for land infrastructure and port authorities.
“But we are well prepared,’’ he said.