What was the hottest cruise trend this year? Repeatedly asking and predicting when cruising will be able to restart in Australia. But finally we have a date.
The current ban on international cruise ships, imposed exactly two years ago, will be lifted on April 17. Now, we can look forward to the next “wave season”, which traditionally runs from spring through summer.
Viking, Cunard, P&O, Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the companies set to return to Australia when the Federal Government gives the green light, with most ships scheduled to arrive at the end of this year.
New ships to reward the wait
At this stage, cruisers would be grateful to get on board anything bigger than the Manly ferry, but this innovative industry always has new and improved ships on the way.
Viking has announced that its brand new Viking Mars, which debuts in May, will join Viking Orion in Sydney for summer, kicking off on December 27, 2022 with a New Year’s Eve cruise to Auckland.
Another exciting newcomer is Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, set to be based in Brisbane from November, with activities such as an iFly skydiving simulator and FlowRider surfing pool.
Celebrity Eclipse arrives in October for its first season in the region.
P&O will finally introduce Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter to Australia for the first time, alongside the much-loved Pacific Explorer — hopefully this winter, if the ban is lifted next month.
Carnival Cruise Line is due to announce a new ship for Brisbane to replace Carnival Spirit, which has been moved to the US.
Not a new ship for Australia, but Norwegian Spirit is turning up freshly renovated when it comes to Sydney in December.
Staying local on interstate cruises
Domestic cruising is the best bet for 2022. The premiers of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have been discussing how to safely conduct cruises along these three states’ beautiful coastlines. In other parts of the country, the Northern Territory has increased its cap on expedition cruising to 350 people, opening the way for small vessels from foreign lines such as Silversea and Ponant to join local operators in the Top End and the Kimberley.
While some cruise lines will sail to New Zealand and the South Pacific, others will take the safer option of staying local. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has converted its October and November 2022 international itineraries to domestic destinations such as the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef.
Reconnecting with family and friends
Destinations are only one factor of travelling. After two or more years apart, people are yearning to reunite with their loved ones, and a cruise is the perfect solution. With so many activities and venues on ships, designed for all ages and interests, everyone can have fun together or do their own thing during the day and then meet up for meals. Many ships have added more family cabins and interconnecting cabins to accommodate these groups. Best of all, experienced cruisers can make it easier for their first-timer friends or relatives to decide to finally take the plunge into cruising.
Longer voyages and circumnavigations
Making up for lost time and postponing overseas dreams, travellers are booking longer voyages of two weeks or more, such as Holland America’s cruises to New Zealand. Noordam will also offer a 33-night South Pacific crossing from San Diego to Sydney, arriving here on October 8. Carnival Splendor will also return home to Australia with a new Journeys cruise to Sydney. Celebrity Eclipse is planning new transpacific sailings between Sydney and Honolulu at the beginning and end of the season, while South Pacific itineraries will cover Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which will be home-ported in both Melbourne and Sydney, is operating a 28-night Australian circumnavigation, roundtrip from Sydney, departing November 15. The ultimate lap is Coral Expeditions’ 59-night voyage from Cairns on October 17. With only 60 cabins available for this amazing trip, passengers will enjoy snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, dining with winemakers at Margaret River, and taking a day trip to Uluṟu on a private charter flight from Darwin.
Booking through a travel agent
Cruising in Australia will be much easier than travelling overseas, but many people will appreciate the support of a travel agent if things go wrong. A trusted cruise specialist keeps you to date with restrictions and requirements, health and safety guidelines, cancellations and refunds. They can also help you plan a more complex itinerary involving flights and accommodation or choose a travel-insurance policy that covers cruising. Find a CLIA-accredited cruise specialist at cruising.org.au.
No crowds or queues
The east coast doesn’t have many small ships, but our big ships will be less crowded. Instead of booking out every cabin, cruise lines now limit the total number of passengers.
The least enjoyable experience of your cruise holiday used to be the muster drill on the first day. Before setting sail, everyone was crammed into one area to listen to the safety briefing. Bars would close, you had to stop what you were doing (or drinking), collect your life jacket and wait for all the latecomers before a half-hour speech and demonstration. This year, to avoid gathering everyone indoors or on a narrow deck in the blazing sun, you can participate in a televised muster drill from the comfort of your cabin.
The cruising industry has also adapted its onboard tech to reduce queues, crowds and paperwork. Improvements include online check-in, digital boarding passes on your phone, and contactless systems such as QR codes and wristbands to board and disembark the ship, open doors, make bookings, order meals and pay for things. This technology started rolling out on cruise lines such as Princess and Royal Caribbean a few years ago, but it’s never been more useful and relevant than today.
Remembering how to have fun
Recent research from Carnival Cruise Line revealed that nearly one in four Australians (23 per cent) feel like they have forgotten what they like to do for fun. Cruise lines, led by cruise directors, are the experts in helping people enjoy their holidays. According to the Carnival survey, the most desired activities for Aussies are relaxing and forgetting their worries (68 per cent) and experiencing and discovering new places (66 per cent), which is exactly what cruising offers.
To make it simple, you can book a theme cruise that aligns with your hobbies. Cunard’s Great Australian Culinary Voyage, departing Sydney on January 18, is headlined by chef and TV host Matt Moran, and its Gardening Journey, departing February 4, features Jamie Durie and Graham Ross. Celebrity Cruises has developed curated itinerary themes including ‘Sun and Beach Escapes’, ‘Food and Wine Classics’, and ‘Five Star Getaways’.
People are also keen to treat themselves after the stress of a pandemic. Booking a balcony cabin or suite, buying the drinks package or splurging on a massage will be top of wish lists. For others, luxury simply means unwinding by the pool with a cocktail, reading a book with the sea breeze in your hair, and letting someone else do all the cooking and cleaning.